Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Farce Awakens

Yes, I'm sure nobody has ever thought of that joke before.  It seems as though no sooner have we finished digesting one Star Wars movie than, bang, ten years later another one turns up.  The mere fact that somebody actually made another Star Wars movie is a triumph of optimism over experience.

Star Wars (which we now have to call Episode Four or A New Hope or something similar) was epic.  Simple, flashy and spectacular.  I personally liked The Empire Strikes Back as well although I could tell it was a much weaker film.  Things had got more than a little silly by the time Return of the Jedi rolled around which managed to convey the impression that the Empire had invaded the Muppet Show.  Still I watched it and nodded with satisfaction when it was done.  A line had been drawn and the trilogy was complete.  Best of all watching Return of the Jedi meant that you had absolutely no reason to watch it again.

Then came The Phantom Menace.  It's easy to mock The Phantom Menace.  Very, very easy.  In fact the only difficulty with mocking the Phantom Menace is knowing where to start.  I took my father to see The Phantom Menace and when it was over I felt the need to apologise and hoped it hadn't damaged our relationship.  The acting was by and large woeful but that was largely overshadowed by the fact that the script was appalling.  Indeed I think the actors deserve a fair amount of credit for simply turning up.

The Phantom Menace had a difficult row to hoe.  It was essentially an introduction to two other movies that would be prequels for something we had already enjoyed and would be measuring them against.  It would be difficult to write any sort of coherent and self contained storyline under those circumstances.  Difficult and, as it turned out for those responsible, impossible.  In a movie like this the script can be forgiven for sagging in the middle.  Unfortunately it sagged at both ends as well.  Not even the presence of Natalie Portman dressed as a Christmas tree could save it.

Attack of the Clones was better if only because it would be difficult to be worse.  There were plenty of action scenes to distract attention from the dialogue and the acting.  Generally speaking the storyline improved (although not to the point of being any good) while the acting deteriorated apart of course from Ian McDiarmid as Chancellor Palpatine.  Oh yes and of course Christopher Lee.  Christopher Lee could add a touch of class to a dung heap, and did.

The Revenge of the Sith was without a doubt the best of the prequels if only because it was the last.  Finally given the opportunity to have a movie with a definite conclusion not even George Lucas managed to completely botch it.  True the acting was still dreadful and the script was largely tripe but it was all worth it just to watch the moment when that black helmet came down over Hayden Christensen's head.  Because I for one was sick of the sight of his face.  Becoming a menacing power for evil was certainly a step up from being a whiny, petulant pissant.  I was also glad to see the back of Yoda, giving me the shits his syntax was.

So now we have The Force Awakens.  If its just awakening now what the hell was it doing for the last six movies?  In the case of Episodes 1-3 probably pretending that it wasn't there and didn't have any input.  Considering the quality of the last four movies there are plenty of arguments starting with basic sanity for why I shouldn't go and see it.   I have better things to do with my time and money.

Oh ok, of course I'm going to see it.  It will probably suck and at the end of it I'll wonder why the hell I did it.  Still there is always the possibility that it might be good.  And if its good it will be awesome.  I am totally going to see it.  After that I'll probably go and see the sequels tentatively entitled The Force Gets Out of Bed and The Force Gets Dressed.

As a sidebar please note that I managed to have a go at The Phantom Menace without even mentioning Jar Jar Binks.  Oh crap!!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Killing Ideas Never Works, Which Doesn't Stop People Trying.

How do you kill an idea?  You can try killing everyone who holds the idea.  This has been a very popular method over the centuries, in fact the enthusiasm with which this method has been adopted is in pretty much inverse proportion to its effectiveness.  Killing ideas by killing people has never worked which hasn't stopped people trying.

The second most popular method is essentially a watered down version of the first.  Call it genocide for the not completely committed.  Oppression, discrimination, ostracisation; all of the nasty, vicious tools that can be deployed by the powerful against those who oppose them.  This can crush an idea and drive it underground but history has proved that for actual idea killing this method is as unsuccessful as the first.

For those who lack the power to try and kill an idea then some sort of tolerance is required.  Since such people would dearly like to kill the ideas if only they could this tolerance tends to be of a grudging, temporary and ill tempered nature.  It's the sort of tolerance one gets when the consequences of trying and failing to kill an idea are reluctantly judged to be somewhat worse than simply putting up with it.  With that as a cue, step forward the Habsburg empire, possibly the world's poster boy for irritated, resentful tolerance.  The Habsburgs would have loved to have been almighty autocrats crushing all dissent and killing ideas left, right and centre but they simply couldn't do it (although they did try on occasion).  There were too many nationalities, too many religions, in short; too many ideas in their shambling, polyglot empire.

So they had to put up with it.  In this they were both helped and hindered by the sheer variety of ideas knocking around.  On the one hand there was always someone deeply dissatisfied with Habsburg rule.  On the other hand there was always somebody nearby who hated these people and were prepared to chop them to bits if the emperors gave the nod.  Imperial policy tended to consist of favouring some people at the expense of others to gain collaborators in the job of oppression while simultaneously not allowing the favoured such unbridled licence as to cause the oppressed to actually revolt.  To the favoured the imperial officials pointed out that they would lose their prestigious position if the status quo changed.  To the oppressed they pointed out (usually with a fair degree of accuracy) how much worse things could get if only the emperor wasn't holding the favoured back.

Of course it would be giving the rulers of the empire far too much credit to present the preceding as some sort of coherent policy.  It was actually a desperate collection of stop gap measures, off the cuff responses and desperate attempts at compromise, usually after another attempt at idea killing had gone horribly wrong.  The motto of the Habsburg empire should have been "Well, things could be worse".

The impetus for this not particularly original train of thought originated in a book I've just finished reading.  "The Idea of Galicia" by Larry Wolff.  In it Wolff focuses on the Habsburg province (or crownland) of Galicia to determine if a national idea could be created from scratch.

Because Galicia wasn't a nation; it was a chunk of Poland torn from that country during the partitions of the eighteenth century.  It had no independent history, no natural borders and no cultural identity.  It didn't even have a name.  The term Galicia was pinched from a province in formerly Habsburg Spain and shoehorned onto the area in a dubious bit of historical retconning that didn't really convince anyone at the time.  The population was part Polish, part Ruthenian (Ukrainian) and part Jewish.  The Poles were Catholic, the Ruthenians were Uniate and the Jews were, well, Jewish.  Over all this was a thin layer of largely German administrators and settlers brought in by the imperial government to make the running of the province easier (huh?).

The Poles made up the bulk of the nobility and harshly oppressed the Ruthenian peasants (to be fair they also oppressed any Polish peasants who came their way).  The Ruthenians in turn loathed the Poles and both of them despised the Jews.  What the Jews thought of their cohabitants is unrecorded but its unlikely to be positive. Yet cohabit all three races did in an artificially created province from 1770 until 1918 when the empire itself was put into liquidation.  Along the way and possibly against their better judgement the Poles, Ruthenians and Jews built themselves a local identity.

Galicia was nobody's idea of Paradise.  There were racial tensions, religious tensions, social tensions and just general tensions all of which could (and occasionally did) explode into violence.  Still, despite the odd pogrom, peasant revolt and noble insurrection Galicia lasted as long as the empire.  It didn't last any longer.  After the First World War was over the resurrected nation of Poland laid claim to the area and incorporated it into the new Polish state despite the fact that the Ruthenians (now officially identified as Ukrainians) would have liked their part of it to be attached to the Ukraine.  It didn't occur to anybody to ask the Jews what they might have wanted.

Then World War Two happened. During their early war flirtation Stalin and Hitler divided the ex province between them.  Stalin attached his bit to the Ukraine and Hitler connected his part to his share of recently conquered Poland.  Then the Germans invaded the Soviet Union and took over the lot.  During their tenure virtually the entire Jewish population of Galicia was exterminated.  The Poles and Ukrainians fared better but only by comparison.

After the war with fraternal communist governments in both Poland and the Soviet Union a deal was "agreed".  A chunk of the eastern part of Poland was given to the Soviet Union with the Poles being compensated with bits of Germany.  Along with the border adjustments came population adjustments.  Those Ukrainians still living within Poland's revised borders were sent east into Soviet Ukraine.  In return Polish communities were sent west into the territories newly appropriated from Germany.  As one can see it is possible that no idea has been as thoroughly and comprehensively killed as Galicia, even assuming that it could be said to have one in the first place.

And yet, according to Wolff even today the Poles who inhabit their part of Galicia are just a little bit different to the rest.  Similarly the Ukrainians inhabiting their part of Galicia are considered not quite the same as their fellow countrymen to the east.  When communism collapsed in Poland and Ukraine two things happened.  In the Ukraine the Uniate church which had been supposedly crushed by Stalin came roaring back to life.  Secondly in both the Polish and Ukrainian parts of Galicia portraits of the old emperor Franz Josef started appearing in cafes and public buildings.  My conclusion; ideas are damned hard to kill, even artificially created ones.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015


Shortly after the turn of the century (and by century I mean a proper century, the twentieth, not the tawdry modern crap we've been enduring for the past decade and a half) HG Wells wrote a story about a demented scientist who bore a faint resemblance to Marlon Brando dying of morbid obesity and his efforts to create new forms of life by what would now be called gene splicing but basically involved stitching embryos together.  Consider it Frankenstein for beginners.

The most fearsome creature this maniac managed to breed was the dreaded octobear; seven feet tall, eight arms, shaggy fur, a beak and a predilection for seafood.  Actually the octobear turned out to be non viable as Doctor Moreau could have told you if you could understand a word the drooling, mumbling slob was saying.  Nevertheless the seed had been sown (and will no doubt be stitched to another seed by Moreau's botanically minded cousin in the sequel).  After fifteen grim years of waiting this monstrous experiment has finally born fruit.  Hairy tentacled fruit but fruit nonetheless.  OctoBear is here!

Actually OctoBear is past.  It happened last weekend.  OctoBear is the competition that my wargaming club holds each October.  It is called OctoBear to differentiate it from JunoBear which happens in August, sorry June.  Our wargaming club is called the Paddington Bears and only the absence of a website saves us from some very embarrassing misunderstandings.  I wandered along to take part and match my skills against my like minded colleagues in three rounds of hardcore, no prisoners ASL action.

For those people who read these after action reports in the faint hope that I might win one someday let me save you the effort.  For those who take a sadistic delight in my recounting my perennial inability to actually achieve anything in a game I have been playing for twenty odd years; read on.

Young Man's Trail

The first scenario pitted Americans against Japanese in a scenario called Young Man's Trail.  The Japanese had to defend a position in the middle of the jungle at the top of a steep ridge.  The Americans had to attack uphill against the concealed defenders.  For the Americans it would be rather like attacking up a steep flight of stairs in the middle of the jungle next to a bunch of well concealed guys trying to kill them.  Actually it would be exactly like that.  I took one look at the scenario and decided to bid for the Japanese.  So did my opponent Richard Weilly.  A totally random decision making event later and I was taking the Americans.

The rather faded photo above shows the terrain.  I would enter from the bottom and attempt to plough my way up some very steep hills to more or less the top.  Richard, already occupying the top would try and stop me.  There was a patch of open ground in my entry area that I decided to avoid like the plague.  Instead I decided on a flanking attack.  The bulk of my force would slog through the jungle (and up the hill) on the left while a smaller force did likewise on the right.  The one advantage I possessed was that with dense jungle in effect nobody could actually see each other until they more or less walked on top of each other.  Thus most of my approach could be made in safety.  Unfortunately that safety cut both ways.

Here you see my guys, already covered in counter exhaustion markers straining upwards while Richard is happy to sit there and wait until my sweat lathered heroes stagger exhausted into their crosshairs.  There is is fact a narrow path on the left which I'm angling towards to make the climb a little less dreadful.  The guys on the right didn't really divert anyone.

I made a serious mistake in attempting to shoot his guys as I climbed.  What with the exhaustion, the thick jungle and his concealment I couldn't scratch the defenders while they being fresh proved somewhat more capable of shooting me in return.  In retrospect I should have concentrated on reaching the summit and then trying to deal with the enemy.  By attempting to do both at once I failed at both at once.

Despite enemy fire and my own inadequacies I did manage to get some troops near the top but I was running desperately short of time.  In despair I launched my surviving troops into close combat with the nearest defenders.  If I could kill them possibly I could advance towards the victory locations.  I didn't kill them.  I didn't kill any of them.  They killed me.  All of me.  Not one guy I sent into combat survived.  Not one of them inflicted the slightest harm on the enemy (ambush, concealed, CX attackers, hand to hand combat).  I wasn't really surprised, it was a tactic of despair not common sense.  Unfortunately commonsense would have been more useful a couple of turns previously.  Victory to Richard while I sat sulking and considered overdosing on my malaria medication.

Denecke in Denial

The next scenario was much closer which is to say that I was defeated without being utterly humiliated.  Swapping the jungles of Papua New Guinea for the ruined factories of Kharkov.  The German army was in full retreat and had tagged a few lucky fellows to stay behind and cover the departure.  These guys, hunkered down in buildings were treated to a full collection of Soviet storm troops, T-34 tanks and local partisans wielding molotov cocktails.  Said heroic champions of the Rodina were handicapped by being commanded by me.  The increasing desperate Germans were under the wise tutelage of Ivan Kent.

The two forces set up pretty much on top of each other with the exception of a building in the German rear which is occupied partially by wounded Germans and partially by Russian civilians who were busy lighting wicks leading into vodka bottles.  My team had to seize and hold a number of victory locations which Ivan was resolved to defend grimly to the death.  He did.

This is the starting set up, my ace in the hole was a pair of T-34 tanks.  Ivan had a single 50mm antitank gun hidden somewhere and I felt the the more or less open space to the right was the most likely.  Thus I made my main push on the left including threading both tanks through the narrow streets in support.  A small force went to the right to keep him honest.  Close observers will note this is pretty much the same tactic that failed miserably in the last game.  It wouldn't fail miserably in this one.  Well, not miserably anyway.

The first turn or so was light on shooting as my tanks and troops skirted his defences and started swinging in from the left.  Ivan responded by pulling his guys back into the large factory in the top middle of the picture.  I pressed forward in what turned out to be a brutal slugging match which, with the aid of tank cannons and machine guns I eventually won.

In back play my partisans were taking on his walking wounded in close combat and being surprisingly successful until a reinforcing self propelled gun forced a pause.  Fortunately I roared a reinforcing tank of my own up behind it and completely failed to destroy it.  But this was an infantry game and my accompanying squad advanced boldly into close combat and blew the thing up.  It then charged into the building to reinforce my partisans and broke another of his squads.  Naturally I got greedy and shot at the squad again resulting in a heat of battle roll that restored the squad to full effectiveness and threatened my hold on the building.

Back in the big factory I was slaughtering Ivan's defenders but time was ticking away and the victory locations were tantalisingly out of reach.  I eventually got to most of them but Ivan had bought time with lives and at the end while virtually his entire force was dead I was just short of the locations I needed to win.

Above is the end game, there are virtually no Germans left but the buildings on the right are not in my hands and they needed to be.  Still by comparison with the rest of the weekend I was actually pleased with this game.

Liehr Launches First

The final game completed the circle by pitting Germans against Americans in a late war (1945) counter attack.  The Americans were planning to attack but the Germans got there first, hence the title of the scenario.  The Germans had four tanks, including two mighty panthers, to support their thirteen squads of attackers.  The American defenders were bolstered by a pair of immobilised M10 tank destroyers and would gain three M18 tank destroyers as reinforcements.  More importantly they had a pair of 60mm mortars.

I got the Germans in this scenario and I wasn't particularly happy about it.  Despite the tanks it seemed to me that the Germans had rather an uphill battle on their hands.  They started off at one end of a village and had to reach the other end despite the presence of a large number of bazooka toting Americans in their path. 

The above is the starting point.  My forces are on the right and need to get points left.  I planned to push the bulk of my troops building to building through the village, slow but effective, supported by three tanks while the equivalent of three squads (including a halfsquad toting a panzerschreck) wormed through the patch of woods on a flanking mission.  I expected his M10s to be in this area, hence the schreck, and I bolstered the attack with a panther nosing around the edge of the woods.  I trusted to its impressive frontal armour to protect it from fire.  Unfortunately I should have been more concerned with its roof armour.

My opponent Mark McGilchrist had positioned both his mortars in another patch of woods opposite.  When my panther showed its face he promptly gained a critical hit on it with a mortar.  This not being sufficient his second shot scored snake eyes on the to kill roll thus immobilising the beast.  The panther crew would subsequently break the main armament and then destroy it while attempting to make repairs.  With the panther stopped Mark turned his mortars onto my guys in the woods and slaughtered them.  At the end of the first turn my three squads had been reduced to a single broken squad hiding in a building behind the lines.

I kept the other three tanks close and tried, with a signal lack of success, to use them as fire support.  About the only useful thing that one of them did was fire a smoke shell which gave a little cover to the remainder of my infantry.  I really don't use armour well.

With my flank shattered I was reduced to a frontal crawl.  This had some success for the simple reason that Mark used a fall back defence, allowing me short advances in return for keeping his force intact.  Probably the most harm was done to his force when he voluntarily broke squads in order to retreat them more effectively.  Bazookas and his reinforcing tank destroyers wiped out the rest of my armour but my infantry did persist in grinding forward.  Finally we were getting to the point where Mark would have to stand and fight.  He was ready but my infantry was in good shape too.  I sent three squads against one in close combat.  Of course I didn't hurt him and he killed one of my squads.  Things went on in much the same fashion and it was soon obvious I wasn't going to get anywhere near the victory locations.  Additionally, free from any threat his armour was now rolling all over the board.  Finally when Mark rolled snake eyes on a low odds shot and I rolled boxcars on the ensuing morale check I decided enough was enough and surrendered.  I could have carried on for another turn and got a little closer to the victory locations but there really wasn't any point.  Sigh, more defeat.

So that was OctoBear and at the end of it I felt as though I'd been attacked by a giant furry animal with eight tentacles, or possibly that's the malaria medication kicking in.  Much thanks to Andy Rogers who organised it and to my opponents who quite frankly had to put up with some appalling language over the course of three games.  I slunk off to lick my wounds and plan my revenge.  At least that's my story, actually I went home and sulked.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Moment My Back is Turned

Apparently I can't leave the country for five minutes without everything falling apart.  I returned to find that we have somehow acquired a new prime minister despite the fact that we weren't finished chewing on the old one.  A raft of brilliant new initiatives has followed which everybody is politely pretending are the work of the new prime minister rather than the one nobody wants to speak about anymore.

Also my fish died!  Seriously, I leave my work colleagues with one simple task to perform during my absence and they botch it.  I hope they managed to do better with their actual jobs.  Yes, sadly little Bullard is no more.  A guppy who was quite happy to swim around his slightly murky bowl while I was present apparently turned his fins up the moment he realised I was absent.

Those with a retentive memory will recall that somewhat over years ago we purchased a couple of guppies to fill the gap left by the resignation of our manager one Edward Bullard.  We named one guppy Edward and the other Bullard (which gives you an indication of the level of imagination and creativity prevailing in the office at the time).  Edward was a plump, happy looking guppy whereas Bullard had a slight resemblance to Scar from the Lion King.  If there's an animated movie Jeremy Irons will totally be doing his voice.  One day not too long after we acquired them both Edward was found floating on the surface with Bullard swimming around doing his best not to look smug.  Which just goes to show that being happy and well fed isn't exactly a survival trait.

Still with Edward gone I was free to lavish all of my attention and affection on Bullard (you know, in between doing my job).  Bullard repaid this by being apparently indestructible.  The first time I cleaned the fishbowl Bullard somehow managed to leap out of the cup I had left him in and spent about ten minutes on the floor under a colleagues desk.  I picked him up and dropped him back in the bowl and soon he was swimming around again as if nothing had happened.

Bullard proved to possess remarkable longevity.  Two years is about the maximum lifespan of a guppy but Bullard beat that by at least six months always assuming that he was born the day before we got him.  An office is not a healthy environment for a fish (all that recycled air) but guppies are hardcore and apparently thrive as long as you don't put them in a bowl with a fitter, nastier guppy.  You also don't mix male and female unless you want to acquire a million more guppies.

Still Bullard is gone now and I can't really blame my colleagues (although I'm going to try very hard) as the writing must have been on the wall for several months.  Admittedly since the wall would have to have been in a fishbowl the writing had probably run and become illegible.  So farewell to Bullard; we commit our brother to the S-bend in the sure and certain hope that he won't turn up in our water supply.  In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti, Amen.

I would try and sell his fishbowl but considering the number of piscine deaths that have taken place in that thing it's probably haunted.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Birthday Greetings # 51

Nature or nurture?  Is an individual's personality determined by their genetic make up or by the influences on their upbringing?  Its a question that has been debated by psychologists and social workers for as long as we've had psychologists and social workers.  Largely one suspects because they need to justify their salaries somehow.  Current thinking seems to come down in favour of acknowledging a certain genetic predisposition one way or another while also affirming that upbringing can have a determined affect on how those predispositions manifest themselves.  This is known in academic circles as "having a bet each way".

In days gone by opinion fell firmly into the "nature" camp.  That is a person was the sum of his (women weren't really included in these calculations) ancestors.  This was very useful for maintaining the status quo and justifying monarchy's right to be, well, monarchy.  It also had a fair amount of circumstantial evidence to back it up.  If your father was a cobbler then the chances were that you would be too.  If your father was a peasant then you had better get used to the idea of herding someone else's cow.  It would have seemed only natural that if somebody's father was a king then that person would, in the fullness of time, become a king as well.  Furthermore because that person's father was a king they were automatically qualified to kingship.  In short they had the necessary genetic qualifications.

The ancient Romans actually believed that a person's character was set from the day they were born and didn't change.  Any apparent changes that might occur as the result of life experience were in fact dissimulation.  Thus the fact that the emperor Tiberius who started out as a gloomy, humourless depressive but still a talented administrator and commander wound up as a paranoiac psychopath who apparently molested children underwater (no I don't know how that's possible either and I'm afraid to google it in case I find out) was explained by claiming that he'd always been a murderous nutcase with a penchant for damp children but had successfully hidden it for years.

Naturally an implied genetic disposition to rule was of great value to those who were doing the ruling.  The simple fact that you were your father's son constituted your entire resumé for one day sitting on a throne and dispensing justice to all and sundry.  The only problem with this theory was that it absolutely relied on the fact that there would be a son to follow the father.  If the direct male succession should somehow fail then suddenly the ruling family appeared to have no more qualification to rule than anyone else.  As one can imagine such cases of dynastic exhaustion led to some increasing desperate patching and filling as one dynasty or another attempted to find some way of justifying their continued hold on the nation's hearts and minds (and, of course, throats).

That rather lengthy introduction has been added to help you understand what our birthday boy spent his entire life doing.  So, with no further ado; happy birthday to Charles (or Karl) VI, Holy Roman Emperor, last of his line.  At least he was the last of his line according to the rules of the time.  A combination of inbreeding, disease and sheer bad luck had winnowed the male Habsburg line down to him and his elder brother.  The winnowing would not stop there.

It was never intended that Charles be Holy Roman Emperor.  His elder brother Joseph had already been tapped for that job leaving Charles free to be foisted onto whatever unwilling country could be persuaded to take him.  The country in question was Spain.  In 1700 the last Habsburg king of Spain (Carlos the Bewitched) had died without issue allowing Europe to be plunged cheerfully into fourteen years of war to determine who should take over after him.  There were two candidates; the Bourbon Philip, grandson of King Louis XIV of France and our boy Charles.  Charles was supported by the Empire (for what that was worth) and by Britain and Holland (both of whom were having kittens at the thought of Spain and its empire effectively being taken over by France).  However just as it looked like Charles might actually get the throne a couple of deaths got in the way.  Specifically those of his father and brother.  His father Leopold died in 1705 and elder brother Joseph became Holy Roman Emperor however when Joseph himself died a few years later Charles unexpectedly became the emperor.  The British and Dutch may not have liked the idea of a Bourbon monarch on the Spanish throne but they were even less happy about a revived Habsburg "empire of Europe" including both the Holy Roman Empire and the Spanish realms.  Support for Charles's Spanish pretensions evaporated and eventually Philip gained the throne on the understanding that it would never be merged with the French monarchy.

This left Charles somewhat moodily running the empire.  He had really wanted Spain (for some reason) and didn't get over the fact that he couldn't have it.  However he had something more important on his mind.  Sons!  Or rather, the lack of them.  His brother had had only daughters which meant the number of functioning, fertile Habsburg males was reduced to him and although his wife provided him (what a glorious term) with a couple of daughters, of sons there were none.

Somehow Charles had to find a workaround for the fact that legally his dynasty was about to cease to exist.  His solution was the Pragmatic Sanction.  Most of the remainder of his life and immense amounts of Habsburg money (always in short supply) and diplomatic credit were expended persuading the nobility of his various realms and the crowned heads of the rest of Europe that his daughter, one Maria Theresa, should be able to inherit all of his territories.  Concessions were made left, right and centre and in return worthless signatures and greasy assurances were gained.  It is easy to look back and see the entire exercise as a monumental waste of time and money.  Maria Theresa's territories were invaded by virtually everyone before his body was cold.  It is difficult to see what else he could have done though.  He didn't have a son, the best he could do was try and provide an insurance policy for his daughter.

One other thing he could have done was teach her the job.  He didn't do that.  Despite all of his frantic manoeuvring to ensure she could sit on a throne it doesn't seem to have occurred to Charles to actually provide his daughter with any training for the role.  Considering their respective talent levels that was probably all for the best but it did provide for some heart stopping moments as she worked her way into the job.

Naturally this wasn't the only thing happening during the reign of Charles.  He fought a war with Turkey which he more or less won.  Then he got tangled up in the war of the Polish Succession which he totally lost.  Following this was another war with Turkey which lost him most of the gains from the earlier war with Turkey and pretty much bankrupted the empire.  With no money, an army that was falling apart and an increasing restive empire Charles went hunting, caught a chill and died leaving the entire mess to an untrained, twenty three year old.  Fortunately she proved to be incredibly formidable and talented.  God knows who she inherited that from.