Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Food - Fifty Bucks or Move Along Stranger, I'm Working Here - Part 3

Samuel Johnson once said "Some people have a foolish way of not minding, or pretending not to mind, what they eat. For my part, I mind my belly very studiously, and very carefully; for I look upon it, that he who does not mind his belly, will hardly mind anything else."  That's Samuel Johnson, one of the giants of English literature, coming down very heavily in favour of food.  With such an endorsement its no wonder that from the eighteenth century onward eating food started to become popular all over the world.

Pretty soon everybody who was anybody was eating food, sometimes several times a week.  Nowadays of course food forms a part of most people's diet to such an extent that the traditional custom of restaurants serving up small bowls of gravel for their customers has almost disappeared except in the most elite of dining establishments.

Food, it would appear, is here to stay despite the best efforts of dietitians and nutritionists to get us eating something less conducive to prolonging life.  Based on Sammy J's experience it would appear that if one wants to be accepted as a trendsetter on food the first thing you should do is write your own dictionary.

I'm ashamed to admit it but I too have indulged in food.  In fact sometimes I eat it two or three times a day.  Honestly my depravity knows no bounds.  Even such a dedicated foodie as Samuel Johnson would be rolling his eyes and shaking his head, mind you he had Tourettes so he would have been doing that anyway but there would have an element of judgement in it as well.  Well I don't care!  England's greatest master of letters may twitch and dribble in disapproval (or just twitch and dribble) but I refuse to be diverted from my path of food enjoyment.  Hey, Sam!  Nobody reads your dictionary anymore, get over yourself.

But now, having established the importance of food its time to address the elephant in the room.  As night follows day any discussion of food quite naturally leads to cannibalism.  Once the popularity of food spread from England to the rest of the world each nation started adding their own distinct touches.  The French specialised in invertebrates.  The Germans made an art of grinding an animal down to the point where you couldn't identify the precursor animal when it turned up on your plate.  Eventually we got to the point where two eager chefs were looking at an empty cooking pot in despair but a couple of hours later a single chef served up a culinary masterpiece.

Think about it for a moment.  Wouldn't all those cooking shows on television be much better if they were a last man standing blood sport?  There could be battles royale in the kitchen as each competitor tries to fillet and stuff his opponents into an oven.  For judges we could have me, Samuel Johnson and a cat.  The Adelaide couple's pulled long pig was delicious.  I give it two paws up.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Kittens - Shameless Social Media etc etc Part 2

Kittens!  The very word arouses an involuntary "aww" in the mind if not on the lips of every human being with the slightest pretence to kindness and decent feelings.  Kittens display that combination of playful vulnerability that humans find so adorable in animals and so exploitable in other people.

IT'S ALL A LIE!!!  Kittens are cute and adorable simply so they can survive the dangerous, early part of their life before they grow up into cats and start treating us with disdain.  Cats are proof that even the dominant lifeform on the planet can wind up in an abusive relationship if it tries hard enough.

Kittens are a vital component in the cycle of emotional abuse inflicted on us by their adult kin.  Kittens bat at strings, chase dingly balls and pounce adorably on us when we're not looking.  And the eyes; dear god those huge, gorgeous, helpless eyes.  We fall into those eyes nearly drowning in cuteness and when we drag ourselves to the surface we find we don't have a kitten any more, we have a cat.  But its too late now, the spell of the eyes lingers despite the fact that the cat ignores us, stays out all night, eats our food and doles out tiny shreds of affection strictly as and when it pleases.  We scamper to please them, desperate for the sound of a purr or the removal of claws from our face that might indicate the cat has some feelings for us other than slightly amused contempt.

Dogs have been known to stand by their dead master keeping vigil over the body.  A cat might do the same but only while there's still something edible on the corpse.  Dogs love to please us while cats love us to please.  Which brings me to the inescapable conclusion that cats are considerably smarter than dogs, or humans for that matter.

Our relationship with cats started out in much the same way as our relationship with dogs.  Food and shelter in return for service.  The difference is that while we trained dogs to do what we wanted cats simply did what they wanted while we provided a venue.  Which is not to say that the service cats provided wasn't valuable.  Once we started storing large amounts of foodstuffs in central, rat accessible locations the service of cats was very useful indeed.  Basically we provided cats with shelter and a food supply and in return they sheltered and ate.  Whenever we might have paused to re-evaluate this relationship the cats simply produced some more kittens and our brains dribbled out our ears in an ocean of cuteness.

The human relationship with cats is set now and I can't believe it will ever change.  Far (I hope) into the future when the human race finally reaches its end the final sound attributable to our civilisation will be a gentle "munch, munch, munch" as a cat chews on the last human's face.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Shooting - Shameless Social Media Whoring Part 1

Yes, there are no depths to which I will not sink.  Behold, before your tired and disillusioned eyes the first in a three part series dedicated to the new name of my blog.  In this part we shall look at shooting.

I have to confess that my personal knowledge of shooting is rather limited.  As far as I'm aware shooting is something that is done to houses in Fairfield.  Indeed there was a time when it looked like houses in Fairfield were going to have to be put on the endangered species list but apparently they reproduce quickly enough to make up for losses.

I will concede that there are some advantages to shooting houses.  Houses are large and don't move very quickly.  Shooting one must be the next best thing to shooting an elephant with arthritis.  On the other hand it is rather difficult to mount a house on your wall as evidence of your sporting prowess.  The other traditional method of proving your kill, posing for a photograph with the victim, doesn't seem to be terribly popular with the sort of people that shoot at houses in Fairfield.

There are some groups in our society who are traditionally expected to carry firearms.  Policemen for example because, well, criminals.  Criminals are also expected to carry guns because those houses in Fairfield aren't going to shoot themselves (although if I were a house in Fairfield I probably would).  Apart from that there's only soldiers (wars and so on) and farmers because apparently you can't spend too much time around large numbers of animals without getting the overwhelming urge to kill a few.  On balance its probably a good thing that there's no tradition of firearms possession among nurses.

Most other firearms owners in the country fall into one of two categories.  "Sporting shooters" and "the defendant".  There is a certain degree of overlap between the two.  Sporting shooters tend to be frustrated farmers who actually have to go out into the bush to shoot animals that farmers can normally kill from the comfort of their verandahs.  This shared discomfort and irritation is probably why sporting shooters are so keen.  If you've committed time and money to what is basically a lengthy and uncomfortable walk with the occasional firing off of expensive ammunition from an even more expensive gun you're not likely to take too kindly to anyone who points out that you could have stayed at home and got a dead animal from the supermarket.

I'm a city boy (although the "boy" part of that is getting increasingly difficult to sustain) and I don't live near Fairfield so my practical experience with firearms is very limited.  I do have a vague understanding that a farmer needs a gun for those dangerous times when a sheep goes rogue but aside from that and the professions noted above I don't see the need for guns.  Other people very kindly kill animals for me and transport them to a central location where I pick up small chunks that I take home to eat.  The only other truly practical reason for owning a gun doesn't apply to me as I really don't want to kill my neighbours, even by accident.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Heres Something to Worship

Possibly it's because I just ordered a large and expensive book on the history of iconoclasm in the Byzantine empire but I've been thinking a bit about religion lately.  It's also possible that my religious cogitations are a reaction to the fact that apparently the pope is going to feature on the next episode of Doctor Who.

I've got to admit I've never really understood what gods get out of religion.  If you were an omnipotent, universe creating entity would you really be so needy and insecure that you required constant validation in the form of worship from one of your own creations?  If the answer is "yes" then it is probably unwise to be worshiping that particular deity (or attracting their attention in any way whatsoever).

No, gods don't need religion.  So who does?  Answer; we do.  Religion is, in my view, possibly the most important thing we have ever created.  Why?  Because it was our first step and if you don't take the first step then it is rather difficult to take any more.  At some point tens of thousands of years ago our flea riddled ancestors paused from tearing a semi decayed strip of flesh from an unfortunate antelope with their fingernails to look up at the sky and think, "there's got to be an reason for all of that."

Religion was pretty much our first attempt to figure out what that reason might be.  It was our first effort to force our rather parochial little brains to encompass something infinitely greater than itself and attempt to explain it.  We're still doing that now in universities and research centres using mental and technological tools that our ancestors would have worshipped in their own right but religion came first.  It was our first step that led to all the others.  Religion taught us it was ok to contemplate the infinite and try to figure out what it all meant.  It came up with some pretty creative and sophisticated ways of doing it too.  And when, finally, these proved inadequate the lessons we had learned guided us forward to new ways of thinking. 

Many of these challenged established religion, some of them were outright hostile to it but none of them were indifferent.  Religion might have been tutor, guide, critic or outright enemy and persecutor but it was always present and in some way or other drove us on.  It was quite possibly our first invention and it easily rates as one of our best.

It could be pointed out with, thorough justification, that religion has been the source of hatred, intolerance and ferocious wars throughout our history.  Very true, but take a look at our history.  Does anybody truly believe that we wouldn't have found some reason to go to war with our neighbours even if neither of us had anything remotely resembling a religious reason to do so?  And as for the hatred and intolerance, well yes.  There was plenty of that but these things don't exist in a vacuum. 

In order to be intolerant of something there must be something else that you do tolerate to draw a comparison.  In order to hate the "other" there must be a "same" that you love.  Religion pulls us together and forces us to put up with each other just as much as it drives us apart.

As we circled the drain towards the post modern age we currently live in religion has become less and less an integral part of our lives.  We have replaced it with other things and possibly better things as we develop our understanding of the universe and carry on with building (or at least piling up into a heap) our civilisation but religion is still at the back of it all even if only as an example of the wrong thinking we've left behind.

Nowadays its fashionable to deride religion.  It's like that old fashioned uncle (or Prince Philip) that everybody hopes won't get too deep into the esky at the barbecue for fear of what he might say.  If fact the only time we do seem to be prepared to respect a religion is if its proponents are actively trying to kill us.  Don't misunderstand me, that's a really great reason to respect anything.  Just watch how swiftly I kiss somebody's arse either literally or on this blog if I honestly think they might put a bullet into my head if I don't, but really you should either deride all religions or none.  They're all equally ridiculous and all equally important.

Religion is the foundation we stand on even if we're now so high that we can't see the ground floor.  I don't believe in God, I never have except for a panic stricken period around the age of eight, but I do believe in religion.  It may be leading us forward or we may be pushing away from it but either way it is guiding us towards greater knowledge, greater understanding and the possibility that one day we won't need religion after all.  Think of all the gods that are going to be out of a job when that happens.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

The Paintwork's Dull but the Location is Amazing

They say that it's the journey that's important, not the destination.  Presumably "they" get lost a lot and they're trying to find some way to stop their wife making snide comments while the children are screaming in the back seat.  It is, however, a perfectly fair statement if your destination is Manly.  I don't often go to Manly because, well, it's Manly.  However friends of mine have made this suburb their current resting place in a lifestyle best described as semi-nomadic.  For them it is all about the journey at least, given their current location, one hopes so.

The purpose of the preceding paragraph (apart from the opportunity to take a totally slightly unjustified swipe at Manly) is to provide a reason for my presence on a ferry from Manly heading across Sydney Harbour to more salubrious locations on the southern shore.  The day was beautiful and the harbour glittered in the late Autumn sun.  I do love the ferry trip to or, preferably, from Manly particularly if I have no pressing business when I arrive and can sit back and enjoy the trip.  One's cares seem to float past along, of course, with a lot of scenery.

Part of the scenery was Garden Island which was emphasising its role as Australia's premier naval base with a profusion of serious looking vessels coloured grey.  As I watched the gathered military might of Australia slide slowly past I couldn't help thinking "Surely they can't all have engine troubles."  Which brings me to the subject of our navy's latest superweapons.

In a previous blog entry I suggested that we might be about to get into a war with New Zealand and Senegal.  I couldn't come up with any other reason for the recent multi billion dollar acquisition of the pair of heavy amphibious warfare vessels which are currently tied up at Garden Island for a very good reason.

Well, I have bad news; the war's off.  The reason the afore mentioned war machines are tied up at Garden Island is because currently we are experiencing a certain amount of difficulty getting them anywhere else.  There is a problem with their engines.  The actual nature of the problem seems to be the subject of a certain amount of debate.  One theory is that the navy botched an oil change.  Another is that something in the maintenance instructions got lost in translation between Spanish (the ship designers), German (the engineers) and English (used by us who are, theoretically, the operators of said vessels).

What ever the reason these two slab sided behemoths are sitting harmlessly at Garden Island while New Zealand goes depressingly uninvaded.  It is said (by the navy) that these two vessels will be the centrepiece of our fleet for up to forty years into the future.  Presumably that can be extended if the vessels cut down on wear and tear by never going anywhere.

It isn't all bad news though.  Given their size and current location if the navy can't get them working again they can probably recoup a fair amount of the purchase price by converting them into high end apartment blocks.  The location and the views would be fantastic.  With the money thus gained the navy could hire a couple of landing craft from Senegal.  Alternatively they could buy ferry tickets and invade Manly instead.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Birthday Greetings #67

Some people stand head and shoulders above others, serving through their actions as an inspiration to future generations who follow, however humbly and imperfectly in their footsteps.  Today I do not celebrate some religion addled Byzantine nutjob or inbred Habsburg halfwit.  Not even a fifth rate Roman emperor or overambitious German lordling who has somehow managed to get himself proclaimed King of the Romans can gain my attention today.

Instead I offer a most respectful birthday greeting to the man whose creativity, intelligence and dedication to strict and impartial reporting of the facts is mirrored in every entry of this blog.  Happy birthday to Hieronymus Karl Friedrich von Munchhausen who was born on this day in 1720.

Von Munchhausen followed a typical career path for one of his birth.  He served as a page to the Duke of Brunswick-Luneburg and when the Duke went to Russia (where he married a noblewoman, fathered a future Tsar and was locked up for decades by that Tsar's replacement) von Munchhausen went too.  Despite his employer's unpleasant end von Munchhausen served for several years in the Russian army rising to the rank of Rittmeister.  At the age of forty he retired from Russian service and returned to Germany to live on his estates as a country gentleman.

He became famous at dinner parties where he entertained the guests with detailed and witty accounts of his service in Russia which were so amusing that there was frequently a waiting list of people wanting to visit him.  His stories were deliberately unbelievable while being told with a deadpan expression and close attention to military detail.  The stories were essentially "party pieces" to entertain guests and there is no indication that von Munchhausen expected them to be taken seriously.

At some point in his career von Munchhausen crossed the path of a combined author/scientific researcher/conman by the name of Rudolf Raspe.  Raspe heard some of the stories and combined them with other tall tales and published the lot as the Adventures of Baron Munchausen (although he hid his own name to avoid being sued).  This was a wise move as von Munchhausen was horrified to discover that his name was now associated with outrageous, dishonest self promotion and attempted to sue the publisher without success.  He retreated into silence and stopped holding dinner parties and telling stories.

It was rather a sad conclusion actually and in retrospect this blog seems to be more inspired by Raspe than von Munchhausen but I don't know when his birthday was.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Silly After Action Report - Part 4 How the Hell Did That Happen

Ivan and I hooked up for the final part of what is rapidly becoming a minor early war epic.  We left our previous night's gaming with me starting to feel cautiously optimistic about my chances.  Ivan was finally poised to capture the buildings he needed in the north but it had taken him a while and I appeared to be holding solidly in the centre.  Then I went through a turn and a half of hell.

Ivan had obviously decided the time had come for desperate measures and he had come up with a new tactic.  This tactic consisted of simply rushing towards me on the assumption that I couldn't possibly hurt him while doing so.  He was correct.  It is true that down in the south west I managed to destroy the tank Ivan had left guarding the road but it return Ivan managed to kill a tank of mine and then break a squad with his squad/lmg combo and any hopes I had of a flanking attack died.  Up in the north he squeezed more men into the melee for the 40mm which I now lost all hope of winning (accurately) and brought forward the rest of his force to challenge me in the south.

Things don't look too bad at the moment, this will change
For my part I pulled some of my centre troops back to reinforce my rear threatened by his southern flankers (because the centre was holding so well).  This proved to be an astute move although it didn't look like it when his flankers rolled up to the rearmost victory building and hopped out of their halftrack in a hail of defensive fire that did absolutely nothing.  Meanwhile the remains of his tank force mobbed the centre buildings and his remaining infantry raced in that direction as well.
"Didn't you shoot at them?" you ask. "What with them all CXed, and non assault moving in the open."
Yes I did shoot at them.  For two full fire phases I shot at them without gaining a single result which left the last couple of turns with tanks sleazing my building defenders and infiltrating to the rear and infantry running all over the place.
Looking worse, just wait

To add insult to injury up in the north his few remaining troops responded to a critical hit from a 47mm gun by going berserk and charging madly for a tank.  Naturally they ripped the tank to pieces with their bare hands, naturally I didn't hurt him in return.  Then another squad jumped my little 47mm SP gun but somehow managed to only immobilise it and was then blown away by my 75mm gun.  Encouraged by this success I followed up with a boxcarred intensive fire shot against an MMG unit.
Feeling the need for some extra firepower I rolled my pair of machine gun tanks forward to bolster my remaining defenders although such bolstering was minimised by my prompt breaking of one of said machine guns.  In the southwest I rolled my surviving tank forward (after a convenient sniper broke his lmg team) and charged for the church.  I had mistakenly thought the tank could control the building location and thus give me another victory location.  Sadly no as Ivan pointed out with gentle malice.  Still the presence of my tank there gave a little hope if I could get troops there.
And wait

In the centre the gun truck which had held so proudly and for so long finally succumbed to vengeance crazed infantry pouring down from the north but it mattered not for his work was done.  I had pretty much given up hopes of actually hurting Ivan's remaining troops and stared hollow eyed at the ruin of my defences.  Ivan had jumped a half squad into CC with my squad in the building behind the hill and had taken advantage of my congenital inability to actually hurt anybody by racing troops into the centre of my position.  He also moved squads into another building I occupied without punishment.  Things looked bleak until finally Ivan pushed his luck too far.  Unloading a halftrack full of troops in full view of my other gun truck I finally managed to score a result and break the bastards.  I followed this up by pinning the troops he hoped to use to reinforce his half squad in melee.  Somehow I had survived if only just although I was pretty sure I was doomed anyway.
Yep, definitely doomed.

With fear and trembling I approached the last turn.  I had a couple of tricks up my sleeve although it would require luck of Ivanesque proportions.  I would need to race infantry through -2 fire modifiers to reach their destinations.  In the north literally the only unit I had left was the crew of the 75mm gun I had recently broken.  I charged them towards the building until recently occupied by my 40mm gun.  They were killed on the way.  In the south I self rallied a squad and charged it forward to join my tank in the church, it was broken on the way.

OK then, screw it.  My heavy machine gun team in the centre managed to break the forces he had in the street.  I then pushed a squad out to occupy the only hex of the building not contested by Germans, regardless of what else happened the building would remain mine.  In the east my rearguard team who had been so wretched at stopping the loss of the rear building pulled back and reinforced the CC raging in another victory building giving me 2-1 odds.  This proved to be just enough.

At the end of the day I held two victory buildings outright and two more were in dispute.  This means Ivan fell one short of his eight from eleven targets.  After two and a half turns of impending defeat suddenly I had won.  I must apologise to Ivan for my increasingly hysterical self pitying ranting.  It's bad enough when you moan self pityingly about losing.  Moaning self pityingly and then actually winning is even worse.  I would promise Ivan that I'll improve but I think we both know I'd be lying.

I've won, somehow

Hauptmann von Kummerbund walked around the battered remnants of the assault force speaking words of encouragement to the dispirited soldiers now hunkered down around the swamp that housed von Kattelrussler's headquarters.  Junior Officer sat with his head in his hands while a medic wrapped a bandage around a nasty leg wound. 

"Well done lads," said von Kummerbund.  "You did everything mortal men could do.  There's no disgrace in this."

A tank lurched to a halt beside him narrowly avoiding Junior Officer who was sprayed with mud.  The hatch opened and von Kattelrussler leapt out also narrowly avoiding Junior Officer who broke down and began to sob.

"Well that was a disgrace," said von Kattelrussler cheerfully.  "Honestly when I say 'drive the tanks into the buildings' I expect my orders to be obeyed." 
He took a step forward and promptly tripped over Junior Officer who let out a loud scream.  "Dear god, who left that lying there?  Not to worry.  Onward and upward hey von Kummerbund?  Scrape up whatever bits of tank you can find and prepare to renew the attack.  There are plenty more small, unimportant villages to die for and we need to be ready."  He waved a bandaged finger, "I'm just off to recommend myself for a wound decoration."  Von Kattelrussler turned on his heel, tripped over Junior Officer again and strode off through the swamp.

A gefreiter (the same one from the previous scenario but it's not important) stared after the retreating figure of the oberst. 
"He closed his finger in the breech block of the tank gun while leading the attack.  Then he had them drive him back to the first aid post for attention."

"Is that why the PzIV was recalled?"

The gefreiter nodded.  Von Kummerbund rolled his eyes.  It was going to be a very long war.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Birthday Greetings #66

Happy birthday to Rupert of the Palatine who was King of the Romans (and by Romans I mean Germans) for a few years at the beginning of the fifteenth century.  Rupert was the Elector Palatine, one of the (at the time) seven great princes who were responsible for electing the Holy Roman Emperor.  Or rather, they elected the King of the Romans.  After said election the pope, if it took his fancy, crowned the Roman king emperor.  Some times it didn't take the popes fancy or the pope was in serious dispute with the Roman king or possibly was too busy beating up on one of the other popes who were trying to dig him out of the Lateran.  In such cases the would be Holy Roman Emperor died as a plain old King of the Romans with, no doubt, a sense of incompleteness.

In Rupert's case this sense of incompleteness would have been increased by the sheer disinterest the bulk of his subjects showed in being ruled by him.  They didn't revolt too much, for the most part they simply ignored him.  Part of this is probably due to the fact that the empire had a perfectly serviceable King of the Romans when Rupert took the job.  As I noted Rupert was one of the electors whose job it was to furnish the empire with its ruler when the current incumbent gave up life's weary burden.  But when you're one of said electors the temptation to elect yourself must be almost unbearable.  The current King of the Romans was Wenceslaus of the House of Luxembourg who was ruling as king of Bohemia.  Unfortunately he wasn't ruling in Bohemia very well and had a tendency to get locked up by various rebellious nobles.  As such he wasn't able to give Germany the attention that the nobility of Germany felt it merited.  Rupert and three other electors (making a majority) met together and essentially fired Wenceslaus and appointed Rupert in his place.

Rupert was a scion (glorious word, I must find out what it means one day) of the House of Wittelsbach a family better known for producing nutcase rulers of Bavaria than deeply mediocre would be emperors (although there was one inglorious period in the eighteenth century when they managed both).  The scene was set for how his reign was going to proceed at his coronation.  Roman Kings are crowned at the imperial city of Aachen.  However the people of Aachen pointblank refused to let Rupert set foot inside the gates so he had to cobble together a coronation in Cologne instead.

Still Rupert was now notionally King of the Romans and he sent hopeful signals to Pope Boniface IX even going to the extent of supporting Boniface against the other two popes that Catholic Christianity was currently burdened with.  Boniface smiled politely, trousered the cash and did nothing.  One of the major problems was that the House of Luxembourg was one of the most powerful in Germany and they hadn't forgotten that Rupert had essentially screwed Wenceslaus out of the crown.  The only reason why this didn't in fact turn into a full blown civil war is because Wenceslaus himself didn't seem to have any interest in getting the job back.  Finally when a Luxembourg family squabble got out of hand and resulted in Wenceslaus being locked up again (this time by his brother) the Luxembourgs subsided into sullen disinterest.

With not so much peace as an absence of war restored to the empire Rupert decided to invade Italy.  This was what political spin doctors would describe as a "vote winner".  The empire had old, long standing claims on northern Italy and for a Holy Roman Emperor (or even a mere King of the Romans) to actually make them good would definitely improve his prestige.  The only problem was you had to be successful, otherwise you just looked like an idiot.  And the fact that the territories in question weren't ruled by the emperor and hadn't been for centuries should have been a clue that extending the imperial authority was harder than it appeared.

Rupert gathered an army, marched across the Alps, besieged Brescia and then had to nervously explain to his troops that he'd left his wallet in his other siege train.  They went home.  Rupert, disinclined to besiege Brescia alone went too.  Any credit Rupert might have gained from not being actually killed by the Luxembourgs was blown away by this somewhat farcical campaign.

Rightly concluding that lack of funds was the principal reason for this latest failure Rupert attempted to increase the amount of land held directly by the king thus guaranteeing himself an improved revenue stream.  This irritated the handful of people who were prepared to admit publicly that they were his supporters because if they had wanted a strong, powerful ruler they probably wouldn't have agreed to Rupert in the first place.  The ensuing "awkwardness" continued until Rupert's death.  He was succeeded by another member of the House of Luxembourg.  The next member of the House of Wittelsbach to grasp at the imperial title was the wretched Charles VII whose misrule would make Rupert look like a political and military genius.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

A Diet of Leaves

"Do you want any salad with that?" asked the food slave at my local lunch shop.
Not an unreasonable question you might say although since my bread filling of choice was tuna and vinegar I think it was a little superfluous.  Incidentally I had to fight hard for the vinegar.

Still the salad question forced me to gaze at the glass counter behind which a wide variety of freshly slaughtered vegetables were displayed for my eating pleasure.  Apparently the motto of my sandwich shop is "If it lives in dirt we can slap it on a bun".  I must admit its a far cry from the sad collection of plant material that was offered as sandwich filler when I was starting out in the work force a depressingly large number of years ago.

As I recall the options at the time consisted of; tomato, sun dried tomato, semi-sun dried tomato, partially sun dried tomato, moon dried tomato, undried tomato, and tomato that wasn't quite dried but but definitely wasn't as sloppy and drippy as actual tomato.  Plus lettuce.  And when I say lettuce I mean nice, shredded, flavourless iceberg lettuce not rocket which seems to be the current craze despite the fact that it tastes like something you would find in a lawnmower catcher.

One thing I've noticed gaining more currency over the years is "leaves".  I'll have a tandoori chicken wrap with tomato, hummus, olives and leaves.  Apparently it is no longer considered absolutely necessary to identify the plant species you are slapping on your customers lunch.  This is despite the fact that quite a number of plant species are dangerous to consume.  I'm not saying I would refuse to eat it necessarily but I would at least like to be informed if I'm consuming deadly nightshade as part of my daily meal routine.

The prevalence of leaves (generic) is just the latest in various vegetable fads.  There was a time in the early nineties when the only available vegetable on the planet was bean sprouts.  Bean sprouts were falling out of lifts, turning up on the most unlikely of meals (I mean, ice cream? Seriously?) and blowing down the streets tumbleweed fashion.  Having enjoyed their five minutes of fame bean sprouts vanished as swiftly as they arrived and I'm pretty sure future generations will never believe they existed at all.

I think (I could be a couple of foodstuffs behind) that chia seeds are quite the thing nowadays.  This is in keeping with the trend started with quinoa of sourcing our food from places not noted for their ability to feed themselves.  I guess one feels just a little bit better about eating food if you know that the people who grew it are probably starving to death.

Anyway once you have your chia seed salad (chia seeds, rocket, leaves and small chunks of bread baked until it breaks your teeth) you can garnish it with pink Himalayan rock salt.  Pink Himalayan rock salt is way better than salt because it's pink and, apparently, Himalayan.  I must admit I favour the green Hindu Kush rock salt myself but then I'm just a food snob.

There was a time, of course, when salt was a rare and desired commodity.  Fortunes were made from it, economies (Venice, I'm looking at you) were built on it, salaries were paid in it (hence the term "salary"), I've even heard that certain ostentatious social climbers put the stuff on their food.  But let's face it that was a long time ago.  Nowadays salt is as common as, well, salt.  A quick dye job and an exotic point of origin don't alter the fact that it's basically NaCl, one of the simplest and  most boring chemical compounds on the face of the earth.

So what's next for the dirt grubbers trying to make money out of morons?  Well dirt of course.  Already one pays more for vegetables produced from one region over another.  How long before highly specialised types of dirt (no doubt only found a long way away in an appropriately non-western/self sustaining country) are determined to be the only types of dirt that one should really grow our food crops in?  When that happens the only vegetable you'll be able to buy is "leaves" and the glass topped counter will be full of soil samples that we'll make our selection from.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Silly After Action Report Part 3 - Because Apparently I Don't Know How to be Brief

Ivan's turn five started with him bringing on the rest of his armour (he left his remaining infantry for another turn).  He brought on a tank in the north and another in the south.  Where did he bring on the other three?  In the centre where they could make a charge for my gun truck.  It's safe to say that that gun truck is starting to obsess Ivan more than a little.

Up in the north things started looking a little worse for me.  He pushed a squad and crew forward next to my 40mm position while he raced another squad and leader across the wheatfield (defying the mighty gun truck) to approach from behind.  His mortar dropped a couple of smoke rounds in convenient places and he lurched his tank forward, straight into the line of sight of my 75mm gun which cheerfully blew it to scrap.  The crew, however survived and joined the rest of his infantry starting to monster my 40mm position.  I was hoping the presence of my armour might help hold the line (point rather than line really) but its starting to look less likely. 

Down in the centre he moved a halfsquad in front of my berserkers who promptly exterminated them, leaving a batch of Polish prisoners searching for a home (and some weapons).  Behind the hill I managed to hit his UK tank with another antitank rifle round and blew the thing up in a sheet of flames.  I was glad to get rid of the tank but it did provide him with some cover which I didn't appreciate.  He pushed a squad and mmg into the woods next to my building and my position started looking a little shaky.  With the north apparently doomed I desperately needed to hang on to this building.

In my turn things briefly got better and then much much worse.  Up in the north I mangled the units he had boldly pushed next to my 40mm but with enemy infantry all around them the writing was on the wall.  I moved my two little dinky tanks around behind the building overrunning (unsuccessfully) his rearward squad.  I also shoved my 75mm gun a hex closer to the action and tried to bring up my remaining armour assets in the north, the 47mm SP gun and neighbouring tank.  Unfortunately I stalled the engines trying to get them started and lost seven movement points, what remained wasn't enough to get them into position but at least they're on the move.

The north is looking increasingly doomed but the gun truck is still the Goddess of Battle

In the south I moved my two 47mm toting tanks forward to where I hoped they could dominate the church (currently occupied by a broken German halfsquad) and not get hit by the reinforcing tank he had brought on.  I turned out to be wrong about the not getting hit part but fortunately he missed his shot.  I rolled my two tanks with the double mg main armament up to his guys in the woods but all my fire succeeded in doing is sending his troops berserk.  Meanwhile my own berserk guys abandoned their heavy machine gun and charged down the hill towards a tank and a squad with a medium machine gun.  Somehow I survived a pair of 24FP shots and plunged into close combat where I was promptly killed.

In the centre Ivan deployed the firepower of three tanks against my lonely gun truck for no result except two broken MAs.  The gun truck continues to reign supreme and Ivan's obsession is approaching mania.  In the next turn one of the tanks would be recalled while trying to repair its MA.  Ivan had seized a lodgement in the victory building behind the hill with a halfsquad but I managed to shoot him out of it and even moved forward and recaptured the stone building just in front of it.

Ivan's sixth turn was obviously the do or die effort.  He pounded a single crew past all sorts of fire and into the building with the 40mm.  With a big kill stack just across the road I ignored it and fired unsuccessfully at the others.  I finally managed to repair my 100mm gun but just as I did so Ivan brought reinforcing infantry on that simply walked up next to them, shrugged off defensive fire, advanced into close combat and killed my crew.  In other close combat catastrophes his squad to the rear of the 40mm building managed to kill one of my tiny tanks while other troops and a pair of his tanks rolled up for an almost ridiculous amount of overkill.  His crew advanced into CC with my gun crew and are now locked up in melee, a situation that helps him more than me.

In the centre my gun truck once again shrugged off all fire and managed to stun an armoured car that got too cocky but the odds are getting longer.  Ivan's brought his infantry on now.  A pair of squads in half tracks are circling deep to my rear obviously hoping to sneak in from behind while the remainder are piling in towards the centre.  At the victory building behind the hill Ivan also went for broke, charging a squad into CC with my defenders while his berserkers leapt for a nearby tank.  Fortunately for me the close combats went better in the south than the north.  My tank killed his berserkers and the building defenders killed the squad that went against them.

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So now all I have to worry about is the fact that Ivan has now received reinforcements pretty much equal his at start force and my own troops are looking decidedly ragged, and by ragged I mean "dead".  I am holding solidly in the south at the moment but a single casualty would make things doubtful and the north is pretty much gone unless my remaining vehicles can somehow pull off a miracle.  Far to the south a pair of troop carrying halftracks threaten a deep outflanking move unless I can get something back there to stop them.  Many commitments, few squads.  More work for the tanks coming up.