Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Deeply Silly After Action Report

In Oberst von Kattelrussler's headquarters a five hour briefing was drawing to a close, von Kattelrussler rolled up the map he had been using,

"And that covers my first week's leave in Dresden.  Are there any questions?"

Despite himself Major von Kummerbund raised his hand.

"Are we going to cover our current assignment?" he asked more in hope than expectation.
"What's to cover?" shrugged von Kattelrussler.  "Poles, villages, guns, tanks nothing we haven't seen a thousand times already.  We can do the briefing after the attack."  He turned to such of his staff as hadn't already been evacuated with self inflicted wounds.  "All right, dismissed.  I want a full evaluation of how I can squeeze a cycling tour of Saxony into my next three day furlough on my desk by 03.00."  His staff fled with a speed born of desperation and von Kattelrussler waved his subordinate to a chair.  Von Kummerbund sat a little nervously and tried not to notice the series of tics that periodically transformed his chief's face into a chaotic wreck.

"Well, Junior Officer has left us," said von Kattelrussler squatting on a wrecked 75mm gun.  "I believe he requested a transfer to the SS."
To von Kummerbund's certain knowledge Junior Officer had requested transfers to the SS, the artillery, the panzerwaffe, the Luftwaffe, the Kreigsmarine, the Todt Organisation and the League of German Maidens.  The SS were simply the first ones to say "yes".

"I believe that's true sir, and he's Junior Officer no longer.  The SS must be short of junior leaders, they promoted him to Obersturmfuhrer immediately on his arrival."

"Obersturmfuhrer?  What the hell is wrong with leutnant for god's sake.  Posturing twats."

Privately von Kummerbund agreed with his chief but was afraid of making a habit of it.

"Indeed sir, he is now SS Obersturmfuhrer Michael Wittmann."

"Michael Wittmann?  What sort of a stupid name is that.  Mark my words von Kummerbund, nobody will ever hear of him again."  There was an edge of malice in von Kattelrussler's chuckle.
"Speaking of the SS, that's our latest assignment.  They charged into some village or other and have got themselves completely surrounded by Poles.  Naturally it's up to us in the army to get them out."

"May god help them," muttered von Kummerbund.  "Do we have any support?"

"Well the SS want to show they're contributing so they've attached a couple of armoured cars to us commanded by," von Kattelrussler scrabbled for a piece of paper, "commanded by, oh SS Obersturmfuhrer Michael Wittmann.  How nice, I wonder if he knows."

Faintly, over the noise of battle came the sound of a newly promoted SS officer sobbing hysterically in an armoured car.

"I think that would be a "yes" sir," replied von Kummerbund.

 Our latest Poland in Flames foray is BFP 123, Asphalt Soldiers.  I shall command the Germans consisting of a bunch of cut off and increasingly desperate SS troopers and von Kattelrussler's boys riding to the rescue.  I'm not expecting too much from this one, I replaced my computer the weekend before we started playing and studied the scenario for about thirty seconds before set up.  Essentially my SS troops have to flee to the west (left) side of the board through the scary Poles in their way while simultaneously holding off another bunch of Poles charging towards them from the east side of the board.  Ivan, as the Poles, has to crush the SS between two fires while simultaneously holding off von Kattelrussler's ill led hordes pounding towards them from the west.

The SS set up in a village which has a plethora of stone buildings (good for defence) unfortunately their objective crosses a fair bit of open ground inconveniently riddled with Poles.  Lest the SS simply go for the exit like a bat out of hell the Poles in the east are ready to charge after them.  I'm also handicapped by the fact that four of my sixteen SS squads are "walking wounded" or, as I have designated them, "expendable speedbumps".  I plan to hold the eastern side of the village with the wounded (supported by a mortar and a bunch of concealment counters) while the rest of my force sets up to the left of the village to probe the Polish positions and hopefully find a way through.  Lest my plan of trapping the left handed Poles between two fires seems a little easy the Poles get a bunch of reinforcements that come on the top and bottom edges of the board to take the Germans in the flank.  Bluntly, everybody is attacking everybody else and getting in each others way.

SS in the village, Poles all around and on the left von Kattelrussler deploying his troops with his usual skill.

I set my SS up strongly in the north with a largely theoretical defence in the south.  I had determined that my relieving troops (Von Kattelrussler's Own) would come in along the northern edge.  On the right hand side Ivan had a powerful force in the centre looking to push towards the big factory while flanking troops towards the bottom looked to push through my non existent defences down there.  For the most part his left hand troops cowered under concealment counters.

After the first turn, my sole achievement is to get my rooftop mortar pinned.

A couple of turns in and things aren't looking good for the bad guys (ie me).  Despite apparently being the Nazi elite my SS troopers have proved incapable of hitting a barn from the inside and only the breaking of the Polish heavy machine gun has spared me from heavy casualties.  I'm still holding the factory which is good as it delays the right hand Poles but is also means those guys aren't heading towards safety.  Up in the north I tested Ivan's concealment counters by pushing a squad along the northern edge.  Ivan had a better way of dealing with it, I had forgotten his reinforcements came on in the north. He advanced two concealed squads into CC with my lone squad, ambushed it and killed it.  The remainder of my SS force is making only small progress towards the left although one mortar crew did walk into a 4-4FP shot and deservedly died.

Just for the record I set up my other mortar on the roof of the large factory to support the defenders there.  Despite a target rich environment all the crew has been able to is first get pinned and then get broken.  So much for the mortar I don't expect to get any more mileage out of it and frankly I'm glad the worthless thing is gone.

His reinforcements have got to the woods before my trucks, grr!

Over on the left I've trucked a bunch of squads along the northern edge just too late to stop his reinforcements from taking position in the woods between them and my beleaguered SS.  In the centre I've dragged a 75mm gun up on to a hill which has so far led Ivan to reveal his own 75 to grab some acquisition in case I manage to get any further.  To the south I have a smaller force pushing through the woods and trying to look mean.  My armoured cars rolled up to try and help dispatch the green squads Ivan has pushed into the woods.  That worked well, they haven't achieved anything but at least only one of them got stunned.  Nevertheless by using the SS armoured cars as a diversion I managed to unload a powerful infantry force from their trucks with impunity (who said von Kattelrussler is dumb?).  Freed from their infantry burden the trucks are trundling forward towards the enemy, did anyone say "truck overrun?"  Hells yeah!

In the south my troops have pretty much emerged from the forest and will have to think of something to do quite soon.  I also have a 37mm still hooked up to a truck that I'm going to have to find something to do with quite soon.

Part 2

Well I found something to do with the 37mm.  I drove it in front of one of his mortars and truck, gun and crew have been blown to hell.  The CVP count is starting to look a little awkward.  It wasn't helped when a truck thundering towards his troops got set on fire and a second truck was immobilised before either could do the vaunted truck overruns. 

Still it isn't all bad news,  my SS troops in the village are slowly easing themselves leftward and a decent number of them made it to the edge of the open ground and are eyeing the area with distinct suspicion.  My 75mm started to make its presence felt breaking a squad and leader and generally making every one in the vicinity nervous.

The truck and armoured car overruns in the north haven't gone exactly to plan

In the south east Ivan's troops have been slowly attempting to out flank me but so far without a great deal of success.  He has a kill stack set up opposite the factory but all it seems to be able to do is break its own weapons.  It started off as a squad and a crew with an hmg and a mmg guided by an 8-1 leader.  By the end of turn five it was a squad and a crew with no support weapons whatsoever.  My mortar team did manage to rally themselves and dropped 50mm mortar shells all over Ivan's rapidly diminishing kill stack but can claim absolutely no credit for the drop in firepower.

It has to be admitted that the reliability of the support weapons on both sides has been a little bit suspect.  Ivan and I seem to be in a race to see who can break the most support weapons first, at present I think Ivan is leading, just.

With the initial shock over (and having Ivan kindly remind me of the victory conditions) I took stock.  Things didn't seem to be going too badly.  Despite my idiocy with the antitank gun I had the southern flank covered by a pair of atr toting squads and a 81mm mortar.  In the north my troops were slowly using numbers and the threat of flanking manoeuvres to push back his green troops defending the forest while in the centre a decent chunk of my SS troops were positioning themselves for the mad dash to safety.

Then Ivan's second batch of reinforcements arrived.  Four (very) little tanks, an armoured car, a bunch of elite cavalry squads and something called a taczanka which was apparently a horse drawn cart carrying a medium machine gun.

Suddenly the south is infested with Poles.  In the north his troops are slowly being squeezed between two fires

With his green squads hanging tough in the north and my SS apparently about to break free into open country in the south Ivan brought the bulk of his forces on in the south.  Three of his tanks rolled up and took up positions in the wheatfield in the centre.  His horsemen galloped madly towards the factory and assumed blocking positions to prevent any southerly break out and his taczanka, well it trotted up a street and stopped.  Neither of us quite knew what to do with this thing.  In the centre his 9-2 cavalry leader wound up opposite my 9-2 SS leader (with a crew and hmg) each occupying a building whose defensive potential was largely negated by the leadership modifier of each combatant.

Naturally my atr toting squads had attempted to take out his tanks as they passed by and naturally they failed.  I assembled my 81mm mortar and failed to gain a hit with it as well.  The south seemed blocked.  Up in the north things took an unexpected turn for the better.

To menace my 75mm gun, which was starting to get the range on his green infantry, Ivan had brought his a tank and an armoured car on deep in my rear.  Despite failing to have APCR my 75 killed them both with two quick shots which was a relief as his green troops were still hanging tough and breaking my first liners all over the place.  Things were made less pleasant when I forewent the truck overruns and brought up my armoured cars.  Ivan's green troops promptly stunned one for the second time and it fled for the exit, the only consolation being that it didn't count for victory points.  I was so frustrated at my inability to hurt these losers that I actually charged into close combat with one of his units who had been standing in the street ignoring morale checks.

Despite the heroics of his green troops Ivan's position in the north was fragile.  His troops were hiding behind hedges and cowering in brush and the more northerly of my SS troopers were closing up effectively surrounding them.  I started to push my SS troopers forward through the brush and brought up the remainder of my forces in the woods.  In the centre a mmg team and officer ploughed through the grain looking to cut his forces in half.

After several turns of failure the breakthrough came quite quickly.  My 75mm managed to pound some guys and my SS some more.  Suddenly he had a bunch of broken squads and absolutely no rout paths.  In return he fired on a sacrificial SS squad trotting towards a building and they went berserk charging into the building and breaking the occupants in advancing fire.  Ivan lost about six squads to surrender in one phase and in desperation charged one of his remaining squads into CC with some of my troops in the forest.  I reinforced that melee and actually killed something in close combat.

Suddenly the north looks much better.  In the next turn I would capture all of these broken squads.

In the centre Ivan broke his 75mm gun, repaired it and broke it again.  In return I dropped an 81mm mortar round on the hex which killed a tank and pinned his gun crew.  Attempting to reposition his remaining tanks Ivan managed to get one stunned by an lmg team (and stun is a recall for these little pests) and the other broke its MA attempting to fire on my 9-2.  I had attempted to reposition this and had missed a clear line of sight which resulted in a 4-3 shot which my hmg crew passed and caused my 9-2 leader became heroic.  Much cursing by Ivan.  The next turn, guided by their newly heroic commander the hmg team took a shot and broke their weapon.  Much cursing by Neil.  In a silly piece of drawing fire I moved a squad out into the road, the broken half squad is currently weeping in a building.  Some of Ivan's cavalry were forced to dismount directly in my line of sight so I killed them, much cursing by Ivan.  Ivan moved three squads in the open against a wounded SS squad in a building.  Defensive fire achieved only one pin result and another close combat rages, much cursing by Neil.  Fire from my (newly repaired) hmg on Ivan's 9-2 led stack resulted in a snake eyes which killed a squad and broke the remainder, much cursing by Ivan.  Ivan moved his taczanka out of harm's way, so he thought, but I cranked my big mortar around and blew it apart, bits of droshky flew in all directions.  Hopefully that isn't the difference between success and failure as neither of us has any idea of how many VP it's worth.

I pretty much have the north.  Ivan rules the south.

At the end of this rather frenetic seesaw I pretty much control the north.  A single green squad with an mmg is all that stands between my SS and their rescuers.  My sole surviving armoured car I plan to keep out of harms way for the rest of the scenario so I don't lose the CVP from it's destruction.  Ivan has augmented a centre position around the wheatfield and no doubt hopes to punish escape attempts.

Part 3
With the final turns upon us, Ivan made his move in the south.  He finally killed my wounded squad in CC and his forces on the right, having disposed of all those heavy support weapons, moved unencumbered into the factory.  It wasn't really his fault that a sniper broke the squad acting as point unit.  Far to the south Ivan had a 37mm AT gun that neither of us could see a reason for him possessing.  Grimly, over the course of three turns, he pushed it down the road until it could fire at a concealed stack in the factory.  They were dummies, much cursing from Ivan.  It was obvious that none of my troops were going to get away in the south.  In fact they were being squeezed between Ivan's onboard forces and his newly arrived cavalry and barely controlled the ground they stood on.  I had hopes of filtering some troops through to the north but Ivan's move into the factory stymied that.

I had a broken SS squad that was in a good position however and a nine to rally gave me hopes they could escape.  I rolled a boxcars, much cursing by Neil.  Up in the forest to the north a pair of my squads had been trembling under DM counters for a couple of turns despite the encouraging presence of a 9-1leader.  Again I attempted to rally them; I rolled a boxcars, much cursing by Neil.  Matters were made worse by the crew of Ivan's wrecked armoured car who had survived and had now personally outflanked my entire force.  Fortunately a nearby squad managed to hit them with a MC.  Ivan rolled a boxcars, much cursing etc etc.  Ivan attempted to repair the MA on his remaining tank and rolled a six.  I also subsequently stunned it.  These guys were determined to leave.
Despite all of the above things were looking good for me.  I had assembled my hmg in the north the previous turn but Ivan had promptly broken the manning crew.  Despite this minor set back my forces in the north wouldn't be denied and the breaking (and subsequent death due to failure to rout) of his one remaining squad up there allowed about half of my SS force to escape to relative safety.  To my astonishment the pair of close combats up there were decided in my favour as well.  Denied nearby targets my berserk squad charged south towards the wheatfield and a stunned AFV with no MA and a broken squad.  The squad, running out of fleeing options died but the berserkers managed to immobilise the tank in CC, no sneaking off the board for these guys. 
I rolled my own armoured car around to cover the road that Ivan was covering and preventing my southern troops from escaping.  Perhaps I could free them after all.  I rolled an eleven and broke the MA.  There was something seriously wrong with our weapons in this scenario.  With the north clear (even a wounded SS squad managed to escape) I began filtering troops south and at that point Ivan conceded.  The slaughter of his green troops had given me a lead of 60 odd CVP to about twenty at that point.  He would have had to wipe out virtually my entire OB to have a chance of victory.  All I needed to do was survive.

The point at which Ivan surrendered

This was certainly a game of swings of fortune.  In the first few turns I couldn't buy an average roll much less a decent one however when it counted it was Ivan's luck which deserted him.  A series of failed morale checks when there was nowhere to run doomed his forces.  This is before you count the fact that at one point we both managed to break virtually every support weapon we possessed.

Major von Kummerbund looked around with satisfaction.  Since oberst von Kattelrussler had gone missing at the start of the action he had taken over command and the results were impressive.  A gefreiter (yes, it's the same one) marched up and saluted. 
"Ah, gefreiter.  Any word on the oberst?" asked the major hoping for tragic news.
"I'm afraid not Herr Major, he was last seen in a truck towing a 37mm gun towards the enemy screaming "truck overrun!" at the top of his voice,".  The gefreiter produced a twisted steering wheel, "This is the most we've been able to find so far."
A desperate hope began to form in von Kummerbund's chest.  A hope which promptly died as a depressingly familiar voice rang across the battlefield.
"Oh there you are von Kummerbund," von Kattelrussler strolled up brushing bits of 37mm gun off his uniform,  "Is it over?"
Reluctantly von Kummerbund saluted,  "Yes sir, it's over."
"Ooh look at the cute little tanks the Poles have, aren't they gorgeous?"
"Indeed sir; you know if you wanted to join the Polish army it probably isn't too late."
"Don't be silly von Kummerbund, where would the Reich be without my leadership?"
"Probably Moscow by now."
"Where are the Polish prisoners?"
"I think the SS are getting ready to massacre them."
"Well tell them to stop, I want some of them to renovate my house."
"You do realise that joke won't be funny for seventy years sir?"
"You know me von Kummerbund, ahead of the curve.  Tell me, did Oberwhatsit Wittman survive?"
"Surprisingly sir he did.  Apparently he spent most of the battle hiding on the floor of his armoured car."
Von Kattelrussler beamed, "I taught him everything he knows.  He will go far."
"At least as far as Normandy."
Von Kattelrussler raised an eyebrow, "now who's making anachronistic jokes?"
"Very sorry sir."
"Yes, well sweep up the body parts and bits of armoured vehicle, we're heading for Warsaw."
Von Kattelrussler strode off jumping occasionally as imaginary dangers leapt out at him from behind wrecked tanks.

"He's going to get another medal for this isn't he sir?" asked the gefreiter.

"Welcome to the German army," muttered von Kummerbund.  "Warsaw, dear Christ!"

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Voting Postal

We're going to have a postal vote plebiscite/survey thingy to see if the nation in general approves of gay marriage or something.  I've got to admit I'm not quite sure exactly how this is supposed to work or how legally binding the result is on the government or anyone else.  I also have to admit to being a little annoyed by the whole thing.  We hire politicians to run our country for us.  If they're going to come yelping to us every time there's a difficult decision to be made then what on earth do we pay them for?  Although since our entire parliament seems to be made up of traitors, spies and double agents for foreign powers possibly its all for the best.

At least the people will speak or, I suppose, write.  Assuming the Australian Bureau of Statistics manages to cock this up a little less than they did the census.  I wouldn't be entirely surprised to learn that we tally up the votes and discover that we inadvertently declared war on Malaysia or criminalised red hair.

To make my position plain; I'm in favour of permitting gay marriage.  In fact I feel a little awkward that my permission is apparently required before they can get married.  I don't recall asking any gay people for permission before I got married.  As long as I'm not expected to buy a present you can pretty much assume I'm fine with it.

Those opposing the idea run the gamut from concerns about religious freedom, slippery slope arguments (will we wind up permitting polygamous marriages with multiple goldfish?) and social cohesion issues.  I've got to admit I don't have a lot of sympathy for these views, largely because I find it difficult to believe that any of them are serious.

Will permitting gay marriage curtail religious freedom?  Possibly, but we have a long and proud history of curtailing religious freedom.  We're not permitted to toss homosexuals off buildings for example but an argument could be made that we should be if we're really concerned about religious freedom.  Moving to Christianity we no longer stone adulterous wives, we no longer permit "no Catholics need apply" notes on job offers (although my grandmother could remember a time when we did) and from time to time we have even been known to suffer a witch to live.  Speaking of which I can't remember the last time we burnt a heretic at the stake.  The religious freedom we curtail is basically the freedom to act like a malevolent prick and blame it on God.  If religion can survive the barrage of assaults on its freedom that are collectively known as "behaving like civilised human beings" then I'm sure it can survive this. 

Slippery slope arguments sound plausible but only because we let them.  It is almost certain that proponents of polygamous marriage, marriage with animals, marriage to trees and marriage to close relatives will seize on a "yes" vote to push their own agenda.  Of course they will, if you have a cause and see what you perceive to be an advantage then you take it.  But here's the thing.  We don't have to say yes to those things.  Slippery slopes only work if you're prepared to slip.  Polygamy is different from gay marriage is different from bestiality is different from incest.  You can support one (any one) of them and not the others and not be a hypocrite. 

Finally we have the social cohesion argument.  Marriage between a man and a women is part of our culture.  It has been so for millennia, it is part of the fabric that holds us together and makes a society more than the sum of its parts.  I actually have more sympathy for this argument than I do for the others.  No one (except maybe a few morons) expects gay marriage to mean that their wife is going to dragged off and forced to marry a lesbian the day after the vote.  But changing something so well established that we probably don't even notice its there until it gets brought to our attention is a bit of a step.  When we change something this fundamental we are implicitly stating that thousands of years of tradition, revered ancestors, law givers and much loved public figures (not now of course but back when there were public figures worth loving) were bigoted and a bit silly.  That's not nice, a lot of us have fond memories of some of those people.

But here's the thing.  We change our culture all the time.  Our ancestors did the best they could with what they had and the changes we make serve only to highlight how much they got right.  A century or so ago we enfranchised half the damn population and the world didn't collapse around us.  There was no precedent for that, indeed there was a vast cultural precedent for the status quo.  A century or so before that back in less than Merrie England the collection of inbred nutjobs, gentleman farmers and moral degenerates then running the place took time out from hitting on their cousins and hunting foxes to give the peasantry a say in how the country was run.  If you're talking about unprecedented it doesn't get much bigger than that.  The same collection of people (backed up by some hard as nails merchant princes) banned slavery and then sent the worlds largest navy out onto the seas to enforce that ban whether other nations liked it or not.  Nowadays slavery is seen as a terrible moral evil, three centuries ago it wouldn't have raised an eyebrow but they banned it anyway.  And before each of these changes and the many, many others our society has gone through over the centuries people argued, passionately and with sincerity, that however desirous change was it would destroy our society if we tried it.  They were wrong then and they're wrong now.

This is the strength of our culture.  It can change.  We are not locked into a pattern of behaviour simply because our ancestors did it.  And because we're not, because we can change what needs to be changed we don't have to destroy the entire edifice to do so.  Change is the strength of our culture and the reason why so much of it (rule of law for example) remains without serious challenge.  We built a society we can continuously update, we are not stuck in the dark ages simply because Charlemagne was.  Gay marriage will not destroy our society and it won't destroy marriage. At the very least things will get no worse and both may indeed be strengthened.  If you want people to be committed and dedicated to society then they need skin in the game.  They need to be part of us.  This will help some people who, for no good reason, were "them" become "us".

For me my reason for being in favour is not because I'm an ardent exponent of marriage for anyone.  Been there, done that, didn't turn out so well.  Nor is it because I expect the entire gay population of Australia to flock to the registry office the day after the vote. Some will, no doubt, others are quite likely to be happy as they are.  Actually I'm not so much in favour of gay marriage as I am opposed to forbidding it which is where we are at the moment.  Because if there is something that is readily available to most, something which is taken for granted as an absolute right by the bulk of the population and one small subset is denied it then the question is why?  And the automatic implication is, because there is something wrong with them.  Equality can be legislated, demanded, insisted on but at the end of the day if you prevent two people who love each other from marrying you must think there is something wrong with them because why else would you bother?  I know some gay people, most are nice, one or two are pricks but there is nothing wrong with any of them.  Collectively and individually they deserve the right to make a mess of their lives under the same conditions as the rest of us.  There is no reason to prevent them that doesn't ultimately boil down to bigotry, forcing gay people to be "them" when they should be part of "us".

That's a bit of a diatribe and I'm actually a little nervous about posting this blog in case I haven't put myself well or inadvertantly put somebodies back up.  So I'll finish by registering my disgust with the entire political class of this country.  Our prime minister who didn't have the balls to ram this through, the opposition who would have sabotaged this if they could simply so they could get the political "glory" of granting gay marriage themselves.  With the exception of a tiny handful of people none of our political class comes out of this with any credit.

One final thing.  I will be surprised if the vote gets up.  The simple fact of the matter is the bulk of the population aren't invested in it.  There is a small group who are passionate for yes and another small group who are passionate for no.  Everybody else falls into the category of "it doesn't really affect me and I have my own problems".  In such a case people tend to vote for the status quo simply because they know there won't be any unexpected consequences at the end.  I hope I'm wrong; every so often people surprise me with how amazing they can be.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Vale Mr Moo

This blog's flag has been lowered to half mast.  Black crepe adorns the walls and the wails of hired mourners fill the air.  My fingers tremble as I type and the screen blurs as I try see it with eyes filled with tears.  Truly terrible news has reached me from our frozen south and suddenly I curse the efficiency of my Belarusian tech support who have so swiftly brought these grim tidings to me (along with a life time supply of generic brand Viagra and what looks suspiciously like weaponised smallpox).  Mr Moo that cow among cows is no more and for those who are left behind there is nothing to do but weep (and possibly, eat). 

According to this blog's bovine bereavement reporter the end was mercifully quick.  A gathering of cattle (at least he was among friends), a quick trip to the abattoir (at least he got a truck ride) and then a gentle departure full of grace and dignity (ok I can't prove that bit but its what my reporter is telling her daughters so its good enough for me).  The daughters, my mini reporters for all things cow, arrived at their grandparents farm to find a staggering absence of cows.  The Mr Moo shaped hole in the landscape was conspicuous indeed.  Tremblingly they questioned their grandparents about the lack of cows.  Their sharp eyed interrogation rapidly elicited the truth.  For the record I believe the response was something like,

"The cows?  Yeah we killed 'em.  What do you want for dinner?"

Farewell Mr Moo you were great among your kind.  Admittedly your kind were cows so the bar was set pretty low but nevertheless you were great.  While other cows followed the herd you stood aside.  Granted it didn't do you any good in the long run but what times you had while you were here.  Chasing off those who tried to get you across the road, standing around eating, lying under trees, more standing around eating.  Your life was a rich tapestry of standing around eating with occasional bursts of something else. 

Along the way you provided a ridiculous amount of material for a ridiculous blog.  You saw seasons (and other cattle) come and go and for a brief moment you must have seemed immortal to those who aren't used to seeing the same cow for more than a few months.  You befriended (or at least tolerated, or at the very least, didn't actively kill) small humans and smaller dogs without stepping on or attempting to eat either.

Finally when the time came you faced it with the courage and acceptance that only the knowledge of a life well and truly lived can give (again I can't prove this but its my blog so, sod off) an example to cows throughout the ages.  The only thing extra that you could have done is develop opposable thumbs and sweep the human plague from the surface of the earth.  Thanks for not doing that, I'm sure it was tempting at times.

 The blog pipers are blowing a soulful dirge and the mourners have reached the self flagellation and dust in the hair stage.  Their grief is no more real for being purchased.  As for me I will remember you every time I eat a steak.

OK, who's up for McDonalds?

Thursday, August 17, 2017

And Fedoras are the New Boxer Shorts

It's official!  Socks are the new ties.  I know this because I saw an advertisement with the words "Socks are the new ties!" emblazoned across it.  To emphasise the point the lower leg of a no doubt handsome and well chiselled model was pictured brazenly flaunting an ankle and even a hint of calf covered in a piece of material that looked as though it had been patterned by forcing someone to drink several tins of different coloured paint and using socks to mop up the ensuing vomit.

I must admit I'm delighted to hear that socks are the new ties.  Dressing for work has become just that little bit easier now that instead of fiddling with a tie I can just sling a sock around my neck and be ready for the office.  Ties were always an irritating irrelevance.  I realise my sex is not famous for its subtlety but at what point did we decide it was a great idea to adorn our business clothes with brightly coloured arrows pointing at our penises?  The only real use a tie had was it gave you something to strangle your co-workers with if a meeting got a little out of hand.

Socks on the other hand were the ultimate in utilitarian practical wear.  Humble, retiring, without flash or adornment they went through each day quietly protecting our feet from the ravages that our overly fancy footwear attempted to visit upon them.  Socks said nothing about a man except "I'm wearing socks" whereas the pushy, narcissistic tie advertised the owners, school, political affiliations, sexual orientation and in extreme cases what communicable diseases he was likely to be suffering from.  Socks came in grey, black or navy blue.  One could glance at a man's socks and still suffer from the delusion that he was a restrained and tasteful individual.  Once your eyeballs hit his tie all bets were off.

Now, however, socks are the new ties.  Despite pathetic jokes about wrapping socks around my neck I know what this means.  It means that clothing manufacturers have decided to squeeze every last dollar from their hapless customers by getting their semi slaves in Bangladesh and elsewhere to run up brightly coloured, terribly fashionable foot coverings so that on those occasions when an inch of sock is revealed between trouser leg and shoe half the people in the room are going to come down with an epileptic seizure.

There seems to be nothing so prosaic that it can't be reimagined as a tasteless and monstrously expensive fashion symbol.  If you want to know why we don't have flying cars or a cure for cancer the answer is to be seen in these socks.  The brightest minds of our generation are fully employed trying to persuade the rest of us to wear items that our ancestors would have used to clean up after the dog.  I would have more to say on this subject but I'm currently suffering from acute blood poisoning after inadvertently stabbing myself in the neck with my sock pin.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Bow Ties and Beard Oil

Exciting news from the Land that Time Forgot!  According to this blog's unlikely occurrences reporter Tasmania is becoming a land of hipsters.  Apparently the signs are there for those who want to see them.  Smashed avocado is being served on plates in cafes rather than bouncing off your head after annoying a local farmer.  Cultural stuff is happening and not just in cheese vats and some of the more modern clothing is high quality imitations of the stuff Tasmanians have been wearing for generations.  The presence of wooden bow ties and beard oil at the local markets was the absolute clincher. 

"Tasmania," announced my correspondent, "has arrived!"

"Arrived where?" I asked; my correspondent was a little more vague on that.

I must admit I have no idea how a wooden bow tie might be used (ironically one suspects) and as for beard oil I honestly thought this was just a result of working on your car without shaving first.  Still this is definitely big news for a state where sex education involves persuading the kids to keep their hands off their siblings.  To celebrate Tasmania's inclusion in some of the more unfortunate aspects of modern society my correspondent has decided to go to a Moroccan music performance which is being performed by Moroccan musicians.

It's great to have such performances in Tasmania (or indeed anywhere), it introduces people to the wonder of other cultures, broadens their experience of the human condition and most importantly allows people from poor countries to engage in overseas travel.  Hopefully the Moroccan musicians will take time out from serenading people so ridiculously wealthy that they can pay to listen to Moroccan musicians and visit some of the sights of Tasmania while they're here.  I understand they can pick up a wicked wooden bow tie at the markets.  And I'm sure they would be crazy for beard oil.

This is part of the joy of foreign travel, wandering around gawking at all the ways the country you're visiting differs from your own.  Hopefully our Moroccan guests don't get sick or they will discover that when it comes to health care Tasmania is a little closer to Morocco than even Morocco would be comfortable with.  Hobart Hospital is a never ending source of amusement for my correspondent.  An amusement edged with naked terror that she or her children might have to rely on it for medical treatment.  It is the second oldest hospital in Australia and as you can imagine requires a bit of upkeep.

Currently one of the major concerns is chunks of asbestos falling onto patients, staff and the construction workers currently attempting to deal with issues like chunks of asbestos falling on patients and staff.  Another is the mould in the shipping crates.  It was intended that while the more permanent bits of the hospital were being patched up (gluing the asbestos back into place and that sort of thing) a group of large shipping crates were brought in to act as prefabricated buildings.  Unfortunately they leaked and the ensuing mould rendered them unfit for human habitation.

Meanwhile apparently the hospital has lost its accreditation for psychiatric care training because its an unsafe working environment.  That is, it's unsafe for people who are actually healthy and don't need medical attention.  Hopefully its a little more safe for such of the patients as manage to claw their way through the overcrowded emergency room and into the putative safety of a ward.  Mind the asbestos on your way in. 

I suggested privatisation to my correspondent as a way of possibly solving these issues.  She responded by pointing out that no one in their right mind would buy it.  It's a little difficult to argue with that, I rather suspect anyone who would be prepared to buy it is probably the sort of person you don't want running a hospital.  Although to be fair it would appear that the sort of people you really don't want running a hospital are the Tasmanian Health Service.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Birthday Greetings #70

Happy birthday to Albert II, King of the Romans.  You know how this goes, King of the Romans meant Holy Roman Emperor only he didn't get crowned by the pope.  There was some confusion about his actual date of birth it seems.  Wikipedia says he was born on the 10th of August whereas the online Encyclopaedia Britannica claims 16th August as the birthdate.  Despite my fondness for Wikipedia I've decided to allow my inner snob to decide that I should follow the Britannica in this instance rather than celebrate his birthday six days ago.

Albert, a Habsburg naturally, was born (whatever the date) in Vienna as the son of the Duke of Austria.  Due to his father coming down with a severe case of death he wound up as Duke himself (as Albert V) at the age of seven.  This was a little unfortunate as he was surrounded by rapacious relatives.  One of the reasons for the Habsburgs subsequent dynastic exhaustion some centuries into the future (apart from their predilection for marrying their cousins) was a series of ruthless power struggles within the family itself which whittled down the number of available Habsburgs.

Since a seven year old couldn't be trusted to effectively oppress the peasants his uncle, Duke William of Inner Austria (known apparently without irony as William the Courteous), stepped in as regent and he and his two brothers helped to essentially carve up and loot Albert's patrimony.  Still they didn't actually murder Albert and he managed to get a good education from somewhere (this was early fifteenth century Europe so "good education" was a somewhat relative term).  Albert eventually entered into his majority and managed to chase his irritating family out of the duchy. 

With something approximating peace restored to his territories Albert could take a deep breath and decide what to do with his life.  He decided to marry the daughter of Sigismund the King of Hungary.  This was a brilliant idea, the King of Hungary (actually a German from the House of Luxembourg) had strong imperial connections.  Indeed his cousin was King of the Romans until Rupert of Germany (who got a thoroughly undeserved birthday shout out recently) snaffled the crown.

Although brilliant politically the marriage did mean that Albert had to help Sigismund out with his wars and Sigismund seemed to have rather a lot of them.  During the course of these wars (against Hussites mainly) Austria got overrun and plundered a fair bit.  On the plus side Sigismund was grateful for the assistance and in the absence of any male offspring made Albert his heir.  This took on even more significance when Sigismund managed to get himself elected King of the Romans.

When Sigismund finally died in 1437 Albert, humble Duke of Austria (he was a Habsburg so I doubt he was that humble) wound up as King of Hungary.  Moving his court from Vienna to Hungary he immediately got into a war with the Bohemians.  You see Sigismund had somehow managed to wangle the Bohemian crown as well and Albert figured he might as well grab that one too.  While he was busy fighting the Bohemians (who didn't seem keen on him as their king) the Electors of the empire, apparently without reference to him, appointed him King of the Romans.  It had been a couple of centuries since the Habsburg family had held the imperial crown.  With the exception of a brief interlude in the 1700s they were never to let go of it again.

Albert ruled the empire from Hungary and in 1438 officially ended all feuds based on the right of private warfare within the empire.  Since Albert himself died the next year in the course of some very public warfare against the Turks its unlikely that too many people paid attention at the time but a precedent had been set and future emperors would use it to cut down on internal disputes.

Albert was known as Albert the Magnanimous for reasons which are unclear.  Possibly it was the way he magnanimously burnt the Jewish population of Vienna at the stake and demolished their synagogue.  If his uncle could get the epithet "the Courteous" simply because he didn't murder everyone he met stranger things have happened.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Here Today, Guam Tomorrow

The imminent disappearance of the island of Guam beneath a rain of North Korean missiles prompted me to investigate this little known jewel of the Pacific.

Of course the term "little known jewel of the Pacific" is a trifle inaccurate.  Guam is thoroughly well known to those who live there, the military based there, the thousands of Japanese tourists who visit there each year and its existence is acknowledged at least in a theoretical sense by the government of the United States itself.  As for "jewel of the Pacific" well I'm sure Guam is terribly nice (all those tourists can't be wrong) but let's face it the Pacific Ocean is absolutely littered with photogenic islands shamelessly flaunting their translucent waters, abundant fish and white sand to a jaded public.  No doubt Guam is up there with the rest but the Pacific sets the benchmark pretty high.

So when I said my term was a trifle inaccurate I was being a trifle inaccurate.  It would be more accurate to say, "totally inaccurate".  If anybody can work their way through the preceding couple of sentences and tell me what I was talking about I would be eternally grateful.  And by eternally grateful I mean mildly appreciative right now.

Now Guam who's greatest threat to date was a small brown snake (twelve bird species extinct and counting) is apparently in danger of being the subject of North Korea's dreadful retribution for the nasty things that Donald Trump said about them or something.  President Trump apparently threatened fire and fury (as opposed to smoke and sarcasm) in response to statements made by North Korea which (and I'm paraphrasing here) threatened fire and fury.

The problem with getting your foreign news from the Guardian (as I do) is that everything is always Donald Trump's fault.  I'm not saying this is wrong necessarily but it does mean an ill informed reader could come away with the impression that Trump created North Korea so he could say inflammatory things about it.  North Korea threatened "physical retaliation" in response to the latest sanctions slapped on their country and Trump responded with the fire and fury line which at least rolls of the tongue a little better.  The various Guardian contributors were united in agreeing how terribly dreadful, destabilising and war mongering it was of Trump to respond to a threat of violence with a threat of violence.  What came next from North Korea was to my mind deeply disturbing.

The North Koreans threatened to drop missiles into the waters around Guam.  Some idiot at the Guardian thought this represented close calculation by the North Koreans (as opposed to that crazed war mongering idiot in the White House).  The Guardian column went to point out that this indicated a lesser target and a more restrained action.  True, however it didn't seem to draw the obvious conclusion.  In the past the North Koreans have threatened nuclear annihilation on the United States, the bringing down a rain of, oh what's the term?, oh yes, fire and fury on Washington and blah blah blah.  It was all crazy rhetoric and nobody took it seriously if only because the North Koreans physically couldn't do what they were threatening.  Now they've stopped the crazy, generic threats nobody believes and have come up with a highly specific, closely targeted threat against a reachable objective.

If you think that sounds like moderation then consider this.  If someone you met in the street threatened to drop an atomic bomb on your house you would know he was crazy and ignore him.  If he threatened to hit you around the head with a baseball bat you might take him a lot more seriously because that is something he can probably do.  I don't think that the North Koreans making rational threats rather than irrational ones is a hopeful sign.  I think its actually a threat.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Birthday Greetings #69

I've trolled back through previous blog entries and I'm pretty sure I haven't given this guy a birthday shout out before.  I hope not, it's becoming embarrassing.  Still, in the hopes that my rather haphazard due diligence is accurate, happy birthday to Constantius II, Roman emperor.

Constantius was the son of the previous emperor, Constantine the Great who had reunified the empire through a series of civil wars after its administrative separation under Diocletian.  Then, on his deathbed Constantine deunified it again by leaving the empire to his three sons each of whom got a chunk of the territory.

The three sons incidentally were named Constans, Constantine and Constantius which indicates either a lack of imagination on their father's part or a simple desire not to have to remember the names of his children.  Constantine got the bit on the left (Britain, Gaul, Spain, Mauretania), Constans got the bit in the middle (Italy, Africa, Illyria, Macedonia etc) and our boy got the bit on the right (Asia Minor, Syria, Egypt, Thrace and the city of Constantinople itself).  Constantius also inherited a war with the Persians which he was probably somewhat less grateful for.

Oh yes, there were a couple of cousins who also got small patches of the empire for their very own but to commemorate his father's death Constantius initiated (or was the totally unwitting beneficiary of) a bloodbath of various members of the imperial family which left just the three sons and a couple of odd (very odd) cousins standing.  With the lines of inheritance conveniently cleared Constantius settled down to rule.  War with the Persians was top of the agenda but whereas his father had all the resources of the empire to fight them with Constantius had to make to with effectively a third of that.  His response was what we would now call a strategic defensive (and what was at the time suggested to be cowardice and incompetence).  Fortified cities would hold vital points while the bulk of the army would be held back to counterattack any Persian troops who got through.  This worked for several years but was rather tough on the people who lived in the areas that Constantius had written off as undefensible.

Constantius has got rather a bad press from historians.  This is partly because his successor was a spectacular failure rather than a boring success and partly for religious reasons.  Constantius was condemned as an adherent of the Arian heresy and his reputation amongst religious historians (and most historians were religious, nobody else had the time and leisure to write histories) suffered as a result.  It seems that Constantius wasn't a card carrying Arian but rather favoured some sort of compromise that would bring Arians and Orthodox together.  Naturally the Orthodox hated him.  If the Arians had won they would probably have hated him too.

He was also supposed to be nervous, paranoid and utterly under the control of the eunuchs who made up his government.  Given the death rate in imperial families at the time being nervous and paranoid could better be described as vital survival traits.  As for the eunuch thing, well maybe but unless you plan to deal with every single bit of paperwork yourself then as emperor you kind of have to rely on your officials.  Some (and by some I mean "all") of these were corrupt but most of them were competent and the administration of the empire certainly didn't collapse during Constantius' time which was pretty impressive considering the strains it was under.

Over in the left two thirds of the empire things had been changing.  Constans, ruler of the middle bit of the empire, had been a minor when he had come to the throne and his brother Constantine had excercised a sort of guardianship over him.  Constans grew up and told his brother he didn't need guarding any more.
"Oh yes you do," replied Constantine.
"Who from," demanded Constans.
Bold words but Constans proved a precocious little tyke and defeated (and killed) his brother and took over his part of the empire which he ruled for ten years.  At the end of that time the commander of his guard units murdered him and took over his part of the empire.

Constantius was having none of it though.  Brother on brother murder was all very well but there was no way an outsider was going to be allowed to get away with spilling the imperial blood.  Hastily grabbing a convenient cousin and appointing him Caesar (with special responsibility for taking the blame if the Persians invaded) Constantius gathered together all the troops he could raise and marched west.  His forces met those of the usurper at the Battle of Mursa Major sometimes known as the day the Roman army committed suicide.  Casualties on both sides were appalling but Constantius won the day and chased his opponent into Italy (pausing to beat up some Sarmatians en route).  After another defeat the usurper (his name was Magnentius by the way) committed suicide and Constantius was ruler of the whole Roman empire.

Which was useful because his attention was suddenly called back to the east.  His cousin Gallus whom he had appointed Caesar in the east had, apparently been making an almighty hash of things.  Cruelty, tyranny and the slaughter of prominent citizens (and probably non prominent citizens as well but nobody cared about such things) could perhaps be forgiven if they hadn't been accompanied by mismanagement.  Antioch was suffering from a famine, the Persians were getting restive, the army was getting mutinous and tax revenues were declining.  From his current base at Milan (then called something longer and more tedious) Constantius ordered Gallus to appear in the imperial presence and explain himself.  Somewhat reluctantly Gallus did so.  He explained himself by blaming everything on his wife who had conveniently died recently.  This didn't impress Constantius too much not least because said wife was his own sister and he ordered his cousin's execution.  Apparently he changed his mind shortly afterwards but those sneaky eunuchs delayed the arrival of the reprieve until Gallus was safely dead.

Constantius had spent a couple of years in the west campaigning against barbarians, stamping out a couple of other plots and generally doing emperor stuff but with the deteriorating situation in the east it was obvious he had to leave.  However he needed somebody he could rely on to hold down the west while he was gone.  Obviously it had to be family, unfortunately he had already killed most of his family.  Hastily scrabbling through he discovered another cousin by the name of Julian.  Julian was an odd fish who had spent most of his time buried in the study of ancient Greece and avoiding his cousin's attention (I said he was odd, I didn't say he was stupid).  Well, so much for the scholarly life.  Julian was dragged out of Athens, wrapped in imperial purple and dumped in Gaul as Caesar of the West while Constantius marched east to deal with the Persians and such like.

In his absence the Persians had captured places, devastated stuff and generally fire and sworded whole areas.  Constantius was forced into attempts to recapture territory.  The initial campaigning was inconclusive and Constantius pulled back to Antioch to regroup.  He'd beaten up on the Persians a bit but if he wanted an outright victory he needed more troops.  He sent a quick message back to his Julian ordering detachments of the western army to join him for the next campaign.

Julian responded by declaring himself emperor and marching his entire army towards Constantius.  With a definite "here we go again" air Constantius gathered up his own troops and headed off to meet just the latest in a whole series of family disappointments.  It didn't come to a battle though.  By this time Constantius was seriously ill and it soon became apparent to him that the end was coming.  On his deathbed he announced Julian as his legitimate successor and then died.  Julian made a big show of giving him a magnificent funeral because, well you do don't you?

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Silly After Action Report

In June 1944 the Allies landed in Normandy.  They found the place so appealing that they wound up staying there for much longer than they expected.  Since they weren't planning on going back to England any time soon they brought everything they thought they might need with them.  Tanks?  Hundreds of the armour plated fire spitting monsters.  Aircraft?  The sky was black with aircraft, thousands of aircraft thundering through the sky and peeling off for that photogenic dive so beloved of propaganda films.  Artillery?  I cannot emphasise how much artillery there was.  There was so much artillery there was barely any room for all of the tanks and aircraft.

Which means that the colonel of a US infantry regiment was entitled to feel a little aggrieved when his attack orders went something like this;

"Take your boys in and dig out the Germans!"

"No problem sir, I assume we have tanks?"

"Er, no the tanks are all busy doing other things at the moment."

"Oh, well I presume our air support will make up for that.  The Germans hate our support."

"Actually General Patton's having a bit of an airshow so no can do I'm afraid."

"Now I'm starting to hate our air support.  Dare I ask about the artillery?"

"They've got the day off, apparently it's St Barbara's birthday."

"So what do I have?"

"Twenty squads of infantry and a "can do" attitude."

Over on the German side of the lines the conversation went a slightly different course.

"Of course we don't have any tanks, when was the last time you saw a tank?  Air support?  Do you really want that fat, drug addicted prick dropping ordinance near you?  Artillery?  For god's sake man, don't you know its St Barbara's birthday?  You do have a heavy machine gun but headquarters wants it back at the end of the scenario so try not to get it dirty.  Have a great war, I'm off to start my memoirs blaming everything on Hitler."

Life is tough at the sharp end.  That's why its called the sharp end and not the soft and cuddly end.  Life's pretty good at the soft and cuddly end but before we get there Adam Lunney and I sat down to play BFP 20, Bypassed Lehr.  This would pit Adam commanding the aforementioned twenty odd squads of Americans (led by a mighty 9-2) with a collection of medium machine guns and bazookas against yours truly.  My Germans consisted of five elite squads and ten squads of second liners making up the numbers.  I had a heavy machine gun, a pair of mediums and a panzershreck.  Adam was attacking and had to drive my troops out of the buildings on board six (the bottom one), if I could hang on to four of them I would win.

Thanks to buildings, woods and bocage lines of sight were problematic which meant our troops would soon be up close and personal which given the firepower disparity wasn't good news for me. I decided that the buildings far in the right rear would be my final defense line. I set up the hmg to fire down the only convenient road which neatly sliced through the battlefield and a few throwaway squads on the flanks. Up front a mix of dummies and the occasional real squad would hopefully slow him down.  The buildings in the centre would be my main line of defence and I set up a force on the left and right to hold them.  The plan was to slow Adam down and slowly retreat hopefully presenting a solid defence at the end.  As it was there was more dying than retreating but still.

Set up, Adam has decided to go hard in the centre with a flanking force on the (my) left

Adam's initial shots vapourised some dummies but otherwise didn't achieve the results he wanted but nothing loath he started to press forward anyway.  I very rapidly learnt a painful lesson; when the Americans have squads to burn they're incredibly difficult to stop and their firepower is appalling.  He pushed his flankers forward on my left and I dropped concealment to break a squad whereupon the remainder simply rained lead on my hapless troops until they lost all interest in proceedings.  In the centre he swarmed forward daring me to fire, I really had to if I didn't want to die for no result.  I fired, I got some result and subsequently died.  Barely inconvenienced the olive green tide swept on.  Except on the right.  There he had a pair of squads, a pair of mmgs and his 9-2 leader.  You know how this goes, when did a 9-2 ever have an affect on a game?  He stuck his head up, got a sniper bullet in it and his two squads broke for losing their leader.  That relieved a little pressure on my right.

His 9-2 is dead but his flankers are pushing forward

Which was good because pressure was coming in abundance in my centre.  Adam's plan was almost Soviet in its simplicity.  A mass of firepower first then a charge towards my position.  Yes, defensive fire would take down a squad or two but the survivors would plunge into close combat, slaughter my underarmed troops and move on.  This is a great tactic if you have the troops to spare and it seemed that Adam did.  Meanwhile on my left his flankers, having chased off the (now broken, conscript) defenders pushed forward to threaten my left hand position from two sides.  I had a half squad with an mmg in a building forward and another hs with the schreck in a foxhole directly behind.  The plan was that when the building fell as it inevitably would then I could blast the victorious attackers out of it with the schreck.  Believe it or not this actually worked, briefly.

In the right centre Adam's troops poured into the woods pushing towards the large building that was the centre of my defenses there.  He still had enough firepower left over to break my forward mmg team while I was on the horns of a deeply unpleasant dilemma.  If I fired at Adam as he moved I dropped concealment thus opening myself up for massive vengeance.  If I didn't fire then Adam simply walked up to me and killed me at pointblank range or in close combat.  I tried both methods throughout the game to determine which worked better.  Neither.

With my right flank apparently ignored I took the opportunity to scuttle the squad I had there forward to keep DM on his machine gun squads.  This one squad wound up conducting its own personal flanking manoeuvre deep in Adam's rear.  Unfortunately deep in Adam's front he was grinding remorselessly forward.  His left flankers swung inward (except for a squad which made the mistake of crossing the road and was crushed by my hmg) and started to menace my left hand positions.  Far to the rear I started pulling troops from unthreatened areas to take up positions in the village.  This was pretty much the only tactical decision I made once the game started and it turned out to be important.

On the right my one squad flankers are keeping his broken guys honest.  The AR counters are doing service as snipers btw)
Now in position Adam let rip, recklessly expending squads he threw his troops forward.  I fired, broke some, pinned others but yet others survived to plunge into close combat.  I think I've mentioned before that close combat is not my friend.  So it proved again, I didn't win a single one but I survived longer than I had any right to and tied up some of Adam's units that he needed to keep the attack moving.

Plans of a fall back defence largely went by the board.  Adam surrounded my guys and beat them up.  The only troops who "fell back" were those that had broken.  Still Adam's casualties were mounting, time was running out and I still had my rearguard largely untouched.

Broken American squads litter the approaches but the survivors are in CC with my hapless defenders
Eventually the close combats were resolved in Adam's favour and he pushed forward again, now heading towards the final buildings he needed for victory.  Gathering his forces he threw them towards their new targets while my now depleted troops whimpered in fear.  I had pulled in all the troops I could, there was nothing else left.  Either my guys would stand firm or Adam would blast through them.

Readying for the final charge
The final two turns were a blizzard of fire as Adam's troops stormed forward, bocage, walls and orchards cut down the amount of open ground he had to cross but my troops fired until their barrels were red hot.  The American tide poured forward and finally broke, just short of the buildings he needed.  Somehow I had clung on by my eyelids for a win.

From the report above it sounds like I was heading for defeat.  The simple truth is I thought I was.  Adam's pressure was relentless and there wasn't a moment in the game when I didn't think I was a hair's breadth from disaster.  It wasn't until the final turn or two when I looked at the situation and saw what Adam saw, that he had one final shot and if it failed he was done.  This was a grinding high pressure game and at the end I had a little difficulty believing I had won.

Endgame, not much of anybody left

I think I had the better of any luck going with the dice (sniping the 9-2 virtually at the start was a gift) and even though I didn't win any CCs I clung on for longer than I had a right to.  That plus my hmg which dominated the road Adam needed to cross to reach the last buildings.  Literally nothing crossed that road and lived.  Thanks to Adam for the game who put up with my whining about close combat (I can't help it, CC hates me) and was more gracious in defeat than I probably would have been.


Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The One Day of the Year EG Style

The crunch of ill polished boots on the sewage covered streets, thin cheers from the public to cover their attempts to hustle those of their children that could even remotely be considered to be sexually active indoors, well fed generals (approximately one for every two hundred soldiers) standing on podiums their medals glittering in the sun and Zimbabwean military advisors looking on approvingly.

With a picture such as the one painted above... hang on!  Did I say Zimbabwean military advisors?  Exactly how screwed up and fundamentally worthless does your army have to be before getting military advisors from Zimbabwe seems like a good idea?  Step forward Equatorial Guinea.  It's fair to say that the greatest achievement of their army is to employ various relatives and fellow tribesmen of the president who might otherwise have to work for a living.

But none of that matters today.  Today such of the clapped out Soviet military equipment as can be persuaded to work will be adorned with flowers.  Today the somewhat odd collection of grey painted patrol boats rotting in the harbour will be covered in bunting or at least coloured rags.  Today such of the air force as the foreign employees who actually maintain and operate them can get into the air (or at least out onto the runway) will be a focal point for celebrations.  For today, August 3 is Armed Forces Day in Equatorial Guinea.

A day when the population of EG (as its fondly known by absolutely no one) can give thanks to their scruffy defenders and hopefully the pirates menacing the oil rigs which are the country's sole source of revenue will take the day off.

Possibly the most positive thing the army of EG has ever done is provide its current president.  Then general Teodoro Obiang overthrew his uncle in 1979 and has ruled with corrupt brutality ever since.  Nevertheless it does appear both to external and internal observers that he is a distinct improvement on his uncle so score one for the military.  Apart from this the army's only claim to fame is some disturbing sexual abuse allegations against its servicemen while serving on a UN peace keeping mission.

No doubt there will be events, opportunities for the public of EG to meet their military on a non armed extortion basis and possibly even a ball on the navy's flagship a Ukrainian designed, Bulgarian built, Equatorial Guinean modified thing called a landing frigate whatever the hell that is.  No doubt the president himself will make a nice speech lauding the achievements of the armed forces (without needing to go into specifics) and thanking for them for their contributions to EG society.  And I'm pretty sure nobody will point out that the soldiers who make up the Presidential Guard are actually mercenaries from Morocco.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Killing The Elderly or Simply Tiresome

Down in our neighbouring state of Victoria they are apparently considering permitting euthanasia by 2019.  By which time anyone who wants it now will probably already be safely dead.

It has to be admitted that there are a number of advantages to euthanasia.  For a left leaning government (such as the one in Victoria) the knowledge that the elderly tend to be more conservative might help them feel a little better about a certain judicious culling of the electoral roll.  For conservatives one can simply point to the reduction in welfare dollars that need to be spent keeping the elderly alive if we stop actually doing that.  For the nearest and dearest of those currently suffering through their final months of existence there will be the relief of knowing that a large proportion of the family's wealth has finally been removed from the hands of those who made it.  That's even before we get to the individual who is actually the subject of the process.  And by "process" I mean killing.

I've got to admit that I don't see suicide as a particular tragedy (except, of course, for those directly affected).  If somebody wants to leave I don't necessarily see that we should force them to stay.  But euthanasia isn't suicide, it is killing someone.  Certainly they may desire this outcome, certainly it may be a relief from an existence made unbearable by pain, misery or sheer boredom.  But it's still killing.  I'm not a die hard opponent of killing people either, under certain specific circumstances.  I just think we need to be awfully careful about how we go about it and about how we view it both individually and as a society.

It's very easy to get used to something.  If something is easy and peaceful and condoned by law it soon becomes the norm rather than the exception.  The biggest problem I have with euthanasia is that I don't think people should be allowed to get used to killing other people.  Normally if you lose your temper, or make a mistake or commit an error of judgement then you can apologise and make amends.  That doesn't really work if you've killed someone.  At least not in any practical way.

To be fair the committee in Victoria seems to have been alive (sorry about the pun) to this and has put in what seem to me to be some pretty good safeguards.  They will have to be better than good.  Because the very first thing that will happen is that those safeguards will be tested and the established boundaries will be pushed and if any weakness is shown then the precedent will become the new normal and will be tested and pushed in its turn.

For what it's worth (nothing actually) here is what I would deem the absolute minimum before permitting a killing, sorry; assisted suicide.

  • An explicit request from the patient
  • Stringent medical review of the patient's circumstances including the offering of all possible alternatives
  • psychological evaluation of the patient to confirm they are of sound mind (whatever that means)
  • The option for the patient to change their mind for any reason or none without question or judgement right up until the moment of death
  • Consultation (chaperoned) with the immediate family of the patient
  • Confirmation of the desire from the patient
  • The actual killing to be done by the patient themselves
  • Under no circumstances will a patient incapable (for whatever reason) of making their wishes known be killed.  No previous statements of intent however legally correct will be considered acceptable
There are probably loopholes in the above that a lawyer could drive a bus through (no doubt running down a few of the terminally ill along the way) but you get the idea.  Of course such killing should be done as painlessly as possible and in an appropriate medical facility.  However once the technicalities of killing the patient have been set up the doctor should then leave the room.  Doctors should not be involved in killing patients except by accident.

Two more things;  Get rid of the term "euthanasia".  Call it what it is; killing.  Make sure everyone involved knows that what is happening is a killing.  Sugar coating can come later when we're comforting the bereaved.

And now the final thing.  Medical practitioners who are advocates of euthanasia should not be allowed within a million miles of these decisions.  If there is one thing I don't trust it's a doctor who wants to kill his patients.