Monday, January 29, 2018

CanCon Awaits

A hush is in the sodden Canberra air.  Within the flatulently overblown Parliament House the nation's political representatives pause in their exercise of democracy and, very briefly, take their fists out of each other's throats.  Out on the streets the beggars and derelicts that decorate every corner of the capital's road network cease their whining for change and sniff the air with bleary expectancy.  Mothers hustle children off the streets and the rats and magpies cower in fear.  Yes CanCon is with us once again and once again Canberra's streets echo to the slap, slap, slap of thighs rubbing together as people unused to walking (or indeed appearing in daylight) make their way to the Exhibition Park in Canberra for the nation's (or at least Canberra's) largest gaming convention.

And once again a bunch of paunchy, badly dressed, middle aged men are striding with them revelling in the pleasure of for once being the fittest and best dressed people in the room.  But first the rules; alcohol was banned.  You couldn't buy it nor could you bring it.  CanCon would be an alcohol free zone, hastily I checked to make sure my supply of oxycontin was adequate.  Apparently this was to make sure there would be no repeats of the degenerate orgies or drunken knife fights that had marred absolutely none of the previous CanCons.  Another, somewhat more understandable rule was the rather desperate plea of the organisers that those attending wear deodorant.  More concerning than the rule itself was the plaintive and defeated way in which the rule was worded.  It was as if the organisers already knew that this one was beyond their ability to enforce.

Having attended CanCon several times I am fully supportive of this initiative but it do find it a little disturbing that the organisers of a gaming convention have to attempt to instruct their guests on how to behave like (or at least imitate) functional human beings.  After that there were the dress regulations to ensure that men don't wear offensive t-shirts and women don't spill over the top of their clothing.  As in past years spilling over your belt buckle is perfectly acceptable.  At least this is what I assume the rules were for.  They can't possibly have been hoping that everybody would turn up in "smart casual" attire for a gaming convention.  For most of us smart casual means "clean".  And clean means "the stains are more or less the same colour as the fabric".  I wondered why everybody avoided me when I wore a red shirt.

Upstairs and to the left those of us who play ASL and those of us who play Pathfinder and Dungeons & Dragons were allocated a room to ourselves.  That is people who needed to concentrate on an intensely intellectual game (I'm talking about ASL not Pathfinder) were put in the same room as a bunch of people whose idea of game play consisted of shouting at each other.  Nevertheless all was concluded without too many casualties on either side.  We hauled our gear up the stairs and after a brief pause while we regained our breath and oxygen was supplied to those who needed it we commenced gaming.  The organisers had really done us proud.  We actually had air conditioning, this in addition to an insistence on deodorant and a ban on alcohol and inappropriate clothing!  I can't help thinking that this was all done so that we could present our best face to the attendees of the monster truck rally that was happening next door.

Silly After Action Report - In Which I Find Myself in the Devil's Armpit

Oberst von Kattelrussler stared intently at the map spread out across Junior Officer's back.  Occasionally he stuck a pin into a significant location causing a brief, low ranked, yelp.  He looked up as Major von Kummerbund entered his command post.
"Von Kummerbund, just the man," the oberst gestured to the map, "what do you make of this?"

"If I had to guess sir, I'd say that you misplaced your folding map table again and rather than organise your headquarters more efficiently you're sticking pins into Junior Officer's back, again."

Von Kattelrussler shook his head impatiently, or at least the continual shaking of his head took on an impatient demeanour.
"I meant the situation, honestly von Kummerbund try and be a little professional."

Von Kummerbund clenched his teeth so tightly that splinters flew and crossed to the map.  After a few minutes study he tapped one of the pins gently.  Junior Officer whimpered.

"If I were you sir I wouldn't go this way.  I know it looks clear but I've been over that ground and its a complete trap for vehicles.  If you turn a little earlier," he pointed to a spot on the map and von Kattelrussler eagerly slammed in a pin, "If you turn a little earlier," repeated von Kummerbund raising his voice to drown Junior Officer's hysterical weeping, "you can avoid the traffic on the autobahn and be home in time to watch Dancing With the Stars or whatever the German equivalent is."

"Excellent work von Kummerbund, I knew I kept you around for some reason. Now, to our latest assignment."  Von Kattelrussler ripped the map, pins and all, off Junior Officer's back and tossed it in a corner.  "There's a huge mass of Poles heading towards this sadly undermanned village preparing to land on us like a wave breaking on the tide."

"Actually that was a previous scenario sir."

"Oh, really?  I thought it looked familiar.  Anyway, they really have us at sword point as it were."

"Previous scenario," sighed von Kummerbund wearily.

Von Kattelrussler stopped abruptly, "Have you ever noticed how a lot of our job seems to involve defending villages from Polish attack?  I thought we invaded them.  Why are we defending so much?"

"If I had to take a guess I'd go with gross tactical incompetence," replied von Kummerbund.  "It probably didn't help that you gave three quarters of the regiment the weekend off."

"Don't worry," replied von Kattelrussler, "I've asked HQ for reinforcements.  Told them my life may depend on it."

"I'm sure that will draw an enthusiastic response."

"In the meantime I've fleshed out our numbers by positioning a large collection of straw dummies with great big question marks painted on them.  Speaking of which, I'd better go and give them a pep talk."

Von Kattelrussler strode out and von Kummerbund helped Junior Officer to his feet.

"You know Junior Officer you don't actually have to put up with that.  Even in the German army we take a dim view of using subordinates as pin cushions.  You could put in a complaint."

"I would," replied Junior Officer, "but the last time he did it it cured my arthritis."

Has anybody else noticed that these introductions are getting longer and longer?  Anyway, Ivan Kent and my latest foray into Poland in Flames is BFP 128 - The Devils Armpit.  No I don't know why it's called that.  Here a relatively small force of Germans, commanded by Ivan as an avatar of Oberst von Kattelrussler, plus a ridiculously large number of concealment counters are defending a village from a marauding mass of Poles commanded by Yours Truly.  I have twenty first line squads, three elite squads of assault engineers backed up by a trio of medium machine guns, two flamethrowers, two heavy machine guns, a pair of 81mm mortars and a pair of 46mm mortars.  Ivan has a mere nine and a half squads on the board at game start but gets successive waves of reinforcements starting on turn two.  The job for the Poles is obviously to make serious gains early, hopefully without too much in the way of casualties in preparation for a more serious grind as the German reinforcements start to make their presence felt.

Smoke would be a vital component of my attack.  The two big mortars have a generous smoke allotment and a ROF of three.  I envisaged advancing swiftly behind barrages of smoke to get up close and personal with Ivan's defenders.  Since I'm already using the past tense you can probably guess that that didn't work.

The above is the starting set up.  I planned two main thrusts, one in the centre making use of available cover and the other on the right which I hoped would be blanketed by smoke.  Sadly one of my mortars spat out one smoke shell and ran out while the other didn't have any smoke at all.  I had to recast my plan on the fly.  I decided the best way was to close the gap between us as swiftly as possible and hopefully use numbers to bull my way through.  Not exactly overflowing with finesse I will agree.

End of German turn 1

I made as much use of my single smoke hex as I could and recklessly charged half squads forward to draw fire.  It was a measure of my desperation that I started the game actively seeking close combat opportunities.  Over on the right I built up a fire base with a death stack consisting of three squads, mmgs and the 9-2 to try and help my flankers forward.  In the centre I moved somewhat more circumspectly but edged towards the centre buildings.  A small force on my left eased forward with antitank rifles (to protect my flank from Ivan's armour when it arrived).
Things went well at first, my troops moved swiftly forward sweeping aside stacks of concealment counters with the contempt they deserved.  In the centre a DC toting 7-0 led the way while on my right squads tiptoed through the forest while a halfsquad charged blindly towards the nearest enemy.  However a broken squad was the first harbinger of what would develop into a major problem.  I had precisely three leaders for twenty three squads worth of troops.  That's not exactly conducive to tight command and control.  As I pushed forward and met the bulk of Ivan's defence my trail could be marked by the litter of broken squads and halfsquads left in my wake. 

For the first couple of turns I stormed forward like gangbusters.  On the right my half squad plunged into CC with a mortar crew while the remainder of my flankers tiptoed through the woods towards the target buildings.  Up on the only hill this scenario provided my kill stack broke his hmg team and started to pick away at his other defenders.  In the centre I pushed through the village taking some losses but bouncing him out of defensive positions along the way.  Over on the left I tied up one of his squads in close combat and filtered other troops past them.

Impressive gains on the left but the first of Ivan's reinforcements have arrived

The left flank was looking good for me.  I was pushing through the village and my mmg kill stack had taken out his hmg team in the steeple.  When I broke his other hmg squad I thought I was on the edge of a breakthrough.  I would think I was on the edge of a breakthrough for the next couple of turns.  Ivan brought his first batch of reinforcements up to bolster his wavering centre.  They couldn't retake any lost ground but they did solidify the defence.  Meanwhile on the left my troops were an army looking for a war.  Ivan sat back and let me come to him.

With the steeple hmg out of the way my kill stack focussed on taking out the troops directly across from him while the pair of close combats raged on.  I would eventually win them both after reinforcing each but it kept three and a half squads tied up in the rear for several turns. Astute viewers will also notice that the litter of broken squads is getting larger.

Looking about as good as it was going to get.

The next couple of turns were probably my high water mark.  I finally cleared the close combats and was pressing hard on the centre and right.  I hosed a defender down with a flamethrower with no result other than generating a hero but still things looked good.  Ivan sent his second lot of reinforcements to bolster his disintegrating flank while he tried to hold on in the centre.  Seeing the need for more troops on my right (and with no further targets to shoot at) my kill stack moved to bolster my attack.  Those troops were needed because my right flankers had reached the end of their elastic.  I had swept all before me but any further advance would simply expose the remnants of my troops there to destruction.

In the centre I managed to push forward into the church but Ivan had obviously designated this as his line in the sand.  His reinforcements (with their own flamethrower and DC) swarmed forward against my point troops and literally (thanks DC) blew my attackers out of the church.  Meanwhile on the left his hero directed squad held firm and at least temporarily stymied my attempts to broaden the point of my attack.

Ivan is reinforcing the right just in time. 

 I managed to get a couple of squads forward on the right but they slammed into Ivan's reinforcements. Suddenly I was terribly outnumbered but I wasn't terribly worried.  My kill stack was moving up and all my other troops had to do was hang on for a turn.  It was a measure of his concern that Ivan actually sent a pair of his squads into close combat with my point unit.  Let me pause for a moment to pay proper tribute to this squad of mine.  Over several turns it killed three German squads and a leader in close combat despite always being outnumbered by at least two to one.  There will be a Virtuti Militari for each and every one.  Posthumously of course as they died in the final close combat.  Sadly it didn't make much difference over on the right as Ivan had the troops to filter around the battle and dominate the approaches to the village I needed to take.

But what about my magnificent kill stack you wonder?  Yeah, well can I just preface my explanation by pointing out that I'm an imbecile?  Eager to get this military mincing machine into the front lines I mistook a foxhole for a wooden building.  This meant that what I thought was a safe approach actually involved me waltzing across open ground in full view of machine gun armed Germans.  Having all three squads and their leader broken was probably a rather low price to pay for that piece of idiocy.  The abandoned medium machine guns sat out in the open ground as a testament to my stupidity.

I''ve managed to destroy my own right flank

Meanwhile in the centre things had reached a sort of stasis.  Ivan was fighting hard for the church and I was having difficulty bringing sufficient force to bear to move forward.  The litter of broken squads was reaching epic proportions and functional Poles were getting thinner and thinner on the ground.  I did finally manage to circle around in the woods behind the building with Ivan's hero and eventually make that position untenable.  I broke the squad and rather viciously killed the hero in close combat.  I again tried for the church and managed to seize a toehold only to have a pair of squads broken by the flamethrower and another sent berserk.  That didn't actually go too badly for me as I wiped out an elite squad but I was running out of bodies to back him up.  Then Ivan's tanks arrived.

By this stage the presence of tanks was largely superfluous.  Ivan sent one to help bolster the defence of the church and the rest to assist his troops on the right mopping up the remnants of my forces there.  I would lose all of the buildings I had captured and Ivan was able to send troops back to the centre to help out his forces there.  What about the three broken squads?  Did I manage to rally them.  Yes, I did.  If I had just deployed them defensively I might have been able to hang on to a little of what I had gained.  Instead I committed barkingly stupid act number two.  I had got obsessed by the trio of medium machine guns I had left out in the open and was determined to retrieve them.  I sent my troops out to fetch them (cautiously assault moving this time).  Ivan rolled a three in his defensive fire and smashed my boys beyond redemption.

The writing is on the wall

With little else to do I carried on attacking in the centre and managed to flank the church and grab a building behind it Ivan's supporting tank having obligingly broken its main armament.  That was it though.  I couldn't go on.  I was down to about four functional squads and half the German army was rolling up to wipe out what remained.  I conceded at that point.  I had a little bad luck and compounded that with some gobsmacking incompetence but Ivan kept his cool and even when he was on the ropes managed to hold on to what was important.  I had been hoping to travel to CanCon on a win but instead the stench of defeat would hang around me like a cloud.

The final picture which actually flatters me somewhat

Major von Kummerbund heaved a heavy sigh.

"How the hell did we survive that?"

Junior Officer's tunic was soaked with blood but he shook his head,

"It looks like the Poles spent a lot of time bayoneting straw dummies and then pranced about in front of machine gun fire."

"Dear God," muttered von Kummerbund.  "Is it possible we don't have the worst military leadership in the world.  By the way JO have you been to the aid station?  You deserve a wound decoration at least."

Junior Officer grimaced in embarrassment, "Actually that's from the oberst's map pins.  I got through the battle without a scratch."

"Put in for a wound decoration anyway.  The oberst is going to and he just stubbed his toe as he was running to hide in the church cellar."

UPDATE: On close examination it appears I had five leaders in this scenario not three.  I have no idea what happened to the other two.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Travelling Hopefully - National Capital Edition

As has become something of a habit of mine I left hearth and home to spend the Australia Day long weekend in Canberra, putatively the capital of my great nation, for a wargaming competition.  Yet this year the journey would be different.  For once I would not be travelling with my friend Ivan.  I broke this sad news to him and he covered his disappointment with well simulated delight.  On this occasion he would be deprived of my cow commentary on the journey south (I made up for it when he gave me a lift home).

The reason for this change was work related. I needed to go down a day early so I could put in some hours at our Canberra office before officially swapping my conflicts analyst hat for that of ASL superstar.  The change did give me an opportunity to indulge my passion for train travel.  I could make my way to Canberra in airconditioned comfort and it would only take about an hour longer than travelling by car.

I had never caught this particular train before and I approached Central railway station with enthusiasm.  Perhaps the journey would compensate for the destination.  The first thing I noticed on taking my seat was that my mere presence had dropped the average age of the passengers by a couple of years.  Trains appear to be as popular with the elderly in Australia as they are in America.  I suspect its because trains bear a reassuring resemblance to coffins so it can count as preparation time.

Somewhat to my surprise the train slid out of the station more or less on time.  Less surprising was the announcement immediately afterwards that the extreme heat conditions meant that we would have to travel more slowly than usual presumably to stop the rails from melting under us.  Inside the train we were suffering from the extreme heat as well.  Perhaps as a reaction the air conditioning appeared to be stuck on perma frost.  People were shivering and turning blue.  Some of the more enterprising passengers had taken advantage of the fact that the sudden cold snap had carried off a few of the more feeble elderly to skin them and use their hides as blankets.  Fortunately we got to Canberra before we ran out of food.

Despite the heat and the cold we rolled fairly efficiently through the southern suburbs of Sydney which do seem to go on for quite a while.  After an apparently endless sea of lowest common denominator housing we encountered fields and even the occasional cow although suburbs kept popping up suddenly just when I thought we were done with them.  After that we turned up in the Southern Highlands with rolling hills and quaint villages.  Well, I say quaint villages but actually the bits I could see from the train looked rather like suburbs of Sydney dumped in a rural locale by a vengeful god of second rate town planning.  Still it was pleasant enough and Bundanoon was so genuinely quaint that I suspect the whole place is owned by the tourist board and charges visitors admission.

I don't actually know how high the Southern Highlands are.  I suspect they fall into the category of  "a bit lumpy" as opposed to "bring your own oxygen".  Certainly I didn't notice the training actually climbing as I do when I go to the Blue Mountains.  On the other hand there was a definite downwardness to the journey once we left Bundanoon.  Once out of the Southern Not Quite Lowlands the terrain flattened out into gently rolling farmland.  At least I assume it was farmland.  Nature isn't usually that careful to keep its lawns neat.  In fact nature is a lousy steward of nature, we should totally take that over and tidy it up.

This being an intercity train I was given the opportunity to purchase delicious hot food.  I steadfastly avoided this and purchased a sausage roll instead.  The thing about delicious food on trains is that it isn't.  I would rather go for something reliably dreadful like a sausage roll than get my hopes even briefly up before being dashed when the supposedly delicious food is placed in front of me.  I washed down my sausage roll with a piping hot cup of brown.  It was supposedly coffee but they could have claimed it was tea, ovaltine, meat extract, gravy or watercolour paint with equal chance of being believed.

With the scenery taking on a distinctly agricultural bent I would normally have started to go nuts about cows to the exasperation of my fellow travellers.  I didn't do it this time because I was already afraid the old dear sitting next to me wouldn't survive the trip.  But I can resist the temptation no longer so;

Cow, cow, cow, cow, cow, cow, cow, cow, cow, cow, cow, cow, cow, cow, horse, cow, cow, cow, cow, cow, cow, cow, cow, oh wait maybe that one was a sheep, cow, cow, cow, cow, cow, cow, definitely a sheep, cow, cow, cow, cow, cow, cow, cow, cow, holy shit a deer, cow, cow, cow, cow, cow.

Goulburn took me by surprise.  I definitely wouldn't have let it get close to me if I had been paying attention.  When we drive down we tend to bypass Goulburn.  From what I could see from the railway station that was a valid decision.  Just out of Goulburn there is a heritage rail centre.  Memo to the heritage rail centre; you can't just dump a load of rolling stock in one place and leave it to rot and call it a heritage rail centre.  A more accurate term would be, scrap heap.  But Goulburn wasn't my destination (despite the presence of a world class super max prison) and soon my faithful little train was rattling slowly along melting raillines to Canberra, capital of Australia.  Where politicians and heroin addicts jostle to see who can squeeze the most money out of the passers by who have inadvertantly wound up in the place.

Despite the warnings we were only about ten minutes late.  A taxi then managed to take twenty minutes to get me from the station to my hotel.  The trouble with Canberra is that it is laid out in such an open way that travelling around the corner requires a support team.  Couple this with the fact that the road network was designed by a person with an unhealthy obsession with spiral staircases and you can see why they are currently cutting down half the trees in the city in order to install a light rail system to service a population that the New South Wales government probably wouldn't consider large enough to need roads.  Still in Canberra I was and prepared to do cardboard battle in the ASL tournament ahead.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

How the Mighty Have Fallen

What the hell happened to us?  As a species we used to be pretty formidable.  We used to get into small, leaky ships and cross oceans, explore new lands and exploit the crap out of them.  Alternatively we greeted the arrival of these world spanning marauders with a spear through their guts, feasted on their flesh and sacrificed whatever was left to dark and bloody gods.  And whichever side of that particular ledger your ancestors were on there was the ability to feel a certain sense of pride.

Once upon a time we abandoned such claims to civilisation as we pretended and went to the ends of the earth in order to find and kill large, tusked, mighty horned animals.  And we did that largely for shits and giggles.  Yes there was a time when for better or ill (and I'm prepared to concede it was mostly ill) humanity stepped up to the plate, ate what was on the plate, broke the plate and then beat up the chef until he brought us more food and on a new plate because this one's broken!

What was the heading of one of the stories in my newspaper today?  The Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital is urging people to be careful around a particular type of pot plant.  Apparently the descendants of yesteryears proud explorers (or explorer eaters) cannot navigate their way around a balcony without tripping and impaling themselves on a plant.  It's a good thing we wiped out all of the dodos in seventeenth century.  If we encountered them today they'd probably wipe us out.

I am actually familiar with the plant in question and I will cheerfully acknowledge that if you get it in your eye or ear it will do you no end of unpleasantness.  Its tough, its spiky and it doesn't take crap.  But let's face it, its a plant.  It doesn't move very quickly, we should be able to avoid it if we try.  I used to wonder why hipsters wore beards.  Now I know, its because if we gave them razors they'd probably disembowel themselves by accident.

Do we really need warning labels on our potplants?  Have we truly sunk so low?  What sort of example is that setting to all of the other plants and animals in this world who, lets face it, are certainly just waiting for their opportunity to give back some of the crap we've been unleashing on them for generations.  I'm not even talking about tigers and grizzly bears here.  It's not going to be long before sheep are going to be looking at a shearer with a contemptuous grin and an attitude of "Yeah?  You and who's army?"  I give it a few years before cows are strapping us into our own milking machines and whales start building landships so they can hunt us with spears.

Trembling in fear we will clutch our (ethically sourced, non toxic but still not to be given to children under the age of fifty) fluffy toys to our chest and plead for mercy when Louie the Fly informs us that he's developed a spray that will keep us away from his barbecues.  I look upon my species and I despair.  And it doesn't help at all that this criticism is coming from someone who has proved to be incapable of changing a light bulb.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Milkshake Duck? Really?

"Milkshake Duck".  This, according to the Macquarie Dictionary, is "the word" of 2017.  Leaving aside the fact that this is actually two words (and surely the Macquarie Dictionary, being primarily concerned with language, can be forgiven a certain amount of mathematical illiteracy) it does raise a few questions.

The first and most important question is "What the hell is a milkshake duck?"  And apparently even by asking that question I identify myself as someone who does not use twitter and is largely ignorant of social media trends.  But the old methods are sometimes the best and by typing the words "milkshake duck" into my venerable google search engine I was able to come up with a satisfactory answer.  Well I was able to come up with an answer anyway.  To include the word satisfactory would strain the definition of the word to a point that even the Macquarie Dictionary would probably be uncomfortable with.

A milkshake duck is apparently the term (not word, Macquarie Dictionary please note) used to describe what happens when somebody becomes an instant internet/social media sensation for some reason or other and subsequently once further, possibly less creditable, information about them emerges the vicious backlash that occurs as the internet faithful devour their fallen god with the feet of clay.

A little hyperbole aside that's pretty much the definition I pulled off the net.  There was something about a cartoon of a duck drinking a milkshake being racist that apparently generated the term but I had been reading the article for thirty seconds at that point and was already losing interest.

For standard human beings here is a translation of the above definition.  A whole bunch of people briefly and unjustifiably hero worship somebody based on their apparent actions in a thirty second time frame.  Subsequently these worshippers find out something about the object of their adoration that makes them feel like fools for worshipping it in the first place.  Rather than resolve to be less stupid/gullible/generally pathetic in future they round savagely on the being they worshipped and tear them to shreds before repeating the process ad infinitum.

A briefer description would be; stupid people are publicly shown to be stupid and respond with outrageous cruelty to avoid actually improving their worthless selves.

And that ladies and gentlemen is a milkshake duck.  I suppose as a term it occupies less space on the page (or in twitter characters) than saying "people can really be stupid, vicious pricks quite a lot of the time" but it basically means the same thing.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

My Hopman Cup Runneth Over

At the beginning of the year Australia picks up all of the tennis it can find lying around and throws it at the viewing audience in one big messy lump.  There are a series of tournaments culminating in the Australian Open when such of the tennis elite as haven't injured themselves in the previous tournaments stagger exhausted and jet lagged into Melbourne and there compete in a grim endurance match until only one survives.  At least I think that's what happens.  By this time I've watched a fair bit of tennis myself and I'm almost as weary and jetlagged as the players.

My favourite competition is the Hopman Cup, partly because it occurs while I'm on a break from the office and can actually watch some of it and partly because it involves mixed doubles and not just as an embarrassing afterthought.  I am slowly coming to the conclusion however that the organisers, TV broadcaster and the commentators actually hate the Hopman Cup.

Firstly there is the broadcast itself.  There is actually another tennis competition going on at the same time and the broadcaster is showing both on different channels.  No problem you might think.  If you want the Hopman Cup you watch Channel A and if you want the other (the Brisbane International I think) you watch Channel B.  But no, approximately every thirty seconds during the Hopman Cup they cut across to Brisbane to show us what is happening there.  Apparently the thought that we might be more interested in what is happening in the Hopman Cup doesn't occur to them.  I don't think I've seen a complete match of the Hopman Cup as we're alway losing bits because the people doing the broadcasting seem to think we're more interested in a tournament we decided not to watch than the one we did.  On one occasion they cut away so we could watch Nick Kyrgios walking down a corridor.  If we have to see Nick Kyrgios can he at least be doing something interesting like abusing an umpire or sacrificing a goat.  Whatever his other talents his corridor walking skills aren't much of an advance on my own.

Then there are the interviews.  Of course there are interviews after a match.  I have absolutely no interest in them, by the time the interview is conducted the tennis player has stopped doing the one thing I'm interested in watching them do but I accept that its part of the colour.  However in the Hopman Cup should some hapless tennis player decide to catch another match (and since its a team competition they frequently do to cheer on their compatriot) then an eagle eyed commentator will descend on them like a vulture on a zebra carcass and conduct an adhoc interview on the fly.  While the next match is going on.  This means that instead of seeing a tennis match we're treated to a clumsy interview while asinine questions are asked of some poor character who replies in broken English while trying to keep one eye on their team mate in case something interesting happens out on the court.  A possibility that the commentary team seems to have discounted.

Then there is the "fast four" format.  The Hopman Cup was initiated at least in part to revive interest in the mixed doubles version of the game.  Fast forward thirty years and the organisers seem to have decided that was a dreadful mistake.  But rather than put a merciful bullet it its head they've initiated the fast four version of the game.

How best to describe fast four?  Its rather like tennis for people who've got better things to do than sit around watching tennis.  The organisers should simply make an announcement at the end of the singles matches.  "Ladies and gentlemen we are now obliged to present you with some mixed doubles but don't worry it will be over as quickly as we can arrange and don't feel as though you have to hang around if you need to get home."  At the very least they could get rid of that stupid "lets are live" rule which seems to be confusing everybody and does nothing except reward a mistake.  That's a great message to send the kiddies although since the mixed doubles are always the last to be played the kiddies have probably been hospitalised with an epileptic seizure from all that cutting away to other matches, corridor walks and interviews by the time the mixed doubles is reluctantly permitted onto the court.

The final is on tonight and rather predictably Switzerland is one of the finalists.  I say predictably because the Swiss team consists of Belinda Bencic and Roger Federer.  That's right ROGER FEDERER!!!!!  While the commentators seem to be ambivalent about the value of the entire tournament they have no such hesitation about ROGER FEDERER. He is a god who walks among us.  He is not like mortal men.  He plays tennis at an age when others have decently crawled away to die.  He wrangles quokkas, he blows up social media and reduces the entire commentary team to a damp pantied state of gasping ecstacy.  What's ROGER FEDERER doing right now?  Whatever it is its certainly more interesting than the tennis match they're notionally commenting on.  Remember all those interviews I mentioned?  Most of them consisted of the commentators asking the player in question their opinion of ROGER FEDERER.  Are they really expecting anyone to say,  "Actually he's a bit of a prick really."?

OK, Roger Federer is awesome.  One of the greatest players of all time and an absolute ornament of the game.  But we don't need the commentators to tell us that.  They can demonstrate it just by broadcasting his matches without cutting away every thirty seconds to watch Nick Kyrgios tieing his shoelaces.