Thursday, May 24, 2018

It's Carpet Day!!!

From Dashoguz in the north to Ashgabat in the south the word has gone out.  From the hot, dry semi arid regions to the hotter, dryer totally arid regions the whole of Turkmenistan is en fete.  Battalions of floor sweepers march in proud formations through the streets and in coffee shops across the nation the age old rivalry between Dyson and Miele takes on a new edge for today is Carpet Day in Turkmenistan.  Yes, today the people of Turkmenistan gather together to celebrate all things rug.

Carpet Day is the sort of thing that happens when you get a batshit crazy dictator with too much time on his hands.  In the case of Turkmenistan said dictator was one Saparmurat Niyazov who despite the best efforts of his yesmen, lickspittles and grovellers still had time in his diary to arrange things like this.  Oh yes and closing hospitals and libraries.

For the record a standard diary page for Niyazov would probably look something like this;

9.00am Breakfast meeting with cabinet

9.30am Purge cabinet

10.00am Accept bribes

10.15am  Ethnic cleansing

10.45am Torture prisoners

11.00am Purge replacement cabinet

11.30am Quality time with wife

11.45am Quality time with mistress

1.45pm Working lunch with Minister of Oppression

2.00pm  Shoot Minister of Oppression

2.15pm  Quality time with former Minister of Oppression's sixteen year old daughter

3.00pm  Accept Chairmanship of UN Human Rights Commission

4.00pm Accept bribes

5.00pm  Answer fan mail from Phillip Adams

5.30pm  Free time

6.00pm  Start conspiracy theory

7.00pm  Arrest those involved in conspiracy theory

8.00pm Diplomatic reception

10.00pm Bed

I'm assuming that Carpet Day came up somewhere between 5.30 and 6.00pm while he was sitting at his desk and twiddling his thumbs (or at least, twiddling somebodies thumbs).  Carpet making is a traditional Turkmenistan economic activity so I guess it makes a little (a very little) sense to promote and celebrate that.  It's either that or exploit the nation's natural gas reserves.  Frankly I think he was just finding things for himself to do.  After you've rewritten your country's national anthem to name check yourself there probably aren't many other ways to fill in the time.

Some of Niyazov's "reforms" didn't survive his death.  I'm pretty sure they renamed the months that he'd named after himself but on the other hand the capital of Turkmenistan is still littered with statues of him and every year Carpet Day is celebrated with much rejoicing.  Well ok, I don't actually know if its celebrated with much rejoicing or any rejoicing at all but its mere presence is a handy reminder to the population of Turkmenistan whenever they ever get sick of their current brutal and oppressive government that things could be worse.  And they don't have to dip too far back in their national history for proof.

Today is also Towel Day celebrating all things Douglas Adams.   Possibly we should just rename the whole thing Linen Day and celebrate every piece of cloth we have in the house.  Personally I'm getting sick of having to remember to buy presents on Dish Rag Day.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Silly After Action Report - Part 2 - The Hungarians Have the Hill

For the record the Axis victory conditions are as follows;
Either; control all level 5 buildings by the end of turn 6 (failed) OR four of the following
  • Inflict 22 or greater CVP 
  • Capture all single hex stone buildings
  • Control at least 9 level 5 buildings
  • Have at least 4 good order squads on level 6
  • Destroy or capture 2 guns (76mm don't count)
  • Have at least 3 mobile AFV with functioning MA on level 5

To pick up where we left off things have got somewhat better.  My conscripts did manage to wipe out his guncrew so that's one 76mm out of the equation.  Annoyingly Ivan dashed a squad far into the rear and recaptured a stone building so now I may have to devote resources to winkling that out.  I rolled a halftrack forward to commence the winkling but he managed to stun it with a well placed sniper.  I've left a squad of Hungarian assault engineers to see what they can do about that.

In the centre things look good.  My SS cavalrymen are pushing forward delayed more by snow and hill climbing efforts than anything else while on the left Ivan retreats slowly but is leaving a trail of too heavy support weapons in his wake.

Sadly I have to write the obituary of my gallant little Zrinyi however.  With the 76mm gone I recommenced my tactic of using my Zrinyi to menace his defenders forcing them to pull back and allowing my Hungarian troops forward.  This worked until I foolishly parked underneath the hill hex that held his mortar teams.  Ivan promptly jumped a halfsquad down into CC with the Zrinyi and moved a squad with an atr into the foxhole.  I survived the CC despite having no mg armament but the next turn his atr squad blew the Zrinyi up so comprehensively that bits of it are still coming down. Conscript vengeance awaited the halfsquad now sitting amidst the flaming wreckage of the Zrinyi.

Nevertheless all this activity did allow the remainder of my Hungarians to resume slowly climbing the hill.  With the Hungarians pushing forward as though they still had a chance of winning the war its been much slower going for the Germans.  Ivan has been skilfully trading not very much space for time and on the left all my troops have been able to do is follow up his withdrawals. 

The pace began to quicken in the next couple of turns, my centre troops having finally drawn level with Ivan's left hand defenders started to hit them in the flank while the panzertruppen to the front jumped up and down and made aggressive noises.  Ivan has started to get acquisition hits on my left hand Panther with his 122mm and is discovering just how hard it is to kill one of those things from the front.  I got quite bold with my Panthers and rolled them forward to assist in denying rout paths to Ivan's left hand defenders whom my cavalry had started systematically dismantling.  The panzertruppen settled for slinking forward when it looked harmless (good tactics, let the war criminals do the dying).  To aid the right flank of my Hungarians I rolled forward my second Panther and a pair of halftracks (one carrying a 20mm cannon) to assist.  With all the attention on my flaming Zrinyi on the right I managed to insert a couple of Hungarian squads up on level 5 and furthermore did it without suffering casualties.

Realising the impossibility of killing the Panthers with his 122mm guns Ivan started trying for deliberate immobilisations and unshipped one of his 82mm mortars (which can kill a Panther) but without result except for plastering the area with so many acquisition counters that the troops could hardly move.  My centre push gathered pace and I brought up my flamethrowing halftrack as much to threaten as to burn and started eliminating units for failure to rout.  Before I knew it I had my 22 CVP objective and could work on the others.

My Hungarians had the bit between their teeth now and were struggling uphill through the snow and to boost their morale I rolled a Panther up onto the level 5 hill right next to his foxhole.  Then I almost had a heart attack as Ivan revealed that this was the location of his other 76mm gun.  Mentally writing the thing off as lost I attempted an overrun without success and fled into the nearby orchards.  To my great good luck Ivan's rear shot at me missed.  Still I was two hexes away and showing my rear to a 76mm gun which didn't seem like a prospect with long term life expectancy.  Then my 20mm halftrack stepped forward.  It rolled up next to Ivan's 76mm and broke the crew with a 12+2 shot, my Panther was saved!  Ivan's reaction was quite restrained under the circumstances. 

Freed from the menace from the rear my Panther cheerfully beat up his foxhole dwellers (who would die for failure to rout) while in the centre I finally managed to assemble a heavy machine gun with a line of sight to his forward 122mm.  Ivan continued with his futile attempts to scratch the paint on my Panthers while my cavalrymen and panzertruppe cleaned up the bulk of his remaining defenders.  I had seized sufficient buildings on level 5 to fulfill another victory condition and I also had three AFVs up there as well.  Embarrassingly a halftrack had bogged itself trying to climb up over a hedge but I was still in good shape.

I was in such good shape in fact that Ivan decided on one final, despairing throw of the dice. Eschewing such cover as remained he sent his remaining troops forward into close combat.  A half squad (it started out as a full squad but then there was defensive fire) jumped into CC with a halftrack I had (for reasons I can't begin to explain) sent on an exploratory raid up to level 6 and he sent a squad forward to take on one of mine on the far left.  His piece de resistance was sending a pair of squads, guided by a leader against the nearest Panther. 

Over on the left I slaughtered his squad hand to hand (yes, I won a CC!  Let the bells ring out!) but the results on the other two were ambivalent at best.  He failed to take out either the halftrack or the Panther (although I boxcarred my return roll with the self defence weapon) which meant that all I had to do was drive away.  This was enough, with his defence in tatters and such victory conditions as I hadn't already achieved within reach Ivan conceded.  Many thanks to Ivan for the game.  At least in the final play session the dice favoured me and hammered a final nail into his coffin. 

Final Positions

The Hungarian officers looked at the newly regained hill in bemusement.
"I didn't think we'd do it," said one.  "What do we do now?"
"Start writing our memoirs blaming everything on the Germans."
"Won't they be cross?"
"Hey, we're a war brotherhood not a peace brotherhood.  Screw 'em."
"What happened to that cavalry twat?"
"I think he married Eva Braun's sister."

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

A Rare Moment of Triumph

Glory has been showered on my unworthy head.  Or at least I was standing nearby when glory showered and I managed to stick my unworthy head in far enough to get it damp.  Yes, today I am triumphant as are half a dozen or so other far more deserving individuals.  Our corporate soccer team in which I (for want of a better term) play won our local competition.  I bask in an unaccustomed sense of achievement and self regard.  All of the effort, the minutes of preparation, the remembering to bring my shoes it was all worth it.  Let me see if I can gaze through the rose tinted fog and paint a picture for you.

At midday we left the office and headed into a crisp Autumn day.  The sun smiled on our ambitions and the scent of victory was in the air (Victory by Giorgio Armani which a disinterested relative had foisted on me at Christmas).  As we approached the ground an excited crowd greeted us.  As it turned out the excited crowd was there for the previous match and they all buggered off before we started playing but it was still pretty heady stuff.

We warmed up on the field practicing kicking the ball far over the goal mouth or, in my case, just practicing kicking the ball.  I managed it once or twice but then it was time for the match to start and I would have to put my new found skills to use.  Fortunately team spirit had bubbled over in us and we actually had enough people to field a team and have substitutes.  I took up a position on the sideline and waited for one of the real players to have a heart attack.

We dominated early in the half, taking a 2-0 lead thanks to the skills of Carly and generally ran rings around the opposition.  Then I got my chance. I ran onto the field, eager to prove my worth. By the time I ran off again the score was 2-2.  I like to think this was largely a coincidence.  My principal contribution was to kick the ball into the face of one of my team mates (sorry Carly).  Fortunately the rest of my team is composed of people who can actually play soccer.  With our backs against the wall the team rallied (except for me, I was exhausted after a five metre sprint to where the ball was some time previously).  Both teams went scoreless in the second half and the match went into extra time.

For every minute of extra time a player had to be removed from each team which was fortunate as it gave us a chance to, shall we say, emphasise the skills of our more talented players.  Nevertheless by the time the referee wanted to wander off and have a cigarette the score was still 2-2.  In desperation he announced that the match would go to penalties.  I don't actually know what this means but it involved all of us taking a turn at kicking the ball in the general direction of the goal.  This is what both teams had been doing all game but now apparently it was important.  Here the innate talents and hard earned skill of the other members of my team paid off and we wrapped the penalties up before anybody had to point me in the direction of the ball.  Victory was ours.

And not just a competition victory either.  My colleague Anna picked up the most valuable player award for the competition.  To the victors the spoils:  the spoils consisting of chicken, buns and beer, just the thing before heading back to a hard afternoon's work in the office.  Still we can't rest on our laurels.  The new competition starts next week and suddenly we have a title and a reputation to defend.  Every other team will be wanting to take us down a peg and we will need to be right on our game to maintain this winning streak.  As for me, I'll make a special effort to remember my shoes.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Into Every Life

"What the hell is going on down there?" I demanded.  My correspondent wasn't listening.  A raging tide of water was swirling around her legs as she stood on her desk making increasing futile attempts to pluck one of her children from the furious torrent gushing through her house. 

"Has a pipe burst?  Do you even have plumbing?"

"It's raining you twat," shrieked my correspondent giving up on her child and settling for trying to keep her laptop above water.  It seemed to be doing a little more than just raining.  Through the window behind her I caught a brief glimpse of cars, cows and the occasional badly designed building floating by on what looked like a migratory lake.  When water started trickling out of my own computer screen I severed the connection and contacted my Belarusian tech support.

"You guys will never believe what's happening in Tasmania," I said breathlessly.

"It's pissing down with rain and thousands of people are in danger of drowning or homelessness?"

"Well yes," I muttered.  "Has it made the news in Minsk?"

"We're the only people in Minsk who have even heard of Tasmania.  We have other sources of information."

Normally I would accept that at face value because it doesn't do to irritate people who have access to weaponised smallpox and their own super soldier program.  This time however I noticed a more than usually shifty look my teams eye.  They appeared almost embarrassed.

"Guys, what have you done?"  They shuffled their feet a little and then decided to confess all.

"Ever heard of Tlaloc?"

"The Aztec god of rain?  In the top ten Most Worshipped list for seven years straight in the 1490s.  Of course I've heard of Tlaloc, who the hell hasn't?"  My tech support acknowledged this point and carried on.

“Did you know there are certain rituals the Aztecs performed to please Tlaloc and make it rain?”

“Oh dear god.  Guys, you didn’t, did you?”  They nodded shame faced.  I shook my head in despair.  One thing I had learnt rather painfully is that you can do as many deals with the Devil as you like but when you start messing about with gods you’re in all sorts of trouble.  The thing is gods are just as dangerous and intolerant as the Devil but they lack his sense of humour.

“It was late, we were drunk.  I don’t mean going into the office in the morning drunk, properly drunk.”

"Well that's great, my nation's southern state is underwater because you guys had a Central American themed office party and the last time I saw my correspondent she was dog paddling down the main street."

"We can fix this," they offered.  "There's this Finnish goddess who owes us a favour..."

"Not her!" I shrieked.  "Hobart may be under twenty feet of water but I can't imagine it would be improved if the water was frozen solid.  Besides, she never returns my calls."

"We know, that favour she owes us.  She asked to see your browser history."

"Great so, apart from drowning Tasmania and ruining my social life have you been up to anything else lately."

"Nothing you haven't seen in the news.  So what do we do about Tasmania?"

"Oh leave it, the water will run off eventually and if I know them they're probably already building a hydro electric station in the middle of the city."  They went to sign off but a thought suddenly occurred to me.  "Just a minute as I recall, the ritual to Tlaloc asking for rain required a human sacrifice and, on a not entirely unrelated topic, what happened to your work experience guy?"

Friday, May 11, 2018

Silly After Action Report - Part 1

A group of Hungarian officers pretended to listen with polite interest as the heavily decorated German cavalryman in their midst made what he fondly imagined was an inspiring speech.
"Our war brotherhood cannot be broken," announced the cavalryman slapping the table with his swagger stick for emphasis.  It was unfortunate that the end of the stick caught a fork and flipped it into the air impaling a Hungarian colonel in the eye.  The German continued unphased, "German and Hungarian together to the end as it should be. As it always has been and always shall be.  Here in, um (a hasty question to a subordinate) Budapest we shall prove this ancient alliance continues to endure."
One of the Hungarians raised his hand,
"What happened to Admiral Horthy?"
"Shut up," suggested the German.
"Tell me," asked another Hungarian, "how did you get that knight's cross?"
The German beamed with pride, "I got it for killing seven hundred unarmed Russian peasants as they slept."
"I thought a thousand was the minimum requirement for a knights cross."
"You get double for children."
The German swaggered from the room and the Hungarians stared at each other gloomily.
"This war brotherhood crap," said one,  "how come all of the fighting seems to take place in Hungary?"
"Sometimes there were battles in Germany," replied another.
"When was the last time?"
"Battle of Lechfeld, 955AD."
"What were we doing in Germany?"
"Invading it."
"Why did we ever stop doing that?"

Leaving the Hungarian higher command to meditate on the geo-political mistakes of their nation over the last eleven hundred years or so we come to today's after action report.  Having dragged Ivan Kent to Somalia for our last game I acceded to his demands that we now head to Budapest (better architecture but worse weather) to play FB19 - War Brotherhood.  This pits a somewhat eclectic group of Germans and Hungarians combining (or at least fighting in close proximity) in an attempt to push a small but gunned up Soviet force off a hill.

I would take command of the much vaunted "war brotherhood" of Germans and Hungarians while Ivan would command the hill dwelling Soviets.  My forces consisted of a task force from Panzer Division Unpronounceable, a detachment of the SS Florian Geyer cavalry division which had spent much of its war service slaughtering peasants and an adhoc collection of Hungarian conscripts and assault engineers.  Collectively I had nine elite German squads, three first liners and four second line and they were backed up by a plethora of machine guns, DCs, halftracks (including one with a pair of flamethrowers) and a pair of Panther tanks.  The Hungarian contribution was three conscript squads, three first line squads, three assault engineers and a single Zrinyi II self propelled gun.  Ivan had seven elite squads, seven first liners, a pair of elite half squads, an hmg, two mmgs, a pair of 76mm guns and two 50mm mortars plus several rubble counters.  Up on the hill was his artillery support; two 122mm guns and two 81mm mortars. 

There were a bewildering array of victory condition options for the Axis but it all boiled down to, capture the hill.  This was made charmingly difficult by the fact that I entered from offboard at the bottom of the hill with strictly designated areas of entry for each of my three forces (Unpronounceable, Florian Geyer, Hungarians).  From the picture below you can see my three starting positions; panzertruppe on the left, peasant butchers in the centre and Hungarians on the right.

Ivan had set up his rubble along the left to make it difficult for the panthers to get forward (successfully).  He had a few units forward on the left but for the most part set up a defensive line covering the road.  Obviously bulking up to oppose the fearsome Germans it seemed to me that perhaps my little regarded Hungarians might be able to pull off a coup or two against more slender resistance.  So far any coup pulling has indeed been the preserve of the Hungarians.

Before we started Ivan had to tell me the special rules for Festung Budapest, I'm not particularly interested in campaign games so I had no knowledge of FB before being dragged into this scenario.  Ivan explained the rules carefully.  Then he explained them again.  Part way through his third attempt I pointed out it was already 10.30pm and if we actually wanted to get any play in he might just like to tell me when I screwed something up as we went along.  With a weary sense of deja vu Ivan agreed.

Cramped for room and with slender cover I held back some of my forces on the first turn (I held them back on the second turn as well but that's because I forgot they existed).  On the left I committed a panther and some squads to deal with his up front defenses and hopefully clear myself a jump off spot for further advances later (at least that's what I'm saying in retrospect and you can't prove otherwise).  In the centre I pushed a bunch of squads into the nearest buildings again hoping to build a firebase to shoot his forces out of their positions.  A 7-0, halfsquad and DC I labelled as "designated victims" and charged them forward hoping to strip concealment and get behind his forces.  Bizarrely they have managed to survive so far.  I kept back all of the half tracks except the flamethrower which I rolled up behind his forward troops in the hopes (so far unrealised) of inflicting incendiary death on them.

Over on the right the Hungarians (except the assault engineers) moved on, conscripts in the van, and in the absence of notable opposition started climbing the hill.  Such resistance as was met was dealt with by the Zrinyi (not by actually hurting anyone but once it gained acquisition Ivan decided it was time to leave).  It was nice to have at least some notional success because things went badly elsewhere.  On the left limited objectives met with limited success but no real disasters.  In the centre things went rather badly.  I had moved a trio of squads (toting an hmg, mmg and lmg) into a stone building hoping to use it as a firebase.  Unwise to have such a force collected I know but my options were limited and they were elite, concealed and led by a 9-2 leader.  Ivan unveiled a 122mm gun staring straight down their throats.  The result really wasn't too bad, a normal morale check on eight morale troops led by a 9-2.  The 9-2 pinned and that was the lowest roll I made.  All three squads broke, one of them ELRed and my centre force was impotent for a turn or two.

Over the next turn I winkled out his forward defenders on the left with the assistance of the panther.  Again it was judicious retreating by Ivan rather than any mass execution on my side that led to my modest gains.  Ivan having been good enough to point out that one of my multifarious victory conditions involved capturing stone buildings I managed to stick control markers on some of the most handy.  In the centre my shattered would be kill stack managed to pull itself together (except for one squad which rolled a boxcars on the rally attempt) and decided dispersion was the better part of valour (I can imagine the discussion in the SS headquarters, "these guys shoot back!  WTF? Are they allowed to do that?").  Still my remaining troops had gathered their courage in their hands and pushed out into the open partly in the hopes of persuading Ivan to drop concealment but largely because I couldn't think of anything else to do with them.  Strangely they survived.  Possibly because Ivan was too busy stunning the FT halftrack slinking up behind him.  Meanwhile the 7-0, halfsquad  combination carried the flag for the SS conducting their own private flanking manoeuvre which Ivan didn't seem to distressed about.

Over on the right the Hungarians slowly gobbled up more territory against a thinly spread enemy who seemed disinclined to stand and fight.  Have I mentioned the snow incidentally?  Sod snow!  Climbing a hill with snow on the ground makes me wonder how Hillary ever got up Everest.  Even two turns in I'm becoming concerned with my lack of progress and the length of time its taking me to get absolutely any frigging where.

Turn three rolled around and with it my sudden realisation that I still had troops to bring on.  My Hungarians were pushing forward boldly so I sent a squad carrying halftrack from the SS to help them out.  In this way I skillfully discovered where one of his 76mm guns was located as he sent both halftrack and squad to fiery hell.  I had actually forgotten about the 76mm guns, do I suck at this game or what?  My Hungarian assault engineers I brought on in the wake of my boldly advancing conscripts and first liners.  For the moment the second rate troops could take the strain.  In the centre things had improved somewhat, my FT halftrack had unstunned itself and actually managed to break an elite squad that threatened to bring the dream run of my half squad and his 7-0 cheerleader to an abrupt end.  Instead the mini flanking goes on.  Which is good because a combination of buildings and snow means that the rest of my centre force is likely to be in position by 1946 at the earliest.

Over on the left things are starting to move.   I've managed to unhinge the very left of his defences and captured his hmg into the bargain (although I abandoned it the next turn as simply too heavy to move).  I've brought on my other panther and sent it on a long loop down to the right so it can find a rubble free access point to the higher levels.  My FT halftrack has slunk a little further forward menacing (although not actually hurting) his defenders while my infantry is pushing forward very slowly into the rubble.

On the right I moved a Hungarian squad and officer into the line of sight of his 76mm which proved to be unwise.  I had hoped that having to traverse the gun might make it more difficult for him to hit me.  I was so, so wrong.  Both officer and squad are now a shattered mess snivelling in a building in the rear.  On the other hand Ivan revealed both his 50mm mortars (hiding in the same foxhole if you please) but promptly broke one of them.  As for the thrice damned 76mm there was conscript vengeance headed in his direction.  Cheerfully inviting him to shoot I moved a conscript squad next to the gun.  When Ivan disdained to fire on such a lowly target I moved another conscript next to the gun as well.  Meanwhile other troops (and the Zrinyi) kept his remaining troops in the area occupied.  With nothing else to shoot at Ivan blew away one conscript squad with the 76 but the other plunged into CC with the crew and went hand to hand.  A roll of eight or less would kill his gun crew.  I rolled boxcars because CC has a deep and virulent hatred of me but this put Ivan on the horns of a dilemma.  He could withdraw but that would cede the gun to me.  He stayed to fight it out but couldn't kill my boys either.  I haven't captured the gun yet but I have rendered it useless for a turn or so.  Meanwhile other Hungarian troops have clambered up another hill level and have snaffled a couple of buildings up there.  They're hardly likely to win the war singlehanded but at least Ivan has something else to worry about.  I've also rolled my flanking panther up to the area in the hopes that he can shoot (or at least scare) the defenders out.

This is where we left it.  We recommence with Ivan's third turn tomorrow night.  I'm happier now than I was in the first couple of turns but I still rather suspect that time and the somewhat disjointed position of my forces will count against me.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Stupid Meters

I hadn't heard from my Tasmanian correspondent for a few weeks.  Fortunately I remembered she'd gone on holidays before I called the police.  The last time I reported her missing to the Tasmanian police it got a little weird.  They asked me if I had anything with her scent on it.  When I responded with an outraged (and, I hope, convincing) denial they locked the dogs back up in their kennels and told me there was nothing they could do.  I suggested they speak with friends, neighbours, relatives and attempt to trace her movements.  They suggested I'd watched too many movies and that they didn't have the resources to do that stuff.  Finally they admitted they were a group of homeless people who'd been permitted to sleep in the police station in return for answering the phone occasionally and not ripping copper wire out of the walls.  Then they asked me if I wanted to buy some copper wire.

After my correspondent's somewhat reluctant return from her leave (which she had foolishly arranged to coincide with her daughters school holidays) I managed to pencil in a video conference with her when my Belarusian tech support found a window in their Moldavian bride shipping schedule.  Not that the video link seemed to do me much good.  The entire room was dimly lit and in the background I could clearly hear the crack of whips and the occasional whimper of pain.

"I'm very sorry," I apologised.  "I didn't mean to interrupt your date."
"I'm not on a date," she snapped.  "My electricity supply has gone to hell.  I've got the kids running on a treadmill just to power the computer."
"Well at least you have a little background light as well."
"That isn't electricity," she responded.  "It's coming from the spent plutonium fuel rods your damned tech support is storing in my spare bedroom."
"That can't be healthy, have you noticed any ill effects."
"Not really," she replied shrugging a tentacle.  "But it does mean I can't have anybody over."

I was astonished to learn about my correspondent's electricity woes.  Back in the day the Tasmanian government had dammed pretty much every trickle of liquid in the state for hydro electric power.  I'm surprised they hadn't put dams on public urinals.  The theory was that as long as they didn't run out of water they wouldn't run out of electricity.  Then they ran out of water.  But it had rained since then and it was my understanding that Tasmania had, at least briefly, rejoined the list of first world nations with a reliable electricity supply.

"The electricity supply is fine," said my correspondent.  "They're just not sending any to me."
"Why not?" seemed like a perfectly legitimate question to ask at this point but it sent my correspondent off in a long rant about smart meters and front gates which I found a little confusing.  As far as I can interpret it the situation went something like this; my correspondent's electricity usage is measured by a smart meter.  This allows the electricity provider (and indeed my correspondent) to accurately measure her exact electricity consumption and bill her accordingly without someone needing to come out and physically read the meter.  It sounds excellent unfortunately, this being Tasmania it isn't.

Apparently all this sexy smart metering is (for reasons I don't begin to understand) still reliant on someone coming out and physically reading the meter at least once a year.  This is where the problem arose.  The meter reader couldn't gain access to the meter.  He made it as far as the front gate but apparently was unable to work out how to open it.  So he went away again.  My correspondent's meter went unread and to punish her for having a gate beyond the intellectual capacity of their employees to open the electricity company  decided it was much easier to simply remover her from the grid.  Now my correspondent is reduced to torturing her children when she wants to speak to me.

At least that's the excuse she's giving me for torturing her children.  It all sounds a little far fetched to me.  On the other hand Tasmania is the state where the government's response to a water shortage was to dump several hundred litres of diesel fuel into the major remaining water supply so I suppose I shouldn't leap to judgement.