Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Silly After Action Report - Smoking Bridges

A pair of German soldiers gazed down from the hill to the river below.  One of them was slouched low over the handlebars of his motorbike doing his best Marlon Brando impression.  The other was spoiling the image by jumping up and down excitedly.

"Look," he squealed, "a bridge!"

His companion sighed, "Yes, I see it.  It isn't the first bridge I've seen."

"But its not on fire, and we've found it!"

The other soldier shook his head and pulled a book from his knapsack.  He flipped to a particular page.

"What else do you see?" he asked.

The first soldier blinked, "What do you mean?"

"You see that big wooden looking building with the sign saying 'stone building'?  Do you know what that is?"

"A youth hostel?"

"Close, its the Vardar Tactical Training College.  Stuffed, no doubt, with the Yugoslav army's best and brightest."

The first soldier peered at the book in his comrade's hand, "Is that an intelligence pack?"

"No its a Lonely Planet guide.  It tells me we can probably expect some pretty fierce resistance if we try to capture that bridge."

"I don't see anything."

"Well they're hardly likely to put out signs, apart from that one saying 'stone building' for some reason.  OK, off you go."

"Go where?"

"Back to the others.  Tell them we've found a bridge.  You might want to toss in a mention of the college as well."  He got off his bike and settled down on a comfortable patch of grass.

"What are you going to do?"

"I'm going to keep an eye on the bridge and make sure nobody steals it while you're gone."

So this is The Scenario Formerly Known As A28 - The Professionals which pitches a bunch of battle hungry Germans replete with tanks and half tracks against a collection of green Yugoslavs who aren't.  I've wanted to play this scenario for ages largely because I like saying "Vardar Tactical Training College".  I shall be commanding the Germans who are trying to capture a non burning bridge to keep their advance moving.  Ivan has the Yugoslavs unreasonably obsessed with holding on to this particular bridge while the rest of their country falls apart.

Ivan gets ten green squads headed up by two quite capable officers (a 9-2 and an 8-1).  These guys get a medium machine gun, a light machine gun and a pair of second hand Italian 47mm anti tank guns.  They also have a lot of bottles of slivovitz and a plentiful supply of cigarette lighters.  Ivan's entire force gets to set up HIP.  I have eight first line squads with a couple of officers and four light machine guns.  My armour consists of four PzIVEs and a pair of armoured halftracks.  My job is to capture the bridge, symbolised by exiting an AFV and a squad off the end.  If I do that at any point I win immediately, otherwise Ivan wins.

My entire force essentially enters down one road which at least reduces the number of tactical decisions I have to make at the outset.  Below is the end of turn one where my forces have rolled onto a hill and are gazing down at a suspiciously unoccupied looking river valley.  As per SSR the large building (the college) is stone.  Somewhere down there are ten squads, a pair of AT guns and more molotov cocktails than you can shake a swizzle stick at.

End of turn 1.  Ivan is keeping a low profile
My plan was to park a couple of PZIVs on the hill and attempt to dump some smoke on the college.  While I did that the other two tanks would roll down the left and hopefully get into a position where they could inflict pain on Ivan's defenders, assuming they ever showed themselves.  My infantry would also nose forward trying to find his defenders.  The exception would be a pair of squads riding in the halftracks, these would be my exit force and I slid them down the left side of the map hoping to keep them out of trouble.

Well the smoke plan didn't exactly work. With a smoke number of nine it took effort to run both tanks on the hill out of smoke in the first turn but I managed it.  Apparently there would be little cover for my approach.  With smoke, briefly, out of the equation I eased my foot mounted infantry nervously forwards and rolled my hilltop tanks down for some more direct fire support.  Over on the left I raced the other two tanks up near (but not onto) the bridge.  I was certain there would be a 47mm gun sitting in the building covering the bridge entry hex (for once I was right).  The two halftracks kept out of harms way.

Turn 2, still no sign of the Yugoslavs
Turn three rolled around and I finally found some Yugoslavs.  Ivan had his mmg, guided by his 9-2 leader, set up to fire down the long road leading to the college.  Naturally I found this out when a halfsquad took a 4-4 shot as it was ambling inoffensively down the road.  Less forgiveably I forgot about the damn thing next turn and moved an entire squad into the firing line.  Casualty reduction was a lenient punishment for this piece of idiocy.  My 8-0 officer obviously thought so as he murdered the survivors while trying to rally them.  Another halfsquad paid the ultimate penalty to discover a green squad nestled in a wooden building.

Meanwhile closer to the rivers edge I dismounted a squad from a half track and started ploughing through the forest.  I sent the halftrack to back up my two tanks who had so far met no resistance.  The other halftrack (still with a squad on board) rolled as close to the river as it could get and started edging its way past the forest in bypass.

My luck with the smoke had been bad so far but that was about to change.  My two tanks near the bridge dropped a pair of smoke rounds around the approaches (admittedly yet another tank ran out of smoke in the process) and one of the others found some vehicle smoke to help my surviving infantry get forward.  With a pair of smoke hexes shrouding the way I took a chance and rolled my empty halftrack through the smoke and onto the bridge.  It only got halfway when Ivan blew it to scrap with a 47mm round from the expected building location.  The other two tanks I rolled forward towards his positions in the college.  I knew what I was going to do now and all four PzIVs were expendable.

Getting close

I trailed my coat shamelessly and Ivan couldn't resist cranking his 47mm around to take a shot at one of the tanks menacing the building.  He missed it on the first shot but would kill it in his next prep fire phase.  I wasn't concerned, his covered arc was now two hexsides away from the bridge.  My other tank in the vicinity then broke its MA in the defensive fire phase.  OK, maybe I was a little concerned at that point.

Turn five rolled around and I made my move.  Refraining from repairing the broken MA I instead gunned the vehicle forward, dropped some smoke to annoy his mmg crew and then rolled around to challenge the gun.  Ivan fired and missed.  Then he intensive fired and hit but the round bounced.  The AT gun was out of action.  Somewhere there was another but I was just going to have to trust to smoke.  Of my two tanks down near the water's edge one dropped another smoke round to further shroud the bridge and the other rolled forward to occupy the mind of any nearby AT gunners.  Then the driver on my squad carrying halftrack stamped on the accelerator.  Ivan howled in despair (poetic licence may have been used in that description) as it lurched out of bypass and towards the impromptu smokescreen.  Desperately he revealed a hidden lmg team in my rear but the rounds failed to penetrate. A nearby squad fired on my boys as they charged past to no avail.  Then with machine gun bullets bouncing off the rear armour and rifle fire spattering against the sides my halftrack rolled into the smoke, slewed right and roared off the bridge for the win.

Yes, a win.  How about that

Ivan was rather shocked by the abrupt end to the game (to be honest so was I), about half of his force and most of my infantry never made it into the game.  Somewhat at a loose end we made awkward small talk for about ten minutes before we thankfully severed the connection and returned to our lives.

Major Teege looked about his recently victorious command.  He had ordered that the two soldiers who had performed the initial reconnaissance be brought to him for personal congratulations.  One rather shabby soldier with a Lonely Planet Guide to the Future Former Yugoslavia tucked under his arm stepped forward and saluted.

"Ah soldier, where's your comrade?"

"He wandered into a machine gun firelane.  I have what's left of him in this matchbox if you'd like to see?"

"No thanks soldier, just post it to his family there's a good chap. Well done on the reconnaissance by the way.  We'll have conquered Yugoslavia in no time."

"Indeed sir, and once we've done that we should probably leave immediately.  It isn't the conquest that's hard.  It's finding safe accommodation afterwards."

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

It Makes You Proud to be Australian

I seldom pause to reflect on how fortunate I am to live in Australia.  Even our self destructive idiocies are less harmful than elsewhere.  In Britain Theresa May is attempting to push a Brexit solution so wretched that the Europeans actually agreed to it and in the United States Donald Trump is using on would be immigrants the sort of crowd control techniques that are normally only available to citizens.  Meanwhile in Australia our government lurches from crisis to crisis, largely of its own making without it seeming to have too much impact on the country at large.

I hesitate to comment on what is currently going on with our government as by the time I finish this sentence whatever I say will be out of date.  So I won't.  Suffice it to say in the past couple of months our government has changed its leader, lost its majority, seen its counterpart in one state annihilated at an election, lost even more of its non existent majority and decided that the next election will be a popularity contest between whoever is leading the party at that point and the opposition leader.

Meanwhile everybody else in the country keeps puttering on living their lives, doing their jobs and generally behaving as though the actions of our political leaders aren't actually terribly important.  In a way they're absolutely right.  While the introduction of bills and the enacting of laws is (or at least can be) very important and certainly the way our nations leaders interact with the leaders of other nations can have an impact on our lives how the political parties handle their own affairs is a monument to triviality.

As I've watched our government unravel over the last couple of years I often catch myself wondering why this all seems familiar.  Part of the reason, of course, is that the previous Labor government did exactly the same thing but there's more to it than that.  More and more I was getting a feeling of deja vu.  It took me a while before I realised the answer.

The outrageous posturing, the flamboyant manoeuvres, the ridiculous, unbelievable storylines and a whole cast of idiotic freakshows for the crowd to cheer and boo as it pleases?  The Australian government is channelling World Wrestling Entertainment.  It can't be too long before someone is hit with a chair.  It would, of course, be utterly irresponsible of me to indicate which of our venerated lawmakers I wish to see hit with a chair but on a completely unrelated note I see that Peter Dutton is currently on "I hurt myself" leave after injuring himself trying to mend a fence.  It's probably the first and last time he will ever attempt fence mending.

At the end of the last battle royale Malcolm Turnbull was tipped over the top rope but just as Peter Dutton was reaching for the belt Scott Morrison slithered into the ring and blindsided him with the bell while the defeated Turnbull clung onto Tony Abbott's leg to stop him getting in to help.

Since that moment the government has spent its time braying about how competent it is while simultaneously losing its majority in parliament and tanking in the opinion polls.  It’s nice to see they got back to normal so quickly.

I’ve long been of the opinion that one of the great benefits of our system of government has been that it occupies the time and energy of people you don’t want wandering around loose but can’t quite justify locking up.  Meanwhile up in the Senate one senator accused another of slut-shaming her and her party leader got tossed out for calling said slut shamer a pig.  In the midst of all this apparently some laws got passed which is proof that our politicians still have too much time on their hands.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Silly After Action Report

Major, the Honorable Evelyn Augustus Roderick Percy Slovenleigh-Attyre frowned in irritation.  Around him the men of his company huddled under burning trucks and attempted to avoid the German bullets zipping in from all directions.  It was fair to say things had not gone entirely according to plan.  It wasn't really his fault, thought Slovenleigh-Attyre.  After all he certainly wasn't the first person to hold a map upside down when giving his orders.  Dropping a cigarette into the back of the ammunition lorry hadn't been ideal but the Germans had already ambushed them by that point so they would certainly have hit it sooner or later.  Now his men expected him to get them out of this mess.

"Righto chaps," he called striving to make himself heard over the crackle of automatic fire from front and rear, "we need to push through this."  He had had concerns about calling his men "chaps" it seemed to invite far too much familiarity but then he had realised that if he called them chaps he didn't need to remember their names.  Now his company had more chaps than a leather bar.  They certainly looked ready to push through something but they were waiting for him to give a direction.  Indecision gripped the major like a vice.  Then one of his corporals approached.  Slovenleigh-Attyre seized gratefully on the distraction.

"Ah, Corporal, er, um chap," he said a little desperately.  "What do you want?"

Astonished that the major remembered his name Corporal Chapp saluted and pointed to the north.

"Look sir, the armour."

Slovenleigh-Attyre blinked through the smoke and saw tanks of the 1st Armoured rolling north to hit the German positions.  That was it, if everything went haywire he could just say he was supporting the armour and blame them for what happened.

"To the north chaps, support the armour."

Corporal Chapp frowned as the company shook out and moved northwards, Slovenleigh-Attyre bellowing his desire for stealth and secrecy at the top of his voice.  The corporal did in fact think this was the right move.  He was just a little concerned at the decision making process that had produced it.

It was Ivan's turn to pick the scenario and after much deliberation and shuffling through options he simply settled for turning the previous scenario card over and playing what was on the back.  This therefore is ASL scenario J161 - Riding to the Rescue.  Here a bunch of second rate British troops have to try and break through a ring of ambushing Germans with the assistance of a less than stellar collection of British tanks.  Ivan will command the British and I the Germans.  Since the British appeared to be the less favoured side we gave them the balance, swapping out the 7-0 leader for a 9-1.  The dice presented me with the Germans so I discreetly turned my head while Ivan set up his British.

As the German I had ten first line squads, a trio of officers led by a 9-1, a medium machine gun, a pair of lights and an antitank rifle.  Supporting this force are a pair of early model, open topped armoured cars carrying a 20mm cannon.  Ivan has eight squads of second line British troops led by a trio of officers including the balance bestowed 9-1.  These have a pair of light machine guns and an antitank rifle.  These set up surrounded both by burning trucks and only slightly less incendiary Germans.  Supposedly riding to the rescue are a trio of Vickers VIC tanks.  My father will know what they look like, I gave him a Dinky Toy version of one for Christmas (or possibly his birthday) one year.  On turn three he gets another pair of tanks, an impressive (for the time and place) A13 and what is basically a self propelled smoke mortar on tracks.

 To win Ivan has to exit nine VP worth of non crew personnel either off the south edge or off the bridge in the north.  Additionally at least one tank has to have either exited or at least still be mobile at game end.  Thus killing all the British tanks is an automatic win for the Germans.

Set up, my troops are in the wrong place

Above is the initial set up.  Ivan set up his troops first, then I set up mine.  Finally Ivan set up his three at start tanks.  I have to admit Ivan faked me out.  Looking at his set up I assumed he was going for the southern exit and I set up the bulk of my forces to prevent that.  I had only a small force in the north plus the two armoured cars that have to set up there.  Having thus seen most of my troops including my 9-1 and mmg set up in the south Ivan promptly did an about face and rushed north while I stared at the map and shouted that that wasn't fair.

And now my armoured car has broken its gun.

Ivan left a delaying force so that I couldn't simply race after him and pushed towards the distressing close bridge.  Meanwhile his tanks rolled down off the hill to challenge my armoured cars.  One circled far to the north to get behind my defences while the other to raced up behind one of my cars which was inconveniently facing the wrong way.  All in all I was off to a bad start.  Which got worse when my badly placed armoured car cranked its turret around for a shot at a tank and promptly broke its main armament.  Figuring that at least we'd be finished in time to play another game I persisted.

Then things got unexpectedly better.  Not only did I repair the MA on my armoured car but the weapon itself redeemed its earlier hiccough by blowing up one of Ivan's tanks.  His squad with the antitank rifle (fearsome against this early war rubbish with tinfoil armour) was broken and ELR'ed.  The reduction to green status obviously indicated the death of the only man in the squad who knew how to handle an antitank rifle because throughout the course of the game Ivan would take half a dozen shots at a stationary armoured car only a couple of hexes away and either miss or bounce every time.

It may seem a little silly not to move the armoured car since there was a nearby squad taking potshots at it but the truth was I had so few troops up north that I absolutely needed it to help cover the road Ivan needed to take to get onto the bridge.  Meanwhile Ivan, rallying gamely from the sudden death of his tank abandoned his positions in the south and threw his entire force northwards leaving my troops down there literally choking in the smoke of burning trucks.

Up north, I had very little space to trade for time but I did my best, slinking and skulking and managing to keep concealment on my main force (a squad, lmg combo led by an 8-1).  My remaining force up there consisted of the armoured cars and two other squads.  Everything else was far south and peering through the haze looking for opponents that didn't come. Fortunately with his troops heading north and his tanks otherwise occupied I was able to dash a squad with my antitank rifle up to the east side of the forest to somewhere at least adjacent to a useful position.  Which was useful as Ivan, showing far more faith in his second rate troops than I would have, had sent a squad into close combat against one of mine and of course, killed it.  I did manage to take out a half squad in return.

Meanwhile the rest of his force was pressing up against my increasingly hard pressed northern defenders.  I had tried sending some of my southern troops north which was useful as it gave Ivan something else to shoot at apart from my northern troops.  He obediently did so and soon I had a pair of squads broken and weeping in the forest.  I moved my 9-1 (with squad and mmg in tow) up to rally them but soon realised that I needed the firepower further north.

As turn three rolled around things were looking bad for the good guys (ok, historically the bad guys).  Ivan had built up what seemed like a battalions worth of troops against my sole remaining unit in the forest.  One of his Vickers had crashed through the hedge in the north and was menacing my units (actually only one squad plus a pair of dummies) in the village and his extra tanks had come on.  His A13 had combined with his other Vickers to catch one of my armoured cars in a cross fire and I looked completely done.

Thing suddenly turned for the better

Do you ever have a day when absolutely everything goes right?  Me neither but my turn three came very close.  I took out another Vickers with an mmg and then a squad with a lmg far to the south took a long shot at his mortar tank and destroyed it as well with a snake eyes and I also managed to extricate my lmg squad in the forest back to the somewhat dubious protection of the village.  Shocked but determined Ivan rolled his A13 around behind my armoured car.  My armoured car was opened topped and his tank was running CE, the end result was that each of us wound up being stunned by machine gun fire which took both vehicles out of the game for half a turn.

Despite my heroics I was in a precarious position but Ivan was running out of time.  The propensity of his tanks to fall apart in a gust of wind wasn't helping his cause and the inability of his atr squad to take out my other armoured car meant he still had to run a gauntlet if he was to get off the bridge.  It has to be admitted that my atr squad wasn't doing any better.  It had broken under a lucky shot before it had an opportunity to do any harm and spent the rest of the game fleeing from one location to another as various units and vehicles moved next to it.

Ivan sent a halfsquad charging out into the open in a mad dash for the bridge but I disdained to fire on it. There would be more juicy targets later.  It almost didn't work out though.  Using his remaining Vickers as an infantry killer Ivan managed to eradicate most of my northern defences.   Fortunately for me rescue was coming from the south.  My mmg team and another squad with an lmg had tiptoed up behind his remaining forces while further to the south a pair of squads had moved into position in the village to the west where they could fire on the bridge.

Ivan has one turn to escape
The last turn came and Ivan made his final dash, first his remaining Vickers rolled up to the bridge in the hope of dropping some smoke grenades.  It failed and, unimpressed, my armoured car shot into its rear destroying it.  This was perhaps a little silly as now there some cover at the bridge entry.  Things got worse for me when Ivan sudden charged his A13 into a forest hex to lock up my lmg team.  Then his boys made their dash for the exit.  One squad made it but my mmg team laid down a firelane along the approaches and my troops in the village broke another that attempted to run the gauntlet.  This left Ivan without enough troops to escape and gave me the win.

End game

Major Slovenleigh-Attyre wrung the water out of his moustache.  After things had gone so badly to pot at the bridge he and a handful of others hand plunged into the river to escape.  Now he had to explain himself to Brigadier Sir Aylwin Hartie-Bellow who had come forward to find out what had happened to the battalion.  Had spent the last five minutes studying the reports on "the incident" and now he looked up shaking his head sadly.

"Pity you were let down so badly by those armour wallahs Slovenleigh-Attyre.  Damned bad show.  I've already had a word with the general, he'll be giving them a rocket.  Honestly, they should go back to horses.  At least they don't explode.  Glad to see you got out.  I've put you in for an MC just to quiet any criticism."

"Thank you very much sir."

"Not at all, must stick together what? Off you go and get a dry uniform and some moustache wax"

Slovenleigh-Attyre saluted and squelched out of the brigadiers officer.  Corporal Chapp was waiting for him.

"How did it go sir?"

Slovenleigh-Attyre sighed, "I think it's going to be a very long war."

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Birthday Greetings #76

Some imperial dynasties soar, providing leader after leader of great talent before sliding downwards into general decrepitude.  The Habsburgs somehow managed to make mediocrity a survival trait.  Meanwhile the Macedonian dynasty of the Byzantine empire seemed to have a bad case of hiccoughs.  A talented emperor would be followed by some worthless loser who in turn would give way to a man of talent who at the end of his reign could apparently find no better successor than another deadbeat.

With that in mind let us wish a happy birthday to Alexander, Byzantine emperor, scion of the Macedonian house and worthless degenerate toolbag.  Alexander's father, Basil, had founded the dynasty by the simple expedient of murdering the last representative of the previous dynasty and taking his place (although since his predecessor was sleeping with his wife its entirely possible he didn't actually found a dynasty at all).  Still Basil died and the man who was officially his son, one Leo by name, took over the empire.  Alexander was his younger brother and most definitely his father's son (since the only other paternal candidate had been murdered before his conception).

Officially Leo and Alexander reigned jointly for thirty odd years but in actual fact Alexander spent most of the time getting drunk while his brother did the reigning and engaging in serial matrimony (even emperors need a hobby).  When Leo died his son, Constantine, was too young to take over even nominally and so Alexander stepped up to the title role.

More accurately Alexander staggered up to the title role and then threw up on it.  His first act was to toss Constantine's mother (Leo's latest wife) into a nunnery.  Then he sacked all of Leo's advisors.  Then he sacked the patriarch of Constantinople and brought back an earlier incumbent who had been sacked earlier because of his objection to Leo's fourth marriage.

With political and ecclesiastical reform thus achieved Alexander fixed his bloodshot eye on diplomacy.  The principal issue besetting the empire at this time was the Bulgarians.  They had adopted Christianity, conquered some of their neighbours and set up quite a respectable little empire in miniature in the Balkans.  To persuade them to stay there earlier Byzantine diplomats had arranged a royal wedding between an imperial princess and whichever of the Bulgarian royal family had the fewest fleas hopping on him.  To go with the princess was a yearly allowance to enable her to maintain a state appropriate to her rank.  Or to put it another way the Byzantines basically paid the Bulgarians not to cause trouble.  For a while this worked but when Bulgar emissaries came to Constantinople for the next installment of the (let's not call it tribute, living allowance is a much nicer term.  While the allowance was paid Byzantine citizens on the borders of Bulgaria were allowed to continue living) payment Alexander decided on a whole new diplomatic approach.

He raved at them drunkenly, insulted them, their monarch, their people and anyone else who happened to be standing nearby.  He told them they wouldn't be getting a penny from him and finally he told them to sod off.  The Bulgars withdrew and their thoughtful and measured response involved pouring across the border, slaughtering everything breathing and burning down everything else.  With government paralysed, the borderlands aflame and the newly installed patriarch attempting (unsuccessfully) to purge pretty much anyone he'd ever met Alexander decided that the only thing left to do was play polo.  If you're a middle aged drunk in poor health and quite possibly mentally unhinged then a vigorous, athletic game like polo is ideal if you're looking for an early grave.

Right on cue Alexander toppled off his horse mid match and fell motionless to the ground.  To be fair Alexander falling motionless to the ground happened often enough so that people probably weren't too concerned at first.  Eventually they figured out he wasn't drunk (or at least, not just drunk) and dragged him off the field, after all there was a match to complete.  A couple of days later he died.  His passing was greeting with genuine sorrow by absolutely no one.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

I'm Just Going Outside, While You Prepare the Sauce

My tech support contacted me out of the blue this morning which surprised me as I thought they had fallen off the face of the earth.

"Guys, where the hell have you been?  I haven't heard from you for weeks."

"Sorry, we've been busy with the APEC summit in Port Moresby," they explained.

"Oh, are you doing tech support for that as well?"

"No, we have a Maserati dealership."

As it turned out my tech support had contacted me due to some disturbing internet search terms emanating from my Tasmanian correspondent's computer.  They felt I might like to have a word.

"Why don't you guys do something?"

"Sure; we can launch a drone strike, orchestrate an anthrax outbreak or unleash killer squid on the coastal cities.  Which would you prefer?"

"All right, I'll give her a call."

I hastily contacted my correspondent and tried to think of a delicate way of broaching the reason for my call.

"I've been talking to my kids about cannibalism," she announced which cleared the air nicely.

"Understandable," I agreed, "if they're going to grow up in Tasmania they deserve to know the worst."

But apparently she wasn't referring to the grim realities of daily life in Australia's most remote and desperate province (there would be a reality show but they ate each other).  And it rapidly became clear that she hadn't been talking to her children about cannibalism so much as one of her children (Grace) had been talking about it to her.  With a rather concerning amount of enthusiasm.

In her role as a semi responsible parent my correspondent had been telling her wide eyed offspring the tale of Scott of the Antarctic's doomed expedition to the South Pole (nothing like mass death and ghastly weather to cheer the kiddies up).  She made much of Colonel Oates heroic self sacrifice (which achieved absolutely nothing) and his "I'm just going outside and may be some time" moment.  Grace immediately leapt to the conclusion that they cannibalised him.

"No, no," protested my correspondent.  "He was slowing them down and they were running out of food."
"So they ate him," repeated the precocious eight year old. 

Nothing my correspondent did or said could dissuade Grace from the certainty that Oates' noble sacrifice included him becoming part of the expeditions emergency rations.  I suggested mentioning that since Oates had gangrene he was probably poisonous and therefore unfit to eat.  Instead my correspondent, unwisely, attempted to impress on an eight year old who had already made up her mind the cultural and moral objections to cannibalism.  This went down about as well as one might expect with lots of "but why?" on one side and finally an exasperated parental "because I said so" on the other.

Silenced but not convinced Grace retired and obviously decided to do some research of her own.  Since not even my tech support has been able to design a parental lock that an eight year old can't circumvent this explains the strange search terms on my correspondent's computer.

All of which reassured me but then I'm a safe distance away.  According to my correspondent there's a strange gleam in Grace's eye of late and she's starting to get nervous about taking her on long bushwalks. 

Thursday, November 15, 2018

A Touch of the Rural Life

As I walked into the office today heads turned.  Nostrils flared and brows furrowed in confusion.  Was there just a hint of the Australian countryside about me as I passed my fellow drones masquerading as worker bees?  Did some indefinable but undeniable hint of the magnificence of rural Australia make itself present as, with a slight smile on my face and a hint of swagger in my stride, I made my way to my chair and attached the leg irons with aplomb?

Yes, yes its true.  Here in the middle of the city, that crazy, anarchic anthill of some four million people a gentle hint of a better life wafted through the office.  In the middle of this seething mass of crazed derelicts, depraved junkies, morally bereft politicians and vicious gang leaders (to be fair its a little better once you leave my office) somehow a lifeline has been thrown from a better place.

It's all down to me for I have purchased a new soap which proclaims that it has the scent of the Australian countryside.  A hint of eucalyptus, a smidgeon of roadkill, a trace of diesel and perhaps the merest touch of rural poverty and casual racism.  The older staff members went quite nostalgic as the scent took them back to a time when White Australia was a policy not an embarrassment and we were more concerned about women voting than gays marrying.  It's a heady mix and frankly quite a lot to ask of a bar of soap. 

I wasn't really trying to connect with the non urban parts of my nation when I wandered through my local supermarket looking for a personal cleansing product.  I'm not even sure why this might be considered desirable.  However the soap choices were few and most of the rest were loud in proclaiming that washing with them would make you smell like the Botanical Gardens on steroids while simultaneously moisturising your skin, shining your hair and generally making you sparkle like a vampire from Twilight.  None of them actually claimed they would get you clean.

Compared with all of that the Australian countryside was a modest and not particularly intrusive option.  I have to admit I don't know why soap has to smell of anything.  I will agree that it is better that it not smell like an open sewer or landfill and if a little perfume is required to achieve that then go for it.  Now, however, it would seem that soap is something you rub on yourself as part of a beauty regime which begs the question; what the hell do you rub onto yourself if you're practicing a cleanliness regime.

Personally I suspect any cleanliness derives from the hot water washing over me and the soap is just there to make it feel like I'm contributing.  I could probably do without it entirely.  But habit is a terrible thing.  For nigh on fifty years I have been rubbing bars of putative cleanser over myself and now I find that I can't stop.  Even liquid soaps and body wash don't really convince me, how can dirt be chipped from the body by something that looks as though it should be rubbed into my shoulders by a masseuse?  So in the absence of anything else even remotely plausible it is the scent of the Australian countryside for me.

As for cleanliness, well the Maasai take dust baths and that seems to work for them.  Perhaps I'll give that a try.  It would also probably assist in getting a more plausible scent of the Australian countryside than any soap is likely to provide.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

A Brief History of Lacrosse

Ah lacrosse.  Is there any more noble game?  Compared with lacrosse cricket is just farming for inbreds and and yachting is piracy where all the plundering takes place before the boat hits water.  How can one match the thrill of watching two high quality teams of lacrosse players doing, whatever the hell it is they do.

Lacrosse is a French word meaning "wave the stick about" but the game itself comes from North America.  Early, apparently French, settlers in North America loosely adapted the traditional indigenous sport of competitive butterfly catching.  Games would go on for days and points were awarded for number of butterflies, variety of species and protein content.  Points were deducted for bruised wings, inadvertently captured bees and hitting your opponent over the head with a stick and stealing his butterflies.

At some point in between giving the locals smallpox and pinching their land the newcomers figured they might as well go for the trifecta and do a little cultural appropriation as well.  For some unknown reason they chose lacrosse.  Also for some unknown reason they chose to call it lacrosse.

While the French may have seen it first (apart from all of the Native Americans who had seen it so often they were probably bored with it) but it was left to an English settler to codify a set of rules that could be used without the embarrassment of asking the natives what to do next.  He was highly qualified for this task as he was a dentist.

There are many variants of lacrosse, all with slightly different rules but fundamentally the game is very simple, not surprising since it was translated from Iroquois, via French into English by a dentist. Complicated concepts would not just have been lost in translation, they would have been deliberately led into the woods and left there to die. 

To play lacrosse you need a patch of open ground, butterflies are now optional.  There is a ball, there are goals, there are sticks with nets at the top and there are ten players on each team (twelve for women's lacrosse).  Advocates of the sport will no doubt go on about the rules and the objectives but essentially it is about twenty people running around in circles hitting each other with sticks.  Think of it as ice hockey for the Summer months.

There is a ball and technically you are supposed use your stick with a net to put that ball into the goal (your opponents goal being preferred).  Of course it is much easier to do this if most of your opponent's team has been concussed "accidentally" as you challenged for the ball.  Pads are worn to protect vital areas and one can almost hear generations of dead Native Americans sneering in contempt.  Even the butterflies are curling their wings in derision.  Traditionally the Native American version went on until the butterfly supply ran out but nowadays sixty minutes is considered sufficient to work up a light sweat before the players get on to the serious business of drinking beer and hitting on cheerleaders.

Attempts have been made to get lacrosse accepted as an Olympic sport.  It was included in the 1904 and 1908 Summer Games and got a couple of demonstration gigs subsequently but eventually the IOC decided that nobody really cared that much about lacrosse.  Considering some of their other decisions this is actually surprising.  Until the heady day when lacrosse players can march into the Olympic stadium butterfly nets held proudly aloft it will have to settle for being played largely in Canada and the United States.  One thing I do know, the moment it is accepted as an Olympic sport Australians will be demanding that we win a gold medal in it.

It's Just A Game

Haven't they suffered enough?  Or haven't we suffered enough?  Or hasn't somebody somewhere suffered enough?  It's not like they committed murder or anything and worse things happen at sea.  In fact worse things probably happen on a decent sized lake or overfilled bathtub.  It's time to forgive and forget.  To rehabilitate those responsible and move on after all its not like somebody did it to us.

I've been watching cricket.  Specifically I've been watching cricket where Australia has been competing.  The team has had its ups and downs while the body supposedly administrating them has largely been administrating their own self destruction.  For a combination of purblind arrogance and tin eared refusal to accept reality Cricket Australia has been hard to beat in recent months (although the federal Liberal party could run them a close second).

It all goes back to the ball tampering incident in March.  Or to be slightly less circumspect, it all goes back to when members of the Australian cricket team cheated during a test match and did it so oafishly as to raise serious concerns about their intelligence as well as their integrity.  Those involved (or at least those caught) have been stood down and are currently not playing for their country; good.  Cricket Australia has been purged of some of those who helped create the culture that encouraged such behaviour, also good although it would have been better a few months ago both from a "swift justice" viewpoint and also so it didn't occur in the middle of a series that the Australian team was trying to win, apparently without cheating this time.

So far so, well not good but possibly the best that can be hoped for considering where we started from.  What concerns me is that apparently there is already a move to rehabilitate the players involved and get them back into representative cricket.  Perhaps if the Australian team had wiped the floor with every opponent since the incident this push would be less but that was always going to be difficult.  With freshly minted captains, a new coach and the entire team, rightly or wrongly, under a cloud continuous triumph on the cricket field was a little much to expect.

I have some sympathy for Cameron Bancroft the young man who did the actual tampering.  I hope that after an appropriate penance he can return and attempt redemption.  For the other two I have nothing but disgust.  They were the two most senior players in the team.  The vice captain apparently came up with the bright idea of cheating their way to victory and his captain didn't do the only acceptable thing which was to shut it down immediately and make it plain that such behaviour would not be tolerated.

To decide to cheat is bad enough.  To select the most junior member of the test squad, the man least likely to be able to stand up to an instruction delivered by the vice captain and tacitly condoned by the captain himself was unspeakable.  Between them these two haven't just shamed Australian cricket, they've gone a long way towards destroying the career of a promising young player into the bargain.  I hope that neither of them plays any sort of representative cricket ever again.

Mention has been made of the pressures the two of them were under, the strain of always having to produce what a victory hungry public demands of its sportsmen.  I do understand that, they wouldn't be the first outstanding people who have cracked under such pressure.  But when something cracks you throw it away.  You don't reuse it in the hopes that it won't crack again.  It has also been said that the two deserve a chance to redeem themselves, to make good for what they've done.  I absolutely agree and there are many areas and opportunities where both of them using their experience and the residual of their fame and public affection could do a great deal of good.  They wouldn't be the first people to fall badly, pick themselves up and, through effort prove why we elevated them in the first place.  I just don't think any of them should involve playing cricket.  I strongly suspect I'm in a minority.

And if we absolutely must cheat can we please be a little better at it next time?  Not only was the idea shameful the execution was embarrassing.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Just Futsalling Around

Well after my previous triumphant entry about the achievements of our corporate soccer team things have dropped off a little on the casual football front.  Sadly we couldn't reproduce our efforts in the next season.  Now, while we wait for another competition we've been playing futsal instead.  This is a kind of indoor soccer on a hard surface.  It's fast, played on a smaller surface and I'm at least as bad at it as I am at the more traditional outdoor soccer.

Still I'm finding it quite enjoyable and we've actually notched up a couple of wins.  This is despite the fact that two of our star players have come down with an acute attack of pregnancy which hasn't helped our cause.  I try not to blame them, I'm sure they didn't do it to deliberately inconvenience us.  Instead I am attributing our sudden futsal resurgence to the fact that I have returned from holidays and am once again taking my place in our sadly truncated team.  Fortunately we are blessed with skilled players (no, not me idiots, other players) who can carry us forward to victory or at least make contact with the ball occasionally.  My sole contribution so far has been to stick my foot out in an attempt to prevent the opposition scoring.  The ball rolled over my foot and straight into the goal.

We play on an inconveniently located basketball court which appears to exist because the construction of flats, a motorway and parkland accidentally left a small patch of ground that nobody could figure out what to do with.  So they could claim to be providing the community with services the local authorities nailed a couple of iron rings to convenient poles and called it a basketball court.  Some signposts would also have been useful  On one occasion we almost forfeited because we couldn't actually find the venue.  Normally I would follow Caroline who is our team organiser and general administrative person but since our employers relocated her department to a flat above a bar I don't bump into her as often as I used to.

Still logistical and directional difficulties notwithstanding our team has managed to present itself for competition each Thursday and by each Thursday I mean the two or three occasions when we've actually been able to play.  The basketball court is outdoors which means there was about a month when our "indoor" soccer was cancelled due to the rain.

I have no idea how deep we are into the competition or where my (or any other team) is placed.  All I do know is we need to play a couple more games before we get the matches played/matches cancelled ratio into balance.  As I'm writing this (in my lunch break, honestly) I'm staring out my office window at the leaden skies that are hanging around ominously threatening rain.  On the one hand playing on asphalt does mean the ground dries quicker, on the other hand its a bugger to fall on.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Silly After Action Report - African Brothers

Maggiore Guiseppe Limoncello gazed at his forces with approval.  When he had first taken command of these colonial troops they had shown a distressing tendency to engage in fire and movement, feel for an enemies flanks and filter through weakly defended areas of the front.  It had taken months of patient drilling to get them to gather together into unwieldy clumps and plod slowly towards the enemy.  Now he would be able to demonstrate how well his troops had learnt their lessons.  The colonial battalions would be attacking Moyale, the Gibraltar of Africa as it was never known, under the watchful eye of Generale di Brigata Matteo Gorganzoli himself.  Perhaps if enough of them died he might get a medal.

The sound of a novelty car horn split the air, Maggiore Limoncello threw his hands into the air instinctively and turned to find the source of the disturbance.  An Italian soldier gave him a cheery wave.  He was sitting on, well it looked like an upturned bathtub on wheels.

"What the hell is that?" demanded Limoncello.

"It's an upturned bathtub on wheels," replied the soldier, "but add a machine gun and its an armoured car.  We've got three of them, where do you want us?"

Limoncello pointed at the nearest road,

"How about there?  Just, sort of drive down that a bit and see what happens."

The soldier ripped off a smart salute,

"Most comprehensive briefing I've ever had.  We can move out immediately."

So this is ASL scenario J162, African Brothers where Ivan Kent attempts to defend the Kenyan town of Moyale from the conquering Italian legions commanded by yours truly.  To defend the indefensible Ivan has fourteen squads from the King's Rifled Africans, four second line and ten green.  To back them up he has wire, trenches, sangars, a pair of medium machine guns, an anti tank rifle, a small mortar and a trio of officers led by a 9-1 plus a dozen concealment counters.  On turn four he gets four second line squads as reinforcements egged on by an 8-1.  On the attack I have the pride of the Italian colonial troops in East Africa (ie anyone who would turn up).  I have twenty squads, ten bersaglieri and ten regular Italian first liners led by three officers (including my own 9-1) and a genuine Italian hero.  That's a counter that doesn't get much of an airing.  Additionally I have three light machine guns, one medium and one heavy.  For long range work I have my own little mortar and a 105mm gun.  Coming on to reinforce in the first turn are three ancient armoured cars although given the state of their armour perhaps a better term would simply be "cars".  Still one carries an 8FP machine gun and the other two 37mm cannon.

To win I have to capture a certain number of victory locations within a given time frame.  I need to achieve two of the following; i) capture 1 location point by turn 2, capture 3 location points by turn 5 or capture 4 location points by game end.  There is one victory location on board 62 within easy reach.  There are four victory locations on the hill summits of board 5a and the stone church on board 5a is worth a massive three points.  Grabbing the closest one seemed an appropriate start and would also set me on the way to seizing the church for another three.  I set up a powerful force, including my gun and mortar on the board 61 hill and detailed a second force (accompanied by the hero) to come on the north edge of board 62 for a little flanking.  By SSR the orchard hexes were actually vineyards and bog terrain which seemed to restrict my armoured cars to the road.

Set up
Things went rather well to begin with.  Ivan had only a token defence forward to cover the first victory location mostly consisting of dummy stacks.  This left the kill stack I had built with two squads, the mmg, hmg and 9-1 with very little to kill.  Since the machine guns were rather heavy this mob would spend the rest of the game panting towards the battle which always seemed to be a little out of reach.  Still I hustled forward and plunged (somewhat nervously) into close combat with the genuine squad he had defending the first victory location.  My only serious casualty came when I idiotically waltzed a squad right down the road in front of his defenders.  The conscript halfsquad which were the only survivors spent the rest of the game hiding in a vineyard.

Still everything else went well, my northern flankers pushed through the brush and vineyards, breaking a green squad along the way and rendered Ivan's forward position such as it was untenable and the victory location was mine.  The armoured cars trundled down the road and got ready to assault the church where the real fighting would happen.  Meanwhile my southern flank was crowned with unexpected success as well.  The forward location and the church weren't enough.  I needed to gain at least one of the hill hexes as well and I had a force in the south which I envisaged would slowly ease their way forward against the pair of squads in sangars that Ivan had ready for such an eventuality.  Instead a lucky prep fire shot broke one of the squads and I was able to hustle forward and chase him out of his defended positions down there with minimal casualties.

Unexpected triumph in the south.  Ivan's forward squad is not long for this world

With two victory locations seized before the end of turn 2 I had satisfied one victory condition.  Now I had to try and get another one.  Unfortunately the cheap gains were over.  Ivan had a squad with a mmg in a trench up on the hill guarding the next victory location closest to my flankers in the south while in the north I would edge my troops forward towards the church doing my best to take advantage of cover and only occasionally wandering into his line of sight in open ground.  There were a fair few Italian casualties but I was also taking prisoners as Ivan's outlying forces surrendered to invincible Italian arms (no really) which gave me the opportunity to deploy some squads.

pushing left and right

As expected Ivan had garrisoned the church strongly with a pair of second line squads, his 9-1, an mmg and the atr.  Most irritating was a green squad hiding in a sangar just in front.  These bastards sneaked out in the advance phase, ambushed one of my squads, killed half of it and then withdrew back into the sangar.  Nevertheless retribution was approaching.  One of my armoured cars tried firing at his troops in the church and only succeeded in running out of HE for it's 37mm.  The other one would similarly run out before much longer.

In the south I was attempting to keep my flanking manoeuvre going, sneaking behind the hill mass and trying to get close to his mmg position.  To help this out I pounded the position with both my mortar and the 105.  At that range and with an early morning mist LV in effect the odds of hitting weren't great but I figured simple repetition would eventually yield a result.  I was wrong.  The one hill location I had gained would be all that I got.  Part of the problem was that while I had got past him on the right and left he still had forces in the centre which I had been forced to largely ignore.  These guys were able to at least menace any direct movements and force me to move slowly and with circumspection which didn't stop Italian casualties mounting at an alarming rate.  Actually both sides were losing troops rapidly, blood was being poured into the soil out of all proportion to the actual value of the objective.  

 With time for the second victory condition starting to get tight I pressed forward with my armoured cars.  I was sure some of his defenders were dummies and surely those that weren't wouldn't be able to resist shooting at such magnificent targets.  Thus my infantry might be able to get forward.  This sort of worked. My forward armoured car managed to break a squad of defenders and then forced his mmg squad to reveal itself by destroying the armoured car.  Since the mmg kept rate as a fire drawing exercise it left a little to be desired.  Meanwhile back in the rear my kill stack laboured slowly towards the battle secretly hoping it would all be over before they arrived (it was).

one armoured car down
As turn four rolled around I was in quite a good position on paper.  I had swept away most of his outlying defences around the church and was advancing slowly but purposefully on his mmg post up in the hills.  Unfortunately this had cost so many casualties that a brief pause had to be called while I attempted to bring up laggards and rally some broken units.  This went about as well as you might expect with Italian squads but I did get one or two back.  In the south I managed to get a concealed squad next to his mmg team but then Ivan brought on his reinforcements and shot them to pieces (with a 1+1 shot if you please).

Back around the church Ivan was bouncing atr rounds off my armoured cars without too much result and I was firing 37mm shells into the church with an equal lack of achievement.  I had gathered what I considered to be a sufficient force to beat up his guys in the sangar and plunged into close combat.  I rolled a snake eyes and generated a 7-0 leader which was handy as the 7-0 leader I already had there had recently been broken.

getting closer
Now with nothing but the troops in the church in my way I gathered a mass of mostly half squads to spread out and give Ivan a lot of worthless targets while simultaneously pressing forward through the vineyards to the building.  At this point Ivan's mmg decided to go on a rate tear, immobilised another armoured car and beat up some of my long suffering infantry.  I also managed to break the MA on my one remaining armoured car.  On the plus side my slow moving kill stack finally managed to creep up at least combat adjacent just in case the game dragged on into the later turns.

Turn five arrived.  If I could capture the church in this turn I would win automatically.  If not I would have to hang on for another two turns with a rapidly dwindling force and still capture at least two more points worth of locations.  They weren't going to come from the hills.  Ivan's reinforcements solidly held the centre position up there and I didn't have enough to chase them off.  It had to be the church.  Fortunately Ivan helped me out.  As is his wont he persisted in rolling threes which was my sniper number.  Justice was finally served when my sniper killed his 9-1 in the church and the squad with him failed the LLMC.  Ivan's troops in the church were reduced to a single squad albeit one armed with a medium machine gun.

Time for the last desperate charge

I had one armoured car left (albeit with a broken MA), it passed the independent movement die roll and I gunned it forward.  Ivan tried to hit it but these fiat jockeys were made of stern stuff and ignored the spray of bullets.  I sleazed him in bypass and moved up every available infantry unit I could.  This consisted of two squads, two half squads, a hero and two 7-0s.  I sent the lot into close combat.  They survived Ivan's fire and I had a 3-1 shot in CC for the game.  Close combat is not normally my friend but this time it came off and I cleared the church of living defenders.  My turn five ended with me holding five victory points enough to give me an automatic win which was good as hanging on to them for another two turns might have been problematic.  Thanks to Ivan for the game which was quite tense for much of the time with second rate troops breaking all over the place.  I very much doubt if either of us could have mustered a full platoon at the end.

It's always a pleasant surprise when I win

Maggiore Limoncello ordered his troops to attention and threw up a dramatically impressive salute as Generale Gorgonzoli strode forward.  His face was as black as thunder.  Behind him his staff had "oh Christ you've done it now" expressions on their faces.

"What," demanded the general in tones of outrage, "was that?"

Limoncello blinked, "Well sir, we attacked and..."

"Attacked!  Attacked!  Is that what you call it?  Moving through trees?  Taking advantage of folds in the ground?  And I'm pretty sure I saw a flanking movement.  Don't deny it.  I know a flanking movement when I see one."  Absolute disbelief registered on the faces of his staff.  The general yanked on one of the waxed points of his beard in outrage.

"Do you not know, you military neophyte, that when the Italian army attacks it walks slowly towards the enemy until it has taken enough casualties to justify surrendering with honour?"

"Forgive me sir but, we did sort of win," said Limoncello a little desperately.

This seemed to drive the general into a greater fury.  He waved a file approximately the same thickness as a telephone directory in the junior officer face.

"Do you know what this is?  This is my surrender speech, noting how we gallantly resisted to the last and exhausted every possible resource before reluctantly handing our weapons over to a vastly superior enemy.  I spent hours on it.  I got my sword specially cleaned so I could hand it over to the British commander.  Now you tell me the bastard's dead.  What am I supposed to do with it now?"  Gorgonzoli turned on his heel so abruptly that his staff surrendered and stormed off towards his staff car.  Limoncello turned back to such of his troops as had survived.

"Well I don't care," he muttered.  "I think you all did very well. And that flanking thingy, well done.  Good initiative."

His troops held a hasty conversation amongst themselves then one of their corporals stepped forward.

"Excuse me sir, we're all planning to desert to the British.  Would you like to come with us?"

"Give me five minutes to pack a bag."

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Well That Was Brief

The miracle that is nature has been performing for me on my balcony like a second rate busker trying to gather meth money.  Over the past couple of weeks it has shown me the highs, the lows, the joys and the anguish that comprise the cycle of life through the medium of incontinent sky rats.

This story actually starts several years ago when I possessed a modestly sized stereo which came in a slightly larger stereo cabinet whose fundamental cheap and tackiness was offset by a black faux wood grain finish (I know, pretty classy shit right?).  The stereo went the way of all electrical equipment from the 1980, laughed into humiliated retirement by more recent innovations, but the cabinet hung around until I needed the space it currently occupied.  I placed it out on the balcony while I decided what to do with it.  OK, that's a lie.  I placed it out on the balcony in the hopes it would biodegrade before I had to go to the effort of carrying it downstairs and throwing it away.  So far it has proved annoyingly durable for something so flimsy.

And there the story should have finished.  Indeed there the story would have finished but for a sojourn to the chillier parts of the New World.  As you may be vaguely aware I recently took a trip to Newfoundland and some of the lower rent parts of the United States.  In my absence the pigeons that I normally chase off my balcony with curses took advantage of the reduced number of irritable humans to set up home in my stereo cabinet.

I returned from my trip to find pigeons cooing proprietarily over my cabinet.  Furthermore closer inspection revealed that a rather poor quality nest had been slapped together inside the cabinet and said nest contained a pair of eggs, presumably pigeon eggs.  I have to confess I was quite excited.  In a second the pigeons went from irritating disease bags that shit everywhere to irritating disease bags that shit everywhere who were going to be parents.  Since I provided the venue I figured I was entitled to be considered a stepfather or balcony father at the very least.

I did my best not to pester the pigeons too much although popping out from time to time to see if the eggs had hatched proved irresistible, as did posting updates on facebook with my exciting news.  If nothing else this has highlighted exactly how uneventful my life is under normal circumstances.  A week or two after the egg discovery my patience (and that of the pigeons) was rewarded with a pair of spectacularly ugly pigeon babies.  Once again I indulged in a positive orgy of facebook updates and compounded this by waving the photos under the nose of every friend, relative and work colleague who couldn't physically fight their way out.  

I think you know where this is going.  Anyway, last night I scraped two dead pigeon babies into a plastic bag and trotted them down to the garbage bins.  While I was there I noticed a couple of plump, healthy looking slugs.  I'm not going to photograph them, I'm not going to name them and I'm not going to mention them ever again.  With any luck they might survive the week. 

I find it amusing that The Lion King managed to explain the cycle of life without actually showing a single eviscerated gazelle.  In actual fact the cycle of life ends with death, at least for the cyclist.  From a non sentimental "poor baby pigeons" perspective this doesn't particularly worry me.  When people say that their ancestors live in them I simply assume they have multiple personality disorder and if nobody died the world would be pretty crowded by now.  But I'm not crazy about picking up baby pigeons and dropping them in the bin so possibly its time to get rid of my stereo cabinet and encourage the pigeons to breed elsewhere.