Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Plague Update #19 - Wild Crazy Freedom Edition

Oh the sweet taste of freedom, how I long to feel its drops trickle down my throat.  Whereupon I will inadvertently inhale, choke and collapse gasping and coughing onto the floor.  This is what happens when I drink coffee and I see no reason why freedom should be any different.  But in between the wheezing, retching and trying to figure out which of the black spots before my eyes are new and which are old friends I shall relish the freedom.

On Friday a maximum of two people will be allowed to congregate together and drop in on a friends home.  Friends who have been relishing my absence from their dwellings are desperately trying to fake coughs and get police tape put around their residences.  I'm not sure what I will do with this newfound liberty.  The fear, of course, is that I have been so thoroughly institutionalised that I will get halfway through my journey and flee home weeping in terror.  Actually that happened a lot anyway but now I have an identifiable reason.

Yes things are looking cautiously up on the coronavirus situation in my home state.  In Tasmania the military is still trying to prevent the northwest of the state from infecting the rest.  My correspondent contacted me today abuzz with excitement at the thought of home schooling her children.  I asked her if she was serious and she assured me she was.  She also asked me if my tech support could send her another years supply of elephant tranquilisers as she had run through the previous years stock in the past week.

Over in New Zealand such of the population as hasn't already cannibalised itself is being permitted to go outside, briefly.  The screams as the population were exposed to sunlight for the first time in over a month put me in mind of the finale of a vampire film being played at maximum volume.  Still at least my New  Zealand correspondent is slightly less concerned about becoming a meal for his loved ones.  I wouldn't advise him to get complacent.  Humans are apparently delicious, once a predator gets a taste for human flesh they rarely go back to other animals no matter how abundant they are.

Still the occasional bestial murder gang notwithstanding New Zealand seems to be coming out of this crisis rather well.  Over in my sunkissed homeland the general trend of public statements by health officials and politicians is gradually becoming more upbeat.  You can tell this by the fact that the government and the opposition are starting to slag each other off again as opposed to the disturbing unity they showed when the nation was in danger.

In Victoria a billionaire whose continued income stream absolutely depends on China got up on stage to say how great China was or something like that.  The Chinese consul was there to hold his hand and make sure he didn't go off script.  To be fair he also announced that a charitable foundation he supports was importing a mass of COVID testing equipment from China to assist in keeping the outbreak under control so there are definite advantages in being considered obedient and pliant by the Peoples Republic.  Still on the subject of business rallying around in a time of need one of our largest mining companies has been taking out TV ads to announce that in light of the unprecedented situation it was graciously considering paying some of its bills.  And Ford announced that those bits of its derelict production facility that hadn't already been sold for scrap would be converted into making PPE equipment.  Which makes the collapse of Australia's car manufacturing industry look like a long term philanthropic plan.

In privacy violation news, so far nearly three million people have downloaded the governments COVID app.  I was, and am, sceptical of the governments assurances of security and privacy but unless you live in a cave on the moon you do have to give up some privacy in return for operating in a functional society.  At least helping to fight disease is a better reason for giving up your privacy than being able to access amusing kitten memes on the internet which is the reason none of us actually have any privacy anyway.

We're halfway through the week and the long awaited Friday of Freedom is fast approaching.  How will I celebrate?  I think I'll stay in.

Monday, April 27, 2020


On the ANZAC Day weekend I had intended to pop down to Melbourne, pester a long suffering friend and compete in the ANZACon tournament.  However given the current plague ravaging the world it was decided to play it online using VASL.  For my opponents I would just be a scratchy and slightly hysterical voice at the other end of the phone.  Unfortunately that didn't seem to put them off.

The first scenario pitted me against Eric Topp in scenario Q6 Per l'Onore di Roma.  Here men of the Italian 80th infantry regiment (dubiously commanded by me) have to seize a village from Eric's defending Soviets.  Victory for the Italians required them to capture three of the only four buildings in this miserable mud hut collection that were made of stone.  I didn't come close; my brave fanti swept forward through the wheatfields to the first of the buildings and then stopped outside as the Russians occupying it showed a disinclination to leave.  They also showed a disinclination to break.  After four turns of pouring in as much fire as I could bring to bear the only appreciable result was that the Russian 9-1 leading the defence battle hardened to a 9-2 and then battle hardened again to become heroic into the bargain.  Italian reinforcements tried to go for a flank and even managed to capture a stone building but that was the limit of the achievement.  In the entire scenario I broke precisely one Russian halfsquad.  Along the way a goodly amount of the Italian force became casualties.  I conceded on turn five with the wreckage of my Italian force weeping around me.

If I could claim a certain amount of bad luck in the first scenario I had no such excuses in the second.  I lost this one through sheer, breathtaking incompetence.  The scenario was FrF51 - Bite of the Bassotto.  I had small but tough group of German paratroopers backed up by an SP gun pinched from the Italians and had to hold off Bruce Probst's New Zealanders supported by some Staghound armoured cars.  The job is to defend a small village, the Germans win if they're still holding six buildings at the end of the game.  It's hard to encapsulate so much cock up in just a couple of sentences but let me try.  Firstly the New Zealanders could enter on either or both of the south and the east board edges.  For reasons I can't explain I thought the eastern troops came on later.  As such I set up mainly guarding the south thinking I could pull back to cover the east later.  Secondly it didn't occur to me that "enter on the east board edge" meant anywhere on the east board edge.  Such forces as I did have covering the east were looking southeast.  Bruce brought his troops on in the north east and promptly outflanked my entire position.  My bassotto didn't fire a shot as his troops advanced onto it in close combat in the first turn and promptly killed it.  This left the entire village effectively defended by a half squad and a dummy stack.  They weren't enough (although the halfsquad tried quite hard).  I did manage to kill a staghound with a panzerfaust and my southern defences held for a while but Bruce was gathering up undefended real estate all over the place and my few remaining troops died in place.  I was supposed to get reinforcements on turn 3, I conceded before they turned up. 

That was the end of day one and a deeply humiliating one it was.  The first defeat was a misfortune but the second smacked of carelessness.

I started day two determined to win something if I died for it.  Strangely, just for once I did (win something that is not die.  I'm not writing this blog entry from beyond the grave).  The scenario was FT43 - Infantry Probe at Argentan which saw my Germans counterattacking a group of Free French who unreasonably wanted their country back.  My opponent was Joe Moro hunkered down in yet another village (a French one this time).  I had to capture two out of three designated victory buildings for the win.  Did you ever have a day when everything just went right?  That was my experience here.  I think my plan was good but the simple fact of the matter was that everything I tried worked while Joe's attempts to hold me back didn't.  Joe was ill served by his bazookas which proved incapable of hitting a barn from inside it (they did eventually kill a halftrack and an armoured car but far too late) while my brave landsers were unstoppable.  Highlight of the scenario, picking up the Free French flamethrower and then firing it into the melee that was raging to decide occupancy of the second victory building.  A roll of three wiped out everything in the hex and a medium machine into the bargain and left me as sole occupant.

Having had an uncharacteristic taste of victory the fourth game saw normal service resumed.  I fought Darryl Lundy in FrF 52 - Dying for Danzig.  I was the defending Germans and set up in "the strongpoint" although a better term may have been "killing zone".  My objective was simple, the Germans would win if a single squad equivalent in the stronghold was still alive and in good order at the end.  Not one German survived anywhere.  The Soviets had two flamethrowers and two flame throwing tanks plus a stack of elite infantry.  The first couple of turns were slow as Darryl ground his way through my outer defences but grind he did and the Germans could not stand up to late war Soviet firepower.  I got a single armoured car as reinforcements which Darryl dealt with by the simple expedient of driving a tank up, parking in front of it and destroying it in bounding fire.  He then shot and burned what remained of my force into extinction.  I have to admit this one wasn't a lot of fun to play.  I spent most of it desperately hoping to pass morale checks and failing.  Possibly a more competent commander could have achieved more (more of a certainty really).  Highlight for me came at the end when Darryl, perhaps a little drunk with victory, advanced two squads and a 9-2 leader into close combat with my one remaining squad and leader.  He gacked his roll and I got a three to wipe the lot of them out.  In revenge he smothered my guys in flames the next turn and I didn't so much concede as run out of troops to do things with.

That was my first online ASL tournament and its smooth running is a credit to Joe Moro who organised it and had everything running smoothly.  Much thanks is due to Joe for the effort he put in (and it was a lot of effort), the results certainly justified it (not my results obviously but results in a more general sense).

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Plague Update #18 - Strategic Decisions

While we've all been obsessing over such trivialities as the possible death of all mankind our government has been responsibly planning for our future.  For a number of reasons (not all of them COVID-19 related) the price of oil has tanked recently.  I apologise for the preceding joke, it was unworthy and I will try and do better in future.  Our government has seized the opportunity presented by low prices to bolster the nation's strategic fuel reserves.  This is the stockpile of fuel the government holds to run vital infrastructure and the military should something (like a war) interrupt the normal flow of fuel to this country.  At present we hold about enough in our strategic reserve to run our military for approximately twenty eight minutes.  After that it's gliders and sailboats guys.

So the government has popped out and bought a hundred million dollars worth of fuel.  This fuel will be stored in the United States because, as the relevant minister explained in tones of sweet reason, we don't have anywhere to store it in this country.  So if some global conflict/disaster/wrath of god occurs it would be helpful if it didn't actually impact the trade route between the US and Australia (spoiler alert, it will totally impact the trade route between the US and Australia).  It would also be helpful if it didn't impact the United States so much that they felt the need to dip into "our" fuel themselves.

Meanwhile back in the disease zone where most of us are living our lives bicycles have become the new toilet paper.  That was the line in the media today and I must admit it took me a long time to get visions of pedals stuck in various orifices out of my mind.  Let's see how long it takes you.  What the media meant, as it explained in the small print that nobody reads, is that bicycles are suddenly the must have purchase that everybody is lashing out on.  Bicycle retailers are doing such a roaring trade that the government is contemplating dipping into its strategic bicycle store just as soon as it can persuade Venezuela to release them.

The reason for the sudden upsurge in bicycle purchases is because of the opportunity they provide for excerise in an appropriately socially distant way.  Now that pretty much every dog in the country has been walked to exhaustion for everybody who wants an excuse to get out of the house its bicycles or nothing.  For those people who can't afford a bicycle or a dog we're reduced to chasing the pigeons round our balconies for exercise.  I don't know if its doing me any good but the pigeons have never looked so healthy.

In the latest sign that things are getting back to normal the NRL will restart its season on the 28th of May.  This may not be ideal timing from a disease viewpoint but it might be enough to save the NRL from bankruptcy.  It turns out that our sporting codes didn't actually save any of the money that rolls in the door from endorsements, sponsorships and those infuriating gambling ads so if they can't actually have a season they might go belly up.  This would be terrible for the sport, or at least they are telling us it would be terrible for the sport.  I can't help wondering if the NRL and cricket and whatever other sports we play, might not benefit from having these millstones removed from their necks.

Meanwhile the Greens party has advocated for further relief for whoever on the grounds that the economy won't just bounce back.  To make their point they put out a press release claiming that "you can't accelerate out of a corner".  They then had to alter that press release after it was pointed out that accelerating out of a corner was actually good advice.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Plague Update #17 - To Golf or Not To Golf

I ended a weekend of bleak isolation staring at the walls of my dimly lit apartment and was relieved to get back to a week of bleak isolation staring at the walls of my dimly lit apartment but also working.  The pathetic joy with which I greeted the resumption of my pseudo productive activity is an indication of how deeply scarred this lock down has left me.  Ever the devils advocate Tristan the Puffin insists that he has witnessed all of those psychological scars for years and the lock down hadn't really changed my life at all.  In a rage I threw him out the window, then ran downstairs sobbing hysterical apologies and gathered him up before the pigeons could seize their chance.

As you can see I appear to have entered into a co-dependent and disturbingly abusive relationship with a stuffed puffin.  The abuse isn't only one way either, not all my scars are psychological.  We've considered therapy but have decided to see if we can work through our problems with the aid of narcotics and alcohol.  So far our success has been mixed but we're determined to keep at it.

But back to the reasons for my spiral into addiction and madness.  The crucial questions just keep coming.  Down in Victoria people were incensed to discover they were no longer permitted to play golf.  Speaking personally I don't actually need a reason not to play golf but these people were greatly wrath at the fact that they couldn't wander across an erratically tended lawn hitting a small ball with a long stick.  They've got a point.  After all exercise is permitted and there can be fewer games less conducive to social gatherings than golf.  Nevertheless the Victorian government stood firm saying something along the lines of "We'd rather ban golf than have to dig mass graves for the populace".  In my own state golf is still permitted for anyone who can take the time out from digging mass graves.

One of the nation's major airlines (not the one with the kangaroo, the other one) has been begging for government handouts with increasing desperation while our government has stood proudly firm and announced they are looking to the market for a solution.  Like most conservative governments ours doesn't really comprehend that "the market" isn't a benevolent all seeing god with a touching solicitude for its worshippers.  Rather, it is a cold blooded psychopath whose sole interest is in the benefit that can be gained for itself.  In fact the only people who understand the market less than a conservative government is a Labor government but they at least have the excuse that they're not meant to.  Which is why the market's solution turned out to be waiting for the airline to die then tearing strips off the carcass.

But that was our federal government.  The state governments of NSW and Queensland were almost indecently eager to throw money at the beleaguered airline as long as well...  The airline is currently based in Queensland and the Queensland government promised it a bucket of money as long as it promised to stay there.  Not to be out done the government of my home state NSW promised it even more money if it would move to NSW.  This produced a bit of a slanging match between various representatives of the two governments that at least took everybody's mind off infectious diseases and corporate collapses for a few minutes.

In grim totalitarian news our government took time out from eagerly waiting for the market to piss money on our airlines to promote the micro chipping of the population.  OK that's a slight exaggeration (hey if you want real news get it from Facebook like everyone else).  What they wanted to do was get everybody to download an app that would allow the government to track COVID-19 cases or something like that.  The response of the population (including me) was underwhelming.  At first it was going to be mandatory, then voluntary but with the easing of restrictions tied to uptake of the new app and finally the government declared that we could download it or not as we liked, it didn't give a shit.

The usual promises were made that our data wouldn't be stolen or misused and that people absolutely couldn't be hunted down by government death squads if they voted the wrong way in the next by election but it was to no avail, the public weren't buying it.  Wisely in my view. Of course the data will be gathered and almost certainly misused.  In claiming to the contrary the government is either lying or (to be fair, equally likely) simply speaking from well intentioned ignorance.  Still the app won't be mandatory and people's private data can rest safely in the hands of Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos where it belongs.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Plague Update #16 - Things Are Getting Better, Except Where They're Getting Worse

Well things have got serious in Tasmania, they've called in the army and AusMAT.  If you don't know what AusMAT is, its a multidiscipline medical team deployed by the Australian government, usually to third world countries in response to a disaster.  Nepal in 2005, the Solomon Islands in 2013 and now Tasmania in 2020.  Tasmania's health system is teetering on the brink of collapse.  That's nothing to do with COVID-19, according to my correspondent it has been for years.  However the shutting down of two hospitals serving approximately 22% of the population certainly isn't helping.  Neither is the fact that most of the people currently infected actually worked at the hospitals in question; hence the need for army medics and AusMAT.

With his state's back up against the wall the Tasmanian premier went straight to the major issues in his press briefing this morning taking most of it to deny that the outbreak was assisted by an illegal dinner party attended by medical staff.  To be fair most of the questions were around that as well.  I don't know if anybody bothered to ask about death rates or the government response but the premier tossed in mentions of the army and AusMAT more or less as an afterthought.  I tried to get more information on this from my correspondent but she is currently preparing her children for home schooling.  The first subject on the curriculum was "How to perform surgery on yourself".

But there is good news coming out of America.  In Florida professional wrestling has been deemed an "essential service" and will carry on in the coming weeks.  Also good in a very disturbing way is the fact that the various lockdowns around the country mean that March was the first month since 2002 without a school shooting.  I'm starting to have more sympathy for Americans who home school their children by choice.

Back in Australia our health professionals have warned people not to take medical advice from celebrities on social media.  One would hope that this isn't the sort of thing that needs to be said but apparently it is.  I can't help thinking that people who source their medical advice from instagram are probably among those the world can do without at a pinch.  Still I shall dutifully obey the commands of our nations top health experts and cease my current self treatment of garlic rubs, cupping, ritual scarification and burning flu medication in a brazier so that the ensuing smoke drives off evil vapours.  I didn't get that advice from social media but from my Belarusian tech support.  For context the president of Belarus has point blank refused to take any preventative measures saying that no one will die of COVID-19 in his country, so there.  This may be true if only because there are so many other things the population are likely to die of first.

In the parts of Australia that aren't Tasmania infection rates appear to be slowly dropping which is very good news.  Such good news in fact that people are already asking when the restrictions will be lifted.  The government isn't committing itself and the restrictions look to stay in place for the forseeable future (which for the government is about a week).  This is a bit of a difficult one for the government; lift the restrictions too early and they will be crucified if there is a spike in infections and/or deaths.  If they linger people will start muttering about the enhanced police powers and surveillance we're all currently under.  Besides, if they lift the restrictions they'll have to do without the enhanced police powers and surveillance.

Did you know that cruise ships have black boxes?  Apparently this is so that if the cruise ship crashes the ship crash investigators can find out if the captain was drunk or something.  NSW police have laid hands on the black box from the Ruby Princess the cruise ship which practically singlehandedly caused our coronavirus outbreak as part of an ongoing investigation into what the hell happened.  There are dark mutterings of deception and concealment of illness but I rather suspect it will turn out to be simple incompetence.  This is what happens when things are managed by people who could accidentally slit their own throat with Occams Razor.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Plague Update #15 - Special Puffin Edition

Certain parents who shall remain nameless raised what I thought were quite insulting queries as to my sanity and general mental wellbeing after reading about my chats with what they thought was an imaginary puffin.  I can assure them and everybody else that the puffin is quite real, his name is Tristan (because Isolde is a stupid name for a puffin, that's why).  To further bolster the case for my own sanity I have taken the extraordinary step of secretly photographing him and posting the evidence below.

I hope this clears up any lingering doubts about my sanity and allows me to get back to training my cactus in interpretive dance in peace.

While I was proving my mental condition the nation was celebrating Easter COVID-19 style.  That is most of us stayed home and ate chocolate.  Some of us are finding it harder to distinguish between government mandated lockdowns and what we refer to as our lives.  The news in Australia continues to be cautiously encouraging except in Tasmania where a couple of hospitals have been closed (or possibly just fallen down) and a number of new cases have been recorded, primarily among healthcare workers at said hospitals.  I tried contacting my correspondent for an update but coloured paint and melted chocolate started dribbling out of the monitor so I severed the connection.

With infection rates flattening the government has swung into its next stage which largely consisted of telling us why it isn't a good idea to lift the restrictions just yet.  Simultaneously they are encouraging everyone who possibly can to give blood.  I'm tempted to do it so I have a legitimate reason to get out of the house.  The only other alternative is a self sealing plastic bag and a craft knife so I can mail it from home.  While I do have both of those items I am unfortunately out of stamps.

Overseas the number of Australians cluttering up various foreign countries is continuing to drop as charter flights are laid on to evacuate such of my fellow citizens who managed to leave the country before all of this started.  Britain, Peru, Uruguay these are only some of the countries whose major export has suddenly become Australians fleeing home.

Also overseas, Tim Brooke-Taylor has died of COVID-19.  It really is unfair to single out one person among the vast numbers of dead for special treatment but I was a huge Goodies fan when I was younger. 

In Victoria the police have found the new "social distancing" laws to be a godsend as it enables them to crack down on bikie gangs.  Presumably the hope is that paying all the fines will bankrupt the gangs whose members will have to get jobs as library assistants to make ends meet.  It's a foolish dream, people aren't going to libraries either.  One job that is flourishing in these difficult times is home delivery alcohol.  Some of us aren't going to need to go out for a drink for years.  On the other hand my resolution to not start drinking before ten in the morning is only being maintained because I'm rarely awake by then.  COVID-19 is going to have long lasting health implications, principal among them serious liver damage.

Friday, April 10, 2020

Plague Update #14 - Antisocial Isolation

It was only yesterday that I was boasting to my fuzzy puffin plush toy that social distancing and general isolation hadn't really caused me too much distress.  In response the puffin pointed out that yesterday I actually went for a jog, cleaned my kitchen and, oh yes, I was talking to a fucking puffin.  So maybe the social distancing is impacting me a little (although the number of people prepared to get within a metre of me even at the best of times is in single digits).

I honestly think the puffin was exaggerating a little.  Yes I went jogging and ok I cleaned the kitchen, or at least the most easily accessible parts of the kitchen but normal people do that all the time.  As for talking to a puffin, well what am I supposed to do?  I can hardly talk to the teddy bear I had as a child, that would just be weird.

I like to think I'm handling this enforced separation from my fellow humans quite well.  Since I talk to myself incessantly my communications skills have hardly suffered.  At least my puffin assures me that I'm as eloquent as ever.  I'm not making a lot of sense but according to him I rarely did anyway.  My parents, startled by the news that I wasn't already dead, offered to mail me a cat for company.  This was a kind gesture but the pigeons on my balcony have now reached such a critical mass that I doubt any cat would survive twenty four hours.

Meanwhile it is becoming increasingly apparent how we're going to pay for all of the massive stimulus packages that have been announced.  So far nearly a million dollars has been levied in fines on people breaking the social distancing and self isolation laws.  If it keeps up like this COVID-19 is going to be the world's first self funding virus.

Infection figures countrywide have been dropping which is encouraging but they're due for a bit of a spike tomorrow when the Australian passengers from an Antarctic cruise ship fly home from Uruguay.  Apparently about 70% of the ships passengers have the virus.  Cruise ships have really been the floating petri-dishes of this infection.  Who would have thought that gathering a group of people together in a confined space with no means of escape (unless you're a really good swimmer) could lead to the spread of disease.  Given this and the average age of cruise passengers I'm amazed any cruise ship actually returned to port with a live passenger even before the outbreak.

Something else of note is the dramatic drop in pollution levels that has occurred as a result of people literally being unable to pollute.  Indians can see the actual colour of the sky, in Venice the water is clean enough to piss into and in Manila the air can no longer be used as a weapon to bludgeon opponents to death.  Certain smug environmentalist types are quite gleeful about all this but more sensible environmentalists are actually a little concerned.

Firstly of course, once this is all over everybody will gear up to try and recover lost production so pollution is likely to explode and with many countries in parlous economic straits after the lockdowns they're even less likely to be concerned with environmental impacts along the way.  The second impact is a more subtle one.  By pointing out the drop in pollution levels you are implying that this is what we need to do to get pollution levels down.  If people believe that economic collapse and social isolation are the price for saving the environment then it is quite likely that they will simply decide not to do it.

In the meantime though the mutated dolphin things in the Mediterranean can frolic in the suddenly not quite as filthy water.  It would be ironic if they've adapted so well to the pollution that they can't live without it.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Plague Update #13 - Unlucky For Some

Well its been a pretty normal day for me in the new reality.  Working, sleeping, shoveling a dead pigeon off my balcony.  That last one got me into a little trouble with the neighbours.  Granted I should have checked to see there were no small, easily traumatised children walking underneath when I sent the pigeon on its final flight or, rather, plummet but I honestly think the reaction was little over the top.  I'm pretty sure the thing didn't die of COVID-19.

On more specifically virus related news I'm getting a little sick of the number of politicians who have found it vital to announce that the Easter Bunny will not be subject to quarantine measures.  I can't help wondering what they would do if Jesus turned up.  After all, a Middle Eastern man in a grubby robe spattered with bloodstains?  He'd be in isolation and probably an internment camp before you could say "racial profiling".

Along with the Easter Bunny my state's Arts Minister assumed social distancing and non travel rules didn't apply to him either.  Which is why the Premier of my august state had to take time off from very important duties to tell this idiot that wandering off to his holiday home for Easter was a stupid thing to do.  So if the Easter Bunny does get gunned down by the cossacks of NSW Police's Riot & Public Order Squad because the paperwork on his quarantine exemption hadn't been completed remember; its the fault of our Arts Minister.

I tried to contact my Tasmanian correspondent but in an increasingly desperate attempt to divert two young children who are teetering on the edge of full blown psychosis she recently flooded her house with black and yellow paint.  At the moment the results look like a cross between a quarantine hospital and a Habsburg restoration movement.  The Tasmanian government is deploying helicopters (where the hell did they get helicopters?) to monitor the movement of the population to ensure they're doing as little of it as possible.  Apparently the place is like a low rent version of Apocalypse Now.

One of our MPs raised the issue of Julian Assange currently rotting in a British prison.  Apparently COVID-19 has been discovered in British prisons (along with syphillis, AIDS, makeshift weapons and a whole bunch of drugs in all likelihood) and that therefore he should be released to home detention.  No mention was made of all the others in British prisons.  Apparently they can just die. 

New coronavirus infections countrywide have dropped below the one hundred person mark for the first time prompting restrained outbursts of glee from medical authorities and politicians.  It does seem that the occasional Arts Minister and slaughtered bunny notwithstanding the various restrictions appear to be working.

On a personal note I managed to persuade the one person still working at my office to water my plant and my local store has taken to selling sugar in plastic bags.  At least I assume it was sugar, I put some in my coffee and I feel amazing!  I'm looking forward to Easter when I will be able to recuperate from the daily grind of sitting in front of my computer by sitting in front of my computer.  I'm so desperate to get out of the house that I actually plan to go jogging tomorrow (exercise is still allowed I think) despite the fact that I'm fifty one years old and have the lung capacity of a squirrel.  If exercise isn't still allowed you may find my lifeless corpse sprawled over that of the Easter Bunny.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Plague Update #12 - My Cord Has Never Been So Tense

Oh my God!  I feel like I've been living on another planet!  The scales have dropped away from my eyes and left me outraged.  Why the hell does it take so long for conspiracy theories to reach me?  I enjoy laughing at human stupidity as much as the next person, more so if the next person possesses anything remotely resembling compassion or a moral compass.

Of course the 5G rollout caused coronavirus.  In the same way as the invention of automobiles caused syphilis.  Something to think about the next time you contemplate having sex with your car.  Apparently this particular conspiracy theory has been doing the rounds since January and I'm only managing to make fun of it now.  In Britain mobile phone towers have been set on fire (and not just the ones with 5G) by activists keen to rid the world of whatever it is that 5G does.

Actually I've no idea what 5G does, but whatever it is I'm pretty sure it has nothing to do with coronavirus.  If Telstra is involved in Australia it won't have much to do with faster internet speeds either.  For the record the theory goes like this.  5G doesn't necessarily cause coronavirus but it aids in the dissemination of the disease because people are stupid and will believe anything.

There's also good news for health insurers.  Now that everybody is locked up at home visits to dentist, therapists, physios etc have dropped so much that they're looking to make a killing due to reduced insurance claims.  If you want a proper conspiracy theory say that it was started by health insurance companies to minimise the amount of claims they have to pay out.  I might be tempted to believe that one.

But it wasn't all cheery news today.  The Ruby Princess, officially a cruise liner but actually the worlds largest and most expensive plague rat has docked at Port Kembla while our government tests the crew and decides whether to hospitalise them or let them all die or something.  There are still a bunch of other cruise ships hovering around our waters waiting for our guard to drop so they can sneak in or something.  The Border Force has told them to leave, so far they've said no.

Our financial regulator (the one that did such a wretched job of actually regulating the pack of corporate criminals under its purview) has written to the large financial institutions saying how inappropriate it would be to pay dividends or take fat bonuses at this time of national crisis.  The financial institutions took the news well, managing to more or less avoid laughing directly into the regulator's face. 

As more evidence comes in of a flattening of the curve the government is attempting to make sure that people don't treat the upcoming Easter weekend as an excuse for an orgy of chocolate smothered human interaction.  I apologise for the visuals that previous sentence might have conjured up.  The prime minister announced that "We must keep tension in the cord".  This may or may not mean anything but its a handy soundbite.  One gets the impression that he might be tempted to wrap that cord around a few necks if people flout the requirements.  Incidentally "flattening of the curve" is a technical term which means "How about that, not as many people are dying as we expected".

Monday, April 6, 2020

Silly After Action Report - Damsels in Distress

It was cold, it was wet, it had been snowing.  It was in short what the Italian high command called "perfect offensive weather".  The suspicion was growing in the mind of Caporale Maggiore Salvatore Doncoyoti that the high command launched offensives in this sort of weather so they had an excuse when they failed.  Doncoyoti was a grizzled veteran and he had the campaign decorations to prove it; Spain, Libya, Abyssinia, the French border he had thrown his hands into the air in all of them.  There wasn't an enemy of Italy he hadn't surrendered to.

This looked like being the worst, the Greek counter offensive had already persuaded the bulk of the Italian army that they had pressing business back in Rome but his units halfwit commander had refused to move out, something about the snow ruining his new shoes.  So they were stuck here while they waited for the snow to melt or something.  To make matters worse the commander had rounded up the local schoolgirls and locked them in the gaol.  Apparently one of them had keyed his new car.  Doncoyoti peered into the mist idly chipping shards of incriminating paint off his keys.  Through the gloom he saw figures; grim, armed figures moving forwards.  Doncoyoti settled back in his foxhole and checked his white flag.  A few seconds later there was a shout from further down the line and the telltale sound of a light machine firing briefly then jamming permanently.  Doncoyoti cursed, that was the trouble with wars, some idiot always wanted to fight.

So here we are playing scenario FT227 - Damsels in Distress.  I'm taking command of a small detachment from the Italian "Ferraria" infantry division clinging to a small Greek village in the aftermath of the almighty cockup that was the Italian invasion of Greece.  Mike Sexton will command the vengeful Greeks looking to regain the tiny slivers of their nation that the Italians actually managed to occupy and incidentally rescue a bunch of schoolgirls the Italians have bizarrely thrown into the town gaol.  Sadly we're playing on VASL so I can't use LFT's bespoke schoolgirl counters and will have to make do with regular prisoners in drag.

I have seven squads of not particularly high quality, a handful of machine guns, a very small mortar and a pair of deeply uninspiring officers.  Half the squads have to set up on the hills facing the Greek approach, the other half are just wandering about in the open.  Should I last that long I get three squads of marginally better troops on turn four as reinforcements.  Also there are the schoolgirls, three halfsquads are detailed as guards for these girls and they can't move at all until turn four.

Mike's Greeks consist of nine squads worth of elite, kilt wearing Evzones led by a couple of quite decent officers.  In addition once one of Mike's units gets eyes on the village the local peasantry pick up pitchforks and flaming torches to help release their daughters from durance vile.  To win Mike has to free at least two squads worth of prisoners from the clutches of their captors and drive my boys out of a couple of buildings.  I win by remaining in a small Greek village surrounded by gun toting maniacs up to my ears in screaming kids.

So below is my initial set up.  Keen observers will already notice the mistake that ruined my chances.
I set up the hill units in the hopes of inflicting some early casualties, fair enough but the rear group I just scattered around hoping to cover the open ground Mike would have to cross once he punched through my forward defenders.  In retrospect I should have kept those guys back closer to the prisoner building.  This would have prevented partisans from popping up right next door.

With little scope for finesse Mike barrelled pretty much straight for my defences detailing a single squad on the far right for a flanking mission.  His first movement took him straight up to my defences.  My sole mmg managed to pin his flanker and then, maintaining rate took a shot at squad that came puffing up through the snow towards it.  Snake eyes on the ensuing morale check meant Mike's 4-5-8 elite squad was now fanatic as well.  Not a good start.  Still that pin result (and the fanatic squad) were my sole achievement for the first turn.  With a couple of Mike's squads lurking back in the trees I unshipped my little mortar and peppered them ineffectually for a fire phase or so.

End of first turn.  Greeks are preparing to roll over the top of my defenders
For the first couple of turns a combination of high Greek morale and crap Italian weapons meant that not a single morale check was failed by the attackers.  Conversely Mike's troops only had to breath in my direction to cause wholesale collapses.  By the end of Mike's second turn the hill was his with no further casualties and my entire hill force were prisoners.  My only hope now was to somehow cling to what was left of my positions until my reinforcements arrived.  The picture below shows that even now I hadn't really grasped what Mike's partisans could do with my remaining squads still scattered across the board a long way from the prisoners.  The way was open for Mike to liberate his noisome brats.

Mike's troops prepare to pour forward and liberate the schoolgirls
Mike's first partisans popped up and promptly jumped into close combat with the lone squad I had guarding the southern (right) flank.  They failed to kill them outright but the writing was on the wall.  Now and only now did I realise how badly I had screwed up.  My most forward squad was doomed (and the guys on the right would die in the next turn) which left precisely two squads to hold off Mike's attackers.  I had a squad,7-0 and lmg which had been futilely trying to dig a foxhole for the first couple of turns.  Now I moved them back into the buildings so Mike's partisans couldn't pop up right next to the prisoner while I pulled back the guys on the left through the trees in the hopes of bolstering my defences.
Everything now depended on whether I could survive until my reinforcements arrived.  Strangely I did aided by the fact that Mike needed a turn or so to charge his force towards what little was left of my position.  He was helped when his sniper assisted in taking out my sole forward defender while his partisans finished off my guys in the south.

Turn four arrived and with it my reinforcements who were just in time to witness the destruction of my onboard force.  My squad with the lmg broke its weapon, destroyed its weapon and was then broken by a sniper.  Mike decided he was bored with taking prisoners and these particular Italians fell onto the Greek soil they had rashly stolen.  My 7-0, proudly alone, had a moment of glory.  Mike sent a full Greek squad into CC with them.  Of course my officer died but in return I rolled a snake eyes and killed the squad as well.  Sadly such individual acts of courage could not undo their commanders mistakes.

My reinforcements puffed towards the battlefield as did Mike's Greeks.  Meanwhile some partisans taking advantage of the complete lack of Italian troops plunged into CC with a guard unit to free some of the schoolgirls.  Mike's success was mixed, he ambushed me and killed my halfsquad without harm to himself but in the process blew the heads off a few of the schoolgirls.  Mike was a bit concerned about this but you know; omelettes, eggs.  Another close combat went somewhat worse for him. I didn't hurt him but his partisan halfsquad jumped my guard unit and glory be if a lax Italian halfsquad didn't manage to ambush the partisans.  Deciding they had used their quota of luck for the day these guys promptly withdrew and in the next turn fled to the other victory building that Mike had left unoccupied in his rear taking their prisoners with them.  Mike had also decided to throw caution to the winds and swamp my remaining units which led to the only significant Italian fire success of the game when my reinforcements fired on an elite squad crossing the street and wiped them out.

That isn't writing on the wall, its an illuminated freaking billboard
Despite this brief burst of sudden effectiveness it was all for naught.  I had neither the men or the firepower to stop Mike's collection of Evzones and villagers.  He rolled up and over the remaining guard unit and hunted down and exterminated the one that had fled.  At the end five and a half squads worth of schoolgirls were liberated and there were barely any Italian units left on the board.

Caporal Maggiore Doncoyoti looked around wearily.  Unlike most of his fellows he was an old campaigner and had reacted appropriately when the Greeks attacked; he had run for his life.  Behind him the Greeks; villagers, soldiers and such schoolgirls as had survived alike were celebrating their triumph.  Doncoyoti stumbled forwards, ahead of him lay the Italian lines and a heroes welcome as the sole survivor of the last outpost.  Decorations would follow, his face would appear in propaganda rags and as a reward he would be posted to the 3rd Celere division for the invasion of the Soviet Union.  Doncoyoti straightened his shoulders, things were definitely looking up.

Plague Update #11 - Stripes and Clusters

Terrible news on the disease front!  A malayan tiger has apparently contracted COVID-19.  This raises a lot of questions, first and foremost, who the hell is getting within coughing distance of a tiger?  Granted this malayan tiger is resident at the New York Zoo (if it lived in the wild it would probably have been poached by now) where literally everything has COVID-19 at the moment.  Birds flying overhead are dropping out of the sky.  Several other tigers and lions are being tested.

Slightly closer to home (in terms of geography if not social development) Tasmania has announced that there has been a COVID-19 cluster at one of the collection of mouldy shipping crates and survivalist tents that comprise their hospital system.  Frankly it wouldn't surprise me if Tasmania's hospitals had outbreaks of bubonic plague.  Actually it would probably be better, we know how to treat that.  I asked my correspondent if she was worried about the COVID-19 cluster when she visited the hospital, she responded that she was more concerned about the asbestos.

The government graciously announced today that charities that had lost 15% of their income due to the COVID-19 outbreak would be eligible for some of the money currently being sprayed about.  At this the nation's public universities pricked up their ears.  Technically they are charities and with Chinese students which pretty much comprise their sole reason for being no longer coming they are feeling the pinch.  The government stamped hard on that idea however, they delicately pointed out that the money would be directed to charities that do something useful.  They didn't put it quite like that but that was the definite implication.  I have to admit I would have thought our universities would be ideal candidates for distance education.  They could email the study schedule and test questions out to their students, the students could cut and paste the responses from wikipedia and email them back.  Then the university could just send them the degree as a printable attachment.  Or get the students to write their own.  It will be the first piece of original work some of them have done.

Western Australia has a hard border (or at least as hard as is constitutionally permissible) in place.  The WA premier praised his government's achievement by comparing it to Brexit and claiming to have done in a few days what Britain took four years to achieve.  This has got to be the most irrelevant comparison in history if only because Europe honestly doesn't care whether WA leaves the rest of Australia (most of Australia doesn't care either).  I'm pretty sure that Brexit was a little more involved than simply parking a police car on the road into the country.

Speaking of Britain, their prime minister has now been hospitalised with COVID-19.  Frankly Boris Johnson always looks as though he's coming down with something so its a tribute to Britain's health system that they diagnosed him at all.  Prince Charles, however, is out of danger.  Even as I type this I can imagine the queen rolling her eyes and muttering "what does it take?"  The queen herself addressed her nation (and by extension, mine) from a heavily secured, disclosed location.  Keeping as far as was decently possible from the one cameraman who had to be present her majesty talked about better times coming and praised people for their behaviour. Basically what she said was a version of "Keep Calm and Carry On".  Still that's probably better coming from her than from Boris Johnson.  You don't want to hear "Carry On" from somebody who looks like he should be in a Carry On film (and not one of the good early ones but one of the crappy later efforts when they were really milking it for the last drops).

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Birthday Greetings #80

Well enough of the plague updates for the moment.  I thought I'd lighten the mood a little by celebrating the birth of a homicidal maniac.  With that as an introduction, happy birthday to Caracalla, Roman emperor.

Caracalla's full name was Marcus Aurelius Severus Antoninus Augustus, Caracalla was a sort of nickname.  He was the son of the emperor Septimus Severus who had seized the throne some years earlier.  They pretended descent from the Antonine dynasty but in actual fact were just the latest in a list of ruthless military thugs who figured purple would hide the bloodstains of those they killed on the way up.

In 211AD Septimus Severus died of what looked suspiciously like natural causes.  On his deathbed he summoned his two sons, Caracalla and Geta, to him and with his dying breath gave them some advice.

"Stick together, honour the army, to hell with everyone else."

You note that Septimus had two sons, don't bother remembering the second one's name;  Caracalla only took two thirds of his father's advice.  Caracalla and Whatisname ruled jointly for a couple of years which basically meant each of them wore the imperial purple and glared at the other with paranoid suspicion.  They actually considered dividing the empire between them but their mother talked them out of it.  She arranged a meeting between the two so that they could reconcile.  This didn't go as well as she'd hoped.  Praetorian Guardsmen on Caracalla's orders murdered his brother during the course of the conversation.

With his rival out of the way Caracalla settled down to sole rule with the traditional "massacre of the opponents supporters".  Some twenty thousand corpses later he decided he had done enough to instill loyalty in the administration and set off on campaign.  Caracalla loved campaigning.  He saw himself as a "soldier's soldier" marching alongside the troops, eating standard legionary rations, sleeping on the rough ground alongside his men etc etc.  As a general rule the troops liked him.  He led from the front and paid them a bucket load of  cash. 

Caracalla headed north and beat up some barbarian tribes who were menacing the empire (or just hanging around next to it) after which he developed a serious obsession with Alexander the Great.  To be fair Alexander the Great was every military psychopath's pin up boy but Caracalla seems to have been more than a little bit nuts about it.  He persecuted Aristotelian philosophers because of the (false) rumour that Aristotle had had something to do with Alexander's death. 

It has to be said that the administration of the empire bored him.  As far as possible he left the job to his mother (who had done something similar for Septimus Severus).  For serious administrative initiatives Caracalla built some baths (admittedly really big ones) and granted citizenship to everyone (male) in the empire (except slaves).  This was a major initiative and cynics have long thought it was done largely to broaden the tax base as there were certain taxes that only Roman citizens paid.  However most of those enfranchised weren't exactly rich, in fact most of them were exactly poor.  Another theory is that it was an acknowledgement of the growing importance of the imperial periphery.  The best troops and toughest commanders were increasingly being sourced from border provinces a long way from Rome.

With huge baths under construction and mass citizenship proclaimed Caracalla invaded Parthia, as you do.  Invading Parthia was something that the Romans tended to do whenever they had a spare moment.  The Parthians returned the favour pretty frequently as well.  Caracalla's Alexander the Great obsession may have been a factor as well. 

Along the way he dropped in on the city of Alexandria.  After his brother's murder Caracalla had naturally claimed self defence saying that his brother had been plotting against him.  This is part of the standard script and nobody is really expected to believe it.  However the Alexandrians had done a little more than disbelieve it.  They had made jokes and performed satires on the subject.  Caracalla killed the dignitaries who came out to meet him and allowed his army to plunder the city just to prove to the inhabitants that one thing their emperor lacked was a sense of humour. 

Caracalla's war with the Parthians didn't go well.  It caused massive casualties on both sides without much advantage gained by either of them.  Caracalla probably lost interest with the outcome part way through for a very good reason.  He was popular with the army but "popular with the army" is a general term.  It's quite possible to be popular with the army and very unpopular with an individual soldier.  This becomes quite significant if said soldier happens to be standing nearby when you pop into the bushes for a piss.  Caracalla popped into said bushes and didn't come out again.  His praetorian prefect had the offending soldier executed which most people agreed wasn't so much punishing the guilty as tying up a loose end.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Plague Update #10 - Guest Workers Are Suddenly Expendable

Such a lot happened yesterday.  What with the shock cancellation of garage sales, sex workers being thrown onto the streets (except for those already on the streets, presumably they were thrown into buildings) and disease infected ferrets overrunning CSIRO laboratories across the land today was always going to be a bit of a let down. 

Today was a day of sober reflection, a day when the prime minister was interviewed by his favourite shock jock and despite constant urgings managed not to advocate a race war against the Chinese.  It's a low bar but I was actually quite pleased with the PMs performance.  In further signs that our leader is suffering from an onset of creeping sanity he started putting some measures in place to force landlords and retail tenants to do all of that stuff he was confident they could work out by themselves yesterday.  On the other hand he did suggest that everyone here on a visa who was suddenly unemployed and couldn't access our welfare system should just leave.  Shortly afterwards (possibly having been informed that due to recent rains farmers have actually managed to grow something) it was suggested that if those on a working visa wanted work in regional Australia perhaps something could be worked out.

There was good news from Western Australia where in response to a letter from a youthful future diabetic the premier was pleased to announce that the Easter Bunny would be exempted from severe border controls being placed around the state.  Rumours that desperate passengers and crew on cruise ships have been making themselves rabbit costumes have so far proved to be unfounded.  When the announcement was made my mind immediately created a picture of a rabbit with a car full of eggs being shot off the road Mad Max style by WA police.  I'm not ashamed to say I giggled.

I must admit I had completely forgotten about Easter.  That's partially Easter's fault.  Christmas at least picks a date and sticks with it.  Easter jumps over the calendar like a rabbit fleeing WA police.  I never know when its happening until it suddenly turns up but I'm generally vaguely aware of its presence.  This year until the announcement of the "don't kill" order on the Easter Bunny I had forgotten it entirely.

Meanwhile there are cautiously hopeful signs.  Transmission rates appear to have slowed over the last couple of days prompting the hints of a smile on our Chief Medical Officers features.  The trouble with a blog or any lasting medium is that if you get something wrong there's a permanent record of it.  It wasn't so long ago that I was noting how not particularly fatal the disease was.  Technically that's true but its not a great thing to say when over fifty thousand people have died of this not particularly fatal disease.  So it is with some trepidation that I report these hopeful signs.  It isn't that I'm particularly wedded to accuracy (or even sanity) in this blog but I hate being offensive unintentionally.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Plague Update #9 - OK, Now We Know It's Serious

A tidal wave of shock rolled across Tasmania leaving the population gasping and choking, and not just those with COVID-19.  The huge news today?  The Tasmanian government has banned garage sales.  That's right, shit just got serious.  I tried to contact my correspondent for her views but she was curled up under the kitchen table weeping hysterically.  A couple of other things were announced today as well.  Free childcare for all and the prime minister announcing he expected it to take six months before we got out the other side of this.  Although that sombre message was immediately undercut by one of his idiot MPs telling his local newspaper that he expected all the restrictions to be reviewed in three weeks.

But back to the garage sales.  Garage sales are the Australian equivalent of recycling.  Worthless crap nobody has any use for is piled up on the front verandah and random strangers pay to take it away so that they can have a garage sale of their own one day.  It is not exaggerating to say that this nation was built on garage sales.  Actually it is exaggerating to say that this nation was built on garage sales but it is still one of the few ways you can meet your neighbours without starting the conversation with things like,

"Turn the damn music down!" or

"Stop sleeping with my wife!" or

"Did you kill my dog?"

They are an important part of our nation's social glue and also one of the few ways you can discover what poor taste those next door possess without resorting to burglary.  Banned garage sales are to Australia what monstrously expensive cauliflowers are to New Zealanders, a sign of the imminent breakdown of society.  Mind you this is Tasmania we're talking about so it isn't like society had far to go.

While Tasmanians are waiting for society to break down (estimated wait time, fifteen minutes) they have less to amuse them than ever before as racing of both the horse and dog varieties was also cancelled.  In case the Tasmanian government was still liked by somebody they also closed the brothels.

While Tasmania prepares itself for a bleak future the rest of the country is still busy barricading itself off from itself.  Queensland is thinking of moving towards a "hard border" which basically means nobody gets in.  There is actually an interesting constitutional question about whether they have the power to do this.  Well, its interesting if you find those things interesting.  What I find more interesting is what the Federal government might do if they decide Queensland doesn't have said power and Queensland does it anyway.

Putting aside the spectre of imminent civil war for just a moment the government has airdropped doctors onto the various cruise ships still loitering around our coast like teenagers at a mall.  Those crew members officially designated as sick will be transported to hospital, apparently.  In slightly sillier news the prime minister also suggested that landlords and tenants had a mutual interest in coming to productive agreements with each other so that when business gets back to normal (in either three weeks or six months) the landlords still actually have some tenants.  This isn't actually silly, it was just silly to expect it to be acted on.  So far the response has been underwhelming.

Back in Queensland the premier announced that public servants were going to nobly forego the pay rises they had been promised.  This came as a bit of a surprise to the unions who represent those public servants who then approached the premier and said something along the lines of "What the fuck?"  It will be interesting to see how that turns out and whether the Queensland premier is still the Queensland premier in a weeks time.

Its been at least a couple of days since an animal species was threatened with decimation so it is with great pleasure that I announce that we've been infecting ferrets with coronavirus.  This is claimed to be a step towards a vaccine but it may just be because even biochemists need a hobby

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Plague Update #8 - The Cracks Are Starting to Show in New Zealand

I received a bizarre communication from my New Zealand correspondent today, and it wasn't only bizarre because I thought he was dead.  Apparently he had faked his demise to prevent his loved ones from cannibalising him and was now hiding out in the attic foraging for scraps whenever his partner and daughter went out to ambush passers by.

I indicated that this was terrible news (while giggling under my breath) and asked if he wanted me to get my tech support to send in an extraction team.  Probably wisely he refused (they're terrible dentists) but with tears streaming down his cheeks he begged me to send him a cauliflower.  I may have asked him to repeat himself, twice.  He definitely said cauliflower.  Apparently ruthless black marketers have joined forces with the market garden mafia to drive the price of cauliflower beyond what ordinary, decent folk can afford.  Hysterical New Zealanders have flooded their government with complaints demanding that something be done about the outrageous price of cauliflower.  It remains to be seen whether the NZ government will mobilise their army to secure cauliflower supplies but something will have to be done as apparently this could be an election issue.

Back in something marginally closer to the real world the Victorian government announced that the possibility of getting laid wasn't a good enough reason to visit someone.  Then this afternoon they appeared to relent possibly as they remembered how many politicians didn't actually live with their mistresses.  They're blaming the Chief Health Officer for being over eager.  I presume he actually lives with his most frequent sexual partner.

Meanwhile Tasmania is on fire again.  According to my inbred maniacs correspondent they've decided this is the perfect time to start hazard reduction fires around Hobart.  Smoke is rolling towards my correspondents home as she bemoans the fact that she now can't even decently tell her kids to get out into the backyard.  I'm not sure how the bushfire brigades manage social distancing while simultaneously incinerating the countryside but I hope the message has gone out to the fires as well.  Meanwhile caravan dwellers are being subjected to the sort of hostile "move along" messages that used to be restricted to Gypsies, Aboriginals, foreigners, other foreigners (you know the ones who don't look foreign but definitely are), homosexuals, the lactose intolerant and vegans.  According to the parents of my correspondent there is a huge crush of caravans essentially driving round and around in circles hoping to find somewhere to stop that they won't be immediately moved on from.

In Western Australia they're doing much the same thing with cruise ships.  There are apparently a few of these loitering offshore in the hopes that the government will let them land and drop off those in need of medical attention.  The WA government has pointed out, reasonably enough, that "those in need of medical attention" are exactly the reason why the ships aren't being allowed to dock.  The messaging is getting increasingly hysterical and its probably only twenty four hours away from suggesting remedial drowning as a solution.  In the meantime it is demanding that the federal government do something (although what is left up in the air).  The federal government whose experience with dealing with rogue vessels is limited to small ones containing poor people has absolutely no idea of what to do with a large vessel containing passengers rich enough to sue them.

On a personal note I have kissed more money goodbye as I cancel the last bits of my holiday (oh the horror).  I've also decided I need to go out and source more coffee before the tanks start rolling down the streets.  For the record tanks aren't going to start rolling down the streets if for no other reason than the army only has about sixty of them and there are far too many streets to roll down all of them.  At a pinch they might be able to secure a suburb.  This hasn't stopped babbling halfwits seizing on the fact that soldiers might be used to assist the police to claim that martial law is imminent.  Hopefully if it is imminent those people are on somebody's "disappearance list".

Up in Queensland the state premier is mobilising what she calls a Care Army but which basically involves persuading blameless citizens to pester the elderly in their homes.  If the elderly weren't sick before all these people turn up on their doorstep they probably will be afterwards.  This will also mean that the Care Army will manage to inflict more casualties than the actual army.