Sunday, February 28, 2021

Plague Update #48

 Vaccines, vaccines!  Come and get your vaccines here!  We've got so many vaccines we're literally throwing them away!  Yep the promised doses of vaccine have arrived and the government roared into action, waylaying helpless citizens in the street and injecting with vaccine up to their eyeballs.  Along the way valuable lessons have been learned such as apparently there are no ill effects if the hamfisted quack you handed the needle to accidentally gives the recipient quadruple the dose they were intended to receive.  The hapless pensioners thus blessed have been observed closely but so far have completely failed to grow an extra head or keel over in the street.  Other useful takeaways are that apparently a beer cooler is not quite chilly enough to safely store the vaccine.  The result of this discovery is that a certain number of doses travelled from the waterfront to the garbage bin without getting the chance to swim around a human bloodstream.

Despite these minor hiccoughs the roll out has been a great success.  Apparently.  I haven't received a vaccination.  I don't know whether this means the government considers me low risk or just thoroughly expendable.  In the meantime I'm relying on staying away from the herd immunity and not standing under 5G towers.

But enough of this tedious vaccine blather.  Something far more important rises like a mythical monster from a Scottish loch.  Corporate soccer is back!  One of the less well known casualties of the virus was the abrupt cessation of my weekly journey from the office to a nearby patch of grass where for between ten and twenty five minutes I made pitiable attempts to prove that I am still young, fit and capable of playing soccer.  For context I am over half a century old, smoke and have a level of fitness normally only found in corpses and not fresh corpses at that.  Oh, and I was never capable of playing soccer.

For the last twelve months I have been unable to wheeze and stumble around a minature football field while my opponents debate whether to tackle me or give me CPR.  This lack of match play has had obvious effects.  I am putting on weight.  Well actually I'm not much but such weight as I possess has redistributed itself in not particularly aesthetic ways.  As I gaze at the spread of my belly and also note the lack of change on the scales I can't help wondering where the weight I have put on around my middle has actually come from.  I'm afraid that quite soon my head will simply cave in or I'll wake up to find I'm missing a leg.

Fielding a team in these COVID times has proved to be challenging and it remains to be seen whether enough people turn up to form a quorum.  For context there are several hundred staff members in our Sydney office but six people on a football team is sometimes beyond us.  This was the case even before the world plague drove all to our respective holes in the ground from which a select few are now (hopefully) emerging, blinking like wombats in daylight, to play soccer.  Assuming I survive the process I'll tell you how we went.

Monday, February 22, 2021

Silly After Action Report - Dangerous Crossroads

Capitano Luigi Sottovoce looked up from his task in horror.

"You've parked that damn semovente right over the mine store" he yelled.

"Do you think you could keep your voice down Sottovoce," demanded the maggiore in command of the "armour".

Sottovoce rolled his eyes and returned to the task at hand.  A forty five millimetre mortar lay in pieces at his feet.  He consulted the assembly instructions again while a small group of soldiers looked at him with increasing scepticism.  Suddenly realisation dawned.

"That's it, I know what to do.  Now, who's got the allen key?"

"That's an IKEA catalogue," pointed out one of the soldiers.  

"Where do you think I ordered it from?"

"Why did you order a forty five millimetre mortar?"

"If you order ten you get a free L3."

The German liaison officer who had been watching these proceedings with increasing concern now stepped forward.

"Herr Capitano, our intelligence reports indicate that the British will be here in ten minutes."

"Don't worry," replied Sottovoce, "we're as ready as we'll ever be."

"That's what's worrying me."

After the previous weeks dicebot fuelled farce I decided to give Dave another chance to beat up my Italians.  At his suggestion we dug out TAC55 - Dangerous Crossroads or Carrefour Dangereux if you prefer the original French.  This pits a group of dubiously elite Italian troops supported by a trio of semovente self propelled guns and four squads of German spine stiffeners trying to hold an apparently dangerous crossroads in Tunisia from an armour heavy group of British trying to push through to Tunis before the Germans can properly organise a defence.

Control of the crossroads is apparently represented by a couple of nearby buildings, in Axis hands at the beginning of the game that the British need to capture.  To do said capturing the British have seven first line squad equivalents toting mortars, antitank rifles and a single lmg.  Accompanying them into battle are six carriers of various stripes, two with mortars, two with antitank rifles and two rather boring ones with only MG armament.  The British also get five tanks, two Crusaders and three Valentines to provide somewhat more armoured than the carriers support.  Lest this seem inadequate turn two provides them with reinforcements in the shape of six more squads, a 9-1 leader another antitank rifle (for a total of five including the carriers) and an lmg.  Rolling along in support is a Crusader CS carrying a three inch howitzer.

Opposing this mobile museum of the inadequacies of British tank design I had a mixed German/Italian force that seemed impressive if you didn't look too closely.  The Germans were represented by four squads of 838 assault engineers equipped with an antitank rifle, a demo charge, a light machine gun and a 9-1 leader.  The bulk of the defensive duties, however, would fall on the Italians.  They were represented by nine 447 "elite" squads, a pair of 45mm mortars, a light machine gun, a medium machine gun and twelve factors of anti personnel mines.  They were led by a pair of leaders of stupefying mediocrity and supported, if that's the right word (spoiler alert; it isn't), by proof that the British were by no means the only ones who could bollocks up their armoured development programme.  Three SMV-75 self propelled guns were supposed to give my less than eager troops the firepower to take on the British.  

To be fair these semovente weren't bad, they were small and while their stubby 75mm gun wasn't an awesome tank killer their HEAT rounds certainly gave them a chance against the British armour.  Killing vehicles is definitely what its about for the Italians because the British need to gain their objectives without losing 30CVP.  A few tank kills would definitely put the Axis on the path towards a win.

There were two victory buildings; one down at ground level with a convenient nearby wall.  I decided that my numerous and armour heavy Italians would guard that one.  The other building was up on a hill behind a large olive grove (all woods are olive groves by SSR).  It seemed to be the ideal spot for my scanty but high firepower, superbly motivated Germans.  Below is my set up, see if you can spot the tiny error I made in my deployment.

My set up

As you can see my Germans are all set up on the hill where they don't have any vision of the British entering the board.  The Italians are clustered in the centre which means that a British force could roar up the right hand board edge without hindrance.  Guess what Dave did?  To be fair he also sent troops up the middle to keep the Italians entertained.

The next picture is the end of British turn one when the sheer enormity of my cock up became apparent.  Dave was tossing smoke about like a dragon with hiccoughs and a strong force of infantry and carriers were flanking my left (that would be your right).  His Crusaders moved forward boldly to match points with my semovente while his Valentines shepherded his infantry right and left.

Turn 1 and things could be better

Still I wasn't completely downhearted.  I had a handful of Italian squads in the olive groves which could sidestep across to at least delay the British while the rest of my Italians were sheltered in buildings and behind walls.  I had the victory locations, the British would have to come to me.  Despite being plastered with acquisition counters my semovente survived the British first turn and I looked forward to putting a HEAT round where it would do most good.  In my next prep fire phase I discovered that that particular semovente didn't have any HEAT rounds.  In the course of the game I would discover that neither of the other two did either.  Not one sodding HEAT round!!  I fired AP, actually scored a hit but naturally bounced it off the Crusaders quite respectable armour.

My little 45mm mortars fired at vehicles more in the hope than the expectation.  It is fair to say that they performed about as well as you might expect.  Then I broke one and Dave covered the other with smoke.  I kept firing it anyway, frankly the presence of smoke didn't really decrease its effectiveness much.  Naturally Dave hit my semovente despite the wall it was hiding behind but to the surprise of both of us I got away with a possible shock result. 

There should be a caption here.  Please insert one of your choosing
 I had managed to get a squad across to where it could fire on some of Dave's troops on the right so Dave dropped a smoke round onto it and jumped it in CC and killed it.  However another Italian squad which had been coming up to assist decided instead to go into CC with a CX'ed 8-0 Dave had left behind and cheerfully killed it.  My semovente recovered from its possible shock just in time to be killed by a Crusader but one of my surviving semovente managed to kill a carrier (my only "armour" kill of the game).  On the right Dave was sidling up to the hill but the death of his 8-0 determined him to exact vengeance on the squad that caused it and he diverted no fewer than three squads to take them on in close combat.  I cannot speak highly enough of these gallant Italians.  For two full turns they survived three to one odds without a scratch and on the third turn they died and took two British squads down with them.  Definitely the high point of my game (and isn't that a sad statement).

Meanwhile with one semovente down Dave got bold with his tanks and rolled them forward so the second semovente could also prove that it had no HEAT.  Pretty chilly in those Italian SPGs.  Over on the right Dave dropped yet more smoke and his tanks crawled up the hill.  A speculative 2+1 shot at a concealed German squad naturally broke these 8 morale heroes and their flight was only hampered by the weight of urine in their boots.  With the forward German squad gone Dave bulled a force of tanks and infantry up to the next defensive position consisting of a full squad and a halfsquad with a DC.  Suddenly he was sitting on top of me and the halfsquad showed their courage by only pinning on a 2+1 shot thus putting their larger bretheren to shame.

My Italians are getting monstered by tanks

Naturally that couldn't last so in my next turn I decided to take a risk.  Dave had boldly moved a squad adjacent to my full German squad. I would prep fire into these guys and then the half squad would try and place the DC on his tank.  Anyway my 16+1 prep fire achieved no result and his tank proved it didn't need infantry support by rolling a snake eyes with is machine gun and killing the halfsquad before it could lift the DC in its trembling hands.

Down in Italian land Dave killed my second semovente and discovered my minefields.  I had placed them in front of the victory building (one of them actually under one of my semovente).  Unfortunately Dave discovered them with his Crusaders rather than with his infantry who were still lurking some distance away waiting for my defenders to die of smoke inhalation.  Nevertheless one Crusader was immobilised which I was quite pleased about despite the fact that it was immobilised next door to the victory building.  Only the billowing clouds of smoke prevented Dave from blasting my defenders out of there.

On the nice but meaningless side my sniper hit and recalled a carrier thus achieving as much with one shot as three semovente did all game.  Speaking of semovente I had one left, and what I thought was a bright idea.  I had this semovente based over on the left to prevent a flanking move round that direction.  Dave had apparently completely ignored it and pushed most of his armour forward to hit the victory building.  Deciding (even before this semovente proved to have no HEAT) that it wasn't going to be my day for killing tanks I decided to send it off hunting carriers.  Bottom feeding I know but I was getting a little desperate.  I skillfully maneuvred behind a carrier and then unskillfully failed to hit it.  The damn thing scurried out of the way and Dave cranked the turret of his immobilised tank around and took a shot.  No he didn't kill it but the writing was on the wall.  My return fire proved the unavailability of HEAT and I looked at the acquisition counter and the swarming British tanks and gave up.

Pretty much the end

I was possibly a little premature.  Neither victory location had fallen and the bulk of the Italian force was intact but I had no defence against the tanks and I had lost faith that the Germans would do anything at all.  So far their greatest contribution was to burden the British player with some prisoners.  Many thanks to Dave for the game which in retrospect I lost before it started with a flawed set up. 

A group of cheerful Italian prisoners stopped excitedly discussing the possibilities of farm labour in Britain to pay attention to the disconsolate officer in their midst.

"What are you doing capitano?" asked the curious one.

Sottovoce looked up from the piece of paper he was holding.

"I'm writing a letter of complaint to IKEA.  Have you seen their return policy?  Anyone would think that place was run by a drunken Nazi?"

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Travelling Pathetically - A Spit Bridge too Far Edition

 My Tasmanian correspondent contacted me the other day in a terrible state.  She moaned about her neck, her foot and her children and how collectively they had prevented her from doing what she really enjoyed doing which was abandoning her family and roaming the wilderness like some predator of old.

"I must live vicariously through you," she announced, "and make sure there are photos."

I glanced around at the nylon cord, handcuffs, ball gag and the shackle rings on the wall.  Turning to my puffin I asked.

"Do you think she means..."

"Absolutely not," replied the puffin.

"Bushwalk it is then."

The weather has not been particularly conducive to roaming the outdoors lately.  At least it hasn't been conducive if you've been looking for any excuse to not roam the outdoors.  There was a threat of rain so I put off (with an internal sigh of relief) my bold expeditionary plans to the wilds of suburban Sydney and looked for something a little closer to home.  What I came up with wasn't much closer to home but was probably closer to emergency services should something go wrong.

I decided to walk from the Spit Bridge in Mosman to the Sydney Harbour Bridge in Milson's Point.  This is actually an acknowledged walk that would take me around various headlands, reserves and parks near the edge of Sydney Harbour.  My puffin pointed out that the walk was twenty kilometres.  I indicated that I could handle such a distance.  My puffin pointed out that I get out of breath walking up the street to buy cigarettes.  I stuffed the ball gag back in his beak and terminated the conversation.

It was grey with a threat of rain when I mounted the bus to take me to the Spit Bridge.  Possibly for this reason I had actually remembered to pack the hat to protect my head from the Sun.  It is to this forethought that I attribute the fact that I am not completely dead.  The bus stopped at the Spit Bridge, unfortunately I wasn't on it.  I'm not very familiar with the area with the result that I got off the bus far too soon and the first stage of my journey consisted of trudging down an overused road to actually reach the bridge.  See what I do for you Clare?

A view while wearily trying to reach my start point

Sadly my puffin was right.  My triumphant march to Milson's Point would devolve into a desperate stagger around Mosman.  I literally would not leave that suburb the entire time despite walking for fourteen kilometres.  By the end I thought I was in a high rent Escher painting.

Once down at the Spit Bridge I promptly left it again plunging into the wild.  However this is Mosman so the "wild" turned out to be a road with trees on either side of it.  Slightly downhearted by this I nevertheless plunged on and took my first opportunity to leave the road when a path appeared that offered to take me to Pirrama lighthouse.  I could actually see the lighthouse from the road but I took the path anyway.

By careful use of the camera I can give the impression that I'm in the wilderness

Taking the path turned out to be a great idea.  It literally took thirty seconds to reach the lighthouse (there is a better lighthouse photo later) but the path went on and eventually wound up down at the shore.  A sign announced that there was a walking path to a nearby beach which could be used when the tide was low.  I don't know if the tide was low but there was a distinct amount of water where I would have expected a walking path to be.  Undaunted (because it was still early in my walk) I clambered and occasionally slithered over such rocks as seemed most likely to stay unsubmerged, negotiated somebodies boat ramp and eventually wound up on the beach.  I'm sure it has a name but I descended to and climbed away from so many beaches that they've all become a bit of blur.  Along the way I didn't take photos of lizards.  The area around Pirrama lighthouse positively heaves with lizards but the camera shy little beggars fled at my approach.  Some more relaxed lizards would happily pose for photos later.

I'm not sure if this is a tidal pool or an unambitious stream

It didn't actually start raining, apart from a few spots, rather the moisture in the atmosphere simply condensed onto my body with out going through the formality of rain.  The weather however was about to take a turn for the better.  Apparently simply sick of the entire concept of rain the clouds vanished and I found myself walking under a brilliant blue sky with an equally brilliant Sun.  Fortunately I had a hat.

Not a bad little beach really

Rocks with water running off them.  It's fair to say I'm not going to be asked to do a nature documentary anytime soon

With my first beach behind me I walked through my first reserve and wound up on what sadly was not my first suburban street.  Before I could find someone to complain to though I was back on a path hugging the harbour and barrelling directly towards my next beach which I remember was Balmoral.

I've actually been to Balmoral beach before (although without the tedious walking) and it is a positively charming place.  Or at least it would be if you could get rid of all the people who tend to congregate at positively charming places.  Along the way I amused myself by taking photos of spiders.

Spider #1

Spider #2

I actually took a lot of spider photos but these were the only two that came out half way decently.  The rest of the spiders blended irritatingly into the background.  By now I had been walking for an hour and a half (I know the blog seems to have gone on much longer) and I stopped at Balmoral for lunch.  This wasn't so much because I was hungry as because I took a look inside my pack and realised the sandwich I had made had come off worse in a confrontation with my water bottle and I had better eat it while it still vaguely resembled food.  I dined on what was halfway to becoming cheese and apple soup and drank water from a bottle that managed to exude a definite air of triumphant smugness.  While doing this I also tossed a crumb to a bird that approached me so boldly that I was worried it might steal my shoes if I took my eyes off it.

Aforementioned bird.  Don't mock, it was scarier than it looks

With lunch completed (and the bird eyeing me speculatively) I decided to push on.  Somewhere over this collection of headlands was Sydney Harbour Bridge; my goal.  At this point I was still at the ludicrously optimistic stage of my journey.

Now I was walking through unspoiled bushland or, to be more accurate, I was walking beside unspoiled bushland.  Said bushland was walled off from me with a barbed wire fence and warnings that trespassers would suffer hideous consequences (such as getting caught up on barbed wire).  The reason for the fence and the warnings (and the bushland) was that I had encountered HMAS Penguin, a naval base that sprawls over half of Middle Head.  If you want your bushland preserved, give it to the military.  The occasional unexploded round and totally deniable drum of nerve gas notwithstanding its a great way to preserve some of the natural environment.  One of the ways they preserve it is by erecting barbed wire fences and not letting anybody in.

Trying to take a photo of bushland without barbed wire

Having made my way down to Balmoral Beach and then back up the other side I wound up on Middle Head where I took a detour to wander down a path that eventually took me further along Middle Head (at this point I was basically just looking for walking paths that didn't run along the side of the road).  Eventually the path connected up with the road again at a rather handsome restaurant.  This restaurant used to be the clubhouse for Mosman golf course until the military took it over during the Second World War.  The fact that the military were right next door anyway probably helped.  The military eventually released their grip on it and its now a restaurant.  A nearby sign boasts that the building has been preserved by which I think they mean they didn't knock it down.

Quite a handsome building really

Being deeply uninterested in former golf clubhouses I instead wandered along and took a look at a former gun battery that had been built on Middle Head to help defend Sydney Harbour.  I have noted before in my blog (look it up) that the British tended to defend their possessions from seaborne attack despite the fact that they were the only ones capable of launching said attack.  To be fair it makes more sense in Australia since an invasion is hardly going to come from somewhere else.  Anyway convict work crews hacked away at what was then virgin stone surrounded by bush and when they were done hauled cannon up to the platform thus provided so that Sydney could be defended, for about six years.  At the time (1800) Middle Head was a long way from the centre of the colony through trackless bushland and it actually proved very difficult to maintain the guns or the soldiers based there.  A few years after the thing was built it was effectively abandoned although other battery positions would be build later.

A gun battery, you just have to imagine the guns, as indeed did the Colonial authorities for much of it's existence

There were other batteries further on but I was uneasily aware that time was passing and I was getting no closer to my destination so I retraced my steps, for about a hundred metres before plunging down a side track that seemed to lead towards the harbour.  It did indeed lead towards the harbour and I took some great photos from a  convenient vantage point.  After taking said photos I looked around and noticed there was a man near me.  I noticed three things about him.  He was a powerfully built man, he was completely naked and there was a younger, highly decorative man, equally naked with his arm around the first man's shoulders.  I looked at them, down at my camera and decided that discretion was the better part of getting my head kicked in.  So I retraced my steps back to the point where I was retracing my steps and then retraced those steps as well until I was back on the path that led me down Middle Head at which point I turned and walked in the other direction.

Random bush and water shot #1

Random bush and water shot #2


I was rewarded for my return to the actual path I was supposed to be on when a lizard stopped and posed for a photograph.  Unlike his earlier flighty cousins this one was far more relaxed.  Either that or he was stupefied by the Sun.  I had sympathy and clutched my hat a little closer to my head.

He's either dozy or an attention whore

Although I was leaving Middle Head reminders of its military purpose kept popping up such as when I looked up and found myself staring at a cannon mounted over my head apparently still guarding the harbour approaches.  I had no idea why at the time but according to a little map checking after my return this was probably Georges Head Lookout.  It's nice to see someone takes the tourist trade seriously.


Just try getting in without a ticket

Since I had been going up for a while it was only appropriate that I should start going down again.  This time I plunged towards the harbour only to stop a few scant feet from the water at a collection of buildings clinging to not terribly much semi flat ground backed against the sandstone cliffs which appear to be a feature of this part of Sydney.  I had encountered Clifton Gardens.  Or rather I had encountered Chowder Bay, Clifton Gardens was just on the other side of this rather quaint collection of buildings that I didn't take a photo of because despite the fact that they were largely cafes and restaurants they still managed to give off a bit of a military vibe.  A vibe that wasn't helped by the sign warning me that having my bag searched was a condition of entry to the whole area.  Since I almost got arrested in Mombasa for photographing an inconveniently placed bird I've been a little nervous about taking pictures of things that might belong to authority.  At least if the authority is close enough to bother me.

I trudged along Clifton Gardens' inevitable beach and struggled (and by now it was becoming a struggle) up the rise on the other side.  Now I was on the way to Bradley's Head and an excited sign informed me that soon I would be walking through one of the last unspoilt remnants of the original bushland that had once fringed Sydney Harbour in its entirety.  As if that wasn't enough the sign gushed that there would be other signs, informative ones, along the way to help identify all of the plants and wildlife that you almost certainly won't see.

Somewhat perked up by this (it turns out I am disturbingly easy to please) I strode forward under a cool canopy of trees which was very welcome.  The bushland may have been pristine but I bet the walkway I was traversing had been around the block a time or two.  Then I encountered my first informative sign complete with a picture of the animal it was describing.  These have got to be the worst animal pictures of all times.  I was familiar with some of the animals, familiar enough to know that they looked nothing like the pictures.  One of the signs told us to watch out for humpbacked whales.  I didn't exactly expect to see one on the path but if I had I certainly wouldn't have recognised it from the picture which resembled an obese penguin with downs syndrome. 

No need for artful photography now, I was in genuine bush

And for no reason at all a photo of another lizard

The dreadful pictures did provide me with a certain amount of innocent amusement which was necessary because the truth was I was flagging badly.  Only the "I told you so" look on my puffin's face was keeping me going.  Fortunately Bradley's Head was genuinely worth the effort and at the end of the walk I managed to take a decent photo of a lighthouse which I know you've all been waiting for since I mentioned such a thing many paragraphs ago.

Now that's what I call a lighthouse

And that's what I call a brush turkey.  It's my blog, I don't have to have reasons

After Bradley's Head it was just a little further to Taronga Zoo the sort of place I might like to visit on a day out if I hadn't just exhausted myself wandering around the shoreline adjacent parts of Mosman.  I reached the zoo and thought "surely I can go a little further".  I was right, I could go a little further.  Specifically I got as far as Mosman South ferry wharf at which point my legs threatened to seek asylum in another body if I continued.  I took the hint and, stinging with defeat slunk home.  My puffin was very gracious about the whole thing for which I was grateful.  I have certainly built up a large appetite for dinner but it remains to be seen if I am physically capable of producing it.

Friday, February 12, 2021

Plague Update # 47 - Deja Flu Edition

 During my lunch break the other day (and absolutely not when I should have been working) I flicked on the television to see what was happening at the tennis.  The Australian Open is currently on and I always like to check in just to see whether Nick Kyrgios has finally snapped and is swinging from a light fixture like a baboon.  Instead of a borderline bipolar tennis player having a meltdown I was treated to the sight of the premier of the surviving population of Victoria solemnly informing the citizenry that they had cocked up the quarantine yet again and as a result the entire population of Melbourne was being sent to its room.

This wasn't due to COVID, oh dear me no.  This was due to the new, improved and super sexy COVID which is apparently far more contagious.  This variant has taken Britain by storm and is currently on an extended tour of Europe.  Apparently Brexit didn't come quickly enough.  The premier assured the population that the current lockdown was largely a preventative measure designed to get on top of the outbreak quickly and "protect the most vulnerable members of the population" or at least such of the most vulnerable members of the population as survived the previous outbreak.  

While Melbourne enjoys a preview screening of Quarantine II: The Return attention in the rest of the country has been focussed on the vaccine.  Or rather it has been focussed on the vaccine shaped holes in our pharmaceutical supply chain.  Despite the government boasting that we were at the front of the queue for a vaccine it would appear that we are the last inhabited continent (penguins don't count; sorry Antarctica) to receive it.  There has been criticism and muttering about the impressive vaccination process of other countries such as Britain.  As far as Britain is concerned that's a little unfair.  Britain's COVID prevention measures were so wretched that they had very little choice except to grab every needle in the country and stick them into its citizens regardless of the contents.

As for the rest, well this is the problem when you don't actually make things yourself.  You rely on other people to make them and then you rely on further people to ship them to you.  Finally you rely on yet more people to unpack them without accidentally dropping them on the floor.  If anything gets in the way of such a process (such as a pack semi hysterical bureaucrats having a fit after they buggered up their own vaccination process) then you suddenly find the queue is very long and you just have to wait.  The good news is that the EU has now graciously permitted the drug company to ship the product we've already ordered (and which was made in Belgium) so, assuming the US navy doesn't hijack the vessel on the high seas we should be receiving the vaccine at some point in the not too distant future.

While I wait for the pride of Belgium's pharmaceutical industry to reach us I will have to be patient and take solace in the little things.  Little things like the fact that I don't live in Melbourne.  Mind you I was taking solace from that fact well before COVID.

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Amusing Children in Tasmania

 I stared at the missive in front of me trying to make some sort of sense of it.  Giving up I put in a call to my tech support.  They greeted me with their usual start of mild surprise.

"Oh hello," they said smiling oddly.  "How are you feeling?"

"Fine," I responded.

"You're not suffering from COVID at all?"

"No, as a matter of fact I'm disgustingly healthy."

"Well that was waste of bats."

"Why do you guys keep trying to kill me?"

"It's a hobby.  What can we do for you?"

"I've just got the latest report from my Tasmanian correspondent and I'm afraid she's going insane."

"So are we."

"You've read the report?"


I sent them the report and waited patiently while they scanned through the latest news from the most down under part of my country.  From somewhere behind them I could just hear the hysterical screams of one of their "research assistants" but before I could ask any questions they had finished.

"What do you think?" I asked.

"She's batshit crazy."

"What should I do about it?"

"How far away is she?"

"About sixteen hundred kilometres."

"That's a safe distance so why do anything?  Sit back and enjoy the show.  Besides if you don't publish that crap you're going to have to think of your own blog entries."

Sage advice from my tech support as always.  I thanked them profusely and promised to test their new batch of anthrax vaccine (at least I'm pretty sure they said vaccine) when it arrived and addressed the report in front of me.  The first sentence was "A sloth shits a third of its bodyweight" which should give you some indication of how this is going to go.

When she isn't pestering the local platypus for selfies my correspondent spends a lot of time trying to ensure her two daughters spend a lot of time.  This reduces the amount of time they have left to bother her.  Her well of daughter appropriate activities must be on the verge of drying up because the other weekend she took them to a blueberry farm.  The opportunity to go blueberry wrangling presented itself because a friend of my correspondent decided to take up blueberry farming as a hobby.  No, I don't understand it either but in the person's defence there really isn't a lot to do in Tasmania.  Apart from one's siblings of course.

My correspondent arrived at the farm with two mutinous offspring in tow just in time for (surprise surprise) harvest time.  Gleefully herding those too young to refuse out into the blueberry paddocks (or whatever) my correspondent idled on the balcony while her nearest and dearest sweated in the sun picking blueberries.  Of course being young and not entirely consensual their definition of "picking blueberries" frequently meant "ripping up the entire plant and stuffing it blueberries and all into the picking basket".  Shall we say a certain amount of quality control is going to have to be undertaken before those blueberries are fit to sit under a layer of dust beside the road in the hopes that a passing traveller might have an urge for a child mutilated fruit.

Still the work was done and my correspondent proudly announced the presence of fifteen kilograms of blueberries although that figure does shrink a little once you remove the branches and the roots.  If this keeps up Tasmania is going to have a child labour led economic recovery.  In time it will become known as the second Bangladesh but with a worse cricket team.

Possibly feeling a little guilty about hiring her daughters out as forced labour my correspondent decided to make it up to them by taking them to a shit show.  No, that isn't a comment on the quality of the show; she took them to the Museum of Excrement.  It is called, of course, The Pooseum.  It's website promises an interactive experience which I would have thought was sufficient to get it an adults only rating but apparently its terribly educational if you're interested in excrement.  This is where the random sloth fact above was sourced.

Sloths have on the whole a terrible bathroom experience.  Sloths live in trees but they crap on the ground I'm not sure why.  After all if you're clinging upside down to a branch is their any need to descend to the earth?  Just make sure nobody you're fond of is walking underneath.  Nevertheless descend to the earth the sloths do.  Whereupon they get eaten.  Things prey on sloths, these things can't climb trees so what they do is they wait until the sloth comes down for a crap and then they eat it.  Apparently fifty percent of all sloths die by being eaten when they pop downstairs for a shit.  The other fifty percent die of constipation.

However as noted above when a sloth shits it really shits.  Assuming it gets to the ground and assumes the position without becoming something else's lunch it doesn't stop until it could be the poster boy for a Weight Watchers ad.  It went down a sloth and came back up a ferret.  I suppose if every trip to the bathroom had a fatality rate higher than smallpox we'd probably hold it in as long as possible as well.

If the defecation cycle of the sloth isn't enough to attract you then there are all sorts of displays and 3-D models of various digestive systems which can apparently be taken apart.  Because it is never to soon to start teaching your kids the rudiments of vivisection.  They might be a science type person themselves one day and you don't want them standing in a room with a hacksaw and a chained up monkey without knowing what to do they've got to start early.  On an unrelated note if the person who stole the pictures of me holding a hacksaw next to a chained up monkey would return them I will pay any amount you ask.

Once she had sated her children's scatological interests there was nothing left to do but take them home for dinner.  On the menu; blueberries.  Possibly for the next six months.

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Silly After Action Report - Testis Megalos

 Tenente Pollo Cacciatore gazed around at the village in disbelief.  All around him were signs of defensive positions being prepared, guns were being hidden, their ammunition stacked neatly next to the regulation white flags.  A couple of soldiers were stringing wire that looked like it had been sourced from a ball of steel wool and one soldier was scattering brightly coloured objects across the ground.  Normally Cacciatore didn't speak to his soldiers because, well one didn't.  That's what sergeants were for.  It was bad enough that he had to talk to the sergeant but this time his curiosity overcame him.

"What are you doing?" he demanded.

Taken by surprise at being addressed by an officer the soldier surrendered but when it dawned on him that a trip to somewhere with decent food and a functioning command structure wasn't in his immediate future he sighed and explained.

"Preparing defences sir."

"Are those booby traps?" asked Cacciatore?

"No, they're lego blocks."

"Shit, don't let the Geneva Convention find out about that."

The whole "talking to one of his men" thing was going to the young tenente's head and he found himself unburdening to the rather tattered soldier who showed not the slightest interest.

"I don't know why we've stopped.  We advanced two miles yesterday, now that's what I call blitzkrieg."

"Only because you've never seen a dictionary," muttered the soldier.

"What was that?"

"We stopped on the colonello's orders sir."


"He's not well."

"What's wrong with him?"

"He's got a bad case of testis megalos."

"I heard they had penicillin for that now."

OK, I'm sure that's not the first time such a joke has been made but I couldn't resist it.  As stated in my previous AAR I have fled the grim battlefields of the eastern front and reverted to type by commanding a bunch of over matched Italians engaged in the military equivalent of self harm.  Having cunningly waited until the Autumn rains turned the fields of Epiros into icy mud the Italians launched possibly the most ill managed offensive since the Jameson Raid.  A couple of days and a few miles later and they altered tactics from half baked offence to panic stricken defence.  Never let it be said that the Italian army wasn't versatile.  There was no end to the ways they could cock up a battle.  

This is Testis Megalos which sounds like either a disease or an exotic type of dinosaur but is actually a Dezign Pak (yes, apparently I am spelling that correctly) production pitting a deeply mediocre but strangely well armed group of Italians against the pride of the Greek army.  Having captured an entire village from the Greeks my Italians now prepare to defend it to the death against a Greek counterattack.

To do the defending I have fourteen squads split between barely adequate 347 bersaglieri and deeply suspect 346 fanti.  Supporting this semi human material is a hmg, a mmg, four lmgs plus two 65mm guns, a 47mm AT gun and a single L3 tank (just because).  Four officers including a more than adequate 9-1 command.  My mission is to have an unbroken MMC in at least two of the village's four multi level buildings at the end of six and a half turns of no doubt furious Greek attacks.  Dave Wilson leads the vengeance happy Greeks who have determined not to leave an inch of Greek soil no matter how low rent in the invader's hands.  Dave's forces consist of some twenty three squads split almost equally between elite 458s and first line 457s.  A magnificent beast of a 10-2 leads them forward with some other officers basking in his reflection.  Clip clopping along behind is a wagon slowly hauling a 105mm gun to the general vicinity of the front line.  If the hay holds out it could be bad news for the Italians.

Below is my set up.  I had precisely three wire counters which I used to lock off one of the roads entering the village.  I set one of the 65mm guns up forward in the hope that it might take some Greek infantry unawares before its rapid and inevitable death.  The 47mm I set up in the road with a line of sight to the hill that overlooked my entire defensive position.  Other armies might think that was a good spot to defend, not apparently the Italians.  I scattered my 346s across the forward buildings and kept the bulk of my "good" troops back amongst the multi level buildings that would be my last stand location.

At start and I'm already feeling nervous

Dave brought his troops on in the east (top) and south (right) and promptly ran into trouble.  A 2 flat shot from my mmg broke three of his squads in the east and temporarily eased my concerns on that front.  Which was good as his southerners sneaked forward, keeping concealment all the way.  Even his wagon lurched along what must have been the only road in the vicinity sheltering under an oversized question mark.

End of Greek turn 1, despite his losses he's moving forward

It isn't my intention to give a blow by blow account of this game for reasons I will explain later so I'll just give you the salient points.

Despite the early losses Dave's eastern troops (led by the 10-2) pushed forward until I unveiled my 65mm which broke several squads (and the 10-2) and delayed him for a while.  Up on the hill Dave had amassed a pair of squads with two hmgs and a leader which opened fired on my 9-1 guided hmg on the first floor of a convenient building.  Both leader and squad broke and fled downstairs but I had prepared for this eventuality and had another squad with an 8-0 on the ground floor which advanced upstairs to reman the hmg.  Dave tried the shooting trick again but it didn't work and in response my hmg went on a rate tear which killed everybody in the hex.  Dave would lose more troops trying to get his hmgs back into action.

Dave's hmg position is gone

Dave's wagon finally arrived at what he considered the least inconvenient place to unload his gun and caused a desperate fumbling for the rulebook.  My little L3 shot up the wagon as it was unloading and rolled low enough to destroy it.  We searched in vain for any indication of what might happen to the gun in such circumstances.  Eventually we decided to reverse engineer the rules for hooking up which state that if the wagon is destroyed while hooking up then so is the gun.  Working from that we presumed that the act of hooking up had taken place when the fire was laid and therefore working the other way that the gun would have been unhooked (and thus survived) when fire was laid.  So Dave's wagon was gone but his 105 survived.  It would celebrate by bouncing a 105mm shell off the frontal armour of the L3.

Eventually of course the 105 got the L3 and massed firepower (guided by the recently reinvigorated 10-2) took out my 65mm but delay had been caused and the number of broken (or killed) Greek squads was reaching embarrassing levels.

In the south Dave pushed troops up near one of the multi level buildings he needed to capture but pointblank firing from the building and supporting fire from my remaining 65mm broke a couple of squads and actually garnered me a squads worth of prisoners.  Things weren't really helped when Dave rolled snake eyes on a morale check and a Greek half squad went berserk and charged the building all by itself while its comrades cringed under DM markers.

Dave pushing forward but is it too late? Spoiler alert, "yes!"


Dave did manage to struggle a squad and 7-0 through the wire in the woods and get into CC in the adjacent building and there they stayed for the next few turns.  I reinforced the melee with a squad but Dave promptly killed it but on my next turn the Italians fixed bayonets and butchered the Greeks hand to hand (no I can't quite believe it either).

Finally at gruesome cost Dave's troops in the east managed to rout or kill my defenders in the forward buildings and positioned themselves for the final assault across the road.  Then the 47mm sitting in the street stepped forward and shot his troops out again.  Finally when my 47mm gained its second critical hit and took out three squads Dave conceded.

So that was the game.  You may notice that I haven't dwelt on it at great length and I don't seem to be rejoicing too much in my first victory over Dave in quite a while.  The reason is simple.  Dice!  We play on VASL and I don't know what drugs the dicebot was on that night but it was incredible.  I literally could not fail.  My average IFE shot only rose to 6.5 in the last third of the game, for a while I was averaging 5.  I only had to shoot to gain results and conversely Dave could not get a decent roll to save his life.  It was genuinely embarrassing.  I was actively considering cheating in my opponents favour.  I can't imagine that the game was fun for Dave to play and frankly it wasn't that enjoyable for me either as I know I can't take the slightest credit for my victory.  The only dice rolls where my average was above 7 were morale checks but that didn't matter because Dave wasn't inflicting many.  As one example among many, Dave took a 20+1 one shot that didn't result in so much as a pin.  I took a 6+2 shot and broke two elite Greek squads and an 8-1 officer.  That was repeated continually throughout the course of the evening.  I would probably have been in hysterics (I am a total drama queen in case you hadn't guessed) if I had been on the receiving end of it.  Dave took it all with good natured stoicism but the second critical hit with the 47mm was his breaking point and he conceded a good two turns after I would have thrown my computer out the window and sworn off ASL for life.  Apologies to Dave but it really wasn't my fault.  He gets another chance to beat up my Italians next week in Dangerous Crossroads.

Prisoners!  Tenente Cacciatore stared at them in astonishment.  He had heard that other armies sometimes captured enemies but he had never expected it to happen to him.  A surly looking Greek officer, limping badly, was brought before him.  The Greek ripped off his boot and upended it, a single lego block fell out.  Cacciatore ignored the man's accusatory glare.  Staring fixedly at the ceiling he muttered,

"Your kid must have dropped it into your boot on your last leave."  Behind him came a plastic rattle as one of his soldiers became very busy with a dustpan and brush.