Thursday, December 22, 2022

At Last a Blog Entry About Pangolins

 I love the word pangolin.  It rolls off the tongue with a sort of thick, smooth elegance rather like liquid velvet (let's forget for a moment that liquid velvet would be disgusting in the extreme).  The very word pangolin conjures up visions of the exotic, certainly no animal in my homeland has a name like pangolin.  They have boring names like "cow" and "death adder".  The moment "pangolin" is introduced into a sentence one is immediately transported to a place of lush, wild nature, unique customs and strange yet curiously sexy accents .  This transportation happens even if the rest of the sentence is, "I ran over a pangolin with my car."  

So what is this pangolin whose very name arouses such feelings in my breast.  To be honest it looks rather like a crocodile skin handbag given life.  It is low and long and scaly (despite being a mammal).  I can imagine this as its battle cry "All this and warm blood too!"  I didn't say it was a particularly good battle cry but who cares when your name is pangolin.

Pangolins live in Asia and Africa (not the same ones obviously) and their name derives from a Malay word meaning "walking crocodile handbag".  This must cause some confusion to the African pangolins who have probably never heard of Malaysia.

When it all comes down to it pangolins are anteaters.  But they have to be the coolest anteaters in the world.  They're covered in scaly armour and when danger (such as lions) presents itself they roll themselves into an armoured ball that the claws and teeth of predators can't penetrate.  Unfortunately when danger (such as poachers) presents itself they roll themselves into an armoured ball etc etc.  Which means all the poachers have to do is pick them up and drop them into a bag.  This what happens when evolution doesn't keep up with a changing threat matrix.

And there are pangolin poachers.  Quite a lot of them actually.  In some of the more economically depressed parts of their habitat they're poached simply to go on the local cook fire.  The more financially acute poachers however have their eye on the Chinese medicine trade.  Chinese medicine can't get enough of pangolins.  Apparently pangolins are good for your health.  I can't help pointing out that it doesn't seem to be good for the pangolin's health.  All sorts of medicines are made from pangolin bits, mainly the scales.  Whether the scales are particularly medically beneficial or simply the most easy to access bit of the pangolin for lazy Chinese medicine practitioners is something I'm not entirely clear on.

Do pangolin components actually have any medical value?  Opinion is divided; Chinese medicine practitioners say "yes" everybody else says "What?  Are you fucking nuts?"  Chinese traditional medicine does seem to consist largely of hacking a bit off the nearest endangered animal and dropping it into a cup of tea but there's probably more to it than that.  And it must be admitted that while the world may be running out of pangolins we've still got plenty of Chinese.  Lest we lay all the blame for the rapidly diminishing stock of pangolins on the Chinese it must be pointed out that pangolins are also a key ingredient in African traditional medicine.  Again the scales are sought after although other bits are used as well.  

The end result of being a walking cure for all diseases (from lactation issues through to arthritis according to the person who is making money selling you extract of pangolin) is that every sub species of pangolin is under threat.  It should also be pointed out that despite the medical predation the principal reason for pangolin endangerment is habitat loss.  Short of moving the pangolins to a different planet I'm not entirely sure what we can do about that.

We should seriously consider moving the pangolins to a different planet.  Firstly it would be the salvation of the world's only scaly mammal.  How can you argue with that.  But even more than that pangolins could be our ambassadors to the galaxy.  Can you imagine the reaction of aliens if our first spaceship lands and a horde of pangolins came tumbling out?  I can't think of a better way to impress our neighbours in the universe.  Once glance and they would be hooked.

And if they're not impressed we can just whisper in their ear that pangolins are a sure fire cure for arthritis.

Saturday, November 19, 2022

Travelling Pathetically - Crows, Snakes and Coastline Edition

 It occurs to me that if you read the title you really don't need to read the remainder of the blog to find out the most interest parts about my latest walk.  For those of you of a masochistic bent however please see below.

My previous two walks around sea adjacent portions of my home city having fired me with a desire to stare at large expanses of water that I can't drink I eagerly sought out another such opportunity for my recent walk.  Eventually I settled on La Perouse a suburb in Sydney's south whose main claim to fame is that it is where the French didn't colonise Australia.  La Perouse is fringed with bush, well to be honest its fringed with golf courses but the golf courses are fringed with bush which collectively make up the northern part of Kamay Botany National Park.  Quite a bit of coastline is included within the park's bounds and this was my destination for the day.

Two trams and a bus having been used to deposit me at the waters edge in La Perouse I wondered briefly if I had time to do the walk and get back before my employers started demanding my attention.  I decided to risk it and set forth.

At start

An expanse of blue water stretched out in front of me.  This wasn't the sea, it was Botany Bay which goes some way to explaining the oil storage facilities across the way in the above photo.  From this position I took a hard left and made my way through some slightly disheveled bush until I arrived at Congwong Beach.  I had no choice but to go to the beach as the walking track I was taking led to it and out the other side.  Having dressed for hiking rather than the beach the soft sand proved to be some of the most tiring and difficult walking terrain I encountered and I was glad when I could bid the sand goodbye and head into the more tree intensive parts of my journey.

Slightly disheveled bush

Taking photos at the beach is a slightly dubious prospect nowadays particularly when you quite obviously have no decent reason for being at the beach so I kept my camera in my pocket until I encountered a small stream set sufficiently away from sunbathers and children to excuse my taking a photo of it.

A small stream with a beach lurking modestly out of shot to the left.

I left the beach with a sense of relief and delight that my feet were back on solid ground and set off around the coast.  The day was glorious; the sky and sea were blue and the sun was bright.  Very bright in fact, very very bright.  I had brought a hat which is the only reason I survived.  I had not brought sunscreen which is the reason why parts of me now resemble a refugee from a leper colony.  Still melanomas and seared flesh were in my future.  For the moment I enjoyed the bushland full of tiny, beautiful birds that absolutely refused to sit still and be photographed.  The sea fortunately was more accommodating.

The sea goes on for quite a bit further past this photo

Having tried the sea's patience by getting it to pose for photos I left it alone for a while to take photos of various plants which also had the advantage of not moving as swiftly as those damned birds.

This plant didn't jump out of the way in time

I also kept an eye out for the Clare McIntyre memorial fungus without which none of my walking blogs would be complete.  Sadly fungi was rather thin on the ground but I managed to take the photo below which I'm about 60% certain is a fungus and not just a tree disease.

The Clare McIntyre memorial fungus (probably)

I was in a good mood, I had got away from the beach and photo opportunities abounded.  A lizard posed for a photograph (ok he didn't know that but I'm pretty sure he won't sue) and the weather continued its self appointed task of burning my shoulders to a crisp.


I had just got used to being some way above the sea when the path forked and plunged back down towards the shoreline again.  With nothing better to do I followed it and wound up at Brown's Rock which must be one of the most unimaginative names for a geographic feature I have ever encountered.  The rock was indeed brown or at least dirty and there were people fishing from it.  We greeted each other politely and then even more politely ignored each other.  If I really wanted to meet people I probably wouldn't wander around uninhabited parts of the bush.  I did take quite a nice photo from the rock or at least a rock.

Quite a nice photo

And then I took a photo of a ship because it intruded itself on the scene and I figured if it was going to spoil the scenery then it should at least have its name taken down.  It's name was (and probably still is) the Golden Chie.  Either that or some exotically named gang has tagged the side of the ship.

The Golden Chie

For the record the Golden Chie is a Panama flagged tanker currently making its way to Cairns.

With the entertainment value of brown rocks and wandering oil tankers exhausted I retraced my steps, uphill this time, and continued my journey.  Well I say I continued my journey, actually I sat down at the fork in the path, gasped for breath, drank some water and tried to remember what the warning signs for a heart attack were.  Then I continued my journey.

To say I had a destination would be to attribute more organisational skill to me than I actually possess but the next point of interest according to the signs I encountered occasionally was Henry Head lighthouse.  I quite like lighthouses so it was with a spring in my step (or at least an enthusiastic shuffle) that I plunged through the bush again.  

The bush came to an abrupt end as we reached Henry Head itself.  Instead was an open, windswept headland with the world's most disappointing lighthouse situated on it.  I, of course, had been thinking about a tall cylindrical building with a flashing light on the top.  What I actually got was this;

A solar panel has been tethered to the lighthouse to stop it running away

In fairness it is cylindrical.  It was at Henry Head that the most interesting part of my walk began.  Which will probably infuriate anyone who has actually bothered reading through the above.  I would now be taking the Cape Banks walk through hanging swamps and heathlands that decorated the cliff line.  I wouldn't be walking right on the cliff edge because signs pointed out that it wasn't stable.  It and me both.

The scenery was an immediate contrast to what I had been walking through so far.  Trees vanished and in their place sturdy bushes and somewhat wind battered grasses prevailed.  As with North Head a walking platform had been created so that we didn't sully the earth with our tread.

Heathland, I presume

I walked on the path through the heathland taking in the sights (heath) and sounds (wind on heath) and politely ignoring the annoyingly large number of people who had chosen this day to do the same thing.  The walking path changed suddenly from wooden boards and occasional metal grates to handsome stone and I thought to myself  "ah ha, the National Park is going up in the world" then I saw a sign that said "Golfers have right of way."  I was walking through a golf course.  Or at least I was now.  Here the golf course had made its way right to the sea but had graciously permitted random strangers (such as myself) to continue their walk as long as they stuck to the path, allowed golfers through and didn't sue if hit on the head by a golf ball.  I obediently stuck to the path and arrived at Cape Banks which was another land extrusion into the sea.

The aforementioned sea


There was scenery at Cape Banks and the sea being as photogenic as ever but what really grabbed my attention were the crows.  I have never seen crows of such magnificence.  Glossy blue black feathers, deep barrel chests and pale blue eyes.  I've never thought of crows as being handsome birds but these were amazing and very happy to be photoed.  I took many many photos of which only a small selection are added below



A different but equally photogenic crow

I may have gone a little nuts over the crows actually.  Certainly I have so many photos that I could be accused of having a fetish.  I stared at them in awe and they stared at me with a combination of disdain and disinterest.

Eventually I tore myself away from the crows and continued my walk.  I didn't realise it yet but my walk was almost over.  The path I was following joined up with a road and gunshots crackled in my ears.  On one side was the golf course and as it turned out on the other was the Sydney Pistol Club.  Psychologically I had finished my walk, now there was just the tedious business of getting myself from where I was to somewhere I might be able to catch a bus.  A hasty checking of google maps informed me that the road I was on would eventually get me there.  This was useful since there wasn't another one.  Further as an added teaser it informed me that a certain way along the road once all of the golf courses and gun clubs were done with the bush started again and I would be able to walk along a boardwark through a small piece of natural bush before emerging onto a suburban street which connected to another suburban street which connected with a multi suburban street (Anzac Parade) which had bus stops on it.

Possessing for the first time an actual plan I headed off walking along a narrow road, leaping to the side when cars passed by and pausing to snicker as a couple of expensively dressed guys in a convertible mercedes drove slowly and with wincing care along a road liberally decorated with potholes and speed humps.  I have never seen anything look so out of place in my life.

Without widening at all the road suddenly became littered with parked cars.  I looked to my right and yes, there was the golfcourse again.  A couple of guys were teeing off; standing directly in front of them was an ibis which paid absolutely no attention as a rain of golf balls flew over its head.  The golfers didn't pay any attention to it either.  I wasn't particularly interested in either golfers or ibis, I had stopped because on my side of the road was the aforementioned bush and a wooden walkway allowing access.

With bush once again on both sides of me I headed along the walkway aiming for the aforementioned suburban street which was only three hundred metres ahead of me.  Approximately a hundred metres into this little journey I looked at the ground beside the walkway and saw a snake looking up at me.  I literally said, "Holy shit, a snake!"  Then I took photos.  Not great photos because the snake wasn't as inclined to pose for them as the crows had been but I managed to get one decent one before the snake disappeared under the walkway I was currently standing on.  I waited to see if it would emerge on the other side but apparently it had decided to wait until I was gone.  I would have too.

Holy shit, a snake!

After that there was nothing left but to walk the last few hundred metres back to civilisation and a couple of hundred more to a bus stop.  I didn't see any more snakes although a local I met on the walkway assured me they were there.

Friday, November 18, 2022

Hitting Things With Mallets

 I was so desperate for something to write about that I reached out to my Tasmanian correspondent something I've become less inclined to do after the restraining order.  Still she is several hundred kilometres away so I can't really claim she's breaching it.

After the traditional formalities (screams, death threats and hysterical demands to stop pestering her) I got down to the reason for my call.

"I haven't heard from you in months."

"I send you a report every week," she retorted. "Is the institution still stopping your mail?"

"I keep telling you that was a misunderstanding, they released me almost immediately."  Three months counts as almost immediately in my book.  "So what is the news from Tasmania."

She told me her twelve year old daughter had been serenading visiting American sailors with merimba music.  So business as usual then.  There were a lot of questions to ask about this.  I paused to get my thoughts in order and assemble my questions in a logical framework.

"What the fuck?"

It turns out that Hobart has recently had a visit from the US navy.  They sneaked into the harbour in between the cruise ships which have recently been infesting my correspondent's shores.  My correspondent was actually more sanguine about the warships than the cruise liners.  Hardly surprising really, cruise ships are a blight on the horizon at the best of times but at the moment they're little more than self propelled disease cultures.  Apparently the Americans had picked a gap in the schedule of these petri dishes of the sea to drop in on Hobart.

Purely by coincidence, apparently, the school attended by my correspondents children had chosen this moment to herd their charges to the waterfront and drop a bunch of merimba instruments in front of them.  After that nature was permitted to take its course.

For those who don't know a merimba is sort of like a wooden xylophone.  You hit the wooden tubes with mallets thus making music or at least noise.  After a while it isn't only the merimba you want to hit with  mallets.  Lest you think encouraging anti social behaviour in children is restricted to my correspondent's school permit me to assure you that apparently all over the state teachers are handing their students mallets and encouraging them to go nuts.  This has been going on for years.  In 2019 Tasmanian students smashed the previous Guinness record for a bunch of recalcitrant shoolchildren being dumped in front of wooden tubes and equipped with weapons.  It's called Merimba Mania although at a pinch I think "mania" would probably be an equally apposite title.

So what did our American guests think of this welcome to one of our chillier shores?  Their reaction wasn't recorded but there is a persistent rumour that my correspondent's school has been reported to the International Criminal Court in the Hague for war crimes.  Certainly the American warships steamed over the horizon as swiftly as they decently could.  Unconfirmed reports claim to have heard hysterical weeping coming from the living quarters of the vessels concerned.

My correspondent was pleased with the results until I pointed out that the absence of American warships meant that it was more likely that extra cruise liners would fill the gaps.  I believe her children's school is planning another merimba assault when they dock.

Silly After Action Report - Maryuma's Stronghold

 Captain Shinobi Nojutsu tripped over an inconveniently placed bush and collided heavily with a tree.

"By all that's sacred," snarled his colonel, "will you keep the noise down?  That damn question mark won't mean a thing if you're making enough noise for the Chinese to hear in Chungking."

Nojutsu muttered an apology and shuffled back to his spider hole.  It wasn't really his fault that a trailing bootlace defeated his attempts at stealthiness.  The strangled shriek as he plunged head first into the hole drove his colonel over the edge.

"Corporal, go and find the Chinese and ask if they mind waiting for five minutes while I murder one of my junior officers."

"Ask them yourself," replied the corporal pointing to a large group of unusually well equipped Chinese soldiers carrying ear trumpets who were making a beeline for Nojutsu's position.

"Nojutsu, get that lmg into action now" yelled the colonel.

"I'm afraid I dropped the firing pin," responded Nojutsu's voice somewhat muffled from being head down in a hole.  "But don't worry, I think I see where it went."

"No rush Nojutsu," responded the colonel sweetly seeing with sudden delight that the Chinese had almost reached the captain's spider hole.

Richard Weilly suggested playing this one, Scenario AP 126 - Maryuma's Stronghold.  Having performed one of the most low value real estate grabs in history by conquering Burma a couple of years previously the Japanese now find themselves in the position of having to throw good money after bad and defend it from the British, the Americans and the Chinese all of whom unaccountably want to dispossess them of it.

Up in northern Burma it was the Chinese and the Americans who were doing the dispossessing.  Richard would take the attacking Chinese trying to seize Myitkyina from a bunch of stereotypically stubborn Japanese commanded by me.

The Chinese will win at game end by controlling all multihex buildings.  By extension the Japanese will win if they don't.  On paper it is a powerful force that Richard commands.  He has fifteen elite squads led by no fewer than five officers (granted one of them is a 6+1) hauling along a pair of dismantled medium machine guns, a pair of dismantled 60mm mortars and a (thoroughly mantled) bazooka.  A radio connects him a battery of 70mm OBA with HE and WP.

Hunkered down in the soggy undergrowth and slapped together buildings are my defenders.  Eight first line squads with a mere two officers to provide guidance and moral support.  I have a heavy machine gun, two light machine guns and a pair of the ubiquitous 50mm mortars.  A short barrelled 70mm infantry gun provides a little heavy metal and four concealment counters and a pair of trenches aid my defences.

 My set up

Above is my set up.  A railway divides the map into two unequal parts.  On the left side of the railway is a single multihex building.  I decided this would be where I would take my final stand with the railway line as a sort of defence.  I put both of my mortars behind the tracks and a squad/lmg team with one of my mere two leaders in a conveniently placed building (with a trench line leading to the multihex location).  For the remainder I had an outpost line of dummies, the odd halfsquad and a couple of squads in the north to hopefully inflict a few early casualties on the Chinese but more to encourage them to hasten slowly.  These guys would fall back towards the bulk of my defenders in the village.  Hopefully by the time they were overcome the Chinese would be sufficiently battered that taking the building across the tracks would be a bridge too far.  The 70mm gun I set up far to the rear covering an otherwise almost empty right flank.

Richard sent a monstrous horde plunging down the middle of the board and a smaller force on a wide flanking movement to the right.  I had that sinking feeling I usually get when I realise that 90% of my force is hopelessly out of position.  Fortunately I had time to reposition them and reposition I did.  I gave up any thoughts of shooting at the mass of humanity before me and did my best to slink away unseen and tighten up my defences.  I was somewhat successful insofar as Richard didn't wipe out my defenders in the first turn.

End of Japanese turn 1.  My guys have decided running away is the better part of valour

Undaunted by the suspicious lack of opposition Richard pushed on.  His centre force split in two forces one left and one right (whether that was deliberate or not I have no idea).  My forward defenders managed to punish the left hand force but the right shook itself out and started to seriously menace my troops.  Over on the far right his flankers flanked unopposed.  On my left I was still herding stragglers towards the fighting or to be more accurate where I expected the fighting to be in a turn or two.

End of Chinese turn 2.  Richard has taken casualties but he still looks pretty overwhelming

Witth my left apparently holding firm I sent my hmg team (led by my 9-1 leader of course) forward to the buildings on the right to bolster my threatened defences.  Strangely I wasn't too concerned about his flankers.  Japanese troops don't rout much and if he wanted the buildings his troops would eventually have to come somewhere I could shoot at them.

In the centre right Richard was certainly coming where I could shoot him.  Unfortunately he could also shoot me.  Things weren't helped when my hmg fired one shot and then malfunctioned.  Fortunately I managed to repair it the next turn.

End of Chinese turn 3

A struggle ensued for control of the centre right buildings.  Richard and I gained a squad killed apiece thanks to low rolls and well executed close combat.  Over on the right his 6+1 was hustling a radio toting halfsquad to a convenient location.  I took a shot at them with my gun without effect but this would have a significant impact on the game as the remainder of Richard's flankers now realised what their next target should be.

Mistakes have been made and casualties taken but for now the defences hold

With the main drive of Richard's attack now clear I attempted to revert to my tactic of sneaking the occasional shot when convenient and skulking the rest of the time despite the fact that that didn't really work too well originally.  Seeing the opportunity to bring in his game winner Richard dialled up his artillery and dropped a spotting round near my defences.  Meanwhile more of his troops filtered around the right trying to circumvent my defenders in the north of the village.

The left side of his force which had been incrementing slowly forward and licking its earlier wounds rallied and announced themselves ready to rejoin the fray.  This they did bulling their way through the kunai to where a lone Japanese squad/lmg combo had been holding the line.  His artillery came down soaking the centre in WP without doing much harm to either of us except for the associated eyestrain.  Further south though two of his squads (with mmgs and a 9-1 leader) fell foul of a mere spattering of fire from a halfsquad and yelped out of harms way.  Grimly sticking to their mission his flanking force headed for my gun with murder in their eyes.

End of Chinese turn 4.  Disaster has struck Richard courtesy of a precocious Japanese halfsquad

The end when it came came quickly.  With his centre struggling Richard sent forward his flankers to take out my gun crew.  They managed to sneak up on my gun retaining concealment, for my part I kept my gunners crouched underneath their own concealment counter.  Into close combat Richard plunged with two squads and a leader against my mere crew.  From time to time in an abusive relationship the abuser will do something nice for his victim simply to keep them off balance.  Thus the dicebot tossed me a bone.  I ambushed him and in the subsequent CC I rolled a three killing the lot without a scratch on myself.  That was the end as far as Richard was concerned.  Casualties had been heavy and he had not yet managed to break through my defenders.  He conceded and the game was mine.  Richard later noted that he had assumed Chinese 537 squads would have assault fire and was a little offput when he found out they didn't.  I felt an incredibly smug sense of victory until I checked the ROAR results and realised the scenario is little more than a Chinese graveyard.  Many thanks to Richard for playing it anyway, wins against him are few (even by my standards) and I will take each one I get.

Endgame.  Flankers are gone.  Richard has rallied his centre but they have far to go and not much time

The colonel coughed up a little white phosphorous and attempted to focus his streaming eyes on his after action report.  "The gun crew covered themselves in glory," he wrote, "and Captain Nojutsu must be counted among the fallen."  He couldn't help smiling at those words.  The smile was wiped from his face when Nojutsu tapped on the door and tripped over the step attempting to enter the room.

"Nojutsu, I hoped, I mean I thought you were dead.  We heard nothing from your position."

"I got a little lost and led a bayonet charge in the wrong direction," admitted Nojutsu.

The colonel sighed and shook his head, "Never mind, just rejoin your platoon."

Nojutsu saluted and then hesitated.  The colonel pointed, "It's that way."

Nojutsu hastened off.

In his defence the colonel did say "Look out for the booby traps" on the other hand he did say it very quietly after Nojutsu had left the room.  The anguished scream which split the air was the sweetest sound the colonel had heard all day.

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Silly After Action Report - Ariete on Totensonntag

 Tenente Luigi di Gustation stopped papering over the cracks in his tanks armour and peered over at the lines of the 15th Panzer division.

"What the hell are they doing over there?  It looks like they're lining up for a military parade."

"Well it is Totensonntag," replied his driver who was busily packing sandbags onto the front of the vehicle.

"Toten what now?"

"Totensonntag, when the Germans commemorate their dead."

"If they attack like that they'll be joining them."  Di Gustation turned to a newly arrived staff officer.

"What are the Germans playing at?"

"Preparing for an attack," replied the staff officer.

"Well sooner them than us," replied di Gustation with some relief.

The staff officer gave an evil smile and produced an order.

"Oh you have got to be kidding me."

Richard Weilly kindly pandered to my predilection for the Italians and agreed to play MM33 - Ariete on Totensonntag.  The scene is the western desert (although technically all desert is west of somewhere) and we're neck deep in Operation Crusader.  Here the Germans decided to forgo all of that tedious tactical stuff and simply charge flat out at the South Africans holding positions to the south of Sidi Rezegh.  Because misery loves company they managed to "persuade" a decent amount of the Italian Ariete tank division to go with them.

The objective of the scenario from the Italian perspective is to capture or destroy three South African 25 pounder guns.  Of course to do that it is necessary to get past the rest of the defenders as well.  The Italians have a combined arms force made up of tanks, infantry and some almost self propelled guns.  My forces are as follows; three M13-40 tanks and three lorries carrying four squads of bersaglieri, two officers and a single light machine gun enter on the south and or west of board thirty.  On turn three (of five) four 65mm guns mounted on the back of captured Morris trucks.

To protect his precious 25 pounders Richard has three first line squads led by a single 8-0 leader and equipped with an lmg and an antitank rifle.  For some reason these three squads only get two sangars to shelter in.  In addition are the three 25 pounders themselves (again with only two sangars).  The 25s can only fire HE but even so have a decent chance of taking out the M13s.  Also on turn 3 a pair of Crusader I tanks roll on from the northwest to bolster the defence no doubt crumbling under the Italian hammer blows.  Light dust is in effect and wrecks (some of them burning) from previous attempts to do what I'm currently trying to do litter the battlefield.  In retrospect that should have been a warning.

End of Italian turn 1

Above is the situation at the end of Italian turn 1.  I brought my guys in from the west using the dust to hopefully screen the large and completely unprotected trucks.  Nevertheless my bersaglieri leapt from their vehicles with distinct sighs of relief and started inching their way towards the sangars that barred their way to the guns.  Richard took some shots with two of his guns but for the moment movement, dust and distance kept me protected.  His third gun remained invisible pretending that it wasn't in the only piece of scrub within his set up area.

My plan in case you're interested and as if it mattered was to take out his infantry and shift my tanks to the hillock in the northwest behind which they would hopefully hold off the reinforcing Crusaders.  With his infantry cleared away and my freshly arrived gun trucks providing support I hoped to be able to take out the guns.  

Anyway enough of such nonsense.  My troops crept forward towards the sangars while the tanks and trucks trailed their coats in front of his 25 pounders.  Devoid of their infantry my trucks were now dust generators until, inevitably, they got shot to pieces.

End of Italian turn 2

So far casualties had been light, a couple of trucks put out of action, but it has to be admitted that little had been achieved as well.  Richard's infantry still barred the way to my bersaglieri and my tanks had contributed little although they had amassed quite a collection of acquisition counters on themselves.  

In the British turn two things kicked off when I managed to break the MA of one of my M13s, that was a good start and I consoled myself with the thought that it wasn't much of a loss when Richard destroyed the thing with a 25 pounder shot a little later.  Richard also immobilised a second M13 and the crew declined to stay in their stationary metal box so I was suddenly reduced to one tank.  In the next turn that would break its MA too.  Despite the evaporation of their armoured support my infantry would leap into close combat with the most convenient South Africans and would actually succeed in killing them.  My gun trucks arrived just in time for Richard to run out of other things to shoot at.

Things have turned decidedly worse

Somehow the game stumbled on to the final turn (five).  Richard managed to destroy three of four gun trucks and his Crusaders turned up in time to kill my remaining largely impotent M13.  A parthian shot from my surviving gun truck did indeed break one of his gun crews but I had no way of getting to the others although my infantry (and a truck) did try.  Eventually I had to accept that the other two guns were beyond my reach.  According to the scenario card the Ariete were actually successful in this engagement, I'm not entirely sure how.  If I had my time again I might just try and charge directly for the guns and pray that he misses.


Some people win their games.  Those people are called "my opponents"

Tenente di Gustation looked around the battlefield for signs of his division.  Finding none he looked around for someone to surrender to.  Being equally unsuccessful in this endeavour he returned to his crew who were sheltering behind the wreck of their tank.

"Did we win?" asked his driver.

"I'm not sure anybody did," replied di Gustation.  "If anyone has reception can you call us an uber?

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Kill Yourself!! It Might be Fun

 I was strolling along on my way home from my place of work employment when I encountered a little poster in the window of an office building.  The poster had one of those little "seize the day" type messages that the author probably thought was profound.  The message read as follows;

"If you are are afraid to live your life because you might die then you have already died"

Which to me sounds like a marketing slogan for heroin.

There are no end of the supposedly uplifting little messages all of which boil down to "Behaving like a reckless idiot is fun."  Of course there is a certain level of truth to such statements.  Behaving like a reckless idiot is fun right up until the moment when it isn't.  At that point you just have to hope that whatever horrific consequence you're about to suffer doesn't destroy your memory as then you won't know why you're confined to a nursing home at the age of twenty three while an underpaid staffer mops drool off your chin and bathes you in kerosene.

I have my own glib little message, it goes; "Live every moment like it's your last and it probably will be."

 I am basically a positive human being and I always like to think the best of people.  For this reason I have ditched my original opinion that the writers of such gems are gabbling idiots and have come up with a far more respectful hypothesis.  I think they're trying to kill us.  I am always prepared to believe that a person is malicious rather than stupid because I think that is the nicer thing to believe.

In a stroke these comments are transformed from statements of vapid idiocy into an incredibly subtle attempt by the indirectly murderous to thin the human herd.  By wrapping up their nihilistic messages of doom in an apparently upbeat package they can persuade the more gullible to proactively engineer their own destruction.  

Let us take a moment to admire the self effacing genius of these killers.  Not for them the opportunity of gloating over a mutilated corpse with a bloodied axe in hand.  No; it is sufficient for them to sit at home, comfortably anonymous, perhaps watching television with loved ones/future victims secure in the knowledge that thanks to them someone somewhere is attempting to seize the day and will wind up with their vital organs several feet from the remainder of their body. 

Such messages have a long history dating back to the hoary old original "there is nothing to fear but fear itself."  This was the first attempt at indirect murder but it wasn't particularly successful because the statement was so obviously untrue.  There are plenty of things to fear apart from fear itself; bears, wolverines, traffic accidents, outraged husbands, infuriated wives, mildly annoyed second cousins with anger management issues and access to firearms.  The list goes on.  

Todays indirect murderer has advanced long past such neophyte attempts at execution.  Not only can they claim a healthy crop of victims but if they are really good then one day one of their creations will appear on a desk calendar; discreetly credited to "anon" of course.  For the truly exceptional the need for anonymity disappears and they can have speaking tours, book sales and interviews on whatever passes for prime time television these day.  Meanwhile professional assassins stare with seething jealously at their kill rate and start making their own plans.  Oh that's something else that can kill you; jealous assassins.  Possibly it would be better to stick with the discreet desk calendar after all.

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Travelling Pathetically - Coastal Edition

 They say that optimism is the triumph of hope over experience.  In an attempt to provide a practical example of the preceding my two friends who joined me walking around North Head joined me on what was supposed to be a walk from Clovelly to Bondi.  Despite the experiences of the previous walk I thought there would be an enjoyable stroll, pausing to take pictures of such scenery as presented itself while at least one of my friends envisioned a cross between a power walk and a death march.  The other friend I'm sure simply came along for the amusement value.  

Manly Dam is still on the agenda at some point when you don't need scuba gear to get around it but given the problematic weather of late we have put it off to an unspecified date in the future.  The problematic personalities will likely cause issues of their own.

Clovelly to Bondi is hardly ploughing through the bush.  It's an established walking path, fully sealed and occupied by tourists, locals and at least one obnoxious jogger.  Still the scenery is supposed to be nice (to be fair its difficult to mess up ocean meeting land as far as scenery is concerned) and if violence broke out between us rescue wouldn't be too far away.  

We met at Clovelly Surf Life Saving Club at 9.30am and by that I mean we didn't meet at 9.30am.  I turned up at 9.30am wandered around, got a coffee, looked at the ocean wandered around some more and eventually met one of my friends while I was wondering if I could decently leave before he arrived.  There was then more hanging around waiting for the third musketeer.  To be fair the late runner had the greatest distance to travel, he's also the oldest of us so it was entirely possible he had forgotten where he was meant to be going.  Such unworthy suspicions were put to rest when he arrived and promptly disappeared into the nearest public toilet.  The amount of teeth grinding exhibited by my other companion should have been a warning.

I had tried to be helpful by taking a couple of photos before the others arrived.  This didn't stop them from greeting the sight of the camera with sheer incredulity.  I couldn't have astonished them more if I had lit my cigarette with flint and steel.

A pre-walk photograph

Eventually about an hour after our intended departure time we set off.  Rubbing shoulders with a disturbing number of people (to be fair my definition of a disturbing number is now "more than one") we pointed our noses in the general direction of Bondi and ordered our legs to follow.  Some of us ordered their legs to follow a little faster than others.  In my defence I had pointed out that the whole point behind my going for walks was to amble along at a sedentary pace and take photos.  This did not generate a great deal of sympathy.  

The draw card of the walk is coastline, liberally festooned with cliffs and the occasional beach.  The sea was doing its best to be helpful drawing itself up imposingly and slamming against aforementioned cliffs with great gusto.  I paused for photos, dashed to catch up and paused for photos again.  My progress must have looked like I was having difficulty changing gears.

Again before we started walking

Despite my interrupted progress we were making what seemed to me to be good time, particularly since I didn't have any particular time in mind.  It is fair to say that this was not the opinion of everyone on our little trek.  Along the way at least two of us admired some of the houses we encountered.  I took a photo of at least one.

I'll bet you expected this to be a photo of a house

We passed places where people lived and encountered somewhere they definitely didn't.  Waverley Cemetery must be one of the highest rent burial grounds in the world.  My property developer friend shed a tear of genuine pain as we passed.  I suppose its churlish to expect good house keeping from the dead but cemeteries have always struck me as being rather messy looking places with headstones and the like scattered all over the place.  It's like littering done in stone.  I'm sure there is an order to the place but I got a definite "just toss the corpses in wherever they'll fit" vibe as I passed by. 

A cemetery, if you dig too close to the edge you may wind up with a sea burial

With the cemetery behind us there was nothing for it but to go on enjoying the sea lowering its head and charging full tilt at the land.  The weather was grey and the air was misty, these are the excuses I'm giving for the poor quality of the photos and you're just going to have to accept it.

Sea, cliff and cemetery, my cup runneth over

In the fullness of not very much time we encountered Tamarama Beach.  I realise I have completely passed over Bronte.  All I can say to that is that I didn't notice it at the time and I can't really say all that much about it now.  Tamarama Beach however drew us in.  Firstly there was stuff scattered all over the beach.  I thought it was children's playground equipment but it turned out to be Sculptures by the Sea.  In fact if they were any more by the sea they would have been under it.  Something I thought was a garbage bin may have been a sculpture or possibly a garbage bin.  I wasn't quite game enough to toss my cigarette butt into it in case I was considered a cultural vandal.

A sculpture by the sea or possibly beach obstacles to prevent an invasion


The second thing that attracted us at Tamarama Beach was a cafe; coffees and hot chocolates were acquired not without difficulty as the gentleman serving us apparently had some problem understanding us despite the fact that everyone involved was speaking English.  We sat down and enjoyed our somewhat difficult to obtain beverages and started to chat.  It became very obvious that we would be going no further today.

It is a sad indication of our increasing years that the dominating topic of our conversation was our respective health and the various issues we were undergoing.  Eavesdroppers were probably expecting us to keel over on the spot.  After half an hour of this conversation I was a little astonished that we had made it this far without a fatality.

The reason for our ending our walk here was that one of our number (not the property developer, the other one) was eager to get home and greet his wife who was returning from a sojourn on a different continent that day.  We expressed our skepticism at this but we couldn't shake his story and eventually had to accept it.  Since both my companions had parked at Clovelly they had to retrace their steps and because I had nothing better to do I went with them.  Along the way I stopped to take photos of bits of the sea that had missed my camera on the way out.

The same sea but from a different direction

As is always the case the journey back seemed to take less time than the journey outward.  We passed by the cemetery again and I waved in what I hoped was a friendly fashion.  None of the occupants waved back.  This is one of the advantages of being dead, you don't have to worry about social niceties.

We had almost arrived back at our starting point when my attention was attracted by a small bird.  Clutching my camera I pointed it at the bush the thing was hiding in and took a photo.  Dissatisfied with the results I took several more equally unsatisfactory photos before I gave up and joined my friends who after a brief discussion decided not to murder me.

Probably the best of a not particularly good bunch of bird photos

It was decided that on the whole if Manly Dam ever does rise from beneath the waters that perhaps the property developer and I might like to enjoy it ourselves without the input of the third member of our somewhat shabby triumvirate.  On this note of rare unanimity we made our way home.

Here is the house photo because I know you've been waiting for it

Sunday, October 23, 2022

Silly After Action Report - Bullseye!

Major Karl-August von Misseltow looked up as a stern faced policeman was ushered into the room.

"Are you Hauptmann Erich Lueger?" demanded the officer.

"My name is von Misseltow," replied the major stiffly and tapped the rank badges on his shoulder.  The policeman looked a little confused.

"Apologies Herr Major, is this the headquarters of the 25th panzer grenadier division?"

"No, its the headquarters of the 107th panzer brigade.  I think you have the wrong address."

The police officer apologised again and departed.  Hauptmann Lueger stuck his head around the interior door.

"Thanks KA, I owe you one."

"You wouldn't have to owe me anything if you didn't keep trying to sell our vehicles on the black market.  Half the population of Holland must have a Panther in their garage by now."

"Nah, late model Panzer IVs are the big seller.  Solid, reliable and no tendency for the gearbox to tear itself out of the engine."

"We need a Panther for the attack tomorrow, are there any left?"

"No problem KA, someone just forfeited their deposit so we're good to go."

"Do you have to call me that?"

"Sorry, it's just that Karl-August is a bit of a mouthful."

"It's better than the name my younger brother got."

"What's his name?"

"Karl-September von Misseltow."

With it being my turn to select a scenario I dug around in a pile of mouldering cardstock and, coughing and waving away the dust, I managed to produce ESG 101 - Bullseye! despite the desperate protests of paper lice trying to feed their families.  This scenario involves the German 107th panzer brigade, commanded by me, trying to capture the bailey bridge at the town of Son and bring an end to Operation Market Garden.  Richard Weilly would command the defending Americans.

To win the Germans, who start on one side of the bridge need to get two or more squads onto or over said bridge to the other side.  Standing in their way are headquarters elements of the 101st airborne division.  To complete my mission I have nine squads (four elite and five first line) two of which obviously have to survive to the end, a trio of light machine guns, two medium machine guns and a 50mm mortar.  Three officers including a 9-1 lead.  Armoured support is present in the form of a Panther tank, a StuG IIIG two half tracks and a PSW 232 armoured car.

Richard has the equivalent of six squads of elite paratroopers with three medium machine guns, a 60mm mortar and a pair of 1944 bazookas led by four officers including a 9-2.  A 57mm antitank gun is also present as are a pair of jeeps armed with machine guns.

We started the game and immediately ran into a problem.  The special rules noted that the jeeps could not be scrounged and a debate ensued as to whether abandoning the jeeps and taking the machine guns with you counted as "scrounging".  Eventually we decided to go black letter law which defined scrounging as taking weapons from abandoned vehicles and since the jeeps weren't abandoned the crews could indeed take their weapons with them when they left.  This added another mmg and a .50cal to the American OOB.

At start

Above is the set up.  The ground is moist making off road movement for vehicles a little more difficult.  I have set up with two forces, one based around the Panther coming in from the east and the other with the StuG rolling on from the south.  My plan, in so far as I had one was to use the StuG to smoke out the steeple where I figured he would have at least one machine gun and move up from the south while the eastern force would skirt the orchard and capture the wooden buildings to give me a base to dispose of his troops south of the canal.  The Panther would take advantage of its supposed invulnerability to try and beat up on his troops in buildings on the other side of the canal.

End turn 1


So things haven't turned out too badly at the end of the first turn.  I have the eastern buildings and have my StuG set up to dump smoke on the steeple which in the next turn it dutifully did.  The armoured car as away in the east because I used it to chase away Richard's mortar team which had been sitting in the open on the other side of the canal.  My own mortar is settling itself for taking long range shots at the centre woods to discourage defenders from hanging around there.

End of German turn 2

It's fair to say I lost the game on this turn.  The Americans are allowed to HIP one MMC and I suspected that the little patch of woods in the East would be the perfect place.  I was proved correct when they popped up and fried the armoured car in defensive fire.  I wasn't daunted, I had kept a squad back for this precise purpose and advanced them into close combat with the bazooka wielding halfsquad.  The next turn Richard would roll snake eyes in CC killing the squad and generating a leader for the half squad which was now happily placed in the rear of my Panther.  From this point on I was looking in two directions at once and my concentration suffered.  Still his steeple troops were smoked out and the remainder of my troops were creeping forward towards his defenders.

A mild breeze sprang up distributing smoke evenly along the front line I pressed forward with my southern infantry I rolled my halftracks into the village street to provide a little cover for my troops.  I didn't really mind if they got destroyed, either way they were cover.  Reluctantly I had to send troops back to the East in an attempt to dissuade his new embolden halfsquad from hitting my Panther in the rear with a bazooka.  This they managed for a turn or two.

End of German turn 3

Richard surprised me by skulking the majority of his troops south of the canal rather than defend the buildings to the bitter end (this is why he's a better player than I am, well that and the mental stability).  With the number of machine guns he was accumulating across the canal he didn't really need to defend too vigorously.  While his troops were there I could hardly just charge for the bridge.  I ground forward catching some of his troops in close combat (because apparently I never learn).  I moved the StuG forward to provide a little more cover for the Panther.  Apparently I had forgotten that I was supposed to be getting across the bridge, I was bogged down grinding through his southern defenders while my armour support was apparently terrified of getting its paint scratched.

End of German turn 4

To be fair progress was being made but to be very fair it wasn't being made anywhere near quickly enough.  Richard also chose this moment to unveil his 57mm atg lurking in the brush near the canal.  That wasn't a surprise, it made short work of my surviving halftrack although the ensuing smoke didn't exactly help its cause.  Richard threw back his head and laughed at the smoke.  We were playing on VASL so I didn't actually see that but I'm assuming he did.  It was the sort of thing I'd do myself.  Then he fired through the smoke (and through my Panther) to kill my inoffensive StuG hiding in the orchards.

End of Allied turn 4

There are no more photos as I was too blinded by tears to take them.  Suffice to say that with two turns to go and my Panther focussed more on the bazooka team sidling up behind them it was down to my infantry to hurl themselves recklessly against the defenders and hope for luck.

Hurl themselves recklessly they did (I'm more suited to World War I generalship than World War II to be honest).  My men fought, crumbled and died.  The survivors almost reached the canal bank but it was a last gasp.  Meanwhile the Panther having failed to hurt the bazooka team with either its MA or machine guns dutifully erupted into flames when a rocket went up its rear.  No that's not innuendo you just have a filthy mind.  Battered and mangled I gave the concession while I still had a few troops alive.  In truth I obsessed over the well being of the Panther so much that I didn't really use it for anything productive.  Many thanks to Richard for the game which at least appeared competitive for a few turns.  I tend to be foolishly reckless with my armour.  On this occasion I was foolishly cautious.  Who says I'm not versatile.

Major von Misseltow stared at the battlefield in dismay.

"Should we send for vehicle reinforcements?"

"Hell no," replied Lueger, "I've got orders to fill."

Von Misseltow sent the retreat order while Lueger gazed at the wrecked vehicles speculatively.

"Can I interest you in a slightly shop soiled PSW 232?"

"It's on fire," retorted von Misseltow.

"Ten percent off."

"Make it fifteen."