Saturday, June 27, 2009

Battle off Ushant

We drove to DC today for a Close Action game, with the scenario being a hypothetical action between French and British squadrons off Ushant in 1782. I don't have a copy of the scenario, but it was seven Brits (including a 98 gun flagship, two 64s and four 74s) against seven French (a 100 gun flagship and six 74s). The French had an advantage in firepower; the British had an advantage in position and more experienced players.
The Brits start off on a broad reach on the port tack; the French are close hauled, also on the port tack, and should get to the intercept point first. In this case the French immediately turned and withdrew downwind; the British line headed toward the middle of the French formation, threatening to break the line. The French turned back to close hauled. Our lead British ship, not finding a good opening to penetrate the French line, swooped down under full sails to lay alongside the third French ship. That turned out to be more aggressive than was good for him, and he lost a couple of masts. At this point the French were in a creditable line, albeit a bit more strung out than ideal; our side could be described three two-ship columns plus our "forlorn hope" out in front. My division, the British rear, had stayed to windward, so we swept past the rest of our fleet and forced the French van to turn away; meanwhile the rest of the Brits had mixed it up with the French center. After some scrambling, this resolved to a line of three French getting rough handling from five Brits, while a little distance away was me and the other four French were circling around. I was off on my own, having creatively interpreted my admirals orders (i.e. did what he wanted, rather than what he said), and trying the herd the French. I eventually decided that disrupting their maneuvering would be worth the damage I'd take from being the only target handy, so I plowed through the middle of them. As a result, my ship got shot up, but my comrades were able to come engage the French successfully; I believe the final conclusion was that we captured six of the seven.
Josh captained the third ship in our line (no, he wasn't the reckless British lead ship, that was someone else) and did a good job dishing out damage, mostly playing conservatively and supporting the line. The three new players on the French side played well, and all present enjoyed the game.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Religion for Others

   I'm attempting to read Christopher Hitchens' book God is Not Great, and finding it slow going. Sometimes he is excellent--I don't entirely agree with his position on waterboarding but you couldn't ask for a better article on it than the one he wrote--but sometimes you get the feeling that he lost his train of thought and just kept writing anyway. Sometimes it seems as if he'd be content to say "I'm an atheist, that guy's a Christian, this one is a Jew, the other one is a Buddhist, let's all leave each other alone"; but then a few paragraphs later, he's saying "Religion poisons everything."
    Granted, a lot of things have been done, and are being done, in the name of Christianity which no actual believer would ever countenance; there are plenty of Jews who don't follow their religion; I don't imagine anyone thinks Mohammed would approve of Sunni fighting Shia, and so forth. Some atheists argue that because evil has been done in the name of religion, therefore religious faith should be abolished (I'm not sure whether Hitchens is taking that position or not). However, evil has also been done in the name of atheism--arguably more, by the USSR and Red China, than by any religion--so we'd need to abolish that too and then what would we have?
   Nonetheless, saying "I had a bad experience at the hands of some Christians" is like saying "I had horrible parents when I was growing up" or "I was in an awful marriage" or "My government really abused me" or "I was miserable in high school." Okay, all those things do happen, and shouldn't. But it does not follow that therefore children should be raised in creches instead of by their parents, that no one should be married, that all governments are evil and anarchy is the only acceptable option, or that no one should get an education. Whether your faith is true or not is a separate question, but I just don't see that a faith is rendered invalid because some of the people who profess to believe it don't live up to it.

One for the Morning Glory

If you've read anything else by John Barnes, you owe it to yourself to forget that and read One for the Morning Glory. Not that Barnes' other books (A Million Open Doors, etc) are bad, but they're entirely different--this one is a lot more like A Princess Bride or A Face in the Frost, almost like some of the Discworld books but with more subtle hunor.

The tale is of prince Amatus, who drinks of the Wine of the Gods and grows up with his left side missing--not invisible, just not there at all. He grows up with an exiled princess and dashing friends, and with four Companions:
One for the morning glory,
Two for the evening dew,
Three for a man who will stand his ground,
And four for the love of you.

He leads a venture into goblin territory, meets the Riddling Beast and the notorious robber chief Dean Dick Thunder, and defeats a vampire, and battles Waldo the Usurper.

If you read fantasy or fairy tales, One for the Morning Glory should be on your must-read list.

The War for All The Oceans

If you've read an introduction to the Napoleonic Wars, you probably know that the British Navy crushed the Franco-Spanish fleet at Trafalgar (1805) so badly that there were no naval actions after that; that the largest British expeditionary force was in French-occupied Spain during the Peninsular War; that prisoners of war gave their parole and were regularly exchanged; that Napoleon was a prisoner at Elba; and that the two men most responsible for defeating Napoleon were Admiral Nelson and the Duke of Wellington.

Then you read something like The War for All The Oceans and you find out that your introductory class was, at best, incomplete. Roy and Lesley Adkins follow admirals, captains, ensigns and press ganged sailors through the war from the Battle of the Nile (1798) through Waterloo (1815). It turns out the largest British invasion was aimed at Antwerp but didn't make it, at least in part because the plans were kept secret and the army's medical establishment didn't know they needed to be prepared for malaria. When Napoleon was deposed the first time, the Allies installed him as a sovereign ruling Elba, with French guards serving him. The British had a "sloop" in the Caribbean which was actually a rowboat; it was designated as a sloop as an administrative convenience in dealing with the gun crews on Diamond Rock. And the one of whom Napoleon said "That man made me miss my destiny"? Not Nelson, not the Duke -- it was Sir Sidney Smith.

A good history, well written and interesting.

Monday, June 22, 2009

View from our bedroom

This was at sunset tonight

Art show

Every few months, Virginia Beach hosts an art show on the boardwalk. We went this weekend and picked up an ikebana vase of spalted maple, made by Mr. Tonnie Harrelson of Georgia.

Father's Day

When Josh was eight or nine, he wanted a dog; however, the situation did not lend itself to our becoming dog owners at that point. So I said "Grrr! Woof!", and with some wrestling and rolling around on the floor, Josh was happified and I acquired the family nickname Dog. So for Father's Day some years ago, I got this:

What more could I ask for?

Friday, June 19, 2009


Rained so hard last night that, standing by our bedroom door to the balcony, I could feel the floor vibrate from the water drumming on the deck. Everything's clear and calm this morning.

Edit: There's a news report of a waterspout in the Bay, visible from Chick's Beach.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Fighting slavery

I haven't looked into these organizations yet, but here's an article about Polaris Project, including the National Human Trafficking Resource Center.

John Ringo has also recommended the Helen Bamber Foundation.

Friday, June 12, 2009


On Sunday, the tomatoes were entirely green, and it was obvious that it would be quite a while before they were ripe. Wednesday the first one was ripe. Now we're thinking about salsa and ketchup. We also had the first few peas, and the peppers are starting to show more than just leaves.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Cobalt Grill

"Let's go somewhere we haven't been," so we went to the Cobalt Grille for dinner this evening. It was quiet and only had a couple of tables occupied at when we arrived at 6:30, although I gather it's busier on the weekends. Menu was mainly seafood although they did have a couple of steaks available. I had an appetizer, "Kobe beef carpaccio, drizzled with white truffle and chili oil and shaved Parmesan." It turns out that "carpaccio" means "paper thin and raw", although that didn't really matter since all I tasted was the chili oil and Parmesan. Diana had the salmon and enjoyed it. Afterwards I had doughnut holes--fresh, warm, cinnamon covered--with caramel and raspberry dipping sauces and, yum, honey whipped cream. Next time I may just skip dinner and go straight to the dessert. Total for one appetizer, one main course, one dessert, two coffees, $47 plus tip.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


As this week's microadventure, I tried a restaurant I haven't been to before and ordered Bosnian chevapi. It turns out to be something like beef sausages served on flatbread, with a sour cream and cucumber dip on the side.

Drunken sailors

"If our politicians started spending like drunken sailors, it would in fact represent a dramatic improvement."
--Glenn Reynolds, Instapundit

Monday, June 8, 2009

Sights while driving

We live near Oceana Naval Air Station, so warplanes are usually overhead--mostly Hornets. Today I was driving under one of the landing patterns and saw, for the first time, a pair of F22 Raptors.

Also saw a girl in a bikini riding her bike along Laskin Road. Summer must be near.

Saturday, June 6, 2009


1944, the Allied invasion of Normandy, France.
British, Canadian, Australian, French, American, Polish, and Norwegian forces versus German. Total losses (killed, wounded, captured) on both sides, about 16,000 men--that is, about the same as all the male undergrads at Purdue or Michigan State. 

Friday, June 5, 2009

June 5, 1989

Tank Man took a stand in front of the tanks at Tienanmen Square. 

Monday, June 1, 2009

Matthew 5:48

This is the verse that reads "Be ye therefore perfect, even as our Father in heaven is perfect." If you go to church more often than Christmas and Easter, you've heard it. Sounds like a high standard, doesn't it?
It's worse than you think.
First, it comes at the end of the section which I'll paraphrase as:
Everyone knows that you're supposed to love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I'm telling you, love your enemy. Do good things for the people who're working against you. The woman who got you fired so she could get the promotion you wanted? Be nice to her. The couple across the street who're afraid of you because you're a pervert? Yeah, go out of your way to be nice to them. The foul-mouthed guy down the block who keyed your car? He's the guy you have to bless. The sister who's not on speaking terms with you? Call her. The people who are voting to mortgage your children's future, or take away your civil rights, or bankrupt the country, or deny health care, or ...yeah, those are the people you have to show love to.

Yeah, you can just look out for your buddies; you can be nice to the people who're nice to you. So what? Even traitors and criminals do that. Living up to that standard gets you nothing. Therefore, you need to be perfect ....

Wait a minute, we hit the really rough part there. The "you" Our Lord was talking to wasn't some "them" out there that I can ignore, that I can point at and say "Hey, you're not measuring up!" He was talking to
me. I'm the one who has to be perfect. I don't get to tell other people that they need to live up to this standard; I have to live up to it myself. 

And the mind-blowing part? That verse finishes--again, slightly amplified:
Just the same way that our Father in heaven--who is constantly getting slandered and reviled and cursed and opposed--is perfect.