Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Great Sheep

I was looking back at the earlier post about Robert the Bruce, and that of course led me to think of William Woolace, and on to other great sheep in history. Rameses, of course. Wooliam Tell. The famous lovers Rameo and Ewe-liet. The Red Baa-ron. The Greek playwright Eweripides.


Josh made his scuba qualifying dives this weekend, so he's certified and, as far as I know, no sharks or salt water crocs were involved.

Monday, March 29, 2010


I've come across a free copy of Soldier Raj. The other Avalanche Press products I've seen have not impressed me in terms of rules and game design; however, the graphics are usually great, and rules can be re-written if need be. The game covers one of my favorite subjects, so from my point of view it's worth trying.

And after much thought, I've come to the conclusion that De Bellis Antiquitas and its relatives just aren't convincing for me. Army formations are unreasonably rigid, combat outcomes are unrealistic, command ability is too variable and morale effects are nil. One of the great things about DBA, though, is that you can look up armies from 3000BC to AD1900, including plenty that you'd otherwise never hear of. And with Hordes of the Things, if you want to pit Timurid forces against Napoleonic Elves, or Barsoomian Green Men, or zombies, or Lost Worlds tribesmen riding dinosaurs, you can. So I'm mulling over ways to get the effects I want, keeping the flexibility without making an unwieldy game.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Robert the Bruce

On March 25, 1306, Robert the Bruce was crowned King of Scotland.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Kingdom of Mysore

I'm reading up on Indian history during the time of the East India Company and the Raj. Conveniently, it happens that today's Wiki front page article is on the political history of Mysore and Coorg. At one point, the Kingdom of Mysore covered about 62,000 square miles; compare that to 50,000 square miles for England.

John Quincy Adams

Wherever the standard of freedom and independence has been or shall be
unfurled, there will her [America's] heart, her benedictions and her
prayers be. But she goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy.
--John Quincy Adams (1767-1848)

hat tip: Tom Barclay

Monday, March 22, 2010


Step 1 for my trip: buy the plane tickets. Check. I'll be departing June 30.

On the river

I took the kayak out yesterday, for the first trip this season. The marsh grass is still gray with mud from high tides, but you can see the beginnings of green near the roots. The bushes along the water's edge are still mostly bare, but then you'll see one branch that's covered with new leaves. A Canada goose in someone's lawn over here, another one over there, four mallards swimming under a dock. A forsythia covered in gold blooms. And as I'm sitting at my desk looking out the back window, I just saw a bald eagle swoop in and land on a tree limb across the river.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Spring is here

We finally have some nice weather -- defined as "not raining, temperature over 70." Yesterday we had a few daffodils blooming, today they and the pansies are all out. Buds on the branches, Canada geese honking as they skim by. Time to get the kayak out.

Speaking of kayaks...if you go to Google Maps and ask for directions from Virginia Beach to Brisbane by car, you'll get directions, including Kayak across the Pacific Ocean, 2756mi from Seattle to Hawaii, then another 3879 miles to Japan (when the directions switch from English to Japanese), then another 3358 miles to Australia (and back to English). Total 16,017 miles, in 56 days 5 hours. About 5 days of that is driving, which means you're expecting to kayak 10,000 miles in 50 days, or about 8 miles an hour. Might need to invest in a kayak sail.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Spring Gremlins

The gremlins are out in force.
Last night around midnight, the power went out for no obvious reason--no storm, no wind, no transformer going BOOM, just abruptly dark.
This morning we went to rent a power washer. The two they had on site wouldn't start, although the employees said the machines had worked last week. The boss went and got a third machine, which did start.
Got the washer home and onto the back deck, turned the hose on, whereupon the hose connection at the nozzle came apart in an obviously irreparable way.
"Okay," I mutter, "we have a hose on the side of the house too, I'll go and get that"--but as I do, the handle of the screen door comes off in my hand.
Despite this, we've persevered and the deck is getting cleaned. I'm typing while waiting for Diana to make a gasoline run. And you can be sure I'll double check to see that it actually posted.

Later: Saturday night we lost power again, for about two and a half hours. But at least we got a nice, unambiguous boom as a transformer blew.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


If you haven't heard of Sir Harry Flashman (VC, KCB, KCIE, coward, bully and all around scoundrel), and if you're interested in Victorian era history, you have something to look forward to. George MacDonald Fraser put his antihero through most of the interesting events between 1839 to 1894, including the First Anglo-Afghan War, the charge of the Light Brigade, the American Civil War, the Indian Mutiny--and lesser known events, such as a battle between the White Rajah of Sarawak and the Borneo pirates, or the British expedition against Theodore of Abyssinia. The footnotes are extensive, some of the most outlandish people were real, and many of the unbelievable events actually happened. I just finished Flashman's Lady and am halfway through Flashman in the Great Game.

Sunday, March 14, 2010


Mark Boone came over for my first game of Hannibal. I played the Carthaginians, which is a bit of a challenge; I've heard that Avalon Hill, back in the day, said it would take 6-8 games for the Carthaginian to figure out the winning strategies. I can tell you a couple of things to avoid, though. Don't get too close to Rome early in the game, while the Romans still have all their allies; and don't get caught in Cisalpine Gaul with a big Roman army in front of you, the Alps behind you, and nowhere to retreat to. I'm usually quite aggressive but I think as Hannibal, you can't just charge into Italy and attack; you have to take your time and use the event cards to get control of provinces while you build up your army. The combat system is a bit odd but the strategic game is simple to learn but fraught with tough choices, which makes it enjoyable.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

She walks in Beauty

She walks in Beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that's best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellowed to that tender light
Which Heaven to gaudy day denies.
One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impaired the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o'er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express,
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.

And on that cheek, and o'er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!
--Lord Byron


How much is a trillion?
Sometimes, not much. According to PopSci, "If the LHC [Large Hadron Collider] was operating at its full 7 trillion electron volt capacity, the colliding particles' energy would equal what you'd get from eating 0.00013 micrograms of a candy bar."
On the other hand, if we're talking about a trillion dollars, that's a bit more than 39,763,012 years of the median annual income for Americans over age 18.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Broccoli Thief

We had broccoli growing in our garden over the winter. It survived getting snowed on multiple times, including last Tuesday. We looked at it Sunday, and it was making progress, in a slow, vegetable kind of way. And then....cue creepy music....it disappeared. Somewhere between Sunday afternoon and Monday evening, something got at it and apparently ate it all the way down to the root. A raccoons? Birds? Sea monsters from the river?

Sunday, March 7, 2010


Finally, decent weather. Not warm, exactly, but no frost, and gardening seemed like it might become viable again. We've already got some starter lettuce plants in the kitchen. The main activities have been spring cleaning, reading, Warcraft, and a little writing. We experimented yesterday morning with baked French toast, in an attempt to avoid it being soggy. Next time I believe I'll finish it in the frying pan after baking it. The other alternative called for six slices of bread and eight cup of oil, which seemed a little excessive. Tonight's dinner was a very enjoyable cheese fondue, followed by fresh strawberries.


After a nearly six-month interlude, I've begun posting again on my blog of vignettes, scenes, characters, and snippets.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Paul Emil von Lettow-Vorbeck

Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck was commander of the German East African colonial forces in World War I, waging a successful guerrilla campaign against British forces in Uganda, Kenya and Rhodesia. He was successful in his first battle, the defense of Tanga against a British amphibious invasion, even though his forces were outnumbered eight to one; and he continued, outnumbered and living off what he could capture, but nonetheless undefeated through the end of the war.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Steve Jackson

On this day in 1990, Steve Jackson Games was raided by the US Secret Service, basically because someone at SJG knew someone who knew someone who knew someone who knew someone who may have been an illegal hacker. The SS--Secret Service, that is, not the Nazi one--kept files and computer equipment and didn't even divulge the reason for the raid until October 21, more than six months later. SJG came close to going out of business, but managed to survive and eventually proved in court that the government is both a sinister conspiracy of power-mad oppressors and a bunch of incompetent ham-fisted buffoons at the same time. So stop by Warehouse 23 and buy something to support Steve Jackson. Fnord.