Work related posts have been moved.

9 November, 2010

My work and computing related posts are now at

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The First Dryad

6 October, 2015

Andy asked us to write a story involving our character. I suppose I have disqualified myself, because this isn’t directly related to James, but it’s the thing I decided during session that it would be cool to write.

Anyway. This is an origin story for the dryads. Like most things I write, it makes complete logical sense. I have attempted to write it in accordance with the conventions of, shall we say, a certain specific genre.

Should I actually post this? Is this a good idea?

Fukkit – let’s do it.

Long ago, sometime near the dawn of the world, a shepherd went on spirit quest.

His name is not important, and would only sound uncouth and strange to modern ears. He was shaggier than men today, not as tall, his jaw and brow more pronounced, and more heavily muscled – cords and cables across his back, chest, down his legs and arms. He walked upright and barefoot, scanning the land about him. He wore only a raw leather strap around his waist and between his buttocks, holding a pouch in front. He carried a sling, and spear tipped with bone. His weapons he knew well. Many times he had wielded them against wolf and other predator come for his flock, many times had he protected the new lamb. But he carried no fire nor any means for making one, for he was on spirit quest.

He had been walking since the dark of the moon. The weather was warm and mild, for it was spring, and as the the moon drew to fullness it lit his way long into the evening.

His path took him to the valleys of the deep forest, where such as he did not normally tread. The tall oaks, the silent places. As the trees grew closer around him, he felt fear – but it was a right-feeling fear. Had he known the word, he would have called it awe. For days he wandered beneath the oaks. He ate acorns and strange fungi unknown to him. He drank water dark with tannin, tasting of peat and oak. No wolf troubled him, nor did he see any animal, not even birds as he went deeper. The trees whispered in the wind, the hanging moss dripped water on him, the whole forest warm and humid. He began seeing visions – movement where there was none, the words of the whispering oaks almost understandable. They drew him onward, deeper.

On the fifth day, just after the sun set and the full moon began her circuit of that night’s sky, he found the clearing. The oaks had drawn back, and in the centre was a single she-apple tree. She was young and slim, but had flowered these past three seasons. A bird had dropped her seed far, far from the shores where apples grew, and she had grown alone this oak grove, and so she had never fruited. She was in full bloom now, for it was spring, and the clearing was sweet with the smell of apple blossom.

As he approached, the breeze rustled her new spring leaves, her mostly bare twigs. An odd, dry, woody sound


He set his sling and spear aside and approached. She was a little less than twice his height, her trunk perhaps a span and a half across. He began searching in the moonlight for a place about her roots to sleep for the night – he had long since ceased to worry about being attacked as he slept. His bare feet stepped lightly around her, his hands feeling for a suitable place. The moss about her was thick and soft. Her bark was fine, smooth, unblemished.

Curious in the moonlight, or perhaps for the tactile pleasure of it, he began to explore more of her trunk. He measured the span of her with his hands, he reached up to where her branches began, exploring the hollows and the joins of the shape of her. He lightly scratched her bark, and smelled her sap-smell, her apple smell. She swayed lightly in the breeze, her twigs whispered


He drew back, feeling somewhere a warning, a reminder. Here in this holy place he was close to transgressing a boundary. There was something forbidden here. He looked around him. Perhaps he should leave, transgress no further. Again the feeling of fear came to him, that we would name awe. But he quest called to him, or something did. The oaks all around silent, revealing nothing.

He explored her a little more. He felt down the length of her and found, perhaps three feet above the ground, a knothole – a place where she has shed a branch in previous seasons. It was small, oval, the edges of it curiously thickened. In the moonlight, he traced the shape of it with the pad of his thumb. As he did, the she-apple exuded an odd, thin resin. A thread of scent from it tickled somewhere in the roof of his nose – there was apple in it, the tang of resin, something earthier, darker, more demanding, more necessary. As he ran his thumb around the knothole more and more resin been to drip, his fingers coming away wet and sticky.

The breeze picked up, and now the apple tree began to creak lightly as she swayed. She whispered “Ssseeeeee, ssseeeeee”, and the shepherd felt himself begin to quicken. He pressed himself to the apple tree, then held her, arms around her trunk as she swayed in the breeze, warm animal to cool wood, her top branches beginning to whip in the wind. It was not enough. He freed himself and joined with her, heedless as resinous, fragrant sap ran down his thighs and matted his hair. He abandoned himself to his spirit quest. “Ssseeeeee, ssseeeeee!” the apple tree cried in the breeze, her limbs and trunk creaking and groaning. She swayed and yielded, she trembled in the wind, moonlight streaming down on all until, at last, he gave her his gift.

In the morning, the shepherd awoke among the roots of the apple tree. He was covered in apple blossom petals, as was the ground all around. The tree’s blossoms had shed their petals, every one. Her limbs were bare now, save for shy green buds at intervals. He rose and looked about him. All was still. The oak trees remained at a respectful distance, inscrutable as before. The apple tree stood mute in the warming morning sun. The knothole was still there, and some evidence that he had not imagined the previous night. He decided that his spirit quest was probably done, and that he should return to his tribe and never say a word. He retrieved his spear and his sling, and – why, I do not know – laid his hand against the belly of the apple tree, silently wishing it his blessing.

Then he turned and left.

The she-apple bore no fruit that year. Instead, in autumn from her trunk she bore a daughter. Her name was Orlene, and she was the first dryad.

Wardstone with arduino

28 September, 2015

It ain’t finished yet, but here it is so far. I’m doing the electronics and the panels, Bevis is doing everything else :) .


I was concerned that the LEDs wouldn’t be bright enough, that it would be “is that turned on?”

Holy shit.

You can’t look directly into them. I mean, you can, but then its several seconds before you can look at anything else. With a nice orangy-yellow, this thing looks molten.

The main thing is that you cannot drive something like that off a digital out – you will fry your arduino. I am driving these with the 5v off the arduino board via a darlington pair array. This means that power is coming off the regulator, not off the microprocessor.

Darlington pair array chips are designed for stepper motors and will happily handle 24v. They switch fast and have almost no resistance when driven (otherwise driving a motor would let the smoke out). The arduino analog out is pulse-width modulated, so no worries. Don’t need to use the flyback diodes, because the load is not inductive.

The darlington array shorts its output to ground when driven, so this means using common-anode LEDs.

Wardstone-layout-1I will etch some eldrich runes into the panels with the dremel. The idea is that not only will this catch the light, but with 2 differently-coloured LEDs in the base, different parts should catch different bis of the light. The arduino has six analog outs, so the LEDs are wired up as two sets of four on opposite corners.

I used single-core hookup wire for the loom, which was probably a mistake.

As for code – I just bodged something up this evening. light cycles between reddish and yellowish every second or so, using a slightly different period for the two sets. Won’t really know how it looks with the runes until we have runes. May need to make the colours more dramatic.


  • move electronics onto a bit of veroboard, provide a controller of some kind – on/off at least. Might be nice to provide a pushbutton to make it strobe white, maybe some kind of “Oh Noes! The wardstobe has been corrupted!”. Our DM is being cagey, unfortunately, so I can’t be sure what he needs.
  • build obelisk that has been broken. Scribe runes first – we want the broken base to have enough runes to look kind of cool.

In defense of Brother Warming

27 September, 2015

So, Brother Warming-Light-Of-Saranrae executed a prisoner last session. It falls to me now to justify it so he does not lose his good alignment.

This may seem a little backwards to you, but we are writing fiction. I prefer to discover what my characters are like. This is very much like real life. Everyone’s untested opinion of themselves is usually wrong. We each discover what kind of person we are by our actions.

So we need a little background.

The city has become overrun with demons/devils. Massive disaster, war-of-the-worlds scenario. We have just discovered this after emerging from the underground.

We assisted an NPC to find her home and hopefully her wife. At her home, we were attacked by a dude who radiated evil (or detected as evil, anyway). We beat the dude, tie him up. Turns out he is a convicted criminal, and was waiting in this house specifically to murderfy our NPC.

After a bit of to and fro, my character – Brother Warming, went “right” and coup-de-grace’s the bastard while he was still bound.


⁂ ⁂ ⁂

On the night, I got it wrong. Really, I have been playing him wrong for weeks.

The dude was a convicted neer-do-well-er of some decription, probably quite a serious one. Maybe he was sentenced to death, maybe escaped, maybe wanted dead-or-alive. Maybe there was a warrant out for him. First, Br Warming didn’t know that; and second, that ain’t the reason.

Well, what else are we going to do with him? We can’t let him loose to hunt us down, can’t tie him up and leave him for the demons. Well, maybe that’s a contributing factor. It is not wrong to kill someone who has declared it their intent to kill you. And if it’s wrong to cut a dude’s head off, then leaving him to get eaten by the demons doesn’t become right just because to didn’t get your blade wet. So yeah, that’s part of the reason, but not the core of it.

Yes, the city is in turmoil and sometimes a warpriest has to step up and administer a little justice. But that’s not quite it either.

The core of it is this: the reason Brother Warming executed that bastard was to make the world a better place.

Br Warming is not Lawful Good, he is Neutral Good. Now, this is not to say that he holds the attitude that Lawfulness is neither good not bad. On the whole, Law is a good. Certainly not the greatest and most important good, but you know – it has its place. (Chaotic Good people can sometimes be inclined to feel that law in itself is basically a bad thing). But Br Warming is not going to feel a need to haul this dude up before a correctly constituted court, give him a lawyer and a six-week trial.

Oh sure, you have to be careful. Sure, it is better to do things properly. Sure, even though horrible miscarriages of justice happen all the time; on the whole the world is a better place for it. Vigilantes and mobs make terrible mistakes. Even priests od Saranrae make mistakes, it’s true. Going through channels and doing the procedure is usually the right thing.

But in a city that has demons crawling all over it, that has no functioning government? A murdering dirtbag like this? Nup. Sometimes it’s obvious what needs to be done, and if the paladins and priests of Iomedae are going to be squeamish and precious about their honour, then it falls to a warpriest of Sarenrae to do what obviously, obviously needs to be done.

The whole point of having laws at all is to make sure that people like this get executed (and that people not like this don’t). Sometimes it almost seems like Iomedae’s people think that the process itself is what matters. No. No it isn’t. This dude hung out in someone’s home to avenge himself on a judge by killing their partner. Any law that doesn’t result in this person being hanged, beheaded, or otherwise cleanly and humanely executed is not worthy of the name.

Br Warming is a sword of Sarenrae. Hers is the light that banishes darkness, that exposes and cleanses. Whether it’s demons, devils, or incorrigible murderers, Br Warming is prepared to do the necessary.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂

Now, I imagine that part of the whole campaign arc is the slippery slope to becoming a raving fanatic. Yep – totally this is a danger for Br Warming. Although I have played the “character turns evil” trope before and maybe it’s a bit old-hat.

There’s also the matter of his secret little background thingy, which the DM had us all pick one for our characters. Br Warming has to be particularly careful of his alignment. There’s a reason he chose Saranrae in particular for his god.

But I think his conscience is clean. This time.

James Mallard – bad magic, good magic

22 September, 2015


From: Lt James Mallard, Chancer’s Hope
To: Capt Gerard, Ebony Watch
To: Sir Leonard Griffinshart, Chancer’s Hope

Subj: Reactivation of Ebony Watch defensive node

  1. Summary of events

    1. I am currently acting as part of a team of civilian specialist, under the direction of Sir Leonard Griffishart.
    2. Our group’s current mission has resulted in us passing through Ebony Watch.
    3. On arrival in Ebony Watch, Lt Green apprised us that the previous CO had barricaded himself in the top level of the watchtower. This occurred several months ago.
    4. Lt Green requested our aid in the matter.

      Did this actually happen? I forget. But it’s his word against mine, so screw him.
    5. I and other members of our group investigated the tower on insert date here.
    6. We broke through the barricade barring the top floor of the tower. Within was the skeleton of the previous commander; a skeleton of some kind of reptilian humanoid, wearing the remains of robes; a large pile of gems and currency; and the defensive node.
    7. I investigated and reactivated the node. I attempted to alert it to the various magical disturbances in Ebony Watch which appear to be originating from the direction of The Eld.
    8. It was clear to me that the node had been tampered with. Various operating runes and link-lines had been altered.
    9. Correct reactivation of the node initiated a self-repair sequence, absorbing a portion of the pile of currency and gems for materials.
    10. Upon the reactivation of the node, the skeleton of the previous CO and the reptilian humanoid reanimated and attacked.
    11. The reptilian skeleton appeared to be illegally drawing arcane power from the node.

      Yeah – it wasn’t just trying to kill us, it was breaking the law!
    12. The skeleton of the previous CO kept repeating words to the effect of “No brother, I will not permit you”. (this is fairly typical of the undead – they can tend to replay whatever was occuring at the time of their deaths).
    13. We destroyed the remains of the reptilian arcanist. As we did, the remains of the previous CO also de-animated, saying “No brother, I will not let you – it is cursed”.
    14. During this fight, undead had reanimated around the tower. When the remains of the reptilian were destroyed, they de-animated. Regrettably, there may have been civilian casualties.
    15. The node now appears to be correctly operational.
  2. Evaluation

    I cannot make anything of the words of the commander’s remains beyond the obvious: that the reptilian humanoid was tampering with the node (which I gather has been inactive for many years), and that the commander stopped this at the cost of his own life. Any more than that would require knowledge of local events which I do not have.

    There appear to be some sort of magical attacks being made on the town currently, although they only appear to be probing at present. These attacks take the form of a music which seems to be making people aggressive or otherwise affects their emotions without their being aware of it. There has recently been some sort of unusual activity in the direction of The Eld (odd lights, mainly). As giants are known to use bardic magic it is possible that they are up to something, but at this stage I can only offer speculation.

    The nodes are intended as magical defenses of the empire and its outposts, but I do not know specifically what – if anything – the reactivated node will do with respect to this magic. Ebony Watch requires better information on its node from an empire arcanist.

  3. Recommendations

    1. Our team will be departing Ebony Watch this evening. As I have indicated, they are a team of civilians not in the chain of command and cannot be ordered to remain for an investigation. I request that we be permitted to depart without delay.
    2. Our team has retained some of the pile of loot in the tower in lieu of bounty or reward. I request that this be permitted. Our group is in need of supplies, and a reward would otherwise be customary in these circumstances. I myself have retained an amount of loot for supplies and spell components.
    3. The node should not be approached by untrained personnel or civilians. It is, as far as I can determine, fully operational and will defend itself.
    4. The node is now in communication with other defensive nodes of the empire. In due course, an arcanist will be dispatched to investigate its reactivation. I recommend that Ebony Watch make every effort to expedite this. The town will require an empire arcanist to manage and monitor the node on an ongoing basis.
    5. No attempt should be made to replace the roof of the tower at any time. Nodes require line-of-sight to the sky. This is why the node removed the roof of the tower when it was reactivated. Even a tarpaulin over the roof will be treated similarly. If the tower leaks during the rain, that will have to be dealt with in some other way.

      It’s this nugget of information that makes this report secret, empire eyes only, and arcane ops. I’m thinking nodes communicate by bouncing signals off the stratosphere.

Lt James Mallard


We are Level 2! W00T!

James Mallard – Giants to the South

12 September, 2015

Haven’t felt like writing for a while. Soooo sick, for weeks. Lets see how we go.

James entered the tower on the heels of Mal Shieldglider, Tarry bring up behind.

They had marched through the Wild Wood for what has seemed like a week, but was probably three, and had made it to Ebony Watch – three quarters of the way up The Grandfather, within sight of The Eld. They had arranged passage, to embark that evening, but Ebony Watch had a few pressing concerns. Basilisks on the outskirts, a missing little girl, giants in the north, and the unknown fate of the previous garrison commander – shut away in the highest floor of the tower that gave the town its name.

Andrew deliberately split the party and ran three simultaneous mini-games. As someone who has tried to run game and never been terribly good at it, I thought it was amazing.

The party had scattered into three smaller groups. No-one was willing to take on the basilisks again – Cannis having only just survived their first encounter with, perhaps, a little help from James. As the transformation to stone progressed along his body and up his neck, James – having no other way to help – attempted to Counter Magic the effect. Impossible to say whether that helped or not, but the petrification halted and faded, and Cannis survived.

Drewf was failing his saves. I argued that basilisk petrification isn’t a simple poison, it’s a magical effect, and rolled high for the Counter Magic. The DM allowed it. W00T!

James knew his duty. The fate of the military commander. Shieldglider had recognised the name, and James appealed to that – Shieldglider having means to break into a stone tower with his strange ability to sculpt solid stone as if it were clay. Tarry had been keen to harvest the organs of the basilisks – good money, there – but went with James and Mal rather than face them on his own. A welcome addition, the halfling being good with traps and locks.

Mal’s stone shape thing is his “one unique thing”. James’ sense of duty is partly just natural for his character, and partly a quirk of his Mantle of the Mage.

Mantle of the Mage: As a bearer of this cloak, you are authorized to tap into the Archmage’s arcane power nodes, drawing on the magic that’s supposed to be used for fueling the wards that protect the Empire against existential threats. … Quirk: Crushing sense of duty and obligation to the Empire.

They ascended the tower. Mal commenced to dig out the stone around the heavy iron hinges of the stout trapdoor in the ceiling – his power strangely stronger than usual. James’ magical senses prickled – this place was one of the magical defensive “nodes” of the empire. Tarry seemed oddly animated and keen.

Tarry’s one unique thing is that he can smell gold.

They braced for combat, specifically, for undead. But no. Above a strange tableau. The trapdoor had been weighed down with a pile of treasure – gold and gems. James thought to warn Tarry not to take any, as it was Empire payroll, but gave it up as a lost cause. There was more than Tarry could take, anyway. And the loot was not the main concern.

A dwarvish (mostly) skeleton sat in a fine chair – garishly decorated with gems, some falling off. Pearls, rubies. And in an empty space right in the centre of the tower was something visible only to magical senses: an invisible flame in the shape of a two-headed dragon, twin symbols of the Archmage and the Emperor. But the dragon slumbered, the flame banked and merely smoldering. But unquestionably still alive and alight.

James mentioned to the others that there might be papers in the drawers, and then turned his attention to the node. But what to do? Should he do anything at all? Yes he should. The giants in The Eld to the south were up to something, there had been odd magical attacks on the town. This place was part of the Empire, and its magical defences ought to be in operation. Cannis had mentioned the music – this node should be making such attacks impossible, or at least alerting the other nodes. But was it his place to do anything? Yes. He was the senior arcane officer available in Ebony Watch. The cloak, Edmund had explained, gave him authority to interact with the nodes as well as the power to do so.

Perhaps James was merely reaching for justification – perhaps the cloak compelled him and he was making excuses. Perhaps. There was going to be some explaining to do. Nevertheless, he had decided to act.

But how?

Had he been a sorcerer, he would have roused the flame by force of will, he would have symbolically blown on it or fanned it. But James was a wizard. There was a spell – Speak with Item that might serve. He had been studying the spell of course. It was beyond his ability, but perhaps here, at a node, with a cloak whose entire business was to deal with the nodes, it might be possible.

For reagents, he had a pile of treasure. No quicksilver for communication, but silver coins graven with the correct rune would do (more experienced wizards could draw the rune on stone, or scribe it in the air, or even imagine it clearly, but James needed the metal – something believable). Sapphires for the Archmage, gold for the empire. He paused – gold alone would not do. It needed a drop of human blood. But not as a sacrifice of life, rather as a signifier. So this was not necromancy.

(Unknown to James, the reason gold would not do is that it is the wrong metal altogether. Gold is for dragons and the gods; silver, lead and zinc for elves; iron for dwarves; copper for halflings. The true metal of humans is tin, but humans don’t like to admit it. Much history can be explained metaphorically by the human’s stubborn insistence that their metal is gold.)

James drew the circle, placed the signifiers around it in the direction of Horizon, Axis, other nodes that he knew of. But what if the ritual worked, and he could speak to the node, what would he say? By chance, he glanced to the south, and perhaps caught a glimpse of The Eld. He went back to the pile of treasure and found clear gems. Clear as ice. Signifiers for the giants. He placed them to the south.

And then the ritual. Speak With Item three-quarters memorised, without the magical power of preparation, but what James lacked, the cloak supplied. Perhaps it was a little impatient – none of this rigmarole was necessary, but it had chosen James and had to work with what it had. Deep down in a layer of James’ mind he was not fully aware of, the cloak posed him a question: “would you die for the empire”? And in that same layer, his training and its cameraderie, the histories he had studied – stories of valour and sacrifice, his commitment to make the best of his father’s decision to place him in the army, and perhaps even his childhood storybook lessons that the noble must protect the common people, together formed a wordless reply: “I am a soldier of The Empire.”

Contact! “Wake! Wake! Giants to the south, magical attacks on this position! Defend! Call for backup!”

All had been invisible to Tarry and Mal up to this point – James fussing about with gems and piles of coins, mumbling formulae. But the effect was spectacular. As James stumblingly chanted his formula, the barely-visible metal threads in his cloak flared into life, shifting into fleeting complex shapes sometimes oddly reminiscent of the wards of a key. At the center of the tower floor, a visible flame appeared and took the shape of a two-headed dragon. It roared and the sturdy wooden roof of the tower – a late addition – shattered into flinders, exposing once again this top floor to the sky. The silver and gold melted, alloyed, becoming electrum: the metal of magic, and began to trace out lines and circles in the floor, this tower’s place in the webwork of empire defences. The ancient node-runes in the stone, worn and barely visible, gilding with metal as the node repaired itself. And the gems around the periphery moved – the sapphire focii that James had given the node shifting exactly into line with the other nodes, and the clear gems moving precisely in line with the Eld. Except for one smaller one, which migrated into the broad inner circle of the design on the floor and assumed a position there.

Over towards the chair on which the late commander sat, something moved.

Aaaaand Andy leaves us with a cliffhanger :) . TBC.

SIck, sick, sick

13 August, 2015

Sooo sick. It’s been like a series of four or five different diseases, each with different symptoms. At the moment, a cough – throat raw and painful, and that tickle that precedes a coughing bout, and worst of all, for some reason the particular spot where I am feeling the itch to cough isn’t scratched by the coughing. Everything else is beat to shit, flaps of tender, irritated pharyngeal flesh flayed freshly raw with each bout of helpless hacking, but that one spot somewhere in my throat, that one complaining nerve untouched.

Tonsils hurt. Hurt, hurt, hurt. For a week now. I imagine them half full of blood and pus, ready to burst. I dread swallowing. Hot coffee seems to soothe them, but never for long. Yeah, I’ve gargled with salt water. Yeah, I’ve taken zinc. Went to the chemist – just about every painkiller is ibuprofen based, which is exactly what I don’t want, the tissue in my throat more relaxed to flap around painfully when I cough. I found some paracetamol and some asprin. Asprin – the first wonder drug. Sadly underrated, but I’m a fan. When I was a child, I knew a woman who was addicted, “taking a powder” a few times a day. Way to get bleeding stomach ulcers.

Nights are the worst, of course. Cold, cold, cold. It’s snowing at the ANU, and I live in a shitty uninsulated flat. So cheap! No shit it’s cheap. Can’t sleep. The air is icy razors, and when I relax to sleep, it’s cough time. I’m pulling the sheet over my head to rebreathe warm, humidified air. I’m wearing layers of clothing. I’m running a ceramic blow heater, freshly bought. I have had an oil column heater for ages. It does nothing. Cold runs down the walls, it cascades in a torrent from the window, an invisible, icy cataract. I have fitted a layer of plastic inside the window, making my place look like a drug den, to try to hold back the cold. It does nothing.

Mum died around this time of year.

I suppose a lot of people living alone must do. I lie in bed, waiting for the next coughing fit, my feet still cold in socks under the blankets and wonder if I am going to die like a homeless person, sick and killed by exposure while laying in my own bed in a flat that I rent. If not this year, maybe next year. I’ll be fifty, you know.

It’s been shit, guys.

On the Crimean (repost)

8 August, 2015

This is reposted from here: . Smirkingchimp is always threatening to run out of money, so in case it goes dark here is this piece on my blog. It’s not currently in the news, but the topic is perennial.

I think I might weigh in on the topic of the recent kerfuffle in the Crimean peninsula.

But before I do, I am going to talk about Panama.

CAVEAT: I am not a defence person, I know nothing about these topics other than general knowledge and access to Google maps.

The USA is and always has been a naval power. It’s simple. To the west, over the Pacific Ocean, is Asia and civilisation. To the east, over the Atlantic Ocean, is Europe and civilisation. While europeans can fight with each other using land armies, the only way the USA can make war is over the ocean. The USA, in fact, has an entire corps of armed servicemen alongside the navy, army, and air force whose entire reason for being is “soldiers who go to places on ships”.

The USA has two coastal frontages – east and west. There are four ways to get a navy from one side of the USA to the other.

First, put the ships on rollers and haul them down the interstate. Good luck with that.

Second, and just as impractical, sail them through north around Canada through the arctic sea, which only recently has not been icebound in summer.
Third, sail them around the tip of south america – a quarter of the circumference of the world away – and through the Southern Ocean.

Fourthly, the ditch. The Panama Canal.

The military importance of the ditch to the USA cannot be overstated. I mean literally – try overstating it, try coming up with a form of words that is maybe a bit much. Can’t do it, right? The permits the USA to threaten both China and also Europe/Africa/The middle east with the full force of its naval power. The USA can field all of its carriers, all of its subs, all of its marines against the enemy du jour in either hemisphere in a matter of days. Without the ditch, the USA would have to run two navies, or only be able to field half a navy to each.

The USA will never, never, never cede control over the ditch to anyone. Ever. Oh, it may be technically in the hands of a foreign power, Panama may be a whole ‘nother country to the USA, but you know and I know and everyone in the world knows that that’s bullshit. It’s a US asset. And the USA would, if it had to, fight WWIII over it.

I am not exaggerating.

What do you think the Cuban Missile Crisis was really about? Nukes striking the American mainland? Pfft. A nuke will take out several square miles of a city – but there’s plenty of those. It will kill a bunch of people – there’s millions more. It will destroy an ammo dump (Dr Strangelove reference there) or a military base. So what? Miami is simply not a military target. Military targets (missile silos, airfields, command centers) are dispersed all over the US exactly in order to make the US military capability more nuke-proof.

But nuking the ditch would be a serious and unacceptable game-changer. It would not only maim the Navy, it would throw the armed forces into chaos for days. No freaking way will the USA permit it, or even the possibility that it might be done. Kennedy would have pressed the button over it.

At this point, dial up google maps, zoom out, and have a look at Russia.

Actually – this is really the main point that this post is trying to make. None of this makes sense unless you look at a freaking map and get an idea of where everything is. It’s all about geography. Look at a goddamn mapnot opinion pieces about gay rights, not comparisons of Putin to Hitler, not blatherings about ethnic russians – you need to look at the damn map. That’s what it’s all about. People are talking about the Crimean business like it’s a battle of words and ideas, probably because that’s what they mainly know about. The Crimean Kerfuffle is not about words and ideas. It’s about ships and troops.

Russia has three naval frontages. In the east, access to the Pacific. In the north and west, access to the Arctic Ocean. Good luck sailing out of that in winter – although I suppose its ok for submarines (and this is why subs are important to Russia).

The third naval frontage is access to the Black Sea. The Black Sea is connected to the Agean Sea and the Mediterranean via the Bosphorus, and from there to the Atlantic Ocean to the west and the Suez canal to the south east.

As you can see because you are looking at the map, Russia has a fair bit of the coast of the Black Sea on the east. But you can see that it’s all mountains – the Caucasus I think. Useless. The land is inhabited by wild, hairy tribes of barbarous inbred wogs, many of whom don’t much like Russians (with, admittedly, excellent reason). You can’t build a road there, and if you could you couldn’t march troops down it to the transports.


At the north of the Black Sea is a booger of land about a hundred miles across. This is the Crimean Peninsula. And at the southern tip of it, on the west coast, a little place called Seavastopol. This place was put there by the Tsars to serve as Russia’s port and access to the Mediterranean. The Crimean Peninsula is Russia’s Panama, and that port is Russia’s panama canal. Thanks to some stuff that went down late last century, that booger of land is technically part of a whole ‘nother country called “The Ukraine”. But you know and I know and everyone in the world who pays attention knows that that’s bullshit. It is a Russian asset.

The kerfuffle in the Crimea has go nothing to do with gays, or ethnic russians (although obviously the Crimea is as full of them as Panama is full of americans), or even Putin. It is 100% about The Great Game. There is no way in hell that Russia will lose control of that port. No freaking way. They will fight WWIII over it, if they have to. They would rather not, but like Kennedy and Panama, Putin will press the button rather than lose that asset.

And that’s what this is about.

Perhaps the main question remaining is: why is this blowing up now? That is a whole new topic, and the answer is probably (as in: you know and I know and everybody else in the world knows) that the Pentagon and the security state of the USA are fomenting trouble there in response to the budget squeeze at home. It’s a fund-raiser.

And a lunatic dangerous one. Russia will not, will not, will not lose control of Svestapol without a fight, and they will escalate as far as it takes, whatever it takes. They are not bluffing. They still have nukes. If they have to, they will march the Red Army south right through the middle of the Ukraine, and to hell with anyone who gets in the way. If Kiev doesn’t like it, fuck them. If anyone wants to help out Kiev, fuck them too.

And it’s all down to the pentagon having a hissy-fit over their trillion-dollar budget taking a haircut, the military establishment wanting to remind the world that warmaking is still relevant.


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