Work related posts have been moved.

9 November, 2010

My work and computing related posts are now at

If you have come here from a work-related perspective (computing, semweb, bioinformatics, math). Perhaps you could go there right now and not read the gory personal stuff here.

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Shipwreck. Game Zero.

19 September, 2022

Well, I won’t be blogging my serpent’s skull game here on wordpress. I like to use custom HTML, css, images, fonts, and the interface is abominable and whatever you write here belongs to someone else.

Oh, and they want more money.

I shall be using a HTML editor and uploading to github. It means I don’t get to automatically push notifications to facebook, etc, but meh. I could probably manage a static rss file.

The Ukranian Kerfuffle

14 September, 2022

(I wrote this a few weeks ago. Things have moved on since then.)

I told you so.

About seven years ago, August 2015.

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.

What I got completely wrong was how the war would proceed. The first and most important part has been running for years. But I’ll deal with that in a tick. First, let’s review what this war is about, for what prize it is being fought.

Russia fights to connect Russian road and rail to its naval port at Sevastopol. It intends and has always intended to take Dontesk, Luhansk, and the eastern side of the Dnepro river to the south. And it has substantially achieved this goal. The result means unrestricted access to the Black Sea, The Mediterranean, and via the Suez Canal to Asia. A (relatively) warm-water port. Shipping via sea is still the best way to transport bulk goods. Yes, at first Russian traffic will not be welcome in the Suez, but false flags and large amounts of money will win out.

There is also an emerging Sino-Russian alliance, whose goal is to connect Russian natural resources to Chinese industry by road and rail. But the only shared land borders are a tiny strip of border in the mountains between Khazakstan and Mongolia (there isn’t even a town there – it’s all mountains) or way, way to the east around the other side of Mongolia. One observes that good fences make good neighbours, and the Gobi Desert is a fine fence. The goal of the next war, then, will be to shave off the northeastern strip of Khazakstan – east of the \rtysh River – to get a decent land route to China. Relatively nice and flat, which is what you need for rail. The route will be Novosibirsk to Ürüqi. Russia might use “terrorism” as an excuse. After all, the USA has set the precedent there. When a population hates you – even if it is for excellent reason – and fights you the only way it can, then that makes it ok to invade them. However, possibly China may secure the route through its usual combination of trade and demographic replacement, which brings me back to the decade-long war that Russia has been engaging with against the Ukraine.

Russia’s Causus Belli has been that The Ukraine has been bombing ethnic russians in Dontesk and Luhansk. Which they almost certainly have been. Horrifying, of course, that the Ukranian government is doing this to its own citizens. But then you have to pause. We are dealing with Ukranians who are ethnically Russian, speak Russian, trade in roubles, and who – and this is of paramount importance – can reasonably expect the protection of the Russian military, reasonably expect that the fellow Russians will hazard their lives, will bomb and kill, to protect them. “Fellow Russians” is nowhere near strong enough – only the word “countrymen” will do. Nothing could be clearer than that these people are not, and never were, Ukranian. What might have been written on their passports and birth certificates is a preposterous lie. These people are simply Russians.

So why were these Russians living in Ukranian territory?

They were colonising it.

It became evident during the Capital Hill riots that the purpose of the Secret Service is not to protect the US president, but to kidnap him if it looks like he is about to do something catastrophic. The Secret Service are agents of the US Treasury Dept. Make of that what you will.

The genius of democracy is that it makes it very, very difficult to defeat a nation militarily. In particular, decapitation doesn’t work. So what if a President or Prime Minister is killed? You just replace them. They aren’t a king or a queen. Most particularly, plopping someone on the throne doesn’t work. There is no throne. It has taken civilisation some time to find democracy’s weakness, which is that power goes to groups that vote as a bloc. The weapon that destroys democracies is group identity among a substantial minority. So to make war on a democracy, you split it into factions, and you move your own people in.

(It also helps if you can ruin the sense of group identity among the majority. A democracy is only ever as strong as its majority citizens are proud and patriotic. But more of that later.)

So, yes, it was quite reasonable of The Ukraine to attempt to ethnically cleanse these woodworms. Families, mums and dads, innocent apple-cheeked children – all loyal to Mother Russia. But turns out that dropping missiles on them in hopes that they will leave across the border didn’t work. What they probably needed to do was to enclose the Russians in ghettos and then ship them by rail to the gas chambers. But, well, the optics are bad. And more likely the Ukranian government never had the organisational ability to pull off such a thing. Ukranians are, after all, wogs – even if the people right at the top are not. It’s no coincidence that Dontesk and Luhansk, populated by Russians, are the industrial and technological parts of The Ukraine, and that the rest is mostly farms.

But lobbing missiles at buildings with families in them is something any military can do, and something that they especially enjoy doing when they are product of a people and culture prone to holding centuries-old grudges.

What I’m saying is that everyone is a bad guy, here.

Field Notes: Dwarven battle order

1 December, 2021

(It just seems to me that if the usurper Dwarf King did decide to send the dwarves against The Empire, they’d be shit at it)

We find ourselves in the unusual position of engaging with large dwarven forces on open ground. Although dwarves individually are tough adversaries, their battle order en masse leaves much to be desired. Certain aspects of their habitual voie de la guerre can be used to advantage.

Most obviously, dwarves are accustomed to defending tunnels. Their best tactics amount to raising a shield wall and plugging the gap, at which they excel better than any other troop. They do not cope at all well with flanking or encirclement: they have not the battle order to wheel a unit to face a threat from another direction.

Dwarves tend to treat any sort of wall or barrier as though it were miles of impenetrable rock. Above ground, the gates of their forts are heavily defended, but the walls defended lightly or not at all. It simply does not naturally occur to them that anything might come from that direction.

The same oversight applies to terrain. Dwarves do not cope at all well with mud or bog, which our farmlands tend to be at certain times of the year. To them, such terrain is effectively an impenetrable barrier, and they can tend to assume that it is a barrier for anyone else as well. Without training, advice, or bitter experience, they tend to organise their fortifications under the assumption that attacks can only come along the road.

Dwarves also tend to discount indirect fire until they have been on the receiving end of it. They have little experience with it – you cannot fire a catapult or a bow in a tunnel. Perhaps this is part of the reason for the dwarves traditional disdain of elven troops.

In respect of advice or bitter experience, they are particularly subject to the bane of armies everywhere: senior officers of noble rank freshly arrived from home with little or no field experience, who are quite certain that they know how war is done. Dwarves being so long-lived, their battle doctrine tends to be woefully out of date – centuries so.

A final noteworthy point, obvious as soon as it is stated, is that dwarves tend to be short-sighted. While human troops will see the dust of an approaching force miles away on the horizon, dwarves quite literally cannot see that far. Their forces may have auxiliaries who can, of course, but their information will tend to be ignored. Their hearing also is lacking. Their most useful way of detecting approaching troops is by the vibration through the earth of marching on stone or hard-packed earth.

Put simply, they are tremendously easy to sneak up on provided you avoid marching the troops.

Their greatest strength is their night vision. It is of paramount importance that camps and defences take this into account. At night, every aspect of battle is in favour of an attacking dwarven unit.

Their other greatest strength is, of course, their sappers.

In summary:

  • Approach through the fields or forests, avoid roads. Use route step. March heavy troops on the roads as decoys and feints. On approach, wrap the wheels of seige engines.
  • Attack walls, not gates. Breaching or surmounting. Indirect fire over the walls: trebuchet rather than ballistae.
  • Draw the enemy out into the open. Flank and encircle – do not simply send in a column of pikes.
  • Be especially vigilant at night. Camp discipline as for actions against orcs.
  • Stone fortifications are no defence against dwarves whatever. Camp on mud if at all possible.

L’Empire perdure.