You have to laugh

Laughter is the best medicine.

I suppose if you have been brought up to believe that it is fair, reasonable, and right that people’s life and liberty should be sacrificed solely in the interests of demonizing the Jewish State, it’s no great leap to sacrifice the chance to visit your grandmother to keep the fires of hate burning. What a great example of citizenship that is!

Oh, and in case you missed it, the Obama administration banned an Israeli MK from entering the USA in 2012 for his extremist views. Sauce for the goose… Pretty rich of those USA parliamentarians to cry wolf now.

Kill the Angel – Sandrone Dazieri

A train draws into Rome with a carriage full of dead people. A claim of responsibility from an Islamic terrorist group is taken seriously, and on goes the hunt by the authorities to stop the killers committing another atrocity. A misfit detective and a plain misfit (albeit idiot savant) believe otherwise. They follow their own trail – one that leads, inevitably, to more danger, deaths, and mystery.

This book is a follow up to the excellent Kill the Father and while it doesn’t quite hit those heights, it comes close. It is well written with a bevy of interesting characters, intriguing and entertaining. The central mystery is a good one, and the final twist is well concealed and delivers a real surprise.

Overall, recommended, but start with the first in the series.

The Force – Don Winslow

This is a brutal novel about corruption in the New York police and elsewhere in society. The central character is a renegade policeman who is, in the vernacular, bent. Detective Sergeant Denny Malone and his merry men are supposed to fight to protect the citizens of New York from gangs, drugs and guns in New York. From his perspective, he’s not bent, just oiling the wheels of justice. He seems to ignore the hoard of drugs and cash he has accumulated from his just fight.

Of course, he is not the only bad apple in the barrel. And the baddies aren’t exactly noble citizens either. Unfortunately for Malone, his time may be up, as the FBI are moving in. And unfortunately for the city, at the same time there is something of a race war being threatened, arising out of a police shooting of a black man by a white policeman in suspicious circumstances. (All too familiar.)

The story follows Malone and his crew and their misadventures. It’s violent, fast paced and tense. The city backdrop is authentic, and the characterizations are good. The plot has less surprises than you might want, but is tight and does bring all the strands together. There are moments of pure pathos, and some of dark comedy. But above it all is the dark, dark cloud of corruption.

It’s not a book I would rush to recommend unless you like your fiction dark. Bad things happen to good people. But I enjoyed it, though I hope and pray it’s truly fiction and far removed from the reality.

Who ran from Iran?

The cartoon in today’s Haaretz made me smile:

The Hebrew says “Who is the commander?”

Quite.

It didn’t take much to work out that Iranian activity in the Straits of Hormuz would be directed towards British interests. It’s unclear if the Royal Navy has the capacity to protect all such interest, but my guess is that it’s not possible. Smaller, faster attack boats and helicopters can run rings round frigates and the like. So, Britain is stuck. Banning its own ships won’t go down well. (Though insurers may effectively bring about that result.) A military response is unlikely. Either Britain caves – a diplomatic disaster – or it weighs in with its own sanctions and gets ready for the long haul.

Or a war breaks out between Iran and the US. And maybe with the Europeans. I hope not.

On a related point, I do remember Obama or Kerry hectoring Israel about what would happen if Iran broke its pledges under the nuclear deal. Why, the sanctions would snap back. Israel had nothing to worry about.

Well, Iran broke its pledges and the sanctions by the Europeans are unsnapped. So, if Israel were relying on the Europeans to keep them safe, they would be wasting their time. In this regard, Bibi is right.

Bloody 110

This, from 1989, is the first of Dean Essig’s Tactical Combat Series (TCS). Units are platoons of infantry, mortar and machine gun sections, individual tanks and guns. Hexes are 125 yards and turns – during the day – are 20 minutes. The action covered is the role played by elements of the US 28th Infantry Division in holding up the German Bulge Offensive heading towards Bastogne.

I was getting sick and tired of looking at all the TCS games on my shelves that weren’t getting played because I repeatedly found the latest iteration of the system too much of a slog. (I like it when I read it, but not when I’m playing it.) I decided to start trying out some house rules/variants to see if I could cobble together stuff that worked for me.

I started with a quick run through the tank and infantry learning scenarios, and have now moved on to the 1st day battle scenario.

I have used and rejected several ideas, and while at times it is frustrating, it’s also a fun challenge. And when I think something is getting there…

Oh, and I also enjoyed – as a change from today’s multi-colored environment – going back to the old-style counter graphics. Quaint!

About that war on drugs…

From the Times (behind a paywall):

“At nearly 22 [drug-related] deaths per 100,000 people, Scotland’s death toll has overtaken the United States and is now three times the UK average.”

According to the article:

“A deadly cocktail of opioids and “street valium” is driving drug deaths in Scotland, which now has the highest mortality rate in the developed world.”

Scotland, you have a problem.

Dark Sacred Night – Michael Connelly

Michael Connelly has a great track record as one of the finest crime writers of all time. This is not his finest hour. (If you are looking to start on a Connelly book, don’t start here!)

The problem is that the book features one of his oldest and finest characters – long in the tooth angry old detective Harry Bosch – and one of his newest – newcomer Detective Renée Ballard. What comes across is that the author is tired of Bosch and wants to finish him off. However, it appears he doesn’t feel confident enough that Ballard is a strong enough character to generate the same loyalty. So, Connelly is keeping the pot boiling. Unfortunately, to do that this time around, he delivered a decent enough tale but one that lacked the fire and passion I would have expected.

The story, such as it is, involves Bosch dragging Ballard into a cold case. (Is there any other kind, he half-joked.) Both are trying to find out who murdered Daisy Clayton, a 15-year-old runaway, back in 2009. The back story is good, as is the characterization on an individual basis. But it lacks sizzle. The plot doesn’t excite, rarely surprises, and sort of limps along. One red herring takes up an inordinate amount of time and space to no great effect. Bosch seems to be less of a whole character without his daughter. And Bosch and Ballard don’t spark the same atmosphere when they are working together. It lacks chemistry.

The ending was a bit of a disappointment. Rarely would I have thought that was even possible for Connelly.

All in all, it was OK, but not up to the standards I would expect from this author. Good, but not good enough.

Every landing should have one

On the way back from a meal at a friends’ apartment, I decided to walk down the stairs as partial atonement for overeating. I know that storage space in modern homes is not exactly extensive, so I wasn’t surprised to see household bits and pieces on various landings. This, however, somewhat stands out.

Motorbike and electric scooter. Every landing should have one of each.

What would you think of that if it were in your apartment building?