About that truce…

From the Times of Israel (yesterday):

Gaza terrorists fire rocket at Israel, but it falls short and lands inside Strip

Gaza terrorists attempted to fire a rocket at Israel on Sunday.

The Kassam missile landed in an open area in the Gaza Strip, causing no injuries or damage, the IDF Spokesman’s Office said.

The rocket fire is a breach of the Egyptian-mediated ceasefire signed by Hamas on November 21 ending Israel’s Operation Pillar of Defense. As part of the deal, Hamas agreed to halt its own fire and rein in other terror groups.

Also on Sunday, IDF soldiers arrested two unarmed Palestinians who crossed the Gaza border fence.

As others have pointed out, so far there have been no rockets of mortars that landed in Israel in December; the first month in years that this has been the case. It appears somebody in Gaza is unhappy about that… For more, see Challah Hu Akbar (as mentioned by the Elder of Ziyon.).


Hull Zero Three – Greg Bear

[It’s almost two months since I read any fiction, having set aside the time to concentrate on more Hebrew. I anticipate there will be more such sessions in the future, but meanwhile I will post whatever fiction stuff I get to.]

This is the story of a man who wakes up in a starship, naked and freezing, and is forced out into the corridors of the ship to survive; to find out what the hell is going on.

Split into three sections – The Flesh, The Devil, and The World –  it starts like an offshoot of the Alien franchise movies, with a dash of Event Horizon, as our narrator encounters deadly beasts, and struggles just to survive.

Some parts of the ship are cold and getting colder. Some have lower gravity and some have higher gravity. It’s a puzzle, and therefore the story progresses, with the struggle for survival combined with the hunt for answers and redemption. Where is the ship going to, and why? Are his memories dreams, reality, or implanted? Should he be trusting the voices he hears, and the creatures he meets? Any? All? Which? And, ultimately, is there an escape?

The horror aspect is truly horrible; there are some pretty awful things he encounters. I wasn’t a hundred percent convinced by the rationale, but accept it as at least a possibility in that world. The unravelling of the riddle about the ship was, to me, a bit patchy. As the bits and pieces were revealed, there was no sense of wonder or surprise, or satisfaction. (Maybe I missed some detail in the reading.) However, this did not detract as much as I thought it might, perhaps because the survival story keeps racing along and is engrossing.

I hope somebody decent has bought the movie rights, as with good direction this could be a super piece of cinema.

Overall, I enjoyed the book. Bear’s observations, and his whole take on the position of the book’s central figure, is both entertaining and thoughtful. It is well written, largely cliche free, contains a good blend of action, puzzle, and conjecture, and is a fine piece of fiction. I was itching to get back to English language fiction, and this book was a nice way to return.

Score: 7/10.



Shabbat gaming

Not a good hand!

Not a good hand!

Gidon, Hannah & Lori (a team), Rafi, Susan, and I played Ticket to Ride Europe on Shabbat afternoon. It was a first time experience for Hannah and Gidon, but both seemed to enjoy it.

The Hanah and Lori team, Rafi and Susan, seemed to have drawn tickets in the same area and were building across and around one another. Susan and Gidon were largely unaffected, and I was largely ineffectual, making a bad choice of initial tickets – I was too ambitious – and then failing to remedy the situation with poor card choices.

Susan built the long 8 piece route and for a while was in the lead. But we all kept in touch, and at one point, despite the blocking, anyone could have won. However, in the last few rounds, Susan picked up a ticket she could not complete, Hannah and Lori gambled on the game going on longer, Gidon made some unlucky card draws, and I switched strategies too often. The net result was that the Better family representative, the unassuming Rafi, claimed the win. Well done Mr Better!

After that, Hannah and I played a game of Scrabble. I enjoy the occasional game of this classic, but am always at a disadvantage, having never bothered to learn the two and three word lists that are essential for good scores. However, this time around I managed to keep in contact with Hannah right up until the last couple of turns, losing by about 20 points. Hannah plays a nice, steady game. My guess is that if she took up the Facebook version, she would do rather well!  Meanwhile, I can claim a morale victory, as I think I successfully blocked any of Hannah’s potential seven word monster scores! Good fun, and a pleasant way to round off Shabbat gaming.


For the Jewish home that has everything…

I was in Jerusalem for Shabbat and spotted this in one of the display cabinets at the King David Hotel:


No, your eyes do not deceive you. It is a Merkava tank. And, yes, that is a chanukiah at the front. But there’s more:


So, a perfect gift for the Jewish home that has everything…

…except good taste?


A long time in politics


Naftali Bennett, whom I mentioned (here) as a possible threat to the governing parties, has well and truly put his foot in it.

From the Times of Israel:

Naftali Bennett, the charismatic up-and-coming leader of the hardline Jewish Home party, has come under fire for a statement he made during an interview Thursday night to the effect that, if commanded to participate in the evacuation of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, he would opt for the path of conscientious objection.

“If I am ever given an order to evacuate a Jew from his home… personally, my conscience won’t allow me to do it; I’ll ask my commander to grant me an exemption, [but] I won’t call for [mass] insubordination,” Bennett said during a heated conversation with Channel 2 interviewer Nissim Mishal (a full video of the Hebrew interview can be found here).

And more, also from the Times of Israel:

A growing chorus of politicians from both sides of the aisle on Saturday criticized remarks by Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett on Thursday that seemingly advocated insubordination among IDF soldiers who oppose the evacuation of settlements.

Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar on Saturday echoed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s critical comments Friday, by saying public figures are forbidden from talking about refusing orders, even if they don’t match one’s outlook.

Speaking at a public function in Holon, Sa’ar said that the IDF’s existence is founded on obeying orders handed down by the government.

“I personally opposed the disengagement plan [from the Gaza Strip in 2005], and I even voted against it in the Knesset, but I called for honoring the democratic decision of the majority,” he said.

I believe Sa’ar and Netanyahu’s criticism is deserved, but slightly hypocrital. Why? Because there are people on the Likud list who hold the exact same views as Bennett – they just have not aired them to the public. What Netanyahu and Likud are doing, here, is fishing for the votes of the more centrally inclined floating voters. Ironically, it might just leak some of their own right of center support to Bennet and co.

I see Bennett’s position as being dangerous for a democracy; if you are in the army, you carry out every order, unless it is an illegal order. Like it or not, if the government order evacuation of Jews – or anyone else – by the army, it’s the army’s duty to carry out the orders. No ifs. No buts. No conscientious objection. I won’t be voting for his party.


There’s a word for that

Just got time before Shabbat to post this link to another must read piece from the Elder of Ziyon. The title: Ashton apparently only has a problem with Jewish settlers, not Israeli Arabs. The whole thing is here. The conclusion should give you a wee fright about those double standards going on in the EU:

Ashton’s omission of Beit Safafa is only a small part of the inherent discrimination that most of the world applies to Israeli Jews. Only Jews can be “illegal settlers,” not Muslims or Christians.

I think there is a word for that.

There is, indeed. And it’s not diplomatic, or even-handed, or fair, or wise, or principled.


Still pushing panzers


Wargaming time has been limited,so Panzer (from GMT) is still on the table. I have managed to play several turns of a few scenarios using the basic and advanced rules, and thought I would post some impressions.

What I like about Panzer

  • It’s a GMT game; quality assured
  • Jim Day’s online support – on ConSimWorld – is excellent
  • Anti-tank combat system
  • Unit Data Cards are excellent
  • Game tables and charts are clear, well organized, and easy to read
  • Comprehensive data on tanks and weapons units
  • Comprehensive organizational (TOE) data
  • Easy to create DIY scenarios

What I do not like about Panzer

  • Ground scale – 100m per hex; made to allow the modern versions to graft on easily. Would have preferred 50m.
  • Anti-personnel combat system
  • Bland infantry units; a squad is a squad is a squad, generally
  • Command system – ie, the orders and their markers
  • Rules organization, presentation, and – occasionally – language
  • Implementation of command control effects
  • Implementation of morale effects
  • Marker proliferation; it’s a bane of most tactical combat systems, but – perhaps with the addition of the command counter AND the spotting marker – it’s reached overload.
  • Counters – great tank graphics, spoiled by the movement points printed on them; just does not look right to me.
  • Counters – I do not like the fact there are different tanks on either side of the counters. I would have preferred to pay more to have a tank on one side and a KO or BU version on the other.


What I would like to see for Panzer

  • Historical modules with actual terrain
  • Smaller scenarios
  • New organization of rulebook
  • Other people’s House Rules (For example, I have been mucking about with an off board command display, to reduce the on board counter clutter. How else are people tweaking their game?)


The abundance of dislikes may lead you to think I dislike the game; I don’t. There are just certain aspects that I dislike. I still want to play it, have played it, and will play it. But I wish I had more time – and local wargaming opponents – to work on tweaking it.


Killer sprouts!

I hate Brussels sprouts, so this story from the Herald, finds favor with me:

Beware: brussels sprouts can put you in hospital

They are the Christmas vegetables that split opinion and now doctors say Brussels sprouts should come with a health warning after a Scotsman was hospitalised by eating them.

The leafy green vegetables contain vitamin K, a chemical the body uses to promote blood clotting, and it counteracts the effects of anticoagulants (blood thinning medication).

The man, from Ayrshire, was prescribed anticoagulants after suffering heart failure last year and his dose was monitored once or twice a week to prevent blood clotting.

When his blood started to clot close to Christmas last year, the man was admitted to the specialist heart unit at the Golden Jubilee National Hospital in Clydebank, West Dunbartonshire.

Doctors could not work out why the medication was not keeping his blood thin until they discovered he had been eating too many sprouts.

Consultant cardiologist Dr Roy Gardner said: “Patients who are taking anticoagulants are generally advised not to eat too many green leafy vegetables, as they are full of vitamin K, which antagonise the action of this vital medication.”

The case was reported in a festive edition of the Medical Journal of Australia.

Jill Young, chief executive of the Golden Jubilee Hospital, said: “Whilst we think this is possibly the first-ever festive admission to hospital caused by the consumption of Brussels sprouts, we were delighted that we were able to stabilise his levels.”

I think I’ll just stay off the sprouts.


A trio of links

From CiFWatch:

UN leaders to condemn Palestinians for incitement to terrorism

The four European members of the United Nations security council are drawing up a strong joint condemnation of recent Palestinian acts of terrorist incitement amid growing international censure.

The unusual statement, expected this week from the UK, France, Germany and Portugal, follows blunt criticism from the US of official PA radio broadcast of songs explicitly encouraging Palestinians to engage in deadly suicide bombings against Israelis.

From Treppenwitz:

Will we answer silence with silence?

One of the things which begs explanation, if not outrage, is the near total silence from the so-called moderate Palestinians and the Palestinian ‘street’ in the face of Arab incitement and terror attacks.

I’ve often said that if anyone could point out a viable Palestinian ‘Peace Camp’ that was shown to be loudly and consistenatly condemning terror & incitement, and working to build bridges with Israel, I’d join the Israeli peace camp (of which there are several, actually) and work tirelessly to convince Israeli leaders to sit down and engage them.

Needless to say, nobody has been able to show me this mythical Palestinian ‘Peace Camp’, or any semblance of a strong, stable peace partner with whom we could safely negotiate peace.

But that doesn’t mean that Israel can exempt itself from self-criticism and outrage at the behavior of extremists on our side of the fence.

From the Times of Israel:

Tunisian imam sued for call to ‘sterilize the wombs of Jewish women

The Tunisian Association to Support Minorities is suing a prominent Tunisian imam for hateful incitement against Jews.

During a Friday sermon broadcast live on November 30 on Hannibal TV, Sheikh Ahmad Al-Suhayli of Rades, a suburb of Tunis, told his followers at the Khatib mosque that “God wants to destroy this sprinkling of Jews… and is for sterilizing the wombs of Jewish women,” the liberal Egyptian daily Al-Masry Al-Youm reported.


Surprise package?

The western media, predictably, has reported the condemnation from the usual sources about recent announcements to build new homes.

For example, from Ynet:

European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton has released a statement condemning Israel’s decision to go forward with plans to build thousands of new homes in two Jerusalem neighborhoods, Givat Hamatos and Ramat Shlomo.

“The approval of an additional 2,610 housing units in the settlement of Givat Hamatos is extremely troubling, coming in addition to announcements made at the end of November and Monday’s approval of 1500 units in Ramat Shlomo,” Ashton said.

“This plan for Givat Hamatos would cut the geographic continuity between Jerusalem and Bethlehem. I strongly oppose this unprecedented expansion of settlements around Jerusalem.”

And there’s more of the same here at the Times of Israel.

What few people outside of Israel realise – despite the demonization of Bibi – is that his electoral success is only seriously seen at risk from the right, not the left; a right that is likely to be more aggressive in building and putting facts on the ground. For example, Naftali Bennett and his party are a serious threat, as is highlighted here. Given the extreme defamation of Bibi that exists, one can only wonder how they would react if Naftali Bennett were the leader. Unlikely, but a certain mischief gene in me would like to see it happen, just for entertainment. On its own it’s unlikely to make me vote for the other Mr B (Bennett), but it is tempting.