Five for Friday

The death of my best friend, Marcus, is everywhere in my thoughts. I know that life goes on, and I will return to the usual routine in due course. That’s one reason why I’ve rejected the thought of just stopping the blog. Another is that such normal tasks tide me over between tough times. Regrets and mad and happy memories are a heady cocktail. This is something I need to do, if only for myself. So, in keeping with the usual practice, here are this week’s selection of links for Friday.

Be well, one and all.

Shabbat Shalom!

Too many what?

From the You wouldn’t believe it department, courtesy of the Guardian:

Can too much punctuation ruin a book? Amazon certainly thought so

Graeme Reynolds’s novel High Moor 2: Moonstruck was withdrawn when the site decided 100 hyphenated words in 90,000 ‘impacted the readability’ of the book

What is your favourite form of punctuation? Mine is the semicolon. It wouldn’t be my desert island choice – that’d have to be something more boringly prosaic, such as the full stop. But a nice semicolon, properly used, is delicious.

I ask because I am almost too tickled to type at the discovery that an author, one Graeme Reynolds, found his novel withdrawn from Amazon because of his excessive use of the hyphen. Reynolds has written about his inexplicable experience on his blog, but in summary: he released his werewolf novel, High Moor 2: Moonstruck, last March, after paying over £1,000 for professional editing. It’s had over 100 almost entirely positive reviews on Amazon.

Then, on 12 December, Reynolds got an email from the internet retailer, which had apparently received a complaint from a reader “about the fact that some of the words in the book were hyphenated” (let’s not even wonder about who on earth would go to the trouble of emailing Amazon about this).

“When they ran an automated spell check against the manuscript they found that over 100 words in the 90,000-word novel contained that dreaded little line,” he says. “This, apparently ‘significantly impacts the readability of your book’ and, as a result, ‘We have suppressed the book because of the combined impact to customers.’”

Reynolds complained, pointing out “that the use of a hyphen to join two words together was perfectly valid in the English language”, and says he was told by Amazon: “As quality issues with your book negatively affect the reading experience, we have removed your title from sale until these issues are corrected … Once you correct hyphenated words, please republish your book and make it available for sale.”

Read it all, here. It’s funny, in more ways than one.

Spoiler alert!

I loved the conclusion of the Guardian piece:

The internet, ladies and gentlemen: sometimes it’s just, well, brilliant.


A message from Hamas

This, from CAMERA, should be well viewed and bookmarked:

Hamas Still Hamas, Says Will Never Recognize or Relinquish “Even an Inch” of Israel

Remember when it was all the rage for some journalists to pretend Hamas recognizes Israel and wants a two-state solution, never mind what the Islamist group’s own leaders repeatedly and consistently said to the contrary?

There was The New York Times, which told us that a Hamas leader, in the words of its headline, “Calls for Two-State Solution.” (No, he didn’t.)

And don’t forget The Guardian, chroniclers of the “news” that Hamas “agrees to Israeli state.” (Wrong again.)

Alas, it seems Hamas leaders were never close readers of those newspapers. The organization stubbornly has continued to be clear about its ideology, as it did again just a few days ago.

Over to you, MEMRI:

Speaking at a December 12 rally in Khan Younes, Hamas political bureau member Mahmoud Al-Zahhar said: “Anyone who thinks that we will recognize the existence of the [Zionist] entity or the 1967 borders is deluded… Palestine stretches from the Egyptian border in the south to Lebanon in the north, and from Jordan in the east to the Mediterranean sea in the west, and we will never recognize anything less than this.” He added: “If part of our land is liberated, we will establish our state in that part without relinquishing even an inch of the rest. Just as we liberated Gaza and established a genuine administration in it, [with] an army and security apparatuses that defend us, rather than the Israeli enemy [unlike those of the PA], we will do the same in the West Bank, as a prelude to attaining all of Palestine.”

In the festive season, what a truly festive, peaceful message from Hamas. One that all their supporters in the west should read, understand, and remember.

Not the ballroom blitz

Israel HaYom - 18 December 23014

Israel HaYom – 18 December 2014

Today’s Israel HaYom newspaper has a somewhat curious take on recent developments. The main headline, referring to Europe, translates as:

Rage in Israel: they haven’t learned a thing

Above it, the yellow box highlights:

European anti-Israel blitz

Beside it, the white text on a red background reports on Hamas being removed from the list of terrorist organizations, the European parliament recognizing Palestine in principle, and condemnation of Israel by the Geneva Convention members.

It’s curious for the following reasons:

  1. This paper is seen as a Bibi Netanyahu mouthpiece. But many would put a huge share of the responsibility for the situation on Bibi.
  2. The use of “blitz” is worth noting. The paper has used a transliterated version of the word, so there’s no translation issue. The message was clear: it’s a blitz. Does that mean the paper is trying to send a not so subtle message that it’s the Germans all over again? A bit crass. And wrong.
  3. They must know that the Hamas removal from the list is a procedural issue, not a value judgement. Sure, as the Elder points out, they haven’t exactly covered themselves in glory with their non existent focus on Palestinian terrorism. But it’s going too far to see this as an active anti-Israel action.

It’s interesting to compare the coverage with Ynet, where “sources” criticize Bibi for both the situation, and his Holocaust invoking response.  He is described as “hiding behind cliches” which does tend to strike a chord. Bibi is not demonstrating a substantive pro-active approach to Israel’s diplomatic situation. Without that, further “blitzes” will be forthcoming.


Finally, completely off topic, I love the fact the front page of the newspaper reminds its readers that tonight is the third night of Chanukah:


One of those little touches that make the difference.

Cereal offender

One morning this week, I had to drop my car off at the garage for a service. I walked home.

It was still before 8.00 AM, so the school traffic – vehicular and pedestrian – had not yet cleared.

As I passed by a local school, I saw one young girl walking towards me. She was wrapped up against the cold – as she felt it! – and making steady strides despite the ominously large backpack she was carrying.

Even more impressive, was that she was making her way while eating her breakfast cereal.

No, not out of a packet.

No, not out of a bottle.

Out of a bowl.

She was playing the perfect part of a pedestrian, while spooning out her breakfast cereal, and eating it on the go. And nary a drop was being spilled.

I’m not sure if it is appropriate to criticize her for being late, or commend her for her practical approach – and skill. But at least I now understand why the kids need to have such big schoolbags; it’s for their school stuff, and their breakfast bowl and spoon! Come to think of it, maybe there was a big box of Rice Krispies in her schoolbag…

More Normandy gaming

[My original Normandy ’44 AAR starts here, with links to take you through all the turns of the seven turn mini game.]

So I am now finished my latest game of Normandy ’44. Playing solitaire, it appears that my pro-Allied bias shone through, as their forces did better than the first time, to secure a win in the seven turn mini campaign game.

Part of the difference was that the Omaha led forces broke out earlier, and more successfully. Thus, they were able to establish a link with the other beaches. Probably the core reason was better die rolling. That, and foolishly trying to conserve German supply points on defense, so as to mount a more potent offense. It didn’t work. There were too many days of clear weather, and too few opportunities for significant attacks. It appears that prudent use of supply points on the Determined Defense table may be the most productive use for the German side.

From Utah, I tried a much more aggressive approach as the Allies, including several chancy 1:1 combats. While these paid off, the cost was that I came close to handing the Germans an automatic victory because of the level of Allied step losses that built up here and elsewhere. In other words, although the Allies won the scenario, it was close to a German win.

On the Gold, Juno, and Sword front, the Allied forces were more successful in driving the Germans away, into Caen. However, after that there were no serious attempts to take the city. It would have been a bloodbath, and given the casualties elsewhere, was not attractive. It felt better – for the Allies – to pin German defenders in the city, while trying to make headway on the flanks.

In face-to-face play with a live opponent, it would be interesting to see how somebody else handles the German defenses here. For example, given the strong defensive bonus, maybe you can hold the city with a lot less, and release resources to menace the Allies on the flanks. This may delay the inevitable surrounding and cutting off that Caen faces. Intriguing.

It’s been a thoroughly enjoyable and engrossing experience, cementing the game’s position as my favorite of the campaign. That having been said, I need to think about finding a slot to try out the whole, long campaign game.


End position, with the front line marked in red. The Allies never really came close to threatening Villers-Bocage, but made better headway in the west; they are just about to split the defense into two. And in the east, they have also stretched the German defenses.


Oh glorious Omaha! With a better performance here, the Allied forces are threatening to snap the defenses open. The Germans have some decent troops, but maybe too much terrain to defend.  The British Mulberry is in place, and the USA one would have followed shortly. That relentless wave of reinforcements would surely overpower the defenders – unless the stormy weather can provide enough of a respite.


Things were getting very interesting around Caen. The Allies had broken out in the north-east, but lacked strength in depth. German forces (12th SS, 21st Panzer, and others) were still a potent attacking threat, especially if the weather turned nasty.

Redemption – Jussi Adler-Olsen

Carl Mørck, and his colleagues in Copenhagen’s Department Q, are the unusual characters who get to the bottom of the mystery of a message in a bottle. The bottle – washed up some time ago on a Scottish beach – eventually ends up at Q, where they seek to decipher the degraded message. The Danish for ‘Help’ is clear. But is this a real call for help, or a prank?

The author does a super job of creating believable and interesting characters, and not only the goodies. Mørck is no super hero, but a policeman trying to do his best. His Syrian assistant, Assad, is something of an unknown quantity; he is clearly hiding something in his background, but he is sharp, dedicated, and unwittingly funny as he mangles his sentences and mixes his metaphors and expressions. Rose is more complex, with a personality that may be fragile, but a spirit that is very much in tune with what Mørck wants to achieve.

Spoiler alert!

It transpires that the bottle is about a real kidnapping. But although it is historical, the baddie is still in that mode. Why and how are intriguing and chillingly described, as the author delivers a sharply observed portrayal of a serial killing sociopath.

This is a well plotted, well told, tense and exciting novel. It’s revealed in a mix of flashbacks, and the episodes quickly accumulate into a picture of an out of control killer, seemingly flying well under the police radar – until now. The plot does have one or two twists, but it’s the characterization that stands out. However, do not think the author is content with just that, because through these characters he delivers some acidic comment on society and its woes, as well as the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of daily life. For example, Mørck’s interactions with the police hierarchy, and the state’s bureaucracy, are definite highlights.

Highly recommended.