Elections!

Rejoice, for the broken state of Palestinian politics is about to be fixed.

The Guardian reports (as told by Reuters) today:

Rejoice, we are told, for Hamas and Fatah have resolved their differences.

Strangely, there’s no mention of the previous announcements about such agreements. The previous twelve instances (at least) when Hamas and Fatah had sorted everything out. See here. The previous instances that came to nothing. Why will this one be any different? In short, it probably won’t. Instead it’s more likely the Palestinian leadership will continue its kleptocratic rule. But at last they won’t have to worry about the Guardian criticizing them.

Tank Battles at Tobruk

This Harold Hock design, published by Avalon Hill, dates back to 1975. I think this is the first time I have played it since then…

It’s a very detailed game about tank v tank warfare. There are detailed charts which show you how many times a weapon can fire in a turn (which varies according to whether the target has been acquired), the chance of a hit, the hit location, and the type of damage, all while taking into account target aspect. Since you roll dice for each shell, each hit, and each potential penetrating hit, you roll a lot of dice. This is not for the faint hearted.

The playability is further dragged down by the lack of markers. So, for example, you have to keep track of which targets have been acquired, which tanks have suffered mobility or firepower kills and so on.

I played scenario one. A group of nine Grant tanks take on a mixed German force of Panzer IIIh and IIIj tanks with a couple of Panzer IVe’s thrown in as extra targets. Around a dozen turns later there were five Grant tanks still in one piece and one immobile but still firing and no more German tanks, the desert being littered with burning wrecks. The German tanks were shot up as they tried to close in to more effective range. The surprising aspect was that of the Grant two guns, the smaller 37mm seemed to do the most damage.

The game is chock full of great ideas but is a real drag to play. You can see, looking back, how it was an inspiration for others. In fairness, the slow play may be down to the scenarios which are too big for the die rolling required. The other handicap is that the charts were all weapon and vehicle specific. So, it wasn’t like you could (or can) instantly develop versions for other vehicles and weapons that were not included in the box.

I enjoyed it as a diversion and a trip back in time. Forty-five years ago, this was the height of gaming sophistication. I may never go back to it, though.

Cowardice and the Final Lockdown

Times of Israel reports:

Government ministers voted Tuesday night in favor of tightening the current nationwide lockdown by shuttering schools and nonessential businesses for two full weeks, with the aim of cutting rising daily infections that have passed 8,000 a day.

The increased measures will come into force at midnight between Thursday and Friday and last for at least 14 days, according to the Prime Minister’s Office and the Health Ministry.

This lockdown underlines the government’s failure to deal with disease and, in particular, their cowardice. Their appointment as coronavirus czar, Ronnie Gamzu, put forward a traffic light scheme that was to be backed up with closure of the red areas – those with high levels of infection and positive checks. Then it became clear that most – not all – of the red areas were Haredi or Arab. Both communities pushed back against these closures. The Haredi threatened Bibi’s rule. That was it. The government caved.

In the weeks leading up to the supposed final lockdown just announced, there were reports that 25% of the positive tests were in the Haredi community. Arab communities were also not doing so well. And what measures were implemented there? None. It’s widely known that in the Haredi communities, observance of the social distancing, mask wearing, and hygiene regulations was not universal. Far from it. Schools operated when they should have been closed. Members of the community were even told, allegedly, not to report as being ill to keep the numbers lower. Not all Haredim were so stupid and selfish, but too many were. In the Arab communities, some continued to have large gatherings for weddings which might as well have been called ‘Get your coronavirus here’ parties! Not all Arab communities were so stupid and selfish. But too many were. Now, the whole country is paying the price. To be clear, plenty outside these communities were equally stupid and selfish, but at least with proper track and trace and enforcement and closure, these would have been identified and dealt with too.

We cannot be certain, but if the focus of the government had ben about fighting the coronavirus and not fighting to keep Bibi in power, Gamzu’s scheme would have been fully implemented and there probably wouldn’t have been any need for the current or the final lockdown. Personally, I’ll get through it. But I wonder how many will suffer unnecessarily? How many more workers will lose their jobs? How many businesses will never recover? How many people’s mental health will be damaged, perhaps irreparably?

Bibi, this is on your head. I hope the voters remember your cowardice when it comes round to election time. As for your fellow Likudniks, they are no less guilty.

Goodbye 2020

Yes, there were some good things that happened in 2020, but they were far outnumbered by the bad things. So much so, that I cannot remember ever feeling so badly disposed towards a year and looking forward so much to the new one. Goodbye 2020 and bad riddance!

Of course, there’s no guarantee 2021 will be better, but following the recommended approach of applying some positive thinking, I just have this feeling…

Here’s to a super 2021 – a year of happiness, good health, peace, and prosperity.

On the Table Catchup

After finishing off the first scenario of Brazen Chariots (it was a draw) I decided I wanted to play something else. I opted for Ukraine ’43 (first edition), a GMT game designed by Mark Simonitch. I played this against the designer back in 2015 and this was an opportunity to refresh the experience.

There are a lot of Soviet troops out there

The campaign is a puzzle for the Germans: how do you stop the Soviets who have overwhelming superiority and seemingly endless numbers of troops? While many gamers have a tendency to over think their play, this type of game requires it. If you put a unit one hex out of place, or fail to cover the area where the enemy breaks through, you will lose.

Somebody’s about to be encircled

One of the aspects that is worth highlighting is that the game provides a Victory Point level that has to be attained to avoid defeat. This translates into a measure of success – for both sides. It also encouraged me to play the short scenario, reset the game and try it all over again.

Good fun.

Vaccination? You bet!

Susan and I tried to get vaccinated against the coronavirus as soon as Maccabi – our Health Fund – told us we were eligible. After a false start when only Tel Aviv was on offer as a place to be inoculated, we secured a slot in Petach Tikva. (Much more convnient.)

How was it? Great. We turned up and in the time it took the front office guy to print us out a ticket for the (non-existent) queue, slots opened up for us and were duly inoculated. In and out in ten minutes or so. Quite an impressive performance by Maccabi.

One witticism doing the rounds gives you a bit of a peek into current Israeli life: can we please get whoever is organizing the vaccinations to be put in charge of the post office?

So that was Chanukah that was

For me, Chanukah was over almost before it started. Definitely a sign of getting old.

With large gatherings off the agenda due to the coronavirus, we had a somewhat smaller first night lighting the menorah event, though do not worry as there were more than enough latkes and donuts to go around!

There were 1,001 online Chanukah events, but given that I spend most of the working day in front of a computer, I generally stay away from such offerings. Susan participated in an online quiz event for the shul. And there was one exception that we both took part in as Susan and I were the featured guests in a sort of foreside chat with Rabbi Moshe Rubin, our former leader in Glasgow. It was great to catch up, even fleetingly, with old familiar faces. Apparently we ruled ourselves out of jobs in the Jewish Agency Aliyah Department with our full and frank answers! However, those who were listening carefully will recall that we both stressed living in Israel was worth the effort. We are grateful we have a very good life here. (Even in these challenging times.)

Windows Baddies

From an article at the Register about Tim Cook and Apple‘s interactions with the media, comes this fascinating tidbit:

Apple’s control isn’t merely felt on its own TV platform, but also how it handles product placement. Kit provided to studios always comes with strings attached, according to Rian Johnson, who directed Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Knives Out.

Fictional bad guys, can’t, for example, use iPhones and MacBooks. During the run of espionage thriller 24, it became immediately apparent who was the antagonist, based on their computer of choice. If they used Windows, they were suspect.

Now you know. If they’re using Windows, they are likely to be baddies!

Youi can read the whole article here.