Building the Birmoverse

Great thread over on Cheeseburger Gothic soliciting thoughts on what the world will look like after the war in the Axis of Time Birmoverse….even if I am a bit of a late starter…this is a great series, so a. have a think about tracking down the first trilogy and having a read and b. contributing some thoughts. I’m tossing my thoughts in here as I find it easier to add in links etc to sources…

  • The UK will revert back to a Battle of Britain frontline mentality i.e. a far higher rate of readiness than during the Cold War and a non-war that will be far hotter than the Cold War i.e. intercepts and shoot-downs, possibly much like the 67-73 War of Attrition in the Middle East.
  • The Sovs are much more likely to learn from our history or what’s left of it and plan on making their move for the rest of Europe early and there will be a lot more skirmishes, border incidents etc, again more like the Arab-Israel relationship in ‘our’ time.
  • Britain will give up the Empire but under far more controlled conditions: Singapore will be created immediately based upon the ethnic Chinese, ditto for Malaysia with the native Malays; India will become independent without much help from Mr Ghandi (so the movie will be much different too and possibly no longer Oscar material) and from the start be set up as a strong ally in the region a la AS and NZ in the Pacific; issues with tribes (i.e. we will get into advanced Gantism early) and borders will be sorted at the same time possibly along the same lines as the UAE  as per this item on Coming Anarchy. On similar lines, the handover from empire in the Gulf will be far more structured and only once a civil infrastructure a la India is well-embedded.
  • AS and NZ will be developed as regional allies to much the same level as Canada in terms of militaries, especially air and maritime forces, and NZ’s main focus will be patrolling/protecting the seaways and resources of the southern sea lanes and Antarctica before Argentina and Chile make a grab for them. I for one would like to see more RNZAF Vulcans (no, not the point eared type)
  • The convoy system will remain in vogue and the intensified Cold War will make the sea lanes operational environments to pressure the UK and other free world nations like AS and NZ that are dependent on shipping for trade and goods. Submarines may replace the nutcase terrorists like Baader-Meinhof etc. As mentioned in The Strategist today, there may well be an increase in private maritime forces to exploit this on both security and piracy/privateer sides of the house.
  • Just for shits and giggles and because I think he got a raw deal, MacArthur will be allowed to nuke the Yellow River if anyone looks even remotely sideways at crossing it.
  • Someone already mentioned the internet but via cable – Voice of America/Free Europe will beam out not just radio but information and TV streams into occupied Europe – two info war models spring to mind: one is Tom Clancy’s campaign against China in The Bear and the Dragon, and the other the UK Political Warfare Executive initiatives like Gustav Seigfied Eins, with more info on Wikipedia and an interesting paper here on Grey and Black Propaganda Against Nazi Germany. I remembering reading about this when I was about ten in a Reader’s Digest Condensed book, titled something like The House in Baker Street (Baker St being pretty much owned by the SOE during WW2)- I haven’t been able to find any references to this title via Google or Bing – I’d be much appreciated if anyone could put me on to either the full or abridged version as I’d love to reread it – the original have gone up in smoke many moons ago.
  • On the same lines, I think that we will see personal computing power (PCP) ramp up into the early fifties as the technology is made accessible through the uptimers – what we saw in the 90s will probably happen in the Birmoverse in the 50s. This will be both a byproduct and a deliberate policy to use information as a weapon both against the Soviets and also to mitigate the vulnerability of ignorance that enables the exploitation of people into proxy terrorists and fighters e.g. take the info war to the mullahs in the 50s – this approach will also be a major factor in decolonialisation.
  • The whole Vietnam thing will be headed off at the pass when the French get arbitrarily booted out of Indochina (with lots of parties and champagne and bugger-all tears from the locals), a US-based Constitution is adopted and President Ho Chi Minh leads Vietnam into an era of prosperity and progress (much like Lee Qwan Yew in Singapore) while becoming the region’s major foundation for stability against Chinese expansionism.
  • Ed Hillary still knocks the bugger off in 1953…and Queen Elisabeth II is crowned at the same time – but takes considerable steps to ensure that her children get better relationship counselling before being allowed to breed. The Queen Mother still lives on to 103 years old. Sir Ed sees that Nepal and Tibet become peaceful sanctuaries for eco-tourism while the UK realises the error of its ways and makes sure the Ghurkas get a fair shake decades earlier than in this timeline.
  • Winston Churchill doesn’t get booted out of office in 1945 by an ungrateful nation and remains Prime Minister until the late 50s when he hands over to someone way smarter than those who actually did the job between him and Maggie Thatcher.
  • JFK drops his (and his dad’s) political aspirations and gets into Hollywood, marries Grace Kelly and both go on to become Hollywood’s ‘royal’ family.
  • A peacekeeping force deploys into Palestine on the eve of the creation of the state of Israel in May 48 (Exodus never happens as the Brits are dicks about it this time around) – over the next 2-3 decades it oversees the successful blending of cultures and healing of wounds. Israel become a major technology centre ( a la Singapore), never needs to develop a major military capability (or submit its economy to one) – by 1980 the relationship of Jew and Muslim returns to the symbiotic one of a previous millenia.
  • The space race still occurs but a decade earlier with a man on the moon (one of the Mercury 7?) in 1959 – the Russians still can’t get it together in space without massive attrition in astronauts and hardware. Bombs in space are a reality a la Jeff Sutton‘s Bombs in Orbit Ace Publishing D-377 1959. Permanent bases are established on the moon by 1970 and the first landings on Mars happen by 1980. The UK is not a player in the space race other than to provide high calibre pilots due to its ongoing combat ops in the non-war with the Sovs.
  • Many British children and families are evacuated to the Dominions for education as Britain becomes a literal floating FOB against the Sovs. This is made more palatable by the SST network established by the late 50s (it took time to ramp up mass production of the high-tech metals necessary for mass supersonic flight) that reduces global travel times and also mitigates the maritime threats against shipping. Stratospheric ballistic travel become a reality in the 60s. Essentially the UK is someplace you work but you go on holiday anywhere else.
  • Due to its ongoing war footing, the mass immigration from the colonies never occurs and Britain remains essentially British – the Beatles and the Rolling Stones still kick off on schedule.
  • The B-49 is adopted by the RAF as the Vandal (sorry but I’m not giving this one up!) as its stealthy profile, along with the Vulcan and Victor, enables its to better operate in the air defence environments over Europe and the North Sea – the B-52 is too slab-sided and suffers too many losses. The TSR.2 also comes into service in the mid-50s as the F-111 concept is tossed out as the joke it always was + there will be no McNamaraism to foster its design anyway. McNamara himself goes on to become the head of the Tucker Motor Corporation.
  • Despite the early release of public CG software in the 50s, Gerry Anderson still starts out with SuperMarionation and Thunderbirds remains a mega-hit with children of all ages.
  • South Africa and Rhodesia remain members of the Commonwealth and over a period of decades transition from apartheid-based societies to successful blended cultures a la Singapore. Both nations form the bulwark of westernism against the Sovs in Southern Africa and win numerous wars against Sov-supported forces from Mozambique, Angola and Zambia a la Barrett Tillman’s The Sixth Battle and Larry Bond’s Vortex.  Nelson Mandela still becomes President but in the late 80s.
  • Britannia continues to rule the waves – the RN retains its full deck carriers and also expands the battleship fleet with more Vanguard class vessels – it remains the premier maritime force for littoral operations (a la lessons from the Med pre-Transition), whereas the US Navy rules in blue water ops.
  • The Sovs will be wise to the concept of containment but I still don’t think that they will be bright enough to do much about it as they have this habit of killing off all their best and brightest – while the steel-shod boot of terror may maintain its hold on Europe eventually this will weaken. Trite as it sounds I think that repressing its intellectual capabiltities will be sound the same eventual death knell for the Sovs in the Birmoverse as it did here in 1989.
  • Women will be empowered way earlier without having to ignite their undies (which we now know can get you locked up in Gitmo #2) – this will be one of the most significant long-term effects of the Transition, even more than the technological advances, and will spread like wild fire through all cultures. This notwithstanding, prominent bumpy bits on aircraft will still be known as ‘Sabrinas‘. Sometime in the fifties, either the British Prime Minister or the President should be a women – without wanting too many uptimers running the place, maybe Karen Halabi takes over from Churchill either by election or succession – this benign dictatorship thing seems to work quite well…and would a nation at war like Britain still is, really want to risk an election that might bring in the likes of MacMillan?
  • The All Blacks still only win the one Rugby World Cup but manage to hold the America’s Cup for three decades running as a bonus prize.

And in other news…

I’m still a bit bummed out after yesterday’s crash near Ohakea so nothing too stimulating this morning…

The Information Militia is on the march

Google is threatening to pull the pin from China because of government over-regulation and control – go the Information Militia!! More comment here on Coming Anarchy and Neptunus Lex…where Google stays or goes, the simple fact is that, sooner or later, unless it bombs itself back to the Stone Age or Cultural Revolution, the Chinese Old Guard is going to have to get with the programme and realise that time do indeed change – if they want to be player in the global game, they have to accept that not everything will go their way…of course, not that I particularly care: probably the best thing for China would be a total change of leadership and philosophy.

Teaching Green

I quite like the sustainability posts that Peter puts up on The Strategist and here is an item from paper model publisher, Fiddlers Green, with resources for school projects on wind turbines. Not only are wind turbines cool and green (even if they are white) but kids can get to build a model as part of the project.

New acquisitions

These don’t count under my NY resolution to not purchase any more models until I actually place a completed one on the shelf – not as simple as it sounds as I also need to build a shelf first. I ordered these from Orlik in Poland in October as part of my Christmas shopping plan – one was a gift, the others were ‘just to optimise the postage’. As it happened the package only arrived this week…containing….

There are two pages of plans, both equally cluttered but which seem to make sense if you stare at them long enough. Some of the detail around the turret and undercarriage construction is a little vague but hopefully I will be able to muddle through. I particularly like that this model has (for me) a more traditional frame than the normal monocoque style of paper model construction for aircraft so that it is possible to build up the skeleton and have the option of leaving some areas unskinned to show off interior detail without sacrificing anything in the way of strength. For the hassle of a couple of extra parts, I wish that more designers would do this i.e. allow aircraft construction to be more closer to the structure for the hull of a ship. The parts all look quite nice and logical although the standard RAF green/brown for the upper surfaces is very (too) dark and almost looks black from some angles. Some parts I will replace with other media mainly in the turret like the gun bodies and ammunition belts. The rest all looks good to go as is… (more here…)

I’ve already had a good look through the parts and plans which confirm that this should make a good little build in 1/72 to go with the rest of the fleet but as above, not a build that will kick off til at least mid-year. There don’t appear to be any great mysteries in construction but it would have been nice to have the full range of armament options listed in the history section of the instructions; and it is disappointing that the rockets for rocket launcher are not provided even though they are quite prominent pre-launch; nor is the 7.62mm AA MG provided. Easy enough to fix from the spares box…(more here…)

The plans look pretty straight forward and the only area where I anticipate a little pain so far is at the rear of the fuselage where there are no formers for support – I’m think I might make this area from foam and shape the skin over it in order to get a clean seam top and bottom. The fuselage skin is printed in a silvery ink that provides a nice effect (Orlik also has a metallic paper version available) – I don’t think it will scan and print well so I will have to use the actual parts and just make sure I get it right the first time (there is a first time for everything!!). I was a little disappointed that the gunbay interior for the XP-61E is not provided but the cockpit and gear bays appear to be nicely represented. Alternate fuselage parts and markings are provided to enable either the XP-61E long-range fighter or the F-15 Reporter versions to be assembled. I was inspired to buy this model by Bomarc’s PBJ build but am actually quite glad now that this model doesn’t have quite near the same degree of pain detail…(more here…)

Action in the Birmoverse

John Birmingham reports that the latest draft of After America has gone off to the publishers…

Thoughts while mowing

I was just mowing the lawns – a time when I can just flick on to auto-mow and just cogitate for a while – and a couple of phrases collided in my mind…the first was one by John Birmingham in one of his blog posts on writing, this one on where the idea for a book or story might come from. In this case, Without Warning is the result of JB enduring some fool prattling on about all of America’s failings…

…he screamed at me the world would be a much better place if we all just woke up one day and they were gone, just gone, every last American in the world. That dumb ass suggestion must have caught like a fish hook in my brain and kept nagging away for years until the idea of turning it into a novel finally occurred to me after a couple of months of frustrating negotiations to settle on the topic for a new trilogy after Axis of Time…

The quote that rear-ended these lines from JB is one I saw but didn’t really absorb from Neptunus Lex last week on Barack Obama’s acceptance speech in Oslo:

…I begin with this point because in many countries there is a deep ambivalence about military action today, no matter what the cause. And at times, this is joined by a reflexive suspicion of America, the world’s sole military superpower.

But the world must remember that it was not simply international institutions — not just treaties and declarations — that brought stability to a post-World War II world. Whatever mistakes we have made, the plain fact is this: The United States of America has helped underwrite global security for more than six decades with the blood of our citizens and the strength of our arms. The service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform has promoted peace and prosperity from Germany to Korea, and enabled democracy to take hold in places like the Balkans. We have borne this burden not because we seek to impose our will. We have done so out of enlightened self-interest — because we seek a better future for our children and grandchildren, and we believe that their lives will be better if others’ children and grandchildren can live in freedom and prosperity…

It struck me, as I mowed, that sometimes we should be careful what we wish for – it just might happen…I’ve met a lot of Americans and some of them were real dicks BUT in no greater proportion than those I have endured in Australia, New Zealand, Canada or the UK . As much as we might like to take a populist view of America’s ‘failure’ in Vietnam, I was struck by the attitude of the Vietnamese people when I was there some years ago: they despised the French with a true passion (understandable) but considered as America as well-intentioned but misguided “…came to our country with the best intentions but for the wrong reasons…

We’re all too happy to stand back and let America take the hits…til the Wehrmacht tosses a few warmers across the Channel, or the Imperial Navy steams south; the national daily prayer of France should be ‘Thank you, America’; as it should be in many ingrate European countries – can you say ‘Marshall Plan’?’ Can you say ‘thank God, someone else was able to sort Yugoslavia out’?. Even in our backyard, INTERFET may have been Aussie-led with a Kiwi 2IC but lets NOT forget Peleliu and her sister were there as well – just in case.

When has it ever hurt to simply say “thank you“?

PS. It’s worth reading the whole of the Neptunus Lex post on what it means to be a nation at war – we might need to know one day…

Tapdancing

How unusual to have tap dancing on Closeup two days running:

  • The first story covered the successful attempt by a Wellington stock broker to break the Guinness world tap dancing record with 17 and a bit taps per second.
  • In the second item, the General Manager of the Accident Compensation Corporation showed off his own tap dancing skills when facing off with the very well-prepared leader of the Bikers Rights Organisation of New Zealand (BRONZ) over ACC’s attempt to grossly hike the ACC levies for bike riders…

What really gets me about all this ACC reforms is that no one is targeting the overpaid underproducing and apparently unaccountable fat cat senior staff who let it all turn to custard in the first place. The Strategist has an item this morning that applies equally to ACC as it does GM…In this battle, BRONZ needs all the support it can get: there’s a Facebook Group set up for this so please have a think about becoming a supporter – non-Kiwis too as deep down we known you all really want to be Kiwis, especially those from West Island!!

On Cheeseburger Gothic today, there is a discarded version of the opening for After America, the next in the Wave series – it is a good read, and also draws out another point about militia which applies to the Information Militia as well: often no one is quite too sure who, if anyone they are accountable too…

Top marks to the NZ Police Sergeant on Breakfast this morning – Always Blow on the Pie – just goes to show that your 15 minutes of fame can come anytime and from anywhere, even a casual stop at 3am five years ago…great to see a happy non-contentious Police story…Safer Comunities Together – get the T-Shirt here….

We woke this morning to a great bright ball in a broad expanse of blue sky…the rain is gone, long live the sun…But I still got drenched yesterday morning, mulching all the blackberry around the Chalet so that it was kid-safe for the guests staying this weekend and in the interests of aesthetics, tidieness etc as well. Also managed to slash my finger clearing away all the rubbish left where a previous tenant had burned rubbish – amazing what people think will burn, hence the slash from a broken bottle – stupid woman!!!!

Feral was making a big show of scratching up her kitty litter bin the other day so Carmen put her outside. Feral was clearly not impressed by this and gapped it again til about eleven that night…she probably has some justification in this as it followed right on from the previous day when Carmen let the dogs without doing the mandatory ground floor cat scan first. So there’s poor old 1.9kg  Feral perched up on top of Nimitz (the larger couch), silhouetted against the window, hoping that 96kg of Rottweilers won’t notice her…followed by a blur of tortoiseshell as she bolted for the stairs.

Have been shotgunning my CV around the place while working up Plan B…one insight after a couple of days is that if you want to work for the Government – or some parts of it – you have to really want to work for them – some of the recruitment systems really challenge your level of commitment. I wonder how many quality candidates just give all the hurdles and miss and seek employment elsewhere, leaving us with the ‘dregs’; it would be interesting to review those government departments with a history of screw-ups against the intuitiveness of their recruiting interfaces…

Coming Anarchy has an item on the coming next war – not that any of the current batch are likely to end any time soon…

The stupid German hire car…

I’ve finally got all my pictures from the UK trip sorted out and uploaded from the camera – I am amazed that so small a chip can hold the better part of 900+ pictures: a fair cry from my first big overseas excursion when I had to lug dozens of rolls of film around with me.

Anyway, this is the stupid German hire car that we had:

CLAW 09 - Stupid German Hire Car

We picked it up from Avis at Heathrow who were nice enough to hunt down a detailed UK roadmap for us (lesson: they don’t provide this automatically anymore) and then promptly dropped the ball by giving us the wrong directions out of the airport – if the guy on the security gate hadn’t set us right we’d still be doing laps of the Concorde…

Things we liked about the stupid German hire car:

[This section deliberately left blank]

Things we hated about the stupid German hire car:

  • It was called a Passat – a stupid name with no sense of coolness at all..
  • It was  manual – not the car’s fault but we’ll blame it for this accident of birth anyway – what a pain in the bum to drive around narrow twisting Brit roads and towns.
  • Reverse was down and forward from first – if you shift too energetically into first while stationary, you could find yourself in reverse, much to the consternation of people queued behind us at the lights.
  • It would take anything to from 2 to 17 nudges on the unlock button on the ‘key’ to unlock all the doors.
  • I say ‘key’ with squiggly things around it because it wasn’t really a key at all: just a chunk of plastic and chrome that fitted into a hole in the dash. We think this is EU fallout out from the car-keying incident (it was Norris, dummies!!) on Coro St a couple of months ago (in NZ; probably a decade ago in the rest of the Coro watching world) where the over-efficient Germans are trying to avoid any such recurrences of such trauma (it’s all fun and games til someone loses a spleen).
  • To start the car, you just push the ‘key’ in while depressing the clutch at the same time but if you stall it (see comment above about stupid manual German hire cars) to can’t restart it by just pushing in the clutch and pushing the ‘key’ home again…nope, too simple – you actually have to pop it most of the way out and THEN push it all the way home again…that’s not a pain – yeah right…sorry, all you folk backed up behind us on the roundabout – it’s just the Germans getting payback for that Sea Lion thing….This sort of thing probably seemed like a good idea for when the Russians broke through at interesting places like Kursk but for a family sedan…nuh…
  • There’s no handbrake…just a button on the dash – works brill for setting the brake and makes a cool whirr-clunk sound but…to release the brake you have to push in the brake pedal while pushing the brake button; not only is there no whirr-clunk sound but you need to have three feet if you want to do a hill start. We had to limit our travels to flat places only.
  • The manual was over an inch thick – no wonder it was still sealed in the original plastic. This might have told us about the cruise control that we didn’t find until the last day…

The Peace Prize and the Olympics

Word on the street is that Obama won the prize (hardly seems worth capitalising it nowadays) because Europeans like him. They like him because he at least goes through the motions of communicating with them – while still doing what he wants anyway. I suppose they should be grateful as well that he engineered the 2016 Olympics going to Rio and not to some EU city that would be forever broke afterwards. After all the grief that Venezuela has been giving the US recently (but didn’t they get dealt to so well in John Birmingham’s Without Warning??), I’m surprised that it didn’t go to Caracas – that would certainly have put them in their place and then some. The Olympic city is fast becoming a economic kiss of death for many nations and I really have to wonder if Obama’s ‘failure’ to secure the Games for Chicago was not actually a masterstroke that Machiavelli would be proud of – it’s unlikely that Brazil will be throwing its weight around too much once it sees the bill…It would actually be quite nice if the Olympics went back to the original concept of sporting excellence instead of the municipal oneupmanship it has become…

Food Blogging

Have been thinking about the food blogging thing I mentioned yesterday and think I will do this from tonight where dinner consists of all the leftovers in the fridge mixed up in a big bowl and turned into rissoles (flash name for patties), consumed between slices of homemade sourdough bread (an accident with the mix last night but tastes great) with fresh tomatoes and sliced cheese – there would have been beetroot and lettuce except I forgot the beetroot til it was too late and parley was the closest thing in the fridge tonight to greens…

From a more organised kitchen we had a great lunch at Out Of The Fog in Owhango (it’s on GoogleEarth) on Sunday (unfortunately it is now only open on the weekends – probably a reflection on the Central Plateau job market) – very fast and friendly service: I had hardly finished the front page of the paper when my snack arrived and they do a great Chai Latte too (but not as good as my homemade ones)…the Owhango Pub has just closed up so Out Of The Fog is now it for refreshment between Raurimu and Manunui…

And we pay for this…

Couldn’t sleep again this morning so got up and have been pottering around for a few hours now. I came across the latest Consumer magazine (NZ consumer watchdog magazine for overseas viewers) and had a read. For a while now, I’ve been thinking that some of the reporting has been rather superficial, if not downright inaccurate in some areas, and the article in the October 09 issue on tramping boots and jackets is a ripper – written by their technology writer, no less!!

High and Dry

  • One would expect Consumer to be able to source more empirical comment than from a company that is in the business. There are numerous resources available, including Google, that should allow a staff reporter to draw their own conclusions without relying on a single commercial source.
  • The implication in the ‘a boot to match’ paragraph that synthetic material boots may be more prone to leaks may be true but it is not as simple as that as many boots from synthetic and natural materials feature built-in waterproof membranes to provide waterproofing. Any boot, synthetic or natural, will let water in sooner or later – if dry feet are that essential, then find a pair of boots with a breathable waterproof membrane, or get a decent pair of Goretex socks. On a decent tramp, though, your feet will probably pump out enough moisture  from the inside of the boot that damp feet are almost inevitable – trampers should plan on drying feet, having spare dry socks, for the end of a days walking…
  • More important than insoles for the comfort of your feet is the support structure of the boot, of which the insoles are only a relatively small part – like any form of footwear the internal structure of the boot is what really defines the comfort of a boot, not the insole.
  • Soles should avoid rounded edges on the sole and at the heel so as to better dig into soft ground. The article should define what an open tread pattern actually is instead of leaving it up to the reader to interpret. Looking for a name brand sole is also a good idea.
  • It is false to state that boots with higher uppers offer more ankle support – while a higher upper may offer better protection to the lower leg and also make it more difficult for water to come in over the top of the boot (thus negating any perceived advantage from natural material boots!), they provide little in the way of extra ankle support and possibly, if laced too tightly, have an adverse ‘splint-like’ effect in restricting the natural movement of the foot and lower leg. This is why many, if not most, experienced trampers still stick with traditional ankle style boots. Ankle support comes in a rough line from the heel, just below the ankle bone to the top of the foot a la a shoe – this is why modern boot designs with extended uppers often have a lock eyelet at the ankle to gain ankle support at this point and to eliminate a requirement to tightly lace the upper part of the boot.
  • Cheap does not equal uncomfortable for footwear anymore that it does for any other items of clothing – people should buy for their requirements and shop around for the best item at the best price – I would offer that most NZ tramping shops do NOT offer the best price; or even the best advice or items in a number of cases. I have just finally worn out a pair of quality name brand leather European boots that I bought in 2000 for around $200 and replaced them with a like item for around the same cost.
  • Cheap jackets don’t necessarily equal poor or non-breathable jackets and vice versa – sometimes the label and not the material is the more significant contributor to the retail cost; there are also some quite good and inexpensive breathable fabrics around should one care to search. It is more important that the buyer select a jacket made from a material that meets their needs – in many circumstances, the good old Kiwi Swanndri still does the business as well as any high-tech material. Seam sealing in garments made from Goretex and similar materials adds considerably to the cost – I have worn both sealed and unsealed garments over the years and experienced few leaks through the seams. There is no panacea for comfort in the bush and if someone really wants to stay warm and dry then they should probably stay at home.
  • Goretex is but one of a number of different technologies for breathable waterproof materials – it is however the best and most aggressively marketed but this does not make it the best for any specific purpose. Certainly Goretex is less effective in dirty dusty environments where an osmotic membrane would be better. It’s performance is also downgraded if it is not regularly washed.
  • Under the ‘Lots of Layers’ heading, the three layers that are most important in a  breathable waterproof garment are the outer and inner layers to protect the breathable membrane, and the relatively delicate membrane itself. Without and sometimes even with especially if heavy packs are being carried, the membrane will wear through at pressure/rubbing points very quickly and with it goes the waterproofing. Any inner wicking layer is an extra and would probably be better off as a separate item as part of a structured layered clothing system (an important concept for comfortable and safe tramping that it not even mentioned in this article). The quote from Dave Stewart in this section is a blatant commercial plug that deserves no place in a supposedly neutral public service publication. I have dealt with Goretex and a number of its competitors and the statement is simply not true.
  • It is not unreasonable with 21C technology to expect a new pair of boots to be wearable out of the box. A quality boot of good design, with prestretched leather, that has been properly fitted, should be able to be worn pretty well immediately – it’s not like big boot users like the Army can get soldiers to just wear their boots for a couple of hours a day if a pair has to be replaced in the field.
  • Footwear should be cleaned and maintained with the products recommended by the manufacturer. many waxes and other cleaning products also seal the seal and prevent it breathing and drying. This can lead to a problem in boots with a built-in waterproof liner where moisture gets trapped between the outside of the waterproof membrane and the leather, leading to accelerated degrading/rotting of the leather – in worse cases with results in the tongue pulling away when the boot is being pulled on – not good in the middle of the Kaimanawas!
  • The footwear table on p24 contains a number of the inaccuracies listed above. It is also not true to say that four season boots are ‘not suitable for lighter walks’ – a good pair will be able to cover the spectrum; or to list the requirement for boot maintenance as a ‘con’ – that’s much like describing the need to periodically check a car’s oil and water as a ‘con’!

I found this article not just superficial but inaccurate and not the sort of item that Consumer has established its reputation on. Perhaps in a country like NZ, Consumer needs a specialist staff expert on the outdoors, instead of roping in its technology writer? It really gets up my nose that an organisation like this, that is a Kiwi icon for standing up for the under-dog has come to this; even more so when we pay a subscription for crappy product – maybe it’s time that Consumer reviewed itself???

In other news, Coming Anarchy has an comment on AG Parody videos which it suggests would be a great way to undermine AQ; I disagree as this reeks of once again applying a Western solution to a non-Western problem: “Agree that this may help discredit AQ in cultures like ours but I do wonder how such attempts may be viewed in the Islamic and other non-Western cultures where they may be perceived as denigrating the ‘sacrifice of the fallen’ and thus have a contrary effect? If Al-Jazzera started running pisstakes of fallen US, UK, NATO, etc soldiers, how well would it go down at home?

It also has an item on what is calls deviant globalisation i.e. when globalisation goes bad, or gets even worse depending on your POV…like the post says, possibly nothing new but also a side of globalisation not often covered articles listing globalisation as the root or a contributing cause of the world’s evils, failing nations, the price of cheese (seriously) or the demise of Coro St as serious TV drama…there’s no way the slides or video will be viewable here at home (if the internet is the information superhighway, we are on a little dirt road way up the back of Hazzard County!!) so maybe some follow-on comment when I go back to work and have broadband access again next week…

There’s been some great discussion re the Birmoverse Axis of Time on Cheeseburger (well, as good a discussion as you can get within the limitation of blog comments) – a number of contributors have been lauding the B-52 as the best bomber for the US to develop in the AoT alternate universe to polish off the bad guys in WW2 and there have been numerous statements that it’s speed and manouevrability would enable it to easily avoid German air defences like the Me-163 rocket fighter – this has been nagging me for a couple of days now and it strikes me that the Me-163 and similar in the same vein are not much different from the SA-2s that wreaked havoc over North Vietnam and parts of the Middle East in the 60s and 70s except for having a slightly brighter guidance system…so I still reckon that a. even in the AoT universe, the Germans would still have given the Allies a good run for their money in air defence and b. the B-49 would still be a way cooler option that the B-52…

Almost famous…

…excusing a bit of  a time lag from unwinding the rubber band back to NZ over the last few days hence the silence…I was quite flattered to open up Cheeseburger on Monday to find one of my comments re the Birmoverse starring on the front page as it were. Certainly led to an interesting dialogue – people should check out the various discussions re what’s next in the Birmoverse and maybe even contribute if they have anything meaningful to say…while I’m interested in a 50s/60s sequel to the Axis of Time trilogy, I’m way more interested in a 21C prequel that explores the modern Birmoverse (less the wormhole device) – this would be a great tool (shades of self-interest!) to explore possibilities for where our version of this century might go…

Am now safely back at home (thank you very much to Singapore Airlines – truly a great way to fly!!) having enjoyed another brief stopover in Singapore which I largely slept through despite being booked into the Crowne Plaza Changi which is right by the main runway (ask me how I know that the last flight into Changi is at 0230 and the first out at 0600!!!. The beauty of Singapore though is that the light rail system can get you pretty well anywhere in an hour or so absolutely max so I still got to spend a good 4-5 hours in town hopping from one airconned enclave to the next. I very much enjoyed renewing my acquaintance with Miniature Hobbies (03-380) in Marina Square – so fun fun to explore an unfamiliar top-class model shop and of course I managed to make a couple of acquisitions that I’ll probably never build: the Academy I-19 sub is very nice, more so for only $20 and comes with some very nice etch work; and the Trumpeter B-4 203mm gun is one of those big chunky ‘I was built in a tractor factory‘ bits of Soviet kit.

The Singapore Air entertainment programme for October was a bit weak – I was expecting Up, GI Joe and G-Force at least but had to make do with Transformers II which didn’t rock and I watched first movie straight after just to confirm that it wasn’t just a teeny screen issue…even though I was awake the whole Singapore-Auckland leg, all I watched was the canned TV episodes because there was nothing in the movies that appealed in the slightest…I did enjoy the first Doctor Who special from Season IV and have to wonder what is going to happen between the Doctor and Lady Christina who is just way too hot to be written out so early in the season…as I was watching Doctor Who of which I have always been a fan since it stopped scaring me witless in the late 60s, It struck me that the whole idea of the Tardis drifting aimlessly lost in space and time may have been inspired by a BBC writer who got caught up in the Oxford Ring Road space-time discontinuum (no, obviously, I’m still NOT over it yet!!)…

Just doing a final peruse of the blogs before I sign off…yes it is 0158 which just shows how screwed up my body clock is from the rubber band…anyway here’s a commentary on the Coming Anarchy about the US and China buddying up in Afghanistan – when you step back from currently-held models, it sounds sensible and when you get down to it, China has a pretty good track record for countering insurgencies as well – just not according to our book, speaking of which, David Kilcullen’s visit to Wellington on 1 Oct, from all reports, went exceptionally well and I hope to get a more detailed backbrief in a few days…

And making a good point for possibly the wrong reasons, The Strategist has mention of what is probably the best chance of success for Afghanistan ( as opposed to every other man and his dog who are trampling around the place)…good old COIN principle #1 Compromise IS Good!

The Birmoverse

John Birmingham, the Australian author of World War 2.1, 2.2, and  2.3 (Axis of Time trilogy), and Without Warning (1st of the ‘The Wave’ series) has set up blog entry  over at Cheeseburger Gothic for discussion on both series…if you haven’t read any of these you really want to give them a go…a secondary theme of the AoT trilogy is a prescient (probably because it agrees with me) glimpse of one version of the next decade of so of the 21st century….

I see on the COIN blog today that Canadian forces are advocating a new approach in Afghanistan but as discussed by a number of members on the blog, this appears to be a desperation-driven attempt to accelerate the course of the campaign and it probably hasn’t been all that well considered. Trying to make the people the new bad guys is probably one of the more innovative approachs to COIN I have seen but will it fly? Like a brick…

From the COIN blog:

“In Afghanistan one of my close friends (an Afghan that would die to save me and almost did) let me know the difference in “their ways” of thinking.  “If you just give me something I may be thankful, but I am not grateful.  I think – look what I was able to get from you, not thankful of what you gave me.  If you attached a price to what you gave me in favors or later chips to be used when you needed something, now we are communicating and building our relationship.”  At first that bothered me but I then began to see through his eyes.  If we take that to winning the “hearts and minds” we have missed the boat.  It does nothing to give to these people as it does to have their own countrymen give, help, and make choices for themselves.  We need to be the facilitators and not the handout.”

Think about it….