New Deal, Same as the Old Deal


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Recall the immediate aftermath of September 11th, 2001.

The American Nation seemed to come together, united in purpose. First, it was a struggle to understand what we were facing. Was this the beginning of something bigger? Were we witnessing the shattering of civilization? It was also a unity of will – we felt we were all in this together and together we would find our way through. Perhaps it helped that very few of us were actually, directly effected. The nearly 3,000 killed in the attacks was but a drop in the American bucket. Most of us were impacted in some way by the economic fallout, but even New York City was back at it within a week. The larger toll still haunts the police, fire, and rescue workers who were exposed to the toxic dust. Long-term negative impacts are roughly an order-of-magnitude higher than the actual deaths and the pain continues for the friends and family of each one of the victims. But as far as large, life-taking disasters go from a world-wide perspective, this one may have been par for the course.

woman touching a black wall

Photo by Tobe Roberts on

The reaction of the American government was swift and furious. Within days, Congress authorized generic military force against terrorists and within a month the United States began bombing operations in Afghanistan. Before the end of October, the United States had passed the PATRIOT Act, granting new government powers to react to terrorism and other national threats. Within a year, the U.S. had restructured the Federal apparatus to counter terrorism under a newly-created Department of Homeland Security.

The rub is that these actions, ostensibly reactions to the unexpected attacks, were on the ask list for U.S. enforcement for a decade – at least. The Taliban was already considered a U.S. enemy, even before their support for Osama bin Laden. Provisions of the PATRIOT Act had been in the pipeline since, at least, the World Trade Center bombing in 1993. The crisis of the World Trade Center collapse merely provided the political grease to do a lot of what Federal Law Enforcement and U.S. Foreign Policy already wanted done.

I think about this situation relative to the pandemic crisis of today.

Think back to the early days of the Democratic Primary. The far left had proposals that seemed crazy even for the Democratic half of our country. Proposals like AOC’s Green New Deal and Andrew Yang’s Universal Income were reckoned to be deal-breakers for the vast, political middle of this country. Sure enough, the results from the primary seemed to bear that out. Marginal candidates rapidly dropped away and the powers-that-be lined up behind Joe Biden, seen as a safe and traditional choice. The radical ideas of the progressive extremists were too much.

Or were they? What does the world look like today? Donald Trump’s administration is sending out $1,200 checks to all Americans. Air travel has been all but shut down and gasoline consumption has slowed to a trickle. There was some early jubilance about how the earth recovered within days of the economic shut down that, as far as I can see, was quickly debunked. However, the massive curtailment of the productive economy was just what the left called for as necessary to save the earth from Climate Change. This is not even to mention the “extras” stuffed into the Senate stimulus bill, pushing left-wing pet projects as a price for backing Trump’s initiatives.

It makes me wonder if what we’re seeing here is a case of not letting a good crisis go to waste. Is our government rapidly implementing policies that would be unacceptable under any other circumstances because they know that nobody is going to stand in the way of doing “everything we can” to deal with this virus? Even if these consequences are entirely unintended, will it be possible to put a $2 trillion genie back into the bottle? What are the odds that we’ve already made a sea change in the fundamental course of society, but we just don’t know it yet.

War of the Sons of Light


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Like I said, I’m going to play some of these scenarios while reading the appropriate sections from the book The Arab-Israeli Wars: War and Peace in the Middle East, by Chaim Herzog. I’ve just finished the section on the Sinai Campaign and am wrapping up a pair of operational scenarios dealing with that same front. One is in The Operational Art of War (TOAW) and one in Modern Campaigns – Mideast ’67 (ME67) .

The TOAW scenario Sinai 1967 focuses on creating a single-player experience for an Israeli player who must reproduce the lightning campaign through the Sinai desert from the Six Day War. It’s a scenario that’s interesting because of its limitations. The ME67 scenario, Gaza and Beyond, is even more limited but it far more traditional in its design. First to TOAW .


Day 1, assault on Rafah.

Sinai 1967 has a nicely developed designer-notes package with historical background, instructions, and design philosophy. I’ll try not to simply repeat that information here. Essentially, the idea is to ask the player to repeat Sinai campaign, conquering the entire peninsula in a mere six days. The war opens with a theater-wide airstrike that hands Israel nearly complete domination of the air and, with that executed, the scenario opens. In addition to air superiority, Israel has an opening shock bonus to simulate the surprise of their attack and the confusion of the Egyptian forces.


Killing tanks near Kuntillah.

The scenario is built around the key locations seized by Israel and the resultant shock and confusion this caused in the Egyptian command. If the player takes the historic junctions by the morning of the second day, Egyptian field marshal Mohamed Abdel Hakim Amer will panic and attempt to withdraw the Egyptian forces from the Sinai. If not, the player must fight an alt-history battle where the Egyptian forces contest the Sinai and recover from their initial panic.


Morning of the second day and I didn’t make it.

Looking at the above screenshot, taken in the morning on June 6th, I am a bit behind schedule. Historically, the Israeli’s had taken Rafah on the 5th and by the morning of the 6th were ready to launch into Al Arish. My forces were still undertaking mop-up operations at dawn in the Rafah vicinity, meaning I had no hope of capturing Al Arish on the historic time table. However, take a look at these dispositions, because I think they will look familiar later on.

This is what creates the depth for this scenario. There are essentially two sets of deadlines. The first is to capture enough in the first day of the war to achieve the requisite “shock and awe.” Depending on whether you have, you then have one of two end games. In one, you pursue a fleeing Egyptian Army towards the Suez Canal, attempting to reproduce the second half of the Israeli campaign. In the second, Egypt has decided to stand and fight, and you see how effective you are against that tactic.

As I write this, I am attempting to get a win under that second set of conditions. What I’m finding is Israel is heavily weighted towards the north. While I am pressing forward there, I am taking a pounding in the south, where Egypt is refusing to turn tail and run. I’m also running against that perennial opponent in TOAW, the supply system. Supply is a critical component of the TOAW modeling and, by the end of the second day, my supplies very much depleted in my combat forces. Resupply is done through the system and is controllable only indirectly, through maintaining ownership of hexes between units and their supply sources. To make a long story short, I’m not sure that I can get my units resupplied in time to be effective in a six day war. Nor am I sure whether my resupply problems accurately reflect the constraints on the Israeli command. Nonetheless, this is a recreation of this campaign that illuminates the historical factors.


Opening moves.

ME67 is, at the same time, both a more interesting and a less interesting take on this battle. We see a scale that is still at that operational level, although a slightly finer grain than TOAW. You may recall a discussion on scope and scale when we fought over this very same ground back in 1956. I had been pleased with the explicit treatment of day/night cycles before. While it remains a clear discriminator, I wasn’t as excited about it this time. Is it too much detail to have me engage in a night turn without asking me to explicitly manage how I disengage and then reengage the at dawn? This case makes me wonder if it isn’t better abstracted away?

Another obvious difference is in the graphical interface and the feedback it provides. ME67 abstracts each unit as a primary weapon. See for example the above screenshot (clicking should display full scale), where the 82nd Tank Battalion is represented as 52 Centurion tanks. Compare and contrast that with TOAW. In Sinai 1967, the 82nd is represented as two different counters and details not only the tanks, but the halftracks, armored cars, infantry, and mortars allocated to the formation. The key advantage for ME67 is that the “tank” representation is very visual. As I watch my vehicles fall by the wayside, I’m getting some immediate feedback on the health of my force. TOAW‘s accounting is more detailed (see, particularly, the Loss Report screenshot further up), but it is considerably less visceral. Whether one is a more accurate simulation than the other depends on your thoughts about the relative merits of Tiller’s algorithms versus Kroger’s.



My play was inhibited by a lack of familiarity with the Tiller UI system. It always takes me a few scenarios to remember how the little icons interact with the UI. Worse are the functions that aren’t tied to the little icons. For example, it was Turn 5 before I remembered how to turn on the map labels (and experience I found illuminating enough to include as its own screenshot, left). I continue to have trouble with “on foot” versus “travel mode.” Are they meant to be used separately? I decided to focus entirely on “travel” mode (an icon that looks to me like some sort of Wiccan pentagram), but even then I have considerable trouble remembering to bring units in and out of the mode as I would consider appropriate.


Final situation, west of el Arish.

For all of my little blunders, I managed to bring my forces near the last two objectives (just outside of el Arish) on the final turn, having captured the major objectives further to the East. This is very, very similar to the third screenshot from TOAW, above, but (once I get over the non-American date style) exactly one full day behind schedule. Even still, this earned me a major victory.

That brings me to my biggest complaint here. For all that the game/scenario is getting right, in the end it leaves the impression of simply an implementation of one particular battle in the Tiller engine. Whereas TOAW sets the play some specific goals – meeting the historical timetables to gain historical advantages, ME67 lacks that unique feeling. It’s not that its bad. It has the right units, the right map, and a pretty effective scope/scale. But the gameplay style involving the surround of the enemy hex followed by multi-turn attrition of the defending unit – this seems more than a bit out of place in the lightning war that was that of the Six Days.

Dune II


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Since I’m revisiting all things Dune, I thought I watch the Sci-Fi Channel miniseries again. It’s on YouTube.

The first time I watched this, I had very low expectations. It was when it was airing live on cable (probably 2003*), yet I even then retained the lingering disappointment with the 1984 version. Add to that TV special effects plus the dubious quality of all things Sci-Fi Channel, and it couldn’t be anything but pretty bad. Starting with rock bottom expectations left me with an experience that wasn’t all that bad. Furthermore, I watched it with someone who had no exposure to book or previous film (but with plenty of bad Sci-Fi Channel shows under her belt) who thought is a was a pretty decent piece of entertainment, as far as these things go.

Recently, I’ve come across a lot of negativity regarding this adaptation, but at the time it was pretty well received. It has been Sci-Fi’s most successful show, even up to today, and ranked favorably among all original programming for a cable channel. Reviews at the time were generally favorable as well.

My first thought when starting the series back up again is the casting choice of Paul Atreides. He’s no Kyle MacLachlan. In fact, who he resembles most is a whiny Mark Hamil from the original installment of Star Wars. It is a departure from the novel, but I actually think the choice is somewhat inspired. Paul is only 15 and he’s not ready to take on his father’s responsibilities nor that of a Universal Messiah. The dramatic connection to Luke Skywalker helps to fit into the Dune-as-Star-Wars motif. I was also a little jarred when their top-billed actor remade his appearance. After getting very accustom to Jürgen Prochnow as the face of Duke Leto, William Hurt is quite the radical departure. This casting is not one I would have thought should work, but I suppose it does.

My second impression is that this, once again, is a production made for those who have read the books. It’s not that the plot is incomplete, but I feel the story is far too complex that if you haven’t read the inner monologues. Without the book behind you, you’re going to miss out on a lot of what is going on. Obviously the miniseries was popular enough, at its time, with people who hadn’t read the books**, but I am just say that those people missed out the full effect. Contrasting to Lynch’s Dune, the miniseries is much more complete, story-wise, while at the same time forgoing the meticulous detail with which Lynch embellished certain scenes.

The Luke Skywalkering of Paul Atreides is not the only departure from the book. The miniseries de-emphasizes the no-tech theme of the novel, both by removing it from the narrative and by liberally featuring firearms and energy weapons on-screen. Princess Irulan shows up much sooner and with a much bigger role, likely so as to make up for her missing function as narrator in the previous incarnations. Even the points that have been changed, however, interact well with one’s familiarity with the novel because it forces one to compare and contrast versions as you watch.

One of Sci-Fi’s weakest points is the cut-rate special effects. Even here, the TV Dune doesn’t look so bad given it’s got Lynch’s Dune as a yardstick. The battle scenes still look like a handful of extras running around a soundstage. The costumes department obviously had even less to work with than they did  in 1984. Advances in animation technology means that the sandworms are comparable, which is kind of a surprise. Best of all, the Weirding Way is shown appropriately; none of that horrific voice-gun stuff. All-in-all, the fact that the source material deliberately de-emphasized the “science fiction” in favor of individual interaction greatly aids the made-for-TV approach to illustrating this story.

You have to be prepared for its weaker points, but if you’re in the right mindset going in, Frank Herbert’s Dune (or, sometimes, Dune 2000) is well worth the investment.

Unfortunately, it does not appear that Children of Dune is available anywhere. I would have definitely watched them back-to-back again, as I did the first time. At this point, I have pretty much zero memory of watching the second series before. It’s not on YouTube, doesn’t appear on any streaming services, and is only available in hard copy from third-party Amazon sellers. If you can pick up the DVDs for your own region, they’re probably going to cost you a fortune.

I’ll take this as a sign that I should try getting a hold of that second book before I watch any more adaptations of it.

adventure arid barren coast

Photo by Pixabay on

*It is actually a pair of miniseries, one from 2000 and then a Children of Dune adaptation from 2003. I recall watching both, one after the other. This probably means it was a release of the first when the second came out.

**Modifying this with the word recently is probably useful. When I watched this before it had been a decade or two since I read the novels, and I’m sure I had forgotten plenty.

Even the Jordan River


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The human mind is designed to create patterns, even when those perceived patterns don’t really exists. When the world seems to descend into chaos, we will inevitably try to correlate signs that what we are seeing is part of a greater picture – perhaps the end of all things. Just as the coronavirus being coincident with earthquakes awakens us to the likelihood of some form of divine intervention, so it would have seemed, when the chaos of the Vietnam War was spreading to the streets of American and Europe, that a new war in Israel signaled the coming of the Apocalypse. In truth, we were simply seeing flare-ups in the Cold War that were possibility inevitable and mostly unrelated. Small consolation for a public mood already stretching towards a breaking point.

To get my mind thinking about the other side of the world, I decided it was time to do some reading on the subject. When I was creating my Israeli Independence timeline, and while I was trying to find descriptive information on the battles during the Suez Crisis, I encountered frequent references to The Arab-Israeli Wars: War and Peace in the Middle East by former Israeli President Chaim Herzog. At the end of that endevor, I decided to order Herzog’s book. Instead of reading it when it came, I began reading instead The Gettysburg Campaign: A Study in Command and left my thoughts about the Arab-Israeli wars behind me. It’s time I pick that book up.

Herzog starts shortly before the British withdrawal. As such, I was treated to a written refresher of my earlier exercise. In some ways it was just a rerun, although I get a chance to look at things a little differently. Most notably, it surprises me how a loosely-organized citizen militia was able to take on multiple, established nation states and win. In many cases, a couple of dozen armed settlers held their own against regular forces. Herzog also highlights how the earliest attempts at operations by the Israelis were hampered by a lack of professional army discipline. Several times an attack failed because of an inability to coordinate the different pieces of the attack, an operational-planning capability that only came with experience.

As Herzog moves on to the Suez Crisis, he illustrates something that I struggled with when looking at the wargame depiction of this conflict. As I said at the time, it is nearly impossible to reproduce the historical results in a wargame. Israel’s defeat of fortified Egyptian positions was often the result of brilliant tactical maneuvering and “doing the impossible” on top of the factors that can modeled in games. Reading Herzog, I’m also impressed (again) with the difference in motivation between the two sides. For Israel, their struggle was for their very existence – both as a nation and (in the minds of many) personally. For the Arab nations,  although many hated Israel and the Jews, they were still conscripted armies under the direction of authoritarian governments. One can imagine that the difference in will was a major factor in the lopsided Israeli victories.

As before, I plan to cycle through a handful of games and scenarios and link it all together with a master post. Herzog begins his 1967 war with the Sinai Campaign, and that also seems like a good starting point for me.

Born to Do Dishes


Recently, I’ve received, from a couple of different sources, ads advising me against “pre-washing” dishes before running them through my automatic dishwasher. The sentiment is not new. While I do recall a time when the general advice was that food should be cleaned from dishes before putting them in the dishwasher, it’s been quite some time since that has been emphasized. However, in the last few weeks, I’ve seen repeated messages from multiple sources, strongly admonishing those who still insist on maintaining their pre-wash practices.

In the past two decades, I’ve gone through a lot of dishwashers. The reason is a rant unto itself, so I’ll save that for another time. My point is I’ve made a very rapid transition from a typical 20th century dishwasher through the low-energy and low-water-consumption models of today. It didn’t help that they also eliminated phosphates from detergents at around the same time but, again, a rant for another time. My point for today is that I’ve seen some ups and downs. However, with my latest machine, they seemed to have solved the problem of cleaning dishes with reduced power, insufficient water, and under-performing detergent.

Or so it appeared.

A couple of weeks ago, found myself glaring at a coffee mug that had inexplicably been encrusted with orangesh-brownish grit. This happens every now and again. I sent it through a couple of extra cycles, but the filth would not budge. Finally I decided I had to hand wash it, and even then it took some scrubbing. However, as started to wash it in the sink, I noticed that the cup produced soap bubbles when filling with clean water. Strange – and a bit scary. Before my next cup of coffee, I tried putting warm water into the visibly clean cup and – same thing! In fact, nearly ever mug, cup, or glass I’ve done this with since produces a foamy cap of soap bubbles, albeit one that rinse out almost immediately.

There have been times since I got this latest dishwasher that I’ve noticed really bad-tasting cups of coffee or other beverages. I’ve always just ignored it. Could it have been dishwasher soap?

So now I try to remember to rinse out every class, cup, and bowl before I use it. I’m fairly certain I’m using far more water to do so than the dishwasher is saving with its low-water-usage design. It’s not very communal of me, but I do live in a swamp – there is no shortage of water supply around here. I’m also convinced that the constant exposure to consumer product chemicals such as detergents, perfumes, etc. is slowly degrading our health, so I’m going to keep it up.

Unintended consequences, anyone? Maybe someday our overlords will once again allow us appliances that work, but I doubt it.

photo of person washing plate

Post-wash. Photo by Alexy Almond on

What’s in a Name, Star Wars Edition


The Star Wars robot-naming convention. It’s an entire galaxy which has massive consumer take-up of personal, household robotics. Yet robots are uniquely named by a four-character alpha-numeric code?

Apparently the actual genesis of R2-D2’s name came from the production American Graffiti. The appellation was shorthand for “Reel 2, Dialog 2,” a designation within the sound editing process. While Lucas was working on the Star Wars script and sitting in on the sound editing for American Graffiti, overheard sound editor Walter Murch voice-slate* a mix as R2-D2. He immediately decided it was a great name for a character.

Which, mathematical issues aside, it actually is.

*A spoken marker on the sound recording that is the equivalent (and matches) the video of the “clapperboard.”


Photo by LJ on

Where’s the Kaboom?


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I wanted to like The Martian. I tried to like The Martian. It just wouldn’t like me back.

OK, it wasn’t that bad. Somehow, I just thought it should have been much better.

The film was created by Ridley Scott based upon the highly acclaimed novel of the same name. Already a master of science fiction, Scott benefited from extensive help and cooperation from NASA, who saw the film as an opportunity to pitch future manned space missions. The film had no shortage when it came to funding ($100+ million), an investment that was recouped many times over. So what’s the problem?

First of all, I thought the plot was excruciatingly predictable. Even if they hadn’t telegraphed the “everything goes wrong” moment with dialog, I felt like I could have predicted it within about 10 minutes based on industry formulae. Tension/release and all that. But does anyone go into this movie thinking that Matt Damon might not make it home in the end? How tense can it really be?

I haven’t been on a NASA campus for a while, so maybe it is true that the majority of the workers are either drop-dead-gorgeous women or youthful hipsters-of-color. Yet somehow I doubt it. We all know there are certain physical features that correlate with advanced degrees in engineering and, I hate to break it to ya, but these aren’t them.

So while NASA contributed, it looks like they focused on PR. Pitching the hot (and smart!) babes to the next generation of college grads makes sense for them. In the same vein, the visual aspects of this movie are quite good; state-of-the-art CGI, interesting near-future tech, and a believable Mars location (Jordan IRL). The science however (or SCIENCE! as they had the fucking* audacity to place on a board full of, at best, trivial rocketry equations) they seem to have left to the screenwriters. I’m probably spoiled by The Expanse (which, as the authors have said, isn’t meant to be accurate; but it does succeed in being sensible), but in a film where the technology seems so heavily featured**, it seems you’d want to do a better job with it.

photo of rock formations during daytime

Jordon, not Mars. Photo by Alexis Azabache on

The film also lacks in the character development. Matt Damon is chummy and likeable as always, but I felt surprisingly disconnected from him given the man-alone focus of the movie. On top of that, he is the best they’ve got. There’s not one other character in this film who builds a connection with the audience. Well, maybe Jeff Daniels. His “Director of NASA” character is decidedly unlikable. One Netflix review says he “is even dumber than he was in Dumb and Dumber, but not as funny.” That’s funny right there.

Speaking of funny, the highlight of the movie was Sean Bean making a Lord of the Rings joke. I literally broke into laughter. And now I probably just ruined it for you. Sorry.

Maybe I should read the book.

Netflix, meanwhile, has decided that I like “Classic Cerebral Movies” and “Sci-Fi and Fantasy based on Books.” I’m a little flattered. I’m not interested in any of their suggested movies, but I’m happy with the way they’ve defined me.

*I’m probably overreacting, but I see this selling of “SCIENCE!” as a form of religion as one of the more corrosive features of modern discourse. It is implicitly used as a political critique (my opponents are ignorant of science) and, as far as I can fathom, has little value in its explicit intent – which would be to get the young interested in math and science as a career path. Prove me wrong.

**I want to give examples, but then again what’s the point. Some of the propulsion goofs and  simplifications got to me particularly, but technical ignorance abounds in this movie. In fact, a little reading on line shows me many, many items that I hadn’t noticed as I watched. Any science fiction film is going to have inaccuracies and simplifications. This one just took it too far.

Happy Endings


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This is the sixty-third in a series of posts on the Vietnam War. See here for the previous post in the series or go back to the master post.

I managed to finish Happy Valley on the last possible night, a night I also completed Volume V of the Vietnam Combat Operations series. This, having just finished, in a marathon effort, another project in right before Covid-19 shut everything down.

Now the rest of the world is finally granting me the social distance that I’ve always craved. Is it wrong to feel a measure of contentedness as the world burns? Probably.

I’ll say, first, about Happy Valley that it was well worth pressing onward and finishing both seasons. The biggest downside is that I struggled sometimes with the northern accent but I refrained from using any subtitles. I think that would have been wrong. That aside, this was a top-notch police drama. Heartily recommended.


The last turn brought with it some of the biggest and most interesting “battles” I’ve yet fought.

As for Vietnam Combat Operations, my final couple of turns provided more action than much of the game so far. There were several areas, particularly near Pleiku (as pictured above, showing part of Operation Francis Marion) and in the Quang Nam/Quang Tin area (Operation Union II), where sizable-looking NVA forces popped up just at the end.

While both these operations saw fairly significant engagement with the enemy, there were no large-scale, conventional-style battles. In both cases, the U.S. command was aware of significant enemy formations in the area, prompting sweeping actions to pin them down and destroy them. Still, as a rule, the communists were able to dictate the terms of engagement. U.S. losses were mostly due to ambush and bombardment rather than set piece battles. As with the war in general, communist losses substantially exceeded U.S. losses, but it was a price that the enemy was willing to pay for victory in the longer term.


As always a draw. The flavor text tastes about right.

TOAW is not, as far as I know, capable of explicitly modeling asymmetric warfare. Neither, however, is it explicitly modelling specific tactics of conventional warfare. I did not try to analyze how the casualty rates compare between this scenario and the historical estimates, nor do I think that would be a worthwhile exercise. As I play, I suspect that I react a lot more vigorously than would be historically accurate. When I see an enemy formation on the map, I try to surround and destroy it, even if that means drawing in units from outside the engaged command. As a result, I should probably see higher casualties, in many cases, relative to the actual battles. I actually suspect, if I were to dig into it, that the modelling isn’t doing that badly.

In the end, Vietnam Combat Operations is not trying to predict casualty rates and probably shouldn’t be seen as doing so. Getting lethality wrong, even systematically wrong, doesn’t necessarily destroy the scenario suite’s concept. Every six months (at least at this point in the series) there is a “reset” to bring everything back in line with historical reality. As I’ve said before, from the standpoint of the (U.S.) player, the results do appear correct. Even as an enemy “counter” disappears, what does that mean? PAVN units were rarely “wiped out.” They did, however, get “removed from the map” sometimes for the better part of a year. This wasn’t destruction or surrender – it was the soldiers scattering and then reforming in a remote area or in Cambodia/Laos, to refit and reinforce. The scenario seems to get this right, particularly once you’re willing to interpret what you are seeing in just that way.

As you see from my lower screenshot, I once again scored a draw. As I’ve said earlier, I’ve come to play this series by focusing on the suggested goals first and foremost. While wargaming as a whole is enjoyed as a “what if” exercise, keeping mostly to the script insures that I engage in those fights that the scenario author has prepared for me. As I said, I think I’m a little more vigorous that my historical counterparts. I also try to grab easy victory point locations (if they are nearby), even if they aren’t identified in the historical operations. As such, I think I should be doing better than average, points-wise. It is hard to see how this scenario is “winnable” without breaking the game, but then I sometimes lack imagination.

One thing I can imagine, moving abruptly to my third point of happiness, is the scenario pitched by a Wall St. Journal editorial in this morning’s paper. The authors, who do have a dog in this particular fight*, argue that remote work activity was already in our future. The current lockdowns and precautions will mean that companies and workers are forced to rapidly adopt telecommuting, even if they would have otherwise found it unthinkable. Give everyone a few months and they will learn that the unthinkable is, in fact, reasonable and (for many, even) an improvement over the status quo. They predict that once we all get used to a distributed workplace, nobody will want to go back.

As I stated at the outset, I’ve been social distancing before it was cool, although I probably moved too far ahead of the curve to be good for me. I suspect that while the “new normal” will include a lot more telecommuting, employers will be most likely to trust those with which they’ve had a traditional, cubicle-centered relationship up until recent events. But this isn’t all about me. I will say that, in my experience, a (purely) virtual workplace is healthy, happier, and more productive all at the same time. I wouldn’t be surprised if many more people come to this same conclusion. Let us wait until next fall and see if the authors are right.

*They are management at a company called Nomadic Learning, which has been advocating for the shift for some time.