Crispy Cucumbers

The winter solstice is an event that occurs when the patio table of my east-facing backyard appears to reach its most north-easterly excursion relative to the celestial equator of the Earth.

The winter solstice is an event that occurs when the patio table of my east-facing backyard appears to reach its most north-easterly excursion relative to the celestial equator of the Earth.

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The woman with the fake tan stepped into my office, sat across from my desk and lit a cigarette.
At least, she would, sometime in the next 20 minutes. Smelling the future has advantages, but precision isn’t one of them.

What Did I Learn From Napoleon This Week? La Fin

Last Wednesday I reached the conclusion of Napoleon the Great and I couldn't help feeling a little sadness as Napoleon (spoilers) died on in exile St. Helena.

Napoleon was certainly one of history's most interesting individuals. Not one I'd idolise, but certainly one to be inspired by. Simply the energy and focus he seemed to invest into the minutia of everything across an empire was admirable, and the propaganda of the past 200 years has given him a reputation of a warmonger that he doesn't completely deserve.

The final portion of the book is about Napoleon's hubris, ruination, surprise encore, and ultimate defeat.

Ego became a burden for Napoleon, evident in behaviours such as the carrying unnecessary supplies such as dress uniforms and Parisian chefs into a war with Russia, so far from home. Even his arrival at key battles was delayed half a day by him ordering a military parades of his troops before marching.

But it was the size of his army and the issues that came from managing so many people that I think truly caused most of his problems.

As someone who has managed seven people plus several contractors at one time, I can empathise with the difficulties of leading an army of 200,000 soldiers along with camp followers and the rest. They did not have email or Slack in 1814. A large army is less agile, and had the further downside of causing enemy armies not to engage. Larger armies are also harder to micromanage, and have to be coordinated across multiple fronts.
His delegation of authority to his choice of marshals, commanders and family members did not help. I certainly would have to think long and hard before making my own brother the King of Spain. Nor did his stubbornness when it came to forgiving those who were clearly conspiring against him, such as Talleyrand.

But who am I to judge the decisions of someone who lived in an era where haemorrhoids were treated with leeches?

And ultimately - despite all his aptitude, infinite energy for micromanagement, and "habits of successful people" - it was indecision (lingering too long in Moscow), impatience (trying to force decisive battles in Belgium) and hypocrisy to his own military maxims (underestimating his enemy, leaving his flanks exposed) that led to Napoleon's final downfall.

Perhaps it was the over-achieving, perhaps it was illness and stomach cancer, perhaps he was just not clutch in the playoffs - what it has shown me is that while there was a lot to admire about Napoleon's focus and gusto, it probably wasn't sustainable for any human being.

The rise and fall of Napoleon, at least Andrew Roberts' version, was a narrative befitting Caesar, and perhaps that was deliberate either by Roberts or Napoleon himself.
It had all the drama of political and familial betrayals, marriage choices, the dramatic irony of it being the soldiers who suffered the most who chose to remain loyal when the prospect of civil war became necessary for Napoleon to regain the throne. The irony of a Jacobin general becoming a monarch. At least Napoleon had the benefit of those years in exile in which to complete his own memoirs.

The irony of a young author and his failed, unpublished history of Corsica, to go on and live a life and write an autobiography that would become the highest selling book of the 19th century.

Vive L'Empereur...

One (Month) Down

31 days post op, my recovery from labral tear repair and biceps tendon reattachment has progressed well. I haven't worn a sling for nearly two days now, and most of the fortnight before that it was just when leaving the house. My rehab exercises have progressed from handshaking practice to also include "touching my butt", "pretending I'm an elephant" and "rock the wooden spoon." (The wooden spoon one was supposed to be "rock the baby", but when the physio said I should treat the wooden spoon like a crying baby that needed rocking I replied that I wouldn't get much flexibility back by leaving the wooden spoon in another room and putting my headphones on.) I can now use a long piece of wood to push my hand all the way up to the roof.

Post surgery rehab truly is the most rewarding form of resistance training. If I saw the same amount of strength and mobility gains in my normal training that my shoulder has had from three 20 minute sessions a day then I would be eating a hundred eggs a week by now. I guess the difference is which side of zero you start from.

I was doing daily computer work after two weeks, but if I'd had more sick leave I would have pushed that to three. Around that time was the period of most pain, with my mouse hand extending out from my body. I found that putting a bit more stretch on the extension exercises and doing them more frequently helped get past this stage. I also used a second mouse with my left hand on and off throughout the first week, but I've progressed beyond that now.

I can tie my shoes and my track suit pants waistband. I was able to reach to the floor of the shower and pump some shampoo into my hand with full arm extended, but wasn't able to then transfer it to my hair. A few days later that was done too, and I can now reach everywhere that I used to be able to. That said, I can blow dry my good armpit, but can't quite apply roll on deodorant. I can't drive yet, and anything weight bearing has to be done with strict control. I sleep on my good shoulder with my arm on a pillow for support. I don't know what my next rehab exercises will be yet, but hopefully I'll find out soon and hopefully they'll conjure funny imagery.

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From the Chaff

Sometimes on winter Sundays (or public holiday Monday equivalents) the sun goes down and I feel a sense of melancholy that another week of my life is over and now it's cold.

But if I then have a hot shower and dress in warm clothing, I feel a bit better.

The weekend, like the rye and linseed sourdough loaf I bought Saturday morning, lasted three days.

Nash attended all the parts worth remembering.

image 2224 from

On Saturday morning we walked to Plant 4 at Bowden for coffee and a visit to the local bakery where said loaf was purchased.

Sunday Morning was our traditional family walk from the Weir to the North Adelaide Bakery for mini cream puff and coffee.

Sunday evening was spent catching up with Vanessa's family and Kelpie, eating Afghan food and answering trivial pursuit questions.

Monday was friends, NBA playoffs, double beef burgers and my first game of 500 for the decade.

As the night crept in and work emails started drafting themselves in my head, it's easy to see why I'll miss these days.


It was so cold in my house today the bananas went a little greener.

What Did I Learn From Napoleon This Week? Part 3

My mind was a tad weary of hearing about Napoleonic France after two weeks of Napoleon The Great, so I started last week by switching to journalist Jon Ronson's 2015 book So You've Been Publicly Shamed.

This non-fiction book had caught my eye because it delved into a topic I've been fascinated and horrified by in the time I used to use Twitter - the mob-like pile-ons of real people in the court of social media. Ronson's book looks at a number of infamous Twitter shamings, linking the phenomena back to the practice of stocks in the town square, multiplied exponentially by the psychological maelstrom that is social media.

I enjoyed Ronson's writing style. He was feeding me fragments of stories, forcing me to piece together the opinions myself. In the six years since 2015 I feel like witch hunts on social media have only intensified. And occasionally this is justified, like when no other avenue exists for politicians or police to be called out for abusing their power. But mostly it's disconcerting. The one conclusion that stuck with me from the book was that, even when they are getting people fired or driving them to suicide, those doing the shaming believe they are doing something good. That just made me feel worse.

The book was definitely thought provoking and insightful, and worth a read.

Speaking of those who believe they are doing good, Napoleon spent the rest of the week trying to reform Europe. Britain was his primary antagonist, and his solution to that was war against Russia, Austria and Portugal. He was also excommunicated by the Pope.
I did like that whenever another country signed a peace treaty with France, Napoleon would force the country's leader to promise eternal friendship with him as part of the deal.

Napoleon was very successful during this phase of his life, which has made me think about success as well.

One attribute regarding success he demonstrated was in recognising success, both his own and others. This was more than just (over-exaggerated) letters about battles. He commissioned a lot of paintings to capture significant moments and achievements. He was also dutiful in awarding medals on the battlefield - along with generous pensions - for all soldiers who demonstrated service, courage, or perhaps just had a cool last name...

Much of Napoleon's military and tactical success came from being a man of the men. This was unlike the generals and leaders in the opposing coalition armies. He wasn't afraid to have a ten minute power nap among the conscripts.
I learnt a lot about Napoleonic era battle mechanics this week - infantry, calvary and artillery. It is a bit more complicated than rolling 3 or 2 dice and draws going to the defender. The logic behind the big groups of dudes lining up and shooting at each other makes sense when you understand that communications across a hundred thousand men has to be done by word of mouth, or perhaps drumbeat and bugle. Also if you're in a long, wide line it means less people get hit by the same cannonball than if you were in a long column.

Armies did employ skirmisher divisions, and these men would run ahead of the big line of dudes to generally duke it out with the enemies' skirmishers coming the other way.

These battles tended to happen in whatever open farmland there was between cities, with small, quaint towns and villages becoming fighting hot spots and places to rest.
Rivers and hills dictated a lot of strategy, and given this was Europe there was a lot of those.

Napoleon was also a victim of success. Particularly after Austerlitz where, despite the victory, the Russian and Austrian empires learnt far more from the battle than Napoleon. Lessons which would lead to French overconfidence, and improved coalition tactics, in future battles. Also, Napoleon was so pumped after this victory that he tried to invent a saint in the Roman Catholic canon named after himself. This wasn't popular, and may have been part of why he was eventually excommunicated.

Napoleon also tried to solve real life murder mysteries that happened in Paris while he was on campaign. The book did not confirm if he did solve any of these.

Napoleon was not successful in the first decade of the 19th Century in finding a strategy to weaken England. The blockade and trade shenanigans that occurred during this time led to Napoleon's scientists successfully cultivating and developing a process to refine sugar from beets. His attempts to make cotton from thistles, and convert people from coffee to hickory, were less fruitful.

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