Mr. Sensitive

March 31, 2010

Basement War – Day 10

Filed under: Basement War — lbej @ 14:21

Battle of Cardboard Mountain continues.  Pincers movement by enemy succeeded in reducing salient established in yesterday’s action, but this was anticipated.  How very Ypres of him.  Once he was into the salient, I redirected my forces toward KS Garage.  The enemy appeared to be completely bumfuzzled by this change in direction.  I continued to use my shortened sword and drove all the boxes lining the garage walls through the walkway below the stairs and into the Unfinished Room.  And there, I had golf clubs waiting.  The carnage that followed was pretty darn nifty.  I’ve now transferred a record amount of cardboard to the kitchen for destruction this afternoon, the third consecutive daily increase in cardboard eliminated from enemy control.  I’m reminded of Japanese merchant shipping losses in the Pacific after 1942.  The enemy is being deprived of resources he simply cannot replenish.  His army is stretched thin, and I have shown him today that I can attack him almost anywhere in the basement.  This makes a concentration of forces such as he would need for a meaningful counterattack extremely risky.  There is one significant bastion my infantry can’t penetrate, even at this stage of the war: the far side of KS Garage.  Trash bags still cover the floor over two-thirds of KS, and I fear widow spiders are being held in reserve towards the rear of this formation.  If I could open Katie’s garage door from the outside, I could outflank the enemy.  But I have her vehicular incompetence working against me in that regard; the door stopped working after she backed into the second time.  There may be no alternative to a frontal assault.  I will need courage, and possibly even long pants.

March 30, 2010

On Spiders – If You Don’t Know, Now You Know

Filed under: Basement War — lbej @ 12:11

Justin asked for some information on spider society, such as it is, and here is some of what I have learned.

The spiders do not have a hive-mind, each one thinks and acts independently. Different spider races and cultures act very differently, much as human cultures do. They have languages that are primarily based on the scraping of their chelicerae with varying intensity and duration. They don’t all speak the same language. Interestingly, ants speak all scraping-based languages, so they are valuable go-betweens for spiders and other bugs.  Such diplomat ants are in short supply, which is counter-intuitive on the surface given how many ants there are in the world.  But in reality, the overwhelming majority of ants are bound to a queen and a colony, so freelancers are pretty darn rare.  That’s why you don’t see spiders hunting or trapping ants very often–it’s wasteful and is frowned upon, to say the least. There’s a tiny ant on the floor beside me right now–just the one–so that should tell you something about where they get their information.

Spiders are social in the same way that we are, which is to say not very. Compare humans or spiders to ants or bees or schooling fish. Spiders can work together, but they need their own space as well, and they have their own personalities. They do have systems of authority in order to establish and safeguard property rights, much as we do. Some governments are more restrictive than others. The outdoors governments are generally more cohesive than those that form indoors because of the sheer number of spiders that have to coexist outdoors.   Spiders wage war in a concerted fashion, and most wars are between spider states. Within a state, disputes are rare, and are adjudicated more often than they are resolved by violence.

A spider language is extremely difficult to learn, both because a human can’t make the necessary sounds and because the spiders will kill anyone who tries to learn. They are very peculiar about their languages.  Members of a spider nation are offended by foreign spiders who have learned their language.  Importantly, they will attack any humans who so much as attempt to learn.   Most of the nasty urban legends related to spiders (laying eggs in the brain, swarming attacks, etc.) are in fact true stories of retaliation for a human attempt to learn a spider language.  They are willing to die in whatever numbers necessary in order to protect this vital and secret part of their culture.  Violent incidents are rare, fortunately.  Human blood is vile-tasting to spiders, so we are an unappealing food source in addition to being, obviously, gigantic.  Generally, they are uninterested in humans, although we often end up sharing space with them since our food attracts their food.  Sydney funnel-webs are a notable exception; they have a high incidence of pathological horniness and are shunned by respectable spiders.

I’ve seen no evidence of any kind of global governing authority for spiders.  They wouldn’t resort to such a thing unless the alternative was extinction, although I’m sure they could manage it in dire circumstances.  As it is, they organize in the smallest units that are practical.  They don’t need any great feats of engineering to sustain their preferred lifestyles (in contrast to humans), and they don’t cotton to division of labor as a social principle.  As near as I can tell, new states rise and fall as the environment changes.  For example, the one in my basement is relatively new, whereas the one that governs my yard is much older and more firmly established.  No doubt they consider it their yard, but whatever.

I’ve never talked to a spider, of course.  I don’t speak spider.  I have talked to ants, I believe, although they don’t talk to me.  The process of drafting the Treaty of the Cul-de-Sac (that governs my dealings with the yard spiders) was one of suggestions from me, usually while I was showering, presumably conveyed to the spiders by ant diplomats (always in the bathroom somehow), then followed by displays of acceptance or refusal on the part of the spiders.  It took most of a summer to complete the negotiations.  I’m not sure how they enforce the treaty on their end.  It seems that they are doing something, because I have very few incursions to deal with myself.  The key provision in my view, and one that I have tested satisfactorily many times, gives me license to kill with impunity any spider that enters the house (or blocks entrance).  And I don’t have to be nice about it.  On the other hand, I never kill a spider if it is minding its own business outdoors.  If a spider attacks me I can of course kill it in self-defense, wherever I am.

Spider governments appear to be loose federations of a sort, and they act in concert only at need.  I believe the younger spiders defer to the old, as there are very few able to survive more than one or two seasons and those that do know a great deal more than the inexperienced majority.  They tend to organize in the way that preserves the most individual autonomy while providing the greatest mutual benefit, and allowing the experienced to guide the inexperienced seems to me most consistent with that principle.  This is not to say that there are not more aggressive and dynamic spider leaders out there, but the ones in the yard seem pretty cool about dealing with humans.

Basement War – Day 9: Dispatch

Filed under: Basement War — lbej @ 10:26

Tremendous action this morning.  Unprecedented thrust through several enemy lines in UR, capturing and evacuating huge amounts of cardboard to the kitchen for destruction.  What a haul, what a haul!

Sword broken in fantastically heavy fighting.  I suspect sabotage, but no matter.  I fight on with the hilt of the sword, and the defenses are already a shambles.

Decision taken to drive right through to the far side of UR.  This creates a considerable salient which the enemy will no doubt seek to reduce.  It looks like an overreach, and it is, but I am so far ahead in the battle plan that I can afford an epic feint.  I fall back, but leave the appearance of a strong position defending the salient.  He will exhaust several divisions in action of little strategic value, and squander time he didn’t have to begin with.  I’m going to touch up a few pesky water stains on the kitchen ceiling while his men die for nothing.

Basement War – Day 8: Battle of Cardboard Mountain

Filed under: Basement War — lbej @ 07:54

Yesterday saw by far the most intense combat of the war.  I’m no Herodotus, but I will do my best to describe it.  The Battle of Cardboard Mountain is what I decided just now to call it.

I have been asked why I find myself in a war with a tiny enemy.  There are two reasons the spiders are formidable: numbers and terrain.  Numbers, obviously.  There are potentially hundreds of enemy soldiers in the basement alone.  I don’t know that a swarming charge would kill me, except for that my brain would explode from fear, so it would.  And black widow spiders are, in fact, nasty little beasties.  A single one of them can do real damage to a human.  The second reason is terrain.  Spiders are experts at using it, especially to avoid carpet bombing.  The terrain is what separates the house, the basement, and the yard in terms of my ability to fight spiders.  The house is clean and most of the surfaces are white.  There are spiders here, but they are few in number and must stay hidden to avoid annihilation.  I can see them easily, and once I have them sighted there’s nowhere for them to go.  Bang, dead.  A war in the yard is a nightmare scenario for me.  They can hide easily, they can move large forces through the grass without detection, and I can’t use artillery of any significance without killing who knows what other plants and animals.  And of course, there are thousands of them.  The basement is a hybrid situation.  Over the past two years Katie and I filled it with trash bags and empty boxes as we repeatedly forgot to put out the recycling and trash for collection.  2008 and 2009 were not my best years, okay?  The spiders then proceeded to infest all of it.  They were also able to use this newly provided terrain to insulate themselves from the worst of the cold that should have killed most of them during the winter.  That means the terrain favors them in the extreme.  Or at least, it did prior to yesterday.

The basement is laid out as follows: a central staircase descends from the upstairs onto a very small corridor which connects the Unfinished Room (UR) to KS Garage, and LS Garage is on the other side of KS.  UR is approximately the size of KS Garage and LS Garage combined.  A key aspect of the layout is the fact that while there are walls separating the principle theaters of war, there are no doors.  This means that the enemy can in theory reinforce weakening positions from anywhere in the basement, but it also means that the effects of artillery bombardment are not easily contained.  As a result, I have relied heavily on artillery in designing and executing my battle plan.

The two-pronged advance I had discussed with my general staff over the weekend was based on the idea of a central redoubt and a front expanding slowly in a perimeter around the redoubt.  The Stairs would serve as the central redoubt, and we would make two thrusts outward, one towards KS Garage and one towards UR.  According to the plan, we would have redistributed the trash bags in KS Garage and the infested boxes in the Unfinished Room (UR), bombed both areas, and then deployed armored infantry.  But I have become less and less enamored of area bombing as the war has gone on, precisely because of the terrain advantage I discussed.  So I decided that while the redistribution in KS Garage made sense (if only as a feint), simply moving boxes around in UR wouldn’t work, and I made a snap decision.  J’attaque!

I led a headlong charge into UR and began to destroy the boxes all around me.  There were regular boxes, yes, but there were also massive boxes such as had been used for a TV, a recumbent bike, a Nordictrac, and other large items I don’t remember buying.  These were reinforced with double-thick cardboard, styrofoam, and even wood.  But no matter.  I unsheathed my sword.  I unleashed my fury.  I hurt my back.  For an hour I chopped and slashed and smashed until the boxes that had seemed almost like walls were obliterated.  All that remained was a moraine of cardboard scraps more than a foot high all across the Unfinished Room.  I clenched the sword so tightly and hit with so much force that today I can’t make a fist with either hand.  Awesome.

With the enemy’s cover in ruins, I called in aerial bombs to destroy my newly exposed foes.  After the dust had settled I began carting cardboard pieces of varying size up into the kitchen where I proceeded to cut it into fairly uniform squares to be recycled.  This cleanup phase lasted longer than the fighting itself, and will continue into today and beyond.  Later I shocked the enemy by returning, sword in hand, to resume the attack at the unheard hour of 8:00 p.m.   I pushed the UR front another several yards forward, but I sliced my leg as well and was ultimately forced to pull back for the evening.  In retrospect, though, it was a day of triumph.  I find my fighting spirit renewed, even if I can’t quite stand up all the way this morning.

March 29, 2010

The Marshal In His Headquarters

Filed under: Imperial Army — lbej @ 21:28

Don’t Worry

Filed under: Girls — lbej @ 09:39

Osama bin Laden is not under my bed.  Reagan checked twice.

Basement War – Strategic Objectives

Filed under: Basement War — lbej @ 07:05

Some confusion among general staff as to strategic objectives.  As a rule I don’t communicate my overarching long-term plan to my subordinates, thus allowing me to continue to not have one. Just to be clear, strategic objectives are not the same as war aims.  To put it crudely, strategic objectives are the things you intend to do to win the war, whereas war aims are the things you hope to get out of winning the war.  Strategy is thusly the province of military men, and war aims are the concern of the politicians.

Note: there are four theaters in the Basement War.  They are Stairs, My Side of the Garage (MS Garage), Katie’s Side of the Garage (KS Garage), and the Unfinished Room (UR).

Objectives are numbered for ease of reference and not necessarily by anticipated order of completion.

Obj. 1 – Clear and clean the Stairs.  Objective is complete.

Obj. 2 – Clear the storage space under the Stairs and recover items stored there, especially painting and flooring supplies.  Objective is complete (refer to Battle Under Stairs).

Obj. 3.1 – Clear KS Garage of bags of trash (50+ when war was declared) and infested boxes.

Obj. 3.2 – Clear MS Garage of trash and recyclable items.

Obj. 4 – Clear UR of trash, recyclables and infested boxes.

Obj. 5 – Retrieve, test, catalog and redeploy all tools and supplies.

Obj. 6 – Resettle civilian populations (take house stuff currently in the garage back upstairs and put garage stuff currently in the house back in the garage).  Some civilians may be evacuated entirely (given to Goodwill or left for bulk pickup).

Obj. 7 – Clean and disinfect.

Seven objectives.  Shouldn’t be impossible.

Basement War – The End

Filed under: Basement War — lbej @ 06:17

Ha ha, spiders, no.  It’s not over yet.  But there will be an end.  It turns out the war must be effectively over by 6:00 a.m. on April 26, 2010.  That is the deadline for putting bulk pickup items on the curb for collection. and all key territory must be liberated or liquidated by that time.  Naturally a peace treaty formally ending the conflict and establishing diplomatic ties with the basement spiders will take much longer to draft, let alone to ratify.  It’s useful to remind the troops from time to time that this war won’t last forever.  Of course, the state of perpetual and universal war in which the empire has existed since its inception will continue, but why point that out today?  It’s already Monday and raining, and people other than me don’t like those things.

Basement War – Week 2: No Myth

Filed under: Basement War — lbej @ 06:01

I woke up with “No Myth” by Michael Penn playing in my head.  I haven’t heard that song in 20 years.  This means something.

March 28, 2010

Basement War – Day 7

Filed under: Basement War,Imperial Army — lbej @ 18:24
Tags: ,

Today I assembled a 250-watt halogen light to improve my targeting capabilities and generally scare the crap out of the enemy.  Do spiders poop?  Christ, I should know that.  How can I expect to defeat the enemy if I don’t understand his ways?  I might be able to use his pooping or lack thereof against him.

In related news, Jenny was promoted to major for watching a documentary with me and not saying even once that she was bored.  Jenny, like Katie, usually hates non-fiction as a matter of principle.

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