Monday, December 20, 2004

Defining the enemy part 2

OK, I did an earlier post on this, and this'll continue that one. But it's been long enough since the first I'll take an instant to summarize.

Al Qaeda is part (and presently lead) of a global insurgency, of which its roots can be traced to the Muslim Brotherhood of the 1950s/1960s. Their objective is quite literally world domination.

This insurgency is built off an Islamic basis, and so it's worthwhile to note some critical core dynamics which come into play.

First and foremost is history - to some degree myth, but based upon fact. The myth is the Abbasid empire (though with touches of the Timurid empire). The three critical components of this empire follow:

1) Extraordinarily far-reaching. It replaced the Umayyid empire in the mid 700s, and lasted through the mid-1200s. Mythically this stretched through the Cordoban Dynasty of the Iberian peninsula (Reality, this ~80% occupation of Spain and Portugal was a residual Umayyad element) through Turkmenistan/Afghanistan/Pakistan/India and into Indonesia (Never mind again that this was the Seljuk empire). And even partially into China, with the western province of Xinxiang still almost entirely Islamic today. Tamerlane's empire added Turkey and Southern Europe (the Ottomans) to include today's Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan, southen Kazakstan, Uzbekistan and Afghanistan. The whole was a land greater than held by Alexander the Great - almost double.

2) Politically peculiar - amazingly decentralized. This one echoes today and is truly worth noting. One of the reasons the Umayyad were overcome was the lack of support of the 'peoples of the empire'. The Umayyads were relatively secular in that regardless of whether you were Islamic (and you WERE), your ethnicity still mattered. No non-pure Arab could ever be more than middle management. The Abbasids pushed "true Islam" - that all men were equal under Allah and position was by qualification, not ethnicity. It should be apparent that there were limits to this - the top job of "Caliph" (a religio/political position) was restricted to a narrow group of ethnics - but it was still amazingly broadminded. (Important Tidbit. Under the Umayyads, the capital was in Damascus. Under the Abbasids the city of Baghdad was [re]built on the Tigris to serve as the new capital. Among other things this weakened the effectiveness of the Arabs, pulling the Persians into power.) You can see echoes of Persian bureaucratic structure from literally centuries prior in what followed.

For example, the Abbasids didn't appoint a Persian governor for the Maghrib of the African Med (of which area rulers came from the Almoravids, the Almohads, and the Berbers) or the Ghanas and Malis and Songhwanas of Saharan Africa or the Seljuks or the Fatimids or... The model was what we think of as an empire - an uber-nation of nations, each predominately self-governing as long as they follow the overarching principles.

I mentioned this applies today. Islam as a faith is very decentralized - bearing much more in common with Protestant churches such as the Presbyterians or the Baptists instead of the more hierarchical structure of the Catholics. Higher church officials are not rulers of subordinate churches, but rather are respected as more knowledgeable and, due to the knowledge, are followed willingly. [Very workable analogy as long as you strip the US-biased negatives - Billy Graham is an Ayatollah and quite possibly an Imam of the Protestant Christian faith. His interpretations of biblical thought are not commanded upon any, but an extraordinary number of people will tend to accept them as authoritive.] Governance is understood to require more force - more direct authority - but for the most part effective knowledge is more important than birth lineage. (There are faults and exceptions to this, and I'll return to that fact later. This is the general rule, though - the MYTH of the Islamic Empire.)

But at root, the empire was known for a tendency to allow all good Muslims to prosper and adjust to local needs subject only to the need to be good Muslims. (And, of course, some allowance for non-Muslims. The law allowed some harassment of the non-Muslim, but the bounds were more permissive than, say, a Jew could expect in the Holy Roman Empire [HRE] of the same time-frame.)

3) Finally, there is the great boogeyman. Unlike (for example) the Roman Empire or Alexandrian Empire or HRE, the Abbasid empire was not destroyed by rot from within - well, not entirely. It was weakened by internal conflict, but it was brought down by a foreign intruder - the Mongol. Beginning with the fall of Bukhara and Samarkand to Genghis in 1220 (and barring a brief success in 1221 at Parwan), the Mongols were nigh unstoppable till the beginning of 1260 when Damascus and Allepo fell. They quite possibly would have continued had not the death of Great Khan Moltge required an election. The delay allowed the Mamluks to organize. It's possible the Mamluks might have succeeded anyway, but their implementation of warning signal towers and military plans were made during the brief delay, and it was the Mamluks who drove the Mongols out of Syria by the end of 1260. Out of this come two mythical powers - first, that the Mongol Hordes are nigh-unstoppable, and second that strong warriors of the faith CAN stop them.

A diversion to explain this better. The Mamluks were a fluke. They were multigenerational Turkish slave warriors for the Egyptian Abuyyids (aka Abbasids) who'd conducted a successful coup a scant few years earlier but who'd agreed to the loose reins of the empire (they were Muslim after all). They were extremely similar to the Mongols - a culture that was devoted almost entirely to military training with all else subordinate to the "warrior". Administration, intellect, and any other facet of culture was subordinate to skill at arms. However, as they'd been the warriors for a 'civilized' culture they'd developed some bonuses - they'd used horseshoes since about 1244, and understood the need to attack logistics by burning every grassland the Mongols in Syria used for pasture. But at heart, it was the ascetic warrior who stopped the Mongols, not the more 'cosmopolitan' empire. And the empire was never really restored.

4) Not really part of the myth, but it matters. Tamid aka Tamerlane briefly restored the empire, but it wasn't the same. He was partially Mongol himself, and his drives into nominally Muslim lands were extremely reminiscent of the attacks of a mere century before. Indeed, Tamid is a boogeyman to scare much of today's Iran and Iraq residents. Yet some of the great leaders of Islam - more myths - come from the post-Tamid time: Suleyman of the Ottomans; Abbas the Great of the Safavids; and Babur and Akbar of the Mughals. Scholars among the Islamic faith will know that the Mongols were between the Abbasid and Tamid empires, that the Tamid spun off to the Ottoman, Safavid and Mughal much as the Alexandrian empire spun apart. But mythically, the "people" will think it an unbroken history of greatness cast down by the Mongol invasions - much as many USians will think of the US as being mostly peaceful between the Revolution and the Civil War, and again till the World Wars of the 1900s. "We're not a history of empire builders and conquerors, we were too busy for that sort of stuff. That was the Europeans." ahem - sorry, I digress.

End of the history overview, now what does this mean for our global insurgents?

This myth is the ideology and environment which underlies the Insurgent strategy.

The Western World - the US and its allies - is cast as the Mongol Horde. Certainly they brought a time of peace - it is true an unwed maiden carrying a bag of gold could travel from one end to the other without fear of brigands. However, she would live in total fear of the Mongol overlords, who were brutal and took all they wished. Who destroyed mosques and executed religious leadership for little reason - changing their minds about "mercy" and such without warning. The Mongols ruled by picking "leaders" unattentive to their (Islamic) knowledge, but solely on whether they would maintain the peace and the flow of wealth to the Khan. The easy parallels should be obvious.

The objective of the GI is global domination. The subobjectives are:
1) Successfully supplanting the leadership of the Greater Islamic Empire [GIE], which consists of:
- The Arabic Pensinsula;
- Northern and Saharan Africa;
- Spain and Portugal;
- All of Europe east of the Alps and south of a line drawn from the northern edge of the Caspian Sea to Switzerland;
- The 'Stans of Russia;
- Pakistan, India, and the coast of southeast Asia through Indonesia;
- Western China.
2) Causing the "Mongols" to collapse upon themselves. (ie, the deaths of Genghis and of Moltge had the same effect - the end of Mongol power for a long time, enough for those waiting the opportunity to strike effectively.)
3) With the first two in place, leverage the GIE's strength to finish "taking over the world" for the glory of Allah.

A critical point to the overall objective is that no single Leader is required. The Myth - and to an extent the History - is that the end does not require one Great Ruler, though out of the many great rulers of the GIE one shall be known as a Great Ruler. But the Caliphs - both de jure and de facto - have come from many lands after the Mongols arrived. Equally, there is no requirement for the leader to be first of nation-state - in fact, especial emphasis on a state tends to reduce the end strength of the sub-empire.

I want to interject here to remind that historical insurgencies do not require equal levels of success at all times in all regions they hope to overcome. Strong successes create "safe harbors" from which setbacks elsewhere can be resolved and overcome. In the Global arena this is even more significant, as regions may be entire nations with all the protections sovereignty can grant. I'll note that the Taliban overdid it, and equally that it appears other nations that might have been equally rude have become more diplomatic, though equally resistant to our actions. This ability, by the way, makes effective substitution for the normal requirement of external support that insurgents usually require for success.

To recap the dynamics of the Global Insurgency:
- It has a decentralized leadership - though individual leaders exist, they are subordinate to an "idea". Lest this be scoffed at, I'll ask: what great single leader led the greater insurgency of the 1770s in the American Colonies?
- Its ideology is the "golden age" of the Islamic Empire - an empire under rule of Sharia that abounds in wealth and wisdom.
- The objective is first restoration of the GIE, and subsequently the rule of the world - first the West, then the East.
- Its environment is the Myth, and the geography is that of the World. The guides are the lessons of the Mamluks.
- The external support is not truly present, though the sea of Islamic followers and a few Islamic nations plus some that have fallen or are held hostage by the insurgents provide equivalent support. PLEASE NOTE: the insurgents are not agents of the state(s), but rather the states are the 'safe harbors' of the insurgents.
- Globally the insurgency is in strategic defense. A significant proportion of the Middle East is in 'stalemate'. There are a very few states in the offensive or even 'owned' stages - surprisingly few actually in the Middle East. Confusing the issue is that some nations the GI's see as agents of the West yet to be conquered have also provides support (safe harbor and/or 'external support') for them against other nations. This is not a new tactic - playing foes against one another - but it's still difficult for us to see clearly. This is especially true as a major subobjective to support "The Myth" is the recapture of the Historic Capitals of Baghdad and Damascus and the "lesser" capitals of Isfahan (Iran); Samarkand (Uzbekistan); Istanbul (Turkey); and Agra (India), each in turn.

A significant weakness of the MYTH (see, told you I'd return) is that it's not the history. While the earlier Islamic nations did bond against outsiders even despite their differences, for the later empires this wasn't true. The Umayyads were Sunni, the Abbasids were Shia. The Ottomans great success was the defeat of Timur. The Sufavid were (surprise) the source of the Sufi sect, and fought constantly with both the Ottomans and the Mughal, who were in turn a near-schism themselves, tolerant of not only Christian and Jew but Hindu, Jain, Zoroastrian, and Buddhist as well.

The insurgents play upon the MYTH. It is a significant weakness that HISTORY fails the MYTH - provided this difference can be exploited.

What is going on in Iraq?

I've been trying to make heads or tails of Iraq for some time now. I've been aware that men of good will - heck, people who are intelligent and honest and capable of all genders and political stripes - have tried to report what is going on. And they are full of both overlap and contradiction. So much so, that I've come to recognize they're the blind wise men seeing the elephant. So, I'm going to do a bit of "thinking out loud" to try and get a handle. I think that making recommendations of what to do before that handle is grasped is futile at best. Not asking any to agree with this, just laying it out for pondering and comments before I use it as a springboard.

Summary up front: What we've got is not, yet, a civil war. It's a pre-nationalization conflict of word and bullet in which there are a multitude of interests both internal and external with a corresponding multitude of allies and foes. All have as the ultimate goal the organization of the Iraq of the future. That will be guided in large part by the success and results of the upcoming elections of the National Assembly, which has as its declared primary task the creation of a final and formal national constitution to be submitted for national ratification no later than October of 2005.

Iraq is a nation in the process of being redefined. Its problem - and at the same time its hope - is that there are a lot of people strongly interested in what the endstate of Iraq might be.

There are at least 60 definably different organizations, most of which specifically interact with other organizations, trying to establish this situation. It is these organizations' interactions that cause much of the hope and the difficulty in the nation. As such, I'd like to briefly describe them. I'm not, however, going to name any names (or rather, very few names). This is because first I'm aware I don't know them all, and second many change names as needs and desires and splits and reorganizations and... well, some change name almost daily. Instead, I'm going to list the characteristics - the dimensions, really - by which these organizations can be considered.

The first characteristic is internal vs external. That is, some of these organizations are Iraqis hoping to influence their home. Other organizations are backed by nations and groups who desire that the eventual Iraq be of a character they desire. I'll name some just for example, but it's far from exhaustive. There are the US, the UN, Turkey, Iran, Al Qaeda, and the Islamic Brotherhood.

Another characteristic is tribe, while religion is of equal consideration. It's worth noting here that there are some organizations that wish the endstate to be agnostic - devoid of tribal and/or religious influence.

Third broad brush characteristic is method of negotiation, though in part this has another influence. By method I'm using the spectrum of how much negotiation is done with words and how much by bullets.

There is one more characteristic to complete the confusion. Simply, is the primary focus of the organization "for" the above or "against" the above. Worth noting is that being "for" a tribe (for example) does not preclude being "against" using words over bullets or "against" a particular internal or external group.

With that mishmash covered, I'd like to go next to reviewing just what the "next step" is supposed to be. It's important, and keeps being misstated or poorly stated everywhere I look.

The upcoming elections are not electing the government of Iraq. Oh, it'll act in that capacity, but it is better viewed as a constitutional congress - more specifically, the Third Continental Congress (Convened Dec 20, 1776, to draft articles of confederation and prosecute the war of Rebellion). This is a critical point in the various questions as to whether it is wise or acceptable to convene without participation of various regions or bodies. If a group does not have a voice at the table for the constitution, will it consider the result binding? Or will it be the roots of an Iraqi "Shay's Rebellion"?

The ideal goal would be to get all the internal parties to the table without bullets, all having effective if not equal voice in the end document. It isn't going to happen, not least because some voices will not give up their bullets. The second worst end is for a sole voice to dominate the final document, unwilling to hear other voices desires much less willing to accomodate compromises. The worst end is for no convention to occur - or for it to end without issue - resulting in a gradual chaotic balkanization of the region that sucks the lives and wealth of all who dare try to make it better. (FWIW, I would expect that to cause a literal Kurdistan, with the inevitable direct action of Turkey and Iran in attempting to quell it. The thought of Turkey and Iran working in concert bothers me more than a little bit.)

This vaguely described chaos, then, guides what should be the US/UN objectives of the next year. The objective should be to maximize the number of competing voices at the Constitutional Congress, er National Assembly, providing such assistance as necessary to achieve a (hopefully viable) constitution that all will tolerate, albeit with much grumbling from all parties.

This is the reason for the system chosen, though it has flaws. The election system to be used is a (deep breath) closed list, single district, proportional-representation system. That is, every group has a list of people it will put in the National Assembly - preferably in ranked order. Each voter votes for a _list_, with no requirement of voting based on their location. In other words, each list of possible representatives is offered statewide. The 275 available seats are distributed proportionally between the lists based on the number of votes the list received. For example, if the Sadr Shia Supremicists (name made up) received 20% of the votes, then they would get 55 seats.

There are two weaknesses shown in the current circumstances which concern me. The first is the was the lists were selected. Candidate lists were submitted and allowed or rejected. There is some concern that the rejections were made not on published criteria for eligibility but rather for "acceptability standards" - thus preventing true representation. There were 195 applications and 122 parties' lists were accepted and registered. It's known that some vocal groups - amusingly, almost all are "bullets over words" groups - declined to apply. It's also known that some of the current noisemakers in Iraq (both words and bullets) are groups who had their applications denied. The former are good riddance, the latter are possibly of concern. But this weakness is not the most worrisome, not with 122 national slates available.

The second weakness, the one of more concern, is a direct outgrowth of the instability - the gun-toters and insurgents. A reasonable expectation is that areas under excess disruption will be unable to vote. If these areas are predominately one "group" - race, tribe, and any other aspect - then that group's voice will be less likely to be heard. I would like to point out this instant that the 'group' facing disenfranchisement is Sunni, but a large proportion of the insurgents causing this situation is Shiite. Not all, of course, but enough that those seeking proper actions should take pause - punishing the residents of a disrupted region for the actions of those who would NOT be supported in the elections seems wrong to me.

To summarize - what we've got is not, yet, a civil war. It's a pre-nationalization conflict of word and bullet in which there are a multitude of interests both internal and external with a corresponding multitude of allies and foes. All have as the ultimate goal the organization of the Iraq of the future. That will be guided in large part by the success and results of the upcoming elections of the National Assembly, which has as its declared primary task the creation of a final and formal national constitution.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Defining the enemy

[Originally written May 27, 2004]

We are facing a global insurrection which for convenience sake I'll label the "Qutbists".  I highly recommend a lot of research on subjects such as "Islamic Brotherhood" (here - try for a US military brief) and Qutb (various spellings of the first name - usually Sayyid, but also Sayyed, Sayid, Said, Sayd, and Sayed.)  Qutb's "Mein Kampf" (or possibly "On Protracted Warfare") was "Mileposts [or Signposts] on the Road" (link here:

A couple of clues. Qutb was sent by the Egyptian Government (Ministry of Education) to learn American Educational Methods in 1948 - and was supposed to spend five years doing so. A bit over 18 months later he left the nation, saying it was (among other things) irredeemably sinful and the greatest threat to Islamic faith in existance. On his return he became a radical - and Islamicist vs an Islamic.

A digression - Islam has a tradition of entanglement of state with religion. This is due to the first few leaders of the religion also being the political leaders. As it happens, though, the same event that split Shia from Sunni also forced them into a separation of the two - a recognition that the political leader should be spiritual but did not necessarily have to be a spiritual leader. A Caliph alone must be not only a Sultan/Emir, but must also be a mufti (or at least qualified to be such). However, an Islamicist's focus is that the government must be led by a spiritually sound leader, of knowledge sufficient to be at least a Mullah. FWIW, the religious titles are not ranks, but are instead acknowledgements of depth of knowledge about Islamic faith and law. Technically, a mullah does not walk behind a mufti or an ayatollah. Practically, of course, Orwell's comment comes to mind - "Some are more equal than others."

Anyway, Qutb became a severe Islamicist, and due to his experiences in the United States aimed much of his writings toward that nation's demise. Another clue - it was Qutb who parsed the book and the laws of Islam to allow the assassination of Islamic leaders. See, such is specifically forbidden in both book and law. But Qutb's little interpretation relied on how some Hadith (not Sharia and not the Quran) had developed that said apostates should be executed. If the leader were not of the "true faith" -- that is, he didn't follow the strict interpretations of the Qutbists -- then obviously he was an apostate, and it became not only allowable but incumbent upon true followers to execute (not assassinate) the leader.

But, many say, what about the Wahhabi ties? Once more to history. In 1954 the nation of Egypt banned the Brotherhood - they'd never been clearly dirty in various tricks and assassinations. Worse, they'd been really useful in overthrowing the government in 1952 but then demanded the resulting government be run _their_ way. Coincidentally, the founder of the Brotherhood had been assassinated a mere six years later and a schism was developing between those who wished to proselytize for Islam through persuasion and those who wished to resort to force. (Aside, Qutb went to prison in 1952, and at this point is only beginning his writings - though he's published his hate piece of the US (The America I Have Seen. 1949).) The majority of the members (of both sides of the schism) who escaped fled to Saudi Arabia, where the people most willing to provide succor were those who held similar beliefs to the forcers - the Wahabbis. There are also strong enclaves among the Palestinians, the Jordanians, the Syrians, the Turks, and in Iran.

Another clue - strong enclaves in Iran. The Brotherhood was built as a "cross-sectarian boundaries" organization, and had not only Sunni but Shia and Sufi chapters. FWIW it's not believed Khomeini was a member. OTOH, some of the "student leaders" of the Shah's overthrow were.

Anyway, back to the Wahabbis. Because they were the dominant force controlling access to the Hajj, they were able to proselytize more effectively than any other sect. The Qutbists (my term for the "forcers") became closely tied with them largely because each had a great deal to offer the other. The Wahabbis had the doctrinal strength and influence of location, while the Qutbists had a strategy. "Your muscle and my mind..."

For the next couple of decades, the Qutbists converted, assisted, taught and pressured all they could find - and the opposition tended to be local at best. Thus almost all of today's mufti have been constantly exposed to the doctrine of Qutb as a serious consideration in their study of the law and faith, and it's estimated that between a third and half the world's mufti believe it to be legitimate interpretation.

The Qutbists have been running a global variation on Mao's doctrine of guerrilla and protracted warfare. First, they've been following it within each nation separately. But as an expansion, they've treated regions as states, making the states Mao's provinces.

Unfortunately, we've let them run unopposed for most of the past decade - and indeed in some instances gave them support and training (as in Afghanistan). The reason was quite legitimate - we turned our eyes because they assisted us in facing what we perceived as our then greatest foe, the Soviet Union. (Interestingly, we called it a war on Communism. Nowadays we tolerate communistic parties in other states for the most part - so long as they can't band together and work against us.)

I'm going to point out a final cue. Every one of today's RIF's can trace their lineage to the Qutbist Brethren. Al Qaeda (for example) was co-founded by bin Laden and Azzam. Azzam had joined the Brethren before he reached his majority while living in Palestine, and fought against the Israelis. He was a contributor to the founding of Hamas, but left them because they were focused solely on evicting Israel and wouldn't focus on any larger area. In the early 1970's he was a frequent guest at the Qutb family residence (though Sayyid had been hung in 1966 for plotting against the government) and a close acquaintance of al-Zarqawi. You can trace a similar lineage for almost every single member of the RIF Terrorist Network, whether Wahabbi or Jamaat or Deomundi or Shia.

We are facing a global insurgency which is a fish in a sea which also contains mud. The sea is Islam. The mud is a pair of local conflicts for political existance which, for a variety of reasons good and bad, have forced their way into our awareness. I speak of the Israeli mess. I speak of the Pakistan/India confrontation. It's not surprising the Qutbists use these to support their aims - Mao used the conflict against the Japanese to assist his conflict with the government, and vice versa. And WWI certainly provided benefits for the bolsheviks.

The Mullahs have not declared war upon us. Thinking that way assists the Qutbists, of whom many mullahs are members. We're starting behind the curve, but that's no excuse for swinging wildly in all directions.

Monday, December 13, 2004

I went to Origins in 2002. Origins is a gaming convention - in some ways it's "the" gaming convention. Upon my return, conversation drifted to a stereotype - the "gaming geek". In particular, the fact that this stereotype is almost always a male who is socially inept, particularly in dealing with the opposite sex. A question got asked of those of us who were married, or at least with steady girlfriends: "How do you do it? What should I do to get a girl?" I wrote the following in response. I'll leave it mostly unedited - I think it still relevant for the stereotypical game/comic geek.

So you want to meet girls? With only a hint of tongue in cheek, some advice.

1) Learn to dress well.
1a) Begin by throwing away and replacing all the following: every piece of clothing that is more than two years old; any outerwear that has holes or stains which you don't use for a) chemical experimentation or b) car/house maintenance. This will probably include some of your favorite slogan T-shirts. If they're faded, dingy, have holes, or smell funky (ask a non-gamer, neither
you nor your friend's opinions on this can be valued), then buy a replacement.
1b) Next step is buying clothes. You do not have to buy from either Gap or GQ, you can do well at stores such as WalMart. However, you must not trust your taste yet. Find a friend or decent acquaintance who has a wife. Pay her(*) to accompany you, with one simple rule. You can pick what you want, but she gets to veto it. (This gives you some chance to validate your taste while avoiding the tendency to cave-dweller slobbishness inherent in all gamers.) Realizing that some clothing while individually acceptable clashes with other items, pay your expert witness to add a 'veto combination' list.
1c) Now set your combinations up in advance - much as you clip corners or pack storage trays or miniature boxes, work in advance will save hours and embarrasment later. Yes, this may mean that you have to put shirts and pants and socks in the same drawer - and those sets will have to be in several drawers. Heck, it means you have to use your drawers and closets for clothes instead of game storage. Trust me, it's worth it. (see step 2 in regard to how to put clothes in closets and drawers.)
1d) WEAR the darn things as organized, but for no more than twelve hours. Plan in advance. If you've done a long day at work, and you're getting ready to head for a marathon session of Stellar Conquest, change clothes.
1e) Shoes use all the above except 1c. Your shoes - and you should have at least two pair worn alternately - do not go in the drawer. Instead when you determined eligible combinations in 1b, you should designate which shoes can or cannot go with a given combination. Then when you choose the shoes for use (a mandatory element of getting dressed) you don't wear sandals with your double-breasted suit, but instead choose from the 'dress shoe' sublist of list 'shoes'.

(*) Throughout this document I'll recommend paying instead of asking. This serves two purposes. First, it makes it clear to the person providing assistance that you're serious and you value his or her time. Second, it makes it clear in your own mind that the advice should be followed. Free advice tends to be ignored whenever it's convenient. Advice you pay for gets followed even when it's not convenient. You should pay AT LEAST as much as you would for a wargame in which you expect to invest serious time and effort -- $40 to begin, and up to $100.

2) Clean and maintain.
2a) Clean and maintain your clothes. Once you've worn them (1d) you don't wear them again till you wash them. Washing clothes does not consist of cramming them all into the machine in any order, tossing on a handful of soap, and turning the machine on "Hot, Full load". Again, find someone who knows how to do laundry (this may be someone other than the person you used in the first step, but not necessarily) and pay(*) him or her to teach you how to launder your clothes. Laundering is not only how to wash, and how to dry (both machine and line), but how to fold, iron, and store your clothes.
2b) Clean and maintain your shoes. Pay someone to teach you how to polish, or in the case of running/tennis shoes how to clean, and how, when and why to use shoe trees.
2c) Clean and maintain your residence. Everywhere you hope to have your gamer girl see should be clean. Assume until you get to know one better that unclean and unkempt dwellings are reinforced shields against any female presence and act appropriately.
2d) Clean and maintain yourself.
- shower daily. Ideally, shower prior to putting on a new set of clothes (1d). Wash your hair thoroughly at least every other time you shower.
- Maintain your head hair. This means get regular haircuts. Again, pay(*) for advice - this payment is in addition to the pay you give the person giving you your haircut. As to facial hair... Unless you have the physique of a male model or Russel Crowe, never have a 5 oclock shadow (or 2-day growth). Avoid faddish beards (goatees, fringe beards, van dyke beards, etc) as well. A full beard or a mustache should be worn only after consulting with at least three women other than your mother - again, ask wives/significant others of your friends or acquaintances, but in this case payment is not necessary. In unscientific personal surveys, over 3/4 of the eligible women said that they preferred clean-shaven men unless the men had visible weaknesses that needed the facial hair to disguise. These are discolorations, weak chins, extraordinarily prominent noses, and such, not 'baby-faces'. If you look too young, revel in it.
- Brush your teeth and floss them at least twice a day, ideally first thing in the morning plus after every meal. Mouthwash is optional, though if in doubt use it.
- Use Deoderant. Your shower cleans the old grime up, but you will sweat.

3) Change your behavior.
a) Reduce your gaming to no more than twelve (12) hours over no more than three (3) days per week.
b) Learn to listen. Listening requires you NOT try to top the person, nor try to change the subject, nor let them "babble on while waiting for a break". You should be able to paraphrase if not repeat the salient points of the preceding five minutes. Fair warning - this is HARD -- harder than learning the sequence of play for SFB, harder even than learning basic conversational Klingon.
c) On the days that you're not gaming (see 3a), go places and do things that might bring you into contact with girls. These include but are not limited to:
- church/synagogue to include the 'social activities';
- dance classes;
- aerobics classes;
- Book discussion and writing clubs;
- singles bars (use with caution - don't go with your fellow gamers unless they have wives/significant others/dates (gasp) to bring).
- racetracks;
- concerts;
- swimming at the beach.
Ensure whatever you do that you get outside for at least one hour every three days - that bright light which others call the sun is beneficial. You can combine this with some of the above activities.

4) Talk to women. You've removed the repellants. You've learned how to listen. You've placed yourself in situations where you have the opportunity to meet women. Now talk with them.
4a) Learn and use conversational opening lines - not just the first sentence but a small set of lines. Never, ever try to use a pickup line. You are a gamer. Your pasty skin is anathema to anyone wanting a one-night stand or even an evening on the town. You're playing serious stategy, not beer and pretzels. Here, gamer, is a freebie:
-- [situation: game convention, on seeing a booth bunny. "Hi. Do you play the game? (assuming she says no) Cool. What do you think of the convention? [regardless of answer unless it's 'get lost'] Oh? How so?"
4b) When the conversation's done (and remember that SHE picks the when), let go. If you try to monopolize her, she'll feel like a victim of your monopoly. Instead of being willing to talk again later (that day, that week, that year), she'll flee.
4c) LISTEN - use the skill you learned in 3b. When you speak to her, the words "I", "Me", and "My" should cross your lips only in the first minute (My name is Kirk), in answer to a direct question she asks (Yes, I have seen that movie), and as part of your graceful [4b] exit (I'll see you later).

5 Follow up. The first steps will get you some 'nibbles' - women who actually pay attention, and who might even be willing to give you an evening of somewhat undivided attention. You are probably going to have to do take next step of asking her. Your hint is that she's been willing to converse with you for more than ten minutes on more than one occassion - three times is a convenient test line. At that point, follow up by setting up a date. Yes, gamer, a date. Don't pay attention to the discussions you heard from the football players (when they weren't dunking you or snapping towels at you) -- they're bragging, and it's as valid as the Warhammer player's claims to tactical expertise that sweeps all foes from the table. Where you go depends in part on where you met her, and mostly on what you learned in thirty minutes of conversation (remember, three ten-minute conversations where you LISTENED means you probably know her favorite food and her favorite couple of activities, possibly her favorite movie types... Use what she told you just as you would use your opponent's telling what he's spending limited points to purchase. But go somewhere she likes and do something she likes - oh, be certain you at least are indifferent to if not by preference also liking it or it'll fail, but the key is that she likes it. And when it's done, follow up. Just as in gaming you want to advance through the position you've opened -- send a card, or a flower (just one's enough), or even a phone call. Don't wait till the next time you'll see her normally - that's as bad as making an interrupt card the last play from your hand.

(PS - thank you, Evelyn, for seeing the potential in your gaming geek.)


Inevitably, I open with a bit of an intro. I'm an army veteran. I'm a librarian. I'm a father and husband. I play board games, wargames by preference. I'm a human being with all the complexities therein. Pigeon holes are for pigeons - I've never met a person whom, after getting to know them, I felt comfortable giving them a one- or two-word label -- they always seem to need a short list of exceptions.

I've decided to write this blog on whatever piques my interest. Most times this means you'll expect some things on libraries (usually United States public libraries, but there'll be a exceptions) and on current events, particularly those related to the US army and US politics. Sometimes, however, I'll write on whimsical thoughts that have crossed my mind. Often, for both serious and whimsical articles, I picture myself as meandering about the thoughts within my mind - thus the title. Feel free to meander about my mind with me.

I've been writing articles of one type or another for a while. I'll appear prolific for the next few days because I'm going to cheat - I think many (not all, not most) of the articles I've written deserve to be posted yet again.