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Cold Swiss Spring What’s In My Bag
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Image by Do8y
Last time I did not have the time to write a detailed description. This is nevertheless one of my favourite parts of the whole What’s In My Bag process.

You will notice that I have continued the process of thinning out and making lighter the content of my bag. With time, my back (which I took care of, by streghtening my back muscles), but now as well my hands have signaled with joint pain that it’s time for me to face reality and drastically cut the weight I lug on a daily basis. Which I did. To paraphrase Churchill – If you listen to you body’s signals at 20, you’re a coward, if you don’t after the age of 40, you’re daft.

So here it goes – the content of my mag in a very cold and very rainy spring. Numbers/descriptions go on an inward spiral from left to right.

1. Bag: TUMI – I think the model was the Alpha 2 Slim Deluxe Leather Portfolio

2. Umbrella: Doppler German-made carbon steel body umbrella. A very good quality umbrella with pleanty of small things to love it for – fabric quality, silent tip, silent and smooth opening, very strong and resistent to those pesky winds we’ve got here.

3. Bose QC25: Not the best sound – the Parrot 2 I had until now were twice as good, but the Bose is so much more reliable – the Parrot had terrible sound artifacts while the noise-cancelling was active, up until that time when the microphone got completely messed up and started distorting any sound while in noise cancelling mode. I have a rather long commute on which I imperatively need noise cancelling on – the QC25 are good and reliable. I can live with them having a little less depth of sound.

4. Woolen Casquette Lacoste: a woolen golf hat to match my woolen sports coat – I am trying to make sure that, at least my exterior, matches my age and girth.

5. iPhone 6 Plus in a brown leather Apple case. Amazing device – the first phone I own that I like that much since the passing of my beloved Palm Tréo680 and 650.

6. A new vice of mine. Gave up cigarettes over 8 years ago. Have been smoking pipe from time to time. Now I indulge in cuban cigars. Favourite brands are ‘Cohiba’ and ‘Romeo y Julieta’ – this here is the Churchill Shorts – very good, very flavourful.

7. Colibri cigar cutter and cigar lighter/torch: The cutter is reliable, lies very well in the hand and can fit even a cigar of the gauge of the one in this picture. The lighter has three flames. Isn’t really wind resistant , but is beautiful, has a good size tank and matches the cutter.

8. Mont Blanc Meisterstück Classic Platinum: Let me ask you this – if you love cars, what will you do when you buy a Bugatti Veyron? How will you justify buing anything after it? That it’s better? That it’s more elegant? Right. Indeed. That’s what happened to me after my wife gave me this one as a present – there is no way for the pen afficionado in me to justify writing with anything else, but this jewel. Smooth writing and reliable lines, without having to press to much. Unless you write in a Moleskine, which is terrible for fountain pens, everywhere else writing with this is the ultimate writing pleasure.

9 and 10. Rorting rapidPRO ballpoint pen and 2.0 mm lead holder: whatever non-fountain pen and pencil I get seduced by, I always come back to this brand and mostly to this specific design. Pleasant heft, reliable and elegant, without being over the top.

11. Cross Star Wars Stormtrooper edition roller ball – come on, I’m still a geek and it writes with amazing smoothness – it’s Cross after all, not some random Chinese knock-off.

12. BIC HB leads for the Rotring.

13. Clairefontaine notebook in an artisanal leather cover (not self-made).

14. Starbucks chewing gum.

15. Disneyland Paris tin with Advil (ibuprofen) pills

16. JustMobile’s USB-to-Lightning short cable – very useful for a quick sync and emergency charge without the bulk. Soon to be replaced by a USB-C-to-Lightning.

17. STABILO swing cool Jeans Set: highlighters in a cool, but mostly practical package that I use to highlight in the book pictured above.

18. GEO Guide Tout Paris: GEO is a family of geography, science and travel magazines. This is a very good, detailed and well documented guide forthe city of Paris – yes, no matter how well you know a city, if you haven’t stayed in for a longer period of time it since over 18 years, you should admit it to yourself and let the professionals guide you. Preparing for an extended weekend in Paris with my wife and daughter (let’s see now how many of the copycats who read my posts will run to Paris now).

19. Disneyland Paris Phantom Manor (the equivalent of the US Haunted Mansion) key lanyard with keys and 256 GB memory stick: while waiting for the delivery of my USB3+USB-C combined drive, I will stick with this one (pun intended, sorry).

20. Ordning & Reda pencil case with batteries for the headphones and a SnowPeak spork: rechargable and not batteries to never stay without noise cancelling and a utensil which will be appreciated by anyone who has ever tried eating with plastic cutlery.

21. 2015 MacBook 12" Retina: last summer I tried to buy one of those in the US, where an employee of BestBuy on 5th was telling me that those laptops are nowhere to be found, as Apple found out, after the fact, what a poor design it was to produce a laptop with one port. When I came back to Switzerland, and they came out here a couple of months later, my wife has inherited the MacBook Air 11" that I bought in the marvelous Grand Central Station Apple store, because I bought this one and it has been a machine that I have loved and cherished every signle day. I have written a post on Quora as a response about this laptop, which describes better what this machine does for me:…

22. Leather gloves: old gloves, bought over 14 years ago in Bulgaria. Been looking for something similar since – it’s always either too thin or too thick. Will have to do a better research online.

23. RayBan Clubmaster sunglasses: Never leave home without them. Style doesn’t rest, neither does the sun.

24. Victorinox Cadet Limited Edition 2015: This is a lightweight beautiful knife in dark (cobalt?) blue which is a perfect gentleman’s knife – it has enough size to be useful for everyday tasks, without looking menacing, and that has a length that allows it to be carried even in Chicago (I think).

25. Victorinox Alox Mini SwissChamp: Alox refers to the aliminium scales – the same material that allows the knife abov e it to be carried in your pocket (or in this case – in your bag) next to your keys and not be scratched. the MiniChamp is a very useful helper. No, I do not feel not even the tiniest little bit embarrassed that I have two Swiss knifes in one bag.

26. A comb: When I still had proper hair on my head, I never had one of those on me. Now it’s either that or an unruly beard. Which let’s admit it, is quite weird. (OK, I’m done with the puns)

27. Sony ICD-SX1000 voice recorder: whenever I’m not around people and I don’t have to write down, I spare my fingers the pain and just dictate my notes. Most of the time, just debriefing myself is enough for me to remember everything.

28. Apple USB-to-USB-C adapter: as I mentioned in point 19 above, I have native USB-C+USB 3 sticks coming soon – that’s when I’ll lose this, and the USB-to-Lightning from point 16 will be replaced by USB-to-USB-C.

29. Mass Transit subscription card.

30. SecrID – RFID blocking thin profile card wallet.

31. Damn Handsome Beard Kit: Great present from my wife. Contains a small metal moustache comb, small beard and moustache scissors, beard oil and beard wax. Just dandy!

32 daemons of khorne ready to intercept the approach undead
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Image by jon_a_ross
Battle report here

Battle Report: 1000 points Khorne Daemons vs. 1000 points Zombies (Vampire Counts)
Six turns (plus one) Zombies move first.

The zombie hordes had seen one battle before, that against the beasts of Chaos army. In that struggle the zombies were counted as the losers, with much of their army ripped to pieces. But it had moments where a zombie victory seemed possible. So the zombies are pulled out again to battle against 1000 points of Khorne daemons. 4 groups of 40 zombies, each with a standard and a musician are lead by one necromancer with all the spells on his corpse cart and another necromancer on foot with the book of dancing dead.

The khorne forces are lead by one Herald of Khorne with flaming attacks and body armour. The mighty herald joins a unit of 11 bloodletters with full command and will lead two more units of 10 bloodletters (full command) and two groups of flesh hounds into battle (11 total). The bloodletters are mostly untried in Fantasy, having seen some action in 40K. In 40K they are excellent marine killers but not so good against guardsmen. We shall see how they do against the fantasy undead.

Unlike the last time the zombies fought with seven pieces of terrain crowding the battlefield, we go with a lightly dotted landscape. One hill crested with heads from a lost civilization. The monolith (one of many that dot my warhammer world) and a small hill with more rocks on it are all that can be seen.

With the zombie first move the plan is straight forward. The necromancer will use the book to move one group of zombies in the south forward in an effort to flank the line of daemons when they hit the zombies in the middle of the table. A group of zombies is raised from the dead and bolstered with more zombies to intercept the approaching flesh hounds in the north. The magic phase goes almost entirely the way the undead wish, with the zombie general getting both his spells cast, as well as the bound spells all working. Only the necromancer on foot fails his spell, rolling a single die looking for 4.

The Daemons of Khorne move forward, not recklessly but carefully. Both groups of flesh hounds are moved to flank, one in the north and one in the south. The bloodletters themselves move forward slowly. One unit of ten on each side of their commander and his unit of 11. (I deployed them in file of 4 because I thought that was legal. As I understand now looking over the rules that 4 is 6th edition thinking and it has to be 5 for 7th edition. I’ll double check later, but carried on the battle regardless.)

Zombie turn two was more slowing shifting forward with failed charges from the lead zombies. More dead summoned, with the raise dead spell being stopped by the dice. It also allowed the daemons to stop the corpse cart from granting strikes first to the zombies around it. That power will promise to be painful.

Daemon turn 2 is marked by charging. Four units charge into the zombies and deal heavy damage. Over 20 zombies fall either through injury or their magic failing to hold them together. The herald and his unit score only 2 kills, even after rerolling to hit because of their hatred. This results in the herald’s unit losing combat and making a leadership test itself.

Zombie turn 3 sees another group of zombies launch a charge against the bloodletter line. This time the zombies are able to flank and will add their weight to pushing the bloodletters down. The dispel dice come up snake eyes, giving the zombies total control over the rest of the magic phase. More undead are raised into existence to flank charge next turn, while a number of the existing units are increased in size. The bloodletters which are being flanked are having terrible luck rolling dice, scoring four ones to hit and one one to wound. In that battle the daemons will end up losing combat and having three lost to warp instability.

Daemon turn 3 has the daemons with their only unengaged unit, the flesh hounds in the south, attempt to charge the zombies and come up short. The rest of the daemons have no choice but to attempt to slay the unliving foes that now threaten to pull them down. Much to the horror of the daemons, they actually use more of their number this turn then they slay zombies. The corpse cart has given the zombies unnatural speed. It accounted for very little last phase but this time the daemons feel their low toughness score. The one group of daemons fighting off 60 zombies, 11 at a time, end up losing combat so badly that between the wounds from the zombies and daemonic instability they are wiped out. Now it becomes 35 daemons against 150 zombies or so.

Zombie turn 4 sees the zombies push in towards the bloodletters. Both the remaining bloodletter groups are now fighting on two sides, with the herald of khorne and his bloodletters being attacked by over 60 zombies. The magic phase goes to the undead as the dispel dice are held to cancel the strike first powers of the corpse cart. Thus another group of zombies can be summoned and added to. This group shall be used to flank the flesh hounds when they charge into the zombie mess.

The close combat phase also goes badly for the bloodletters. Another bad roll off the bloodletters results in only a single zombie death and then a loss of combat for the daemons. Five daemons die in the center and five zombies, not an exchange rate the daemons can afford. The only upside is that the flesh hounds have an excellent round against the zombies they were fighting in the north, destroying the group completely after the leadership test.

Daemon turn 4 has the few remaining bloodletters worried. They are both fighting battles on two sides, against foes that are just strong enough to wound them one third of the time, and who hit them one third of the time. Sure one third of the time they save the wound, but the numbers against them are adding up.

Lucky, the flesh hounds of khorne are able to both smash into the zombie horde like bookends. It took the group in the south four turns to finally get into combat, but thankfully it is going to be worth the wait. The flesh hounds hit the zombies and kill six on the first impact. The zombie horde makes the snake eyes leadership test and loses no more members.

In the north the flesh hounds also strike into the zombies, and the zombies fail their leadership with an eleven. The general will be able to give his leadership to them, but still a large number of zombies fall as the magic that bounds them together fails against the flesh hounds.

Zombie turn five has the zombies looking not as impressive as before. The necromancer on foot is trying to stay out of the way of the khorne daemons should they win, while the general on the corpse cart is trying to get his cart into a position to maximize the strike first power. The flesh hounds in the south get charged by zombies, trying to break them.

The magic phase doesn’t work as well for the zombies, as they are attempting to boost their zombie’s attacks and numbers. Another group of zombies is summoned to rear charge the flesh hounds next turn if possible. The book of dancing is able to allow a group of six zombies to attack now out of turn, an attack that kills two daemons. However, that is the only good thing that happens for the zombies this phase, as the last remains of the group that the flesh hounds charged fall. Another daemon falls in the other combats, but they manage to take twelve zombies with them.

Daemon turn five is the final nail in the coffin of the zombies. The flesh hounds, having ripped through two groups of zombies, are free to charge the necromancer general on the corpse cart. The ranks are redressed to bring the maximum bloodletters against the zombies in the north, and the battle will come to a head here.

The flesh hounds are able to rip the corpse cart to pieces, even with its regeneration. The necromancer lands on his feet against the flesh hounds, worried. The other zombies also lose their various combats. Eighteen daemons remain out of the forty three that launched the battle. There are still over 100 zombies in play but it doesn’t look good for them.

Zombie turn six has the zombies in a tough place. Their general is in single combat against six flesh hounds of khorne. Their zombie hordes are two large blocks and then four small blocks being threatened. A group of zombies that were summoned last turn to attack the flesh hounds get their chance, rushing in to attempt to save the general. Using all their magic the zombies try to get strike first and extra attacks for the zombies against those flesh hounds.

It isn’t enough, as the flesh hounds are able to rip the necromancer general into pieces. However, all that magic being shot around allows the zombies to catch and rip the daemon herald of khorne and his bloodletter escort into pieces. The herald himself falls to daemonic instability as two of his escort fell to zombie claws. So at the end of the turn we have both generals dead and the combat coming to an end. The zombies hold themselves together well with the general dead, only a handful die.

Daemon turn six has the daemons pushing forward their advantage and cutting down the necromancer on foot with their last bloodletters. The flesh hounds keep chewing into their zombie targets. One group of zombies will be lost, leaving fourteen daemons of khorne against 56 zombies. The ratio of zombie to daemon is finally swinging in favour of the daemons.

Thus ends the official six turns of the game, with the points saying that the daemons of khorne have won. 725 or so points for the zombies and 950 or so points for the daemons of khorne. A close match in the end, and close enough that it calls for one more turn.

Turn seven for the zombies sees some bad leadership rolls with their general dead. One group of zombies fighting the flesh hounds in the north falls apart completely, while the other two groups, even with their losses, are able to charge the last bloodletters. The zombies are then able to pull those last bloodletters to pieces, without giving the bloodletters a chance to strike back.

Daemon turn seven has the flesh hounds charge one group of zombies, smashing through it and following up against to the final group of zombies.

And as the game was down to three units, I kept going. Zombie turn eight has a handful of zombies fall without the magic of their general holding them together, but the flesh hounds fail to wound a zombie on their own. In revenge the zombies are able to pull down one flesh hound, after instability rolls.

The second group of flesh hounds joins into the battle against the zombies and it will end quickly with the zombies putting up some brief struggle.

Botswana Okavango Delta D40_6824
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Image by youngrobv
I did some research on what gear to bring for a photo safari in Botswana, and the advice was unanimous – the Nikon AF-S 200-400mm f/4 VR lens. Even Canon users belated the nonexistence of such a lens from their favorite manufacturer at the time.

So I got the 200-400mm, and indeed it is the perfect safari lens. It gives f/4 speed, whilst still having a 2x zoom range to allow for some composition flexibility. The focus is lightning fast, which is the difference between getting the shot and losing it in wildlife photography. With the extended ISO range of the D700, the loss of one stop of this lens against the prime 400mm f/2.8 never was an issue, while the reduced weight helps with airport hand baggage limits, and allows some handheld photography. Bokeh and sharpness is superb, as can be seen in the shots in this collection.

The 200-400mm also works fine with the TC14EII 1.4x multiplier which makes up for the loss of the ‘DX 1.5x factor’ on the full frame D700, infact, I shot most of the time with the 1.4x on. The f/5.6 maximum aperture again was easily supported by the D700, even under the lowlight challenges of early morning game drives and the last shots before the ‘sundowners’. Focus speed was very little reduced, while sharpness and bokeh were likewise largely unaffected.

The TC20EII 2x multiplier predictably was a different case. Nikon does not recommend its use with the 200-400mm but I have one for the 70-200mm f/2.8 VR, and so I tried anyway. Surprisingly, AF works with reasonable daylight conditions, but sharpness is affected increasingly with distance of the subject. I got some clear close-ups of eagles in trees but when I aimed to get some zebras across a lake, even at manual focus and reduced aperture, the distance and/or atmospherics gave passable shots, but not the pin sharp results I had been getting used to from this lens. But… in the right conditions it’s an option, and at worst it makes for a good pair of binoculars!

My web research into this lens also consistently recommended camera support, so I got the super lightweight Gitzo GM2561T monopod and GH1780QR ballhead. The monopod is technically unable to support the weight of the lens and body as in this photo, but seated in a safari jeep with open sides I only needed to extend two or three stages, so the thinnest monopod stages that would not support the weight were not exposed. I did take some shots standing with all stages extended, but keeping the monopod vertical, and using the ballhead to manouevre the camera. Credit to Gitzo, it worked without problem. The ballhead has such grip that turning the monopod on the lens collar and folding the monopod by the ballhead, as in this photo, allowed me to carry the camera by the monopod as a handle. I’m sure it’s not recommended by either manufacturer though!

There was little advice on the various websites on how you get the 200-400mm with a D700 and vertical grip combo, not to mention the 14-24mm f/2.8, the 70-200mm f/2.8 VR, plus multipliers etc., in a back pack that fits in a 4 seater Cessna, and stays under the Botswana 12kgs weight limit per passenger for all baggage. Fortunately once you pass Maun airport no-one checks anything anymore, so I got away with a 10kg backpack, and around 8kg of ‘check-in’ baggage. We had to rely on hope that the places we stayed at had laundry services…

No-one mentioned anything either about the challenge of swinging this monster from left to right in a jeep without whacking someone over the head… Sorry seems to be the hardest word…

Nevertheless, like this you’re armed and ready for the Okavango Delta, and Camp Moremi was the perfect place to start.

View On Black

Camp Moremi

Named after Chief Moremi of the BaTawana tribe, Moremi Game Reserve is located on the South Eastern side of Botswana’s Okavanga Delta and provides strong contrasts between areas which are largely dry and those that are permanently under water. The thick tree zones abruptly change from lush green to dead wood, stripped bare by elephants. Covering a relatively small 5000 sqm, about 70% is part of the Okavango Delta, and as such often swampy or under completely water. The 4×4 vehicles routinely cross the lagoons, while larger distances have to covered by Cessna, between the many small airstrips. Shorter distances can also be covered by foot to create a more unusual safari experience.

Home to some 500 species including Buffalo, Giraffes, Lions, Hyaenas, Jackals Impalas, Lechwe and Leopards, with the latter hard to find in the dense fauna. Although warned about mosquitos, we encountered few on this part of our trip.

Okavango Delta

The Okavango Delta is the world’s largest inland Delta. The Okavango River starts in Angola as the Cubango River, it then follows the border between Angola and Namibia, and drops across the Popa Falls as it enters Botswana. The Okavango River by then spreads itself some 1.2km wide before encountering the Kalahari Desert’s northern Basins where it forms the spectacular Okavango Delta. A partial escape is found in the rainy season, when there is an outflow to the Boteti River, which then discharges into the Makgadikgadi Pans, and so providing the seasonal wetland where tens of thousands of Flamingos congregate.

The Delta is constantly under threat due to the Water conflict between Namibia and Botswana. Namibia wants to construct a water canal draining off the Okavango River as it passes through its Caprivi Strip to relieve local draught. The Delta would likely reduce, or even disappear, which would have a devastating impact on Botswana’s tourism, not to mention the impact on the flora and fauna. Botswana itself is continuously under fire for its sustained use of veterinary fence, which protect cattle farms, but also block natural migration routes. Two fences cut right through the Delta.

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