Power Down

January 15, 2021

On Wednesday morning, early, we had a pretty impressive windstorm, here in the NENW. Sustained winds approaching 40mph, with gusts over 60. Spokane had tens of thousands without power, and Cheney had…Cheney without power. It went out about 6AM. Evidently a big tree had landed on a major substation, and given that there were a lot of other trees down, power didn’t get restored to the entire city until 2AM on Thursday. Mostly.

You see, they forgot about us. I think they came by a 11AM, fiddled around for a bit and called it done. We had power for about a minute. Then the dark returned. At 10PM I walked around the neighborhood, and everyone but us and the five houses around us had power. Since it was still out when I got up Thursday, I gave them a call. A crew came out and fiddled around some more and turned the power back on. Big spark, flame and smoke, from where some lines were crossed. Out again. Back again. Big spark from the stanchion where power went into our neighbor’s house. More fiddling and line replacement. Final power back about Noon.

I had downed the computers and UPS when the power went out, but the TV and the other electronics were at the mercy of the power surge gods. The only untoward effect was that a GFI circuit breaker for the outside lights got popped.

So, our power was out for almost thirty hours of a cold and windy winter. We spent all day in the dim light of a pale and watery sun, and then fifteen hours in the cold and the dark. Outside temps dropped below 30F, and inside temps drifted down towards 50F, colder upstairs than down. Fortunately, we have a gas fired fireplace, which provided a small circle of warmth but not much light. The fireplace isn’t suited for cooking except in extreme emergencies, so we ate a cold dinner, and warmed up with wine. We had charged our tablets and rechargers the night before (thank you NWS), and sat reading by the light of the fire. Kindof reminded me of Abe Lincoln’s boyhood. What with load balancing and recharges, our tablets and phones got through the day and the early night OK, although they were all down in the 30% range before the power came back on. MJ has a solar-powered recharger that helped.

There were interesting psychological side-effects. Sitting in the dark, watching the temperature drift down, not knowing when power would be back, was a bit of a strain. Even after sunrise the house was cold and dark, so we stayed huddled up with the dogs and read our reads. MJ played games on her tablets and handhelds. I worked my way through the four volumes of Urasekai Picnic, again, after finding that I was limited to things stored on my tablets because J-Novel required Internet access, as did most of my other reading sources. And when the power came back we stayed huddled up and reading, or catching up on the news on TV, not really interested in doing anything. It was only after a hot meal and a warm night’s sleep that we felt energized enough to rejoin the world.

Is this really how George Washington got his start?

 

Pandemic 59

January 12, 2021

Good news and bad news.

Quote of the day

Mixing different coronavirus vaccines without any data to suggest the safety and efficacy of the practice is “a huge gamble,” Dr. Colin Furness, an infection control epidemiologist and assistant professor at the University of Toronto said. “I think it’s irresponsible … it’s unethical because we don’t know what that does,” he said. “We don’t know what the effectiveness is, we don’t know what the side effects are.”


Turns out that COVID-19 can affect the blood brain barrier too, potentially leading to problems like dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease later in life. Other than that, and the cardiac and pulmonary damage, it’s exactly like the flu


On Biden’s proposal to distribute the full vaccine supply: the bottleneck now is not supply, but the “last mile” between getting the vaccine to distribution sites & injecting it into people’s arms. Speeding up this process should be the focus, or else vaccines will just sit in different freezers.

Meanwhile

I don’t care what the politicians say. Get both shots.

Tales of a Covid survivor. Not hospitalized. Not fun.

AstraZenica goes halfsies. What did they know and when did they know it?

Technical details of RNA Vaccines. Well written and understandable.

Good news: Scientists say if you had COVID-19, your immunity may last for years
Bad news: Scientists say if you had COVID-19, your immunity may last less than 90 days

Stuck @ Home?

Let your future self tell your past self about the pandemic. Three min vid. Part 1 of 4.

Listen to some Byzantine tales of horror.

Tomozaki plays The Game of Life

January 10, 2021

Back in the mid-80’s, there was a spoof in an April edition of, I think, Analog SF magazine. It was an announcement for a new game, a game called Life (not Conway’s, as one slowly realizes while reading the announcement, but real life). They talked about possible adventures on a water-world with multiple continents and thousands of cultures, and an expansion pack to extend the game to the planet’s airless moon “as soon as we straighten out some issues with a subcontractor”.

The takeaway line, which has stuck with me to this day, is this:

In Life, you set your own victory conditions.

You get to set those conditions, and you get to decide if you have won.

Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki is the anime embodiment of Life. Episode 1 establishes Tomozaki Fumiya as a low-prestige otaku loser, good only at computer games and really good at only one. He’s not bullied at school, but neither does he have any friends.

Meanwhile, the one person he respects is “NO NAME”, the nom du game of the player he has the hardest time beating. They decide to meet up IRL, and it turns out that “NO NAME” is actually Hinami Aoi, a high-prestige girl in his school. She showers him with contempt, particularly when he complains that he prefers computer games, because real life is a terrible game, with obscure rules and no chance to change characters. She repeats a line he used earlier: only bad players blame the game. She decides to take him in hand and show him how to play the game called Life.

I am attracted to this anime primarily because of the game of Life tie-in. It looks like it’s going to provide an example of how you apply the idea in the real world of Life. Other than that, it doesn’t have much to recommend it. The characters are pretty much walking anime tropes, although not as over-the-top as some. The animation is OK, given that so far the only action sequences are on the gaming screens. The motives and the logic are typical anime.

Overall, I’d say that if it weren’t for my interest in Life, I’d drop this one.

The Clown Car Coup

January 8, 2021

Sometimes history doesn’t repeat itself. Sometimes it picks up a stick and says “Weren’t you listening the first time?”

I usually avoid commenting on ongoing situations, because, being ongoing, they are likely to go on to places we don’t expect. I’m breaking that rule here, because the situation is fraught enough that I thought I should say something, even if it turns out to be based on incomplete information.

There are two interpretations of the events of the 6th of January, 2021. One is that a disorganized mob of white supremacist protestors, some armed, stormed the Capitol building, and were able to gain access because those responsible for security did not see them as a threat, not in the same way that peacefully protesting Black people are. QAnon is not a threat, BLM is. This interpretation blames the lack of security on the lack of imagination of those in power.

The other interpretation is that what we saw on Wednesday was a bona fide attempted coup, planned for months, and aided and abetted by those in power. There are those in the US who feel this way, and there are some security professionals in Europe who are characterizing it as such, in reports to their governments.

I’d say it was a typically Trumpian sort of half-assed coup, full of bluster and incompetence. Trump is an incompetent bully, incapable of conceiving and carrying through on any sort of a complex plan. His approach is to push the boundaries until superior force makes him stop. As President, he is constrained by many legal boundaries, but he also has a serious amount of push on his side. So, if he invites his followers to come to the Capitol on the 6th, and if he then incites them to attack the Capitol building at the time the electoral ballots are being counted, and if those followers get out of hand, well, it’s not his fault. He just leaned against the door and it opened, perhaps because the pro-white supremacist Capitol Police left it unlocked. Meanwhile, his recently appointed acting lackey in the Pentagon is slow-rolling and restricting a request for support from the DC National Guard (DC not being a state, it can’t just call them up, the way the governor of Virginia can) until directed by Vice President Pence. Note, by the way, that Pence is not in the chain of command, and can’t legally do this.

If the mob had been successful in disrupting the proceedings enough that certification was impossible, and if Trump’s allies in the Senate had worked some procedural sleight of hand that would allow him to claim victory, then Trump would have accepted this demonstration of the will of the people and stayed on as President. Of course, this was never going to happen. The clown car coup was doomed from the start.

And once the coup failed, as it always would (none of the posers, grifters, sycophants and yes men on his staff being competent enough to engineer an actual coup), then he can just disavow the violence, wash his hands, and say that the activities of the mob were nothing to do with him. Trump has always depended on plausible denial as a smokescreen, but this time it may not work.

Memories of My Youth: Radar satellites

January 5, 2021

Back in the day, I was originally trained as a photo-interpreter. That very phrase shows how long ago it was. Today, the term is imagery interpreter, since the skill set has expanded beyond photographic film, to include digital images, InfraRed images, and images collected using reflected radio frequency waves, AKA radar images.

Unlike visible and IR imagery, which generate their pictures from either an external point source (visible light from the Sun) or from radiant energy coming off the object itself (IR energy), radar images are created from energy created at (and reflected back to) the imaging location.

What most people think of when they say radar is a rotating dish atop a tower. In those systems the picture is created by an energy beam heading out from and returning to that dish. This is not suited to creation of a detailed image. What we use instead is what’s called a Synthetic Aperture Radar.  This is one where the energy goes out to the side of the line of flight and returns to an antenna that has since moved downtrack. When I was just starting out in the radar imagery business, all the imagery we had was from aircraft, like the SR-71 or, later, the JSTARS. Later still, radar satellites came on the scene.

Recently, CapellaSpace has unveiled a system that will provide the highest quality radar images commercially available — 50cm resolution. While they look like black and white photos, they are most definitely not such. For example:

The radar image on the right looks similar to the optical image on the left, but looks are deceiving. We see an airplane’s wing in optical wavelengths due to the light reflected off the surface. With radar, we see those areas that are most radar reflective. So it is likely that what we think is the leading edge of the wing is actually a reflection from a row of rivets a foot or so behind the front edge of the wing. Note also the bright spots on the radar image, like little stars. These are places where a three-dimensional corner collects the energy and squirts it back in a narrow beam — a radar corner reflector. From their positioning, I’d say they were power carts or tow-bars, but a corner reflector doesn’t have to be very large to show up brightly on an image.

Here’s a better example, of C-130 transport aircraft on the flightline. You can see that in this case the brightest returns are from an area near the trailing edge of the wings.The radar image is ultra-high resolution from an aircraft. While a military satellite might approach this, it will be a long time, if ever, before a commercial firm can collect and sell imagery like this.

Because of the way it generates the pictures, SAR images can be confusing to the uninitiated. Look at these images of downtown Tokyo and the Imperial Palace. The enlargement on the radar side shows buildings and rail lines in the vicinity of Tokyo Station (the smaller circle is slightly displaced). One commenter says the radar image shows how SAR can penetrate buildings and show what’s inside, and indeed, it looks like the buildings are transparent. They are not.

As CappellaSpace hastened to explain, a radar image is a portrayal of how the beam interacts with the objects on the ground, in particular, responding to how far away from the beam source the reflector is. So the top of a building, being closer to the satellite (and yes, at 50cm resolution, that shows up), is portrayed as being in a different place than the base. This is called the Layover Effect. The rail lines show up because they were illuminated by the radar, and then the computer constructed image of the top of the building lays over the image of the rails. No transparency here.

Other artifacts look like they are due to light falling on the object, but are really, again, due to the way the radar beam interacts with it. Take the Harwell Campus at Oxford, home of the Diamond Light Source synchrotron.

The optical view has a ring of sunglint peaking on the SE side of the building. If you look closely, you can see that it’s light reflecting off of the rectangular panels. The radar view shows something similar, but its on the Western side. Both are due to the position of the illuminating source.

Satellite-based SAR is a marvellous tool for the Intelligence analyst. No, it can’t see through buildings, but it can see through clouds, and it can collect the same quality images at night that it does in daylight. In addition, because human creations have many radar-concentrating right-angles, and usually contain large amounts of radar-reflective metal, they are easy to pick out from the rough background noise found in a natural scene. That means we can monitor activity at high-latitude Russian bases through the long Arctic night, or track North Korean troop movements during the cloudy days of the Summer Monsoon. In addition, because we are talking satellites, we can see activity pretty much anywhere, just not any time.  Roughly (the details depend on the exact orbit and the exact location on Earth), if the satellite passed directly overhead now, it will be back in 90 minutes or so, only 15 degrees further on (because the Earth has rotated underneath the orbit track). Which means it will be looking at the site at an angle. And then 90 minutes later it might get one final look, from low on the horizon, after which we have to wait until the orbit precesses back around.

Otherside Picnic, Episode 1

January 4, 2021

Just finished watching the first episode of Urasekai Picnic on Funimation. I don’t do weekly reviews, but I thought I’d put up a first impressions post.

I was attracted to the anime because I’ve purchased and read the four volumes of the light novel that are out in English. It’s one of the better LNs out there. Unlike most of that media (which usually read like lightly edited fan fiction), it is well written and well structured, with good characters, who develop as time goes on. In addition, it’s about adults, not high school kids acting like adults. Yes, they are college students, but in Japan, if you are an adult who is not in school, then you are slaving away twelve hours a day as an office worker, with no time for adventures.

Character differences

My main concern at the start was whether or not the anime would maintain the integrity of the original. Overall, I’d say it did. Dark-haired Sorawo comes across as a reserved, but not reclusive, college student who finds herself involved with blonde, vivacious Toriko, also a college student, but one who searches the Otherside for artefacts and for her friend. At one point, Sorawo says, haltingly, thank you for saving me. Toriko, talking about the same experience, laughs and says oh, wow, that was creepy, as if it were some sort of amusement park ride. I note that anime Sorawo sometimes shows a fang tooth, generally assigned to a mischievous or trickster character.

The picture of Otherside is close to the images in my mind (although it feels smaller than in my imagination), and the kunekune monster is close, but more dynamic…more, er…, animated.

Judging from elements of the OP, Season 1 is going to use up the first two volumes of the series, which means it really needs a second series if it wants to reach a suitable conclusion.

Pandemic 58

January 1, 2021

Happy New Year — for some suitably low value of ‘happy’.

Quote of the day

[The US may not have been aware of the new strain of Covid because]…the U.S. doesn’t sequence coronavirus samples frequently and the sequencing that does get done often happens in private labs, meaning that the government doesn’t really trace viral genomes. “In the U.K., they’re sequencing about 10 percent of all the samples, here we’re doing a fraction of 1 percent,” Gottlieb said during his appearance on Face the Nation. “We probably need a better approach…”


Comment on a Reuters report that a California nurse tested positive over a week after receiving Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine: To achieve 95% effectiveness, you need to wait 10-14 days after the *second* dose. This was less time than that after the *first* dose. And 95% is not 100% anyway.

 

Meanwhile

Reverse engineering Pfizer. You can actually print it on your home DNA printer.  Long, but surprisingly readable (the article, not the DNA printout).

Peer reviewing Moderna. Looks good.

Vaccination rant. We knew it was coming, but the government President didn’t act.

And here’s how they do it in Florida. First come first served for 20% of the population. I suppose that’s better than piling them all in a football stadium.

Not so fast with the Remdesivir. There are side effects. Also known as ‘effects’.

AstraZenica. Speed, Quality, Price. Pick two.

Roughly 3 million vaccinations in 2020. Only about 17 million short of the goal.

 

Stuck @ Home?

Draw some roads.

2020 Anime Year In Review

December 31, 2020

Oh, all right. Here’s my summation of 2020: I spent a year locked in a room with my TV, and only watched thirteen fourteen anime.

I know everybody does these, but I rarely read other people’s annual anime roundup’s, roundsup, summaries. In spite of that I decided to do one of my own, not because I think others will read and enjoy it, but because I will enjoy writing it. Feel free to read it. If you enjoy it, that’s not my fault.

As I said, I only watched 13 14 current-year anime all the way through in 2020. Most of them were low-end snoozers that wouldn’t have made it in a more fruitful year. Having watched that low a number means I can’t do a traditional top ten, because that would be not much different from what I watched. Making do with what we have, here’s my top three four.

Looking at this list I guess the main theme of all of them is determination. All of the women (and it’s all women) have specific goals and work hard to meet them. NOTE: because I was in the middle of a rewatch, AniList didn’t highlight Eizouken, and I forgot it was 2020 and not 2019. So I’ve added in where it belongs — at the top.

Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken

Easily the best anime of the year. Eizouken is about three determined high school girls working to produce an anime. You might think of it as Episode 0 of Shirobako. They have the usual problems of a HS club vs the Student Council, but they persevere, and end up producing not one, but three anime products.

Each of the girls has their own distinct character, and each of them gets their own character development spotlight. My favorite, and the one who unexpectedly carries the story, is the mercenary-seeming producer, Kanamori Sayaka.

If it were not for Villainess, this would also capture the best OP category.

My Next Life as a Villainess

Young aristocrat Katarina Claes gets hit on the head and suddenly realizes she’s been reincarnated as the villainess in an isekai based on a Japanese dating game, one that she played in a previous life. She’s not very bright but she’s laser-focused on one goal — avoiding the various dooms the game holds out for her. She reaches her goal by charming all the characters the game set up as enemies, both male and female.

I liked her character, and her determination. And it wasn’t just her. In fact all the women in the show far outshone the cookie-cutter men.  Mary is a full up yuri, and worries that her fiance has been charmed by Katarina, not because that makes him unfaithful, but because that makes him a rival. Sophia is the reincarnation of Acchan, Katarina’s otaku friend in that prior life, but mostly without her memories. Anne is the dedicated maid, and Maria is the original main heroine of the game, who ends up in love with Katarina instead of with any of the intended love interests.

In addition, I found what I take to be the Buddhist elements in the show to be unexpectedly interesting. As is usual in this kind of anime, Katarina is reincarnated, and remembers her previous life.  Less usual is her brief return to Earth while in a coma in Ep 11. There, she speeds off to school on her bike while eating a cucumber, possibly a Bon Festival reference. Meanwhile, the spirit of Acchan inspires Sophie to help her wake from the coma. The next to last cut of the OP shows Katarina and Acchan standing on the beach, hand in hand, ready to cycle through future reincarnations together.

Speaking of music, the OP is my favorite of the year.

Ascendance of a Bookworm

This is Season 2 of an ongoing series. Previously, a young Japanese woman — avid bibliophile — died in an earthquake and was reincarnated in the sickly body of a young child in an isekai where books are rare. The anime documents her efforts to bring books to this culture. Season 2 deals with her adventures inside The Church, the only element of society with large numbers of books.

Once again, this is a story of determination in the face of obstacles — cultural, bureaucratic, and technical. If she wants books, she has to invent paper, and printing, and ink; she has to teach people to read; she has to do all this within the constraints of the church and society.

Many multi-season anime feel as if every season after the first is a bolted-on effort to exploit an unexpectedly successful franchise. Bookworm feels like it was completely structured before the author started the first light novel.

Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle

Princess Syalis is kidnapped by the Demon King and brought to his castle as a hostage. This doesn’t bother her much, because it gives her time to indulge in her favorite pastime — sleeping.

That’s it. A one-joke anime about her determined (there’s that word again) efforts to achieve a world-class nap. Every episode has her trashing some part of the castle, looking for a softer pillow, or warmer blanket. Surprisingly, it works.

It’s not the greatest anime in the world (although AniList says it has an average score of 79%), but it appears to be one of the best of 2020.

This limited selection wasn’t for lack of trying. I watched, and dropped, an additional 40 shows. Many were better than the bottom of my watchedlist, but they just didn’t hold my interest. It’s not them. It’s me. The shows I dropped ranged from Somali and the Forest Spirit (too twee) to — OK, it’s them — Nekopara (target demographic is people who like underage furries).

So what did I watch? I rewatched my perennial favorites: Kotobuki, Garupan, Eizouken, Abyss. Bits and pieces of Log Horizon, Flying Witch, Kanon, and Big Windup. I also made unsuccessful attempts to like past programs that everyone else has liked, so (parts of) Toradora, Re:Creators,  Blast of Tempest.

And, of course, the first season of Buffy, which isn’t anime, but which deserves mention in any list of things to watch during a lockdown.

Oats for the goose

December 31, 2020

This year, for the first time in a very long time, we had a Christmas goose, which produced a surfeit of giblets and bones. Well, one quart of giblet broth, and four quarts of bones-and-scraps broth. I tried a number of variations on the theme and thought I’d combine them here.

General Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one cup goose broth of some kind, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, salt. Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats. Add the potatoes at the end.

Experiment 1: I wasn’t sure how powerful the goose flavor would be, so I went with half goose giblet broth, half chicken broth.

Results: OK. Should have gone full goose. Did not add any herbs, but I think some rosemary or poultry seasoning would have helped.

Rating: *** Three stars

Experiment 2: Full cup of giblet broth, generous sprinkle of poultry seasoning and onion powder.

Results: Very good. Tastes almost like my grandmother’s turkey dressing.

Rating: *** Three stars

Experiment 3: Full cup of goose meat broth, generous sprinkle of poultry seasoning and onion powder.

Results: Very good. Needed salt.

Rating: *** Three stars

Experiment 4: Full cup of goose meat broth, generous sprinkle of rosemary and garlic. Added additional salt beforehand.

Results: Very good.

Rating: *** Three stars

Comments: Turns out, goose broth seems somewhat milder than turkey. Both the poultry seasoning and the rosemary versions were very low-key compared with more traditional broths.

Wonderella in Nashville

December 29, 2020

For the last five years, superhero Wonderella has been pushing her Some Asshole initiative. Here’s her explanation:

Meanwhile, in Nashville, some asshole is looking for immortal fame.

Memories of my youth: Christmas Goose

December 25, 2020

We’re having a Christmas goose this year. We got into the habit half a century ago when we were living in England. One reason was that British turkeys were not very good. You see, they fed them fishmeal, and it came through in the meat. The base commissary at RAF Lakenheath, next door to RAF Mildenhall, had turkeys shipped in from the US, but it was a bit of a hassle to drive over there. Besides, what could be more English than a Christmas goose?

In those days, before the advent of supermarkets, your average East Anglia village had all sorts of specialty shops — greengrocers, butchers, ironmongers — along with small convenience stores that would be called bodegas, except that they were run by Indians and weren’t in New York. The butcher’s was a small shop, with a display counter up front and room behind the counter for hanging hams and poultry.

Number 10 The High Street, Mildenhall

Some of the birds, the kind we bought, had been plucked and cleaned. Others were mostly whole. One man came in for his order, and left carrying the goose draped over his shoulder by the neck.

We kept the tradition for years after we came back to the US, but drifted away as the availability of frozen goose dropped and the price increased. Now days, our local Safeway only has them for a couple of weeks in November, and they cost around $80 for a 15 pound bird. I understand that popularity has dropped off, even in England.

Another English tradition we adopted was making mincemeat pie, using real minced meat. But that’s a story for another Christmas.

Pandemic 57

December 24, 2020

Mostly research links this time, but Merry Christmas anyway.

Quote of the day

Are you proud to be an American, where at least you died mask free?
And I won’t forget the men who lied, and gave that right to me.
And I’d gladly stand up next to you and defend her still today.
But I’m on a respirator, and I got no way to pay


No one, especially children who are in the peak of their social and mental development, is meant to sit in a room for a month. I would not be surprised if in a few months or years, we swapped the COVID-19 pandemic for a mental health one without being creative about ways to think upstream and prevent this. When we emerge from the pandemic, it will be crucial to offer support, such as providing free or affordable counselling, training more physicians in mental health and teaching children coping strategies in schools.


What if instead of a vaccine we just were able to get exposed to a weak version of the virus that enabled us to build the antibodies we need to fight the real thing?


Meanwhile

Fauci’s Warning and R0. We may need 90% vaxing to get to herd immunity.

Super spreaders….viroids gonna find me. Like they always do. But I won’t feel blue. ‘Cause somewhere in this crowd is you.

Spit works.

Black churches. You have to trust the messenger.

People are actually pretty smart. Except of course for Idaho. And Florida.

Quarantine your ferret.

Mask and maintain your distance.

Non-pharmaceutical modelling. Is it better to quarantine before limiting class size, or to close businesses after social distancing?

Mood rings.

The new strain.

Risk Alert Levels. And what to do with them.

NEJM on prior infections. TLDR: protects for about six months.

Stuck @ Home?

Watch some African wildlife. Difficulty — when it’s daytime here, it’s nighttime there.

Learn about exponential growth.

Listen to a forest. Most are pretty quiet, so jump to the next one.

The Gods Aren’t All That Graceful

December 22, 2020

By the Grace of the Gods (kamihiro) is a light novel -> anime isekai of the form “and now how does he use his special powers?” It’s a bog-standard example of the genre, with nothing particular in the way of redeeming features, not even the usual harem/fanservice elements. The high concept is:

Middle-aged salaryman dies of overwork and is reincarnated by a production-companysworth of Gods into a magic-using world where he spends three years living in a cave and learning to use his overwhelming magical powers to control slimes before meeting and befriending the local Duke and his Daughter, after which he moves to town and becomes a successful local businessman and sometime adventurer.

That’s it. Slice-of-Life, with slimes. He and the Daughter are both the same apparent age, 11 years old, and subject to the same tweener embarrassment when confronted with the opposite sex. Almost makes you forget that, mentally, he’s forty-something, and should be looking at her more like a daughter.

Slimes are a standard monster class in many RPG’s, and kamihiro is one of a handful of anime looking at them from a new perspective. Instead of using slimes as a weak opponent, suitable only for levelling up, Our Hero can train them up to do just about anything he wants — heal wounds, wash clothes, purify sewage, extract minerals from ore, etc. If the gods let him live long enough, he should eventually be able to use slimes to extract uranium from ore and concentrate it to a level that would let him build nuclear weapons. Instead, he uses the laundry slimes to start a dry-cleaning business. Well, baby steps.

Since it’s a Slice-of-Life show, not much happens. At the end, the Duke’s Daughter gets on a carriage to head off to boarding school and a three year separation. The final shot shows Our Hero heading back to the dry cleaners, and the Duke’s Daughter risking a tooth by playing her flute while the carriage bumps away over the local roads.

The show features cardboard characters at a draw this anime boy level of artistic design. The artwork is workmanlike, and the animation is not overly …. animated. It’s not a bad anime (AniList score is 67%), it’s just not very good. I had read the LN on J-Novel (hey, I got to get my moneys-worth for the subscription somehow, right?) and wanted to see how the anime handled the story. There are nine volumes of the LN released in Japan, of which six have reached the US. The anime extracts events from roughly four of them, so there’s enough content for at least one more season. Based on the fact that no-one has mentioned a second season, I’d say that we’ve seen the end with this one, which is OK by me.

Christmas Cantata

December 20, 2020

My wife works as the Music Director of the Cheney United Methodist Church, here in Cheney. The fact that they are maintaining horizon-level social distancing hasn’t kept them from doing virtual worship services, nor from doing a full-up virtual Christmas Cantata this year, with socially distanced handbells and Zoom’d choir.

I trampled a million lives for this?

December 19, 2020

Well that was, overall, a bust. SF/Fantasy/Isekai/Time-Travel/Multiverse/King’s Game, with an unsatisfactory ending. Anything I missed?

I’m Standing on a Million Lives (ISOML) tries to touch all the bases, but ends up a few bags short of a home run. Here’s the high concept:

A group of highschoolers gets thrust into a parallel fantasy world by a time-traveling robot and given arbitrary tasks to perform, with the threat of IRL death for all if the team gets wiped out on a quest, so that they can ultimately save the Earth from some future alien invaders.

That’s the elevator pitch, and it says a lot about the parlous state of the anime industry that some production committee actually bought it.

Where to start? First off, I hate King’s Game style anime, where the characters are arbitrarily forced into situations without their consent because some omnipotent  game-master feels like it.  None of them were asked if they wanted to do this. Second, the whole externally-assigned-quest-in-a-fantasy-world mechanic seems horribly contrived and arbitrary (a word that comes up a lot in regards to ISOML), particularly since the game-master keeps leaving out critical information. Strike three (to keep up the baseball metaphor) is the bolted-on SF aspect of sending a robot back in time to train up a team that can defeat the alien invaders, particularly because the skillset they develop doesn’t seem like it will be useful in achieving their ultimate goal.  ISOML gives me the impression that somebody wanted to do a ripoff of the 1985 SF novel Ender’s Game — where unwitting students were trained on computer games until they became skilful enough to defeat alien invaders — and then the marketing department got hold of it and kept adding any old idea that came to mind.

While I didn’t have to keep my pukeycup nearby while watching it, I did suffer from motion sickness due to the almost continuous eyerolls, every time they revealed another videogame mechanic. I mean, fighting robot guards to get across a bridge across a moat to exit a cavern? C’mon man!  Then the final reveal, [ spoilers ] that despite all the gameplay mechanics, this was a real world with real people who could really die [ /spoilers ] was even more contrived than the rest of the anime.

The one interesting aspect was how they handled the quantum-theory-based multiple worlds idea. According to the robot, the world split every time a decision was made, and the farther the universe got from its origin, the weirder things could become, because, somewhere, all the weird decisions would add up. That wasn’t enough to save an ineptly executed tale, based on a mishmash of incommensurable concepts. I stuck it out, because otherwise I’d have to watch something with idol in the title, but I didn’t enjoy it.

The series just ended in air, with a new character added and a second season announced for next Summer. That sounds like it was planned as a two cour series from the beginning, but they couldn’t be bothered to produce all twentyfour episodes at once. Based on the teaser, next season will involve arbitrary tasks assigned…in space. I’ve not read any of the source manga, so I don’t know where the anime intends to end up, but I doubt it will be any place that I’ll be interested in.

Pandemic 56

December 18, 2020

Some links are hopeful.

Quotes of the day

As powerful as this virus is and what it does to us, we still have a great deal of power in our own control. I have boiled it down to one simple thing: Stop swapping air.


We keep hearing that a total of 170 cases were detected during this trial. These are cases that were detected within the analysis window. The start of the analysis window is not the day of enrollment or the day in which the treatment began (i.e. the first shot). The analysis window starts seven days after the second shot and ends at the time of analysis (which was November 14). The briefing disclosed that 325 cases, not 170, were documented during the trial. The other half occurred after the first dose and before seven days after the second dose, and are excluded from the headline analysis. NOTE: My takeaway is that a single dose is not particularly effective.


“When we ask if COVID killed somebody, it means ‘Did they die sooner than they would have if they didn’t have the virus?’” Lessler says. Even a person with a potentially life-shortening condition such as heart disease may have lived another five, 10 or more years, had they not become infected with COVID-19.


The residents of Mitchell, SD, who since voting down a mask mandate have been ravaged by COVID-19 and lost some of their most notable civic leaders to it, would like you to send them some prayers. Maybe a thought or two. Whatever you can spare.


Meanwhile

Just so you know, the Pfizer vaccine was developed by a pair of Turkish immigrants at a company in Mainz, Germany.  And the Moderna vaccine was developed by a team led by African American Doctor Kizzmekia “Kizzy” Corbett at the NIAID/NIH Center in Bethesda, MD.

Quick, cheap, at home Covid pre-test. Wake up and smell the coffee.

Summary of Covid stuff. From Slate.

Chart of the effectiveness of the Pfizer vaccine trials. Not much help in the first ten days, then by day 14 it takes off and never looks back.

Household contacts of people with Covid. Kids are sneaky.

Time your tests. When and what kind are important.

People with these conditions were not included in the Pfizer trials, so we don’t know what side effects the vaccine will have.

Does the data support a single dose for Pfizer vaccine? It’s technical, but probably not.

Interview with an epidemiologist.

Article by a statistician. In two parts. Also, Moderna.

But what happens if I have side effects? Does the term ‘SOL’ mean anything to you?

Stuck @ Home?

Try brewing some beer. You’ve got time.

Make some stuff.

Anime memories — where are they now?

December 10, 2020

Go back ten to fifteen years. Think of some of the shows that got released that year. Ask yourself, what has happened to their characters in the decade or decade and a half since their story was told? The selection below is somewhat arbitrary, but to qualify, an anime has to be one I’ve watched, can’t have too many major characters (sorry, Baccano), can’t have too many episodes (not sorry, Naruto), and (to make things more fun) has to have some uncertainty about what has happened between then and now; so, Maid Sama, where the results are spelled out in detail in the sequels, or School Days, where the protagonist ends up with his head in a bag, are both out.

2006 Kanon
Aizawa Yūichi  and Tsukimiya Ayu are now in their early thirties, married, and still living in Sapporo. Ayu finally was able to get out of her wheelchair and finish highschool. They both went to Sapporo City University, where she majored in Nursing and he got a degree in Design. They have a daughter named UguuKawasumi Mai and Kurata Sayuri studied abroad together. When they returned home, they applied for a partnership certificate from Sapporo City.

2007 Big Windup
Mihashi Ren lead his baseball team to Koshien his senior year, and then blew out his arm pitching four consecutive extra-innings games to secure the championship. Unable to progress to the majors, he married his cousin Mihashi Ruri and got a job working for Momoe Maria as an assistant coach at Nishiura High. They are both in their late 20’s, and have one son, Takaya.

2008 Kannagi: Crazy Shrine Maidens
Mikuriya Jin, and Aoba Tsugumi are in their late 20’s and married. Mikuriya is a Shinto priest, caring for the tree that holds both Nagi and Zange, and working as a sculptor on the side.

Nagi, Zange, Tsugumi and Jin

2009 Sasameki Koto
Murasame Sumika and Kazama Ushio are in their middle 20’s and were one of the earliest same-sex-marriage couples in Japan. Murasame runs her late father’s dojo, and Kazama stays home as a traditional housewife, caring for their adopted daughter, Akemi.

Kazama and Murasame

2010 Highschool of the Dead
It’s ten years after the zombie outbreak and Our Heroes are all in their middle 20’s. Working together, married geniuses Takagi Saya and Hirano Kōta developed a scatterable drug-smeared  thumbtack that is safe for humans but instantly effective against any zombie who steps on it. This, combined with the zombie-enticing sound of traditional Japanese political sound trucks, effectively brings an end to the zombie pandemic. As post-pandemic Japan attempts to rebuild its civilization, Komuro Takashi, Miyamoto Rei, and Busujima Saeko have established a three-way marriage. They have so far produced three children: Hisashi, Sōichirō, and Kiriko.

Minami Rika and Marikawa Shizuka managed to find each other and are now living in Rika’s apartment in almost-empty Tokyo. With the defeat of the zombies, Rika is no longer needed as a police sniper, and has found herself a job shooting feral pigs and intrusive bears.

So that’s what the future held for these anime characters of yore. Stay tuned for the 2021edition, where we’ll talk about what is going to have happened to Ayase Chihaya, Kawashima Minami, and Takanashi Sōta.

 

 

Pandemic 55 — Not a call sign

December 8, 2020

I read all this horrible news so that you don’t have to.

Quotes of the day

…factors related to implementation will contribute more to the success of vaccination programs than a vaccine’s efficacy as determined in clinical trials. The benefits of a vaccine will decline substantially in the event of … greater epidemic severity. Our findings demonstrate the urgent need for health officials to … encourage continued adherence to other mitigation approaches, even after a vaccine becomes available.


Absent a vaccine, herd immunity is a myth. How many thousands of years did Smallpox survive just fine, how many millions of people did it kill? In fact, have them name one virus that herd immunity protects us from without a vaccine.


Percent of wages currently subsidized by governments due to COVID:

Japan: 100% for small businesses; 80% for large firms
Netherlands: Up to 90%
Norway: Up to 90%
Germany: Up to 87%
France: Up to 84%
Italy: 80%
United Kingdom: Up to 80%
Canada: Up to 75%
United States: 0%

Maybe someone should write their Congresscritters.


In people who had covid but were only mildly ill, the immune protection that can prevent a second infection may wane within a few months. “Those people might benefit more from the vaccine than others would,” said Bill Hanage, an epidemiologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.


Americans killed in the Pearl Harbor attacks 79 years ago: 2,403.

Americans who died of COVID on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of last week: 2,610; 2,885; 2,857; 2,637


Pfizer chairman: “We’re not sure if someone can transmit virus after vaccination” — just like the flu vaccine:

Image


Meanwhile

Biosecurity and the pandemic. This one was natural. The next one might not be.

Do I need to say it again? Masks reduce deaths.

Three steps to safety. Don’t spend any time indoors with the unmasked; don’t hang about indoors, even if all are masked; wear a mask outdoors if you are spending time near others. “If I had a birthday candle in my hand and you’re too far away to blow it out, I can’t inhale whatever you exhale.”

Carrying a passenger? Stick them in the back seat and open all the windows. Sorry, Dear.

What’s your risk of infection? Good article with a dozen well-illustrated scenarios. May be a little wonky in some browsers; keep scrolling.

Lockdown party.

How mRNA vaccines work.

Vaccines have one job — keep you from getting sick.

Why we can’t have nice things.

Covid complications. You can get these for free, in every case of Covid.

Vaccines work better if everybody isn’t sick.

Stuck @ Home?

Would you like to play a game?

Anime Preview: Winter 2021

December 2, 2020

Unlike others, who use knowledge of the source materials, close observation of the previews, and who actually read the press releases, I’m going to base my decisions on what to watch on pretty much just the title and the cover art.

First, let’s say what’s not in here. Sequels and continuations of stuff I dropped earlier (Show by Rock, King’s Raid), movies and OVA’s (Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon), and anything with a decimal in the title (2.43, 3.0).

WILL WATCH: The title or the cover art is properly enticing (or I liked the first season), so I definitely will watch at least the first three eps

MIGHT WATCH: The cover art is off-putting, but I might watch it.

WON’T WATCH. The cover art and/or the title tells me more than I ever wanted to know on the topic.

Pandemic 54

November 29, 2020

The links just keep coming.

Quotes of the day

Politics is making things harder in Kansas. I have been Wilson County’s health officer for the past eight years. This year, county commissioners gained more control over COVID-19 health decisions. I recently proposed a new mask mandate given our rising numbers. I explained that masks would not only save lives, they would help businesses stay open and keep employees at work. The commissioners voted it down 3-0.


Transmission risk scales positively with the duration of exposure and the closeness of social interactions and is modulated by demographic and clinical factors. The lockdown period increases transmission risk in the family and households, while isolation and quarantine reduce risks across all types of contacts. The reconstructed infectiousness profile of a typical SARS-CoV-2 patient peaks just before symptom presentation.


If the surge takes a turn of continuing to go up and you have the sustained greater than 100,000 infections a day and 1,300 deaths per day and the count keeps going up and up … I don’t see it being any different during the Christmas and New Year’s holidays than during Thanksgiving — Fauci

Meanwhile

Filter your air. It’s easy. And if you live in the Far West, it also helps with smoke.

The Oxford Vaccine, How they did it.

Who to vax? Depends on your goals. Here’s a summary of the latest guidance.

…and the full report.

Sturgis and MN. Other nearby states presumably similar.

What’s the matter with Kansas. Other than the fact that a quarter of them won’t wear masks and they have funny ideas about science?

Covid seasonality. As predicted.

I got the chloroquine blues.

Nurses are starting to break. Thanks, Fox News.

Vaccines and herd immunity. Better than just catching it and not dying.

 

Stuck @ Home?

Go put on your armor.

Go ride a bike.

Go work for Biden.

Green Thumb Up My Nose: Lessons learned from 2020

November 28, 2020

Summary of the Year

This year had a short growing season — late frosts and early snows. Plus, we kindof got blindsided by the whole Covid thing, being a good month into the pandemic before the ground was warm enough to dig. As a result there were not a lot of seedlings at the stores, so we ended up with multiple Lemon Cucumber plants and almost no squash, of any variety. Reasonable number of tomato varieties. Because of that, I didn’t field a full garden. Sections 1 (tomatoes) and 2 (squash), with some taped carrots and chard and lettuce in Section 3. Section 4 was fallow. I had planned to put in some Asparagus sets, but the hardware store didn’t have any.  Tomatoes did very well. Zucchini did well (no Summer Squash). Acorn, Spaghetti, Pumpkin, and Delicata were all failures. Meanwhile, we got a bunch of Red Cabbage seedlings from the nursery that sold us our shrubberies — they had ordered them by mistake and were giving them away. Planted some in the garden (barely surviving the frosts, no sign of heads) and in pots on the deck, ready to be moved into the house if it frosted (two now growing fine indoors — but no heads as of Thanksgiving — two et up by aphids).

Results of 2019 Lessons Learned

  1. Don’t plant any yellow tomatoes. Never missed them.
  2. Fertilize Fall and Spring. Did that thing. Worked well. Beefsteak tomatoes were Beefsteak tomato-sized.
  3. Give up on cherry tomatoes and hanging tomatoes. Never missed them.
  4. Weed a couple of times a couple of weeks before planting. Maybe need to do some additional weeding.
  5. Use bigger plant signs, particularly for the squash. Bigger than that. No, bigger…
  6. Photograph and map the initial planting.  Yeah, shoulda done this.

Lessons Learned from 2020

  1. In preparation for a Covid continuance, start all my own seedlings. Order seeds before Christmas.
  2. Don’t bother with any brassicae, of any shape or form. I know I’ve said this before, but this time I mean it!
  3. Don’t bother with Lemon Cucumber. We couldn’t find a useful use for it.
  4. Carrots on tape work well. Lettuce also, if you can get the right kind.
  5. We’ve kindof gone off chard.
  6. Don’t bother with putting anything in the front of the house. It’s more trouble than it’s worth.
  7. Better signage and documentation.
  8. Build a ‘Planter Tracker’ page that you update and link to it from later Green Thumbs

Things to be thankful for 2020 — The 400 year disaster

November 24, 2020

Every Thanksgiving I build an essay about things we should be thankful for, like, at least we haven’t been hit by a dinosaur killer asteroid recently, or looks like we dodged a global nuclear war again this year, or COVID-19 is bad but many of us still have a functioning lung. This is all part of my Civilization Goes Away project — cautionary tales of why we can’t let that happen. The idea is that if we can visualize it now, we can do something about it, while being thankful that it hasn’t happened yet. It gives people something to discuss over the turkey and my grandmother’s  dressing.

I know that we’re still in the throes of a world wide pandemic, but even with newly-developed vaccines it’s still too early to write about that. And I know we might have reached a tipping point in global warming, what with the National Weather Service having to deal with Hurricane Aardvark and eastern Australia and the western US burning down and all — but it’s a little early for that, as well, since my sources haven’t caught up with the world. Instead, I’m going to write about a different threat, one that has barely received any notice at all. What we might call The Heat Death of Civilization. First, let me say what this essay is not about.

This essay is not about global warming.

Global warming is the long-term rise in the average temperature of the Earth‘s climate system, [due mostly to the impact of human activities]. It is a major aspect of climate change and has been demonstrated by direct temperature measurements and by measurements of various effects of the warming. – Wikipedia

This essay is not about the greenhouse effect.

The greenhouse effect is the process by which radiation from a planet’s atmosphere warms the planet’s surface to a temperature above what it would be without this atmosphere — Wikipedia

This essay is not even about the Sun expanding to engulf the Earth

In about one billion years, the solar luminosity will be 10% higher than at present. … The most probable fate of the planet is absorption by the Sun in about 7.5 billion years, after the star has entered the red giant phase and expanded beyond the planet’s current orbit. — Wikipedia

This essay is about something much, much worse.

Almost ten years ago, Tom Murphy, at UCSD, on Do The Math, his magisterial website about energy use, wrote an essay about energy use, growth, and the laws of thermodynamics.

TL;DR — we’re doomed.

This essay will steal shamelessly from his.

Let’s start by framing the problem. Look at the long term. A billion years from now, the sun will be 10% brighter, the oceans will evaporate, and we’re all gonna die. But a billion years is too long of a time frame to usefully consider. After all, a billion years ago, multicelled life had just discovered sex and we’re still working out the ramifications of that.

OK, what about the short term, the next 50 years? Despite the fact that a Norwegian business school’s environmental model says we’re past a tipping point on global warming, I think we can be optimistic, for some horrific use of the term optimistic. Yes, in a very few years, a business as usual approach will cause a 4C rise in global temperatures. But sometime before that it will become obvious even to the plutocrats, looking at their New Zealand hideaways being torched by wildfires, that something is wrong, and they will take action to fix the problem. The actions won’t be pretty ones, and the world won’t look at all like it does now, but Civilization, writ large, won’t fall — it’s just that lots of people will die and it may well be the end of civilization as we know it (but you’ll be glad to know that the 1% will be OK). However, that’s a topic for another essay.

Well, what about the medium term? Say, the next 400 years? That might seem like a long time, but ~400 or so years ago the Puritans had landed at Plymouth Rock, the Spanish had built Santa Fe, New Mexico, and the Swedes had founded Wilmington, Delaware. Consider that the Napoleonic wars were 200 years ago and that’s only five handshakes away from me. So, 400 years is a long time, but within recorded memory of an upstart nation.

This is where it gets technical. You see, all of our economic models are based on growth. Sometimes more, sometimes less, but there’s always an incoming tide that is lifting all boats worth talking about. Now, energy use tracks economic growth pretty closely. If you plot it on a log scale you can see that our energy growth has been pretty stable at 2.9% per year.

Since 1650.

Almost 400 years. So, what happens when we extrapolate that growth rate, or a slightly lower one, say 2.3% (easier math), into the future, the middle future? And let’s say we are wildly successful in shifting over to renewables, like solar. What happens then?

Well, the problem is, renewables are a finite resource, like oil. Why is that? Because the surface of the Earth is finite. Even if we had 100% efficiency in solar power conversion, and even though solar won’t add any heat to the atmosphere that the sun didn’t add already, a 2.3% rate of growth of energy use would require that we cover the entire land area of the planet in solar cells by 2370, and the entire planet by 2420, 400 years from now.

Future energy use, assuming full solar power growth at 2.3% per year.

And there’s not much we can do to fix that. Higher efficiency in how we use the power will only move the wall out a few decades at best. Moving to space-based solar will only bring more energy down to the surface and heat us up faster (see below).

OK, so lets ignore solar [I mean, would you trust a leaf with your future?] and continue to grow oil and nuclear and fusion and cold fusion and microwave beams from space and whatever else you want at 2.3% per year. What happens then?

The oceans boil.

Actually, the oceans won’t boil until about 450 years from now. In 2420 the temperature at the seashore will be around 130F, just about the right temperature for a perfect souse vide poached egg.

At this point I have to remphasize. This has nothing to do with global warming.

“Global warming” is a phrase used to described the near-term increase in surface temperature caused mostly by increased greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere due mostly to human activity. If we ceased all greenhouse gas emissions tomorrow, sucked all the excess CO2 out of the atmosphere, and continue our historical rate of increase of energy use, we’ll still boil.

The problem is the laws of thermodynamics. Nothing is 100% efficient. All energy use wastes some energy. Where does that waste energy go? Into heat. For example, the PC you are reading this on is a 500watt space heater that does arithmetic; your car has a radiator to radiate waste heat into the atmosphere. Use more energy, waste more heat, and the Earth heats up. Even if we had a miracle machine that generated power for free, inefficiencies in how that power is used will still heat up the Earth.

Totally independent of global warming.

Future surface temperature of the Earth based on heat generating energy growth at 2.3% per year.

Now, maybe through efficiency and technology (and denial to the poor of energy-heavy services like air conditioning on a 95F day) we can cut back on the rate of growth of energy use. All that does is push the thermpocalypse off 70 years or so.

The problem is, any amount of growth will, sooner or later and probably sooner, push us over the edge. Cutting the percentage rate of growth will slow us almost not at all, recycling, or no recycling. Switching to a fixed amount of growth — not 2.3% per year, but 2.3 units of x per year instead — will slow us down more, but still won’t keep us from running off the cliff.

The only sustainable growth is zero growth.

Do I think the Amazon is going to end up under triple-canopy solar collectors, or that we’ll be cooking our dinners on the beach instead of at the beach? Of course not. I’m saying that a trend that has lasted for the last 400 years will, sometime in the next 400 years, come to an end, one way or another. I’m saying that, because of how exponential growth works (here’s a vid on lily pads that will help), we won’t have a lot of time between when the trend becomes obvious even to the denialist fringe and when things go catastrophically wrong. I’m saying that maybe we don’t need to act now, but we need to have a discussion of the policy implications, starting now.

So, what are the policy implications? I see three.

  • First, we have to decide what’s the minimum amount of energy we can live with. That translates directly into how much of the Earth’s surface will we give over to renewables, and how high of a global temperature climb will we allow.
  • Second, we have to decide how to equitably allocate that energy across the planet. Essentially, what value of a global Gini Coefficient do we desire? We have already passed the point where we can give everyone in the world an American standard of living. But what about Japanese, or Norwegian? I pick those two countries because they don’t have much of an underclass. If I picked China or India there would still be questions about the massive population of the poor.
  • Finally, and once we have done the first two things, we have to consider what concrete actions we need to take to make these things happen.
Enjoy your roasted turkey.

 

I think I’m reading too many manga and that’s not the title of my next light novel

November 23, 2020

Over the years, I seem to have polluted Amazon’s entire product recommendation system. This weekend I was browsing the ‘zon, doing some pre-Black Friday shopping. I idly clicked on the Recommended for You link, and got several screens of recommendations, based on products I’d already bought, given as gifts, looked at, or scrolled past, grouped in categories. Here are three of them:

Somehow, I don’t think those books fit those categories, but who am I to argue with a marketing giant?

Pandemic 53

November 20, 2020

Mask Up

Quotes of the day

“We need to think about lags,” says David Anderson.

  • Deaths lag ICU admissions.
  • ICU admissions lag hospitalizations.
  • Hospitalizations lag diagnostic test results.
  • Diagnostic test results lag infections.

“It’s getting bad and it’s potentially going to get a lot worse,” said Jennifer Nuzzo, an epidemiologist and senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. “The months ahead are looking quite horrifying.”

“It’s time to buckle up and lock ourselves down again,” Zeynep Tufekci says. “Remember: We are barely nine or 10 months into this pandemic, and we have not experienced a full-blown fall or winter season. Everything that we may have done somewhat cautiously — and gotten away with — in summer may carry a higher risk now, because the conditions are different and the case baseline is much higher.”

ER doctor on Thanksgiving:

Image

Meanwhile

Here’s how the Germans did it. 2min vid.

Another new vaccine. This one’s 95%. Both of them look solid. And here’s how to equitably distribute them.

The New Yorker on Pandemic Winter.

Canadians test some masks. Yeah, the blue ones are best.

One year to normal, he says.

Will the SARS-CoV-2 virus evolve to become less deadly? Only Darwin knows.

The first nine days are the worst.

Covid hypoxia. How to drown while breathing.

Don’t use remdesivir. It only helps Gilead’s bottom line.

Catholic? No vaccine for you.

Stuck @ Home?

Learn from Fauci.

Me and Myeloma — Revlimid

November 15, 2020

Here’s a five minute clip from last September of California State Representative Katie Porter grilling the former CEO of Celgene about cost increases of the multiple myeloma drug Revlimid. That’s the drug that I took as part of my chemotherapy.

Takeaway quote: The drug didn’t get any better. The cancer patients didn’t get any better. You just got better at making money.

Anime I’m watching, Fall 2020

November 14, 2020

Let’s face it. In this, the third quarter of the plague year, you have to dedicate yourself to doing what feels right to do. You are spending your time in isolation. Remaining in your room. Seeing no-one. Venturing out only to grab a case of Cup Ramen before skittering back to the basement. Are you isolating from Coronavirus? No! This is your standard hikkoneet behavior.

Once you are tired of playing Duke Nukem on DOSBox and hand-washing your Tamako Inada dakimakura, the only other thing to do is watch anime.

Unfortunately, Fall 2020 is a pretty thin season. Yes, there are some pretty good sequels, assuming you liked the first season. Yes, there’s a lot more shows than the pandemic-haunted Summer season could provide. But no, there’s not a lot that is both new and entertaining. Here’s what’s held my interest. I don’t say these are good, just not bad enough to drive me back to the QVC channel.

Romance

Adachi and Shimamura

Probably the best of the lot. A treacly-sweet schoolgirl romance. Glacially slow crawl from accidental companions to, probably, Class-S friends. I like it because it’s low-key, well-staged, and has believable characters.

The Inevitable Isekai

I’m standing on a million lives

Four students are injected into a RPG style simulation and told by a time traveller that they are being prepped to fight a future invader. Think Ender’s Game meets Log Horizon. Difficulty — if the party gets wiped out in the game, they all die IRL. B-rank animation, but some interesting plot twists.

By the grace of the gods

Work-abused middle-aged salaryman (the latest sub-sub-genre) dies and is selected by the gods to start over in a new world. Reincarnates as a small boy, with the ability to tame slimes. Also a member of the ‘and now what does he do with his new superpower‘ category of isekai. So far, he has things like cleaning slimes, healing slimes, and slimes that filter metals. If he can just evolve a slime that can do isotope separation, he’ll be well on his way to developing nuclear weapons. A bland, inoffensive anime with B-rank animation. The only reason I’m watching it is because I read the light novel on J-Novel.

Non-Isekai Fantasy

The sleepy princess in the demon castle

Young, sleep-loving Princess is kidnapped by the Demon King so he can lure the Hero to his doom. A one-joke anime that has her trashing the Demon Castle several times per episode in her single-minded search for improved sleep aids — new pillow, fluffy comforter, comfortable pyjamas, etc. Meanwhile, the thick-as-two-short-planks Hero keeps getting his ass kicked by monsters he was supposed to avoid, and missing clues intended to bring him to the castle. So far, it has managed to retain my interest.

Wandering Witch: The Journey of Elaina

As everyone else has said, it’s Kino’s Journey, without the AI motorcycle. Cute girl doing cute things, with broomstick. The characters are fun. Elaina is cute — and her hat steals the show (note how it keeps its orientation in the OP, even when she turns). Each episode is a stop on her journey, but usually nothing much happens, and she doesn’t learn much from them. I read Vol 1. of the light novel, and it’s no better. So, nice eye-candy, nicely animated, but otherwise, a disappointment. To me, the funniest moment so far was the off-frame battle that was going on behind Elaina while she was talking to the King in Episode 6.

Older Tales

Well, five slim anime are not enough to feed my anime habit for a whole locked down week, so I’ve had to reach back into the classics to fill in the gaps. So far I have watched, or re-watched, or am watching, or am going to have watched…:

Arpeggio of Blue Steel

I like the ships, I like the ship-girls, I can put up with the CG. I find it interesting that the CG girls look better than the CG guys. Not impressed with the ending.

Keep your hands off Eizouken

Think of it as a prequel to Shirobako. High energy. Fun characters who turn out to have lots of depth. Good animation. Best OP of the year.

The Magnificent Kotobuki

More CG, and I don’t care. The aircraft are great. The dirigible launches are cool. The flying is magnificent.   I no longer watch this for the story. I just drop in to some random episode the enjoy the flying.

Made in Abyss

Ongoing rewatch, so that I can watch the movies. Story is interesting, even poignant. Scenery is superb.

 

So that’s it. For now. I’ll prolly pick up my watching, and maybe my writing, now that the election is over and I can stop doomscrolling.

 

Pandemic 52 — Has it been a year already?

November 11, 2020

The links just keep coming, but not all of them are bad. This time.

Quote of the day

“People ask me what’s the most dangerous aspect of getting vaccines – the most dangerous aspect is driving to the location to get the vaccine.”

Meanwhile

Covid — where to get it. Not a complete list. White House missing.

The Third Wave. Difficulty — not Toffler.

The latest on the Pfizer vaccine. The one they didn’t use any Trump money to develop.

For all those seeking “herd immunity”, did we mention that Covid causes mental illness in 20% of its victims?

Winter is coming. What can Canadians do, eh? Well, what about Canadian businesses?

How the SARS virus hacks the immune system. Like WannaCry, only without help from NSA. Probably.

Why masks work. … and how to choose one.

Thank your llama. Mine is named Llamamoto.

Protect your hamster.

How Japan did it. They believed the government. Of course, they had a believable government.

It’s not the virus that kills you, it’s the side effects. But beta blockers might help.

Recovery @ home. You can do it. They can help.

Pandemic deniers. A decades-old playbook that started with polio.

 

Stuck @ Home?

Study the impact of Stanford on your brain.

Read a map.

How desperate are you?

Green Thumb Up My Nose: Tomato Report

November 9, 2020

Special Garden Report

Ripening Tomatoes Indoors

On the 9th of October, with tomato-damaging levels of cold (but not freezing) weather on the way, I did a preliminary sweep of the garden. Five days later, we did have some killer frosts (down to 11F), so I did a final sweep, and pulled in everything big enough to be useful — say, plum sized or above (plus any smaller hangers-on). Yield was about 110 tomatoes (not quite 20kg, or almost half our annual yield), in various states of green-ness.  Next task, ripen them. You don’t want them to ripen too fast, because that will overwhelm your tomato-eaters, and you’ll run out before Christmas.

My standard technique is to put them into shallow boxes in a warmish room. Warmth, they say, is more important than light at this point. The boxes are old shipping boxes from Amazon, mostly used for keyboards and laptops and other thin objects. The room used used to be the Living Room, because it is right over the furnace room, but this year the Living Room has filled up with non-thin Amazon boxes, so I put the tomato boxes in the upstairs bathroom. Turns out, the temperatures in the two rooms are both about 62F.

TOMATO CROP

As you can see, most of the tomatoes were a pale green when picked. There’s a few that are a darker green, and a few that have some color to them. I’m leaving them in their original location in the boxes so that if you have time you can follow the ripening path of individual tomatoes. For example, take the two large tomatoes in the upper left of the Group C box. Picked at the same time, probably from the same plant. Eleven days later, one of them has gone pink. The other one doesn’t start to turn until almost a week after that, and it doesn’t get fully ripe until the final sweep on 08 November, a full week after its compatriot.  Just my contribution to helping you through the pandemic.

A few days later

A week after that, probably a third are orange or red, but few (less than 10%) are ripe. My criteria there is that it had to be red, not orange, or have a significant give to it, to be considered ripe. The pictures show the boxen before the ripes were removed.

Two to three weeks after picking, another ~12% are ripe, with many more on the way. Probably a third of the ripe ones were starting to wrinkle. A couple of them (those with sun cracks) had started to rot, and were discarded.

Only a few days later, we had almost as many additional go ripe, and two more showed signs of rotting. Lots of orange ones, which will be ripe, next time ’round.

Five days later. Consolidated numbers are 40 (~36%) ripe or soft orange, two rotted.

So, we’re down to one consolidated box of roughly 20 (~18%) stubbornly green tomatoes. Essentially all are from the 14 October picking. The ones from the 9th are all ripe. Not sure how long these will take to ripen. Presumably about a week. 多分です

Consolidate remainder
08 Nov

To summarize, it takes about a month at 62F for greenish tomatoes to ripen indoors. Almost two-thirds ripen early (at a rate of around 10% per week), but just over a third take the full time, and it looks like almost 20% will take even longer. I’ll post this now, and update it when the last of the greenies is gone.

UPDATE: Ten days later, almost all the remaining tomatoes of a useful size are ripe/orange. Roughly 3-5 are left. The rest are too small to count. Meanwhile, we’ve lost another six from the original groups because we left them on the counter and waited too long to do anything with them.

Consolidated remainder
19 Nov

Assuming we can get all of the remaining ripes cooked into sauce or soup or stew or something, we will have lost a total of ten or eleven out of the original 110 green-picked tomatoes. So in round numbers, about a 10% loss over four to six weeks.

FINAL UPDATE: Last fresh tomatoes, very wrinkly, got used in a sauce on 02 December. Final loss rate was about 15%.

Pandemic 51

November 3, 2020

Links to distract your mind this election day.

Quote of the day

“We’re in for a whole lot of hurt. It’s not a good situation….All the stars are aligned in the wrong place as you go into the fall and winter season, with people congregating at home indoors. You could not possibly be positioned more poorly. The US needs to make an abrupt change in public health practices and behaviors.

“All of a sudden, [the White House] didn’t like what the message was because it wasn’t what they wanted to do anymore… They needed to have a medical message that was essentially consistent with what they were saying… And one of the ways to say the outbreak is over is [to say] it’s really irrelevant because it doesn’t make any difference. All you need to do is prevent people from dying and protect people in places like the nursing homes. … The idea of this false narrative that if you don’t die, everything is hunky dory is just not the case. But to say, ‘let people get infected, it doesn’t matter, just make sure people don’t die’— to me as a person who’s been practicing medicine for 50 years, it doesn’t make any sense at all.” Anthony Fauci

Meanwhile

What do we mean by a 50% effective vaccine? And for how long?

Wiping out all coronaviruses… virii.

The damage is in the dose. Masks help keep down the dose.

Ugly toes? Maybe it’s Covid. Or maybe it’s just you, ya know?

Remdesivir, approved / not proved.

Think Covid-19 is bad? Just wait for Covid-38.

T-cells to the rescue.

Stuck @ Home?

Watch some livecams.

Play some 1-dimensional chess.

Me and Myeloma — Link

November 2, 2020

The latest tests look good, so I’m clear for another three months. I have collected all my previous myeloma entries into a more coherent essay in my Pages, on the right-hand column.

Re-set your clocks tonight

October 31, 2020

And remember, we set them back in the Fall, not forward.

Courtesy of http://www.gilescartoons.co.uk

TLDR: Anime I never finished, Fall 2020 – 2

October 28, 2020

Fall 2020 is turning out to be a surprisingly flat season. Nothing terrible (unless it’s one of the ones I didn’t try), but nothing great. Some are pretty good. Some don’t look like they’ll hold up for 12 episodes. See below:

Iwakakeru – Sport Climbing Girls — I have nothing against anime about exceptionally fit girls doing difficult athletics in neat gear. I mean, I’d like to try rock wall climbing myself (there’s one at our university), except that I weigh somewhere north of 17 stone and have weak grip strength. I’m hard pressed to do stair climbing.

Iwakakeru (いわ-かける, rock-hanging) is the latest anime about cute girls doing cute things…on rocks. In this case it’s also a going-to-koshien sports anime, about a team that’s overcoming obstacles despite internal and external conflicts. Unfortunately, the internal conflicts are overhyped, and the external conflicts are all caused by psychologically distorted girls, presented, so far, as a catgirl (with a neko lisp) and a spidergirl (with a bunnygirl headpiece and a mouth like the slit-mouthed-woman). Some parts are interesting. Some parts are painful. Like dancing the Macarena  with a broken rib.

Talentless Nana — Despite a surprising twist at the end of Episode 1, this quickly degenerated into a monster-of-the-week character interaction puzzle. It comes across as a mirror universe Sherlock Holmes, where Holmes is the killer.

Akudama Drive — Pretentious attempt at a frenetic, over the top, caper anime with a cast of lovable sociopaths. Hoping to go down in history along Baccano and Reservoir Dogs. Is likely to just go down.

Warlords of Sigrdrifa — Cute girls doing cute things…with planes, while fighting Angels Neuroi Zai The Pillars. Slowly degenerated into silliness. They lost me at the fundoshi. Not that I have anything against fundoshi. I like pix of semi-naked males slapping their butts as much as the next guy, but the whole thing just reached new depths of silliness.

Assault Lily BOUQUET — Cute girls doing cute things…with cute girls (my favorite CGDCT topic), while fighting Angels Neuroi Zai The Pillars The Huge. Unfortunately, it has a cast of squeaky-voiced, maid-costumed, mix and match nonentities, who have to be identified with flashcards each time they appear. To make things worse, they are magical girls with weapons, only it’s the weapons that go through a transformation process. Not nearly as interesting as when the girls do it.

Pandemic 50

October 27, 2020

The links just keep coming.

Quote of the day

We literally left this White House a pandemic playbook that would have shown them how to respond before the virus reached our shores. They probably used it to, I don’t know, prop up a wobbly table somewhere. We don’t know where that playbook went. Eight months into this pandemic, cases are rising again across this country. Donald Trump isn’t suddenly going to protect all of us. He can’t even take the basic steps to protect himself. Just last night, he complained up in Erie that the pandemic made him go back to work. I’m quoting him. He was upset that the pandemic’s made him go back to work. If he’d actually been working the whole time, it never would’ve gotten this bad. — Barack Obama

Meanwhile

Got Covid? Your immune system is screwed.

…and the antibodies don’t last. Well, the antibodies decline normally.

About those vaccine trials. They are not going to tell us what you think they are.

The Long Covid. Men die, women go long.

Covid vs the flu.

Lancet article. TL;DR — all this ‘herd immunity’ hokum is, well… hokum.

Lab study of masks: they protect in both directions.

Trump and Great Barrington. Just because it has ‘great’ in the title doesn’t mean it is.

Remdesivir study shows the impact of political influence.

Dexamethasone study. It’s complex.

Pandemic risk. Warning, there’s math involved.

Stuck @ Home?

Watch some modern documentaries.

Look at some Ghibli stills. Free to use.

Find out what words appeared the year you were born. Unfortunately for me, does not include words from 1066.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

October 26, 2020

Garden Report for 201026

Well, the 2020 growing season is at an end, with 6″ of snow and 11F temperatures. I’ll be doing a Lessons Learned later on, and I plan to write up my ripening totals when all the tomatoes are gone.

Autumnal Garden

I suspect the nine or so Red Cabbage plants in the main garden are done for. Cabbage can stand temps as low as 20-25F, but this week’s lows were probably too much for them, unless the snow is protecting them. The four in pots turned out to have aphids (probably they all did, but I didn’t have a chance to check). We left them out for a couple of sub-freezing nights and brought them inside yesterday. Now, we just have to find space for them for the next three weeks.

TOMATO CROP

Planter Tracker

Planted: Buttercrunch lettuce 2020, 26 October. Indoor container, due early Jan 2021. Started thinning 26 November.

Planted: Two lettuce on tape. Vilmorin Lento and Burpee Easy Serve 2019. 01 December. A scattering had germinated by the 12th. Due, end of January 2021.

Planted: Lolla Rossa looseleaf lettuce 2017, 22 November. One last try at using the old stuff. Dumped the entire packet into the indoor container. Due mid-January 2021. Many germinated by the 29th, so that will work. Update: No, they didn’t. Just green smears.

Transplanted: Red Cabbage seedlings, 10 September. Due end of November maybe Christmas. Most are in the Main Garden (Sections 2 and 3), but four are in pots, ready to move indoors if the weather gets too hot or too cold. UPDATE: two of the pots got bad case of aphids and were dumped.

Don’t eat yellow snow

October 23, 2020

North Korean media have been making a big thing about “yellow dust” blowing in from China. They claim that it contains “toxic material, virus, and pathogenic microorganisms” and could be a source of Coronavirus.

The fact is, yellow skies are a regular phenomenon in both Korea and Japan. I can remember seeing yellow skies over Osan AB in the Spring. What causes it? That’s the Gobi desert blowing by. Dry desert sands are picked up by the westerly winds and carried out over the sea of Japan. It happens every year, and has for centuries.

Dust storms from the Gobi often end up over Korea and Japan

It’s true that in recent decades Chinese industry has added lots of pollution to those clouds, but that’s gone on long enough not be considered something new. So, why the hoorah now?

I agree with the BBC that the problem likely is a Coronavirus outbreak that Kim (Not that Kim, the other one. No… the other other one… Never mind.) doesn’t want to admit to. By blaming it on Chinese pollution, he can enforce stringent controls (mask up, stay home, no construction work), without admitting that the pandemic has been hitting North Korea hard for the last couple of months.

A week from now, he’ll likely proclaim a massive outbreak of the virus, and blame it on the yellow sky.

Pandemic 49

October 20, 2020

The links just keep coming.

Quote of the day

On average, the number of excess cases per 100,000 residents in states reopening without masks is ten times the number in states reopening with masks after 8 weeks (643.1 cases; 95% confidence interval (CI) = 406.9, 879.2 and 62.9 cases; CI = 12.6, 113.1, respectively). Excess cases after 6 weeks could have been reduced by 90% from 576,371 to 63,062 and excess deaths reduced by 80% from 22,851 to 4858 had states implemented mask mandates prior to reopening. Over 50,000 excess deaths were prevented within 6 weeks in 13 states that implemented mask mandates prior to reopening.  — Journal of General Internal Medicine

Meanwhile

What hinders social distancing? Well, what are you watching?

Targeted lockdowns. All well and good, unless you are the target.

Offer young people alternatives, not lectures. Alternatives like “party in small groups”.

Meanwhile, small groups, the new super spreaders. You can’t go home again.

Have you had Covid? Wanna have it again? Well, how’s your antibodies?

Back to school? How we doing? Nobody knows.

Remdesivir, et al. WHO says only dex has a significant impact. Who says? First base!

Only two residents live in the remote Italian town of Nortosce and they still uphold the country’s strict COVID-19 rules by insisting on wearing masks.

Adding a whole new meaning to the term Double Dutch.

Covid in our future.

Masks in the far future.

Outdoors is way better than indoors. Too bad it’s winter.

Stuck @ Home?

Read a pre-Columbian manuscript

View 18K radarsat image previews. I used to work with this stuff, in a previous Century.

Watch some classic documentaries.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

October 18, 2020

Garden Report for 201019

Cold and wet and windy, mostly. Sometimes cold and windy. Other times, just cold. Highs in the upper 50’s (last week that was the lows), lows in the 30’s, with one night dropping down to 28F.  Winds 30, gusting to 50 on Tuesday. Next week will be more of the same, only with less rain and more frost.

As for the tomatoes, my leave them out until first frost plan only lasted five days. On Wednesday night temps were forecast to be about 30F, with more frost a few days later. I decided to bring the rest of the tomatoes in before dark. That turned out to be a good idea. The ground-level low that night was actually 28F, and by Thursday afternoon all the tomato plants were black. Ended up with not quite 8kg from the main garden, and 5kg more from the bags and the deck.

They are all ensconced in the bathtub at a fairly constant 62F. MJ doesn’t like them being that close to the toilet, but I assured her that I’d wash my hands after eating any of them. Meanwhile, I’m going to keep track to see how many actually ripen and how many don’t.

On Friday, I started closing out the garden. Took down all the tomato plants. Noticed that I had left a bunch of small greenies. Not big enough to be worth trying to ripen, but there were a lot of them. I policed them all up from off the ground and off the plants. Got 1.7kg total. I plan to chop them up for relish, or salsa, or maybe soup. In Section 3, I picked the rest of the chard, leaving the carrots and onions for Sunday. Total carrot uptake was 1.6kg, and there were a handful of green onions.

Carrots

The final garden output for the year is roughly 43kg of produce, nowhere near last year’s 67kg, but approaching 2018’s 45kg. To further illustrate the joys of gardening in the NENW, roughly half the tomatoes we grew this year had to be harvested green to beat the frost.

Planter Tracker

Planted: Indoor container, Bibb Lettuce 2017. 03 August. Sprouted 08 August. Not due until 3 October, but it was getting crowded and old, so I harvested it on 22 September.

Planted: Indoor container, Iceberg Lettuce 2018, 20 September. Due 20 November. This was pretty much of a bust. Maybe five of the ~50 seeds germinated, so I’ve overseeded.

Planted: Indoor container formerly with iceberg, Lolla Rosa looseleaf red lettuce 2017, 03 October. Due end of November, except that as of 11 October, none of them had germinated.

Transplanted: Red Cabbage seedlings, 10 September. Due end of November. Most are in the Main Garden (Sections 2 and 3), but four are in pots, ready to move indoors if the weather gets too hot or too cold.

Princess Principal Soundtrack

October 16, 2020

Sound of Foggy London is the soundtrack for the anime Princess Principal, a steampunk spy thriller. I really liked the anime, but I’m a little disappointed with the soundtrack. When played as background music within the anime it works out very well. When extracted and stretched to 90-120sec per track, not so much.

The price ($57 on Amazon US) is to be expected — it’s a Japanese import. For that you get two discs, 43 tracks, almost 90minutes of music. The highlights were the ending song A Page of My Story, and Dorothy’s pub song, Moonlight Melody. Page comes in three versions: piano, piano-four hands, and as broadcast. Moonlight also comes in three versions: piano, piano and violin, and as broadcast. も.ひとつ.まわして (mo hitotsu mawashite: I’ll take a turn Let’s turn it once more) the girl’s washing song from Episode 7 appears once, in Japanese.

The one omission shortfall I noticed was the minimal track for the ‘travelling music’ that plays when the girls are going somewhere in their car (e.g. at 16:48 in Episode 4). The Operations in Action track has one short measure at the start.

The rest of the tracks are mostly various flavors of jazz — light, heavy, piano, etc — with the occasional orchestral interludes and screechy electronic music tracks, all by series composer Kajiura Yuki , so if you like her music, you would probably like this.  Here’s a site (in Japanese) with 30sec sample clips.

Overall, the music (other than the highlights) was unmemorable, despite the fact that it fit well in the anime; a few tracks were unlistenable to these somewhat elderly ears. I figure I paid ~$10/min for the music I’d want to listen to in my car.

Yellow Dog Democrat

October 14, 2020

I’d vote for a yaller dog, if’n he was a Democrat.

I’m a Yellow Dog Democrat, and proud of it. I should be a Republican. I am old, white, fat, male, twice retired; career military from a military family; lived much of my working life in the Old Confederacy. I once voted Republican, but that was in a previous century.

I voted today. WA state makes it easy, even in dead red districts like eastern Washington. I voted the straight Democratic ticket, all the way from President to dog-catcher. Why? Read on.

Republican Politicians Have No Honor

My military career, all 22 years of it, was spent in the USAF as an Intelligence Officer, working on Indications and Warning at the command and national level. For years, a succession of Republican Presidents have exploited, twisted, and lied about what they were told by the Intelligence Community. President Bush (43), for example, lied about the Iraqi weapons of mass destruction program, and about Saddam Hussein’s links to Al Qaida. He did so because he wanted to invade Iraq, for whatever personal reasons. He essentially spit on my profession and my profession’s ethics.

Closer to home, in the years since 9/11, parts of the Intelligence Community have been involved in what are clearly un-Constitutional and un-American violation of our rights. Yes, a Democratic President acquiesced, but they were instituted under Republicans, and would still be going on were it not for Edward Snowden. Well, they are still going on, only not as blatant.  These acts are in violation of everything I learned about Intelligence ethics.

Republican Politicians Are Incompetent

Based on Republican lies, we invaded Iraq.  And then, they botched the job. Our overwhelming military might allowed us to overrun Assad’s tinpot army within days, after which America found itself mired in the longest war in our history, with more dead Americans than were caused by 9/11.  We pounded Iraq flat and and our Republican proconsul fired all its government officials, turning the occupation over to Republican apparatchiks. Seventeen years later, Baghdad still doesn’t have reliable electricity. Seventeen years after WWII, both Germany and Japan had growing, vibrant economies and strong democracies.

Closer to home, for their first two years, the Republicans had total control of the government and could pass any legislation they wanted. One of their promises was to come up with an Obamacare replacement that was cheaper and better. They failed.  The Covid-19 epidemic gave them another chance to demonstrate political leadership. They failed. More generally, a number of people have pointed out that, under Democratic Presidents, the economy grew faster, the unemployment rate was lower, and the recessions, if any were shorter and less severe. And speaking of recessions…

Republican Politicians don’t care about Americans

2007 saw the start of the Great Recession, under a Republican President. A year later, America elected a Black Democrat, and the Republicans vowed to make him a one-term President. They did this by blocking almost every attempt he made to relieve the recession. They cut back his initial efforts to help normal Americans, and blocked his later ones, using the excuse that the deficit was too high, and inflation was a bigger threat than a 10% unemployment rate.  As we saw when Trump came into office, and pushed through a tax cut for the 1%, the deficit doesn’t matter if a Republican is in office. While a minority in the Senate, they used the filibuster rule to block all attempts to improve life for the 99%.  As a result, the Recession was deeper and longer than it should have been. Of course, the 1% did well. Ten years later, during the Covid-19 pandemic, Republican politicians turned medical science into a political football, fighting closures and masks and social distancing, to the point where wearing a mask in public became a demonstration of your political affiliation. Closures are bad for businesses, while openings are only bad for the minorities who staff them, without health care.

That’s why Republicans are unwilling to provide desperately needed aid to economic victims of the pandemic. They aren’t worried that a relief package would fail; they’re worried that it might succeed, showing that sometimes more government spending is a good thing. Indeed, a successful relief package might pave the way for Democratic proposals that would, among other things, drastically reduce child poverty.

— Paul Krugman

And speaking of the 1%, here’s Senator Whiteman at the Barrett hearings. It’s a nine minute vid.

That’s a rough idea of why it’s likely I will never vote Republican again. When I started this essay, I planned to go into some detail about a broad range of issues. That quickly got out of hand and was headed for book length, not essay length, so I made some massive cuts, and it’s still over 800 words.

If you jumped to the end to read my conclusions, here’s the TL;DR — As now constituted, the Republican Party is an uncaring, unprincipled, unethical, power-hungry tool of the 1%, one that sees the American people simply as a source of votes. They are not worthy of mine.

Pandemic 48 — plus Alaska and Hawaii

October 12, 2020

We’re Number One!
(NYT 6 October)

Some links are less encouraging than others.

Quote of the day

And yet, despite everything that we have already endured, the virus now threatens to cause another nightmarish wave this winter. To prevent reaching four hundred thousand deaths by the end of the year, social-distancing measures … will continue for the foreseeable future. The approaching holiday season will likely be lonely for many people, as travel and large indoor gatherings will need to be prohibited in much, if not most, of the country. The fact that political leaders will continue to have a say in how people behave does not help. There is no panacea for this virus, but other countries have at least committed to certain strategies, and thereby achieved low community transmission. Federal leaders here have yet to offer a coördinated plan for safely easing community lockdowns. — Carolyn Kormann in The New Yorker

Meanwhile

The winter forecast. Remember summer? Not fondly? Wait ’till you see what’s coming.

anti-aerosol protections. What we know works. (spoiler: masks).

Disease progression. Helpful NYT explainer.

Disease severity. Are you 7, or 70? Some helpful charts. (spoiler: don’t be 70)

Covid treatments. It helps to be President.

How do pandemics end? If there’s no one left to hear them, do they make a noise?

Contact tracing at the White House. If they don’t do it, we’ll do it for them.

Covid virus can last for up to 28 days on smooth surfaces, like touchscreens, or Australian money.

Got the Covid?

 

Stuck @ Home?

Watch some opera at the Met.

Process some hi-def photos of Mars and Jupiter

Read a book.

 

 

 

Green Thumb Up My Nose

October 12, 2020

Garden Report for 201012

This week was the last week of meteorological Summer. Highs in the mid to upper 70’s, lows in the middle 50’s. Then, suddenly, Autumn was here, bringing highs on Saturday lower than the Friday lows, with rain and wind. That’s what the first part of next week will be like, and the last part will be the same, only with less rain.

Saturday, et al. was predicted cold and windy, so on Friday afternoon I harvested everything with any color to it, figuring they’d do better off in the warmth of the house. Garnered one Spaghetti squash (750g), three really big Big Boy (1.2kg total), and an assortment of 14 more normal tomatoes (1.6kg) from all parts of the garden. There were at least 20 green tomatoes in the Main Garden, and another 20 in the Bags, and the plan was to leave those out until they were full red or hard frost. Then I read this article, which said that, while you could wait until just before first frost, prolonged exposure to temps below 50F were bad for ripening, taste and shelf life.  Well, the forecast said no highs above 58F, and no lows above 40F for the next week.  Given that, my choice was to wait until morning and harvest in the cold and the wind and the rain, or go out on a warmish Friday night with a flashlight, clippers, basket, and two hands between them. I decided to risk the dark, and came up with 37 tomatoes, totalling 8kg. I’ll leave whatever tomatoes I missed on the plants as the control group. Update Saturday: Good decision. It’s 50F, pouring down rain with winds 20, gusting to 40. According to various pans and such I left lying around, we got about an inch and a half of rain.

Meanwhile, the Red Cabbage is doing fine. Growth seems dependent on sunshine. The four in containers out in the yard are the biggest, followed by the five in the shade of the squashes in Section 2 and the five in the shade of…everything…in Section 3.

Including greenies, the total garden output for the year, so far, is just under 28kg of produce, a pale shadow of last year’s 67kg.

Planter Tracker

Planted: Indoor container, Bibb Lettuce 2017. 03 August. Sprouted 08 August. Not due until 3 October, but it was getting crowded and old, so I harvested it on 22 September.

Planted: Indoor container, Iceberg Lettuce 2018, 20 September. Due 20 November. This was pretty much of a bust. Maybe five of the ~50 seeds germinated, so I’ve overseeded.

Planted: Indoor container formerly with iceberg, Lolla Rosa looseleaf red lettuce 2017, 03 October. Due end of November, except that as of 11 October, none of them had germinated.

Transplanted: Red Cabbage seedlings, 10 September. Due end of November. Most are in the Main Garden (Sections 2 and 3), but four are in pots, ready to move indoors if the weather gets too hot or too cold.

TLDR: Anime I never finished, Fall 2020 – 1

October 9, 2020

And we’re off on a new season, one that is hopefully recovering from the pandemic-induced chaos that was Summer. Of course, that doesn’t mean everything is great, or good, or even poor. Herewith, the poorish.

Rail Romanesque — Ten minute shortie devoted to Rail Maidens developing merchandise for rail franchises. Looks like each character gets one minute of screen time or two squeaky lines of script, whichever comes first.

King’s Raid –Typical high ambition/low achievement apprentice in a typical medieval European fantasy world, goes off to fight demons in the forest next door after an entire squad of his higher-skilled military friends get killed trying that same stunt, leaving him alone in the garrison with all the women, one of whom is a buxom  priestess in an airline stewardess uniform. Has a sub-plot apparently showing why racial prejudice is a good thing [I always said them dark elves was up to no good]. He’s the sort of fangs out and brains in the helmet bag protagonist that gives anime a bad name.

Our Last Crusade — High tech swords and sorcery Romeo & Juliet. Two sword-crossed, soon-to-be-lovers, find common cause in bringing an end to the Hundred Years War [not that Hundred Years War, the other one].  Contrived plot, convoluted conversations, over-choreographed combat sequences that look like they were taken straight from an operatic stage. I mean, can’t you just see him singing an aria after he catches the falling girl [Tes petites hanches sont froides]? So far, I’d say that 2013’s Maoyuu Maou Yuusha did a better job with a lower budget.

This is my first pass. Not all the premiers have dropped yet, and some that do may fall out later. Given that I’ve only got eleven programs on my try-before-buy list so far, losing three is a pretty big chunk. We’ll see what the future brings.

AvocadOats

October 8, 2020

I’m a California Boy — sixteen of my first twenty-one years. For most of that time, avocado was just something that was there in the supermarket. Sometimes we’d bring one home and make salad, or salad dressing, or avocado toast, but it wasn’t particularly special. Now, some decades later, it is still a sometime delicacy — I can’t get into the avotoast hype that’s our latest food craze.

Well, sometime is now. MJ brought a couple home in order to make something for a socially distanced social. I took the last one and made avocado oatmeal with it. Two halves, two tries. Plain and curried.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one cup beef broth, half an avocado, mashed, salt. One centimeter slab of curry, if you want. Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats. Add the avocado at the end, and top with a pat of butter.

Results: Yeah, all right. Not going to take Fresno by storm. The trouble is, the avocado flavor is too mild by itself to do much. Maybe that’s why they keep putting herbs and spices in it. The curried version was a little better, if you like curry. A few drops of lemon juice or rice vinegar gave it a useful touch of acid. Not going to run out and buy more avocados for this, but if we have a half left over from something else, I’ll do it again.

Rating: ***  three stars

My Debt to Van Halen

October 7, 2020

Eddie Van Halen has died of cancer, age 65 (ten years younger than me). For my two decades teaching Management Information Systems in the business school at a small regional university, he was the inspiration for a key lesson I taught my students.

You see, the last class the Business MIS majors took was essentially a capstone, Systems Project. In that class I would break them into teams and give each team a ~20 page Request For Proposal for the new software system I wanted them to build. Depending on what was trending that year, they were tasked to build a ride-hailing system called Ober, a lost airliner search coordination system, or a hospital staffing and appointment tool, and so forth, different each year.

Of course, I didn’t need a fishing fleet scheduling tool, or a  drug control inventory system. What I wanted was for them to have the experience of going from a set of written requirements, through the design and documentation process, followed by the joys of team software builds. How well it worked, while important, was secondary.

One of the lessons I wanted them to take away was the absolute necessity of carefully reading the RFP, line by line, with their finger on the screen and their tongue between their lips. Enter Van Halen.  The band’s contract with the venue they were performing at included a rider that said there would be a bowl of M&Ms in the backstage area, but the bowl could contain no brown M&M’s.  As band member David Roth later explained:

Van Halen was the first to take 850 par lamp lights — huge lights — around the country. At the time, it was the biggest production ever. In many cases, the venues were too outdated or inadequately prepared to set up the band’s sophisticated stage.

If I came backstage, having been one of the architects of this lighting and staging design, and I saw brown M&Ms on the catering table, then I guarantee the promoter had not read the contract rider, and we would have to do a serious line check of the entire stage setup.

In order to emulate the Van Halen Rider, I would bury critical formatting information in obscure parts of the document — the requirement that all margins be 0.75″, set in between paragraphs specifying that no drugs were allowed on the worksite, and that no metals from pre-apartheid South Africa would be used (this was a reduced copy of a real government RFP from the 70’s).

When the teams turned in the initial proposal, the first thing I would do is get out a ruler and check the margins and other formatting requirements. Invariably, they had missed them, and had gone with the default MS Word or Libre Office settings.

The object wasn’t to be mean, but to ensure that they understood they had to read the entire RFP in detail, instead of skimming over it the way students are wont to do. It wasn’t until the students were graduated and out in industry that some of them told their friends “I finally understand what he was trying to tell us.”

Thanks, Van Halen.

Trump’s Decapitating Strike, Part 2

October 6, 2020

Be careful what you joke about. Seven members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff are in quarantine after a meeting with the Vice Commandant of the Coast Guard in a small conference room in the Pentagon known as The Tank. VCCG Admiral Ray later tested positive for Covid. CMC General Berger was not at that  meeting, but he was at a White House ceremony on 27 September.

The upper leadership of the country is a fairly small group, that meets fairly often in fairly small rooms. A contagious disease, like Covid-19, could easily infect the whole group, absent fairly stringent prevention measures. Measures like, mask wearing, particularly when social distancing isn’t possible. You can be sure the military will be conducting aggressive and detailed contact tracing, unlike the White House.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

October 5, 2020

Garden Report for 201005

Weather was more like the early Autumnal NENW ought to be. Sunny and mild to start, with highs in the upper 70’s. Temps forecast in the 80’s for end of the week, but high altitude CA smoke kept us cool. More of the same next week, with some rain for the weekend.

At the end of the week I harvested one standard Zucchini (208g). This may be the last of the summery squash. Every year it’s a race between the harvest and the powdery mildew, and it looks like the mildew is starting to win.  Also picked eight tomatoes (1.1kg) from all around the garden. I’m expecting a bigger tranche of tomatoes next week.

Not much, but more are coming

Meanwhile, our trees are doing well. This is the one out front. Surprising color change, and it’s not just due to lighting conditions. Maybe that’s why they call it a Redpoint Maple.

The total garden output for the year, so far, is just over 17kg of produce. By this time last year, the threat of snow had forced us to close out the garden early, with 67kg of produce.

Planter Tracker

Planted: Indoor container, Bibb Lettuce 2017. 03 August. Sprouted 08 August. Not due until 3 October, but it was getting crowded and old, so I harvested it on 22 September.

Planted: Indoor container, Iceberg Lettuce 2018, 20 September. Due 20 November. This was pretty much of a bust. Maybe five of the ~50 seeds germinated, so I’ve overseeded.

Planted: Indoor container formerly with iceberg, Lolla Rosa looseleaf red lettuce 2017, 03 October. Due end of November.

Transplanted: Red Cabbage seedlings, 10 September. Due end of November. Most are in the Main Garden (Sections 2 and 3), but four are in pots, ready to move indoors if the weather gets too hot or too cold.

Trump’s Decapitating Strike

October 2, 2020

Back in the day, say half a century ago, one of the things the Indications & Warning community worried about was what was called a decapitating first strike, a small, no-warning nuclear attack that would kill the President and others in the chain of command, to be followed immediately by a somewhat slower follow-on strike. The idea was that the initial attack could be executed by forces close to the US — SLBMs off the East Coast — and be effective within 15 or so minutes. The ensuing confusion would give the follow-on attack time to hit before the US forces could launch from under.

All this is based on an external threat.

Today, we are faced with a decapitating strike from within. By now, everyone knows that President Trump has tested positive for Covid. Fortunately (for some ghastly value of fortunate), he’s been on the campaign trail, and has not been in contact with most of the leaders of our government…as far as we know. But how many unmasked, small room (e.g. White House Situation Room) meetings with the various Department Secretaries (Defense, DHS, HHS, etc) or the JCS were held but not publicized? How many junior staffers were not following masking protocols and then going to meetings elsewhere in DC?

It’s not likely to work out this way, but it’s food for thought — what happens if most of the top layer of government ends up sick?

Yakiniku Oatmeal

October 1, 2020

We had boneless pork slices for dinner last night. I used a Japanese marinade for yakiniku, glazed pork. It was more or less equal parts (~1 Tbsp each) of miso, shoyu, mirin, sugar, garlic, rice vinegar, sesame oil, sesame seeds, and mustard. We were out of miso and sesame seeds so I just left those off. After I marinated the pork there was a fair amount of marinade left (seven tablespoons, more or less), so I saved it for breakfast. Yes, it had been in contact with raw meat, but I was going to boil it for ten minutes, so that’s OK.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one cup beef broth, seven tablespoons (more or less) of yakiniku marinade, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, no salt, no cheese, no pat of butter at the end. Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats. Add the marinade at the start and the potatoes at the end.

Results: Very good. Needed a little more acid it it — either bump up the vinegar or add a squeeze of lemon juice. I’ll have to find an excuse for making more yakiniku.

Rating: ***

Pandemic 47

September 30, 2020

Some links are more encouraging than others.

Quote of the day

Tax evasion is part of a “structure of sin….It has become evident that those who do not pay taxes do not only commit a felony but also a crime: if there are not enough hospital beds and artificial respirators, it is also their fault.”Pope Francis

Meanwhile

Why modeling Covid is so hard. Systems Dynamics, Neural Networks, Agent Based Modeling…it’s all Systems Science, and that’s what I do.

Isolation and your body. Not just the quarantine fifteen, but not as bad as Covid and your body.

Covid is in the air.

Testing. Testing.

Face shields don’t work.

About that new strain of Covid. Not so much of a much.

First wave. <10% of the population showed antibodies, and <10% of those with antibodies were diagnosed

Pets will help your mental health during lockdown. Post-lockdown you need to worry about your pets mental health.

Covid, the hidden killer.

Covid recovery. We’re a long time coming back.

Developing a vaccine. False positives.

Stuck @ Home?

Build a desktop PC.

 

 

 

Anime Preview: Fall 2020

September 29, 2020

Unlike others, who use knowledge of the source materials, close observation of the previews, and who actually read the press releases, I’m going to base mine on pretty much just the title and the cover art.

First, let’s say what’s not in here. Sequels and continuations of stuff I dropped years ago (Dungeon ni Deai, Seizei Ganbare! ), movies and OVA’s, and anything with Idol in the title.

WILL WATCH: The title or the cover art is properly enticing, so I definitely will watch at least the first three eps

MIGHT WATCH: The cover art is off-putting, but I might watch it.

WON’T WATCH. The cover art and/or the title tells me more than I ever wanted to know on the topic.

WON’T WATCH, GOING TO KOSHIEN SPECIAL CATEGORY. Sportsball kindof things