Green Thumb Up My Nose

May 22, 2016

Garden Report for 160523

So, now that it’s almost June, we have the weather data for April, and it confirms what gardeners already knew — it was warm. In fact it was the warmest on record. And if you look closely at the map, you see it was particularly warm in the NENW. And, even though this Summer will see normal rainfall, we’re still expected to be warmer than normal.

Meanwhile, this week was cool – er. Still ahead of seasonal averages, but cool. Also breezy. And showery. In fact, a lot like last week. I closed up the whitehouses on Thursday, since our highs were not predicted to get out of the mid-60’s through the weekend, with lows in the 40s. Sunday didn’t beat 60F, with 23mph winds, gusting to 30. What you’d call a blustery day.

Here’s the hops. I took four 10ft runs of corner trim and tied a 14x14ft anti-bird net to them. By the end of June, they’ll be up to the roof and we’ll have shade on the south side of the house all Summer. Assuming it all holds together.

Stalled at the 4ft mark

Stalled at the 4ft mark

And assuming that it does hold together, come Fall I’ll just cut them down, fold the whole thing up and dispose of it. We could do something more permanent and let it grow from year to year, but hops “berries” (more like little pine cones) are poisonous to dogs, so we want to get them out of the way.

The Anti-Snowden

May 22, 2016

UPDATE: And after you read this essay, read this report, on a now-former DoD Inspector Generals official who tried to support the whistleblower laws.

U.S. News and World Report has an interview with Geoffrey Stone, described as a

… member of the National Advisory Council of the American Civil Liberties Union [and] member of a special review group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies.

Stone exonerates the NSA of running amok, by pointing out that

Every one of the programs the NSA was running in foreign intelligence surveillance was approved by the House and Senate intelligence committees, White House, the attorney general and the FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) Court. Every program was authorized and approved…. If there were extensive criticisms of the programs, the fault rests with the government entities that approved and authorized them.

I have always said that the problem doesn’t lie with NSA. The problem I have with this is that none of the groups Stone mentioned provided appropriate oversight. The Congressional intelligence committees are a bunch of know-nothings who are too busy trying to get re-elected to actually read any of the authorization documents. You can tell by looking at all the gasping and running around that was done after the disclosures. Maybe the committee chairs were witting, but the rest were complaisant and happy to remain in the dark. As for other possible sources of oversight, recent Attorneys General seem to think of themselves as aiders and abettors of whatever the President wants to do, and the FISA court is generally considered to be a rubber stamp and a joke.

Then, Stone puts his finger on the crux of the matter.

The risk is always there that some head of the NSA, or a J. Edgar Hoover or Nixon or LBJ would access those records for illegitimate reasons.

Exactly. We have secret laws, interpreted in secret ways, and approved in star chamber hearings. To that list of possible threats, we could add some future Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, or Donald Trump. This is how you start a democracy on the road to collapse — you institute bad policies for reasons of expediency, and you prevent those policies from being scrutinized by persons more concerned with good government than operational efficiency. Two or three Presidents later, you find those rules being used to attack political opponents.

About Snowden, Stone thinks he exposed too much.

I think if he had only disclosed the existence of the second 215 metadata program, then one might be able to make the case he did more good than harm because there were reforms adopted because of his disclosures

As for the rest of it

My involvement ended before all the consequences could be evaluated. I have no doubt folks in the government are quite confident of that (the subsequent damage). It’s quite logical.

So, he doesn’t know, but he thinks it hurt our collection activities. Except that when he gives examples, he admits that smart terrorists already assumed that NSA was listening, and so it would only be the dumb terrorists that would be caught. You know, like the ones who the FBI regularly entraps just in time for the next round of budget hearings.

Stone’s final take on Snowden:

I don’t doubt that Snowden was courageous and did what he did for what he thought were good reasons. But I think he was unduly arrogant, didn’t understand the limitations of his own knowledge and basically decided to usurp the authority of a democracy.

My personal opinion is that if it hadn’t been for the continuing drumbeat of revelations, from inside the US and overseas, the metadata revelations would have turned out to be another inside the Beltway, one-week-wonder, pushed off the front page by the latest round of political shenanigans, and that nothing would have been done.

Did Snowden’s revelations hurt the U.S. in its fight against terrorism? If there had been major damage, the agencies involved would have been trumpeting the news all over town. There’s been nothing. At least, nothing factual. There’s the periodic “it must have” and “it’s logical to assume”, but nothing that I have seen that is both substantial and concrete. And for what small impacts there have been, think of it as collateral damage, like you get from a drone strike.

As for usurping the authority of a democracy, sorry Mr. Stone, democracy had already been usurped by the very agents you describe in your first quote, above. And the defense that Snowden proposes isn’t the defense that you accuse him of inventing. It’s not “You can violate law if you have good enough reason to do it.”, it is “several agencies of the US government were committing acts that are both criminal and unconstitutional, and the purported methods of reporting them were closed to me.” And as an aside, the same laws that prohibit Snowden’s proposed defense include prohibiting that defense for revealing the 215 metadata program, so your argument is inconsistent.

So, my takeaway on all this? Yes, NSA, as usual, was acting within the constraints of law, as specified and approved by a whole range of government agencies. In doing so, they were the victims of an ongoing scam in much the same way that CIA interrogators were misled by John Yu’s DoJ opinions on torture. Edward Snowden, believing in both the Constitution and the new American motto for living “If you see something, say something”, essentially sacrificed his life to reveal the crimes. Could he have done it in a way that put fewer US programs at risk? Possibly. Could he have done it in a way that was just as effective but less sensational? Probably not.

UPDATE: And if you don’t believe me, here’s the story of a now-former DoD Inspector General official who tried to support the whistleblower laws.


May 20, 2016

It is amazingly hard to get a reliable pollen forecast around here. And by reliable, I mean, one that isn’t contradicted by a different website.

The other problem is inconsistency of reporting. Today, May 20th, the Weather Channel website says the tree pollen forecast for the next three days (Saturday/Sunday/Monday) for Cheney, WA, is high/high/high. Twelve hours ago it said low/medium/high.

If you ask for Spokane, WA (99223) you get vhigh/vhigh/vhigh, but if you just ask for Spokane, WA, you get moderate/high/high.

All is grey

All is grey

Their source for current reporting actual levels for this region is Twin Falls, ID. They’ve been forecasting high threats for most of this month (and right now show high/ vhigh/ vhigh. However, reporting from Twin Falls for the first two weeks of May shows a pollen count of 125 for the first week, and 438 for the second week, both in the upper moderate range.

Meanwhile, the website shows we’re currently medium-high, with a forecast of low-medium/ medium/ medium-high. And says we’re currently low, with a forecast of low/low/low.

On the left is the map, as of today. Twin Falls is in the center (E/W) and a short ways north of the southern border, smack in the center of the low-moderate range. Spokane itself is in a grey area that is either no threat, or no data.

All is green

All is green

Which is fine, except that the AccuWeather map, on the right, shows us in a low pollen area.

So, do I take my Claratin, or not?



May 19, 2016

We were looking for a quick meal the other night and found a package of chicken taco mix in the meat drawer. It’s a pre-packaged package of chunked chicken meat, seasoned with taco seasonings. We didn’t feel like tacos, so MJ made a kindofa chile: can of beans, can of chopped tomatoes, package of chicken taco filling. There was lots, so there was lots of leftovers.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one cup of broth, two fat dinner teaspoons of chicken taco chile mix, 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, plus a grab-handful of shredded cheese.

Results: Pretty good, despite the fact that oatmeal and tomatoes don’t play well together. Not sure why. It’s not just the cooked tomato taste (which I’m not a fan of) because oatmeal and ketchup don’t work either. In any event, the chicken and the spices and the cheese overpowered the tomatoes to make an agreeable meal.

Rating: *****

Green Thumb Up My Nose

May 15, 2016

Garden Report for 160516

Weather this week started out chilly, moved to warm, and is now back to cool, and breezy. And showery. Forecast is for more cool and showery. But even this cooling trend is still two weeks ahead of our average.

In general, how far ahead are we this Spring? My May 15 gardening calendar says that the upcoming week is a good week to start cucumber and pumpkin seedlings, and lay down plastic mulch for the tomatoes, squash, and peppers. It also suggests that next Friday might be a good day for early planting. The reality is, of course, that my early planting was done two weeks ago.

As far as the garden itself, right now there’s nothing much going on. Planted some onions in Section 1, under the assumption that the cabbages would bolt. Scattered the last of last year’s amaranth seeds in front of the hops, and they are starting to show themselves. The hops* themselves put in a four-foot spurt of growth, but now are just marking time. I installed a timer-controller on the garden hose, so the soakers run for an hour every other day. Otherwise, things are just kindof, you know, growing.

*Last week I promised a photo of the hops, but because of the cool weather they are still marking time, and because of the rain, I’m not planning on any outdoor activities.


Anime worth watching, Winter, 2016

May 14, 2016

Running a little late on this one. What shows did I think were the best of the season just ended, half a season ago? In my postview I listed, briefly, how my predictions went. But which of those were really worthwhile?

First of all, a disclaimer. Erased and GenRaku (on Crunchyroll) and Grimgar (on Funimation) were all critically acclaimed. I liked the first episodes. I just was never in the mood to follow-up, so I can’t include them here. Maybe this summer. Herewith, the four:

Gate, Season 2: Fun premise, mediocre ending.
I called Season 1 An Akihabara Otaku in Emperor Augustus’ Court, after the Mark Twain novel. Season 1 was last Summer, so it’s a split-cour program.

Magical gate opens up in downtown Tokyo, leading to a land of dragons and elves and a Roman-style (down to the armor) empire. JSDF establishes bridgehead there, and proceeds to wipe the floor with the natives, while an otaku recon force leader establishes good relations with the elves and wizards and loli-goddesses. Season 2 focuses on internal politics of the empire — peace factions, war factions, scheming crown princes, upright crown princesses, Rasputainical rabbit-girls, and so forth. Some continuing coverage of otaku-san and his harem, but those episodes feel a lot like filler.

JSDF drops in

JSDF to the rescue!

The original web-pub and manga were panned as overly militaristic and nationalistic. I don’t think the anime was, because it was in a long tradition of what if modern x went back to the past stories. Not just Twain, but de Camp’s Lest Darkness Fall, The H. Beam Piper / John Carr Kalvan series, Eric Flint’s 1632 series, Frankowski’s Cross-Time Engineer, and the film Final Countdown, to name a few.

Fighting withdrawal

Fighting withdrawal

Only at the end, with bombastic music and heroic vignettes does it live up to its jingoistic billing. Combined with the rushed, Shakespearian (well, Elizabethan)-style tying up of all the plot threads, where everybody gets married to everybody else and our otaku returns to Akihabara, the ending is where the anime falls severely down.

A lot of that going around this season

A lot of that going around this season

There’s more to the source manga, and the ending leaves room for a third season, but I don’t think that’s going to happen.

KonoSuba: God’s Blessing on This Wonderful World!
The ‘trapped in a fantasy world’ trope is now mature enough that programs can enjoy playing off established plotlines, knowing that viewers will get the joke. in KonoSuba, the hero dies in this world and is offered the opportunity to be born in a fantasy world, with one artifact from this one. The artifact he chooses is the very goddess who is offering him the choice.

The goddess can't hold her liquor

The goddess can’t hold her liquor

The world has the typical RPG accoutrements — guild hall, quests, adventurers, and so forth. Our Hero assembles a team of incompetents and mental cases to fight their battles with hordes of flying cabbages and herds of giant frogs.

And the rest of the team is incompetant

And the rest of the team is incompetent

Fortunately, the minions of the Demon King are just as incompetent as Our Gang. It’s only a ten-episode cour, and the ending is a set-up for a possible second season, so that could happen.

But so is the opposition.

But so is the opposition.

Myriad Colors Phantom World
This is Kyoto Animation having fun. No great depth. Monster of the week. Bit of drama at the end. Gorgeous artwork.

Reality is what you make of it

Reality is what you make of it

Unreality starts to bleed over into the real world. Specially talented highschool students are recruited to fight the phantoms. First episode sets the scene by requiring the busty lead girl to out-limbo a bunch of dancing telephone poles. Male lead can summon up demonic monsters for assistance, and we find that Cthulu looks like a cute beach toy, and Marchosias, the hell-hound, is a puppy with angel wings.

The Elder Gods Awake!

The Elder Gods Awake!

Each of the haremettes gets an episode of her own, including the Tinkerbell-sized Ruru. Or maybe it’s Lulu.

Aokana: Four Rhythm Across the Blue: No, I don’t know what the name means, either.
A typical “going to Koshien” highschool sports story, only in this case, the ‘sport’ is two-person flying competitions, using special antigrav shoes. There’s the usual sub-plots of the former champion who can’t bring himself to fly again, and the team that has a new, but unsportsmanlike, tactic. The first sub-plot never gets resolved (leaving space for a second season) while the resolution of the second, and the winning of the regional championship, form the exciting finale.

Mano a Mano

Mano a Mano

First of all, I really like flying anime — Porco Rosso, Strike Witches, Last Exile, Princess and the Pilot … OK, not Pilot’s Love Song. AoKana is a well done flying anime, that doesn’t use aircraft. Instead, they wear flying shoes, like the god Mercury, only without the snakes. Game tactics are some combo of block your opponent, tap the turn pylon, or slap your opponent’s back. The sport is a series of 1v1 encounters, so flying skill is more important than teamwork (although there is a ground controller, who says useful things like go faster!).



And Second, they really make you feel like you understand what’s going on. You can’t, because the action is twisted to fit the plot, but you think you know.

What other anime would define the technical aspects of the Low Yo-Yo maneuver?

What other anime would talk about the technical aspects of the Low Yo-Yo maneuver?


TL:DR — Anime I never finished, Spring 2016

May 12, 2016

Big Order
It has an inane premise: that people offered a single superpower would each wish for a different plot – enhancing capability. It has an inane cast, ranging from a Super Mario’s Uncle lookalike to a talking 2×4 to a guilty-yet-innocent high-school protagonist who has the guile of a Dan Brown hero. And it has an inane-but-endearingly goofy plot, which involves one (indestructible) girl constantly dying in spectacularly stupid ways, while another tells our protagonist that her father told her if she allowed a boy to touch her she would become pregnant. Unfortunately, he grabs her rabbit ear hair ribbon to keep her from falling and she not only blows up like someone smuggling beachballs, she immediately starts having labor pains. After that, the quality goes downhill into typical shonen shouting and battles and angst.

It was a real short nine months

It was a real short nine months

The Girls und Motorbikes concept worked for a while, but it turns out that, even with the freedom of the open road, and a highway stretching all the way to Hokkaido, there’s only so many things you can do on a bike. Unlike Big Order, where I just couldn’t stand any more, this one got to the point where I just didn’t care. It was like watching CHiPs reruns without the chase scenes.

The call of the open road

The call of the open road

Japan in Transition

May 10, 2016

I have always been intrigued by situations where an artist is working to portray one image or idea, but also captures another. The classic example is Cennini’s description of 14th Century housekeeping when he thought he was talking about painting.

Less than three generations after Commodore Perry, at the end of the Meiji Era, Japan was undergoing rapid industrialization and modernization.  In 1908, three years after the Russo-Japanese War, and two years after his famous photos of earthquake-destroyed San Francisco, Arnold Genthe visited Japan and caught some images of this transition to modern life.

These photos are from the Vintage Everyday website (you should really go there, the clickable pictures are much better), and there are more available at the Library of Congress Genthe Collection (the reproductions are not as good).

Most of Genthe’s photos were of people in traditional, everyday garb carrying out their activities on typical streets with typical traditional architecture. But if you look over their shoulders, or at the edges of the photos, you can see the modern creeping in.

Here’s an everyday street scene of a market stall, with what looks like a family collected around it. The man is wearing a yukata (I think, I’m not good on various forms of dress) and wearing geta footwear. Over his shoulder is a sign  [氷] the kanji symbol for ice. This traditional scene has some form of refrigeration.

Ice for sale (also brooms)

Ice for sale
(also brooms)

And of course, they have the refrigeration because they have electricity. You can see the power lines and the pole transformers here. Read the rest of this entry »

Savory Azuki Oatmeal

May 5, 2016

This is my second attempt at savory azuki. Last time, almost exactly three years ago, it was complicated — use beef broth to bring out the flavor, wash beans to remove the sweet. This time it’s more ad hoc. I had a marrow-bone and veg broth that was mostly veg, with maybe too much garlic. I didn’t bother washing the beans, just drained the excess liquid off the spoon.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one cup of broth, three dinner teaspoons of beans, 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.

Results: Very good. The residual sweet worked well with the garlic, and the beans worked well with the oatmeal bland. A good way to use up the rest of the bottle of beans.

Rating: *****

Green Thumb Up My Nose

May 3, 2016

Garden Report for 1600502

And here it is, May already. Steady warming trend, from a high of around 60 on Sunday, to a high of around 70…on Sunday.  Lows hit 33F on Sunday night, but the plants seem to have weathered it, even the ones not in the whitehouses. Forecast is for even more warming, into the 80’s, which I suspect will finally bolt my cabbages, and it’s not even June yet. Cliff Mass, the NWWx guy, says we should consider 1 May to be 1 June for gardening purposes this year. Temperature a foot down in the garden is already 60F.

Planted some more squash in Section 3 over the weekend — spaghetti, butternut, summer squash. Put some asparagus roots in to Section 4.

The hops are doing well. Tried a new way of providing them with growth support. Pix next week.

Planted two new tomatoes in deck containers — Christmas Grapes (I hope that’s not a indicator of when it ripens) and Stupice. That one was in a planting bag. I’m thinking it might be better than the decaying plastic containers I’m currently using.

Hillbilly Hydroponics

Hillbilly Hydroponics

And of course, no sooner had I written about the joys of hydroponics last week than my lettuce started to wilt. I think all the moving around to take the pictures may have broken the threadlike root or something. So I drilled a hole in the shoulder of the bottle, big enough for a small funnel, and added a few cups of water, just enough to bring it an inch or so up the side of the sock. Back to firm and crisp-looking. So it’s not a fire and forget, it’s more like plant it and set your calendar.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

April 24, 2016

Garden Report for 160425

The two week wrapup is just like the one week wrapup preceeding: cool, followed by warm, followed by stinking hot, followed by cool again. Outdoor thermometer (12ft up the North side of the house) peaked at 84F. Today it peaked at 64F. Next week will be cool again.

Cabbage seedlings seem to be doing OK. I took the whitehouses off, figuring that their shade wouldn’t make up for the increased heat load. Couldn’t think of any other brassicae worth planting in Section 1 this late in the spring, so I stuck in a couple of pepper plants — Bell and Banana.

Cleaned up sections 3 and 4 and did some early seedlings. Section 3 got a whitehouse and two zucchini seedlings. Section 4 got a whitehouse and a bunch of tomatoes — I figured I’d take a chance and plant them out six weeks early. The usual: Early Girl, Better Boy, Beefsteak. If the NENW reverts to type and we get a killer frost in May, there’s still time to replant.

Read an interesting article on a fire and forget hydroponic setup. A half-gallon jug filled with special hydroponic solution, into which you stick a special plant-retaining-sleeve  filled with special hydroponic soil and some small plant, like lettuce.You set it up in a sunny window and leave it. The water slowly evaporates through the plant, and the plant slowly fills up the soil with roots. When the water drops below the level of the plant-retaining-sleeve, the roots will keep growing, down into the water.

Not being a hydroponicist, I took the hillbilly approach and used an old sock, potting soil, and a half gallon of water with a half-teaspoon of plant food dissolved in it. The picture shows the result, six weeks or so in:

Hillbilly Hydroponics

Hillbilly Hydroponics

I couldn’t get a good shot of the bottom, because my phonecam kept focusing on the plastic bottle, but there is indeed a thin thread of root hanging down half an inch into the water. The lettuce looks like it will be ready for harvest in another couple of weeks. I may just trim a couple of leaves at a time, because a good lettuce like that, you don’t want to eat all at once.

This was a proof of concept experiment. It says that next winter we can have fresh greens from November to May, assuming we get the timing right, and don’t mind having a sun room full of bottles. And going barefoot.

TL:DR — Anime I never finished (and don’t intend to), Spring 2016

April 19, 2016

So here’s my first cut at cuts. One or two eps was all it took for these to drop off the radar.

Anne-Happy: Three girls try to find happiness in a class full of losers. Too much ‘cute girls doing cute things’. What the British would call twee.

None cuter, and we know it

None cuter, and we know it

Twin Star Exorcist: A pair of high-powered 14-year old exorcists get told they need to start making babies to save the world. He’s a whiner. She’s inept. Chief exorcist is a con-man. Strange mix of well done backgrounds and secondary actors, combined with cartoony main characters.

More like grade-schoolers

More like grade-schoolers, really

Pan de Peace: As I thought. Cute girls doing cute things… with bread … manages to be boring, even when limited to three minutes.

There's another three minutes of this

There’s another three minutes of this

High School Fleet: GaruPan meets KanColle. High school girls operate automated warships, get involved in some sort of high level government plot. Alternates between too many shrieking adolescents on the bridge, and not enough really good CGI warship shots. I continue to watch, but I fast forward through the dialogue.

The fleet sorties!

The fleet sorties!

Anime Postview, Winter 2016

April 17, 2016

This is not a review of the Winter anime season, quite. Instead, it’s a look at how well my preview of the Winter season worked out. TL:DR is that I scored 3 out of 4 on all three areas, sortof. Here they are, under their original headings:

WILL WATCH: Shows I planned to watch, based on the cover art alone. I got three out of four right. Gate, Dagashi Kashi, and Phantom World were all good, or at least watchable. Haruchika, not so much.

MIGHT WATCH: Shows I thought might be worth watching. Three out of four again, except that I dropped the ball on two of them. The ten-episode Wonderful World was watchable, in much the same way that Phantom World was — they were both well executed examples of standard anime fare. Erased and Rakugo were widely praised, and I really liked the first episode of each, but I just never was in the mood for watching the rest.

WON’T WATCH: Shows with off-putting cover art or storylines. Yet another three out of four. Of course, it’s hard to say that I made the right choice in not watching something if I didn’t watch it and so can’t tell if I shouldn’t have watched it or not. Number four was Oshiete, Galko-chan, and I did watch it and it was funnier than it had any right to be, given the fact that it was built around girls talking about stuff that embarrasses guys.

ALSO WATCHED: There were a few shows that didn’t fit on my Winter preview that I ended up watching anyway. I guess I’m also three for four on these.

Aokana, the high school flying circus, I will discuss elsewhere. Good, solid anime, with some fun flying scenes. Recommended.

Tabimachi Late Show was a four-episode, seven-minute, minimalist series. As one commenter said, he’d seen manga that had better animation. To me, it looked like they just used the key frames, with no in-betweening, but that’s because I’ve been watching too much Shirobako. In any event, they were four unrelated stories that were by turns some combination of sweet, spooky, and enigmatic. Recommended. Episode 3 highly so.

She and Her Cat, as told by the cat. Another four episode, seven-minute series, but with much better animation and an actual story line. Bittersweet ending (watch through the end credits). Recommended.

Ojisan and Marshmallow was yet another short, about a fat, middle-aged guy who likes marshmallows, and a cute girl who likes him. As bad as it sounds. Why did I watch it? I don’t know. The harder question is, why did I admit to watching it? I don’t know. Stop asking questions. Go away. Go make some s’mores.

The return of the $640 toilet seat

April 16, 2016

Pentagon waste is an evergreen topic. It never grows old. It never goes away. It’s always there when you need a quick filler. Last week it was TomGram‘s turn to break out the old war horse and give it a trot around the block. They even bring back an iconic symbol of Pentagon waste, the $640 toilet seat.

The trouble is, they rarely address all the root causes of these budget busters. To their mind, they are all due to single-source contracts and contractor-driven over-runs. But there are other problems, and they are baked into the system.

You see, much of the waste is due to Congress specifying rules that maximize the ability of their district to get contracts, rather than maximizing efficiency. And much is due to Congress wanting close and continuous control over the budget, as is their Constitutional duty.

Not worth $640 Except in small lots

Not worth $640
Except in small lots

For example, that toilet seat. The reason it cost so much is that Congressionally mandated accounting rules said that the entire cost of re-opening a closed production line had to be applied against the 54 covers that were ordered. Why didn’t they build more and amortize the cost over a longer production run? Because the Services are limited in how many out-year spare parts they can order.

Another reason for cost overruns is feature creep — government mandated additions and changes to the system. It takes a long time to develop a new weapons system, and technology changes. That being the case, the government will often come to the contractor and say “we want to add x capability”. The contractor isn’t being paid to say no, so they add the new capability and the new weight and charge the additional cost.

F-22 Raptor Heavy as you want it to be

F-22 Raptor
Heavy as you want it to be

When I was on the Air Staff in the early 1980’s, we were working on the specifications for the ATF, the Advanced Tactical Fighter that would become the F-22, with an IOC of 2005, a twenty year development cycle. The ATF had a takeoff weight of 23,000KG, while the F-22 has a takeoff weight of 29,000KG. Where did those extra six tons come from? Part was reality contaminating a beautiful design. Part of it was feature creep.

There was one incident in the last ten years or so (from memory, sorry), where a contractor was hauled into court for fleecing the government, and the court looked at the records and said in effect “the government knew and approved all of these price changes and is totally complicit in the cost overruns. You got no case.”

Am I saying that contractors don’t try to screw over the government and don’t pad their expense accounts at every opportunity? Heavens no. It goes on all the time. The Lockheed Corporation of toilet seat fame was infamous for it. There are whole battalions of administrators that should be in jail after Afghanistan and Iraq. But remember that a major weapons system like the F-22 will have a small army of DoD accountants and contract officers in the production facility.

The lesson is, don’t believe everything you read in the press. But you knew that already, right?

Green Thumb Up My Nose

April 10, 2016

Garden Report for 160411

Cool, followed by warm, followed by stinking hot. Outdoor thermometer (12ft up the North side of the house) said 80F. Thermometer in the Little White House said 100F+. Next week will show a return to normal, with highs in the mid-50’s and lows in the mid 30’s, with some rain.

Just the thing to keep your seedlings warm

Just the thing to keep your seedlings warm

Perfect weather for putting in new seedlings, except that last week’s cabbages may have been stunted by the heat. I put up the Second White House and installed all the peas I’d been seedlingizing. Then I laid down a batch of the wire shelving and direct seeded more peas, and some Asian long beans. To fill in the gaps, I sprinkled some of last year’s lettuce seeds around.

That filled out Section 2. I’ve got half of Section 1 to deal with yet. That’s scheduled for brassicae, but I’m not sure what kind or where. More wire shelving.

Shirobako news

April 9, 2016

Shirobako, my favorite anime, right after GaruPan, just won the Tokyo Anime Award Festival prize as the best Television Animation of the year, and, in a panel held as part of the program at the Festival, the various producers of Shirobako (including the CEO of P.A. Works) said, more or less, that there might be a sequel “If we could decide on a theme.”


One of the things that director Mizushima seems to be good at is starting you off sceptical and then pulling you in to the story. Those who watched the first episode of Girls und Panzer and thought it was just about fanservice, with tanks, were soon proven wrong. Likewise, it’s interesting to follow the consciousness-raising of an Anime News Network reviewer, going from a bemused first episode discussion of moe slice of life in the workplace to cheers and tears at the final episodes of Shirobako. I have high hopes for his current cast-of-thousands Mayoiga: Lost Village.

TL:DR — Anime I never finished (but mean to), Winter 2016

April 5, 2016

Usually, shows under the TL:DR header are stinkers. These are not. They are well done, (mostly) well received, and the first two probably would have worked as mainstream live action programs. So why didn’t I finish them? I don’t know. Anime Ennui? Being at a point in my intellectual development where I would rather watch Galko Chan? One day, I plan to watch these all the way through.

ERASED: Time travel murder mystery. Well done setup, despite the done-to-death hero found bending over victim with bloody knife plot device

Showa Genroku: Trying to make it as a vaudeville storyteller in the ’50’s. First episode was excellent. Demonstration of how a rakuga works was fascinating, as well as funny.

Grimgar: Being an adventurer in a fantasy game is all fun and, well, games, until you actually have to murder a poor solitary goblin in cold blood. Psychological study masquerading as a trapped in a video game anime.

Dimension W: The least satisfying and most traditional anime on this list. Former enhanced government warrior searches for unlicensed maguffins energy coils, dragging along an adopted gynoid, which is like an android only with gynaecological aspects. Good adventure, good characters, worth coming back to. Someday.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

April 4, 2016

Garden Report for 160404

Cold start to the week followed by warming into the upper 60’s. Forecast is for a …. cold start to the week followed by warming into the lower 70’s.

For the last couple of years I’ve been filling my containers with potting soil at the start of the season, then dumping the soil in a corner of the yard to lie fallow before being used on top of the KHG. So this week I’ve been moving barrows of soil from the corner to the KHG. Enough to add three inches or so to two sections. I figure between that and my four-section crop rotation I should be able to keep my soil pest free.

It hasn’t been the coldest of winters — thanks El Nino — but we did have two weeks with the highs below freezing at the end of December. I measured the soil temperature 12″ down in the garden at the start of every month, and it never dropped below 40F. So I guess I’ve got some good microbiome stuff going on down there.

Started a bunch of cabbages and peas indoors. Will move them outside Real Soon Now. Bought six cabbage seedlings and planted them out under my new mini-greenhouse. We’ll see if we can get a crop before everything bolts.

Not really a cloche

The Little GreenHouse (yes I know it’s white).

UPDATE: We had a nice windstorm today, gusts in the 30’s. But my weighting and clamping seems to have worked, and the LGH is still there

How to find my blog

April 1, 2016

Are you reading this blog now? Good. You’ve found it.
Ha, Ha, April Fool.

OK. On a more serious note, I thought I’d run through last month’s searches and see what terms people used to find this site.

So, in March, I had just over 1,000 hits, or about 35/day. Not quite half of those (14/day) were based on unknown queries, due to Google’s entirely reasonable policy of protecting user privacy. What about the rest? Well here they are, somewhat compacted ( / means two different queries. A number (n) means (n) identical queries):

We start off with the sane people, looking for organizational websites, or software help, or recipes, or gardening advice:
libre office charts / calendar

oatmeal or lettuce 2
ramen mix oat
chiveyo meaning??

maintaining a keyhole garden
gardens with chicken wire and hay

Have no idea what a chiveyo is, but they found my oatmeal with chiveyogurt recipe

Then we get folks looking for specific anime:

yuichi kanon 2002 3

girls und panzer mouse trap
saunders kei 3
maho nishizumi
leopard 2 anime
kokoro connect taichi e inaba
anime school body swap
aiura kiss
where does highschool of the dead leave off

I think I’m the only one who has ever written about Kanon 2002, and I don’t think you can do a query on GaruPan without getting a hit on my blog. As for the other searches, I don’t think anyone ever kissed in Aiura — it wasn’t that kind of anime. And the HOTD question is perfectly reasonable, and the answer is that Season 1 of the anime ends at Volume 4 Chapter 15 of the manga.

Getting ready to roar

Getting ready to roar

Then we get more named anime, but with less pure motives:
is it wrong to try to pick up girls in a dungeon nudity?
anime hot amani (I think Amani is a Naruto character)
food wars couples / boobs
strike the blood porn / [s]ex / pictures of girls exposing their underwear uncensored

Why all the interest in Strike the Blood I don’t know. Yes, there’s pantsus. No, they’re not interesting.

No, I'm not color-blind. Why do you ask?

No, I’m not color-blind. Why do you ask?

And finally, people just looking around for kinky stuff, the kind of searches one is embarrassed to admit find your blog.
anime girl blowing balloon
boy jump anime
mecha anime dark
world loli girls porn
girls in skirts stuck in holes
download magical girl bondage hentai
toothbrush incest
anime brother molesting small sister

Those last two are, of course, the famous tooth-brushing scene from Nisemonogatari. The rest, I just don’t know.

And that’s the Internet in a nutshell. Ten percent serious, 60% frivolous, 30% perverted. Glad I’m keeping up the standards.

Thanks for stopping by, and now you know how to find me again.

Yokohama Shopping Trip

March 31, 2016

From 1994 to 2006, Hitoshi Ashinano wrote 140 chapters of a manga titled Yokohama Kaidashi Kikō, or Yokohama Shopping Journal, known in the West as Yokohama Shopping Trip. It’s set in a Japan of the far future, when sea levels have risen to cover most of today’s cities and humanity has declined to a tiny remnant, quietly living amidst the ruins.

The water's gotten higher since last time

The water’s gotten higher since last time

Strange creatures have appeared — fungi with human faces; flying fish adapted to life out of the water; the Mikago, a human-female-seeming creature that lives in the coastal forest and appears only to children, and the Taapon, a never-landing stratospheric flyer. In addition, there are robots, what would have been called androids, before Star Wars perverted the label. They are constructed humanoids. Indistinguishable from humans, they eat and sleep and excrete and are immortal. Yokohama Shopping Trip is this new world as seen by one of the early model robots, named Alpha.

Alpha's world

Alpha’s world

The story is best described as a post-apocalyptic  slice-of-life. The pace is calm, slow, lethargic, even glacial. A whole chapter might be dedicated to making a cup of coffee, or driving to the seashore to watch the street lights light up along a highway that is now under water. Alpha runs a coffee shop out at the end of a disused road through an abandoned countryside.

At the end of a disused road.

At the end of a disused road.

Every now and then there’s a visitor. Every now and then she hops on her scooter, and drives into what’s left of Yokohama (the hillside suburbs, mostly), to buy more coffee beans.

Yokohama Shopping Tower

Yokohama Shopping Tower

Her friends include a couple of other robots, an old man who runs a nearby gas station, and his grandchildren. There’s no drama to speak of.

At one point, she decides to see more of the world, and spends a year walking around central Japan, rarely getting out of sight of Mt. Fuji. In the end, she returns to Café Alpha.

Café Alpha

Café Alpha

Wikipedia says there were two OVA series, released under the title Quiet Country Café. The disc labelling is obscure, and even the sellers are a little confused about what they have. I have an all region copy of the second OVA, with English subtitles (ISBN ending 5045). The copy I have is a single disc, two parts, each of four x eight-minute segments. That’s 64 minutes total, or about three regular anime episodes. I also have a Region 2 copy of Part 2 of that OVA, Japanese, no subtitles (ISBN ending 003997). Finally, I have a Region 2 copy of the first OVA, Japanese, no subtitles (ISBN ending 704054), also about 60 minutes. So I have one more disc than I need, and one of the discs I do need for a full set is Japanese only. Fortunately, it tracks the manga very closely, and so I can get the gist from there.

The sources selling them are not always clear if they are selling the Region 1 version, with English subtitles, or Region 2, with no subtitles, so be careful.

The anime is just as slow as the manga, and even more enigmatic. There’s no overlap between the two OVA’s, and because of the slice of life format there’s not much continuity within them. If you haven’t read the manga, you will miss out on half the references. Minor characters from the manga (Taapon, Misago, the pilot) make cameo appearances, seemingly for the sole purpose of satisfying the fans.

The Taapon gets a cameo

The Taapon gets a cameo flyby

Other elements are touched on, but not developed (in the second OVA, we don’t find out that Alpha is a robot until the second half, her friendship with Kokone is never expanded), or ignored (Who/where is her “owner”? What does ownership mean under these circumstances?).

The artwork gets a B. It looks like watercolor on textured paper. The colors are muted. The depth/distance effects are often based on multiple layers, like an elementary school paper art project. It would make a nice wallpaper, but it doesn’t make the countryside a character, the way Non Non Biyori does.

The music is mostly acoustic guitar

The music is mostly acoustic guitar

It’s been compared to Aria as a feel good anime, but I think it’s closer to Non Non Biyori. It’s very quiet, very rural, and, to the extent that there are characters, character-based.


Quiet friends

Changing up is hard to do

March 25, 2016

Switching to a new computer is always a chore. There’s mail and files and passwords and bookmarks and so forth, to bring over. If one is moving to a new OS, there’s new idiosyncrasies to find and work around, and old idiosyncrasies to bemoan the loss of. Fortunately, modern times have made things easier than in the past.

I’m moving from a six-year-old System76 Wildebeest to a System76 Wild Dog. Faster chip, more cores, bigger RAM, SSD drive for the OS. If you remember from my Kicking and Screaming series, I ended up dumping Ubuntu for SUSE Linux about two years ago. With this new purchase I’m back to the Big U, Ubuntu Linux, UL. Not totally happily (I still miss my slideshow screen saver), but there.

The changeover has taken most of Spring Break, but that’s ’cause I’m lazy, and don’t like late night debugging sessions any more.

FILES: Easy. Copy from the old to my NAS, then from the NAS to the new. Interesting hiccup — not all the directories brought their contents with them. No great problem. If I find one that is empty, that I want to not be empty, I go back to the ‘beest and recopy that one directory. As long as I keep the old machine stuck in a corner but attached to the network, I should be OK. Right now it’s sitting in the closet, plugged into the plugs that the box with the OS-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named was using. Don’t worry, I disinfected them first.

It does make me wonder how many of my backups are real and how many are empty folders with a note that says “IOU 10MB”.

eMAIL: Easier. All my stuff is in the cloud these days. My ISP automatically forwards to gMail, and most of my other mail is gMail.

BROWSERS: I already said how I’ve dropped Opera. I make up for the lack by opening a second Firefox window in the L/H monitor. Once I get my old motor responses under control it should work fine. UL doesn’t offer Chrome as a download, but it does offer Chromium, so po-tay-to / po-tah-to. Haven’t felt the need to try Vivaldi yet.

BOOKMARKS: A work in progress. Both FF and Opera let you export them as .html files, so I did that, and imported them into the new FF. Now, my only problem is that I have a thousand or so bookmarks what need organizing. That and the fact that the way FF organizes bookmarks is to me counter-intuitive.

RSS FEEDS: I really liked Opera’s RSS feature, part of Opera Mail (which I didn’t use). So now I’m not using Thunderbird as a mailer, so that I can use the T-Bird RSS feature. How’s that working out? Kirai Janai — I don’t dislike it. At least, not enough to go scrounging for alternatives. It is a little feature-thin, however. For example, both Opera and T-Bird show the topic folders down the side, and if you click on one it shows you the contents as a collection of subject lines. However(,) that’s all that T-Bird offers. Opera would let you click on the Feeds folder and see all the feeds in one list — great for cleaning up the previous nights take. Or you could click on a topic folder and it would unfold to show you all the feed sources — the Cooking folder would let you click on the Alton Brown feed and just see his messages, etc. One can approximate this by going into a folder and sorting on source. That works if it’s just one contributor (Hi, Alton!), but in the News folder, I find that the feed from The Week has half a dozen contributors. In addition, every now and then it seems to not want to update the feeds. It’s a little irritating, but one perseveres.

PASSWORDS: FF keeps its collection of website passwords in a json file buried down in its directory tree somewhere. Copy that over and one has all one’s passwords back.

SPEED DIAL/TAB GROUPS/RELOAD EVERY: Areas that Opera pioneered, of course. I have found plugins that more or less duplicate the functionalities. But duplicating functionalities is one thing, one then has to functionalitize them. In my case, I had to recreate my five tab groups and all the speed dial settings for each. What worked for me was to just open the old speed dial on the closet monitor and read off the URL for each panel while typing it in to the new one. Since I’d already brought over my passwords and things, FF knew right where to go.

Overall, I think I am happier with UL than I was with SUSE, and of course, I have a nice new silver box to play with. I’ll keep you informed.

Opera Browser: The Long Farewell 6

March 21, 2016

I think we’ve finally come to the end of the road. Earlier this week I took delivery on my new PC, a System76 “Wild Dog”, a big, silvery box with enough bells and whistles to keep me happy for a while. I am currently in the throes of moving all my stuff from the old PC, and for the first time this Century, I’m not going to install Opera on a new computer.

I have found it’s easy to move bookmarks from Opera and Firefox on one machine to Firefox on another — just export as .html and import into the new browser. I find it’s just as easy to move the RSS feeds from Opera. In this case, I am importing to Thunderbird — Firefox has an RSS feed functionality, but they want to implement each feed as a “live bookmark”, and don’t give you a way to delete individual notifications.

I am long since past using T-Bird as a mail client. Everything I do these days is in the cloud — it all gets forwarded to gMail. Mind you, I haven’t tested the POP server forwarding on the new machine, but it should work. What I’m using T-Bird for is an RSS feed reader, to replace the Opera functionality.

So far, there’s good news and bad news, and not so bad news. The good news is, the 355 links for the RSS feeds came across OK and are working fine. The bad news is, all the old RSS notifications have disappeared, all 13,413 of them. So I’m starting over on the new machine. The not-so-bad news is that I still have the old PC fully operational, and will keep it plugged in on my desk for a few months while things shake down.

I do have one on-going problem though. I’ve been used to running two or three browsers on my machine. Opera on the left hand monitor for the news, Firefox on the right for school stuff, Chrome in the background for other things. I suppose I could run Firefox in two different windows. Or see if Vivaldi is ready for prime time.

Or I could dig around and find my old copy of Mosaic.

Green Tumb Up My Nose: The 2016 Season Begins

March 20, 2016

Oh, I had so many plans, and here we are at the end of March with none of them in motion. My intent was to have lots of seedlings started already, have moved some to the portable greenhouse, and be well on my way to transplanting the cabbages and bok choy. Well, I’m batting 0.000.

To be fair, the weather hasn’t cooperated. A warmer El Nino year doesn’t mean warm. Regardless of the status of any seedlings, it’s still too cold, even in the greenhouse. Last week it was highs in the middle 40’s, with lows dancing along the frost line. This weekend will be warm and wet, and then we go back to highs near 50, and frost-dancing lows. Currently, the temperature one foot down in Section 1 is 45F.

I do have some lettuces started, but those might be better off if raised indoors. We shall see. Meanwhile:

1. clean up garden
2. start the cabbages and bok choy for an early May plant out
3. start the peas for a mid-may plant out
4. see how much room I have in the seedling corner for additional starts.
5. move the greenhouse up onto the deck

Given that the usual date for outdoor gardening around here is the first of June, this is probably as aggressive a schedule as one could hope for.

Anime Preview: Spring 2016

March 18, 2016

Unlike some 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 just the title and the cover art (thanks, Zana), and maybe a bit of the blurb. Consider yourself warned.

First, let’s say what’s normally not in here. Sequels to stuff I didn’t like before (Asterisk, Kyoukai no Rinne), most kids stuff (Futurecard Buddyfight), anything with Macross in the title, movies and OVA’s.

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

1. Kuromukuro Haruhi Suzumia and a buffed up Itsuki Koizumifight the ghosts of ancient mechas

1. Kuromukuro
A slimmed down Haruhi Suzumia, a buffed up Itsuki Koizumi, and some new girl fight the ghosts of ancient mechas

2. Mayoiga The Boys on the Bus, headed for the Hotel California Directed by Mizushima

2. Mayoiga
The Boys on the Bus
 Headed for the Hotel California
Directed by Tsutomu Mizushima

3. Shingeki no Bahamut Hentai anime girl brings her own tentacle

3. Shingeki no Bahamut
Demon girl brings her own tentacle


4. Flying Witch But it’s so much more comfortable to take the bus (Have you ever tried sitting on a broomstick for four hours?)

4. Flying Witch
Have you ever tried sitting on a broomstick for four hours? I’ll take the bus

MIGHT WATCH: The cover art is not too off-putting, so I might watch it.

Girls und Motorcycles

1. Bakuon
Girls und Motorcycles

2. Kiznaiver Our bond lets us share wounds to promote world peace.Did I mention it's my period this week?

2. Kiznaiver
Our bond lets us share wounds to promote world peace. Did I mention it’s my period this week?

3. Kumo Miko Didn't we do this one with a big fox last year?

3. Kumo Miko
Didn’t we do this one with a big fox last year?

4. Negote no Yome... Magical girl goes to high school, decides to start her own SOS club

4. Negote no Yome…
Magical girl goes to high school, decides to start her own SOS club

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

1. Pan de Peace Girls und Pan

1. Girls und Pan
Not all loan words are English

2. Gyakuten Saiban Phoenix Wright struggles to exist in a world without competent barbers

2. Gyakuten Saiban
Phoenix Wright struggles to exist in a world without competent barbers

3. Super Lovers If the FBI finds this in your cache you are so going to jail

3. Super Lovers
If the FBI finds this in your cache you are so going to jail

4. Kamiwaza Wanda Small boy learns to urinate action figures

4. Kamiwaza Wanda
Small boy learns to urinate action figures

…and 44 more that didn’t even make the “I won’t watch” cut.

Sweet PotatOats

March 17, 2016

Seeing as how today is St Patrick’s Day, I thought I’d add a bit of Irish color. And since my ancestors were Protestant Irish, the color will be orange.

Bought a bag of frozen sweet potato puffs last week. They’re like regular potato puffs — small cylinders of fried shredded potatoes — only, you know, sweet…and orange. Heat them up in the oven for fifteen or 20 minutes and they’re pretty tasty. A bit later, MJ tried frying them with sliced apples, to serve with pork chops. On the one hand, they were delicious. On the other hand, they broke up into tiny fragments, so it looked more like apple slices with some sort of crushed Cheetos topping. I wonder how that would work with oatmeal? Drop them in the broth, break them up as they heat, then add the oatmeal. Let’s try it!

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one cup of broth, four not-quite-golf-ball-sized commercial sweet potato puffs, salt. Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats. Add the potatoes when you start the broth heating and let them break up a little before adding the oatmeal.

Results: Most excellent. Looked like oatmeal with shredded carrot. The broth is a little strong, and kept intruding — it was made from a batch of lamb chop bones, plus some old steak bones we’d been hoarding in the freezer. Very good, but, as I said, strong. The sort of thing you want to dump lots of garlic into when you are sick. Would probably do better with chicken broth. I’m giving it 4 stars despite the broth.

Rating: *****

Steve Balmer shows us why we can’t trust Trump

March 11, 2016

The business of America is business. The sole function of a business is to maximize shareholder value. A good CEO will do whatever it takes for his company to make a profit.*

Fifteen years ago Microsoft CEO Steve Balmer said that Linux is a cancer. Last week, he said that he was glad to see MS releasing SQLServer for Linux, and shrugged off his earlier statements because the Linux threat was now “in the rearview mirror”. He also said: “The company made a ton of money by fighting that battle very well… It’s been incredibly important to the company’s revenue stream.” So, he lied. And he lied to make money, regardless of the impact on the sharing economy.

Not only did Microsoft continuously misrepresent Linux and the GPL in their quest for a revenue stream, they also funded bogus lawsuits, that drag on to this day.

What does that have to do with Trump? Just this. He and Balmer are cut from the same cloth, the kind of businessmen who will say whatever it takes to make the sale, close the deal. His position on a topic can change in a heartbeat. Neither one is the sort of a CEO who will let the truth stand in the way of a business strategy.

So, if you want America to look like Microsoft, vote for Trump, and leave the truth in the rearview mirror.

*Within legal reason, of course, and keeping in mind that the risk of going to jail is just one of the risks of doing business.

Curried Oatgurt

March 3, 2016

Being a big fan of curry, and still having a large amount of yogurt left from my previous oatgurt experiments, I decided to try curried oatgurt. I used chicken broth in both of these, because the earlier work had found that chicken worked better with yogurt than beef.

Experiment 1: This was a standard breakfast oatmeal dish, with a tablespoon of yogurt and another tablespoon of Golden Curry added.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one sloppy dinner tablespoon of plain yogurt, one heaping measuring tablespoon of Golden Curry roux, chunked up, one cup of broth, salt. Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats.

Results: Very good, in a creamy curry sort of way. Nothing to write to the world about…um…. It’s something I’ll try again, next time I’ve got an extra half gallon of yogurt I’m trying to use up.

Rating: *****

Experiment 2: This is the overnight approach. It’s exactly like Experiment 1, except I mixed the ingredients in a jar and left it on the counter overnight (about which technique I’ll have more to say in a latter oatwrite). In previous experiments I had included a teaspoon of sugar, but decided that might not work, given the curry.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one sloppy dinner tablespoon of plain yogurt, one heaping measuring tablespoon of Golden Curry roux, chunked up, one cup of broth, salt. Mix in a covered jar and leave on the kitchen counter overnight. Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats.

Results: It actually cooked to a muddy consistency and was sticking to the bottom of my non-stick pan in about six minutes, so I took it off. Excellent flavor. Pudding-with-oat-hulls consistency. Worth buying more yogurt for.

Rating: *****

More on the Future of the Auto-Car

March 2, 2016

The website Curbed has an interesting article on the impact of driverless cars on the shape of our cities (assuming that most driverless cars will be shared vehicles). Mostly, they talk about how fewer cars mean less need for parking and more room downtown for pedestrians and bicycles. That got me thinking about what a future commute might look like.

I’ve already talked about how networked cars will let us work on the go, but I didn’t talk about other ways that shared cars will impact our future commutes. If you want to see the future, go to Washington, D.C.

If you hang around the Pentagon parking lot at the end of the work day, you will see lots of busses pulling up and loading passengers for trips to the hinterlands. These aren’t Metro busses, because they go far beyond the metro boundaries. They are owned by small companies that haul people down to the park-and-ride lots scattered around the perimeter of Dale City and other bedroom communities. These represent the high end of shared commuting, and could easily be replaced by auto-busses.

But right next to them you will see another line, probably unique in the US. It’s a line of commuters waiting for a ride from strangers. You see, the Pentagon parking lots connect directly to the freeway, and specifically to the HOV-4 lanes. So people jump in their cars, drive to the commuter lines, and call out “Three for Dale City Safeway lot”, or “Two for Potomac Mills Mall”, and two or three people, who never met before, will jump in a car driven by a complete stranger, and head off on a thirty mile drive.

Now, jump ahead twenty years, and everywhere is the Pentagon parking lot. People have apps on their phones (or whatever has replaced “phones”) that will alert auto-cars to their current location and desired destination. The cars pick up people from the same city blocks who are headed for the same suburban blocks and take off. Unless there is an increase in networked working from a commuter car, that means the downtown areas will see periodic traffic jams, much like they do now. Maybe a little thinner, because of no single occupancy vehicles, but I suspect that the process of making multiple stops on public streets will keep the congestion high around closing time.

In DC, the HOV lanes fill up by 4:30, and spill over into the regular traffic. In future, they will fill up at about the same time, but perhaps more lanes will be dedicated to HOVs. Instead of heading to a single park-and-ride, the auto-cars will swing through the neighborhoods, dropping off commuters. And then what?

Well, the auto-cars could just park at some recharging point and wait for morning. After all they are already close to where they’ll need to be, come dawn. Or maybe they’ll head for some decentralized set of maintenance facilities, to prepare for the next day. In which case, we’ll see a mini rush hour at, say, six or seven PM, as they head for home, and then another mini rush hour at five or six AM as they preposition for the morning commute. And in the daytime? Well, a goodly number of them will be needed to replace the taxis that have now gone out of business. As for the rest, I guess we won’t be able to get rid of all that downtown parking after all.

Cauliflower Oatmeal

February 25, 2016

We had home-made cauliflower soup the other night. Package of frozen cauliflower flowers, roasted; three cups of beef broth (used up all my broth); onion and garlic to taste. Didn’t add any cream ’cause we were out (we’re always out), but I added some kudzu flour to thicken it, then stir-sticked it to death. Very good. Almost as good as the cauliflower risotto that we made almost exactly one year ago. Cheese helped. There were leftovers.

I was out of broth, so I used some ham-flavored broth paste. I figured that ham and cauliflower would go well together.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one cup of ham broth, two heaping dinner tablespoons of leftover cauliflower soup, call it a quarter cup; two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, no salt. Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats. Add the potatoes at the end.

Results: Not inedible. Sortof. Maybe too much ham paste in the broth. The flavors never blended. The ham tasted burned. Cheese helped.

Rating: *****

Shirobako, the Blu-Ray

February 21, 2016

Sentai Filmworks has released Season 1 of Shirobako on blu-ray and DVD. I am a big fan of the series (I’ve watched it four or five times now on Crunchyroll) so of course I pre-ordered it, and just now finished my sixth runthrough. It’s interesting to see the Sentai translations compared to Crunchyroll’s. At the start of Episode 1, for example, Taoru* describes the first episode of Exodus, the anime-within-an-anime as being a purification for the director, while the Sentai translation says it’s a clean slate. The reference being to the director’s previous disaster with an anime titled Jiggly Heaven, and the actual word, I suspect, having some sort of Buddhist association. On the other hand, Sentai translates  one character’s pronunciation of our protagonna’s name, Myamori, as Meow-mori, which it definitely is not (besides, in Japan, cats say nyan, not meow). Once nice addition is that Sentai provides translator’s notes, explaining some of the in-jokes (and there are many).

The story is, of course, great. It’s about adults, solving adult problems. It’s a primer on how anime is made. It’s directed by my favorite director, Tsutomu Mizushima (of Girls und Panzer fame). So what’s not to like? Well, the story is great, but the delivery leaves something to be desired.

First of all, it’s subtitled only. I don’t mind, but my wife (and other acquaintances who are not so much into anime) much prefer dubbed. Second, surprisingly, the video quality is not as good as the Chrunchyroll SD transmission. I paused both on my home television, and switched back and forth. The Blu-ray is noticeably fuzzier than the streamed version. It’s not so bad as to be unwatchable — in fact, it only detracts if you’ve seen the streamed version — but it really is inexcusable, particularly for a product that costs $60 for a one-disk program. Unfortunately, we are at the mercy of the marketing companies, and the only alternative is to not own a copy.

Season 2 is scheduled for release in May, 2016, and I’m going to pre-order that as well.

*Unlike many first names in this series (Aoi means Blue, for example), I can’t find a meaning for Taoru, but Taoru-san is how restaurateurs refer to cockroaches when the customers are listening.

Dropping my shorts

February 19, 2016

I have nothing against short-form anime, as such — defining short-form as say 10min or less in duration, including OP and ED. One doesn’t expect much depth, or things like character development. They are easy to watch, because they don’t take much time, so you don’t feel your life is slipping away. The interesting thing about the format is that they are extremely hard to get right. Robert Heinlein once said that the hardest story he ever wrote was for use as advertising copy in a technical magazine, and it had to fit in one page-long 2″ column. Good ones are very very good — Wakakozake, and Aiura, and … nothing else…come to mind. Bad ones range from meh to terrible. I just dropped two of them:


Sekko Boys. A one-joke anime that ran out of steam.

Sekko Boys. A one-joke anime that ran out of steam.


J.K. Meshi. 3/4 terrible jokes. 1/4 terrible food.

J.K. Meshi. 3/4 terrible jokes.
1/4 terrible food.

Buttercream Oats

February 18, 2016

MJ brought home half a sheet cake the other day, remnants of a going away party. It was moderately fancy, as these things go: two slabs of white cake with pudding in the middle and a black and white buttercream frosting. I’m not fond of these things myself. Too, too sweet, and not enough chocolate chips. But suppose one were to repurpose them. Suppose one were to consider them an ingredient in oatmeal? (You knew that was coming, right? This isn’t a blog where you read “suppose one were to use this to feed the poor“).

I used water instead of broth (sheet cake in beef broth is a topic for another day), and added a standard-sized slab of the cake and icing, about what you’d get on a paper plate at a party with not too many attendees. Then, just for fun, I added a half of a large black buttercream flower.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one cup of water, a 1x2x4 slice of sheet cake with buttercream frosting, additional frosting to taste, salt. Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats. Add the sheet cake close to the end.

Results: Tasted a lot like a standard sweet bowl of oatmeal. It was a little runny, probably because the buttercream melted down, as did the pudding. Were I to do it again I’d cut back to 3/4cup of water. The ‘black’ frosting turned a lovely Seahawks Blue, so that it looked like I was eating a bowl of blue soup. This one’s a keeper. I might start attending parties again.

Rating: *****

Shirobako Names

February 14, 2016

In the English-speaking West, the practice of giving meaningful first names has mostly died out. We generally don’t name kids Temperence or Praise-God any more (although Buffy the Vampire Slayer had Faith, Harmony, and Willow — with a brief appearance by Aphrodesia). In Japan, it is still the case that first names can be meaningful words. Here’s a small set drawn from the main characters in Shirobako. The names are in Japanese order, last name first:

Miyamori Aoi — Blue
Sakaki Shizuka — Peaceful
Tōdō Misa — Beautiful-sand
Imai Midori — Green
Takanashi Tarō — No meaning by itself, but ‘Tarō-san‘ is a code word restaurants use for cockroaches
Andō Tsubaki — Camillia
Iguchi Yumi — Helpful-still (yes, it’s the word for dream, but the kanji are different)
Satou Sara — Sal tree, important tree in both Hindu and Buddhist religions
Hiraoka Daisuke — Big-help (love is daisuki)

Opera Browser: The Long Farewell 5

February 11, 2016

Opera continues to recede into irrelevance. I’m finding my Linux version incompatible with more and more websites (the latest being Penny Arcade), to the point where I’ve built a new folder in Firefox for links that don’t work in Opera. The only reason I still use it is that it has an excellent RSS feed reader — better than Firefox, better than any of the standalone programs I’ve tried.

The latest in the Operatic saga is an offer from a Chinese consortium, including the odious antivirus firm Qihoo, to buy it for 50% more than it’s worth. It’s not clear if they want it for the technology, for their rolodex, or for the espionage possibilities.

Olive Oats

February 4, 2016

Two years ago, I had a a horrible, terrible, no good at all, experience trying Kalimata olives in my oatmeal. This time I’m trying sliced black olives, the kind you find on a certain style of tacos, or salad, or celery with cream cheese. We had opened a can and had used most of them on tacos, and salad, and celery with cream cheese, but there was about a quarter cup of olive dregs left, along with a half cup of the olive water. It had been long enough ago that the trauma had faded, so I tried again.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, quarter cup of sliced black olives and half a cup of water from the can (probably should use a third of a cup and adjust the broth), half a cup of broth, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, no salt. Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats. Add the potatoes at the end. Fat pinch of shredded cheese.

Results: Pretty good. A little salty. Olive flavor came thrugh nicely. Were I to do it again I think I’d put the olives in at the last moment. Cheese helped.

Rating: *****

Roast Beef Oats

January 28, 2016

We don’t often buy prepared meats, but the other day, MJ brought home a packet of roast beef slices to make sandwiches with. The sandwich project fell through for some reason, and we were left with an un-used pack of sliced roast beef. They sat around in the fridge for a while, until she was cooking up a slab of bacon and decided to cut them up and fry them in the pan grease. They fried up nice and black and hard, shrunk down to about the size of a cooked slice of bacon, a little bit like jerky. The flavor was excellent, a lot like those overdone bits at the end of a roast that everyone fights over. We’ll probably buy another pack just to try it again.

That’s all well and good, you say, but how do they taste in oatmeal?


Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one cup of broth, three or four slices of packaged roast beef, fried to a crisp, 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.

Results: Meh. Not bad, but not great. Oatmeal with chunks of meat in it, and the cooking process had softened the crisp and the flavor so that eating it was no longer a unique experience.


Rating: *****

TSA can’t do math. Either

January 26, 2016

There’s a couple of TSA reports over the last year that nobody seems to have linked up, perhaps because statisticians have better things to do than read TSA reports.

Last June, the TSA IG released a report that said that TSA inspectors at airports failed to find 95% of the contraband items (guns, explosives) used to test the system. In November, reports from Congress indicated there’d been no improvement. Perhaps in an effort to get 2016 off on a better PR footing, this month, TSA reported that their seizures of firearms was up 20%, to 2,653 and that 83% of them were loaded. Let’s do some math.

We have 2,653 weapons found. Some 83%, or 2200 were loaded. Now, we know that TSA regularly misses 95% of the weapons the IG tries to smuggle on, which implies that those 2200 loaded firearms represented 5% of the ones that were actually carried on board.

1. Question for the class. How many loaded firearms successfully boarded aircraft in 2015?


.05 * X = 2200 = loaded guns found
X = 2200/.05 = 44000 = total guns smuggled
44000 – 2200 = 41800 = guns successfully smuggled

So, 41,800 loaded guns were successfully smuggled onto airliners in the US in 2015. That’s just over one gun every fifteen minutes.

2. Take home question for the class. Of those 41,800 loaded weapons on airplanes, how many were used in hijacking attempts?

3. Critical thinking question: What does this tell you about the real threat?

Memories of my youth: President’s Day Snowstorm of 1979

January 23, 2016

Seeing Washington, DC buried in two feet of snow reminds me of my time in the National Military Intelligence Center (NMIC), deep, as they say,* in the bowels of the Pentagon. The NMIC sits back to back with the National Military Command Center, and, like the NMCC, is manned 24/7/365 with a staff of specialists in all regions of the world. I was a Soviet Command and Control analyst at the time, and regularly pulled shifts there.

The President’s Day Snowstorm of 1979, unlike this week’s pummeling, came as a surprise to all concerned. The storm was supposed to miss DC. I was on the afternoon shift — 2PM to 10PM. Most of us junior officers could only afford housing well outside the Beltway, and there were enough of us living in the Dale City area (45miles south of the Pentagon) that it was possible to form a carpool of NMIC shift workers.

It was a dark and stormy night when the four of us made our way to the small parking lot next to the power plant. If we’d been out in North Parking we’d still be looking for the car. We were probably the last carpool down I-95 that night, and the next morning there was 18″ of snow on my drive, in the street, at intersection at the top of the hill… I called in and said I wasn’t going to make it. Nobody else made it, either.

It was three days before we were able to get a regular shift set up again in the NMIC. During that time, the analysts slept on the floor and emptied out the vending machines all over the building. One could get to the Metro without leaving the building, but there wasn’t anywhere to go, and nothing was open. They put together a scratch relief team from those who lived close enough to the Metro to walk to a station, but mostly it was the unshaven, sleep-deprived half-starved survivors of that same night shift who met us days later.

So, I didn’t have to go through it, but it was a possibility that all of us faced, and it’s one of the things that doesn’t get mentioned very much when they talk about a heavy snowfall in DC closing the government. It does. Just not all of it.

*In fact, it wasn’t all that deep. If you walked in the entrance on the NE face, and past the guard desk where they shot the intruder in 1987, and down some corridors, you’d come to a set of unmarked doors that were the emergency exit from the watch center. The actual offices where the day ladies worked were on the floors below.

Oatmeal And Wilted Lettuce

January 21, 2016

Remember your elementary school cafeteria, where they’d feed you yesterday’s lettuce soaked in boiling vinegar and sugar, with a topping of nice healthy bacon? Suppose you could recapture those memories at breakfast time, so they come back to you all day long? We had some shredded lettuce that MJ bought for taco making, and you know how fast shredded lettuce goes off, so I helped her use up the leftovers, just like the schooldays.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one cup of broth, half a cup of lettuce, chopped and loosely loaded, two tablespoons of vinegar, two packets of sweetener (trying to stay healthy here), and three strips of crisp bacon, chopped up, salt. Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats. Add the lettuce and the bacon for the last minute. You don’t want it to go all soggy.

Results: Surprisingly good. You’ll have to play with the ingredients to get it to taste the way you like, but it gave a nice, tart start to the day.

Rating: *****

TL:DR — The Muv-Luvs

January 15, 2016

Once upon a time, almost fifteen years ago, there was an adult visual novel called Muv-Luv (マブラヴ, although in one place it’s reported as 真愛, or True Love)* Originally, it came out in three vaguely related parts. Muv-Luv Extra is a straight highschool harem VN. Muv-Luv Unlimited has the protagonist wake up in an alternate world where Earth has been invaded by aliens. Muv-Luv Alternative is Muv-Luv Unlimited with the protagonist sent back in time to save the Earth. Got that? Good. Now ignore it.

We're the girls who play high-school sports

We’re the girls who play high-school sports

We're the girls who fight

We’re the girls who fight

The franchise spun off a bunch of manga, which inspired a couple of anime — Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse, and this year’s prequel, Muv-Luv Schwarzes Marken (Black Mark, as in blotted your copybook). I started watching M-L:TE because I read the description of M-L:SM which said it was set in the GDR in 1983, and that sounded interesting. Boy, was I wrong.

We're the girls who defend the Earth

We’re the girls who defend Asia

We're the girls who defend the GDR

We’re the girls who defend the GDR

Both are straightforward mecha vs alien anime. In both, the aliens — that look like mecha/monster hybrids — cover the earth from horizon to horizon and are pretty much immune to all weapons except those on the mechas.

<rant>And why doesn’t anyone think to retrofit existing systems with mecha-grade weapons? If armor works on a mecha, it can be bolted onto a tank. And if a mecha can carry a blast-o-matic beam rifle, why can’t one or two of those be stuck on a tank? Or a fighter jet? And another thing. Why aren’t we just using nukes on the screaming hordes of godless aliens? It’s not like there’s anything left once they’ve overrun a patch of ground. And it’s not just these shows. Most mecha combat anime have the same problems.</rant>

The big difference between the two anime here is that M-L:TE is trying to be a romance between the Japanese protagonna, and the Japanese-American assigned to her unit, while M-L:SM is a mystery about a girl who looks like someone’s little sister. Oh, yeah, the Stasi are every bit as much a threat to our protags as the aliens are. In any event, there’s lots of shouting and angst and going off the deep end half cocked. It confirmed why I don’t like these shows.

I watched through seven eps of M-L:TE while waiting, and then one of M-L:SM, when suddenly I realized that I needed to prep for my colonoscopy.
*The name is a little confusing. マブラヴ transliterates as maburavu, which could be mab love, whatever mab is. 真愛 translates as true love, which is pronounced ma ai. I should note that the original author is notoriously bad at English.

Wakakozake Season 2, The Live Action Drama

January 12, 2016

I loved Wakakozake, the anime short about an office lady and her after-office love affair with food and drink. Two minutes was just the right amount of time to introduce us to the context, the food and drink, and the pshhhhuu!

Season 1

Season 1

In “Season 2” it’s now ten times as long, and it’s live action.* How do they fill the extra minutes? Well, they do two cafe visits instead of one, they show the details of how the food is made, and they are visiting actual cafes, ones that a tourist could hope to find. Outside the food arena, they felt they needed to bump up the “drama” aspects, so we see more of Wakako’s travails at work, and some chef/apprentice interactions, as well as some footage of her walking to wherever she’s going.

Season 2

Season 2

It’s…not bad…but I don’t think I’d continue to watch it if I hadn’t seen Season 1 first. The premise really isn’t strong enough to hold up a 20min show, and pshhhhuu! doesn’t work as well when it’s a real person saying it. On the other hand, one can learn about Japanese cafe etiquette, and there’s some nice short cooking hints on how to dismember a mackerel and respectfully hash a daikon, and who doesn’t need to be reminded how to do that now and then?
*The manga came first, in 2011. Then Season 1 of the live drama, in January, 2015. The anime ran starting in July of 2015, so the two are essentially separate.

TL:DR — Anime I never finished, Winter 2016

January 9, 2016

One week in, and already I’m trimming the fatuous. Well, after watching Shirobako, I have vowed never to accuse anyone of producing crappy anime again. Everyone, I’m convinced, produces the best possible product they can, within the constraints of time and budget and staff and source material. What I will say is that many studios don’t produce anime that holds my interest, possibly because, as a fat, old, Euro male, I’m not the target demographic. So, I’m trimming the ones that don’t inspire me on first look, and will likely not get a second one.

Active Raid: Jolly band of misfits operate experimental mecha to fight crime. They are called the Special Public Security Fifth Division Third Mobile Assault Unit Eight. So, 3+5+8 = 16 = 4+4+4+4, which in Japanese maps to Die Die Die Die.

We could have done a second season of Twin Tail, but no...

We could have done a second season of Twin Tail, but no…

Divine Gate: Superhuman humans using magical tools called Drivers fight over the Gate to the Worlds Beyond. Super-powerful boy-girl team trains at special school for super people. Emotionally-scarred super-loner with depressing past and even super-er powers gets added to their team. Super.

Too bad it's Divine Gate, and not Divinegate

Too bad it’s Divine Gate, and not Divinegate

Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju: Ex-con decides on a new career as a radio-hall storyteller, just as television becomes popular. Enters into a menage-a-trios with a woman who is also an aspiring ragkugoka, and her dead father.

Oh, I thought you said Joshi Raku

Oh, I thought you said Joshi Raku

Luck and Logic: Superhuman humans using magical tools called Logics fight monsters that come through gates from the Worlds Beyond and take possession of non-super-humans. Non-super humans. Non super…nevermind. Super-powerful boy-girl team trains at special school for super people. Jolly band of super-powerful magical girls cooperate to take down monsters. There’s a little sister. Super.

We are not magical girls. Don't call us magical girls

We are not magical girls. Don’t call us magical girls

BBK/BRNK: Super-loner with depressing past, depressed at having misplaced his little sister, assisted by jolly band of misfits with super-powers based on magical tools called Bubuki (BBK), plans to restart antique super-mecha called Buranki (BRNK) to fight super-oppressive government. Super.

...or is it a Buranki? One hangs down from the roof of the cave, right?

…or is it a Buranki? I can never remember which is which. One hangs down, right?

OilyOats – Artichoke Edition

January 7, 2016

In the mad whirl of party that is our end-of-year tradition, MJ made some dips to take. One such included a jar of artichoke hearts in oil. The other was a salmon-kale mix. They ate all of the artichoke dip, and sent the salmon/kale mix back.  Of course the artichoke oil* was left over, and of course I had to try it in my oatmeal.

There were two experiments. One was to just add two tablespoons of artichoke oil (uninspired, just a slight taste of artichoke); the other involved more oil and more cooking. For the second one, I used all of the remaining oil, about three tablespoonsworth, along with the usual cup or so of (rich chicken) broth. At the end of the ten minutes of normal cooking, and after I added the potato flakes, I turned the heat up to high and boiled off most of the rest of the broth. To finish it off, I let it sit on high, unstirred, for 30 seconds.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one cup of broth, three tablespoonsworth artichoke oil, 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, and fry for a minute or so after the potatoes have absorbed the broth..

Results: Nothing burned, but there was lots of oatfrags stuck to the bottom of my non-stick pot. The resulting oatmeal was very good. Nutty tasting. Just a hint of artichoke. This is a keeper that I’ll probably be eating every January.

Rating: *****


* It’s not really artichoke oil, it’s artichoke-infused sunflower oil: Mezzetta Grilled Artichokes in sunflower oil, to be exact.

Perihelion 2016

January 2, 2016

As close as we get to the Sun. Today at 5:49 PST. Right now! Quick, run out and look before you miss it!

My Personal Best of 2015

January 2, 2016

It sometimes seems like everyone on the Internet spent the last week of 2015 writing Best Of lists. I don’t have anything to add to those lists, so I thought I’d write about the best of me. According to my official WordPress report, I published 138 posts this year, and garnered almost 14,000 views, a seventy percent improvement on last year’s total. To celebrate, I thought I’d provide my own personal 10 Best List. That is, the 10 best blog entries I made — sez me. Grouped by category, in more or less chronological order.

Public Affairs
1. Abolish TSA
I got a quick start on the new year by pointing out that TSA’s own numbers indicate that it is incapable of performing its primary mission, and that it should be abolished. Based on Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy, this won’t happen.

2. Systems Science and the F-35
This is one of my recurring efforts to use the concepts of Systems Science to inform a discussion of public policy.

3. SpaceX
A color-commentary on the loss of the SpaceX Falcon 9 last June

4. WWII 70th Anniversary Retrospective
As someone who considers themselves an I&W professional (retired), I have always been fascinated by the foundations of WWII, particularly the Pacific War. This is the first of a series on the 70th Anniversary of the start.

5. Memories of my youth
The first entry in my Memories series, about a story I heard from a doctor when I was about ten years old.

6. Cataracts
I had them. They’re gone. The start of a discussion of my personal experience of the experience.

7. Green thumb lessons learned
I keep a garden. In the summer I write more or less weekly about how it’s doing. This entry is worthwhile because it’s an example of one way to learn from notes taken over the course of the growing year.

8. Pumpkin Oats
I like to write about cooking, but I don’t cook a lot (having an old-fashioned sort of wife), and most of the dinners I do cook are one-dish things, eaten standing up over the sink. However, I do cook breakfast daily, and for reasons of health that breakfast is always oatmeal. Herewith, one of my many attempts to make plain old oatmeal, un-plain and new again.

9. Twelve days of Anime: GaruPan and Shirobako
I’m an unabashed anime fan, although not at the level of an otaku — more of an oataku (that’s a cooking joke). This is not an ani-blog, but I do write pretty regularly. This year I decided to accept the challenge to write one item on anime every day for Advent through Christmas. This link is to the last, and I think best, article in the series.

10. The Wind Rises.
Impressions of Miyazaki’s anime about the inventor of the Japanese Zero fighter. It’s not really a biopic.

So that’s it. 365 days of egoboo, 138 posts, 10 best, 1 list. Like the Lessons Learned gardening post, this will give me something to ponder when I decide what topics to address in 2016.

Anime for the new year: Get in the robot, Shinji!!

January 1, 2016

NGE-EVA01_in_TokyoThe Fall and Winter anime seasons that we are transitioning between right now mark the 20th anniversary of the TV debut of Neon Genesis Evangelion. Our Internet was out over the Christmas break — snow broke the DSL phone line* — so I hauled out the DVDs and did a marathon rewatch. Actually, it was mostly an original watch. I had viewed the first few episodes some years ago, but dropped it because of excessive angst. I also watched the first of the theatrical reboots, Evangelion II.5, You Can(Not) Be Serious, and didn’t bother to buy the second one. Now I am older, with more intestinal fortitude. Also, the snow is hip deep on a tall giraffe, and there’s nothing else to do. Well, cable is still working, so I guess I could have watched the Harry Potter Möbius reruns. But I didn’t.

The 1995 ** series is important in the history of anime because it changed the way we looked at giant robots, red-headed tsuntsuns, and damaged girls with blue hair. There’s been a whole generation of comment between then and now, and there’s nothing new I can add. So I will content myself with recording my impressions.

Just a flesh wound. I've had worse.

Just a flesh wound. I’ve had worse.

Starting with characters, we learn in the first five minutes of Episode 1 that Shinji is an insecure whiner with daddy issues. And after ten hours of alternating robot fights and whining, we get two episodes of pop-psychology designed to drive home the fact that Shinji is an insecure whiner with daddy issues. To top it off, the final four episodes show us that it’s not just him. Evidently, a job skills requirement to work at NERV, particularly as an EVA-insert is that you have parental abandonment issues and deep feelings of insecurity. None of the people involved could have passed the clearance requirements to be groundskeepers at NSA.

From a visual standpoint, even after twenty years, the series holds up surprisingly well. The future technology (2015!) still looks OK** and the robot fights were good (while Gainax had the budget to produce them). The artwork gets a B by today’s standards, which is pretty good for a series that’s older than most people watching it. The animation budget obviously ran out towards the end, and we were presented with minute after minute of stills-with-voiceovers. In one scene, in Episode 22, they evidently ran out of money even for seiyus, so Asuka and Rei stood ignoring each other in an elevator, silent and unmoving in a single still frame, for a timed 51 seconds — an eternity in a 25 minute anime.

I don't know, what do you want to talk about?

I don’t know, what do you want to talk about?

The ending was disappointing. Yeah, Shinji saves the world by grabbing the boy he loves in his EVA-fist and thumb-popping his head off like it was a matchstick, but that was episode 24, and we had two more that were presumably intended to be about the triumphal Human Instrumentality Project and the Third Impact, but instead sputtered out in a pop-psych post-amble. Not only did HIP-3i not happen in the anime, it didn’t happen in real life, either.

NGE should be required watching for anyone who complains about Western films and books appropriating other countries’ culture and symbology. The whole pseudo-mystical reasoning behind the existence of the Angels and the EVAs and the NERV organization and the Human Instrumentality Project is one giant raid that runs through Western religious tropes, looting and pillaging. From the Prophecies of the Dead Sea Scrolls to the Martini Fork of Longinius, director Anno picked whatever sounded good to him and stuck it in. Not that I’m complaining, mind you — sauce for the goose, and all — it’s more feeling embarrassed for him. I guess that’s much the way members of non-Western cultures feel when watching a Swedish actor playing a Chinese detective in a film story by an American from Ohio, or watching the fake kung fu in old David Carradine TV reruns, or listening to Yoda’s fake Asian sentence structure. To top it all off, the sound track is all Western classical music, mostly Beethoven.

To Conclude: I enjoyed the robot fights. I suffered through the mysticism. I gritted my teeth through the angst. But the part that made me smile was five minutes of the last episode, the ones that showed Shinji what an alternative world could be like, with childhood friend Asuka, new transfer student Rei, and sensei Misato. I’d watch a full season of that any day.

Late on the first day of class!

Late on the first day of class!

*Obviously, it is working again, but it went out on Christmas Eve morning, and the phone company doesn’t work on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Saturday, or Sunday.

** Also the year that the anime movies Whisper of the Heart and Ghost in the Shell came out.

***Except for the mobile phones and the cassette tapes

Hawaiian Oatmeal

December 31, 2015

We had duck for Christmas. Our traditional Christmas dinner is goose, but those are going for $75 a bird these days. More, I think, than an equivalent amount of prime rib.

MJ did it with a Hawaiian style sauce, essentially teriyaki with pineapple and orange juice, thickened with cornstarch and with onions and mushrooms to give it some bulk. We poured it over the duck, and over the sweet-potato/winter-squash mash. Of course, there were leftovers.

I tried it two ways. First using about a quarter cup of the sauce along with three-quarters of a cup of duck broth. The second time, I used a cup of duck broth and just reheated the last quarter cup of sauce and poured it over the oatmeal in the bowl.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one cup of duck broth, one quarter cup of teriyaki-pineapple sauce, 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.

Results: It was very good, and will be in the lineup whenever fine duck is served, or whenever we get a hankering for teriyaki-pineapple sauce. Of the two methods, I preferred the second one. The first wanted too much of itself.

Rating: *****

Twelve Days of Anime 12: GaruPan and Shirobako

December 25, 2015

Girls und Panzer
was arguably the best anime of 2012. It was an anime-original that was well-written, respected the topic, and devoted a lot of effort to obscure details instead of fanservice.* Unfortunately, it was beset by production problems that forced it to issue two “recap” episodes. True to form, director Mizushima dot-numbered them and extended the run time of the series, instead of trying to pass them off as real episodes. For the second recap, Episode 11.5, they actually had to stick in a three-month hiatus, which drove the ending from December of 2012 to March of 2013 (and incidentally made it impossible for it to gain the recognition it deserved, because it missed the deadlines for 2012 awards, and people couldn’t decide if they should list it as a 2012 or 2013 production). What was bad for the anime was good for the fans, because the director’s decision to honor quality over schedule ended up delivering an outstanding product.


Part of the production problems may have been due to the failings of the studio. Studio Actas is evidently a small operation (they don’t even have a Wikipedia page), that had never before been lead on any big project. Their ANN Encyclopedia entry shows them acting mostly as an outsourcing studio, doing “In-Between Animation”, and “Production Assistance” and the like, admittedly on a long list of projects. Another part may have been a personal failing on the part of one individual. This was hinted at by some of the online discussion.

Skip ahead a year, and director Mizushima Tsutomu is working on a new anime original at a different studio: Shirobako, at P.A. Works. P.A. Works appears to be a much stronger studio than Actas. They are credited with such hits as Angel Beats!, Hanasaku Iroha, Another, and Eccentric Family. Their contribution to Shirobako was “2nd Key Animation, 3DCGI, Animation Production, In-Between Animation, Key Animation (ep 1-5, 7-8, 17, 19, 21-24), Production”. What links the two anime is that Shirobako is about the process of producing an anime, and the trials and tribulations involved, and GaruPan is a good example of what happens when production goes wrong. Evidently, two of the things that can seriously damage a production schedule are failure of the Production Assistants to do their job, and failure of the out-sourcing studios to deliver on time.

In Shirobako, the problems start out in Episode 1, when the obnoxious, loud-mouthed, Production Assistant Takanashi Tarō** admits that key frames for an upcoming episode are not finished yet, and that he has no idea when they will be.

...and there's no plan for them ever being finished!

…and there’s no plan for them ever being finished!

One can just imagine Mizushima rubbing his hands with glee at the thought that everyone in the industry will know just who “Taro” is, and how badly he screwed up. And the white-sidewalls half-Mohawk haircut is just a courtesy extra.

In the second cour of Shirobako, Mizushima takes on non-performing outsource studios, when the appropriately named Studio Taitanic (a stand-in for Actas?) fails to come through.

It's 11AM and why are you asleep on the floor?

It’s 11AM and why are you asleep on the floor?

Their work is shoddy, they are late on the schedule, and their episode director suddenly quit. Fortunately, Musashino Animation is able to place a key worker on location with them. All is well with Shirobako, not so much with Garupan.

Shirobako has been praised as an accurate, if rose-tinted, look at the anime industry. One reason for the accuracy is that the director had just lived through a gauntlet of industry pitfalls.***


*Two examples from episode 2: the school Headmaster’s car, which gets crushed by a tank, is a million-dollar Ferrari F-40. This is obvious to all Ferrari aficionados, but goes unremarked in the anime. Similarly, if you read Erwin Rommel’s book The Rommel Papers, his rapid advance across France at the start of WWII was almost halted because a Panzer IV got stuck on a bridge. In the girl’s first exercise, their Panzer IV gets stuck on a bridge. Nobody mentions Rommel.

** Tarō-san is a code phrase that restaurant workers use to reference cockroaches when the customers are listening

***Gauntlet of pitfalls. Yes, I know. Sad, innit?

Twelve Days of Anime 11: Fall Season Postview

December 24, 2015

Back in September I posted a totally subjective look at what shows I was considering for the Fall, 2015 season. Out of the eight I was planning on watching, with some level of confidence, three turned out to be movies (and not offered on either Crunchyroll or Funimation), two I dropped, either because of quality or boredom, and three I watched all the way through. What were the three?

Subete ga F ni Naru – Perfect Insider
A very European Art Film experience, with unlikable protagonists, stilted conversations, and inexplicable motivations. I probably won’t buy the DVD, but I may well marathon it next summer.

Beautiful Bones – AKA Bones-the Anime.
Contrived relationships and simplistic mysteries, so, not very much different from standard network TV. Last program was an unabashed setup for an as-yet second season. I’ll rewatch it sometime.

Combined with Monogatari Second Season (which was actually about the third season’s worth of programming), this makes a fitting end to the series. All we need now is to have a season that shows how all this got its start.

Of the ten I swore I’d never watch, I actually tried watching six of them. Five confirmed my good taste. The other one was good enough in a better than marathoning Strike Witches way that I stuck with it.

So far, it’s a period costume harem anime, with a good-natured, laid-back hero and a bevy of nekko-mimi females to be entranced by him. It’s a two cour show, and this first season just laid the foundation. Pleasant enough, but not outstanding.

So that was it. Four shows. Two updated at midweek, two on the weekend. An exceedingly thin season, and hardly enough to keep me occupied. I filled in the time by watching Serial Experiments Lian

Twelve Days of Anime 10: Supporting Characters

December 23, 2015

A while back, I did an item on secondary characters, what Hollywood calls supporting actors — people like Walter Brennan, Thomas Mitchell, and of course, John Malkovich — identifying those I thought deserved a spin-off anime of their own. For this tenth of my twelve days I thought I’d bring the list up to date, with one entry from each year since I wrote the original, in 2012. Of course, there are some constraints. It had to be a show I watched. It had to be a character who obviously had a backstory, not told in the original anime, and it had to be a character who could stand on their own.

Beyond the Boundary 2013

Beyond the Boundary

Ayaka Shindō: she’s a kitsone yomu who runs a photo shop as cover for her yomu-stone evaluation business. How did she get a job working for the anti-yomu Spirit League? What does she do when she’s not buying yomu-stones? Does she really do gravure-idol photoshoots on the side?

Kawai Complex 2014

Kawai Complex

Nishikino Mayumi: a 29-year old office lady who has terrible luck with men, and who tends to get drunk every time she breaks up with her current boyfriend. What’s life like in a standard Japanese office? Where does she find all these losers?

Overlord 2015


Sebas Tian: the dragonoid butler and leader of the Pleiades Combat Maids in this trapped-in-a-MMORPG anime. What’s his relationship to all the other butlers named Sebastian in the BL literature? How does he look with his shirt off? What exactly do he and the Pleiades get up to when Heinz Own Goal is out of the castle?


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