Anime Worth Watching — Summer 2016

September 24, 2016

Amanchu
Futaba is a shy young girl who comes to a small coastal town from the big city, meets an outgoing classmate and a caring teacher, and learns to come out of her shell by learning to SCUBA dive. A quiet, feel-good, sort of an anime. Like Flying Witch, but with a little more personal drama. If you liked Aria, you will like this one — it has the same director, the cats look the same (i.e. totally un-catlich), and the lead cat is even named Aria.

Futaba and Friend, and cat

Futaba and Friend, and cat

The Ancient Magus’ Bride OVA

First of three 20-minute episodes. Prequel to the manga, which might mean we’re getting a full season anime. Chise is a young girl from an uncaring home who ends up living with a sorcerer, who just happens to have an eland’s skull for a head. Visually very pretty, with interesting magic and magical creatures. Their household is Chise, the Magus, Ruth (a black Flat Coated Retriever who eats at the table, just like humans), and a bonnet-wearing maid who has remarkable skills in tomato stacking.

The girl, Ruth, the maid, the Mage

Chise, Ruth, the Maid, the Mage

Opening scene looks like a foggy Victorian London, but in a later shot you can see The Eye.

ancientmaguslondon02

I liked the manga enough to buy the first volume when it came out. There’s two more 20-minute episodes in the OVA series, and then we’ll see.

So, there were a couple of good anime this summer, but Re:Zero was not one of them (some people liked it). I’ve mentioned it before, and I only mention it now so that I can include a picture of Rem, the Best Girl. Flawed hero learns his way around a new fantasy world by continuously being killed and respawning back at earlier save points. Falls in love with Emelia, main heroine, just because. Rejects Rem who really loves him, because he’s fallen for Emelia, who never contributes much to the story and doesn’t think much of him until the last episode, when his heroism and kindness turns her low level disdain into love, which I’m sure will last.

Rem

Rem

Emelia

Emelia

Which one would you chose?

That’s it for the summer. Pickings were slim enough that I rewatched GaruPan, Shirobako, Flying Witch, and Taisho Baseball Girls.

Flying Witch Soundtrack

September 21, 2016
They did the best they could with what they had

They did the best they could with what they had

Are you a fan of the anime Flying Witch? Then you’ll probably like this CD, available from Amazon, but be aware that half the tracks here cannot be found in the anime. On the other hand, if you are unfamiliar with the anime and are just looking for some interesting Japanese music you will find that most of the tracks are too simplistic, too Western, and there’s only one J-pop style vocal.

The problem is, there’s only three or four points in the whole series with anything like an extended musical sequence. The OP and ED, of course. The ED is on this CD (track 44), the OP is not, probably due to licensing issues (the series composer wrote the ED but not the OP). Then there’s the music backgrounding the opening train and bus ride that bring Makoto into Aomori (track 2), and the minute-long sequence in Episode 2 accompanying the arrival of the Harbinger of Spring (track 28).

Arrival

Arrival


Variations and extracts of these composition appear in a number of other scenes. Other than that, the music in the anime tends to come in short sequences of from 30 seconds or so, to as few as eight notes each. The CD extends most of these to a minute or a minute and a half. The way this is done is to start each track off with a teaser, mentioning the anime tune, then transition to an extended introduction (in a vamp-’till-ready style), and finish with the music from the anime (track 17). Sometimes the lead-in contains all the anime bars.

Harbinger

Harbinger

Some of the tracks are variations on the original themes. Others are totally new compositions. While the anime music tends to have a country/folk feel to it, with acoustic guitar, flute and recorder, the variations, well, vary. Harp, honky-tonk, light jazz, all put in brief appearances,  in many cases sounding somewhat new age, when it’s not sounding turn of the century before last.

Other than the OP, all of the music is by Dewa Yoshiaki (出羽良彰). There’s a total of 41 tracks and 72 minutes of music, plus three tracks of voice acting “mini-drama”, with Makoto talking to her cat familiar Chitose. All told, you are probably paying $2/minute for music you can identify in the anime. I thought it was worth it. If you want to listen to excerpts from the various tracks, you can find them towards the bottom of this page on the amazon.co.jp site. Or search for “ふらいんぐうぃっち CD”

1. Mini-drama 1
2. Makoto Kobata
3. Dangerous person
4. Kikikaikai
5. Sense of direction
6. Nano-san!
7. Loitering, and enjoy
8. Loitering is a panacea
9. Magic classroom
10. Soothsayer
11. Mai national bird
12. Leisurely sponger
13. Blue forest
14. Haruno Mountain
15. Clear, sunny
16. Training
17. Flying Witch
18. Dream and roadside of happiness
19. Eye-catching 1
20. Mini-drama 2
21. Dream of the witch
22. Witch
23. Tail Keru
24. Found
25. Run away
26. Tito’s
27. Strange creatures
28. Spring
29. Become a witch!
30. Stupid
31. Tohoho
32. Wandering witch
33. Sister witch
34. Dog witch
35. Inukai’s
36. Queen of the Night
37. Apricot
38. Magic of nightfall
39. Cherry colored landscape
40. Konkurushio
41. Flying whale
42. Eye-catching 2
43. Mini-drama 3
44. Everyday magic
Flying Witch ending theme

I placed my order on the 16th, and Amazon Prime delivered it from Japan on the 20th. It was bubble-wrapped inside a bubble-wrap envelope, but the shippers still managed to break the hinge on the CD box.

GaruPan and Shirobako, Part 2

September 18, 2016

Four years later, I’m still finding out interesting things about both of these anime.

In the first season of Shirobako, the director almost craters the project because he keeps changing the scenario and pushing the envelope on how they portray the characters.

Now, I find that Mizushima Tsutomu, the director for both Shirobako and Girls und Panzer, was the cause of the delay that pushed the ending of GaruPan from December, 2012 to March, 2013, and for the same reason. Here is a translation of his blog entry on the topic.

Trim Tabs and the Towers: A 15 year retrospective

September 10, 2016

Fifteen years ago, the towers fell. Ten years later, I wrote this essay about the idea of trim tabs, how they work on airplanes, and how they work in organizations. Specifically, I wanted to talk about how the idea applied in the aftermath to 9/11. In the five years since, nothing much has changed. Nothing except the justification and realization of my fears. Jump to the end for my current opinions.


In the old days, airplanes were controlled by the movement of wing and tail surfaces, driven by what was essentially piano wire directly connected via pulleys to the pilot’s controls. It was like an extension of the pilot’s body, because it was a direct physical link: hand, stick, wire, ailerons. Since the controls were extensions of the pilot’s body, they were driven by the pilot’s muscles. In those days, flying was physically exhausting because there were no automated systems like autopilot, or even altitude-hold, and all inputs were physical. Flying a two-hour mission in bumpy weather was like spending two hours bulldogging steers.

As airplanes became bigger and faster, this became a problem. When you move the stick, you are forcing a slab of metal to move against the airstream created by your flight. Remember when the back windows of a car would open? Remember riding along with the window open and your hand stuck out like an airfoil? If you tilted it the least little bit, it would take off, and it took all your strength (or a certain dexterity) to get it back into position. That’s the problem pilots encountered before the invention of power assist on flight controls. Moving a big metal plate against a fast-flowing airstream took all your strength, and maybe required the help of a co-pilot. There was a limit on what was physically possible. Enter the trim tab.

The trim tab, more accurately the servo tab, was a small rudder built into the much larger real rudder. The idea is that you move the small rudder this way, the much larger rudder responds by turning that way, and the whole ship or airplane responds. The idea dates from WWI. A real trim tab is a more or less ‘set it and leave it’ item, that creates a certain continuing flight regime (for instance, to offset a heavy load in the tail of the aircraft), while a servo tab is a true continuous flight control. However, since the organizational applications were talked about (by Buckminster Fuller, for starters) as ‘trim tabs’, I’ll stick with that.

What does all this have to do with terrorism? Just this. A terrorist act is an attempt to be a trim tab. If the terrorist group plays their cards right, they can cause a reaction in the target government that causes a counter-reaction in the populace. The basic idea is that the target government will over-react, increase oppression, and drive the populace into the arms of the terrorists. Properly executed, a terrorist campaign will get the government to do the terrorists work for them That’s one reason why most nascent guerilla movements use terrorism as a tool. The trouble is, that scenario can only play out when it’s native terrorists promoting a domestic cause against an oppressive government (which doesn’t have to be a foreign power, but often is). It doesn’t work that way when the terrorists are foreign, or the populace doesn’t feel oppressed, or the government is one that reacts with Norwegian calm.

Since Al Qaida was facing a different problem, they had to have a different immediate goal. Al Qaida’s goal was to target the US populace and government in such a way as to cause the US to overreact, both internally and externally, and to bankrupt itself the way the USSR did in Afghanistan.

Our reaction has validated AQ’s view of the US as a blind giant, ignorantly flailing around in response to stimuli we don’t understand. A measured approach to 9/11 would be to fill in the hole and turn the problem over to the FBI and the Treasury Dept. The world was on our side on 9/12, and we could have gotten unbelievable levels of cooperation. A strongman approach would be to follow the measured approach, plus invade Afghanistan, beat up on the Taliban, and chase AQ into the hills. The world would still be on our side, but the countries of SW Asia would begin to feel threatened, and would begin hedging their bets. Domestically, we had 99% of the US Muslim population on our side — the remainder being the disaffected youth who, like DYs of any persuasion hate the man. A measured domestic approach would be to armor the cockpit doors on airliners so it was impossible for another 9/11 to happen, and increase our police contacts within the Muslim community.

Instead, we embarked upon a decade-long attack on domestic freedoms, we demonized the Muslims in the US, we engaged in two wars in exactly the wrong place, the outcome of neither will be of any benefit to us. Let me emphasize that. In another year or five, we will be substantially out of both IQ and AF, and those two countries will be in whatever state we leave them. If we could have gotten them into that state for free, if the genie in the lamp could have delivered today’s Iraq and tomorrow’s Afghanistan without it costing us a dollar or a life, we’d still be worse off than we were in 2001. The fact that it cost trillions of dollars, and more American lives than were lost in 9/11 is just a side-benefit for the terrorists. I think The Onion’s headline on this year’s media coverage is appropriate: our nation would rather think about 9/11 than anything from the subsequent ten years.

So, here is the unexpected (by us), emergent, trim-tab-induced result. We have bankrupted our country, morally, politically, financially, and militarily. We have trampled on the US Constitution and the rights of citizens. We have squandered our post-Cold-War international advantages. We did it by reacting in exactly the wrong way to the 9/11 trim tab event. The terrorists acted. The government reacted in a predictably inappropriate fashion. The country and the economy responded by flying into the ground like a hijacked airliner. I can’t say the terrorists have won, but I can say they are well ahead on points. You can say that, hey, we’re still here, and Bin-Laden is dead, and Al Qaida a scattered, hunted remnant. But no suicide bomber expects to live to see the fruits of their sacrifice. I’m sure that if we could reassemble OBL from the inside of whatever sharks he’s now inhabiting, he’d say yeah, it worked. It was worth it.


So, what has changed in the five years since I wrote those words? Not a lot, except that our knowledge of things has expanded. As predicted, we still have a presence (read Americans being killed) in Iraq and Afghanistan. As predicted, neither of those countries has a successful government. As not predicted, the instability spilled over into Syria, and now our supposed ally, Turkey, and our opportunistic opponent, Russia, are working together to prop up the Assad regime, and destroy our friends, the Kurds (read domino effect). Guantanamo is still an extra-judicial detention camp, with 60-some prisoners, 40 of whom are too dangerous to release (read, they hate us), but are infeasible to prosecute because of their treatment (read, tortured, which may have something to do with why they hate us).

Three years ago, Edward Snowden pulled back the drapes and let some sun shine in on what our government had been doing in the dark, behind our backs, in our computers. Now we know that not only has the US Intelligence Community been unleashed on its citizens, in ways that are manifestly unconstitutional — and other ways that probably would also be, if the Republicans didn’t have (until recently) a majority on the Supreme Court. Those intrusive techniques have trickled down to the local police, who have conducted their own unconstitutional operations, and lied to the judges about it (or didn’t bother to lie, because the judges didn’t care).

And speaking of police, they are now armed with the latest in military hardware, courtesy of the unending wars, and their interactions with the citizenry have taken on many aspects of an occupying force, making a mockery of serve and protect. And if anyone complains, well, do you want the terrorists to murder us in our beds?

Has America become a police state? Heavens, no. We are still among the freest countries of the world. Too bad about slipping from that The Freest position. Have we laid the foundations for becoming a police state? It’s too soon to tell, but we are certainly establishing a framework on which those foundations could be built. Many of the elements are slotting into place: a militarized police force, contemptuous of its citizens, a ubiquitous domestic spy system that runs all the way up to the central government, a complaisant judiciary at all levels — all that is needed is a coming to power of a political party more interested in power than governance, headed by a like-minded demagogue.

If it looks like the American ship of state has careened out of control, scraping from one reef to another, that’s a tribute to the effectiveness of trim tabs.

9/11, Trim Tab Day. Remember it.

My Second Trip To Japan: Impressions

September 10, 2016

I really enjoyed this trip. It was much more fun than my first one, perhaps because it was longer and covered more ground. But every trip has lessons learned and things one wants to do better and random observations. These are mine.

Japan Rail Pass

A must-have, if you are going to be there for a week or so, and are not in a tour group. A number of vendors sell the Exchange Orders, all at about the same price. I used Japan Experience. At the time I’m writing this, a week-long general seating pass is $275, while a reserved-seat green pass is $365 for an adult. You have to buy it before you get to Japan (they FedEx the order to you so it arrives fast), and you have to be there as a tourist. Some hints on use:

  1. Its primary function is to get you past the JR train station turnstiles and onto the platforms. You have to show it to the guard coming and going, so you don’t go through the turnstiles themselves. Then you are good to go on any JR car with general seating.
  2. If you have a green pass and you want a reserved seat, you have to go to the Midori-no-madoguchi (Green ticket window).
    Look for this sign

    Look for this sign

    and make a reservation. Then you show your JR pass to get on the platform, and you show your reservation (it’s a small, green ticket), and your pass, to the conductor on the train. NOTE: Midori-no-madoguchi is also where you go to swap your JR Exchange Order for a real JR pass when you first arrive.

  3.  The pass works for Japan Rail trains only. There are many private train lines in Japan, and they don’t take the JR pass. For example, there are two ways to get from Narita Airport to Tokyo Ueno station. The JR train is free (with the pass) but is about 15 minutes slower. The Keisei Skyliner runs just between those two locations, and is faster, but it will cost you $15. In Tokyo, the JR Yamanote line runs a big loop around the heart of the city, but most of the suburbs are fed by local lines. Plus, you may find you have to pay an extra $5 or so on the train, when it runs over non-JR rails.
  4. It pays to plan ahead. I had a first class green pass, but couldn’t get a reserved seat on half the JR trains I travelled on, because I booked the individual tickets too late. That was my fault, because I kept changing my travel plans. If you need flexibility, the green pass is probably not the way to go.
  5. The company that sells you your JR Exchange Order may also offer some other products. I rented a portable Wi-Fi unit for about $10 a day. It was worth it. I’d turn it on, turn on my Nexus 7 tablet, and I had maps and translation services pretty much wherever I was. They also sold me a Pasmo card.  More on that in the section on money.

Even if you are travelling the length of Japan, the JR pass can save you a lot of money on the long distance routes, at the cost of a little time. For example, the standard recommendation from the HyperDia train schedule site, for a trip from Sapporo to Tsu (equivalent of going from Portland, ME, to Charleston, SC), is to fly from Chitose to Nagoya and take the train from there. Time is 5 hours (plus security, which, admittedly, is a lot more efficient than TSA’s), and the cost is $470. If you take the shinkansen, it’s 12 hours and $360, but JR pass saves you $350 of that, and you get to look at the scenery, instead of the tops of clouds.

Money

Bring cash. Yes, the hotels and big restaurants in the big cities will take credit cards (check with your card company before you go), and yes, many shops (mostly combini), and the train stations, take money cards, like Pasmo and Suica, but a surprising number don’t. I took $400 in cash, burned through that, borrowed $120 and spent most of that, all in 10 days of not living extravagantly. Meanwhile, less than $1000 went on the credit card, mostly for hotels. The crafts shop I visited in Iga on Day 9 sold goods that were in the $30-$50 range, and took only cash.

Exchange your money before heading off into the hinterlands. In 2012, my hotel in Kobe had no trouble turning dollars into yen. In 2016, the drug stores I saw in Sapporo had a machine that would do that for you automatically. In Tsu, a somewhat provincial city — about the size of Spokane, but on the unfashionable side of Ise Bay — the only place to change dollars to yen was the main bank, and it took three people and twenty minutes to do so.

Trash cans

There aren’t any. Japanese friends of mine say there’s two reasons. First, the Tokyo subways were subject to a nerve-agent gas attack, back in 1995, and many of the devices were placed in trash cans. Bureaucratic solution, remove all the trash cans. Second, Japanese cities are big on recycling. They do this by forcing residents to buy multiple trash bags, one for each kind of recycling. For those who resent this, the easy solution is to take a bag along when they go to work, and drop it in some public trash can on the way. Shop owner solution, remove the trash cans. Workaround for foreigners, go into a combini and ask them to dispose of it for you.

Children

A note on children in Japan. They have remarkable freedom of movement, unthinkable to US helicopter parents. These five boys were doing the equivalent of taking the train from Washington DC to Portland, Main. No parents, no conductors checking up on them, they just got on, found their seats and sat down. Presumably their parents dropped them at the ticket turnstile and let them find their own way two levels down to the shinkansen platform, but having seen younger children navigating the system, they might have just bid their mothers goodbye at the front door and headed out.

Not a parent in sight

Not a parent in sight

There’s an anime currently running called Sweetness and Lightning, about a young child and her single parent father. In one episode he gets sick and she goes to a friend for help. The friend’s house requires a trip across a good chunk of the city, not just to a neighbor. Here is how Michael Vito, over at Weekly Review of Transit, Place and Culture in Anime characterized it. The article is pretty far down a pretty big page, so when you get to the link, hit <Find> and search for Sweetness.

Nobody minds

Talk about free range kids…

The point is, she’s a pre-schooler, walking alone in an urban environment, and nobody is bothered, nobody is worried. It’s a normal thing. For all our talk of independence and spirit of adventure, that would never fly in today’s America. I note that in the first half of an earlier century, I was allowed to ride my bike anywhere, with the only requirement being that I had to make it home in time for dinner.

Weather

In November of 2012, Kobe was cold and damp, but not freezing. In August of 2016, Tokyo and Tsu were around 90 and humid, and Sapporo was in the upper 70s. Not sure how much of the humidity was due to the two typhoons that pounded everything from Tokyo, north while we were there. My conclusion is that August is not the time to be visiting Japan, unless it’s the far north.

Language

You really need to know some Japanese phrases, and being able to identify some key kanji also helps. Much of the time, only one person in a shop speaks English. At the hotel in Sapporo — big hotel, right next to the central train station — nobody at the desk spoke any. If you have a little Japanese, it gives them something to hang their answer on.

Japanese TV

Japanese TV is, to my western taste, terrible. Every program, even the news, seems to have a panel of C-list actors commenting on it, with their pictures in little inset frames off to the side. Here’s the reporting on the typhoon-induced flooding on Hokkaido

jp16sapporotv02sm jp16sapporotv01sm

And here is what is available in my hotel room at 8:30 on a Sunday night.
1. An infomercial for some sort of cleaner
2. Coverage of some boat race that took place in January with a male sportscaster, a male color commentator and another fat male commentator who looks like me might have been an entertainer of some sort, and then a woman who was another sort of announcer.
3. Some police procedural documentary with shaky cams and hidden cams and all kinds of discussions of evidence, and real life chase scenes and so forth with faces blanked out.
4. A reality show where it looks like they have taken a family of New Guinea Aborigines and have brought them to Japan to see how they react to modern life. Right now the aboriginal father has just had his first experience with with chopsticks and what he did was put them through his nose.
5. Another reality show where we see cars crashing on security cameras and shots of race cars turning over right out of the gate.
6. what might be coverage of the Sapporo Marathon, with the news announcer and a support group or running along in the rain and the usual collection of commentators is looking at them from the from the corners of the screen.
7. Some sort of historical artistic docudrama like you might see on the History Channel. Looks like it was a perhaps a history of Christianity in Japan and finally
8. Another historical docudrama with lots of replays of things that went on in the samurai era and now we’re looking at everybody’s gravestone to the modern era. When I first saw it I thought it was a regular Samurai Western if you will but it appears to be educational instead.

Only 7 and 8 did not have the Greek Chorus off to the side.

 

This is Part 4 of 4.  Here’s links to them all:

Part 1  Days 1 to 3

Part 2  Days 4 to 6

Part 3  Days 7 to 9

Part 4  Final Impressions

 

My Second Trip To Japan: Days 7 to 10

September 9, 2016

Day 7
Up early and off on a run to the south. First leg was Tokyo to Nagoya via the Osaka shinkansen. I could really get used to that way of travel.

jp16shinkansentonagoyasm jp16shinkansenseats

Nagoya to Tsu was by local train again. I sat up in the first car, and got to watch the driver. Like many Japanese workers, he’s trained to physically enact all his decisions. When he came to a branch in the rails, he would first point straight ahead, and then at the branch he would take. When he changed speed, he would first point straight ahead, then at the speedometer, and then reach for the throttle. Same way when passing checkpoints — physically mark them off on a board. His whole body was involved, not just his brain.

jp16southtraindriver01sm jp16southtraindriver02sm

I’ve seen platform attendants doing something similar when walking the platform right before the trains came in. Point at a gate that should be closed. Put your hand on it. Say ‘yes’. There’s less chance of forgetting that way.

If Sapporo was like upstate Maine, Mie Prefecture was like South Carolina. Rice was still growing in the north. In the south, it was harvested, and the fields were plowed in anticipation of a second crop.

jp16southriceharvestsm jp16southriceharvest03sm

The hotel was, finally, a big, modern building, with roomy rooms, and a nice lobby,

jp16tsuhotellobbysm jp16tsuhotelroomsm

and a good view, front and back. In the view to the east, over the harbor (click to embiggen), you will note what looks a little like a tree-lined lagoon to the left of the centerline on the coast. That’s actually a large solar array. Tsu is very big on renewables, with solar and wind power sites popping up all over.

View to the east

View to the east

View to the west

View to the west

Tsu, by the way, is the capital of Mie (pronounced mee-ae). The kanji is 津, which means sanctuary, or harbor. It’s part of the word tsu.na.mi, which means harbor wave.

That night was dinner with students and faculty from Mie University. Everyone ordered what looked good to them, and we all shared. I found out that burdock root is normally served shreded, and is pretty tasteless.

jp16tsudinner01sm

Day 8
We had a tour of the Mie University campus. Very nice, in a subtropical sort of way.

jp16mieu01sm jp16mieunipalmtreessm

Student Services

Student Services

Student Workshop

Student Workshop

Then we had the workshop, with grad students talking about their proposed projects. Very interesting work being done there.

That night was dinner with students and faculty from Mie University. Dinner was a set piece affair, delivered in increments. Seven or eight courses. Very good. Many of the ingredients were identifiable.

jp16tsudinner02bsm jp16tsudinner02csm

We each had a glass of ninja sake, which is served in a glass in a traditional square sake drinking box. The glass is filled until it overflows into the box.

jp16tsudinner02dsm

Day 9
Two superb grad students from Mie, Yamada Koji, and Takigawa Yuma, gave us a tour of inland Mie, including the famous ninja town of Iga. We had demonstrations of ninja techniques, and visited the ninja museum.

Ninja walkers, for walking in swamps

Ninja walkers, for walking in swamps …

The History Club knows how to find old things

… not walking on water.

Ninja crafts

Ninja crafts

Afterwards, we visited a crafts shop that let you make your own accoutrements. I didn’t buy any, because they (a) were expensive, and (b) would only take cash. No Suica or credit cards.

Non-ninja crafts

Non-ninja crafts

Iga beef. The only meal where they offered extra salt.

Iga beef. The only meal where they offered extra salt.

Lunch was the world-famous Iga beef, and the students ate like grad students the world over. It makes one’s heart glad.

They ate their own, and part of mine

They ate their own, and part of mine

That night was dinner with students and faculty from Mie University. In the most traditional Japanese …er… tradition… it was all laid out on the table when we arrived.

Last meal

Last meal

Day 10
Up early, and home. One last wave to the local schoolgirls. One last local train from Mie, one last shinkansen from Nagoya, one last JR train from Tokyo to Narita.

Last schoolgirls

Last schoolgirls

Last shinkansen

Last shinkansen

Went through customs at Denver, which meant we had to claim our bags and re-check them. That happened without leaving security, but TSA Denver still decided they needed to loot my checked bag to make sure the bottle of Plum Sake wasn’t something nefarious. I hope they enjoyed unwrapping the used underwear I padded it with.

All told, a very successful trip. Except for the part about my hips and back having deteriorated to the point where my two grad students insisted on following me back to my room every night to make sure I made it. It was the hostel what done me in, and I’m in much better shape now than then. But I do appreciate the concern and assistance they showed.

I’ll wrap this up in a final essay with some impressions and lessons learned. More words, fewer pictures.

This is Part 3 of 4. Here’s links to them all:

Part 1 Days 1 to 3

Part 2 Days 4 to 6

Part 3 Days 7 to 9

Part 4 Final Impressions

My Second Trip To Japan: Days 4 to 6

September 8, 2016

The next three days were spent attending the conference, wandering around Sapporo, and returning to Tokyo. I’ll be talking mostly about Sapporo.

My first meal there was a nabeyaki dinner — thick udon noodles, tempura shrimp, vegetables, and a lump of mochi flour (I thought it was a potato dumpling) in a bubbling broth in a stone pot. When I say bubbling, I mean it was still venting steam bubbles minutes after they brought it to the table.

jp16sapporonabeyakishop

jp16sapporofirstmealnabeyake

There are little specialty shops like this all over. Nothing but noodles. As with many such small places, they only take cash.

Sapporo has lots of places to shop, including a covered market that morphs into a covered shopping mall. Hokkaido is where Japan grows much of its produce, including softball-sized peaches, on sale in the market.

jp16sapporoshoppingmall02sm jp16sapporoshoppingmallsm
jp16sapporocoveredmarketsm

 

Since a yen is very close to a penny, the peaches are $3.00 each, and the apples only $2.50.

Since a yen is very close to a penny, the peaches are $3.00 each, and the apples only $2.50.

The city has a fair amount of snowfall. As they put it, yes, they get close to twenty feet of snow per year, but there’s rarely more than three feet on the ground at any one time. To ameliorate this, they’ve built a vast underground shopping complex, attached to their underground. You can walk from one station to the next, with shops all around, including specialty shops like Hello Kitty and Mr Donut.

jp16sapporosubleftsm jp16sapporosubrightsm
jp16sapporohellokittysm jp16sapporomrdonutsm

My last night there was the Conference Dinner. It was a half hour walk from my hostel, through a warm Saturday night filled with couples of all ages, romantically out hunting Pokemons. The dinner was a multi-course affair, involving Japanese, Chinese, and Korean dishes. We also had speeches, and drumming. The drumming was the only noteworthy thing.

jp16sapporotaikosm

Up early, cab to the train station, and off on another whistle stop tour of the villages of rural Japan. I managed to get a nice photo of a volcano within a volcano.

jp16hokkaidovolcanosm jp16hokkaidocountrysidesm

Rolled into Ueno Station in the late afternoon, unloaded at my favorite Tokyo hotel, and headed for Akihabara, the technical heart of the world — think of Frye’s, spread out over an entire city district.

jp16uenostationsm jp16tokyoakihabarasm

Unfortunately, it was hot, Sunday afternoon, just dripping with sweat and otaku. I managed to spend $60 or $80 on light novels and such, but drew the line at spending $100 for the Girls und Panzer movie, with no subtitles.

This is Part 2 of 4. Here’s links to them all:

Part 1 Days 1 to 3

Part 2 Days 4 to 6

Part 3 Days 7 to 9

Part 4 Final Impressions

Squashed Oatmeal

September 8, 2016

Summer is coming to an end and the great green and yellow tide of squash is rolling over us. MJ made a nice stir-fry with onion, garden tomatoes, and garden squash, seasoned with ponzu, Worcestershire, and salt-free all purpose seasoning. Very good, and there were some leftovers.

Meanwhile, we had some heavily gnawed pork ribs, left over from when I was away on a trip, and a couple of chunks of unidentifiable fast food chicken parts, covered in special fast food batter, that I combined in the pressure cooker to make broth with. Not bad, but it still had a hint of stale batter.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one cup of fast food broth, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, a quarter cup of squash-based stir-fry. Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats. Add the squash a minute before you are done, and the potatoes at the very end.

Results: Very good. Onions always work well in oatmeal, the squash still had some crunch, and there were not enough tomatoes to clash with the flavor — in general, tomatoes don’t work in oatmeal, it’s not spaghetti.

Rating: *****

My Second Trip To Japan: Days 1 to 3

September 6, 2016

Another year, another conference. Four years ago I went to Kobe, Japan, with a side trip to Kyoto. This time the trip was more wide-ranging, from Tokyo to Sapporo in the north, to Tsu in the south. A conference, a workshop, and a couple of hours in Tokyo.

That 20 hours is the car time. Train time is less than 12.

That 20 hours is the car time.
Train time is less than 12. An equivalent distance in the US (Portland, ME, to Charleston, SC) is 24hrs by train.

Day 1
Since MJ’s shoulder would not let her drive, a good friend picked me up at 4:30AM to take me to the airport.

Security was no worse than usual and soon I was in the air flying southeast to Denver. In Denver there was a four-hour layover and then I flew back northwest, passing within a hundred miles of Spokane on the great circle route from Denver to Tokyo.

The immigration and Border Control process at Narita was very easy and then the rest of the procedure was pretty much as I thought it would be: up to the 4th floor to get my wireless repeater, over to the bank to change money, down to the basement to pick up my Japan Rail Pass, and since Japan Rail to Tokyo was broken because of the typhoon I had to take Kaesai railroad which was $24 but which was faster. About 40min from plane to train.

In less than an hour, we go from the flat rice fields surrounding Narita

In less than an hour, we go from the flat rice fields surrounding Narita

...to the Sky Tree Metropolis

…to the Sky Tree Metropolis

When I got to the station I went directly to Japan Rail ticketing for the shinkansen and found that I could not get my 6 a.m. train, but that I could get a 9:40 train out of Tokyo Station which was one stop south, the biggest and most complex railroad station in the country.

The weather in Tokyo, only be described as hellish. It was in the mid-to-upper 80s with a hundred percent humidity because of the recent typhoon and of course I was dressed for Spokane and a chilly airplane and very nearly died getting to the hotel.

Typhoon Mindulle hit Narita the day before I arrived

Typhoon Mindulle hit Honshou the day before I arrived at Narita

Tropical Storm Kompasu hit Hokkaido the day after I left

Tropical Storm Kompasu hit Hokkaido the day after I left Sapporo

The hotel was strangely built. Think of a standard multi-story motel with an external walkway to get you to the rooms, and then take that hotel and wrap it around in a square so that the walkways are facing in and build some building supports around them so that you would think you were in a building except that the center park was open to the sky and it did not feel like you were outside.

JP16UenoHotelFrontSm JP16UenoHotelInsideSm

The room was very small — about the size of a double bed with enough room to sit on the side of the bed and rest your arms on the dressing table. It had nice HD TV, but they used the what appears to be the now-standard approach of having to stick your room card into a slot in order to get electricity. Which means that the air conditioner is not on unless you’re in the room so you can’t cool it down, and the plugs don’t work so you can’t plug in your electronics and leave them to charge while you go to dinner. The bed itself was okay but it was the pillows that were interesting — one side was like a multi-segmented rice bag as if they wanted to keep it up off the bed so that the whole pillow stayed cool.

JP16UenoHotelRoom

Of course both that night’s reservation and one I had made to stay there when I came back down South was messed up but they very graciously offered to put me up for the night and make a another reservation for my Southern trip at standard room rates, not at the hotels.com rate.

I went out to get dinner and could not stand the heat so I went across the street to a Lawsons and bought a bento box, brought that back, and ate it in the room. Then I collapsed into bed about 8 o’clock and slept through until 6.

Day 2
Up early and ate an $8 hotel breakfast which was mostly rice with little tablespoon size servings of garnishes like chopped daikon or pickled ginger.

The walk to Ueno station was relatively pleasant because it was only about 75 degrees at 8AM. The ride, one stop to Tokyo Station, was crowded, as Japanese trains tend to be during rush hour. I found the right platforms but the wrong track and if I hadn’t asked I would have seen my shinkansen disappear into the tall grass.

JP16TokyoTrainSm

The shinkansen ride was pleasant but not as good as it might have been. They could only get me into standard reserved seat instead of the first-class seat the Japan Rail ticket authorize me to get, and in fact my seat was not even a standard JR/airline seat with the tray in front of you — it was one of a set of 6, 3 and 3 facing each other, and the other five occupants was a set of 5 middle school boys who sat down and linked their Gameboys and played Super Mario racer for 4 hrs.

Shinkansen North

Shinkansen North

I called my brother from the train because how often do you get a phone call from a shinkansen? We had a nice little talk until we hit the tunnel and were cut off it was the tunnel from northern Honshu to Southern Hokkaido and it’s like 33 miles long and even at 85 miles an hour you spend an awful lot of time underwater.

Northern Japan. Bigger fields, fewer towns

Northern Japan. Bigger fields, fewer towns

We changed trains at Shin-Hakodate station from the shinkansen to a local milk run that stopped at every other fishing village along the coast. Five years ago, Google Earth shows Shin-Hakodate as a wide spot in the tracks, and today it’s not much better. Surprising as a shinkansen terminal.

The view from Shin-Hakodate

The view from Shin-Hakodate

and then cut across the island next to a very pretty volcano, which I did not get to photograph, and finally arrived two hours later in Sapporo. There, a very nice JR lady who had studied in America in Los Angeles help me to get my suitcase and tickets for the trip back on the 28th.

It was getting late so I took a taxi to the hotel. It’s an obscure little hotel, and the driver got lost several times. He did manage to clip two bicyclists made a turn across traffic and a good time was had by all. It was getting dark by the time we finally found the hotel.

Day 3

My hotel was a standard hippie dippie youth hostel crossed with a traditional Japanese inn. You left your shoes at the front door and there was almost no furniture in the rooms.

Khaosan Sapporo Family Hostel

Khaosan Sapporo Family Hostel

I had a standard six mat room with a six-mat antechamber. The room was designed for two. It had a bunk bed with a top bunk but the bottom bunk was a floor bed with a futon (a 1 inch thick cloth pad) plus a duvet and a couple of pillows. The furniture was one low Japanese style table and two Japanese style chairs. That is to say if you took a straight-back chair and sawed off the legs and let people put a cushion on it and sit on that, that was their concession to Western sensibilities.

My room. Hugin Panorama Creator had a hard time with my camerawork

My room. Hugin Panorama Creator had a hard time with my camerawork

The partition between the rooms was exactly 6ft high. I am 6ft one half inch tall in my stocking feet.

The place was full of youth and family groups and everybody cooked their own meals in the communal kitchen and hung out in the coming with dining room living room with a big TV. I spend most of my time either in the room or out and about.

Between sleeping on the floor and the summer heat (they have a window air conditioner in the room but it only worked in fan mode), I almost died. My back and hip bones never did recover for the rest of the trip.

This is Part 1 of 4. Here’s links to them all:

Part 1 Days 1 to 3

Part 2 Days 4 to 6

Part 3 Days 7 to 9

Part 4 Final Impressions

Green Thumb Up My Nose

September 5, 2016

Garden Report for 160905

No report for three weeks, due to travel, and more travel. Weather, I am told, was pretty much NENW standard for August — hottish and dryish.

The deck sugar pod peas gave one final half cup — enough to mix with one salad. The deck tomatoes have pooped out, after delivering a few final handfuls of cherrys. The garden tomatoes never did much at all. The Big Beef tomato out front yielded its final 136gram monster. The summer squash were much damaged by blossom-end rot and gave us only one medium. The zucchinis did much better, turning out 8kg of the stuff, but it looks like they’ve come to the end of their rope, as well. Finally, the pie pumpkins did equally poorly, turning out three small things better suited to the production of tarts than pies.

Week
Ending
9/05
Vegetable Count Weight
g
Unit
Weight
g
Total Total
Weight
kg

tomato 1  136 27 1.13
cabbage 4 4.02
peas 1.67
summer
squash
1 560 560 5 1.41
zucchini 8 8800 1100 12 10.7
pumpkin 3 609 203 3 0.61
Running Total 19.5
Little punks

Little punks

Week
Ending
8/15
Vegetable Count Weight
g
Unit
Weight
g
Total Total
Weight
kg

tomato  4 216  54 27 0.99
cabbage 4 4.02
peas 1.67
summer
squash
1 486 486  4  .85
zucchini  1  1500  1500  4  1.90
Running Total 9.43

We’re getting to the end of the garden. I suspect there’s only one more weeks worth of news. Pretty depressing, given that most years the garden report runs into mid- or late-October.

Anime Preview: Fall 2016

September 3, 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, and maybe a bit of the blurb. Consider yourself warned. If you want a real preview, pop on over to AniChart.

First, let’s say what’s normally not in here. Sequels to stuff I didn’t like before (Bubuki Buranki), most kids stuff (Nyanbo), anything with idol in the description, 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.

Occultic;Nine

Cast of Lost Village ends up in a library. Adds semicolons to their list of personal phobias

Cast of Lost Village ends up in a library. Adds semicolons to their list of personal phobias

Touken Ranbu

Extended family moves down from the trees, takes up living on rooftops. Plans to evolve into garden-shed-dwellers next.

Extended family moves down from the trees, takes up living on rooftops. Plans to evolve into garden-shed-dwellers next.

Shuumatsu no Izetta

Don't worry. Love will break our fall.

Witches und Panzers. Don’t worry. Love will break our fall.

 

 

 

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

Flip Flappers

Girls who are too poor to own stockings, and have to dress in tea towels find happiness in floral displays

Girls who are too poor to own stockings, and have to dress in tea towels find happiness in floral displays

Brave Witches

Girls who are too poor to own underwear bravely fly combat missions at 25,000ft. Huddle together to keep warm

Girls who are too poor to own underwear bravely fly combat missions at 25,000ft. Huddle together to keep warm

Keijo

World-class gymnast who is too poor to go to college enters swim suit competitions

World-class gymnasts who are too poor to go to college enter swim suit competitions

 

 

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

Long Riders

Girls und Bicycles. Not the David Carradine version.

Girls und Bicycles. Not the David Carradine version.

 

 

Tiger Mask W

Fursuit guy gets a job at The Tiger's Hole, has problems with his love life

Fursuit guy gets a job at The Tiger’s Hole, has problems with his love life

Yuri on Ice

Lesbians trapped in male bodies enter skating contests

Lesbians trapped in male bodies enter skating contests

…and 59 more that didn’t even make the “I won’t watch” cut.

Penalty for forgetting your password: Part 4 and final (we hope)

August 20, 2016

The final transition went smoothly. Sortof.

The original SSD turned out to be well secured, by a set of screws and a plastic strap on the bottom of the case. It was the PRO model, while the spare that’s replacing it is the EVO model (Samsung 256GB 850PRO vs 850EVO). The main difference being that the PRO will have a longer service life. However, I expect both of them to be obsolete before ever I get close to their fail dates.

The SSD is on the floor

The SSD is bolted to the floor of the case

It was but the work of an hour for me to unscrew the four screws, ungrommet the rubber grommets, and replace the old SSD with the new one and regrommet and rescrew everything. OK, so not all the screws went back through the grommets, and I had to tape one in place. But it’s back together, and it works.

Unfortunately, the original SSD detected that it had been moved to a new PC or something, and demanded a password, which I don’t of course have. I can’t think of anything that I haven’t backed up onto the NAS or already imported (Firefox even kept my four speed dial tabs, with all the dials), so when I get a spare moment I’ll load something new on the PRO, maybe Mint Linux.

Our Trip to Alaska

August 19, 2016

MJ is a handbell ringer and handbell choir director. Every couple of years a Portland group called Bells of the Cascades sponsors a cruise — to Alaska, Mexico, the Caribbean — wherein a hundred or so ringers get together, practice during the ocean parts, and put on a concert at the end. Most of the cruises are to warmer climes, during January, and I can’t go along because of school. When it’s an Alaska destination, they go in August, and I can tag along.

Where we went

Where we went

This trip our onshore activity was a little constrained. MJ had just had her shoulder replaced a month before and was still in a sling, with orders to avoid all stress on that arm. But a little thing like having zero use of her left (dominant) arm wasn’t going to keep her from making the trip, and ringing.

Day 1: Departure

We’d sent the dogs to summer camp for the week and packed the night before, so we were able to get on the road by 7AM. It’s roughly two hours to the Columbia, two hours to Seattle, and two hours to the border, plus another hour inside Canada, because the cruise left from Vancouver. Traffic around Seattle was surprisingly heavy.

Downtown Vancouver from the cruise ship dock

Downtown Vancouver from the cruise ship dock

We rolled in to Vancouver about 3PM. The travel agent had booked us at a 4-star hotel (about a star and a half more than we needed) that had the advantage of being on the most direct route from Canada 99N to the cruise ship dock. I really like Vancouver. Of the three great cities of the NW (Portland, Seattle, Vancouver), it’s probably the most cosmopolitan. We walked around a bit, had dinner at a Red Robin (watched a crow learning to lift an onion ring from an abandoned ring-stacker) and went to bed early.

Day 2: Another Departure

Next day we were up early, dodged the crowds and barriers for the Vancouver Gay Pride parade, and zipped down to the cruise ship dock. Parking was inside the cruise ship center, so we offloaded our bags, zipped through customs and security, and were on board by 10AM, thence to hang around the bar until they let us in to our cabins about 1.

Corner suite, right above that orange storage container

Corner suite, right above that orange storage container

The first thing us old folks noticed was the prevalence of kids on the trip, and groups talking off their balconies. It felt a little like an old New York tenement. All it lacked was some laundry hung outside.

Oh, right.

Oh, right.

Another thing we noticed, after several days, was the number of ethnic Chinese on the trip. At one point, in the buffet, of the ten occupied tables, four were seating Chinese speakers. I don’t know if this is a flood of the new middle class from the mainland, or if it was just representative of Vancouver’s large Chinese population (most of whom had arrived just prior to the return of Hong Kong to the PRC). In any event, I was struck by the numbers, and thought of similar sights mentioned in some SF novel of old (Brin? Niven? Stephenson?).

Day 3: At Sea

We started with a 48 hour run up through British Columbia’s Inland Passage and Hecate Strait to a fishing village west of Juneau. Not much to do except sit on the veranda and sip fine wines. Of course, an outside air temperature of 55F and a ship’s speed of 17kts combined to give a wind chill in the upper 30’s, so that option was out. MJ practised with the handbell group,

One person per note

One person per note

and I made an attempt to get some programming done.

Taking time out to look cool

Taking time out to look cool

Day 4: Icy Strait Point

There’s not a lot of places to stop in southern Alaska. There’s Juneau, and maybe four small fishing ports like Ketchikan, plus a couple of glacier-ridden fjords. So, as I understand it, the cruise lines pooled their lunch money and put in a multi-million dollar dock at a small former fishing port, Icy Strait Point. How small is it? One of the highlights on the tour map was a 20-grave cemetery. They also built a fishing museum and a “zipline”. I use the scare quotes because you don’t really hang on the way you do on a real zipline. Instead, they have a seat that looks like some of the safer playground swings. The most photogenic objects are the local cat

The municipal cat. In chair, at left.

The municipal cat. In chair, at left.

the ship

Our floating hotel

Our floating hotel
(click to embiggen)

And here’s a shot of the ship with MJ in the foreground, for scale. The sling is designed to keep her shoulder from levering itself out of the socket.

The sling is designed to keep her shoulder from levering itself out of the socket

She doesn’t normally wear her hair ahoge style.

And finally the museum, which includes a working model of a Radio Shack.

This museum has everything

This museum has everything

Day 5: Hubbard Glacier

Overnight to the Hubbard Glacier. Very impressive

The approach

The approach

and the warm days meant it was calving almost continuously

If you look close, a chunk of ice just fell off in the center

If you look close, a chunk of ice just fell off in the center

That night was the Bells of the Cascades concert

Concert for the passengers

Concert for the passengers

Day 6: Juneau

Running overnight and most of the next day down from Hubbard, we got in to Juneau in the early afternoon. I wandered around a little bit, but the interesting bits of town were too far away from the ship, so I stayed aboard and watched the float planes landing.

As we were docking, one of these landed between the boat and the dock

As we were docking, one of these landed between the boat and the dock

Here’s another view of the ship. Our stateroom is right above the caribou flag.

A cruise-crowded port

A cruise-crowded port

Day 7: Ketchikan

Our last port of call was Ketchikan. During the run down from Juneau, the handbell group gave a free concert. Unfortunately, the room they gave them was so small only a few passengers could get in.

Only one working hand? That's OK. I'll play both bells with it.

Only one working hand?

Caption goes here

That’s OK. I’ll play both bells with it.

We were moored behind Holland-America’s Noordam, one of three other cruise ships at dock. Seeing small fishing towns suddenly inundated with 10,000 or 12,000 tourists gives you a bit of a feeling what it must have been like during the gold rush days.

Four cruise ships, at 3,000 passengers each...

Four cruise ships, at 3,000 passengers each…

BTW, this was Celebrity Infinity docking at Ketchikan back in June. Our arrival was much smoother.

 

Day 8: At Sea

Another day and a night at sea. We chased the Noordam through the Inland Passage.

No passing zone

No passing zone

That night the Strait of Georgia, and it was amazingly warm. It turns out there was a reason for that.

 

Day 9: Arrivals

Arrived in port at Vancouver about 6AM. Nice trip under the bridge.

Home from the sea

Home from the sea

Spent most of the morning having a leisurely breakfast. Our chalk was due off the ship at 8:30, and by 9:00 we had picked up our bags and cleared customs and were on our way home.

Arrived home late Sunday afternoon, but it wasn’t until Tuesday that the whole family was back together again.

Final Thoughts

This cruise wasn’t as much fun as the others, due to MJ’s shoulder, and there were a lot of minor irritations. The ship is, I think, a little small (90,000t, 2500 pax) and a little old (2001, second oldest in their fleet). It was tarted up a few years ago, with a new carpet and paint job, but if you looked at the edges of the steel plates you could see they were delaminating and rusty. The passageways seemed narrower than on other cruise ships, but that might have been because they were always cluttered with cleaning gear and laundry bags. The pre-departure abandon ship drill was a joke. Our muster station was in the main ballroom, from thence someone would take us to our lifeboat…it says here. Other cruise lines hold their drills right next to the assigned lifeboats.

On our cruise, the whole handbell group had asked to be seated together — same dining room, same time — but the Celebrity people didn’t pass that on to the ship, and their on-board software evidently couldn’t solve such a large linear-programming model, so we were scattered hither and yon. At least our table was quite close to the table where MJ’s sister and her family were seated.

It's good to be close to family

It’s good to be close to family

In another, albeit minor, example of software shortfalls, they had one channel of the ships internal TV system devoted to showing a moving map, with our location. However, the system didn’t seem to be hooked into the actual ship systems, because it couldn’t show true wind speed and direction (0/N), and it kept losing (briefly) the GPS location. When that would happen, the map would keep moving underneath this modal window, so I guess it’s waiting for someone to click <OK>.

I'll just wait for someone to notice me

I’ll just wait for someone to notice me

The cabin crew and wait staff, on the other hand, were superb. Well trained, attentive, engaging. Our sommelier was somewhat overworked (I think they were short-handed), and spent most of the evenings running back and forth with armloads of bottles.

If we had been on our onlies, I think it would have rated as a great cruise. As it was, we’re a little disappointed.

Meanwhile, with everyone back home, the puppy is learning how to fit in.

Next time, I just inch a little to the left

Next time, I just inch a little to the left

Squash VelcrOats

August 18, 2016

Some dishes, a generic stew for example, are called refrigerator velcro — pretty much anything in the fridge sticks to them. We had half an onion, a couple of Zucchinis (one quite elderly), a summer squash, and about a third of a butternut squash that needed using up. What better way to do that than by munging them all together with some chicken broth and sour cream to make squash soup. So we did. And there were leftovers.

The basic soup was very bland and needed salt. We tried spicing it up with salt, a little too much sugar, ponzu sauce, and way too much Lonnies Wholly Huli Hawaiian BBQ sauce, which is like ponzu, with added pineapple and garlic. It was much better, but it was not what you’d recognize as squash soup.

As presented, the soup was very thick, like a thin applesauce. It was likely that there wasn’t enough plain liquid in it for oatmeal, so I tried 2/3 of a cup of chicken broth and 1/2 a cup of soup. That worked out just right.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, 2/3 cup of chicken broth, 1/2 cup of squashlike soup. Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats.

Results: Acceptable. Still too heavy on the Huli, but otherwise quite tasty. I’ll continue the experiment, later.

Rating: *****

Penalty for forgetting your password: Part 3

August 17, 2016

Almost done.

Turns out, the file transfer process was the easiest part. Copied the contents of my home directory to the NAS, thence to the new SSD. Dug down into the .mozilla and .thunderbird directories and copied the .default folders to the NAS. Then copied the .default contents to the .default folders on the new SSD.

That’s it. All my in-the-cloud stuff now available. gMail and Amazon know who I am. Some housekeeping left. Mostly setting up the speed dial on Firefox. Some new installs, like DropBox.

Later today I’ll swap the SSD’s.

Penalty for forgetting your password: Part 2

August 16, 2016

Nothing is ever easy.

So, right after finishing the first article in this unintentionally long-running saga, I dashed into the sun room, where MJ keeps her plants and I keep my other spare computer stuff, grabbed up the box with the 256GB SSD in it, and …. say, that feels a little light. Oh, empty. I wonder where the drive is?

It’s not like the old days, where you could spot a 256MB hard drive sticking up out of a stack of old boots. These new guys are small enough to slide into your shirt pocket and still leave room for a smartphone, key-holder, and sunglasses (as long as they’re not Oakley Gaskans). It could be anywhere.

[some hours later] Oh, right, it’s in my other spare computer. I remember now, I put Mint 16 on it last spring, as a test. My main spare computer has two HDDs in it, so I unplug one and plug in the 256. Have to be careful, ’cause it’s just hanging from the cords, and has a tendency to rattle against the fans.

Let’s try something new. Download Mint 18. Install (Linux installs are so easy, just make sure to tell it to install on the 256SSD and not the 750HDD). Umm can’t install bootloader. Check online. Others have had this problem. Download Boot Repair. Runs fine, dumps a lot of error messages, throws up in it’s mouth, gives me a link to an error log, says to be sure to install the bootloader by hand on sda 750GB. [I’m compressing about six hours of reinstalls here, including a switch to Ubuntu].

750GB? A quick trip inside the PC and I return with a handful of cables rip’d untimely from that mother’s slots. Now the only drive is the SSD.

Power cycle. Re-install. Linux installs are so easy. Fifteen minutes and we’re up and running.

Next step, the dreaded file transfer process.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

August 15, 2016

Garden Report for 160815

The weather this week was warm and dry. The deck tomatoes seem to be recovering. I got three smallish tomatoes out of Section 4, and one biggish one from the front container. The squashes are producing at just the right rate for us to keep up with them, if we eat a lot of squash soup.

Week
Ending
8/15
Vegetable Count Weight
g
Unit
Weight
g
Total Total
Weight
kg

tomato  4 216  54 27 0.99
cabbage 4 4.02
peas 1.67
summer
squash
1 486 486  4  .85
zucchini  1  1500  1500  4  1.90
Running Total 9.43

 

Week
Ending
8/08
Vegetable Count Weight
g
Unit
Weight
g
Total Total
Weight
kg

tomato 23 0.775
cabbage 4 4.02
peas 1.675
summer
squash
3 .36
zucchini 1 500 500 4 1.400
Running Total 8.93

No, He Doesn’t

August 12, 2016

As my computer hits auto-send on this article, the New York Yankees are taking the field against Tampa Bay, and Alex Rodriguez, A-Rod, will be soon stepping up for his last at bats in major league baseball.

Michael Dougherty, over at The Week, says that A-Rod deserved better than the fan hatred that followed him throughout his career. He’s wrong.

Fan dislike of Alex Rodriguez started in Seattle, when he left the Mariners for league rivals Texas in 2001. He may have loved baseball, as Dougherty claims, but if so it was a love of the mechanics and of the playing rather than love of the game, writ large.

Seattle gave him his start, gave him his nickname, and made him the star player of the team. Everybody loved him. At the end of the 2000 season, he became a free agent and left the Mariners, turning down extremely large amounts of money, to go with the Texas Rangers for an obscene amount of money.

The Mariners fans never forgave him. Ever after, he was booed at every appearance at SafeCo Field, and fans were continually floating paper money down onto the field.

Here's some more money, Alex

Here’s some more money, Alex

You see, in going for the money, A-Rod turned his back on an outstanding team, one that had made it to the ALCS in 2000 and was slated to make it again in 2001, to go with a team that was mediocre before he got there (71 wins in 2000), and was still mediocre (73 wins in 2001) even with his star presence.

Meanwhile, the Mariners were racking up a historic 116 wins in the 2001 season. Yes, they fell apart in the ALCS, but does anyone doubt that if A-Rod had stayed they’d have taken the the ALCS and then possibly the World Series? He turned his back on a winning team for what? For money.

So A-Rod deserves it. It’s not hatred, Mr. Dougherty, it’s contempt.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

August 8, 2016

Garden Report for 160808

The weather this week was reportedly clear, hot and sunny, with heavy rain at the end. I say reportedly, because we were off on a handbell cruise, of which more in a later posting.

We have the KHG plants on a water timer, so they got watered throughout the week. The deck plants didn’t do so well. We’ll see if they recover. The deck parsley managed to survive.

How dry I am

How dry I am

Only one zucchini was ready when we got home, but that was because our neighbors were encouraged to pick what they wanted. As you can see, the squash in Section 3 are all doing well, while the tomatoes (Section 4, in back) are really hurting. I think it’s lack of sunlight.

Some plants do well, others don't

Some plants do well, others don’t

Week
Ending
8/08
Vegetable Count Weight
g
Unit
Weight
g
Total Total
Weight
kg

tomato 23 0.775
cabbage 4 4.02
peas 1.675
summer
squash
 3  .36
zucchini  1  500  500  4  1.400
Running Total 8.93

 

Week
Ending
8/01
Vegetable Count Weight
g
Unit
Weight
g
Total Total
Weight
kg

tomato 3 358 120 23 0.775
cabbage 4 4.02
peas 1.675
summer
squash
2 240 120 3 .36
zucchini 1 200 200 3 .900
Running Total 7.73

Fruity Oaty Bowls

August 4, 2016

With a h/t to Serenity.

I’ve written before about various fruits in oatmeal — blueberries, bananas, figs, etc. Recently, we had a lot of fresh fruit getting slightly over-ripe. We also had the pressure cooker out after making some Santa Maria beans. So, why not pressure cook a bunch of fruit? So I did. Peaches, banana, blueberries, a different kind of peaches, and so forth. Don’t bother to peel them, just chunk them up and throw them in. I made a couple of batches, one of which included blackberries. Don’t use blackberries. They taste musty, and a half-pound box leaves a pound of seeds in the mix. One batch I tried zotting with the stick blender. Don’t use a stick blender. You get a mix that’s 3/4 sludge and 1/4 juice.

What worked best for me was to put the fruit in the pressure cooker (or a regular pot, if you don’t mind watching it), with enough water to make steam with (say, one or one and a half cups), and maybe some sugar. Pressure cook on high for 20min, or simmer for 45min or so. Let it cool, then strain to separate the wet from the soggy. I ended up with twice the fluid I put into it, plus a nice bowl of soft cooked fruit. The liquid can be used for oatmeal, just like water or broth. The solids can be topping for the oatmeal, or eaten separately with cream or creamer.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one cup of fruity broth, sugar to taste, salt (yes, salt — it’s oatmeal). Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats.

Results: Pretty good, as long as I only have to eat it a couple of times a summer. Too much of a hot fruit ambiance for me.

Rating: *****

Green Thumb Up My Nose

August 1, 2016

Garden Report for 160801

The weather this week was clear and sunny, just brushing mid-90’s at midweek.

Harvested two Big Beef tomatoes from the front pot, a New Girl from Section 4, and some miniature peppers from Section 1 of the KHG (4 peppers, 64g total, not worth adding a row for). The BBs are supposed to come in at 400-500g, but these were both 110g. The New Girl was 140g, exactly as advertised.

The squash in Section 3 were badly hit by blossom-end rot, not sure why. Watering has been consistent. I hit them with some calcium mix and they seem to be doing OK now. Got one summer squash and a Zucchini.

Meanwhile, the rest of the KHG tomatoes continue to meander on, with few fruit and nothing ripe. The pie pumpkins outside the KHG are doing OK, but I only see one pump.

I am trying an experiment in the newly-cleared Section 1. Remember the big thistly plant from a couple weeks ago? Turns out it’s burdock, the roots of which are used in some Japanese cooking. First and second year growth is best. So I clipped some of the thistles off a few nearby plants, and planted them in the garden. Remember kids, the best way to get rid of pests is to turn them into gourmet food.

Week
Ending
8/04
Vegetable Count Weight
g
Unit
Weight
g
Total Total
Weight
kg

tomato  3  358  120 23 0.775
cabbage 4 4.02
peas 1.675
summer
squash
 2  240  120  3  .36
zucchini  1  200  200  3  .900
Running Total 7.73

 

Week
Ending
7/25
Vegetable Count Weight
g
Unit
Weight
g
Total Total
Weight
kg

tomato 20 0.418
cabbage 3 2750 917 4 4.02
peas 1300 1.675
summer
squash
 1  .120
zucchini  2  .700
Running Total 6.93

Interestingly, this time last year I was about even with this year’s harvest, and in 2014 it wasn’t until mid-August that it was even worth building a harvest table. That will change by the end of the month.

Shouldering On

July 27, 2016

MJ had her initial post-op doctor’s visit last Tuesday. She came home two Fridays ago, two days later than she should have. For the first four days at home she was in pretty bad shape — thin voiced, lethargic, zero stamina, slept a lot. Just what you’d expect if (as my brother put it) she’d had somebody cut off the end of her arm-bone and pound a foot long steel rod into the marrow. The next week was one of recovery rather than one of, well, recovery. She was brighter, moved about more, and started doing things with the dogs, like feeding them and putting them out.

That's gonna leave a mark

That’s gonna leave a mark

The Tuesday visit marked another transition, to, let’s say, healing. The nurse took out all the staples they were using to hold the wound together, replacing them with short strips of medicinal scotch tape. The scar was impressive (for some reason she wouldn’t let me post a picture), but not so bad that one couldn’t imagine it fading away. Her range of motion is still limited, but even there one can see the possibilities. The pain is, manageable, given enough drugs.

Everything seemed to be on track and on schedule, and the doctor seemed relatively happy. Next visit in a month. After that, rehabilitation.

Meanwhile, back home,

It takes a while to learn the rules

It takes a while to learn how to fit in
(Click to embiggen)

 

Green Thumb Up My Nose

July 26, 2016

Garden Report for 160725

The weather this week was clear and sunny, just brushing 90F at midweek.

This is turning out to be a very odd year. I harvested all the peas, because powdery mildew was attacking them, and because they were old enough that they were wondering if they should switch to being planters instead of eaters. I harvested all the cabbage, because they were pretty well mature (over 90 days since transplanting) and because it was getting hot enough that they’d soon be thinking of bolting. The result is that two of the four KHG sections are now essentially empty, and the other two are only half full (of squash and tomatoes). I had cut back on plantings because of all the trips I’ll be on, but closing out half the garden in mid-July is ridiculous.

Meanwhile, the KHG tomatoes continue to meander on, with few fruit and nothing ripe. The Big Boy in the pot out front (not much soil but lots of sun) finally produced two (almost ripe), and might produce two more.

Week
Ending
7/25
Vegetable Count Weight
g
Unit
Weight
g
Total Total
Weight
kg

tomato 20 0.418
cabbage 3 2750 917 4 4.02
peas 1300 1.675
summer
squash
zucchini
Running Total 6.113

 

Week
Ending
7/18
Vegetable Count Weight
g
Unit
Weight
g
Total Total
Weight
kg

tomato 20 0.418
cabbage  2  1.270
peas  270  –  0.645
summer
squash
     1  120  120    1  0.120
zucchini    2   0.700
Running Total 3.16

What anime am I watching, Summer 2016?

July 22, 2016

Having been down on a bunch of shows, let me tell you about what’s good what has kept my interest. There’s a number of highly thought of shows this season, but for some reason, none of them resonate with me. Right now there’s only four that I’m watching.

Amanchu! In the quiet, ‘healing’ tradition comes a story about how a shy transfer student to a high school by the sea learns to fit in by way of scuba diving and a whacky friend. So far, it’s more Aria than Girls und SCUBA. The girl is well presented and believable. The friend is over-the-top. Her most common face makes her look like one of the elves in Humanity Has Declined.

One of these girls is having way too much fun

One of these girls is having way too much fun

ReWrite  Typical VN-based high school harem hi jinks. Our Hero joins the Occult Study Club because, well, that’s where the oppai are. Gets involved in various occult happenings. What I like about it is that it keeps throwing in twists. Like when they catch the tsuchinoko monster that’s been seen around campus, and it turns out to be a rubber dummy being used as a tsuchinoko lure by another occult seeker.

I suppose you ladies are wondering how you all came to be in the club

I suppose you ladies are wondering how you all came to be in the club

ReZero HikikoNEET gets transported to a fantasy world. This is a two cour series that started last Spring, so we’re on episode 16. Proto-agonist Subaru (yes, it’s , the same as the car, and the same as the Pleiades/Seven Sisters constellation) keeps getting horribly deaded, respawning at an earlier place and time. In the first season he came over as well-meaning, if a little dense and hot-headed. In the second season the heat and density reach stellar-core proportions. So far, he still has the two maid-demons (demon-maids?) on his side, but in the latest episode the Main Heroine has dumped him for being as crazy as a bag of cats. Oh, and everybody has died. Horribly.

Post-respawn awakenings can scare the maids

Post-respawn awakening screams can scare even demon maids

Planetarian Lonely robot keeps watch over a dying planetarium in a dead, post-apocalyptic city. Is befriended by a junk dealer. It’s sweet and sad and reminds me of There Will Come Soft Rains.

Even though we only have electricity for one week, every five years

Even though we only have electricity for one week, every five years

Flying Witch Yes, I know that’s last season. I watched then, also. Very much slice of life. Country-style OP and ED and BGM. Good characters, good art. I’ve marathoned it twice, so far, and plan a much longer essay, later.

It looks like fun, but it can be painful, until you learn the trick

Well, where did you think they came from?
Besides, they’re on sale

But since I’m watching it this season, it counts.

Opera, the Final Farewell

July 18, 2016

So the company wasn’t worth what they thought it was. In fact, it’s only worth half of the original asking price. Nonetheless, a Chinese consortium now owns the browser and the name. I’ll be surprised if anybody outside China continues using it.

It was a fun couple of decades there. I’ll miss you.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

July 17, 2016

Garden Report for 160718

The weather this week started cool and wet, and ended warm and thundry, with highs in the low 80’s.

Peas are ripening well, and it’s going to be a stretch to keep up with them, particularly since they seem to be having some sort of powdery mildew problem. Harvested another cabbage and made a nice soup with it and the leftover cabbage water from last week. So far, the only tomatoes that are producing are the Stupice’s, and we get a couple of sub-ping-pong-ball-sized ones every few days. The summer squash is languishing, just like the tomatoes, but I found two nice sized Zucchini, hidden away.

Week
Ending
7/18
Vegetable Count Weight
g
Unit
Weight
g
Total Total
Weight
kg

tomato  14  268  19 20 0.418
cabbage  1 650  650  2 1.27
peas  –  270  –  0.645
summer
squash
     1  120  120    1  0.120
zucchini  2  700  350  2  0.700
Running Total 3.16

 

Week
Ending
7/11
Vegetable Count Weight
g
Unit
Weight
g
Total Total
Weight
kg

 tomato 6 150 25 6 0.150
 cabbage  1 625   625 1 0.625
 peas  –  375  –  –  0.375
 summer
squash
 zucchini
Running Total  1.15

101 Views

July 17, 2016

First time ever. I guess writing about sports draws the clicks!

Sports Tips

July 16, 2016

Keep your eye on the ball. Always use both hands. This is important both in American football, and in English cricket. It’s equally important when catching a king-sized mattress.

This spring, MJ and I were moving a king from the back of the house, up the hill to the driveway, where a friend with a truck would haul it away for us. At the spot where the hill was steepest, it got away from us, and MJ tried to catch it, one handed. She succeeded.

MJ, chilling out in a cute little off-the-shoulder number that's all the rage in hospital wards in the NW.

MJ, chilling out in a cute little off-the-shoulder number that’s all the rage in hospital wards in the NENW.

In discussing the damage, the emergency room used words like massive, and said the velcro-like sound she heard was the rotator cuff muscle, tearing in half. After four months of non-healing, and understandably ineffective physical therapy, she went in for reverse shoulder replacement surgery.

The operation was a success, but when they put in the nerve block anesthetic — which cuts down on the first 24hrs worth of screaming — her blood pressure plummeted and they had to do lots of medical stuff. So she did not get out the next morning, and she did not get out the next afternoon, nor even the morning after that. But on the evening of the third day she arose, feeling like death, and we got her home to her recliner and her dogs. I don’t know what the scar will look like, but the sealing tape (looks like brown duct tape) runs from her collar bone to past her armpit to her elbow. If we can just get another one on her forehead her Halloween costume will be halfway complete.

As of today (Saturday), she’s still pretty much out of it, sleeps a lot, and cycles between feeling OK, with not a lot of intolerable pain, and pill-popping pain with nausea.

Meanwhile, down on the floor, there’s lots of other things happening.

ThePuppy

TL:DR — Anime I never finished, Summer 2016

July 14, 2016

Tales of Zestiria the X: Is that X the unknown, or X, the queen after Zestiria the IX? Or maybe it’s a date on their calendar?

Court astronomer has been using his telescope to observe local weather, and in no way is he peering into bedroom windows. Maybe he should be the court meteorologist. Anyway, he sees an unmoving dark cloud (does that make it climate?) over in the next county. Princess sends court climatologist and her trusted companion to find out what it is, and then leads out a patrol of her own to find the trusted companion when they don’t come back two minutes later, because rulers of countries always have time to act like platoon leaders. Encounters ninja-shaped aliens. Finds out that the cloud is of geological origin, not climatological. But before she can find the court climatologist to tell him of his new title, the geology becomes a little unsettled and everybody but her dies. Then it gets weird. Later on, there may be sheep.

Normally, you build a dome that will protect all of your 100cm refractor

Normally, you build a dome that will protect all of your 100cm refractor

The acting is over-wrought, the art is crude, and the animation is clunky. And they don’t know how to build observatories.

Qualidea Code: Highly accomplished team member refuses to cooperate with his team-mates when defeating the pink, boob-shaped alien invaders because they’re almost as dumb as the aliens. Team-mates refuse to cooperate with other teams because they have other highly accomplished members who aren’t him. Competition among the teams for accomplishment points (always a bad thing) leads to the destruction of both the aliens and a vital causeway.

Because crenellated walls are the best way to defeat airborne enemies

Because crenellated walls are the best way to defeat airborne enemies

The art is OK, the characters are the usual range of emotional types (defined by hair color), and the plot is clunky.

Ange Vierge: Highly accomplished team members clash with less highly accomplished team members when defeating the black, dildo-shaped alien invaders. Spend the rest of the episode naked in the bath, naked in their quarters and naked in the office, bepestered by lens flare. Decide that the best way to improve their accomplishment levels is to break into naked competitive teams (always a good thing).

If you think the lens flare is bad, just wait for the steam

She must have very sexy elbows

The plot is minimal, the interpersonal interactions are contrived, and the camera work is clunky. The characters are well rounded.

This is the last TL:DR of the season, I swear. Next week, I answer the question every one of my reader is asking — So, what is he watching, anyway?

Green Thumb Up My Nose

July 11, 2016

Garden Report for 160711

The weather this week was cool and wet, with highs in the lower 70’s. Good for cabbage and peas, not so good for tomatoes. Also good for lettuce. Too bad none of the stuff I planted before my trip actually sprouted. The upcoming week will be cooler than normal, maybe hitting 80 toward the end.

 

Week
Ending
7/11
Vegetable Count Weight
g
Unit
Weight
g
Total Total
Weight
kg

 tomato 6 150 25 150 0.150
 cabbage  1 625   625 625 0.625
 peas  –  375  –  –  0.375
 summer
squash
 zucchini
Running Total  1.15

Breaking News

July 10, 2016

In the wake of the Dallas shootings, Boing-Boing has a link to a useful discussion of how to think about fast-breaking news in a crisis. Here’s the takeaway image:

HANDBOOK

And I would add a 1.a. …so will officials on the scene.

It’s Not A Robot

July 9, 2016

So the (lone, untriangulated) Dallas shooter is dead, killed in what is widely heralded as the first combat use of a robot in the US. Only, it’s not. A robot is:

… a mechanical or virtual artificial agent, usually an electromechanical machine that is guided by a computer program or electronic circuitry, and thus a type of an embedded system. Robots can be autonomous or semi-autonomous … (Wikipedia)

Our modern era has an unfortunate habit of using cool words in ways that redefine their underlying meaning. For example, ever since Star Wars, android has been used to mean any mobile robot, instead of a human-seeming one. And robot is used for any mobile telepresence device.

Remote-presence EOD machines have no autonomy. They can’t. You don’t want them to. You want them to be under precise human control at all times. Their job is to be manoeuvred into position next to a suspicious bag of groceries by a human handler, so that the human handler can (for example) set off a small explosive charge that will detonate the main charge (or, more likely blow somebody’s dinner across the parking lot). They are the modern equivalent of a bomb-onna-stick, cousins to the Bangalore torpedo or the self-hoisting petard.

So, yes, the use of a remote-presence EOD machine to deliver a lethal payload to a human target is a first. It is not a harbinger of the rise of the robot killers.

TL:DR — Anime I never finished, Summer 2016

July 7, 2016

Sweetness and Lightning: Hey, have you noticed how well food-porn shows are doing right now? And how much people like smart, energetic little pre-school girls?  We could so clean up with a show that combined the two!

His idea of a child's balanced meal

His idea of a child’s balanced meal

Yeah, but there’s got to be more. If we don’t want to look like Barakamon with food, or Wakakozake with kids, or Gourmet Girl Graffitti with parents, we need something with an edge.

What about making it a single parent, a widower? One who can’t cook?

I don’t know, Japanese are reluctant enough to get married already. We don’t want to give the impression that marriage involves a 50/50 chance of death. I mean, think of all the other single parent or missing parent shows out there. In how many anime do you even see a parent, anyway? Whatever happens to them?

Yeah, but that gives us an opportunity to add a romance angle. You know, like, he’s a school teacher and there’s this girl who’s in one of his classes that keeps coming over to cook. Not just romance, but underage, inappropriate romance!

And she can’t cook either! And they learn together! Sweet lightning, that would work! But what should we call it?

Taboo Tattoo: Guys, what is Miyata thinking? We’ve already got Amanchu, Saiki Kusuo and Food Wars on our plate, and now he wants us to do this Tattoo thing? Even Miyamori Aoi couldn’t find enough animators to save us!

だいじょうぶ, だいじょうぶ. It will be OK. We’ll just use a generic highschool boy develops superpowers plot. Throw in a blonde foreigner and a boobified childhood friend who can cook (maybe we can recycle some outtakes from Food Wars) and the thing writes itself. No need to spend time on the animation, just use dark blobs and speed lines. This will be bigger than Dai-Shogun!!

Take that! You secret tattoo-wielder!!

Take that! You secret tattoo-wielder!!

Momokuri: OK, we’ve got one more 24 minute hole to fill in the schedule, and nobody willing to do it. TMS is busy playing mortician for D.Grey Man while murdering ReLife, and KyoAni is prepping for a second season of Euphonium. Even J.C. Staff is wrapped up in their Tattoo blockbuster thing.

What about recycling something from last years Internet-only ONA programs? Like Momokure. Yandere girl stalks younger boy. I mean, all the episodes are done, it’s cheap, it has low bandwidth, and it already has a 7.2 rating from people who watch anime on their smartphones. What more could you ask for?

Such a cute boy!

Such a cute boy!

 

Oat, peas, beans and barley grow

July 7, 2016

OK, so I lied about the beans and barley.

This recipe is a bit of a mish-mash. We had some leftover pork ribs for dinner, and so had some leftover pork rib bones. We also had our first batch of fresh-from-the-garden peas, and they really were alike as peas in a pod. Which means we had a bunch of leftover pods. Toss in an onion, pressure cook for 20 minutes (didn’t want to overcook the pea pods), and we had a quart of porky-pea broth.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one cup of porky-pea broth, three dinner teaspoons of potato flakes (I like peas and potatoes), salt. Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats. Add the potatoes at the end.

Results: Serviceable. The result was mild and inoffensive and very nearly bland. Adding butter helped, but what it really needed was gravy. I think that the leftover shards and bones from one dinner were not really enough to give it the meaty flavor it needed.

Rating: *****

TL:DR — Anime I never finished, Summer 2016

July 6, 2016

The first two programs I dropped were not even on my season preview list.

D.Gray-man: Boy who hunts soul-sucking demons teams up with sister of soul sucked brother. This is a 2016 continuation of a 2006 anime. The current release starts at Episode 104, but Funimation has posted everything, starting from Episode 1, which is what I watched. Too dark (as in, no light in any of the scenes). Too cartoony (as in, everybody is overacting, even by anime standards). Too much 2006 style art (as in, c’mon, it was made in 2006!). Bottom line: I don’t plan on watching a 103-episode prequel.

Would I lie to a policeman?

Would I lie to a policeman?

Berserk: Another resurrection of an earlier era (2008), only this one doesn’t have any prequels available. Demon-haunted man with a big sword and a tiny tattoo fights skeletal demons in a dark forest. Too dark (as in, no light in any of the scenes). Too cartoony (as in, it looks like it was drawn by US comic book artists). Too much CGI (as in, c’mon, it was made in CGI!). OK, too much bad CGI.

And the skeletons move like stop action from a '60's Voyage of Sinbad

And the skeletons move like stop action from a ’60’s Voyage of Sinbad

Re:Re:Re: Only one of the next three was on the list, but that’s OK, ’cause I only dropped two.

ReWrite: Double length into to a VN adaptation because they had to introduce all the girls who are going to fall in love with Our Hero. As usual in these things, the girls are more interesting than Our Hero, but the art style is from the early naughties VN genre and the magical hijinks that are meant to be ominous are silly instead. As in, magical witch girl secretly enters Our Hero’s room at night, slides up under the covers with him, and bites him … on the arm. She also stabs him with her ribbons.

I will so report you to the teacher!

I will drop you from the Konohana Lucia path and force you into the Bad Ending

ReLife: NEET takes a pill that makes him look young again. Re-enrolls in high school, and immediately forgets how to behave. The only saving feature is that the representative from the company that talked him into taking the pill (as an experiment), looks like Koizumi Itsuki from Haruhi Suzumiya, so it’s nice to see that he got an interesting job after college (probably still working for the Organization). I tried reading the manga, and dropped that too.

My Organization wants you to take this pill

My Organization wants you to take this pill

ReZero: This started in the Spring season, but it’s a two-cour, so it still counts. NEET gets transported to a fantasy world in the first of a double episode (1A, 1B) opener. Keeps getting killed and respawning back where he first appeared, but it takes him a while to figure it out. In fact, at the end of 1B he still hasn’t. Since the respawn point is at the same time as well as the same place, it’s like a time loop anime as well. So everything he does based on prior knowledge means the future is different from that point on. Impresses the girl, gets killed; misses meeting the girl, gets killed; catches up to the girl, she doesn’t know who he is.

Three minutes in and already he's adapted

Three minutes in and already he’s adapted

 

This is the only one I’m continuing to watch.

 

Happy 4th

July 4, 2016

The Fourth of July seems to have become a holiday devoted to celebration of the military. We have parades, we have fly-bys, we have speeches honoring the brave men (and now, women) who are overseas, serving and defending our country. We’ve always had some of this, but in the past it was the military celebrating alongside the rest of America, not America celebrating the military. What has changed?

I think part of it has to do with the ending of the draft. It used to be that everyone had served, or knew someone who served. Today, not so much. While there’s still a large group of people who know someone in the Reserves or the Guard, the total is way down from the 50’s and 60’s. More to the point, people no longer feel threatened by the possibility of conscription, so they can afford to wast some pleasantries on some uniformed stranger who is going off to die in some dusty country. Plus, it’s cheap. Like inflated job titles in some underfunded Silicon Valley startup, we can give fancy lip-service to someone we don’t want to give a high salary or effective post-service medical care to.

In addition, it’s good corporate policy to be seen being patriotic, by including a “thank you for your service” in their employee practices, by offering servicemen and women half off, if they come in uniform, or by building a new MLB ballpark at Fort Bragg. It costs very little — smiles are free, nobody who’s been stuffed in a uniform all week wants to slag around in it on the weekend, and the Fort Bragg logo on one end of the sign can be balanced by the Chevy logo on the other.

As someone who has served overseas in one war (VietNam), one almost war (Korea) and one Cold War (Europe), I am mildly put off by all this “Thank you for your service” propaganda. If you want to thank us for our service, stop getting us into stupid wars.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

July 4, 2016

Garden Report for 160704

No reports for a while on account of as how I was out of the country. While I was gone we moved into our standard summer weather pattern — hot and dry, and sometimes windy. We had a couple days in the upper 80’s, and no rain, and the temperature one foot down in the KHG was 70F on July 1. Fortunately, I had a timer on the soaker hose for the garden, and MJ got the deck plants. Unfortunately, the wet spring and the long absence meant that the weeds have kindof taken over.

The weedy back yard. There are five tomato cages hidden in there somewhere

The weedy back yard. There are five seven tomato cages hidden in there somewhere

The KHG is in much the same shape:

The weedy garden. Cabbages in front, tomatoes at the rear

The weedy garden. Cabbages in front, tomatoes at the rear

And this is The Weed.

The weed. This guy produces lots of horrible thistly seed pods.

This guy produces lots of horrible thistly seed pods.

If your dogs get into this one, come Fall, you’ll be picking burrs out of their fur for a week.

Next week will be a little cooler, and better maintained.

It’s not quite time to start the scoreboard, but I probably will next week. We harvested a handful of deck snow peas for salads, and a couple of deck tomatoes about the size of a bocce ball pallino. About time to harvest some of the garden peas. The lettuce I planted before the trip didn’t come up. I think it was too far away from the soaker hose.

The cabbages are doing surprisingly well. I guess the situation is more complex than I had been led to believe. Previously, hot weather would cause them to bolt. Right now, I seem to have four good cabbages, perhaps softball sized. That’s probably because we had cool wet weather at a critical point.

The KHG tomatoes, in Section 4, are looking surprisingly puny. Possibly because Section 4 gets less sunlight than any of the others. I may have to modify my rotation scheme. The big pumpkins didn’t get any water, and so are stunted and bug-bit. The small pumpkins got some water, and more sun, and so are doing reasonably well. The squashes are doing well, but the one zucchini that was starting off when I left decided to die before dropping its flower instead.

Replanted the deck snow peas. Planted more lettuce.

 

Anime Postview: Spring 2016

July 3, 2016

This is not a real review of the Spring anime season. Instead, it’s a look at how well I did in my Anime Preview.

Of the ones that I said WILL WATCH, I’m two for four.

Screenwriter Okada Mari said that “It’s a show that should give rise to the reaction What the hell is this!?”, and it does. Lots of folks didn’t like it (and some do), but lots of folks don’t have the patience for a show where half the fun is in the way this totally incompatible group starts off discussing a plan, and then spin off half a dozen conversations with no relevance to the plan, or anything else. If you’ve ever been in a business meeting, you know what I mean. BTW, mayoi is the same word that Monogatari uses for Hachkuji Mayoi — the lost snail.

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

My candidate for best show of the season, and possibly the year, is a feel-good, slice of life anime. No conflict. No drama. No plot. You just find yourself smiling at the end of each episode. It’s based on a slow-output manga, and they used up perhaps two-thirds of the existing source, so it will be a couple of years before a sequel. That’s OK. I’ll wait.  

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

The other two in this category were on feeds that I don’t get, so they don’t really count, right?

In the MIGHT WATCH category, I’m one for four.

Bakuon was not strong enough to maintain my interest, Kumo Miko died even earlier, and Kiznaiver was just bad. The only one I finished was the non-harem (he’s already got the girl) gamers in highschool. He should have known they were females from the beginning, when they all stood around gossiping while he was being pounded into thin paste by a monster.

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

4. Negote no Yome…
Highschool boy finds that all the guys in his MMORPG are girls, and they go to his school!

Of the shows that I said that I WON’T WATCH, I didn’t, and I’m glad. So I’m four for four there.

Meanwhile, there was one show that that I didn’t list that I DID WATCH and I’m happy I did.

Steampunk. Zombies. On a train. With old fashioned samurai. What’s not to like? This one turned up on my Amazon Prime list. Good thing it was subtitled, or I wouldn’t have watched it.

Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress

Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress

So, I guess you could be conservative and say I’m three for seven. Interestingly, all of them except Kabaneri are on Crunchyroll.

My Trip to England: Day 11 and Final

June 30, 2016

Nothing very English about today. Got up early and finished packing — left all of my used underwear in the trash can because otherwise there was not enough room for the swag. Jen and I shared a taxi-van to Heathrow. Turns out that a two way share is slightly cheaper than a single person riding the train to Heathrow via London. Very enjoyable ride through a green and pleasant land — southern Cambridgeshire and Huntingtonshire.

At Heathrow, I found that the nice lady from British Airways who helped me on Day 1 had messed up the ticket and so we had to go through it all over again. I didn’t mind, because I had eight hours to kill (one of the drawbacks to shared transport). There had just been a bombing at the airport in Ankara, Turkey, and security was high — Army guys with automatic weapons, and police with bomb dogs wandering around. Still, there was a certain EuroSanity about it, with none of this silly remove your belts and your shoes business.

HiMyNameIsCasey

Hi! My name is Casey!! You got a bomb for me? Or maybe a cookie?

The trip back was about as expected. Long and boring. I watched a Japanese movie based on a Manga (Orange). I watched the first 10 minutes of the 2016 release of the movie “Dad’s Army“. Sorry guys, you just couldn’t pull it off. I had more footroom than on the trip out because I was in a center section and didn’t have to fight for space with the USB router box (as I now discover). Tried to stay awake, and mostly succeeded.

In Seattle, the basic ineptness of the US  border control mafia was on display. Passport processing was relatively easy because there were around 20 automated machines to let you do the work of border control official. Foreigners had a slightly longer ordeal. Then the two streams, totalling about 300 people, merged again, and flowed to the immigration checkpoint — two stations. Of course there was a big pileup (solar physicists would call it a shock front), and we had to wait.

After that, it was clear sailing down to pick up our bags and head out through a short, poorly lit corridor and around a corner to …. some additional TSA checkpointing. Unlike the highly alert UK on the edge of a recently bombed Continent, TSA wanted belts and shoes off and even paper out of the pockets and ran me through the particle accelerator scan — twice. Turns out my beltless trousers were too baggy for the machine, which missed the Garmin I’d forgotten I had strapped to my ankle. All in all, it took me longer to get back into the States, than it me to get into the UK, or onto a UK plane.

BA had  pre-booked me on AK Airways, so I only had a five hour wait in Seattle. Ate at Wulfgang Puck’s. Had a dinner pizza, in this case a pizza disk heated up with a cheese and mushroom topping, with arugula lettuce added, post baking, as a final topping. As they say on MJ’s favorite TV program, “I’m sorry, Wulfgang”, but you’ve been chopped.

Got home at 12:15AM. Slept well.

Corned beef oats

June 30, 2016

This is more variations on a theme, rather than a major new item. I’ve done a number of experiments with corned beef, and cabbage, leftovers in oatmeal. This time we had slow-cooked a corned beef slab, with root vegetables, for eight hours on low, in enough water to just cover. Added cabbage a half-hour before the end. Result wasn’t exciting, but that might have been the cut of the meat, or the cutting of the meat. The broth, however, was great. There was close to two quarts of it. This is my best result:

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one cup of slow-cook corned beef and cabbage broth, a quarter cup of chopped raw cabbage, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, salt. Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats. Add the cabbage at the eight minute point, and the potatoes at the end.

Results: Most excellent. Will do this again. Adding a teaspoon of yellow or brown mustard to the broth helped. Or you could add pepper (we didn’t use the spice packet). The only reason it didn’t get five stars is because it didn’t make me do an Aristotle and run down the street shouting “lend me a towel”.

Rating: *****

My Trip to England: Day 10

June 29, 2016

Last full day in-country. Second day of the workshop. Started early, ran long. Did some final shopping and said goodbye to Henry VIII

No, I don't know what he's doing, either

No, I don’t know what he’s doing, either

On the way to get a cab we saw the mayor’s office at The Guildhall hanging out some post-Brexit flags.

Cambridge wants in

Cambridge wants in


I guess some folks didn’t like the outcome.

My Trip to England: Day 9

June 28, 2016

Today was the big day, my 2hr workshop for systems science students at Cambridge University. Actually, it was for everyone from anywhere — at least one person came up from London. The talk went reasonably well, and we had a nice lunch in the Eagle — the same pub that Crick and Watson used to hang out in (and the first bar I have seen that had San Miguel on tap).

Good beer, good food, good talk

Good beer, good food, good talk

Afterwards I did some shopping — I think I’m going to have to leave some clothes behind in order to fit all the new stuff in.

Went back to the hotel for a bit of a nap, then out again to find a pub for dinner. It turns out that the England/Iceland football match was on, and the first pub, half a kilometre from the hotel, was filled to standing with athletic-looking guys, cheering and shouting. Another half kilometre and I came to a second pub. Open mic night for prospective bar bands. But there was an open patio, away from the noise, where I could sit and drink and read my kindle.

On the way home I walked down this road. It’s typical of half the roads in Cambridge.

Two lane road. Can you spell narrow?

Two lane road. Can you spell narrow?

The other interesting thing about that picture is that it was taken at nine-o’clock at night, normal exposure.  Summer days in England are long. Of course, in the winter, you’re going to work and coming home in the dark

My Trip to England: Day 8

June 27, 2016

Nothing significant to report. Spent all morning in my hotel room (no a/c), working on tomorrow’s presentation. Spent all afternoon at Jen’s (no a/c but the windows open), working on tomorrow’s presentation. Spent all evening trying to get anime on Crunchyroll.

My Trip to England: Day 7

June 26, 2016

Today was a down day. Ran down to London to meet some friends I hadn’t seen for 40 years.

Darby and Joan

Darby and Joan

We just walked around London, and rode the tube here and there. London Transport is serious about safety. They have signs everywhere.

Mind The Gap

Mind The Gap

and they mean it. This gap is 8″ wide and 6″ high.

No, really. Be careful.

I don’t think they would allow this in Japan

We had a long discussuin about Brexit. They are for exit “because the country is filing up.”

Meanwhile, back in the US, some more important things are happening.

Her name is Music

Hi! My name is Music

She seems to be fitting in well

I have many friends

I have many new friends

My trip to England: Day 6

June 25, 2016

Hotel in Cambridge is nice, in a small, two-star sort of way. The room is bigger than the one in London.

Two mats bigger than the JR hotel

Two mats bigger than the JR hotel

The view out the back is of the green buffer zone around the airport — hedges and grass and … rabbits.

Watership Hotel

Watership Hotel

There’s a paved footpath across the commons, and I took a walk in the cool of the morning.

Nothing like this in Cheney

Nothing like this in Cheney

The path takes you past a small Army Reserve training area, complete with an assault course, warning signs, and … rabbits.

Only combat troops and rabbits allowed

Only combat troops and rabbits allowed

Late that morning, I walked to Jen’s for a grant-writing meeting. Afterwards, she took me on a foot tour of Cambridge. We were going to get dinner at this posh restaurant she knew about, but we got caught in a T-storm and ducked into a little bistro across the street from this building.

There's some goood eating near here.

There’s some goood eating near here.

Garmin says I did 9.6 miles today. I think that’s wrong. Google Maps says the distance from the hotel to Jen’s (plus my morning walk) covered almost exactly 4 miles (pretty much a straight line), while the Garmin swore blind it was six. Checking the settings, I find that some update or other wiped my stride length, so the Garmin was just guessing.

Memories of my youth: Brexit

June 24, 2016

In 406 AD, the last of the Roman legions in Britain were withdrawn to the continent to support the pretender Constantine III. In 410 AD, Honorius, the victorious emperor, wrote a letter to the cities of Britain saying that from here on out, they were responsible for their own safety. The Empire had abandoned Britain. There are those in Britain who never forgot this betrayal, even unto modern times.

Fast forward 1560 some years, and Britain is trying to decide whether or not to join the European Community. A friend of ours — an old man who was in the Fire Service in WWII and knew so much ancient Greek history that we called him Archimedes — was adamant that because Europe had abandoned Britain in 410, there was no reason to support them in 1973. He said that if the UK gave up their sovereignty like that, he was going to emigrate to New Zealand.

Fast forward another three years. The UK is in the EEC. We are back in the US. We send our usual Christmas card. Some weeks later we get it back “Moved to New Zealand. No forwarding address.”

There have always been Britons who looked with distrust on any relationship with The Continent.

My Trip to England: Day 5

June 24, 2016

Woke up early to the sounds of thunder. Nasty, but fast-moving set of storms passed directly over London and my hotel. FlashBang close.

The Hotel. I'll have more to say about this when I revise these entries.

The Hotel. I’ll have more to say about this when I revise these entries.

Had planned to go out while traffic was low but it stayed pouring rain until 10AM. Had an early lunch with Jen, and we set off for Cambridge. Of course we went through King’s Cross, and of course they had a Platform Nine and Three Quarters set up. Not however, between platforms 9 and 10, but off to the side, where the crowds wouldn’t interfere.

Platform Nine and Three Quarters.

Platform Nine and Three Quarters, the tourist version.

After which we had a nice train ride through rolling green countryside, to Cambridge. It was raining there, the traffic was horrible, and that’s a story for tomorrow.

Lobster Dashi

June 23, 2016

The other day we were in a celebratory mood. Or maybe we were depressed. In any event we needed to treat ourselves, and how better than to buy a small steak and a couple of lobster tails. The steak divided, the lobsters eaten, the only thing left were the shells — to the pressure cooker! I cooked the two shells and other detritus in two cups of water, with a sprig of marjoram, on high for 30 minutes. After the broth had cooled, I put in one two-inch slab of kombu seaweed and let it soak overnight. In the morning, I heated a cup of the dashi until it was steaming, then removed the seaweed. The broth was clearly dashi, but it was distinctly different from the standard bonito-based variety.

The first morning I added a dash of shoyu. The second morning, I added a teaspoon of chopped ginger (from a jar).

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one cup of lobster/kombu broth, 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, in a delicate Japanese side dish sort of way. After I had used up my two cups of broth, I realized I probably should have tried miso instead of ginger. Oh, well. I’ll remember that for the next time we’re feeling depressed.

Rating: *****

My Trip to England: Day 4

June 23, 2016

Today was the big day. Up early to check out the facilities. Session room is small and stuffy, about par for the course. Nobody embarrassed the side too badly, and I got one complement.

To get to the session room you go into this guy's lab, and across his bridge.

To get to the session room you go into this guy’s lab, and across his bridge.

Attendance was poor, but it was, after all, the last day of the con.

That evening I did a bit of a walkabout. Crossed over Waterloo Bridge — lots of cyclists, lots of joggers, all fleeing the city.

The Thames, looking East to the Shard and St. Pauls.

The Thames, looking East to the Shard and St. Pauls.

I promised MJ we’d come together next year. The Southbank area seems a good place to do things.

The Thames, looking West towards Westminster. Many of the props from the Harry Potter movies are still in place.

The Thames, looking West towards Westminster. Many of the props from the Harry Potter movies are still in place.