On Thermonuclear War

October 19, 2019

If you want an animated look at what one nuclear weapon will do to one major city, here’s a link to a nine-minute YouTube, which sounds like it’s being narrated by the guy who did Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, only not as funny.

Back in 1973 I was assigned to the Military Airlift Command Indications and Warning Center at Scott AFB. Our job was to keep an eye on everything that went on around the world, if there was the possibility it could require some sort of MAC involvement: war in the Middle East, non-combatant evacuation from Congo, airlift of relief supplies to Bangladesh. Support the rest of the US military when fighting a nuclear war.

Shortly after I arrived, we had a visit from the newly-assigned USAF Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence, Major General George Keegan. He was traveling to every I&W Center in the AF, and he had one message, that he was delivering personally:

Your primary mission is to prevent a nuclear war.

He knew, and we knew, and anyone who has been associated with the things knew, that a nuclear war would be an unmitigated disaster, and that we needed to expend all our efforts, 24/7, to making sure that such a war didn’t occur.

As the animation says, a nuclear attack is like a wildfire, hurricane, earthquake, and nuclear reactor meltdown all at once, only worse. What it doesn’t say is, in a nuclear war this will happen everywhere at once. Don’t plan on any kind of outside help, because help isn’t coming.

I’ll talk more on this topic later, but for now, watch the video.

 

Yes, we are rural

October 19, 2019

Our long autumnal rains have just started, here in the NENW, and the urban quail are not liking it.

About 20 quail sheltering under my car (click to embiggen).

I didn’t want to scare them off, so this is a zoom shot from 30ft away.

TLDR: Anime I never finished, Fall 2019 Part 4

October 15, 2019

I don’t know which is more amazing, how many anime I am finding uninteresting this season, or how many anime I’ve had time to watch this season.

To start with, the cute girls doing cute things with weapons lode is just about mined out, and now we are reworking the tailings.

AZUR LANE

I’m really sorry to have to drop this one, but it’s a cheap knock-off of the real thing. It’s like someone randomly merged sentences from the elevator pitches for KanColle and Arpeggio, and studio Bibury said “How hard can it be?

The ship/girl mechanics are confused, the combat mechanics are confused, the battles are confused, and the Sakura Fleet carrier pairs seem driven primarily by lesbian incest. Now, I’ve got nothing against lesbian incest, but c’mon, girls, time and place, time and place.

You should see how I’ll repair the holes in your flight deck

On top of that, the pre-tweens keep getting treated like sex objects, and one of them has a bad case of crabs.

Chidori RSC

A straightforward high school club anime about target shooting. So far, it’s mostly club activities that don’t actually involve target shooting.

Most of the time they’re eating snacks and buying clothes

I’m getting a K-On with laser rifles vibe, only without the K-On part.

Then there’s the police procedural/modern crime anime. Most are not bad, as such, but I’m finding that, as with period costume drama, these just don’t hold my interest. Last week it was Special 7. This week, it’s:

BABYLON

Even if they’ve got a neat superpower hook.

I was the new guy

and

Case File nº221: Kabukicho

A Sherlock Holmes non-thriller with a cast of dozens. Tries to make up for lack of substance with all sorts of gimmicks, most of which are of the funny once variety.

Not even Ladybeard could help it.

Besides, it’s on Funimation, and the interface is terrible.

To wrap things up, we’re now to the point in the season where I’m watching anime from years past, trying to find something to fill the newly emptied time slots.

Makai Ouji: Devils and Realist

I started this 2013 anime because it was featured on a list of really good OP’s. Two episodes in and there still was no sign of any female characters. There were a couple of false alarms, and one curvaceous person that appeared in the ED, but that was it.

The question is, are either one of them female?

So far it’s all male, with lots of bonding and opportunities for shipping. Sorry, guys, but if you’re going to make something about a band of brothers, I’d much rather it was Band of Brothers, ya know?

That’s the last time I take programmatic advice from a fujoshi.

Side Note: Five of the shows I was interested in were Funimation exclusives. Three were crap, and two were uninteresting. Given that watching stuff on FN is a painful experience, I might just have to rethink my subscription.

Backing up the President

October 11, 2019

On 24 February 1964, President Johnson announced the existence of the YF-12 supersonic interceptor (a variant of the SR-71), based at Edwards AFB in California. Unfortunately, there weren’t any YF-12s at Edwards. They were all at Groom Lake, Area 51, in Nevada. What to do? Well, you don’t want to make a liar out of the President (these were more innocent days), so they rushed two of them at supersonic speeds down to Edwards. Despite the announcement, any details about the aircraft were still secret, so when they landed they were quickly rolled inside a hangar. It turns out that even such a short flight, at close to Mach 3, heats up the skin of the aircraft considerably. They rolled the aircraft into the hangar, closed the doors, and the fire suppression sprinkler system went off.

I bring this up because President Trump just announced that all US troops were now out of Syria. That’s wrong. Not only are there hundreds of troops assigned to other places than the northeastern border, even the thousand or so removed from the Kurdish areas were merely relocated further south (although, not so far south that they couldn’t be hit by Turkish artillery).

Obviously, the military didn’t get the word, and is at risk of making the President look a liar.

I’d suggest that the only way to back up the President’s words is to pull all our troops out of Syria now, and pull them out fast enough to set off the sprinkler system.

 

Kurdish Debacle

October 10, 2019

Pity the poor Kurds. As Pat Lang points out, they are just the
latest in a long line of erstwhile allies that we have betrayed and abandoned. Those betrayals go back to the Apache Scouts, who
sided with us in the Indian Wars and were jailed with the rest of their brethren for a quarter century, through the Hmong of Southeast Asia, the Shiites of Assad’s Iraq (who we encouraged to revolt in 1991 and then ignored), and the many translators and helpers in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria.

The Kurds are an ethnic Iranian, mostly-Moslem people who have the misfortune to be living in a region at the intersection of four different countries. They were supposed to have been granted their own country in the breakup of the Ottoman Empire at the end of WWI, but what one treaty gives, another can take away. Ever since, the Kurds have been on the outs with their various host countries.

Greater Kurdistan

In the most recent set of events, the Syrian Kurds sided with the US in its fight against ISIS, and contributed significant forces to the mission of holding the northern region of Syria and preventing ISIS from getting aid from that part of Turkey. Turkey has a large Kurdish population in the southeast, and looks on them the same way they do the Armenians — as an untrustworthy minority that needs to be kept oppressed.

On a practical note, there weren’t that many US troops in northern Syria, just a few hundred acting as observers and keeping the Turks from trying to overrun the area. Those few hundred had an impact far beyond their size, and pulling them out  allowed Turkey to unleash a major invasion, no matter what Trump claims.

Another result is likely to be halt of all anti-ISIS operations and the release of some thousands of ISIS prisoners, currently held by Kurdish forces, an event that the US has already said it can’t do anything about.

Finally, everyone but the US and the Kurds will benefit from this. Both Putin and Bashar al-Assad will. ISIS will. Assuming they don’t get bogged down (and the terrain is mostly flat and tank-friendly), Turkey will be able to advance its political Islam agenda.

Meanwhile, Trump is asking what have the Kurds done for us lately, and the transactionalists are saying that this won’t hurt our credibility, because we don’t have any. That our reputation in the world is exactly the same as Trump‘s as a businessman. That all these people are supporting us because a strict calculus of costs and benefits says that it’s to the Kurd’s benefit to support us, despite our dismal record.

That’s the “You knew I was a snake when you married me” defense. It’s as abhorrent in international relations as it is in business and personal ones, and it doesn’t take into account the fact that more people around the world seem to believe in the idea of America than do those actually living here.

 

CabbageOats

October 10, 2019

The last time I tried using the water left over from cooking cabbage as the broth for oatmeal, I said it was bland. Cabbagy, but bland. What I forgot is that there’s more than one way to broth a cabbage.

So here’s the plan. Instead of forcing the poor, wilted cabbage leaves to carry the full flavor burden, why don’t we share it out, and use the cabbage as a supporting actor? Not in a three-drops-of-shoyu way, but in a somewhat bigger role? Like maybe half the broth?

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one half cup cabbage broth, one half cup beef 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. I like to put a fat pinch of shred cheese at the bottom of the breakfast bowl.

Results: Very good. Beefy, with just an undertone of cabbagosity. You can go as low as 25% cabbage broth, but If you increase it above 50%, it lapses back into bland.

Rating: ***

TLDR: Anime I never finished, Fall 2019 Part 3

October 9, 2019

We’ve been through a full week now, and the really bad shows have fallen by the wayside. What’s left are the good ones, and the not-bad ones that haven’t been able to hold my attention. OK, and some newcomers.

Special 7: Special Crime Investigation Unit

Lovable collection of misfits assigned to a special police operations unit. Think of them as the official version of Bungo Stray Dogs. For what it’s worth, they’re in Tokyo, not Yokohama, so there’s a certain metropolitan panache to the project. Not bad, if you like that sort of thing.

Hi. I’m the new guy

Fate/Grand Order Absolute Demonic Front: Babylonia

I should have known better than to watch an anime with both Fate and a punctuation mark (and three subcomponents) in the title. At least it didn’t have Certain, or Re:

Confused mess of characters and plot points understandable only to those who have followed the franchise for the last decade and a half, preferably with a notebook and a copy of DBase II next to the TV.

I only understand every other word

Kandagawa Jet Girls

Look, HiDive, if the girls in an ecchi anime are going to bare their all, the least you can do is show it. Don’t make them sacrifice their modesty for nothing. Don’t make the act of their freezing their …. salient features …. off a worthless endeavour. More worthless.

Poor things. They’ve got nothing in the way of original character, their dialogue is cringeworthy enough that they should be embarrassed to rehearse in the bathroom, and the plot has been used so many times that the velveteen is worn off the corners. You should at least let them flaunt their one advantage, but no, you’ve got to have them change into their skintights in this dark, shadowy relic of a building, when other viewers get a nice bright room with lots of windows.

All is darkness

Shame on you, HiDive.

Autumn Storm 2

October 9, 2019

Remember last week’s snowstorm? First September snow since 1926. Well, now we have the first time there’s been more than a trace on October 8th in, like, forever.

Our back yard got about two inches. Fortunately, all the limbs that were going to come down, did so in the last storm. All we had this time was a power outage. UPDATE: And a couple of big branches that fell into a neighbors yard, so they don’t count.

Meanwhile, across the street, a major branch peeled off our neighbor’s tree, and two other big branches are broken and hanging. I’ve decided not to do any yard work today. Maybe just stay inside and watch anime.

TLDR: Anime I never finished, Fall 2019 Part 2

October 5, 2019

It’s taking a while to get all of my TLDR’s assembled, because half of the shows are hanging back, to see how the battle goes. Other foolhardy fools have foolishly rushed right in. Fools.

High School Prodigies Have It Easy Even In Another World

This show is taking the Okada Mari approach to isekai story development. “You want isekai? I’ll give you isekai that will turn your brain to porridge. You want overpowered heroes? I’ll give you heroes who can beat One Punch Man to the punch.”

And you thought that just one isekai hero was too much

After a five minute expository lump we find that the high school heroes-to-be (each of whom is world-class at something — medicine, ninja,  governing countries, something) were flying in a private jet from somewhere to somewhere when, in typical isekai fashion, the jet was magically transported to a medieval fantasy world. One with bunny girls but no runways and wolf-men but no crash recovery services. But do not despair. Our Heroes are miraculously thrown clear of the crash, and the plane burns to a cinder, all except a few spare nuclear reactors and such. Too bad about the pilots and cabin staff.

After that, the only mystery is, how will our multi-talented crew solve the next trivial puzzle the world throws up for them. Of course, we know that part of the plot is to conquer the world using the culinary arts of Greater Nihon (it always is). So, their first step is to introduce a sauce that will amaze the foreign taste buds.

You will never guess…

Well, maybe it’s not this kind, but it’s close.

Now, all the other isekai that I’ve read take chapters and chapters to find the rice and edamame and so forth to produce proper shoyu, or miso. Our Heroes find an easier way, with eggs (which we saw in the opening shot) and oil and vinegar: Traditional.  Japanese…. Mayonnaise.

The best I can say is that it’s mildly amusing, and at least they haven’t used a German suplice. Yet.

Val x Love

Really scary/ugly protagonist with a heart of gold? Check. Pre-made harem of cute girls living in his house? Check. Contrived plot-line requiring that the girls get molested by our protagonist in order to achieve their full potential as maidens? Check. OK, we have three in a row. We’re good to go.

We’re only halfway through my preseason list of shows I want to watch, and already I’ve dropped half of those. Bodes not well for the second half

The German Suplex Trifecta

October 5, 2019

Is now in play for anime Fall 2019.

Will they get one more? Who will do it? My money’s on High School Prodigies Have it Easy, but we’re still in Week 1, so anything can happen! Don’t touch that dial!

Azur Lane, first impressions

October 4, 2019

I haven’t done a first impressions article before, but AL cries out for one.

The plot is a riff on KanColle, with alien enemy fleets (Sirens instead of Abyssals) opposed by embattled humanity, said humanity being represented by cute girls who embody the souls of warships of the past. The major differences are the girl/ship mechanics and the underlying plot point that humanity is divided and fighting among themselves.

The girl/ship relation doesn’t fill in the empty cell in my Ship Girls analysis (real girls/imaginary ships). Like Arpeggio of Blue Steel, they really are real ships. Unlike Arpeggio, they disappear into a cloud of ice cubes (or maybe cherry blossoms) when the girls clear them for action, so maybe they are semi-imaginary, like a pain in a real big toe. Like KanColle, the girls are rigged out like the ships they represent, and roller blade across the water into action, mostly. You see, some of them just fly into action on their own, and some of them fly into action on their spirit beasts — fox deities, unicorns, Dauntless dive bombers, the usual. The inconsistencies are not explained in the first episode, but there’s lots of expository time left.

The second major departure is the plot structure. Turns out, it’s a three-way fight. On the one hand the WWII Anglo-American alliance is fighting the WWII Axis (so far only the Japanese have appeared) over issues of how to fight the Sirens, in their Fleet of Fog style modernistic ships. On the other hand, the Allies are the only ones actively fighting the Sirens.

Halfway through Episode 1, the Allied base is attacked by the Sirens, and then the Japanese fleet attacks under cover of the Siren attack. The Allies immediately drop the fight against the Sirens and turn their full attention on each other, while the Siren fleet (which outnumbers the combined human force by many manys) apparently just sits back and does the alien invader equivalent of eating popcorn. It’s not until the Enterprise Girl shows up that anyone pays attention to the Sirenians.

So far, so much naval porn. Maybe not as good as Arpeggio or KanColle, but not totally unwatchable. Except for the shipgirls. Now, I like anime girls, as long as they meet a certain level of maturity. They don’t have to carry all their equipment on their upper decks, but they do have to be old enough that I wouldn’t get strange looks if I were talking to one at a bus stop. Half the girls in AL are pre-tweens, and are presented with the same camera angles as you would Hanekawa Tsubasa. Exceedingly off-putting. I’d attribute this to the source being a Chinese mobile game, by a company who did a statistical analysis of what individual elements Western buyers might like, and combined them all in one package.

I’m going to give it another episode or so, to see if the fun parts outshine the freakies.

Fried Green Oatmeal

October 3, 2019

OK, so most of the title is a lie. But what does your mental autocomplete come up with when someone says “fried green …”? Right, tomatoes. So, we’re talking green tomatoes here. In oatmeal.

It’s the end of summer and we’ve got something in excess of 10kg of mostly-green, just-harvested tomatoes, including 2kg of Yellow Pears which, despite the name, are actually cherries.

Little yellows

Baking them for an hour or so, then whacking them with a stir-stick, gave us 700g of a rather tart paste, with too many seeds. The flavor makes one think of an unspicy pepper, more like a banana than a bell. We’re still trying to figure out what it will go with, and while we were doing that, breakfast time rolled around.

I tried it two ways, one with a fat dinner teaspoon of the tomato mix (~30g) and one with two (~60g).

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one cup beef broth, teaspoons of green yellow pepper tomato paste to taste, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, salt. Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats. Add the paste at the beginning and the potatoes at the end.

Results: Not bad. The 30g version was surprisingly mild. The 60g version was more like green chili.

Rating: ***

TLDR: Anime I never finished, Fall 2019 Part 1

October 2, 2019

It’s Opening Day, and the Fall, 2019 anime season stumbles at the very first fence.

Four new shows: two duds, one midrange, and one that I’m watching primarily because I liked the light novel. Here’s the two that aren’t going to make it.

Kemono Michi
He’s really strong, and really dumb, and he really, really likes animals. The animation is low budget. The storyline has some cute twists, but essentially this is a one-joke anime. Overall it was a waste of my limited lifetime CPU ticks.

Everybody needs a hobby of some kind

Cautious Hero: The Hero is Overpowered but Overly Cautious
He (Hero) is really strong. She (Goddess) is really dumb. They go off to save the world, but not before he spends a couple of weeks in his room, leveling up by doing pushups. Animation is slightly better than KemMichi, but that’s damning with faint praise. It might be worth watching a second episode, but only if nothing worthwhile is on the QVC Channel that night.

But wait! I’m not done yet!

 

My Fall Anime Schedule

October 1, 2019

I just spent a pleasant afternoon, cross-checking AniList against YattaTachi’s Fall Fantastic Anime and Where to Find Them and the FansubDB, deciding what I will watch, given what I want to watch and the vagaries of the various streaming services. Here’s my first pass. Note that the day of the week is the release day, and it might turn out to be more easily covered on the next day, plus, I might space them out a little more for ease of watching. Not shown are some OVA’s (Fragtime, etc) and a couple that have incomplete information (Rifle, Pet). Since this is a working paper, primarily for my own use, I probably won’t be updating it as the information changes….or maybe I will.

Day
Program/Streamer

Monday
Babylon / AZP
Didn’t I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life? / CR

Tuesday
Chihayafuru / CR
Kandagawa Jet Girls / VRV

Wednesday
Ascendance of a Bookworm / CR
The Hero is Overpowered But Overly Cautious / FN
Kemono Michi: Rise Up / FN
Ore wo Suki: Are You The Only One Who Loves Me / CR

Thursday
Azur Lane / FN
High School Prodigies / CR

Friday
Kabukichou Sherlock / FN

Saturday
Val x Love / VRV
Welcome To Demon School! Iruma-kun / CR
We Never Learn / CR

Sunday
Special 7 / FN

So, fifteen programs, or roughly two per day (until I start dropping them). The week is surprisingly well balanced, except maybe for Wednesdays, and the Big Two — Crunchyroll and Funimation — are also running neck and neck. Of the two, I prefer Crunchyroll, but that’s a topic for another post.


AZP: Amazon Prime

CR: Crunchyroll

VRV: HiDive/VRV

FN: Funimation

Autumn Storm

September 30, 2019

As in snow-storm. Last Monday it was 70F. On Sunday, we had 2″ of heavy, wet snow. This Monday, the low is scheduled for 27F.

It’s the first time it has snowed in September since 1926, and that was part of the runup to the Great Depression.

Of course the leaves were still on the trees, and they captured the heavy, wet snow, and limbs came down all over. Three big ones came down in our yard, along with a bunch of smaller ones. If we hadn’t savagely trimmed our tree last year it would have been far, far worse.

By next Monday it will be 62F again.

Anime Postview: Summer 2019

September 30, 2019

This is not a real review of the anime season just ending. Instead, it’s a look at how well I did in my Summer 2019 Preview, which you might want to look at first.

Ones I said I WILL WATCH:

Dumbell nan Kilo
Surprisingly good. I learned things about weight training that I didn’t know before.

  • Vinland Saga: Didn’t hold my interest
  • Dr. Stone: Didn’t hold my interest

Ones I said I MIGHT WATCH:

Tsuujou Kougeki
Watchable fluff about how a mother embarrasses her son in public. Brings back memories.

  • Arifuretu Shokugyou: Kindof interesting in parts, but I faded out along of about episode 7.
  • Fire Force: As with ArifuSho, started out OK, and then faded. I only watched three episodes.

Ones I said I WON’T WATCH:

  • Starmu: Didn’t watch
  • Given: Didn’t watch
  • Try Knights: Didn’t watch

So, we started with six in the will/might categories, and ended up watching only two, for a 33% success rate. On the other hand, there was some good stuff that didn’t make my original list. Oh, Maidens was seriously good, and Are You Lost, like Dumbells, gave us cute girls providing actually useful information (assuming you end up in a timeline where MH-370 makes it to an island). Finally, Demon Girl, and Hensuki were both pleasantly mindless eye candy.

In a nutshell: Summers are notoriously light, and this one was no different. Of the ones I watched, only Maidens had any redeeming social value. Yeah, Vinland, Fire Force, and Dr. Stone all came well recommended, but none of them lit a fire. Dr. Stone and Fire Force  were too shonen, and historically I was always one to root for the Anglisc, fighting to save their homes from the Viking frat boys. On the other hand, it did give me a chance to go back and marathon some things I missed earlier

Better than Vikings

Green Thumb Up My Nose

September 28, 2019

Garden Report for 190930

Can you say unseasonably cold? The week started out mild but windy, and it went downhill from there. By Wednesday night they were including windchills in the forecast. By Saturday night, it was chance of 2″ of snow. Highs started at 70 and ended up in the 40’s. Lows in the 40’s became lows around 31. Time to close out the garden.

Total of 7.6kg of tomatoes for the week, plus an additional 2.3kg of the cherry-sized yellow pears that I don’t post to the scoreboard (and which cooked down into 700g of tart sauce with too many seeds).

Speaking of which, here’s the final scoreboard.

Week
Ending
09/30
Vegetable
  (bold = final)
Count Weight g Unit
Weight g
Total
Count
Total
Weight kg
  EG Garden 56 4.72
2 plants EGContainer 40 3710 93 139 11.53
EG Bag 23 2186 95 84 5.86
EG Deck 30 1.77
OtherTomato 27 1724 64 235 17.82
Summer Squash 13 2.56
Zucchini 1 140 140 25 7.89
Spaghetti
squash
2 2480 1240 4 4.97
Winter Squash 5 5.78
Pumpkin 1 980 980 2 1.74
Carrots 1.28
Kohlrabi 2 0.90
Grand Total 66.82

So, 42kg of tomatoes, 23kg of squash, 2kg of other, for a total of 67kg of produce. For the traditionalists amongst the readers, that’s just shy of 150lb, and a new record. Surprisingly, it wasn’t because of lots of heavy squashes.

The results of my Early Girl experiment are shown below.

Early Girl Results Location
Available Sunlight Available Soil Volume per plant Unit
Weight g
Total
Count per plant
Total
Weight kg per plant
Garden Medium 200L 73 56 4.72
House Container High 50L 83 70 5.76
House Planter Bag High 75L 70 84 5.86
Deck Container
Medium 50L 60 30 1.77

So, the smaller containers along the house produced larger but fewer tomatoes, while the larger planter bag produced more, but smaller. Total harvested mass was about equal, and the differences might just be statistical variability. The small container on the deck produced a third the volume, while the Early Girl in the garden —  fighting with the other tomatoes for both sun and  root space — produced 25% less harvested mass.

Sun seems to be the main driver here, with the higher yields going to plants that have more direct sun, plus reflected light off the house and the lawn. Plants in the garden not only have a shade problem (and no, I’m not going to cut down the 60-year-old spruce), but also have to fight for sunlight with plants further south in the section.

I’ll save the policy conclusions for a later post.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

September 23, 2019

Garden Report for 190923

This week was cool and sometimes wet, with lows in the mid- to upper 40’s, and highs in the mid- to upper-60’s. More cool and showeryness in the offing, becoming downright cold (lows in the 30’s) at the end of next week.

So, here we are at the equinox and the garden has pretty well played out. Quite different from previous years, where things kept happening well into October. This despite the lack of early frosts or similar infelicities. About the only things left are 60 or so late-ripening tomatoes and the squashes. I’ve cleaned up and dug over Section 3, and will do the same for Section 4 Real Soon Now.

Harvested the last of the Buttercups (1.2kg, 900g). Summer squash are done. The remaining Zucchinis are all the Genovese variety, looking almost like European cucumbers. Since I’ve culled most of the squash, I can whack away the leaves, and pull up the carrots I planted in Section 1 — half a kilosworth, making just under 1.3kg for the year. Used my now-standard approach of planting them via SeedsOnTape underneath the wire shelving frames. The wiring keeps off the varmints and the green bits grow up between the stiff wires. When time comes to harvest, I just lift the shelf, and it pulls up all the greens, and the carrots come along for the ride.

Here’s the scoreboard.

Week
Ending
09/23
Vegetable
  (bold = final)
Count Weight g Unit
Weight g
Total
Count
Total
Weight kg
  EG Garden 56 4.72
EG Container (2) 6 275 46 99 7.82
EG Bag 3 150 50 61 3.67
EG Deck 30 1.77
Other tomato 9 1032 115 208 16.1
Summer Squash 13 2.56
Zucchini 2 375 187 24 7.75
Spaghetti
squash
1 1150 1150 2 2.49
Winter Squash 2 1940 970 5 5.78
Pumpkin 1 0.76
Carrots 580 1.28
Kohlrabi 2 0.90
Grand Total 55.6

Not quite a record year, we’re still 10kg behind 2012 on tomatoes, but we might yet make it. With the weather forecast the way it is, and the highs at the end of the week coming in lower than what we keep our house at, I’ll probably harvest all remaining, and let it ripen indoors.

Oh, Maidens

September 20, 2019

Part of getting good at something, like aniblogging, is to know when you are not good at some aspect of it, when you are out of your depth and when you have to let others, better equipped, handle it. It’s called knowing your limits. With Oh, Maidens in Your Savage Season, I think I’ve hit mine.

I’m the wrong person to be writing on this topic, because I have the wrong mix of chromosomes, and am far too many decades away from our common source material. That said, and writing in the heat of the moment while the chair in front of the TV is still warm, Oh, Maidens — a romantic comedy about a group of high school girls just coming to grips with their sexuality — is just about perfect.

The characters are distinct and well-formed, the situations are, mostly, believable (and those that aren’t fall well within the acceptable range for anime logic and adolescent imaginings); the art is clean and evocative, and the voice acting is excellent. The girls of the literature club would eschew lewdness in presentation, and so does the anime. It is mature, within boundaries and without being graphic.

It also has my vote for the best anime title of the year.

Okada Marie has created a masterpiece, for grown-ups. If you are already an anime fan, you will love it. If you are unfamiliar with the medium, and still think it’s cartoons for kids, be prepared to have your world view altered.

In any event, go watch it. You won’t be disappointed.

 

Not so fast, cowboy

September 17, 2019

So, it turns out I dodged another one. The guy who replaced me at my job who tried it out and decided to go on to another job isn’t going to that other job, just yet, and so I don’t have to do my old job again and by the time he leaves for that other job they’ll have had time to do a proper job search and hired a real replacement, rather than just a gap-filler.

I was prepared to take one for the Gipper, but it’s probably better this way. It was fun, thinking about striding back into the classroom like Moses parting the bullrushes, but the world has moved on and there’s no need for us old folks to hang around. I’m not sure I can spell MIS any more.

Besides, Fall is shaping up to be a good season for anime.

Anime Preview: Fall 2019

September 17, 2019

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

First, let’s say what’s not in here. Sequels and continuations of stuff I dropped before (Dr.Stone, Enenen), shorts and kids stuff (Banyanya ), movies and OVA’s, and anything with Fate, Qi, or Xi in the title.

WILL WATCH: The title or the cover art is properly enticing, so I definitely will watch at least the first three eps (you can click on the pix to embiggen).

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

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

The Saudi Oil Attacks

September 16, 2019

I’m always reluctant to chime in on a developing situation, but I thought I’d at least add some perspective to the recent attack on the Saudi oil facilities at Abqaiq. UPDATE: I note that most of the major newspapers have done a similar analysis, with better graphics. UPDATE2: Others have pointed out that there are strong political arguments against an Iranian source, and that one cannot just write off the Houthis.

Initial reports say at least 17 weapons were used (plus additional ones that failed to reach their targets). Based on the precision of the strikes they were very likely cruise missiles or drones, the difference being that a drone is controlled from a remote location while a cruise missile has an on-board GPS or similar. Given the distances involved, I’d say cruise missiles.

Saudi oil processing facility, Abqaiq Aramco
click to embiggen

It appears that every weapon that impacted in the target area hit something. The nine gas storage tanks labeled See Image 2, and enlarged below were all hit in the same quadrant by something that penetrated (and presumably vented) but did not ignite the contents. This gives us some idea of the direction of the attacks.

Four tanks, four holes

Here’s the original image, rotated so that North is toward the top of the image, the way we are used to seeing on maps.

North is up, even if you are standing on your head.

What this shows is that the weapons that hit the storage tanks came from a general WNW direction.

There are three candidate launch sites, shown on the graphic below:
A. Iran 750km,
B. Iraq 650km, and
C. Yemen 1000km

Candidate launch areas

Tracks to the target all converge on a waypoint WNW of the facility, in order to account for the observed impact points. Houthi rebels in Yemen, who have been subjected to savage Saudi air attacks for years, claimed responsibility, but the distance is great and they said they used 10 drones, which doesn’t square with what’s known. The Sunni population of Iraq opposes the Shiite Saudis, but their areas of control are mostly north of Baghdad. The Iranians are avowed supporters of the Houthi and are known to have cruise missile technology. In addition, there were reports of unidentified objects flying through Kuwaiti airspace at the time of the attacks.

So right now it looks like yes, this was an Iranian attack, and it was highly successful. The next question is why? Presumably it is to put pressure on the US, through its Saudi partners, to reopen negotiations. Implications of that deserve their own essay.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

September 15, 2019

Garden Report for 1900916

Mid-September is mild and showery. Highs in the mid 70’s, lows around 50. Next week is scheduled to be equally cool and wet.

The seeds-on-tape container lettuce has run into problems.  Wednesday, I found that something was eating them and that one of the containers has been stripped bare. I spent some time with a flashlight on successive nights, trying to find the culprit, to no avail. I need to knit some sort of mesh cover to keep the bugs out.

Winter squash are starting to come in. Three Buttercup (1.4kg, 1.2kg, 1.2kg), a spaghetti squash (1.3kg) and a pie pumpkin (800g). Plus, there’s a very pale acorn squash, that might or might not be edible. A rather nice acorn squash sat on the wet ground too long and was et up by bugs. Meanwhile, the summer squash plants are at EOL. Leaves turning yellow and remaining fruit coming out misshapen.

It’s squash time!

Coming up are a whole bunch of Early Girls, plus an assortment of tomatoes in the main garden. For winter squash, there’s two more Buttercups hanging around, three more spaghetti squash, two things that might be spaghetti squash*, and a probable pumpkin.

I cooked up another batch of tomato sauce. That’s about ten liters so far. Had to do it, because all the tomatoes on the kitchen counter are going soft. And of course, now I’ve got another 32kg to deal with.

Here’s the scoreboard.

Week
Ending
09/16
Vegetable

(bold = final)

Count Total

Weight
g

Unit

Weight
g

Grand

Total

Total
Weight
kg
  EG Garden 3 250 83 56 4.72
EG Container (2) 27 2380 88 93 7.55
EG Bag 8 600 75 58 3.52
EG Deck 30 1.77
Other tomato 17 1890 111 199 15.1
Summer Squash 13 2.56
Zucchini 2 1075 537 22 7.37
Spaghetti
squash
1 1340 1 1.34
Winter Squash 4 4600 1150 4 4.60
Carrots 0.70
Kohlrabi 2 0.90
Grand Total 49.7

This looks to be a record year, with close to 50kg already, and four biggish squash still to come.

*On the one hand, they have a mottled, melon-like, surface. On the other hand, the vine traces back to a “Spaghetti Squash” tag.

Twisting Brexit for Americans

September 14, 2019

Professional religious apologist Rod — the Catholic Church has been going downhill since the Concordat of Worms — Dreher, has an article in American Conservative, nominally the sanest of the right wing web outlets, on among other things, Brexit. There are several problems with it.

Dreher keys off of part of a column by Andrew Sullivan in New York Magazine, purportedly explaining Brexit in terms Americans can understand. As usual with the conservative press, there’s a lot of cherry-picking involved. In this case, it’s a narrow-view drawing of a parallel with no mention of the backstory.

Basically, Sullivan likens the EU to a Super-NAFTA agreement that opens US/CA/MX borders to free flow of immigrants, and imposes a NAFTA Congress and Supreme Court that overrides the US versions, with all US laws subject to NAFTA approval. This, he says, is what the EU has become, and it’s obvious that Americans would never allow it to happen, and would support a Brexit (Amexit?) under those circumstances if it did. Of course, he leaves out a lot.

To extend the analogy and fill in his blanks, we should also posit that the US Constitution was never written and that the independent states continued under the Articles of Confederation, until even that alliance was broken into a separate North and South. That this was followed by a couple hundred years of bloody wars among shifting alliances of states of the US(N), US(S), and the independent provinces of CA and states of MX, some of which left parts of the continent burned out and uninhabited for years. The end point was a fifty year war between the US(N) and everyone else, with a short 20-year semi-truce in the middle, which resulted in the death of tens of millions of citizens on both sides and the total destruction of the US(N) industrial base.

Finally, let us posit that now someone proposes that new and more powerful Super-NAFTA. Suddenly, Amexit sounds a lot less enticing. In the same fashion, Brexit only sounds good to those who are too young to remember What It Was Like Before.

To put it more succinctly, the argument for the EU is the same as the argument for the original US, but stronger.

 

Trim Tabs and the Towers: An 18 year retrospective

September 11, 2019

Fifteen eighteen 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 eight years since, nothing much has changed. what has changed is the willingness of the federal government under the current President to impose draconian rules and punishments on people he sees as the other, and the packing of the courts with like-minded ideologues. The trim tab continues to work.

And while we’re at it, here’s what Jim Wright has to say on the topic.


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 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).

Then, 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.

Back in the saddle again

September 9, 2019

There’s a Hollywood trope about the old gunslinger who tries to retire but circumstances force them back into the business. A good example is Shane, a 1953 movie that couldn’t be made today, first because sensibilities have changed, and second, because that part of the Jackson Hole landscape has been covered by the McMansions of the 1%.

I retired last January, after almost 20 years of teaching. At the time, I was fighting cancer and not sure what my future abilities would be. Also, I was only a year short of 75, which was my original retirement target. So I retired, took a couple of cruises, worked on my garden, turned 75, and managed to suppress, for now, the cancer.

I got a phone call. The guy that replaced me got a better job at a university in Texas, and would I come back and teach my Systems Analysis class one more time, in the Fall. Oh, and maybe the Systems Project class in the Winter.

I really don’t want to do this. I’m enjoying retirement, my cabbages are doing well, and I hate the idea of writing and correcting tests. But the University has fallen on hard times (thank you GOP), and my department can’t find anyone qualified in the two weeks available.

So here I am, strapping on my guns again and riding forth against the forces of ignorance and poor systems design. I am not happy, but a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.

Steve! Come back, Steve!*

*The house has been upgraded since then.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

September 8, 2019

Garden Report for 1900909

Here we are into September already. Warm and dry to start. Warm and wet to end.

Midweek sweep got one zucchini and 14 garden tomatoes. Some of them may be Early Girls, but the plants are now so intertwined I can’t tell. End of the week picked up two small summer squash and 17 more tomatoes, some were EGs.

There’s more to come

The 60 House Container tomatoes are working on the ripening thing.

Here’s the scoreboard.

Week
Ending
09/09
Vegetable

(bold = final)

Count Total

Weight
g

Unit

Weight
g

Grand

Total

Total
Weight
kg
  EG Garden 12 830 69 53 4.47
EG Container (2) 66 5.17
EG Bag 50 2.92
EG Deck 30 1.77
Other tomato 31 3030 98 182 13.2
Summer Squash 2 274 137 13 2.56
Zucchini 1 240 240 20 6.3
Spaghetti
squash
Winter Squash
Carrots 0.70
Kohlrabi 2 0.90
Grand Total 38.0

 

Prestwick

September 7, 2019

I really hate to give Trump the benefit of the doubt on anything, usually because there isn’t any doubt, but I think this whole Prestwick kerfuffle has been blown out of proportion. Here’s a mil.com writeup on it, and below are some of my amplifying thoughts.

There are two stories here. First, Prestwick is a civil airport near Glasgow, on the west coast of Scotland. The USAF has been associated with it for a long time, partly because the UK weather patterns are such that if the airfields in East Anglia are socked in, Prestwick is open. So C-130 crews have been landing there since at least the 1960’s.

In the modern era, with the death of the Soviet Union, the USAF closed a lot of bases in Europe. Then the never-ending war on terror (NEWT) and our decision to invade every country in the Middle East stepped up the ops tempo and massively increased the flow of aircraft from the US to Europe and beyond. Bases, just like the people, are becoming overtaxed. Stopping at Prestwick can make life a lot easier for an aircrew that’s near the end of their crew duty day. Yes, it’s more expensive, but against that you have to count the additional cost of wear and tear on aircraft and crews operating in congested airspace and on congested ramps.

Second, use of Turnberry: When the crew gets down, there’s a contract housing contact that checks what rooms are available at government rates (not the same as published civilian rates), and tells them where to go for their crew rest. To be on the list of acceptable hotels, the hotel has to have agreed to US government rates. Not all hotels do this. Many that do are subsidiaries of US companies. Some might even offer additional discounts to get the business.

Aircrews must have 12hrs uninterrupted crew rest, including 8hrs uninterrupted sleep. That 12hr break includes transport time, so sending the crew on an hour-long drive to get a $25 break on the room rate is perfectly acceptable.

So, there may be more to the story than this, but at this point it looks like there’s not a lot of there, there.

UPDATE 10 October 2019: The USAF agrees with me.

Rank Isekai

September 5, 2019

I like the Rabujoi aniblog, enough so that I have it on my rss feed, in order to get each new article as soon as it comes out. Having said that, I don’t always agree with the opinions of this collective of authors. Case in point is oigakkosan’s recent ranking of isekai anime. I suppose I could go over to Rabujoi and leave a long rant, but why should I spoil other people’s fun. So, here’s my take on the world of isekai. Note, that if it’s in Rabujoi and not here, it’s because I don’t consider it an isekai.

First off, a brief digression on meanings. I am not knowledgeable in Japanese, so most of this is straight look-up. According to Google Translate, isekai (異世界) means different world:
異 = different
世 = world
界 = World (note the capitalization)

Nihongodict says
異 = different, strange, odd
世 = world (pronounced よ, or yo), or geological epoch (pronounced sei)
界 = the world of …

Why the doubling up of the kanji that mean world? Don’t know. I’ve seen something similar before. In Demon King and Hero, Maoyū Maō Yūsha (まおゆう魔王勇者) means demon king, demon king, hero.

And just to add to your confusion, Nihongodict says that 異界 by itself means spirit world, and is pronounced ikai, while Google Translate says that 異世 by itself means different world, and is pronounced kotoyo.

Getting back to our topic, I like to classify multiple sub-genres of isekai. Here’s my breakout, and my ranking within each category:

Stuck inside a computer game — like it says. Either the characters are logged into the game and can’t log out (Sword Art Online), or they technomagically become part of a real world that’s based on the game (Log Horizon).

1. Log Horizon. All 30K people on the Japan Server get dumped into the game world due to a glitch in an update patch (and don’t you just hate it when that happens?). Absolutely the best balanced, both in terms of individual powers, gamerspeak vs world-building, and story line. I’d rate this #1 in my list of the top five isekai.

2. Overlord. All 1 person on the server gets dumped into the game world when the server goes offline. Salaryman who plays an overpowered evil character decides to act the part. Great fun, but it gets old after a while.

3. Death March to a Parallel World. Programmer falls asleep and wakes up inside his game. Passes time by taking a bunch of kids on a trip to Adventureland. Low budget animation.

4. How Not to Summon a Demon Lord. So, he’s a high-powered player in an online game. Gets summoned to a game-based parallel world. Some character development and team dynamics, but mostly low grade harem fanservice. High point is him single-handedly delivering the infant demon lord into the world.

5. Do You Love Your Mom and Her Two-Hit Multi-Target Attacks? Government is recruiting families to play a full immersion video game. Interesting Mother/Teen-son dynamics. Low budget animation.

6. Sword Art Online. Evil sysadmin traps thousands inside a VR game. Protag is an obnoxious little snot who is protected by plot armor from failing at anything except interpersonal relations. Nice animation.

7. Demon Lord, Retry. Not finished yet, but I’ve seen enough. Sysadmin gets sucked into game world when he shuts down the server. Ends up as overpowered character, etc. Characters are like cardboard. Animation is like cardboard cutouts. Jokes are lame.

Transported to a different world — usually summoned from the other side for their own reasons.

1. Gate. In the great tradition of the original isekai, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. This is not just about the impact of the protagonist, it’s about the whole concept of a modern world intruding on native culture. Japanese food is a big hit. I’d rate this #5 in my list of the top five isekai.

2. No Game No Life. Protagonist and Protagonna get summoned into a game-playing world because they are outstandingly good at playing games. Technically an isekai, but with a whole different vibe.

3. Isekai Cheat Magician. Protagonist and Protagonna get summoned. Turn out to be crazy powerful mages. Cardboard characters and equally cardboard animation. Not so much bad as boring.

4. Re:Zero. Sorry, rest of the anisphere, it sucks. Protagonist is an idiot who plows through life in a three yards in a cloud of dust fashion, falls in love at first sight with the first pretty face he sees, and rejects the one woman who knows him and loves him. Interesting respawn mechanic.

5. Rising of the Shield Hero. Some people are natural assholes, others have to practice. For some ungodly reason this gets three seasons, while Devil is a Part Timer got only one.

Reincarnated in a different world — protagonist dies, often meets God, and remembers doing so.

1. Tanya the Evil. Salaryman is killed, meets God, gets into an argument over whether or not He exists, gets reincarnated as a girl in a 1920’s style world, fighting WWI.5. Outstanding dynamics, excellent character development, with two strong female characters (OK, one is internally a male). I’d rate this #2 in my list of the top five isekai.

2. KonoSuba. Sublime sendup of the whole isekai genre. Student dies, meets a Goddess, and drags her along into his new fantasy world. The group dynamics among this crowd of incompetants are the best I’ve seen. I’d rate this #4 in my list of the top five isekai.

3. That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime. Innocuous feel-good about a super-powered slime who just wants to be friends.

4. In Another World With My Smartphone. God made a mistake and so gives the protag a second life, with privileges. A good way to waste time, guessing what new thing he’ll do next with that smart phone.

5. Wise Man’s Grandson. Death, rebirth, highly skilled, etc. Very generic and low budget. What makes it interesting is the emphasis on applying our worlds concepts of technology to the operation of magic.

Reverse Isekai — protagonist is from the other world and comes to ours.

1. The Devil is a Part Timer. Demon Lord is hiding out in Tokyo, minus his powers. Hero is chasing him. He’s working in a fast food place. I’d rate this #3 in my list of the top five isekai.

2. ReCreators. Battles inside various anime, manga, and light novels get transferred into the real world. Interesting idea, but inept implementation.

Fake Isekai, where an isekai-like theme is just used to move characters around on the story’s chessboard. Includes stories of the afterlife and of a more relaxed apres vie. I didn’t finish any of these, and I’m not going to bother to rate them.
Drifters
Angel Beats
Death Parade
Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash — I include this here, because the protagonists wake up in the new world, with no memory of the old, and we’re never told how or why (at least, not as far as I followed it).

Cooking shows — In addition to being more about cooking than world-building, these are both reverse-isekai, in which denizens of a fantasy world come into a Japanese restaurant and are bedazzled by the food. (Someday I’m going to write a story where the protagonist finds out that the people in the fantasy world think nigiri rice balls are bland, and shoyu is too salty.)

Restaurant from Another World.
Isekai Izakaya.

Not an anime — I put this in so I’d have somewhere to talk about HPMoR. All of Harry Potter is essentially an isekai about a parallel and accessible world of magic.

Harry Potter. Decades old. Beloved by all. I’m sure if they’d labeled it a light novel it would have an anime by now, in addition to the live action series.
Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality. Harry Potter fan fiction. What would happen if Petunia had married someone else (“And I thought to myself, what kind of parent names their child Dudley Dursley?), and Harry’s adoptive family had been both educated and supportive (The sky was completely dark by the time they parked in the driveway of the house his family used to keep the rain off their books). What would happen if Harry had imported the Scientific Method to the land of magic? Like the original, it starts out light and funny, and becomes grimdark before it ends. Great read, and it’s free (and JKR has said she doesn’t mind). Link goes to web version. Here’s Chapter 1. There’s also a 3MB .pdf.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

September 1, 2019

Garden Report for 1900902

The end of August usually presents the best weather of the year. In this case, dry, with highs in the 80’s (low to upper) and lows in the 50’s (low to upper). Dry enough that the mosquitoes are no longer a problem, the way they are during the nice weather of Spring. Next week is to be more of the same, and then we’re into proper Autumnals.

Closing out Sections 3 and 4. Mostly failures. Leeks, peas, beans and bok choy don’t grow. Does you or I or anyone know, why leeks, peas, beans and bok choy don’t grow? Harvested a (small) basketload of carrots — 700g worth. Good crop of weeds.

Only one zucchini plant still producing, otherwise, we’re waiting on the winter squashes.

Tomato plants are still cranking out tomatoes, mostly the big ones now. House Containers showed a flash of Champions. Main Garden gave us Beefsteak, Goliath, and Whoppers. That last is a bit of a whopper, because they aren’t much bigger than supermarket tomatoes. Early Girls are regrouping, preparing for one last surge next month sometime. Made two more quarts of tomato sauce, and gave away a mixed bag of mostly Early Girls, but also the last of our Cherokee Purples.

Later Girls at dawn

A quick count shows there’s at least another 60 tomatoes that we can expect to ripen before the frosts come.

Here’s the scoreboard.

Week
Ending
09/02
Vegetable

(bold = final)

Count Total

Weight
g

Unit

Weight
g

Grand

Total

Total
Weight
kg
  EG Garden 41 3.64
EG Container (2) 66 5.17
EG Bag 50 2.92
EG Deck 30 1.77
Other tomato 16 2200 138 151 12.88
Summer Squash 11 2.29
Zucchini 20 6.3
Spaghetti
squash
Winter Squash
Carrots 700 0.70
Kohlrabi 2 0.90
Grand Total 36.6

We remain in the top three years for midsommer yields, and the others had things like pumpkins to plump them up. Only halfway to the 50kg tomato harvest from 2012.

How the Internet killed cars, and everything else

August 31, 2019

I’m sure others have written on this, and better, but I’ma gonna throw out some ideas for you, well, me, to think about later.

Technology changes society. Not just jobs going away, like buggy-whip manufacturing, but the way society thinks about stuff. Back in the day, one of the early German auto manufacturers estimated that demand for cars would peak in the low 10-thousands, because there were only so many people available to be trained as chauffeurs. Of course what happened was, cars became so cheap that everyone, even those too poor to hire a chauffeur, could afford one. Before that, women’s magazines had advice on the role of the housewife as a manager of the household, including how to deal with servants. Along came appliances and away went servants, and the perceived role of women in the household changed.

After the war (WWII, the big one), discretionary leisure time expanded. Television helped fill it, but after you watched Dave Garroway, and Rawhide, there was still a lot of time to fill. Enter the autocar.

I know, let’s drive downtown and go window shopping on Main Street.

It’s Friday night, let’s go cruise the drag.

Let’s go see the USA in our Henry J.

America became a car culture because there wasn’t anything better to do at home. Well, there was sex, but the development of modern medicine meant that all the side effects stayed around as additional costs, and so that fell out of favor once alternatives were available.  One effect of the car culture was the growth of destinations — everything from drive-in movies to drive-in churches, and the peak of the drive-in or drive-to destination experience was the mega mall.

Stretching the concept of metaphor a little, think of the car as a browser, the destinations as websites, and the road network as the Internet — call it the autonet. People want to get out of their homes, to link up, to experience things that aren’t just another day at the office. The autonet let them do this. Just as today, people in the 50’s and 60’s argued about which browser was better, complained about slow connections, and spent a lot of time online. The 1950’s version of surfing the web was the Sunday drive, a more or less aimless wandering along the autonet. The modern shopping mall is like a web portal, or concentrator site — you drive to the home page, park, and follow the links to the affiliate pages.

As with the dinosaurs, all these destinations became gigantic, right before conditions changed they went extinct.

In this case, it was the Internet that changed the conditions. Shopping? Use Amazon. Hang out with your friends? Use MySpace/Facebook/Instagram/Skype/Line (depending on which year and country we’re talking about). See the USA? I can do a virtual drive down the Kufurstendam in Berlin with Google Earth, and soon there will be real surround-sight VR flight to the space station, for those who can afford the headset. Nobody needs cars any more. The oldsters are still stuck in their Oldsmobiles, but the Millennials, and Gen-X and the upcoming post-alphabet generation have no loyalty to the car. They’d rather take public transport, where they can enjoy the latest free-to-play. This is why Uber and Lyft are so popular. Or they’d rather stay home and enjoy a virtual shopping experience.

People talk about America’s love affair with the automobile. What it really was was a love affair with the autonet.The automobile was really just a device for transporting us somewhere else. Once a shoebox-sized device could do the same thing using the Internet, it spelled the end of the car, the autonet, and everything that depended on it. What we are learning now, is just how much stuff that is — freeways, malls, big box stores, libraries, factories, you name it. If it has a parking lot associated with it, you can assume its days are numbered.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

August 25, 2019

Garden Report for 190826

The week kicked off with the hottest days of the month — 91F on Tuesday — then settled down to merely warm — upper 70s/low 80s, with the lows in the low 50’s.

I tried an experiment with the soaker hoses. Previously, I’d been soaking every day, for 20-30minutes, and the bigger tomatoes were tasting a little mushy. I cut back to every other day in the main garden, and daily for 20min on the containers. That seems to be enough water, since nothing is wilting. Preliminary tests look good.

We used the Early Girls from last week and the start of this week (about 3KG of each, plus all our cherry tomatoes) to make tomato sauce, and then MJ made fresh tomato soup. Very good. Six KG or so made a gallon of sauce. We found that a tomato juicer is an important kitchen accessory for this sort of thing. It does a good job of separating out the seeds and skin and stuff, and it means you don’t have to keep washing your feet. I hasten to add that it’s not a unitasker, because once the whortleberry crop starts coming in, we can use it for that.

First quart is already gone

OTOH, the long beans over-ripened, and so we only got about 48″ worth, plus another 56″ of yellow and brown. MJ says they taste metallic, but that may be the Zicam talking.

Closed out the cucumbers. Two containers, one on the deck and one on the east side of the house. Deck produced one 80g. House produced none (well, a couple of cocktail-sized). Also closed out all the other deck containers, since everything in them was dead due to our trip. Got a quart of cherry tomatoes out of it. Only thing left on the deck is two freshly planted lettuce and one spinach on the railing (plus the hanging basket).

Garden tomatoes are doing well fabulously. Cherokee Purples have given us 13 fruit at 1247g.  Total tomatoes this week are over 150 at almost 14kg. One of the Big Beeves weighed in at 470g.

Summertime squashes are not doing as well. They are either not producing, or are turning out misshapen semi-obscene shapes, like poorly inflated balloon animals. For other squash-like things, still unharvested are three probable spaghetti squash, one possible pumpkin, and three buttercups, plus whatever is hidden down amongst the burdock.

This, on top of the ones from last week.

 

Here’s the scoreboard.

Week
Ending
08/26
Vegetable

(bold = final)

Count Total

Weight
g

Unit

Weight
g

Grand

Total

Total
Weight
kg
  EG Garden 15 1130 75 41 3.64
EG Container (2) 26 1450 56 66 5.17
EG Bag 11 666 60 50 2.92
EG Deck 30 1.77
Other tomato 105 10676 101 135 10.68
Summer Squash 11 2.29
Zucchini 1 530 530 20 6.3
Spaghetti
squash
Winter Squash
Cucumber 1 80 80 1 0.08
Kohlrabi 2 0.90
Grand Total 34.4

This puts us in the top three years for midsommer yields, and the others had things like pumpkins to plump them up. Not yet challenging the 50kg tomato harvest from 2012.

Gaming Trump

August 22, 2019

Game Theory is an interesting way to approach politics. In game theory, the rules and the payoffs are known to each side, and there’s no element of chance. GT then tells us the optimum move for each side. Some games are zero-sum — winner takes all. Poker is like this. Some games are non-zero-sum — the solutions provide some sort of return for each side. This describes most of life.

One particularly telling game is the Prisoner’s Dilemma. As Wikipedia says, it

… shows why two completely rational individuals might not cooperate, even if it appears that it is in their best interests to do so

One aspect of the game is that the strategy changes, depending on if the two players are playing it once, or many times. If it’s many times, then the optimal strategy is to cooperate with the other player, and only not cooperate (i.e defect — once) if the other person does so, AKA tit-for-tat. So, in the day to day operations of a political system, you know you will be facing your political opponent many times, and you adjust your actions accordingly.

On the other hand, if you are only encountering the other player once, then the only rational strategy is to not cooperate, to defect. Think of buying a used car. Your trade-in has multiple flaws. The used car you are buying has multiple flaws. A few years hence, when the time comes to trade in the car you are buying, you will probably be going to a different dealer, and the salesman will have moved on. You are never going to see this salesman again, and he is never going to see you. The only rational strategy for each side is to conceal the flaws.

Prisoner’s Dilemma is a non-zero-sum game, because even in the worst situation, there’s some sort of payoff for both. Enter Donald Trump.

Trump is generally acknowledged to be a terrible negotiator. There’s two Game Theory reasons for this. First, he assumes that all negotiations are zero sum. If he doesn’t win all the marbles, then he has lost. Second, he assumes that all negotiations are single iterations.

As he explained to me, he’s not interested in ‘win-win’ deals, only in ‘I win’ outcomes. When I asked if he ever left anything on the table as a sign of goodwill so that he might do business with the same party in the future he said no, and pointed out that there are many people in the world he can work with, one at a time.

Unfortunately for Trump, there’s only a limited number of important countries in the world, and they’re important because they have political, economic, or military power of their own. They are also constrained by their own internal politics and their nationalism, just as the US is. The inhabitants of Greenland would never agree to the sale of their country to the US. The Iranians will never give up their peaceful nuclear program, and North Korea will never give up its missiles. What they might do is what North Korea is doing, offering concessions and vague promises of a positive outcome for Trump, and then not delivering.

The general result is that Trump, whose view of the world is that of a New Yorker of the 1960’s, whose morality is that of a shady real estate developer, and whose negotiating approach is that of a small-time hoodlum from Queens, will never succeed in any of these negotiations, and the rest of the world is finding out that the best way to game him is to defect.

Alaska trip

August 20, 2019

If the blog has been a little quiet, it’s because we’ve been off on a Holland America cruise to Alaska. The full story of our Second Trip to Alaska is over on the right-hand margin.

Yes, we are rural

August 18, 2019

Middle of the residential area of Cheney

A quiet Sunday evening

Green Thumb Up My Nose

August 18, 2019

Garden Report for 190819

We were gone all week, on our second cruise to Alaska (coming soon to a sidebar near you). That soaker hose I rigged across all the containers seemed to work OK.

The containers along the east side of the house continue to produce. The Early Girl House Bag generated 20 tomatoes, and the two EG Containers generated 18. Also got 10 Champion VFNT (900g). The hanging tomato survived the trip from deck to planter, but might not have survived the trip back. In any event, all of its tomatoes are still greenies.

There were lots of tomatoes from the garden as well.  Garden EG produced only 17 tomatoes, but with a total weight of 1.6kg. Rutgers gave up 10 (1280g), and Big Beef had a kilogramsworth of meat in 4 tomatoes (finally, a tomato worthy of the name — we cooked hamburger tonight just to celebrate), and one lonely Bush Beefsteak at 140g.

All in all, we got something over 80 tomatoes at something over 7kg — this week. Too bad the lettuce has petered out.

Lots of salad in our future

Squash stayed reasonably sane. Two summer squash, one Cocozelle Zucchini, and two Genovese Zucchini, one of which was a two pound monster. I suspect it hid behind a leaf when I did my pre-trip purge. In any event, it was given to a friend before I could photograph it.

 

Here’s the scoreboard.

Week
Ending
08/19
Vegetable

(bold = final)

Count Total

Weight
g

Unit

Weight
g

Grand

Total

Total
Weight
kg
  EG Garden 17 1580 93 26 2.51
EG Container (2) 18 1380 77 40 3.72
EG Bag 20 1180 59 39 2.25
EG Deck 30 1.77
Other tomato 25 3325 30 3.96
Summer Squash 2 490 245 11 2.29
Zucchini 3 2330 1870 19 5.8
Spaghetti
squash
Winter Squash
Cucumber
Kohlrabi 2 0.90
Grand Total 23.2

This puts us in the top three years for midsommer yields, and the others had things like pumpkins to plump them up.

Watching Maria

August 14, 2019

Encouraged by recent favorable commentary for Maria Watches Over Us, I decided to give it another look. I’d watched much of it a decade ago, but the memory had faded into amnesia, as so often happens in anime. So I took it up again, and boy was it different from how I remembered it. What hit me about halfway through the first episode was how alien the senior characters looked.

The sharp features, the sharp hair, the wide, wide, staring eyes, as if they’d evolved in the dark — in some views the members of the Yamayuri Council looked hardly human.

…we are the scouts for a race of people long hidden underground.

 

I realize that manga and anime drawing conventions were different in 2004 (and 1998!) but these women look like inhuman interlopers. That, combined with their stilted way of speaking, as if having to carefully parse each sentence to make sure it made sense to humans (perhaps coordinating the output of a hive mind), makes one think that Episode 1 of Maria could equally end up leading into an anime where everyone ends up dead, the school is on fire, and the JSDF is helpless.

Nontheless, I shall persevere, waiting to see what eldritch horrors await me, and writing down such of these journal entries as I can force myself to remember.

 

Green Thumb Up My Nose

August 12, 2019

Garden Report for 190812

The weather had the hots this week, with highs topping out at 97, with lots of haze and smoke from the WA wildfires.

The Early Girls in containers along the east side of the house continue to produce. Starting to get some non-EG tomatoes — five Champions from the House Bag.

Squash seems to be taking a breather; fine with me.

Only the top right corner are not Early Girls

We were to be away for the weekend, and the EG Deck Container cannot survive unless it’s watered at least once a day, so I harvested everything (including greenies), and I’ll let them ripen in the house. Total for that plant for the season was 25@1.8kg.

While I was at it, I decided that I’d try harvesting all the tomatoes with any color at all and bring them into the house as well. We’re in the high heat of summer, and they will ripen more slowly indoors. The goal is to have less of a crimson tide at the end of the month. That’s why the totals have jumped up so high.

 

Here’s the scoreboard.

Week
Ending
08/12
Vegetable

(bold = final)

Count Total

Weight
g

Unit

Weight
g

Grand

Total

Total
Weight
kg
  EG Garden 5 430 86 9 0.93
EG Container (2) 16 740 46 22 2.34
EG Bag 13 600 46 19 1.07
EG Deck 25 1500 60 30 1.77
Other tomato 5 640 120 5 0.64
Summer Squash 7 1.80
Zucchini 1 240 16 3.50
Spaghetti
squash
Winter Squash
Cucumber
Kohlrabi 2 0.90
Grand Total 12.5

We’re ahead of where we were last year (12.0kg) and 2017 (9.5kg), so this may end up being the best harvest since I started keeping records, in 2011.

Guns ‘R US

August 6, 2019

I don’t have much to say about our current spate of mass shootings. Others, many others, have said it better. Perhaps it would be best to point to some articles on the topic from the past.

First, Jason Kottke has pre-empted me by listing a handful of insightful articles on guns and gun control. Chief among them is an essay on how they do things in Japan, a country where they have fewer guns, and fewer gun deaths of all kinds than we do accidental gun deaths — or deaths from being struck by a train (pdf) while trespassing on RR property in Montana, for that matter. Meanwhile, a Scientific American article shows that, three percent of the gun owners own 50% of the guns, and they do it because they are afraid of the other.

As I said last week, fear sells, and one of the things it sells is power to politicians. Everyone now wants us to do something, but we can’t agree on what. Well, the Republicans don’t actually want to do anything that would upset their white supremacist base. That’s why they blame mental illness and video games.

The actual problem, of course, is complex, and common understanding is mostly wrong. You know what doesn’t cause it? Video games. Mental illness.

Perhaps a start would be do do as Jim Wright suggest a few years ago and make the public gun-handling policies of the NRA the law of the land.

So, this essay doesn’t present any useful insights. Instead, it presents links to what I think are useful insights. If you have read this essay and not clicked on any of the links, you’re doing it wrong.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

August 5, 2019

Garden Report for 190805

The weather continued warm, with highs mostly in the mid to upper 80s.

The Early Girls in containers along the east side of the house are just producing their little hearts out. Plus, we’re getting some Early Girl tomatoes that aren’t from the House Containers. Six so far from the House Bag. It’s about 50% bigger than the hard plastic containers, and so are the tomatoes. One was 100g and another was 140. Main garden actually produced some tomatoes this week — four Early Girls. Squash continues to squash.

Here’s the scoreboard.

Week
Ending
08/05
Vegetable Count Total

Weight
g

Unit

Weight
g

Grand

Total

Total
Weight
kg
  EG Garden 4 500 125 4 0.50
EG Container 24 1050 44 36 1.60
EG Bag 6 470 78 6 0.47
EG Deck 5 269 54 5 0.27
Other tomato
Summer Squash 2 400 200 7 1.80
Zucchini 6 1270 212 16 3.50
Spaghetti
squash
Winter Squash
Cucumber
Kohlrabi 2 0.90
Grand Total 9.0

You know that railing container of radishes I talked about earlier? Well, they’re actually lettuce. Boy is my face as red as a … as a red thing. But at least we’ll have lettuce until the next batch in the main garden shows up. Meanwhile, I have no idea where the radishes are.

Planted a railing container of spinach. All the garden spinach I’ve ever planted has been ravaged by leaf miners, so we’ll see.

Lettuce on the left, Spinach on the right.
I think.

Out front, the pepper-inna-tub has given us four banana peppers.

We’re well ahead of where we were this time last year (1.7kg), except that last year we were already getting big red tomatoes. Also ahead of 2017 (2.7kg). This doesn’t count the half-kilogram of greenies what have fallen off of various plants. They are off by themselves, quietly thinking about ripening.

Gorgonzola Curry Oatmeal

August 1, 2019

As I mentioned earlier, MJ recently bought a bunch of Gorgonzola-based steak butter patties. As I also mentioned, Gorgonzola is an intrusive cheese, that wants to dominate the flavor of whatever its associated with. If you are going to use it for breakfast, you need something that will stand up to it. Enter Japanese curry.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one cup beefy broth, one pat (roughly 30g) of Gorgonzola flavored butter, a 1 cm slice of Golden Curry roux, broken up, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes. No salt. Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats. Add the potatoes at the end. Add the Gorgonzola and the curry to the broth at the start and give them time to dissolve.

Results: Very good. Finally, the Gorgonzola flavor wasn’t overpowering, but was nicely offset by the curry. You still have to like Gorgonzola.

Rating: ***

TLDR: Anime I never finished, Summer 2019 Part 2

July 31, 2019

It’s time for the midseason culling, for a suitably vague concept of midseason. I went ahead and reactivated my subscription to Funimation, giving myself three dedicated anime streamers — Crunchyroll, HiDive (via VRV), and Funi. This opened up new vistas in viewing, and meant that I needed to do some trimming if I wanted to have any personal time available. Fortunately, there were a number of shows that helped out by finally revealing their true nature.

Isekai Cheat Magician was at best a B-list show, and Episode 4 showed it wasn’t really even B-list material. With lame animation of overpowered cardboard villains mouthing overwrought lines, Isekai Cheat is more like a kid’s afternoon anime. I didn’t make it halfway through the episode.

Wasteful Days of High School Girls tries very hard to be a slice of zany life centering on three high school girls — the standard jokester, straight man, and observer — in the mode of Yuyushiki or Aiura. After a fun start, they tried to bring in more side-characters and develop something like a plot, but it didn’t work. Finally, it looks to me like Nozomu “Baka” Tanaka is a direct rip of Kanaka Amaya.

Astra Lost in Space was another B-list show that didn’t live up to its billing. The animation was full of cutout figures moving against painted backdrops, when it wasn’t just static pictures. The plot was contrived (Someone is trying to kill us!) and the problem solutions equally so (Look! I just found a backup generator in this closet, with eight minutes to go to impact). Agatha Christie did it better. To top it off, Funimation makes it really hard to get uncluttered screenshots.

It’s too bad, really. I had 14 shows I was following, which made for a tidy two shows per day. Fortunately, Funi now lets me watch old classics, like Omamore Himare, and Girls Bravo.

The only thing we have to fear is ….

July 30, 2019

…us.

As any insurance salesman will tell you, fear sells. Also guttering salesmen, Google doorbell ads, newspapers, and, of course, politicians. We have become a fearful nation of fear-mongers.

Ordinary people, fat old Euros like you and me, live in constant fear of being murdered in our beds by drug-addled dark-skinned criminals who come into our country illegally, seeking bedridden victims to murder. We are afraid to go into the crime-ridden cities. Afraid that our children will be kidnapped if we let them out of our sight for a minute. Afraid that our neighbor’s children will be kidnapped if they are allowed any greater freedom than we allow our own. As with other fears, like fear of flying, telling the fearful one that they are wrong, showing them the facts of the matter, doesn’t help. They still get white knuckles every time the plane takes off, every time they walk past a person of color. How did we become such spineless wimps?

Part of the reason is the Internet. Wait! Before you close the tab and click over to XKCD, hear me out. I am of Internet Generation 0. I didn’t grow up with it, but I’m part of the generation that created it (no, I wasn’t involved) and was an early adopter. I spend six or seven hours per day online, and that doesn’t count anime. At last count, I owned twelve PCs, laptops, and tablets, many of which still work. I think the Internet is the greatest technical achievement of mankind, surpassing even Apollo. And yet, and yet.

By essentially abolishing the informational distance between any two points, the Internet has made us all neighbors. Not in a global village sort of way, but as a global city. In a village, you have a good chance of knowing, or at least interacting with, everyone in the population, however sporadically. In a city, you don’t know and can’t know everyone. You can’t even know about anyone without a special effort. In a city, there are neighborhoods you don’t go into, either because they have little to offer you, or because they are dangerous, in one way or another, and so you know little about them.

A village, if you will, is like Facebook. A city is like Twitter. In the one you are likely to  have a relatively small number of like-minded people that you interact with on a regular basis. In the other, it’s not unusual to have thousands of @’s that you follow, so many that you can’t say why you even followed any given one. And those have re-tweets and replies such that your stream becomes a river of strangers, no longer Main Street, but Shibuya Crossing.

In a village, you can know, or find out, the truth behind rumors and allegations. In the city, you are at the mercy of the information intermediaries like newspapers and TV, and the Internet. In the city, all crime is local, all disasters are personal. Some child gets abducted by his divorced father in Montana, and we get Amber Alerts on our phones in Washington state. Torrential rains 300 miles away in Seattle cause a landslide in the mountains, and we get emails from our in-laws on the East Coast, asking if we are alright. A German high school exchange student told me his family were worried that he’d be involved in a school shooting, when the nearest one at the time was a thousand miles away. Terrorist attacks in Somalia and India trigger calls for increased local security by Americans who couldn’t find either country on a map.

Feeding on this are the politicians, and those who aspire to power. When I was a lad, we had real existential threats to the country. The USSR could wipe us from the face of the earth in half an hour’s time, and we knew it. But nobody cowered behind border walls, and nobody suggested giving up our Constitutional rights just to get a little supposed safety. And few tried to weaponize that fear in order to gain power.

Today there are no real existential threats to the U.S. Yes, Russia could still wipe us out, and China could tear off an arm, but they are now simply global competitors rather than rabid ideologues who take our very existence as an affront. Al Qaeda and their ilk are not much more than simple gangsters. Yes, nearly 4,000 Americans died on 9/11. And over 4,000 Americans died in useless wars that we started after that. But those numbers pale before deaths due to drugs, medical errors, and guns. *

Similarly, there’s this fear that we are being overrun by foreign immigrants. It’s true that our latest figures show that 13.4% of our population is foreign born. That’s higher than it’s ever been…except for the forty year period between 1870 and 1910. We weren’t overwhelmed then, and we’re not going to be overwhelmed now.

But despite that, we still allow ourselves to be oppressed by the DHS and their subordinates in ICE and CBP. We see nothing wrong with x-ray searches at airports, and having everything within 100 miles of the border be a Constitution-free zone.

At home, we have school shootings. Between 1999 and 2018, over 200,000 students at over 200 schools “experienced gun violence”, with almost 500 of them being killed or injured. That sounds like a lot, but it covers a ten year period, and in any given year there are 7.6 million students, at 137,000 schools. Compare that with the fact that 12,000 children die annually due to accidents in cars and in their homes. And yet we have fences, metal detectors, and armed guards in many of our schools. Why is that?

Well, fear.

Newspapers survive by collecting eyeballs to sell to advertisers, and fear collects eyeballs. Politicians survive by collecting voters. Voters want their politicians to do something about critical problems of the day.  Unfortunately, the real problems — poverty, inequality, health care, climate change — are tough, intractable ones, with solutions that irritate some part of the voting population. Far better to create false crises — illegals, terrorists, drug wars, school shootings, even video games — ones with no great constituency, and take action against them. And how do you create a false crisis? Fear. Politicians can hold hearings, and newspapers can cover them and laws can be passed, and it’s all so much security theater, but it gets eyeballs and voters, and if anyone objects you can always ask Why do you hate America?  And as a side effect, these laws give you more control over the populace and let those with power (and money) act as they please.

The trouble is, the structure of the system is such that it will continue to promote the use of fear to keep the populace under control. It’s what a Systems Scientist would call a basin of attraction. You can’t predict what the system will do, but you can say that it will stay within this same general area.I don’t see a way out, and that makes me afraid.


*In any given recent year more than 70,000 Americans die due to drug overdoses, 40,000 from preventable medical accidents, and 30,000 to gunshot wounds. Islamic terrorism is responsible for four, or maybe eight, individuals per year, but AQ doesn’t have Big Pharma, Big Med, or the NRA to front for them.

 

Green Thumb Up My Nose

July 29, 2019

Garden Report for 190729

The weather continued warm, with highs mostly in the mid to upper 80s, but just touching 94F on Tuesday. Breezy Really windy at the end of the week. Forecast for pretty much the same for next week, only without the wind.

Finally got some tomatoes. Over the course of the week there were 12 small (~45g each) Early Girls, all from the house east side containers. Three afflicted with blossom end rot. They all were good, but had thick skins. I suspect this is the result of our exceedingly dry air. On the other hand, I note that it says here that Early Girls should run up to 250g. Not even a smidgen of red elsewhere. Picked the second kohlrabi, and about 24″ of yard long beans. Squash are churning out squash.

It’s a start

Here’s the scoreboard.

Week
Ending
07/29
Vegetable Count Total

Weight
g

Unit

Weight
g

Grand

Total

Total
Weight
kg
  EG Garden
EG Container 12 540 45 12 0.54
EG Bag
EG Deck
Other tomato
Summer Squash 1 200 200 5 1.4
Zucchini 4 930 230 10 2.2
Spaghetti
squash
Winter Squash
Cucumber
Kohlrabi 1 320 320 2 0.9
Grand Total 5.0

I am trying something new on the watering front. I threaded a soaker hose around the house containers — it’s long enough to go both ways — and I’m hooking it up to the timer. We’ll see if and how much watering will take the place of me standing there with a hose. Not that there’s anything wrong with standing.

The hose is there, it’s just hard to see.
Click to embiggen.

We’re ahead of where we were this time last year (1.7kg), except that last year we were already getting big red tomatoes. Also ahead of 2017 (2.7kg)

Green Thumb Up My Nose

July 21, 2019

Garden Report for 190722

The weather was surprisingly pleasant, with highs in the upper 70’s, not warming to the 80’s until the weekend. The whole NW is having an unseasonable extension of June Gloom, becoming subject to JAWS — July Abnormally Wet Systems. On Monday, Spokane had the second highest rainfall for that date since record keeping started in 1881.  True, it was only 0.29in, but still. In the past 138 years, it’s rained on the 16th only 21 times. Forecast for next week is more normal — upper 80s/low 90s, no rain except in occasional T-storms. This forecast expected to hold through … August.

Not really seeing much production yet, other than the squash (one Summer, one Genovese, one Cocozelle). Some remaining lettuce. A couple of tomatoes are turning red, but nothing harvestable. Meanwhile, the Bok Choy all bolted.

Here’s the scoreboard. This week’s take includes harvests from previous weeks.

Week
Ending
07/22
Vegetable  

Count

 

Total

Weight
g

Unit

Weight
g

Grand

Total

Total
Weight
kg
  EG Garden
EG Container
EG Bag
EG Deck
Other tomato
Summer Squash 4 1210 302 4 1.2
Zucchini 6 1948 325 6 1.9
Spaghetti
squash
Winter Squash
Cucumber
Kohlrabi 1 580 580 1 0.6
Grand Total 3.7

I tried using a no-till approach to the garden this year, but it’s not working. Sometimes I have trouble finding the garden plants.

Peas and Carrots and Weeds, Oh My.

There’s actually some radishes in there, also.

We’re ahead of where we were this time last year, except that last year we were already getting big red tomatoes.

Fire Season 2019

July 19, 2019

We’re seeing an interesting pattern develop in wildfires in Washington State.

The first biggish fire of the season was the 243 Command Fire (who names these things, anyway?) in Grant County, just east of Beverly, on the north slope of the Saddle Mountains.

243 Command Fire

Six weeks later and five miles to the south, we had the Powerline Fire, just over the Saddle Mountains, and northeast of Mattawa.

Powerline fire

Now, we have the Cold Creek fire, fifteen miles south of Powerline, and over the border into Benton County. Burning along historic Rattlesnake Mountain, towards my in-laws old home in  Richland.

Beverly, Mattawa, and Cold Creek

If I lived in Prosser, I might be a little worried.

It’s heading south!

UPDATE: Guess what?

Gorgonzola Oatmeal

July 18, 2019

So, a few weeks ago in a fit of impulsion MJ bought a bunch of steak butter patties, suitable for everything from burgers on up. Or so we thought.

Trouble is, their main non-butter component was Gorgonzola cheese, or at least, FDA Gorgonzola flavorant #12. And the trouble with that is, Gorgonzola is a, shall we say, intrusive cheese, that wants to dominate the flavor of whatever its associated with. Tasted like we were eating Gorgonzola patties with beef bits.

Well, if its flavor you got, then I’ve got a place for you, and it’s right on top of my oatmeal.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one cup beefy broth, one pat (roughly 30g) of Gorgonzola flavored butter, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes. Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats. Add the potatoes at the end. Add the Gorgonzola to the broth at the start, or break it up and stir it in after the potatoes. Wait until aprè-Gorgon to add salt, ’cause it’s salty.

Results: OK, if you like Gorgonzola. The flavor wasn’t overpowering. After all, it was fighting a whole cup of bland. But when you come right down to it, when something is Gorgonzola-flavored, that means it tastes of Gorgonzola, and I find I’m not a big fan of that flavor. But try it. You might like it.

Rating: ***

Anime I’m Watching, Summer 2019

July 16, 2019

So, you’ve seen what I’ve dropped. What’s holding my attention? Here’s the current list, by the numbers:

The Demon Girl Next Door
One inept high school girl finds out she’s the new incarnation of evil, only to be totally outclassed by the magical girl she’s supposed to defeat. Magical girl takes pity on her and works to help her level up.

Pokes fun at both the magical girl and the demon heiress genres. I particularly like how everybody just goes along with the new situation (“You’re a demon? Cool horns“), and how her mother tries to cope (“You’ll be arrested if you carry a weapon, so here’s a dinner fork“). Bonus points for the background classroom games.

Dr. Stone
Two high school boys survive petrification of the entire human race, plus all the birds, or maybe only swallows, without food, water, oxygen, or sensory stimulation, for three thousand years. Decide to reconstruct civilization, starting with a bunch of grapes and some bat guano.

Interesting, but still excessively shonen. Starting to address the question of who to awaken (and the associated, who to awaken next). Still hasn’t thought about how all their inventions will scale, how many to awaken, and on what sort of schedule.

Wasteful Days of High School Girls
Three high school girls continue their friendship from middle school [see Yuyushiki], maintain their standard-character interactions [see Aiura].

So far, the banter is cute and the jokes are funny. We’ll see if they can keep it up.

Are you lost?
Four high school girls survive an airplane ditching, without life preservers, burns, broken bones, or jet fuel contamination. Everybody else perished without a trace. Said girls wash up on a deserted island (presumably deserted, they haven’t looked on the other side yet, there could be a Royal Caribbean Line party beach) and try out their survival skills.

Short, but interesting. Much of what people are calling gross-out material is actual survival lore. OK, maybe not the moose balls.

Caution: I don’t care what they said in Episode 1, don’t drink urine. Your kidneys did a lot of work to get rid of toxins in your body and concentrate them in your urine for disposal. Don’t add them back. US Army includes it with seawater and blood as fluids that are harmful to drink in a survival situation.

O Maidens in your Savage Season
Five high school girls from the literature club discover sex. Poke at it with a stick. Find out why it’s vitally important to lock your doors.

I am so not the target demographic for this. In addition, I’m having trouble remembering what my male equivalent travails were like, particularly because they took place during the Eisenhower administration. Despite that, I found it interesting and well done. An example of why anime isn’t just, or not even, kiddie material.

Fire Force
Seven firemen extinguish men of fire, while seeing to their spiritual needs. None of them are in high school.

A shonen anime, but without spiky hair or shouting, unlike Dr. Stone. So far, the action is good and the characters interesting. Interesting side note: the fire fighting suits are realistically bulky.

So that’s it for now. Six shows, out of the 45 or so on offer on Crunchyroll/HiDive. I’m seriously considering adding Funimation as a source, which will give me another three or four.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

July 14, 2019

Garden Report for 190715

Hot and dry all week, with temperatures averaging in the mid 80’s F.

Harvested the first kholrabi. Softball sized and 520g. The second one is more hardball sized, and I’ll wait a bit on that one. Also harvested a 400g summer squash. There’s one Delicata and about four more summer squash (hey, the name says Early Prolific) coming along, so next week I’ll start the scoreboard. Later this summer, I’ll harvest the spaghetti squash.

Planted one row each of my seeds-on-tape lettuce: Butterchrunch, EZ Harvest, Krucha, Lento. Harvest time 45-75 days (early to late September). This will give us a chance to see which variety we like more.

Tomatoes are coming along. Time for a first look at my Early Girl experiment. Each of the four have produced ~20 tomatoes of a size worth mentioning (say, plum or larger), but the small container on the deck is producing smaller fruits. (click to embiggen)

Note that the various containers were watered about 20hrs prior to the photos, and we’ve had some warm, windy conditions. That (and the container size) may be why the deck container is looking so puny. On the other hand, the east-facing house tomatoes get more sun (including reflection) than does the garden plant.

TLDR: Anime I never finished, Summer 2019

July 9, 2019

Maybe it’s just me. Advancing age, combined with more time to watch anime, has made me more critical. Or maybe it’s just that the crop of anime this summer is weaker than one would expect, even for summer. The full summer schedule hasn’t been announced yet, and already I’m dropping shows.

Dropping:

To The Abandoned Sacred Beasts: Frankenstein monsters join the army. Things don’t end well. Interesting concept marred by low grade animation, names that are almost as bad as those in Gate, and a low grade villain — nobody laughs like that.

It’s the writers. They made me do this!

Is It Wrong To Try To Pick Up Girls In A Dungeon, Side Quest: My season preview said I wasn’t going to watch this, but I felt I should just check in to see how it was going. Well, I didn’t like the original, and this one isn’t any better. Cardboard characters. Cardboard monsters. Cardboard scenery. And those characters that go beyond cardboard, do it by being irritating.

We hauled all those boxes all this way so you could have a throne. Don’t let it go to your head.

Magical Sempai: I think it’s supposed to be せんぱい. See that second character that looks like an ‘n’? It’s an ‘n’, not an ‘m’. Senpai. Whatever it’s called, this 12 minute short depends too much on embarrassment humor for me.

Girl of my dreams

On the cusp:

Dr Stone: Yes, I know it’s a fantastically popular manga. Yes, I know it’s the most hyped anime of the season. Yes, I also know it’s a classic shonen, with lots of spiky hair and guys shouting, an anime of the type that that one of my Japanese students called “too loudy”. Will that overwhelm the joys of learning how to make nitric acid out of bat guano? I’ll give it one more episode.

Don’t chew with your mouth open. There might be kids watching.

Granbelm: Cleverly disguised magical girl show. On the one hand, I am definitely the wrong demographic for that. On the other hand, the mechas are chibi, the interactions are cute, and the action in general is good. Is that enough to make up for the squeaky-voiced teenlet mahou shoujo aspect? We’ll have to wait for the next episode.

I don’t think I could stand a Magical Girl/Mecha/Isekai mashup

Finally, it looks like it’s not just a thin season this summer, but a poorly distributed one as well, with four out of the five Summer Season shows that I am watching being released on Friday. This leaves a big hole after the weekend. Right now I’m desperate enough that I’m marathoning Daphne in the Brilliant Blue. It was that or Hanaukyo Maid Team.