Getting Vaxxed

September 27, 2022

So, yesterday I got my latest Covid vaccination — the bivalent anti-Omicron variant. I’ve had every available vaccination as soon as they came out, plus the Evusheld immune system booster. I do this because the virus keeps mutating so that we’re still in a Red Queen situation. In addition, I have grave concerns about Long Covid, particularly those aspects dealing with brain fog. I like my brain just the way it is.

Up until now, all my shots have been Moderna, but the local clinics are all out, so I got the Pfizer drug instead. Some reporting I’ve seen suggests that a mix-and-match of vaccines gives slightly improved protection. On the other hand, there have also been reports that when you do that, the side effects are worse.

So far, the only side effects are a slight pain at the injection site, and a golfball-sized knot on my arm a few inches below the injection site. Plus a mild case of the dire-rear.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

September 26, 2022

Garden Report for 220926

No report last week because nothing much happened. About the biggest thing was the onset of meteorological Autumn. Over the last two weeks we’ve had highs in the mid 70’s, lows in the upper 40’s to low 50’s. One day was down to 60F, while another was 76F. So cool Autumnal, not crisp. End of the week started Indian Summer, with turning in a nice 80F. Next week will start with four days around 80F, then cool to the low 70’s.

Section 3 has been pretty much of a bust. The beets came up small and misshapen, and the carrots didn’t come up at all. Early last week I dug most of it up in order to try again with some late season lettuce-on-tape (see the Planter Tracker), despite the fact that we’ll be at risk of frost any time after Halloween.

I left the tomatoes on the vine for an additional week. With cool temps they won’t ripen too fast. At the start of the week we had four baskets of the little red buggers to go through, but i managed to foist off about 20 of them to the four guys on the tree removal crew. Yield was down, I think because the plants are wearing out. I’m going to prune them heavily, because I don’t think they can set and grow any decent fruit before the first frost. We’ve been ignoring the cherry tomatoes, only harvesting a handful at a time. On Sunday I went out and did a full sweep, just pulling them off by hand. Got a nice round kilogram, not included in the total because I don’t count cherries.

Harvested the House Container potatoes. Eighteen white potatoes totaling not quite 2kg. Twenty-five Red potatoes totaling over 6kg. Not counting the LTWS — less than walnut sized. There were a couple of grocery-store sized reds, but most were half that size — just right for an individual serving.

I’ve started dehydrating the Zucchini. One 600g Zuke gives 28g of powdered concentrate, a roughly 95% reduction. Good in soups, stews, and oatmeal.

Meanwhile, our 60 year old cypress finally died. Two drought/heat wave-stricken summers did it in. Looking to get a Dawn Sequoia to replace it.

Vegetable Count Total

Weight
g

Unit

Weight
g

Grand

Total

Total
Weight
kg
  Tomatoes 32 2415 75 179 17.52
Potatoes 45 8466 188 48 8.73
Sweet Potatoes
Carrots 0 0
Beets 0 0
Summer Squash 1 368 368 3 1.80
Zucchini 8 5.07
Spaghetti
Squash
0 0
Acorn Squash
Cucumber 0 0
Late harvest tomatoes
Grand Total 33.12

This time last year we still had ~30kg more than now. Partly because we had lots more squash than now. I’m just as glad we don’t have that much. I think we’ll catch up when I harvest the House Sweet Potatoes and everything in Section 4.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

September 12, 2022

Garden Report for 2200912

Not as hot, but still in the low 90s. Forecast is for highs around 80F. Some smoke from OR fires.

More tomatoes this week, including some cherries.

In addition, we got one Summer Squash and a few early potatoes.

Vegetable Count Total

Weight
g

Unit

Weight
g

Grand

Total

Total
Weight
kg
  Tomatoes 30 2462 82 147 15.11
Potatoes 3 263 88 3 0.26
Sweet Potatoes
Carrots
Beets
Summer Squash 1 176 176 3 1.80
Zucchini 8 5.07
Spaghetti
Squash
Acorn Squash
Cucumber
Late harvest tomatoes
Grand Total 22.24

This time last year we still had 20kg more than now, including some nice big Spaghetti Squash.

Anime Physical Media

September 8, 2022

Over on Reasons to Anime, there’s an article by Casper on the declining quality of extra content/bonus features on physical media anime. In passing, they say Why spend 30 bucks to buy a 480p DVD when you could stream that anime in 1080p for a fraction of the cost? Unless your internet is spotty, a lot of physical media just exists for collectors now. Well, it’s strongly possible that my internet is more than spotty, that for a specific title, it’s nonexistent.

I buy lots of DVDs/BDs, although fewer than previously. I don’t do it for the bonus features, and I don’t do it because I’m a collector. I do it because once a physical product is in my hand it’s mine, and there’s nothing the anime industry can do about it. The trouble is, a customer of any streaming service is at the mercy of that services business model, licensing agreements, and existence.

So, Crunchyroll no longer streams Mekaku City Actors, and it dropped Eureka Seven when I was only on Episode Three. Funimaton, before its merger with Crunchy, lost the streaming rights to Darker than Black, and Crunchyroll didn’t step up in their place. Funimation also dropped Interspecies Reviewers for its adult content, despite it being heavily censored.

Of course, you can’t always be assured of being able to buy the anime you want in physical media. Hibike! Euphonium Season One doesn’t seem to be available anywhere, and the aforementioned Interspecies Reviewers was available on RightStuf only until they were bought out by Crunchyroll. But that’s an argument for buying the DVD/BD as soon as they come out instead of waiting for the Director’s Cut with Bonus Features.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

September 5, 2022

Garden Report for 2200905

Hot, then hot and windy, then just windy. At least the nights were cool…ish. Next week is more salubrious.

Big tomato haul this week, initially from the house plants. That’s to be expected because they are both early style (Early Girl and Bonnie). At the end of the week we got an equal load from the Main Garden.

In addition, we got some more biggish Zucchini and Yellow Squash. That’s what we get for failing to keep an eye on them. I blame the heat.

Vegetable Count Total

Weight
g

Unit

Weight
g

Grand

Total

Total
Weight
kg
  Tomatoes 68 10108 149 117 12.65
Potatoes
Sweet Potatoes
Carrots
Beets
Summer Squash 1 540 540 1 1.08
Zucchini 4 2424 606 8 5.07
Spaghetti
Squash
Acorn Squash
Cucumber
Late harvest tomatoes
Grand Total 18.08

This time last year we had 20kg more than now, including some nice big Spaghetti Squash. Probably won’t get any this year.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

August 28, 2022

Garden Report for 220829

Lovely weather this week (temps in the mid 70’s), with more lovely weather, followed by more hellish heat predicted for the week ahead.

The only plants producing pickable product are the tomatoes. The Zucchini has turned into a bushy monster, with no produce. The Acorn Squash is starting to produce, but they won’t be ripe for another couple months.

Lots of cherry tomatoes coming in, but they don’t count for weight.

Vegetable Count Total

Weight
g

Unit

Weight
g

Grand

Total

Total
Weight
kg
  Tomatoes 19 1400 74 49 2.54
Potatoes
Sweet Potatoes
Carrots
Beets
Summer Squash 1 0.54
Zucchini 4 2.65
Spaghetti
Squash
Winter Squash
Cucumber
Late harvest tomatoes
Grand Total 5.73

I’ve given up on setting any kind of records this year.

How we survived a seven-day cruise to Alaska and didn’t get deaded by Covid

August 23, 2022

AlaskaItineraryAug2022

We did it. We’re back. And we’re ready to do it again. See the Third Trip to Alaska page on the right hand column for deets.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

August 22, 2022

Garden Report for 220822

Just got back from a week-long Alaska cruise — of which more, anon — and the garden is doing surprisingly well. Better than the lawn. Must be the automatic watering system.

The Zucchini managed to sneak in another monster ~2.5kg. Not sure what to do with it.

Got our first Summer Squash.

Surprisingly few ripe tomatoes, other than the cherries.

Week
Ending
08/15
Vegetable Count Total

Weight
g

Unit

Weight
g

Grand

Total

Total
Weight
kg
  Tomatoes 20 1140 57 20 1.14
Potatoes
Sweet Potatoes
Carrots
Beets
Summer Squash 1 540 540 1 0.54
Zucchini 1 2400 2400 4 2.65
Spaghetti
Squash
Winter Squash
Cucumber
Late harvest tomatoes
Grand Total 4.33

We continue to run behind last year, but I have hopes for the upcoming couple of weeks.

Spam and Oats

August 18, 2022

Spam has gotten a bad name, despite the fact that it’s the most economical source of salt infused cholesterol that you’ll find. Maybe it’s because of the email plague of the same name. Anyway, we had a can of 25% less salt spam — see how light the can is? — so I thought I’d try some in my oatmeal.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one cup broth, a 1cm slab of diced spam, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, no salt because spam. Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats. Add the potatoes at the end.

Results: About average. I put the spam cubes in at the start, so the salt would have time to infuse into the oats and thus disappear. It turned out just enough this side of bland that it would be worth trying again if one was short on more interesting things, or long on spam.

Rating: ***

Evangelion Reboot: You can (not) get me to watch any more of this — Part 2.02

August 17, 2022

The first two thirds of the second NGE movie continue the look and feel of the first. Once again, the NERVists demonstrate their total inability to manage anything more complex than a lemonade stand. Little-Miss-With-Her-Own-Problems Asakura introduces herself by insulting everyone, and then decking Shinji, in front of their boss, who does nothing about it. NOTE:The first rule of team building is, no hitting, unless it’s under carefully controlled conditions. And the second rule is that it’s the job of the boss to keep the troops in line. And what’s with letting all, as in all, of the EVA pilots go off on a school trip together. Shouldn’t at least one be at home, sitting strip alert? For that matter, why are they enrolled in a highschool that’s half the width of Tokyo³ away from NERV HQ? If the powers that be feel that children need to socialize in groups larger than three, why not establish a highschool closer to home. Like next to the NERV elevator shaft?

And speaking of bed-to-plug distance, again, why is Rei living in a six mat walkup on the wrong side of the Shinkansen? What happens if there’s an alert after normal duty hours? Does she ride the subway, or call  a cab?

I’m not bothered by the changes to the plotline since I didn’t like the original anyway. In any event, the word that best describes the last third is pretentious.

As for the characters, as Mark Twain said (roughly), in fiction it is necessary that the reader like the good characters and hate the bad characters and always be able to tell them apart ; but in Evangelion, the reader hates the good characters and is indifferent to the bad ones, and wishes they would all get drowned together.

I watched the original because it’s considered a classic, by people who’s taste I no longer trust, but the Evangelion reboot movies are merely an attempt to milk the franchise by appealing to the children of the original audience. Life is too short, and as Kirie, from Magnificent Kotobuki says I’m super busy with all my own can kicking and soul searching. Despite what Karandi says, I shan’t be watching the final two movies.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

August 15, 2022

Garden Report for 220815

Not as hot this week, with highs in the mid to upper 80’s. Next week in the mid to upper 90’s.

Our lone Zucchini is finally producing. Harvested two small ones so we won’t get overwhelmed. Our Spaghetti Squash is running all over the place, and I’m working to tie it up to the stakes.

The cherry tomatoes are putting out a dozen or so every few days. The other tomatoes are producing lots and lots of greenies.

The determinate tomatoes and the the Cocozelle are surviving, but not much in the way of growth.

So we start the scoreboard.

Week
Ending
08/15
Vegetable Count Total

Weight
g

Unit

Weight
g

Grand

Total

Total
Weight
kg
  Tomatoes
Potatoes
Sweet Potatoes
Carrots
Beets
Summer Squash
Zucchini 3 148 74 1.15 1.25
Spaghetti
Squash
Winter Squash
Cucumber
Late harvest tomatoes
Grand Total 1.25

We continue to run behind last year, but I have hopes for the upcoming couple of weeks.

Ukraine vs Russian casualties

August 10, 2022

One reason militaries today are reluctant to issue estimates of enemy casualties is that The Press and everyone else (hi me!) will immediately assume the estimate is rock solid gold and go on to draw all sorts of fantastic conclusions from it. So it is with the latest, unofficial, estimate out of the Pentagon, that Russia has suffered something approaching 80,000 casualties in the war. If we look at my earlier estimate, that RU KIA were ~20,000, that would give a killed/wounded ratio of just about 3/1, within reasonable historical bounds.

Simple arithmetic then says the Russians have been losing ~500 troops per day (killed and wounded), while the Ukrainian losses have been around half that — note that President Zelensky’s statement of 100-200KIA per day was during a much more intense period of the fighting.

In all of WWI, the French suffered something over 3000 casualties per day, more than six times the casualty rate of Ukraine, a country with roughly the same population.

Our conclusion is the same as before, Ukraine is doing much better than the French did in WWI, and  nowhere near running out of people to fight this war.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

August 7, 2022

Garden Report for 220808

The week went from hot to bearable to hotter, peaking out at 97F on Sunday. Next week is forecast to peak at 100F, but be mostly in the mid-90’s.

Our lone Zucchini has been growing like a weed, and producing lots of fruits … that get to about 10cm long and then die. One, however, did better, hiding out by hanging down into the hole in one of the cinderblocks where it could grow undisturbed. Came in at 35cm and 1.1kg.

The cherry tomatoes are starting to ripen, but nobody else has any color.

Planted out one of the grow-cups with the determinates and the big cup with the Cocozelle. Both survived the operation. Also tried planting a bunch of seeds from a melon what I bought. We’ll see what comes up.

So we start the scoreboard.

Week
Ending
08/08
Vegetable Count Total

Weight
g

Unit

Weight
g

Grand

Total

Total
Weight
kg
  Tomatoes
Potatoes
Sweet Potatoes
Carrots
Beets
Summer Squash
Zucchini 1 1100 1100 1 1.1
Spaghetti
Squash
Winter Squash
Cucumber
Late harvest tomatoes
Grand Total 1.1

We’re running well behind last year, when we had 10kg of harvest already, split evenly between the tomatoes and the zucchini.

TLDR: Anime I never finished, Summer 2022

August 3, 2022

Summers are usually thin, with few shows and fewer good ones. This summer is shaping up to be a little better than most. Out of 40 shows airing on Crunchyroll and HiDive, including sequels, I picked 10 that looked good, and I’ve only dropped three.

Smile of the Arsnotoria

K-On x I’m quitting Heroing without the uplifting human-demon thread but with PTSD? Cute Girls part is too, too sweet. Flashback/dystopian part is too, too confusing. Is there any significance to the fact that the key title word includes snot?

Utawarerumono

This appears to be the third (or maybe fourth) installment of a franchise that started in 2006, unless there was an earlier VN. It has gotten so involved and convoluted that the entire first episode was an expository lump. Hero Hak is missing, presumed dead. Some other guy assumes the role of body double by putting on a domino mask, which totally disguises him. Maybe it’s the XM digital radio antenna glued to his forehead. At the end of Episode 1, they mount up on their wargeese and ride off into combat.

Harem in the Labyrinth of Another World

What is it with slavery isekai this year? There’s been six so far, and this one’s the most blatant of the lot. It tries to walk the line between gross (take your clothes off and lie down) and teen-agers-in-love (I…I want to be with you always), and doesn’t quite succeed.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

August 1, 2022

Garden Report for 22/08/01

Looks like we’ve survived the heatwave. Didn’t hit 100F here, but Spokane was 102F and we peaked at 99.7F, so close enough. The coming week will be breezy, with highs around 90F.

Section 1:

All are doing fine. Small tomatoes already showing.

Row 1: [ Sunsugar Yellow | S100 | EarlyGirl ]

Row 2: [Brandywine | Superfantastic | Big Beef ]

Row 3: [ Champion | Red Beef | Bonnie ]

Section 2 :

Growth continues uneven. Some are doing very well but others are just hanging on. The Zucchini keeps throwing off fruit that grows to <10cm long, then dies.

Row 1: [ Acorn | Summer | Zucchini ]

Row 2: [ Acorn | SpaghettiPumpkin ]

…………………….[Delicata]

Row 3: [Butternut | Butternut | Straightneck ]

Section 3 The only thing left here is the row of beets.

Section 4  The sweet potatoes and of regular potatoes continue doing OK.

House Container Bags:
Potato | Potato | Sweet Potato | Sweet Potato | possible Cocozelle | Bonnie Tomato / Basil | Cucumbers | Early Girl / Oregano |

Potatoes are going wild. Sweets are hanging on. Tomatoes and herbs are doing OK. The remaining cucumber is doing … OK. The year-old Cocozelle seeds have produced two seedlings.

The irrigation system is now working pretty well. Have not switched to soaker because I realized I’d put the beets in too far from either arm.

Indoor Container:
The big container has some very strong growing seedlings (indeterminate), and the four planter cups have two seedlings (determinate). I’m not sure either one will produce anything by the next frost. One planter cup suddenly produced a fast-growing Cocozelle, I’m waiting for the weather to improve before I plant it out.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

July 25, 2022

Garden Report for 22/07/25

I didn’t realize that it’s been a month since my last weekly report. That’s because not a lot has been going on. The days of rain and coldness are far behind. The day’s of 100F are scheduled for the coming week.

I recently watched a YouTube that talked about late-planting of tomatoes — how you should put in a set of determinates that will ripen just before first frost. With my usual timing I went down to the hardware store…the day after they sent all their seeds back.

Neither the Bi-Mart Cocozele nor the Bi-Mart Acorn squash have sprouted. I think I shan’t get seeds there any more.

Section 1:

All are doing fine. Small tomatoes already showing.

Row 1: [ Sunsugar Yellow | S100 | EarlyGirl ]

Row 2: [Brandywine | Superfantastic | Big Beef ]

Row 3: [ Champion | Red Beef | Bonnie ]

No sign of the 2m of carrots-on-tape I planted between columns 1 and 2.

Section 2 :

Growth is very uneven. Some are doing very well (the Zucchini already has fruit), but others are just hanging on.

Row 1: [ Acorn | Summer | Zucchini ]

Row 2: [ Acorn | SpaghettiPumpkin ]

…………………….[Delicata]

Row 3: [Butternut | Butternut | Straightneck ]

Section 3 Replanted the one row of lettuce-on-tape and one row of beets-on-tape. In this case, ‘one row’ means a stretch along one side of the soaker hose. Some beet sprouts showing already. The cluster of spaghetti squash is down to one spindly plant. The acorn squash hasn’t come up yet.

Section 4  (two rows of sweet potatoes and two half-rows of regular potatoes) is doing OK.

House Container Bags:
Potato | Potato | Sweet Potato | Sweet Potato | possible Cocozelle | Bonnie Tomato / Basil | Cucumbers | Early Girl / Oregano |

Potatoes are going wild. Sweets are hanging on. Tomatoes and herbs are doing OK. The remaining cucumber is doing OK. The bucket potato didn’t produce, so I put in a larger container and planted the Bi-Mart Cocozele. As I said up top, that didn’t produce anything either. Since the container was sitting empty, I decided to try an older packet of Cocozelle seeds, one I knew had sprouted before. If it works — big if — I should be getting some at the end of September. If it doesn’t work, well, I’m no worse off.

The irrigation system is now working pretty well. Since we’re headed into some really hot weather I’m going to switch to soaker hose.

Indoor Container:
Since I couldn’t buy any new seeds I’m trying out planting some old tomato seeds — indeterminate, but needs must — indoors for planting out in early August.

Tempo in Summer

July 18, 2022

What a difference five months makes

A long war

July 14, 2022

In earlier posts on the Russo-Ukraine war I noted that the latest phase was an artillery duel, particularly with Russia attempting incremental gains via heavy artillery bombardment of prepared Ukrainian positions. The question then arises of how long can the Ukrainian manpower resources hold out.

In WWI, our best known artillery-intensive conflict, France started the war with perhaps 1.3 million troops, and called up another 8 million during the war, not counting colonials. This, out of a population of just under 40 million. Ukraine, with a population of just over 40 million, started with an army of something over a million troops — so the two countries are roughly similar in demographics. The Russians, meanwhile, committed something over 200,000 troops (including surrogates) at the start of the invasion, reinforcing these numbers by an unknown amount as the conflict continued. I’m only going to mention Russian casualties in passing, because the politics and dynamics of their loss rate is totally different and deserves its own post.

WWI started in late July, so by the end of 1914 the war had been going on for about 130 days and France had lost roughly 300,000 KIA. This featured the intense initial clashes of the Battle of the Frontiers, up through the end of the Race to the Sea. This was mostly mobile warfare, and did not include any of the meatgrinder battles that were so typical of later years. Overall, in 1500 days of warfare along a 700km front, the French had 1.3 million military KIA, or almost 850 deaths per day.

The Russo-Ukraine war started at the end of February 2022, and 130 days later puts us into early July — right about now. In the first 130 days of the war, Ukraine lost at least 10,000 KIA, and Russia and its subject nations lost at least 20,000 KIA. President Zelensky has said that Ukrainian deaths have been running 100 to 200 per day — at most, a quarter of the French death rate, along a roughly 1700km front. I note that these numbers vary wildly by source and should be used only as a rough indicator of size.

Of course, it’s not enough that troops exist, they have to be trained. I haven’t been able to find out much about Ukrainian basic training. At the start of the war, one report said new recruits were sent to their units with two weeks training (although a lot of the ‘two week’ reports were about ATGM training in the UK not actual basic), while in the US a new recruit might spend 22 weeks from induction through both basic and combat specialty training. Still, whatever the length of training, be it two weeks or twenty-two, their training pipeline should now be full.

We can draw some insights based on all this. First, the war has not reached the same scale and intensity of WWI. Today’s troops may be tired, but they have not been subjected to the same level of carnage as we saw in WWI. Second, Ukraine is nowhere near running short of people of military age. France fought for over four years, and it looks like Ukraine has the people to do the same. There may be constraints on Ukraine’s ability to fight — weapons, ammunition, food to sustain its people — but lack of troops isn’t going to be one of them.

Counter-Covid Ops

June 28, 2022

Finally, two and a half years into the pandemic, we are starting to get additional tools to fight the virus. The latest one is a pair of monoclonal antibodies (Tixagevimab/Cilgavimab), combined under the name Evusheld.

In the US, Evusheld is approved for people like me: old, fat, and cancerous, with diminished immune response. It’s given as a pair of shots, high up on the butt, one drug on each side. They promote an improved immune response, but are not a replacement for the vaccine. Instead, they help the vaccine kick-start the immune system.

I got mine yesterday. It went pretty smoothly, despite the fact that the facility was so busy they had to set up an additional shot station in a room normally used for storing sheets and towels. Twenty minute wait, then two shots, bang-bang, and I’m done. Well, except for a one hour wait in another improvised sitting room to make sure I didn’t have a falling-down-dead response.

Afterwards, I felt a little bit achy, but that might just have been due to the passage of a low pressure zone. All my joints feel that sort of thing. Otherwise, no side effects, and I haven’t gotten Covid yet.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

June 27, 2022

Garden Report for 22/06/27

The cold and damp has given way to warm and hot. Hit 87 over the weekend and 92 on Monday.

Some of the store bought seedlings didn’t make it through the dank. One of the Zucchini, one Summer squash, and Spaghetti squash died. Since the hardware store plants were pretty ratty, I started some seedlings — Pumpkin, Summer squash, and Spaghetti squash — but the only thing that came up were the Spaghettis. In the middle of last week I started another batch, in a bigger set of pots . MJ bought a Delicata, which I’ve put in between rows 2 and 3. Bags are doing well. Mostly.

Section 1:

Row 1: [ Sunsugar Yellow | S100 | EarlyGirl ]

Row 2: [Brandywine | Superfantastic | Big Beef ]

Row 3: [ Champion | Red Beef | Bonnie ]

Also put in about 2m of carrots-on-tape between columns 1 and 2.

Section 2 :

Row 1: [ Acorn | Summer | Zucchini ]

Row 2: [ Acorn | SpaghettiPumpkin ]

…………………….[Delicata]

Row 3: [Butternut | Butternut | Straightneck ]

Section 3 One row of lettuce-on-tape and one row of beets-on-tape. In this case, ‘one row’ means a stretch along one side of the soaker hose. Not doing very well. Perhaps it got over-rained on.

Section 4 is two rows of sweet potatoes and two half-rows of regular potatoes.

House Container Bags:
Potato | Potato | bucket Potato | Sweet Potato | Sweet Potato | Bonnie Tomato / Basil | Cucumbers | Early Girl / Oregano |

Potatoes are going wild. Sweets are hanging on. Tomatoes and herbs are doing OK. One of the cucumbers died, but I won’t try to replace it.

The irrigation system is now working pretty well. I’ve left it on sprinkler instead of turning on the hoses because many of the plants aren’t big enough for their roots to reach the wet.

Spring 2022 Anime Summary

June 23, 2022

As they say at the Congressional hearings: What did I watch and what did I think of it?

Skeleton knight in another world: A light-hearted isekai romp with no concept of inappropriate opening scenes. Most memorable for the fact that the ED theme is pretty much an homage to the ED of Blood Blockade Battlefront.

Ascendance of a bookworm, Season 3: Our biblioisekai adventure continues. Myne (later called Rosemyne — I’m sure nobody will suspect she’s the same person) moves up to being royalty. This seems to be the perfect series for Japanese, since she’s gone from being a commoner to a churchwarden to adopted daughter of a royal, with changes in the formality of her speaking at each stage.

I’m quitting heroing: After striving for 三千 years, the hero realizes that his retirement plan sucks and he runs away to join the demons.

Demon girl next door, Season 2: A light-hearted slice of life show about an inept demon and a caring magical girl.

Trapped in a dating sim: All the isekaireincarnated as a hero/villain’ tropes have been used up, so the creators had to go rummaging around in the seat cushions for story ideas. Other than the base concept, it was a strong mediocre, and the animation looked like it was cribbed from a VN.

The executioner and her way of life: Her job is to kill Japanese isekai adventurers before they can inadvertently destroy her world. Finally encounters one she doesn’t seem to be able to kill.  Interesting twist in episode six. Hokey final boss fight. Our battle continues ending.

Don’t hurt me, my healer: Goofy slice of life about an inept adventurer and his insensitive sidekick. Most memorable moment is the ogre in a pink bra. At least it’s not an isekai.

Spy x Family: Dropped after eight episodes. It was fun, but too silly (says the guy who likes pink bras).

Overall, a surprisingly weak season. I haven’t looked at the Summer summaries yet, but if this Spring is anything to go on I expect we’ll be inundated with Samurai Girls isekai spinoffs.

The latest Summer?

June 20, 2022

We are closing in on a new record: the latest arrival of Summer in Spokane history. It’s what I’d call Effective, or Practical Summer, as indicated by the first day to hit 80F (26C), instead of Meteorological Summer (1 June), or Astronomical Summer (21 June). Here’s the competition (from NWS Spokane):

Table of the latest 80°F or warmer days in Spokane.

The table is a little out of date, because it’s now June 19th, and we still haven’t hit 80F. So we’re in second place, ahead of 2002, at 13 June. As of last night, we’re forecast to hit 81F on Wednesday, 22 June, which means we’d tie the 2011 record. If we stay cool on Wednesday, the next over-80 forecast (84F) is Sunday, 24 June. Either way, I guess I’d better get the covers off the air conditioner vents.

UPDATE: Spokane hit 81F on Wednesday, 22 June, tying the record.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

June 14, 2022

Garden Report for 22/06/13

A cold and wet May has been followed by our traditional June gloom. Temps mostly in the 60’s, with rain, heavy at times. As in 1.35″ in 24hrs, followed by 1.75 in 48hrs on our back deck. Turns out, the gutters had filled up with dead leaves and so everything was washing over the sides, particularly where two roof angles came together. Water got into the basement and soaked the carpeting in MJ’s office. Lots of fans and air filters, and it still smells. No days above 80F, which puts us (so far) in second place for coolest start to Summer ever. Cold, as in, they’re still reporting windchills.

Some of the store bought seedlings didn’t make it through the dank. One of the Zucchini and both Spaghetti squash died. Since the hardware store plants were pretty ratty, I’ve planted seeds — Pumpkin, Summer squash, and Spaghetti squash.

Bags are doing well. Mostly. Potatoes are thriving, all except the bucket. Sweet potatoes are hanging in there.

Section 1 is planted and has cages/stakes installed:

Row 1: [ Sunsugar Yellow | S100 | EarlyGirl ]

Row 2: [Brandywine | Superfantastic | Big Beef ]

Row 3: [ Champion | Red Beef | Bonnie ]

Also put in about 2m of carrots-on-tape between columns 1 and 2.

Section 2 is planted and has cages/stakes installed:

Row 1: [ Acorn | Summer | Zucchini ]

Row 2: [ Acorn | SpaghettiPumpkin ]

Row 3: [Butternut | Butternut | Straightneck ]

Section 3 One row of lettuce-on-tape and one row of beets-on-tape. In this case, ‘one row’ means a stretch along one side of the soaker hose.

Section 4 is two rows of sweet potatoes and two half-rows of regular potatoes.

House Container Bags:
Potato | Potato | bucket Potato | Sweet Potato | Sweet Potato | Bonnie Tomato / Basil | Cucumbers | Early Girl / Oregano |

The bucket potato is a 12″ pot with a plastic bag liner and one chunk of potato. Theoretically, one can lift out the bag and harvest new potatoes.

Still working on getting the irrigation system into shape. Replacing lots of washers and attaching lots of hose clamps. Fortunately, it’s been rainy enough I don’t really need to irrigate yet. It’s a cold La Nina Spring, and now we’re headed into the traditional June Gloom.

Russia prepares for war

June 11, 2022

Twitter is pretty good, if you limit who you follow and don’t read too far down the replies to any thread.

One of the topics I’ve been following, of course, is the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and one of the interesting things about it is the way that Putin’s mask has slipped as the war has lengthened. When the war first started, Putin (and of course the Russian press, and Russian supporters in the West) all claimed it was due to Ukraine wanting to join NATO, extending Western ‘encirclement’ of Russia. This was halfway believable, because Russia has always complained about Western ‘encirclement’. Back in the last days of the Soviet Union, the Russian MoD complained about it to (I think) CJCS Admiral Crowe, right before he backed a failed counterrevolutionary coup and committed suicide.

But as time, and the war, dragged on, Putin changed his tune. It wasn’t NATO, it turns out, it was Putin’s desire to emulate Peter the Great and win back lands that were once Russian. It was all about Russian expansionism from the start, and any comments to the contrary were just patter to keep the rubes quiet while their pockets were picked.

Now, we have a longish Twitter thread by Sergej Sumlenny, an Eastern Europe analyst based in Berlin, about how the signs were there for years, if only we knew where to look. The signs, in this case, being Russian pulp fiction. Remember how, towards the end and right after VietNam, there was a spate of books (North SAR, Rolling Thunder) and movies (Green Berets, First Blood) that glorified fictional American heroes, even though we lost the war?  Now turn that up by a factor of 100. Sumlenny walks us through a whole librarysworth of anti-American, anti-NATO, Stalinist, and even Nazi-glorifying war books. Did you know that Hitler wasn’t bad, he just made the mistake of killing Russians? And that Ukraine is a breakaway part of Russia that is acting as an American puppet, plotting war against Mother Russia? One series features heroic Russian fighters in the DonBass. Half the books seem to be the Russian equivalent of anime isekai — Russians reborn or time-transported back to earlier eras to change history.

RUSurabachi

Interesting stuff. Read the thread. It has book covers.

Aid to Ukraine 2

June 10, 2022

Seven weeks ago I noted that the number of artillery shells the US supplied to Ukraine along with the donated guns was only about enough for two weeks of intense combat. I don’t have any new information on the state of US-origin stocks, but this item quoting the UA MoD makes the point that counting all UA artillery (not just US supplied weapons), the Ukrainians are firing 5000-6000 shells per day and have used up most of their own stocks.

While the Ukrainians are manufacturing shells on their own, they only started in August of 2018 and I’m not sure they are prepared to produce 6000 shells per day (of all kinds). At the start of WWI there was a similar shortage, because planners had assumed the war would be one of maneuver, instead of one of incessant artillery fire across more or less static lines of contact.  The war started in August of 1914, and the shell shortage was an issue for the French within six weeks, and for the British by December.

 

Green Thumb Up My Nose

June 1, 2022

Garden Report for May 2022

I have decided not to try growing corn this year. We’re coming off a La Nina winter, and we’re still getting threat of frosts, with snow in the passes. We didn’t exceed 70F until the 26th, a record

Emptied the carrot cooler. About 800g of Danvers Half Longs. Most smaller than my thumb. Not sure what I want to plant in it.

The Winter Red lettuce we planted last October is growing in unenthusiastic clumps in the garden. Starting my cut and come again program. Mixes nicely with store-bought iceberg.

Section 1 is planted and has cages/stakes installed:

Row 1: [ Sunsugar Yellow | S100 | EarlyGirl ]

Row 2: [Brandywine | Superfantastic | Big Beef ]

Row 3: [ Champion | Red Beef | Bonnie ]

Section 2 is planted and has cages/stakes installed:

Row 1: [ Acorn | Spaghetti | Zucchini ]

Row 2: [ Acorn | Spaghetti | Zucchini ]

Row 3: [Butternut | Butternut | Straightneck ]

Section 3 is awaiting orders

Section 4 is two rows of sweet potatoes and two half-rows of regular potatoes.

House Container Bags:
Potato | Potato | bucket Potato | Sweet Potato | Sweet Potato | Bonnie Tomato / Basil | Cucumbers | Early Girl / Oregano |

The bucket potato is a 12″ pot with a plastic bag liner and one chunk of potato. Theoretically, one can lift out the bag and harvest new potatoes.

Still working on getting the irrigation system into shape. Replacing lots of washers and attaching lots of hose clamps. Fortunately, it’s been rainy enough I don’t really need to irrigate yet. It’s a cold La Nina Spring, and now we’re headed into the traditional June Gloom.

Memories of my youth: The man who never was

May 15, 2022

Back in WWII there was a long-running deception program, aimed at misleading the Germans about where and when the various invasions of the European continent would take place. One operation, with the covername Mincemeat, placed a letter implying that Sardinia was our next target into a courier pouch, attached the pouch to a corpse dressed as a Royal Marine, and set it adrift off of Franco’s Spain as a way of directing German reinforcements away from Sicily. After the war one of the participants, Ewin Montague, wrote a book about it, titled The Man Who Never Was (I can see my copy from where I’m sitting at the PC). Later, there was a movie of the same name, and now there’s a new Netflix movie, Operation Mincemeat, which tells the same tale, only with a bit more melodrama.

While I was around during the waning days of WWII, I certainly wasn’t old enough to have participated in Mincemeat, or anything else for that matter. So what has this to do with me? Back in the day, I had some limited contact with the US deception operations community, and some of the people I knew still professed being mad at Montague, because his book made it so that we can never use that ploy again.

Memories of my youth: Mediterranean Moored

May 6, 2022

Seaports in the Mediterranean coast can be very small, often starting as ports for Venetian galleys and other small ships. That being the case, the modern versions of the ports can be very short on mooring space. They don’t have the long piers and quays needed to dock today’s ships. One solution is to moor the ship stern-first against the quay. Back in the day, we’d often see Soviet ships moored this way in Latakia, Syria, but the technique is used anywhere there is chronic wharfside crowding, not just in the Med. Here’s a photo of the missile cruiser Moskva, late of the Russian navy, Mediterranean moored at Sevastopol.

https://static01.nyt.com/images/2022/04/15/world/02dc-moskva-4/21ukraine-moskva-casualties-05-superJumbo-v4.jpg?quality=75&auto=webp

Tempo at rest

May 4, 2022

She’s a very sleepy four-month-old puppy. Sacked out on top of one of her kennel mates, with a black lab in the left background. Here’s what she looked like two months ago.

TempoAtRest20220502_220836

Yes, it’s a hairy chair. We have goldens. What do you expect?

Green Thumb Up My Nose

April 30, 2022

Garden Report for April 2022

We ate the last of last year’s spaghetti squash this month. A new (to us) cooking technique was to cut it along the lines of latitude rather than the traditional halving it by longitude. If you use an electric carving knife it’s easy. That gives you a bunch of donut shaped slices, suitable for individual servings.

Container carrots doing OK. They are Danvers Half Longs, and are a little small even for them — size of my thumb. We’re digging them one at a time and eating them raw for snacks.

Sweet potato slips are doing well. Regular potatoes are sprouting eyes. All ready to plant, if only the frost season was over.

Started my annual soil-buying spree. Potting and garden soil to mix for the potatoes.

Next week I start putting in the tomato stakes (i.e. furring strips).

Memories of my youth: Russian offensive operations

April 27, 2022

I just came across an article I wrote, back in 1979. It dealt with the Soviet revival of a WWII concept called Forward Detachments. Reading it, you get an idea of where the Russian use of Battalion Tactical Groups (BTG) came from, and also how their current implementation is flawed.

A Soviet forward detachment was a highly mobile, ad hoc tank/infantry unit, with attached artillery and antiaircraft resources, possibly including airborne elements dropped ahead. Their operational role was as a breakthrough exploitation unit. In the atomic battlefield of the 1980’s, they might even use tactical nuclear weapons to open up a hole in NATO lines so that a forward detachment would dash through, headed for a key geographic objective, like a river crossing point, or an airfield, or transportation/supply hub. They would dash forward, using speed and close air support to brush off any rear area units in their way, grab and hold the objective, and await the arrival of the follow-up units making their way through the disorganized enemy rear. Sounds a lot like how the Russians tried to use their BTG’s in the assault on Kyiv.

There were several flaws with the forward detachment concept, some of which were evident forty years ago, and some of which appeared in the unsuccessful Russian attack on Kyiv this year. For one thing, they suffered from the perennial Russian problem of limited supply. From the time they left the line of departure to the time they seized a suitable airfield, they were running on what fuel and munitions they could carry. If they couldn’t seize and hold a resupply point, they would fast become ineffective. Like the traditional Soviet offensive, they had to succeed in order to succeed. Anything that slowed them down, caused them to divert, or forced them to burn up lots of ammunition would cause a breakdown in the plan.

This points to the second problem. The whole forward detachment concept was based on cracking through a heavily defended NATO front line, into a relatively sparse rear defense, a rear defense composed of disorganized units attempting to form up for a traditional attack. The Soviets intentions were to avoid contact, to brush aside any opposition, and to keep moving, keep up the momentum. They were not prepared to deal with a myriad of locally-based small-unit operations designed to kill that momentum, combined with drone-directed artillery to hammer the stationary columns.

So in the Kyiv operation, the airborne units initially failed to seize Hostomel Airfield, losing much of the force in the process. Meanwhile, the fast-moving BTG’s were able to occupy Hostomel city, but were unable to hold it because their supply lines broke down behind them. They were never able to seize or surround Kyiv, and the whole operation foundered when the follow-on forces could not move fast enough or far enough to relieve the forward detachment BTG’s.

As the war shifts south, to a front line that’s been more or less static for the last seven years, the Russians might again try to use some of their BTG’s in a forward detachment role, exploiting a breakthrough and dashing towards key crossroads or bridges. It remains to be seen if they have found ways to overcome Ukrainian rear area defense units and if those units have figured out how to operate in a more open part of their country.

Aid to Ukraine

April 22, 2022

The US has announced a new aid package worth $800 million. That’s a lot, and not enough.

For example, the package includes 90 x 155mm howitzers, plus a support package that includes tow vehicles and 183,000 artillery shells. 183,000 is just over 2000 per gun. If the gun fires slightly over 142 rounds per day, that’s about two weeks worth of shells.

In the Battle of the Somme, British artillery fired 150 rounds per gun for a week. If the Battle for Donbas shapes up the way it’s looking to, that’s about the rate of expenditure we can expect, only it’s likely to go on for the entire duration of the war.

TLDR: Anime I never finished, Spring 2022

April 22, 2022

This is an odd season. While there’s nothing really bad, there are things people love that I don’t particularly like, and things I …kindof… like, that others … kindof… don’t. Here’s some that I couldn’t like enough to keep watching.

Estab Life: Great Escape

Young, quarrelsome, ‘extraction team’ of high school girls pulls people out of the futuristic social pods they are destined to spend their life in and transfers them to different social pods — which look just like the old places. Not entranced by the team dynamics.

Healer Girl

Young, overly-empathic, healer on an internal journey of self-discovery. Attempt at a treacly-sweet story set in a city that looks like Tokyo with ‘healers’ that are the medical equivalent of magical girls, but without the garter belts. I didn’t want to overstress my blood glucose.

Dawn of the Witch

Young, amnesia-suffering, mage goes on an external journey of self-discovery. Bad animation. Stock figures. Stock situations. Magical school headmaster named Albus. You can tell they were out of ideas.

Birdie Wing

Not-so-young protagonna does amazing tricks with a ball and three sticks. Not really about golf.  A little too off-the-wall for me.

Unintended Consequences 2

April 20, 2022

AKA Shooting yourself in the foot.

So, Republican and Republican-supporting media like Fox News, downplayed the Covid pandemic from the start, started pushing back against masking requirements as soon as they were announced, and spread disinformation (AKA lies) about vaccines and vaccination even before they were available. As a result many Americans, especially older watchers of Fox, came to distrust the Covid vaccines, then all vaccines, then doctors. The result was fewer people getting vaccinated and fewer people masking up.

The other result? American life expectancy dropped by over two years in under two years. Interestingly enough, in 2021it was elderly whites — you know, the Republican base — who suffered the largest drop. Blacks and Hispanics, who don’t watch so much Fox, didn’t see nearly the same drop.

Looking at excess deaths — deaths over and above what we’d expect based on prior years — we see that over roughly the first 18 months of the pandemic we had just over one million excess deaths. That includes both the with and from variants of Covid-related deaths, plus Covid-adjacent ones, like dying from a heart attack while waiting to get into a Covid-flooded ER.

So, we’re down a million people, most of whom — based on the number who died begging for one of them vaccine shots — were staunch Republican voters. Now the GOP leadership isn’t dumb, just evil, and they had to have known that this was the most probable outcome. My conclusion is, they just didn’t care. It’s been said that a modern Republican is someone who’ll burn down their house just to lower their neighbor’s property values, and it looks like this is a good example.

April in Cheney

April 15, 2022

Paris, it ain’t

Beware the Ides of April

So we had four inches of snow overnight, and it was gone by mid-afternoon.

A second look at Bookworm

April 15, 2022

In preparation for Season 3 of Ascendance of A Bookworm I am re-watching the first two seasons and rereading the early books of the series. This article assumes you are already familiar with the series, and therefore don’t mind spoilers. Consider yourself warned.

I covered a number of points in my original review of Season 1, back in December of 2019 (which you really should read first). The re-look has clarified a couple of these points for me.

1. Myne didn’t kill to get her body.
A number of early reviewers expressed concern that Myne got her body by killing the previous occupant. Unlike other isekai anime, which feature memory recall (My Next Life as a Villainess), birth (Tanya the Evil), or straight teleportation (Konosekai), Myne enters a currently-occupied body, replacing the occupant. When she awakens after being reincarnated (with no explanatory interview with a God of any sort) she is burning up with fever and hears a child’s voice saying it’s too hot and they hate it. The child’s voice fades away and Myne is left with the mana-based fever that is the Devouring. Presumably that child was Myne0, the original owner of the body, a sickly crybaby who was jealous of her big sister and was constantly throwing tantrums. Later, we find out from Frieda that most commoners with the Devouring died very young, well before baptism at age 7, and that the only way to survive even that long was to have an overwhelming drive and goal (unlikely in most under-7’s); if you faltered you’d have another attack and the more mana you had, the worse it would be. Even so, the Devouring would get stronger with age, and it was only because of Frieda’s magical tool that Myne was able to survive to her baptism. I take it from all this that Myne0 was already in the process of dying when Myne1 arrived, and that the God of cross-sekai resurrections just stuffed her in the first available body in a world that needed books.

2. Myne is much more determined than I remembered

Myne’s prior life was dedicated to books, and quite early in the novel she decides that her goal in this new life in an illiterate world will be to make her own. She is met by failure on every side but, like Thomas Edison (who once said that he’d learned several thousand ways not to make a battery), she keeps trying. It was only in Book 6 (Part 2 Vol 3) that she finally builds a workable Gutenberg-style printing press. Along the way she introduces new fashion and hair care products, plant-based paper, oil-based ink, wax tablets, card games, board games, and konosekai/isekai crossover food, all to further or finance her book-making goals. She also learns to navigate a society that is extremely stratified, from working-class (like her parents) to rich merchants to the rigidly-structured church to the unapproachable nobles.

3. Myne’s inventions are reasonably realistic

Myne isn’t one of your OP isekai heroes, with a magical cellphone or knowledge of the future. Yes, she has insane amount of magic-enabling mana, but she doesn’t find that out until near the end of the first arc, and her ability to exploit that won’t be realized until somewhere in the third set of books — mostly, she sees it as a curse. In addition, her konosekai knowledge is limited to basic crafts and the knowledge that some things are possible. Looking at Medieval Europe, you can find numerous examples that invention x was not available in country y at the time, and so its absence in Myne’s new world isn’t implausible. Even her food inventions are European (pizza!) instead of being the traditional Japanese/isekai food inventions, like miso and shoyu.

4. The series is well thought out
Many light novels, and most isekai, seem to have been structured with a well-crafted initial arc, but go downhill from there. It’s almost as if the author didn’t think beyond the first volume and when the work turned out to be successful, they had to scramble to tack on reasons to continue (My next life as a villainess, Tearmoon Empire). Bookworm isn’t like that. At the end of the three-volume first arc, Myne finds a way to make paper and finds a way to stay alive by joining the church. At the end of the second three-volume arc, she has a prototype Gutenberg press and finds herself recruited into the nobility. Presumably, the third arc will involve her leveraging her noble status to successfully bring literacy and books to this new world. The series was obviously thought out well in advance.

So, I’m looking forward to Season 3. The first episode is already out, but I think I’ll wait a week and then watch two together.

Unintended Consequences 1

April 12, 2022

Today’s Republican party seems particularly adept at finding an issue which riles up their base or sticks it to the libs, passing associated laws that fill their visceral need for action, and finding that they haven’t thought their cunning plans all the way through. Case in point, the immigration crisis.

Not that immigration crisis, the real one.

Back in the days of the Trump regime it was obvious that the US no longer welcomed immigrants, particularly dark-skinned ones from ‘shithole countries’. They didn’t want them as workers, they didn’t want them as students, they didn’t want them as refugees. Laws were passed. Executive orders were issued. And the number of immigrants started to drop.

Then came Covid and America’s inept response to it, and the number of immigrants dropped some more. It dropped from a high of just over a million a year in 2016 to just under a quarter of that in 2021.

And then…and then…

And then there was nobody to work all the low level, below-living-wage jobs with crummy working conditions. Jobs in health care, food service, hospitality, and agriculture. What we found was that immigrants weren’t taking jobs away from Americans, they were filling jobs that Americans didn’t want to do. Case in point was the severe field worker shortage that farmers in Georgia encountered a few years ago. As one farmer put it, Americans didn’t want to do stoop labor, they wanted to drive the truck. They’d hire on in the morning and quit at lunchtime.

Part of the reason that conditions are so bad in our nursing homes is lack of staff. Part of the reason that Social Security and Medicare are facing financial problems in the future (I mean, aside from Congressional mismanagement) is the slowing of growth of the population, much of it due to the drop in immigration. Far from being a drain on the economy, immigrants found small businesses at three times the rate of our American so-called job creators.

We are down about two million immigrants since 2016, due primarily to the attitudes and policies of the Republican party. Their doctrinal, racist, if-the-Democrats-are-for-it-we’re-against-it attitude has severely wounded the American economy, now and for years to come.

I’m sure they didn’t mean it.

Green Thumb Up My Nose: Plans for 2022

April 6, 2022

I have decided to switch to a two-field rotation system. Sections 3 and 4 do not get enough sun for tomatoes or squash, so I’ll be swapping the back and forth in 1 and 2.
Section 1: tomatoes
Section 2: squash
Section 3: lettuce, carrots, peas, whatever else strikes my fancy
Section 4: corn, sweet potatoes — not in the rotation, special crops only.

House containers: tomatoes, sweet potatoes, potatoes, cucumber, peppers

I have a two way planting strategy for the sweet potatoes. Eating potatoes go into the containers, while the ones I plant in Section 4 will just be for ground cover and for the leaves for stir-fry.

Corn very nearly worked last year, so I’ll try it again: plant densely in the greenhouse, support with stakes, and keep up the air circulation.

I’ll fertilize heavily and dig in the Hairy Vetch next week some time, and start planting later in the month.

Running a little behind on this, and I don’t have my Fall planting plans firmed up. Here’s the most current Garden Gantt.

GardenPlan2022

Garden Gantt as of 06 April

Isekai no Sekai

April 1, 2022

Isekai no Sekai
異世界の世界

Hi! I’m Helgi! I’m an NPC and my job is greeter for the town of Kuroberg. What’s an NPC? Wakaranai. It has letters, which are magical things that adventurers use for information storage and asynchronous communication. No, I don’t know what that means either. I’m not very knowledgeable, even about Kuroberg. I can tell you where the inn is, and the water well, and the adventurers guildhall, but that’s about it. Anything more makes me freeze up. I work from dawn to dusk, greeting adventurers here at the town gate. At night I go home to my house nearby and sit with my parents (who have no duties and no feature detail and are totally a light shade of greyed-out). We don’t talk much, ’cause they already know where the inn is, and when the candle burns out, I take off my dirndl and go to bed, until another day.

That was my life until a few days ago. Then something happened. I suddenly remembered things. Or maybe I had a lot of things dumped into my memory. My name wasn’t Helgi (yes it is), it was Sato Yui (not any longer). I grew up in a different country and went to school and learned things, and was run over by a truck. So here I am, trying to understand how I got reincarnated here, where here is, and how to put on a dirndl.

I’m hoping that someone will write a light novel about me, so that I can get a role in an anime and make lots of money. That way I can quit my job as an NPC and buy my parents some facial features.

Meanwhile, the inn is over there, under the sign with the symbols INN on it.

Anime Preview: Spring 2022

March 28, 2022

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

First, let’s say what’s not in here. Sequels and continuations of stuff I dropped earlier (Shield Hero), movies and OVA’s (Recycled Penguindrum), and anything with healer in the title.

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

Ascendance of a Bookworm
The most literate anime of the decade
Kyoukai Senki
The Ukrainian version of Youjo Senki
Spy x Family
I really like a family anime. Of course, typical of anime, the one in the middle is probably 30 years old

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

Summer Time Render
A sledge, a knife, a gun, and an alien blaster (unless it’s a nail gun). All it needs is a sniper in a Santa suit
Deaimon
Food Wars, girls edition
Magia Record
Magical Maiden Mauls Monster Moth

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

Aoashi
Buncha guys running around in their pajamas
Love All Play
I wouldn’t watch a game of squash, even if it was played in the original reactor
Birdie Wing
A good walk spoiled

Jobs for Adventurers

March 17, 2022

A common profession in Japanese fantasy light novels and anime is that of Bōken-sha, or Adventurer. It’s a job that gets you away from the boring open the shop, sell stuff, close the shop life style of the standard isekai urban dweller, plus, you get to kill things. I mean, let’s be honest, most adult lifestyles in most cultures — current, historical, or fictional  — really suck. And then you die. This is why, in the US, the Cowboy lifestyle is so applauded. Chase the cows, fight the rustlers, go into town to catch an STD on Saturday nights, … chase the cows… and so forth. Being an Adventurer means living the Cowboy life without having your boots smell. Too bad that, other than Cowboy, there were never any other Adventurer jobs in the real world. Or were there?

Back in the early 1800’s there was the job of Mountain Man. That let you go out beyond the bounds of civilization and, … well …, do what an RPG would call grinding. You know: bring back 100 beaver pelts to make hats with, or harvest 60 muskrat anal glands for export to the health care industry of Imperial China. Unfortunately, that job didn’t upgrade your skills much beyond being able to live in a sod-covered hole in the ground and getting really good at disemboweling muskrats.

Going back even further, there were Greek-speaking Ptolemaic businesspeople living in Roman-occupied Egypt in the first Century AD, who employed what we would call entry-level Bōken-sha to carry business letters, deliver merchandise, and even escort dead bodies.

In the absence of a postal service available to all, letters exchanged between the inhabitants of Roman Egypt were most often transmitted with the help of informal bearers whose task was not limited to carrying a letter: they brought or collected goods, helped the recipients, sometimes received assistance, facilitated money transfer, performed escort and police duties, and more generally they were an essential link within a wide social network. This short study not only covers formal aspects, such as terminology, but also provides a description of the role of the bearers and of their interaction with both senders and recipients.

Here’s the original 73-page pdf. It’s pretty good reading, if you don’t mind skipping over paragraphs of classical Greek written in such a dense Egyptian accent that not even Google Translate can tell you what they mean. Of course, they weren’t called ‘Adventurers’ back then. The word used was vivliafóros (βυβλιαφόρος), or Librarians.

Crunchyroll, Funimation, and the future

March 11, 2022

There’s an interesting article by Krystallina over on The OASG, about the recent absorption of Funimation by Crunchyroll. This reduces the dedicated anime streaming services from three to two: Crunchyroll and HiDive. Not a good thing.

Theoretically, there were four major players in the US streaming anime market: Crunchyroll, VRV, Funimation, and HiDive (plus some walled gardens like Amazon and Netflix). But VRV was a branch of CR, or maybe Ellation, unless it was Otter. In any event, it wasn’t an independent service. HiDive, meanwhile was a minor player, just bought out by another entertainment conglomerate, AMC.  As a result of this absorption, Funimation and VRV will disappear. All that will be left other than Crunchyroll will be HiDive, which will be totally dependent upon the largess of the industry leader and how it cuts deals with its Japanese partners.

So Crunchyroll is now essentially a monopoly, which means it can now stop trying — think Microsoft’s Internet Explorer or Apple’s Safari back in the day. I’ve already written about CR’s user interface, and some comparisons with VRV. Since they already have the streaming anime market sewn up, there’s no reason for them to put any effort into improving the user interface, or supporting secondary devices like Roku, and they can concentrate on what’s best for their profits.

Speaking of profits, the other threat on the horizon is monopolistic pricing. Mergers like this always result in price increases. Always. “Oh,” they will say “we have to pay for our additional licenses for Girls Bravo and Maken-Ki.” But presumably that was part of the purchase price for Funimation. The main reason that prices go up after a monopolistic merger is “because we can.” Now, it will take a while before the price of a year of Crunchyroll will outpace the cost of a year of the old Crunchyroll, plus VRV, plus Funimation, but that day is coming. I’m surprised that the US government let this go through, although one article said they did so because Crunchyroll/Funimation had such a small share of the market. That may be true of the streaming market in general, but it’s certainly not true of the anime streaming market, and no, Hallmark Specials are not a substitute product for anime.

I’m not saying that the people at Crunchyroll are evil corporate execs, greedily interested in profits at all costs (to the consumer). After all, the company was started by people who were interested enough in anime to be willing to bend the rules to get the programs to the US. But that’s the old Crunchyroll and I don’t know how many of the original crew are left, given that they were under the thumb of the evil AT&T empire for a few years. And even if they care, they are now part of Sony, not known for being the most user friendly conglomerate. After all, another Sony anime holding — Aniplex — is already known for its high priced products.

The problem is, conglomerates can’t be concerned about the users. They’re too big. There’s too many layers. There’s too many stockholders who are only interested in value of the stock and returning shareholder value. The result is that takeovers like this result in talented staff departures, price increases, and quality decreases, and that’s probably what’s going to happen with Crunchyroll.

Buffy at 25

March 10, 2022

Twenty-five years ago today, the Buffy the Vampire Slayer series premiered on WB TV. It featured a strong story line and excellent cast. The fact that the show’s director, Joss Whedon, has pretty much had his personal reputation trashed in recent months should not detract from the fact that the show itself was pure gold. I see many today denigrating the way it presents its feminist message but you have to remember that while it does not live up to today’s standards, a quarter century ago it was ahead of its time. Many of the critics strike me as being those who would criticise Citizen Kane as being slow and clunky, with cinematographic tropes that are old hat, or those who say after watching one of Shakespeare’s plays What’s all the excitement about? It’s just a collection of old quotes.

The series resulted in a wide range of fan-generated products. Those still active include Buffy Between the Lines, an audio series imagining what happened to Buffy et al. during summer break,  and an entry at Forever Dreaming, which has transcripts of every episode of Buffy, but not of Angel. On a more serious note, Slayage is an academic journal devoted to Buffy studies, it’s now hosted by The Whedon Studies Association, and the original website link features articles on structured settlements finance. Sadly, many of the Buffy-associated links have rotted away ( Buffy-vs-Angel, Buffy Database), have been taken over by others (Buffy News is now a Bitcoin site…in German)  or are woefully out of date (BuffyGuide, a collection of news articles that ended in 2013).

Thirteen years of Found On Web

March 5, 2022

I started this blog on the 5th of March, 2009, and have managed to keep it going for 156 months. I think that’s because I haven’t set myself any sort of goals for articles or topics or such. I just write what seems interesting at the time.

Looking at my stats page I see that over the last 13 years I’ve published 1740 posts, or 134/year. The top five for the full run of this blog, not counting the ever-popular “Home Page/Archives”, are:

Garden Gantt — a garden planning tool that goes trending every spring
Highschool of the Dead — fan-service delight and an eternal, perennial favorite
Anime worth watching, Winter, 2015 — a marvelous season that included Shirobako, Saekano, KanColle, and YuriKuma Arashi. I reread it now and again, myself.
Picture stories from Earth: Seawater Farms — An early, doomed effort to build a sustainable source of biopetrol. I suspect it’s a favorite topic for a school report.
Nisemonogatari — The start of the franchise. Surprisingly, not the one with the toothbrush.

Those of these that are not ongoing are all somewhat old — two date from 2011 and one from 2012. Of course, older entries have more time to build up a track record. As for topics, most of the 1740 were my Green Thumb gardening series (298), Anime (289), or Cooking (my oatmeal series at 279).

Those posts enticed 55,000 visitors and generated 93,600 views, so roughly one visitor every three days and something less than two clicks per visitor. The highest one day total was 166, which came on 02 July 2021 when a group of lockdown-addled people found 2011’s Shirobako post.

So that’s it — thirteen years summarized in 300 words. Here’s to another thirteen that are equally productive.

New Puppy

February 28, 2022

To give us a change from all the dismal news of war, and politics, and economics…and the pandemic…, here’s our new puppy, Tempo (on the right), with Murphy (on the left). Murphy’s new owners kindly brought Tempo with them from Montana on their way home last night. She’s already fitting in well with the rest of the household.

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The Ukraine: Lessons for us all

February 24, 2022

The Ukraine (UA) became independent of the USSR in 1990, and inherited the third largest stock of nuclear weapons in the world, including 46 mobile and 130 silo-launched ICBMs, 33 long-range bombers, and over a thousand cruise missiles. In 1994 they signed the SALT II agreement, and by 1996 they had given up all their nuclear weapons. On Monday, NPR published an article on why they did this.

In return for this, they got the Budapest Memorandum, which Wikipedia summarizes as follows:

Before voting on accession, Ukraine demanded from Russia, the USA, France and the United Kingdom a written statement that these powers undertook to extend the security guarantees to Ukraine. Instead security assurances to Ukraine (Ukraine published the documents as guarantees given to Ukraine), given on 5 December 1994 at a formal ceremony in Budapest (known as the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances), may be summarized as follows: Russia, the UK and the USA undertake to respect Ukraine’s borders in accordance with the principles of the 1975 CSCE Final Act, to abstain from the use or threat of force against Ukraine, to support Ukraine where an attempt is made to place pressure on it by economic coercion, and to bring any incident of aggression by a nuclear power before the UN Security Council.

Got that? No guarantees from anyone. Assurances that aggressive acts would be brought to the attention of the UN. They gave up their nuclear weapons and got promises in return, promises that  turned out to be empty in 2014, and mostly empty in 2022.

What lessons are to be learned from this? The big one (other than the usual that diplomats lie, and countries don’t keep their word) is that if you aren’t a nuclear power, you don’t get no respect. If UA had kept even 10% of the almost 3000 warheads under their control, scattered amongst the various delivery systems, do you think that Russian troops would be battling their way to Kyiv today? Of course not. The presence of nuclear weapons totally changes the game. One really big reason why the US has not sent troops to assist Ukraine, not even air or artillery units, is because any shooting between US and RU forces automatically becomes a war between nuclear powers, a nuclear war, even if no nukes are launched, yet. So Russia will win this unbalanced conflict and there’s nothing much that NATO can do about it. Putin has already factored in the impact of sanctions, and the only alternative is a NATO/RU (i.e. nuclear) conflict.

Outside of Europe, the whole world is watching. And some countries are watching more closely than others. What lessons have North Korea and Pakistan and India and Israel drawn from this? Don’t give up your nukes. Ever. What lessons has Iran, and any other possible aspirants, drawn from this? If you don’t have a force in being, you get invaded. I’d say that, whatever the ultimate resolution, one of the outcomes of the Russian invasion — is that the cause of global non-proliferation has been set back fifty years.

Indications and Warning, the last kilometer

February 17, 2022

A classic indicator of imminent hostilities is an increased in clashes along the border. The US SECSTATE has accused Russia of preparing a casus belli, and the crowd-sourced LiveUA Map reports major increase in cease-fire violations along the cease-fire line separating the Ukraine proper from the parts that were occupied by Russia in a prior invasion. That same source also displayed video purporting to show smoke emanating from the Russian embassy in Kyiv, interpretable as destruction of documents prior to hostilities.

Valentine’s Day Oatmeal

February 14, 2022

So, it’s Valentine’s Day, and all your friends are giving you home-made candy. Like the batch we got this weekend, a layering of hard caramel, hard chocolate, and pecans. When I say hard, I mean hard. Break your teeth hard, never mind the sugar. Go back and sharpen your carving-knife hard. There was no way we could eat that — unless we put it in oatmeal.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one cup beef broth, one 150g piece of chocolate caramel candy, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, salt. Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats. Put the candy in as you heat up the broth, to give the caramel time to melt, and add the potatoes at the end.

Results: Surprisingly OK. Not great.  I had tried curried chocolate for Valentine’s Day five years ago, and this wasn’t quite as good as that. Maybe I’ll make this with curry as well, for the post-Valentine’s celebrations.

Rating: ** 2 stars, maybe 2.5.

Indications and Warning, the last mile

February 13, 2022

Last week I talked about how the I&W community looks at concrete actions to judge whether or not a country is preparing to go to war — troop movements, reserve callups, hospital preparations, and so forth. Unfortunately, there’s one thing that classic I&W cannot do, and that’s see into the minds of the political leadership. Much in the way of actions that activate indicators in this age of reconnaissance satellites and television news are as much posturing as preparations. The leadership is saying See, see? We’re really serious about this!  So the question is, how serious are they? Only they know, and right now, maybe even they aren’t sure.

On the one hand, maybe they really don’t want to go to war but feel they must keep ratcheting up the pressure until the other side gives in and gives them what they want. But what happens if the other side doesn’t give in? Then the leadership has some serious decisions to make. Do they invade, or not?

On the other hand, maybe they’re just gaslighting us, saying that those indicators are merely normal exercises, or normal defensive reactions to our own precautions, when they have already made their decision and really intended to invade all along.

There are, of course, some hostile actions just short of war. Short of war because they can be plausibly denied, or don’t trigger an automatic full scale response.  Attacks on a country’s computer infrastructure, for example, shutting down the power grid, or driving hospitals offline. Then there’s the tried and true local insurgents taking things into their own hands. That’s how Russia occupied part of Ukraine already. Or perhaps manufacturing an incident that requires we intervene to protect our citizens. Finally, there’s the decapitation strike, where a team of Spetznaz fly into the capitol, install a new political leadership, and get them to invite our forces in. That’s how the Russian occupation of Afghanistan started.

Wait a while/short of war/all systems go — none of these produce much in the way of indications once readiness reaches a certain level. All the warnings are now tactical — reports from border guards, radar tracking by the air defense system, or listening to the radio for the command Panzers Vor!. The trouble is, we are now at the point in the I&W process where all that is needed is the order to go, and we don’t know what Putin’s thoughts are on the matter. Maybe Putin doesn’t know.

TLDR: Anime I never finished, Winter 2022 Part 3

February 9, 2022

I’m doing this for completeness, not because I want to write about these things

Fantasia Sango
Based on a Taiwanese game. Cookie cutter heroes fight cookie cutter monsters at the direction of large-bosomed-but-otherwise-uninteresting ladies. There’s also a talking ice bucket. It was so bad that after I’d been away from it for a couple of weeks I had to look up other people’s reviews in order to remind myself what it was about. People keep saying that the Chinese anime industry has plenty to offer…and then they all point to Thunderbolt Fantasy. No thunderbolts here.

Life with an ordinary guy:
The genre is running out of ideas. Couple of BFF Tokyo salarymen get isekai’d to a fantasy world, where one of them is now female, and they spend the rest of the time pretending they’re not really gay. Too contrived. Too forced.

Slow Loop:
Slow-moving, slice of life, iyashi Iyashikei shows about cute girls doing cute things with [mountains; campsites; fishing;…] are a perennial favorite. I like them myself, when I’m in the mood. Slow Loop is about [fishing], and it’s OK. I’m just not in the mood for that kind of show this winter. Maybe next year.

Akebi’s Sailor Uniform:
She’s a genki girl from the deep sticks, one bus ride/long walk from the high-class girls school her mother attended. Due to typical anime administrative ineptness (one wonders how civilization has survived so far), she ends up wearing an out-of-date sailor suit, instead of the new blazer-style uniform. But even without the sailor suit, she’s the one who stands out from the crowd — she has a great personality, makes all her own clothes, and all the girls like her. Other reviewers rate this one above average, but it’s just not my cup of tea. I kept it in the rotation for a while, but just couldn’t work up the energy to watch it, not when all 28 episodes of Colditz are on YouTube.