Anime I’m watching — Winter 2017

January 17, 2017

Not counting OVAs or shorts, AniChart shows 50 anime airing this season. I started out watching 15, which rapidly dropped to eleven worth mentioning, and has now levelled off at six. Three are slice-of-life “monster” comedies, two are isekai, and one is a straight high school harem romance.

Demi-Chan wa Kataritai — Monster girls go to high school. Unlike Monster Musume, the previous entry in this genre, the girls are not part of a harem, and they are not oversexualized. The male human POV character is an adult teacher, who pretty much acts like one. The number of monster girls is limited: student vampire, snow maiden, and dullahan; math teacher succubus. So far, we’ve only gotten a look at the vampire and dullahan. They are typical high school girls, sometimes mischievous, sometimes prone to getting a crush on their teacher.

The Japanese seem to be fascinated with the dullahan concept, the headless horseman of Irish folklore. Last year’s Konosuba had one who was an evil lord*, while dullahan Celty was one of the stars of Durarara. Demi-chan treats it more like a disability, addressing questions like, what happens when your body is at home but not close to the toilet, while your head is on a date, drinking soda?

If you spend too much time saying goodbye, some of you can miss your train

If you spend too much time saying goodbye,
some of you can miss your train

Things may heat up next week, when we learn about sex and the single succubus.

Kobayashi-san’s Dragon Maid — All about, well, Kobayashi, and her live-in maid, who is also a dragon. As with few other shows, this is about adults, who work, and drink, and have a life, and don’t go to high school. The lead human, Kobayashi, reminded me a little bit of Kaoru, from I Can’t Understand What My Husband Is Saying, even though the character designs were quite different. It turns out that both of these anime were based on manga by the same author, Cool-kyō Shinja. So far, it’s slice-of-life, with dragon jokes. Also maid jokes.

dragonmaid01 dragonmaid03 dragonmaid02

Gabriel Dropout — Not exactly a monster, Gabriel is an angel, tops in her class at angel middle school, who is sent down to Earth to go to high school and live with humans and learn about them. Unfortunately, she gets enamoured of computer RPG’s, and by the end of the first episode is well on her way to dropping out and becoming not only a NEET, but evil**.

In some ways, she’s a typical high school girl who, for example, doesn’t want to leave any witnesses to an unfortunate teleportation event with her pantsus.

Collateral damage

Collateral damage

Konosuba, Season 2 — A second season for the high school boy who died and was reincarnated in a fantasy world with the mission of defeating the Demon King. He’s still teamed up with a set of companions who are powerful but useless — water goddess who can do a fan dance with water, explosion wizard who can produce only one blast a day, masochistic knight who can take loads of punishment but can’t hit anything with her sword.

The default facial expressions

The default facial expressions

Seiren — High school harem romance, in the Amagami SS tradition. It’s based on a visual novel, so there’s multiple girls to pursue. It’s in omnibus format, which means that instead of picking one girl, the way Kanon and Clannad do, the 12 episodes are really three short stories of 4 episodes each, so the protagonist can win three different girls. Think of it as parallel universes.

Three of these girls will be the lucky winner. More, if there's a second season

Three of these girls will be the lucky winner.
More, if there’s a second season

The Saga of Tanya the Evil — A first season for the salaryman who died and was reincarnated in a fantasy world after getting into an argument with God over whether he exists or not. Since he’s applying his former-life cuthroat-management techniques to his new situation, this has been called the Moshidora of reincarnation anime.

Izetta, she ain't

Izetta, she ain’t

He ends up as an evil***, magic-using warloli soldier who is trying to establish a place for herself in the rear echelon of a war very like WWI. Of course, all his efforts only make him a hero, likely to be pushed into the front lines.


* How evil? He used to bowl his head down the hall so that it came to a stop looking up a maid’s skirts. You don’t get much more evil than that.

** How evil? More evil than the demon student who threw a plastic bottle in the recycling without removing the cap.

*** How evil? Evil enough to get it into his nickname.

TL:DR — Anime I never finished, Winter 2017 Part 2

January 15, 2017

It’s a long weekend, so here’s the second increment of stuff I’m no longer watching.

ACCA — Late 1930’s European feel to this one, or maybe immediately post-war, despite the computers. Official in the auditing branch of the nationwide public services organization gets involved in complex intragovernment plot. Uniforms scream “Nazi SS”, but the reality (at least, below the scheming leadership) feels more like a normal government bureaucracy/police procedural. Looks to be targeted at a very adult demographic. For some reason it just couldn’t hold my interest, and the fact that a map of the continent they are on looks exactly like a chicken has nothing to do with it.

We'll arrest the ... usual suspects

We’ll arrest the … usual suspects

Masamune-kun’s Revenge — Spoiled boy decides to get back at spoiled girl who rejected him in grade school by romancing her in high school and rejecting her once she falls for him. Spoilers say his clever plan collapses when they end up falling for each other. Neither one of them is the kind of person you’d want on your friends list.

Chaos;Child — OK, I admit it. Every semicolon anime since Stein’s;Gate has been confused, poorly organized, and overly gory, with totally unrelatable characters, and C;C maintains their record, unblemished.

SpiritPact — Insufferably dense idiot dies and is offered a perpetual job working for an insufferably smug exorcist fighting evil demons who are the suffering souls of the newly dead. Suffering.

Minami Kamakura … Bu — High school girls cycling club, best described as a 12-episode ad for the Kamakura Chamber of Commerce. Characters are squeaky-voiced idiots and the plot is non-existent, but the artwork is pretty.

Looks like parts of Germany

Looks like parts of Germany

REGRETTABLY ABSENT

I’m not watching these, not because they are not good, but because they are not available to me. Now that anime has grown enough to be of interest to the big boys, instead of being a niche for otaku, the majors are shouldering their way in, looking for a slice of that $60 a disk anime pie. The business model seems to be to pay lots of money for the cream of the anime crop, leaving sites like Crunchyroll with Hand-Shakers, and other dregs.

Netflix, of which I am probably the only person in Christendom who doesn’t have a subscription, has licensed Little Witch Academia.

Amazon has come up with a double, maybe triple, whammy. 1. They have an exclusive license to a big chunk of Noitamina’s catalog, 2. It’s behind the Amazon Prime $100/year paywall, 3. and the Anime Strike $5/month paywall. Depending on their marketing plan, some properties (Great Passage) may be available in other countries (UK) before they are available in the US. In addition to GP, this season’s batch includes Scum’s Wish and Onihei, as well as the ever-popular Vivid Strike (OK, so maybe not totally cream).

 

TL:DR — Anime I never finished, Winter 2017 Part 1

January 13, 2017

So far, the Winter season of 2017 has given us a disappointment in almost every genre.

Hand Shakers — Clueless HS student forced to fight unknown enemies for unknown reasons in intersecting parallel dimension. Male combatants evoke their combat prowess by fighting hand-in-hand with a female counterpart. Or sometimes foot-in-crotch. Characters are animated in 3DCG by a team that never looked at what either the backgrounders or the special effects parts of the team were doing. Plus, they know nothing about the physics of fluid-filled spheres.

Remember, it's not assault if she sounds like she's enjoying it.

Remember, it’s not assault if she sounds like she is enjoying it.

Akiba Strip — Poor man’s Ikki Tousen. Protagonists beat the outerwear off demons from an intersecting parallel dimension disguised as beautiful girls, who then get all burned up over it. In most cases, the outerwear barely covers the underwear, so the exact destruction mechanism is as obscure as the reasoning behind the existence of this show.

Remember, it's not assault if they're demons in disguise

Remember, it’s not assault if you claim they’re demons in disguise

Chain Chronicles — Multiple multi-racial armies assault insanely-evil-mage-king’s castle in a bid to get a small group of heroes inside to kill the IEMK and recover a magical tome. Heroes choose the heroic option and attack IEMK one at a time. Heroes get their collective ass handed to them. Final tug of war between IEMK and his insanely-evil-mage-king’s-daughter over magical tome ends with the book being torn in half. After which, all the MMRAs, along with the IEMKD and the halfbook ride slowly away. To be followed by ten episodes of recriminations.

Good thing none of you is smart enough to sneak up on me through the smoke

Good thing none of you is smart enough to sneak up on me through the smoke

Schoolgirl Strikers — Not-exactly-magical girls (see Luck and Logic) travel to an intersecting parallel dimension to fight monsters that look like they were the result of a failed genetics programming algorithm for generating monster art.

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

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

Fuuka —  Group of students decide to start a band, unfortunately in this dimension. Others have done it better.

I know! Let's put on a show! We can use my father's barn!!

I know! Let’s put on a show!
We can use my father’s barn!!

Oatmeal Chili 2

January 12, 2017

Maybe this is becoming a tradition. A year ago, MJ made a big pot of post-holiday chili. This year, she did the same thing, only using beef strips instead of ground beef, and adding assorted cans of beans and spices and things. Very good, as her chili’s are wont to be. Just wet enough that I could scoop up maybe a quarter cup of the sauce without getting too many beans and things. So this is chili for flavor, not an oatmeal extender.

Setup: 1/2 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one cup of beef broth, a quarter cup of sauce from a pot of chili (probably shouldn’t call it chili sauce), two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, salt. Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats. Add the potatoes at the end. Top with a grab handful of shred cheese.

Results: Notice that I bumped up the amount of oatmeal. Ended up with a pot of dryish oatmeal flakes, so I added another splash of broth. Not using potatoes would probably do as well. Very good. Spicy, but not too. Tomato-y, but not too (’cause tomatoes and oatmeal don’t always work well together). Cheese helped.

I’m willing to try it again next year.

Rating: *****

The financial side of anime

January 3, 2017

Over on Sakuga Blog there’s an interesting article on the financials of the anime industry. It appears to be based primarily on sales and so forth in Japan, with one chart on international revenues. The recent trends seem to be up, which is encouraging. The trends in home video, however, are down, and likely to continue that way. Which is sad.

Home video refers to physical purchase of DVDs and BDs, as opposed to streaming. The big differences are, of course, instant customer gratification and zero inventory requirements for streaming, with production delays and inventory risks for disk production.

I prefer physical disks for my favorite shows. Streaming is a problematical solution, because of licensing restrictions and changes in business models and marketing strategies. If I have a disk, I own it forever. If I have a streaming subscription, I ‘own’ the anime until it ages out.

In terms of packaging and delivery, the Japanese model has been to release disks with only a few episodes on them, at what Americans used to consider exorbitant prices. For example, right now on amazon.co.jp, volume 1 of Shirobako (three episodes, roughly 72minutes of programming) costs ¥5400 (a reduction from the original ¥8400), or about $0.64/minute. The article talks about how this is slowly changing, to a business model with more episodes per disk. What the article doesn’t address is the transfer of Japanese program packaging and pricing into the North American market.

For example, in the U.S., as recently as 2008, highly rated shows like Neon Genesis Evangelion or Mushishi would sell as full series boxed sets for about $50 for 650 minutes, or $0.08 per minute. Now, Nekomonogatari White is selling what equates to less than half a season (5 episodes, 125min) for $80 for the BD version. That’s also $0.64 per minute. And the much less highly rated Saekano (How to raise a boring girlfriend) is selling in single episode sets at about a dollar a minute in Japan, with the first six episodes on BD in the U.S. going for $0.64/minute.

My forecast is that sales of physical disks in the U.S. market are likely to drop much more than in Japan, given both the increased availability of streaming and the higher price per minute of the disks. I guess the anime sales departments right now are testing the price elasticity of demand, and will have to learn through experience if the increased revenue per disk will offset the decline in unit sales.

Three week hiatus

January 2, 2017

Sortof. For the next three weeks I’m not going to read or write about anything political. Why? Because it will pretty much be a waste of time and electrons.

Look, we know the Trump regime will be bad, but we have no way of knowing how bad. To the extent that he has plans, or maybe primal urges and proclivities, those plans will, as they say, not survive contact with the enemy. We all have a pretty good idea of what Democrat and Republican politicians want, and we have a fuzzier idea of what Liberal and Conservative Americans want. Trump is going to have to operate within that framework. We should all work to strengthen that framework, but that is something we should have been doing all along.

As for the details, until he actually assumes the toga and begins doing, or trying to do, things, we can only guess. The newsies don’t know, his Cabinet (whoever they turn out to be) doesn’t know; hell, Trump doesn’t know, and can’t know. Not at this point.

But there is a 24/7 news hole that has to be filled, and despite their lack of knowledge, the newsies and the bloggers and the tweets will have to fill it — with something. Anything you read between now and the Inauguration (maybe between now and the State of the Union) will be pure speculation and click-bait. Save your adrenalin for when you’ll really need it.

Go eat some oatmeal. Go watch some anime.

Happy New Year

December 31, 2016

The sun has just set, here in the NENW, and it’s been 2017 somewhere on Earth for the last ten hours, so, I’m going to declare 2016 over and done with, and while it wasn’t as bad as it seemed, it was bad enough. To get the new year started off right, can you find the 4th dog in this picture?

Hint: Not a Golden Retriever

Hint: Not a Golden Retriever

For those who can’t find her (spoiler): Read the rest of this entry »

Anime Postview: Fall 2016

December 29, 2016

This is not a real review of the Fall anime season. Instead, it’s a look at how well I did in my Fall 2016 Preview, which you might want to look at first.

Overall, it was a pretty thin season, with only about six out of sixty shows falling into the watchable category. No particular standouts, except that everybody but me thought that Yuri On Ice was wonderful. I thought what I watched of it was pretty good, but it just didn’t engage my interest. Maybe not enough yuris.

So, how did I do on my Will Watch group? Looks like I’m two out of three for this one, if you count meh as an acceptable rating. Touken Ranbou turned out to be SwordColle — a bunch of bishies who used to be swords.

Fast talking high school student with his own anti-occult website turns out to be a ghost who doesn’t know he’s a ghost in a crowd of other ghosts, solves a mystery about ghosts and thwarts the plots of an evil emperor to control the afterlife using ghosts. Surprisingly subdued climax.

From a straight mechanics standpoint, things went too fast for a subtitle-reader to follow. I had a choice of reading the bottom of the screen, or seeing what was happening on the rest of it. Too many expository dumps. Monogatari could pull it off. Not so the ; gang.

Otherwise, imaginative use of ghosts.

Occultic;Nine

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

———————————————

Shuumatsu no Izetta

Don't worry. Love will break our fall. ———————————————

Yep, Witches und Panzers. Great premise — witch fighting WWII — squandered on poorly structured plot and non-useful fanservice, with hokey post-ending  ending. Potentially one of the best of the Season, it turned out to be merely entertaining.

After all, how often do you get to see a cute, red-headed witch flying around on an anti-tank rifle?

 

For the  Might Watch group I pulled another two out of three as well. Keijo was just too too silly, with too many butts and too many boobs, and too much sports. Probably was a favorite in the frat houses.

A random crawl through psycho-space. Think, FLCL meets Magical Girls.  Friend of a girl’s mother from her past rescues the girl from her mother in an alternate dimension that somehow interacts with this one. Probably my favorite new show of the Season, which shows you how thin the season was.

The graphics make you feel like you’re lost in Mandelbrot’s sink trap.

Flip Flappers

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

Brave Witches

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

Can’t go wrong with a Strike Witches spinoff. This one is set in the NorthEast Theater and features lots of flying over snow-covered terrain in their pantsus. The character development side concerns itself with the efforts of Karibuchi Hikari to prove herself a worthy replacement for her sister.

If you liked Strike Witches, you’ll like this one. Not great, but entertaining.

As for the Won’t Watch group, I think I can say I’m three out of three. Well, Long Riders was on a different channel, and I never looked at Tiger in the Hole!. On the other hand, everybody in the world liked Yuri, but I like my yuri with more girls in it. So, maybe two out of three.

That gives me four out of six, or maybe six out of nine. The Federal Reserve should hope they get that many forecasts correct.

Not included in the Preview, because it was a sequel, was the second season of Sound! Euphonium. Excellent, but not as good as the first season. Did have a marvellous episode that was almost all straight music. Way, way too late I found this site, with commentary by a professional musician.

Picture Stories from Earth: It’s nice, but is it Basingstoke?

December 26, 2016

Over on Vintage Everyday, there’s a very nice shot of a couple driving along a rural road in England, circa 1910. The make of motor car is not specified (it should be easy to identify: short, curved bonnet with no logo, headlamps and side lamps, horizontal grille). The location is identified as Tunworth Road, Basingstoke, but there’s a problem. That overpass.

Is it really Tunworth Road?

Is it really Tunworth Road?

Tunworth Road is even now a narrow, sometimes twisty, but always picturesque lane-and-a-half that runs from just north of Mapledurwell, past Tunworth, to the vicinity of Upton Grey, in the semi-developed countryside southeast of Basingstoke.

Some parts aren't this wide

Some parts aren’t this wide

The homes are old and expensive, or new — and expensive. One chart says “manor homes” are running at about three times the UK average, almost £900,000.

To the manor born

To the manor born

The problem is, I have “driven” along it, via Google Maps, and there’s no sign of that overpass in the background. Given the date and the construction material, it’s probably a railroad overpass.

Google Maps today shows no major roads or railroads crossing Tunworth

Google Maps today shows no major roads or railroads crossing Tunworth

But what about the past, you ask? The photo was taken in the past, so maybe there’s some pastness going on here. Sorry,

Ordnance Survey map of 1893 shows no railroad

Ordnance Survey map of 1895 shows no railroad

Even 120 years ago, there was nothing like a railroad in the region southeast of Basingstoke. And the railroads that do show on the map, north of the northern end of Tunworth Road, are all dual track, with thick overpasses. The one in the picture is a narrow structure. There is, at the north end of the road, just beyond Maplederwell and just before it dead-ends into the modern M3 motorway, a trace of a waterway, but all the roads shown cross over the waterway, not under.

Finally, examination of the latest imagery shows no ground trace of a railroad in the vicinity.

No sign of it in overhead, either.

No sign of it in overhead, either.

Conclusion? Maybe the maps don’t show all of Tunworth Road. Maybe it makes a break at the north or south end, and picks up again later on. But the north end of the road dead-ended against the London road long before the M3 arrived, and the south end of the road would more likely be called the Upton Grey Road at that point, or maybe Lee Hill Road. On the other hand, maybe the location of the photo is wrong (except there’s an old postcard that shows what might be the same overpass and is hand annotated Tunworth Road).

I guess I’ll have to schedule a trip to England next summer, and investigate the situation on the ground.

Trump and Intelligence

December 18, 2016

As a career Intelligence professional (somewhat dated, I’ve been out of the business longer than I was in the business), I’m finding Trump’s relationship with the Intelligence Community very interesting right now. He has deprecated their contributions and rejected the usefulness of their efforts. Many people have said that this is just one more example of his stupidity. I don’t think so. At least, not totally. I think what we are seeing is a good example of what might be called operator bias.

Operators are the people who get things done. It’s the operators in an organization who bring life to its reason for being. In the military, they are the war fighters, the ship drivers, and blue four. In business, they are the CEOs and COOs. Their job is to accomplish the mission, fly the frag, keep the doors open. They chafe at anything that might limit their ability to do this, no matter the firmness and reality of those limits. They are the ones who say never tell me the odds. The ones who say think like a manager rather than an engineer.

Trump is 100% a businessman, an operator. He’s always looking to apply his art to another deal. Anything that gets in the way of that deal is an obstacle, not an ally. And if it persists, it’s an enemy. Trump is hot on the deal of a lifetime, and he’s due to close on it on January 20th. So, how is he going to act when the Intelligence Community tries to queer the deal, as he sees it? He’ll do what any businessman does when faced with an inconvenient fact. He’ll belittle it, downplay it, distract you from thinking about it. He’ll ridicule the source. If forced, he might offer some sort of cosmetic band-aid.

“That high voltage line runs right through the back yard of that house we’re looking at.”
I haven’t seen any two-headed cats wandering around.

“That used car you’re selling seems to be leaking oil.”
They do that when they’re brought in from a cold lot. It will seal right up once you run it.”

“I like this used car you’re selling, but it’s got 150,000 miles on it.”
You shouldn’t be obsessed with mileage.”

Afterwards, a thinking-ahead businessman might take action to — well, not to fix the problem, but to keep it from being a problem for him by suppressing further news of it. To the extent he can, he might retaliate against those who might keep raising the issue.

But it’s not the job of Intelligence to suppress an issue. It’s not part of our ethos, it’s not in our DNA. An Intelligence analyst lives and breaths the concept of Timely Truth, Well Told. In Intelligence, the cardinal sin is to know something and not tell the operators who need to know it. Like logisticians, analysts deal only in facts, but must work for men who merchant in theories. Intelligence, as they say, is our last defense against wishful thinking.

The Intelligence Community is actually pretty good about giving the President what he wants in the format he wants it in, from Reagan’s briefing book to Obama’s briefing Blackberry. If Trump wants his intel in 140-character bites, that’s what he’ll get.

The problem, as I see it, is that it doesn’t matter what the package looks like, Trump isn’t buying the product. He talks to his advisors, and he talks to foreign leaders and maybe he reads the New York Times (because that’s what New Yorkers do, even if they disagree with it) and then he heads off to make deals, and woe betide any Intelligence agency that gets in the way of the deal. And when something goes horribly wrong, as it well might, he’ll deny that it happened, deny that it happened that way, deny that it’s wrong, deny that it’s horribly wrong, and then — he’ll blame Intelligence.

Almond Coconut Oats

December 15, 2016

MJ has been making goodies for the holidays. Goodies that involve almond milk, and coconut butter, and anchovy paste. Well, two out of three isn’t bad. I started out with plain almond milk.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one cup of almond milk, salt. Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats.

Results: Ugh! Argh! Creamy. Blandblandbland. Needs something. Well, needs more salt. Then what else? How about the coconut butter? Fat tablespoonsworth. Now we have coconut flavored bland that needs salt. Anchovy paste…anchovy paste…maybe we can substitute. How about maple syrup? One dollop of syrup helped. A glug and a half did wonders for it.

Rating: ***** For the original. The maplestuff brought it up to three stars.

An experiment that does not need to be repeated.

Russia and the American election

December 13, 2016

I don’t know.

Intelligence analysts hate politics. Intelligence managers endure them. Intelligence executives exploit them. Today’s round of politicised Intelligence is about Russian attempts to influence the US election in support of Trump. On the one hand, you have CIA, an arrogant, but usually competent, agency mostly concerned with human source Intelligence, not computers, saying there’s a direct path back to Russian hackers (although not everyone agrees). On the other hand, you have the FBI, as incompetent a group of clowns as ever crawled out of a car, with special lack of smarts where computers are concerned, saying that they’re not so sure. Who we haven’t heard from yet is NSA, the agency charged with knowing about this kind of thing. On the other, other hand, Congress has gotten into the act, in a surprisingly bipartisan fashion.

I agree with Pat Lang, that there’s no way the FBI would be in cahoots with the Russians over this. However, given that the Republican who is the current Director of the FBI already did his best to influence the election for Trump, there’s no reason to assume that a pro-Trump stance isn’t continuing to influence their actions.

The documents in the case are the DNC emails published by Wikileaks. One side says the Russians were feeding them to Wikileaks editor Julian Assange. Assange had to be in the sway of the Russians, or why else just publish the DNC emails when it was likely the RNC could have been hacked as well? The other side says it was an internal DNC defector, and that’s why there’s no RNC data.  My take on this is that the US declared war on Julian Assange in 2010 and forced him to live in the Ecuadorian embassy for the last four years. He is striking back with the best weapons at his disposal, under the not-unreasonable assumption that a Trump presidency is the most harmful thing he could do.

Bottom line: this is a particularly egregious case of DC leak and counter-leak. There are even those who say this is another example of “both sides do it”.

The people who most indignantly condemned Trump’s questioning of Obama’s birth certificate as a scurrilous scheme to delegitimize his presidency, now seek to delegitimize Trump’s presidency. — Pat Buchanon

This kind of statement, even if it was a throwaway line in an article on a different topic, reveals a blatant disregard for reality. Statements by US government officials charged with responsibility for the topic are not to be confounded with the ravings of talk radio jockeys.

Right now, we, the people, have no idea where the truth lies, and we won’t, unless there are Congressional hearings, or another Snowden.

Don’t give Trump all the credit

December 11, 2016

I’ve been reading the news, like the news junkie I am, and it’s all about Trump — Trump appointed him, Trump appointed her, Trump’s new policies will transform this, that, and the other government programs. Trump is a loose cannon. Trump is nothing like a true Republican. The GOP will rue the day they handed the reins to Trump. You would think that he’s already a dictator, rather than being only an incipient autocrat.

In reality, Trump represents the heart and soul of the Republican Party. He is appointing to cabinet positions the same kind of people that the Republicans have always wanted in those positions: rich businesspeople with opinions directly opposite those in previous Democratic administrations. Think of all the headlines “Trump appoints an opponent of X to head the X department”. This is not Trump going off the rails, this is Trump adhering to the deepest, darkest wishes of the GOP core.

Or take budget deficits, and stimulus packages, and the like. The Republicans are the party of fiscal responsibility and low deficits, right? Wrong! The Republicans are the party who say they are for fiscal responsibility and low deficits. But which of our modern Presidents drove up our debt as a percentage of GDP? Reagan. Bush. Also, Bush. Who drove them down? Carter. Clinton. Obama didn’t because deficit spending is what you need to get you out of a near-depression. The Republicans love deficit spending, as long as it’s on their terms, on their projects, and isn’t done by some uppity Democrat.

By attributing all these actions to Trump, the person, we miss Trump the personification of the new GOP. We give them the opportunity to plausibly deny his actions, come the next election cycle, and skate out from under the blame. “We voted for Trump, and Trump failed us” the voters will say. NO. You voted for the most Republican of all Republicans, and it was the Republicans who failed you. Republican.

Don’t let our fascination with the showman in front of the curtain obscure the truth of the matter. When the histories are written, when responsibility is properly assigned, the word Republican will go down as one of those words that, like Quisling, evokes a regime fraught with deceit and betrayal.

Pearl Harbor

December 7, 2016

A lot has been written on how we missed out on predicting Pearl Harbor as the location of the initial Japanese attack. It strikes me now that one reason was that Pearl was not that important of a target in the overall Japanese war effort.

Consider the warning message of 24 November:

CHANCES OF FAVORABLE OUTCOME OF NEGOTIATIONS WITH JAPAN VERY DOUBTFUL.  
THIS SITUATION COUPLED WITH STATEMENTS OF JAPANESE GOVERNMENT AND  
MOVEMENTS THEIR NAVAL AND MILITARY FORCES INDICATE IN OUR OPINION THAT  
*A SURPRISE AGGRESSIVE MOVEMENT IN ANY DIRECTION INCLUDING ATTACK ON  
PHILIPPINES OR GUAM IS A POSSIBILITY*. CHIEF OF STAFF HAS SEEN THIS  
DESPATCH CONCURS AND REQUESTS ACTION ADEES TO INFORM SENIOR ARMY  
OFFICERS THEIR AREAS. UTMOST SECRECY NECESSARY IN ORDER NOT TO  
COMPLICATE AN ALREADY TENSE SITUATION OR PRECIPITATE JAPANESE ACTION.  
GUAM WILL BE INFORMED SEPARATELY.

And the followup “war warning” of 27 November (which went to the commander of the Asiatic Fleet, and others):

THIS DESPATCH IS TO BE CONSIDERED A WAR WARNING*. NEGOTIATIONS WITH  
JAPAN LOOKING TOWARD STABILIZATION OF CONDITIONS IN THE PACIFIC *HAVE  
CEASED* AND AN AGGRESSIVE MOVE BY JAPAN IS EXPECTED WITHIN THE NEXT FEW  
DAYS. THE NUMBER AND EQUIPMENT OF JAPANESE TROOPS AND THE ORGANIZATION  
OF NAVAL TASK FORCES INDICATES AN AMPHIBIOUS EXPEDITION AGAINST EITHER  
THE PHILIPPINES THAI OR KRA PENINSULA OR POSSIBLY BORNEO. *EXECUTE AN  
APPROPRIATE DEFENSIVE DEPLOYMENT PREPARATORY TO CARRYING OUT THE TASKS  
ASSIGNED IN WPL46*. INFORM DISTRICT AND ARMY AUTHORITIES. A SIMILAR  
WARNING IS BEING SENT BY WAR DEPARTMENT. SPENAVO [Special Naval 
Observer, U.S. officer assigned to the RN] INFORM BRITISH. CONTINENTAL 
DISTRICTS GUAM SAMOA DIRECTED TAKE APPROPRIATE MEASURES AGAINST SABOTAGE.

Not only didn’t it mention Hawaii, but the further away from the Far East it looked, the less it talked about naval action. Guam and Samoa and the Continental districts of the US were alerted against sabotage. Even with Magic, information gleaned from Japanese diplomatic codes, our warnings were aimed at the Far East.

In part, this is because the Japanese were aiming their main thrust south — Borneo, Malay Peninsula, Indonesia. We were tracking a major surface fleet headed that way, dozens of ships with thousands of troops, enroute to invade Malaya. They had hundreds of land-based aircraft at airfields in newly-occupied Cochinchina. This wasn’t just a main thrust, it was the whole reason for the war.

Pearl Harbor, from a force deployment perspective, was almost a side show. It was a head-fake, a bump-and-run. Yes, they felt that success at Pearl was vital to giving Japanese forces freedom of action at the start of the war, but it was like depending on a key block to make sure a large, complex play can run*.

*Hey, I’m doing the best I can — I don’t even like football.

Anime Preview: Winter 2017

December 6, 2016

Unlike some others, who use knowledge of the source materials, close observation of the previews, and who actually read the press releases, I’m going to base mine on just the title and the cover art, and maybe a bit of the blurb. Consider yourself warned. If you want a real preview, pop on over to AniChart.

First, let’s say what’s normally not in here. Sequels, particularly to stuff I didn’t like before (Super Lovers), most kids stuff (Kemono Friends), anything with idol in the description, movies and OVA’s.

 

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

Chaos;Child

The semicolon series discovers alliteration

The semicolon series discovers alliteration

Fuuka

The cast of Mekakucity Actors is reunited and goes on tour.

The cast of Mekakucity Actors is reunited and goes on tour.

Little Witch Academica

Cute girls doing cute things on broomsticks

Cute girls doing cute things. On broomsticks

 

 

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

Kuzu no Honkai

The title seems to translate as

The title seems to translate as “a formal meeting about hanging chad”

Seiren

If Kimikiss and Amagami had six cute daughters...

If Kimikiss and Amagami had six cute daughters…

Kobayashi-san Chi no Maidragon

Cute girl has cute dragon as her cute maid. Cute.

Cute girl has cute dragon as her cute maid. Cute.

 

WON’T WATCH. The cover art / title / blurb tells me more than I ever wanted to know on the topic. Marginal #4

Brought to you by the Crayola Company

Brought to you by the Crayola Company

ACCA: 13-ku

Any anime where the summary is three paragraphs of org chart should not be allowed

Any anime where the summary is three paragraphs of org chart should not be allowed


Minami Kamakura

Girls und Bicycles

Girls und Bicycles

…and 30 more that didn’t even make the “I won’t watch” cut.

Memories of My Youth: Marine Corps Language

December 1, 2016

The f-word is a Marine’s favorite noun, verb, gerund, prefix, suffix, and post-fix. When I was in DIA, my boss (Army LTC) told a story about a conversation with an Army NCO in his unit in Hawaii who was a former Marine. It went something like this:

“Ya know, Colonel, I was up to f–n Camp Smith yesterday, talking to this f–n Marine, and he f–n says to me ‘You used to be in the f–n Marine Corps, didn’t ya?’ Now, how the f–k did he know that?”

I was reminded of this when reading reports of what your standard Marine grunts were saying about the nomination of retired Marine general Mattis as SecDef. F–ng great!

Trumpsych

November 30, 2016

Herewith, a compilation on post-election/pre-inauguration discussions of Trump’s mindset.

Trump may have Narcissist Personality Disorder.

How to cope with NPD.

How to deal with Trump.

How to defend against the Trumpistas.

A somewhat longer piece on the same topic.

…and an alternative view.

So, is he a dictator?

Is Democracy doomed?

Mattis for SecDef

November 26, 2016

Military policy site War is Boring, has a generally favorable article on Trump’s consideration of retired Marine Corps general James Mattis for Secretary of Defense. However, their first sentence, quoting Mattis as saying that “it’s fun to shoot some people” removes the statement from it’s context and makes him seem like a natural for his nickname “Mad Dog”. Here’s what he actually said:

You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn’t wear a veil. You know, guys like that ain’t got no manhood left anyway. So it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them. Actually it’s quite fun to fight them, you know. It’s a hell of a hoot. It’s fun to shoot some people. I’ll be right up there with you. I like brawling.

While that isn’t a picture of sweetness and light, it’s a lot more nuanced and motivated than the truncated version indicates, as other observers have testified.

And Mattis has already made news by telling Trump that he was against torture, because he found that a pack of cigarettes and a couple of beers usually worked better when interrogating someone.

While I’m not certain I approve of a career military man as SecDef — I think that undermines the whole idea of civilian control — given the President we’re getting, and the possible choices he had, I think the appointment is a general plus.

Trump’s Nikki Haley Appointment

November 25, 2016

According to the Christian Science Monitor, Trump has named South Carolina governor Nikki Haley as his ambassador to the United Nations. The CSM says that this sends a message of inclusion, diversity, and reconciliation. I don’t think so.

Haley was a fierce Trump opponent during both the primaries and the election campaign itself. She is, as the article says, a strong woman and a strong governor, who fought hate and discrimination. None of her public positions would be approved of by Trump, none of Trump’s positions would be approved of by her. Trump is not known for rewarding opponents or the disloyal. So why would he appoint her to the UN?

Well, read that last paragraph again. She’s a strong GOP governor. She’s a strong woman, the face of the New South. She opposes Trump’s policies. If she accepts the UN job, she’s in a position that is none of these. Instead, she’s an employee. She’s Trump’s representative to an organization he despises, and her job will be to present his positions in the best way possible, parroting the party line. As ambassador to the UN, she’ll spend the next four years trying to defend indefensible positions and articulate inarticulate policies. As a governor, as a strong, effective southern governor, she’s in a position to build a launching pad to the Presidency. The GOP would love it if the first woman President were a Republican.

How can Trump prevent a Haley challenge in 2020? By kicking her upstairs to a powerless position.

Curried Turkey Oatmeal

November 24, 2016

So, it’s late on Turkey Day, and you’re wondering what to do with all the leftovers. We’ve been in that situation many times. This year, in addition to turkey bones and bits, we had some leftover pork and beef bones. No problem. Pile them all in the pressure cooker, along with an onion, celery, carrot, peppercorns, and (why not?) a bay leaf, then fill it right up to the plimsol line with water. Cook on high pressure for 45min and let it sit for about the same amount of time to depressurize before you open it.* Our cooker will hold two quarts, plus a cup, if you haven’t gone overboard on the solids. Pour the two quarts into two quart containers, or a two quart container, and pour the remaining cup into a mason jar or the equivalent, along with half a cup of oatmeal.

Setup: 1/2 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one cup of hot turkey broth, Golden Curry roux to taste, salt. Allow it to sit, covered, on the counter overnight.

Results: Very good. The overnight soak method makes for a creamier oatmeal. If you like, you could add chunks of dried fruit, but those are more common around Christmas. Shred cheese topping is also nice.

Rating: *****

*Some recipes call for running cold water over the pot to cool it down. Ours is electric, and the cord wouldn’t let us reach the sink.

Memories of My Youth: Thanksgivings Past

November 24, 2016
President Bush (on right) with Thanksgiving turkey

President Bush (on right) with turkey

The Election

November 22, 2016

So it’s been just two weeks since the event the Mary Beards of the 22d Century may well label the Fall of the Republic. After two centuries, the US has managed to elect its first proto-autocrat. Not a Hitler, nor even a Mussolini (who was reportedly well-versed in the writings of Socialist philosophers). Perhaps a Berlusconi. How did this happen? There are many theories out there, but almost all of them suffer from a too, too simplistic view of a complex systems problem.

The proposed reasons fall into three categories: (a) apolitical hatreds (racism, misogyny), (b) manipulated electorate (mainstream media, Facebook, voter apathy/suppression), and political discontent (class revolt, reaction to big government).

RACISM
Some commenters emphasize simple racism — the choice between multiracial democracy and white supremacy. Slate’s Jamelle Bouie does this, despite admitting that not everyone is racist all the time.

T. R. Ramachandran, president of a web-presence software company, produced a pages long and well-researched tweetstorm analyzing the data on various causes. His conclusion was that it was primarily, not exclusively, a racist/sexist cause, with very little economic underpinning.

MANIPULATION
There are two kinds of manipulation theories — government and non-government. The idea of government manipulation is based on the fact that many states implemented various voter suppression laws, designed to make it hard for Democratic voters — the poor and minorities, mostly — to vote. I haven’t been able to find anything current on that conjecture, but I do note that overall turnout was not as low as first reported. In fact, 2016 may have equalled 2012 in percentage of eligibles voting, and Clinton won a solid majority of the popular vote, just not in the right states. The key question is, did it suppress enough votes in key states to make a difference? We won’t know that for some weeks yet.

The non-government side of the manipulation argument turns on the actions of the main-stream media (MSM) in covering click-inducing trivia at the expense of real issues, and in treating the actions of both candidates as equivalent — Clinton’s email problems getting far more time for far longer than Trump’s actions, actions (racist remarks, sexist remarks, failure to release tax records) that in past campaigns would have spelled political death.  It also includes the extremely lopsided coverage, that gave Trump almost $2 billion in air time, when he spent only $10 million on advertising.

Of course, were the bogus news sites and fake news stories circulated on Facebook. It can be argued that these were only echo chamber amplifiers, and that those who read and believed the stories had already made up their minds.

Then, too, I would personally include the decades-old smear campaign by the GOP against the Clintons. Many people said they disliked Hillary Clinton personally. To the extent that that is not a reaction to an ambitious woman (and I have personally seen this kind of reaction by women, against ambitious women in the workplace), I’d say it’s the result of the ongoing double standard in press coverage. Although he attributes it to other factors, Michael Moore has pointed to one result:

90,000 Michiganders voted for every office and every ballot proposal on both sides of the ballot — and refused to vote for president.” …and Clinton lost Michigan by 11,000 votes.

The final manipulation, of course, was the stab-in-the-back on-again-off-again announcements about the FBI non-investigation of Clinton’s emails by Director Comey in the final week of the campaign. Given that Comey was originally a Republican appointee, kept on to show bipartisan dedication to justice for all, it’s likely that his actions were a deliberate attempt to sabotage her campaign.

POLITICAL
The political discontent argument, what one might call the peasant’s revolt, has supporters that range from Michael Moore (writing pre-election, and post-election), to Glenn Greenwald’s post-election essay in The Intercept and Joan Williams somewhat more thoughtful post-election essay in the Harvard Business Review, with some support from post-election press interviews. You could even factor in Allan Lichtman’s forecasts here.

The TLDR version of this is, the White Working Class is hurting, and has been hurting for decades and neither party has done anything about it. The Democratic Party has given up on blue collar workers as part of their base, and the GOP has given up on democracy in general. Finally, the WWC had enough, and voted to throw an electoral Molotov cocktail into the works. They weren’t voting so much for Trump as against the current system.

MY VIEW
My view, as a General Systems Theory person is, All Of The Above.

The Peasant’s Revolt seems to be the heart of it. In 2008 and 2012 we voted for Obama because we wanted change, and we didn’t get it. Part of that is the obstructionist tactics of the GOP, they should only burn in Hell, who looked at a country that they had just plunged into what could very easily have become a second Great Depression and decided that their overwhelming priority, at whatever cost to the country, was to make Obama a one-term President. But part of the lack of change can be laid at the feet of the Democratic Party and Obama himself. After what the banks and Wall street did to destroy the economy and the lives and livelihoods of the middle and working class, there should have been lawsuits, there should have been criminal charges, there should have been people taken out and shot on the tarmac.

There was nothing. There wasn’t even much in the way of relief for those bilked out of their homes and life savings. Meanwhile, Obama was pressing for even more in the way of trade agreements which, rightly or wrongly, the WWC sees as a threat to their jobs. All Democrats were disappointed (OK, all Democrats who were not millionaires). And Clinton was seen as more of the same.

Meanwhile, on the periphery, you had the whites of the Old Confederacy voting GOP, because yes race and misogyny. Race because Clinton was going to be a female continuation of that man in the White House, who they saw as, well, uppity.

On the other hand, Ramachandran’s claim that economics wasn’t a factor because voters didn’t know what the candidates economic positions were doesn’t keep economics from intruding. Economics played a role because even the well-off WWC faced a bleak, uncertain future, and so did their children. People said that Trump would make things worse, and the response of the WWC was, how will we tell?

So what did the election process look like? In the beginning, there were two candidates who beat the populist drum and told the WWC that somebody finally cared — Sanders and Trump. Sanders (who really cared) had the bad luck to be up against possibly the best prepared and most qualified Presidential candidate of the modern era. Trump (who couldn’t care less) was up against a band of light-weights who got trampled because they were one-dimensional caricatures of what a GOP candidate might look like, and none of them were agents for change.

So, the message from the voters was, we want change, and if we can’t have change we can believe in, we want change that will scare the monied elites out of their greedy ways. It’s the electoral equivalent of burn, baby, burn, and it’s going to go on for four more years, unless he gets impeached before then. And the consequences will be incalculable.

 

Sweet PotatOats

November 17, 2016

My previous adventures with sweet potatoes and oatmeal have been with what might be called commercial preparations: potato puffs and restaurant chips. This time it was personal. I had just sent MJ a list of thirty-some sweet potato recipes what had been collecting in my RSS feed for the last year or so. She retaliated by making chocolate brownies using a white sweet potato base. They tasted like a wartime substitute but we found that with enough toppings (non-dairy creamer, Irish Cream liqueur, rum liqueur, gin,  etc) we were able to finish them off. That left about half a cup of the original sweet potato, mashed. It tasted more like sweet…potato than sweetpotato.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one cup of broth, two fat dinner teaspoons of mashed white sweet potato, salt. Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats.

Results: A very nice addition to the collection. The sweet potato was mild enough that it enhanced the oat flavor (what little there was) without getting into a fight with it.

Rating: *****

Why I am voting for Hillary

November 6, 2016

A recent essay by (retired, disabled veteran) Jim Wright over on Stone Kettle Station resonates perfectly with my feelings. As I read them, his key points are that the GOP has abandoned all sense of humanity and true individual freedom and responsibility, has based its economic policies on grinding down the poor to serve the rich, and has thrown out diplomacy in its love for yet another war. This is all true, but it leaves out some issues.

He left out the fact that it was a Republican (elected by a politicized Supreme Court) who got us into the Iraq war, who perverted the Intelligence process, who spat on every professional standard I know (and if you want to swap that p for an h, I won’t argue).

It was a Republican who started us on the slippery slope to a surveillance state, who authorized torture of the innocent, and who doesn’t dare step out of the country for fear of being arrested as a war criminal.

He left out the fact that, in the face of a re-run of the Great Depression (brought on by Republican policies), the response of the GOP was to declare that their primary goal was to make Obama a one-term President. This is a naked admission that their driving objective is power, and they don’t care how they get it.

These things are also true, and combined with Wright’s arguments they make a strong case for not voting Republican.

But my vote, and I think, his, is not merely a vote against. It’s a vote for.

Hillary Clinton is a professional politician, and that’s a good thing. As a Democrat, she believes in the ability and duty of government to work to improve the lot of all the people, and not in the pursuit of power for its own sake. As a Clinton, she has survived a quarter century of accusations and innuendo. As a woman, she will bring a much-needed dose of serotonin to the office. All of those things make a vote for Hillary a no-brainer.

So, yeah, I’m voting for Hillary.

 

The Needy Ones

October 21, 2016

Rescue dogs are notoriously needy. Case in point is our black lab rescue. Her one goal in life is to be close to her human. When I sit down, my butt hasn’t hit the chair before she’s in my lap. Fortunately, she only weighs about twenty pounds. If I tell her to come, she can jump a three-foot fence from a standing start next to it. She doesn’t need attention or petting. She just wants contact.

You know who beats that for needy? Politicians.

A week ago I made one of the few political contributions I’ve made in my life. Balloon Juice, a collaborative website I follow, had posted a link to ActBlue, a website for donations to close-but-winnable political races. I live in a dead-red portion of an otherwise blue state, and the local Republican Congresswoman is well-nigh unbeatable. There is no place locally that my donation would make a difference at the margin, but the ActBlue website has 16 House and Senate races that Democrats might just win, and a few bucks might just help. So I donated. Ten dollars each. I was expecting that to put me on a number of e-mailing lists, but boy was I surprised.

Three hours later, I had my first message from one of the campaigns, begging for more money. A week later, as I was typing this, the 122d 123d begging email came in. They were running at about one every 90min, awake or asleep.

Don’t get me wrong. I knew this would happen. I still think I did the right thing. I still think it’s a worthy cause. I’d recommend that you follow the link above and make a contribution of your own. I have a bunch of emails that will convince you that your donation is urgently needed.

I’m just a little bemused at how needy the politicians are.

 

TL:DR — Anime I never finished, Fall 2016

October 17, 2016

A second pass through the season drops some more.

March comes in like a lion: A prequel to Your lie in April, shows Arima Kōsei when he was going by the name of Kiriyama Rei and making a living playing shogi instead of being a piano player. No indication as to how many of the cute girls he’s involved with will die of AWD (Anime Wasting Disease).

March

March

April

April

Occultic;Nine: The guy who gave us the excellent Stein’s;Gate, and then missed with a long string of other semicolon stories tries again. Weird occult blogger accretes a team of weirdos to solve weird mysteries. The character designs tell you all you need to know. Weird.

If those buttons go, we're all gonna;die

If those buttons go, we’re all gonna;die

ClassicaLoid: Think vocaloids with better composers but worse directors. Beethoven, Mozart, mechas, and a construction crew all dance while their house plays musique.

You should see who's dancing with the secretary bird

You should see who’s dancing with the secretary bird

Drifters: Great warriors of history pulled into alternative afterworlds to fight the Enders. Think, Death Parade meets Nobunaga the Fool.

L to R we have: Shimazu Toyohisa, the protagonist, Oda Nobunaga, the famous pirate, and Nasu no Yoichi, the trap

L to R we have: Shimazu Toyohisa, the protagonist, Oda Nobunaga, the famous pirate, and Nasu no Yoichi, the trap

Sports, the military, freedom of speech, and social protest

October 13, 2016
Tommie Smith and John Carlos, 1968

Tommie Smith and John Carlos, 1968

My association with social protest at sporting events goes way back. In the mid-1960’s, runner Tommie Smith was my classmate at San Jose State. Half a century ago he was setting records right and left, and two years later, in 1968, he won gold at the Mexico City Olympics. His Black Power salute atop the medals platform was a way of protesting, and raising awareness of, the treatment of Blacks in the United States.

Almost fifty years later, NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick is refusing to stand for the National Anthem at football games, an action that soon spread even to high school sports. The reason is … the treatment of Blacks in the United States.

I can understand the NFL and the networks being embarrassed over this. I can even understand individuals disagreeing both with the position that Kaepernick represents, and his way of displaying it. The same thing happened to Smith, back in the day. What I can’t understand is those people who feel he is somehow being disrespectful of the US military.

Carlos Kaepernick and Erick Reid, 2016

Carlos Kaepernick and Erick Reid, 2016

Was he showing disrespect towards the United States of America? Yes. Certainly. That’s the whole point. He was saying that it does not deserve our respect because of the way it treats its citizens. Does that also mean disrespect for the military, as some have claimed? Because it’s a military honor guard that’s carrying the flag for the National Anthem? The same US military that paid pro sports millions of dollars for the publicity opportunity? Gimme a break.

If you ask those in the military, most of them get it. It’s called free speech and it’s one of the reasons that we in the military fought and fight for the USA. But if you only protect speech you agree with, then it’s not free speech at all. Justice Ginsburg understands this, even as she deplores his actions. It doesn’t matter if you disagree with Kaepernick’s actions, if you respect the USA, and you respect the military, then the only course of action for you is to follow Evelyn Beatrice Hall‘s summary of Voltaire: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

TL:DR — Dropping my shorts, Fall 2016

October 11, 2016

So, not all the mediocre, bad, or just plain uninteresting anime comes as long-form 23min episodes. Much of it now appears as short features, as if the creators knew the worth of what they were doing and wanted to minimize the impact on humankind.

Four that were just dumb:

Cheating Craft: How to cheat on exams, with the usual perfunctory "This is bad" warning.

Cheating Craft: How to cheat on exams, with the usual perfunctory “This is bad” warning.

Soul Buster: Cardfights between the souls of ancient Chinese warriors. Like Ikki Tousen without the fanservice.

Soul Buster: Cardfights between the souls of ancient Chinese warriors. Like Ikki Tousen without the fanservice.

Kiitaro's Yokai Diary: Sibling rivalry over household chores ignites demon wars. As usual.

Kiitaro’s Yokai Diary: Sibling rivalry over household chores ignites demon wars. As usual.

Miss Bernard Says: How many book references can you fit into three and a half minutes?

Miss Bernard Says: How many book references can you fit into three and a half minutes?

Two that were bound to offend somebody:

To Be Hero: Eight minutes of toilet jokes

To Be Hero: Eight minutes of toilet jokes

My wife is the student body President: Eight minutes of boob jokes.

My wife is the student body President: Eight minutes of boob jokes.

And one that could have been a contender:

Old woodblock drawings as anime. Good idea, poorly executed.

Sengokuchojyugiga:Old woodblock drawings as anime. Good idea, poorly executed.

Happy Birthday Haruhi

October 8, 2016

HaruhiSuzumiya02According to the light novel, Haruhi Suzumiya (涼宮ハルヒ Suzumiya Haruhi) entered North High in April of 2003. Other sources report that her birthday was October 8th, so she presumably was 16 in 2002, and so was born in 1986. That makes her 30 years old today. She’s now an adult, middle-aged, having graduated college nine years ago, probably married Kyon, and now has a couple of kids, named Natsu and Aki. How fleeting are the days of youth.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

October 3, 2016

Garden Report for 161003

It’s been a month, and now it’s time to close out the garden. The KHG is remaining warm, with the interior temperature holding at 64F on 2 October, despite the air temps just brushing 32F that night. I plan to keep track thru the winter, and report the numbers next spring.

Not much in the way of production. Couple of intentionally miniature peppers. Couple of unintentionally miniature onions. Five more medium Zucchinis before they succumbed to late season mildew. One small spaghetti squash from a late planted vine.

Week
Ending
10/03
Vegetable Count Weight
g
Unit
Weight
g
Total Total
Weight
kg

tomato 27 1.13
cabbage 4 4.02
peas 1.67
summer
squash
5 1.41
zucchini 5  1600 320 17 12.3
Spaghetti
squash
1  470 470 1 0.47
Grand Total 23.0*

This time last year we had a grand total of 45kg. In 2014 it was 47kg, and in 2013 the total was 38kg. So, at about half the average of the last three years, this was not a memorable year, but that’s understandable, since we were gone much of the time.

For post-gardening-season projects, I have some burdock that I’m going to leave in the ground for another couple of weeks before harvesting the roots, and I’m planting some cabbage and bush cucumber in a pot that I’ll bring indoors when it starts to get cold. Also, a sectionsworth of KHG planted to greens, inside the whitehouses. Unless something special happens, I won’t be reporting on these.

*Including 1.4kg of really small Zucchinis that I picked while digging up the squash.

TL:DR — Anime I never finished, Fall 2016

October 3, 2016

It’s always a relief when I can clear my calendar early. The first week isn’t over, and already I’ve dropped four anime, and two whole categories! The first thing to go is, Time Travel!!

Touken Ranbu.
Remember that show with girls who were the embodiment of boats? The one that all the boys loved? Let’s do one for the girls! We can have boys, who are the embodiment of … of … swords! And nobody will know it’s a ripoff, because we’ll have them fight to preserve history, not to avoid it! That’ll fool ’em! And we can have thousands of bishies, because there were thousands of swords.

And there's seven more, even cuter!

And there’s seven more, even cuter!

It will make for a complex anime, but we can start with an eleven minute expository dump, and have them clean off in the bath afterwards.

Your purification ritual lacks dignity

Your purification ritual lacks dignity
(and your towel is much bigger than necessary)

And since all that the girls really want is good artwork of cute boys, we don’t have to spend money to make exciting action scenes, just lots of closeups.  And these swordboys will have a leader, who you will never see, so that every girl can pretend it’s her. And, here’s the best part — we can call it SwordColle!

We can’t?

Time Bokan 24
You know, I’m thinking that time travel might be the Next Big Thing, now that little sisters have had their run. Remember last season, where that girl went around propositioning various great names from history? Suppose we get ahead of the pack and do another one for kids. We can make it the usual [insert name here] schoolboy, who is one of the few who can survive a time leap, because time means nothing to him, just look at his tardy record!

Another high impact moment

Another high impact moment

And then we’ll have an evil publisher trying to keep the time travellers from finding out what the real history was, so they don’t have to rewrite the history books, and issue new editions, and make everyone throw the old ones away and buy the new ones, and thus have a perpetual income stream. No…wait.  Well, they’re just kids, they’ll never notice.

And nobody else will even think of doing a time travel anime this season!


The second category to drop is another duo, all about Survival Games.

Bloodivores
So, here’s the high concept: it’s a cross between Deadman Wonderland and Blood C, only it’s four vampires (mutated virus vampires, the other kind are so 19th Century), in a prison full of monsters. We’ll hoke up some reason for them to be in there — betrayed by a parent in the government maybe. We won’t need a lot of logic in the first episode. The government can tag everyone with the vampire virus (with flashing dog collars), but they can’t quarantine them, or find a cure, or a way to suppress an attack of vorishness. And when they’re on a bank heist, their masks can be plain sunglasses.

Our stylish Oafly-Stump sunglasses come in transparent, eyeshade, and opaque.

Our stylish Oafly-Stump sunglasses come in transparent, eyeshade, and opaque.

I know it’s stupid, but later on we’ll have lots of big insect monsters (ignore the mass square laws) and vamp on vamp action, so no-one will notice.

Magical Girl Raising Project

OK, I know the How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend project was not well received, even though some people liked it. But that doesn’t mean we can’t reuse the name. This will be infinitely better. Squeaky-voiced middle school females (and one secret gender-bender!) get recruited as Magical Girls, and then (due to budget cuts, or something), they get told they have to have a 50% RIF.

Good evening! Which four of you will I have to kill before the season ends?

Good evening! Which four of you will I have to kill before the season ends?

And since Magical Girlhood is an organization you can’t resign from, because they don’t exist, the only way out is feet first. That’s a lot of feet.

The kids will just love this one!

The kids will just love this one!

The wrong way to watch anime

September 28, 2016

Isaac Akers, over on Crunchyroll, has a column on the right way to watch anime, with the conclusion that there isn’t one.  I was intrigued, because there’s an old SDLC saying, that there’s no one right design for a computer system, but there are many designs that are demonstrably wrong. Could we say the same thing about anime?  I was in the midst of constructing a wonderful house of cards around this idea, when an old SF memory brought them all down.

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

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

In Life, you set your own victory conditions.

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

What has this to do with watching anime, aside from the fact that for many, watching anime is Life? Just this. Akers categorizes ways of watching from super-casual entertainment to hard-core critical. More detailed categories are possible, mostly as an extension from that line. You could watch it for the artwork, for the fashions, for the furnishings, or for clues on how to act around girls (or boys). You could study Ikki Tousen and InuYasha intently in order to gain a better understanding of the Warring States period, or hang on every word in The Gokusen and Saikano to improve your Japanese pronunciation. In all of these, as in all of Life, you decide on the victory conditions, and you decide if your anime-watching was worthwhile.

There’s no right way to watch anime, and there’s no wrong way, either. The only requirement is that your watching remain true to its purpose.

Anime Worth Watching — Summer 2016

September 24, 2016

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

Futaba and Friend, and cat

Futaba and Friend, and cat

The Ancient Magus’ Bride OVA

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

The girl, Ruth, the maid, the Mage

Chise, Ruth, the Maid, the Mage

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

ancientmaguslondon02

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

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

Rem

Rem

Emelia

Emelia

Which one would you chose?

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

Flying Witch Soundtrack

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

They did the best they could with what they had

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

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

Arrival

Arrival


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

Harbinger

Harbinger

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

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

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

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

GaruPan and Shirobako, Part 2

September 18, 2016

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

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

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

Trim Tabs and the Towers: A 15 year retrospective

September 10, 2016

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

9/11, Trim Tab Day. Remember it.

My Second Trip To Japan: Impressions

September 10, 2016

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

Japan Rail Pass

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

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

    Look for this sign

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

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

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

Money

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

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

Trash cans

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

Children

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

Not a parent in sight

Not a parent in sight

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

Nobody minds

Talk about free range kids…

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

Weather

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

Language

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

Japanese TV

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

jp16sapporotv02sm jp16sapporotv01sm

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

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

 

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

Part 1  Days 1 to 3

Part 2  Days 4 to 6

Part 3  Days 7 to 9

Part 4  Final Impressions

 

My Second Trip To Japan: Days 7 to 10

September 9, 2016

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

jp16shinkansentonagoyasm jp16shinkansenseats

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

jp16southtraindriver01sm jp16southtraindriver02sm

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

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

jp16southriceharvestsm jp16southriceharvest03sm

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

jp16tsuhotellobbysm jp16tsuhotelroomsm

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

View to the east

View to the east

View to the west

View to the west

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

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

jp16tsudinner01sm

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

jp16mieu01sm jp16mieunipalmtreessm

Student Services

Student Services

Student Workshop

Student Workshop

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

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

jp16tsudinner02bsm jp16tsudinner02csm

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

jp16tsudinner02dsm

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

Ninja walkers, for walking in swamps

Ninja walkers, for walking in swamps …

The History Club knows how to find old things

… not walking on water.

Ninja crafts

Ninja crafts

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

Non-ninja crafts

Non-ninja crafts

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

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

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

They ate their own, and part of mine

They ate their own, and part of mine

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

Last meal

Last meal

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

Last schoolgirls

Last schoolgirls

Last shinkansen

Last shinkansen

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

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

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

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

Part 1 Days 1 to 3

Part 2 Days 4 to 6

Part 3 Days 7 to 9

Part 4 Final Impressions

My Second Trip To Japan: Days 4 to 6

September 8, 2016

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

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

jp16sapporonabeyakishop

jp16sapporofirstmealnabeyake

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

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

jp16sapporoshoppingmall02sm jp16sapporoshoppingmallsm
jp16sapporocoveredmarketsm

 

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

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

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

jp16sapporosubleftsm jp16sapporosubrightsm
jp16sapporohellokittysm jp16sapporomrdonutsm

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

jp16sapporotaikosm

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

jp16hokkaidovolcanosm jp16hokkaidocountrysidesm

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

jp16uenostationsm jp16tokyoakihabarasm

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

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

Part 1 Days 1 to 3

Part 2 Days 4 to 6

Part 3 Days 7 to 9

Part 4 Final Impressions

Squashed Oatmeal

September 8, 2016

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

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

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

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

Rating: *****

My Second Trip To Japan: Days 1 to 3

September 6, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

...to the Sky Tree Metropolis

…to the Sky Tree Metropolis

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

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

Typhoon Mindulle hit Narita the day before I arrived

Typhoon Mindulle hit Honshou the day before I arrived at Narita

Tropical Storm Kompasu hit Hokkaido the day after I left

Tropical Storm Kompasu hit Hokkaido the day after I left Sapporo

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

JP16UenoHotelFrontSm JP16UenoHotelInsideSm

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

JP16UenoHotelRoom

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

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

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

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

JP16TokyoTrainSm

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

Shinkansen North

Shinkansen North

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

Northern Japan. Bigger fields, fewer towns

Northern Japan. Bigger fields, fewer towns

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

The view from Shin-Hakodate

The view from Shin-Hakodate

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

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

Day 3

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

Khaosan Sapporo Family Hostel

Khaosan Sapporo Family Hostel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part 1 Days 1 to 3

Part 2 Days 4 to 6

Part 3 Days 7 to 9

Part 4 Final Impressions

Green Thumb Up My Nose

September 5, 2016

Garden Report for 160905

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

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

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

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

Little punks

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

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

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

Anime Preview: Fall 2016

September 3, 2016

Unlike some others, who use knowledge of the source materials, close observation of the previews, and who actually read the press releases, I’m going to base mine on just the title and the cover art, and maybe a bit of the blurb. Consider yourself warned. If you want a real preview, pop on over to AniChart.

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

 

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

Occultic;Nine

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

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

Touken Ranbu

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

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

Shuumatsu no Izetta

Don't worry. Love will break our fall.

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

 

 

 

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

Flip Flappers

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

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

Brave Witches

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

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

Keijo

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

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

 

 

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

Long Riders

Girls und Bicycles. Not the David Carradine version.

Girls und Bicycles. Not the David Carradine version.

 

 

Tiger Mask W

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

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

Yuri on Ice

Lesbians trapped in male bodies enter skating contests

Lesbians trapped in male bodies enter skating contests

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

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

August 20, 2016

The final transition went smoothly. Sortof.

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

The SSD is on the floor

The SSD is bolted to the floor of the case

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

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

Our Trip to Alaska

August 19, 2016

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

Where we went

Where we went

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

Day 1: Departure

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

Downtown Vancouver from the cruise ship dock

Downtown Vancouver from the cruise ship dock

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

Day 2: Another Departure

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

Corner suite, right above that orange storage container

Corner suite, right above that orange storage container

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

Oh, right.

Oh, right.

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

Day 3: At Sea

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

One person per note

One person per note

and I made an attempt to get some programming done.

Taking time out to look cool

Taking time out to look cool

Day 4: Icy Strait Point

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

The municipal cat. In chair, at left.

The municipal cat. In chair, at left.

the ship

Our floating hotel

Our floating hotel
(click to embiggen)

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

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

She doesn’t normally wear her hair ahoge style.

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

This museum has everything

This museum has everything

Day 5: Hubbard Glacier

Overnight to the Hubbard Glacier. Very impressive

The approach

The approach

and the warm days meant it was calving almost continuously

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

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

That night was the Bells of the Cascades concert

Concert for the passengers

Concert for the passengers

Day 6: Juneau

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

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

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

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

A cruise-crowded port

A cruise-crowded port

Day 7: Ketchikan

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

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

Only one working hand?

Caption goes here

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

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

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

Four cruise ships, at 3,000 passengers each…

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

 

Day 8: At Sea

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

No passing zone

No passing zone

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

 

Day 9: Arrivals

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

Home from the sea

Home from the sea

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

It's good to be close to family

It’s good to be close to family

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

I'll just wait for someone to notice me

I’ll just wait for someone to notice me

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

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

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

Next time, I just inch a little to the left

Next time, I just inch a little to the left

Squash VelcrOats

August 18, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: *****

Penalty for forgetting your password: Part 3

August 17, 2016

Almost done.

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

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

Later today I’ll swap the SSD’s.

Penalty for forgetting your password: Part 2

August 16, 2016

Nothing is ever easy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next step, the dreaded file transfer process.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

August 15, 2016

Garden Report for 160815

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

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

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

 

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

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