Shirobako Names

February 14, 2016

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

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

Opera Browser: The Long Farewell 5

February 11, 2016

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

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

Olive Oats

February 4, 2016

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

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

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

Rating: *****

Roast Beef Oats

January 28, 2016

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

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

 

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one cup of broth, three or four slices of packaged roast beef, fried to a crisp, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, salt. Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats. Add the potatoes at the end.

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

 

Rating: *****

TSA can’t do math. Either

January 26, 2016

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

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

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

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

Answer:

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

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

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

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

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

January 23, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oatmeal And Wilted Lettuce

January 21, 2016

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

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

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

Rating: *****

TL:DR — The Muv-Luvs

January 15, 2016

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

We're the girls who play high-school sports

We’re the girls who play high-school sports

We're the girls who fight

We’re the girls who fight

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

We're the girls who defend the Earth

We’re the girls who defend Asia

We're the girls who defend the GDR

We’re the girls who defend the GDR

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

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

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

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

Wakakozake Season 2, The Live Action Drama

January 12, 2016

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

Season 1

Season 1

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

Season 2

Season 2

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

TL:DR — Anime I never finished, Winter 2016

January 9, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

Too bad it's Divine Gate, and not Divinegate

Too bad it’s Divine Gate, and not Divinegate

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

Oh, I thought you said Joshi Raku

Oh, I thought you said Joshi Raku

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

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

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

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

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

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

OilyOats – Artichoke Edition

January 7, 2016

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

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

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one cup of broth, three tablespoonsworth artichoke oil, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, salt. Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats. Add the potatoes at the end, and fry for a minute or so after the potatoes have absorbed the broth..

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

Rating: *****

—————–

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

Perihelion 2016

January 2, 2016

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

My Personal Best of 2015

January 2, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 1, 2016

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

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

Just a flesh wound. I've had worse.

Just a flesh wound. I’ve had worse.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Late on the first day of class!

Late on the first day of class!

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

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

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

Hawaiian Oatmeal

December 31, 2015

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

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

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

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one cup of duck broth, one quarter cup of teriyaki-pineapple sauce, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, salt. Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats. Add the potatoes at the end.

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

Rating: *****

Twelve Days of Anime 12: GaruPan and Shirobako

December 25, 2015


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

GaruPanEp5.5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

——————-

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

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

Twelve Days of Anime 11: Fall Season Postview

December 24, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Twelve Days of Anime 10: Supporting Characters

December 23, 2015

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

Beyond the Boundary 2013

Beyond the Boundary
2013

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

Kawai Complex 2014

Kawai Complex
2014

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

Overlord 2015

Overlord
2015

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

Twelve Days of Anime 9: The incomparable Sawashiro Miyuki

December 22, 2015

MiyukiSawashiro

I first encountered Sawashiro Miyuki when she voiced Claire, the independent-minded high school senior in Red Garden. I was not into tracking voice actors at that point. In fact, I’m still not one who checks to see who all the seiyu are before deciding what anime to watch. But I remember being struck by Claire’s voice, a resonant contralto, and her control over the range and overtones. It wasn’t until I watched Bakemonogatari, and found myself impressed with Suruga Kanbaru’s voice that I checked to see who the seiyu was, and followed the notes back to Sawashiro. Now, one of the things I do at the start of every anime season, when I’m deciding what to watch, is go to her Wikipedia page to see what she is acting in. I don’t always follow up, but it’s one of my guideposts. Herewith, some of the characters she has voiced over the last ten years or so.

Monogatari series 2009-2016

Monogatari series
2009-2016

Kanbaru Suruga: one of the strongest characters in a long-running series replete with them. In any survey she’s likely to be in a three way tie with Hanekawa and Senjogahara for Best Girl, and a three-way is just how she likes things. Sawashiro turned in outstanding performances in Hanamonogatari and Owarimonogatari, capturing the strength of feeling and emotion of the character. Of course, none of those clips are available on-line, but here’s a clip that captures Sawashiro’s work today.

Wakakozake 2015

Wakakozake
2015

Wakako Murasaki: The only character in an ultra-short anime that shows her adventures in Japanese fast food restaraunts. The format won’t let us find anything more about her. What about the rest of her life as an office lady? What about the rest of her free time? Why is she still unmarried at 26, the dreaded christmas cake age that implies one is past one’s sell by date?

Blood Blockade Battlefront 2015

Blood Blockade Battlefront
2015

Vivian: A cheerful counter waitress in a fast food joint in Helsalem’s Lot. Every other episode her cafe gets destroyed by monsters or giant mechas or something, but she always drags herself out of the ruins and carries on. She watches out for Leonardo but doesn’t seem to have a boyfriend of her own.

Witch Craft Works 2014

Witch Craft Works
2014

Medusa: The original Medusa, whose glance can turn one to stone, so she’s been imprisoned in a blindfold for decades. Breaks free and comes to the Workshop Witches town. Very powerful but has very bad judgment when it comes to selecting her minions.

Monthly Girls Nozaki-Kun 2014

Monthly Girls Nozaki-Kun
2014

Seo Yuzuki: A hard-charging tomboy with a gorgeous singing voice, she’s aggresively oblivious to her impact on the world around her. What’s her home life like? Will she and the Theater Club president ever become a couple?

Maoyu Mao Yuusha 2013

Maoyu Mao Yuusha
2013

Female Knight: Once an adventuring partner of Hero, now she’s the head of a nunnery, with a part-time job of sword trainer for Demon Queen and the occasional gig as leader of national armies. Said she’s happy to be a simple, devoted, knight-in-service to Hero, but if that’s the case, why did she try to slip into his room late at night in her negligee, with a trayful of tea and cookies?

Kokoro Connect 2012

Kokoro Connect
2012

Himeko Inaba: Dominant character in the Cultural Studies Club. Provides confident leadership and advice, but all the while is beset with confidence issues. Steers Taichi into a relationship with Iori, until she realizes that she loves him as well. What changes will the OVA bring?

Lupin III 2012

Lupin III
2012

Fujiko Mine: Lupin’s romantic interest and rival in crime across decades of the franchise. If either is in trouble, the other will be glad to help, as long as they are the one to make away with the swag. The latest Lupin gives her equal billing and equal screen time.

Highschool Of The Dead 2010

Highschool Of The Dead
2010

Busujima Saeko: a slightly twisted swordswoman who enjoys the violence, but worries that it makes her less suitable as a wife. Her first name is pronounced ‘psycho’.

Durarara!! 2010

Durarara!!
2010

Celty Sturluson: a headless wraith from Ireland, who rides a horse/motorcycle steed through Akihabara, looking for her head, and a boyfriend. Hard job for a seiyu to pull off, because, you know, headless. First season ended with her finding that the head she found was not the head she was looking for. Move along.

Kannagi 2008

Kannagi
2008

Aoba Tsugumi: the traditional childhood friend of our harem lead Mikuriya Jin. She wakes him up in time for school, brings him meals, and clashes with shrine goddess Nagi. The one-season series ended before we could find out which girl gets him.

Red Garden 2006

Red Garden
2006

Claire Forrest: strongly independent girl (her family is rich, but she will have nothing to do with them). One of the dominant personalities among the Dead Girls. In the OVA, 400 years in the future, she’s still driving her ’88 Olds. Here’s a clip of Sawashiro’s work ten years ago.

Green Thumb Up My Nose: Winter Solstice

December 21, 2015

We are at the Winter Solstice. The Northern Hemisphere has tilted as far from the Sun as it planned to, and has now started back. Days are getting longer, and Spring is on the way. I went out at the last moment of Autumn and measured the soil temperature of the KHG. After ten days in the low thirties (with one clear night touching 13F), and with a six-inch blanket of new fallen snow (it’s still coming down), the temperature   one foot down at 8:48PST was 40F. A minute later, when Winter was well and truly started, the temperature was still 40F, so I can confidently say that the arrival of Winter had no effect on the deep soil temperature of the KHG.

Twelve Days of Anime 8: Will the real Oda Nobunaga please stand up?

December 21, 2015

Everyone with the slightest interest in Japanese history is familiar with the name Oda Nobunaga, the warlord who ended the Warring States period and started Japan on its way to unification. Even moderate otaku should also be familiar with the name, because the Japanese anime industry can’t seem to get enough of him. The problem is, no-one wants to base an anime on anything approximating an accurate retelling, everyone wants to tell their own counter-factual version of the tale.

Back in 2013, ANN listed seven Nobunaga-associated anime: two with space aliens, two gender-benders, one Pokemon, one Nobunaga-the-demon-king, and one Nobunaga as the boss of the main character, who is a politician addicted to tea. Since that list was compiled, we’ve added three more: Nobunaga replaced by a modern highschool boy, Nobunaga the soul inhabiting a modern highschool girl, and Nobunaga pals around with Joan of Arc while riding a da Vinci mecha and fighting Julius Caesar.

This one

This one

Not this one

Not this one

What I’d like to see is a straightforward period-costume piece. I’d even be happy with some fantasy elements, maybe a female childhood friend from Owari Province, and of course the many haremettes he meets as he proceeds with his conquests. You could even let him keep his hair.

Twelve Days of Anime 7: Subete ga F ni Naru, a Commentary

December 20, 2015

The Europeans don’t think like us Americans, and it drives us crazy. One area of disconnect is their reduced need for closure. Perhaps it’s because they’ve lived cheek-by-jowl on a tiny peninsula since forever, and they know that whatever happens between them and their neighbors, they will still be neighbors tomorrow, and so will their grandchildren. Associated with this is an ability to go inside themselves, to think deep thoughts and then to act, wisely or foolishly, on them. It’s not that Americans can’t do this, it’s that our culture doesn’t encourage it. We want closure, we want openness, by which we mean a direct circuit between a thought and an action, unmitigated by reflection. And if things don’t work out, well, we’re off to the frontier, or are neighbors are, and we are never stuck in an unchanging situation.

Living in the US, and then England, and then the US again (in a previous Century), I got to see this first-hand. Take television crime shows. The archetypal US show is the old Dragnet. At the end of each program Detective Joe Friday captures the villain, and the narrator tells us that they were tried and convicted in the Los Angeles County Superior Court in and for the county of Los Angeles, and sentenced to ten years in prison. All wrapped up. No loose ends.

What was English crime TV like? Not as many murders, for one thing, and the police would wax indignant over the injuries a victim had suffered from being hit with a club. More to the current point, there was less emphasis on closure, on justice being seen to be done. Many shows ended with the last bit of evidence being found, and Detective Chief Inspector Charles Barlow and Detective Inspector John Watt (Softly, Softly) putting on their hats and heading out to make the arrest. Roll credits. Or they might not even get their man. One program involving a series of furniture thefts (no murders, just missing credenzas) ended with the police car squealing to a halt at an intersection in order to set up a roadblock, just seconds after the loaded van went through.

Similarly with thoughts and introspection. There’s a whole class of European movies that have this tendency to pause while the protagonists stare off into the distance before having some massively important revelation strike. Characters are always having long, seemingly pointless discussions on the whichness of what. Films are structured around the complex interactions of complex, possibly unlikable, persons. Such things don’t resonate with Americans at all, which is why they are labeled “arty”, and shown only at local film festivals, or on college campuses.

As far as I know, Japan doesn’t do this so much, which is why we are always surprised when it happens. Take the anime movie Sky Crawlers, for example. At one point, the protagonists make out in the front seat of a rental car, while struggling for possession of a cocked pistol. The male lead has an epiphany while sitting in the BOQ, watching a squadron mate read the newspaper. It’s a movie about flying has about ten minutes of flying in it. The Yūichi, I am your father revelation is only hinted at, leaving Yūichi to deduce it on his own. All very arty, very European.

Subete ga F ni Naru: The Perfect Insider (based on a book by Mori Hiroshi, who also wrote Sky Crawlers) is much like this. It’s a locked room mystery inside an isolated island mystery, with a touch of cyber-weirdness to add spice. But the mystery is really only a vehicle to display the characters and quirks of the people involved. None of them are very likable. One of them, the perpetrator, is made out by all the others to be a genius far beyond the ability of mere mortals to understand, but from where this mortal stands, she’s an asocial, psychopathic, schizophrenic serial killer with no redeeming values. To which the series would say, “So? What’s your point?”

I enjoyed much of this series. I was irritated by much more of it. I’m not sure if I’ll buy it when it comes out on DVD, but I might gift it to some of my more intellectual friends.

Twelve Days of Anime 6: Where are they now?

December 19, 2015

Go back ten to fifteen years. Think of some of the shows that got released that year. Ask yourself, what has happened to their characters in the decade or decade and a half since their story was told?

Naota117021 2000 – Naota Nandaba (FLCL). He was twelve when he met Haruko Haruhara, was run over by a yellow Vespa, and hit on the head with a blue Rickenbacker 4001 left-handed electric bass guitar. Then it got weird. He’d be almost 30 by now, maybe inherited his father’s bakery and married Eri Ninamori, and they had a child named Nagisa.
Tohru_Honda 2001 – Honda Tōru (Fruits Basket). High School girl in 2001, so she’s at least 30. Married former catshifter Sohmas Kyo and inherited a martial arts dojo. Had a son and a granddaughter, probably named Murasame.
OginoChihiro 2001 – Ogino Chihiro (Spirited Away). She was only 10 in 2002, so she’s in her early 20’s now, just out of college. Given her middle-class background, she’s probably an office lady somewhere in the Tokyo suburbs.
WitchHunterRobin 2002 – Robin Sena (Witch Hunter Robin). Another 15-year-old (around 30 now). She and her probable love interest, Amon, apparently survived the destruction of the Orbo factory. She is a witch, and carries the memories of thousands of years of witches, making her exceedingly boring to talk to at parties. Amon carries a copy of the witch gene, so they’ve had time to raise a number of witchy children with good memories.
FukuzawaYumi 2004 – Fukuzawa Yumi (Maria Watches Over Us). In her mid-twenties now, she was an entering freshman at Lillian Girls’ Academy when the anime opens. Maintained the discrete, not-quite-yuri relationships typical of all the cultured young ladies of the Academy. Probably moved in with Ogasawara Sachiko after graduation.
HanamotoHagumi 2005 – Hanamoto Hagumi (Honey and Clover). Eighteen and a new art student at the start of the anime, she is devoted to her art and is probably still unmarried at 28, living in a studio in suburban Tokyo. Probably still getting carded when she walks into bars.
TsuchimiRin 2005 – Tsuchimi Rin (Shuffle). For some reason (possibly because the anime is based on a harem game), as a 17 year old, he found himself pursued by a bevy of beautiful young girls, including the daughters of gods and demons. He eventually pairs off with Shigure Asa, a sickly half-demon. They’d be in their late twenties now, probably with a quiverful of quarter-demons, with names like Primula, Lisianthus, and Kaede.
Lain 1998 – Iwakura Rein (Serial Experiments Lain). She was just 14 when she became the omnipotent goddess of The Wired. Today she is in her early thirties, unless she wants to be a teenager. She’s everywhere and nowhere, and I’m not sure that putting tape over your webcam will help.

Twelve Days of Anime 5: Revisiting Haruhi

December 18, 2015

The Suzumiya Haruhi franchise is now 12 years old, and Haruhi herself is approaching 30: an early Millennial, soon to be middle-aged. It’s one of my favorite anime, and I thought I’d revisit it as part of my 12 Days essays.

Kyon, Haruhi, Time Traveler, ESPer , Alien

Kyon, Haruhi, Time Traveler, ESPer , Alien

For those of my reader born this Century, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is a 2006 two-season TV anime plus movie, based on a series of ten light novels that started publishing in 2003. Haruhi is a high school girl only interested in the exotic — aliens, ESPers, time travelers and the like. She starts a club to search for these, roping in our POV character, Kyon (his nickname, which is the name of a miniature Japanese deer), as well as … an alien, a time traveler, and an ESPer. It turns out that Haruhi is some sort of goddess unknowing, whose merest whims can turn pigeons white, cause cherry trees to blossom in January, freeze time, and threaten to destroy and rebuild the universe; or call forth aliens, ESPers, and time travelers to play with. The first half of the first season is spent learning these things. The next season-and-a-half, plus movie, is spent with the members of the club frantically trying to head off her whims and keep her distracted.

The start of the second season was interesting, because KyoAni Studio tried something different: they reran the episode about the world being caught in an endless time loop eight times in a row — the infamous Endless Eight. They didn’t skimp on the work, however, because they animated eight different episodes around the same, or nearly the same, script. It was a bold artistic experiment, that didn’t work. Most fans hated it, and ragequit both the franchise and the studio forever. Or at least until Hibiki! Euphonium came out. The reason for the time loop, BTW, was that Haruhi was having so much fun with her friends that she didn’t want Summer to end. They could have called it Endless Summer, but I think that one was already taken. It took another three years before KyoAni was ready to reboot the franchise with the movie Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya.

Time Loop 15,876

Time Loop 15,524

Time Loop 14,782

Time Loop 15,498

Now, about Suzumiya herself. Dangerous as it is to apply Western demographic labels to the Japanese, it looks like the Millenial label — in several of its different interpretations — might fit her quite well. According to Wikipedia, two conflicting descriptions of Millenials is that they are both civic-minded and narcissistic. I think this fits Haruhi exactly.

She is as self-centered as a gyroscope, interested in things that interest her, and totally oblivious to the rest. In the making of the student movie The Adventures of Mikuru Asahina, when Asahina’s Mikuru Beam slices a lightboard in half, she gets irritated with the film club (who she stole it from) for buying such cheap stuff. Later, when the beam chops down a chain link fence, she just assumes it was badly maintained. On the civic-minded front, aside from a personal desire to meet time travelers and aliens, etc, her life goal (as we learn in the later LNs) is to become a philanthropist and make lots of money so she can give it away.

Her oblivious enthusiasm was fun at the beginning, but got old after a while, and the series was right to center on the activities of the other members of the SOS Brigade as they worked to keep her both happy and in the dark. What saves the anime from becoming boring are the soliloquies of Kyon, the self-deprecating POV character and the only normal person in the group. In fact, the whole series should have been called The Melancholy of Kyon Haruhi’s-Helper.  Kyon isn’t particularly attracted to Haruhi, he’s more interested in Mikuru’s chest, and Yuki’s intellect. He’s there probably because goddess Haruhi wants him there, and she isn’t sure herself why that is (or why she gets irritated whenever he spends time with one of the other girls).

Kyon under observation

Kyon under observation

On the one hand, it’s unfortunate that the franchise hasn’t revived, because there’s at least one more season’s worth of material in the light novels. On the other hand, it’s not all that unfortunate that the franchise hasn’t revived, because the material in the light novels isn’t that strong. It involves an anti-Haruhi storyline, where alternative versions of all our characters appear to contest the validity of Haruhi as mediator of the universe. The story arcs are interesting, but the ending is unsatisfactory.

The animation was done with KyoAni’s usual insane attention to detail. One blogger has pointed out that items, like the Tanabata bamboo, were included (unremarked) in the background of Season 1, because they’d be important in Season 2, if there was one.

Checkov's Bamboo

Checkov’s Bamboo

All in all, I consider The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya to be a minor masterpiece, and I’m glad to have a chance to write about it again.

Twelve Days of Anime 4: TL:DR, Anime I never finished, 12 Days Edition

December 17, 2015

Most of my TL:DR’s are about anime that couldn’t pass the three episodes rule, ones that were bad enough that I didn’t want to watch a full season. What I’m writing about here are those anime that were enjoyable enough to watch the first season of, or the first cours, but not engaging enough to be worth watching the rest. Sometimes these are streaming anime, other times they are DVD’s that I bought but couldn’t be bothered to put in the second disc. All (well, most) are kirai jianai — I don’t dislike.

 

Twelve Kingdoms: A collection of stories. The first, and longest, is about a young girl who is kidnapped from the coast of Japan and ends up, not in North Korea, but in a different world. She has an extended series of tribulations, which she barely manages to survive (all the while crying the Japanese equivalent of Auntie Em! Auntie Em! There’s no place like home!). She is befriended by a large rat, who helps her be reunited with her kidnapper. Said kidnapper turns out to be a Kirin (Chinese dragon/giraffe hybrid that looks like a unicorn here), who has decided she should be the Immortal Queen of one of the Twelve Kingdoms.

It was a nice enough series, but it falls into what I call the costumed-period-fantasy category, and those have a hard time holding my interest. I stopped watching at the end of the first season/DVD.

Got to Episode 13 of 45

Got to Episode 13 of 45

 

Polar Bear Cafe: Slice of life about a slacker panda who hangs out with a love-struck penguin in a nice little Applebee’s-like cafe run by a polar bear. Gilligan does Friends. It’s very cute, and I enjoyed every episode, and I didn’t drop it so much as wandered off. It’s still in my Crunchyroll queue, but I haven’t touched it for months.

Episode 28 of 40

Episode 28 of 40

xxx-Holic: Spirit-bepestered student works for a witchy-woman. Slice of life/spirit of the week. No over-arching plot, so no reason to tune in next week, but unlike say, Non Non Biyori, most of the individual episodes are not strong enough to stand on their own. It does have its moments, like Episode 5’s description of Shiritori as a game you play to keep the monsters away. Like Polar Bear, it’s a wandered-away-from.

Episode 10 of 24

Episode 10 of 24

Sword Art On-Line: Trapped in a MMORPG. The art work was good, and the fights were interesting, but I had the same problem a lot of others did: the hero was too heroic. That is, the hero could never lose, except emotionally. I got surprisingly far into this one but didn’t bother to finish it.

Episode 16 of 24

Episode 16 of 24

Log Horizon: Trapped in a MMORPG. Better characters, better plot, more gaming-related lore. Still, it couldn’t overcome it’s costumed-period-fantasy core. I watched the first season, and bought the DVD, but didn’t bother with the second.

Episode 13 of 24

Episode 13 of 24

A Certain Scientific Railgun: Extra-special-talent girl at a school for special-talent students. Can accelerate metallic objects using her electric personality. Not exactly slice of life. Not exactly danger-of-the-week. Not exactly strong on plot. Did I mention that her little sister has a totally unhealthy obsession with? Kindof fun, but a little went a long ways, and I didn’t bother to follow up on the second half. I must say it’s a better series than A Certain Index — that one is awaiting a true TL:DR.

Episode 12 of 24

Episode 12 of 24

I bought the DVD, but that was more to show support for the industry than any desire to have a family treasure to mention in my will.

Twelve Days of Anime 3: The Roots of My Obsession

December 16, 2015

The roots of my anime obsession go back at least ten years. At least, that’s what Amazon tells me. My first Amazon anime purchase was Cowboy Bebop, in 2004, and my second was Porco Rosso, in 2007. My first aniblogging entry was about Red Garden, in 2010, and I’ve averaged just over one entry a month since then.

But that’s just the surface artifacts, as it were. The remains of threshing floors that say agriculture was practiced here, without telling us when the hunter-gatherers first settled down and subscribed to cable. To sift out these other dates we will need some indirect evidence.

The indirect evidence says it can’t be in an earlier century. Then, I was living in Northern Virginia, working in DC, and between work and commute, my hours were measured in the teens. Towards the end of the century I became a college student (again), with no TV, a slow modem, and a burning desire to finish my dissertation. Any spare time was spent drinking craft beer and writing equations at Portland’s Market Street Pub, the unofficial headquarters of the Systems Science grad students.

So that brings us up to late 2000CE, when I acquired a job and a house and was reunited with my wife and other household goods. At that time, my main TV fare was Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I had been introduced to it by my niece when she visited from Georgia (yes, I have a niece, and a grand-niece as well). For the next five years or so I collected Buffy/Angel DVDs and books and, OK yes, graphic novels. Or at least, that’s what Amazon says. I also had time to hang out on the kinds of places on the Internet where Buffy-like things were discussed, and those were just a few IP numbers away from the otaku boards.

Unfortunately, I have slept since then, and have forgotten just where and how I started watching. Obviously I was interested enough by 2004 to buy Cowboy Bebop (and loan it to friends). By that time as well, Miyazaki Hayao had issued over a dozen full length movies, most of which had already been released in the US, so I was undoubtedly exposed to long form anime. Relying on Amazon, again (there’s no other source for anime in this one-Starbucks town), my next purchase was Porco Rosso (and some other Miyazaki,in May of 2007) and for some strange reason Moon Phase (in November, what was I thinking?). By the time 2008 came to an end I’d bought Wolf’s Rain, Whisper of the Heart, Cat Returns, Last Exile, Castle in the Sky, Ah, My Goddess, and Neon Genesis Evangelion. The rest, as they say, is filmography.

Twelve Days of Anime 2: Rewatching Maoyu Mao Yusha.

December 15, 2015

Maoyū Maō Yūsha (Demon King and Hero) is a single cours 2013 anime based on a light novel series. I first watched it when it streamed on Crunchyroll, bought a cheap Malaysian ripoff when it looked like it wouldn’t get a US release, and just now got the official version off of Amazon. That, of course, required a rewatch. Like many anime, it doesn’t fare quite as well the second time around, but “not quite as well” doesn’t mean “not good”.

Demon Queen is hornier than she looks

Demon Queen is hornier than she looks

Wrong sword, Hero

Wrong sword, Hero

The story is simple: Demon Queen convinces human Hero to join her in a quest to end the interminable demon-human wars. They do so by bringing modern agriculture, education, and technology (all supplied by the Demon Queen, who is really a Scholar) to the humans, thus breaking down the economic reasons for continuing the war. Subplots include the Queen/Hero romance, the unrequited love of the Lady Knight, and the education and liberation of Big Sister Maid. Note that no-one has names, just job titles. Fortunately, the cast of characters is small, otherwise we’d be having to sort out who Head Maid of Another Minor Noble of Southern Mountain Country is.

The Queen is enamoured of the Hero, based, as far as I can tell, on magical images in her demon scrolls. Unfortunately, he spends most of his time away, troubleshooting, and is as nervous as a teen-ager when in her buxom presence. The Lady Knight (voiced by the incomparable Sawashiro Miyuki) is an old companion of the Hero. When he left her on his mission to kill the Demon King she was so distraught that she entered a nunnery. The Big Sister Maid was a serf who fled her abusive master, was hired by Head Maid, trained and educated, and who (disguised as the Crimson Scholar, which is the disguise the Demon Queen uses in human lands) gives an impassioned Rights of Man speech after being arrested by the Church for heresy. Is everything clear now? Good.

Head Maid can do everything from cleaning silver to leading armies

Head Maid can do everything from cleaning silver to leading armies

but Big Sis Maid can inspire revolutions

but Big Sis Maid can inspire revolutions

Why I like it: I’m a sucker for a good romance. I like anime that makes you think. I like the characters.

What’s wrong with it: It’s punching far above its weight, trying to fit two or three seasons worth of ideas into a single season anime, and trying to do it with a half-season budget. The animation was so-so at the beginning, and went downhill from there.

The Triune Mage

The Triune Mage

One result was that there was little time to devote to secondary characters. Female Magician, for example, appears to be three separate personalities, who devoted years to storing up spells to help Hero in his hour of need, but we never learn how her personalities work or why she stored the spells. Likewise, none of the demons gets much more than a walk-on part. The South Arctic General (a giant walrus), for example, takes half an episode to die of excessive speed-lined stills. The Princess Fire Dragon gets a few cameo appearances, and that’s it.

Pretty Dragon Princess

Pretty Dragon Princess

Finally, the ending was rushed. How rushed? Think of a history of WWII that starts out with a detailed discussion of the reasons for the war, a good discussion of the invasion of France and the Battle of Britain, and ends with the line: Then the allies prepared to invade Normandy and occupy Berlin, after which, they would drop a couple of bombs on Japan. None of the major plot lines, either personal or geopolitical, was resolved.

Maoyū is often compared to Spice and Wolf, with S&W being microeconomics, and MMY macroeconomics. If they’d had three times the budget, and better writers, they might have pulled it off. Arms, the production company, had done good work before (Genshiken), but I guess they were saving their budget for their masterpiece pair, Samurai Girls/Samurai Bride, and looking forward to this year’s Valkyrie Drive.

————————————

*The Japanese title (まおゆう魔王勇者) is a little confusing. As far as I can tell from the online dictionaries:

まおう = demon king
魔王 = demon king
勇者 = brave person = hero

So it’s demon king demon king hero? Like duck, duck, goose? There’s a lot I don’t know about Japanese.

Twelve Days of Anime 1: Anime Preview Winter 2016

December 14, 2015

Since last season’s Anime Preview went so well — eight views in ten weeks!! — and since the Twelve Days of Anime aniblogging Project is on again, I thought I’d try it again. Unlike other reviewers, who use knowledge of the source materials, close observation of the studio previews, and who actually read the press releases, I’m going to base mine on just the title and the cover art (with maybe a little bit of the blurb). Clickable details can be found here.

First, let’s say what’s not in here. Sequels to stuff I didn’t like before, kids stuff, movies and OVA’s, and anything I can’t tell if it’s a series, an OVA, or a short.

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

1. Gate Season 2 JSDF Invades Fairyland

1. Gate Season Two
JSDF Invades Fairyland.
Again.
.

2015FallHaruChika

2. Haruchika
Hibiki! The mystery

2015Fall-DagashiKashi

3. Dagashi Kashi (but however)
Aloof intellectual girl finds herself stranded at a candy store in decaying rural Japan

2. Musaigen (Colors of a Phantom World) Aggressive blond, thoughtful redhead, and witless brunette exploit male hero during adventures in DigitalLand

4. Musaigen
(Colors of a Phantom World)
Aggressive blond, thoughtful redhead, and witless brunette exploit male hero during adventures in DigitalLand

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

1. Kono Subarashii (Blessings of a wonderful world) Aggressive blond, loli redhead, and genkii blue-hair exploit male hero during adventures in an alternate world.

1. Kono Subarashii
(Blessings of a wonderful world)

Aggressive blond, loli redhead, and genkii blue-hair exploit male hero during adventures in FantasyLand.

2. Ajin: Clueless hero is stalked by insect collective fashion dummy

2. Ajin
Clueless male hero is stalked by insect collective fashion dummy

3. Boku Dake: Sad girl in snow forces mangaka to invent time travel

3. Boku Dake
Sad girl in snow forces mangaka to invent time travel

4. Shouwa Genroku Rakugo: Ex-con becomes a standup comic. Tragedy ensues.

4. Shouwa Genroku Rakugo
Ex-con becomes a standup comic. Tragedy ensues.

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

1. Mahou Shoujo: Grade-school-age magical girl has bikini for costume

1. Mahou Shoujo
Grade-schooler wears bikini-based magical girl costume

2. Ooya-san wa Shishunki (Landlord Puberty) I refuse to watch any anime with 'puberty' in the title

2. Ooya-san wa Shishunki
(Landlord Puberty)

I refuse to watch any anime with ‘puberty’ in the title

3. Kono Danshi (Men working magic): can two wizards see past their budding romance and stay productive?

3. Kono Danshi
(Men working magic)

Can two wizards see past the magic of their budding romance and continue to work in the Ministry of Counter-Magic Ops?

.

Can

4. Oshiete
(Tell me)

Can aggressive blond, frigid megane-girl, and idiot with money overcome their differences in bra size to bond in a high school with no boys in sight?

Chili Cheese Oats

December 10, 2015

MJ picked up a block of Grafton Village Raw Milk Smoked Chili Cheddar at Safeway recently (and the number of modifiers should tell you everything you need to know). We try a lot of different cheeses for snacking, putting them into the rotation if we think they are tasty. This one isn’t going into the rotation. It is something like a pepper jack, only Cheddar instead of Monterey, and red chili instead of green. Other than that, and the smoke, they are identical. For our tastes, there’s too much chili pepper, to the point that it’s hard to taste anything else. Yes, the smoke flavor comes through, but any cheese flavor is totally submerged. Wait a minute! Maybe it will work in oatmeal?

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one cup of broth (beef, with mushroom), roughly a tablespoonsworth of Smoked Chili Cheddar  chopped, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, salt. Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats. Add the cheese before you add the oats, and add the potatoes at the end.

Results: Nope. Well, not for me. Still too much chili hot. Had to have a glass of dilute drinkable yogurt as a side dish. No smoke and no cheese flavor came through. Others might like it, depending on how much heat they like for breakfast.

 

Rating: *****

WWII in the Pacific

December 7, 2015

Herewith, in honor of Pearl Harbor Day, a list of every US aircraft carrier lost in the Pacific War, from the USS Langley (CV-1), the first aircraft carrier ever built, to the USS Bismarck Sea (CVE-95), which served for only 277 days.

The world's first aircraft carrier

America’s first aircraft carrier, and the first one lost in combat

In addition, here’s a YouTube animated map showing the ebb and flow of the Pacific War from December 7th, 1941 to September 2d, 1945.

High water mark. The day the Marines landed on Guadalcanal

High water mark. The day the Marines landed on Guadalcanal

Interesting to note that it was over a year after the landings on Guadalcanal before the front lines appreciably changed.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

December 6, 2015

Garden Report for 151207

This is more of a clean-up entry than anything. We are using up the last of the tomatoes this week. They were all green when picked, but as long as one can avoid them rotting they seem to ripen …. eventually. They do tend to dehydrate a little, and thus get wrinkly with age, but don’t we all.

Probably should do something with our Jack-O-Lantern this week as well. It’s almost ripe, but some parts look like they want to go bad. This is the one that was grown in the shade, and thus didn’t do very well. UPDATE: about half a cup of watery squoosh.

Shows you what lack of sun can do

Shows you what lack of sun can do

UPDATE: It’s warmed into the 50’s and I realized I hadn’t harvested the carrots. Got a pound and a half of nice-looking stubbies. There’s a patch of smaller ones that I’m going to leave for a bit.

Finally, on the 3rd of December, after a week of frosts as low as 18F, followed by a couple days of rain, the temperature 12″ down in the KHG was a toasty 40F. We’ll see what it’s like come February.

Cataract Surgery, Part 3

December 5, 2015

It’s now been almost six months since my first cataract surgery, and three months since I got my ‘final’ set of glasses. How have things gone so far? Turns out a lot of this writeup is a confirmation of my first impressions from Cataracts 2.

As I said then, cataract surgery shifts you from an infinite-focus biological system to a fixed focus mechanical-optical system. Most of the time that’s not a problem, but you do have to learn new techniques, like, focusing with your arms.

Keep in mind that my right eye is set for medium distance, say 10 to 40 feet, and my left eye is set for close vision, anything under about three feet. My regular glasses are designed to correct that vision (plus some astigmatism) for both eyes, and my computer glasses are designed to work best at about three feet, also for both eyes. I actually haven’t noticed the difference — I don’t find myself staring one-eyed at a page, like I was a character out of True Grit — but some of the issues I have noticed may stem from that. Here’s a breakdown

Long Distance. That’s everything over about fifty feet. With glasses on, no problems. With glasses off, not much of a problem. I can pass the WA state driver’s test without glasses, but my clear vision degrades noticeably beyond the 50-60 foot range. At night, there’s some glare from headlights. Left (near vision) eye has foggy glare. Right (medium vision) eye is more spiky, like you get on star photos with a Newtonian telescope.

Medium Distance. As in, walking around the house naked (well, naked eyeballs). No problems, except that I have to get closer to the bookcase to read the backs of the books. Before the operation I had to get close, even with glasses, and BC (before cataracts) I had to be right up against the bookcase if I had my glasses off.

PC Distance. About three feet. Ideal distance is 27″, but with my adjustable desk, 36″ is about as close as I can get. Comfort and clarity depends on the font, and on the size of the font. No glasses is more comfortable than wearing my regular glasses, and even with my PC glasses I sometimes have to bump up the size. I am thinking of getting remeasured at my next appointment

Reading Distance. Anything from 6-18″. Depends on the font and spacing. The bifocal part of my regular glasses is best at about 18″, but only in a very narrow viewing angle. Standard Dollar Store reading glasses work best at about six inches. Part of the issue is that I seem to have lost, not peripheral vision, but peripheral acuity. Reading now requires a certain amount of head movement, instead of eye scanning. The acuity itself seems to be variable — the same page can be clear as a bell, and then suddenly hard too read — but that might be a case of needing to train my eyes, or maybe problems that come when my eyes are tired.

My eyes get dry and tired more often, and I use a lot of eyedrops. I use a thick kind (Systane Balance) right before I turn the lights out at night (the bottle is next to the bed), and standard ones when I get up in the morning, and maybe a couple times during the day. The right eye is the one that healed more slowly, and it’s the one that dries out first. I have found that a more varied routine helps. I’m using a timer to limit my PC time (good for me in many ways), reading with and without glasses, doing things around the house with and without glasses.

One minor irritation of having my different viewing regimes overlap is that I’ll get up from the PC and wander about the house with my PC glasses on, and then complain about my vision. Or I’ll sit down at the PC with no glasses, and complain after a few minutes. In the old days, if I stood up or sat down with the wrong glasses on, I knew it immediately.

I’m glad I did it. My brain is still coming to grips with changing a half-century of habits, and that’s always a chore. I find I have new limitations, but they are better than the old limitations. At least now I can survive without glasses, if necessary, even if I have to have two pair to operate effectively. Yeah, I’d do it again.

KaliOats

December 3, 2015

I’m not a big fan of kale. Any food with ‘dinosaur’ in the name, and ‘massage well’ in the instructions is a little too far out for me. Besides, it’s just as hard to grow in the NENW as its other brassicaid cousins are (and infects the soil just as much), and it tastes like you left the harvest too long. Nevertheless, when a family friend brings some kale salad to Thanksgiving dinner, and gives you a small container of leftovers, you smile and eat and take.

And try in your oatmeal.

The salad was chunks of kale chopped very fine (the way the manuals say you should do with any field-gathered survival food), with some shredded carrots and a light touch of vinaigrette dressing. Nothing to get in the way of the kale flavor.

We had about half a cup of leftovers, just enough for two experiments: one where I rinsed off the vinegar and one where I didn’t. Didn’t make a difference.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one cup of broth (I used beef), a scant quarter cup of chopped kale, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, salt. Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats. Add the kale at the start and the potatoes at the end.

Results: Extremely meh. If you like kale, you’ll like this. Kale flavor came through loud and clear. Didn’t overpower the oats and broth, but you knew there wes kale there.

Rating: ***** if you don’t like kale,  ***** if you do.

Green Thumb Up My Nose: Plans for 2016

November 25, 2015

We are in an El Nino cycle, probably a strong one. That means the NENW will likely be warmer than usual (precip probabilities are split between less and more). And that means we can try planting out even earlier. Like early to mid April. In keeping with earlier approach, I’m rotating the fields again. This time, Section 4 is in the main rotation.

Crops to be grown
Tall crops (including climbers)
Peas
Green Beans (small planting)
Lima Beans
Tomatoes
Amaranth

Short crops
Greens, of course
Asparagus
Carrots
Squash (winter, summer, pumpkin)
Cucumbers (Lemon)

Containers
Tomatoes
Lemon cucumbers
Peppers (not-chiles)

New Ideas
Melons
Cucumbers (European)

Section 1
Brassicae. Yes, I know. Trying some clever timing tricks.
See the Gantt Chart
Carrots. Maybe the amaranth goes here

Section 2
Peas and beans. Maybe cucumbers.

Section 3
Squash. Maybe melons

Section 4
Tomatoes.* Asparagus.

The Schedule

early Feb – Start seeds indoors
early April (60 days later) – move to greenhouse
mid March — transplant cabbage and bok choy
early May — transplant other things
early July (70 days) – early varieties ripen
late July (90 days) – late varieties ripen

 

Garden Gantt 2016

Garden Gantt 2016

*We did a tomato tasting this evening, before the last of the tomatoes goes off. Conclusions were:

The red tomatoes were OK, and mostly indistinguishable — Brandywine, Celebrity, Champion, and Early Girl. The only small red tomato, the Zebras, were tart and very thick skinned. The small yellow Lemons were not as tart as the bigger yellow Cougars. The yellow Brandywines were Brandywine-sized and knobbly, and didn’t taste that much different from the run of the mill reds. Note — although it said Red Brandywine on the tin, I expect the labels got switched, because they were nowhere near as big as the yellows, and were shaped nothing like them. I’ll have to think on this when Spring comes.

Green Thumb Up My Nose: Lessons Learned – 2015

November 22, 2015

Looks like the garden is done for the year. I don’t think the peas will survive 18hrs of frost, dipping to 18F, three days after the 18th.  Here’s a commentary on this year’s plans:

General
1. Hit hard by powdery mildew this summer. Garden plants, ground cover plants, and plants in the front yard were infected. Go for mildew resistant strains of everything.

PM wasn’t a problem this year. Maybe it was drier. I put up a shield so my neighbor’s sprinkler wouldn’t dampen the squash, and that helped.

2. The small greenhouse worked well to get the plants through a variable Spring. Was positively humid inside, which attracted mosquitoes. Try hanging flypaper.

Didn’t need the greenhouse much, and never got to try the flypaper.

Yard Crops
1. Can’t do much with the area that’s in deep shade. Avoid next year (although part of that might have been the mildew).

I didn’t avoid, and it didn’t go well. Just don’t, OK?

2. Hops netting worked well, but was too narrow at the top. Need to reposition the hooks, or add new ones.

Added hooks, but it hourglassed in the middle. Gonna hafta build a full sized frame

Containers
1. Plant long beans and lemon cucumbers earlier

Long beans tended to go from freshripe to dry and crumbly in a couple of days. Had more lemon cukes than we could eat.

2. Try more miniatures

Couldn’t find any

3. Work even harder on getting the labeling right

Yeah, right

4. Daikon are not container plants, not even in big containers.

Or, as far as I can tell, not even in KHG’s. Give up.

Keyhole Garden
1. Abandon Section 4 as a berry farm. Too much work for too little return. Plant to peas and beans this year.

Got one good crop of beans, but the second planting didn’t make it

2. First pick of one pea plant last Summer gave about five pods, with four or five peas each — call it twenty peas per plant. One serving seems to be about 80-100 peas (I’ll confirm next dinner time), so we need 4 or 5 plants per person per meal. Which means I plant at least 20 plants next time. Six lima bean plants made two small servings.

Peas do not do well in deep shade, which is what we had behind the Santa Maria beans. Keep that in mind for next year. Beans and peas and tomatoes should go on the north end, and lower plants should go on the south end of each KHG section. In other news, we like limas better than green beans.

3. Replace all the covers with the redesigned versions.

Didn’t need them

4. Re-do all of the irrigation hose. Set it so each section can be watered individually.

Done, except the individually part

5. In early Spring, rebuild the SW corner of Section 1. Consider re-coring the center basket as well.

Done.

6. Plastic bottle cloche covers worked well.

Didn’t need them.

What didn’t work:
Pumpkins in the shade.
Amaranth. Planted too late, wrong varietal.
Brassicae. Any kind. Any where.
Santa Maria beans (pinquitos).

What did work:
Peppers out front.
Lemon cukes.
Hanging Zebras.
Wire shelving as an anti-squirrel measure.
Last minute summer-squash-inna-box.

Next week: next year

FOMC Follies

November 20, 2015

The release of the 27 October Federal Open Market Committee minutes shows them edging towards an increase in interest rates. This, despite the fact that we have not fully recovered from the Great Recession, and that history, in the form of the Great Depression, shows that a too-early tightening of the government belt can kill a recovering economy. One part of the summary deserves closer inspection.

A number of participants pointed to various reasons why the Committee should avoid a delay in policy firming [AKA interest rate increase]:

One concern was that such a delay, if the reasons were not well understood by market participants, could increase uncertainty in financial markets

And the FOMC is certainly not cabable of explaining things in a way that hedge fund managers could understand.

and unduly magnify the perceived importance of the beginning of the policy normalization process.

So if the process is so unimportant, what’s the harm in delaying the interest rate increase?

Another concern mentioned was the increasing risk of a buildup of financial imbalances after a prolonged period of very low interest rates.

But so far, as far as I know, no responsible person has suggested that such a buildup is occurring

It was also noted that a decision to defer policy firming could be interpreted as signaling lack of confidence in the strength of the U.S. economy

And of course the fact that we still haven’t closed the gap between current employment and output and the potential employment and output lost in the last near decade is no reason to have a lack of confidence in the current state of the economy in this fragile recovery

or erode the Committee’s credibility.

Because our image is more important than the US economy.

Some participants emphasized that progress toward the Committee’s objectives should be assessed in light of the cumulative gains made to date without placing excessive weight on month-to-month changes in incoming data.

And the overall cumulative progress is nowhere near what it should be or could be, even though we’ve had a good couple of months. It’s almost like the FOMC wants to raise interest rates because they want to raise interest rates and they will grasp any shred of evidence that will let them pretend to have a rationale for doing so.

Blowing in the Wind

November 18, 2015

Well that was fun, じゃない. Our little corner of the Great NW Windstorm of 2015 started about 4PM on Tuesday, when the gusts hit 45 and our power went out. Power outages in this area are infrequent, now that the city’s supply of dud transformers has run out, and when they happen they are usually limited to one half of the town and a few hours, max.

This one stretched on and on, into the dark, while the winds hit 60 and heavy objects skittered about the back deck. Fortunately, we had pretty full charges on our phones and tablets, so we spent a quiet evening at home, basking in the cold light of the screens. But that gets old after a while, and little by little the power drained away, and we wanted to keep some for emergencies.

At 9PM we gave up and went to bed. OK, we read some more. But by 10PM we turned out the flashlights and went to sleep in the darkest night we’ve ever had here. Darker even than the night they took the entire town of Cheney off line to refit a major substation, because on that night, we still had the glow of Spokane. Not so last night. It was, as they say, as dark as the inside of a cow.

We slept well and woke refreshed and it was still dark. Part of the reason it was still dark was it was just after midnight. Dawn was still six hours away. I went out on the back deck. The stars were amazing. The wind had died down, but the temperature was still in the 40’s. Cheney was dark. Spokane was dark. The stars were bright enough to navigate the deck obstacles. I stayed out a while with the binoculars, learning things about the night sky and the heat retention efficiency of pajamas in a 30kt wind on a chilly night.

Dawn came, and no power. The outside temperature was down to 30F, and the house had cooled to 54F. I figured we might have one more night before the interior temperature got cold enough that we had to worry about pipes freezing. We decided that this was likely a bigger outage than we thought (latest word is that WA had twice the number of outages of any previous storm), and sat down to do some serious planning. We had just gotten to the point of discussing how to use the portable gas BBQ grill inside the house without killing ourselves (put it in the fireplace) when the lights came on.

Even the NWS had problems. Here’s something I’ve never seen before, a data drop in temperature readings:

Eight hours, no data

Eight hours, no data

It was only 14 hours for us (others are still out), but it was enough to move us from inconvenience to disaster planning. I started thinking about things like worse windstorms, and Carrington Events, and how fragile civilization really is. We need to do some disaster prep.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

November 8, 2015

Garden Report for 151109

We are in full autumnal mode here, with ten hours of frost on Tuesday night and twelve hours on Thursday night. Wednesday was originally forecast the same, but clouds moved in and gave us twelve hours at 33F. Next week is more of the same (except when it rains), and by mid-month we will hit the point at which every night will see frost.

Scarfed up a handful of late zucchini and summer squash, plus one baby butternut and a pie-pumpkin-sized jack-o-lantern. About the only thing left in the garden is the peas and carrots and chard (oh,my).

Harvested the Santa Maria Beans (pinquitos). Got half a basket from half a section of the KHG. Spent a happy hour standing in the cold wind separating the beans from the non-beans. Harder than it looks. Beans don’t want to be picked. It’s like paper towels — the seam is stronger than the towel. I figure I lost about 20% of the pods, because they were too small, too well hidden, too attached, or too far out of reach. My half-basket included a lot of attached non-bean stuff, and the total weight was ~5lb.

Beans and non-beans

Beans and non-beans

I’m not sure the SMB experiment was a success. A couple accounts I’ve read said they just left the beans in the garden until they dried on the vine. Twenty weeks in, only a quarter of the picked beans looked mature enough to have beans inside them, and none of them looked to be drying out. I might run them through the dehydrator and see if that helps. Meanwhile, the 75% that are young and tender might be cookable like regular old green beans.

It may be that pinquitos are just not suited for the NENW. I may have to give up and order packages of the dried beans from Amazon, the way our forebears did. We’ll see. I’ll report.

Here’s the final scoreboard.

Week Ending 11/09 Vegetable Count Weight oz Unit Weight oz Total Total Weight lb
Tomato  573 68
Bush Buttercup  5  5
Zucchini  1 3  3  23 31
Summer Squash  7 7 1 9 2
Butternut 1  11  11  5  4
Cuke  39  8
Spaghetti  7  14
Pumpkin 1  38 38  5  7
Beans  –  –  5lb  –  9
Peas  –  –  – 1
Bell peppers 4  1

Grand Total 150 pounds. Maybe not the largest harvest ever, but it’s among the top two. Next week, Lessons Learned.

Oatgurt 2

November 5, 2015

Experiment 1: What a difference a broth makes. I spent most of last week and last post complaining about the blandedness of oatmeal and yogurt made with either water or store-bought beef broth. This week I tried oatmeal and yogurt in chicken broth. Specifically, in plain old store-bought chicken broth (the plastic bits in the valve on our pressure cooker have disassembled themselves and it’s now only good for slow-cooking, and we are back to the old ways, at least until Amazon comes through with a new lid).

Turns out that the creamy acid in the yogurt is just the thing to set off the chicken-noodle-broth flavor. The only thing I did to it was add some poultry seasoning, and a few grinds of pepper.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one cup of chicken broth, sugar. Let sit at room temperature overnight, salt in the morning.  Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats.  No potato.

Results: Smooth and creamy. Not bland. Almost like chicken gravy. This is a must repeat, on days when I have store-bought broth and a spare container of yogurt.

Rating: *****

Experiment 2: What a difference a night makes. For my second experiment, I didn’t let it sit overnight. Instead, I built it first thing in the morning, as per normal. Because I wasn’t trying to feed the little yogurcules, I used a single packet of sweetner, instead of a teaspoon of sugar. As with the first experiment, I added some poultry seasoning, and a few grinds of pepper.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, one cup of chicken broth, sweetner, salt. Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats. Add the potato when you take it off the stove.

Results: Quite different, and not as exciting. Soaking overnight let the oats absorb some liquid, which then helped them break down into something smoother. Without that, there was more of an individual oat texture to the meal, and it was quite a bit soupier. The potato helped it come together, but it was, as might be expected, more like regular oats. What surprised me was how sweet it was. A single packet of Splenda provided a lot more sweet than a teaspoon (well, a teaspoon-sized mound in my hand) of sugar. Where the first experiment tasted like chicken gravy, this one tasted like creamed corn.

I suppose one could try splitting the recipe, and only soaking half the oats in half the broth, etc, but that’s too much like cooking.

Rating: *****

Green Thumb Up My Nose

November 1, 2015

Garden Report for 151102

Forecast frost forestalled by rain. Lots of rain. Half an inch in 24hrs on Friday, and another half inch on Saturday and a quarter inch on Sunday. The forecast for next week, once the clouds clear, shows lows of 37F, 29F, 24F … Do we see a trend here?

Meanwhile, I dashed out in between showers to bring in the crops. Twenty pounds of tomatoes from the main KHG. Lots were small, but a dozen were the big yellow Brandywines, running 8oz. each. The regular Brandywines, grown right next to them, are a quarter that. Our total for the year is 68lb, well down from our first KHG season (2012), which saw near a 100lb of tomatoes. A couple of medium-sized spaghetti squash. Half a dozen white radishes.

In 2012 there were five boxes like this

In 2012 there were five boxes like this

I don’t think the amaranth will make it. There’s still no seeds, and Thursday night is forecast to be 24F. But there’s still the Santa Maria beans to bring in, plus whatever peas make it. This may not be a record year, but it’s among the top two.

Here’s the semifinal scoreboard.

Week Ending 11/02 Vegetable Count Weight oz Unit Weight oz Total Total Weight lb
Tomato  135 344  2.5  573 68
Bush Buttercup  5  5.0
Zucchini  1 10  10  22 30.8
Summer Squash  1 15  15 2 1.65
Butternut  4  3.7
Cuke  39  7.65
Spaghetti  2  28  14  7  14
Pie Pumpkin  4  5.6
Beans  –  –  –  –  4.0
Peas  –  –  – 1.0
Bell peppers 4  1.13

Grand Total 143lb, not counting the late stuff.

Oatgurt

October 30, 2015

As in oats and yogurt. Inspired by the link, I dashed out to buy a container of plain yogurt. Imagine my chagrin when I found that they only sold plain yogurt in the molto venti size. I lugged it home and started my experiments. These ran from a third of a cup at cooking time, to a couple tablespoons left to soak in the fridge, down to a simple dinner tablespoonful of yogurt added to a cup of broth and oatmeal and left to ferment on the counter overnight. Sometimes I added a teaspoon of sugar, to help the process along and counter the yogurt tang.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, two dinner teaspoons of yogurt, one cup of broth, sugar. Let sit at room temperature overnight.  Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats.

Results: A different shade of bland. Bland in two dimensions, rather than one. Was smooth, creamy, tangy, acidulous, and needed a whole lot of something more. Using broth rather than water helped, except when the broth clashed with the tang. One time I added blueberries and a couple packs of sweetner, and that was nice. I think it has potential, but I’m not quite sure how I want to progress from here. Meanwhile, does anyone need half a gallon of yogurt?

Rating: *****

Green Thumb Up My Nose

October 25, 2015

Garden Report for 151026

Did it or didn’t it frost this week? Depends on where you ask. For example, the weather boffins predicted it for 32F on early Friday morning, out in the Turnbull, and 35F at KGEG. WeatherSpark had 32F. What was the actual? WeatherSpark says 36F, Turnbull said 36F, KGEG said 38F. My house thermometer said 35F (and Nest said 27F, not sure what planet they’re on), but the meat thermometer (hey, it’s digital, it’s portable) said 35F at the KHG, and 32F ten feet up on the deck. A similar story was told Saturday night. So far, nothing has turned black. Forecast for next week says we’ll take another run at it on Tuesday. Here’s Cliff Mass, the NWWx guy talking about the two week forecast.

Nevertheless, I’m starting to get serious about shutting down the garden.  I figure that even if we get another week or two with no frost, the chance of getting any new squash or tomatoes is essentially zero.

Pulled all the tomatoes off the 32F deck, just over five poundsworth. I was going to harvest the last of the squash from the KHG and pull them up, but there’s a few that might grow some more. Trimmed back the KHG tomatoes, and we’ll see about when to harvest them. I’m leaving them for now, in hopes they do something besides hang greenly from their stalks. Harvested a bunch of chard, before it got too big. We’re overstocked on greens, so likely will lose some. MJ is away and I have this tendency to just eat big chunks of meat, standing up at the sink.

This week's haul

This week’s haul

Meanwhile, the Portable Garden did pretty well, producing three banana-sized summer squash total (harvested one this week). This is more and bigger than the KHG squash did. I suspect the reason is that the garden squash was in the shade of the tomatoes. Something similar is going on in Section 3, where the peas, which by rights should be ready for picking this week, are still in the six-inch-high phase because of heavy shade from the Santa Maria beans. In systems terms, this is gardening under constraints.

Chasing the sunny spots

Chasing the sunny spots

The amaranth has all headed out, and has produced little white flowerlike things amongst the red  … flowers. Nothing that looks like seed. The big one headed first, and then fell over, just like the YouTubers say, but no seeds.

Here’s the latest scoreboard.

Week Ending 10/26 Vegetable Count Weight oz Unit Weight oz Total Total Weight lb
Tomato  60 88  1.5  438 46.25
Bush Buttercup  5  5.0
Zucchini  1 10  10  22 30.8
Summer Squash  1 15  15 2 1.65
Butternut  4  3.7
Cuke  39  7.65
Spaghetti  5  12.75
Pie Pumpkin  4  5.6
Beans  –  –  –  –  4.0
Peas  –  –  – 1.0
Bell peppers 4  1.13

Grand Total 119.53lb, and we haven’t touched the KHG tomatoes yet. I think it’s a record year.

BrunOats

October 22, 2015

From Wikipedia entry on Brunost:

Brown cheese, also called whey cheese or red cheese is a caramelised brown Scandinavian whey cheese made from cow’s milk. It is produced and consumed primarily in Norway. Gjetost is a variant made from a mixture of goat’s and cow’s milk.

I found a red cube of the Gjetost in the expensive cheese section of Safeway. The cheese inside is about two inches on each side, and a rich-looking medium-dark brown. It tastes a little like caramel, possibly because it’s made from caramelized milk. It’s good on crackers, but only in a very thin layer. Otherwise it’s like eating a candy bar.

Brown inside yellow inside red

It’s a lot browner than it looks

I used a chunk that was about 3/4″ on a side — call it two measuring tablespoonsworth — sliced into four or five thin wafers. Even so, it took them a while to melt in the simmering beef broth. Otherwise, no special ingredients.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, two dinner teaspoons of Gjetost, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, one cup of broth, salt.  Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats.  Add the Gjetost at the beginning and let it melt down a bit before adding the other ingredients. Add the potato just before you take it off the stove.

Results: Excellent. I’m thinking this would be a great way to make a superb gravy. A cup of beef broth and a tablespoon or so of Gjetost and maybe some flour to thicken, and you’ll have something rich and flavorsome.

Rating: *****

Anime worth watching, Summer 2015

October 21, 2015

The Summer crop of anime was particularly good. Of course, there are always the ones that just don’t hold my interest, or that never piqued it in the first place. Some I watched because they were on on nights that nothing was on. Programs like Monster MusumeActually, I am a Vampire, and Wagnaria all held my interest, but only enough to watch to the end. Not enough to rewatch, or recommend. What was good, by my standards?

Gate: A Connecticut Akihabara Yankee Otaku in King Arthur’s Emperor Augustus’ Court. Medieval fantasy world invades Japan through an interdimensional gate (NFI). JSDF strikes back. This could have been a modern-military-overruns-peasants snoozefest, but instead it concentrates on the adventures of an otaku recon team leader (it’s not an otaku recon team, he’s an otaku who leads a recon team, which isn’t otaku, except for maybe one, or something) as he deals with the elvenmaids, catgirls, and combat bunnygirls of the fantasy world. There’s an interesting fight between a flight of F-4’s and a dragon.

JSDF cultural exchange program

JSDF cultural exchange program

Non Non Biyori, Repeat: Does it again. In an interesting twist, this isn’t a “sequel”, nor is it a “prequel”, it’s a “parallelquel”. The original NNB took place across one school year — city girl comes to a one-room schoolhouse in the country, learns that things are different there. NNB-R takes place across the same school year, but covers different events. Think of it as the original covering the even-numbered days and NNB-R covering the odd-numbered days. In any event, it’s a simple, believable, charming slice of life program that’s even better than the original. The Japanese countryside is a major character all by itself.

Lost in the landscape

Lost in the landscape

School-Live: Stay’in alive. Not sure how long one is supposed to protect the key suspense element on a show like this. Suffice to say, it’s a combination of slice of life and horror, with a nice balance between the two and a well done ending. Come for the cute girls doing cute things at school. Stay for the cute girls doing what they need to do to stay alive. If you are new to the program, don’t read anything else on it. Go watch Episode 1 now. I’ll wait.

Looking for a lost dog

Looking for a lost dog

Overlord: Trapped in an RPG. Another take on a minor sub-genre. MMORPG is shutting down, and the nostalgic guild leader hangs around until the clock counts down to zero — and then starts counting up again. Unlike Log Horizon (where everyone is trapped and they spend a certain amount of time wondering how to get home), or Is it Wrong to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon (where it’s not really an RPG, it just acts like one, and adventurer is just a job description), the protagonist in Overlord is the only PC in a new world of newly-alive NPCs. Once he figures this out, he shrugs his bony shoulders and decides to keep playing.

My NPCs are now alive, time to conquer the world

My NPCs are now alive, time to conquer the world

Wakakozake: Another food short. Office Lady stops at various Japanese fast food places to try their combinations of food and drink. At three minutes, it covers just enough information to be interesting. Unlike, say, this season’s short, JK Meshi, which discusses food in the last 45seconds.

Potato salad and Oolong tea with saki, only 500 yen!

Potato salad and Oolong tea with saki, only 500 yen!

It is voiced by Sawashiro Miyuki, sounding like a real OL, and nothing like her usual sultry anime persona.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

October 18, 2015

Garden Report for 151019

Yet another Gorgeous Week, with highs around 70F and lows in the low 40’s. Why does this always happen right after school starts? And why does it go away so soon? Depending on which forecast station I look at, by the end of the week we’ll either be in the mid 30’s, or we’ll have frost. The 30’s forecast is for KGEG, which is further away, but equivalently urban. The frost forecast is for the Turnbull Wildlife Sanctuary Ranger Station, which is closer, but out in the basalt scablands. I’m hoping we can make it through the week frost-free so I can start closing down the garden next weekend.

Started shutting down the deck containers this weekend. Cut the plants off, dump them on the compost pile, then dump the dirt from the pot on top of them. The roots have so filled the pots that it’s like dropping a cast of the inside of the pot. The two plants (Patio and Celebrity) between them had about six small to medium tomatoes. OK small to really small. Got almost four pounds of tomatoes, total, including a pound of greenies. Another handfull of lemon cucumbers. Lots of chard, and a little lettuce.

Not much else coming along, despite the pleasant weather. I guess we’ll end up like we did a couple of years ago, with four or five flats of tomatoes ripening on the living room floor.

I’m not into monster vegetables, so I only get one if something escapes me. Like the 7lb zucchini that was hanging vertically into the shadows of Section 1. I cut it into sections and gave them away to friends at the libraries Oktoberfest party.*

Hard to fit into a salad

Hard to fit into a salad

Here’s the latest scoreboard.

Week Ending 10/19 Vegetable Count Weight oz Unit Weight oz Total Total Weight lb
Tomato  22 60 2.7  378 40.75
Bush Buttercup  5  5.0
Zucchini 1 112  112  21 30.2
Summer Squash 1 0.65
Butternut  4  3.7
Cuke  6 12.8 2.1  39  7.65
Spaghetti  5  12.75
Pie Pumpkin  4  5.6
Beans  –  –  –  –  4.0
Peas  –  –  – 1.0
Bell peppers  1  4.5 4.5 4  1.13

Grand Total 112.6lb. That’s about 12lb behind last year at this time, but last year at this time I had just closed out the garden. In 2013 the garden had already been closed for a week, and we had 76lbs, not counting the 40lbs of jack-o-lanterns.

*Since it was a Hawaiian-themed party, I got to wear lederhosen with an aloha shirt. Nobody picked up on the Heinlein reference.

Anime I’m watching, Fall 2015

October 15, 2015

This has to be the thinnest anime season in years. My standards are pretty low, but I’ve only come up with four that look the least bit interesting. On the other hand, they’re all pretty good (not great, but good). As an aside, they’re all on Crunchyroll. Funimation has nothing worth watching, even in the second tier.

Bones, the anime is turning into a body-of-the-week program. Part A sets up a murder mystery. Part B is split between five minutes of mystery-solving, and six minutes of character development. Interesting, but rushed.

It obviously died protecting something

For some reason, it smells like garbage

Oh, and Episode 2 had the same glove-snap, psychedelic bones, “Let’s solve this mystery” thing they did in Episode 1. It could get old real fast.

The Perfect Insider continues its artsy Eurocinema way. Sensei and Moe-girl … and a bunch of students (much to Moe-girl’s disgust) … go camping on The Island of Dr. Magata. Scenes swap back and forth in time, between almost-20 Moe-girl trying to seduce Sensei, and just-13 Magata trying to seduce her uncle. Moe-girl and Sensei visit the bunker where the possibly-killer genius has been housed for the last 15 years. Power surges, lighting outages, and software glitches run rampant. Locked doors open, and Dr. Magata attempts to escape, disguised as a doll riding on an automated serving trolley.

We're not much for plot, but we've got mood lighting and body language down pat.

We’re not much for plot, but we’ve got mood lighting and body language down pat.

Owarimonogatari is very narrowly focused, for Monogatari. The first episode took place in one classroom. The second episode took place inside one classroom and an old house (with a side-visit to Araragi’s old middle-school, where it appears that Sengoku Nadeko has his old shoe locker). All the old gang gets a look-in, from Kanbaru to Senjogahara.

Senjogahara's back, and Hanekawa's got her

Senjogahara’s back, and Hanekawa’s got her

Utawarerumono is one that was on my don’t bother list, but looks interesting enough I might continue it. It’s a sequel to a VN-based anime  that’s evidently set many years later and several mountain chains away from the 2006 original. Amnesiac man wakes up walking barefoot down a snowy mountain wearing what looks suspiciously like a set of green surgical scrubs. Amnesiac man is chased by a giant centipede, saved from the giant centipede by a sentient jello, and saved from the sentient jello by a wandering catgirl herbologist and her pack diatryma. It’s what I’d call a fantasy costume period piece, usually not my thing, but the interpersonal chemistry is trending towards Spice and Wolf, so I’ll watch for a bit longer.

Bath-peeking catgirl gets an eyefull

Bath-peeking catgirl gets an eyefull

That’s it. Four shows. Bones on Wednesday, Insider on Thursday, and Monogatari and Utawarerumono on Saturday. Fortunately, I have a large backlog of DVDs to watch, plus some galgames for the PSV, plus a bunch of LN’s. Oh yeah, and paper correcting, lecture preparing, and research.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

October 11, 2015

Garden Report for 151012

Gorgeous week, with weather mostly around 70F, with strong winds Saturday night, followed by rain. We look to be set for a cooler version of the same, with highs around 65F, but a warming trend could put us into the mid-70’s by next weekend.

Harvested a four pound spaghetti squash and a bunch of Section 1 tomatoes. Several were in the 6oz range, which is where I’d like them.  Amaranth is heading like crazy, and the big one has fallen over from the weight, but no actual seeds. I tried cooking up some of the leaves anyway, and they were OK, if you put enough garlic and cumin on them. Santa Maria beans are chugging along. Hard to see them going dry before November. Our buttercrunch lettuce has bolted, but we have some baby romaine and such just coming in. No zucchinis and no summer squash, but a couple of summers are doing well on my transportable garden.

It looks lonely, but it gets a lot of sun.

It looks lonely, but it gets a lot of sun.

Here’s the latest scoreboard.

Week Ending 10/12 Vegetable Count Weight oz Unit Weight oz Total Total Weight lb
Tomato 17 65  3.8  356 37
Bush Buttercup  5  5.0
Zucchini 1 22  22  21 23.2
Summer Squash 1 0.65
Butternut  4  3.7
Cuke 3 13.7  4.6  33  6.85
Spaghetti  1  64  64  5  12.75
Pie Pumpkin  4  5.6
Beans  –  –  –  –  4.0
Peas  –  –  – 1.0
bell peppers 3  0.85

Grand Total 100.6lb

The Princess and the Pilot

October 9, 2015

In the Winter of 2014 there was an anime series titled The Pilot’s Love Song, which featured a romance between a commoner pilot and the daughter of a lordly house. That was embedded in a plot best described as “society puts all it’s useless aristocracy on the Golgafrincham B-Ark and sends them to find the other side of the sky.” There were some good flying scenes at the start, but they grew fewer as the ‘plot’ progressed. Many people compared it, unfavorably, to a 2011 anime movie The Princess and the Pilot. I just watched TP2, and I agree.

Surprisingly, TP2 is set in the same universe as TPLS. It’s a better show, overall, but it still demonstrates many of the flaws of the series.

There’s a war on between two countries, let’s call them A and L. Country L evidently doesn’t have enough good pilots, so they hire mercenaries, one of whom is an A/L half breed, called a bastid or some such. He, of course, is the best pilot in the sky, but is hated by all the L-sians. Nonetheless, he’s the one chosen to haul their princess from the island she’s on, surrounded by A-ish forces, to rendezvous with the L-sian flying fleet, or what’s left of it, so she can marry The Prince.

The Boulton-Paul SantaCruz

The Boulton-Paul SantaCruz

The story deals with their three day flight in a seaplane/recon fighter that has to stop every evening to refuel with water. The Prince of L-sia is evidently just as bright as the rest of the aristos, and sends a telegram to her in a breakable code, giving her itinerary. Think Yamamoto shoot-down — for a while I wondered if it was deliberate. Naturally, the entire A-ish flying fleet is out after them. They almost get shot down several times, and do get damaged badly enough that they have to hide out on an island for an idyllic several days while they fix the plane, and install a new cockpit canopy (he carries a spare). She becomes enamoured of him (as castaways on desert islands are wont to do, and the whiskey might have helped), but he’s a true gentleman, and politely rebuffs her, maintaining his stoic acceptance of the status quo.

Not a flight of Kyushu J7W1 Shinden

Not a flight of Kyushu J7W1 Shinden

The airplanes are cool, mostly. The seaplane/recon fighter has fully retractable floats and an overdrive function that won’t quit. It also has stowage in the back for an 8-man raft, a full first aid kit, and seven suitcases, plus stowage in the front for various spare parts, like cockpit canopies. One wonders where the fuel goes. While we’re on design flaws, it’s a little disconcerting to see that their recon bird doesn’t have any forward firing weapons, but it does have a rear seat with a rear seat gunner, reminiscent of a Boulton Paul Defiant. The enemy fighters all look like the Sanka Mk.B from Sky Crawlers.

The flying scenes are great, but the actual flying is terrible. The A-ish fleet does an open ocean search by flying in close formation with wandering searchlights, like they were the Goodyear blimp at a football halftime, rather than spreading out in a line. Even Admiral Nelson could have run a better air war. All of the encounters take place in broken clouds, but The Pilot doesn’t think to just jump into a cloud and stay there — he’s always on top of the cloud, where it’s easy to see him. He also doesn’t even consider the possibility of flying at night.

Do you think they're looking for something?

Look sharp! The Sea Gals are about to take the field!!

The A-ish fleet has some sort of homing missile, probably a heat seeker, but they seem to be barely faster than the seaplane, and the L-sians haven’t invented flares. The A-ish fighters have radios, but don’t seem to coordinate their attacks very well — The Pilot gets down on the deck and they line up to take turns missing him. In the final combat, the A-ish fighter gets on his tail and drives up to within pistol shot, so The Princess sprays him with the tail gun. Her sustained burst, pointed right at his aiming reticle, manages to saw off the outer two feet of one wing. She’d have done better by pulling the pintle off the tailgun mount and letting the whole rig fly backwards into his cockpit.

Can you see me now?

Can you see me now?

The animation, by studio Madhouse, is not up to KyoAni standards, but neither is it 90’s cartoon level. Character art is OK. Flying art is good. From a performance standpoint, the characters themselves are mostly cardboard. The aristos are the worst caricature of prejudice. The bastid Pilot remains stoic in the face of prejudice. The Princess is the only one to grow. She starts out as a silent cipher, with three maids and seven suitcases of minimum wardrobe, and ends up as a tough flying partner, one who hacks off her hair when it gets in the way, and runs around in a halter and rolled up trousers, rebuilding airplanes on desert islands. On the way, she shoots down an enemy fighter. Hooray for her, but she’s the only one.

This old thing? It's my islandwear.

This old thing? It’s by Islandwear.

It runs 104 minutes on Crunchyroll, including a good ten minutes of credits. It’s worth watching, if you like flying films, and you can always fast forward through the character development.

TL:DR — Anime I never finished, Fall 2015

October 7, 2015

Not much to talk about here, because my in-depth  cover art analysis already filtered out a lot. But not everything. And one still wants to spot-check the discards to make sure one was right. On the other hand, some of these might not be appearing on either Crunchyroll or Funimation, and it appears Funimation is getting a late start on the season (only one new series posted so far), and I don’t want to wait for fansubs, or for Funimation to finish resting their server hamsters, so not everything on that list is covered here.

Will Watch second thoughts:

Beautiful Bones (AKA The Corpse Buried Beneath Sakurako’s Feet): Rich scientist helps police with their inquiries, whether they want help or not. Her connections help.

Obviously murdered. I'll take it home for my collection

Obviously murdered. I’ll take it home for my collection

An uneven start. Interesting premise. Very well done art. Strange plotting and characterization. Sakurako drags high school kid around to her bone digs. Finds 100 year old skull. Doesn’t bother to look for the rest. Stops at police crime site. Insults local police inspector. Points out why supposed double suicide wasn’t. Tries to steal the skull. Feeds boy Alaskan shrimp (AKA あまえび, sweet shrimp).

The bones tell me things

The bones tell me things

The boy, shonen, is a typical insert-self high school student — observer, commenter, inept assistant. Her character is all over the place — arrogant and insulting, interesting to the point of being lyrical when speaking of the bones, childish when trying to keep the skull. The show has promise, it’s just hiding it well. I’ll give it another couple eps.

Might Watch results:

Turns out, The Empire of Corpses and Miss Hokusai are both films.

Young Doctor Frankenstein Black Jack: He’s young. He’s a medical student. He has a huge collection of body scars. He’s there when the ward is overwhelmed by a mass casualty accident. One of the casualties is a kid on a gurney with an arm and a leg torn off. Despite the fact that someone helpfully stuck the limbs into an ice-filled bento box, the cartoonish senior doctor wants to just clean up the stumps and send him on his way. Something, something, triage. Young Frank Jack, jumps in, and with the help of an intern (who for some reason reminds me of Ghost Hunt’s Taniyama Mai), races the kid out the door and down the street and an unknown distance through the city to a sleazy clinic run by a self-doping doctor who will let him do the operation there.

We turn left at the first dark alley

We turn left at the first dark alley

What was the result? I don’t know. I tuned out at the break, while the intern was admiring the top half of Young Frank Jack’s collection of body scars.

Perfect Insider: Very much an introductory episode, in that you have no idea where the story is going after this. POV character Nishinosono Moe, is a young woman (old enough to drive, young enough to wear motley tights) with a crush on a slightly older professor. The Maguffin seems to be another woman, Dr. Magata, a genius (Ph.D. at 11, murdered her parents at 13 [maybe], currently hidden away on an island to do her [unspecified] research). Everybody is asking the big questions about the whichness of what.* Moe-girl has Skype-interviewed Magata, who talks about things like why seven is the loneliest number, just like B and D.

Why yes, I've seen Neon Genesis Evangelion. Why do you ask?

Why yes, I’ve seen Neon Genesis Evangelion.
Why do you ask?

Moe-girl and professor and his students decide to go camping on Magata’s island. Blurb says they find a corpse and solve a mystery. Not sure if this will be a corpse of the week, like Bones is shaping up to be. The ED looks like a fractal version of Conway’s Game of Life, with Unix-like terminal windows floating around (looks like they were programmed in Borland C), and finally resolving into a CGI image of Dr Magata.

This is trying to be an anime for thinking sentients. I think. I’ll watch at least one more episode, just to see what happens. It might be a keeper.

*As Douglas Adams said “Why does man eat? How does man eat? And, Where shall we have lunch?”

And how did my rejects do?

Heavy Object: After seven minutes of pure expository lump with no end in sight, I bailed. Right after the invention of the snowplow.

And I wonder why it's only two guys to clear 3km of runway

And I wonder why it’s only two guys to clear 3km of runway

Gaukusen Toshi * (AKA Asterisk War): New kid with natural dueling ability transfers to school where winning duels is the primary goal, meets high powered but obnoxious red-headed girl, semi-powerful but obnoxious musclebound guy, garterbelt-wearing Student Council President who has great tracts of … boobs …, the better to massage his shoulder blades with, and helpful, M-1 standard issue sidekick guy. Fights most of a duel. Dodges assassination attempt, finds embroidered hanky, sees angry redhead with her trousers half off, and finds that his missing sister is remembered mostly as a corrupt data file — not necessarily in that order. Oh yeah, his goal in transferring there is to find himself. I lasted the entire episode, but only because I was hoping to see Miss Garterbelt again.

...always get this treatment from the President of the Student Council

… is that a sword hilt in your pocket or did you just notice my hemline?

Rakudai Kishi no Cavalry: Kid with natural dueling skills. School that emphasizes dueling. Powerful but obnoxious redhead.  Magical duel…. You know the drill…. Redhead wears the garterbelts.

Lance N’ Masques: Modern day knight. As in, it’s modern days, and he’s still running around in armor, with a cape, a domino mask, and a big magic lance. He rescues tiny girls who fall off their playground equipment, and high school girls getting hit on by high school boys. After which, he kisses their hands and gives a creepy speech about protecting them forever. The youngsters are charmed. The ones old enough to know better run away, shouting hentai! I’m surprised he isn’t in jail. Did I mention that he has a magic horse that transforms into a chibi girl? And that the whole administrative staff of the worldwide association of creepy knights is run by maids? Life is too short, and I am too old.

... my lance extended to its full size and I just had to come ... rescue you

… my lance extended to its full size and I just had to come … rescue you.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

October 4, 2015

Garden Report for 151005

Gorgeous week, with weather mostly around 70F, with one peak at 80F. Lows in the low 40’s, with a spot of rain at the end. Forecast for more of the same, with peaks in the upper 70’s.

Not much harvested. Tiny banana peppers that I’m not even counting. Tiny summer squash. Tiny butternut squash. Couple of midsize zucchini.  The amaranth is heading, but nothing that looks like seeds yet. Main garden tomatoes are still thinking about turning, but so far have only managed a brownish pink. High hopes for next week.

Other than the camo-pattern, I can't tell Italian Zucchini from the kind that comes from Italy

Other than the camo-pattern, I can’t tell Italian Zucchini from the kind that comes from Italy

Here’s the latest scoreboard.

Week Ending 10/05 Vegetable Count Weight oz Unit Weight oz Total Total Weight lb
Tomato 13 22.5  1.7  339 33
Bush Buttercup  5  5.0
Zucchini 2 13.2  6.6  20 21.8
Summer Squash 1 2.5  2.5 1 0.65
Butternut 2 9 4.5  4  3.7
Cuke 1 2.25 2.25  30  6
Spaghetti  4  8.75
Pie Pumpkin  4  5.6
Beans  –  –  –  –  4.0
Peas  –  –  – 1.0
bell peppers 3  0.85

Grand Total 90.4lb

This time last year we had 95lbs of produce, including twice the weight in tomatoes. A revised look says 2013 gave us 76lb total, including a bunch of tomatoes that were ripening on the living room floor, but not including 40lb of jack-o-lanterns.


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