Green Thumb Up My Nose

April 24, 2016

Garden Report for 160425

The two week wrapup is just like the one week wrapup preceeding: cool, followed by warm, followed by stinking hot, followed by cool again. Outdoor thermometer (12ft up the North side of the house) peaked at 84F. Today it peaked at 64F. Next week will be cool again.

Cabbage seedlings seem to be doing OK. I took the whitehouses off, figuring that their shade wouldn’t make up for the increased heat load. Couldn’t think of any other brassicae worth planting in Section 1 this late in the spring, so I stuck in a couple of pepper plants — Bell and Banana.

Cleaned up sections 3 and 4 and did some early seedlings. Section 3 got a whitehouse and two zucchini seedlings. Section 4 got a whitehouse and a bunch of tomatoes — I figured I’d take a chance and plant them out six weeks early. The usual: Early Girl, Better Boy, Beefsteak. If the NENW reverts to type and we get a killer frost in May, there’s still time to replant.

Read an interesting article on a fire and forget hydroponic setup. A half-gallon jug filled with special hydroponic solution, into which you stick a special plant-retaining-sleeve  filled with special hydroponic soil and some small plant, like lettuce.You set it up in a sunny window and leave it. The water slowly evaporates through the plant, and the plant slowly fills up the soil with roots. When the water drops below the level of the plant-retaining-sleeve, the roots will keep growing, down into the water.

Not being a hydroponicist, I took the hillbilly approach and used an old sock, potting soil, and a half gallon of water with a half-teaspoon of plant food dissolved in it. The picture shows the result, six weeks or so in:

Hillbilly Hydroponics

Hillbilly Hydroponics

I couldn’t get a good shot of the bottom, because my phonecam kept focusing on the plastic bottle, but there is indeed a thin thread of root hanging down half an inch into the water. The lettuce looks like it will be ready for harvest in another couple of weeks. I may just trim a couple of leaves at a time, because a good lettuce like that, you don’t want to eat all at once.

This was a proof of concept experiment. It says that next winter we can have fresh greens from November to May, assuming we get the timing right, and don’t mind having a sun room full of bottles. And going barefoot.

TL:DR — Anime I never finished (and don’t intend to), Spring 2016

April 19, 2016

So here’s my first cut at cuts. One or two eps was all it took for these to drop off the radar.

Anne-Happy: Three girls try to find happiness in a class full of losers. Too much ‘cute girls doing cute things’. What the British would call twee.

None cuter, and we know it

None cuter, and we know it

Twin Star Exorcist: A pair of high-powered 14-year old exorcists get told they need to start making babies to save the world. He’s a whiner. She’s inept. Chief exorcist is a con-man. Strange mix of well done backgrounds and secondary actors, combined with cartoony main characters.

More like grade-schoolers

More like grade-schoolers, really

Pan de Peace: As I thought. Cute girls doing cute things… with bread … manages to be boring, even when limited to three minutes.

There's another three minutes of this

There’s another three minutes of this

High School Fleet: GaruPan meets KanColle. High school girls operate automated warships, get involved in some sort of high level government plot. Alternates between too many shrieking adolescents on the bridge, and not enough really good CGI warship shots. I continue to watch, but I fast forward through the dialogue.

The fleet sorties!

The fleet sorties!

Anime Postview, Winter 2016

April 17, 2016

This is not a review of the Winter anime season, quite. Instead, it’s a look at how well my preview of the Winter season worked out. TL:DR is that I scored 3 out of 4 on all three areas, sortof. Here they are, under their original headings:

WILL WATCH: Shows I planned to watch, based on the cover art alone. I got three out of four right. Gate, Dagashi Kashi, and Phantom World were all good, or at least watchable. Haruchika, not so much.

MIGHT WATCH: Shows I thought might be worth watching. Three out of four again, except that I dropped the ball on two of them. The ten-episode Wonderful World was watchable, in much the same way that Phantom World was — they were both well executed examples of standard anime fare. Erased and Rakugo were widely praised, and I really liked the first episode of each, but I just never was in the mood for watching the rest.

WON’T WATCH: Shows with off-putting cover art or storylines. Yet another three out of four. Of course, it’s hard to say that I made the right choice in not watching something if I didn’t watch it and so can’t tell if I shouldn’t have watched it or not. Number four was Oshiete, Galko-chan, and I did watch it and it was funnier than it had any right to be, given the fact that it was built around girls talking about stuff that embarrasses guys.

ALSO WATCHED: There were a few shows that didn’t fit on my Winter preview that I ended up watching anyway. I guess I’m also three for four on these.

Aokana, the high school flying circus, I will discuss elsewhere. Good, solid anime, with some fun flying scenes. Recommended.

Tabimachi Late Show was a four-episode, seven-minute, minimalist series. As one commenter said, he’d seen manga that had better animation. To me, it looked like they just used the key frames, with no in-betweening, but that’s because I’ve been watching too much Shirobako. In any event, they were four unrelated stories that were by turns some combination of sweet, spooky, and enigmatic. Recommended. Episode 3 highly so.

She and Her Cat, as told by the cat. Another four episode, seven-minute series, but with much better animation and an actual story line. Bittersweet ending (watch through the end credits). Recommended.

Ojisan and Marshmallow was yet another short, about a fat, middle-aged guy who likes marshmallows, and a cute girl who likes him. As bad as it sounds. Why did I watch it? I don’t know. The harder question is, why did I admit to watching it? I don’t know. Stop asking questions. Go away. Go make some s’mores.

The return of the $640 toilet seat

April 16, 2016

Pentagon waste is an evergreen topic. It never grows old. It never goes away. It’s always there when you need a quick filler. Last week it was TomGram‘s turn to break out the old war horse and give it a trot around the block. They even bring back an iconic symbol of Pentagon waste, the $640 toilet seat.

The trouble is, they rarely address all the root causes of these budget busters. To their mind, they are all due to single-source contracts and contractor-driven over-runs. But there are other problems, and they are baked into the system.

You see, much of the waste is due to Congress specifying rules that maximize the ability of their district to get contracts, rather than maximizing efficiency. And much is due to Congress wanting close and continuous control over the budget, as is their Constitutional duty.

Not worth $640 Except in small lots

Not worth $640
Except in small lots

For example, that toilet seat. The reason it cost so much is that Congressionally mandated accounting rules said that the entire cost of re-opening a closed production line had to be applied against the 54 covers that were ordered. Why didn’t they build more and amortize the cost over a longer production run? Because the Services are limited in how many out-year spare parts they can order.

Another reason for cost overruns is feature creep — government mandated additions and changes to the system. It takes a long time to develop a new weapons system, and technology changes. That being the case, the government will often come to the contractor and say “we want to add x capability”. The contractor isn’t being paid to say no, so they add the new capability and the new weight and charge the additional cost.

F-22 Raptor Heavy as you want it to be

F-22 Raptor
Heavy as you want it to be

When I was on the Air Staff in the early 1980’s, we were working on the specifications for the ATF, the Advanced Tactical Fighter that would become the F-22, with an IOC of 2005, a twenty year development cycle. The ATF had a takeoff weight of 23,000KG, while the F-22 has a takeoff weight of 29,000KG. Where did those extra six tons come from? Part was reality contaminating a beautiful design. Part of it was feature creep.

There was one incident in the last ten years or so (from memory, sorry), where a contractor was hauled into court for fleecing the government, and the court looked at the records and said in effect “the government knew and approved all of these price changes and is totally complicit in the cost overruns. You got no case.”

Am I saying that contractors don’t try to screw over the government and don’t pad their expense accounts at every opportunity? Heavens no. It goes on all the time. The Lockheed Corporation of toilet seat fame was infamous for it. There are whole battalions of administrators that should be in jail after Afghanistan and Iraq. But remember that a major weapons system like the F-22 will have a small army of DoD accountants and contract officers in the production facility.

The lesson is, don’t believe everything you read in the press. But you knew that already, right?

Green Thumb Up My Nose

April 10, 2016

Garden Report for 160411

Cool, followed by warm, followed by stinking hot. Outdoor thermometer (12ft up the North side of the house) said 80F. Thermometer in the Little White House said 100F+. Next week will show a return to normal, with highs in the mid-50’s and lows in the mid 30’s, with some rain.

Just the thing to keep your seedlings warm

Just the thing to keep your seedlings warm

Perfect weather for putting in new seedlings, except that last week’s cabbages may have been stunted by the heat. I put up the Second White House and installed all the peas I’d been seedlingizing. Then I laid down a batch of the wire shelving and direct seeded more peas, and some Asian long beans. To fill in the gaps, I sprinkled some of last year’s lettuce seeds around.

That filled out Section 2. I’ve got half of Section 1 to deal with yet. That’s scheduled for brassicae, but I’m not sure what kind or where. More wire shelving.

Shirobako news

April 9, 2016

Shirobako, my favorite anime, right after GaruPan, just won the Tokyo Anime Award Festival prize as the best Television Animation of the year, and, in a panel held as part of the program at the Festival, the various producers of Shirobako (including the CEO of P.A. Works) said, more or less, that there might be a sequel “If we could decide on a theme.”

ShirobakoAward

One of the things that director Mizushima seems to be good at is starting you off sceptical and then pulling you in to the story. Those who watched the first episode of Girls und Panzer and thought it was just about fanservice, with tanks, were soon proven wrong. Likewise, it’s interesting to follow the consciousness-raising of an Anime News Network reviewer, going from a bemused first episode discussion of moe slice of life in the workplace to cheers and tears at the final episodes of Shirobako. I have high hopes for his current cast-of-thousands Mayoiga: Lost Village.

TL:DR — Anime I never finished (but mean to), Winter 2016

April 5, 2016

Usually, shows under the TL:DR header are stinkers. These are not. They are well done, (mostly) well received, and the first two probably would have worked as mainstream live action programs. So why didn’t I finish them? I don’t know. Anime Ennui? Being at a point in my intellectual development where I would rather watch Galko Chan? One day, I plan to watch these all the way through.

ERASED: Time travel murder mystery. Well done setup, despite the done-to-death hero found bending over victim with bloody knife plot device

Showa Genroku: Trying to make it as a vaudeville storyteller in the ’50’s. First episode was excellent. Demonstration of how a rakuga works was fascinating, as well as funny.

Grimgar: Being an adventurer in a fantasy game is all fun and, well, games, until you actually have to murder a poor solitary goblin in cold blood. Psychological study masquerading as a trapped in a video game anime.

Dimension W: The least satisfying and most traditional anime on this list. Former enhanced government warrior searches for unlicensed maguffins energy coils, dragging along an adopted gynoid, which is like an android only with gynaecological aspects. Good adventure, good characters, worth coming back to. Someday.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

April 4, 2016

Garden Report for 160404

Cold start to the week followed by warming into the upper 60’s. Forecast is for a …. cold start to the week followed by warming into the lower 70’s.

For the last couple of years I’ve been filling my containers with potting soil at the start of the season, then dumping the soil in a corner of the yard to lie fallow before being used on top of the KHG. So this week I’ve been moving barrows of soil from the corner to the KHG. Enough to add three inches or so to two sections. I figure between that and my four-section crop rotation I should be able to keep my soil pest free.

It hasn’t been the coldest of winters — thanks El Nino — but we did have two weeks with the highs below freezing at the end of December. I measured the soil temperature 12″ down in the garden at the start of every month, and it never dropped below 40F. So I guess I’ve got some good microbiome stuff going on down there.

Started a bunch of cabbages and peas indoors. Will move them outside Real Soon Now. Bought six cabbage seedlings and planted them out under my new mini-greenhouse. We’ll see if we can get a crop before everything bolts.

Not really a cloche

The Little GreenHouse (yes I know it’s white).

UPDATE: We had a nice windstorm today, gusts in the 30’s. But my weighting and clamping seems to have worked, and the LGH is still there

How to find my blog

April 1, 2016

Are you reading this blog now? Good. You’ve found it.
Ha, Ha, April Fool.

OK. On a more serious note, I thought I’d run through last month’s searches and see what terms people used to find this site.

So, in March, I had just over 1,000 hits, or about 35/day. Not quite half of those (14/day) were based on unknown queries, due to Google’s entirely reasonable policy of protecting user privacy. What about the rest? Well here they are, somewhat compacted ( / means two different queries. A number (n) means (n) identical queries):

We start off with the sane people, looking for organizational websites, or software help, or recipes, or gardening advice:

usmlm.org
libre office charts / calendar

oatmeal or lettuce 2
ramen mix oat
chiveyo meaning??

maintaining a keyhole garden
gardens with chicken wire and hay

Have no idea what a chiveyo is, but they found my oatmeal with chiveyogurt recipe

Then we get folks looking for specific anime:

yuichi kanon 2002 3

girls und panzer mouse trap
saunders kei 3
maho nishizumi
leopard 2 anime
kokoro connect taichi e inaba
anime school body swap
aiura kiss
where does highschool of the dead leave off

I think I’m the only one who has ever written about Kanon 2002, and I don’t think you can do a query on GaruPan without getting a hit on my blog. As for the other searches, I don’t think anyone ever kissed in Aiura — it wasn’t that kind of anime. And the HOTD question is perfectly reasonable, and the answer is that Season 1 of the anime ends at Volume 4 Chapter 15 of the manga.

Getting ready to roar

Getting ready to roar

Then we get more named anime, but with less pure motives:
is it wrong to try to pick up girls in a dungeon nudity?
anime hot amani (I think Amani is a Naruto character)
food wars couples / boobs
strike the blood porn / [s]ex / pictures of girls exposing their underwear uncensored

Why all the interest in Strike the Blood I don’t know. Yes, there’s pantsus. No, they’re not interesting.

No, I'm not color-blind. Why do you ask?

No, I’m not color-blind. Why do you ask?

And finally, people just looking around for kinky stuff, the kind of searches one is embarrassed to admit find your blog.
anime girl blowing balloon
boy jump anime
mecha anime dark
world loli girls porn
girls in skirts stuck in holes
download magical girl bondage hentai
toothbrush incest
anime brother molesting small sister

Those last two are, of course, the famous tooth-brushing scene from Nisemonogatari. The rest, I just don’t know.

And that’s the Internet in a nutshell. Ten percent serious, 60% frivolous, 30% perverted. Glad I’m keeping up the standards.

Thanks for stopping by, and now you know how to find me again.

Yokohama Shopping Trip

March 31, 2016

From 1994 to 2006, Hitoshi Ashinano wrote 140 chapters of a manga titled Yokohama Kaidashi Kikō, or Yokohama Shopping Journal, known in the West as Yokohama Shopping Trip. It’s set in a Japan of the far future, when sea levels have risen to cover most of today’s cities and humanity has declined to a tiny remnant, quietly living amidst the ruins.

The water's gotten higher since last time

The water’s gotten higher since last time

Strange creatures have appeared — fungi with human faces; flying fish adapted to life out of the water; the Mikago, a human-female-seeming creature that lives in the coastal forest and appears only to children, and the Taapon, a never-landing stratospheric flyer. In addition, there are robots, what would have been called androids, before Star Wars perverted the label. They are constructed humanoids. Indistinguishable from humans, they eat and sleep and excrete and are immortal. Yokohama Shopping Trip is this new world as seen by one of the early model robots, named Alpha.

Alpha's world

Alpha’s world

The story is best described as a post-apocalyptic  slice-of-life. The pace is calm, slow, lethargic, even glacial. A whole chapter might be dedicated to making a cup of coffee, or driving to the seashore to watch the street lights light up along a highway that is now under water. Alpha runs a coffee shop out at the end of a disused road through an abandoned countryside.

At the end of a disused road.

At the end of a disused road.

Every now and then there’s a visitor. Every now and then she hops on her scooter, and drives into what’s left of Yokohama (the hillside suburbs, mostly), to buy more coffee beans.

Yokohama Shopping Tower

Yokohama Shopping Tower

Her friends include a couple of other robots, an old man who runs a nearby gas station, and his grandchildren. There’s no drama to speak of.

At one point, she decides to see more of the world, and spends a year walking around central Japan, rarely getting out of sight of Mt. Fuji. In the end, she returns to Café Alpha.

Café Alpha

Café Alpha

Wikipedia says there were two OVA series, released under the title Quiet Country Café. The disc labelling is obscure, and even the sellers are a little confused about what they have. I have an all region copy of the second OVA, with English subtitles (ISBN ending 5045). The copy I have is a single disc, two parts, each of four x eight-minute segments. That’s 64 minutes total, or about three regular anime episodes. I also have a Region 2 copy of Part 2 of that OVA, Japanese, no subtitles (ISBN ending 003997). Finally, I have a Region 2 copy of the first OVA, Japanese, no subtitles (ISBN ending 704054), also about 60 minutes. So I have one more disc than I need, and one of the discs I do need for a full set is Japanese only. Fortunately, it tracks the manga very closely, and so I can get the gist from there.

The sources selling them are not always clear if they are selling the Region 1 version, with English subtitles, or Region 2, with no subtitles, so be careful.

The anime is just as slow as the manga, and even more enigmatic. There’s no overlap between the two OVA’s, and because of the slice of life format there’s not much continuity within them. If you haven’t read the manga, you will miss out on half the references. Minor characters from the manga (Taapon, Misago, the pilot) make cameo appearances, seemingly for the sole purpose of satisfying the fans.

The Taapon gets a cameo

The Taapon gets a cameo flyby

Other elements are touched on, but not developed (in the second OVA, we don’t find out that Alpha is a robot until the second half, her friendship with Kokone is never expanded), or ignored (Who/where is her “owner”? What does ownership mean under these circumstances?).

The artwork gets a B. It looks like watercolor on textured paper. The colors are muted. The depth/distance effects are often based on multiple layers, like an elementary school paper art project. It would make a nice wallpaper, but it doesn’t make the countryside a character, the way Non Non Biyori does.

The music is mostly acoustic guitar

The music is mostly acoustic guitar

It’s been compared to Aria as a feel good anime, but I think it’s closer to Non Non Biyori. It’s very quiet, very rural, and, to the extent that there are characters, character-based.

Friends

Quiet friends

Changing up is hard to do

March 25, 2016

Switching to a new computer is always a chore. There’s mail and files and passwords and bookmarks and so forth, to bring over. If one is moving to a new OS, there’s new idiosyncrasies to find and work around, and old idiosyncrasies to bemoan the loss of. Fortunately, modern times have made things easier than in the past.

I’m moving from a six-year-old System76 Wildebeest to a System76 Wild Dog. Faster chip, more cores, bigger RAM, SSD drive for the OS. If you remember from my Kicking and Screaming series, I ended up dumping Ubuntu for SUSE Linux about two years ago. With this new purchase I’m back to the Big U, Ubuntu Linux, UL. Not totally happily (I still miss my slideshow screen saver), but there.

The changeover has taken most of Spring Break, but that’s ’cause I’m lazy, and don’t like late night debugging sessions any more.

FILES: Easy. Copy from the old to my NAS, then from the NAS to the new. Interesting hiccup — not all the directories brought their contents with them. No great problem. If I find one that is empty, that I want to not be empty, I go back to the ‘beest and recopy that one directory. As long as I keep the old machine stuck in a corner but attached to the network, I should be OK. Right now it’s sitting in the closet, plugged into the plugs that the box with the OS-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named was using. Don’t worry, I disinfected them first.

It does make me wonder how many of my backups are real and how many are empty folders with a note that says “IOU 10MB”.

eMAIL: Easier. All my stuff is in the cloud these days. My ISP automatically forwards to gMail, and most of my other mail is gMail.

BROWSERS: I already said how I’ve dropped Opera. I make up for the lack by opening a second Firefox window in the L/H monitor. Once I get my old motor responses under control it should work fine. UL doesn’t offer Chrome as a download, but it does offer Chromium, so po-tay-to / po-tah-to. Haven’t felt the need to try Vivaldi yet.

BOOKMARKS: A work in progress. Both FF and Opera let you export them as .html files, so I did that, and imported them into the new FF. Now, my only problem is that I have a thousand or so bookmarks what need organizing. That and the fact that the way FF organizes bookmarks is to me counter-intuitive.

RSS FEEDS: I really liked Opera’s RSS feature, part of Opera Mail (which I didn’t use). So now I’m not using Thunderbird as a mailer, so that I can use the T-Bird RSS feature. How’s that working out? Kirai Janai — I don’t dislike it. At least, not enough to go scrounging for alternatives. It is a little feature-thin, however. For example, both Opera and T-Bird show the topic folders down the side, and if you click on one it shows you the contents as a collection of subject lines. However(,) that’s all that T-Bird offers. Opera would let you click on the Feeds folder and see all the feeds in one list — great for cleaning up the previous nights take. Or you could click on a topic folder and it would unfold to show you all the feed sources — the Cooking folder would let you click on the Alton Brown feed and just see his messages, etc. One can approximate this by going into a folder and sorting on source. That works if it’s just one contributor (Hi, Alton!), but in the News folder, I find that the feed from The Week has half a dozen contributors. In addition, every now and then it seems to not want to update the feeds. It’s a little irritating, but one perseveres.

PASSWORDS: FF keeps its collection of website passwords in a json file buried down in its directory tree somewhere. Copy that over and one has all one’s passwords back.

SPEED DIAL/TAB GROUPS/RELOAD EVERY: Areas that Opera pioneered, of course. I have found plugins that more or less duplicate the functionalities. But duplicating functionalities is one thing, one then has to functionalitize them. In my case, I had to recreate my five tab groups and all the speed dial settings for each. What worked for me was to just open the old speed dial on the closet monitor and read off the URL for each panel while typing it in to the new one. Since I’d already brought over my passwords and things, FF knew right where to go.

Overall, I think I am happier with UL than I was with SUSE, and of course, I have a nice new silver box to play with. I’ll keep you informed.

Opera Browser: The Long Farewell 6

March 21, 2016

I think we’ve finally come to the end of the road. Earlier this week I took delivery on my new PC, a System76 “Wild Dog”, a big, silvery box with enough bells and whistles to keep me happy for a while. I am currently in the throes of moving all my stuff from the old PC, and for the first time this Century, I’m not going to install Opera on a new computer.

I have found it’s easy to move bookmarks from Opera and Firefox on one machine to Firefox on another — just export as .html and import into the new browser. I find it’s just as easy to move the RSS feeds from Opera. In this case, I am importing to Thunderbird — Firefox has an RSS feed functionality, but they want to implement each feed as a “live bookmark”, and don’t give you a way to delete individual notifications.

I am long since past using T-Bird as a mail client. Everything I do these days is in the cloud — it all gets forwarded to gMail. Mind you, I haven’t tested the POP server forwarding on the new machine, but it should work. What I’m using T-Bird for is an RSS feed reader, to replace the Opera functionality.

So far, there’s good news and bad news, and not so bad news. The good news is, the 355 links for the RSS feeds came across OK and are working fine. The bad news is, all the old RSS notifications have disappeared, all 13,413 of them. So I’m starting over on the new machine. The not-so-bad news is that I still have the old PC fully operational, and will keep it plugged in on my desk for a few months while things shake down.

I do have one on-going problem though. I’ve been used to running two or three browsers on my machine. Opera on the left hand monitor for the news, Firefox on the right for school stuff, Chrome in the background for other things. I suppose I could run Firefox in two different windows. Or see if Vivaldi is ready for prime time.

Or I could dig around and find my old copy of Mosaic.

Green Tumb Up My Nose: The 2016 Season Begins

March 20, 2016

Oh, I had so many plans, and here we are at the end of March with none of them in motion. My intent was to have lots of seedlings started already, have moved some to the portable greenhouse, and be well on my way to transplanting the cabbages and bok choy. Well, I’m batting 0.000.

To be fair, the weather hasn’t cooperated. A warmer El Nino year doesn’t mean warm. Regardless of the status of any seedlings, it’s still too cold, even in the greenhouse. Last week it was highs in the middle 40’s, with lows dancing along the frost line. This weekend will be warm and wet, and then we go back to highs near 50, and frost-dancing lows. Currently, the temperature one foot down in Section 1 is 45F.

I do have some lettuces started, but those might be better off if raised indoors. We shall see. Meanwhile:

1. clean up garden
2. start the cabbages and bok choy for an early May plant out
3. start the peas for a mid-may plant out
4. see how much room I have in the seedling corner for additional starts.
5. move the greenhouse up onto the deck

Given that the usual date for outdoor gardening around here is the first of June, this is probably as aggressive a schedule as one could hope for.

Anime Preview: Spring 2016

March 18, 2016

Unlike some others, who use knowledge of the source materials, close observation of the previews, and who actually read the press releases, I’m going to base mine on just the title and the cover art (thanks, Zana), and maybe a bit of the blurb. Consider yourself warned.

First, let’s say what’s normally not in here. Sequels to stuff I didn’t like before (Asterisk, Kyoukai no Rinne), most kids stuff (Futurecard Buddyfight), anything with Macross in the title, movies and OVA’s.

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

1. Kuromukuro Haruhi Suzumia and a buffed up Itsuki Koizumifight the ghosts of ancient mechas

1. Kuromukuro
A slimmed down Haruhi Suzumia, a buffed up Itsuki Koizumi, and some new girl fight the ghosts of ancient mechas

2. Mayoiga The Boys on the Bus, headed for the Hotel California Directed by Mizushima

2. Mayoiga
The Boys on the Bus
 Headed for the Hotel California
Directed by Tsutomu Mizushima

3. Shingeki no Bahamut Hentai anime girl brings her own tentacle

3. Shingeki no Bahamut
Demon girl brings her own tentacle

 

4. Flying Witch But it’s so much more comfortable to take the bus (Have you ever tried sitting on a broomstick for four hours?)

4. Flying Witch
Have you ever tried sitting on a broomstick for four hours? I’ll take the bus

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

Girls und Motorcycles

1. Bakuon
Girls und Motorcycles

2. Kiznaiver Our bond lets us share wounds to promote world peace.Did I mention it's my period this week?

2. Kiznaiver
Our bond lets us share wounds to promote world peace. Did I mention it’s my period this week?

3. Kumo Miko Didn't we do this one with a big fox last year?

3. Kumo Miko
Didn’t we do this one with a big fox last year?

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

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

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

1. Pan de Peace Girls und Pan

1. Girls und Pan
Not all loan words are English

2. Gyakuten Saiban Phoenix Wright struggles to exist in a world without competent barbers

2. Gyakuten Saiban
Phoenix Wright struggles to exist in a world without competent barbers

3. Super Lovers If the FBI finds this in your cache you are so going to jail

3. Super Lovers
If the FBI finds this in your cache you are so going to jail

4. Kamiwaza Wanda Small boy learns to urinate action figures

4. Kamiwaza Wanda
Small boy learns to urinate action figures

…and 44 more that didn’t even make the “I won’t watch” cut.

Sweet PotatOats

March 17, 2016

Seeing as how today is St Patrick’s Day, I thought I’d add a bit of Irish color. And since my ancestors were Protestant Irish, the color will be orange.

Bought a bag of frozen sweet potato puffs last week. They’re like regular potato puffs — small cylinders of fried shredded potatoes — only, you know, sweet…and orange. Heat them up in the oven for fifteen or 20 minutes and they’re pretty tasty. A bit later, MJ tried frying them with sliced apples, to serve with pork chops. On the one hand, they were delicious. On the other hand, they broke up into tiny fragments, so it looked more like apple slices with some sort of crushed Cheetos topping. I wonder how that would work with oatmeal? Drop them in the broth, break them up as they heat, then add the oatmeal. Let’s try it!

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one cup of broth, four not-quite-golf-ball-sized commercial sweet potato puffs, salt. Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats. Add the potatoes when you start the broth heating and let them break up a little before adding the oatmeal.

Results: Most excellent. Looked like oatmeal with shredded carrot. The broth is a little strong, and kept intruding — it was made from a batch of lamb chop bones, plus some old steak bones we’d been hoarding in the freezer. Very good, but, as I said, strong. The sort of thing you want to dump lots of garlic into when you are sick. Would probably do better with chicken broth. I’m giving it 4 stars despite the broth.

Rating: *****

Steve Balmer shows us why we can’t trust Trump

March 11, 2016

The business of America is business. The sole function of a business is to maximize shareholder value. A good CEO will do whatever it takes for his company to make a profit.*

Fifteen years ago Microsoft CEO Steve Balmer said that Linux is a cancer. Last week, he said that he was glad to see MS releasing SQLServer for Linux, and shrugged off his earlier statements because the Linux threat was now “in the rearview mirror”. He also said: “The company made a ton of money by fighting that battle very well… It’s been incredibly important to the company’s revenue stream.” So, he lied. And he lied to make money, regardless of the impact on the sharing economy.

Not only did Microsoft continuously misrepresent Linux and the GPL in their quest for a revenue stream, they also funded bogus lawsuits, that drag on to this day.

What does that have to do with Trump? Just this. He and Balmer are cut from the same cloth, the kind of businessmen who will say whatever it takes to make the sale, close the deal. His position on a topic can change in a heartbeat. Neither one is the sort of a CEO who will let the truth stand in the way of a business strategy.

So, if you want America to look like Microsoft, vote for Trump, and leave the truth in the rearview mirror.

*Within legal reason, of course, and keeping in mind that the risk of going to jail is just one of the risks of doing business.

Curried Oatgurt

March 3, 2016

Being a big fan of curry, and still having a large amount of yogurt left from my previous oatgurt experiments, I decided to try curried oatgurt. I used chicken broth in both of these, because the earlier work had found that chicken worked better with yogurt than beef.

Experiment 1: This was a standard breakfast oatmeal dish, with a tablespoon of yogurt and another tablespoon of Golden Curry added.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one sloppy dinner tablespoon of plain yogurt, one heaping measuring tablespoon of Golden Curry roux, chunked up, one cup of broth, salt. Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats.

Results: Very good, in a creamy curry sort of way. Nothing to write to the world about…um…. It’s something I’ll try again, next time I’ve got an extra half gallon of yogurt I’m trying to use up.

Rating: *****

Experiment 2: This is the overnight approach. It’s exactly like Experiment 1, except I mixed the ingredients in a jar and left it on the counter overnight (about which technique I’ll have more to say in a latter oatwrite). In previous experiments I had included a teaspoon of sugar, but decided that might not work, given the curry.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one sloppy dinner tablespoon of plain yogurt, one heaping measuring tablespoon of Golden Curry roux, chunked up, one cup of broth, salt. Mix in a covered jar and leave on the kitchen counter overnight. Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats.

Results: It actually cooked to a muddy consistency and was sticking to the bottom of my non-stick pan in about six minutes, so I took it off. Excellent flavor. Pudding-with-oat-hulls consistency. Worth buying more yogurt for.

Rating: *****

More on the Future of the Auto-Car

March 2, 2016

The website Curbed has an interesting article on the impact of driverless cars on the shape of our cities (assuming that most driverless cars will be shared vehicles). Mostly, they talk about how fewer cars mean less need for parking and more room downtown for pedestrians and bicycles. That got me thinking about what a future commute might look like.

I’ve already talked about how networked cars will let us work on the go, but I didn’t talk about other ways that shared cars will impact our future commutes. If you want to see the future, go to Washington, D.C.

If you hang around the Pentagon parking lot at the end of the work day, you will see lots of busses pulling up and loading passengers for trips to the hinterlands. These aren’t Metro busses, because they go far beyond the metro boundaries. They are owned by small companies that haul people down to the park-and-ride lots scattered around the perimeter of Dale City and other bedroom communities. These represent the high end of shared commuting, and could easily be replaced by auto-busses.

But right next to them you will see another line, probably unique in the US. It’s a line of commuters waiting for a ride from strangers. You see, the Pentagon parking lots connect directly to the freeway, and specifically to the HOV-4 lanes. So people jump in their cars, drive to the commuter lines, and call out “Three for Dale City Safeway lot”, or “Two for Potomac Mills Mall”, and two or three people, who never met before, will jump in a car driven by a complete stranger, and head off on a thirty mile drive.

Now, jump ahead twenty years, and everywhere is the Pentagon parking lot. People have apps on their phones (or whatever has replaced “phones”) that will alert auto-cars to their current location and desired destination. The cars pick up people from the same city blocks who are headed for the same suburban blocks and take off. Unless there is an increase in networked working from a commuter car, that means the downtown areas will see periodic traffic jams, much like they do now. Maybe a little thinner, because of no single occupancy vehicles, but I suspect that the process of making multiple stops on public streets will keep the congestion high around closing time.

In DC, the HOV lanes fill up by 4:30, and spill over into the regular traffic. In future, they will fill up at about the same time, but perhaps more lanes will be dedicated to HOVs. Instead of heading to a single park-and-ride, the auto-cars will swing through the neighborhoods, dropping off commuters. And then what?

Well, the auto-cars could just park at some recharging point and wait for morning. After all they are already close to where they’ll need to be, come dawn. Or maybe they’ll head for some decentralized set of maintenance facilities, to prepare for the next day. In which case, we’ll see a mini rush hour at, say, six or seven PM, as they head for home, and then another mini rush hour at five or six AM as they preposition for the morning commute. And in the daytime? Well, a goodly number of them will be needed to replace the taxis that have now gone out of business. As for the rest, I guess we won’t be able to get rid of all that downtown parking after all.

Cauliflower Oatmeal

February 25, 2016

We had home-made cauliflower soup the other night. Package of frozen cauliflower flowers, roasted; three cups of beef broth (used up all my broth); onion and garlic to taste. Didn’t add any cream ’cause we were out (we’re always out), but I added some kudzu flour to thicken it, then stir-sticked it to death. Very good. Almost as good as the cauliflower risotto that we made almost exactly one year ago. Cheese helped. There were leftovers.

I was out of broth, so I used some ham-flavored broth paste. I figured that ham and cauliflower would go well together.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one cup of ham broth, two heaping dinner tablespoons of leftover cauliflower soup, call it a quarter cup; 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.

Results: Not inedible. Sortof. Maybe too much ham paste in the broth. The flavors never blended. The ham tasted burned. Cheese helped.

Rating: *****

Shirobako, the Blu-Ray

February 21, 2016

Sentai Filmworks has released Season 1 of Shirobako on blu-ray and DVD. I am a big fan of the series (I’ve watched it four or five times now on Crunchyroll) so of course I pre-ordered it, and just now finished my sixth runthrough. It’s interesting to see the Sentai translations compared to Crunchyroll’s. At the start of Episode 1, for example, Taoru* describes the first episode of Exodus, the anime-within-an-anime as being a purification for the director, while the Sentai translation says it’s a clean slate. The reference being to the director’s previous disaster with an anime titled Jiggly Heaven, and the actual word, I suspect, having some sort of Buddhist association. On the other hand, Sentai translates  one character’s pronunciation of our protagonna’s name, Myamori, as Meow-mori, which it definitely is not (besides, in Japan, cats say nyan, not meow). Once nice addition is that Sentai provides translator’s notes, explaining some of the in-jokes (and there are many).

The story is, of course, great. It’s about adults, solving adult problems. It’s a primer on how anime is made. It’s directed by my favorite director, Tsutomu Mizushima (of Girls und Panzer fame). So what’s not to like? Well, the story is great, but the delivery leaves something to be desired.

First of all, it’s subtitled only. I don’t mind, but my wife (and other acquaintances who are not so much into anime) much prefer dubbed. Second, surprisingly, the video quality is not as good as the Chrunchyroll SD transmission. I paused both on my home television, and switched back and forth. The Blu-ray is noticeably fuzzier than the streamed version. It’s not so bad as to be unwatchable — in fact, it only detracts if you’ve seen the streamed version — but it really is inexcusable, particularly for a product that costs $60 for a one-disk program. Unfortunately, we are at the mercy of the marketing companies, and the only alternative is to not own a copy.

Season 2 is scheduled for release in May, 2016, and I’m going to pre-order that as well.

*Unlike many first names in this series (Aoi means Blue, for example), I can’t find a meaning for Taoru, but Taoru-san is how restaurateurs refer to cockroaches when the customers are listening.

Dropping my shorts

February 19, 2016

I have nothing against short-form anime, as such — defining short-form as say 10min or less in duration, including OP and ED. One doesn’t expect much depth, or things like character development. They are easy to watch, because they don’t take much time, so you don’t feel your life is slipping away. The interesting thing about the format is that they are extremely hard to get right. Robert Heinlein once said that the hardest story he ever wrote was for use as advertising copy in a technical magazine, and it had to fit in one page-long 2″ column. Good ones are very very good — Wakakozake, and Aiura, and … nothing else…come to mind. Bad ones range from meh to terrible. I just dropped two of them:

Meh

Sekko Boys. A one-joke anime that ran out of steam.

Sekko Boys. A one-joke anime that ran out of steam.

Terrible

J.K. Meshi. 3/4 terrible jokes. 1/4 terrible food.

J.K. Meshi. 3/4 terrible jokes.
1/4 terrible food.

Buttercream Oats

February 18, 2016

MJ brought home half a sheet cake the other day, remnants of a going away party. It was moderately fancy, as these things go: two slabs of white cake with pudding in the middle and a black and white buttercream frosting. I’m not fond of these things myself. Too, too sweet, and not enough chocolate chips. But suppose one were to repurpose them. Suppose one were to consider them an ingredient in oatmeal? (You knew that was coming, right? This isn’t a blog where you read “suppose one were to use this to feed the poor“).

I used water instead of broth (sheet cake in beef broth is a topic for another day), and added a standard-sized slab of the cake and icing, about what you’d get on a paper plate at a party with not too many attendees. Then, just for fun, I added a half of a large black buttercream flower.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one cup of water, a 1x2x4 slice of sheet cake with buttercream frosting, additional frosting to taste, salt. Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats. Add the sheet cake close to the end.

Results: Tasted a lot like a standard sweet bowl of oatmeal. It was a little runny, probably because the buttercream melted down, as did the pudding. Were I to do it again I’d cut back to 3/4cup of water. The ‘black’ frosting turned a lovely Seahawks Blue, so that it looked like I was eating a bowl of blue soup. This one’s a keeper. I might start attending parties again.

Rating: *****

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 come back to 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.

** Tarō-san is a code phrase that restaurant workers use to reference cockroaches when the customers are listening

***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?


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