Archive for October, 2010

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya

October 30, 2010

Is the story about a girl who can change the world just by wishing. It has appeared in a wide range of media in a wide range of countries. So far, I have read the first three MHS light novels (the only ones out in English), watched both seasons anime, and scanned a couple of the manga. It’s a fun concept, somewhat flawed in the execution. I’d recommend it, but I’d also recommend that you not watch it in the order in which it is presented.

Three years before the start of the series, Haruhi Suzumiya (then in middle school) realized her small personal world was not all there was, that her city was bigger, Japan was far bigger, and the world was infinitely bigger than she thought. She immediately became depressed. As Douglas Adams once said, “in a universe as big as this one, the last thing you need is a sense of perspective”. Suzumiya also, unkowingly, at that point, developed the power to change the world to be more like what she wants it to be. The key word is, ‘unknowingly’. The series tracks what happens when she gets to high school. The main POV character is a high school classmate of Suzumiya’s, nicknamed “Kyon” (we never learn his real name). Kyon, by the way, is the Japanese name for a small barking deer, which is why he keeps complaining about people using it. (more…)

The Morality of Leaks

October 26, 2010

I have been musing about the Wikileaks leaks ever since I posted yesterday’s comment. Not so much about the leaks themselves as about the change in attitudes about classified information over the last half century.

During WWII, we broke a number of Axis codes, the most famous being Purple, the primary Japanese diplomatic code, and Enigma, a German high-level military code handled on the Allied side under the codeword Ultra. The men and women at Bletchley Park, who did most of the work with Ultra, were sworn to secrecy. They kept that secret for thirty years, and it was only after Winterbotham’s book “The Ultra Secret” was published in 1974 that the stories began to come out. One anecdote (which may come from Winterbotham, I don’t recall) talked about a high society grand-dame who had to undergo an operation in the 1960’s. Her greatest fear was not of dying, but that she might, under the influence of the anesthetic, speak of Ultra, which she worked on during the war twenty years before. In my day, long after everything about the code-breaking had come out, there was a conference on the history of Ultra, held at the Defense Intelligence Agency. One person in the audience stood up and challenged the speaker, asking how it was possible that such a secret had been kept for so long. Another, older, historian stood up, and said (with his wife looking at him somewhat open-mouthed, from her seat by his side) “Because we gave our word not to speak of it.” (more…)

Wikileaks Leaks

October 25, 2010

I am of several minds about the Wikileaks spillage of 400K combat incident reports from Iraq. Four or five minds, to be inexact:

1. On the one hand, there’s nothing much here that we didn’t know already, other than some minor scandals. Yes, lots of civilians were killed by IEDs. Yes, we ignored reports of torture, or turned them over to the Shiite government units responsible for the acts. Is anyone surprised?
2. On the other hand, it’s useful to finally have documentation that vindicates the claims. Claims, reportage, supposed eye-witness accounts, can all be waved off as so much anti US propaganda. US unit reporting cannot.
3. On the other other hand, it might endanger US troops, by allowing analysis of our operations. I can see someone mining this data for information on response times, chain of command, rules of engagement, and so forth.
4. On the other…I’m running out of hands here…to accomplish (3.), you’d have to have nearly complete reporting from all levels on a number of specific incidents, and be able to extract the relevent subsets of reports on each of them, in order to draw useful conclusions. Once you have done that, and drawn your conclusions, can you get enough information in real-time, from our encrypted comms, to make operational use of those conclusions? I don’t know.
5. Add to all this the spurious conclusions of the media — for example, the claim that we were, indeed, tracking civilian and insurgent deaths, when what I see is ancillary reporting and not a VN-level body count ethic — and it’s hard to sort the various issues.

I think I’d come down on the side of disclosure. My main complaint is that all the stuff that was released is low-level ops chatter, stuff that may get a few low-level grunts in trouble. What’s really needed is some high-level revelations. Ones that would let us determine whether or not we need to convene some war crimes trials.

Closing out the Garden

October 23, 2010

There’s still a lot of maintenance work to do, but the main garden is officially closed. I just spent the last hour digging out the potatoes. I still have a few square feet of lettuce in pots on the deck, but the real garden stuff is over. This is a little earlier than last year, but we’ve just ended a fortnight of nice weather, and the forecast is for rain turning to snow, lasting through next week, and maybe into President’s Day. (more…)

Spice and Wolf, the anime

October 13, 2010

A better translation might be “Wolf, with Spices”. Not your usual anime. This is based off a long-running series of light (i.e. YA) novels and manga. The setup is that sometime in the dim and misty past, a villager asked a wolf-goddess to manage their crops for them. She brought them mostly good harvests, except in the years that the land had to lie fallow to recover. But times change, and modern farming practices take over (you know — three field rotation, horse collars, the moldboard plow) and now the villagers no longer need or believe in the wolf.

Horo, with apples

The wolf-goddess, Horo, decides to leave the village in the company of Kraft Lawrence, a travelling peddlar, and head back north to her homeland. The rest of the story is a not-quite-picaresque series of business encounters between Horo and Lawrence on the one hand, and the rest of the mercantile world on the other.

Wednesday Wii-Real men don’t Wii

October 13, 2010

Real men. You know who I mean. Type A personality. Cowboy mentality. Marlboro Man, seen on some billboards proclaiming ‘less tar’, and on others saying “Bob, I miss my lung.” The kind of man who isn’t going to put up with his body trying to limit his performance. The trouble with that approach on the Wii Fit exercises is that it can lead to over-achievement, over-rotation, over-extension, and general gristly popping sounds.

You see, many of the exercises on the Wii Fit are designed to pit one group of muscles, or one part of the body, against another. Take a side stretching exercise, like the Gate Pose. When I am in that pose, I have the lower half of my body weight stabilizing a four foot wide fulcrum. I then push the other half of my body weight to the side. The objective is to stretch the side muscles — you know, the ones that attach to the short ribs and make such good BBQ subjects, with the meat falling gently off the bone.

So with half a hundredweight of mass leveraged on a four foot fulcrum, is it any wonder that a Real Man can tear all the muscles along that side while reaching down to touch his insole? It adds a whole new meaning to the term ‘really ripped’. If I think about it, the issue is not if I can ‘perform’ this feat, it’s how do I keep the toughest 90% of my body from ganging up on a few beleagured ribs.

I have an approach that works for me, and I’ll write about it anon.