Archive for December, 2011

2011 in review

December 31, 2011

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog, and who am I to ignore blogfodder that monkeys have flung my way?

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,800 times in 2011. If it were a cable car, it would take about 47 trips to carry that many people.

It’s interesting that others get their numbers reported in terms of The Astrodome, or Wembley Stadium. I guess I’m lucky they didn’t decide to use VW Beetles for mine. In addition, the numbers shown in the complete report don’t entirely make sense. According to them, Hypothesis Testing was the most popular post. Well, it got the most hits on the day it was published (thanks, Kurt), but it is well behind in overall totals when you compare it to Ballad of Apollo 13, or the mega-favorite, HOTD, the Anime. As an aside, it appears to be primarily otaku who are looking at the HOTD posting, because the initial post has picked up 445 views (it mentioned nudity) while the follow on HOTD – the DVD four months later (linked from the first) has a grand total of 39 views, despite delving into critical cinematographic issues like translation quality and the music. I even mentioned how well their graphics package handled the physics of fluid-filled spheres.

Despite all that, the report has some interesting stats (in a single-digit sort of way) and a nice Flash background. Click here to see the complete report.

Fun With Vocabulary

December 26, 2011

Over at Japan: Life and Religion, Doug points out that the old Japanese name for December is 師走 (, from 師 (priest) and (走), to run, probably because in the month of 師走, the Shinto and Buddhist priests are busy getting ready for the pre- and post- New Year ceremonies. This is a little like some of the Old English activity names for months, like ƿēodmōnað, or ‘weed month’.


December 25, 2011

Chagayu (大和の茶がゆ) is rice cooked in green tea — as opposed to ochazuke (お茶漬け), which is green tea poured over cooked rice. It’s something you serve sick folks, or eat as a post holiday way to help your stomach recover from recent excesses. Well, you know my philosophy: if a starch can be prepared this way, then oatmeal can be also. Of course it doesn’t have to be green tea — there’s a whole rainbow of colors out there.

I’ve tried two recipes so far, one with English Breakfast Tea, and one with Lapsang Souchong, a tarry/smokey tea that MJ says smells like the bacon is burning. For this set of experiments, I steeped loose tea for four minutes, strained it into a pot, brought it to just under a boil (steaming, but no bubbles), and added some 5min oatmeal, potato, sugar, and salt. The EB tea I tried straight. The LS tea I put bacon bits into (MJ is never wrong).

Results. Well, both of them tasted almost like eating leftover tea leaveWait! Don’t go away!! The key word is almost. What makes eating tea leaves so bad isn’t the flavor, it’s the tea leaves themselves. They don’t really chew well, and they get stuck all over your mouth. Don’t believe me? Go try it. I’ll wait.


The oatmeal, of course, was nothing like that, so a major downside was averted. Or everted. Or something.

The EB tea was overly bland and tealeaf like. I am sure that part of that is the lack of toppings, but part is the lack of flavor in the tea. Evidently, one needs something robust to stand up to the oaty blandness. The LS tea, on the other hand, just about worked. I’m not sure what else it needs (milk? lemon? Something that goes with tea, like ground crumpets, or minced cucumber sandwiches?), but it’s just one flavor enhancer away from being pretty OK.

In any event, if your post holiday resolutions include swearing off eating because the two of you ate the whole turkey and she can no longer get into her old maternity dresses, this is enough different from food that you should consider it for breakfast or lunch.

Iraq: The End of the Beginning

December 22, 2011

And so it ends. Not with a bang, not with the thanks of a grateful ally, not with a farewell ceremony by the newly elected leadership, but with a final convoy slinking out of the country — at night and nine days early — after a ceremony featuring two empty chairs where the “host” nation leadership should be, followed by a ten sixteen bomb salute.

We came, We saw, We screwed up from one end of the country to another.

Back in 9/11, AQ spent $50K to attack the WTC and kill nearly 4,300 Americans. Then George Bush said “Y’all don’t know nuthin ’bout killing Americans — here’s how it’s done”, and proceeded to kill 4,500 of them over nine years at a cost of a trillion dollars, or maybe three. Heckofa job, Georgie. (more…)

Fun With Vocabulary

December 14, 2011

There’s a new anime out called I Don’t Have Many Friends. I haven’t seen it, and know nothing about it, but it’s inspired a certain amount of discussion amongst fandom, not for the plot, the characters, or the art, but for how the title of the show is abbreviated.

The Japanese name is 僕は友達が少ない, a typical mix of kanji and hiragana, which transliterates as Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai. In English, we might abbreviate it as BoToSu, or even BTS. The ‘take the first syllables’ apporach is common in Japan, but another possibility is to just drop the kanji portion and leave the hiragana, so you get はがない, or

Note that the は symbol is pronounced “wa” when used as a particle (indicating that the preceeding word is the object of the verb…I think), but “ha” everywhere else, and I guess there’s a bit of a bunfight going on over how to pronounce the abbreviated title.

I don’t know if this really is clever word use by the Japanese, or clever marketing by the anime company.

Ham n Oats

December 10, 2011

And what is the man in the oatmeal suit eating today?

Experiment 1: Ham boullion mix with oatmeal and potatoes. Some freeze dried onions and salt. Water. Top with cheese.

Result: Very strange. Not bad but unmemorable. Take a bite, say “that’s not bad”, wait a minute and say “now, what did that taste like?”. Unmemorable. I must do science to it.

Experiment 2: Ham boullion mix with oatmeal and potatoes. Some freeze dried onions and salt. Chicken stock and apple juice.

Result: Better than the first one, but it still doesn’t have my taste buds waving signs and singing “Happy Days are Here Again”.

Pearl Harbor Part 3

December 7, 2011

Indications And Warning (I&W) is an obscure corner of an otherwise esoteric Intelligence discipline. It specifically deals with predicting a country’s intention to go to war through observations of their preparations. It was born of the Intelligence failures of the first half of the last century — Pearl Harbor and Korea (and the Chinese intervention there). It grew of age in the second half, watching the Soviet Union and North Korea. It was then subject to a major identity crisis when the Warsaw Pact collapsed, and the problem became one of predicting the terrorist actions of non-state organizations. Most of that is fodder for a different post.

I want to wrap up my Pearl Harbor coverage by looking at the I&W aspects of the problem. (more…)

Pearl Harbor Part 2

December 6, 2011

Earlier, we talked about the Japanese decision to go to war. Actually, it was a chain of totally logical decisions (aren’t they always?):

Phase 1
1. Japan has the capability to be a major world power, but in order to be a major world power, Japan must acquire overseas colonies

2. Korea and China stand in the same relation to Japan that Africa does to Europe, so that’s where the empire building should occur

Result: Japan starts a land war in Asia September, 1931. (more…)

Pearl Harbor Part 1

December 5, 2011

Iguchi Takeo was the young son of a Japanese embassy functionary, living in Washington, DC, at the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor. He went on to a distinguished career of his own in the Japanese Foreign Office, serving as ambassador to several countries and teaching at universities both in Japan and the US. As a serving diplomat, Iguchi had access to the Foreign Office files concerning the days prior to Pearl Harbor, and he writes a very interesting book on the topic, titled Demystifying Pearl Harbor. This essay is based on much that is in the book, plus many of my own speculations and opinions. It’s not really a review.

As is well-known, the Japanese embassy delivered their diplomatic note breaking off negotiations well after the attack had started. The traditional explanation was that the embassy did not get the last part of the message translated in time, due to lax administrative procedures. Iguchi is not a disinterested observer, nevertheless, his new evaluation makes a compelling argument that the delay occurred on the Tokyo end, and that it was deliberate.

The general impression one gets from popular US culture on the subject is that the Japanese got up one morning and decided to conquer Asia, and what better way than to attack Hawaii? What comes out in this book is a clash of cultures between the US and Japan, and of priorities between the Japanese military and the Japanese Foreign Office (JFO). The US was woefully wrong in its estimate of Japanese reactions to US actions, while the Japanese military was manipulative and duplicitous, and the JFO was spineless. (more…)

Picture Stories from Earth: Bid Kaneh

December 2, 2011

The world, or at least, the US part of it, has become more concerned with the progress of the Iranian nuclear program. The most recent IAEA report saying that Iran is close to a breakout capability. That is, they are near the point at which they have everything they need, and they need only make the final decision to have a bomb

Political and economic actions having seemingly failed, the US, and possibly its allies, like Israel, have started to use more active measures. Some of these are quiet cyber-attacks (like last year’s stuxnet worm), some are more direct wet work (the probable assasination of several key Iranian scientists), and some appear to be straightforward sabotage, like this weeks destruction of an Iranian missile facility near Bid Kaneh by the explosion of one of the missiles. The facility is reportedly associated with the Shihab-3 MRBM, which is an Iranian copy of the North Korean No-Dong missile, which can trace its roots back to the Soviet Scud-B, and ultimately to the V-2.

The facility itself appears to be a typical high security research installation, not an operational military base. It was first identifiable on Google Earth imagery of 2003, and remained essentially unchanged until the spring of 2010.

Bid Kaneh in 2003