Archive for April, 2015

Salmon-Dashi Oats

April 30, 2015

Unlike my first discussion of salmon and oatmeal (which featured a canned salmon sauce), this one is about your actual anadromiliad salmon-type fish, chopped up in the oats. Not only that, but the broth is last weeks real, home-made dashi, to which I added a couple glugs of shoyu, and a teaspoon of sugar – to turn it into teriyaki sauce.

The salmon was leftover from dinner. Nothing special — maybe a quarter cupsworth of broiled salmon, chopped up.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, one cup of dashi, a quarter cup of salmon. Tablespoon of soy sauce and a teaspoon of sugar.  Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats.  Add the potato when you take it off the stove.

Results: Very good. Needed more sauce.

Rating: *****

Oatmeal Dregs

April 28, 2015

Last time I talked of using brothdregs as an oatmeal extender, I was all about hand-chopping a small amount of the carrots and onions that were strained out of the original liquid. This time we made our broth from two small beef shortribs (it’s amazing how little meat is needed for a quart of broth). Afterwards, MJ ran everything through the food processor — meat scrapings, carrots, onions, the lot (well, not the bones). Came up with something that’s best described as a thick, granular puree.

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

Results: Edible. The flavor balance was off a little, and the meat and gristly bits made it feel like you were eating a low quality hamburger. Still, it has potential.

Rating: *****

Android Fail

April 25, 2015

One of the key principles of user interface design is that you don’t make things harder for the user without a good reason. Google seems to forget this at times.

Android 5.0/Lolicon is the latest release of the Android operating system. It just installed on my Samsung Galaxy last week, and I’m still learning my way around it. A number of features have changed, but most of the changes are neutral — a slightly different way of doing X, that doesn’t interfere with how I use X. Except for one thing.

Under the version of the OS that came with the phone (KitKat, I think, or maybe KlondikeBar), you had an icon you could control phone sound with — default mode was on, one tap was vibrate, two taps was mute, and three brought you back to on. Mute stopped all sounds except for alarms, so if you wanted to use the phone as an alarm clock, you swiped down to get the icons, and tapped twice for mute. Once your alarm had roused you, you could do a swipe-and-tap (while saying wingardium volumosa, or something) and you’d be back in business. With Loli, that all changed.

Under the new system, mute means mute. No sound. All silent. If you want to hear your alarm, you set it to on, and you get to hear everything — alarms, email notifications, phone calls, everything. Fortunately, there is a workaround. Of sorts. You can go into Priorities, and tell the phone to only let certain alerts through at certain times of day or night. Unfortunately, it has to be the same times for every day. So, if you want to go to bed at 11PM, that’s when it switches to Priority mode. If you want to stay up late one night, you have to re-set it. If you want to go to bed early, re-set. Get up late, re-set. And so forth.

On the bright side, doing the re-sets might be annoying, but it’s also difficult. You see, sounds are controlled in Settings, which is an icon on page three in your applications list. Or you can hold down the Sound icon, which will change the mode for you, and then switch to the Sounds page. That’s where you control the sound from. But not the Priorities, sorry. Priorities are accessed only through the volume control rocker button on the left hand side of the phone. Hold the rocker down with one hand (the volume setting will change), and up pops another menu, with a typical settings-gear-icon on it. Tap the icon and it brings you to the Priorities Interruptions page, where you set your priority days and times. This, I find, only applies to things like email notifications. The swipe tones the phone makes (like when you wake it up in the morning) still sound loud and clear. So, you can no longer use the phone as a discrete flashlight if you get up at 3AM to go … get a drink of water.

Meanwhile, back on your phone, you can still swipe down and hit the Sound icon to switch to priorities-vibrate mode whenever you want less of an interruption. All done with your quiet time? Tap the icon to move to mute, and then again, to sound on.

Oh, did I mention that changing the mode to mute will turn off Priorities, and you will have to do the whole volume-rocker re-set thing again? Yeah.

You know what would have worked better, Google? Making the Sound icon a four tap system — on, vibrate, mute (with alarms), dead silent. And not throwing away my Priorities status just because I hit mute.

Home Made Dashi

April 23, 2015

I’ve been using dashi crystals in most of my Japanese cooking, because I thought it was easier, and because the ingredients for real dashi are so hard to find. Turns out, Huckleberry’s, our locally smug organic supermarket, carries both katsuobushi tuna flakes and kombu seaweed. You could probably find them at Trader Joe’s, or any similar store or Asian market.

Kombu seaweed comes in shards, like broken plastic. It rehydrates to something that looks and feels like it came off a wetsuit.  Katsuobushi is skipjack tuna, dried and shaved. It looks like, well, dried wood shavings. They are both dried products, so they keep essentially forever (although the tuna should probably be used up soon after opening). My recipe is an amalgam of several I’ve come across, and couldn’t be simpler.

1. Take a 2″ square of kombu, rinse and wipe. Place in a quart container of water.

2. Add a grab handful of katsuboshi, call it a loose half a cup. Some recipes call for more.

3. Place in the refrigerator overnight.

4. Next morning, heat it in a saucepan until just steaming, then strain out the solids, and et voilà, as the Japanese chefs would say, you have dashi. If you want something more instant, skip the overnight part.

A more traditional way is to soak only the kombu overnight. You leave out the katsuboshi until the water is steaming, then remove the kombu, bring to a boil, add the katsuboshi, let cool, and strain. For a simpler, vegetarian dashi, just leave out the katsuboshi altogether.

The Japanese will also use the strained solids to make a second, weaker, infusion of dashi. Or, the soggy katsuboshi can be added to oatmeal, to rice, to an omelet, anywhere you would use a tablespoon or so of tuna. The kombu is edible, but I am told that dashi kombu is older and tougher than snacking kombu. You can guess the experience just by feeling it and looking at it: It tastes vaguely seafoodish, and feels like you are biting through rubber. Both are useful additions to a compost pile.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

April 20, 2015

Garden Report for 150420

Other than two nights of frost and a day of high winds, the weather’s been nice.

Visited friends of MJ’s, who run a small truck farm on the edge of town. Got some pointers on starting seeds and when to plant and so forth. They said I shouldn’t put anything out until after Mother’s day, say three weeks from now. I didn’t tell them I’d already put out six tomatoes — three on the deck and three by the house. Early Girl, Sugarsweet, and a mildew-resistant hybrid.

If I’ve got another three or four weeks, I might as well start repairing Section 1. Straighten up the NW corner, and recore the basket.

Started a new set of seeds: cucumber, zucchini, buttercup, spaghetti, summer squash

Decided to make another attempt at pinquito beans. Soaked a handful in water overnight and spread them on a wet paper towel. We’ll see.

Put new irrigation hose in Section 3. I’ll do a writeup with pictures next week.

KanColle, the source of the Abyssal Fleet found

April 17, 2015

Off the coast of California.

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2015/04/17/uss_independence_found/

 

TL:DR — Anime I never finished, Spring 2015

April 16, 2015

We’re into Week 2 of the Spring Anime Season. Here’s some more shows I’m dropping. The first two aren’t bad out of the gate (the first one is rated highly by the aniblogiscenti), but I don’t think they’ll sustain my interest.

My (Love) Story: The (Love) is in parens because the actual title is simply Ore Monogatari (おれ ものがたり), or My Story. I guess a Western audience needs a little less subtlety. Gentle giant befriends young girl, thinking she has a thing for his friend when she really has the hots for him. Too, too treacly sweet for my taste.

Arslan Senki: AKA The Heroic Legend of Arslan. The Japanese sure can pack a whole paragraph into one kanji. It’s high fantasy, much like 12 Kingdoms, or Yona of the Dawn. For some reason, these kinds of stories don’t (usually) hold my attention, unless they have some redeeming feature, like Grenadier did. I quite liked 12 Kingdoms, but not enough to actually load the DVD with Cour 2 on it. I liked Yona, but not enough to actually order the DVD. It’s not them, it’s me. Well, it’s partly them. Anyway. Arslan is another of this ilk, only somewhat more clichéd than most.

The rest would have made last week’s list if only they had aired soon enough:

Gunslinger Stratos: Students from a future school where grades seem to be based on paintgun duels, fall through a crack in reality and come out in what might be present day Tokyo, where their dopplegangers use real guns.

Denpa Kyoshi / Ultimate Otaku Teacher: Otaku NEET slacker teaches school. As bad as it sounds.

Show by Rock: A rock show. For the pre-teen female demographic. Cute, in small doses. Like, one episode per season.

Rin-Ne: Girl can see ghosts. Not that girl (Re-Kan), the other one. Gets involved with cheapskate supernatural being. Not that supernatural cheapskate (Noragami), the other one.

Mikagura School: Flaming yuri enrolls in magical school because she likes the girl on the cover of the catalog. Her magical power is pointing her finger, flexing her thumb, and saying ‘bang’.

Daikonoats

April 14, 2015

Time to use up more of that dashi. This time the secret ingredient is the stub end of a smallish daikon radish that I’d made oden with the night before.  Normally, one puts whole rounds of the daikon into a stew or soup and lets them simmer for a couple of hours, to absorb the taste.  No time for that, this is breakfast! So I just diced the daikon, dumped it into the dashi and delayed deploying the oatmeal until steaming.

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

Results:Not inedible. Not exciting. Not blended. The daikon added some crunch to the meal, but it felt like an afterthought, like seaweed sprinkled on your salad.

Rating: *****

Green Thumb Up My Nose

April 13, 2015

Garden Report for 150413

Welcome back. Coming up on the Ides of April, more to be feared than the Ides of March, and it’s time to git gardening.

Not quite warm enough for the planting yet. Garden soil is still at 50F, and we’ve got three nights below freezing in the next six. On the other hand, after Wednesday’s Thursday’s frost, it looks like we’ll start a warming trend, which means I can probably start planting the first or second week of May. Meanwhile, the weekend was a complete waste, with highs in the 40’s, and winds in the ….40’s.

Ripped out the old irrigation hose, what was springing leaks right and left, and prepared to replace it. Problem. Nobody local seems to carry 1/2″ soaker hose any more. It’s all 3/8″, which means my hardware won’t work. On the other hand, they do have 3/8″ irrigation kits with 100ft of hose, plus fittings, for $25. That will do two sections of KHG. The only problem is, on these, the hose goes into the fitting. Meaning there’s no way to fix it. On my 1/2″ rig, the hose went over the fitting, and could be secured with a hose clamp. Now, I’m at the mercy of friction.

Found my main hose was also leaking, right at the attach point. Looks like this will be the Spring of The Hose Replacement Project.

Planted a bunch of seeds in seed starters. They came up, and promptly died. Probably not enough water. I think I’ll give up on seeds and just buy seedlings. I say that every year, but This Time For Sure. Filled out a very complete but now useless garden gantt.

Found some good articles on cover crops, that will have to wait for Fall to try out.

Faking Pork

April 11, 2015

So, three days ago I trashed the anime Food Wars (AKA Shokugeki no Souma, 食戟のソーマ / Souma’s Food Weapons). I stand by that. If you are looking for an entertaining anime, and there’s a shred of (cultural) taste in your makeup, you will skip this one and go watch HOTD reruns. Scenes that the manga passes over with one or two giggleframes, the anime lingers lovingly on, detailing every blush, every squeak, and every crotch clench. Classes at the cooking school are arbitrary contests — “Today you will make bœuf bourguignon. What!? You never made it before? You don’t belong in this school!” — which Souma, Our Hero, wins handily (“Oh, you mean beef stew“).

On the other hand, those of you who read Playboy for the insightful articles, might find that this anime is worthwhile because of the …. recipes!

In the first episode, Our Hero is challenged to make a juicy meat dish, after the bad guys have trashed all the meat in his kitchen. All he has is a half kilo of thick-cut bacon he picked up on the way in to work. Fear not, gentle eater, he wins the day with a Gotcha Pork Roast.*

Step 1. Chunk, steam, and mash some potatoes. I used three medium/smalls, chopped fine and boiled. FoodWarsPotatoes Step 2. Chop some onion and oyster mushrooms. Looks to be about 2:1 ratio by screen presence. I used a 100g box of mushrooms and one medium onion. Chopped and softened in the frying pan.

Eringi (エリンギ) mushrooms

Eringi (エリンギ) mushrooms

Step 3. Mix, mould, and wrap in thick cut bacon, dotted with rosemary. I just mixed the veggies, put them in a shallow casserole dish, and layered the top with bacon. No rosemary.

Looks more like a hash brown patty from here

Looks more like a hash brown patty from here

Step 4. Roast at an unknown temperature for an unknown period. I used a convection oven set at 325F for half an hour.

I was out of rosemary

I was out of rosemary

Step 5. Meanwhile, cook down a mix of red wine, shoyu, and mirin, with a pat of butter. Being fresh out of mirin (and also out of sake, so I couldn’t なんちゃって some up), I used half a cup of vin exceedinly ordinaire, tablespoon of shoyu, and a half-tablespoon of dry sherry. Reduce to 1/8th of a cup.

Mine didn't look like this

Mine didn’t look like this

Results: Very good, in a non-crotch-clenching sort of way. None of my clothes exploded off of me, and any squeaking noises I made were due to the potatoes being too hot. No-one would ever mistake mine for a pork roast.

Comments: Needed a few more strips of bacon, to improve the overlap and make up for shrinkage. In photo-recon terms, we had enough for 100% coverage, but not enough for stereo coverage. Needed lots more potatoes, to soak up the thick-cut grease. Was hot all the way through, but the onion was still sharp-flavored, so cooking the onions and mushrooms in the frying pan a while longer would help. Plus maybe cooking the whole dish longer, at a lower temperature. Adding rosemary might help get the effect we want.

Oh, the rosemary!

Oh, the rosemary!

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* The word used is なんちゃって (nanchatte), which is defined as “just kidding”, or “fake”.

TL:DR — Anime I never finished, Spring 2015

April 9, 2015

The Spring Shows are just starting to bud out, and I’m doing some early pruning, based on the first episode alone. There may be some series that I’ll reconsider, if the popular acclaim is loud enough. I doubt these are them.

Seraph of the End: Vampires enslave children after everyone over 13 dies in a plague. Group of kids from an orphanage gets a vamp-gun and a tourist map showing routes out of the underground city and decide to make a break for it. Everybody dies.

Overly evil bad guys. Good backgrounds, but mediocre character art and animation. It’s dated 2015, but it looks like something from the 90’s, and the lead-in shows the now obsolete logo of the six-years defunct Geneon corporation, as if this was something they found in a back room storage bin.

Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls In a Dungeon?: In this case, yes. Clueless, over-eager (but sensitive), n00b adventurer gets the hots for a 5th-level combatrix from an insufferably powerful family, followers of the god Loki. Our adventurer is the only follower of the goddess Hestia, who looks and acts like the traditional anime childhood friend and is totally smitten with her oblivious follower. So, he’s off getting damaged by demons in a dungeon when he could be at home, snogging with a goddess. It’s like a spin-off based on one of the less interesting side characters from Sword Art Online. So far, the only appealing character is Eiefull-Halfelven, his local guild mistress. To add insult to injury, Wikipedia says this all takes place in Baltimore.

Food Wars: Hey, guys! Did you see how well Gourmet Girls did last season? I’ll bet we can do better than that! Instead of middle school kids, we’ll have high-schoolers, and adults, because the foodgasms can be that much more explicit, and we can have nudity and peanutbutter-lubed tentacle rape! Oh, oh, and predatory land developers, with bigger boobs than in the manga, of course! And then, and then — wait for it — we can send him off to a pathologically intense cooking school where we can subject him to arbitrary demands and unreasonable conditions while not teaching him anything! It’ll be like a combination of Game of Thrones, and Iron Chef America, with a touch of American Gladiators thrown in! There’s no way this can go wrong! Eat your heart out, Ed Wood!!

Triage X: Boobs, blood, and bombast. If you like nudity, car chases, explosions, and extra-judicial murder justified by pseudomedical bafflegab, this one’s for you. Otherwise, it’s something that followers of Highschool of the Dead would turn their noses up at. Follows the manga quite closely (you say that as if it was a good thing). CREDITS: Miss Sagiri’s boobs were played by two sumo wrestlers, who appear by special arrangement with Nihon Sumō Kyōkai.

Oatmeal Arrabbiata

April 9, 2015

Arrabbiata sauce, or sugo all’arrabbiata in Italian, is a spicy sauce for pasta made from garlic, tomatoes, and red chili peppers cooked in olive oil. “Arrabbiata” literally means “angry” in Italian, and the name of the sauce is due to the heat of the chili peppers.

Wikipedia

MJ had bought a jar of Arrabbiata sauce, which we had over spaghetti (you’re really supposed to have it over penne past). It was pretty good, as I recall, but there was half a jar left, and a month later there was still half a jar left. The nice thing about modern commercial foods is that their constituent chemicals are so inimical to life that they last a long time in the fridge.

Feeling angry one morning, I decided to try it on in oatmeal. I used a rather bland chicken broth that we’d cooked up from some legs, and added two dinner tablespoons of Arrabbiata. Given the way the sauce dominated the flavors, I probably should have just used water.

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

Results: Pretty good, if you like garlic and chili peppers for breakfast. I forgot that adding additional liquids to the broth tended to make the oatmeal a little sloppy, and had to add a third teaspoon of potato flakes. To maintain tradition, I topped it with shredded Parmesan cheese, but that didn’t really help. What was missing was a nice glass of Chianti Classico ’07.

Rating: *****

Anime Worth Watching, Winter 2015

April 5, 2015

Shirobako: A two-cour series that started last Fall and ended last week. Almost everyone raved about it and said it was great. I think it’s greater than great. I think it’s…it’s…whatever comes two levels above great. It’s in the same class as Girls und Panzer, which isn’t surprising, given that they’re both from the same director, Mizushima Tsutomu. I’d clamour for a third season in the Fall (there’s enough narrative space for four more seasons, plus a couple of spin-offs), but Mizushima is busy making another GaruPan movie. I’m torn.

It’s an anime about making anime. It’s full of adults, with adult jobs, and adult job issues. It touches on every discipline that uses teams of creative people to produce a product. Any software developer or aeronautical engineer, or movie fan, will recognize it. As with any team project (and few anime) it has an enormous cast, so many that we have to have a nametag popup every time they appear, and yet Mizushima makes it work.

This is what it takes to make an anime

This is what it takes to make an anime

By the time the show is done, you know every person in that picture, and you care about what happens to them, and what their day is like, and you no longer mind paying Japanese rates for anime DVDs. You will also learn a lot about what goes into making an anime. Here is a glossary.

Saekano: A harem show about a high school boy making a Visual Novel harem game. The zeroth episode was shamelessly fanservicy, but after that it calmed down and became more plot oriented.

Unlike most harem shows, the male protagonist isn’t a clueless wimp, he’s a driven otaku, one of the three best known people in the school (OK, so he’s clueless about that), and his goal is to have his dating sim game done in time for the Winter Comiket. All the girls on his team, except the one he recruited as the heroine (pronounced he-roine, rhymes with he-groin), are equally accomplished (as in, they include the other two of the three best known students), with outside creative careers of their own. They are all drawn into his orbit by the sheer force of his desire to make this game. Well, since this is a harem anime, those two are really only concerned with one thing.

Well, I've made a decision... [interjections]...I will build this game

Well, I’ve decided … [interjections]… I will build this game

The heroine is a perfectly normal, down to earth girl, who is a lot smarter than she sounds, and drops amazingly funny lines in a totally deadpan voice.

Saekano1

The fact that it’s a computer game within an anime allows them to constantly push up against the 4th wall. A scene will start with a monologue that sounds like it’s talking to you, the anime audience, but turn out to be a discussion of the game. The tropes that play out in the game, also play out in the anime, and the characters (otaku all) recognize them when they happen “How can I compete against her, a childhood friend born on the same day in the same hospital?”.

Saekano

After the usual travails (see: Shirobako) the final episode arrives, and a final burst of energy delivers…the first full path through the game. The game’s not done. The harem situation is unresolved. There has to be at least one more season.

Saekano2

Gourmet Girl Graffitti: It’s been described as food porn, but it’s more than that. It’s food porn plus! Young girl, living alone since her grandmother died, discovers anew the Joy of Snacks when her cousin comes to stay for weekends while going to cram school with her. Both of them have a tendency to orgasm over good food, and Studio Shaft is there to document the phenomenon.

What's for Lunch?

What’s for Lunch?

There’s more to it than that, of course. This is a story about family, and growing, and eating and recovering from grief, and preparing for highschool and the explosive wonderfulness of a mouthful of omurice as it bursts across your taste-buds and… Sorry.

The Well-Cooked Bamboo Shoot...

The Well-Cooked Bamboo Shoot…

On the way, you get a series of one-minute demonstrations on how to cook these delicious meals, and you’ll end every episode hungry for fresh bamboo shoots, or smoked mackerel, or whatever the food of the day is.

I wish I could chew on it forever

…makes me wish I could chew on it forever

The art is good, and the animation is acceptable, the character designs are spot on, and somehow the girls look a sultry ten years older whenever they slide a forkfull of food into their mouths. Good job, Shaft. Good job.

KanColle: The Japanese love their military, and they really love their Navy, even though it’s still not politically correct to admit it. 2013 gave us Arpeggio of Blue Steel, featuring an alien fleet of intelligent ships styled after warships of WWII, crewed by artificial intelligences in the form of young girls. 2015 brings us KanColle, originally the browser based cardgame Kantai Collection. Here, an alien fleet is opposed by a fleet of young girls, imbued with the souls of IJN ships of WWII, and rigged out with equipment that’s reminiscent of those warships. So, the destroyer girls carry hip-mounted torpedo racks, and the carrier girls have bows that launch squadrons of fighters, and shields that look like, and act as, carrier decks.

Twerking Torpedos

Twerking Torpedos

The plot tracks the events of WWII, opening with an attack on island “WI”, continuing to a big carrier battle off the “Coral Islands”, and ending with Operation MI, AKA the Battle of Midway, with the big question being, can the girls avoid the fate that awaited the IJN at Midway?

The problem is, the show doesn’t know if it wants to be an ad for Kantai Collection, a comedy, a tragedy, a buddy movie, or an echo of WWII, so it tries to be all five. It probably could have pulled off two of them, but it just ended up being inconsistent, incoherent, and scatterbrained. A lot of things are insider jokes for Kantai Collection players, or for WWII buffs. One aniblog found it necessary to post multiscreen summaries by two different authors, detailing the game and war references after every episode. There are, I am told, over 60 ships in the game, and the anime tried to shove as many of them as possible across the screen. Mizushima Tsutomu might have been able to pull it off. KanColle couldn’t.

The Fleet Girls in Action

The Fleet Girls in Action

Still, it’s a fun bit of popcorn, particularly for WWII buffs, and you don’t often get to see formations of archer-maidens roller-blading across the ocean.

Yona of the Dawn: I know, I know, I gave it very short shrift last Fall, when the first of the two cours started. And I stand by what I said. The heroine (spoiled daughter of a soon-to-be-murdered king) was a brat, and the script exploited the “talk is free” loophole shamelessly.* But Fem over at FemService convinced me to try it again, and I have to admit it was quite good.

It turned out to be both a quest and a journey of discovery. The script settled down, and didn’t involve quite so many villainous speeches. Unfortunately, the art and animation weren’t all that great. Fortunately, the characters and their interactions more than made up for it. Yona plays off of each of them, and they play off each other. Side characters are constantly upstaging her, and that’s OK. Along the way, she grows, and becomes stronger and tougher. Early on, she escapes a captor who has grabbed her by her long red hair, not by stabbing him with the sword she’s holding, but by using it to cut off her hair.

The True Leader Does What is Necessary

The True Leader Does What is Necessary

At the end, she’s willing to use deadly force to gain her goals. Since the season ends with her finally putting together her team of “dragons”, after cleaning up a seaport that has become a hive of scum and villainy, I wouldn’t be surprised to see at least one more cour. After all, there’s a murdered king to avenge.

Yurikuma Arashi: Lesbian teddy-bears infiltrate a girls’ school and eat the lilys.** This is another show that popular acclaim forced me to reconsider. Gorgeous art. Excellent framing. A complex story about genderness and bullying and rejection and acceptance. Complex on many levels, with tropes and symbolism that are orthogonal to this old white male’s weltanschauung. Starts off slow, and never really picks up speed, and you need a flow chart to track the character interactions. Multiple flashbacks; multiple POVs; multiple reveals. Not particularly fanservice oriented, unless the sight of intertwined naked middle school girls turns you on, in which case you are either too young to be reading this blog, or you need to schedule your analyst for some serious overtime. Marvelous ending.

YuriKuma01

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*The Talk is Free loophole says that any fight, or any dramatic moment can be paused indefinitely while the characters spend any amount of time exposiating, with no penalty on either side. This is similar in concept to German separable verbs, as described by Mark Twain.

**For those not plugged into the proper argot, yuri (百合, ゆり), is Japanese for lily, with a more recently added meaning of female homosexuality.

Mr. Lincoln’s Computers

April 1, 2015

Rare photo shows Mary Todd Lincoln turning the crank on an early information storage system, used to hold the Confederate Order of Battle Operations Listing. It’s a well-known fact that, given their constantly changing brigade structure and penchant for naming units after (often short-lived) commanders, even the Confederate generals were not always sure how many men they had in the field. Abraham Lincoln reportedly said that, thanks to these machines, the Union usually had a better idea than the Confederates.

EarlyComputer2782902040_8eda609f06_o1

Lincoln also credited his computers, as the girls who cranked the handles were called, for helping break a number of Confederate codes. “We never would have figured out how tightly they wound their paper strips around the coding pencils without the help of these fine women”, he said. Other triumphs included determining exactly which edition of Ivanhoe the Confederate government used as the basis for their unbreakable ‘book codes’.