Archive for March, 2016

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

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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.