Archive for January, 2017

Green Thumb Up My Nose: Lessons Learned and Plans for 2017

January 31, 2017

Lessons learned:
Not much new here. Don’t plant in the shade (yard shade and Section 4), and don’t plant short plants north of tall plants. The only brassicae worth trying are cabbages, and even then it’s a crapshoot. Beans are more trouble thant they are worth. Peas are OK. Burdock needs a lot of time to develop roots worth taking. Don’t expect your tomatoes to be more than tennis ball size.

Plans for 2017:
It’s a mild La Nina year, so we’re cooler and wetter. At the end of January there’s still eight inches of snow on the ground, including some from late November. I’m still going to plant early, but with less hope of useful results.

gardengantt2017

Continuing our medieval field rotation we have

Section 1
Tomatoes.

Section 2
Greens, lettuce, maybe cabbage. Yes, this violates the no shorts north of talls rule, but if I start the short stuff off early, it will be well developed before the tomatoes start to shade them

Section 3
Peas, cucumbers, carrots.

Section 4
Squash, melons, asparagus, maybe amaranth. Still looking for a purpose for Section 4.

Deck Containers
The usual tomatoes

House Containers
Tomatoes, cucumbers

Southside
Dig up the hops. Never gave that much shade, and I’m no longer interested in climbing around on the roof to mount/dismount the netting. Remove all the dirt (pesticides), and use it on the front lawn. Add new dirt, with lots of coffee grounds, and some blueberries.

Happy Chinese New Year

January 28, 2017
We celebrated last night

We celebrated last night

Winter Garden

January 20, 2017

Our local hardware store just got their Spring seeds in.

Time to get to work

Time to get to work

Shirobako and “cuts” in anime

January 20, 2017

This is mostly based on information found on Sakuga Blog, and is presented separately here, primarily as a way of organizing my own thoughts on the subject.

If you have watched the meta-anime Shirobako, you know that cuts are the International Standard unit of measure in anime production. In Shirobako, almost every animator assignment is based on cuts, and the difficulty of an assignment is rated in how heavy (complex) the cuts are. So, like Noah and cubits, my first questions what’s a cut?

I have been looking for a definition of the word ever since Shiro came out. Finally, Sakuga Blog has one, with a couple of really good examples:

Cuts in anime are basically the same as shots in movies – continuous looks at the events. Multiple of them are used to comprise a sequence, and they can be short or long depending on the type of scene (though the latter are rare, since anime’s production model would require a single animator to handle way too many consecutive keyframes). The easiest way to explain them is through examples, so let’s take a look at two recent uploads on the booru: this upload is composed of three cuts (0:00 – 0:09, 0:09 – 0:12, and 0:12 – 0:23), while this upload is one single cut. Another way to think about it is simply the “camera” switching to another position; a cut can move the POV, but it ends the moment it cuts to a different one.

So, if I understand the process correctly, the director sketches out the start of each cut as part of a storyboard:

We'll need 100 horses

We’ll need 100 horses

Then the key animators draw major changes in the positions of characters within a cut

shirobakokeyframe

And finally, the in-between-ers draw each frame of the 24fps animation to move from one position to another, and color and backgrounds are added.

shirobakofinal02

So this (non-Shirobako) sequence, from the Sakugabooru blog, looks like it shows development of a single cut. The original storyboard and key animation are at the top, at the bottom, you have the in-betweens drawn in and the background, with the final coloring.

Anime I’m watching — Winter 2017

January 17, 2017

Not counting OVAs or shorts, AniChart shows 50 anime airing this season. I started out watching 15, which rapidly dropped to eleven worth mentioning, and has now levelled off at six. Three are slice-of-life “monster” comedies, two are isekai, and one is a straight high school harem romance.

Demi-Chan wa Kataritai — Monster girls go to high school. Unlike Monster Musume, the previous entry in this genre, the girls are not part of a harem, and they are not oversexualized. The male human POV character is an adult teacher, who pretty much acts like one. The number of monster girls is limited: student vampire, snow maiden, and dullahan; math teacher succubus. So far, we’ve only gotten a look at the vampire and dullahan. They are typical high school girls, sometimes mischievous, sometimes prone to getting a crush on their teacher.

The Japanese seem to be fascinated with the dullahan concept, the headless horseman of Irish folklore. Last year’s Konosuba had one who was an evil lord*, while dullahan Celty was one of the stars of Durarara. Demi-chan treats it more like a disability, addressing questions like, what happens when your body is at home but not close to the toilet, while your head is on a date, drinking soda?

If you spend too much time saying goodbye, some of you can miss your train

If you spend too much time saying goodbye,
some of you can miss your train

Things may heat up next week, when we learn about sex and the single succubus.

Kobayashi-san’s Dragon Maid — All about, well, Kobayashi, and her live-in maid, who is also a dragon. As with few other shows, this is about adults, who work, and drink, and have a life, and don’t go to high school. The lead human, Kobayashi, reminded me a little bit of Kaoru, from I Can’t Understand What My Husband Is Saying, even though the character designs were quite different. It turns out that both of these anime were based on manga by the same author, Cool-kyō Shinja. So far, it’s slice-of-life, with dragon jokes. Also maid jokes.

dragonmaid01 dragonmaid03 dragonmaid02

Gabriel Dropout — Not exactly a monster, Gabriel is an angel, tops in her class at angel middle school, who is sent down to Earth to go to high school and live with humans and learn about them. Unfortunately, she gets enamoured of computer RPG’s, and by the end of the first episode is well on her way to dropping out and becoming not only a NEET, but evil**.

In some ways, she’s a typical high school girl who, for example, doesn’t want to leave any witnesses to an unfortunate teleportation event with her pantsus.

Collateral damage

Collateral damage

Konosuba, Season 2 — A second season for the high school boy who died and was reincarnated in a fantasy world with the mission of defeating the Demon King. He’s still teamed up with a set of companions who are powerful but useless — water goddess who can do a fan dance with water, explosion wizard who can produce only one blast a day, masochistic knight who can take loads of punishment but can’t hit anything with her sword.

The default facial expressions

The default facial expressions

Seiren — High school harem romance, in the Amagami SS tradition. It’s based on a visual novel, so there’s multiple girls to pursue. It’s in omnibus format, which means that instead of picking one girl, the way Kanon and Clannad do, the 12 episodes are really three short stories of 4 episodes each, so the protagonist can win three different girls. Think of it as parallel universes.

Three of these girls will be the lucky winner. More, if there's a second season

Three of these girls will be the lucky winner.
More, if there’s a second season

The Saga of Tanya the Evil — A first season for the salaryman who died and was reincarnated in a fantasy world after getting into an argument with God over whether he exists or not. Since he’s applying his former-life cuthroat-management techniques to his new situation, this has been called the Moshidora of reincarnation anime.

Izetta, she ain't

Izetta, she ain’t

He ends up as an evil***, magic-using warloli soldier who is trying to establish a place for herself in the rear echelon of a war very like WWI. Of course, all her efforts only make her a hero, likely to be pushed into the front lines.


* How evil? He used to bowl his head down the hall so that it came to a stop looking up a maid’s skirts. You don’t get much more evil than that.

** How evil? More evil than the demon student who threw a plastic bottle in the recycling without removing the cap.

*** How evil? Evil enough to get it into his nickname.

TL:DR — Anime I never finished, Winter 2017 Part 2

January 15, 2017

It’s a long weekend, so here’s the second increment of stuff I’m no longer watching.

ACCA — Late 1930’s European feel to this one, or maybe immediately post-war, despite the computers. Official in the auditing branch of the nationwide public services organization gets involved in complex intragovernment plot. Uniforms scream “Nazi SS”, but the reality (at least, below the scheming leadership) feels more like a normal government bureaucracy/police procedural. Looks to be targeted at a very adult demographic. For some reason it just couldn’t hold my interest, and the fact that a map of the continent they are on looks exactly like a chicken has nothing to do with it.

We'll arrest the ... usual suspects

We’ll arrest the … usual suspects

Masamune-kun’s Revenge — Spoiled boy decides to get back at spoiled girl who rejected him in grade school by romancing her in high school and rejecting her once she falls for him. Spoilers say his clever plan collapses when they end up falling for each other. Neither one of them is the kind of person you’d want on your friends list.

Chaos;Child — OK, I admit it. Every semicolon anime since Stein’s;Gate has been confused, poorly organized, and overly gory, with totally unrelatable characters, and C;C maintains their record, unblemished.

SpiritPact — Insufferably dense idiot dies and is offered a perpetual job working for an insufferably smug exorcist fighting evil demons who are the suffering souls of the newly dead. Suffering.

Minami Kamakura … Bu — High school girls cycling club, best described as a 12-episode ad for the Kamakura Chamber of Commerce. Characters are squeaky-voiced idiots and the plot is non-existent, but the artwork is pretty.

Looks like parts of Germany

Looks like parts of Germany

REGRETTABLY ABSENT

I’m not watching these, not because they are not good, but because they are not available to me. Now that anime has grown enough to be of interest to the big boys, instead of being a niche for otaku, the majors are shouldering their way in, looking for a slice of that $60 a disk anime pie. The business model seems to be to pay lots of money for the cream of the anime crop, leaving sites like Crunchyroll with Hand-Shakers, and other dregs.

Netflix, of which I am probably the only person in Christendom who doesn’t have a subscription, has licensed Little Witch Academia.

Amazon has come up with a double, maybe triple, whammy. 1. They have an exclusive license to a big chunk of Noitamina’s catalog, 2. It’s behind the Amazon Prime $100/year paywall, 3. and the Anime Strike $5/month paywall. Depending on their marketing plan, some properties (Great Passage) may be available in other countries (UK) before they are available in the US. In addition to GP, this season’s batch includes Scum’s Wish and Onihei, as well as the ever-popular Vivid Strike (OK, so maybe not totally cream).

TLDR — Anime I never finished, Winter 2017 Part 1

January 13, 2017

So far, the Winter season of 2017 has given us a disappointment in almost every genre.

Hand Shakers — Clueless HS student forced to fight unknown enemies for unknown reasons in intersecting parallel dimension. Male combatants evoke their combat prowess by fighting hand-in-hand with a female counterpart. Or sometimes foot-in-crotch. Characters are animated in 3DCG by a team that never looked at what either the backgrounders or the special effects parts of the team were doing. Plus, they know nothing about the physics of fluid-filled spheres.

Remember, it's not assault if she sounds like she's enjoying it.

Remember, it’s not assault if she sounds like she is enjoying it.

Akiba Strip — Poor man’s Ikki Tousen. Protagonists beat the outerwear off demons from an intersecting parallel dimension disguised as beautiful girls, who then get all burned up over it. In most cases, the outerwear barely covers the underwear, so the exact destruction mechanism is as obscure as the reasoning behind the existence of this show.

Remember, it's not assault if they're demons in disguise

Remember, it’s not assault if you claim they’re demons in disguise

Chain Chronicles — Multiple multi-racial armies assault insanely-evil-mage-king’s castle in a bid to get a small group of heroes inside to kill the IEMK and recover a magical tome. Heroes choose the heroic option and attack IEMK one at a time. Heroes get their collective ass handed to them. Final tug of war between IEMK and his insanely-evil-mage-king’s-daughter over magical tome ends with the book being torn in half. After which, all the MMRAs, along with the IEMKD and the halfbook ride slowly away. To be followed by ten episodes of recriminations.

Good thing none of you is smart enough to sneak up on me through the smoke

Good thing none of you is smart enough to sneak up on me through the smoke

Schoolgirl Strikers — Not-exactly-magical girls (see Luck and Logic) travel to an intersecting parallel dimension to fight monsters that look like they were the result of a failed genetics programming algorithm for generating monster art.

We're not magical girls. Don't call us magical girls.

We’re not magical girls. Don’t call us magical girls.

Fuuka —  Group of students decide to start a band, unfortunately in this dimension. Others have done it better.

I know! Let's put on a show! We can use my father's barn!!

I know! Let’s put on a show!
We can use my father’s barn!!

Oatmeal Chili 2

January 12, 2017

Maybe this is becoming a tradition. A year ago, MJ made a big pot of post-holiday chili. This year, she did the same thing, only using beef strips instead of ground beef, and adding assorted cans of beans and spices and things. Very good, as her chili’s are wont to be. Just wet enough that I could scoop up maybe a quarter cup of the sauce without getting too many beans and things. So this is chili for flavor, not an oatmeal extender.

Setup: 1/2 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one cup of beef broth, a quarter cup of sauce from a pot of chili (probably shouldn’t call it chili 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. Top with a grab handful of shred cheese.

Results: Notice that I bumped up the amount of oatmeal. Ended up with a pot of dryish oatmeal flakes, so I added another splash of broth. Not using potatoes would probably do as well. Very good. Spicy, but not too. Tomato-y, but not too (’cause tomatoes and oatmeal don’t always work well together). Cheese helped.

I’m willing to try it again next year.

Rating: *****

The financial side of anime

January 3, 2017

Over on Sakuga Blog there’s an interesting article on the financials of the anime industry. It appears to be based primarily on sales and so forth in Japan, with one chart on international revenues. The recent trends seem to be up, which is encouraging. The trends in home video, however, are down, and likely to continue that way. Which is sad.

Home video refers to physical purchase of DVDs and BDs, as opposed to streaming. The big differences are, of course, instant customer gratification and zero inventory requirements for streaming, with production delays and inventory risks for disk production.

I prefer physical disks for my favorite shows. Streaming is a problematical solution, because of licensing restrictions and changes in business models and marketing strategies. If I have a disk, I own it forever. If I have a streaming subscription, I ‘own’ the anime until it ages out.

In terms of packaging and delivery, the Japanese model has been to release disks with only a few episodes on them, at what Americans used to consider exorbitant prices. For example, right now on amazon.co.jp, volume 1 of Shirobako (three episodes, roughly 72minutes of programming) costs ¥5400 (a reduction from the original ¥8400), or about $0.64/minute. The article talks about how this is slowly changing, to a business model with more episodes per disk. What the article doesn’t address is the transfer of Japanese program packaging and pricing into the North American market.

For example, in the U.S., as recently as 2008, highly rated shows like Neon Genesis Evangelion or Mushishi would sell as full series boxed sets for about $50 for 650 minutes, or $0.08 per minute. Now, Nekomonogatari White is selling what equates to less than half a season (5 episodes, 125min) for $80 for the BD version. That’s also $0.64 per minute. And the much less highly rated Saekano (How to raise a boring girlfriend) is selling in single episode sets at about a dollar a minute in Japan, with the first six episodes on BD in the U.S. going for $0.64/minute.

My forecast is that sales of physical disks in the U.S. market are likely to drop much more than in Japan, given both the increased availability of streaming and the higher price per minute of the disks. I guess the anime sales departments right now are testing the price elasticity of demand, and will have to learn through experience if the increased revenue per disk will offset the decline in unit sales.

Three week hiatus

January 2, 2017

Sortof. For the next three weeks I’m not going to read or write about anything political. Why? Because it will pretty much be a waste of time and electrons.

Look, we know the Trump regime will be bad, but we have no way of knowing how bad. To the extent that he has plans, or maybe primal urges and proclivities, those plans will, as they say, not survive contact with the enemy. We all have a pretty good idea of what Democrat and Republican politicians want, and we have a fuzzier idea of what Liberal and Conservative Americans want. Trump is going to have to operate within that framework. We should all work to strengthen that framework, but that is something we should have been doing all along.

As for the details, until he actually assumes the toga and begins doing, or trying to do, things, we can only guess. The newsies don’t know, his Cabinet (whoever they turn out to be) doesn’t know; hell, Trump doesn’t know, and can’t know. Not at this point.

But there is a 24/7 news hole that has to be filled, and despite their lack of knowledge, the newsies and the bloggers and the tweets will have to fill it — with something. Anything you read between now and the Inauguration (maybe between now and the State of the Union) will be pure speculation and click-bait. Save your adrenalin for when you’ll really need it.

Go eat some oatmeal. Go watch some anime.