Archive for July, 2017

Memories of my youth: Technology progress

July 31, 2017

Times change. Technology changes. Most everybody looks at computing power as an example. If you want another example (albeit computer-related), look no further than our worldwide communications network, and how it’s changed in my adult lifetime.

1970: I am a young USAF lieutenant, based at RAF Mildenhall, in the UK. My mother, recently divorced and on her own, was going through a bad patch. How can I provide her some moral support? What about a phone call?

There was one phone in the BOQ that you could book international calls on. It was at the front desk, and normally behind the glass of the teller’s cage. To make a call, you first booked it with the international operator, who would call you back when the circuit was available. Then you stood next to the cashier’s cage, with the handset cord snaked out through the hole in the glass, and held your conversation while the rest of the world was cashing checks and paying for dinner. Cost was $1.00 a minute.

1980: I’m a USAF major at the Alert Center at DIA, in the Pentagon. There was an incident where a US carrier, enroute to a port visit in Yugoslavia, violated Yugoslav airspace on the way in to port. There was a discussion between the US ambassador, in Belgrade, and the National Military Command Center (NMCC) duty general on one phone line, and the NMCC duty general talking to the captain of the carrier on a different line. I stood by in case there was a need for Intelligence input. There wasn’t.

It was interesting, and exciting, to have real time communications halfway around the world, even if it had to be on two different phone lines. Based on recent reports, things haven’t changed in the cross-Department area.

1990: I’m a contractor, working on a then state of the art geographic information system, installed in the Alert Center at DIA. It’s the start of the Kuwait war Scud missile attacks and I’m helping chase them. A missile would launch from Iraq, and the plume would be detected by a satellite in geosynchronous orbit. The satellite would radio the detection to the ground site in Colorado, which would report it to the NMCC in the Pentagon. DIA was also on that circuit, and we’d input the launch coordinates to our database, pull up possible hiding places, like bridges and overpasses, and send that on to the Scud Cell in Saudi Arabia. They’d pass the data to the F-15E’s and the fighters would try to find the launchers.

What with intermediate hops, the signal had to travel a good 120,000 miles, from detection to target assignment.

1997: Meanwhile, Cordelia has her own wireless phone. All you have to do is pull the antenna out.

2016: I am a college professor enroute to a conference in Hokkaido, Japan. While travelling along at 90mph on the Shinkansen bullet train, I call my brother in Utah on my pocket phone. The next year he returns the favor by calling me from Graz, Austria, on his phone, using full motion video.

 

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Green Thumb Up My Nose

July 30, 2017

Garden Report for 170731

Summer continues. No rain for over a month. Highs around 90F, lows around 60F, limited watering restrictions continue. Next week the same yet again, except highs near 100F. Glad I’ve got the drip water timer.

Sub-Arctic gave three small tomatoes, as did the Siletz. Better Boy and Big Boy gave one each. Or rather, a third of a one each. Blossom end rot. Late breaking news: At the last minute, Big Boy came through with a 150g non-BER. Yay!

Sub-Arctic Plenty is a “determinate that gives hundreds of small tomatoes”. Mine gave three, and I don’t mean three hundred, and then pooped out. The container is on the south wall. Have never had any luck on that side. Maybe it’s too hot. Well, let’s try planting some heirloom Rutgers tomatoes. The ones sold today are derivatives of the original. Some are determinate, some are not. Mine are indeterminate (it says here). The packet says 10-12 weeks, which means end of October/early November. We’ll see if we can beat the frost.

In other news: two small summer squash and one small zucchini. Four warty cucumbers. Half a kg of cherry tomatoes of various types. They come in clusters, and some are still green, so it’s not worth tracking them. Handful of shell peas, and handful of pea pod peas, harvested just ahead of death-by-powdery-mildew. Not enough to track. Barely enough for a salad.

Week
Ending
17/07/31
Vegetable Count Weight
g
Unit
Weight
g
Total Total
Weight
kg

tomato  7 550 78  13 1.3
cabbage
cucumber 4 870  217 4 0.87
summer
squash
2 240 120 3 0.34
zucchini  1  150  1 150 0.15
winter
squash
Grand Total  2.7

Last year at this time we had over 6kg of produce, but 4kg of that was cabbage, so the rest of our produce is on track. Our cabbages have not bolted, yet, but they look to be about tennis-ball sized. Since temps have been running 90F and up, I doubt we’ll get much out of them. We’ll see what they look like at the start of next week

 

Tanya: Someone is wrong on the Internet

July 25, 2017

It’s always painful when even the supporters of a show get it wrong. The latest misinterpretation of Tanya is by Nick Creamer, over on ANN, and it looks like none of the commenters has any concept of WW’s I and II beyond watching Thomas Kretschmann movies. Herewith, seven key points to keep in mind when reading any of it:

  1. The Empire isn’t imperialist. They never invaded anyone that didn’t invade them first. When the not-Scandanavians invaded the Empire, everybody’s reaction was WTF? Who would do such a stupid thing? The narration at the end of the series points out the irony that all the Empire’s actions were out of fear of their neighbors.
  2. The officers aren’t Nazis. The talk of serving the homeland appears on both sides in the anime, and is no different than what you would have heard in any military headquarters in our Europe in the early 1900’s. The counter-invasion of not-Scandanavia horrified the generals.
  3. Nobody’s a good guy. Soldiers on both sides did terrible things, because that’s what one does in a war. At the start of Episode 1, the not-French were killing not-Germans who were disorganized and fleeing, and doing it with a smile. In Episode 2, Anson Su, lead element of the invasion force, did his best to kill a young girl who was merely acting as an observer. Yes, she turned out to be a fierce fighter, but that was later. As far as he knew, she was like his daughter.
  4. Nobody’s a bad guy. These are military professionals, engaged in high-stakes, high adrenalin actions. They are excited in their work, and proud of their accomplishments. If they sit and mope and come all over angsty about their actions, they do it after the battle, when such thoughts won’t slow down their reactions. Tanya does it on the train. Su does it, a little bit, right before the fjord raid kicks off.
  5. Tanya isn’t a sadist. Throughout the series, none of Tanya’s actions were, as far as I can tell, violations of the rules of war, either in her world or in ours.  None of her acts involve inflicting pain without purpose, and at least twice she says she hates killing. The guy she fired in Episode 2 failed to show for work on time, and failed to respond to training. Tanya’s only “sin” was in not feeling any emotion about it. Her approach to training was similar to that used by the US Marines and the UK Commandos. She thought it would drive them away. Instead, it created an elite unit. On at least two occasions, Tanya changed her approach to a problem in order to minimize her casualties.
  6. Tanya isn’t power-hungry. Here in our world, and in the new one, her goal is to achieve a quiet life. All of her actions point in that direction. Play by the rules, and do your job well, and you will be on the escalator to a good position and a quiet life.
  7. Being X isn’t God. Maybe he’s A god (responsible only for reincarnation, in a Japanese division-of-divine-labor sort of way), but in Episode 2 he complains of being unable to handle so many billions of souls. To which Tanya replies that overwork is an indicator of a failed business model.

If you want to develop a less biased view of Tanya, when you watch it, imaging that it stars Sylvester Stallone, instead of a 10-year old girl.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

July 23, 2017

Garden Report for 170724

Hot and dry, with a forecast of dry and hot.

Stuff is growing. Nothing new is ripe. No change from last week.

Got to work on the burdock. That’s one tough plant. Deep roots. Thick base stalk with lots of branches. Thistles that cling, even when green.

I’ve cleared out about half of the infestation, but left lots of stumps. Click the pix to embiggen.

The garden in June. All that waist-high stuff to the left of the bird feeder is burdock. It was head high by the time I started work.
And here’s what I’ve been able to do so far. Looks like pictures of pioneer clearings in the NW forests. Notice that the plants next to the fence have grown quite a bit.

Coconoats 2

July 20, 2017

Just over four years ago, I tried coconut milk as the base fluid for the oatmeal. It didn’t go well, even with chocolate helper. This time I thought I’d try it with blueberries, since it’s blueberry season at Follow The Harvest. Keep in mind that this isn’t the coconut water from the immature nut, it’s the organic coconut flesh, ground and processed, with added organic sugar.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one cup of coconut milk, half a cup of blueberries, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, salt. Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats. Add the blueberries at the start, and the potatoes at the end.

Results: Keep in mind that the manufacturer is trying to create a milk substitute that doesn’t involve methane farts. They succeeded, and the oatmeal tastes like oatmeal made with regular milk, except that it didn’t want to scald. Additional sweetener was necessary, as was a couple tablespoons of organic non-dairy creamer (I prefer Italian Cream flavor). It was alright, if you’re a normal.

Rating: ***

Green Thumb Up My Nose

July 16, 2017

Garden Report for 170717

We are now in full summer mode. No rain for a month. Highs around 90F, lows around 60F, watering restrictions on due to city water pump casualty, fire alert for much of the weekend. Same for the coming week

First harvest of the season. Six tomatoes: Siletz and Sub-Arctic, ranging in size from 40 – 140g. One small summer squash. One puny purple pepper. Bag of about-to-bolt lettuce, bag of chard. The chard seems to be winning the fight against the leaf miners. The trick is immediate and unmerciful pruning. Your chard will thank you.

Week
Ending
07/17
Vegetable Count Weight
g
Unit
Weight
g
Total Total
Weight
kg

tomato  6 600 100  6 0.6
cabbage
peas
summer
squash
 1 100 100 1 0.1
zucchini
Spaghetti
squash
Grand Total  0.7

This time last year and in 2015 we had a grand total of 3kg. Fewer tomatoes, more cabbage and squash. In 2014 we had enough heat, and I hadn’t installed the automatic waterizer, that we had nothing but lettuce.

For some reason it only just now occurred to me that the shoulder-high jungle in the SE corner of the yard is actually burdock. On the one hand, that will give me some roots to try cooking. On the other hand, their thistles are nasty. I’m buying a machete.

 

TLDR: Anime I never finished, Summer 2017 – 3

July 16, 2017

I’m crying here. I was going to have just two TLDRs this season, but sometimes one has to reopen the books for new challengers.

Shining Tears X Wind: Pronounced crosswind. STxW (pronounced stew) is a Crunchyroll re-release of a 2007 anime based on a Sega mobile game. Parallel worlds. Multiple handsome heroes. Multiple ornamental girls to fill out the handsome heroes’ harems. The girls also act as …ah… receptacles … for …um… magic swords … that the heroes store in their oppai, bosoms, chests. King Arthur it ain’t.

They wanted to copy the tank chase scene from GaruPan, but didn’t have the budget

Graphics and animation appear to be done using the same 8-bit technology they used for the game. If you liked the game, then (A) you will like this, and (B) we can’t be friends anymore.

True Tears: Crunchyroll re-release of a 2008 anime. High school boy lives in the same house as a cute classmate who he thinks likes him but she really likes the brother of a girl who he also thinks likes him but all she wants him for is his bodily fluids.

Trust me, it will all end in tears before bedtime

None of them are very likeable. Well, there’s the girl standing on the beer crate.

Four Bean Oatmeal

July 13, 2017

Beanless.

MJ bought a jar of four-bean salad a while back. FBS consists of four different kinds of beans, plus chopped onions, in a sugar/vinegar sauce. Tastes very good, either on its own, or spooned over a standard green salad. In home-made versions, the sugar/vinegar ratio varies widely, but is generally about 1:1. Some home-made recipes call for a small amount of salad oil, as well. Our commercial FBS had no sign of oil.

As you serve it up, you generally leave a lot of the liquid behind. What better use for it than in oatmeal the next morning?

Experiment 1

Setup: 1/2 cup of stone ground rolled oats (to make up for the extra liquid), one cup of broth, two measuring tablespoons of sugar/vinegar mix, 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.

I slipped up (it was early) and added everything except the potato flakes before the broth had boiled, so the oats had an additional couple of minutes in the pot.

Results: Very good. Very creamy. Very delicate flavor, that didn’t taste of vinegar at all. Was the creamyness due to the acid bath, or to the extra two minutes of cooking? I’ll find out next time.

Next Time: It was the acidity. And three tablespoons didn’t change the flavor.

Rating: ****

Experiment 2

If two or three tablespoons are good, why not a whole cup? Let’s try just dumping the oats into the four-bean-salad jar and let it sit in the fridge overnight.

Setup: 1/2 cup of stone ground rolled oats (to make up for the extra liquid), one cup of sugar/vinegar mix, 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.

Results: This is what I was expecting the first time. Very sweet. Very vinegary. Too much so. And if you don’t absorb/boil off all the liquid, you end up coughing when you inhale over your breakfast. A knob of butter helped.

Rating: ***

TLDR: Anime I never finished, Summer 2017-2

July 11, 2017

And the losers keep straggling in.

Konbini Kareshi: Grand Hotel, the anime version. Six couples and how their lives are changed by their experiences at the local Lawsons. The boys are the type I spent my high school days avoiding. The girls are the type who spent their high school days avoiding me.

I wonder if I’ll find the girl of my dreams in there. They carry everything else.

Fox Spirit Matchmaker: Fox maiden vows to excel at matchmaking despite the urgings (threats) of the sexy head of her powerful fox clan, all the while avoiding marriage to a jerk who is also a powerful priest who is attempting to avoid marriage despite the urgings (threats) of a bunch of gunsels from his powerful human clan, all the while fending off attacks from a different fox clan, along with some nefarious plots by a fat underhanded plotting priest. Got that? Feels like the producer just threw everything he could think of into a pot and called it stew.

This picture sums it up: One third sexy fox ladies, one third chibi fox follies, one third assholes

Aho Girl: Aho is the word for idiot. It’s for when you’ve already said baka. Our protagonette is an aho. Bright, cheery, infinite mood swings, no short term memory, banana fanatic, zero common sense. Her neighbor (one can’t say ‘boyfriend’, he tells her mother she’s a monkey — her mother agrees) keeps her in line through force and violence. All the girls love him.

The carrot banana and the stick

Katsugeki TOUKEN RANBU: Bunch of guys with swords, who are swords, fight demons, who are time travellers, with the aid of a fox with a computer. Running with swords. Fighting demons. Bantering with the guys. Running…

With a thousand years of experience, you’d think they’d find a better way to run with a sword

Trump in Poland — That Speech

July 9, 2017

Early last week a photo taken in 1937 on Jaluit Island turned up on the media. It showed a bunch of distinctly unoffical-looking officials, along with a man displaying a good example of male pattern baldness, and a genderless person in pants and a shaggy haircut, seated and facing away from the camera. People looked at the picture and immediately said Noonan and Earhart!

On the one hand, this is a good example of people seeing in a photo what they wanted to see. PI’s do this all the time and are well aware of the trap. If you are out looking for tanks, any roughly square assemblage of rocks can look like a tank. If you are looking for Noonan and Earhart, you will see Noonan and Earhart.

On the other hand, you have to consider context — where was the image taken. If you are looking at a photo of a tank park, it’s more likely to be a tank than if you are looking at a city park. If you are looking at a photo taken in 1937 on an island that’s the administrative center of a Japanese mandate, and only 1,000 miles from a possible Earhart crash site within that mandate, you can perhaps be forgiven for thinking of her.

Photos, thank goodness, have ground truth. It’s a tank, or it’s not. It’s Noonan and Earhart, or it’s not. You may never know the truth, but it’s out there. This is not true when talking of human perceptions and emotions.

Three days ago, Trump made a speech in Krasiński Square, Warsaw, thanking his Polish hosts. Depending on how you define the context, the speech can be seen as anodyne, Presidential, racist, Riefenstahlian, or power mad.

The full text of the speech was released by the White House. Admittedly, it might not be accurate. It could be the prepared text, and he might not have followed it. It includes applause and shouts from the crowd, which could have been poorly translated. For example, they could have been crying czarna dzum, which is Polish for Black Plague. But let’s assume that these words are the words he, or his staff, thought worthy of saying.

It’s not a long speech, less than 150 lines containing less than 3500 words — maybe 70 short paragraphs — of content.

The first twenty paragraphs are the usual thanks to the host country and callback to our long history together, totally in line with Fallows’ description of how Presidents talk overseas.

The next eight or ten recount the Poles valiant stands against the Nazi (i.e. German) and Soviet (i.e. Russian) invaders and oppressors, and end by celebrating Poland’s place in NATO as one of the pillars of a strong Europe and a strong West. So far, so … coherent … even if it did spend more time zinging Germany than Russia (Angela will not be pleased).

The next six paragraphs define the three dimensions of the new existentialist threat to The West: The ongoing attacks by radical Islamic terrorism, the destabilizing activities of Russia, and the steady creep of government paperwork. These threats come from South and East, from inside and out. One might reasonably assume that the Inside threat is paperwork, the Southern threat is radical Islam, and the Eastern threat is Russia.

Then, eight paragraphs extolling the achievements of Western Civilization, and five boasting about how we got other NATO members to spend more.

These are followed by the two controversial paragraphs, paragraphs that set the will to prevail at the center of our defense of the West.

We have to remember that our defense is not just a commitment of money, it is a commitment of will

the will of its people to prevail and be successful and get what you have to have.

the confidence in our values to defend them at any cost

enough respect for our citizens to protect our borders

the courage to preserve our civilization in the face of those who would subvert and destroy it

Seven wrap-up paragraphs about Polish will during WWII (another shot at the Germans), a couple of dance-off lines and it’s done.

So, let’s get one thing out of the way at the start. Trump is not suddenly “Presidential” because of this speech. He’s a lightweight, and people from Oz, and things at the bottom of ponds know it. As with his first “Presidential” speech, he has workmanlike speech writers, and he managed to stay on script.

Now, what’s the context of those two paragraphs? First, within the speech, they were preceded by some battle of civilizations imagery that sets the West against Islam, Russian attacks on our institutions, and, of course, bureaucrats. Outside the speech is a modern Europe that feels itself under stress more from refugees than radical Islamists, that feels threatened by the Russian pushback against NATO expansion, that … well … isn’t really bothered by a bureaucracy that makes it hard to build golf courses wherever one wants. Behind the words of the speech is the world-view of its creator, Stephen Miller, and that of his staff colleague, Steve Bannon.

Depending on where you live, different parts of that speech speak to different parts of your brain. Are there people who will see it as a call to defend the best elements of the Judaeo-Christian West? Certainly. Are there those who will read the same words and find in them a call to drive out those who are not demonstrably White and Christian? Of course. Are there those who see the first, and cannot understand how people could claim the second? Here he is.

There is a saying in Washington, DC: Perception is reality. How people see an event or a policy is, effectively, how that event or policy is. I think the takeaway is that everyone’s perceptions about the speech have elements of the ground truth. A Bannon can see those paragraphs as a call to throw back the non-White and non-Christian elements that contaminate our nation state. A Fallow can comment on that without being a person who hates Western Civilization. A Dreher can gain extra clicks by stirring the pot.

And if you want to go beyond the immediate situation, a Brin can detect an element of the manic phase of the Republican worldview.

Happy Tanabata

July 7, 2017

The seventh day of the seventh month is yet another chance for the weaver princess Orihime to be with her lover Hikoboshi, otherwise known as Vega and Altair. Tourist spots like the Tokyo Tower put on special light displays

Orihime, Hikoboshi, and a friend, celebrate their one night together this year.

And even monks on a Journey to the West will stop and celebrate the holiday.

What does the monkey wish for?

TLDR: Anime I never finished, Summer 2017 – 1

July 6, 2017

Two days into the Summer Season and already the rejects are piling up.

Saiyuki Reload Blast: AKA Saiyuki Version V. Latest in a long line of anime adaptations of a long line of manga. Based on the Japanese version of the Chinese compilation of the Buddhist folktale collection called Journey to the West. Bad art, ugly characters, poor acting, static fight scenes, and a stupid AI jeep (Kino should sue).

Which one is the monkey?

Netsuzou Trap: Girl sexually molests another girl. Other girl not sure she objects. Does that make it right? Did they limit the length to 9 minutes because they ran out of body parts to fondle?

French kissing while hanging off an apartment balcony three stories up and she’s afraid her mother will walk in and see them

Knight’s & Magic: Programmer dies and is resurrected in a magical fantasy world with knights in shining mechas. Develops new magical apps by applying good coding practices to existing magic. The weak spot, of course, being the lack of code comments and documentation. Unless maybe the extraneous comma in the title means that everything that follows is a comment.

Patlabor it ain’t

 

Anime Postview: Spring 2017

July 4, 2017

 

The usual disclaimer: this is a look at how well I did in my Spring 2017 Preview, which you might want to look at first.

It was a marginal season. At least five of the more interesting titles were sequestered behind the Amazon Anime Strike double paywall.

Shows I said I Will Watch, because the the cover art was properly enticing, or I liked the first season:

Saekano 2: Didn’t get to watch, because it’s behind the AASDPW. I’ll buy the Blue Ray.

Uchouten Kazoku 2: Haven’t finished it yet, because I decided to watch Season 1 again. Yes, I’ll buy this Blue Ray, as well.

Shuumatsu Nani: Wasn’t great. Wasn’t bad. I liked the world-building, thought the backstory was contrived, and the ending was rushed.

Shows I said I Might Watch, because the the cover art wasn’t too bad, or the blurb sounded enticing:

Nanatsu no Taizai: Dropped after two episodes. Don’t get me wrong, I like fan service, but I like it to be fan-servicey, not cute censorshippy. I’d have to buy the Blue Ray, and I probably won’t.

Kado, Sekaisuru: First half was an interesting first contact story. Second half went downhill. Ending was too contrived.

Tsuki ga Kire: Too, too fumbly teen romance. Very sweet. Couldn’t stand it. Dropped.

Shows I said I Won’t Watch, because of the cover art / title / blurb. Sometimes I watch these anyway.

Tsugumomo: Which, I find out, doesn’t mean extraordinary peach. Very 90’s in style, and most of the females are pre-teens. Well, thousand year old spirits trapped in pre-teen bodies, and try telling that to the Customs Agent. Dropped.

Sakura Quest: I started, but haven’t finished. Country girl goes to the city and gets reassigned to the country. I plan to finish it this Summer.

So, eleven shows, of which, two were good, and three were OK. Three were tried and dropped. Three were not even tried. I’ve made better predictions. If that’s the case, what was I watching? Well, mostly I tried various programs and then dropped them. Sometimes it took me a while to get to the Why am I watching this? point.

Alice & Zoroku: Superpower girl finds a home with supergrumpy old man. First half came to a satisfactory conclusion. I understand the second half is different. I plan to finish, someday.

Kanokon: Various canid spirit beings have the hots for a middle schooler. Dropped.

Eromanga Sensei: Oreimo with the objectionable parts bowdlerized. Dropped.

Love Tyrant: Cupid falls in love, gets involved in a foursome. I finished it, because minimums must be acceptable, etc…

And to tell the truth, I even found myself going back and resurrecting things like School Live and Demon King Daimao.