Archive for January, 2019

VRV: Aggregation vs Aggravation

January 30, 2019

As a long time Crunchyroll subscriber, I just switched to VRV because it includes both CR and HIDIVE and works on Roku (and HIDIVE doesn’t work on Roku yet). I’ve only been running it for a week, but already I have some opinions on the new service.

PRO: It aggregates the two services that provide the majority of the anime that I like this year. I also get Amazon Prime, but that seems to be past its …. prime.

CON: Having said that, I am paying for 11 different channels, only two of which I watch. On the other hand, while only two of the seven ongoing shows I’m watching on VRV this season are from HIDIVE (the rest being CR), an additional twelve good shows are HIDIVE exclusives from past seasons.

PRO: A nice touch at the beginning is that VRV will remind you that you can drop your CR subscription so that you don’t double pay.

CON: But CR keeps the money you already gave them and the savings only kick in on your next renewal date. If you paid last December, you have to wait until next December.

Now for the cons with no pros.

CON: The transfer doesn’t bring over your CR watchlist, even though both services are Ellation companies. You have to load it all over again.

CON: The VRV user interface

a. The watchlist is displayed in the order you added/watched them in, most recent on top, and can’t be changed, except it changes every time you watch something.

b. On CR, it’s two clicks from your watchlist to your most recent episode. On VRV, you go through the series intro screens. It’s like having to go through the CR “View Show” page each time.

CR episode selector

VRV episode selector


c. The HD subs are white-on-black-bar, instead of CR’s plain white, and block more of the picture. That’s presumably a HD problem, not VRV.

d. The VRV watchlist display is dominated by each program’s cover art (with a smaller duplicate inserted), and the actual names (for those of us who don’t relate to pictures) are in a much smaller font. This is an issue because you have to do a lot of hunting through your watchlist to find stuff.

CR watchlist

VRV watchlist

e. On Roku, but not on the PC version, at the end of each episode, VRV starts a 10sec countdown, showing the progress bar at the bottom of the screen. You know, exactly across where the subtitles are. This isn’t bad if the program is one that just runs out the ED, and it isn’t too bad if the program is one that only shows spoilers of coming attractions, but it’s terrible if the program is one that comes back with some post-credits story line. I could watch stuff on the PC, but I bought a Roku exactly so I wouldn’t have to do that — so I could sit in my living room and watch Samurai Girls on the big screen.

f. And speaking of (b.), the VRV ‘Program Summary’ doesn’t provide a lot of information on what you’ve watched and haven’t watched. The display for a partially watched episode shows a very thin progress bar. If you have watched the full episode, or if you haven’t watched it at all, there’s nothing. CR lets you know how much you’ve watched of each episode.

g. Possibly worst of all, with VRV there’s no way to tell from the watchlist display if an ongoing series has added a new episode. CR will post a new picture and grey out the progress bar. In VRV I have to open up the Program Summary and count the eps. Well, it’s also possible to bookmark the weekly schedule lists on both CR and HIDIVE and check there every day or so.

h. No, this is worst of all. CR knows the most recent episode you have played through, and when you come back it starts up at the next one in the series. This is true even when you just watched the latest available episode. When you come back a week later, CR will start up at the next/newest ep. VRV has no memory of what you have done. If you are marathoning a bunch of eps, it will jump from the end of one to the start of the next. But if you stop in the middle on a season, or if you play through the latest episode and come back later, you have to go into the Program Summary, go to the list of episodes, find the latest, and click on it.

So, as of this writing, early 2019, a Premium membership in VRV is $10/month, while CR is $7/month and HIDIVE is $5/month. Once HIDIVE is available by itself on Roku (they claim to be working on it), a combined membership would be $12/month, compared with the VRV $10/month. The question is, is getting rid of the VRV interface worth $2/month? Depending on what the HIDIVE interface is like, the answer is probably “yes”.

Green Thumb Up My Nose: Lessons Learned and Plans for 2019

January 29, 2019

Lessons Learned from 2018 and plans for 2019

Lessons Learned:

1. Don’t plant: Carolina Gold, any purple tomato

2. Some versions of Champion and Big Boy and Brandywine are determinates. Try staggering the planting. Not sure if staggering the seedling purchase will work.

3. Process the dirt —  turn over the fallow, fertilize early.

4. Until you’ve done (3), don’t use the fallow dirt.

5. Try using seed tapes on the carrots and lettuce, et al.

6. Be sure you check your plan so you don’t use last year’s planting pattern.

7. Don’t bother trying to grow plants indoors next winter. Soil temps in the so-called Sun Room never got over 58F, and three months after planting my indoor cabbage had six leaves.

8. However, here’s some hints on starting seeds indoors

Here’s the preliminary 2019 planting pattern:*

Section 1
Peas, squash, melons. Plant the peas early, so they gain some height over the squash.

Section 2
Tomatoes. Start seeds indoors early March, transplant early May. Depending on what’s at the nursery, put out seedlings in early May.

Section 3
Peas, chard, lettuce, carrots maybe cabbage. Start planting chard, lettuce, and carrots in early April. Plant more every three weeks.

Section 4
Asparagus, maybe amaranth. Looking for something permanent, that can take a fair amount of shade.

Deck Containers
The usual tomatoes. Early peas. Maybe try some shallow container lettuce and radish

House Containers (Eastside)
Tomatoes, cucumbers.

Try some container tomatoes with new dirt. Plant more Boston Ivy.

*which is mostly the 2018 plan, because I didn’t do (6.)

This is looking to be an El Nino year, so I think I can get started early on the planting.

Gantt Chart for 2019

TLDR — Anime I never finished, Winter 2019 Part 3

January 25, 2019

The final three, or is it twelves?

The Price of Smiles. Price, not Prince. Country S is run by newly-anointed 12 year-old Princess Yuki, who wants everyone on the planet to smile. Country G is poorer and militaristic and trying to conquer country S. Twelve year-old Princess Yuki sends her childhood friend to the front line to try to negotiate a truce, so of course he gets deaded. Lots of death. Lots of mecha fights. Very little to hold my interest. Did I mention that the 12 year-old protagonna is only twelve?

All I want is smiles

Endro! Apparently, Princess Yuki has a second job, as a the hero Yulia. She and her band of merry heroines want everybody to be able to smile, so they exile the Demon Lord (Momonga, working his second job) to a distant place and time. Actually, they just sent him a few years back in time, where/when he becomes a cute female teacher at their school, where he tries get her and her friends, now 12 years old, thrown out. An original anime that looks like it was inspired by a battle card game.

All I want is smiles

Dororo. Yet another zombie reboot. Based on a 1967 manga via a 1969 anime and a live action movie from twelve years ago. Dororo is a young boy (who may be a girl in disguise, depending on what you use as a source) assists a young man named Hyakkimaru (AKA 100 demon circles) who is looking for his missing body parts what were sold to demons to finance his father’s political career (so, a lot like the GOP today). There are lots of people who like this one but I find it’s got too much blood and angst and everyone has a past that comes back to haunt them. There’s not one normie in the bunch. To make things worse, Dororo isn’t even twelve.

All I want is my left leg

TLDR — Anime I never finished, Winter 2019 Part 2

January 23, 2019

Another day another drop. Or three.

Grimms Notes the Animation. So, there’s these four adventurers/superheros, in storyland. In storyland, everyone has their own storybooks, that tell them what their life will be like. And no, you can’t change what’s written there. In one part of storyland, Red Riding Hood is more of a job description, and generations of women have gone out to be eaten by the wolf (it says here) and then rescued by the Hunter. But someone is changing the stories, and the current Red Riding Hood doesn’t want to get on the cart.

Enter Our blank book Heroes, who convert to their superhero form — Cinderella, Robin Hood, Alice, and Goliath (Goliath? In plate armor?) — defeat the foes (for now), reset everyone’s memories, and get li’l Red to agreed to be et.

Episode 2 has Our Heroes meet Don Quixote and his waifu Rosinante.

It feels like the director just picked up whatever fairy tale element looked good and slapped them on the wall to see if they made a storyboard.

While on the road to grandma’s house, Red Riding Hood meets four suspicious strangers.

Date A Live. Season 3, I think. Seasons 1 and 2 only available on Funimation, I think. I watched one of them some years ago, probably.

Our Hero is the on-the-ground agent for a secret organization that’s protecting the city, run by his lollipop-sucking loli sister (lol). The SOtPtC has a futuristic control center, with controllers sitting at control consoles and providing surveillance of just about everything. Our Hero’s job is to find the invading spirits (all girls, of course) and ‘seal’ them by getting them to fall in love with him. So, just your everyday true-to-life anime. This season’s maguffin is a shape-shifting spirit who is disappearing all the girls in his life, one by one.

Too, too, generic characters and harem situation. Plot is silly, even for anime.

It’s probably best that they all go away.

Saint Seiya Santia Sho. Another zombie blast from the past that just won’t die. It’s based on a 2012 reboot of a 1989 anime from a 1986 manga. Rebooted again this year. Magical girls without the sexy transformation scenes. Jojo inspired art and a daytime anime vibe (Yes, kids! You too can own the Santia Shyoko action figure with golden trident!). Wrong demographic, wrong aesthetic.

Never trust a character with tentacle hair.

TLDR — Anime I never finished, Winter 2019 Part 1

January 21, 2019

This season I had 16 new programs to watch, 15 on Crunchyroll and one on Amazon Prime (have you noticed that AP’s offerings have trailed off since they closed Anime Strike?). I got a slow start because of the Panama trip (see sidebar), but it gives me the chance to work my way through, two or three episodes at a time.

So far, I’ve watched eight, and am dropping four.

My Roommate is a Cat. Writer takes in a stray cat, and they bond. Except that the cat doesn’t think or act anything like a real cat would: Oh, he’s passed out on the floor. That’s like my siblings did when they starved. I better push my food bowl over to him. Plus, I’m not a cat fancier.

I am a cat. Of course I’ll share my food

The Promised Neverland. Bunch of 11 year-olds escape from an orphanage into a world of horror. Or something, I dropped it as they went out the gate. I’m not interested in characters that young.

Here’s some kids. If you like them.

Lord El-Melloi II’s Case Files. Confused plot and uninteresting characters. Later, I found out it was a Fate/xx spinoff, which explains it.

cast pic
Not one of these characters is worth caring about.

Rinshii!! Ekodachan. Very strange anime. Protagonist is a dirt-poor Tokyo working girl who spends most of her on-screen time naked. If it weren’t for the minimalist art style, that might be exciting. It’s twelve episodes by twelve different directors and 12 different seiyuus. Kindof like Space Dandy, but without the budget. What drives it over the edge is the fact that each standard 24-minute episode consists of 4 minutes of anime, and 20 minutes of discussion with the director and seiyuu. Might be worth four minutes of your time.

Oh, I’m so bored

Trip to Panama

January 18, 2019

Just posted a page (see right hand column) on our recent trip to Panama.

Death and improvements

January 2, 2019

538 has an article up on death rates in America. The accompanying chart shows the strong link between location and death. Sixteen of the top twenty counties are in the coal country of Kentucky and West Virginia, or the native American reservations of the Dakotas, and this has pretty much held true for almost thirty years.

But what I find interesting, and encouraging, is the overall improvement in American health. Except, of course, for those same high death rate counties.

If you trace the interactive map back to the beginning, in 1988, the overall US death rate was 1,113 per 100k. Thirty years later, it was 786. Unfortunately, progress is scattered (the future is here, it’s just not evenly distributed). Oglala-Lakota county, in ND, had a death rate of 2,000 per 100k in 1988, and 1,600 in 2014. The equivalent numbers for Logan county WV, were 1,321   and 1,286. So both of these counties in 2014 are worse than the overall US was in 1988.

Still, an overall drop of 30% in 30 years is a Good Thing. What’s even better is that we’ve demonstrated that it can be done. All we have to do now is do it all over.

Ron Dreher on the Spanish Civil War

January 1, 2019

Rod Dreher, a professional religious apologist who often writes for The American Conservative and who occasionally says some interesting things, has a long essay in TAC on the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). It’s a commentary on a 1980 Granada TV series on the topic. The series, and Dreher, rightly recognize the complexity of the situation, with even proximate causes reaching back years before the start of the conflict.

Unfortunately, Dreher tries to map the anti-clericalism inherent in the conflict onto today’s differences between conservative Christians and the a-religious left. He also reveals his deep conservative bias in the way he frames the two sides.

Anti-clericalism in Europe is based on a long history of church support for an oppressive system. Today we tend to think of the church as an organization that supports the little people. In South America today, many priests are considered strong leftists, and clergy have been targeted by death squads. Not so in the 19th Century, in South America or in Europe. The French Revolution had a strong anti-clerical flavor to it as part of the full range of opposition to the system. The monarchy, the aristocracy, and the church all cooperated in holding down the peasantry, and the revolution attacked all of them.

So the anti-clerical movement in Spain had roots deeper than Dreher admits, and it was not so much anti-Christian as it was an attack on what Christianity had become. UPDATE: Dreher just posted an excerpt from a book on the topic, which shows it’s more complex than even I knew.

Second, Dreher’s right wing bias shows in his discussion of, for example, the Garland/Kavanaugh situation. Flipping the order of the quotes, we have

to be fair, the refusal of Senate Republicans to give Judge Merrick Garland a hearing may have been hardball politics, but it was also one of those things that delegitimizes the system.


…the utterly disgraceful behavior of the Democratic Party in the matter of the Brett Kavanaugh nomination was a clear sign of how far the left party is willing to go to protect its goals. I felt it myself, and talked to a number of conservatives who came away from the Kavanaugh hearings feeling more radicalized. The idea was, if they will do that to him, they’ll do that to me, if they win power, and have the opportunity.

So, majority party was just playing hardball, and the minority party, having been subject to actions that can be seen as delegitimizing democracy, fighting back with what few tools it has, are engaged in disgraceful behavior that demonstrates anti-democratic intent.


The Republicans in Wisconsin did not trust the Democrats with power, and tried to blunt the effects of the last election. It may be legal, but it is clearly undemocratic, and a vote of no confidence in the system.

Was in a lack of trust, or a desperate attempt to hold on to power?

He does not feel it necessary to mention similar Republican activity in Michigan and North Carolina, and does not note that all of these are attempts to pass legislation by lame duck legislatures. He does, however, bring up the Democratic New Jersey legislature’s attempt (NYT paywalled) to put a redistricting proposal on the ballot, for a vote by all the citizens. The proposal may be a bad one, and their tactics another example of political hardball, but it’s a far more democratic effort than we are seeing in the Republican states.

So, the article is interesting, and the video looks to be as well, assuming you can spare six hours now the holiday season is over. Just be aware that there’s an agenda hidden there, and it’s revealed by word choice and framing.

Read carefully.