Archive for March, 2019

Domestic Girlfriend: A well-done anime about stupid people

March 31, 2019

Domestic Girlfriend (Domesutikku na Kanojo) is predicated on a set of ridiculous coincidences. High school boy has the hots for one of his teachers (as often happens). He also pulls a one night stand with a HS girl he met at a karaoke party (and where were those girls when I was in HS?). Shortly thereafter his widowed father re-marries and brings into the household a divorcee with two daughters — an older one who teaches HS, and a younger one who goes to karaoke parties. Spoilers follow.

Meet your new family

The inevitable happens, and the boy starts an affair with his teacher-sister. Twelve episodes later the inevitable also happens, and they get outed. Meanwhile, he’s trying to kickstart a career as an author. Meanwhile, the younger sister is developing feelings for him.

At the end, the older sister has to quit her job and move to a different school to avoid a scandal, despite which they still have feelings for each other. Meanwhile, the younger sister declares that she is going to go all out to win his heart. Also, he wins a writing prize.

On the good side, studio Diomedéa handled the story very well. This could have been treated as a harem romcom, or as some sort of operatic high drama. Instead, it was more like a soap opera, and I say that as a good thing. What was bad were the people.

Let’s start with Hina, the older sister. She’s in her second year as a teacher but she still has the mannerisms of a student — flirting, slapping the boys on the butt, getting drunk in the evening. Unable to control her emotions, and despite being quite aware of the suicidal consequences, she enters into a relationship with a student maybe five years younger than her, and ends up having sex with him (BTW, in the course of the anime we find out that she previously had an affair with a married man, who she thinks about when masturbating with her bedroom door open, so there’s a pattern here). In this case she is incredibly lucky, and when they get caught she just gets shunted off to a different school, presumably in a different prefecture. In the real world such actions would get her jailed, or at least fired and barred from teaching for life. Her life is going to be a series of bad decisions, and there is no way she should be a teacher.

That’s “Hina-sensei”

Then there’s Natsuo, her underage paramour. Like many high school boys he thinks with his crotch and has zero concept of what the word consequences means. Whether it’s attempting to kiss Hina when she’s drunk and unconcious, grabbing her in the school hallway or at a festival, or concocting a story to cover his visits to her apartment without coordinating with the guy he’s using for cover — twice — he demonstrates zero ability to think beyond the end of his dick.

Yes, we’re at school, but no-one will notice if we duck down like this

At the end of the last episode he claims he still has feelings for Hina but does nothing to reject sister Rui when she gets physical. He’s the kind of guy who is likely to have his head turn up in a school bag.

Maybe she overpowered him

Finally, we have younger sister Rui. Same age as Natsuo, member of the same HS writing club (once she changes schools), made a straightforward and unemotional decision to lose her virginity with a casual meetup. Shy and retiring, she has the most rational and straightforward personality of the bunch.

Yeah, that relationship

When Natsuo executes a standard anime trope and inadvertently walks in on her in the bath, she simply says “You’ve seen me already”, instead of screaming and throwing things. Her major flaw is getting romantic feelings about Natsuo, despite his obvious chasing of her older sister.

The rest of the cast is mostly good people, who help Natsuo out probably more than he deserves: best friend from middle school, gay yakuza coffee shop owner, only slightly creepy writing club advisor, shy girl and flirty girl who both fall for Natsuo (maybe it is a harem anime). Their parents are typical good parents (atypical for anime), concerned about their children and willing to sacrifice to make sure they are happy. Yes, OK, there’s also the totally pointless and irritating American transfer student. Is this the way we look overseas?

You sometimes hear an anime described as a trainwreck. This is an anime about a trainwreck, about how two flawed people imperiled their lives and futures.

Close the drapes, damnit!

The story is handled well. The ending is not as solid as it might be, but that’s because the source manga is ongoing. Judging from descriptions of the source the ending is probably the best possible, under the circumstances.

If you like well-written drama that doesn’t involve mechas, spikey hair, or lots of shouting, and you don’t mind having to read three layers down in the character list to find someone relatable, then you’ll probably like this anime.

Retirement at 90, Part 1

March 29, 2019

No, not waiting until 90 to retire, waiting for 90 days to blog about what retirement is like. Does that title count as clickbait?

This is not an early retirement as some folks would have it. I’ve been eligible for Social Security for years. But it is earlier than I planned*.

And it’s not at all what my previous lifestyle transitions were like. When I left the military, I already had a job lined up in industry. When I left industry, I was already enrolled in a PhD program. Before I finished my dissertation, I had been hired at EWU. This is the first time I have left one career field without having a firm idea of what I’ll be doing next. Fortunately, throughout my many careers I’ve been selfish and lazy enough that transitioning to a life of selfish laziness should not be a problem.

Herewith, a breakout of what it felt like each month after retirement

The first month feels like any other vacation. Final wrapup of duties. Maybe a vacation trip — in this case, a ten day cruise. My weight goes up because, hey, a cruise. So far, it’s just another Christmas Break.

The second month is when the cognitive dissonance sets in. I have this feeling that I have to be doing something — prepping lectures, rewriting syllabi, correcting homework, something — but of course I don’t have anything like that. It’s not a case of feeling useless, as many retirees reportedly do, it’s a case of not yet having figured out how to restructure my time.**

Unstructured time

Now and again I get an email from a student — We miss you! The other profs are mean to us! I refrain from getting involved. I’m going to stop by the office at some point, but I’ll hold off for a while. Student sobbing should trail off as the current generation graduates and the new ones never heard of me. Kindof like sticking one’s hand in a bucket of water.

I spend way more time on the computer than I ever did when I was teaching MIS, hitting reload on my 200 345 RSS feeds, reading lots of things I would never have wasted my time on earlier (Air Canada pilot orders 23 pizzas to Halifax-bound plane stranded on tarmac). The tendinitis in my mouse hand is back, so to get away from the computer I start binge-watching One Piece and Sailor Moon on Crunchyroll, and re-reading classic novels like That Time I Was Reincarnated as a Slime. My weight goes up because I’m not spending two hours a day walking back and forth in front of a class, waving my arms, and because, hey, all that food is just sitting there in the fridge. I can’t go jogging (OK, walking) because Spokane is still shivering from a six-week-long cold snap where the windchills are in the minuses and everything that isn’t buried in snow is covered with ice.

What I really want to do is get back to my research (and learning Python, and learning Japanese), but to do that I have to be able to get to my desk and my desk is piled high with books and papers. I’d put them away but to do that I’d have to be able to get to the various bookcases, which are blocked by stacks of coats and backpacks that I need to find space for in the closets, boxes of books from my office and old computer gear that I need to find space for … somewhere else … and papers that I need to put on my desk so I can organize them.

Meanwhile, various tasks cut into my time: patching the hole in the bathroom ceiling where the leak came through last summer, doing my taxes (This year I’m going to be early, dammnit!), upgrading my wife’s computer from Ubuntu 14 to 18, and all the rest of the twenty years’ worth of deferred housework. Since I’m not really a household chores sort of guy it takes an effort, and a strong will, to motivate myself to do these things and hey, they just released the latest episode of The Magnificent KOTOBUKI.

Actually, I’m not getting a lot of that stuff done, either. Mostly, I seem to be frittering away my time. By the time I’m done with surfing, reading, napping, kitchen, and anime, the day is over, and where did it go? I seem to be caught in a basin of attraction, one that’s not really sustainable.

By the end of the third month, things have begun to settle down. I no longer feel I have to spend an hour on the computer the very first thing, so that I get the latest MIS news for my students (I don’t have any students, remember?). So I can make breakfast, and do my various neck and back exercises (see ailments) before I stroll into my office. I’ve got a timer on the computer that tells me to stop and stretch every 20 minutes, and to go take an exercise break every hour. It turns out that I have a couple of neck exercises that take three minutes to run through — just the right length of time to steep a cup of tea.

Outside, the days are noticeably longer (but not yet long) and the weather is definitely warmer (but not yet warm). This gives me a chance to start walking again.

Inside, I’ve set up a table in the Sun Room for seedlings, preparing them for hardening-off in the cabinet-sized greenhouse on the deck. I’m also attacking the various household chores during those 20 minute breaks. It’s a slow job, but things are getting done.***

I still haven’t made any progress on my research and learning.

Since I do have all this time, and since MJ is still busy six days a week with dog training and dog judging and music directing, I get to do most of the cooking. So my weight is going up. Since retirement it’s been going up by about a pound a week.

Next time, we’ll look at the future, and the past.

*I retired because of my health. Not that I’m unhealthy on a day to day basis, but because I can’t be sure what it will be like, day to day. Quite apart from the whole multiple myeloma thing, I find that entropy is beginning to become a factor: high blood pressure, bad back, bad neck, bad hips (bursitis), bad knees; various eye issues (including early indicators of age-related macular degeneration, so I’ve got something to look forward to); gout. Gout? I don’t own a big enough home to have gout.

Of course, the big problem isn’t the ailments, it’s how to pay for them. Retirement has shuffled my health insurance and reduced my options. Plus, the new MyChart system at the local hospital doesn’t seem to be able to bill the insurers properly, and they don’t seem to have figured out what my new status is.  I am paying more now, and getting more things rejected. Part of my now-copious spare time looks like it will be spent fighting MyChart and Medicare and Tricare. So far, every visit has required that I work my way down the chain, again.

Looks like one of the constraints on my overseas trips and dakimakura purchases will be how much of my discretionary income gets siphoned off to pay bonuses to the stockholders of Celgene.

**I sent this comic to a recently retired friend, ex-Army, hard charger type. He said he showed it to his wife, and he thought he’d have to call 911, she was laughing so hard.

*** If a man says he’s gonna do something, he’s gonna do it, and it don’t do no good you go reminding him of it every six months.

Back to the Moon? Not so fast, Mr. Cavor

March 28, 2019

Vice President Pence has told NASA that Trump wants the US to return to the Moon within five years. I sincerely doubt that will happen. I don’t think Trump expects it to happen.

This announcement falls into the category of cynical political ploy, and there is a long history, long in modern media terms, of US Presidents playing the space card as a way of grasping for support from the tech industry and all the astronaut wannabes out there.

Back in 2017, after Pence’s first call to return to the Moon, the Washington Post listed all the times since Kennedy that various presidents, all of them Republican, had used that call as a propaganda device. Only Obama had resisted the temptation, saying “We’ve been there,” and suggesting more useful and achievable objectives, such as an asteroid landing.

There is an old project management theory that says your resource options for building a new system are are: Quality, Speed, and Cost, and you get to pick two of the three.

Going to the Moon is hard, and if you want to do it without killing too many people, you have to have the best quality people, processes, and equipment possible. That leaves you with making tradeoffs between the other two factors.

Speed is political. When Kennedy announced the Apollo Program in 1961, he gave NASA until the end of the decade — eight years — to accomplish it. Trump has decided that it has to be done in five. By the way, the five year limit is interesting. That’s about the amount of time that Trump has left in office, assuming the Trekkie vote helps him win in 2020.

So the factor that has to give is cost. We want a really high quality system really fast. Actually, that should read really, really fast. That’s going to cost a lot. More than the original $100B (in today’s money) that Apollo cost. Where’s the money to come from?

Keep in mind that we already have a record federal deficit, thanks to Trump. The DoD is asking for a record amount of money, not just to make up for the maintenance we didn’t do while we were pissing our resources away in the Middle East Wars (you would have thought they’d have learned from VietNam), but to completely restructure the force to meet modern adversaries with totally new classes of modern weapons. We still have a critical infrastructure problem, and the states that form Trump’s base are continuing to sink into irrelevance and unemployment, with severe drug and healthcare issues. Oh, and Trump wants to spend an additional $5B on that wall.

Enter Congress. There are two kinds of Congressional committees, those that deal with laws and policies, and those that deal with money. If a policy committee approves a $5B program, all they have done is voted for a $5B box. It’s up to the appropriate appropriations committee to fill it with what they think is an appropriate amount of money, not necessarily $5B worth.

Now, the appropriations committees are constrained by overall goals decided upon by the leadership. They can’t exceed their guidelines, but they can move money around within their areas of responsibility. And NASA falls under the United States House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies. It’s a Related Agency. So is the Social Security Administration. Spending on highway infrastructure is part of Transportation. So, question for the class is, which would you rather do, fix the potholes on I-5, help Grandma buy her cancer drugs, or go to the Moon while Trump is in office? Note that this is an issue no matter which party controls Congress, which is probably why nothing got done after Pence’s 2017 speech.

So, no. We’re not going to be back on the Moon in five years, and probably not in ten. The call for a new Moon Program is the equivalent of a real estate developer putting up signs claiming that a new light rail station will be going in, Real Soon Now, right next to the development he’s selling houses in. It’s a science fiction pipe dream, right up there with The Second Men in the Moon.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

March 21, 2019

Garden Report for 190321

It is officially Spring, and the season begins.

The seeds are started!
In the background, the garden awaits!

Seeds planted include: pie pumpkin, five kinds of squash (acorn, delicata, spaghetti, summer, buttercup, plus three kinds of Zucchini), cucumber, three kinds of melon (crenshaw, honeydew, canaloupe), peas (snap and sugar), kohlrabi, and yard long beans.

I also have tapes for radish, pak choi, leeks, onion, chard, carrots, and lettuce. Interestingly, most of the lettuce tapes (ordered off Amazon) come from Poland.

It will be another four weeks before the seedlings are ready for transplant, and maybe another six before I can get a pick into the soil.

Evolutionary computation and the Cambrian Explosion

March 17, 2019

Science news site LiveScience has an interesting article on animals of the Cambrian Explosion. The question they ask is, “Why do these animals look so weird?” Their answer is that the older an organism is, the more changes life on Earth has had to adapt to since the organism appeared. This is accurate as far as it goes, but it doesn’t address the underlying structure of the evolutionary process, and why they look that way in the first place.

Let’s see if this approach will work

Evolutionary computation is a broad field dedicated to applying concepts gleaned from Darwinian evolutionary theory to the development of useful computer programs. The main processes are Recombination and Mutation, to generate diversity, and Selection (AKA survival of the fittest), to maintain evolutionary pressure. You mix and match some diverse population, sort them by fitness, and kill off the least fit, rinse the blood off and repeat. Since this all happens inside a computer, it is not nearly as red in tooth and claw as real nature is.

But in order for all this to work, you need to start with a diverse population. How do you do that? Well, the standard computational approach is to generate a population at random, without any thought to how well or poorly any individual may do. Most, probably all, of that first generation are seriously unfit for the task you have set them. That’s OK. The selection process will give you the best of a bad lot, and recombination/mutation/selection can take it from there. But that first generation is going to look seriously weird.

Jump back half a billion years or so, to the pre-Cambrianites, and you find a bunch of single-celled bacteria, with here and there a soft-bodied multicellular confederacy. There were many, probably thousands, of different species, all of which look pretty much the same in the fossil record but which were actually quite different, with different tools available for experimentation. And then something changed.

Two somethings, to be simplistic about it. First, the climate warmed, due to geological changes. Second, one species of bacteria, cyanobacteria, stumbled on how to use light and carbon dioxide to provide themselves with food, releasing oxygen as a waste product. On the one hand, oxygen was toxic to a whole range of organisms, but on the other hand, it was an amazing power source, if you could harness it. Selection pressure just got intense.

That selection pressure, combined with a wide range of new ecological niches made it possible for life to start a whole new era of evolutionary development. And what life started with was a large, diverse, one might even say weird population, ready to line up for fitness testing.

So the answer to the LiveScience question isn’t just the long time between us and the Cambrian, it also has to do with the diverse, let’s try anything approach that life takes at the beginning of a new era.

Wildlife in Cheney

March 11, 2019

You know the weather’s been inclement when the deer come into town to forage. Right at sundown yesterday we had eight does and one buck eating the grass under the trees at the end of our block.

As long as one walked quietly and didn’t pay attention to them, they didn’t spook. Finally, a dog started barking, and they strolled off down the street.

Of course, some people take this as a bad omen.

Anime Preview: Spring 2019

March 11, 2019

Unlike 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.

First, let’s say what’s not in here. Sequels and continuations of stuff I didn’t like before (Million Arthur, Bogipop) shorts and kids stuff (Isekai Quartet, Cinderella Girls ), movies and OVA’s, and anything with Fafner in the title.

WILL WATCH: The title or the cover art is properly enticing, so I definitely will watch at least the first three eps.

Shoumetsu Toshi: I bought this Vespa secondhand, from a girl with a blue Rickenbacker 4001 left-handed electric bass guitar

Carole & Tuesday: If only we knew someone with a Rickenbacker 4001 left-handed electric bass guitar, our trio would be complete

Konoyo no Hate: My father is a werewolf

MIGHT WATCH: The cover art is not too off-putting, so I might watch it.

Hachigatsu No Cinderella Nine: Heisei baseball girls

Mix: Reiwa baseball girls

Kono Oto Tomare: Stop this sound

WON’T WATCH. The cover art and/or the title tells me more than I ever wanted to know on the topic.

Jimoto na Japan: The return of Elvis

Aikatsu Friends: Magical Girl Magicgirl

Sarazanmai: The wave Hokusai never painted

Oatmeal Dashi

March 10, 2019

I have written about using dashi in oatmeal a number of times in the past. The dashi used was either home made, from seaweed and bonito, or it was home made, from crystals out of a jar. According to a recent cooking article, the go-to staple for busy Japanese housewives is dashi-inna-teabag. You just heat up two cups or so of water (600ml to be both metric and exact), throw in a bag, and simmer for five minutes. The result is a very mild broth.

The dashibags I am using are the Yamaki Katsuo and Kombu Dashi Pack (Bonito and Kelp Soup Base Bag)1.9oz, available from Amazon, $5.48 for a sixpack as of this writing, or just under fifty cents a cup. It took almost exactly a month for them to arrive from Japan, so don’t wait until the night before.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one cup broth, half a teaspoon of soy sauce, salt. Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats.

Results: Very good. Very mild. Too much soy sauce. Try it without the shoyu first and then add it drop by drop.

Rating: ****

MH370 Timeline

March 9, 2019

On the 5th anniversary of the loss of MH370 over the Indian Ocean, Aviation Week has released a slideshow-style summary timeline.

We have good IFF and radar tracking of the initial stages of the flight

And we have limited, but telling, automated communications data of the rest of it.

What we don’t have is a good idea of exactly where the aircraft went down, but debris drift simulations agree with the general area shown by the communications analysis.

One thing we do have is enough debris pieces with serial numbers to rebut any claims that MH370 went down anywhere else (e.g. Cambodia).

Given the remoteness of the location and the difficulty of searching the depths of a rugged seafloor, it’s likely that we won’t have any further developments, and MH370 will go down as another one of aviation’s mysteries.

Upgrading my wife’s computer

March 8, 2019

We are not a cutting-edge family. Yes, we have more computers-per-room than most, and yes, we install patches as they arrive, but we don’t buy new ones very often, and we tend to hang on to one version of an OS until forced to upgrade. For example, we bought a new System76 Sable all-in-one for my wife four years ago, and we ran Ubuntu 14.04 on it until last weekend. And thereby hangs a tale.

It was getting to the point that the PC was acting funny, and it was having trouble talking to the printer — all the pages came out blue, so maybe it was sad — and I decided to bite the bullet and install an upgrade while she was away on a four day AKC judging trip.

So first, I backed stuff up, just to be sure. I backed up the /home directory, and then I backed up the /usr directory. This took all day. Why? Not sure. My LAN would start out transferring data at 12MB/s, then slowly slow to a slow 300KB/s. I thought it might be fighting with the TV or one of the other PC’s for packets, but unplugging stuff didn’t help. I finally got everything transferred to our NAS drive and decided I’d look into the speed problem later.

The next day, just for suspenders and belt safety, I followed the instructions for backing up Firefox, Thunderbird, and Opera (yes, she still uses Opera). Time to upgrade!

Not so fast, Babbage. The original install is old enough that the Software Updater doesn’t show an <Upgrade> button any more. It just gives a message box saying that updates for 14.04 ended two years ago. I tried various paths (System Settings, Toolbar/Software, …) but they all ended with the same less than helpful message. It did have an <OK> button, but didn’t have one that said <Not OK>. To the Interwebs!

It seems I have to go to Software & Updates and change my Updates settings to have it check and install new updates immediately. Didn’t work. Also, while fiddling around with it, I managed to put 18.04 on the Ignore list. To the Terminal!

When all else fails, you can always type the commands directly into a terminal window. The trick is to find out what to type. A half hour or so of wandering through the various forums gave a command that looked like it might be what I wanted. Sure enough, it opened up the repository and downloaded the update. Another half hour of watching the terminal scroll all the thousands of files that are part of Linux, it was done. I rebooted, and found I had myself a new, clean, fully updated Ubuntu 14.04. WTFO?

OK. Stay calm. Steady, the Buffs. Let’s try the Software Updater again.

As my brother would say, Yreka! It has an <Upgrade> button! I click, and away it goes. Another half hour of watching install messages scroll up faster than I can read, a simple reboot (typing in her password for the 800th time), and now it’s really done.

As an added bonus, nothing got overwrit. I don’t have to backfill on her various browser accounts. All her other software seems to be in place as well, although the Mahjong game she plays seems to have different rules and interface.

One noticeable difference between hers and mine is that her version of 18.04 is running Ubuntu/Gnome 3 while my three year old Wild Dog with Ubuntu 18.04 on it still has Unity. I presume that has something to do with the update cycle, and I must say I think that Unity works more like I think.

All’s well that ends well. Now I just have to think of a way to get myself a new PC.


10th Anniversary of the Blog

March 5, 2019

The Found on Web blog is ten years old today. In that time I’ve published almost 1,300 articles (just over 10 per month), which pulled in just over 67,000 views (about 50 views per article). They generated over 87,000 comments, of which 500 were real, and the rest were spam.

The most views were on August 10th, 2015, at 106, mostly from people reading my various Girls und Panzer essays. As for individual essays, High School of the Dead (1865) maintained its position atop the leaderboard, followed closely by Garden Gantt (1855) and Anime Worth Watching for Winter, 2015 (1492). Two others topped 1,000 views: Nisemonogatari (1107) and Picture Stories From Earth: Seawater Farms (1104).

HSOTD was described as a fan service train wreck, but I liked it. I suspect most people didn’t come for the well-handled storyline. Garden Gantt is a garden scheduling spreadsheet. Anime Worth Watching includes the ever popular Shirobako, and Nisemonogatari has the infamous little-sister-and-toothbrush scene. I suspect that Seawater Farms is a popular student paper topic.

As for the future, I hope to be writing more, and better. We’ll see.



When algorithms go wrong

March 3, 2019

Here is the latest lead image for “Self Help Books” on Amazon

Evidently, they have a fairly broad idea of what “self help” means

Green Thumb Up My Nose

March 1, 2019

Garden Report for 190301

My Spokane area garden guide says I should direct-seed peas today.

… as soon as the soil can be worked …