Archive for May, 2019

Natsu no Arashi Season 2

May 31, 2019

In the interests of completeness, I watched Season 2 of Natsu no Arashi. It was good, but it could have been so much more.

Summer Girl

NNA is the story of four Japanese ghost girls who died in an air raid in 1945 and who can travel through time. In Season 1, two of the girls had reasons to go back to war-time Japan, and we had some interesting episodes centered on their goals. Several other episodes worked out their relationships with the other two ghost girls, and with the girls school they all went to in 1945. The rest of the episodes were slice-of-“life” comedy filler centered on the present day cafe where they worked during the summers.

Season 2 was more of the same …. slice-of-“life” comedy filler. The only recurrent theme was cross-dresser Kamigamo Jun and her efforts to keep protagonist Yasaka Hajime from finding out she was a girl. Meanwhile, there’s the obligatory beach/onsen episodes, a couple of transformation episodes, and the recurring short trips back in time to find lost tea bowls, A/C remote controls, and such. The relationship between Hajime and lead ghost girl Arashiyama Sayoko (Arashi) fills out a little bit (he goes back to ~1935 and saves her from some bullies, earning a kiss and a promise of a future kiss) but her destined departure at the end of summer is not fully explained.

Showa 10

The ending sees Arashi giving Hajime the promised kiss, and saying (to herself) my summer has not yet ended. This is a standard anime ending (our struggle continues) for when the source material has not yet concluded and they don’t want to write an anime original ending.

Heisei 21

The second season of the anime was released in October of 2009, while the seventh manga volume wasn’t released until March of 2010, with the eight volume following in September.

Unfortunately, those of us who don’t speak Japanese are not likely to find out the true ending. The manga ran through eight volumes/49 chapters in Japan (you can Kindle the whole set from Amazon Japan) and was never released in the US. Unfortunately, clicking on “Look Inside” on the Japanese versions didn’t help, and the available  scanlations only go up through Volume 6/Chapter 32.

Natsu no Arashi is a fun anime. Wah, over at Analog Housou first clued me into it. It is filled with zany time travel fun, and plots as convoluted as a Marx Brothers movie. Two things were disappointing. The first I’ve already alluded to — lack of closure. What happens to Arashi in the winter? Why doesn’t she think Hajime will remember her? What about Jun’s changing feelings toward Hajime, and toward outing herself as a girl? Answers cometh not.

Second was a failure to take advantage of the opportunity to exploit their time-travel-to-old-Japan hook. In Season 1, Arashi was introduced to us as someone who was interested in saving victims of the March 29th 1945 air raid, but she only went back once. Kaya wanted to speak to her loved one, but she only made one attempt. As an SF story once said, with time travel, you’re never too late.

What Natsu no Arashi really needs, and will probably never get, is a third season.

Meanwhile, the 箱舟 カフェ abides on the outskirts of Yokohama. It’s been around for untold years, and is likely to continue to be around even longer.

You’d almost expect the next owner to be an android named Alpha.

In Vain

May 27, 2019

Just over seven years ago I detailed how the 4,500 American deaths in Iraq fit the definition of in vain. If we include Afghanistan, the total climbs to almost 7,000. Nothing of worth was achieved. Afghanistan is still a semi-failed state, and the Taliban still (or again) controls much of the country. Iraq is an Iranian ally, and the capital still doesn’t have reliable electricity — 16 years after our disastrously inept intervention.

And aside from the useless deaths, the damage to Americans who made it back is enough to make you weep.

The history is bad enough that The American Conservative, not known for liberal hand-wringing, this week published an article wherein an Iraq veteran confirms my assessment — it was in vain. All of it.

Ponder that, this Memorial Day.

Natsu No Arashi

May 24, 2019

I started watching 2009’s Natsu No Arashi (Summer Storm) after seeing it listed as one of the more interesting anime of the last ten years. It wasn’t until I hit Episode 8 that I realized that I’d touched on it before, meaning that specific episode, as part of my research on the body-swapping anime Kokoro Connect, back in 2012. And that lead to the discovery that the 10th anniversary of Episode 8 was today, May 24th. What better excuse to do a writeup on the first, 13-episode season?

If spoilers for a 10 year old out of stock anime upset you, then stop here and go read my review of Citizen Kane.

What makes NNA interesting isn’t the body-swap half-episode. It’s interesting because it’s one of the few anime to directly address the home-front tribulations of Japan in WWII. The two female leads, and two later characters, were 16 year-old schoolgirls killed in a bombing raid on Yokohama on May 29th, 1945. They return as ghosts, but for some unexplained reason, only in the summer.

The main female lead is Arashiyama Sayoko, whose family name translates as Storm Mountain and who is called Arashi, for short. This plays nicely off the series name, which could also be translated as Summer’s Arashi. Her goal in the apre-vie is to go back to 1945 and rescue as many people as possible. But to travel in time, she needs to form a connection with someone from the present.

Early Shaft head tilt

Enter Yasaka Hajime, thirteen year-old typical shonen boy — high energy, high self-opinion, exaggerated concern with being seen as manly. Did I mention he is short, with square, dark-framed glasses? He develops an instant infatuation for Arashi, and becomes her connection for their many trips to the past.

Spoken like a true shonen

The rest of the cast is equally paired up:

  • Kaja Bergmann (Kaya) and Kamigamo Jun, ghost of a German schoolgirl and her contemp connection. Jun is a crossdressing girl because of anime reasons.
  • Fushimi Yayoi and Yamazaki Kanako, another pair of ghosts from Arashi’s school. Fushimi can connect with Hajime, and Yamazaki, it turns out, can connect with Murata.
  • Finally, there’s Sayaka (AKA Master), the cafe owner, and Murata Hideo, a private investigator.

The city they are on the outskirts of is Yokohama. Unlike other major cities in Japan, it had not been heavily bombed early in the war, and in the spring of 1945 it was protected by being on the short list of possible targets for the atomic bomb. When Hiroshima and Nagasaki were chosen, it was released to the general bombing list, and was heavily bombed on the 29th of May.

This isn’t a regular review, so I won’t go into details on the episodes. The first episode features some time-travel shenanigans involving a strawberry that’s been stuffed with hot spice powder, which serves to introduce all the characters. After that there are separate arcs in which Arashi/Hajime and Kaya/Jun go back to 1945, Kaya to see the man she was in love with, and Arashi to try to save people. Another arc deals with Yayoi and Kanako, and Kanako’s attempt to keep Yayoi corporeal by draining Arashi’s life force. The 13th episode looks like something you’d find as a DVD special — it’s a reprise of the first episode, but with a cherry instead of a strawberry, and everyone is in goofy costumes.

There are two aspects of NNA that are interesting beyond the actual story. First, is the look at wartime Japan. The anime shows the raids, and the B-29’s and the falling bombs. Houses burn and people die.

Not something you normally see in a shonen program. In the Yayoi/Kanako arc, you see high school girls drafted to work in an aircraft factory — one of the thousands of small scale installations that the Japanese used instead of following the German and American pattern of large production plants. This, by the way, was one of the justifications of the widespread fire-bombing campaign, because there were few concentrated high value targets. The girls work full time and are from all over. Yayoi is from a rich family (I think that’s her family mansion they end up haunting), while Kanako is a work-hardened girl from a poor family. In one sequence, Yayoi plays a concert for the girls during the weekly power blackout when the factory can’t operate.

Second, NNA has some interesting ideas about the effects of time travel. Two of Hajime’s strawberries disappear, one because his grandfather ate it, and the other because he came back in time and stole it from himself. Kaya was mad at Arashi because she never read the note she left in her diary at the school, that she was waiting at The Ark cafe, one of the few places to survive the war unbombed. They go back in time and bring the diary forward to the present, which means it wasn’t there when Arashi stopped to look for it. More significantly, Arashi goes back to 1945 and shelters a crying child during the air raid, telling him to be a hero. Later, in a trip to 1985, they meet a brash young child who informs them that his father keeps telling him that it’s important to be a hero. His father was the child that Arashi saved. Back in the present, it turns out that the private investigator is that child, all grown up and still brash — he carries a sword (practice or real, depending on the job) and drives a souped-up Vespa (another example of the goofy humor embedded in the anime).

On the tragic side, when Kaya/Jun go back, they project from the current day cafe to the cafe in 1945. Their arrival wakes up the owner (who Kaya is in love with), and he proceeds to go home, where he’s killed in the bombing. If he had stayed in the cafe, he’d have survived.

So, that’s the first season. It’s different enough that it should be on everyone’s watchlist. Crunchyroll has both seasons, but one never knows for how long.

 

 

Green Thumb Up My Nose

May 19, 2019

Garden Report for 190520

Looks like summer only lasted a few days. Then we had a couple days of torrential rain. How torrential? Inch and a half in 24hrs. Not much for Kalaloch, but way more than this semi-arid steppeland usually sees. Now we are back to highs in the 60’s and lows around 50, with winds gusting to 25kts.

The rain filled up my two deck railing planters so that the seedlings were floating like they were water hyacinths or something. Had to drill a hole near the bottom.

No planting this week. Nothing much to plant anyway. The hardware store has one partial rack of squash. I’ll see how my squash field does this week, and buy some if necessary next weekend.

The weeds are doing well.

Real men going to Tehran

May 17, 2019

You can do everything with bayonets, except sit on them — Tallyrand

Everybody is talking about Trump’s new adventurism in the Middle East. Juan Cole shows how recent US actions are right in line with a propaganda campaign leading up to a war.

Many of our actions are blustering. For example, Bolton wants the US to send 120,000 troops to the Middle East to threaten Iran. One wonders where he plans to station them, and what exactly they’d be used for. Maybe they’d be stationed in Saudi, in which case their continued presence on sacred Saudi soil might well trigger domestic extremism.

Maybe these forces would be used to respond to the recent attacks on tankers in the Gulf. Or maybe those attacks were false flag operations, seeking a Gulf of Tonkin response. Given the minimal damage to the ships, one might be forgiven for thinking the attackers were told to not do too much. Meanwhile, there’s no sign of Iranian activity elsewhere.

As with the Gulf of Tonkin incident, and the non-existent Iraqi WMDs, if we want to do something, it doesn’t take much of an excuse. Sixteen years ago, people were saying “Everybody wants to go to Baghdad. Real men want to go to Tehran.” So, maybe those troops are on their way to Tehran.

So, what about that? Can we do it?

First of all, if we do it, we do it alone. Europe wants nothing to do with it. Spain has already pulled her guided-missile frigate out of a planned joint Gulf deployment.

Second, the job is physically too much for us.

Yes, we might be able to destroy their main military forces, but we did that in Iraq, remember? The only thing that will effectively and reliably force a country to submit to our will is boots on the ground. And that won’t work here, for any price we’re willing to pay.

Iran is slightly larger than the combined area of California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Nevada, and Arizona, AKA the Far West, with vaguely similar terrain. Bolton wants to conquer it using 120,000 men (although Trump says we’d send more). That’s about the size of all active duty US military troops in California. You ever been to California? You remember the big military presence you saw there? Now consider deploying them over an area four times as large.

We had 100,000 troops in Afghanistan, and got our ass handed to us. We had 170,000 in Iraq, and got our ass handed to us. Is the third time the charm?

On the spectrum of civilizations, Afghanistan is nudging up against the “failed state” model, with most of the country run by local warlords, and they like it like that. Iraq was an example of an ethnic majority downtrodden by an ethnic minority. We freed the minority Shiites from the Sunni yoke, but for some reason were not treated as liberators. No flowers.

Iran is not a free and open democracy like the US, but it’s far from being a police state with a DHS-like stasi, like the former GDR. It’s more of a gerrymandered theocracy, like Alabama. But its people, all of them, are highly patriotic. Yes, there’s an opposition. No, it won’t come over to our side once we invade. Think of the fractured social/political situation in those six western states of the US. Political leanings run the gamut, from the latte-drinkers of Portlandia to the techies of Silicon Valley to those who support the gun-toting, anti-government stand of Cliven Bundy. Now, consider what would happen if Iranian troops landed in on the west coast, bombed our coastal cities, and occupied Las Vegas. You think 120,000 troops would be enough? You think Their Boys would be Home Before the Leaves Fall?

I say Las Vegas, because that’s roughly the equivalent of Tehran, in geographical terms. Support for the operation would have to come out of Seattle, because that’s roughly how far away our support bases in the Gulf are from Tehran. The Saudis are the only people who will let us fly combat and support operations out of their airbases. Iraq won’t. Turkey won’t. Syria sure won’t. Israel would be happy to help, but there’s a lot of sovereign airspace between Tel Aviv and Tehran.

Finally, what are we going to do once we get there? Forcible regime change? And we think we can make that stick? Remember the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan? That was an attempt to keep a friendly regime in power.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

May 13, 2019

Garden Report for 190513

This is my 200th Green Thumb report. Considering that they’re only once a week, and only during gardening season, that’s eight years worth. Who’da thought?

And so bang, and we’re into summer. Highs in the 80’s. Lows, right now, in the 50’s. Cliff Mass says this is only temporary, a false summer as it were, and indeed, the forecast now is for temps in the 60’s, with rain by the end of the week.

Fixed the hose in Section 04. Planted asparagus. Again.

Planted my last three tomatoes: Champion VNFT in the second planter bag, Cherokee Purple and Yellow Pear in Section 2. So far, we haven’t found an other-than-red variety that we like, but I keep trying.

I had intended to fill out Section 3 with various hardware store seedlings, but the hardware store has nothing but tomatoes. And citronella plants. Maybe I’ll put a bunch of citronellas in pots on the deck, and drive all the mosquitoes into the house.

Planted more plants-on-tape. Three five-foot runs of carrots, one run each of bok choy, leeks, and bunching onions. I had intended to plant the carrots all together, but confused the tapes and so what I ended up with was one group that was carrots/carrots/bok choy, and another that was leeks/onions/carrots.

Wire shelving covers the seeds-on-tape

The wire shelving that I bought at a going-out-of-business sale some years ago looks to be a really effective gardening tool. The spacing between the wires is big enough for lettuce and chard and carrots to grow up between them, but not so wide that squirrels can reach through to dig. The baked-on enamel paint has proven highly rust resistant.

Trump’s Trade War and Washington State

May 10, 2019

The impact of Trump’s tariffs and the Chinese counter-tariffs is mostly in the US, in the form of higher prices for people who buy Chinese manufactures (all of us), and lower prices for people who sell to China (mostly farmers in Red states).

On a local note, Eastern Washington is solidly red, and 1.4% of Washington state’s GDP has been impacted, yet I don’t hear anything from our local Representative, Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R). A search of her website shows that she expressed “deep concern” for the impact on our state — a year ago — and that her latest effort was signing a letter last June, along with most of the rest of the Washington delegation, decrying the impact of tariffs on WA. Since then, as they say, crickets.

One might almost conclude that she puts loyalty to President Trump ahead of loyalty to her constituents.

 

 

 

Green Thumb Up My Nose

May 6, 2019

Garden Report for 190506

Finally, the weather gets warm and the wind dies down. Forecast is for warm and dry, with temps low-50’s to mid-70’s.

This was my busy weekend. All of the seedlings got planted, and the greenhouse (outdoors) and the potting table (indoors) were cleared away. Right now, the new plantings look like this:

Room for three or four more tomatoes

 Section 02

Early Girl, Parks Whopper, Rutgers, Goliath, Bush Beefsteak

Room for one more something

House

Early Girl (2),

Yard Long Beans, Cucumber, Kholrabi

No more room

Deck

Early Girl, Grape, Patio (hanging)

Cucumber, Sugar Pea (2)

Plus lettuce and chard in small planters. You can see one on the railing. That’s an old belt what I have outgrown holding it on.

 

The Early Girls are part of an experiment. I put one each in the main garden, on the deck, and in one of the planting bags, plus two in front of the house — one with normal potting soil and the other a 50/50 mix of recycled soil. We’ll see which one produces the most.

Planted out the Snap Peas into Section 3. Plan calls for more carrots and lettuce and chard (oh my). I have some leeks-on-tape that I’ll probably put there also.

I haven’t properly repaired the hose for Section 4 yet, so nothing’s there. I plan Asparagus, Amaranth, and maybe more peas.

Wind finally died down enough to plant the tapes (they are as light and fragile as toilet paper and they don’t do well in a breeze). Section 1 got five feet each of carrots, Lento lettuce, and Krucha lettuce. They’re all from Poland, for some reason, but the pictures look buttercrunchlike. In Section 2 I put six feet of bunching onions and six feet of real buttercrunch. More stuff will go in Section 3 this week, but I’ma gonna hold off on any more lettuce so’s we don’t have to eat monster salads all through July.

Thank you for your service

May 4, 2019

Once again, Stonekettle nails it. As a 22-years-service Vietnam vet I can say that pretty much everything he says resonates. You want to thank us? Elect people who will support a decent education for all. Elect people who will support a sane health care system for all. Don’t elect people who get us into stupid wars. We served our country. Your job now is to make sure it’s a country worth serving.

The Long Then

May 4, 2019

Over on Edge is an interview with Alexander Rose (the Executive Director of the Long Now organization) on how to create an institution that lasts 10,000 years. Actually, it’s a bit of a cheat. The 10K.org discussion makes up only about 25% of the article, and much of that is repeats of the idea that most of today’s 500-1000 year old organizations are hotels or breweries or are large scale organizations, like universities or The Church. Then he wanders off into an interesting, but off point, discussion of the Long Now organization and the Big Clock they are building.

So let’s take our own look at what might be required of a long-lasting organization. Here are some on my thoughts:

First, it has to fill a continuing need. Think of it in terms of Maslow’s hierarchy. At large scale, governments, universities, and the church provide elements such as safety. Some modern governments have lasted for hundreds of years (Iceland being the best example), but most succumb to invasion or revolution. The country might remain, but the way the inhabitants organize themselves has changed. The oldest universities are going on for 1000 years old, while the Catholic Church is almost 2000. In Asia, religions such as Buddhism are older than Christianity, but they are religions, not religious governing organizations. Having said that, individual monasteries are organizations that have the potential to last for thousands of years.

At smaller scales, the oldest survivors are fulfilling a local need, close to the bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy — Hotels provide shelter and sleep, restaurants provide food and water. As an aside, the key here seems to be the continuing existence of family ownership, which then makes the business possible. Theoretically, a corporation is immortal, but recent experience shows that a corporation is at risk of being bought up by some other entity.

Second, the organization should be involved in an activity that is minimally impacted by technological change, and in the case of technology, whatever it uses has to be cheap to implement. The church, for example, hasn’t needed any technology more complex than jumbotrons (yes, telephones, yes, PCs, but those are part of the general advance of civilization; no-one would put jumbotrons in that list). On the other hand, automobile and aircraft manufacturers have had to go through multiple generations of new technology, and that new technology (catalytic converters, electric cars) has been expensive to implement.

At the lower level, hotels today are not that much different from hotels of the past — a place to sleep out of the rain. Two hundred years ago you might be in one bed with three strangers, but the concept is the same and the basic technology hasn’t changed. Restaurants provide food prepared on the premises. The preparation method has changed over time — wood fired brick ovens to coal fired stoves to gas stoves to wood fired brick ovens — but the amount of new, expensive technology used is minimal.  Similarly, sake brewers pride themselves on using the same equipment and techniques that were used by their founders.

By the way, what was the world’s oldest business was a 1400 year old construction firm, Kongo Gumi. It specialized in Buddhist temple construction and repair, using traditional materials and techniques. What took it down was a combination of declining Buddhist membership in a country that is losing population, accompanied by an attempt to move into other construction fields right before an economic turndown. It was acquired in 2006.

Having said all that, I’m not sure I can imagine anything that could last 10,000 years. 10,000 years ago we had just barely started the domestication of plants and food animals. Agriculture started about 11,000 years ago, with animal husbandry coming a thousand years later. Other than those two general concepts, there is nothing cultural that remains. There is no organization, no nation, no civilization that we can point to and say that we have an unbroken (or even fragmented) line of succession from then to the present day.

Now, try to imagine the world of 12,000AD. Even if the Singularity never happens and we remain stuck at our present rate of change of knowledge — doubling every two years — the world of 12K will be unrecognizable.

The optimistic view is that by 12,000AD, science will have answered all of the big questions of today’s science, and scientists working at old, prestigious universities will have come up with new questions to answer. Meanwhile, engineering will have turned the answers to the original questions into new products. We’re talking terraforming Mars, mining the Oort, interstellar travel (possibly at FTL-equivalent speeds), effective immortality, wireless earphones that actually produce high fidelity music.

The pessimistic view is that, between asteroid strikes, runaway global warming, and the release of synthetic plagues, there won’t be anyone left to operate an organization.

So there you are. If you want your legacy to last 10,000 years join a monastery, or build a hotel or restaurant next to one. Or get tenure.