Archive for June, 2019

Anime trails manga

June 25, 2019

My Japanese students always said that manga was more important than anime in Japan. On my first visit to Japan, seven years ago, I found that was true. Now, I have some data to back that up. In 2017, home video and streaming anime sales totaled about $1.2 Billion. That same year, manga sales totaled just under $3.9 Billion. Given that a manga costs $5 or $6, while anime prices seem to average about $40 or $50 per title (with a very wide variance), that means a lot more manga items are being sold.

In both cases, sales of physical media dropped from the previous year. Call me old fashioned, but I’d rather have something that can’t be take away from me at a publisher’s whim.

Accounting for Trump

June 24, 2019

In accounting, goodwill is the value of a company over and above the value of its tangible assets. In 2015, for example, Amazon was valued at $67B. When you subtract its cash and inventories and debts and property, etc., you end up with $3.7B not accounted for. That’s the value of the brand, if you will, an expression of the trust that investors have that Amazon will remain a high-value on-going business.

Businesses can lose goodwill because of accidents or lawsuits or industry changes. Sometimes they feel they have to use up their goodwill to stay in business. In the late 1950’s, Martin Greenberg, of Gnome Press, was infamous for not paying authors, and for using paper and ink of such low quality that it jammed the printers. He was trading the initial social goodwill of early SF fans and authors, which translated into the accounting concept, in order to run his business. In essence, Greenberg used the company’s goodwill as just another pot of money. Ultimately, Gnome Press went out of business, in part because so few wanted to do business with it. In the end, they had little in the way of tangible assets and no goodwill.

What does this have to do with politics? The US has spent the 70 years since the end of WWII building up its goodwill. Not the social term, whereby Iraqis who are building bombs to attack US troops will still ask about a resident visa (because they love us for our freedoms), but the accounting concept, the value of the brand, if you will.

For over half a century, the US has been known as a staunch ally, as a preserver of the status quo, as a country that, when it counts, keeps the promises it makes and stands by the agreements it signs. We may be the big gorilla in the room during negotiations, but we are predictable, and stable. This slow, patient, buildup has resulted in an enormous fund of (accounting) goodwill. It’s not that people like us, it’s that they trust us to be predictable. Yes, Kissenger sold Nixon to the Vietnamese as an unpredictable madman, but that was a wartime tactic.

President Trump is throwing that all away, burning through our international standing like Gnome Press through author’s royalties. He has reneged on agreement after agreement, destroying trust in our word. He has threatened draconian reprisals on countries that don’t acquiesce to our demands to alter existing agreements (Pray I don’t alter them further).

The problem is, the actions he has taken are irrevocable. Not that a future President couldn’t attempt to go back to the status quo ante, but that there will be no longer be any trust that the status quo, any status quo, will hold. If I can’t be sure that a future  American President, or her successor, will act in good faith on an agreement, I’ll have every incentive to make an agreement with someone else, or demand a higher payment for agreement from my side.

That’s what we’ve lost, and what we stand to lose.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

June 23, 2019

Garden Report for 190624

Weather continues its roller-coaster ride. Hot at the beginning of the period, and now forecasting highs in the middle 70s with lows around 50. Typical NENW springtime. We’ve been known to have frost in early July.

Nothing of import happened last week, but this week was Litha and the Midsummer festivities. Here’s what the gardens look like right now. The tomatoes are doing well all over, as are the weeds ground cover plants. Click to embiggen.

Things continued to grow. This week we got our first pea harvest and planted a new batch. Due out the end of August. The Bok Choy in Section 3 has finally raised its head above the …surroundings.

The lettuce in the hanging planter is doing well. The tomato plant is big enough I moved the underchard over to the south railing. Planted a container of radishes for MJ, and another container of lettuce.

Tanker War

June 21, 2019

One reason I’m reluctant to comment on breaking news is that in this day and age it’s likely to be incomplete, twisted, and wrong.

Area of the action

Here’s a timeline of what we know, so far. Last week, two tankers (neither one with any links to the US) were attacked while transiting the Sea of Oman after having departed Saudi ports en route to ports in Asia. Given the deservedly low regard that the US government and its Intelligence Community is held in these days, the first reactions were extreme suspicion, some of it coming from conservative elements that one would expect might support it.

Later pictures and video showed what was identified as an Iranian Revolutionary Guard patrol boat removing what was reported as an unexploded limpet mine from the side of one of them. On Monday, additional imagery and analysis were released.

The consensus of the US media is that Iranian forces really were involved, but questions remain as to who in Iran really did it, and what their objectives were.

First of all, we note that all of the damage to the ships was well above the waterline. Like earlier attacks on tankers in port in Saudi, these attacks were not intended to sink the ships, in fact, unlike the earlier attacks, these were evidently not even intended to cripple them — the holes were nowhere near the propellers or rudders (and the fire on board the Altair seems to have broken out some hours after the attack, possibly due to poor damage control). The US claims that the mines used on the Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous were of Iranian manufacture, but in fact, we don’t have enough material from the mines to be sure — one was blown up, and one was removed.

Limpet Mine

Second, one of the ships is Japanese-owned, and Japanese Prime Minister Abe was in Tehran at the time. Japan has refused to take sides on who was responsible for the attack, primarily because they don’t want to damage relations with Iran.

I see three possible actors in this situation.

  • First, obviously, the government of Iran.The question then becomes, what was the objective? If the sanctions are starting to bite, I am easily convinced that the hard-liners in the central government are pushing for a demonstration that the US and its allies are vulnerable to their own form of pain. The attack on the Japanese ship was just an error.
  • Second, rogue elements of the Iranian government and the Rev Guard in Hormozgān province. Iran is not as unified as some would have you believe, and it’s possible that some local commander, protected by hard-liners in the capital, is making known the position of a minority element of the government. The attack on the Japanese ship was to put Tokyo on notice that everyone was vulnerable.
  • Finally, there’s the (increasingly less likely) possibility of a false flag attack by the US or (more likely) one of its associates, like Saudi Arabia. I suspect the US could mount an attack like that, complete with Iranian mines, Rev Guard boats, and uniforms, within 48 hours of being ordered to. I suspect that the Saudis could mount such an attack with a week or so of warning.

Then, yesterday, a US drone was shot down by an Iranian missile while over …. international/Iranian waters (take your pick).

Khordad mobile SAM

The US promptly decided to retaliate. A strike was mounted. Planes were in the air. Suddenly, President Trump decided that the level of ‘provocation’ wasn’t high enough to warrant killing 150 or so Iranian troops. Also, the NYT notes, buried below the fold, that we might not have been so sure that the drone actually was outside of Iranian airspace.

This might all have been as told. For all his faults, I suspect that Trump really does object to killing people in large quantities. On the other hand, it could have been a feint — launch the attack, call it back, and say see, I’m a nice guy.

So, what we have here is a long-standing US feud with Iran, because they object to our meddling in their affairs for the last 60 years, and because we object to how they phrased their objection. Trump is intent of forcing some sort of treaty concessions from Tehran, oblivious to the fact that to give in under pressure would be fatal to the regime and would only strengthen hard liners power. Meanwhile, in the US, hardliners want nothing less than regime change, perhaps to restore the Peacock Throne and put Reza Pahlavi in power.

If we go back in history, we can find another example of the US using sanctions to force our policies on others. Where, instead of destroying an economy by preventing a country from selling its oil, we threatened destruction of an economy by cutting off their access to oil. Where we totally misunderstood the stance of a proud country, unwilling to to bend its knee to a foreign hegemon. Were we totally miscalculated their willingness to engage in a hopeless war.

Anime Preview: Summer 2019

June 19, 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 pretty much 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 (Is it wrong to pull on a blue ribbon in a dungeon?, Bothering Takagi-san), shorts and kids stuff (Sounan desu ka, Pirikarako-chan ), movies and OVA’s, and anything with a Certain or a Melloi in the title. Second, I should say that this was a hard season to capture. Not only are the offerings thin, with some exceptions, the art work is uninspired. Third, I’m trying something new: inserting the pictures using the WordPress Gallery feature, rather than spending an hour or so fighting the interface while trying to format a table. I’d be interested to hear any comments my reader might have.

WILL WATCH: The title or the cover art is properly enticing, so I definitely will watch at least the first three eps (you can click on the pix to embiggen).

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

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

MH370 Final Report, and this time I mean it.

June 17, 2019

Atlantic magazine has a wrap-up article on the Malaysian Airways jet that disappeared over the Indian Ocean five years ago. It comes to the same conclusion that I did, but does it with more evidentiary support. My conclusion was that it had to have been one of the flight crew. William Langewiesche presents convincing evidence that it was the Captain, Zaharie Ahmad Shah.

The article states that Zaharie wasn’t the stable professional that we were given to believe. He was a lonely man who was separated from his wife, who spent his time wandering through an empty house, waiting for the next flight. That information was never released by the Malaysian government because it might reflect badly on a corrupt administration. This is all laid out in Section 6 of the article, after a long discussion of various recoveries of the aircraft debris.

I’ve been following the MH370 story since the beginning, summarizing the evidence and evaluating the various theories.  My original conclusion was somewhat Sherlockian — once you have removed the impossible, what remains, however implausible, is the cause. The Atlantic article puts an evidentiary cap on it, and is likely the last original essay we’ll see on the topic until someone invents a nuclear powered deep ocean search drone.

If you want to read all my articles on the topic, click the MH370 tag, below.


Sous Vide Oatmeal

June 14, 2019

OK, so that’s kindof a click-baity title. But SV was involved, I swear.

You see, we tried our first sous-vide steak the other night. Now, most SV steak recipes don’t call for an included liquid/broth/brine or whatever. I had forgotten that, so I dropped the steak (small t-bone — I get the rib, she gets the tenderloin) into the bag, and then added a half cup of beef broth, remaining from an earlier oatmeal project, topped up with a cup of commercial chicken broth, plus salt. Two hours later we had almost three cups of liquid in the bag, along with a perfectly done, medium-rare, but surprisingly dry, steak — most of the juice had leaked out of the meat and into the bag. There’s obviously a lot more work to be done on the SV side, but that’s a different recipe.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one cup SV broth, 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: Excellent, as you might expect for a dish that included a cup of beef juice. I’ll finish off the other two cups, but I hope not to try this again. I want all my juice in the steak.

Rating: *****

Aniblog Churn

June 12, 2019

I have been watching anime for almost 15 years, according to this analysis. Since I’m an on-line-reading kind of guy, I suspect I’ve been following various anime blogs for almost as long. In general, I follow blogs by putting them in my RSS feed, and what started this article was the fact that at the beginning of the week, the Anime folder in my RSS feed had exactly 100 sites listed. That’s enough to convince me that it needed some pruning.

What I found was, a surprising number of blogs had stopped publishing, or at least hadn’t published anything in a year. Some were still there (Altair & Vega, last active in Jan 2016; Deneb, last active in Oct 2015). Some had just disappeared — the Internet couldn’t find Denpa Waves or Oishii Anime. One, Anime Fascination, had gone private at some unknown date since I’d added it to my list. The earliest dropout was Anime Backgrounds, in July, 2014. The most active year for site inactivations, was 2017, with four sites.

I can’t be sure how far back the earliest listing in my current RSS feed goes. Presumably at least to July, 2014, so call it five years. I have been collecting feeds for far longer, but multiple computer/browser/reader changes have lost many of the links.

Bottom line: Over roughly five years, 17 out of 100 RSS feeds have gone inactive or disappeared. Some easy math says that’s 17%. Some slightly less easy math says that at that rate, in about 25 years my anime feed will be empty. That, of course won’t happen, because I regularly add interesting feeds. On the other hand, in 25 years I’ll be 100, so my aniblog tracking might have dropped off a little.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

June 9, 2019

Garden Report for 190610

Well, that was fast. Temps plunged into the 50’s, with rain at the end of the week, and now we are forecast to be 89F by the end of this coming week. Typical NENW springtime.

Things continue to grow. Garden lettuce is finally distinguishable from the weeds. Bought a new railing planter and put in another tranche of lettuce. As soon as the wind dies down (tomorrow?) I’ll dig up a small section of the main garden and put in some radishes-on-tape for MJ.

The hanging planter is doing well. This time last week the lettuce was barely up to the edge of the container. Meanwhile, the Underchard is also doing well.

What a difference a week makes

Probably should start thinning soon.

Fire Season 2019

June 4, 2019

Washington state’s first biggish fire of the season is in progress on the north slope of the Saddle Mountains, near Beverly. Five thousand acres so far.

MODIS fire hotspots

It’s about a hundred miles from there to Spokane

First and only fire so far

The smoke trail is visible on satellite.

An otherwise clear view

The skies are already hazy, the AQI is up to 100, and the smell of smoke makes it uncomfortable to sit out on the back deck.

Fires to the West

Last year it was British Columbia. This year it is all home grown, and it will only get worse as summer progresses.

UPDATE 19/06/05/17:20: 19,000 acres, 25% contained.

Ship Girls

June 4, 2019

Since 2013 there have been three anime that featured cute girls doing cute things, with ships: Arpeggio of Blue Steel, Kantai Collection, and High School Fleet. Well, cute things is probably a misnomer. They are all more concerned with drama than with moe.

What’s interesting about them is the differences in the way they portray the girls, and the ships. To start with, Arpeggio and KanColle are both concerned with girls who are part of their ships, while HSF is a more conventional girls on ships anime.

High School Fleet is just what the name says. High school girls from the Yokosuka Girls’ Marine High School go to sea on the destroyer Harekaze (Clear Wind) as part of their education. BTW, there’s an alternate reading of hare as meaning cleared of suspicion. This is symbolically important since the ship and crew are almost immediately charged with mutiny, and every ship they see attacks them. After many trials and tribulations, they demonstrate that the erratic actions of many of the ships is due to a virus, rescue their friends on the battleship Musashi, and win the day.

Harekaze sorties!

The training ships are based on WWII designs (although there are more modern designs in the real fleet), and the girls serve as normal watch-standers and ship-handlers.

Arpeggio of Blue Steel Earth is invaded by the Fleet of Fog, alien naval forces with extremely advanced weapons mounted on ships with the outward forms of WWII combatants. A rogue FoF submarine, the I-401, captained by a rogue human, is charged with sneaking a new superweapon across the Pacific to the US. It succeeds, with the help of other FoF defectors, including (finally) the battleship Yamato. Crow’s World has a good series on it.

Fleet destroyer takes a hit

In Arpeggio, the FoF ships are embodiments of the concept of each class of ship. They are controlled either by low level AI’s (minor combatants) or by high-level mental models — AI’s that have taken human form, the better to understand human reasoning. This leaves them open to over-empathizing with humans.

Kantai Collection In an alternate timeline, girls (who are embodiments of WWII ships) fight a grotesque enemy in the form of the ships of the Abyssal Fleet. The battles parallel those of WWII (W island, MI base) and the girls are vaguely aware of the outcomes on our timeline — will the battle of MI be a disaster?. In the end they avoid the Abyssal’s attempt at an ambush, and everyone returns safely, with the help of the battleship Yamato.

Combat-ready Hagikaze

The ships in KanColle are not really ships. They are girls who embody the soul of the WWII ship. The girls carry strap-on versions of the weapons suites their spirit ships mounted.

One way to understand the different approaches is to create a table. I like tables.

Real Girls Imaginary Girls
Real Ships HS Fleet Arpeggio
Imaginary Ships KanColle

So, KanColle is about imaginary girls, who can roller-blade across the water, and Arpeggio is about imaginary girls, created from computer core processors and nanomaterial sand. But Arpeggio has real ships, that take real damage, while KanColle has imaginary ship attributes attached to the imaginary girls.

High School Fleet, meanwhile, has real girls on real ships, worried about real things like showers and shopping.

The one cell that’s empty is Real Girls on Imaginary Ships. A show that filled that cell wouldn’t have to be as ship-free as KanColle. It could be a standard anime young girls are the only ones who can call these ships into existence. Think of it as a mecha show, but with ships.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

June 2, 2019

Garden Report for 190603

Warming trend continues. End of the week was in the mid 80’s. Only rain is in the T-storms. It is supposed to cool off by the end of the week.

Things continue to grow. I should be weeding more, but the mosquitoes are a problem. The deck lettuce is coming along nicely, but it seems to have had an attack of leaf miners or something. Merciless pruning seems to have worked. We had our first full salad from garden greens only.

The local hardware store has stopped carrying hanging planters, so I had to order one from the ‘Zon. I have a Patio tomato hanging out the bottom, and a circle of seeds-on-tape lettuce on the top. Underneath is one of the small railing containers, with some up-and-coming chard.

A whole salad in one container
(click to embiggen)