Archive for July, 2019

TLDR: Anime I never finished, Summer 2019 Part 2

July 31, 2019

It’s time for the midseason culling, for a suitably vague concept of midseason. I went ahead and reactivated my subscription to Funimation, giving myself three dedicated anime streamers — Crunchyroll, HiDive (via VRV), and Funi. This opened up new vistas in viewing, and meant that I needed to do some trimming if I wanted to have any personal time available. Fortunately, there were a number of shows that helped out by finally revealing their true nature.

Isekai Cheat Magician was at best a B-list show, and Episode 4 showed it wasn’t really even B-list material. With lame animation of overpowered cardboard villains mouthing overwrought lines, Isekai Cheat is more like a kid’s afternoon anime. I didn’t make it halfway through the episode.

Wasteful Days of High School Girls tries very hard to be a slice of zany life centering on three high school girls — the standard jokester, straight man, and observer — in the mode of Yuyushiki or Aiura. After a fun start, they tried to bring in more side-characters and develop something like a plot, but it didn’t work. Finally, it looks to me like Nozomu “Baka” Tanaka is a direct rip of Kanaka Amaya.

Astra Lost in Space was another B-list show that didn’t live up to its billing. The animation was full of cutout figures moving against painted backdrops, when it wasn’t just static pictures. The plot was contrived (Someone is trying to kill us!) and the problem solutions equally so (Look! I just found a backup generator in this closet, with eight minutes to go to impact). Agatha Christie did it better. To top it off, Funimation makes it really hard to get uncluttered screenshots.

It’s too bad, really. I had 14 shows I was following, which made for a tidy two shows per day. Fortunately, Funi now lets me watch old classics, like Omamore Himare, and Girls Bravo.

The only thing we have to fear is ….

July 30, 2019

…us.

As any insurance salesman will tell you, fear sells. Also guttering salesmen, Google doorbell ads, newspapers, and, of course, politicians. We have become a fearful nation of fear-mongers.

Ordinary people, fat old Euros like you and me, live in constant fear of being murdered in our beds by drug-addled dark-skinned criminals who come into our country illegally, seeking bedridden victims to murder. We are afraid to go into the crime-ridden cities. Afraid that our children will be kidnapped if we let them out of our sight for a minute. Afraid that our neighbor’s children will be kidnapped if they are allowed any greater freedom than we allow our own. As with other fears, like fear of flying, telling the fearful one that they are wrong, showing them the facts of the matter, doesn’t help. They still get white knuckles every time the plane takes off, every time they walk past a person of color. How did we become such spineless wimps?

Part of the reason is the Internet. Wait! Before you close the tab and click over to XKCD, hear me out. I am of Internet Generation 0. I didn’t grow up with it, but I’m part of the generation that created it (no, I wasn’t involved) and was an early adopter. I spend six or seven hours per day online, and that doesn’t count anime. At last count, I owned twelve PCs, laptops, and tablets, many of which still work. I think the Internet is the greatest technical achievement of mankind, surpassing even Apollo. And yet, and yet.

By essentially abolishing the informational distance between any two points, the Internet has made us all neighbors. Not in a global village sort of way, but as a global city. In a village, you have a good chance of knowing, or at least interacting with, everyone in the population, however sporadically. In a city, you don’t know and can’t know everyone. You can’t even know about anyone without a special effort. In a city, there are neighborhoods you don’t go into, either because they have little to offer you, or because they are dangerous, in one way or another, and so you know little about them.

A village, if you will, is like Facebook. A city is like Twitter. In the one you are likely to  have a relatively small number of like-minded people that you interact with on a regular basis. In the other, it’s not unusual to have thousands of @’s that you follow, so many that you can’t say why you even followed any given one. And those have re-tweets and replies such that your stream becomes a river of strangers, no longer Main Street, but Shibuya Crossing.

In a village, you can know, or find out, the truth behind rumors and allegations. In the city, you are at the mercy of the information intermediaries like newspapers and TV, and the Internet. In the city, all crime is local, all disasters are personal. Some child gets abducted by his divorced father in Montana, and we get Amber Alerts on our phones in Washington state. Torrential rains 300 miles away in Seattle cause a landslide in the mountains, and we get emails from our in-laws on the East Coast, asking if we are alright. A German high school exchange student told me his family were worried that he’d be involved in a school shooting, when the nearest one at the time was a thousand miles away. Terrorist attacks in Somalia and India trigger calls for increased local security by Americans who couldn’t find either country on a map.

Feeding on this are the politicians, and those who aspire to power. When I was a lad, we had real existential threats to the country. The USSR could wipe us from the face of the earth in half an hour’s time, and we knew it. But nobody cowered behind border walls, and nobody suggested giving up our Constitutional rights just to get a little supposed safety. And few tried to weaponize that fear in order to gain power.

Today there are no real existential threats to the U.S. Yes, Russia could still wipe us out, and China could tear off an arm, but they are now simply global competitors rather than rabid ideologues who take our very existence as an affront. Al Qaeda and their ilk are not much more than simple gangsters. Yes, nearly 4,000 Americans died on 9/11. And over 4,000 Americans died in useless wars that we started after that. But those numbers pale before deaths due to drugs, medical errors, and guns. *

Similarly, there’s this fear that we are being overrun by foreign immigrants. It’s true that our latest figures show that 13.4% of our population is foreign born. That’s higher than it’s ever been…except for the forty year period between 1870 and 1910. We weren’t overwhelmed then, and we’re not going to be overwhelmed now.

But despite that, we still allow ourselves to be oppressed by the DHS and their subordinates in ICE and CBP. We see nothing wrong with x-ray searches at airports, and having everything within 100 miles of the border be a Constitution-free zone.

At home, we have school shootings. Between 1999 and 2018, over 200,000 students at over 200 schools “experienced gun violence”, with almost 500 of them being killed or injured. That sounds like a lot, but it covers a ten year period, and in any given year there are 7.6 million students, at 137,000 schools. Compare that with the fact that 12,000 children die annually due to accidents in cars and in their homes. And yet we have fences, metal detectors, and armed guards in many of our schools. Why is that?

Well, fear.

Newspapers survive by collecting eyeballs to sell to advertisers, and fear collects eyeballs. Politicians survive by collecting voters. Voters want their politicians to do something about critical problems of the day.  Unfortunately, the real problems — poverty, inequality, health care, climate change — are tough, intractable ones, with solutions that irritate some part of the voting population. Far better to create false crises — illegals, terrorists, drug wars, school shootings, even video games — ones with no great constituency, and take action against them. And how do you create a false crisis? Fear. Politicians can hold hearings, and newspapers can cover them and laws can be passed, and it’s all so much security theater, but it gets eyeballs and voters, and if anyone objects you can always ask Why do you hate America?  And as a side effect, these laws give you more control over the populace and let those with power (and money) act as they please.

The trouble is, the structure of the system is such that it will continue to promote the use of fear to keep the populace under control. It’s what a Systems Scientist would call a basin of attraction. You can’t predict what the system will do, but you can say that it will stay within this same general area.I don’t see a way out, and that makes me afraid.


*In any given recent year more than 70,000 Americans die due to drug overdoses, 40,000 from preventable medical accidents, and 30,000 to gunshot wounds. Islamic terrorism is responsible for four, or maybe eight, individuals per year, but AQ doesn’t have Big Pharma, Big Med, or the NRA to front for them.

 

Green Thumb Up My Nose

July 29, 2019

Garden Report for 190729

The weather continued warm, with highs mostly in the mid to upper 80s, but just touching 94F on Tuesday. Breezy Really windy at the end of the week. Forecast for pretty much the same for next week, only without the wind.

Finally got some tomatoes. Over the course of the week there were 12 small (~45g each) Early Girls, all from the house east side containers. Three afflicted with blossom end rot. They all were good, but had thick skins. I suspect this is the result of our exceedingly dry air. On the other hand, I note that it says here that Early Girls should run up to 250g. Not even a smidgen of red elsewhere. Picked the second kohlrabi, and about 24″ of yard long beans. Squash are churning out squash.

It’s a start

Here’s the scoreboard.

Week
Ending
07/29
Vegetable Count Total

Weight
g

Unit

Weight
g

Grand

Total

Total
Weight
kg
  EG Garden
EG Container 12 540 45 12 0.54
EG Bag
EG Deck
Other tomato
Summer Squash 1 200 200 5 1.4
Zucchini 4 930 230 10 2.2
Spaghetti
squash
Winter Squash
Cucumber
Kohlrabi 1 320 320 2 0.9
Grand Total 5.0

I am trying something new on the watering front. I threaded a soaker hose around the house containers — it’s long enough to go both ways — and I’m hooking it up to the timer. We’ll see if and how much watering will take the place of me standing there with a hose. Not that there’s anything wrong with standing.

The hose is there, it’s just hard to see.
Click to embiggen.

We’re ahead of where we were this time last year (1.7kg), except that last year we were already getting big red tomatoes. Also ahead of 2017 (2.7kg)

Green Thumb Up My Nose

July 21, 2019

Garden Report for 190722

The weather was surprisingly pleasant, with highs in the upper 70’s, not warming to the 80’s until the weekend. The whole NW is having an unseasonable extension of June Gloom, becoming subject to JAWS — July Abnormally Wet Systems. On Monday, Spokane had the second highest rainfall for that date since record keeping started in 1881.  True, it was only 0.29in, but still. In the past 138 years, it’s rained on the 16th only 21 times. Forecast for next week is more normal — upper 80s/low 90s, no rain except in occasional T-storms. This forecast expected to hold through … August.

Not really seeing much production yet, other than the squash (one Summer, one Genovese, one Cocozelle). Some remaining lettuce. A couple of tomatoes are turning red, but nothing harvestable. Meanwhile, the Bok Choy all bolted.

Here’s the scoreboard. This week’s take includes harvests from previous weeks.

Week
Ending
07/22
Vegetable  

Count

 

Total

Weight
g

Unit

Weight
g

Grand

Total

Total
Weight
kg
  EG Garden
EG Container
EG Bag
EG Deck
Other tomato
Summer Squash 4 1210 302 4 1.2
Zucchini 6 1948 325 6 1.9
Spaghetti
squash
Winter Squash
Cucumber
Kohlrabi 1 580 580 1 0.6
Grand Total 3.7

I tried using a no-till approach to the garden this year, but it’s not working. Sometimes I have trouble finding the garden plants.

Peas and Carrots and Weeds, Oh My.

There’s actually some radishes in there, also.

We’re ahead of where we were this time last year, except that last year we were already getting big red tomatoes.

Fire Season 2019

July 19, 2019

We’re seeing an interesting pattern develop in wildfires in Washington State.

The first biggish fire of the season was the 243 Command Fire (who names these things, anyway?) in Grant County, just east of Beverly, on the north slope of the Saddle Mountains.

243 Command Fire

Six weeks later and five miles to the south, we had the Powerline Fire, just over the Saddle Mountains, and northeast of Mattawa.

Powerline fire

Now, we have the Cold Creek fire, fifteen miles south of Powerline, and over the border into Benton County. Burning along historic Rattlesnake Mountain, towards my in-laws old home in  Richland.

Beverly, Mattawa, and Cold Creek

If I lived in Prosser, I might be a little worried.

It’s heading south!

UPDATE: Guess what?

Gorgonzola Oatmeal

July 18, 2019

So, a few weeks ago in a fit of impulsion MJ bought a bunch of steak butter patties, suitable for everything from burgers on up. Or so we thought.

Trouble is, their main non-butter component was Gorgonzola cheese, or at least, FDA Gorgonzola flavorant #12. And the trouble with that is, Gorgonzola is a, shall we say, intrusive cheese, that wants to dominate the flavor of whatever its associated with. Tasted like we were eating Gorgonzola patties with beef bits.

Well, if its flavor you got, then I’ve got a place for you, and it’s right on top of my oatmeal.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one cup beefy broth, one pat (roughly 30g) of Gorgonzola flavored butter, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes. Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats. Add the potatoes at the end. Add the Gorgonzola to the broth at the start, or break it up and stir it in after the potatoes. Wait until aprè-Gorgon to add salt, ’cause it’s salty.

Results: OK, if you like Gorgonzola. The flavor wasn’t overpowering. After all, it was fighting a whole cup of bland. But when you come right down to it, when something is Gorgonzola-flavored, that means it tastes of Gorgonzola, and I find I’m not a big fan of that flavor. But try it. You might like it.

Rating: ***

Anime I’m Watching, Summer 2019

July 16, 2019

So, you’ve seen what I’ve dropped. What’s holding my attention? Here’s the current list, by the numbers:

The Demon Girl Next Door
One inept high school girl finds out she’s the new incarnation of evil, only to be totally outclassed by the magical girl she’s supposed to defeat. Magical girl takes pity on her and works to help her level up.

Pokes fun at both the magical girl and the demon heiress genres. I particularly like how everybody just goes along with the new situation (“You’re a demon? Cool horns“), and how her mother tries to cope (“You’ll be arrested if you carry a weapon, so here’s a dinner fork“). Bonus points for the background classroom games.

Dr. Stone
Two high school boys survive petrification of the entire human race, plus all the birds, or maybe only swallows, without food, water, oxygen, or sensory stimulation, for three thousand years. Decide to reconstruct civilization, starting with a bunch of grapes and some bat guano.

Interesting, but still excessively shonen. Starting to address the question of who to awaken (and the associated, who to awaken next). Still hasn’t thought about how all their inventions will scale, how many to awaken, and on what sort of schedule.

Wasteful Days of High School Girls
Three high school girls continue their friendship from middle school [see Yuyushiki], maintain their standard-character interactions [see Aiura].

So far, the banter is cute and the jokes are funny. We’ll see if they can keep it up.

Are you lost?
Four high school girls survive an airplane ditching, without life preservers, burns, broken bones, or jet fuel contamination. Everybody else perished without a trace. Said girls wash up on a deserted island (presumably deserted, they haven’t looked on the other side yet, there could be a Royal Caribbean Line party beach) and try out their survival skills.

Short, but interesting. Much of what people are calling gross-out material is actual survival lore. OK, maybe not the moose balls.

Caution: I don’t care what they said in Episode 1, don’t drink urine. Your kidneys did a lot of work to get rid of toxins in your body and concentrate them in your urine for disposal. Don’t add them back. US Army includes it with seawater and blood as fluids that are harmful to drink in a survival situation.

O Maidens in your Savage Season
Five high school girls from the literature club discover sex. Poke at it with a stick. Find out why it’s vitally important to lock your doors.

I am so not the target demographic for this. In addition, I’m having trouble remembering what my male equivalent travails were like, particularly because they took place during the Eisenhower administration. Despite that, I found it interesting and well done. An example of why anime isn’t just, or not even, kiddie material.

Fire Force
Seven firemen extinguish men of fire, while seeing to their spiritual needs. None of them are in high school.

A shonen anime, but without spiky hair or shouting, unlike Dr. Stone. So far, the action is good and the characters interesting. Interesting side note: the fire fighting suits are realistically bulky.

So that’s it for now. Six shows, out of the 45 or so on offer on Crunchyroll/HiDive. I’m seriously considering adding Funimation as a source, which will give me another three or four.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

July 14, 2019

Garden Report for 190715

Hot and dry all week, with temperatures averaging in the mid 80’s F.

Harvested the first kholrabi. Softball sized and 520g. The second one is more hardball sized, and I’ll wait a bit on that one. Also harvested a 400g summer squash. There’s one Delicata and about four more summer squash (hey, the name says Early Prolific) coming along, so next week I’ll start the scoreboard. Later this summer, I’ll harvest the spaghetti squash.

Planted one row each of my seeds-on-tape lettuce: Butterchrunch, EZ Harvest, Krucha, Lento. Harvest time 45-75 days (early to late September). This will give us a chance to see which variety we like more.

Tomatoes are coming along. Time for a first look at my Early Girl experiment. Each of the four have produced ~20 tomatoes of a size worth mentioning (say, plum or larger), but the small container on the deck is producing smaller fruits. (click to embiggen)

Note that the various containers were watered about 20hrs prior to the photos, and we’ve had some warm, windy conditions. That (and the container size) may be why the deck container is looking so puny. On the other hand, the east-facing house tomatoes get more sun (including reflection) than does the garden plant.

TLDR: Anime I never finished, Summer 2019

July 9, 2019

Maybe it’s just me. Advancing age, combined with more time to watch anime, has made me more critical. Or maybe it’s just that the crop of anime this summer is weaker than one would expect, even for summer. The full summer schedule hasn’t been announced yet, and already I’m dropping shows.

Dropping:

To The Abandoned Sacred Beasts: Frankenstein monsters join the army. Things don’t end well. Interesting concept marred by low grade animation, names that are almost as bad as those in Gate, and a low grade villain — nobody laughs like that.

It’s the writers. They made me do this!

Is It Wrong To Try To Pick Up Girls In A Dungeon, Side Quest: My season preview said I wasn’t going to watch this, but I felt I should just check in to see how it was going. Well, I didn’t like the original, and this one isn’t any better. Cardboard characters. Cardboard monsters. Cardboard scenery. And those characters that go beyond cardboard, do it by being irritating.

We hauled all those boxes all this way so you could have a throne. Don’t let it go to your head.

Magical Sempai: I think it’s supposed to be せんぱい. See that second character that looks like an ‘n’? It’s an ‘n’, not an ‘m’. Senpai. Whatever it’s called, this 12 minute short depends too much on embarrassment humor for me.

Girl of my dreams

On the cusp:

Dr Stone: Yes, I know it’s a fantastically popular manga. Yes, I know it’s the most hyped anime of the season. Yes, I also know it’s a classic shonen, with lots of spiky hair and guys shouting, an anime of the type that that one of my Japanese students called “too loudy”. Will that overwhelm the joys of learning how to make nitric acid out of bat guano? I’ll give it one more episode.

Don’t chew with your mouth open. There might be kids watching.

Granbelm: Cleverly disguised magical girl show. On the one hand, I am definitely the wrong demographic for that. On the other hand, the mechas are chibi, the interactions are cute, and the action in general is good. Is that enough to make up for the squeaky-voiced teenlet mahou shoujo aspect? We’ll have to wait for the next episode.

I don’t think I could stand a Magical Girl/Mecha/Isekai mashup

Finally, it looks like it’s not just a thin season this summer, but a poorly distributed one as well, with four out of the five Summer Season shows that I am watching being released on Friday. This leaves a big hole after the weekend. Right now I’m desperate enough that I’m marathoning Daphne in the Brilliant Blue. It was that or Hanaukyo Maid Team.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

July 8, 2019

Garden Report for 190708

Warm and dry all week, with temperatures averaging around 80F.

Harvested the first Genovese (yet another type of Zucchini) squash on the 4th, only about 300g. MJ took it to her Girls Night Out party, where they watched 1776, the musical and ate Pasta Salad a la Genovese. Also harvested a 160g Summer Squash. It was small, but there’s four more coming right behind it.

First Genovese

Tomatoes are coming along. Latest count shows 60-70 plum size or larger. Nothing really large, nothing to see but green. Meanwhile, back in Ohio.

Happy Tanabata

July 6, 2019

Can you see me now?

I’ve already written pretty much all I know about the holiday. Here’s a nice article on today’s celebration in Tokyo. Unfortunately, the lovers probably won’t get a chance to see each other, since the Tokyo forecast is for rain.

I am publishing this a day early, because it’s already 7/7 in Japan.

 

What we have become

July 4, 2019

Another year, another self-congratulatory July 4th. So, how are we doing after 243 self evident years? How are those uninalienable rights working out for all of us?

Apparently, not so well. I have already complained about the Department of Homeland Security, and their subordinate parts, like the CBP, and how they seem to be taking most of their professional standards from the Stasi, but now we find that the philosophical roots of the organization go back further than that.

The thing is, Homeland is a word that raises the hackles of anyone over a certain age. My father and my uncle fought against people who glorified their Heimat, and used it as an excuse to perpetrate unimaginable horrors. But those horrors didn’t just magically appear. As Lucian Truscott says, they were allowed to happen because for the general population:

What happened in Nazi Germany didn’t affect their own lives, it happened away from them, it happened to “others,” to people who were not like them, whom they had been conditioned to hate, and it happened at the direction of a leader they admired and revered.

And now, we see DHS building concentration camps, abusing children, and using the same kapo-based prisoner control techniques the Nazis did (near the bottom of the article).

We have become the people our parents fought against, and we are doing it at the behest of a man who is doing his best to condition us to hate the other. I suspect that the original signers would not recognize us.

But that’s not the worst of it. The worst of it is that over 40% of adults in the US approve of what he’s doing, who admire, if not revere, him. Forty percent, a number that has remained more or less constant for a year and a half. If you look at the latest four months worth of numbers, including a number of reputable polls taken after the photo of Oscar Ramirez and his daughter floating face down in the Rio Grande appeared in the New York Times, that number is 42%.

That, is what we have become on this sunny, climate-warmed 4th. And even McSweeney’s knows how that 42% will react when we call them on it.

 

Anime Postview: Spring 2019

July 2, 2019

This is not a real review of the anime season just ending. Instead, it’s a look at how well I did in my Spring 2019 Preview, which you might want to look at first.

Ones I said I WILL WATCH:

Time travel not done well. Wants to be Stein’s Gate, but doesn’t quite make it

 

  • Konoyo no Hate: Watched five eps. Interesting take on time loops and the difficulty of changing the past, but just couldn’t hold my interest.
  • Shoumetsu Toshi: Not Available
  • Carole & Tuesday: Not Available

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ones I said I MIGHT WATCH:

It’s not Big Windup. It’s not even Moshidora.

 

  • Cinderella Nine: Watched two eps. Too much cute girls doing and not enough baseball
  • Mix: Didn’t watch. Previews were too much team building and not enough baseball. Doesn’t anyone watch Big Windup any more? That’s how you do it.
  • Kono Oto Tomare: Didn’t watch. Amazon pay to play.

 

 

 

 

 

Ones I said I WON’T WATCH:

I don’t understand. I liked YuriKuma.

 

  • Jimoto na Japan: Didn’t watch
  • Aikatsu Friends: Didn’t watch
  • Sarazanmai:  Watched two eps.  Everybody who isn’t me liked it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, there we are. Started watching four of the nine, but none of them stayed the course. Checked out three others that others said were good, but they didn’t make it, either: Bakumatsu, Demon Slayer, Fruits Basket (wasn’t impressed with the original, for that matter). Fortunately, there were a few that kept me from complete boredom: Ao-Chan Can’t Study, FLCL (work in progress), Isekai Quartet, We never learn. Now, why did I like Ao-Chan and We never learn and get bored by Demon Slayer and Fruits Basket? For that matter, why did I like YuriKuma enough to buy the DVD but Sarazanmai just didn’t really click with me? I don’t know. Maybe it’s just me. I should note that I didn’t watch more than two episodes of any show on Conflagrate’s top ten list. Yeah, it’s me.

In a nutshell: Even the good ones weren’t great. I ended up rewatching Kotobuki, and towards the end, I found myself marathoning High School DxD.

Magnificent

 

Green Thumb Up My Nose

July 1, 2019

Garden Report for 190701

Cool and rainy at the start, then steadily increasing temperatures, topping out at 81F on Sunday, with warmer in the forecast.

Harvested the first summer squash on Thursday, and of course I didn’t weigh it or photo it. That’s because it went from happy garden plant to dinner salad in about fifteen minutes. Main body was softball sized, so probably half a kilo or so.

The plants are so dense in Section 1 that it was hard to see if there’s any more of them, so it took me another day to find our second harvest, a 477g Cocozelle squash. A what? Italian striped Zucchini.

Fancy Italian Zucchini

Tomatoes are coming along. Lots of small greenies visible. Nothing large or ripe yet.

Harvested all the lettuce in the hanging container. That should give the tomato a chance to grow. Right now it has zero fruit or flowers. Also harvested most of the main garden lettuce a week or ten days earlier than my prediction, because it was really big, and when it gets really hot, it might really bolt. I figure it’s a tossup: we lose it to heat or it rots in the fridge.

Squirrels dug over the Section 3 area I’d just planted peas in. They’ve ignored the garden so far, but I guess the fresh soil was too much for them. Put one of the wire shelf racks over that spot, and planted Amaranth in the freshly exposed soil in Section 4. Should be harvestable in mid-August, assuming the squirrels don’t trash them all.