Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Cultural Appropriation

June 29, 2017

Lauren Orsini, the always-interesting Otaku Journalist, recently raised the issue of cultural appropriation, and pointed to an article by Jarune Uwujaren at Everyday Feminist. I’ve read both articles multiple times, and still have trouble wrapping my head around some applications of the definition, and not just because I’m a fat old Euro male. I think they are overlooking a fundamental difference between what goes on inside a country, and what goes on outside of it.

Uwujaren makes a strong case for cultural appropriation as part of an ongoing power imbalance within a country/society, specifically, the US. The dominant white culture (mine), demands conformance to its ideas of dress and behavior, on pain of not being thought serious, or worthy, of dealing with. This, by the way is true within the culture, as well as without. Bill Gates famously went out and bought a business suit so he could convince IBM he was a serious businessman when he met to sell them DOS. It rejects the elements of the other cultures (African-American, Native American, Hispanic, etc) as having no place in a white-dominated world.

Cultural Appropriation, as I understand their discussion, is when that dominant culture then turns around and adopts elements of the rejected subcultures in ways that are not respectful of their origins. The frat-boy type wearing the Native American head-dress in the Uwujaren article. Portrayals of traditional Hispanic dress (sombreros, decorated jackets) in commercials. The majority culture appropriates elements of a subculture for humor or commercial gain. This is all understandable when you are talking about the actions of the majority culture inside a country. It is a blatant flaunting of the unequal power relationship.

Between countries is a totally different thing.

My position is that there can be no Uwujaren-style appropriation between countries because there is no cultural coercion. The dominant culture in a country is dominant, and it doesn’t care what you think. If you go into a bank in the US wearing Arab robes, you will be stared at, if not strip searched. That goes double for an airport. If, on the other hand, you are in Riyadh, then everyone of importance wears robes, and you are the semi-despised foreigner, sweating in your business suit. Your cultural dominance in the US doesn’t matter. If you then change to robes, you are seen as a still-despised foreigner, aping your betters.

As a way of thinking about this, let’s turn our concerns about cultural appropriation 180 degrees, and look at other countries’ appropriation of American culture.

Consider Japan, which worries Orsini so. If you live in Japan, and have Japanese friends, and own a dark suit, then you might be called upon to officiate at a faux-Christian wedding ceremony in a building like the one below.

Not really a church

That’s not a church. It’s a commercial establishment that is rented out for couples who want to be “married” in a “church”. Is that cultural appropriation, or simple adoption? In America, there are several dominant religions that would be insulted. In Japan, with a Christian population of less than 3%, it’s looked on as kindof trendy.

Then there’s anime, the wellspring of all things otaku. Neon Genesis Evangelion is considered a seminal anime from twenty years ago, which totally rewrote the rules on how one portrays giant robots and parenting. The title can be translated from the Classical Greek as Gospel of a New Century.  In it, the robots battle Angels, using weapons like the Spear of Longinus (now suffering from additional exploitation), to prevent the destruction of New Tokyo, as foretold in the Prophecies of the Dead Sea Scrolls. This is far more than appropriation — it borders on looting and pillaging.  Actually, it’s director Anno grabbing whatever sounded good to him and sticking it in.

Or consider the Spring 2017 anime season just ending. There’s an anime titled The Seven Mortal Sins, that trivializes Christian and Jewish concepts of sin by re-casting them in the bodies of buxom babes. Exploitation? Certainly. Cultural appropriation in the Uwujaren definition? I’m not so sure.

Yet another example is Christmas, that most sacred of Western holy days (even though the commercial aspects sometimes overshadow the sacred). The Japanese have appropriated it and turned it into a totally commercial holiday. Unlike New Year’s, probably Japan’s most culturally significant holiday, Christmas in Japan is more like Valentine’s day in the US. Decorations may go up early, but they come down the day after.

So, I think what’s going on here is the application of one phrase to describe two different things: cultural appropriation inside a country as opposed to appropriation across country borders. Part of this may be the confusion of the word exchange as a business deal, as opposed to exchange as an intellectual process. The labelling of a cultural exchange as a material transaction. A cultural exchange is an exchange of ideas, not of material things. “This is how we fry flour and eggs and cabbage, and we call it Okonomiyaki“.  Which might or might not be followed by “Oh, that’s interesting. This is how we fry flour and eggs, but no cabbage, and we call it “Hot cakes“. It’s an exchange of ideas, not a material transaction. As Thomas Jefferson said, “He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me.” There’s really no way to pay another culture for the use of their ideas, even if we didn’t explain to them about hot cakes. All we can do is expose them to our way of doing things, and let them pick and choose and adapt as they see fit. And if the way they see fit to adopt and adapt something of ours is totally outside of our vision, well, that’s not something we can control. That’s not something we can do anything about.

In fact, that’s not something that’s any of our business.

And since the reverse is true, you can go on practicing yoga, or eating Salisbury Steak on Baps with Red Sauce without feeling guilty.

 

The Battle of Midway, 75 years ago

June 4, 2017

The Battle of Midway, 75 years ago today, marked the end of a remarkable six-month string of victories by the Japanese fast carrier fleet (Japanese name Kido Butai) across one third of the circumference of the globe, from Pearl Harbor, Hawaii to Colombo, Ceylon.

After striking at Pearl Harbor in December, 1941, the carrier force returned to Japan, before deploying to Truk and then to Palau, in support of the invasion of the northern Solomons. In February, they sortied for a raid on Darwin, Australia — the largest attack ever carried out against that country. Much of March was spent operating out of Staring Bay, Celebes, covering the Japanese Army operations across the Java Sea.

Early April, 1942, saw the fast carrier force in the Indian Ocean, where they conducted strikes on Colombo and Trincomalee, Ceylon, sinking the British carrier Hermes. By midmonth they were back in the South China Sea, bound for a replenishment stop in Taiwan.

The carriers redeployed to Truk in early May, to support the invasion of Port Moresby, New Guinea. On 7-8 May they participated in the Battle of the Coral Sea, suffering their first carrier loss (CL Shoho). It was a tactical victory but strategic defeat, because the Japanese had to call off the invasion.

Finally, in early June, the carriers assembled north of Midway Island, seeking to draw out US forces to protect the island. Unfortunately for them, the US had broken their codes and knew exactly what their plans were and where the carriers were located. This was not as easy as it sounds, by the way. For example, the carriers were operating under radio silence, but their support ships, including destroyers known to be used as their escorts, were not. We had to infer the location of the carriers.

The results of the battle are well known — four Kido Butai carriers sunk, with the loss of not just their decks, but their experienced crews and planes and pilots. Up until Midway, the average IJN pilot had about 700 flying hours under his belt. Midway started a decline to 70 flying hours by war’s end.

 

月の花見

May 8, 2017

Tsuki no hanami — moon flower viewing

Moon not quite full

Sakura past their peak

Overwhelming city lights

My bed calls

 

Beyond the Mountains of Madness

April 1, 2017

Probing into one of the most inaccessible parts of Antarctica, in an un-named part of the continent described only as being “beyond the Mountains of Madness”, a privately-funded expedition from Miskatonic University has discovered what the explorers describe as the remnants of an early civilization, one that appears to be related to ancient Egypt. The region is shrouded in perpetual cloud and fog, and most of the complex is encased in thousands of feet of snow and ice, but one structure, a pyramid ten times larger than the Great Pyramid of Kufu, was accessible through a great stone passage near the top.

Did ancient Egyptians reach Antarctica? Or was Egypt colonised from there?

The pyramids of Antarctica

There has long been a controversy over whether the civilization of ancient Egypt was able to colonise locations as far away as Mexico and Ceylon, or if civilization was imposed on Egypt and elsewhere by a more advanced race, originating in an unknown location. This new find may cast light on that controversy.

Passions have run high on the topic, and there have already been attempts to undermine the Miskatonic work by labelling the pictures a hoax, not taken in Antarctica.

Before contact with the expedition was lost, the leader said they had opened the passage, and inside found “wonderful things”.

For a good time

March 31, 2017
There's still time to rent a van today

There’s still time to rent a van for tonight

 

The long slow blog

March 5, 2017

Eight years of blogging at FoundOnWeb now, and I’m still going … something descriptive. Since WordPress doesn’t give me the tools I need to be more detailed (at least, not without putting in more work that I feel like doing), and since the blog started two months into the year, I’m just giving Totals From Day One.

In those eight years I’ve published just under three thousand posts (2920), which amounts to one post roughly every three days (2.8). Not much of a change since my last look, at the six year mark.

Total views in excess of fifty thousand (50557), or about 17 per day. Half of those were in the last two years, so I must be doing something right.

The two most popular posts in the last two years are my Garden Gantt spreadsheet, and Anime Worth Watching, Winter 2015, which featured KanColle and twerking torpedos. At last, something unseated Highschool Of the Dead, the anime and the DVD.

 

Happy Chinese New Year

January 28, 2017
We celebrated last night

We celebrated last night

Happy New Year

December 31, 2016

The sun has just set, here in the NENW, and it’s been 2017 somewhere on Earth for the last ten hours, so, I’m going to declare 2016 over and done with, and while it wasn’t as bad as it seemed, it was bad enough. To get the new year started off right, can you find the 4th dog in this picture?

Hint: Not a Golden Retriever

Hint: Not a Golden Retriever

For those who can’t find her (spoiler): (more…)

Memories of My Youth: Thanksgivings Past

November 24, 2016
President Bush (on right) with Thanksgiving turkey

President Bush (on right) with turkey

Our Trip to Alaska

August 19, 2016

MJ is a handbell ringer and handbell choir director. Every couple of years a Portland group called Bells of the Cascades sponsors a cruise — to Alaska, Mexico, the Caribbean — wherein a hundred or so ringers get together, practice during the ocean parts, and put on a concert at the end. Most of the cruises are to warmer climes, during January, and I can’t go along because of school. When it’s an Alaska destination, they go in August, and I can tag along.

Where we went

Where we went

This trip our onshore activity was a little constrained. MJ had just had her shoulder replaced a month before and was still in a sling, with orders to avoid all stress on that arm. But a little thing like having zero use of her left (dominant) arm wasn’t going to keep her from making the trip, and ringing.

Day 1: Departure

We’d sent the dogs to summer camp for the week and packed the night before, so we were able to get on the road by 7AM. It’s roughly two hours to the Columbia, two hours to Seattle, and two hours to the border, plus another hour inside Canada, because the cruise left from Vancouver. Traffic around Seattle was surprisingly heavy.

Downtown Vancouver from the cruise ship dock

Downtown Vancouver from the cruise ship dock

We rolled in to Vancouver about 3PM. The travel agent had booked us at a 4-star hotel (about a star and a half more than we needed) that had the advantage of being on the most direct route from Canada 99N to the cruise ship dock. I really like Vancouver. Of the three great cities of the NW (Portland, Seattle, Vancouver), it’s probably the most cosmopolitan. We walked around a bit, had dinner at a Red Robin (watched a crow learning to lift an onion ring from an abandoned ring-stacker) and went to bed early.

Day 2: Another Departure

Next day we were up early, dodged the crowds and barriers for the Vancouver Gay Pride parade, and zipped down to the cruise ship dock. Parking was inside the cruise ship center, so we offloaded our bags, zipped through customs and security, and were on board by 10AM, thence to hang around the bar until they let us in to our cabins about 1.

Corner suite, right above that orange storage container

Corner suite, right above that orange storage container

The first thing us old folks noticed was the prevalence of kids on the trip, and groups talking off their balconies. It felt a little like an old New York tenement. All it lacked was some laundry hung outside.

Oh, right.

Oh, right.

Another thing we noticed, after several days, was the number of ethnic Chinese on the trip. At one point, in the buffet, of the ten occupied tables, four were seating Chinese speakers. I don’t know if this is a flood of the new middle class from the mainland, or if it was just representative of Vancouver’s large Chinese population (most of whom had arrived just prior to the return of Hong Kong to the PRC). In any event, I was struck by the numbers, and thought of similar sights mentioned in some SF novel of old (Brin? Niven? Stephenson?).

Day 3: At Sea

We started with a 48 hour run up through British Columbia’s Inland Passage and Hecate Strait to a fishing village west of Juneau. Not much to do except sit on the veranda and sip fine wines. Of course, an outside air temperature of 55F and a ship’s speed of 17kts combined to give a wind chill in the upper 30’s, so that option was out. MJ practised with the handbell group,

One person per note

One person per note

and I made an attempt to get some programming done.

Taking time out to look cool

Taking time out to look cool

Day 4: Icy Strait Point

There’s not a lot of places to stop in southern Alaska. There’s Juneau, and maybe four small fishing ports like Ketchikan, plus a couple of glacier-ridden fjords. So, as I understand it, the cruise lines pooled their lunch money and put in a multi-million dollar dock at a small former fishing port, Icy Strait Point. How small is it? One of the highlights on the tour map was a 20-grave cemetery. They also built a fishing museum and a “zipline”. I use the scare quotes because you don’t really hang on the way you do on a real zipline. Instead, they have a seat that looks like some of the safer playground swings. The most photogenic objects are the local cat

The municipal cat. In chair, at left.

The municipal cat. In chair, at left.

the ship

Our floating hotel

Our floating hotel
(click to embiggen)

And here’s a shot of the ship with MJ in the foreground, for scale. The sling is designed to keep her shoulder from levering itself out of the socket.

The sling is designed to keep her shoulder from levering itself out of the socket

She doesn’t normally wear her hair ahoge style.

And finally the museum, which includes a working model of a Radio Shack.

This museum has everything

This museum has everything

Day 5: Hubbard Glacier

Overnight to the Hubbard Glacier. Very impressive

The approach

The approach

and the warm days meant it was calving almost continuously

If you look close, a chunk of ice just fell off in the center

If you look close, a chunk of ice just fell off in the center

That night was the Bells of the Cascades concert

Concert for the passengers

Concert for the passengers

Day 6: Juneau

Running overnight and most of the next day down from Hubbard, we got in to Juneau in the early afternoon. I wandered around a little bit, but the interesting bits of town were too far away from the ship, so I stayed aboard and watched the float planes landing.

As we were docking, one of these landed between the boat and the dock

As we were docking, one of these landed between the boat and the dock

Here’s another view of the ship. Our stateroom is right above the caribou flag.

A cruise-crowded port

A cruise-crowded port

Day 7: Ketchikan

Our last port of call was Ketchikan. During the run down from Juneau, the handbell group gave a free concert. Unfortunately, the room they gave them was so small only a few passengers could get in.

Only one working hand? That's OK. I'll play both bells with it.

Only one working hand?

Caption goes here

That’s OK. I’ll play both bells with it.

We were moored behind Holland-America’s Noordam, one of three other cruise ships at dock. Seeing small fishing towns suddenly inundated with 10,000 or 12,000 tourists gives you a bit of a feeling what it must have been like during the gold rush days.

Four cruise ships, at 3,000 passengers each...

Four cruise ships, at 3,000 passengers each…

BTW, this was Celebrity Infinity docking at Ketchikan back in June. Our arrival was much smoother.

 

Day 8: At Sea

Another day and a night at sea. We chased the Noordam through the Inland Passage.

No passing zone

No passing zone

That night the Strait of Georgia, and it was amazingly warm. It turns out there was a reason for that.

 

Day 9: Arrivals

Arrived in port at Vancouver about 6AM. Nice trip under the bridge.

Home from the sea

Home from the sea

Spent most of the morning having a leisurely breakfast. Our chalk was due off the ship at 8:30, and by 9:00 we had picked up our bags and cleared customs and were on our way home.

Arrived home late Sunday afternoon, but it wasn’t until Tuesday that the whole family was back together again.

Final Thoughts

This cruise wasn’t as much fun as the others, due to MJ’s shoulder, and there were a lot of minor irritations. The ship is, I think, a little small (90,000t, 2500 pax) and a little old (2001, second oldest in their fleet). It was tarted up a few years ago, with a new carpet and paint job, but if you looked at the edges of the steel plates you could see they were delaminating and rusty. The passageways seemed narrower than on other cruise ships, but that might have been because they were always cluttered with cleaning gear and laundry bags. The pre-departure abandon ship drill was a joke. Our muster station was in the main ballroom, from thence someone would take us to our lifeboat…it says here. Other cruise lines hold their drills right next to the assigned lifeboats.

On our cruise, the whole handbell group had asked to be seated together — same dining room, same time — but the Celebrity people didn’t pass that on to the ship, and their on-board software evidently couldn’t solve such a large linear-programming model, so we were scattered hither and yon. At least our table was quite close to the table where MJ’s sister and her family were seated.

It's good to be close to family

It’s good to be close to family

In another, albeit minor, example of software shortfalls, they had one channel of the ships internal TV system devoted to showing a moving map, with our location. However, the system didn’t seem to be hooked into the actual ship systems, because it couldn’t show true wind speed and direction (0/N), and it kept losing (briefly) the GPS location. When that would happen, the map would keep moving underneath this modal window, so I guess it’s waiting for someone to click <OK>.

I'll just wait for someone to notice me

I’ll just wait for someone to notice me

The cabin crew and wait staff, on the other hand, were superb. Well trained, attentive, engaging. Our sommelier was somewhat overworked (I think they were short-handed), and spent most of the evenings running back and forth with armloads of bottles.

If we had been on our onlies, I think it would have rated as a great cruise. As it was, we’re a little disappointed.

Meanwhile, with everyone back home, the puppy is learning how to fit in.

Next time, I just inch a little to the left

Next time, I just inch a little to the left

Penalty for forgetting your password: Part 3

August 17, 2016

Almost done.

Turns out, the file transfer process was the easiest part. Copied the contents of my home directory to the NAS, thence to the new SSD. Dug down into the .mozilla and .thunderbird directories and copied the .default folders to the NAS. Then copied the .default contents to the .default folders on the new SSD.

That’s it. All my in-the-cloud stuff now available. gMail and Amazon know who I am. Some housekeeping left. Mostly setting up the speed dial on Firefox. Some new installs, like DropBox.

Later today I’ll swap the SSD’s.

Penalty for forgetting your password: Part 2

August 16, 2016

Nothing is ever easy.

So, right after finishing the first article in this unintentionally long-running saga, I dashed into the sun room, where MJ keeps her plants and I keep my other spare computer stuff, grabbed up the box with the 256GB SSD in it, and …. say, that feels a little light. Oh, empty. I wonder where the drive is?

It’s not like the old days, where you could spot a 256MB hard drive sticking up out of a stack of old boots. These new guys are small enough to slide into your shirt pocket and still leave room for a smartphone, key-holder, and sunglasses (as long as they’re not Oakley Gaskans). It could be anywhere.

[some hours later] Oh, right, it’s in my other spare computer. I remember now, I put Mint 16 on it last spring, as a test. My main spare computer has two HDDs in it, so I unplug one and plug in the 256. Have to be careful, ’cause it’s just hanging from the cords, and has a tendency to rattle against the fans.

Let’s try something new. Download Mint 18. Install (Linux installs are so easy, just make sure to tell it to install on the 256SSD and not the 750HDD). Umm can’t install bootloader. Check online. Others have had this problem. Download Boot Repair. Runs fine, dumps a lot of error messages, throws up in it’s mouth, gives me a link to an error log, says to be sure to install the bootloader by hand on sda 750GB. [I’m compressing about six hours of reinstalls here, including a switch to Ubuntu].

750GB? A quick trip inside the PC and I return with a handful of cables rip’d untimely from that mother’s slots. Now the only drive is the SSD.

Power cycle. Re-install. Linux installs are so easy. Fifteen minutes and we’re up and running.

Next step, the dreaded file transfer process.

Shouldering On

July 27, 2016

MJ had her initial post-op doctor’s visit last Tuesday. She came home two Fridays ago, two days later than she should have. For the first four days at home she was in pretty bad shape — thin voiced, lethargic, zero stamina, slept a lot. Just what you’d expect if (as my brother put it) she’d had somebody cut off the end of her arm-bone and pound a foot long steel rod into the marrow. The next week was one of recovery rather than one of, well, recovery. She was brighter, moved about more, and started doing things with the dogs, like feeding them and putting them out.

That's gonna leave a mark

That’s gonna leave a mark

The Tuesday visit marked another transition, to, let’s say, healing. The nurse took out all the staples they were using to hold the wound together, replacing them with short strips of medicinal scotch tape. The scar was impressive (for some reason she wouldn’t let me post a picture), but not so bad that one couldn’t imagine it fading away. Her range of motion is still limited, but even there one can see the possibilities. The pain is, manageable, given enough drugs.

Everything seemed to be on track and on schedule, and the doctor seemed relatively happy. Next visit in a month. After that, rehabilitation.

Meanwhile, back home,

It takes a while to learn the rules

It takes a while to learn how to fit in
(Click to embiggen)

 

101 Views

July 17, 2016

First time ever. I guess writing about sports draws the clicks!

Sports Tips

July 16, 2016

Keep your eye on the ball. Always use both hands. This is important both in American football, and in English cricket. It’s equally important when catching a king-sized mattress.

This spring, MJ and I were moving a king from the back of the house, up the hill to the driveway, where a friend with a truck would haul it away for us. At the spot where the hill was steepest, it got away from us, and MJ tried to catch it, one handed. She succeeded.

MJ, chilling out in a cute little off-the-shoulder number that's all the rage in hospital wards in the NW.

MJ, chilling out in a cute little off-the-shoulder number that’s all the rage in hospital wards in the NENW.

In discussing the damage, the emergency room used words like massive, and said the velcro-like sound she heard was the rotator cuff muscle, tearing in half. After four months of non-healing, and understandably ineffective physical therapy, she went in for reverse shoulder replacement surgery.

The operation was a success, but when they put in the nerve block anesthetic — which cuts down on the first 24hrs worth of screaming — her blood pressure plummeted and they had to do lots of medical stuff. So she did not get out the next morning, and she did not get out the next afternoon, nor even the morning after that. But on the evening of the third day she arose, feeling like death, and we got her home to her recliner and her dogs. I don’t know what the scar will look like, but the sealing tape (looks like brown duct tape) runs from her collar bone to past her armpit to her elbow. If we can just get another one on her forehead her Halloween costume will be halfway complete.

As of today (Saturday), she’s still pretty much out of it, sleeps a lot, and cycles between feeling OK, with not a lot of intolerable pain, and pill-popping pain with nausea.

Meanwhile, down on the floor, there’s lots of other things happening.

ThePuppy

Breaking News

July 10, 2016

In the wake of the Dallas shootings, Boing-Boing has a link to a useful discussion of how to think about fast-breaking news in a crisis. Here’s the takeaway image:

HANDBOOK

And I would add a 1.a. …so will officials on the scene.

Pollenaise

May 20, 2016

It is amazingly hard to get a reliable pollen forecast around here. And by reliable, I mean, one that isn’t contradicted by a different website.

The other problem is inconsistency of reporting. Today, May 20th, the Weather Channel website weather.com says the tree pollen forecast for the next three days (Saturday/Sunday/Monday) for Cheney, WA, is high/high/high. Twelve hours ago it said low/medium/high.

If you ask for Spokane, WA (99223) you get vhigh/vhigh/vhigh, but if you just ask for Spokane, WA, you get moderate/high/high.

All is grey

All is grey

Their source for current reporting actual levels for this region is Twin Falls, ID. They’ve been forecasting high threats for most of this month (and right now show high/ vhigh/ vhigh. However, reporting from Twin Falls for the first two weeks of May shows a pollen count of 125 for the first week, and 438 for the second week, both in the upper moderate range.

Meanwhile, the pollen.com website shows we’re currently medium-high, with a forecast of low-medium/ medium/ medium-high. And AccuWeather.com says we’re currently low, with a forecast of low/low/low.

On the left is the Weather.com map, as of today. Twin Falls is in the center (E/W) and a short ways north of the southern border, smack in the center of the low-moderate range. Spokane itself is in a grey area that is either no threat, or no data.

All is green

All is green

Which is fine, except that the AccuWeather map, on the right, shows us in a low pollen area.

So, do I take my Claratin, or not?

 

TL:DR — Anime I never finished, Spring 2016

May 12, 2016

Big Order
It has an inane premise: that people offered a single superpower would each wish for a different plot – enhancing capability. It has an inane cast, ranging from a Super Mario’s Uncle lookalike to a talking 2×4 to a guilty-yet-innocent high-school protagonist who has the guile of a Dan Brown hero. And it has an inane-but-endearingly goofy plot, which involves one (indestructible) girl constantly dying in spectacularly stupid ways, while another tells our protagonist that her father told her if she allowed a boy to touch her she would become pregnant. Unfortunately, he grabs her rabbit ear hair ribbon to keep her from falling and she not only blows up like someone smuggling beachballs, she immediately starts having labor pains. After that, the quality goes downhill into typical shonen shouting and battles and angst.

It was a real short nine months

It was a real short nine months

Bakuon
The Girls und Motorbikes concept worked for a while, but it turns out that, even with the freedom of the open road, and a highway stretching all the way to Hokkaido, there’s only so many things you can do on a bike. Unlike Big Order, where I just couldn’t stand any more, this one got to the point where I just didn’t care. It was like watching CHiPs reruns without the chase scenes.

The call of the open road

The call of the open road

How to find my blog

April 1, 2016

Are you reading this blog now? Good. You’ve found it.
Ha, Ha, April Fool.

OK. On a more serious note, I thought I’d run through last month’s searches and see what terms people used to find this site.

So, in March, I had just over 1,000 hits, or about 35/day. Not quite half of those (14/day) were based on unknown queries, due to Google’s entirely reasonable policy of protecting user privacy. What about the rest? Well here they are, somewhat compacted ( / means two different queries. A number (n) means (n) identical queries):

We start off with the sane people, looking for organizational websites, or software help, or recipes, or gardening advice:

usmlm.org
libre office charts / calendar

oatmeal or lettuce 2
ramen mix oat
chiveyo meaning??

maintaining a keyhole garden
gardens with chicken wire and hay

Have no idea what a chiveyo is, but they found my oatmeal with chiveyogurt recipe

Then we get folks looking for specific anime:

yuichi kanon 2002 3

girls und panzer mouse trap
saunders kei 3
maho nishizumi
leopard 2 anime
kokoro connect taichi e inaba
anime school body swap
aiura kiss
where does highschool of the dead leave off

I think I’m the only one who has ever written about Kanon 2002, and I don’t think you can do a query on GaruPan without getting a hit on my blog. As for the other searches, I don’t think anyone ever kissed in Aiura — it wasn’t that kind of anime. And the HOTD question is perfectly reasonable, and the answer is that Season 1 of the anime ends at Volume 4 Chapter 15 of the manga.

Getting ready to roar

Getting ready to roar

Then we get more named anime, but with less pure motives:
is it wrong to try to pick up girls in a dungeon nudity?
anime hot amani (I think Amani is a Naruto character)
food wars couples / boobs
strike the blood porn / [s]ex / pictures of girls exposing their underwear uncensored

Why all the interest in Strike the Blood I don’t know. Yes, there’s pantsus. No, they’re not interesting.

No, I'm not color-blind. Why do you ask?

No, I’m not color-blind. Why do you ask?

And finally, people just looking around for kinky stuff, the kind of searches one is embarrassed to admit find your blog.
anime girl blowing balloon
boy jump anime
mecha anime dark
world loli girls porn
girls in skirts stuck in holes
download magical girl bondage hentai
toothbrush incest
anime brother molesting small sister

Those last two are, of course, the famous tooth-brushing scene from Nisemonogatari. The rest, I just don’t know.

And that’s the Internet in a nutshell. Ten percent serious, 60% frivolous, 30% perverted. Glad I’m keeping up the standards.

Thanks for stopping by, and now you know how to find me again.

Steve Balmer shows us why we can’t trust Trump

March 11, 2016

The business of America is business. The sole function of a business is to maximize shareholder value. A good CEO will do whatever it takes for his company to make a profit.*

Fifteen years ago Microsoft CEO Steve Balmer said that Linux is a cancer. Last week, he said that he was glad to see MS releasing SQLServer for Linux, and shrugged off his earlier statements because the Linux threat was now “in the rearview mirror”. He also said: “The company made a ton of money by fighting that battle very well… It’s been incredibly important to the company’s revenue stream.” So, he lied. And he lied to make money, regardless of the impact on the sharing economy.

Not only did Microsoft continuously misrepresent Linux and the GPL in their quest for a revenue stream, they also funded bogus lawsuits, that drag on to this day.

What does that have to do with Trump? Just this. He and Balmer are cut from the same cloth, the kind of businessmen who will say whatever it takes to make the sale, close the deal. His position on a topic can change in a heartbeat. Neither one is the sort of a CEO who will let the truth stand in the way of a business strategy.

So, if you want America to look like Microsoft, vote for Trump, and leave the truth in the rearview mirror.

*Within legal reason, of course, and keeping in mind that the risk of going to jail is just one of the risks of doing business.

More on the Future of the Auto-Car

March 2, 2016

The website Curbed has an interesting article on the impact of driverless cars on the shape of our cities (assuming that most driverless cars will be shared vehicles). Mostly, they talk about how fewer cars mean less need for parking and more room downtown for pedestrians and bicycles. That got me thinking about what a future commute might look like.

I’ve already talked about how networked cars will let us work on the go, but I didn’t talk about other ways that shared cars will impact our future commutes. If you want to see the future, go to Washington, D.C.

If you hang around the Pentagon parking lot at the end of the work day, you will see lots of busses pulling up and loading passengers for trips to the hinterlands. These aren’t Metro busses, because they go far beyond the metro boundaries. They are owned by small companies that haul people down to the park-and-ride lots scattered around the perimeter of Dale City and other bedroom communities. These represent the high end of shared commuting, and could easily be replaced by auto-busses.

But right next to them you will see another line, probably unique in the US. It’s a line of commuters waiting for a ride from strangers. You see, the Pentagon parking lots connect directly to the freeway, and specifically to the HOV-4 lanes. So people jump in their cars, drive to the commuter lines, and call out “Three for Dale City Safeway lot”, or “Two for Potomac Mills Mall”, and two or three people, who never met before, will jump in a car driven by a complete stranger, and head off on a thirty mile drive.

Now, jump ahead twenty years, and everywhere is the Pentagon parking lot. People have apps on their phones (or whatever has replaced “phones”) that will alert auto-cars to their current location and desired destination. The cars pick up people from the same city blocks who are headed for the same suburban blocks and take off. Unless there is an increase in networked working from a commuter car, that means the downtown areas will see periodic traffic jams, much like they do now. Maybe a little thinner, because of no single occupancy vehicles, but I suspect that the process of making multiple stops on public streets will keep the congestion high around closing time.

In DC, the HOV lanes fill up by 4:30, and spill over into the regular traffic. In future, they will fill up at about the same time, but perhaps more lanes will be dedicated to HOVs. Instead of heading to a single park-and-ride, the auto-cars will swing through the neighborhoods, dropping off commuters. And then what?

Well, the auto-cars could just park at some recharging point and wait for morning. After all they are already close to where they’ll need to be, come dawn. Or maybe they’ll head for some decentralized set of maintenance facilities, to prepare for the next day. In which case, we’ll see a mini rush hour at, say, six or seven PM, as they head for home, and then another mini rush hour at five or six AM as they preposition for the morning commute. And in the daytime? Well, a goodly number of them will be needed to replace the taxis that have now gone out of business. As for the rest, I guess we won’t be able to get rid of all that downtown parking after all.

My Personal Best of 2015

January 2, 2016

It sometimes seems like everyone on the Internet spent the last week of 2015 writing Best Of lists. I don’t have anything to add to those lists, so I thought I’d write about the best of me. According to my official WordPress report, I published 138 posts this year, and garnered almost 14,000 views, a seventy percent improvement on last year’s total. To celebrate, I thought I’d provide my own personal 10 Best List. That is, the 10 best blog entries I made — sez me. Grouped by category, in more or less chronological order.

Public Affairs
1. Abolish TSA
I got a quick start on the new year by pointing out that TSA’s own numbers indicate that it is incapable of performing its primary mission, and that it should be abolished. Based on Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy, this won’t happen.

2. Systems Science and the F-35
This is one of my recurring efforts to use the concepts of Systems Science to inform a discussion of public policy.

3. SpaceX
A color-commentary on the loss of the SpaceX Falcon 9 last June

History
4. WWII 70th Anniversary Retrospective
As someone who considers themselves an I&W professional (retired), I have always been fascinated by the foundations of WWII, particularly the Pacific War. This is the first of a series on the 70th Anniversary of the start.

Personal
5. Memories of my youth
The first entry in my Memories series, about a story I heard from a doctor when I was about ten years old.

6. Cataracts
I had them. They’re gone. The start of a discussion of my personal experience of the experience.

7. Green thumb lessons learned
I keep a garden. In the summer I write more or less weekly about how it’s doing. This entry is worthwhile because it’s an example of one way to learn from notes taken over the course of the growing year.

8. Pumpkin Oats
I like to write about cooking, but I don’t cook a lot (having an old-fashioned sort of wife), and most of the dinners I do cook are one-dish things, eaten standing up over the sink. However, I do cook breakfast daily, and for reasons of health that breakfast is always oatmeal. Herewith, one of my many attempts to make plain old oatmeal, un-plain and new again.

Anime
9. Twelve days of Anime: GaruPan and Shirobako
I’m an unabashed anime fan, although not at the level of an otaku — more of an oataku (that’s a cooking joke). This is not an ani-blog, but I do write pretty regularly. This year I decided to accept the challenge to write one item on anime every day for Advent through Christmas. This link is to the last, and I think best, article in the series.

10. The Wind Rises.
Impressions of Miyazaki’s anime about the inventor of the Japanese Zero fighter. It’s not really a biopic.

So that’s it. 365 days of egoboo, 138 posts, 10 best, 1 list. Like the Lessons Learned gardening post, this will give me something to ponder when I decide what topics to address in 2016.

Cataract Surgery, Part 3

December 5, 2015

It’s now been almost six months since my first cataract surgery, and three months since I got my ‘final’ set of glasses. How have things gone so far? Turns out a lot of this writeup is a confirmation of my first impressions from Cataracts 2.

As I said then, cataract surgery shifts you from an infinite-focus biological system to a fixed focus mechanical-optical system. Most of the time that’s not a problem, but you do have to learn new techniques, like, focusing with your arms.

Keep in mind that my right eye is set for medium distance, say 10 to 40 feet, and my left eye is set for close vision, anything under about three feet. My regular glasses are designed to correct that vision (plus some astigmatism) for both eyes, and my computer glasses are designed to work best at about three feet, also for both eyes. I actually haven’t noticed the difference — I don’t find myself staring one-eyed at a page, like I was a character out of True Grit — but some of the issues I have noticed may stem from that. Here’s a breakdown

Long Distance. That’s everything over about fifty feet. With glasses on, no problems. With glasses off, not much of a problem. I can pass the WA state driver’s test without glasses, but my clear vision degrades noticeably beyond the 50-60 foot range. At night, there’s some glare from headlights. Left (near vision) eye has foggy glare. Right (medium vision) eye is more spiky, like you get on star photos with a Newtonian telescope.

Medium Distance. As in, walking around the house naked (well, naked eyeballs). No problems, except that I have to get closer to the bookcase to read the backs of the books. Before the operation I had to get close, even with glasses, and BC (before cataracts) I had to be right up against the bookcase if I had my glasses off.

PC Distance. About three feet. Ideal distance is 27″, but with my adjustable desk, 36″ is about as close as I can get. Comfort and clarity depends on the font, and on the size of the font. No glasses is more comfortable than wearing my regular glasses, and even with my PC glasses I sometimes have to bump up the size. I am thinking of getting remeasured at my next appointment

Reading Distance. Anything from 6-18″. Depends on the font and spacing. The bifocal part of my regular glasses is best at about 18″, but only in a very narrow viewing angle. Standard Dollar Store reading glasses work best at about six inches. Part of the issue is that I seem to have lost, not peripheral vision, but peripheral acuity. Reading now requires a certain amount of head movement, instead of eye scanning. The acuity itself seems to be variable — the same page can be clear as a bell, and then suddenly hard too read — but that might be a case of needing to train my eyes, or maybe problems that come when my eyes are tired.

My eyes get dry and tired more often, and I use a lot of eyedrops. I use a thick kind (Systane Balance) right before I turn the lights out at night (the bottle is next to the bed), and standard ones when I get up in the morning, and maybe a couple times during the day. The right eye is the one that healed more slowly, and it’s the one that dries out first. I have found that a more varied routine helps. I’m using a timer to limit my PC time (good for me in many ways), reading with and without glasses, doing things around the house with and without glasses.

One minor irritation of having my different viewing regimes overlap is that I’ll get up from the PC and wander about the house with my PC glasses on, and then complain about my vision. Or I’ll sit down at the PC with no glasses, and complain after a few minutes. In the old days, if I stood up or sat down with the wrong glasses on, I knew it immediately.

I’m glad I did it. My brain is still coming to grips with changing a half-century of habits, and that’s always a chore. I find I have new limitations, but they are better than the old limitations. At least now I can survive without glasses, if necessary, even if I have to have two pair to operate effectively. Yeah, I’d do it again.

Blowing in the Wind

November 18, 2015

Well that was fun, じゃない. Our little corner of the Great NW Windstorm of 2015 started about 4PM on Tuesday, when the gusts hit 45 and our power went out. Power outages in this area are infrequent, now that the city’s supply of dud transformers has run out, and when they happen they are usually limited to one half of the town and a few hours, max.

This one stretched on and on, into the dark, while the winds hit 60 and heavy objects skittered about the back deck. Fortunately, we had pretty full charges on our phones and tablets, so we spent a quiet evening at home, basking in the cold light of the screens. But that gets old after a while, and little by little the power drained away, and we wanted to keep some for emergencies.

At 9PM we gave up and went to bed. OK, we read some more. But by 10PM we turned out the flashlights and went to sleep in the darkest night we’ve ever had here. Darker even than the night they took the entire town of Cheney off line to refit a major substation, because on that night, we still had the glow of Spokane. Not so last night. It was, as they say, as dark as the inside of a cow.

We slept well and woke refreshed and it was still dark. Part of the reason it was still dark was it was just after midnight. Dawn was still six hours away. I went out on the back deck. The stars were amazing. The wind had died down, but the temperature was still in the 40’s. Cheney was dark. Spokane was dark. The stars were bright enough to navigate the deck obstacles. I stayed out a while with the binoculars, learning things about the night sky and the heat retention efficiency of pajamas in a 30kt wind on a chilly night.

Dawn came, and no power. The outside temperature was down to 30F, and the house had cooled to 54F. I figured we might have one more night before the interior temperature got cold enough that we had to worry about pipes freezing. We decided that this was likely a bigger outage than we thought (latest word is that WA had twice the number of outages of any previous storm), and sat down to do some serious planning. We had just gotten to the point of discussing how to use the portable gas BBQ grill inside the house without killing ourselves (put it in the fireplace) when the lights came on.

Even the NWS had problems. Here’s something I’ve never seen before, a data drop in temperature readings:

Eight hours, no data

Eight hours, no data

It was only 14 hours for us (others are still out), but it was enough to move us from inconvenience to disaster planning. I started thinking about things like worse windstorms, and Carrington Events, and how fragile civilization really is. We need to do some disaster prep.

Anime I’m watching, Fall 2015

October 15, 2015

This has to be the thinnest anime season in years. My standards are pretty low, but I’ve only come up with four that look the least bit interesting. On the other hand, they’re all pretty good (not great, but good). As an aside, they’re all on Crunchyroll. Funimation has nothing worth watching, even in the second tier.

Bones, the anime is turning into a body-of-the-week program. Part A sets up a murder mystery. Part B is split between five minutes of mystery-solving, and six minutes of character development. Interesting, but rushed.

It obviously died protecting something

For some reason, it smells like garbage

Oh, and Episode 2 had the same glove-snap, psychedelic bones, “Let’s solve this mystery” thing they did in Episode 1. It could get old real fast.

The Perfect Insider continues its artsy Eurocinema way. Sensei and Moe-girl … and a bunch of students (much to Moe-girl’s disgust) … go camping on The Island of Dr. Magata. Scenes swap back and forth in time, between almost-20 Moe-girl trying to seduce Sensei, and just-13 Magata trying to seduce her uncle. Moe-girl and Sensei visit the bunker where the possibly-killer genius has been housed for the last 15 years. Power surges, lighting outages, and software glitches run rampant. Locked doors open, and Dr. Magata attempts to escape, disguised as a doll riding on an automated serving trolley.

We're not much for plot, but we've got mood lighting and body language down pat.

We’re not much for plot, but we’ve got mood lighting and body language down pat.

Owarimonogatari is very narrowly focused, for Monogatari. The first episode took place in one classroom. The second episode took place inside one classroom and an old house (with a side-visit to Araragi’s old middle-school, where it appears that Sengoku Nadeko has his old shoe locker). All the old gang gets a look-in, from Kanbaru to Senjogahara.

Senjogahara's back, and Hanekawa's got her

Senjogahara’s back, and Hanekawa’s got her

Utawarerumono is one that was on my don’t bother list, but looks interesting enough I might continue it. It’s a sequel to a VN-based anime  that’s evidently set many years later and several mountain chains away from the 2006 original. Amnesiac man wakes up walking barefoot down a snowy mountain wearing what looks suspiciously like a set of green surgical scrubs. Amnesiac man is chased by a giant centipede, saved from the giant centipede by a sentient jello, and saved from the sentient jello by a wandering catgirl herbologist and her pack diatryma. It’s what I’d call a fantasy costume period piece, usually not my thing, but the interpersonal chemistry is trending towards Spice and Wolf, so I’ll watch for a bit longer.

Bath-peeking catgirl gets an eyefull

Bath-peeking catgirl gets an eyefull

That’s it. Four shows. Bones on Wednesday, Insider on Thursday, and Monogatari and Utawarerumono on Saturday. Fortunately, I have a large backlog of DVDs to watch, plus some galgames for the PSV, plus a bunch of LN’s. Oh yeah, and paper correcting, lecture preparing, and research.

Cataracts, Part 2

September 13, 2015

So, the first part of this two part series described my adventures in cataractland. This part will be much more opinionated, describing lessons learned. Note that this just me, non-MD talking, and my impressions and conclusions may be wrong.

Scheduling: It took the equivalent of one academic quarter to get through all the hoops. Most of this time I was fully functional, although it sometimes took an effort to do the work. My eyes felt tired, and often gritty. There’s drops for that. I could have taught school while this was going on, but there were times when it wouldn’t have been any fun.

Eye tuning: Cataract surgery essentially turns your infinite focus eyeball into a fixed focus opto-mechanical system. They can tune the focus of each eyeball, but when they’re done, you’re stuck. It’s an irrevocable decision. Squinting won’t help. In broadest terms, your choices are Near, Intermediate, and Far.  Near is good for reading all but the small print. Intermediate is good for getting around indoors, and Far is focused on infinity, so you can be the outdoorsman you always wanted to be.

Many people decide on Far for both eyes, or Near for both eyes. When they do that it means they will require glasses for reading (Far) or for driving (Near). Some people decide on Far for one eye, and Near for the other, so they can operate in any situation. I’m not particularly outdoorsy, so I decided on Intermediate for one, and Near for the other. Probably wrong, but I think my doctor did me a favor and fudged a little — he set the Intermediate range long enough that I could pass the WA state drivers exam without glasses. First time in my life. (more…)

Cataracts, Part 1

September 12, 2015

About five years or so ago I started to develop cataracts, not unusual for my time of life. My glasses got stronger and stronger, until the doctor said that we’d done as much as we could, and it was time to operate. I didn’t particularly like that idea. I mean, it’s my eyes, mon. You don’t mess with my eyes. I’d be perfectly happy to live out my life as a brain in a jar, as long as I had one eye to read with, and a finger to turn the pages. I mean, I never considered lasik surgery and continued wearing coke-bottle glasses for decades, because…eyes.

But after a while it became obvious that my vision was going bad…der. When it got to the point that I couldn’t reliably read the titles on my bookshelf, I told the doc I was ready. This is a summary of what went on. I decided to wait and write it all up at once, rather than treating this blog like it was FaceBook.

First thing was scheduling. I wanted to have it after the end of the school year, so it wouldn’t interfere with my teacherly duties. That meant I had to get an extra eye exam, because Medicare says I need one within X weeks of the operation. I can see that. It lets them make sure that you haven’t come down with some horrible eye-dissolving disease in the meantime. So the first operation got pushed into mid-June.

Once the process starts, its pretty structured: operation, one-day postop, one week postop; wait three weeks, operation, one-day postop, one week postop; wait a month, final eye exam, order new glasses. If you keep track on your fingers, you will note that this takes most of the summer. It was the end of August before my new glasses came. (more…)

World War II in the Pacific: A 70th Anniversary Retrospective

August 31, 2015

BEGINNINGS

Imagine if England had retained the tradition of knights in shining armour into the mid-1800’s. Imagine if the UK had remained as it was in the mid-1400’s, with a weak king and strong barons. Imagine if Queen Victoria was the first English monarch in seven hundred years to actually rule the United Kingdom. Now, jump ahead fifty years, and imagine what British society might be like half a century later. You now have an idea of what Japan was like at the beginning of the last Century.

Japan was always a militaristic society, in a knights in shining armour way. For almost their entire history this militarism was aimed inwards, with more or less continuous Wars of the Roses style fighting between rival clans and warlords using small armies of samurai, or with indian wars in the north, to pacify the Ainu. Unification of the country in the 1600’s under one chief warlord (Shogun) suppressed the fighting, and converted the samurai to a governing civil service (while not decreasing their militaristic ethos). The rise of a national army, in post-Meiji Japan, gave an outlet for those who yearned for more than trusted places in the bureaucracy. By the start of the 20th Century, Japanese society could still be classified as militaristic, but not in a nostalgic way. Large parts of it embraced the militarism that would later lead Europe into two World Wars.

And now we come to the place where hubris evokes nemesis. In the first essay in this series, the Japanese had gained control of agricultural Taiwan and Korea, and had established a sphere of influence in the Liaodong Peninsula. Occupation of resource-rich Manchuria had earned them the censure of the League of Nations, but no economically important countermeasures. It did, however, kick off continuing clashes with Chinese forces, which the Japanese generally won. If they had stopped there, they might have consolidated, grown, and prospered. They didn’t.

In 1937 the Japanese army in China, which by now was pretty much out of control, exploited, or manufactured, several incidents, that lead to an all out war with the Kuomintang (KMT) government, and a parallel guerrilla war coordinated by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). At the start of the war, the Japanese army totaled 17 divisions. By the time of Pearl Harbor, approximately 35 out of 51 divisions, and 38 out of 39 independent brigades were committed in China. Japan managed to occupy a number of the major cities — Shanghai, Nanjing, Wuhan — but had less luck pacifying the country in between.

The start of the Second Sino-Japanese War threatened Western business interests in China. That, combined with the associated Japanese atrocities against Chinese civilians, well reported by the US Christian missionaries in-country, provided the basis for US support for the KMT. Initially, there were no overt actions against Japan directly. Diplomatic objections were raised. Loans were made available to buy military equipment and supplies for the Chinese army, much of which was delivered through Haiphong, in French Indochina, and thence via rail to Yunnan. So far, the Japanese were still ahead in the game. This lasted for three years.

We now begin a series of escalatory tit-for-tats, each of which, on its own and viewed narrowly, was perfectly logical. The problem was, the Japanese army was bogged down in China. They were looking at a scaled up version of what the US faced in VietNam — a patriotic people, fighting on their own ground, with continuing resupply from an untouchable sanctuary. Ultimately, it would lose somewhere between one and two million casualties there. Probably half of those were suffered by late 1940. The solution was, of course, to close off the resupply. By September of that year French Indochina was in the hands of the neutral Vichy government, and the Japanese tried to get them to close the rail line through diplomatic pressure. They refused, and the Japanese staged an amphibious landing south of Haiphong, as well as moving ground troops across the border at Lang Son, closing the railway. The US reaction was to halt all sales of scrap iron (75% of Japan’s supply), machine tools, and aviation gasoline, one step short of a total trade embargo. This lead the Japanese to make plans to obtain their own oil, by seizing the British oil fields in Borneo, and the Dutch oil fields in Indonesia. They took the next step in July of 1941, by occupying the southern half of French Indochina, putting their aircraft in range of Dutch and UK targets. The US froze all Japanese assets, and instituted a complete trade embargo, including all exports of oil to Japan. The final stage was set.

Throughout all of this, the US demonstrated an almost complete lack of understanding of the Japanese goals and values. In fact, US actions continuously confirmed the Japanese understanding of the West. Immigration restrictions were informally imposed on the Japanese in 1907, and formalized in the Immigration Act of 1924. As early as 1895 the European powers had ganged up on Japan to roll back major provisions of the Treaty of Shimonoseki, which ended the First Sino-Japanese War. The Washington Naval Treaty of 1922 limited Japan to the short end of a 5:5:3 ratio in battleships. And now the US was adopting a hard line withdraw from China and then we’ll talk approach. The Japanese were faced with unconditional surrender and acceptance of a second class existence as a client state of a nation that despised them, or a war that might allow them to achieve at least some of their goals, or that might end in ruin for the nation. What’s a proud samurai to do?

WA Smokes

August 25, 2015

Our AQI continues to seesaw up and down. On Sunday and Monday it peaked in the 165 range. Today it was only in the 150’s, and tonight it’s down around 90.  Here’s the latest AQI maps and forecast. The AQI Loop is the most useful.

Slow improvement today

Slow improvement today

Sunday night we had a deep red-orange demon moon. Monday it was our familiar silver quarter. And tonight, it’s barely showing through the clouds.

UPDATE: And here’s the WSU AIRPACT-4 smoke forecast.

WA Smokes

August 22, 2015

Not drugs. The wildfires along the east slope of the Cascades have been dumping smoke over to our side of the state. Here’s a MODIS shot from yesterday (21 August).

Red areas are active fires

Red areas are infra-red detected active fires

 

On the ground. Driving into Spokane, this is what it looked like:

WSDoTRraffiCam21Aug2015

Looking NorthEast

Eighteen hours later we were all clear, but you could still smell the smoke.

WSDoTRraffiCam22Aug2016

Looking SouthWest

Pretty much kept all the attendees at WorldCon 2015 inside.

Another Century

August 11, 2015

Yesterday hit 106 views, for the second Century ever in the history of this egoblog, and this time I can see why. Someone, possibly on a IRC chat room, found Girls und Panzer, liked the article, and devoured the rest of the GaruPan content. There were 37 hits on GaruPan articles, tying the Home Page / Archives views. They even rolled over to my wargames site and took a look at the PSVita game articles. Well done, GaruPan. Well done.

Peak Hubbert

August 1, 2015

So oil prices are down and production is up and people are looking at the Hubbert curve and saying “Where is your King now“? It’s probably a good time for a quick summary of my understanding of the situation.

Hubbert wrote his initial paper (.pdf)  in the middle of a twenty-year run of steady oil prices — around, say $25/bbl at todays prices. At the time, the US was the biggest producer of oil, but it was not so big that it could control the market. There were enough other suppliers, and demand was still low enough that changes in US production had little impact. So for all intents and purposes he was dealing with a fixed price. Note that throughout this period, no-one had tested the boundaries of this situation.

Hubbert was talking about a physical quantity, the amount of oil in the ground, given the facts known at the time, and the rate at which it will be recovered. It’s interesting to note that he never uses the words “price” or “cost”, although he does mention the possibility of new technologies.

So the Hubbert Curve says that with a fixed supply and a fixed price, you will recover the easy oil first, up to some peak, and then your fixed price will only allow you to recover smaller and smaller quantities as time goes on.

In the almost sixty years since his first paper, two major changes have occurred. First, is the massive increase in demand, and the associated increase in price per barrel. Second, are the technologies that the higher prices make profitable.

Note that the increased price (constant dollars) associated with the increased demand implies that the oil isn’t all that easy to get. If it were, we’d still be exploiting $25/bbl sources. So what Hubbert really was writing about was peak cheap oil.

As Hubbert’s detractors have noted, new technologies, like deep ocean drilling and shale fracking have made more oil available, but this is done at some technological price. This year’s slide in oil prices is causing a shakeout in the fracking industry, with many companies going bankrupt, because the technology isn’t profitable at a mere $50/bbl.

Do The Math has a good summary of the situation at the end of the last decade, and a discussion of the  current state of play of physical production (and many of the many comments are worth reading). I’d also recommend his discussion of our current trajectory of heating up the planet, a thermodynamics discussion that has nothing to do with global warming. TL;DR version: at a 2.3% growth rate of energy use, be it solar or nuclear, within about 400 years the surface of the Earth will become uninhabitable, mostly due to waste heat. Now 400 years is a long time, but it’s  certainly within the lifetime of a major civilization (It’s about the amount of time since the Jamestown Colony).

MH-370 at Reunion

July 30, 2015

Preliminary reports indicate part of the Boeing 777 might have washed ashore on Reunion island. Here is the latest CNN report. And here is a useful summary from Aviation Herald. To this untrained eye, the photos show remarkably little sea life attached to the debris. However, what plants and crustaceans are found there will help determine the history of the object after it hit the water.

Preliminary statements indicate that Reunion is a reasonable place to expect debris from the calculated crash site to drift to. In Bayesian terms, this means the new information gives us no reason to change our original conclusion.

Sorry, Slate, DC (still) doesn’t need any skyscrapers

July 16, 2015

Just over three years ago, I posted a short comment on an opinion piece in Slate on the the then-ongoing debate over whether to relax Washington, D.C.’s limit on building height. The crux of my argument was that DC, as designed, had maintained the balance between human scale and public function that caused European cities like Paris to be praised for their historic beauty. DC, like Paris, is a capitol city, and esthetics should rank first when talking about change.

Now, from Slate, comes a tale of another European city, London. Unlike Paris and DC, London has given way to developer’s greed, to the point where even those who love the city are leaving it.

The new Slate article covers one of the symptoms of the decline, the destruction of the esthetics of central London. What’s happened there? Consider Saint Paul’s Cathedral, begun on the still warm ashes of the Great Fire of London, survivor of the Blitz, and for 150 years the tallest and, as Shepps says, the most prominent building in the city.

Saint Paul's, 1891

Saint Paul’s, 1891

Here it is now, in a photo from the Slate article, a small parish church, huddled amidst the encroaching cranes, dwarfed by The Shard, prominent only in memory.

Saint Paul's and The Shard, 2014

Saint Paul’s and The Shard, 2014

If that’s what you want DC to become, then build those skyscrapers.

Warka Water

July 7, 2015

Just over a year ago, Smithsonian Magazine had an article on an insect-inspired rig to pull water out of the air. The inspiration was a Namibian beetle that sits on top of sand dunes and uses airflow across its body to extract dew. Because of our ongoing drought here in the NENW, I thought I’d take another look at the concept. This photoshop shows what the rig looks like:

Aliens have landed

Aliens have landed

While this is all cool and aerospace and everything, I’m inclined to think it’s mostly architects having fun. Not that it won’t perform as advertised, but that it doesn’t have to be that avant-garde to work.

1. That artistic outer screen is simply a support. I suspect a chain link cylinder would do almost as well, and it could be recycled as child restraints later.

2. The inner orange thing is just a net, cunningly sloped to funnel the dew. Bigger mesh than window screening, smaller than anti-bird nets. You could probably knit one out of old speaker cord.

3. And it most likely doesn’t even have to be that shape. A plain old funnel would likely work as well.  It’s round because it has to handle wind from any direction. In fact, the roundness probably lowers its efficiency. A simple slab would probably work as well, as long as it was positioned cross-wind.

I built a test rig last summer — simple sheet of the kind of netted plastic sheets you get with those small hardware store greenhouses, with lots of holes poked in the sheeting. It didn’t work, probably because it doesn’t get as humid here, and the day-night temperature swings aren’t as wide as in the Ethiopian highlands. I might wait until early September, when we do get some good day/night differences, thoroughly water the lawn around it, and see what happens. That won’t do me any good, but if it works it would be a nice proof of concept for other folks.

Abolish TSA

June 2, 2015

You’ve been diagnosed with a chronic, possibly fatal disease. Your doctor writes you an expensive prescription to deal with it. Almost fifteen years later you find that 95 out of every 100 pills you have taken over the years were just plain aspirin. Your disease has not progressed. You haven’t died. Questions for the doctor: Do I really have that disease? Do I still need to take these pills? Do you have malpractice insurance?

That’s the situation we are in today with TSA. Their measures don’t work. Their measures have never worked. Given the low level of the terrorist threat, a simple Bayesian analysis shows they will never work. So what’s TSA’s response? We will tighten up our procedures.

Sorry, guys. Doing more of something that doesn’t work, doesn’t work.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t have any security. I’m saying that by TSA’s own numbers, nothing they have done since 2001 has made us any more secure than what we were doing before that.  We’ve been subjected to a ~fifteen year, ~$70Billion government scam. It’s time to revert to our previous protocol. It’s time for a $70Billion malpractice suite.

It’s time to abolish TSA.

The future of the auto-car

May 19, 2015

There’s a horribly simplistic article over on Slate about what autonomous cars might mean for your morning commute. The author calls it “back of the envelope”, but what he really means is ‘through his hat’. His thesis is that (a) autonomous cars are coming, (b) comm-linked autonomous cars can do cool things like safely drive faster than normal cars, up to 120mph (c) many people commute over an hour or more one way, THEREFORE (d) we’ll be able to live 120 miles away from work and still make the commute, which will move urban sprawl into the next state.

There’s not enough pixels on this page to list all the unrealities here, all the major changes in laws and infrastructure and logic that would have to occur in order for this to happen. Things like, there can’t be any old time hand-cars on the road to get in your way. Or, to make these times you have to live close enough to a freeway exit to be kept awake by the trucks downshifting to get off, and your work will have to be equally close to the freeway (that, or the downtown speed limits will have to be raised to 60mph from 25). And so forth.

Myself, I think there will be major impacts of auto-cars, but I think it will go in the other direction. It won’t matter where you live, because you’ll be at work the instant you buckle up. If the car can link to other cars, it can link to the Internet, and if you can link to the Internet, you can work anywhere.

So, you get in the car and clock in at 8AM. The morning rush hour of hand-cars is already past, because those poor slobs had to be into the office by now. An hour or two later your car deposits you at your office and you seamlessly resume work, with no more interruption than a 9 or 10AM coffee break requires. Around three or four in the afternoon (an hour or so before the hand-car rush hour) you get back in the car, and continue to work until you arrive home, at five or six.

One set of predictions I’ve seen says that with auto-cars, few people will own one any more. They’ll call for one when they need it. Or maybe they can carpool. So, add some soundproof dividers, and have an on-call auto-car carry three or four people from the same neighborhood to the same district of the city. Maybe the commute is a little longer, because of the pickups and drop offs, but it’s not like that would interfere with work.

I’d like to say that turning all the lanes of the freeway into HOV-4 would cut down on the number of cars on the road, but I keep thinking of my DC days, when every increase in capacity was gobbled up by increased traffic before it was completed. Of course, we don’t have to restrict ourselves to auto-cars, what about auto-vans?

There’s some optimum seating capacity for a given density of suburban homes and urban businesses. For DC it would be easy — 90% would be within ten blocks of the Washington Monument, so the bigger the bus, the better. For LA, it might be harder, and we’d have smaller cars running around from Huntington Beach to Rancho Cucamonga.

Of course, if the robots take all our jobs, then we won’t have to worry about the commute.

Maiden Century

May 4, 2015

As they say in cricket. Yesterday I had 100 site visits, for the first time evers. It would be nice if they were in response to some insightful article, but it appears to be luck of the draw. Sixty-one hits were “Home Page / Archive”, whatever that means. Eleven were for my throwaway Fake Pork recipe. Three were for an early TL:DR, on Galileo’s Girls and Gitsune. The rest were onesies and twosies. And there was only one link clicked on: the shot of Angie’s underwear.

I don’t obsess over site visits, it’s more a mild, and somewhat bemused interest in what causes them. As far as I can tell, the things that drive hits are boobs (HOTD), prison rape (Cross Ange), and bacon (Fake Pork).

 

Happy Blogday to Me

March 5, 2015

FoundOnWeb started six years ago today, and has produced a whopping 760 posts — roughly one every three days — and 24,000 views — about 11 per day (most of them looking for HOTD screenshots). That seems about right, for a instrument of total self-indulgence. I’m not tired of it, yet. That’s because I’m not tired of me. I guess I’ll keep on keeping on, as long as the ego holds out.

Full Winter

October 2, 2014

Well, Winterfylleð, an Anglo-Saxon month. Wherever the Angles and Saxons and Jutes (oh, my) came from, the weather was cold enough to be considered winter by early October, so the first full moon of that month was the Winter full moon. Or maybe it was just because almost all the harvesting was done, and the only thing left to do was carve the trunips into lanterns for Samhain — and yes, I know that Winterfylleð is Germanic and Samhain is Celtic. but they’ve got all these extra turnips and they might as well celebrate something.

Crafting the future we desire

August 11, 2014

Recent experiments have confirmed the link between increased brain testosterone and increased activity in those parts of the brain that mediate aggression and response to perceived threats. This happened even though the testosterone levels were moved from low to a more normal range. More testosterone leads to more aggression.

This lends credence to a report in Science Daily, saying that it’s likely that a drop in testosterone levels 50,000 years ago, demonstrated by the growth of feminine skull features, is what promoted greater cooperation and improved group-living skills, and it’s those skills that lead to improved technology and the growth of civilization.

Faced with encroaching feminism, girlyskulls, and the concomitant threats of peace and prosperity, our society has found a way to fight back:

Civilization is doomed.

As soon as people learn how business works,

August 3, 2014

…they flee the stock market

Haters?

July 27, 2014

A student project at California’s Humboldt State University maps all references to “hate” words on geolocatable tweets between June 2012 and April 2013. It’s an interesting study, but the results should be used with care. Three aspects of the data collection and processing make this approach problematic, but the study deals directly with only one.

First, was the tweet really a negative? Phrases like “…queer theory says…” and “…I’m just an old cripple…” are two ways that ‘hate’ words might not be negatives. The study deals with this in a straightforward manner — the students read every tweet and applied a definitional rubric.

Second, is there any kind of processing bias? If you use raw numbers, big cities will dominate the map: Portland will generate more tweets and more hate tweets than Tilamook. To avoid this, the study categorized the data as a percentage of tweets from a given area. This throws them into another basin of attraction for errors: a small town with few tweeters will show up here if it holds even one prolific hater. For example, The Dalles is a little one-Starbucks town in northern Oregon (population 13,000, or about two cruise ships). Portland is a major metropolis (750,000 people in the county). On the map below, The Dalles stands out like a beacon in the NW, while Portland doesn’t even warrant shading.

Is The Dalles really a hotbed of hatred?

Is The Dalles really a hotbed of hatred?

Third, do haters tend to hide their geolocation more than normals do? This is a basic limitation of the data collection technique, and could only be compensated for by sampling the location of the non-geolocated tweets, an essentially impossible task. The best one might do is ask Twitter to run an equivalent study based on tweet IP address, except that that might violate Twitter’s privacy policy, and in any event is fraught with its own problems — IP-based advertising regularly offers me the opportunity to meet lonely women in the wrong part of the state, the wrong state, or even the wrong region of the country (I’m not sure I’ve ever been to Louisiana).

Still, this is an imaginative use of data available from social media, and despite its flaws it’s a worthwhile project.

T-Storms in the NENW

July 23, 2014

First big thunderstorm of the season just blew through the Spokane area at high speed. NWS says it moved at 50mph and I can believe it. Knocked over a tomato plant, and knocked out power for two and a half hours, a relatively rare occurrence. Not much rain, but not much lightning, either, which I’m sure makes the fire guys happy. In related matters, the Watermelon Hill fire was declared 100% contained earlier today, and the fire camp at the highschool has already broken up.

The Nest fire detectors came back on line immediately. The thermostats took a good half hour of “Can’t find network”.

A Fire in the NENW: 8AM Update

July 20, 2014

KHQ Channel 6 finally has a map up — and they’re the only one as far as I know. Here it is:

The pink means something to do with fire

The pink means something to do with fire

The map doesn’t have a legend, and isn’t even mentioned in the accompanying article, but it’s probably the active fire area.

Here’s a better map, of MODIS hot spot detections over the last 24hrs:

MODIS satellite hot spots

MODIS satellite hot spots
(h/t to Twitter user @509freckles for pointing this out)

The evac orders have been lifted for everywhere except the Fishtrap Resort (roughly at the second C in Hog Canyon Creek in the KHQ map). Since the winds right now are W and WSW it looks like it won’t be a threat (the campground symbol in the upper right corner marks the edge of Cheney), so I’ll stop pestering the Interwebs with reportage.

A Fire in the NENW: 7AM Update

July 20, 2014

Got up this morning to the smell of smoke in the house. I’d made the mistake of leaving the windows open, to cool us down. Now the place smells like we’ve been frying smoky brats.

Sky to the S and SW is normal, but there’s a smell of smoke in the air and I can see a smoky haze drifting amongst the houses and the trees, as if it were winter and everyone was firing up their wood stoves. The fire operations center is still manned and active. Trucks have been moved to the back of the HS parking lot, and the front lot filled with personal vehicles and official SUVs. Didn’t get down to the middle school to see how many people the evacuation effected. Heard a train. First one since the fire started (normally they come through every hour or so). The two rail lines run through the fire area, but I don’t know if it was a through train or stuff being moved from the Cheney rail classification yard.

Morning news doesn’t have much news, and Twitter is mostly complaining about that. The 7AM on-scene report didn’t tell us anything we didn’t know last night. Fire is still zero percent contained. Twitter says evacuees might be allowed home, depending on winds. Presumably because that area is pretty well burned over. Still no report on where the fire lines are. Do none of the newsies have a helicopter they could use? Can no-one just ask the fire operations center? Presumably it’s up in the Turnbull somewhere. Based on the evacuation boundaries, it’s in the vicinity of Alkali Lake. If the wind holds at WSW, as forecast, it will miss us to the south.

Winds remain low right now, but will pick up to last night’s level this afternoon. How bad were the winds last night? This bad:

Twenty pound tomato planter blown off the corner of the deck railing.

Twenty pound tomato planter blown off the corner of the deck railing.

AQI in Spokane is 156 = just in the Unhealthy range.

A Fire in the NENW

July 19, 2014

MJ and I were out taking our evening constitutional, in 80F weather and 20kt winds, when we noticed a largish pyrocumulus to our southwest.

Watermelon Hill

Watermelon Hill

We continued, arguing about if it was local, or just more smoke from the western fires. We got a little more interested when we saw what looked like a firefighting command post set up in the parking lot of the local high school — multiple trucks (admin style, no pumpers), plus a couple of comms vans with their antennae up.

Got home, checked the news (online, the over the air reporting is deathly slow). It seems a fire had started near Fishtrap Lake about 3PM, and by 5pm had blown into a full scale emergency, burning 10K acres. The Fishtrap resort and rural areas SW of the Turnbull are under a Level 3 evacuation (mandatory), and Tyler township has a Level 2 evacuation (be prepared). Tyler is only ten miles from us, as the wind blows, but the evacuees are being sent to Cheney Middle School, a block from our house, so I guess we’re safe.

Most of the useful news is on Twitter, with the hashtag #WatermelonHill.

Fires in the West

July 18, 2014

Our fire season is in full bloom. Northwest Interagency Coordination Center shows twenty major fires burning in Washington and Oregon.

Lots of fires, none near Spokane

Lots of fires, none near Spokane

The same strong westerly winds that are driving the fires are also pushing the smoke plumes into eastern Washington. Here’s a picture from yesterday (the current photo is obscured by non-fire clouds — or maybe darkness).

That's not valley fog

That’s not valley fog

As a result, we have some significant air quality problems here in the Spokane region

Orange means "Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups"

The Orange means “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups”
The Orange is a lie


Now, the map says that Spokane is USG — Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups. That’s an AQI of 101-150. What was our AQI at 5PM? It was 148. So the map is a little misleading. Using standard Fuzzy Logic notation, one might say that Spokane has a 80% membership in the USG linguistic variable, and 20% membership in the Unhealthy linguistic variable.

The sky has been a sullen brown all day. The smell of smoke is sometimes strong. MJ says it reminds her of her childhood in Richland, just before a major dust storm. For me, it harks back to my days in Korea, when the sky would turn yellow in the Spring, as much of the Gobi Desert got carried east towards Japan.

In any event, no jogging tonight.

MH370: Reuters gets it wrong

June 28, 2014

…and so does Slate.

On Thursday, the Australian Transportation Safety Board released a report (5MB .pdf) detailing how they decided on the next search location in the hunt for flight MH370.

The report is an outstanding example of how to do these things. Assumptions are defined, logic trails are laid out, what is known is kept separate from what is unknown. It’s a far cry from the joke that was the Indonesian government’s report.

On page 34 (39th page of the .pdf) they describe their End of Flight Scenario. But first, they put in a disclaimer:

Note: Given the imprecise nature of the SATCOM data, it was necessary to make some assumptions regarding pilot control inputs in order to define a search area of a practical size. These assumptions were only made for the purposes of defining a search area and there is no suggestion that the investigation authority will make similar assumptions.

Got that? “We had to narrow down the options, so we chose this one“. It was at he top of the section, and it was in boldface. They then go on to say:

Given these observations, the final stages of the unresponsive crew/ hypoxia event type appeared to best fit the available evidence for the final period of MH370’s flight when it was heading in a generally southerly direction:

Immediately after their scenario description, they insert another boldface disclaimer:

Note: This suggestion is made for the sole purpose of assisting to define a search area. The determination of the actual factors involved in the loss of MH370 are the responsibility of the accident investigation authority and not the SSWG.

So, what’s the Reuters headline? “Malaysia jet passengers likely suffocated, Australia says“. And the article, unlike many on the web, tracks with the headline — everybody was incapacitated by hypoxia. And what’s the Slate headline? “MH370 Passengers “Most Likely” Died of Hypoxia Before Crash, Report Says“. They go on to say “It does not appear to have suggested why passengers and crew might have lost access to oxygen.” Translation: it was a story that was too good to check, so we didn’t read the report.

The fact is, the passengers and crew could have been unresponsive because they were dead of hypoxia, or because they were dead of a murder-suicide, or because the crew was locked in the cockpit playing honeymoon bridge while the passengers were relaxing in the back with their small lemon-soaked paper napkins.

We don’t know what happened. The scenario is one that fits what’s known, so let’s use that to extrapolate what’s unknown. And then we’re at the mercy of the media.

North Korean Science Fiction

May 23, 2014

She turned a tap inside the house, and clear, clean water started to flow, sparkling in the light of the electric bulb her husband had been awarded for his outstanding work in the stench-packing factory. “Water and electricity,” she marveled. “Now I can cook the rice that I bought, simply by going to the store. This truly is a worker’s paradise. Bless you, Great Leader Kim.”

For the real stuff, BoingBoing has an article.