TLDR: Anime I never finished, Summer 2017-2

July 11, 2017

And the losers keep straggling in.

Konbini Kareshi: Grand Hotel, the anime version. Six couples and how their lives are changed by their experiences at the local Lawsons. The boys are the type I spent my high school days avoiding. The girls are the type who spent their high school days avoiding me.

I wonder if I’ll find the girl of my dreams in there. They carry everything else.

Fox Spirit Matchmaker: Fox maiden vows to excel at matchmaking despite the urgings (threats) of the sexy head of her powerful fox clan, all the while avoiding marriage to a jerk who is also a powerful priest who is attempting to avoid marriage despite the urgings (threats) of a bunch of gunsels from his powerful human clan, all the while fending off attacks from a different fox clan, along with some nefarious plots by a fat underhanded plotting priest. Got that? Feels like the producer just threw everything he could think of into a pot and called it stew.

This picture sums it up: One third sexy fox ladies, one third chibi fox follies, one third assholes

Aho Girl: Aho is the word for idiot. It’s for when you’ve already said baka. Our protagonette is an aho. Bright, cheery, infinite mood swings, no short term memory, banana fanatic, zero common sense. Her neighbor (one can’t say ‘boyfriend’, he tells her mother she’s a monkey — her mother agrees) keeps her in line through force and violence. All the girls love him.

The carrot banana and the stick

Katsugeki TOUKEN RANBU: Bunch of guys with swords, who are swords, fight demons, who are time travellers, with the aid of a fox with a computer. Running with swords. Fighting demons. Bantering with the guys. Running…

With a thousand years of experience, you’d think they’d find a better way to run with a sword

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Trump in Poland — That Speech

July 9, 2017

Early last week a photo taken in 1937 on Jaluit Island turned up on the media. It showed a bunch of distinctly unoffical-looking officials, along with a man displaying a good example of male pattern baldness, and a genderless person in pants and a shaggy haircut, seated and facing away from the camera. People looked at the picture and immediately said Noonan and Earhart!

On the one hand, this is a good example of people seeing in a photo what they wanted to see. PI’s do this all the time and are well aware of the trap. If you are out looking for tanks, any roughly square assemblage of rocks can look like a tank. If you are looking for Noonan and Earhart, you will see Noonan and Earhart.

On the other hand, you have to consider context — where was the image taken. If you are looking at a photo of a tank park, it’s more likely to be a tank than if you are looking at a city park. If you are looking at a photo taken in 1937 on an island that’s the administrative center of a Japanese mandate, and only 1,000 miles from a possible Earhart crash site within that mandate, you can perhaps be forgiven for thinking of her.

Photos, thank goodness, have ground truth. It’s a tank, or it’s not. It’s Noonan and Earhart, or it’s not. You may never know the truth, but it’s out there. This is not true when talking of human perceptions and emotions.

Three days ago, Trump made a speech in Krasiński Square, Warsaw, thanking his Polish hosts. Depending on how you define the context, the speech can be seen as anodyne, Presidential, racist, Riefenstahlian, or power mad.

The full text of the speech was released by the White House. Admittedly, it might not be accurate. It could be the prepared text, and he might not have followed it. It includes applause and shouts from the crowd, which could have been poorly translated. For example, they could have been crying czarna dzum, which is Polish for Black Plague. But let’s assume that these words are the words he, or his staff, thought worthy of saying.

It’s not a long speech, less than 150 lines containing less than 3500 words — maybe 70 short paragraphs — of content.

The first twenty paragraphs are the usual thanks to the host country and callback to our long history together, totally in line with Fallows’ description of how Presidents talk overseas.

The next eight or ten recount the Poles valiant stands against the Nazi (i.e. German) and Soviet (i.e. Russian) invaders and oppressors, and end by celebrating Poland’s place in NATO as one of the pillars of a strong Europe and a strong West. So far, so … coherent … even if it did spend more time zinging Germany than Russia (Angela will not be pleased).

The next six paragraphs define the three dimensions of the new existentialist threat to The West: The ongoing attacks by radical Islamic terrorism, the destabilizing activities of Russia, and the steady creep of government paperwork. These threats come from South and East, from inside and out. One might reasonably assume that the Inside threat is paperwork, the Southern threat is radical Islam, and the Eastern threat is Russia.

Then, eight paragraphs extolling the achievements of Western Civilization, and five boasting about how we got other NATO members to spend more.

These are followed by the two controversial paragraphs, paragraphs that set the will to prevail at the center of our defense of the West.

We have to remember that our defense is not just a commitment of money, it is a commitment of will

the will of its people to prevail and be successful and get what you have to have.

the confidence in our values to defend them at any cost

enough respect for our citizens to protect our borders

the courage to preserve our civilization in the face of those who would subvert and destroy it

Seven wrap-up paragraphs about Polish will during WWII (another shot at the Germans), a couple of dance-off lines and it’s done.

So, let’s get one thing out of the way at the start. Trump is not suddenly “Presidential” because of this speech. He’s a lightweight, and people from Oz, and things at the bottom of ponds know it. As with his first “Presidential” speech, he has workmanlike speech writers, and he managed to stay on script.

Now, what’s the context of those two paragraphs? First, within the speech, they were preceded by some battle of civilizations imagery that sets the West against Islam, Russian attacks on our institutions, and, of course, bureaucrats. Outside the speech is a modern Europe that feels itself under stress more from refugees than radical Islamists, that feels threatened by the Russian pushback against NATO expansion, that … well … isn’t really bothered by a bureaucracy that makes it hard to build golf courses wherever one wants. Behind the words of the speech is the world-view of its creator, Stephen Miller, and that of his staff colleague, Steve Bannon.

Depending on where you live, different parts of that speech speak to different parts of your brain. Are there people who will see it as a call to defend the best elements of the Judaeo-Christian West? Certainly. Are there those who will read the same words and find in them a call to drive out those who are not demonstrably White and Christian? Of course. Are there those who see the first, and cannot understand how people could claim the second? Here he is.

There is a saying in Washington, DC: Perception is reality. How people see an event or a policy is, effectively, how that event or policy is. I think the takeaway is that everyone’s perceptions about the speech have elements of the ground truth. A Bannon can see those paragraphs as a call to throw back the non-White and non-Christian elements that contaminate our nation state. A Fallow can comment on that without being a person who hates Western Civilization. A Dreher can gain extra clicks by stirring the pot.

And if you want to go beyond the immediate situation, a Brin can detect an element of the manic phase of the Republican worldview.

Happy Tanabata

July 7, 2017

The seventh day of the seventh month is yet another chance for the weaver princess Orihime to be with her lover Hikoboshi, otherwise known as Vega and Altair. Tourist spots like the Tokyo Tower put on special light displays

Orihime, Hikoboshi, and a friend, celebrate their one night together this year.

And even monks on a Journey to the West will stop and celebrate the holiday.

What does the monkey wish for?

TLDR: Anime I never finished, Summer 2017 – 1

July 6, 2017

Two days into the Summer Season and already the rejects are piling up.

Saiyuki Reload Blast: AKA Saiyuki Version V. Latest in a long line of anime adaptations of a long line of manga. Based on the Japanese version of the Chinese compilation of the Buddhist folktale collection called Journey to the West. Bad art, ugly characters, poor acting, static fight scenes, and a stupid AI jeep (Kino should sue).

Which one is the monkey?

Netsuzou Trap: Girl sexually molests another girl. Other girl not sure she objects. Does that make it right? Did they limit the length to 9 minutes because they ran out of body parts to fondle?

French kissing while hanging off an apartment balcony three stories up and she’s afraid her mother will walk in and see them

Knight’s & Magic: Programmer dies and is resurrected in a magical fantasy world with knights in shining mechas. Develops new magical apps by applying good coding practices to existing magic. The weak spot, of course, being the lack of code comments and documentation. Unless maybe the extraneous comma in the title means that everything that follows is a comment.

Patlabor it ain’t

 

Anime Postview: Spring 2017

July 4, 2017

 

The usual disclaimer: this is a look at how well I did in my Spring 2017 Preview, which you might want to look at first.

It was a marginal season. At least five of the more interesting titles were sequestered behind the Amazon Anime Strike double paywall.

Shows I said I Will Watch, because the the cover art was properly enticing, or I liked the first season:

Saekano 2: Didn’t get to watch, because it’s behind the AASDPW. I’ll buy the Blue Ray.

Uchouten Kazoku 2: Haven’t finished it yet, because I decided to watch Season 1 again. Yes, I’ll buy this Blue Ray, as well.

Shuumatsu Nani: Wasn’t great. Wasn’t bad. I liked the world-building, thought the backstory was contrived, and the ending was rushed.

Shows I said I Might Watch, because the the cover art wasn’t too bad, or the blurb sounded enticing:

Nanatsu no Taizai: Dropped after two episodes. Don’t get me wrong, I like fan service, but I like it to be fan-servicey, not cute censorshippy. I’d have to buy the Blue Ray, and I probably won’t.

Kado, Sekaisuru: First half was an interesting first contact story. Second half went downhill. Ending was too contrived.

Tsuki ga Kire: Too, too fumbly teen romance. Very sweet. Couldn’t stand it. Dropped.

Shows I said I Won’t Watch, because of the cover art / title / blurb. Sometimes I watch these anyway.

Tsugumomo: Which, I find out, doesn’t mean extraordinary peach. Very 90’s in style, and most of the females are pre-teens. Well, thousand year old spirits trapped in pre-teen bodies, and try telling that to the Customs Agent. Dropped.

Sakura Quest: I started, but haven’t finished. Country girl goes to the city and gets reassigned to the country. I plan to finish it this Summer.

So, eleven shows, of which, two were good, and three were OK. Three were tried and dropped. Three were not even tried. I’ve made better predictions. If that’s the case, what was I watching? Well, mostly I tried various programs and then dropped them. Sometimes it took me a while to get to the Why am I watching this? point.

Alice & Zoroku: Superpower girl finds a home with supergrumpy old man. First half came to a satisfactory conclusion. I understand the second half is different. I plan to finish, someday.

Kanokon: Various canid spirit beings have the hots for a middle schooler. Dropped.

Eromanga Sensei: Oreimo with the objectionable parts bowdlerized. Dropped.

Love Tyrant: Cupid falls in love, gets involved in a foursome. I finished it, because minimums must be acceptable, etc…

And to tell the truth, I even found myself going back and resurrecting things like School Live and Demon King Daimao.

 

 

 

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.

 

Curried Marrow….Oats

June 29, 2017

Using up the last of the marrowbone marrow, I decided to try it with curry. I mean, everything goes better with Golden Curry (well, except beanbroth, but that’s another recipe).

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, 40g of marrow, sliced and fried down, one chunk of Golden Curry roux, one cup of broth, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, salt. Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats. Add the broth and curry to the fried marrow (watch for spatters), potatoes at the end.

Results: OK, everything doesn’t go great with curry, but it still goes pretty good. Unfortunately, the curry overwhelmed the essential beefyness of this dish, and came up one dimension short in the flavor profile itself. A fat pinch of shred cheese helped.

Rating: ***

Gun Control

June 25, 2017

Update, October 2017: Before you read my essay, read this one to get a better feel for the background and history.

I am not a gun enthusiast. In the AF I qualified on both the M-16 and the .38, but was never called upon to fire them for real (In VietNam, I did come close a couple of times). At home, I’ve never owned a gun, and only once ever had guns stored in the house – a friend was waiting to move into his new house and asked me to keep his shotguns. I have not thought through all the policy implications, but here’s a couple thoughts on the arguments over gun control and America’s right to bear arms.

A Well Regulated Militia
My interpretation of the Second Amendment (not that the Supremes ever asked me), is that it should be read in its entirety:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Tortured arguments about 18th Century punctuation apart, to me that implies that every person who owns a gun is also subject to being part of a well-regulated Militia. And that means they should be subject to some minimal level of formal training (and who could be against training for gun owners?), and registered with the Militia, subject to callup if the State requires it. They wouldn’t be in the Reserves, nor even in the Guard. They’d be the Militia, available if the Guard and Reserve both fail (or, say, are over fighting in Pakistan). Their Constitutional right to own the weapon should not be infringed, but they should be subject to swingeing fines if they fail to uphold their Constitutional responsibilities. David Brown, over at The Week, has a much-better thought-out version of this idea.

In Switzerland, they actually do something like this. They have universal military service, most of which is spent in the reserves, and soldiers are required to keep their weapons at home. When they finish their period of service, they can elect to keep the weapon.

Defending the Castle
Second, according to the gun lobby, one reason to own a gun is home defense. If you have a gun in your home, and are properly trained, you are in a position to defend yourself and your family and your belongings. In other words, a weaponized house is a safe house. OK, let us, as they say, look at the numbers. Let’s follow the money.

A. The numbers are pretty straightforward. Guns kill Americans. Guns kill women at higher rates. If you are awakened by a prowler in your darkened house at 2AM and you exercise your right of property defense, you are far more likely, when you turn on the lights, to find your prodigal son, back from a late night karaoke party than you are some sort of evildoer. If a woman is found shot dead in her home, the first and most logical suspect is her estranged boyfriend. So, the numbers are pretty bleak. But what about the money?

B. From a monetary standpoint, if a weaponized house is safer, then weaponized homes should qualify for lower insurance rates, both homeowners insurance (say, get a gun credit just like you do a burgler alarm credit), and medical insurance (like non-smoker’s rebate, due to less chance of being beaten by thugs). Yet even the Affordable Care Act contains prohibitions against doctors or insurance companies collecting information on gun ownership. There’s a number of possible reasons why this is so.

  1.  One is that the weapons=safety argument is false, and the people making it know it’s false and they are using a legislative trick to prevent being penalized for their lies.
  2.  On the other hand, this could even be seen as part of a widespread conspiracy to undermine the ability of the insurance companies to make money by offering lower rates to gun owners.
  3.  Or, finally, this could be part of a conspiracy by the insurance companies to require them to offer the same rates to everyone, and thereby make additional profits by gouging the responsible gun owners.

I’m in favor of Reason 1, lying liars. Why? Because the NRA has essentially admitted this: “NRA officials say they requested the provision out of concern that insurance companies could use such data to raise premiums on gun owners.

Opposing Tyranny
America is proud of its heroic, Revolutionary past, where the Patriots rose up to overthrow a tyrannical government, and thus established armed opposition to tyranny as part of our national culture. Thomas Jefferson said that a little rebellion was good for a Democracy, and that we should experience one every generation or so. This justified two hundred and fifty years of distrust of “the government”, and led a certain segment of the population to decide that it was their duty to arm themselves against the day they would be called up to once again oppose tyranny. Of course, any illusion that a group of fanatics, armed with deer rifles, are a match for a modern military force is just that, an illusion, or maybe a delusion.

These are the people who believe in the theory of the Deep State, and who periodically (every time a Democrat gets in office) buy more arms so they may fight it. They are the ones who oppose all record-keeping on guns, ammunition, and gun violence because they believe such records could be used by the government when it comes to take their guns. Of course, such a list already exists. It’s called the membership roll of the NRA. And if NRA has the list on a computer, you can bet that NSA also has that list.

Discussion
The problem is, we are a violent society. It’s rooted deep in our DNA. In other words, we, as a society, are mentally ill. An insurance company would call it a pre-existing condition.

So, what is to be done? Ban all pistols, and strictly control all rifles and shotguns like they do in England, the Mother Country from whence our society came? (Full disclosure: I lived in England for four years, wandered major cities after dark, and never felt unsafe one day in my life there.) Can’t be done, you say. Remember our roots as a rebellious collection of lawbreakers? OK, suppose we ban all pistols, and strictly control all rifles and shotguns like they do in Australia, that dumping ground for as rebellious a collection of lawbreakers as you’ll see in the whole Anglo-Saxon world? We’re far too sick for that, you say? OK, why don’t we take the lying liars at their word, embrace the NRA, and make the NRA’s own gun safety rules a federal law? Here’s Stonekettle Station’s proposal. The formal part starts about seven screens down, at the poster picture. Basically, it says the NRA guidelines should become the law of the land, particularly the part about personal responsibility for any weapon you hold or handle. This won’t even begin to halt all gun crime in the US, but it will put a dent in it. It’s a start.

BTW, here is a summary of the effect of strong gun control in Australia and Japan.

Heinlein said that an armed society is a polite society. To which I add — eventually. And it requires that you value politeness above all other things. And that you don’t mind having a high mortality rate.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

June 25, 2017

Garden Report for 170626

Hot and dry, with highs in the lower 90’s and lows in the higher 60’s. More of the same in the coming week, perhaps broken by a thunderstorm.

Continuing the fight against leaf miners in the chard. Continuing intermittent weeding, despite the mosquitoes. I think I’ve managed to kill my Pink Brandywine by overwatering. Turns out the container I have it in (a large Rubbermaid storage box) was one I hadn’t cut drain holes in. My everyday watering, coupled with roof runoff from the last shower of the season, left standing water in the box, and a plant that was drooping, nay draped, over the cage support. I poked holes as best I could, dug out as much of the soil as I could without digging up the plant, and when that didn’t help, trimmed off the worst of the droopy part, roughly the top foot or so. We shall see.

The non-garden part of the yard is looking fairly bosky. I decided to let the ground cover grow as it may — no cutting it back down to mineral soil at the end of winter — and it really took off. I’m not sure what they are, but they are growing chest high.

I wanted to stitch this into a panorama, but the geometry and the foliage was too much for my stitcher — it kept wanting to move the center frame to the left.

Tanyastuff — 2

June 24, 2017

This is Part 2 of an on-going analysis of The Saga of Tanya the Evil. Subsequent entries will look at the story as laid out in the light novels.

A major factor in the rollout of Tanya’s War, and one I hadn’t considered earlier, is the structure of the Empire itself. In Tanya’s world we have a unitary Germanic empire. In our world, Central Europe was occupied by the German Hohenzollern Empire, and the Austro-Hungarian Hapsburg Empire. It was the interactions between these two empires (plus the interlocking treaty obligations on both sides) that allowed what should have been a relatively minor Balkan skirmish to spiral out of control.

In our world, for a number of reasons, Austria wanted to expand its influence in the Balkans. They were afraid that Russia would actively oppose them, and asked Germany for support in preventing this. Germany gave them the famous blank check approval for any of their actions.

The first problem is, given the technology of the day, whoever mobilizes first can destroy their opponents, even if the opponents are part way through their own mobilization. So mobilization is essentially a declaration of war. The second problem is, once a country has mobilized, essentially all their neighbors are at risk. So Austria sent an ultimatum to Serbia. Two days later, Austria, Serbia, and Russia all issued mobilization orders. Three days after that, Austria declared war on Serbia, and a week later, Germany (rejecting Russian protests that they were mobilizing against Serbia, not Germany) both started mobilizing and declared war on Russian. Roughly two weeks from assassination incident to WWI.

In Tanya’s world, the Empire isn’t dragged into a war by treaty obligations. They were engaged in an on-going border dispute with Legendia, part of the Scandinavian Entente. The Legendistas invade and are stopped by the the Imperials, including the newly-arrived reinforcements. So we have at least a partial mobilization aimed at the North. In order to permanently suppress the threat, the Empire goes to full mobilization and conducts a counter-invasion of the Entente. We could think of this as similar to Austria invading Serbia, except that the ‘pretext’ was a much more serious incident. In essence, the Empire gave itself a blank check.

At this point, of course, not-France also mobilizes, and invades the Empire. We are not told if this is a treaty requirement, or mere opportunism. The result is a slow-rolling development of a border skirmish into a world war.

The rest, as they say, is isekai.

 

Oatmeal Chili — 3

June 22, 2017

Two and a half years ago, I made oatmeal with some ground beef chili that MJ had made. Half a year ago, I made oatmeal with the liquid from a beef strip chili that MJ had made. Half an hour ago, I made oatmeal with a quarter cup of commercial canned chili.

MJ was off doing all the busy things she does, and we were flat out of dinner fixings. I mean fresh, meat-and-veg style fixings. Fortunately, we have a fairly extensive pantry, so when I got hungry I just opened the pantry drawer and had a look around. First thing in front was a can of Hormel Turkey Chili with Beans. I can tell you that it tastes just like … canned chili. Overcooked, with unbalanced seasoning that tastes like it’s based not so much on flavor as it is on what the linear programming algorithm cranks out as the most profitable mixture of spices. However, if you dump it on top of enough lettuce, and then dump enough cheese on top of that, it will keep body and soul together — and as for your taste buds, two out of three isn’t bad. I mean, it’s 98% fat free, and where’s the fun in that? Needless to say there were leftovers, or as I call them, dregs.

Setup: 1/2 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one cup of clove-heavy broth*, quarter cup of HTCB, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, salt. Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats. Add the potatoes at the end.

Results: Meh. The ground turkey was detectable only in a granular change to the mouthfeel. Every now and then there was a bean. The overwhelming impression was … the seasonings were unbalanced, and not because of the cloves. Cheese helped a lot, but then, it always does.

Rating: **

*Every now and then I think to add cloves to the pressure cooker when making broth. Unfortunately, those times are far enough apart that I forget how much cloves can dominate. By clove-heavy, I mean six cloves in a quart. You don’t have to follow my recipes slavishly. Two cloves will do, and they won’t turn your broth an evil swamp-water black.

TLDR — Gantz

June 19, 2017

Here’s how to watch Gantz: watch Episode 1 to convince yourself I’m right, then fast-forward through the rest, stopping only if the screen turns red, or black, or pink, depending on your interests.

Gantz is a two-cour anime from 2004. An alien-in-a-sphere makes copies of people as they die, and forces the copy-people to fight and kill things. That’s it. Collect people, put on fighting suits, go kill aliens and each other. If the screen is mostly black, that’s the fax-folk running around in their combat suits, looking for aliens. If it’s mostly red, they’ve found the aliens, or undeserving humans, and are eviscerating them, or maybe being eviscerated, it varies. If the screen is mostly pink, then it’s naked scenes, which don’t happen nearly often enough to make up for the red and the black. The rest of the time, the characters are shouting at each other about the morality of killing monsters and why aren’t the others doing more to help. Not enough pink to make up for that, either.

Red and Black
(At this point there’s about five minutes of yelling)

Gantz is available on Crunchyroll. In fast-forward mode, it’s about six minutes of play time between thumbnails, and about two and a half minutes of real time per episode. That means you can get through all 24 episodes in about an hour. Not counting pauses for pink, of course.

…and Pink
(Some more yelling here, as well)

At least Trump didn’t make him head of VA

June 18, 2017

In June of 2014, then Senator Sessions commented on wounded veterans and “entitlements”. I thought it might be worthwhile linking to my response.

The baseball shootings

June 17, 2017

In the wake of the shootings at the GOP practice baseball game, the Dems are reportedly worried that their rhetoric has gone too far. Have they forgotten what it was like in the early days of the uppity Obama administration, when armed and angry white men prowled around the periphery of Democratic rallies? Yes, one late night commenter recently held up a severed Trump head. And was chastised for it, and apologized. Do you remember what talk radio was like after Obama was elected? Do you  remember the Gabby Gifford shooting, and Sarah Palin’s PAC blog with cross-hairs? Do you remember any GOP leadership saying that maybe the right wing rhetoric has gone too far, or any talk radio host apologizing? No, because they didn’t.

Both sides don’t do it.

I’ll have a little bit more to say on gun control tomorrow. I wrote a very nice, well researched, piece on gun control, which has since vanished from WordPress. No idea. I’ll have to reconstruct it, but not today.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

June 17, 2017

Garden Report for 170619

Mid-month found us still in the grasp of June Gloom. Rainy, windy, and cold. Well, cool. Highs mostly in the 50’s, lows in the mid 40’s. The coming week we’ll have a proper June, with summer heat and everything. The nice part is, we’ll be in the dry, and that should kill off the skeeters.

MJ found a proper wire cloche, down in the basement. Planted some Grey Zucchini under it in Section 4. We’ll see how they do. Since the packet said they were a small, bush variety, I also planted one in a container on the deck. ProTip: you don’t need anti-squirrel cloches when planting in a mid-sized circular container, because an old Weber BBQ grill will fit nicely on top.

Everything is growing, including the weeds. The chard is coming along, but is heavily infested with leaf miners. That’s because the rain and the mosquitoes have kept me from doing a proper job in the garden. On Friday, it was windy enough to spend some time out there, so I did a major pruning — the only thing that will stop them (the miners, not the skeeters). Some of the early tomatoes already have fruit, but most have been setting, then losing, blossoms.

The aluminium cloches seem to work, as long as one pulls them apart when lifting. Of course, with this weather, the plastic bottles are working out better.

Curried oatbeans

June 15, 2017

One of my favorite broths for oatmeal is beanwater broth. Doesn’t matter if it’s the stuff drained off of a can, or if it’s the top two inches of water in the pressure cooker, it makes for good oatmeal. You know what else makes for good oatmeal? Curry. Specifically the Japanese favorite, Golden Curry. I wonder how they taste when mixed?

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one cup of beanwater broth, a chunk of curry roux, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, salt. Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats. Add the broken-up curry slab at the start, and the potatoes at the end.

Results: No better than average. Added cheese helped.

Rating: ***

What I like about Flying Witch

June 11, 2017

There are a number of reasons to like Flying Witch, beyond the clean art, the well-rounded characters, the mountain country music, and the true slice-of-life approach. Flying Witch seems to have made a deliberate choice to negate a number of standard anime tropes, and on the way, shows us how a great anime could be made.

non-Missing Parents: Unlike almost every modern life anime I’ve watched in the last ten years, both the parents are present. Even more rare, both parents have active roles in the series. Kuramoto Keiji, the father, is a farmer. He appears in most of the episodes, and is a strong supporting character, as opposed to being a walk-on extra. In Episode 3, he helps Makoto start a garden, and in Episode 10, he shows the girls how to thin apple blossoms.

Nana, the mother, is not only responsible for typical motherly things — she does the grocery shopping — but she also has her own career as a children’s book illustrator.

non-Loli Imouto: Kuramoto Chinatsu, the little sister, is a typical real-life little sister, not a nee-san besotted loli. It is difficult to express how refreshing that is. I think the only other anime I’ve seen with a realistic little sister is Haruhi. And, unlike Kyon’s un-named little sister, Chinatsu is a major member of the cast, and has her own half-episode, where she follows familiar Chito around the town.

non-Romantic Male Lead: I’m not even sure that Kuramoto Kei qualifies as a lead. He’s really just a strong supporting character (I think Chinatsu gets more screen time). In any event, he’s got zero romantic entanglements. The closest he comes is an offhand mention that the witch Inukai is kindof his type. In addition, he enjoys domestic activities, like cooking. He might be a great catch as a husband, but nobody’s chasing.

non-Romantic Childhood Friendship: Ishiwatari Nao is Kei’s childhood friend and high school classmate. There are zero romantic vibes between them, not even a subtle jealousy. In Episode 1, when Kei tells Nao that the new boarder is a girl their age, she simply says “lucky for you.” Later, when Makoto’s sister Akane tries to make them a couple, they both look at her like she was an idiot. She has her own life, and her part-time job is helping out at her parent’s store, which she does to help out, not because they’re poor and she has to be a provider.

no Fanservice: None. No beach episode. No walking in on someone taking a bath. No comparison of chest sizes. No nosebleeds.

Life-centric, not High School-centric: They are high school students. They go to high school. They might have club activities. But other than the opening ceremonies, in Episode 1, and the cooking class, in Episode 10, the school does not impact their activies at all.

Passing the Bechdel Test: Females are in the majority in Flying Witch (nine to two), they are all named, and they all talk to each other without mentioning the male characters. In the first episode, Makoto and Nao speak briefly about how self-centered Kei is, and that’s about the extent of it. The women are more interested in getting on with their lives than they are in worrying about what some man is doing.

The bottom line is, the Flying Witch flies in the face of traditional anime tropes, not by fighting them or parodying them, but by ignoring them. And that brings the story closer to real life. Of course parents play a big role in the lives of high school students. Of course people just out of childhood have childhood friends, and the fact is, much of high school life doesn’t involve romance. In real life, little sisters are little sisters, and as Araragi Koyomi has said, siscon is fantasy of those who don’t have little sisters.

Look at it this way: a live-action Flying Witch would make a great fantasy series, whereas a live action Toradora would be unbelievable, and a live action Oreimo would be just creepy. I’m hoping this marks the start of a new fad in anime.

I couldn’t think of what to do with all this stuff so I stuck it in my oatmeal

June 8, 2017

Sounds like the title of a Light Novel. The other day I made broth with just a slab of cube steak. Tasted OK, but a little thin. So I added an onion and carrot and cooked it again. Now it was mostly carrot and onion-flavored. For breakfast today I took about 40g of marrow (from the broth-before-last), sliced it and fried it down into a puddle. Then I added a quarter teaspoon of garlic. As a side experiment, I had chopped up the cube steak into little, well, cubes — they tasted like crumbly, overdone hamburger, with most of the flavor boiled out of them. I added two heaping dinner tablespoons of the cubicles. And since it was hamburgerlich, I tried a bit with ketchup.

Setup: 1/2 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one cup of broth, two dinner tablespoons of cubed cubed steak, 40g of beef bone marrow, garlic to flavor, salt. Fry the marrow, garlic, and cublics until brown. Add the oatmeal. Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats.

Results: Pretty good, but not as good as the plain marrow-oats. It had a distinct, beefy, hamburger flavor. Ketchup didn’t help, but Worcestershire might. I’m still playing with the cube steak idea, since it’s a lot cheaper than prime rib for making broth. Maybe next time I’ll make it a cheeseburger.

Rating: ***

Leaks and leakers

June 6, 2017

As you may know by now, The Intercept has published a file of highly classified material on Russia’s attempts to hack the US election system. It turns out the data was leaked by a NSA subcontractor, with the somewhat unusual name of Reality Winner. Evidently she was outed because she didn’t know that, by law, color printers print a set of invisible dots that show when and where the document was printed. Although some have questioned the veracity of the leaked report, Pat Lang is rightfully angered over the damage caused to US Intelligence collection by this leak.

The reports that she did this as part of her own program of resistance to the Trump administration only highlight that she must be incredibly naive, as well as ignorant of the Intelligence background to the information she was handling and the anti-copy features of today’s printers. This is what led her to expose information that it was her sworn duty to protect.

There are those who would say that she and Edward Snowden are in the same class — oath-breakers. There is a difference. She broke her oath of secrecy for momentary and fleeting political advantage. Snowden broke his oath of secrecy because of an oath to a higher power, the US Constitution. The two examples are not comparable.

Tanyastuff

June 6, 2017

One of the nice things about writing a blog by me for me is that I don’t have to go chasing after the Next Big Thing. I can sit and chew over a topic of interest. In this case, it’s continuing thoughts on The Saga of Tanya the Evil (Japanese title – Young Girl’s War Journal). Part of the reason for this is that even people who like the series get major parts of it wrong (Berry,over at Angry Anime Bitches is the only one who got Tanya mostly right). As I said the last time, Tanya isn’t really a female and “she” isn’t really evil. The body is that of a young girl, but the mind is a middle-aged Japanese salaryman. For that reason, I’ll refer to Tanya as he. And I’ll talk some more about the lack of evility.

Tanya is a good combat commander. At a personal level, he’s exceedingly brave. In Episode 7, he’s first out the door when they sky-dive into the fjord.


In Episode 9 he leads the V-1 strike,


and in Episode 10, he’s first into Facility A, a possible enemy headquarters bunker.

As a unit commander, Tanya exhibits a certain audacity. After taking out the Dakian command post (Episode 5), he decides, on his own initiative, to press on, strike the Dakian capital itself, and destroy a munitions factory there[1].

In Episode 11, he realizes that he’s the only one who knows what the Republican Fleet is up to (withdrawing the army to not-Algeria to continue the war). He decides to exploit a loophole in his status[2], ignore a Theater directive, and lead a V-1 strike on the embarkation port.

At a personal level, Tanya is not the sadistic killer that many make him out to be. Yes, there’s the incident at the training school, but the trainee involved had already said that ‘she’ reminded him of his little sister, and that he didn’t find her particularly scary.  Extraordinary situations require extraordinary measures.

In building his rapid response force, Tanya’s main goal was to avoid combat as long as possible. In this he is hampered by his lack of understanding of human nature. His recruiting poster was designed to discourage recruits[3], but instead attracted the most daring. His harsh training was designed to encourage them to drop out, but only succeeded in producing an elite, high esprit unit, a fact that leaves him somewhat befuddled.

Nothing that he did was hurtful simply for the sake of causing others pain. He is not, as some would have it, a Yoshikage Kira (from Jo Jo’s Bizarre Adventure) , because he’s not a natural killer.

From time to time, Tanya demonstrates deep personal concern for others. In Episode 7, he becomes positively insubordinate when he thinks the Northern Front is about to launch a major attack without proper supplies.

And even though it was his paper that exposed the loophole that allowed Imperial forces to destroy the city of Arene (Episode 8), he is not happy at being part of the operation, again to the point of insubordination. Nevertheless, he assuages his conscious with the Nuremberg Defense, and later, in a soliloquy on the train in Episode 9, he says that his hands are clean, ‘probably’.

The only things that make Tanya seem evil are the English title, the fact that it looks to be a nine-year-old girl doing these things, and that LtCol von Rerugen says ‘she’ is a monster in the form of a little girl, in both the first and the last episodes[4]. If the title were changed to Rambo Isekai[5], opinions would be totally different.

Finally, a reminder that the Empire Tanya fights for is not Nazi Germany, nor even Wilhemine Germany. They did not start out to conquer Europa. Instead, they were an existing empire that suddenly began to modernize, and to expand its economy. They were surrounded by countries that were ahead of them economically, a situation that usually leads to war on its own. These natural forces, helped along by Being X[6], were enough to coalesce the peripheral countries against the Empire.


[1]In Austro-Hungarian terms, that’s like stopping an invading army near Belgrade at lunchtime, and attacking Bucharest that night.

[2] His mission is to support the Theater forces, but he’s still under the command of Strategic Headquarters, and their task was for him to ‘test’ the V-1s.

[3]It is, in fact, a paraphrase of Shackleton’s supposed advertisement in a London newspaper, seeking volunteers for his Antarctic expedition: “Men wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in event of success.”

[4] There are some elements of the Wiki article that run counter to this, but those are based on the light novel, which I have not yet read.

[5] Isekai, or ‘alternate world’, is a light novel/anime genre where the protagonist somehow ends up in an alien or fantasy world.

[6]It’s not that Tanya doesn’t believe in God (although he doesn’t). It’s that he doesn’t believe that Being X is God, because of how absurd his creation is. As he said in Episode 2, if X is anything, it’s the Devil.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

June 5, 2017

Garden Report for 170605

Touched 90F at the beginning of the week, then June Gloom came through and cooled things off, for a bit. Looks like the coming week will be more of the same — warm, then cool.

Bought my last two tomato seedlings for the year — Cherokee Purple for the south side of the house (I moved the Patio tomatoes back up onto the…deck), and Pink Accordion to round out Section 1. Planted them Tuesday evening. Mosquitoes were fierce. The garden is like one of those yellow fever labs in Panama. Should have waited an hour for when a gust front came through. Also planted a Bush Buttercup squash in a deck container. We’ll see how big a bush it is.

I have always had problems with squirrels digging up my seedlings. They’re not after the plants, just looking for some fresh-turned earth to bury peanuts in, the way squirrels have done for thousands of years. I’ve tried making anti-squirrel cloches by cutting the bottom off of plastic water bottles, but the interior gets too hot, and when I pull them up they want to bring the plant with them. So I got the idea of using those wire gadgets that go in your downspouts and help stack up the leaves so they impede the flow. Unfortunately, all our local hardware store has are some newfangled cut-and-stretch aluminium mesh things that look like they’ll be as bad as water bottles when the time comes to lift them. I’ll try them anyway.

What I wanted

What I got

Put two of the gutter-cloches on some just-sprouted peas in Section 3, and two on newly planted Delicata and Bush Buttercup squash in Section 4.

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.

 

Anime Preview: Summer 2017

June 3, 2017

Unlike some others, who use knowledge of the source materials, close observation of the previews, and who actually read the press releases, I’m going to base mine on just the title and the cover art, and maybe a bit of the blurb. Consider yourself warned. If you want a real preview, pop on over to AniChart.

First, let’s say what’s normally not in here. Kids stuff, shorts, sequels to originals I didn’t like, anything with Isekai in the title; movies and OVA’s.

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

Also includes second seasons.

Owarimonogatari

Hey, it’s ~monogatari! Of course I’m watching it.

Centaur no Nayami

Slice of life in a world where centaurs are real and hair stylists are imaginary beings

Youkai Apartment

Invaders of the Rokujyoma meets The Kawai Complex Guide to Hostel Behavior

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

Princess Principal

A band of busty girls spy in London

Tenshi no 3P

A typical hikki boy and his all girl vocaloid church band

Vatican kiseki Chousakan

A beautiful girl and her all boy cryptographic church band

 

 

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

Battle Girl Highschool
Like Ikki Tousen except their clothes stay on

Hitorijime My Hero

A history of Japanese transport

Koi to Uso

Fish and Otters

18if

A group of refugee animators from Hand Shakers ends up at Studio Gonzo

Netsuzou Trap

Remember how well Yuri on Ice did, with no girls? Why don’t we try a Trap with no boys?

…and 35 more that didn’t even make the “I won’t watch” cut.

Marroats

June 1, 2017

Marrow has a long and nutritious history. Some of the little we know about the behavior of our proto-hominid ancestors is based on how they cracked their mammoth bones to get the marrow out. Their knowledge has carried down through the ages: animal bone marrows are best. Vegetable marrows, not so much.

We were out of brothmeat, and almost out of broth, so MJ stopped by the store on her way home and bought a nice package of marrowbones. Although they were big and round and marrowsome, they didn’t have much meat on them — the assumption being that you will roast the marrow and have it on toast. I threw them unroasted into the pressure cooker, along with some carrots and an onion and two quarts of water — and a small slab of cube steak for additional flavor. The resulting broth was mild and inoffensive, and the marrow slid out of the bones in two big tubes. When cooled they had the color and consistency of tallow. A fork would mash them, but not smoothly.

After some experiments, I found that what worked best for breakfast was 30-40 grams of marrow, fried and mashed in the pot prior to adding the broth. After that cook it like any other oatmeal.

Setup: 1/2 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one cup of broth, 30-40g of fried and mashed marrow, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, salt. Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats. Add the potatoes at the end.

Results: Very beefy tasting. Very creamy. Very good. Makes me want to go out and slay things.

Rating: ****

Green Thumb Up My Nose

May 29, 2017

Garden Report for 170529

Warm, followed by hot. Highs in the mid-80s. Rain will bring us down into the mid 70s.

Not much garden action this week. Just for the heck of it I planted a pumpkin and a watermelon seedling. Bought a flat of mixed chard and lettuce and installed those. Green pepper in the container out front.

Cabbage hasn’t bolted yet. Mosquitoes are doing well. Another couple of weeks and we’ll be in the dry and they won’t be a problem.

Plan to plant some Delicata squash seeds and some carrots this week, if I can get my school work done.

Amazake Oats

May 25, 2017

Amazake (甘酒 , あまざけ) or “sweet sake” is a non-alcoholic drink made from the lees left over from production of sake. An instant variety (available from Amazon) has a small white slab, about the size of the miniature candy bars given out at Halloween, and which looks and feels like a chunk of styrofoam (it even floats). You dissolve this in a mere 100ml of hot water, less than half a cup. The resulting drink looks a little bit like overly scalded milk: a thin white fluid with a little foam and a few floating fragments. The taste is very sweet, at the Irish Cream level. Just the thing for a cold New Year’s morning. MJ says the flavor is a little like cream of wheat. I think it has a faint tinge of orange. I wonder what it tastes like in oatmeal?

Setup: 1/2 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one cup of broth, one slab of amazake, salt. Dissolve the amazake in the broth before you add the oatmeal. Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats.

Results: Very good. Very…Japanese. The amazake flavor comes through clearly, while the sweetness is just the thing for those who don’t like savoury oatmeal. Maybe a quarter teaspoon of maple syrup.

Rating: ****

Green Thumb Up My Nose

May 22, 2017

Garden Report for 170522

Cool and rainy during the week, warming to 75F over the weekend, with a couple days of 80’s in the forecast. Should have a good crop of mosquitos.

Planted some more stuff over the weekend. Two Juliet tomatoes on the deck, Lemon Boy and Siletz tomatoes in Section 1. Section 4 got two Acorn and three Zucchini squash, and one each of Yellowneck, and Butternut. The east side of the house got two cucumbers a Pink Brandywine and a Siberian tomato.

Having done all that, I moved the Sub-Arctic Plenty and Patio tomatoes from the deck to the south side of the house, next to the hops, and added a yellow cherry tomato to the deck.

Section 2 is reserved for greens and my ever-hopeful cabbage. Right now the weeds are doing well where the lettuces ought to be, and the cabbage will probably bolt by next weekend.

The local stores didn’t have anything in the way of peas or beans, so I’m going to have to plant them by seed, in Section 3.

Granola Dregs

May 19, 2017

MJ had a bag of Nature Valley Granola Crunch — animal cracker-sized granola tidbits. Thing about granola bars is, they crumble, and the tidbitty things crumble faster. So when she was done with the 21 bars equivalent, she still had a good cup of granola…dregs…in the bag. Of course, granola is mostly oats, the bits that aren’t soy or honey, so it should work well with oats.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one cup of beef broth, quarter cup of granola dregs, salt. Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats. Add the granola towards the end — early enough to heat, late enough that it doesn’t mush.

Results: Yay! New breakfast treat. Nutty-oaty flavor. Maybe I’ll go buy a whole bag, and a hammer.

Rating: ****

Be careful what you wish for

May 18, 2017

I’m not the first person to point this out (today!), and I suspect there will be a lot more in days to come, but impeaching Trump might not be the panacea the Democrats seem to think it is.

From the standpoint of lessening the threat to the planet, it’s probably a good idea, because, you know, football.

From the standpoint of protecting the hard-fought gains of previous Democratic administrations, maybe not so much.

The thing is, Trump takes a bull-in-the-china-shop approach to politics — thrashing around and disturbing the normal processes, and making it difficult to get things done. One reason that nothing significant has happened in the first 100 days is that the Rebpublicans are in just as much disarray as the Democrats when it comes to passing legeslation. There’s no ability of the White House to press its agenda, because the President doesn’t know how, and isn’t interested in learning.

So what happens if he gets impeached? Well, then we have President Pence, and do we really want one of those?

Pence is a born again Evangelical who dispises everyone who isn’t a white Christian, and dismisses those white Christians who aren’t male, and rich. He’s so doctrinaire that the first thing his (Republican) successors did was to start quite deliberately the process of unravelling his legacy.

Here’s a Rolling Stone article from earlier this year. I take issue with their poking fun at him for calling his wife “Mother”. That’s a Mid-West practice that merely identifies him as someone from a certain place and age group. My in-laws did the same thing. Having said that, the rest of the article is damning.

The other half of the problem is, unlike Trump, Pence is a politician who (sort of) knows how to get things done. Odious things. Things even Republicans want to walk back, but still. If Pence had been elected, we’d most likely have AHCA as the law of the land today, and Muslims and other foreigners would be blocked from entry.

There’s an old Aesop’s Fable about a pond that had a log for a king, and and the pond dwellers were upset the king never did anything. So they prayed for a new king, and the Gods sent them King Stork, who immediately started eating all the denizens of the pond. In our case, the choice isn’t between King Log and King Stork. It’s more between Mr. Toad and King Stork, and I’d rather see the Republicans thrashing around for the next four years.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

May 15, 2017

Garden Report for 170515

Cool, blustery, and showery. Highs in the upper 50’s, lows in the lower 30’s. Forecast is for, well, cool, blustery, and showery, with highs in the 60’s and lows in the 40’s.

Slowly getting things started. Planted some deck tomatoes: Sub-Arctic Plenty and Patio. Started on the house planters: one Burpee’s Big Boy and one Beefmaster. Also put one of each of those in Section one. The south end is essentially full now.

Our local hardware store has the same limited selection of tomatoes and other plants as always. I need to find another source of seedlings, but there’s nothing close by, and with all of I-90 through Spokane being dug up, it’s a pain. I didn’t get a chance to plant seeds this year, so it’s just what the locals have.

Comeygate isn’t going anywhere

May 14, 2017

Despite the current uproar over the timing and manner of the firing of the FBI director, I don’t think anything will come of it, directly or soon. It’s been compared to the Saturday Night Massacre of the Watergate Scandal, but I don’t think it will have the same impact. Here’s why:

First of all, there’s the popular reasons, the ones bandied about in recent days. Both houses of Congress are in GOP hands, unlike during Watergate. Both sides are strongly polarized and antagonistic, unlike the more bipartisan days of the Cold War. And in 1973 the GOP had leaders who were willing to put country before party. Our illusions about that possibility died the death during the AHCA voting.

Yet another reason, not yet mentioned (as far as I know), is that it’s too soon. The Watergate break-in happened in June of 1972, and the scandal had 16 months to fester before that infamous Saturday night earned Robert Bork the nickname “Cox-sacker”.  That was seen as the tipping point by all but the most rabid Nixon supporters. Today, we are still in the “oh, it’s just partisan infighting” stage. Trump’s base is still supportive, and there’s not yet a smoking gun to convince them there’s something there.

For that matter, I’m not yet convinced that this scandal has a truly treasonous core.  A lot of inappropriate things have been done, many of them likely illegal, in a real estate developer petty graft sort of way. Impeachable? Yes, if you use getting a blowjob in a White House coat closet as your baseline, but not yet “high crimes and misdemeanors”. Not yet.

Not yet.

L’Affaire de Comey

May 11, 2017

I’ve been following some discussions on why the Democrats are riled up now about Comey being fired, when they were all for him being fired back in November. There’s a number of intertwined issues here, and we need to be sure our conclusions on one don’t color our approach to a different one.

1. The Clinton emails investigation and the associated announcement. Comey mishandled the whole thing, whether or not you believe Clinton did something actionable. He violated FBI guidelines — the decision, and the announcement, should have been left up to the DoJ.

2. The second email announcement. What had Democrats in a twist was the second announcement, a week before the election, that the FBI was investigating a second set of emails. This was not only a violation of guidelines, it was in direct contravention to advice given by DoJ.

According to Nate Silver at 538.com, this influenced the outcome. As far as I can tell, Silver is pretty much a ‘by the numbers’ statistician, who analyzes polling statistics. He is a liberal, but doesn’t let that influence his analysis.

By the time Comey came out (48hrs before the election) with a third announcement, that said ‘my bad, nothing new’, the damage had been done.

From that standpoint, what Comey should have been fired for was having the FBI take a political action that influenced an American election.

3. The Russia connection. I’m not sure there’s anything there, other than normal graft, but I am not at all sure. To a certain extent, it’s a stick the Democrats can use to beat the GOP. Just like Whitewater and Benghazi and the emails. The biggest pointer to malfeasance in office is the attempt at a coverup via the Comey firing.

4. The firing. If Trump didn’t like Comey’s actions over the emails, he should have fired him in January. Instead, he waited until the Russia investigation was well advanced, and Comey was asking for more money for it. The story the White House is supporting won’t stand up to scrutiny.

So what Comey shouldn’t have been fired for is continuing an investigation on external influence on an American election. And the Democrats are right to be upset about it.

BTW, here’s one line of thought on Trump’s mindset. It’s extracts from a 40 section tweet-storm (and example of a misuse of Twitter. You don’t pump out a thousand word essay 140 characters at a time).

Universal Basic Income: Gilbreth and Socrates and the philosophy of work

May 9, 2017

I had forgotten about this, until it crossed my mind while I was thinking about the earlier article. Cheaper By the Dozen (1948), by Frank Gilbreth, Jr., and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey, was one of the books of my childhood. Gilbreth, Senior, was a time and motion specialist, always seeking a better way, one that would save time. Here’s how the book ends:

Someone once asked Dad: “But what do you want to save time for? What are you going to do with it?”
“For work, if you love that best,” said Dad. “For education, for beauty, for art, for pleasure.” He looked over the top of his pince-nez. “For mumblety-peg, if that’s where your heart lies.”

There are those who would look askance at such a life, but they are wrong. When Socrates said “The unexamined life is not worth living“, he should have gone on to say that this attitude was a social construct, designed to make the elite sons of the aristoi feel good about attending his classes, something unavailable to the bulk of the peasantry. Throughout history there have been untold millions of people who led happy, fulfilled lives despite the fact that none of their achievements ever had the word great attached to them.

In Life you set your own victory conditions, and a perfectly valid life can be had seeking to improve your skills at mumblety-peg, if that’s where your heart lies.

 

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

 

Green Thumb Up My Nose — The 2017 season really begins

May 8, 2017

To make sure we knew that winter was over, on Thursday we had a blast of moist 84F Hawaiian air. We were back to a more sane 60F on Saturday, and the soil temperature had climbed to 55F, with no indication of frost through mid-May. I made my first pass through the hardware store, and bought two each First Lady, Champion, and Arkansas Traveler — yes, only one ‘l’.  Plus a couple of basil seedlings. These all went into the South end of Section 1, digging up some of the greens (in two weeks they’d barely sprouted). Whitehouse o’ertop of them, soaker hose for half an hour, and we’ll see.

Still have greens and cabbage seeds in Section 2, without much action. Dug up Section 3 on the weekend. Plan to plant stuff there midweek.

Meanwhile, a couple of last year’s onions had stuck up stalks again, so I harvested them for use in my oatmeal. A nice Asia-poi touch.

Tanya the Evil: Sub Rosa

April 30, 2017

In Episode 9, Tanya meets an old classmate, Major Uger, on a train to Strategic Headquarters. He’s assigned to the Railway Division at HQ, working for General Zettour. In the dining car, he fills Tanya in on the Empire’s secret plans for the next offensive.

Sub Rosa

Their talk is secret, and the producers found the perfect way to depict this.

Aunt Ja plays the blues

April 29, 2017

News Report: Scientists find a modified raven bone in a Neanderthal shelter.

I was walking back to camp one day when I heard a sound. It was like somebody was dragging a stick along a very short picket….rock. After a few short time intervals, it became more rhythmic and picked up a beat, which then merged into a syncopated pattern.

I walked into camp, and there was Aunt Ja, sitting on a rock and rubbing a short stick along a scrap of what looked like a raven’s pelvis bone. The bone was notched along the edge, and it was these notches that were making the sound when she ran the stick across them. I asked her what it was, and she said it was a new musical instrument, called a ravenbone.

Aunt Ja said she won it playing rock-paper-scissors with a Neanderdude. Neanders are terrible at that game, because all they know is rock. Well, all we know is rock too, but we know subtle variations that the Neanders haven’t mastered yet. So, Aunt Ja’s rock beat his rock, and before he woke up, she’d taken the ravenbone and walked off.

It sounded cool, with that hypnotic rhythm so beloved of primitive cultures everywhere. I thought maybe we could form a band. Aunt Ja could play the ravenbone. Uncle Ba could play percussion using the slap-dancing rocks, and I could…I could. Well, you can get a pretty nice sound when you pluck on mastodon intestines. You can even alter the tone by getting up close and standing on one end before you twang them, but that can be dangerous.

Universal Basic Income and the philosophy of work

April 29, 2017

There’s an interesting article over on The Week. It’s by Damon Linker, and it’s about “The spiritual ruin of a universal basic income“.

Universal Basic Income (UBI), as you may know, is the proposal for the government to give everyone a basic living wage, whether they work or not. Combined with universal access to affordable medical care, it would remove the two main worries of modern life.

Part of the reasoning behind it is that artificial intelligence and robotic automation (AI&R), are killing all the jobs, and we need to either find something for people to do, or pay them for doing nothing. We find ourselves on the cusp of a revolution, even mightier than the Industrial Revolution itself. Pretty soon we will move from a society of scarcity to a society of plenty.

One of the problems is the lingering morality of that revolution, indeed, of all of history up to this point.  The old world was driven by scarcity. You worked for your living, or you were a freeloader. OK, if you were rich you were a special kind of freeloader, living in a Potemkin village called “job creator”, but mostly it was workers and layabouts. In modern times, conservatives want to limit the support you get, in an effort to force you to find work — the assumption being that if you don’t have to work, you won’t. The liberals want to give you more help finding that new job, with retraining programs and the like, but both sides want you to get back on your feet as soon as possible. So, what if it isn’t possible?

Those who forecast the impact of technology tend to overestimate the short term effects, and underestimate the long term. Bell thought that every town would soon have a telephone. Diesel thought the market for cars was limited, because there were only so many people who could be trained as chauffeurs. The long-term impact of AI&R can be roughed out already, but we don’t really have a handle on what long-term means in this situation.

One possible scenario is this: X number of years from now, we will have a small financial elite, who own most of the money. There will be a somewhat larger professional class, who have meaningful jobs running the AI&R economy, or providing high level services, like entertainment (or maybe not, consider the popularity of vocaloids). Their income will be 1% of what the elite are “earning”. And then there will be the vast, overwhelming majority of citizens who no longer have jobs and have no way of getting a job, and who earn nothing. These unfortunates will be given a minuscule stipend, or ‘dole’, and will live in the most wretched of conditions.

The theory is that UBI would fight this, first, by being large enough to remove the wretchedness, and second, by being a basic entitlement, given to all. Yes, all. The financial elite, the ones who hit 100 x UBI in stock income a few minutes after the new year starts, would still get it.  The working elite, who may bring in 2 X UBI per month, will get it. And the non-working poor will get it, not as a gift but as a right. No stigma. It’s one result of the society of plenty. The question that Linker asks is, will it work?

Most people simply aren’t equipped to lead lives of self-directed flourishing. In a world of widespread, permanent unemployment, we’d be far more likely to see throngs of people spending their days giving themselves over to obsessive video gaming, immersion in virtual-reality porn, and drug addiction, as they desperately grasp for a chemically induced substitution for the real-world fulfillment now placed permanently off limits to them. It would be a psychological and spiritual disaster.

I can see it being a problem. And if it’s a problem, it will be a bigger one than just layabout angst. Consider youth — easily bored, old enough to act without supervision, but with poor impulse control. That’s a recipe for crime, gang warfare, terrorism; not for poverty or ideology, but for something to do.

Linker recommends hanging on to the old jobs as much as possible

Maybe the left needs to … start proposing new ways to disincentivize businesses from embracing every form of automation that appears on the horizon. (Think of a steep tax on goods and services produced with certain forms of technology.)

In essence, we would pay companies to hire people to do jobs that robots could do better. In a way, this is on par with the old Great Depression “paying people to rake leaves in national forests.”

A different approach is changing how we do primary and secondary education. We stop training people to be good little cogs in the industrial machine, and educate them on how to live when independently wealthy in a constrained sort of way. The concept of fulfilment through work, as discussed in the article is yet another artefact of the society of scarcity. Persons who have gotten the equivalent of the UBI, through disability payments or the like, often become depressed. That’s because they are unemployed in an age that values employment above all else. Change what constitutes a life of value, and you change the reaction to the UBI.

We could go even further, and change our definition of what self-directed flourishing is. If people sit around in a library, reading complex tomes and thinking deep thoughts, that’s an active life of the mind. If people sit around in a VR headset, solving ever-more complex puzzles and improving their twitch muscle reaction time, that’s — what? A desperate grasp for a substitute for real world fulfilment? We all can’t be Einstein, and there’s not enough motel wall space in the world to hold the paintings of everyone striving for artistic fulfilment.

As I said a few months ago, in a different context, there was a mid-80’s spoof in the April edition of, I think, Analog magazine. It was an announcement for a new game, a game called Life (not Conway’s, but, as one slowly realized, real life). The article talked about possible adventures on a water-world with multiple continents and thousands of cultures, and an expansion pack to extend the game to the planet’s airless moon “as soon as we straighten out some issues with a subcontractor”.

The takeaway line, which has stuck with me to this day, is this:

In Life, you set your own victory conditions.

You get to set those conditions, and you get to decide if you have won. Maybe we need to re-think what victory means.

The Rehabilitation of Tanya the Evil Part 2: Tanya

April 28, 2017

As I said in the first of these essays, the English title of this anime pre-judges the character, and primes the viewer to interpret her actions as evil. The Japanese title is better: Yojo Senki (幼女戦記), Young Girl’s War Record.

In the first episode, we drop into the hell of a WWI-style Western Front battle, and meet Tanya Degurechaff,  a hard-charging, hard-ass 2d Lieutenant who was drafted as a flying mage two years earlier (at the age of nine). The opening incident has her disciplining two officer candidates who disobeyed her orders (because they wanted to be heroes), by reassigning them to bunker duty. In another incident, she leaves her platoon, and an exhausted Corporal Viktoriya Serebryakov, in a support position, and then attacks (and wipes out) an enemy mage company on her own. This establishes her basic personality: by-the-book disciplinarian, superb flyer, heroic officer. Serebryakov idolizes her as the fairy of the battlefield.

Fairy 01

Members of the high command who have met her say she’s an evil demon. That’s probably because a combat attitude that would be laudable in a middle-aged officer sounds creepy when it’s an 11-year old girl.

Three down, nine to go

At this point, I am going to change the gendered pronoun to “him”, because in the second episode, we see that she isn’t really an 11-year old girl at all. “She” is a middle-aged Japanese salaryman who was reincarnated as the orphaned infant Tanya. Why did this happen? Our un-named salaryman is an atheistic, cold-hearted, by-the-book bureaucrat, interested only in furthering his own career. At the start of the episode, a man he’s just fired (for cause) pushes him in front of a train. In the frozen final instant of his life, he gets into an argument with God (who he calls Being X) over whether he exists [1]. As punishment for his lack of faith he is reincarnated as Tanya, and must find faith in God in this new life, or go to Hell forever. Think of Tanya as a male midget doing loli cosplay.

Tanya decides to fight Being X, refusing to have faith, and seeking his own solutions to all the many predicaments that X inflicts on him. His approach is to apply his knowledge of modern business practice to allow him to live a life of ease in the rear echelons [2]. This doesn’t always work, either because of the way the military bureaucracy works, or because Being X keeps interfering. The rest of the series captures Tanya’s efforts to make it work, and how they keep running afoul of X and the world.

Tanya Fights Back

The question that keeps coming up through all this is, is Tanya really a cruel and evil person? Let’s look at a series of events, ones where his actions are usually interpreted as evil, to see if they really are.

To start with, the first episode.  Ultimately, the two insubordinate soldiers are killed when their bunker is blown up, the strong implication being that the assignment was a death sentence. The real point is, no combat commander will keep a soldier in their unit who wants to be a hero. That kind of person usually gets others killed, before being killed themselves, and to no good end. Tanya recognized this, and shuffled them off to a place where that kind of heroism won’t hurt people. Since we are talking about a WWI Western Front style of war, bunkers are as risky a place to be as any other, but somebody has to man them. And when he tells his platoon to provide backup, and then defeats the enemy company on his own, it’s not because he cares that they are exhausted, it’s because it would look bad on his record if he got a lot of his troops killed.

One reason Tanya is seen as evil is his seeming disregard for civilian casualties. The anime producer’s attitude toward this stems from the modern media attention to the topic, which disregards military reality. My guess is that more civilians than soldiers have been killed since the start of the modern era in WWI. The fact is that if civilians are in the way, then they are legitimate targets. A standard question on Rules of War exams in military school goes something like: “A civilian telephone exchange in the middle of a city is used for passing military commands. Is it OK to attack it?” The answer is, yes, of course.

In the raid on the Dakian capital munitions factory, Tanya indulges in an acceptable ruse du guerre — presenting a required warning of an attack in a form that sounds like a childish prank[3]. The result is the death of civilians who were working in the factory — persons who are legitimate targets anyway. Of course, his triumphant cry after the factory blows up indicates a certain lack of empathy[4].

Tamaya!

Later, Tanya exploits loopholes in the rules about shelling occupied cities to bombard Arene City, where enemy troops are using the civilians as shields and partisan groups are hiding in the vacant buildings, despite the presence of large numbers of civilians. In our world, the mere presence of enemy troops would be reason enough. What makes this attack seem doubly devilish is the fact that it’s based on a paper that he wrote while a student at the Military Academy.

Throughout the series, Tanya does laudable things more or less in passing, for personal motives. He nominates Viktoriya Serebryakov for officer’s school because he wants to be known as someone who takes care of his troops. He hangs around the Military Academy library in hopes of making an impression on senior officers. Also while at the Academy he kindly tells Captain Uger, a classmate (and possible competitor), that as an intelligent person with a conscience (and a new daughter), he should be at the rear, helping to end the war (and removing himself from the promotion track). One should always use persuasion when the other person is mentally defenseless.

On the other hand, Tanya expresses a dislike for war and killing, on several occasions. At the very beginning, he says he objects to war as inefficient. In the episode on the bombardment of Arene City, he becomes almost insubordinant. Towards the end, when he is contemplating victory, and just before Being X springs an expanded war on him, he looks forward to the joys of peacetime.

Our conclusion has to be that Tanya is not an evil monster, despite the fact that the last words of the anime call him that. He is cold, unfeeling, incapable of empathy, totally self-centered, and proud of his work ethic. But he plays strictly within the rules, even though he may play so close to the edge that he gets chalk dust on his socks. His goal is a quiet, comfortable life, un-bothered by Being X. If that means ending the war, then he will do everything within his power to make that happen. If Being X continues to oppose him, then Tanya will do everything he can to defeat Being X.

Tanya declares war on God


  1. Since Being X admits that administering to 7 billion people is beyond its capability, it presumably is god-like, but not a true, Western-style omnipotent God.
  2. That’s why this program has been called the Moshidora of reincarnation anime.
  3. Doubly effective, because, as some have said, the first part of her warning was taken directly from the Japanese school sports pledge.
  4. Tamaya is the name of a major Japanese fireworks family, and is a favorite crowd cry after a particularly good display.

See also Tanya the Evil: Sub Rosa

Minty Lamb Oatmeal

April 27, 2017

OK, I lied about the mintyness.

You see, we had lamb chops for Eostre and I boiled the bones to make my broth. Very good, but slightly greasy (but the lambfat solidifies in the fridge, for easier stripping off). I tried it for oatmeal with garlic and oregano (not bad) and fruit and curry (very good). This time I was casting about for some other flavor. One that was lamb-friendly and (more to the point) available. I hit on mint. One always has mint jelly with leg of lamb. Only, no mint jelly. Well maybe then dried mint. No dried mint. No mint extract. No fresh mint. It came down to a choice between toothpaste and Crème de menthe. The CdM was in the fridge, and closer.

Experiment 1:

Setup: 1/2 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one cup of lamb broth, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, one quarter teaspoon of Crème de menthe, salt. Bring broth and CdM to a boil, salt. When it boils, pour over the oats and let sit, covered, overnight. In the morning, warm in the microwave.

Results: Zero. Null. Nada. Could not detect even a hint of mint. At all. The dish was noticeably lamblike, but without much in the way of other flavor. I’ll either have to go to a teaspoon or greater, or use something else, like peppermint extract. Or schnapps.

Rating: *****

Experiment 2:

I confess that I violated a basic rule of science and engineering. I modified three variables at the same time. First, I switched to peppermint schnapps. Second, I didn’t let the oatmeal sit overnight, but instead used my standard 10 minute cook time. Third, used a tablespoon instead of a quarter teaspoon. It didn’t help.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one cup of lamb broth, three dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, one tablespoon of 100 proof peppermint schnapps, salt. Bring broth and schnapps to a boil, salt. When it boils, add the oats and simmer for ten minutes. Add the potato flakes at the end.

Results: Zero. Null. Nada. Could not detect even a hint of mint. At all. The dish was noticeably lamblike, but without much in the way of other flavor.

Rating: *****

My conclusion is that any degree of heating sufficient to drive off the alcohol will also destroy the mint. I’ll have to go out and buy a jar of mint jelly. Unfortunately, we’re out of lab broth, so I’ll also have to wait until next year.

Green Thumb Up My Nose — The 2017 season begins

April 24, 2017

Well, OK, it really began two weeks ago when I scattered some lettuce seeds in Section 1, but the NENW has had an unusually cold and wet winter/spring (current soil temperature is 50F), so our formal planting is starting off about a month later than I hoped.

The Plan

Despite that, the greens are starting to sprout.

However, it is now getting a little warmer, so on Saturday I cleaned all the spruce cones (thanks, spruce) and trimmings of spruce new growth (thanks, squirrels), weeds (thanks, weeds), and trash (thanks, me), laid down some anti-squirrel barriers, and planted a bunch of lettuce, and some cabbage and broccoli in Section 2. Now, I know I’ve said that brassicae don’t do well here (my last try bolted by mid-June), but it might just be cool enough…

The Rehabilitation of Tanya the Evil Part 1: the Empire

April 15, 2017

The English title of this anime: The Saga of Tanya the Evil is, to my way of thought, a misnomer and misleading. It pre-judges the character, and primes the viewer for one interpretation of her actions. The Japanese title Yojo Senki (幼女戦記), Young Girl’s War Record, is more neutral, but not as clickable. The anime is the story of the impact of this girl on a war, and vice-versa. Because of the title, most commentators assume that both Tanya and the Empire are evil. It’s not that simple. Let’s take the Empire first.

At a high level, the world of Tanya is an alternate universe to our own. It is 1925, and Europa is sliding into a war similar to WWI, with some elements of WWII.

Read the rest of this entry »

Memories of my youth: Lost November

April 12, 2017

On April 12th, 1970, one day after the launch of Apollo 13 and two days before Houston was notified of a problem, a Soviet November-class SSN sank in the Bay of Biscay. Four days earlier, there had been a series of fires on board the sub, and it had been taken in tow, in an effort to bring it back to a Northern Fleet port. Unfortunately for the K-8 and her crew, bad weather, and likely bad damage control design, caused it to sink in 15,000 feet of water, carrying her reactor and several of her nuclear-tipped torpedoes.

The crew thinks about returning to the sub

The crew doesn’t really want to climb into that hole

I was at the Military Airlift Command I&W Center at the time, and although it wasn’t our primary area of responsibility, we followed the misadventures of the K-8 with some interest. The sub went down about 175NM west of France’s Brittany Peninsula, and 260NM south of Ireland, and for years afterwards, the Soviets kept a ship loitering in the vicinity, to prevent anyone (read: U.S.) from attempting to salvage the wreck. This became a more or less permanent feature, to the point that it became an oceanic  landmark.  The Soviet cruiser transiting to the Mediterranean is currently located 200NM south of Lost November was a typical phrase in the Naval Intelligence reports of the day.

TL:DR — Anime I never finished, Spring 2017 Part 2

April 10, 2017

I tried some other shows, when Crunchyroll finally broadcast them. Some didn’t fare as well as others.

Hinako Note: Country girl comes to the big city to go to high school. Is better at talking to animals than people, and has a tendency to freeze with her arms out straight, like a scarecrow, when flustered. Sounds like a good way to get your pockets picked. Meets four other girls in her dorm and at some point they will decide to put on a show (it’s too far to use my father’s barn). Would have been a soothing slice of life, if it wasn’t for the eternally squeaky voices and the stupid scarecrow shtick.

Eromanga Sensei: Japan is full of middle- and high- school students making a living as light novel authors and mangaka, which is good for their futures because I’ve never seen one do a lick of homework. Even primary school girls can make it big, drawing erotic art for magazines and LNs. Presumably, they get their subjects from various online websites — although some 12 year olds take selfies of their butts and use that as the basis for drawings they post online, and tell me how that doesn’t violate half a dozen laws.

It should not be all that rare, then, for the 12 year old little sister to turn out to be the one who is drawing erotic art for the 15 year old big brother’s best selling novels. Think, Oreimo with a business relationship.

Tsugumomo: The story of a mama’s boy with an obi fetish — he carries his late mother’s obi everywhere, even to school. Thirty seconds into the main story, they’ve already hit two classic anime tropes, the accidental boob clutch followed by the accidental panty shot, with extra points for chaining the events. Two minutes after that, Our Protagonist is subject to attempted tentacle rape from a marauding wig, but is saved by the Goddess of the Obi, Tsugumomo (つぐもも) which, as far as I can tell means next generation peach. She subjugates him, moves in, shares the bath, shares the bed, hogs the Playstation. Meanwhile, his little sister, who wants to share the bath, share the bed, and to hell with the Playstation, is getting suspicious.

TLDR — Anime I never finished, Spring 2017

April 7, 2017

There are some anime that are so off-putting that there’s no reason to invoke the three episode rule. The four anime that follow might not be bad, but they are certainly not my cup of tea.

1. The Royal Tutor: There’s a new tutor in town. Looks like a kid but is a grown man (there’s lots of hormonal balance mutations in Japan). Tutor to four princes, of various degrees of snottery, apparently born 9 months and 15 minutes apart. Oldest one looks like a romance novel cover, and talks like he’s lost one too many mace battles. Shorty Tutorpants will outsmart them all — and of course, that’s the problem.

2. Akashic Records of Bastard Magical Instructor: There’s a certain kind of character, with too high an opinion of themselves and hair that won’t stay off of their forehead. A simple three-finger toss of the hair and the head will unerringly identify them. This one’s an incompetent cad. Unless they are planning on doing a body swap with Oda Nobunaga in Episode 2, I see no possibility of redeeming this train wreck. Did I mention the female student uniforms make KanColle look like nuns?

3. GranBlue Fantasy: Generic girl-with-powers escapes from secret lab. Lab is in a Pilot’s Love Song-style Airborne Battle Cruiser. Girl lands near generic village. Generic boy finds her. They, and her generic (female) knight companion, are surrounded by troops from the ABC, led by generic foppish captain with a falsetto voice. Generic ending with Boy merging life forces with Girl, beating the snot out of the Troops and heading off for a Secret Location known only to everyone in the village. Generic.

Paul Robeson sang “Joe Hill” next to this cottage

4. Silver Guardian: While the scantily-clad maidens of the Maidenly Academy for Young Maidens sleep quietly in their maidendorm, a boy is fighting for their survival, unbeknownst to all but the maidenly dorm mom. When the pyramidical tomb he is guarding is surrounded and attacked by thousands of undead, he does the logical thing by taking out his magical swords and attacking the throngs in front of the stonepile, evidently forgetting that there is a back entrance. In fact, there’s a front entrance that’s left unguarded while he’s half a mile away, whacking off zombie heads. Fortunately, the zombies are missing, you know, brains.

OK, I lied. They’re bad.

Anime Postview: Winter 2017

April 5, 2017

This is not a real review of the anime season just ending. Instead, it’s a look at how well I did in my Winter 2017 Preview, which you might want to look at first.

It was a fun season, but not because of any of the shows I picked back in December.

Ones I said I WILL WATCH:

Chaos;Child didn’t last even one episode. Confirmed my suspicion that anime with a semicolon in the title are not worth watching.

Fuuka lasted two and a half episodes. All the characters are self-centered snots, and I never did like “let’s form a band” anime anyway.

Little Witch wasn’t available. It’s streaming on Netflix and we don’t subscribe.

Ones I said I MIGHT WATCH:

Kuzu no Honkai wasn’t available. It’s behind the Amazon double paywall.

Seiren lasted four episodes. It’s a pale reflection of its predecessor.

Dragon Maid Finally, a show worth watching. Among the top two for the season.

Ones I said I WON’T WATCH:

ACCA. I tried it. It was actually pretty good but couldn’t hold my interest for some reason. Maybe later.

Minami K. Quick peek confirms — worse than I thought. Given their demonstrated levels of intelligence, I’m surprised they can balance on a tricycle.

Marginal. No idea. I didn’t even try it. Idols.

So, there we are. Of the six that I checked out, one was worth watching. Of course, there were four other shows that didn’t appear in the preview, for some reason, that turned out to be pretty good: Monster Girls, Tanya the Evil, Gabriel Dropout, and Konosuba 2. So the season wasn’t a complete loss.

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

 

Government Isn’t Business

March 27, 2017

Back in the day, Bill Clinton and Al Gore set out to redefine government in the mould of modern business. The idea was that government would be more efficient if it worked more like a business. There were some good ideas here, but the basic concept failed, and not just because the follow-on governments of the Party of Business rejected the ideas (because they were thought up by Democrats), but because the basic concept is wrong. The practice of government is not like business, any more than the practice of medicine is. Businesses have customers, and seek to extract maximum profits from those customers. Government has citizens, and seeks to promote the common welfare. In business, the bottom 20% of your customers are the ones you shed. In government, the bottom 20% of your citizens are the ones who need your help the most.

This difference in basic motivation results in widely differing approaches to, among other things, decision-making and negotiations. In his book, The Art of the Deal, Trump talks about showing his opponent the down-side of not accepting the deal. When working with the city planning people in New York city, he would ask for exceptions to existing regulations — because successful real estate development in the city is based on managing exceptions — and show the planners the ugly buildings he could build if he stuck to the code. BTW, the same year I read TAotD I read an autobiography of a different NYC real estate developer (don’t remember the author) who said that he had never had to ask for a exception. In the AHCA negotiations with the House Freedom Caucus, he essentially demanded agreement, with the threat that if they didn’t support him, ACA would remain the law of the land. We saw how that worked out.

Now, Trump wants to follow in the footsteps of Clinton and Gore, to make government more efficient, more like business. He has selected Jared, I am not a nepotist, Kushner to head up a SWAT team that will make government more efficient. In addition to not knowing what a SWAT team does, what he doesn’t understand is the fact that the Founding Fathers didn’t want efficient government. They wanted government that was difficult to suborn, that was structurally incapable of fostering a dictator.

Three Grain Oatmeal – 2

March 23, 2017

About three and a half years ago I tried mixing corn-off-the-cob with my oatmeal. It wasn’t very successful, mostly because the cornlets stuck to my teeth in an irritating manner. Scrape them off with the pointy end of a fork levels of irritation. Well, it’s been a while, and I’d forgotten all about that. We had some supermarket sweet yellow corn that MJ had scraped off the cob, and I decided to use that. Since much of the midwest is buried under three feet of hail, I suspect this came from Mexico, or maybe Nigeria.

We are still working our way through the quarts of corned beef and cabbage broth left over from St Patrick’s Day, so we had a nice salty broth as a base.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one cup of broth, three fat dinner tablespoons of corn kernels, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, salt. Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats. Since the corn is already cooked, you add it when there’s just enough time to warm it up, and you add the potatoes at the end.

Results: Very good. No tooth-sticking. Much sweetness. Worth buying corn for.

Rating: *****