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: *****

Anime Preview: Spring 2017

March 15, 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. Sequels to stuff I didn’t like before (Berserk 2), most kids stuff (Snack World), anything with idol in the description or Re: 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.

Saekano 2

Doing for gal-games what Shirobako did for anime

Uchouten Kazoku 2

Benten disturbs the peace of Kyoto’s shadow world of tanuki and tengu

Shuumatsu Nani

After 500 years, the fashion industry still hasn’t solved the problem of hats.

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

Nanatsu no Taizai

Lucifer tempts people with his bosom

Sekaisuru

Cosplayer attends college. Note: Sekai means world, and suru turns any word into a verb, so Worlding?

Tsuki ga Kirei

Boy stalks girl beneath the cherry blossoms

 

 

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

Dungeon ni Deai

Warrior babes invade dungeons wearing bikinis

 

Love Kome

Five bishies who really love their rice

Tsugumomo

Boy falls in love with his mother’s scarf

Sakura Quest

80 years after Sakura Taisen, the demons are reduced to rural mascots, and the Teikoku Kagekidan is now a locodol group

Warau Salesman New

Them teeth

…and 41 more that didn’t even make the “I won’t watch” cut.

The long slow blog

March 5, 2017

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

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

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

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

 

ApplesauceOats

March 2, 2017

I’ve been buying more applesauce snack packs recently. You know, six-4oz plastic tubs in a handy cardboard container. I take them to school for lunch, and the nice thing is, if I don’t take one for a couple of weeks, the applesauce is still good, unlike the more economical eco-friendly quart size jars.

If it’s that good for lunch, what about breakfast?

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one cup of broth, one 4oz packet of applesauce with cinnamon, salt. Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats. Add the applesauce at the end and heat through.

Results: Nothing to write the world about, but not bad. Nice apple-y background to the oats. The container makes it easy to replicate the recipe. This goes on the list.

Note: I used a celery-heavy chicken broth as the base, and I couldn’t tell. Plain water might work as well.

Rating: *****

Light Novels

February 26, 2017

I’ve been spoiled. Up until now, all the Japanese light novels I’ve read were ones that withstood a long and gruelling overseas licensing process. By the time a LN got licensed in the US, you could be pretty sure it met some (often low) minimum standards for story-telling and writing quality. I’m talking about things like Spice and Wolf, Kokoro Connect, and most of the Haruhi series. But beneath that surface layer you will find a lot of stuff that’s not much better than fan fiction.

It’s like UK television. All we see over here are the top end BBC works of art. When I lived in the UK, we got to see the really bad run of the mill ITN stuff. I can tell you that UK game shows are terrible, and that’s from someone whose wife watches an hour and a half of US game shows nightly. I am beginning to think it’s the same way with light novels.

You see, with the increasing popularity of LNs in the US, and an expansion of delivery modes, came a lowering of quality standards. Back when the publisher had to cough up the money to produce a physical product, they were more careful about what they would publish. Today, with digital delivery, the initial cost isn’t so high, and so publishers can take bigger chances. The best example of this is the new light novel distributor, J-Novel Club. For a monthly fee, JNC posts chapters of on-going LNs, roughly one per novel per week. When the novel is completed, it’s pulled from the website, except for an introductory first chapter and a purchase link. Currently, JNC is licensing twelve LNs, some of which are the second volume of a series. I am a member of  JNC, and I have read at least parts of all twelve. Not all of them are of equal quality.

Using these twelve as a convenience sample of what’s out there, we find that five of them are in the hero pulled into a fantasy world genre. This is not to be confused with hero trapped in a video game, because there is no indication that it really is a game world, as opposed to a world with some sort of game mechanics. Obviously, what the Japanese call isekai stories are hot this year.

grimgarln Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash: The most literary of the lot, and the only one of this genre to have an anime. A group of people wake up in a RPG style fantasy world, with no memories of their past, and find they have to fight for their lives. There’s a reason the first syllable is grim.

How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom: A Maoyū Maō Yūsha ripoff, where he’s both scholar and hero, called into a fantasy world, where his high school level skills in ecology and urban planning help defend the kingdom he was handed. “You look like a nice boy, I’ll abdicate in your favor. Here’s my daughter.”

In Another World With My Smartphone: Like it says. He’s in an RPG style fantasy world, but his smart phone works, including the maps and ‘search nearby’ functions. In addition, he finds he has other advantages. “Oh, look. I just found this new magical skill that will cure the Duke’s wife of her mysterious illness.”

Arifureta: From Commonplace to World’s Strongest: He’s the low man in his high school class, but the smartest girl in the class really likes him. Suddenly, the whole class is pulled into an RPG style fantasy world. “I’ve loved you ever since I saw you getting the snot beat out of you back in middle school.”

mixedbathinglnMixed Bathing in Another Dimension: Going downhill fast here, Our Hero gets called into a fantasy world, with the one skill of being able to create a Japanese style public bath-house wherever he likes. Finds some surprisingly useful applications. After all, it’s a limitless source of clean water. Also wet naked girls.

Two more LNs brush up against the edge of this genre.

The Faraway Paladin: HikkoNEET dies and is resurrected in a fantasy world. Doesn’t really count, because all he remembers is that he was a disappointment to his parents and he wants to do better this time around. His zombie priestess mother and ghostly sorcerer father agree. Reasonably well written.

I Saved Too Many Girls and Caused the Apocalypse: Our Hero starred in too many harem adventures in too many worlds without ever choosing a Best Girl. Now the multiverse will collapse unless he solves new problems in every world, which he does, by combining solutions across worlds and letting the problems cancel each other out. Neat concept, terrible writing.

The remaining five take place in fantasy/SF versions of our world.

occulticninelnOccultic;Nine: Is the best of this lot (and already has its own anime). Everybody in it is dead, and nobody knows it. Faceless MegaCorp is trying to control their souls.

My Big Sister Lives in a Fantasy World: High school high jinks. Our Hero can see labels over people’s heads, proclaiming what they are — Class President, Her Boyfriend, Mass Murderer, etc.

Brave Chronicle: The Ruinmaker: High school boy, something, something,  is supposed to save the world, something, but only wants to protect his little sister. There’s a childhood friend.

Paying to Win in a VRMMO: Not trapped in one. Paying, not Playing. Our Hero wins all the time by finding the right in-game purchase. About as exciting as it sounds.

My Little Sister Can Read Kanji: A couple hundred years from now, his little sister is one of the few people who can still read kanji characters. She is in great demand, because everyone wants to grope her. Our Hero is fine with this. I’m not.

So that’s a chunk of what’s current on the LN front. Twelve novels, of which three are good (for a somewhat relaxed definition of the term good), and the rest are fanfic quality. I keep reading them because I hope they will improve, but they never do.

TL:DR — Anime I never finished: Seiren

February 18, 2017

A lot of anime are adaptations of Visual Novel originals. The problem with adapting  a VN into a twelve-episode anime is that they almost all are multi-track — work you way through while romancing girl A, then go back and do the same with girl B. The question for an anime studio is, how do we handle this during an adaptation?

One way is to pick one girl and follow her to the end, with all the other girls having walk-on parts. Clannad is a good example. The upside is, the story can devote twelve whole episodes to the budding romance. The downside is is, everyone who likes girl B, or C, or …. will be disappointed.

A second approach, call it the Kanon model, is to keep one girl on the main track, even if it disappears into the background for a bit, and give the other girls their own arcs, without ever promising them romance. This requires a certain skill in balancing the screen time and keeping the main heroine as the obvious favorite.

Finally, we have the omnibus approach, famous in Amagami and Photo Kano, and (this season) Seiren. Each girl gets a turn at romance, and after three or four episodes rides off into the sunset with the protagonist. Then we reset, and go through the whole thing with some new girl. It’s like a collection of short stories instead of a novel. The problem with the omnibus approach is twofold, or maybe three.

photokanogirls

First, they are short stories. There’s no depth, no chance to develop characters. The four episodes tend to run to a pattern: boy meets girl; boy and girl hit it off; boy and girl encounter insurmountable relational problems; boy and girl decide to get married.

amagagamigirls

Second, they use the same cast in different roles across different arcs. It’s kind of an ensemble production — like some of the old Murder, She Wrote programs, where the bad guy one week is an old family friend the next. It’s not just that the main heroine changes, that’s to be expected, it’s that our protagonist’s male friend one arc is a complete stranger the next one. Or maybe they play video games one arc, and the next one he’s off on the soccer team. It makes for a certain mental whiplash.

seirengirls

After a while, they all look alike

Finally, and this is a particular problem with Seiren, the protagonist might or might not be the same personality from one arc to the next. In Amagami and Photo Kano, the protagonist was the same person, with the same goals and hangups: in Amagami, he was recovering from having been stood up for a Christmas Date; in Photo Kano he was a camera nut. In each arc we get to see alternative ways he can work through his life problems. In Seiren, he’s a different guy each time.

This season, Seiren is sandwiched in between Tanya the Evil and Demi-chan, and it doesn’t really fill an anime-watching need.

Just in time for Valentine’s Day

February 14, 2017

Over in Japan, they take Valentine’s Day seriously, with all the high school girls traditionally making chocolates for their boyfriends.

It...It's not that I like you, it's just that I had lots left over.

It…It’s not that I like you, it’s just that I had lots left over.

Over in Japan, they take their curry seriously, with the Japanese Navy / JMSDF traditionally serving curry every Friday, so the ship’s crews can keep track of where they are in the week.

They even have fleet-wide competitions

They even have fleet-wide competitions

Over in Japan, they see nothing wrong with melding multiple traditions to make something new and different and uniquely Japanese.

This is a thing, and you can order it.

This is a thing, and you can order it.

Back home in the NENW, I figure if the Japanese can do it with rice, there’s no reason I can’t do it with oatmeal.

Experiment 1: I started with a cup of clove-heavy chicken broth, added a slab of Golden Curry roux and cooked it down a little. It was still somewhat thin, so I thickened it with flour. Once I had the curry sauce to my liking, I stirred in a quarter cup of Swiss Miss powdered milk chocolate mix. Everything turned nice and dark. It looked a lot like the pictures, and it was very good over rice.

About half a cup of the sauce was left, so I did my overnight-oats thing, using a cup of boiling broth and two fat dinner teaspoons of the chocolate curry sauce.

Setup: 1/2 cup of stone ground rolled oats in a heat-proof container, one cup of broth, two dinner teaspoons of chocolate curry sauce, salt. Boil the broth and pour over the oatmeal, then add the sauce and stir. Let sit, covered, on the counter overnight. In the morning, pour into a bowl and reheat in the microwave (two, two-minute shots, stirring betweentimes).

Results: Not bad, but surprisingly bland. It was a little wet, probably because of the extra liquid in the sauce (enough so that it boiled over a bit on the second microwave shot). The curry flavour wasn’t noticeable, probably because far less of it ended up in two spoons of sauce than normally was in my curry broth. Same for the chocolate. It tasted a lot like vending machine chocolate and not like my usual stand-a-spoon-up-in-it chocolate. Next time, I’ll try making the curry broth the usual way, and putting the cocoa powder in directly. I’ll save today’s leftover sauce for the Valentine’s Day ice cream party.

Rating: *****

Experiment 2: I decided what it needed was a stronger chocolate, and more of it. Once again, I started with a cup of clove-heavy chicken broth, added a slab of Golden Curry roux. Rather than making a sauce and using only part of that, I stirred a quarter cup of Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Hot Cocoa mix directly into the breakfast broth.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one cup of broth with curry, quarter cup of cocoa mix, salt. Cook for ten minutes. Since the cocoa mix thickens the dish, I added it at the very end.

Results: Surprisingly good. Not as wet — more like a gravy, which is what I wanted. The curry flavour just right. Same for the chocolate. This one’s a keeper. Now, if I can only find a romantic partner who doesn’t gag at the thought of curry for breakfast…

Rating: *****

Pick your battles

February 13, 2017

A few seasons ago, there was a short format (7min) anime titled Tonari No Seki-kun (My Neighbor Seki-kun). It was about a girl (Yokoi) who sits next to Seki-kun in class and watches all the madcap antics he gets up to in the back row. In the first episode, he builds a complex falling-dominoes layout on his desk, complete with stairs and crossovers. In the second episode, he draws a chessboard on his desk and plays shogi — Japanese chess — Game of Thrones style, complete with beheadings and regicides. The pattern of each episode is the same: Yokoi tries to pay attention to the teacher, but gets drawn in by the outrageous things Seki-kun is doing, ending up as a participant, or even an accomplice. When she tries to stop him, it’s her frantic actions that get disciplined by the teacher. There’s a political lesson to be learned from all this, given that the US has just elected a Seki-kun as our President.

tonari-no-seki-kun

I have to state at the start, for those who may be unclear on the concept, that our President is not an anime character. For one thing, Seki-kun carries out his little projects without disrupting the classroom, whereas Trump-kun is trying to disrupt things, to stir the pot, to keep his opponents — everyone who isn’t him — off balance. What is the best response to this? Spoiler: don’t be Yokoi.

Here’s a selection of some of the outrages Trump has committed in his first weeks in office. Threatening to destroy the career of a Texas state representative who opposes asset forfeiture. Attacking the “so-called judge” who opposed his immigration ban. Nominating as Ambassador to Austria some businessman whose prime qualification seems to be that he’s a “Sound of Music” fan. And in general, acting in such a way that even members of his staff are alarmed.

Any of these things would be fatal to the administration of a real politician, and I’m sure you can think of another half-dozen or so. But Trump don’t care. As someone said about one of my former bosses, “he does for fun the kinds of things other people get ulcers from doing.” The key to dealing with Trump is to not sweat the small stuff.

Yes, he needs to be called out for unacceptable behavior, but then leave the shouting and the tweet-storming and the pearls-clutching to the talk show hosts and other trained professionals. Don’t end up in an adrenalin coma. For one thing, it won’t accomplish anything. For another, it will only be more red meat for his base “lookit them liberals running around like headless chickens!

Instead, put your effort in those things that will return the most gain. Opposing the immigration ban. Opposing Repeal and Replace for the ACA. Opposing Sessions as Attorney General.

That last is a good example. The Attorney General is in a position to destroy respect for law and order in this country. Who holds that office is arguably much more important than who the Secretary of Education is. Forcing a tie on Sessions, and forcing Pence to own the tie-breaking vote, is much more important down the road than a similar vote on DeVos.

 

 

 

TL:DR — Anime I never finished: Yozakura Quartet

February 6, 2017

Yozakura Quartet
A one cours anime from 2010. Not so much bad as very much not my demographic. Two-thirds of a century ago, maybe, but now, if I had the ability to try-before-buy (say, via Crunchyroll or Funimation), I would not have bought it.

On second thought, no — it’s bad. It’s about a group of humans and half-demons who bond socially to fight other half-demons (the anti-social ones) to drive them to the other side and to protect the six sacred sakura stumps that (sortof) guard the town from demons.

I guess you’d call this a shonen fighter, appealing mostly to middle-school boys, because every episode features a battle of some sort. The trouble is, all the fights are the same: each protagonist takes turns fighting the demon, instead of ganging up on them; everyone spends most of the time talking, and the demons spend their talk time gloating; and about a third of the combat dialogue by the protagonists involves shouting the name of one of the others (the one who is currently getting the individual snot beat out of them).

The spikey hair is a dead giveaway

The spikey hair is a dead giveaway

The art is crude, and the animation is minimalist. The funniest scene was when the womanising land god who looks after the town (but doesn’t actually do anything to protect it) visits the festival to see if there are any pretty girls to romance, and runs into a couple of 70 year olds who fondly remember dallying with him some decades earlier. Always embarrassing.

It was not available for preview on Crunchyroll or Funimation, but there had been some good reviews on-line, back in the day (and one of the characters was voiced by Sawashiro Miyuki), so when it came on sale on Amazon a couple of weeks ago, I bought it. I made it halfway through Episode 7 and gave up. Life is too short, and Amazon Prime is streaming Highschool Of The Dead.

Green Thumb Up My Nose: Lessons Learned and Plans for 2017

January 31, 2017

Lessons learned:
Not much new here. Don’t plant in the shade (yard shade and Section 4), and don’t plant short plants north of tall plants. The only brassicae worth trying are cabbages, and even then it’s a crapshoot. Beans are more trouble thant they are worth. Peas are OK. Burdock needs a lot of time to develop roots worth taking. Don’t expect your tomatoes to be more than tennis ball size.

Plans for 2017:
It’s a mild La Nina year, so we’re cooler and wetter. At the end of January there’s still eight inches of snow on the ground, including some from late November. I’m still going to plant early, but with less hope of useful results.

gardengantt2017

Continuing our medieval field rotation we have

Section 1
Tomatoes.

Section 2
Greens, lettuce, maybe cabbage. Yes, this violates the no shorts north of talls rule, but if I start the short stuff off early, it will be well developed before the tomatoes start to shade them

Section 3
Peas, cucumbers, carrots.

Section 4
Squash, melons, asparagus, maybe amaranth. Still looking for a purpose for Section 4.

Deck Containers
The usual tomatoes

House Containers
Tomatoes, cucumbers

Southside
Dig up the hops. Never gave that much shade, and I’m no longer interested in climbing around on the roof to mount/dismount the netting. Remove all the dirt (pesticides), and use it on the front lawn. Add new dirt, with lots of coffee grounds, and some blueberries.

Happy Chinese New Year

January 28, 2017
We celebrated last night

We celebrated last night

Winter Garden

January 20, 2017

Our local hardware store just got their Spring seeds in.

Time to get to work

Time to get to work

Shirobako and “cuts” in anime

January 20, 2017

This is mostly based on information found on Sakuga Blog, and is presented separately here, primarily as a way of organizing my own thoughts on the subject.

If you have watched the meta-anime Shirobako, you know that cuts are the International Standard unit of measure in anime production. In Shirobako, almost every animator assignment is based on cuts, and the difficulty of an assignment is rated in how heavy (complex) the cuts are. So, like Noah and cubits, my first questions what’s a cut?

I have been looking for a definition of the word ever since Shiro came out. Finally, Sakuga Blog has one, with a couple of really good examples:

Cuts in anime are basically the same as shots in movies – continuous looks at the events. Multiple of them are used to comprise a sequence, and they can be short or long depending on the type of scene (though the latter are rare, since anime’s production model would require a single animator to handle way too many consecutive keyframes). The easiest way to explain them is through examples, so let’s take a look at two recent uploads on the booru: this upload is composed of three cuts (0:00 – 0:09, 0:09 – 0:12, and 0:12 – 0:23), while this upload is one single cut. Another way to think about it is simply the “camera” switching to another position; a cut can move the POV, but it ends the moment it cuts to a different one.

So, if I understand the process correctly, the director sketches out the start of each cut as part of a storyboard:

We'll need 100 horses

We’ll need 100 horses

Then the key animators draw major changes in the positions of characters within a cut

shirobakokeyframe

And finally, the in-between-ers draw each frame of the 24fps animation to move from one position to another, and color and backgrounds are added.

shirobakofinal02

So this (non-Shirobako) sequence, from the Sakugabooru blog, looks like it shows development of a single cut. The original storyboard and key animation are at the top, at the bottom, you have the in-betweens drawn in and the background, with the final coloring.

Anime I’m watching — Winter 2017

January 17, 2017

Not counting OVAs or shorts, AniChart shows 50 anime airing this season. I started out watching 15, which rapidly dropped to eleven worth mentioning, and has now levelled off at six. Three are slice-of-life “monster” comedies, two are isekai, and one is a straight high school harem romance.

Demi-Chan wa Kataritai — Monster girls go to high school. Unlike Monster Musume, the previous entry in this genre, the girls are not part of a harem, and they are not oversexualized. The male human POV character is an adult teacher, who pretty much acts like one. The number of monster girls is limited: student vampire, snow maiden, and dullahan; math teacher succubus. So far, we’ve only gotten a look at the vampire and dullahan. They are typical high school girls, sometimes mischievous, sometimes prone to getting a crush on their teacher.

The Japanese seem to be fascinated with the dullahan concept, the headless horseman of Irish folklore. Last year’s Konosuba had one who was an evil lord*, while dullahan Celty was one of the stars of Durarara. Demi-chan treats it more like a disability, addressing questions like, what happens when your body is at home but not close to the toilet, while your head is on a date, drinking soda?

If you spend too much time saying goodbye, some of you can miss your train

If you spend too much time saying goodbye,
some of you can miss your train

Things may heat up next week, when we learn about sex and the single succubus.

Kobayashi-san’s Dragon Maid — All about, well, Kobayashi, and her live-in maid, who is also a dragon. As with few other shows, this is about adults, who work, and drink, and have a life, and don’t go to high school. The lead human, Kobayashi, reminded me a little bit of Kaoru, from I Can’t Understand What My Husband Is Saying, even though the character designs were quite different. It turns out that both of these anime were based on manga by the same author, Cool-kyō Shinja. So far, it’s slice-of-life, with dragon jokes. Also maid jokes.

dragonmaid01 dragonmaid03 dragonmaid02

Gabriel Dropout — Not exactly a monster, Gabriel is an angel, tops in her class at angel middle school, who is sent down to Earth to go to high school and live with humans and learn about them. Unfortunately, she gets enamoured of computer RPG’s, and by the end of the first episode is well on her way to dropping out and becoming not only a NEET, but evil**.

In some ways, she’s a typical high school girl who, for example, doesn’t want to leave any witnesses to an unfortunate teleportation event with her pantsus.

Collateral damage

Collateral damage

Konosuba, Season 2 — A second season for the high school boy who died and was reincarnated in a fantasy world with the mission of defeating the Demon King. He’s still teamed up with a set of companions who are powerful but useless — water goddess who can do a fan dance with water, explosion wizard who can produce only one blast a day, masochistic knight who can take loads of punishment but can’t hit anything with her sword.

The default facial expressions

The default facial expressions

Seiren — High school harem romance, in the Amagami SS tradition. It’s based on a visual novel, so there’s multiple girls to pursue. It’s in omnibus format, which means that instead of picking one girl, the way Kanon and Clannad do, the 12 episodes are really three short stories of 4 episodes each, so the protagonist can win three different girls. Think of it as parallel universes.

Three of these girls will be the lucky winner. More, if there's a second season

Three of these girls will be the lucky winner.
More, if there’s a second season

The Saga of Tanya the Evil — A first season for the salaryman who died and was reincarnated in a fantasy world after getting into an argument with God over whether he exists or not. Since he’s applying his former-life cuthroat-management techniques to his new situation, this has been called the Moshidora of reincarnation anime.

Izetta, she ain't

Izetta, she ain’t

He ends up as an evil***, magic-using warloli soldier who is trying to establish a place for herself in the rear echelon of a war very like WWI. Of course, all her efforts only make her a hero, likely to be pushed into the front lines.


* How evil? He used to bowl his head down the hall so that it came to a stop looking up a maid’s skirts. You don’t get much more evil than that.

** How evil? More evil than the demon student who threw a plastic bottle in the recycling without removing the cap.

*** How evil? Evil enough to get it into his nickname.

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

January 15, 2017

It’s a long weekend, so here’s the second increment of stuff I’m no longer watching.

ACCA — Late 1930’s European feel to this one, or maybe immediately post-war, despite the computers. Official in the auditing branch of the nationwide public services organization gets involved in complex intragovernment plot. Uniforms scream “Nazi SS”, but the reality (at least, below the scheming leadership) feels more like a normal government bureaucracy/police procedural. Looks to be targeted at a very adult demographic. For some reason it just couldn’t hold my interest, and the fact that a map of the continent they are on looks exactly like a chicken has nothing to do with it.

We'll arrest the ... usual suspects

We’ll arrest the … usual suspects

Masamune-kun’s Revenge — Spoiled boy decides to get back at spoiled girl who rejected him in grade school by romancing her in high school and rejecting her once she falls for him. Spoilers say his clever plan collapses when they end up falling for each other. Neither one of them is the kind of person you’d want on your friends list.

Chaos;Child — OK, I admit it. Every semicolon anime since Stein’s;Gate has been confused, poorly organized, and overly gory, with totally unrelatable characters, and C;C maintains their record, unblemished.

SpiritPact — Insufferably dense idiot dies and is offered a perpetual job working for an insufferably smug exorcist fighting evil demons who are the suffering souls of the newly dead. Suffering.

Minami Kamakura … Bu — High school girls cycling club, best described as a 12-episode ad for the Kamakura Chamber of Commerce. Characters are squeaky-voiced idiots and the plot is non-existent, but the artwork is pretty.

Looks like parts of Germany

Looks like parts of Germany

REGRETTABLY ABSENT

I’m not watching these, not because they are not good, but because they are not available to me. Now that anime has grown enough to be of interest to the big boys, instead of being a niche for otaku, the majors are shouldering their way in, looking for a slice of that $60 a disk anime pie. The business model seems to be to pay lots of money for the cream of the anime crop, leaving sites like Crunchyroll with Hand-Shakers, and other dregs.

Netflix, of which I am probably the only person in Christendom who doesn’t have a subscription, has licensed Little Witch Academia.

Amazon has come up with a double, maybe triple, whammy. 1. They have an exclusive license to a big chunk of Noitamina’s catalog, 2. It’s behind the Amazon Prime $100/year paywall, 3. and the Anime Strike $5/month paywall. Depending on their marketing plan, some properties (Great Passage) may be available in other countries (UK) before they are available in the US. In addition to GP, this season’s batch includes Scum’s Wish and Onihei, as well as the ever-popular Vivid Strike (OK, so maybe not totally cream).

TLDR — Anime I never finished, Winter 2017 Part 1

January 13, 2017

So far, the Winter season of 2017 has given us a disappointment in almost every genre.

Hand Shakers — Clueless HS student forced to fight unknown enemies for unknown reasons in intersecting parallel dimension. Male combatants evoke their combat prowess by fighting hand-in-hand with a female counterpart. Or sometimes foot-in-crotch. Characters are animated in 3DCG by a team that never looked at what either the backgrounders or the special effects parts of the team were doing. Plus, they know nothing about the physics of fluid-filled spheres.

Remember, it's not assault if she sounds like she's enjoying it.

Remember, it’s not assault if she sounds like she is enjoying it.

Akiba Strip — Poor man’s Ikki Tousen. Protagonists beat the outerwear off demons from an intersecting parallel dimension disguised as beautiful girls, who then get all burned up over it. In most cases, the outerwear barely covers the underwear, so the exact destruction mechanism is as obscure as the reasoning behind the existence of this show.

Remember, it's not assault if they're demons in disguise

Remember, it’s not assault if you claim they’re demons in disguise

Chain Chronicles — Multiple multi-racial armies assault insanely-evil-mage-king’s castle in a bid to get a small group of heroes inside to kill the IEMK and recover a magical tome. Heroes choose the heroic option and attack IEMK one at a time. Heroes get their collective ass handed to them. Final tug of war between IEMK and his insanely-evil-mage-king’s-daughter over magical tome ends with the book being torn in half. After which, all the MMRAs, along with the IEMKD and the halfbook ride slowly away. To be followed by ten episodes of recriminations.

Good thing none of you is smart enough to sneak up on me through the smoke

Good thing none of you is smart enough to sneak up on me through the smoke

Schoolgirl Strikers — Not-exactly-magical girls (see Luck and Logic) travel to an intersecting parallel dimension to fight monsters that look like they were the result of a failed genetics programming algorithm for generating monster art.

We're not magical girls. Don't call us magical girls.

We’re not magical girls. Don’t call us magical girls.

Fuuka —  Group of students decide to start a band, unfortunately in this dimension. Others have done it better.

I know! Let's put on a show! We can use my father's barn!!

I know! Let’s put on a show!
We can use my father’s barn!!

Oatmeal Chili 2

January 12, 2017

Maybe this is becoming a tradition. A year ago, MJ made a big pot of post-holiday chili. This year, she did the same thing, only using beef strips instead of ground beef, and adding assorted cans of beans and spices and things. Very good, as her chili’s are wont to be. Just wet enough that I could scoop up maybe a quarter cup of the sauce without getting too many beans and things. So this is chili for flavor, not an oatmeal extender.

Setup: 1/2 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one cup of beef broth, a quarter cup of sauce from a pot of chili (probably shouldn’t call it chili sauce), 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. Top with a grab handful of shred cheese.

Results: Notice that I bumped up the amount of oatmeal. Ended up with a pot of dryish oatmeal flakes, so I added another splash of broth. Not using potatoes would probably do as well. Very good. Spicy, but not too. Tomato-y, but not too (’cause tomatoes and oatmeal don’t always work well together). Cheese helped.

I’m willing to try it again next year.

Rating: *****

The financial side of anime

January 3, 2017

Over on Sakuga Blog there’s an interesting article on the financials of the anime industry. It appears to be based primarily on sales and so forth in Japan, with one chart on international revenues. The recent trends seem to be up, which is encouraging. The trends in home video, however, are down, and likely to continue that way. Which is sad.

Home video refers to physical purchase of DVDs and BDs, as opposed to streaming. The big differences are, of course, instant customer gratification and zero inventory requirements for streaming, with production delays and inventory risks for disk production.

I prefer physical disks for my favorite shows. Streaming is a problematical solution, because of licensing restrictions and changes in business models and marketing strategies. If I have a disk, I own it forever. If I have a streaming subscription, I ‘own’ the anime until it ages out.

In terms of packaging and delivery, the Japanese model has been to release disks with only a few episodes on them, at what Americans used to consider exorbitant prices. For example, right now on amazon.co.jp, volume 1 of Shirobako (three episodes, roughly 72minutes of programming) costs ¥5400 (a reduction from the original ¥8400), or about $0.64/minute. The article talks about how this is slowly changing, to a business model with more episodes per disk. What the article doesn’t address is the transfer of Japanese program packaging and pricing into the North American market.

For example, in the U.S., as recently as 2008, highly rated shows like Neon Genesis Evangelion or Mushishi would sell as full series boxed sets for about $50 for 650 minutes, or $0.08 per minute. Now, Nekomonogatari White is selling what equates to less than half a season (5 episodes, 125min) for $80 for the BD version. That’s also $0.64 per minute. And the much less highly rated Saekano (How to raise a boring girlfriend) is selling in single episode sets at about a dollar a minute in Japan, with the first six episodes on BD in the U.S. going for $0.64/minute.

My forecast is that sales of physical disks in the U.S. market are likely to drop much more than in Japan, given both the increased availability of streaming and the higher price per minute of the disks. I guess the anime sales departments right now are testing the price elasticity of demand, and will have to learn through experience if the increased revenue per disk will offset the decline in unit sales.

Three week hiatus

January 2, 2017

Sortof. For the next three weeks I’m not going to read or write about anything political. Why? Because it will pretty much be a waste of time and electrons.

Look, we know the Trump regime will be bad, but we have no way of knowing how bad. To the extent that he has plans, or maybe primal urges and proclivities, those plans will, as they say, not survive contact with the enemy. We all have a pretty good idea of what Democrat and Republican politicians want, and we have a fuzzier idea of what Liberal and Conservative Americans want. Trump is going to have to operate within that framework. We should all work to strengthen that framework, but that is something we should have been doing all along.

As for the details, until he actually assumes the toga and begins doing, or trying to do, things, we can only guess. The newsies don’t know, his Cabinet (whoever they turn out to be) doesn’t know; hell, Trump doesn’t know, and can’t know. Not at this point.

But there is a 24/7 news hole that has to be filled, and despite their lack of knowledge, the newsies and the bloggers and the tweets will have to fill it — with something. Anything you read between now and the Inauguration (maybe between now and the State of the Union) will be pure speculation and click-bait. Save your adrenalin for when you’ll really need it.

Go eat some oatmeal. Go watch some anime.

Happy New Year

December 31, 2016

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

Hint: Not a Golden Retriever

Hint: Not a Golden Retriever

For those who can’t find her (spoiler): Read the rest of this entry »

Anime Postview: Fall 2016

December 29, 2016

This is not a real review of the Fall anime season. Instead, it’s a look at how well I did in my Fall 2016 Preview, which you might want to look at first.

Overall, it was a pretty thin season, with only about six out of sixty shows falling into the watchable category. No particular standouts, except that everybody but me thought that Yuri On Ice was wonderful. I thought what I watched of it was pretty good, but it just didn’t engage my interest. Maybe not enough yuris.

So, how did I do on my Will Watch group? Looks like I’m two out of three for this one, if you count meh as an acceptable rating. Touken Ranbou turned out to be SwordColle — a bunch of bishies who used to be swords.

Fast talking high school student with his own anti-occult website turns out to be a ghost who doesn’t know he’s a ghost in a crowd of other ghosts, solves a mystery about ghosts and thwarts the plots of an evil emperor to control the afterlife using ghosts. Surprisingly subdued climax.

From a straight mechanics standpoint, things went too fast for a subtitle-reader to follow. I had a choice of reading the bottom of the screen, or seeing what was happening on the rest of it. Too many expository dumps. Monogatari could pull it off. Not so the ; gang.

Otherwise, imaginative use of ghosts.

Occultic;Nine

Cast of Lost Village ends up in a library. Adds semicolons to their list of personal phobias

———————————————

Shuumatsu no Izetta

Don't worry. Love will break our fall. ———————————————

Yep, Witches und Panzers. Great premise — witch fighting WWII — squandered on poorly structured plot and non-useful fanservice, with hokey post-ending  ending. Potentially one of the best of the Season, it turned out to be merely entertaining.

After all, how often do you get to see a cute, red-headed witch flying around on an anti-tank rifle?

 

For the  Might Watch group I pulled another two out of three as well. Keijo was just too too silly, with too many butts and too many boobs, and too much sports. Probably was a favorite in the frat houses.

A random crawl through psycho-space. Think, FLCL meets Magical Girls.  Friend of a girl’s mother from her past rescues the girl from her mother in an alternate dimension that somehow interacts with this one. Probably my favorite new show of the Season, which shows you how thin the season was.

The graphics make you feel like you’re lost in Mandelbrot’s sink trap.

Flip Flappers

Girls who are too poor to own stockings, and have to dress in tea towels find happiness in floral displays———————————————

Brave Witches

Girls who are too poor to own underwear bravely fly combat missions at 25,000ft. Huddle together to keep warm———————————————

Can’t go wrong with a Strike Witches spinoff. This one is set in the NorthEast Theater and features lots of flying over snow-covered terrain in their pantsus. The character development side concerns itself with the efforts of Karibuchi Hikari to prove herself a worthy replacement for her sister.

If you liked Strike Witches, you’ll like this one. Not great, but entertaining.

As for the Won’t Watch group, I think I can say I’m three out of three. Well, Long Riders was on a different channel, and I never looked at Tiger in the Hole!. On the other hand, everybody in the world liked Yuri, but I like my yuri with more girls in it. So, maybe two out of three.

That gives me four out of six, or maybe six out of nine. The Federal Reserve should hope they get that many forecasts correct.

Not included in the Preview, because it was a sequel, was the second season of Sound! Euphonium. Excellent, but not as good as the first season. Did have a marvellous episode that was almost all straight music. Way, way too late I found this site, with commentary by a professional musician.

Picture Stories from Earth: It’s nice, but is it Basingstoke?

December 26, 2016

Over on Vintage Everyday, there’s a very nice shot of a couple driving along a rural road in England, circa 1910. The make of motor car is not specified (it should be easy to identify: short, curved bonnet with no logo, headlamps and side lamps, horizontal grille). The location is identified as Tunworth Road, Basingstoke, but there’s a problem. That overpass.

Is it really Tunworth Road?

Is it really Tunworth Road?

Tunworth Road is even now a narrow, sometimes twisty, but always picturesque lane-and-a-half that runs from just north of Mapledurwell, past Tunworth, to the vicinity of Upton Grey, in the semi-developed countryside southeast of Basingstoke.

Some parts aren't this wide

Some parts aren’t this wide

The homes are old and expensive, or new — and expensive. One chart says “manor homes” are running at about three times the UK average, almost £900,000.

To the manor born

To the manor born

The problem is, I have “driven” along it, via Google Maps, and there’s no sign of that overpass in the background. Given the date and the construction material, it’s probably a railroad overpass.

Google Maps today shows no major roads or railroads crossing Tunworth

Google Maps today shows no major roads or railroads crossing Tunworth

But what about the past, you ask? The photo was taken in the past, so maybe there’s some pastness going on here. Sorry,

Ordnance Survey map of 1893 shows no railroad

Ordnance Survey map of 1895 shows no railroad

Even 120 years ago, there was nothing like a railroad in the region southeast of Basingstoke. And the railroads that do show on the map, north of the northern end of Tunworth Road, are all dual track, with thick overpasses. The one in the picture is a narrow structure. There is, at the north end of the road, just beyond Maplederwell and just before it dead-ends into the modern M3 motorway, a trace of a waterway, but all the roads shown cross over the waterway, not under.

Finally, examination of the latest imagery shows no ground trace of a railroad in the vicinity.

No sign of it in overhead, either.

No sign of it in overhead, either.

Conclusion? Maybe the maps don’t show all of Tunworth Road. Maybe it makes a break at the north or south end, and picks up again later on. But the north end of the road dead-ended against the London road long before the M3 arrived, and the south end of the road would more likely be called the Upton Grey Road at that point, or maybe Lee Hill Road. On the other hand, maybe the location of the photo is wrong (except there’s an old postcard that shows what might be the same overpass and is hand annotated Tunworth Road).

I guess I’ll have to schedule a trip to England next summer, and investigate the situation on the ground.

Trump and Intelligence

December 18, 2016

As a career Intelligence professional (somewhat dated, I’ve been out of the business longer than I was in the business), I’m finding Trump’s relationship with the Intelligence Community very interesting right now. He has deprecated their contributions and rejected the usefulness of their efforts. Many people have said that this is just one more example of his stupidity. I don’t think so. At least, not totally. I think what we are seeing is a good example of what might be called operator bias.

Operators are the people who get things done. It’s the operators in an organization who bring life to its reason for being. In the military, they are the war fighters, the ship drivers, and blue four. In business, they are the CEOs and COOs. Their job is to accomplish the mission, fly the frag, keep the doors open. They chafe at anything that might limit their ability to do this, no matter the firmness and reality of those limits. They are the ones who say never tell me the odds. The ones who say think like a manager rather than an engineer.

Trump is 100% a businessman, an operator. He’s always looking to apply his art to another deal. Anything that gets in the way of that deal is an obstacle, not an ally. And if it persists, it’s an enemy. Trump is hot on the deal of a lifetime, and he’s due to close on it on January 20th. So, how is he going to act when the Intelligence Community tries to queer the deal, as he sees it? He’ll do what any businessman does when faced with an inconvenient fact. He’ll belittle it, downplay it, distract you from thinking about it. He’ll ridicule the source. If forced, he might offer some sort of cosmetic band-aid.

“That high voltage line runs right through the back yard of that house we’re looking at.”
I haven’t seen any two-headed cats wandering around.

“That used car you’re selling seems to be leaking oil.”
They do that when they’re brought in from a cold lot. It will seal right up once you run it.”

“I like this used car you’re selling, but it’s got 150,000 miles on it.”
You shouldn’t be obsessed with mileage.”

Afterwards, a thinking-ahead businessman might take action to — well, not to fix the problem, but to keep it from being a problem for him by suppressing further news of it. To the extent he can, he might retaliate against those who might keep raising the issue.

But it’s not the job of Intelligence to suppress an issue. It’s not part of our ethos, it’s not in our DNA. An Intelligence analyst lives and breaths the concept of Timely Truth, Well Told. In Intelligence, the cardinal sin is to know something and not tell the operators who need to know it. Like logisticians, analysts deal only in facts, but must work for men who merchant in theories. Intelligence, as they say, is our last defense against wishful thinking.

The Intelligence Community is actually pretty good about giving the President what he wants in the format he wants it in, from Reagan’s briefing book to Obama’s briefing Blackberry. If Trump wants his intel in 140-character bites, that’s what he’ll get.

The problem, as I see it, is that it doesn’t matter what the package looks like, Trump isn’t buying the product. He talks to his advisors, and he talks to foreign leaders and maybe he reads the New York Times (because that’s what New Yorkers do, even if they disagree with it) and then he heads off to make deals, and woe betide any Intelligence agency that gets in the way of the deal. And when something goes horribly wrong, as it well might, he’ll deny that it happened, deny that it happened that way, deny that it’s wrong, deny that it’s horribly wrong, and then — he’ll blame Intelligence.

Almond Coconut Oats

December 15, 2016

MJ has been making goodies for the holidays. Goodies that involve almond milk, and coconut butter, and anchovy paste. Well, two out of three isn’t bad. I started out with plain almond milk.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one cup of almond milk, salt. Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats.

Results: Ugh! Argh! Creamy. Blandblandbland. Needs something. Well, needs more salt. Then what else? How about the coconut butter? Fat tablespoonsworth. Now we have coconut flavored bland that needs salt. Anchovy paste…anchovy paste…maybe we can substitute. How about maple syrup? One dollop of syrup helped. A glug and a half did wonders for it.

Rating: ***** For the original. The maplestuff brought it up to three stars.

An experiment that does not need to be repeated.

Russia and the American election

December 13, 2016

I don’t know.

Intelligence analysts hate politics. Intelligence managers endure them. Intelligence executives exploit them. Today’s round of politicised Intelligence is about Russian attempts to influence the US election in support of Trump. On the one hand, you have CIA, an arrogant, but usually competent, agency mostly concerned with human source Intelligence, not computers, saying there’s a direct path back to Russian hackers (although not everyone agrees). On the other hand, you have the FBI, as incompetent a group of clowns as ever crawled out of a car, with special lack of smarts where computers are concerned, saying that they’re not so sure. Who we haven’t heard from yet is NSA, the agency charged with knowing about this kind of thing. On the other, other hand, Congress has gotten into the act, in a surprisingly bipartisan fashion.

I agree with Pat Lang, that there’s no way the FBI would be in cahoots with the Russians over this. However, given that the Republican who is the current Director of the FBI already did his best to influence the election for Trump, there’s no reason to assume that a pro-Trump stance isn’t continuing to influence their actions.

The documents in the case are the DNC emails published by Wikileaks. One side says the Russians were feeding them to Wikileaks editor Julian Assange. Assange had to be in the sway of the Russians, or why else just publish the DNC emails when it was likely the RNC could have been hacked as well? The other side says it was an internal DNC defector, and that’s why there’s no RNC data.  My take on this is that the US declared war on Julian Assange in 2010 and forced him to live in the Ecuadorian embassy for the last four years. He is striking back with the best weapons at his disposal, under the not-unreasonable assumption that a Trump presidency is the most harmful thing he could do.

Bottom line: this is a particularly egregious case of DC leak and counter-leak. There are even those who say this is another example of “both sides do it”.

The people who most indignantly condemned Trump’s questioning of Obama’s birth certificate as a scurrilous scheme to delegitimize his presidency, now seek to delegitimize Trump’s presidency. — Pat Buchanon

This kind of statement, even if it was a throwaway line in an article on a different topic, reveals a blatant disregard for reality. Statements by US government officials charged with responsibility for the topic are not to be confounded with the ravings of talk radio jockeys.

Right now, we, the people, have no idea where the truth lies, and we won’t, unless there are Congressional hearings, or another Snowden.

Don’t give Trump all the credit

December 11, 2016

I’ve been reading the news, like the news junkie I am, and it’s all about Trump — Trump appointed him, Trump appointed her, Trump’s new policies will transform this, that, and the other government programs. Trump is a loose cannon. Trump is nothing like a true Republican. The GOP will rue the day they handed the reins to Trump. You would think that he’s already a dictator, rather than being only an incipient autocrat.

In reality, Trump represents the heart and soul of the Republican Party. He is appointing to cabinet positions the same kind of people that the Republicans have always wanted in those positions: rich businesspeople with opinions directly opposite those in previous Democratic administrations. Think of all the headlines “Trump appoints an opponent of X to head the X department”. This is not Trump going off the rails, this is Trump adhering to the deepest, darkest wishes of the GOP core.

Or take budget deficits, and stimulus packages, and the like. The Republicans are the party of fiscal responsibility and low deficits, right? Wrong! The Republicans are the party who say they are for fiscal responsibility and low deficits. But which of our modern Presidents drove up our debt as a percentage of GDP? Reagan. Bush. Also, Bush. Who drove them down? Carter. Clinton. Obama didn’t because deficit spending is what you need to get you out of a near-depression. The Republicans love deficit spending, as long as it’s on their terms, on their projects, and isn’t done by some uppity Democrat.

By attributing all these actions to Trump, the person, we miss Trump the personification of the new GOP. We give them the opportunity to plausibly deny his actions, come the next election cycle, and skate out from under the blame. “We voted for Trump, and Trump failed us” the voters will say. NO. You voted for the most Republican of all Republicans, and it was the Republicans who failed you. Republican.

Don’t let our fascination with the showman in front of the curtain obscure the truth of the matter. When the histories are written, when responsibility is properly assigned, the word Republican will go down as one of those words that, like Quisling, evokes a regime fraught with deceit and betrayal.

Pearl Harbor

December 7, 2016

A lot has been written on how we missed out on predicting Pearl Harbor as the location of the initial Japanese attack. It strikes me now that one reason was that Pearl was not that important of a target in the overall Japanese war effort.

Consider the warning message of 24 November:

CHANCES OF FAVORABLE OUTCOME OF NEGOTIATIONS WITH JAPAN VERY DOUBTFUL.  
THIS SITUATION COUPLED WITH STATEMENTS OF JAPANESE GOVERNMENT AND  
MOVEMENTS THEIR NAVAL AND MILITARY FORCES INDICATE IN OUR OPINION THAT  
*A SURPRISE AGGRESSIVE MOVEMENT IN ANY DIRECTION INCLUDING ATTACK ON  
PHILIPPINES OR GUAM IS A POSSIBILITY*. CHIEF OF STAFF HAS SEEN THIS  
DESPATCH CONCURS AND REQUESTS ACTION ADEES TO INFORM SENIOR ARMY  
OFFICERS THEIR AREAS. UTMOST SECRECY NECESSARY IN ORDER NOT TO  
COMPLICATE AN ALREADY TENSE SITUATION OR PRECIPITATE JAPANESE ACTION.  
GUAM WILL BE INFORMED SEPARATELY.

And the followup “war warning” of 27 November (which went to the commander of the Asiatic Fleet, and others):

THIS DESPATCH IS TO BE CONSIDERED A WAR WARNING*. NEGOTIATIONS WITH  
JAPAN LOOKING TOWARD STABILIZATION OF CONDITIONS IN THE PACIFIC *HAVE  
CEASED* AND AN AGGRESSIVE MOVE BY JAPAN IS EXPECTED WITHIN THE NEXT FEW  
DAYS. THE NUMBER AND EQUIPMENT OF JAPANESE TROOPS AND THE ORGANIZATION  
OF NAVAL TASK FORCES INDICATES AN AMPHIBIOUS EXPEDITION AGAINST EITHER  
THE PHILIPPINES THAI OR KRA PENINSULA OR POSSIBLY BORNEO. *EXECUTE AN  
APPROPRIATE DEFENSIVE DEPLOYMENT PREPARATORY TO CARRYING OUT THE TASKS  
ASSIGNED IN WPL46*. INFORM DISTRICT AND ARMY AUTHORITIES. A SIMILAR  
WARNING IS BEING SENT BY WAR DEPARTMENT. SPENAVO [Special Naval 
Observer, U.S. officer assigned to the RN] INFORM BRITISH. CONTINENTAL 
DISTRICTS GUAM SAMOA DIRECTED TAKE APPROPRIATE MEASURES AGAINST SABOTAGE.

Not only didn’t it mention Hawaii, but the further away from the Far East it looked, the less it talked about naval action. Guam and Samoa and the Continental districts of the US were alerted against sabotage. Even with Magic, information gleaned from Japanese diplomatic codes, our warnings were aimed at the Far East.

In part, this is because the Japanese were aiming their main thrust south — Borneo, Malay Peninsula, Indonesia. We were tracking a major surface fleet headed that way, dozens of ships with thousands of troops, enroute to invade Malaya. They had hundreds of land-based aircraft at airfields in newly-occupied Cochinchina. This wasn’t just a main thrust, it was the whole reason for the war.

Pearl Harbor, from a force deployment perspective, was almost a side show. It was a head-fake, a bump-and-run. Yes, they felt that success at Pearl was vital to giving Japanese forces freedom of action at the start of the war, but it was like depending on a key block to make sure a large, complex play can run*.

*Hey, I’m doing the best I can — I don’t even like football.

Anime Preview: Winter 2017

December 6, 2016

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. Sequels, particularly to stuff I didn’t like before (Super Lovers), most kids stuff (Kemono Friends), anything with idol in the description, movies and OVA’s.

 

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

Chaos;Child

The semicolon series discovers alliteration

The semicolon series discovers alliteration

Fuuka

The cast of Mekakucity Actors is reunited and goes on tour.

The cast of Mekakucity Actors is reunited and goes on tour.

Little Witch Academica

Cute girls doing cute things on broomsticks

Cute girls doing cute things. On broomsticks

 

 

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

Kuzu no Honkai

The title seems to translate as

The title seems to translate as “a formal meeting about hanging chad”

Seiren

If Kimikiss and Amagami had six cute daughters...

If Kimikiss and Amagami had six cute daughters…

Kobayashi-san Chi no Maidragon

Cute girl has cute dragon as her cute maid. Cute.

Cute girl has cute dragon as her cute maid. Cute.

 

WON’T WATCH. The cover art / title / blurb tells me more than I ever wanted to know on the topic. Marginal #4

Brought to you by the Crayola Company

Brought to you by the Crayola Company

ACCA: 13-ku

Any anime where the summary is three paragraphs of org chart should not be allowed

Any anime where the summary is three paragraphs of org chart should not be allowed


Minami Kamakura

Girls und Bicycles

Girls und Bicycles

…and 30 more that didn’t even make the “I won’t watch” cut.

Memories of My Youth: Marine Corps Language

December 1, 2016

The f-word is a Marine’s favorite noun, verb, gerund, prefix, suffix, and post-fix. When I was in DIA, my boss (Army LTC) told a story about a conversation with an Army NCO in his unit in Hawaii who was a former Marine. It went something like this:

“Ya know, Colonel, I was up to f–n Camp Smith yesterday, talking to this f–n Marine, and he f–n says to me ‘You used to be in the f–n Marine Corps, didn’t ya?’ Now, how the f–k did he know that?”

I was reminded of this when reading reports of what your standard Marine grunts were saying about the nomination of retired Marine general Mattis as SecDef. F–ng great!

Trumpsych

November 30, 2016

Herewith, a compilation on post-election/pre-inauguration discussions of Trump’s mindset.

Trump may have Narcissist Personality Disorder.

How to cope with NPD.

How to deal with Trump.

How to defend against the Trumpistas.

A somewhat longer piece on the same topic.

…and an alternative view.

So, is he a dictator?

Is Democracy doomed?

Mattis for SecDef

November 26, 2016

Military policy site War is Boring, has a generally favorable article on Trump’s consideration of retired Marine Corps general James Mattis for Secretary of Defense. However, their first sentence, quoting Mattis as saying that “it’s fun to shoot some people” removes the statement from it’s context and makes him seem like a natural for his nickname “Mad Dog”. Here’s what he actually said:

You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn’t wear a veil. You know, guys like that ain’t got no manhood left anyway. So it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them. Actually it’s quite fun to fight them, you know. It’s a hell of a hoot. It’s fun to shoot some people. I’ll be right up there with you. I like brawling.

While that isn’t a picture of sweetness and light, it’s a lot more nuanced and motivated than the truncated version indicates, as other observers have testified.

And Mattis has already made news by telling Trump that he was against torture, because he found that a pack of cigarettes and a couple of beers usually worked better when interrogating someone.

While I’m not certain I approve of a career military man as SecDef — I think that undermines the whole idea of civilian control — given the President we’re getting, and the possible choices he had, I think the appointment is a general plus.

Trump’s Nikki Haley Appointment

November 25, 2016

According to the Christian Science Monitor, Trump has named South Carolina governor Nikki Haley as his ambassador to the United Nations. The CSM says that this sends a message of inclusion, diversity, and reconciliation. I don’t think so.

Haley was a fierce Trump opponent during both the primaries and the election campaign itself. She is, as the article says, a strong woman and a strong governor, who fought hate and discrimination. None of her public positions would be approved of by Trump, none of Trump’s positions would be approved of by her. Trump is not known for rewarding opponents or the disloyal. So why would he appoint her to the UN?

Well, read that last paragraph again. She’s a strong GOP governor. She’s a strong woman, the face of the New South. She opposes Trump’s policies. If she accepts the UN job, she’s in a position that is none of these. Instead, she’s an employee. She’s Trump’s representative to an organization he despises, and her job will be to present his positions in the best way possible, parroting the party line. As ambassador to the UN, she’ll spend the next four years trying to defend indefensible positions and articulate inarticulate policies. As a governor, as a strong, effective southern governor, she’s in a position to build a launching pad to the Presidency. The GOP would love it if the first woman President were a Republican.

How can Trump prevent a Haley challenge in 2020? By kicking her upstairs to a powerless position.

Curried Turkey Oatmeal

November 24, 2016

So, it’s late on Turkey Day, and you’re wondering what to do with all the leftovers. We’ve been in that situation many times. This year, in addition to turkey bones and bits, we had some leftover pork and beef bones. No problem. Pile them all in the pressure cooker, along with an onion, celery, carrot, peppercorns, and (why not?) a bay leaf, then fill it right up to the plimsol line with water. Cook on high pressure for 45min and let it sit for about the same amount of time to depressurize before you open it.* Our cooker will hold two quarts, plus a cup, if you haven’t gone overboard on the solids. Pour the two quarts into two quart containers, or a two quart container, and pour the remaining cup into a mason jar or the equivalent, along with half a cup of oatmeal.

Setup: 1/2 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one cup of hot turkey broth, Golden Curry roux to taste, salt. Allow it to sit, covered, on the counter overnight.

Results: Very good. The overnight soak method makes for a creamier oatmeal. If you like, you could add chunks of dried fruit, but those are more common around Christmas. Shred cheese topping is also nice.

Rating: *****

*Some recipes call for running cold water over the pot to cool it down. Ours is electric, and the cord wouldn’t let us reach the sink.

Memories of My Youth: Thanksgivings Past

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

President Bush (on right) with turkey

The Election

November 22, 2016

So it’s been just two weeks since the event the Mary Beards of the 22d Century may well label the Fall of the Republic. After two centuries, the US has managed to elect its first proto-autocrat. Not a Hitler, nor even a Mussolini (who was reportedly well-versed in the writings of Socialist philosophers). Perhaps a Berlusconi. How did this happen? There are many theories out there, but almost all of them suffer from a too, too simplistic view of a complex systems problem.

The proposed reasons fall into three categories: (a) apolitical hatreds (racism, misogyny), (b) manipulated electorate (mainstream media, Facebook, voter apathy/suppression), and political discontent (class revolt, reaction to big government).

RACISM
Some commenters emphasize simple racism — the choice between multiracial democracy and white supremacy. Slate’s Jamelle Bouie does this, despite admitting that not everyone is racist all the time.

T. R. Ramachandran, president of a web-presence software company, produced a pages long and well-researched tweetstorm analyzing the data on various causes. His conclusion was that it was primarily, not exclusively, a racist/sexist cause, with very little economic underpinning.

MANIPULATION
There are two kinds of manipulation theories — government and non-government. The idea of government manipulation is based on the fact that many states implemented various voter suppression laws, designed to make it hard for Democratic voters — the poor and minorities, mostly — to vote. I haven’t been able to find anything current on that conjecture, but I do note that overall turnout was not as low as first reported. In fact, 2016 may have equalled 2012 in percentage of eligibles voting, and Clinton won a solid majority of the popular vote, just not in the right states. The key question is, did it suppress enough votes in key states to make a difference? We won’t know that for some weeks yet.

The non-government side of the manipulation argument turns on the actions of the main-stream media (MSM) in covering click-inducing trivia at the expense of real issues, and in treating the actions of both candidates as equivalent — Clinton’s email problems getting far more time for far longer than Trump’s actions, actions (racist remarks, sexist remarks, failure to release tax records) that in past campaigns would have spelled political death.  It also includes the extremely lopsided coverage, that gave Trump almost $2 billion in air time, when he spent only $10 million on advertising.

Of course, were the bogus news sites and fake news stories circulated on Facebook. It can be argued that these were only echo chamber amplifiers, and that those who read and believed the stories had already made up their minds.

Then, too, I would personally include the decades-old smear campaign by the GOP against the Clintons. Many people said they disliked Hillary Clinton personally. To the extent that that is not a reaction to an ambitious woman (and I have personally seen this kind of reaction by women, against ambitious women in the workplace), I’d say it’s the result of the ongoing double standard in press coverage. Although he attributes it to other factors, Michael Moore has pointed to one result:

90,000 Michiganders voted for every office and every ballot proposal on both sides of the ballot — and refused to vote for president.” …and Clinton lost Michigan by 11,000 votes.

The final manipulation, of course, was the stab-in-the-back on-again-off-again announcements about the FBI non-investigation of Clinton’s emails by Director Comey in the final week of the campaign. Given that Comey was originally a Republican appointee, kept on to show bipartisan dedication to justice for all, it’s likely that his actions were a deliberate attempt to sabotage her campaign.

POLITICAL
The political discontent argument, what one might call the peasant’s revolt, has supporters that range from Michael Moore (writing pre-election, and post-election), to Glenn Greenwald’s post-election essay in The Intercept and Joan Williams somewhat more thoughtful post-election essay in the Harvard Business Review, with some support from post-election press interviews. You could even factor in Allan Lichtman’s forecasts here.

The TLDR version of this is, the White Working Class is hurting, and has been hurting for decades and neither party has done anything about it. The Democratic Party has given up on blue collar workers as part of their base, and the GOP has given up on democracy in general. Finally, the WWC had enough, and voted to throw an electoral Molotov cocktail into the works. They weren’t voting so much for Trump as against the current system.

MY VIEW
My view, as a General Systems Theory person is, All Of The Above.

The Peasant’s Revolt seems to be the heart of it. In 2008 and 2012 we voted for Obama because we wanted change, and we didn’t get it. Part of that is the obstructionist tactics of the GOP, they should only burn in Hell, who looked at a country that they had just plunged into what could very easily have become a second Great Depression and decided that their overwhelming priority, at whatever cost to the country, was to make Obama a one-term President. But part of the lack of change can be laid at the feet of the Democratic Party and Obama himself. After what the banks and Wall street did to destroy the economy and the lives and livelihoods of the middle and working class, there should have been lawsuits, there should have been criminal charges, there should have been people taken out and shot on the tarmac.

There was nothing. There wasn’t even much in the way of relief for those bilked out of their homes and life savings. Meanwhile, Obama was pressing for even more in the way of trade agreements which, rightly or wrongly, the WWC sees as a threat to their jobs. All Democrats were disappointed (OK, all Democrats who were not millionaires). And Clinton was seen as more of the same.

Meanwhile, on the periphery, you had the whites of the Old Confederacy voting GOP, because yes race and misogyny. Race because Clinton was going to be a female continuation of that man in the White House, who they saw as, well, uppity.

On the other hand, Ramachandran’s claim that economics wasn’t a factor because voters didn’t know what the candidates economic positions were doesn’t keep economics from intruding. Economics played a role because even the well-off WWC faced a bleak, uncertain future, and so did their children. People said that Trump would make things worse, and the response of the WWC was, how will we tell?

So what did the election process look like? In the beginning, there were two candidates who beat the populist drum and told the WWC that somebody finally cared — Sanders and Trump. Sanders (who really cared) had the bad luck to be up against possibly the best prepared and most qualified Presidential candidate of the modern era. Trump (who couldn’t care less) was up against a band of light-weights who got trampled because they were one-dimensional caricatures of what a GOP candidate might look like, and none of them were agents for change.

So, the message from the voters was, we want change, and if we can’t have change we can believe in, we want change that will scare the monied elites out of their greedy ways. It’s the electoral equivalent of burn, baby, burn, and it’s going to go on for four more years, unless he gets impeached before then. And the consequences will be incalculable.

 

Sweet PotatOats

November 17, 2016

My previous adventures with sweet potatoes and oatmeal have been with what might be called commercial preparations: potato puffs and restaurant chips. This time it was personal. I had just sent MJ a list of thirty-some sweet potato recipes what had been collecting in my RSS feed for the last year or so. She retaliated by making chocolate brownies using a white sweet potato base. They tasted like a wartime substitute but we found that with enough toppings (non-dairy creamer, Irish Cream liqueur, rum liqueur, gin,  etc) we were able to finish them off. That left about half a cup of the original sweet potato, mashed. It tasted more like sweet…potato than sweetpotato.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one cup of broth, two fat dinner teaspoons of mashed white sweet potato, salt. Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats.

Results: A very nice addition to the collection. The sweet potato was mild enough that it enhanced the oat flavor (what little there was) without getting into a fight with it.

Rating: *****

Why I am voting for Hillary

November 6, 2016

A recent essay by (retired, disabled veteran) Jim Wright over on Stone Kettle Station resonates perfectly with my feelings. As I read them, his key points are that the GOP has abandoned all sense of humanity and true individual freedom and responsibility, has based its economic policies on grinding down the poor to serve the rich, and has thrown out diplomacy in its love for yet another war. This is all true, but it leaves out some issues.

He left out the fact that it was a Republican (elected by a politicized Supreme Court) who got us into the Iraq war, who perverted the Intelligence process, who spat on every professional standard I know (and if you want to swap that p for an h, I won’t argue).

It was a Republican who started us on the slippery slope to a surveillance state, who authorized torture of the innocent, and who doesn’t dare step out of the country for fear of being arrested as a war criminal.

He left out the fact that, in the face of a re-run of the Great Depression (brought on by Republican policies), the response of the GOP was to declare that their primary goal was to make Obama a one-term President. This is a naked admission that their driving objective is power, and they don’t care how they get it.

These things are also true, and combined with Wright’s arguments they make a strong case for not voting Republican.

But my vote, and I think, his, is not merely a vote against. It’s a vote for.

Hillary Clinton is a professional politician, and that’s a good thing. As a Democrat, she believes in the ability and duty of government to work to improve the lot of all the people, and not in the pursuit of power for its own sake. As a Clinton, she has survived a quarter century of accusations and innuendo. As a woman, she will bring a much-needed dose of serotonin to the office. All of those things make a vote for Hillary a no-brainer.

So, yeah, I’m voting for Hillary.