February 05, 2016

Why Japan Still Has Payphones

When our protagonist got the call from Ruru (Lulu?) I immediately asked myself how the hell the 12 inch tall genie got a cellphone, and if it's magical how does she connect to...oh...

I've heard of a hair-shirt, but a hair-wallet is new to me.

From the latest episode of MC Phantom World, which is another in a string of character background stories, but this one felt much less like a discrete, stand alone tale as it not only references previous episodes, but manages to intersect with what appears to be the larger plot. 

A ferocious but poorly drawn dragon is menacing middle school chicken-coops and rabbit hutches and our heroes are...unaware of the situation actually since no one would trust them with this assignment. However, due to a series unrelated misunderstandings they manage to thoroughly screw things up anyway and end up trying to come to the rescue of the young lady assigned to their school's lepus lounge and save the bunnies...

Things do not go as anticipated

I'm convinced that the club advisor is manipulating the protagonists, whether for good or ill remains to be seen.

The story seems to be back on track and resuming its quirky and occasionally thoughtful direction. If we can avoid a Maudlin episode about the loli I think we'll be fine. 

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February 04, 2016

Yet More Thoughts on That Non-Gargantuan Nork Nuke

Business Insider is reporting that the claim by the North Koreans that they conducted an H-Bomb test may indeed be something more than a crate of commie kimchee. For one thing, recent analysis of the seismological data indicates that the detonation was actually much deeper than was initially supposed (more than twice the depth of the previous tests). There seem to be other indicators as well, that this was a test related to specific components used in an H-bomb, though officials are a tad coy about specifics, about how they have come to this conclusion or what components they might be. One interesting fact is that air samples aren't detecting any radioactives, which could mean that the DPRK is getting better at preventing any venting. (I suppose it is also possible that they popped of between 7 and 10 thousand tons of TNT; that's not without precedence but there doesn't seem to be any reason to do that as they clearly do have atomic weapons). There is more on this test here and here. American tests that tested H-bomb components prior to the first official H-bomb (Ivy-Mike) included Greenhouse-George. That test (and not Ivy-Mike) was was actually the first thermonuclear burn, though its fusion yield was far less that its fission yield. It was a proof of concept test and could well be what is being implied for the North Korean test. Something along those lines would make North Korean claims about the test substantively true. 

Note that the Buisness insider piece also has this to say....
As Alex Wellerstein, a nuclear historian at the Steven Institute of Technology and creator of Nuke Map, told Business Insider on January 6, a country that's mastered thermonuclear-weapons design suddenly has a number of possible options open to it.

For instance, a country with a thermonuclear capability could build "a very thin-cased bomb of low yield [in this case 1 to 10 kilotons, or 1,000 to 10,000 tons of TNT] that would emit a lot of radiation relative to its blast power."

This jives somewhat with what we posted on the subject last month, though the assumption here is that this was just a proof of concept test, and not (as Nigel Cook suggests) a test of an operational device.

In another area of weapons technology, the North Koreans have an indisputably operational unconventional weapons system, though in this case a minimal amount of R&D was required since the technology involved is quite mature, or, shall we say, quite ripe.  

While the threat of these other weapons is somewhat limited, any country that bombards its neighbors with profanity-filled, exploding poop-balloons is bat-scat bonkers enough that its nuclear arsenal, however modest, should warrant considerable concern. 

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February 02, 2016

Politics Intrudes

"Oh PLEASE not that! I don't wanna get doxxed and Tweeted and fired and..."

No worries, we'll put it below the fold.
(No one will ever know.)

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January 31, 2016

OK This Episode Finally Did It

We've stuck with RWBY for a while, despite the infinitesimal budget...

...the sometimes clumsy plotting....

...the breaks in production...

... and the dorks.

There have been some good characterizations to be sure...

...but this episode finally forces us to confront the fact...

...that reason we've spent spent 5 hours of our lives watching this damned show...


My oh my! They've got two more episodes to screw up this season, but damned if they didn't do good by this one. 

Aside from one awkward edit, the only gripe about this episode is that the next one is about 80 hours away. 

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Life's Unexpected Detours

This week on GATE we are treated to a moment of introspection.

This happy bunny lady is Delilah.

Delilah was one of the beast-girl maids/bodyguards from Italica who was sent to Alnus to provide security and translation assistance.  She stayed in Alnus and  has since opened an inn and tavern, which she seems to own a majority stake in, though it is an open secret that she's Italica's unnofical eyes and really big ears in the town. Delilah has a reputation of being something of a hard-ass despite her cottontail. You see, she takes no guff from anyone and runs her employees hard in order to make sure that inn she is proprietor of is well run and free of creeps. despite (and partly because of) this she is liked and respected in Alnus and her fastidiousness has paid off; her inn being quite successful. 

Today...It hit her.

Mere months ago she was a maid and bodyguard in Italica, which as a slave and member of one of the "subject races" was about the best she could ever hope for. Now she owns a business. She can own property, keep nearly all of the money she makes while living in a town where the food and water are safe. Alnus is also completely safe from raiders and monsters. The various demi-humans in town are treated as PEOPLE and the citizens are not worked to death in mines or other hard labor and peace is breaking out all over.

Reflecting upon this, Delilah, perhaps for the first time in the many years since her country of origin was conquered, finally relaxes...and skips through the streets of Alnus singing the praises of "the town the sky has smiled upon". 

 Life is good...

Though not without its pitfalls...

Well, this is certainly full of surprises...well except for the dragon. We were quite prepared for there to be a really big dragon in this episode.

This show is genuinely interesting. I am quite glad that, unlike some other people, I have not seen the manga, so I do not feel let down and this show's future is an unlit road for me. 

I think now is a good point in the show for those of us who have not read ahead to ponder and speculate on what we know:

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January 28, 2016

More Intriguing News From the World of Shipping

Bloomberg News has a post on the continuing decline in shipping worldwide...

Do read the whole thing...

Short version: Shipping is going down in a way that is quite worrisome. 
This is not a seasonal or short term thing either. We mentioned in passing the Baltic Dry Index being at a 29 year low last March

One article I blundered into recently made me do a double take. 

This graphic is from January 3 and purports to show that there were no commercial ships in transit on January third. This is not quite true. Close inspection of the map indicates that there were some vessels underway (but not yet in mid ocean). Today the map looks much less stark. Such alarmist stories tend to cause the very real drop in shipping to be dismissed. 

This is certainly making waves in the merchant marine.

"Did you see what he did there?"

How can this possibly jive with the record number of parcels I mentioned we were getting over the holidays? Online shipping. Whereas we previously delivered boxes containing multiple products to stores, we are now delivering many more individual parcels dispersed to peoples houses, so it is entirely possible that the amount of "stuff" we shipped, was smaller in aggregate than in years past, though the number of parcels and physical volume taken up was greater. Additionally, we now have the highly publicized Sure Post service, where our company is handling a huge number of post office packages. I won't give even ballpark percentages on this as such information, is, of course privileged and confidential, but I can say that this additional business (that was already extant and shifted to us, not a net gain in the larger economy) was a non-trivial factor in our volume this year. 

Aside from that, there is one possible leading indicator I have noted being shipped quite a bit recently...

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January 27, 2016

Infinite Capacity

In the latest episode of Myriad Colors Phantom World, our heroes discover why Reina's parents have absolutely forbidden their daughter from ever going to an all you can eat Korean Barbecue.

Hijinks ensue...

The episode seemed a bit off, and not like the previous three in tone or plot. It was a completely different sort of story, focusing as it did on one character's existential dread of parents that may or may not be tyrannical. We are also reminded that some Japanese toilets can do the darnedest things. 

This episode did do a bit of character development and further established that Minase keeps showing up where the protagonists are willingly, if furtively. Her stated reasoning behind not rendering further assistance is, in her anti-social way, probably a gesture of respect for our group of goofballs. 

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January 26, 2016

This Might Not Be Good

Here is something that may or may not be something.
But it's something to ponder before bed....
On Jan. 25, a new update from the Comex vaults shows a massive decline in registered physical gold assigned for potential deliveries, making the number of paper contract claims against that gold a record 542 to 1. 

Sleep well.

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January 25, 2016


One of The Brickmuppet's Crack Team of Science Babes brings us archival footage of shot "Cannikin" a test of the huge 5 megaton W-71 thermonuclear X-ray warhead for the Safeguard ABM system's Spartan Missile

"Soooo.much 'splody!"

The largest underground explosion in history, it set off an earthquake that registered 6.8 on the Richter scale, and although the terrain of Amchitka Island was permanently altered, no venting (ie: radioactive release) was detected. 

The W-71 warhead was really odd, in addition to being big. It was designed to produce vast quantities of X-rays and very little in the way of Gamma Rays and fission byproducts to prevent EMP or contamination since it was intended to be used in large numbers over the US and Canada in the event of a missile attack. 

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January 24, 2016

This Week, on A Very Special Episode of RWBY...

They took up seven minutes (and an entire episode) telling the same fairy tale they told in 15 seconds a month ago and not so much as a second resolving that cliffhanger from last week.

With regard to last weeks episode.

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Myriad Colors Phantom World

Phantom World is a bit of a surprise. 

We have a show about high-school students who have part time jobs as superheroes and whose rapidly growing team has only one guy in it.  
No..no...that's not what's surprising as that has pretty much become the default format for getting green-lit nowadays. No, the surprise is that this one appears to be good. 

It's certainly tries to be smarter than most.

The premise is that some years ago a terrorist attack on a research facility run by a certain Alayashki corporation released a virus that allowed humans to perceive the supernatural stuff that has always been around (maybe: there is some ambiguity on the chicken to egg aspect of this). These phantoms and such caused considerable mischief until the first generation of children born to those exposed to the virus began coming of age. It seems that some of them have various abilities that allow them to deal with this new annoyance to varying degrees. Since this is a recent phenomenon, very few people with this ability are adults yet, so high schools, especially those that cater to students with these talents have set up clubs that have teams which do exorcisms and such as community service (in addition to their school work).  Due to restrictive child labor laws they are paid in goods and services rather than cash. 

At the wrong end of the effectiveness bell curve there are these two goofballs...


Haruhiko is bookish and not particularly athletic, but he is quite smart. He has the ability to seal away a supernatural entity in a drawing provided he has time to draw it and it can be brought into range. Mai is a top notch athlete who is proficient in martial arts and applied fluid dynamics. She has the ability to use elemental powers, the activation of which is rather fascinating. Her abilities are not particularly powerful and she must use her wits and stamina in order to buy Haruhiko time to...slowly....draw whatever monster they are fighting and set it up to be consumed by his painting. 

This strategy has not led to great success and the two are considered a rather gimp team and something of a laughing stock. They try in vain to acquire talent until Haruhiko persuades... 

...to join their group. She has the unnatural ability to EAT spirits without having to draw them and often without the need to have them positioned 'just so'...thus our male lead is pretty much superfluous at this point, or would be if having the two girls fire him would not play into the fears and insecurities of the target demographic. 

Fortunately he has one other super-power. The best bedroom EVAH. 
No...No...it's not THAT sort of show...er...Allow me to explain...

He has an awesome library and the brains to use it. He is working hard to develop his ability to seal away phantoms, into a summoning skill...and he is a vast treasure trove of obscure and occasionally useful knowledge. 

Haruhiko also has a cute genie-like entity that hangs out with him for reasons not quite clear. Her name is shortened to Ruru (Lulu?) for the sanity of laypeople and she seems to have no particularly impressive abilities aside from being 12 inches tall and being able to fly.

Note that her full name is Rururaruri Rurararirararururirirari Rirararururararururararirari

Also in their circle of friends acquaintances is 

...who is one of the most powerful people in their school. She works alone and does not particularly care for the goof troop, but they keep crossing paths and tripping on each other. 

What saves this series is that it isn't simply the fact that it's not, in actuality, a harem show with regard to its interpersonal relations (at least not yet). It has also been surprisingly pleasant and even clever. 

There is a rather large amount of philosophizing  about the nature of reality, and quite a few open questions. On the surface this is a monster of the week show(or more often two separate monsters as its story has tended to be 2 bach to back 12 minute episodes). However every episode throws out one or two hints to other things that are or may be afoot. 

Sinister things indeed...

The show is very well animated and the art is nice. The characters are competently written to boot. The humor runs the gamut, but is occasionally rather broad and physical, mostly at the expense of the dude. I'm enjoying the show as is and am seriously intrigued by the hints that it may be going somewhere rather darker. This is often a tough thing to pull off. The show could easily fall apart, but right now it is fun, engaging and surprisingly smart. 


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The Difficulties of Gauging the Publics Response

Reader comments are a poor method of figuring out what one's audience wants. Furthermore, if one is blogging as a hobby reader opinion is going to have necessarily limited (though non-zero) effect upon editorial decisions. For instance, if someone were to request, say, zorch videos, I would simply refer them to Gawker and probably block them.

Likewise, if no one comments on my visual media reviews this does not induce me to stop blogging about my interests and start blogging on topics that have recently inspired comments ie: about the weather, and language degeneracy. 

These are extreme examples of course, one does want to cater to ones audience somewhat, at least as long as one can remain true to oneself. If this were strictly a business, other dynamics would come into play. 

Why do I bring this up?

Well, if one wants to post something, then by all means do so. If one wants to solicit requests then do so. However, if one wants to (hypothetically mind you) post a disquisition on the pros and cons of the character-design choices  associated with a generally superb show that some suggest is slightly diminished by the decision to put most of its female cast members (and only the female cast) in spray on  skinsuits with integral heels (which might make sense in the context of depressurization hazard mitigation except for the one girl who is sporting Zettai Ryouiki) and you promise your audience a....ahem...comprehensive visual analysis and assessment of this theory...THEN POST IT.  Do not tease us for three months and then declare that since no interest was expressed in your comments section you're just going to blow off those of us who are sad lonely neckbeards interested in thoughtful analysis of  practical clothing choices in a variable gravity environment where exposure to vacuum is a nontrivial possibility. 

Well....that probably didn't appeal to my core audience at all...
As compensation, I'll just leave this completely unrelated item here. 

Niimi Kaoru, by Toten

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January 23, 2016

On the Outskirts of the Snowpocalypse.

Hampton Roads is right on the edge of where the snow and rain meet with this storm. Last night it actually warmed up and a torrential rain washed away the 2-3 inches of snow that we'd gotten during the afternoon. Forecasts called for much the same going into today, with high 30's and low 40's.

Around noon however the rain turned to sleet...these two pictures show, not a dusting of snow, but accumulated sleet.

With a storm surge expected, I needed to go and check on my parents sailboat so my dad would not be compelled to walk down the ice covered pier. By that time, it was snowing as well as sleeting and the wind had picked up quite a bit. It took forever to simply get into the van, which was quite efficiently encased in ice. I had to break the wipers loose (so they would not break when I lit off the engine as I'd stupidly left the wipers on when I parked). After an extensive defrosting and scraping I drove to the marina (just 5 miles distant) and took these pictures...

That is wet snow-slush...on top of ice.

Not pictured: just how slick this was...

The boat is still secured, and the lines did not need to be let in or out, which is fortuitous as given how treacherous the main pier was, fiddling about on the finger pier did not appeal to me at all. 

After my brief foray into the otherworldly mess that Pete and Wonderduck would describe as "Saturday", I got home and noted that my footprints had been completely filled in. As I type this there is about 2-3 inches on the ground, it is dark, snowing sideways and the house is shaking from the wind. 

Of course, this is NOTHING compared to what is happening north of us, but ice has a certain annoyance all its own. I'll be pleasantly surprised if we retain power through the night. 

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Madness and Machinations

In the latest episode of GATE Lt. Itami is pressed into service trying to help Tuka (Chuka?, Tsuka?), the blonde elf, deal with her grief issues.

However in addition to being a very poor psychologist Itami has other responsibilities that he takes seriously.

Itami has been quite pro-active heretofore, but in this episode he confirms to the audience that he has no interest in wasting his troops lives on a dubious errand with so little chance of success. (This is the kind of CO one hopes to get...not some Odysseus or Custer who is going to challenge the gods to take him down.)

Elsewhere, we touch base with King Duran, who had multiple limbs blown off in episode 1 and was seen to have survived later when he advised Pinã  from what appeared to be his deathbed. The JSDF has given him prosthetics and he in return dispenses sage advice. 

Of course, stuff happens, things get complicated, our hero ends up incurring a debt and there is some indication of what's being hinted at in those silly closing credits.....


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Ignorance, While Not Bliss, Is Sometimes The Preferable State

Over at Steven's place one of the great syndicated comic strips from the golden age of newspaper comics is referenced, with the result that in the comments section, the word "zorch" is mentioned. Now I remembered remembering "zorch" but didn't actually remember what it meant, thus, I accesed the Urban Dictionary so I could remember what I'd remembered long ago. Alas, I still don't remember what I remembered, but I can't unremember what I now know. 

"Seriously, he's right. Don't look it up."

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