April 20, 2010

Random Thoughts on Eyjafjallajökull

Via Instapundit: Some really neat pics of Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull volcano which has so disrupted European air travel.

Photoblogging From Mordor

Meanwhile, as she sits back, eats her chips and watches the fireworks, one of the Brickmuppets's Crack Team of Science Babes takes the time to point out that his could be of more than passing interest.

 New Scientist reports that there is a nontrivial possibility that this could be a long term problem as the last hundred or so years have seen Iceland atypically quiet. If this becomes a periodic occurrence I wonder if cruise ships might be rerouted for transatlantic duty. This would be a suboptimal solution. Cruise ships are not liners as they are fairly slow, though Cunard might soon find it even nicer to have three new vessels on hand, that, being designed partly as liners, can make 28knots.

In the longer term if Icelandic ash is periodically disrupting air travel with Europe, might we see a return to piston engined planes?
As I understand it, the ash is a far greater menace to gas turbines ...it can cause issues over time with Otto and diesel cycle engines as well but that can be somewhat mitigated with better filters.

Nor is travel the only potential disruption.

The eruption of the Indonesian volcano Tambora in 1815 caused the 'year without a summer'. This is a firecracker of an eruption compared to that but it is very long lasting and seems to be spewing an awful lot of ash. I do wonder how the aggregate amounts of ash will compare to Tambora.

Tambora's affect on the weather was actually comparable to an eruption by another Icelandic volcano, Laki in 1783.

The British naturalist Gilbert White described that summer in his classic Natural History of Selborne as "an amazing and portentous one … the peculiar haze, or smokey fog, that prevailed for many weeks in this island, and in every part of Europe, and even beyond its limits, was a most extraordinary appearance, unlike anything known within the memory of man.

"The sun, at noon, looked as blank as a clouded moon, and shed a rust-coloured ferruginous light on the ground, and floors of rooms; but was particularly lurid and blood-coloured at rising and setting. At the same time the heat was so intense that butchers' meat could hardly be eaten on the day after it was killed; and the flies swarmed so in the lanes and hedges that they rendered the horses half frantic … the country people began to look with a superstitious awe, at the red, louring aspect of the sun."

Across the Atlantic, Benjamin Franklin wrote of "a constant fog over all Europe, and a great part of North America".

The disruption to weather patterns meant the ensuing winter was unusually harsh, with consequent spring flooding claiming more lives. In America the Mississippi reportedly froze at New Orleans.

Apart from indirect deaths from famine caused by odd weather, Laki also killed people directly (via Sulphur Dioxide poisoning) as far south as France.

It should be noted in passing that the last eruption of
Eyjafjallajökull lasted two years.

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April 19, 2010

Carl Macek 1951-2010

 Carl Macek, died of a hear attack Saturday

Most of today's anime fans have probably not heard of this man, but he was  important in bringing anime to the mainstream.

In the 1980's Maceck  acquired the US rights to Super Dimension Fortress Macross and attempted to market in the US. His company produced an excellently dubbed, quite accurately translated and very respectful US version of this hit Japanese mech show. It found no buyers except for a brief video release of the first few episodes. The reason was that the syndication market of the time required 65 episodes, minimum. Maceks response was to get two more less successful series, dub them and market them as a 3 series package...which went nowhere. At the time, no one would buy three separate series....so he rewrote and re-dubbed them  as one series, keeping the shows plots basically intact but linking them together by an overarching storyline and a somewhat awkward narration that made the shows a trilogy.
For reasons not entirely clear, he also produced an original BGM that was passable and even innovative by the standards of US cartoons of the day but was vastly inferior to the soundtracks of all three series. Most of the (very few) anime fans of the time sneered...but the show was a huge hit.

I would say that most younger fans  (and those who discovered it in the last decade or so ) would not be aware of Anime today if not for Robotech, which, for all its imperfections, introduced a lot of people to the art form.

Perhaps more importantly, the huge marketing buzz around Robotech in '86-'87 proved that licensing extant anime series  for American audiences other than pre-teens was economically viable.

This is not to say that there hadn't been Anime shows brought over before, but with the exception of a very few like Starblazers, all had been edited for viewing by US pre-teens, which standards and practices considered to be an exceedingly fragile species.

Robotech was certainly heavily edited, but the drama, death and romance were kept largely intact which caused it to stand out as quite a novelty and attracted a high school and college age demographic. The success of this show started a flurry of interest  by fans in Anime....at a time ( the mid to late 80's) that Japans anime and manga industries were in one their most productive and innovative phases ever. Robotech's success also made pitching subsequent US TV animation projects aimed at audiences other than children...such as Batman...vastly more viable.

Macek not only did Robotech, he was instrumental in promoting and popularizing Hayo Miyazaki in the US. He directed the original US dubs of Totoro and other Ghibli films which were as good or better than the later Disney versions.

 Jerry Beck has a good rundown of Maceks career here.  Current fans may not know his name, but Macek brought over Naruto and Bleach, two shows that most will have a passing familiarity with.

I never met the man but I need to say a few words about the animosity he generates in some quarters (which can be a sight to behold). A lot of anime fans of a certain age ( mine and older) will go on about how they would have done better and been more respectful of the source material. This ignores the reality of the market at the time....for a very good reason....these detractors didn't do it. They talked about someday doing it.

Well Carl Macek did do it and his subsequent accomplishments belie not only a certain degree of business savvy but a love of animation in general. Carl Macek had the motivation and courage to start a business, make it succeed, fall down , pick himself up and do it again....and again. He brought a lot of entertainment to a hell of a lot of people and helped to jump start an industry many of us enjoy
He is despised by people who, for the most part, endlessly aspire, never attempt and angrily snipe at those who actually do what they only dream of.

If one is judged by the virtues of ones accomplishments and the nature of ones enemies then Carl Macek led a damned successful life.

He will be missed.

UPDATE: In the comments John Turner points out that of all the Streamline dubs of Ghibli films, Laputa was actually the one that Macek was NOT involved in. Thanks for the heads up sir. I have corrected the text.

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April 13, 2010

Sometimes.....Thread Drift is Most Welcome

Over at Avatar's place I encountered this in the recent comments sidebar.

Well, see, there I was, minding my own business, reading comments about loli-panchira, and suddenly a copyright discussion broke out. Were the panchira copyrighted?

Yay copyright!

It's an interesting..ummm... HALF of a copyright discussion too.
I can only assume this is a vast improvement over what might have been.

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One Can Miss the Darndest Things

One of the Brickmuppet's crack team of science babes dances with joy at the news that astronomers have discovered a new star.

While new stars are uncovered all the time this is exiting as it is less than 10 light years from Earth.

The new find, UGPS 0722-05, is less than 10 light years from here. But sky-watchers missed it for so long because it’s a brown dwarf, a member of the murky class of celestial objects that linger between gas giant planets and low-mass stars. Brown dwarfs have so little mass that they never get hot enough to sustain the nuclear fusion reactions that power stars like the sun. Still, they do shine, because they glow from the heat of their formation, then cool and fade.

This dwarf’s temperature is somewhere between 266 and 446 degrees Fahrenheit, making it the coldest scientists have even seen. With its minimal activity, the brown dwarf gives off just 0.000026 percent the amount of light that our sun does.

Unassuming Generally Puny Star #0722-05 is particularly interesting because of its implications for the total number of stars in the universe as well as its proximity. If we missed it we may have missed others fairly close as well.

While even the much closer Proxima Centauri is well beyond our reach the possibility of nearby stars is of more than passing interest.

Nemesis, is a star hypothesized to be a companion to our own sun. There has, over the last few years been some indirect evidence in support of its existence.  One theory astronomers had to explain its not being discovered yet was that it was a very dim red dwarf  that had not had an accurate  parallax measurement taken and whose brightness was overestimated contributing to its position being assumed to be much farther out.

This discovery makes it quite plausible that there is another star in our solar system that we simply haven't seen at all yet.

Science Babe is Maya from Sunshine Sketch...and an example of poor casting in this role.

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So My first Thought Was..."Damn Fool Must Have Watched Kiss X Sis"

...But even that context wouldn't have helped.

"Anime is a prime example that two nukes just wasn't enough," NH State Rep. Nick Levasseur said on Facebook.

What an ass.

Now I say this as someone who happens to think that Truman's decision was the correct one and the horrific events of the 6th and 9th of August 1945 were the least bad options available at the time.

I've also talked to several wonderful people who were there and still have the keloid scars to prove it.

This was  a terrible thing and is not something to joke about.  There are some things a politician just doesn't say.

Now it is also true that I take a  very dim view of political correctness and jumping on people for off the cuff remarks.

However, it turns out that this wasn't an off the cuff remark. It was an the main thrust of the asshats post on his Facebook page.

I take an even dimmer view of censorship....
(especially censorship via nuclear weapons.)

It gets worse. There is also the fact that joking about killing people for their views is something of a pattern with this jackass*.

Oh and his constituent services suck.

A pro-gun rights New Hampshire resident decides to get involved in the political process and sends Levasseur an e-mail asking him to clarify a statement he made while serving in his capacity as a state representative, and Levasseur threatens to report him to the authorities for his "threatening" and "harassing" behavior.

All the while, Levasseur's MySpace profile page lists as one of his interests the "hunting of neo-conservative Reaganites", by use of firearms

More on the threat to the constituent here and as I post this ....more than a week after this story broke his Myspace profile is still unchanged. Presumably it's accurate as is.

He should change his name to Representative Zarroff.

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April 11, 2010

Better and Better

Dad is now walking (and has even graduated from a walker to a cane) and can get around the house on his own. He won't be 100 percent for six weeks or so but the surgery looks to have been a complete success. 

Also, I'm able to go back to work.


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False Advertising

The official Funimation page for Spice and Wolf features an ad that is deeply misleading.  The commercial seems to utilize EVERY SINGLE SCENE where Holo is nekkid in the entire 13 episode series.

A large percentage of fanboys that decide to buy the show based on this ad alone will be deeply disappointed.

Likely many of those who might enjoy the series will  be put off by it.
 (In fairness, the Opening Credits are only a little better in this regard)

 I thoroughly enjoyed this show (which is based not on a manga, but rather on a series of Japanese light novels.)

A pagan wolf goddess manages to release herself from the village wheat field to which she was long ago bound by taking up up in a bale of wheat (!?) that is in the possession of a roving peddler in the land of PsudomedievalhistoriEurope.

The Goddess, who calls herself 'Holo the Wise Wolf' has long been weary of being bound to the land and is asks the trader, one Craft Lawrence, to take her to her home which is in the far north.

Art by Juu Ayakura,

The unlikely duo goes from town to town trading pelts for apples and apples for wheat and generally give the audience a lesson in barter level economics.

The show is clever, thoughtful and has a rather dry sense of humor. It is likely rather TOO dry for a lot of people but it really hit home with me.

I suppose this is technically  a magical girlfriend show, however, the male lead is neither a cypher nor a nebbish and in a marked departure from most such shows Craft almost immediately takes action to ensure that Holo can leave him at any time. The two compliment each other very nicely. Their relationship is sane and mature, and it did not creep me out.

So maybe this ISN'T a magical girlfriend show after all.

The dialog is intelligent,  and this is complemented by a superb English dub, with Brina Palencia absolutely hitting it out of the park as Holo, 

The Funimation DVD includes the complete first series.

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One of the coldest winters in decades followed by several days in the low 90s has apparently contributed to a high level of hornieness in the local pine trees. I have never seen the pine pollen as bad as it has been this past week. 

How bad has it been?

This bad....This is the neighbors truck...

My Moms car on Monday morning. (I'd washed it the previous afternoon)

The James River at the Huntington beach boat ramp.

Yes. That is a Mallard

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