July 31, 2015

The Battle of Italica

  In the last episode of GATE our heroes were sent on a short mission to reconnoiter and hopefully open trading relations with the  town of Italica, a heavily fortified crossroads town at the juncture of two caravan routes and a river. Also in the last episode  Princess Penã of "the empire" who has been sent with her order of knights to do a reconnaissance of the invaders (our heroes) offhandedly mentioned that she intended to stop off in the town of Italica.

In this episode, things went to worms just as expected. 
But they did so in a way that was rather unexpected. 

This remains an exceedingly smart show. We get a little bit of background on the princess, who is, it turns out, is quite interesting.

Oh..as an aside...In case there was any doubt...

Roary Mercury serves the DARK god Emloy.

 Itami doesn't know what cards he has in his deck...which is a much better situation than having an empty deck. GATE remains a really intelligent and entertaining show, with this episode in particular maintaining a remarkably high tension level throughout and left me quite upset that I have to wait 167 hours to see more of this. 

That is a sign of quality programing. 

UPDATE: Over at Steven's place Avatar has a well thought out comment on Princess Pinã's motivations and rationale behind her (and Lt. Itami's) tactical decisions towards the end. 

Also: Yes. Her full name does appear to be Pinã Col Ada. We will speak no more of this particular matter. 

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The latest episode of School Live is mostly a series of flashbacks, apparently to the events that led to Miki joining the School Live Club. It appears that SCL is going on a field trip. The club's first official, school sanctioned field trip is going to be to...a local mall.


One amusing bit was the fact that the other girls (who are not particularly sanguine about the endeavor) have Yuki fill out all the proper paperwork and send her through the slow bureaucratic grind of getting the field trip approved in the hopes of killing the project. To their astonishment and chagrin the "field trip" is approved with unusual alacrity by their club sponsor who expedites the process, having decided, in her somewhat daft way, that there are actually very good reasons for the club members (who are normally forbidden to leave the school) to go on this outing. None of this explains why they did not tie up Yuki and leave her in the school to avoid potential inevitable embarrassment. 

After arranging transportation...

...they are off!

This remains a very interesting show though there are a couple of things that strain credulity. Our erstwhile main character, should probably not be taken on field trips for one thing.  They did this in the second episode as well, "Cute Girls Go to Library on First Floor of School". 

This is also the second episode in a row that has involved an extensive flashback to the improbable chain of events that led to the club being founded, albeit from a different person's perspective (Miki's). The events happening in the background of both these episodes are particularly effective in setting the mood.  I do wonder if we are going to see any further exploration of the events that took place last week in "Cute Girls Deal With Power Failure". Next week seems to be a continuation of this one. 

This is a REALLY neat show and If you are not already watching it I strongly urge you to do so. However, I implore you to watch it from episode 1.

If this doesn't look like your cup of tea, then this is probably the show for you!

For a CGDCT series this is full of all SORTS of surprises, so I ask that everyone avail themselves of spoiler tags which can be typed in the comments as follows...

I'll start:

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July 29, 2015

Meanwhile, In Outer Space

One of The Brickmuppet's Crack Team of Science Babes brings us news from the International Space Station, where...


OK. She seems busy at the moment.

While we wait for them to get things situated, here are some more links referencing this story.  

Note that they mean the outside of the windows...on the Space Station.

It seems that the organisms are terrestrial marine plankton. though how they got up there is unclear. My initial guess would be cross contamination from 0-G plankton experiments, but the C-Net article suggests air currents or the possibility that the plankton originated from Florida where much of the station was launched from (though that would mean the plankton had survived a rather long time).

Of course all of this is dancing around the fact that there is living greenery on the outside of the space station and we all KNOW what that means

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July 28, 2015

Exactly What it Says on the Tin

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Improbability Drive?

One of The Brickmuppet's Crack Team of Science Babes explains to us this news of researchers independently confirming the viability of the EM Drive,  a revolutionary propellant-less drive...

Here is a news article on the discovery which is cause for skepticism as it seems to a few things wrong in the title. For instance this (whatever it is...IF it is) is certainly not a rocket....and the moon in four hours seems HIGHLY unlikely given that the thing is giving thrust like an arc jet or ion thruster.

Here is a post with lots of links to papers and articles that indicate that this device (and other similar widgets) certainly appear to be producing tiny amounts of thrust. 


This is still interesting however, as the engine requires no reaction mass so if it really works it could keep accelerating as long as it has power, which given a nuclear power-plant could be for an awfully long time. A notational 950 day Saturn mission with 180 day stays at both Titan and Enceladus is included to give some idea of what that means.Even tiny acceleration adds up over time and this device is estimated to have seven times the thrust per kilowat of a hall thruster...without the need for propellant.  

The problem is that no one seems to have any idea how it works. The inventors claims to but their theories are based on...not physics.

This could be big, It could be a breakthrough. It could be bunk.
Time will tell, but this story is certainly tantalizing.

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July 27, 2015

We Sincerely Hope

...that the fact that the last transmission from Don was on the 22nd and concerned an approaching tornado is merely indicative of a vibrant and rewarding social life. 

May everything on his end be going well. 

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Wait...Is This A Game?

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July 26, 2015

"Have You Ever Seen The Blue Sky?"

This is a disturbing hour and a half that went viral and gained two hundred million views in less than a week before being banned by the Chinese Government.

It even attracted praise from the newly-installed environment minister, Chen Jining, for its contribution to the national debate on public health – but that was before it was abruptly scrubbed from the internet on Friday, ordered offline by the Communist Party's central propaganda department.

The segment that begins around 1:00 is disturbing in an entirely different way..as it highlights just how precarious the Chinese industrial economy actually is. 

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July 25, 2015


Those weren't accessorized ears.
It was just a damned HAT!

From episode 4 of GATE!, which,  in a completely unexpected development, manages to work in an onsen scene. This, however, is not one of THOSE shows as this remarkably non-gratuitous interlude makes clear. This brief scene moved the plot forward in a number of ways, provided significant character development and remained Comics Code Compliant throughout. The above scene of Leili (left) and Mercury (Right) washing the orphan's hair is as risque as it got. 

After the events of last episode, 2nd Lt Itami took his recon force and the refugees back to the main Japanese base much to the dismay of his immediate superiors who are appalled that he has brought all these orphans for them to take care of. The general in charge of the operation however, is impressed both with Itami's initiative and humanity and puts our hero's unit in charge of getting the refugees situated.  

...and our hero in charge of filling out the requisite paperwork tsunami.

The aforementioned bathouse scene is actually part of a montage of the refugees (and Mercury who is examining the Japanese of her own volition) reacting to such wonders as backhoes, prefab housing, field kitchens, and canned food....

Along the way, we do learn that Leili has a knack for languages. She can speak Elvish and is picking up Japanese very quickly...rather more quickly than the Japanese are picking up the local tongue. She is exceedingly smart as befits a mage and we learn a little about her past. It seems Leili grew up amongst nomads before she arrived in the imperial village, so this is not her first experience with a huge technological and cultural shock. 

 Or learning to use new kit.

Chika, the Elf, is still traumatized by the recent loss of her entire town, which, even amongst the elves was a somewhat insular tribe with an obscure dialect.  She is in mourning for her father and seems to be taking double rations to make offerings to his memory. Having lost everything she owns she is also concerned that she and the other female refugees will be forced to sell themselves in order to repay the kindness they have received...or, barring that, simply to survive in the world.

Meanwhile, Itami is tasked with taking his unit to reconnoiter a nearby town called Italica, but that won't happen 'till next week. 

No action to speak of, and our heroes didn't go anywhere, but this episode moved the story forward quite a bit.

This remains a very entertaining and intelligent show. it is just full of win right now, you should definitely be watching it. 

UPDATE: There is an extensive discussion of this episode regarding combat engineering over at Chizumatic.

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July 24, 2015

Gentle Readers

...I urge you to watch this.

I do so mostly because I am a very bad man, but also because watching this will kill sufficient brain cells that it might distract one from any pain one might be experiencing.

Warning: May also cause psoriasis. 

Via Moe Lane, who's write up, while technically accurate, did not prepare me for the epic dreadfulness of this thing. 

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July 22, 2015

Double Shifts Plus

I'm pulling near Christmas hours at work this week.

As compensation for the resulting light posting, here is a piece by Jumpei99.

Of course, I find myself wondering why there are no fairy-sized doors anywhere in this cityscape.

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July 20, 2015

46 Years Ago

A quarter of those who walked on the Moon have already passed

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Gatchaman Crowds :INSIGHT

Gatchaman Crowds was a strange but enjoyable series from two years ago. Perky quirky and completely unpredictable, it ended up being well above average through sheer charm and cleverness. The show closed with a definite hook for a sequel, and this summer, that much anticipated sequel is here!

Gatchaman Crowds: INSIGHT continues the franchises habit of surprising its audience by producing a perfunctory painting by numbers pastiche of periphrastic prattle.

Actually of all those "P" words the most applicable one is probably likely perfunctory.

We are introduced to two new characters one of which seems to be an audience surrogate (there was nothing like that before as the cast was just so....odd)

It is possible that this jumbled mess is going to coalesce into something entertaining, but this was such a muddled, talky episode that confidence is not high. The pilot just gave the impression of trying to emulate the series by being weird...but to no purpose other than to fill a time slot. There are actually two more episodes available, but I'm going to take a break for now.

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July 19, 2015

Something Retro and Japanese

Here is Yamada 2, a Japanese blimp from 1911.

Don has discovered something else in this ridiculously broad category...proto J-Pop.

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This is REALLY Getting My Hopes Up

Shamelessly nicked from J.Greely

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One of The Brickmuppet's Crack Team of Science Babes reacts to a report about lava loving hammerheads.

"Can we get LASERS for them?"

In order to study the volcano, Phillips’ team used robots and cameras. While the volcano was not erupting, the images are blurred by orange plumes and bubbles. Carolyn Barnwell, writing for National Geographic, said that in the video "carbon dioxide and methane gas bubbles” can be seen rising from seafloor vents, and that the color of the water was "due to reduced iron and sulfur.”

Phillips and his team were shocked to find both hammerhead and silky sharks, in addition to stingrays and smaller fish, swimming around inside the volcano 

Presumably,  the sharks leave when the caldera fills with lava so this is not actually a Sci-Fi channel movie made real. OTOH it is hoped that this might lead to an eruption prediction system.

Of course, if the sharks preternatural predictive ability amounts to "Hmmm...getting a bit hot here...Let's leave." Then the potential implications are less exciting. 

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Meanwhile...This Happened...

Someone has been cutting fiber optic cables in California.

There is also the matter of the nontrivial terrorist attack in France recently that is not getting anywhere near the coverage it warrants.  

On the Russian front....wait...lets not put it that way.
Regarding Russia, there is some relief about the reports that the Russian air-force is having a bad month. This is an understandable sentiment , but it doesn't necessarily mean that their planes are no threat. It could just be a byproduct of training at a high tempo under realistic conditions...which they'd be doing if they were anticipating trouble.

Iran will not be allowing US nuclear inspectors to...inspect. 

In what I'm sure must be completely unrelated news, North Korea is hinting at a new series of nuclear tests in October. 

Pakistan, that bastion of reason and stability in South Asia, is greatly expanding their nuclear arsenal.

Venezuela has laid claim to two thirds of Guyana.

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July 18, 2015

Occassionally, There is a Reward for Clean Living

For example...in the latest episode of GATE, our heroes do not die at this point.

"Wait...did you say GOOD?"

You see, the Elegant Gothic Lolita (Catgirl?) is" Roary Mercury, Apostle to the Dark god Emloy" which apparently means that she is some sort of priestess. What is certain is that she is a person with considerable ability that is at this point indistinguishable from magic.

Not pictured: Just HOW ridiculously large her elegant gothic choppy thing is. 

When we first meet her she confronts several dozen brigands who she proceeds to slice, dice and circumcise. It is quite obvious by the end of the episode that she could have killed Itami and his entire command without breaking a sweat. Indeed, that was probably her initial intent, but to her surprise, she discovers that this small detachment of the interlopers who have curb-stomped every army sent to destroy them have not been raping, looting and pillaging, but rather have been rendering aid to commoners without regard to ethnicity and that they are in possession of carts that move without horses.

Nor is Mercury the only character possessed of unusual ability. Leili, the blue haired young lady is an apprentice to the fellow in the wizard hat, who is named Kato, and is, shockingly enough, a Wizard. 

The Force is STRONG with her.

The JGSDF unit has taken a detour from reconnoitering to help evacuate a village that is being menaced by the dragon that they saw razing the town in the last episode. In this episode we learn that there was but one survivor of that unfortunate town, an elven woman who speaks elvish. While this is not, upon reflection, surprising, it should be noted that the extemporized phrase books they are using don't contain any elvish. 

This is unfortunate as the young lady has very useful information to share.

This is an intelligent, well thought out show, and despite the abattoir aspect of the last episode, it is proving to be both suspenseful and upbeat

 Lt. Itami is is a genuinely likable hero. Having been a brevet commission he has a greater hurdle than most to earn his troops confidence, especially since his hobbies are known and held in low regard by his medic and senior NCO. Nevertheless he proves quite capable as a leader and demonstrates considerable decency complimenting his tactical verve.  

This episode was fast paced, introducing several new intriguing characters and was quite thoroughly satisfying .

Certainly not the darkest and grittiest of entourages. 

The cast members introduced in this episode add a nice bit of wackiness and whimsy. Despite much potential for stupidity and squalor the show remains quite smart and engaging. This is a very impressive show thus far, my biggest complaint at the moment is that the next episode is a week away.

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Take Heart!

This sort of thing will correct itself in a generation or two.

As the cool kids say...



In the meantime I advise stocking up on nonperishables. 

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