March 28, 2016

Zombjas in Snowflake Village!

If you understand this message, it is meant for you. 

Kurumi Ebisuzawa Crossing sign by Maboroshi Dandy

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So Very True...

(Some of her typings not subject to the 'Trust and Safety Council are here)

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March 27, 2016

It's Spring watch out for snakes.

Milia cosplay by Shiro Ang

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What the HELL Did I Just Watch!?

Please Tell Me Galko-Chan! has been getting some positive buzz, so I decided to give it a whirl.

The series is a slice of life show revolving around three young ladies, who, in their own way, are...different. From left to right: We have Galko the EPONYMOUS ringleader of our group of misfits. She suffers from acute Steatopygia, Macromastia, and blonde hair. These tragic deformities have resulted in her having a completely unearned reputation as girl. She is quite good at reading prose. To the right of her is Oujo, a young lady from a rich family with pitch perfect etiquette and an immaculate uniform, who suffers from the tragic handicap of being an airhead. Finally there is Outo, whose disabilities include myopia, frumpiness and being a smart ass. 

Over the course of the first 7 and a half minute episode they discuss such deep philosophical topics as nipples, pubic hair and poop...both spicy and sweetened.

So it's kind of like Katawa Shoujo meets Beavis and Butthead..but without the angst or the music videos. 

What the hell Japan?!

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March 26, 2016

Hey! They Got The Scale Right!

The Dumpy Despot of the DPRK has released a new propaganda video, which exhibits his typical subtle and nuanced approach to foreign relations.

Interestingly, the size of the blast and mushroom cloud are not wild exaggerations, but rather, given its size in comparison to the Lincoln Memorial, it's about what one would expect from a 10 to 15 kiloton blast. Given the quality of the video's FX, especially that business around the 24 second mark, this level of verisimilitude is...surprising. 

Sadly,  they missed an opportunity, given that if they'd set the detonation for this weekend, they'd have been able to show apocalyptic cherry blossoms flying everywhere.  Of course they probably don't appreciate that.

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All You Had to Do Was Say That They Were Cosplayers

Because Frankly, this picture does not look at all incongruous.

Yes, Gate is over. It will be missed.
The series was overall, quite entertaining despite having had an uneven run, which suffered additionally from being a bit rushed, especially towards the end. 

However, when one's biggest complaint about a show is that one wished one could have seen more, it could be a clue that he show's not bad. Overall GATE, was, most of the time, a thoroughly entertaining show and most importantly, it ended on a quite satisfying note.

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And Then Suddenly The Show Inadvertently Stumbled Upon its Long Lost Plot

Episode 12 of Phantom World begins with an explanation of the legalities that make folktale fanfic the safest fanfic...

....which  cleverly ensured that no one was expecting this week's villain to be Carmen SanDiego.

"Yeah, that's her, but she never mentioned anything about geography."

The seemingly inconsequential stretch of recent episodes actually provided a good bit of background that made this story more impactful. Besides important insights into the protagonist's backstories those installments offhandedly introduced some background characters who make this episode somewhat more impactful. 

This tale is a lot darker than the previous ones and the story is (rather belatedly) really starting to move.  Whether it will live up to its considerable early potential is unclear, but next week's episode certainly bears watching. Things certainly have gotten serious for our heroes.

Mai oh my!

One thing that I have begun to wonder, although Haruhiko is the narrator, I do wonder if Mai is actually the protagonist. 

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March 22, 2016


By now most of you know that an apparently ongoing series of explosions at transportation nodes has killed at least 34 people in Belgium. As I type this the news is reporting that a suicide vest has been recovered, it apparently failed to detonate and was discarded. The terrorists whose corpses are not evenly dispersed across airports and train stations remain at large

First reports during events like these are often unreliable, however this story mentions some news that has been out there for several days. That Jihadist they caught last week mentioned during his interrogation that his group was planning something in Brussels. Thus it is not unreasonable to speculate that this was either the operation mentioned or it was his group acting out of fear that their discovery was eminent. 

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An Atypical Indicator of Genius

While by no means a reliable marker of stupidity, lowbrow humor is generally not a particularly dependable indicator of high intellect. However, it should be noted that humor of any type often does not translate well across cultures and this difficulty is greatly increased when one is attempting to convey a boorish bon-mot in something other than ones native tongue.

Learning a language is hard. Learning its nuances is extremely difficult.

Thus, the use by a native Russian speaker of the word 'titular' in this particular context can only be an indicator of the highest acumen and as such serves as an uplifting inspiration to all of us who are striving to learn a foreign least those of us who are sufficiently problematic and déclassé to snicker at a boob joke.

Well played Pete.

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March 20, 2016

Concerns Appear Unwarranted

So this animation apparently showed up on the Kyoto Animation webpage recently. I gather that the translation of the text at the end "Thank you for everything!"  caused some...speculation.

Obviously, the cutest suicide note ever.

A quick perusal of their site indicated no resumes being posted, and there is nothing on the news about the company's demise...What there is is a news blurb halfway down the page and if one clicks on it it is illustrated with the above animation and a "Thank You!" for the fact that they've reached 50,000 hits on Twitter. 

Thing is...I didn't need to sit there with a dictionary or ponder the screen for several minutes. I was able to figure this out with 20 seconds of web searching and 4 seconds of Google translate. 

So "unwarranted" is rather an understatement.

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Meanwhile, In, Over and Underneath the DPRK

In the course of discussing the recent photo-op involving Kim Jong Un and a nuclear warhead mock-up, Jeffery Lewis makes the following observation...

One of the big questions about North Korea’s nuclear program is whether or not North Korea can design a reentry vehicle that will protect the warhead during its journey from launch to target. The KN-08 missiles that North Korea paraded in 2012 and 2013 were almost certainly mock-ups. Although the quality of the mock-ups improved between parades, the nosecones were particularly unconvincing. North Korea has now shown a reentry body that looks like early US and Soviet ones. The reentry body still hasn’t been tested, but this is the first credible reentry vehicle design that North Korea has displayed.


Well, that last sentence may need to be amended now ...

Now that the doughy despot has announced further missile and warhead tests (at least one of which appears imminent), there is some speculation that one of the upcoming tests might be a combined affair.  That is, there is concern that the North Koreans might launch an ICBM with a live warhead on it  against a test range in the DPRK resulting in an above ground nuclear test. 

Such a test would crank the violation of international propriety up to 11 and would, no doubt, result in very harshly worded letter written by the most august of calligraphers and transcribed onto gold leafed bond paper. However, it would give the Norks a rock solid credibility to their small deterrent. Even in the days when the U.S. was conducting over 900 above ground nuclear tests, America only conducted one such test. There were some small antiaircraft missile tests, a single shot fired from a cannon and a handful of ballistic missile tests where the target point was almost directly overhead, but only one long range ballistic missile fired with a live nuclear warhead.. That was shot Frigate Bird of Operation Dominic which involved firing a Polaris missile from a submerged submarine at the ever hapless Johnston Island.  Interestingly, the Chinese only conducted one such test as well. Thus one can assume that such a test would be rather challenging.

  It's unclear how much of this concern is based in actual intel rather than prattle, but given that North Korea's missile program has a checkered history, such an endeavor has the potential for truly spectacular bedlam. 

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R.R.S. Boaty McBoatface!

The United Kingdom is building a state of the art oceanographic research ship. Ice strengthened for operations in the polar regions, this floating temple to the spirit of discovery will cost 200 million pounds. The vessel will have extensive laboratory facilities and be able to keep its crew of 90 mariners and scientists at sea continuously for 60 days. 

Her Majesty's government decided to put the matter of the ships name to an internet vote....

Funny you should ask...I refer you to the title of this post.  (via)

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March 16, 2016

So....How 'bout That Super-Double-Secret-Tuesday?

Yeah....That could have gone better.

I guess the Ides of March shouldn't be taken lightly.

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March 14, 2016

Everyone's Life Has Moments When One's Moral Courage Is Tested. just failed one of those tests.

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March 13, 2016

Yes, I Do Believe This Works

Language warning due to repeated use of that most versatile of words.  

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A Few ISIS Links

ISIS has had some reversals in Iraq recently but it is still a large and formidable entity in that region with considerable potential. At the very least, it is adding to the dreadful suffering of the area and is continuing to accelerate the phenomenon of more middle aged Muslim  men trekking into Europe.

This paper, by the Institute for The Study of War notes that there is the real possibility of an alliance and merger between iSIS and another Islamic terror group, the Jabhat Al Nursa. This is an Al-Quaeda group and as such has a different focus from ISIS. They, being Al-Quaeda, have tended to focus on highly trained operatives who act like special forces, doing precision strikes on one hand but also organizing local partisans. ISIS by contrast has its unconventional wing but is, in many ways a much more conventional military force. The two groups have been at odds, but Jabhat Al Nursa now seems to be seeking some common ground with ISIS. One of J.A.N's group specific, goals is to establish an Emirate run by its leaders. This has been a long term goal in conjunction with A-lQuaeda's eventual Caliphate, but ISIS, one will note has an operational caliphate right now. Note that there are considerable strategic and eschatological differences between the two groups. However, if the two groups combine their efforts to any great extent it will be a major boon to ISIS, since Jabhat Al Nursa has, while no formally claimed territory, a considerable area of operations and influence in the area and a set of capabilities that complement ISIS nicely. Their organization also is quite focused on the precise sort of terror operations and terror cell logistics that ISIS is trying to develop in Europe to take advantage of the vast numbers of disaffected military aged men they are sending there. It should be remembered, that ISIS was initially an Al-Quaeda affiliate with much the same position in that organisation as the Al Nursa Front has today.

Further afield, as International Business Times notes. ISIS has been quite active in Libya. Their operations there are, in fact considerably more than a flags and footprints mission. This map (also by The Institute For the Study of War) shows that pretty much the entire coastline of Libya east of Tripoli has been attacked at one point or another during ISIS's recent offensive.   

There is more on this here. Note that the actual areas under ISIS control, are very close to Italy and Malta and, as per the map above, the Caliphate has already made its presence in the area felt at sea with some very small scale maritime attacks. Raids on Italy are certainly a possibility, but are, while scary, not a strategic threat at this time. The real danger here beyond the ISIS access to the oil fields is that they use this staging area for smuggling in weapons and leadership cadres for a more sustained campaign of terror. The muslim areas of the Balkans are not much farther and a more troubling destination long term. While ships from ISIS controlled ports would be easy to stop, it should be remembered that ISIS has contacts with others, that, while in no way aligned with them, are perfectly willing to sell them expertise in how to,with limited infrastructure take measures to complicate the targeting problem.

Note too that the Balkans are much closer to Libya than the U.S. is to Columbia.

That bears watching.

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Rainbow Swans

If one sees a major and unpleasant event approaching, it can't really be called a black swan can it?

To wit:

The London Telegraph has an overview of all the things that are going wrong at once in the world economy.
 Two of the world's three major central banks have slashed interest rates in to negative territory.  

We've noted the decline in the shipping industry (focusing particularly on the Baltic Dry Index) for a while. This BBC article points out the scale of the issue.  
 And here's the thing - the dry bulk index - also called the Baltic Dry Bulk Index - saw a peak of 11,000 points in May of 2008, just before the global financial crisis.
This year it has hit fresh record lows and skirted around the 300 points mark.
What this tells you is that global trade is nowhere near the levels it was pre-2008.
So the 'green shoots of recovery' you hear policy-makers and economists talking about, that's not being seen on the global shipping routes or lanes.  

More on global shipping here:
 Entering January 2016, Chinese imports fell for 13 consecutive months and declined by more than 20% between 2014 and 2015. Bulk shipping will be one of the many globally affected industries. Most experts look for continued weakness in the foreseeable future. The Baltic Exchange's main sea freight index, which charts the rates for dry bulk commodity shipments, hit an all-time low in December 2015.
According to the article, 2016 is expected to be worse. 
The same article looks separately at the three main aspects of the shipping industry. Generally, dry bulk refers to commodities like coal, steel and other raw materials. the container sector, is as one would expect focused on shipping containers (though things like RO-ROs shipping cars would be included as a subset. The thing about container shipping is that it deals in manufactured goods. There is not a 1 to 1 correlation with dry bulk shipping since a lot of dry bulk cargoes go to major heavy industries and infrastructure projects, so the downturn in China's construction boom does not necesarily portend a...oh wait...  
 Containers were unprofitable every year between 2009 and 2014, per McKinsey & Company, a market research company, and 2015 was even worse. Bulk carriers receive a lot of headline attention because they carry major commodities such as steel and iron, but container purchases and delivery rates are arguably more indicative of broader economic conditions. 
 Those economic conditions would seem to suck.

Tankers obviously ship chemicals, of which petroleum products are the most common. The fact that the drop in oil prices has helped to moderate the decline in oil consumption and the fact that tankers can make some money being used as anchored oil storage tanks has meant that tankers are the least disastrous sector of the shipping industry.

The portents are not good, but that means that these problems at least are not in any way unexpected. So prepare yourselves. 

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Adventures in P.E.B.K.A.C.ery

My computer issues seem to be mostly resolved. Part of this weeks computer problems turned out to be traceable to the fact that when I upgraded to the latest version of Parallels I found that it comes with Kaperskey's anti-malware package. Figuring that it was optimized for the virtual engine, I activated I sat in that spot where so many of my computer problems originate ( the zone between my keyboard and my chair) I neglected to remember that I already had AVG in Windows 7 and neither of the programs wanted a roommate. I had to evict one of them.

Anyway, I finally figured out the issue and everything seems nominal now, The connectivity issues I had have mostly died down, though Verizon itself seems to be a bit twitchy. I'm able to watch Ctunchyroll, for instance, but only at lower resolutions.

Well, enough of my first world problems, here is some eye candy...

Hotaru, Dagashi Kashi's  implacable candy entrepanuer (no really) by Okingjo

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March 12, 2016

FINALLY! A Post That Write's Itself!

Phantom World Episode 9 continues the writer's habit of breaking the fourth wall....

Thank you for clarifying that.

So...their roots were in improvisational theatre?

The bear? 

The bear is there.

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Gate Episode 22

Steven and I have not always agreed on this series, in part because he's comparing it to the original books, whereas I'm just enjoying it as it comes out...but we are in total concurrence on this weeks episode. 

He sums it up nicely here.

The episode's portrayal of Leili in particular is malapropos. 

Remember, this young mage speaks multiple languages,  turned the tide in a battle against a dragon and can use chopsticks. 

She's not going to stand there provide a damsel in distress to the local ecosystem.

Worse, we didn't even get to see her dissertation on her Middle Earth Sorcery as combined with the High School chemistry book the earthlings provided her with.

  " I was cheated."

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