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Some quick reviews

Here are a few quick reviews of new anime in the Spring 2011 season. So far I'm enjoying this season.

Nichijou (My Ordinary Life)
A delight. It's mostly laid-back slice-of-life cute-girls-doing-cute-things humor with a leavening of the bizarre. Folks are comparing it to Lucky Star, but my take is that it's more like PaniPoni Dash! on Valium. And without the distracting blackboard jokes. There's even a Beckyesque "professor" in a white lab coat who appears to be about eight years old.

Hana-Saku Iroha
This one sneaks up on you. It's about a 16-year-old girl named Ohana who goes off to live with her grandmother in a countryside hot springs inn; sounds pretty vapid, right? But it gets surprisingly deep before the end of the first episode. Her grandmother has disowned Ohana's mother (not surprising, as the mother abandoned her to run off with her creditor-fleeing boyfriend) and isn't any too pleased to be caring for the girl, putting her to work to earn her keep; and Ohana manages to immediately antagonize one of the other girls working there. Much stress and angst by the end of the show.

Dog Days
Enjoyable though not great fantasy of the ordinary-kid-whisked-away-to-herodom-in-magic-land sort. Very lightweight and harmless; the wars in which the kid is expected to defend the obligatory young princess are entirely bloodless affairs that resemble paintball matches set in obstacle courses. Frothy. I'll be quite cross if halfway through the season "shit gets real", as the kids say.

In anticipation of a couple new shows I'm watching their precursors; Wolverine, preceding X-Men, and Fireball, in advance of Fireball Charming. Wolverine is more of the sort of crap that Marvel and Warren Ellis and Madhouse fed us with Iron Man; I watched Iron Man mostly because I really enjoyed the Robert Downey films, and I'm struggling through Wolverine just because X-Men is said to be a direct sequel to it, and those merry mutants have been dear to me since I ploughed through the entire story at Reed College's wonderful Mill (Music Listening and Lending Library) in '81 and '82. But objectively, I can't in good faith recommend any of these Marvel anime.

Fireball, however, was an unexpected delight. Thirteen tiny episodes, two minutes each, all CGI, of a little imperious prima donna of a robot princess and her giant hulking spider-like servant, and their rapid-fire banter. That may not sound like a promising setup, but it's pulled off brilliantly. Even the seemingly awkward, jerky, completely inhuman movement of these CGI robots is actually paced beautifully. Oh, and did I mention it's by Disney Japan? Another nail in the coffin of my friend metaphorical's claim that the Disney logo implies suckitude. I can't wait for Fireball Charming.

If you're interested in any of these, keep an eye on Tokyo Toshokan, which lists just about every new anime torrent that comes along, or for the rigorously ethical among you, AnimeSuki, which lists only unlicensed shows. If your network connection is good enough (as mine isn't), there are also Crunchyroll, Funimation, and Hulu, which stream a number of series complete with subtitles the day they air in Japan.
Sad guy

It's that time again.

I've been watching quite a bit of fresh anime for a while now ("fresh" meaning fansubs of new shows, posted anywhere from three or four days to within 24 hours of when the show aired in Japan), and I've noticed a certain clumping effect. Some TV seasons (in Japan these are fairly rigorously four per year, around 13 weeks long) there may be only a few shows that are any good (the current season, for example), but sometimes a buttload of not just good but excellent shows come along. Last spring was an example: the second season of Durarara!!, House of Five Leaves, Giant Killing, Angel Beats, Arakawa Under the Bridge, K-On!! (second season), Kaichou wa Maid-sama!, Working!!, Tatami Galaxy, Senkou no Night Raid, and more. Not all of those were excellent by any means, but they were all enjoyable.

A year later, a new anime season looms. And I mean looms; the Random Curiosity blog lists forty-two (42) new TV shows in their Spring 2011 preview.

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Woke up unprecedentedly rested at 4 AM this morning (well, unprecedented in recent memory); after catching up on mail and webcomics, went out for a walk and a cappuccino. I was struck by how clear the skies were; I tried to count the Pleiades but though at first I could make out maybe five, my efforts to focus better made things worse. But Orion was magnificent, and the nose of his dog blazed. I walked a few more feet and out from behind some trees, BAM, there was a brilliant Venus and a stunning sliver of a moon, all agleam with Earthlight.
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Sad guy

Dream Pet

So I had a dream of being a kid at home with my mom and sister, and we were visited by a hedgehog. A huge hedgehog, the size of a really big housecat. A very affectionate hedgehog, who liked to wrap himself around my legs like a cat. I was wearing shorts but was somehow unscathed. He loved being petted, though you had to be careful to do it with the grain, as it were. Or stick to scritching him under the chin. Of course my sister and I wanted to keep him, though Mom was worried about him getting bigger; like, the size of a German shepherd or something.

I was going to call him "Sticky".
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Uh Oh

So I've had a copy of The Discoverers by Daniel Boorstin floating around for years, and I finally got round to reading it. Interesting so far. Then we get to a discussion of ancient water clocks on page 30:

The Egyptians therefore slanted the walls of the vessel so that, as the amount of water decreased, the pressure remained constant by being concentrated on a smaller area.

Um. No. Back to Physics 101, Daniel. You flunk the section on hydrostatics. You know, where it says that pressure in an open vessel is a function of, and only of, the height of liquid above that point, completely independent of the shape of the vessel? Remember that?

Sigh. This does not bode well.

EDIT: Eighteen pages later, another howler: "At the equator in all seasons the sun at noon is directly above or at altitude 90 degrees". All seasons, Dan? You sure about that?
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I've been reading a ton lately, mostly science fiction, as is my wont. And mostly free stuff, from either Project Gutenberg or Feedbooks. Generally this means old, out-of-copyright stuff: generally, not later than early '60s.

But there are a few exceptions, like Charlie Stross, Cory Doctorow, and Jeffrey Carver. The last has made a whole bunch of his books available for free in a bunch of formats, including Kindle, at, including all four books (so far) in the Chaos Chronicles: Neptune Crossing, Strange Attractors, The Infinite Sea, and Sunborn. The last is available for free only until Tor releases its own ebook version, so go grab it now. I'm halfway through the second book now.

This is a great series. It's hard science fiction but with an enormous emphasis on character; or perhaps it's character-driven fiction with hard science fiction elements. Very good stuff. Sean-Bob says check it out.
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Sad guy


So I, um... accidentally pierced my ear last night.

I have four ear piercings; the two on the left were done in a shopping mall with the gun and all, and at first had nice fat posts. They seem to never even think about closing. The two on the right, I did myself with a needle, and it pays to keep something in them from time to time. So my habit is to swap one of the aforementioned nice fat posts (the other one went missing some time ago) between the two holes whenever I think about it, usually not more often than once a month. So last night I did that (while sitting in the living room, reading a book). It seemed more difficult than usual, and after a while I switched to a straight pin. Again it was sort of difficult, but I pushed on. It hurt a little, but not too much. I just let the pin in, after bending it in a U shape so it wouldn't poke me in the night.

Before bed, I glanced in the mirror. Damn if I hadn't missed the hole by a good three millimeters. Nuts.
Sad guy

I may be some time

Well, my DSL finally gave up the ghost. I guess it's time to call my jerk of an apartment manager and get him to come open the maintenance closet and let me check the phone line at the junction box, a prerequisite to calling in AT&T. I was really torn about this ever since my phone line died soon after New Years -- I've been intending to move out soon, so what's the point? Everybody who counts has my cellphone number as well as my home phone, and heck, the DSL still worked (don't ask me how). But that died this weekend, and I think it's really dead, Jim. In the meantime, I don't expect to be updating very often (as if I were that prolific anyway). I guess it's time to try that iPhone LJ app again.
Sad guy


But it's a good ow. Though it'll get worse before it gets better.

After months of almost complete indolence, I finally got my bike fixed up last night, and just got back from a nice little ride. And I do mean little: just over 4 miles. But cripes, that's about as far as I rode in the last four months, total. And it's not like I've been walking regularly either. So my ass and my legs are going to be yelling at me for a little while.