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flawed gems: Nanoha, LEGO, and girls

The spark for the post: this article on a 1981 LEGO ad aimed at girls in a not-condescending or gendered way, compared with their new gendered toys ("You can report on cake!")

The substance of the post: talking about an anime series that's slowly grown into one of my biggest fandom obsessions right now, despite its flaws. There should be a word for that, when you know something isn't great but you're really into it anyway.

(After years of occasional vague fanfic ideas for various fandoms, I've actually finally put fanfic ideas to keyboard for this fandom; no I'm not going to show them to anyone yet, it's like my first fiction ever, almost.)

The connection between the two is one of the things I like about it. The article talks about the new LEGO TV van toy, with a female figure reporting on cake and a male figure as camera operator. "Technical stuff is hard!" I thought about toys where the reporter and operator were both female, and then I thought about Nanoha because that's pretty much true there. It's not a series where everyone is female but it's pushing the line. Female roles:

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Oh hey, maybe I should say something like what it's about. It starts out looking like a standard magical girl show: girl in Tokyo runs across an animal mentor who teaches her magic which she uses to catch loose Jewel Seeds before they wreck her city. It sounds, and for that matter looks, a lot like Card Captor Sakura.

[girl on our left is Sakura, girl on our right is Nanoha. You may notice some similarities.]

Except there's a blink-and-you-miss-it mention of programs, and the viewers now the animal mentor is actually a boy. Or had a boy form, anyway. That's unusual.

Even more unusually, "transformed boy living with a girl" isn't played up for the sitcom laughs it might be. Yuuno gets a couple embarrassed moments but that's it; even when Nanoha finds out, she quickly recovers and is fine with him still living in her room. They *are* 9, after all.

It may be the only magical girl show where our heroine runs from the cops because of all the property damage she's just been party to.

It's also fun watching her progress from "can't use magic" to "can't fly" to "flies like a chicken" to "okay, that was cool". Particularly stage three; I'm not used to seeing heroes progress methodically through stages of sucking less.

The opening alone spoils us for there being two magical girls, one dark (clothing, not skin; no skin color diversity points here, except for the very brown Zafira but he's not human at all), and they're fighting a lot, and I'm told that's unusual; the show is even the trope codifier for Dark Magical Girl. (Also for many other tropes.) It certainly isn't the Sakura mode, nor I think the Sailor Moon mode.

Still, like I said, the pacing at first isn't great, but then Everything Changes, and I don't want to talk about that because I hope to get to watch someone as the change hits. Kind of like "you should watch Madoka no I can't tell you why just watch it through episode 3, okay?"

There's also summary movie versions of the first two series. I've seen people recommend watching the first movie and then the second series, A's, as pretty much all fans agree the second series is the high point of the series: solid pacing, best characters, fewest problematic elements. A's was actually my entry point, which might be why I'm so attached; I think of the franchise as "this really cool thing, plus that other stuff I can mine for ideas."

Man, I feel like I rambled. I hope someone got osmething interesting out of this.

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Drive-by doctoring

US healthcare: #1 in legalized medical fraud. "Drive-by doctoring" by out of network doctors, while you're lying there groggy on the operating table.

Medicare for all now plz

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ancient history bits

Really ancient, not like the Johnny-come-latelies of classical Greece:

Neo-lithic proto-urbanism, apparently a widespread pattern of large megasites shortly after agriculture, then abandoned, for reasons unknown.

Indus Valley Civilization, painting a less egalitarian picture than I'm familiar with, but still high in standardization, low in warfare, and with lots of plumbing. Possibly matrilocal marriage.

I note both articles are written by the same author, who Has A Book, so possible bias.

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In which I sleep a lot

I do escher, escher
Got absolutely no sleep en route to Chile, and had been sleep deprived already, so my start has started out with a great deal of pleasant boredom. Thursday went to sleep after lunch, for 3 hours until S2 woke me up ("It's time for dinner!" "Not for me!") Then four hours, a break around midnight ("NOW it's dinner time I'm starving") and another seven. After all that, I crashed early at 2040 Friday, just for an hour but so solidly I slept through the kids going to bed. Off and on after that, with weird dreams like surviving underwater nuclear explosions (manmade and natural) off of South Africa (first waking thought: "I've never been near South Africa. Oh right, and those nukes don't happen, either.") Then another 2.5 this afternoon in the quiet of the girls being off at some BBQ party, as the thought of being stuck away from home for 9 hours filled me with dread. BBQ is nice, sleep is nicer (and leftover chorizo came home to me anyway, haha!)

cool sun ray or
sunset at 9pm I told you the time zone is weird

Other notes:
Logan Airport security is getting nicer. Shoes stayed on this summer, and this time laptop stayed in as well. Chile security was stricter, I had to take my belt off.
The new Dreamliners look like futuristic white plastic and the windows have controllable polarization instead of shutters but being in economy for 10 hours still sucks (see: no sleep) and there's only USB power (LAN Airlines) (vs. American to NYC, which had a socket but no USB. I'm just grateful there was power, of course.)

Chile no longer charges Americans a reciprocity fee to get in, is worried about Ebola, and proclaims the use of anti-microbial copper keeping us safe somehow. G tells me Santiago is smoggy all the time, like LA in the 1980s. Certainly looked unpleasant from the airport, like Pasadena summer 1993, when even the streetlights would look grayed out from 100 feet away. Okay, maybe not that bad, but then I was only at the airport. Spending a couple days there before I return now seems like a bad plan.

Right. Time to finish up my Argentinian steak ("bistec ganso V", I don't think even my friends have decoded all the meat cut names here) and get some more competitive napping in.

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spice and spoilage

CrashMouse, food
You know that myth about the Middle Ages using lots of spice to covered up the taste of bad meat? It doesn't work. At least, I don't think it does. I just cooked some ground lamb that was starting to smell off, despite being thawed and open for only 2-3 days, in some really excellent store-bought pasta sauce (Rao's). End result: still smells and tastes bad. Adding some chipotle hot sauce didn't help much. I ended up throwing most of it out; hopefully the few bites I did swallow won't come to much -- or if they do, do so quickly, before my flight...

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supermarkets, race, and class

Observations of the markets around me:

I go to Alewife Trader Joe's a lot. My impression of the 'crew' there is mostly white, especially college aged females or a bit older. Also a middle-aged white man, middle-aged or older Asian man, a younger man I suspect is a recent African immigrant, an older white woman... others. Usually anyone I ask knows where anything I ask about is in the store. They're friendly and happy-seeming energetic... some of the younger women are almost flirty, in a confusing way. They *look* middle-class, in a way. TJ has a reputation for well-paid staff with low turnover, and of course low prices.

Across the street is Whole Foods, where I hardly ever go, but when I do it's usually to look for something specific, so I interact with the staff. I have no idea of the overall makeup, but there's definitely a lot more Hispanics there, with a limited ability of English among them. Today I also interacted with a couple of African-American men. Knowledge of stuff is far less comprehensive and more department oriented; granted, WF seems much bigger. WF's reputation is of a libertarian if not Objectivist CEO who compares Obamacare to fascism, and the company has been under investigation for violating labor law. Also known for high prices, and I wonder what those Hispanic workers are getting paid.

Shaw's, now part of Star Market, doesn't have the progressive reputation. There's a big one in Porter Square. I don't attend to it that much, but once I was there around midnight, and there was a marked distinction between the white women running the cashiers and the Hispanic males stocking the aisle. Lots of the latter, but not qualified or trusted to operate the cash registers despite a sudden pile-up of customers, the way TJ crew would have been. I think I've blogged about that before.

There's also a Star Market on Beacon street. Mostly white or African-American staff, I think, and feeling/sounding lower class compared to the TJ crew, in a way I can't define.

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Perhaps most striking, while Richmond police have not killed anyone, other agencies have shot four suspects, killing two, while working special operations in the city since 2008.

Magnus has done something in Richmond that he believes is not done enough in other departments: He's been willing to second-guess the deadly force used by other cops.

"We use a case study approach to different incidents that happen in different places. When there is a questionable use-of-force incident somewhere else, we study it and have a lot of dialogue," Magnus said. "It's a model that is used in a range of other professions, but in some police circles, it's seen as judging in hindsight and frowned on. In my mind, that attitude is counterproductive."

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Siberian Curse

I'd read something about this years ago. It's a $50 book from the Brookings Institution now, but there's links. Basic idea is that Siberian winters are *really* cold, like metal fractures cold, and the USSR planted a bunch of cities there which make no sense.

summary by an author

LRB review, grants the basic premises, critical of the more ambitious math. "What's sadder than a subsidized gold mine?"

longer summary, hideous photos of Siberian city housing, like tower public housing projects in the US. I'd call it a terrible place to live even without the snow and cold.
v "All in all, these issues show that Siberia is not a dead-weight on
Russia’s economy but rather its anchor. " out of the blue ending, like a bad high school essay

Russian sex ratio, tilted toward women for a long time?
transportation in Yakutia/Yakutsk

I don't seem to have saved any links, but I've read about Canada's Nunavut; seems to cost a lot of subsidies to keep a crappy modern lifestyle going up there. Flying in food, desperately trying to convince nurses to stay and work there, etc.

Obvious userpic is obvious.

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Litany of Earth

Review (or not) of the (novelette by Ruthanna Emrys), which is almost interesting than the story itself: Petrarch and Diderot and internment camps and libraries, Kurt Busiek's _Marvels_, 'good' magic being traditionally spiritual or luminous, 'bad' magic bodily or fleshy...

I'd already read the story myself, and liked it.

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tastes in Doctor Who

"How would you reboot Doctor Who?"

Other answers:
Susan as abused survivor of the Time War
Time Lords genociding any threatening species
Time Lords trying to conquer the universe
Time-traveling chaos machines trying to destroy the universe
Shounen anime with many more regenerations, power-ups, and companions with special powers
TARDIS=Doctor, but has a humanoid avatar (that one's kind of cool.)

Aria/Yokohama Shopping Trip/Golden Sky Stories/Kino's Journey with time travel. Historical and SFnal slice of life and problem solving. No planet is ever endangered, let alone the universe, let alone the universe multiple times.

Clearly I'm not with the local zeitgeist.

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states and countries visited

States lived in, 4:,US-IL,US-IN,US-MA

States slept in for a week or more, 11:,US-GA,US-HI,US-IL,US-IN,US-MA,US-NV,US-NY,US-OH,US-PA,US-WA
I think Ohio is a composite of Ohayocon and visiting fanw in Cleveland before Europe.
For a month or more, just add WA to the lived-in list.

States slept in, not counting "on a bus", 22:,US-CT,US-GA,US-HI,US-ID,US-IL,US-IN,US-KY,US-LA,US-ME,US-MA,US-MI,US-MN,US-NV,US-NY,US-OH,US-OK,US-OR,US-PA,US-TN,US-WA,US-DC

States visited at all, not counting looking around during a bus break, 25:,US-CT,US-GA,US-HI,US-ID,US-IL,US-IN,US-KY,US-LA,US-ME,US-MD,US-MA,US-MI,US-MN,US-NV,US-NY,US-NC,US-OH,US-OK,US-OR,US-PA,US-RI,US-TN,US-VT,US-WA,US-DC


States I know I HAVE NOT been in: MS, AL, AK. Well, I'm 100% sure of Alaska, I'm pretty sure about MS and AL.
Dubious: SC, SD.
I must have passed through at least one of WV and VA, en route from LA to DC, but not sure which. I suppose I could look up routes and guess, but if I don't even know, it hardly seems to count.

Countries slept in, 11:,FR,NL,RU,ES,GB,CA,MX,US,CL,JP Though Estonia (EE?) and Russia were the USSR at the time, so is that 10 or 11? And Mexico is just a geology field trip.
I have also breen present in the Zurich airport, and I suppose my Paris-Amsterdam train passed through Belgium.

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Stars vs. planets and Kant

Something I've been brooding about recently, especially after re-reading Neptune's Brood. It's rather amazing how much we think we know about the visible universe, just from peeking out at it from our little planet. Astronomers tell us the structure of the Sun, it's lifecycle, that of other rather different stars, explain novae and supernovae... I'm not saying there aren't any mysteries, but if you stop and think about it, the amount of stellar detail is absurd. We barely know that much about Earth, and the rest of our system's planets -- or planemos, planetary mass objects, big enough to force themselves to be a sphere and at least briefly geologically interesting -- are an endless wellspring of surprises, with more to learn every time we peek closer. What we can guess of exoplanets has not changed that.

But it does make sense in a way. Stars be definition are shining light and therefore information at us. (The Earth intercepts 2 kilograms of sunlight every second, for a gratuitous figure.) That very fact constrains them a lot -- they're big balls of hydrogen and helium and contaminants, under great forces of gravity and heat and light pressure and magnetism. If they weren't just so, they wouldn't fuse; if they weren't balanced between gravity and fusion, they wouldn't be stars. Like a high-speed fish or a rocket engine, there's not a lot of leeway. THey're plasma, so fluid, and tending to homogeneity. Finally, there's a lot of them, all shining at us; if we've populated a periodic table of stars types and age categories, it's probably because we've seen multiple examples of each. In short, it's a data-rich and highly constrained field.

I've just started reading the 1999 edition (from the library) of The New Solar System (Beatty et al.), rather younger (and much thicker) than the one I had as a planetary science major in college. It alerted me to one specific way in which stars fall over themselves to tell us about themselves: helioseismology is a thing. How can we track sound waves in the Sun? Not by listening to them, but by simply looking at them: sound waves in the Sun move the photosphere, the light-emitting 'surface', which causes Doppler shifts in the light. Voila! Your telescope is also a seismometer -- a global seismic detector net, even -- and we can apply seismological techniques to infer the structure and composition of the Sun. Heck, we can apparently even do this with other stars, which I don't remember hearing about before.

By contrast, planets are dark and opaque. They're potentially a lot more complicated: much more diverse in chemical composition, able to be gaseious, liquid, or solid, or all three (solid is the big one, allowing really wacky differentiation); able to support actual chemistry. The Himalayas probably causing long-term cooling and eventually the Ice Ages, by scrubbing CO2 out of the air via excessive weathering, *as well as* causing the monsoon cycle, is my favorite "who would have expected that?" example. And finally, there's not that many observable planets: 32 planemos, including all the large moons, Ceres, and recently named Kuiper belt objects; more like 27 within range of telescopes or fly-by craft so far, though New Horizons will add Pluto and Charon. So even if there is a regular pattern to planets, we could easily lack the data to perceive it.

Still, I'm impressed by how *nothing* closely resembles anything else. Moon and Mercury are different, all the gas giants are different, even Ganymede and Callisto are different. There are some similarities and discernable forces, but AFAIK nowhere can we say "yeah, given A, B is no surprise."


As for Kant, the book reminded me that he came up with the nebular hypothesis, that the solar system was formed from the collapse of a rotating nebula of gas. That wasn't his only work in physics. WP is more intriguing than informative, but Kant was cited by Lord Kelvin and Thomas Huxley -- not bad!


It seems odd to be reading a thick book from 1999, when there's been so much new work (e.g.), but this seems to be the latest edition from these authors, and I don't know what's similarly lay-comprehensive now. Wikipedia would be more up to date, but this has more depth and photos. And some stuff wouldn't go out of date, like history I hadn't appreciated: just how dead study of the planet was before the space program. NASA had trouble finding astronomers to get on board with them, Kuiper being one of the exceptions.

Also amusing to read the Sun description. Paraphrasing: "we think we know how the fusion works, but 2/3 of the neutrinos are missing. So we're either really wrong about the Sun, or about neutrinos. Leaning toward the latter, because helioseismology supports what we infer about the Sun." Ding!

Wow, I've never needed a geology or planetary science tag on LJ before. Astronomy, yes. Lame of me.

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New theory on why people don't buy CDs as much: because removing the stupid sealing stickers on top is a huge pain in the ass.

Goya canned black beans: $0.99. Goya low sodium canned black beans: $1.19. *shakes fist*


OTOH, I now have a Korra soundtrack! Let's hope it's good.

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weird foods: "chicken fat"

CrashMouse, food
Porter Square Star Market has a "heavily discounted meats" shelf, and twice now I've seen packets labeled "chicken fat". "Ooh," I thought. "Raw schmaltz!" Not really: it's more like scraps of chicken meat with fat -- maybe skin? -- attached. First pack, I'd taken out a couple pieces to melt for cooking, discovered they were meaty, cooked and ate those two, then ignored the pack until it smelled bad. This time I fried the whole mass at once, in a pan. Surfaces cooked easily enough, but interior was taking longer, so I poured in what I *thought* was a small amount of water, to flash steam them. Not sure if I poured in too much or induced fat melting, but there was a lot more liquid than I thought. Anyway, ended up with fully cooked chicken bits plus an impromptu broth flavored by "burnt stuff stuck to the cast iron pan", which is really tasty.

At least I'm contributing to use of the whole animal! 99 cents a pound, of pure meat.

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The original GamerGate

'During the 16th century the queen's move took its modern form as a combination of the move of the rook and the current move of the bishop.[12] Starting from Spain, this new version - called "queen's chess" (scacchi de la donna), or pejoratively "madwoman's chess" (scacchi alla rabiosa) - spread throughout Europe rapidly, partly due to the advent of the printing press and the popularity of new books on chess.[13] The new rules faced a backlash in some quarters, ranging from anxiety over a powerful female warrior figure to frank abuse against women in general.[14]'

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"America votes"

When I came home from voting and eating, and checked my mail, I found a "voter report card" from America Votes, some progressive (so the Internet says) PAC. It said I'd voted at this address in only one of the last four general elections, "below average for your area". Not mentioned is the fact that I moved here only one general electon ago.

I'm all for encouraging people to vote, but this seems like an extremely cack-handed attempt, likely to get marginal people not voting out of spite, or voting Republican out of spite if they learn the group's affiliation.

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Sunlight surprise

DST over now, right. So I thought to look at the sun times:

Actual Time 6:19 AM EST 4:36 PM EST

Aaaagh sunset at 4:30??? Why does this keep surprising me? I remember being shocked at 4pm times last winter, before I fled south.

Then it occurred to me that that implied a 9 hour day, which seemed pretty short. So I look at sunrise. Huh: it's 5.5 hours to noon, but only 4.5 hours after that. And to confirm:

Length of Day 10h 17m

So solar zenith comes early to Boston, around 11:30, in fact. Or 11:28, even.

Combined with my discovery a couple years ago that Chile cheats on its time zone, with summer zenith at 1:45pm (or so I thought; this says only 1:29) no wonder my trips south seem weird. Not just much longer (and warmer) days but zenith shifts forward by two full hours, with Boston revealed to be early.

Oh wait, I wasn't wrong: skipping forward on that site, La Serena's zenith in late December will be 1:47 (not sure why it shifts like that). Boston has the same advancement though (duh?), so it's still a two hour difference.

I have an anti-DST bias that noon should equal zenith, but if zenith is going to be at :30, then it might as well be at 12:30 rather than 11:30...

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Bit Rot and supernovas

Today I learned of a Stross story, Bit Rot, set between his robot novels Saturn's Children and Neptune's Brood. I read it, it's cool, if dark.

It also led me to learn about soft gamma repeaters and magnetars, which can have magnetic fields so strong atoms are deformed into a 200:1 aspect ratio. I may have heard of this before, but still, wow.

Further link following brought me to pair-instability supernovas. Stars of mass 130-250 Sols can have gamma rays so energetic they form electron-positron pairs, removing the pressure imparted by the gamma ray and causing a collapse leading to total fusion of the star's contents, and total disassembly. No black hole remains, the star literally blew itself up, like a Type Ia supernova.

In turn I learned you can get nucleosynthesis by gamma ray. Also that there are proton-rich nuclei whose origin is not well-explained. We know the reactions that can produce them, we just don't know where those reactions would take place.

Also, there's a unit called the foe, a unit for 1e44 Joules, or 1e51 ergs. 'The word is an acronym derived from the phrase [ten to the power of] fifty-one ergs.[2] It was coined by Gerald Brown of Stony Brook University in his work with Hans Bethe, because "it came up often enough in our work".' as it does if you study supernovas.

And that reminds me of the later Heechee novels, which had energy-based aliens from the early universe known only as the Foe, as they genocided any species that might interfere with their project of returning the universe into a dense hot plasma, which one might say would involve many foes...

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Two historical fantasies by Mary

I'm re-reading, or have just re-read, a couple of books from my youth.

One is The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart. It's a first-person narrative of a growing boy who's grandson to a king, secret son to a king (not that he knows that at first) and son to a princess with the Power, later a nun; I forget if she was a priestess as such. He's small but clever, using his brains to raise big stones. He himself is touched and guided by the god. People say his father is a devil. He helps his real father recover his kingdom, but dad doesn't last long.

The other is The King Must Die by Mary Renault. It's a first person narrative of a growing boy who's grandson to a king, secret son to a king (not that he knows that at first) and son to a princess who is definitely a priestess. He's small but clever, inventing better forms of wrestling (though the Egyptians already know them), and uses his brains to raise a big stone. He himself is touched and guided by the gods. People say his father is Poseidon. He helps his real father get a more solid grip on his kingdom, but dad doesn't last long.

It's kind of spooky, reading these back to back.

There are differences. Merlin is never a king himself, and is a virgin dedicated to (or claimed by) the god; Theseus becomes king of Eleusis and Athens, and has been mating or raping since he was 12 or 13. Merlin's called a wizard, Theseus isn't. I think I'm finding Renault an easier writer, though her story is also more disquieting to read, what with the (non-graphic) claiming and rape of slaves, and the conversion of a city from mild matriarchy to Greek patriarchy; I don't think Merlin does anything a modern Westerner couldn't approve of, at least in the first book. Myriad other details.

But... still. Amusing similarity, for two books I decided to read on impulse. Also might be why I told my niece that the same author had written both books. Plus the Mary firstname collision.

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Damien Sullivan

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