Soukou no Strain

is a show about young men and women who pilot robots IN THE FUTURE. It is ostensibly about war, sibling rivalry, and cool mechs blowing each other up, but for the three episodes that I've seen so far there's another, darker theme that runs the course.

Most every mecha anime stereotype is touched on here, and a few more generic ones for good measure. The heroine grows up worshiping her older brother, the greatest Giant Robot Pilot in the Super Space Robot Pilot Corps or whatever it's called. Naturally she vows to someday be as ultra-cool as he is. Brother goes off to fight in the Big War, and sis is left behind to train up and sail through the military academy.

Spoilers follow, in the off chance that anyone but me is reading this. Ya right.

A few mechanical details must be cleared up first: the mechs are called STRAINs, at least, the cool ones are. They're made of glass, you see, and it glows and looks cool when they're all flying around cutting up target drones. I actually kind of like the design, it looks more like something an elf would build than a super-giga-Transformer thingie. In order to pilot these STRAINs, the young whippersnappers use MIMICs which are cloned from their tissues at birth - you lose your MIMIC, you never fly again. At least, not the cool ones.

Our Girl Sara is a top pilot at the academy when next we see her. She has many friends who are all top pilots too, and they all have secret crushes and whatnots. Drama and relationships are hinted at. Training is all well and good, until the Bad Guys open a can of Surprise You've Been Betrayed By Someone Whoop-Ass on the home planet and Sara's friends are the only pilots who can fight back against the sneak attack. So gallantly they go a-running to their STRAINs, suit up, and head out into danger and the first real chance to prove themselves.

THEN THEY ALL FUCKING DIE. No shit. That other theme I mentioned earlier? No amount of pluck and pep and talent will keep you from getting your ass killed on the battlefield in a war. The entire first episode is a set-up where you're introduced to all the sterotypical anime hero characters, they're thrown into an impossible situation and have to fight against overwhelming odds, and they completely fail to save the day. Even Sara, the bestest of her merry band, barely escapes alive, and still she ends up with a Giant Robot Spike Arm right through her MIMIC, ensuring that she'll never ever be the best Giant Robot Pilot like her brother. Things are further complicated when a semi-predictable plot twist reveals that it's Sara's bro (back with a genuine Bad Guy Scar) that betrayed the Corp, killed her friends, destroyed her future, and disgraced her and her family.

That's all just the first episode. In order to stay in the military, Sara changes her name and joins up to pilot GAMBEEs, the slower, uglier, shittier mechs that you don't need a second-brain-in-a-jar to fly. The rest is a heartwarming story about how Sara now has to beat the odds, rise through the ranks, defy expectations and regain her once-secure spot on the top Giant Robot Pilot list. And defeat her brother, the best GRP ever who has the best Giant Robot ever and is also evil.

There, that was fun. A semi-regular Anime Series Review. Maybe I'll write more about it... IN THE FUTURE!


Ramshackle + grey skies

= wow depressing. Or maybe not. I'll call this sensation "slowing," as in the odd instinctive need, based on the circumstances, to do things at a snails pace. The flickering street lamp, barren foliage, and cloud cover all add up to Stay Inside Today, Don't Bother and don't get yourself bothered about anything in particular.

I have a final today, so I'm procrastinating, essentially. I should be studying my eyeballs out, but a disturbingly loud part of me wants to fail this class just to fuck everyone. Not smart, but it's the truth.

Someone told me art history was a much easier major, and I would honestly rather take art classes than language classes. I wonder what I'd have to do to switch...


And no sooner

was the preceeding post written than a handful of the wrong kind of crackers brought me absolutely to my knees. My diet is so regulated that it's pretty easy to tell when something upsets the order, so I can say with relative certainty that Honey Sesame TLC's are a no-go for me. Which is too bad, because they were tasty.

All those little aches and pains, eventually, they add up to something. Body, mind, body, mind, they gotta work together or they don't work at all. You gotta take care of your body. You gotta take care of your mind. You gotta love your body. Most people don't. Most people hate their bodies. You gotta get your mind to love your body. Even if you're fat around the middle, even if things don't work like they're supposed to you have got to love your body. 'Cause it's all you got to hold on to. It's all you got. I'll make a deal with you. I'll love your body if you love mine.

I missed half of work and all of a review for my upcoming Irish final because my body doesn't work right. It's like a dog that's constantly shitting on your couch. From day one since that mutt came in your door it's been leaving a steaming pile there fresh every morning. In all other respects it's a wonderful dog, but the little fucker won't stop shitting no matter what you do. At the end of the day you think to yourself, "well, I guess everything might be allright after all." Then you wake up 8 hours later and guess what?

Nothing's changed.


A Doozy

is what one might call that last post. For now I am feeling better, though an odd mental psyche-out remains. I still get nervous right before I have to leave the house for any sort of trip, especially if I'm going with other people. The odds say that nothing will go wrong, but there is always the chance that something will.

I came across something weird and transcendent this morning while searching for a Dr. Seuss video on that font of raw humanity, YouTube. Though it's hard not to feel like a stalker while you watch it, I reccommed it for the bit that begins at 3:02.

Kelsey's Video Loglette

This Midnight Sun caught me way off guard. Followed by The Lorax? Wow. Either this girl is brilliant and bored, or desperately starved for attention. Or any combination therein. I have a terrible feeling that I'm going to watch them all at some point too, since I'm in between Netflix shipments. And I'll feel guilty for doing it, for the forementioned stalker reasons, and also because no matter what someone seems to be on the internet, the are almost invariably not. Although there is a bit more honesty in posting a video feed of yourself than say, posting anonymously in a forum.


What Do You Want

out of life? I used to think that small moments of beauty, and the prospect of a better future for humanity were worth it.

Mainly, I am disappointed with myself for seeking answers where there are none. Intellectually I know that the universe owes me squat. I am so small that it's not even worth charting. And yet I still feel aggrieved and cheated out of a normal life when it's so completely unnecessary. There is no good goddamned reason that someone's body should work to reject and destroy one of it's own organs, but it happens all the time. It is happening to me, and above all things in this lifetime I would like it to stop.

I get depressed and angry over how completely this disease dominates my life. When I fight it I lose, and when I let it go it punishes me anyway. I can't eat anything, apparently, without blowing up into a huge ball of pain every afternoon. I have a huge mental block about going to class now, because those chairs are so damned uncomfortable and the room is so stuffy and I still can't bring myself to care about the subject. I made a promise that I would finish my degree here at Pitt, but the prospect of learning more about something that never interested me to begin with is depressing.

And I'm mad at myself for getting so depressed and emotional. I want so badly to believe that there's something that I can do, some hope that in the future I'll be able to walk around the world and not have this fear in my belly, but it's hard to fight the feeling that I'm just doomed to a life of pain and marginalization. And I can't even vent my rage properly now because my arms have seized up and the tendons are all inflamed and even my knee still crackles whenever I walk up stairs and I just can't fucking do ANYTHING but sit in my room and watch anime.

This is no way to live. I have to find a way to accept what I am, that it may never change, but still have some hope so that getting up in the morning isn't such an empty exercise.



Not being

a religious man, it pains me to admit that I think there might actually be some super-known force out there. I will not call it supernatural because it might be entirely natural, but it is not currently understood, thus my odd mash-up.

This week I recieved in the mail a used Mac Mini, a 19" LCD widescreen monitor, a new Core 2 Duo processor, and 1 gig of RAM. Arriving from disperate sources, I worried for it's quality and reliability.

It all works together perfectly. It's a wonderful setup and the most powerful desktop addition to our computer room, known alternately as Lanconistan or The Cancer Dome. So I would just like to give props to the Goddess of the Silk Tie, who watches over t3h internets, delivering tracking information and ensuring that the series of tubes is kept clean with horses and poker chips, occasionally blessing the lucky Geek with 1337ness. Give me a few days to come up with a suitable sacrifice.


Today would

appear to be the most perfect sort of fall day that there can be. For posterity, I shall elucidate.

The foliage is now more than 50% converted, with just a few trees bare. There is a low haze around the horizon that fades to a perfect blue above, and there's enough humidity in the air to make it inviting and warm instead of barren and cold. The air is crisp and cool enough to make a sweater a good idea, but the sun still warms your face and shoulders. I even slept in and feel well rested.

There are all sorts of things that could go horribly wrong today, of course, this being a cruel and indifferent universe. I know that the very foundations of the luxuries I enjoy today are unraveling, and that years hence this sort of simple pleasure will seem like a silly waste of time. There is such monsterous injustice in this world that it seems criminal for me to sit here in a climate-controlled bakery and sip a cappuccino and watch the season turn.

Maybe it will mean something later on. For now, at this moment, today is the perfect sort of day.


Allright Captain Alzheimers

Either your brain is turning spongy or you're just unnaturally preoccupied with stupid shit.

These periods of complete brainlessness are starting to get scary, but it's not something that can't be countered with a little concentration and shedding of worldly concerns. Like "OMGS I can't wait to spend my paycheck on shit!" I thought we had agreed that the accumulation of crap was not something to be proud of? And here you go daydreaming about all the crap you're going to accumulate.

It's an easy trap to fall into, especially with the winter approaching and the human need to stock up taking hold of the brain. Your behaviour might even be excused as somewhat natural. But it's also scaring you pretty bad, so let's take a breather and lay off the incessant buying, allright?

On Bombs

I've been trying all morning to figure out why I'm uncomfortable with the idea of the Google Bomb. While I applaud all efforts to alert people to the remarkable rash of scandal and ne'er-do-well-ness that has gripped the GOP for the last six years, this feels too much like gaming the system. A lot of people make a living on the internets because it's an open, democratic system that shows no inherent bias, which makes it one of the last places a person can go if they're seeking honest information (although this can be a lot harder than it sounds sometimes). We all use search engines, and to a degree we trust that the results we get from them have some merit, that they're ranked by frequency of use, as with Google, or by actual humans who have analyzed the source material, like LookSmart.

This "bombing campaign" seeks to skew the results if anyone should seek information on a particular set of Republican candidates and direct the searcher to one particular article alleging corruption on the part of the candidate. It certainly doesn't prevent you from reading other articles, nor does it necessarily make it more difficult to find other sources of information. What it does is manipulate a system that is ostensibly based on merit in order to steer people towards a set of articles that have been selected by a group of liberal bloggers as being more important than others. It removes one of the reasons that people use and trust Google, that it's results are based on the number of people that have individually linked to an article based on their own conclusions, rather than what one group of people has decided to focus on.

I am not opposed to individual bloggers linking to these articles. That certainly happens enough on it's own, and usually with a good reason. But any campaign to force a result that you want to arise from a system that is normally a meritocracy feels too much like playing with the Dark Side. Replace the word "system" in the preceeding sentence with "election" and you'll get what I mean.

Plus, I'm just not down with the whole bombing metaphor. If we weren't as a nation responsible for the continued mass bombing of civilians in Iraq it might be more fun. As it stands, I just don't feel that Democrats should adopt martial imagery in order to sell an idea or a platform. We are ostensibly the anti-aggressive war party, after all.


If you're unfamiliar

with Pittsburgh, well, it rains here. Sometimes a lot. Sometimes as late as October 17th, which would be today. A number of people on my buddy list have away messages bemoaning this rain, but I keep trying to tell myself that I should be grateful to live in a place where it still does rain. Apparently, drought is going to start killing people in places other than Africa.

Being upbeat about anything has been difficult lately, mostly because it's becoming clearer every day that the world has actually passed the maximum limit of oil production (85 million barrels every day. Visualise that in your mind, then try to understand that we used every drop of it.) I'm almost finished with The Fourth Turning, which was written in 1997 and has made some worryingly accurate predictions about where we are in 2006. Their thesis can be summarised thusly: history repeats itself. That's a bit oversimplified, but based on my own adventures as a history major it's true that certain patterns emerge if you're willing to see them. The authors explore history through the lense of a repeating four-part cycle which lasts between 80-100 years, or a long human life. Each part of this cycle they call a turning, and each one has been repeated in the same order throughout western history with the sole exception of the Civil War, which condensed two turnings into one incredibly violent period.

I find this compelling for two reasons. One, I've always believed that people are more a product of their circumstances than their gifts. And two, we are most definitely reaching the apex of a crisis. These November elections might crystalize the mood of the American public, most particularly if there are widespread allegations of vote tampering and fraud (which is almost a given at this point). Add to the political troubles the above fact (FACT, kids, not theory) that we have passed "peak oil" and are well on our way to cooking half the species right off the planet, and you've got a brew that will test the moxie of the generation just beginning to take power - we 13's, Gen X, the New Lost.

Oh, throw in an increasingly crazy Fundamentalist minority grabbing for power. And North Korea's apparent nuclear test. Hmmm, am I missing anything?

Well, here's a little good news. Casey has a 10-point lead over Santorum, and Rendell leads Swann by over 17. That cheers me a bit.


Those Pig

Fuckers at Target. They want digital downloads to cost as much as a physical copy of a movie, except that -

A. The logistical distribution line for DVDs, from the factory that produces and packages them to the warehouses where they're stored to the stores they're sold at, and all the trucking/hauling in between, adds a lot of overhead to the cost of distribution. This is why bulk wholesalers are cheaper than small corner stores.

B. The logistical distribution line for digital downloads consists of wire and server space, which uses considerably less energy and is far far far faster than a fleet of diesel trucks.

C. They're threatening to remove shelf space from DVDs and give it to... what? More bathmats and tacky table lamps? Who cares?

D. If legal digital downloads replace DVDs on a 1:1 basis, the savings in distribution overhead will more than make up for the loss in physical sales numbers.

E. What they're really afraid of is people downloading movies for free, which will happen no matter what they do with the physical or digital versions. If retailers stop selling DVDs then that will merely push the studios to embrace another avenue of distribution, like say, digital downloads.

Just had to get that bit of anger out today. School is frustrating me and there's clearly some rantage building up that needs a release.


Sticky Crisis 2040

Having a hard time sending the last disc of Bubblegum Crisis 2040 back to Netflix. Watching the last four episodes makes me want to turn off all the internets and televisions and radios and just sit and stare and think, which might be why I want to keep it around.

See, I knew just starting to write about it would help work this out. There are plenty of scifi stories out there about the line between man and machine and what happens when people cross it IN THE FUTURE. I think this one stands out because you care about what happens to the characters in the end, thanks to good development throughout the series. There were many times when I thought, "well, that's it. they're hosed now." And it kinda made me sad to think that The Good Guys might not actually win this time.

But of course they do. And the conclusion to the series is about as perfect an end as I've ever seen. It's touching. It's well paced and lit with the proper musical background. It leaves you feeling like the job was done, but with enough questions left unanswered that you continue to ponder after the credits roll. Just what is the nature of man's relationship with it's machines? What are the qualities that define humanity? And could God be eternal and still know what it means to die?

It did leave me wishing I could redo the entire soundtrack. I found the main character's singing gigs more annoying than anything, if only because they lacked the polish of say, BECK or Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuutsu ep. 12 (which might be expecting a bit much, since this single episode reset the bar for animation quality in a televised anime). And hearing all the same voices on the english dub that were in Nadesico, particularly having the same seiyuu for both Maki and Akito, was somewhat jarring, although Linna and Nene's were very well done.

Nigel's was just awful.

Oh well. Now I've clarified all that for myself. Time to rip!


One of those dreams

I had this morning between my alarm going off and me getting up was extraordinarily detailed. It was my family's upcoming trip to Ireland, and it's only the second time I've been able to recall distinct physical sensations that accompanied events in the dream. The airplane accelerating and decelerating, in particular, and at one point I leapt for a white metal walkway perched above a blue harbour, my hand slipped, and I felt myself fall into the water and then rise to float on top of it.

But reading my daily dose of peak oil news reminded me of another dream I'd had before that one, where the population of the world was crashing and it led to anarchy and massive death all around. It was scary stuff. Too much is building at this point in history to allow us to keep living the way we do. I fear we will induce a self-genocide through ignorance, greed, fear, corruption, and stupidity. But mostly, I fear that it is coming much sooner than anticipated.


Every time

I hear the song "The Sea" by Morcheeba, I can't help but feel that's where I should be right now. It never fails to evoke still-oddly-clear memories of the Baltimore dockside, Charleston S.C. and the Yorktown memorial, San Diego and the Midway, driving over the bay in New Orleans. At times like these I mourn my lost life. Then, when one of my former classmates puts up an away message that says they're being sent to Panama at the end of the summer, and I think about Panama for a few minutes, I don't feel so bad.

Actually, I do. That was a lie. Despite everything I've learned about our great military machine and our rotting country and our unrepentant succling of oil from corrupt muslim kingdoms, I still miss the Navy and the people I would have served with. I'm playing EVE Online, which feels okay, I get to say things like "target is twenty cilcks out" and "i'm taking fire! shields down fourty percent!" There's comraderie, I get to accomplish missions with friends and break the ships and bases of bad guys.

But I don't get to live on the ocean.


What Other Cultures

have I encountered in America? I've not been to another country, except a brief jaunt across the border into Mexico, although vacationing in southern California (which I stubbornly refer to as Cali, to the annoyance of my family) felt like a weird hybrid. The hispanic culture is so pervasive that entire neighborhoods are bedecked in spanish-language billboards and street signs, my cousin lives with a hispanic woman, and with the palm trees and pervasive smog it certainly feels like a foreign land.

It was a change moving from the slopes of Colorado to the hills of Pittsburgh, but not nearly so drastic. Mainly, Pittsburgh is dirtier.


The Ghost of Lumberg

I was a little worried about myself this evening, because after being made a supervisor at my place of Werk I have had two Bill Lumberg moments. In case you haven't seen Office Space, he's the typical Hellhole Office Mealymouth Boss Guy, the type who'll approach you about doing extra work with that "sorry, buddy, but 'ya know we're kinda gonna have to ask you to do this thing, here, yeah, super sport, thanks a ton" attitude, non-commital and falsely apologetic.

I totally used that voice, without even realising it, when I had to ask someone to go do an extra job. He called me on it, which is good, and I was sufficiently embarassed.

The second time was when I was announcing a new office policy. Basically, the more you screw up, the more crap work you get. An unwritten rule since time immemorial, we were to put it in writing, and I had approved this with all the other managers that are higher up than I. I thought it would be kinda cool to make it like a Contest! that no one wants to win. In that spirit I prepared a wall-sized poster that said "Announcing a Fun New Office Contest / Policy!!!" The rules and current leaderboard were placed right below it. Publicly visible, it would have the effect of reminding people to do their jobs, and what little embarassment they suffered would serve to ensure that they did not repeat their mistakes.

The first person who's name was on the leaderboard saw it as I put it up and became extremely irate. It wasn't cool, he said, to just impliment a new policy without giving the victims fair notice. I replied that if he had been doing his job, this wouldn't be an issue. We argued a bit more, and I decided to take the poster down in favour of placing notes in the mailboxes of the offenders. I worried about the decision for a short time afterwards, questioning my motivation for the poster. Did I really just suffer from some sick need to embarass people? Was it based on how much I'd been teased in public as a schoolkid?

No, I decided, I was not trying to avenge my nerdy past. The answer is actually much simpler, and it's the same reason I had the most fun of my life in Navy ROTC indoc. I enjoy, for lack of a better phrase, getting my ass kicked. It has always spurred me on to improve myself, and I am always grateful for it. Other people, however, would react very differently to the same stimuli, and this I must remember.


A grand idea

formed itself in my head one day. I wrote a letter to the governor of PA once, offering some encouragement on a recent speech outlining new energy strategies for the state. It was heartening, somewhat, to hear such a powerful politician acknowledging the severe crisis that awaits us all in the quite-near future.

To follow up on it, and ensure some kind of action or at least dialogue, I would approach all the professors in relevent fields here at Pitt and get them to sign a memorandum calling for more serious study of alternatives, power-down strategies, and possible implimentation of necessary technological, legal and societal changes. A real dialogue would be opened up and we would begin to raise community awareness of the coming changes and how we could meet them. The Guvner, having taken the first steps already, would use our plan to begin moving Pennsylvania towards a sustainable post-carbon civilisation, and our example would be a seed, a resource, and a beacon to other states and nations as the reality of declining oil supplies began to take it's toll.

Then I watched the latest episode of Battlestar Galactica. In it, the main character Adama tells one of his pilots, who he had previously ordered to assassinate a superior officer, "It's not enough to survive. One has to be worthy of surviving." And I wondered, are we really worthy of surviving? As a nation? As a species? I know some great people, and we've done some great things, but I have a hard time answering that question in the affirmitive. Maybe we aren't.