At last!

The Omni-Crawler robot developed at Osaka University, using “Omni-Ball.”

Another blast from the past – I had been waiting since the 1980s for a smart gel version of this mode of locomotion. I can finally make my killbot tanks.

OMGmeiyu and the importance of good timing

In 2001 I was visiting Tokyo and met many new friends, one of whom was bubbly voice actress Futamura Kaori. I had a cool idea – what if we made a show starring her which taught Japanese speakers American slang? Somehow we never got around to doing it; my work got in the way and we lacked the funds to put such a thing together.

It’s more than 10 years later, and the whole world has access to YouTube on their phones. Enter bubbly 24-year old Jessica Beinecke (written up here by the Washington Post), a sparkly blonde fluent in Chinese, teaching Chinese speakers American slang. Pretty cool.

The difference (I mean aside from someone actually executed on the idea and invested money into it!) is mostly technology and market – there are now markets available to watch such a show, and easy ways to get it out there.

I have mixed feelings on it. Like everyone, I always feel the twinge of jealousy that accompanies “hey I thought of that!” – even if it’s totally irrational. But OMGmeiyu is definitely slicker than what I would have put together in 2001, and it’s yet another project I can let go, because now someone has already done it, and done it well. Kudos!

Hobbits in your army

Thieves work alone – they don’t really have a place in your organization except as independent agents. Contractors maybe?

Obviously they won’t do as combat troops, except maybe as snipers or scouts (see Warhammer or Warhammer 40,000’s “Ratling snipers).

You need smart hobbits as intelligence officers and analysts, support crew for vehicles – they weigh less for transport and eat less of your supplies.

Creepy alien Mazone baby found

Good lord what is that thing
Long ago, my brother and I were watching a random cartoon on local television. In it we saw an appalling sequence: a man wanders an alien forest with trees like jellyfish. Suddenly ghoulish babies surround him, dendritic stalks sticking out of their distended heads. They seem about to attack, a sickly grin on each of their faces, their eyesockets empty like a skull.

The Mazone are a cross between a Amedeo Modigliani painting on acid and a fascist broccoli dominatrix

A willowy girl arrives, an alien since her skin is colored oddly, and she says something to the man. She mocks him as he cowers in panic and confusion.

Run away from the yucky plant baby
All of this is in Japanese with no subtitles. We had no idea what it was from. This is in the dark years of television, when even TV Guide couldn’t really tell you what you were watching on some channels, and I think this was on KTSF or conceivably channel 38, which also showed East Asian programming.

I searched for this sequence for years, wondering what it was. I knew it had to be in the Leijiverse, since the woman looked like the women in Star Blazers / Yamato, or Captain Harlock. In vain – Captain Harlock hasn’t really been collected very competently in subtitled or dubbed versions until very recently.

Lady Patras thinks you're a loser

Well, at last I am happy to report that, after years of searching, I’ve finally found where it was from – it’s episode 18 of the original Captain Harlock (alternately Season 2 Ep 4), about 17 minutes in. The girl is Lady Patras, Mazone agent, and the babies are baby Mazone. She laughs at the traumatized man because she was posing as his daughter, and apparently her entire childhood was a ruse.

KIRBY: almost 30 years after that traumatic incident, we can finally begin closure

Captain Harlock spends a lot of time fighting the Mazone, who are each like a cross between a Amedeo Modigliani painting on acid and a fascist broccoli dominatrix. They are alien plant women. This plant woman is Mazone warrior No. 6789, space combat squad commander Patras (occasionally spelled “Patoras”), and she’s been posing as “Midori,” the daughter of Chief Engineer Maji.

ZACH: They’re like broccoli jellyfish trees
BRAIN: yes!
ZACH: With demon children
ZACH: Like, mini pinheads
BRAIN: so imagine seeing this randomly on local TV
BRAIN: with no subtitles
BRAIN: …when you are 8
ZACH: That’s either a recipe for greatness, or disaster
BRAIN: madness!

Chow Mein

KIRBY: Major shortcoming of New England: Chow mein doesn’t have noodles in it. I need to re-learn AmeriChinese food vocabulary.

OJ: It would be awesome if the noodle-less chow mein wasn’t stir fried, either!

While the simplified Chow Mein (炒面) I guess is just “fried plate” or something, 炒麵 is definitely “fried noodle.” As I understand it, the goo you get on the East Coast is meant to have crispy fried noodle on the top of it. Without that part… that’s some “unclear on the concept” right there.

The standard has already been set, and on the East Coast even: in 1920 Sinclair Lewis wrote in his book “Main Street”:

Before they were quite tired of the concert Carol led them in a dancing procession to the dining-room, to blue bowls of chow mein, with Lichee nuts and ginger preserved in syrup.

None of them save that city-rounder Harry Haydock had heard of any Chinese dish except chop sooey. With agreeable doubt they ventured through the bamboo shoots into the golden fried noodles of the chow mein; and Dave Dyer did a not very humorous Chinese dance with Nat Hicks; and there was hubbub and contentment.

…which you can see argues for the East Coast version of the dish, with the crispy fried noodles. Apparently this is the Hong Kong style.

Irregardlessly [ 🙂 ] if you order Chow Mein in CA you’re going to get slick floppy fried noodles.

McRib revisited

McRib not as good as I recall, and the fries were just crispy starch. For the calories and fat etc I think I’ll stick with dim sum!

VINEET: Why do you hate America?

SAMIR: McRib huh?
BRAIN: yeah it was not good
BRAIN: it made me sorry for eating it
SAMIR: first time?

BRAIN: no I used to love that sandwich
BRAIN: when I saw it in Berlin I was very excited
BRAIN: it tasted the same but wasn’t as satisfying as I remmebererd
SAMIR: so, is the sauce good? or the meat itself?

BRAIN: the meat is a pork… stuff
BRAIN: formed into a rib cage shape
SAMIR: ha!

BRAIN: the sauce is a sweet BBQ sauce
BRAIN: the roll is a very soft white bread
BRAIN: maybe it’s because I’ve since had a real pulled pork sandwich
BRAIN: the McRib meat is a bit like the inside of a siu mai
BRAIN: …but with more chemicals I guess
BRAIN: I’m wondering if I’ll like the Teriyaki Makku when I finally get to eat it again, more than 10 years after I last had it
SAMIR: i don’t know what that is

BRAIN: although I might still stay away from it since it’s likely it would be made from US Beef
BRAIN: it’s in the same shape
BRAIN: the sauce is a McD’s teriyaki sauce
BRAIN: and it has Japanese mayo on it
BRAIN: on a bun
BRAIN: the more I think about it the more I think I should just make my own version of it, only using, you know… food
SAMIR: haha

Halloween 2011

Yesterday was halloween, and we set up a bunch of the 1950s machines in the driveway.

Diane dressed up in her “gold scene Magenta” outfit and handed out candy; I wore a labcoat and played a synthesizer installed in a coconut and let the kids play it. It was a big hit. We also had a fog machine with cooled fog (it hugs the ground better), a cauldron with water and dry ice, and a graveyard in our front lawn.

We gave out around 25 pounds of taffy we had ordered in bulk, in a secret plan to get our favorite obscure flavors for ourselves, since you can only order them in lots of 5 pounds.