Green Thumb Up My Nose

August 17, 2014

Garden Report for 140817

The weather this week was variable, with a high of 98F on Monday trending down to 73F during Friday’s T-storms (which didn’t get close enough to give us any rain).

Not much produced this week. Harvested the last of the string beans — 8oz, one serving each — and ripped out the plants. The beans have been hard to cook properly, and they are tough. Probably won’t do them again. Planted half my remaining peas (64 days), short cabbage (60 days), long cabbage (105 days) and Brussels sprouts (85 days) in Section 3. I figure by the time the brassicae are big enough for the temperature to matter, it will be cool autumn. Tomatoes have paused, and given us a chance to eat what we harvested so far. Looks like 30-40 getting ready to be ripe in the next week or so, and half a dozen of those are supermarket size. The rest are plum or smaller. Not counting cherries.

The lettuce I planted last week hasn’t sprouted yet, which is a little worrisome. I may not have watered it enough. The container cabbage and iceberg lettuce are sprouting.

Vegetable Count Weight
Total Total
This Week
Tomato 4  25 6.3  67  8
Summer  1  8.5  8.6  1  0.5
Pumpkin  6  7.25
Beans  - 8 -  2.0
Peas  3.0
Cabbage  5  7.5
Vegetable Count Weight
Total Total
Last Week
Tomato 10  68 6.8  35  5.3
Pumpkin  6  116  19.3  6  7.25
Beans  - 24 - -  1.5
Peas  - -  3.0
Cabbage  24  5  7.5

This time last year, we still didn’t have any tomatoes or summer squash, and in 2012, I was getting a good bean harvest.

Pumpkin Oats

August 14, 2014

Almost two years ago I wrote about a failed oatmeal experiment involving an ancient bottle of pumpkin spice liqueur. I said then that I’d wait until I had some real pumpkin available to make another test. Well, recently, one of our dogs got sick.

It turns out that canned pumpkin is one of the things you feed sick dogs. Ours had eaten some industrial fabric that didn’t want to be digested, and it waited until 2AM to let us know that. One thing and another (you don’t want details in a cooking blog, OK?), and MJ decided a bland diet of mashed potato, pumpkin, and a smidge of dogfood was the dinner of the day, until various innards had settled down.  We had almost a whole can of pumpkin left over (it was a big can), so I decided to see how it would do as an oatmeal extender. We were out of broth, so I used plain water. I know, but where can you find a pound of brothing chicken at 5AM of a Sunday morning?

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, two generous dinner tablespoons of canned pumpkin (probably close to a quarter cup), two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, one cup of water, salt.  Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats.  Add the potato when you take it off the stove..

Results: Quite good. Definitely pumpkin-y, but it didn’t overwhelm, like cornbread wants to. Would be a good base for something more elaborate. Needed more salt. Needed a good ten grinds of pepper melange (it sounds like a lot, but our grinder is feeble). I’m going to try it again, once the government delivers on its promise of two chickens for every pot. Maybe I’ll even try some pumpkin spice.

Rating: *****

Crafting the future we desire

August 11, 2014

Recent experiments have confirmed the link between increased brain testosterone and increased activity in those parts of the brain that mediate aggression and response to perceived threats. This happened even though the testosterone levels were moved from low to a more normal range. More testosterone leads to more aggression.

This lends credence to a report in Science Daily, saying that it’s likely that a drop in testosterone levels 50,000 years ago, demonstrated by the growth of feminine skull features, is what promoted greater cooperation and improved group-living skills, and it’s those skills that lead to improved technology and the growth of civilization.

Faced with encroaching feminism, girlyskulls, and the concomitant threats of peace and prosperity, our society has found a way to fight back:

Civilization is doomed.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

August 11, 2014

Garden Report for 140810

The weather this week was dry, mid-90’s to start, mid-80’s in the middle, climbing back to the 90’s at the end.

This is turning into a very depressing season. Powdery mildew has killed the pumpkin plants — with only a couple of full grown pie pumpkins to show for it — and has kept the other squash from producing much at all. Second planting of container sugar peas didn’t do well. Strawberries were eaten by birds, despite the covers. Beans and snap peas both produced two meals each.Lettuce is doing OK — I think I’ve figured out the best way to thin it. Tore out the container beans and ate both pods. Replanted with 4 cabbage. Tore out the Chioggias — they were so small I thought they were radishes but my notes say they’re beets (I checked, after MJ complained that the salad had an ‘earthy taste’). Replanted with iceberg lettuce. It won’t head, but it’s nice and leafy.

Container tomatoes are starting to come in. The Super Fantastic (I think, the tag is lost) is producing like mad — three giant 8oz globes so far. The Beefsteaks aren’t doing as well, but some look to be as much as 6 or 7 oz. These are the ones on the sunny side of the house. The deck containers are still thinking about it, and the KHG tomatoes are still being green. A lot of walnut-sized/ 1oz stuff, that pulls down the unit weight.

I gave the pumpkin plants a chance to recover from the powdery mildew search and destroy, but they never did. Harvested the pumpkins. Only two were what I was expecting as a mature size.

Mouse to show scale

Mouse to show scale

So, now it’s time to start the scorecard. Since this is the first pitch edition, some of the data points summarize previous weeks. Also, for tomatoes, the weekly totals won’t match the running totals, because the running totals will include the count and weight of the “big cherries” (around an ounce each). The weekly totals are only for “supermarket size” tomatoes. Next Week there will be a Last Week.

Vegetable Count Weight
Total Total
This Week
Tomato 10  68 6.8  35  5.3
Pumpkin  6  116  19.3  6  7.25
Beans  - 24 - -  3.0
Peas  -  24  3.0
Cabbage  24  5  7.5

I suppose I shouldn’t complain. This time last year the corn had been destroyed by squirrels, the summer squash were struggling, and there were no tomatoes except cherries, while in 2012 we also had no tomatoes (at all) and were getting sick of summer squash.

Cornmeal Oats

August 7, 2014

I’m not a big fan of cornbread. I mean, I don’t dislike it — kirai janai — and I’ll eat it when served, but I never suggest it, except to go with specific dishes. Some bean dishes, for example. One problem is, it’s too crumbly. It’s either hot and moist and crumbly right out of the oven, or it’s cold and dry and crumbly after sitting about for an hour or so. If it’s not piping hot, the butter sticks to the knife on one side, and pulls up crumbles on the other. And so forth.

MJ made a bunch of cornbread for some sort of church potluck, presumably involving beans. There was lots left over, cold and crumbly, the next morning, and why not?

Experiment 1: This was a test of cornbread as an extender. Since I was loading it up with corn-starchiness I left off the potatoes.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, 1/4 cup (loose pack) of cornbread crumbs, one cup of broth (whatever’s on hand – – I used chicken), salt.  Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats.

Results: More like corn-meal mush with an oat extender. Totally overwhelmed the oats. Would probably be better with bacon crumbles. I gave it two stars, but you might like it.

Rating: *****

Experiment 2: This was a test of cornbread as an ingredient. Once again, I left off the potatoes.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, rounded measuring tablespoon of cornbread crumbs, one cup of broth (whatever’s on hand – – I used chicken), salt.  Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats.

Results: Strong cornbread flavor. Would still be better with bacon crumbles.

Rating: *****

As soon as people learn how business works,

August 3, 2014

…they flee the stock market

Green Thumb Up My Nose

August 3, 2014

Garden Report for 140804

The weather remained warm hot, being consistently above 93F. That was nice for the garden, but two power outages didn’t help the gardener. Core temperature of the KHG on August 1st was 80F.

Winds blew a container off the deck — Napa Grape cherry tomatoes. Put it back up, and they’re still alive, but feeling hard done by.

White lung disease

White lung disease

Squashes are being hit hard by powdery mildew. I’ve tried baking soda, with no luck. Vinegar, with no luck. What seems to help the most is a brutal triage effort, cutting off the worst of the leaves (update: no, that didn’t help either). In any event, I’m working my way through all the usual remedies, except that I don’t really want to use any chloroflurocarbons. I guess I’ll just have to take my losses this year, and be more aggressive next year.

The lettuce finally bolted, and made its final contribution as compostfodder. I’m planning on starting another tranche of lettuce in the space, unless the squash from next door takes over first.

No sprouts here

No sprouts here

Meanwhile, over in Section 3, the Brussels Sprouts still haven’t done anything. I’m going to pull them next week, and plant 90 and 120 day cabbage. Hopefully, things will have cooled down by the time the plants start really growing.

Still no production elsewhere. Three spaghetti squash and four pumpkins are all the squash I see, and none of them will be ready for weeks — assuming they survive the mildews. No summer squash at all. Three Beefsteak tomatoes are starting to turn. Other than that, it’s only the cherries. Of course, when the tomatoes start coming in, we’ll be eating them day and night.

The irrigation system continues to fall apart. Two more breaks this week. Well, two more places where the hose separated from the t-junction and I had to put on some hose clamps. All that hose is at least ten years old and is probably stiff and brittle by now. Come winter, I’ll pull it all out and replace it, or at least hose clamp all of it. I’m thinking of using flat sprinkler hose as a replacement. The soaker hose is great for established plants, but the seedlings don’t have the roots for it.

Pruning the Feeds

July 29, 2014

I like RSS feeds. They fill an ecological nich that none of the other social media can. Let me put it this way. There are sites that update pretty much daily — Slate, for example, or McClatchey — so if you check them once a day, you know what they have. Those, I put in a “Morning Papers” folder, for reading with my breakfast oatmeal. Then there’s sites that update continuously — Fark, or Reddit — and all I have to do is check in periodically. I put those on my speed dial for when I’m bored. Yes, a lot scrolls off the page between readings, but any individual item that I miss has a fairly low impact. At longer timescales, there are sites that update weekly, or twice a week. These go into the “Daily” folders, one for each day of the week. But suppose there’s a site that updates at longer intervals, or irregularly, or that has information you’d rather not miss due to scrolling, what then? That’s where an RSS feed comes in. If Girl Genius is late this week, or MegaTokyo is finally getting an update, or EurekAlert is pushing out 80 science press releases at a whack, they all show up in the feeds. Twitter isn’t a solution, due to noise and the scrolloff factor. Tumbler or Facebook are just places one can host a differently-enabled blog. So the feeds are important.

As a result, part of my OS upgrade travails involve updating my RSS feeds. One reason I still have Opera hanging around is because it’s such a good RSS feed manager. While I couldn’t find any information on migrating the feeds, I managed to find Opera’s feed index file on the old drive, and copy it over to the new, but (as with many cloning experiments) something went wrong with the details: all the feeds show up on the Manage Feeds panel, they just don’t do anything. I’ve had to convert the old file by hand, clicking on a feed, copying it to the “Add Feed” dialogue, and saving it. When I was done I deleted all the old feeds. This was a tedious way to do things, but it worked. Finally.

The experience might be described as Internet archaeology, sifting through the websites to see what has changed and what hasn’t. For example, there are blogs that have just dropped from sight, not updated for years. Sometimes the feed is still active (I get old articles), and sometimes it isn’t (I get a blank). And sometimes it points to articles that are no longer hosted where it says they are.

Sometimes, I know what happened to them. Perhaps there’s a screen making a formal announcement of closure, or maybe the last entry is a farewell. Or maybe I know from other sources. Sometimes the reasons are sad. A few examples:

AaronsWeb — a techno blog which hasn’t had an update since late 2012. This is understandable, because it was maintained by Aaron Swartz, who committed suicide at the instigation of the U.S. government, in January of last year.

Baghdad Burning — A description of life in Baghdad during the American occupation, from 2003-2007. Riverbend, a young Sunni woman, and her family left Iraq in 2007 and she made one update post that year, and another in 2013. As interesting as I found her writing, the life of a resettled refugee is less dramatic than life in a war zone. Her posts have been collected into two books, which I’m thinking of buying.

Groklaw — a superb resource that has ceased updating last year because the owner, PJ, could no longer stand to have her e-mail read by NSA.

Creating Passionate Users — a vibrant, insightful resource maintained by Kathy Sierra. In 2007 she was set upon by trolls, who made the usual hateful remarks, including death threats, and decided not to put up with their shit.

Those last two I will keep, in my Inactive folder, checking in periodically, just in case something wonderful happens.

There’s a large number of websites (mostly anime and comics) where the author declared a brief hiatus to [get married, get a job, take finals, recover from a medical condition,...] and then disappeared, never to be seen again. Sometimes they are comics that halted in mid-story. Sometimes there are comics that halt in mid-story, with no explanation. As for the anime, I’ve been reading reviews and commentary for about ten years now, and most of the dropped blogs were ones that started back during the ‘golden age’, which peaked about the time I found it. My guess is that the authors grew up and moved on. Maybe that will happen to me someday as well.

On my old machine I had an estimated 400 websites I was tracking via RSS feed. It’s easy to fall behind with that kind of a workload, and I had something over 13,000 unread messages. Not exactly unread. Read the titles and the summaries and said “I’ll save this and come back later”. And of course I never did. Much like those comics.

Having done a fairly intense triage, I am now at less than 300 websites (including a few I added), and just 500 unread messages. Most of the sites dropped essentially dropped themselves, by being inactive for two years or more. Others were ones that had changed format too much. One anime site was now mostly vid clips, and I’m not interested in vid clips. Another tech site had covered itself with popups and mouseovers.

What sites am I following now? Well, embarrassingly, the largest group (20%) is anime related sites, followed by comics (15%). Next comes work-related MIS and technology sites at 14%. A full 10% of the sites are currently inactive. The rest are things like cooking, news, politics, and gardening.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

July 28, 2014

Garden Report for 140728

The weather this week trended cool, with a high of 68F on Thursday. Now it’s warm again, and Cliff Mass says it will be dry for the next week, and WeatherSpark says it will be 94F and up through the weekend.

Still waiting for the garden to be bountiful. Dug up the lettuce in the SE part of Section 1. I’ll get some new stuff in later this week.

In previous years, the end of July was equally barren. I had one Early Girl last year, and nothing the year before that. This year the summer squash and zucchinis are not producing. Might be the powdery mildew. The best antidote seems to be dry warmth. We’ll see. Two possible Delicata coming along, and three pie pumpkins. Lots of still-green tomatoes.

I’m about ready to do a third harvest on the peas, and second harvest on the beans. Peas are starting to turn brown, so they’re probably done. Went out this morning while it was still below 80F and thinned out the new lettuce. So tomorrow we’ll have peas and beans and salad (oh, my).


July 27, 2014

A student project at California’s Humboldt State University maps all references to “hate” words on geolocatable tweets between June 2012 and April 2013. It’s an interesting study, but the results should be used with care. Three aspects of the data collection and processing make this approach problematic, but the study deals directly with only one.

First, was the tweet really a negative? Phrases like “…queer theory says…” and “…I’m just an old cripple…” are two ways that ‘hate’ words might not be negatives. The study deals with this in a straightforward manner — the students read every tweet and applied a definitional rubric.

Second, is there any kind of processing bias? If you use raw numbers, big cities will dominate the map: Portland will generate more tweets and more hate tweets than Tilamook. To avoid this, the study categorized the data as a percentage of tweets from a given area. This throws them into another basin of attraction for errors: a small town with few tweeters will show up here if it holds even one prolific hater. For example, The Dalles is a little one-Starbucks town in northern Oregon (population 13,000, or about two cruise ships). Portland is a major metropolis (750,000 people in the county). On the map below, The Dalles stands out like a beacon in the NW, while Portland doesn’t even warrant shading.

Is The Dalles really a hotbed of hatred?

Is The Dalles really a hotbed of hatred?

Third, do haters tend to hide their geolocation more than normals do? This is a basic limitation of the data collection technique, and could only be compensated for by sampling the location of the non-geolocated tweets, an essentially impossible task. The best one might do is ask Twitter to run an equivalent study based on tweet IP address, except that that might violate Twitter’s privacy policy, and in any event is fraught with its own problems — IP-based advertising regularly offers me the opportunity to meet lonely women in the wrong part of the state, the wrong state, or even the wrong region of the country (I’m not sure I’ve ever been to Louisiana).

Still, this is an imaginative use of data available from social media, and despite its flaws it’s a worthwhile project.

T-Storms in the NENW

July 23, 2014

First big thunderstorm of the season just blew through the Spokane area at high speed. NWS says it moved at 50mph and I can believe it. Knocked over a tomato plant, and knocked out power for two and a half hours, a relatively rare occurrence. Not much rain, but not much lightning, either, which I’m sure makes the fire guys happy. In related matters, the Watermelon Hill fire was declared 100% contained earlier today, and the fire camp at the highschool has already broken up.

The Nest fire detectors came back on line immediately. The thermostats took a good half hour of “Can’t find network”.

TL;DR — Anime I never finished, Summer 2014

July 22, 2014

So, last week I dropped all the mecha anime. That doesn’t mean they were all bad, but they all were not interesting to me. There were a number of shows that survived the first pass, but ultimately didn’t come through.

Second thing to go — Tokyo!

Tokyo? 東京 Tokyo? Really? There’s enough Tokyo-themed shows to make a bad-show category? Read and see:

Tokyo Ghoul — Tokyo is beset by ghouls. They’re like a cross between vampires and zombies. You can become a ghoul if you’re attacked by one, and you have to eat one person per month. In between times, you’re a normal person, except you can’t stand personfood. Protagonist Highschoolstudent Iforgethisname becomes a ghoul after he accidentally gets some body parts transplanted — he was in the same accident that killed the ghoul and the parts were handy, so why not. Lots of gratuitous blood. Lots of tiresome angst. Very little common sense.

Tokyo ESP — Tokyo is beset by ESPers. They levitate the Diet building, with all the Dietitians inside it, while declaring themselves the new rulers of Japan. They teleport, they throw fireballs, they do all the tiresome things that superbeings do, and they have the same boastful superiority that bad guy superbeings have, along with a large dose of “I’m doing evil things for no purpose, just because I can”. They also smoke unfiltered cigarettes, and that can’t set a good example for the children. Daring counteresper-esper group of high school students takes them on.

Tokyo Terror* — Tokyo is beset by terrorists. Well, two high school age boys who are terrorists. They steal nuclear material from a power plant. They blow up the two towers of Tokyo City Hall.

Just a high school prank

Was this too soon, America?
Should we not have done this?

They are evidently part of a group that was experimented on in a lab (refer to each other with numbers, talk about the ones who didn’t get out), and so have some authority issues. Unlike last season’s lab rat anime, Brynhilder in Darkness, they don’t seem to have any superpowers. I mean, other than the ability to infiltrate a nuclear lab, run carrying a nuclear shipping container like it was an Australian Rules football, drive a motorcycle like Clément Desalle, and infiltrate enough explosive-laden stuffed toys into the Tokyo City Hall to blow up the building without being noticed or missing class.

Tokyo Ravens — I do love a good baseball anime. Unfortunately, TR isn’t about baseball. It’s about power struggles between two magical families in Tokyo. Heir apparent to the head of the most important family is a girl. But heads of families aren’t supposed to be girls, this being traditionalist Japan, so she dresses like a boy, says ぼく (boku, masculine I), instead of わたし (watashi, gender neutral I, but normally used by women), lives in the boy’s dorm, etc…. and nobody notices. The rest of the action involves magical duels between students, between their shikigami familars, between students and shikigami, between students and various juggernauts and ogres and demons  (oh, my). Think Zero no Tsukaima, with a competent Louise de La Vallière. This is another holdover from Spring that I just started, and stopped, watching.

*OK, the real title on Crunchyroll is Terror in Resonance, but it’s called Terror in Tokyo in Japan.

A Fire in the NENW: 8AM Update

July 20, 2014

KHQ Channel 6 finally has a map up — and they’re the only one as far as I know. Here it is:

The pink means something to do with fire

The pink means something to do with fire

The map doesn’t have a legend, and isn’t even mentioned in the accompanying article, but it’s probably the active fire area.

Here’s a better map, of MODIS hot spot detections over the last 24hrs:

MODIS satellite hot spots

MODIS satellite hot spots
(h/t to Twitter user @509freckles for pointing this out)

The evac orders have been lifted for everywhere except the Fishtrap Resort (roughly at the second C in Hog Canyon Creek in the KHQ map). Since the winds right now are W and WSW it looks like it won’t be a threat (the campground symbol in the upper right corner marks the edge of Cheney), so I’ll stop pestering the Interwebs with reportage.

A Fire in the NENW: 7AM Update

July 20, 2014

Got up this morning to the smell of smoke in the house. I’d made the mistake of leaving the windows open, to cool us down. Now the place smells like we’ve been frying smoky brats.

Sky to the S and SW is normal, but there’s a smell of smoke in the air and I can see a smoky haze drifting amongst the houses and the trees, as if it were winter and everyone was firing up their wood stoves. The fire operations center is still manned and active. Trucks have been moved to the back of the HS parking lot, and the front lot filled with personal vehicles and official SUVs. Didn’t get down to the middle school to see how many people the evacuation effected. Heard a train. First one since the fire started (normally they come through every hour or so). The two rail lines run through the fire area, but I don’t know if it was a through train or stuff being moved from the Cheney rail classification yard.

Morning news doesn’t have much news, and Twitter is mostly complaining about that. The 7AM on-scene report didn’t tell us anything we didn’t know last night. Fire is still zero percent contained. Twitter says evacuees might be allowed home, depending on winds. Presumably because that area is pretty well burned over. Still no report on where the fire lines are. Do none of the newsies have a helicopter they could use? Can no-one just ask the fire operations center? Presumably it’s up in the Turnbull somewhere. Based on the evacuation boundaries, it’s in the vicinity of Alkali Lake. If the wind holds at WSW, as forecast, it will miss us to the south.

Winds remain low right now, but will pick up to last night’s level this afternoon. How bad were the winds last night? This bad:

Twenty pound tomato planter blown off the corner of the deck railing.

Twenty pound tomato planter blown off the corner of the deck railing.

AQI in Spokane is 156 = just in the Unhealthy range.

A Fire in the NENW

July 19, 2014

MJ and I were out taking our evening constitutional, in 80F weather and 20kt winds, when we noticed a largish pyrocumulus to our southwest.

Watermelon Hill

Watermelon Hill

We continued, arguing about if it was local, or just more smoke from the western fires. We got a little more interested when we saw what looked like a firefighting command post set up in the parking lot of the local high school — multiple trucks (admin style, no pumpers), plus a couple of comms vans with their antennae up.

Got home, checked the news (online, the over the air reporting is deathly slow). It seems a fire had started near Fishtrap Lake about 3PM, and by 5pm had blown into a full scale emergency, burning 10K acres. The Fishtrap resort and rural areas SW of the Turnbull are under a Level 3 evacuation (mandatory), and Tyler township has a Level 2 evacuation (be prepared). Tyler is only ten miles from us, as the wind blows, but the evacuees are being sent to Cheney Middle School, a block from our house, so I guess we’re safe.

Most of the useful news is on Twitter, with the hashtag #WatermelonHill.

Fires in the West

July 18, 2014

Our fire season is in full bloom. Northwest Interagency Coordination Center shows twenty major fires burning in Washington and Oregon.

Lots of fires, none near Spokane

Lots of fires, none near Spokane

The same strong westerly winds that are driving the fires are also pushing the smoke plumes into eastern Washington. Here’s a picture from yesterday (the current photo is obscured by non-fire clouds — or maybe darkness).

That's not valley fog

That’s not valley fog

As a result, we have some significant air quality problems here in the Spokane region

Orange means "Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups"

The Orange means “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups”
The Orange is a lie

Now, the map says that Spokane is USG — Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups. That’s an AQI of 101-150. What was our AQI at 5PM? It was 148. So the map is a little misleading. Using standard Fuzzy Logic notation, one might say that Spokane has a 80% membership in the USG linguistic variable, and 20% membership in the Unhealthy linguistic variable.

The sky has been a sullen brown all day. The smell of smoke is sometimes strong. MJ says it reminds her of her childhood in Richland, just before a major dust storm. For me, it harks back to my days in Korea, when the sky would turn yellow in the Spring, as much of the Gobi Desert got carried east towards Japan.

In any event, no jogging tonight.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

July 14, 2014

Garden Report for 140714

The weather this week was hot and dry, with highs above 90F the whole time, and peaking at 96F on the weekend.

Nothing harvested, other than some lettuce. It’s all getting ready to bolt, but the last time I did a big harvest, it rotted in the fridge, so I’m just picking what I need. Here’s what the agro-complex looks like on Bastille Day:

Keyhole Garden, 14 July, 2014

Keyhole Garden, 14 July, 2014
(Click to embiggen)

Foreground: Pie pumpkin, with at least two softball-size pumps
Front: Maxed-out lettuce on the right, seedling lettuce on the left, under some wire shelving set on 2×4’s to discourage the squirrels
Mid: Tomatoes and squash in the front, with peas and beans and unseen-but-stressed Brussles sprouts in the back
Rear: Bean sprouts, Pea sprouts, onion shoots, strawberries. All pretty much invisible from here.

The hot dry weather is keeping the powdery mildew at bay, I think. We’ll see how things work out.

TL;DR — Anime I never finished, Summer 2014

July 14, 2014

My anime list has been bouncing up and down like a World Cup football. At first, I thought there were 4 or 5 that looked good. Then, I swung all the way up to 15 or 16, based on other people’s initial reviews. I may have been right the first time.

First thing to go — Robots!

Aldnoah Zero — Earth-descended Martians (don’t ask, it was the Moon’s fault) invade the mother planet in giant combat robots. Allusia, a Princess of Mars is thought to have been assassinated by Terran terrorists. Except it was actually a false flag operation, organized at the behest of the Master Mind of Mars, Count Kurūteo, by rebellious Warlords of Mars as a causus belli — just in time for SarajevoFest. Except that she’s not really dead, it was a stunt double, and now (accompanied by Thuvia Ederurizzo, Maid of Mars) she’s the Maguffin. Martian robots have this surface field thingy, that destroys things that touch it, which means it stops bullets, and slices through buildings just by leaning on them (adds a whole new meaning to the phrase cutting corners), and roads just by stomping on them. They don’t say how it keeps from going in up to its knees every time it takes a step. Meanwhile, the Terran battlebots have to make do with older weapons


Fangs out and brains in the helmet bag

Fangs out and brains in the helmet bag

Argevollen — The peaceful country of Ingelmia is invaded by warlike Arandians, who break through the Maginot Line of Ingelmania with giant combat robots. Everything is falling apart, when a rebellious soldier finds a cute girl, with glasses, operating a big transport truck, with a giant combat robot, the way cute, glasses-wearing girls are wont to do. He jumps into the robot, which looks suspiciously like something out of Evangelion, finds it responds to his mere thoughts and inclinations, and starts beating up on the ‘Randy robots. This being anime, I’m surprised it didn’t start chasing meganegirl. Meanwhile, the rest of the troops have to depend on older weapons

Are you sure this is the peak of robot development?

Nothing for me to be envious about


M3: The Dark Metal (It’s from Spring, but I didn’t find it on Daisuke until this week.)– The peaceful city of Kawadahara is invaded every night by the human-derived Admonitions and must be protected by high school students driving, you guessed it, giant combat robots.  Meanwhile, …

Nothing like a blunt instrument when you're engaged in the dark

Nothing like a blunt instrument when you’re engaged in the dark


Thinking about it, there’s two problems with building battlebots in real life. First, physics. They’re unstable (just like humans), and have many single-point-of-failure features (just like humans). Of course, no-one in anime would ever think of sneaking up close and shooting one in the back of the knee, or the ankle, or pulling the old エヲク – ログ attack. The second problem is human. If a human does a duck-and-weave, their head moves maybe a foot. A thirty foot tall robot jerks its head (and its pilot) five or six feet. And sitting in the cockpit while a battlebot runs into battle is like sitting in a box that’s being attacked by a two-hammered blacksmith while being dragged downstairs. Thud-thud-Thud-thud. I was on the verge of a mild headache after every one of these shows.

Gingerbeer Oats

July 9, 2014

For the recent 4th of July celebrations we thought we’d try a Colonial style non-alcoholic cooler. The recipe calls for a mix of ginger beer (two bottles), rhubarb syrup (two tablespoons), lime juice (two sixteenths of a cup), and sugar (to taste). We didn’t have any lime (I understand the world hit Peak Lime a year or so ago), so we used orange juice. Mix it up. Pour it over ice. It was quite good, with a peppery taste from the ginger. We made a couple of batches. In one, we used a couple tablespoons of rhubarb preserves, since we were out of our homemade syrup and the Unkillable Rhubarb hadn’t grown back from its Spring clearcut. There was a cup left over after all this, so I used it next morning for my oatmeal.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, one cup of ginger beer cooler, salt.  Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats.  Add the potato when you take it off the stove.

Results: Very good. The oatbland toned down the peppery taste, and the other ingredients faded into the background. I suspect one could just go with the ginger beer, and maybe sugar.

Rating: *****

Green Thumb Up My Nose

July 6, 2014

Garden Report for 140707

I suspect that no-one in Known Space noticed that I missed a garden update last week. Just part of the OS Upgrade Saga – or is it Epic? There’s a difference, I know because I got yelled at on the Beowulf mailing list some decades ago. Or maybe Black Hanekawa stole a chapter.

The weather these weeks was mixed, with June gloom hanging on thru the end of the month, and Summer roaring back in the upper 80’s.

In any event, not much happened. My early lettuce is about ready to bolt. My later lettuce (planted last week) is just barely visible. The icebergs I planted from sets turned out very well. Let’s see if I can do the same with seeds.

Speaking of bolting, the two daikon I planted in a container have both bolted, so I dug them up. Waste of time. One was about two inches long and an inch in diameter. The other one was small.

Lessons Learned: Daikon are not container plants, not even in big containers.

A couple weeks ago I got a bunch of elderly onion sets from the hardware store on a ‘buy one, get three free’ basis. Stuck them in the ground where the carrots aren’t coming up, and many of them are doing well.

Harvested two of the remaining three cabbages — stripped of the big leaves they were about grapefruit size, and weighed in at 24oz each (I guess I’m going to have to start posting a scorecard again). At the suggestion of my barber, I had pinned a couple of the bigger leaves up over the cores to keep them from sunburning. It seems to have worked, as the outer leaves had blanched and the inners dint. Also harvested the shell peas. I planted eight, which wasn’t nearly enough. We ended up with about a serving and a half for our 4th of July cookout.

Lessons Learned: First pick of one pea plant gave about five pods, with four or five peas each — call it twenty peas per plant. One serving seems to be about 80-100 peas (I’ll confirm next dinner time), so we need 4 or 5 plants per person per meal. Which means I plant at least 20 plants next time.

All of the tomatoes are blossoming, many have nascent fruit, and one looks like they are turning. The only varietal not producing yet are the 4th of July’s. Not sure what the name means. “Don’t even look until this date”?

Did some late season seed-buying. Several packets of nonberg lettuce (bibb and buntercrunch mostly) for late planting, and an impulse buy of lima beans. Opened it up and there were 12 beans in the packet. I felt like I’d just traded my cow. Planted them (ready in early September), and planted some pintos (ready in mid-october).

Galumpkis della Mare

July 3, 2014

Galumpkis are a Polish dish: cabbage leaves stuffed with ground meat and rice. That’s the one food tradition that’s left from my father’s side of the family. Not holiday fare, but we’d have them as an occasional dish, when the mood struck. I won’t say it’s the greatest food in the world, but it reminds me of my childhood, in a previous century and world.

Today, of course, everything is modern and Mediterranean and low cal and fresh and organic. We had some cabbage, fresh from our organic garden. We had some organically grown short grain brown rice (MJ saw the short grain on the label and read no further, it’s impossible to find short grain white rice, here in the NENW). We had some organically frozen fish. We thought, why not? What’s the worst that could happen? After all Rosa’s Pizza delivers on Sundays.

Turns out, it’s a simple, two-step process:

Step 1: pan fry some fish fillets, breaking them up in the pan and chopping them up afterwards so they come out like fishburger. Put enough of the brown rice to end up equal to the amount of fish into the pressure cooker and cook for however long your cooker says — it will probably be close to half the stovetop time for brown rice. Don’t use the Rice setting — that’s for white rice, and you’ll be underdone. Well, the rice will be underdone, and you’ll just be undone. Make a nice, thick, Italian tomato sauce, as you would for pizza, or pasta, or parmigiana. Braise half a dozen largish cabbage leaves in water added to the fish pan.

Step 2: mix the fish and rice until mixed. Add whatever herbs and spices sound good with fish and rice. Wrap up in the cabbage leaves and secure with toothpicks or nails or cotter pins. Lay them out in a roasting pan and cover with the Italianate sauce. Cook at 300F for 30min or so, until the Galumpkis Della Mare are heated through and the sauce gets a hard, dark glaze, like a fine Etruscan pottery.

Serve with an upscale, upcountry Chianti Colli Aretini, a presumptuous domestic Sangiovese, or a fresh Winnica Płochockich Rege.

Kicking and Screaming into the Future: Part 4, the Journey Arrives

June 29, 2014

Well,here we are in the future, and it’s not as bad as I feared. That’s not to say that it’s great.

TL:DR Summary for this Series: if you have to do a full install to upgrade your OS, then buy a new hard drive and install it there. You’ll have to redo all your bookmarks and passwords anyway, and the old drive can act as an archive.

As part of my build-a-little, test-a-little approach to life, I dug out an old Linux box to try some installs on. How old? Thirty-two bit old. Ethernet port doesn’t work old. It already had OpenSUSE on it, from needing to run some simulation software that didn’t like Ubuntu’s version of Java. I plugged in my new TB drive and installed the latest version of SUSE (“Software und System-Entwicklung“, meaning “Software and systems development”, it’s foreign). That’s when I was reminded that it was a 32-bit system. I won’t go into all my trials and tribulations — reading about someone else’s OS installs is as bad as watching them happen. Suffice it to say I that over the course of the last 48hrs I’ve done five OS installs on two different machines.

The final installs went easy. First, I moved my new drive to my production machine. Did you know that some PC power cable builders alternate the direction of the notches on their daisy-chained plugs? First one has them pointing down. Second one, three inches along on the cable, has them pointing up (as if you were going to install the drive upside down) and you have to rotate the already-short cable to attach them. Just thought I’d mention that. Then I installed Ubuntu 14.04 from disk. Then I had a fight with the boot loader over which drive to boot from.

It turns out I like U14 even less than I like U12. The icons are obnoxious. It forces Thunderbird on you. It … I can’t remember all the reasons. The reason being, it took me about ten minutes to decide to dump Ubuntu for OpenSUSE*. Two hours later, and I have an operating operating system.

OpenSUSE isn’t perfect. They let you log in as root instead of forcing sudo on you, a dangerous practice. Their fonts are too small. The KDE desktop organizer is a little funky. The way one finds applications to run is also odd. The screen saver settings aren’t cooperating, so it still blanks out after five minutes. I have not yet tried to get the mailer working. I still have to install Chromium. Anki doesn’t have a version of their flash card software for OpenSUSE like they do for Ubuntu, so I’m using the browser version (and have installed the desktop version on my Windows machine).

On the other hand, Firefox works, and Opera (except that they’re not using the latest Flash plugin), and I can see the old drive, so it was a trivial matter to copy all the files over to the new Home folder. The user interface has a nice retro-unix feel to it, with grey pulldowns and raised check boxes and radio buttons that show a black dot when selected. Takes me back forty years.

Complete with chameleon mascot

Complete with chameleon mascot
(click to embiggen)

* I decided not to go with Mint, because they’re a Ubuntu variant, and I wasn’t sure what baggage that would involve.

MH370: Reuters gets it wrong

June 28, 2014

…and so does Slate.

On Thursday, the Australian Transportation Safety Board released a report (5MB .pdf) detailing how they decided on the next search location in the hunt for flight MH370.

The report is an outstanding example of how to do these things. Assumptions are defined, logic trails are laid out, what is known is kept separate from what is unknown. It’s a far cry from the joke that was the Indonesian government’s report.

On page 34 (39th page of the .pdf) they describe their End of Flight Scenario. But first, they put in a disclaimer:

Note: Given the imprecise nature of the SATCOM data, it was necessary to make some assumptions regarding pilot control inputs in order to define a search area of a practical size. These assumptions were only made for the purposes of defining a search area and there is no suggestion that the investigation authority will make similar assumptions.

Got that? “We had to narrow down the options, so we chose this one“. It was at he top of the section, and it was in boldface. They then go on to say:

Given these observations, the final stages of the unresponsive crew/ hypoxia event type appeared to best fit the available evidence for the final period of MH370’s flight when it was heading in a generally southerly direction:

Immediately after their scenario description, they insert another boldface disclaimer:

Note: This suggestion is made for the sole purpose of assisting to define a search area. The determination of the actual factors involved in the loss of MH370 are the responsibility of the accident investigation authority and not the SSWG.

So, what’s the Reuters headline? “Malaysia jet passengers likely suffocated, Australia says“. And the article, unlike many on the web, tracks with the headline — everybody was incapacitated by hypoxia. And what’s the Slate headline? “MH370 Passengers “Most Likely” Died of Hypoxia Before Crash, Report Says“. They go on to say “It does not appear to have suggested why passengers and crew might have lost access to oxygen.” Translation: it was a story that was too good to check, so we didn’t read the report.

The fact is, the passengers and crew could have been unresponsive because they were dead of hypoxia, or because they were dead of a murder-suicide, or because the crew was locked in the cockpit playing honeymoon bridge while the passengers were relaxing in the back with their small lemon-soaked paper napkins.

We don’t know what happened. The scenario is one that fits what’s known, so let’s use that to extrapolate what’s unknown. And then we’re at the mercy of the media.

Cabbage Broth Oatmeal

June 26, 2014

As a result of harvest ops in the garden, I had a large supply of the outer leaves of the harvested cabbage — edible, but tough and fibrous (like kale, but without the foodster panache). I thought I’d try using them to make broth for my morning oatmeal. So I took half a dozen biggish leaves, tore them into cookable chunks, and ran them through the pressure cooker for half an hour. The only additive was salt.

The broth was … exceedingly cabbagy. The smell permeated the kitchen for days. The meal was:

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, one cup of cabbage broth, salt.  Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats.  Add the potato when you take it off the stove.

Results: Meh. Bland, with cabbage. Adding pepper helped. Adding cheese helped. A second pass, adding pepper and sage and garlics and such … needed cheese. Perhaps if I added more ingredients when making the original broth. Things like onions and carrots and the like. I think I’ll put that off for another day.

Rating: *****

Kicking and Screaming into the Future: Part 3, the Journey Pauses

June 25, 2014

While we are writing wamilditing waititors waiting for the new drive to arrive, let’s take a spin through Ubuntu 12.04 and see what’s what.

First of all, I’m not a fan of the new iconic toolbar. I can see why you need it — it saves vertical screen real estate, but a sidebar really demands icons. I just don’t like it.

Second, I deplore the trend towards auto-extend menus that pop up the instant your cursor tip runs across them. If I make a big, sweeping move from the R/H screen to somewhere on the lower L/H side of the L/H screen I’m sure to fire off three or four menus enroute, end up blocking the place I wanted to click. It reminds me of HitchHikers Guide to the Galaxy:

For years radios had been operated by means of pressing buttons and turning dials; then as the technology became more sophisticated the controls were made touch-sensitive – you merely had to brush the panels with your fingers; now all you had to do was wave your hand in the general direction of the components and hope. It saved a lot of muscular expenditure of course, but meant that you had to sit infuriatingly still if you wanted to keep listening to the same programme. Douglas Adams HHGG

Speaking of programmes, I fixed the sound issue — I had patched the headphone output into the mic input so I could collect anime OP and ED songs. Somewhere on U10 there was a setting that let me hear the music as well, but I can’t find it on U12. Hopefully it’s still there.

I’m also not happy about the move away from Evolution, and the associated decay of my mail client. I’m not trying to fix stuff right now, but I may be forced into Thunderbird mail when I go to U14. Until then, I’ll just have to put up with U12 sticking almost all my mail in the fake spam folder, and marking it as read. Evolution has also gotten flakey about demanding that I use a contacts email address when it finds one. If I want to send an email to, say,, and all I have in the contacts list is, then it will not let me type that, unless I put a space after the @ sign, type the address, and delete the space. On the other hand, it’s no longer sticking egregious commas into some of my addresses. It used to be that if I typed and hit [Tab] it would come out as old,, with an error message about old not being a proper address.

I severely dislike Gnome’s decision to save the planet by turning off my monitor screens when I’m not active, instead of letting me run my 10GB collection of Earth-, Space-, and OldNavy- porn photos as a screen saver. I know we don’t need such things any more, but they provide mild entertainment for when I’m in the room but not at the keyboard. I’m sure there’s a slideshow app that will do the same thing, when I click on it. I’m also sure that turning off the monitors will save zillions of dollars in power, globally. But damnit, I want to make that decision! I don’t want some faceless collective to do it for me.

Finally, there’s something now wrong with my keyboard function. Every so often, the cursor makes a break for the top of the page. I had to retype the previous paragraph twice, and correct the first sentence three times, because the cursor did a top-pop while I was typing with my head down. It is not my hardware — happens on both a wireless and a straight USB plugin keyboard. Happens in various browsers (although it seems worst in Opera…sigh). It’s quite a sight to see, when it dashes to the top of my RSS feeds –14000 unread messages.

Also, the system now does not recognize the [left-shift-@] keyboard combo. I first encountered this in Evolution, when typing an email address, but it turns out it’s true across all almost all applications — text edit, Firefox (gmail recognizes it in the search bar, not in a text box), LibreOffice. In addition, it doesn’t recognize the [Page Down] key on when browsing. [Spacebar] works, [Page Up] works.  I suspect it’s a Java issue, but again, am not going to mess with things until U14.

And if U14 continues to be a mess, then there’s always Mint or OpenSuSe. I mean, if I have to do a totally new install, with all the reconstruction pain that implies, I might as well try something new.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

June 22, 2014

Garden Report for 140623

The weather this week started out with two days of cold and windy rain, and ended with sunny skies and an 80F high. The early part was good for the cabbages, but the rain rotted the bottoms of a couple of the iceberg lettuce.

I harvested two of the four remaining cabbage. They had a leaf-spread of a couple of feet, but by the time I was done stripping it down, each one was the size of a softball. I am going to make broth in the pressure cooker, using the outer leaves. They are reportedly edible, but tough and fibrous and the goal will be to just extract the flavor. (<spoiler>it didn’t work</spoiler>) Speaking of tough and fibrous, some of our leaf lettuce is starting to bolt, and now that we’re coming on for high summer I suspect the rest will go quickly. More salads!

The squash are poised to take over everything but haven’t made their move yet. There’s a good five or six pie pumpkins developing on each pumpkin plant. Unfortunately, the squirrels seem to think they’re peanuts, until they’ve picked them. No sign of fruit on any of the others, but at least they retained their blossoms during the cold spell.

The tomatoes, likewise, kept their flowers, and the Napa Grape already has half a dozen small …um… grape-like … fruit.

Kicking and Screaming into the Future: Part 2, the Journey Continues

June 21, 2014

After a short stop in our non-stop journey to the future, we proceeded to move onward and upward, from Ubuntu 12.4 to 14.04.

Not so fast, cowboy.

So, it turns out (you’ll see that phrase a lot in this set of essays) that everything did not go smoothly with the online upgrade. How do I know?

First, is the calm silence, broken only by the hum of the fan. No beeps, boops, or blats. In fact, no audio. At all. Played around with some of the settings, to no avail. That’s OK, I’ll wait ’till I get the 14.04 upgrade installed, and then I’ll worry.

Second, no 14.04 install. I tried the quickie online upgrade route, the one that went so well for 12.04, and it failed at the setup stage. Something about not being able to calculate the install and maybe it was unresolved dependencies, but maybe it was non-Ubuntu software. Update manager says no problems with dependencies, and there’s not a lot of stuff that I’ve gone out and dug up on my own. The Opera browser, maybe. AnkiDeck for my flashcards. Not much else. I suspect that something went wrong with the 12.04 upgrade. Not horribly wrong, but wrong enough.

So, what is to be done?, as Lenin would say. Having looked at the Ubuntu Upgrade forums leading entry “I upgraded my machine and now I have this problem”, it looks like I’m back to downloading the new OS, burning it to disc, and doing a fresh install. For the Windows snickerers, this is much like going from XP to Win8. The question is, how to do it?

The reason that’s a question is that I’m a cautious suspenders and belt kindof guy. I’d rather not end up with a blown 14.04 install and no machine. OK, the other reason is, I’ve been thinking of upgrading my hard drive anyway. So, I’ve just now ordered a new TB drive from Amazon, and when it comes (end of the week), I’ll plug it in and install the new OS on it. If something goes wrong, I just change the boot order back.

Sounds like a plan. Time for bed.

Kicking and Screaming into the Future: Part 1, the Journey Begins

June 20, 2014

I severely dislike upgrading my operating system. There’s so much at stake and so much that can go wrong that I put it off as long as possible. Longer, even. Herewith a brief account of how I got from There to Here. In the future.

I bought my present Linux box from System76 about four years ago — two generations of Moore’s Law. It came with 8GB of memory and a 2.67 quad core chip running 64-bit Ubuntu 10.04LTS. Not a screamer, but good enough. The biggest change from today’s boxen is that now the cpu’s are running 25% faster. Of course Ubuntu is now at version 14.04LTS. The easiest way to get from 10 to 14, it says here, is via online update to 12.

I started by backing up my stuff. Turns out, I’ve got a lot of stuff, and not a lot of places to put it. I pay for 100GB on DropBox, so that’s the first step. Of course, I’ve got a lot more than 100GB of stuff, so I can only put part of it up in the cloud. That was the plan, and the plan worked. Sortof. You see, your ISP (mine is Centurylink) only promises you fast downloads. Uploads go at a tenth the speed, if that. A day later, DropBox was still trudging through my collection of EarthPorn landscape photos, what I use for my screen saver. I also have a NAS with a fair bit of space on it, so the rest of the files go there. That solved the problem, and I didn’t have to move stuff over to my Windows box, or to MJ’s machine, or resurrect my external drive enclosure.

Came Der Tag, and I opened the Update window and clicked on the “12.02 is available” button. After a bit of palavering, it told me that it would take about 9 hours at my current DSL download speeds. No, half an hour. Sorry, five hours. And so forth. As bad as Windows. It ended up taking only about two and a half hours. Roughly. At one point it popped open a modal dialog box the instant I left the room and sat there awaiting my return, so the timings are somewhat estimated.

After the download came the install. Since all the software was on the PC, and it wasn’t pulling packages from hither and yon, the displayed two-hour install time was pretty accurate. Towards the end, it asked me about keeping old or installing new versions of config files. I told it to install new files, except for GRUB, where I told it to keep the old one, silly old me.

Install was done and reboot was run and …. there I was, looking at a black screen with a blinking cursor. Did I mention I hate upgrading my OS? I tried the old “hold down [right-shift] at the precise 3-second interval” trick. That gave me a black screen, the words “Loading GRUB”, and a blinking cursor. My guess is that the old GRUB config file confused it.

My usual response to this kind of infelicity is to pop over to the Ubuntu Forums and dig around. None of the posts in the “Installations & Upgrades” forum quite covered it, so I posted a query. Six hours later (those guys are good) I had my answer — Boot Repair Disk. This is a free utility that you download, burn to disk, and use to boot your ailing PC. It has an autofix tool that fixes you right up. It almost took longer to download than it did to update.

So, here we are, at the first stop on our non-stop trip to the future. I’m going to play with 12.04 for a day or so, and then do an online upgrade to 14.04. I mean, the worst is over, and what could possibly go wrong?

Veterans and Entitlements

June 17, 2014

In the almost-century that tha VA, or its components, has existed, it’s never been adequately funded to meet its responsibilities. In typical fashion, Congress has ignored it, except when some scandal has forced their hands. In the most recent decade, they have consistently refused to provide funding for those thousands of veterans injured in America’s Longest War. It took a series of vets dying practically on Senator John McCain’s lawn to trigger the latest stopgap measure. And stopgap it is, and no, it won’t be followed up on, not once the November elections are past.

Despite that, some Republican lawmakers still found it necessary to carp about the cost and the open-endedness of it all. Senator Jeff Sessions, of Alabama, a state kept afloat by Army, Navy, and Air Force bases, found it in his heart to say:

“I feel strongly we’ve got to do the right thing for our veterans. But I don’t think we should create a blank check, an unlimited entitlement program, now,”

Blank check. Entitlements. You know, Senator Sessions, every serviceman and -woman signs a blank check upon entry onto active duty. That check says they will obey all lawful orders given by their superiors. If those orders require that they die carrying them out, well, they knew that when they signed up. You can see it in the kinds of orders that are sometimes given: “hit the beach”, “take that hill”, “hold until relieved”, “come on you bastards, ya wanna live forever?”. The Coast Guard, responsible for rescuing mariners in trouble, no matter what the sea state, has a saying: “You have to go out. You don’t have to come back.”

We’re not that far past the anniversary of the Battle of Midway, the turning point of WWII in the Pacific. My father was with the Marine Defense Battalion on Midway Island during the battle. His introduction to it was his commander saying to them while they were still in Hawaii, three months after the fall of Wake Island, “You lads want to go bait a trap?” One of the heroic stories of the battle itself was the performance of Navy torpedo squadron VT-8. Torpedo 8 is famous because they pressed home their attack in the face of overwhelming fire, every plane was shot down, and only one man survived. What normally isn’t said is the fact that they knew, when they took off from their carrier, that if the Japanese fleet was where we thought it was, they wouldn’t have enough gas to get back. They still went. Blank check.

So yes, Senator Sessions, Senator Johnson, Senator Corker, we should create a blank check for these people. We should create an unending entitlement, because they did the same for you, in all your foreign wars and adventures. It’s one of the costs of engaging in those wars, a cost that should be fully recognized at the start. If you can order them in harm’s way, you can damn well care for what comes back. It’s their right. They’re entitled.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

June 16, 2014

Garden Report for 140616

June gloom was a little late arriving this year, but last week made up for it, with gloomy, blustery, sometimes-rainy days. Highs haven’t been above 62F this week. Next week will start out the same, but should warm rapidly.

The garden keeps on. Over half the squash and tomatoes have blossoms, but I worry that the recent lows in the 40’s might re-set their clocks. Harvested a couple of the cabbages — by the time I’d stripped off the outer, unappetizing leaves I was down to a head smaller than my fist. Some of the icebergs have actually headed, but loosely. You wouldn’t buy them in the store, but they make good-looking salads, being a little greener than the store-bought heads.

This is late and short. Last week was Finals, and this week is The Assigning of the Grades and The Arguing With The Students. In between, we had commencement. Now I know why the 14th Century academics wore those long, heavy robes.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

June 8, 2014

Garden Report for 140609

The weather this week was the inverse of the week before. We started out hot and got cooler. Next week will be the same, they say.

Not much doing, gardenwise. I’m harvesting huge heads of icebergs, except that they’re not ‘headed’. About to plant a third tranche of lettuce, due out in August. Other things are also growing apace — half my tomatoes have blossoms, as do a couple of squash. I ripped a bunch of bolted brassicae out of Section 2. As an example of the impact of the heat, the broccoli florets developed already spaced out. Saturday, I found one head, slightly bigger than a cherry tomato, that hadn’t exploded yet. MJ and I split it.

My adventure for this week was fixing another hose break. Not an actual break, but the ageing hose slipped off one of the connectors. None of the hose clamps I had was big enough (I have both broad gauge and narrow gauge soaker hoses), so I bought a new one and went to put it on. Unfortunately, my injured shoulder (see last week’s entry) wasn’t up to the torque needed to hold the tab of the clamp in place while holding the hose solidly enough to use the screwdriver. I had to rest it on the netting support, where I could bring straighter pressure to bear, and in doing so, I messed up:

If you don't pay attention, things can get misaligned

If you don’t pay attention, things can get misaligned

Sorry, I’ll write that again:

Sorry. Here's what happens when you don't pay attention

Sorry. Here’s what happens when you don’t pay attention

I guess you could call it high-drip irrigation.

TL:DR — Anime I never finished, Spring 2014

June 8, 2014

The season is drawing to a close, and I’m still dropping shows. These are ones that I kindof watched, sometimes over halfway through, but then the inertia died and I got bored and wandered off…I guess.

Brynhildr in the Darkness – Presumably dead or dying girls brought back to life and experimented upon (Gunslinger Girls trope, with superpowers) by secret government project. Some escape and get chased down and killed. Others escape and join the Astronomy Club. Flopped back and forth between gratuitous violence and gratuitous fanservice.

Chaika–The Coffin Princess – Granddaughter of dead and dismembered evil emperor wanders around with an anti-tank gun-shaped magical weapon in a coffin-shaped carrier, trying to collect grampa-parts for burial. Unlike most magical weapons, this one seems to require a pre-firing checklist and spin-up time, which was really cool. And then … um… there were some characters…and…a…um…plot.

The World is Still Beautiful - Spunky teenage daughter of small, cloud producing country, having lost a game of Jan-Ken-Pon to her sisters, is married off to the 12-year-old king of seriously big, seriously dry country that (through his presumably precocious efforts) has conquered most of the rest of the world. Her skills apparently include understanding lonely 12 year old absolute monarchs, and making it rain by singing poorly written J-Pop in bad English. I guess the point of this Seattle-Los Angeles romance is that there’s no problem a nice cold shower can’t solve.

Nanana’s Buried Treasure – Ghost of a cute teenage girl haunts an apartment complex after her precursor buried powerful artifacts all over an artificial island, leaving them protected by hidden high tech puzzles, any one of which would require a major construction project coordinated by a general contractor. Many years later, an “Adventure Club” of other teenagers hunts them down, in a this-should-be-in-a-museum style. Meanwhile, crime gang works at infiltration and theft of the artifacts. Some interesting plot twists, but what a waste of a good character — videogame-playing teenage-girl-ghost acts as nothing more than a story arc hook and plucky comic relief.

The perils of computer laziness

June 7, 2014

Ubuntu updates regularly, but does provide LTS (Long Term Support) for versions that come out in even-numbered years. So, rather than updating the OS annually, it’s possible to wait a couple of years, and update with the new LTS. For servers, LTS is four years. For desktops, I guess it’s only two.

In any event, I’m still running Ubuntu 10.4, and the rest of the world just moved on to 14.4. Given that, it’s not surprising that the latest security patch (Linux has been bepesterd by them of late) broke my copy of 10.4. Broke it as in “the mouse and keyboard don’t work and I can’t open or change any files or even log in”.

This, of course, at the start of the weekend before finals, and half an hour before my formal blood pressure check (it was a little high).

The problem turns out to be fixable — hit [shift-escape] [right-shift] on bootup, pick the older kernel from the Grub menu to get in, then edit the Grub defaults to always boot from that kernel. This, of course is a stopgap until I can get the end-of-term chores out-of-the-way.

It took me about two hours to get things sorted out. The first hour I was thrashing around on my own, trying the original install disk and so forth, and the second hour was a more methodical combing through the Ubuntu Forums. Well, OK, there was also an additional half-hour of trying to hit [shift-escape] [right-shift] at the exact millisecond I was supposed to — my twitch muscles weren’t twitching too well. You see, since it’s a Linux-only box, I’ve turned all the Grub menus off, so there’s no indication of when I should twitch and no delay to allow me to do it.

Turns out that I wasn’t the only one with this problem, and there was a certain amount of forum snarking at us for not updating on schedule. But updates are fraught with their own problems, problems I was too lazy to want to encounter. Turns out, that was a mistake.

So, come mid-June, I’ll be installing 12.4 on my machine, and then 14.4 on both mine and MJ’s. And next time? I’ll be upgrading to 16.4.

UPDATED: to correct the key you should hit. Not sure how that happened, except that I had a fight with WordPress’ html interpreter over whether or not I could use <> as delimiters and that distracted me.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

June 1, 2014

Garden Report for 140602

And Bang! we go from spring to summer. Last Wednesday it was 57F. Sunday it was 77F.

Not as solid as it looked

Not as solid as it looked
(click to embiggen)

Nice soil, though

Nice soil, though

One learns a lot from a garden. Here’s what I learned on Saturday:

1. a pair of 2x4s can be heavy and cumbersome (left)

2. dry-laid cinder-block can be unstable when subjected to lateral overturning force (right)

3. KHG components like phone books really do decompose into soil (bottom).

4. Also, old shoulder injuries never really heal.

In addition to de-Hadrianizing my KHG, I’m pulling out all of the brassicae, except maybe the cabbage. That’s an experiment that doesn’t need to be repeated. Maybe put in the next increment of peas and/or beans. Problem was, the early stuff was due to be harvested in 40-70 days. At Day 40 there wasn’t anything remotely harvestable of the cauliflower and broccoli. At Day 60, they had bolted. It gets too hot too soon, here in the NENW.

The lettuce is going wild. I’m going to have to give some away. The iceberg has shown no interest in heading, but it’s still very good and very crispy, if you put it in the fridge for a while before serving.

As everyone says, there’s a rhythm to gardening. The greenhouse goes up early in the spring, and comes down a month later, when the plants go in the ground. The anti-squirrel mesh goes up when I do my initial planting, and comes down a month later, when the plants are big enough to fight off the squirrels. You know the mesh I’m talking about — a four-foot wide strip of chicken wire, stapled to two, eight-foot 2x4s. They’re heavy. And cumbersome.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

May 27, 2014

Garden Report for 140526

The weather this week was springlike, with four days well over 70F. This is probably bad for the broccoli and cabbage.

According to Growing Taste, a Walla Walla based gardener, cabbages and broccoli are hard to grow on the Columbia Plateau.

We want our cabbage in the ground as early as practicable, so we can get them out as early as we can: cabbage growth slows above 68 degrees, and stops, possibly with damage, at 85 degrees. … We should, therefore, probably target our planting-out for mid-March, looking to a harvest in mid-May.

I transplanted some biggish store-bought seedlings about two months ago, so they should be ready next week. The pictures show what they look like now:

I don't remember flowers

I don’t remember flowers

Is it head yet?

Is it head yet?

Growing Taste has similar things to say about cauliflower and Brussels sprouts. I am beginning to wonder if the Brassicae fall into the too hard to do category. I’m not writing the Great American Game Theory Novel here, about man vs nature games. I’m just trying for some moderately fresh sides and salads without too much work and agricolich angst.

Speaking of salads, one of the things they don’t tell you when you start your salad garden, is that the lettuce peaks a good three months before the tomatoes do. The first planting of leaf lettuce is 8″ high. The icebergs are leafing out nicely, with no indication they want to head.

Speaking of angst, the squirrels continue their destructive ways. They’re not trying to kill the plants. They’re just burying their nuts, and the fact that they’re killing roots and tipping over seedlings is just, you know, collateral damage.

And the angst-speaking continues: my ten-year-old soaker hose is slowly rotting. I fixed one biggish leak with tape a couple of weeks ago. This week I had another, bigger one, at the south end of Section 1. I mean spraying water over the rhubarb big, and that’s not a plant that needs encouragement. I didn’t have the material to fix this one — my only splicing tube was a three-way, and the hardware store was closed. So I cut the hose at the break, put the three-way on, scrounged up a short length of soaker left over from an earlier leak, and added a small rotary sprinkler to the mix. It’s starting to look a bit Heath Robinson, but I think it will get me through the summer.

What we need to remember on Memorial Day

May 26, 2014

I was not going to write anything this Memorial Day, because there’s only a few simple facts that apply, and one grows boring, repeating them over and over. But I persist. After all, Delenda est Carthago. What prompted this was a typical feel-good Memorial Day email from my Congresswoman, Cathy McMorris Rodgers. Reading it, I found I had to reply.

Thanks for your Memorial Day message, but let me remind you that actions speak louder than words.

As a VietNam veteran, I have some suggestions as to what actions you, as a lawmaker, can take to honor those who died, or otherwise gave their lives in service to America.

1. Fund the VA, nationwide, at a level that will let them hire the doctors and staff needed to serve the workload associated with our wars, for as long as those who served need their service.

2. Fund the economic programs needed to make sure returning service members can find a job when they get out, and that they have a safety net until they find that job.

3. Fund the State Department at a level that will let them maintain adequate security at all their stations. Did you know that since the end of the Cold War, we’ve lost more ambassadors overseas than we have general officers?

4. Finally, keep us out of stupid wars and ill-thought foreign adventures. 6000 Americans died in Iraq and Afghanistan, and we’re less safe than we were on September 10th.

Do these four things, whoever is in office and whatever their party, and you will have the undying gratitude of those who served, and their survivors. Do these four things without regard to offsets or tax reform or other political cant. Do these four things because they are the right thing to do to support the troops, and because they represent part of the hidden costs of a robust foreign policy, a hidden cost you have to accept when you make the decision to engage.

It’s fine to remember the troops, and I thank you, but more importantly, you should never forget that it’s your laws and your funding that sends them in harm’s way and cares for what comes back.

North Korean Science Fiction

May 23, 2014

She turned a tap inside the house, and clear, clean water started to flow, sparkling in the light of the electric bulb her husband had been awarded for his outstanding work in the stench-packing factory. “Water and electricity,” she marveled. “Now I can cook the rice that I bought, simply by going to the store. This truly is a worker’s paradise. Bless you, Great Leader Kim.”

For the real stuff, BoingBoing has an article.

Picture Stories from Earth: Even Life Magazine Gets It Wrong

May 20, 2014

Here’s a picture from Vintage Everyday, a fun website for old photos. It’s originally from a 1948 edition of Life magazine, and purportedly shows Broadway, the main East-West street in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Yes, those are cowboys, but is this really Broadway?

Yes, those are cowboys, but is this really Broadway?

The trouble is, as this shot from Google Maps shows, there’s no rounded hill to the left of Broadway in Jackson Hole. The view is to the north.

The hills haven't moved

The hills haven’t moved

Instead, it looks like we’re on Cache Street, around the intersection with Mercell Avenue, somewhere near the ‘A’ in Cache on the overhead picture.

Cache, not Broadway

Cache, not Broadway

Of course, I could be wrong. I can’t find that Texaco station anywhere.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

May 18, 2014

Garden Report for 140519

The weather seems to be falling into a pattern: cool and wet on the weekends, above average warmth in midweek. Same is forecast for next week.

Finished building the garden this week — two weeks ahead of the recommended date. Let’s see if that was successful derring-do, or brash adventurism.

Section 1 is coming along fine. The early lettuce is overcrowded and tall. The late lettuce is still recovering from the squirrel predations (I say predations like they were after the lettuce. They were actually putting craters in the garden for their own purposes, like Predators). The icebergs are big and green and not at all iceberglich.

Section 2 is fully planted. I had one tomato die of, I think, cold. I’d tell you what it was, but it was the one from the Rainbow Blend, AKA I don’t know, either. Maybe it died of confusion. I replaced it with a Marglobe.

In Section 3, the Brassicae are doing well, I think. Theoretically, I should be harvesting some cabbage and broccoli in two weeks time. We’ll see. The peas and beans I planted earlier have settled in. I had three daikon that sprouted indoors OK, and I planted them out.

Section 4 is mostly asparagus and strawberries, neither of which seem inclined to do anything. The carrots I seeded at the north end might be sprouting.

In what can best be called the ground cover portion of the yard, I’ve marked out some circles and planted two eating pumpkins and a Delicata.

The containers are all doing OK. I’ve planted out the remaining seedlings — lemon cucumbers, beets, and radishes. There was one empty container, and I swung by the hardware store and bought another tomato for there — Brandywine Red. There being no seedlings left, I moved the coffin greenhouse to a sheltered spot under the stairs. I’ll load it up with all the gardening impedimenta I won’t need until next spring.

I haven’t had a chance to fix the hops yet. Maybe this coming week.

Opera Browser: The Long Farewell

May 16, 2014

I have been a fan of the Opera browser since you had to pay $30 to run it on the PC. Looking back, that had to be almost as soon as it was publicly available, in 1996 — almost twenty years ago. I have put Opera on every computer I’ve owned this century — Linux, Mac, PC; desktops, laptops, netbooks, tablets… As soon as I got an Android phone, I downloaded Opera Mobile. Opera never had more than 3% of the desktop market, but it made major inroads into mobile, particularly in Europe.

It was always a cutting edge application. For example, Opera was the first browser to provide tabbed browsing, back in 2000, and Speed Dial, in 2007. Then, too, the Norwegian development team seemed to have a bit of a sense of humor. When Microsoft, in one of their periodic episodes of insanity, started deliberately sending Opera users to broken pages, the Opera folks retaliated by translating all Microsoft web pages into …bork…bork…Swedish Chef English.

One of the things I particularly liked was the easy access to advanced and site-specific settings. I’m not real big on flashy displays on websites. Mostly, I go to a site for information, not entertainment or an intrusive sales pitch. I tend to run with everything turned off — cookies, plug-ins, JavaScript, flash, etc. Of course, that breaks a lot of the web, but if I come to a website that needs, say, JavaScript, and I think it’s worth it, I can hit F12, click on “Site Preferences”, and I’m there. Other browsers require you to drill down through multiple layers of menus.

Sadly, a once-great company seems to be abandoning its roots. A year ago, they stopped development of their mobile app, chosing to rebrand Chrome, instead. On the desktop, they seem to have quietly abandoned Linux. One of the co-founders, Jon von Tetzchner, has broken a three-year silence to say that the company had gone to crap.

Earlier this week I upgraded my office Mac to Mountain Lion — it won’t support One Trick Pony. I then upgraded Opera. In the process, it threw away all my bookmarks. That’s not a disaster, because I don’t bookmark a lot of stuff in the office (they frown on, and I do back up my bookmarks. Now under the old version of Opera, if you went to Help/About, it gave you nine lines of directory entries, telling you were it kept your files. Under the new Opera, I had three: where was (in applications, duh), where the cache was, and one other, equally useless bit of information.

The latest version of Opera for PCs and Macs is Opera 21.0.14 (released yesterday), for Linux, it’s 12.16, released almost a year ago to update a version first released two years ago. Opera for Linux no longer works with many websites, even with everything turned on, and I’m losing more websites every day.

So, the time has come to pull the plug. I’ll be using Firefox on the Mac and the PC, with Chrome for when I want to run a different browser in a different window. I’ll probably limp along with Opera on the Linux machine, because I still have over 100 RSS feeds there, but more and more of my time seems to be spent on Firefox and Chromium. It’s too bad. Even now, I like the Opera interface. Its method of handling bookmarks seems more intuitive than Firefox, and I didn’t have to download a stupid plugin to get the Speed Dial to work.

And now Mozilla is taking Firefox to the dark side by adding DRM. I guess I’ll have to switch back to Mosaic.


May 15, 2014

There is a Japanese breakfast/lunch dish called tamagoyaki. Tamago (たまご) is eggs, and yaki (やき) is cooked, unless it means cool evening. But in most contexts, tamagoyaki stands for a version of scrambled eggs that involves adding soy and sugar and dashi (oh my), and cooking it in multiple thin layers that are then rolled up. Cut up into chopstick-suitable pieces, it’s a standby food for the old bento lunchbox.

I decided to try an egg-drop oatmeal version. I cooked the oatmeal in water for the usual time, then stirred in the tamagoyaki mixture (egg beaters, glug of soy, a quarter teaspoon of dashi powder, half teaspoon of sugar) at the last minute.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, one cup of water, one third cup of tamagoyaki mixture, salt.  Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats.  Drizzle the tamagoyaki into the still-cooking oatmeal, stirring all the while. Add the potato when you take it off the stove.

Results: Not bad. The salt in the tamagoyaki didn’t help the oatmeal that much, so I had to add some. Slightly too much soy sauce (easy to do). The egg didn’t thicken up as much as I thought it would, so I added my usual potato.

Rating: *****

Green Thumb Up My Nose

May 11, 2014

Garden Report for 140512

The weather this week was much like last week’s — cold, windy, with a spot of rain.

Despite the weather, which was only good for the lettuccoi, I planted some more plantings — carrots in the north end of Section 4, some beet seedlings in the bigger of the small long containers, some daikon seedlings in Section 3, a zucchini in Section 2, lemon cucumbers and a Husky Red tomato on the deck. Tuesday starts a warming trend, so I’ll get more out then. With luck, I’ll be done with my coffin-sized, PRC-built greenhouse.

I’ve strung some bird netting for the hops to grow on, but I’m not happy with how it went up. Next week, I’ll fix that, before they get totally out of control. Look for a photo then.

Finally, I got myself a new toy — a 20″ soil thermometer. I couldn’t find the recommended model, either on Amazon or at the hardware store, so I settled for a cheap mechanical model. Right now, the temperature in the gardens, at a depth of about 16″, is 65F. The containers on deck are closer to 60F.


May 8, 2014

This was going to have a much shorter title, but I didn’t want to put people off. Did you know that turducken patties are a thing? You remember the chicken-inside a duck-inside a turkey fad on the food channels of a year of so ago? It seems that Echelon Foods (possibly a subsidiary of NSA) produces Gourmet Turducken Patties with Italian sausage meatlike substances. Reading the ingredient list requires special training in parsing sentence structure. It starts off with turkey thigh, chicken breast (so far, so good), Italian-style sausage (sub-list of sausage components, including pork and bread crumbs [sub-sub-list of bread crumb components ] ), duck breast, salt (so there’s more duck breast than salt), etc. Not at all encouraging. MJ bought them on a whim. I wouldn’t have bought them on a dare.

So, we cooked them. They are palm-sized, and half an inch thick. The meat was dense, like chicken patties, but the flavor was, well, lacking. What little there was made one think of Italian sausage.  MJ said she could detect chicken. We ate one apiece, and decided that it was much like dwarf-bread — it sustains the traveler on long journeys because after one or two bites you realize you weren’t as hungry as you thought you were. What to do with the remaining four? How about making broth in the electric pressure cooker? The result was uninspiring — tasted a lot like vegetable broth, only without the pizzaz. Certainly wouldn’t want to make soup with it*, so I used some of it for oatmeal the next morning.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, one cup of turduckensausagebroth, salt.  Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats.  Add the potato when you take it off the stove.

Results: Meh. Like vegetable broth, it needs a lot of help in the condiments department to make it taste good. Our dogs thought the remnant pattichunks made the best training treats ever.

Rating: *****

*OK, so I did make soup with it, the next night when I was on my onlies. Two cups of broth and a package of noodles. Salt. A measuring teaspoon of white miso. Heat and taste and…add another teaspoon of miso. Stir and heat and…add a third teaspoon. Result was not inedible. Well, I finished the noodles. Could have used more miso.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

May 4, 2014

Garden Report for 140505

The weather the last couple of weeks was nothing to write about, and so I didn’t. My gardening activity was limited to just letting stuff grow under plastic. This week we had a warm spell, and hit 80F two days running. Then came the weekend and the cool/rainy weather was back.

Not sure if it was the previous cold (couple of 34F nights) or the subsequent heat, but the spaghetti squash died, as did one of the Better Boy tomatoes and one of the 4th of Julys (and the other three are looking peaked). Those were all purchased plants, under plastic, in the garden (Section 2). The ones I started early are still seedling size and in my coffin-sized greenhouse. I transpotted one of each (Crimson Cushion, Marglobe, and Red Cherry), along with one each of the squashes (8-ball, Delicata, and Buttercup). I replaced the dead 4th with a seedling Marglobe. The Mars are determinates, so I’m thinking that I can string out the repottings and get a certain amount of spread on ripening.

In Section 3, the brassicae survived the cold due to my greentunnel. I had transplanted the peas and beans there also, and covered them individually with the top half of bottled water bottles. Section 1 is lettuces, and as soon as I took the plastic off the squirrels got in and dug holes. If I get a chance I’ll build another non-plastic cover.

Hops at week five

Hops at week five

On Saturday, as part of the transition from unseasonably hot to seasonably miserable, we had a pretty brisk wind, with gusts to 30mph. Blew the long lettuce container off the railing and onto the deck, bouncing it off two of the tomato pots. I eased the dirt and plants back in and gave it a good drink. The lettuce is still perky this morning, so apparently no harm done.

The hops are going mad. Some tendrils are already at the top of the 4ft wide plastic trellis. Sometime this week I have to put in the support netting.

I wanted to plant carrots in the north end of Section 4 this weekend, but it was so windy that I’d be seeding most of Airway Heights, so that’s been put off for a while.

Malaysia Airlines flight MH-370 and the terrorist threat – Second Wrapup

May 1, 2014

This is a followup on an earlier post, because Malaysia has now issued its laughably short preliminary investigation report. This is the aeronautical safety investigation, and not the police investigation, which is still sealed. The released data gives very little information that is new, and ignores some data that has already been released. For example, it doesn’t mention any flight altitudes, except in the controller texts.

Official Track Info

Official Track Info
Red box is most likely endpoint

One thing that is new is the track west of Malaysia. The aircraft apparently did not fly waypoint to waypoint after it crossed the peninsula, but instead it turned WNW as soon as it went feet wet, and flew direct to a point NNE of Pulau We, where it turned south.

Taking a proper Bayesian approach, we’d have to say that this new inforfmation slightly lowers the probability that the change in flight was due to a crew decision, as opposed to a cockpit intruder. My guess is still that it was one of the pilots, but I have slightly lower confidence in that assessment.

The second thing to note is the curving path after it turned south. That doesn’t look like an autopilot-directed track. If we assume that an aircraft that size with no control inputs would sooner or later (and probably sooner) drift into an uncrecoverable attitude, there had to be someone alive in the cockpit. On the other hand, if the aircraft would remain stable, and drift only slightly over a long period, we might see a curving track. The final, and I think most likely, scenario is that the pilot was still alive, and putting enough control inputs in to keep it from falling out of the sky, right up to the point where it fell out of the sky.

Given what we still don’t know, there’s little chance it was an accident (given the deliberate actions over time) or that it was an act of terrorism (given that terrorism wants an audience). The most likely scenario is that the aircraft was hijacked, either by the crew or a passenger, and my money is still on one or both of the crew members.

Tortilla Soup Oatmeal

May 1, 2014

So, Cinco de Mayo is coming up in another not-quite-cinco days, and I thought I’d do some Mexican-themed oatmeal by using tortilla soup as the base. OK, so it’s not really tortilla soup. It’s Swanson’s 100% Natural Mexican Tortilla Flavor Infused Broth, enough modifiers to make sure that broth is the least of your concerns. Contents are broth (looks like chicken, might be 100% natural petrochemicals for all I know), infused with the robust flavors of Monterey Jack (robust?) cheese, lime, cayenne, cumin, corn, jalapeno, and paprika. Plus 1/3 of your daily sodium, all in one convenient one cup serving.

MJ got a couple of boxes it to try it, but I’m thinking it’s one of those things you could easily do on your own. Not in a render down one chicken sort of way (I buy boxed broths so I don’t have to do that), but in a take a box of plain old chicken broth and add stuff approach. I guess the broth cartel is trying to extend the brand or something, but this is the same mindset that gave us Thai Coconut Curry Culinary Broth, which is high on my list of Oatie-No’s. I note that in an effort to differentiate their product Swanson’s have avoided a simple tear-off seal, and instead use some complex plastic pill-cutter device that you apparently shove all the way into the box to break the seal and open a suitably wide spout. That’s a modification that nobody but the marketing department asked for, and is probably the un-greenest thing you could do, short of making it out of chlorofluorocarbons.

I’d rather see a greater availability of turkey broth or seafood broth, or even pork broth, and why does no-one ever make buffalo broth?

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, one cup of SNMTFI broth, no salt.  Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats.  Add the potato when you take it off the stove..

Results: An acquired taste. A little hot, but not too much, assuming you like spicy breakfasts. One of the flavors is dominant (no, it’s not the Monterey Jack), possibly the cumin. Adding a grab handful of real shredded Monterey Jack helped immensely. Some further experimenting showed that a mix of 23 or 30% SNMTFI broth with either chicken or beef broth (using it as a flavorant rather than as a main taste) worked better and produced a more subtle effect.

Rating: *****

Oatmeal Dregs

April 24, 2014

Last week we talked about Broth Dregs as an oatmeal extender. But maybe you’re looking for something more conventional? Maybe sweeter? What about Trail Dregs?

I make my own trail mix. Alton Brown has a trail mix recipe that includes dried fruit, nuts, and granola, and of course, Alton Brown’s granola is nothing but oats, another kind of nuts, and shredded coconut. Mine is something like that, minus the oats and the cooking. I use roughly equal parts dried fruit chunks (cherries, raisins, blueberries), roasted almonds, and dried banana slices, plus one of those super-expensive metallic packets of roasted coconut flakes called Dang, and small amounts of chocolate chips. I’m currently on a coconut binge, and MJ picks up bags of Philippine coconut chunks from CostCo. The big chunks go in me, and the flakier chunks go in the trail mix.

After I’ve finished off a butter tubsworth of the mix, there’s about a quarter cup or so of the dust and small flakelets and things at the bottom, much like the broken bits and dust you find at the bottom of a bag of potato chips (!….hold that thought!). Just the right amount to extend an oatmeal breakfast. Of course, you wouldn’t use broth in something like this, but milk would work, or maybe some half and half and half — that’s half half and half, and half water. No potatoes.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, a quarter cup of trail mix remnants (take out any whole almonds you find in it, otherwise people will think you’re weird), one half cup of half and half and one half cup of water, salt (yes, it needs salt — it’s oatmeal). Heat the milk to the steaming point and dump in the dregs and the oatmeal. Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats. Stir often.

Results: Delicious! The milk and the coconut work well together, and the other bits add little explosions of flavor which are quite good, but hard to clean off the wall.

Rating: *****

TL:DR — Anime I never finished, Spring 2014

April 19, 2014

Some of this season’s anime got off to a late start. Others seemed, seemed, worth a look at two episodes. I know that folks say to watch a minimum of three eps before deciding, but, ya know, that’s 25% of the series. Herewith, the stuff that didn’t make the second cut.

Captain Earth: Giant robots battle in space. Small group of teenagers are the only ones who can handle them. Sound familiar? It’s like fan fiction by someone who overheard two other people talking about Evangelion on the metro, except unlike Shinji, Our Hero has … a boomerang! The robot launch sequence was cool — pilot capsule on top of a bunch of disintegrating totem poles, three (count them, three!) on-orbit gate transitions/self assembly points — it’s like the water bottle stations at a marathon, except you get mecha arms and legs. The battle was … OK. Then we look inside the invaders’ ship and find a blue boy/pink girl Shibuya fashion pair if there ever was one, who start talking about the libido component of the weapons. The fully built robot lands feet-first back at the base and the really boring character development begins (yes, really boring development, really boring character). Question? Will they launch the whole mecha on another Delta V booster from there, let it fly itself back up, or take it apart and drag the parts back up to the really cool assembly gates? The World (-) awaits.

Irregular at Magic High: Magic as an engineering discipline. Boy and his over-attached sister (aren’t they all) get selected for a prestigious national high school. She is good at magic. He … doesn’t do well on standardized tests. Big social gap between magic-users (her) and non-users (him). That’s OK. All the magic-using girls on the Student Council like Our Hero, and want Him to be on the Student Discipline and Bondage Committee with them, while all the magic-using guys do that thing with the dark upper half of the face. So it’s a harem/imouto/pariah’s-progress anime. And the white-and-minty-green uniforms aren’t the worst this season, but they’re among the top two.

The Comic Artist and his Assistants: Based on a 4-koma. Overworked, under-experienced mangaka gets his busty assistant and his equally busty editor to do various perverted things, like boob self-fondling ….. self boob-fondling … self-fondling boobs…. you get the idea … so that he can draw them from life. That’s it. Wash your hands and repeat.


Oatmeal Dregs

April 17, 2014

Today’s oatmeal extender is Dregs. Not the North African tribe, but things at the bottom of things that you’d normally throw away that could be used to add a little non-oatmeal bulk to your oatmeal.

First off is Broth Dregs. Those are the vegetables you cooked in with the beef and bones to make broth, the ones that come out all mushy, and flat tasting. Fear not. The flattest-tasting dregs are still less bland than oatmeal.

Now, when MJ makes broth in our pressure cooker, she normally throws in a couple each of chunked-up carrots, onions, and celery stalks, plus various herbs and spices. These cook down nicely, and end up as a grey goo with chunks of orange. Probably a cup or so. After they’ve cooled down, I chop them up with a big ol’ chopping knife and put them in the fridge. Next morning, I’ll take a couple of fat dinner soupspoons worth — scant quarter-cup, maybe scant(-) — mash it with a fork, and drop it into the broth. You could also just beat it to death with a stir-stick.*

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, one cup of broth, not-quite-a-quarter-cup of mashed up dregs, salt.  Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats.  Add the dregs at the beginning and the potato when you take it off the stove..

Results: Delicious! The onion is the most notable flavorant, but the carrot and celery are detectable. If you were making a dinner that involved brothy-stuff, this would be an excellent savoury side dish.

Rating: *****

Next week, maybe something sweeter.

*OK, I tried the stir stick. It works. Wear eye protection. Be prepared to spend the morning unwinding celery threads from the blades

Green Thumb Up My Nose

April 13, 2014

Garden Report for 140314

The weather this week was best described as “brisk”, and I don’t mean like a cup of tea. Highs around 50, lows around 40, with, er…brisk… winds. The greenhouse stays nice and warm and humid during the day, but doesn’t seem to hold heat at night.

On Friday, I went slightly mad in the plants department of our local hardware store. In the tomato section, I bought one each of Early Girl, Best Boy, S-100, Napa Grape, 4th of July, plus one labeled “Rainbow Blend”. I can see that in a seed packet, but I’m not sure what that translates into for a single plant. Probably “your guess is as good as mine.” For the Brassicae, one six-pack each of Cabbage, Brussels Sprouts, and Cauliflower. Plus a single spaghetti squash plant, because, reasons. And finally, three flats of Iceberg Lettuce, in honor of RMS Titanic, which went down with all heads on this date in 1912.

Most of it went into the gardens, but a third of the lettuce, some of the 4ths, the Napa, and the S-100 went up on the deck. I put the Napa in a small container, and an S-100 in one of the hanging baskets.

Then, on Sunday, the madness struck again — two Beefsteak, two Super Fantastic, one each of Glacier, and Northern Exposure. The BS and SF will be split between garden and containers, the Glacier is going into a hanging pot, and the NX is in a smaller pot on the deck.

So, of course, we’re scheduled for 29F tonight. Last time they forecast 29F, it turned out to be 34F. But still, everything is covered up. All the small pots, of things that I’ve seeded, are out in my PRC greenhouse, with a seed-tray warmer inside. I figure that’s all the heat they need.

Here’s what the hops looked like on their second Sunday:

Doing quite well

Doing quite well


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