Politicians can’t be trusted

October 26, 2021

Or at least, political campaigns can’t. In addition, many of them, or their mailing-list contractors, are technologically inept. And thereby hangs a tale.

Dottie was married to my father for a number of years after my parents divorced. Both she and my parents are now deceased these past ten years and more. As far as I know, she never had an email address. That hasn’t kept various SQL-challenged mailing list developers from merging lists with similar last names in an effort to reach ever greater numbers of targets. So for the last couple of years I’ve been getting breathless emails to ‘Dottie’ from various political campaigns, begging for money for their candidates, none of whom live in my state.

Most of the time I ignore them. When the begging gets too strident, I’ll take the trouble to go down to the bottom of the email and click on the <unsubscribe> link. One or two clicks and we’re done, and I’m never bothered again. Until now.

I don’t keep track of who I unsubscribed from and when, so I can’t point at any specific campaign, but I can say that within days of my last unsubscribe action, ‘Dottie’ started getting commercial spam. Companies selling gold-backed IRA’s, debt consolidation services, mortgage refinancing, and burial insurance. Given that Dottie no longer exists, and that she has never been associated with my email address — except to a number of political campaigns — and that I have never gotten spam directed to her until now, the only conclusion that I can draw is that as soon as I removed myself as an easy mark from this one campaign, they sold ‘Dottie’s’ (well, my) email address on the vulture market.

I really wish I could remember what campaign I last unsubscribed from, ’cause I’d really like to out them as no-goods and lowlifes, even if they are Democrats.

TLDR: Anime I never finished, Autumn 2021, Part 2

October 22, 2021

I continue to winnow the cartoony chaff from the anime wheat.

The Vampire Dies in No Time
Slapstick can work well, when done well. I dropped Fruit of Evolution earlier because I (and every reviewer I’ve read since) decided it was done poorly (</understatement alert>). TVDiNT hung on for a couple of episodes, but ultimately I decided that it wasn’t done well enough. My primary complaint was that it was trying too hard to be funny, with contagious flowery jockstraps as Exhibit #1. In addition, although it’s not listed as a 4-koma, the episodes are structured up as if it were. So everything is setupsetupbang!, with no great continuity. I guess Sakugan will have to be my weekly dose of slapstick this season.

Taisho Otome Fairy Tale
I realize that anime believes every Japanese boy’s dream wife is the kind who wears a kimono to clean their traditional house, chases after him with his bento box, addresses him as –sama, and walks two steps behind him in public. My impression is that while this might be a description of the ideal Taisho Era wife, it’s one that doesn’t resonate particularly well with those of us in the time of Reiwa. TOFT is the story of one such — purchased — Taisho wife. He’s the crippled, disowned, and depressed son of a rich bastard who’s only interested in money and the family dynasty.  She’s the daughter of a family who is so poor they have to sell her into marital slavery but rich enough to send her to an all-girls school. Growing love. Slice of life. Too treacley-sweet for me.

Memories of my youth: Colin Powell

October 20, 2021

I almost bought Colin Powell’s house. I think.

It was the summer of 1976. I had just finished a three year tour of duty at Scott AFB, Illinois, not too far across the Mississippi from St. Louis, Missouri, and was reassigned to the Defense Intelligence College in Washington, DC.  In those days, as now, junior officers couldn’t afford to live in DC, or anywhere inside the Beltway for that matter. You could draw a nice declining line showing how house prices dropped with distance from the Pentagon. Those prices crossed my disposable income line at Dale City, Virginia — 40 minutes away from DC at 8PM, an hour and a half away (if you were lucky) at 8AM.

Dale City is a bedroom community just off of I-95. The developer built in increments, he called them ‘communities’, naming them in alphabetical order — Ashdale, Birchdale…Darbydale…Lindendale, etc. The joke was that he would keep building west until he hit either Zombiedale, or Omaha. We looked at a couple of existing homes before deciding on a just-completed house in the Lindendale community.

Why am I writing about this? Because I remember looking at a home up a cul-de-sac in Darbydale, roughly where Desoto Court is. It was owned by an Army officer who was being transferred. I didn’t met the owner, but Colin Powell was selling his home at 14605 Desoto Court* that same summer. It was a nice home, but out of our price range. So we settled on a smaller new construction a few letters up the alphabet. I never gave that house a thought, until I read Powell’s autobiography and saw the address. How many homes would be for sale at the same time in a cul-de-sac in a relatively small neighborhood?

Powell did what I later did: buy early (he was a below-the-zone Major, I was a senior Captain); stay in the DC area as long as possible (we both left our families there for a tour of duty in Korea); sell that house, and never come back ’cause you won’t be able to afford to buy back the house you sold. He, of course, came back. I did not. But his career had gone a bit better than mine.

So that’s the story of my life. I never achieved greatness. I never was in the same room as greatness. But I was occasionally in the next room when greatness passed through.


*They seem to have renumbered houses since we were there. If you look at Google Maps, Desoto Court is now all 39xx numbers.

Urasekai Picnic: Volume 6 and NOT Final, Part 2

October 17, 2021

And so, it’s not ended. After silence from the publisher for a full year, Volume 7 has just been announced, releasing in Japan in December of 2021, and if past is prologue, in the US in November of 2022. As with Part 1, this essay will be a little spoilerific, but since we’re not near the finale, that’s OK.

The second half of Volume 6 starts with a pause. It’s Golden Week, and Our Girls have no good way to continue the T-san investigation, so they embark on a construction project — cutting holes in each floor of the elevator building and installing ladders, so they don’t have to risk that 10-story climb down the outside of the structure. There’s a lot of bonding and team building, concrete-cutting, getting dirty, and a promise to go to the public baths together; after which… they jump ahead to the next week and we never do find out if Sorawo comes clean.

When school resumes, Sorawo is accosted by one of her classmates because of something that happened to them over the break. She and some friends from class were doing a test of courage at a nearby reportedly-haunted house (which turns out to be T-san’s apartment building, of course), when suddenly…T-san comes up behind her and Sorawo, does his trademark Ha!, and… Sorawo finds herself sitting alone at the cafeteria table six hours later. After an urgent call from Toriko, she rushes over to the DS building (walk-bus-train-walk…she couldn’t take a cab?), and finds that T-san has attacked the clinic, killing some of the 4th Kinds and releasing others — who have all gathered in Runa’s room, where she’s singing them a lullaby. It now looks like T-san is an Otherside guardian phenomenon, like the Time-Space man, and Runa used her voice to tell him to go home, since he was hurting the 4th Kinds, and he did.

Sorawo finds she can follow T-san through the Interstitial Space because he leaves a trail she can see. They take off in the DS BMW to chase him. Kozakura drives and Sorawo navigates. Toriko sits in back with Akari (who followed Sorawo to DS and maybe that’s why she couldn’t take a cab). After a nighttime drive that takes them into Interstitial Space, T-san appears in the back seat and does a Ha!, after which they wake up in the car in the daylight, in the clouds, on top of an invisible roller coaster. The ride ends up in an abandoned amusement park haunted house. They become involved in a violent-but-inconclusive encounter with T-san and, as is happening too often recently, suddenly find themselves somewhere else without knowing quite how they got there. In this case they are back in the real world, outside a ruined haunted house and next to the BMW, which they drive to Kozakura’s house.

The hook to the next volume comes at the end, when they open the trunk of the BMW and find the little girl, formerly Not Michiko but now renamed by Sorawo as Kasumi (Mist).  Kasumi looks at Kozakura’s house and says You sure live in a big house Kozakura. A lovely mansion. But isn’t it a little too big to live in alone? Kozakura appears dumbfounded at this but we never find out why, because we are at EOV.

Overall, Volume 6 is a little disappointing. Very little character development, very little in the way of world-building. It can best be described in musical terms as vamp ’till ready. The T-san arc, which will resolve in Volume 7, ties it together and provides an existentialist threat to Our Girls and their Otherside … well … Picnic, but it never seems as sweaty-palmed as some of the other arcs. In addition to T-san there are still a number of loose ends to tie up: Runa, Satsuki, Kasumi, and the Sorawo/Toriko relationship. At a guess, I think we’ll find that Kasumi is really a younger version of Satsuki, and her end-of-volume statement is quoting an earlier Satsuki comment.

I’m looking forward to the US release of Volume 7. Google tells me the Japanese blurb says something about Toriko finally doing something about her relationship with Sorawo. Or maybe that Bird Child will take decisive action against the Sky Fish. Or something.

Final days at Kabul

October 14, 2021

As usual, if you want to know what really happened, you have to look at it from multiple perspectives.

CNN today had a report on the chaotic scenes at Kabul’s airport. It was based on a USAF report about the deployment of the 71st Rescue Squadron into Kabul Airport (HKIA) at the end of the US withdrawal. Comparing the two, you can see that the CNN report cherry-picked some of the more sensational elements and ignored the highly competent day-to-day actions by the US personnel, and then the editors came up with a click-worthy headline.

Now the USAF report was written by a PR officer and cleared through CENTCOM headquarters, so you know that it’s going to put everything in the best light possible. Having said that, and while the situation on the US side was not as chaotic as CNN implied, it certainly was complex, but no Americans got killed, except those at the entry-point, which had to be kept open to screen and let the appropriate Afghan refugees through.

NOTE: Throughout the USAF article you will see references to the Flying Tigers. This was the nickname of the American Volunteer Group in China leading up to US participation in WWII. When the US entered the war AVG was reconstituted as the 23rd Fighter Group, and the name transferred to both the fighter group and to the 23rd Wing, parent organization of both the fighter group and the 71st Rescue Squadron.

TLDR: Anime I never finished, Autumn 2021

October 12, 2021

The Fall anime season tends to be the strongest, or maybe that’s just in contrast to the usual weak summers. That doesn’t mean there aren’t some stinkers, and ones that just don’t resonate with me. Here’s a few early drops.

The Fruit of Evolution
Most isekai stories — with the exception of Bookworm and Otherside Picnic — come across as juvenile fan fiction. FoE is an example of this kind of isekai at its worst. It tries to be funny, and it is … at a middle school level. I am far too old for armpit stink jokes.

The Night Beyond the Tricornered Window
TNBtTW looks like it’s what you might call an overwrought LGBT horror buddy show. Compare that with Otherside Picnic to see how to do it right. If Mikado wasn’t always being coerced into feeling good I’d like it better.

The World’s Finest Assassin…
Back in a previous Century there was a text parody of James Bond, where he responded to normal actions of innocent civilians (pedestrian lifting a hand to wave to a friend, hotel maid picking up a towel with both hands) as if they were foreign agents out to kill him, with predictably lethal results. The over-the-top paranoia of the protagonist of TWFAGRiAWaaA (how can he walk down a busy street?) strikes me the same way, to say nothing of the wildly excessive assassination plot of The Organization — what about just rigging a bomb in that underground lair? The goddess was fun, though.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

October 10, 2021

Garden Report for 211011

Started out warm (low 70’s), then dropped into the high 50’s, with lows in the lower 30’s.

On Wednesday I closed out the garden, just ahead of the frost (10/07, our average first frost date), including taking down the greenhouse and emptying the last house bag of its carrots. Total was 105kg, which is not only a record, but is ahead of almost any two previous years worth of produce.

Last week’s Green Tomatoes section on The Scoreboard was only those what came off the house bags. This week, it’s all the greenies from the main garden — over 25 kilos worth.

Section 3 remains essentially unchanged. The lone survivor of the cucumber seedlings I planted a couple of weeks ago is coming along, but getting anything out of it before the frost kills it is looking less and less likely. I’ve been getting enough greens for our salads through simple thinning. As with graham crackers and milk, getting the lettuce and tomatoes to come out even requires skill and luck. Section 3 carrots are looking good. I’ll harvest them right before the first hard frost (late October?). Carrots total here is not a final number. I’ll update it when I finish the harvest.

Both the corn and the sweet potatoes were severe disappointments. Sweet potatoes were the size of carrots, and totaled 538g — probably less than the size of the one I cut up for slips. Despite my efforts with fans and shakings, the corn didn’t get properly pollinated. All the ears were small, and all but one were bare of kernels. Still, I’ve learned a lot of lessons that I can put into effect next year.

Here’s the almost final score board:

Week
Ending
10/11
Vegetable Count Total

 

Weight
g

Unit

 

Weight
g

Grand

 

Total

Total
Weight
kg
  Tomatoes 31 5537 172 210 37.4
  Summer Squash 2 658 329 17 4.0
  Zucchini 4 1256 314 38 17
  Spaghetti
squash
7 13578 1940 10 18.6
  Green Tomatoes 87 23497 270 120 26.1
  Carrots 1320 1.320
  Sweet Potato 538 0.558
Grand Total           105

Our end-of-season total is 105kg, which is over 35kg higher than any previous recorded results, which is to say, it’s essentially a full season’s additional growth. Note that there’s another kilo or so of carrots yet to harvest from Section 3. I’ll update this page when it happens.

We were not overrun with Summer Squash the way we were with Zucchinis, but here’s a recipe anyway. Finally, as an end-of-season special, and for others like us, who didn’t get a lot of corn out of their corn,  here’s a recipe for tea.

 

Anime Postview: Summer 2021

October 5, 2021

This is not a real review of the anime season just ending. Instead, it’s a look at how well I did in my Summer 2021 Preview, which you might want to look at first.

Ones I said I WILL WATCH:

The Aquatope on White Sand. I started it and liked it, just not enough to follow through. Maybe I’ll marathon the rest of it before the new season airs.

The Case Study of Vanitas. Dropped it. Too slapstick. Too self-aware. Too did you see what I did there?

The Detective is Already Dead. As with Aquatope, I didn’t like it enough to keep watching. But it’s on my to-do list

Ones I said I MIGHT WATCH:

Remake Our Life. Twenty minutes of backstory at the start of a double-length premier just killed it for me. I might go back and see if he graduated art school and made it to Sendai in time for the tsunami.

The Great Jahy. Didn’t watch.

Girlfriend, Girlfriend.  I watched one episode and dropped it. First of all, it’s too shouty. Second, I don’t care how many of the girls give him full permissions, and even move in with him, he’s gonna end up with his head in a bag in Episode 12.

Ones I said I WON’T WATCH:

Didn’t watch any of them. Judging from the reviews, that was a good idea.

So, WHAT ELSE DID I WATCH?

Realist Hero. I watched this primarily because I’ve read the novels, not because it was good. Not totally boring, very low animation budget. I’ll probably watch Season 2 because, you know, novels.

Dragon Maid. Can’t go wrong with Kobayashi. The side characters are starting to get some depth.

My Next Life As A Villainess. Once again, I’ve read the novels. They were better, with a little more depth. I think they’re only adding seasons just for completeness. She has to tell A-chan something!

OVERALL

A typical thin summer.  There were a number of anime that got rated 70%+ on AniList that I just couldn’t get into, but that’s ’cause I am so much the wrong demographic. Overall, there were nine shows in my Preview, and I didn’t finish any of them, but I did pick up three others, and managed a rewatch of High School of the Dead, so the season wasn’t a total loss.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

October 3, 2021

Garden Report for 211004

It is well and truly Autumn in the NENW. Wind and rainstorms are blowing through (we got something around half an inch on Monday), and trees are thinking about turning. Blustery and rainy off and on at the start of the week, with lows in the low 40’s and highs in the low 60’s, warming to 70F at the end. Forecast is for it to continue around 70 early next week, with a cooling trend into the 50’s thereafter.

 Out front, our Redpointe Maple once again is the first in the neighborhood to turn. In the garden, the various pollinators seem to have already thinned out. This means the Zucchini and Summer Squash are ending their runs, and most of what’s left is the occasional slow-grower or well-hidden ones, like the 1.5kg Zucchini that managed to grow down inside one of the openings in the concrete blocks of the garden wall. I think I’ll make soup.

I have emptied out most of the grow-bags along the house (one has carrots in it) and have moved the dirt up onto the front lawn. After the last mow of the season I’ll put in some grass seed and see if Spring will give us something that looks more like a lawn and less like an unkempt vacant lot. There almost three dozen green tomatoes left on the plants in the bags; those I put in the spare bathtub to ripen.

Speaking of greenies, I’m starting a green tomatoes section on The Scoreboard, replacing the non-functional winter squash category. The current entry is only those what came off the house bags.

In the greenhouse the corn still isn’t doing much of anything.* I think I’ll wait until we pass what is probably our peak heat for October next week, and then harvest everything, ready or not.

Section 3 is essentially unchanged from last week. The lone survivor of the cucumber seedlings I planted a couple of weeks ago is coming along, but getting anything out of it before the first frost (mid October?) will be a close run thing. I’ve been getting enough greens for our salads through simple thinning. As with graham crackers and milk, getting the lettuce and tomatoes to come out even requires skill and luck.

Here’s the score board:

Week
Ending
10/04
Vegetable Count Total

 

Weight
g

Unit

 

Weight
g

Grand

 

Total

Total
Weight
kg
  Tomatoes 15 2216 148 210 37.4
  Summer Squash       17 4.0
  Zucchini 1 1460 1460 38 17
  Spaghetti
squash
      3 5.0
  Green Tomatoes 33 2721 82 33 2.7
  Cucumber          
  Corn          
  Sweet Potato          
Grand Total           66

By this time in ’18 and ’19 we had closed out the garden and had our final tallies: 45kg in 2018 and 67kg in 2019, so our current 66kg is right up there, and next week (which may be when we close out for ’21) we’ll probably surpass all previous harvests. Of course, two Zucchinis totaling 2.7kg helped.

There’s still a glut of both tomatoes and Zucchini, so here’s a soup recipe to use up both.

* This newsletter says it’s about 40 calendar days/525GDD from silk to R3 (there’s some math involved), and silking didn’t start until early September. From then until now (32 days), WSU says Spokane County has only added ~300GDD.

 

Anime Preview: Autumn 2021

September 27, 2021

Unlike others, who use knowledge of the source materials, close observation of the previews, and who actually read the press releases, I’m going to base my decisions on what to watch on pretty much just the title and the cover art.

First, let’s say what’s not in here. Sequels and continuations of stuff I dropped earlier, movies and OVA’s, and anything with card or JoJo in the tag or description. I was going to say no vampires, no mechas, and no humanity is wiped out anime, but that would have banned half the season.

WILL WATCH: The title or the cover art is properly enticing (or I liked the first season), so I definitely will watch at least the first three eps

Kyuuketsuki SuguShinu
Vampire runs late night izakaya
Banished from the Hero’s Party
Former adventurer fights giant female river monster
Megaton-chyuu
90% of humanity has been wiped out. Mechas and basement-dwelling teens to the rescue

MIGHT WATCH: The cover art is a little off-putting, but I might watch it.

Tsuki to Laika to Nosferatu
Vampire flies Russian dog to the Moon
Boundary Fighter
Mechas, mascots, and spikey hair, what’s not to like?
Harem at the end of the world
99% of human males have been wiped out. Revived corpsicle finds they only want him for his body

WON’T WATCH. The cover art and/or the title tells me more than I ever wanted to know on the topic.

Visual Prison
Vampire idols haunt Harajuku
Gyakuten Sekai
KanColle wannabe, with mechas and battery-powered women
Ousama Ranking
The kids take over. No indication how much of humanity survives.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

September 26, 2021

Garden Report for 210927

Lovely weather all week, with temps in the 70’s and no rain until Sunday night. I can tell that Autumn is well and truly here: yesterday I saw a large skein of geese — flying west. Forecast for next week is for somewhat rainy (MTTh), with highs wandering between 58F and 68F, depending on the rain.

I’m giving up on the deck tomatoes. Low yields of low-weight fruit. Not worth the time to hand water. Pulled up all three. Left the peppers and carrots, et al. Reminder to not try bush tomatoes on the deck next year. Maybe do herbs. House tomato plants are starting to go brown. Pulled out two of them so far. As I empty the bags I’m taking the dirt out and putting it on bare spots on the lawn.

The Zucchinis continue a somewhat relaxed production rate. Summer Squash are moseying along. Pot carrots have sprouted.

In the greenhouse the corn still isn’t doing much of anything. We’re now at almost 120 days (theoretically , it’s 85 days to maturity). As a test case, I picked the largest cob with brown tassels. It was about 5-6″ long (theoretically 7-8″) — most of the rest look even smaller. Very green looking/tasting when cooked. Looks like it needs another week, at least.* Fortunately, things look to be warm. No change to sweet potatoes.

Section 3 is essentially unchanged from last week. The lone survivor of the cucumber seedlings I planted a couple of weeks ago is coming along, but getting anything out of it before the first frost (mid October) will be a close run thing. I’ve been getting enough greens for our salads through simple thinning

Here’s the score board:

Week
Ending
09/27
Vegetable Count Total

 

Weight
g

Unit

 

Weight
g

Grand

 

Total

Total
Weight
kg
  Tomatoes 28 3661 131 195 35.2
  Summer Squash 2 607 304 17 4.0
  Zucchini 4 2045 511 37 15.5
  Spaghetti
squash
      3 5.0
  Winter Squash          
  Cucumber          
  Corn          
  Sweet Potato          
Grand Total           59.7

We have fallen well behind where we were in 2019 (67kg),  mostly because we harvested a bunch of pumpkins and such back then. We slightly above double what we harvested in 2018 (27kg).

Since we have something approaching 10kg of ripe tomatoes of various sizes laying about the house, here’s a recipe on roasting them.

*According to this midwestern site, the corn should start silking about 10 weeks after planting. So that would be about mid-August. Actually, silking didn’t start until into the first week of September, so we’re two weeks behind. If I am reading the website aright, the corn should be in the R3 Milk stage about three weeks later (sometime after 21 Sep). Stages after that (R4-R6) sound like they’re for field corn for feed or something. Another page says that from the silk stage it needs about 45 days until 50 percent milk line. Which would be mid-October, just in time for the frosts.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

September 19, 2021

Garden Report for 210920

This  week started out comfortable, with highs in the lower 70’s, then cooled to the lower 60’s (lows in the low 40’s), with rain over the weekend. Forecast is for a warming trend, ending in the high 70’s next weekend.

I’m trying something new — planting carrots in some 10″ and 12″ pots to grow indoors over the winter. Going by a program what I saw on the YouTubes, I filled them with soil and laid a slab of chicken wire over the dirt. Using the damp end of a Q-tip with the cotton clipped off, I picked up one seed at a time and placed it in one of the hexen of the chicken wire. Should be ready in late January.

The Zucchinis continue a somewhat relaxed production rate. Summer Squash are chugging along. Tomatoes have gone mad, with over 6kg ripe enough to pick. I did a sweep on Friday afternoon, just ahead of the forecast two-day rainstorm. Broke the handle off my small basket. That’s because there were a number of Brandywine and Beefsteaks, running close to 500g each. Also harvested one more Spaghetti Squash.

In the greenhouse the corn isn’t doing much of anything. I suspect it might be the cool weather. Since we’re due for a warming trend, I’ll give it another week. Sweet potatoes are still suffering from their leaf infection. Since we don’t have any frost in the forecast, I’ll let them go a little longer as well. Besides, the way things are laid out, I really have to harvest the corn first.

In Section 3 I’ve cut down the older lettuce what has bolted. The newer lettuce is at the point where I need to thin it. The carrot and chard seedlings are coming along.

Here’s the score board:

Week
Ending
09/20
Vegetable Count Total

 

Weight
g

Unit

 

Weight
g

Grand

 

Total

Total
Weight
kg
  Tomatoes 36 6515 181 167 31.5
  Summer Squash 4 696 174 15 3.4
  Zucchini 3 713 237 33 13.5
  Spaghetti
squash
1 1346 1346 3 5
  Winter Squash          
  Cucumber          
  Corn          
  Sweet Potato          
Grand Total           53.4

We have fallen a skoshi behind where we were in 2019 (55kg), but still have almost twice what we harvested in 2018 (27kg).

I should be posting recipes for tomatoes, but here’s a YouTube with one last Zucchini snack recipe instead.

Chain of Command

September 15, 2021

I was going to write something about the Milley frufra, but this article by Adam Silverman does it much better than I can, so I’m just going to offer a signal boost.

TL;DR — No, General Milley didn’t break the chain of command. No, this wasn’t the military revolting against civilian control. And no, this wasn’t “treason”, no matter what the right wing echo chamber might say.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

September 13, 2021

Garden Report for 210913

This  week started warm and hazy, drifting down to cool. 85/55F at the beginning, 75/45F at the end, with one day of record-setting rain. The latest NWWx discussion is for a major cooling trend,  and the trees tell me it’s coming on for Autumn .

The Zucchinis continued a somewhat relaxed production rate, except that they kept hiding under the foliage at the south end of Section 1, giving us things like this 1.3kg monster. Summer Squash are chugging along. Tomatoes are mostly taking a break, but there’s a good 50 greenies waiting for the last of the warm weather.  There’s another eight Spaghetti Squash hanging around.

In the greenhouse the corn has started to put out cobs. Looks like we might get 10 or 12, depending. Theoretically, it’s due next week, but the cobs look awfully small. I’ll probably put off the harvest until the end of the month. Unfortunately, what’s good for the corn appears to be bad for the sweet potatoes. Rampant leaf fungus. Rain forecast had me roll up the power cord for the fan.

In Section 3 the older lettuce is getting older and the newer lettuce is at the two-leaf stage. I can see some carrot seedlings just poking up. Carrot tops are doing well. Theoretically, the carrots should have been ready in mid-August, but I’ve pulled up a couple and they’re the size of the end of my thumb. I think I’ll do the usual and lift them when I close out the garden in October.

Here’s the score board:

Week
Ending
09/13
Vegetable Count Total

 

Weight
g

Unit

 

Weight
g

Grand

 

Total

Total
Weight
kg
  Tomatoes 11 1684   131 25
  Summer Squash 3 880   11 2.7
  Zucchini 5 2946   30 12.8
  Spaghetti
squash
      2 3.7
  Winter Squash          
  Cucumber          
  Corn          
  Sweet Potato          
Grand Total           44.25

We have fallen behind where we were in 2019 (49kg), but still have over twice what we had in 2018 (19kg).

MJ has made some more of the pickled Zucchini we talked about six weeks ago. Very good.

Patriot Day and the Trim Tab

September 10, 2021

I wrote this essay ten years ago. I am republishing it now, unchanged, because I think it’s still valid. Yes, the economy is better than it was in 2011, and no, it doesn’t talk about the impact of the Covid Pandemic, but I think it still captures the essence of the situation.

Meanwhile, there are other commenters, who address issues of why we were attacked, and what the impact on America was.

———————-

In the book The 5th Discipline, Peter Senge talks about the idea of a trim tab, how it works on airplanes, and how it works on organizations. In this essay, I want to talk about how it worked in the aftermath to 9/11.

In the old days, airplanes were controlled by the movement of wing and tail surfaces, driven by what was essentially piano wire directly connected via pulleys to the pilot’s controls. It was like an extension of the pilot’s body, because it was a direct physical link: hand, stick, wire, ailerons. Since the controls were extensions of the pilot’s body, they were driven by the pilot’s muscles. In those days, flying was physically exhausting because there were no automated systems like autopilot, or even altitude-hold, and all inputs were physical. Flying a two-hour mission in bumpy weather was like spending two hours bulldogging steers.

As airplanes became bigger and faster, this became a problem. When you move the stick, you are forcing a slab of metal to move against the airstream created by your flight. Remember when the back windows of a car would open? Remember riding along with the window open and your hand stuck out like an airfoil? If you tilted it the least little bit, it would take off, and it took all your strength (or a certain dexterity) to get it back into position. That’s the problem pilots encountered before the invention of power assist on flight controls. Moving a big metal plate against a fast-flowing airstream took all your strength, and maybe required the help of a co-pilot. There was a limit on what was physically possible. Enter the trim tab.

The trim tab, more accurately the servo tab, was a small rudder built into the much larger real rudder. The idea is that you move the small rudder this way, the much larger rudder responds by turning that way, and the whole ship or airplane responds. The idea dates from WWI. A real trim tab is a more or less ‘set it and leave it’ item, that creates a certain continuing flight regime (for instance, to offset a heavy load in the tail of the aircraft), while a servo tab is a true continuous flight control. However, since the organizational applications were talked about (by Buckminster Fuller, for starters) as ‘trim tabs’, I’ll stick with that.

What does all this have to do with terrorism? Just this. A terrorist act is an attempt to be a trim tab. If the terrorist group plays their cards right, they can cause a reaction in the target government that causes a counter-reaction in the populace. The basic idea is that the target government will over-react, increase oppression, and drive the populace into the arms of the terrorists. Properly executed, a terrorist campaign will get the government to do the terrorists work for them That’s one reason why most nascent guerilla movements use terrorism as a tool. The trouble is, that scenario can only play out when it’s native terrorists promoting a domestic cause against an oppressive government (which doesn’t have to be a foreign power, but often is). It doesn’t work that way when the terrorists are foreign, or the populace doesn’t feel oppressed, or the government is one that reacts with Norwegian calm.

Since Al Qaida was facing a different problem, they had to have a different immediate goal. Al Qaida’s goal was to target the US populace and government in such a way as to cause the US to overreact, both internally and externally, and to bankrupt itself the way the USSR did in Afghanistan.

Our reaction has validated AQ’s view of the US as a blind giant, ignorantly flailing around in response to stimuli we don’t understand. A measured approach to 9/11 would be to fill in the hole and turn the problem over to the FBI and the Treasury Dept. The world was on our side on 9/12, and we could have gotten unbelievable levels of cooperation. A strongman approach would be to follow the measured approach, plus invade Afghanistan, beat up on the Taliban, and chase AQ into the hills. The world would still be on our side, but the countries of SW Asia would begin to feel threatened, and would begin hedging their bets. Domestically, we had 99% of the US Muslim population on our side — the remainder being the disaffected youth who, like DYs of any persuasion hate the man. A measured domestic approach would be to armor the cockpit doors on airliners so it was impossible for another 9/11 to happen, and increase our police contacts within the Muslim community.

Instead, we embarked upon a decade-long attack on domestic freedoms, we demonized the Muslims in the US, we engaged in two wars in exactly the wrong place, the outcome of neither will be of any benefit to us. Let me emphasize that. In another year or five (OK, ten), we will be substantially out of both IQ and AF, and those two countries will be in whatever state we leave them. If we could have gotten them into that state for free, if the genie in the lamp could have delivered today’s Iraq and tomorrow’s Afghanistan without it costing us a dollar or a life, we’d still be worse off than we were in 2001. The fact that it cost trillions of dollars, and more American lives than were lost in 9/11 is just a side-benefit for the terrorists. I think The Onion’s headline on this year’s media coverage is appropriate: our nation would rather think about 9/11 than anything from the subsequent ten years.

So, here is the unexpected (by us), emergent, trim-tab-induced result. We have bankrupted our country, morally, politically, financially, and militarily. We have trampled on the US Constitution and the rights of citizens. We have squandered our post-Cold-War international advantages. We did it by reacting in exactly the wrong way to the 9/11 trim tab event. The terrorists acted. The government reacted in a predictably inappropriate fashion. The country and the economy responded by flying into the ground like a hijacked airliner. I can’t say the terrorists have won, but I can say they are well ahead on points. You can say that, hey, we’re still here, and Bin-Laden is dead, and Al Qaida a scattered, hunted remnant. But no suicide bomber expects to live to see the fruits of their sacrifice. I’m sure that if we could reassemble OBL from the inside of whatever sharks he’s now inhabiting, he’d say yeah, it worked. It was worth it.

9/11, Trim Tab Day. Remember it.

Urasekai Picnic: Volume 6 and Final, Part 1

September 8, 2021

In this, the ante-penultimate essay on Urasekai Picnic, we look at the first half of the last volume. In true horror-story fashion, it’s all about ramping up the creep factor and foreshadowing the threat to Our Girls.

Volume 6 starts out with Sorawo losing her memories of everything associated with the Otherside. She knows where she lives and the fact that she’s late for class at Saitama University, but she doesn’t recognize Toriko or anyone else of her Otherside-associated friends, doesn’t know why she’s wearing an eyepatch, and doesn’t remember that she chose a true ghost stories topic for her Anthropology seminar. Possibly related is the fact that her Anthropology seminar includes a student who the other students seem to ignore, and who Sorawo can’t remember speaking, except to describe himself as Templeborn — the subtitle for the volume. To further express the depth of her amnesia, when Toriko drags her into Migiwa’s car to take her to the DS clinic,  she doesn’t have a flashback to any of her attempted abductions by various cults.

The DS clinic determines that she has nothing wrong with her, other than the fact that her right eye is now grey instead of blue, and is also, well … blind. Toriko solves the problem in her usual direct fashion, by jamming a finger from her transparent left hand into Sorawo’s eye up to the brain and fishing around. As so often happens under these circumstances, Sorawo’s sight and memory and eye-color return. While talking over the events of the past week, Sorawo and Kozakura come to the realization that the templeborn student is probably T-san, an internet meme where a guy with that name can turn any ghost story into a joke by shouting Ha! at an appropriate time.

Back at university, Sorawo asks Seto Akari to snoop around and find out about T-san. Akari does so, and briefly ends up like Sorawo earlier in the week — unable to remember anyone or anything associated with the Otherside — until Sorawo and her now-working right eye are able to bring her back. When Our Girls investigate the ramshackle apartment with a hidden room that appears to be T-san’s base, Sorawo has a creepy feeling that someone she can’t see is in between her and Toriko. End of volume.

We have multiple threads interacting here. T-san appears to be working up as the Big Bad for the ending of the series. Sorawo thinks that his power is to break the links between a person and the Otherside, making things as if they never happened, and therefore causing them to lose all memory of anything associated with the Otherside, and all physical effects resulting from contacts with it. The big threat here of course is that she and Toriko might be separated, a thought that causes Toriko to become emotional and start crying. On the other hand, I note that such a power might well heal Urumi Ruma, the cult leader who had her jaw torn almost off by the Satsuki monster.  Finally, we still have no resolution to the Abarato san arc, nor anything further on the little girl they picked up the last time around.

The last two volumes in the novels seem to be flipping back and forth between horror and slapstick. The deer they killed in Volume 5 had eye flaps to keep it from seeing bad things on Otherside — kindof like Joo Janta 200 Super-Chromatic Peril Sensitive Sunglasses that go opaque when something bad is about to happen. The naked dancing. The way Toriko first slaps Sorawo around, and then jams her finger in her eye as a way of fixing amnesia. The little girl from Volume 5, who reappears at the end of the DS clinic visit, initially as an apparently disembodied head, and whom Sorawo decides to name Not-Michiko.

Whatever happens, I’d hate for T-san to make Otherside go away, even if the resolution has Our Girls waking up on a pile of DS building rubble, and a beautiful blonde girl saying to Sorawo “Hi, I’m Toriko. Let’s be friends”.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

September 6, 2021

Garden Report for 210906

Today’s report is number 264 in the Green Thumb series. It’s been ten years since I started the Thumbs, mostly as a way of recording how well my gardening was doing. Keeping a gardening log with paper and a quill pen is so Jeffersonian, and storing the information in a spreadsheet on a floppy leaves me at the mercy of the dreaded bit rot, so I decided to roll it into my blog.

This decennial week started mild and breezy with a warming trend. 70/45F at the beginning, 83/52F at the end. Looks like next week will be mostly mid-80’s.

The Zucchinis continue a relaxed production rate, as did the Summer Squash. Lots and lots more of tomatoes. Harvested a second Spaghetti Squash. There are an additional seven on the vine, all fairly green.

In the greenhouse the corn has started to put out silks. Between that and the need to keep the inside warm I’ve decided to close the windows and turn on the fans again. Interestingly enough, my very first Green Thumb also talked about corn: The corn was a disaster. Ankle high by the …end of August. That don’t rhyme.

In Section 3 the older lettuce is getting older and the newer lettuce is at the two-leaf stage. I can see some carrot seedlings just poking up.

Here’s the score board:

Week
Ending
09/06
Vegetable Count Total

 

Weight
g

Unit

 

Weight
g

Grand

 

Total

Total
Weight
kg
  Tomatoes 22 3807 173 120 23.3
  Summer Squash 3 521 174 8 1.8
  Zucchini 3 932 310 25 9.9
  Spaghetti
squash
1 1848 1848 2 3.7
  Winter Squash          
  Cucumber          
  Corn          
  Sweet Potato          
Grand Total           38.7

We are now ahead of where we were in 2019 (36kg), and over twice what we had in 2018 (16kg). Surprisingly, we almost passed 2019 even without the Spaghetti Squash.

MJ has started taking bags of tomatoes to her dog club and slipping them into peoples cars during the meetings.

Memories of my youth: Potato chips

September 4, 2021

Just over fifty years ago this month I came back from VietNam and was sent directly to RAF Mildenhall, England on a four year tour of duty. Oh, hurt me.

One of the things we really like about England is the public houses, the pubs. They are a lot more family friendly than American bars, with fewer aggressive drunks and more dogs. The beer is great (although the Greatest Beer in The World — the original cask-conditioned Norwich Bitter — is, alas, no more) and the food is … pub food. Not as good at a tapas bar or izakiya, but less burgery than American bar food.

What we found interesting was the number of different flavours available in the potato chips… crisps, in the coarse patois of the bar trade. In the US we had … potato chips. If you looked, you could find overly spiced BBQ chips. In England, they started with salt and vinegar, and went on from there — bacon, cheese and onion, even shrimp, with more every year and well ahead of the US, a trend that continues to the present day. Even four years later, when our tour of duty was over, we found nothing in the US quite like it. We also found that American beer was insipid when compared to the English; as a result, I didn’t have a proper pint until the artisanal beer movement began, ten years later. Now all we need is artisanal chips.

…just the beginning

Afghanistan– It was always going to end like this

August 31, 2021

And so it’s over. The last major US troop units have pulled out, and in true Army tradition, the last soldier up the ramp is the Division commander. Now the left-wing commentariate and the right wing neo-fascists will have a field day, telling us how Biden screwed up. They will be short on facts and short on nuance, but long on condemnation. After all, any stick will do to beat a dog.

There have been all kinds of criticism of the pullout, saying that it could have gotten more people out, and in a more orderly fashion. I’m not so sure. Here’s a consultant’s briefing slide from twelve years ago. It’s been pointed at and laughed about as typical over-thinking of a simple situation. It’s nothing of the sort. It is a not-unreasonable attempt to capture the complex net of relationships inherent in any large human endeavor. With a little thought you could draw an equally complex diagram of public health in the US, or big-city crime, or how laws get made. Afghanistan is not a simple problem, and getting out is a non-trivial part of that problem.

For example, many critics have said we should have staged the withdrawal from Bagram Airbase, 30 miles north of Kabul, because that would have given us a secure perimeter. Except that the perimeter wasn’t the problem. We had a secure perimeter at the Kabul airport. All that leaving from Bagram would have done is given us a 30 mile long file of refugees, and forced all the US government personnel in Kabul (State, USAID, etc) to drive an hour north to conduct any business, at which time they would be confronted with the same clot of people trying to get through the gate.

There are others who said that we should not have depended on the Taliban to provide security outside the airport. Except that we would have to depend on Taliban security forces somewhere. Once we go beyond the airport boundary, where do we stop? One block? Ten blocks? Kabul city limits? When the American-supported Afghan government had fled and the Taliban took over, it became their country.  No matter where we put the boundary, that’s where the refugees would have stacked up, and that’s where ISIS-K would strike. It doesn’t matter if the Taliban let their arch-enemy slip a suicide bomber through. We couldn’t prevent it no matter how far we pushed the perimeter.

Yet another criticism is that we could have, somehow, better organized the final pullout. The fact of the matter is that once it became obvious what we were doing, there would be a rush for the gates. There were thousands of Afghans who had worked directly for us and who had a strong claim on our assistance. There were tens of thousands who had a weaker claim and less direct link, but still one that could get them killed by the Talibs. There were hundreds of thousands who just didn’t want to live a medieval lifestyle. They were all mixed in together and had to be sorted out. Think of TSA security lines at the height of a holiday weekend, only without the thousands of TSA screeners and technologies. And we still got over 120,000 out.

There is a well-known game theory puzzle called The Prisoner’s Dilemma. It is structured so that in a one-time game the only logical solution is to defect — to betray your allies. Think of your interactions with a used car dealer.  In a more complex situation, where you encounter an unending Iterated  sequence of PD’s, all with the same player, the solution with the highest payoff is to cooperate with your allies as long as they cooperate with you. One cartoonist has compared the IPD to a marriage. In between those two is the IPD with a defined endpoint. The decision of local security forces to support the national government when they know it is likely to flee once the Americans have pulled out. Here, the game is between the security forces and the government, and the smart thing to do is to defect just before the other side does. But the other side will follow the same logic, and defect just before you do. Which means you should defect one day earlier than planned, which leads the other side to….   And both sides defect as soon as the game is in play. Now, this is not a perfect model of what happened in Afghanistan, but it illuminates the dynamics at work. The point I am making is that any announced withdrawal will result in collapse of the security forces and hordes of refugees beating at the gates. You can predict this using sophisticated analysis, but even the non-specialists understand this.

Hindsight is 20/20. We played the hand we were dealt, and we played it reasonably well. With the resources and constraints and conditions on the ground, I’m not sure we could have done much better.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

August 29, 2021

Garden Report for 210830

Started out cool and breezy, with a warming trend. 70/45F at the beginning, 83/52F at the end. Looks like next week will be more of the same.

Only two Zucchinis. I think they’re taking a breather. Lots and lots more of tomatoes. A couple of Spaghetti Squash look ready to harvest — they are bright yellow and the fingernail test leaves a small indent — so I harvested one of them. Counting that one, there are six big Spaghetti Squash, plus another two or three that appear to be doing well, plus a final two that are small, but might yet turn out to be growers.

In the greenhouse the corn is still tasselizing, but the corncob parts have yet to put out silks (TIL that each silk strand connects to one kernel of corn). I’ll wait to turn on the fans.

In Section 3 the older lettuce is getting older and the new lettuce is at the two-leaf stage.

Here’s the score board:

Week
Ending
08/30
Vegetable Count Total

 

Weight
g

Unit

 

Weight
g

Grand

 

Total

Total
Weight
kg
  Tomatoes 40 6139

153

98 19.5
  Summer Squash 2 224 112 5 1.2
  Zucchini 2 893 446 22 9.0
  Spaghetti
squash
1 1941 1941 1 1.9
  Winter Squash          
  Cucumber          
  Corn          
  Sweet Potato          
Grand Total           32

We are still somewhat behind where we were in 2019 (34kg), and well ahead of what we had in 2018 (12kg). Too bad that much of it is coming from that one Summer Squash. (Well, I say that, but I don’t think we could stand another two kilos of Zucchini).

Here’s some grilled Zucchini recipes for you.

So far, me eating a half kilo of tomatoes a day for lunch seems to be staying ahead of the flood.

Evangelion Reboot: You can (not) be serious — Part 1.01

August 28, 2021

In celebration of the last, final, post-ending-and-this-time-I-mean-it Evangelion movie, Amazon has all four up on Prime Video. I watched the original series on DVD just over six years ago (and 20 years after it premiered), so I thought I’d marathon the new version while MJ is at a dog show and not around to laugh at me.  I think I’m going to regret that.

The motion picture is about 100 minutes long, or just over four TV episodes worth of content. Hideaki Anno has crammed six episodes worth of content, plus new material into that 100 minutes. As Mark Twain said, it’s like trying to put two quarts in a one quart jug…you’ll strain the jug.

As a result, some things feel incredibly rushed, while others seem dragged out. The robot fights are not as good as I remember, and seem to mostly feature shots of bladed weapons slowly penetrating armor, while Shinji vocalizes in the background.  Or smeary shots of screaming plugsuiters, designed to minimize the amount of actual animation  needed, until the CGI server can reboot. I get the impression that ten minutes into the movie they were already short on cash. The scenes inside NERV HQ remind me of the never-ending flyaround of Enterprise in the first Star Trek movie. Meanwhile, the character interaction and development scenes were fearfully rushed. At the start of the first battle, Rei is rolled up to the robot on a stretcher, and Shinji almost immediately says that she can’t go in his stead, that he’ll go in her stead, instead.

The character designs track well with the originals, as does the overall artwork. Of course that means the extensive use of Bob Hope noses, just like The Slayers and Escaflowne, of similar date. Despite the use of more CGI, it doesn’t look all that much different from technology that’s a quarter century old. Speaking of old technology, Shinji is still using a cassette player. And while we’re on the topic, why can’t some of this super-special NERV technology be adapted for general military use? What about sticking two or four progressive knives on the warhead of a HVAPDS tank round?  What about hanging a couple of pallet rifles on underwing pylons of fighter aircraft? And do you really need all that artificial intelligence/soul-bearing/bipedal cruft to make the anti-Angel armor work? What about chopping all that off, getting rid of the plug, and bolting the remainder to the front end of a tank?

My original impressions still hold. Shinji is an insecure whiner with daddy issues. Everyone else is borderline insane. NERV couldn’t manage a cookie stand in front of a pot store. They have two kids who hold the future of Earth in their hands. One of them has to share the bathroom with a penguin, and the other is living in a run-down slum of a 500 yen a month six-mat apartment. NERV couldn’t get them rooms in the BOQ?

My post-boot impressions are that the reboot is not as good as the unimpressive original. But who knows? They’ve go another 400min or so to change my mind.

TLDR: Anime I never finished, Summer 2021

August 25, 2021

We are now three-quarters of the way through the season and I’m looking at the anime I haven’t bothered watching any more of. These aren’t bad…exactly…but they just don’t resonate. When I sit down at night after a hard day of being Retired in the Time of Covid, and I look at my watchlists and say Do I want to watch this, or do I want to watch HOTD, again, and it’s HOTD that wins out, that’s when it’s time to clean up the list.

Case Study of Vanitas: Steampunk vampire/human buddy movie. Too slapstick. Too self-aware. Too did you see what I did there?

The Idaten deities only know peace Someone is trying to awaken the demons the Old Idaten sealed away, so the New Idaten need to up their game to stop the unsealing. Too cartoony. I know I’m half-a-century beyond the target demographic for most anime, but here I feel like I’m an additional twenty years beyond that.

Fena: Pirate Princess Young girl is rescued from a life as an incipient sex worker by a pair of her former protectors who seem to have aged twenty years in one decade. Too Disney. I know the studio was Production I.G., but it just doesn’t feel like anime.

Tsukimichi: Moonlit Fantasy  A young man is isekai’d into a desolate waste where he meets a Dragon and befriends some Orcs, and becomes their leader, even though he’s a slime an ugly human whom the goddess cursed. Too forgettable. As in, the next day I couldn’t remember what it was about and had to sit down and reconstruct it in my mind.

 

Afghanistan: Activating the CRAF

August 23, 2021

The Department of Defense has issued a Stage 1 activation order for the Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF), tasking six civil airlines for a total of 18 aircraft. This is only the third time its almost 70 year history that elements of the CRAF have been activated.

There’s only one latrine on a C-17

The civilian airliners will be used to move Afghan refugees from their initial evacuation points on to their final destinations. They won’t fly into Kabul, because that is considered a hostile environment and the US will operate only military aircraft there. The civil side of the airport has been closed by the Taliban. The USAF is flying maxed-out C-17’s from Kabul to intermediate stops, many of them loaded far beyond their rated passenger capacities. The civilian aircraft activated are better suited to the transport of passengers.

The CRAF was established after the Berlin Airlift, when a number of civilian (mostly British) transports had to be chartered to supplement the overstretched military cargo resources. In the CRAF agreement, the US government agrees to throw a certain amount of business their way if the participating airlines will designate a certain number of aircraft and crews as available for activation to meet military airlift requirements. The previous two activations were during the wars in Iraq, the first one being used in the Kuwait war, after every operational transport in the Military Airlift Command inventory was committed to the mission. It was not done during the evacuation of Vietnam, and it was not done during the massive US airlift to Israel as part of the 1973 war.

Activation of the CRAF shows how serious the US is about evacuating as many people as possible out of Afghanistan.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

August 22, 2021

Garden Report for 210823

Started out warm and breezy, with a cooling trend. 90F at the beginning, 76 at the end. Forecast is for slightly warmer next week, trending into the low 80s .

Five more Zucchinis, including two biggies that were hiding under the foliage. Lots and lots of tomatoes. A couple of Spaghetti Squash will likely be ready to harvest next week.

In the greenhouse the corn has started to tassel. I have the windows open, but even with gusts to 20mph the leaves barely move. If I leave the doors open the squirrels will get in. My solution is to run an outdoor extension cord across the yard and stick a small fan in there. Check wildefires.wa.gov to see how that worked out.

Transplanted what might be three Acorn Squash into the N end of Section 03, next the greenhouse. Something ate one of the seedlings overnight, so I’ve dusted them with diatomaceous earth.  Pulled up the peas, what weren’t doing much anyway. Replaced them with carrots-on-tape, and added a strip of chard-on-tape, which the cats promptly dug up, then belatedly added some shelving grid to protect it. Hoping that they will prove frost tolerant.

Here’s the score board:

Week
Ending
08/23
Vegetable Count Total

Weight
g

Unit

Weight
g

Grand

Total

Total
Weight
kg
  Tomatoes 29 4112 142 98 13.4
  Summer Squash 2 428 214 5 1.0
  Zucchini 7 3034 433 22 8.1
  Spaghetti
squash
         
  Winter Squash          
  Cucumber          
  Corn          
  Sweet Potato          
Grand Total           22

We are well behind where we were in 2019 (34kg), and well ahead of what we had in 2018 (12kg). Too bad that much of it is coming from oversized Zucchini.

Here’s some more Zucchini recipes for you.

So far, me eating a half kilo of tomatoes a day for lunch seems to be staying ahead of the flood.

Afghanistan

August 16, 2021

Graveyard of Empires
Guy Body, New Zealand Herald

Well. It seems that Afghanistan has fallen apart faster than anyone predicted, with dire results for the inhabitants. I started writing this four days ago, and the situation is changing faster than I can type. I’m at around 1,200 words right now, which seems like a good stopping place.

Even when taking a long view, most people forget that, as former DIO Pat Lang has said, Afghanistan is really a geographical expression rather than a country. It is, and always has been a:

blank space on the map, a space filled with hostile tribesmen and religious fanatics.  This blank space was given the dubious status of a state in the international system of states because the Russians and the British wanted to establish a buffer entity between the Tsar’s empire and the Raj.

The many languages — and some of the dialects — are mutually unintelligible, the two major religious sects are as hostile as Reformation era Protestants and Catholics, and the only thing the local tribes hate more than each other is the central government.

To give a more personal idea of what the whole region is like, some decades ago, when you could still do such things without getting kidnapped, a geologist did some field work in Pakistan, in the aptly-named Federally Administered Tribal Areas on the Afghan/Pakistan border. As described to me the procedure, if you wanted to go to a certain location there, was that you would go to a local army post and the army would provide an escort. The escort was a native of that location and you were essentially his guest, so no one would kill you. If you wanted to go to the next valley over, you couldn’t just cross the mountain. You had to go back down to the army post and get a new escort. Afghanistan is like that, only without the army control.

The Taliban are a group of Pashtun religious fanatics, many of whom the US trained in guerilla warfare so that they could bog down the Soviets. They believe in the strict application of Sharia law, a particularly conservative reading of the Koran. Think of what the US would be like if a hardline evangelical Baptist cult created a strict Biblical dictatorship here. Using their US knowledge, their combat experience, and leftover Soviet equipment, they overran the country. By themselves, then and now, they were never a threat to the US homeland. All they ever wanted to do was be left alone, so that they could pray their prayers and enslave their women.

We went into Afghanistan for a good reason —  the Taliban government was  providing refuge to various terrorist groups, including Al Qaida, and the Saudi leaders of Al Qaida planned and organized the 9/11 attacks from there. So we went in, kicked their butts, and installed a new, more amenable government. At that point, in late 2001, the Taliban said they’d be willing to stop fighting. We refused, for no good reason, and the war went on for another two decades.

War, as Clausewitz says, is a continuation of policy by other means. Since WWII all our wars have been wars of choice. Nobody has attacked us or an ally. Nobody has invaded. We went to war to achieve some Presidential policy. And it turns out that we are exceedingly bad at wars of choice. We’ve won exactly two of these — Kuwait and Korea, and Korea only counts if you accept that “victory” meant pushing North Korean troops out of South Korea, restoring the status quo ante. Note that the two we won were traditional wars, battalions fighting battalions as they say. The others were the hearts and minds sort of conflicts, which can only be won by politics, or which can’t be won at all, at least not by an outside invader. Other commenters have noted this so I won’t dwell on the topic, but the three big ones — Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan — all have a similar dynamic, and were all lost the same way.

In every one of those conflicts, we took the US Army (the best traditional combat force in the world), and applied them to a task that was totally unsuited to their ethos, training, and equipment. In the best if all you have is a hammer every problem looks like a nail tradition, we applied our hammer to a problem better suited to a putty knife. Art, perhaps, or maybe window glazing. At best what was required in Afghanistan was nation-building, and the Army doesn’t do nation building.

When you came in here, didn’t you have a plan for getting out?

Our two victories in these wars of choice were predicated upon knowing what victory meant. In each we had a specific end goal — drive the North out of the South, drive Iraq out of Kuwait. In the case of Kuwait, then CJCS Colin Powell, established the Powell Doctrine, and he and other senior generals (Vietnam veterans all) told President Bush that they would not support the war unless we had answers to the eight questions. The most important of these was, essentially, how will we know when we’ve won? In Vietnam, in Iraq, and in Afghanistan, nobody tried to answer that question, or the answers changed with every change of circumstance.

Overall, nothing has changed after twenty years of war. The Afghan national forces were not able to keep the Taliban from taking power in 1996, and they are obviously not capable of that now. But if we had pulled out in 2006 or 2011 or 2016, the results would have been the same. American intervention put off the inevitable for twenty years, at the cost of not quite one American life per day. 

In the end, the effective defense of a country is in the hands of its people. A foreign power cannot defend it, except against another foreign power. Here, the threat to Afghanistan was internal. These were Afghan citizens (whatever that means, see above) fighting other Afghan citizens, ones with a totally different view of what Afghanistan should be. The Afghan national army folded because its soldiers did not believe in the fight. The Afghan people acquiesced to the takeover because they did not believe in the alternatives. The Afghan governing hierarchy, from the local police to the President, made it impossible to believe, because they operated a kleptocracy that treated its citizens as sheep to be shorn.  The Taliban cannot have gotten as far as they did unless some significant portion of the population agreed with them.

So what happens now? Internationally, there will be winners and losers. But the Taliban itself is an inward-looking movement that likely poses no threat to the international order. They have agreed to not support terrorist groups, and may well stick with that agreement — what little access to outside goods and services they need will come easier if they do. There will be a settling of scores, and many non-Talibs will die. Afghan women will lose all the rights they have had for the last twenty years and many will be forced to marry some incel Taliban fighter. The chaos at Kabul airport (which looks surprisingly similar to DaNang airbase at the end of the Vietnam war) will last for a week. The press will have a field day for another six months or a year.

And then Afghanistan will sink back into the obscurity it so richly deserves.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

August 16, 2021

Garden Report for 210816

Started out cool and hazy, with a warming trend. End of the week had four days over 95, and two days near 100. I suspect we’d have more produce if the heat didn’t keep shutting down the plants.

One more Summer Squash, two more Zucchinis, one Bell pepper. Lots and lots of tomatoes. If you look at the scoreboard, it says the average weight of the tomatoes is about 132g. Actually, we have a bimodal distribution. The EarlyGirls come in at around 100g, and the Brandywines and the like, weigh closer to 500g.

In the greenhouse the corn is still growing, as are the sweet potatoes. We had a bit of a windstorm last week, so I zipped up the greenhouse and sealed the normally-open windows. That allowed some sort of viral fungus to take hold in the sweet potatoes. Hopefully, opening back up will allow the air to circulate again and keep the disease at bay. Otherwise, it will be the traditional race between the leaf fungus and the late-September harvest.

Planted some more seeds-on-tape (lettuce and carrots) in Section 03.

Here’s the score board:

Week
Ending
08/16
Vegetable Count Total

Weight
g

Unit

Weight
g

Grand

Total

Total
Weight
kg
  Tomatoes 36 4744 132 69 9.3
  Summer Squash 1 250 250 3 0.6
  Zucchini 2 508 254 15 5.1
  Spaghetti
squash
         
  Winter Squash          
  Cucumber          
  Corn          
  Sweet Potato          
Grand Total           15

We are well behind where we were in 2019, and slightly ahead of what we had in 2018. I’m going to stop 2020 comparisons, ’cause I just remembered I only had half a garden that year.

Speaking of being ahead, we are still fighting to stay ahead of the Zucchinis. Here’s a quick Zucchini/pasta recipe.

I really don’t want to have to do tomato recipes, but it might become necessary.

Memories of my youth: mandatory vaccinations

August 13, 2021

I have to laugh when I see all the angst and handwringing by the anti-vaxxers in the military. The SecDef says that very soon they will make vaccination against Covid mandatory for all service members. Already, there’s been wild speculation about what penalties might ensue — everything from non-judicial punishment to courts-martial.

When I was a lad, they just lined us up and jabbed two or three needles in each arm, everything from plague to dysentery, with never so much as a by-your-leave. Kids today think they have it rough.

Oatmeal Ratatouille

August 12, 2021

Sorry kids, no matter what Pixar might have you think, there’s no rats in ratatouille, just various summer vegetables, like Summer Squash, Zucchini, Tomatoes, etc. MJ made a batch the other night. It had everything you’d find in a traditional ratatouille, except the eggplant (artist: I was going to call this “the essence of all that is evil in the world”, but then I found out that not everyone feels the way I do about eggplant.) It wasn’t bad, as these things go. Maybe a little heavy on the oregano. There were leftovers for breakfast.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, something less than cup chicken broth, quarter cup of leftover ratatouille, three dinner teaspoons of potato flakes (you need the reduced broth and extra potatoes to soak up the added ratatouille juices), salt. Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats. Add the potatoes at the end. If you like, you could put a fat pinch of shred cheese in the bottom of the bowl before serving.

Results: Very good. A little heavy on the oregano. The cheese helped.

Rating: ***

Green Thumb Up My Nose

August 9, 2021

Garden Report for 210809

Started out smoky and hazy, which kept the temps down to the upper 90’s, not quite making 100. End of the week was quite a bit cooler, with one day at 74. Forecast is for a warming trend, peaking near 100.

One more Summer Squash. Zucchini’s are still showing up in ones and twos. Unfortunately, we missed one that was hiding under the foliage, and now have a 1.8kg football. Maybe we can bake bread. And speaking of footballs, there are five spaghetti squash that challenge Ile Zucchino. None of them pass the fingernail test just yet. On the tomato front, the Scarlet Tsunami is upon us.

In the greenhouse the corn is still growing, as are the sweet potatoes.

Here’s the score board:

Week
Ending
08/09
Vegetable Count Total

 

Weight
g

Unit

 

Weight
g

Grand

 

Total

Total
Weight
kg
  Tomatoes 16 2798 175 33 4.6
  Summer Squash 1 264 264 2 0.4
  Zucchini 2 2049 1024 13 4.6
  Spaghetti
squash
         
  Winter Squash          
  Cucumber          
  Corn          
  Sweet Potato          
Grand Total           9.6

We are still ahead of where we were in 2020, and slightly ahead of where we were in 2019.

Speaking of being ahead, we are still fighting to stay ahead of the Zucchinis. Here are 20 recipes you can make in your instapot.

Memories of my youth: Wargaming at the Naval War College.

August 5, 2021

In September of 2019, three months before the Covid-19 outbreak was first identified in Wuhan, China and six months before WHO declared a global pandemic, the US Naval War College ran a table-top exercise examining the political and military issues surrounding a major outbreak of a respiratory disease in a large, third world urban area.

The participants were 50 people with experience in humanitarian response situations. They came from U.S. and international militaries, humanitarian nongovernmental organizations, the U.S. government, international agencies and the private sector

This exercise was just the latest in a long series of wargames addressing major geopolitical issues. Back during the Cold War, I headed up the Soviet Tactical Aviation element of AFIN, in the Pentagon. One of the perks was that I got to play part of the Red Air Team during the NWC Summer War Games. They took place at the NWC, in Newport, RI. What made the games so interesting was they brought in high level political people to role play in high level political posts. So, they couldn’t get the President to be there for a week, but they could get a Deputy Secretary of State, and so forth. Naturally, there were many flag rank officers, as well. One of the scenarios they played was a long war variant of WWIII. Their introduction pointed out that in August of 1914, everyone expected WWI to be over by Autumn.

The point of this is that the Navy, long considered the most intellectual of the services, has spent a lot of time thinking about the complexities of modern geopolitics and the issues that surround them. It is not at all surprising that they would wargame the problems associated with a major disease outbreak (even if they didn’t play it as a global pandemic), and raise the issues that might arise so that they could be addressed early on.

Of course, they couldn’t foresee, and probably wouldn’t be allowed to play, a situation where the President, the Legislature, and half the state Governors did their best to sabotage efforts to fight the outbreak.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

August 2, 2021

Garden Report for 210802

Started out smoky and hazy, which kept the temps down to the mid 90’s, then clear and hot, with four days in the 98-100 range. We have now tied the record for number of days over 100F. Forecast for next week is cooler early, near 100 at midweek and back down to the high 70’s by the end.

The Zucchini’s are starting to crank out produce. Summer squash, not so much, possibly because they are in the middle of the garden and shaded from all sides. On the tomato front, the Scarlet Tsunami is gathering force. I expect it to hit next week.

In the greenhouse the corn is showing a worrisome tendency to fall over after its alternate day watering. I may have to cut back further. On the failure front, the pumpkin in Section 1, what was never very healthy, has finally died and been removed.

Here’s the score board:

Week
Ending
08/02
Vegetable Count Total

 

Weight
g

Unit

 

Weight
g

Grand

 

Total

Total
Weight
kg
  Tomatoes 15 1636 109 17 1.8
  Summer Squash 1 98 98 1 0.14
  Zucchini 8 1458 182 13 2.6
  Spaghetti
squash
         
  Winter Squash          
  Cucumber          
  Corn          
  Sweet Potato          
Grand Total           4.54

And we’re still ahead of where we were in 2020, and just behind where we were in 2019.

On the cooking front, we already have over two and a half kilos of Zucchini and are looking for recipes. Here is one for overnight Zucchini refrigerator pickles.

Sage and Turmeric Oatmeal

July 29, 2021

For some reason I’ve never tried turmeric in oatmeal before. Maybe because it’s so far down in the alphabet.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one cup chicken broth, a few shakes each of turmeric, ground sage, and onion salt; fat pinch of shred cheese, and two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes. Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats. Add the  potatoes at the end. The cheese goes in the bottom of the dish, to be stirred up after the oatmeal is decanted — that way you don’t end up with fondue.

Results: Very good. The oatmeal, etc., mixture tastes a little odd, if you’re not used to turmeric, but the cheese balances out the flavors just fine.

Rating: ***

Memories of my youth: Air enthusiasts

July 28, 2021

A recent article about an Englishman who saved a USAF F-15 from crashing brought back some half-century-old memories.

In Japan, they’re called otaku. In England, they’re called enthusiasts. Rail enthusiasts (AKA train spotters) might have the goal of recording the serial number of every engine or goods waggon in the UK rail system. London underground enthusiasts aspire to riding on every passenger car in the London underground.  Air enthusiasts may seek to collect every civil aircraft registration number, or photograph new aircraft flying in and out of military bases. At RAF Mildenhall, on weekends, there was generally a small crowd of people parked just outside of the perimeter fence, hoping for a shot of the Silk Purse airborne command post taking off. Ian Simpson, the man who notified the RAF Lakenheath tower of problems with one of their F-15’s, was an air enthusiast.

They were incredibly knowledgeable about the aircraft and their operations. A typical line in their newsletter (which I subscribed to whilst stationed there) might read SR-71 17975 landed at RAF Mildenhall yesterday. It’s just back from a three week deployment to Cyprus, where it flew surveillance operations in the Middle East. It was supported by KC-135Q 58-0129.

My wife’s parents visited us in England, arriving and departing from Heathrow. When they left for home, we dropped them off and saw them through pre-processing, then went up to the roof gallery to watch for their takeoff. In those pre-terrorist days the flight departure boards showed not only the flight number, but also the aircraft registration number. On the roof, I approached one group of enthusiasts (easily identified by their long lens cameras and radios tuned to tower frequencies) and asked if they’d seen G-ABCD. Oh, yeah. That normally comes in from Vienna about this time. No, I meant today. Ah, it’s over there, queuing up on taxiway four. They really are some remarkable people.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

July 26, 2021

Garden Report for 210726

Not as hot this week, but still in the mid-90’s. Next week, more of the same, maybe hitting 100F.

Looks like one of my grow bag tomatoes has Septoria leaf spot. According to the interwebs, “The fungus is most active when temperatures range from 68 to 77° F, the humidity is high, and rainfall or overhead irrigation wets the plants.” The trouble is, it’s been mostly warmer than that, the humidity has been low, and I’m using drip irrigation. Just lucky I guess. Meanwhile, I’ve harvested two tomatoes (both Early Girls) a grow-bag Zucchini, and a garden Summer Squash.

Other main garden plants are doing well. There’s around six or so Spaghetti Squash in various sizes, and I’m getting a small crop of lettuce.

The greenhouse plants are also doing well. The corn is not bepestered with critters, the way my previous crops have been, and the sweet potatoes are covering the ground. Next year I’ll plant the corn closer together.

Here’s the score board:

Week
Ending
07/26
Vegetable Count Total

Weight
g

Unit

Weight
g

Grand

Total

Total
Weight
kg
Tomatoes 2 220 110 2 0.22
Summer Squash 1 140 140 1 0.14
Zucchini 1 168 168 5 1.16
Spaghetti
squash
Winter Squash
Cucumber
Corn
Sweet Potato
Grand Total 1.52

So far, we’re still ahead of where we were in 2020, and behind where we were in 2019.

Get the Vax

July 25, 2021

 

Vaccines let us destroy smallpox. By my reckoning, most of the anti-vaxxers were born after it was eradicated, and most of those old enough to remember it were first in line to get their Covid vaccine.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

July 20, 2021

Garden Report for 210719

Another heat wave week. High 90’s, with one day over 100F. This week it will drop into the upper 80’s to mid 90’s. Fortunately, the soaker hose system is keeping the garden moist.

The Zucchini are finally producing. Three middling-small and one middling-big that provides half the total weight. Nothing much on the Summer Squash side. The Spaghetti Squash is trying, but something keeps eating the leaves. I spent some time in the yard the other night with a flashlight, looking for the culprit, without success. Nevertheless, there’s seven or so on the way. The corn and the sweet potatoes seem to be doing well in the greenhouse.

The tomatoes are getting ready for a good harvest. House Bags have about 25 worth harvesting, if only they were ripe. Main garden has about half that, but that’s because it gets less sun.

So I guess it’s time to break out the scoreboard for 2021:

Week
Ending
07/19
Vegetable Count Total

Weight
g

Unit

Weight
g

Grand

Total

Total
Weight
kg
Tomatoes
Summer Squash
Zucchini 4 988 247 4 0.99
Spaghetti
squash
Winter Squash
Cucumber
Corn
Sweet Potato
Grand Total 0.99

So far, we’re ahead of where we were in 2020, and behind where we were in 2019.

Urasekai Picnic Volume 5

July 17, 2021

otherside-picnic-volume-5web

I mis-spoke when I titled my last Urasekai post “Final Thoughts“. Those were final thoughts on the anime, not the on-going novel. Since we have a new volume of the novel out in  J-Novel, and at least one more published in Japan, I’m likely to have quite a bit more to say.

I warn you right now that this essay is full of spoilers. Full, I say.

As the penultimate volume of the series, Volume Five is very much a tool for setting up the denouement, with not much in the way of explanation. You could think of it as the literary equivalent of the 8th inning setup pitcher.

Volume Five has four distinct arcs. I call them: Girls Night Out, Lost in Her Reflection, The House in the Forest, and Rescuing Abarato-San.

In Girls Night Out, the women stage an all-girls party at a local love hotel, in a room with an Indonesian motif. There are two couples, Sorawo/Toriko and Akari/Natsumi, plus Kozakura, on her own. Sorawo is worried that Toriko will want to get physical — she always worries about that in these kind of situations — so she drinks too much and is kindof out of it when something untoward happens. In the morning she wakes up hung over, naked, and unable to remember anything that happened.  Her memory comes back, with the help of Migiwa and Kozakura.

Side Note: While she’s at DSR, talking to Migiwa about the party, he lets her see Urumi Runa, former leader of the Otherside cult that held her prisoner. Runa’s jaw had been almost torn off by the Satsuki monster, and the repair work had left her with broad scars on either side of her mouth. Runa looks at Sorawo and mouths a standard line from the Slit-Mouthed Woman folklore: Am I pretty?

What happened was a visit from some Indonesian-style lion dancers representing the friendly god Barong. Sorawo took off her clothes and danced in front of Barong, representing the evil witch Rangda. The others joined in, and everyone collapsed until the next morning. What made the event problematical was that everyone, Sorawo more than most, was in a kind of trance state, indicative of some Otherside/Interstitial Space influence.

The second arc is possibly one of the most meaningful in the novels so far. Sorawo hasn’t had a response from Toriko for over two weeks, so she goes to visit her at her university. She doesn’t say the name, but there’s only one that’s right next to Yotsuya Station, and that’s Sophia University, a Jesuit-run research school, one of the top three private schools in Japan (~$18K/semester).  She finds Toriko in a mezzanine rooftop dining area, probably in the building at the center of the left-hand photo.

They exchange increasingly heated words and Toriko dashes off. Sorawo grabs at her coat and Toriko pushes her with her left hand, propelling her into the Interstitial Space. They can’t see each other, but Sorawo can glimpse Toriko in window reflections, and they can talk on their cell phones. What follows is a chase through the university, looking for a mirror big enough for a person to return through. At one point while they are doing that, Sorawo’s point of view switches from her to Toriko’s. Then:

UrasekaiQuoteVol5-01c

UrasekaiQuoteVol05-2

Please excuse the distorted font.
WP and screenshots of text don’t play well together

Something very interesting is going on here. Aside from the all-important solidification of Sorawo’s understanding of Toriko, we’re also getting another look at how the Otherside works and how it interacts with your perceptions. This incident has the flavor of the run-in with the kunekune late in Volume One:

I was sliding over a watery surface that curved into a hemispherical shape….Then, I understood. The curved surface, it was my eye. I was looking at myself from the kunekune‘s perspective.

In the end, they find a mirror and Toriko pulls her through. The arc ends with Sorawo giving Toriko a great big hug — for the first time ever.

We jump ahead three or four weeks — with no indication of how the previous arc effected their relationship — and the next arc finds them exploring a mysterious house on the Otherside. This is not in the region accessed through the familiar Elevator-Building/Kozakura-House gates that we’ve spent the last four volumes getting familiar with. This is in one of the areas accessed from a room in the Farm, with no known links to the other areas.  What makes the house mysterious is that it’s not a ruin. It’s a large, well-appointed building that looks like the owners have just stepped out for a moment.

A House In The Forest. https://wallpapercave.com/w/wp4443731

Not this house, but one like it

Inside the house they meet an old woman, dressed as a hunter, in orange camouflage, who says she wandered into the Otherside years ago, found this house, and has been living here with her Otherside dog ever since. She takes the girls out and shows them how to kill, gut, dress out, and cut up an Otherside deer, giving them a bag of steaks to take home. Nobody seems to think this is odd.

We know that Otherside interacts with human cognition. I am wondering if the change in the foundation of Sorawo’s understanding of Toriko may have changed what Otherside is like — more European fairytale than Japanese youkai folklore. I kept waiting for the old woman, Todate-san, to change into a witch and try to push them into an oven or something, but that never happened. The only fallout (so far) was that Sorawo had occasional bad dreams.

Abarato screenshotRescuing Abarato-San, the last arc of the volume, starts with a meeting between the girls and Abarato-san’s wife. She tells them a totally different story than we heard in Volume One. She says that he disappeared that night, while she was taking a bath, not bothering to take his shoes from the front door, and leaving a single child’s shoe on the balcony. She searched for him for years, and was finally told that Sorawo and Toriko might be able to help her. Later, the girls go back to the building where he disappeared, and encounter a highly dilapidated Hasshaku-sama. While Sorawo is tracking her with her right eye, which shows her as a pile of logs, she also sees an image of a small girl, running scared and wearing only one shoe. They end up following her through a Hasshaku-sama-associated gate to a world of eternal blue sunset. The girl, once they catch up to her, doesn’t respond to their questions, but leads them on a trek through multiple Otherside locations (with decreasing levels of blue) until they emerge back on the surface world, on Kozakura’s doorstep, with Kozakura wearing blue Crocs.

The final scene finds them sitting in a fast food place, discussing the events of the recent past. The little girl has been entrusted to DS Research. Sorawo has received an Otherside postcard with a picture of Abarato-san’s wife, who might just be a non-human Otherside construct. They finish their meal and leave. End of Volume.

Because this volume is the literary equivalent of the 8th inning setup pitcher, there are lots of loose ends left hanging. Is the Otherside using Abarato-san and the little girl to entice them deeper and deeper into the Blue? What was the importance of the Rangda dance and of the House in the Forest? Will they ever find Abarato-san (there were signs that he might have been living in a trash heap in the World of Eternal Sunset)? Who is the girl? Is she a young Sorawo? A young Hasshaku-sama? Is there a relationship between her feral existence and the genteel life of Todate-san? What does Sorawo’s naked Rangda dance have to do with anything, and why didn’t they illustrate it in the LN?

Meanwhile, the relationship between Sorawo and Toriko continues to deepen, but in small ways. It’s a matter of them becoming more comfortable with their knowledge of, and feelings for, each other.

In keeping with our baseball metaphor, the final question is, will Toriko ever get to second base?

 

Green Thumb Up My Nose

July 12, 2021

Garden Report for 210712

Nothing much new to report. Hot this week, and hotter next week — heat warning but only in the high 90’s.

Squashes are still being obstreperous. I thought about trying some hand pollination, but I don’t own a paintbrush, at least, not one that’s suitable. Fortunately, some bird left a feather in the yard and I tried that. We’ll see.

Lots of green tomatoes hanging about. Give it another couple of weeks and the crimson tide will be upon us.

The corn in the greenhouse is coming along. Some of it started to tilt, and I think that’s due to overwatering. It’s on the same drip system as the rest of the garden, so I have to turn it off by hand. The greenhouse sweet potatoes are doing very well. I only hope that the corn gets tall enough to stand above them.

TLDR: Anime I didn’t finish, Summer 2021

July 5, 2021

We are in the early days of Summer and the first drips of the new season are appearing. It will be another week before we get a steady stream.  Nevertheless, it’s possible to filter out those early shows that I’m not going  to continue with, not because they are bad (one episode often isn’t enough to tell), but because they really don’t appeal to me.

Scarlet Nexus: Bog standard Teens with special powers fight bouquets of invasive plants wearing corsets. I mean the plants are wearing the corsets, not the teens. Lots of predictable battles, with teens of one gender predictably being saved by teens of the other gender. Big spoiler at the end of the first episode, revealing the existence of a high level conspiracy. At least in Daphne in the Brilliant Blue they had the grace to wait until the last third of the anime to do the big reveal. It’s not spiky hair level of shouty shonen, but it’s close.

Kageki Shoujo A riff on the Takarazuka Revue. Great idea. (My one regret after four three trips to Japan is that I never had a chance to see Takarazuka [my other regret is that I never visited the life-sized Gundam]). Girls compete to see who can join the famed Kouka School of Musical and Theatrical Arts (I think in Kobe), gateway to the all-female Kouka Acting Troupe.  Starting with a great idea, the anime then descends into normality, with mismatched roomates, external stalkers, and a grandfather who can’t tell the difference between Kouka and Kabuki. I might come back to this, just not now.

Girlfriend, Girlfriend Highschool guy romances two girls at once, with indications that this will grow to four. First of all, it’s too shouty. Second, I don’t care how many of them give full permission and even move in with him, he’s gonna end up with his head in a bag.

Remake Our Life  It’s 2016, and an almost-middle-aged failure who got an Economics degree and then tried to build a career in anime wishes reallyreally hard and ends up transported back in time ten years to 2006 so that he can enroll in art school instead. Unlike most isekai, where the protagonist gets three minutes of backstory before encountering truck-kun, RoL gives us 23min worth of it as the start of a double length Episode 1. So far, it’s not enough to hold my interest. Besides, he’ll probably spend four years in college, and the next year get an anime job in Sendai.

 

Green Thumb Up My Nose

July 4, 2021

Garden Report for 210704

Happy 4th of July. As Stonekettle says:

This is Independence Day. The day we celebrate ALL of America by getting drunk and blowing off our fingers and setting the neighborhood on fire with illegal fireworks. It’s not Military Day. You don’t have to thank a veteran for your cookout.

The week started stinking hot, and then reduced to merely hot hot. As was foretold, the high was 108. Next week will see highs in the mid to upper 90’s, and lows in the mid to lower 60’s.

The garden held up pretty well under the heat. It looks like some of the tomatoes have dropped a lot of flowers but on the other hand, some of the Early Girls are starting to produce. The squash are still in their I’m not going to set fruit and you can’t make me phase. The Japanese Maple out front got many of its leaves badly sunburned.

Next week I’ll be putting up some string for the Section 3 peas.

Three Centuries in Six Years

July 3, 2021

My first day with a hundred visits was six years ago. My second day was four months later. Now, finally, I have a third Century, quite an accomplishment for a blog that generally runs in the low double digits.

Last time, the trigger was somebody finding my Garupan series and reading all of the entries. This time it was some group in the Philippines stumbling upon my Shirobako and “cuts” in anime entry and following the internal links.

ThirdCentury

This one also broke the record for numbers of views — the previous ones were 100 and 106. I’m always bemused by what triggers a click-storm like that.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

June 28, 2021

Garden Report for 210628

So, the official temps started out with highs in the 90’s, and went up from there, peaking at 104F this weekend. Forecast for the coming week is a couple of days around 108F. My local measurements have been lower, maxing out at 100 on Sunday. You will note that not only will the official highs be above 100F for the coming week, but that the lows will not drop below 70F for that same period.

 

Tried putting up shading-stuff to protect the plants. We had some shade cloth and some blue tarps. Fortunately, the tomato cages are just the right size for draping over. Cardboard for the windows. We’ll see how well they do. Heavy layers of mulch on everything.

GardenShade2021-06-28 10

Planted most of the onions, except for about two thirds of the Sweet White Spanish. They are in a temporary container until the heat wave is over … sometime next month.

The zucchini has produced one reasonable fruit…which we ate before I thought to take a pic.

 

Green Thumb Up My Nose

June 21, 2021

Garden Report for 210621

Bonum Solstitium, and gōd Liða to you all.

After some ferocious thunderstorms and brief-but-heavy rainfall, the week settled down to just abnormally hot. Not Arizona hot, but in the upper 80’s. Next week will be in the around 90’s. The coming week will end in triple digits.

The two zucchini and one summer squash are turning out little fruit that don’t go anywhere. They are over a week old and they’re still the Vienna sausages of squash. They’re not rotting out, so it’s likely not Blossom-End Rot, and I’ve been careful to keep them pruned so that the pollinators can find the flowers, given that the other cause might be inadequate pollination. It might be that we are short on pollinators this summer. I haven’t seen as many bees as usual, and no, I haven’t used any insecticidal sprays.

Chatfield, there seems to be something wrong with our bloody squash today.

Bought yet another soaker hose and threaded it through the grow-bags by the house. Found a split in the feeder hose that goes to the soakers buried by the trees, and fixed that.

My last big seedling purchase was a couple flats of onions — Sweet Spanish and Walla Wallas. In the process of planting them around about the various sections.

 

Anime Preview: Summer 2021

June 20, 2021

Unlike others, who use knowledge of the source materials, close observation of the previews, and who actually read the press releases, I’m going to base my decisions on what to watch on pretty much just the title and the cover art.

First, let’s say what’s not in here. Sequels and continuations of stuff I dropped earlier, movies and OVA’s, and anything that talks about idols.

WILL WATCH: The title or the cover art is properly enticing (or I liked the first season), so I definitely will watch at least the first three eps

Shiroi Suna no Aquatope
Four girls, two penguins. Could be a new Internet meme
The Case Study of Vanitas
Anything with ‘clockwork grimoire’ in the description has my attention
The Detective is Already Dead
He already has three girlfriends, so she’s taking her red ribbon of fate and leaving

MIGHT WATCH: The cover art is a little off-putting, but I might watch it.

Bokutachi no Remake
Busty girls play keep-away with this poor guys  laptop
Jahy-sama wa Kujikenai!
Devil is a Part-Timer rip-off, and the protagonna reminds me of Nagatoro-san
Kanojo mo Kanojo
One boy, four girlfriends. Will he end up with his head in a schoolbag?

WON’T WATCH. The cover art and/or the title tells me more than I ever wanted to know on the topic.

Sonny Boy
Reminds me too much of Tommy Boy
Peach Boy Riverside
There’s a boy across the river with a bottom like a peach, but alas I cannot swim
Drugstore in another world
Now you’re just jerkin’ our chain

Green Thumb Up My Nose

June 14, 2021

Garden Report for 210614

We’re at the tail end of June Gloom, that period — much beset by low clouds, cool temps, and rain showers — that falls  between a bright Spring and a hot Summer. After a wet start the coming week will see the true onset of Summer, with a couple of days in the upper 80s.

So I’m getting the last of my planting done while I can. A new row of peas. Reseeded the corn that hasn’t sprouted. Laid down an anti-squirrel grid and put in more carrots on tape and lettuce on tape, plus some random loose carrot and lettuce seeds I had laying around, under it.

Here’s my planting grid. Note that there’s a lot of “Unknowns”. That’s because, while I carefully labeled each row in the seed starter, I didn’t have every seed cell labeled. I thought I’d be able to keep track of their locations, but that hope died before I got them into their pots.

On Saturday I took a chance and moved the unknown squash from Section 3, where I’d been storing it, to replace one of the unknowns in Section 1 that was doing poorly. Sunday morning it was kindof wilted, but we’ll see.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

June 7, 2021

Garden Report for 210607

Hot, hot, hot, then cool and windy, cold and windy, windy and cold. Highs around 60, lows in the low 40’s. Next week will be just cool (well, mid-70’s).

Not much to report. We’re in the stand back and let them grow phase of summer. I’m trying to be more attentive to pruning and staking and weeding and such. I did manage to harvest the last of the lettuce (six plants!) at the south end of Section 1. Then I dug up the weeds. Got twice the vegetative mass from them compared to the lettuce. I’m going to leave it for a week, except for counter-weed ops, and then put carrots and stuff in. Maybe some more lettuce.

WRT staking. I use lots of tomato cages, and I’ve usually just jammed them in with the plant in the center. I’m thinking it might be better to put them in off-center, so the plant is already up against a support.

A show of their own, 2020

June 5, 2021

This posting is way late. I wrote it up and then forgot about it. Let’s hope that you find it more memorable.

I had so much fun doing ASOTO last year that I thought I’d make it an annual. The idea is to search through this years anime to find some supporting characters, characters that are interesting enough to deserve shows of their own. These would be spinoffs of real shows — Riverdale spinning off Katie Keen or Vampire Diaries spinning off Legacies, not like Star Trek spinning off Star Trek. I have talked about this before, collecting characters from multiple years. My new approach is, rather than waiting another four years, I’d try selecting four characters from the current year (one from each season) and nominating them for their own series.

Of course, there are some constraints. It had to be a show I watched, and watched long enough to establish an opinion — that disqualified most of the Winter season. It had to be a character who obviously had a backstory, not told in the original anime (which automatically rules out the children in most middle-school and high school settings — and it had to be a character who could stand on their own. It didn’t have to be a character I particularly liked. Also, and this is what removed a lot of good shows from the running, it had to be a character that wasn’t one of the stars.

And, also of course, once I set myself this task, I find that the source material is thinner than I expected. I didn’t watch a lot of anime this Winter, but not for lack of trying. Winter was a zero, mostly idols and harems and cool programs on services I didn’t subscribe to.

WINTER Nobody
While Eizouken and In/Spectre were both good, neither had a suitable supporting character. Detective Terada might have worked, except he went and got himself killed at the end of Episode 6 of In/Spectre. Hard to build a Further Adventures of program on that. So Winter gets a zero, and I’ll pick up a replacement from the later seasons.

Spring was equally thin, with Demon Slayer not holding my interest and BOKUBEN not having any interesting supporting actors. The best I could do was The Helpful Fox Senko-san:

SPRING The Helpful Fox Senko-san

Koenji Yasuko

She’s the helpful girl next door, a student and a mangaka. She provides a possible love interest that isn’t a loli-fox-goddess.

An anime spin-off could cover her life as a student — What’s her major in school (art, graphics design?), how did she get into mangaka-ing? — as well as her interactions with the apartment next door — will she ever figure out that Senko-San isn’t a cosplayer? Will she be there when Senko-San leaves (or will Senko-San continue housekeeping for this guy for the next eighty years)? Will she and Nakano Kuroto hit it off, or will he continue his foxtail fetish, forcing her and Shiro-San to go off on their own yuri adventures?

Summertime had more shows, but most of them fell at the first fence, or were very good, but didn’t have useful side characters. So, Demon Lord, Retry got dropped early, and Oh, Maidens has too strong a main cast, and I won’t admit to have watched Hensuki. That meant I had to break two of my rules, and pick a major character from a TV short. Fortunately, there was a good one available.

Summer Are you lost?

Onishima Homare

Homare-chan is the lead character, and the emotionally strongest of the Lost Girls. We see bits of her backstory in almost every 15min episode, showing how she was trained up by her survival-otaku father. What we don’t get is a sense of continuity.

A  anime would tell how her father got interested in survival skills, and what it was like, eating strange food somewhere up on the Fenno-Scandian Shield (Mynd yoü, Homare, there’s other pärts of å mööse that taste bætter)? Each one of the vignettes of  Lost would make an entire episode in Let’s go Camping, Homare

Fall has presented problems of its own. Out of eighteen shows that I spent at least some time on, only five have made the I’ll watch it cut. Of those five, two were sequels and two were harems and three were team efforts and one started late. When the dust settled, only Ascendance of a Bookworm remained, and only Otto, the gate guard, stood out (Lutz might have been preferable, but how much backstory does a 7-year-old have?).

FALL Ascendance of a Bookworm

Otto

Otto is a soldier, who was a traveling merchant. He bought citizenship in this city so he could marry the girl he loved. He does all the bookkeeping for the gate guards, and he employs Myne as a sometime assistant accountant and teacher.

An anime would address what his life was like before he settled down. Who were his people? Where are they now? How did he meet his wife, and how did he make the transition from traveling merchant to stolid burgher? It could start in a wagon somewhere in Isekailand, and end with him meeting his boss’s daughter, Myne.

Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Oatmeal

June 3, 2021

A few days ago Sora News had an article about buying one of every kind of fresh ramen they could find, and then mixing up all the flavor packets in one big pot and making ramen for the whole office. They thought it tasted really great. I thought why not try it in oatmeal?

So I popped down to Safeway and bought seven different flavors of ramen from Sapporo Ichiban, Maruchan and Nissin RAOH. I dumped them all in a pot …oops… each packet wants two cups of water. That’s 14 cups, or just over three quarts. I don’t really want to dirty a one gallon pot.  So I cut it back to eight cups of water, figuring I could dilute it as necessary. That still put two quarts of broth in the fridge, enough for 16 oatmeal breakfasts — actually more, because I’ve found that the best quantity of flavor packet to a bowl of oatmeal is half a teaspoon per serving. That means I’ll be making ramen broth oatmeal for the next two months.

This better be good.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one half cup of Every Flavour Broth, one half cup of water, three dinner teaspoons of potato flakes (to soak up the salt), fat pinch of shredded cheese. Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats. Add the potatoes at the end.

Results: Meh. Tasted mostly of soy sauce, with just a little bit of heat in the background, probably from the Nissin flavors — I’ve found that anything in black packaging is likely to be highly spicy. I also tried it with a slab of Golden Curry. Didn’t help.

Rating: **** two stars

Any suggestions of what to do with seven and a half cups of concentrated ramen broth? What about 14 servings of dried ramen noodles?

Green Thumb Up My Nose

May 31, 2021

Garden Report for 210531

My 250th Green Thumb posting. Pretty long run, considering that it’s no more than once a week, during the growing season. It will be ten full years, come September.

Windy start, hot end, hotter forecast. Should be 95F by midweek.

Continued working on the irrigation system. The t-connectors tend to leak. I added a pressure reduction valve, which helped, and caulked the joints, which helped more. Unfortunately, the caulk required 36hr to dry before being wet, so the work went slowly, but is finally done.

Installed a 6x8x6ft greenhouse in Section 4. I plan to use that for corn and sweet potatoes. Getting it up was easy. Getting it straight was hard. You see, my garden is built in raised 6x8ft sections, but that includes the cinderblock walls. So there is no way to follow the instructions for pegging it down, and it’s a real problem sealing it from critters.

Planted the first increment of peas in Section 3. I figure I’ll do one row every two or three weeks. Also transplanted my sweet potato slips into the greenhouse. Corn is next.

On the garden pic, above, the mass of greenery down in front is actually weeds. Scattered in amongst them are five or six lettuce plants. The anti-squirrel grill needs some work on its anti-weed capabilities.

Exploring Mars

May 29, 2021

China recently landed its first rover on Mars. We now have had ten successful landings, so far.

Of course, ten landers gives us the barest sample of what Mars is like. The fact is, the explorable surface of Mars is roughly the same size as that of the Earth: the surface area of Mars is about 56 million square miles, compared with the land area of Earth , which is about 57 million square miles. So, pick ten locations on Earth, more or less at random. Land there, and explore a couple of meters to a couple of kilometers in the immediate vicinity of the landing site. How much would you say you know about the planet?

The map on the left shows the location of the ten successful landers. The map on the right shows those landers at roughly the equivalent latitude and longitude, on Earth.

Notice that most of them come down in the ocean, because that’s what 70% of the Earth is. If you like, you could move the oceanic landers to the nearest dry spot, leaving Oppy at roughly 0N/0E for reference. So, say Miami, Dakar, Manila, Darwin, and Fiji (plus the don’t-have-to-move sites at Yellowknife, Khabarovsk, Kunming, and Mumbai). But that’s it. It’s like you were a tourist on an around the world cruise with only ten stops and no real shore excursions, and the amount of knowledge gained is about what you’d get wandering around the tourist bazaar.

We either need a human crewed mission, or a few thousand more landers.