KanColle, the source of the Abyssal Fleet found

April 17, 2015

Off the coast of California.




April 14, 2015

Time to use up more of that dashi. This time the secret ingredient is the stub end of a smallish daikon radish that I’d made oden with the night before.  Normally, one puts whole rounds of the daikon into a stew or soup and lets them simmer for a couple of hours, to absorb the taste.  No time for that, this is breakfast! So I just diced the daikon, dumped it into the dashi and delayed deploying the oatmeal until steaming.

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

Results:Not inedible. Not exciting. Not blended. The daikon added some crunch to the meal, but it felt like an afterthought, like seaweed sprinkled on your salad.

Rating: *****

Green Thumb Up My Nose

April 13, 2015

Garden Report for 150413

Welcome back. Coming up on the Ides of April, more to be feared than the Ides of March, and it’s time to git gardening.

Not quite warm enough for the planting yet. Garden soil is still at 50F, and we’ve got three nights below freezing in the next six. On the other hand, after Wednesday’s Thursday’s frost, it looks like we’ll start a warming trend, which means I can probably start planting the first or second week of May. Meanwhile, the weekend was a complete waste, with highs in the 40’s, and winds in the ….40’s.

Ripped out the old irrigation hose, what was springing leaks right and left, and prepared to replace it. Problem. Nobody local seems to carry 1/2″ soaker hose any more. It’s all 3/8″, which means my hardware won’t work. On the other hand, they do have 3/8″ irrigation kits with 100ft of hose, plus fittings, for $25. That will do two sections of KHG. The only problem is, on these, the hose goes into the fitting. Meaning there’s no way to fix it. On my 1/2″ rig, the hose went over the fitting, and could be secured with a hose clamp. Now, I’m at the mercy of friction.

Found my main hose was also leaking, right at the attach point. Looks like this will be the Spring of The Hose Replacement Project.

Planted a bunch of seeds in seed starters. They came up, and promptly died. Probably not enough water. I think I’ll give up on seeds and just buy seedlings. I say that every year, but This Time For Sure. Filled out a very complete but now useless garden gantt.

Found some good articles on cover crops, that will have to wait for Fall to try out.

Faking Pork

April 11, 2015

So, three days ago I trashed the anime Food Wars (AKA Shokugeki no Souma, 食戟のソーマ / Souma’s Food Weapons). I stand by that. If you are looking for an entertaining anime, and there’s a shred of (cultural) taste in your makeup, you will skip this one and go watch HOTD reruns. Scenes that the manga passes over with one or two giggleframes, the anime lingers lovingly on, detailing every blush, every squeak, and every crotch clench. Classes at the cooking school are arbitrary contests — “Today you will make bœuf bourguignon. What!? You never made it before? You don’t belong in this school!” — which Souma, Our Hero, wins handily (“Oh, you mean beef stew“).

On the other hand, those of you who read Playboy for the insightful articles, might find that this anime is worthwhile because of the …. recipes!

In the first episode, Our Hero is challenged to make a juicy meat dish, after the bad guys have trashed all the meat in his kitchen. All he has is a half kilo of thick-cut bacon he picked up on the way in to work. Fear not, gentle eater, he wins the day with a Gotcha Pork Roast.*

Step 1. Chunk, steam, and mash some potatoes. I used three medium/smalls, chopped fine and boiled. FoodWarsPotatoes Step 2. Chop some onion and oyster mushrooms. Looks to be about 2:1 ratio by screen presence. I used a 100g box of mushrooms and one medium onion. Chopped and softened in the frying pan.

Eringi (エリンギ) mushrooms

Eringi (エリンギ) mushrooms

Step 3. Mix, mould, and wrap in thick cut bacon, dotted with rosemary. I just mixed the veggies, put them in a shallow casserole dish, and layered the top with bacon. No rosemary.

Looks more like a hash brown patty from here

Looks more like a hash brown patty from here

Step 4. Roast at an unknown temperature for an unknown period. I used a convection oven set at 325F for half an hour.

I was out of rosemary

I was out of rosemary

Step 5. Meanwhile, cook down a mix of red wine, shoyu, and mirin, with a pat of butter. Being fresh out of mirin (and also out of sake, so I couldn’t なんちゃって some up), I used half a cup of vin exceedinly ordinaire, tablespoon of shoyu, and a half-tablespoon of dry sherry. Reduce to 1/8th of a cup.

Mine didn't look like this

Mine didn’t look like this

Results: Very good, in a non-crotch-clenching sort of way. None of my clothes exploded off of me, and any squeaking noises I made were due to the potatoes being too hot. No-one would ever mistake mine for a pork roast.

Comments: Needed a few more strips of bacon, to improve the overlap and make up for shrinkage. In photo-recon terms, we had enough for 100% coverage, but not enough for stereo coverage. Needed lots more potatoes, to soak up the thick-cut grease. Was hot all the way through, but the onion was still sharp-flavored, so cooking the onions and mushrooms in the frying pan a while longer would help. Plus maybe cooking the whole dish longer, at a lower temperature. Adding rosemary might help get the effect we want.

Oh, the rosemary!

Oh, the rosemary!


* The word used is なんちゃって (nanchatte), which is defined as “just kidding”, or “fake”.

TL:DR — Anime I never finished, Spring 2015

April 9, 2015

The Spring Shows are just starting to bud out, and I’m doing some early pruning, based on the first episode alone. There may be some series that I’ll reconsider, if the popular acclaim is loud enough. I doubt these are them.

Seraph of the End: Vampires enslave children after everyone over 13 dies in a plague. Group of kids from an orphanage gets a vamp-gun and a tourist map showing routes out of the underground city and decide to make a break for it. Everybody dies.

Overly evil bad guys. Good backgrounds, but mediocre character art and animation. It’s dated 2015, but it looks like something from the 90’s, and the lead-in shows the now obsolete logo of the six-years defunct Geneon corporation, as if this was something they found in a back room storage bin.

Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls In a Dungeon?: In this case, yes. Clueless, over-eager (but sensitive), n00b adventurer gets the hots for a 5th-level combatrix from an insufferably powerful family, followers of the god Loki. Our adventurer is the only follower of the goddess Hestia, who looks and acts like the traditional anime childhood friend and is totally smitten with her oblivious follower. So, he’s off getting damaged by demons in a dungeon when he could be at home, snogging with a goddess. It’s like a spin-off based on one of the less interesting side characters from Sword Art Online. So far, the only appealing character is Eiefull-Halfelven, his local guild mistress. To add insult to injury, Wikipedia says this all takes place in Baltimore.

Food Wars: Hey, guys! Did you see how well Gourmet Girls did last season? I’ll bet we can do better than that! Instead of middle school kids, we’ll have high-schoolers, and adults, because the foodgasms can be that much more explicit, and we can have nudity and peanutbutter-lubed tentacle rape! Oh, oh, and predatory land developers, with bigger boobs than in the manga, of course! And then, and then — wait for it — we can send him off to a pathologically intense cooking school where we can subject him to arbitrary demands and unreasonable conditions while not teaching him anything! It’ll be like a combination of Game of Thrones, and Iron Chef America, with a touch of American Gladiators thrown in! There’s no way this can go wrong! Eat your heart out, Ed Wood!!

Triage X: Boobs, blood, and bombast. If you like nudity, car chases, explosions, and extra-judicial murder justified by pseudomedical bafflegab, this one’s for you. Otherwise, it’s something that followers of Highschool of the Dead would turn their noses up at. Follows the manga quite closely (you say that as if it was a good thing). CREDITS: Miss Sagiri’s boobs were played by two sumo wrestlers, who appear by special arrangement with Nihon Sumō Kyōkai.

Oatmeal Arrabbiata

April 9, 2015

Arrabbiata sauce, or sugo all’arrabbiata in Italian, is a spicy sauce for pasta made from garlic, tomatoes, and red chili peppers cooked in olive oil. “Arrabbiata” literally means “angry” in Italian, and the name of the sauce is due to the heat of the chili peppers.


MJ had bought a jar of Arrabbiata sauce, which we had over spaghetti (you’re really supposed to have it over penne past). It was pretty good, as I recall, but there was half a jar left, and a month later there was still half a jar left. The nice thing about modern commercial foods is that their constituent chemicals are so inimical to life that they last a long time in the fridge.

Feeling angry one morning, I decided to try it on in oatmeal. I used a rather bland chicken broth that we’d cooked up from some legs, and added two dinner tablespoons of Arrabbiata. Given the way the sauce dominated the flavors, I probably should have just used water.

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

Results: Pretty good, if you like garlic and chili peppers for breakfast. I forgot that adding additional liquids to the broth tended to make the oatmeal a little sloppy, and had to add a third teaspoon of potato flakes. To maintain tradition, I topped it with shredded Parmesan cheese, but that didn’t really help. What was missing was a nice glass of Chianti Classico ’07.

Rating: *****

Anime Worth Watching, Winter 2015

April 5, 2015

Shirobako: A two-cour series that started last Fall and ended last week. Almost everyone raved about it and said it was great. I think it’s greater than great. I think it’s…it’s…whatever comes two levels above great. It’s in the same class as Girls und Panzer, which isn’t surprising, given that they’re both from the same director, Mizushima Tsutomu. I’d clamour for a third season in the Fall (there’s enough narrative space for four more seasons, plus a couple of spin-offs), but Mizushima is busy making another GaruPan movie. I’m torn.

It’s an anime about making anime. It’s full of adults, with adult jobs, and adult job issues. It touches on every discipline that uses teams of creative people to produce a product. Any software developer or aeronautical engineer, or movie fan, will recognize it. As with any team project (and few anime) it has an enormous cast, so many that we have to have a nametag popup every time they appear, and yet Mizushima makes it work.

This is what it takes to make an anime

This is what it takes to make an anime

By the time the show is done, you know every person in that picture, and you care about what happens to them, and what their day is like, and you no longer mind paying Japanese rates for anime DVDs.

Saekano: A harem show about a high school boy making a Visual Novel harem game. The zeroth episode was shamelessly fanservicy, but after that it calmed down and became more plot oriented.

Unlike most harem shows, the male protagonist isn’t a clueless wimp, he’s a driven otaku, one of the three best known people in the school (OK, so he’s clueless about that), and his goal is to have his dating sim game done in time for the Winter Comiket. All the girls on his team, except the one he recruited as the heroine (pronounced he-roine, rhymes with he-groin), are equally accomplished (as in, they include the other two of the three best known students), with outside creative careers of their own. They are all drawn into his orbit by the sheer force of his desire to make this game. Well, since this is a harem anime, those two are really only concerned with one thing.

Well, I've made a decision... [interjections]...I will build this game

Well, I’ve decided … [interjections]… I will build this game

The heroine is a perfectly normal, down to earth girl, who is a lot smarter than she sounds, and drops amazingly funny lines in a totally deadpan voice.


The fact that it’s a computer game within an anime allows them to constantly push up against the 4th wall. A scene will start with a monologue that sounds like it’s talking to you, the anime audience, but turn out to be a discussion of the game. The tropes that play out in the game, also play out in the anime, and the characters (otaku all) recognize them when they happen “How can I compete against her, a childhood friend born on the same day in the same hospital?”.


After the usual travails (see: Shirobako) the final episode arrives, and a final burst of energy delivers…the first full path through the game. The game’s not done. The harem situation is unresolved. There has to be at least one more season.


Gourmet Girl Graffitti: It’s been described as food porn, but it’s more than that. It’s food porn plus! Young girl, living alone since her grandmother died, discovers anew the Joy of Snacks when her cousin comes to stay for weekends while going to cram school with her. Both of them have a tendency to orgasm over good food, and Studio Shaft is there to document the phenomenon.

What's for Lunch?

What’s for Lunch?

There’s more to it than that, of course. This is a story about family, and growing, and eating and recovering from grief, and preparing for highschool and the explosive wonderfulness of a mouthful of omurice as it bursts across your taste-buds and… Sorry.

The Well-Cooked Bamboo Shoot...

The Well-Cooked Bamboo Shoot…

On the way, you get a series of one-minute demonstrations on how to cook these delicious meals, and you’ll end every episode hungry for fresh bamboo shoots, or smoked mackerel, or whatever the food of the day is.

I wish I could chew on it forever

…makes me wish I could chew on it forever

The art is good, and the animation is acceptable, the character designs are spot on, and somehow the girls look a sultry ten years older whenever they slide a forkfull of food into their mouths. Good job, Shaft. Good job.

KanColle: The Japanese love their military, and they really love their Navy, even though it’s still not politically correct to admit it. 2013 gave us Arpeggio of Blue Steel, featuring an alien fleet of intelligent ships styled after warships of WWII, crewed by artificial intelligences in the form of young girls. 2015 brings us KanColle, originally the browser based cardgame Kantai Collection. Here, an alien fleet is opposed by a fleet of young girls, imbued with the souls of IJN ships of WWII, and rigged out with equipment that’s reminiscent of those warships. So, the destroyer girls carry hip-mounted torpedo racks, and the carrier girls have bows that launch squadrons of fighters, and shields that look like, and act as, carrier decks.

Twerking Torpedos

Twerking Torpedos

The plot tracks the events of WWII, opening with an attack on island “WI”, continuing to a big carrier battle off the “Coral Islands”, and ending with Operation MI, AKA the Battle of Midway, with the big question being, can the girls avoid the fate that awaited the IJN at Midway?

The problem is, the show doesn’t know if it wants to be an ad for Kantai Collection, a comedy, a tragedy, a buddy movie, or an echo of WWII, so it tries to be all five. It probably could have pulled off two of them, but it just ended up being inconsistent, incoherent, and scatterbrained. A lot of things are insider jokes for Kantai Collection players, or for WWII buffs. One aniblog found it necessary to post multiscreen summaries by two different authors, detailing the game and war references after every episode. There are, I am told, over 60 ships in the game, and the anime tried to shove as many of them as possible across the screen. Mizushima Tsutomu might have been able to pull it off. KanColle couldn’t.

The Fleet Girls in Action

The Fleet Girls in Action

Still, it’s a fun bit of popcorn, particularly for WWII buffs, and you don’t often get to see formations of archer-maidens roller-blading across the ocean.

Yona of the Dawn: I know, I know, I gave it very short shrift last Fall, when the first of the two cours started. And I stand by what I said. The heroine (spoiled daughter of a soon-to-be-murdered king) was a brat, and the script exploited the “talk is free” loophole shamelessly.* But Fem over at FemService convinced me to try it again, and I have to admit it was quite good.

It turned out to be both a quest and a journey of discovery. The script settled down, and didn’t involve quite so many villainous speeches. Unfortunately, the art and animation weren’t all that great. Fortunately, the characters and their interactions more than made up for it. Yona plays off of each of them, and they play off each other. Side characters are constantly upstaging her, and that’s OK. Along the way, she grows, and becomes stronger and tougher. Early on, she escapes a captor who has grabbed her by her long red hair, not by stabbing him with the sword she’s holding, but by using it to cut off her hair.

The True Leader Does What is Necessary

The True Leader Does What is Necessary

At the end, she’s willing to use deadly force to gain her goals. Since the season ends with her finally putting together her team of “dragons”, after cleaning up a seaport that has become a hive of scum and villainy, I wouldn’t be surprised to see at least one more cour. After all, there’s a murdered king to avenge.

Yurikuma Arashi: Lesbian teddy-bears infiltrate a girls’ school and eat the lilys.** This is another show that popular acclaim forced me to reconsider. Gorgeous art. Excellent framing. A complex story about genderness and bullying and rejection and acceptance. Complex on many levels, with tropes and symbolism that are orthogonal to this old white male’s weltanschauung. Starts off slow, and never really picks up speed, and you need a flow chart to track the character interactions. Multiple flashbacks; multiple POVs; multiple reveals. Not particularly fanservice oriented, unless the sight of intertwined naked middle school girls turns you on, in which case you are either too young to be reading this blog, or you need to schedule your analyst for some serious overtime. Marvelous ending.


*The Talk is Free loophole says that any fight, or any dramatic moment can be paused indefinitely while the characters spend any amount of time exposiating, with no penalty on either side. This is similar in concept to German separable verbs, as described by Mark Twain.

**For those not plugged into the proper argot, yuri (百合, ゆり), is Japanese for lily, with a more recently added meaning of female homosexuality.

Mr. Lincoln’s Computers

April 1, 2015

Rare photo shows Mary Todd Lincoln turning the crank on an early information storage system, used to hold the Confederate Order of Battle Operations Listing. It’s a well-known fact that, given their constantly changing brigade structure and penchant for naming units after (often short-lived) commanders, even the Confederate generals were not always sure how many men they had in the field. Abraham Lincoln reportedly said that, thanks to these machines, the Union usually had a better idea than the Confederates.


Lincoln also credited his computers, as the girls who cranked the handles were called, for helping break a number of Confederate codes. “We never would have figured out how tightly they wound their paper strips around the coding pencils without the help of these fine women”, he said. Other triumphs included determining exactly which edition of Ivanhoe the Confederate government used as the basis for their unbreakable ‘book codes’.

False Pho Oatmeal

March 26, 2015

We had three raw chicken legs left over, and don’t you just hate it when that happens?

I didn’t want to make up another batch of chicken broth, because that’s what the rest of the legs had gone for, and we didn’t have that much room in the fridge. Fortunately, I found a Pho recipe online — or it found me, it just popped up that morning in my RSS feed. Trouble is, MJ and I, we’re not big fans of anise nor fennel, nor even cilantro. I know, that closes off whole civilizations-worth of cuisine. So we decided we’d make do with substitutions. And then she went off to a meeting and I got hungry and I decided I’d make do with substitute substitutions. So I made a small batch of pholich broth, using ginger and chopped up onion and chopped up remnant celery, including the leaves. We did have fish sauce, so that was authentic. Slow-cooked it for four hours, and strained off the solids. Left with an unclear broth that tasted vaguely Asiatic, and a cup of boiled celery and onion for dregs.

Next morning I made my oatmeal with the original chicken stock (saving the pho for pho), and added a couple of dinner teaspoons of onion/celery dregs, about a quarter cup.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, 1/4 cup of leftover chopped onion/celery mix, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, one cup of broth, salt.  Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats.  Add the potato when you take it off the stove.

Results: Fair. The celery wanted to dominate. In another recipe I had tried chopped cabbage, to the same effect. The difference being, the dominant cabbage flavor was better than this dominant celery flavor. I guess celery really should be a background ingredient. Soy sauce helped.

Rating: *****

The Wind Rises

March 18, 2015

The Wind Rises (風立ちぬ /Kaze Ta chi nu, with the nu being a somewhat archaic verb ending implying that things are happening), is the last anime movie directed by Miyazaki Hayao before his [current] retirement. It’s interesting because of the subject, the sources, what’s in it, and what isn’t in it.

At the highest level, it’s Miyazaki’s dream of airplanes. He loves airplanes, particularly seaplanes, particularly Italian planes (his studio is named after the Caproni Ca.309 Ghibli). What I consider his best film, Porco Rosso, was about seaplanes flying in the Adriatic between the World Wars.

Dream Planes

Dream Planes

Next level down is his dream of the life of Horikoshi Jirō, designer of the Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighter. I say dream here, because Horikoshi’s life wasn’t anything like the movie, as we’ll see. And finally, it’s about Horikoshi’s deams of designing and building airplanes. And within those dreams? Horikoshi dreams of meetings with Italian seaplane designer, Giovanni Battista Caproni. Even the aircraft in the anime are dreamlike, with engines that sound more like a skilled ventriloquist mimicking their noise.

The movie has a long introduction and a short epilogue, with the twin-themed main story bookended by identically portrayed disasters. In the introduction, young Horikoshi has a dream in which he meets Caproni and decides to become an aeronautical engineer. The first disaster hits as he’s on the train back to Tokyo University, where he’s working to make his dream come true.

The Quake

The Quake

It’s the September 1, 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake, which pretty well leveled Tokyo, and then set fire to the ruins. The earth shakes, the houses collapse, and soon there is a pall of fire and smoke above the entire city. The portrayal of the earthquake is the best I’ve seen in any movie.

The Fire

The Fire

On the train, he meets his future love Nahoko Satomi, and helps rescue her maid after the earthquake. Ten years later they meet again, fall in love, and are betrothed. Unfortunately, Nahoko has tuberculosis, and wants to wait until she has gone to a sanatorium and is cured. This being anime, that, of course, never happens, and they end up marrying once they realize that she’s going to die. After a brief but happy interlude, she slips away to the sanatorium to die, so that he will remember her as healthy. This is the dream part of the biography. Horikoshi’s wife didn’t have tuberculosis, and she and their two sons survived the war.

The Wedding

The Wedding

The story, and the anime title, were adapted from a 1937 psychological/autobiographical novel by Hori Tatsuo, about a man visiting his fiancée in a sanatorium. I have read translated excerpts, and it is as dull and as interminable as you might imagine a novel on that topic from that period (There’s an example in a collection of Japanese literature available through Amazon books. The interior link is on page viii of the Contents, and the story itself is on page 376).

There's many more pages like this.

There’s many more pages like this.

I suspect this story was included because they felt they needed a romance aspect, and the only romance more boring would be “engineer meets girl; engineer marries girl; girl keeps house and raises a family while engineer goes to work.”

The sort of novel a young girl in love might read

The sort of novel a young girl in love might read

The second theme is Horikoshi’s efforts to design beautiful aircraft. Unfortunately for him, the only people buying aircraft between the wars (Japan is suffering from both the earthquake and the Great Depression) is the military. His experiences are about par for the course for aircraft designers of that era –they crashed more often than a Monty Python castle. The first plane he contributes to the design of crashes, and Mitsubishi doesn’t get the contract. He’s the lead designer on the second plane (Mitsubishi 1MF10), which does well in its initial flights but we later see the wreckage in a hangar (and the contract is cancelled).

The Second Failure

The Second Failure

It’s this discouraging development that causes him to take a vacation in the mountains, where he renews his acquaintance with Nahoko. Finally, he has success, designing what will become the Mitsubishi A5M (Claude), but that success is bittersweet, because it is while he is at the first test flight of the new aircraft that Nahoko dies.

The A5M

The A5M (with cherry blossoms)

The ten years from that first flight in 1935 to the end of WWII are skimmed over in about six chords of doleful music, and the main story ends with Tokyo again in flames, with the pall of fire and smoke above the entire city looking much like the aftermath of the earthquake. This time the disaster is due to B-29 raids.

The War

The War

The epilogue has Horikoshi walking through the wreckage of airplanes up to another dream visit with Caproni, and a brief encounter with Nahoko, who tells him to live. Horikoshi’s crowning achievement, the Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighter is relegated to a walk-on at the very end, when a flight of twelve zooms through his dream and up into the stream of pilots and planes in aeronautical heaven, a direct reference to a similar scene in Porco Rosso.

The Zero

The Zero

In addition to its biographical aspects, the story is a snapshot of Japanese society between the wars. Horikoshi starts out as a young boy, sleeping under mosquito netting, wearing a yukata at home and a haori and hakama with getas at school, and ends up in Western dress, with coat and tie and fedora. Servants run around in their blue haoris with the house emblem on the back. Everybody smokes (although the real Horikoshi didn’t). Almost every outdoor scene has people pulling and pushing carts and riding bicycles and hand-carrying loads.

The Transport

The Transport

The complex contradictions within Japanese society between the wars is illustrated by the fact that the new aircraft are hauled to the test airfield using oxen.

Slow and Fast

Slow and Fast

What’s missing from the anime, as many have pointed out, is any sign of remorse for the use to which his airplanes were put, or for Japan’s role in WWII. Horikoshi, or rather, Japan, is chided gently by the German he meets in the hotel — Japan has forgotten that it started a war in China, that it established Manchukuo, that it left the League of Nations and allied itself with Hitler. Horikoshi himself was responsible for hundreds of deaths by way of his aircraft. The anime acknowledges this through no more than a nod in that direction, and many people have a problem with this.

Miyazaki sidesteps the issues by ending the story in 1935. At that point in time it was still possible to admire the European dictators. People might not like them, but they seemed to be winning the battle of the Great Depression. Hitler had been legally and democratically elected two years before. Mussolini had been legally, if somewhat less democratically appointed Prime Minister twelve years before, and if he was a dictator, he at least made the trains run on time.* Indeed, in 1932 it was possible for P.G. Wodehouse to modify the words of a Cole Porter song (to make it more understandable to posh audiences in the West End) by writing “You’re the top, you’re Mussolini…” Hitler was not yet revealed as a monster, and the world had not yet descended into the hell of WWII. So, many of today’s complaints are a projection backwards of today’s morality, using 20/20 hindsight.

To me, Miyazaki just wanted to write an anime about airplanes, and an homage to a great aircraft designer, without having to shoulder all of Japan’s post-war guilt. In a way, Horikoshi comes across as a lot like Wernher von Braun, another engineer who was dedicated to his craft and who made a deal with the devil in order to practice it.

*Actually, he didn’t. Italian trains were notoriously bad in Fascist Italy.

Oats a L’Orange

March 12, 2015

Last time I did oatmeal in orange sauce it was using some commercial sauce for duck. This time it’s semi-home-made. I say semi- because MJ made it for some pork ribs, using a “cup” of those mandarin orange fruit cup snacks you buy at the combini. That, and some soy sauce and browned onions and chicken broth made a very tasty braising sauce for the ribs (which infused it with their own jellied goodness), and gave us a couple of real cups worth left over. I used half a cup of the sauce, and half a cup of the beefy beef stock.

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

Results: Very good. The taste of orange wasn’t overwhelming, but it was strong enough to make an impression.

Rating: *****

Happy Blogday to Me

March 5, 2015

FoundOnWeb started six years ago today, and has produced a whopping 760 posts — roughly one every three days — and 24,000 views — about 11 per day (most of them looking for HOTD screenshots). That seems about right, for a instrument of total self-indulgence. I’m not tired of it, yet. That’s because I’m not tired of me. I guess I’ll keep on keeping on, as long as the ego holds out.

Standing Desk 2

March 4, 2015

In my first installment, I mentioned at the end that balance might be an issue. It is. There’s two problems. First, at full height, the VariDesk frame is cantilevered well forward of its stowed position, such that most of the load is no longer over the desk, but is hanging out in open space (I have the additional handicap of setting the 24″ legs on a 20″ desktop). Second, my rollaround computer desk was designed with a pull-out keyboard shelf. That’s because there’s no place to put your feet if you tried to use the keyboard directly on top of the desk. And that means you have to pull the VariDesk an additional twelve inches or so forward of where it wants to be.

I did that, and found that the whole frame got very tippy when I did so. As in “whoa, let’s push this back”.

As Lenin might say, what is to be done? There are several options. The first one, rapidly rejected, was to buy a new computer desk. The fuss and bother and drivings about were bad enough that I relegated that idea to the Last Resort folder.

Another possibility was to drill holes in the quarter-inch thick steel frame and screw the frame to the desk. Probably the second-best idea, and the second-worst inconvenience.

C-clamps on the back wouldn’t work, because there’s no room for them when the VD is in it’s stowed position. That leaves some sort of extension to the front of the desk to support the legs. If the legs had been the width of the desk apart, it would have been easy — an L-shaped shelf-holder would work — but as it was, there was no place to attach a support, other than on the front of the 1″ thick desktop itself.

Or on the top. The cleanest solution would be to buy a slab of quarter-inch plywood big enough to hang over the edge of the desk, screw it on, and stick the VD on top of it as if it was made for it. But plywood is expensive, and I was looking for a more minimalist solution.

Like, suppose you put a slab of plywood on the desk, and then cut away all the plywood that wasn’t actually holding stuff up. And suppose you substituted a steel plate for the remnant of plywood, on account of as how it was both thinner and stronger. To the Hardware Store!

Support Plates

Support Plates

Three trips later (did you know bolts came with both coarse and fine threads?) I had two lumber beam connector plates bolted to the desk, with the VD sitting atop them. It was still a little bouncy, so I went back (fortunately it’s less than a mile away) and bought longer bolts and some very large washers. The washers hooked over the edge of the base plate, and the bolts — two on the front side of the plate and two on the back side — went through the desk and held everything in place. To give myself some additional peace of mind, I stuck an old UPS that I was going to recycle on the bottom shelf of the desk, to supply some additional weight on the back side of the Center of Gravity.



This kind of setup undoubtedly voided my warranty, is probably dangerous, and certainly isn’t something that a sane person should try at home. If you try it, and your child gets crushed, well… post something on your Facebook page and I promise I will tag it with a Like.

Standing Desk 1

March 1, 2015

I’m typing this while standing up. My feet hurt. My back hurts. There’s a pain in my left leg just above the knee, and a tingle in the nerves of my right thigh. Obviously, I have things to learn about standing desks.

I decided to get a standing desk a month ago. That was about a year after my body decided it had fulfilled its evolutionary duties and could now coast downhill to retirement. My weight went up, my blood pressure went up, my aches and pains went up. This, despite the fact that I eat healthy, have no more than one or two bottles of wine at dinner, walk half a mile to class/meetings five times a week, and average an hour and a half per school day on my feet, lecturing. When the weather is good, most of the Summer and parts of the Fall and Spring, but none of the Winter, here in the NENW, I put in an additional two miles per day in walking. Doesn’t help. Or, no longer helps. I don’t mind the thought of me retiring, but I’d prefer that my body didn’t retire first.

Considering that I spend probably ten hours per day at the computer — in a little one-Starbucks/high-scabland town like Cheney, there’s not much else to do — anything I can do to increase my activity level there should be worthwhile. Yes, I’ve got a treadmill, The Imperial Walker, and yes, I’ve tried working on a laptop while walking, but it just didn’t work out. For one thing, I had trouble figuring out where my lap was.

Enter the standing desk. Reportedly, they give most of the benefits of a walking desk, while being much cheaper and more compact. Of course, cheap is relative. Amazon carries a motor operated, dual-surface, multi-monitor, medical workstation for $12,000, and a crank-adjustable work desk for $4500. I wasn’t that unhealthy, so I settled for a $350 VariDesk Pro Plus: a spring-operated, desk-mounted rig that was wide enough to take my two monitors. Ordered it last month, got it last week, put it up last night.

The way we were

The way we were

Here’s my original setup. Two monitors on a twenty-year old rollabout computer desk. Keyboard almost in my lap. Room at the top for my books and speakers. Room at the bottom for my UPS and NAS. The screen and keyboard to the left are for my Windows machine, which I bought to run school software on but otherwise keep in the closet. We won’t speak of it again.

Adding the standup feature was simple. Read the rest of this entry »

Oats de la Mer 3

February 26, 2015

This is different from our previous oceanic oatmeal. This one involves fish. You see, MJ recently brought home a package of pre-breaded fish fillets. Some sort of whitefish. Sweet-potato-based breadcrumbs. There was one fillet left over.

I decided to go minimalist on this one, since the fish had lots of seasoning. I also decided that our decidedly beefy beef broth was too turf for this surf, so I went with plain water, and a scant quarter teaspoon of dashi granules. That’s still twice what they recommend.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one quarter cup of chopped up breaded fish fillet, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, one cup of water, one quarter teaspoon of dashi grains, no salt.  Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats.  Add the potato when you take it off the stove.

Results: Very good. Very aquatic. I’ve got half a fillet left. I might try it again, with seaweed and shoyu.

Rating: *****

Oatmeal Stuffing

February 19, 2015

Or maybe, stuffing oatmeal. For breakfast, not for stuffing stuff.

We had roast chicken the other day, and in a moment of hastiness, MJ bought a box of bread stuffing to go with it. Standard commercial product, essentially sage and onion croutons, with the odd crazin thrown in. Wasn’t all that bad, when topped with MJ’s home-made chicken gravy. There was lots left over, so I thought I’d try it as an oatmeal extender.

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

Results: Not bad. I’ll definitely make it again, should we ever come up long on stuffing. The bread sort of disintegrated into a bread pudding consistency with a surprising amount of liquid.  Was sloppy enough that I added a third teaspoon of potato flakes. Was salty enough that I didn’t have to add any additional salt, and what does that say about your commercial product salt content?

Rating: *****

Anime Worth Watching: Mononoke

February 15, 2015

Demon Girl

Not Her

Demon hunter


The title makes you think of Studio Ghibli, the protagonist is a more colorful version of Mushishi Ginko, and the stories are something that Alfred Hitchcock might make.

Mononoke are vengeful demons, not wild girls of the forest. They are hunted by a medicine-seller, otherwise nameless.

The stories are all ghost stories, in one way or another. A haunted room in an inn, the curse of a murdered sister, a murder mystery on the first subway out of Edo. As with Mushishi, they examine the depths of the human condition. Likewise, they are strong on atmospherics.

The presentation is … colorful. Changes of scene are marked with the closing and opening of sliding panels, as if in an old play. The colors are pastel, but the painting is sharp-edged. The music is minimalist, austere, traditional. The twelve-episode series is well worth watching (it’s currently on Crunchyroll).

A subdued riot of color

A subdued riot of color


February 5, 2015

MJ bought a small tube of goat cheese last week. It’s a soft-ish cheese, something like ricotta, with a somewhat lemony sour creamness in the middle of your mouth, and another flavor in the finish that I can’t really identify but which might be goat. It’s … OK … on crackers. Kirai janai, as they say — I don’t dislike it. MJ dislikes it enough that we won’t be buying it again, and I am free to experiment with it for breakfast.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, one cup of broth (turkey, this time), salt, one fat dinner tablespoon of goat cheese.  Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats.  Add the cheese either at the start about a minute before you’re done (depending on how much of its own identity you want it to keep), and the potato when you take it off the stove.

Results: Acceptable. Like mixing in a fat tablespoon of ricotta, or maybe some sour cream. Adding the dregs of a jar of figgy jam helped immensely.

Rating: *****

Girls und Panzer – The Anzio OVA

February 4, 2015

Last summer saw the release of “This is the Real Anzio Battle!” Original Video Anime, a double-length episode that falls at the end of Episode 7 in the TV series. I, of course, ordered it, despite the minor problem of it being all in Japanese, with no subtitles. It came this week.

First thing I noticed was that it was packaged for the Japanese market. That is to say, no security tags and no impenetrable seals. Break the flimsy plastic wrap and you’re in. Additional swag is minimal — a book of screen-shots and tank specs, and another one of character pencil sketches.

Watching it in Japanese without subtitles was fun, and frustrating, because I can only pick up one word in twenty or thirty (OK, forty). On the other hand, this was GaruPan at its finest, and much of it didn’t need translating. The one place I missed it most was the meeting between Suzuki Takako (AKA Caeser) the Roman history expert and gunner loader for the History Club’s Hippo Team and Hina-chan (AKA Carpaccio), a childhood friend with a similar interest in things Italian, now attending Anzio. Her full name might be Tsukoda Hina, if I heard one discussion correctly.

I won’t go into a lot of detail, because spoilers, but Read the rest of this entry »

Blueberry-Banana Oatmeal

January 29, 2015

This is more of a traditional style of oatmeal. On a whim, I bought a carton of blueberries, encouraged by reports that they help lower blood pressure, but (it turns out) only if you eat enough of them to earn a new nickname. We also had some leftover banana chips, remnants of intermittent attempts at trail mix. These are the hard-dried, crunchy chips. The ones that don’t really taste like bananas. For the liquid, well, we’re still working our way through the goosebroth, which has got to be better than plain water. I mean, we’re cooking, not washing.

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

Results: Very good. Needed a teaspoon of sugar to bring out the fruitiness. Looked vaguely purple, due to the blueberries. There was a distinct bananalike air about it, but nothing like when I used real bananas. The banana chips themselves softened, but didn’t come apart — much like lightly fried sliced potatoes — and tasted more like plantains. The goose broth added a useful dimension, but beef or mandrill would probably have done as well.

Rating: *****

Opera Browser: The Long Farewell 3

January 27, 2015

Just in time, as the old one fades there’s a new Opera on the horizon. It’s called Vivaldi, and it’s the creation of Opera’s founder, Jon von Tetzchner. Right now the only Linux version is Fedora, but they promise to change that Real Soon Now. I suspect this “Technical Preview” was rushed out to steal some mindshare from Microsoft’s forthcoming Spartan browser.

Meanwhile, I’ve downloaded the Windows version and will be playing around with that. There’s no screenshots here, because The Reg article has enough of those.

So far, it looks OK. I mean, it’s a browser. I haven’t had time to test out many of the features. The deal-killer for me will be the RSS feed. In Opera, RSS is integrated with Mail, and they haven’t implemented that yet.

Definitely not an "O"

Definitely not an “O”

Oatmeal Chili

January 15, 2015

Being fed up (ha ha) with holiday fare, MJ made some chili. Nothing special. Ground beef, onions, some of our garden tomato sauce, commercial chili powder. Cooked on the stove, not sous vide nor in the slow cooker. It turned out not bad. Just spicy enough. Lots left over.

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

Results: It turned out not bad. The oatmeal cut the chili flavor and left it tasting more like …  I don’t know … a sloppy Joe, maybe. A tomato-y hamburger stew. Not overly bland, and not overly chili-ish. I will certainly try it again, when the leftover roll round.

Rating: *****

TL;DR — Anime I never finished, Winter 2015

January 13, 2015

One final pass at possible programming before the full weight of the quarter lands on me. Besides, MJ is off on a trip, so I don’t have to watch those stupid game shows in the evening but can concentrate on high school harem anime, instead.

We start off with a couple of right fafners, you know? Read the rest of this entry »

TL;DR — Anime I never finished, Winter 2015

January 10, 2015

Winter is supposed to be a good season for anime. It’s a new year, with new budgets, and new stories. Studios can take risks, and emphasize quality. Sometimes it doesn’t work out that way.

Yurikuma Arashi

Lesbian teddy bears invade a girl's school and eat the lilies.

Lesbian teddy bears invade a girl’s school and eat the lilies.

Absolute Duo:

Boy with unique powers attends special high school and ends up rooming with a girl. Yes, this is a repeat from every year since 1980.

Boy with unique powers attends special high school and ends up rooming with a girl. Yes, this is a repeat from every year since 1980.

Cute High Earth Defense Club:

Awkward attempt at parodying the magical girl genre using magical boys and a pink wombat goes horribly, horribly wrong, and not even the inclusion of a passionate discussion of what makes a good bowl of udon can save it.

Awkward attempt at parodying the magical girl genre using magical boys and a pink wombat alien goes horribly, horribly wrong, and not even a passionate discussion of what makes a good bowl of udon can save it.

Your Lie in April, Second Cour:

Young boy who was beaten into becoming a piano prodigy by his sickly mother and then went piano-deaf at her death is slowly brought back to his original love of the instrument by a wild-child violinist -- who is likely to have a bad case of Anime Wasting Disease herself.

Young boy who was beaten into becoming a piano prodigy by his sickly mother and then went piano-deaf at her death is slowly brought back to his original love of the instrument by a wild-child violinist — who is likely to have a bad case of Anime Wasting Disease herself. Good music, bad angst.

 Rolling Girls:

Skateboarding girls attempt to reunite a shattered Japan. No mention of Oda Nobunaga.

Motorcycle-riding girls engage in a ramen-eating contest, then attempt to reunite a shattered Japan.
No mention of Oda Nobunaga.

Oatmeal de foie maigre

January 8, 2015

When one cooks a whole goose for Christmas, it’s possible to dine on the leftovers for weeks. Months, if your back deck stays cold enough.

MJ made a gallon of broth from the goose. Two quarts were using the liver and other giblets, and two quarts were using the wing-bones, the skin, and some odds and bobs of the meat. One batch tasted gooselich, and the other tasted mildly  liverish. I used the liver-flavored one for breakfast one morning. Another couple of quarts are in the offing, just as soon as we get the bones stripped.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, one cup of goose-giblet  broth, salt, poultry or other seasonings, as desired.  Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats.  Add the salt and seasonings at the start, and the potato when you take it off the stove.

Results: Fair. The broth is a little too delicate on its own, but it would make a good base for something more exciting. Cheese helped.

Rating: *****

Black Bean Oatmeal

January 1, 2015

Back in early December, in that space between holidays when one fights to keep the weight off, in preparation for putting the weight on, MJ made some beans and rice, served on a bed of spinach.  The beans were canned, and heated on the stove. The rice was short grain, brown, and cooked in the pressure cooker for twenty minutes. The sauce was made with the last of our garden tomatoes — they were too far gone to use in a salad, but not black or furry or thingy. The broth was newly-made, also in the pressure cooker, using smoked pork neckbones. Pretty good, for simple country fare. The leftovers ended up in my oatmeal.

I used two fat teaspoons, at least a third of a cup, along with more of the pork broth. Not being sure if it would need salt after all that, I held off until the end.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, two dinner teaspoons of black beans and brown rice, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, one cup of pork neck broth, salt.  Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats.  Add the beans and rice and bring it up to steaming before you put in the oatmeal, and the potato and salt-to-taste when you take it off the stove.

Results: Very good. The tomatoes and herbs were noticeable. The rice was chewy, as brown rice is wont to be (you could probably go another five or ten minutes in the pressure cooker if you like). The beans were there, but not intrusive. This would be a good side dish for dinner when unexpected guests drop in (or are still there New Year’s morning) and you need an extender. This is one of the few dishes where I’d consider using steel-cut oatmeal, so the chewy rice and chewy oatmeal could fight it out for who would fit in the space where your dental filling was.

Rating: *****

Anime worth watching, 2014

December 30, 2014

I’ve been pretty regular about announcing to the world the anime that I thought weren’t worth watching, but what about the good stuff? What anime from the two dozen or so shows I watched in 2014 would I recommend to my friends and family? The following are all keepers, shows I plan to order once they come out on DVD in the US. First off, the five new shows:

Young, immature, calligrapher exiled to rural island, where the local farmers and (mostly) their kids teach him what’s important in life. Even though I don’t particularly like shows that highlight kid’s antics, this was a good one. Family show.



Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun
High school girl falls in love with classmate who is also a manga artist. When she declares her love, he thinks she’s just a manga fan, gives her an autograph, and invites her to be his assistant.

Nothing more romantic than a bicycle built for two.

Nothing more romantic than sharing a bicycle built for two.

The anime plays off his cluelessness against her fantasies. Large, varied cast, all well developed, and most in gender-bender roles. Read the rest of this entry »

Buttered Oatmeal

December 18, 2014

For Thanksgiving, MJ made a very nice compound butter — butter with otherstuff added — for topping the potato dressing. Now, most books on compound butters will mention oatmeal only in the same paragraph as jam-based butters. Apricot jam, sugar, and butter go quite well on the standard sweet morning oatmeal (it’s the oatmeal that’s sweet, I don’t know what your mornings are like), particularly when mixed together beforehand. But of course I’m a savoury oatmeal kind of guy, and so I have no problems with taking a compound butter you’d put on a potato and putting it on a dish of oatmeal instead, particularly one made with a good strong lamb broth.

In this case, the butter was made with sour cream, garlic powder, cumin, and smoked paprika. Not particularly herbal, but it was designed for topping my grandmother’s potato stuffing.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, a a dinner tablespoon of the compound butter of your choice, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, one cup of broth, salt.  Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats.  Add the potato when you take it off the stove, and the butter when you put it on the table.

Results: Excellent. It opens up a whole new dimension of oatmeal flavor exploration. Of course, it does rather go against the idea of oatmeal as a healthy breakfast.

Rating: *****

Postcard from Pearl Harbor

December 14, 2014

Written 73 years and four days ago. Note that the censors were a little slow. Not very informative, but I guess they couldn’t say more.

Front Side

Back when "penny postcard" meant something.

Back when “penny postcard” meant something.

Back Side

No mention of any incidents involving the Imperial Japanese Navy

No mention of any incidents involving
the Imperial Japanese Navy

My brother just found this in a box of old papers.


My Grandmother’s Stuffing Oatmeal

December 11, 2014

She is?

Actually, it’s not my grandmother’s stuffing. It’s something that started out to be, but lost its way on the way to being something else entirely. We were making it for a Thanksgiving not-exactly-a-potluck Dinner. MJ started out all enthusiastic about recreating an authentic stuffing experience, but then got into the cooking sherry. First change was, don’t peel the potatoes, ’cause we’re running late. Then, all we had was a packet of gizzards — no hearts, livers, or necks. Yeah, and the bread. It had to be gluten free, which kindof kills the whole point. After that, why not add celery, ya know?  So we ended up with something that was not quite, but almost, totally unlike my grandmother’s stuffing. Tasted good though.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, two big sloppy dinner tablespoons of a suitably festive potato stuffing (call it 1/4 cup), one cup of broth, salt.  Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats.  Add the potato before you add the oats. It’s like risotto, needs breaking down.

Results: Very good. Filling. One might even say, Stuffing. Goes well with hot gravy poured over it. Would probably been even better if it were closer to the original. I’ll put it in the holiday rotation.

Rating: *****

Oatmeal Risotto

December 4, 2014

Sometimes I go overboard. MJ was off on a trip, and I had a bunch of boneless chicken thighs. There was a good looking recipe for slow cooker rice and chicken thighs (with onions and mushrooms), so why not. Except I didn’t have any regular rice. Well Arborio will do just as well, right? Wrong. Arborio is designed for risotto, and wants three cups of water per cup of rice, instead of one or one and a half. By the time I was done I had enough risotto-style rice to feed a family of four for a week. Longer, if they didn’t like their kids.

Next day, I started on the long process of using up all that leftover rice, and the first place was as an oatmeal extender.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, 1/4 cup of risotto, one cup of broth, salt.  Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats. Add the rice before you add the oats, so the glutenous mass can break up properly.

Results: Very good. All the flavors came through, and the overall result was something you could serve as a side-dish for dinner. I don’t plan on making it again.

Rating: *****

Green Thumb Up My Nose: Lessons Learned – 2014

December 1, 2014

So this is really, truly, 本当に the last garden report of the year. Our first hard freeze hit on November 11th, and the second one this weekend. Temperature 18″ down in the KHG on a 28F December 1st noon, after a 10F weekend, was 42F. Used up the last of the lettuce last week, and will use up the last of the tomatoes this week. Last year we had a smaller harvest, but we still had tomatoes ripening indoors in mid-December.

1. Hit hard by powdery mildew this summer. Garden plants, ground cover plants, and plants in the front yard were infected. Go for mildew resistant strains of everything.

2. The small greenhouse worked well to get the plants through a variable Spring. Was positively humid inside, which attracted mosquitoes. Try hanging flypaper.

Yard Crops
1. Can’t do much with the area that’s in deep shade. Avoid next year (although part of that might have been the mildew).
2. Hops netting worked well, but was too narrow at the top. Need to reposition the hooks, or add new ones.

1. Plant long beans and lemon cucumbers earlier

2. Try more miniatures

3. Work even harder on getting the labeling right

4. Daikon are not container plants, not even in big containers.

Keyhole Garden
1. Abandon Section 4 as a berry farm. Too much work for too little return. Plant to peas and beans this year.

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

3. Replace all the covers with the redesigned versions.

4. Re-do all of the irrigation hose. Set it so each section can be watered individually.

5. In early Spring, rebuild the SW corner of Section 1. Consider re-coring the center basket as well.

6. Plastic bottle cloche covers worked well.

Review of Last Year’s Plans
1. Early fertilization helped. We don’t generate enough kitchen waste to support four KHGs. However, watch the nitrogen.
2. We did better on tracking dates, but not good enough.
3. Did not have as much of a blossom-end rot problem, but specific cultivars did poorly. More Ca.
4. Hops did well. Don’t think I’ll need any more plantings.
5. Planting squash in the ground cover zone didn’t work. Mildew was at least as much of a problem as location.
6. Didn’t plant long beans, and the lemon cucumbers got mildew.
7. The big cherries did well in the containers. Next year will try them in the hanging baskets. Also try some additional cherry varietals, to get a wide range of colors.
8. Removing the keyhole kneeholes worked, but one does need steps to get up on the dirt.
9. Labeling still needs work
10. Slugs not as much of a problem this year
11. Moving from 2×4 to 1×1 helped lighten the KHG covers. I think I need to separate the chickenwire from the plastic as well — second plantings need chickenwire.

Next Year’s Plan
Section 1
Tomatoes and squash. Try beefsteaks again, but with a different watering plan. Seriously look for mildew resistant varieties of everything.

Section 2
Brassicae. Cabbage, mostly. Make one last effort to grow daikon

Section 3
Peas and beans and greens (oh my). Plant lots earlier. Deb Tolman says to try amaranth, since some of those have a 30-day to harvest cycle.

Section 4
Not quite sure what to put in here. Maybe just a cover crop. Figure out the best way to fit it into the rotation.

The Schedule

Move everything up about a week
early Feb – Start seeds indoors
early April (60 days later) – move to greenhouse

early May — transplant
early July (70 days) – early varieties ripen
late July (90 days) – late varieties ripen

Girls und Panzer, The Game

November 30, 2014

Got my new PlayStation Vita a couple weeks ago, along with the Girls und Panzer game. Full details over on my wargames blog.

D Team, E Team,  C Team, B Team All immobilized

D Team, E Team,
C Team, B Team
All incapacitated


Pearl Harbor War Warning

November 29, 2014

On Thursday, November 27th, 1941, a week before the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Chief of Naval Operations sent this message to CINCPACFleet at Pearl Harbor:

“Consider this dispatch a war warning. The negotiations with Japan in an effort to stabilize conditions in the Pacific have ended. Japan Is Expected to Make an Aggressive Move Within the next Few Days. An Amphibious Expedition Against Either the Philippines, or Kra Peninsula or Possibly Borneo Is Indicated by the Number and Equipment of Japanese Troops and the Organization of Their Naval Forces. You Will Execute a Defensive Deployment in Preparation for Carrying out the Tasks Assigned in Wpl 46. Guam, Samoa and the Continental Districts have been directed to take appropriate measures against sabotage. A Similar Warning Is Being Sent by the War Department. Inform Naval District and Army Authorities. British to be informed.”

This would seem to be about as direct as it gets. It’s what the Indications and Warning community would consider a true warning — the leaders have been warned, and they know they have been warned. On the other hand, the Army commander at Pearl got a wishy-washy-waffling kind of a warning from the War Department:

“Negotiations with the Japanese appear to be terminated to all practical purposes with only the barest possibilities that the Japanese government might come back and offer to continue. Japanese future action unpredictable but hostile action possible at any moment. If hostilities cannot, repeat cannot, be avoided the United States desires that Japan commit the first overt act. This policy should not, repeat not, be construed as restricting you to a course of action that might jeopardize your defense. Prior to hostile Japanese action. You are directed to undertake such reconnaissance and other measures as you deem necessary, but these measures should be carried out so as not, repeat, not to alarm the civil population or disclose intent. Report measures taken. Should hostilities occur, you will carry out the tasks assigned in Rainbow Five so far as they pertain to Japan. Limit the dissemination of this highly secret information to minimum essential officers.”

Neither one was directly warned of the possibility of an attack on Pearl Harbor (all locations mentioned were in the Western Pacific or Asian littoral), and each took their own measures to prepare. General Short believed that the biggest threat to his forces (mostly, the Army Aviation units) was from 5th columnists among the second and third generation Japanese, almost all of them American citizens by birth. (Those are the ones who today say things like “The Jap planes came in over that ridgeline there”.)  That being the case, he had the aircraft brought to central locations, where they could be guarded, and drained of fuel, so they would be harder for a saboteur to ignite. The result was a massed target that couldn’t respond to an air attack in time. Interestingly, the only mention of possible sabotage was in the Navy message.

I think the underlying cause of the failure of commanders up and down the chain was the lack of a war mentality. We hadn’t been in on the start of a major declared war since the Civil War, and that uncoiled with a lethargic 18th Century slowness. The Great War was one we saw start elsewhere and slowly girded our loins to fight. Even after Pearl Harbor, our commanders might have been combative, but they were not really combat-minded. Witness all the lessons we had to learn during the early days of the Guadalcanal campaign, when we lost one night surface action after another. If you can’t conceive of what a war might be like, you can’t properly prepare for it, no matter how strong the warning.

Video Game Violence

November 9, 2014

Let me start by saying that this article won’t change anyone’s mind. The kind of people who obsess over this kind of thing are not the kind to take kindly to having their kind of world view challenged by these kinds of facts.

C.J. Ferguson, at Stetson University, in Florida, did a simple study* of the correlation between real world youth violence vs video game violence, using historical statistics. Earlier studies were lab-based, forcing subjects to both play violent video games and take psychological tests, and many came to the conclusion that the more they did this, the more violent their experimental subjects became.

Here’s the key graphic.

A good example of non-causality

A good example of non-causality

The correlation is negative (R = -0.85). Based on this, one could claim that video game violence actually reduces youth violence. After all, if you’re at home playing games, you’re not out on the street, getting wenches with child, wronging the ancientry, stealing, fighting.

Of course, since correlation does not necessarily imply causation (although, as Randall Munroe says, it does waggle its eyebrows suggestively and gesture furtively while mouthing ‘look over there’) we can’t necessarily claim that video games reduce youth violence. What we can say is that the doomcriers theory fell at the first fence, that violent video games, in general, demonstrably do not, in general, increase youth violence.

*In case the link rots, here’s the full citation: Ferguson, C. J. (2014), Does Media Violence Predict Societal Violence? It Depends on What You Look at and When. Journal of Communication. doi: 10.1111/jcom.12129

Pre-Columbian Oatmeal

November 6, 2014

MJ came home sick from her trip — minimal bleeding from the eyeballs, so it’s not Ebola — and it was up to me to do dinner. Her last healthy act had been to bring home a couple of turkey thighs and a refill for my oatmeal. Unadorned thighs, not thigh-and-legs’s. That wasn’t enough to waste a chimney of charcoal on, so I just did them in the toaster-oven. Since Thanksgiving is only three weeks away, I decided to have a pre-Columbian Dinner, with only Native American food. So, we had turkey, tomatoes, and squash. In honor of any pre-Columbian trans-Pacific contacts that might have been, I made it a Kabocha squash, AKA Japanese pumpkin. The squash was cooked in the pressure cooker, a-la-last-week. The tomatoes were, of course, from our garden. Afterwards, I made broth, possibly the best broth I’ve made so far (even if it does look like your fish tank badly needs cleaning). Turkey bones, leftover turkey meat and skin, kabocha water, some more tomatoes (these were our watery superfans and some others that were going a little wonky), a few of our garden onions (too big for cocktail onions, too small to be worth cutting up for frying). Two fat pinches of salt (not enough) and two quarts of water. The next morning I used the broth for oatmeal.

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

Results: Very good. Needed salt.

Rating: *****

Green Thumb Up My Nose

November 2, 2014

Garden Report for 141103

This is the next to last report for the 2014 gardening year, unless something untoward happens. The last report will be a “lessons learned”, in a week or so. Meanwhile, the gardens are well and truly closed out (except for the remaining greens). I will be ripping up the irrigation hose and stacking the tomato cages as time goes by. One container of iceberg is still producing, and one container of cabbage is hanging in there and may sometime do something useful.

It’s the third of November and we have yet to see a frost this gardening year (UPDATE: we’re forecasting a low of 13F on Veterans Day). The composting thermometer says it’s a toasty 55F, eighteen inches down.

I’m trying something new in the compost line. Back along the south fenceline I have a bare spot that’s shielded from esthetically offendable eyes. When I shut down the garden, I dumped the greenstuff there, raked a bunch of leaves over it, and covered the leaves with dirt from the containers. Come Spring of ’16 it should be suitably compostized, and ready for gardening uses. Meanwhile, the container dirt from last year is still settling in, next to this year’s.

The tomatoes I harvested at the end of the season filled four 10×20″ boxes, mostly green. Now, we’re down to two boxes of green tomatoes, and one box of ripes (UPDATE: a week later, everything is ripe, and we’re making soup). There’s a number of largish ones, Brandywine Pinks, that I’ve sampled. Not impressive. They are the ones that were so soggy when first picked. A month of ripening of the green BPs has allowed most of the water to evaporate, leaving us with a mass of dense, pink, flavorless, flesh.

Meanwhile, here’s an interesting item on nitrogen in gardening.

Oatmeal Squash

October 30, 2014

Since we had such a lousy squash season in the garden this year – 2 for 8 with the game called on account of mildew – we are reduced to buying squash at the super. MJ was out of town, judging dogs or something, so I brought home only part of a squash: a slab of Hubbard that looked like something that had spalled off of the Monitor. Not wanting to wait two hours for dinner, I popped it into the pressure cooker, with enough water to cover the bottom. Thirty minutes later, I had a pretty well decomposed Hubbard, with slabs of skin floating about in the water. The chunks of squash I fished out were very good, once they’d drained, The water that was left was very squashy, and so why not?

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

Results: Very good. Very mild squash flavor, enhanced by the addition of cheese. Next squash we do, I’ll add extra water.

Rating: *****

Memories of my youth

October 29, 2014

I’m a child of the Space Age. I lived on Vandenberg AFB when it was still Cook AFB and they were still pouring concrete for the Atlas-C launchers. I worked summers during high school on Point Arguello Naval Missile Facility, before it became Vandenberg South, putting in drainage ditches for the SLC-6 launch facility, the one that never saw a shuttle. I once had a transporter carrying a Agena upper stage, the one for the Corona reconnaissance satellites, drive over my foot.

Those were the days when the US was rushing into space, and wasn’t quite sure how to do it. Launch failures were common. Sometimes the missile would fail at ignition (or before — one Titan I night-test I saw had the silo elevator fail and drop the loaded bird into the silo), sometimes early in the flight (when it was easier to see), and sometimes later, when the only evidence was the crazy dance of the contrail as the bird tore itself apart at the edge of space. At VAFB, we all knew when a launch was scheduled, and I would sometimes climb up on the roof of our Air Force family housing to watch. The very first launch I saw was an RAF Thor training launch. My mother chased my brother out of the shower, naked, so he could see it.

Yesterday’s failure of the Orbital Sciences Corporation’s Antares launcher hearkened back to those days.

So we start with the familiar cadences of a launch crew in the final stages of the countdown, marking off lines from the checklist. Ignition (at 2:54) looks good, and the bird clears the tower OK at (3:03). That’s when we start to hear the familiar, to me, crackling roar of the 734,000 pounds of thrust from the pair of NK-33 engines — five times what a Thor would generate. At about 3:08 on this vid, the exhaust plume brightens (as if the oxidizer pumps were overclocking), and then there’s an explosion at the base of the booster, at the top of the engine, near the pumps. The bird loses power and sinks back to the pad, possibly toppling to the left as it drops. It looks like the main explosion takes place just prior to impact, which probably means the RSO destroyed the booster just before it hit and destroyed itself. Hard to tell. The RSO might not have even seen the booster falling. He just knew from his readouts that it was doing something dangerous, and hit the destruct switch. The ball of fire is followed by the distance-delayed sound of the explosion, and we end with the LCO starting his post-launch-failure checklist.

OSC’s stock immediately dropped 16%, and you can be sure their competitors will start a jeremiad of all the reasons the contract should be canceled.

This failure doesn’t bother me, and it doesn’t scare me into selling OSC stock (if I owned any). I’ve seen it all before. This is spaceflight. This is the big rocket business. You learn from your mistakes. You keep going.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

October 18, 2014

Garden Report for 141020

Final Score: 97lb of Tomatoes, 125lb Total

The weather this week was about like last week’s. No frost (in fact, unseasonably warm lows), but not suitable weather for tomatoes, either, even if it’s great on the coast. Their unseasonably warm lows are 50-55F, our unseasonably warm lows are 38-45F. I decided that as long as it was unexpectedly nice I’d close out the tomato part of the garden. I wouldn’t expect to get more than a couple of cold weeks out of the end of October anyway, El Nino or no El Nino, and this way I can do it on my own time. Beets and greens will be left to their own devices.

The deck containers yielded six pounds of tomatoes, but four poundsworth were green. None of them were big enough to bother weighing, and some were positively tiny. MJ wants to experiment with chopped green tomato recipes. I mean the tomatoes are chopped and green, not the recipes. I have one container with four cabbage plants in it, that I hope will produce something before the snow falls.

The yard containers produced nine pounds of tomatoes, seven of which were green. The five ounce “Beefsteaks” were finally starting to turn. I’ve left the two lemon cukes to hang out for a while, and see if they get any growth.

In the KHG itself, I got 15lb of tomatoes total, including 2.5lb of ripe ones, and a handful worth measuring. The heaviest was a 6.5oz Marglobe. The Beefsteaks didn’t make the cut. Also harvested were just over half a pound of unshucked lima beans. I’ll let you know how that works out next week. Unlike last year, I didn’t find any errant squashes while doing my tomato-whacking.

Total tomatoes this week: thirty pounds, only six pounds of which were ripe…ish.

I haven’t emptied the containers yet. My plan is to dump the greenery into a back corner of the yard, add leaves, once they are done falling, and cover with container dirt. Meanwhile, last year’s container dirt is composting nearby.


Week Ending 10/20 Vegetable Count Weight oz Unit Weight oz Season Total Total Weight lb
Tomato  many  240  336  97
Summer  3  2.0
8-Ball / Zucchini  2  1.9
Delicata / Buttercup  2  1.5
Cuke  3  0.5
Spaghetti  3  2.3
Pumpkin  6  7.25
Beans  –  9.5  –  –  0.75
Peas  –  –  –  3.0
Cabbage  5  7.5
Carrots  8  1.5
Radishes  7  0.45
Onions  ~50  1.3

So, we round out the year with 125lb of veg, including 97lb of tomatoes. That’s two-thirds more than last year, and probably about the same as in 2012. Of course, if the cabbage and the beets come through, there will be a little bit more.

TL;DR — Anime I never finished, Fall 2014

October 18, 2014

Four more shows bite the dust. No common theme here, except boredom.

Yuki Yuna wa Yusha de Aru: Yuki the hero. Four middle school girls in a “Hero’s Club” have to drop their normal lives of finding homes for cats and picking up trash to become real magical girls, defending the planet. The transition from slice-of-life to magical girl was exceptionally well done. The transformation-to-magical-girl app on their cellphones was original. Their battleground is looks like a deep dive into a pastel-colored fractal of a taxidermist’s sink trap. The picture quality was low — jaggies on my 32″ TV — and the whole magical girl trope is aimed at a demographic that isn’t me.

Celestial Method: Girl comes back to town she left seven years ago, meets a lot of people she knew but doesn’t remember, has enigmatic encounters with grey-haired girl who has been waiting for her to come back. Oh, yeah, just before she left, a ginormous flying saucer came and permanently parked itself a thousand hectometers or so above the town. One of her newly-met old friends shoots a bottle rocket at it.

Nice artwork, but, as someone said “When people leave the theater talking about how good the scenery was, your play is a failure.”

When Supernatural Battles Became Commonplace: Literary club suddenly gains superpowers, and nobody cares. Some cute “Here’s a dimensional gate to the Arizona desert (saguaro cactus) so we can practice blowing things up and creating lava and stuff with our powers” action. Male lead is a cheap Togashi Yūta style chūnibyō knockoff. It’s the sort of thing you’d watch if there wasn’t anything else on.

Karen Senki: Humans fight the machines. Machines try to become human. Too long at ten minutes per ep. Badly animated — looks like it was done using a low-budget RPG graphics engine.

TL:DR — Anime I never finished, Fall 2014

October 14, 2014

A classic trope is the “princess in danger” situation, one that can be traced all the way back to Andromeda and Perseus, and all the way forward to Princess Peach and Mario. This season there were two entries in that category, and neither one made the cut.

Akatsuki no Yona: Semi-bratty, air-headed princess sees her kindly father killed by her childhood sweetheart, is rescued by her faithful guardian general.

So far, she isn't doing much to help herself

Warrior princess makes daring escape

Cold opening of the first episode, and the flashback at the end of the second episode shows she makes it back, as a warrior princess leading a band of superhero allies. Think, medieval Justice League.

Poor artwork, mediocre animation, boring presentation — evil sweetheart had four different opportunities to kill her, stopped to exposiate each time — makes it not worth wasting bandwidth on.

Cross Ange – Rondo of Angel and Dragon: Beautiful, athletic, charming princess Angelise, beloved by all, turns out to not have the mana-wrangling powers that true humans are supposed to have and so is stripped of her name, titles, and clothing, and send off to a women’s prison for “Normas” as plain old Ange. There to suffer various forms of sexual violation and harassment by the female guards and the other Norma women. Later on there are dragons, and bathloads of women washing each other’s backs.

Relax, it's just a physical exam.

Relax, it’s just a physical exam.

Really bad art and animation made it painful to watch, and its disregard of the proprieties drew at least one stinging on-line rebuke. Plus, I’m not particularly a fan of the “let’s throw in some rape to show how bad her situation is” approach to story-telling.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

October 12, 2014

Garden Report for 141013

The weather turned Autumnal this week, but in a good way. Off and on cloudy and breezy, with spotty rain. Eighty F at the beginning of the week, and 62F at the end. Still no frost in the forecast, but cold and rainy.

Some of my bigger (6oz) tomatoes are ripe, so that’s nice. Harvested those, some smaller ones, and a pound and a half of some big cherry-sized. Beefsteaks are just beginning to show color, so we’ll have those to harvest in a week or so, plus a bunch of green ones, pre-frost. Harvested my ten bean plants, and got about 4.0oz of pinto beans out of it. We soaked them overnight and MJ did them in the pressure cooker. We had them with Santa Maria BBQ, and they were superb.

Container peas still haven’t sprouted yet, so I expect there’s something about using a former tomato pot that they don’t like. Neither has my last planting of lettuce. Not sure what the problem is.

Since this is my last nice weekend, I decided to start closing out the garden. Section 4 onions had all fallen over, a sign they weren’t going to get any bigger, and the white radishes in Section 2 were a week past their harvest date. So I pulled up all of those, plus some carrots that wandered by. I still have the red radishes, the beets, and whatever greens decide to keep growing. Also pulled down the hops. I wanted to get them down while they were still green, and before the berries started falling off (hops berries are poisonous to dogs). I’d put up some plastic bird netting for them to climb on, so it was just a matter of unhooking the net at the roofline, then cutting everything off at the groundline, rolling up the net, and putting it in the trash (can’t compost nylon).

Week Ending 10/13 Vegetable Count Weight oz Unit Weight oz Season Total Total Weight lb
Tomato  8  33.0  4.0  336  67.5
Summer  3  2.0
8-Ball / Zucchini  2  1.9
Delicata / Buttercup  2  1.5
Cuke  3  0.5
Spaghetti  3  2.3
Pumpkin  6  7.25
Beans  –  4.0  –  –  0.25
Peas  –  –  –  3.0
Cabbage  5  7.5
Carrots  4  8.0  2.0  8  1.5
Radishes  7  7.24  1  7  0.45
Onions  ~50  21  0.42  ~50  1.3

This time last year we were fully done, with frost on the way and all the tomatoes cut down for indoor ripening. Total harvest was 47lb of tomatoes, and 76lb of veg overall, not counting the 40lb of jack-o-lanterns. I don’t have an overall total for 2012, but we closed out the tomatoes this week, for a total of around 100lb. So far in 2014 we have 67lb of tomatoes and 28lb of otherstuff, for a total of 95lb. Shows you what kind of uncertainty farmers live with.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

October 5, 2014

Garden Report for 141006

Native American Summer continues, and the forecast is for more of the same through the week. In fact, NWS is predicting above normal temperatures and below normal precipitation through the end of the year.

Here’s an explanation of why the tomatoes are doing so well — nightly minimums have been higher than average.

The tomatoes are still producing, but slowly. I picked about a pound and a half of bigger-than-walnut-but-smaller-than-plums. Plus two lemon cucumbers totaling just under 4oz, and one lone buttercup squash that is just over a pound. There’s half a dozen possible SuperFantastics that are orangish and need another week, plus a dozen or so so-called beefsteaks that are showing no color at all. The nice thing about having the tomatoes come in like this is that we are managing to keep up with the eating of them.

Last week’s squash turned out to be an 8-ball, but, alas, it was so far gone that only a 8mm strip of flesh remained around the outside. The rest of the interior was seeds.

Week Ending 10/06 Vegetable Count Weight oz Unit Weight oz Season Total Total Weight lb
Tomato  28  < 2.0  328  60.5
Summer  3  2.0
8-Ball / Zucchini  1  11  1  2  1.9
Delicata / Buttercup  1  17  1  2 1.5
Cuke  2  4  2  3  0.5
Spaghetti  3  2.3
Pumpkin  6  7.25
Beans  –  –  –  3.0
Peas  –  –  –  3.0
Cabbage  5  7.5
Carrots  4  16  4.0  4  1.0

Container peas haven’t sprouted yet.

Full Winter

October 2, 2014

Well, Winterfylleð, an Anglo-Saxon month. Wherever the Angles and Saxons and Jutes (oh, my) came from, the weather was cold enough to be considered winter by early October, so the first full moon of that month was the Winter full moon. Or maybe it was just because almost all the harvesting was done, and the only thing left to do was carve the trunips into lanterns for Samhain — and yes, I know that Winterfylleð is Germanic and Samhain is Celtic. but they’ve got all these extra turnips and they might as well celebrate something.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

September 28, 2014

Garden Report for 140929

The weather certainly has been paying attention to the calendar. Sunday it was 86F. Monday was the Equinox, and by Friday it was 68F. Next week it will be near 60F, with lows just below 40, but things will improve for the weekend and into mid-October.

Did another sweep of anything red in the tomato line. Two over 5oz, 25 (54oz) big enough to count, plus another 47oz of ones that were bigger than cherries, but not much bigger than walnuts. Also dug up four carrots: a 9oz monster, reminiscent of a Mousterian hand ax, a couple of 2.5oz, and a double that still didn’t go much past 2.0. Finally, an 11oz yellow softball I found in amongst the tomatoes, next to the tag saying 8-Ball. It’s not solid enough to be a pumpkin, so I think it really is a really ripe 8-Ball. When MJ gets home from her trip, I’ll try it on her.

Possible 8-BallPossible Pumpkin

Possible 8-Ball
Possible Pumpkin


Vegetable Count Weight
Tomato  27  64  2.4  328  59.0
Summer  3  2.0
8-Ball /
 1  11  1  2  1.9
Delicata  1  0.4
Cuke  1  3  3  1  0.2
Spaghetti  3  2.3
Pumpkin  6  7.25
Beans  –  –  –  3.0
Peas  –  –  –  3.0
Cabbage  5  7.5
Carrots  4  16  4.0  4  1.0

Tore out the last of the summer greens and planted some more. Of the 12 peas I planted in a container two weeks ago, only one has sprouted, so I repeated the application. I may have buried the first ones too deep. Now, they’re due in early December.

So far, we total 87lbs of produce for the season. That well exceeds last years, and is beginning to challenge last-years-plus-jack-o-latntern.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

September 21, 2014

Garden Report for 140921

The weather this week was warm, but not hot. Highs were 80F +/- 3. Lows were mid 50s. Cloudy, with no rain to speak of, but some pretty brisk winds. Warmer at the weekend. The NW weather guy says this summer is much like what the average summers will be like in 2050, so I guess we’ve go that to look forward to.

Harvested a few tomatoes, but nothing else. Radishes due any day now. Original lettuce from Section 1SW is still hanging in there. New lettuce in 1SE is just starting to show. Beans in Section 4 are starting to brown off, six weeks early. Not sure if it was last week’s near-frost or if it’s the browned-off disease. One of the container snow peas has finally sprouted (planted Saturday a week now), so we should have some nice salads come December.

Vegetable Count Weight
Tomato  20  70  3.5  301  52.0
Summer  3  2.0
8-Ball /
 1  1.2
Delicata  1  0.4
Cuke  1  3  3  1  0.2
Spaghetti  3  2.3
Pumpkin  6  7.25
Beans  –  –  –  3.0
Peas  –  –  –  3.0
Cabbage  5  7.5

Finally tried the zucchini I harvested a week or so ago. Bitter, just like the summer squash. I tried some web-based amelioration (use only the blossom end, cut up, salt, and rinse) and it tasted like a lump of salty fat, with, if you paid attention, a very slight echo of a bitter after-taste in the distance. Obviously, the powdery mildew had left its mark. So I tore out both the summer squash and the zucchini, and the non-productive eight-ball. Not using them in the compost.

This time last year, we had ten times the number of squash, and they were all edible. On the other hand, with 52lb of tomatoes, we are ahead of the 51lb total harvest from 2013 (not counting the big jack-o-lantern pumpkins). Same same in 2012, but with only “a few” tomatoes ripe.

Opera Browser: The Long Farewell 2

September 15, 2014

As I wrote last May, the Opera browser was, even then, a mere shell of its former self. It would appear that the decline continues.

Last week I bought a Windows 7 PC. Go ahead and snicker. The fact is, there’s a lot of stuff I have to do for work that can only be done on Windows, and I didn’t want to spend time fiddling with various virtual machines and emulators. Naturally, I keep it in the closet, with just the screen and keyboard showing. Also naturally, I downloaded Opera (24.0), because that’s what one does. The hope is that the Win version is still a decent product.


The Help/About is as bad as the Mac version. Three paths – to the .exe, to the cache, and to the ‘profile’, whatever that is. But given that I rarely need the paths, I shouldn’t really complain. Except.

The old ‘Hit F12 for site preferences’ functionality is gone. Now I have to dig through the various settings to set the ‘exceptions’ for a website. This makes Opera no better than any of the other browsers.

In the past, Opera would treat each tab individually, even if multiple tabs were looking at different pages of the same site. If I was on a page with lots of fine print, I could hit +++ until I could read the text.* If I had another page from the same website open (e.g. comparing products on Amazon), it wouldn’t be changed. This was good, because not all the tabs needed enlarging. Now, all the tabs from a given website get enlarged or reduced, whatever my preferences are.

Finally, a really cool Opera feature was the “reload every x minutes” function. This was particularly useful for Twitter, but it would help track any other site that refreshed its content rapidly. Now, that’s gone. Right-clicking the page lets you ‘reload’. Anybody can do that. Even Lynx would let you do that.

I suspect these ‘features’ are the result of Opera abandoning Opera and becoming a re-badged Chrome clone. I’ve got nothing against Chrome. Well, their bookmark system is ugly, but so is Firefox’. But if I wanted to run Chrome, I’d do that.

Fortunately, Opera 12 for Linux still retains the old ways. But word is, they’re working on Opera 25 for Linux. I won’t be upgrading.

* This is personally important to me. It used to be I didn’t have to hit + at all. Then my eyes started to deteriorate and I had to hit it six or seven times. I got computer eyeglasses and all was well, except that my eyes have continued their decline, and now I have to hit + six or ten times, even with the glasses on. I suspect I’ll be getting cataract surgery next Spring.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

September 14, 2014

Garden Report for 140914

The weather this week was about like last week. Highs averaged about 70F, with one day peaking at 63F. Three nights in the low thirtys. Cloudy, with no rain to speak of, but some pretty brisk winds. Warmer at the weekend.

Because one of the nights was supposed to touch 32F, I went out and harvested any tomatoes with any kind of color, ten pounds worth (plus another couple pounds of big-cherry-sized that I don’t bother to count in the stats). Also harvested a small Delicata, and a couple of small spaghetti squash. Lots of green tomatoes left, and one small Buttercup squash.

Vegetable Count Weight
Tomato  64  171  2.7  281  48.0
Summer  3  2.0
8-Ball /
 1  1.2
Delicata  1  7  7  1  0.4
Spaghetti  2  12  6 3  2.3
Pumpkin  6  7.25
Beans  –  –  –  3.0
Peas  –  –  –  3.0
Cabbage  5  7.5

On Saturday, I cut down the hanging tomatoes and the containerized Napa Grape. Funny to think that I’m closing out parts of the garden when some of the tomatoes have not yet produced a single ripe fruit. Dug up the soil in the NG pot and planted a bunch of Snow Peas. They should be ready by the end of November. Also planted some more greens in Section 1 (and put down a grid to discourage squirrels). Another end-of-November crop. If the forecasts of a warm winter hold, it should be OK.

This time last year we still only had 11 pounds of tomatoes, and eight pounds of various squash. The year before was even worse. I guess the question is, will this year be able to go the distance, and keep up with last year’s late-but-big harvest?

Green Thumb Up My Nose

September 7, 2014

Garden Report for 140907

The weather this week was colder than expected. Highs averaged about 70F, with one day peaking at 63F. Cloudy, with no rain to speak of.

Tomatoes are the only thing producing right now. Interestingly, we had one tenth this amount of tomatoes by the first week of September last year, and one tomato the year before. Other produce was about the same — six squash, of all kinds, and three cukes in 2013, and five squash/two cukes in ’12.

A quick check of the Garden Gantt shows nothing new to come in until October, so all I have to look forward to for the next three weeks is more squash and more tomatoes. I don’t think there’ll be a lot of squash.

Vegetable Count Weight
Total Total
Tomato  33  70  2.1  184  33.0
Summer  3  2.0
8-Ball /
 1  1.2
Spaghetti  1  1.8
Pumpkin  6  7.25
Beans  –  –  –  3.0
Peas  –  –  –  3.0
Cabbage  5  7.5

Did a taste comparison on the various tomato varietals. Not much to report. They all were pretty good. The smaller ones tasted more tomato-y (not just more intense, more like a tomato). The Super Fantastics were watery, both those from the garden and those in the container. Interesting, considering they were on the same watering regime as the others. Another interesting item: the Brandywines are much afflicted by blossom-end rot. This, despite them being, again, on the same watering schedule (and they’re producing fruit in the 2-3oz range, so it’s not like they need more).


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