Not with a bang

December 15, 2018

So ends my last academic week as a professor. I thought it would be a bittersweet going-around to offices, final correcting of finals, final assignment of grades, and so forth, before finally riding off into the sunset. Not so fast, Chips.

On my last day of finals I got hit with some sort of viral infection. Bad enough for me to see the doctor. As usual with these things, she gave me a bunch of symptom-suppressors and told me to go home to bed.

But those finals!

So, I’d correct for a couple of hours, then sleep for a couple of hours, and so-on. Finished late on Sunday, instead of mid-day on Thursday, as is my wont. Got the grades in on Monday. Cancelled my dental and eye appointments, and went back to bed.

Meanwhile Song, our senior golden retriever, ate a washcloth, as goldens are wont to do. It disappeared, didn’t show up on X-rays, festered, impacted, other horrible stuff, and sent her to the hospital. They found it, inside two feet of rotting bowel. She came home on an IV, which we had to watch constantly for 24hrs lest she pull it out.

She’s survived the initial crisis and no longer needs a constant hand on her head. Next issue is, was the operation successful? Can she take fluids without vomiting (yes, so far, 4 tablespoons at a time). Solid food comes soon.

Meanwhile, it’s MJ’s busiest time of the year, with the Christmas Cantata tomorrow. When she hasn’t been worrying about me, or keeping a hand on Song, she’s been working program notes an rehearsing the choir. She is somewhat stressed, but hides it well.

It’s not just politics that will make us happy that 2018 has ended.

What reading does for you

December 7, 2018

Not everything is about Pearl Harbor. On this day eighty years ago, as it turns out, excessive reading was found to be an acceptable cause for divorce.

Corn Chowder Oats

November 21, 2018

MJ made creamed corn chowder the other day, cooking real corn and real potatoes and real chicken broth and so forth. There was lots left over.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one cup of chicken broth, two heaping dinner tablespoons of thick corn chowder (a quarter to a third of a cup), two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, salt. Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats. Add the potatoes at the end.

Results: Very good. Worth repeating. The corn flavor made up for the bland oats, the kernelskins gave something to chew on, and the creamed part added a, well…, creamy texture.

Rating: ****

The end of the world

November 21, 2018

This essay treads a fine line between death and disaster. Five years ago, I talked about what happens if technology goes away. This Thanksgiving I’d like to talk about how that might happen. The fine line we are treading is that between something that will kill off everything (say, a true dinosaur-killer impact), and something that will kill off only a lot of things (say, a much lesser rock that hits in the Atlantic and creates a mega-tsunami from Maine to Florida). In one case we are talking about re-setting evolution and recolonization of the Earth by tardigrades, while in the other we are waiting for the re-colonization of Virginia by Californians. In this essay, I’m assuming something in between.

1. The people die, but the technology remains in place.
Prime example: worldwide plague.
Secondary example: nearby supernova.
Illustrative movie: The World the Flesh and the Devil (1959). The blurb claims a nuclear holocaust, but NYC is still standing.

A nearby supernova bathing the planet in lethal levels of radiation could kill off most of the life on the planet either directly, with gamma rays, or indirectly, by destroying the ozone layer. Fortunately, the probability of such an event is vanishingly low. Survivors might be those in protected environments, such as concrete buildings or below ground facilities. Protection from gamma radiation might only be necessary for hours, while destruction of the ozone layer might take months or years to recover.

A global pandemic, on the other hand, is all too possible. It might be caused by natural mutations in existing diseases, escaped organisms from a national lab, or a terrorist or home hobbyist group.

2. The people are still there, but the technology is gone.
Prime example: Extreme solar EMP event.
Secondary example: Worldwide nuclear EMP conflict
Illustrative movie: Maybe the Mad Max series, since some pockets of tech might remain, for a while.

This is, to my thinking, an unlikely event, for three reasons. First, it requires a solar EMP superevent, one that’s likely to hit maybe once every few hundred years. Second, it requires that the event go on long enough to pound the entire planet. With the duration of events we’ve seen, the North American grid might be destroyed, but the European and Asian grids could survive. Or any one of those, or any two out of three.

Third, the primary threat is due to geomagnetically induced ground currents. However, conductivities within the geological base rock can vary by 5 orders of magnitude. Power systems in areas of igneous rock are most vulnerable. This means that even within a national or continental grid, there are lots of places that will be minimally affected, unless the superevent is really super. So, New York, on glacial granite, is toast. Northern Virginia, on what my brother calls “300 feet of sedimentary crap”, might well survive.

A nuclear EMP war is even more unlikely, because it is, by definition, a nuclear war, and we immediately jump to Scenario 3.  Regional EMP conflicts are possible, but the outside world would still exist, and help would come. Eventually.

3. Everybody and everything dies (more or less).
Prime example: not-quite-dinosaur-killer asteroid
Secondary example: nuclear winter
Illustrative movie: Not On The Beach. Maybe The Road (2009), or Brin’s The Postman (1997), only worse.

Highly unlikely. The next asteroid impact might be a thousand years from now (or maybe next Tuesday). Nuclear winter requires full engagement of major nuclear powers. A regional Indo/Pakistan war won’t do it. A NK attack on Guam, or Adak, or the Farallons won’t do it, particularly since our response may well be non-nuclear, to keep Japan and Russia out of the plume.


The first thing to realize in any of these scenarios is, if you are in a city, you are screwed. And if you are in a town, you are screwed. Urban areas only have 3-5 days worth of food for the population, so no matter how civilized and cooperative we are, at the end of the first week, there’s nothing left. Let’s go further. Suppose we institute extreme rationing, and totally cut off those who can’t contribute to the restoration of society — installing Death Panels that will keep doctors but kill the sick. And the old. How long then? A month?

Are you a prepper? Good luck with that. Most of you will die in gunfights with other preppers, out to take your stuff. Some of you, the most paranoid, will survive six months or a year on hand-ground corn and vitamin tablets. Not long enough to grow a new crop, and anyway, how are you going to defend your fields?

Are you a prepper who prepared their own mountain redoubt “at least two tanks of gas from the nearest city”? Then you end up with a spinal condition from permanently hunkering down in your bunker, or you spend your life scampering into the hills at every possible threat, or you find yourself stranded in your own neighborhood with a government that won’t let you move (Scenario 1), a car that doesn’t work (Scenario 2), or a fine rain of engine-killing, people-killing dust (Scenario 3).

How far can you drive, starting during rush hour?
Dark is one hour, light is five hours.
(BTW, the shaded areas are where most everybody dies by the end of Week 2)

If you live within one tank of gas, or four day’s walk, of a major city or town, expect to be overrun with starving refugees. If it’s Scenario 1, many will be sick, and so will you be, soon. If you’re a hard core prepper, do you have enough ammo to kill off, say 10% of a Standard Metropolitan Statistical Area when they come down your road?

This means that all of coastal America is gone. All of Europe. All of coastal Asia and  the urbanized bits of Africa and South America.

So who has a chance of survival? Mostly, it’s the currently impoverished regions with a remaining tradition of subsistence farming. Let’s see:

1. Rural America. Mostly no. Even the light areas on that graphic will have problems. Our farms and ranches are too industrialized. A Montana rancher might survive that first year, while stocks of feed are drawn down, but the second year and thereafter could depend on following Neolithic rules of animal husbandry, and killing off most of the stock in the Fall. A Nebraska farmer might survive a year, unless he’s tied to pumping out the Ogalalla Aquifer. Then he’ll find that his seeds are proprietary, and won’t breed true. The key will lie in recognizing the fact that there is a disaster, and knowing what kind of disaster it is. Maybe the rural South will do better, because of the tradition of local gardens. But we’re talking about producing enough food for your family for a year. And anyway, as the graphic shows, it might not be rural enough.

And even if you are rural, you won’t be able to depend on traditional hunting and fishing, because several million other people will have the same idea. I wouldn’t be surprised if deer all large mammals (deer, buffalo, cattle, horses ) went extinct in the eastern over most of the US, and if the waterways were all fished (or dynamited) empty.

2. Rural Europe. Western Europe, mostly no. For one thing, there isn’t much of it. Any place where you can see the glow of two major metropolises on your night skyline really isn’t rural. In Eastern Europe and the western part of the former Soviet Union, maybe. Fewer big cities, farther apart, with a poorer road net. More of a gardening tradition. Downside: getting through that first winter.

3. MENASWA. Middle East/North Africa/SouthWest Asia, extending from Morocco to Pakistan, and north into Central Asia. The problem here is that rural means desolate. There’s not a lot of land that is both rural and arable. There’s lots of people with weapons, call them semi-preppers. Survival is still possible in isolated pockets, call them refugia (after the semi-warm places where early humans sat out the ice ages).

4. AFSSA. Africa South of the Sahara. One of the better possibilities. Even though the region has made significant strides technologically, much of the population is still organized around subsistence farming. On the other hand, there’s a lot of population. And a lot of armed groups. Many people will survive the first couple of years, but many many more will not.

5. Coastal Asia. Too many people, even in the countryside. They will have the same problem that the coastal US has. Maybe some parts will do well — Hokkaido, southern Philippines, parts of Indonesia, SouthEast Asia.

6.Continental Asia. Interior China and most of India. Probably too many people, despite the local agricultural traditions. Probably still too close to the cities. As with AFSSA, there will be survivors, but not many.

7. Latin America. Like AFSSA, lots of rural, with pockets that still have an ongoing tradition of subsistence farming. Not that many really big cities. Not that good of a transportation network, needed to transport all those city mouths to the country.

8. The Far North. Alaska, Canada, and Siberia. Maybe. The trouble is, the thinly-scattered population of independent types is still dependent on an industrial base. Native Americans may live closer to nature than those of us with European ancestors, but they still go hunting caribou on snowmobiles, using rifles with factory-made bullets (or factory-made gunpowder).

And that’s pretty much it. The world will be repopulated by Brazilians, Congolese, and the inhabitants of scattered refugia like New Guinea, Nepal, Laos, Armenia, and Cuba. How much technology will be left for them to inherit, and will they be able to do anything with it? Read the prior article, then go enjoy your Thanksgiving Dinner.

Turkey Pardon

November 20, 2018

In an expansion of a long-time Thanksgiving tradition, the President plans to pardon two turkeys today.

President Trump (on right) with turkey.

Beefy Oatmeal

November 13, 2018

We had a small roast the other night. Actually, it was a large rib-eye steak, but at our time of metabolism, that’s four meals. MJ took some of my tomato sauce and made a gravy with it and some mushrooms and onions. Almost a stroganoff. Very good. Was a struggle to hold out a quarter cup for the breakfast.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one cup tomato gravy, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, salt. Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats. Add the potatoes at the end.

Results: Very good. As in, very good. Worth repeating.

Rating: ****

Potato Water Oatmeal

November 8, 2018

MJ made potato salad the other day, cooking real potatoes and eggses and things. She also soaked the onions in water, to take out some of the bite. She saved the various waters for me, about two quartsworth. The potato salad was very good. The potato water opened up interesting possibilities.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one cup of potato water, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, salt. Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats. Add the potatoes at the end.

Results: Very good. Worth repeating. The raw onion bite was surprisingly strong, even after having simmered for ten minutes.


Rating: ***


October 28, 2018

A friend of mine is trying to see the real America amidst all the news.


It’s out there, but you have to look real hard.

Curried Tomatoats

October 25, 2018

Earlier, I talked about making oatmeal with home-made tomato sauce. We had a good tomato harvest, and our initial saucifying efforts gave us a couple of quarts. With that much I just had to try adding some curry.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one cup of fresh tomato sauce, two shakes of basil, a 6mm slice of Golden Curry roux, salt. Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats. The sauce is thick enough that you don’t need potatoes.

Results: The curry disappeared. Sank without a trace. Nothing but tomato flavor. A second attempt with an 8 or 10mm slice fared a little better. At least we could detect the curry. In both cases there was an underlying sensation of heat, but very little curry flavor.

Rating: ***

Political Shenanigans in Eastern Washington

October 21, 2018

We just got a flyer urging us to write in Joe Pakootas, Vice Chair of the Washington state Democratic Party, for the position of state senator from the 6th District. Trouble is. Pakootas isn’t running, and anyway is a supporter of Jessa Lewis, the official Democratic candidate. She’s running against Jeff Holy, long time Republican incumbent.

How could this be? Well, most of the money behind the flyer comes from two Republicans, one a strong Trump supporter. Their obvious goal is to split the Democratic vote, to make it easier to re-elect Holy (whose name has nothing at all to do with his choice of a Biblical type font on his campaign posters).

This attempt to mislead voters is not limited to the Spokane area. Similar flyers have been distributed elsewhere in Washington, supporting other non-running candidates.

As far as I know it’s not illegal, but it stinks, as they say, on ice.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

October 21, 2018

Garden Report for 20181022

Last week there were roughly twenty nearly ripe tomatoes in the tub. This week there’s over fifty. Only a couple feel ready to eat, and I’m not quite ready to make more sauce, so we’ll look in again next week.

They like the tub


TLDR — Anime I never finished, Fall 2018 Part 2

October 21, 2018

Wrapping up the early-season cleanout, we start with a bunch of ghost stories.

My Sister, My Writer — Ghost writer for a siscon novelist wannabe makes him popular with all the girls.

Voice of Fox — Ghost singer for an idol with no singing voice makes him famous while working part time as a florist.

Zombieland — Ghost idols for a rural prefecture mark the end of the whole anime-idol industry.

SSSS.Gridman — Mecha vs Monsters at Neon Genesis High School. Really cool if you’re an old Gainax Studio fan.

Jingai-san no Yome — Literal translation: non-human sentient being’s bride. High school boy is told he’s to be the bride of a large, furry, Miyazaki-esque monster. Says, “Oh, OK”.  It’s only three minutes per episode, but life is too short, ya know?

TLDR — Anime I never finished, Fall 2018

October 20, 2018

So, we are three weeks into the season, and I’m starting to drop shows already. No screenshots, ’cause I’m maxed out on work this weekend.

Anima Yell — Your basic template going to koshien sports anime with cute girls doing cute [fill in blank]. In this case, cheerleading.

As Miss Beelzebub likes — Too too sweet. One hundred and eighty degree difference from Cool Hand Hozuki.

Between the Sky and the Sea — Fish farms in space, and why girls can’t be piscenauts.

Conception — One hundred percent [insert male here] anime about coerced (on both sides) sex. Without any actual, you know…sex

Double Decker — Idiot detective hero wannabe gets assigned to a group of misfits in a special drugs unit. Too delightfully goofy (Take off all your clothes and convince the terrorist you’re a time traveler. Oh, OK.) for me.

Himote House — Cute girls doing cute things in a shared house in Tokyo. The animation (and the acting) is the spiritual descendant of Straight Title Robot Anime.

RErideD Derrida — Started out as a Door Into Summer remake, ended up being deconstructed as a door-into-winter post-robotic-apocalypse pot boiler.

Senran Kagura — Competing groups of good and bad shinobi, AKA ninjas, all high school girls. You can get an idea of what it’s like from the fact that Crunchyroll has released both a censored and uncensored version.

UzaMaid — Depending on which reviewer you read, it’s a horror story about a pedophilic maid who terrorizes a child, and said child can’t convince anyone it’s happening. OR It’s a happy romp about a tough former JASDF Master Sergeant who plays Mary Poppins to a rebellious youngster. Your choice.


Green Thumb Up My Nose

October 14, 2018

Garden Report for 20181015

Last week there were seven or eight nearly ripe tomatoes in the tub. Those went into last week’s tomato sauce. Here’s the status this week: roughly twenty tomatoes of various makes and models, starting to ripen. None are quite ready to eat, and I’m not quite ready to make more sauce, so we’ll look in again next week.

It’s a very warm tub

Note also that the bigger of the two Knucklehead pumpkins has already turned orange. We’ll probably let all the squash go until November sometime.


October 11, 2018

So, we harvested all our tomatoes, just ahead of the frosts, and ended up with a lot of green tomatoes, and a smaller lot of nearly ripe tomatoes, and oh by the way, another lot of really ripe tomatoes. I figured the only thing to do was to make tomato sauce out of everything but the really green ones. It made about two quarts.

Now, I have said that oatmeal and tomatoes don’t get along. That’s true of highly processed tomato products, like ketchup. But what about plain old fresh tomato sauce, with nothing added but salt and basil? Turns out it’s not bad. Not great, but not bad.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one cup of fresh tomato sauce, two shakes of basil, salt. Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats. The sauce is thick enough that you don’t need potatoes.

Results: Pretty good. Cheese helped. Might be useful to add a little more liquid (chicken stock?) and cook for 12min or so, to make up for the oats not absorbing the tomato part of the sauce.

Rating: ***

Green Thumb Up My Nose

October 7, 2018

Garden Report for 181008

Nothing of interest happened last week.

This week was breezy and showery and cold, with highs starting in the low 60’s and ending in the middle 50’s, and lows in the mid 30’s to mid 40’s, except for Tuesday night when it touched 30F. Real frosts can’t be far away, and I thought that next week would see the Final Harvest. Boy, was I wrong. Tuesday’s frost killed all the squash vines (except the zucchini), and some of the tomatoes. So I decided to close out the garden before everything turned black. These are the final numbers, unless the zucchini comes through with another small squash or two.

Here’s the squash:

3 spaghetti 1800, 2050, 450

2 pumpkin 680, 2520

2 acorn 650, 315

In addition, there were a couple of small tomato-sized acorns, and a Delicata just big enough to use as an executive hand exerciser.

I had planted a standard cucumber in the garden, in case the container didn’t work out. Turns out, it was the garden that didn’t produce — I thought. But buried under all the squash blossoms were two, somewhat bloaty looking cucumbers.

2 cucumbers 440, 200

Also some zucchini (there’s two more on the not totally dead plant)

2 zucchini 284g, 920g

As for the tomatoes, nothing is really ripe yet, so these measures will all go into the ‘green tomato’ category. In order to get some idea of what varietal does best, where, I’ve listed the number of each kind, total weight, and rounded individual weight.

Main Garden

10 Mortgage Lifter  1370g  140
12 Mortgage Lifter  1830g  150

2 Brandywine 625g  310

5 Big Beef  531g  110

9 Big Boy  950g  100

6 Carolina Gold 720g  120

U/I greens 1320g

The two different Mortgage Lifters are from two different companies. All the varietals listed claim to be ‘indeterminate’, but none of them produced throughout the summer. Maybe if we lived in Florida.


5 Supersonic  330g  66

10 Moreton Hybrid 720g  70

21  Jet Star 970g  46

7 Better Boy 400g  60

5 Brandywine 300g  60

The only ones directly comparable between main garden and containers are the Brandywines. Main garden beats containers by a factor of five. I suspect my containers are too small.

After the harvest, one has to store all the produce. My preferred place is our living room, right over the furnace room and the warmest floor in the house. For some reason, MJ objected to that, so I moved them all into the bathroom. After all, we were done digging and sweating in the garden, and so wouldn’t need the bathtub for a while. MJ said she didn’t like them that close to the toilet, but I told her she could always wash her hands after eating them.


It’s a very clean bathtub




Final Week Ending 10/08 Vegetable Count Weight g Unit Weight g Total Total Weight kg
  tomatoes       87 18.0
  green tomatoes 92 10070 109 99 10.40
  Zucchini 2 1204 600 12 6.08
  Acorn 2 965 480 2 0.96
  Spaghetti 3 2500 830 4 4.14
  Pumpkin 2 3200 1600 2 3.20
  cucumber 2 640 320 10 2.56
Grand Total           45.34

Surprisingly, this year’s 45kg total has matched or exceeded all other years on record, except 2014, when we had a total of 53kg, most of which was big pumpkins. Not sure if that was real, or if I just kept better track this year. Not included in the total is the peanut-sized sweet potato I found when digging over the remnants of the garden.

Interesting to note that over a third of the tomatoes had to be harvested green because they hadn’t ripened by the first frost.

So, that’s about it for this year. Next entry will be early next year, on lessons learned and plans for the future.

Me and Myeloma

October 5, 2018

The October tests are in, and they all look really good. Everything in the normal range, with no sign of the myeloma. A couple of measures are creeping up, but not fast enough to be of immediate concern.

Here’s the deets:

  1. M-spike. There’s this thing called an M-protein spike, which measures certain proteins in the blood, ones that shouldn’t be there. It’s one of the prime indicators of myeloma. It’s been “not observed” now for three months.
  2. Kappa/Lambda Ratio. KLR is another protein measure. Normal range is .25-1.6. Mine was down around 1.0, and is now up to 1.5. So, in the normal range, but up. Will it keep going up? Note: both the kappa (9.6) and the lambda (6.4) are on the low end of normal (roughly 3-26).
  3. Immunoglobulin G (IgG). IgG measures immune response. High IgG says your body is fighting a disease, like cancer. Normal is 700 -1600. Mine started at 3000 a year ago. Then, with the chemo, it plunged to 230. Now, it’s up to 250. So, suppressed, but climbing. Question: when will it get back into the non-suppressed range? Big question: will it then level off?

I think if I hadn’t been diagnosed with MM earlier, someone looking at these results would say I was basically healthy, albeit with a suppressed immune system.

From a “how do I feel” standpoint, I think I’m back to normal. I didn’t realize how badly the chemo had effected me until I recovered from it.

We will take another look in January, but I won’t be publishing anything unless there’s some significant changes.


September 27, 2018

Response to the Kavanaugh hearings broke mostly on party lines, but with those who deal with facts tending to view him in a negative light.

Rod Dreher, professional religious apologist on The American Conservative website, thinks that Kavanaugh came through and will be approved, but that the Democrats have done irreparable damage to the selection process by springing these accusations so late in the process. Late, meaning they couldn’t possibly be fairly completed before the midterm elections. His discussion of the cause of the damage never mentions Marrick Garland. In fact, tracing his timeline through half a dozen essays on Kavanaugh and back into 2016, I can’t find any mention of Merrick Garland, other than in passing.

On the other hand, Nate Silver, professional polls analyst of, characterizes Kavanaugh’s approach as

  1. Show a lot of emotion and indignation;

  2. Just openly lie — let’s call it what it is — in response to questions about your drinking habits;

  3. Complain a lot about the process.

Anne Laurie, frequent contributor at on-line community Balloon Juice collected examples of the mood of men and women across the country.

And Fast Company website posts two pictures that capture the reaction of women at the hearings.

A committee vote is scheduled for tomorrow (Friday). I see no possibility that Kavanaugh won’t be advanced to a floor vote, at which time we will see if the countrywide impact has had any reverberations back in Washington.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

September 24, 2018

Garden Report for 180924

We are now officially autumnal. Highs in the mid to upper 60’s. Lows in the mid to upper 40’s. Very similar to this time last year.

A couple of zucchini, few tomatoes, and no winter squash were harvestable. Got two not-so-Big Boys from the garden. Picked the only Moskvich and Cherokee Purples that looked viable from the containers, pulled up the vines, and moved the dirt over to cover the soaker hose for the trees. The Moskvich were not big enough to include in my weight counts — like big cherry tomatoes.

I’m doing some restructuring of the produce table. Summer squash is not going to happen, so I’m going to repurpose it as green tomatoes — tomatoes that will take some weeks indoors to ripen. Right now those are ones that fall off when I pick red ones, or the few that were on the vines that I pulled up. Later, it will include the ones that I harvested right before the first frost. Also, cucumbers are done for the year, so I’m combining the categories. Finally, the cabbage isn’t going to come in until well after I’ve closed out this blog for the season.

Vegetable Count Weight
Total Total
  tomatoes 4 660 165 87 18.0
green tomatoes 7 400 57 7 0.40
Zucchini 2 580 290 11 5.12
Spaghetti 1 1.64
cucumber 1 140 140 8 1.92
Grand Total 27.08

Still chasing last year. Still at 28Kg, because this week last year had zero harvest.

Cathy McMorris Rodgers is feeling the heat

September 21, 2018

A few years back, our local representative to Congress, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, voted with her Republican colleagues against the Affordable Care Act, AKA Obamacare. What’s worse, she lied to the public about what was in the act and her reasons for voting that way. It was one of a long string of votes against healthcare reform. She could do this because, as a GOP apparatchik in a predominantly red district, she was pretty much immune to attack from either the right or the left.

Now, for the first time, she is facing a credible threat from a Democratic opponent, Lisa Brown, someone who is throwing light on Rodger’s anticonsumer stance on health care. Rodger’s reaction is interesting. For the first time we are seeing increased spending on campaign ads, particularly attack ads against Brown. In addition, along with a number of other vulnerable Republican members of Congress, Rogers has disappeared her article on health care, knowing that ACA is popular among all members of the public.

Polling analysis website only gives Brown a 25% chance of winning, but that’s up from 20% last week. If the Blue Wave breaks as many hope it will this year, Washington’s 5th District could see the political equivalent of the Spokane Floods, from 15,000 years ago.

First last times

September 19, 2018

So, I am retiring at the end of this academic quarter. Right now, I feel fine, and I don’t want to get on the cart, but I can’t be sure my physical state will hold up.

As a result, Wednesday, September 19th, was my last First Day of Class.

Our dystopic future in space

September 19, 2018

Space is dangerous, we all know that. Wikipedia lists five accidents involving spaceflight fatalities, and another thirty-two non-fatal incidents. Many more instances could be given, of on-orbit maintenance problems that didn’t rise to the level of an incident.

The most recent is the discovery of a mis-drilled hole in a Soyuz capsule that resulted in a slow oxygen leak. What’s really frightening is the fact that the hole was poorly patched with glue. This prevented it from being found during ground testing. Of course, there are those who see conspiracies under every bed, and they are pushing the idea that the hole was caused on-orbit, by the Americans, to force an early return. And there are those who say the on-orbit theory is a fabrication,  intended to deflect attention from a shaky Russian launch program.

This is all very interesting, but it misses the point. Space systems are unimaginably fragile, and susceptible to human induced failure throughout, and this will continue into the foreseeable future.

So far, the majority of our space missions have been carried out by highly-trained, highly-motivated, well-screened professionals, mostly deployed for a few months or less. Jump ahead twenty or fifty years. What happens when we seriously start to colonize space?

The 1970’s series of studies by NASA looked a multiple designs for orbital colonies, starting with a Bernal Sphere holding a few hundred people

Including living expanses

…and space for feedlot agriculture.

To hollowed-out asteroids housing thousands, for generations, under near-earth-like conditions

…including Star Trek fashions.

This is all very well and good, and I signed up for that idea half a century ago. But think about it in the light of the list of accidents and incidents give above. What would it take to damage one of these colonies, to destroy it, to make it uninhabitable?

Keeping a space colony operating is like keeping a tank of tropical fish happy, a hobby once described to me as an exercise in applied biochemistry. Any slight imbalance can wreak havoc with your ecosystem. Any slight mistake can have fatal repercussions.

Then there’s the mechanical side. Airlocks and air pressure control, power systems, water purification and circulation, spin control. One hundred percent recycling. All the infrastructure of a small city, but with no Earth to provide a buffer, and no resupply closer than weeks, or years, away, depending on your orbit.

The crews of today’s spacecraft are medically and psychologically screened before being allowed to enter the astronaut program (which didn’t keep an astronaut from being arrested on attempted kidnapping charges). But what about those on board a multi-generation orbital colony, or a mining colony out in the Main Belt? What happens when someone becomes mentally unstable? Geough Mahnoff recently adressed this in an Atlantic article on police on Mars (and space generally).

Now, mentally ill people are often unjustifiably stigmatized here on Earth. But while the overwhelming majority of mentally ill persons are a threat only to themselves, if that, many people who are demonstrably a threat are suffering from some mental illness or other.  How do we keep a depressed person from ending it all by opening a hatch, or smashing a window or a oxygen recycler? How do we keep a disgruntled teenager, or abusive ex-boyfriend from getting back at a system they feel has failed them?

And, of course, it doesn’t have to be a deliberate act of sabotage. Simple human errors can have the same effect. Look at that list again, and note the number that were caused by people taking inappropriate actions. 

Prevention is really hard, and the only way we’ve found to do it on Earth, and in space, is through tightened security practices. For example, one of the commanders of Skylab decreed that he would be the only one allowed to cycle the garbage airlock.

Draconian security may be how we have to do it in colonized space, as well. So, any place of importance becomes a no-lone zone. Everyone has a trackable ID. Everyone is monitered 24/7 (or whatever the day/night cycle turns out to be). All residences are open to unannounced inspection at any time. As with places like NSA, transitioning from one section to another might require multiple ID checks, and maybe a statement of purpose. Key facilities are guarded. People who exhibit behavior at or near the boundary of the acceptable are evaluated, and counseled, and maybe given drugs. Many of the basic rights of the Bill of Rights will become invalid, because the safety of the many overrides the rights of the few.

There can be zero trust, because those charged with protecting the lives of everyone on the colony can allow for zero errors. Suppose someone is acting in an abberant manner. They are counseled. Their behavior changes. But does it really? Or did the mindset that caused the behavior just become hidden, festering until it breaks out somewhere else?  How can we tell? How can we predict? What should we do?

My conclusion, reluctantly arrived at over many years, is that there is no way to avoid a near total loss of personal freedom. Space won’t become the new frontier of social experimentation. A thousand flowers won’t bloom. Those colonies that don’t have rigid controls in place will, sooner or later, end up collapsing, due to some sort of support systems failure, intended or not.

Memories of my Youth: Happy trails to you

September 18, 2018

Signal vs Noise has an interesting essay on software that gently, or not so gently, nudges you in the direction the developers want you to go. Like uploading all your contact data to Facebook.

I used to use a similar tactic in the warning messages I wrote for a database application I developed.

If you press OK, I will THROW AWAY all this data, which could hinder your research and limit your chances of getting into grad school. Are you sure you want to do this?   ok  CANCEL

Green Thumb Up My Nose

September 17, 2018

Garden Report for 180917

The weather is finally autumnal. Mid to upper 60’s. Cloudy and breezy. Showers over the weekend.

In a follow-up on last week’s entry, that bright yellow, obviously ripe spaghetti squash, was actually quite green inside. As in bright green. Only the middle part was in any way ripe. The rest didn’t even shred properly after cooking. Lesson for today: let your winter squash rest until the end of autumn.

Still not much doing on the tomato front. The last of the Carolina Golds, and one each Big Boy and Brandywine. There’s a lot of non-beefsteaks out there, but they’re all still green.  SquashSit (say that three times real fast) hasn’t changed. Harvested one of the .jp cucumbers. No zucchini on the way.

Vegetable Count Weight
Total Total
  tomato 4 560 140 87 11.4
zucchini 1 360 360 9 4.54
Spaghetti 1 1640 1640 1 1.64
cucumber 1 150 150 2 0.30
1 400 400 5 1.48
Grand Total 19.32

Still chasing last year’s 21Kg.

My silly dog

September 14, 2018
We took one of the dogs, Music, in to be spayed the other day. She came home that night with a lovely Elizabethan collar to keep her from licking the incision. Now, most dogs are a little petrified when they first get the collar, and they have trouble realizing they can walk, and even lie down. After an hour or so they figure things out. Not Music.
She was convinced she couldn’t do anything in the collar, and just stood there. After a while we showed her she could walk, and she managed a few steps, when suitably encouraged. But she had trouble with this whole ‘lie down in a collar’ thing. So she stood. And she stood. We showed her how to lie down, but she didn’t believe us, so she got back up and stood some more. MJ, who is fighting a cold and needed to sit up anyway, sat in the family room with her all night, watching the Hurricane Channel. As far as we can tell, Music stood for fifteen hours, before fatigue set in and she finally laid down, and slept all morning. Today she is happy and active and trotting around and jumping into chairs with her new fashion accessory on and don’t you other dogs wish you had something like this? Silly dog.

Memories of my youth: Fun times at Osan

September 12, 2018

It was a fine autumnal day in the mid 1980’s, and I was at a fighter wing in the Republic of Korea. One of our duties was to protect the TR-1 reconnaissance planes (a variant of the U-2) that flew up along the border with North Korea. Not that our ageing F-4’s could get up to the 80,000 feet that the TR-1’s flew at, but we could engage any NKAF fighters trying to threaten them from lower altitudes. Our base was usually pretty busy. We had the usual training flights, plus contract commercial flights moving troops from the US, plus it was the primary destination for various military ‘business jets’ hauling key staff from Japan and the Philippines for meetings.

Osan AB Korea

On the day in question, we had just had an accident. One of the USAF T-39 Sabreliners that skittered about the Korean airspace, hauling VIPs and administrative traffic, had blown a tire and slid off the side of the runway, collapsing the landing gear. As I recall, no-one was hurt, but the runway was closed, briefly, and there were a lot of fire trucks and things cluttering up the area.

At that point, we got a warning of NKAF fighters approaching the DMZ, apparently in reaction to a TR-1 flying just south of it. Two F-4s were told to scramble, with a full war load of air to air missiles. The runway was back open, but there was a contract commercial airliner in the final stages of landing, carrying a bunch of new troops for the various units in-country, and in this kind of a situation, every second counts. Nothing daunted, the flight lead pulled his aircraft onto the much shorter parallel taxiway, went into burner, and took off from there, narrowly missing the ground equipment and parked aircraft.

We got the job done. The NKAF fighters turned back north. The TR-1 recovered safely. The flight lead got chewed out for violating peacetime safety regulations, but I always thought he’d made the right decision. I’ve often wondered what the new guys thought, landing on an airbase with a crashed aircraft at one end of the runway, and two war-load fighters taking off next to them.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

September 10, 2018

Garden Report for 180910

The weather continues nice. Upper 70’s to mid 80’s and clear. Bit of smoke on Tuesday.

Not much doing on the tomato front. There’s a lot of non-beefsteaks out there, but they’re all still green. But where the tomatoes are lagging, the winter squash are starting to take up the slack. One nice harvestable 1.6Kg spaghetti squash, one big and one small spaghettis that are still yellow, a big, green, possible Delicata, an acorn squash, and one big warty Kunucklehead pumpkin that’s just starting to change color. Two .jp cucumbers that are coming along nicely, but I think our standard cucumber, out front, has given up after one. And, of course, a zucchini.



Vegetable Count Weight
Total Total
  tomato 83 10.8
zucchini 1 360 360 9 4.54
Spaghetti 1 1640 1640 1 1.64
cucumber 1 0.15
4 1.08
Grand Total 18.21

Still chasing last year’s 21Kg.

Fake Beef n Oats

September 6, 2018

So, MJ brought home some plant-based “beef” burgers the other day, because hey, how else are you going to get the kids to eat their vegetables. They were an off-pink color that reminded me more of dog food. I grilled them on the outdoor gas grill — they needed careful handling because they are very wet and break apart easily. Straight off the grill they tasted … almost, but not quite, totally unlike beef.

MJ took a couple to her dog training class, but brought them home uneaten. While the hot-from-the-grill burgers might have tasted not bad (if you didn’t think of them as beef), the cold burgers had a chemicky smell that made one want to … not eat them. They were like dwarf bread — one bite and you realized you were not as hungry as you thought you were.

Nothing daunted, I diced one of the patties into … dice sized chunks. Simmered them in beef broth for a few minutes to encourage them to break up more, which they didn’t.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one chopped up non-beef patty, one cup of beef broth, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, salt. Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats. Add the potatoes at the end. Read the rest of this entry »

Green Thumb Up My Nose

September 3, 2018

Garden Report for 180903

Finally, some pleasant weather. Mid to upper 70’s and clear. The weekend rain was such that the ground was still wet on Tuesday.

I harvested two biggish zucchini — almost 1.5Kg — which is bigger than I like, because how do you get rid of them?

count /  total wt / wt per

Carolina Gold: 11 / 1670 / 152

Brandywine:  3 / 520 / 173

Big Boy: 2 / 400 / 200

Cherokee Purple: 3 / 210 / 70

We are about at the end of the Carolina Golds. Not unhappy to see them go. They are too soft in the mouth — not mushy, just soft — and kindof tasteless. Like supermarket tomatoes, only yellow. Won’t plant them again.

Old fashioned tomatoes, old fashioned tools

As for the winter squash, we have two large and one small spaghetti squash, one of which is essentially ripe. We have a large green, possible Delicata, and a medium pumpkin, just turning, plus one acorn squash. It’s hard to tell how many total, because they are buried under all the foliage.

Vegetable Count Weight
Total Total
  tomato 19 2760 145 83 10.8
zucchini 2 1480 740 9 4.18
cucumber 1 0.15
4 1.08
Grand Total 16.21

And here’s the final version of our official tomato ripening schedule, updated with the actual dates. They appear to be split almost equally between those that arrived a week or more early, a week or more late, or within a week of the predicted time.

Name D/I Wt Planted Days Ready Actual
Early Girl I 4-8 05/21/18 50 07/10/18 08/13/18
Oregon Spring D 5-10 05/21/18 60 07/20/18 08/20/18
Champion I 6-8 05/21/18 65 07/25/18 07/24/18
Big Beef I 12-16 05/21/18 73 08/02/18 08/13/18
Moskvitch I 115g 06/04/18 60 08/03/18 08/02/18
Beefsteak D 250g 05/21/18 75 08/04/18 07/24/18
Hybrid Beefsteak D 250g 05/21/18 75 08/04/18 07/24/18
Carolina Gold D 8-10 05/21/18 75 08/04/18 08/27/18
Sun Sugar I cherry 05/21/18 75 08/04/18 07/10/18
Big Boy I 16-32 05/21/18 80 08/09/18 08/20/18
Better Boy I 15-16 06/04/18 70 08/13/18 08/31/18
Black Prince I 5-7 06/04/18 70 08/13/18 08/20/18
Pink Accordion I 14-16 05/21/18 90 08/19/18 08/13/18
Moreton I 8-10 06/11/18 70 08/20/18 08/27/18
Brandywine I 560g 06/04/18 80 08/23/18 08/02/18
Cherokee Purple I 10-12 06/04/18 80 08/23/18 09/03/18
Jet Star I 8-9 06/11/18 75 08/25/18 08/27/18
Supersonic I 10-12 06/18/18 75 09/01/18 08/04/18
Mortgage Lifter I 18-32 06/18/18 85 09/11/18 08/27/18

We are still chasing last year’s total of 16.7 kg. Next week, when the squash starts coming in, we’ll do better.

Pineapple Oats 1

August 30, 2018

A few months ago, a friend of ours went to Hawaii, and brought back a really fresh pineapple for us. It was fantastic. A few weeks ago, they had pineapples in at Safeway, so we bought one. Not as good. As Apu Nahasapeemapetilon might say, it was picked fresh in Hawaii, then shipped …. to warehouse for a week, then put on a containership for San Diego.

It had a fairly big core, and lots of eyes, and we were left with a large pile of discards. Fortunately, I had just read an article on what to do with that kind of stuff. Essentially, you chop it up, sprinkle with sugar, and leave overnight. In the morning you have a half cup or so of intense pineapple syrup. You also have a large pile of discarded discards.

In an effort to squeeze one more use out of them, I put them into a cup of beef broth, and simmered for ten minutes. Strain out the dregs, bring the broth back to a boil, and you’re ready to go.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one cup of pineapple dregbroth, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, salt. Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats. Add the potatoes at the end.

Results: Pretty good. The pineapple flavor is pretty mild by that time, and it wouldn’t hurt to put some honey into the mix, but that can be done to taste, later. And BTW, the pineapple syrup goes very well on vanilla ice cream, but you have to use a fair amount of it, because one teaspoon per scoop just kindof sinks in.

Rating: ***

Green Thumb Up My Nose

August 27, 2018

Garden Report for 180827

The weather was hazy and warm. In the mid  80’s, declining to the mid 70’s, with lots of haze and smoke from BC and California. AQI for the most part in the Unhealthy to Very Unhealthy range. Then, over the weekend, it rained, and cooled and the AQI went back down to 52. Of course, that won’t last.

I harvested one 150g standard cucumber, one 120g cricket-ball sized pumpkin, a 320g .jp cucumber, two zucchini, and a bunch of tomatoes. The pumpkin is too small to be useful, or even to be carved. I might draw a mouth and eyes on it with a Sharpie for Halloween.

count /  total wt / wt per

Carolina Gold: 7 / 670 / 144

Big Boy: 7 / 870 / 92

One of those is a pumpkin

Once again, I brought the cabbage container in for four days early in the week to avoid the heat. I want to keep them out in the sun as much as possible, but without exposing them to anything over 90F. I should be able to leave them out pretty much full-time now.

Vegetable Count Weight
Total Total
  tomato 10 1400 140 64 8.1
zucchini 2 520 260 9 2.7
cucumber 1 150 150 1 0.15
1 320 320 4 1.08
Grand Total 12.03

We are still chasing last year’s total of 15.0kg.

Anime Preview Fall 2018

August 26, 2018

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

First, let’s say what’s not in here. Sequels to stuff I didn’t like before (IdolM@ster, Tokyo Ghoul), kids stuff (Hoshi no Shima , Captain Tsubasa ), movies and OVA’s, and anything with The in the title.

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

1. Akanesasu Shoujo: Four girls try to survive a storm at sea

2. Ulysses – Jeanne d’Arc: Young girl tries to drive the English out of Dublin

3. Tensei Shitara Slime Datta Ken: Riding the unicorn cat-bus

MIGHT WATCH: The cover art is not too off-putting, so I might watch it.

1. Kishuku Gakkou no Juliet: All girl Romeo and Juliet

2. Tsurune: BL with weapons, but hey, it’s KyoAni

3. Yagate Kimi ni Naru: two girls lost in the woods. It’s getting cold, and they have only one pair of stockings

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

1. Tokigoe no Derrida: Young engineer deconstructs AI’s

2. Shuudengo, Capsule Hotel: Nihon bodice ripper

3. Anima Yell!: Young girls learn to spell out words with their arms, suddenly learn about Kanji


Green Thumb Up My Nose — Dirt Poor

August 25, 2018

There’s something wrong with my dirt.

For a couple of years now, my cunning plan was to take all the soil from my garden containers, about 25cuft worth, and dump it in a pile in one corner of the yard for 18 months, before mixing it up and loading it back into the containers. That way it would lie fallow and I wouldn’t be planting tomatoes in dirt that was contaminated with the previous year’s crop.That worked for a couple of years, but this year, for some unknown reason, it didn’t.

I have five containers on my deck, two on the south side of the house, and seven on the east side. The tomatoes on all but two are puny things, some of which are bepestered with blossom-end rot. Three of them have produced but one tomato each.

Here’s the ones on the East side.

Three spindly, three unproductive/BER’d, one OK, and one cucumber.

Jet Star


So, what can I deduce:

  1. It’s not the environment — there’s three distinctly different sun/shade patterns.
  2. It’s not the watering — I water whenever they get droopy, which is pretty much every day. Same amount of water each time.
  3. It’s not, I think, the nutrients — the soil was previously used, but I put a small scoop of commercial fertilizer in each one, and applied a nutrient spray a month ago.

The only common factor is the dirt. It’s not … dirty … enough, or something. I guess I’ll go back to buying bags, and using the old dirt as mulch for the lawn and around the trees (to cover the soaker hoses).

Our Old Trees

August 24, 2018

Our house was built in the 1960’s, and presumably that’s when our trees were put in. So they are on the order of half a century old. In addition, I have been somewhat neglectful of them, the tree in the back, in particular. In these hot, drought months we haven’t been watering the lawn, which means we haven’t been watering the trees. To make matters worse, when our groundskeepers (OK, lawn guys) trimmed the trees last Fall, they cut the weeping cherry out front way back. Which, I find, is not something you are supposed to do with old old trees.

As a result, the tree out back has lots of dead wood, and the tree out front is just dying.

So, earlier this week we had a man in to pull out the old weeping cherry out front, and trim the big whateveritis in the back.

Before, Front

After, Front

Before, Back

After, Back

That should do it.

Now, we need to decide what to replace the front tree with. The house faces West, and gets direct afternoon sun, so we want something for shade. Right now I’m torn between Metasequoia glyptostroboides, and Phyllostachys aureosulcata. We are going to run down to our local tree nursery and see what they have.

Curried BananaOats

August 23, 2018

We’d gone off on a trip and left a couple of bananas sitting on the counter. They were pretty ripe by the time we returned. Waste not want not, and bananas are pretty good in oatmeal, when properly skinned and filleted. Previous efforts along these lines included other fruit, and some kind of broth. I thought that this time I’d try plain water and Golden Curry.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one cup of broth, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, salt. Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats. Add the potatoes at the end.

Results: Surprisingly bland. Curry roux can’t hold up a meal on its own, and neither can a lonely banana. Together, they were bland in two dimensions. Adding additional salt and butter made it taste like salty butter.

Rating: *****

Green Thumb Up My Nose

August 20, 2018

Garden Report for 180820

The weather was clear and very warm, in the upper 80’s-low 90’s all week, with lots of haze and smoke from BC and California. Over the weekend the AQI edged from Unhealthy to Very Unhealthy, and areas north of us were Hazardous. The sky looked like it wanted to rain, but that was just high altitude smoke. I stayed inside.

The garden continued to produce:

I harvested one 410g zucchini, one 280g zucchini, and one curly 340g Japanese cucumber. My standard cucumber, out front, seems to be getting too much sun and has only started one fruit so far.

count /  total wt / wt per

Champion: 7 / 670 / 144

Big Boy: 7 / 870 / 92

Unidentified 3 / 154

Big Beef  5 / 1070

Black Prince 3 / 156

That represents the last of the Champions, and they were noticeably smaller than last week’s. Last week was the last of the Brandywines. I didn’t realize how many of the big tomatoes were determinants. The unidentified tomatoes might be Oregon Spring. I know I bought one plant, but I can’t find it in the garden or the pots, and the U/I plant doesn’t have a label. On the other hand, they look more like the picture on the Pink Accordion packet, and the one Pink Accordion didn’t look like that at all, but since one was planted in the garden and the other up on the deck, it’s unlikely they’d be mixed up. The Black Prince is coming in at about 50g each. They don’t taste bad, but they don’t make my clothes explode off. Not sure if it’s worthwhile planting them next year.

Read the rest of this entry »

California Prop 13

August 18, 2018

Proposition 13 was a 1978 reaction to California’s rising property taxes. Property values were rising fast, homes were being reassessed annually, and the elderly were being taxed out of their homes. Prop 13 limited tax increases to when property was sold, or underwent major construction. As usual, there were unintended consequences.

This article, in Axios, goes on about how rich families are passing down their multi-million dollar homes and how the children who inherit pay no additional taxes. The article says that this has lowered tax income by 2.5%. That sounds big, but it’s not the biggest impact from Prop 13. Read the rest of this entry »

Curried Coconut Oatmeal

August 16, 2018

MJ brought home a packet of frozen chicken-in-curried-coconut-sauce. As usual, not as good as home-made (too spicy, and you had trouble detecting the coconut), and there were leftovers. I didn’t use any of the chicken chunks, but I did scoop up about a quarter cup of the sauce.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one cup of curry sauce/beef broth mix, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, salt. Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats. Add the potatoes at the end.

Results: OK. The sauce had been a little too spicy on the chicken, but diluted by the broth, and spread across the oatmeal it wasn’t bad. I’m not going to rush out and buy another packet, however.

Rating: ***

Green Thumb Up My Nose

August 13, 2018

Garden Report for 180813

The weather was clear and hot, starting in the low 90’s early in the week, peaking at just over 100F, and coming back down to the upper 80’s by the weekend.

The garden is in full swing. At the start of the week we had 18 tomatoes that were ready for harvest, and another ten showing color.

I harvested one 220g Japanese cucumber, and two 245g zucchinis.

count /  total wt / wt per

Champion: 8 / 1150 / 144

Beefsteak: 7 / 642 / 92

Pink Accordion 1 / 120

Early  Girl 1 / 80

Big Beef  1 / 120


On the big squash front, there’s a Delicata that’s coming along nicely, a couple of small Spaghetti squash.

Once again, I brought the cabbage container in for four days midweek to avoid the 100F heat. I want to keep it out in the sun as much as possible, but without exposing them to anything over 90F.

Vegetable Count Weight
Total Total
  tomato 18 2132 118 32 4.0
zucchini 2 490 245 5 1.6
1 220 220 2 0.42
Grand Total 6.0

Last year was a marvellous year for tomatoes, et al. By this point in the season, we were at 9kg of produce. But remember, we’re working on half a garden this year.

Starlight Promises

August 10, 2018

Starlight Promises really wants to be a Miyazaki movie. It has the young protagonists, the mystical happenings, the colorful animation. What it lacks is heart. And coherency.

Spoilers follow.

Mihara Shoma gets a call from his former best friend, who he hasn’t seen in years, inviting him to meet at a location in the mountains. That location turns out to be the site of a Tanabata festival, celebrating the legend of the celestial lovers Orihime and Hikoboshi. His friend isn’t there, but he meets a hologram AI named Kana, and a girl,  Senozawa Shiori. It turns out that this festival is also designed to carry out a ritual that will let the participants meet anyone they wish to. The participants — several dozen of them — build the stage settings, and Mihara and Shiori are to enact the parts of the star-crossed lovers.

Kana and Shoma and Shiori

We immediately have questions.

How do they gain the skills needed to carpenter up an elaborate stage setting? How do they know how to move in the ritual?

It’s just like Ikea

How do the rest of the participants know how to do the Busby Berkely dance number at the start of the ritual? Well, they have these AI suits, that just know how to move to do things, ya know? And the wearer is sortof goes along for the ride.

We built it, and we can dance on it

OK, so how does the ritual conjure up the ghosts (and it looks to be all ghosts, nobody’s asking to meet Shinzō Abe) of the people the participants want to see? Well, so, it’s not really those people. It’s a new super-AI program that can take in all the information about the person and recreate a hologram of them. The participants just get to pretend they are real.

For that matter, why are they doing this during a Tanabata festival? Wouldn’t a Bon festival, honoring the dead, be more appropriate? Could it be that the Bon festival doesn’t have a romantic couple at the center?

Back in the action, the festival AI is malfunctioning, because of the existence of Kana. Why? They don’t say. In any event, it conjures up [AI hologram depictions of] the ghosts of the former castle, who proceed to attack the participants. Shoma and Shiori fight them off, using skills their AI suits taught them (and swords that are really debugging tools), while Kana sacrifices herself to install the patch, or something. Since this is hologram on AI suit action, nobody actually gets hurt, but they all act as if they could.

We will avenge our lord!

At the end, there’s a lantern ceremony, and everyone gets to see the person of their choice. Shoma sees his friend Atsushi — who it turns out is dead and Shoma just forgot about it, as often happens in anime — and Shiori sees her sister. Then the lanterns take flight, and the ghostly holograms fade away. Shoma and Shiori have found closure, and look to become friends, leaving open the possibility of a Starlight Promises Afterstory.

Is it really you?

Part of the problem with this anime is that Starlight Promises is only one hour long. That’s not enough time to develop the multiple threads of the story, or even the explanations and backstory and such. On the other hand, the whole knights-of-the-old-castle thing seems just bolted on, as if they needed some conflict to pad things out but couldn’t figure out what to do. Finally, the heart of the anime, the recall of the dead, is based on a logical fallacy. The participants are not talking to the dead, they’re talking to an AI construct, an updated version of ELIZA, from half a century ago.

But it looks pretty

Overall, Starlight Promises isn’t bad, but it’s not Miyazaki. It’s an OK way to waste an hour, unless there’s a My Neighbor Totoro rerun on.

Surimi Oats

August 9, 2018

Surimi is a Japanese fish … product. Boiled, powdered, sintered whitefish paste. In the US, it’s usually found as fake crab or lobster. Every now and then you can find it as unabashed surimi — small chunks, painted red on one side. I thought I’d try it in oatmeal. Of course, one doesn’t want to cook it in beef or chicken broth because the flavors would clash. So I dug out my supply of dashi crystals. One half teaspoon in a cup of water gives a nice, seafoody, slightly smoky liquid.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one cup of water, 40grams of surimi chunks, chopped fine, half a teaspoon of dashi crystals, salt. Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats. Add the surimi at the beginning so it has time to blend.

Results: Not as good as I’d hoped. The oatmeal didn’t soak up all the water, so you had a clear liquid with lots of bits of oats floating in it, plus surimi chunks. Plus, the surimi/dashi combo just barely had enough flavor to overcome the oatmeal bland.

I think it needs more experimentation.

Rating: *****

Green Thumb Up My Nose

August 6, 2018

Garden Report for 180806

The weather was clear and hot, in the high 90’s early in the week, and the rest of the time in the mid to low 80’s. Watering restrictions continue in effect.

Garden production is ramping up.  At the start of the week we had 16 tomatoes that were showing color.

Taste Test: Moskvich 150g / Brandywine 180g / Supersonic 220g

Moskvich vs Brandywine: Not as mushy as the first tomatoes, but still mushy. Cutting back on the watering helped. Not much to say about the flavor. Not too acidic. You could tell the two apart in a side-by-side test, but the difference didn’t seem to amount to much.

Supersonic: picked later. Firm. Acidic. More tomatolike. Preferable to the other two. Too bad it looks like we’ll only get a few more off this container plant.

The Japanese cucumbers were 8″ long at the start of the week. I harvested one that had sprouted close to the ground and was growing in a circle.

Brought the cabbage container in for four days midweek to avoid the 98F heat.

Vegetable Count Weight
Total Total
  tomato 6 900 150 14 1.9
zucchini 1 370 370 3 0.8
1 200 200 1 0.2
Grand Total 2.9


Meanwhile, here’s the official ripening schedule, updated with the actual dates.

Name D/I Wt Planted Days Ready Actual
Early Girl I 4-8 05/21/18 50 07/10/18 08/xx/18
Oregon Spring D 5-10 05/21/18 60 07/20/18 08/xx/18
Champion I 6-8 05/21/18 65 07/25/18 07/24/18
Big Beef I 12-16 05/21/18 73 08/02/18 08/xx/18
Moskvitch I 115g 06/04/18 60 08/03/18 08/02/18
Beefsteak D 250g 05/21/18 75 08/04/18 07/24/18
Hybrid Beefsteak D 250g 05/21/18 75 08/04/18 07/24/18
Carolina Gold D 8-10 05/21/18 75 08/04/18 08/xx/18
Sun Sugar I cherry 05/21/18 75 08/04/18 07/10/18
Big Boy I 16-32 05/21/18 80 08/09/18 08/xx/18
Better Boy I 15-16 06/04/18 70 08/13/18 08/xx/18
Black Prince I 5-7 06/04/18 70 08/13/18 08/xx/18
Pink Accordion I 14-16 05/21/18 90 08/19/18 08/xx/18
Moreton I 8-10 06/11/18 70 08/20/18 08/xx/18
Brandywine I 560g 06/04/18 80 08/23/18 08/02/18
Cherokee Purple I 10-12 06/04/18 80 08/23/18 08/xx/18
Jet Star I 8-9 06/11/18 75 08/25/18 08/xx/18
Supersonic I 10-12 06/18/18 75 09/01/18 08/04/18
Mortgage Lifter I 18-32 06/18/18 85 09/11/18 08/xx/18

MH370 Final Report

August 4, 2018

So the Malaysian government have issued their final report on the loss of MH370. At 495 pages, plus appendices, it’s quite a bit longer than their original effort. Unfortunately, as anyone could have predicted, it doesn’t tell us much that we didn’t already know, and it finds it impossible to come to a conclusion as to the reason for the loss.

What we do know, is that shortly after contacting Ho Chi Min ACC, the various communications systems were shut down, and the Kuala Lumpur – Beijing flight made a roughly 120° left turn to the SW, flew back across Malaysia, turned NW, flew past the north end of the island of Sumatra, turned S towards the Southern Ocean, and flew until it ran out of fuel.

Some of the report deals with procedural errors by the various air traffic control authorities, but none of those would have altered the outcome.

There were a couple of points made that it’s useful to report, because they deal with events that are the basis for various theories about what happened.

1.The changes in aircraft heading required human input. This means that someone was alive and in the cockpit from 1720UTC to 1822UTC. This leaves out the various decompression/oxygen malfunction scenarios.

2. The altitude track, based on radar skin tracking, not transponder data, is admitted to be wrong. At one point, the track shows the aircraft climbing from 36,700ft to 58,200ft in six minutes. That’s a 3,500fpm climb to 15,000ft higher than the service ceiling. It then is shown descending to 4,800ft (53,000ft drop) in about a minute. Simulations have shown that such actions are beyond the capability of the aircraft. This lets out the theories that the pilot manipulated the altitude to suffocate the passengers.

3. Damage to the right outboard flap and flaperon indicate the flap was retracted and the flaperon was in neutral — an in-flight configuration — at the time of the crash. This contradicts earlier reports that the flaps had been extended, which would require aircrew intervention.

So, we are left where we were a year or so ago. Someone, crew or intruder, diverted the flight across Malaysia, around Sumatra, and into the Southern Ocean. My guess is that it was one of the pilots. The aircraft maneuvers required a trained pilot. There was no indication of any intrusion into the cockpit, despite current tools that allow the crew to indicate that kind of an emergency to ATC. Besides, a cockpit intrusion implies terrorists, and terrorists want publicity. Nobody has claimed responsibility. That leaves the aircrew. There’s no hard data to support this, but we are in a Sherlockian situation where all the other possibilities have been exhausted.

Cola Curry Oats

August 2, 2018

This started when we ended up with a couple of cans of cola. We’re not big cola drinkers, which is probably why we still have all our teeth.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one cup of cola/broth mix, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, salt. Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats. Add the potatoes at the end.


Experiment 1: Beef and cola. Surprisingly bland. Beef barely noticable, but no strong cola flavor, either

Experiment 2: Cola. Still bland.

Experiment 3. Cola and curry, no potatoes. Not great, but not bad. A little spicy compared with water- or broth-based curry. First time there was a definite cola flavor.

Rating: **

Green Thumb Up My Nose

July 29, 2018

Garden Report for 180730

The weather was clear and hot, in the low 90’s. Watering restrictions in effect, but they don’t apply to gardens, and anyway, I’m using a drip hose.

The garden is just starting to produce. Hybrid Beefsteak (that’s all it says on the tag, I think it’s a bush variety) is producing the most, followed by the Champion. Our one Early Girl is almost ripe.

Our lone Zucchini is starting to pump out the veggies. Time for Zucchini casserole or something. The Delicata and Spaghetti squash are producing, but it will be some weeks before they are ready. I planted the Summer Squash way late, so it’s still in the growing phase.

The Japanese cucumbers are about six inches long. Not sure when to harvest them. No regular cucumbers yet.

I am trying something new with the cabbage. Planting it in a container. It’s outside right now, and the plants have only just sprouted. I’ll let them get to a reasonable size, then move them inside, where there’s less chance of bolting.

Vegetable Count Weight
Total Total
  tomato 8 900 112 8 0.9
zucchini 3 800 267 3 0.8
Grand Total 1.7

This time last year we had almost 3kg of produce, thanks to an earlier start on the Summer squash and the cucumbers.

TLDR — Anime I never finished, Summer 2018

July 28, 2018

As the season progresses, more shows display their true colors.


Asobi Asobase
The normal Japanese ending to jan-ken-pon

Mean girls being mean to each other. Comic book artstyle, and the sort of humor that Republicans would like.







Lord of Vermilion
Ruku, I am your father

Soon to be superheros find themselves trapped in Tokyo. Like Kekkai Sensen, but without the zany environment, well-rounded characters, or imaginative artwork.






Haunted Hot Springs
Nobody else can touch me, but I don’t mind if it’s you, Kogarashi san

Terribly generic bosom of the week. Cross between Kawaii Complex, Love Hina, and Invaders of the Rokujouma.






Chio’s School Road
Look mommy, blue and white stripes!

Each episode has two parts.

Part 1: all the strange adventures that happen on Chio’s way to school (the only adventure I ever had was when my trombone case fell of the basket of my bike).

Part 2: Mean girls being mean to each other. Like Asobi Asobase only with different artwork.

Oatmeal Au Jus

July 26, 2018

So, MJ and her friends, about once a month, will have a girls night out. A few weeks ago they went to see “Solo” (they liked it), and eat dinner at a local restaurant. MJ had the prime rib, and she brought the leftover rib and a container of the jus back for me. I’d already had dinner, but I’m always ready to go the extra meal. I didn’t use much of the jus, so the rest of it, the leftover leftovers if you will, became breakfast.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one third cup of jus, two thirds cup of beef  broth, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, no salt, because the jus is salty enough. Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats. Add the potatoes at the end.

Results: Very good. Very beefy. Very whatever it is they put in the beef juice to make jus. I’m willing to order prime rib again, just to have this for breakfast again. You can go heavier on the potato flakes, but what makes this so good is the beef graviness of it.

Rating: *****

Green Thumb Up My Nose

July 24, 2018

Garden Report for 180724

Starting to get some results, but not enough to build a new yield table yet. First, we had a couple of zucchini. Good in salads. Two more coming along, which means we’re already running behind.

Next, three tomatoes! Yay!!

The crimson tide begins

From left to right, a giant Beefsteak (100g), a gianter Hybrid Beefsteak (150g), and a cute little Champion (250g). No, I don’t know the difference between the Hybrid and the regular Beefsteaks. We ate the Champion yesterday. Bit of a letdown. Mealy and watery. I had been watering every other day, which may explain it. I’ve gone to every three days, and we’ll see.


TLDR — Anime I never finished, Summer 2018

July 20, 2018

I currently have 23 anime on my tentative watchlist — new for the summer, and second coeur holdovers — plus three or four rewatches. Obviously, my moe-meter can’t stand this level of watchery, and I’m going to have to drop some of them. Not that I wouldn’t drop these, even on a light schedule. Three harem, one angst, and one comedic failure, all eminently droppable.

How not to summon a demon lord

So, slavery isn’t bad if it’s cute girls and you’re in a culture that approves of such things and the enthralled ladies say they like you. It’s not like you’re keeping them in a home-made dungeon in your basement with your wife complaining about you spending all your time in the storage room, and besides, it’s high summer and too hot for me to go outside.

A wannabe Overlord, with no demonic minions and no castle. I’ve read parts of the light novel, and it’s actually better than the anime adaptation.

Master of Ragnarok
He’s about to propose to her

It’s great to be in another world, with your smartphone, where you can lord it over the ignorant savages and have busty ladies rub themselves all over you. Wait. That’s been done. Why are we doing it again? So we can have the ladies call you “big brother”?

Another one where the light novel was better than the anime adaptation. But not so good that I’d want to keep reading it.


Yet another harem. Except it’s set in this world, not the next. All the girls look like they’re fifteen years old. Except for the one who looks like she’s eight. There’s amnesia, and strange diseases, and stranger prophecies.

Based on a galgame, which, thankfully, I haven’t had a chance or the inclination to play.

Planet With

Three-way plot, between amnesia-stricken boy raised by a maid and a monster cat, a group of seven superheros, and an invading force of aliens with a lose grip on the concept of spelling. The boy is mad at everybody. The superheros keep losing to the boy after beating the invaders. The invaders are never around long enough to say what they want. About the only thing going for it is the cool mecha designs. And we never learn what ‘with’ is. With fries?

Jashin-chan Dropkick

We end with one that wants to be Gabriel Dropout, only, you know, edgier, and with more cartoon violence. Sort of a Doga Kobo meets Looney Tunes. Bunch of demons in a six mat apartment, plus goth-loli human, and an angel who lost her halo and can’t go home without it.

Snake demon keeps trying to kill goth-lolli human, but keeps getting sliced and diced instead. Did you know snake tail goes good in hot pot? Did you care?

The limits of algorithms

July 19, 2018

Every now and then, my Twitter feed throws up a warning about the content of an incoming tweet. It looks something like this:

[This media may contain sensitive material. Your media settings are configured to warn you when media may be sensitive.]

The trouble is, these warnings are based on some sort of image processing algorithm, what you might call a primitive AI. Very primitive. Here’s a screenshot* of what triggered my latest warning:

Only sensitive if you are a vegetarian

The algorithm also lets through some pretty NSFW images, but I won’t show you those. Get your own tweet stream.

*Today is the “Day of the Ox” in Japan, and the poster is saying that they are going to eat beef today. Actually, you are supposed to eat eels.