Girls und Panzer, the Anzio OVA

October 2, 2015

I finally got to see the Anzio battle via an English fansub. The DVD I’d purchased off of Amazon was from Japan and didn’t have subtitles. I knew that when I bought it, and I said at the time that that wasn’t as much of a drawback as one might think, and this experience proves it. There was a little bit of Anchovy’s speech at the start, the girl spilling all Anzio’s secrets while she served up some omupasta, and a couple of one-liners here and there* that were better for having a translation available, but mostly it was sight gags and character reactions.

Thanks, but we figured that out already

Thanks, but we figured that out already

So my original recommendation remains — it almost certainly won’t be released in the US, but the Japanese version is still available. Buy it, you won’t regret it.

* And for those who didn’t pick up on the European names during the meeting at Hippo House where they mention famous opponents, Joe Ekins was a Firefly tank gunner in France who destroyed four tanks in one day, including three Tigers. One of his opponents on that day, 8 August 1944 near St. Aignan de Cramesnil, France may have been the German tank commander, Michael Wittmann, the 4th top scoring tank ace in history

Rehabilitating Chamberlain

September 30, 2015

Seventy-seven years ago today, an agreement was signed at Munich. Modern historians are coming around to the idea that, at the time, given the circumstances, without being influenced by 20/20 hindsight, it was probably the right thing to do. To appropriate the words of Churchill about the first stage of the war, it provided the needed time “till those who hitherto had been half blind were half ready.”

Green Thumb Up My Nose

September 28, 2015

Garden Report for 150928

Weather mostly around 70F, with one peak at 80F. Lows in the low 40’s.

The main garden tomatoes are starting to come in, as are the second wave zucchinis and the first of the summer squash (one good, two with BER). Blossom End Rot is rearing its head in a couple of places — some zucchinis have also succumbed, as have a couple of the deck Italian zucchinis (isn’t Italian zucchini a redundancy?). Pretty much all the amaranth is in blossom mode, but I might harvest a bunch of leaves anyway. Continuing closeouts. Took down the hops. Having them grow on a bird net worked out well. I didn’t even have to get up on a ladder. Just took the long branch-trimmer and slipped it off of the soffit hooks.

The main garden tomatoes are coming in larger than the container ones — 3-5oz each, instead of 2-3oz. I can see lots of green ones back in the jungle, so if the frosts hold off we shouldn’t have to hunt for a red October.

I think the high heat in mid-summer killed a lot of blossoms, and the more moderate temps of late August have re-started the process. Which is why BER is still a problem, and we have about six, thumb-sized, spaghetti squash developing.

Finally, the tomatoes.

Finally, the tomatoes.

Here’s the latest scoreboard.

Week Ending 9/28 Vegetable Count Weight oz Unit Weight oz Total Total Weight lb
Tomato 36 92 2.5  326 31.75
Bush Buttercup  5  5.0
Zucchini 1  22  22  18 21
Summer Squash 1 8 8 1 0.5
Butternut  2  3.2
Cuke 1  3.7  3.7  29  5.9
Spaghetti  4  8.75
Pie Pumpkin  4  5.6
Beans  –  –  –  –  4.0
Peas  –  –  – 1.0
bell peppers  3  0.85

Grand Total: 87.6lb

This time last year we also had 87lbs of produce, except by now we had twice the weight in tomatoes, but very few squash. In 2013, we peaked out at 51lbs in mid-September, not counting the 20lb jack-o-lantern pumpkin. Our current jack-o-lantern is starting to turn color, but it’s very small. As in, we’ll do better hollowing out a lemon cucumber.

The intellectual implosion of the GOP

September 27, 2015

A couple of weeks ago, Paul Krugman had an item in the NYT titled Charlatans, Cranks, and Apparatchiks, on the kind of people who support Jeb! Bush’s tax policies. He also had a link to a great comment on how they got started:

There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.

Anime Preview Fall 2015

September 26, 2015

Every body else is doing an anime Fall Preview, so why not I?

Unlike the 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 (Diabolik Lovers, Seraph of the End), kids stuff (Pokemon, Zodiac), movies and OVA’s (with one exception, AKA GaruPan), and anything I can’t tell if it’s a series, an OVA, or a short (Letters From Dead Dogs).

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

1. The Corpse Buried Beneath Sakurako's Feet Interesting title, adult-looking person, no mechas

1. The Corpse Buried Beneath Sakurako’s Feet
Interesting title, adult-looking person, no mechas

2. Owarimonogatari Hey, it's Monogatari

2. Owarimonogatari

Hey, it’s Monogatari

3. Lupin III Hey, it's Lupin!

3. Lupin III

Hey, it’s Lupin!

4. GaruPan, the movie Hey, etc...

4. GaruPan, the movie

Hey, etc…

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

1. Young Black Jack White coat and pens, he's a doctor. Scar .... he's a zombie?

1. Young Black Jack
White coat and pens, he’s a doctor. Scar …. he’s a zombie?

Victorian Europe?

2. The Empire of Corpses
 Victorian Europe?

Hokusai's daughter paints waves, and Fujis. Her name appears to be 'Myrtle'.

3. Sarusuberi: Miss Hokusai
Hokusai’s daughter paints waves and Fujis. Her given name appears to be ‘Myrtle’.

4. Perfect Insider But what's the inside and what's the outside?

4. Perfect Insider

But what’s the inside and what’s the outside?

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

The eyes have it

1. Kamisama Minarai
Those eyes. Just look at those eyes

Mecha piloted by young high school girls

2. Heavy Object
Mecha piloted by young high school girls

Mecha, magic horses, and lolis -- Sturiku three, outo!

3. Lance N Masks
Mecha, magic horses, and lolis — Sturiku three, outo!

Too many characters, goth lolis

4. K: Return of Kings
Too many characters, goth lolis

Obvious harem, and he looks like a butler

5. Gakusen Toshi Asterisk (Urban School Battle *)
Obvious harem, and he looks like a butler

Another harem. You can ride my sword any day.

6. Failed Cavalry Knight
Another harem. You can ride my sword any day.

Harem involving four girls and a big pigeon

7. Utawarerumono: False Mask
Harem involving four girls and a big pigeon

Guy riding a Nausicaä hoverboard, with a busty, obvious childhood friend and an alien, possibly a comet-person. Pursued by a pirate

8. Comet Lucifer
Guy riding a Nausicaä hoverboard, with a busty, obvious childhood friend and an alien, possibly a comet-person. Pursued by a pirate

Thousand-year-old pre-teen loli bath-house attendant

9. Onsen Fairy Hakone-chan
Thousand-year-old magical pre-teen loli bath-house attendant

10. One Punch Man That head. Just look at that head.

10. One Punch Man
That head. Just look at that head.

…and 33 more that didn’t even make the “I won’t watch” cut.

TacOatmeal Boat

September 24, 2015

Last night, MJ made an experimental recipe — half a spaghetti squash shell, used as a baking boat and filled with the squash innards, plus a handful of miniature  frozen Swedish meatballike things, a halfcup or so of salsa, a halfcup or so of black beans, and the remnants of a package of taco seasonings. Baked for a bit, and finished off with a sprinkle of cheese on the top (toasted under the broiler). Most excellent, and there was mix left over.

I used about a third of a cup (minus the meatballs), so that makes it an oatmeal extender, rather than just an ingredient.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, third of a cup of spaghetti squash taco bean mix, one cup of broth (beef), salt.  Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats.

Results: Very good. Put some cheese on top, but didn’t finish it off under the broiler.

Rating: *****

Green Thumb Up My Nose

September 20, 2015

Garden Report for 150921

Weather similar to last week. Cool start (~62F), warm and windy end (~74F), cool forecast (~60F). Lows in the low 40’s.

Harvested one each pie pumpkin, spaghetti squash, and hanging bush buttercup. Another couple of lemon cukes, and not a lot of not very big tomatoes, and the remaining bell pepper from out front, and that was it.

The three summer squash still haven’t progressed much beyond fat finger size. Ditto for three Italian zucchini on the deck. Some of the tomatoes in Section 1 are starting to break color. Hoping for some ripe ones next week. Amaranth keep on keeping on. Meanwhile, we have the start of some Santa Maria beans. Harvest isn’t for another three weeks or so.

First Beans

First Beans

Closed out the golden cherry tomatoes on the deck. Not impressed. The hanging tomatoes will go next week.

Here’s the latest scoreboard.

Week Ending 9/21 Vegetable Count Weight oz Unit Weight oz Total Total Weight lb
Tomato 26 24  0.92  290 26
Bush Buttercup  1 13.2 13.2  5  5.0
Zucchini  17 19.5
Butternut  2  3.2
Cuke  2  3.2 1.6  28  5.7
Spaghetti  1 20  20  4  8.75
Pie Pumpkin  1  30  30  4  5.6
Beans  –  –  –  –  4.0
Peas  –  –  – 1.0
bell peppers 3  13.5  4.5  3  0.85

Grand Total: 79.6lb

This time last year we had 78.85lbs of produce, almost the same as this year, except by now we had twice the weight in tomatoes, but very few squash. In 2013, we only had about 51lbs, not counting the 20lb jack-o-lantern pumpkin.

MJ brought home some tomatoes from friends in the dog club. Their smallest were about the size of our largest. Their largest weren’t beefsteaks, but they were of a size suitable for slicing onto a hamburger bun. Not sure what our problem is. More sun? More fertilizer? More water?

Strawberry-Banana Oatmeal Extender

September 17, 2015

I have written about bananas and oatmeal a couple times before, but mostly about banana chips. What about a real banana? Keep in mind that a real banana is a massive thing, as oatmeal additives go, so what we are really talking about here is using a banana as an oatmeal extender.

MJ had a banana left over from a dog trip. It was exceedingly brown on the outside, and anyone’s guess about the inside. What the heck. Let’s try it.

Turns out, it wasn’t that bad on the inside. A couple of light brown spots, and the texture was crumbly-mashable. Icky to eat in your hand, precarious if you ate it from the peel, good tasting if you ate it on your plate. I put it in a 50/50 mix of apple juice and beef broth. Apple juice wants to dominate things, and it tastes surprisingly sour when cooked.

Halfway through the cooking process, I remembered that we still had a box of strawberries left from our next-to-latest Follow The Harvest delivery (organic freshfruity things hand delivered every week)*. They were pretty far gone, but not inedible. Sort of. I cut up about half of them and dumped them in towards the end. Call it half a cup. Added a tablespoon of sugar. Cooked the whole mess for 15min insted of 10.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one really ripe banana (mashed in the pot), half a cup of really ripe strawberries (mashed in the pot), half cup of broth, half cup of apple juice, salt (yes, it needs salt — it’s oatmeal).  Cook for 15 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats.

Results: Very good, but it needed something. Maybe cinnamon on top. Came out surprisingly soupy. I guess both the banana and the strawberries had more internal water than I credited them with. Next time maybe just half a cup of apple juice.

Rating: *****

*They only delivered the strawberries, not the banana, sorry.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

September 13, 2015

Garden Report for 150914

Cool start (62F), warm and windy end (92F), cool forecast (62F). Lows in the low 40’s.

A rogue zucchini turned up in the jungle, right after I put three of its siblings in the dehydrator. Another handful of lemon cukes, and not a lot of not very big tomatoes, and that was it.

Meanwhile, there’s one each pie pumpkin, spaghetti squash, and hanging bush buttercup getting ready for next week or so. Three summer squash that haven’t progressed beyond fat finger size. Ditto for three Italian zucchini on the deck.

Trimmed a bunch of leaves off the non-flowering amaranth and stir fried them with garlic. Not bad, in a collard greens sort of way. As with the other greens, these cooked down to a tenth their volume. Another few weeks and some of them will be producing seeds.

Here’s the latest scoreboard, such as it is.

Week Ending 9/14 Vegetable Count Weight oz Unit Weight oz Total Total Weight lb
Tomato 17 24  1.4  264 24.5
Bush Buttercup  4  3.2
Zucchini  1 40  40  17 19.5
Butternut  2  3.2
Cuke  4  13 3.25  26  5.5
Spaghetti  3  7.5
Pie Pumpkin  3  3.7
Beans  –  –  –  –  4.0
Peas  –  –  – 1.0

Grand Total: 72.1lb

This time last year we had 74lbs of produce, and in 2013, as near as I can figure out, we only had about 38lbs, due mostly to the lack of pumpkins.

Cataracts, Part 2

September 13, 2015

So, the first part of this two part series described my adventures in cataractland. This part will be much more opinionated, describing lessons learned. Note that this just me, non-MD talking, and my impressions and conclusions may be wrong.

Scheduling: It took the equivalent of one academic quarter to get through all the hoops. Most of this time I was fully functional, although it sometimes took an effort to do the work. My eyes felt tired, and often gritty. There’s drops for that. I could have taught school while this was going on, but there were times when it wouldn’t have been any fun.

Eye tuning: Cataract surgery essentially turns your infinite focus eyeball into a fixed focus opto-mechanical system. They can tune the focus of each eyeball, but when they’re done, you’re stuck. It’s an irrevocable decision. Squinting won’t help. In broadest terms, your choices are Near, Intermediate, and Far.  Near is good for reading all but the small print. Intermediate is good for getting around indoors, and Far is focused on infinity, so you can be the outdoorsman you always wanted to be.

Many people decide on Far for both eyes, or Near for both eyes. When they do that it means they will require glasses for reading (Far) or for driving (Near). Some people decide on Far for one eye, and Near for the other, so they can operate in any situation. I’m not particularly outdoorsy, so I decided on Intermediate for one, and Near for the other. Probably wrong, but I think my doctor did me a favor and fudged a little — he set the Intermediate range long enough that I could pass the WA state drivers exam without glasses. First time in my life. Read the rest of this entry »

Cataracts, Part 1

September 12, 2015

About five years or so ago I started to develop cataracts, not unusual for my time of life. My glasses got stronger and stronger, until the doctor said that we’d done as much as we could, and it was time to operate. I didn’t particularly like that idea. I mean, it’s my eyes, mon. You don’t mess with my eyes. I’d be perfectly happy to live out my life as a brain in a jar, as long as I had one eye to read with, and a finger to turn the pages. I mean, I never considered lasik surgery and continued wearing coke-bottle glasses for decades, because…eyes.

But after a while it became obvious that my vision was going bad…der. When it got to the point that I couldn’t reliably read the titles on my bookshelf, I told the doc I was ready. This is a summary of what went on. I decided to wait and write it all up at once, rather than treating this blog like it was FaceBook.

First thing was scheduling. I wanted to have it after the end of the school year, so it wouldn’t interfere with my teacherly duties. That meant I had to get an extra eye exam, because Medicare says I need one within X weeks of the operation. I can see that. It lets them make sure that you haven’t come down with some horrible eye-dissolving disease in the meantime. So the first operation got pushed into mid-June.

Once the process starts, its pretty structured: operation, one-day postop, one week postop; wait three weeks, operation, one-day postop, one week postop; wait a month, final eye exam, order new glasses. If you keep track on your fingers, you will note that this takes most of the summer. It was the end of August before my new glasses came. Read the rest of this entry »

Patriot Day

September 11, 2015

As I have written before, Patriot Day is a sham and a scam, a fraud perpetrated by the criminals who highjacked the true meaning in order to increase their own power. The only real winner in the fourteen years since the founding event was Osama Bin Laden. If he had written the script, he couldn’t have come up with this good of an outcome. I’m not alone in thinking this. Here’s Tom Engelhardt on the topic.

And here is Bob Cringely, fourteen years ago, making some very cogent predictions.


September 10, 2015

Bought a box of fresh chives a few days ago, for use in some Japanese meals I was trying. Trouble with fresh chives is that they go off very fast, and the remnants in this box were looking decidedly peak-ed. So I took out three or four of them — its a 7″ box with them folded over, so maybe a yard and a half. Using scissors, I cut them into quarter inch chunks and mixed them into some beef broth before putting in the oatmeal.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, a few feet of fresh chives, cut up, one cup of broth, salt.  Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats.  Add the chives at the start and the potato when you take it off the stove.

Results: Very good. Chives in every bite. The chivey-ness was muted, and set off the beef flavor very well. Some added pepper helped.

Rating: *****

Green Thumb Up My Nose

September 6, 2015

Garden Report for 150907

This week was positively autumnal, with starting highs in the 60’s and a cold, rainy end. Saturday saw 24hrs at 50F+/-1 and about a third of an inch of rain, followed by a low of 44. Next week is supposed to be back in the 80’s. Temperature one foot down in the KHG was 65F.

Amaranth photobombs beans

Amaranth photobombs beans

Another small harvest: handful of lemon cucumbers and a couple pounds of tomatoes. No zucchinis, but that’s OK because we still have three or four monsters in the fridge. Our summer squash finally looks like it will be producing. Should call it autumn squash. One of the tomatoes was a proper-looking 5oz yellow brandywine. Tons of green tomatoes still in the garden, so mid-September should see an avalanche.

The Santa Maria beans are doing OK, as you can see. No actual beans yet, but harvest isn’t due for another month.

Planted two kinds of peas. Both mature in about 70 days (mid-November). Sugar Snap Pole for pod eating, Wando for mature peas.

Here’s the latest scoreboard, such as it is.

Week Ending 9/07 Vegetable Count Weight oz Unit Weight oz Total Total Weight lb
Tomato 26 33  1.3  247 23
Bush Buttercup  4  3.2
Zucchini  16 17
Butternut  2  3.2
Cuke  4  11 2.75  22  4.7
Spaghetti  3  7.5
Pie Pumpkin  3  3.7
Beans  –  –  –  –  4.0
Peas  –  –  – 1.0

Grand Total: 67.3lb

This time last year we had 59lbs of produce, and in 2013, as near as I can figure out, we only had about 20lbs, due mostly to the lack of pumpkins.

Pumpkin Oats

September 3, 2015

This is becoming semi-traditional. Last year I wrote about using canned pumpkin in oatmeal (OK). Two years before that I wrote about pumpkin spice and pumpkin liquer in oatmeal (bad). This year, it’s real pumpkin (pretty good).

We’ve been harvesting our pie pumpkins as the orange comes along. Three of them so far. They are small enough (bigger than a softball, but not by a lot) that you can think of them as single serving. MJ cooked up two of them, flavored with taco spices. Very good. There was a quarter cup left over.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, quarter cup or so of taco-flavored pumpkin, 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. The taco spices added just the bit of zest the very mild pumpkin needed.

Rating: *****

World War II in the Pacific: A 70th Anniversary Retrospective

September 2, 2015


So, now it’s late Summer, 1945, and the Japanese Empire is on its last legs. The Navy has been destroyed, the Army is mostly trapped in China and Burma, their merchant marine has been sunk. The American B-29’s have been fire-bombing almost every city in the country, against almost no resistance from the Japanese Air Force. The time had come to invade the Home Islands.

Invasion was a costly alternative, but we didn’t have any particular reason to believe other options were workable. A blockade might starve them out, but there was no assurance of that. Besides, the result would be to have the Japanese grudgingly admit that they’d lost, to bargain for a less than unconditional surrender, and to leave future generations open to a “stabbed in the back” theory, like Germany after WWI. An invasion was the only way to convince the Japanese that they really had lost the war.

The cost was going to be horrific, on both sides. We estimated there’d be a million Allied casualties, and upwards of five million Japanese casualties. Japanese plans were to defend the Home Islands the way they did Okinawa and Iwo Jima — a defense in depth by soldiers who would have to be dug out and killed one by one. What we didn’t know was the extent to which the civilian population would be involved. Males were inducted into home defense units. Women and school children were shown how to tie a knife to a broomstick and attack allied infantry. Another thing that we didn’t know was Japanese preparations for kamikaze operations.

At the start of the US bombing campaign, the Japanese high command had decided to hide their remaining aircraft in protected shelters and rail tunnels, and to reserve enough aviation gasoline to fly 6000 one-way sorties. What Curtis LeMay thought of as a weakness that allowed him to bomb from low altitude was actually an iron determination to strike as hard a blow at the invasion fleet as possible. And it would be a hard blow. Although we looked on the kamikaze pilots as fanatics, they were actually patriots, doing their final duty. Using kamikaze tactics during the battles for Iwo Jima and Okinawa, the Japanese put more US ships out of the war, with fewer losses to themselves, per ship sunk or damaged, than they did with any of their more conventional campaigns.

In addition, southern Japan does not have that much coastland and hinterland suitable for an amphibious invasion. The Japanese High Command predicted almost exactly when and where we would invade, and had distributed their forces accordingly — an initial foothold on Kyushu Island, followed by an invasion of Honshu, with landings on either side of Tokyo Bay. Much of the land behind the beaches is shown as agricultural (rice paddies), but that doesn’t mean it is level. The paddies are enclosed in dikes, and in many cases are stepped in terraces. From a tactical standpoint, this means that tanks crossing the dikes and terraces will have their vulnerable undersides exposed to the defenders.

But, we had The Bomb. We had choices on how to use it, but little assurance that anything short of destroying a city would convince the holdouts in the Japanese military and government. Using it would be horrific (I know, that’s the third time I’ve used that phrase), but consider that we had already destroyed a greater area of the three largest cities in Japan than we did in all of the cities of Germany. The only difference here would be that we were doing it with one bomb in one instant, rather than waves of bombers over several days. It was a terrible weapon, and we had to demonstrate to the world what a terrible weapon it was. Even then, it still took over a week, and a second bomb, for the Japanese government to actually admit to defeat.  They signed the articles of surrender seventy years ago today.

In The Prisoner and the Bomb, Laurens van der Post, an Afrikaner officer imprisoned in Indonesia, said that the prison camp guards seemed to be working themselves up to something at the end of July and the beginning of August. The prisoners believed there was going to be a massacre. But after the bombs had dropped, the guards attitude changed, becoming almost resigned. The use of the atomic bomb, and the way it was used, finally convinced even the most fanatical holdouts that Japan had been well and truly defeated. And it convinced the world that we had to do something to limit their use.

World War II in the Pacific: A 70th Anniversary Retrospective

September 1, 2015


And so now we come to the attack on Pearl Harbor and America’s entrance into the Pacific War. As I’ve discussed in previous essays on the topic, much of the action was driven by the needs and blunders of the Japanese Army. The Japanese Navy was much less enthusiastic about the project, although they did not try very hard to stop it.

The Japanese logic was straightforward, though misinformed. The US (the world’s largest oil producer) had just cut off their total supply of oil. There was only about two years supply left in-country — two years for the Navy, if everyone else was starved of it. The US demand was simple, total withdrawal from China. The implications, which the US did not consider, were that Japan would become a client state of the US, and give up its aspirations to become a world-class nation. Better to go down fighting than acquiesce to that kind of abject surrender.

If Japan was to become independent in oil (does this have a modern ring to it? has the irony sunk in?), they would have to take it from someone, and the Dutch and British possessions were closest. So it was war with the UK and Holland.

But the UK was a close ally of the US, particularly in the Pacific. If Japan attacked the UK possessions there, the US would surely come into the war to support their ally. So it was war with the US. The Japanese (or at least those Army officers with the most clout) didn’t know that isolationist opinion in the US would have made it difficult to declare war without an overt attack on US forces, so they decided to make one.

Surprise attacks are a long-honored samurai tradition, retained into the modern age. The Russo-Japanese war started with a surprise bombardment of Port Arthur. The Japanese wanted to knock the US back on its heels for a year, while they ran wild across the Western and Central Pacific. Then they’d be able to negotiate from a position of strength. In fact, it was the one thing that would ensure a unified American response.

The combat portion of the Pacific War is shortly told. The IJN carrier strike forces ran roughshod over their enemies for six months, sailing one-third of the way around the globe, destroying ships and facilities from Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, to Colombo, Ceylon. Probably the single greatest naval campaign in history. Their run came to an end at the Battle of Midway, and they never recovered from the loss of ships and aircrews. The first nine months combat used up most of the aircraft carriers on both sides, and there was an eighteen month lull in carrier warfare while both sides rebuilt.

The Army, meanwhile, either retained most of it’s combat troops in China (to defend their gains or protect against a Russian invasion), or committed them to the campaign in Burma, in an attempt to split India off from the Allies. Fewer than twenty army divisions defended the islands between the US and the Home Islands. Because of this, the Army lost what was essentially a slow-motion meeting engagement on Guadalcanal, and was forced back and back by US ground forces, supported by superior naval and air firepower. One of the reasons for their losses was the fact that they had only fought the Chinese for the last quarter century, and had no idea what a modern Western army could do.

Through defeat after defeat, however, they were able to hone an effective, though not successful, defensive strategy. Rather than attempting to stop an invasion at the water’s edge, they opted for a defense in depth, relying on the stubborn determination of the Japanese infantryman to hold every position until the end, and in doing so, bleed the invading force with horrific casualties. They refined this approach at Iwo Jima and Okinawa, and their preparations for an archipelago-wide battle to the death was one of the considerations in our decision to drop the atomic bomb.

World War II in the Pacific: A 70th Anniversary Retrospective

August 31, 2015


Imagine if England had retained the tradition of knights in shining armour into the mid-1800’s. Imagine if the UK had remained as it was in the mid-1400’s, with a weak king and strong barons. Imagine if Queen Victoria was the first English monarch in seven hundred years to actually rule the United Kingdom. Now, jump ahead fifty years, and imagine what British society might be like half a century later. You now have an idea of what Japan was like at the beginning of the last Century.

Japan was always a militaristic society, in a knights in shining armour way. For almost their entire history this militarism was aimed inwards, with more or less continuous Wars of the Roses style fighting between rival clans and warlords using small armies of samurai, or with indian wars in the north, to pacify the Ainu. Unification of the country in the 1600’s under one chief warlord (Shogun) suppressed the fighting, and converted the samurai to a governing civil service (while not decreasing their militaristic ethos). The rise of a national army, in post-Meiji Japan, gave an outlet for those who yearned for more than trusted places in the bureaucracy. By the start of the 20th Century, Japanese society could still be classified as militaristic, but not in a nostalgic way. Large parts of it embraced the militarism that would later lead Europe into two World Wars.

And now we come to the place where hubris evokes nemesis. In the first essay in this series, the Japanese had gained control of agricultural Taiwan and Korea, and had established a sphere of influence in the Liaodong Peninsula. Occupation of resource-rich Manchuria had earned them the censure of the League of Nations, but no economically important countermeasures. It did, however, kick off continuing clashes with Chinese forces, which the Japanese generally won. If they had stopped there, they might have consolidated, grown, and prospered. They didn’t.

In 1937 the Japanese army in China, which by now was pretty much out of control, exploited, or manufactured, several incidents, that lead to an all out war with the Kuomintang (KMT) government, and a parallel guerrilla war coordinated by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). At the start of the war, the Japanese army totaled 17 divisions. By the time of Pearl Harbor, approximately 35 out of 51 divisions, and 38 out of 39 independent brigades were committed in China. Japan managed to occupy a number of the major cities — Shanghai, Nanjing, Wuhan — but had less luck pacifying the country in between.

The start of the Second Sino-Japanese War threatened Western business interests in China. That, combined with the associated Japanese atrocities against Chinese civilians, well reported by the US Christian missionaries in-country, provided the basis for US support for the KMT. Initially, there were no overt actions against Japan directly. Diplomatic objections were raised. Loans were made available to buy military equipment and supplies for the Chinese army, much of which was delivered through Haiphong, in French Indochina, and thence via rail to Yunnan. So far, the Japanese were still ahead in the game. This lasted for three years.

We now begin a series of escalatory tit-for-tats, each of which, on its own and viewed narrowly, was perfectly logical. The problem was, the Japanese army was bogged down in China. They were looking at a scaled up version of what the US faced in VietNam — a patriotic people, fighting on their own ground, with continuing resupply from an untouchable sanctuary. Ultimately, it would lose somewhere between one and two million casualties there. Probably half of those were suffered by late 1940. The solution was, of course, to close off the resupply. By September of that year French Indochina was in the hands of the neutral Vichy government, and the Japanese tried to get them to close the rail line through diplomatic pressure. They refused, and the Japanese staged an amphibious landing south of Haiphong, as well as moving ground troops across the border at Lang Son, closing the railway. The US reaction was to halt all sales of scrap iron (75% of Japan’s supply), machine tools, and aviation gasoline, one step short of a total trade embargo. This lead the Japanese to make plans to obtain their own oil, by seizing the British oil fields in Borneo, and the Dutch oil fields in Indonesia. They took the next step in July of 1941, by occupying the southern half of French Indochina, putting their aircraft in range of Dutch and UK targets. The US froze all Japanese assets, and instituted a complete trade embargo, including all exports of oil to Japan. The final stage was set.

Throughout all of this, the US demonstrated an almost complete lack of understanding of the Japanese goals and values. In fact, US actions continuously confirmed the Japanese understanding of the West. Immigration restrictions were informally imposed on the Japanese in 1907, and formalized in the Immigration Act of 1924. As early as 1895 the European powers had ganged up on Japan to roll back major provisions of the Treaty of Shimonoseki, which ended the First Sino-Japanese War. The Washington Naval Treaty of 1922 limited Japan to the short end of a 5:5:3 ratio in battleships. And now the US was adopting a hard line withdraw from China and then we’ll talk approach. The Japanese were faced with unconditional surrender and acceptance of a second class existence as a client state of a nation that despised them, or a war that might allow them to achieve at least some of their goals, or that might end in ruin for the nation. What’s a proud samurai to do?

Green Thumb Up My Nose

August 30, 2015

Garden Report for 150831

Warm start (upper 80’s) but an autumnal end, with lows in the low 50’s, rain, and gusty winds that blew away the smoke from the burning WA.

Light harvest this week. I think it’s because all the blossoms that would have created the squash and tomatoes were killed off in the heat wave earlier. Things are still flowering, so I have hope for September. There is one young spaghetti squash coming along, about the size of a Nerf football. Sunday afternoon I found another pie pumpkin, still green, hiding in the jungle, but that’s a harvest for a latter day.

The lone amaranth is head-high and just starting to flower. The rest are still knee-high, in leaf harvest/stir fry mode.

One Big Amaranth

The big amaranth is protected by the beans and the shade trees, but the knee-highs on the deck are being beaten about by the winds. I can see where growing this stuff is a lot like growing corn — one good storm could wipe you out.

Amaranth Flower

Harvested three big zucchini and a handful of lemon cukes, plus one lone curved regular cucumber that I don’t remember planting.  A bunch of small tomatoes. Enough lettuce for salad every day. MJ has gone wild with her veggie noodleizer. It’s really a good way to do zucchini. I find if I slice them and cook them, the way my Zucchanite grandmother did, then the seedy interior gets overcooked and the outer bits are underdone. Or the outer bits are overcooked (easy to do), and the centers are way overcooked. The noodleizer pushes the unwanted center bits out the bottom, and the z-noodles are easy to get just right. We’ve been having them raw in salads, or fried with tomatoes (ours) and onions (boughten).

Here’s the latest scoreboard, such as it is.

Week Ending 8/31 Vegetable Count Weight oz Unit Weight oz Total Total Weight lb
Tomato  27 33  1.2  201 21
Bush Buttercup  4  3.2
Zucchini 3 64 21  16 17
Butternut  2  3.2
Cuke  7  23  3.3  18  4.0
Spaghetti  3  7.5
Pie Pumpkin  3  3.7
Beans  –  –  –  –  4.0
Peas  –  –  – 1.0

Grand Total: 64.6lb

This time last year we had 58lbs of produce, and in 2013, as near as I can figure out, we only had about 14lbs, due mostly to the lack of pumpkins.

French Onion Oats

August 27, 2015

About three months ago I wrote about using leftover grilled onions in my oatmeal. The trouble is, waiting for leftovers is a mug’s game, and creating leftovers is too much like cooking for my taste. Enter pre-fried onions, as in French’s French Fried Onions, available wherever fine processed foods are sold. I’m not sure what makes them French Fried — they’re really just fried breaded onion slices. In shape, they’re the onion equivalent of mushroom pieces and stems — the detritus left over from making onion rings. But they are flavorsome, and they keep, and they’re handy for breakfast.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, two heaping dinner teaspoons of FFFO’s, small grab handful of shredded cheese for the bottom of the bowl, somewhat larger handful for the top, one cup of broth, salt.  Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats.

Results: Quit edible. Not quite French Onion Soup, but close. I guess if you wanted to you could use a slab of cheese for the top, and stick it under the broiler for a second.

Rating: *****

WA Smokes

August 25, 2015

Our AQI continues to seesaw up and down. On Sunday and Monday it peaked in the 165 range. Today it was only in the 150’s, and tonight it’s down around 90.  Here’s the latest AQI maps and forecast. The AQI Loop is the most useful.

Slow improvement today

Slow improvement today

Sunday night we had a deep red-orange demon moon. Monday it was our familiar silver quarter. And tonight, it’s barely showing through the clouds.

UPDATE: And here’s the WSU AIRPACT-4 smoke forecast.

World War II in the Pacific: A 70th Anniversary Retrospective

August 25, 2015


“World War II” is a collective term, encompassing a number of different conflicts that took place just prior to the mid-20th Century, in a number of different places, involving a number of different combatants, over a number of different durations.

For the US, the war started, with Japan, in 1941. For the UK, the war started in 1939, against Germany. For the USSR, the Great Patriotic War started in 1940, against Germany, with the follow-on Soviet-Japanese War limited to August, 1945. And for the Japanese, the Greater East Asia War began with the Second Sino-Japanese war, between Japan and China, in 1937 and later spread to the Pacific War, between Japan and the US and its allies, from 1941 to 1945.

I’m not going to talk about WWII in Europe. The European War is much more straightforward, one might even say traditional. The ruler of a country (Hitler) embarked upon a program of conquest through a war of choice. With a different ruler, one can argue, Germany would most likely not have gone to war. From that standpoint the European War serves to validate the Great Man theory of history. On the other hand, the Pacific War is fascinating because it can be attributed to the inevitable clash of cultures and national objectives, the Blind Forces of History. No one man pushed the Japanese into what one author calls the war they could never win. It was the Japanese (and American) view of themselves (and the world), that caused it.

As I said in an earlier essay, most Americans have this vague  notion that Japan woke up one morning and decided to attack Pearl Harbor.  I mean, it was a dull Sunday, and they still didn’t have cable TV, right? Of course it was more complex than that.

Around the world, the late 19th and early 20th Centuries saw a burst of New Imperialism, mostly on the part of European nations and the US. In the Scramble for Africa, the UK, France, Germany and Italy carved up those parts of the continent not already colonized. At the same time, the defeat of China in the Opium Wars allowed the UK, France, Germany, and Russia to establish spheres of influence there. Japan got some concessions out of it, but was treated as a decidedly minor partner. The US was not as imperialist as the other countries, possibly because it was still busy colonizing the lands between St Louis and San Francisco, but it still managed to come into possession of Puerto Rico and the Philippines, and of course earlier it had used the armed might of its Black Ships to force Japan to open up to the West.

The lesson was clear:  If you didn’t want to be a colony, you had to be a modern, industrialized nation.  And to become an industrialized nation, you had to have resources, either your own or from your colonies. 

Japan, a backward and resource-poor nation, learned that lesson well, at the hands of Oliver Hazard Perry. As soon as they felt up to it, they set about becoming both modern and industrialized, which meant acquiring colonies.

Between 1894 and 1910 they fought one war with China and another with Russia, as well as engineering several short-of-war incidents*, in order to transform Korea from a Chinese vassal state to a Japanese colony. Along the way they succeeded in getting China to grant them control of the Liaodong peninsula but the major European powers ganged up on them and forced them to give it back. This was one more example, if they needed one, that European nations still looked down on all Asians, and that Japan would not get any respect from Europeans unless they forced it out of them.

The Russo-Japanese war was a disaster for Japan. They won every battle. They drove the Russian field armies back and back, from one well-prepared defensive position to another. They bottled the Russian Pacific Fleet and another Russian army into the area around Port Arthur, at the end of the Liaodong peninsula, and forced a surrender after a year-long siege. Five months later the final disaster occurred — the Battle of Tsushima. There, the Japanese fleet utterly destroyed the Russian Baltic Fleet, and brought an end to the war.

Why was this highly successful war an ultimate disaster? Because the Japanese military came to believe they were the equal of any of the Western powers, that the army that destroyed the Tsarist  armies, 4,000 rail miles from their home bases, and the navy that destroyed the Tsarist navy, 18,000 nautical miles from its home ports, in 1905, could prevail against Britain and the US in the 1940’s.

The Japanese came to believe that they were destined to become the dominant power in Asia, superseding both China and the West. No-one believed this more than the Japanese Army. They, more than any other group came to see this as what Americans would call their Manifest Destiny. Not only was Japan now technically and industrially equivalent to the West, they felt they were also morally superior as well.

At home, the Army terrorized all who stood in their way. Assassination was a time-honored solution to problems of opposition**, and they, or their supporters, murdered recalcitrant generals, admirals, and politicians, even Prime Ministers. Abroad, with Russia cowed, the Army-dominated government continued their efforts to subdue China. As Allied participants in WWI they gained control of former German colonies across the Pacific, and in China they unsuccessfully attempted to push out their Western allies as part of their 21 Demands.

In 1931 the Japanese army engineered the Mukden incident, and used it to justify seizing all of Manchuria and establishing the vassal state of Manchukuo, a 100% Japanese creation, three times the size of the Japanese home islands (with over ten times the arable land), known today primarily for its exports of postage stamps.

But in 1937 the Japanese Army committed a fatal error, one that lead ultimately to Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They started a land war in Asia.


*As with the US over the last fifty years, the Japanese used at least 17 incidents — violent events in China, some staged, some false flag operations — as excuses to increase military intervention there.

**In the clan conflicts of the late 1500s, which lead up to the unification of Japan, eight major figures fell to assassination, including Oda Nobunaga, and his brother, and the father, and grandfather of Tokugawa Ieyasu.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

August 23, 2015

Garden Report for 150824

Warm start (upper 80’s), cool end (upper 70’s), Beijing levels of air pollution in between (AQI 287). Don’t know if it helps plants to get their carbon in the form of airborne ash from 100 miles away, but if it does, the rest of the year should be great.

Did a major harvest sweep today. The spaghetti squash and the buttercupnuts seem to have stopped growing, so I harvested them, plus all tomatoes with any color to them.

Rounding up the squash

Rounding up the squash

Once again, I neglected my long beans, and they’ve gone all dried-beany on me. Found another monster Zucchini, so MJ wants to make more Z-spagh.

Harvested a bunch of Amaranth leaves and stir-fried them with garlic. Very earthy taste, as in “it tastes like fried dirt”. I’ll make one more effort, adding a bunch of unintelligible Indian spices, and then we’ll wait for the popcorn-like seeds.

Here’s the latest scoreboard.

Week Ending 8/17 Vegetable Count Weight oz Unit Weight oz Total Total Weight lb
Tomato  36 52  1.4  201 21
Bush Buttercup  4  51  12.7  4  3.2
Zuccini 3  44  15  13 13
Butternut  2  51  25.5  2  3.2
Cuke  5 21  4.2  11  2.5
Spaghetti  3  120  40  3  7.5
Pie Pumpkin  3  3.7
Beans  –  –  –  –  4.0
Peas  –  –  – 1.0

Grand Total: 59.1lb

This time last year we had 28lbs of foodstuffs, about a third of which was cabbage, which didn’t do well in this year’s heat. In 2013, there was not enough to report on.

WA Smokes

August 22, 2015

Not drugs. The wildfires along the east slope of the Cascades have been dumping smoke over to our side of the state. Here’s a MODIS shot from yesterday (21 August).

Red areas are active fires

Red areas are infra-red detected active fires


On the ground. Driving into Spokane, this is what it looked like:


Looking NorthEast

Eighteen hours later we were all clear, but you could still smell the smoke.


Looking SouthWest

Pretty much kept all the attendees at WorldCon 2015 inside.

Ramen alla Marinara Dashi Tonno

August 20, 2015

When I write about cooking, it’s mostly about oatmeal. Sometimes it’s about things you can put into oatmeal. And sometimes, not often, it’s about things you can put into things you put into oatmeal. This is one of those times.

I’ve written before about dashi, the seaweed/tuna broth that’s the basis for much Japanese cooking. I’ve even written about using it in oatmeal. This recipe is about using the leftovers.

As all followers of this blog know, the best way to make dashi at home is to soak one 2×2 slice of kombu seaweed, along with half a package of dried, shredded, katsuobushi tuna, in a quart of water overnight. In the morning, you heat it to the steaming point, remove the kombu, and let it cool. Then you strain out the katsuobushi, reserving it for other uses, and store the dashi in the fridge until the urge for miso cocktails strikes.

Well, one night I was just getting ready to heat the dashi mix for the next morning’s breakfast while wondering what I could do about dinner. MJ was off learning how to be a better judge of dogs, so I could experiment. There was a quarter jar of marinara sauce in the fridge that was going to go off soon. Suppose I mixed the katsuobushi tuna scrapings with the marinara sauce and put it on spaghetti? Suppose I mixed the katsuobushi tuna scrapings with the marinara sauce and put it on ramen? That would keep the Japanese influence strong, and I just happened to have half a case of ramen left from the last time I was in college.*

Setup: After leaving the dashi mix in the fridge overnight pour the entire works, broth, katsuobushi tuna, and kombu seaweed, into a two quart pot. Heat until steaming. Remove the kombu (don’t eat it, it’s like eating a wet suit ) and add a package of ramen. Ramen that is fresh-rolled by your obaa-san is best, but instant cup ramen is OK. Keep the mixture just below a simmer for five minutes. Strain the liquid — dashi plus ramen-starch — into a container. Dump the remaining ramen noodles mixed with katsuobushi tuna flakes into a bowl and cover with hot marinara sauce.

Results: Not bad. More like a good ramen lunch than a dinner. The ramen was a little dry-tasting (not crunchy-dry, just like it had soaked up all the marinara liquid). I’d do it again, but with more marinara, and, yes, spaghetti instead of ramen. The tuna mixed in nicely, for the most part. Be sure to divide up any clumps before you sauce it.

Rating: *****





Green Thumb Up My Nose

August 16, 2015

Garden Report for 150817

Hot start but a cool end. Two days at 100F, and then the front passed, with 40kt winds, and Saturday peaked at 77F.

Big harvest this week. Picked 64 tomatoes, totaling over 6 pounds. Turns out I was wrong about last week’s mulimato. I got another one this week — 12oz — so I dug down into the jungle to check on what it was (I am of the age that if I want to remember something I have to forget something else, and what I planted where doesn’t make the cut). It’s a Yellow Brandywine, well known for large fruit. Except I’ve never had a Brandywine of any kind actually produce large fruit. I may be forgiven for last week’s mistake, because this one also looked like six small tomatoes fused into one. So far the flesh has been a little mealy and the flavor only so-so. The yellows on the deck are Lemon Boys. They are normal sized, and tart. No more Yellow Brandywines for me. Interestingly, the standard Brandywines, right next to the Yellows, are coming in at about 3oz each.

Speaking of monsters, I found two monster Zucchini hiding in the jungle, almost two pounds each. I realize that isn’t monster as far as Zucchini go — gardeners in the UK are proud of growing ones you can live in, if you don’t have a lot of possessions — but it’s way bigger than I want. Sliced them up and stuck them on the dehydrator for my famous Z-dust oatmeal. A third one was more normal, and we’ll probably salad that one.

Also harvested several feet of long beans, some of which had already started to mature into their dry bean state. Looks like I’ll have to keep after them on a daily basis. On another note, we haven’t been eating our green beans fast enough, and some of them have gone off. The usual advice is to freeze them, but the freezer is so packed we’d have to freeze them individually and poke them into the crevices. Everybody’s out of town for pre-Labor Day vacations so I can’t even give them away.

Planted some more amaranth and greens in Section 3, plus a bunch of thyme in Section 4. I’ll use that as a cover crop into the winter.

Here’s the latest scoreboard.

Week Ending 8/17 Vegetable Count Weight oz Unit Weight oz Total Total Weight lb
Tomato  64  132  2.1  165 17.8
Zuccini 3  86  29  10 10.3
Cuke  6  1.22
Pie Pumpkin  3  3.7
Beans  –  –  –  –  4.0
Peas  –  –  – 1.0

Grand Total:30.5lb

This time last year we had 26lbs of foodstuffs, about a third of which was cabbage, which didn’t do well in this year’s heat. In 2013, there was not enough to report on.

Zucchini Oats

August 13, 2015

Get a cup of coffee, because this will take a while.

It’s high summer and the Zucchini are running, a relentless green tsunami that will soon carry away kitchen counters, refrigerators, freezers, wharfs, boats, and small homes. One can eat only so many Zucchini casseroles, one can add only so many to salads, one can give only so many to friends, and one can take only so many to church on Sundays. Besides, some churches have started warning their parishioners to lock their car doors. What to do, what to do?

Let’s try dehydrating them! Turn them into veggie-crisps! We have this Primo Dehydro thing that MJ uses to turn hot dogs into doggie treats. Let’s use it for other things, like Zucchini.

Easier said than done. Well, than done usefully. If you add oil, as some recipes would have you do, you end up with something best described as vegetable jerky. Like flavored bits of leather. Like, well, dwarfbread. Dwarfbread, for those who don’t know, is Pratchett’s answer to Tolkien’s lembas waybread, and serves the same purpose, as food for travelers. One bite of dwarfbread, and you find you weren’t nearly as hungry as you thought you were. Two bites, and you realize that it’s possible to go all day without taking another bite. Dehydrated Zucchini with oil is like that.

Dehydrated Zucchini without the oil tastes like little rounds of cardboard to which FDA Zucchini Flavor #7 has been added. But remember our motto “No ingredient is so bad that it won’t improve a dish of oatmeal.” So, here’s the plan:

  1. Take a largish Zucchini, say about a pound, and slice it into 1/8th inch rounds. Add a little salt, to bring out the moisture.
  2. Dry on the dehydrator of your choice. Six hours at 125F should do it. Your pound of 2″ diameter rounds is now down to about an ounce of 1/2″ diameter treats.
  3. Dump the treats into a small food processor and run for a minute or two. It will grind down into a granular mix with a largish proportion of 1/8″ chunks.
  4. Dump the grains and chunks into an electric coffee or spice grinder, set to fine. Grind for about a minute. You will come out with something under three measuring tablespoons of fine Z-Dust.
  5. Add this Z-Dust to your morning oatmeal, to taste. Remember, that’s a whole Zucchini’s worth of fiber there, and that it originally held almost a pint of water. Your oatmeal should be a little thin, going in.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, one cup of broth, salt, Zucchini powder to taste.  Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats.  Add the Zucchini powder about a minute before it’s done, and the potato when you take it off the stove.

Results: Very good. Even my wife liked it. It’s what Zucchini would taste like if it were a root vegetable. A pat of butter helped, and it’s best eaten hot. As it cools, the Zucchini flavor becomes much stronger, and the bitterness of the skin starts to come through. I think it would make an excellent side dish at dinnertime, and you only have to clean four pots and appliances afterwards.

Rating: *****

My two cents on Trump

August 12, 2015

In 2008 the Republican Party suffered a massive nervous breakdown. This happened as a result of them unexpectedly losing an election that everyone but them knew they were going to lose. The fact that they were, to echo a Churchillian phrase, both beaten and puzzled, shows how tenouous their grip on reality was in the first place. Their loss was not only unexpected but it was a loss to a Democratic candidate who embodied everything they were against, everything they hated — a vast collection of traits perhaps best summarized in a single word “Uppity“. That sudden exposure to reality drove them absolutely stark, staring, barking mad.

How mad? Well, mad enough to think about sabotaging their own country. In their efforts to ensure that Obama was a one-term President, they did their absolute best to trash the economy. We know how to get out of a recession, even a Great Recession: the government spends money. Lots of money. During the Great Depression, Roosevelt’s biggest blunder is generally acknowledged to be cutting back on the spending too soon. But that didn’t matter. Now that Uppity was in the White House, the GOP switched from running some of the largest deficits in history to whining that anything other than a balanced budget would undermine the economy, the solidity of the dollar, and probably the sanctity of marriage as well.

How mad? Well, mad enough to to go insane over a non-existent gun control threat. Democratic Presidents are generally for gun control but are unable to do much about it. Carter was. Clinton was. But there were no loud-mouthed, wool-hatted, rednecked, right-wing extremists patrolling outside of their speaking engagements carrying firearms in support of the Second Amendment and comparing them to Satan, or Carpathia, or other Biblical figures. Mad enough to believe that a multi-state training exercise like Jade Helm was an attempt to take over Texas and steal their guns.

How mad? Well, four years later the GOP ran essentially the same campaign, with, OK not the same candidate but with his ideological and intellectual clone, expecting that this time they’d really win, and of course they lost, again.

But that’s history, even if it’s recent history, and even if there are people who still don’t have a home or a job, or a future because of the events of 2008 and the GOP’s actions afterwards. Let’s not sweat the small stuff. Let’s look to the nation‘s future. Let’s consider what’s happening with the GOP primary campaign in 2015. As satirist P.J. O’Rourke said last June about the possible candidates, they are all pygmies (to be fair, he’s including Clinton and Biden as well).

That’s not a list of presidential candidates. That’s a list of congressionally appointed members of a bipartisan blue-ribbon commission named to look into a question of pressing national importance such as “paper or plastic?”

Of course, the stand-out amongst them is Donald Trump. Everyone agrees he has no chance of getting the nomination, but he is certainly getting the attention. On the home page of yesterday’s Washington Post online there were seventeen headlines dealing with the Presidential race (some were repeats under different headings). Seven of them were about Trump. The New York Times online edition had nine mentions of Trump, and seven mentions of all other campaign personalities. Of course, a mention doesn’t have to be political. Three of the NYT mentions of Trump were various headers on Stephen Colbert’s Night Show. But the fact remains, that Trump is sucking up the lion’s share of the coverage. And that’s good for the GOP.

It’s good for the GOP because they are all pygmies. They are all failures, at business or government, or life. Each one of them has some one useful trait that has propelled them into the ranks of serious candidates. Not one of them has a collection of traits that would make a good President. And where they fall short, where their vision fails, they fall back on the tried and true GOP policy positions that lost the last two elections. They blow on their dog whistles until their lips are chapped, but gently, discreetly, and not in a way that might cause people to think they were extremists, or incompetents, just loud enough to alert the base. And then along came Trump.

Trump isn’t saying anything that any of the others don’t believe, he’s just saying it louder, with more bombast and bravado. He’s giving them political cover, making it possible to say the un-sayable, as long as they do it discreetly, and not like him.   But there’s more to it that that.

There’s a concept called the news hole. It refers to the fact that there is only so much time on national television news, only so much space on the front pages of national newspapers, only so much time available for reading even the most insightful of blogs. There’s even, and I know this is hard to believe, a limit on how much can be covered in one 24hr cycle of talk radio. And if it doesn’t get covered, then by definition, it’s not news. Every day editors of one stripe or another must decide what goes in and what goes away. It’s the basis for content analysis, a concept going back at least to the OSS exploitation of German newspapers in WWII.

By hogging the limelight, by filling up the news hole, Trump has limited the media’s ability to ask penetrating questions of the real candidates. You can see this in the numbers for the first debate, where even bleed’n Megyn Kelly was guilty of spending too much time on Trump, and not enough time on the other candidates. You can see it today on the home pages of the Washington Post and the New York Times. Even The Economist, no chaser-after of glib headlines, with five US Presidential campaign articles on the first page of their Politics section, mentions Trump twice and leads with his picture on a third article.

Of course, questions do keep being asked. Insightful questions like: Is Trump serious? Is there a way to beat Trump? Will Trump really pick Sarah Palin as his running mate? Sometimes they are even asked of the candidates: Mr. Candidate, how would you respond to Trump’s characterization of illegal immigrants?

Very few are the probing kinds of policy questions that would expose these pygmies for what they are. And that means that whoever gets the GOP nomination, almost a year from now, will have had a year to skate on the hard questions, will have dodged a year’s worth of scrutiny.

That’s the gift that The Donald is giving to the GOP, and they should be grateful.

Opera Browser: The Long Farewell 4

August 11, 2015

My Opera browser has become less and less compatible with more and more websites, until I find myself reduced to using it as an RSS reader.

Even Opera doesn’t like Opera anymore. Their revenues are down, even counting the more (one cannot say highly anymore) popular mobile browser. A recent report says they are considering a sale of the company. So this time next year, Opera may be a brand and a logo, but no longer a browser. My guess is that Opera will go the same way FoxPro did — bought out and abandoned as a brand and a product, with its components included in Microsoft Access.

Another Century

August 11, 2015

Yesterday hit 106 views, for the second Century ever in the history of this egoblog, and this time I can see why. Someone, possibly on a IRC chat room, found Girls und Panzer, liked the article, and devoured the rest of the GaruPan content. There were 37 hits on GaruPan articles, tying the Home Page / Archives views. They even rolled over to my wargames site and took a look at the PSVita game articles. Well done, GaruPan. Well done.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

August 8, 2015

Garden Report for 150810

The weather was warm but not hot (83F +/-5), but high winds and low humidity kept us in a Red Flag warning for fire the first half of the week. Temperature 12″ down in Section 1 was 75F at the start of the month.

Long beans getting longer

Long beans getting longer

Finally cleared out the green beans, harvesting about two poundsworth. I’ll replant with peas, and maybe amaranth. The long beans are coming … along …. About ten inches now, 26″ or so to go. Zucchini are doing well, but still no sign of summer squash. Don’t know what happened to them. I’ve planted a couple in a new container, so we’ll see if we can’t get some late summers out of them.

Our banana pepper struggles valiantly on, producing one pepper per month. The yellow bells out front are still green.

Tomatoes are hitting their stride, both in the garden and the containers. I’m going to have to shore up the tomato cages in the garden, they are starting to tilt.


Not A Multimato

What I thought was the yellow tomatoes in the garden having a fit of lycoperscian solidarity and all banding together in one 20oz fruit turns out to be one largish Yellow Brandywine. It still looks like six small ones. As for the rest, we’re averaging something under 2.0oz each, with six 3oz monsters harvested this week.


Here’s the latest scoreboard.

Week Ending 8/10 Vegetable Count Weight oz Unit Weight oz Total Total Weight lb
Tomato  37  59.88 1.7  103 9.5
Zuccini 3  41  13.7  9 8.41
Cuke  5  19.3  3.9  6  1.22
Pie Pumpkin  3  3.7
Beans  –  23.6  –  –  4.0
Peas  –  – 1.0

Grand Total: 27.8lb

This time last year we had 26lbs of foodstuffs, about a third of which was cabbage, which didn’t do well in this year’s heat. In 2013, there was not enough to report on.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

August 2, 2015

Garden Report for 150803

The weather this week started off pleasantly cool (72F), and showery, but ended up hot and dry with three days in the low 100’s. That’s good for the ripenings, but bad for setting more fruit.

Harvested almost a pound of green beans early in the week. Probably another poundsworth available by the end of next week, which I think will wrap up the beanfest. Pinquentos haven’t started producing yet, but those are dry beans, so I won’t have any results until October. Finally started harvesting tomatoes in the main garden, mostly Brandywines. Meanwhile, the main garden has produced two Buttercup squash, while the containers have produced four, all hanging from the tomato cages. Main garden also has one Delicata and two Spaghetti squash coming along. The Spaghettis are also hanging from the tomato cages. Don’t know what it is with squash and climbing things this year.

At least they won't get ground-rot

At least they won’t get ground-rot

Meanwhile, we’re experimenting with drying stuff. Our home dehydrator system will reduce a medium Zucchini to a cup of leathery chew-toys overnight, while dumping six hours of 125F air straight into the house. First attempt was matchstick size, what reduced down to hairlike threads. Second attempt was finger sized, and that reduced down to matchsticks. Final attempt was slices, done outside, overnight. Results were better, but were still just vegetable jerky. Probably save the dehydration option for if we become really overwhelmed with squash.* Otherwise, MJ will continue to use it to turn hot dogs into dog treats. UPDATE: I have found that it’s possible to soak them in water overnight and cut them up for a salad.

Remnants of a once proud Zucchini

Remnants of a once proud Zucchini

Here’s the latest scoreboard.

Week Ending 8/03 Vegetable Count Weight oz Unit Weight oz Total Total Weight lb
Tomato  21  54.4  2.6  66 5.8
Zuccini  1  12 12  6 5.85
Cuke  1  3.5  3.5  1  0.22
1  15  15  2  2.1
Beans  –  12  –  –  2.5
Peas  –  – 1.0

Grand Total: 17.5lb


*Normally, MJ would take them in for our friends at church, but they’ve started locking their car doors during the service.

Peak Hubbert

August 1, 2015

So oil prices are down and production is up and people are looking at the Hubbert curve and saying “Where is your King now“? It’s probably a good time for a quick summary of my understanding of the situation.

Hubbert wrote his initial paper (.pdf)  in the middle of a twenty-year run of steady oil prices — around, say $25/bbl at todays prices. At the time, the US was the biggest producer of oil, but it was not so big that it could control the market. There were enough other suppliers, and demand was still low enough that changes in US production had little impact. So for all intents and purposes he was dealing with a fixed price. Note that throughout this period, no-one had tested the boundaries of this situation.

Hubbert was talking about a physical quantity, the amount of oil in the ground, given the facts known at the time, and the rate at which it will be recovered. It’s interesting to note that he never uses the words “price” or “cost”, although he does mention the possibility of new technologies.

So the Hubbert Curve says that with a fixed supply and a fixed price, you will recover the easy oil first, up to some peak, and then your fixed price will only allow you to recover smaller and smaller quantities as time goes on.

In the almost sixty years since his first paper, two major changes have occurred. First, is the massive increase in demand, and the associated increase in price per barrel. Second, are the technologies that the higher prices make profitable.

Note that the increased price (constant dollars) associated with the increased demand implies that the oil isn’t all that easy to get. If it were, we’d still be exploiting $25/bbl sources. So what Hubbert really was writing about was peak cheap oil.

As Hubbert’s detractors have noted, new technologies, like deep ocean drilling and shale fracking have made more oil available, but this is done at some technological price. This year’s slide in oil prices is causing a shakeout in the fracking industry, with many companies going bankrupt, because the technology isn’t profitable at a mere $50/bbl.

Do The Math has a good summary of the situation at the end of the last decade, and a discussion of the  current state of play of physical production (and many of the many comments are worth reading). I’d also recommend his discussion of our current trajectory of heating up the planet, a thermodynamics discussion that has nothing to do with global warming. TL;DR version: at a 2.3% growth rate of energy use, be it solar or nuclear, within about 400 years the surface of the Earth will become uninhabitable, mostly due to waste heat. Now 400 years is a long time, but it’s  certainly within the lifetime of a major civilization (It’s about the amount of time since the Jamestown Colony).

MH-370 at Reunion

July 30, 2015

Preliminary reports indicate part of the Boeing 777 might have washed ashore on Reunion island. Here is the latest CNN report. And here is a useful summary from Aviation Herald. To this untrained eye, the photos show remarkably little sea life attached to the debris. However, what plants and crustaceans are found there will help determine the history of the object after it hit the water.

Preliminary statements indicate that Reunion is a reasonable place to expect debris from the calculated crash site to drift to. In Bayesian terms, this means the new information gives us no reason to change our original conclusion.

Anime worth watching, Spring 2015

July 28, 2015

I watched a lot of anime last season, most of it unmemborable. Some of it unmentionable. Only two worth repeating. There were a number of disappointments. The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan was worth watching, once, if you are a fan of the original. There’s a good drinking game to be had, picking out the callbacks to the original (“Kyon-kun, denwa“). The ending was a disappointing cop-out, possibly because there’s another three volumes of the manga yet to be written (see episodes 23 and 24 of Shirobako). Everybody else liked the second seasons of My Teen RomCom SNAFU, and Nisekoi. They were reasonably well done, but I thought they overstayed their welcome. So what two made the cut?

Sound, Euphonium:  響け! ユーフォニアム (!, perhaps better translated as Resonance! Euphonium. Overall, Eupho is the best anime of the season, and firmly ensconced as one of my all-time favorites. In some ways, it’s a typical sports anime, another going to Koshien series, where the underdog team fights its way to the nationals. Only the sport is high school concert band.

We open with the end of the concert season at a middle school, where the graduating senior
Ōmae Kumiko (our POV character) sees her band take a ‘dud gold’. They won a gold, but didn’t get selected for the nationals. She moves on to high school and joins a lackluster band that decides they really do want to go to the nationals. The rest of the story is about the struggles of the band to come together, the internal politics to smooth out, and the individual relationships to jell.

A girl and her horn

A girl and her horn

As with all good stories, it’s about the characters, and it does a good job of highlighting the personalities and desires and struggles of a good number of the band members, even those that drop out early, or don’t make the final cut. There’s a number of budding romances, some of which are nipped in the bud, and Kumiko unexpectedly finds herself smitten with another girl, trumpet player Kōsaka Reina, and they provide one another much needed emotional support throughout the second half of the season.This not being a romcom or fanservice anime, the relationship never goes beyond mutual declaration, but some of the scenes are emotionally intense, in a quiet, understated sort of way.

Declaration of love

Declaration of love

The studio is Kyoto Animation, KyoAni, which means gorgeous artwork, expert camerawork, and excellent pacing. KyoAni is famous for attention to detail. For example, in episode eight, the one where Reina declares to Kumiko, they’ve decided to walk up a local ‘mountain’ instead of going to a festival. It’s really just a tall, steep hill at the edge of town, with steps and handrails and benches at the top. Reina, who never does things by halves, has dressed all in white, with high heels, as for a date. At one point, the camera zooms in on her feet, and we see that the straps have rubbed her heels raw. Show, don’t tell.

The pain is worth it

The pain is worth it

The sound track is, well, concert band, and very well done.

Our final goal

Our final goal

Blood Blockade Battlefront: 血界戦線 (ke.kkai sen.sen). A literal translation of each kanji is blood.boundary.war.line, and the last two characters are a good example of how two Japanese words can sound alike but have totally different meanings, depending on the kanji.

Gate to the netherworlds opens up inside a bubble enclosing New York City, which becomes overrun with weird beings. Young man sneaks in to make his fortune.

If you can't make it here, you can't make it anywhere

If you can’t make it here, you can’t make it anywhere

Meets up with group of human superheros called Libra, each of whom has a weird power (e.g. Zip can turn his blood into a sword).

The Libra Dancers

The Libra Dancers

Frantic, frenetic hilarity ensues. Monster of the week format, with nonstop action and good jazz BGM. You have to watch each episode two or three times or you miss stuff.

The only way to win is not to play

The only way to win is not to play

Multiple Perspectives and the F-35

July 28, 2015

A couple of weeks ago there was a leaked report  on the inability of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter to defeat an F-16 in a set of Basic Fighter Maneuver engagements (read it here). This set off a firestorm of discussion on the web, amongst those who want to kill the project and those who said the report, and its interpretation, were flawed. There were complaints from the fighter pilot community that anyone with a blog had now become an air to air combat expert.

F-35 and F-16 strike a pose for the photographers

F-35 and F-16 strike a pose for the photographers

Well, IANAFP, but I think there are some aspects of the discussion that have been missed. Let me map the discussion to Linstone’s Multiple Perspectives approach. This will hopefully shed a different light on the arguments, as well as providing a good example of how the Multiple Perspectives approach works.

Hal Linstone, who I had the pleasure to know when I was a grad student in the Portland State Systems Science Program, is a former RAND Corporation associate, and one of the developers of the Delphi methodology. Not Delphi the Object Oriented Pascal product, but a technique for getting agreement amongst experts. He is also famous for the approach to framing a problem that he calls Multiple Perspectives.

Basically, MP says that every business problem can be considered along three dimensions: Technical, Organizational, and Personal.

Technical, as you might expect, holds that a given problem is one of inadequate technology, and that it can be solved by throwing more engineers at it. This viewpoint informed most of the systems development projects at the end of the last century, and its proponents were always surprised when their approach didn’t work out.

Organizational says that many problems occur because of how the organization is structured and what its rules are. Very often something cannot be done because there is no box on the form that can be checked. When same-sex marriage was finally allowed, many counties had problems, because their software wasn’t set up to hand anything other than one male and one female. You might think this is a technical issue, but the root is the failure of the organization to consider the possibility when they wrote the requirements. Counties that still relied on paper forms had the same problem, but at least there they could make a pen and ink correction.

The Personal dimension says that very often the root of a problem is people, sometimes a specific individual in an organization. People interpret the rules, and one individual’s interpretation can differ from another’s. If that person is in a position of power, then their interpretation rules. In an extreme case, an individual might block a technical improvement because they fear that the new technology will harm their job.

Deming’s parable of the red and white beads can be used as an example of MP.  Is the problem a Technical one, of not giving the worker the tools to reject wrong-colored beads? Is it Personal, in that the worker needs better training and motivation? Or is it Organizational, because the worker should never be required to separate out the beads in the first place?

So, how does all this apply to the F-35 in general, and to the air combat discussion in particular? Before we begin, let me say that a number of the arguments presented are spread over different articles, and so you are going to get multiple links to the same article. Now let’s see.

Personal: The argument here is that the flight was a test flight, and that the pilots were looking to accomplish test objectives, not win a bar bet. More to the point, the F-35 hasn’t been around enough for anyone to become an expert in it, and so we haven’t developed tactics for it. This is true as far as it goes, but the main article makes it sound like the pilot was a n00b. He may only have had 100+ hours in the F-35, but I’m pretty sure he’s a multi-thousand hour test pilot.

Technical: Two points stand out. First, not all the F-35 technology was available, off-boresight aiming being the most important example. Second, as with your car, changing the performance of a modern fighter is mainly a matter of changing the software. You don’t optimize your carburettor any more, you reburn the EPROMS. So too with today’s computers-with-wings. Indeed, one of the reasons for the test flight was to define areas where the software needed tweaking.

Organizational: The current employment concept says the F-35 should never have to dogfight, just as a combat Marine should never have to engage in hand to hand combat, except as a last resort. The idea is to use it as a networked sensor platform and employ the full range of US weapons, including long range AAMs and SAMs, while using the stealth to keep from being detected. This approach was demonstrated using a commercial air combat game.

My Two Cents

Personal: I have nothing much to add here. Our pilots and aviators are the best in the world, with more flying time than the pilots of any other country. We may have cut back training hours due to sequestration funding, but the worldwide operations tempo continues unabated. The Russians, and the Chinese have, historically, gotten what one of my commanders used to call “just enough flying hours to kill you.”

One of the articles notes that the only people who are really competent to comment on the J-35 capabilities are the program managers with the appropriate clearances, and the rest of us are, essentially, sitting with our backs to the fire, trying to interpret the shadows. This is certainly true. On the other hand, I can tell you from my years at the Pentagon that it’s also true that program managers will lie, and will leak classified information to support their programs while suppressing unfavorable evidence via overclassification. On the other other hand, “any stick will do to beat a dog”, and much of the furor over the test report is being raised by people who are against the F-35 for other reasons, such as cost, or “not produced in my district”.

Technical: My issue here is what might be called the historical component of the technical perspective. The F-35 supporters pooh-pooh the comparisons with the F-4 and F-105 in VietNam, pointing out the tremendous differences in weapons capabilities since then. This is correct, but misses the point. At a more abstract level, in the early 1960’s we had a concept of what an air war would look like, given the new weapons systems, and we designed our force structure around that concept. When the war actually started, it turned out our weapons didn’t perform the way we thought they would, and the hostile environment was different from what we thought it was going to be, and we ended up with deficiencies that took a couple of years of combat to overcome. Years.

Organizational: From the discussions, the employment concept for the F-35 is much like our ideas of how the early hours of WWIII in Europe would roll out — clouds of their fighters meeting clouds of our fighters, and stay inside your root cellar lest you be hit by falling debris. Or set piece engagements in narrowly defined regions, like the Gulf, or the Baltic. All of them seem to be based on a networked and ‘weapons free‘ scenario where, on a good day, you shoot all your missiles Beyond Visual Range, and head home in time for Happy Hour.

The problem is, IMHO the most likely future conflicts will be narrowly constrained affairs, where third-party neutrals will be going about their business while you fight. Think of Pratchett’s “melee coming through“. During the Tanker War in the Gulf, everyone continued to operate commercial shipping and airlines, with sometimes disastrous results. If my quick check on Orbitz is correct, there’s something like sixteen flights from Tokyo to Singapore per day, all of them flying in the vicinity of Taiwan. It’s entirely likely that the F-35 will have to operate in an environment where the Rules of Engagement require visual ID before weapons launch.

UPDATE: Here is a much more detailed discussion of flaws in the F-35.

The bottom line is that these issues are much more complex and nuanced than a simple blog post on turn rates and energy levels would have you believe. The proof of the pudding won’t be found for another five years or so, when all the teething troubles and upgrades and tactics have been worked out. Most of the current discussions are about “did we build the system right?” A much longer blog post is needed to discuss the key question, “did we build the right system”?

Green Thumb Up My Nose

July 26, 2015

Garden Report for 150727

The weather this week was warm (around 80F) and dry and windy, and next week is scheduled for very warm and dry (approaching 90F).

Harvested most of the beans, almost two poundsworth, which looks to be three dinners for two. This, from about half a section of the KHG. Picked a bunch of tomatoes, just short of ripe. I figure that will encourage the others. The Red Zebras averaged about an ounce each, while the two Patio tomatoes from the garden came in at 5oz and 3oz. The pie pumpkin was totally orange, so I picked that – maybe we’ll get another one, and in any event I plan to let it ripen some more inside.

The container squash are going wild. It says on the tin that they are “bush buttercup”, but that’s not what it looks like from here. I planted two, side by side in the two white containers you see below.  As you can see, the left hand one has leaped clear over two containers and is encroaching on the Asian beans. The right hand one has grown across three containers and is producing flowers in the vine maple next the dog run. The focus is pretty bad on this shot, but it’s too dark now to get another. I’ll update in a week or two.

Tomorrow, the World

Tomorrow, the World

This makes for some interesting squash fruit. Here’s two of them, hanging four feet off the ground.

Two Buttercups

Two Buttercups

Here’s the latest scoreboard. I note that in 2013 and 2014 it was almost mid-August before I had enough harvested to start posting to the scoreboard.

Week Ending 7/27 Vegetable Count Weight oz Unit Weight oz Total Total Weight lb
Tomato  25  42  1.7  45 5.1
Zuccini  2  36 18  5 5.1
 1  26  26  1  1.6
Beans  –  30  –  –  1.8
Peas  –  16 1.0

Grand Total: 14.5lb

Memories of my youth

July 21, 2015

My time in the Air Force pretty much coincides with the heyday of the F-4 Phantom. The 366th TFW flew F-4Cs out of DaNang AB, my first base level assignment. The 48th TFW at RAF Lakenheath transitioned from F-100s to F-4Ds when I was next door at RAF Mildenhall. My own 51st TFW flew F-4Es out of Osan AB in Korea, my last base-level assignment.

The early F-4’s had leading edge flaps to help maneuverability. In later models, these were replaced with two-position leading edge slats, which reportedly gave the same maneuverability with more stability. What they took away was the distinctive deep whistling sound, almost a moan, that an F-4C would make as the flaps were cycled in the final turn in the landing pattern. Despite hours of searching, I’ve only been able to find one video that halfway captures this sound (and then only 7sec worth), at

Boise, Idaho, in 1988.

In case it doesn’t queue up properly, the sound starts at the 2:24sec mark.

The sound of an F-4C in the landing pattern, and the sound of a C-130 “low-speeding the outboards”, are the quintessential sounds of my Air Force career.


Green Thumb Up My Nose

July 19, 2015

Garden Report for 150720

The weather this week was warm and dry (around 80F), and next week is scheduled for very warm and dry (approaching 90F).

This is the boring part of Summer. Stuff is growing. Grow stuff grow. I water stuff. Water, water water. The brief surge of unseasonably early ripenings,  probably due to unseasonably early warmth, has been choked off by the unmentionably high temperatures earlier this month. A few leftover early tomatoes are ripening. The ever-fruitful Zucchini is fruiting (or whatever you call a fruitfulizing vegetable). Our one pie pumpkin is starting to turn. The bush buttercup squash I planted in the containers is now 12ft long, causing me to reconsider my concept of what a “bush” is.

A perfect time to hide inside and recover from my cataract operations. Next week this might be a review of farming anime, instead of a garden blog.

Week Ending 7/20 Vegetable Count Weight oz Unit Weight oz Total Total Weight lb
Tomato  10  16  1.6  30 3.6
Zuccini  1  9  9  3 2.5
Peas  –  16 1.0

Grand Total: 7.1lb

Sorry, Slate, DC (still) doesn’t need any skyscrapers

July 16, 2015

Just over three years ago, I posted a short comment on an opinion piece in Slate on the the then-ongoing debate over whether to relax Washington, D.C.’s limit on building height. The crux of my argument was that DC, as designed, had maintained the balance between human scale and public function that caused European cities like Paris to be praised for their historic beauty. DC, like Paris, is a capitol city, and esthetics should rank first when talking about change.

Now, from Slate, comes a tale of another European city, London. Unlike Paris and DC, London has given way to developer’s greed, to the point where even those who love the city are leaving it.

The new Slate article covers one of the symptoms of the decline, the destruction of the esthetics of central London. What’s happened there? Consider Saint Paul’s Cathedral, begun on the still warm ashes of the Great Fire of London, survivor of the Blitz, and for 150 years the tallest and, as Shepps says, the most prominent building in the city.

Saint Paul's, 1891

Saint Paul’s, 1891

Here it is now, in a photo from the Slate article, a small parish church, huddled amidst the encroaching cranes, dwarfed by The Shard, prominent only in memory.

Saint Paul's and The Shard, 2014

Saint Paul’s and The Shard, 2014

If that’s what you want DC to become, then build those skyscrapers.

Memories of my youth

July 14, 2015

Having just turned 68 a couple of years ago, and thus having to finally admit that I’ve entered middle age, I thought I’d start writing down some incidents from my past — little snippets of memories that bubble up from time to time, and that others might find interesting. Or not. And even if you don’t, it leaves a record for me to gum over a couple of decades from now.

This is a tale related to me by an old audiologist, when I was in elementary school and he was in my ears, conducting tests. He was talking about his life as a young doctor in a rather sleazy district of Chicago, back in the days of Prohibition and gangsters.

One day, a local member of the gangster profession — we will call him Big Louie because I cannot remember his real name — comes into the doctor’s office. It seems that Big Louie has an ear ache which is bothering him more than somewhat and he wishes our doctor to examine it. Our doctor inserts his otoscope into Big Louie’s right ear and he takes a look around. He figures it is a regular old ear infection, and since antibiotics have not yet been invented, he knows there is not much he can do, which is sad. Instead, he finds a snarl of string, with several blobs of pus and other detritus sticking to it, and he follows said string all the way back into the depths of Big Louie’s ear. It seems that Big Louie sticks this string in his ear one day, back when he is just Little Louie, and there it sits for the next few decades, rotting and infecting and interfering with his hearing in general. Our doctor pulls out the string, and the pus balls, and the detritus, cleans up the ear, writes out a bill, and sends Big Louie on his way.

A week or so later, Big Louie is back. “Doc, I gotta thank you” he says. “Don’t nobody say anything on that side that I don’t hear now. Get your hat and coat. We are going for a walk”.

So, out they go, arm-in-arm, for a half-hour stroll around the district. Up this street and down that, across town and back, Big Louie saying hello to people now and then, and them saying hello right back. After a while, Big Louie and the doctor are back in the office. Big Louie says another big thank you, and leaves, leaving our doctor more than a little confused.

A week or so after Big Louie’s second visit, our doctor is walking towards his office in this sleazy district of Chicago, when what should happen but two tough-looking guys appear, one on each side of him. And these tough-looking guys start pushing our doctor towards an alley, the assumption being they are looking for a quiet  place where they can mug him in private. Suddenly, three other guys come running down the the street towards them. They stop the two tough-looking guys, and they say to them “This, is a friend of Big Louie’s”. Well, right away the two tough-looking guys get all apologetic and say that if they know this when they see him, they never would bother him.

And our doctor is never bothered by criminals in this district again.

I suspect that the doctor tells me this story as a way of reminding me that it does not matter what my career goals are, I should not put stuff in my ears.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

July 12, 2015

Garden Report for 150713

The weather this week was mixed: mid 90’s the first half of the week (hit 100F one day), and low 80’s with one day of light steady rain in the second half.

The first Zucchini of the year is always a big one (23oz in this case), because I don’t think to look for them until they become obvious. The yellow tomato finally ripened, and came in at 8oz. Also harvested 10 or so Champions, at about 2oz each, and another 8 Celebrities at 1.5oz each. Since almost 50% of each had to be discarded due to BER, the reported weights are a little misleading.

Planted some radishes in Section 2. Iceicle (long and thin) and Watermelon (red centers). 28 days for both. Afterwards, I’ll plant true daikon for harvest in late Fall.

I guess it’s time to start the scoreboard again.

Vegetable Count Weight
Total Total
Tomato  19  41  2.1  20 2.6
Zuccini  2  33  16  2 2.0
Peas  –  16 1.0

Grand Total: 5.6lb

TL:DR — Anime I never finished, Summer 2015

July 11, 2015

We are two weeks into the season, and the shows are dropping like exhausted fruit flies.

Danchigai Slice of life HS kid lives with four sisters, two older, two younger, one a tsundere brocon. Parents traveling overseas. Etc. Very generic. Very vanilla. Very uninteresting.

Castle Town Dandelion  Eleven super-powered children of a middle-class king vie, with various levels of enthusiasm, for a shot at the next kingship. Not…bad…just not compelling. Or interesting. Second show this season where people with superpowers have just one, and that very restricted.

Shimoneta: A boring world where the concept of dirty jokes doesn’t exist  In a 1984-style Japan, everyone wears dog collars, that detect whenever the wearer uses sexually related words. Even soft-core porn is prohibited (the episode starts with a SWAT team raiding a bunch of teen boys with girly mags), and children grow up with no understanding of the birds and the bees.

Naturally, there’s an underground resistance, led by the vice-president of the Student Council of a highly moral HS. She does things like prance around the roof of a train station wearing only a robe, shouting subversive cries, like “c**k a doodle p***y”, or whatever that is in Japanese. Her disguise is a pair of (hopefully, washed) panties, worn over her face. She recruits our male protagonist, and proceeds to hijack a student assembly with slides of two fruit flies going at it, to the sounds of off camera moans.

Hilarity ensues. Well, onscreen. Offscreen, the best I could do was mild smirking.

This is most likely a reaction to the Tokyo Metropolitan law called Bill 156, and other laws that  attempt to let bureaucrats define what constitutes pornography (particularly child pornography), showing what happens “if this goes on”.

Not enough redeeming social value, although I suspect there’s a whole lot of culturally relevant nuances I’m missing, or that got translated out (e.g. the show’s p**is-substitute word in Japanese is mushroom, subtitled here as cucumber).

Prison School Mizujima Tsutomu, what’s happened to you? How could you go from directing Garupan and Shirobako to this? Bad art, bad acting, stupid premise (roughly – boys imprisoned in an all girls school). Admittedly, a premise is only stupid if it’s executed badly. Garupan, after all, was about girls driving tanks on giant aircraft carriers. This was executed badly. How badly? After ten minutes of P-School, I flung the controller across the room and ran, weeping, out to the back deck to teach the local mosquitoes about the effects of gin on the human bloodstream.

TL:DR — Anime I never finished, Summer 2015

July 10, 2015

Ranpo Kitan (Ranpo Mystery Stories)
Based on the works of mystery writer Edogawa Ranpo. Emotionally stunted HS student (“Wow, a dismembered body, life is no longer boring”) goes to work for brilliant crime-solver, who is also of HS age. Think “Ghost Hunt”, only with dead bodies instead of dead souls, and an off-putting male POV character, instead of a sympathetic female.

Chaos Dragon
Based on a D&D game, and these never turn out well. It’s like you’re watching somebody else play. Now I know why gamers don’t have nongamer girfriends.

My wife is the student council president
Plot line 1: Innocent girl wins election as student council president by throwing codoms into the student assembly, and promising free love on campus.
Plot line 2: Innocent girl student council president moves in with the vice president as his wife because of an agreement their parents made sixteen years earlier. Finds out all about first base.
For the first time I know of, CR is broadcasting both a censored and uncensored version, (because it does need censoring). Why couldn’t they have done this with Highschool Of The Dead? Oh, yeah. That had a plot.

Aoharu x Machine Gun
Hey, guys! Looks like anything featuring cute girls with guns is a hit (Sabagebu, Upotte, C3-Bu) these days, but what can we do to up the game? How about making her a HS student with a strong sense of justice? Sounds good. Yeah, and she could be ultra-strong! Great! …and a cross-dresser! Now, you’re talking! And, and — you’ll love this — her love interest in the paintball club is an obnoxious guy who…who…works at a host club!! The fans will go wild!!!

Curried Date Oatmeal

July 9, 2015

Now, everybody likes a bowl of curried something for breakfast, particularly on hot summer days that remind one of the Raj. I find that curried oatmeal goes best with some kind of fruit or jam. Earlier this year we went on a trail mix kick, but decided that since our car wouldn’t fit on any of the local trails we’d give it up. That left us with some spare fruitlike substances, including an almost full container of date bits. Date bits are to dates as chicken McNuggets are to poultry, except for the deep fat frying part. They’re small, machine-processed, half-raisin-sized chunks of dried dates, with the occasional date by-product. They’re not crunchy, but neither are they raisin-soft. I used a couple of heaping dinner teaspoons, since heaping is the only way the bits fit. Don’t worry about getting too many — they’re like human skulls, in that they don’t stack very well.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, a quarter-inch strip of Golden Curry roux, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, two dinner teaspoons of date bits (carefully screened to remove any stems or palm fronds), one cup of broth (your choice, I used a mix of pork and oxtail), salt.  Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats.  Add the dates when you start and the potato when you take it off the stove.

Results: Very good. The cooking softened the dates to the point that I didn’t notice them, and the date flavor leaked out into the oatmeal so you had a blend, rather than just a date-flavored object in an oatmeal-flavored matrix.

Rating: *****

Warka Water

July 7, 2015

Just over a year ago, Smithsonian Magazine had an article on an insect-inspired rig to pull water out of the air. The inspiration was a Namibian beetle that sits on top of sand dunes and uses airflow across its body to extract dew. Because of our ongoing drought here in the NENW, I thought I’d take another look at the concept. This photoshop shows what the rig looks like:

Aliens have landed

Aliens have landed

While this is all cool and aerospace and everything, I’m inclined to think it’s mostly architects having fun. Not that it won’t perform as advertised, but that it doesn’t have to be that avant-garde to work.

1. That artistic outer screen is simply a support. I suspect a chain link cylinder would do almost as well, and it could be recycled as child restraints later.

2. The inner orange thing is just a net, cunningly sloped to funnel the dew. Bigger mesh than window screening, smaller than anti-bird nets. You could probably knit one out of old speaker cord.

3. And it most likely doesn’t even have to be that shape. A plain old funnel would likely work as well.  It’s round because it has to handle wind from any direction. In fact, the roundness probably lowers its efficiency. A simple slab would probably work as well, as long as it was positioned cross-wind.

I built a test rig last summer — simple sheet of the kind of netted plastic sheets you get with those small hardware store greenhouses, with lots of holes poked in the sheeting. It didn’t work, probably because it doesn’t get as humid here, and the day-night temperature swings aren’t as wide as in the Ethiopian highlands. I might wait until early September, when we do get some good day/night differences, thoroughly water the lawn around it, and see what happens. That won’t do me any good, but if it works it would be a nice proof of concept for other folks.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

July 5, 2015

Garden Report for 150706

More blistering heat, with three days over 100F.  Next week is lower 90’s. Watering limits still in effect, so if it weren’t for the weeds my lawns would be totally dead. I’m reminded of a drought they had back when we were living in the UK — much talk about playing cricket on the old village yellow. Sunday was quite a bit cooler than forecast. I think it was the smoke from the British Columbia fires, drifting over eastern Washington.

Harvested all the peas. One pound unshelled. Two servings shelled. Waited too long, so they were a little mealy, and a little underdone. Given that the peas were planted across about one third of a section, that means we could get three meals out of a KHG section planted totally to peas. Meanwhile, the Santa Maria beans are doing well.

Beans and the new plantings grill

Beans and the new plantings grill

The clean sweep I made of the lettuce in Section 2 cleared out all the kholrabi as well. I planted some more on Saturday. Theoretical harvest in mid-September. Also planted some chard, as well. Planted chard and lettuce in Section 3. I have two more open spots that I’ll put lettuce into mid-month or so.

Cucumbers continue to grow, every plant component but cucumbers. I had to extend the tomato cages they were on, by inverting a second cage on top of them. The trouble is, the heat keeps killing the flowers. Fifty feet of vine, no cucumbers. On Saturday morning, none of the tomatoes were ripe enough to pick. Sunday, five of them were, but four were badly BER’d.

Rickety cages.

Rickety cages.

I picked a couple and cut off the blossom ended end. They were a little short of ripe, but tasted good.

So, the current state of play is:
Section 1: Tomatoes and Squash. Doing well, but nothing near ripe yet
Section 2: Harvested everything. Planted kohlrabi and lettuce and chard (oh my). One panelsworth still open. Plan to plant lettuce there in a couple of weeks
Section 3: Bush beans. Doing well. Due mid-July (except I think the heat has retarded them). Santa Maria beans, doing well. Lettuce and chard.
Section 4: Cleared out. Asparagus in part, but no signs of life. Three panelsworth available now.
Note: a ‘panel’ is one of those shelf grids I use to keep the squirrels off.

Now, all I need to do is decide what to plant. Section 4 has already had peas in it, and they were looking a little diseased (or heat killed) at the end, so I don’t want to do peas or beans there again. I already have two panels of greens just planted, and another panel that I’m planning to plant later. That leaves essentially one small panel in Section 2, and two large and one small panels available in Section 4. Looking at my seed collection, and leaving out squash (Section 1 is full and the other sections are resting), peas/beans/and greens, my seed stock looks limited to various radishes, and some out of date carrots. And of course, our local stores are out of seeds for the season. I guess I’ll put the radishes in Section 2, with the Brassicae, and the carrots in Section 4.

The Declaration of Independence

July 4, 2015

…according to Stan Freberg


Green Thumb Up My Nose

June 28, 2015

Garden Report for 150629

A warm week. A hot week, ere the sun rises. Plants shall be withered, records be splintered. 80’s to start and 100’s to end. Watering restrictions imposed for the first time this Century. How far above average was it? This week last year the highs were lower than our current lows.

Pulled the rest of the lettuce from Section 2. We are now grazing our way through three bags of the stuff. As usual, we’ll be done with the lettuce before the first of the tomatoes are ready for a salad. Will plant more, but not this week. Peas are almost ready in Section 4. Not sure what the heat will do to them.

Over in the containers, the cucumbers are trying to take over. Evidently, these weren’t a bush variety. The Asian long beans are just starting to climb. I have a number of Champion VNFT’s coming in, and all seem to have blossom-end rot. I’ll spray them this evening to see what I can salvage. Not sure what VNFT stands for. I think it’s their Myers-Briggs personality type.

The big pumpkins are in a sunny spot under the trees and are doing OK. The pie pumpkins are in a shady spot and are not. The other pumpkins, next the unkillable rhubarb, have already produced a nice, dark 4″ diameter globe.


SpaceX Launch Failure

June 28, 2015

Here’s my thoughts on the SpaceX launch failure, written while the debris is still smoking in the water. This is what I saw, replaying the YouTube video.

At first I thought it was a staging failure. You often get that cloud burst as the main engines cut off (and the remaining fuel in the pipes evaporates), the explosive bolts separate the two stages, and the second stage engines flare fuel clouds before igniting. But this happened approximately 44sec after MaxQ, the point when the atmospheric forces on the vehicle are highest (before this, it’s not moving fast enough; after this, the atmosphere is getting too thin), and roughly 30sec before scheduled MECO (I’m taking these values off the timeline at the bottom of the vid).

At 23:44 into the video (not into the flight), there’s a puff of white gas from the right-hand side of the booster. This billows out into an explosion three seconds later, with the shadow/sillhouette of something that might be part of the rocket, or might be a cloud shadow (but probably isn’t, because of how long it lasts).

At 23:49, the cloud starts to clear, and we see what looks like a normal engine burn. This is visible for another three seconds, when everything is overwhelmed with cloud, with no signs of flame, which clears two seconds later, to show multiple debris fragments.

UPDATE: Elon Musk has tweeted that it looks like there was an overpressure event in the second stage liquid oxygen tank. That would produce a white cloud when the tank blew out, followed by an explosion above the main body of the booster as the oxygen ignited. The first stage keeps firing, not realizing that it’s been chopped off at the hips.

Here’s the vid

Just a note on the language of reporting. A couple of news sites are calling this a failure of SpaceX’s efforts to recover a booster after launch. They seem to be confusing the up-goer and down-goer parts of the mission. The mission was a failure. The effort to put a resupply capsule into orbit was a failure. Landing the booster on a ship was never tried.

Second note. Musk’s tweet was posted an hour and a half after the event. Pretty fast reporting, and an amazing display of openness.

Conclusion. Space is hard. You fail a lot. You learn from each failure, and you want your failures early, before whatever caused them is baked in. It’s like that old video game. You may die; your little dog may die, but eventually, Oregon gets settled.

To quote  Julia Ecklare, the only way to go from here is out.



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