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
Summer
Zuccini  1  12 12  6 5.85
Delicata
Cuke  1  3.5  3.5  1  0.22
Spaghetti
Pie
Pumpkin
1  15  15  2  2.1
Beans  –  12  –  –  2.5
Peas  –  – 1.0
Cabbage

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 (hibi.ke! euu.fuo.ni.a.mu), 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
Summer
Zuccini  2  36 18  5 5.1
Delicata
Cuke
Spaghetti
Pie
Pumpkin
 1  26  26  1  1.6
Beans  –  30  –  –  1.8
Peas  –  16 1.0
Cabbage

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
Summer
Zuccini  1  9  9  3 2.5
Delicata
Cuke
Spaghetti
Pumpkin
Beans
Peas  –  16 1.0
Cabbage

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.

Week
Ending
7/13
Vegetable Count Weight
oz
Unit
Weight
oz
Total Total
Weight
lb
Tomato  19  41  2.1  20 2.6
Summer
Zuccini  2  33  16  2 2.0
Delicata
Cuke
Spaghetti
Pumpkin
Beans
Peas  –  16 1.0
Cabbage

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.

 

Akregator: Not quite ready for prime time

June 26, 2015

There’s two reasons I haven’t dumped Opera altogether. First, is their RSS feed (part of their email function). It is still the best I have found. Second, is the fact that FirefoxOnLinux is in some sort of bunfight with JavaScript, and many things (like buttons) don’t render properly. Until both these are fixed, I’ll be using Opera for RSS and structured browsing. Let’s talk about RSS feeds

RSS (officially, Rich Site Summary, more often Really Simple Syndication) is a tool that notifies subscribers whenever a web site is updated. Why would you want to use something like that? Well, it’s a more compact and asynchronous way of keeping track of a lot of infrequently-posted websites than is, for example, Twitter, even though many people use a tweet-stream as an RSS replacement. Let me go over my approach to managing my information workload.

  1. There are some sites that update essentially once a day, like Slate. To see what’s on Slate, or APOD, or the Aviation Herald, I keep their links in a folder titled “Morning Papers”, and I open everything in that folder once a day.
  2. Other sites update weekly, or biweekly, or they may update daily but are such that I don’t need to see them every day. So I have another folder, titled “Daily”, and in that are subfolders “Monday”, “Tuesday”, etc. If Girl Genius updates MWF, then I have a link in each folder. On Monday, when I’m done with the Morning Papers, I open all the links in the Monday folder and read the latest Girl Genius cartoon, and catch up on the news from Bury St. Edmunds. BTW, the last time I looked, Firefox won’t let you do this — you have one link to a website, and if you save a link to a new folder, it moves the link from the old folder.
  3. Still other sites update continuously — Fark, or Reddit, for example. I know there will be something new whenever I go there, and I don’t want to be bepestered with notifications. There’s not many of those, so I can keep them in yet another folder, or even in my Speed Dial.
  4. Finally, there are sites that update irregularly, or seldomly, or that I’m only interested in aperiodically — Eureka Alert, Cooking sites, sites carrying the latest news on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I put those sites in my RSS feed, and I get notified whenever they update. Eureka Alert will do an 80-entry data dump a couple of times a day, Buffy, not so much.

Opera runs its RSS reader via the Opera Mail function. As with a good email client, you get to organize thing sin folders, you get a list of subject lines, and you get a look at the first paragraph or so of the update. Often, you get the full text.

But we’re trying to say farewell to Opera, remember? Unfortunately, it turns out there’s not a lot of good RSS readers out there. Firefox, for example, wants to put every RSS feed into my Favorites bar. That is OK for the first twenty or thirty, but I have over a hundred 345.

So, what else is available? Check back up on the Subject line. Akregator is a KDE based RSS feed for Linux. It has the same look and feel as Opera, but can show you more of the message, actually, the whole web page, and is reasonably easy to work with.

However.

Nice, clean layout. Pity about the 7,000 messages

Nice, clean layout. Pity about the 7,000 messages

There are three things wrong with Akregator: one bug, one feature, and one deal breaker.

The bug is that it will often reload a feed item that I’d already deleted. Not sure if it’s AK’s fault, or if the website is doing something funky with its xml. In any event, I’ll delete an item, and then come back the next day to find it reposted as unread. It’s easy enough to delete them, but I have to keep a running list of previously screened titles in my head.

The feature is that it doesn’t show you how many feed items you have hanging around. It shows you the number of unread items, next to each feed folder, with a total at top, but not the number of ones you’ve glanced at and left hanging about for later. Nothing in the documentation or the forae about it.

The deal breaker is the fact that it will reload the entire RSS feed set upon reboot, sending me, just for e.g.’s, from 27 unread items to over 7,000 unread items. Now, it may be that this is an artifact of the archiving feature, and that the solution is to tell it to just delete all feed items on closeout. So that I only lose the ones I’m really interested in.

Life is too short.

I’m sliding sideways, from OpenSuSE to Mint Linux sometime this week — I have the desire, I have the new SSD, I have the latest download, all I need is the gumption. Maybe there’s something over on that side of the world. Maybe Vivaldi will get their act together.

Low Kaliber Oatmeal

June 25, 2015

Somewhere on the web I saw a pretty favorable review of Kaliber Beer, an imported non-alcoholic beer by Guinness. So, on the basis of something I read on the web, I bought a six-pack, at just over a buck a bottle. Then reality set in.

I was prepared for a milder tasting IPA. I was prepared for a milder tasting Guinness. What I got was something that tasted like a 10:1 mixture of Coors Light and Guinness. Bleah.

So the beer went where all unwanted foods go, into my breakfast. I actually tried two different recipes: 3:1 beef broth and beer, and a 50/50 mix. A word of caution at this point. Beer is carbonated. It foams. When boiled, it foams a lot. Stay next the stove and move the pot on and off the flame, or electrons, or magnetrons, or whatever.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, one cup of broth/beer mix (your choice as to the ratio), salt.  Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats, and minding the foam.  Add the potato when you take it off the stove.

Results: Too much bitter. Not inedible, but not anything I’d want to order again. I may try adding the beer in tablespoon quantities, but anything less puts us in homeopathic dilution territory. Question for the class, how many tablespoons in the four remaining bottles of beer?

Rating: *****

Green Thumb Up My Nose

June 21, 2015

Garden Report for 150622

Warm and dry and windy. Highs around 80. Lows around 60. Dried out the plants such that I had to water the containers twice a day.

Lettuce is well on its way to bolting. Pulled up about half of it (and about half of that was edible). One small plastic bag’s worth (the kind the supermarket gives you to put wet veggies in). Will do the second half tomorrow. Harvested our initial bean crop. Blue Lake bush beans. Six plants gave us six beans per plant, except that not all the plants had beans, so figure four per plant. Looks like we need to plant lots more beans to get a proper crop. Next increment is peas, in about two weeks.

Theoretically, our Early Girl, Champion, and Sugarsweet tomatoes begin producing this week. Right now, it looks like the yellow tomatoes will ripen first. Everybody’s getting water stressed, with the heat and the wind — a number of them have lost their blooms.

Planted accacia and chard last week. So far, nothing’s sprouted. Planted a mix of accacia and radishes in one of the long deck containers. Planted some shiso in the bell pepper container out front.

A little constrained in what I can do in the garden because of my cataract operation. Next week the shields come down, and I’ll be able to go back to bench pressing 30lb again.

On this date in Parliament, 1940

June 18, 2015
The original notes

The original notes

Winston Churchill gave a speech.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

June 15, 2015

Garden Report for 150613

Weather continued its three-days-cold, four-days-warm cycle. Mid 90’s at the start of the week, mid 70’s at the end. Mid 80’s in the forecast.

Pulled up most of the cabbages in Section 2. Tried the leaves in a salad. Not impressed. Planted a batch of amaranth and the last of one packet of chard.

Pulled most of the lettuce from Section 3, before it could bolt. Planted some amaranth here, as well. This batch we’ll leave for the seeds. People say you can cook them like popcorn. Since they are about the size of a mustard seed, it better be a really short movie. Meanwhile, the green beans are about ready to harvest. And speaking of beans, the pinquito beans I planted last week have started to come up. Still planning on a late October harvest.

Our containerized banana pepper plant has produced one small pepper. Very good. Went back to the hardware store for more, but they were out. Got a yellow bell instead. Put it in a big pottery pot out on the driveway.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

June 7, 2015

Garden Report for 150608

Two weeks of not much going on. Wx cycled between 60F and 80F on a three-days-cold, four-days-warm basis. Due to hit the mid-90’s this week.

The heat will definitely bolt all the remaining cabbage and lettuce. Harvesting bags of the stuff. MJ got in very late from a dog show over in Seattle on Saturday, and so didn’t go to church on Sunday. That means we didn’t have a chance to run around tying bags to people’s door handles in the parking lot.

Stopped at Huckleberry’s and got some seed. It seems late in the season to be planting seed, but we’re really only a week past official last frost. Put melons in on Friday, also one banana pepper plant. Back ordered some amaranth. Should have it by Wednesday.

I ordered some pinquito beans last week. Got them in on Saturday. Planted them Sunday. In the Santa Maria Valley, they plant in May and harvest in early October. I guess I’ll harvest in late October.

 

Abolish TSA

June 2, 2015

You’ve been diagnosed with a chronic, possibly fatal disease. Your doctor writes you an expensive prescription to deal with it. Almost fifteen years later you find that 95 out of every 100 pills you have taken over the years were just plain aspirin. Your disease has not progressed. You haven’t died. Questions for the doctor: Do I really have that disease? Do I still need to take these pills? Do you have malpractice insurance?

That’s the situation we are in today with TSA. Their measures don’t work. Their measures have never worked. Given the low level of the terrorist threat, a simple Bayesian analysis shows they will never work. So what’s TSA’s response? We will tighten up our procedures.

Sorry, guys. Doing more of something that doesn’t work, doesn’t work.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t have any security. I’m saying that by TSA’s own numbers, nothing they have done since 2001 has made us any more secure than what we were doing before that.  We’ve been subjected to a ~fifteen year, ~$70Billion government scam. It’s time to revert to our previous protocol. It’s time for a $70Billion malpractice suite.

It’s time to abolish TSA.

French Onion Oats

May 28, 2015

It began, as it so often does, with leftovers. We grilled some burgers for Memorial Day, and since there was lots of fire to go around, we sliced up an onion and grilled that as well. The burgers were good (pre-packaged grass fed, not as good as the ones I do from scratch), but the onions were underdone. Not raw, just crunchy. Nice grill flavor. There were a couple slices left over, so I chopped them up for breakfast. Since no French onion soup is complete without a big slab of cheese, I sprinkled a grab handful of mozzarella on top.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, one cup of broth, quarter cup of chipped grilled onion. Quarter cup (-) of cheese. Less salt than normal because of the cheese.  Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats. Add the onion before the oats, the potato when you take it off the stove, and the cheese immediately you have dumped it in the bowl.

Results: Servicable. Onions really needed to be more brown. Perhaps next time brown them the rest of the way in butter before I add the broth.

Rating: *****

Green Thumb Up My Nose

May 25, 2015

Garden Report for 150525

Last week was a warming trend, peaking at 80F before plunging to 70F today. Next week will be a warming trend, peaking at 84F on Sunday.

Plants are going somewhat wild. The Lemon Boy yellow tomato has produced a couple of 1/2″ tomatoes already, and several others have blossoms. The lettuces are growing like mad, and may bolt on me, right after the rest of the cabbages do. BTW, we tried last week’s bolted cabbage leaves in a salad. Blanched, chilled in icewater and dropped in whole. Didn’t taste particularly cabbagy.

KHG tomatoes are big enough that I had to take off the ASW (Anti Squirrel Webbing) gear and put up the cages. Regular peas, snow peas, long beans and regular beans have sprouted. Cucumbers have suddenly spead to cover the whole pot.

Harvesting lettuce like mad, but it doesn’t taste as good as it did last year. Growing too fast? Too much water?

Surprisingly, this isn’t too far off what last year was like, and in fact, last year’s cabbages were bigger than the current ones at the end of May.

Fake ShalyapinOat Dregs

May 21, 2015

So, a couple of times now, I’ve talked about an anime called Food Wars (AKA Shokugeki no Souma). It’s about a cooking wizard whose dishes make people’s clothes explode off of them. Last time was about my unsuccessful attempt to recreate a fake version of his Steak Shalyapin (fake, because it used pork instead of beef). Unfortunately, no-one’s clothes exploded, although I did have to let my belt out a notch. Fortunately, there was a lot of rice left. OK, sticky, pasty rice, with lots of fried onions and rather too much post-maillard wine and shoyu sauce, with zero ume paste. A perfect description of dregs if I ever heard one.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, 1/4 cup of the leftover rice  and onions from a Steak Shalyapin, one cup of broth, salt. Add the rice before you add the oatmeal. Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats.

Results: Very Good. The overdone flavor of the sauce was cut nicely by the broth, the rice added a nice texture to the boiled-plant-seed oats, and fried onions are always welcome in oatmeal. I’ll have it again, next time I ruin a Steak Shalyapin. Maybe by that time I’ll have some ume paste.

Rating: *****

The future of the auto-car

May 19, 2015

There’s a horribly simplistic article over on Slate about what autonomous cars might mean for your morning commute. The author calls it “back of the envelope”, but what he really means is ‘through his hat’. His thesis is that (a) autonomous cars are coming, (b) comm-linked autonomous cars can do cool things like safely drive faster than normal cars, up to 120mph (c) many people commute over an hour or more one way, THEREFORE (d) we’ll be able to live 120 miles away from work and still make the commute, which will move urban sprawl into the next state.

There’s not enough pixels on this page to list all the unrealities here, all the major changes in laws and infrastructure and logic that would have to occur in order for this to happen. Things like, there can’t be any old time hand-cars on the road to get in your way. Or, to make these times you have to live close enough to a freeway exit to be kept awake by the trucks downshifting to get off, and your work will have to be equally close to the freeway (that, or the downtown speed limits will have to be raised to 60mph from 25). And so forth.

Myself, I think there will be major impacts of auto-cars, but I think it will go in the other direction. It won’t matter where you live, because you’ll be at work the instant you buckle up. If the car can link to other cars, it can link to the Internet, and if you can link to the Internet, you can work anywhere.

So, you get in the car and clock in at 8AM. The morning rush hour of hand-cars is already past, because those poor slobs had to be into the office by now. An hour or two later your car deposits you at your office and you seamlessly resume work, with no more interruption than a 9 or 10AM coffee break requires. Around three or four in the afternoon (an hour or so before the hand-car rush hour) you get back in the car, and continue to work until you arrive home, at five or six.

One set of predictions I’ve seen says that with auto-cars, few people will own one any more. They’ll call for one when they need it. Or maybe they can carpool. So, add some soundproof dividers, and have an on-call auto-car carry three or four people from the same neighborhood to the same district of the city. Maybe the commute is a little longer, because of the pickups and drop offs, but it’s not like that would interfere with work.

I’d like to say that turning all the lanes of the freeway into HOV-4 would cut down on the number of cars on the road, but I keep thinking of my DC days, when every increase in capacity was gobbled up by increased traffic before it was completed. Of course, we don’t have to restrict ourselves to auto-cars, what about auto-vans?

There’s some optimum seating capacity for a given density of suburban homes and urban businesses. For DC it would be easy — 90% would be within ten blocks of the Washington Monument, so the bigger the bus, the better. For LA, it might be harder, and we’d have smaller cars running around from Huntington Beach to Rancho Cucamonga.

Of course, if the robots take all our jobs, then we won’t have to worry about the commute.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

May 17, 2015

Garden Report for 150518

Warm last week, cool and rainy this week, warm and partly cloudy next week.

Made another couple of passes through the hardware store. Butternut squash, Zucchini, lemon cucumbers, pumpkins, herbs. Beans, yellow tomatoes, white carrot-shaped radishes (they were out of daikon seed). The lettuce I bought last report took a while to set up. The Purplestuff is doing OK, but about half the buttercrunch  just laid there for a week before perking up. Fortunately, the lettuce I loose planted earlier this year has started to come up, and I think we’ll have a good harvest there before the current crop runs out. I have lots of seed and will plant more every few weeks.

All the bedding plants are now in, and the greenhouse is down for the season. Planted some seeds in sections 3 and 4. Section 3 got bush peas and spinach, and Section 4 got bush beans and chard. Snow peas in a deck container. I have enough greens seeds for succession planting, but I need to get back to the hardware store for some more peas for Fall. If I don’t buy it now, they’ll have shipped it back. On Friday, I planted some seeds for zucchini and summer squash and spaghetti squash and acorn squash.

Two weeks old and already it's trying to reproduce.

Two weeks old and already it’s trying to reproduce.

 

Speaking of bedding plants. Two weeks ago I bought some cabbage seedlings. Not large plants, but nicely developed. Not quite as far across as a beer coaster. Planted them. This Friday, I noticed that the purple cabbage was starting to bolt. Yes, bolt. Four days above 70F (just), three days below 60F (easily), six days in-between, and the suckers are a foot high and putting out yellow flowers. Deb Tolman says the leaves should still be good, even if we only get one salad out of it. We’ll see how the replacements go.

For some reason the squirrels aren’t digging as much as they usually do. There’s still scads of them about. I have ASW gear (anti-squirrel webbing) up over Sections 1 and 2, but haven’t done the others yet. Instead, I just laid the metal shelving from last years composter failure flat on the ground on top of where the seeds are planted. That will keep the critters from digging until I get the rest of the ASW gear up.

Faking Shalyapin

May 15, 2015

So, here we are, back at the Food Wars (AKA Shokugeki no Souma) anime. Our Hero is in a contest to see who can make the best meat dish. If he loses, his club gets disbanded and he quits the school. If he wins, his bikini-clad carnivore challenger will join his club. Sounds like a reasonable bet to me.

This is a simple dish, but it takes some time to prepare. Note that I took the recipe from the manga, which adds some touches, like the ume paste and the post-onion sauce. It also changed the order of the cooking. And it changed the spelling of Шаля́пин.

1. You take a slab of cheap steak. I’m a cheapskate, so I used boneless pork chops, which is why it’s a fake Shalyapin.

Squint your eyes and pretend this came off of a pig

Squint your eyes and pretend this came off of a pig

2. Slash it with your slasher, and beat the snot out of it with a meat-beater.

3. Chop up a couple of onions and pile them on top of the beaten meat. I did it in the frying pan I was planning on using, and put about half of the onion underneath and half on top. Let them sit for an hour, turning them halfway through.

Lots of onions, the finer the chop the better

Lots of onions, the finer the chop the better

4. Fry onions. This is harder than it looks, ’cause there’s lots onions. Took a long time. Because of this, and (3), the house will stink of onion. Pretend you’re French. Set aside. (Note: the anime did the meat first, and cooked the onions in the meat drippings.)

I wonder what the difference is between cooking the steak in the onion juices and cooking the onion in the steak juices

I wonder what the difference is between cooking the steak in the onion juices and cooking the onion in the steak juices

5. Make rice. Don’t use too much water, like I did, or you’ll end up with something more like rice paste. Add ume paste. Um …e… no ume paste. Substitute a pinch of salt instead.

6. Fry meat. Don’t get it too hot, like I did, because you are going to want unburned fond. Set aside.

Butterfried steak

Butterfried steak

7. Make sauce in the frying pan, if you are using the manga recipe. A few glugs of wine to one glug of shoyu. Cook down and thicken. They used potato flour. I used flour flour. Don’t boil it too hard, like I did.

8. Stack the results in a bowl: rice, meat, onion, sauce. They used a standard roundhead-helmet don – bowl. I used a very flat soup bowl.

It better be chopstick-tender, or the rice will end up all over the table

It better be chopstick-tender, or the rice will end up all over the table

Results: The meal was not inedible, but I’d have been thrown out the back door of the cooking school before the sauce finished congealing on the rice. Rice was wet and pasty. Meat was not tender. No way it would have come apart with just a chopstick. You’d end up eating Shalyapin-onna-stick.  Underdone onion flavor noticeable, possibly from fragments sticking to the meat. Sauce tasted burned.

Comments: Quite aside from my failures as a cook, the whole marinade in finely chopped onion thing seems much overrated. Maybe it’s because I used pork instead of beef and pork doesn’t tenderize in onion or something. Perhaps I should have used chopped turnips. Plus, the manga recipe called for ume paste mixed in with the rice. 7-11 was all out of ume paste that week (well, it was right after Easter), so the rice was plain, with salt. Maybe that was it.

Oh, that ume!

Oh, that ume!

Her reaction was almost exactly, but not quite, totally unlike mine.

UPDATE: I tried it again, with a small, thin, beef, steak. Prepared it exactly as directed, except I used a little balsamic vinegar instead of ume paste. Tasted much better. Was in no way tender. Needed more sauce. Maybe do it as a gravy rather than as a sauce. And use a better cut of meat.

SmokinOats

May 14, 2015

Central to this recipe is the Tale of the Broth. MJ brought home a couple of smoked pork chops. Smelled like bacon, tasted a little like ham, AKA smoked pork. We had one, cut up in a browned onion sauce, over rice. We had the other, cut up in a commercial “Madras Lentils” sauce, over potatoes. The ML sauce was a little like chile. The bones and the ungnawed … ung-nawed … remaining meat went into the pot for broth (you really don’t need a lot of fixin’s for pressure cooker broth), along with the usual celery stalk and carrot, plus the top leaves of a leek that wandered by. The resulting broth had a smoky, BBQlich flavor, the smell of which varied non-linearly with distance.

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

Results: Not bad. Smoke came through. Chile taste came through. Pretty good, if you like chile for  breakfast.

Rating: *****

Maiden Century

May 4, 2015

As they say in cricket. Yesterday I had 100 site visits, for the first time evers. It would be nice if they were in response to some insightful article, but it appears to be luck of the draw. Sixty-one hits were “Home Page / Archive”, whatever that means. Eleven were for my throwaway Fake Pork recipe. Three were for an early TL:DR, on Galileo’s Girls and Gitsune. The rest were onesies and twosies. And there was only one link clicked on: the shot of Angie’s underwear.

I don’t obsess over site visits, it’s more a mild, and somewhat bemused interest in what causes them. As far as I can tell, the things that drive hits are boobs (HOTD), prison rape (Cross Ange), and bacon (Fake Pork).

 

Green Thumb Up My Nose

May 3, 2015

Garden Report for 150504

May the 4th
( be with you)

This weekend marks the start of gardening season — a month early. Last frost isn’t supposed to be until 1 June, but this was a warm Spring.

Repaired and recored Section 1. Recored Section 2. Finished laying new irrigation hose on all four sections. Went mad at the garden section of the local hardware store. Put the anti-squirrel covers on Sections 1 and 2. Hung the netting for the hops.

Section 1 had a decided droop on the SW corner, an artifact of the original garden wall. I pulled off most of the cinderblocks from that end, and made an attempt to improve the lay. It sortof worked. The only way to get it right would be to tear down the whole wall. I found some interesting things during the repair work.

Droopy, weedy

Droopy, weedy

What, you were expecting Frank Lloyd Wright?

What, you were expecting Frank Lloyd Wright?

First of all, pretty much everything I had dumped into the KHG during the construction phase, three years ago, had rotted into nice, black soil. There were a few exceptions. First, while almost all of the phone books had rotted, the spines and clumps of pages of the thicker ones remained. So get a strong friend to tear those phone books in half before using them. Second, mettalic paper seemed to last — the sort they make teabag packets out of. Finally, I had dropped a couple of 18″ long quarter-rounds of pine into the mix, as a kind of makeshift hugelkultur. They were leftover from the wood for the fireplaces we never used. After three years in the soil, admittedly only one third the time needed for a tanner, they were as good as new, with no signs of rot. So much for Herr Hugel.

Second, there was a major difference between the Section 1 basket core and Section 2. Two was filled with lovely black soil, easy to dig out and mix into the main garden. Section 1 (with a smaller basket, closer to the tree, no liner) was full of roots and grass and detritus. As you can see from the pictures, I enlarged it, and added a liner, that will probably rot over the years.

Core 1 Roots and trash

Core 1 Roots and trash

Nice, clean, dirt

Core 2 Nice, clean, dirt

I wanted to look for some new sources for seedlings, but wasn’t successful. Google maps gave different results for a “plant nursery” search, depending on if I centered it on Spokane, or on nearby Cheney. This, despite the fact that the coverage areas overlapped. Second problem was, all the plant-nursery/greenhouse outfits I found were either a long ways away, wholesale/ornametals only, or out of business. So, I gave up and went back to our local hardware store.

As can happen when one is in a hurry — I go buying, not shopping — it’s easy to lose track of what went in the cart. So I came home with three Patio tomatoes, instead of two, plus two Brandywines, and a Zebra. Also four Bok Choy and eight Savoy cabbage. The cabbage into Section 2. The tomatoes went into Section 1, the deck, and the two hanging baskets (one Zebra and one Patio).

Went back to the hardware store on Sunday. Didn’t find any non-hot peppers, didn’t find any peas/beans. bought a flat of lettuce — buttercrunch and purplestuff. Put those in Sunday afternoon (divided more or less equally between, Section 2, Section 3, and a couple deck containers). Planted the squash seedlings what I grew earlier (two buttercup and two spaghetti) into Section 1. Also put the remaining patio tomato into a patio container and set it on the …. deck. There’s still space left for some other things, but that’s for next weekend.

Salmon-Dashi Oats

April 30, 2015

Unlike my first discussion of salmon and oatmeal (which featured a canned salmon sauce), this one is about your actual anadromiliad salmon-type fish, chopped up in the oats. Not only that, but the broth is last weeks real, home-made dashi, to which I added a couple glugs of shoyu, and a teaspoon of sugar – to turn it into teriyaki sauce.

The salmon was leftover from dinner. Nothing special — maybe a quarter cupsworth of broiled salmon, chopped up.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, one cup of dashi, a quarter cup of salmon. Tablespoon of soy sauce and a teaspoon of sugar.  Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats.  Add the potato when you take it off the stove.

Results: Very good. Needed more sauce.

Rating: *****

Oatmeal Dregs

April 28, 2015

Last time I talked of using brothdregs as an oatmeal extender, I was all about hand-chopping a small amount of the carrots and onions that were strained out of the original liquid. This time we made our broth from two small beef shortribs (it’s amazing how little meat is needed for a quart of broth). Afterwards, MJ ran everything through the food processor — meat scrapings, carrots, onions, the lot (well, not the bones). Came up with something that’s best described as a thick, granular puree.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, one cup of broth, two fat dinner tablespoons of pureed broth dregs, 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: Edible. The flavor balance was off a little, and the meat and gristly bits made it feel like you were eating a low quality hamburger. Still, it has potential.

Rating: *****

Android Fail

April 25, 2015

One of the key principles of user interface design is that you don’t make things harder for the user without a good reason. Google seems to forget this at times.

Android 5.0/Lolicon is the latest release of the Android operating system. It just installed on my Samsung Galaxy last week, and I’m still learning my way around it. A number of features have changed, but most of the changes are neutral — a slightly different way of doing X, that doesn’t interfere with how I use X. Except for one thing.

Under the version of the OS that came with the phone (KitKat, I think, or maybe KlondikeBar), you had an icon you could control phone sound with — default mode was on, one tap was vibrate, two taps was mute, and three brought you back to on. Mute stopped all sounds except for alarms, so if you wanted to use the phone as an alarm clock, you swiped down to get the icons, and tapped twice for mute. Once your alarm had roused you, you could do a swipe-and-tap (while saying wingardium volumosa, or something) and you’d be back in business. With Loli, that all changed.

Under the new system, mute means mute. No sound. All silent. If you want to hear your alarm, you set it to on, and you get to hear everything — alarms, email notifications, phone calls, everything. Fortunately, there is a workaround. Of sorts. You can go into Priorities, and tell the phone to only let certain alerts through at certain times of day or night. Unfortunately, it has to be the same times for every day. So, if you want to go to bed at 11PM, that’s when it switches to Priority mode. If you want to stay up late one night, you have to re-set it. If you want to go to bed early, re-set. Get up late, re-set. And so forth.

On the bright side, doing the re-sets might be annoying, but it’s also difficult. You see, sounds are controlled in Settings, which is an icon on page three in your applications list. Or you can hold down the Sound icon, which will change the mode for you, and then switch to the Sounds page. That’s where you control the sound from. But not the Priorities, sorry. Priorities are accessed only through the volume control rocker button on the left hand side of the phone. Hold the rocker down with one hand (the volume setting will change), and up pops another menu, with a typical settings-gear-icon on it. Tap the icon and it brings you to the Priorities Interruptions page, where you set your priority days and times. This, I find, only applies to things like email notifications. The swipe tones the phone makes (like when you wake it up in the morning) still sound loud and clear. So, you can no longer use the phone as a discrete flashlight if you get up at 3AM to go … get a drink of water.

Meanwhile, back on your phone, you can still swipe down and hit the Sound icon to switch to priorities-vibrate mode whenever you want less of an interruption. All done with your quiet time? Tap the icon to move to mute, and then again, to sound on.

Oh, did I mention that changing the mode to mute will turn off Priorities, and you will have to do the whole volume-rocker re-set thing again? Yeah.

You know what would have worked better, Google? Making the Sound icon a four tap system — on, vibrate, mute (with alarms), dead silent. And not throwing away my Priorities status just because I hit mute.

Home Made Dashi

April 23, 2015

I’ve been using dashi crystals in most of my Japanese cooking, because I thought it was easier, and because the ingredients for real dashi are so hard to find. Turns out, Huckleberry’s, our locally smug organic supermarket, carries both katsuobushi tuna flakes and kombu seaweed. You could probably find them at Trader Joe’s, or any similar store or Asian market.

Kombu seaweed comes in shards, like broken plastic. It rehydrates to something that looks and feels like it came off a wetsuit.  Katsuobushi is skipjack tuna, dried and shaved. It looks like, well, dried wood shavings. They are both dried products, so they keep essentially forever (although the tuna should probably be used up soon after opening). My recipe is an amalgam of several I’ve come across, and couldn’t be simpler.

1. Take a 2″ square of kombu, rinse and wipe. Place in a quart container of water.

2. Add a grab handful of katsuboshi, call it a loose half a cup. Some recipes call for more.

3. Place in the refrigerator overnight.

4. Next morning, heat it in a saucepan until just steaming, then strain out the solids, and et voilà, as the Japanese chefs would say, you have dashi. If you want something more instant, skip the overnight part.

A more traditional way is to soak only the kombu overnight. You leave out the katsuboshi until the water is steaming, then remove the kombu, bring to a boil, add the katsuboshi, let cool, and strain. For a simpler, vegetarian dashi, just leave out the katsuboshi altogether.

The Japanese will also use the strained solids to make a second, weaker, infusion of dashi. Or, the soggy katsuboshi can be added to oatmeal, to rice, to an omelet, anywhere you would use a tablespoon or so of tuna. The kombu is edible, but I am told that dashi kombu is older and tougher than snacking kombu. You can guess the experience just by feeling it and looking at it: It tastes vaguely seafoodish, and feels like you are biting through rubber. Both are useful additions to a compost pile.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

April 20, 2015

Garden Report for 150420

Other than two nights of frost and a day of high winds, the weather’s been nice.

Visited friends of MJ’s, who run a small truck farm on the edge of town. Got some pointers on starting seeds and when to plant and so forth. They said I shouldn’t put anything out until after Mother’s day, say three weeks from now. I didn’t tell them I’d already put out six tomatoes — three on the deck and three by the house. Early Girl, Sugarsweet, and a mildew-resistant hybrid.

If I’ve got another three or four weeks, I might as well start repairing Section 1. Straighten up the NW corner, and recore the basket.

Started a new set of seeds: cucumber, zucchini, buttercup, spaghetti, summer squash

Decided to make another attempt at pinquito beans. Soaked a handful in water overnight and spread them on a wet paper towel. We’ll see.

Put new irrigation hose in Section 3. I’ll do a writeup with pictures next week.

KanColle, the source of the Abyssal Fleet found

April 17, 2015

Off the coast of California.

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2015/04/17/uss_independence_found/

 

TL:DR — Anime I never finished, Spring 2015

April 16, 2015

We’re into Week 2 of the Spring Anime Season. Here’s some more shows I’m dropping. The first two aren’t bad out of the gate (the first one is rated highly by the aniblogiscenti), but I don’t think they’ll sustain my interest.

My (Love) Story: The (Love) is in parens because the actual title is simply Ore Monogatari (おれ ものがたり), or My Story. I guess a Western audience needs a little less subtlety. Gentle giant befriends young girl, thinking she has a thing for his friend when she really has the hots for him. Too, too treacly sweet for my taste.

Arslan Senki: AKA The Heroic Legend of Arslan. The Japanese sure can pack a whole paragraph into one kanji. It’s high fantasy, much like 12 Kingdoms, or Yona of the Dawn. For some reason, these kinds of stories don’t (usually) hold my attention, unless they have some redeeming feature, like Grenadier did. I quite liked 12 Kingdoms, but not enough to actually load the DVD with Cour 2 on it. I liked Yona, but not enough to actually order the DVD. It’s not them, it’s me. Well, it’s partly them. Anyway. Arslan is another of this ilk, only somewhat more clichéd than most.

The rest would have made last week’s list if only they had aired soon enough:

Gunslinger Stratos: Students from a future school where grades seem to be based on paintgun duels, fall through a crack in reality and come out in what might be present day Tokyo, where their dopplegangers use real guns.

Denpa Kyoshi / Ultimate Otaku Teacher: Otaku NEET slacker teaches school. As bad as it sounds.

Show by Rock: A rock show. For the pre-teen female demographic. Cute, in small doses. Like, one episode per season.

Rin-Ne: Girl can see ghosts. Not that girl (Re-Kan), the other one. Gets involved with cheapskate supernatural being. Not that supernatural cheapskate (Noragami), the other one.

Mikagura School: Flaming yuri enrolls in magical school because she likes the girl on the cover of the catalog. Her magical power is pointing her finger, flexing her thumb, and saying ‘bang’.

Daikonoats

April 14, 2015

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

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

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

Rating: *****

Green Thumb Up My Nose

April 13, 2015

Garden Report for 150413

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

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

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

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

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

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

Faking Pork

April 11, 2015

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

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

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

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

Eringi (エリンギ) mushrooms

Eringi (エリンギ) mushrooms

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

Looks more like a hash brown patty from here

Looks more like a hash brown patty from here

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

I was out of rosemary

I was out of rosemary

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

Mine didn't look like this

Mine didn’t look like this

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

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

Oh, the rosemary!

Oh, the rosemary!

——————

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

TL:DR — Anime I never finished, Spring 2015

April 9, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oatmeal Arrabbiata

April 9, 2015

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

Wikipedia

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

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

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

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

Rating: *****

Anime Worth Watching, Winter 2015

April 5, 2015

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

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

This is what it takes to make an anime

This is what it takes to make an anime

By the time the show is done, you know every person in that picture, and you care about what happens to them, and what their day is like, and you no longer mind paying Japanese rates for anime DVDs. You will also learn a lot about what goes into making an anime. Here is a glossary.

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

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

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

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

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

Saekano1

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

Saekano

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

Saekano2

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

What's for Lunch?

What’s for Lunch?

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

The Well-Cooked Bamboo Shoot...

The Well-Cooked Bamboo Shoot…

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

I wish I could chew on it forever

…makes me wish I could chew on it forever

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

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

Twerking Torpedos

Twerking Torpedos

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

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

The Fleet Girls in Action

The Fleet Girls in Action

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

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

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

The True Leader Does What is Necessary

The True Leader Does What is Necessary

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

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

YuriKuma01

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

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

Mr. Lincoln’s Computers

April 1, 2015

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

EarlyComputer2782902040_8eda609f06_o1

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

False Pho Oatmeal

March 26, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: *****


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