Nuclear Posturing

February 14, 2019

The history of mankind’s dalliance with nuclear weapons is one of fear-driven power politics and the resulting bad decisions, made with the best of intentions given the information available at the time.

The development and use of the atomic bomb was first of all driven by fear of a seemingly superhuman enemy. Between them, Germany and Japan had overrun most of Europe and Asia. A super-bomb would help tilt the scales, and in any event had to be developed ahead of known German efforts in the same area. The atomic bomb was used against Japan to shorten the war, and to limit American (and Japanese civilian) casualties. It was also a signal to the Soviet Union that the US was too powerful for them to try to dominate in the post-war period.

The immediate post-war period may have offered an opportunity for treaties limiting atomic weapons, and halting research on thermonuclear ones, but the Cold War was already starting. The Soviet Union, led by a paranoid dictator, was both afraid of another invasion by Germany and determined that the Communist System would overcome Capitalism. It might have been possible to agree to some sort of treaty, but we had no means of verification, and wouldn’t for another fifteen years.

In the 1960’s, both sides developed Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles, making possible the almost instant destruction of opposing capitals. Limiting the development of ICBMs would have been difficult, because both sides’ space programs (including satellite verification systems) were based on ICBM launchers.

After the Cuban Missile Crisis, the US and USSR settled down to an uneasy truce. Most of today’s policies were developed then, as efforts to stabilize the system. If the enemy can launch an attack without warning, and have it take effect within 30 minutes, then you have to be able to respond within that 30 minute time frame. Hence, keeping weapons on fifteen minute alert and allowing the President to launch a nuclear war (OK, appropriate retaliatory response) with no checks and balances on his actions.

At the same time, the USSR deployed and maintained a large ground army in Europe. Interesting fact 1: East Germany is about 80% the size of Alabama, and roughly the same oblong shape. Interesting fact 2: The USSR maintained more first line combat divisions in East Germany than the total number of divisions in the US Army. Yes, the Germans and other NATO allies provided enough troops to make up the difference, almost, but we were so concerned about the result of a massive surprise attack by 100+ Warsaw Pact divisions that our war planning discussions included the possibility of defensive fallback positions on the Rhine and the Loire. The plans also contained theater nuclear options, and a common phrase heard around NATO was that the real job of the ground forces was to hold the line until R-hour was declared for nuclear release. Under such conditions, there was no way a responsible leader could espouse a no-first-use policy. The whole reason for being of theater level weapons was so the Soviets couldn’t be sure if or when our retreating forces might use them.

Today, of course, the world is a much safer place — Soviet Communism is gone, the Warsaw Pact is gone, and the Russian military is much reduced — and we can seriously consider some of the recommendations discussed in this article in Tom’s Dispatch. Note that the article discusses two main issues: how to keep us from becoming less safe, and how to help us become more safe.

1. The less safe issues surround the Trump administration’s push for extremely low yield tactical weapons mounted on strategic launchers — 5kt W76-2 warheads on Trident SLBMs. I can think of nothing less useful. First question, who is the target? Russia? China? Are you seriously going to launch a strategic missile at either one, feeling safe in the knowledge that when it hits they will realize that it’s only a 5kt yield? OK then, North Korea? We can’t have a stealth bomber drop a dial-a-yield bomb? We’re going to launch an intercontinental missile on a trajectory that both China and Russia will feel threatened by?

Anyone who has given any thought to the edge case uses of nuclear weapons comes to the same conclusion: a nuclear weapon is a nuclear weapon, and once you have set one off, you are in a nuclear war. This applies to tactical battlefield weapons, EMP explosions, and small intercontinental attacks.

2. The more safe issues deal with rolling back policies that were important in the Cold War, but are destabilizing now. While Russia is certainly a major competitor, it lacks the ideological imperatives that the old USSR did, and it no longer has a large combat force on the borders of NATO (not even the “New NATO”). That being the case, a declared “no first use” policy would go a long way to defusing nuclear tensions, even thought such a declaration can be rescinded at any time. Similarly with China. China has no borders with countries we are bound to protect. Highest probability clashes are over the South China Sea and Taiwan, neither one of which is a nuclear level priority. As for Korea, if the North doesn’t use nukes, then the ROK army can beat them with or without our help. So there’s no reason not to have a declared no first use policy.

In the same way, there is today little reason for Russia to attempt an all out nuclear exchange and as for China, it is both less capable and has less reason to attempt one. That being the case, there is much less need for a continuing Presidential “launch on warning” or “launch under attack” policy. Requiring, for example, consultations with Congressional leadership, or mandating that a launch order be countersigned by the JCS, is not going to cripple our ability to respond. It might be prudent to rigidly enforce the “designated survivor” policy, but with the President we have today, who is to say that a rogue launch order is less likely than a decapitating strike event.

Configuring our nuclear posture has always been a strategic political act, as well as a tactical military one. Our posture sends a message. Changing the posture changes the message. Right now, our new message is that we are willing to make nuclear war easier to initiate, and that we are not interested in taking any steps to alleviate that situation.

Me and Myeloma

February 12, 2019

The January tests are in, and they all look really good. Everything is pretty much in the normal range (and those that aren’t are just on the edge), with no sign of the myeloma.

Here’s the deets:

  1. M-spike. There’s this thing called an M-protein spike, which measures certain proteins in the blood, ones that shouldn’t be there. It’s one of the prime indicators of myeloma. It’s been “not observed” now for six months.
  2. Kappa/Lambda Ratio. KLR is another protein measure. Normal range is .25-1.6. Mine was around 1.5 last time, and is now 1.4. So, in the normal range. Note: both the kappa (10.0) and the lambda (7.3) are also in their normal ranges.
  3. Immunoglobulin G (IgG). IgG measures immune response. High IgG says your body is fighting a disease, like cancer. Normal is 700 -1600. Mine started at 3000 a year ago. Then, with the chemo, it plunged to 230 and came back up to 250. This time there’s a new assay method, which says that there’s no significant difference between all those ultra-low values. Mine is currently <320. So, still low.

As I said before, I think if I hadn’t been diagnosed with MM earlier, someone looking at these results would say I was basically healthy, albeit with a suppressed immune system. We check again in July.

VRV: Aggregation vs Aggravation 3

February 10, 2019

I give up. VRV is just too clunky for general use. I found myself looking at the individual Crunchyroll and HIDIVE schedules on the PC, and then going into the next room to find the appropriate VRV episode on the TV and fighting the VRV user interface to watch what I want.

Meanwhile, CR has been adding shows from the current season that once were only available on HIDIVE (Kotobuki, Domestic Girlfriend). As a result there’s only two TV anime (Real Girl and Rocket Girls) and a movie (Girls und Panzer der Film), plus some nostalgic old programs and OVA’s (Taisho Baseball Girls, Kokoro Connect, Maid Sama) that are only presented by HIDIVE this season.

I tell you what. I’ll just treat VRV ($10/month) like it was an expensive HIDIVE ($5/month)subscription. So, $7/month for CR and $10/month for VRVHIDIVE means I’m spending $17 a month to feed my anime habit, instead of $15. Considering that I’m watching about seven shows a week (plus nostalgics), that’s not very much.

Where you stand depends on where you sit

February 9, 2019

Patrick Armstrong, long time Kremlinologist and more recent critic of US international policies, particularly those involving Russia, has an interesting essay on how retirement clears your brain, and why. His thesis is that a national leader only has so much time available, and so many claimants on that time, that they can’t stop long enough to consider what their country’s real best interests are. It’s only after retirement that reality has a chance to set in.

My take on this is a little different. When you are in a bureaucracy, you have a specific job, and your day-to-day concerns are doing that job well, as defined by the part of the bureaucracy you are in. When you change jobs, you change definitions. The classic example is Saint Thomas Becket, in the late 1100’s. He was appointed Chancellor by Henry II, responsible for (among other things) maintaining the King’s revenue flow, including from land owned by the church. After seven years as Chancellor, Henry arranged his election as Archbishop of Canterbury, the senior church official in England. Presumably, Henry thought having Becket as head of the church would make it easier to govern. That proved not to be the case. Once Becket put on the pointy hat he became a staunch defender of the church against the state, fighting Henry on issues of taxation and the jurisdiction of ecclesiastical courts. This led to Henry’s famous line “Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?”, which in turn led to Becket’s assassination. This is an early example of the working of Miles’ Law: Where you stand depends on where you sit.

When you take over an organization, you take over its culture, ethos, and goals. As the leader you can change that but the organization has to want to change (we are floundering and need some leadership), or they have to be in a crisis mode, like a war or depression, where the need for change is obvious. Otherwise, changing the direction of an organization is like trying to change the heading of a supertanker.

This is true, even of a loose cannon like Trump. Once he is gone, the legislature will be much the same, the bureaucracy of the Executive Branch will be mostly unchanged, and even the judiciary will have only a limited impact on our day-to-day lives.

Under normal circumstances, and given that this is an overly simplistic view, the ruler of a country got to the top by internalizing the goals of the government/bureaucracy, and is likely to feel that what has been described as good their whole career is obviously what is good for the country today. They are unlikely to promote drastic changes, they will find it difficult to accomplish any drastic changes, and, as Armstrong says, they are not likely to have the time.


VRV: Aggregation vs Aggravation 2

February 7, 2019

So, remember how I said that VRV had presented my watchlist as a set of cover art, with the actual title writ small? Well, today they fixed that, on the PC side. Without warning or explanation. This is a case of trying to do the right thing, in the worst way possible.

Smaller pictures, smaller font

The new list is a set of screenshots of my current episodes, instead of the series artwork. The pictures are about the same size as those on the Crunchyroll watchlist, so they can fit more on the screen. At the bottom of each frame they have a heart, so you can put some of the items on the watchlist into your favorites list, and a garbage can, so you can cast some into the outer darkness. They also have a colorful indicator if it’s a movie or a TV series, and a slightly less clear indication if it’s a sub or a dub — things you already know if you put them on the watchlist. One useful feature is a yellow box with “new” in it, in the upper left corner of the picture, indicating if the episode is the newest in the series (but not all the new episodes have that, and some episodes marked “new” are not the newest).

What’s missing? How about the anime title? Oh, there it is, beneath the picture, in a small, dark grey on darker grey font. The font appears to be slightly smaller than the font that tells me if its a sub or a dub. The season, episode number, and episode title are below the picture, in a much bigger, white on dark grey font. This is useful if you remember that Season 1, Episode 4 of Girly Air Force is titled “The World You See”

Finally, tucked into the lower right corner of the episode picture is a white on black number that tells me either how many minutes are left in that episode or how many minutes of it I’ve watched, with no indication of why they chose which number.

And finally, finally, if you click on the pic, it brings up a new page that autoruns that episode. You have to pause it, then scroll down if you want to see other episodes or series comments.

So, there are good and bad ideas in the new U/I, with the good ideas concentrated in the areas we don’t care about, and the bad ideas applied where they’ll do the most harm. In addition, this change (so far) has only been made for the PC interface. The TV/Roku interface remains unchanged, which can cause cognitive issues for users who switch back and forth.


Anime worth watching: Bloom Into You

February 4, 2019

Naname’s Back, and Koito’s Got Her

This is a straight up romance anime between two high school girls. What’s called yuri, in the trade. I should note that I am not the target demographic — I’m male and I’m old.

Q. How old are you?

A. Old. Old. I’m older than Donald Trump. I’m older than Eric Clapton. I’m older than Cher, OK?

Still, that gives me a certain distance, a certain perspective, that others might not have. Being from a time when boys tended to be oblivious to this sort of thing, and girls took a more Aoi Azusa approach, I don’t have the personal and hormonal involvements that others might.

Q. So,why did you watch it?

A. I recently traded in my Crunchyroll subscription for VRV, which opened up HIDIVE and a whole new library of anime backlist, including Bloom, which was recent, and highly regarded. I watched it on my TV using Roku, which presented some technical issues, mentioned below.

Q. What’s it about

A. Girl meets girl, girl falls for girl, other girl doesn’t fall for girl, girls continue that relationship.

Q. Could you be more specific? I don’t mind spoilers.

A. Koito Yū, our first year protagonna, meets Nanami Tōko, her second year senpai, while helping out at the Student Council. Nanami is the typical anime perfect girl — top of her class, good at sports, soon to be Student Council President, etc. Avowedly asocial when it comes to things like dating, except that 24hrs after meeting her, she decides that Koito is the one who makes her heart go doki-doki. Koito, meanwhile, is still waiting for that moment and has zero romantic inclinations. Nanami essentially forces them into a relationship, but Koito says she doesn’t mind, she just doesn’t love Nanami back. Nanami, for some anime reason, is fine with this.

The first few episodes deal with the establishment of the relationship. Nanami asks Koito to be her campaign manager for the Student Council elections, surprise kisses her at a railroad crossing (while a train passes, meaning that only half the world can see what they’re doing), later elicits a more consensual kiss in the Student Council building, and gives her a planetarium night light as a souvenir gift from a recent trip. Despite the asymmetrical kohai/senpai* power relationship, Koito appears to be more consenting than coerced. One reason for this might be that Nanami is a person who maintains one (perfect) face to all the world, letting only Koito see her insecurities and self doubt (“Don’t fall in love with me, I don’t want you to love someone I hate“).

The second half deals with Nanami‘s desire to have the Student Council put on a stage play, something that hasn’t been done these last seven years. Soon, Koito finds out that the last play was arranged by Nanami‘s older sister when she was Student Council President, but the play, and the tradition, were abandoned after the older Nanami was killed in a car crash. As an aside, Japanese must be terrible drivers, given the number of deaths reported in anime.

We can use my father’s barn!

Meanwhile, a student friend of Koito agrees to write the play script, and comes up with a story about an amnesiac student who is trying to find out what her original personality was like, but gets three different answers from three different people.

In quick succession, Koito finds out about Nanami‘s older sister, and how Nanami is devoting herself to replacing her sister in the world, while Nanami finds out that her sister was far from perfect. This causes Nanami a major identity crisis (almost like in the play, what a surprise), and it also induces Koito to ask her friend to change the ending of the play — instead of taking on the persona reported by her lover, the amnesiac will adapt her own persona, as revealed over the course of the play.

The anime ends … umm… halts, with nothing resolved. The two girls go on a date to the local aquarium and in the post-credits Nanami falls asleep on Koito on the train home, with Koito gazing at her fondly. At the very end, Koito grasps her hand and whispers “senpai…”, with a long pause, and everyone waits for her to say “I love you“, but instead she says “…we need to change trains now“, and the end card appears. The series is over, and Koito has not told Nanami about the change in the play, and has not admitted that she may be developing feelings for her senpai.

Q. And what did you think of it?

A. I liked it. I liked it a lot. It was straight up romance, not rom-com or some  flavor of harem anime. There was no spiky hair, no yelling, and no mechas. To the extent that one got to know them, the characters were all likeable. (Note that, to keep this essay short, I am leaving out a lot of characters, including Nanami‘s childhood friend Saeki Sayaka, who makes for a low-key love triangle, the two adult women in a lesbian relationship that is probably unique in anime, all Koito‘s other friends and the rest of the Student Council).  Their conversations were (mostly) lifelike, and their actions were (mostly) understandable, if we excuse Nanami falling in love with Koito eighteen minutes into Episode 1 as anime artist’s license. There were parents who did parenting, and teachers who taught and advised. None was a caricature.

One of the things I liked was how Bloom tells its story in small gestures. For example, there’s a trope in anime of the indirect kiss — where you drink from a container that the other person just drank from. Very often this is a big deal, sometimes with panicky voices and waving of hands. At one point in Bloom, however, Nanami opens a bottle of soda and hands it to Koito, who takes a drink and hands it back. Koito is oblivious, but Nanami stares at it for a long moment, before drinking from it herself, and the scene moves on.


None of the plot turns were based on standard shonen anime misunderstandings-of-the-obvious, and none of the characters were as dense as the average shonen protagonist, but then that just might be girls being smarter than boys. The physical side of the romance was very muted (despite her feelings, Nanami didn’t get beyond first base), she and the girls are proportioned like humans, and the fanservice was limited to a shot of her in her underwear, and her and Koito (et al.) up to their armpits in the bath.

Visually, Bloom is very soft. The art is very clean, and the colors are mostly pastels. Many of the scenes are bathed in the orange glow of sunset, what the Japanese call tasogare, the yellow dark.

The golden days of youth

One glaring note is not the fault of the anime. The presentation I am watching is from HIDIVE via VRV over Roku on my TV, and VRV on Roku uses black bands with white lettering for the subtitles, instead of the preferred yellow-on-picture that VRV on the PC uses. That’s not too bad, except VRV/Roku likes to put the sub in the middle of the screen, and sometimes it will double up the subtitle, which is irritating and can obscure most of the picture.

The music is provided by a subdued, unobtrusive piano.

The ending is very European.** We can see the form of the resolution, but they don’t feel the need to spell it out.  Of course, the fact that the anime used up all the available source material may have had something to do with it. Volume 5 of the manga (the aquarium trip) was published in Japan in January of 2018, and Volume 6 (the play) didn’t come out until 27 September, eight days before the anime aired in Japan. If the publishing cycle holds true, we won’t get a sequel until Fall of 2021. To my mind, if they waited a year, or even a season, and then used the play as a wrap-up, they’d have had a much stronger story.

I’m not a manga person, but I bought Volume 1 on Amazon just to see, and the anime tracks it very closely. There’s a suspicious-looking (“English language not guaranteed”) third-party blue-ray on Amazon for the low, low price of $144. You might want to wait on that.


*Junior/Senior status, for those not used to anime

**It reminds me of the British detective shows we watched when we were living there in the 1970’s. They had the same sort of ambiguous endings, instead of the US style full closure arrest and sentencing. Foreigners seem to be more comfortable with ambiguity than we are.


VRV: Aggregation vs Aggravation

January 30, 2019

As a long time Crunchyroll subscriber, I just switched to VRV because it includes both CR and HIDIVE and works on Roku (and HIDIVE doesn’t work on Roku yet). I’ve only been running it for a week, but already I have some opinions on the new service.

PRO: It aggregates the two services that provide the majority of the anime that I like this year. I also get Amazon Prime, but that seems to be past its …. prime.

CON: Having said that, I am paying for 11 different channels, only two of which I watch. On the other hand, while only two of the seven ongoing shows I’m watching on VRV this season are from HIDIVE (the rest being CR), an additional twelve good shows are HIDIVE exclusives from past seasons.

PRO: A nice touch at the beginning is that VRV will remind you that you can drop your CR subscription so that you don’t double pay.

CON: But CR keeps the money you already gave them and the savings only kick in on your next renewal date. If you paid last December, you have to wait until next December.

Now for the cons with no pros.

CON: The transfer doesn’t bring over your CR watchlist, even though both services are Ellation companies. You have to load it all over again.

CON: The VRV user interface

a. The watchlist is displayed in the order you added/watched them in, most recent on top, and can’t be changed, except it changes every time you watch something.

b. On CR, it’s two clicks from your watchlist to your most recent episode. On VRV, you go through the series intro screens. It’s like having to go through the CR “View Show” page each time.

CR episode selector

VRV episode selector


c. The HD subs are white-on-black-bar, instead of CR’s plain white, and block more of the picture. That’s presumably a HD problem, not VRV.

d. The VRV watchlist display is dominated by each program’s cover art (with a smaller duplicate inserted), and the actual names (for those of us who don’t relate to pictures) are in a much smaller font. This is an issue because you have to do a lot of hunting through your watchlist to find stuff.

CR watchlist

VRV watchlist

e. On Roku, but not on the PC version, at the end of each episode, VRV starts a 10sec countdown, showing the progress bar at the bottom of the screen. You know, exactly across where the subtitles are. This isn’t bad if the program is one that just runs out the ED, and it isn’t too bad if the program is one that only shows spoilers of coming attractions, but it’s terrible if the program is one that comes back with some post-credits story line. I could watch stuff on the PC, but I bought a Roku exactly so I wouldn’t have to do that — so I could sit in my living room and watch Samurai Girls on the big screen.

f. And speaking of (b.), the VRV ‘Program Summary’ doesn’t provide a lot of information on what you’ve watched and haven’t watched. The display for a partially watched episode shows a very thin progress bar. If you have watched the full episode, or if you haven’t watched it at all, there’s nothing. CR lets you know how much you’ve watched of each episode.

g. Possibly worst of all, with VRV there’s no way to tell from the watchlist display if an ongoing series has added a new episode. CR will post a new picture and grey out the progress bar. In VRV I have to open up the Program Summary and count the eps. Well, it’s also possible to bookmark the weekly schedule lists on both CR and HIDIVE and check there every day or so.

h. No, this is worst of all. CR knows the most recent episode you have played through, and when you come back it starts up at the next one in the series. This is true even when you just watched the latest available episode. When you come back a week later, CR will start up at the next/newest ep. VRV has no memory of what you have done. If you are marathoning a bunch of eps, it will jump from the end of one to the start of the next. But if you stop in the middle on a season, or if you play through the latest episode and come back later, you have to go into the Program Summary, go to the list of episodes, find the latest, and click on it.

So, as of this writing, early 2019, a Premium membership in VRV is $10/month, while CR is $7/month and HIDIVE is $5/month. Once HIDIVE is available by itself on Roku (they claim to be working on it), a combined membership would be $12/month, compared with the VRV $10/month. The question is, is getting rid of the VRV interface worth $2/month? Depending on what the HIDIVE interface is like, the answer is probably “yes”.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

January 29, 2019

Lessons Learned from 2018 and plans for 2019

Lessons Learned:

1. Don’t plant: Carolina Gold, any purple tomato

2. Some versions of Champion and Big Boy and Brandywine are determinates. Try staggering the planting. Not sure if staggering the seedling purchase will work.

3. Process the dirt —  turn over the fallow, fertilize early.

4. Until you’ve done (3), don’t use the fallow dirt.

5. Try using seed tapes on the carrots and lettuce, et al.

6. Be sure you check your plan so you don’t use last year’s planting pattern.

7. Don’t bother trying to grow plants indoors next winter. Soil temps in the so-called Sun Room never got over 58F, and three months after planting my indoor cabbage had six leaves.

8. However, here’s some hints on starting seeds indoors

Here’s the preliminary 2019 planting pattern:*

Section 1
Peas, squash, melons. Plant the peas early, so they gain some height over the squash.

Section 2
Tomatoes. Start seeds indoors early March, transplant early May. Depending on what’s at the nursery, put out seedlings in early May.

Section 3
Peas, chard, lettuce, carrots maybe cabbage. Start planting chard, lettuce, and carrots in early April. Plant more every three weeks.

Section 4
Asparagus, maybe amaranth. Looking for something permanent, that can take a fair amount of shade.

Deck Containers
The usual tomatoes. Early peas. Maybe try some shallow container lettuce and radish

House Containers (Eastside)
Tomatoes, cucumbers.

Try some container tomatoes with new dirt. Plant more Boston Ivy.

*which is mostly the 2018 plan, because I didn’t do (6.)

This is looking to be an El Nino year, so I think I can get started early on the planting.

Gantt Chart for 2019

TLDR — Anime I never finished, Winter 2019 Part 3

January 25, 2019

The final three, or is it twelves?

The Price of Smiles. Price, not Prince. Country S is run by newly-anointed 12 year-old Princess Yuki, who wants everyone on the planet to smile. Country G is poorer and militaristic and trying to conquer country S. Twelve year-old Princess Yuki sends her childhood friend to the front line to try to negotiate a truce, so of course he gets deaded. Lots of death. Lots of mecha fights. Very little to hold my interest. Did I mention that the 12 year-old protagonna is only twelve?

All I want is smiles

Endro! Apparently, Princess Yuki has a second job, as a the hero Yulia. She and her band of merry heroines want everybody to be able to smile, so they exile the Demon Lord (Momonga, working his second job) to a distant place and time. Actually, they just sent him a few years back in time, where/when he becomes a cute female teacher at their school, where he tries get her and her friends, now 12 years old, thrown out. An original anime that looks like it was inspired by a battle card game.

All I want is smiles

Dororo. Yet another zombie reboot. Based on a 1967 manga via a 1969 anime and a live action movie from twelve years ago. Dororo is a young boy (who may be a girl in disguise, depending on what you use as a source) assists a young man named Hyakkimaru (AKA 100 demon circles) who is looking for his missing body parts what were sold to demons to finance his father’s political career (so, a lot like the GOP today). There are lots of people who like this one but I find it’s got too much blood and angst and everyone has a past that comes back to haunt them. There’s not one normie in the bunch. To make things worse, Dororo isn’t even twelve.

All I want is my left leg

TLDR — Anime I never finished, Winter 2019 Part 2

January 23, 2019

Another day another drop. Or three.

Grimms Notes the Animation. So, there’s these four adventurers/superheros, in storyland. In storyland, everyone has their own storybooks, that tell them what their life will be like. And no, you can’t change what’s written there. In one part of storyland, Red Riding Hood is more of a job description, and generations of women have gone out to be eaten by the wolf (it says here) and then rescued by the Hunter. But someone is changing the stories, and the current Red Riding Hood doesn’t want to get on the cart.

Enter Our blank book Heroes, who convert to their superhero form — Cinderella, Robin Hood, Alice, and Goliath (Goliath? In plate armor?) — defeat the foes (for now), reset everyone’s memories, and get li’l Red to agreed to be et.

Episode 2 has Our Heroes meet Don Quixote and his waifu Rosinante.

It feels like the director just picked up whatever fairy tale element looked good and slapped them on the wall to see if they made a storyboard.

While on the road to grandma’s house, Red Riding Hood meets four suspicious strangers.

Date A Live. Season 3, I think. Seasons 1 and 2 only available on Funimation, I think. I watched one of them some years ago, probably.

Our Hero is the on-the-ground agent for a secret organization that’s protecting the city, run by his lollipop-sucking loli sister (lol). The SOtPtC has a futuristic control center, with controllers sitting at control consoles and providing surveillance of just about everything. Our Hero’s job is to find the invading spirits (all girls, of course) and ‘seal’ them by getting them to fall in love with him. So, just your everyday true-to-life anime. This season’s maguffin is a shape-shifting spirit who is disappearing all the girls in his life, one by one.

Too, too, generic characters and harem situation. Plot is silly, even for anime.

It’s probably best that they all go away.

Saint Seiya Santia Sho. Another zombie blast from the past that just won’t die. It’s based on a 2012 reboot of a 1989 anime from a 1986 manga. Rebooted again this year. Magical girls without the sexy transformation scenes. Jojo inspired art and a daytime anime vibe (Yes, kids! You too can own the Santia Shyoko action figure with golden trident!). Wrong demographic, wrong aesthetic.

Never trust a character with tentacle hair.

TLDR — Anime I never finished, Winter 2019 Part 1

January 21, 2019

This season I had 16 new programs to watch, 15 on Crunchyroll and one on Amazon Prime (have you noticed that AP’s offerings have trailed off since they closed Anime Strike?). I got a slow start because of the Panama trip (see sidebar), but it gives me the chance to work my way through, two or three episodes at a time.

So far, I’ve watched eight, and am dropping four.

My Roommate is a Cat. Writer takes in a stray cat, and they bond. Except that the cat doesn’t think or act anything like a real cat would: Oh, he’s passed out on the floor. That’s like my siblings did when they starved. I better push my food bowl over to him. Plus, I’m not a cat fancier.

I am a cat. Of course I’ll share my food

The Promised Neverland. Bunch of 11 year-olds escape from an orphanage into a world of horror. Or something, I dropped it as they went out the gate. I’m not interested in characters that young.

Here’s some kids. If you like them.

Lord El-Melloi II’s Case Files. Confused plot and uninteresting characters. Later, I found out it was a Fate/xx spinoff, which explains it.

cast pic
Not one of these characters is worth caring about.

Rinshii!! Ekodachan. Very strange anime. Protagonist is a dirt-poor Tokyo working girl who spends most of her on-screen time naked. If it weren’t for the minimalist art style, that might be exciting. It’s twelve episodes by twelve different directors and 12 different seiyuus. Kindof like Space Dandy, but without the budget. What drives it over the edge is the fact that each standard 24-minute episode consists of 4 minutes of anime, and 20 minutes of discussion with the director and seiyuu. Might be worth four minutes of your time.

Oh, I’m so bored

Trip to Panama

January 18, 2019

Just posted a page (see right hand column) on our recent trip to Panama.

Death and improvements

January 2, 2019

538 has an article up on death rates in America. The accompanying chart shows the strong link between location and death. Sixteen of the top twenty counties are in the coal country of Kentucky and West Virginia, or the native American reservations of the Dakotas, and this has pretty much held true for almost thirty years.

But what I find interesting, and encouraging, is the overall improvement in American health. Except, of course, for those same high death rate counties.

If you trace the interactive map back to the beginning, in 1988, the overall US death rate was 1,113 per 100k. Thirty years later, it was 786. Unfortunately, progress is scattered (the future is here, it’s just not evenly distributed). Oglala-Lakota county, in ND, had a death rate of 2,000 per 100k in 1988, and 1,600 in 2014. The equivalent numbers for Logan county WV, were 1,321   and 1,286. So both of these counties in 2014 are worse than the overall US was in 1988.

Still, an overall drop of 30% in 30 years is a Good Thing. What’s even better is that we’ve demonstrated that it can be done. All we have to do now is do it all over.

Ron Dreher on the Spanish Civil War

January 1, 2019

Rod Dreher, a professional religious apologist who often writes for The American Conservative and who occasionally says some interesting things, has a long essay in TAC on the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). It’s a commentary on a 1980 Granada TV series on the topic. The series, and Dreher, rightly recognize the complexity of the situation, with even proximate causes reaching back years before the start of the conflict.

Unfortunately, Dreher tries to map the anti-clericalism inherent in the conflict onto today’s differences between conservative Christians and the a-religious left. He also reveals his deep conservative bias in the way he frames the two sides.

Anti-clericalism in Europe is based on a long history of church support for an oppressive system. Today we tend to think of the church as an organization that supports the little people. In South America today, many priests are considered strong leftists, and clergy have been targeted by death squads. Not so in the 19th Century, in South America or in Europe. The French Revolution had a strong anti-clerical flavor to it as part of the full range of opposition to the system. The monarchy, the aristocracy, and the church all cooperated in holding down the peasantry, and the revolution attacked all of them.

So the anti-clerical movement in Spain had roots deeper than Dreher admits, and it was not so much anti-Christian as it was an attack on what Christianity had become. UPDATE: Dreher just posted an excerpt from a book on the topic, which shows it’s more complex than even I knew.

Second, Dreher’s right wing bias shows in his discussion of, for example, the Garland/Kavanaugh situation. Flipping the order of the quotes, we have

to be fair, the refusal of Senate Republicans to give Judge Merrick Garland a hearing may have been hardball politics, but it was also one of those things that delegitimizes the system.


…the utterly disgraceful behavior of the Democratic Party in the matter of the Brett Kavanaugh nomination was a clear sign of how far the left party is willing to go to protect its goals. I felt it myself, and talked to a number of conservatives who came away from the Kavanaugh hearings feeling more radicalized. The idea was, if they will do that to him, they’ll do that to me, if they win power, and have the opportunity.

So, majority party was just playing hardball, and the minority party, having been subject to actions that can be seen as delegitimizing democracy, fighting back with what few tools it has, are engaged in disgraceful behavior that demonstrates anti-democratic intent.


The Republicans in Wisconsin did not trust the Democrats with power, and tried to blunt the effects of the last election. It may be legal, but it is clearly undemocratic, and a vote of no confidence in the system.

Was in a lack of trust, or a desperate attempt to hold on to power?

He does not feel it necessary to mention similar Republican activity in Michigan and North Carolina, and does not note that all of these are attempts to pass legislation by lame duck legislatures. He does, however, bring up the Democratic New Jersey legislature’s attempt (NYT paywalled) to put a redistricting proposal on the ballot, for a vote by all the citizens. The proposal may be a bad one, and their tactics another example of political hardball, but it’s a far more democratic effort than we are seeing in the Republican states.

So, the article is interesting, and the video looks to be as well, assuming you can spare six hours now the holiday season is over. Just be aware that there’s an agenda hidden there, and it’s revealed by word choice and framing.

Read carefully.

Memories of my youth: New Years in VietNam

December 31, 2018

Fifty years ago tonight I was celebrating the new year in our quarters in downtown DaNang. It was an old French villa, with mossy stone and flaking plaster and Asian style roof tiles. And our own bar. Most of us had no duties the next day, but nobody was falling down drunk. It was, after all, a war zone.

It was easy to tell it was a war zone because of all the gunfire going on around us. Not due to combat, but because of sheer high spirits among heavily armed teenagers far away from home. Every so often somebody down the street or across the river would let off another M-16 magazine on full auto, pumping another display of tracers into the warm night sky. Of course, what goes up must come down, and we later heard reports that four people were wounded due to falling bullets.

Don’t try this at home, kids.

Space Force

December 30, 2018

President Trump wants a new military service, the US Space Force. This is a bad idea, and not just because of the merchandising. If you listen to the proselytizing of Vice President Pence and his supporters, you will understand that what is pushing the President is more a concept of manifest destiny than an understanding of the issues.

There are, of course, a number of different opinions on the topic. What follows is mine.

Military services are structured for the domains in which they operate — land, sea, and air. They are separate services because the organization, skills, and equipment are substantially different for each domain. You fight a land war differently from the way you fight a naval campaign. The goals and objectives are different, and the means for accomplishing them are different. Naval forces can transport land forces to a hostile shore, help them gain a foothold, and keep them supplied. But then, the land forces will move to places that naval forces cannot go. Likewise, ground forces can provide protection for ports and naval bases, but their reach into the sea is limited.

When air power came along, it was initially seen as a support function for land and sea forces. It was only later, when air capabilities had improved, that it was possible to conduct an air campaign separate from the land and the sea element. This started with the strategic bombing campaigns of WWII, and culminated with the advent of nuclear weapons, the ultimate strategic bombing tool. The air domain had its own possibilities, goals, and objectives, and so required a separate organization to raise, train, and equip. But what about space?

Right now, the space domain can be seen as a support function, extending the capabilities of the other three domains. All of our current space systems involve a surface component as well as a space component, primarily communications, weather, and reconnaissance. There are no current space-based weapons, and few surface-based weapons with targets in space.

The Air Force was created because there were things air power could do that were distinct and separate from land and sea power. Right now, there’s no mission for a space force that isn’t support for the other forces.

Now, there are issues associated with the way we are currently organized. Acquisition is fragmented. Career paths are limited. No-one is tasked with the development of doctrine. But those problems can be solved without a new military service, with all the overhead that involves.

One issue that isn’t addressed deeply enough (although Tom’s Dispatch covers it) is the idea that creation of a space force is one more step towards militarization of space. Unlike projection of surface based power into space, via ASATs for example, a space force implies a permanent military presence in space. Essentially, it’s the start of a new military arms race, and we should ask ourselves if that’s what we really want. Just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should do it. For example, Henry Kissinger is said to have lamented that we didn’t really think through the implications of both sides putting MIRVs on their ICBMs.

In any event, the creation of a Space Force is something that requires complex lawmaking on the part of Congress. The new Congress has already made it clear they will be reluctant to commit scarce resources to the task.

Memories of my youth: Genteel poverty

December 29, 2018

The military has never been exceptionally well paid. In recent years, despite the lies the President tells, pay has been adequate, and pay raises at least kept pace with inflation. But at the end of the last Century there were times when enlisted members with families qualified for food stamps. There was a ten year period when my real income (counting taxes and inflation) didn’t change, despite an increase in seniority and a promotion.

Back in the late 50’s and early 60’s, we lived in a state of what might be called genteel poverty. There was no trouble keeping food on the table and shoes on our feet but there was nothing extra for any but the smallest luxuries.

I had always been a bookish lad and living on Vandenberg AFB in my early high school years, my tastes tended toward space science and satellites and such. Since all the major aerospace firms had offices on base, it was possible to write to them and get publicity packets, with photos and other handouts. One such letter prompted a call from the Convair folks, and after a discussion of what I was interested in, they invited me to come down to their San Diego plant to look at the Atlas production line. This was the chance of a lifetime for a nerdy high schooler.

Atlas assembly line

Alas, it was not to be. The trip would incur expenses — travel, lodging, food, and so forth, more than our budget would allow. My parents talked it over, seriously trying to find a way to make it happen (send him down on the bus, alone; see if there were friends he could stay with in San Diego). After a long while they concluded that there was no way to do it. We simply didn’t have the money.

I, of course, was crushed. But I’d heard their discussions and I knew their decision was not taken lightly. Maybe some other day.

That came back to me when I was reading about the impact of the government shut-down. Now, this time the military was not effected. The DoD has an on-time budget, the first time in ten years. But hundreds of thousands of other government employees (including the US Coast Guard, which is DHS, not DoD, and so doesn’t have a budget) were going into the new year, trying to fund the equivalent of a couple dozen trips to San Diego with nothing in their bank accounts and useless OPM advice in their mail boxes.

Shutting down the government

December 22, 2018

I’ve been through this before, both in and out of government. It’s not a lot of fun. Essentially, a government shutdown is a game of chicken between the two parties, or in this case, the President and the Congress.

As usual, the people who get hurt are the little people, the ones in government who make sure things keep moving. Despite what the Republicans think, most government workers (clerks, staff workers) don’t make a lot of money, and most people who provide services to the government (janitors, security guards) make even less. If they work in Washington, DC, they are making ends meet in one of the most expensive cities in the country.

The people I knew, and know, in government are proud of what they do, serving the country and their fellow citizens. Here’s a couple of non-shutdown examples. One woman I knew, a DIA analyst and the wife of a banker (you’d recognize the name), could have been part of the white-glove and tea party set in Northern Virginia. Instead, she was coming to work at 5AM of a dark December morning to prepare Intelligence analysis reports for the morning briefing. She did it because she felt it was important work. She wasn’t alone.

Many commercial offices have Christmas parties this time of year, where they shut down for four hours or so, and everybody relaxes. Not so with the government offices I was in. It might be time for the office party, but that meant having your slice of cake on the desk next to your keyboard while you wrote up some analytical input for the next day. The party went on, but so did the work.

During a government shutdown, that work has to go on as well. Those who were designated as essential were required to come to work (at 5AM). They just weren’t paid for it. They were working on the hope that Congress would include back pay when a budget was passed, but there was no guarantee. My examples are from mid-level workers, ones who could afford to miss a paycheck. Others are not so lucky. The janitors and clerks were not “essential”, so they got furloughed, which meant no work and no pay and live on their meager savings in the dead of winter until the situation resolved itself.

For contractors, the situation was even more fraught. It was illegal for us to do any work on a contract during a stoppage. Depending on the company, we might get paid by the company (and the company wouldn’t get any reimbursement, because we weren’t allowed to bill against a contract) or we might not.

Of course, none of the politicians who are currently thumping their chests and comparing the length of their dicks will be hurt by any of this. They get paid if they do their jobs or not. The current consensus is that the Republicans, and Trump, will get the blame for this. The historical experience is that this will suppress support for their party for the next six months or a year, with limited impact on the next election, come 2020.

And so, she’s gone

December 17, 2018

Not a good Christmas week. Song didn’t make it.

She was OK through Saturday, bright, cheerful, wanting to stand, wagging her tail. On Sunday, she was depressed and lethargic, and bad enough we took her to the emergency vet.

On Monday, she died on the operating table. Essentially, the seal on her intestine failed. So did her pancreas. And her spleen.

She was only nine, and was a bright, energetic golden retriever. She loved to train, whatever the weather.

Indoors, she liked nothing more than to lie around with the other dogs.

Good night, Song.

 We will miss you.

Not with a bang

December 15, 2018

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

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

But those finals!

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

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

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

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

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

What reading does for you

December 7, 2018

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

Corn Chowder Oats

November 21, 2018

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

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

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

Rating: ****

The end of the world

November 21, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Turkey Pardon

November 20, 2018

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

President Trump (on right) with turkey.

Beefy Oatmeal

November 13, 2018

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

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

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

Rating: ****

Potato Water Oatmeal

November 8, 2018

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

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

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


Rating: ***


October 28, 2018

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


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

Curried Tomatoats

October 25, 2018

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

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

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

Rating: ***

Political Shenanigans in Eastern Washington

October 21, 2018

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

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

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

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

Green Thumb Up My Nose

October 21, 2018

Garden Report for 20181022

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

They like the tub


TLDR — Anime I never finished, Fall 2018 Part 2

October 21, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

TLDR — Anime I never finished, Fall 2018

October 20, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Green Thumb Up My Nose

October 14, 2018

Garden Report for 20181015

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

It’s a very warm tub

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


October 11, 2018

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

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

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

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

Rating: ***

Green Thumb Up My Nose

October 7, 2018

Garden Report for 181008

Nothing of interest happened last week.

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

Here’s the squash:

3 spaghetti 1800, 2050, 450

2 pumpkin 680, 2520

2 acorn 650, 315

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

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

2 cucumbers 440, 200

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

2 zucchini 284g, 920g

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

Main Garden

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

2 Brandywine 625g  310

5 Big Beef  531g  110

9 Big Boy  950g  100

6 Carolina Gold 720g  120

U/I greens 1320g

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


5 Supersonic  330g  66

10 Moreton Hybrid 720g  70

21  Jet Star 970g  46

7 Better Boy 400g  60

5 Brandywine 300g  60

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

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


It’s a very clean bathtub




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

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

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

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

Me and Myeloma

October 5, 2018

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

Here’s the deets:

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

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

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

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


September 27, 2018

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

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

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

  1. Show a lot of emotion and indignation;

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

  3. Complain a lot about the process.

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

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

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

Green Thumb Up My Nose

September 24, 2018

Garden Report for 180924

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

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

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

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

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

Cathy McMorris Rodgers is feeling the heat

September 21, 2018

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

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

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

First last times

September 19, 2018

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

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

Our dystopic future in space

September 19, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Including living expanses

…and space for feedlot agriculture.

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

…including Star Trek fashions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Memories of my Youth: Happy trails to you

September 18, 2018

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

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

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

Green Thumb Up My Nose

September 17, 2018

Garden Report for 180917

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

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

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

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

Still chasing last year’s 21Kg.

My silly dog

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

Memories of my youth: Fun times at Osan

September 12, 2018

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

Osan AB Korea

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

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

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

Green Thumb Up My Nose

September 10, 2018

Garden Report for 180910

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

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



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

Still chasing last year’s 21Kg.

Fake Beef n Oats

September 6, 2018

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

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

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

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

Green Thumb Up My Nose

September 3, 2018

Garden Report for 180903

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

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

count /  total wt / wt per

Carolina Gold: 11 / 1670 / 152

Brandywine:  3 / 520 / 173

Big Boy: 2 / 400 / 200

Cherokee Purple: 3 / 210 / 70

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

Old fashioned tomatoes, old fashioned tools

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

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

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

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

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

Pineapple Oats 1

August 30, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: ***

Green Thumb Up My Nose

August 27, 2018

Garden Report for 180827

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

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

count /  total wt / wt per

Carolina Gold: 7 / 670 / 144

Big Boy: 7 / 870 / 92

One of those is a pumpkin

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

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

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