Don’t eat yellow snow

October 23, 2020

North Korean media have been making a big thing about “yellow dust” blowing in from China. They claim that it contains “toxic material, virus, and pathogenic microorganisms” and could be a source of Coronavirus.

The fact is, yellow skies are a regular phenomenon in both Korea and Japan. I can remember seeing yellow skies over Osan AB in the Spring. What causes it? That’s the Gobi desert blowing by. Dry desert sands are picked up by the westerly winds and carried out over the sea of Japan. It happens every year, and has for centuries.

Dust storms from the Gobi often end up over Korea and Japan

It’s true that in recent decades Chinese industry has added lots of pollution to those clouds, but that’s gone on long enough not be considered something new. So, why the hoorah now?

I agree with the BBC that the problem likely is a Coronavirus outbreak that Kim (Not that Kim, the other one. No… the other other one… Never mind.) doesn’t want to admit to. By blaming it on Chinese pollution, he can enforce stringent controls (mask up, stay home, no construction work), without admitting that the pandemic has been hitting North Korea hard for the last couple of months.

A week from now, he’ll likely proclaim a massive outbreak of the virus, and blame it on the yellow sky.

Pandemic 49

October 20, 2020

The links just keep coming.

Quote of the day

On average, the number of excess cases per 100,000 residents in states reopening without masks is ten times the number in states reopening with masks after 8 weeks (643.1 cases; 95% confidence interval (CI) = 406.9, 879.2 and 62.9 cases; CI = 12.6, 113.1, respectively). Excess cases after 6 weeks could have been reduced by 90% from 576,371 to 63,062 and excess deaths reduced by 80% from 22,851 to 4858 had states implemented mask mandates prior to reopening. Over 50,000 excess deaths were prevented within 6 weeks in 13 states that implemented mask mandates prior to reopening.  — Journal of General Internal Medicine


What hinders social distancing? Well, what are you watching?

Targeted lockdowns. All well and good, unless you are the target.

Offer young people alternatives, not lectures. Alternatives like “party in small groups”.

Meanwhile, small groups, the new super spreaders. You can’t go home again.

Have you had Covid? Wanna have it again? Well, how’s your antibodies?

Back to school? How we doing? Nobody knows.

Remdesivir, et al. WHO says only dex has a significant impact. Who says? First base!

Only two residents live in the remote Italian town of Nortosce and they still uphold the country’s strict COVID-19 rules by insisting on wearing masks.

Adding a whole new meaning to the term Double Dutch.

Covid in our future.

Masks in the far future.

Outdoors is way better than indoors. Too bad it’s winter.

Stuck @ Home?

Read a pre-Columbian manuscript

View 18K radarsat image previews. I used to work with this stuff, in a previous Century.

Watch some classic documentaries.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

October 18, 2020

Garden Report for 201019

Cold and wet and windy, mostly. Sometimes cold and windy. Other times, just cold. Highs in the upper 50’s (last week that was the lows), lows in the 30’s, with one night dropping down to 28F.  Winds 30, gusting to 50 on Tuesday. Next week will be more of the same, only with less rain and more frost.

As for the tomatoes, my leave them out until first frost plan only lasted five days. On Wednesday night temps were forecast to be about 30F, with more frost a few days later. I decided to bring the rest of the tomatoes in before dark. That turned out to be a good idea. The ground-level low that night was actually 28F, and by Thursday afternoon all the tomato plants were black. Ended up with not quite 8kg from the main garden, and 5kg more from the bags and the deck.

They are all ensconced in the bathtub at a fairly constant 62F. MJ doesn’t like them being that close to the toilet, but I assured her that I’d wash my hands after eating any of them. Meanwhile, I’m going to keep track to see how many actually ripen and how many don’t.

On Friday, I started closing out the garden. Took down all the tomato plants. Noticed that I had left a bunch of small greenies. Not big enough to be worth trying to ripen, but there were a lot of them. I policed them all up from off the ground and off the plants. Got 1.7kg total. I plan to chop them up for relish, or salsa, or maybe soup. In Section 3, I picked the rest of the chard, leaving the carrots and onions for Sunday. Total carrot uptake was 1.6kg, and there were a handful of green onions.


The final garden output for the year is roughly 43kg of produce, nowhere near last year’s 67kg, but approaching 2018’s 45kg. To further illustrate the joys of gardening in the NENW, roughly half the tomatoes we grew this year had to be harvested green to beat the frost.

Planter Tracker

Planted: Indoor container, Bibb Lettuce 2017. 03 August. Sprouted 08 August. Not due until 3 October, but it was getting crowded and old, so I harvested it on 22 September.

Planted: Indoor container, Iceberg Lettuce 2018, 20 September. Due 20 November. This was pretty much of a bust. Maybe five of the ~50 seeds germinated, so I’ve overseeded.

Planted: Indoor container formerly with iceberg, Lolla Rosa looseleaf red lettuce 2017, 03 October. Due end of November, except that as of 11 October, none of them had germinated.

Transplanted: Red Cabbage seedlings, 10 September. Due end of November. Most are in the Main Garden (Sections 2 and 3), but four are in pots, ready to move indoors if the weather gets too hot or too cold.

Princess Principal Soundtrack

October 16, 2020

Sound of Foggy London is the soundtrack for the anime Princess Principal, a steampunk spy thriller. I really liked the anime, but I’m a little disappointed with the soundtrack. When played as background music within the anime it works out very well. When extracted and stretched to 90-120sec per track, not so much.

The price ($57 on Amazon US) is to be expected — it’s a Japanese import. For that you get two discs, 43 tracks, almost 90minutes of music. The highlights were the ending song A Page of My Story, and Dorothy’s pub song, Moonlight Melody. Page comes in three versions: piano, piano-four hands, and as broadcast. Moonlight also comes in three versions: piano, piano and violin, and as broadcast. も.ひとつ.まわして (mo hitotsu mawashite: I’ll take a turn Let’s turn it once more) the girl’s washing song from Episode 7 appears once, in Japanese.

The one omission shortfall I noticed was the minimal track for the ‘travelling music’ that plays when the girls are going somewhere in their car (e.g. at 16:48 in Episode 4). The Operations in Action track has one short measure at the start.

The rest of the tracks are mostly various flavors of jazz — light, heavy, piano, etc — with the occasional orchestral interludes and screechy electronic music tracks, all by series composer Kajiura Yuki , so if you like her music, you would probably like this.  Here’s a site (in Japanese) with 30sec sample clips.

Overall, the music (other than the highlights) was unmemorable, despite the fact that it fit well in the anime; a few tracks were unlistenable to these somewhat elderly ears. I figure I paid ~$10/min for the music I’d want to listen to in my car.

Yellow Dog Democrat

October 14, 2020

I’d vote for a yaller dog, if’n he was a Democrat.

I’m a Yellow Dog Democrat, and proud of it. I should be a Republican. I am old, white, fat, male, twice retired; career military from a military family; lived much of my working life in the Old Confederacy. I once voted Republican, but that was in a previous century.

I voted today. WA state makes it easy, even in dead red districts like eastern Washington. I voted the straight Democratic ticket, all the way from President to dog-catcher. Why? Read on.

Republican Politicians Have No Honor

My military career, all 22 years of it, was spent in the USAF as an Intelligence Officer, working on Indications and Warning at the command and national level. For years, a succession of Republican Presidents have exploited, twisted, and lied about what they were told by the Intelligence Community. President Bush (43), for example, lied about the Iraqi weapons of mass destruction program, and about Saddam Hussein’s links to Al Qaida. He did so because he wanted to invade Iraq, for whatever personal reasons. He essentially spit on my profession and my profession’s ethics.

Closer to home, in the years since 9/11, parts of the Intelligence Community have been involved in what are clearly un-Constitutional and un-American violation of our rights. Yes, a Democratic President acquiesced, but they were instituted under Republicans, and would still be going on were it not for Edward Snowden. Well, they are still going on, only not as blatant.  These acts are in violation of everything I learned about Intelligence ethics.

Republican Politicians Are Incompetent

Based on Republican lies, we invaded Iraq.  And then, they botched the job. Our overwhelming military might allowed us to overrun Assad’s tinpot army within days, after which America found itself mired in the longest war in our history, with more dead Americans than were caused by 9/11.  We pounded Iraq flat and and our Republican proconsul fired all its government officials, turning the occupation over to Republican apparatchiks. Seventeen years later, Baghdad still doesn’t have reliable electricity. Seventeen years after WWII, both Germany and Japan had growing, vibrant economies and strong democracies.

Closer to home, for their first two years, the Republicans had total control of the government and could pass any legislation they wanted. One of their promises was to come up with an Obamacare replacement that was cheaper and better. They failed.  The Covid-19 epidemic gave them another chance to demonstrate political leadership. They failed. More generally, a number of people have pointed out that, under Democratic Presidents, the economy grew faster, the unemployment rate was lower, and the recessions, if any were shorter and less severe. And speaking of recessions…

Republican Politicians don’t care about Americans

2007 saw the start of the Great Recession, under a Republican President. A year later, America elected a Black Democrat, and the Republicans vowed to make him a one-term President. They did this by blocking almost every attempt he made to relieve the recession. They cut back his initial efforts to help normal Americans, and blocked his later ones, using the excuse that the deficit was too high, and inflation was a bigger threat than a 10% unemployment rate.  As we saw when Trump came into office, and pushed through a tax cut for the 1%, the deficit doesn’t matter if a Republican is in office. While a minority in the Senate, they used the filibuster rule to block all attempts to improve life for the 99%.  As a result, the Recession was deeper and longer than it should have been. Of course, the 1% did well. Ten years later, during the Covid-19 pandemic, Republican politicians turned medical science into a political football, fighting closures and masks and social distancing, to the point where wearing a mask in public became a demonstration of your political affiliation. Closures are bad for businesses, while openings are only bad for the minorities who staff them, without health care.

That’s why Republicans are unwilling to provide desperately needed aid to economic victims of the pandemic. They aren’t worried that a relief package would fail; they’re worried that it might succeed, showing that sometimes more government spending is a good thing. Indeed, a successful relief package might pave the way for Democratic proposals that would, among other things, drastically reduce child poverty.

— Paul Krugman

And speaking of the 1%, here’s Senator Whiteman at the Barrett hearings. It’s a nine minute vid.

That’s a rough idea of why it’s likely I will never vote Republican again. When I started this essay, I planned to go into some detail about a broad range of issues. That quickly got out of hand and was headed for book length, not essay length, so I made some massive cuts, and it’s still over 800 words.

If you jumped to the end to read my conclusions, here’s the TL;DR — As now constituted, the Republican Party is an uncaring, unprincipled, unethical, power-hungry tool of the 1%, one that sees the American people simply as a source of votes. They are not worthy of mine.

Pandemic 48 — plus Alaska and Hawaii

October 12, 2020

We’re Number One!
(NYT 6 October)

Some links are less encouraging than others.

Quote of the day

And yet, despite everything that we have already endured, the virus now threatens to cause another nightmarish wave this winter. To prevent reaching four hundred thousand deaths by the end of the year, social-distancing measures … will continue for the foreseeable future. The approaching holiday season will likely be lonely for many people, as travel and large indoor gatherings will need to be prohibited in much, if not most, of the country. The fact that political leaders will continue to have a say in how people behave does not help. There is no panacea for this virus, but other countries have at least committed to certain strategies, and thereby achieved low community transmission. Federal leaders here have yet to offer a coördinated plan for safely easing community lockdowns. — Carolyn Kormann in The New Yorker


The winter forecast. Remember summer? Not fondly? Wait ’till you see what’s coming.

anti-aerosol protections. What we know works. (spoiler: masks).

Disease progression. Helpful NYT explainer.

Disease severity. Are you 7, or 70? Some helpful charts. (spoiler: don’t be 70)

Covid treatments. It helps to be President.

How do pandemics end? If there’s no one left to hear them, do they make a noise?

Contact tracing at the White House. If they don’t do it, we’ll do it for them.

Covid virus can last for up to 28 days on smooth surfaces, like touchscreens, or Australian money.

Got the Covid?


Stuck @ Home?

Watch some opera at the Met.

Process some hi-def photos of Mars and Jupiter

Read a book.




Green Thumb Up My Nose

October 12, 2020

Garden Report for 201012

This week was the last week of meteorological Summer. Highs in the mid to upper 70’s, lows in the middle 50’s. Then, suddenly, Autumn was here, bringing highs on Saturday lower than the Friday lows, with rain and wind. That’s what the first part of next week will be like, and the last part will be the same, only with less rain.

Saturday, et al. was predicted cold and windy, so on Friday afternoon I harvested everything with any color to it, figuring they’d do better off in the warmth of the house. Garnered one Spaghetti squash (750g), three really big Big Boy (1.2kg total), and an assortment of 14 more normal tomatoes (1.6kg) from all parts of the garden. There were at least 20 green tomatoes in the Main Garden, and another 20 in the Bags, and the plan was to leave those out until they were full red or hard frost. Then I read this article, which said that, while you could wait until just before first frost, prolonged exposure to temps below 50F were bad for ripening, taste and shelf life.  Well, the forecast said no highs above 58F, and no lows above 40F for the next week.  Given that, my choice was to wait until morning and harvest in the cold and the wind and the rain, or go out on a warmish Friday night with a flashlight, clippers, basket, and two hands between them. I decided to risk the dark, and came up with 37 tomatoes, totalling 8kg. I’ll leave whatever tomatoes I missed on the plants as the control group. Update Saturday: Good decision. It’s 50F, pouring down rain with winds 20, gusting to 40. According to various pans and such I left lying around, we got about an inch and a half of rain.

Meanwhile, the Red Cabbage is doing fine. Growth seems dependent on sunshine. The four in containers out in the yard are the biggest, followed by the five in the shade of the squashes in Section 2 and the five in the shade of…everything…in Section 3.

Including greenies, the total garden output for the year, so far, is just under 28kg of produce, a pale shadow of last year’s 67kg.

Planter Tracker

Planted: Indoor container, Bibb Lettuce 2017. 03 August. Sprouted 08 August. Not due until 3 October, but it was getting crowded and old, so I harvested it on 22 September.

Planted: Indoor container, Iceberg Lettuce 2018, 20 September. Due 20 November. This was pretty much of a bust. Maybe five of the ~50 seeds germinated, so I’ve overseeded.

Planted: Indoor container formerly with iceberg, Lolla Rosa looseleaf red lettuce 2017, 03 October. Due end of November, except that as of 11 October, none of them had germinated.

Transplanted: Red Cabbage seedlings, 10 September. Due end of November. Most are in the Main Garden (Sections 2 and 3), but four are in pots, ready to move indoors if the weather gets too hot or too cold.

TLDR: Anime I never finished, Fall 2020 – 1

October 9, 2020

And we’re off on a new season, one that is hopefully recovering from the pandemic-induced chaos that was Summer. Of course, that doesn’t mean everything is great, or good, or even poor. Herewith, the poorish.

Rail Romanesque — Ten minute shortie devoted to Rail Maidens developing merchandise for rail franchises. Looks like each character gets one minute of screen time or two squeaky lines of script, whichever comes first.

King’s Raid –Typical high ambition/low achievement apprentice in a typical medieval European fantasy world, goes off to fight demons in the forest next door after an entire squad of his higher-skilled military friends get killed trying that same stunt, leaving him alone in the garrison with all the women, one of whom is a buxom  priestess in an airline stewardess uniform. Has a sub-plot apparently showing why racial prejudice is a good thing [I always said them dark elves was up to no good]. He’s the sort of fangs out and brains in the helmet bag protagonist that gives anime a bad name.

Our Last Crusade — High tech swords and sorcery Romeo & Juliet. Two sword-crossed, soon-to-be-lovers, find common cause in bringing an end to the Hundred Years War [not that Hundred Years War, the other one].  Contrived plot, convoluted conversations, over-choreographed combat sequences that look like they were taken straight from an operatic stage. I mean, can’t you just see him singing an aria after he catches the falling girl [Tes petites hanches sont froides]? So far, I’d say that 2013’s Maoyuu Maou Yuusha did a better job with a lower budget.

This is my first pass. Not all the premiers have dropped yet, and some that do may fall out later. Given that I’ve only got eleven programs on my try-before-buy list so far, losing three is a pretty big chunk. We’ll see what the future brings.


October 8, 2020

I’m a California Boy — sixteen of my first twenty-one years. For most of that time, avocado was just something that was there in the supermarket. Sometimes we’d bring one home and make salad, or salad dressing, or avocado toast, but it wasn’t particularly special. Now, some decades later, it is still a sometime delicacy — I can’t get into the avotoast hype that’s our latest food craze.

Well, sometime is now. MJ brought a couple home in order to make something for a socially distanced social. I took the last one and made avocado oatmeal with it. Two halves, two tries. Plain and curried.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one cup beef broth, half an avocado, mashed, salt. One centimeter slab of curry, if you want. Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats. Add the avocado at the end, and top with a pat of butter.

Results: Yeah, all right. Not going to take Fresno by storm. The trouble is, the avocado flavor is too mild by itself to do much. Maybe that’s why they keep putting herbs and spices in it. The curried version was a little better, if you like curry. A few drops of lemon juice or rice vinegar gave it a useful touch of acid. Not going to run out and buy more avocados for this, but if we have a half left over from something else, I’ll do it again.

Rating: ***  three stars

My Debt to Van Halen

October 7, 2020

Eddie Van Halen has died of cancer, age 65 (ten years younger than me). For my two decades teaching Management Information Systems in the business school at a small regional university, he was the inspiration for a key lesson I taught my students.

You see, the last class the Business MIS majors took was essentially a capstone, Systems Project. In that class I would break them into teams and give each team a ~20 page Request For Proposal for the new software system I wanted them to build. Depending on what was trending that year, they were tasked to build a ride-hailing system called Ober, a lost airliner search coordination system, or a hospital staffing and appointment tool, and so forth, different each year.

Of course, I didn’t need a fishing fleet scheduling tool, or a  drug control inventory system. What I wanted was for them to have the experience of going from a set of written requirements, through the design and documentation process, followed by the joys of team software builds. How well it worked, while important, was secondary.

One of the lessons I wanted them to take away was the absolute necessity of carefully reading the RFP, line by line, with their finger on the screen and their tongue between their lips. Enter Van Halen.  The band’s contract with the venue they were performing at included a rider that said there would be a bowl of M&Ms in the backstage area, but the bowl could contain no brown M&M’s.  As band member David Roth later explained:

Van Halen was the first to take 850 par lamp lights — huge lights — around the country. At the time, it was the biggest production ever. In many cases, the venues were too outdated or inadequately prepared to set up the band’s sophisticated stage.

If I came backstage, having been one of the architects of this lighting and staging design, and I saw brown M&Ms on the catering table, then I guarantee the promoter had not read the contract rider, and we would have to do a serious line check of the entire stage setup.

In order to emulate the Van Halen Rider, I would bury critical formatting information in obscure parts of the document — the requirement that all margins be 0.75″, set in between paragraphs specifying that no drugs were allowed on the worksite, and that no metals from pre-apartheid South Africa would be used (this was a reduced copy of a real government RFP from the 70’s).

When the teams turned in the initial proposal, the first thing I would do is get out a ruler and check the margins and other formatting requirements. Invariably, they had missed them, and had gone with the default MS Word or Libre Office settings.

The object wasn’t to be mean, but to ensure that they understood they had to read the entire RFP in detail, instead of skimming over it the way students are wont to do. It wasn’t until the students were graduated and out in industry that some of them told their friends “I finally understand what he was trying to tell us.”

Thanks, Van Halen.

Trump’s Decapitating Strike, Part 2

October 6, 2020

Be careful what you joke about. Seven members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff are in quarantine after a meeting with the Vice Commandant of the Coast Guard in a small conference room in the Pentagon known as The Tank. VCCG Admiral Ray later tested positive for Covid. CMC General Berger was not at that  meeting, but he was at a White House ceremony on 27 September.

The upper leadership of the country is a fairly small group, that meets fairly often in fairly small rooms. A contagious disease, like Covid-19, could easily infect the whole group, absent fairly stringent prevention measures. Measures like, mask wearing, particularly when social distancing isn’t possible. You can be sure the military will be conducting aggressive and detailed contact tracing, unlike the White House.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

October 5, 2020

Garden Report for 201005

Weather was more like the early Autumnal NENW ought to be. Sunny and mild to start, with highs in the upper 70’s. Temps forecast in the 80’s for end of the week, but high altitude CA smoke kept us cool. More of the same next week, with some rain for the weekend.

At the end of the week I harvested one standard Zucchini (208g). This may be the last of the summery squash. Every year it’s a race between the harvest and the powdery mildew, and it looks like the mildew is starting to win.  Also picked eight tomatoes (1.1kg) from all around the garden. I’m expecting a bigger tranche of tomatoes next week.

Not much, but more are coming

Meanwhile, our trees are doing well. This is the one out front. Surprising color change, and it’s not just due to lighting conditions. Maybe that’s why they call it a Redpoint Maple.

The total garden output for the year, so far, is just over 17kg of produce. By this time last year, the threat of snow had forced us to close out the garden early, with 67kg of produce.

Planter Tracker

Planted: Indoor container, Bibb Lettuce 2017. 03 August. Sprouted 08 August. Not due until 3 October, but it was getting crowded and old, so I harvested it on 22 September.

Planted: Indoor container, Iceberg Lettuce 2018, 20 September. Due 20 November. This was pretty much of a bust. Maybe five of the ~50 seeds germinated, so I’ve overseeded.

Planted: Indoor container formerly with iceberg, Lolla Rosa looseleaf red lettuce 2017, 03 October. Due end of November.

Transplanted: Red Cabbage seedlings, 10 September. Due end of November. Most are in the Main Garden (Sections 2 and 3), but four are in pots, ready to move indoors if the weather gets too hot or too cold.

Trump’s Decapitating Strike

October 2, 2020

Back in the day, say half a century ago, one of the things the Indications & Warning community worried about was what was called a decapitating first strike, a small, no-warning nuclear attack that would kill the President and others in the chain of command, to be followed immediately by a somewhat slower follow-on strike. The idea was that the initial attack could be executed by forces close to the US — SLBMs off the East Coast — and be effective within 15 or so minutes. The ensuing confusion would give the follow-on attack time to hit before the US forces could launch from under.

All this is based on an external threat.

Today, we are faced with a decapitating strike from within. By now, everyone knows that President Trump has tested positive for Covid. Fortunately (for some ghastly value of fortunate), he’s been on the campaign trail, and has not been in contact with most of the leaders of our government…as far as we know. But how many unmasked, small room (e.g. White House Situation Room) meetings with the various Department Secretaries (Defense, DHS, HHS, etc) or the JCS were held but not publicized? How many junior staffers were not following masking protocols and then going to meetings elsewhere in DC?

It’s not likely to work out this way, but it’s food for thought — what happens if most of the top layer of government ends up sick?

Yakiniku Oatmeal

October 1, 2020

We had boneless pork slices for dinner last night. I used a Japanese marinade for yakiniku, glazed pork. It was more or less equal parts (~1 Tbsp each) of miso, shoyu, mirin, sugar, garlic, rice vinegar, sesame oil, sesame seeds, and mustard. We were out of miso and sesame seeds so I just left those off. After I marinated the pork there was a fair amount of marinade left (seven tablespoons, more or less), so I saved it for breakfast. Yes, it had been in contact with raw meat, but I was going to boil it for ten minutes, so that’s OK.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one cup beef broth, seven tablespoons (more or less) of yakiniku marinade, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, no salt, no cheese, no pat of butter at the end. Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats. Add the marinade at the start and the potatoes at the end.

Results: Very good. Needed a little more acid it it — either bump up the vinegar or add a squeeze of lemon juice. I’ll have to find an excuse for making more yakiniku.

Rating: ***

Pandemic 47

September 30, 2020

Some links are more encouraging than others.

Quote of the day

Tax evasion is part of a “structure of sin….It has become evident that those who do not pay taxes do not only commit a felony but also a crime: if there are not enough hospital beds and artificial respirators, it is also their fault.”Pope Francis


Why modeling Covid is so hard. Systems Dynamics, Neural Networks, Agent Based Modeling…it’s all Systems Science, and that’s what I do.

Isolation and your body. Not just the quarantine fifteen, but not as bad as Covid and your body.

Covid is in the air.

Testing. Testing.

Face shields don’t work.

About that new strain of Covid. Not so much of a much.

First wave. <10% of the population showed antibodies, and <10% of those with antibodies were diagnosed

Pets will help your mental health during lockdown. Post-lockdown you need to worry about your pets mental health.

Covid, the hidden killer.

Covid recovery. We’re a long time coming back.

Developing a vaccine. False positives.

Stuck @ Home?

Build a desktop PC.




Anime Preview: Fall 2020

September 29, 2020

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

First, let’s say what’s not in here. Sequels and continuations of stuff I dropped years ago (Dungeon ni Deai, Seizei Ganbare! ), movies and OVA’s, and anything with Idol in the title.

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

MIGHT WATCH: The cover art is off-putting, but I might watch it.

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


Green Thumb Up My Nose

September 28, 2020

Garden Report for 200928

Weather was more like early Autumnal NENW ought to be. Sunny and mild to start (75/55F) with rain and wind and cold (63/36F) in the middle, and nice and sunny at the end. Hot in the coming week

As usual in the NENW, no sooner has the garden started producing than it’s time to close parts of it out. The deck Lemon Cucumber did well, producing four big cukes. Then the leaves all turned yellow and brown — not disease, just wore out. So on Wednesday I harvested the last two cukes (350g), cut down the plant, and dumped the dirt in Section 4. On Sunday, I started digging over Section 4, and found it dry as dust. So it got a quick dig, and an hour or so of water.

At the start of the week I harvested one Yellow Zucchini (160g) from the Main Garden, one regular Zucchini (225g), one Lemon Cucumber (190), and three Main Garden tomatoes ( 400g). Plus all the Chard (and earwigs) that had grown up since my last harvest. We’ve gone off raw Chard, but MJ thinks that if we boil it with vinegar and garlic it should be OK.

Since our weather was supposed to continue cold and soggy into Saturday, on Friday I harvested 13 almost ripe tomatoes (1.3kg). I’ll be letting them finish off inside, where it’s warmer. There’s still four House Bags with tomato plants that have lots of tomatoes, all green.

Mostly Tomatoes

The total for the year, so far, is just over 15.5kg of produce.

Planter Tracker

Planted: Indoor container, Bibb Lettuce 2017. 03 August. Sprouted 08 August. Not due until 3 October, but it was getting crowded and old, so I harvested it on 22 September.

Planted: Indoor container, Iceberg Lettuce 2018, 20 September. Due 20 November.

Transplanted: Red Cabbage seedlings, 10 September. Due end of November. Most are in the Main Garden (Sections 2 and 3), but four are in pots, ready to move indoors if the weather gets too hot or too cold.

Political Contributions

September 26, 2020

Over on the Idle Words blog is a discussion of the strategy of political giving. The TLDR version is:

  1. Give early (but it’s never too late, and any amount helps)
  2. Give direct (don’t go thru a PAC, use a direct-to-candidate tool like ActBlue )
  3. Give to down-ballot candidates (I’ll discuss this a little more, below), plus, my addition, echoing David Brin:
  4. Give to candidates outside your district if there’s no viable candidate nearby. (I’m in a dead-red region of Washington State, so spending money here is sub-optimal.)

The idea is that the big campaigns are already pretty well funded. Yes, Biden can always use more money, but he already has a lot and has ways of getting more; and a lot of the high profile races (e.g. Amy McGrath for the Senate in KY) already have more money than the local advertising market can absorb. The people who really can benefit from your contribution are the smaller downballot campaigns that target people who are invisible at the national level. Idle Words points out that a state candidate might only have a budget of $50K.

The key point is that these downballot state level operations are essentially get out the vote campaigns, targeting people who would not otherwise go to the polls (Latino workers at a meatpacking plant in Iowa). And when they get there, if they are voting for a Democrat for state representative, they’re going to vote for a Democrat for the Senate and for President.

My personal example is Christine Marsh, candidate for State Senate in Phoenix, AZ. In 2018 she lost to her Republican opponent by 267 votes. Right now, the Republican has raised almost twice the amount of money that Marsh has. The Republican’s money included $40K of her own, with much of the rest coming from PACs. Marsh has very little PAC money, and almost twice the number of donors. My $45 contribution to her, through ActBlue’s State Slate, netted me a handwritten, personalized, thank you card. This tells me that Christine is a politician who pays attention to the details, and that my small contribution was important enough to warrant a personal response.

So give, give now, give smart…..AND THEN GO VOTE.

Pandemic 46

September 23, 2020

Lots of links this week.

Quote of the day

“The most effective vaccine in the world is useless if no one will accept it,” Talaat said. “I think people will die because of a lack of faith in the system.” She pointed to wavering CDC testing guidelines and the optics of political interference in FDA decisions as undermining the credibility of U.S. health agencies. Others say vaccine makers need to commit to being more transparent.

“You can’t talk your way into trust,” Talaat said. “You need to demonstrate that you’re trustworthy, and that the process is trustworthy.” — Stat News.


How are we doing? US vs EU daily deaths per million population

Even home-made masks help.

Eyeglasses also help, but ya gotta wear them all day.

It may never go away. Just like the common cold.

More reasons to get vaccinated. You survive other diseases better if you never had measles.

How to control vaccine costs. Open source taxpayer-funded drugs.

Long haulers. Covid is forever.

Do your knees hurt? Have you tried Covid?

Want to know how a vaccine trial works? Here’s the Moderna protocols.

How will we know if a new vaccine works? Count the bodies?

Some Covid scenarios. Even the best is pretty dire.

Stuck @ Home?

Walk through Italy.

Virtual worlds. For when you’re scared to go out in the real one.

Walk to Rivendell. Difficulty: you have to supply your own elves.



Green Thumb Up My Nose

September 21, 2020

Garden Report for 200921

Most of the week it was calm, with smoke. AQI started at 480 and slowly drifted down. Rain over the weekend brought it down to 27.

At the start of the week I harvested a bunch of nearly ripe tomatoes, to get them out of the smoke. Total of 1.2kg, including our first House Bag (Better Bush 225g), and a monster Celebrity (350g) from Section 1. Rest were Roma’s and Early Girls and some unidentified from the depths of the Section 1 jungle. Once again, my lungs took precedence over pictures.  I did take the hose and spray everything with leaves, to wash off the smoke. I’ll had planned to do that again, once we got our air back, but the lovely rain did it for me.

At the end of the week we had two new Yellow Zucchini (570g), three Lemon Cucumbers (600g) and thirteen tomatoes (1.8kg) mostly from the main garden and including a big green one that got clipped by mistake.

A far cry from when we had multiple basketsful

The Blue Moon Red Cabbage (I may write a manga with that title) survived the transplant OK. A couple of holes in the leaves that I don’t think were there before. Plus, a couple of the containers appear to have attracted digger squirrels. One of the problems with brassicae in the NENW is that the summer heat is too much for them. I’ve planted cabbage in the early spring, that bolted by mid-June. One fortunate side effect of the smoke is that the early-September temperatures, normally in the 80’s, were down in the mid-to-low 70’s. Now that we’re past the midpoint of September the chance of cabbage-killer heat is much reduced.

The total for the year, so far, is just under 14kg of produce. Last year it was 50kg, but that included a bunch of winter squash.

Planter Tracker

The Iceberg what I thought had sprouted did nothing, so I am going to make one more attempt, using some Blue Moon seed starter soil.

Planted: Indoor container, Bibb Lettuce 2017. 03 August. Sprouted 08 August. As of mid-September they are big enough to clip leaves from. Due 3 October.

Planted: Indoor container, Iceberg Lettuce 2015. 03 August. Four sprouted. Due 8 October.

Planted: Indoor container, Iceberg Lettuce 2018. 15 August. A few sprouted, 21 August. Due 05 November.

Planted: Indoor container, Iceberg Lettuce 2018, 20 September. Due 20 November.

Transplanted: Red Cabbage seedlings, 10 September. Due end of November.



Pandemic 45 — Now in cans

September 18, 2020

The links just keep coming.

Quote of the day

Trump was not called to greatness. He wasn’t even called to above-average competence. He was called to implement a game-plan we’d already written with a disease control bureaucracy that was the envy of the world, the administrative infrastructure and personnel of the world’s most dominant and powerful state, and a practically bottomless well of resources….But Trump didn’t just fail to do what needed to be done. He didn’t just refuse to do what needed to be done. He actively and aggressively undermined both federal and state efforts to contain the virus. — Wilkinson in Niskanen


Masks vs Vaccines. A mask will protect you if the vaccine doesn’t work, better than a vaccine will protect you if your mask fails.

Covidians amongst us.

Be careful what you read online. This blog is OK, of course.

You can insert it nasally. But what color should it be?

Pfizer refuses taxpayer money for vaccine development. Does this mean they can charge what they want?

Stop and sniff. “More COVID patients have loss of sense of smell than have a fever,”

Stuck @ Home?

Watch a baseball fly mach 1.3.

Learn about farming in history. I, II, III

Dancing queen.



Green Thumb Up My Nose

September 14, 2020

Garden Report for 200914

Windy start to the week, with gusts of 40kts, followed by temps dropping 19degrees in 24hrs. They quickly recovered to the upper 80’s – low 90’s. Lows in the low 50’s.  Long range forecast remains at hotter and dryer than normal.

We were lucky. The Big Wind took down power everywhere in Cheney, except our neighborhood. The associated Labor Day fires in the NW were all at some distance from us, and the winds carried the smoke away. This weekend we weren’t so lucky. Lots of smoke (thanks, Oregon), with AQI’s over 500 (Hazardous+). The view out our patio door looked like a misty NW morning, only we’re on the wrong side of the mountains. Here’s what the Spokane trafficam looked like on Saturday evening.

Bad for your eyes


Did a detailed comb-out of Section 2. Found another Zucchini plant with another Zucchini (270g) on it. Found what looks like the start of an acorn squash. Plum sized right now. Found the remains of the Bush Delicata squash. Never got more than hand high, not even big enough to call a bush. Cut away about a bushel of squash leaves with powdery mildew on them. One more Yellow Zucchini (170g) and four tomatoes (630g) from the main garden. Handful of Romas and a couple of Lemon Cucumbers (330g) from the deck. Still nothing from the House Bags.

Cucumbers and Tomatoes and Squashes, Oh My

Meanwhile, I spent the first part of the week putting in those Blue Moon landscape plants. Bunch of Barberry, a couple of, a Hydrangea, and a Columbine. Lots of problems digging the holes due to the number of roots left over from the old Maple and the Russian Olive, to say nothing of the still existing Cherry. At the end of the week I planted out the Blue Moon Red Cabbage. Six into the main garden Section 2. Five into Section 3 (replacing a non-productive Lemon Cucumber, since we have lots, elsewhere). Four into pots. I was planning on photos this weekend, but, you know, AQI> 500.

The total for the year, so far, is just over 10kg of produce. Last year this time, it was five times that. Thinking about it, it’s not as bad as it sounds. Due to supply problems I only planted about 1.5 sections, about a third of the total available, so we’re down, but not much more than would be expected.

Planter Tracker

The Iceberg what I thought had sprouted did nothing, so I am going to make one more attempt, using some Blue Moon seed starter soil.

Planted: Indoor container, Bibb Lettuce 2017. 03 August. Sprouted 08 August. As of mid-September they are big enough to clip leaves from. Due 3 October.

Planted: Indoor container, Iceberg Lettuce 2015. 03 August. Four sprouted. Due 8 October.

Planted: Indoor container, Iceberg Lettuce 2018. 15 August. A few sprouted, 21 August. Due 05 November.

Planted: Iceberg Lettuce 2018, 14 September. Due 14 November.

Transplanted: Red Cabbage seedlings, 10 September. Due end of November.



Pandemic 44

September 13, 2020

Viewing links through the smoke.

Quotes of the day

It was an apt introduction to the transition between the United States and Canada. On one side of the border, almost everybody took the virus seriously—and few people had it. On the other, the reverse….it’s pretty obvious that the real policy of the United States is to claim the rewards of successful virus management—a return to schools and universities, reopened bars and restaurants, resumption of sports—without first doing the work of successfully managing the virus — The Atlantic

… Even if a vaccine is proved to be safe and effective, rolling out a new one correctly is no small thing. It requires lots of coordination across multiple state and federal agencies,…academia, and the public and private sectors. All that requires public trust. If millions of Americans are going to voluntarily agree to have someone inject something into them to prevent a disease they don’t already have, they need to have faith in the agencies that put the effort together and in the government backing it. So for the vaccine to appear in such short time and for Trump to get the credit, he’ll need people to trust the experts at the FDA, the CDC and other regulatory agencies he has spent so much of his presidency publicly denigrating or undermining. Given the usual time required for developing a vaccine — which includes enrolling tens of thousands of volunteers to receive two doses of the vaccine or a placebo a month apart and then waiting to see if they become infected — and the fact that Trump has delegitimized so much of that process, producing a vaccine that a large share of Americans are willing to trust and receive does not seem realistic for the fall…Washington Post

[Herd immunity] involves a calculation of the percentage of people in a population who would need to achieve immunity in order to prevent an outbreak. The same concept offers little such guidance during an ongoing pandemic without a vaccine. If it were a military strategy, it would mean letting the enemy tear through you until they stop because there’s no one left to attack. -The Atlantic


Got Covid? Recovered? You’re screwed.

Vaccine roundup. Getcher program here. Can’t tell the vectors from the recombinants without a program.

No benefit from convalescent plasma in a randomized trial of 464 patients. At least it doesn’t kill you, like Hydroxychloraquine does.

What a smoky bar can teach us about covid.

Stuck @ Home?

Orbit the Moon.

Explore an abandoned lab. Very Jurassic Park.

Listen to a two hour BBC series on Rome. If nothing else, I love the voices.




Spokane Smoke — not a hockey team

September 12, 2020

I feel bad complaining about our regional smoke regime. Others (hi, Portland) have it much worse. Still, this is more personal. As of Saturday evening, our AQI is 468 (UPDATE: we peaked Saturday afternoon at 523), which is the Hazardous+ range and is the worst in Washington. The good news is that the smoke has kept the outside about ten degrees cooler than forecast. Looking out our windows, it looks like a misty NW morning, but your lungs won’t agree.

Here’s our current status, and a forecast:

Even with the house closed up (and the windows locked, to tighten the seal) we can still smell the smoke. I’ve turned on our filterizing box fan and added a couple of humidifiers. I don’t know if the humidifiers will help, but the theory is that the mist will soak up the smoke and let it drift to the floor. Closing the door between the dog room and the rest of the house helped a lot. The dogs don’t stay there, it’s just an airlock to the outside world. We also taped a plastic garbage bag over the vent for the whole house fan. The fan isn’t running, but the seal is bad enough that smoke can seep through. Not very pretty, but it only has to last another 48 hours…or maybe 48 days.

Our bedroom has a room fan with a new HEPA filter, and it is working very well. Well enough that the smoke really hits you when you walk out to the rest of the house.

The good news is that, because of Covid, pretty much everyone in the NW has a stack of masks at home, suitable for indoor (or outdoor) wear.

Pandemic 43

September 7, 2020

The links just keep coming.

Quote of the day

Those states [North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Arkansas, Missouri, Indiana, and Illinois] are starting to see an increase in the percent positive of their testing; that is generally predictive that there’s going to be a problem…If we’re careless about it, then we could wind up with a surge following Labor Day. It really depends on how we behave as a country. — Fauci


How to protect yourself from covid aerosols. A Google Docs FAQ.

With Canada and Mexico borders closed, Americans are trapped in their own health-care system.

What did the President know, and when did he know it?

Travel safe in 2022. With a passport?

Covid on steroids. Only if you’re really sick.

False positives. It’s dead, Jim.

Stuck @ Home?

Take an MIT class on covid.

Listen to the happy woodland creatures.

Learn a trade.



Green Thumb Up My Nose

September 6, 2020

Garden Report for 200907

Cool start to the week, then in the upper 80’s – low 90’s. Lows in the mid-to-upper 50’s. Windy early in the week. More of the same next week. Long range forecast is for hotter and dryer than normal.

The garden is in the late Summer doldrums. Eight tomatoes (1.4kg), mostly Big Boys. One Lemon Cucumber (80g, plus a tiny one, not worth counting) from the main garden, and, surprisingly, one regular Zucchini (280g) from the main garden. I say ‘surprisingly’ because I though all we’d managed to buy last Spring was Yellows. Still nothing from the House Bags.

Here’s the latest take. I included one of the planters of lettuce, and the planter that I’m using to hold the cabbage until after Windy Monday. It will still get hot later in the week, but I’m not sure I can keep the cabbages in their little seedling holders any longer.

Indoor Lettuce, Outdoor Veg

The total for the year, so far, is just about 9kg of produce. Last year this time, it was 38kg.

Meanwhile, I spent the week working on the new gate. All done. Looks spiffy. I had some pix of me working on it, but I decided the world wasn’t ready for that just yet.

Went to our local nursery (Blue Moon, very knowledgeable, very helpful, except teh covid has them parking customers on the street) on Thursday. We bought a bunch of stuff (about which, more anon) and they threw in a demi-flat of red cabbage seedlings. Since it’s way too hot for brassicae, we’re keeping them inside for a while before planting out. Then it will be a race with the killer frosts.

Planter Tracker

Bibb lettuce is coming along nicely. Crowded enough that it’s not forming heads and we need to do some thinning (see pic above). The Iceberg what I thought had sprouted did nothing, so I am going to make one more attempt, using some Blue Moon seed starter soil.

Planted: Indoor container, Bibb Lettuce 2017. 03 August. Sprouted 08 August. Due 3 October.

Planted: Indoor container, Iceberg Lettuce 2015. 03 August. Four sprouted. Due 8 October.

Planted: Indoor container, Iceberg Lettuce 2018. 15 August. A few sprouted, 21 August. Due 05 November.

Planted: Iceberg Lettuce 2018, 04 September. Due 08 November.



Anime worth watching: Princess Principal

September 5, 2020

Chise, Dorothy, Ange, Charlotte, Beatrice

Princess Principal is a gem of a spy anime from 2017. It’s set in an alternate, steampunk, timeline, where a revolution has split Albion into two parts: the Commonwealth, occupying most of the Home Islands and separated by The Wall from The Empire, which consists of the overseas colonies, plus the small exclave of London and the Thames Estuary. In addition to the traditional steampunk accessories, the existence of gravity-cancelling Cavorite (borrowed from H.G. Wells), a government monopoly, makes non-aerodynamic heavier than air flight possible. This discussion will involve major [spoilers].

The baseline story [spoilers] centers on a small cell of female spies, operating out of an exclusive girls school in Imperial London. As is usual in these stories, they get involved in a wider range of activities than your normal spies do. While much of what they are into is actual covert spy work — steal the key, steal the plates, steal the cipher, steal the prototype Cavorite ball — sometimes they are engaged in counterespionage operations — trap double agents, trap an imperial assassin, identify an imperial agent and recruit her target as a defector. The overarching goal, however, is clandestine Operation Changeling, intended to replace Imperial Princess Charlotte with her lookalike from the Commonwealth. And thereby hangs a tale.

For those into network diagrams, there are three principal actors and two secondaries. The principals form two overlapping pairs. First, we have two Intelligence Officers from the Commonwealth: Dorothy (team leader) and Ange. They are old friends, having gone through agent training together at The Farm, in the Commonwealth. Ange is Princess Charlotte’s lookalike and is the one set to take her place as part of Changeling. Then we have the second pairing, of Ange and her lookalike, Princess Charlotte. [Spoilers, and this time I mean it.] Unbeknownst to all, Ange and Charlotte have links that go back to before the revolution. You see, when they were both children, a beggar girl would sneak into the palace and play games with her lookalike, the bored princess. Come the revolution, the two were separated. Unfortunately, the revolution came the day they had swapped clothing. Ange is the real princess, and Charlotte is the former beggar girl, who taught herself to be a princess.

Hanging on the edges of the core group are Beatrice, the most nearly normal of the girls, who is Princess Charlotte’s friend and supporter, and Todo Chise, a Japanese shinobi tasked with deciding who her country should support, the Empire or the Commonwealth.

One of the issues that people have with Princess is that the episodes were shown out of chronological order. This happens in the TV/anime industry, and the reasons for it can run from artistic choice by the director (Humanity Has Declined) to sudden demands by the studio (Firefly). Princess starts out with just such a switch.

Broadcast Episode 1 is Chronological Episode 6 (and number 13 in Case order sequence). It’s a straightforward double agent adventure that serves to introduce everyone on the team and show off their strengths. In contrast, Broadcast Episodes 2 and 3 are chronologically (and Case order) Episodes 1 and 2. In those, we get a cold intro to both Ange and the Princess, and learn that while Ange wants to spirit her friend the Princess off to a hideaway near Casablanca, Princess Charlotte wants to become Queen and heal the Empire/Commonwealth rift. In fact, she offers to work as a spy for the Commonwealth to achieve it. The difference in impact is profound, even for someone who saw the spoilers in Broadcast Episode 1. Even if you’ve watched the whole program, it’s still worth your while to go back and watch these two in order.

There’s one other, minor, chronological issue. By the time we hit Broadcast Episode 5 (Chronological Episode 3), and the story of how Todo Chise came to be in the Empire, we have already seen her in action two times. It’s not the major cognitive diss that the Episode 1 switch is, but it does leave one wondering why this Japanese girl is attending school in London.

As an aside, the girls are more active than is shown in the anime. The Case Numbers, shown at the start of each episode, run from 1 to 25. that means there were another 13 cases not covered in the anime, including six before Chise appears.

Up until the last two episodes, the anime is pretty straightforward espionage team slice of life. We get backstory on Dorothy (fled to the Commonwealth due to an abusive drunken father), Beatrice (had a programmable voice box inflicted on her by an abusive mad scientist father), and Chise (forced to kill the assassin who is actually her loving father), as well as the story of Ange and the Princess. Each episode is self-contained (with recurring opposition characters) and lets us explore both the world of espionage and the steampunk society that is London. The animation is excellent, and the musical score is spot on. The OP The Other Side of the Wall is a little too jazzy for my tastes, but I particularly like the ED, A Page of My Story (which reminds me of the Spice and Wolf ED, Wolf Whistling Song).

The exciting climax comes [spoilers]  when the military takes over Control, the Commonwealth’s Intelligence Committee, and announces they will proceed with the original plan to kill Princess Charlotte and replace her with Ange. Actually, the plan is much more nefarious — they plan to assassinate the Queen (a Queen Victoria lookalike) at a public ceremony and blame it on Ange, the replacement Princess. Fast action by the girls saves the day, they escape to a beach near Casablanca, and the civilians take back control of Control.

Princess Principal would have been my best anime of Summer 2017, except it was up against Made in Abyss and Owarimonogatari. So, among the top three for the season, and in the top ten for the year. As of this writing, it’s available to stream on HiDive / VRV, and from Amazon Prime.

Stars and Stripes

September 4, 2020

The Trump administration has ordered the closing of the military newspaper Stars and Stripes, ahead of probable Senate action to restore funding that the Pentagon cut earlier this year. If it wasn’t for the fact that Trump has been trying to kill the Stripes for months now, I’d say that it was a retaliation for the recent reports of his poor opinion of military personnel.

The Stripes is, as they say, the hometown newspaper for US troops, both at home and overseas. I read it every day for the year that I was in Viet Nam. I read it for four years in Europe. I read it for another year in Korea. I read it less often in the States, because I was usually stationed at headquarters, like the Pentagon, and had access to the Washington Post and such. Troops in hellholes like Fort Hood are less fortunate (Waco Tribune-Herald, anyone?), and so Stripes remains a non-trivial, independent, resource, even in today’s Internet era.

The Stripes cartoon that got Bill Mauldin in trouble with General Patton

One analyst has suggested that Trump is doing this because of his hatred of the media. I’m inclined to agree. Not only that,Trump is totally uncomfortable with the give and take process of politics. He wants to be able to direct actions and see them happen, without any outside interference — a common misconception of those who don’t know how the Presidency works. His preference for appointing acting directors of government agencies is because he doesn’t have to negotiate the Senate approval process, even within his own party. Stripes is a media outlet he feels he has complete budgetary control over (even though his recent order may be illegal, in view of the continuing resolution). Ordering Stripes to cease publication before the end of the month gives him an orgasmic, in control, off with his head sort of feeling.

But the Stripes will survive, either because of immediate Congressional action or because of a revival order, once the adults are in charge again. Meanwhile, I doubt this action will get Trump any of the military vote.

UPDATE: Embattled President Trump has decided not to de-fund Stars and Stripes after all. It should be noted that the original funding cuts were included in the President’s budget from last Spring.

Cheesy Pizza Oatmeal

September 3, 2020

We eat horrible stuff so that you don’t have to.

MJ brought home a jar of Paesana New York’s White Pizza Sauce last week, so that we could try our hand at making our own pizza. Not the roll-it-out and spin-it-over-your-head stuff, our approach is to buy a pre-made pizza blank and put our own fixings on it. Unfortunately, the freshly-opened jar smelled like FDA Cheese Flavorant #7, and tasted about like it smelled. I tried it on toast, and it was just as bad.

But, hey! What about in oatmeal?

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one cup broth, two goopy tablespoons of PNYWPS, 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: Extreme meh. It wasn’t as bad as when it was on toast, but that ain’t saying much. Plus, it went all liquidy and the oatmeal ended up all runny.

Rating: * one star

Pandemic 42

August 31, 2020

Life, the universe, and covid.

Quote of the day

“I got a newsflash for Mr Biden,” Mr Pence said. “We think there is a miracle around the corner. We believe it’s very likely that we will have one or more vaccines for the coronavirus before the end of this year,” he said. “All that is attributed to president Trump’s leadership”.


Winter is coming. Is your hospital ready?

And by the way, simulations show the covid virus may be mutating to become more infectious.

So Go buy a goat. It can’t be worse than planting oleanders.

And Wear a mask. Save $56.14

Learn about exponential growth. Quick, before it grows.

Deaths are leveling off — at a higher level than last April

OK, we’ve got a vaccine. Now what?

By the way. That whole thing about being immune once you recover from covid? Yeah, about that.

and even if you are, it might not last, ’cause antibodies tend to decline. Don’t we all.


Stuck @ Home?

Spend the morning on a narrowboat.

Watch some cats.

Stay fit.



Green Thumb Up My Nose

August 31, 2020

Garden Report for 200831

Typical end-of-summer heat, in the mid to upper 80’s Lows in the mid-to-upper 50’s. Windy on the weekend. More of the same next week.

We are finally starting to get some produce. A Lemon Cucumber(110g), Roma tomato (25g), a somewhat blossom rotted Jet Star (100g) and three Early Girls (150g) from the deck. Two Yellow Zucchini (1kg), three Big Boy (650g) and a Brandywine (300g) from the main garden. Nothing from the east-side planter bags. Harvested a bunch of chard for chard & cheese saute. We’ve kindof gone off chard, so may not plant any next year.

It ain’t much, but it’s all we got

Total for the year, just over 3.0kg of produce. Not yet enough to start a scoreboard. Barely enough to start dinner.

Meanwhile, the gate into the garden has seen better days, so this week we’ve started working on a replacement.

This old gate

Planter Tracker

Bibb lettuce is coming along nicely. Crowded enough that we need to start harvesting.

Planted: Indoor container, Bibb Lettuce 2017. 03 August. Sprouted 08 August. Due 3 October.

Planted: Indoor container, Iceberg Lettuce 2015. 03 August. Four sprouted. Due 8 October.

Planted: Indoor container, Iceberg Lettuce 2018. 15 August. A few sprouted, 21 August. Due 05 November.


The Moon and Jupiter

August 30, 2020

Nice Moon the other night, with Jupiter nearby. Too bad some kid on a bike had to photobomb it.

Memories of my youth: Mt Hamilton

August 25, 2020

Back in the day, when Kennedy was President and San Jose State was a college, I lived in a dorm on the east side of campus, with a good view of Mt Hamilton and the Lick Observatory.

Lick Observatory on Mt. Hamilton. A view from downtown San Jose.

As you can see, the surrounding area is typical California Oak Woodlands, with broad fields of dry grassland and clusters of oak groves, home to those California Elves that haven’t taken up residence in the malls. Very dry in summer. Very flammable.

It’s a new Century now, and both Kennedy and the dorm are gone, and San Jose State is a university. And now we have wildfires across California, some of which are threatening the South Bay. Here’s a map from ESRI.

SJSC is right at the dot marking downtown San Jose, and Mt Hamilton is just inside the burn, directly east

Thursday night the fire burned right up to the domes, but heroic efforts by the firefighters saved them and the telescopes. Lots of infrastructure was lost, however.

I’m just glad that something is left from my college days.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

August 24, 2020

Garden Report for 200824

Scorching heat, followed by less scorching heat, followed by reasonable….heat. Highs in the upper 90’s to 100F to start, drifting down to the low 80’s. Lows in the low-to-upper 60’s, and we’re finally able to open up the house at night without having to wait for Venus to rise.

Early in the week I harvested 6 Early Girls (170g) and a Yellow Zucchini (260g). On Sunday, I picked one Jet Star (80g)from the main garden — the only tomato a rather spindly plant produced. Meanwhile, a main garden Brandywine has gone from green to yellow to orange, and up on the deck there are another three or four Early Girls coming along, as well as three or four Romas, and the Lemon Cucumber plant has a fruit that looks like an unripe lemon, so there’s hope yet.

Garden produce at sunset

So far, we have ~2.0kg of produce, so we have a ways to go to beat the 34kg we harvested this time last year.

Planter Tracker
The packed-for-2015 iceberg only germinated four, out of probably 50 seeds, so I overseeded with a 2018 batch.

Planted: Indoor container, Bibb Lettuce 2017. 03 August. Sprouted 08 August. Due 3 October.

Planted: Indoor container, Iceberg Lettuce 2015. 03 August. Four sprouted. Due 8 October.

Planted: Indoor container, Iceberg Lettuce 2018. 15 August. A few sprouted, 21 August. Due 05 November.


The Slayers — not a Buffy reboot

August 21, 2020

Back in the early 90’s — Remember them? No? Sorry, fellow kids, you’ll have to keep up as best you can — there was The Slayers, a light novel series about Lina Inverse, a young girl (and a powerful sorceress) with a snarky personality who wanders the land, accompanied by a depleted-uranium-dense swordsman, fighting bandits and monsters and opposing wizards. The novels were popular enough to spin off an anime series in 1995.

Just recently, three things happened. First, J-Novel started carrying the electronic version of the novels. Second, Funimation started carrying the first anime series. And third, the pandemic has me locked down in my house with nothing better to do than read LN’s and watch TV during the thinnest anime season since Viscount Takahashi Korekiyo was Prime Minister. So I decided to follow both the novels and the anime in parallel.

I’m only through Episode 5 and Chapter 3 and already I’ve decided the LN’s are better than the anime. For one thing, the anime has that mid-90’s cartoony look to it, much like Escaflowne. Everybody has pointy hair, and the noses make all the characters look like they’re Bob Hope’s not-so-distant relatives. Even the bad guys look like they’re straight out of Esca‘.

Why yes, Dilandau and I use the same hairstylist, how did you know?

So, what sets Slayers off is our wisecracking, self aware, self assured protagonna Lina Inverse. Her dialogue and interior monologues add humor and snap to the show, and this comes through better in the books than on the screen. Her scene descriptions, for example, are much better than the only slightly upgraded Hanna-Barbera art of the anime and let you paint the scene in your mind’s eye. It’s the same reason that many people still prefer BBC Radio to BBC TV — the pictures are better.

The LN’s are also aimed at a somewhat older demographic, and things that were screamingly funny a quarter-century ago intrude into what today would be called trigger territory. For example, in the LN,  when Lina won’t talk, the wizard tells his werewolf henchman to sexually assault her. The werewolf says that he’s not into that kinky human/werewolf stuff, and we run through all the other hench-creatures until the wizard decides to torture her himself… by calling her names like flat chested while she can’t respond. In the anime, the wizard shows Lina the wolfman’s teeth and says she’s gonna get chewed up if she doesn’t talk. Neither scene is particularly funny, but we can see that in this case, the anime really is for kids.

My conclusion is, don’t bother with the anime, unless you’re of an age that it would be a trip down memory lane, in which case you can introduce your kids to it. The LN is not great literature, of course, but it’s pretty good for a LN, and it’s really good for a 90’s era LN.

Pandemic 41

August 20, 2020

All your doomscrolling in one place.

Quote of the day

The worst-case scenario would consist of the following: (i) mid-level or significantly more asymptomatic carriers than symptomatic, (ii) exposure does not confer immunity, and (iii) a vaccine is elusive as it has been for other coronaviruses that cause the common cold. This unfortunate state of affairs could reduce the life expectancy of our entire species. — San Antonio study


San Antonio study. What if nothing works? With a link to the original.

Immunity. What’s it all about, anyway? What does it say about a vaccine?

Long haulers.

Oleandrin. Another Darwinist cure. Don’t do it.

Covid-19 and America. Well, at least the American Century outlasted the Thousand Year Reich — by almost eight years.

Cold virus.

You get less sick if you wear a mask. So you don’t have to worry about being altruistic.

Stuck @ Home?

Explore the Black Music History Library.




Green Thumb Up My Nose

August 17, 2020

Garden Report for 200817

Moderate heat, no rain, followed by scorching heat and less rain. Weekend highs in the upper 90’s to 100F. Lows in the low 50’s to upper 60’s.

The garden moseys along. One zucchini (410g). No tomatoes. No cucumbers.  A few more leaves of chard. We clipped a bunch of the basil for use in a tomato soup, made with store bought tomatoes. Very good.

So far, we have ~1.5kg of produce. This time last year we had >23kg. The pandemic is killing everything.

Planter Tracker
The packed-for-2015 iceberg only germinated four, out of probably 50 seeds, so I overseeded with a 2018 batch.

Planted: Indoor container, Bibb Lettuce 2017. 03 August. Sprouted 08 August. Due 3 October.

Planted: Indoor container, Iceberg Lettuce 2015. 03 August. Four sprouted. Due 8 October.

Planted: Indoor container, Iceberg Lettuce 2018. 15 August. Due 05 November.


Pandemic 40

August 11, 2020

The links just keep coming.

Quote of the day

The U.S. economy is about to look the way it did in 2009-2010, and we know a lot about that kind of economy. First, the Federal Reserve can’t save us. Once interest rates are close to zero, the Fed is “pushing on a string” and can’t engineer a recovery. Second, government spending can save us. Economists agree that the Obama stimulus helped reduce unemployment; it’s just too bad that it wasn’t bigger. Third, in a depressed economy deficits aren’t a problem. Remember all those predictions that government borrowing would lead to soaring inflation and interest rates? It never happened. But Donald Trump seems determined to take advice from people who got everything wrong during the last crisis and learned nothing from the experience. We have a very good road map to guide us, but we’re being led by people dead set on driving us into a ditch. — Paul Krugman


Here’s the latest and best estimates of the future of covid. TLDR: we don’t know.

Seasonal viruses. Many virii, many seasonii

Is your friend symptomatic? No? You probably got infected by them.
and here’s how you get to be asymptomatic. You may already have won. Here’s a more technical discussion.

Hard data on masks. TLDR: best (after N95) is 3-layer surgical (1), single swath/multi layer polypropylene (4), and poly/cotton/poly (5). Worst is knitted (3), bandana (12), and fleece (11). Fleece breaks up drops into smaller aerosols and is worse than nothing.

Testing, testing. Also, Texas testing.

The pandemic. How Trump got us where we are. Long, and political-sounding, but factual. And the rest of the world is horrified.

Anti-covid mouthwashes …if you’ve got it, they limit transmission. Otherwise, not so much

Stuck @ Home?

Too bad. I got nothing. Go play a game. Not Twister.

Beirut and nuclear war – Part 2 (updated)

August 11, 2020

UPDATED to account for new estimates of the explosive yield.

Just one week ago, Beirut was subject to the equivalent of a 2.75kt  0.8kt nuclear explosion in their port. I have already discussed how this gives us a look at what a very small device can do to a relatively modern, concrete and masonry construction, city. Now, thanks to NASA, we have a radar satellite comparison of the city before and after.

Red is heavy damage. Yellow is moderate damage.

You can see that heavy damage extends out to about a kilometer (the map scale and the distance measure tool on Google Maps don’t agree). I’m not certain that everything we are looking at is real explosion-induced damage. I suspect the actual descriptors would be Major Change and Minor Change. For example, the large red blob about 3km south of the blast site is the Biel Trade Center, which appears to be under construction. There’s also damage marked at Beirut International Airport, almost 10km away. Having said that, it’s likely that everything within that first kilometer is blast damage.

Bottom line: even the smallest nuclear weapon can inflict unacceptable damage to a modern city, and we should be very wary of any actions or policy changes that would make them easier to use.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

August 9, 2020

Garden Report for 200810

Moderate heat, no rain. Highs in the low 80’s. Lows in the low 50’s.

The garden continues its lazy progression to fall. One yellow zucchini (290g). A few green tomatoes. One possible spaghetti squash (no label, possibly because there was only one to share amongst the three or four in the seedling pot). A few more leaves of chard.

Planter Tracker
Due to pandemic turbulence at my hardware store this spring, I didn’t get the packets of seeds that I should have. That’s why I’m listing the packed for year for each of these. Yes, they’re old. No, not a lot of them will germinate.

Planted: Indoor container, Iceberg Lettuce 2015. 03 August. Due 8 October.

Planted: Indoor container, Bibb Lettuce 2017. 03 August. Sprouted 08 August. Due 3 October.


Beirut and nuclear war

August 6, 2020

UPDATED to account for new estimates of the TNT equivalent yield.

When news of the explosion at Beirut broke, a lot of people thought it was a nuke of some sort, because of the mushroom cloud. The fact is, the cloud is the result of atmospheric physics, not nuclear physics. Any sufficiently large explosion will do that.

Of course, it doesn’t have to be nuclear to be a bomb, and our Dear Leader in fact claimed that it was a bomb, before anyone really knew. This, of course, risked destabilizing actions by many actors in the Middle East. Fortunately, it would appear that all of the local leaders in the region had better self control than Dear Leader, and nobody started a war.

That’s all by-the-way. What I want to talk about is what Beirut teaches us about nuclear war itself. You see, as far as we can tell, the blast was caused by the explosion of 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate fertilizer. To round into weapons-speak, that’s about a 2.75kt yield and given that ammonium nitrate yields about a third the power of TNT, one analyst comes up with a 0.7-0.8kt yeild. That’s about a tenth the low-end yield of the new W76-2 warhead for the Trident SLBM. As I have said earlier, the W76-2 is a horribly destabilizing weapon.

Part of the reason is that a nuclear weapon is, as they say, a weapon of mass destruction. Mass. Destruction. Thanks to the events of August 6, 1945, 75 years ago today, we know what a 15kt bomb will do to a pre-war Japanese city, all wood and rice-paper, but what about a more modern city? What about a smaller yield? Well, now we know.

This AP photo shows a general view of the scene of the explosion. Note the water-filled crater next to the destroyed grain elevators. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

How much was destroyed? There’s no good reporting yet, but we can compare the photo above with a screencap from Google Maps. UPDATE: Here is some good before and after. Also this. And here’s what it looks like in Canada. Sorry, US, no equivalent for you.

Beirut Port before the explosion. The blast evidently took place in the warehouse to the right of the marker, and the crater is slightly larger than the grain elevator complex. About 150m in diameter

So, that’s what a 0.8kt weapon will do to a relatively modern, concrete and masonry city. Latest reporting says 135 dead, 5,000 injured, and many missing (and if this was a nuke, any of the dust that comes down will be radioactive). Keep in mind that 0.8kt is about a tenth the minimum yield of our new warheads. Also keep in mind that we can create an entirely plausible scenario for such a situation — war at sea, Russian warship sheltering in a Mediterranean port, US wanting to ‘send a message’ with a ‘limited’ attack that doesn’t hit Russia itself. All too plausible.

Someone should create a file of photos from Beirut, and if Trump, or some future President, is contemplating a ‘limited’ strike, they should show them to him.

Pandemic 39

August 3, 2020

This week there aren’t any links that tell you to wear a mask, but do it anyway.

Quote of the day

The “gee whiz” articles about vaccines are derived (sometimes copied) from press releases by the companies that hope to make gazillions of dollars from those vaccines. Every development that can be spun as good is hyped to increase stock prices. We have no way of knowing which press releases are accurate.


Pandemic USA, a summary of where we stand.

Systems Science attacks the pandemic. Analysis from the Santa Fe Institute. Stops just short of actually describing solutions.

Vaccine reality check from The Atlantic. Like I used to tell my students about introducing new technology to their company:

“Assume that the technology works exactly as the sales person described. What else has to work in order for it to be useful for your company? Things like: where in your office will we put it; will the drop ceiling framework support it; can it run on the existing network; is Washington really DC?”

Epidemiologists got it right. People don’t understand lags.

Testing, testing. Overfishing the coronavirus lake.

Vaccine trials. A statistician expresses alarm.

Hydroxychloroquine works, but only if you’re a green monkey.

How covid kills your smell. Well, sense of smell.

Don’t relax too soon.

Chart of per capita deaths for a few states.

Covid mutations. So far, so good.

Here’s a collection of important Science Journal articles on Coronavirus. If you are interested in how to deal with prefusion-stabilized SARS-CoV-2 spikes, this is the link for you…


Stuck @ Home?

OK, now we’re getting desperate.



Green Thumb Up My Nose

August 3, 2020

Garden Report for 200803

Record-breaking heat (Spokane touched 100), followed by moderate heat. Forecast is for more of the moderate.

We are finally a garden! Not only an Early Girl, but also a yellow Zucchini, one plum-sized kohlrabi, and a cricket-ball-sized cabbage.

Umm, that’s it. You can applaud now.

The EG was pretty big … for a walnut … and weighed 40g. The YZ came in at 170g. Trimmed (and divested of earwigs), the kohlrabi was 250, and the cabbage was 170. I’d show you the kohlrabi and cabbage, but they were embarrassingly small.

Meanwhile, the boxed basil is doing well. The grill kept the squirrels off until the plants were big enough to fend for themselves. Now, what do I do with all that thyme and basil? I could dry it and store it, but we still have dried herbs left over from the Obama Administration.

Most of everybody else — main garden, house bags, deck — is coming along in a nice, nonproductive way. The lemon cucumbers look like we’re going to have to find a recipe for cucumber tea. On the downside, I managed to leave the indoor containers out in the record-breaking heat for a few hours more than planned and frazzled many of them. I’ll be re-starting two containers shortly.




Baseball is back — sortof

August 1, 2020

Like all other right-thinking persons, I am supremely happy that we will have something that passes for a baseball season in 2020, particularly given the impact of a gap year on player skills. I’ve watched games on all three sports channels: Fox Sports, ESPN, and Root Sports. Each of the networks seem to be handling things somewhat differently, although sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between what the broadcast network is doing and what a particular team is doing.

Fox/FS1 appears to have their announcers broadcasting from home, such that none of the three covering the season opener Yankees/Nationals game were actually at the stadium. In fact they said they were located in three different cities across the US, and nowhere near DC. This is probably because they are network announcers, and not team announcers like the M’s use.

Parts of the stands behind home plate were populated with cardboard cutouts — who appeared to be paying full price for their seats — while other parts had intermittent CGI crowds that flickered in and out of existence depending on which camera was watching.Very creepy until you figured out what was going on [and then it was still creepy].

There was prerecorded crowd noise, what in other parts of the industry would be called a laugh track. In the first games there also appeared to be audio enhancement of the game sounds. When the ball hit the catcher’s mitt it sounded like somebody banging two sticks together.

The announcers produced the usual inane chatter I’ve come to expect from Fox, and the fact that they were transmitting from their basements seemed to throw them off their already shaky game.

ESPN didn’t start carrying baseball until the weekend. Cardboard cutouts behind home plate. Same crowd noise and enhancements as Fox, including drumbeats and stadium organ music, but no electronic crowds. Same high quality announcing quality.

Root Sports and the Mariners handled things quite a bit differently. The announcers were at the M’s stadium (but isolated from one another), getting what sounds like a single-monitor view of the game. At the start-of-season away games they mentioned some of the drawbacks of the setup, including a tendency to look up from the monitor to see the on-field action, or flinch when a foul ball heads towards the booth, even though the action might be a thousand miles away.

The add-ons seem to be stadium-specific. No crowd noise (but some organ music) for their Astros game, but subdued crowd noise and limited music and stadium announcing at home. No augmented sounds. You heard the smack of the ball in the glove and the twhack of the bat on the ball, and it sounded natural. Thousands of cardboard cutouts at home, seating not limited to the outfield and pricing a tenth of that of Nationals fans. It was very nice to be able to just concentrate on baseball. Los Angeles had so much piped in crowd noise you couldn’t hear the sound of the game.

The announcing was the usual high Mariners quality, and I don’t just say that because they’re my home team. I like baseball, and I like the M’s, but not enough to blind me — I’m a fan, not a fanatic — and I’ve always thought the M’s announcers gave a much more baseball-like performance.

Welcome back, baseball. Given that we won’t have our traditional Single A Short Season games here in Spokane this year, being able to watch the M’s again is important.


Green Thumb Up My Nose

July 27, 2020

Garden Report for 200727

Hot and dry but not too windy followed by a couple of days of wind and a couple of days of really hot — upper 90’s. Forecast is for more of the same, and it’s expected to hold through…August.

Most of my gardening these past two weeks has been of the landscape kind, but the food part is finally beginning to produce. Or try to. One Early Girl is turning. All others are still green. Yellow Zucchini is trying, but none of the squash looks healthy. Finally, the onion half that we planted has put out a nice bloom. Not sure what the onion itself will taste like.



Pandemic 38

July 22, 2020

Think you’re depressed now? Read the links.

Quote of the day

“Last October, 21 panel experts across the globe assessed the preparedness of 195 countries for the next global pandemic. At the top of the rankings stood the United States of America. It has since become clear that the experts missed something” .


Why are we trying to hide our vaccine research? This is a global pandemic.

US compared with them. So, even Ghana is doing better than we are. Oh, and did I mention Cuba?

Big operation like this, you gotta expect some losses.

How to count the covids.

Decaying antibodies. Unrolled thread.

Legal vaccination. Also, legal masks.

Masks, the official data. A BYU study.

Details of good mask construction.

Masks don’t protect you 100%, but they do cut down on the viral load to you. A lot.

Stuck @ Home?

Build yourself a planet.



TLDR: Anime I never finished, Summer 2020 Part 3

July 19, 2020

So, we round off this season’s rejections with a pair of shows about chromosomes and evolution and young girls and handsome guys.

Gibiate — Zombies are so 20th Century. The new hotness is monsters that share all the zombie mechanics, but have a venom that modifies human chromosomes on the fly, to turn them into horrific beings that violate not only several of the laws of thermodynamics, but also the laws of conservation of mass and energy. This story is about a young girl (high school dropout), stuck in the dying ruins of old Tokyo, who meets two guys who say they’re time traveling exiles from old Edo. She says “Oh yeah? That’s cool. Have a ration bar.” She then takes them back to her camp atop a parking garage, where she’s working towards a vaccine in a high tech lab built into a Winnebago.

I am always amazed at how fast Tokyo degrades in these mid-apocalyptic sagas. We’re only two years in, and already chunks of concrete are falling off the buildings, and Koshien Stadium has holes in the roof. My guess is that after two years, most big cities would look about like they do late on a Sunday afternoon.

Mr Love: Queen’s Choice — Zombified monsters are dull. What’s really neat is a bevy of bishie boys whose chromosomes have evolved to allow them to violate not only several of the laws of thermodynamics, but also give them antigravity, timestop, and teleportation as well, while still leaving them looking good in a 3-piece suit. This story is about a young girl (college dropout), stuck in the dying ruins of the production company her father left her, who meets a nationally famous rock star, an internationally famous financier, a world-renowned paraphysics researcher, and a couple of these superpowered evolvers*, all in the space of an afternoon. Fortunately, she’d already eaten.

I realize they have to set up the story fast, and that this style of story requires the immediate presence of a full cast of male love interests, all the way from a young rock star who likes potato chips to a rich playboy with a hot tub in his penthouse overlooking the royal palace, but still, it grates.

Normally I’d follow my last TL;DR with a What am I Watching?, but there’s nothing left. Lockdown is keeping me out of the pubs, and there’s only so much gardening one can do. I’m left rewatching Kotobuki, and Eizouken and KanColle [God help us]. I may have to take up Python programming again.

*No relation to the Madonna song

Pandemic 37

July 17, 2020

Links you might find useful.

Quote of the day

If RBG can stay on the Supreme Court despite multiple cancers and infection for the good of the whole country, you can wear a damn mask. — George Takei


Rating masks. Kindof like Consumer Reports.

Historical insights from the Annals of Internal Medicine.

So, what if we don’t find a cure? Ya wanna live forever?

Covid and the brain.

Kids and covid. They’re safe. Relatively.

Covid death rates. Are they really dead, or only merely dead?

So, how good does a vaccine have to be to be useful?

…and what are our latest results? (TLDR: no show stoppers, but too early to tell.)

Australian ICUs are saving 85% of their COVID-19 patients. “But you wouldn’t want to live there, because we all know nationalized healthcare is the worst, right?”

I know people are dying, but people die all the time. The key question is, how’s the economy doing?

And what do Canadian health experts think, eh?

Stuck @ Home?

Learn how to teach kids online.

Take a break and look out someone else’s window.



Green Thumb Up My Nose

July 13, 2020

Garden Report for 200713

Marginally pleasant last week, and hot and windy at the end of this week. Highs in the 80s. Forecast is for more of the same.

The tape radishes in the aluminum container were rather fibrous, so on the 7th I went with some watermelon radish seeds from a couple of years back. They’ve just sprouted.

Iceberg in the green planter has sprouted a few, but the Tennisball has not, so on the 13th I overseeded, and added more dirt. One more terracotta available, so I tried another seeding of iceberg. Both of these seed packets are a couple of years old, so the germination rate might not be so good. Terracotta Lento has sprouted. Too bad we don’t really like it.

Hardware store finally got some dirt, so I filled up two old coolers and planted some thyme, and a bunch of different basils on the south side of the house. Just sprouted as of the 10th.

I was looking back over prior GTUMNs and I note that this time last year I was already harvesting squash and looking at tomatoes. This year, nothing. One garden kohlrabi about ready, but the cabbages will probably bolt in this weather. Bunch of tiny summer squash coming along. Deck cucumber is doing well, as are the herbs that MJ planted in the container with it. One of the deck tomatoes (Early Girl) has a bad case of the yellowleaf.  The bagged tomatoes are surviving, but not thriving.


SCOTUS votes to retain the system that elected Trump

July 12, 2020

On July 6th, the Supreme Court of the United States unanimously voted to uphold a reading of the text of the Constitution that requires Presidential electors to vote as directed by their state. The ruling, written by Justice Kagan, is an interesting dive into how the Supreme Court goes about interpreting that text.

The ruling is short (190k pdf), easy to understand, and well worth your time. Kagan’s part starts on page 4. Go read it. I’ll wait.

Basically, the SCOTUS decision is that, since the Constitution says nothing of the issues raised by Alexander Hamilton in Federalist 68, and since what it does say is a bare-bones delegation of authority to the states, the cleanest interpretation is that states can require electors to vote the way they agreed to when they signed on for the job, and that they can punish those who renege.

Broadly, there are three realistic options for organizing a Presidential election in today’s America:

  1. A national popular vote, where every vote has equal weight, regardless of where it is cast. More and more people are trending this way.
  2. A state-based elitist vote by Hamiltonian electors, where the electors are free to vote as they please, and the result might well go against the desires of the unwashed masses to elect someone with Talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity.
  3. The current system of state-based voting by directed-vote electors, where the vote of the Electoral College is a mere formality to seal an already-determined result.

The SCOTUS result ensures that we will be using the current system (System 3) for the foreseeable future. There are two implications to this decision.

First, it affirms that the Electoral College, and the electors themselves, serve no useful purpose. Article II gives each state a specified number of votes, to be automatically cast for whoever wins the popular poll in that state. That these votes are currently filtered through a group of designated people makes no difference. Today, the votes get allocated and the winner of the election is announced the first week in November, not the second week in December. Even if the US decides that it does not want to go to a system that hands the election to the winner of the overall popular vote, there’s no need for an Electoral College.

Second, we officially remain with a system that can hand the election to a person who did not win the majority of the popular vote. That is to say, the system that gave us Donald Trump and 134,000 dead Americans (so far), instead of Hilary Clinton and, arguably, an extension of the Obama era governing philosophy. The system that has in the modern era given us two GOP Presidents in contravention of the national will, the second one worse than the first and no bottom in sight. UPDATE: It’s also a system that is unstable, and subject to manipulation, and promotes white supremecy.

Many people are saying that, as it stands now, Trump is not going to be re-elected. What they are really saying is that he can’t win the popular vote. I’d simply point out that, at the time this was written, Trump’s approval rating is still over 40%. Can the SCOTUS decision guarantee that his campaign can’t turn that 40% of the popular vote into 270 “electoral” votes?

To put it another way, perhaps the Constitution really is a suicide pact.