Green Thumb Up My Nose

July 5, 2015

Garden Report for 150706

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

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

Beans and the new plantings grill

Beans and the new plantings grill

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

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

Rickety cages.

Rickety cages.

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

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

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

The Declaration of Independence

July 4, 2015

…according to Stan Freberg


Green Thumb Up My Nose

June 28, 2015

Garden Report for 150629

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

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

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

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


SpaceX Launch Failure

June 28, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s the vid

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

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

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

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


Akregator: Not quite ready for prime time

June 26, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Life is too short.

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

Low Kaliber Oatmeal

June 25, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: *****

Green Thumb Up My Nose

June 21, 2015

Garden Report for 150622

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

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

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

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

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

On this date in Parliament, 1940

June 18, 2015
The original notes

The original notes

Winston Churchill gave a speech.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

June 15, 2015

Garden Report for 150613

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

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

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

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

Green Thumb Up My Nose

June 7, 2015

Garden Report for 150608

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

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

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

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


Abolish TSA

June 2, 2015

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

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

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

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

It’s time to abolish TSA.

French Onion Oats

May 28, 2015

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

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

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

Rating: *****

Green Thumb Up My Nose

May 25, 2015

Garden Report for 150525

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

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

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

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

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

Fake ShalyapinOat Dregs

May 21, 2015

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

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

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

Rating: *****

The future of the auto-car

May 19, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Green Thumb Up My Nose

May 17, 2015

Garden Report for 150518

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Faking Shalyapin

May 15, 2015

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

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

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

Squint your eyes and pretend this came off of a pig

Squint your eyes and pretend this came off of a pig

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

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

Lots of onions, the finer the chop the better

Lots of onions, the finer the chop the better

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

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

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

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

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

Butterfried steak

Butterfried steak

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh, that ume!

Oh, that ume!

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

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


May 14, 2015

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

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

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

Rating: *****

Maiden Century

May 4, 2015

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

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


Green Thumb Up My Nose

May 3, 2015

Garden Report for 150504

May the 4th
( be with you)

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

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

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

Droopy, weedy

Droopy, weedy

What, you were expecting Frank Lloyd Wright?

What, you were expecting Frank Lloyd Wright?

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

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

Core 1 Roots and trash

Core 1 Roots and trash

Nice, clean, dirt

Core 2 Nice, clean, dirt

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

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

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

Salmon-Dashi Oats

April 30, 2015

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

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

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

Results: Very good. Needed more sauce.

Rating: *****

Oatmeal Dregs

April 28, 2015

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

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

Results: Edible. The flavor balance was off a little, and the meat and gristly bits made it feel like you were eating a low quality hamburger. Still, it has potential.

Rating: *****

Android Fail

April 25, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Home Made Dashi

April 23, 2015

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

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

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

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

3. Place in the refrigerator overnight.

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

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

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

Green Thumb Up My Nose

April 20, 2015

Garden Report for 150420

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

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

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

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

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

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

KanColle, the source of the Abyssal Fleet found

April 17, 2015

Off the coast of California.


TL:DR — Anime I never finished, Spring 2015

April 16, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


April 14, 2015

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

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

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

Rating: *****

Green Thumb Up My Nose

April 13, 2015

Garden Report for 150413

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

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

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

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

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

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

Faking Pork

April 11, 2015

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

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

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

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

Eringi (エリンギ) mushrooms

Eringi (エリンギ) mushrooms

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

Looks more like a hash brown patty from here

Looks more like a hash brown patty from here

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

I was out of rosemary

I was out of rosemary

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

Mine didn't look like this

Mine didn’t look like this

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

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

Oh, the rosemary!

Oh, the rosemary!


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

TL:DR — Anime I never finished, Spring 2015

April 9, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oatmeal Arrabbiata

April 9, 2015

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


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

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

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

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

Rating: *****

Anime Worth Watching, Winter 2015

April 5, 2015

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

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

This is what it takes to make an anime

This is what it takes to make an anime

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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

What's for Lunch?

What’s for Lunch?

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

The Well-Cooked Bamboo Shoot...

The Well-Cooked Bamboo Shoot…

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

I wish I could chew on it forever

…makes me wish I could chew on it forever

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

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

Twerking Torpedos

Twerking Torpedos

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

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

The Fleet Girls in Action

The Fleet Girls in Action

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

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

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

The True Leader Does What is Necessary

The True Leader Does What is Necessary

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

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


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

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

Mr. Lincoln’s Computers

April 1, 2015

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


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

False Pho Oatmeal

March 26, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: *****

The Wind Rises

March 18, 2015

The Wind Rises (風立ちぬ /Kaze Ta chi nu, with the nu being a somewhat archaic verb ending implying that things are happening, so perhaps The Wind is Rising), is the last anime movie directed by Miyazaki Hayao before his [current] retirement. It’s interesting because of the subject, the sources, what’s in it, and what isn’t in it.

At the highest level, it’s Miyazaki’s dream of airplanes. He loves airplanes, particularly seaplanes, particularly Italian planes (his studio is named after the Caproni Ca.309 Ghibli). What I consider his best film, Porco Rosso, was about seaplanes flying in the Adriatic between the World Wars.

Dream Planes

Dream Planes

Next level down is his dream of the life of Horikoshi Jirō, designer of the Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighter. I say dream here, because Horikoshi’s life wasn’t anything like the movie, as we’ll see. And finally, it’s about Horikoshi’s deams of designing and building airplanes. And within those dreams? Horikoshi dreams of meetings with Italian seaplane designer, Giovanni Battista Caproni. Even the aircraft in the anime are dreamlike, with engines that sound more like a skilled ventriloquist mimicking their noise.

The movie has a long introduction and a short epilogue, with the twin-themed main story bookended by identically portrayed disasters. In the introduction, young Horikoshi has a dream in which he meets Caproni and decides to become an aeronautical engineer. The first disaster hits as he’s on the train back to Tokyo University, where he’s working to make his dream come true.

The Quake

The Quake

It’s the September 1, 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake, which pretty well leveled Tokyo, and then set fire to the ruins. The earth shakes, the houses collapse, and soon there is a pall of fire and smoke above the entire city. The portrayal of the earthquake is the best I’ve seen in any movie.

The Fire

The Fire

On the train, he meets his future love Nahoko Satomi, and helps rescue her maid after the earthquake. Ten years later they meet again, fall in love, and are betrothed. Unfortunately, Nahoko has tuberculosis, and wants to wait until she has gone to a sanatorium and is cured. This being anime, that, of course, never happens, and they end up marrying once they realize that she’s going to die. After a brief but happy interlude, she slips away to the sanatorium to die, so that he will remember her as healthy. This is the dream part of the biography. Horikoshi’s wife didn’t have tuberculosis, and she and their two sons survived the war.

The Wedding

The Wedding

The story, and the anime title, were adapted from a 1937 psychological/autobiographical novel by Hori Tatsuo, about a man visiting his fiancée in a sanatorium. I have read translated excerpts, and it is as dull and as interminable as you might imagine a novel on that topic from that period (There’s an example in a collection of Japanese literature available through Amazon books. The interior link is on page viii of the Contents, and the story itself is on page 376).

There's many more pages like this.

There’s many more pages like this.

I suspect this story was included because they felt they needed a romance aspect, and the only romance more boring would be “engineer meets girl; engineer marries girl; girl keeps house and raises a family while engineer goes to work.”

The sort of novel a young girl in love might read

The sort of novel a young girl in love might read

The second theme is Horikoshi’s efforts to design beautiful aircraft.* Unfortunately for him, the only people buying aircraft between the wars (Japan is suffering from both the earthquake and the Great Depression) is the military. His experiences are about par for the course for aircraft designers of that era –they crashed more often than a Monty Python castle. The first plane he contributes to the design of crashes, and Mitsubishi doesn’t get the contract. He’s the lead designer on the second plane (Mitsubishi 1MF10), which does well in its initial flights but we later see the wreckage in a hangar (and the contract is cancelled).

The Second Failure

The Second Failure

It’s this discouraging development that causes him to take a vacation in the mountains, where he renews his acquaintance with Nahoko. Finally, he has success, designing what will become the Mitsubishi A5M (Claude), but that success is bittersweet, because it is while he is at the first test flight of the new aircraft that Nahoko dies.

The A5M

The A5M (with cherry blossoms)

The ten years from that first flight in 1935 to the end of WWII are skimmed over in about six chords of doleful music, and the main story ends with Tokyo again in flames, with the pall of fire and smoke above the entire city looking much like the aftermath of the earthquake. This time the disaster is due to B-29 raids.

The War

The War

The epilogue has Horikoshi walking through the wreckage of airplanes up to another dream visit with Caproni, and a brief encounter with Nahoko, who tells him to live. Horikoshi’s crowning achievement, the Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighter is relegated to a walk-on at the very end, when a flight of twelve zooms through his dream and up into the stream of pilots and planes in aeronautical heaven, a direct reference to a similar scene in Porco Rosso.

The Zero

The Zero

In addition to its biographical aspects, the story is a snapshot of Japanese society between the wars. Horikoshi starts out as a young boy, sleeping under mosquito netting, wearing a yukata at home and a haori and hakama with getas at school, and ends up in Western dress, with coat and tie and fedora. Servants run around in their blue haoris with the house emblem on the back. Everybody smokes (although the real Horikoshi didn’t). Almost every outdoor scene has people pulling and pushing carts and riding bicycles and hand-carrying loads.

The Transport

The Transport

The complex contradictions within Japanese society between the wars is illustrated by the fact that the new aircraft are hauled to the test airfield using oxen.

Slow and Fast

Slow and Fast

What’s missing from the anime, as many have pointed out, is any sign of remorse for the use to which his airplanes were put, or for Japan’s role in WWII. Horikoshi, or rather, Japan, is chided gently by the German he meets in the hotel — Japan has forgotten that it started a war in China, that it established Manchukuo, that it left the League of Nations and allied itself with Hitler. Horikoshi himself was responsible for hundreds of deaths by way of his aircraft. The anime acknowledges this through no more than a nod in that direction, and many people have a problem with this.

Miyazaki sidesteps the issues by ending the story in 1935. At that point in time it was still possible to admire the European dictators. People might not like them, but they seemed to be winning the battle of the Great Depression. Hitler had been legally and democratically elected two years before. Mussolini had been legally, if somewhat less democratically appointed Prime Minister twelve years before, and if he was a dictator, he at least made the trains run on time.** Indeed, in 1932 it was possible for P.G. Wodehouse to modify the words of a Cole Porter song (to make it more understandable to posh audiences in the West End) by writing “You’re the top, you’re Mussolini…” Hitler was not yet revealed as a monster, and the world had not yet descended into the hell of WWII. So, many of today’s complaints are a projection backwards of today’s morality, using 20/20 hindsight.

To me, Miyazaki just wanted to write an anime about airplanes, and an homage to a great aircraft designer, without having to shoulder all of Japan’s post-war guilt. In a way, Horikoshi comes across as a lot like Wernher von Braun, another engineer who was dedicated to his craft and who made a deal with the devil in order to practice it.

* Note the impact America was already having on the world. The wing design for his first aircraft project uses a US National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics cross section.
**Actually, he didn’t. Trains were notoriously bad in Fascist Italy.

Oats a L’Orange

March 12, 2015

Last time I did oatmeal in orange sauce it was using some commercial sauce for duck. This time it’s semi-home-made. I say semi- because MJ made it for some pork ribs, using a “cup” of those mandarin orange fruit cup snacks you buy at the combini. That, and some soy sauce and browned onions and chicken broth made a very tasty braising sauce for the ribs (which infused it with their own jellied goodness), and gave us a couple of real cups worth left over. I used half a cup of the sauce, and half a cup of the beefy beef stock.

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

Results: Very good. The taste of orange wasn’t overwhelming, but it was strong enough to make an impression.

Rating: *****

Happy Blogday to Me

March 5, 2015

FoundOnWeb started six years ago today, and has produced a whopping 760 posts — roughly one every three days — and 24,000 views — about 11 per day (most of them looking for HOTD screenshots). That seems about right, for a instrument of total self-indulgence. I’m not tired of it, yet. That’s because I’m not tired of me. I guess I’ll keep on keeping on, as long as the ego holds out.

Standing Desk 2

March 4, 2015

In my first installment, I mentioned at the end that balance might be an issue. It is. There’s two problems. First, at full height, the VariDesk frame is cantilevered well forward of its stowed position, such that most of the load is no longer over the desk, but is hanging out in open space (I have the additional handicap of setting the 24″ legs on a 20″ desktop). Second, my rollaround computer desk was designed with a pull-out keyboard shelf. That’s because there’s no place to put your feet if you tried to use the keyboard directly on top of the desk. And that means you have to pull the VariDesk an additional twelve inches or so forward of where it wants to be.

I did that, and found that the whole frame got very tippy when I did so. As in “whoa, let’s push this back”.

As Lenin might say, what is to be done? There are several options. The first one, rapidly rejected, was to buy a new computer desk. The fuss and bother and drivings about were bad enough that I relegated that idea to the Last Resort folder.

Another possibility was to drill holes in the quarter-inch thick steel frame and screw the frame to the desk. Probably the second-best idea, and the second-worst inconvenience.

C-clamps on the back wouldn’t work, because there’s no room for them when the VD is in it’s stowed position. That leaves some sort of extension to the front of the desk to support the legs. If the legs had been the width of the desk apart, it would have been easy — an L-shaped shelf-holder would work — but as it was, there was no place to attach a support, other than on the front of the 1″ thick desktop itself.

Or on the top. The cleanest solution would be to buy a slab of quarter-inch plywood big enough to hang over the edge of the desk, screw it on, and stick the VD on top of it as if it was made for it. But plywood is expensive, and I was looking for a more minimalist solution.

Like, suppose you put a slab of plywood on the desk, and then cut away all the plywood that wasn’t actually holding stuff up. And suppose you substituted a steel plate for the remnant of plywood, on account of as how it was both thinner and stronger. To the Hardware Store!

Support Plates

Support Plates

Three trips later (did you know bolts came with both coarse and fine threads?) I had two lumber beam connector plates bolted to the desk, with the VD sitting atop them. It was still a little bouncy, so I went back (fortunately it’s less than a mile away) and bought longer bolts and some very large washers. The washers hooked over the edge of the base plate, and the bolts — two on the front side of the plate and two on the back side — went through the desk and held everything in place. To give myself some additional peace of mind, I stuck an old UPS that I was going to recycle on the bottom shelf of the desk, to supply some additional weight on the back side of the Center of Gravity.



This kind of setup undoubtedly voided my warranty, is probably dangerous, and certainly isn’t something that a sane person should try at home. If you try it, and your child gets crushed, well… post something on your Facebook page and I promise I will tag it with a Like.

Standing Desk 1

March 1, 2015

I’m typing this while standing up. My feet hurt. My back hurts. There’s a pain in my left leg just above the knee, and a tingle in the nerves of my right thigh. Obviously, I have things to learn about standing desks.

I decided to get a standing desk a month ago. That was about a year after my body decided it had fulfilled its evolutionary duties and could now coast downhill to retirement. My weight went up, my blood pressure went up, my aches and pains went up. This, despite the fact that I eat healthy, have no more than one or two bottles of wine at dinner, walk half a mile to class/meetings five times a week, and average an hour and a half per school day on my feet, lecturing. When the weather is good, most of the Summer and parts of the Fall and Spring, but none of the Winter, here in the NENW, I put in an additional two miles per day in walking. Doesn’t help. Or, no longer helps. I don’t mind the thought of me retiring, but I’d prefer that my body didn’t retire first.

Considering that I spend probably ten hours per day at the computer — in a little one-Starbucks/high-scabland town like Cheney, there’s not much else to do — anything I can do to increase my activity level there should be worthwhile. Yes, I’ve got a treadmill, The Imperial Walker, and yes, I’ve tried working on a laptop while walking, but it just didn’t work out. For one thing, I had trouble figuring out where my lap was.

Enter the standing desk. Reportedly, they give most of the benefits of a walking desk, while being much cheaper and more compact. Of course, cheap is relative. Amazon carries a motor operated, dual-surface, multi-monitor, medical workstation for $12,000, and a crank-adjustable work desk for $4500. I wasn’t that unhealthy, so I settled for a $350 VariDesk Pro Plus: a spring-operated, desk-mounted rig that was wide enough to take my two monitors. Ordered it last month, got it last week, put it up last night.

The way we were

The way we were

Here’s my original setup. Two monitors on a twenty-year old rollabout computer desk. Keyboard almost in my lap. Room at the top for my books and speakers. Room at the bottom for my UPS and NAS. The screen and keyboard to the left are for my Windows machine, which I bought to run school software on but otherwise keep in the closet. We won’t speak of it again.

Adding the standup feature was simple. Read the rest of this entry »

Oats de la Mer 3

February 26, 2015

This is different from our previous oceanic oatmeal. This one involves fish. You see, MJ recently brought home a package of pre-breaded fish fillets. Some sort of whitefish. Sweet-potato-based breadcrumbs. There was one fillet left over.

I decided to go minimalist on this one, since the fish had lots of seasoning. I also decided that our decidedly beefy beef broth was too turf for this surf, so I went with plain water, and a scant quarter teaspoon of dashi granules. That’s still twice what they recommend.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one quarter cup of chopped up breaded fish fillet, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, one cup of water, one quarter teaspoon of dashi grains, no salt.  Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats.  Add the potato when you take it off the stove.

Results: Very good. Very aquatic. I’ve got half a fillet left. I might try it again, with seaweed and shoyu.

Rating: *****

Oatmeal Stuffing

February 19, 2015

Or maybe, stuffing oatmeal. For breakfast, not for stuffing stuff.

We had roast chicken the other day, and in a moment of hastiness, MJ bought a box of bread stuffing to go with it. Standard commercial product, essentially sage and onion croutons, with the odd crazin thrown in. Wasn’t all that bad, when topped with MJ’s home-made chicken gravy. There was lots left over, so I thought I’d try it as an oatmeal extender.

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

Results: Not bad. I’ll definitely make it again, should we ever come up long on stuffing. The bread sort of disintegrated into a bread pudding consistency with a surprising amount of liquid.  Was sloppy enough that I added a third teaspoon of potato flakes. Was salty enough that I didn’t have to add any additional salt, and what does that say about your commercial product salt content?

Rating: *****

Anime Worth Watching: Mononoke

February 15, 2015

Demon Girl

Not Her

Demon hunter


The title makes you think of Studio Ghibli, the protagonist is a more colorful version of Mushishi Ginko, and the stories are something that Alfred Hitchcock might make.

Mononoke are vengeful demons, not wild girls of the forest. They are hunted by a medicine-seller, otherwise nameless.

The stories are all ghost stories, in one way or another. A haunted room in an inn, the curse of a murdered sister, a murder mystery on the first subway out of Edo. As with Mushishi, they examine the depths of the human condition. Likewise, they are strong on atmospherics.

The presentation is … colorful. Changes of scene are marked with the closing and opening of sliding panels, as if in an old play. The colors are pastel, but the painting is sharp-edged. The music is minimalist, austere, traditional. The twelve-episode series is well worth watching (it’s currently on Crunchyroll).

A subdued riot of color

A subdued riot of color


February 5, 2015

MJ bought a small tube of goat cheese last week. It’s a soft-ish cheese, something like ricotta, with a somewhat lemony sour creamness in the middle of your mouth, and another flavor in the finish that I can’t really identify but which might be goat. It’s … OK … on crackers. Kirai janai, as they say — I don’t dislike it. MJ dislikes it enough that we won’t be buying it again, and I am free to experiment with it for breakfast.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, one cup of broth (turkey, this time), salt, one fat dinner tablespoon of goat cheese.  Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats.  Add the cheese either at the start about a minute before you’re done (depending on how much of its own identity you want it to keep), and the potato when you take it off the stove.

Results: Acceptable. Like mixing in a fat tablespoon of ricotta, or maybe some sour cream. Adding the dregs of a jar of figgy jam helped immensely.

Rating: *****

Girls und Panzer – The Anzio OVA

February 4, 2015

Last summer saw the release of “This is the Real Anzio Battle!” Original Video Anime, a double-length episode that falls at the end of Episode 7 in the TV series. I, of course, ordered it, despite the minor problem of it being all in Japanese, with no subtitles. It came this week.

First thing I noticed was that it was packaged for the Japanese market. That is to say, no security tags and no impenetrable seals. Break the flimsy plastic wrap and you’re in. Additional swag is minimal — a book of screen-shots and tank specs, and another one of character pencil sketches.

Watching it in Japanese without subtitles was fun, and frustrating, because I can only pick up one word in twenty or thirty (OK, forty). On the other hand, this was GaruPan at its finest, and much of it didn’t need translating. The one place I missed it most was the meeting between Suzuki Takako (AKA Caeser) the Roman history expert and gunner loader for the History Club’s Hippo Team and Hina-chan (AKA Carpaccio), a childhood friend with a similar interest in things Italian, now attending Anzio. Her full name might be Tsukoda Hina, if I heard one discussion correctly.

I won’t go into a lot of detail, because spoilers, but Read the rest of this entry »

Blueberry-Banana Oatmeal

January 29, 2015

This is more of a traditional style of oatmeal. On a whim, I bought a carton of blueberries, encouraged by reports that they help lower blood pressure, but (it turns out) only if you eat enough of them to earn a new nickname. We also had some leftover banana chips, remnants of intermittent attempts at trail mix. These are the hard-dried, crunchy chips. The ones that don’t really taste like bananas. For the liquid, well, we’re still working our way through the goosebroth, which has got to be better than plain water. I mean, we’re cooking, not washing.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, 1/3 cup of blueberries, 1/3 cup of banana chips, one cup of broth, salt.  Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats.  Add the berries & chips when you start the broth, and the potato when you take it off the stove.

Results: Very good. Needed a teaspoon of sugar to bring out the fruitiness. Looked vaguely purple, due to the blueberries. There was a distinct bananalike air about it, but nothing like when I used real bananas. The banana chips themselves softened, but didn’t come apart — much like lightly fried sliced potatoes — and tasted more like plantains. The goose broth added a useful dimension, but beef or mandrill would probably have done as well.

Rating: *****

Opera Browser: The Long Farewell 3

January 27, 2015

Just in time, as the old one fades there’s a new Opera on the horizon. It’s called Vivaldi, and it’s the creation of Opera’s founder, Jon von Tetzchner. Right now the only Linux version is Fedora, but they promise to change that Real Soon Now. I suspect this “Technical Preview” was rushed out to steal some mindshare from Microsoft’s forthcoming Spartan browser.

Meanwhile, I’ve downloaded the Windows version and will be playing around with that. There’s no screenshots here, because The Reg article has enough of those.

So far, it looks OK. I mean, it’s a browser. I haven’t had time to test out many of the features. The deal-killer for me will be the RSS feed. In Opera, RSS is integrated with Mail, and they haven’t implemented that yet.

Definitely not an

Definitely not an “O”

Oatmeal Chili

January 15, 2015

Being fed up (ha ha) with holiday fare, MJ made some chili. Nothing special. Ground beef, onions, some of our garden tomato sauce, commercial chili powder. Cooked on the stove, not sous vide nor in the slow cooker. It turned out not bad. Just spicy enough. Lots left over.

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

Results: It turned out not bad. The oatmeal cut the chili flavor and left it tasting more like …  I don’t know … a sloppy Joe, maybe. A tomato-y hamburger stew. Not overly bland, and not overly chili-ish. I will certainly try it again, when the leftover roll round.

Rating: *****

TL;DR — Anime I never finished, Winter 2015

January 13, 2015

One final pass at possible programming before the full weight of the quarter lands on me. Besides, MJ is off on a trip, so I don’t have to watch those stupid game shows in the evening but can concentrate on high school harem anime, instead.

We start off with a couple of right fafners, you know? Read the rest of this entry »

TL;DR — Anime I never finished, Winter 2015

January 10, 2015

Winter is supposed to be a good season for anime. It’s a new year, with new budgets, and new stories. Studios can take risks, and emphasize quality. Sometimes it doesn’t work out that way.

Yurikuma Arashi

Lesbian teddy bears invade a girl's school and eat the lilies.

Lesbian teddy bears invade a girl’s school and eat the lilies.

Absolute Duo:

Boy with unique powers attends special high school and ends up rooming with a girl. Yes, this is a repeat from every year since 1980.

Boy with unique powers attends special high school and ends up rooming with a girl. Yes, this is a repeat from every year since 1980.

Cute High Earth Defense Club:

Awkward attempt at parodying the magical girl genre using magical boys and a pink wombat goes horribly, horribly wrong, and not even the inclusion of a passionate discussion of what makes a good bowl of udon can save it.

Awkward attempt at parodying the magical girl genre using magical boys and a pink wombat alien goes horribly, horribly wrong, and not even a passionate discussion of what makes a good bowl of udon can save it.

Your Lie in April, Second Cour:

Young boy who was beaten into becoming a piano prodigy by his sickly mother and then went piano-deaf at her death is slowly brought back to his original love of the instrument by a wild-child violinist -- who is likely to have a bad case of Anime Wasting Disease herself.

Young boy who was beaten into becoming a piano prodigy by his sickly mother and then went piano-deaf at her death is slowly brought back to his original love of the instrument by a wild-child violinist — who is likely to have a bad case of Anime Wasting Disease herself. Good music, bad angst.

 Rolling Girls:

Skateboarding girls attempt to reunite a shattered Japan. No mention of Oda Nobunaga.

Motorcycle-riding girls engage in a ramen-eating contest, then attempt to reunite a shattered Japan.
No mention of Oda Nobunaga.


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