Green Thumb Up My Nose: Plans for 2016

November 25, 2015

We are in an El Nino cycle, probably a strong one. That means the NENW will likely be warmer than usual (precip probabilities are split between less and more). And that means we can try planting out even earlier. Like early to mid April. In keeping with earlier approach, I’m rotating the fields again. This time, Section 4 is in the main rotation.

Crops to be grown
Tall crops (including climbers)
Green Beans (small planting)
Lima Beans

Short crops
Greens, of course
Squash (winter, summer, pumpkin)
Cucumbers (Lemon)

Lemon cucumbers
Peppers (not-chiles)

New Ideas
Cucumbers (European)

Section 1
Brassicae. Yes, I know. Trying some clever timing tricks.
See the Gantt Chart
Carrots. Maybe the amaranth goes here

Section 2
Peas and beans. Maybe cucumbers.

Section 3
Squash. Maybe melons

Section 4
Tomatoes.* Asparagus.

The Schedule

early Feb – Start seeds indoors
early April (60 days later) – move to greenhouse
mid March — transplant cabbage and bok choy
early May — transplant other things
early July (70 days) – early varieties ripen
late July (90 days) – late varieties ripen


Garden Gantt 2016

Garden Gantt 2016

*We did a tomato tasting this evening, before the last of the tomatoes goes off. Conclusions were:

The red tomatoes were OK, and mostly indistinguishable — Brandywine, Celebrity, Champion, and Early Girl. The only small red tomato, the Zebras, were tart and very thick skinned. The small yellow Lemons were not as tart as the bigger yellow Cougars. The yellow Brandywines were Brandywine-sized and knobbly, and didn’t taste that much different from the run of the mill reds. Note — although it said Red Brandywine on the tin, I expect the labels got switched, because they were nowhere near as big as the yellows, and were shaped nothing like them. I’ll have to think on this when Spring comes.

Green Thumb Up My Nose: Lessons Learned – 2015

November 22, 2015

Looks like the garden is done for the year. I don’t think the peas will survive 18hrs of frost, dipping to 18F, three days after the 18th.  Here’s a commentary on this year’s plans:

1. Hit hard by powdery mildew this summer. Garden plants, ground cover plants, and plants in the front yard were infected. Go for mildew resistant strains of everything.

PM wasn’t a problem this year. Maybe it was drier. I put up a shield so my neighbor’s sprinkler wouldn’t dampen the squash, and that helped.

2. The small greenhouse worked well to get the plants through a variable Spring. Was positively humid inside, which attracted mosquitoes. Try hanging flypaper.

Didn’t need the greenhouse much, and never got to try the flypaper.

Yard Crops
1. Can’t do much with the area that’s in deep shade. Avoid next year (although part of that might have been the mildew).

I didn’t avoid, and it didn’t go well. Just don’t, OK?

2. Hops netting worked well, but was too narrow at the top. Need to reposition the hooks, or add new ones.

Added hooks, but it hourglassed in the middle. Gonna hafta build a full sized frame

1. Plant long beans and lemon cucumbers earlier

Long beans tended to go from freshripe to dry and crumbly in a couple of days. Had more lemon cukes than we could eat.

2. Try more miniatures

Couldn’t find any

3. Work even harder on getting the labeling right

Yeah, right

4. Daikon are not container plants, not even in big containers.

Or, as far as I can tell, not even in KHG’s. Give up.

Keyhole Garden
1. Abandon Section 4 as a berry farm. Too much work for too little return. Plant to peas and beans this year.

Got one good crop of beans, but the second planting didn’t make it

2. First pick of one pea plant last Summer gave about five pods, with four or five peas each — call it twenty peas per plant. One serving seems to be about 80-100 peas (I’ll confirm next dinner time), so we need 4 or 5 plants per person per meal. Which means I plant at least 20 plants next time. Six lima bean plants made two small servings.

Peas do not do well in deep shade, which is what we had behind the Santa Maria beans. Keep that in mind for next year. Beans and peas and tomatoes should go on the north end, and lower plants should go on the south end of each KHG section. In other news, we like limas better than green beans.

3. Replace all the covers with the redesigned versions.

Didn’t need them

4. Re-do all of the irrigation hose. Set it so each section can be watered individually.

Done, except the individually part

5. In early Spring, rebuild the SW corner of Section 1. Consider re-coring the center basket as well.


6. Plastic bottle cloche covers worked well.

Didn’t need them.

What didn’t work:
Pumpkins in the shade.
Amaranth. Planted too late, wrong varietal.
Brassicae. Any kind. Any where.
Santa Maria beans (pinquitos).

What did work:
Peppers out front.
Lemon cukes.
Hanging Zebras.
Wire shelving as an anti-squirrel measure.
Last minute summer-squash-inna-box.

Next week: next year

FOMC Follies

November 20, 2015

The release of the 27 October Federal Open Market Committee minutes shows them edging towards an increase in interest rates. This, despite the fact that we have not fully recovered from the Great Recession, and that history, in the form of the Great Depression, shows that a too-early tightening of the government belt can kill a recovering economy. One part of the summary deserves closer inspection.

A number of participants pointed to various reasons why the Committee should avoid a delay in policy firming [AKA interest rate increase]:

One concern was that such a delay, if the reasons were not well understood by market participants, could increase uncertainty in financial markets

And the FOMC is certainly not cabable of explaining things in a way that hedge fund managers could understand.

and unduly magnify the perceived importance of the beginning of the policy normalization process.

So if the process is so unimportant, what’s the harm in delaying the interest rate increase?

Another concern mentioned was the increasing risk of a buildup of financial imbalances after a prolonged period of very low interest rates.

But so far, as far as I know, no responsible person has suggested that such a buildup is occurring

It was also noted that a decision to defer policy firming could be interpreted as signaling lack of confidence in the strength of the U.S. economy

And of course the fact that we still haven’t closed the gap between current employment and output and the potential employment and output lost in the last near decade is no reason to have a lack of confidence in the current state of the economy in this fragile recovery

or erode the Committee’s credibility.

Because our image is more important than the US economy.

Some participants emphasized that progress toward the Committee’s objectives should be assessed in light of the cumulative gains made to date without placing excessive weight on month-to-month changes in incoming data.

And the overall cumulative progress is nowhere near what it should be or could be, even though we’ve had a good couple of months. It’s almost like the FOMC wants to raise interest rates because they want to raise interest rates and they will grasp any shred of evidence that will let them pretend to have a rationale for doing so.

Blowing in the Wind

November 18, 2015

Well that was fun, じゃない. Our little corner of the Great NW Windstorm of 2015 started about 4PM on Tuesday, when the gusts hit 45 and our power went out. Power outages in this area are infrequent, now that the city’s supply of dud transformers has run out, and when they happen they are usually limited to one half of the town and a few hours, max.

This one stretched on and on, into the dark, while the winds hit 60 and heavy objects skittered about the back deck. Fortunately, we had pretty full charges on our phones and tablets, so we spent a quiet evening at home, basking in the cold light of the screens. But that gets old after a while, and little by little the power drained away, and we wanted to keep some for emergencies.

At 9PM we gave up and went to bed. OK, we read some more. But by 10PM we turned out the flashlights and went to sleep in the darkest night we’ve ever had here. Darker even than the night they took the entire town of Cheney off line to refit a major substation, because on that night, we still had the glow of Spokane. Not so last night. It was, as they say, as dark as the inside of a cow.

We slept well and woke refreshed and it was still dark. Part of the reason it was still dark was it was just after midnight. Dawn was still six hours away. I went out on the back deck. The stars were amazing. The wind had died down, but the temperature was still in the 40’s. Cheney was dark. Spokane was dark. The stars were bright enough to navigate the deck obstacles. I stayed out a while with the binoculars, learning things about the night sky and the heat retention efficiency of pajamas in a 30kt wind on a chilly night.

Dawn came, and no power. The outside temperature was down to 30F, and the house had cooled to 54F. I figured we might have one more night before the interior temperature got cold enough that we had to worry about pipes freezing. We decided that this was likely a bigger outage than we thought (latest word is that WA had twice the number of outages of any previous storm), and sat down to do some serious planning. We had just gotten to the point of discussing how to use the portable gas BBQ grill inside the house without killing ourselves (put it in the fireplace) when the lights came on.

Even the NWS had problems. Here’s something I’ve never seen before, a data drop in temperature readings:

Eight hours, no data

Eight hours, no data

It was only 14 hours for us (others are still out), but it was enough to move us from inconvenience to disaster planning. I started thinking about things like worse windstorms, and Carrington Events, and how fragile civilization really is. We need to do some disaster prep.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

November 8, 2015

Garden Report for 151109

We are in full autumnal mode here, with ten hours of frost on Tuesday night and twelve hours on Thursday night. Wednesday was originally forecast the same, but clouds moved in and gave us twelve hours at 33F. Next week is more of the same (except when it rains), and by mid-month we will hit the point at which every night will see frost.

Scarfed up a handful of late zucchini and summer squash, plus one baby butternut and a pie-pumpkin-sized jack-o-lantern. About the only thing left in the garden is the peas and carrots and chard (oh,my).

Harvested the Santa Maria Beans (pinquitos). Got half a basket from half a section of the KHG. Spent a happy hour standing in the cold wind separating the beans from the non-beans. Harder than it looks. Beans don’t want to be picked. It’s like paper towels — the seam is stronger than the towel. I figure I lost about 20% of the pods, because they were too small, too well hidden, too attached, or too far out of reach. My half-basket included a lot of attached non-bean stuff, and the total weight was ~5lb.

Beans and non-beans

Beans and non-beans

I’m not sure the SMB experiment was a success. A couple accounts I’ve read said they just left the beans in the garden until they dried on the vine. Twenty weeks in, only a quarter of the picked beans looked mature enough to have beans inside them, and none of them looked to be drying out. I might run them through the dehydrator and see if that helps. Meanwhile, the 75% that are young and tender might be cookable like regular old green beans.

It may be that pinquitos are just not suited for the NENW. I may have to give up and order packages of the dried beans from Amazon, the way our forebears did. We’ll see. I’ll report.

Here’s the final scoreboard.

Week Ending 11/09 Vegetable Count Weight oz Unit Weight oz Total Total Weight lb
Tomato  573 68
Bush Buttercup  5  5
Zucchini  1 3  3  23 31
Summer Squash  7 7 1 9 2
Butternut 1  11  11  5  4
Cuke  39  8
Spaghetti  7  14
Pumpkin 1  38 38  5  7
Beans  –  –  5lb  –  9
Peas  –  –  – 1
Bell peppers 4  1

Grand Total 150 pounds. Maybe not the largest harvest ever, but it’s among the top two. Next week, Lessons Learned.

Oatgurt 2

November 5, 2015

Experiment 1: What a difference a broth makes. I spent most of last week and last post complaining about the blandedness of oatmeal and yogurt made with either water or store-bought beef broth. This week I tried oatmeal and yogurt in chicken broth. Specifically, in plain old store-bought chicken broth (the plastic bits in the valve on our pressure cooker have disassembled themselves and it’s now only good for slow-cooking, and we are back to the old ways, at least until Amazon comes through with a new lid).

Turns out that the creamy acid in the yogurt is just the thing to set off the chicken-noodle-broth flavor. The only thing I did to it was add some poultry seasoning, and a few grinds of pepper.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one cup of chicken broth, sugar. Let sit at room temperature overnight, salt in the morning.  Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats.  No potato.

Results: Smooth and creamy. Not bland. Almost like chicken gravy. This is a must repeat, on days when I have store-bought broth and a spare container of yogurt.

Rating: *****

Experiment 2: What a difference a night makes. For my second experiment, I didn’t let it sit overnight. Instead, I built it first thing in the morning, as per normal. Because I wasn’t trying to feed the little yogurcules, I used a single packet of sweetner, instead of a teaspoon of sugar. As with the first experiment, I added some poultry seasoning, and a few grinds of pepper.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, one cup of chicken broth, sweetner, 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: Quite different, and not as exciting. Soaking overnight let the oats absorb some liquid, which then helped them break down into something smoother. Without that, there was more of an individual oat texture to the meal, and it was quite a bit soupier. The potato helped it come together, but it was, as might be expected, more like regular oats. What surprised me was how sweet it was. A single packet of Splenda provided a lot more sweet than a teaspoon (well, a teaspoon-sized mound in my hand) of sugar. Where the first experiment tasted like chicken gravy, this one tasted like creamed corn.

I suppose one could try splitting the recipe, and only soaking half the oats in half the broth, etc, but that’s too much like cooking.

Rating: *****

Green Thumb Up My Nose

November 1, 2015

Garden Report for 151102

Forecast frost forestalled by rain. Lots of rain. Half an inch in 24hrs on Friday, and another half inch on Saturday and a quarter inch on Sunday. The forecast for next week, once the clouds clear, shows lows of 37F, 29F, 24F … Do we see a trend here?

Meanwhile, I dashed out in between showers to bring in the crops. Twenty pounds of tomatoes from the main KHG. Lots were small, but a dozen were the big yellow Brandywines, running 8oz. each. The regular Brandywines, grown right next to them, are a quarter that. Our total for the year is 68lb, well down from our first KHG season (2012), which saw near a 100lb of tomatoes. A couple of medium-sized spaghetti squash. Half a dozen white radishes.

In 2012 there were five boxes like this

In 2012 there were five boxes like this

I don’t think the amaranth will make it. There’s still no seeds, and Thursday night is forecast to be 24F. But there’s still the Santa Maria beans to bring in, plus whatever peas make it. This may not be a record year, but it’s among the top two.

Here’s the semifinal scoreboard.

Week Ending 11/02 Vegetable Count Weight oz Unit Weight oz Total Total Weight lb
Tomato  135 344  2.5  573 68
Bush Buttercup  5  5.0
Zucchini  1 10  10  22 30.8
Summer Squash  1 15  15 2 1.65
Butternut  4  3.7
Cuke  39  7.65
Spaghetti  2  28  14  7  14
Pie Pumpkin  4  5.6
Beans  –  –  –  –  4.0
Peas  –  –  – 1.0
Bell peppers 4  1.13

Grand Total 143lb, not counting the late stuff.


October 30, 2015

As in oats and yogurt. Inspired by the link, I dashed out to buy a container of plain yogurt. Imagine my chagrin when I found that they only sold plain yogurt in the molto venti size. I lugged it home and started my experiments. These ran from a third of a cup at cooking time, to a couple tablespoons left to soak in the fridge, down to a simple dinner tablespoonful of yogurt added to a cup of broth and oatmeal and left to ferment on the counter overnight. Sometimes I added a teaspoon of sugar, to help the process along and counter the yogurt tang.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, two dinner teaspoons of yogurt, one cup of broth, sugar. Let sit at room temperature overnight.  Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats.

Results: A different shade of bland. Bland in two dimensions, rather than one. Was smooth, creamy, tangy, acidulous, and needed a whole lot of something more. Using broth rather than water helped, except when the broth clashed with the tang. One time I added blueberries and a couple packs of sweetner, and that was nice. I think it has potential, but I’m not quite sure how I want to progress from here. Meanwhile, does anyone need half a gallon of yogurt?

Rating: *****

Green Thumb Up My Nose

October 25, 2015

Garden Report for 151026

Did it or didn’t it frost this week? Depends on where you ask. For example, the weather boffins predicted it for 32F on early Friday morning, out in the Turnbull, and 35F at KGEG. WeatherSpark had 32F. What was the actual? WeatherSpark says 36F, Turnbull said 36F, KGEG said 38F. My house thermometer said 35F (and Nest said 27F, not sure what planet they’re on), but the meat thermometer (hey, it’s digital, it’s portable) said 35F at the KHG, and 32F ten feet up on the deck. A similar story was told Saturday night. So far, nothing has turned black. Forecast for next week says we’ll take another run at it on Tuesday. Here’s Cliff Mass, the NWWx guy talking about the two week forecast.

Nevertheless, I’m starting to get serious about shutting down the garden.  I figure that even if we get another week or two with no frost, the chance of getting any new squash or tomatoes is essentially zero.

Pulled all the tomatoes off the 32F deck, just over five poundsworth. I was going to harvest the last of the squash from the KHG and pull them up, but there’s a few that might grow some more. Trimmed back the KHG tomatoes, and we’ll see about when to harvest them. I’m leaving them for now, in hopes they do something besides hang greenly from their stalks. Harvested a bunch of chard, before it got too big. We’re overstocked on greens, so likely will lose some. MJ is away and I have this tendency to just eat big chunks of meat, standing up at the sink.

This week's haul

This week’s haul

Meanwhile, the Portable Garden did pretty well, producing three banana-sized summer squash total (harvested one this week). This is more and bigger than the KHG squash did. I suspect the reason is that the garden squash was in the shade of the tomatoes. Something similar is going on in Section 3, where the peas, which by rights should be ready for picking this week, are still in the six-inch-high phase because of heavy shade from the Santa Maria beans. In systems terms, this is gardening under constraints.

Chasing the sunny spots

Chasing the sunny spots

The amaranth has all headed out, and has produced little white flowerlike things amongst the red  … flowers. Nothing that looks like seed. The big one headed first, and then fell over, just like the YouTubers say, but no seeds.

Here’s the latest scoreboard.

Week Ending 10/26 Vegetable Count Weight oz Unit Weight oz Total Total Weight lb
Tomato  60 88  1.5  438 46.25
Bush Buttercup  5  5.0
Zucchini  1 10  10  22 30.8
Summer Squash  1 15  15 2 1.65
Butternut  4  3.7
Cuke  39  7.65
Spaghetti  5  12.75
Pie Pumpkin  4  5.6
Beans  –  –  –  –  4.0
Peas  –  –  – 1.0
Bell peppers 4  1.13

Grand Total 119.53lb, and we haven’t touched the KHG tomatoes yet. I think it’s a record year.


October 22, 2015

From Wikipedia entry on Brunost:

Brown cheese, also called whey cheese or red cheese is a caramelised brown Scandinavian whey cheese made from cow’s milk. It is produced and consumed primarily in Norway. Gjetost is a variant made from a mixture of goat’s and cow’s milk.

I found a red cube of the Gjetost in the expensive cheese section of Safeway. The cheese inside is about two inches on each side, and a rich-looking medium-dark brown. It tastes a little like caramel, possibly because it’s made from caramelized milk. It’s good on crackers, but only in a very thin layer. Otherwise it’s like eating a candy bar.

Brown inside yellow inside red

It’s a lot browner than it looks

I used a chunk that was about 3/4″ on a side — call it two measuring tablespoonsworth — sliced into four or five thin wafers. Even so, it took them a while to melt in the simmering beef broth. Otherwise, no special ingredients.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, two dinner teaspoons of Gjetost, 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 Gjetost at the beginning and let it melt down a bit before adding the other ingredients. Add the potato just before you take it off the stove.

Results: Excellent. I’m thinking this would be a great way to make a superb gravy. A cup of beef broth and a tablespoon or so of Gjetost and maybe some flour to thicken, and you’ll have something rich and flavorsome.

Rating: *****

Anime worth watching, Summer 2015

October 21, 2015

The Summer crop of anime was particularly good. Of course, there are always the ones that just don’t hold my interest, or that never piqued it in the first place. Some I watched because they were on on nights that nothing was on. Programs like Monster MusumeActually, I am a Vampire, and Wagnaria all held my interest, but only enough to watch to the end. Not enough to rewatch, or recommend. What was good, by my standards?

Gate: A Connecticut Akihabara Yankee Otaku in King Arthur’s Emperor Augustus’ Court. Medieval fantasy world invades Japan through an interdimensional gate (NFI). JSDF strikes back. This could have been a modern-military-overruns-peasants snoozefest, but instead it concentrates on the adventures of an otaku recon team leader (it’s not an otaku recon team, he’s an otaku who leads a recon team, which isn’t otaku, except for maybe one, or something) as he deals with the elvenmaids, catgirls, and combat bunnygirls of the fantasy world. There’s an interesting fight between a flight of F-4’s and a dragon.

JSDF cultural exchange program

JSDF cultural exchange program

Non Non Biyori, Repeat: Does it again. In an interesting twist, this isn’t a “sequel”, nor is it a “prequel”, it’s a “parallelquel”. The original NNB took place across one school year — city girl comes to a one-room schoolhouse in the country, learns that things are different there. NNB-R takes place across the same school year, but covers different events. Think of it as the original covering the even-numbered days and NNB-R covering the odd-numbered days. In any event, it’s a simple, believable, charming slice of life program that’s even better than the original. The Japanese countryside is a major character all by itself.

Lost in the landscape

Lost in the landscape

School-Live: Stay’in alive. Not sure how long one is supposed to protect the key suspense element on a show like this. Suffice to say, it’s a combination of slice of life and horror, with a nice balance between the two and a well done ending. Come for the cute girls doing cute things at school. Stay for the cute girls doing what they need to do to stay alive. If you are new to the program, don’t read anything else on it. Go watch Episode 1 now. I’ll wait.

Looking for a lost dog

Looking for a lost dog

Overlord: Trapped in an RPG. Another take on a minor sub-genre. MMORPG is shutting down, and the nostalgic guild leader hangs around until the clock counts down to zero — and then starts counting up again. Unlike Log Horizon (where everyone is trapped and they spend a certain amount of time wondering how to get home), or Is it Wrong to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon (where it’s not really an RPG, it just acts like one, and adventurer is just a job description), the protagonist in Overlord is the only PC in a new world of newly-alive NPCs. Once he figures this out, he shrugs his bony shoulders and decides to keep playing.

My NPCs are now alive, time to conquer the world

My NPCs are now alive, time to conquer the world

Wakakozake: Another food short. Office Lady stops at various Japanese fast food places to try their combinations of food and drink. At three minutes, it covers just enough information to be interesting. Unlike, say, this season’s short, JK Meshi, which discusses food in the last 45seconds.

Potato salad and Oolong tea with saki, only 500 yen!

Potato salad and Oolong tea with saki, only 500 yen!

It is voiced by Sawashiro Miyuki, sounding like a real OL, and nothing like her usual sultry anime persona.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

October 18, 2015

Garden Report for 151019

Yet another Gorgeous Week, with highs around 70F and lows in the low 40’s. Why does this always happen right after school starts? And why does it go away so soon? Depending on which forecast station I look at, by the end of the week we’ll either be in the mid 30’s, or we’ll have frost. The 30’s forecast is for KGEG, which is further away, but equivalently urban. The frost forecast is for the Turnbull Wildlife Sanctuary Ranger Station, which is closer, but out in the basalt scablands. I’m hoping we can make it through the week frost-free so I can start closing down the garden next weekend.

Started shutting down the deck containers this weekend. Cut the plants off, dump them on the compost pile, then dump the dirt from the pot on top of them. The roots have so filled the pots that it’s like dropping a cast of the inside of the pot. The two plants (Patio and Celebrity) between them had about six small to medium tomatoes. OK small to really small. Got almost four pounds of tomatoes, total, including a pound of greenies. Another handfull of lemon cucumbers. Lots of chard, and a little lettuce.

Not much else coming along, despite the pleasant weather. I guess we’ll end up like we did a couple of years ago, with four or five flats of tomatoes ripening on the living room floor.

I’m not into monster vegetables, so I only get one if something escapes me. Like the 7lb zucchini that was hanging vertically into the shadows of Section 1. I cut it into sections and gave them away to friends at the libraries Oktoberfest party.*

Hard to fit into a salad

Hard to fit into a salad

Here’s the latest scoreboard.

Week Ending 10/19 Vegetable Count Weight oz Unit Weight oz Total Total Weight lb
Tomato  22 60 2.7  378 40.75
Bush Buttercup  5  5.0
Zucchini 1 112  112  21 30.2
Summer Squash 1 0.65
Butternut  4  3.7
Cuke  6 12.8 2.1  39  7.65
Spaghetti  5  12.75
Pie Pumpkin  4  5.6
Beans  –  –  –  –  4.0
Peas  –  –  – 1.0
Bell peppers  1  4.5 4.5 4  1.13

Grand Total 112.6lb. That’s about 12lb behind last year at this time, but last year at this time I had just closed out the garden. In 2013 the garden had already been closed for a week, and we had 76lbs, not counting the 40lbs of jack-o-lanterns.

*Since it was a Hawaiian-themed party, I got to wear lederhosen with an aloha shirt. Nobody picked up on the Heinlein reference.

Anime I’m watching, Fall 2015

October 15, 2015

This has to be the thinnest anime season in years. My standards are pretty low, but I’ve only come up with four that look the least bit interesting. On the other hand, they’re all pretty good (not great, but good). As an aside, they’re all on Crunchyroll. Funimation has nothing worth watching, even in the second tier.

Bones, the anime is turning into a body-of-the-week program. Part A sets up a murder mystery. Part B is split between five minutes of mystery-solving, and six minutes of character development. Interesting, but rushed.

It obviously died protecting something

For some reason, it smells like garbage

Oh, and Episode 2 had the same glove-snap, psychedelic bones, “Let’s solve this mystery” thing they did in Episode 1. It could get old real fast.

The Perfect Insider continues its artsy Eurocinema way. Sensei and Moe-girl … and a bunch of students (much to Moe-girl’s disgust) … go camping on The Island of Dr. Magata. Scenes swap back and forth in time, between almost-20 Moe-girl trying to seduce Sensei, and just-13 Magata trying to seduce her uncle. Moe-girl and Sensei visit the bunker where the possibly-killer genius has been housed for the last 15 years. Power surges, lighting outages, and software glitches run rampant. Locked doors open, and Dr. Magata attempts to escape, disguised as a doll riding on an automated serving trolley.

We're not much for plot, but we've got mood lighting and body language down pat.

We’re not much for plot, but we’ve got mood lighting and body language down pat.

Owarimonogatari is very narrowly focused, for Monogatari. The first episode took place in one classroom. The second episode took place inside one classroom and an old house (with a side-visit to Araragi’s old middle-school, where it appears that Sengoku Nadeko has his old shoe locker). All the old gang gets a look-in, from Kanbaru to Senjogahara.

Senjogahara's back, and Hanekawa's got her

Senjogahara’s back, and Hanekawa’s got her

Utawarerumono is one that was on my don’t bother list, but looks interesting enough I might continue it. It’s a sequel to a VN-based anime  that’s evidently set many years later and several mountain chains away from the 2006 original. Amnesiac man wakes up walking barefoot down a snowy mountain wearing what looks suspiciously like a set of green surgical scrubs. Amnesiac man is chased by a giant centipede, saved from the giant centipede by a sentient jello, and saved from the sentient jello by a wandering catgirl herbologist and her pack diatryma. It’s what I’d call a fantasy costume period piece, usually not my thing, but the interpersonal chemistry is trending towards Spice and Wolf, so I’ll watch for a bit longer.

Bath-peeking catgirl gets an eyefull

Bath-peeking catgirl gets an eyefull

That’s it. Four shows. Bones on Wednesday, Insider on Thursday, and Monogatari and Utawarerumono on Saturday. Fortunately, I have a large backlog of DVDs to watch, plus some galgames for the PSV, plus a bunch of LN’s. Oh yeah, and paper correcting, lecture preparing, and research.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

October 11, 2015

Garden Report for 151012

Gorgeous week, with weather mostly around 70F, with strong winds Saturday night, followed by rain. We look to be set for a cooler version of the same, with highs around 65F, but a warming trend could put us into the mid-70’s by next weekend.

Harvested a four pound spaghetti squash and a bunch of Section 1 tomatoes. Several were in the 6oz range, which is where I’d like them.  Amaranth is heading like crazy, and the big one has fallen over from the weight, but no actual seeds. I tried cooking up some of the leaves anyway, and they were OK, if you put enough garlic and cumin on them. Santa Maria beans are chugging along. Hard to see them going dry before November. Our buttercrunch lettuce has bolted, but we have some baby romaine and such just coming in. No zucchinis and no summer squash, but a couple of summers are doing well on my transportable garden.

It looks lonely, but it gets a lot of sun.

It looks lonely, but it gets a lot of sun.

Here’s the latest scoreboard.

Week Ending 10/12 Vegetable Count Weight oz Unit Weight oz Total Total Weight lb
Tomato 17 65  3.8  356 37
Bush Buttercup  5  5.0
Zucchini 1 22  22  21 23.2
Summer Squash 1 0.65
Butternut  4  3.7
Cuke 3 13.7  4.6  33  6.85
Spaghetti  1  64  64  5  12.75
Pie Pumpkin  4  5.6
Beans  –  –  –  –  4.0
Peas  –  –  – 1.0
bell peppers 3  0.85

Grand Total 100.6lb

The Princess and the Pilot

October 9, 2015

In the Winter of 2014 there was an anime series titled The Pilot’s Love Song, which featured a romance between a commoner pilot and the daughter of a lordly house. That was embedded in a plot best described as “society puts all it’s useless aristocracy on the Golgafrincham B-Ark and sends them to find the other side of the sky.” There were some good flying scenes at the start, but they grew fewer as the ‘plot’ progressed. Many people compared it, unfavorably, to a 2011 anime movie The Princess and the Pilot. I just watched TP2, and I agree.

Surprisingly, TP2 is set in the same universe as TPLS. It’s a better show, overall, but it still demonstrates many of the flaws of the series.

There’s a war on between two countries, let’s call them A and L. Country L evidently doesn’t have enough good pilots, so they hire mercenaries, one of whom is an A/L half breed, called a bastid or some such. He, of course, is the best pilot in the sky, but is hated by all the L-sians. Nonetheless, he’s the one chosen to haul their princess from the island she’s on, surrounded by A-ish forces, to rendezvous with the L-sian flying fleet, or what’s left of it, so she can marry The Prince.

The Boulton-Paul SantaCruz

The Boulton-Paul SantaCruz

The story deals with their three day flight in a seaplane/recon fighter that has to stop every evening to refuel with water. The Prince of L-sia is evidently just as bright as the rest of the aristos, and sends a telegram to her in a breakable code, giving her itinerary. Think Yamamoto shoot-down — for a while I wondered if it was deliberate. Naturally, the entire A-ish flying fleet is out after them. They almost get shot down several times, and do get damaged badly enough that they have to hide out on an island for an idyllic several days while they fix the plane, and install a new cockpit canopy (he carries a spare). She becomes enamoured of him (as castaways on desert islands are wont to do, and the whiskey might have helped), but he’s a true gentleman, and politely rebuffs her, maintaining his stoic acceptance of the status quo.

Not a flight of Kyushu J7W1 Shinden

Not a flight of Kyushu J7W1 Shinden

The airplanes are cool, mostly. The seaplane/recon fighter has fully retractable floats and an overdrive function that won’t quit. It also has stowage in the back for an 8-man raft, a full first aid kit, and seven suitcases, plus stowage in the front for various spare parts, like cockpit canopies. One wonders where the fuel goes. While we’re on design flaws, it’s a little disconcerting to see that their recon bird doesn’t have any forward firing weapons, but it does have a rear seat with a rear seat gunner, reminiscent of a Boulton Paul Defiant. The enemy fighters all look like the Sanka Mk.B from Sky Crawlers.

The flying scenes are great, but the actual flying is terrible. The A-ish fleet does an open ocean search by flying in close formation with wandering searchlights, like they were the Goodyear blimp at a football halftime, rather than spreading out in a line. Even Admiral Nelson could have run a better air war. All of the encounters take place in broken clouds, but The Pilot doesn’t think to just jump into a cloud and stay there — he’s always on top of the cloud, where it’s easy to see him. He also doesn’t even consider the possibility of flying at night.

Do you think they're looking for something?

Look sharp! The Sea Gals are about to take the field!!

The A-ish fleet has some sort of homing missile, probably a heat seeker, but they seem to be barely faster than the seaplane, and the L-sians haven’t invented flares. The A-ish fighters have radios, but don’t seem to coordinate their attacks very well — The Pilot gets down on the deck and they line up to take turns missing him. In the final combat, the A-ish fighter gets on his tail and drives up to within pistol shot, so The Princess sprays him with the tail gun. Her sustained burst, pointed right at his aiming reticle, manages to saw off the outer two feet of one wing. She’d have done better by pulling the pintle off the tailgun mount and letting the whole rig fly backwards into his cockpit.

Can you see me now?

Can you see me now?

The animation, by studio Madhouse, is not up to KyoAni standards, but neither is it 90’s cartoon level. Character art is OK. Flying art is good. From a performance standpoint, the characters themselves are mostly cardboard. The aristos are the worst caricature of prejudice. The bastid Pilot remains stoic in the face of prejudice. The Princess is the only one to grow. She starts out as a silent cipher, with three maids and seven suitcases of minimum wardrobe, and ends up as a tough flying partner, one who hacks off her hair when it gets in the way, and runs around in a halter and rolled up trousers, rebuilding airplanes on desert islands. On the way, she shoots down an enemy fighter. Hooray for her, but she’s the only one.

This old thing? It's my islandwear.

This old thing? It’s by Islandwear.

It runs 104 minutes on Crunchyroll, including a good ten minutes of credits. It’s worth watching, if you like flying films, and you can always fast forward through the character development.

TL:DR — Anime I never finished, Fall 2015

October 7, 2015

Not much to talk about here, because my in-depth  cover art analysis already filtered out a lot. But not everything. And one still wants to spot-check the discards to make sure one was right. On the other hand, some of these might not be appearing on either Crunchyroll or Funimation, and it appears Funimation is getting a late start on the season (only one new series posted so far), and I don’t want to wait for fansubs, or for Funimation to finish resting their server hamsters, so not everything on that list is covered here.

Will Watch second thoughts:

Beautiful Bones (AKA The Corpse Buried Beneath Sakurako’s Feet): Rich scientist helps police with their inquiries, whether they want help or not. Her connections help.

Obviously murdered. I'll take it home for my collection

Obviously murdered. I’ll take it home for my collection

An uneven start. Interesting premise. Very well done art. Strange plotting and characterization. Sakurako drags high school kid around to her bone digs. Finds 100 year old skull. Doesn’t bother to look for the rest. Stops at police crime site. Insults local police inspector. Points out why supposed double suicide wasn’t. Tries to steal the skull. Feeds boy Alaskan shrimp (AKA あまえび, sweet shrimp).

The bones tell me things

The bones tell me things

The boy, shonen, is a typical insert-self high school student — observer, commenter, inept assistant. Her character is all over the place — arrogant and insulting, interesting to the point of being lyrical when speaking of the bones, childish when trying to keep the skull. The show has promise, it’s just hiding it well. I’ll give it another couple eps.

Might Watch results:

Turns out, The Empire of Corpses and Miss Hokusai are both films.

Young Doctor Frankenstein Black Jack: He’s young. He’s a medical student. He has a huge collection of body scars. He’s there when the ward is overwhelmed by a mass casualty accident. One of the casualties is a kid on a gurney with an arm and a leg torn off. Despite the fact that someone helpfully stuck the limbs into an ice-filled bento box, the cartoonish senior doctor wants to just clean up the stumps and send him on his way. Something, something, triage. Young Frank Jack, jumps in, and with the help of an intern (who for some reason reminds me of Ghost Hunt’s Taniyama Mai), races the kid out the door and down the street and an unknown distance through the city to a sleazy clinic run by a self-doping doctor who will let him do the operation there.

We turn left at the first dark alley

We turn left at the first dark alley

What was the result? I don’t know. I tuned out at the break, while the intern was admiring the top half of Young Frank Jack’s collection of body scars.

Perfect Insider: Very much an introductory episode, in that you have no idea where the story is going after this. POV character Nishinosono Moe, is a young woman (old enough to drive, young enough to wear motley tights) with a crush on a slightly older professor. The Maguffin seems to be another woman, Dr. Magata, a genius (Ph.D. at 11, murdered her parents at 13 [maybe], currently hidden away on an island to do her [unspecified] research). Everybody is asking the big questions about the whichness of what.* Moe-girl has Skype-interviewed Magata, who talks about things like why seven is the loneliest number, just like B and D.

Why yes, I've seen Neon Genesis Evangelion. Why do you ask?

Why yes, I’ve seen Neon Genesis Evangelion.
Why do you ask?

Moe-girl and professor and his students decide to go camping on Magata’s island. Blurb says they find a corpse and solve a mystery. Not sure if this will be a corpse of the week, like Bones is shaping up to be. The ED looks like a fractal version of Conway’s Game of Life, with Unix-like terminal windows floating around (looks like they were programmed in Borland C), and finally resolving into a CGI image of Dr Magata.

This is trying to be an anime for thinking sentients. I think. I’ll watch at least one more episode, just to see what happens. It might be a keeper.

*As Douglas Adams said “Why does man eat? How does man eat? And, Where shall we have lunch?”

And how did my rejects do?

Heavy Object: After seven minutes of pure expository lump with no end in sight, I bailed. Right after the invention of the snowplow.

And I wonder why it's only two guys to clear 3km of runway

And I wonder why it’s only two guys to clear 3km of runway

Gaukusen Toshi * (AKA Asterisk War): New kid with natural dueling ability transfers to school where winning duels is the primary goal, meets high powered but obnoxious red-headed girl, semi-powerful but obnoxious musclebound guy, garterbelt-wearing Student Council President who has great tracts of … boobs …, the better to massage his shoulder blades with, and helpful, M-1 standard issue sidekick guy. Fights most of a duel. Dodges assassination attempt, finds embroidered hanky, sees angry redhead with her trousers half off, and finds that his missing sister is remembered mostly as a corrupt data file — not necessarily in that order. Oh yeah, his goal in transferring there is to find himself. I lasted the entire episode, but only because I was hoping to see Miss Garterbelt again.

...always get this treatment from the President of the Student Council

… is that a sword hilt in your pocket or did you just notice my hemline?

Rakudai Kishi no Cavalry: Kid with natural dueling skills. School that emphasizes dueling. Powerful but obnoxious redhead.  Magical duel…. You know the drill…. Redhead wears the garterbelts.

Lance N’ Masques: Modern day knight. As in, it’s modern days, and he’s still running around in armor, with a cape, a domino mask, and a big magic lance. He rescues tiny girls who fall off their playground equipment, and high school girls getting hit on by high school boys. After which, he kisses their hands and gives a creepy speech about protecting them forever. The youngsters are charmed. The ones old enough to know better run away, shouting hentai! I’m surprised he isn’t in jail. Did I mention that he has a magic horse that transforms into a chibi girl? And that the whole administrative staff of the worldwide association of creepy knights is run by maids? Life is too short, and I am too old.

... my lance extended to its full size and I just had to come ... rescue you

… my lance extended to its full size and I just had to come … rescue you.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

October 4, 2015

Garden Report for 151005

Gorgeous week, with weather mostly around 70F, with one peak at 80F. Lows in the low 40’s, with a spot of rain at the end. Forecast for more of the same, with peaks in the upper 70’s.

Not much harvested. Tiny banana peppers that I’m not even counting. Tiny summer squash. Tiny butternut squash. Couple of midsize zucchini.  The amaranth is heading, but nothing that looks like seeds yet. Main garden tomatoes are still thinking about turning, but so far have only managed a brownish pink. High hopes for next week.

Other than the camo-pattern, I can't tell Italian Zucchini from the kind that comes from Italy

Other than the camo-pattern, I can’t tell Italian Zucchini from the kind that comes from Italy

Here’s the latest scoreboard.

Week Ending 10/05 Vegetable Count Weight oz Unit Weight oz Total Total Weight lb
Tomato 13 22.5  1.7  339 33
Bush Buttercup  5  5.0
Zucchini 2 13.2  6.6  20 21.8
Summer Squash 1 2.5  2.5 1 0.65
Butternut 2 9 4.5  4  3.7
Cuke 1 2.25 2.25  30  6
Spaghetti  4  8.75
Pie Pumpkin  4  5.6
Beans  –  –  –  –  4.0
Peas  –  –  – 1.0
bell peppers 3  0.85

Grand Total 90.4lb

This time last year we had 95lbs of produce, including twice the weight in tomatoes. A revised look says 2013 gave us 76lb total, including a bunch of tomatoes that were ripening on the living room floor, but not including 40lb of jack-o-lanterns.

Girls und Panzer, the Anzio OVA

October 2, 2015

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

Thanks, but we figured that out already

Thanks, but we figured that out already

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

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

Rehabilitating Chamberlain

September 30, 2015

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

Green Thumb Up My Nose

September 28, 2015

Garden Report for 150928

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

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

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

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

Finally, the tomatoes.

Finally, the tomatoes.

Here’s the latest scoreboard.

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

Grand Total: 87.6lb

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

The intellectual implosion of the GOP

September 27, 2015

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

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

Anime Preview Fall 2015

September 26, 2015

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

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

First, let’s say what’s not in here. Sequels to stuff I didn’t like before (Diabolik Lovers, Seraph of the End), kids stuff (Pokemon, Zodiac), movies and OVA’s (with one exception, AKA GaruPan), and anything I can’t tell if it’s a series, an OVA, or a short (Letters From Dead Dogs).

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

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

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

2. Owarimonogatari Hey, it's Monogatari

2. Owarimonogatari

Hey, it’s Monogatari

3. Lupin III Hey, it's Lupin!

3. Lupin III

Hey, it’s Lupin!

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

4. GaruPan, the movie

Hey, etc…

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

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

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

Victorian Europe?

2. The Empire of Corpses
 Victorian Europe?

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

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

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

4. Perfect Insider

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

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

The eyes have it

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

Mecha piloted by young high school girls

2. Heavy Object
Mecha piloted by young high school girls

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

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

Too many characters, goth lolis

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

Obvious harem, and he looks like a butler

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

Another harem. You can ride my sword any day.

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

Harem involving four girls and a big pigeon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TacOatmeal Boat

September 24, 2015

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

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

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

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

Rating: *****

Green Thumb Up My Nose

September 20, 2015

Garden Report for 150921

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

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

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

First Beans

First Beans

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

Here’s the latest scoreboard.

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

Grand Total: 79.6lb

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

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

Strawberry-Banana Oatmeal Extender

September 17, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: *****

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

Green Thumb Up My Nose

September 13, 2015

Garden Report for 150914

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grand Total: 72.1lb

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

Cataracts, Part 2

September 13, 2015

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

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

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

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

Cataracts, Part 1

September 12, 2015

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

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

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

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

Patriot Day

September 11, 2015

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

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


September 10, 2015

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

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

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

Rating: *****

Green Thumb Up My Nose

September 6, 2015

Garden Report for 150907

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

Amaranth photobombs beans

Amaranth photobombs beans

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

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

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

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

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

Grand Total: 67.3lb

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

Pumpkin Oats

September 3, 2015

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

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

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

Results: Pretty good. The taco spices added just the bit of zest the very mild pumpkin needed.

Rating: *****

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

September 2, 2015


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 1, 2015


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 31, 2015


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Green Thumb Up My Nose

August 30, 2015

Garden Report for 150831

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

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

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

One Big Amaranth

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

Amaranth Flower

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

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

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

Grand Total: 64.6lb

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

French Onion Oats

August 27, 2015

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

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

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

Rating: *****

WA Smokes

August 25, 2015

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

Slow improvement today

Slow improvement today

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

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

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

August 25, 2015


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Green Thumb Up My Nose

August 23, 2015

Garden Report for 150824

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

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

Rounding up the squash

Rounding up the squash

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

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

Here’s the latest scoreboard.

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

Grand Total: 59.1lb

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

WA Smokes

August 22, 2015

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

Red areas are active fires

Red areas are infra-red detected active fires


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


Looking NorthEast

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


Looking SouthWest

Pretty much kept all the attendees at WorldCon 2015 inside.

Ramen alla Marinara Dashi Tonno

August 20, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: *****





Green Thumb Up My Nose

August 16, 2015

Garden Report for 150817

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s the latest scoreboard.

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

Grand Total:30.5lb

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

Zucchini Oats

August 13, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: *****

My two cents on Trump

August 12, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Opera Browser: The Long Farewell 4

August 11, 2015

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

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

Another Century

August 11, 2015

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

Green Thumb Up My Nose

August 8, 2015

Garden Report for 150810

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

Long beans getting longer

Long beans getting longer

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

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

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


Not A Multimato

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


Here’s the latest scoreboard.

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

Grand Total: 27.8lb

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

Green Thumb Up My Nose

August 2, 2015

Garden Report for 150803

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

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

At least they won't get ground-rot

At least they won’t get ground-rot

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

Remnants of a once proud Zucchini

Remnants of a once proud Zucchini

Here’s the latest scoreboard.

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

Grand Total: 17.5lb


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

Peak Hubbert

August 1, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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