Archive for September, 2011

Habitable Planets for Man – 2011

September 27, 2011

Back in 1964, RAND scientist Stephen H. Dole wrote a book titled “Habitable Planets for Man“. In it, he made a serious effort to first, define what was needed for a planet to be habitable, and second, to estimate the number of stars that might actually support such planets. Today, we had our first good test of his ideas. (more…)

Coffee Oatmeal

September 26, 2011

OK, now we’re just getting silly. Coffee oatmeal? Well, this is just one more step in our exploration of interesting liquids to cook oatmeal in. And at the end of the day it turns out that it’s not such a silly idea after all.

Standard setup. One single drip cup of freshly brewed coffee. One third of a cup of 20min oatmeal. You know the drill by now.

Results: Not as bad as you might think. With three teaspoons of sweetner, it tastes a little like some of the coffee-flavored baked goods you come across. It needed something more, and I thought that jam probably wouldn’t work, so I added some non-dairy creamer, just like you would with your regular morning coffee. I’m not going to put this in my regular breakfast rotation, but now and again wouldn’t be bad.

Surimi un-Rolls

September 23, 2011

Surimi is to fish as konnyaku is to vegetables — it’s an otherwise bland product that’s been processed to within an inch of its life. A mixture of various spare whitefish that’s been boiled, powdered, sintered, flavored, rolled, and steamed. Or maybe steamed and rolled. In Japan, it stands on its own, being sold in rolls the size of a medium tube of liverwurst, usually dead white with a garish pink swirl of dye incorporated to give it a festive look. You see it in pictures of various Japanese soups. The consistency at all temperatures is that of chilled butter. The flavor is mildly fishlike.

In the US, it’s treated with flavorants that very nearly taste like crab, painted red on one side, and chunked up and sold as fake crab meat. Or, and hereby hangs a tale, it’s rolled out, rolled up, painted red, cut into sticks, and sold as fake crabs legs.

Fake crab leg

Somewhere a crab is walking around with all eight legs

Well, what’s been rolled can be unrolled. And what’s been unrolled can be stuffed and rolled up again. If you are the imaginative sort, you can stop reading and go have fun. For the rest of you plodders, read on. (more…)

Green Thumb Up My Nose

September 19, 2011

Garden Report for 110919

Tomatoes are starting to pour in. Maybe we made a mistake, buying so many from the farmers market. All, as in all, of our tomatoes suffer from thick skins. Doesn’t matter what varietal it is, or how it’s planted, the skins are thick enough you really want to have a special plate to spit them out on. Research on teh interwebs suggests it’s because our climate hereabouts is so hot and dry. So, nothing much to be done there, short of moving back to Portland.

The heirlooms are really turning now, and I must say, their flavor is better than I thought. It’s just a pain to try to dissect them, to get the big, tough, stems out, and the various hard seams, like suncracks that have scarred over. To say nothing of the general misshapenness. You pretty well have to cut them in salad chunks from the start, ’cause there’s no way you will get slices off of them.

Of course, now that a lot of them are turning, we have to worry about those what are still green. The daytime temps have sortof plunged, from mid 90’s last week to upper 60’s this week. That’s a plunge, isn’t it? Night temps are bouncing in the low 40’s.

Our summer squash hasn’t done well. Lots of flowers, which die. Looks like maybe one squash per plant, and the biggest is plum-sized.

We’ve been planting radishes in long trays, about 4″ deep, starting a new one as the previous one approaches maturity. That works for good old ‘Merican radishes, but the daikons evidently don’t think much of the depth. Not sure if the game is worth the candle, however, because we only get about eight or so per tray.

Planted the last of our peas last week, and they are now starting to show, amongst the squirrel diggings.

Another day, another year

September 19, 2011

Today starts the school year for folks on the quarter system. Meetings all day. First class on Wednesday. First night class on Thursday.


September 19, 2011

Many recipes call for you to drain the liquid off your canned veggies before cooking. Some call for you to then submerge them in water for cooking. For a long time, I’ve felt that was throwing away flavor. This is also true of beans, although I guess there’s some justification with beans, because you don’t want the final product to be too watery. It would be nice if we could recycle that bean-water, and where better than in unblandified oatmeal?

We had beans the other night. Two cans, drained into a bowl, gives just over a cup of bean-flavored liquid. I was wondering what I could do with it, when suddenly it struck me — Beanie-Oats! I mean, hey, what’s the worst that could happen?

I used the Quaker one-minute oats this time, one-third of a cup to three-quarters of a cup of bean water. Bring liquid to a boil, add oats, cook for one minute, stirring occasionally. Question, how many occasionalies in a minute? By the way, that was too much water, and I had to let it cook a little longer. The canonical recipe is two water to one oats, but that’s a little too much for the one minute oats, and very not enough for the twenty-minute oats.

Result: Umm, a little beany. OK, very beany. I was a third of the way through before it hit me — it tasted exactly like refried beans, but with an oaty texture. Once again, it needed a little something, and the refried bean flavor made me think of shredded cheddar cheese, which worked. So, the experiment was a success, but it’s not something I think I’d do very often. Maybe every third or fourth beanfest.

Santa Maria BBQ

September 17, 2011

I’m from Santa Maria, California (et al.), and remember the big Santa Maria BBQs from my high school days. The local ranchers clubs would put on big spreads with six or ten 55-gallon-drums split in half and set up as grills. There were long tables with red and white checked plastic covers, chunks of garlic bread, and large bottles of wine. For some reason, the Portuguese semi-sparkling wines from Lancers were exceptionally popular. I, of course, was too young to drink, and anyway, the fruity overtones and fizzy finish wouldn’t have appealed to me. Nowadays it’s all about the high quality Central Coast Wines.

Santa Maria BBQ plate, source:

Tri-tip, pinquitos, salsa, and garlic bread.
That green stuff on the side is just decoration.

The meat supplied by the local ranchers — tri-tip or other slabs of beef — rubbed with garlic salt and broiled over an oak chip fire and served in slices, tasted exceedingly good. What makes a Santa Maria BBQ, in addition to the garlic-beef-over-oak is also the salsa and the beans (go buy the Sunset Magazine Cookbook for details). The beans are local to the Santa Maria Valley, and are called Pinquitos. If you are in the area, you can scoop them up from the bulk food section of any supermarket. Or you can order them online, for around $5.00 a pound, plus shipping. Or, surprisingly, you can buy them canned from the Safeway stores S&W house brand. Of course, those have already been cooked and flavored the way the haute cuisine food engineers at Safeway like them, which may not be what you want, and aren’t how we had them, back then.

If you want order the dry beans online Suzsie Q’s Brand is the only company I know that sells them. The smaller bags come with a “Santa Maria Seasoning”, that is much hotter than I remember. That’s a little surprising, since Susie Q’s is a local Santa Maria company with a long tradition. Her parents ran the Far Western Tavern in Guadalupe, which is the place to go for Santa Maria BBQ. In any event, I prefer to make my own, using the Sunset recipe or the one from the Santa Maria BBQ website above. UPDATE 2020: Rancho Gordo also sells them, and you can get them on Amazon.

By the way, according to that website, one of the advantages of pinquitos beans is that “they retain their firmness, even when fully cooked”. You could also read that as “are still crunchy, even after four hours of boiling”. What we found works best is to soak them overnight, then cook them for about twenty minutes in the pressure cooker and then use the slow cooker setting for four or six hours. I don’t remember how they did it back in the day, but I suspect that all day simmering was a factor.

UPDATE 2016: Here is a good recipe for Santa Maria style tri-tip, including a sous vide option.

UPDATE 2018: Atlas Obscura has a short writeup on the tradition.

UPDATE 2020: Here’s another, longer, writeup.

Shiratake Noodles

September 16, 2011

I found some shiratake noodles (しらたき) in the fresh-tofu section of the store the other day. They are a chewy noodle made from yams, but processed so much that there’s no yam flavor left. Or any flavor. Or any carbs. Or any calories. Or anything. I mean it — zeros across the board.

The base plant is the Devil’s Tongue Yam, and the initial product from it is a wobbly, gelatin-like substance called konnyaku, sold in slabs about the size of a pound of butter. It’s used in a lot of Japanese cooking, because it takes on the flavor of whatever it is cooked with. Here’s a picture of a non-standard use.


Fresh from the fridge

To make the noodles, it’s run through the konnyaku equivalent of a pasta maker, and comes out about the same size and shape as standard spaghetti, only limp. Packed in water, it keeps about a year. Here’s some more detail.

We tried using it the same way you’d use spaghetti squash. Or spaghetti, for that matter. If you want more recipes, here’s a site. Note that the product pic on their site is of the brand of shiratake noodles that includes tofu as well as konnyaku.

How we did it: Open the package and drain the water. Net weight is 14oz, about right for two adults. Rinse under running water for two or three minutes, to get the chemicals off (the water contains calcium hydroxide, the same chemical Native Americans used to soak corn in to release its Niacin. It’s not likely to kill you but it tastes chemicky).* Drain it and drop it into a non-stick pan at medium-high heat to drive off the rest of the moisture and chemtaste. You know it’s done when it makes a hissing sound when you move it around in the pan.

We then added a big glop of leftover spaghetti sauce, made with hamburger. How big is a glop? Enough for two people. Your choice. Heat until heated. The noodles will cut with a stiff spatula, so you can cut them down to a manageable size while heating.

Result: Very good, but that was the sauce. The noodles were there, unobtrusive, and if I had to characterize them, I’d say they were almost, but not quite, totally unlike spaghetti. Say, more like sauce-flavored, very tender, rubber bands. Not my go-to food for a good time, but inoffensive and filling, and, like I said, zeros.

*Recent (2015) blogging says you can soak spaghetti noodles in it overnight to turn them into ramen noodles.

History Repeats

September 15, 2011

Last week in Afghanistan:

Soldiers conducted a thorough search of several compounds, and discovered approximately 250 pounds of HME material, eight Russian-made hand grenades, two 82mm mortar rounds, blasting caps and detonation cord, handguns, and other explosive device components. Two suspected insurgents at the scene were detained for further questioning by coalition forces.
The Afghan and coalition forces also found an underground bunker that was well-hidden in a pomegranate field, and believed to be a bed-down location for insurgents or a storage area for weapons. The bunker and its connecting tunnel to a compound were both destroyed by explosives.

Forty-five years ago this week, in VietNam:

On September 11, 1966, the battalion command group (1st Bn, 5th Infantry, Bobcats) moved to XT 637211. Company A conducted an S&D operation, destroying bunker and tunnel complexes. At 1205 hours two WIAs were sustained from small arms fire. At 1220 hrs a 105mm artillery round was command detonated against an APC wounding 3 Bobcats. Company B conducted an S&D operation, destroying bunkers and tunnel complexes and munitions. 3 APCs detonated mines with no casualties.

But, this time, it’s different.

Technology Dependence

September 15, 2011

Our story so far. One of my two standard ratio 4:3 monitors is dead and I really miss my dual-screen setup — maybe not as much as I miss Buffy, but right up there. I can’t use the spare off the SimBox as one of the pair, ’cause it’s a wide-screen, and will make my eyes go all wonky o_O. I could move it onto my desk and plug the remaining standard monitor into the SimBox.

No I can’t. The SimBox is dual DVI outputs. There’s a VGA, but it’s disabled. I guess I have to spend some money.

Do you know how hard it is to find a standard 4:3 ratio monitor these days? All the stores are carrying wide screens. I could order from the ‘zon, but that would take days. Sigh, I guess I’ll just have to make do with a dual-monitor wide-screen setup [ __ ][ __ ]. Turns out they can be had cheap at CostCo, if you don’t demand sub-millisecond response rates – and I don’t have the twitch responses to be able to use that rate anyhow. A quick, late night run downtown, drag the new box to checkout while the lights are flashing and the “we are closing” announcements are blaring; take it home, and pair it with the one off the SimBox. Then we move the old VGA over to the SimBox and hook it up through a newly-purchased DVI2VGA converter plug. There we are. All done and dusted and it’s not even midnight yet.

So, how’s the new setup coming along? Feels strange. It’s very comfortable to have my dual monitor setup back, and the wide screens mean I can spread out stuff even more. But that’s just the problem. Instead of being 20″ from one side of the display setup to the other, it’s now 40″. Items that were right here are now way over there. There’s a lot more mousing around to do.

I expect to get more comfortable with this setup as time goes on, but it gives me a new appreciation for how simple things can change the user experience.

Wednesday Wii — What Calculations?

September 14, 2011

The Wii Fit software tends to be not well designed when it comes to providing the user with information they need. We knew that. Now, I find that it’s dumb in a whole new dimension.

When you initially weigh yourself (on bootup, don’t get me started), the Wii will tell you you are making good progress (if you’ve lost), or that you need to be patient (if you’ve gained) or that you might find it hard to meet your goal (if you’ve gaind a lot – say, 86lbs). A week prior to your goal date, it will tell you if it thinks you will have trouble making the goal “at this rate”, and offer a chance to reset it.

This is all very well and good and useful, and gives you the impression the Wii is actually doing something, like dividing weight loss by days and projecting to your target date. Wrong.

The other day, MJ was one day from her goal, but obviously not going to meet it — she had over 1.5lbs to lose in 24hrs. Hopped on the Wii Fit board that morning. It told her she had lost 0.3lbs and…wait for it…was “making good progress” to her goal. Yeah. She only had to lose 1.2lbs overnight.

So, it is obvious that the Wii Fit isn’t calculating anything. OK, it might be calculating something at the one week mark, but my guess is that it has some pre-set number, say one pound, and if you’re more than that away from your goal at the one week point, it complains.

Takeaway lesson — don’t depend on the Wii to give you any useful analysis. Do your own calculations on a separate piece of paper. Don’t trust them to the computer. Of course, that’s like hooking horses to the front of your car to save on gas. It negates the whole idea of having a car, or a computer.

Technology Dependence

September 13, 2011

It’s amazing how fast we adapt to new technology, useful technology, in our lives. A few months ago I had cause to buy a a second monitor for my main PC — I teach MIS, so older boxen litter the house like dust bunnies, but there’s one I do most of my work on. The others are used for specific purposes, like demonstrations, or running simulations, or MS Windows. None are cutting edge.*

I had been suffering monitor envy, reading about all these dual- and triple- monitor setups. When we got our tax refund, I decided my share would go to an upgrade. Actually, what it did was allow me to buy a cheap widescreen for the SimBox, and move the existing monitor in beside the relatively newer one that came with my main box.

So, now I had two 19″ standard monitors, side-by-side [_][_] , each sitting atop an upside-down flowerpot. Whole new worlds opened up. Opera browser on this screen, e-mail and tweet stream on that screen. Never again would I have to Control-Tab just to see what was going on while I was working. Never again would I have to stack up Impress and Calc and Opera (oh, my) and spend as much time flipping as I did building a lecture. Never again would my students have to wait whole minutes, minutes I tell you, for me to respond to a tweet.

Then, disaster. One of the monitors went into flicker mode, and within minutes was deader than korfball.

Fortunately, it was still under warranty. I called ViewSonic, and the nice man walked me through the usual troubleshooting, including a “unplug, hold power button for 30sec” trick that was new to me. Results – nada. All was darkness. I got a RMA number and a mailing address and was on my way. Well, except for the fact that I was still monitorless, and would be until I send it off, they work on it, then send it back. Say a week after Wenceslaus Eve.

And herein lies the point of this essay. I’ve only been using dual monitors for half a year, but I am already dependent on them. A single monitor drives me crazy — everything is hiding behind everything else. There’s no room to spread out. I can’t have my references open alongside my work. I’m starting to feel claustrophobic.

But I have a Cunning Plan. More anon.

*Some years back, the Association for Computing Machinery found that, unless you need the cutting edge features on a next generation, say $4000 machine, you were better off going with a last generation $2000 machine, using it for two years, and then buying the no-longer-cutting-edge formerly-next-generation machine for $2000. You waited two years for the functionality, but you had an additional $2000 in the bank.

Oatmeal Dashi

September 13, 2011

Dashi is a very mild fish broth, the basis of a lot of Japanese cooking. Where a westerner would naturally assume ‘beef’ if you just said ‘broth’, a Japanese would assume ‘dashi’.

There are many recipes and discussions on the best way to make dashi. It’s essentially dried tuna and seaweed, steeped in hot water, in the same way that coq-au-vin is just chicken stew.

There are different kinds of katsuobushi tuna flakes. There are different kinds of kombu seaweed, and it seems to matter how you cook it, which part of the seaweed you use, and where the seaweed came from. I’d call it terrior, but it’s under water.

This isn’t an entry on gourmet dashi, so I’ll just say that cooking instructions vary from dump everything in a pot and boil it to

Making Dashi

slice the bonito flakes micro-thin with a razor sharp knife or the edge of a freshly broken wineglass, drop into not quite boiling spring water, remove from heat and draw the kombo through it slowly from right to left.

Or, you can do what 90% of Japanese housewives do, and buy the granulated variety.

That’s a long introduction to a quick meal. One third of a cup of instant oatmeal. Two thirds of a cup of water. One teaspoon of dashi granules (to taste). Boil the water, add to the oatmeal and dashi. Microwave 20sec. Stir and let sit for five minutes.

Taste. Very good. Surprisingly good. Needs salt. The recipe for this brand of dashi granules is one teaspoon for 3-6 cups of water, depending on the intended use (3 for miso, 6 for noodle soup stock). I used about nine times the maximum density, but I think that’s necessary to stand up against the oats. This isn’t one of your delicate Japanese dishes sipped while gazing at cherry blossoms by moonlight. This is the sort of thing you eat after a whole day of unloading sacks of rice from ships.

Tried a bit of soy sauce. Not sure that wasn’t a mistake. Americans tend to use soy sauce like it was ketchup. It’s really more like Worcestershire, and then some. A few drops is enough. I know better, but what I thought was a small amount still tended to overpower the whole plate, and not let any other flavors come through. In future, I’ll have it on the side, and just slide the underside of my spoon through it.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

September 12, 2011

Garden Report for 110912

Tomatoes continue to dribble in. The red cherries and the sungold cherries are ripening at the rate of two or three per day. The big beefs are about tennis-ball-sized and are just starting to turn.

The heirlooms, including the brandywines are all lumpy and look like cojoined twins, to the point that parts of them are ripening before other parts. We tried some dark tomatoes this year — chocolate cherries. They are actually about smallish-plum size, and ripen to a dark brown instead of red.

Down the south side of the house, the Mr Stripeys and the others (lost the tabs) are still not turning. Nothing grows well there. Maybe too much sun. Well the basil (two kinds) is doing OK.

Flavor of both the heirlooms and the chocs is so-so. I don’t think we’ll try either experiment again.

Unlike previous years, the ones we planted in upside-down pots are doing very well. The key seems to be to get them as big as possible, to the point where they almost just can’t quite fit in when you transplant them to the upside-down world.

Bought an artichoke plant off a man down the pub this Spring. Couldn’t see his face. Said it would do fine in this area.

We planted it next the unkillable rhubarb. Seemed to grow alright, except the leaves kept getting et by things. Just got one baseball-sized choke off it, and there’s another coming on. Come winter, we’ll cut it back and cover it up and see if it survives. Cooked it with a much bigger commercial ‘choke, and OK, a can of hearts, and made artichoke soup. Very good, very lemony.

Patriot Day and the Trim Tab

September 10, 2011

In the book The 5th Discipline, Peter Senge talks about the idea of a trim tab, how it works on airplanes, and how it works on organizations. In this essay, I want to talk about how it worked in the aftermath to 9/11.

In the old days, airplanes were controlled by the movement of wing and tail surfaces, driven by what was essentially piano wire directly connected via pulleys to the pilot’s controls. It was like an extension of the pilot’s body, because it was a direct physical link: hand, stick, wire, ailerons. Since the controls were extensions of the pilot’s body, they were driven by the pilot’s muscles. In those days, flying was physically exhausting because there were no automated systems like autopilot, or even altitude-hold, and all inputs were physical. Flying a two-hour mission in bumpy weather was like spending two hours bulldogging steers. (more…)

Last Days of the GSFG

September 9, 2011

Here is a “now it can be told” story from Berlin at the end of the Cold War. It’s typical of the kind of information one really gets in this business, and the kinds of inferences that you have to draw. There’s a whole sub-discipline of Intelligence, called Indications and Warning, that deals with predicting major actions like the withdrawal of the Group of Soviet Forces, Germany.

While I worked I&W most of my career, I wasn’t in the line of work portrayed here (it’s Collections, not Analysis) but I knew folks who were, and at the time the story occured I had just retired from my USAF job at the Defense Intelligence Agency, where I was trying to unravel the GSFG problem from that end. The “liaison mission” mentioned in the article is the USMLM. They drove all over East Germany with big American flags on their license plates, but were prohibited from entering “Permanent Restricted Areas”.

USMLM tour car on the road

My uncle was in the USMLM, back in the late ’40’s, and was one of the people declared “persona non grata” for violating the Rugen Island PRA.

It was just outside of the Ludvigslust PRA that Major Nicholson was shot to death by a Soviet guard in 1985, about four years before this story took place.

More Torture

September 6, 2011

It seems to me there are multiple aspects to torture/abuse/atrocity, and I speak as a person with no experience on the topic.

Cultural: What’s allowed. In the bad old days, everyone was the other. People never left home, unless conscripted by the king, or by your laird at the king’s behest. You stayed in your own village, and farmed within the sound of your own parish bells. Maybe you walked by one route to the local market town. This insularity isn’t gone. When we lived in England, our backyard neighbor in Mildenhall had never been to Isleham village, five miles away. Of course, Mildenhall was a town, with its own medieval market cross, so why would you? It’s also still true in much of the rest of the world, except where famine or unemployment have driven people into refugee camps or jobs digging for blood diamonds.

In the bad old days, life and the people who lived it were very much alike — nasty, brutish, and short. The various justice systems hadn’t come up with the concept of incarceration, so they’d collect weregeld, or sell you into slavery, or they’d cut off various of your salient features, or they’d kill you by various entertaining means. It wasn’t so long ago that we stopped having public hangings in the US.

If you consider the impact of these kinds of things on the young minds who were taken to see them, it’s a wonder that any of our ancestors grew up sane.

This changed over the years, first in the cities and amongst the rich. Now, as War Nerd has noted, you’re not allowed to kill unarmed civilians, at least, not while the cameras are running.

Bureaucratic: What’s permitted. I’ve already talked about this part. Those in power are permitting / encouraging / requiring torture as a policy tool of some sort. If they are in law enforcement, they are doing it to build a ladder of confessions that will show their bosses they can get results. If they believe they are getting the truth, they are fools. But it still goes on. We turn terrorist suspects over to the Libyan government, for God’s sakes, and we get back a list of other terrorists. Maybe the list pans out and maybe it doesn’t, but we’re being proactive in fighting terrorism. The horrifying thing about this is that, since all these activities were secret (until the publication of Wikileaks and the fall of Tripoli), there was no punishment or example involved, so somebody in our government actually believed this kind of thing would work.

Individual: What’s done. I see three types here. First is the casual brutality of guards and soldiers against the other. Even today it happens in prisons all the time. It happens in US prisons all the time — US civilian prisons inside the United States. I suspect it’s because the prison population is seen as the other. They are subhumans, who should be punished, or at least, warehoused. — rehabilitation is for humans.

In general, US troops seem to be well above average in their behaviors. In Iraq, when the knock on the door came at midnight, people were happy that it was the US, and not the Iraqi army. The incidents we hear about are abberations, not policy. If you have good leadership, particularly, with strong NCOs, this doesn’t happen. At least, not more than once.

As an aside, the Hollywood image of the psychopathic NCO Drill Instructor, driving his recruits to sadistic deaths is about as far from reality as it’s possible to get. Those types get weeded out before they go to DI school. In the old days, many would work at seeming to be psychopaths, but even that ploy is dead today. Jack Webb’s The DI is probably the best movie ever made about them.

Second, is the sustained brutality of psychopaths who love their work. Prison guards in the Soviet system. Interrogators in the SS. They are attracted to this kind of work by the same genetic drives that push egomaniacs into politics.

Finally, we have the professional Intelligence interrogators. Their job isn’t to inflict torture, it’s go gather information, and they are professional about it. They get no joy in the infliction of pain and suffering. They are well trained, they understand the rules of war, they are monitored and evaluated. Any torture inflicted by them will be with a checklist in one hand and a stopwatch in the other. They, above all others, know how useless torture information is — that’s why they questioned their orders, all the way up to the DoJ.

The trouble with torture of any kind is that it does impact the torturer, even the cool professional. It changes your brain. Unlike watching it on TV or torturing pixels in a video game, real torture, the kind that leaves blood on your hands, deadens your humanity. Unfortunately, it also kills your ability to understand this change in yourself.

The GOP and America

September 5, 2011

Normally I don’t post links or comments unless I have something useful to add, but these two links are important.

President Reagan’s Director of the OMB, on how the GOP is destroying America.

And here’s a senior GOP Congressional staffer who just retired after 28 years, including service on the House and Senate Budget Committees. He couldn’t take it any more. Here’s his view of today’s GOP. Senior Congressional staffers are incredibly powerful — they not only know where all the bodies are buried, they helped bury most of them.

These are not wild-eyed leftists. They both held responsible positions in the executive and legislative branches of the government. One of them is writing for the Wall Street Journal. You don’t get better conserva-cred than that. And they’re both saying the same thing. The GOP is in thrall to the corporate world and is willing to destroy the country to achieve their goals.

At least they are consistent

It’s inconceivable to me how any thinking person can read these, look at the hard evidence, and then vote for any GOP candidate for a position higher than County Commissioner of Sanitation.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

September 5, 2011

Garden Report 110905

Dug up my mid-season potatoes today. Small plot — 3x5ft. Yield: 0.75kg (stop laughing). These were small Burbanks, bought as part of the Irish Eyes “cage collection” but not grown in a cage. I have some other kinds (Yellow Finn and All Blue) actually in actual cages (OK, garbage cans), and we’ll see how those do in a month or so.

The reason I dug them up now is that I want to use that part of the garden, along with the cornfield (OK, corn feet) to try some late season peas.

The corn was a disaster. Ankle high by the …end of August. That don’t rhyme.

Tomatoes have been slowly ripening. We obviously missed our watering schedule at some point, because there’s a certain amount of blossom-end rot. What’s funny is that everything is so small. OK, the cherries are meant to be, but the “beefsteaks” are about the size of your standard tennis ball grocery store tomatoes. The only thing that’s the expected size is the heirlooms we got from an friend, and they are misshapen enough you’d think they came from Fukushima. The ripening schedule has been spread out, so that we have enough for salad garnish every night, but not enough for salad ingredients. That may change soon, since there’s ten or so medium-sized coming on line sometime this week.

More news as I eat.

Chicken Oatmeal

September 5, 2011

So, here’s the first of our it’s the water experiments. Chicken broth. Specifically one generous teaspoon of salt-free-range chicken broth powder to one cup of water and 1/3 cup of 20-min oatmeal. And as long as we’re doing that, let’s add a few grinds of rosemary-garlic, plus a few grinds of dried mushroom (these are from the spice bottles with the built-in grinders), and — since it’s poultry — some poultry seasoning.

Result. Very Good. Needs a little salt, but not so much that you can’t eat it without. Not like regular oatmeal. MJ made a face :p because some things should just be done with jam, or cinnamon.

The Fighting 501st

September 1, 2011

They were a group of young pilots, brought in from all over the world because of their special qualifications, each bearing the name of a famous pilot of the past. Their mission was to defend Earth against the alien invaders. Flying the latest in air to air technology, they hurl themselves against the black ships that have already conquered most of Europa. Their leader is dedicated, but already too old for the stress of combat.

The Neuroi Attack

Black Ships over Europa

From their isolated base off the coast of Brittania, the pilots of the elite 501st Joint Fighter Wing must fight the enemy while they learn their craft and bond as a team. (more…)