Archive for January, 2012

NoriOats: Minnesota Roll

January 28, 2012

In response to a remark that my reader (Hi, Kurt) made last week. I thought I’d relook at the combination of oats and seaweed. I mean, what could be more natural? It’s the vegetable equivalent of surf and turf. Now, the only time I’d had seaweed in oatmeal was when I tried a miso soup powder in my breakfast oatmeal. This time, I decided to go big. Go sushi.

Sushi, of course, refers to the rice in the rolled up raw fish and rice and nori (seaweed) so beloved of foodies everywhere who have not taken any courses in invertebrate parasitology. For those who have, the baseline object is a reverse sushi, with vegetables instead of fish, and with the rice on the inside, and the nori on the outside. I speak, of course, of the ancient and revered California Roll. Well, if one can make a sushi roll out of rice and no fish, one ought to be able to make a sushi roll out of oats and no fish. Something as American as avocado but as midwestern as cheese. Behold, the Minnesota Roll:

water: 1 cup

oatmeal: 1/2 cup
(one minute variety, we want the pastyness)

potato flakes: 1 or 2 tbsp
(as needed, to firm it up)

cheese stick: 8″ worth 1/4″ strip
(standard snack stick, cheddar)

Swede: 8″ worth 1/4″ strip
(AKA rutabaga, boiled, from your stew)
(you may substitute turnip strips)

nori: one 8×8″ sheet

soy sauce: 1 or 2 tsp to taste

Boil water and soy sauce. Add oatmeal. Remove from heat, stir in potato flakes. When it looks like it’s the right consistency (a little pasty), taste it to see if it needs more soy, or other seasoning, set aside to cool.

Lay out the nori sheet on flexible plastic, or a sheet of plastic wrap. Smear the cooled oatmeal paste onto a flexible plastic sheet so that it’s in an 8×8″ square. It’s easier to do this on something other than the nori.

Flip the plastic sheet with the oatmeal over onto the nori and gently peel the sheet off of the oatmeal, leaving the oatmeal on the nori. Add the strips of cheese and rutabaga across the oatmeal like they were avocado in a California Roll.

Roll up the nori sheet, allow to rest, slice. Serve as you would California Roll sushi.

Result: Very tasty. I ate the whole thing, which ruined my dinner. Seaweed taste was dominant, just the way it is in a California Roll. Cheese flavor adds highlights, with the rutabaga the ingredient that makes one say “Hmmm”. Should go well with a slightly chilled Gewürztraminer, or a glass of Iron City beer.

Med Cruise

January 28, 2012

Some archaeologists believe pre-humans sailed to Crete

As usual with Uncle Tok’s projects, our Mediterranean cruise vacation came to a bad end. It was my fault. I was complaining to him about what a terrible time I’d had at summer camp in Beringia, and about logging on the lake with birch logs. As usual, he completely ignored my complaints about the cold and the narrow logs and getting my legs all scraped by the bark. Instead, also as usual, he homed in on one point and let it drive a whole new line of thought.

“Birchbark! Of course!” He cried. “It’s tough and it doesn’t soften in water!” He started stamping around the cave, waving his arms, the way he did when he got a new idea. “Instead of using birch logs with the bark still wrapped around them, why not carefully peel off the bark, and lay it out in sheets? Then you can use the smooth logs out on the lake, and they won’t scratch your legs! Plus, once the bark dries, you can use it to start fires with!” Then he dashed out to register his barkless birch water transport system with the tribal elders. (more…)


January 27, 2012

I had about half a measuring teaspoon of dashi powder left in the packet, and I thought I’d try adding it to about 1/3 cup of mayonnaise. You have to stir it for a bit because there’s not a lot of liquid for the grains to dissolve in, but it makes a perfect condiment for an English muffin with a bit of leftover tilapia sandwiched in.

Fun With Vocabulary

January 23, 2012

I am working on different ways to remember Japanese kanji characters. Often, as the experts will tell you, it helps to break them up into their different parts. For example, the symbol 女 means woman. The symbol 末 (not to be confused with 未) means, among many other things youngest child. So the combination 妹 means younger sister. Similarly, 姉 means elder sister. And what does 市 mean? Mostly it means city. So while the younger sister is youngest woman, the older sister is a city girl. Of course, you could look on them as women who wear different shapes of dresses.

I’m getting into kanji because when I try to translate anything that isn’t in the textbook I find that probably half of the words are in kanji, with the hiragana used for punctuation and parts of speech and stuff. I’m putting it up here ’cause it’s fun, not because it’s any great insight (after all, it could be wrong), and because it’s my way of recording my thoughts on the matter.

Don’t follow me. I’m lost.

The Press and the Elections — both of them

January 22, 2012

Once again I find myself channeling Ron Cole. This morning, he has an essay comparing press coverage of the elections in South Carolina and Egypt. What he’s talking about is how information is framed, to use a George Lakoff term. In the US, the coverage is all about the candidates, and by the way 65% of the electorate are fundamentalist evangelicals. In Egypt, the coverage is all about the fundamentalist population and the Muslim Brotherhood, and by the way we have no clue as to the real issues. Cole’s arguments are slightly disingenuous. A pick-one primary is different from a country-wide election of representatives. He is making a point, and it’s a good one. Those who frame the news control how their customers view the world. Given the kind of coverage we get today, even from news outlets that are even more fair and balanced than Fox, is it any wonder that we in the US are cowering under the bed, waiting for Muslim terrorists to follow us home?

The Afghanistan Estimate

January 16, 2012

The Los Angeles Times has an article on a new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) that was recently prepared on Afghanistan. The picture it paints is as gloomy as anything that came out of the Viet Nam era. Despite local successes against the Taliban in the south, the central government is still considered to be fragile, the security forces are corrupt, and Taliban elements in the east are still finding refuge in Pakistan. The only thing holding up the whole house of cards is us, and it’s all likely to go pear-shaped before the door hits us on the butt.

The Pentagon, and the theater military commanders disagree. If you go back to the NIE’s coming out of Viet Nam, you find the same thing — gloomy NIE’s (unless distorted by pressure from policy-makers), denials from the military leadership at all levels, and requests for increased troop strengths for, as Uncle Owen would say “only one more season”. (more…)


January 13, 2012

I’m not a big fan of boxed vegetable stock* — not that I make my own, that’s way too much trouble.** We use a lot of the beef, and even more of the chicken (Kitchen Basics brand), but the veggie version just doesn’t do much for me. Maybe because there’s just a hint of a Knorr-style dried carrots and peppers taste. Maybe because there’s nothing umami about it. Recently, that changed, because I found a way to doctor up the stock so that it tastes quite good. I tried this with standard ramen noodles, and also with the thick udon noodles. Have not tried it with oatmeal yet.

1 cup Kitchen Basics vegetable stock
2 tblsp mirin sauce
1 tblsp dashi soup powder
1/2 tsp miso soup powder
1/2 tsp soy sauce

The mirin adds a touch of sweet to offset the bitter Knorr-like undertones. The rest add a rich umaminess.

If you are cooking ramen in this, I’d recommend you hold off and put the dashi powder in at the last minute.

*Yes, I know that a stock is made with bones and a broth isn’t. Vegetables have very soft bones that are hard to detect. At least, that’s what the Marketing Department tells me.
** Update 2014: Now that I have a 3-function electric pressure cooker, making broth is as easy as cutting up carrots and onions, throwing in leftover chicken or beef bones (recycle that t-bone!), and letting it run on its own for half an hour. I do this once a week, and I haven’t bought boxed stock in months.

“They” DON’T Hate Us for Our Freedoms

January 11, 2012

An interesting essay over on John Cole’s website. Islamic scholar Anouar Majid writes about the pro-American stance of the Arab Spring, in light of the history of America vs Islam. He makes three key points:
1. Arab Spring demonstrations are pro-democracy, and those that have mentioned the US have been pro-American
2. Wikileaked cables demonstrated to the populace our preference for democracy, even when we dealt with despots, and this helped strenghten the US position
3. Islamic countries need to recognize that the US view of their countries as despotic has some basis in historical fact, and work to change this.

This is a much more reasoned and nuanced look at the situation in the Middle East and North Africa than you will find in the neo-con rhetoric. The fact that some politicians are willing to lie in order to “engergize the base” isn’t new or surprising. The fact that many will do so on topics critical to our national security is frightening.

Fun With Vocabulary

January 9, 2012

Declassified prizewinning NSA essay (pdf) on translating Japanese.
In other news, there’s a Crypto-Linguistic Association.

Read or Die Part 2: The TV series

January 7, 2012

As I said in Part 1 (which you should read first), Read or Die (RoD) started out as an anime concept, paused for a light novel, morphed into a manga, then jumped over to the screen by way of an OVA and a 26 part TV series. If you like books, you’ll like ROD.

The TV series is much darker than the OVA. Five years have passed, and much has happened in that time. There was an attack/incident that destroyed the British Library, ending the UK’s power over the world. The Chinese, in the form of the Dokusensha company, are making their own attempt to rule the world through books. Both sides are after a series of seven books with titles like The Book of The All-Seeing Eye.

Bodyguards at work

As often happens in anime, the creators of a sequel try to flip the old series on its head. Things you thought you knew, or assumed, turn out to be wrong. (more…)

Read or Die Part 1: The OVA

January 5, 2012

Read or Die (RoD) is another multimedia franchise. This one started out as an anime concept, paused for a light novel, morphed into a manga, then jumped over to the screen by way of an OVA (Original Video Animation) and a 26 part TV anime series. I haven’t read much of the books/manga (enough to know that the series name stems from an early manga episode), but that doesn’t appear to matter, because only the high concept, and some of the key characters, have been consistent. The stories and backgrounds are all changed at the convenience of the creators. I don’t have much trouble with that in an anime/manga universe — it’s not like it was Lord of the Rings.

The high concept here is that there are people who have special powers, including paper masters, ones who can control paper in the same way that money controls Congress; the British Empire has not fallen, and the real power is deep in the steam-punk depths of the reading room of the British Museum. The paper masters’ skills range from using a business card as an armor-piercing shuriken, to building an origami crane capable of supporting a wingless 747. Because of their affinity with paper, they tend to be in love with books.

Yomiko buys some books

I was going to use some typographical emphasis on “in love with books”, but there aren’t enough font modifiers to get the emphasis up to the right level – even going bold/italics/all caps with interspaced asterisks isn’t enough. Even comic-sans won’t help. (more…)

Requiem for a Marine

January 1, 2012

Stephen Shervais
14 August 1916 – 29 December, 2011

Stephen Shervais was born in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, on 14 August 1916, to Frank Shervais and Anna Novobilski. He grew up on a potato farm in rural Lancaster county, Pennsylvania, and hitchhiked into Philadelphia to join the US Marine Corps in 1934. After training at Parris Island MCRD his first delpoyment was to Haiti during the Caco Wars. In May of 1940, his unit, the 3rd Defense Battalion, was deployed to the Pacific to build up the defenses at Midway Island. Completing that mission, it returned to Hawaii in October, 1941, and was there at the time of the 7 December attack. He was one of the people who shot the locks off the armory doors, a courts-martial offense, so they could deploy their antiaircraft weapons during the attack. In May of 1941 his 37mm battery was attached to the 4th Defense Battalion and returned to Midway Island, in time to repel Japanese air attacks during the Battle of Midway.

Lieutenant Shervais

His unit then moved to New Zealand, which was the staging area for the Guadalcanal campaign. He took part in the amphibious assault on Guadalcanal, and was there for the heaviest fighting of that campaign, until his unit was rotated back the United States in 1943. He was commissioned as a 2dLt, and was returned to the Pacific war as part of the force occupying Peleliu Island. After WWII, he served at Camp Lejune, North Carolina, and as Inspector/Instructor of the Marine Reserve unit in New Castle, PA. He was deployed to Korea near the end of the Korean war, followed by postings to Camp Pendleton, CA, Twentynine Palms Marine Corps Training Center (where he was the Commander of the 4th Light Antiaircraft Artillery Battalion), and finally Point Arguello Naval Missile Station, where he was Commandant of the Marine Barracks and head of security for the missile base (now known as Vandenberg AFB South). He retired in 1961 as a Major, with 27 years of active service. Not bad for a depression-era kid with no college. (more…)