Archive for February, 2012


February 24, 2012

Bought a block of firm tofu last week, to try in a stir-fry while MJ was on a trip. Neither of us is a big fan of tofu, for some reason, and I do these experiments from time to time only because it’s reportedly healthy (you know, like kale), and it will cut down on my risk of breast cancer. Well, the stir-fry was acceptable (meets minimum standards), but not great, and that left me with most of a slab of tofu, and most of three trafficlight peppers (Safeway’s new merchandising scheme — a red, a yellow, and a green bell pepper in a plastic tube — looks like a traffic light, get it? get it?). Since I’m not yet ready for peppered oatmeal, I decided to dice up some tofu and use it in place of the potato. I cut a slice off the slab — say a 3×5 cardsworth, about 1/4″ thick — and diced into 1/4″ dice. Gave me just over 1/4 cup and I’m beginning to regret getting rid of the keyboard with the automatic 1/4 key. Cooking liquid of choice was chicken stock.

Result: Not bad. The tofu soaked up the chicken flavor and didn’t give off much of that distinctive tofutaste. Next time, I’ll try it with dashi and shoyu.

Wednesday Wii — Weighty Factors

February 22, 2012

The fabulously beautiful planet of Bethselamin is so concerned about the erosion caused by ten billion tourists per year that the net balance between the amount you eat and the amount you excrete while on the planet is surgically removed from your body weight when you leave: so every time you got to the lavatory there it is vitally important to get a receipt — Douglas Adams

Your weight changes on many different timescales: second by second as you inhale and exhale, hour by hour as you eat and excrete (be sure to get a receipt), day by day as the size and timing of your meals changes, and week by week as your true weight drifts in response to your overall intake and expenditure of energy. The official Wii Fit line is that weight can vary by as much as two pounds during the day, which is why you should weigh yourself at the same time every day, under the assumption that you take regular meals and are, well, regular. The trouble is, the Wii Fit only tracks daily weight, and day-to-day your weight (well, my weight) can easily change by two pounds, even if measured at the same time.

What you really need, and what the Wii doesn’t provide, is a graph of the running average of your weight, say, with a five-day or one week average. Enter, The Hacker’s Diet.

The Hacker’s Diet, notwithstanding its silly subtitle, is a serious book about how to lose weight and permanently maintain whatever weight you desire. It treats dieting and weight control from an engineering and management standpoint, and provides the tools and an understanding of why they work and how to use them that permit the reader to gain control of their own weight. The book is intended primarily for busy, successful engineers, programmers, and managers who have struggled unsuccessfully in the past to lose weight and avoid re-gaining it. Computer-based tools and experiments in Microsoft Excel or the Palm Computing Platform are available, as well as an online Web application, but a computer is not necessary to use the techniques described in the book; paper and pencil alternatives are provided. — John Walker

The book, available in .pdf and ebook formats, as well as online, is by John Walker, founder of Autodesk, Inc. developers of the AutoCAD program. He’s not a dietician, but his recommendations make sense. Particularly the ones about averaging your weight over five days or so, and watching that trend line. The book is free to download and distribute.

It’s too bad that the Wii doesn’t offer any way to automate this process. It could do those calculations very easily. Or it could save the data files in a format that we could read, so that we could do it. But Nintendo, like all the other companies out there, is bound and determined to control how its product is used, and if it doesn’t feel like providing a certain capability it certainly doesn’t want anyone else doing it. That would cut their revenue stream.

Or something.

Friendship 7

February 20, 2012

Today is the 50th anniversary of John Glenn’s three orbit Project Mercury flight in Friendship 7. He wasn’t the first, but he was the best.

As a point of personal interest, he flew two tours in the Korean War, and got three MiG kills while flying out of Suwon AB, attached to the 51stFIW, later the 51stTFW. That’s the unit I served with, a third of a century later. I was the IN at Osan AB, and was responsible for Intel there, and at Suwon and Taegu.


February 15, 2012

The meal, not the anime. MJ did some bacon crumbles for our spargle the other night, and I snagged the remaining bacon grease for use in The Oataku Project.

Standard oatmeal breakfast, made with water, not broth, with a dining teaspoon of congealed bacon grease. Added only salt and potato flakes. This is to establish a baseline. Boiled the water, added the bacon grease. The smell was divine. The final product, not so much. All the flavor had gone up in steam. Added salt helped, but it was still just oatmeal, with a slight hint of some other flavor. The potatoes came through well.

Second experiment, standard 3:1 mix of chicken broth and white wine, sage, salt, potatoes. Teaspoon of grease. Didn’t help. If anything, the presence of the grease changed the flavor dynamics so that even this old standard tasted bland.

Not horrible. Um…..

Visual Novels and Katawa Shoujo

February 14, 2012

According to Wikipedia, a VN is “an interactive fiction game featuring mostly static anime-style graphics…“, a kind of choose your own adventure game for adults, if you will. In fact, there’s very little of a games element to most of the VNs I’ve looked at. They are all composed as a linked collection of story nodes that include (a) a static locational graphic, often a photo, (b) a (mostly) static character figure, often drawn in anime style, superimposed, and (c) a text narrative stream from either the POV character or the character figure. Periodically, there’s a decision point, where the player/reader can drive the plot, based on the decisions they make.

Katawa Shoujo is a recently released VN, one of the higher quality examples, all the more impressive because it was done by an international team of volunteers, one that managed to hold together, despite the fact that few of them ever met face to face, for over five years.

The Katawa Shoujo

The game has gotten excellent reviews, some less lauditory but deeper analyses, and evidently touched a lot of people’s hearts.


Al-Qaida not as big a threat as we said it was — Official

February 13, 2012

Here is an AF Times item, quoting the new Assistant SecDef for Special Operations. “The true limitations of al-Qaida are one of two key reasons that America has not suffered a major terrorist attack since 2001. The other reason is that we actually responded … and crushed al-Qaida immediately after 9/11.”

They weren’t that good to begin with, and we destroyed them ten years ago. So why the [insert expletive] have our civil liberties been trampled on for the last [insert expletive] decade? When did the US government figure this out? Last week? Last year? By September, 2002? When were they planning on telling us? Or the DHS, so they can stop groping us in the airports? Or Congress, so that they can start dismantling the Patriot Act? Or the judges that have been so quick to kowtow to the Executive Branch claims of national security privilege?

The September 11 attacks were real, but everything after October was the 21st Century equivalent of the Tonkin Gulf Incident.

In the upcoming elections, it’s too bad I can’t vote for “none of the above” and make it stick. They’ll elect somebody, so I just have to decide who I despise the least.

Ground Truth

February 9, 2012

Ground truth is an imagery analysis term. We know what something looks like on a picture, taken from ten kilometers, or maybe a thousand kilometers up, but we can’t have full confidence in our assessment until we have walked the ground and found the truth. Statements out of DC, and out of the various joint and theater command headquarters have given us a high level view of what’s going on in Afghanistan. Now it’s time for some ground truth.

Here’s a report from Armed Forces Journal, a non-government publication, by an Army LTC just back from an extensive tour of the theater. He’s a seasoned combat veteran with four tours of duty in Iraq and AF. His conclusion? We aren’t winning. We never were winning. We don’t stand any chance of winning unless we want to stay another twenty years. Any statements to the contrary by theater commanders and their staffs are just attempts to do what I would describe, in my most kindly moment, as ‘put lipstick on a pig’.

One of the problems in an old, established, institution, like a large, traditional corporation, or a religious institution, or the military, is that failure is not a career enhancer. That’s particularly true of goal-oriented organizations, like business or the military, and it’s doubly true of an organization, like the military, where an assignment may only be for one year and a bad evaluation can kill a career. If you can paper over the cracks and hold things together until the end of your tour, then you’ve been personally successful. It’s much worse in politics, where the dynamics are different but the result is the same — if you are in office when we finally admit that some effort (wars, housing, the tax structure) is a failure, then it’s your failure.

So, we have an experienced, currently-serving officer, we have an experienced, well-respected reporter, and we have an official Intelligence Community agreed-upon National Intelligence Estimate all coming to essentially the same conclusion. It’s time to leave.

OaTea 2

February 3, 2012

In Part 1 I said that Chagayu (大和の茶がゆ) is rice cooked in green tea, and ochazuke (お茶漬け), is green tea poured over cooked rice. Well, oats ain’t exactly rice. They don’t cook into separate grains the way rice does. When you cook a pot of oats, you get a pot of … well … oatmeal. More like mashed potatoes than rice. The point being that you can’t really make ochazuke, unless you want something that’s more like porridge.

Since the inspirational idea for this meal uses green tea, I thought that would be my next step. This time I used 1min oatmeal, with green tea, and three packets of sweetner – the amount I normally use in my tea.

Result: Not bad. Too sweet. I forgot that I put 3 packets into 24oz of tea, not six.


February 3, 2012

I have been experimenting off and on with red wine instead of white as a cooking fluid for my morning oatmeal. In general, you want to use less red wine than you would white, because otherwise it tastes to winey. My taste runs to just under 1/4 cup of red wine — Merlot, Burgundswine, table plonk, vin exceedingly ordinaire, they all work — with the rest of the cup of liquid being beef stock. One third of a cup of long cook rolled oats. Tablespoon or heaping tablespoon of potato flakes. Season to taste. Seasonings should be robust enough to stand up to the wine/beef — garlic, rosemary, etc. I also tried a few shakes of Suzy-Q’s Santa Maria BBQ rub (mostly garlic salt and pepper). That was a little peppery for my taste. Shredded sharp cheddar cheese. Add the spices before the liquid starts to steam. Add the oats when it boils, and turn the burner to low. Cook for 15min. Turn the burner off and add the potatoes and cheese.

It all tasted pretty good, but as with most well-done beef flavors, it really needs some sort of gravy. Adding a little more stock, or a little less potato helped. I think it works best with the long-cook oats, because you want the oats to retain their shape in the gravy. With the short cook oats, your oatmeal comes out a little more porridge-y. Might be a good way to do steel cut. I’ll let you know, when that cycle rolls around again.