Archive for May, 2012

Cheesy Oats

May 31, 2012

The cheese saga continues. This time it’s Safeway brand butterkaase, a moderately soft (but not spreadable) cheese that’s perfect on crackers.

Beef broth, dried onion, ground garlic, ground rosemary, three drops of worcest… British sauce. Long cook oatmeal, powdered potatoes. Quarter cup of starting-to-harden butterkaase, cubed.

Result: Not bad. The cheese wasn’t too stringy, and the amount was right — enough to be noticed, but not enough to be considered a major component. A note on the spices. I have a grinder of RosemaryAndGarlic, and I have a Grinder of Garlic, and a bottle of Ground Rosemary. Today I used the last two, and the taste was noticeably different, probably better. I suppose I could mash up some whole garlic, and chop up some of that Safeway fresh rosemary and the result would be even fresher tasting. Or I could grow my own, and harvest them at dawn for breakfast. Later on, I could make my own clothes, out of sheep.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

May 28, 2012

Garden Report for 120528

Last time I said the weather for this last full week in May was forecast to be more like a week in April. I’d like to change that to read March, and maybe ‘early March’. It never snowed. It never frosted. But the sun rarely showed, and the wind rarely stopped. I am reminded of Neil Stephenson

The Cascades blocked any of those warm, moist, refreshing Pacific breezes, harvesting their moisture to carpet ski areas for dewy-skinned Seattleites, and diverting what remained north to Vancouver or south to Portland. Consequently the Palouse had to get its air shipped down in bulk from the Yukon and British Columbia. It flowed across the blasted volcanic scabland of central Washington in a more or less continuous laminar sheet


Blasted volcanic scabland. That’s us.

So the first part of this week was been more of a hunkering down. The plants may grow (the weeds certainly are), but I doubt that seedlings would survive.

It warmed up on Friday, and I started weeding. I found an old plastic bottle of starter fertelizer, with B vitamins, and took it onto the deck to use in my watering pot. Whereupon I dropped the bottle, and the impact point shattered like it was really old plastic. I managed to roll it over to hole-side-up, blotted the deckboards with newspaper (into the compost bin), and washed down the deck. There’s still a good third of a bottle left, so I’m going to use it on every plant in sight.

Meanwhile, nothing much has sprouted in the seed sprouter. I got one spindly seedling in the bin marked “spaghetti squash”, but it looks more like a stray tomato. Those were last years squash seeds anyway. On Sunday, I went around all the stores — Jarms Hardware, Safeway, Ben Franklin, Cheney Trading Company, even By God Huckleberry’s — and nobody had spaghetti squash seeds. Racks and racks of other squash. Maybe there’s been a Great Spaghetti Squash Blight that didn’t make Fox News. Finally, I found some at Cheney Feed and Tack. One small rack of seeds, not by any of the big names in the business. I planted three in 4″ pots outside, and three in 1″ pots in the seed starter.

Still no movement on the hops front. MJ talked to the hops man at a dog show, and he said they get their plantings very early, and sometimes they get old. If nothing comes up, I’ll try again next year. Maybe get the earliest possible delivery and start them in containers in the garage.

Memorial Day

May 28, 2012

Some pay their respects one way.
Many others, in many different ways.
Some, less public.

And then there’s Kipling

All the world over, nursing their scars,
Sit the old fighting-men broke in the wars–
Sit the old fighting-men, surly and grim
Mocking the lilt of the conquerors’ hymn.

Dust of the battle o’erwhelmed them and hid.
Fame never found them for aught that they did.
Wounded and spent to the lazar they drew,
Lining the road where the Legions roll through.

Sons of the Laurel who press to your meed,
Worthy God’s pity most–you who succeed!)
Ere you go triumphing, crowned, to the stars,
Pity poor fighting-men, broke in the wars!


May 24, 2012

I’ve always been a fan of malted milk. I strongly prefer a chocolate malt to a plain old chocolate shake, but so few places offer them any more. Perkins does.

A little while ago I came across an article on malted milk, and immediately decided to try it in my oatmeal. This was a fairly plain setup, ’cause I didn’t know what it would taste like. So, cup of water, 1/3 cup of oatmeal, and and two moderately heaping dinner teaspoons of oatmeal. The container calls for three tablespoons for an 8oz serving, so I figured this would be about right.

Result: bleah. Tasted like some sort of processed cheese product.

Added non-dairy creamer.

Result: bleah. Tasted like some sort of processed cheese product with cream.

Added cocoa powder.

Result: bleah. Tasted like some sort of processed cheese product with cream and not enough chocolate.

Added more coco powder and creamer and heated it in the micro.

Result: meh. Tasted like oaty chocolate soup.

Overall, a failure. But remember the Mad Scientist’s Creed: No experiment is a failure if it leaves a big enough crater.
Coming soon: Ovaltine!

Green Thumb Up My Nose

May 21, 2012

Garden Report for 120521

The weather was nice most of the week, cooling slightly towards the end.  This week is forecast cool and rainy — like a nice April week should be. Too bad it’s the end of May. Surprisingly, it looks like it’s actually been warmer than usual. I did a visual scan of the weather curves at WeatherSpark, and it looks like over the past two months we’ve been well above average 30% of the time, and our minima have rarely been below the average. My calendar for yesterday said it was ‘early outdoor planting’ day, for things like tomatoes.

Slowly, one or two things are sprouting from the 11 May planting in the seed sprouter — Better Boy tomatoes, lemon cucumber.

Outdoors, I did a second planting of lettuce and radishes, plus, I planted a small urn-shaped flowerpot with chives. Still waiting for the peas to produce. Still waiting for the hops to sprout. It’s been officially one month now, but we’ve had only about a week of warmth.

Both the hanging tomatoes are doing OK, probably not quite as well as the others, but they have less soil and no warmth. The real reason for planting them is decorativeness, and because I can use corners of the deck that I would not otherwise put stuff in.

The keyhole garden in Section 1 of the main garden is doing OK. By that I mean that nothing has died, but nothing has sprouted, either. In Section 2, the peas are only about 18″ high. I also planted some grass seed there. That all gets plowed under, come mid-June. Section 3 is spinach (barely visible), and transplanted head lettuce. I took off the covering from the lettuce.

Still have two large pottery pots to plant, plus about five other pots of various shapes. Plus the other two sections of the main garden. I have an embarrassment of coffee grounds right now. I haven’t used all that I got ten days ago, let alone the latest delivery. I’d like to put it in the fridge for the next three weeks, but MJ has the usual unreasonable housewifely objections. I guess I’ll dig it into the new plantings. LATER: I snuck the bag into the tiny downstairs bar fridge. I had a bit of a hangnail, and the bag tore. Kids, remember: good grooming is important.

If this all comes in on time, we’ll have real cornucopia on our hands. Starting in mid-August we’ll probably be able to feed ourselves solely from the gardens. Assuming one wants to live on salads and greens and squash, oh my.

Happy Eliza Doolittle Day!

May 20, 2012

As I said in more detail in my last post, we have arranged a performance by Solar Eclipse, on tour for one day only, Asia, Pacific, and the US. However, the situation looks bad for the NENW performance (scheduled for 5:30PM), with extensive cloud cover threatened. And it turned out to be true.

At 4PM it wasn’t looking good

The cloud cover remained until nightfall, and the satellite image wasn’t much help.

At 6:30 all we had was a slight darkening of the southern half of the frame

Eliza Doolittle Day Doin’s

May 18, 2012

In honor of Eliza Doolittle Day, Sunday, the 20th of May, we are staging an annular eclipse of the Sun. In the NENW it will start about 5:30PM. This description, from the LA Times, is pretty good. Here’s a simulation for Washington State (the full page lists all the states…worth listing)

Easiest setup for viewing is
[–box with white paper…..cardboard with pinhole–|…..O sun
you, looking this way <… o_O

The pinhole projects the image of the sun on the paper. The longer the distance twixt cardboard and paper the bigger, and dimmer, the image.

It's safe, because you are looking towards the box and away from the sun. Don't look at the sun directly, you'll put somebody's eye out.

Oats a L’Orange

May 17, 2012

Had some prepackaged duck from the store, with a packet of orange sauce. Not a bad dinner, and there was about a quarter cup of the sauce left over, so I tried it in oatmeal. (He’s at that age, you know — everything he picks up goes straight into his oatmeal). Very plain prep: oatmeal, sauce, water to make a cup, salt.

Then I left it a little long, and it cooked down a bit more than I wanted. After we got the smoke detector turned off, I rehydrated it with a little orange juice, and sweetened it with some apricot jam, being out of marmalade.

Result: Not impressed. I’m sure there’s a good recipe in there somewhere, but I think I’d rather go with a full up orange juice, etc., than recycling duck sauce. Maybe use it as a topping

My Keyhole Garden

May 17, 2012

Last time, I talked about keyhole gardens (KHGs) in general. Today, I’m going to talk about the KHG I am building. While a true KHG fits a fairly precise definition, the idea of a KHG is something you modify to fit your circumstances. Most are round because that’s an efficient use of resources and it makes for an even distribution of nutrients from the central basket. But they don’t have to be.

Section 1 of my KHG under construction.

I have an existing rectangular garden that is 6ft wide by five 8ft fence sections long, and I’m slowly converting it to KHG, one fence section at a time. (more…)

Keyhole Gardens

May 15, 2012

I got started on this whole Keyhole Garden thing because Deb Tolman (see some links at the bottom), a friend of mine from grad school days, is applying her Ph.D. in Environmental Science to educating folks in central Texas on how to build and maintain them. What’s a Keyhole Garden? It’s an idea that originated in some of the dustier parts of Africa, where there’s not much rainfall and the sun is a blowtorch. My working definition is that it’s a way of building and maintaining a deep soil raised bed garden in a hot, dry climate. The rest of this essay is a discussion of how you do that.

Keyhole Garden with shade frame

Deep soil, raised bed garden: A KHG (there, that saved eleven keystrokes) stands about two feet high or so at the outer edge, rising, volcano-like to a three-foot central peak around a composting basket. There’s a couple of advantages to this. First, that’s two feet of soil for your plants to root in, and to hold water for you. Second, that’s two feet less bending over you have to do. (more…)

Green Thumb Up My Nose

May 14, 2012

Garden Report for 120514

The weather is warming now, and the gardenizing is kicking into high gear.

The Wednesday night 31F prediction actually happened on Thursday night — I brought the four tomato pots inside, put plastic water bottles over the tomatoes and squash in the KHG, and covered that with a tarp. After watering for about 20min. Everything survived.

Friday, I put in some more squash, some walla walla sweet onions, bok choi, and daw gauk beans into the KHG. Put up another hanging basket with cherry tomatoes in it. Planted a 36x4x4 tray with a mixture of French greens, and another one with some buttercrunch and baby romain lettuce. Potted two more tomato plants. It’s hard to know when to stop. Last year we got the equivalent of one tomato for every seed I started.

Sunday I reserved for putting in some Swiss chard and some daikons, peas, and more lettuce. I also went out and bought a Sweet 100 at the local hardware store and planted it in a biggish container.

Now, there’s nothing to do but weed and water and wait for mid-June.

MJ harvested some of our Unkillable Rhubarb™ and cut it up and boiled and stir-sticked it to make a quick rhubarb BBQ dipping sauce. Very good. Was heavy on the brown sugar, with yellow mustard, so I guess it’s like a South Carolina sauce. The leaves went into the compost bin (the one I’m filling up to put into Section 2 of the KGH). I looked on the Interwebs and they said it was OK, despite the oxalic acid — they wouldn’t let them put it online if it wasn’t true, would they?

Droid X Power-Off Issues – Update on the Update

May 12, 2012

So, it looks like Motorola has finally fixed failed in their purported attempt to fix the ‘independent power on’ problem.

When the OS upgrade came out, I thought it was fixed. So did everyone else. I tried it a couple of times and it worked — when I powered it off, it stayed that way. Then, this week, I started noticing a few hits on the topic here.

I hadn’t been paying much attention, because I’ve been using the phone as an alarm clock (Passing of Time is a much nicer way to wake up, and why don’t alarm clock makers add an mp3 option?), and so rarely turn it off. Last night I did, and five minutes later it came back on. In another month or so I’m elegible for a phone upgrade with Verizon, and I think I might just go with a non-Motorola model.

Microsoft Strikes Again

May 10, 2012

As I have been forced to admit on a number of occasions, I still have a Win XP machine. It’s a refurbished Dell Optiplex, and I keep it around because there are some things that can only be done on a Win box. This is deliberate. It’s called vendor lock-in, and the civilized world moved past that idea sometime in the last century.

I keep the WinBox religiously updated and patched, and run an active AV program. It has, so far, met my simple needs. Until today.

Last Tuesday was, of course, Patch Tuesday, a day most sysadmins prefer to spend under their beds. As usual, there was a monster download, and as usual, it required a reboot.

Reboot, wait, get a flash of the Win logo and Intel logo and the BIOS instructions, get a flash of the Win XP logo and progress bar. Then all is blackness. Monitor still getting a signal. HDD chattering its little heart out. Nothing on the screen.

Reboot doesn’t help. Power cycle doesn’t help. Reboot with f8 doesn’t help (subliminal flash of the boot choice screen with the choice bar near the bottom, then nothing). [insert several hours of increasingly frustrated efforts]. Nada.

Interestingly, the printer function still works, and I can print from my Linux box to the printer attached to the XP machine. So it has something to do with the display.

So, I broke out a more modern monitor than the one that came with the Optiplex (both are VGA, though). And it works. Why doesn’t the other one? Who knows? If one were given to conspiracy theories, one might think that Microsoft has found a way to trash older setups, so that we will all be forced to move to a new computer with Win 7 (or even Win 8, AKA Vista 2). You know, in their proud “the job isn’t done until Lotus won’t run” tradition.

Either that or they just don’t care.

Two hours out of my life that I won’t soon see again. Thanks, Microsoft. You’re a princ.

Cheesy Oats

May 10, 2012

Experiment 1: Chicken stock, basil, and Safeway Primo Taglio Provolone. This is a block cheese, not a shredded topping. I diced it and put it on right after I put on the potato flakes.

Result: good. The provolone melts down into a stringy mass of connective goo, which said strings hang off your spoon while you eat. I probably could have put on more basil, but there was just enough to make you aware that there was something else there. As RR say, “it makes you go ..hmmmm.”

Experiment 2: Beef stock, glug of red wine, and Safeway Primo Taglio Provolone. I decided to finish up the cheese, so it turned out to be more like a third of a cup…or more.

Result: Oat fondue. Too much cheese. Too much red wine, also. I am coming to the conclusion that red wine has to be handled like an herb — used in tablespoon measurements, not fractions of a cup.

Sasameki Koto – The Anime

May 9, 2012

NOTE: If you got here looking for the Miyazaki anime The Wind Rises, it’s because one of the characters in this anime is reading the book. See the trivia note at the very end of this posting. UPDATE July 2014: The three volume manga is now available on Amazon. Buy it. You won’t be sorry.

Sasameki Koto (Whispered Words) is a lightweight, enjoyable, slice of high school girls life anime that faithfully follows the source manga — and that’s the problem. It’s a 13 episode one-shot series from 2009 that covers the first 12 chapters of a 40+ chapter manga. Despite the fact that every episode is exceedingly good, there’s no closure, no resolution, no conclusion.

Ushi and Sumika

The Girls Club

I picked it out of the lineup at Crunchyroll (my latest fad) based solely on the cover art. I had no idea what was good in the offerings, although I knew there were a couple of programs I wasn’t interested in. I was looking for artwork that was realistic, with no mechs, boobs, lolis, or spiky hair (So, why does he even bother to watch anime?). I was hoping for another Hanasaku Iroha, or maybe even another Chihayafuru. What I got was K-On for big kids. The plot is typical anime romance: A loves B but is afraid to declare. B is oblivious and has a crush on C in disguise. C loves A, who exploits the situation. D also loves A, and is horrified to learn about B. E and F are in love. G enjoys hanging out with friends. As you might have already guessed, everybody but C is female, and he’s a cross-dresser. (more…)

Green Thumb Up My Nose

May 7, 2012

Garden Report for 120507

The weather continued cold, windy, and mostly rainy all week. It actually tried to snow on the 2d of May, but only graupled. It did clear up on the weekend, so that the temps could plunge to freezing.

Friday was one of the two days each month that the city sells compost. We went down and bought two garbage cansfull, dumped them on the keyhole garden, and then went back and got two more.* The first section of the KHG is now complete.

The complete, but unplanted, Keyhole Garden (looking South).

My plan was to start planting on Saturday, but Friday night was forecast to be down to 33F (my thermometer said 35), and Saturday night to 32F (mine showed 33), which I thought a bit much, so the planting got delayed until Sunday. I planted on Sunday, despite the fact that a low of 39F was in the forecast, because otherwise I wouldn’t have a chance to put them out until next Thursday — I’ve been hardening them, so they should be OK.**

The planting went OK, except (more…)

Save That Sauce!

May 4, 2012

We had beef Tuesday night. Beef with a special sauce that MJ made — purple carrots, onions, and mushrooms in a mirin beef stock. Very nice. Of course, there was some liquid left over, about a third of a cup. I used it in Wednesday morning’s oatmeal, along with 2/3 of a cup of plain old beef stock. Rounded it out with a couple of teaspoons of potato flakes and a topping of cheese. Very good. Then I found the half a cup of the actual sauce, with the chunkies in it, that was also left over. Had that this morning. Very good also.

One of the things I am learning is that leftover sauce, any leftover sauce, in fact, any leftover is likely to make a good basis for an oatmeal breakfast. And it doesn’t have to be a lot of sauce. Even pan scrapings will do, if you dissolve them in a little stock and save them for the next morning.

US does a Wikileaks on Al Qaida

May 4, 2012

The US has just released a batch of documents recovered from Bin Laden’s hideout in Pakistan. Middle East expert Ron Cole has commented. What Cole points out is that we’ve been lied to in the press about the AQ/IR links and the alignment between AQ and the IR government, not so much in official statements (which as far as I can tell have been cautiously dismissive), but in press reports of supposed leaks from reportedly official sources. The implication is that there is a group within the US government that is pushing for war against Iran. It’s ironic that the best way to dispell the myths and lies is for the government to do what they condemn Wikileaks for.

They Hate Us for Our Freedoms 10

May 2, 2012

A friend of mine made this comment on an earlier entry:

I have a loose knit hypothesis (aka notion) that the purpose of the TSA is not to stop terrorism directly but to increase the fear or irritation level (and thus volume and amount of discussion) so that everyone is worried about their relative or cor-worker, or that guy on the bus and report him. Which is one of the real symptoms of a police state–where we self-police out of fear as a by-product of irrational rhetoric.

One of the purposes of brainwashing is to break down the social ties that hold a group together. I used to have a tape (R2R) of a talk by one of the psychologists who dealt with returnees from NK prison camps after the Korean War, one of the people who developed the Code of Conduct. On it, he said that the returnees never talked to each other. “You could walk onto the ward at any time of the day or night and there was silence. They’d talk to the staff. They’d talk to us. They wouldn’t talk to each other”. This unwillingness to communicate within their own community of former POW camp inmates was a direct result of a long and skillful program on the part of the NK military, direct heirs of the Stalinist era. This was the true ‘brainwashing’, not some Manchurian Candidate project. The goal was to break down trust, to inhibit communication, to isolate each soldier within their own little shell. This made it possible to guard their POW camps with one tenth the number of guards that normal doctrine calls for.

Police states like this approach, (more…)