Archive for November, 2012

TL;DR — Anime I Never Finished

November 30, 2012

For most of my life, when I’ve picked up a book, I finished it, no matter how bad it was. In recent years I’ve gotten less patient with bad writing, and am more willing to abandon a bad book early on. The same holds true for anime. There’s some that are just boring, or bad. I’ll be reporting on some of them from time to time.

We start with Blast of Tempest (Zetsuen no Tenpesuto)
Two factions of a magical clan are fighting in modern-day Japan, each one trying to awaken their respective trees — the Tree of Genesis and the Tree of Exodus — and their battles end up turning most animal life in the area into metallic lawn ornaments. Two friends are allied with one of the factions because they believe the faction can give them information about who killed their sister/girlfriend.

I dropped it after six episodes. It just couldn’t hold my interest. The episodes were scattered, the plot and motivations were opaque, and the characters uninteresting. Mark Twain once wrote a list of the rules of literary art. Number 10 was:

That the author shall make the reader feel a deep interest in the personages of his tale and in their fate; and that he shall make the reader love the good people in the tale and hate the bad ones. But the reader of the “Blast of Tempest” tale dislikes the good people in it, is indifferent to the others, and wishes they would all get drowned together.

He actually said Deerslayer, but that broke the continuity. The same holds true for Blast of Tempest. They could bring in the Tree of Leviticus and I don’t think it would help.

Japan Trip Day 7

November 26, 2012

Final day and so home. Got up early, went out for one final walk, and stumbled onto the start of the Kobe 2012 Marathon.

Kobe Marathon

Kobe Marathon

More marathoners

More marathoners

Hundreds of people running past, helicopters overhead, dozens of semi-uniformed crowd control workers with batons and traffic cones and bullhorns. wonder it was hard to get a room this weekend

…no wonder it was hard to get a room this weekend

Also found a complete shopping mall — two parallel streets that had arched roofs installed on top, and pedestrian pavers laid down underneath — that I hadn’t seen before. It being a Sunday and 9AM, nothing was open. Another missed opportunity

Checked out of the hotel at 10AM, caught the Portliner to Kobe airport (a small regional field, similar to Tri-Cities, WA, or Santa Maria, CA), and transferred to the high-speed ferry trimaran.

Kobe Airport

Kobe Airport

Travel time from the hotel to Kansai Airport was about an hour (including half an hour on the boat).

Kobe to Kansai, half an hour

Kobe to Kansai, half an hour

They didn’t allow us up on deck, so it wasn’t as much fun as it might have been.

Kansai is a huge barn of a building, like being inside an unfinished transport aircraft. It’s all metal, with lots of exciting industrial art — mostly flat surfaces that reflect sound efficiently, and garble announcements beyond recognition. I packaged up the phone and WiFi and sent them back. The WiFi package was so thick it almost didn’t fit through the slot in the Japan Post mailbox.

I wanted something in the way of a Kansai regional dish for lunch, so I went to a restaurant that specialized in okonomiyaki – (whatever you want) + (grilled food). It’s a savory pancake in which (to extract from Wikipedia) “the batter is made of flour, grated yam, dashi, eggs, shredded cabbage, and lots of green onion, topped with okonomiyaki sauce (similar to Worcestershire sauce but thicker and sweeter)”. The place was crowded, so I left my big bag out front, with all the others left there by diners. The Japanese have a less hysterical approach to airport security than does the US.

The flights home were uneventful. I rode in a Dreamliner again and was very comfortable. Flying west we had head winds and took 12 hours. Flying east we had tailwinds and took 9 hours. At SFO, the TSA helpfully found and confiscated the juice box I had bought in Osaka airport to drink on the plane and which had slid down inside my backpack. They also presumably saw the tag on my checked baggage, showing it had originated at KIX, and decided to do an inspection to see if there were any dangerous lootables. I found their greeting card inside when I got home.

But that’s OK. My dogs were happy to see me

.This was your chair
“This was your chair”

So that was the trip. I’ll backfill on the multipart entries, and load up some photos as I get the time. When I’m done, I’ll move all the entries over to page status, where they can be archived for all time.

Japan Trip Day 6 Part 2

November 24, 2012

2012-11-24 15.00.57_1So after one final look at the panorama, I started downhill, through the herb garden.

2012-11-24 15.27.53_1Past the gardener

2012-11-24 15.27.44_1and lots of flowers I don’t know the names of

2012-11-24 15.21.45_1

2012-11-24 15.20.55_1

2012-11-24 15.19.44_1 and lavender beds

2012-11-24 15.18.02_1

2012-11-24 15.15.42_1and the kitchen garden, with really big asparagus

…and a melon you can almost see

2012-11-24 15.14.27_1…and some squash

2012-11-24 15.13.11_1

2012-11-24 15.09.40_1…and I think Rosemary

2012-11-24 15.09.31_1

2012-11-24 14.49.26_1…missing the turnoff to the greenhouse

2012-11-24 14.37.04_1but finally making it to the awaiting mid-mountain cable car stop, and so home.

Japan Trip Day 6 Part 1

November 24, 2012

My last full day in Japan, and I was still worn out from Kyoto. I went out at eight, and it was raw and windy and no fun at all. Back inside, to hang out in the room until the stores opened at 10. Bought gifts for almost everyone.

Manga, as far as the eye can see

Manga, as far as the eye can see

They had lots of manga, but very little anime.

and candy

and candy

They did have a whole section of the store devoted to candy. More floorspace than the books.

For lunch, I decided to do something that the average Japanese would consider out of the ordinary, so I went up to the hotel restaurant cluster for lunch. I found that about a thousand Japanese had the same idea, and all the venues were packed. All except the maid cafe. Well, not a real ‘Welcome Back, Master’ Kaichō wa Maid-sama-style maid cafe. This was a tea-and-cakes shop, with real English tea-shop style maids. With the help of a nice Japanese lady, the first one I’ve met who could speak English better than I speak Japanese, I ordered a Japanese pasta plate. It was one of several similar, and the alternative was pizza. It turned out to be tuna casserole, with broccolirab-like greens. Not bad at all, for what it was.

Then off up the hill to Kobe’s main claim to historical fame, the foreign quarter, with homes built by the various commercial counsels back when the city was just opening up to international trade. Did I say up the hill? 2012-11-24 14.14.27_1I meant UP,

2012-11-24 14.09.21_1and UP!

The Weathercock House

The Weathercock House

Each counsel built their home in the then-current style of the home country. So you have a multi-gabled German home of the mid 19th Century,

The Italian Consulate

The Italian Consulate

and a more modern-looking Italianate one from half a century later.

Nice view on the way up

Nice view on the way up

I had some matcha soft ice cream (an acquired taste, and not at all sweet), and climbed further still, to the Mt. Maya cablecar.

They call it a ropeway, but it's cables

They call it a ropeway, but it’s cables

The view from the top was sweeping, if a little misty,
2012-11-24 14.49.34_1

and the biergarten played stein-clunking German music, mein Schatz.


Ein Prosit, Ein Prosit, Der Gemuetlichkeit!
Eins, Zwei, Zuffa!

A brief stop to play German drinking songs into MJ’s voicemail, and to take some pictures, and I was off down the hill through the herb garden. But that’s for Part 2.

Japan Trip Day 5 Part 2

November 23, 2012

At the Kyoto Station I was met by my friend and former student Ayu-chan, and we went on a walking tour of the city.



Now, I’ve read a fair amount of Japanese history, about how Kyoto was the national capital for a long long time, and how it had many historic buildings that were spared the bombings of WWII. I had a picture of Kyoto as a quiet, tree-lined, almost university-town-like atmosphere. Not at all.

Kyoto is bigger than you think

Kyoto is bigger than you think

It’s a bustling city that just happens to have a bunch of shrines and temples, and those are so scattered that it takes days to see them all on foot. We had an afternoon, so we saw two. The Higashi Hongaji, near the station, and the Kiyomizu-dena, on a tall hill complex in the center of the city.

The Higashi Hogaji was mostly closed for renovation. Covered with a large metal shed, it looked more like a light industrial complex. There were a couple of sub-temples that were worth photographing. One with me in the frame, somehow.

Higashi Hongaji and Me

Higashi Hongaji and Me

Another subtemple, this one without me

Another subtemple, this one without me

The Kiyomizu-dera was a goodly walk, across the Kaomagma River and up a fairly steep hill.

Kaoimagama River

Kaoimagama River

It being a national holiday — Labor Thanksgiving Day, killing two with one weekend — there were thousands of locals and tourists who took the trek with us. At the top were more temples,



autumn leaves,

Autumn in Kyoto

Autumn in Kyoto

and a beautiful view of the city.

See that tower? We walked from there.

See that tower? We walked from there.

A view which many others appreciated as well.

Leaf-peepers of Kyoto

Leaf-peepers of Kyoto

Japan Trip Day 5 Part 1

November 23, 2012

This is as multi-parter, because so much went on. I took the Shinkasen from Kobe to Kyoto and spent the day being shown around by one of my former students — sometimes perfesserin’ really pays off.

The Shinkasen is everything they said it was. The train was more like an airplane inside, with comfortable 3+3 seating (and little rubber bedknobs on the aisle side of the seatbacks for the standees to hold on to). The trip up was extra-crowded, because it was the start of a three-day weekend. I was the last person on, and ended up standing next to the door in the connecting compartment for the first part of the trip. This was no problem, because the train is fast.

The front end looks like a fast racing car

JapanTripShinkasen2012-11-23 17.18.22_1

It spends two or three minutes in the station

Quick turnaround

Before accelerating away

JapanTripShinkasen2012-11-23 17.16.03_1

And the back end looks like a racecar as well

JapanTripShinkasen2012-11-23 17.16.20_1

Hey, did I just miss my train?

Round-trip cost was ¥5,400, or about $66. Road distance and travel time direct from Kobe to Kyoto is 73km / 1hr 17min, Kobe to Kyoto via Osaka is 90km / 1hr 45min. Coming back on the train, it was 10min to Osaka, and another 20min to Kobe. We left at exactly 5:30PM and got in at exactly 6PM, so our average speed was 180km/hr. Stops for trains passing through Kyoto were about 2min each. I got home and called my student to let her know I’d made it OK. She was still shopping in ShinKyoto Station.

While ShinKobe was simply a train station,
ShinKyoto was quite a bit bigger

JapanTripShinKyoto2012-11-23 11.19.49_1

With Christmas decorations

JapanTripShinKyoto2012-11-23 11.22.45_1

and lots of people

JapanTripShinKyoto2012-11-23 11.16.32_1

My only complaint is that between standing jammed into the connecting compartment on the way up, and coming home after dark, I never got to see the countryside whiz by at 180kph.

Trip To Japan Day 4

November 23, 2012

All of Day 4 was spent at the con, the poster session, and the stand-up banquet.

Bell tower, Kobe Portopia Conference Center

Bell tower, Kobe Portopia Conference Center

I did get to surprise MJ by calling her just as the clock at the con site let out a peal of bells.

Not only did they have a bell tower, but they also had a collection of figures that marched around in a little house at the base of it

World+Dog at the bell tower

World+Dog at the bell tower

I wanted an authentic Japanese lunch, so I went to the nearest Lawson’s kombini and bought a collection of bento items, including three different kinds of rice balls (really triangles), and a small loaf of curry bread. The rice balls were about as I expected, except that one of them had a tomagoyaki roll inside. The curry bread was a flat loaf, curry-flavored, stuffed with a small hot dog and curry paste. Sadly, there were no photos.

At the banquet I found out that Kobe is also famous for sake and for Japanese wine. Their red is a not-very-full-bodied Cabernet; the sake was mild-tasting and inoffensive, certainly better than the brands they carry at Safeway, but nothing to write the world about….um.

A drum-shaped sake container, with dipping cups

A drum-shaped sake container, with dipping cups

As the banquet was in the final stages of preparation, I noticed a kimono display.

Kimono at the Kobe Portlandia Hotel

Kimono at the Kobe Portlandia Hotel

That reminded me that I had promised to buy my grand-niece-in-law one. Well, I’m not prepared to shell out what’s needed for a kimono, but I can afford the lightweight summer version, the yukata. There was a nice hotel lady seeing to the preparations. I asked her if she knew of any places I could find yukatas, and she said she’d see what she could do. Half an hour later, she dug me out of the banquet. She didn’t have a list of places. She had a couple of samples and wanted to know if this was what I wanted. We then slipped up to the hotel shop that sold them, and I made my GNiL happy, along with the shop staff. That’s the highly helpful Nishio san on the right.
Nishio Tomoko and shop staff

Nishio Tomoko and shop staff

Japan Trip Day 3

November 22, 2012

Proof of Attendance

Proof of Attendance

After the opening of the conference, which I will report on separately, I skipped out, caught the train back to downtown, and wandered around some more.

The arrival times are all digital but the actual times are analog

The arrival times are all digital but the actual times are analog

I wanted an authentic Japanese lunch experience, so I stopped at a noodle bar, the kind where you stick coins in a machine and it gives you a ticket that you give to the heavily made-up counter lady, who gives you your udon. For 280yen I had something called ‘kitsune’. kitsune means ‘fox’, but I think it was really beef. I later learned that it’s a Kobe region specialty. It was very good.

The Udon Lady

The Udon Lady

My main target was ShinKobe, the Shinkasen station for Kobe.

ShinKobe Station, home of the bullet train

ShinKobe Station, home of the bullet train

It’s about a 20 minute walk from the hotel. One of the interesting things about Kobe is that they have lots of pedestrian walkways,

Pedestrian crossovers, behind the hat

Pedestrian crossovers, behind the hat

so that you don’t have to wait at the intersection, and some of them are quite complex because if you have 6 streets meeting, you need a bunch of different walkovers.

Walking up, I took the main street, Flower Street.

Flower Street

Flower Street

It’s a typical Japanese thoroughfare (he said, based on 36hrs of observation), with typical stores and shops and public art.

Children may play here

Children may play here

Japanese stores remind me of old junk stores, only much cleaner and brighter. Narrow aisles stacked ceiling-high with an incredible array of goods,with everything marked bright signs with big block letters. Most of the places I went into were in narrow narrow buildings, and the shop went up four or five stories of 15×15′ display rooms. I bought a couple of kids manga, nothing ecchi, to practice my translating on.

Other buildings are not what they seem. According to other blogs, many of the buildings that look to be Christian churches are really just commercial shells, available for rent by couples who want a Western Style wedding, presided over by whichever of their foreign friends owns a black suit. Here is a fake Greek building. You’d think it might be a bank or something. It’s not. It’s another wedding center.

The Marriage Center

The Marriage Center

The Shinkasen station backs right up against the hills. From that aspect, Kobe reminded me a little of downtown Portland. The building to the left is the start of the Mt. Maya ropeway, of which more tomorrow.

ShinKobe Station and Portland-style hills

ShinKobe Station and Portland-style hills

The station was a little confusing because nowhere could I find a map of the system to tell me what train to take to Kyoto. It turns out it was the Tokyo train, I think. I figured I would find out on Friday. Returning to the hotel, I wandered the back streets and residential districts. You can get a car in here, but from one direction only.

Hillside homes

Hillside homes

Strange Doings

November 22, 2012

At this point in the blogstream, I had an entry on oatmeal and wine, that I wrote a week or so ago and scheduled for autoposting today. It popped up between the Japan Trip Da y 2 and Day 3 entries, and I thought I’d best add a note to that effect. I did so, but when I looked at the entry, it had changed to the Day 3 text! just to be sure, I checked on my cellphone. It had changed, and the original, witty, essay had gone away. So I deleted it, and am replacing it with this.

I was working on my Nexus 7, which really is not designed for production — its whole essence is consumption.

Japan Trip Day 2

November 21, 2012

Day two started with a comedy of errors. I took the Portliner train out to the conference center about 9 o’clock, but I could not find any sign of the conference. Well, I found one sign.After fighting with my MiFi and my mobile phone I discovered that the con didn’t start until 6 o’clock that night.

SCIS-2012 Big sign, no people

SCIS-2012 Big sign, no people

So I spent the rest of the day wandering around Kobe. Kobe is an interesting city. You have the usual wide thoroughfares

JapanTripNorthPlainsHillStreet2012-11-20 11.31.32_1

Here we are on Northfield Hill Street

but instead of medium sized side streets you have a collection of very small 1 way streets designed for tiny Japanese vehicles. In between those is a maze of twisty passages, all alike. The only vehicle you can get down them is a motor scooter.

JapanTripKobeThereAreNarrowerStreets2012-11-21 13.51.28_1

There are narrower streets than this

They are home to hundreds of small bars and restaurants. I wanted an authentic Japanese experience for lunch so I went to Kentucky Fried Chicken.

The highlight of the afternoon was the visit to the Ikuta Shrine. It’s right in downtown Kobe and is one of the oldest in Japan, almost two thousand years old. It is dedicated to Wakahirume, younger sister of the Sun Goddess Amaterasu.

Ikuta Shrine, main entrance

The sign out front said something about a 753 Pilgrimage, and their website talks about a 753 ceremony, blessing the children. That might be what this was about:

JapanTripIkutaBaptism2012-11-20 11.55.23_1

Shinto baptismal? ceremony

There are other shrines on the grounds of the main one. This one is dedicated to Inari, a gender-neutral god of rice and good fortune. The gods messengers are kitsune, foxes, and they are often shown holding scrolls.

JapanTripInariShrineKitsune2012-11-20 12.05.03_1

Well trained fox guardian of the Inari Shrine

I ended my visit at a little gift stand run by this shrine maiden. She convinced me to buy a number of charms for luck and health and protection for children, to send to various relatives, but I drew the line at the one that ensures successful pregnancy.

JapanTripIkutaShrineMaiden2012-11-20 12.22.02_1

Ikuta Shrine Maiden

On the way home, I saw my first Japanese high school students in uniform. The boys were wearing very severe Navy Blue uniforms that make them look like junior versions of Admiral Yamamoto standing on the bridge of his battleship. Of course some of them are wearing them in the most slovenly way possible, with their jacket sleeves pulled up so they can show their shirt sleeves rolled up, shirt-tails out, and trousers pulled down far enough to be baggy and draggy. The girls were more Catholic school girl look than sailor suit. Knee-high socks or hose with short plaid or navy skirts and dark navy blazers. The layered look was in for women in general — high-heeled boots, long socks , leggings , hose with short skirts that could be anything from frilly to denim, topped with jacket over sweater over sweater vest. The men wore guy-stuff and suits that looked like the business suit version of the student Navy uniform.

Japan Trip Day 1

November 20, 2012

Off to Japan!

I have had two papers accepted for the SCIS-2012 Conference in Kobe. This will be the first in a series describing my trip and observations. I’ll post it as I go, using the totally inadequate keyboards of my Nexus 7 and Inspiron 10. In some places I’ll stick a placeholder for a photo to be filled in later — my phone takes 2MB pix, and I don’t intend to use up my WP allotment in one go.

As with any trip, getting there is half the fun. My plane left GEG for SFO at 5AM. To make things more fun, MJ wasn’t getting back from an AKC trip ’till 11PM. I parked the car at the airport and left it with a white towel tied to the bike rack.

The flight out was a typical 21st Century flight. TSA was no more intrusive than they usually are. SFO to KIX (Kansai International, built on an island off Osaka), was on a B-777 Dreamliner. Comfortable, with a surprising amount of leg room. Food was just like Mother used to make — when she was in a hurry and there was nothing fresh in the house.

Got in at 4PM, and it was 5PM and dark by the time I’d cleared everything. The most direct route KIX to Kobe is to take the high speed ferry, but they said I’d have to wait an hour and suggested I take the bus. I was surprised at the length of the trip — 90min — but then I realized this wasn’t just a jaunt around Osaka Bay, this was a run down the coast of the Inland Sea.

My room in the Sannomiya Terminal Hotel

My room in the Sannomiya Terminal Hotel

The hotel isn’t the con hotel, which is a big, modern, expensive place out on the port island. Sannomiya Terminal Hotel is run by Japan Rail and sits right on top of the railroad station. The room is small – think cruise ship cabin – but cheap, and convenient.

A while back I did a post on The Smell of the Country, talking about what smells hit you when you first arrived. Japan…doesn’t smell. KIX is clean, modern, antiseptic. The bus had a faint air of fresheners about it. The hotel doesn’t have the typical hotel smell, the city streets don’t smell of diesel, and there’s not as much smoking as I thought there’d be. UPDATE:Finally, a smell. My room is non-smoking, but someone who just moved in on this floor is a smoker.

The view out my hotel window is interesting, be it day

Downtown Kobe on a cool Autumn day

Downtown Kobe on a cool Autumn day

Or night

Downtown Kobe on a crisp Autumn night

Downtown Kobe on a crisp Autumn night

And if you stand across the street by the big office building, this is what the hotel looks like:

Sannomiya Terminal Hotel, Kobe

Sannomiya Terminal Hotel, Kobe

My room is in the bottom row of windows, about sixth from the left.

Green Thumb Up My Nose: Lessons Learned 2012

November 18, 2012

So this was my first summer with a keyhole garden. Mistakes were made and lessons learned. Herewith some lessons, and a concept plan for next year:

1. Don’t oversquash. I had half of each of two sections in squash, and then I had two whole sections in squash, and then I had part of my backyard in squash. The only thing that could compete was the tomatoes.
2. Don’t plant anything but tomatoes alongside squash. The greens were overwhelmed, the onions stagnated, the blueberries died, the dill died. The beans barely survived.


Oatmeal Weekly

November 15, 2012

This isn’t my recipe, it’s from Essentially, you pour lots of boiling water over lots of steel-cut oats, distribute the resulting slurry amongst five mason jars, seal, and leave them sit in the ‘fridge until you need them. Then you open one up, add your flavorants, and microwave. Perfect as an instant breakfast you can make on Sunday night and eat the rest of the workweek.

Quite aside from the fact that I’m not a big fan of steel-cut (I didn’t say I can’t stand it, I said I can’t hardly stand it), the problem I see with this is that you are eating bland old oats, with stuff sprinkled on. If I were to try this, I’d add my herbs and spices when I filled each jar, to give the flavors a chance to get to know each other. E’en so there’s still things like Golden Curry that this approach wouldn’t work with, and if you want to add stuff at the start, you have to plan your breakfasts for the entire week.

Besides, who has room in the ‘fridge for five more mason jars?


November 15, 2012

It’s hard finding a pumpkin flavor for your oatmeal unless you’ve been eating pumpkin. There’s lots of pumpkin spice out there, but not your actual pumpkin flavor. We didn’t grow any this year, so I’m really going to talk about pumpkin spice.

I must admit I hadn’t thought it through when I grabbed the spice bottle and shook it into my oatmeal and apple juice. Then I smelled the spice, and finally read the ingredients. Not a Cucurbita to be seen. It was all cinnamon and cloves and such (the cheap ones go heavy on the cinnamon, the better ones have more and such). The taste was your typical breakfast oatmeal cinnabon flavor. Not bad, but uninspiring.

Then MJ said she thought we have a pumpkin-flavored liqueur in our decades old collection of Strange Drinks. She’d bought it because she needed two tablespoons for something back in the Clinton Administration, and we hadn’t used any since. Turns out she was almost right, it was pumpkin spice, again. That’s OK. Let’s try it.

Setup: 1 cup apple juice (I decided chicken stock wouldn’t be appropriate), 1/4 cup pumpkin spice liqueur, 1/3 cup oatmeal.

Results: Meh. The spice flavor disappeared, leaving behind a vaguely chemical taste and an organometallic orange hue that was subdued by the brown of the oatmeal. I’ll wait for Thanksgiving

Green Thumb Up My Nose

November 12, 2012

Garden Report for 121112

The gardening season is winding down, and this will be the last regular report of the season. I’ll wrap it up with a lessons learned later in the week.

If the forecast holds, we will have had 84 consecutive hours of temperatures at or below freezing since last Thursday afternoon, with a low of 20F. The light dusting of snow that came with the temperature drop stayed on the ground, and even on some of the trees, until it was covered up by 3″ 5″of snow Sunday night and Monday. It’s going to warm up in the coming week, but only to the point that the freezingness only comes at night.

I’ve covered the peas with clear plastic, but the carrots and onions and chard (oh, my), are not protected. The chard we brought in last night was crunchy. We are working our way through the tomatoes, but have lost a little ground. I’ve made two batches of tomato sauce, and have been eating about a pound a day for lunch. We’re down to two flats of ripeners, and three decorative kitchen wire baskets of ripes. We’re going to have to step up the giving-away part.

Right before the big frost hit I mounded some of the extra Cheney Civic Compost onto sections 1 and 2. The squirrels immediately dug in, and now it looks like a WWI battlefield. I’d like to think they did it in honor of Armistice Day.

Future Technology Survey

November 9, 2012

Energy website Do The Math wants your opinion on twenty futuristic technology questions At Survey Monkey. Earlier results here.

Oats Provençal

November 8, 2012

We have a jar of Herbs de Provençe, çomplete with the little dangly bit under the ç. Aççording to the ingredients list, the primary herb used in Provençalese çooking is salt, followed by thyme, basil, dehydrated garliç and onion, blaçk pepper, and ‘other’ (they didn’t say if it was Frençh other, or some other other). I was wandering around in my jammies one morning, feeling a little Provençal, so I thought I’d try it.

Setup: the usual, çup of broth (in this çase, vegetable), 1/3 çup oatmeal, handful (çall it two tablespoons) of herbs de, two teaspoons of potato flakes. No wine, no çheese.

Result: Mild dislike. The problem lies in the dehydrates. I’ve never liked the taste of dehydrates. That’s why I don’t eat Knörr söups.

The Post-Election Blues 2

November 7, 2012

So, here in Washington State we had a handful of initiative and referendum measures. Some good ones got passed. Some bad ones got passed. Some good ones didn’t pass.

Every two years, Tim Eyman, well-known shill for big money and out-of-state interests, submits a referendum item on limiting tax increases to those approved by a 2/3 supermajority. Essentially, he convinces the electorate to deliver power into the hands of the Republicans – who could not themselves get elected as a majority – and who are working just as hard at the state as at the national level to make sure the economy craters, so that they can pick up the pieces. In addition to the Eyman Initiative, they passed a couple of Eyman-inspired, non-binding “advisory votes”: against ending tax breaks for big banks and against using a tax on petroleum products to pay for insurance against leaking oil tanks. It would seem that if you can in some way call something a “tax increase”, then Washingtonians are against it.

It would also seem that Washingtonians, like many others in this country, in this era, want all the services that government provides without paying for any of the costs, and if you call them on it, they scream about cutting government waste. This approach has (just for e.g.) gutted the state budgets for higher education, such that the state/student burden has gone from 70/30 to 50/50, and the students are having to pay for the increases with massive and expensive loans. You know, from big banks.

They also, more narrowly, passed a bill to allow charter schools in the state. I don’t have a strongly informed opinion, but the impression I get is that these schools are bad for teachers, while not demonstrably improving student outcomes. We’ll see.

On the positive side, Washingtonians approved the initiatives legalizing marijuana and same-sex marriage (civil status, churches can refuse).

The Post-Election Blues

November 6, 2012

Watching a news show after the networks declared for Obama. Not sure of the show, the host, or the channel. Democratic talking head was an old Clinton advisor saying the best thing Obama could do was move more to the “center” and try to work with the Republicans, as if he hadn’t been trying to do so since his landslide election four years ago. The GOP commenter was a slick, whiz-kid apparatchik type. The kind who would have set off all my alarms during the decade-and-more that I worked DC. He said that such a deal was impossible, and that the battle would begin immediately. The host immediately began to beat him about the head and shoulders with the GOP record in Congress, and I left the room.

I initially abandoned the GOP after the war crimes of George Bush. This kind of thing is why I’m not going back. Probably ever.

8-Ball Chicken

November 6, 2012

No, this isn’t the programmer joke that ends with “assume a spherical chicken”. This is a recipe I came up with for 8-Ball squash.

Now, your 8-Ball squash is just a spherical zucchini. It’s a little bigger than a softball, maybe 4″ in diameter. The shape makes it a perfect for stuffing — slice in half along the equator, scoop out the seeds, fill with…fillingstuff. The trouble is, that’s a fair amount of food on your plate. Maybe half a squash isn’t bigger than your head, but it’s still a little much for one person of sedentary habit.

We got an 8-ball squash from a friend (ours seem to have disappeared into the squash jungle), and have been trying various techniques for slicing them. Mostly, it’s been slice it in wedges along the meridian, like a green orange and then fry however many look good that night. More on that anon.

The other night, however, we tried slicing them in multiple slices along the various lines of latitude, as if we were preparing an example for a calculus text. Once we had cleaned out the innards, we had a bunch of 1/2″ thick green donuts. Donuts with a 3″ hole in the center. Our next step was to trim some boneless/skinless chicken breasts so they’d fit in the hole. Trimmings were saved to combine with an extra breast for stir fry.

Put the 8-Ball slice on the toaster oven broiler pan, plop the chicken breast in the middle. Spray with the petrochemical cooking oil of your choice. Sprinkle with the herbs of your choice — we used Italian herb mix. Cook in the toaster oven at some appropriate temperature for an appropriate amount of time. If you’re feeling particularly Iron-Cheflich, finish with a sprinkle of cheese and two minutes under the broiler. The end result looks a little like a big fried egg, maybe from a small dinosaur.

Result: Very Good, in a primordial chicken sort of way. MJ was sick and had no appetite, and so didn’t lick her plate afterwards.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

November 4, 2012

Garden Report for 121105

The weather this week was pleasantly mild. Highs that touched 60F on each end, with nothing below 43F for the lows. Rain, off and on. Like Springtime in Portland. Forecast is for more of the same, at least into Wednesday, at which point the snow starts.

Not much in the gardening news. Dug up Sections 1 and 2 of the KHG, and added enough spare compost to get the volcanoes into shape. There’s still a patch of asparagus in Section 2, but I won’t be digging that up to move it to Section 4 until the peas get harvested there. The warm weather is helping them, as it is the carrots, and the chard and onions in Section 3. The carrots in the deck planters are finger sized. The ones in the KHG are still rootlets and need some more time. I think we’ve got another week or so of growing weather left, albeit with some light frosts of an evening. I’ll post pix once I get the KHG in shape for Winter.

I’ve been working on various tomato sauce recipes, as the Red Tide ripens. I am too lazy (and most of the tomatoes are too small) to peel them before cooking, but I don’t want to lose any associated veggies by straining everything. What I’ve decided to do is cook down 4 or 5 pounds of tomatoes in the crock pot, then hit them with the stir stick, and strain the results to remove the seeds and remaining chunks of skin. Then, I’ll stick them back in the crock pot, and add the garlic and onions and basil and so forth. I had originally tried just cooking and sticking everything. That made an OK sauce (great sauce for pasta — in this case organic, free-range ramen — when cooked down some more), but it did tend to leave flecks of red clinging to your teeth. We are down to four flats of tomatoes, from the original six.


November 1, 2012

We whacked down the last of the Unkillable Rhubarb plant and MJ boiled it down to two quarts of fibrous fluids, untouched by any other ingredients, a perfect base on which to build any kind of dish you want, as long as it’s rhubarb.

Being of an adventuresome mind, I decided to make oatmeal and rhubarb.

Setup: 1 cup apple juice (I figured I’d need the sweet), 1/3 cup long cook oatmeal, 1/3 cup rhubarb purée. That’s it. Keep it simple.

Results: Too rhubarb-sour, and it needed something
Added: packet of sweetener, few grinds of cinnamon&sugar from one of those grinder things
Results: Too rhubarb-sour, and it needed something
Added: packet of sweetener, few shakes of pre-ground cinnamon
Results: It still needed something
Added: Major shaking of pre-ground cinnamon
Results: Not bad. Tastes a little like some of the commercial oatmeal/cinnamon mixes, and the rhubarb flavor is almost undetectable

I’m beginning to see why rhubarb doesn’t get a lot of play. If you don’t want it tart, you can’t taste it.