Archive for February, 2013

Corned Beef Oats

February 28, 2013

I’ve written before about using corned beef cooking broth in oatmeal. This time I used the packaging fluid from a pre-cooked corned beef from the super. Cutting one end of the plastic and draining it into a bowl gave about a cup of liquid. I tried it two ways — once with beef broth and once with vegetable broth. Since cornedbeefandcabbage is all one word around this house, I also added a third of a cup of shredded cabbage about three minutes before the end.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, 3/4 cup of broth, 1/4 cup corned beef liquid, no salt.  Cook for 7 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats. Add 1/3 cup shredded cabbage. Cook for 3min more.  Add the potato when you take it off the stove..

Results: Not bad. Not exciting. Good enough that I’ll do it again the next time we get a corned beef, but not good enough that I”m going to run out an buy one for the packing liquid. Cabbage gave it a nice crunch.

Rating: *****

Only Connect

February 27, 2013

Two months almost to the day from when the trouble started, it appears to have been fixed. Short form: it was the DSL modem…plus.

To summarize (the deets may be found via the Only Connect tag). In mid-December, our connection started acting wonky, and our mail clients could only receive, not send. CenturyLink came and did their best — whole house filter, dedicated DSL line, lots of activity at the back end. Some problems were fixed, others (email), not. After a week of work, including having techs spend hours in the house, they went away, beaten and confused. They said they tought it might be an ethernet port configuration issue…which, for various reasons, was just silly.

We limped along with workarounds (get mail via the mailer, reply via gMail…). I kept poking at the problem as time allowed, building logic trees of things I’d tried — it’s not a LAN wiring problem because my wife’s macbook works fine through the same switch/cable that her PC does. Her PC talks to the network printer fine, so her cable to the switch is OK…etc.

Finally, I borrowed a DSL modem from the university. It didn’t totally fix things, but it fixed enough for me to go back to CenLink and ask for a new one. They sent it via UPS and it was here within 24hrs. How’s that for service? Half an hour on the phone with their internet folks getting things set up (it was being cranky about passwords), and everything seems to work. I’ve been able to sign into my sites, MJ has been able to do our online banking, and email works all ’round.

The repair guy had tried a modem off the truck earlier, and it hadn’t helped, so we swapped back. I’m thinking there were multiple problems, like with the house wiring and maybe a config at the Central Office, and we fixed those after we tried the modem. The old modem hadn’t failed, it was just flaky, and however the Win and Mac boxen talk to things, they must be a lot more forgiving than Linux. So that accounts for the OS issues.

One remaining problem is that my wireless AP doesn’t seem to recognize the new modem. I can log on to the wireless, but if I type in a webpage, I get an immediate ‘can’t find server’. It’s prbably a simple configuration issue, and in any event it’s not a real problem, because the new router has a wireless capability, it’s just not positioned optimally for the house. It just barely works in the bedroom, for example, and not at all in the back yard. Since I don’t plan to sit in the back yard with my Nexus and a glass of Piesporter Goldtröpfchen until, you know, the snow melts enough to find the deck chairs, I’m going to give up on that until Spring Break.

UPS attempts to monetize inefficiency

February 24, 2013

Every now and then we get packages that have to be signed for. Every so often, we’re not home. Recently, in an attempt to improve our hit rate, we’ve signed up for email notification from UPS, telling us what day they will be delivering a package. It’s a great idea. Unfortunately, the marketeers that put it together went a little too far.

What’s the cost to UPS of missing a delivery? That is, showing up with a package that needs a signature, only to find there’s no-one home and having to come back tomorrow. At a minimum, it’s excess travel time on the truck from point A to point B to point C when they could have just gone from A to C, plus excess driver time, plus the run-up-and-knock time. Not a lot, in the overall scheme of things, but it mounts up.

One way to cut down on this cost to UPS, at some hidden cost to the customer, is to let the customer know that their copy of The Heterodyne Boys and the Race to the West Pole will be delivered sometime between 8AM and possibly 7PM next Wednesday (God forbid that they should actually be able to predict AM or PM). That way the customer can hang out at home all day, under the entirely correct assumption that their time is worth nothing…to UPS. Of course, the customer might just decide to blow off the delivery that day in favor of a previously scheduled prostatectomy. In that case, UPS has to come back the next day, and possibly the next.

Even with the advance notification, this is an inefficient system. What’s needed is a system whereby the customer can inform the carrier of when they’ll be home, and the carrier can then schedule the delivery for that day. No missed deliveries, no irate customers, no problems.

Well, UPS has such a system. When you get your notification email, you can go to their website to check on the status. If the scheduled delivery date is a problem, you can go to another page to reschedule. On that page you find you have two options. (1) arrange for you to drive across town to their facility for pickup, or (2) specify a delivery date. By the way. the ‘specify a delivery date’ option costs you $5.00. That’s right. In order to help them improve their delivery efficiency, you have to pay them.

Our next package is due Monday. We might be home. If not, well, c’est le’guerre. They can come back on Tuesday, and if they are really unlucky, on Wednesday — the day we really wanted the delivery on.

Girls und Panzer – the anime 1

February 16, 2013

My full collection of commentary on GaruPan can be found in Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, A Study in Command, Girls und Feminism, and the DVD

I was originally going to do a double-feature writeup and compare this program to some other, based on a shared topic or trope or something. I didn’t do it, because from the jaw-dropping pullback at the end of the first episode, to the equally jaw-dropping arrival of the instructor on top of the Headmaster’s Ferrari F-40, to the musical in the snow to the cliff-hanger battle before their spring break, Girls und Panzer is simply incomparable. It may not be high art. It may not be the greatest anime ever written. It is unique. (This is Part 1. Part 2, the exciting finale is here, and Part 3, post season commentary, is here)

I'd like to make my classroom arrivals this dramatic

I’d like to make my classroom arrivals this dramatic

The setup is simple: in a slightly-alternate-history version of our world, small unit tank combat has become a varsity sport for high-school girls. One can see why. Sensha-Dō (戦車-道) is literally the way of the tank, with way (Dō, long o) being used in a philosophical sense, like Tao (the symbols are identical), or like other martial arts (弓道 kyūdō, way of the bow). The localizers saw fit to translate it tankery, probably in parallel with archery, but tankmanship might be a better phrase. What better way to turn young girls into strong, resolute women? Women who are every bit as kawaii as the clatter of a caterpillar tread.

There's nothing cuter than a girl and her tank

There’s nothing cuter than a girl and her tank


Olive Oats

February 14, 2013

Every now and then we open a can of pitted olives, for use in salads and sauces and such. This time it was Kalamata olives (a large, slightly bitter olive, packed in a mild wine vinegar). There was about a cup of the packing liquid left over. It was dark and murky, with bits of olive and fragments of what I sincerely hoped were olive leaves. Obviously something you’d want in your breakfast oatmeal.

Well, no.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, one cup of olive packing liquid, salt.  Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats.  Add the potato when you take it off the stove..

Results: The first truly inedible oatmeal I’ve made. Overwhelmingly salty. Overwhelmingly sour/bitter. It would be hard to produce a worse product without special training.

Rating:  –*…****

Obviously, the problem was that I should have added it by the teaspoon rather than the cup. I still needed breakfast, so I made some plain oatmeal and started folding in the Kalamata Oatmeal, one heaping teaspoon at a time. Three teaspoons later it was about as olivy as I could stand.

Results: Since it was an oatmeal/oatmeal mixture, the flavors didn’t blend the way they normally do. Still, it wasn’t….bad. Too much of one flavor. If I try this again, I’ll use a tablespoon of the liquid, and maybe chunk up some olives. I think I will try this again, but I don’t have high hopes.

Rating: *****

Note to self: flavors don’t always have to blend. Swirling flavored and plain oatmeals might make for an interesting breakfast
Note to others: In an effort to bump up my hit count, I will tell you there was no nudity in the label art for the olives.

Costs of College, and Bad Reporting

February 8, 2013

There’s bad reporting, and then there’s egregiously bad reporting. Slate’s Matthew Yglesias seems to specialize in the second variety.

In Friday’s Slate MoneyBox, he has a brief item on “The Real Problem With Colleges’ Business Model“, two paragraphs long, with one chart, and one five year old photo of students drinking beer on Spring Break.

The chart shows how young college graduates real earnings have declined since 2000, and says that colleges can’t continue to jack up the cost of college at rates higher than inflation.

The picture makes it look like college students are wastrel ne’er-do-wells that don’t deserve the education. The analysis makes it sound like colleges are are greedy spendthrifts — the only link is to another Yglesias article on amenities that new students are demanding, illustrated by another Spring Break photo.

What’s the reality? Well, the reason that college costs to students have been rising so fast is that skinflint legislatures have been cutting back state support for higher education, and dumping it on the student. They then make it easier for students to load themselves up with debt, and call it improved student aid.

What’s the reality? Well, the decline in real earnings is part of the hollowing out of the American middle class. Over the years in question, pretty much all under Republican administrations, the increases in productivity have all gone to the top 1%.

The reality is that we are systematically destroying the foundation of higher education in the U.S., and shallow articles like this one do nothing but pander to those who would continue to do so.

Guns and Games, an Update

February 8, 2013

A while back I blogged about the relationship between video games and gun deaths. The web comic Virtual Shackles does a better job of it than I did.


February 7, 2013

MJ baked chicken thighs the other night. I got one spindly thigh and a plateful of salad for dinner. It’s a good thing I’m trying to lose weight.  Leftover was the pan the chicken was baked in, full of Maillard goodness and chickenfat. Maybe some olive oil as well. What’s an oataku to do?

Well, he could try dumping the oatmeal in right after dinner, and letting it sit overnight to absorb the fat and juices. In the fridge if you must. Then in the morning add a cup of broth and defondify it. I found that a two minute zot in the microwave warmed the broth enough to dissolve the crusty bits. I also threw in a couple of chicken thighbones someone left laying about. Sloshed everything around and poured it into my usual saucepan for the usual time.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, dumped in the baking pan while the fat is still absorbable and left to absorb, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, one cup of chicken broth, salt.  Pour the broth into the baking pan, bring to a boil, and simmer for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats. Stir frequently to absorb the fond that ‘s come along. Remove any spare thighbones and add the potato when you take it off the stove.

Results: Exceedingly good. The roast chicken flavor came through quite well. When you think about it, this is the equivalent of making chicken gravy with the pan drippings. And who doesn’t like chicken gravy?

Rating: ***** my first five star rating