Archive for May, 2013

Green Thumb Up My Nose

May 28, 2013

Garden Report for 130528

The weather this week started out warm, then plunged, dropping 20F in six hours. The last five days had highs near 50 and lows below 40. I was worried about frost, but it never dropped below 37F, and all my tomatoes seem to have kept their flowers.

The garden is looking pretty good right now.

In, rooted, and ready to go.

In, rooted, and ready to go.

Everything is in (well, some corn to plant, and some strawberry rizhomes to bury), so it’s a matter of standing back while it grows.

I have multiple tomatoes in the containers along the house.

Mostly tomatoes

Mostly tomatoes

The hops have finally taken off. Four of the seven have made it. The last week I had protected them with plastic collars made from old water bottles.

Left plant has the collar on, right has it off

Left plant has the collar on, right has it off

Partly in case of frost, but mostly to stabilize them from the wind, and give them a chance to attach to their grow sticks.

No shade yet

No shade yet

The President’s Pre-Memorial Day Speech

May 27, 2013

Last Thursday, President Obama gave a major speech at the National Defense University. He covered a lot of ground, too much to respond to with one essay. Let me talk about two parts of it: the winding down of the war on terrorism, and the shield law for reporters. Both of these sound logical and reasonable. Both positions are half-truths, at best.

Global War on Terror: The GWOT was forced on the US by a previous administration (I almost wrote regime). It was illogical and ill-advised then, and it’s no better now. Why? For one thing, you can’t fight ‘terrorism’. If your state is going to ‘declare war’ on someone, it has to be a state. That’s the way international law works, and trust me, in the long run, these things matter. Terrorism is a tactic, a weapon, an asymmetric application of force, usually one used by a non-state actor. It’s like declaring war on people who use tanks, or automatic weapons, or who depend on bank robbery as a source of income. You can have a policy against them. You can devote resources towards their eradication. You can’t declare war on them. Every president since at least Eisenhower has known this, but it took a Bush to ignore the fact. What declaring war allowed Bush to do, was to pass various laws destructive of civil liberties at home. It’s those laws, and the associated policies and court cases, that have, for example, caused my not-all-that-close-to-Canada city of Spokane to be described as being in a “Constitution-free zone”.

The trouble is that only now, seven thousand American dead later, is the American government coming to the conclusion that GWOT was a bad idea from an international standpoint, and backing away from the implications of an unlimited commitment to invading countries we feel are harboring …people who use terror as a tactic. Note that we are backing away from the commitment. We aren’t backing away from the powers we have arrogated to our country and the President, and we aren’t backing away from destruction of civil liberties at home. Nobody’s giving up any power. They’re just planning on using it more discreetly.

Freedom of the Press: “An informed citizenry is the only true repository of the public will.” Thus saith Thomas Jefferson. And to have an informed citizenry, you must have freedom of the press. This is such an important concept that it was enshrined in the First Amendment: Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press. The trouble is, those in power hate bad publicity, hate transparency, and above all hate criticism. So, deep down, they hate the First Amendment. This shows that it’s doing its job.

For most of our history those in power haven’t been able to do anything about this because, you know, The Constitution. Now, encouraged by the destruction of civil liberties promoted by the GWOT, they’ve figured out a way to do it: you don’t attack the law itself, you attack the circumstances around which it can be employed. The clearest example is the Fifth Amendment, the one that says you can’t be forced to give testimony against yourself. If you are a terrorist suspect overseas, it’s easy. You don’t have any constitutional rights, even when held by US forces in US facilities. They can waterboard you all they want. Fine, that’s foreigners, over in foreignistan. What about Americans in America? Almost as easy. You pass a law that says it’s illegal to lie to a federal officer. So from the first time you open your mouth, you are in jeopardy. The wisest course of action? Never talk to a FBI agent without a lawyer and a recorder present. Of course, we all do this anyway.

As far as freedom of the press is involved, the First Amendment isn’t broken if we restrict the freedom of government workers to talk to them, or if we take advantage of available loopholes in the law to, for example, charge reporters with espionage, or threaten to, or claim that we can, or exploit newly available technology to track people without warrants. And that’s what the DoJ has been doing for the last four years.

So when the President who has initiated more press leak investigations than any other President in history says he’s worried about Freedom of the Press, and he does this a week after the man he appointed to head the DoJ has admitted doing the things I just talked about, I wonder if it is all talk, particularly when the law proposed wouldn’t have kept DoJ from doing what they did. That tells me the speech was part of the smokescreen.

Fine words, as the philosopher says, butter no parsnips. So on this Memorial Day, a day traditionally devoted to platitudes, I’m going to withhold judgment, keep my powder dry, and see if actions speak louder than words.

Avenas Rancheros

May 26, 2013

MJ made a dish for one of her groups earlier this week, one that required opening a small can of mild green chile peppers. Since we don’t use many of those, a can like that will usually sit in the fridge until it turns furry. I figured I’d better help out by making oatmeal with it. I used a dinner teaspoon of those, and a light shake of regular chili powder. The results were not exciting. I don’t particularly like hot, but this had no heat, and the green chiles just added that almost-but-not-quite pickled taste, like banana peppers. Obviously, I needed to turn some dials. The next morning I used the same amount of green chiles, but added some onion flakes, a heavy shake of chili powder, and a three-finger grab of shredded cheddar.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, one cup of beef broth, salt. Dinner teaspoon of diced chile peppers, your choice as to heat. Onion, chili powder, and shredded cheese to taste. Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats.  Add the potato when you take it off the stove, and the cheese after you have stirred in the potatoes.

Results: This isn’t exactly rancheros style, because it doesn’t have any tomatoes, but I’ve found that tomatoes and oats don’t get along. Getting the right amount of chili powder is tricky, because it’s easy to overheat. The cheese is what pulls it together. Having said that, it’s an OK meal if you have leftover chiles, but it’s not worth opening a can for.

Rating: *****

Towel Day

May 25, 2013

Today is towel day, in honor of Douglas Adams. There’s no numerological meaning to the date, as there is with Star Wars Day, but the first TD was held on May 25th 2001, two weeks after Adams death, and every year since. Don’t forget your towel.

Roasted Green Tea….Beef….Oatmeal

May 23, 2013

I’d like to make an acronym out of that title, but can’t think of one.

Was up to Huckleberry’s, our local pretentious yuppie organo-exotic food store (kindof like Trader Joe’s, without the stage direction). It’s off our normal routes, so we don’t go there often. Their Asian food selection is better than Safeway, which is damning with faint praise. E’en so, they have lots of good stuff, at only moderately high prices, and I usually come away with a wide selection of goods. This month it included a box of bancha hojicha, roasted green tea. That’s a doubling up of the names. Bancha (番茶) is green tea. Second pick, lower quality. Hojicha (ほうじ茶) is roasted green tea. That repeated 茶 is the kanji for tea. BH tastes nothing like green tea. Its flavor is dominated by the roasting (so making it with a lower quality tea isn’t a problem), and it has, so Wikipedia tells me, less caffeine than regular green tea, which of course has less caffeine than black tea. It tastes like a wartime tea substitute.

I, of course, tried it in oatmeal. Two ways. First, plain tea (made with water), with sweetener. Second, using beef broth instead of water when making the tea.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, one cup of tea, made with water or beef broth, 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 plain version was really needful of something. The sweeter helped. The beef version was better, with the tea adding a roasty overtone to the hearty beef flavor. A few grinds of pepper helped. Neither one was great, but I’m likely to do the beef/tea combo again, maybe once per box of teabags.

Rating: *****

Happy Birthday Ethernet

May 22, 2013

This May seems to be the month for decadal anniversaries. The Ethernet protocol turns 40 today. It started out running on coax cable that was about the size and stiffness of a garden hose, with the pressure on, and gave only 10MB/s throughput. Now, it’s up to gigabit speeds over twisted pair. Not only is it incomparably faster, but you don’t have to worry about your drop-ceiling ….dropping… if you have a long run of it across a room.

As the article says, it’s not every technology that can claim to be cutting edge, 40 years later.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer, ten years on.

May 20, 2013

One of the best series in the history of television ended ten years ago this hour. I don’t have time to write the in-depth analysis it deserves, but I wanted to mark the date in some way.

The series started out as a monster of the week program (I could write a whole essay on how they covered all the horror movie tropes), and then morphed into an exploration of the ambiguity of good and evil (another five or six essays), finally dying at the end of its seventh season, when the star got tired of doing it.

There were some great characters in the series, and the actors who played them seemed born to fill those roles. Where are they now? Well, a quick sweep through IMDB shows:

Sara Michell Gellar: After a brief stint voicing cartoons, she’s scheduled to appear this Fall in a new comedy series with Robin Williams.

David Boreanaz: Still going strong in Season 9 of Bones

Alyson Hannigan: Still going strong in Season 9 of How I met your mother

Anthony Head: Busy making little five-episode series for UK television, most of which don’t seem to have made it over here

James Marsters: Appearing in one-shots on three different series this year, with a film in post-production

Nicholas Brendon: Has three movies in post production and one in the process of filming

Emma Caulfield: Mostly one-shots in different series, with a film in post-production

Charisma Carpenter: Starring in a “Christian, Christmas” film, released last month, in France.

Mercedes McNab: Is notable because her Harmony character was the only one, other than Angel himself, to make it from Buffy’s first episode to Angel’s last episode. She seems to have dropped out of acting and gotten married.

I’m going to stop there, despite the fact that there are six or seven other actors who deserve listing — that shows you the basic strength of the show.

The man behind it all, Joss Whedon, of course went on produce a couple of other series, and this year has a series and a film in post-production, plus a new film announced.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

May 19, 2013

Garden Report for 130520

Ah, this is more like it. The weather this week was cool, lows in the mid 40s, highs in the mid 60s, and rainy. After all, it is only May.

The seeds I started weeks ago have finally sprouted. The miniatures I have planted in containers on the deck. The corn I transplanted to Section 2 — and the squirrels promptly started digging them up. I need some help from James Bond’s old nemesis, SMERSHQ (Smert Shquirrlem). Tomatoes are settling in nicely, as tomatoes always do, bar frost, and the squash is mostly doing OK. My first tranch (trench, get it?) was looking good, but now seems a little peaked. The store bought plants are doing fine. My second tranch of homegrown has survived.

I’ve got a few more squash coming up in the seedlingizer. I’m thinking of clearing some …. clearings … in the ground cover, and planting them there. I also have another 25 corn seeds what I just started inside. I’m bound and determined (did you know that doubling of statements like that comes from when England had just been occupied by the French, and the two languages were jostling side-by-side, as in cease and desist?), bound and determined I say, to bring in at least one crop of corn this Summer.

The hops are keeping on keeping on. No real change. I put some rougher sticks up for them to climb, and stuck a couple of plastic water bottles, trimmed top and bottom, over them, to help them hang on to their climbing stix and not be knocked around by the wind. Pix next week.

PS: Happy Eliza Dolittle Day.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

May 12, 2013

Garden Report for 130513

The weather this week was hot and dry. Highs in the mid to upper 80’s (coming within a biscuit-toss of 90F on Saturday). Forecast is for cloudy/60s/showery for the coming week.

The garden as she looks today

The garden as she looks today

The garden is pretty well set for the summer. Here’s what it looks like right now. Foreground is Section 1, which is all brassicae, except for I’ve direct seeded corn and some peas. Section 2 is chard and lettuces — most of which haven’t come up yet. I also planted some beets there, on Sunday, and I’ll be planting corn seedlings there, as soon as I have any). Beyond the watering can is Section 3, tomatoes and squash, then Section 4, blueberries, strawberries, asparagus. Section 4 has chickenwire over it. The chickenwire and plastic frost covers are hanging on the fence at the far end.

Planted one of the Husky Gold cherry tomatoes into a hanging basket. Was going to plant a Hillbilly in the other one, until I looked it up and found the fruit ranged to a pound or more. The hardware store got a new shipment of squash in, so I have two yellow squash and two acorn squash planted in Section 3 of the KHG. I thought I was picking up zucchini, but I grabbed two pumpkins, instead. I put one in the ground next the Unkillable Rhubarb, and one in a pot under the sakura.

MJ was out on a shopping sweep of the Airway Heights area, and came back with a bunch of peas in a pot, plus an S-100 cherry tomato for my other hanging basket, a Celebrity (Beefsteak size, determinate), and a strawberry hanging planter. Put the S-100 in the hanger, the Celebrity in a pot, and started on the strawberries. The box had a cheap green plastic bag with holes, and a bag of dirt. Inside the dirt was a rubberbanded clump of strawberry roots. Instructions were to fill the bag with dirt, plant the strawberries with the roots buried and the heads showing, lay it on its side, and keep it wet for two weeks. The heads were small and kept breaking off. The dirt didn’t begin to fill the bag. We shall see.

Meanwhile, the hops are pretty much unchanged. One has grown a couple inches. One may have grown. One hasn’t grown and is having trouble hanging to the stake. Two are an inch tall and look healthy. Two have fallen over and look brown at the dirtline. I covered those two over, hoping they’d put down new roots.

My attempts to start my own seeds are having mediocre success. Admittedly, half the seed is last years.

Old seed: 16 corn, 4 sprouted. 20 squash, none sprouted. 10 peas, none sprouted. 7 miniatures (2 squash, watermelon, pumpkin, 2 cucumbers), 2 just sprouted.

New seed: 20 corn, 20 squash, 5 peas. Too soon to tell. Also direct seeded about 20 corn in Section 1. About half of them companion planted with Dow Gauk seed from last year.

Now that the danger of frost is past, I’m having to store those 4x8ft plastic and chickenwire covers. I’ve draped them over the back fence. My neighbor on that side never goes into the yard, except to cut back the weeds every couple of weeks.

I survived the Winter of 2012

I survived the Winter of 2012

Speaking of frost, last winter we had highs below freezing for much of December and January, and in mid-January we had a week where the lows averaged about 10F. Fortunately, we had a heavy snow-pack as well, and a surprising amount of chard survived the winter and are now ready for eating.

Judge Ruth vs Judge Judy

May 10, 2013

There’s been a flurry of comment on a recent Reader’s Digest poll showing that Americans trust TV judges more than they trust the Supreme Court. It also shows that President Obama falls in the bottom half of the list. Given a little thought, anyone could have predicted this a priori.

Reader’s Digest didn’t ask about TV judges (like Judy Sheindlin) vs real judges (like Ruth Bader). Instead, they asked people to rate 200 “opinion makers”. Essentially, it’s a name recognition poll. Quick, no peeking, name the nine members of the Supreme Court. I’m not sure I could, and I’m a news junkie. My list is likely to start with William O’Douglas. The commenters pooh-pooh the dumb Americans, glued to their TV sets, but ol’ Judy has a high name recognition with me personally, just based on seeing the ads as I tune through all the sports channels, looking for some cricket coverage. Given that, you’d expect well-known personalities to rank high, unless they’re the notorious flavor of well-known. Unknowns would tend to float around the middle.

As for Presidential placement, Reader’s Digest doesn’t say how Reader’s Digest chose the 1,000 people who Reader’s Digest thinks are a representative sample for their Reader’s Digest poll, or what their average age or political party is, but, you know… Reader’s Digest.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

May 5, 2013

Garden Report for 130506

The weather this week was finally warm enough to take the frost covers off. The forecast for the coming week is highs in the upper 70’s low 80’s, lows around 50. A surprising amount of chard survived the winter, and we are starting to have some of that in our salads.

Went down and bought a bunch of tomato plants — 8″ high Better Bush (2), Beefsteak (2), and Early Girl (2); flats of 3″ high Hillbilly and Husky Gold. Put most of them into Section 3, with a few held out for deck plants. On deck I also planted one each of the Abe Lincoln and the Oregon Spring. There was only one of each that looked like they’d live. Also planted three summer squash seedlings that looked survivable, into Section 3. They are expecting a new shipment of squash on Monday, so I’ll likely buy some more then.

I started 20 of last year’s corn seeds, but only four sprouted. Started 16 pea seeds, but none have sprouted yet. This year is turning out to be a bad one for home-seeded plants. Trying again with leftover seed from last year’s miniature plants: dwarf watermelon, melon, squash, and cucumber. I’ve got space for 25 new seedlings, but I’m not sure what I want to plant. Four each of six things, I guess.

Counter-squirrel ops seem to have worked. Last week I planted ten strawberry plants, and the next day one had been dug up and one had been chewed off at the dirtline. I draped two of the frost panels over them, and covered the ends with wire fence (2×4″mesh). The fencing probably won’t keep out a determined rodent, but it seems to have discouraged them for now. I’m working on some straight chicken-wire panels to use in place of the frost covers. Same design.

The hops are surviving but not thriving. One has started to grow. The other six look OK, but are no bigger than they were last week.

Girls und Panzer – the anime 4

May 5, 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

Possibly the most interesting character outside of the Ankou team is Kadotani Anzu, the Student Council President. Wikipedia describes her as manipulative, childish and carefree. Well, they got one right. She is certainly manipulative, but the carefree childishness is a front, part of the manipulation. Anzu is also short

The Student Council President Appears

The President Appears

but as I said in an earlier essay, she doesn’t let this bother her. Only after trying to climb onto a tank and failing does she call on Kawashima for assistance.

Yeah, I'm short, but I have tall friends

Yeah, I’m short, but I have tall friends

Her management style is to shove people into a situation and let them sort it out. It’s called delegation.

You guys go look for some for me.

I know they can do it.


Boston Bombing 4

May 2, 2013

So the federal prosecutors are now treating a bunch of college kids as if they were major felons and filing life-destroying charges because they allegedly took stuff from Tsarnaev’s room and lied to the FBI. When you were 19, did you know it was a crime to lie to the cops?

Meanwhile, Tsarnaev’s defense team is starting negotiations over whether or not the prosecution will ask for the death penalty. Knowing Carmen Ortiz, the woman most responsible for Aaron Schwarz’s death, Tsarnaev will ultimately be charged with three counts of murder, and 26,893 counts of attempted murder.

Savory Azuki Oatmeal

May 2, 2013

Azuki* beans (あずき, are interesting. I’ve never had them plain and fresh, always from a jar — which means sweet, presumably because of the preparation. Aside from the sweet, the beans have an earthy taste, as in “tastes like I’m eating dirt, only not so gritty”. It’s similar to turnips…. or maybe rutabagas. An acquired taste. The sweetness means the only recipes out there are for dessertlich things. The last time I tried azukis with oatmeal I went the sweet route, and thickened them with mochi flour instead of potato. This time it’s different. This time it’s savoury all the way.

I started out with beef broth, because its hearty enough to stand up to the beans. I rinsed the beans beforehand, to get the sweet syrup off. To thicken it, I used potato flakes, and I added about ten grinds of the ‘SW BBQ Mix’, that seems to be mostly various kinds of peppercorn (its main ingredient is ‘spices’), but also mustard seed and parsley.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, two dinner teaspoons of azuki beans, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, one cup of broth, salt, quant suff pepper and spices.  Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats.  Add the potato when you take it off the stove..

Results: Fair to middlin. The sweet/savory flavors didn’t heterodyne the way I was afraid they would. It still needs work, but it’s worth trying again.

Rating: *****

*Also spelled ‘Adzuki’. That’s not the way the Japanese is written or pronounced. I think it comes from the way a Western tongue handles the a-z combo.