Archive for September, 2013

Green Thumb Up My Nose

September 30, 2013

Garden Report for 130930

Nothing to report. The weather this week was cold and rainy and windy, with next week being more of the same. Nothing got ripe. Nothing was harvested.

I’ll probably close out the garden this week.

Beef Dashi Oatmeal

September 26, 2013

Dashi (だし, 出汁 ), I find, is the Japanese word for soup/broth. Any broth, not just the seaweed/bonito broth everybody thinks of when they say dashi. I wanted to make some traditional dashi, but I was out of dried bonito flakes, and don’t you just hate it when that happens? That’s OK. There’s a perfectly legal dashi made from just seaweed. I had already done that, and it was good, but I wanted more. Well, what would a Westerner substitute for tuna? Beef!! It will add the same kind of umami overtones to the seaweed, only without the fish aspect — so you lose all the omegas and fatty acids and such. On the other hand, you get — Beef!

So I opened a quart of boxed beef stock and dropped in a sheet of kombu seaweed, and left it in the fridge overnight. The combination of the dark seaweed and the dark beef stock refracted through the cylindrical plastic container made for an absolutely black and evil-looking brew.

In the morning, I pulled a cup of the beef dashi for my oatmeal, and put the rest in a pot to come to a not-quite-boil and then cool. If anything interesting ensues, I’ll let you know.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, one cup of beef dashi broth. No salt, but a teaspoon of soy sauce.  Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats.  Add the potato when you take it off the stove..

Results: Interesting. The beef is a little strong for the kombu. I could taste the kombuness of it and the combination produced was interestingly complex. Next time I might cut it 50/50 with water.

Rating: *****

Monogatari Trivia

September 23, 2013

In the Monogatari series, Araragi’s vampire companion is named Shinobu, AKA “heart-under-blade”. Today I learned that the kanji for しのぶ (shi.no.bu) is 忍, or a heart 心 under a blade 刃. So what does 忍, mean? Well, there’s two pronunciations. にん (ni.n) means endurance. And Shinobu? It means Fern, specifically this fern. Keep that in mind the next time the dread vampire Heart-Under-Blade Shinobu shows her fangs.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

September 22, 2013

Garden Report for 130923

And just like that, we’re autumnal and I’m doing some shutting-down-the-garden things. The weather this week was cool and intermittently rainy. Highs in the mid-60’s (with a couple in the 70’s) and lows in the mid 40’s. The forecast is for a continuation of the trend — lows around 40, highs around 60, with intermittent rain.

We’ve got some men coming round next week to cut the excess bits off our trees, the ones the pumpkins are growing under. Harvested the ripe pumpkin (19lb), and moved a crown squash vine with one adolescent squash out-of-the-way of the boots. I’m not going to count the pumpkins in the weekly weight totals, that would be like piling on.

Great Pumpkin

Great Pumpkin

Harvested the deck corn. 16 plants => 8 ears in the 4″-6″ range. 22oz total trimmed ear weight. I suspect I didn’t grow enough plants for them to pollinate properly. 15-20 plants left, over in the KHG, but they went in later.  Given all the problems I’ve had, for such little gain (the flavor was good, but it was tough, and stuck to my teeth), I’ll probably not plant corn again.

All that work for this?

All that work for this?

Originally we were forecast to hit 34F next Friday night (now the predicted low for the week is 39F), so I trimmed the tomato plants way back, to try to get some ripenizing in before then. On Saturday I harvested everything that had any color. I’m hoping the real frosts hold off, because much of my garden production last year was at the end of September and beginning of October. A little disappointed with the KHG tomatoes. 14lbs of ripe or ripening or green-but-my-shears-slipped. Almost all under 2oz, or less. Almost all Early Girls. The two biggest were 6oz. Some didn’t produce at all –they were long leggy things that were just now starting to flower. Another two months of warm weather — say, into mid-December — and I’d have a bumper crop. Also picked the two Delicatas that I’d been letting grow. Except that they didn’t. They came in at 2lb each, about the size and shape of an Acorn squash, only yellow. There’s half a dozen summer squash that I decided to hold off on, plus maybe a dozen KHG tomatoes. So far, the container tomatoes have outproduced the KHG, but I think that’s because they got a lot more sun.

Also made a first pass through the deck containers. About 30 ripe, etc, totalling 4lb.

My foot long beans are now up to three inches. I doubt they make it.  My lemon cucumber (container) produced a myriad of blossoms, and no fruit – it was planted late, as a cabbage replacement. My dwarf watermelon produced one grape-sized melon that I doubt will have a chance to get to be plum sized.

Week
Ending
Vegetable Count Weight
oz
Unit
Weight
oz
Total Total
Weight
lb
9/16 Last Week
Tomato 44 75 1.7 108 11.5
Summer 0 0 0 3 1.2
8-Ball 0 0 0 2 4.5
Crown 0 0 0 1 2.0
Cuke 1 9 9 4 2.7
 Beets  22  22  1  22 1.4
Delicata 1 33 33 1 2.0
Running Total 38lb
9/23
This Week
Tomato 80 288 3.6 188 29.5
Summer 0 0 0 3 1.2
8-Ball 1 39 39 3 7.0
Crown 0 0 0 1 2.0
Cuke 0 0 0 4 2.7
Beets 0 0 0 22 1.4
Delicata 2 64 32 3 6.0
Corn 8 22 2.75 8 1.4
Pumpkin 1 19lb 1 (19)
Grand Total 51lb

Oatmeal Dashi

September 19, 2013

Last week I talked about making my own dashi with kombu seaweed and katsuboshi bonito flakes. This week, I was out of katsuboshi, but kombu dashi is at least as traditional as the combination.

So, I simply soaked a chunk of kombu in water overnight, brought it to a boil, and let it cool. A cup of that, a dash of soy sauce, and I was ready to go.

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

Results: Like the previous dish, it was very good, in a mild, understated sort of Japanese way. The oat flavor came through more. I suspect there’s things that could be done using this as a base.

Rating: *****

NB: Sorry about the double posting. My scheduling software got ahead of me. The oataku adventure that was previously here but is no longer is going to have been posted sometime late next week.

Testing Lenovo – Conclusions

September 18, 2013

LenovoHelix

At first glance, the similarities are not all that obvious, but look closer…

ChittyChitty

The Lenovo Helix / Win8 combination tries to be all things to all people, thereby saving none. It’s too heavy to be an ultrabook. It’s too cramped to be a production laptop. The best description I can come up with is that it’s an overweight tablet with an under-featured docking station.

The niche that this is designed to fill is, I think, a very narrow one. Someone who doesn’t want a desktop/Nexus combination, with their information kept in the cloud. Someone who wants the mobility of a laptop but who uses a tablet often enough that they are willing to give up some laptop features in order to have a convenient combo.

Our school has done a pretty good job of providing us with in-classroom PC’s, hooked up to the usual array of projectors, document readers, cameras, etc. When I’m in one of those rooms (and the classes I teach require a room that has that technology), all I need to bring is a thumb drive. If I do need to bring my own PC (because it’s got special software on it), the projector plug is VGA, not HDMI.

I have a decent, if elderly, Mac workstation in my office (with SuSe Linux running in VBox), and all the Linux computers I need at home. I have no requirement to schlep a computer from place to place, and I suspect most of my colleagues don’t, either. A couple of years ago, when I did need to carry a computer around with me, a netbook provided all the power and features I needed.

I’m returning this early, to give a laptop aficionado a chance at it.

This is the last of three entries on a Lenovo Helix evaluation unit I borrowed from the school. The Introduction is here, and the Closer Look is here.

Testing Lenovo – A Closer Look

September 17, 2013

This is the second of three posts, evaluating a Lenovo Helix that I borrowed from school. The Introduction is here, and the Conclusions will be here, once I conclude them.

Interface Choices
The Lenovo Helix offers a range of options for interfacing.

– In addition to the trackpad,  which I talked about yesterday, there’s also a thumbstick in the middle. This moves the cursor around, but it doesn’t scroll.

– There’s also a stylus, like on the Nintendo DS, for use when the mouse, fingerpad, or thumbstick just won’t do. When I had problems with an app losing focus for no good reason (see below), I found that the stylus worked well to press buttons and such. I wonder how long it will take people to lose the stylus. And no, the NIntendo DS stylus is not a suitable replacement. Neither is a ballpoint pen, even with the tip retracted.

– In addition to the trackpad and thumbstick and stylus, it’s a touchscreen, so you can move around simply by dragging your fingers on the screen. This scrolls the screen, but doesn’t move the cursor. It does let you reposition the screen until the point of interest is underneath the cursor. A tap is as good as a click, assuming the screen responds to your taps. It doesn’t always, and I’m not sure if it’s because my fingers were too dirty or too clean.

Keyboard Choices
The keyboard is reasonably well laid out, with big letters, well suited to professorial eyes. It being a laptop, the keys are too small, too close together, too shallow, with zero ergonomic value. There appears to be several varieties of soft keyboard. There’s a nice big one that pops up when you log in from the tablet. There’s one that you access by clicking on the keyboard symbol on the toolbar. Except that that isn’t a keyboard. It’s a ‘freckled eggs’ style handwriting recognition app (“Curly bits, spiky bits, all joined together. Yep. Handwriting. I’d recognize it anywhere.”). The real soft keyboard is found by (1) swiping from the right screen to get the “charms” (2) selecting the “Search” charm (3) Typing in the name of the app you want ….hang on, that won’t work…(3b) swiping through the list of apps until you find the On-Screen Keyboard (under ‘O’, not ‘K’, in column 4 of 5). Be careful not to swipe too close to any of the other app logos, or you’re likely to find yourself arguing with your Helix about your stock portfolio.

Once you find it, the soft keyboard, sorry, On-Screen Keyboard, works pretty well. I was even able to touch type with it, and it felt more comfortable than the actual hard keyboard.

Video Performance
The LH plays video reasonably well. I loaded up Crunchyroll in my browser and went after a random episode of Girls und Panzer. The display was clean and the video played smoothly at any frame rate my DSL could handle. The sound was a little tinny. The gorilla glass screen had lots of glare.

Fondleslab Mode
I took the screen/tablet off the keyboard to use as a tablet in bed. My first experience was not encouraging.
– could not maintain wireless contact with my wireless DSL, two rooms and one floor away. I note that my Nexus had no problem.

– touch screen had sensitivity issues. I was running a self-quiz app (Anki cards), and when my finger would approach a button, the app would lose focus. Had to tap the center of the app window to get it to refocus, and that often didn’t hold. Finally gave that up and switched back to the Nexus.

– Input options are not clear. Sometimes I get a soft keyboard. Other times I get that freckled eggs handwriting app.

I tried again the next day, in a chair in a room next to the AP. Say, 20ft away and not quite line of sight to the wireless DSL. Worked, sortof.
– Maintained wireless contact OK, but couldn’t access Internet at times. Might be a DSL or ISP problem, but the LH doesn’t seem to deal with a flaky connection as well as, say, my Nexus.
– Screen was not as sensitive as the night before, but after a while I had the same ‘lost focus’ problems

I also tried it outside, about 60ft away from the AP. I did this by first standing under the AP and making sure it had a good connection, then walking out to a shaded area in my back yard, where I like to sit in the evening with my Nexus during that one week of the year when it’s not too hot, too cold, or too skeetery. This week it’s too hot, but I persevere.

– Held the Internet link for a while, but ended up dropping it.

– Fingerpointing worked for a while, and then the app started losing focus again. Using the stylus worked fine, but you could tell it was expecting me to do something more exciting than just clicking a button with it.

– Glare in the shade wasn’t much of a problem. I held it in portrait mode, with one end in my lap and the other rotated up to my face. Solved the glare problem, and brought the fonts closer.

– The tablet got warm, but not uncomfortably so. I was never afraid that my salient features would catch fire.

Conference Report
My college holds an offsite all-hands conference the week before school starts every year. I took the LH along to see how it performed in that setting. The answer was just as mixed as its structure.

– It connected to the local wireless just fine, and held the connection all day.

– Battery life was good. I started with a full 6-hour charge, and six hours later I still had three hours left. Partly that was because it was in sleep mode some of the time, and partly because I didn’t make any great demands on it — LibreOffice for notes, and gmail to send them to the secretary.

– Using it in tablet mode got very tiring after a while. And using it in my lap caused glare problems.

– I tried using the stylus for handwritten notes, but quit after one too many freckled eggs. On the other hand the soft keyboard, properly sized, was relatively easy to touch type on. Relatively is, of course, relative, and it was never as comfortable as a real, ergonomic keyboard.

Spousal Input

My wife used the LH briefly, in tablet mode, for light surfing and playing a couple of online games. She had problems with it being sometimes unresponsive in touchscreen mode, and slow in responding when using the stylus. It was heavy, and needed propping up. If there was a problem, it wasn’t always clear it was the hardware, the OS, or the browser. She prefers the Nexus.

Costa Concordia

September 16, 2013

Up until 1:30 watching the Costa Concordia salvage live feed. Why does Europe have to be so many time zones away? Do they hate us?

A little bit like watching paint dry

A little bit like watching paint dry

Testing Lenovo – First Impressions

September 16, 2013

This is the first of three parts. Here’s Part 2  , and Part 3 .

One of the fun sides to my job is that I get to test out new equipment that the U is considering. I recently was given a Lenovo Helix Ultrabook. It’s a reasonably light (3.8lb) for a laptop, but heavy for an ultrabook. The screen rotates, and is removable, to become a tablet.

In some ways, I’m not the guy to be reviewing a rig like this. I’m not a fan of laptops. For one thing, I’ve used a full-sized ergo keyboard for so long that it’s actually painful to type on a laptop for any length of time, and I’ve lost the ability to touch type on one. I don’t have Serina Williams fingernails, but mine are long enough that they catch on a laptops keyboard. For another thing, I’m not a Windows fan, and I’m particularly not a Win 8 fan. I know. Deal With It. I’ll try to avoid egregious beatings-up of Win 8 here, except as needed to discuss how it’s implemented on this platform.

I pounded on the Lenovo for most of a long weekend, and also loaned it to my wife to use at home, to get her impressions. I’m going to break this review into three parts: First Impressions, Closer Looks, and Conclusions. I didn’t test everything, because I’m not a testing lab, and I didn’t try out the various features for long enough to get used to them, because iiadesu — don’t wanna. So, let’s get started.

– The full rig is solid feeling, but a little heavy. It’s more like our old MacBook Pro than a MacBook Air.

– The docking assembly is also solid. Easy to use lever to undock, clicks in place solidly on re-dock. However, the black backplate of the dock, and the black bezel of the tablet, and the black docking clamp are all… black… and can be hard to see when docking. Similar complaints can be made about the dark grey port labels on the black background. That’s part of this whole exciting industrial design approach, where “Every time I press one of these black controls, labelled in black on a black background, a little black light lights up black to let me know I’ve done it.” Other that that, the dock sits open to the elements, and looks to be a fine collection tool for dust, dog hair, cheetos, and small owls.

– The trackpad had typical trackpad jitters. Had to sit there carefully moving my finger around like I was some kid toying with spilled milk from his breakfast cereal. To keep the pointer where you pointed it you have to lift your finger straight up. The slightest sideways force makes it slip off the target and you no longer have focus. Corner clicking on the trackpad required a firm finger — a simple depress often didn’t work, which means the pointer is even more likely to drift. Point-with-finger/Click-with-thumb would also pull the cursor off focus. Point and click is really a two-handed job. My wrists and forearms ached after the shortest sessions.

–  It came with IE and Office 2013 already installed. IE opened up with a multi-tab-set of Lenovo ads. Quickly installed Firefox, and from there installed LibreOffice. This will all be overwritten when they re-image it, but I don’t plan to evaluate the hardware and the OS and the software.

– The default screen fonts were extremely hard to read, even with my PC glasses on. I changed settings and Win8 wanted to restart. Where do I restart? Go to card deck. User logo has a ‘sign out’ option. Signing out brings me back to the splash screen. I see that it’s 4:30 in Seattle, very useful to know. Clicking on that screen reveals the login screen, and that screen has the power button. Seriously Win8?

– I decided to RTFM and see if there was a better way to power cycle. Finally found the on-board Lenovo manual. First thing was a page that told me I’d get cancer if I handled the power cord. Not much on power cycling, ’cause that’s a Win8 issue regardless of the hardware. Went on the net and opened the Microsoft knowledge base, which gave me a smarmy message about never needing to turn it off because it goes to sleeps and that’s just as good. If it’s so damned good, why don’t the instructions tell me “now, let your little PC sleep for a while, so it can learn all those new fonts.” After digging for a bit, it turns out there’s a preferred way to do it. Stroke your way to the right corner of the desktop to get the options sidebar. Then stroke your way to the bottom to get to the ‘Settings’ option. You know, the one that lets you change the way your computer does things. Stroke your way to the bottom of that, and click the power button icon. Seriously.

– restart brings up ‘Lenovo solution center’ to tell me that two unidentified devices are not installed. Thanks, Lenovo. I was sure there were more unidentified devices than that I hadn’t installed. Probably NSA virtual malware.

– There are two USB ports on the back, plus a power port and a video port for a monitor, which I didn’t test*. As an aside, the Helix is evidently designed to use wireless as its primary connection. Hardwired connection to an ethernet requires a USB2Ethernet dongle, which I didn’t have. From the pictures on the web, the dongle doesn’t have a USB port of its own, so when you use wired ethernet you lose one of your two USB ports. Given that I very often want to use three USB ports (for USB keyboard, mouse, and thumb drive), this design decision puts us at a -2 portcount.

*However, I note that it uses a MDP2HDMI cable, which means the VGA links on most of the University projectors are not compatible

Tomorrow, we go into greater detail on how the Lenovo Helix does its job.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

September 15, 2013

Garden Report for 130916

UPDATE: As is becoming an unwanted tradition around here, a few hours after I posted this a pretty fierce batch of thunderstorms came through, heralded by some pretty fierce winds and blowing dust. The deck corn is down again, and I ain’t going out in the briefly-illuminated dark to see what else is happening. NWS is saying things like “get inside a strong house and away from the windows”. They obviously have no idea of the current standard of US house construction.

The weather this week was back to dry, with hot days (high 80’s) and coolish nights (low 60’s). In the Spokane area, the average date of the first frost is September 15. This year, the 15th was sunny, with a high of 92F and a low of 61F. I don’t feel cold at all. I feel fine. I think I’ll go plant some more stuff.

Cute little long beans

Cute little long beans

The long beans (Dow Gauk / Vigna unguiculata sesquipedalis), have started to produce. Well, produce is too strong a term. I had two sets of two flowers each on Monday, and Friday they fell off to reveal the cutest little beanlets you’ve ever seen.

Long beans are tall

Long beans are tall

The vine has been growing for weeks, is well over two tomato-cages high (yes, it’s over the light fixture in the pic), and might not produce much more, because they are not frost-hardy, and, you know, the 15th.

Meanwhile, I harvested the beets. Only two months overdue, but I don’t think that matters much in beets. They didn’t do well, probably because I didn’t thin enough. About half were in a long container, and the others were in the KHG. Detroit Dark Reds are supposed to be 3″ diameter, but the biggest ours got was 2″, and most were 1″. The container-grown were easy to harvest — dump it into the wheelbarrow and paw through the dirt. I trimmed the tops and the roots outside and washed the dirt off with the garden hose. Then I brought them inside and washed the garden hose carcinogens off with tap water. Small beets are really hard to peel.

All of Section 2 was empty, because none of my second lettuce plantings had come up, and I had harvested the beets. So, on Sunday, I dug it over and planted one side in spinach, and the other side 50/50 chard and lettucen.

Week Ending Vegetable Count Weight oz Unit Weight oz Total Total Weight lb
9/9 Last Week
Tomato 26 56 2.5 53 6.7
Summer 1 7 7 4 1.2
8-Ball 0 0 0 2 4.5
Crown 0 0 0 1 2.0
Cuke 0 0 0 3 1.6
Delicata 1 33 33 1 2.0
9/16 This Week
Tomato 44 75 1.7 108 11.5
Summer 0 0 0 3 1.2
8-Ball 0 0 0 2 4.5
Crown 0 0 0 1 2.0
Cuke 1 9 9 4 2.7
 Beets  22  22  1  22 1.4
Delicata 1 33 33 1 2.0
Grand Total 38lb

It turns out that MJ isn’t a fan of beets, so we shan’t be planting them again.

Putin’s two cents on Syria

September 12, 2013

If it’s true, is it still propaganda?

Vladimir Putin’s OpEd in the NYT is a masterpiece. Its checkable facts check out. Its opinions are widely held. Its sentiments are unassailable. The question is, does Putin really believe any of this stuff?

Putin is an autocrat. To draw a parallel between Russia and traditional royalty, he’s a Constitutional Dictator. His only interest is in strengthening himself, personally, and strengthening Russia’s position on the international scene. In pursuit of these goals, he is perfectly capable of cheating, lying, and even, on occasion, telling the truth.

What makes his OpEd such a powerful statement is that it all rings true — with  the exception of the self-serving comments about Russia.  It is arguably true that US intervention is likely to destabilize the region. It is arguably true that an intervention will make WMD available to terrorists. It is absolutely true that the US has been acting as a bully throughout the Middle East, and it is absolutely true that the US follows UN directives only when it suits us (yes, yes, Russia does the same thing. Your point?).  It is a sad day when the actions and intentions of the US can be held up by an autocrat as an example of poor international citizenship.

As one blogger said recently, if you don’t want your opponent to take the moral high ground, then don’t abandon it yourself

UPDATE: WaPo does a good job of dissecting Putin’s claims. The one claim that’s almost certainly wrong is that this was a rebel use.  It was almost certainly Syrian government forces, but there’s still no strong evidence that it was ordered by Assad.

Oatmeal Dashi

September 12, 2013

Two years ago, almost to the day, I did an item on using dashi, the Japanese fish broth, in oatmeal. At the time, I didn’t have a source of ‘real’ dashi, so I used bottled dashi granules. Now I find that Huckleberry’s, our local organic store, carries the fixings — Emerald Cove Pacific Kombu, and Eden Dried Shaved Bonito Flakes (katsuobushi).

There are many recipes for making dashi out on the web. Umami Nation even did some experiments with the best way to extract flavor from the kombu. No Recipes has a recipe that’s pretty much standard. I soaked my kombu and katsuobushi, plus a handful of assorted dried mushrooms, overnight in the fridge, brought it to a slow boil, simmered for ten minutes, and strained it. The resulting dashi was a lot milder than the batch I made with the granules, two years ago, and it didn’t taste nearly as fishy. What I didn’t use in the oatmeal I used to make various soups throughout the week. After making first and second dashi, I buried the used kombu and katsuobushi in the hops bed, but I’m thinking that next time I’ll use the bonito flakes as an oatmeal extender. Most of the flavor is gone, but it might add an interesting texture.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, one cup of dashi, 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: Very good, in a mild, understated sort of Japanese way. It needed salt. I also added a measured teaspoon of soy sauce. Probably was a little too much.

Rating: *****

Patriot Day

September 11, 2013

I have nothing to say.

For the last decade, the DoJ, DHS, and NSA have been colluding in a program that claims to protect American lives but which in truth only serves to deprive us of our Constitutional rights and cause us to live in fear — more in fear of the government than of any terrorists. A succession of Presidents have gone haring off into the depths of the Middle East, destroying what few tatters of respect and goodwill we have in that part of the world, increasing the numbers of our enemies and decreasing our national and individual safety. Only the whistleblowing revelations of Edward Snowden exposed the one and a revolt by the citizens of the US, their representatives, and all but one of the industrialized countries of the EU paused the second.

Any true patriot will spend the day at home with a bottle of Scotch, mourning along with Thomas Jefferson.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

September 9, 2013

Garden Report for 130909

The weather this week started out showery, then rainy, with t-storms. Temps were in the low 80’s, but plunged to 65 by the end of the week.

Here come the tomatoes. Harvested 13 early in the week, with an average weight of 1.7oz. That’s a little misleading, because there were four that ran close to 4oz each, with the rest being cherry-sized, despite not being cherrys. Later in the week I got another 13 tomatoes, totalling 33oz, including a giant 5.5oz one.

Harvested one of the Delicata’s, possibly too soon. It was about two pounds, and the grooves were just turning green. I guess you’re supposed to treat them like pumpkins and let them grow until first frost.

Speaking of pumpkins, I just found a second, bucket-sized one, hidden in the ornamental weeds along the fence. It’s still green all over, but the original one is just starting to turn. I guess it will be ready by Samhain.

For some reason, none, as in zero, of my lettuce replants have come up, as haven’t any of the container beans. Did I plant too greedily and too deep, or did I just not water enough, or too much? One bean came up in my container replant, so I’ve re-sown. Harvest date should be around the first of November.

I think the squash are winning the perennial battle with the tomatoes. They’re spilling out on both sides of the KHG, and on the South end. Over on the North end, one adventuresome vine looks to have grown a couple of feet in a couple of days, headed for Section 4 and the strawberry patch.

The squash were planted on the other side of the tomato bed

The squash were planted on the other side of the tomato bed

The corn is hanging in there, despite having one of the containers tipped over by the t-storms, again. My red pepper spray seems to be helping against the squirrels. I peeked into one ear, and there’s still an inch or so of kernel development needed. Maybe the middle of the month.

The hops are coming along nicely. I figure they’re covering about 15% of the area I want shaded. I have started fertilizing them with the remains of my making of dashi from scratch — a 2×2″ square of seaweed and a quarter cup of shaved bonito (with all the taste gone) per batch. The seaweed gives lots of minerals, and the bonito is a slow release fish fertilizer.

Week
Ending
Vegetable Count Weight
oz
Unit
Weight
oz
Total Total
Weight
lb
9/2
Last Week
Tomato 10 20 2 27 3.4
Summer 0 0 0 3 0.8
8-Ball 0 0 0 2 4.5
Crown 0 0 0 1 2.0
Cuke 2 20 10 3 1.6
9/9
This Week
Tomato 26 56 2.5 53 6.7
Summer 1 7 7 4 1.2
8-Ball 0 0 0 2 4.5
Crown 0 0 0 1 2.0
Cuke 0 0 0 3 1.6
Delicata 1 33 33 1 2.0

If my addition is correct, we’ve gotten almost 20lb of harvest so far. I don’t think that’s as much as last year, but it’s more than I thought we’d done. And I’m not even counting the pumpkins.

What You Are Is Where You Were When

September 8, 2013

Back in the ’80’s, Morris Massey was an influential writer and speaker on what might be called generational sociology – how society changes from one generation to another.

Massey’s core concept, captured in the title of his major work, and this essay, is that people are molded by the way they see the world, growing up. What influences you, what motivates you, are the things that seemed the most important to your family in your impressionable years — your early teens.

Let me summarize his ideas as I learned them, back then. Consider children born on the eve of America’s entry into WWI. There was a mini baby boom then, from people wanting to avoid the draft. Children born in 1918 were just entering their teens at the start of the Great Depression. They saw their fathers and their neighbors falling into the abyss of long-term unemployment. When they came of working age, there weren’t any jobs. To them, a job was important and you worked very hard at keeping it.

Their children, born, say, in the late 1930’s, were barely aware of WWII, but hit their teens in the post war boom of the 1950’s. To them jobs were always available, so having a job wasn’t a motivator the way it was for their parents. They were more about material things, and Keeping Up With the Joneses.

Their children, born in the mid-to late 1950’s and teenagers in the turbulent 70’s, were not motivated by material things at all, but were driven by the need for social change.

And so forth.

In a recent article in Foreign Policy, (and a more wide ranging version on his personal blog) SF writer Charles Stross extends the series to the present day, through Generations X, Y, and Z, the destruction of the job-for-life, the destruction of the stable job, and the growth of life on the Internet. His thesis is that for organizational security to work, there has to be loyalty both up and down, and that modern society has systematically destroyed that loyalty. This, of course, poses a problem for the organizations of the Intelligence Community.

Building on this, Bruce Schneier talks about how this enables whistle-blowing as the civil disobedience of the new generation. Today’s highly capable technology workers are used to openness, and don’t believe that organizational secrets trump society’s need to know. The secrets are going to come out, and the old managers and leaders haven’t a clue on what to do about it.

DNI Clapper is older than me and comes from a generation that is still motivated by loyalty to the organization, strengthened by a lifetime inside an organization dedicated to the concept. General Alexander, DIRNSA, while ten years younger than Clapper, is of the same ilk. Neither one of them is in a position to understand the kind of people they are dealing with, particularly because their day-to-day interactions are all with members of their same, loyal, employed-forever tribe.

As an example, their idea of firing 90% of their sysadmin force because of Snowden is the sort of clueless response one would expect in this situation. Their follow-on, to make the sysadmin job a no-lone-zone, would then require they hire back 11% of the 90% they just fired, so they can watch the remaining 10%, shows they not only don’t understand their people, they don’t understand what a sysadmin does.

A fascinating aspect of this is that, as described, it’s essentially a US phenomenon. Europeans experienced the world differently. The dates were different, the experiences were different, and more intense. Beyond Europe, China experienced WWII starting in 1931, and suffered under the Great Leap Forward in the 1960’s. India’s ties to Great Britain linked their generations, but the link was broken with independence, and her children have gone their own ways since. Africa, South America, the Middle East, all have followed different paths, and their children have experienced different generational motivators. We’re not talking simply different cultures here, we’re talking different generational paths within those cultures, as well.

What happens when children of these different life tracks, who were at different where’s/when, now grown and in control, meet to discuss the fate of the world?

George Lakoff’s views on Syria

September 6, 2013

I changed the title. It was amusing, in context, and at the time, but times change.

Lakoff discusses the power of metaphore, and the metaphores that are being used to discuss Syria. It’s an interesting read, and it’s also interesting to see how many of the metaphores (metaphorae?) he quotes that colored my thinking on the topic, presented in the previous essay.

It helps to be more self aware.

UPDATE: Here’s Part 2 of that essay. It talks about systemic causation, and why it’s a hard concept to get across. As a systems scientist, I can totally agree with this. Of course, when you start looking at the systems implications of actions, you also have to consider the impact on systems that are not the ones you are worried about.

My two cents on Syria

September 5, 2013

I am severely disappointed in President Obama. I still think he’s a better choice than Romney, but he’s turning out to be the least competent Democrat we’ve had in a long time. However, that’s a topic for another essay. Let’s talk Syria.

Looking at all the publicly available evidence, I can say how I read it:

1. I’m certain there was a sarin attack (or at least a release). However, I note that UN team has not reported yet, and the samples we tested were smuggled out of Syria by the rebels. Not a pristine chain of evidence. As with Iraq, we’re going ahead without the UN report.

2. I’m pretty sure it was by Syrian government forces (but we’ve admitted that the rebels also have CW).

3. I and others, are not so sure it was ordered by Assad. The evidence there is all ‘third party’ — Israeli for the most part. Israel is not our friend and has an interest in involving us in a Middle East quagmire. That, too, is a topic for another essay.

On the opinion side, I see no reason for the US to unilaterally intervene, and I see a lot of reasons not to, clear reasons against and less clear but well-founded fears of unintended emergent consequences:

4. Whatever Yoovian logic is used, if we go in without UN approval, not having been attacked ourselves, it’s a violation of international law.

5. This isn’t anything like the use of nuclear weapons. CW have been used before, by (just for e.g.) Iraq, both internally (on Kurds, at least), and externally, on Iran. The US did nothing either time, because (a) the Kurdish attacks were an internal affair, and (b) we’ve always been in favor of anything that hurts Iran. We ourselves used ‘non-lethal’ CW in VN, to drive VC and NVA out of their bunkers into the open, where we could napalm them. There is no bright red line because it’s been scuffled into a blur over the years. Obama’s moral huffing and puffing are pure show.

6. Just as with our other ME wars, the government has started out by lying to us. Up until recently, everybody agreed that the major (and most effective) part of the rebels were now Al Qaida affiliates, or the equivalent in Islamic extremists. Kerry now says it’s 15-25%. Putin flat-out called him a liar. God help me, I’m on Putin’s side on this. Do we really want to become Al Qaida’s Air Force?*

7. Depending on which of Kerry’s reported discussions you believe, we either do or do not plan to use force to effect a regime change. Once again, he’s lying to somebody. The fact is, if we make an attack, we have to ensure regime change. Assad can’t overlook an overt US attack on his country. It’s a defacto declaration of war. What will he do in return? I don’t know, but I do know that Americans will die because of it. For example, the war could spill over into Lebanon, to Israel, to Kurdish Turkey. Russia could support her client by sending fighters, or advanced SAMs, or advanced ship-killer missiles through Iran. Are we going to go to war with Iran as well? With Russia? The GOP would love that. So would the Israelis.

It looks to me like Obama got stampeded into making a lot of bellicose statements that he feels he now has to back up or be seen as ineffective or something. His credibility is at stake and therefore our credibility as a nation is at stake, because The President is The Nation. Personally, I see no reason to commit an act of international aggression just to save Obama’s face, or any other part of his anatomy.

History may judge a failure to act as an insult to what America stands for, but I think it was Lenny Bruce who said “I was at Salerno. I can take a lot of insults.”

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*and who would have thought I’d ever quote Ted Cruz approvingly?

Irish Oats

September 5, 2013

MJ is off on a trip and I was eating one of my traditional stand-up-at-the-sink bachelor dinners. In this case it was a slightly over-ripe banana, mashed up with a tablespoon of miso (white miso, which is brown, but I don’t think it makes a difference), over chunks of leftover BBQ pork, heated in the microwave (one minute only, you don’t want to overstress the banana). Banana miso is surprisingly good, in a salty caramel sort of way. As I say, I was eating this, and wondering if a teaspoon of alcohol-product would help, when it suddenly came upon me that I had totally neglected the field of hard liquor in oatmeal. Herewith, the start of a project to remedy that failure.

I decided to start with Irish whiskey, because I remembered seeing a bottle of that in the cupboard below the sink while looking for the backup dish soap. We’re not big hard liquor consumers*, so your average bottle of gin, or whatever, will sit around from Centennial to Centennial, gathering dust. We’ve been in this house just over a decade now, so there should be a number of nearly full bottles laying about.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, one cup of beef broth, one tablespoon of Jameson’s Irish Whiskey,  salt.  Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats.  Add the alcohol when you start, and the potato when you take it off the stove.

Results: Nothing to write the world about. It added a slight flavor to the beef broth, making it deeper and richer, but it needed something else. Maybe cheese. It did make the kitchen smell interesting at six of the clock in the morning.

Rating: *****

*We do go through a lot of sherry, however. When we were in the UK, our provider said we were his second-best customer, right after Luxembourg.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

September 1, 2013

Garden Report for 130902

The weather this week was very warm (upper 80’s) and dry. Typical for late August. Now we are at the beginning of September, and we start our race between late ripening tomatoes and early killing frost.

Harvested a handful of tomatoes, mostly Early Girls, but a couple of the yellow Husky Golds. Still running about 2oz each. Some of them seem a little watery, so I’m cutting back on my watering schedule. I’ll do the KHG plants once a week. The container plants will still get watered daily, but at half the amount. If they droop in the afternoon, I’ll give them the other half of their ration.

I also harvested a couple of cucumbers, the two shown in this photo taken from the top of a step ladder:

Maybe he won't find us if we hide back here

Maybe he won’t find us if we hide back here

I sliced up the small one for miso-cucumber salad.

Meanwhile, the hot pepper spray seems to be keeping the squirrels off the corn. We’ll see what it does to the taste.

Week
Ending
Vegetable Count Weight
oz
Unit
Weight
oz
Total Total
Weight
oz
8/26
Tomato 13 26 2.0 17 34
Summer 2 8 4 3 12.5
8-Ball 1 40 40 2 72
Crown 1 32 32 1 32
Cuke 1 6 6 1 6
9/2
Tomato 10 20 2 27 54
Summer 0 0 0 3 12.5
8-Ball 0 0 0 2 72
Crown 0 0 0 1 32
Cuke 2 20 10 3 26