Archive for April, 2014

Oatmeal Dregs 2

April 24, 2014

Last week we talked about Broth Dregs as an oatmeal extender. But maybe you’re looking for something more conventional? Maybe sweeter? What about Trail Dregs?

I make my own trail mix. Alton Brown has a trail mix recipe that includes dried fruit, nuts, and granola, and of course, Alton Brown’s granola is nothing but oats, another kind of nuts, and shredded coconut. Mine is something like that, minus the oats and the cooking. I use roughly equal parts dried fruit chunks (cherries, raisins, blueberries), roasted almonds, and dried banana slices, plus one of those super-expensive metallic packets of roasted coconut flakes called Dang, and small amounts of chocolate chips. I’m currently on a coconut binge, and MJ picks up bags of Philippine coconut chunks from CostCo. The big chunks go in me, and the flakier chunks go in the trail mix.

After I’ve finished off a butter tubsworth of the mix, there’s about a quarter cup or so of the dust and small flakelets and things at the bottom, much like the broken bits and dust you find at the bottom of a bag of potato chips (!….hold that thought!). Just the right amount to extend an oatmeal breakfast. Of course, you wouldn’t use broth in something like this, but milk would work, or maybe some half and half and half — that’s half half and half, and half water. No potatoes.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, a quarter cup of trail mix remnants (take out any whole almonds you find in it, otherwise people will think you’re weird), one half cup of half and half and one half cup of water, salt (yes, it needs salt — it’s oatmeal). Heat the milk to the steaming point and dump in the dregs and the oatmeal. Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats. Stir often.

Results: Delicious! The milk and the coconut work well together, and the other bits add little explosions of flavor which are quite good, but hard to clean off the wall.

Rating: *****

TL:DR — Anime I never finished, Spring 2014

April 19, 2014

Some of this season’s anime got off to a late start. Others seemed, seemed, worth a look at two episodes. I know that folks say to watch a minimum of three eps before deciding, but, ya know, that’s 25% of the series. Herewith, the stuff that didn’t make the second cut.

Captain Earth: Giant robots battle in space. Small group of teenagers are the only ones who can handle them. Sound familiar? It’s like fan fiction by someone who overheard two other people talking about Evangelion on the metro, except unlike Shinji, Our Hero has … a boomerang! The robot launch sequence was cool — pilot capsule on top of a bunch of disintegrating totem poles, three (count them, three!) on-orbit gate transitions/self assembly points — it’s like the water bottle stations at a marathon, except you get mecha arms and legs. The battle was … OK. Then we look inside the invaders’ ship and find a blue boy/pink girl Shibuya fashion pair if there ever was one, who start talking about the libido component of the weapons. The fully built robot lands feet-first back at the base and the really boring character development begins (yes, really boring development, really boring character). Question? Will they launch the whole mecha on another Delta V booster from there, let it fly itself back up, or take it apart and drag the parts back up to the really cool assembly gates? The World (-) awaits.

Irregular at Magic High: Magic as an engineering discipline. Boy and his over-attached sister (aren’t they all) get selected for a prestigious national high school. She is good at magic. He … doesn’t do well on standardized tests. Big social gap between magic-users (her) and non-users (him). That’s OK. All the magic-using girls on the Student Council like Our Hero, and want Him to be on the Student Discipline and Bondage Committee with them, while all the magic-using guys do that thing with the dark upper half of the face. So it’s a harem/imouto/pariah’s-progress anime. And the white-and-minty-green uniforms aren’t the worst this season, but they’re among the top two.

The Comic Artist and his Assistants: Based on a 4-koma. Overworked, under-experienced mangaka gets his busty assistant and his equally busty editor to do various perverted things, like boob self-fondling ….. self boob-fondling … self-fondling boobs…. you get the idea … so that he can draw them from life. That’s it. Wash your hands and repeat.


Oatmeal Dregs 1

April 17, 2014

Today’s oatmeal extender is Dregs. Not the North African tribe, but things at the bottom of things that you’d normally throw away that could be used to add a little non-oatmeal bulk to your oatmeal.

First off is Broth Dregs. Those are the vegetables you cooked in with the beef and bones to make broth, the ones that come out all mushy, and flat tasting. Fear not. The flattest-tasting dregs are still less bland than oatmeal.

Now, when MJ makes broth in our pressure cooker, she normally throws in a couple each of chunked-up carrots, onions, and celery stalks, plus various herbs and spices. These cook down nicely, and end up as a grey goo with chunks of orange. Probably a cup or so. After they’ve cooled down, I chop them up with a big ol’ chopping knife and put them in the fridge. Next morning, I’ll take a couple of fat dinner soupspoons worth — scant quarter-cup, maybe scant(-) — mash it with a fork, and drop it into the broth. You could also just beat it to death with a stir-stick.*

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, one cup of broth, not-quite-a-quarter-cup of mashed up dregs, salt.  Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats.  Add the dregs at the beginning and the potato when you take it off the stove..

Results: Delicious! The onion is the most notable flavorant, but the carrot and celery are detectable. If you were making a dinner that involved brothy-stuff, this would be an excellent savoury side dish.

Rating: *****

Next week, maybe something sweeter.

*OK, I tried the stir stick. It works. Wear eye protection. Be prepared to spend the morning unwinding celery threads from the blades

Green Thumb Up My Nose

April 13, 2014

Garden Report for 140314

The weather this week was best described as “brisk”, and I don’t mean like a cup of tea. Highs around 50, lows around 40, with, er…brisk… winds. The greenhouse stays nice and warm and humid during the day, but doesn’t seem to hold heat at night.

On Friday, I went slightly mad in the plants department of our local hardware store. In the tomato section, I bought one each of Early Girl, Best Boy, S-100, Napa Grape, 4th of July, plus one labeled “Rainbow Blend”. I can see that in a seed packet, but I’m not sure what that translates into for a single plant. Probably “your guess is as good as mine.” For the Brassicae, one six-pack each of Cabbage, Brussels Sprouts, and Cauliflower. Plus a single spaghetti squash plant, because, reasons. And finally, three flats of Iceberg Lettuce, in honor of RMS Titanic, which went down with all heads on this date in 1912.

Most of it went into the gardens, but a third of the lettuce, some of the 4ths, the Napa, and the S-100 went up on the deck. I put the Napa in a small container, and an S-100 in one of the hanging baskets.

Then, on Sunday, the madness struck again — two Beefsteak, two Super Fantastic, one each of Glacier, and Northern Exposure. The BS and SF will be split between garden and containers, the Glacier is going into a hanging pot, and the NX is in a smaller pot on the deck.

So, of course, we’re scheduled for 29F tonight. Last time they forecast 29F, it turned out to be 34F. But still, everything is covered up. All the small pots, of things that I’ve seeded, are out in my PRC greenhouse, with a seed-tray warmer inside. I figure that’s all the heat they need.

Here’s what the hops looked like on their second Sunday:

Doing quite well

Doing quite well

TL:DR — Anime I never finished, Spring 2014

April 12, 2014

I took a quick scan through this Spring’s crop of anime. Many, I could reject based on the program description alone. Some seemed worth watching….janai.

Black Bullet: You can just see the production crew sitting around, naming their favorite anime of the past, and arguing what parts of them to clip out and include here. Virus turns people into monsters, ignoring things like conservation of mass and structural engineering. Monsters are hunted by plucky independent company run by incompetent former highschool classmates. Plucky independent company monster hunters include former high school boy and his extremely loli love interest. Former high school boy and his extremely loli love interest encounter laughing-man-masked human who plans to conquer the world, using a virus. Oh, yeah — there are special bullets.

JoJo’s Bizzare Adventure: Murdering slob accidentally saves the life of a Victorian-era rich man and his son. Rich man promises to reward him, but seems to have let that idea slip for the next sixteen years or so. Murdering slob dies and his beautiful-but-evil son goes to live with the rich man and his gentlemanly-but-inept son. They welcome him with open arms, not realizing that the poor are not like the rest of us, Ernest. He starts off by kicking their dog, and promising to take over the household. There appears to be a mask involved. For some reason, the first season was wildly popular. From my standpoint it would probably work better as a Masterpiece Theater series, or maybe an HBO special.

Blade and Soul: Medieval setting, with guns. Protag is taciturn, emotionless, female warrior with a butterfly tattoo on her armpit and the ability to deflect bullets with her knives. She arrives at a small village, which is threatened by the Evil Empire (said empire has also offered a large bounty for the capture of The Girl with the Butterfly Tattoo). The village hires her to do a Magnificent Seven against the imperial threat. She grunts agreement, not bothering to explain the meaning of the word empire, and why God is on the side of the big battalions. The inevitable happens, so she leaves the burning village and heads for someplace with more opportunity and fewer ignition sources. The program gives off a vibe like Grenadier, without the on-the-bounce reloads. Characters are unlikable, story is uncompelling, and Miss Butterfly has a habit of wandering around in sleeveless outfits, wondering why everyone is attacking her — if she wasn’t so fastidious about grooming, people would just think it was a moth and stop bothering her. So far, nobody is wearing a mask.



Cooking Under Pressure

April 10, 2014

I don’t normally do product review kinds of things, but then I don’t normally have my wife come to me three months after her birthday and thank me for her present. What was the product, you ask? It was a Fagor, 6-quart, three-in-one pressure cooker. The brand isn’t important (Amazon carries six different brands), the functions are.

It cooks, it cooks, and it ... cooks

It cooks, it cooks, and it … cooks

In this case, the three functions are pressure cooker, slow cooker, and browner. It’s like a big crock pot with a heavy lid and no ceramics. The browning/slow-cooking functions are nice, but the key is the electric pressure cooker.

To start with, it doesn’t look like one of the old-style pressure cookers, the kind that will get you arrested if you carry one within two blocks of a marathon. A lot of people have an aversion to the traditional steel boiler-waiting-to-explode models. They just seem unsafe. Is there any difference in the structure of the 3in1 compared with the older style? Not really. It just looks safer, like it should have the words “Don’t Panic” written on it in large, friendly letters. Isn’t it amazing what a touchpad on the front will do?

The timer function and the pre-programmed rice cooking cycle are also big plusses. I gave one to my niece as a graduation present, and she uses it all the time at grad school — for cooking rice. Why? It takes six minutes to cook rice in this thing using the pre-set (20min for brown rice), with no danger of spillover. I haven’t done a side-by-side taste test with a Japanese rice-cooker, but it tastes pretty good to me.

Then there’s the broth. This is what has MJ all a-twitter. Figure 45min to an hour, including all prep time. While the meat is browning, you can wash, peel, chunk whatever vegetables you want to use. Add the water, vegetables, herbs, and salt. Set to 30minutes (the LED starts counting down when the pressure has built up to the correct level), and that’s it. Go spend the next half hour working down your aperetif collection. Makes about six cups using the manufacturer’s recipe. You could go higher, but be careful of the volume constraints on pressure cookers — you don’t want to clog the small thermal exhaust port. The broth is superb. I’ve been using it pretty much straight up for my oatmeal. What kind of broth? All kinds. Beef, chicken, pork, ham hocks (which tastes different from plain old pork). All done using the cheapest cuts of meat. We haven’t had a bad batch yet. The meat and vegetables have almost all the flavor cooked out of them, of course, so if you are making this for stew or soup, you want to beef up your second echelon.

Then there’s cleanup. The cooking container is an insert, so it’s like washing a big pot, and very much not like washing a massive old style pressure cooker.

Cons: It takes up a hefty chunk of counter space (but you can get rid of your rice cooker, your slow cooker, and your other slow cooker). The 6-quart thing is a lie, unless you are slow-cooking. Getting the lid tight is a little fiddly, but one learns. There are some things that are not recommended for pressure cooking. Read the manufacturers instructions, and pay attention to the side-markings.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

April 7, 2014

Garden Report for 140307

The weather this week was typical NENW springlike — cold, blustery, rainy. Not weather for gardening at all. The coming week will be warmer, with highs brushing 70, before hitting 32F the next night. I have a small PRC-built greenhouse for the back deck, but of course it’s open at the bottom, as is the deck.

Nothing much to report. All the squash and tomato seeds sprouted indoors. The lettuce sprouted in the garden. The hops sprouted on the south side of the house. There’s a total of four plants like this:

The First Hops of Spring

The First Hops of Spring

I’ve moved my container of lettuce up from the basement grow-op to the deck. It never gave us more than a sprinkle of home-grown leaves down there. We’ll see how it does with proper sunlight.

I plan to spend the coming week repotting the new squash and tomatoes. Next weekend I’ll seed the second tranche of lettuce into Section 1.

Girls und Panzer — the OVA

April 5, 2014

Before I get into the OVA, let me post another GaruPan trivia item, one that shows — again — the production crew’s insane attention to detail. Remember back in Episode 2, when The Instructor dropped in and flattened the headmaster’s car?

The Headmaster's Potato Chip

The Headmaster’s Potato Chip

The car, I am told, is a Ferrari F40, one of only 1300 ever made, and probably worth in excess of two million dollars today. Well, maybe only $1.1 million.

In comparison to that piece of trivia, the OVA comes across as, well, trivial. It consists of six, twelve-minute shorts, featuring Our Girls:

(a). At the beach, a pretty mild fan-service short, highlighted by a “history of swimwear”, including Roman- and Special Forces-styles.

(b). Camping in the Japanese National Tank Training Area. Highlight is a discussion of field rations of the world. Turns out, everybody’s field rations are better than ours.

(c). Dancing the ankou dance in front of various Ourai landmarks. Lackluster animation, and uninspired choreography. OVA’s often skimp on the animation budget, but this is one place where it was important.

(d). In of the better ones, featuring a tour of the ship, in which we find out that the crew are also high school girls, and that the Student Council is in charge of running the whole ship. The tour includes a look at a scale model

The Ship

The Ship

and things like the hydroponic gardens, tended by yet more high school girls. One wonders where they keep the boyfriends.

The Garden

The Garden

(e). The other good one, it shows what happened to Akiyama Yukari and Matsumoto Riko (“Erwin”) when they went on that reconnaissance in the snow in Episode 9.

(f). The victory party, where the different teams do skits, including songs, magic acts, Swan Lake, Power Rangers, and impressions of the other crews. The highlight is probably the Hippo team’s reenactment of “Little Women”.

Team Competition Big Hidden Talent Tournament

Team Competition
Big Hidden Talent Tournament

There will be at least one more Girls und Panzer entry here, because the movie (which will include details of the battle against Anzio Academy) is coming out this summer, as is the GaruPan Game, destined for the Sony PlayStation Vita. Which raises the question, do I want to spend $200 for a console so that I can play a single game? Don’t be silly. It’s GaruPan. The real question is, do I go for the bare bones game, at $70, or splurge for the Special Edition, at $100?

My full set of commentaries on GaruPan can be found in Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Girls und Panzer: A Study in Command, Girls und Feminism, and Girls und Panzer — the DVD.

Wednesday Wii

April 2, 2014

First one of these in a long time.

Our Wii console died after 2018 days on the job. Pretty good, I guess. The failure was mechanical rather than electronic — it wouldn’t read the disk, but it worked fine off of stuff saved to the SD card. Unfortunately, you can’t save the game itself (in our case, the “game” is Wii Fit+), you can only save the data — Nintendo is deathly afraid of piracy. What to do? Well, we did what we always do when we need something in the gaming line. Off to GameStop!

There, we got a replacement console. Brought it home. Plugged it in. Works fine. Except.

This card cannot be read by this console

The card in question being the SD card whereon we’ve saved 2018 days of data, plus our lovingly crafted Mii’s. Five and a half years of work down the drain.

Yep. Nintendo did it to us again. Whatever their “upgrade” process, it left early Wii SD cards unreadable. This is the same company that puts “system updates” on all their new games to break the latest unlocking techniques. That thinks it’s OK to put a large glob of heat-retentive plastic on top of a chip to keep it from being accessed and jailbroke. That uses draconian regional locking so that you can’t play games from overseas, games that will never be offered in the US.

I’d like to say that we should boycott any company that engages in these restraint of trade practices, but they all do things like this, in some way or other. I’m not even sure it’s possible to pick a “least bad” company out of the pack — as in pack of hyenas.

Do you wonder why I’m in favor of Open Source?

Pilot’s Love Song – the Anime

April 1, 2014

Toaru Hikuushi e no Koiuta Finale — I was right, Isla turns out to be the Golgafrincham B Ark.

Rain Shadow Effect

April 1, 2014

The Pacific northwest is a good example of the rain shadow effect. Wet winds sweep in from the ocean, are pushed up by the mountains, and drop all their rain. Land in the shadow of the mountains remains dry.

This effect can be seen elsewhere in the world. Here we see a green area, where the westerly winds are pushed up by the high ground. Land to the east is dry.

The rain shadow effect in Egypt

The rain shadow effect in Egypt