Archive for May, 2014

Green Thumb Up My Nose

May 27, 2014

Garden Report for 140526

The weather this week was springlike, with four days well over 70F. This is probably bad for the broccoli and cabbage.

According to Growing Taste, a Walla Walla based gardener, cabbages and broccoli are hard to grow on the Columbia Plateau.

We want our cabbage in the ground as early as practicable, so we can get them out as early as we can: cabbage growth slows above 68 degrees, and stops, possibly with damage, at 85 degrees. … We should, therefore, probably target our planting-out for mid-March, looking to a harvest in mid-May.

I transplanted some biggish store-bought seedlings about two months ago, so they should be ready next week. The pictures show what they look like now:

I don't remember flowers

I don’t remember flowers

Is it head yet?

Is it head yet?

Growing Taste has similar things to say about cauliflower and Brussels sprouts. I am beginning to wonder if the Brassicae fall into the too hard to do category. I’m not writing the Great American Game Theory Novel here, about man vs nature games. I’m just trying for some moderately fresh sides and salads without too much work and agricolich angst.

Speaking of salads, one of the things they don’t tell you when you start your salad garden, is that the lettuce peaks a good three months before the tomatoes do. The first planting of leaf lettuce is 8″ high. The icebergs are leafing out nicely, with no indication they want to head.

Speaking of angst, the squirrels continue their destructive ways. They’re not trying to kill the plants. They’re just burying their nuts, and the fact that they’re killing roots and tipping over seedlings is just, you know, collateral damage.

And the angst-speaking continues: my ten-year-old soaker hose is slowly rotting. I fixed one biggish leak with tape a couple of weeks ago. This week I had another, bigger one, at the south end of Section 1. I mean spraying water over the rhubarb big, and that’s not a plant that needs encouragement. I didn’t have the material to fix this one — my only splicing tube was a three-way, and the hardware store was closed. So I cut the hose at the break, put the three-way on, scrounged up a short length of soaker left over from an earlier leak, and added a small rotary sprinkler to the mix. It’s starting to look a bit Heath Robinson, but I think it will get me through the summer.

What we need to remember on Memorial Day

May 26, 2014

I was not going to write anything this Memorial Day, because there’s only a few simple facts that apply, and one grows boring, repeating them over and over. But I persist. After all, Delenda est Carthago. What prompted this was a typical feel-good Memorial Day email from my Congresswoman, Cathy McMorris Rodgers. Reading it, I found I had to reply.

Thanks for your Memorial Day message, but let me remind you that actions speak louder than words.

As a VietNam veteran, I have some suggestions as to what actions you, as a lawmaker, can take to honor those who died, or otherwise gave their lives in service to America.

1. Fund the VA, nationwide, at a level that will let them hire the doctors and staff needed to serve the workload associated with our wars, for as long as those who served need their service.

2. Fund the economic programs needed to make sure returning service members can find a job when they get out, and that they have a safety net until they find that job.

3. Fund the State Department at a level that will let them maintain adequate security at all their stations. Did you know that since the end of the Cold War, we’ve lost more ambassadors overseas than we have general officers?

4. Finally, keep us out of stupid wars and ill-thought foreign adventures. 6000 Americans died in Iraq and Afghanistan, and we’re less safe than we were on September 10th.

Do these four things, whoever is in office and whatever their party, and you will have the undying gratitude of those who served, and their survivors. Do these four things without regard to offsets or tax reform or other political cant. Do these four things because they are the right thing to do to support the troops, and because they represent part of the hidden costs of a robust foreign policy, a hidden cost you have to accept when you make the decision to engage.

It’s fine to remember the troops, and I thank you, but more importantly, you should never forget that it’s your laws and your funding that sends them in harm’s way and cares for what comes back.

North Korean Science Fiction

May 23, 2014

She turned a tap inside the house, and clear, clean water started to flow, sparkling in the light of the electric bulb her husband had been awarded for his outstanding work in the stench-packing factory. “Water and electricity,” she marveled. “Now I can cook the rice that I bought, simply by going to the store. This truly is a worker’s paradise. Bless you, Great Leader Kim.”

For the real stuff, BoingBoing has an article.

Picture Stories from Earth: Even Life Magazine Gets It Wrong

May 20, 2014

Here’s a picture from Vintage Everyday, a fun website for old photos. It’s originally from a 1948 edition of Life magazine, and purportedly shows Broadway, the main East-West street in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Yes, those are cowboys, but is this really Broadway?

Yes, those are cowboys, but is this really Broadway?

The trouble is, as this shot from Google Maps shows, there’s no rounded hill to the left of Broadway in Jackson Hole. The view is to the north.

The hills haven't moved

The hills haven’t moved

Instead, it looks like we’re on Cache Street, around the intersection with Mercell Avenue, somewhere near the ‘A’ in Cache on the overhead picture.

Cache, not Broadway

Cache, not Broadway

Of course, I could be wrong. I can’t find that Texaco station anywhere.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

May 18, 2014

Garden Report for 140519

The weather seems to be falling into a pattern: cool and wet on the weekends, above average warmth in midweek. Same is forecast for next week.

Finished building the garden this week — two weeks ahead of the recommended date. Let’s see if that was successful derring-do, or brash adventurism.

Section 1 is coming along fine. The early lettuce is overcrowded and tall. The late lettuce is still recovering from the squirrel predations (I say predations like they were after the lettuce. They were actually putting craters in the garden for their own purposes, like Predators). The icebergs are big and green and not at all iceberglich.

Section 2 is fully planted. I had one tomato die of, I think, cold. I’d tell you what it was, but it was the one from the Rainbow Blend, AKA I don’t know, either. Maybe it died of confusion. I replaced it with a Marglobe.

In Section 3, the Brassicae are doing well, I think. Theoretically, I should be harvesting some cabbage and broccoli in two weeks time. We’ll see. The peas and beans I planted earlier have settled in. I had three daikon that sprouted indoors OK, and I planted them out.

Section 4 is mostly asparagus and strawberries, neither of which seem inclined to do anything. The carrots I seeded at the north end might be sprouting.

In what can best be called the ground cover portion of the yard, I’ve marked out some circles and planted two eating pumpkins and a Delicata.

The containers are all doing OK. I’ve planted out the remaining seedlings — lemon cucumbers, beets, and radishes. There was one empty container, and I swung by the hardware store and bought another tomato for there — Brandywine Red. There being no seedlings left, I moved the coffin greenhouse to a sheltered spot under the stairs. I’ll load it up with all the gardening impedimenta I won’t need until next spring.

I haven’t had a chance to fix the hops yet. Maybe this coming week.

Opera Browser: The Long Farewell

May 16, 2014

I have been a fan of the Opera browser since you had to pay $30 to run it on the PC. Looking back, that had to be almost as soon as it was publicly available, in 1996 — almost twenty years ago. I have put Opera on every computer I’ve owned this century — Linux, Mac, PC; desktops, laptops, netbooks, tablets… As soon as I got an Android phone, I downloaded Opera Mobile. Opera never had more than 3% of the desktop market, but it made major inroads into mobile, particularly in Europe.

It was always a cutting edge application. For example, Opera was the first browser to provide tabbed browsing, back in 2000, and Speed Dial, in 2007. Then, too, the Norwegian development team seemed to have a bit of a sense of humor. When Microsoft, in one of their periodic episodes of insanity, started deliberately sending Opera users to broken pages, the Opera folks retaliated by translating all Microsoft web pages into …bork…bork…Swedish Chef English.

One of the things I particularly liked was the easy access to advanced and site-specific settings. I’m not real big on flashy displays on websites. Mostly, I go to a site for information, not entertainment or an intrusive sales pitch. I tend to run with everything turned off — cookies, plug-ins, JavaScript, flash, etc. Of course, that breaks a lot of the web, but if I come to a website that needs, say, JavaScript, and I think it’s worth it, I can hit F12, click on “Site Preferences”, and I’m there. Other browsers require you to drill down through multiple layers of menus.

Sadly, a once-great company seems to be abandoning its roots. A year ago, they stopped development of their mobile app, chosing to rebrand Chrome, instead. On the desktop, they seem to have quietly abandoned Linux. One of the co-founders, Jon von Tetzchner, has broken a three-year silence to say that the company had gone to crap.

Earlier this week I upgraded my office Mac to Mountain Lion — it won’t support One Trick Pony. I then upgraded Opera. In the process, it threw away all my bookmarks. That’s not a disaster, because I don’t bookmark a lot of stuff in the office (they frown on, and I do back up my bookmarks. Now under the old version of Opera, if you went to Help/About, it gave you nine lines of directory entries, telling you were it kept your files. Under the new Opera, I had three: where was (in applications, duh), where the cache was, and one other, equally useless bit of information.

The latest version of Opera for PCs and Macs is Opera 21.0.14 (released yesterday), for Linux, it’s 12.16, released almost a year ago to update a version first released two years ago. Opera for Linux no longer works with many websites, even with everything turned on, and I’m losing more websites every day.

So, the time has come to pull the plug. I’ll be using Firefox on the Mac and the PC, with Chrome for when I want to run a different browser in a different window. I’ll probably limp along with Opera on the Linux machine, because I still have over 100 RSS feeds there, but more and more of my time seems to be spent on Firefox and Chromium. It’s too bad. Even now, I like the Opera interface. Its method of handling bookmarks seems more intuitive than Firefox, and I didn’t have to download a stupid plugin to get the Speed Dial to work.

And now Mozilla is taking Firefox to the dark side by adding DRM. I guess I’ll have to switch back to Mosaic.


May 15, 2014

There is a Japanese breakfast/lunch dish called tamagoyaki. Tamago (たまご) is eggs, and yaki (やき) is cooked, unless it means cool evening. But in most contexts, tamagoyaki stands for a version of scrambled eggs that involves adding soy and sugar and dashi (oh my), and cooking it in multiple thin layers that are then rolled up. Cut up into chopstick-suitable pieces, it’s a standby food for the old bento lunchbox.

I decided to try an egg-drop oatmeal version. I cooked the oatmeal in water for the usual time, then stirred in the tamagoyaki mixture (egg beaters, glug of soy, a quarter teaspoon of dashi powder, half teaspoon of sugar) at the last minute.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, one cup of water, one third cup of tamagoyaki mixture, salt.  Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats.  Drizzle the tamagoyaki into the still-cooking oatmeal, stirring all the while. Add the potato when you take it off the stove.

Results: Not bad. The salt in the tamagoyaki didn’t help the oatmeal that much, so I had to add some. Slightly too much soy sauce (easy to do). The egg didn’t thicken up as much as I thought it would, so I added my usual potato.

Rating: *****

Green Thumb Up My Nose

May 11, 2014

Garden Report for 140512

The weather this week was much like last week’s — cold, windy, with a spot of rain.

Despite the weather, which was only good for the lettuccoi, I planted some more plantings — carrots in the north end of Section 4, some beet seedlings in the bigger of the small long containers, some daikon seedlings in Section 3, a zucchini in Section 2, lemon cucumbers and a Husky Red tomato on the deck. Tuesday starts a warming trend, so I’ll get more out then. With luck, I’ll be done with my coffin-sized, PRC-built greenhouse.

I’ve strung some bird netting for the hops to grow on, but I’m not happy with how it went up. Next week, I’ll fix that, before they get totally out of control. Look for a photo then.

Finally, I got myself a new toy — a 20″ soil thermometer. I couldn’t find the recommended model, either on Amazon or at the hardware store, so I settled for a cheap mechanical model. Right now, the temperature in the gardens, at a depth of about 16″, is 65F. The containers on deck are closer to 60F.


May 8, 2014

This was going to have a much shorter title, but I didn’t want to put people off. Did you know that turducken patties are a thing? You remember the chicken-inside a duck-inside a turkey fad on the food channels of a year of so ago? It seems that Echelon Foods (possibly a subsidiary of NSA) produces Gourmet Turducken Patties with Italian sausage meatlike substances. Reading the ingredient list requires special training in parsing sentence structure. It starts off with turkey thigh, chicken breast (so far, so good), Italian-style sausage (sub-list of sausage components, including pork and bread crumbs [sub-sub-list of bread crumb components ] ), duck breast, salt (so there’s more duck breast than salt), etc. Not at all encouraging. MJ bought them on a whim. I wouldn’t have bought them on a dare.

So, we cooked them. They are palm-sized, and half an inch thick. The meat was dense, like chicken patties, but the flavor was, well, lacking. What little there was made one think of Italian sausage.  MJ said she could detect chicken. We ate one apiece, and decided that it was much like dwarf-bread — it sustains the traveler on long journeys because after one or two bites you realize you weren’t as hungry as you thought you were. What to do with the remaining four? How about making broth in the electric pressure cooker? The result was uninspiring — tasted a lot like vegetable broth, only without the pizzaz. Certainly wouldn’t want to make soup with it*, so I used some of it for oatmeal the next morning.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, one cup of turduckensausagebroth, 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: Meh. Like vegetable broth, it needs a lot of help in the condiments department to make it taste good. Our dogs thought the remnant pattichunks made the best training treats ever.

Rating: *****

*OK, so I did make soup with it, the next night when I was on my onlies. Two cups of broth and a package of noodles. Salt. A measuring teaspoon of white miso. Heat and taste and…add another teaspoon of miso. Stir and heat and…add a third teaspoon. Result was not inedible. Well, I finished the noodles. Could have used more miso.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

May 4, 2014

Garden Report for 140505

The weather the last couple of weeks was nothing to write about, and so I didn’t. My gardening activity was limited to just letting stuff grow under plastic. This week we had a warm spell, and hit 80F two days running. Then came the weekend and the cool/rainy weather was back.

Not sure if it was the previous cold (couple of 34F nights) or the subsequent heat, but the spaghetti squash died, as did one of the Better Boy tomatoes and one of the 4th of Julys (and the other three are looking peaked). Those were all purchased plants, under plastic, in the garden (Section 2). The ones I started early are still seedling size and in my coffin-sized greenhouse. I transpotted one of each (Crimson Cushion, Marglobe, and Red Cherry), along with one each of the squashes (8-ball, Delicata, and Buttercup). I replaced the dead 4th with a seedling Marglobe. The Mars are determinates, so I’m thinking that I can string out the repottings and get a certain amount of spread on ripening.

In Section 3, the brassicae survived the cold due to my greentunnel. I had transplanted the peas and beans there also, and covered them individually with the top half of bottled water bottles. Section 1 is lettuces, and as soon as I took the plastic off the squirrels got in and dug holes. If I get a chance I’ll build another non-plastic cover.

Hops at week five

Hops at week five

On Saturday, as part of the transition from unseasonably hot to seasonably miserable, we had a pretty brisk wind, with gusts to 30mph. Blew the long lettuce container off the railing and onto the deck, bouncing it off two of the tomato pots. I eased the dirt and plants back in and gave it a good drink. The lettuce is still perky this morning, so apparently no harm done.

The hops are going mad. Some tendrils are already at the top of the 4ft wide plastic trellis. Sometime this week I have to put in the support netting.

I wanted to plant carrots in the north end of Section 4 this weekend, but it was so windy that I’d be seeding most of Airway Heights, so that’s been put off for a while.

Malaysia Airlines flight MH-370 and the terrorist threat – Second Wrapup

May 1, 2014

This is a followup on an earlier post, because Malaysia has now issued its laughably short preliminary investigation report. This is the aeronautical safety investigation, and not the police investigation, which is still sealed. The released data gives very little information that is new, and ignores some data that has already been released. For example, it doesn’t mention any flight altitudes, except in the controller texts.

Official Track Info

Official Track Info
Red box is most likely endpoint

One thing that is new is the track west of Malaysia. The aircraft apparently did not fly waypoint to waypoint after it crossed the peninsula, but instead it turned WNW as soon as it went feet wet, and flew direct to a point NNE of Pulau We, where it turned south.

Taking a proper Bayesian approach, we’d have to say that this new inforfmation slightly lowers the probability that the change in flight was due to a crew decision, as opposed to a cockpit intruder. My guess is still that it was one of the pilots, but I have slightly lower confidence in that assessment.

The second thing to note is the curving path after it turned south. That doesn’t look like an autopilot-directed track. If we assume that an aircraft that size with no control inputs would sooner or later (and probably sooner) drift into an uncrecoverable attitude, there had to be someone alive in the cockpit. On the other hand, if the aircraft would remain stable, and drift only slightly over a long period, we might see a curving track. The final, and I think most likely, scenario is that the pilot was still alive, and putting enough control inputs in to keep it from falling out of the sky, right up to the point where it fell out of the sky.

Given what we still don’t know, there’s little chance it was an accident (given the deliberate actions over time) or that it was an act of terrorism (given that terrorism wants an audience). The most likely scenario is that the aircraft was hijacked, either by the crew or a passenger, and my money is still on one or both of the crew members.

Tortilla Soup Oatmeal

May 1, 2014

So, Cinco de Mayo is coming up in another not-quite-cinco days, and I thought I’d do some Mexican-themed oatmeal by using tortilla soup as the base. OK, so it’s not really tortilla soup. It’s Swanson’s 100% Natural Mexican Tortilla Flavor Infused Broth, enough modifiers to make sure that broth is the least of your concerns. Contents are broth (looks like chicken, might be 100% natural petrochemicals for all I know), infused with the robust flavors of Monterey Jack (robust?) cheese, lime, cayenne, cumin, corn, jalapeno, and paprika. Plus 1/3 of your daily sodium, all in one convenient one cup serving.

MJ got a couple of boxes it to try it, but I’m thinking it’s one of those things you could easily do on your own. Not in a render down one chicken sort of way (I buy boxed broths so I don’t have to do that), but in a take a box of plain old chicken broth and add stuff approach. I guess the broth cartel is trying to extend the brand or something, but this is the same mindset that gave us Thai Coconut Curry Culinary Broth, which is high on my list of Oatie-No’s. I note that in an effort to differentiate their product Swanson’s have avoided a simple tear-off seal, and instead use some complex plastic pill-cutter device that you apparently shove all the way into the box to break the seal and open a suitably wide spout. That’s a modification that nobody but the marketing department asked for, and is probably the un-greenest thing you could do, short of making it out of chlorofluorocarbons.

I’d rather see a greater availability of turkey broth or seafood broth, or even pork broth, and why does no-one ever make buffalo broth?

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, one cup of SNMTFI broth, no 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: An acquired taste. A little hot, but not too much, assuming you like spicy breakfasts. One of the flavors is dominant (no, it’s not the Monterey Jack), possibly the cumin. Adding a grab handful of real shredded Monterey Jack helped immensely. Some further experimenting showed that a mix of 23 or 30% SNMTFI broth with either chicken or beef broth (using it as a flavorant rather than as a main taste) worked better and produced a more subtle effect.

Rating: *****