Archive for July, 2014

Pruning the Feeds

July 29, 2014

I like RSS feeds. They fill an ecological nich that none of the other social media can. Let me put it this way. There are sites that update pretty much daily — Slate, for example, or McClatchey — so if you check them once a day, you know what they have. Those, I put in a “Morning Papers” folder, for reading with my breakfast oatmeal. Then there’s sites that update continuously — Fark, or Reddit — and all I have to do is check in periodically. I put those on my speed dial for when I’m bored. Yes, a lot scrolls off the page between readings, but any individual item that I miss has a fairly low impact. At longer timescales, there are sites that update weekly, or twice a week. These go into the “Daily” folders, one for each day of the week. But suppose there’s a site that updates at longer intervals, or irregularly, or that has information you’d rather not miss due to scrolling, what then? That’s where an RSS feed comes in. If Girl Genius is late this week, or MegaTokyo is finally getting an update, or EurekAlert is pushing out 80 science press releases at a whack, they all show up in the feeds. Twitter isn’t a solution, due to noise and the scrolloff factor. Tumbler or Facebook are just places one can host a differently-enabled blog. So the feeds are important.

As a result, part of my OS upgrade travails involve updating my RSS feeds. One reason I still have Opera hanging around is because it’s such a good RSS feed manager. While I couldn’t find any information on migrating the feeds, I managed to find Opera’s feed index file on the old drive, and copy it over to the new, but (as with many cloning experiments) something went wrong with the details: all the feeds show up on the Manage Feeds panel, they just don’t do anything. I’ve had to convert the old file by hand, clicking on a feed, copying it to the “Add Feed” dialogue, and saving it. When I was done I deleted all the old feeds. This was a tedious way to do things, but it worked. Finally.

The experience might be described as Internet archaeology, sifting through the websites to see what has changed and what hasn’t. For example, there are blogs that have just dropped from sight, not updated for years. Sometimes the feed is still active (I get old articles), and sometimes it isn’t (I get a blank). And sometimes it points to articles that are no longer hosted where it says they are.

Sometimes, I know what happened to them. Perhaps there’s a screen making a formal announcement of closure, or maybe the last entry is a farewell. Or maybe I know from other sources. Sometimes the reasons are sad. A few examples:

AaronsWeb — a techno blog which hasn’t had an update since late 2012. This is understandable, because it was maintained by Aaron Swartz, who committed suicide at the instigation of the U.S. government, in January of last year.

Baghdad Burning — A description of life in Baghdad during the American occupation, from 2003-2007. Riverbend, a young Sunni woman, and her family left Iraq in 2007 and she made one update post that year, and another in 2013. As interesting as I found her writing, the life of a resettled refugee is less dramatic than life in a war zone. Her posts have been collected into two books, which I’m thinking of buying.

Groklaw — a superb resource that has ceased updating last year because the owner, PJ, could no longer stand to have her e-mail read by NSA.

Creating Passionate Users — a vibrant, insightful resource maintained by Kathy Sierra. In 2007 she was set upon by trolls, who made the usual hateful remarks, including death threats, and decided not to put up with their shit.

Those last two I will keep, in my Inactive folder, checking in periodically, just in case something wonderful happens.

There’s a large number of websites (mostly anime and comics) where the author declared a brief hiatus to [get married, get a job, take finals, recover from a medical condition,…] and then disappeared, never to be seen again. Sometimes they are comics that halted in mid-story. Sometimes there are comics that halt in mid-story, with no explanation. As for the anime, I’ve been reading reviews and commentary for about ten years now, and most of the dropped blogs were ones that started back during the ‘golden age’, which peaked about the time I found it. My guess is that the authors grew up and moved on. Maybe that will happen to me someday as well.

On my old machine I had an estimated 400 websites I was tracking via RSS feed. It’s easy to fall behind with that kind of a workload, and I had something over 13,000 unread messages. Not exactly unread. Read the titles and the summaries and said “I’ll save this and come back later”. And of course I never did. Much like those comics.

Having done a fairly intense triage, I am now at less than 300 websites (including a few I added), and just 500 unread messages. Most of the sites dropped essentially dropped themselves, by being inactive for two years or more. Others were ones that had changed format too much. One anime site was now mostly vid clips, and I’m not interested in vid clips. Another tech site had covered itself with popups and mouseovers.

What sites am I following now? Well, embarrassingly, the largest group (20%) is anime related sites, followed by comics (15%). Next comes work-related MIS and technology sites at 14%. A full 10% of the sites are currently inactive. The rest are things like cooking, news, politics, and gardening.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

July 28, 2014

Garden Report for 140728

The weather this week trended cool, with a high of 68F on Thursday. Now it’s warm again, and Cliff Mass says it will be dry for the next week, and WeatherSpark says it will be 94F and up through the weekend.

Still waiting for the garden to be bountiful. Dug up the lettuce in the SE part of Section 1. I’ll get some new stuff in later this week.

In previous years, the end of July was equally barren. I had one Early Girl last year, and nothing the year before that. This year the summer squash and zucchinis are not producing. Might be the powdery mildew. The best antidote seems to be dry warmth. We’ll see. Two possible Delicata coming along, and three pie pumpkins. Lots of still-green tomatoes.

I’m about ready to do a third harvest on the peas, and second harvest on the beans. Peas are starting to turn brown, so they’re probably done. Went out this morning while it was still below 80F and thinned out the new lettuce. So tomorrow we’ll have peas and beans and salad (oh, my).


July 27, 2014

A student project at California’s Humboldt State University maps all references to “hate” words on geolocatable tweets between June 2012 and April 2013. It’s an interesting study, but the results should be used with care. Three aspects of the data collection and processing make this approach problematic, but the study deals directly with only one.

First, was the tweet really a negative? Phrases like “…queer theory says…” and “…I’m just an old cripple…” are two ways that ‘hate’ words might not be negatives. The study deals with this in a straightforward manner — the students read every tweet and applied a definitional rubric.

Second, is there any kind of processing bias? If you use raw numbers, big cities will dominate the map: Portland will generate more tweets and more hate tweets than Tilamook. To avoid this, the study categorized the data as a percentage of tweets from a given area. This throws them into another basin of attraction for errors: a small town with few tweeters will show up here if it holds even one prolific hater. For example, The Dalles is a little one-Starbucks town in northern Oregon (population 13,000, or about two cruise ships). Portland is a major metropolis (750,000 people in the county). On the map below, The Dalles stands out like a beacon in the NW, while Portland doesn’t even warrant shading.

Is The Dalles really a hotbed of hatred?

Is The Dalles really a hotbed of hatred?

Third, do haters tend to hide their geolocation more than normals do? This is a basic limitation of the data collection technique, and could only be compensated for by sampling the location of the non-geolocated tweets, an essentially impossible task. The best one might do is ask Twitter to run an equivalent study based on tweet IP address, except that that might violate Twitter’s privacy policy, and in any event is fraught with its own problems — IP-based advertising regularly offers me the opportunity to meet lonely women in the wrong part of the state, the wrong state, or even the wrong region of the country (I’m not sure I’ve ever been to Louisiana).

Still, this is an imaginative use of data available from social media, and despite its flaws it’s a worthwhile project.

T-Storms in the NENW

July 23, 2014

First big thunderstorm of the season just blew through the Spokane area at high speed. NWS says it moved at 50mph and I can believe it. Knocked over a tomato plant, and knocked out power for two and a half hours, a relatively rare occurrence. Not much rain, but not much lightning, either, which I’m sure makes the fire guys happy. In related matters, the Watermelon Hill fire was declared 100% contained earlier today, and the fire camp at the highschool has already broken up.

The Nest fire detectors came back on line immediately. The thermostats took a good half hour of “Can’t find network”.

TL;DR — Anime I never finished, Summer 2014

July 22, 2014

So, last week I dropped all the mecha anime. That doesn’t mean they were all bad, but they all were not interesting to me. There were a number of shows that survived the first pass, but ultimately didn’t come through.

Second thing to go — Tokyo!

Tokyo? 東京 Tokyo? Really? There’s enough Tokyo-themed shows to make a bad-show category? Read and see:

Tokyo Ghoul — Tokyo is beset by ghouls. They’re like a cross between vampires and zombies. You can become a ghoul if you’re attacked by one, and you have to eat one person per month. In between times, you’re a normal person, except you can’t stand personfood. Protagonist Highschoolstudent Iforgethisname becomes a ghoul after he accidentally gets some body parts transplanted — he was in the same accident that killed the ghoul and the parts were handy, so why not. Lots of gratuitous blood. Lots of tiresome angst. Very little common sense.

Tokyo ESP — Tokyo is beset by ESPers. They levitate the Diet building, with all the Dietitians inside it, while declaring themselves the new rulers of Japan. They teleport, they throw fireballs, they do all the tiresome things that superbeings do, and they have the same boastful superiority that bad guy superbeings have, along with a large dose of “I’m doing evil things for no purpose, just because I can”. They also smoke unfiltered cigarettes, and that can’t set a good example for the children. Daring counteresper-esper group of high school students takes them on.

Tokyo Terror* — Tokyo is beset by terrorists. Well, two high school age boys who are terrorists. They steal nuclear material from a power plant. They blow up the two towers of Tokyo City Hall.

Just a high school prank

Was this too soon, America?
Should we not have done this?

They are evidently part of a group that was experimented on in a lab (refer to each other with numbers, talk about the ones who didn’t get out), and so have some authority issues. Unlike last season’s lab rat anime, Brynhilder in Darkness, they don’t seem to have any superpowers. I mean, other than the ability to infiltrate a nuclear lab, run carrying a nuclear shipping container like it was an Australian Rules football, drive a motorcycle like Clément Desalle, and infiltrate enough explosive-laden stuffed toys into the Tokyo City Hall to blow up the building without being noticed or missing class.

Tokyo Ravens — I do love a good baseball anime. Unfortunately, TR isn’t about baseball. It’s about power struggles between two magical families in Tokyo. Heir apparent to the head of the most important family is a girl. But heads of families aren’t supposed to be girls, this being traditionalist Japan, so she dresses like a boy, says ぼく (boku, masculine I), instead of わたし (watashi, gender neutral I, but normally used by women), lives in the boy’s dorm, etc…. and nobody notices. The rest of the action involves magical duels between students, between their shikigami familars, between students and shikigami, between students and various juggernauts and ogres and demons  (oh, my). Think Zero no Tsukaima, with a competent Louise de La Vallière. This is another holdover from Spring that I just started, and stopped, watching.

*OK, the real title on Crunchyroll is Terror in Resonance, but it’s called Terror in Tokyo in Japan.

A Fire in the NENW: 8AM Update

July 20, 2014

KHQ Channel 6 finally has a map up — and they’re the only one as far as I know. Here it is:

The pink means something to do with fire

The pink means something to do with fire

The map doesn’t have a legend, and isn’t even mentioned in the accompanying article, but it’s probably the active fire area.

Here’s a better map, of MODIS hot spot detections over the last 24hrs:

MODIS satellite hot spots

MODIS satellite hot spots
(h/t to Twitter user @509freckles for pointing this out)

The evac orders have been lifted for everywhere except the Fishtrap Resort (roughly at the second C in Hog Canyon Creek in the KHQ map). Since the winds right now are W and WSW it looks like it won’t be a threat (the campground symbol in the upper right corner marks the edge of Cheney), so I’ll stop pestering the Interwebs with reportage.

A Fire in the NENW: 7AM Update

July 20, 2014

Got up this morning to the smell of smoke in the house. I’d made the mistake of leaving the windows open, to cool us down. Now the place smells like we’ve been frying smoky brats.

Sky to the S and SW is normal, but there’s a smell of smoke in the air and I can see a smoky haze drifting amongst the houses and the trees, as if it were winter and everyone was firing up their wood stoves. The fire operations center is still manned and active. Trucks have been moved to the back of the HS parking lot, and the front lot filled with personal vehicles and official SUVs. Didn’t get down to the middle school to see how many people the evacuation effected. Heard a train. First one since the fire started (normally they come through every hour or so). The two rail lines run through the fire area, but I don’t know if it was a through train or stuff being moved from the Cheney rail classification yard.

Morning news doesn’t have much news, and Twitter is mostly complaining about that. The 7AM on-scene report didn’t tell us anything we didn’t know last night. Fire is still zero percent contained. Twitter says evacuees might be allowed home, depending on winds. Presumably because that area is pretty well burned over. Still no report on where the fire lines are. Do none of the newsies have a helicopter they could use? Can no-one just ask the fire operations center? Presumably it’s up in the Turnbull somewhere. Based on the evacuation boundaries, it’s in the vicinity of Alkali Lake. If the wind holds at WSW, as forecast, it will miss us to the south.

Winds remain low right now, but will pick up to last night’s level this afternoon. How bad were the winds last night? This bad:

Twenty pound tomato planter blown off the corner of the deck railing.

Twenty pound tomato planter blown off the corner of the deck railing.

AQI in Spokane is 156 = just in the Unhealthy range.

A Fire in the NENW

July 19, 2014

MJ and I were out taking our evening constitutional, in 80F weather and 20kt winds, when we noticed a largish pyrocumulus to our southwest.

Watermelon Hill

Watermelon Hill

We continued, arguing about if it was local, or just more smoke from the western fires. We got a little more interested when we saw what looked like a firefighting command post set up in the parking lot of the local high school — multiple trucks (admin style, no pumpers), plus a couple of comms vans with their antennae up.

Got home, checked the news (online, the over the air reporting is deathly slow). It seems a fire had started near Fishtrap Lake about 3PM, and by 5pm had blown into a full scale emergency, burning 10K acres. The Fishtrap resort and rural areas SW of the Turnbull are under a Level 3 evacuation (mandatory), and Tyler township has a Level 2 evacuation (be prepared). Tyler is only ten miles from us, as the wind blows, but the evacuees are being sent to Cheney Middle School, a block from our house, so I guess we’re safe.

Most of the useful news is on Twitter, with the hashtag #WatermelonHill.

Fires in the West

July 18, 2014

Our fire season is in full bloom. Northwest Interagency Coordination Center shows twenty major fires burning in Washington and Oregon.

Lots of fires, none near Spokane

Lots of fires, none near Spokane

The same strong westerly winds that are driving the fires are also pushing the smoke plumes into eastern Washington. Here’s a picture from yesterday (the current photo is obscured by non-fire clouds — or maybe darkness).

That's not valley fog

That’s not valley fog

As a result, we have some significant air quality problems here in the Spokane region

Orange means "Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups"

The Orange means “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups”
The Orange is a lie

Now, the map says that Spokane is USG — Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups. That’s an AQI of 101-150. What was our AQI at 5PM? It was 148. So the map is a little misleading. Using standard Fuzzy Logic notation, one might say that Spokane has a 80% membership in the USG linguistic variable, and 20% membership in the Unhealthy linguistic variable.

The sky has been a sullen brown all day. The smell of smoke is sometimes strong. MJ says it reminds her of her childhood in Richland, just before a major dust storm. For me, it harks back to my days in Korea, when the sky would turn yellow in the Spring, as much of the Gobi Desert got carried east towards Japan.

In any event, no jogging tonight.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

July 14, 2014

Garden Report for 140714

The weather this week was hot and dry, with highs above 90F the whole time, and peaking at 96F on the weekend.

Nothing harvested, other than some lettuce. It’s all getting ready to bolt, but the last time I did a big harvest, it rotted in the fridge, so I’m just picking what I need. Here’s what the agro-complex looks like on Bastille Day:

Keyhole Garden, 14 July, 2014

Keyhole Garden, 14 July, 2014
(Click to embiggen)

Foreground: Pie pumpkin, with at least two softball-size pumps
Front: Maxed-out lettuce on the right, seedling lettuce on the left, under some wire shelving set on 2×4’s to discourage the squirrels
Mid: Tomatoes and squash in the front, with peas and beans and unseen-but-stressed Brussles sprouts in the back
Rear: Bean sprouts, Pea sprouts, onion shoots, strawberries. All pretty much invisible from here.

The hot dry weather is keeping the powdery mildew at bay, I think. We’ll see how things work out.

TL;DR — Anime I never finished, Summer 2014

July 14, 2014

My anime list has been bouncing up and down like a World Cup football. At first, I thought there were 4 or 5 that looked good. Then, I swung all the way up to 15 or 16, based on other people’s initial reviews. I may have been right the first time.

First thing to go — Robots!

Aldnoah Zero — Earth-descended Martians (don’t ask, it was the Moon’s fault) invade the mother planet in giant combat robots. Allusia, a Princess of Mars is thought to have been assassinated by Terran terrorists. Except it was actually a false flag operation, organized at the behest of the Master Mind of Mars, Count Kurūteo, by rebellious Warlords of Mars as a causus belli — just in time for SarajevoFest. Except that she’s not really dead, it was a stunt double, and now (accompanied by Thuvia Ederurizzo, Maid of Mars) she’s the Maguffin. Martian robots have this surface field thingy, that destroys things that touch it, which means it stops bullets, and slices through buildings just by leaning on them (adds a whole new meaning to the phrase cutting corners), and roads just by stomping on them. They don’t say how it keeps from going in up to its knees every time it takes a step. Meanwhile, the Terran battlebots have to make do with older weapons


Fangs out and brains in the helmet bag

Fangs out and brains in the helmet bag

Argevollen — The peaceful country of Ingelmia is invaded by warlike Arandians, who break through the Maginot Line of Ingelmania with giant combat robots. Everything is falling apart, when a rebellious soldier finds a cute girl, with glasses, operating a big transport truck, with a giant combat robot, the way cute, glasses-wearing girls are wont to do. He jumps into the robot, which looks suspiciously like something out of Evangelion, finds it responds to his mere thoughts and inclinations, and starts beating up on the ‘Randy robots. This being anime, I’m surprised it didn’t start chasing meganegirl. Meanwhile, the rest of the troops have to depend on older weapons

Are you sure this is the peak of robot development?

Nothing for me to be envious about


M3: The Dark Metal (It’s from Spring, but I didn’t find it on Daisuke until this week.)– The peaceful city of Kawadahara is invaded every night by the human-derived Admonitions and must be protected by high school students driving, you guessed it, giant combat robots.  Meanwhile, …

Nothing like a blunt instrument when you're engaged in the dark

Nothing like a blunt instrument when you’re engaged in the dark


Thinking about it, there’s two problems with building battlebots in real life. First, physics. They’re unstable (just like humans), and have many single-point-of-failure features (just like humans). Of course, no-one in anime would ever think of sneaking up close and shooting one in the back of the knee, or the ankle, or pulling the old エヲク – ログ attack. The second problem is human. If a human does a duck-and-weave, their head moves maybe a foot. A thirty foot tall robot jerks its head (and its pilot) five or six feet. And sitting in the cockpit while a battlebot runs into battle is like sitting in a box that’s being attacked by a two-hammered blacksmith while being dragged downstairs. Thud-thud-Thud-thud. I was on the verge of a mild headache after every one of these shows.

Gingerbeer Oats

July 9, 2014

For the recent 4th of July celebrations we thought we’d try a Colonial style non-alcoholic cooler. The recipe calls for a mix of ginger beer (two bottles), rhubarb syrup (two tablespoons), lime juice (two sixteenths of a cup), and sugar (to taste). We didn’t have any lime (I understand the world hit Peak Lime a year or so ago), so we used orange juice. Mix it up. Pour it over ice. It was quite good, with a peppery taste from the ginger. We made a couple of batches. In one, we used a couple tablespoons of rhubarb preserves, since we were out of our homemade syrup and the Unkillable Rhubarb hadn’t grown back from its Spring clearcut. There was a cup left over after all this, so I used it next morning for my oatmeal.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, one cup of ginger beer cooler, 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. The oatbland toned down the peppery taste, and the other ingredients faded into the background. I suspect one could just go with the ginger beer, and maybe sugar.

Rating: *****

Green Thumb Up My Nose

July 6, 2014

Garden Report for 140707

I suspect that no-one in Known Space noticed that I missed a garden update last week. Just part of the OS Upgrade Saga – or is it Epic? There’s a difference, I know because I got yelled at on the Beowulf mailing list some decades ago. Or maybe Black Hanekawa stole a chapter.

The weather these weeks was mixed, with June gloom hanging on thru the end of the month, and Summer roaring back in the upper 80’s.

In any event, not much happened. My early lettuce is about ready to bolt. My later lettuce (planted last week) is just barely visible. The icebergs I planted from sets turned out very well. Let’s see if I can do the same with seeds.

Speaking of bolting, the two daikon I planted in a container have both bolted, so I dug them up. Waste of time. One was about two inches long and an inch in diameter. The other one was small.

Lessons Learned: Daikon are not container plants, not even in big containers.

A couple weeks ago I got a bunch of elderly onion sets from the hardware store on a ‘buy one, get three free’ basis. Stuck them in the ground where the carrots aren’t coming up, and many of them are doing well.

Harvested two of the remaining three cabbages — stripped of the big leaves they were about grapefruit size, and weighed in at 24oz each (I guess I’m going to have to start posting a scorecard again). At the suggestion of my barber, I had pinned a couple of the bigger leaves up over the cores to keep them from sunburning. It seems to have worked, as the outer leaves had blanched and the inners dint. Also harvested the shell peas. I planted eight, which wasn’t nearly enough. We ended up with about a serving and a half for our 4th of July cookout.

Lessons Learned: First pick of one pea plant gave about five pods, with four or five peas each — call it twenty peas per plant. One serving seems to be about 80-100 peas (I’ll confirm next dinner time), so we need 4 or 5 plants per person per meal. Which means I plant at least 20 plants next time.

All of the tomatoes are blossoming, many have nascent fruit, and one looks like they are turning. The only varietal not producing yet are the 4th of July’s. Not sure what the name means. “Don’t even look until this date”?

Did some late season seed-buying. Several packets of nonberg lettuce (bibb and buntercrunch mostly) for late planting, and an impulse buy of lima beans. Opened it up and there were 12 beans in the packet. I felt like I’d just traded my cow. Planted them (ready in early September), and planted some pintos (ready in mid-october).

Galumpkis della Mare

July 3, 2014

Galumpkis are a Polish dish: cabbage leaves stuffed with ground meat and rice. That’s the one food tradition that’s left from my father’s side of the family. Not holiday fare, but we’d have them as an occasional dish, when the mood struck. I won’t say it’s the greatest food in the world, but it reminds me of my childhood, in a previous century and world.

Today, of course, everything is modern and Mediterranean and low cal and fresh and organic. We had some cabbage, fresh from our organic garden. We had some organically grown short grain brown rice (MJ saw the short grain on the label and read no further, it’s impossible to find short grain white rice, here in the NENW). We had some organically frozen fish. We thought, why not? What’s the worst that could happen? After all Rosa’s Pizza delivers on Sundays.

Turns out, it’s a simple, two-step process:

Step 1: pan fry some fish fillets, breaking them up in the pan and chopping them up afterwards so they come out like fishburger. Put enough of the brown rice to end up equal to the amount of fish into the pressure cooker and cook for however long your cooker says — it will probably be close to half the stovetop time for brown rice. Don’t use the Rice setting — that’s for white rice, and you’ll be underdone. Well, the rice will be underdone, and you’ll just be undone. Make a nice, thick, Italian tomato sauce, as you would for pizza, or pasta, or parmigiana. Braise half a dozen largish cabbage leaves in water added to the fish pan.

Step 2: mix the fish and rice until mixed. Add whatever herbs and spices sound good with fish and rice. Wrap up in the cabbage leaves and secure with toothpicks or nails or cotter pins. Lay them out in a roasting pan and cover with the Italianate sauce. Cook at 300F for 30min or so, until the Galumpkis Della Mare are heated through and the sauce gets a hard, dark glaze, like a fine Etruscan pottery.

Serve with an upscale, upcountry Chianti Colli Aretini, a presumptuous domestic Sangiovese, or a fresh Winnica Płochockich Rege.