Archive for October, 2014

Oatmeal Squash

October 30, 2014

Since we had such a lousy squash season in the garden this year – 2 for 8 with the game called on account of mildew – we are reduced to buying squash at the super. MJ was out of town, judging dogs or something, so I brought home only part of a squash: a slab of Hubbard that looked like something that had spalled off of the Monitor. Not wanting to wait two hours for dinner, I popped it into the pressure cooker, with enough water to cover the bottom. Thirty minutes later, I had a pretty well decomposed Hubbard, with slabs of skin floating about in the water. The chunks of squash I fished out were very good, once they’d drained, The water that was left was very squashy, and so why not?

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, one cup of squash-infused water, 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. Very mild squash flavor, enhanced by the addition of cheese. Next squash we do, I’ll add extra water.

Rating: *****

Memories of my youth: Failures in Space

October 29, 2014

I’m a child of the Space Age. I lived on Vandenberg AFB when it was still Cook AFB and they were still pouring concrete for the Atlas-C launchers. I worked summers during high school on Point Arguello Naval Missile Facility, before it became Vandenberg South, putting in drainage ditches for the SLC-6 launch facility, the one that never saw a shuttle. I once had a transporter carrying a Agena upper stage, the one for the Corona reconnaissance satellites, drive over my foot.

Those were the days when the US was rushing into space, and wasn’t quite sure how to do it. Launch failures were common. Sometimes the missile would fail at ignition (or before — one Titan I night-test I saw had the silo elevator fail and drop the loaded bird into the silo), sometimes early in the flight (when it was easier to see), and sometimes later, when the only evidence was the crazy dance of the contrail as the bird tore itself apart at the edge of space. At VAFB, we all knew when a launch was scheduled, and I would sometimes climb up on the roof of our Air Force family housing to watch. The very first launch I saw was an RAF Thor training launch. My mother chased my brother out of the shower, naked, so he could see it.

Yesterday’s failure of the Orbital Sciences Corporation’s Antares launcher hearkened back to those days.

So we start with the familiar cadences of a launch crew in the final stages of the countdown, marking off lines from the checklist. Ignition (at 2:54) looks good, and the bird clears the tower OK at (3:03). That’s when we start to hear the familiar, to me, crackling roar of the 734,000 pounds of thrust from the pair of NK-33 engines — five times what a Thor would generate. At about 3:08 on this vid, the exhaust plume brightens (as if the oxidizer pumps were overclocking), and then there’s an explosion at the base of the booster, at the top of the engine, near the pumps. The bird loses power and sinks back to the pad, possibly toppling to the left as it drops. It looks like the main explosion takes place just prior to impact, which probably means the RSO destroyed the booster just before it hit and destroyed itself. Hard to tell. The RSO might not have even seen the booster falling. He just knew from his readouts that it was doing something dangerous, and hit the destruct switch. The ball of fire is followed by the distance-delayed sound of the explosion, and we end with the LCO starting his post-launch-failure checklist.

OSC’s stock immediately dropped 16%, and you can be sure their competitors will start a jeremiad of all the reasons the contract should be canceled.

This failure doesn’t bother me, and it doesn’t scare me into selling OSC stock (if I owned any). I’ve seen it all before. This is spaceflight. This is the big rocket business. You learn from your mistakes. You keep going.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

October 18, 2014

Garden Report for 141020

Final Score: 97lb of Tomatoes, 125lb Total

The weather this week was about like last week’s. No frost (in fact, unseasonably warm lows), but not suitable weather for tomatoes, either, even if it’s great on the coast. Their unseasonably warm lows are 50-55F, our unseasonably warm lows are 38-45F. I decided that as long as it was unexpectedly nice I’d close out the tomato part of the garden. I wouldn’t expect to get more than a couple of cold weeks out of the end of October anyway, El Nino or no El Nino, and this way I can do it on my own time. Beets and greens will be left to their own devices.

The deck containers yielded six pounds of tomatoes, but four poundsworth were green. None of them were big enough to bother weighing, and some were positively tiny. MJ wants to experiment with chopped green tomato recipes. I mean the tomatoes are chopped and green, not the recipes. I have one container with four cabbage plants in it, that I hope will produce something before the snow falls.

The yard containers produced nine pounds of tomatoes, seven of which were green. The five ounce “Beefsteaks” were finally starting to turn. I’ve left the two lemon cukes to hang out for a while, and see if they get any growth.

In the KHG itself, I got 15lb of tomatoes total, including 2.5lb of ripe ones, and a handful worth measuring. The heaviest was a 6.5oz Marglobe. The Beefsteaks didn’t make the cut. Also harvested were just over half a pound of unshucked lima beans. I’ll let you know how that works out next week. Unlike last year, I didn’t find any errant squashes while doing my tomato-whacking.

Total tomatoes this week: thirty pounds, only six pounds of which were ripe…ish.

I haven’t emptied the containers yet. My plan is to dump the greenery into a back corner of the yard, add leaves, once they are done falling, and cover with container dirt. Meanwhile, last year’s container dirt is composting nearby.


Week Ending 10/20 Vegetable Count Weight oz Unit Weight oz Season Total Total Weight lb
Tomato  many  240  336  97
Summer  3  2.0
8-Ball / Zucchini  2  1.9
Delicata / Buttercup  2  1.5
Cuke  3  0.5
Spaghetti  3  2.3
Pumpkin  6  7.25
Beans  –  9.5  –  –  0.75
Peas  –  –  –  3.0
Cabbage  5  7.5
Carrots  8  1.5
Radishes  7  0.45
Onions  ~50  1.3

So, we round out the year with 125lb of veg, including 97lb of tomatoes. That’s two-thirds more than last year, and probably about the same as in 2012. Of course, if the cabbage and the beets come through, there will be a little bit more.

TL;DR — Anime I never finished, Fall 2014

October 18, 2014

Four more shows bite the dust. No common theme here, except boredom.

Yuki Yuna wa Yusha de Aru: Yuki the hero. Four middle school girls in a “Hero’s Club” have to drop their normal lives of finding homes for cats and picking up trash to become real magical girls, defending the planet. The transition from slice-of-life to magical girl was exceptionally well done. The transformation-to-magical-girl app on their cellphones was original. Their battleground is looks like a deep dive into a pastel-colored fractal of a taxidermist’s sink trap. The picture quality was low — jaggies on my 32″ TV — and the whole magical girl trope is aimed at a demographic that isn’t me.

Celestial Method: Girl comes back to town she left seven years ago, meets a lot of people she knew but doesn’t remember, has enigmatic encounters with grey-haired girl who has been waiting for her to come back. Oh, yeah, just before she left, a ginormous flying saucer came and permanently parked itself a thousand hectometers or so above the town. One of her newly-met old friends shoots a bottle rocket at it.

Nice artwork, but, as someone said “When people leave the theater talking about how good the scenery was, your play is a failure.”

When Supernatural Battles Became Commonplace: Literary club suddenly gains superpowers, and nobody cares. Some cute “Here’s a dimensional gate to the Arizona desert (saguaro cactus) so we can practice blowing things up and creating lava and stuff with our powers” action. Male lead is a cheap Togashi Yūta style chūnibyō knockoff. It’s the sort of thing you’d watch if there wasn’t anything else on.

Karen Senki: Humans fight the machines. Machines try to become human. Too long at ten minutes per ep. Badly animated — looks like it was done using a low-budget RPG graphics engine.

TLDR — Anime I never finished, Fall 2014

October 14, 2014

A classic trope is the “princess in danger” situation, one that can be traced all the way back to Andromeda and Perseus, and all the way forward to Princess Peach and Mario. This season there were two entries in that category, and neither one made the cut.

Akatsuki no Yona: Semi-bratty, air-headed princess sees her kindly father killed by her childhood sweetheart, is rescued by her faithful guardian general.

So far, she isn't doing much to help herself

Warrior princess makes daring escape

Cold opening of the first episode, and the flashback at the end of the second episode shows she makes it back, as a warrior princess leading a band of superhero allies. Think, medieval Justice League.

Poor artwork, mediocre animation, boring presentation — evil sweetheart had four different opportunities to kill her, stopped to exposiate each time — makes it not worth wasting bandwidth on.

Cross Ange – Rondo of Angel and Dragon: Beautiful, athletic, charming princess Angelise, beloved by all, turns out to not have the mana-wrangling powers that true humans are supposed to have and so is stripped of her name, titles, and clothing, and send off to a women’s prison for “Normas” as plain old Ange. There to suffer various forms of sexual violation and harassment by the female guards and the other Norma women. Later on there are dragons, and bathloads of women washing each other’s backs.

Relax, it's just a physical exam.

Relax, it’s just a physical exam.

Really bad art and animation made it painful to watch, and its disregard of the proprieties drew at least one stinging on-line rebuke. Plus, I’m not particularly a fan of the “let’s throw in some rape to show how bad her situation is” approach to story-telling.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

October 12, 2014

Garden Report for 141013

The weather turned Autumnal this week, but in a good way. Off and on cloudy and breezy, with spotty rain. Eighty F at the beginning of the week, and 62F at the end. Still no frost in the forecast, but cold and rainy.

Some of my bigger (6oz) tomatoes are ripe, so that’s nice. Harvested those, some smaller ones, and a pound and a half of some big cherry-sized. Beefsteaks are just beginning to show color, so we’ll have those to harvest in a week or so, plus a bunch of green ones, pre-frost. Harvested my ten bean plants, and got about 4.0oz of pinto beans out of it. We soaked them overnight and MJ did them in the pressure cooker. We had them with Santa Maria BBQ, and they were superb.

Container peas still haven’t sprouted yet, so I expect there’s something about using a former tomato pot that they don’t like. Neither has my last planting of lettuce. Not sure what the problem is.

Since this is my last nice weekend, I decided to start closing out the garden. Section 4 onions had all fallen over, a sign they weren’t going to get any bigger, and the white radishes in Section 2 were a week past their harvest date. So I pulled up all of those, plus some carrots that wandered by. I still have the red radishes, the beets, and whatever greens decide to keep growing. Also pulled down the hops. I wanted to get them down while they were still green, and before the berries started falling off (hops berries are poisonous to dogs). I’d put up some plastic bird netting for them to climb on, so it was just a matter of unhooking the net at the roofline, then cutting everything off at the groundline, rolling up the net, and putting it in the trash (can’t compost nylon).

Week Ending 10/13 Vegetable Count Weight oz Unit Weight oz Season Total Total Weight lb
Tomato  8  33.0  4.0  336  67.5
Summer  3  2.0
8-Ball / Zucchini  2  1.9
Delicata / Buttercup  2  1.5
Cuke  3  0.5
Spaghetti  3  2.3
Pumpkin  6  7.25
Beans  –  4.0  –  –  0.25
Peas  –  –  –  3.0
Cabbage  5  7.5
Carrots  4  8.0  2.0  8  1.5
Radishes  7  7.24  1  7  0.45
Onions  ~50  21  0.42  ~50  1.3

This time last year we were fully done, with frost on the way and all the tomatoes cut down for indoor ripening. Total harvest was 47lb of tomatoes, and 76lb of veg overall, not counting the 40lb of jack-o-lanterns. I don’t have an overall total for 2012, but we closed out the tomatoes this week, for a total of around 100lb. So far in 2014 we have 67lb of tomatoes and 28lb of otherstuff, for a total of 95lb. Shows you what kind of uncertainty farmers live with.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

October 5, 2014

Garden Report for 141006

Native American Summer continues, and the forecast is for more of the same through the week. In fact, NWS is predicting above normal temperatures and below normal precipitation through the end of the year.

Here’s an explanation of why the tomatoes are doing so well — nightly minimums have been higher than average.

The tomatoes are still producing, but slowly. I picked about a pound and a half of bigger-than-walnut-but-smaller-than-plums. Plus two lemon cucumbers totaling just under 4oz, and one lone buttercup squash that is just over a pound. There’s half a dozen possible SuperFantastics that are orangish and need another week, plus a dozen or so so-called beefsteaks that are showing no color at all. The nice thing about having the tomatoes come in like this is that we are managing to keep up with the eating of them.

Last week’s squash turned out to be an 8-ball, but, alas, it was so far gone that only a 8mm strip of flesh remained around the outside. The rest of the interior was seeds.

Week Ending 10/06 Vegetable Count Weight oz Unit Weight oz Season Total Total Weight lb
Tomato  28  < 2.0  328  60.5
Summer  3  2.0
8-Ball / Zucchini  1  11  1  2  1.9
Delicata / Buttercup  1  17  1  2 1.5
Cuke  2  4  2  3  0.5
Spaghetti  3  2.3
Pumpkin  6  7.25
Beans  –  –  –  3.0
Peas  –  –  –  3.0
Cabbage  5  7.5
Carrots  4  16  4.0  4  1.0

Container peas haven’t sprouted yet.

Full Winter

October 2, 2014

Well, Winterfylleð, an Anglo-Saxon month. Wherever the Angles and Saxons and Jutes (oh, my) came from, the weather was cold enough to be considered winter by early October, so the first full moon of that month was the Winter full moon. Or maybe it was just because almost all the harvesting was done, and the only thing left to do was carve the trunips into lanterns for Samhain — and yes, I know that Winterfylleð is Germanic and Samhain is Celtic. but they’ve got all these extra turnips and they might as well celebrate something.