Seventy-seven years ago today, an agreement was signed at Munich. Modern historians are coming around to the idea that, at the time, given the circumstances, without being influenced by 20/20 hindsight, it was probably the right thing to do. To appropriate the words of Churchill about the first stage of the war, it provided the needed time “till those who hitherto had been half blind were half ready.”
Archive for September, 2015
Garden Report for 150928
Weather mostly around 70F, with one peak at 80F. Lows in the low 40’s.
The main garden tomatoes are starting to come in, as are the second wave zucchinis and the first of the summer squash (one good, two with BER). Blossom End Rot is rearing its head in a couple of places — some zucchinis have also succumbed, as have a couple of the deck Italian zucchinis (isn’t Italian zucchini a redundancy?). Pretty much all the amaranth is in blossom mode, but I might harvest a bunch of leaves anyway. Continuing closeouts. Took down the hops. Having them grow on a bird net worked out well. I didn’t even have to get up on a ladder. Just took the long branch-trimmer and slipped it off of the soffit hooks.
The main garden tomatoes are coming in larger than the container ones — 3-5oz each, instead of 2-3oz. I can see lots of green ones back in the jungle, so if the frosts hold off we shouldn’t have to hunt for a red October.
I think the high heat in mid-summer killed a lot of blossoms, and the more moderate temps of late August have re-started the process. Which is why BER is still a problem, and we have about six, thumb-sized, spaghetti squash developing.
Here’s the latest scoreboard.
|Week Ending 9/28||Vegetable||Count||Weight oz||Unit Weight oz||Total||Total Weight lb|
Grand Total: 87.6lb
This time last year we also had 87lbs of produce, except by now we had twice the weight in tomatoes, but very few squash. In 2013, we peaked out at 51lbs in mid-September, not counting the 20lb jack-o-lantern pumpkin. Our current jack-o-lantern is starting to turn color, but it’s very small. As in, we’ll do better hollowing out a lemon cucumber.
A couple of weeks ago, Paul Krugman had an item in the NYT titled Charlatans, Cranks, and Apparatchiks, on the kind of people who support Jeb! Bush’s tax policies. He also had a link to a great comment on how they got started:
There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.
Unlike the others, who use knowledge of the source materials, close observation of the previews, and who actually read the press releases, I’m going to base mine on just the title and the cover art.
First, let’s say what’s not in here. Sequels to stuff I didn’t like before (Diabolik Lovers, Seraph of the End), kids stuff (Pokemon, Zodiac), movies and OVA’s (with one exception, AKA GaruPan), and anything I can’t tell if it’s a series, an OVA, or a short (Letters From Dead Dogs).
WILL WATCH: The title or the cover art is properly enticing, so I definitely will watch at least the first three eps.
MIGHT WATCH: The cover art is not too off-putting, so I might watch it.
WON’T WATCH. The cover art and/or the title tells me more than I ever wanted to know on the topic.
…and 33 more that didn’t even make the “I won’t watch” cut.
Last night, MJ made an experimental recipe — half a spaghetti squash shell, used as a baking boat and filled with the squash innards, plus a handful of miniature frozen Swedish meatballike things, a halfcup or so of salsa, a halfcup or so of black beans, and the remnants of a package of taco seasonings. Baked for a bit, and finished off with a sprinkle of cheese on the top (toasted under the broiler). Most excellent, and there was mix left over.
I used about a third of a cup (minus the meatballs), so that makes it an oatmeal extender, rather than just an ingredient.
Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, third of a cup of spaghetti squash taco bean mix, one cup of broth (beef), salt. Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats.
Results: Very good. Put some cheese on top, but didn’t finish it off under the broiler.
Garden Report for 150921
Weather similar to last week. Cool start (~62F), warm and windy end (~74F), cool forecast (~60F). Lows in the low 40’s.
Harvested one each pie pumpkin, spaghetti squash, and hanging bush buttercup. Another couple of lemon cukes, and not a lot of not very big tomatoes, and the remaining bell pepper from out front, and that was it.
The three summer squash still haven’t progressed much beyond fat finger size. Ditto for three Italian zucchini on the deck. Some of the tomatoes in Section 1 are starting to break color. Hoping for some ripe ones next week. Amaranth keep on keeping on. Meanwhile, we have the start of some Santa Maria beans. Harvest isn’t for another three weeks or so.
Closed out the golden cherry tomatoes on the deck. Not impressed. The hanging tomatoes will go next week.
Here’s the latest scoreboard.
|Week Ending 9/21||Vegetable||Count||Weight oz||Unit Weight oz||Total||Total Weight lb|
Grand Total: 79.6lb
This time last year we had 78.85lbs of produce, almost the same as this year, except by now we had twice the weight in tomatoes, but very few squash. In 2013, we only had about 51lbs, not counting the 20lb jack-o-lantern pumpkin.
MJ brought home some tomatoes from friends in the dog club. Their smallest were about the size of our largest. Their largest weren’t beefsteaks, but they were of a size suitable for slicing onto a hamburger bun. Not sure what our problem is. More sun? More fertilizer? More water?
I have written about bananas and oatmeal a couple times before, but mostly about banana chips. What about a real banana? Keep in mind that a real banana is a massive thing, as oatmeal additives go, so what we are really talking about here is using a banana as an oatmeal extender.
MJ had a banana left over from a dog trip. It was exceedingly brown on the outside, and anyone’s guess about the inside. What the heck. Let’s try it.
Turns out, it wasn’t that bad on the inside. A couple of light brown spots, and the texture was crumbly-mashable. Icky to eat in your hand, precarious if you ate it from the peel, good tasting if you ate it on your plate. I put it in a 50/50 mix of apple juice and beef broth. Apple juice wants to dominate things, and it tastes surprisingly sour when cooked.
Halfway through the cooking process, I remembered that we still had a box of strawberries left from our next-to-latest Follow The Harvest delivery (organic freshfruity things hand delivered every week)*. They were pretty far gone, but not inedible. Sort of. I cut up about half of them and dumped them in towards the end. Call it half a cup. Added a tablespoon of sugar. Cooked the whole mess for 15min insted of 10.
Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one really ripe banana (mashed in the pot), half a cup of really ripe strawberries (mashed in the pot), half cup of broth, half cup of apple juice, salt (yes, it needs salt — it’s oatmeal). Cook for 15 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats.
Results: Very good, but it needed something. Maybe cinnamon on top. Came out surprisingly soupy. I guess both the banana and the strawberries had more internal water than I credited them with. Next time maybe just half a cup of apple juice.
*They only delivered the strawberries, not the banana, sorry.
Garden Report for 150914
Cool start (62F), warm and windy end (92F), cool forecast (62F). Lows in the low 40’s.
A rogue zucchini turned up in the jungle, right after I put three of its siblings in the dehydrator. Another handful of lemon cukes, and not a lot of not very big tomatoes, and that was it.
Meanwhile, there’s one each pie pumpkin, spaghetti squash, and hanging bush buttercup getting ready for next week or so. Three summer squash that haven’t progressed beyond fat finger size. Ditto for three Italian zucchini on the deck.
Trimmed a bunch of leaves off the non-flowering amaranth and stir fried them with garlic. Not bad, in a collard greens sort of way. As with the other greens, these cooked down to a tenth their volume. Another few weeks and some of them will be producing seeds.
Here’s the latest scoreboard, such as it is.
|Week Ending 9/14||Vegetable||Count||Weight oz||Unit Weight oz||Total||Total Weight lb|
Grand Total: 72.1lb
This time last year we had 74lbs of produce, and in 2013, as near as I can figure out, we only had about 38lbs, due mostly to the lack of pumpkins.
So, the first part of this two part series described my adventures in cataractland. This part will be much more opinionated, describing lessons learned. Note that this just me, non-MD talking, and my impressions and conclusions may be wrong.
Scheduling: It took the equivalent of one academic quarter to get through all the hoops. Most of this time I was fully functional, although it sometimes took an effort to do the work. My eyes felt tired, and often gritty. There’s drops for that. I could have taught school while this was going on, but there were times when it wouldn’t have been any fun.
Eye tuning: Cataract surgery essentially turns your infinite focus eyeball into a fixed focus opto-mechanical system. They can tune the focus of each eyeball, but when they’re done, you’re stuck. It’s an irrevocable decision. Squinting won’t help. In broadest terms, your choices are Near, Intermediate, and Far. Near is good for reading all but the small print. Intermediate is good for getting around indoors, and Far is focused on infinity, so you can be the outdoorsman you always wanted to be.
Many people decide on Far for both eyes, or Near for both eyes. When they do that it means they will require glasses for reading (Far) or for driving (Near). Some people decide on Far for one eye, and Near for the other, so they can operate in any situation. I’m not particularly outdoorsy, so I decided on Intermediate for one, and Near for the other. Probably wrong, but I think my doctor did me a favor and fudged a little — he set the Intermediate range long enough that I could pass the WA state drivers exam without glasses. First time in my life. (more…)
About five years or so ago I started to develop cataracts, not unusual for my time of life. My glasses got stronger and stronger, until the doctor said that we’d done as much as we could, and it was time to operate. I didn’t particularly like that idea. I mean, it’s my eyes, mon. You don’t mess with my eyes. I’d be perfectly happy to live out my life as a brain in a jar, as long as I had one eye to read with, and a finger to turn the pages. I mean, I never considered lasik surgery and continued wearing coke-bottle glasses for decades, because…eyes.
But after a while it became obvious that my vision was going bad…der. When it got to the point that I couldn’t reliably read the titles on my bookshelf, I told the doc I was ready. This is a summary of what went on. I decided to wait and write it all up at once, rather than treating this blog like it was FaceBook.
First thing was scheduling. I wanted to have it after the end of the school year, so it wouldn’t interfere with my teacherly duties. That meant I had to get an extra eye exam, because Medicare says I need one within X weeks of the operation. I can see that. It lets them make sure that you haven’t come down with some horrible eye-dissolving disease in the meantime. So the first operation got pushed into mid-June.
Once the process starts, its pretty structured: operation, one-day postop, one week postop; wait three weeks, operation, one-day postop, one week postop; wait a month, final eye exam, order new glasses. If you keep track on your fingers, you will note that this takes most of the summer. It was the end of August before my new glasses came. (more…)
As I have written before, Patriot Day is a sham and a scam, a fraud perpetrated by the criminals who highjacked the true meaning in order to increase their own power. The only real winner in the fourteen years since the founding event was Osama Bin Laden. If he had written the script, he couldn’t have come up with this good of an outcome. I’m not alone in thinking this. Here’s Tom Engelhardt on the topic.
And here is Bob Cringely, fourteen years ago, making some very cogent predictions.
Bought a box of fresh chives a few days ago, for use in some Japanese meals I was trying. Trouble with fresh chives is that they go off very fast, and the remnants in this box were looking decidedly peak-ed. So I took out three or four of them — its a 7″ box with them folded over, so maybe a yard and a half. Using scissors, I cut them into quarter inch chunks and mixed them into some beef broth before putting in the oatmeal.
Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, a few feet of fresh chives, cut up, one cup of broth, salt. Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats. Add the chives at the start and the potato when you take it off the stove.
Results: Very good. Chives in every bite. The chivey-ness was muted, and set off the beef flavor very well. Some added pepper helped.
Garden Report for 150907
This week was positively autumnal, with starting highs in the 60’s and a cold, rainy end. Saturday saw 24hrs at 50F+/-1 and about a third of an inch of rain, followed by a low of 44. Next week is supposed to be back in the 80’s. Temperature one foot down in the KHG was 65F.
Another small harvest: handful of lemon cucumbers and a couple pounds of tomatoes. No zucchinis, but that’s OK because we still have three or four monsters in the fridge. Our summer squash finally looks like it will be producing. Should call it autumn squash. One of the tomatoes was a proper-looking 5oz yellow brandywine. Tons of green tomatoes still in the garden, so mid-September should see an avalanche.
The Santa Maria beans are doing OK, as you can see. No actual beans yet, but harvest isn’t due for another month.
Planted two kinds of peas. Both mature in about 70 days (mid-November). Sugar Snap Pole for pod eating, Wando for mature peas.
Here’s the latest scoreboard, such as it is.
|Week Ending 9/07||Vegetable||Count||Weight oz||Unit Weight oz||Total||Total Weight lb|
Grand Total: 67.3lb
This time last year we had 59lbs of produce, and in 2013, as near as I can figure out, we only had about 20lbs, due mostly to the lack of pumpkins.
This is becoming semi-traditional. Last year I wrote about using canned pumpkin in oatmeal (OK). Two years before that I wrote about pumpkin spice and pumpkin liquer in oatmeal (bad). This year, it’s real pumpkin (pretty good).
We’ve been harvesting our pie pumpkins as the orange comes along. Three of them so far. They are small enough (bigger than a softball, but not by a lot) that you can think of them as single serving. MJ cooked up two of them, flavored with taco spices. Very good. There was a quarter cup left over.
Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, quarter cup or so of taco-flavored pumpkin, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, one cup of broth, 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: Pretty good. The taco spices added just the bit of zest the very mild pumpkin needed.
So, now it’s late Summer, 1945, and the Japanese Empire is on its last legs. The Navy has been destroyed, the Army is mostly trapped in China and Burma, their merchant marine has been sunk. The American B-29’s have been fire-bombing almost every city in the country, against almost no resistance from the Japanese Air Force. The time had come to invade the Home Islands.
Invasion was a costly alternative, but we didn’t have any particular reason to believe other options were workable. A blockade might starve them out, but there was no assurance of that. Besides, the result would be to have the Japanese grudgingly admit that they’d lost, to bargain for a less than unconditional surrender, and to leave future generations open to a “stabbed in the back” theory, like Germany after WWI. An invasion was the only way to convince the Japanese that they really had lost the war.
The cost was going to be horrific, on both sides. We estimated there’d be a million Allied casualties, and upwards of five million Japanese casualties. Japanese plans were to defend the Home Islands the way they did Okinawa and Iwo Jima — a defense in depth by soldiers who would have to be dug out and killed one by one. What we didn’t know was the extent to which the civilian population would be involved. Males were inducted into home defense units. Women and school children were shown how to tie a knife to a broomstick and attack allied infantry. Another thing that we didn’t know was Japanese preparations for kamikaze operations.
At the start of the US bombing campaign, the Japanese high command had decided to hide their remaining aircraft in protected shelters and rail tunnels, and to reserve enough aviation gasoline to fly 6000 one-way sorties. What Curtis LeMay thought of as a weakness that allowed him to bomb from low altitude was actually an iron determination to strike as hard a blow at the invasion fleet as possible. And it would be a hard blow. Although we looked on the kamikaze pilots as fanatics, they were actually patriots, doing their final duty. Using kamikaze tactics during the battles for Iwo Jima and Okinawa, the Japanese put more US ships out of the war, with fewer losses to themselves, per ship sunk or damaged, than they did with any of their more conventional campaigns.
In addition, southern Japan does not have that much coastland and hinterland suitable for an amphibious invasion. The Japanese High Command predicted almost exactly when and where we would invade, and had distributed their forces accordingly — an initial foothold on Kyushu Island, followed by an invasion of Honshu, with landings on either side of Tokyo Bay. Much of the land behind the beaches is shown as agricultural (rice paddies), but that doesn’t mean it is level. The paddies are enclosed in dikes, and in many cases are stepped in terraces. From a tactical standpoint, this means that tanks crossing the dikes and terraces will have their vulnerable undersides exposed to the defenders.
But, we had The Bomb. We had choices on how to use it, but little assurance that anything short of destroying a city would convince the holdouts in the Japanese military and government. Using it would be horrific (I know, that’s the third time I’ve used that phrase), but consider that we had already destroyed a greater area of the three largest cities in Japan than we did in all of the cities of Germany. The only difference here would be that we were doing it with one bomb in one instant, rather than waves of bombers over several days. It was a terrible weapon, and we had to demonstrate to the world what a terrible weapon it was. Even then, it still took over a week, and a second bomb, for the Japanese government to actually admit to defeat. They signed the articles of surrender seventy years ago today.
In The Prisoner and the Bomb, Laurens van der Post, an Afrikaner officer imprisoned in Indonesia, said that the prison camp guards seemed to be working themselves up to something at the end of July and the beginning of August. The prisoners believed there was going to be a massacre. But after the bombs had dropped, the guards attitude changed, becoming almost resigned. The use of the atomic bomb, and the way it was used, finally convinced even the most fanatical holdouts that Japan had been well and truly defeated. And it convinced the world that we had to do something to limit their use.
And so now we come to the attack on Pearl Harbor and America’s entrance into the Pacific War. As I’ve discussed in previous essays on the topic, much of the action was driven by the needs and blunders of the Japanese Army. The Japanese Navy was much less enthusiastic about the project, although they did not try very hard to stop it.
The Japanese logic was straightforward, though misinformed. The US (the world’s largest oil producer) had just cut off their total supply of oil. There was only about two years supply left in-country — two years for the Navy, if everyone else was starved of it. The US demand was simple, total withdrawal from China. The implications, which the US did not consider, were that Japan would become a client state of the US, and give up its aspirations to become a world-class nation. Better to go down fighting than acquiesce to that kind of abject surrender.
If Japan was to become independent in oil (does this have a modern ring to it? has the irony sunk in?), they would have to take it from someone, and the Dutch and British possessions were closest. So it was war with the UK and Holland.
But the UK was a close ally of the US, particularly in the Pacific. If Japan attacked the UK possessions there, the US would surely come into the war to support their ally. So it was war with the US. The Japanese (or at least those Army officers with the most clout) didn’t know that isolationist opinion in the US would have made it difficult to declare war without an overt attack on US forces, so they decided to make one.
Surprise attacks are a long-honored samurai tradition, retained into the modern age. The Russo-Japanese war started with a surprise bombardment of Port Arthur. The Japanese wanted to knock the US back on its heels for a year, while they ran wild across the Western and Central Pacific. Then they’d be able to negotiate from a position of strength. In fact, it was the one thing that would ensure a unified American response.
The combat portion of the Pacific War is shortly told. The IJN carrier strike forces ran roughshod over their enemies for six months, sailing one-third of the way around the globe, destroying ships and facilities from Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, to Colombo, Ceylon. Probably the single greatest naval campaign in history. Their run came to an end at the Battle of Midway, and they never recovered from the loss of ships and aircrews. The first nine months combat used up most of the aircraft carriers on both sides, and there was an eighteen month lull in carrier warfare while both sides rebuilt.
The Army, meanwhile, either retained most of it’s combat troops in China (to defend their gains or protect against a Russian invasion), or committed them to the campaign in Burma, in an attempt to split India off from the Allies. Fewer than twenty army divisions defended the islands between the US and the Home Islands. Because of this, the Army lost what was essentially a slow-motion meeting engagement on Guadalcanal, and was forced back and back by US ground forces, supported by superior naval and air firepower. One of the reasons for their losses was the fact that they had only fought the Chinese for the last quarter century, and had no idea what a modern Western army could do.
Through defeat after defeat, however, they were able to hone an effective, though not successful, defensive strategy. Rather than attempting to stop an invasion at the water’s edge, they opted for a defense in depth, relying on the stubborn determination of the Japanese infantryman to hold every position until the end, and in doing so, bleed the invading force with horrific casualties. They refined this approach at Iwo Jima and Okinawa, and their preparations for an archipelago-wide battle to the death was one of the considerations in our decision to drop the atomic bomb.