Archive for September, 2018

Kavanaugh

September 27, 2018

Response to the Kavanaugh hearings broke mostly on party lines, but with those who deal with facts tending to view him in a negative light.

Rod Dreher, professional religious apologist on The American Conservative website, thinks that Kavanaugh came through and will be approved, but that the Democrats have done irreparable damage to the selection process by springing these accusations so late in the process. Late, meaning they couldn’t possibly be fairly completed before the midterm elections. His discussion of the cause of the damage never mentions Marrick Garland. In fact, tracing his timeline through half a dozen essays on Kavanaugh and back into 2016, I can’t find any mention of Merrick Garland, other than in passing.

On the other hand, Nate Silver, professional polls analyst of fivethirtyeight.com, characterizes Kavanaugh’s approach as

  1. Show a lot of emotion and indignation;

  2. Just openly lie — let’s call it what it is — in response to questions about your drinking habits;

  3. Complain a lot about the process.

Anne Laurie, frequent contributor at on-line community Balloon Juice collected examples of the mood of men and women across the country.

And Fast Company website posts two pictures that capture the reaction of women at the hearings.

A committee vote is scheduled for tomorrow (Friday). I see no possibility that Kavanaugh won’t be advanced to a floor vote, at which time we will see if the countrywide impact has had any reverberations back in Washington.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

September 24, 2018

Garden Report for 180924

We are now officially autumnal. Highs in the mid to upper 60’s. Lows in the mid to upper 40’s. Very similar to this time last year.

A couple of zucchini, few tomatoes, and no winter squash were harvestable. Got two not-so-Big Boys from the garden. Picked the only Moskvich and Cherokee Purples that looked viable from the containers, pulled up the vines, and moved the dirt over to cover the soaker hose for the trees. The Moskvich were not big enough to include in my weight counts — like big cherry tomatoes.

I’m doing some restructuring of the produce table. Summer squash is not going to happen, so I’m going to repurpose it as green tomatoes — tomatoes that will take some weeks indoors to ripen. Right now those are ones that fall off when I pick red ones, or the few that were on the vines that I pulled up. Later, it will include the ones that I harvested right before the first frost. Also, cucumbers are done for the year, so I’m combining the categories. Finally, the cabbage isn’t going to come in until well after I’ve closed out this blog for the season.

Week
Ending
09/24
Vegetable Count Weight
g
Unit
Weight
g
Total Total
Weight
kg
  tomatoes 4 660 165 87 18.0
green tomatoes 7 400 57 7 0.40
Zucchini 2 580 290 11 5.12
Acorn
Delicata
Spaghetti 1 1.64
Pumpkin
cucumber 1 140 140 8 1.92
Grand Total 27.08

Still chasing last year. Still at 28Kg, because this week last year had zero harvest.

Cathy McMorris Rodgers is feeling the heat

September 21, 2018

A few years back, our local representative to Congress, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, voted with her Republican colleagues against the Affordable Care Act, AKA Obamacare. What’s worse, she lied to the public about what was in the act and her reasons for voting that way. It was one of a long string of votes against healthcare reform. She could do this because, as a GOP apparatchik in a predominantly red district, she was pretty much immune to attack from either the right or the left.

Now, for the first time, she is facing a credible threat from a Democratic opponent, Lisa Brown, someone who is throwing light on Rodger’s anticonsumer stance on health care. Rodger’s reaction is interesting. For the first time we are seeing increased spending on campaign ads, particularly attack ads against Brown. In addition, along with a number of other vulnerable Republican members of Congress, Rogers has disappeared her article on health care, knowing that ACA is popular among all members of the public.

Polling analysis website fivethirtyeight.com only gives Brown a 25% chance of winning, but that’s up from 20% last week. If the Blue Wave breaks as many hope it will this year, Washington’s 5th District could see the political equivalent of the Spokane Floods, from 15,000 years ago.

First last times

September 19, 2018

So, I am retiring at the end of this academic quarter. Right now, I feel fine, and I don’t want to get on the cart, but I can’t be sure my physical state will hold up.

As a result, Wednesday, September 19th, was my last First Day of Class.

Our dystopic future in space

September 19, 2018

Space is dangerous, we all know that. Wikipedia lists five accidents involving spaceflight fatalities, and another thirty-two non-fatal incidents. Many more instances could be given, of on-orbit maintenance problems that didn’t rise to the level of an incident.

The most recent is the discovery of a mis-drilled hole in a Soyuz capsule that resulted in a slow oxygen leak. What’s really frightening is the fact that the hole was poorly patched with glue. This prevented it from being found during ground testing. Of course, there are those who see conspiracies under every bed, and they are pushing the idea that the hole was caused on-orbit, by the Americans, to force an early return. And there are those who say the on-orbit theory is a fabrication,  intended to deflect attention from a shaky Russian launch program.

This is all very interesting, but it misses the point. Space systems are unimaginably fragile, and susceptible to human induced failure throughout, and this will continue into the foreseeable future.

So far, the majority of our space missions have been carried out by highly-trained, highly-motivated, well-screened professionals, mostly deployed for a few months or less. Jump ahead twenty or fifty years. What happens when we seriously start to colonize space?

The 1970’s series of studies by NASA looked a multiple designs for orbital colonies, starting with a Bernal Sphere holding a few hundred people

Including living expanses

…and space for feedlot agriculture.

To hollowed-out asteroids housing thousands, for generations, under near-earth-like conditions

…including Star Trek fashions.

This is all very well and good, and I signed up for that idea half a century ago. But think about it in the light of the list of accidents and incidents give above. What would it take to damage one of these colonies, to destroy it, to make it uninhabitable?

Keeping a space colony operating is like keeping a tank of tropical fish happy, a hobby once described to me as an exercise in applied biochemistry. Any slight imbalance can wreak havoc with your ecosystem. Any slight mistake can have fatal repercussions.

Then there’s the mechanical side. Airlocks and air pressure control, power systems, water purification and circulation, spin control. One hundred percent recycling. All the infrastructure of a small city, but with no Earth to provide a buffer, and no resupply closer than weeks, or years, away, depending on your orbit.

The crews of today’s spacecraft are medically and psychologically screened before being allowed to enter the astronaut program (which didn’t keep an astronaut from being arrested on attempted kidnapping charges). But what about those on board a multi-generation orbital colony, or a mining colony out in the Main Belt? What happens when someone becomes mentally unstable? Geough Mahnoff recently adressed this in an Atlantic article on police on Mars (and space generally).

Now, mentally ill people are often unjustifiably stigmatized here on Earth. But while the overwhelming majority of mentally ill persons are a threat only to themselves, if that, many people who are demonstrably a threat are suffering from some mental illness or other.  How do we keep a depressed person from ending it all by opening a hatch, or smashing a window or a oxygen recycler? How do we keep a disgruntled teenager, or abusive ex-boyfriend from getting back at a system they feel has failed them?

And, of course, it doesn’t have to be a deliberate act of sabotage. Simple human errors can have the same effect. Look at that list again, and note the number that were caused by people taking inappropriate actions. 

Prevention is really hard, and the only way we’ve found to do it on Earth, and in space, is through tightened security practices. For example, one of the commanders of Skylab decreed that he would be the only one allowed to cycle the garbage airlock.

Draconian security may be how we have to do it in colonized space, as well. So, any place of importance becomes a no-lone zone. Everyone has a trackable ID. Everyone is monitered 24/7 (or whatever the day/night cycle turns out to be). All residences are open to unannounced inspection at any time. As with places like NSA, transitioning from one section to another might require multiple ID checks, and maybe a statement of purpose. Key facilities are guarded. People who exhibit behavior at or near the boundary of the acceptable are evaluated, and counseled, and maybe given drugs. Many of the basic rights of the Bill of Rights will become invalid, because the safety of the many overrides the rights of the few.

There can be zero trust, because those charged with protecting the lives of everyone on the colony can allow for zero errors. Suppose someone is acting in an abberant manner. They are counseled. Their behavior changes. But does it really? Or did the mindset that caused the behavior just become hidden, festering until it breaks out somewhere else?  How can we tell? How can we predict? What should we do?

My conclusion, reluctantly arrived at over many years, is that there is no way to avoid a near total loss of personal freedom. Space won’t become the new frontier of social experimentation. A thousand flowers won’t bloom. Those colonies that don’t have rigid controls in place will, sooner or later, end up collapsing, due to some sort of support systems failure, intended or not.

Memories of my Youth: Happy trails to you

September 18, 2018

Signal vs Noise has an interesting essay on software that gently, or not so gently, nudges you in the direction the developers want you to go. Like uploading all your contact data to Facebook.

I used to use a similar tactic in the warning messages I wrote for a database application I developed.

If you press OK, I will THROW AWAY all this data, which could hinder your research and limit your chances of getting into grad school. Are you sure you want to do this?   ok  CANCEL

Green Thumb Up My Nose

September 17, 2018

Garden Report for 180917

The weather is finally autumnal. Mid to upper 60’s. Cloudy and breezy. Showers over the weekend.

In a follow-up on last week’s entry, that bright yellow, obviously ripe spaghetti squash, was actually quite green inside. As in bright green. Only the middle part was in any way ripe. The rest didn’t even shred properly after cooking. Lesson for today: let your winter squash rest until the end of autumn.

Still not much doing on the tomato front. The last of the Carolina Golds, and one each Big Boy and Brandywine. There’s a lot of non-beefsteaks out there, but they’re all still green.  SquashSit (say that three times real fast) hasn’t changed. Harvested one of the .jp cucumbers. No zucchini on the way.

Week
Ending
09/17
Vegetable Count Weight
g
Unit
Weight
g
Total Total
Weight
kg
  tomato 4 560 140 87 11.4
zucchini 1 360 360 9 4.54
cabbage
Summer
Delicata
Spaghetti 1 1640 1640 1 1.64
cucumber 1 150 150 2 0.30
Japanese
cucumber
1 400 400 5 1.48
Grand Total 19.32

Still chasing last year’s 21Kg.

My silly dog

September 14, 2018
We took one of the dogs, Music, in to be spayed the other day. She came home that night with a lovely Elizabethan collar to keep her from licking the incision. Now, most dogs are a little petrified when they first get the collar, and they have trouble realizing they can walk, and even lie down. After an hour or so they figure things out. Not Music.
She was convinced she couldn’t do anything in the collar, and just stood there. After a while we showed her she could walk, and she managed a few steps, when suitably encouraged. But she had trouble with this whole ‘lie down in a collar’ thing. So she stood. And she stood. We showed her how to lie down, but she didn’t believe us, so she got back up and stood some more. MJ, who is fighting a cold and needed to sit up anyway, sat in the family room with her all night, watching the Hurricane Channel. As far as we can tell, Music stood for fifteen hours, before fatigue set in and she finally laid down, and slept all morning. Today she is happy and active and trotting around and jumping into chairs with her new fashion accessory on and don’t you other dogs wish you had something like this? Silly dog.

Memories of my youth: Fun times at Osan

September 12, 2018

It was a fine autumnal day in the mid 1980’s, and I was at a fighter wing in the Republic of Korea. One of our duties was to protect the TR-1 reconnaissance planes (a variant of the U-2) that flew up along the border with North Korea. Not that our ageing F-4’s could get up to the 80,000 feet that the TR-1’s flew at, but we could engage any NKAF fighters trying to threaten them from lower altitudes. Our base was usually pretty busy. We had the usual training flights, plus contract commercial flights moving troops from the US, plus it was the primary destination for various military ‘business jets’ hauling key staff from Japan and the Philippines for meetings.

Osan AB Korea

On the day in question, we had just had an accident. One of the USAF T-39 Sabreliners that skittered about the Korean airspace, hauling VIPs and administrative traffic, had blown a tire and slid off the side of the runway, collapsing the landing gear. As I recall, no-one was hurt, but the runway was closed, briefly, and there were a lot of fire trucks and things cluttering up the area.

At that point, we got a warning of NKAF fighters approaching the DMZ, apparently in reaction to a TR-1 flying just south of it. Two F-4s were told to scramble, with a full war load of air to air missiles. The runway was back open, but there was a contract commercial airliner in the final stages of landing, carrying a bunch of new troops for the various units in-country, and in this kind of a situation, every second counts. Nothing daunted, the flight lead pulled his aircraft onto the much shorter parallel taxiway, went into burner, and took off from there, narrowly missing the ground equipment and parked aircraft.

We got the job done. The NKAF fighters turned back north. The TR-1 recovered safely. The flight lead got chewed out for violating peacetime safety regulations, but I always thought he’d made the right decision. I’ve often wondered what the new guys thought, landing on an airbase with a crashed aircraft at one end of the runway, and two war-load fighters taking off next to them.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

September 10, 2018

Garden Report for 180910

The weather continues nice. Upper 70’s to mid 80’s and clear. Bit of smoke on Tuesday.

Not much doing on the tomato front. There’s a lot of non-beefsteaks out there, but they’re all still green. But where the tomatoes are lagging, the winter squash are starting to take up the slack. One nice harvestable 1.6Kg spaghetti squash, one big and one small spaghettis that are still yellow, a big, green, possible Delicata, an acorn squash, and one big warty Kunucklehead pumpkin that’s just starting to change color. Two .jp cucumbers that are coming along nicely, but I think our standard cucumber, out front, has given up after one. And, of course, a zucchini.

 

 

Week
Ending
09/10
Vegetable Count Weight
g
Unit
Weight
g
Total Total
Weight
kg
  tomato 83 10.8
zucchini 1 360 360 9 4.54
cabbage
Summer
Delicata
Spaghetti 1 1640 1640 1 1.64
cucumber 1 0.15
Japanese
cucumber
4 1.08
Grand Total 18.21

Still chasing last year’s 21Kg.

Fake Beef n Oats

September 6, 2018

So, MJ brought home some plant-based “beef” burgers the other day, because hey, how else are you going to get the kids to eat their vegetables. They were an off-pink color that reminded me more of dog food. I grilled them on the outdoor gas grill — they needed careful handling because they are very wet and break apart easily. Straight off the grill they tasted … almost, but not quite, totally unlike beef.

MJ took a couple to her dog training class, but brought them home uneaten. While the hot-from-the-grill burgers might have tasted not bad (if you didn’t think of them as beef), the cold burgers had a chemicky smell that made one want to … not eat them. They were like dwarf bread — one bite and you realized you were not as hungry as you thought you were.

Nothing daunted, I diced one of the patties into … dice sized chunks. Simmered them in beef broth for a few minutes to encourage them to break up more, which they didn’t.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one chopped up non-beef patty, one cup of beef broth, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, salt. Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats. Add the potatoes at the end. (more…)

Green Thumb Up My Nose

September 3, 2018

Garden Report for 180903

Finally, some pleasant weather. Mid to upper 70’s and clear. The weekend rain was such that the ground was still wet on Tuesday.

I harvested two biggish zucchini — almost 1.5Kg — which is bigger than I like, because how do you get rid of them?

count /  total wt / wt per

Carolina Gold: 11 / 1670 / 152

Brandywine:  3 / 520 / 173

Big Boy: 2 / 400 / 200

Cherokee Purple: 3 / 210 / 70

We are about at the end of the Carolina Golds. Not unhappy to see them go. They are too soft in the mouth — not mushy, just soft — and kindof tasteless. Like supermarket tomatoes, only yellow. Won’t plant them again.

Old fashioned tomatoes, old fashioned tools

As for the winter squash, we have two large and one small spaghetti squash, one of which is essentially ripe. We have a large green, possible Delicata, and a medium pumpkin, just turning, plus one acorn squash. It’s hard to tell how many total, because they are buried under all the foliage.

Week
Ending
09/03
Vegetable Count Weight
g
Unit
Weight
g
Total Total
Weight
kg
  tomato 19 2760 145 83 10.8
zucchini 2 1480 740 9 4.18
cabbage
Summer
Delicata
Spaghetti
cucumber 1 0.15
Japanese
cucumber
4 1.08
Grand Total 16.21

And here’s the final version of our official tomato ripening schedule, updated with the actual dates. They appear to be split almost equally between those that arrived a week or more early, a week or more late, or within a week of the predicted time.

Name D/I Wt Planted Days Ready Actual
Early Girl I 4-8 05/21/18 50 07/10/18 08/13/18
Oregon Spring D 5-10 05/21/18 60 07/20/18 08/20/18
Champion I 6-8 05/21/18 65 07/25/18 07/24/18
Big Beef I 12-16 05/21/18 73 08/02/18 08/13/18
Moskvitch I 115g 06/04/18 60 08/03/18 08/02/18
Beefsteak D 250g 05/21/18 75 08/04/18 07/24/18
Hybrid Beefsteak D 250g 05/21/18 75 08/04/18 07/24/18
Carolina Gold D 8-10 05/21/18 75 08/04/18 08/27/18
Sun Sugar I cherry 05/21/18 75 08/04/18 07/10/18
Big Boy I 16-32 05/21/18 80 08/09/18 08/20/18
Better Boy I 15-16 06/04/18 70 08/13/18 08/31/18
Black Prince I 5-7 06/04/18 70 08/13/18 08/20/18
Pink Accordion I 14-16 05/21/18 90 08/19/18 08/13/18
Moreton I 8-10 06/11/18 70 08/20/18 08/27/18
Brandywine I 560g 06/04/18 80 08/23/18 08/02/18
Cherokee Purple I 10-12 06/04/18 80 08/23/18 09/03/18
Jet Star I 8-9 06/11/18 75 08/25/18 08/27/18
Supersonic I 10-12 06/18/18 75 09/01/18 08/04/18
Mortgage Lifter I 18-32 06/18/18 85 09/11/18 08/27/18

We are still chasing last year’s total of 16.7 kg. Next week, when the squash starts coming in, we’ll do better.