Archive for August, 2019

How the Internet killed cars, and everything else

August 31, 2019

I’m sure others have written on this, and better, but I’ma gonna throw out some ideas for you, well, me, to think about later.

Technology changes society. Not just jobs going away, like buggy-whip manufacturing, but the way society thinks about stuff. Back in the day, one of the early German auto manufacturers estimated that demand for cars would peak in the low 10-thousands, because there were only so many people available to be trained as chauffeurs. Of course what happened was, cars became so cheap that everyone, even those too poor to hire a chauffeur, could afford one. Before that, women’s magazines had advice on the role of the housewife as a manager of the household, including how to deal with servants. Along came appliances and away went servants, and the perceived role of women in the household changed.

After the war (WWII, the big one), discretionary leisure time expanded. Television helped fill it, but after you watched Dave Garroway, and Rawhide, there was still a lot of time to fill. Enter the autocar.

I know, let’s drive downtown and go window shopping on Main Street.

It’s Friday night, let’s go cruise the drag.

Let’s go see the USA in our Henry J.

America became a car culture because there wasn’t anything better to do at home. Well, there was sex, but the development of modern medicine meant that all the side effects stayed around as additional costs, and so that fell out of favor once alternatives were available.  One effect of the car culture was the growth of destinations — everything from drive-in movies to drive-in churches, and the peak of the drive-in or drive-to destination experience was the mega mall.

Stretching the concept of metaphor a little, think of the car as a browser, the destinations as websites, and the road network as the Internet — call it the autonet. People want to get out of their homes, to link up, to experience things that aren’t just another day at the office. The autonet let them do this. Just as today, people in the 50’s and 60’s argued about which browser was better, complained about slow connections, and spent a lot of time online. The 1950’s version of surfing the web was the Sunday drive, a more or less aimless wandering along the autonet. The modern shopping mall is like a web portal, or concentrator site — you drive to the home page, park, and follow the links to the affiliate pages.

As with the dinosaurs, all these destinations became gigantic, right before conditions changed they went extinct.

In this case, it was the Internet that changed the conditions. Shopping? Use Amazon. Hang out with your friends? Use MySpace/Facebook/Instagram/Skype/Line (depending on which year and country we’re talking about). See the USA? I can do a virtual drive down the Kufurstendam in Berlin with Google Earth, and soon there will be real surround-sight VR flight to the space station, for those who can afford the headset. Nobody needs cars any more. The oldsters are still stuck in their Oldsmobiles, but the Millennials, and Gen-X and the upcoming post-alphabet generation have no loyalty to the car. They’d rather take public transport, where they can enjoy the latest free-to-play. This is why Uber and Lyft are so popular. Or they’d rather stay home and enjoy a virtual shopping experience.

People talk about America’s love affair with the automobile. What it really was was a love affair with the autonet.The automobile was really just a device for transporting us somewhere else. Once a shoebox-sized device could do the same thing using the Internet, it spelled the end of the car, the autonet, and everything that depended on it. What we are learning now, is just how much stuff that is — freeways, malls, big box stores, libraries, factories, you name it. If it has a parking lot associated with it, you can assume its days are numbered.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

August 25, 2019

Garden Report for 190826

The week kicked off with the hottest days of the month — 91F on Tuesday — then settled down to merely warm — upper 70s/low 80s, with the lows in the low 50’s.

I tried an experiment with the soaker hoses. Previously, I’d been soaking every day, for 20-30minutes, and the bigger tomatoes were tasting a little mushy. I cut back to every other day in the main garden, and daily for 20min on the containers. That seems to be enough water, since nothing is wilting. Preliminary tests look good.

We used the Early Girls from last week and the start of this week (about 3KG of each, plus all our cherry tomatoes) to make tomato sauce, and then MJ made fresh tomato soup. Very good. Six KG or so made a gallon of sauce. We found that a tomato juicer is an important kitchen accessory for this sort of thing. It does a good job of separating out the seeds and skin and stuff, and it means you don’t have to keep washing your feet. I hasten to add that it’s not a unitasker, because once the whortleberry crop starts coming in, we can use it for that.

First quart is already gone

OTOH, the long beans over-ripened, and so we only got about 48″ worth, plus another 56″ of yellow and brown. MJ says they taste metallic, but that may be the Zicam talking.

Closed out the cucumbers. Two containers, one on the deck and one on the east side of the house. Deck produced one 80g. House produced none (well, a couple of cocktail-sized). Also closed out all the other deck containers, since everything in them was dead due to our trip. Got a quart of cherry tomatoes out of it. Only thing left on the deck is two freshly planted lettuce and one spinach on the railing (plus the hanging basket).

Garden tomatoes are doing well fabulously. Cherokee Purples have given us 13 fruit at 1247g.  Total tomatoes this week are over 150 at almost 14kg. One of the Big Beeves weighed in at 470g.

Summertime squashes are not doing as well. They are either not producing, or are turning out misshapen semi-obscene shapes, like poorly inflated balloon animals. For other squash-like things, still unharvested are three probable spaghetti squash, one possible pumpkin, and three buttercups, plus whatever is hidden down amongst the burdock.

This, on top of the ones from last week.

 

Here’s the scoreboard.

Week
Ending
08/26
Vegetable

(bold = final)

Count Total

Weight
g

Unit

Weight
g

Grand

Total

Total
Weight
kg
  EG Garden 15 1130 75 41 3.64
EG Container (2) 26 1450 56 66 5.17
EG Bag 11 666 60 50 2.92
EG Deck 30 1.77
Other tomato 105 10676 101 135 10.68
Summer Squash 11 2.29
Zucchini 1 530 530 20 6.3
Spaghetti
squash
Winter Squash
Cucumber 1 80 80 1 0.08
Kohlrabi 2 0.90
Grand Total 34.4

This puts us in the top three years for midsommer yields, and the others had things like pumpkins to plump them up. Not yet challenging the 50kg tomato harvest from 2012.

Gaming Trump

August 22, 2019

Game Theory is an interesting way to approach politics. In game theory, the rules and the payoffs are known to each side, and there’s no element of chance. GT then tells us the optimum move for each side. Some games are zero-sum — winner takes all. Poker is like this. Some games are non-zero-sum — the solutions provide some sort of return for each side. This describes most of life.

One particularly telling game is the Prisoner’s Dilemma. As Wikipedia says, it

… shows why two completely rational individuals might not cooperate, even if it appears that it is in their best interests to do so

One aspect of the game is that the strategy changes, depending on if the two players are playing it once, or many times. If it’s many times, then the optimal strategy is to cooperate with the other player, and only not cooperate (i.e defect — once) if the other person does so, AKA tit-for-tat. So, in the day to day operations of a political system, you know you will be facing your political opponent many times, and you adjust your actions accordingly.

On the other hand, if you are only encountering the other player once, then the only rational strategy is to not cooperate, to defect. Think of buying a used car. Your trade-in has multiple flaws. The used car you are buying has multiple flaws. A few years hence, when the time comes to trade in the car you are buying, you will probably be going to a different dealer, and the salesman will have moved on. You are never going to see this salesman again, and he is never going to see you. The only rational strategy for each side is to conceal the flaws.

Prisoner’s Dilemma is a non-zero-sum game, because even in the worst situation, there’s some sort of payoff for both. Enter Donald Trump.

Trump is generally acknowledged to be a terrible negotiator. There’s two Game Theory reasons for this. First, he assumes that all negotiations are zero sum. If he doesn’t win all the marbles, then he has lost. Second, he assumes that all negotiations are single iterations.

As he explained to me, he’s not interested in ‘win-win’ deals, only in ‘I win’ outcomes. When I asked if he ever left anything on the table as a sign of goodwill so that he might do business with the same party in the future he said no, and pointed out that there are many people in the world he can work with, one at a time.

Unfortunately for Trump, there’s only a limited number of important countries in the world, and they’re important because they have political, economic, or military power of their own. They are also constrained by their own internal politics and their nationalism, just as the US is. The inhabitants of Greenland would never agree to the sale of their country to the US. The Iranians will never give up their peaceful nuclear program, and North Korea will never give up its missiles. What they might do is what North Korea is doing, offering concessions and vague promises of a positive outcome for Trump, and then not delivering.

The general result is that Trump, whose view of the world is that of a New Yorker of the 1960’s, whose morality is that of a shady real estate developer, and whose negotiating approach is that of a small-time hoodlum from Queens, will never succeed in any of these negotiations, and the rest of the world is finding out that the best way to game him is to defect.

Alaska trip

August 20, 2019

If the blog has been a little quiet, it’s because we’ve been off on a Holland America cruise to Alaska. The full story of our Second Trip to Alaska is over on the right-hand margin.

Yes, we are rural

August 18, 2019

Middle of the residential area of Cheney

A quiet Sunday evening

Green Thumb Up My Nose

August 18, 2019

Garden Report for 190819

We were gone all week, on our second cruise to Alaska (coming soon to a sidebar near you). That soaker hose I rigged across all the containers seemed to work OK.

The containers along the east side of the house continue to produce. The Early Girl House Bag generated 20 tomatoes, and the two EG Containers generated 18. Also got 10 Champion VFNT (900g). The hanging tomato survived the trip from deck to planter, but might not have survived the trip back. In any event, all of its tomatoes are still greenies.

There were lots of tomatoes from the garden as well.  Garden EG produced only 17 tomatoes, but with a total weight of 1.6kg. Rutgers gave up 10 (1280g), and Big Beef had a kilogramsworth of meat in 4 tomatoes (finally, a tomato worthy of the name — we cooked hamburger tonight just to celebrate), and one lonely Bush Beefsteak at 140g.

All in all, we got something over 80 tomatoes at something over 7kg — this week. Too bad the lettuce has petered out.

Lots of salad in our future

Squash stayed reasonably sane. Two summer squash, one Cocozelle Zucchini, and two Genovese Zucchini, one of which was a two pound monster. I suspect it hid behind a leaf when I did my pre-trip purge. In any event, it was given to a friend before I could photograph it.

 

Here’s the scoreboard.

Week
Ending
08/19
Vegetable

(bold = final)

Count Total

Weight
g

Unit

Weight
g

Grand

Total

Total
Weight
kg
  EG Garden 17 1580 93 26 2.51
EG Container (2) 18 1380 77 40 3.72
EG Bag 20 1180 59 39 2.25
EG Deck 30 1.77
Other tomato 25 3325 30 3.96
Summer Squash 2 490 245 11 2.29
Zucchini 3 2330 1870 19 5.8
Spaghetti
squash
Winter Squash
Cucumber
Kohlrabi 2 0.90
Grand Total 23.2

This puts us in the top three years for midsommer yields, and the others had things like pumpkins to plump them up.

Watching Maria

August 14, 2019

Encouraged by recent favorable commentary for Maria Watches Over Us, I decided to give it another look. I’d watched much of it a decade ago, but the memory had faded into amnesia, as so often happens in anime. So I took it up again, and boy was it different from how I remembered it. What hit me about halfway through the first episode was how alien the senior characters looked.

The sharp features, the sharp hair, the wide, wide, staring eyes, as if they’d evolved in the dark — in some views the members of the Yamayuri Council looked hardly human.

…we are the scouts for a race of people long hidden underground.

 

I realize that manga and anime drawing conventions were different in 2004 (and 1998!) but these women look like inhuman interlopers. That, combined with their stilted way of speaking, as if having to carefully parse each sentence to make sure it made sense to humans (perhaps coordinating the output of a hive mind), makes one think that Episode 1 of Maria could equally end up leading into an anime where everyone ends up dead, the school is on fire, and the JSDF is helpless.

Nontheless, I shall persevere, waiting to see what eldritch horrors await me, and writing down such of these journal entries as I can force myself to remember.

 

Green Thumb Up My Nose

August 12, 2019

Garden Report for 190812

The weather had the hots this week, with highs topping out at 97, with lots of haze and smoke from the WA wildfires.

The Early Girls in containers along the east side of the house continue to produce. Starting to get some non-EG tomatoes — five Champions from the House Bag.

Squash seems to be taking a breather; fine with me.

Only the top right corner are not Early Girls

We were to be away for the weekend, and the EG Deck Container cannot survive unless it’s watered at least once a day, so I harvested everything (including greenies), and I’ll let them ripen in the house. Total for that plant for the season was 25@1.8kg.

While I was at it, I decided that I’d try harvesting all the tomatoes with any color at all and bring them into the house as well. We’re in the high heat of summer, and they will ripen more slowly indoors. The goal is to have less of a crimson tide at the end of the month. That’s why the totals have jumped up so high.

 

Here’s the scoreboard.

Week
Ending
08/12
Vegetable

(bold = final)

Count Total

Weight
g

Unit

Weight
g

Grand

Total

Total
Weight
kg
  EG Garden 5 430 86 9 0.93
EG Container (2) 16 740 46 22 2.34
EG Bag 13 600 46 19 1.07
EG Deck 25 1500 60 30 1.77
Other tomato 5 640 120 5 0.64
Summer Squash 7 1.80
Zucchini 1 240 16 3.50
Spaghetti
squash
Winter Squash
Cucumber
Kohlrabi 2 0.90
Grand Total 12.5

We’re ahead of where we were last year (12.0kg) and 2017 (9.5kg), so this may end up being the best harvest since I started keeping records, in 2011.

Guns ‘R US

August 6, 2019

I don’t have much to say about our current spate of mass shootings. Others, many others, have said it better. Perhaps it would be best to point to some articles on the topic from the past.

First, Jason Kottke has pre-empted me by listing a handful of insightful articles on guns and gun control. Chief among them is an essay on how they do things in Japan, a country where they have fewer guns, and fewer gun deaths of all kinds than we do accidental gun deaths — or deaths from being struck by a train (pdf) while trespassing on RR property in Montana, for that matter. Meanwhile, a Scientific American article shows that, three percent of the gun owners own 50% of the guns, and they do it because they are afraid of the other.

As I said last week, fear sells, and one of the things it sells is power to politicians. Everyone now wants us to do something, but we can’t agree on what. Well, the Republicans don’t actually want to do anything that would upset their white supremacist base. That’s why they blame mental illness and video games.

The actual problem, of course, is complex, and common understanding is mostly wrong. You know what doesn’t cause it? Video games. Mental illness.

Perhaps a start would be do do as Jim Wright suggest a few years ago and make the public gun-handling policies of the NRA the law of the land.

So, this essay doesn’t present any useful insights. Instead, it presents links to what I think are useful insights. If you have read this essay and not clicked on any of the links, you’re doing it wrong.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

August 5, 2019

Garden Report for 190805

The weather continued warm, with highs mostly in the mid to upper 80s.

The Early Girls in containers along the east side of the house are just producing their little hearts out. Plus, we’re getting some Early Girl tomatoes that aren’t from the House Containers. Six so far from the House Bag. It’s about 50% bigger than the hard plastic containers, and so are the tomatoes. One was 100g and another was 140. Main garden actually produced some tomatoes this week — four Early Girls. Squash continues to squash.

Here’s the scoreboard.

Week
Ending
08/05
Vegetable Count Total

Weight
g

Unit

Weight
g

Grand

Total

Total
Weight
kg
  EG Garden 4 500 125 4 0.50
EG Container 24 1050 44 36 1.60
EG Bag 6 470 78 6 0.47
EG Deck 5 269 54 5 0.27
Other tomato
Summer Squash 2 400 200 7 1.80
Zucchini 6 1270 212 16 3.50
Spaghetti
squash
Winter Squash
Cucumber
Kohlrabi 2 0.90
Grand Total 9.0

You know that railing container of radishes I talked about earlier? Well, they’re actually lettuce. Boy is my face as red as a … as a red thing. But at least we’ll have lettuce until the next batch in the main garden shows up. Meanwhile, I have no idea where the radishes are.

Planted a railing container of spinach. All the garden spinach I’ve ever planted has been ravaged by leaf miners, so we’ll see.

Lettuce on the left, Spinach on the right.
I think.

Out front, the pepper-inna-tub has given us four banana peppers.

We’re well ahead of where we were this time last year (1.7kg), except that last year we were already getting big red tomatoes. Also ahead of 2017 (2.7kg). This doesn’t count the half-kilogram of greenies what have fallen off of various plants. They are off by themselves, quietly thinking about ripening.

Gorgonzola Curry Oatmeal

August 1, 2019

As I mentioned earlier, MJ recently bought a bunch of Gorgonzola-based steak butter patties. As I also mentioned, Gorgonzola is an intrusive cheese, that wants to dominate the flavor of whatever its associated with. If you are going to use it for breakfast, you need something that will stand up to it. Enter Japanese curry.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one cup beefy broth, one pat (roughly 30g) of Gorgonzola flavored butter, a 1 cm slice of Golden Curry roux, broken up, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes. No salt. Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats. Add the potatoes at the end. Add the Gorgonzola and the curry to the broth at the start and give them time to dissolve.

Results: Very good. Finally, the Gorgonzola flavor wasn’t overpowering, but was nicely offset by the curry. You still have to like Gorgonzola.

Rating: ***