November 9, 2017

Pinquitos are a small, pink bean grown only in the Santa Maria Valley of California. Sometimes you can find a can of S&W brand pinquitos in the supermarket, but usually you have to order them. Being a dried bean, they last a long time — we are still using up the many poundsworth that we brought back from our last trip to Santa Maria, maybe ten years ago. Under the best of conditions, they can be a tough bean, but we’ve found the best way to cook them:

  1. Do the usual wash thing (although ours have been remarkably clean)
  2. Put a cup of dried beans in the multi-cooker, cover with a couple inches of water, and pressure cook high for 30min. Let cool. No salt or other additives.
  3. Check to see that you still have a goodly depth of water, and then switch to slow-cooker-high, for another four hours.
  4. Meanwhile, cook up whatever additions you want — onions, garlic, meats, etc. Salt this to taste.
  5. When the four hours are up, decant through a strainer, mix with the mixers, BBQ up a tri-tip, and enjoy.
  6. Oh, yeah. SAVE THE WATER

We had about a cup and a half of beanwater left over. I decided the best way to extend it would be to mix it 50/50 with a box beef broth. That would give me three breakfasts to play with.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one cup of broth (50/50 bean and beef), 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. If it looks a little sloppy, add another teaspoon of potato flakes.

Results: Outstanding. Tastes like refried beans. Cheese helped. You can do this with regular canned beans, but I’d like to encourage everyone to try the pinquitos.

Rating: *****


You had one job…

November 7, 2017

One electoral year ago, Donald Trump won the Presidential election despite trailing in the popular vote, because he won 304 votes in the Electoral College. Some people have a problem with this.

There have been a number of calls over the years for the abolition of the Electoral College. Recent ones have been by Democrats, and of course were opposed by Republicans (who have managed to use the EC to elect two Republican Presidents — generally agreed to be the two worst Presidents in modern history — despite losing the popular vote). On the one hand, Democrats have argued that the EC is outmoded and that election results should depend on the will of the people. On the other hand, Republicans have argued that (although I can’t find any evidence of this) the EC was in the Constitution to protect the rights of the smaller states.

My argument is that the Electoral College should be abolished because it has proven incapable of doing its job.

Michelle Goldberg: I think we’re learning that the Constitution may, in fact, be a suicide pact. It’s a source of constant astonishment to me that the country has handed over the means to destroy civilization on this planet to an unhinged lunatic who lost the popular vote and was installed with the aid of a hostile foreign power. It’s such an epic institutional failure that it calls everything we thought we knew about this country’s stability into question


As the Mayor of Charlottesville, Virginia said (almost a year before the marches), the reason the Electoral College was created was to keep people like Trump from becoming President.

It’s all there in the Federalist Papers #68 (emphasis mine):

The process of election affords a moral certainty, that the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications. Talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity, may alone suffice to elevate a man to the first honors in a single State; but it will require other talents, and a different kind of merit, to establish him in the esteem and confidence of the whole Union.

The problem is, the Constitution was designed at a time when states were more or less insulated from each other by distance and communications limitations. It was hard for a person with talents for low intrigue, etc., to become popular nationwide. Now, from a communications standpoint, we’re all one country, all one village.

In addition:

Nothing was more to be desired than that every practicable obstacle should be opposed to cabal, intrigue, and corruption. These most deadly adversaries of republican government might naturally have been expected to make their approaches from more than one querter [sic], but chiefly from the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils.

The trouble is that, over the years, changes to the EC process at the state level have done away with the capability of electors to influence the election. Many states now require the elector to vote with the will of the majority of the population of that state, or face a fine. Indeed, electors who break this rule are called faithless.

This flies directly in the face of the original intent, and I’m surprised those laws haven’t been declared unconstitutional:

It was equally desirable, that the immediate election should be made by men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station, and acting under circumstances favorable to deliberation, and to a judicious combination of all the reasons and inducements which were proper to govern their choice. A small number of persons, selected by their fellow-citizens from the general mass, will be most likely to possess the information and discernment requisite to such complicated investigations.

The argument that electors should be restricted to voting for whoever got the most votes in their states is actually a strong argument for awarding the office based on the  national popular vote. And in any event, if all the electors are is a rubber stamp for a state’s Director of Elections, then they could be replaced with a rubber stamp. One you don’t have to use very often.


Nothing to see here, folks

November 6, 2017

So, that’s a wrap. It was Texan on Texan, domestic dispute, an armed society is a polite society. No bigger story than Texans being Texans, and characterized by a standard Texas phrase: Some guy just shot up the

Horrific? Yes. But you voted for this, Texas. You (and by you, I mean probably three quarters of the adults in that church*), voted for the laxest gun laws in the country, the poorest enforcement, and a medical system that makes it all but impossible for most of your people to get help for mental (or, indeed, any other medical) problems. Your votes, for politicians, laws, taxes, were one long march to Sutherland Springs.

You voted for a government that could say that their thoughts and prayers were with the victims, and by the way, the way to prevent future occurrences is more guns in church.

You have your reasons, and your principals, and you went into this with your eyes wide open, knowing it could happen because that’s the way you built it. If you build a road through your fence and you don’t install a cattle guard, your cattle will get out. If you build an uncontrolled intersection across a freeway, you have to expect traffic accidents. If you build an unregulated fertilizer plant in the middle of town, you have to expect that one day it might blow up and flatten the community. If you allow unregulated access to guns, you are going to get gun deaths.

This isn’t a Second Amendment issue. This is an issue of fact. The Constitution allows you to own guns, and Texas law and culture interprets that permission such that ownership is both widespread and uncontrolled.

You own this, Texas. You designed the system and you, even now, fiercely defend it in the face of known and demonstrated dangers, saying that your Texas way of doing things trumps dead kids and shattered churches and decimated communities.

It’s yours, Texas, so don’t bitch.

* 72% of the county voted Republican last election, and the other 23% were probably western edge spillovers from San Antonio.

Chrunchyroll gave me herpes – update

November 5, 2017

A update to the original.

Here, finally, is an official announcement. It’s on the Ellation website, not CR, and the only surface timestamp is 4 November. CR superuser asharka (not a sysadmin, just some guy) shows “datePublished”:2017-11-05T01:12:32.

The CR pointer to it doesn’t actually appear on the Forums home page, but it’s stickied to the top of the internal pages.

Crunchyroll gave me herpes

November 4, 2017

But I got over it.

Crunchyroll, the anime streaming service, just went through a DNS hijack attack, and I fell for it. If I’d been using Windows, likely I’d have been toast. Thanks, Linux.

So, late last night, the entire staff of this $100 million company with a million paid users, took the phone off the hook and went to bed.

After 9 hours solid, their German staff woke up to find that they had a problem

which they then passed along to the head office.

What was happening was that a DNS hijack was redirecting traffic to a server in Russia, which was downloading a malicious Windows .exe file. If you tried to sign in, you got a splash screen and an auto-download.

This is where I came in. I couldn’t get past that screen, but I figured it was just CR being CR, so I finally said screwt and let it download. I figured it would just save the .exe and I could go about my business. I told you I have Linux, not Windows, yes?

Well, I’d forgotten about how helpful Linux can be. No sooner had the DL started than WINE fired up to install it in its own separate sandbox. And about five seconds into that, WINE crashed. That’s not unusual, with weird software packages that don’t follow the standards. You know, the kind you’d get from outfits like CR, who took five tries to get their new Roku interface approved.

People have tried to install viruses under WINE before. What usually happens is the sandbox fills up and WINE aborts it. Here, it didn’t even get that far, which saved me a lot of trouble.

When I went back to the website, still clueless, I got their standard Site Down, we’re working on it screen

That went on for a couple of hours.

Meanwhile, I bitched about it on Twitter

and got informed

Meanwhile, smarter people than I (not at CR) were working on what went wrong.

And what was the much-vaunted team of shinobi doing to keep their million paying users informed? They were retweeting other people’s postings

and showing two hours of pre-canned ads on what you should be watching.

Finally, they were back up, and gave us a typically uninformative all clear.

Meanwhile, this incident unleashed a storm of complaints on the forums, plus some interesting technical discussions of how badly broken CR security is. Yes, the login is encrypted,

but once you are past that, everything is in plaintext.

..and there’s a horde of other problems.

Crunchyroll is notoriously bad about keeping users informed. The most you get is a sorry about that, we’re back, tweet. I guess when you are a $100 million oligopolist brand of a wholly owned subsidiary (Ellation, very interesting, worth reading) of a holding company (Otter Media) of a media conglomerate (AT&T/Chernin Group), you don’t have to worry about these things.

It’s enough to make one switch to Anime Strike.

And there’s an update.

About that election

November 3, 2017

This is just a quick post to remind folks that we are talking about a number of different issues WRT the 2016 election, and sometimes they are not easy to keep apart. I’ll have additional links later.

  1. Agents of influence, AKA Russian trolls poisoning the media discussion. Appears to be confirmed by reliable sources
  2. Direct Russian interference: Russian hackers breaking into the DNC computers and offering their take to the Trump campaign. Did they do it? Did they make the offer? The jury is out on the first one, and while some Trump campaign staffers are under investigation for lying about their contacts, there’s not yet solid proof that anything was offered or that the contacts themselves were illegal.
  3. Indirect Russian interference: Russian hackers breaking into DNC and other Democratic campaign sources and releasing edited versions to the press. Those press reports picked up by the GOP campaign. Apparently confirmed.
  4. Insider dump (or Russian covert operation) of DNC data to Wikileaks, which released it. US has characterized Assange as being in the pocket of the Russian Intelligence Services. I think it’s simpler. Obama and Clinton got the Swedes to trump up sexual assault charges against him so they could extradite him to the US and try him on espionage charges for the Chelsea Manning leaks. Assange declared war back, and did everything he could to damage Clinton. Getting Trump elected was a side benefit.
  5. Clinton taking over the DNC unfashionably early in the primary season, and milking them for all she could take. Note that this is qualitatively different from any of the above. It’s not normal (and if Trump had done it, what would they have said?), it’s probably not ethical, but it doe’s not appear to be illegal. I’ll have more to say on this in a later post. And a later update shows a second agreement that kills most of the non-ethical aspects.

What’s in a Name?

November 3, 2017

Some decades ago, when I was paying more attention to the industry, there was a minor bunfight in the writing community over the the terms SF vs SciFi.

SF is what writers do. SciFi is what SF writers sometimes call themselves.

Naming is important, because that’s the label a community displays to the outside world. It establishes what George Lakoff would call the frame, which defines the discussion. Because of this it is important not to accept an opponent’s label, because then you are arguing on their terms.

A good recent example is the label Alt-Left. It was originally a centrist descriptive about those on the far left. It then got hijacked by the Alt-Right apologists to provide a frame that allowed for a false parallelism (both sides do it) and demonisation (they’re coming right at us!), and then conflated with the term AntiFa, which is dedicated to direct action, and has a longer history of real organizations behind it, dating back to before WWII. This is a gift to the Alt-Right frame any opposition as violent anti-capitalists. We had an Alt-Right back in the 30’s. It was called the German-American Bund.

Here’s a suggestion. The Alt-Right is portrayed as “powerful, vicious, steeped in neo-Nazi ideology, nativist white supremacy…” That’s not wrong, but it’s incomplete. My reading of that definition is … Nazis. The Alt-Right are Nazis, are proud of the term, and only use the Alt-ernative because all civilized outlets would otherwise ban them. This is not a violation of Godwin’s Law, because that’s about an egregious insertion of the term into an otherwise unrelated discussion.

So, if the Alt-Right are Nazis, what about those who quite rightly oppose them? How should we frame them? What historically accurate name could we give them, that would not evoke false parallelism?

What about Americans? That would include my father and my uncle and all those members of The Greatest Generation who fought and died to prevent Nazis from taking over the world.

Americans. Good name.

TLDR — Anime I never finished, Fall 2017, part 3

November 2, 2017

Sometimes anime are not bad, they just don’t hold my interest. Somewhere around mid-season I wander off and don’t come back. Herewith a few of those:

Elegant Yokai Apartment Life: Not bad, but I thought it had a reasonable closure at the end of the first cour, and couldn’t think of a reason to continue. I kept it in my queue for a while and then gave up on it.

Kino’s Journey: I watched much of the first season, back when, and had the same opinion: the show has a little too high of an opinion of itself. It’s like one of those artsey foreign movies you watched back in college. Pretentious.

Blend-S: A one-trick pony, and that one not very interesting

Code:Realize: What did I tell you about anime with Code: in their names? Just couldn’t get interested in cute guys doing cute things with steampunk. Must be my finger-length.

And then there’s a couple of others that are not new this season but which I tried because various reviewers seemed to like them. Various reviewers are apparently not within three standard deviations of my demographic.

Yuki Yuna is a Hero: Girls in a middle-school Hero’s club become actual magical girl heroes and protect the Earth while passing all their tests. Importance of ともだちがい and がんばって and clap if you believe in かみさまs.

Tenchi Muyo: AKA 天地無用, which can be variously translated as No Need for Tenchi, or this side up, depending on context. Since most of the episodes are titled No need for xxx, that’s probably the preferred reading. Tenchi is a typical ultra-dense protagonist who manages to have a bevy of beautiful space aliens fall in love with him.

The Long Farewell: Just shoot me now

October 26, 2017

So, at age 73 I am facing problems I thought wouldn’t be an issue for another 10 years. Multiple Myeloma is relatively rare — 0.8% of all new cancer cases worldwide. Being rare, it is also expensive. How expensive? One of my meds is the thalidomide cousin Lenalidomide. The raw price for enough pills for a single 14-day dose cycle is $8,700.

The cost problem arises from the fact that, although the drug has a generic name, the manufacturer, Celgene, has a monopoly on its production (as Revlimid), and can charge what they want. As far as the last 20% of price hikes is concerned, Celgene said in a statement that pricing decisions reflect a therapy’s value. i.e. what the market will bear.

My treatment will involve at least six cycles, or $52,000. However, that’s before insurance coverage kicks in. The trouble is, it’s hard to figure out the insurance copay. Here’s my ongoing Revlimid saga

23 Oct:

Letter from WA Rx Svcs approving the drug. To be supplied by Walgreens Specialty Drugs

24 Oct:

  1. Call from Walgreens saying there was a $175 copay. I was surprised, because we have three layers of coverage: Uniform, Medicare, Tricare. Called them back. They said Medicare doesn’t cover it, and they don’t have a contract with Tricare. Suggested I call the manufacturer and ask for a co-pay card.
  2. Called Celgene patient support. They are out for a two day beach party. Got a patient support specialists name and left a voice mail. They swore blind they’d call back on the 25th.
  3. Checked the Tricare site. They say they cover Revlimid with a $24 co-pay. They also said they have a contract with Walgreens.
  4. Called Walgreens back. They are Walgreens Specialty Drugs, not Walgeens Retail Drugs. Revlimid would be available at a $24 co-pay if the retail stores had access to them, but retail doesn’t have access to Revlimid. This is starting to sound like a Monty Python skit.
  5. Called Rockwood Cancer Center. They are busy. Left a voicemail.
  6. Called Uniform. They said it has to be filled through Wallgreens
  7. Called Wallgreens. Paid. They’ll get it to me tomorrow.
  8. Called Rockwood. Canceled voicemail. Set up appointment for Thursday
  9. Off to local Rockwood for blood draw, because the system hasn’t got enough of it out of me yet.

25 Oct:

Revlimid shipment came today — a sign-for FedEx shipment that left the manufacturer in Portland, Oregon, yesterday, and travelled to Spokane via Nashville, TN. One $8,700 bottle with 14 pills and a biohazard sticker.

26 Oct:

No callback from Celgene yet, and further research indicates that “co-pay cards” are only for those without some form of government insurance. Which is totally understandable.

Went to the clinic and started my chemo, but that’s another story.


Drugs, particularly speciality drugs, are not treated like other medical expenses. For most stuff, my work insurance picks up most of it, and what they don’t get Medicare gets, and what they don’t get, Tricare covers. With drugs, everything is in these individual silos, and WA Uniform works with a different set of providers than Tricare does, and what you pay is based on your point of entry into the system.

So, our point of entry is Uniform Insurance, and they only deal with Walgreens, and they want a $175 co-pay. The issue isn’t the money, as such, after all, others have it much worse. The issue is, we didn’t find out about the actual cost and the actual provider until it was ordered, and I don’t see any easy way we could have found out.

The next question is, what will happen when I lose employer insurance after I retire next year? Am I going to have to spend days on the phone again? Does the fabled Tricare $24 co-pay really exist? There’s an outfit called Accredo, that evidently has a contract with Tricare, so that might work out. Unless, you know, it’s Accredo Retail.


What’s the plural of Singularity?

October 22, 2017

The Singularity is the point at which all the change in the last million years will be superseded by the change in the next five minutes — Kevin Kelly

One of the problems with discussing The Singularity, is that there are a number of definitions of the concept. It started with the idea of exponentially improving machine intelligence (AI), then added an associated technology growth, and ended with a biotechnology explosion and human-machine hybridization. So, which one are we to use? Or, can we use any of them? Is The Singularity real?

In a recent essay on the Singularity Web Log, the author raises an issue that challenges the very basis of The Singularity: the claim that technological growth is logistic, not exponential. The difference between the two equations is a limiting term. For example, take population (N) growth over time (t). Population grows at some rate (r).

Exponential:   dN/dt = rN

Logisitic: dN/dt = rN * (K-N)/K

where K is some physical limiting factor, in this case, carrying capacity (see the article for a nice graphic).

Unfortunately, at this point, the essay wanders off into mysticism — K doesn’t matter because that’s a physical, not a machine intelligence concept, the map is not the territory, the machine is not the brain, my imagination is better than your imagination.

So, what about this K thing? Is it really not a limiter on machine intelligence? Is AI really not grounded in the physical world? Stated like that, the obvious answer is, of course it is. And to the extent that it is, it is limited by some definition of K. For the purposes of our discussion, K can be considered an outgrowth of the difference between electrons and molecules, to use Nicholas Negroponte’s phrase. Molecules are heavy, take up space, and are expensive to move. Electrons are essentially free, and can be moved anywhere almost instantly, and almost for free. Shifting publishing from paper books to e-books (still a work in progress) totally changed the dynamics of the industry. This electron/molecule dichotomy is what drives our discussion of K.

Take the most basic definition of The Singularity: that soon we will have the ability to build an AI that is better at designing AI’s than we are. At that messianic point the growth in AI capabilities will become exponential and we cannot foresee the ending. The trouble is, there’s a difference between the concept of a really strong AI and the implementation of the concept. An AI is implemented as computer code running on computer chips. Can this super AI¹ design AI², the next generation of chips and software exponentially faster than humans can? Of course it can, that’s the basis of The Singularity. Can we then retool a $5billion wafer fab to produce those chips for AI² exponentially faster? Can we manufacture the motherboards that will accept those chips? Build arrays of servers and ship them and install them at server farms around the world before AI³ comes down the pike? Perhaps AI¹ can show us how to do it faster, but exponentially faster? For The Information Singularity, K is the interface between the conceptual world and the real world.

When we take the next step, from The Information Singularity to The Technology Singularity, we run into the same K. AI² might be able to design better batteries and lighter cars, but actually building them takes time. And retooling takes time, and those times are not likely to be reduced nearly as fast as the designs are improved.

And finally, the biotechnology, human hybrids, new human race singularities are likely to be the slowest of all. Yes, we will be able to modify DNA to give us healthier bodies, computer-friendly brains, and two additional primary colors, but biology will not be rushed. As the old programmer joke about bringing in more staff on tardy projects goes, it’s like putting nine women on the job so you can produce a baby in one month.

So, it looks like the heart of K as a limiting factor on The Singularity, is time. The Information Singularity will cause computations, or rather, computation-driven decisions, to be made in exponentially less time. But the real-world instantiation of those decisions will still take place in Real World time. What makes this a true constraint on The Singularity is that time is a fundamental concept. The very heart of The Singularity concept is exponential time. If the application of information to molecules has to take place in Real Time, then, like the speed of light, our approach to The Singularity will become slower the closer we approach it.

Now, there is one bright spot here. In the equations above, N was population. In our calculations N would be rate of change of information processing/technology adoption, etc. So dN/dt measures the change in the rate of change over time (and should probably be dT/dt/dt, where T is technology).

The essay I’m quoting from takes a doom and gloom message from an exponential rate of change vs logistic equation rate, because the: “overarching and obvious scenarios are: dramatic change, or relative stasis.” No, they are not.

If the Logistic Theory is correct, the rate of technology change, technology adoption, will at some point level out. For tens of thousands of years, humankin faced essentially zero rate of change. The next thousand years was just like the last. Then things started changing. New technology appeared at such a rate that the next century was clearly better than the last. Then the next decade. Now, we are at a point where, if you wait two years, cutting edge technology will be wildly different. And if we’ve just rolled off the exponential part of the Logistic Curve and onto the flat, that’s the way things will stay — every two years we’ll see major changes in our world.

A fast, steady increase in technology may not be as exciting as a never-ending exponential, but at least you’ll be able to say that some part of your four-year college education is still valid when you graduate.

Memories of my youth: bugs

October 22, 2017

When I was a lad, and Eisenhower was President, we lived in Northern Virginia, Quantico, to be exact. Since we didn’t have cable, there was nothing to do of a Sunday afternoon but pile in the non-airconditioned family car (a Kaiser, as I recall), and take a Sunday drive through the countryside. When we got back, the windshield would always be covered with bug spatters, big and small and many.

Some decades later I was stationed in DC, and lived just north of Quantico, maybe ten miles from my former home. No-one had time for a Sunday drive in our modern times, but we’d sometimes find ourselves driving through that same Virginia countryside on our way somewhere. When we got home, our windshield would be … pretty clean. I won’t say that the occasional entomol didn’t come to a sticky end on our glass, but that was a relatively rare occurrence.

Now I find that we are not alone, but are more alone, or something. A study in Germany found the same thing, only over a much shorter time span. Something is causing a drastic drop in flying insects, and there are just not enough windshields out there to account for all of it.

TLDR: Anime I never started

October 14, 2017

Sometimes you don’t have to watch even the first episode. Sometimes you happened on the first volume of the manga. Here’s two.

Inuyashiki: From the creator of Gantz. Actually, that tells you all you need to know. Old guy and young punk are reincarnated as robots. Old guy becomes superhero. Young punk becomes supervillain. Much bloodshed and dismemberment, most of it gratuitous. I dropped the manga after the first volume.

King’s Game: Normally a slightly racy kids game. Whoever is ‘king’ gets to tell the others what to do (“kiss the person to your right”). In this one, everybody is out to kill everybody else, because some ‘king’ made that decision. I don’t even…

This is why one reads manga.



The Long Farewell: I Aten’t Ded*

October 12, 2017

When last we saw Our Hero, he’d contracted a case of the myelomas, and was worried about his future. We pick up our story early on Respect for the Aged Day.

Right before school started I was subjected to some more tests: a full body MRI and a Bence-Jones protein test. The MRI went about as expected. They put me in a pair of too-small/too thin hospital pants, tied my feet together like I was headed for a medieval burial, strapped me into a cold, narrow tube (like I was headed for a medieval burial), and spent half an hour pulsating my body with x-rays and magnets. If I didn’t have cancer before, etc…

The Bence-Jones test was easier. All I had to do was pee in a bottle. For 24 hours. I handed in the almost-full jug, and the tech remarked that some people had turned in two of those. My response was that some people had the oddest hobbies.

Due to scheduling issues (my trip, the MRI, his trip), I couldn’t meet with my oncodoc until this week. The news was mixed

  1. Bence Jones showed low levels of proteins (but not zero)
  2. X-rays showed three small spots on the mid-spine**
  3. Bone marrow showed trisomys on chromosomes 9, 11, and 15

By a strict definition, I have moved from smouldering myeloma to officially having (possibly indolent) multiple myeloma, with the trisomys pointing to a possibly more aggressive version.*** My oncodoc thinks I’m a borderline case (I would still be smoldering if it wasn’t for those damn spots), and seriously considered continuing a watchful waiting stance. His conservative nature overcame that, however, and I start a standard MM chemo regime as soon as the insurance paperwork clears. The paperwork is important, because the drugs (Revlimid, Velcade, and dexamethasone, AKA rev/vel/dex) can run in excess of $100K/year. Fortunately, it looks like insurance will cover most of that.

The fun drug is Revlimid (AKA lenalidomide). It’s an improved form of thalidomide, which means I can’t be within ten feet of a pregnant woman (fifteen feet if she’s downwind), or three feet of a woman who might become pregnant.

So now I am set for a six month regime of one pill a day, ten pills once a week, and one shot a week. Side effects include constipation and diarrhea, fatigue and insomnia, dry, sweaty skin, and mood swings that have nothing to do with the fact that I’m playing a game with Death and he’s already bought Park Place, Boardwalk, and all the railroads.****

What does all this mean for my chances of seeing the return of Halley’s comet? Based on a 2012 (i.e. 5 years old) study the median survival time with my cocktail of “novel drugs” is ~7 years, roughly. So, 7 years! Yay! Not so fast Gosset. Median says half survive longer, but half don’t make it that long. It’s like my stats students. They get mad when I tell them that half the class is below average. On the bright side, my oncodoc seems to think that I’ve got a good chance of beating the seven year mark, since my priors look reasonably good.

On the not-so-bright side, I still have a theoretical ~10% chance of not making it to Christmas of 2018.


*Title is a Terry Pratchett quote.

**The only part of my back that doesn’t actually hurt

***On the other hand, there’s at least one journal article that says trisomys might indicate longer survival chances under certain conditions. I shall have to ask.

****Actually, it’s hyperactiveness, that wears off after a couple of days. So on the one hand I can take it before the weekend and will calm down before my next class. On the other hand, it might cause people to say “Well, he’s finally getting some work done.”


Sweet PotatOats

October 12, 2017

Back to commercially prepared sweet potatoes. MJ had a bag of Alexia Waffle Cut Seasoned Sweet Potato Fries in the freezer. Heated in the oven as per instructions, they taste like a failed attempt at BBQ flavor chips. I wonder how they’ll do in oatmeal?

I thawed out three or four of them, and chopped them up. The waffle cut helped. Heated them an extra 5 minutes in the clove-heavy broth (since I didn’t oven bake them), then added the oatmeal.

Setup: 1/2 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one cup of broth, about a 1/4 cup of chopped sweet potato fries, salt. Cook the potatoes for 5 min, add the oats and cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats.

Results: Started out as meh, but improved as I ate them. For some reason the oats were a little underdone and needed some time in the hot cup to finally cook. Flavor was most unlike the original fries, but still a little peppery. Might try actually baking them first. Surprisingly, they didn’t mush up like the previous batch did, and ended up looking like chopped carrots.

Rating: *****

Mahōtsukai no Yome: The tragedy of the librarian

October 11, 2017

The Ancient Magus’ Bride: Those Awaiting a Star, the story of Hatori Chise, and how she came to be how she is, has another story embedded in it: the story of Miura Riichi and the promise he couldn’t keep.

The OVA mainly looks at Miura as the Librarian of the Forest, who protects Chise in Episode 1, and lends her books in Episode 2. In Episode 3, tragedy strikes.

It turns out that Miura isn’t a person at all. He’s a ghost, a spirit (although he doesn’t know this), who died perhaps 70 years ago.

At that time, he was a student, studying in the home of a rich family with a beautiful daughter, Mayumi. She is to be part of an arranged marriage, and gives Miura a book (春惜しむ, Haru Oshimu, roughly To Lament The End Of Spring), saying she wants him to return it to her, and that by the way she really likes reading the last page of a book.

The next thing we see is him running through the woods, at night, with the book. He is evidently desperate to return it. Unfortunately, he trips in the dark, and falls down a steep embankment, impaling himself on a branch at the bottom, and don’t you just hate it when that happens?

We go from a dark and stormy night to Miura standing outside the Library, book in hand, shirt clean, with no sign of impalement. An indeterminate amount of time later (“I have no idea how long I’ve been here”), we have the events of episodes 1 and 2. Miura is killed by the dark fey, and the library is destroyed. But before he dies, he gives Chise the book and asks her to return it to Mayumi.

Chise finds Mayumi, now an old woman, Niikura Mayumi , waiting to die in hospital. She returns the book, and Miura has kept his promise. However, that’s not the tragedy.

The last page of the book had a hand-written note: Wait for me on the final platform. What are we to make of this? My interpretation is that she was in love with Miura, didn’t want the arranged marriage, and was planning on eloping with him. I admit that’s a lot of meaning to infer from a short statement. It would be useful if she had given him a little more information, like Pack a lunch.

So, the tragedy we don’t see is young Mayumi, waiting at the train station, wondering what happened to Riichi, until her parents arrive to drag her off to a loveless marriage. Despite that, she seems to have made the best of it, with a married daughter, and several grandchildren. One wonders what would have happened if he’d thought to take a cab to the train station. But that would make it a whole other story.

How to find my blog

October 9, 2017

Evidently, the query pholich sex video amrican works pretty well. Since I don’t do sex videos, it must be the pholich, or maybe the amrican. I’ll have to include more of those.

Memories of my youth: The Yom Kippur War 2

October 8, 2017

The war started in early October, 1973. The US made the decision to support Israel with arms shipments, and because of the pace of the war, those shipments had to be airlifted.

Initially, the Military Airlift Command coordinated the movement of US weapons and munitions to east coast airfields, where El Al cargo aircraft would carry them to Israel. That system was soon overwhelmed, and the US decided to fly support directly to Israel, via an intermediate stop in the Azores.

By mid-October there was a constant stream of C-5 and C-141 transports flying across the Atlantic and all the length of the Mediterranean. Of course, the Russians were still running their support flights to Egypt. That meant for a portion of the flight we were sharing the same airspace and ATC frequencies.

An interesting feature of the Russian interaction with the ATC system was that one aircraft, probably the only one with a decent English speaker, would transmit flight data for a number of aircraft flying behind them, all using Aeroflot call signs.

MAC aircrews, being the innovative people that they are, would copy these transmissions and pass them back to the MAC Command Post, giving us useful information on the level of Russian activity.

At one point, a Russian pilot read off a string of position reports faster than the MAC crew could copy them down. When he finished, the young Captain co-pilot mashed the transmit button and said “Aeroflot 1234, could you repeat that list, please.” The Russian, who had no idea he wasn’t speaking to ATC, did so.

Everyone had a smile on their face that day.


Memories of my youth: The Yom Kippur War 1

October 7, 2017

It was early October, 1973. I was newly assigned to the Military Airlift Command’s Indications and Warning Center at Scott AFB, Illinois. I was fresh from a four year tour in Europe and had just finished checking out in the duties associated with the Center. Basically I&W is the discipline associated with looking at various indicators that a country might be going to war, and warning the decision makers about it.

It was about three days before the start of the war. That would make it the 2d or 3rd of October. I was sharing the night watch with a more experienced analyst. We were shuffling through the reams of messages that every center gets — 99.9% about normal day to day activities. There was one report that a Soviet transport was headed south over the Mediterranean, towards Egypt. That was nothing new. Egypt was a Soviet client state at the time, and transports were always overflying Yugoslavia, down the Adriatic, and turning left somewhere south of Greece. They were coordinating with the European Air Traffic Control system, just like all aircraft, military or civilian, and anyone could watch them transiting the various air traffic control zones.

Fifteen minutes later there was another report. That’s OK, they just crossed into a new zone.

Fifteen minutes later there was another report. That’s interesting. All three reports were for different aircraft. Fifteen minutes later, there was another one.

Before too long, there was a parade of Soviet An-12 transports, fifteen minutes apart, all the way from Yugoslavia to Egypt. This was definitely news. You don’t commit that level of airlift unless there’s something big going on. It is, as they say, an indicator, but of what?

We had seen a lot of activity in Egypt. They’d been making deployments along the Suez canal, but they did that a lot. They’d call up reserves, run an exercise next to the canal, and send everybody home. We hadn’t seen a lot of activity in the USSR or Eastern Europe, nothing that would support the idea of hostilities there (besides, you don’t start a war in Europe by airlifting stuff to Egypt). Since the Russians were close military advisors to the Egyptians, they’d likely be the first to know if Cairo was planning a major action. Were the Russians providing emergency military aid to the Egyptian army, or were they pulling their own people out? At this stage, there was no way to know.

We packaged up everything we knew, and asked the Operations Officer to wake up the Vice Commander of MAC, a three star general. We briefed him in his living room, with him in his bathrobe and pajamas. He needed to know, because if a Middle East war broke out again, MAC would be on the hook for delivering American aid to Israel. This was our official warning to the decision maker. He was not only warned, but he knew he had been warned.

Then we went back and prepared the morning briefing. The next day, CIA came out with an estimate that said the activity along the canal was exercises or nuisance probes. We got yelled at, but stuck to our guns. Forty-eight hours later, the war started.

Because of our warning, MAC had a three day jump in preparing for the command to start an airlift to Israel.


TLDR — Anime I never finished, Fall 2017, part 2

October 6, 2017

Three up/three down – the off-puttingness continues. This started off being a potentially busy season, with twelve anime that I was considering watching. Fortunately, seven of them blew up on the pad. So far.

The first two in this listing could easily be swapped and few would notice the difference.

1. Dies Irae: Godlike beings fight grotesque monsters for obscure reasons during the latter days of the Third Reich. Too much shouting, fighting, and dismemberment for me. Later episodes will, I think, shift to modern day Tokyo. It won’t help.

Everybody wants to be Wolverine

2. Garo – Vanishing Line: Grotesque hero fights even uglier monsters, assisted by his talking motorcycle. Too much shouting, fighting, and dismemberment for me. This is not a Kino spinoff.

I guess they forgot that modern cameras have a ‘red eye’ setting

3. Taisho Mebiusline Chicchaisan: The title is longer than the episode. Country boy and his sword come to Tokyo to study and get away from the grotesque spirits of the dead that only he can see. On his first day there, he gets turned into a chibi figure. Nobody notices. First episode was about three and a half minutes longer than it needed to be.

They just happened to have a yukata his size


TLDR — Anime I never finished, Fall 2017, part 1

October 4, 2017

There are some anime that are so off-putting that there’s no reason to invoke the three episode rule. Here’s three four that fell at the first fence.

1. Sengoku Night Blood: Young woman is whisked into an isekai by a wonky smartphone app. Said world turns out to be filled with bishies who are historical figures who are vampires. We good? She may or may not be rescued by a talking tanuki who isn’t Shimogamo Yasaburō.

2. Black Clover: Remember how Tanya the Evil was raised in an orphanage and used her magical abilities to claw her way to the top? Why don’t we have twins, raised in an orphanage. One is calm and competent and is gifted with the way to the top. The other, the protagonist, is an incompetent, unmagical, spiky-haired loudmouth who plans to shout his way to the top. With a first episode like this, everyone who watched it thinking it was the second season of Honey and Clover is sure to be captivated!

3. Juni Taisen: A collection of twelve psychopaths, representing twelve different families of psychopaths, representing twelve psychopathic interpretations of the twelve signs of the Chinese Zodiac, takes part in a psychopathic death match anime. It’s like Fate/Stay Night with worse costuming and no cute girls.

4. Urahara: Three girls in a dress shop fight to keep UFO’s from stealing Japanese culture. Squeaky voices. Kids book style backgrounds. Best part was Rito-chan coming to work on a skateboard. Then a Japanese expat from America, who appears out of a giant nursing bottle, turns them into magical girls, who can fight for justice and the nihongo way.

Did I mention there was a talking tempura shrimp?


Green Thumb Up My Nose

October 1, 2017

Garden Report for 171002

Warm for most of the week (mid-upper 70’s), with a cold front blowing through on Saturday. Now the forecast is for highs in the low 60’s and lows in the high 30’s. Of course that doesn’t matter, because this is the week I closed out the garden.

A few years ago we bought some wire shelves at a going-out-of business sale. We didn’t need them as shelving, but they made excellent anti-squirrel mats. I could plant seeds and keep them protected until they were big enough for a cloche. This year I tried using to protect some newly planted carrots. Of course, with this year’s lack of weeding and general neglect, a lot of other stuff grew up around them, but they seemed happy with their cover. On Wednesday, I thought I’d lift the shelving and let them grow a bit more. Surprise! They came up with the wiring! Part of the reason was they are a stubby variety, and didn’t have much of a hold on the dirt. (Click pix to embiggen)

I’ve invented a mechanical harvester


Vegetable Count Weight
Total Total
*includes 2.4kg of smalls tomato  55  4000  73 198 21.3*
cabbage 5 0.72
cucumber 9 1.9
 4 1400  350 14 4.2
zucchini 4 2.5
1 550  550 3 2.9
carrots 10 250 25 10 0.25
Final Grand Total 33.8

This time last year we had a grand total of 23kg. In 2015 it was 45kg, and in 2014 it was 47kg, and in 2013 the total was 38kg. So not the worst year, but not nearly the best, either.

I can remember when we had six boxen like this

Note that one of the summer squash (in with the tomatoes) is long and curved. One of my squash plants produced only this kind of fruit. It’s like a Tromboncino, except that wasn’t what it said on the tin.

I now have to start thinking about next year.

My third trip to Japan: Lessons Learned and Recommendations

October 1, 2017

Not much that is new this trip. Mostly a reaffirmation of what the previous two trips had taught me.

  1. Japan Rail Pass is your friend. As I write this, it’s $250 for a 7-day pass, or $35 per day. Given that a two-hour trip across the width of the country is about $100, you can see that it’s a bargain. You have to order it while in the US, and they FedEx an authorization you can use to get the pass at your first major JR station.
  2. You don’t have to activate your JR Pass when when you pick it up. I spent the first part of the trip upcountry, where the pass was invaluable in getting around. It ran out on the last two days, but by then I was in Tokyo, and could use the PASMO. PASMO or Suica don’t save you any money, but sure save hassle. On the other hand, if I was going to spend the first part of the trip in Tokyo, and leave from Kansai or somewhere, then I’d hold off on activating the pass
  3. In Tokyo, use a PASMO, or Suica card to get around. They are cash cards — you put cash on them at any kombini, and then just flash the card to ride the metro or buy lunch. This keeps you from having to fumble with the JR ticket machines or ending up with pockets full of change.
  4. Bring money. As in, cash. All my hotel charges were paid for through online booking, and my major purchases in Tokyo were on the credit card, but almost everything else was at places where it was easier to pay cash (or put cash on your PASMO card). I left home with $1000 in yen and a PASMO with $18 on it, and came home with $30 in yen and $14 on the PASMO.
  5. Get a pocket wifi hotspot. The same company that does the JR Pass will rent you a hotspot for for less than $10 a day. Turn it on, stick it in a pocket of your cargo pants, and hook up your tablet. You have on-line map and translation service all day, if you pay attention to your batteries. Send it back before you go through outbound security at the airport, because there are no mailboxes past them.
  6. Smaller hotels are nice. And they’re cheap. All my hotel rooms were smaller than cruise ship staterooms. There was room for the bed and the desk and the TV, but you couldn’t do your radio taiso exercises in them. This is fine, assuming you don’t plan to spend a lot of time in the room, and since you are in Japan, why would you?
  7. In Tokyo, you don’t have to stay in the center of town, but you should stay next to a train station. Off-rush hour prices were only about $3 per trip to get three stops away from Tokyo Station, and it did wonders for hotel pricing. Of course, in the provinces, the train station is the center of town.
  8. Early September is still too hot to walk around most of Japan. Say, anything south of Sendai. And the humidity numbers match the temperature. My next trip I’m going to shoot for early October.
  9. My experience is that ramen restaurants are usually the take-a-ticket kind, that what we would call family style restaurants expect you to pay the cashier, and that real, formal, sit-down restaurants expect you to call for the check.
  10. Here’s a link to portable trash bags

My third trip to Japan: Day 09 and final

September 30, 2017

On the last day, I had half a day available for fun before I had to head for the airport. Well, Tokyo Tower is within walking distance of the hotel, so let’s start there. But first, breakfast! (Click pix to embiggen)

Time for a typical Japanese breakfast

And now off to the tower! We go through a gate.

and then past a hotel swimming pool

and walk up a very steep hill, to the tower

I forgot to take a pic from outside, so here’s one from the web

Tokyo tower is 100m taller than the Space Needle, but has been dwarfed by the Sky Tree, which is almost three times as high. The view is pretty nice, though.

I think my hotel is between the blue sign and the yellow sign


Taxi home (that hill was steep), quick nap, and then grab the monorail to Haneda. I no longer had a Japan Rail Pass, but the PASMO card works pretty much everywhere in Tokyo.

For trains that were introduced in 20014, the monorail was certainly shaky and rattly.

Haneda was quite nice, and the security processing was fast and efficient and friendly, not like some countries usa that I could mention. My main complaint was that the sliding walkways were not working.

People are on the slideway, but they are walking

And so, the trip comes to an end. I board a moderately comfortable jet (not as good as a shinkansen, but it’s American, so one must make allowances), and head off across the ocean.

On our way

Do I have any regrets? Anything I wanted to do but forgot? Yes, in fact there’s one:

Twenty minutes from my hotel

I think I could have seen this from the Hamatsuchu Trade Center building, except for the fact that the building you see — the “Diver City” building, isn’t that cute? — is in the way.

What’s with these anime endings?

September 29, 2017

The season just ended will go down in history as the Endless Summer. As in, the summer with no proper endings.

I admit I haven’t watched every anime in the Summer of 2017 — there were roughly 25 new series, of which I watched about seven all the way through, so something less than 30%. Of those seven, five (20% of the total) ended without resolving a major plot component. Admittedly, most were slice of life shows, with few dramatic arcs, but even in 2013’s Non Non Byori, the end of the first year of school marked the end of the first season. Most of these were just, unsatisfactory.

Show Ending


Episode 11 left us hanging, with no idea how the romantic triangle would resolve. Then Ep 12 was a fanservice onsen romp.

A Centaur’s Life

This is a slice of life show, but there are several threads left hanging as the last episode was devoted to dungeon game fanservice and arm wrestling

Tsuredure Children

Not exactly a slice of life, it followed the romantic travails of almost a dozen different couples, and managed to end in the air, with a couple of couples romantic issues unresolved

Aho Girl

The last episode of this slice of life show could have been stuck in anyplace after Episode 1 and no-one would notice. And in case you hadn’t figured it out, Aho means idiot.

Restaurant to Another World

Slice of life cooking show that ends with a heretofore unexpected link between the restaurant and the other world. One which doesn’t change anything.

In Another World
with my Smartphone

Finally, something approaching an ending. Our Hero gets the girl. In fact, he gets all the girls. Everyone in the harem agrees to share him. No word about the sex-starved android.

Magical Circle Guru Guru

The only other one with a proper ending is the one based on an 8-bit game. Our Heroes win through in the end, the kingdom is restored, and the Mage is off on another adventure with her Hero.

My third trip to Japan: Day 08

September 29, 2017

This is my day in Tokyo, so of course, it’s predicted to rain, and nothing opens until 10:00.

But the Ueno Museum opens at 9:00, so I’ll go there. It’s just a couple of stops past Tokyo Station and Akihabara, so I can work my way back from there.

On the way, I see this kid on the subway. Student, headed for school, so he’s at least six years old. On the other hand, the backpack is almost bigger than he is, so he can’t be much more than six. (click pix to embiggen)

Free Range Kid

He’s unaccompanied, riding the busiest metro line in the world. Got off at Tokyo Station, the busiest and most complex train station in the country, possibly the world. American helicopter parents would have a fit if this happened in the U.S.

Got to Ueno, only to find that the museum, like everything else, opens at 10:00. No matter, I’ll just stroll around.

The museum has some nice statuary. I can’t get to the front side, so this is the best shot I can get.

I’m sure the front is more modest

Statues of dead royalty. This one was famous for subduing the various samurai rebellions at the start of the Meiji Restoration.

Prince Komatsu Akihito

Yet another shrine to the leader who united all of Japan

Tokugawa Ieyasu Shrine

And some nice Buddhist temples.

Kaneiji Pagoda

Finally, it’s time for Akihabara!

Pilgrimage site for all otaku

Even though I was early, there were still long lines outside of the stores.

I’ve been here since 8AM, how about you?

In addition to all the anime merch, they also have activities, like a Cat Cafe.

Cat Cafe (above Carl’s)

It’s hard to see, with all the window glare, but there are climbing posts and so forth. I didn’t go in.

Went back through Tokyo Station. Opened during WWI, bombed during WWII, restored in 2013.

In the old style

Had lunch at an otherwise unremarkable Raman stand.

Nice lunch, helpful customer

The lady in the background, just a customer, felt that I was not getting served fast enough so she got up and came over and poured me some water and then the waitress came running. The waitress might have been confused because I did not notice that it was the kind of restaurant where are you pick your food off of a vending machine Style panel at the front and bring the ticket in.

Take a ticket here.

I should have known better, since I ran into the same thing in Kobe, three years ago.

Got back to Hamamatsuchu late on a misty afternoon. Amazing how Tokyo can go from hot and sticky to cool and clammy overnight.

Napped, and watched baseball (only now, on my last night, did I realize they had a baseball channel on the hotel TV), and went out for a late dinner.

Amazing how many Asian restaurants there are in Japan. This is the third one I walked into this trip, thinking it was a traditional Japanese restaurant, only to find it was a traditional Chinese restaurant.

Dragon out front should’a told ya

It had traditional Chinese cabbage wrapped ground beef. Traditional Chinese sliced asparagus with shrimp.

And traditional Chinese smokers at most of the other tables.

Walking back through Hamamatsuchu District of Tokyo between 8:30 and 9:00 of a formerly rainy weekday night was an interesting experience. The restaurants and bars were starting to disgorge their groups of workers who had gone out for a night of solidarity drinking (nominikeshon). The gender proportions seem to be about three or four men to each woman, all the men dressed in their standard white shirt and dark tie, the women in their semi-standard office lady attire. Now and then looking through the blinds one could see some poor slob still sitting at his computer pounding away trying to get his work done in time to come back tomorrow and start all over again.

Once it got late my impression was that most of the vehicles on the street where taxi cabs. A quick check at a stoplight showed about 2/3 taxicabs and 1/3 something that look like private vehicles but there were a couple of possible company vans there.

Tomorrow is my last day. I’ll do something fun in the morning, then head out for Haneda in the afternoon.

Oatmeal Stroganoff

September 28, 2017

This is in the tradition of Rachel Ray’s famous deconstruction cooking. Beef Stroganoff is essentially braised beef with added sour cream and other tasteyizers, like onions, and mushrooms, and dill. I had some pretty good beef broth — good broth is expensive, when you consider the recommendation is 1lb of meat for 1qt of water — so I thought I’d try it.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one cup of broth, two heavy shakes of dried dill, two heavy shakes of onion salt, a couple of leftover mushrooms (chopped),one tablespoon of sour cream, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, salt. Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats. Add the potatoes and sour cream at the end.

Results: Pretty good. Reminds one of stroganoff made with hamburger. Needs to be a good strong beef broth.

Rating: *****

My third trip to Japan: Day 07

September 24, 2017

Woke up early (6AM). It was raining so I bought an umbrella at the front desk. That makes three umbrellas I have bought in Japan — one per trip. Then I walked over to the train station and found it wasn’t raining all that bad.

A nice trip through the heart of Japan

Caught the train from Hamamatsuchu to Tokyo. I was an hour and a half early but I wasn’t sure what the crowds would be like at that hour. Ate breakfast in a little pho restaurant in the station. Big bowl of broth with lots of bean sprouts and some cilantro and a couple of fish balls. Then I went up onto platform and hung around and watched the shinkansens take off and land.

Always busy

There are multiple kinds and some of them look like they’re going 100 miles an hour just sitting on the ground. I was particularly impressed by a two-story shinkansen which is called the Max.

Big Max

My train was an older one with narrow seats and less legroom. Do you hear that, American airline companies? It’s the older trains that have narrow seats. The new ones have big wide seeds with lots of legroom. Despite that, it was a pleasant couple of hours. The weather along the route was sort of typical Portland spring: misty rain — never too much, you could get around in a hat without needing an umbrella.

Got to Niigata and couldn’t decide what I wanted to see. On top of that, I couldn’t find some of the things that I thought I had found on the map. So gave up and went to their famous Bandai Bridge.

Had the cab driver drop me off so I could walk across the bridge. I looked around and decided that the wise move would be to eat lunch in a nearby hotel (on the left in the picture). That guaranteed I’d be able to get a cab afterwards.

The hotel had a snack bar. The snack bar people said they had a Japanese restaurant upstairs so I went upstairs and into the restaurant. It turned out to be Chinese. I finally found the Japanese restaurant stuck in between the Chinese restaurant and the maid Cafe. Maybe it was a bar, not a cafe, but it had maids.

Lunch was a fairly nice tempura platter featuring a couple of everything — vegetables, peppers, fish, roots, sweet potato, potato potato, and so forth.

Taxi back to the rail station, and looking at my ticket I found that I was actually schedule on a Max heading back from Niigata to Tokyo but that I was on the first floor. One of my fellow passengers on the outbound train had said that the Max is nice if you are on the second floor but on the first floor you can’t see anything. So I talked to the Japan Rail people and it took them only two minutes to switch me to a second-floor window seat and it was nice viewing all the way.

Soon we were headed out through the Niigata suburbs

And the local rice fields

They go through some really long tunnels to get to and from the coastal mountain range but other than that it was wide flat rice fields. It reminds me of East Anglia except that they were growing rice instead of sugar beets. Got back to the hotel before 5PM.

That’s a 334km trip in two hours, including 8 stops, so 167km/hr, or 103 miles per hour — thank you, Japan Rail. One way fare, with reserved seat, ¥10,370, or just under a hundred dollars, but for me the amortized cost was just over $30 — thank you, Japan Rail Pass.

At 7PM it was still raining, and I decided to just nip next door to the local pizzeria and have another Japanese Pizza. It may be closer to the actual Original Italian Pizza before Americans decided to pile everything including the kitchen sink on top of it.

Their baseline was a thin pizza crust, not quite as crisp as we would have it, but with a pretty good rim on it with a thin layer of tomato sauce and a very small amount of cheese and then to that depending on the kind of pizza that you wanted they would add perhaps a teaspoon of garlic chunks spread around, or a teaspoon of basil leaves and so forth. And so a 9 inch pizza, which was their small pizza, was really more like heavy hors d’oeuvres than a real pizza. Which is why I ate two with no problem. They were about $8 each and $8 each for the glass of wine (Spanish wines direct from Spainland with the languages in Spanish so I can’t give you any details). I won’t say I impressed  them with my eating ability but I will say that the chef ran out and gave me a souvenir pound cake slice in plastic wrap as a going-away present.

A good base for a real pizza

Green Thumb Up My Nose

September 24, 2017

Garden Report for 170925

Official end of summer. A few days of rain broke our dry spell (Seattle set a record for dry summers)  and now we are in a cool day/cooler night pattern (mid 60s/mid 40s and they’re starting to report wind chills). Warming trend forecast.

Harvested nothing. Maybe next weekend, after the warmup.

Meanwhile, this looks to be the year that nothing grew, or grew without producing. Not container plants:

Texas Buttercup. All hat, no cattle

Pink Brandywine, the same.

And not the garden

All the squash that isn’t Summer.

Starting to close out the various bits of garden and the containers. I’ll get the dirt dumped on the dug-up plants in time for composting.

Vegetable Count Weight
Total Total

tomato 143 14.7
cabbage 5 0.72
cucumber 9 1.9
10 2.8
zucchini 4 2.5
2 2.4
Grand Total 28

This is ahead of last year’s total at this time (~20kg) but nowhere near 2014’s 40kg.

Oh, well. There’s always next year.

My third trip to Japan: Day 06

September 23, 2017

The room is a little bit bigger, and it has a double bed. Where my last hotel had one skimpy pillow this has 5 pillows: two regular pillows, two of the memory foam types, and one that’s kind of a log which looks like it would be useful in keeping my femur straight.

Decided that my plans for the rest of the trip were to take brother John’s advice and go down to the Kamakura shrine in the morning and then come back and do something interesting and local in the afternoon. Tomorrow I will go to Niigata on the northern coast, just because I can, and because that’s my last day for using Japan Rail. And then Thursday will be spent wandering around downtown Tokyo and Akihabara and buying anime souvenirs.

The trip down to Kamakura was about an hour, and rather than take the local train and then walk a half mile uphill, I did the better part of valor and took a cab right to the entrance.

Tokyo to Kamakura

Walked around there a bit, by which time once again the heat had gotten too much for me (upper 80’s with upper 80’s humidity). (click pix to embiggen)

Big Buddha

So I bought some marron-flavored  ice cream (marron is a French culinary name for chestnut) and some souvenirs, and took a taxi back to the rail station. This time I rode the train all the way into Tokyo Station to buy the shinkansen tickets for tomorrow. Japanese local trains are nothing like the shinkansen — they rattle, they creak, they rock back and forth, like an old (but clean) city bus. They are moderately uncomfortable but they are cheap and convenient and everywhere.

Got back a little after noon or maybe one, and just as I got home the hotel staff and couple of workers came up to run a roto rooter in the drain spout on the floor of my bathroom. This is a typical Japanese bathroom with a drain in the floor because you shower out in the middle of the floor in the bathroom, and once you are washed and clean, you get into the tub full of hot water. So it’s like the Japanese have a hot tub in every home.

Sorry, sir, planned maintenance

After they left, I napped for a couple of hours. Went out and found an eyeglass place that would fix my reading glasses lens; it just needed tightening on the screw. This was in the local World Trade Center building, which on the 39th floor has a sky view section with two expensive restaurants and then above that a place you go in and pay $2 and walk around for a panoramic view of the whole city. You can see the Tokyo Skytree (tallest building in Tokyo), Tokyo Tower (former tallest building), and Roppongi Hills, which is a expensive upscale shopping district.

Tokyo Tower and Toranomon Hills

I bought some souvenirs at the top of the tower including a JAXA baseball cap. JAXA is the Japanese Aerospace eXploration Agency, like NASA.

Good view of the shinkansen tracks

Came back down, went to a local curry place called Coco Curry, near the hotel. Bar seating. English menu. Build your own off the menu . I had a chicken curry a little spicier than I like, with a sauce that was not as thick as I make it.  They had canned Kirin beer only.

CoCo’s chicken curry

Anime Preview Fall 2017

September 22, 2017

Time for my semitraditional anime Fall Preview.

I base these on just the title and the cover art, unlike others, who use knowledge of the source materials, close observation of the previews, and who, you know, actually read the press releases,

First, let’s say what’s not in here. Sequels to stuff I didn’t like before (Himoutou, Classicaloid), kids stuff (Yuuki Yuuna, Time Bokan), movies and OVA’s, and anything with idols in the description.

WILL WATCH: The title or the cover art is properly enticing, so I definitely will watch at least the first three eps.

Kini no Tabi: A boy and his motorcycle

Mahoutsukai no Yome: Magical eland traps girl in web of thorns

Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou: Moeblob road trip

Kujira no Kora : Girl sells sex toys to her friends

MIGHT WATCH: The cover art is not too off-putting, so I might watch it.

Two Car: two girls, one motorcycle


Boku no Kanojo: Who will be the next Aho Girl?

Dies Irae: hobbies for your basement

Konohana Kitan: young fox girl is forced to work at her grandmother’s hot spring

WON’T WATCH. The cover art and/or the title tells me more than I ever wanted to know on the topic.

Imouto sae Ireba Ii: writer tries to create Abbey Lane as a real girl

Infini-T Force: Power Rangers help shrine maiden

Osake wa Fuufu: Wakakozake meets I Can’t Understand What My Husband Is Saying

Dog Mansion: old man learns the art of team breakdancing

Junni Taisen: when gravity fails

Vanishing Line: motorcycle with a gun

…and 33 more that didn’t even make the “I won’t watch” cut.

My third trip to Japan: Day 05 (revised)

September 19, 2017

Up and breakfast (click pix to embiggen)

Fewer but bigger

then pedestrian bridge across the rail yard and onto the subway.

Oops. Not that car.

When I got off the train, Osaka Castle was still far away.

It’s a long way, but there’s a Mos Burger right behind me

It’s laid out a lot like Himeji Castle

I started in the lower right hand corner

I passed the outer moat,

Outer moat

and got as far as the inner moat before my legs, hips, and heat control system failed.

Inner moat

I had taken a Bufferin before I left, and that seemed to help, except there were a couple of long stretches of multiple steps to get up to the castle and that kind of did them in; the legs don’t want to do stairs anymore. Plus the right hip started hurting and then after a while the left hip started hurting and then the heat started. So like many invaders beforehand, I made it across the outer moat and up to the gates on the inner moat and then gave up.

The Great Gate of Osaka

Unlike other invaders I was able to take a taxi back to downtown Osaka about noon. Napped until 2PM, which is a shame because I’m paying $20 an hour for that extension on the room. Ah, well, it gave me a chance for a late lunch

Late lunch

Off on the shinkansen, into the early dusk (the Japanese for dusk is purple yellow dark).

The rice grows right up to the factory fences

It will be a three hour ride to go 500km — just over 100mph, including time for stops at Kyoto, Nagoya, Yokohama, and Shinagawa.

Osaka to Tokyo

We shall see what the temperature and my legs are like there. It would be a shame if I spent the whole 4 days laying on my back in the hotel room.

Had a nice bento on the train.

Kansai regional specialities

It was relatively easy to find the train from Tokyo Station to Hamamatsucho Station. And then it all went pear-shaped. First of all I managed to pop the lens out of my reading glasses . Then, I couldn’t get a reliable GPS signal in the Hamamatsucho Station labyrinth, so it had me walking South and insisting that that was North and it took me about half an hour to find my way out of the train station. Oh well it could be worse. It could be raining.


So three blocks in the rain and I finally found my hotel. It has a typical third-tier Japanese hotel entrance, which is to say it could be confused with a decorative feature on the building. Right next door was a nice little pizzaria, where I had a late night pizza. And so to bed.

My first meal in Tokyo

WordPress Issues

September 18, 2017

So, WP has decided to do something to my formatting. I think it may have something to do with them sticking two ads in at the end of my last Japan post. Now, the top half of the previous gardening post is double-columned with the Japan post, and the bottom half is below the ads. And everything below that has lost formatting, but only on the first page. Not sure what’s going on here. I managed to fix things by combining my last two garden reports and deleting Day 05 and the last garden report, then reloading Day 05. No idea what caused it. As NSA says “Regret Inconvenience”

Green Thumb Up My Nose

September 17, 2017

Garden Report for 170918

Summer enters the endgame. No rain for almost three months (we are scheduled early tonight, which would make it 83 days, and then more rain through the rest of the week). Highs in the upper 80’sF, cooling to the mid 60’s. Lows in the upper 40’s to low 50’sF.

Made a harvesting pass midweek, with another on Sunday. Ten Lemon Boy’s (1.0kg) and 21 others (1.5kg). Lots of greenies still on the vine. Harvested the second bush buttercup, to free up resources for the final one, and I see there’s two or three more making a dash for it.

Starting to close out the various bits of garden and the containers. I’ll get the dirt dumped on the dug-up plants in time for composting.

Vegetable Count Weight
Total Total

tomato 31 2770 89 143 14.7
cabbage 5 0.72
cucumber 9 1.9
10 2.8
zucchini 4 2.5
1 980 980 2 2.4
Grand Total 28


My third trip to Japan: Day 04

September 15, 2017

After another interesting Japanese breakfast (click pix to embiggen),

No natto

I walked over to the railway station, took one last look at the castle,

Last look at the castle

and got on the shinkansen for Osaka. Half an hour later I was there. 92km in 29 minutes, including a stop at Kobe — not quite 120mph. The shinkansen are absolutely tremendous. I will have a whole esay on them later.

At the Himeji Shinkansen

Met my former student Ayumi with no problems. Like all Japanese women she dresses like she just stepped off the cover of Glamour magazine. We took the train from Shin Osaka to plain old Osaka Osaka station and went to a nearby electronics store where I spent about $100 on games and manga. We then had lunch at a place that served the traditional Kansai cabbage and egg pancake called Okonomiyaki.

Cooked at your table.

Got back to Shin-Osaka about noon and of course I was dragging; not just hip pain but back pain and heat exhaustion as well. We picked up my backpack at the train station where they have coin lockers all over the place. They are not like the US, but they do have rules.

Forbidden articles in paragraph 5

We then headed over to the MyStays hotel, about a quarter of a mile. In typical Mario fashion, we found that my reservation was in the other hotel. I am booked into the MyStays hotel in Tokyo but here I am booked into the Shin-Osaka Station Hotel. After that bit of embarrassment we turned around and walk back another half-mile to the new hotel, tucked out of the way down a side street and hidden well enough that they had to put up a sign.

Go back! You missed it!

Here it is!

The room is about the same as all the other rooms. They have free water and a little jacket and such for you to wear around the room, with a note that you should not wear it outside of the room; interesting, because in Himeji they had the same sort of thing only they encouraged you to wear it outside the room. Since I was about four sizes too large for the Japanese clothing I just wore my regular stuff.

Yet another typical Japanese travel hotel room

Towards sunset I went back over to the Shin-Osaka station for dinner. On the way out, I talked to the front desk about extending my stay four hours tomorrow, which they were glad to do — at the rate of $20 an hour. Since I was likely going to be exhausted by that time I thought it was a pretty good deal.

It was still warm out — lower 80s– and humid. I ate at a nice little restaurant called Tamago to Watashi, which is Japanese for The Egg and I.

Tomago to Watashi

Their speciality was Omurice (omelet over rice) and it wasn’t bad, but not as good as the ones in the Gourmet Girls anime.

Omurice Curry

It came with a tasty custard, and a small jar of what looked like cream for the custard, but was actually ranch dressing for the salad. Consider yourself warned.

My third trip to Japan: Day 03

September 14, 2017

Today is the main Conference day. I had a presentation at noon (well, in the 10-12 slot) and the welcome is at 9 or so. Up early and another typical Japanese breakfast, this time with natto — fermented soybeans — and also the Japanese equivalent of hushpuppies, miso soup with fat noodles, rice with natto, lotus root, fish, cabbage, and cabbage rolls. (click pix to embiggen)

Breakfast, Day 3 Chopsticks pointing to natto.

They look like standard baked beans, but have an earthy, chemical taste to them. They came with two packets of sauce, that the serving lady said should go on the natto. Unfortunately, they were soy and mustard, which somewhat masked the flavor. So I still don’t have a good idea of what natto tastes like by itself. Having said that, I’m not partial to it.

Natto and rice

Taxi to the Con, because I don’t trust me on the bus. Of course, the driver had no idea of how to get to the place, even with help from Google Maps. Plus, he drove with the apparently typical disregard for cyclists. Still, I got a look at a part of Himeji I probably would not have otherwise. The city appears to be mostly suburbs, with no major arterials. At least, none that he could find.

The Hyogo University Engineering School has a nice facility, with that overgrown look that all subtropical schools seem to have. Even in the rainy NW, when you cut the grass, it stays cut, for a while, at least. I can understand why all those post-apocalyptic anime show downtown Tokyo overgrown just weeks after the disaster.

Convention venue, with banner

Inside smells brand new, as if some furniture still has the bubble-wrap on it. Chairs are the auto-stow variety, and horribly uncomfortable.

The very clean poster session room

Self-stowing chairs


The Mie University contingent was there. Good to see some familiar faces. Asami Yonekura gave a presentation that extended the one she gave at Mie last year. My presentation went over well, as well, judging by the number of questions.

Our friends from Mie

Best pic I could get. She moved around too much.

Rode the bus home. Didn’t take any longer than the taxi did.

Himeji bus. Much like busses in the US. I hogged the elderly seat

Afterwards, we went to the Con dinner, in an old, traditional, saki brewery. Really interesting ancient wooden building and a fascinating production process. Too bad it was too dark for pictures, and the process descriptions were all in Japanese.

Big dining hall.

Walked home, which was probably a mistake. First, I missed Asami Yonekura getting a finalist certificate for her presentation, and second, it was a longer walk than I thought.

Asami shows off

I got just over 10,000 steps, including about 2,200 that night.

Memories of my youth: Shaking hands with Napoleon

September 13, 2017

Well, shaking the hand that shook the hand.

In 2009, when Freeman Dyson came to Portland to give a talk at ISEPP, the Institute for Science, Engineering and Public Policy, he told a story about Napoleon Bonaparte.

It seems that after Napoleon invaded Russia in 1812 and succeeded in capturing Moscow, there was no-one to surrender the city to him. All the officials had fled. Being the sort of person who needed public validation of his actions (much like our current President), he arranged a fake surrender. In the surrender party was a young girl, a child, who presented him with a bouquet of flowers. He solemnly shook her hand.

Many, many years later, the old woman who had been that child, shook the hand of Freeman Dyson’s young  grandfather. Dyson, over the years, had, of course, shaken his grandfather’s hand many times. As part of the ISEPP ceremonies, Dyson shook hands with Terry Bristol, the President of ISEPP.

And I shook Terry Bristol’s hand.

Five handshakes from Napoleon to me. History isn’t as far in the past as one might think.

My third trip to Japan: Day 02

September 11, 2017

This was a free day (the Con reception started that night). I decided, because of how hot it was the previous day, that I would not try something adventurous like taking the train down to Hiroshima but instead I went up to Himeji Castle. That was a good idea poorly executed. (Click pix to embiggen).

Yonder lies the castle…

Up about 6:00, rode down in the first elevator I’ve ever seen that had its own toilet.

Stop and sit a while

and had a typical Japanese breakfast — lots of small plates with egg and salmon and mackerel and squash and dashi-with-noodles and … you get the idea.

Breakfast: everything from soup to fish

I started walking to the castle just as the Sun was rising. The start point is a nice little garden on the North side of the Japan Rail station.

From the station crossover, you can watch the morning rush hour unfold, as the castle keeps watch.

It’s about a 30 minute walk in the cool of the morning. Everything was closed of course. In Japan they seem to keep banker’s hours. Things don’t open too early and if they’re not restaurants they don’t stay open too late. The main street leads right to the castle. It’s wide, and tree-lined. Some of the ambiance was ruined by extensive roadworks that dug up the sidewalk, tore out the hedges, and left the local dryads with nowhere to live for a while.

Nowhere to hide

The castle grounds are very very large — a 1.5km perimeter, and a 600m walk from the Sakuramon Gate to the foot of the central keep.

You enter at the Sakuramon Gate, near the bottom, and walk to the castle, near the top

Looking off the bridge at the gate, I saw what looked like a ninja attack. It was actually members of the JSDF who volunteered to help trim the tangled vegetation on the walls of the moat.

Ninja attack!

The castle opened at 9AM, and a volunteer guide took me around. Actually, she took me around the outside. One problem was my bad hip — I had walked a couple of kilometers to get there, and another kilometer or so around the grounds, and my hip didn’t like it.  The second problem was the castle construction.

No, not the rocks

This is a castle that was designed to be hard to get into and so everything around it is steep steep ramps steep stairways you walk up a steep ramp and then you get on a steep stairway and then, you’re in the basement.

By the time I got out of the castle, it was 90F, and I was in no shape to walk another two kilometers home, so I got a taxi, went home, and took a three hour nap.

I woke up hungry and found that the temperature was down to a more bearable 85 degrees. It was humid and breezy and felt like a storm was coming in (but it never did). I walked over to the Japan Rail Mall for dinner.

I considered buying some omurice — omelet over rice, a Japanese favorite — but it was being made for the bento boxes they sell in the grocery store, and I wanted to eat out, not in the room

Bit of a production line here.

I ended up in a restaurant that served traditional Japanese food like dim sum and bin-bin bap and sweet and sour pork.

Dark and sweet

Had a nice glass of Asahi beer to go with it and stopped off at the company to buy another couple cans to take to bed with me

While I was in the shopping mall, I came across a bakery that sold, among other things, melonpan. Pan is the Japanese word for bread which they stole from the French. Melonpan is essentially a big sugar cookie with a a softball sized lump of soft white bread covered with a sugary coating on top with criss cross network pattern carved on it. It looks like a melon and so that’s why it’s called a melon pan. I bought a couple to have with the beer.

Soft bread on a sugar cookie

Real melons, real pricey

By the way, real Japanese melons are extremely pricey. The photo is of a pair in the vegetable aisle of the shopping mall grocery. Keep in mind that a yen is roughly equivalent to one US penny, depending on the current trade balance.

My pedometer shows I got exactly 15000 steps in today. 8000 was the walk to the castle 3000 was the walk around the castle, and the rest was wandering around the JR shopping mall


Green Thumb Up My Nose

September 10, 2017

Garden Report for 170918

Summer enters the endgame. No rain for almost three months (we are scheduled early tonight, which would make it 83 days, and then more rain through the rest of the week). Highs in the upper 80’sF, cooling to the mid 60’s. Lows in the upper 40’s to low 50’sF.

Made a harvesting pass midweek, with another on Sunday. Ten Lemon Boy’s (1.0kg) and 21 others (1.5kg). Lots of greenies still on the vine. Harvested the second bush buttercup, to free up resources for the final one, and I see there’s two or three more making a dash for it.

Starting to close out the various bits of garden and the containers. I’ll get the dirt dumped on the dug-up plants in time for composting.

Vegetable Count Weight
Total Total

tomato 31 2770 89 143 14.7
cabbage 5 0.72
cucumber 9 1.9
10 2.8
zucchini 4 2.5
1 980 980 2 2.4
Grand Total 28


Garden Report for 170911

ただいま, as the Japanese would say — I’m home. Let’s see what’s happened in the garden.

Summer slowly drifts away. No rain for over two months. Highs in the lower 80’sF, lows in the lower 60’sF. Lots of smoke from the Gorge fires. Our AQI was over 180 last week, and only dropped to 80 (dangerous to beings with lungs) for my homecoming.

MJ handled what may well be the peak of the harvest season. Twenty decent sized tomatoes, totalling just over two kg, plus a basketful of smalls, at 900g. She took all the by-now-soggy tomatoes from my last harvest and pressure-cooked them.

In other news: two Zucchinis, one summer squash. The bush buttercup is trying to produce one final squash. It’s only about the size of a small lemon, right now. Don’t know if it will win the race with the frost.

Vegetable Count Weight
Total Total

tomato 20 2133 106  112 12
cabbage  5 0.72
cucumber 9 1.9
1 800 800 10 2.8
zucchini  2  1670 835 4 2.5
1  1.4
Grand Total  21.3

Not a big harvest so far, but almost 10kg ahead of last year’s. Of course, the years before that ran to 60kg+ by this time.

My third trip to Japan: Day 01

September 10, 2017

We start with disaster. A week before the trip, I bought a brand new Samsung Galaxy Tab S2, with an 8″ screen and 32GB of storage. The 8″ was important, because it fit exactly into my over-the-shoulder carrying case. I spent hours configuring it the way I wanted to. The morning of the trip I put it in the case, slung it over my shoulder, and off we went.

When we got to the airport, this is what we found

It seems I had let the bag slip off my shoulder, get caught in the door, and bounce along the freeway at 70mph. No sign of the tablet. MJ went back later and walked/drove the entire route. No luck. I’m pretty sure there wasn’t anything on there that would present security issues, even if the tablet did survive the impact and bouncing and 18-wheeler driving-over experience

On that happy note, I left. The flight from Spokane to San Francisco was not bad, as far as I know. Because of the time differential it was night in Japan so I deliberately slept. The layover in San Francisco was about two and a half hours which was about an hour longer than it needed to be. The flight to Japan was as good as any of the others. The overseas airline aircraft have lots more leg room than the domestic aircraft do and so I was able to kind of stretch out and I went the full 10 hours with no particular hip pain which is important to me.

A minor comedy of errors happened when we landed at Kansai. The process through Immigration and Customs and that sort of thing went fast, the way it normally does when entering any country other than the US, and then I had to go up onto the second floor to find the post office (which was easy to do) and pick up my wireless hotspot (which was not). You see, I was planning on having my tablet. Of course I didn’t have the tablet and the all of the paperwork stuff for the package was on the tablet or buried three levels deep in my phone with a lousy user interface so I had to call MJ at 11:30 at night her time and ask her to sit in my computer and search Gmail for the email confirming wifi hotspot transaction.

Two hours, block-to-block, plus half an hour wandering around

With that done, picking up the Japan Rail Pass was easy. The nice young lady, who was actually from Taiwan, not Japan, got me a reserved seat on both trains — the one from the airport to Shin-Osaka station, and the shinkansen from there to Himeji.  We landed at 3:30, and despite all my travails, I got to Himeji (130km away) about 6PM.

This is the unglamorous local shuttle

Like all major Japanese Railway stations Himeji is also a major shopping arcade, with multiple floors. It is the equivalent I guess of a mall, only you get there by train rather than by driving and parking — there’s not much parking around. I then spent half an hour trying to find my way block-and-a-half from the railroad station to my hotel the Dormy Inn. That was because the GPS mapping app on the phone is not all that good and it is particularly not that good when you are in a crowded building situation where it keeps losing the signal or picking up reflections. It quite literally kept telling me that North was South.

Dormy Inn

After a while I finally found the hotel, and the front looked like it was closed. Not closed for the night, but an actual closed building. So I walked around the corner and found their parking garage was open and there was a nice man who showed me how to get into the hotel. It turns out that the actual opening for the hotel is just to the right of where the GPS had taken me.

Dormy Room

The room is typical Japanese hotel room. Small, that is to say it’s smaller than steerage class on a cruise ship, but it has a bed it has a TV it has a refrigerator and a thing for making coffee. On the other hand, it does not seem to have towels or washcloths.



It looks better at night

There are a whole bunch of izakiya (like a tappas bar) around the hotel, and I went into one that was just across the street.


My dinner included my first taste of a full slice of burdock root. It had a texture something like french fries and it had a flavor something like not french fries, maybe parsnips, and it wasn’t bad but it wasn’t all that good, so it looks like I’m not going to start raising them in the garden at home.

Fried burdock looks better than it tastes

Green Thumb Up My Nose

September 3, 2017

Garden Report for 170904

Somewhat reduced report, since I’m currently in Japan. This is what happened through Tuesday of last week.

Summer continues. No rain for going on two months. Highs in the lower 90’sF, lows in the lower 60’sF.

The tomato harvest continues, slowly. Twelve this week, totalling almost a kilo and a half (but that includes some that have just barely gone breakers, so that MJ won’t have to worry about harvesting until I get back). Still having BER problems.

In other news: One summer squash, not in good shape. I’m thinking there’s something in the soil in Section 4 of the KHG, or maybe it’s because there’s much less sun back there. None of the squash are doing very well.

Vegetable Count Weight
Total Total

tomato 12 1400 117  92 9.8
cabbage  5 0.72
cucumber 9 1.9
1 370 370 9 2.0
zucchini 2 0.87
1  1.4
Grand Total  16.7


The Long Farewell: Intimations of Mortality

August 29, 2017

The bad news is, I’ve got multiple myeloma. The good news, such as it is, is that it looks like it’s the so-called smouldering myeloma variety, AKA dumpster fire in your bones.

TLDR: It’s blood cancer. It’s incurable. It’s controllable. I have an early stage.

MM normally starts out as MGUS, or monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance. MGUS converts to MM at the rate of about 1.5% per year. Mine may have been that way for ten or 15 years, undetected. Since the treatment for MGUS is hide and watch, that was fine. In fact the treatment for smouldering is still hide and watch, but at a somewhat more watchful level.

I don’t know much more than that right now. When I get back from Japan, we’ll do a full body MRI and pee in a bottle for 24hrs. Ask me again in October.

Not much available on survival statistics for MM, not because it’s an exotic disease, but because doctors are terrible at reporting statistics. The best I can find is that the survival rate for full up MM, untreated, is 7 months. Treated 5yr survival 49% . Assume median (and mean) survival is 60 months. Range is then 7 – 113, StdDev ~ 0.25*range = 28 months. This is not totally accurate, because the curve is not normal, on account of the 0-month wall on the left. The curve is skewed right by an unknown amount.

In any event, the clock doesn’t start ticking until the smouldering bursts into flame, and who knows when that will be. Still, I’m dumping my long-term Treasury Notes.

I am off to Japan in 12hrs or so, and my responses will be erratic. The family request that all messages of support and condolence be sent to the Democratic National Committee.






Green Thumb Up My Nose

August 27, 2017

Garden Report for 170828

Summer continues. Trace of rain on Wednesday, otherwise, no rain for going on two months. Highs in the lower 90’sF, lows in the lower 60’sF.

The tomato harvest continues to slow. Eleven this week, totalling less than a kilo. Still having BER problems. Cut down the other Juliet, and the Patio, then moved the Purple Cherokee and the Rutgers up from the south side of the house onto the deck. I am off on a trip the end of next week, and this makes it easier for MJ to water. Besides, we don’t really like the Juliets (tough, acid), and the plants were dying.

In other news: Couple of summer squash, and a large, misshapen, Zucchini. Harvested the final cucumber, and took that down. One of the bush buttercups looked harvestable, so I did. The other one is coming along. Looks like the bush variety only produces one per plant.

Vegetable Count Weight
Total Total

tomato 11 890 81  80 8.4
cabbage 3 470 157  5 0.72
cucumber  1 400  400 9 1.9
2 330  165 8 1.7
zucchini  1 720 720 2 0.87
 1 1366 1366 1  1.4
Grand Total  15


My third trip to Japan: Day 0

August 26, 2017

Off on another adventure! It’s another conference, the 6th International Conference on Informatics, Electronics & Vision (ICIEV) & 7th International Symposium in Computational Medical and Health Technology (ISCMHT) in Himeji, on the south coast of the Harima Nada, the eastern part of the Inland Sea. Flying into Kansai International, and out from Haneda. It will be an interesting trip, weather-wise, since I’m doing almost no north-south travel. Right now, the forecast is for highs in the mid 80s, with humidity in the ….. mid 80’s.


Ten hours by car, six hours by train, including transfer times

The flight over takes longer than the travel time inside Japan. I take off from Spokane at 6AM, and land in Kansai at 3PM, the next day. Something, something, Date Line.

The plan is to fly into Kansai, and Shinkansen to Himeji, 150km to the west. I’ll have a totally free day (maybe visit Hiroshima, 250km), then half a day at the presentation (also visit Himeji Castle), then another free day (maybe visit Kyoto, 130km). Japan Rail pass all the way. Spend another day in Osaka, and three days in Tokyo, flying out from Haneda.

I leave next week, and will update this as I go along.

North Korean artillery demonstration

August 26, 2017

There’s a number of photos out there of a NK artillery exercise, held somewhere along their coast at an unknown date. It’s a publicity photo-op, because nobody uses artillery like that any more, do they?

They start off by lining up a hundred or so howitzers and self-propelled guns, hub to hub.

Just like Napoleon would have done

Then the firing starts

From one end of the beach…

…to the other

The problem is, two thirds of the troops are within 100 meters downrange from that back row. And a third of the troops are within 100 meters of two rows of artillery. Quite aside from the impact on troop hearing, artillery shells have been known to burst on their way out of the tube. This sprays fragments across everybody immediately downrange. Friend of mine from VietNam was still finding microfragments in his body, twenty years after the war.

Our Eclipse

August 22, 2017

Not wanting to drive eight hours to totality, we stayed in the comfort of our home in the Spokane area and watched the 2017 solar eclipse from our back yard. Our watching gear was somewhat patched together: a 20-year-old Celestron 8, a strip of styrofoam with a sheet of paper on it for the projection screen, and an old shirt, to prop up and shadow the styrofoam.


Hastily Assembled

The cloth is for cooling

First Light

First Bite — with sunspots

Turns out, you can get a fun view of hundreds of eclipses, by using the natural pinhole cameras from leaves.

And finally, maximum coverage

90% Covered

The light had a metallic edge to it, and the temperature dropped from 72F down to 66F. The press said that we’d get 90% of the sun covered in the Spokane region. So, ignoring things like limb-darkening, we were getting about 10% of normal radiation. My question was, where in the Solar System could one find light at this level? The formula is L = 1/D^2, where L is the amount of light compared to the Earth, and D is the distance in Astronomical Units (Earth to Sun distance). Doing a little bit of algebra to it, we find that the light level near Spokane was about what you would find at 3AU, about the orbital radius of main belt asteroid Ceres.

Trump in Afghanistan

August 22, 2017

If draining the swamp in DC isn’t working, the obvious alternative is to move deeper into a different quagmire.

Trump has announced that we will be playing whack-a-mole with terrorists in Afghanistan for the foreseeable future. So, nothing has changed. We won’t be doing “nation-building”, which is good, because the US Army isn’t trained for that (and doesn’t want to be), and the various State Department entities aren’t funded for it, and it would take a lifetime or longer to complete. Besides, Afghanistan really isn’t a nation. It’s a collection of tribal entities under a handful of local warlords, and the power of the central government doesn’t extend much beyond pistol-shot from Kabul. I almost said corrupt local warlords, but that’s only by our standards. The Afghans have a different view of life and their relation to their leadership. Which brings up another point. Afghan loyalties run family, then tribe, then, weakly, region, with national coming in a long way out of the running. Why does this matter? Because it matters to them.

The primary social interaction between communities in Afghanistan may well be the blood feud. Think Hatfields and McCoys, writ large and decades long. You kill my cousin and you have made blood enemies of every person in our extended family. Every terrorist is somebody’s cousin. Or brother. Maybe the Taliban core leadership is from elsewhere, but everybody surrounding them is local. You put a drone through the window of a Taliban headquarters and you kill leader A, who will soon be replaced. You also kill locals B through K, who have cousins. It will never end. The Soviets were a lot more callous than we are about civilian casualties and collateral damage, and they couldn’t do it.

A final point. Trump has said we will not be announcing troop numbers. That policy will be of limited use, and will mostly work to our detriment. Why? Because the Afghan government will know how many troops we are moving in and out of their country, if for no other reason than they provide most of the on-the-ground logistical support. And if the Afghan government knows, the Taliban knows. To make the chain a little longer, if the Afghan government knows, then the Pakistani intelligence services know (and metric tons of our support comes through Pakistani ports), and if the Pakistani intelligence services know, then the Taliban knows.

You know who won’t know? The American people, the press and the taxpayers and the voters. This is not a way to provide OPSEC, it’s a way to hide the magnitude of the upcoming losses.

One commenter calls it “a recipe for unending colonial style war waged by the US in South Asia.”

Green Thumb Up My Nose

August 20, 2017

Garden Report for 170821

Summer continues. No rain for over a month and a half. Highs in the lower 90’sF, lows in the lower 60’sF. Next week we’ll have highs around 80F with lows around 55F. Possible rain, but not enough to keep down the blowing dust.

The tomato harvest is slowing. Twenty this week, totalling a mere 1.5kg. None of them very big. Cut down one of the deck Juliets. Was starting to go yellow, and we don’t really like them anyway — too small for their tough skin. Maybe use them in broth.

In other news: Two medium summer squash. I’m going to leave the Buttercups for a while. Likewise the purple cabbages — they are producing tiny heads, with no signs of bolting.

Vegetable Count Weight
Total Total

tomato 20 1464 73  69 7.5
cabbage  2 0.25
cucumber 8 1.5
2 374 187 6 1.35
zucchini 1 0.15
Grand Total  10.75


Corny Oatmeal

August 17, 2017

We had corn on the cob last night. One cob each. They were pretty well gnawed but they still had some kernels on them, and I wondered if they’d make a good broth. Prep was nothing special: two leftover cobs with enough water to cover (just over a quart), along with a couple pinches of salt. Pressure cook on high for 45min.

The resulting broth was clear and straw colored, with a faint corn aroma and a mild corn flavor. One might even use the term delicate. The flavor would probably disappear if you threw the cobs in with a load of beef bones, but it would most likely add a new dimension to a plain chicken broth. Plus, I’m sure it would make the base for an interesting sauce. Meanwhile:

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one cup of corn 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.

Results: Very good. The plain broth was surprisingly foamy when heated, but the mild flavor carried over, and blended well with the flavor of the oatmeal itself.

Rating: *****

UPDATE: Be sure to drain your cobs afterwards. They will absorb up to 45g of water, each, and then drip it into the garbage can if you don’t.

MH370 and trash in the ocean 2

August 16, 2017

The search that just won’t die. Just over three years ago I talked about using satellite imagery to search for debris from the MH-370 crash site. Now, a reanalysis of all imagery available has shown more debris, including some items big enough to be from the aircraft.

Four spots, north of the search area, and well north of the previous debris field

The imagery was obtained two weeks after the crash, and so had been moving at the whim of the wind and the currents. Detailed drift analysis gives some idea of where the debris could have ended up.

Consistent with a crash in the center of the white line, at 35.6°S, 92.8°E

The map doesn’t show tracks, it shows calculated possible final locations, with error bars, from a starting point on the white line, just outside the search area. You will note a dense cluster of them in the vicinity of PH-04, the upper right square. The problem is, of course, that the imagery isn’t good enough to tell what the floating objects are.

Pleiades Area 4. Mostly clouds and shadows

Even with Principal Component Analysis image enhancement.

Pleiades Area 4 Item 3. Red box in center is the original image. Left is true color blowup. Right is false color enhancement

The imagery analysis report can be found here (pdf), and the full file of ATSB reports here.

This new evidence might not be enough to re-start an already expensive search, but it will certainly prompt an intense scrutiny of the sonar recordings from that edge of the search box.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

August 13, 2017

Garden Report for 170814

Summer continues. No rain for over a month. Highs in the upper 90’sF, lows in the lower 60’sF. Next week we’ll have highs around 80F with lows around 55F. Possible rain, but not enough to keep down the blowing dust.

The tomato harvest is starting. Thirty this week, totalling 4kg. Champion and Lemon Boy are producing some nice ~200g tomatoes, while First Lady and Arkansas Traveller have smaller ones. Cherokee Purple and Beefmaster still bothered by BER.

There’s more where that came from

In other news: Two more cucumbers. Two medium summer squash. One of the Buttercups will be ready to harvest soon.

Vegetable Count Weight
Total Total

tomato 31 4030 130  49 6.0
cabbage  2 0.25
cucumber  2 240  120 8 1.5
 3 1000 333 6 1.35
zucchini 1 0.15
Grand Total  9.25

Last year at this time we had 5.5kg of non-cabbage produce. This year, roughly 9kg.