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.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

August 6, 2017

Garden Report for 170807

Summer continues. No rain for over a month. Highs in the upper 90’sF, lows in the lower 60’sF. They were forecasting 100F, but we didn’t make it, thanks to a smoke blanket that made our air worse than Beijing’s.

Big Boy gave a couple of 150g’s, and the Beefmaster gave a 100g tomato (the first that wasn’t et up with BER), and there’s more buckets of cherry tomatoes of various types. Meanwhile, the Pink Brandywine by the house isn’t doing anything. Maybe the shock of almost drowning made it reluctant to reproduce. I note, though, that the one in the main garden is only now producing flowers, so it might just be a (puts on sunglasses) late bloomer.

Unproductive Pink

In other news: Two cucumbers, one big, one small.  The Bush Buttercup is trying to produce something, but it really needs to be in a bigger pot. Harvested two of the purple cabbages. Trimmed, they are fist sized, and about 125g each — and were very tough, even when shredded and cooked with Spam, peas, and carrots . There’s three left, and we’ll see what the heat does to them.

Still Life, With Cabbages


Vegetable Count Weight
Total Total

tomato  5 600 120  18 1.9
cabbage  2 250  125  2 0.25
cucumber 2 420  210 6 1.3
3 0.34
zucchini 1 0.15
Grand Total  3.9

Last year at this time we had almost 4kg of non-cabbage produce. This year, just over 3kg.


Smoke gets in your eyes

August 4, 2017

I am always amazed at how far smoke can travel. Lots of fires up in British Columbia, lots of BC smoke in the Spokane area. Right now our AQI is 193. In Beijing, it’s 45.










Judging from the map, it will only get worse here. Out on our back deck, it takes the form of a light haze. You can smell the smoke, and your eyes water. I guess we keep the house closed up tonight.

UPDATE: Was still too smoky to open up, even at 11PM. 3/4 moon was a nice bright orange. I’d write a haiku, but I can’t think of a rhyme.


August 3, 2017

I’m not a big one for spicy. I can eat spicy food, but I don’t seek it out. Usually. This week, MJ bought some Colby-Pepper-Jack cheese snacks. Smallish sticks of cheese with chunks of jalapenos embedded in them. Mediocre snacks, because of the too much peppers. That didn’t keep me from eating them. And it didn’t keep me from trying them in oatmeal.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one cup of beef broth, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, salt. Grab handful of CPJ sticks, call it a quarter cup. Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats. Add the potatoes at the end, and the cheese right before that.

Results: Not quite as mediocre. The cheese melted nicely and the pepper bite got spread out, but the pepper smell/flavor remained.

Rating: ***

Memories of my youth: Technology progress

July 31, 2017

Times change. Technology changes. Most everybody looks at computing power as an example. If you want another example (albeit computer-related), look no further than our worldwide communications network, and how it’s changed in my adult lifetime.

1970: I am a young USAF lieutenant, based at RAF Mildenhall, in the UK. My mother, recently divorced and on her own, was going through a bad patch. How can I provide her some moral support? What about a phone call?

There was one phone in the BOQ that you could book international calls on. It was at the front desk, and normally behind the glass of the teller’s cage. To make a call, you first booked it with the international operator, who would call you back when the circuit was available. Then you stood next to the cashier’s cage, with the handset cord snaked out through the hole in the glass, and held your conversation while the rest of the world was cashing checks and paying for dinner. Cost was $1.00 a minute.

1980: I’m a USAF major at the Alert Center at DIA, in the Pentagon. There was an incident where a US carrier, enroute to a port visit in Yugoslavia, violated Yugoslav airspace on the way in to port. There was a discussion between the US ambassador, in Belgrade, and the National Military Command Center (NMCC) duty general on one phone line, and the NMCC duty general talking to the captain of the carrier on a different line. I stood by in case there was a need for Intelligence input. There wasn’t.

It was interesting, and exciting, to have real time communications halfway around the world, even if it had to be on two different phone lines. Based on recent reports, things haven’t changed in the cross-Department area.

1990: I’m a contractor, working on a then state of the art geographic information system, installed in the Alert Center at DIA. It’s the start of the Kuwait war Scud missile attacks and I’m helping chase them. A missile would launch from Iraq, and the plume would be detected by a satellite in geosynchronous orbit. The satellite would radio the detection to the ground site in Colorado, which would report it to the NMCC in the Pentagon. DIA was also on that circuit, and we’d input the launch coordinates to our database, pull up possible hiding places, like bridges and overpasses, and send that on to the Scud Cell in Saudi Arabia. They’d pass the data to the F-15E’s and the fighters would try to find the launchers.

What with intermediate hops, the signal had to travel a good 120,000 miles, from detection to target assignment.

1997: Meanwhile, Cordelia has her own wireless phone. All you have to do is pull the antenna out.

2016: I am a college professor enroute to a conference in Hokkaido, Japan. While travelling along at 90mph on the Shinkansen bullet train, I call my brother in Utah on my pocket phone. The next year he returns the favor by calling me from Graz, Austria, on his phone, using full motion video.


Green Thumb Up My Nose

July 30, 2017

Garden Report for 170731

Summer continues. No rain for over a month. Highs around 90F, lows around 60F, limited watering restrictions continue. Next week the same yet again, except highs near 100F. Glad I’ve got the drip water timer.

Sub-Arctic gave three small tomatoes, as did the Siletz. Better Boy and Big Boy gave one each. Or rather, a third of a one each. Blossom end rot. Late breaking news: At the last minute, Big Boy came through with a 150g non-BER. Yay!

Sub-Arctic Plenty is a “determinate that gives hundreds of small tomatoes”. Mine gave three, and I don’t mean three hundred, and then pooped out. The container is on the south wall. Have never had any luck on that side. Maybe it’s too hot. Well, let’s try planting some heirloom Rutgers tomatoes. The ones sold today are derivatives of the original. Some are determinate, some are not. Mine are indeterminate (it says here). The packet says 10-12 weeks, which means end of October/early November. We’ll see if we can beat the frost.

In other news: two small summer squash and one small zucchini. Four warty cucumbers. Half a kg of cherry tomatoes of various types. They come in clusters, and some are still green, so it’s not worth tracking them. Handful of shell peas, and handful of pea pod peas, harvested just ahead of death-by-powdery-mildew. Not enough to track. Barely enough for a salad.

Vegetable Count Weight
Total Total

tomato  7 550 78  13 1.3
cucumber 4 870  217 4 0.87
2 240 120 3 0.34
zucchini  1  150  1 150 0.15
Grand Total  2.7

Last year at this time we had over 6kg of produce, but 4kg of that was cabbage, so the rest of our produce is on track. Our cabbages have not bolted, yet, but they look to be about tennis-ball sized. Since temps have been running 90F and up, I doubt we’ll get much out of them. We’ll see what they look like at the start of next week


Tanya: Someone is wrong on the Internet

July 25, 2017

It’s always painful when even the supporters of a show get it wrong. The latest misinterpretation of Tanya is by Nick Creamer, over on ANN, and it looks like none of the commenters has any concept of WW’s I and II beyond watching Thomas Kretschmann movies. Herewith, seven key points to keep in mind when reading any of it:

  1. The Empire isn’t imperialist. They never invaded anyone that didn’t invade them first. When the not-Scandanavians invaded the Empire, everybody’s reaction was WTF? Who would do such a stupid thing? The narration at the end of the series points out the irony that all the Empire’s actions were out of fear of their neighbors.
  2. The officers aren’t Nazis. The talk of serving the homeland appears on both sides in the anime, and is no different than what you would have heard in any military headquarters in our Europe in the early 1900’s. The counter-invasion of not-Scandanavia horrified the generals.
  3. Nobody’s a good guy. Soldiers on both sides did terrible things, because that’s what one does in a war. At the start of Episode 1, the not-French were killing not-Germans who were disorganized and fleeing, and doing it with a smile. In Episode 2, Anson Su, lead element of the invasion force, did his best to kill a young girl who was merely acting as an observer. Yes, she turned out to be a fierce fighter, but that was later. As far as he knew, she was like his daughter.
  4. Nobody’s a bad guy. These are military professionals, engaged in high-stakes, high adrenalin actions. They are excited in their work, and proud of their accomplishments. If they sit and mope and come all over angsty about their actions, they do it after the battle, when such thoughts won’t slow down their reactions. Tanya does it on the train. Su does it, a little bit, right before the fjord raid kicks off.
  5. Tanya isn’t a sadist. Throughout the series, none of Tanya’s actions were, as far as I can tell, violations of the rules of war, either in her world or in ours.  None of her acts involve inflicting pain without purpose, and at least twice she says she hates killing. The guy she fired in Episode 2 failed to show for work on time, and failed to respond to training. Tanya’s only “sin” was in not feeling any emotion about it. Her approach to training was similar to that used by the US Marines and the UK Commandos. She thought it would drive them away. Instead, it created an elite unit. On at least two occasions, Tanya changed her approach to a problem in order to minimize her casualties.
  6. Tanya isn’t power-hungry. Here in our world, and in the new one, her goal is to achieve a quiet life. All of her actions point in that direction. Play by the rules, and do your job well, and you will be on the escalator to a good position and a quiet life.
  7. Being X isn’t God. Maybe he’s A god (responsible only for reincarnation, in a Japanese division-of-divine-labor sort of way), but in Episode 2 he complains of being unable to handle so many billions of souls. To which Tanya replies that overwork is an indicator of a failed business model.

If you want to develop a less biased view of Tanya, when you watch it, imaging that it stars Sylvester Stallone, instead of a 10-year old girl.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

July 23, 2017

Garden Report for 170724

Hot and dry, with a forecast of dry and hot.

Stuff is growing. Nothing new is ripe. No change from last week.

Got to work on the burdock. That’s one tough plant. Deep roots. Thick base stalk with lots of branches. Thistles that cling, even when green.

I’ve cleared out about half of the infestation, but left lots of stumps. Click the pix to embiggen.

The garden in June. All that waist-high stuff to the left of the bird feeder is burdock. It was head high by the time I started work.
And here’s what I’ve been able to do so far. Looks like pictures of pioneer clearings in the NW forests. Notice that the plants next to the fence have grown quite a bit.

Coconoats 2

July 20, 2017

Just over four years ago, I tried coconut milk as the base fluid for the oatmeal. It didn’t go well, even with chocolate helper. This time I thought I’d try it with blueberries, since it’s blueberry season at Follow The Harvest. Keep in mind that this isn’t the coconut water from the immature nut, it’s the organic coconut flesh, ground and processed, with added organic sugar.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one cup of coconut milk, half a cup of blueberries, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, salt. Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats. Add the blueberries at the start, and the potatoes at the end.

Results: Keep in mind that the manufacturer is trying to create a milk substitute that doesn’t involve methane farts. They succeeded, and the oatmeal tastes like oatmeal made with regular milk, except that it didn’t want to scald. Additional sweetener was necessary, as was a couple tablespoons of organic non-dairy creamer (I prefer Italian Cream flavor). It was alright, if you’re a normal.

Rating: ***

Green Thumb Up My Nose

July 16, 2017

Garden Report for 170717

We are now in full summer mode. No rain for a month. Highs around 90F, lows around 60F, watering restrictions on due to city water pump casualty, fire alert for much of the weekend. Same for the coming week

First harvest of the season. Six tomatoes: Siletz and Sub-Arctic, ranging in size from 40 – 140g. One small summer squash. One puny purple pepper. Bag of about-to-bolt lettuce, bag of chard. The chard seems to be winning the fight against the leaf miners. The trick is immediate and unmerciful pruning. Your chard will thank you.

Vegetable Count Weight
Total Total

tomato  6 600 100  6 0.6
 1 100 100 1 0.1
Grand Total  0.7

This time last year and in 2015 we had a grand total of 3kg. Fewer tomatoes, more cabbage and squash. In 2014 we had enough heat, and I hadn’t installed the automatic waterizer, that we had nothing but lettuce.

For some reason it only just now occurred to me that the shoulder-high jungle in the SE corner of the yard is actually burdock. On the one hand, that will give me some roots to try cooking. On the other hand, their thistles are nasty. I’m buying a machete.


TLDR: Anime I never finished, Summer 2017 – 3

July 16, 2017

I’m crying here. I was going to have just two TLDRs this season, but sometimes one has to reopen the books for new challengers.

Shining Tears X Wind: Pronounced crosswind. STxW (pronounced stew) is a Crunchyroll re-release of a 2007 anime based on a Sega mobile game. Parallel worlds. Multiple handsome heroes. Multiple ornamental girls to fill out the handsome heroes’ harems. The girls also act as …ah… receptacles … for …um… magic swords … that the heroes store in their oppai, bosoms, chests. King Arthur it ain’t.

They wanted to copy the tank chase scene from GaruPan, but didn’t have the budget

Graphics and animation appear to be done using the same 8-bit technology they used for the game. If you liked the game, then (A) you will like this, and (B) we can’t be friends anymore.

True Tears: Crunchyroll re-release of a 2008 anime. High school boy lives in the same house as a cute classmate who he thinks likes him but she really likes the brother of a girl who he also thinks likes him but all she wants him for is his bodily fluids.

Trust me, it will all end in tears before bedtime

None of them are very likeable. Well, there’s the girl standing on the beer crate.

Four Bean Oatmeal

July 13, 2017


MJ bought a jar of four-bean salad a while back. FBS consists of four different kinds of beans, plus chopped onions, in a sugar/vinegar sauce. Tastes very good, either on its own, or spooned over a standard green salad. In home-made versions, the sugar/vinegar ratio varies widely, but is generally about 1:1. Some home-made recipes call for a small amount of salad oil, as well. Our commercial FBS had no sign of oil.

As you serve it up, you generally leave a lot of the liquid behind. What better use for it than in oatmeal the next morning?

Experiment 1

Setup: 1/2 cup of stone ground rolled oats (to make up for the extra liquid), one cup of broth, two measuring tablespoons of sugar/vinegar mix, 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.

I slipped up (it was early) and added everything except the potato flakes before the broth had boiled, so the oats had an additional couple of minutes in the pot.

Results: Very good. Very creamy. Very delicate flavor, that didn’t taste of vinegar at all. Was the creamyness due to the acid bath, or to the extra two minutes of cooking? I’ll find out next time.

Next Time: It was the acidity. And three tablespoons didn’t change the flavor.

Rating: ****

Experiment 2

If two or three tablespoons are good, why not a whole cup? Let’s try just dumping the oats into the four-bean-salad jar and let it sit in the fridge overnight.

Setup: 1/2 cup of stone ground rolled oats (to make up for the extra liquid), one cup of sugar/vinegar mix, 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: This is what I was expecting the first time. Very sweet. Very vinegary. Too much so. And if you don’t absorb/boil off all the liquid, you end up coughing when you inhale over your breakfast. A knob of butter helped.

Rating: ***

TLDR: Anime I never finished, Summer 2017-2

July 11, 2017

And the losers keep straggling in.

Konbini Kareshi: Grand Hotel, the anime version. Six couples and how their lives are changed by their experiences at the local Lawsons. The boys are the type I spent my high school days avoiding. The girls are the type who spent their high school days avoiding me.

I wonder if I’ll find the girl of my dreams in there. They carry everything else.

Fox Spirit Matchmaker: Fox maiden vows to excel at matchmaking despite the urgings (threats) of the sexy head of her powerful fox clan, all the while avoiding marriage to a jerk who is also a powerful priest who is attempting to avoid marriage despite the urgings (threats) of a bunch of gunsels from his powerful human clan, all the while fending off attacks from a different fox clan, along with some nefarious plots by a fat underhanded plotting priest. Got that? Feels like the producer just threw everything he could think of into a pot and called it stew.

This picture sums it up: One third sexy fox ladies, one third chibi fox follies, one third assholes

Aho Girl: Aho is the word for idiot. It’s for when you’ve already said baka. Our protagonette is an aho. Bright, cheery, infinite mood swings, no short term memory, banana fanatic, zero common sense. Her neighbor (one can’t say ‘boyfriend’, he tells her mother she’s a monkey — her mother agrees) keeps her in line through force and violence. All the girls love him.

The carrot banana and the stick

Katsugeki TOUKEN RANBU: Bunch of guys with swords, who are swords, fight demons, who are time travellers, with the aid of a fox with a computer. Running with swords. Fighting demons. Bantering with the guys. Running…

With a thousand years of experience, you’d think they’d find a better way to run with a sword

Trump in Poland — That Speech

July 9, 2017

Early last week a photo taken in 1937 on Jaluit Island turned up on the media. It showed a bunch of distinctly unoffical-looking officials, along with a man displaying a good example of male pattern baldness, and a genderless person in pants and a shaggy haircut, seated and facing away from the camera. People looked at the picture and immediately said Noonan and Earhart!

On the one hand, this is a good example of people seeing in a photo what they wanted to see. PI’s do this all the time and are well aware of the trap. If you are out looking for tanks, any roughly square assemblage of rocks can look like a tank. If you are looking for Noonan and Earhart, you will see Noonan and Earhart.

On the other hand, you have to consider context — where was the image taken. If you are looking at a photo of a tank park, it’s more likely to be a tank than if you are looking at a city park. If you are looking at a photo taken in 1937 on an island that’s the administrative center of a Japanese mandate, and only 1,000 miles from a possible Earhart crash site within that mandate, you can perhaps be forgiven for thinking of her.

Photos, thank goodness, have ground truth. It’s a tank, or it’s not. It’s Noonan and Earhart, or it’s not. You may never know the truth, but it’s out there. This is not true when talking of human perceptions and emotions.

Three days ago, Trump made a speech in Krasiński Square, Warsaw, thanking his Polish hosts. Depending on how you define the context, the speech can be seen as anodyne, Presidential, racist, Riefenstahlian, or power mad.

The full text of the speech was released by the White House. Admittedly, it might not be accurate. It could be the prepared text, and he might not have followed it. It includes applause and shouts from the crowd, which could have been poorly translated. For example, they could have been crying czarna dzum, which is Polish for Black Plague. But let’s assume that these words are the words he, or his staff, thought worthy of saying.

It’s not a long speech, less than 150 lines containing less than 3500 words — maybe 70 short paragraphs — of content.

The first twenty paragraphs are the usual thanks to the host country and callback to our long history together, totally in line with Fallows’ description of how Presidents talk overseas.

The next eight or ten recount the Poles valiant stands against the Nazi (i.e. German) and Soviet (i.e. Russian) invaders and oppressors, and end by celebrating Poland’s place in NATO as one of the pillars of a strong Europe and a strong West. So far, so … coherent … even if it did spend more time zinging Germany than Russia (Angela will not be pleased).

The next six paragraphs define the three dimensions of the new existentialist threat to The West: The ongoing attacks by radical Islamic terrorism, the destabilizing activities of Russia, and the steady creep of government paperwork. These threats come from South and East, from inside and out. One might reasonably assume that the Inside threat is paperwork, the Southern threat is radical Islam, and the Eastern threat is Russia.

Then, eight paragraphs extolling the achievements of Western Civilization, and five boasting about how we got other NATO members to spend more.

These are followed by the two controversial paragraphs, paragraphs that set the will to prevail at the center of our defense of the West.

We have to remember that our defense is not just a commitment of money, it is a commitment of will

the will of its people to prevail and be successful and get what you have to have.

the confidence in our values to defend them at any cost

enough respect for our citizens to protect our borders

the courage to preserve our civilization in the face of those who would subvert and destroy it

Seven wrap-up paragraphs about Polish will during WWII (another shot at the Germans), a couple of dance-off lines and it’s done.

So, let’s get one thing out of the way at the start. Trump is not suddenly “Presidential” because of this speech. He’s a lightweight, and people from Oz, and things at the bottom of ponds know it. As with his first “Presidential” speech, he has workmanlike speech writers, and he managed to stay on script.

Now, what’s the context of those two paragraphs? First, within the speech, they were preceded by some battle of civilizations imagery that sets the West against Islam, Russian attacks on our institutions, and, of course, bureaucrats. Outside the speech is a modern Europe that feels itself under stress more from refugees than radical Islamists, that feels threatened by the Russian pushback against NATO expansion, that … well … isn’t really bothered by a bureaucracy that makes it hard to build golf courses wherever one wants. Behind the words of the speech is the world-view of its creator, Stephen Miller, and that of his staff colleague, Steve Bannon.

Depending on where you live, different parts of that speech speak to different parts of your brain. Are there people who will see it as a call to defend the best elements of the Judaeo-Christian West? Certainly. Are there those who will read the same words and find in them a call to drive out those who are not demonstrably White and Christian? Of course. Are there those who see the first, and cannot understand how people could claim the second? Here he is.

There is a saying in Washington, DC: Perception is reality. How people see an event or a policy is, effectively, how that event or policy is. I think the takeaway is that everyone’s perceptions about the speech have elements of the ground truth. A Bannon can see those paragraphs as a call to throw back the non-White and non-Christian elements that contaminate our nation state. A Fallow can comment on that without being a person who hates Western Civilization. A Dreher can gain extra clicks by stirring the pot.

And if you want to go beyond the immediate situation, a Brin can detect an element of the manic phase of the Republican worldview.

Happy Tanabata

July 7, 2017

The seventh day of the seventh month is yet another chance for the weaver princess Orihime to be with her lover Hikoboshi, otherwise known as Vega and Altair. Tourist spots like the Tokyo Tower put on special light displays

Orihime, Hikoboshi, and a friend, celebrate their one night together this year.

And even monks on a Journey to the West will stop and celebrate the holiday.

What does the monkey wish for?

TLDR: Anime I never finished, Summer 2017 – 1

July 6, 2017

Two days into the Summer Season and already the rejects are piling up.

Saiyuki Reload Blast: AKA Saiyuki Version V. Latest in a long line of anime adaptations of a long line of manga. Based on the Japanese version of the Chinese compilation of the Buddhist folktale collection called Journey to the West. Bad art, ugly characters, poor acting, static fight scenes, and a stupid AI jeep (Kino should sue).

Which one is the monkey?

Netsuzou Trap: Girl sexually molests another girl. Other girl not sure she objects. Does that make it right? Did they limit the length to 9 minutes because they ran out of body parts to fondle?

French kissing while hanging off an apartment balcony three stories up and she’s afraid her mother will walk in and see them

Knight’s & Magic: Programmer dies and is resurrected in a magical fantasy world with knights in shining mechas. Develops new magical apps by applying good coding practices to existing magic. The weak spot, of course, being the lack of code comments and documentation. Unless maybe the extraneous comma in the title means that everything that follows is a comment.

Patlabor it ain’t


Anime Postview: Spring 2017

July 4, 2017


The usual disclaimer: this is a look at how well I did in my Spring 2017 Preview, which you might want to look at first.

It was a marginal season. At least five of the more interesting titles were sequestered behind the Amazon Anime Strike double paywall.

Shows I said I Will Watch, because the the cover art was properly enticing, or I liked the first season:

Saekano 2: Didn’t get to watch, because it’s behind the AASDPW. I’ll buy the Blue Ray.

Uchouten Kazoku 2: Haven’t finished it yet, because I decided to watch Season 1 again. Yes, I’ll buy this Blue Ray, as well.

Shuumatsu Nani: Wasn’t great. Wasn’t bad. I liked the world-building, thought the backstory was contrived, and the ending was rushed.

Shows I said I Might Watch, because the the cover art wasn’t too bad, or the blurb sounded enticing:

Nanatsu no Taizai: Dropped after two episodes. Don’t get me wrong, I like fan service, but I like it to be fan-servicey, not cute censorshippy. I’d have to buy the Blue Ray, and I probably won’t.

Kado, Sekaisuru: First half was an interesting first contact story. Second half went downhill. Ending was too contrived.

Tsuki ga Kire: Too, too fumbly teen romance. Very sweet. Couldn’t stand it. Dropped.

Shows I said I Won’t Watch, because of the cover art / title / blurb. Sometimes I watch these anyway.

Tsugumomo: Which, I find out, doesn’t mean extraordinary peach. Very 90’s in style, and most of the females are pre-teens. Well, thousand year old spirits trapped in pre-teen bodies, and try telling that to the Customs Agent. Dropped.

Sakura Quest: I started, but haven’t finished. Country girl goes to the city and gets reassigned to the country. I plan to finish it this Summer.

So, eleven shows, of which, two were good, and three were OK. Three were tried and dropped. Three were not even tried. I’ve made better predictions. If that’s the case, what was I watching? Well, mostly I tried various programs and then dropped them. Sometimes it took me a while to get to the Why am I watching this? point.

Alice & Zoroku: Superpower girl finds a home with supergrumpy old man. First half came to a satisfactory conclusion. I understand the second half is different. I plan to finish, someday.

Kanokon: Various canid spirit beings have the hots for a middle schooler. Dropped.

Eromanga Sensei: Oreimo with the objectionable parts bowdlerized. Dropped.

Love Tyrant: Cupid falls in love, gets involved in a foursome. I finished it, because minimums must be acceptable, etc…

And to tell the truth, I even found myself going back and resurrecting things like School Live and Demon King Daimao.




Cultural Appropriation

June 29, 2017

Lauren Orsini, the always-interesting Otaku Journalist, recently raised the issue of cultural appropriation, and pointed to an article by Jarune Uwujaren at Everyday Feminist. I’ve read both articles multiple times, and still have trouble wrapping my head around some applications of the definition, and not just because I’m a fat old Euro male. I think they are overlooking a fundamental difference between what goes on inside a country, and what goes on outside of it.

Uwujaren makes a strong case for cultural appropriation as part of an ongoing power imbalance within a country/society, specifically, the US. The dominant white culture (mine), demands conformance to its ideas of dress and behavior, on pain of not being thought serious, or worthy, of dealing with. This, by the way is true within the culture, as well as without. Bill Gates famously went out and bought a business suit so he could convince IBM he was a serious businessman when he met to sell them DOS. It rejects the elements of the other cultures (African-American, Native American, Hispanic, etc) as having no place in a white-dominated world.

Cultural Appropriation, as I understand their discussion, is when that dominant culture then turns around and adopts elements of the rejected subcultures in ways that are not respectful of their origins. The frat-boy type wearing the Native American head-dress in the Uwujaren article. Portrayals of traditional Hispanic dress (sombreros, decorated jackets) in commercials. The majority culture appropriates elements of a subculture for humor or commercial gain. This is all understandable when you are talking about the actions of the majority culture inside a country. It is a blatant flaunting of the unequal power relationship.

Between countries is a totally different thing.

My position is that there can be no Uwujaren-style appropriation between countries because there is no cultural coercion. The dominant culture in a country is dominant, and it doesn’t care what you think. If you go into a bank in the US wearing Arab robes, you will be stared at, if not strip searched. That goes double for an airport. If, on the other hand, you are in Riyadh, then everyone of importance wears robes, and you are the semi-despised foreigner, sweating in your business suit. Your cultural dominance in the US doesn’t matter. If you then change to robes, you are seen as a still-despised foreigner, aping your betters.

As a way of thinking about this, let’s turn our concerns about cultural appropriation 180 degrees, and look at other countries’ appropriation of American culture.

Consider Japan, which worries Orsini so. If you live in Japan, and have Japanese friends, and own a dark suit, then you might be called upon to officiate at a faux-Christian wedding ceremony in a building like the one below.

Not really a church

That’s not a church. It’s a commercial establishment that is rented out for couples who want to be “married” in a “church”. Is that cultural appropriation, or simple adoption? In America, there are several dominant religions that would be insulted. In Japan, with a Christian population of less than 3%, it’s looked on as kindof trendy.

Then there’s anime, the wellspring of all things otaku. Neon Genesis Evangelion is considered a seminal anime from twenty years ago, which totally rewrote the rules on how one portrays giant robots and parenting. The title can be translated from the Classical Greek as Gospel of a New Century.  In it, the robots battle Angels, using weapons like the Spear of Longinus (now suffering from additional exploitation), to prevent the destruction of New Tokyo, as foretold in the Prophecies of the Dead Sea Scrolls. This is far more than appropriation — it borders on looting and pillaging.  Actually, it’s director Anno grabbing whatever sounded good to him and sticking it in.

Or consider the Spring 2017 anime season just ending. There’s an anime titled The Seven Mortal Sins, that trivializes Christian and Jewish concepts of sin by re-casting them in the bodies of buxom babes. Exploitation? Certainly. Cultural appropriation in the Uwujaren definition? I’m not so sure.

Yet another example is Christmas, that most sacred of Western holy days (even though the commercial aspects sometimes overshadow the sacred). The Japanese have appropriated it and turned it into a totally commercial holiday. Unlike New Year’s, probably Japan’s most culturally significant holiday, Christmas in Japan is more like Valentine’s day in the US. Decorations may go up early, but they come down the day after.

So, I think what’s going on here is the application of one phrase to describe two different things: cultural appropriation inside a country as opposed to appropriation across country borders. Part of this may be the confusion of the word exchange as a business deal, as opposed to exchange as an intellectual process. The labelling of a cultural exchange as a material transaction. A cultural exchange is an exchange of ideas, not of material things. “This is how we fry flour and eggs and cabbage, and we call it Okonomiyaki“.  Which might or might not be followed by “Oh, that’s interesting. This is how we fry flour and eggs, but no cabbage, and we call it “Hot cakes“. It’s an exchange of ideas, not a material transaction. As Thomas Jefferson said, “He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me.” There’s really no way to pay another culture for the use of their ideas, even if we didn’t explain to them about hot cakes. All we can do is expose them to our way of doing things, and let them pick and choose and adapt as they see fit. And if the way they see fit to adopt and adapt something of ours is totally outside of our vision, well, that’s not something we can control. That’s not something we can do anything about.

In fact, that’s not something that’s any of our business.

And since the reverse is true, you can go on practicing yoga, or eating Salisbury Steak on Baps with Red Sauce without feeling guilty.


Curried Marrow….Oats

June 29, 2017

Using up the last of the marrowbone marrow, I decided to try it with curry. I mean, everything goes better with Golden Curry (well, except beanbroth, but that’s another recipe).

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, 40g of marrow, sliced and fried down, one chunk of Golden Curry roux, one cup of broth, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, salt. Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats. Add the broth and curry to the fried marrow (watch for spatters), potatoes at the end.

Results: OK, everything doesn’t go great with curry, but it still goes pretty good. Unfortunately, the curry overwhelmed the essential beefyness of this dish, and came up one dimension short in the flavor profile itself. A fat pinch of shred cheese helped.

Rating: ***

Gun Control

June 25, 2017

Update, October 2017: Before you read my essay, read this one to get a better feel for the background and history.

I am not a gun enthusiast. In the AF I qualified on both the M-16 and the .38, but was never called upon to fire them for real (In VietNam, I did come close a couple of times). At home, I’ve never owned a gun, and only once ever had guns stored in the house – a friend was waiting to move into his new house and asked me to keep his shotguns. I have not thought through all the policy implications, but here’s a couple thoughts on the arguments over gun control and America’s right to bear arms.

A Well Regulated Militia
My interpretation of the Second Amendment (not that the Supremes ever asked me), is that it should be read in its entirety:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Tortured arguments about 18th Century punctuation apart, to me that implies that every person who owns a gun is also subject to being part of a well-regulated Militia. And that means they should be subject to some minimal level of formal training (and who could be against training for gun owners?), and registered with the Militia, subject to callup if the State requires it. They wouldn’t be in the Reserves, nor even in the Guard. They’d be the Militia, available if the Guard and Reserve both fail (or, say, are over fighting in Pakistan). Their Constitutional right to own the weapon should not be infringed, but they should be subject to swingeing fines if they fail to uphold their Constitutional responsibilities. David Brown, over at The Week, has a much-better thought-out version of this idea.

In Switzerland, they actually do something like this. They have universal military service, most of which is spent in the reserves, and soldiers are required to keep their weapons at home. When they finish their period of service, they can elect to keep the weapon.

Defending the Castle
Second, according to the gun lobby, one reason to own a gun is home defense. If you have a gun in your home, and are properly trained, you are in a position to defend yourself and your family and your belongings. In other words, a weaponized house is a safe house. OK, let us, as they say, look at the numbers. Let’s follow the money.

A. The numbers are pretty straightforward. Guns kill Americans. Guns kill women at higher rates. If you are awakened by a prowler in your darkened house at 2AM and you exercise your right of property defense, you are far more likely, when you turn on the lights, to find your prodigal son, back from a late night karaoke party than you are some sort of evildoer. If a woman is found shot dead in her home, the first and most logical suspect is her estranged boyfriend. So, the numbers are pretty bleak. But what about the money?

B. From a monetary standpoint, if a weaponized house is safer, then weaponized homes should qualify for lower insurance rates, both homeowners insurance (say, get a gun credit just like you do a burgler alarm credit), and medical insurance (like non-smoker’s rebate, due to less chance of being beaten by thugs). Yet even the Affordable Care Act contains prohibitions against doctors or insurance companies collecting information on gun ownership. There’s a number of possible reasons why this is so.

  1.  One is that the weapons=safety argument is false, and the people making it know it’s false and they are using a legislative trick to prevent being penalized for their lies.
  2.  On the other hand, this could even be seen as part of a widespread conspiracy to undermine the ability of the insurance companies to make money by offering lower rates to gun owners.
  3.  Or, finally, this could be part of a conspiracy by the insurance companies to require them to offer the same rates to everyone, and thereby make additional profits by gouging the responsible gun owners.

I’m in favor of Reason 1, lying liars. Why? Because the NRA has essentially admitted this: “NRA officials say they requested the provision out of concern that insurance companies could use such data to raise premiums on gun owners.

Opposing Tyranny
America is proud of its heroic, Revolutionary past, where the Patriots rose up to overthrow a tyrannical government, and thus established armed opposition to tyranny as part of our national culture. Thomas Jefferson said that a little rebellion was good for a Democracy, and that we should experience one every generation or so. This justified two hundred and fifty years of distrust of “the government”, and led a certain segment of the population to decide that it was their duty to arm themselves against the day they would be called up to once again oppose tyranny. Of course, any illusion that a group of fanatics, armed with deer rifles, are a match for a modern military force is just that, an illusion, or maybe a delusion.

These are the people who believe in the theory of the Deep State, and who periodically (every time a Democrat gets in office) buy more arms so they may fight it. They are the ones who oppose all record-keeping on guns, ammunition, and gun violence because they believe such records could be used by the government when it comes to take their guns. Of course, such a list already exists. It’s called the membership roll of the NRA. And if NRA has the list on a computer, you can bet that NSA also has that list.

The problem is, we are a violent society. It’s rooted deep in our DNA. In other words, we, as a society, are mentally ill. An insurance company would call it a pre-existing condition.

So, what is to be done? Ban all pistols, and strictly control all rifles and shotguns like they do in England, the Mother Country from whence our society came? (Full disclosure: I lived in England for four years, wandered major cities after dark, and never felt unsafe one day in my life there.) Can’t be done, you say. Remember our roots as a rebellious collection of lawbreakers? OK, suppose we ban all pistols, and strictly control all rifles and shotguns like they do in Australia, that dumping ground for as rebellious a collection of lawbreakers as you’ll see in the whole Anglo-Saxon world? We’re far too sick for that, you say? OK, why don’t we take the lying liars at their word, embrace the NRA, and make the NRA’s own gun safety rules a federal law? Here’s Stonekettle Station’s proposal. The formal part starts about seven screens down, at the poster picture. Basically, it says the NRA guidelines should become the law of the land, particularly the part about personal responsibility for any weapon you hold or handle. This won’t even begin to halt all gun crime in the US, but it will put a dent in it. It’s a start.

BTW, here is a summary of the effect of strong gun control in Australia and Japan.

Heinlein said that an armed society is a polite society. To which I add — eventually. And it requires that you value politeness above all other things. And that you don’t mind having a high mortality rate.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

June 25, 2017

Garden Report for 170626

Hot and dry, with highs in the lower 90’s and lows in the higher 60’s. More of the same in the coming week, perhaps broken by a thunderstorm.

Continuing the fight against leaf miners in the chard. Continuing intermittent weeding, despite the mosquitoes. I think I’ve managed to kill my Pink Brandywine by overwatering. Turns out the container I have it in (a large Rubbermaid storage box) was one I hadn’t cut drain holes in. My everyday watering, coupled with roof runoff from the last shower of the season, left standing water in the box, and a plant that was drooping, nay draped, over the cage support. I poked holes as best I could, dug out as much of the soil as I could without digging up the plant, and when that didn’t help, trimmed off the worst of the droopy part, roughly the top foot or so. We shall see.

The non-garden part of the yard is looking fairly bosky. I decided to let the ground cover grow as it may — no cutting it back down to mineral soil at the end of winter — and it really took off. I’m not sure what they are, but they are growing chest high.

I wanted to stitch this into a panorama, but the geometry and the foliage was too much for my stitcher — it kept wanting to move the center frame to the left.

Tanyastuff — 2

June 24, 2017

This is Part 2 of an on-going analysis of The Saga of Tanya the Evil. Subsequent entries will look at the story as laid out in the light novels.

A major factor in the rollout of Tanya’s War, and one I hadn’t considered earlier, is the structure of the Empire itself. In Tanya’s world we have a unitary Germanic empire. In our world, Central Europe was occupied by the German Hohenzollern Empire, and the Austro-Hungarian Hapsburg Empire. It was the interactions between these two empires (plus the interlocking treaty obligations on both sides) that allowed what should have been a relatively minor Balkan skirmish to spiral out of control.

In our world, for a number of reasons, Austria wanted to expand its influence in the Balkans. They were afraid that Russia would actively oppose them, and asked Germany for support in preventing this. Germany gave them the famous blank check approval for any of their actions.

The first problem is, given the technology of the day, whoever mobilizes first can destroy their opponents, even if the opponents are part way through their own mobilization. So mobilization is essentially a declaration of war. The second problem is, once a country has mobilized, essentially all their neighbors are at risk. So Austria sent an ultimatum to Serbia. Two days later, Austria, Serbia, and Russia all issued mobilization orders. Three days after that, Austria declared war on Serbia, and a week later, Germany (rejecting Russian protests that they were mobilizing against Serbia, not Germany) both started mobilizing and declared war on Russian. Roughly two weeks from assassination incident to WWI.

In Tanya’s world, the Empire isn’t dragged into a war by treaty obligations. They were engaged in an on-going border dispute with Legendia, part of the Scandinavian Entente. The Legendistas invade and are stopped by the the Imperials, including the newly-arrived reinforcements. So we have at least a partial mobilization aimed at the North. In order to permanently suppress the threat, the Empire goes to full mobilization and conducts a counter-invasion of the Entente. We could think of this as similar to Austria invading Serbia, except that the ‘pretext’ was a much more serious incident. In essence, the Empire gave itself a blank check.

At this point, of course, not-France also mobilizes, and invades the Empire. We are not told if this is a treaty requirement, or mere opportunism. The result is a slow-rolling development of a border skirmish into a world war.

The rest, as they say, is isekai.


Oatmeal Chili — 3

June 22, 2017

Two and a half years ago, I made oatmeal with some ground beef chili that MJ had made. Half a year ago, I made oatmeal with the liquid from a beef strip chili that MJ had made. Half an hour ago, I made oatmeal with a quarter cup of commercial canned chili.

MJ was off doing all the busy things she does, and we were flat out of dinner fixings. I mean fresh, meat-and-veg style fixings. Fortunately, we have a fairly extensive pantry, so when I got hungry I just opened the pantry drawer and had a look around. First thing in front was a can of Hormel Turkey Chili with Beans. I can tell you that it tastes just like … canned chili. Overcooked, with unbalanced seasoning that tastes like it’s based not so much on flavor as it is on what the linear programming algorithm cranks out as the most profitable mixture of spices. However, if you dump it on top of enough lettuce, and then dump enough cheese on top of that, it will keep body and soul together — and as for your taste buds, two out of three isn’t bad. I mean, it’s 98% fat free, and where’s the fun in that? Needless to say there were leftovers, or as I call them, dregs.

Setup: 1/2 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one cup of clove-heavy broth*, quarter cup of HTCB, 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: Meh. The ground turkey was detectable only in a granular change to the mouthfeel. Every now and then there was a bean. The overwhelming impression was … the seasonings were unbalanced, and not because of the cloves. Cheese helped a lot, but then, it always does.

Rating: **

*Every now and then I think to add cloves to the pressure cooker when making broth. Unfortunately, those times are far enough apart that I forget how much cloves can dominate. By clove-heavy, I mean six cloves in a quart. You don’t have to follow my recipes slavishly. Two cloves will do, and they won’t turn your broth an evil swamp-water black.

TLDR — Gantz

June 19, 2017

Here’s how to watch Gantz: watch Episode 1 to convince yourself I’m right, then fast-forward through the rest, stopping only if the screen turns red, or black, or pink, depending on your interests.

Gantz is a two-cour anime from 2004. An alien-in-a-sphere makes copies of people as they die, and forces the copy-people to fight and kill things. That’s it. Collect people, put on fighting suits, go kill aliens and each other. If the screen is mostly black, that’s the fax-folk running around in their combat suits, looking for aliens. If it’s mostly red, they’ve found the aliens, or undeserving humans, and are eviscerating them, or maybe being eviscerated, it varies. If the screen is mostly pink, then it’s naked scenes, which don’t happen nearly often enough to make up for the red and the black. The rest of the time, the characters are shouting at each other about the morality of killing monsters and why aren’t the others doing more to help. Not enough pink to make up for that, either.

Red and Black
(At this point there’s about five minutes of yelling)

Gantz is available on Crunchyroll. In fast-forward mode, it’s about six minutes of play time between thumbnails, and about two and a half minutes of real time per episode. That means you can get through all 24 episodes in about an hour. Not counting pauses for pink, of course.

…and Pink
(Some more yelling here, as well)

At least Trump didn’t make him head of VA

June 18, 2017

In June of 2014, then Senator Sessions commented on wounded veterans and “entitlements”. I thought it might be worthwhile linking to my response.