by A.J. Coltrane

GNOIF #18 Recap — GNOIF: In The Heat Of GNOIF (Popular games and Games Of The Year)

Games That Got Played:  Dominion, Fluxx, Forbidden Island, Guillotine, Lost Cities, Rocketville, Seven Wonders

Games That Didn’t Get Played:  Agricola, Citadels, Forbidden Desert, Gardens of Alhambra, Power Grid

A hot evening meant that nobody felt like grinding too hard — I know at least I didn’t. The smallish crowd broke out into large games of Guillotine, Dominion, Fluxx, and Seven Wonders — relatively lightweight games that we’d mostly all played before.

We had fun with Fluxx, and the sheer amount of bloodshed in the 2nd game of Guillotine was satisfying in a morbid kind of way. (The first game of Guillotine was too short to result in a decent body count.)

As always, thanks to everyone who played!

Container Garden Update — June 28, 2015

by A.J. Coltrane

Previous post here.  June 28, 2014 post here.  June 23, 2013 post here.

An overview picture:

150628 overview

We’re still ahead of last year. I’d attribute that to better weather, mostly. We also made a point not to cramp the plants quite as much this year.

We’re also learning as we go — in late June 2013 I was trying to nurse along lettuces. Now I save my effort for stuff that’s inclined to cooperate.

One thing that I noted in the 2013 post was the absence of predatory insects. We had lots of leafhoppers and some aphids. Now we have lots of predators, especially wasps and spiders. I’ve only seen a couple of leafhoppers. Hopefully that’s “equilibrium”.

The flower barrel is much happier lately — I threw a little fertilizer into the container, and we increased the plant density. I think there’s less direct sun hitting the dirt now, and it’s reducing the amount of evaporation, leading to less stress on the plants… That’s my theory for now anyway:

150628 flowers

The “late peas experiment” is going well. We’re now harvesting super sugar snap peas:

150628 peas

The pot of raspberries is doing well too. On a typical day we harvest 3-6 of them. It’s a nice little treat:

150628 raspberry

The basil needs a serious haircut. I’m guessing that will happen on Tuesday:

150628 basil

The King of the North are our biggest and earliest peppers again:

150628 kon1


150628 kon2

The Roma tomatoes:

150268 roma


150628 tigerella

The tallest of the Tromboncino are now climbing over the top of the 8′ trellis:

150628 zucchini 1

A reverse-angle view:

150628 zucchini 2


We’re going to have a lot of zucchini soon. I didn’t get a picture of the 6-12 largish fruits at the bottom of the plants..


The First Tromboncino, And Laminated Flatbread

by A.J. Coltrane

The Tromboncino zucchini is now at the top of the 8′ trellis. This one was intended to be grilled for dinner. Note that the end never got a “bulb”. That either “happens sometimes”, or “it didn’t get pollinated”, or it’s “something that I did” that made it misshapen. It weighed almost exactly 1 pound, and it was still tasty despite the less-than-ideal shape:

150624 Tromboncino

Unfortunately, we ran out of propane shortly after firing up the grill, so I used the Le Creuset grill pan.

The “grilled” laminated flatbread was finished in a 450F oven on a baking stone:

150624 flatbread 1

Another angle:

150624 flatbread 2

A closeup of an end-piece:

150624 flatbread 3

Formula/recipe:  300g AP flour, 180g water (60% hydration), 6g olive oil (2%), 7g kosher salt (2.3%), 1/2 tsp yeast. Mix on low speed for 10 minutes. Let rise two hours. Lightly oil the workstation. Roll out thin. Brush with olive oil. Fold over. Rinse. Repeat.

Looking at it, I think I folded it about five times. The result was airy and crispy at the same time. Excellent!

(It’s sort of a sendup on Ming Tsai’s shallot pancakes, though I don’t think it was a conscious thing — I just wanted to see what would happen if I tried grilling a laminated dough.)


Container Garden Update — June 21, 2015

by A.J. Coltrane

Previous post here.  June 21, 2014 post here.  June 16, 2013 post here.

More beautiful, warm weather means more happy plants. The overview:

150621 overview

The basil is … sprawling:

150621 basil

The Sun Gold tomatoes:

150621 sungold

The Sweet Millions are at more or less the same stage:

150621 sweet million

The first little Jalapeno:

150621 jalapeno

One of the two Lemon cucumbers in the southeast corner is shriveling, but only the bottom leaves. It’s been going on for more than a week. If the top starts to go we’ll cut out the plant. This is the perfect example of why I don’t like to prune to one plant per hole:

150621 lemon

The earliest cucumbers — “Calypso”:

150621 calypso

The Tromboncino zucchini is well taller than the door. Still no sign of powdery mildew. The milk treatment is “working”. Or it’s still just early:

150621 zucchini

Zucchini flowers:

150621 zucchini flowers

The biggest fruit. It’s going to be dinner sometime this week:

150621 zucchini fruit

The tomatillos. They can’t be controlled. Or contained:

150621 tomatillo

The peas by the front door are doing their thing, finally:

150621 peas

Probably my favorite cartoon:


The Local P-Patch

by A.J. Coltrane

I wrote this about the local P-Patch on May 31:

As an aside:  We went to the local P-patch today to look around — Lots of peas, lettuces, carrots, and various types of alliums. Some tomatoes and tomatillos. One tiny little bit of corn, and one of beans. A little bit of squash. Not a cucumber in sight. The groupthink seemed almost monolithic in its decision making.

That doesn’t make any sense to me. Our cucumbers out-produce everything expect maybe the tomatoes. Maybe they’ll all plant cucumbers after the peas are done?

My guess is no. The food bank boxes are densely planted and well maintained. The other boxes, not so much. It might be because they’ve got so much space to play with, but to my mind they’re “wasting” a lot of it. There are “big” areas with nothing going on… Today is basically June 1st, shouldn’t there be something growing? (Or maybe it’s just me, and that having to deal with super finite space all the time has made me feel like wasted space = wasted opportunity. It’s really my problem, not theirs…. Nah.)

I went by again yesterday. There are still tons and tons of peas and lettuces. Much of the “wasted” space is now occupied by baby cucumbers and zucchini, as well as some smallish tomato plants. Beds like this are the exception:

150618 garden

There are some small squash or cucumber at the far end of the box. I think those are tiny broccoli(?) or some type of brassica in the front right. In the background you can see a tomato bed (#4) and a beet bed (#5). The beets look good..

I’m going to hazard a guess that in a couple of weeks all of the peas and lettuce will become short season tomato plants(?)

I clearly don’t get it.

Container Garden Update — June 14, 2015

by A.J. Coltrane

Previous post here.  June 21, 2014 post here.  June 16, 2013 post here.

Reviewing the pictures, this post is very similar to the June 21 post of last year. I even took pictures of most of the same things (Oregon Spring tomatoes, King of the North Peppers, the first Tromboncino zucchini.)

But I’m just now figuring that out, so here goes, starting with the overview:

150614 overview

Overall, I’d say we’re basically one week’s growth ahead of last year.

The basil — The mass is loosely the same as 2014, it’s just sprawled out:

150614 basil

The Tromboncino zucchini. They’re a little less than six feet tall:

150614 zucchini plant

The biggest zucchini. It’s around 4-5 inches long:

150614 zucchini

The tomatoes are trying to escape their cages. This one had to be coaxed back in:

150614 tomato

The Oregon Spring:

150614 oregon spring

It feels like we’re not seeing as many bees this year. Hopefully they’ll find the tomatillos attractive over the next few days:

150614 tomatillo

The biggest King of the North. I may hit them with diatomaceous earth sooner than later. In theory it should keep the earwigs from eating holes in the peppers:

150614 bell pepper

Because I haven’t done a picture of these in a while, the Marketmore 76 cucumbers:

150614 marketmore cucumber

Nerf vs Poof — A Comparison

by A.J. Coltrane

I’d been looking for a new “old school” Nerf for a long time. I hadn’t been able to find one because they’re no longer manufactured. This past weekend I knew I’d have some arms willing to test out the new Nerfs, so I purchased the two most likely replacements in advance of some serious throwing around. My elbow is still a little sore four days later.

Pictured below are two new Nerf footballs, as well as what I think is an ancient Nerf knockoff — probably a Poof.


Left-  Nerf N-Sports Weather Blitz All Conditions Football

Center-  Nerf N-Sports Pro Grip Football


Weather Blitz:  The green on the Weather Blitz is actually a semi-hard raised plastic. It’s easy to grip and easy to catch. I found I could get a good spiral on it, though I really had to “snap off” the throws. I found a couple of arm slots that worked, but that was it. It was fun to really get a good tight-spiral throw, though I think it was harder on my elbow than the other two footballs.

Sloppy throws resulted in really “ugly balls”. I didn’t think it was very forgiving — basically All Or Nothing — if my release point was too low the nose of the ball would burrow towards the ground. Additionally, I’d be a little hesitant to play catch using the Weather Blitz with someone young or someone with bad coordination. I’d be worried about hitting them in the nose or eye. It probably would’t hurt them, but I doubt it’d be fun.

All in all though, the ball does “sing” when thrown really well, and that’s really satisfying.

Pro Grip:  Easy to throw. A variety of arm slots and deliveries worked. I could rarely get a perfect spiral, but even the imperfect throws were still pretty good. I found it a little hard to catch because, at least when new, it’s fairly slick. It’s also not very dense, so the ball would tend to try bounce off of my hands. Definitely less like a “real football” than the Weather Blitz, but it was still fun. I would have liked it more if it were a tiny bit heavier and/or denser.

Poof:  Easy to throw, though it needs a good spiral to carry very far into the wind. This is the ball that Amazon reviewers thought was the hardest to put a good spiral on. I didn’t have that hard a time with it personally. I found that it allowed for some really crummy technique and it would still carry ok. Almost any arm slot and release point worked. Maybe they’re now making them with lighter foam than mine has. I like mine, it’s just so old that it will need replacing soon. I may buy a new Poof and try that out too.

Other Stuff:  The Poof is close in size to a regular football. If I remember correctly, it’s also vaguely larger than an “old-school” Nerf. I’m pretty sure that the new Nerfs are somewhat smaller than the “old-school” Nerf, and they’re definitely smaller than I’d prefer.

The gang was fairly evenly divided about which ball they liked best, though all the votes were for one of the two new Nerfs. I think that the Pro Grip is a better ball for smallish kids, and that the Weather Blitz is more for older kids/adults, or for use in windy conditions.

My guess is that the Pro Grip is the one I’ll use more often, just because it’s more forgiving on my arm than the Weather Blitz. I can move my arm slot and release point around more with the Pro Grip, which means I get more play time before my arm bags out.

Ultimately, they’re different and loosely equal — I don’t think you can go wrong either way.


Peyton Manning in one of my favorite SNL sketches:


Container Garden Update — June 7, 2015

by A.J. Coltrane

Previous post here. June 7, 2014 post here. June 9, 2013 post here.

Things have changed a lot in two years. The cucumbers and peppers are much larger this year than in 2013. I think a big part of that is because we spread the cucumbers out more — the EarthBox instructions call for four in a row along one side of the box. This year we put two on each side with the fertilizer strip down the middle. There is only one “Calypso” — it’s not competing with anything else, and it’s growing faster than every other cucumber we have. It has blooms! Progress!

(In theory the right answer is to prune out the weakest zucchini and cucumbers and leave only one per hole. I’m hesitant to do that though, because if something happens to the solo plant we’re starting over from scratch. This year we pruned the cucumbers back to two per hole, mostly. However, if the “Calypso” continues to beat the bejeezus out of the other cucumbers then we maybe we’ll need to take a deep breath and go with one per hole in the future… Ultimately the final yield will tell use what to do — two plants at 60% production create more food than one plant at 100%… we’ll see how it shakes out.)

Clockwise from front right on a very bright day:  “Calypso” cucumber, Lemon cucumber (2), National Pickling cucumber(2), Lemon cucumber (2) –

150607 cucumbers

For comparison, here are the 2013 Marketmore cucumbers. (This year’s Marketmores are similar to the picture above):

For whatever reason, the two on the left are much bigger than the two on the right...

For whatever reason, the two on the left are much bigger than the two on the right…

The photo below is facing north. It’s a direction I don’t usually use to take pictures-

Left side, front to back – basil, peppers, tomato

Center – Marketmore cucumbers, pretty container, tomatoes

3rd row – cucumbers, tomatillo, tomato

Far back right – Tromboncino zucchini

150607 side view

A more conventional view. Tomatoes and zucchini on the left. Peppers in the front. The basil (front right) is still floppy, but it’s now growing upwards:

150607 front view

A closeup of the Tromboncino zucchini. The four plants have been trained to their own “space”. One plant on one half of each side of the A-frame trellis. Note the complete absence of powdery mildew.. so far the 1/3 milk spray is working. Or it’s just early yet:

150607 tromboncino

The tomatillos. “De Mipa” on the left. “Mexican Strain” on the right. The “De Mipa” is doing it’s usual flopping thing, and “Mexican Strain” is catching up:

150607 tomatillo

Next week I’ll try to get pictures in the early morning before the direct sun kicks in. I think that makes for much better photos. Today that wasn’t a possibility. Hopefully by next week we’ll have a lot more little veggies to look at.

Time to Hit the Panic Button

By Blaidd Drwg

I had mostly written a post about how it was time for the Mariners to hit the panic button and then the Mariners went and did it in the worst possible way – they went out and traded for Mark Trumbo, which is exactly what the Mariners did not need to do. Granted, the Mariners traded a bunch of spare parts to get Trumbo (contrary what people may say, Gabby Guerrero, Vlad’s Nephew, is probably not going to be anything beyond a 4th OFer in the majors.

David Schoenfield wraps up the Mariners issues really well in this article. Basically, the team doesn’t get on base. The team has spent most of the Zdrienick era near or at the bottom of the AL in OBP which is why this team is consistently near or at the bottom of the AL in runs scored and near or at the bottom of the standings. This is a fundamental flaw in organizational philosophy. How many hitters have the Mariners developed into all-star caliber players under Z? One – Kyle Seager, despite having multiple top 10 picks. Ackley is looking like a 4th OFer, Zunino can’t hit a curve ball and looks like he will struggle to get to .200 every season, Brad Miller is really a league average SS as a hitter, Chris Taylor looks like he is going to be the same, Nick Franklin, who was traded to TB last season is looking like a 4A player and there isn’t much hope on the horizon.

Those who know me know that I wasn’t high on the Mariners coming into 2015 – they didn’t fix their on-base issues in the offseason and they were historically good last season at preventing runs, which meant that regression in that capacity is likely. Any offense that they added was going to be offset by a bigger increase in runs allowed, which is exactly what has happened so far this season.

Back to Trumbo. The guy has power, which puts him in 30 HR territory. That is great, except that the Mariners already hit a ton of home runs. Trumbo has a career .299 OBP which is horrible. He is a terrible defensive OF (although he isn’t bad at 1B, but it seems that the Mariners are convinced that Logan Morrison is the answer there). He probably ends up as a full time DH and occasional 1B, which is probably about right for him. The other thing that Trumbo has going for him is that he hits right handed. The M’s have an incredibly left handed heavy lineup and this will help balance it out. It doesn’t solve the issue of getting on base.

While we are at it, it is past the time where Fernando Rodney is the Mariners closer. Rodney has converted 14 of 17 save opportunities, which makes him look better than he has been. He has managed to compile an ERA of near 7 and in 7 out of his last 9 save opportunities, he has given up at least 1 run. The scary thing is that he has entered every one of those games at the start of the inning with no runners on. I can’t imagine that the Mariners even remotely trust him to come in with runners on at this point, yet McClendon still says Rodney is his closer.

I figured the Mariners were an 80-83 win team this season. I am willing to bet if they finish anywhere below 81 wins, that you will see a new manager and GM for the 2016 season.

Dishwasher Lasagna

By Iron Chef Leftovers

You may remember that Culinary God Food Network Star Alton Brown appeared on Mythbusters. I had not realized there was actually a segment that did not make it into the show – I give you Dishwasher Lasagna.