Saturday, October 19, 2019

A compromised fence insulator

The wire was not run through the prongs. Then the wire arced to the post. You can see bird poop on the wire. That may have originally bridged the air gap and triggered the arcing.
A closer image of the carbon trace from the arcing.
This run of fence was installed to contain a horse that left a decade ago.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Light posting the next few days

Today and tomorrow are mom-and-dad days.

The Shrewd King 13.5: Character sketches

Di pulled the wagon into the drive that circled the Blastic farm yard. She had twenty bushels of shelled corn in the back.

Two teams were deployed in Pray Church. Two were in Chernovsky’s Annex and the Equestrian Coach was now Di’s competition in Kate’s Store. There was still no shortage of work for Di.

Dogs were barking. Then a fat man came shuffling out of the main house. He walked like his shoes were too tight or as if he were constipated, Di was not sure which. She assumed this was the Denny Blastic she had heard so much about.

“I brought the first week’s rent.” Di said.

The man shuffled over to Di’s wagon and held out his hands. “Where is it?” he asked.

Di jerked a thumb and pointed in back. The man must be blind. “Right there” she said.

The man’s glance flitted to the grain bags and then back at Di. “I don’t want that crap. I want the $134 silver that you agreed to.”

Now it was Di’s turn to be confused. “I beg your pardon?”

“The price of corn was $100 for fifteen bushels, silver when you made the deal. That is the price you agreed to pay. Twenty bushels of corn at $6.67 is $134, silver” Blastic said.

“No.” Di said, drawing out the word. “I agreed to pay 20 bushels of corn, not $134 in silver. The current price of corn is $60 for twenty bushels. If you prefer, I can pay you $60.”

“I can’t accept this corn and we did not agree to $60. We agreed to $134, silver.” Blastic said, dismissively. “I am not going to let you weasel out of your agreement.”

It was pretty clear somebody was weaseling and it wasn’t Di.

Di released the brake and said, “Giddi-up, Dobbin. Giddi-up Dart.”

Blastic jumped back so the back wheels of the wagon did not run over his feet.

“Hey, where are you going?” he demanded.

“I am going to get your horses.” Di said. “I cannot do business with somebody who bargains in bad-faith.”

“Hey...Wait a minute. Don’t you know a joke when you hear one?” Blastic said with a tiny trace of panic in his voice.

“Didn’t sound like a joke to me, and I bet if I had paid you the extra $74 you would have kept it.” Di said. Di kept driving.

Blastic caught up with her after she had driven a half mile. She had heard enough stories about Blastic that she had her .22 semi-automatic rifle down from the rack behind the seat. The rifle was there to pot the occasional game animal and to discourage feral dogs and humans.

Blastic pretended not to see it. “I am afraid I got off on the wrong foot.”

Blastic knew how to behave in a civil manner. He just rarely felt the need to do so. This was one of those rare times.

Di, for her part, was thinking of how disappointed the new Capiche Cab drivers were going to be when Di collected their horses to return them to Blastic. A second thought that crossed Di’s mind was that the horses probably had a better life in their new homes than in Blastic’s over-grazed pastures.

“So what is your remembering of the deal?” Di asked.

“Two bushels of corn, per animal, per week.” Blastic said.

“I was dropping it off as a courtesy.” Di said. “After this week, you can come and collect it yourself.”

Di turned the team around and went back to the Blastic farm. She did not help unload.

Once unloaded, Di wasted no time heading back home. Her dislike of Denny Blastic was visceral and total.


Luke and Brittany Salazar were sitting on the old farm-house wrap-around porch catching the last stray breezes of the evening.

The older kids were playing in the sandy dirt of the yard. The new infant was in a car seat that served admirably as a cradle for rocking the child with a simple nudge of the foot against the carrying handle.

One of the consequence of the grid going down and the moribund economy is that people’s lives were once again synchronized by the rising and setting of the sun. The twenty-four hour economy had been replaced by the natural light economy.

The last customer left hours ago. Stew, snap-peas and the first green beans from the garden, lettuce and dinner rolls had been served for supper. Luke had eaten too much and now he was waiting for his system to compact things down.

He wasn’t thinking anything in particular when he happened to glance over at Brittany. She had a few strands of hair wafting up and backlit by the setting sun. She unconsciously reached up and patted them down.

The effects of nursing a new baby, working and a diet high in water, fiber while low in fats resulted in a rapid loss of the weight she had picked up during her pregnancy.

That is when Brittany’s physical beauty smote Luke between the eyes.

She was beautiful in the regal, classical way. There was nothing hyper-fashionable or over-wrought in her features or figure. If anything, her bosom was enlarged because she was nursing but even that was not grotesque or a caricature of a teenager’s fantasy.

Luke had never wanted children. He had been a precise and detail oriented child. The children fostered by his parents, Kate and Rick, had demolished his stamp collections and broken sacred artifacts from HIS childhood. There were no artifacts left from Luke’s childhood; no stuffed birds, no model airplanes, no wheat pennies or butterflies mounted with exquisite precision. There would never be a Luke Salazar museum as a consequence.

Later interactions with girls had cemented that “fact” that he was not normal. The mean girls had belittled him while the more maternal ones saw him as “safe” and treated him like an animated version of a Ken doll. None of them treated him like a nascent man.

After being stabbed in the back by some of the maternal girls he had considered peers, he decided that girls were just too unpredictable. Collectively, the population of Eaton Rapids High School decided he was gay and he did not argue with them.

He and Brittany had been co-habitating for three months. He was protecting her by giving her an identity that distanced her from Carson Duckworth. She was protecting him by squelching lingering rumors of his sexual orientation.

During that time she had effortlessly balanced the needs to advocate for herself and her children while supporting to his authority as the head of the household and master of the store.

In that instant, he realized that he wanted Brittany in every way that a husband wants his wife.

It was a revelation.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Tactical retreat

Several readers pointed out the possibility of High Explosives being abandoned at National Guard Armories.

I don't want to dive down that rabbit hole because my ignorance is total. I could only speculate and would probably get important details wrong.

It does raise the question of likely actions by the National Guard if civil strife looked like it would go critical-mass.

My guess is that they would make a tactical retreat to major bases. In Michigan that would be Grayling in the middle of BF-Nowhere and Fort Custer which is mid-way between Detroit and Chicago.

Grayling is infinitely more defensible and Fort Custer is infinitely easier to support logistically.

The order of shipment would be fuzes, shells, then tubes.

Without fuzes, High Explosive is modeling clay. Fifteen fuzes take up the same space as one 105mm projectile so the least logistically demanding way to make ammo inaccessible to insurgents is to ship out or destroy the fuzes.

Without shells, tubes are very heavy telephone poles. One-hundred 105mm HE rounds weighs about as much as a 105mm howitzer.

A minimum amount could be kept together to ship with the tubes in case locals got ideas and barriers needed to be breached.

Any comments from the professionals will be much appreciated.

ERJ's quick guide to Political dolls

The Shrewd King 13.4: Looking the other way

Quinn was deeply disappointed by the performance of the sensors in the field.

They rarely picked up pedestrians and vehicles had to be within fifteen feet for the sensor to register.

Quinn sent a message to Dmitri claiming the senors did not work. Dmitri made the ten mile trip to support the installation. It was a twenty mile round trip by bike the day after he made the fifteen mile round trip to the M-99 bridge by bike. Dmitri was not a happy camper.

“Show me the installation.” Dmitri commanded.

Quinn showed him the upside-down plastic cup on the side of the road, right where the shoulder transitioned to tall weeds. Quinn chose to put the sensor where the road was below grade on the far side of the bridge.

Dmitri asked, “Did you adjust the sensitivity screws?”

Quinn gave him a blank look. “What screws?”

Dmitri shook his head in disgust. He was sure they had covered that in training but Quinn had undoubtedly been in over-load mode.

Dmitri sighed. Pulling the sensor off the T Quinn had used to pin it to the ground, Dmitri turned it over and pointed to the heads of two screws that were visible. The little screw adjusts the sensitivity of the low frequency. Low starts with “L” and little starts with “L”. The big screw adjusts the high frequency.”

Dmitri had a limited number of transistors to play with and was only monitoring two frequencies. “Low” frequency was four Hertz and “high” frequency was thirty Hertz. It was a judgment call on his part. The cup was flimsy and its ability to track frequencies above thirty Hertz was limited.

“The other thing is that you did not pick a great place for the sensor. You need to pick a place where the road drums” Dmitri said.

“What does that mean?” Quinn asked. By now they had an audience as the other fighters, Roger and Randy were listening.

“Drums! Like a bowl full of jelly. Wet, spongy soil drums. Bridges drum. New fill drums. Packed gravel and sand...well, not so much.” Dmitri explained.

Quinn raised an eyebrow in an unspoken question.

“Move the sensor half-way between here and the bridge, where the road is above grade.” Dmitri commanded.

Manuel did as Dmitri commanded.

“Now walk down the road.” Dmitri said.

Manuel was twice as far away when the tell-tale started strobing.

“That is still not sensitive enough.” Quinn said.

Dmitri rolled his eyes. He plucked the sensor off the T and pulled a small screwdriver out of his back pocket. “In is more sensitive. That is clockwise.”

Dmitri gave both screws a quarter turn clockwise and re-installed the sensor.

“Try again.” Dmitri said.

This time Manuel was four times farther from the sensor when it lit-off.

“It is still not sensitive enough.” Quinn insisted.

“Why are there two screws?” Jason asked.

Dmitri easily dropped into lecture mode. “A sensor can fail in two ways. It can not signal when it should and it can signal when it should not. Giving you two frequencies to fiddle with means you can better tune the sensors into the specific site and still not have lots of false alarms.

Dmitri kept notes as Jason, Miguel and Quinn messed around with the sensor. They finally got it dialed in to where they were happy when Dmitri directed them to place it mid-span on one of the bridge beams, out of sight from the road bed.

There the sensor proved exquisitely sensitive.

“Can it be too sensitive?” Jason asked.

Dmitri shrugged. “There aren’t many deer left so they won’t set it off. Mostly, you need to worry about stray dogs and raccoons. If they don’t set them off, then you are probably OK.”

What Dmitri did not consider was the fact that there was a surprising amount of nocturnal traffic, none of which wished to be noticed. Some of it involved the pursuit of non-marital intimacy. Some involved the sale and trade of stolen goods or illicit substances.

Quinn made an executive decision. The locals were the people he had been sent to protect. He could not do his job without their support. That support would evaporate if he threw any of them under-the-bus.

The second night, when his fighters were rudely awakened and detained an amorous, married man crossing the bridge to take a “walk on the wild side”, Quinn told the man “I can turn a blind eye to your cheating but only on two conditions.”

The man asked, “And those are?”

“You cross the bridge at exactly the same time every night...or you don’t cross it.” Quinn said.

“What is the second condition?” the erstwhile lover asked.

“That you are armed.” Quinn said. “If we are lowering our guard so you can scratch-your-itch then you have to carry and carry heavy so we are not left swinging naked in the breeze.”

The man blinked in surprise. “You are going to let me keep crossing the bridge?”

Quinn said, “I would rather have you use the bridge rather than to beat a path through the brush that invaders could use to sneak across the river and get behind us.”

“What does ‘carry heavy’ mean?” the man asked, not quite believing his good fortune.

“AR or AK with two extra magazines.” Quinn said. “You go out like you are still hunting deer and you come back the same way, slow and quiet. What you do inside whatever house you are going to, I don’t care. But coming and going you have to be our eyes and ears because we are turning ours off to let you cross the bridge.”

That wasn’t going to be exactly true, of course. The alarm would sound and if it was at the agreed-upon time, the fighters might look down at the bridge but they wouldn’t rush down there to challenge the bridge crosser.


The interactions with the smugglers went much the same.

Most of the merchandise were salvage goods that somehow evaded being logged into Benicio’s inventory and was being sold in Capiche or points south for personal profit.

The first smuggler offered Quinn a bribe to look the other way. After briefly considering, Quinn refused.

“I am here to guard this bridge.” Quinn said. “You need to have absolutely no doubt that if you ever become a threat that I will not hesitate to pull the trigger.”

And then he let them cross, unmolested. Quinn did not see how his job of guarding the bridge had anything to do with protecting Benicio’s economic interests. He allowed free passage as long as the smugglers passed word ahead of time when they planned to slip through.

Quinn’s crew held the information about the smugglers close to the vest. The smugglers would find another way to infiltrate or would be executed if word of their identity and activities leaked out. Quinn's belief was that it is better to have a grudging truce with the devils you know than to open the gates of hell and let new ones out.

Quinn impressed upon the entrepreneurs that his ONLY interest was protecting Capiche and that any scuttlebutt or rumors that might impact the safety of Capiche would be much appreciated.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Sprite had cows out

A couple of days ago, one of Sprite's cattle got out.

We spent four hours yesterday troubleshooting Sprite's fence.

Based on what we saw, one three-hundred yard run of the fence had not been electrified in more than a year. Also based on the amount of wire touching the ground, I am not sure if he had any significant charge in any of the fence for the last couple of months.

God bless cows. If they have water, food, salt and company they will stay in a fence out of habit.

Not to speak ill of the dead, but the Captain's frugality caused him to weave every strand of material that remotely resembled "fence" or "insulator" into his perimeter fences. He also jumpered from top wire to middle wire or bottom wire in a random kind of way.

It made for challenging troubleshooting.

I showed Sprite how to use a long blade of grass as an impromptu fence tester. Hold the base of the blade and touch the wire with the very tip of the blade. If you hear somebody yell, the world jumps and you are suddenly sitting, then the fence is hot.

Even though we were finding issues, we were still not getting any voltage in her fence.

The leads from the energizer to the fence were battered and the end of the hot lead was wrapped around the fence wire. I replaced those and used a clamp to ensure there was good contact. Still, nothing.

One of the outlets on the receptacles was so loose the plug for the energizer kept wanting to fall out. We plugged into another receptacle. Still, no heat.

We finally made progress when we tied our two fences together. A couple of years ago I ran some wire over-head to the Captain's fence and it ends in a set of vice-grips so that I can clamp to one of his fence wires. That gave both of us more redundancy in case of lightning strikes.

My fence energizer is more energetic than hers.  We started hearing pinging and snapping. Then it was easy to find the major issues.

After cleaning up a hard short caused by piece of wire that had been scrapped-in-place we had a hot wire. We made the executive decision to leave her fence connected to our energizer until we made a few hardware upgrades to her fence.

Oddly, she had no desire to test the fence after I demonstrated the yell-and-jump blade-of-grass method.