Saturday, March 12, 2016


As noted earlier, I am attempting to walk 1000 miles this year.  I noticed on one of my "regular" routes that some drainage ditches have a goodly supply of watercress growing in them.  The ditch shown above is three miles from my house.

Other ditches have been recently "channelized" and are devoid of watercress.  This ditch is a mile from my house.

What do you think a dedicated guerrilla gardener would do?

You cannot tell it from the photo, but the roots were writhing with "bug" life.
Yup.  I scraped a hat full of watercress out of the one ditch and placed it in the plastic grocery bag that I always carry in my pocket.  I had taken the precaution of checking watercress at the local grocery store to ensure I had properly identified it.  This much watercress would cost about $4.

This is half of what I picked.  I followed it as it floated down the ditch in the current.  I took this picture after it settled against the stick.  The other half I collected went into a different ditch a mile and a half from home.

The watercress might not "take" but it cost me nothing.  I was already going for a walk.

Administrative notice:
This is the last post on Eaton Rapids Joe blog.  Recent changes in the .blogspot. platform (owned by Google) reminded me that nothing is really private on the internet.  Part of what drew me to this kind of blogging was that anonymity allowed me to be much more revealing that I could otherwise be.   That made the stories better and the advice more concrete.

Changes at Google, changes that are inevitable if Google is going to recover their investment, make it harder to keep the blog uncoupled from my real life.  It is not a problem unique to Google, it is a consequence of the paucity of ways companies can create revenue out of internet traffic.

Thank-you for being such a kind audience.  You have been  very tolerant of essays that were WAY too long and you overlooked tortured sentences and the too-frequent grammatical errors.  Again, thanks for inviting me into your breakfast nooks, your work cubicles and your commuter trains.  My only regret is that I wrote too much political dreck and did not post enough pictures taken outside.

Fast growing oak

By my count, this tree is 14 years old. No, it is not Photoshopped.

And its growth was not slowing down.
This was one of the Q. robur I marked for culling.  It was a fastigiate form. It also leafed out early and held onto its leaves late, effectively increasing its growing season relative to the trees around it.

Privacy on the Internet

It is delusional, of course, to assume that privacy on the Internet is anything more than an illusion.


Consider the prime rule of investigative journalism:  Follow the money.

As one example, Wall Street values Facebook at $200/world-wide-user.  Since the majority of Facebook users are in what are charitably known as "developing" countries, that means that Facebook users who are US citizens must pull up the average.  Conservatively, they must be valued at something north of $700/user.

If you are a Facebook user, are YOU paying $70 a year for the privilege?  Nope.  Nobody is.  It is impossible to put "a meter" (like a taxi cab) on the Internet.

So how will Google and Facebook and Linkedin and Twitter and all of the other wannabes create a revenue stream out of their users to justify those lofty market valuations?  The answer should be obvious.  They will sell your information.

There is an inherent asymmetry in the sale of private information that is troubling.  In an explicit transaction I have the ability to opt out.  Suppose somebody walked up to me on the street and offered me $6 for both of my kidneys.    I would then run through some quick mental calculations and decide which offered me more utility, $6 or my kidneys.

Third parties selling your information removes you from that decision.  Under the fine print you gave away your control over your personal information.  Think about it, nobody is going to pay $700 for information about your eye color.  They are paying for the good stuff, the highly profitable stuff.  And as highly profitable as it is to them, it will be even more unprofitable to you.  Otherwise you would have already "sold" it.

Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto

"I am human, and nothing of that which is human is alien to me."  -Publius Terentius Afer
Nor is any human absolutely immunized against perpetrating any of the crimes recorded in the annals of history.  Pol Pot can happen again.  Stalin, Hitler, Idi Amin, Mussolini, Mao Zedong, Kim Il-sung will all happen again.

The unlikely becomes inevitable as the population grows.  Belladonna thinks my concerns are absurd but she is visualizing the 50 people she knows best.  A one-in-a-million event is invisible in nearly all samples of 50 people but becomes inevitable in a nation of 317 million.

Can you imagine Hitler with access to social media?  Can you imagine him with every citizen willingly carrying around a microphone and a camera that can be turned on remotely?  Can you imagine him with voice-to-text capability, databases and the computer ability to search through those databases?  Can you imagine those smartphones with their batteries locked so they cannot be removed (iPhones)?

The Diary of Anne Frank would not make it past the first paragraph.

Picture in your head what would happen if the word C-U-N-T were strongly correlated to terrorists activities.  The more often a person said C-U-N-T the more likely they were to commit multiple murders and crimes-of-mass-destruction.

How long do you think it would take to identify the 1000 biggest users of that word?  Perhaps a week to write and download the software to the devices, another week to gather data and a day to crunch it.  And then those same smartphones will happily tell the authorities their GPS coordinates for easy collection.

Their infraction? Guilty of pre-crime.  This is already being tested in Fresno, California.

That might almost seem value added to most Americans.  But what if the "crime" was to utter the words, "Mrs Clinton is a weak president."  That scares me.


"You know, all of those hooligans who cheer for Manchester United (or Crimson Tide or the Wildcats or....) found an outlet for man's inherent tribalism in way that does not involve cutting off heads."

Friday, March 11, 2016

Spring is coming

Vernal Witch Hazel.
Biologically we are at about 40% bloom of the Silver/Red Maple species complex.  Vernal Witch Hazel is at full bloom and it is very sweet smelling.  I have a Vernal Witch Hazel on the northeast corner of the house.  Honey bees can work both maple and witch hazel but their first "big" nectar and pollen flow is pussy willow, Salix discolor and, at my house, Apricots.  That gets them setting brood.

Our maple sap season was a bust.  Maple sap flows well when the days are warm and the nights are sub-freezing.  We jumped right from freezing-freezing to warm-warm.

The spring peepers started singing a couple of days ago.

According to one weather report, we have a total of 21 Growing Degree Days (base 50F).  That is not very much.

Cutting scion wood

The donor tree, much in need of pruning.

This is what I am after.  One year old wood, vigorous, well ripened in the full sun.

On the ground.

Parted out.  Only the one year old wood.

Cut to length, bagged and labeled.  This is smaller diameter than most of what I am cutting. 

Chapter 22 Bankruptcy

Chapter 22 Bankruptcy is the phenomena of companies, or cities, going through reorganization more than once.

It occurs when major stakeholders do not trust each other.  They dig in and insist that other stakeholders should take a bigger whipping.  The reorganization plan leaves the court with unresolved systemic and structural issues. If you take a couple of steps back, it becomes apparent that these entities deserve to go out of business because they demonstrate uncontrolled auto-immune disease: They are no longer viable.

The two largest reorganizations seen in Michigan involved General Motors and the City of Detroit.


General Motors now has an "Altman Z-Score" of 1.3.  High numbers are good.  Low numbers are bad.  A Z-Score less than 1.8 indicates a "distressed" company.  A Z-Score between 1.8 and 3.0 is considered to be in the "gray" or "watch" zone.  Z-Scores above 3.0 are considered "Safe".

And that is with a record shattering 17.5 million domestic vehicle market in the rear view mirror.  One wonders how it will respond if credit tightens or when the market must digest an increasing glut of off-lease vehicles.

The preliminary draft of the Detroit Bankruptcy identified the legacy costs associated with a huge base of retired (and soon to retire) municipal workers, generous pension benefits and a shrinking population base.  The preliminary draft also threw a stake into the ground that retirees would receive 17% of their promised benefits to leave the City on healthy financial ground.  That is, they would take an 83% hair cut if the first order approximations (back of envelope calculations, if you prefer) were followed.

After much dickering, the pensions were cut a whopping 4.5%.

That is the equivalent of a doctor doing triage determining that a patient needed to have their left leg amputated at the hip.  And then the hospital's board of directors authorizing an amputation at the ankle.

This is a viable strategy if you believe in unicorns and magic,  leprechauns and philosopher's stones.

The rest of us figure it is just a matter of time before Detroit is back in Bankruptcy court.  The only question in our mind is whether it is Chapter 11 or Chapter 7.

Thursday, March 10, 2016


March madness is almost upon us.

One of my friends was commiserating about his wife.

She MOPPED UP during the football bowl season.  Her method of picking the winners was simple.

She chose the teams that had "animal" mascots.