Friday, May 14, 2021

Remnant: Retribution

Fritz Speicher and Dar Spaulding went way back. Dar remembered Fritz from second grade. In fifth grade, Fritz discovered he had a neighbor who received magazines in plain, brown paper covers.

Since Fritz got out of school sooner than his neighbor came home from work, it wasn't hard for Fritz to intercept some of those girlie magazines.

Fritz was suddenly a very popular fellow. He and his school chums...including Dar...marveled at the gravity defying assets of Mr. Hefner's girlfriends.

Stealing is a sin, of course. The magazines were slipped back in their brown wrappers and delivered about five days afterward.

The boys knew there must be more to "sex" than oohing-and-ahhing. But details would have to wait.

You would have to be blind to see that Dar was one of the few who was in-the-know. Fritz was not blind.

"Do you know who done this to me and Clair?" Fritz baldly asked Dar.

That put Dar on the horns of dilemma. He had a damned good idea who did it.

Jarrell and the Mayor were working on a plan to foment rebellion. That was all well and good, but that was a long-term goal. People were hurting now. People Dar knew and trusted.

Fritz could see Dar was chewing on something. He knew better than to push.

"Tell me again about the trucks the gomers were driving" Dar said.

"Blue Chevy, maybe 2010 blue with lots of metal-flake. An old Ford...mid-70s. Two-tone, brick-red and cream" Fritz responded.

Dar started scrolling though pictures on his phone. "Did it look like this one?"

Fritz looked at the image of the 1977 Ford truck. It was identical to the one that had been driven by the raiders who visited his farm. Identical, except for the bullet holes in the windshield.

"Yeah, that looks like the one" Fritz said.

"What about the other one?" Fritz asked.

"Lots of 2010 Chevys out there" Dar said. "Hard to tell."

"How important is it to you that you put some pain back on the people who did this to you?" Dar asked.

"They pointed guns at Clair. There wasn't anything I could do about it. That just ain't right" Fritz said.

"I would give my left nut to put some pain on the assholes who did this" Fritz continued.

Dar scrolled through a few more pictures. Then he showed Fritz the Letter of Marque that had been in the red-and-cream colored Ford.

"See the bottom name? That is the name of the asshole who pointed the gun at Clair" Dar said.

"See the name above it? That is the name of the person who told him to do it"

Fritz looked at the signature block. "Boris Dragonov? That name is really familiar."

"He is your township clerk" Dar said.

"Son of a bitch" Fritz cursed.

"I know what you are thinking of doing. I would do the same myself. But I shared this with you because I know I can trust you" Dar said.

Dar held up his hand to forestall Fritz's objection.

"I ain't gonna tell you to not do what you are thinking. But you gotta make it look random. There are wheels-within-wheels here. You can really gum things up if you let out how you got this information" Dar said.

Fritz looked at Dar for a minute.

"You are saying I can kill him?" Fritz asked.

"Some people need killing. If he told somebody to point a gun at Leslie or Melody then you better not stop me from killing him" Dar said.

"I am just putting some boundaries around it. You cannot breath a word to anybody about how you got this information. Better yet, make it look like a robbery gone wrong or random violence" Dar said.

That seemed like small enough of a condition.

At one in the morning, Boris Dragonov woke to the sound and fury of his garage burning down. 9-1-1 gave him no satisfaction. There were no units to send.

Grabbing a bucket, he rushed out the door, only to catch a load of high-bass #6 shot in his lower gut.

Nobody saw the person who pulled the trigger. They estimated he was ten-to-fifteen feet away from Dragonov when he pulled the trigger based on the diameter of the pattern.

It would have taken a crack team of emergency room surgeons to remove the 250 pellets from his abdominal cavity. Between hunting down the pellets and repairing the perforated bowels and kidneys, it would have been a four hour surgery. Except there were no functioning Emergency Rooms and no crack teams of surgeons.

Dying from sepsis is not a pretty way to go.


After a long day butchering, Gilbert asked Fritz about a camper that was on a property a half mile from the Speicher farm.

Gilbert struggled to give directions, but Fritz eventually figured it out after Gilbert pointed anbd made lots of hand gestures.

"Who owns it?" Gilbert asked.

"Not really sure. Why?" Fritz asked.

"My son has a new wife. He wants to move her to Eaton Rapids so they can live as man-and-wife" Gilbert informed him.

Fritz could understand that.

"He wondered if he could move into that camper" Gilbert continued.

"It isn't mine to say 'yes' or 'no'"  Fritz said. That property belongs to a trust down in Indiana. A couple weekends a year somebody uses that camper and they play poker, do some drinking and might even go hunting."

Gilbert's face fell.

Then Fritz matter-of-factly added, "I don't think anybody local cares much one way or the other. You guys are working your asses off. If you could pop the door open without damaging it, I reckon your son could live their until the rightful owners show up. Its called squatting."

"You did the right thing. You asked first. Just have your boy leave it better than he found it and I am sure it will be OK" Fritz said.

Fritz was 99.9% sure the owners in Indiana would NOT be making the trip up to Eaton Rapids any time soon.


Nora Odenkirk peered through her sapphire tinted contacts at the TV camera. "And we have some good news to report. A convoy of forty semi-trucks successfully brought a load of grain from Maumee, Ohio to Washington D.C. For all the people here, I want to say 'Thanks Maumee!'"

The wheels were slowly starting to turn. Conscripted truck drivers were put into trucks and forced to drive to distant grain shipping facilities, fill up the trucks and then return.

The return trip involved dodging bullets from disgruntled locals. Armored Personnel Carriers attempted to sanitize the route but some rounds always slipped through. No convoy ever made it back to the East Coast intact.

And while forty semis sounded like a lot of trucks, it was a drop-in-the-bucket when divided up by the population in and around the Beltway. The situation was even worse for the northern part of the Megalopolis, from New Jersey north.

Any hopes of the Federal Government restoring order and facilitating commerce west of Harrisburg were dashed.

Cities like Lansing were left to fend for themselves.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Mowing grass, burning brush and irrigating



I am way behind on mowing. I did some catching up today.

We have had about three inches of rain since March 1. Things are getting a little bit dry.

I blew out the drip irrigation by uncapping the ends and running water of an hour. Then I closed up the ends and ran it for another three hours. I have 2gph emitters so each tree got a drink.

The dry weather made it a good day to shrink the burn pile.

I also moved the seedlings of romaine lettuce from flats into Mrs ERJ's garden.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

I-40 Bridge over Mississippi River, Cracked member


First, let me lead off by saying that I don't have any inside information.

Second, me assure you that I have done more stress and durability analysis than the usual Internet, Armchair Expert.

Had the cracks occurred at the ends of the doubler plate it would have been understandable. Cracks occur at the end of reinforcing plates every day and twice on Sunday. But this crack was not at the end of the reinforcing plate and was more than a "crack". It was a total fracture.

What is baffling about this fracture is that there are no visible, abrupt changes in geometry that say "stress riser". Nor, looking at the location in the overall structure, is there any reason to suspect high stresses at this particular point.

Perhaps there are internal gussets and reinforcements that are not visible but that would not be an economical place to put them from a fabrication standpoint.

While it is remotely possible that the beam was too short and a bit was welded onto the end to make it longer, the fracture is not quite perpendicular to the section. That makes the fractured weld hypothesis very unlikely.

What no responsible engineer wants to suggest is the possibility that steel beams with very-low, cold temperature impact toughness were built into critical, US infrastructure like bridges.


Low-carbon steel is a marvelous material. It is inexpensive, tough, amenable to common fabrication techniques and equally strong in all directions.

During WWII, steel became critical to the war effort. War runs on nitrates, oil, steel and blood.

Somebody had the bright idea adding a little bit of this and a little bit of that to common, low-carbon steel and increasing the strength by 50%. The thinking was that if it was 50% stronger than applications like ships would use 30% less.

Contributing to the soon-to-be-problem, production science suggested that welding was faster than riveting. Ships designed to transport US war materials to Europe were made of High-Strength-Low-Alloy (HSLA) steel and were primarily of welded construction.

U-boat predations of merchant shipping made more northerly routes advisable. The high seas of northern latitudes made it more difficult for Nazi U-boats to get a good periscope fix on targets to launch torpedoes.

Toilet paper

Toilet paper comes in rolls. The strip of paper is scored with a row of tiny holes about every four inches. I trust that most of my readers have seen pictures of toilet paper if they have not personally used it.

The user unrolls the desired amount and initiates a tear at the closest row of perforations.

Almost always, the paper separates at the desired location. It happens with such reliability that those of us who use toilet paper rarely give it a thought.

Some materials are supremely insensitive to suggestions like the row of perforations. Bubblegum is a prime example.

Other materials are supremely sensitive to suggestions. Glass for instance. The slightest scoring of the surface will cause a pane of glass to fracture in the indicated location.

Back to WWII

It was well understood that higher strength steels were often more brittle than lower strength steels.

Alloys were prepared. Tests were run. Ships were built.

What nobody had anticipated was that the first generation of HSLA steel used to build the Liberty Ships were temperature sensitive. Alloys that performed well at 60F could fail miserably at 20F.

North Atlantic. Cold. Stormy. High, humped waves.

All welded construction. 

Square-cornered access to holds, designed to facilitate rapid production.

Documented cases of captains looking for U-boat periscopes seeing six Liberty ship in one direction and by the time they swept back in that direction there were only five. The sixth ship had snapped in half and sunk just that quickly.


Why did ship-designers choose the first HSLA alloys?

The entire point of choosing them was that they didn't use rare, costly alloying element nor did they require exotic thermal processing at the mill. After all, mill capacity was a limiting factor.

Those economics have not changed. First generation HSLA steels are still less expensive. There is economic advantage to slipping a few (or more than a few) into the mix. After all, when the Interstate system was first built the ability to give every steel beam a unique bar-code label was a pipe-dream. It would not be that hard. And if they were sent to a hot state like Tennessee, what are the chances of them ever getting cold?

The crappy thing is...

The only good way to test for low-temperature notch sensitivity is to cut a sample, notch it, cool it and test it.

There might be twenty million steel beams built into bridges in the US.

Furthermore, those beams might be just fine until somebody comes along and cuts a sample out of them. Then the beam will be like the pane of glass with a line scored in the surface.

Like I wrote earlier, no responsible engineer wants this to be the case.

They really, really, really want to find some other "smoking gun". Otherwise it will be at total shit-storm.

Cougar Pine


Not my best work, but certainly not my worst.

Three-and-a-half hours which included a half hour coffee and laceration break. That beat my 5 hour estimate by a significant margin. I will count that as a victory.

Detail of header on the hinge end.

The non-hinge end had disassembled itself in the box. It was stapled together which was clearly not up to the task of being moved by fork-trucks. I put 2-by-4 blocks in the corners and shot construction screws into it to hold it together.

One of two complications

I figured out why they specified a person in the attic during the installation. It was to hammer the unit down into the opening. The side-frames were bowed and gravity was not enough to settle it into the opening.

The other complication was due to the choice of wood species. The manufacturer uses a type of western, yellow pine known as "Cougar Pine".

This species was so named because cougar hunters noticed that cougars, when pressed by hounds, always chose the tallest, straightest pines. Obviously, that kind of tree makes premium lumber for applications like attic ladders.

Unfortunately, like cougars everywhere, they have an ingrained tendency to pounce down  on unsuspecting prey.

That was the second complication. While fiddling with the bottom segment and trying to position it to saw off the excess, the unit pounced on me like a 45 year-old divorcee on a 29 year-old in the construction trades.

While I did not invest my heart and soul in this project, I can honestly say I donated some blood.

Legs are trimmed and deck screws installed. This sucker isn't going to pounce an any more carpenters.

Things that need to be said

A scope with a higher magnification will not help you hold your weapon any steadier.

High-maintenance should never be mistaken for high-class.

You might be able to out-run a cop car but you cannot out-run radio transmissions.

More chilies don't make the meat fresher. More beers don't really make the girls prettier.

The difference between a dog and a fox is six beers.

As I age, I find I now get drunk on a single drink. Usually the fifth one.

Character isn't how folks act when everything is going right. It is how they act when things go poorly.

Pepper spray means you can have a really good laugh about it....six years later.

Don't ask me to explain women. I have only been married once and she is not on the market.

Someday your kid will hear your voice come out of their kid's mouth. "Dad, you can borrow my tools but make sure you put them back where you found them. These are my GOOD tools."

It is as easy to drive on the top half of the gas tank as the bottom half and it is a lot less worrisome.

Folks would be a lot more civil if there was a chance they would get their asses kicked for being rude.

The only time it makes economic sense to buy a new car is if your current vehicle is so unreliable you are likely to lose your job.

Progressives want to take conservative's weapons because they realize the only real weapon is a functioning brain. They want to level the playing field.

Please feel free to add your own.

Iguana control



Sniping iguana in south Florida. Iguana burrow and munch on landscaping. In cold weather they fall out of trees into traffic and on to pedestrians.

I bet they taste like chicken.

Iguana Solutions has a boat-load of videos. Some with snare poles. Others with airguns.

Her airgun deserves comment. It fires a .22 caliber, 25 grain pellet at about 850 fps. It uses a tank of pre-compressed air so she can get multiple shots. She really lays them out with head-shots. It is not cheap at $1400 but it is a tool they use every day.

Velocity fall-off

About fifty shots from a fully charged tank before the shooter starts to see velocity fall.

One concern with a weapon that uses a precharged tank is that velocity is likely to fall-off as the pressure in the tank falls.

One work-around is to use a regulator to control the pressure ported to the pellet. Obviously, the regulated pressure must be less than the pressure in the tank. Regulators cannot create energy!

That presents the designer with a dilemma. If he chooses a lower pressure to extend the plateau then he loses power. If he chooses higher pressure to maximize power than he shortens the number of shots available to the shooter before trajectories become unpredictable.

Air rifles work for Iguana Solutions because there is no brass to police and they are quieter than .22s, even though there are many low-noise .22 rounds available. Those options include CB, and CCI "Quiet" .22LR and even the humble .22 Short.

Remnant: Moving things the old fashioned way

Figuring out how to move the 600 pounds of grain from Eaton Rapids to Fabulous Acres proved to be a much tougher problem than the Aiello brothers anticipated.

Lansing, like many cities, was surrounded by a ring of limited access “Interstates”. In the case of Lansing, the outer ring was almost square and measured 10 miles on a side.

The Acting Governor had roadblocks set-up on every road that went over or under the Interstates. He was deadly serious about stopping any food “smuggled” into Lansing that he was unable to “tax”.

The obvious solution was to get some trusted residents from Fabulous Acres jobs at the road blocks.

“No way, Chico” the head guard laughed in their faces. “You have to know somebody to get one of these jobs.”

Few jobs have more opportunity for graft, corruption, bribes and the petty exercise of power than to be a Customs Agent. And the most desired positions of all were the ones on midnight shift.

Victor and Hermes discussed the possibility of slipping over the Interstate in the dark-of-night but further intelligence gathering indicated that the roads were patrolled by various types of vehicles. The guards were armed and had no inhibitions about shooting at shadows.

Maybe one or two people could manage to slip over the Interstate but the neighborhood needed a dozen men to carry the six-hundred pounds and it needed to happen every night.

Barbecue-Man was the one who thought of the duck-boat.

Rodney had a 14 foot long jon-boat that was painted in dark, smudged colors to resemble marshy vegetation. He also had an electric motor and a deep-cycle battery.

The battery was brought to full charge by running a vehicle and tapping into its battery.

In the dark-of-night, the boat was transported beneath a tarp and launched in the Grand River at the end of Jolly Road. From there Antonio, a slightly-built 17 year-old rowed the boat up-river. Luckily, the river had almost no current as it was dammed a couple of miles downstream.

The Grand River flows from South-to-North (bottom to top). The North-South road passes over the Interstate so the church is masked from view of the Customs station

After two miles of rowing, he passed beneath the Interstate and another two-hundred yards placed him behind the Dimondale United Methodist Church.

Six-hundred pounds of corn in fifty-pound sacks were loaded into the bottom of the boat.

The young man needed help pushing off. The combined weight of the corn, the young man and the battery put the boat almost 300 pounds over its weight limit.

The bags of corn were perfect ballast, the water was still and the motor low power. Antonio’s biggest risk would be if he plowed into a sandbar he could not push the boat off of or if he hit a partially submerged log. If he didn’t hit the log square, there was a slight chance he could roll the boat.

Antonio motored back downstream, keeping his speed low enough that there were no sounds of the water being pushed by the bow.

He didn’t go to Jolly Road but stopped a mile short where power-lines crossed the river. Fifteen men were waiting at the outside of the bend. The bags of corn were quickly removed from the boat and deposited into a grab-bag of pack-baskets and back-boards. The three extra men were for security. It was a six-and-a-half mile walk back to Fabulous Acres.

The young man returned to the sandbar behind the Methodist Church and his brothers, the four-strong-backs on the butchering crew, collected him and the boat. They stashed the boat beneath some forsythia bushes that were just starting to bloom. It was invisible beneath the vivid, yellow flowers looking so much like dried, winter weeds. The men put the motor, battery and oars in the back of the truck they had borrowed.

Back, beneath the power-lines, the fifteen-men took off with two armed guards in the front and one at drag.

They marched under the powerlines until they hit Williams Road. Then they traveled north until they  hit Jolly Road. As soon as they hit the Lansing city limits they were bracketed by massive, Section 8 Housing Projects. Lansing, in a political power play, had packed the tiny sliver of Eaton County within city limits with subsidized housing to flip the electorate of that county.

The fifteen men moved at a quick walk and they moved almost silently. They continued east on Jolly past Waverly, moving into Ingham County. Both sides of the road were now very urban.

They did not percolate through the neighborhoods. The neighborhoods had their own gangs and enforcers. It was better to risk the police.

Police drove around in vehicles. With almost no civilian vehicles on the road, it was not difficult to melt into the scenery until they had passed.

They stayed on Jolly for a total of two miles. Then they turned north on Pleasant Grove road for two miles, then east on Mount Hope until it hit Fabulous Acres.

It had been a long day for all parties.