Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Limitations to Negotiations: Framing as Losses

Limitations* to negotiation:

This picture attempts map out the demand-results curves for negotiating.  The straight line is the Demands line.  The line that curves over and becomes a dashed line in the yellow region is the Results curve.  The orphan line that is straight, dashed in the yellow region and solid in the red region is the Catastrophic Credibility Loss curve.

The Results curve starts out closely conforming to the demand curve for small demands.

In the yellow region the Results curve can detach from the Demands curve when catastrophic loss of credibility occurs.  It is a bit like a sheet of snow detaching from a steep slope and sliding all the way down to the valley.  As the slope gets steeper the violence of the shock required to trigger the avalanche gets smaller.

 In the book Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus the author contends that women tend to use absolutes like "never" and "always" while men tend to be more factually accurate.  My experience is that people who perceive themselves as "low power" tend to amplify their statements because they anticipate that their input will be minimized or discounted.

Powerful negotiators will likely start their demands near the Gain-Credibility frontier.  Negotiators who perceive themselves as less powerful are likely to take the Venus position of asking for the sun, the moon and the stars.  That puts them in a position where it becomes very easy to frame the progress of the negotiations in terms of losses.

An Example:
Suppose you want to sell your house.  The market is good so you anticipate little difficulty in getting a price that will satisfy you.  You have three appraisers give you estimates for your house will bring on the market. 

You select the median (the middle) appraisal and add 15% to give you some "wiggle room" that you can negotiate away and a little extra in case there are some out-of-cost expenses associated with remediating issues missed by the appraisers.  Life is good because you are camped out in the Gain-Credibility Frontier.

Suppose you want/need to sell your house but the housing market is in the ditch. You might start down the appraiser path but you cough up a hairball when you realize that you are upside-down and selling your house will incur a large hit to your liquidity.

Consequently, you either ignore all of the appraisers' input and set the price point where Venus tells you it must be, or you follow a semi-rational path but add 45% for wiggle room.  You can back fill your irrational pricing after the fact with lame excuses like, "It will give me more I can knock off the asking price to sweeten the deal."  But, in fact, the +40% is solely motivated by the hope that a Greater Fool will pay that price.

The net result is that you get virtually no shopper traffic.  Your property becomes an "old" property on the market which reduces its appeal even more.  Your actions triggered a credibility avalanche.

The red and green line shows two ways to perceive a demands position in the middle of the yellow region.  The ratio of red (demands made but not met) vs green (demands made that were fullfilled) gets larger and larger and it becomes easy to fixate on the red.

According to Prospect Theory, framing scenarios as losses drives most decision makers into risk seeking behaviors.  That often manifests as driving deeper into Venus' orbit, cessation of negotiation, emotional recrimination, character attacks  and double-or-nothing thinking.  All of those behaviors are likely to destroy credibility and cause the Results line to completely detach from the Demands curve.

The fix?

  • Make an effort to position the initial demands in the Gain-Credibility Frontier.
  • Reinforce that we are mutually powerful.  
  • Emphasize that it is destructive to the negotiating process to communicate like Venus
  • Have a recess plan to defuse emotions that might drive participants into Venus' orbit

* Inspired by Heuristics in Negotiation, Limitations to Effective Dispute Resolution by Bazerman and Neale. 

Framing as it Guides Risk Seeking Behaviors

Limitations* to negotiation:


... Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans....

NaNook of the North

It is human nature to compare our station in life with others.  It had much survival value in the evolution of human culture.

Our clothing, our homes, our diets and tools are all artifacts of culture.  If you live with the Eskimo you better have similar clothing, similar housing, eat a similar diet and have the tools needed to hunt the native species....or you will not survive. 

Risk avoiding

The skins that were made into clothing represented an enormous investment in:
  • Opportunity (best species not always available), 
  • Time (in trapping and tanning skins) and 
  • Risk (bears and wolves are dangerous to hunt).  
Deviating from a proven pattern could make the skins unusable.  Screw it up and people will die.  This is a case of risk avoidance and it is rooted in husbanding a scarce, impossible-to-replace resource.

Risk (change) seeking

If NaNook is the most successful hunter in the village and he has a harpoon with a detachable head then you would strive to barter or make one that was similar.  This is an example of risk seeking (striving for something you never had).  You are motivated to step up because you see that NaNook is depleting the resource with his better technology and you (and your children) will be left behind.

Ontogenty recap...

Kids easily gravitate to this thinking as they push away from family and try to climb the pecking order in their new tribe.

They cherry-pick.  They insist that we need to vacation like Willie's family, have a boat like Rich, drive two new SUV's like Spud's family, live in a McMansion like Jacob's family....They see our family as a dreadful failure because no one thing we have (that matters to his/her tribe) is the grandest.

Early on we dubbed that "Measuring elevation from the top of Mt Everest".

You are dooming yourself to a lifetime of disappointment and feelings of inadequacy if you insist on measuring the height of everything from the top of Mt Everest.  You are no longer six feet tall when you measure down from Mt Everest, you are -29,023 feet tall.

Survivor's bias

The hero who overcomes adversity by cantilevering one risky venture upon another is part of our collective narrative:  Homer's Ulysses, Ernest Shackleton,  Indiana Jones.

This narrative has a strong survivor's bias.  How many fisherman went out one more time because Bjorng had a few more planks of lute fisk stacked up in his attic?  How many of them never came back?

The movie The Perfect Storm does a magnificent job of illustrating how desperation provides a fertile seedbed for risk-seeking behavior.

Mrs ERJ's take on the subject

I usually don't discuss blog entries with Mrs ERJ but we did talk a little bit about this one.  She reminded me of how hard we scrape and fight to stay on budget as long as the balance is a positive number.  But if adversity pushes our head underwater toward the end of the month we find it very hard to maintain spending (or more accurately, not spending) discipline.

Mrs ERJ's observation points out why poor people (like Ralph Kramden) stay poor.  They are frozen in a negative frame regarding money and are risk seekers.  They are plungers.   Compare Ralph Kramden to the stereotypical Asian family that starts a boring, labor-intensive, moderately profitable business.  They usually send multiple children to University to become professionals.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Solving Problems

Today was my day to fix broken appliances.

The drier was not drying and the oven was not heating.

Mr Multimeter told me that there was infinite resistance in the heating element of the drier.  This is what I saw after removing the heating element.

This is what a continuity problem looks like.

I called a Lansing brick-and-mortar shop and they have the part in stock for $84.  It is a 50 mile drive, round trip, to their shop.

I went on-line and found it for significantly less.

Next, I tore apart the stove/oven and removed the ignitor.  Once again, I found infinite resistance across the sintered carbon element.

Prices on-line varied from a high of $72  to a low of $19.  Interestingly, the lowest price item showed up as the first item when searching by just the Part Number (316489402) on Amazon.  The  highest cost item showed up on top of both Google and Amazon when searching by number and noun-name (316489402 ignitor).  It pays to kiss many toads.

Non-functional part on the right.

Parts are ordered for both projects.


Kubota continued to be full of beans Saturday night.  His language toward Mrs ERJ was frightful.  He was not treating property with respect.

I decided it was a time to instigate a change of scenery.  I took him out to the deer camp which is not heated this time of year.  It was like landing a big fish in a big lake on light tackle.  All it takes is patience.  Many long runs and flopping around but the end result is a foregone conclusion if I do my part.

The interesting part happened the next morning.  We got stuck in the yard.  We had to go up-grade to get to the road.  The ground was mud overlaid with icy slush.  The tires on the Cavalier are "sporty" and do not have an open tread.

The first three attempts to solve the problem failed.  The fourth attempt involved scraping the path down to ice with a rake and a spade and sprinkling 10 gallons of sandy gravel over the ice.  We successfully drove out of the yard.


Then, one mile from deer camp the Cavalier started pulling to the left.  It started pulling HARD.

We had a flat, left-front tire.  Yup, we had a jack.  Yup, we had a spare.  Nope, we did not have a lug wrench.  Do not pass go.  Do not collect $200.

ERJ (that would be me) took a walk to find somebody who was awake and might be willing to help a stranger in distress.  I  met Mr Steve Hicks.

Mr Hicks had a lug wrench.  He also had a compressor to top off our mini-spare.  He had a work shop where he was making jewelry boxes for his granddaughters from lumber he milled from trees (maple, black walnut and mulberry) he had harvested from his own property.  He showed us his work shop while the compressor was powering up and we while we were warming up. 

Bottom Line

Kids need interactions with adults to learn tenacity.  They live in a world of I-phones and bullet-proof apps.

Frustration is an alien emotion to many of them.  They freak out when they encounter it.

Good trouble-shooters are comfortable with frustration.  Frustration is their co-pilot.  It is the price of getting into the stadium.  I think Kubota may have learned something.  Getting mad does not solve problems.  Trying Plan A, Plan B, Plan C....Plan Q, Plan R....Plan BD, Plan BE...until you hit Plan SUCCESS.  That is what solves problems.

And sometimes you are gifted by encounters with angels named Mr. Hicks.

Just remember, tenacity is 900% better than one-acity.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Limitations to Negotiation: Over Confidence.


Over confidence impacts negotiations in two ways.  It strongly impacts negotiations in the opening moves as the basic "landscape" is defined. It can also affect negotiations when they escalate to "arbitration".

Anchoring and Adjustment

One of the most powerful heuristics is Anchoring and Adjustment.  There is a vast amount of literature that supports the contention that we over-weight our initial position and underweight the content of later information that would "bend" our initial map.

This can be vividly demonstrated with the following parlor game (also good for staff meetings).  Separate the group into two.  Tell them you are going to give them an task in estimating.  You will read off a multiplication problem and as soon as you are done you want each person to write down their estimate.

The plan is to read off the numbers quickly enough that the subjects can keep up for the first third of the sequence but then have to apply "Kentucky Windage", i.e., rely on intuition to incorporate the effects of the last two thirds of the sequence.

To one group you read off 1-times-2-times-3-....-7-times-8.  OK, write down our estimate.

To the other group you read off 8-times-7-times-6-times...-2-times-1.  OK, write down your estimate.

On average the first group will have a typical estimate of 64.

On average the second group will have a typical estimate of 320.

The correct answer is  40,320....or about 125 times higher than the high estimate.  So much for the efficacy of Kentucky Windage.

The intention of trotting out this parlor game is to demonstrate the overarching effect associated with those first, broad brush strokes that rough-out the painting.

In the beginning...

The entire tenor of the negotiation depends upon a party being able to present a coherent, believable starting point to the negotiations.  It is a bit like driving on ice.  An overpowering (over confident) start will cause the wheels to start spinning and all hope of traction will be lost.


We have a rule in our house.  We do not allow kids to have two "over nights" outside the house in a row.  We found the kids came home a wreck and it threw the entire household into turmoil.  One night was fine.  Two nights were ugly.

Kubota somehow talked himself into believing that he could convince us to let him go to four over-nights in a row.  He had great confidence in his ability to convince us to let that happen.  His logical points were
  • It was four different places
  • He had already committed to spending the night at each
  • It is vacation and there is time afterward for him to recover
  • The rule is "no two-in-a-row".  He would not be gone two nights.  He would be gone four.
His plan had no credibility with us and he completely lost the traction to influence his immediate future.  It was a non-starter....for us.

Kubota went to the wall with his plan because he was absolutely sure that we would....that we had to...agree with it.  In other words, he escalated because he was absolutely sure that we would roll over.

Mentally picture is of a person juggling.  They might be able to juggle two eggs.  They might be able to juggle three eggs.  They might be absolutely sure they can juggle eight eggs....but that surety is not enough to prevent a linoleum omelet.

Kubota could have painted an image of four nights spread over 8 days and we would likely have accepted that as the default plan.  That would have been the anchor.  But he allowed his hopes to color his judgement and became over confident.  And he ended up with a linoleum omelet.

* Inspired by Heuristics in Negotiation, Limitations to Effective Dispute Resolution by Bazerman and Neale. 

Saturday, December 28, 2013

How Appropriate is Absolute Certainty?

We all know somebody who is most adamantly convincing when they are least likely to be right.  It is as if they are over-compensating for their shaky logic with overbearing persuasiveness.

But how accurate is "absolute certainty" amongst the general run of the population.

Bottom Line

The bottom line is that most people are very poorly calibrated with regard to certainty.

It is a safe bet that there is a 20% chance of error when anybody claims "absolute certainty".

The research

A test was devised with questions like:

What is the country of origin for the White Potato
A.) Iraq
B.) Ireland
C.) France
D.) Peru


What is your confidence (certainty) that you chose the correct answer?
A.) 50%
B.) 90%
C.) 99%
D.) 99.99%

The test subjects were graduate students (in Psychology) at a major university.  The unspoken assumption is that these grad students needed to have some understanding of statistics to perform meaningful research and write a viable thesis.

The questions that the students self-assessed at 99.99% certain (that is, one wrong answer in every 10,000 questions) were compiled and 80% of them were found to be correct.  That is, 2,000 wrong answers in every 10,000 questions.

Take Two

Perhaps the issue was understanding of what "99.99% certain" really means?

A one hour class session was dedicated to explaining to a fresh group of subjects exactly what 99.99% certainty means.  That is, if you answered 10,000 questions and were 99.99% certain your answers were correct, then only one of those 10,000 questions would have an incorrect answer.

It was also made clear that most people are mis-calibrated and are excessively optimistic in the correctness of their answers.

A test similar to the test in Take One was administered.

Of the questions that were identified as being answered with 99.99% certainty, about 82% were found to be correct.  That is, the one hour lecture did not improve the performance by any significant amount.

Take Four

Two weeks of class time were dedicated to explaining the concept of 99.99% certainty.  Trial tests were run.  Results were fed back to the class.

At the end of two weeks of intensive training to graduate students at one of the top universities in the country the baseline test was administered.  Of the subset identified as 99.99% certainty about 95% were found to be correct.  That is, instead of one wrong answer in every 10,000 questions there were 500 wrong answers for every 10,000 questions.  Much better than the first three iterations but still far short of good calibration.

These results have been replicated many times.


  • Even "really smart" people are mis-calibrated with respect to "absolute certainty".
  • It is reasonable to assume that mis-calibration with regard to "absolute certainty" is the human condition
  • Mis-calibration is difficult to eradicate
  • The human brain seems to round 80% certainty up to 99.99% certainty with great reliability
  • When lacking hard, numerical data; it is safe to assume that anecdotal "absolute certainty" involves 20% fall-out.

Rabbit hunting and Cooking Venison


Kubota was full of beans this afternoon.  I decided we needed to walk around.

We saw 6 rabbits.  We fired 3 shots and ended up with one rabbit (which he shot) in the bag.  He busted brush for about a half a mile and was in a much better space when we got back to the hacienda.

Not a bad way to spend a half hour.

Dang, we have a lot of rabbits around here.


Miss Cajun (nickname chosen by oldest daughter....was not fond of Miss Torquemada) is flash frying up some thinly sliced venison.  She sauteed some onions and will likely drench them in a mushroom gravy and serve over egg-noodles.

(Updated 25 minutes later:  She served me a bowl of venison stroganoff with a side of egg nog and whiskey. That is what happens when you leave 23 year old girls unsupervised in the kitchen.  God Bless Adult Daughters!)

She is renting a room in a house owned by a professional chef.  She asked if she can pack some frozen venison back to Baton Rouge in her checked luggage.  I don't see any problem with that...unless the airline loses her luggage. 

Friday, December 27, 2013

Limitations to Negotiation: Lack of Empathy


Oppositional Behaviors

A very primitive negotiating strategy is pure opposition.  The baseline assumption is that all parameters are separate, one-dimensional "fixed pies".

Picture a 100 foot length of rope.  If you got a long piece then I, by necessity, must accept a shorter piece.

Every item on the table devolves to a win-lose confrontation.  There are no shades of gray.  Contrast is absolute.

The fix

One way to overcome oppositional thinking is to build empathy.  One way to build empathy is to role-play.

I favor having the Reps take turns staying in their own role and having the other Rep role-play as the stakeholder(s) the in-role Rep must answer to.

An example in the industrial world would be for the Labor Rep to role-play the COO or CFO or Shareholder while the Management Rep stays in-role.  Then they would trade places with the Labor Rep staying in-role and the Management Rep role-playing a represented employee.


Empathy building fails when not buttressed by Mythical Fixed Pie.

In the example above, Labor might "demand" reimbursement for gym fees as one of the issues that bubbled up from the floor.  After the empathy building exercise the Labor Rep might propose some low out-of-pocket cost accommodations (like a walking trail) to support physical fitness.

In a similar way, Management might propose supplementing with temporary workers during periods of peak vacation demand in exchange for other operational flexibilities.

Another concern is that emotional investment can lock things up.  A walking-trail will be seen as a "loss" if constituents start adjust their budget based on the expectation of gym fee reimbursement.


Many teenagers go through a phase of oppositional, low-empathy negotiation.  After all, it is a primitive method.

The role-play proposal is one way to project the nuts-and-bolts of your value map into your child's head.  It forces them to think about the pressures and limitations of the adult world they must navigate in just a few years.

And it will refresh your memory of the importance of "cool" and the absolute necessity of conforming to the uniform of the tribe.

* Inspired by Heuristics in Negotiation, Limitations to Effective Dispute Resolution by Bazerman and Neale. 

Accuracy Issues

Today's project was to get to the bottom of some accuracy issues with a Marlin 795 .22 LR that I have had since early this year.

The Marlin 795 is one of the preferred firearms for Appleseed shoots.  It is a simple "blow back" design with a removable magazine.  It came from the factory with a polymer stock.  It is fitted with a Simmons 22 Magnum 4 power scope.

This firearm gave me fits when I tried to dial in the scope earlier this year.  I would make adjustments to the scope and they would either "not take" or would change the point-of-aim in some unexpected way. I put it aside and went on to more pressing issues.

The list:

Most accuracy issues can be traced to relatively few causes.  So rather than guess, it just makes sense to go down the list and address each potential issue.

Step One: Check to see if the barrel is free from contact with the forestock.

Nope.  This is as far as the feeler gage will go.
I removed the action from the stock.  I scraped and sanded where the forearm was contacting the barrel.  I checked frequently to reduce the risk of removing too much material.  I stopped when I could easily slide the dollar to within a couple of inches of the forward action screw.  This is particularly important if you intend to use your sling as an aid to accurate shooting and/or your gun has a flexible, polymer stock.

Step Two: Ensure action is properly seated in the stock and the screws are torqued (tightened) to the recommended torque.

Step Three: Ensure the scope mounts (rings) are fully seated into the dovetail and the screws/nuts are torqued in the recommended sequence to the recommended torque.

Step Four: Loosen all screws holding the tops of the rings and then re-tighten in the preferred sequence in the recommended manner to the recommended torque.

This was the root-cause of my accuracy issue.  Somehow, when installing the new scope, I failed to finish torqueing the screws that clamp the scope into place.  I went to loosen the screws and they spun easily with no "break-away" feel.

The Proof is on the Paper

The first group was about 2.5 inches to the left of my Point-of-aim

I fiddled around with a few more adjustments.  In actual practice, the second group would be good enough for 95% of my shooting.

The picture in my head is that the Marlin 795 will become Mrs ERJ's go-to gun.  She has the smallest stature of any in our family and the 795 is ideally suited for shorter people.  It is also light weight and is not fatiguing to shoot.

The expected trajectory is +0.2 inches at 25 yards, +0.2 inches at 50 yards, -1.7 inches at 75 yards and -6.0 inches at 100 yards.  So we are talking your basic minute-of-squirrel head accuracy from 15 yards out to 65 yards.

Ice Storm Update: Pole Dancers Cheered

Stolen from my sister's Facebook page

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Limitations to Negotiations: Sunk Costs


Sunk Costs

---A Joke---

A man found himself lost upon a vast desert of arid scrub.

Picture from here

As a former Army Ranger he was able to bind his wounds, find water and food, start fires and build shelters.  He lacked for human companionship.  Being a healthy young man there was a certain kind of companionship that he particularly missed.

One day as he was walking out, he found a camel and was able to catch it.  Attempts to use the camel to fill the void for intimate companionship were a failure because the camel simply walked away.  There were no trees large enough to sufficiently restrain the camel.

"You want to do what?

An huge part of a survivor's "tool kit" is the duality of stubbornness in the face if difficulties balanced by the ability to stoically accept the realities of the moment.

After many failed attempts at intimacy with the camel, the Ranger accepted the reality that he would continue to lack that kind of companionship.

Then, one day, while crossing a highway the Ranger noticed a stalled vehicle.  A voluptuous and nubile young woman was standing beside the vehicle and was obviously in distress.  Our hero is able to get the vehicle started. 

The young woman made if very clear that she was willing to do anything to reward the Ranger for saving her life.

After a momentary pause, the Ranger asked the young woman if she would---

---hold his camel.

The tightening spiral of escalation

The purely rational, economic person will abandon a course of action when there is sufficient evidence that an alternative exists that will "deliver the goods" more economically.  Successful people are blessed with a goodly streak of stubborn.  That enables them to persevere in the face of hardship.  Misplaced, it traps them into an ever tightening spiral of escalating commitment to a failing course of action.

Ever increasing expenditures of resources solidifies commitment even as the marginal return becomes negative.  Commitment solidifies even after it becomes clear to everybody else that the one party is moving down an path that is not viable.

There is much opportunity to editorialize about the topic du jour but I will leave it to the reader to make those connections.

The fix?  

Create a vivid picture of what success looks like.  Be able to articulate, in great details, the look and feel of success.  You will not be able to switch trapeze if you are not able to recognize which one goes to safety.

Focus on the task but dribble with your head up.  That is, dribble down court like it all depends on you but keep your eyes open for the clear shot or the open pass.

* Inspired by Heuristics in Negotiation, Limitations to Effective Dispute Resolution by Bazerman and Neale.

Schooled by the Daughters

My two daughters escorted me to the gym today.

Belladonna de Sades demonstrated why they are called racks of weights. She is very accomplished at lifting weights.  Her PR for Benchpress is 215 pounds and her PR for Deadlift is 410 pounds.  She volunteered to "coach me up." 

Then my daughter from Baton Rouge schooled me on the treadmill and sit ups

Miss Torquemada took lots of pictures  of snow and ice to show the folks in BRLa
 Even my incisors ache.  The difference between "Ace" and "Ache" is an H of a lot of work.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Limitations to Negotiation: Part I

Negotiation is a tool.  Like all tools, it has some strengths and it has some limitations.  Negotiation may be the first tool you reach for, like that can of WD-40.  But there are times when WD-40 is not the best tool.  For instance, the solvents in WD-40 will wash away the lubricating oils in your door locks and will hasten malfunction.  Light oil like 3-in-1 oil, or ATM fluid or motor oil will protect the locks in your vehicle's doors.



Low Hanging Fruit

I am going to discuss the three last limitations first because I see them as low hanging fruit.


The mythical fixed pie

Imagine Mrs ERJ and I are looking at a cherry pie.  Mrs ERJ likes the crust and a bit of flavor...more like a tart than a traditional fruit pie.  I like the filling...more like pudding or a fruit cup.  It is possible for us to both have the entire pie....at least the parts we really care about....if we talk about it long enough to learn the other party's preferences.  She can have all the crust and I can get most of the filling.

This phenomena was been documented  by Mother Goose in 1765 as the nursery rhyme Jack Sprat.  Negotiating parties having complementing value profiles is not new.

Not every negotiation resolves this cleanly.  But it is surprising (depressing) how often one of the parties will see only one path to get what they want.  So they lock onto and fixate on the one, first solution that satisfies their needs.

Given enough time and patience and trust, it is sometimes possible to back away from their pre-canned solution and comb out their requirements.  Perhaps, working together, it will be possible for each party to get more than half the pie.

No pain, no gain

Suppose two months before a contract expires the to lead negotiators go to a nice restaurant and came to an agreement over potato skins and a couple of draft beers.  Would their masters accept that agreement?

Nope.  The perception is that too much was "given away" because there was not enough pain involved.

The negotiators have to be locked into a room.  Deadlines have to loom and pass.  Extensions given.  Picket lines walked.

The negotiators have to show scars on their knees where they crawled over miles of broken glass.

The haggard negotiators have to go back to their masters, and strained of face and pale of lips, must say, "There is no more to be had."

A vote will taken and passed.

And the agreement might be one scintilla, a fraction of an iota better than the two beer agreement.  It will also be several hundred pages longer and require three years of study to understand.

Loss of face

One never gets more than what you ask for.

So both parties will make "demands" that have a great deal of "reach" knowing, intellectually, that a great deal of discounting will happen on both sides of the table.

The problem occurs when the "demands" are made public.  The demand becomes the baseline or the set point.  All movement will be measured from that initial "demand".

Example:  Suppose Labor is making $10/hr.  Suppose that a "reasonable" settlement would be $12/hour based on inflation and productivity improvements.  Labor might demand $14/hr.  On the other side of the table, Management reviews the competitive landscape and looming legislative burdens and may want to hold the pay rate at $10/hr to provide some financial wiggle room.

So even though Management might be able to support a pay rate up to $12.50/hr and Labor might settle for $11/hr (inflation), there are likely to be protracted and acrimonious negotiations because the demands create stark Win-Lose metrics for the respective constituencies.

Summary for these three limitations:

Focus on your needs and requirements rather than pre-packaged solutions.  That is, invest in knowing what you want.  There is a lot of power in self awareness.

The first 15% spent negotiating throws the longest shadow.  Go in prepared because the last 85% cannot redeem a botched, first 15%.

Don't make it look too easy.  Don't expect it to be too easy.

Keep your mouth shut.  Yes, it is natural to seek moral support by sounding out your friends.  Just be aware that you just made your job harder because you narrowed the alternatives.  It is like driving on a limited access freeway with concrete retaining walls.  You all packed in with no place to go when traffic stops.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Shearing in the Bar

This is the time of year when I am the perfect gardener.

No weeds growing in my garden.  Every plant looks exactly like the catalog picture.

The following bit of poetry is to promote cultural diversity.  This poem/song is from Australia.

A Song by Duke Tritton

My shearing days are over, though I never was a gun
I could always count my twenty at the end of every run
I used the old Trade Union shears, and the blades were always full
As I drove 'em to the knockers, and I clipped away the wool
I shore at Goorianawa and didn't get the sack
From Breeza out to Compadore, I always could go back
And though I am a truthful man, I find when in a bar
My tallies seem to double, but I never call for tar

Picture from here
Shearing on the western plains where the fleece is full of sand
And the clover burr and corkscrew grass, is the place to try your hand
For the sheep are tall and wiry where they feed on the Mitchell grass
And every second one of them is close to the cobbler class
And a pen chock full of cobblers is a shearers dream of hell
So loud and lurid are their words when they catch one on the bell
But when we're pouring down the grog, you'll have no call for tar
For a shearer never cuts 'em, when shearing in a bar

Picture from here
At Louth I caught the bell sheep, a wrinkled, tough wooled brute
Who never stopped his kicking till I tossed him down the chute
My wrist was aching badly, but I fought him all the way
Couldn't afford to miss a blow, I must earn my pound a day
So when I'd take a strip of skin, I'd hide it with my knee
Turn the sheep around a bit where the right bower couldn't see
Then try and catch the rousie's eye and softly whisper "tar"
But it never seems to happen when I'm shearing in the bar

Picture from here
I shore away the belly wool and trimmed the crutch and hocks
Opened up along the neck while the rousie swept the locks
Then smartly swung the sheep around and dumped him on his rear
Two blows to clip away the wig - I also took an ear
Then down around the shoulder and the blades were open wide
As I drove 'em on the long blow and down the whipping side
And when the fleece fell on the board, he was nearly black with tar
But this is never mentioned when I'm shearing in a bar

Picture from here
Now when the seasons ended and my grandsons all come back
In their buggies and their sulkies -I was always on the track
They come and take me into town to fill me up with beer
And I sit on a corner stool and listen to them shear
There's not a bit of difference - it must make the angels weep
To hear a mob of shearers in a barroom shearing sheep
For the sheep go rattling down the race with never a call for tar
For a shearer never cuts 'em when he's shearing in a bar

Picture from here
Then memories come a crowding and they wipe away the years
And my hand begins to tighten and I seem to feel the shears
I want to tell them of the sheds, the sheds where I have shorn
Full fifty years and sometimes more, before these boys were born
I want to speak of yarragin, Dunlop or Wingadee
But the beer has started working and I'm wobbling at the knees
So I'd better not start shearing, I'd be bound to call for tar
Then be treated as a blackleg when I'm shearing in a bar

(Note:  Tar is dabbed on the cuts to slow the bleeding and to function as a mild antiseptic)

Enjoy these following Holy days.


Monday, December 23, 2013


We live just beyond where the pavement ends.  Consequently, we get more than our fair share of "drop offs";  pets that owners wish to be rid of.

These animals are pathetic.  Their lord and master took them for a final ride.  Pushed them out the door.

Their eyes and body language radiate hope at the sound of every vehicle...even though they know by the sound that this car or truck is not "the one".  They track your car as it comes over the hill with their eyes and ears.  They run after your car as it passes.  You can judge how long they have been abandoned by how far they chase the car.

Perhaps the dad (this task is usually scraped off on the senior, male family member) tells the kids that Fido was dropped of at a farm.  It paints a pleasant, bucolic picture of Fido frolicking in the clover, chasing butterflies and playful dairy cows.  The dad may even convince himself that is where Fido ended up.

But they know better.  They drop off the dog (or cat) in the valley between the two hills because it is neat and tidy.  It is not near a house or a farm.  It is out of sight.  It is as far as you can go and stay on the pavement.  No need to get the car dirty.

Today's farmer has all of the dogs he/she wants.  And the farmer, even less than a city dweller, cannot afford an ill-bred, ill-trained brute that will bite hapless pedestrians, mailmen and other delivery people.  The farmer has too much to lose.  The city dweller might see his insurance go up or, worst case, lose some equity in his house.  The farmer loses his livelihood.

It would have been kinder to take the animal to the vet to be put down.  Or, if you cannot afford the $60....you can come out here and dig the hole for your "problem".  I will tell you where the hole needs to be dug.  Tie the leash to a nearby tree.  I can handle it from there.

Just don't bring me your tires, couches and old issues of Penthouse and Kiddy Porn. Those also show up in the valley.  One of these days you will get lazy and forget to tear the address labels off the magazines.  You will get a "Return to Sender" care package the day that happens.

And I might even gift you with a drop-off.

DHS Spaniel.  It does not have papers, but trust me.  It has been vetted by the highest levels of the US Government.

Ice Storm, Picture Heavy

Crab apple, Malus X robusta

Close up of crabapple branch

Twenty year old Carpathian Walnut, Juglans regia.   I wonder if there is enough heartwood for a gun stock.

Closer view of walnut

A couple of Sawtooth Oak, Quercus acutissima

Autumn Olive, Elaeagnus umbellata, branch hanging over trail.

Burr Oak, Quercus macrocarpa (Latin for big seed)

Close up of ice encrusted oak leaves.  Oak hang onto their leaves.  It is almost as if they want to be evergreens.  Perhaps part of oak's legendary toughness is because you need to be tough if you hang onto your leaves and want to survive ice storms.

The deer and rabbits are eating well.  All of these dropped limbs provides a bonanza for browsing animals.

Sunday, December 22, 2013


A "favicon" is the tiny graphic that appears to the left of the URL in the address line at the top of your browser.

I want to use this map of the great State of Fishigan as my favicon. 

Star is approximate location of Eaton Rapids.
 Walleyes in the Upper Peninsula.  Bluegills in the Lower Peninsula.  Gray-green pine trees up-Nort'. Bright green maple down here.

The perfect map of Michigan.

Parenthetic note:  Many Yupers would have used a graphic of a carp, also known as a Detroit River Golden Trout, for the Lower Peninsula.  I decided to stick with the bluegill because they are prettier.

Ice Storm

Looks like a good day to stay hunkered down and tend the home fires.

I think God will understand if we miss Mass today.  The report of downed trees is between us and our church-of-choice.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Tinfoil Hat Alert: Be Invisible

---Obligatory warning: Tinfoil-hat Post---

We had crappy weather so I got to spend some quality time watching movies with Belladonna and Kubota.

Belladonna's choice was RED 2 (Retired, Extremely Dangerous 2).  At one point in the movie the principles are on the run and evading capture by the authorities.  Dressing like Where's Waldo? blowing up buildings and open carry of a Ruger Super Redhawk is not harmonious with this goal.

Kubota selected the movie Jack Reacher.  I am not a fan of Tom Cruise but his character is much "smarter" about invisibility.

No cell phone, no credit cards, no traffic tickets.

Invisible is good

In The Lietenants, one of W.E.B. Griffin's novels, he describes Craig Lowell as a troubled young man in boot camp who learns "...that the next best thing to being a perfect soldier is to be an invisible one."

Four Axis

There are at least four major axis that one must respect to maintain a modicum of invisibility.

Normal People see what they expect to see.  They avoid eye contact with society's "unclean", the poor.  Push a shopping cart or dress in raggedy clothes or smell bad and Normal People will work very hard to not see you.  Mimic a poor student or be a little bit threadbare and you are almost invisible.

Professional Observers will observe you if you are carrying "cargo"....shopping carts, backpacks, large briefcases, purses or totes.  Professional Observers will also be quick to pick up any items that dissonate.  That makes trying to pull off "street person" risky.  The way to avoid attention from Professional Observers is to look like one of the eye's down sheeple that inhabit 15%-to-85% in the center of the bell curve.

Joe Dirte and the Mullet family

Electronic Observers are baffled by the absence of sharp lines.  A high degree of definition is required for auto focus functions and for shape recognition software.  High contrast eyebrows, distinctive hair cuts, dark rimmed eyeglasses....Where's Waldo clothing...are loved by Electronic algorithms.  Stay shaggy, consider swirly-stringy-fringes, shiny is good, wear shades that blend and overlap.  Wear a knit cap if you have distinctive hair.   Keep moving so auto focus cannot draw a bead on you. 

Cyber Observers are my one, big FAIL.  As soon as one starts to blog---FAIL.  People posting selfies on Facebook and other social media---FAIL.  Having an overly-active curiosity---FAIL.  Buying sharp pointy things or fertilizer on the internet---FAIL.  OK, I don't post selfies....but I am at risk for the others.

The best advice?

  • Stay away from crowds.
  • Know who you are hanging out with.
  • If you don't know who the patsie is....well, it is you.
  • Nothing good happens after midnight.
  • Watch your six.
  • Cash is your friend.
  • Shopping at Goodwill is smart.
  • Boring is good.  Boring vehicle, boring home, boring family, boring blog;  all good.
  • Avoid popping to the top of the stack for any major detection axis.

Meat Down

The Captain gave me a call yesterday at about 11:20 AM.  I had asked him to give me a call the next time he was slaughtering a beeve.  After several misses whenI was in the middle of something I could not put down, we finally connected.

A little bit of Angus, a little bit of Charolais, a little bit of Shorthorn and some Holstein buried way down deep.

The Captain has about 8 mama cows and one bull.  Depending on how you do the bookkeeping, he is either loosing his butt, breaking even or making money hand-over-fist.  It is telling that he is strongly considering downsizing.  Truth be told, the only way he is "breaking even" is if he is paying himself about $2/hour.

One of his clients likes to pick out the animal, slaughter and butcher it on site. It is part of their family tradition.  They like the way grass-fed, freshly slaughtered beef tastes.  By butchering it themselves, on-site, there is absolutely no chance that their meat will be co-mingled with anybody else's.  That is important to some people.

And the Captain can accommodate them.

The Captain had a problem.  The 8" of snow had compacted down to about 4" of slush on top of mud.  Most of his paddocks have a little bit of slope to them.  Combined, those two conditions make tractor operation a hazardous undertaking. The Captain needed to have the calf to die in a convenient place for extraction.  The problem was that the customer really did not want to pull the trigger and the Captain could not be in two places at once.

Moving cattle around is a bit of an art.  They do not respond to your body language the way you think they will.  That is because they are "prey" and they see you as "predator".  The way the gentleman shown above would slow a cow down would be to speed up and pace even with it or to move away from it.  The way to speed it up is to slow down as if to start sneaking in behind it or to start closing the distance between the man and the cow, i.e., drift closer to the animal.  The way for the man in blue to get the animal in front of him to turn left would be to move behind the animal, it would turn to keep an eye on him.  VERY counter-intuitive.  Slow down to speed up.  Speed up to slow down. Move closer to speed up. Move away to slow down. Move directly behind to get the animal to turn.

The Captain has the code book and knows how to move animals.

The Captain got the target animal isolated enough.  He was with two other calves so he was not too paranoid about being singled out (a prey animal's worst fear).  He was in the designated spot and there were no potential collateral damages near or behind him.

I took the shot.

It all went well but like many things that involve planning-on-the-fly, it could have gone sideways.  I was using the Captain's firearm and the scope could have been off.  The animal could have moved as I pulled the trigger or I might have missed the CNS for any one of a number of reasons.  One of the other animals could have moved in behind the target.  The gun/ammo could have misfired.  The other 12,000 pounds of cattle could have gotten hinkey. 

The Captain hog-tied the hind foot with a logging chain and snaked him out of the paddock beneath the electric fence.  He dragged him to a clean patch of snow with easy access to the customer's vehicles.  The Captain re-chained to the animals hind legs and lifted him up in the air.

Four customers, sharp knives, rubber gloves, many buckets and tubs.  I was surprised that the client wanted one of the smaller animals.  This guy is probably about 550-to-600 pounds.  Most slaughter cattle are 1100-to-1350 pounds. 

One of the complications was that the Captain was working against the clock.  He had a date in a couple of hours.  After lifting the animal he went into his house for a shower.  The butchering was finished before he finished the shower. 

Friday, December 20, 2013

Snow Day (again)

Eaton Rapids Public Schools cancelled classes due to hazardous travel conditions.  Secondary roads are icy.

Mrs ERJ is home, sick.  She has laryngitis and is still sleeping.  I have been urging her to kiss the kids in the hopes of having a quiet and peaceful Christmas break.

Belladonna informed me that I am acting just like a ten year old girl.  "Oh, I need to mention that on my blog!"  She advised me to "Get a life."

Shortly after that, she informed me that there was a spider web in the kid's shower and she asked me to deal with it.  I successfully cleared the shower of cobwebs but the spider got away.