Monday, June 30, 2014

How I Fill my Days

Heading south across the pasture.  Recently mowed with our new ride-on mower.  The clover is blooming so heavily you can smell it.

Willow being managed as pollard on right side of photo.
Quercus bicolor.  New growth showing rosy glow.
I spread the limbs on this pear tree.  Spreading limbs induces early, and heavier fruiting.  The branches "tip" into bearing because the leaves get more sun and the buds respond to the higher Carbo/Nitrogen ratio by forming flowering buds.
The ground beneath the pear tree is carpeted with Poison Ivy.  I pressed nearby saplings into service to anchor the tie-downs.  I also used a couple of chunks of fire wood where there were no conveniently placed saplings.
I am proud of myself.  I got cages around these trees before the deer creamed them.
This emerging shoot on the persimmon graft could be easily broken or rubbed off by a passing deer.  Or, one nibble and it is gone.
I also cut down the taller saplings that were shading this little tree.

One seldom appreciated downsides of being retired is that you never get a day off.  So you gotta pace yourself.  It is amazing how many working people roll their eyes when I bring this up.   cannot go to work to recover from a crazy weekend!

Red Squirrel, Update One

It looked like the aftermath of a bar fight.

The needles were scuffed up.

The cavity box was knocked over.

Only one of the nine peanuts I salted the box with were still there.

I think it was mugged by raccoons.

I set it back up and tied it to the trunk of the tree.

I suspect that I will need to make a box with deeper cavities or with baffles near the top to defeat the peanut thieves.

This is why we test all things.  Unanticipated failure modes will announce themselves.  It is also why quick and cheap test set-ups are essential.  It is too easy to fall in love with a concept when you have too much emotion invested in it.

Updates will continue as more information becomes available.

I might as well start on another box.  I figure it will have exterior dimensions of 24" tall by 12" wide but only have two cavities.

Felling Trees

It would be nice to know a few of the details.  Close inspection shows three wedges falling out.  The "hinge" appears to be almost exactly at the mid-line of the trunk and his last cut was on the wedge side.

Much measuring, good setup, straight trunk, no wind.  And much skill.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Red Squirrels and Hazelnuts

And marshal me to knavery. Let it work;
For 'tis the sport to have the enginer
Hoist with his own petard, an't shall go hard
But I will delve one yard below their mines
And blow them at the moon.  -Hamlet, Act III

Petard, mines:  devices for they laying of explosive devices with the goal of breaking down the defenses of a besieged castle or city.  

Every culture seems to honor the anti-hero, the one who harvests the sinews of war from the land, the monk/master of jujitsu who exploits the hubris and momentum of the great adversary to defeat them.  For a good example of an American anti-hero one would be well served to read Scattergood Baines.

I aspire to be such an anti-hero.

Red Squirrels

Red Squirrels are master thieves.  They are stealthy, nimble, brave and they get around.

A typical nut grower might shrug off the losses.  They might plant a couple of extra trees to pay the squirrel tax.

Tom Molnar is not a typical nut grower.  He is the lead Filbert breeder at Rutgers.  One of his "enablers" is to collect samples of the wild, American Hazelnut (Corylus americana) from a wide swath of its native range.  Earlier breeding efforts built on a very narrow genetic base and, consequently, are intrinsically vulnerable to disease and insect challenges

These wild samples are the fair devil to collect because the squirrels get them first. They steal the  viable nuts and leave the "blanks".  Of particular interest are bushes that bear crops during "off" years or after a test winter.  Obviously, the few nuts that are borne during those off years are the most hotly contested.  2014 appears to be one of the "off" years due to the test winter we just endured.


Red Squirrels are the species of squirrels most documented as "hoarding".  They tend to cache pure-by-species.  Some of their larders are "bunkers".  Some are scattered.  Other hoards are in cavities such as dulcimers, shoe boxes and the cavities in stud walls.

I recall reading the old timers, guys like Earnest Thompson Seton and Daniel Carter Beard writing about harvesting those squirrel hoards.  Their discussions are a little bit vague on the details.

Variables that are not clear are hole size, height above the ground, ground cover, associated vegetation, preferred cavity dimensions.  Those variables should not be that difficult to dial into.

A very small stud wall.  Cavities are 9" tall, about 6.5" wide and about 3.5" thick.
The original plan was to test 2", 2.5" and 3" diameter holes.  My wood working friends were not able to help me with hole saws, so I called an audible and went to square holes.  Face plate attached with screws so multiple iterations of hole sizes can be evaluated.

First iteration.  Elevation: Ground level.  Under mature White Pine in an area known to harbor Red Squirrels.  "Porch" stick included.  Peanuts, in-shell, scattered on the ground.  Three peanuts placed in each cavity to ensure squirrels checked them out.
Science does not need to be fancy to be effective.

Saturday, June 28, 2014


Well, this is awkward.

Kubota has a girl friend while Belladonna does not have a gentleman friend.  That strikes Belladonna as cosmically unfair.  She is a senior and Kubota is a freshman.  Belladonna thinks she is more socially adept than Kubota.  Why does her brother have a romance interest and she does not?

Mrs ERJ tried to console Belladonna.  Guys have the upper hand.  When they/we decide it is time for a relationship we (guys) have the initiative.  We can ask every organism with XX chromosomes to go out until lady-luck smiles upon us.  Ladies are still expected to be passive and wait for the man to make his move.

This has not changed at the level of one-and-one in spite of the advances in sexual equality.

As a dad, I would be MORE than OK if Belladonna did not have a date until she was 26 or 27.  Still, I am sad when Belladonna is sad.

I did my best to coach her up.  She needs a major re-work on the body language.

Punching a guy on the shoulder is not the traditional way of letting him know that you are romantically interested in him.  Paralyzing his arm for more than four hours makes it difficult to get hugged.

I do not pretend to be a lady's man.  But I am practiced at working The Great Mis-Information Superhighway.  There is a vast amount of information out there to assist those of us who are socially inept at decoding feminine  body language.  Information that can be reverse engineered to coach-up daughters.

Most of the advice boils down to two items:
  • shows that the woman is trying to look attractive and is a wee bit nervous.  
  • Defanging risk....News flash, guys have fragile egos.  Our pride demands that there not be witnesses if/when we go down in flames.


It is interesting to me that one of the "signs" is when the woman does quick, tongue darts to the corners of their mouth, where their upper and lower lips meet.  That is one of the classic signs of when a person is lying.  It is almost as if the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz needs just a little bit more lube to get the jaw back afloppin'.

Neurons that fire together; wire together.  It is probably lying/tongue dart===>stress;  Stress====>tongue dart.  For the person who is a disinterested observer, there is a delicious irony that this entire "theater" has disingenuous body language embedded within it as a subplot.  No wonder people from older cultures are baffled when we attempt to convince them that arranged marriages are primitive and backwards.

Defanging risk

One of Belladonna's prime downfalls is her choice of "wing-men".  They are movie star gorgeous.  Belladonna is pretty but fades into the background when she is hanging out with either of her two best buddies.  Lightening, and hormones, strike the most salient feature.  Belladonna needs a different who has the girl-next-door persona.

Lightening also also seeks out salients that stand out, by their lonesome.


Boys, selecting a girl, have certain things in common with predators.  Wolves do not mark and stalk sheep that are packed into the middle of the flock.  They choose the stragglers, the ones that leave the security of the flock and can be approached with little risk. 

Unlike the sheep, though, the girl needs to project the vibe, "I want to spend time with you.  I will say 'Yes' to any honorable offer that you make."

Like the Killdeer in the video shown above, sometimes a girl has to be a little bit over-the-top before the expected action becomes clear to the boy.

The "no risk" vibe.

I don't know how much she listened.  She may be picking out her mark.  Or she may be making me a happy man and not date until she is 26.

Time will tell.

Gas Taxes

Picture from HERE
Exxon (a well run company by most accounts) makes 5.5 cents of profit per gallon.  The typical consumer in the state of California pays 70 cents per gallon in taxes.  The typical consumer in Hawaii pays 68 cents per gallon.  The typical consumer in Illinois pays 58 cents per gallon in taxes.  These states were chosen because they were significant stops in President Obama's life.  What you are Now is where you were When.

And he pillories "Big Business".  Amazing.

Gas prices by country.

Picture from HERE

Many of our leaders at the national level seem to be enchanted with the social experiments of Western Europe.  They are in a hurry to "catch up".

I don't know how I would adapt to $7/gallon gasoline and heating oil.  It would hurt.

Friday, June 27, 2014

A Trophy Buck

The ERJ family bought our house and X acres about 20 years ago. 

The family who owned it had fallen on hard times.  It had been the mother's dream property.   She had grown up dreaming of living on this property.

They were "horse" people and this had been a "horse" farm.  They finally scraped up enough for the down payment.  They boarded other people's horses to boost their liquidity. 

They also sold super-duper horse supplements out of the pole barn.  The difference between horse feed and cow feed is the picture on the bag and the price tag.  Putting a picture of a horse on the bag doubles the price.

Things were looking up.

And then....

They allowed a few friends to run a tab.  They figured that they had collateral as long as they had the horses.  The balance added up quickly at $150 a month and nine stalls. 

The 4th of July, 1990 parade was their undoing.  Their friends took their horses to the parade in trailers.  The horses (collateral) did not come back.

The dad lost his job due to a downturn in the demand for drop forgings.

The two daughters were married and they had 3 babies within a few months of each other.  The babies were 6 months old.

Mom, Dad, 2 daughters, 2 sons-in-law and three grandkids lived in the house.  The end did not come quickly.  They struggled and scrimped and stretched.  They were reduced to burning ceiling tiles for heat that last winter.  They really were being pushed to the brink.

Our real estate agent told us their bottom-line price on the down-low.  Their agent was POed at them.  They had an offer but they turned it down.  The potential buyer had trash-talked the house and they would let it go to Sheriff's auction before they be humiliated.

We knew what they owed on the mortgage.  We knew when the bank was going to start "proceedings".  We also knew that their dreams had constricted to where their home run scenario was to cover the balance on the mortgage and walk away with enough cash to build a pole barn on the family member's property (one school district to the north) where they were going to regroup.

We offered them $5500 more than they owed the bank.  It was a good deal for us.  It was a solid, honest good deal for them. 

They accepted.

Fast forward 20 years

A young man showed up at our door yesterday.  He was one of the three grandkids.

He had not visited the place in the last 20 some years.  We did all of the normal "catching up" that people do when they have not seen each other for a while.

He had just mustered out of the Navy.  He had seen the world, or at least the east coast of the US. He had a kayak on top of his vehicle.

The  big hip-roof barn he had grown up hearing about had been flattened by a tornado in 2001.

His grandfather still had the deer mount of the buck he had shot on the property back when the family fortunes were at their apogee.  The trophy lived in a place of honor above the fireplace when we toured the place.

It was a six point that most people would not have paid to mount.   But it is the story that makes the trophy, not the measurements.  This one looked like it was going to get away.  It was heading toward Anus Rectum's property where they would not be able "bring it to bag" when the buck had the good grace to become tangled up in the barbed wire perimeter fence and expire. 

It is a rare, precious thing to be able to harvest a buck, one of the most wary and elusive of trophies, from one's own property.  All that being said, I would not have instructed the taxidermist to mount it with the tongue hanging out of the side of the mouth.

This young man's grandfather and father were both from Arkansas, so his Grandfather was Pa-pow.  Interesting regional variation.

His grandmother had died about a decade back.  Pa-pow had remarried but she was not his grandmother.

I offered to walk the property with him but he really had no interest.  "Back in the day" that had all been pasture.  His family history had been in the barns and in the stories.

And in a deer mount.


This man appeared to be a man of substance. The future is his. The astute reader will notice that I did not qualify "man" with the word "young".

The family's fortune bodes well if all of the grandkids are his match.  It is, of course, folly to judge based on 15 minutes of interaction.  But this man seemed to have his boots firmly planted in the earth and to be living in the here-and-now.

I wish him, and all his kin, the best.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014


It has been difficult to fit running into my schedule.

Kubota is out of school and Mrs ERJ is working extra to clear the decks as she intends to retire this summer.

If Kubota were my girlfriend I would break up with her.  He is out of school and time lay heavy upon his hands.  He keeps me on a very short leash.  "Dad, we need to go here and do this."  "Dad, we need to go there and do that."  "Dad, where are you?"

Sometimes I get a bit testy when I get a phone call when I am in the yard, 40 feet from the house, 15 feet up in a tree trying to whittle a twig on the end of a bouncy limb.  It is a time when a man needs 4 arms.  Two to keep working, one to hang onto the ladder and one to fish the phone out of a pocket.

I tried something different today and it worked.  I will do it again.

I took my running fanny pack to coffee with me.  I asked one of the regulars if he would give me a ride to Onondaga.  He graciously agreed.
About four miles into the run I realized I was in trouble for electrolyte.  I was sweating out more than I had brought along.  The temperature was only 70 but it was foggy and there was no breeze.

Their trucks look like this.  I made a point of remembering the contractor's name.

I was lucky.  I ran into a crew laying fiber optic line and one of the gentlemen let me refill a water bottle with their ice water.  I offered him a buck and he refused.  He said, "What is right is right.  Water is free.  This ain't Arizona."

I asked him how they guided the drill head.  He told me that the unit has what look like four, independent trim-tabs (like on a boat) and a guy with a monitor radios back to the drilling crew, up-down, left-right.  I always wondered


Sure enough.  About half way back to my car I got a call.  "Dad, where are you?"

I told him "I am on a run."

Again, he asked "Where are you?"

I told him, "I just passed your buddy Tolstoy's house and I am parked in Eaton Rapids.  It is going to be a while."

The good news is that he stopped calling.  The bad news is that he started sending me texts of things I could pick up for him in town. 

Sigh!  All was not lost.  He put a Bell's Two Hearted Ale in the fridge for my post-run re-hydration.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Apologies to The Fair Hair'ed Girl

Living with honor one learns three things, 
Sorrow, "sin", and death it brings, 
Yet day by day our hearts within 
Dare shame and sorrow, death and "sin"   

American Thinker recently published an essay about the psychology of authoritarianism and totalitarianism.  It is easy to see what is in it for the elite, but why do so many peasants (ordinary people like me and my neighbors) roll over?  Heck, many eagerly rush forward to embrace it.

The Cliff Notes version of the article can be found in this quote

Individual and collective egos tend to look for a footpath to slavery, because the ego functions under the sway of defense mechanisms that block anxiety, shame, and guilt. Their function is to provide excuses to the ego to avoid self-insight while grabbing what it wants.

There you have it, "...anxiety, shame and guilt."  We used to raise children to value achievement and honest self-assessment, to have modesty coupled with earned pride in being able to handle, or stoically endure, virtually any situation.

Now we raise cool "gamers" who relentlessly search the internet for "cheat buttons".  We raise connivers who delight in their cleverness at elbowing others away from a teat.

Selling one's soul is a great bargain for the seller when they believe they are unloading spoiled goods, goods beyond any hope of salvage.

One definition of insanity is analogous to the "map bending" described by Laurence Gonzales in Deep Survival.  Try as we might, at some point the stream of data pouring over us cannot be reconciled with our internal and external maps.  That is when the person realizes they are lost.  It is as if one gear tooth on a cast iron (brittle) gear snaps, and the jolt causes all of the other teeth to snap off in turn.  The motor disconnects from the load.  With no "good work" it over-revs and destroy itself...unless it has a powerful, and attentive internal governor.

I have been a passive observer to the "entertainment" Kubota selects as he attempts to connect with popular culture.  We, his parents, have been of little or no value to him as he seeks "coolness" and to synchronize with his friends.  8th and 9th grades are all about being "cool" with one's homies.

One block of "entertainment" uses the word "fuck" as emphasis, punctuation, adjectives, adverbs a verb.  Sometimes all in one sentence.

Another block of "entertainment" has a Chicago firefighter (unionized job!) losing his job for calling a co-worker a "mutt".  And all parties involved nod their heads with gravity and sadness.

No wonder we are raising a generation of whack jobs.  How can any thinking person rationalize this degree of disconnect?  Not being able to rationalize it, that is, find one's place on the large map, the only other choice is to try to game the reality that is within touching distance.

A husbandryman can only plant and harvest so much before he incurs irreparable damage to his farm or ranch.  In quainter times when we were closer to the soil this was called "not eating the seed corn."

Those who wish to be our overlords crack the whip and demand more than can be given.  The article in the American Thinker suggests that they never really wanted our seed corn.  Their over-arching goal has been to sever us from our maps, to imbue us with "...anxiety, shame and guilt.".

Monday, June 23, 2014

Buying Smokeless Powder On-line

Some of my readers share my addiction to sending small objects out-bound at high rates of speed.  And no, I don't mean hitting golf balls.

Smokeless powder is one of the components used to reload ammo.  Supplies of smokeless powder have been spotty.

hi-techammo has CSB-1 on sale, four pounds for $80.

Scroll about half way down THIS page.  Shipping and HazMat charges apply.

More information about CSB-1 powder HERE.

hi-techammo advises the use of Hodgdon Universal loading data for CSB-1.  Universal burn rate is between Alliant Unique and Alliant Power Pistol. 

Also, Graf's has Re-15, limit four pounds.

Good hunting!

Birds and Black Walnuts


I have a goodly number of berries that are at peak ripeness right now: Mulberries (Morus), Juneberries (Amelanchier) and Cherries (Prunus).  These berries are irresistible to birds and they make the trees jiggle and shake as they jockey around the crown spearing the ripest fruit.

I once visited a restaurant that was landscaped with a half dozen Juneberry trees that were completely loaded with strings of perfectly ripe fruit.  My birds consume the fruit well before it is ripe.  A single ripe fruit is a rarity, much less clusters of them.

Much to the dismay of my daughters, I took advantage of the wait-time to eat a few handfuls of fruit.  It was a rare treat for me.  Juneberries are especially delicious if you completely grind the fruit with your molars.  The seeds have a unique almond taste.

The restaurant was near O'Hare airport.  I am mystified by the lack of birds.  House cats? Toxins? Deliberate control due to the proximity of the airport?  Noise?  How can humans live in a place that is so inhospitable that even sparrows and starlings cannot or will not live there?



Picture from HERE

I saw my first Baltimore Oriole this morning.  Orioles are one of the last migratory birds to arrive in the North.  They are fruit eaters and apparently wait for the first fruits to ripen.  The certainly look like tropical birds!

Nearly all birds feed their young a diet heavy in bugs.  Bugs supply the protein and fats needed by the growing young.  It may be that the only reason Orioles leave the warmer regions is that there is too much competition for the bugs they need to feed their young.

I saw the Oriole as I was walking down my driveway to get the mail.  He/she was flying toward the mulberry tree beside the drive and flared when he saw me.  I got a nice look at his breast.

Black Walnuts

I grafted the last of my Black Walnuts for this year.  Black Walnuts are reliable growers for me.

Mrs ERJ is not as happy with Black Walnuts as I am.  She remembers the first few gardens we had as a married couple.  There was a Black Walnut tree on the neighbor's property.  That tree killed tomato plants.  The angry-making part was that the tomato would thrive when first put in the ground, only to wilt and die shortly before the first tomato ripened.  The broccoli was made of sterner stuff.  They lived but the stunted heads did not taste very good.

My property has a wealth of walnut seedlings.  Some I planted.  Most are naturally occurring.

About 8 years ago I bought some scionwood from a gentleman who was selling on eBay.  He shipped me three varieties of scionwood:  Emma K, Sparrow and Drake.  I had heard of the first two and they are highly rated by many walnut growers.  I had never heard of "Drake".  I was able to coax one graft each of Emma K and Sparrow.  I had many, many takes of Drake.  Consequently, I had an ample supply of Drake scionwood as those grafts grew.

Drake and Sparrow are near the head of the class.  Emma K is back-in-the-pack.  One study, one location.  Data from Reid, Coggeshall and Hunt

As time has gone by more information has been scanned into the internet.  This article not only mentions Drake but mentions it in a favorable light.  Drake produced the most pounds of nut meats per tree of the 21 cultivars  tested in Chetopa, Kansas.  It is reassuring to learn that Drake is not a complete dog.

I still intend to graft more Emma K and Sparrow.  Emma K pollen shed is optimum for pollinating most other walnuts.  Sparrow is a heavy producing walnut that cracks out well and has good resistance to leaf diseases.

Gratuitous Eye Candy

Sparrow is impressive for its thin shell, thin husk, heavy production and overall foliage health.  It is notable that Sparrow is the most "renamed" Black Walnut cultivar.  Whether accidental or intentional, more nurseryman have claimed Sparrow as their own work than any other Black Walnut.

All photos from HERE.

One of the breeding goals that will support increased production of salable nut meats is to reduce the size of the walnut husk.  That will reduce the metabolic resources that are diverted to growing a non-valued-added product.

This graph shows the actual nut volume (meat + shell) divided by the total nut volume (meat + shell + husk) for a few, select cultivars.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Man from Snowy River

Man from Snowy River is an outstanding movie.  And before the movie there was a poem.  It was written by Banjo Paterson and first published in 1890.

There was movement at the station, for the word had passed around
That the colt from old Regret had got away,
And had joined the wild bush horses - he was worth a thousand pound,
So all the cracks had gathered to the fray.
All the tried and noted riders from the stations near and far
Had mustered at the homestead overnight,
For the bushmen love hard riding where the wild bush horses are,
And the stockhorse snuffs the battle with delight.

There was Harrison, who made his pile when Pardon won the cup,
The old man with his hair as white as snow
But few could ride beside him when his blood was fairly up -
He would go wherever horse and man could go.
And Clancy of the Overflow came down to lend a hand,
No better horseman ever held the reins;
For never horse could throw him while the saddle girths would stand,
He learnt to ride while droving on the plains.

And one was there, a stripling on a small and weedy beast,
He was something like a racehorse undersized,
With a touch of Timor pony - three parts thoroughbred at least -
And such as are by mountain horsemen prized.
He was hard and tough and wiry - just the sort that won't say die -
There was courage in his quick impatient tread;
And he bore the badge of gameness in his bright and fiery eye,
And the proud and lofty carriage of his head.

But still so slight and weedy, one would doubt his power to stay,
And the old man said, "That horse will never do
For a long a tiring gallop - lad, you'd better stop away,
Those hills are far too rough for such as you."
So he waited sad and wistful - only Clancy stood his friend -
"I think we ought to let him come," he said;
"I warrant he'll be with us when he's wanted at the end,
For both his horse and he are mountain bred.

"He hails from Snowy River, up by Kosciusko's side,
Where the hills are twice as steep and twice as rough,
Where a horse's hoofs strike firelight from the flint stones every stride,
The man that holds his own is good enough.
And the Snowy River riders on the mountains make their home,
Where the river runs those giant hills between;
I have seen full many horsemen since I first commenced to roam,
But nowhere yet such horsemen have I seen."

So he went - they found the horses by the big mimosa clump -
They raced away towards the mountain's brow,
And the old man gave his orders, "Boys, go at them from the jump,
No use to try for fancy riding now.
And, Clancy, you must wheel them, try and wheel them to the right.
Ride boldly, lad, and never fear the spills,
For never yet was rider that could keep the mob in sight,
If once they gain the shelter of those hills."

So Clancy rode to wheel them - he was racing on the wing
Where the best and boldest riders take their place,
And he raced his stockhorse past them, and he made the ranges ring
With the stockwhip, as he met them face to face.
Then they halted for a moment, while he swung the dreaded lash,
But they saw their well-loved mountain full in view,
And they charged beneath the stockwhip with a sharp and sudden dash,
And off into the mountain scrub they flew.

Then fast the horsemen followed, where the gorges deep and black
Resounded to the thunder of their tread,
And the stockwhips woke the echoes, and they fiercely answered back
From cliffs and crags that beetled overhead.
And upward, ever upward, the wild horses held their way,
Where mountain ash and kurrajong grew wide;
And the old man muttered fiercely, "We may bid the mob good day,
No man can hold them down the other side."

When they reached the mountain's summit, even Clancy took a pull,
It well might make the boldest hold their breath,
The wild hop scrub grew thickly, and the hidden ground was full
Of wombat holes, and any slip was death.
But the man from Snowy River let the pony have his head,
And he swung his stockwhip round and gave a cheer,
And he raced him down the mountain like a torrent down its bed,
While the others stood and watched in very fear.

He sent the flint stones flying, but the pony kept his feet,
He cleared the fallen timber in his stride,
And the man from Snowy River never shifted in his seat -
It was grand to see that mountain horseman ride.
Through the stringybarks and saplings, on the rough and broken ground,
Down the hillside at a racing pace he went;
And he never drew the bridle till he landed safe and sound,
At the bottom of that terrible descent.

He was right among the horses as they climbed the further hill,
And the watchers on the mountain standing mute,
Saw him ply the stockwhip fiercely, he was right among them still,
As he raced across the clearing in pursuit.
Then they lost him for a moment, where two mountain gullies met
In the ranges, but a final glimpse reveals
On a dim and distant hillside the wild horses racing yet,
With the man from Snowy River at their heels.

And he ran them single-handed till their sides were white with foam.
He followed like a bloodhound on their track,
Till they halted cowed and beaten, then he turned their heads for home,
And alone and unassisted brought them back.
But his hardy mountain pony he could scarcely raise a trot,
He was blood from hip to shoulder from the spur;
But his pluck was still undaunted, and his courage fiery hot,
For never yet was mountain horse a cur.

And down by Kosciusko, where the pine-clad ridges raise
Their torn and rugged battlements on high,
Where the air is clear as crystal, and the white stars fairly blaze
At midnight in the cold and frosty sky,
And where around The Overflow the reed beds sweep and sway
To the breezes, and the rolling plains are wide,
The man from Snowy River is a household word today,
And the stockmen tell the story of his ride...

Poetry is as good as money.  In fact:

A. B. "Banjo" Paterson and "The Man From Snowy River" poem are commemorated on the Australian 10 dollar note [1]. The full text of the poem is printed several times in microprint as one of the note's security devices.   (Link)

Darned classy of those Australians.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Iraqi Politics

Population Growth

Data from HERE.  Many "peak oil" writers use the 1900 census figures as a reasonable proxy for the carrying capacity of a country deprived of the agricultural and logistical benefits of modern technology.  If so, Iraq overshot its carrying capacity by a factor of 15.

Food Security

From the UN Office for the coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Link)

Domestic agricultural production - already affected by reduced rainfall (2009) - has also been hit by a lack of government support and lax controls on cheap food imports, with which farmers cannot compete in some cases, she said.

On 31 August, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said Iraq had its worst cereal harvest in a decade and that its wheat harvest was set to fall to one million tonnes, from an average of 3.5 million tonnes per annum over the past decade. Domestic rice production also fell from an average 500,000 tons a year to an estimated 250,000 tons this year.

Iraq imports more than 80 percent of its food needs, al-Mousawi told IRIN.

It must be noted that it is difficult to work in the fields when under rifle fire or when you fear that you will come back to your home only to find that it has been pillaged by the other side.


Map from HERE.  Corner of Iraq nipped by key is desert and is very sparsely populated.

Communication: Ontogeny....

Mrs ERJ and I took a stroll this morning.  It is a great way to start a morning.  We chit-chat, plan, talk about kids, talk about or frustrations.  Many of our best talks occur during these walks.

Kubota is going into 9th grade next year and it is a great relief.  Eaton Rapids has Middle School for 6th, 7th, and 8th graders.  High School is comprised of 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th grade students.

Middle School sucks.

One reason, I believe, that Middle School is particularly harrowing is because the kids are pushing away from their family and joining little cliques (Hitler Youth were Middle School age for a reason). 

Quick, what has 16 arms, 16 legs, 8 heads and one brain?
Answer:  A table of seventh graders.

Running in parallel with that social development is the development in communication.  Young children are extremely literal communicators.  They take every word at it exact, literal meaning...unless, of course, they spend a lot of time with Grandpa.

The next step in communication is "sarcasm" where there is still little nuance.  The message is the exact opposite of the literal meaning.  Sarcasm is decoded via the not-the-least-bit-subtle tone, facial expression and body language.  Sarcasm also fits this stage because it is integral to pecking order/dominance sorting. 

Many people wish there was a special font dedicated to sarcasm because it is difficult to inform readers of social media  when one starts to use sarcasm and feelings are frequently hurt as a result.  I try to avoid sarcasm because it tells the listener that you are functioning at the cognitive/emotional level of a 6th grade girl.  Few bosses have appreciated me after I called this to their attention.

Most of Kubota's clique have graduated from sarcasm and are now lying.  Finally, some subtly and nuance.  Mrs ERJ is quite disgusted with the bunch of them.  I take it in stride.  Having a well calibrated BS indicator is a valuable thing.  It is all about practicing decoding.

There is one kid in Kubota's band-of-brothers who Mrs ERJ is most concerned about.  He is a facile, fluent and enthusiastic liar.  His mother trained him.  She directed him to tell the waitress that he was 12, even when he was 13, 14 and now 15.  She gets the kiddy discount.

He is a pretty big boy.  I have seen him dunk a basket ball. His mother still has him lying to waitresses.  She is quite distressed that he lies to her and she is absolutely baffled as to why she cannot trust him.

We reap what we sow. 

My kids are not perfect.  Retiring has given me more time for introspection and I see, more and more, the hand I had in creating some of their imperfections.  I wish I had such clarity of vision when I was parenting.  It is certainly easier to see in other people's kids.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Dangerous Intersections

Casualties distinguished by gross amounts of generalized trauma.  This intersection occurs with depressing regularity in all human organizations with populations greater than 1.
We have all worked with people like this.  Casualties distinguished by penetrating trauma in the rear thoracic region.  Wounds occur as multiple punctures.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Carbon-cycling in Lakes and Streams (long)

One of the things that aggravate me are scientists who dummy-down or over-extrapolate their findings to make them more "reportable" in the press.

This story about the carbon source for the food chain in a Canadian lake severely impacted by acid rain.


Carbon is "dated" by the ratio of the isotopes in the sample.  "Dated" is in quotes because it is really a measure of when the sample stopped having free-and-rapid exchange with atmospheric carbon (CO2).

There are four generic sources of carbon that make their way into surface water.

The first source is from spring water.  Spring water is highly influenced by the rocks and aggregate it percolated through on the way to the surface.  The water will dissolve various organic materials as the rain and snow-melt works its way down through the upper soil levels.  Those materials tend to make the water slightly acidic and are given the umbrella description of "humic acids".

The low pH (acidic) water then diffuses through the geographic strata on the way to the spring.  If it percolates through sedimentary rock....especially picks up large amounts of carbonate (usually paired with Ca++ ions, but sometimes Mg++) as it dissolves some of the limestone or shells embedded within the sedimentary rock.  Note that the "date" of the carbon sequestered in the carbonate ions is "ancient".  The water becomes alkaline as it absorbs these minerals and is highly buffered, i.e., highly resistant to further changes in pH.

Sidebar:  Runoff in arid regions is often alkaline simply due to salts in the soil.  Surface runoff in arid regions does not need to percolate through the ground to become alkaline and highly buffered.

The second source of carbon is from the exchange between the atmosphere and the surface of the water.  Atmospheric carbon is "young" carbon.  Water that is higher pH (alkaline) will absorb additional carbon dioxide from the air.  That is one reason why "limestone" trout streams are so fertile.  There is a super abundance of dissolved CO2 supporting photosynthesis.

Larger lakes and lakes that are more exposed to wind will have more aggressive exchange with the atmosphere due to the churning of the surface and the mixing effect bringing deeper water up to the surface.

The third source of carbon is man-made waste.  One of the metrics of wastewater (which is how much of this carbon enters the system) is Biological Oxygen Demand.  The organic wastes require oxygen to decompose.  The decaying waste is more efficient at scavenging oxygen than fish.  The fish die.  Additional man-made sources of are of agricultural origin.  Cows will poop into streams or rain will wash top soil and poop into streams.  These carbon sources are fairly "young".

The fourth source of carbon is due to surface vegetation falling or blowing into lakes and streams.

The conventional wisdom in Southern Michigan is to minimize the surface vegetation mechanism.  According to Don Garlock, formerly a limnology specialist at MSU, everybody wants to plant weeping willows next to their pond.  It is huge part of most pond owner's mental image of how ponds ought to look.  It may be a side-effect of eating from blue-and-white tableware.

Southern Michigan has sedimentary geology, high human and agricultural activity.  The surface water is inherently fertile.  In the autumn, the leaves fall into the pond and between the decay of the seaweed and the additional leaves, the Biological Oxygen Demand causes a fish-kill.  The fish kill is worse the longer the ice covers the water and separates it from atmospheric O2.

Picture from HERE.  Aerators on catfish ponds are a common sight in much of the South.  O2 availability is a greater limitation to fish survival than food availability in eutrophic waters.

Carbon is a necessary element, but too much of a good thing is always bad....unless it is good whiskey 8-)

Daisy Lake, Ontario

From wikipedia

Daisy Lake Uplands Provincial Park is a provincial park in the Canadian province of Ontario. Surrounding Daisy Lake in the city of Greater Sudbury, the park serves to protect a recovering ecosystem scarred by pollution from the city's mining industry; one of the industry's first roasting beds in the region was located just east of the park boundaries.[1] The park's ecosystem includes white birch trees, grasses, sedges, rock barrens and bog vegetation.  Link to Source

The current surface expression of the (Canadian) Shield is one of very thin soil lying on top of the bedrock, with many bare outcrops. This arrangement was caused by severe glaciation during the ice age, which covered the Shield and scraped the rock clean.
The lowlands of the Canadian Shield have a very dense soil that is not suitable for forestation, but it also contains many marshes and bogs. The rest of the region has coarse soil that does not retain moisture well... Link to Source

To paraphrase, the lake basin was sterilized with acid rain (sulfuric acid) from the nickel smelting operation.  The water currently running into the basin has nutrient content identical to rain water running off a granite grave stone.  The water running into the basin is acidic and absorbs virtually no CO2 on the way in.  The low pH of the water also makes exchange via the surface problematic.  There is no agriculture in the region and wastewater is disposed of appropriately.

Well of course leaves blowing into the lake are  major source of carbon.  Daisy Lake is a special case.


Back to the original article.
"It's estimated that freshwater fishes make up more than 6 per cent of the world's annual animal protein supplies for humans – and the major and often only source of animal protein for low income families across Bangladesh, Indonesia and the Philippines," added Tanentzap.
"While we've only studied boreal regions, these results are likely to bear out globally. Forest loss is damaging aquatic food chains of which many humans are a part."
- See more at:

"It's estimated that freshwater fishes make up more than 6 per cent of the world's annual animal protein supplies for humans – and the major and often only source of animal protein for low income families across Bangladesh, Indonesia and the Philippines," added Tanentzap.
"While we've only studied boreal regions, these results are likely to bear out globally. Forest loss is damaging aquatic food chains of which many humans are a part."
- See more at:
"It's estimated that freshwater fishes make up more than 6 per cent of the world's annual animal protein supplies for humans – and the major and often only source of animal protein for low income families across Bangladesh, Indonesia and the Philippines," added Tanentzap.
"While we've only studied boreal regions, these results are likely to bear out globally. Forest loss is damaging aquatic food chains of which many humans are a part."
- See more at:
"It's estimated that freshwater fishes make up more than 6 per cent of the world's annual animal protein supplies for humans – and the major and often only source of animal protein for low income families across Bangladesh, Indonesia and the Philippines," added Tanentzap.
"While we've only studied boreal regions, these results are likely to bear out globally. Forest loss is damaging aquatic food chains of which many humans are a part."
- See more at:
"It's estimated that freshwater fishes make up more than 6 per cent of the world's annual animal protein supplies for humans – and the major and often only source of animal protein for low income families across Bangladesh, Indonesia and the Philippines," added Tanentzap.
"While we've only studied boreal regions, these results are likely to bear out globally. Forest loss is damaging aquatic food chains of which many humans are a part."
- See more at:

"It's estimated that freshwater fishes make up more than 6 per cent of the world's annual animal protein supplies for humans – and the major and often only source of animal protein for low income families across Bangladesh, Indonesia and the Philippines," added Tanentzap.

"While we've only studied boreal regions, these results are likely to bear out globally. Forest loss is damaging aquatic food chains of which many humans are a part"

And that is not to bang this article in particular.  Many other news outlets (like BBC) picked up the story and it was streamlined for mass consumption by pruning out all of the ifs, ands, buts that suggested that throwing a bunch of organic trash into the water might not be universally applicable.

A final note

Snags are large limbs, stumps, roots and tree trunks that are partially or fully submerged.  There is much research that documents that snags are a critical component of the underwater habitat.  They are of particular importance for young fish.  They provide cover that is critical for evading predation.  They also supply substrate and habitat for all of those tiny little critters that are food sources for those baby fish.

It is difficult to see how the Daisy Lake research was able to untangle the effects of snags from leaves blowing in because the presence of snags is highly correlated with trees on the banks.

---End of Rant---

t's estimated that freshwater fishes make up more than 6 per cent of the world's annual animal protein supplies for humans – and the major and often only source of animal protein for low income families across Bangladesh, Indonesia and the Philippines," added Tanentzap. - See more at: