Tuesday, March 31, 2015

A Joke for the first day of April

A man died and found himself in hell.

As he gained awareness, he looked around.  Yup!  Flames, brimstone and He-devils with whips.


And then he noticed a recently deceased politician from a well known Eastern dynasty.  The man was not surprised to see the politician in hell as the politician was a notorious womanizer, drinker, a poor driver and a liar to boot.

What was surprising was that the politician was not writhing in flames.  He was drinking from a whiskey bottle in each hand and was receiving a lap-dance from a naked, voluptuous super-model.

"Damn!" the man exclaimed.  "The money, power and influence of The Machine even reaches into the bowels of hell.  It figures that they would not only side-step their just punishment but that they would use their connections to find a way to benefit."

A He-devil, overhearing, said "I beg to differ.  If you look closely you will see that the whiskey bottles have holes in the bottom.  And if you look even closer, you will see that the woman does not."

Motorized bike, continued

The mystery fastener was 1/4" (6.2mm) dia, 28 tpi.  No wonder the 6.0m 25.4 tpi did not fit.  The second hardware store I visited it nailed it.

The screws I bought were too long. They bottomed out in the bottom of the tapped holes.  I ground about 3/16" off the ends so they did not bottom out.  The lock washers had diameters that were too big.  Metal was removed in appropriate places.

Not bad, 90 minutes to run four screws.  And folks wonder why retired folks are always busy.

Cutting and bending to fit

The motor is a tight fit.  I had to re-drill some holes to slide the engine another half inch forward.  Then I had to recontour the forward trim on the motor mount bracket because it was hitting the frame.   Even at full forward the air cleaner was banging into the seat post.  And that was AFTER I carefully customized the air cleaner cover by dropping the motor on it.  The cover required additional whittling to make it fit.  An air cleaner with no cover is of little use.

The key was too long.  I had to cut it to about 1/2" so the clutch/pulley lined up properly.

Back in the old days this would have been called a "Goat Festival", or something similar.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Safety Inspections

Safety inspections, like many things, seems to be vulnerable to the winds of fashion.  While I was employed I saw many safety inspection sheets come-and-go.  In my opinion they either erred by being overly detailed or by having no detail at all.  The most comprehensive inspection had 104 questions and was to be done weekly.  The skimpiest one directed the auditor to contact a random employee and ask them what they thought was the most likely cause of a workplace injury.

The form listed below is my swing at the ball.  It is based on Bureau of Labor Statistics data for non-fatal injuries.  The percentage of injuries attributed to a given cause is listed on the middle column.  To the right of that is the cumulative percentage.  It is notable that over 80% of the injuries are caused by three sources: Overexertion/reaction, Falls-slips-trips and Contact with objects/equipment.

One of the largest book stores in the Lansing area.  Books are paper.  Paper burns.  The fire extinguisher is hidden from 90% of the floor space by the bulletin board and access is blocked by the bench.
Now do you see the fire extinguisher?  When pointed out to the clerk, he informed me that the Fire Marshal directed them to place the fire extinguisher in that exact location.

Apologies for the awkward formatting.  As always, you can click on the pictures to embiggen.

Thirty-three questions feels a little bit "fat" for a weekly inspection but it could probably be skinnied up.  For instance, curbs, once painted, do not need to be inspected every week.

Threaded fasteners

Tomorrow is Kubota's birthday.

Kubota wants a motorized bike.

I found a kit.  I bought it.  They shipped quickly.  It is here.  I am attempting to assemble it.  But there is little joy in Mudville.


Threaded fasteners, bolts and screws, were one of the banes of my life when I worked in manufacturing.  I was around as women first started breaking into the "Engineering" club.  One grizzled, old guy commented to Susan, one of the new hires, that she probably had no idea about the differences between a "bolt" and a "screw".

Susan gained eternal fame by quickly retorting..."I might not know the difference between a bolt and a screw, but I can always tell when somebody is trying to screw me."

Just for the record, a screw is driven while a bolt is stationary and the nut is run down it.  It has nothing to do with size.

Screws continue to be the bane of my existance.

The bag that contained "small parts" was split and missing many parts.  The AWOL parts were not lurking in the bottom of the box.  I sent an email to the company (who shall not be named unless they impress me with awesome customer service).

Picture reposted for convenience.
This bolt did not match the thread of the casting it was screwed into.  The parts are from China which is metric by default.  The headstamp on the bolt is metric (M8.8). It had four good threads of engagement before the thread mismatch smeared off the threads of the bolt.  A "cross thread" would have been smeared from the very first thread.

As a precaution, I hand-turned the engine mounting bolts into the aluminum engine casting.  They seized up after about two-and-a-half turns.  Dang!

I think I am dead in the water until I can find some bolts that match the motor mount castings.  This does not look like a problem that can be solved with Loctite, not even the Red stuff.

To be continued.


RFRA stands for the Religious Freedom Restoration Act which was signed into law in Indiana.  The NCAA Final Four (men's basketball) will be held in Indianapolis this year.  Indiana is a solidly mid-Western state with little native controversy.  Most people with a need for excitement moved to Illinois or the east coast.

Roberta X, a blogger who I enjoy reading, speaks poorly of this act.  It is a public relations disaster, at least from a timing standpoint.  Most of her arguments are economic.

Roberta says that the law is redundant because there is already a Federal statute on the books that is almost identical.  Sadly, we learned that the US Attorney General, in fact, the whole Federal Justice system does not feel bound to enforce laws evenly.  That portion of the Executive branch is probably politicized beyond repair.  Having that kind of statute on the books at the local level gives business owners a second venue.

Roberta's primary argument is that the RFRA poisons Indiana's chances of recruiting world HQs of Fortune 500 companies.  While Purdue is an outstanding engineering school, I don't think Indiana or West Lafayette have sufficient magnetism to convince any major Silicon Valley start-ups into moving.  California can push them to Indiana but Indiana cannot pull them in.

Dark gray line is the rate of business formation per 100,000.  The rate topped out 2200/million in 1978 and 1987.

Edited to add:
Indiana's best chance for gaining a Fortune 500 company headquarters is to generate more home-grown, Fortune 500 companies.  The way to do that is through mass selection.  The US economy currently generates approximately 1250 businesses per 1,000,000 of population.  Indiana currently has a population of about 6.6 million.  The state's goal should be to double the "average" business formation rate, or 16,500 new businesses per year.
End edit.

RFRA is not just about religious freedom.  It is also about property rights.  It reaffirms the business owner's right to manage their business...their property.  One can argue that a business that publishes or posts prices is, in effect, making a public contract.  One can also argue that refusal to deliver the goods at that price constitutes a breach-of-contract.  Fair enough.  Businesses who (yes, "who") have sufficient energy about traditional families can forgo the efficiency of pre-printed menus and price lists or can add an asterisk.

But what recourse is left to a business owner (and other customers) when customers come in who are disruptive?  There is a range of behavior...let's call it "boorish behavior"...that is not criminal but deprives other customers of the full enjoyment of their purchase and deprives business owners of revenue and profit.  Let me offer a concrete example:  A "Drag Festival" at a Chuck E Cheese.  I think Indiana's RFRA extends protection to shop owners who must deal with these situations.  In some cases it will be poor economics on the part of the shop owner, but those consequences will fall back on them.

I fail to see how clarification of property laws is bad for business.  One damper on business creation is the fear of frivolous, opportunistic or predatory lawsuits.  Good law gives the boors less room to maneuver.

The Act does not require that the freedom be exercised.  Businesses that use it stupidly will quickly fail.  It is that Darwin thing.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Staghorn Sumac

The birds seem to prefer the berries from the top of the clusters.  It may be because the birds perch on the cluster as they eat.
I was cutting Staghorn Sumac today.  It is one of the last things I cut in the winter.  The returning Robins and Bluebirds eat the berries as they migrate north. The fresh berries are not very palatable, consequently they stay on the bushes all winter long.

I orient the tops so the birds can finish off the berries.

Can you "ear" me now?

Staghorn Sumac is also a big favorite of the bunny rabbits.  Their nibbling scars the bark and that results in unique grain patterns in the cut stumps.

Conservative Arts

I am Back!


Mrs ERJ and I went to an indoor track meet to watch Belladonna throw.  It was a small, Liberal Arts college on the west side of Michigan.  They had signs telling visitors that idling one's vehicle was not only bad for the environment but was against campus rules and might earn you a ticket.  They had three receptacles for trash:  one for recyclables, one for returnables and one for "trash".

The campus paper is filled with verbose articles extolling the virtues of a "Liberal Education".

Conservative Arts

I got to wondering what a degree in "Conservative Arts" would look like.

I decided it would involve, at least partially, actually doing something.  Perhaps taking a Mosin-Nagant and turning it into a MOA shooter.

After noodling it around for while, it occurred to me that I was reinventing the wheel.  

If you accept the premise that many people who matriculate in Liberal Arts are feeble-minded, and that there has been a vast dilution in the content in education, then a rigorous high school program could easily match a "Liberal Arts" education from a third tier college.

Eagle Scouts

Let's just take a look at the mandatory merit badge requirements for becoming an Eagle Scout (Source)

  1. Earn a total of 21 merit badges (10 more than you already have), including the following:
    1. First Aid
    2. Citizenship in the Community
    3. Citizenship in the Nation
    4. Citizenship in the World
    5. Communication
    6. Cooking
    7. Personal Fitness
    8. Emergency Preparedness OR Lifesaving
    9. Environmental Science OR Sustainability
    10. Personal Management
    11. Swimming OR Hiking OR Cycling
    12. Camping
    13. Family Life

While some might roll their eyes at "Sustainability", it is a matter of what is emphasized.  The Liberal mindset is to impose rules on others (ticket people who let their vehicle idle).  A Conservative mindset has personal responsibility as a cornerstone (a few privately purchased solar panels to power a CPAP machine in the event of power outages).

Family Life is similar.  Liberals want to dignify every conceivable arrangement of humans (and other life and non-life forms including crystals and fossils) with the name of family.  Conservatives see "Family" as a long-term economy with incomes-and-expenses, assets-and-liabilities.  Conservatives do not identify a benefits package du jour as a "Family".  Lest you think calling a family an "economy", remember that "ecos" is Greek for family and the word "economy" derives from family.

I would also like to see "World Religions" and "Micro/Macro Economics" added to this list.

Do my readers have any thoughts?

Thursday, March 26, 2015

ERJ going dark for a few days

Twenty-eight years ago, give or take a few days, Mrs ERJ and I got married.

This is our first anniversary that we have not tied to work.  Mrs ERJ's work actually reached a crescendo this time of year.  The year we got married was an aberration...that she was able to get it off. 

The kids are old enough to farm out to friends and family.

Mrs ERJ has dibs on me this weekend.  You all will just have to fend for yourself.

If I post it will be sporadic and light.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The mundane details of a blessed life

Today was filled with the humdrum details of the chores that sustain life and culture.


I went to coffee at two separate places today.

One of the guys where I attend church suggested I drop in on a coffee group in Charlotte, Michigan where a few business owners gather.  The picture in my head was five or six grumpy, old guys like my regular coffee group.  I walked into 35 people drinking coffee.  They ranged in age from twenty-three to pushing eighty.  I will write a little more about them tomorrow.

My regular coffee group was a bit light on attendance.  Tuesday, B mentioned that he was concerned about home invasions.  I remembered that I have a book that intelligently discussed the phenomena.  B was not at coffee today so I dropped it off at his home.  I will tease him a little bit tomorrow.  His wife is an absolute doll.

A one paragraph summation of Fer-FAL observations of home invasions is that people are most vulnerable when they come home from work.  They are tired.  They have a lot on their minds.  They succumb to tunnel vision.  All they can see is the point of that key spearing the lock or they are focused on driving the car into the garage.  Fer-FAL's advice is to drive around your block once before you pull into your driveway.  If you see anybody or anything out of place or who does not belong, activate your plan B.

Perhaps I am paranoid but I have driven past my driveway when it seemed like I was being followed home.  I fired three people in my professional career and "observed" several others being fired.  One of those people had "Killer" tattooed up one forearm and "Gypsy" down the other.  He claimed to have lived in 23 different states in his 28 years of existence. Another had to be removed from the facility by the police after I terminated them.  Things like that make you check your back-trail.


After coffee, Mrs ERJ insisted that I drive into Lansing and get my "new" cell phone activated.  She said that since we are trying to make one vehicle work between the two of us that we needed to be able to communicate and coordinate.  Unexpected things can happen when you have kids and she needed to be be able to reel me in from whatever Quixotic quest I am on when a kid needs help.

I had purchased two phones.  The first one I purchased did not activate.  I went to the Verizon website and the activation process stopped when Verizon informed me that it was mandatory that I bump up my data plan by an additional $20 per month.  I purchased a second, even stupider phone.  The same thing happened.

The lady at the Verizon store pushed a few buttons and activated my phone.  The additional $20/month was not mandatory as implied by the web process.  I am pissed.  It took an hour out of my day and I bought one more phone off of eBay than I needed to. 

Given that thousands, if not millions, of customers undoubtedly rolled over and  passively accepted the (erroneous) website dictate to fork over an additional $20/month....Verizon fraudulently generated millions of dollars of revenue.  Verizon's website implies that the contract "goes with" the device rather than the payer.  That is patently absurd because my cellphone does not pay the bill; I do.  Changing a like-device for another like-device should not trigger an mandatory plan up-fee.  It would give me great pleasure to have a sharp attorney (Aaron, this could be you!) or State Attorney General take Verizon to school on that topic.

Then I took the 2004 Malibu Classic into Eaton Farm Bureau and had a couple of new tires put on it.  This is the car that Belladonna is likely to take to Grand Valley State University in the fall.  GVSU is 12 miles from Lake Michigan and receives "lake effect" snow.  Good tires, tires with deep, open tread patterns, tires in their vigorous youth are not a luxury.  They are a necessity. 

I was lucky.  The "Classic" uses a common "commodity" tire size.  I had the snow tires that were on the front rotated to the rear where they will receive little wear.  I bought two 80,000 mile, all season radials  to put on the front.  The entire bill was $180.  In early December I will rotate the snow tires back to the front.

Then, tonight, we attended "Meet the Greyhounds".  Both Belladonna and Kubota are participating in a sport this spring.  Belladonna is throwing the shot and discuss in track.  Kubota is in golf, which some people believe is a sport.

My personal belief is that there are devices and propellants more suitable for sending small objects great distances than golf clubs.  But we live in a sissified time where those devices and propellants are not allowed at school sanctioned events.  So we make do with golf clubs.


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Cherry Leaf Challenge

First, a story:

The town

Harley was considered an impulsive young man, even by the standards of his community.

Harley lived in Beau Ford, Northern Michigan (usually referred to by its initials by effete down-staters, B.F. Northern Michigan).  In other times and places Harley would have been medicated into a poor facsimile of a girl.   Doctors and folding money are in short supply in BF Northern Michigan.  The last time BF had a hopping-hot economy was the winter when the French Canadian Voyageurs were snowed in with a load of distilled products.  So the Harley you saw was Harley the way God made him.

In fact, Harley was responsible for a down-state student teacher pursuing a career in culinary arts (aka, delivering pizza).  The student teacher, a woman, instructed her new students in the proper way to get her attention.  She instructed them to hold their upper arms parallel to the floor (+/- 3 degrees) and to hold their upper arms vertically (+/- 5 degrees).  Their palms were to face her, fingers clasped together, thumb parallel with the fingers.  She expected them to follow her with their palm as she primly walked around her classroom.  She would call them when she deigned proper.  Controlled tremors of excitement (+/- 1/4 inch) were permitted.  Anything more was disruptive and resulted in demerits.

She did not last long.  Harley broke her.

Harley's home

Harley's family lived where the river finally began showing some ambition and broke out of the swamp.  The river stopped its lazy, aimless wanderings and picked up speed.  The banks became steep and, this time of year, the river became engorged with the massive amounts of snowmelt trying to leave the BF basin for Lake Superior.

It was a day near the end of March when Harley had his Cherry Leaf AHA!  He was walking home from school shortly after lunch.  He had been expelled for tussling in the cafeteria.

As he followed the shortcut from the highway, he noticed that the family outhouse would soon tumble into the river.  It was precariously perched on the bank on the outside of the river bend.  The snow had been heavy that winter and the rushing water had already undercut and toppled large sections of the bank.  It was just a matter of time before it would topple the stretch where the outhouse stood.

Harley was a doer, not a thinker.  But if he had been a thinker he would have thought of himself as an "Agent of Entropy".  Harley was not the kind of kid who disassembled vehicles and put them back together again on the roof.  Nope.  He was the kind of kid who bumped them out of gear and watched them roll down the hill.  In a universe of infinites, the improbable eventually becomes inevitable.  In a universe of Harleys, there is no need for the word "eventually".

That out-house spoke to Harley.  It told him what needed to be done.  Harley hip checked the teetery, old outhouse into the stream and watched it sail, upright around the bend.  By his country-boy estimation, it was making about seven knots and was surprisingly well ballasted.


Harley kept himself scarce for the first couple of hours.  He was not scairt of getting whipped for being expelled.  His folks were pretty much resigned to the fact.  He kept out of sight because his dad would put him to work.  The family burned pallets from the mill and they were a lot of work to bust up to burning size.

After a bit, Harley got to thinking about how his dad was going to react to having to dig a new pit and build a new water closet.  Harley was bigger than his dad but he did not expect it to go well.  When he was younger, his dad would send him out to the pallet pile to pry off a board.  Then, the dad would proceed to beat Harley until the board broke.  Harley was smart about things that got his attention.  He quickly learned to hoard punky pine boards with extra large knot holes.  They broke WAY sooner than the straight grained ash and red oak boards.

His dad's stamina took a nose dive shortly after Harley got "his growth".  Now his dad talked at him.  Sometimes for one beer.  Sometimes for more.  His dad could talk as long as he had a can of beer in his hand.  And by dint of long practice his dad could drink a lot of beer.  Harley hated getting talked at worse than getting beat with a pallet board, especially on those days after his dad had renewed his supply of Pabst Blue Ribbon.

About six o'clock

About six o'clock his dad came trudging up the path from the highway.  That path went right past the old outhouse so there was no chance of ducking consequences until the next day.  Harley decided to try something new...something his principal called "being pro-active."

"Dad, before you say anything. I knocked the out-house into the river and  I want to tell you about something I learned at school.  George Washington cut down a cherry tree.  And his dad was getting ready to whop him when George stood up straight and told him, "Dad, I done it.  I ain't proud of it but I ain't no liar."  Then his dad decided to not beat him.  So I don't think you should do anything to me because I manned up and told you.

The dad, stared at his son.

Harley's dad was not the fastest thinker even in the best of times.  His mind was a bit like a freight train.  His mind only worked in one direction, it took a while to get going and it took even longer to slow down.  In this particular for-instance, Harley's dad's mind was even more-so, whether because he had been thinking heavy thoughts or, more likely, had more time to come up to speed.

"Son, what you say about George Washington may be true.  I don't know.  I wasn't there."


"But it is a damned good bet that his dad was not up in that tree when George cut it down.  Go git a pallet board and make it a damned good one."

Cherry Leaves

My guys at coffee were talking about letters to Washington D.C.  It seems that they mostly get ignored. The picture in their heads is that some student-intern counts up the "fer-its" and the "agin-its" and writes the number in chalk on the sidewalk by the door.  That way the congressman or the President has something to look at when they scrape off their shoes before going inside.

The discussion turned to ways of breaking out of the ground clutter and getting some attention without breaking any laws.

Chokecherry range
Wild Black Cherry
One proposal was to include a cherry leaf with the letter.  It could be a domestic cherry like the one George Washington cut down.  Or it could be a pin, choke or wild black cherry depending on mood or availability.  Cherry leaves are less expensive than tea bags, will not necessitate additional postage and do not stain the envelop nor make it soggy.

The primary message would be "Man up.  Be honest with us."

It gets a little more entertaining when you start looking at the secondary messages.  Cherry leaves have many cyanogenic compounds.  That is, they contain many glucosides and proteins that release minute quantities of cyanide (and aromatic cyanide containing compounds) as they dry, undergo autolysis or decompose.  That will cause some excitement as Congressional and Presidential mail gets screened by exquisitely sensitive assaying equipment.

Cherry trees and incubating businesses

A factoid about Wild Black Cherry trees: Wild Black Cherry is a pioneer species primarily spread by birds.  Wild Black Cherry (P. serotina) is a common pasture tree. The leaves are not palatable to most browsers.  Many farmers left them in their pastures to provide shade for the animals.  They were considered more desirable than other, more thorny alternatives.

Cherry trees are the preferred host tree for Eastern Tent Caterpillars

Wild Black Cherry trees were linked to  Mare Reproductive Loss syndrome.  It was a huge surprise that the root cause was not because of their toxicity but because they are so attractive to tent caterpillars.  The barbed tips of those tiny caterpillar hairs penetrated the mare's gut walls and enter their blood stream.  Thousands of them would lodge in the placenta and create the botanical equivalent of silicosis in the placenta.  The resulting necrosis was the ideal medium for opportunistic infections.  Fetal death resulted.

At the risk of beating the analogy to death, this is what Washington D.C. does to small businesses.  It is not the elected officials (the cherry tree).  It is the eternal, intrusive bureaucracy living in the branches of the cherry tree that inflicts death with a thousand barbs.  Mature businesses and adults can shrug off the effects but it kills young businesses aborning and saps the natural vigor of the young.

Cherry trees and war

Another factoid about cherry trees is that they were the tree of choice for making faux cannons.  The shiny, dark grey bark of young cherry trees closely resembles the black oxide surface of cast iron.  Consequently, placing the trunks of cherry trees in cannon ports (after painting the exposed, cut end) was a way of feeding the enemy disinformation about capability and intent.

We do not tremble or quiver.  If you aren't careful we will hip-check you into the drink.  The bath will do you some good.

Include a cherry leaf in the next letter you send to your congress-critter or to the POTUS.  Tell them Eaton Rapids Joe suggested it.


I started running again.

I ran two miles Saturday and two-and-a-half miles Monday.  I restarted after a five month break.  Yes, I have a treadmill but it is not the same as running outside.

I let myself go this winter and packed on a bunch of pounds.  Mrs ERJ offered much advice but it did not seem to help.  Who knew that five meals a day would cause such problems?

She told me to consider adding more fiber to my diet for that "fuller" feeling.  I complied by putting shredded cheese on everything.  It did make me feel fuller but I kept adding weight.

The running gives me aches and pains but they are good aches and pains.  A "good" ache is one that induces you to relax, that helps you sleep.  It is a pain that you know the origin of, a pain that does not feel like an elephant sitting on your chest.

I have been running, off-and-on, for about ten years.  Never anything hard-core.  More distance oriented than speed.  All of my old friends are visiting me:  Plantars fascitis,  Pes Anserine Bursitis....  Those are funny names.  I almost expect my left foot to dispense peanuts and my knees to dispense gum.  The simple fact is that I need to stretch more.  I need to stretch more often, more muscle groups, for a longer period of time as I get older.

The plan is to attempt three miles on Wednesday and then drop back to two miles on Friday.  Mrs ERJ has plans for me over the weekend and she wants me functional.

Next week will likely be all three mile runs.  This week has been a matter of putting my body "on-notice" and easing back into it.  Next week will be a bit of toughening up before I start increasing mileage.  At least that is the plan.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Pictures from March 23

Old NFO, who encourages many bloggers by way of his frequent and thoughtful comments, observed on the post about reloading 40 S&W:

Another point to consider is the case is NOT full of powder, if the same round is reloaded multiple times, the force of the slide closing will cause the bullet to seat deeper and deeper. That will take the SAMMI pressures out of tolerance. At least some of the kabooms with .40s were due to LEOs doing that by unloading when they went into the jail, then putting that round back on top of the mag and reloading it again and again.
I know that .38 Special wadcutter target ammo has a cannelure in the case to prevent the bullet from walking either fore-or-aft.  I also kind-of-sort-of remember seeing some cases more recently that also had cannelures.  And since I have only been reloading 9mm Parabellum and 40 S&W in 2015 it almost had to have been one of those two.

My memory is fallible, so I wanted to look through a large number of cases to see if I remembered in error.

I called up Russ Nelson (517-663-3805) at Family Shooters Corral and asked him if he minded if I pawed through his treasure trove of 40 S&W brass.  He invited me to come on down.

I found one.  A nickel plated 40 S&W with a cannelure in the case.  I bet a fellow could do the same thing with a 44 caliber Hornady cam-lock bullet puller,  not to pull the bullet but to emboss the case.  Those "puller marks" sure look a lot like a cannelure.

And the winning headstamp is....Winchester.  I assume it is a Law Enforcement or premium self defense load for the reasons laid out by Old NFO.
Russ has to be one of the most patient men alive.  I was miking out wall thicknesses to see if I could find some thin walls (0.011") and some thick walls (0.015") for future experimentation.  While I was working away I listened to Russ sell a 40 S&W Hi-Point handgun to a customer.  This customer was busy extolling the virtues of this handgun to Russ. According to the internet (said the customers), the Hi-Point 40 S&W is the cat's meow for deer hunting.  The customer paid partially in cash, and with two credit cards as he did not have enough credit left on the first card he offered.

For those who are not followers of handguns, Hi-Point pistols go bang every time and are very inexpensive.  They are simple "blow back" designs.  Simple =  inexpensive to manufacture.  Since there is no free lunch, particularly with regard to physics, one is dealing with stiffer springs and more mass to hold the pistol in battery.

Most manufactures do not manufacture simple blow back handguns for cartridges more powerful that .380 ACP because of the difficulty in racking the slide.  One huge benefit of increased numbers of women and older people purchasing handguns is that they are inventing work-arounds as shown in the video above.  That increased the market for blow-back handguns in more powerful calibers.  Hi-Point obliged.

This bears on the discussion of bullet setback because stiffer springs and simple blow-back actions smack the bullet around more and increase the risk of bullet setback.


Missaukee potatoes on the left, Spartan Splash on the right.  Obviously, the Spartan Splash sprouts more slowly.  These potatoes were stored at about 65 degrees F.

Trashy people

I love living in the country.  One downside is that many people think that your property is their private trash bin.  They just dump their junk, thinking "Nobody owns this land."

Usually it is furniture, contents of rental spaces and household trash.  Sometimes it is left over construction materials.

Not on my property, but close enough that I have to look at them every day.

This was a little bit different.  About 10 racoons, a half dozen canines, a couple of deer (untagged), a goose, a squirrel and a mink.  Very unusual.  Three-quarters of the animals had not been skinned.

I called Michigan's Report All Poaching line (1-800-292-7800) based on the goose and the untagged deer. 

Endocrine system

Belladonna is in her second term of Human Anatomy.  They are studying the Endocrine system.  Bella pressed me into service as a study-buddy.

Picture from HERE
The pituitary gland is the puppeteer that triggers many of the other elements of the endocrine system via hormones that it releases.  Consequently, the pituitary gland produces a boat-load  of hormones.

Bella is expected to list the names of the hormones from memory.  To spell them correctly. She is responsible for knowing the name of the hormone, where it is produced, its function, the target system/cells, class of chemical and  whether it can freely penetrate cell walls. She was doing pretty well but was struggling with the pituitary gland because the list is seemed endless.


One that she kept forgetting was ICSH.   I was able to teach her a bit about mnemonics.  

Most of my readers probably grew up in the age when we were actually expected to memorize things in school.  That is no longer fashionable.  Teachers an parents assume that their child will always be able to consult Siri.  They say they need the time to teach "relevant" material.  Personally, I think it is because they find teaching "rote" material tedious.  Regardless of the reasons, most kids have much less practice memorizing material than their parents did.

Mnemonics are little memory aids.  Sometimes they are little ditties

Add the acid to the water
The way you really oughter

Sometimes it is a matter of making information more accessible by massaging it into a form that is more memorable.

Every good boy deserves fudge

Roy G. Biv


Belladonna is a bit disgusted with boys right now, not all of them but a certain slice of them.  That made it pretty easy to come up with a mnemonic for ICSH.

One of the major functions of ICSH  (Interstitial Cell-Stimulating Hormone) is that it regulates the production of testosterone in men.

I suggested that Bella add the words "its Testosterone" to the end of  ICSH.  So ICSH morphed to I-C-SHiT which is about how Bella feels when she looks at guys with alley-cat proclivities.

She did not miss I-C-SHiT after that.  I hope she remembers to delete the iT during the test.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Reloading 40 S&W

A couple of family members asked me to look into reloading some 40 S&W ammo for them.  They both shoot the economy version of the full size Smith and Wesson.

The two parties agreed on one particular bullet, the 150 grain, Nosler Sporting Handgun.  According to accounts on the internet, this bullet is expands very easily so there is no need to load it to maximum velocities to get reliable terminal performance.  This bullet has the same sectional density as a 115 grain 9mm bullet.

The puzzle is that the loading information is all over the place.  My plan is to start low and to use the chrony to dial into a specific velocity.  The reasons follow.

Scary internet stories

One quickly encounters many scary stories on the internet regarding reloading the 40 S&W.  There are several factors that come into play.  Primarily, the earliest generation of 40 S&W handguns were often reworks of 9mm designs.  The designers found that they had to shave away portions of the chamber to facilitate reliable feeding.  This is sometimes called "ramping".  The removal of some of the chamber resulted in portions of the case being "less supported". 

This happened to be a 45 ACP.  It shows unsupported case wall below (in this orientation) the extraction groove.  Case on the right had a blow-out.  Photo from HERE

Most of the time the brass was up to the task.  Sometimes...not.

Another factor is not visible. The extraction groove on the 40 S&W is larger than the groove on the 9mm Parabellum.  The top of the groove is 3.5mm (SAAMI)-to-4.0mm (measured) above the base of the case.  Meanwhile, the 9mm Parabellum has a skimpier extraction groove that only goes 2.7mm (SAAMI)-to-3.3mm (measured).

The trend is reversed inside the case.  The web of the 40 S&W measures 4.3mm deep while the web of the 9mm case is 4.5mm deep.  In short, the web of the 40 ends at the top of the extraction groove while the web of the 9mm Parabellum extends 1.2mm above the groove.  The 9mm simply has more brass in the most highly stressed regions at the base of the case.

High speed photograph of unsupported 40 S&W case walls bulging to contain peak pressure via "membrane" stresses.

The bottom line is that there is less meat there in the 40 S&W to save the inattentive reloader from mistakes.

Wide disagreement on data

Reloaders are encouraged to consult many sources of data.

The 40 S&W is a great example of why this is a wise practice.

The circled data point is from the powder manufacture for the powder I have in-hand for a 155 grain bullet.
This is a graph of max load data for four different, readily available smokeless powders with very similar burn rates.  The data is from reputable sources. The line was eye-balled through the median values.  "Median" means the one in the middle.  "Median" values are relatively impervious to the effects of fliers.

No data is available for the powder I have in-hand for the bullet I will be using.  The data point that is circled in red is of a heavier bullet and the powder I have in-hand.  This data was published by the manufacturer of the powder.  Conventional wisdom suggests I should be "safe" using the 8.0 grain powder charge with the lighter bullet.  Looking at the data, the 8.0gr powder charge looks like the flier.  In fact it looks like it will be hotter than a popcorn fart.

That is why I am going to start low (6.0 grains or so) and work my way up to a velocity that is well within the envelope for the cartridge/bullet weight/burn rate combination.  And then I will stop.  Right now I think stopping at 1100fps sounds safe and practical.

"Adiabatic" means that no heat transfers in or out of the control volume.  K, the ratio of specific heats assumed to be 1.3

Velocity and peak pressure are correlated although the relationship is not linear.  If there are no other significant changes, then a 10% increase in velocity (1210fps instead of 1100fps) is the result of a 21% increase in peak pressure.  So the load that should be producing 32ksi is now knocking out +39ksi.

The correlation between velocity and pressure means the reloader can sometimes work backwards.  I do not have a way to directly measure pressure but I have a chrony and can measure velocity.  Regular folks call it "anal".  Reloaders call it "prudence".  Attorneys call it "due diligence".  It is my intention to never need an attorney.  Even more, I never want to explain to a "mom" how Billie shot his eye out.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Lansing, Michigan Home and Garden Expo

I am not going to bury you with pictures.

Wooden Nickel Refinishing and Furniture Restoration

===>LINK<===  Repair, Re-caning, Upholstery, Stripping.

This guy refinishes furniture.  This before-and-after format is very effective.

He likes working on furniture with good bones.  I learned that this style of chair is called "Empire".
And he can do "dainty".  I was taken by the way the light played across the fabric of this seat bun.

Thomas LeGault Art


Mr LeGault was reluctant to let me take a picture.  He has had too many pictures pirated.

He paints in acrylic and uses a spatula.  Those "leaves" bursting out into the border are have thickness and depth.  That is pretty tough to "print".

Most of his pictures are VERY large format.  He specializes in light-airy compositions.  The kind of large mural that can make a small, stuffy room feel much larger and more open.  Most of his murals have birch trees, sandy beaches and brightly trimmed boats.  This composition, the one he was OK with me photographing has more of the Thomas Kinkade "cozy cottage" feel than most of his paintings.

Based on the amount of work he displayed I think he must paint very rapidly.

Recumbent Seat Covers (and custom lights)


This bike was parked outside the expo.  It is owned by a seventyish year old gentleman named Mr Janson.  He is a little miffed.  Due to the crappy weather he "only" has 900 miles on it so far this year.

One of Mr Janson's businesses makes custom seat covers for recumbent bicycles.

I anticipate covering his business in a future small business report.

Phuket, Thailand

I know it is an entirely inappropriate reaction, but I admire the gentleman's choice of an appropriately named location to demonstrate his despondency.

British tourist, 21, shoots himself dead at Phuket shooting range

Story HERE

Radio Buttons

In late 1962 everybody who was anybody, on both sides of the Iron Curtain was reading the book Fail-Safe by Eugene Burdick and Harvey Wheeler.

The event that triggered World War III was a rubber band that broke.

The lifespan of an individual rubber band is difficult to calculate a priori.  Rubber is vulnerable to ozone (air pollution, electric motors), UV light (sunlight, fluorescent lamps) and oils (hand lotions, mechanic's hands, foods).

The rubber band in Fail-Safe was around a stack of Hollerith cards at SAC Headquarters.  The stack of cards fell to the ground.  The technician gathered them up and re-ordered them.  The tech either missed a card or did not re-order them with 100% accuracy.

The cards were processed and the United States launched a B-52 Stratofortress loaded with America's finest Hydrogen bombs on a mission to bomb Moscow.

In hindsight, it sounds like poorly written comedy.  In fact, it was read on both sides of the Iron Curtain as an all-too-believable scenario of the beginnings of WWIII.

Radio buttons

Radio buttons are the new rubber band.


Radio buttons come in different forms.  If you entered data into a computer (whether you knew it was a computer or not), you probably used "radio buttons".

Radio buttons are fast.  They are easy for the user to implement (no typing).  They are efficient for a database to process (no human intervention on that end).

Radio buttons have a high failure rate when inputs are configural or when significant amounts of text must be embedded around them to clarify subtle distinctions between the choices.  The failure rate associated with text is not surprising.  Computer screens suck for proof reading, perhaps due to the difficulties in navigating beyond the screen that is currently displayed.

Why do I care?

Yesterday I was drinking coffee with my retired buddies and the subject of medical bills came up.

One fellow went into his doctor's office to take issue with some fee....and he was assessed the cost of another doctor's visit ($120) and the price of a urine analysis (????).  Somebody had gotten into the billing program and hits some radio buttons attempting to make adjustments.  Like the tech who dropped the cards in Fail-Safe, they guessed wrong.

Another fellow, me, had blood work done two weeks prior to my annual physical.  The Phlebby Tech hit the billing radio button for "screening" and stuck me with a $260 bill.  While it is a "screening", it is paid for by the insurance company if it is under the umbrella of "annual physical".  The billing is configural.

Another person had a colonoscopy.  Their GI specialist told them they should have a lower GI every five years based on prior results.  Time got away from them and it had been 14 years.  They, too, got whacked with bills because the billing specialist coded it as a "screening".  It was messy because they were billed individually by the anesthesiologist, the surgeon and the operating room.  They are all separate "profit centers".

Many of the medical centers seem to be migrating toward tablets with touch screens.  They are portable and much easier to sanitize with chemicals than letter keys and mouses.  They are also more vulnerable to spurious entry.

Integrated care

I understand the need to integrate medical care.  I understand the role that computers can play in that.  Central Minnesota provides medical care for one-third the cost of medical care in Southern Florida.  Much of that economy is due to the consolidation of medical history on a by-patient basis.

But the billing side of the shift to software really sucks for the patients.  We are not getting paid $68,000 a year to call insurance companies, be put on hold, and then argue with the insurance companies billing specialist for twenty minutes.  We don't know the jargon.  We don't know the rules.  It is even worse for non-retirees....at least we have the time.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Healthy & Fit Magazine: Collaborators and scarcity

A better writer than I  would be able to take all of these chunks-and-pieces and fit them into a seamless essay.

I am working on becoming that writer.  Meanwhile, you get what you get.


The relationship between Healthy & Fit Magazine and its most steadfast contributors is sufficiently novel to merit special mention.

Those steadfast contributors are also some of the magazine's most loyal advertisers, and  I suspect, some of the magazine's most zealous sellers of ad space.

This takes a deft touch.  The contributors write about basic, foundational health concepts....and they have ad space on the sidebar next to their article.  This would be entirely self-serving if they were making extravagant claims or shilling exotic treatments.  But in fact, their articles educate readers on issues any competent dentist, dermatologist, dietician, therapist....can handle without breaking into  a sweat.

New patients move into the Lansing area and are in need of medical providers.  Kids move out and start up their own households.  Older medical providers retire.  Sometimes "chemistry" or personality issues crop up that impair the patient-professional relationship.  All of these patients are looking for medical providers and Healthy & Fit Magazine is an efficient way for them to get a feel for who is out there.  There is no better way to marquee your approach than to pen an article and include an ad in the sidebar.

Contributors....part II

Frederick Herzburg's motivation theory can be tidily summed up in one word:  Ownership.

People are motivated when they can point at an entity and claim, "I did that!"  Ownership suggests that tasks be chunked up into natural-and-logical units.  Those units are defined by a natural beginning and a natural endpoint.

Most bloggers will occasionally quote people who they find inspirational.  A blogger who is a heavy quoter might have as much as 30% of the text post be quoted material...and that would be an infrequent event.  The quoted material will be interlaced with the blogger's original work. 

That is how we were taught to write.

The model used by Healthy & Fit Magazine is more collaborative.  Let me spell that word out very slowly      C-O - L - L-A-B-O-R -A-T-I-V-E.

It is almost as if the publisher "rents" out a two-page spread to each collaborator and tells them to make it a success.  He gives them guidelines, oversees with editing services and retains a lightly-used veto power.  And his collaborators RUN with it.  The collaborators OWNS their space.  They get the rush of publishing a "two page" magazine,  They get the benefit of the full readership of Healthy & Fit. And they do it with almost none of the headaches of publishing a magazine.

It is the full equivalent of Eaton Rapids Joe giving his buddies certain days of the week to write the blog.  Perhaps on Monday it would be ERJ-Dino_mite, on Wednesday it would be ERJ-Bob and Friday would be ERJ-Floater.  I would be the mortar.  My guests would "own" specific days to post their rants as long as they are in alignment with ERJ values.

The ERJ blog would benefit.  The viewing volume would harvest the networks of each of the guest posters.  Essays written by the "real" ERJ would be more honed and go through more drafts before they were published.

Few bloggers do this.  For the most part it is because we have too much ego invested in our blog.  It is a conceptual leap:  Letting others have access to our audience will increase our readership.

Manufacturing scarcity

One significant difference between hard-copy magazines and blogs is that the "availability" of hard-copy is finite and can be managed.

The Healthy & Fit publication volume is fine-tuned to cultivate the appearance of being highly sought after.  Suppose for a moment that Healthy & Fit could afford to flood the market with a million copies.  Most of them would be thrown away and would dilute---would poison---its image as a highly sought, avidly read publication.  Even if they distributed five times as many magazines as they currently do with the 12,000 unit production runs.

The lean publication volume ensures that every magazines will be snatched up in two weeks, maximum.  It trains readers to scoop up a copy if it is important to them.  It is also much more economical to publish slightly fewer copies rather than way too many magazines.

That is the opposite of the internet.  Value = demand/supply.  Anything on the open internet has infinite supply.  Anything divided by infinity is zero.  It is simple math.


I asked Mr Kissman if he ever considered franchising because, IMNSHO, he has a great package that can be cloned.

The short answer is that he will talk to anybody about the possibility but he has no fire-in-the-belly to force that to happen.  That is not why he started his publishing business.

He started his publishing business because several factors came together at the same time for him.

One of the major goals in his life was to be a highly involved parent and to be there for his kids as they grew up.  His daughter was five when he started the business.  He knew that he would have a couple of very heavy years before the business started partially running itself.

Professionally he had worked in various capacities at four or five publications (depending on how you want to count), so he had the background.  It is notable that those publications were "small" so he was able to grasp the totality of each business and was not stymied by "silos".

Another factor that impacted the timing of when he started his publishing business was that a person became available who he trusted and was a good complement to his strengths....his mom.

His mom was recovering from a surgery.  Her mind is as sharp as a tack.  She has a very wide of connections within the Lansing area Health and Fitness community because of her previous employment with the dominant hospital and university in the area.  And she knows how to work a telephone is comfortable cold calling.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

St Joseph the Worker

March 19 is the date that the Roman Catholic Church celebrates the feast of St Joseph the Worker, the earthly father of Jesus.

Eaton Rapids Joe was named after this saint and I don't want the day to pass without commenting, however briefly.

We know from Scripture that he did not have "relations" with Mary before it became apparent that she was pregnant. Four options were available to him:
  • He could publicly denounce her.  She would have been stoned as an adulterer...the fine distinctions between adultery and fornicating were often overlooked.
  • He could quietly break off the engagement
  • He could marry her and then quietly divorce her after the birth of her child (his original plan)
  • He could marry her and and publicly accept the child as his own, enduring whatever wisecracks that came his way.  This is the course of action that he took after being advised by an angel in a dream.
In another dream,  the Holy Family was told to flee Bethlehem as Herod's men are coming to kill the all of the baby boys.

Joseph,  Mary and Jesus traveled to Egypt for an unspecified amount of time until it was safe to return.  Joseph left behind his business, his customers and his family.  He restarted his life in a foreign country to save the life of a child that he knew was not his biological son.  I feel a special connection with Joseph the Worker since I am a parent-by-adoption.

When Jesus was twelve he was presented in the Temple.  Due to some logistical hiccups, Joseph (and Mary) had to leave the safety and convenience of their caravan on the trip back home and burn up three days looking for Jesus.

Scripture tells us that Jesus had "brothers".  Some scholars claim that the Bible meant "cousins".  Other scholars speculate that Joseph was an older widower and that he married Mary to manage his house and his children by his previous wife.  This second speculation is sometimes pointed to as support for the traditional belief that Mary remained a virgin even after her marriage to Joseph.

Joseph's occupation and wealth is also open to speculation.  Large pieces of wood were scarce and valuable.  Craftsmen who worked with wood were not "rough day laborers."  They were pretty high up the social hierarchy.  The sacrifices made in the Temple suggest that the Holy family was not wealthy.  It has been suggested that perhaps Joseph was a potter, a trade that he could have plied in Egypt (clay is cheap) more easily than a carpenter could have.

Joseph the worker deserves consideration for the fact that he was a worker.  He did what needed to be done.  He opened his house to Mary and Jesus when it ran against the mores of the time and, probably, against his own personal feelings.  He suborned his feelings to what was right.

Very little is written of him in Scripture.  But that is the measure of a man:  What others say or write cannot be the totality of our legacy.  Our legacy is what is left behind in the hearts of those we touch, live and work among.

Healthy & Fit Magazine: small business report

Healthy & Fit Magazine is a small-market, monthly publication distributed primarily in Clinton, Eaton, Ingham and Jackson counties in Michigan.  Healthy & Fit will celebrate their 10th aniversary in April, 2015 so they demonstrated far more longevity than most "indie" publications.

A substantial portion of Health & Fit's success is due to their tight focus. 

Healthy & Fit Magazine has a heavy emphasis on regular folks who made a decision to get healthy.  The paper issues have before-and-after pictures.  This is one of the "after" pictures.
A typical reader might be a mother who found life running on fast-forward.  She had been putting the needs of her education, career, children, perhaps aging parents ahead of taking care of herself.  People can get away with that while they possess the resilience and recuperative powers God grants youth. But at some point in our lives, often in our thirties, we find ourselves spent.  At that moment we realize that we need to take care of ourselves.

Healthy and Fit Magazine is there, waiting to help show you ways to do that.

There is some activity that will work for you.  It might be as simple as walking your dog.  The key is to start doing it.

Another important function of Healthy and Fit Magazine is to be a cheerleader.  Many of us do not have workout buddies.  The cheerleading supports us through the aches and pains can accompany working out.  The cheerleading encourages us to get back on the tracks after life events derail previous efforts.


Most issues of Healthy & Fit are 32 pages long.  This is an efficient (cost effective) size for the printer to handle and the limited size enforces that tight control on the content.  There are a few issues a year, the Annual Race Guide and the Annual Gym and Fitness Center Guide that exceed that length.


Most of the content is provided by regular contributors.  The contributors are not "writers."  They are Dentists who can write, Personal Trainers who can write, Dieticians who can write, and so on.  The primary focus of the writing is to introduce beginners to the basics of fitness.

Tim Kissman

Tim Kissman is the publisher and owner of Healthy & Fit Magazine.

This is not a picture of the women who mugged Mr Kissman, but it gives you a feel for the crowd.
I interviewed Tim Kissman at an Eaton Rapids coffee shop.  It is not a coffee shop that he frequents.  I arrived five minutes early and noticed that a table of retired ladies was breaking up.  Most of the table exclaimed "Tim Kissman!!!" as he walked through the door.  The closest I can come to capturing their glee is to compare it to how a class of Kindergarteners would respond if Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny walked through the door at the same time.  Mr Kissman was obliged to hug every one of those ladies before he could enter the restaurant.

Half way through the interview another customer in the coffee shop recognized him from his picture, walked up and introduced herself.  Tammy is a yoga instructor at one of the local fitness centers and avidly follows Healthy & Fit magazine.

It felt like I was interviewing a Rock Star.

That kind of charisma is not essential to the magazine's success.  But is sure did not hurt.

Writing and editing

One of the pillars of the magazine are before-and-after case studies.  Enough personal information is given in each case study so we can identify with the person trying to become more fit.

The goal of the case studies is to have the reader realize, "Hey, that could have been me!  Maybe I can do that, too."

Before-and-after stories must be crafted with care.  The "before" portions of the story are factual recitations devoid of judgment.  The stories simply point out that there are many landmines out there that will derail our health when we are not mindful.

The "after" portions of the story are typically written about six months later.  Six months seems to be one of the sweet-spots for length of motivation.  Most of us can visualize looking good on the beach when we formulate our New Year's resolutions.

Turning content into money

Every blogger fantasizes about finding a way to turn our content into revenue.  I admit to being one of those bloggers.

So I listed very carefully to Mr Kissman when he talked about his business model since blogs look much like magazines.

Healthy & Fit typically prints 12,000 copies.  They are distributed across the four counties by a vendor.  The vendor is very efficient at what he does.  It only takes three days to distribute the 12,000 copies.

A large fitness center might get 75 copies.  A small fitness center might get 25 copies.  A doctor's office might get 10 copies.  The magazines are distributed free of charge.  All revenue comes from advertising.  (looking more and more like blogging, isn't it?)

Whether by design or good fortune, most of the copies are dropped off within 20 feet of the office manager.  The office manager watches the copies get picked up and read cover-to-cover by their patients.  They see the copies get carried home.  They are glad that the patients are not walking off with "the expensive" magazines.  From the standpoint of the office manager, Healthy & Fit Magazine pays for the space it takes up when evaluated on that basis alone.

The stack of magazines lasts 10-to-14 days.

The pay-off is when a patient walks up to the office manager and asks if they have any more stashed behind the counter.  They want to read one.

The really big pay-off occurs when a patient carries the magazine into the orthodontists' (or dermatologist, or dietician, or physical therapy) office next door,  points at a picture in the magazine and asks, "My teeth look like this...Is it true you can do something to correct them?"

Healthcare advertising effectiveness is incredibly difficult to measure.  Most customers make their decisions based on numerous inputs.  Often, they need to see many ads over time, in several different media before they are willing to entrust their health to a doctor or a fitness center.  They want reassurance that the advertiser is not a fly-by-night operator.

That makes it difficult to quantify advertising effectiveness.  In the absence of hard numbers, anecdotes of potential patients carrying the magazine into the appointment become huge.  So does the rapid disappearance of the magazines from the counter and of patients asking for copies by name....these kinds of things become small-talk on the golf course and determine where the advertising dollars get spent.

Sadly, I cannot figure out how to bend the Eaton Rapids Joe blog to look like that business model.

Mr Kissman's Three Pieces of Advice

Find something you love doing.  Starting a business is very time intensive.  There will be times when you are working a lot of hours, especially in the beginning.

Figure out how to make money at it.  There are a lot of enterprises that look like businesses that slowly lose money.  Those are not really businesses.  Those are excuses to mine capital.  No matter how much money you start with, you will eventually run out unless you can figure out how to make your enterprise profitable.

At some point your business must be profitable enough for you to pay for a manager at the prevailing market rate.  It is a sad thing when a business liquidates because the business owner can never afford to go on a vacation with his family and his wife divorces him.  Being able to take care of your mental health and your marriage is not a luxury.  It is a legitimate cost of doing business.
---End sidebar---

Just start doing it.  Running a business requires keeping track of all of the pieces on the chess board.  "Business plans", no matter how detailed will never introduce you to all of those chess pieces.  You actually have to jump in the water and start swimming.

Tim Kissman can be contacted through by visiting THIS PAGE

Link to previous small business report.  
Link to the next small business report

Wednesday, March 18, 2015


Southern Belle called the house phone this evening.  She was worried because she could not get through on my cell phone.

She was last mentioned on this blog HERE and HERE.

She is teaching ninth graders in Miami.  There she is, the blonde from Michigan and she is the redneck.

Some of the questions the kids ask almost leave her stumped.  They had been reading John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men.  They asked her, "What is brush?"

She responded, "Well, you know, it is like when you are hunting rabbits and there is a pile of branches on the ground that you kick.  Or it might be bushes that are not trimmed as topiary (that is, bushes that do not look like poodles or ATMs) but are just growing wild." 



As reported earlier, Belladonna reconnected with her birth-family earlier this year.

Belladonna's biological siblings went to Godwin Heights High School.  One still attends and is a member of the men's basketball team.  Godwin Heights is still in the Michigan basketball play-offs.  By a cosmic twist of fate they played their last two games in Charlotte, Michigan, a scant 10 miles west of Eaton Rapids.  Bella was in attendance.

This video is from when Godwin Heights played the sixth ranked Class B school in Michigan.

Tonight, Belladonna got to watch her brother Leon (#5) play against Charlotte, one of Eaton Rapids arch-rivals.  The only thing better than watching Eaton Rapids beat Charlotte is to watch Godwin Heights beat them like a rented mule.  Godwin Heights squeaked by 81-37.  Proof that big-and-fast beats lucky most days of the week.

Belladonna is a happy girl.

One gallon of paint and 500 square feet of wall

Perhaps you are coaching a team of very young players in a recreation league and are staring across the field at your nemesis.  During his first three practices your nemesis ran his players until they puked and the three most-out-of-shape players quit....only to be replaced by three ringers he had waiting in the wings.

Or perhaps you were volunteered for a project only to have your "leader" increase the deliverables by an order of magnitude in a spate of machismo.

Or perhaps you inherited a job in a unionized or family environment and learn that compliance to Federal laws and due process had been "winked" at.

Or perhaps you found yourself staring at 500 square feet of wall and have one gallon of paint at your feet.  And the can of paint clearly states that it will only "cover" 300 square feet.

Surely, this is the universal management problem:  One gallon of paint and 500 square feet of wall.

On the soccer field

The team I coached tied the nemesis (the one who ran his girls until they puked) the last time we played.  It may have been my finest hour.

The other coach called the league coordinator to complain that I did not rotate one girl in violation of one of the league rules.  Frankly, I don't think the league coordinator gave a rat's asp.

He called me to complain that one of my girls trash-talked.  I was not on the field. I did not hear it.  He was not on the field.  He could not have heard it.  It could have been excuses for not crushing us as they had done ever other time they had played my team.  I told him I would address it.  And I did.

It may have been my finest hour.

The key, I learned, was to stack the players so the weakest players (known as "place holders") had stronger players fore-and-aft of them.  It was OK to have two weak players side-by-side.  It was fatal to have weak players one-behind-the-other.

The machismo boss

Sadly, I have no answers for the machismo boss.

Attempts to explain the disconnect between resourcing and deliverables were met with a lecture about the need to embrace failure.  I was informed that our CEO told him personally, via video link, that we needed to stretch more.  We needed to fail more as that is the only way to find the limits of human potential.

Without going into details, I can attest that we found the limits of human potential.  It was excruciatingly painful.

Inherited jobs

New bosses have a honeymoon period when underlings expect to see differences.  Tom Peters firmly advocates making all of your big moves in the first three months when everybody is looking for the new broom.

Most organizations have an "Employee Improvement Process".  The sooner non-compliance is identified and placed on the EIP the sooner they will quit, transfer or get with the program.  It sounds cold-hearted.  But most people recognize that the most demanding, the most critical positions have a high burn-out rate.  Those people need to be moved into positions where they can heal, both for the good of the firm and for the good of the person.

Perhaps the family or organization will not support you.  Better to learn that in the first six months than to grow five years older and fifteen years less salable in the marketplace.


It helps immensely if the primer is a close match to the color coat.  Primer is your friend.  Use a lot of it. Then use some more.  This is analogous to backing up three mediocre mid-fielders with two outstanding defensive players.

The color must match where it meets up to other surfaces...hallways and such.  Use the full compliment of paint there.

The color should be done as well as possible eye level.  For most humans this will be at approximately five feet of elevation.  If you cannot completely hide something, highlight it.  Throw noise at it.  Hang pictures or murals.  Use borders and shelves, mirrors and curtains.

Through the mid-regions where you do not have enough paint, thin it so it spreads evenly.  Thin and even is better than thick and clumpy.

And if your efforts prove insufficient, if the omniscient powers who gave you 500 square feet of wall to paint and only a gallon to paint it call you to account.  Be humble.  Beg forgiveness.  Promise to repaint and to thin no more.