Monday, November 30, 2015


Human feces in a public area of a building.  Image from HERE.

A favorite tactic of the pseudo-intellectual is to label the opponent with a fancy word and then dismiss them, and their arguments, as irrational.

Having recently been called a Xenophobe, I thought I would play with the idea. This is what I ended up with.

xen·o·pho·bi·a: ˌ
noun: xenophobia
  1. intense or irrational dislike or fear of people from other countries or cultures.
 Gramatically, this sentence offers eight separate definitions of Xenophobia:
  1. Intense dislike of people from other countries
  2. Intense dislike of people from other cultures
  3. Intense fear of people from other countries
  4. Intense fear of people from other cultures
  5. Irrational dislike of people from other countries
  6. Irrational dislike of people from other cultures
  7. Irrational fear of people from other countries
  8. Irrational fear of people from other cultures.
Only half the definitions are "Irrational".

What is interesting, from my side of the debate, is that "Xenophobe's" demands for due-diligence are branded as "irrational" at worst and "intense" at best.  We demand due-diligence from automakers and big-pharma.  When did big government become exempt from due-diligence?

Let's talk about poop

According to Wikipedia, here is a partial list of diseases that can be spread by human feces:

This resonates with me because one of my high school classmates was orphaned after his father was infected by Hepatitis he contracted from a prisoner who spit in his face.

Many historians posit that more people die during wars due to diseases than from wounds inflicted on the field of battle.  Many causes come together that make this so.  Large numbers of people are placed in close proximity to each other.  The mean distance between carriers and naive patients is compressed by two or three orders of magnitude.  Bodies are weakened due to crappy diet, cold and wet.  Waste handling (poop) is lax.  Inadequate clean water for washing hands, or primitive methods of cleaning one's bottom afterward...all this comes together.

"The Grid" is a frequently mentioned target of terrorists.  The high casualty count from Grid Down will not be due to hypothermia or heat stroke.  Nope.  It will be from people crapping in stairwells after the toilets stop flushing.  It will be due to diseases that we are rarely exposed to, here in a developed country.

Am I a Xenophobe?

No.  I just demand due-diligence from my government.  They are acting like sixth graders, trying to shout-down the opposition.

Experts.  Top experts.
They take umbrage when we question them.  Their "top experts" were chosen based on ideology and political reliability.  I really don't care if intelligent questions cause them to have sand in their nether-regions.  Pathogens are not debate points, they are organisms that have a name for humans: Meat.

Pathogens, and terrorism that may be directed at The Grid are a couple of outstanding reasons to proceed cautiously.  Any other approach is both reckless and irrational.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

A few pictures

From my daily walk

A shagbark hickory tree covered with galls (warts).

A tree festooned with Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia).  Virginia Creeper has brilliant fall color and its berries are avidly sought by many forms of wildlife.
A close up of one of the dangly vines.  I think this is artsy in a creepy kind of way.
A date stamp from a sidewalk on the west side of Lansing.  It sure looks like "1935" to me.


I talked to a couple of deer hunters today.  They are seeing very few fawns this year.  One estimated that he is seeing one fawn for every six mature does.  Speculation.runs rampant.  Some think it is due to Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease.  Others blame coyotes.

The strong United States dollar and political tensions between Russia and the United States resulted in very low fur prices.  There is very little incentive to trap raccoons, skunks and coyotes.  The populations will bloom until they get whacked back by canine distemper or some other epidemic.  It will be a tough time for ground nesting birds and fawns for a while.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

A slow day

Not much to report.

The first couple of trusses are on the deer blind and a concrete anchor poured off the southwest corner.  A ten foot piece of 3/8 inch diameter rebar costs about $2.50.  It is hard to imagine more tensile strength for less money.

Belladonna and I were going to go deer hunting this morning.  She asked to sleep in,  just a little bit.  She woke at noon.

Southern Belle will be joining us around Christmas.  I thought we were going to have conflict over use of the Malibu.  But if Belladonna sleeps until noon she won't be driving the car until after one.  Sharing the car might be a non-issue.

Kubota is keeping his spirits up by watching Adam Sandler movies.  The First Fifty Dates and Mr Deeds are decent movies.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Self Governance

Our family traditions continue to evolve.  We (my siblings, our spouses and SOs) no longer exchange gifts between adults at Christmas.

Rather, the assets that would have been sunk into another "thing" go into a jug and the money is donated to a charity.

Mom and Dad made the call regarding where the money went when we first started doing this.  Now they are stepping back and letting us figure out how to manage it.

Siblings plus spouses plus significant others runs to fifteen or sixteen depending on who is counting.  It is an axiom of decision-making that group that are much bigger than seven quickly lock-up.  There is potential for bruised feelings.

Never enough resources

Picking the charity(s) that will receive my family's largesse is is self governance writ small.  There are always more worthy charities than there are resources.  A tempest in a teacup, so to speak.  That makes it easy to study.

Some families donate significant amounts of money already.  Others do not.  Some are well-to-do.  Others are less so.  Some stakeholders are "feelers".  Others are "thinkers".  Some are swayed by "cool" and "new".  Others are more impressed with a proven track record.  Some want to follow through and continue to fund earlier recipients while others want to spread it around.  Some want to fund local projects where they can see the impact while others note that a dollar goes much further oversees.

One approach that is being discussed is a "portfolio" approach. 

For example, some of money might be earmarked for a "high leverage" charity(s) where the recipient is most likely not local and some of the money might be earmarked for local charities.

Examples of "high leverage" charities

My youngest brother suggested both of these charities.

Uniform subsidies:
Public education is free in certain Central American countries but the parents must pay for a uniform.  The uniform costs $15 a year.  That is beyond the means of many parents so their children either do not start school or must drop out.   There are charities that subsidize the price of those uniforms. 

A $10 donations pays for 2/3 of the annual cost of the uniform.  That allows the parents to still have an investment in their child's education (which is great for their study habits).  Where else can a donor "buy" a year of education for $10???  That is leverage.

Heifer International is probably the most visible example of this kind of charity.  The donor provide start-up capital for a small business.  It might be fifty, fertile chicken eggs, it might be the cost of an oven for braking bread or a small factory for making water filters.  The expectation is that the recipient will pay the money forward to help other fledgling business owners get started.

This is similar to my dad's plan to get the oldest kid through college and then recycle the funds as the oldest kid paid it back.  Those dollars were then used to pay for the younger kids as they started incurring college tuition.  Each dollar educated multiple kids.

Kids in crisis:
Mrs ERJ is fond of Covenant House, a charity that attempts to connect with naive, run-away teenagers in big cities before they get sucked into prostitution and drug dependency.  This is "high leverage" because the assistance is very focused and targets at a very brief time window.

Examples of Local charities

One shortcoming of the "high leverage" charities is that the benefit (and potential mis-use) occur out of our sight.  Local charities pair well with the need for those who want to see tangible results.

Food kitchens and food banks are solid choices,  especially if any of the family serves in one.

Homes/shelters for those seeking respite from domestic abuse are good choices (although those locations are often shielded from men).

Folks like Old Man Johnson are an option.

One year we funded a couple who walked around local grocery stores and handed out $20 bills to shoppers they perceived as "needy".

Another year we funded a local family who experienced a horrific traffic accident shortly before the holidays.

The self governance involves negotiating the structures and "processes" to guide the decisions.  There must also be agreement on how binding the process shall be.  Should it be a line painted on the ground, should it be solid guardrails or should it be something in between.  It should have sufficient flexibility to accommodate a wide range of people.  It should have a sufficient amount of "starch" to ensure that the less vocal, the quieter ones and the thoughtful shall be heard. 

In the end, everybody needs to feel ownership in the franchise.

I don't have any hard answers because this is all happening as we speak.

Thursday, November 26, 2015


One of the high points of today was the Grace shared by one of the dads.   This is one portion of it, as best as I can remember.

"For most of us 'Thanksgiving' is a time to remember.  In the modern sense, the opposite of 'remember' is 'to forget'.  'To forget' is passive and it is easy to slip into thinking 'remember' is passive.

An older meaning of 'remember' has the opposite as 'dismember'.  Dismember is anything but passive.

Consider the Jewish nation at the time of Christ.  It has already experienced several diasporas and would would experience more of them.  They were beaten militarily.  They were dispersed.  Scattered.  Assaulted and torn at by secular pressures and cultures. As a nation and a people they were 'dismembered'.

And yet they 'remembered'.  They healed.  They came back together.

Thanksgiving should be a time when all families do this.  A time when we heal and come back together."

Great job on saying Grace, Mark!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

It is 1968 all over again

Many of the men I drink coffee with are veterans from the Vietnam War era.

They have little good to say about L. B. Johnson and Robert McNamara's running of the war from half a world away.  War is fluid and windows of opportunity open and close rapidly.  Top down cannot exploit those windows because it moves too slowly.  Distance causes loss of information.

Paradigms function by filtering out extraneous information.  They start failing as the information becomes more diluted and less vivid.  At some point the shadows on our retinas overwhelm the tiny whiff of real data and we see the ghosts our ideology tells us we should be seeing.

David Stockman recently wrote a piece about the paradigm mismatch between Wall Street and Washington DC.  The team in Washington is replaying the losing Johnson-McNamara gameplan.  They are picking winners and loser from cozy parlors in DC.  They demonstrate all of the moral authority of gun runners for the Irish Republican Army.

The "Smart Money" on Wall Street shows all of the restraint of drunks pillaging the bar on the Titanic.  World War III may be spooling up and the traders are trying to squeeze the last molecule of profit out of the deal.

Keep your powder dry and stay away from crowds.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015


One of Kubota's classmates died yesterday.  It was unexpected.

This is Kubota's first encounter with death where somebody he knew, talked with, ate lunch with and joked with.  Kubota's emotions have been all over the map.  Part of what is clobbering him between the eyes is that every time we talk to somebody might be the last time we see that person in this mortal sphere. 

The young man was not one of Kubota's best-buds, but everybody knows everybody else in a class of 175.  The school administration had extra counselors in for grief counseling for any who might want it.

Part of me is very selfish.  I am glad it was not one of my children even as my heart goes out to the parents.

I am listening to "old" music;  Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells and some Windham Hills instrumental music.  It helps.

Give your closest an extra hug tonight and make it last an extra half second.

The risk of perverse results

One risk of becoming involved is the risk of perverse results.

For example,  calling attention to Old Man Johnson may get him thrown out of the camper/porch he has been working on.

While there is no shortage of "beds" for homeless people in Lansing, Michigan they come with conditions.  Some places have mandatory chapel service.  Most have strict curfews.  Many of them are in parts of town that are "rough" and offer little in the way of employment.  Many homeless people are destitute because they are mentally ill and severely deficient in social skills.  Not my choice for room mates, especially when the mattresses are twenty-to-a-room.  Bonus link, that guy on the mattress next to you who is coughing may have TB or pneumonia that is highly resistant to antibiotics.

Old Man Johnson sees it as camping in his buddy's back yard.  He is twenty steps away from his friend's back door.  He can take showers, use the can and escape the very coldest weather.  He is within walking distance of a place where he can buy food.  Most of the time he has his privacy and is not adversely impacting his buddy's life.

Some activists would look, horrified, at his living space (about 15X15 feet, total) or his kitchen or his "facilities".  They would demand his removal based on the "Well, if everybody did that...", or "Its not humane..." argument

Other activists take a dim view of people taking care of themselves.  Some of those activists are control freaks.  Others see people taking care of themselves as a threat to their paycheck.  Old Man Johnson's activities are EXTREMELY cost effective.  He is keeping salvageable building materials out of the landfill and waiting for the VA to get around to processing him.

All three types of "activists" fail to ask the Old Mr Johnson's "What do YOU want?"  At this stage of the game he might prefer to spend the winter in his buddy's back yard with the company of his dogs, provided he has a steady supply of food, dog food and firewood.

The biggest risk for Mr Johnson, in my estimation, is if he is evicted by do-gooder/activists and he goes to a Lansing homeless shelter.  Then, he really at risk of being on the street if he violates any of their conditions.   That would suck on a cold or wet night.  Another complication involves the dogs.  No shelter and few apartments tolerate dogs.

All that being said, he would benefit from a carbon monoxide detector if he stays.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Old Man Johnson

I ran across this on Craigslist while looking for used building materials for my deer blind.

Homeless Veteran (Eaton Rapids)

I'm a homeless veteran in need of some materials to complete a closed in porch at my friends house where he has allowed me to stay in his trailer. So far I have scrounged most of what I need. However there are still items that I need to finish the porch. Perhaps you have extra building supplies left over taking up space in your garage or basement??? I sure could use what you no longer need. Even if they're partial pieces.
I don't have a vehicle with plates or insurance on it so coming to you would be difficult. But please think about what you may no longer need and text me, call me, email me. Whichever you prefer.
Look at the pic and you will see some of the items needed to finish.

I also need galvanized 16d nails, 2x4's, 2x6's, left hand entry door w/frame, right hand storm door w/frame parts, ACQ deck screws (prefer star drive or square drive if possible), insulation, and any white corrugated metal barn siding either whole or partial pieces. Lastly 6 inch chimney pipe for a wood stove. 
Thanks in advance,  P

Darn.  He is an Eaton Rapids guy.  That makes him my neighbor.

I swapped a few texts with him, picked up a couple of pounds of deck screws and dropped them off.

He still needs a 36", left hand entry door, 36" right hand storm door, 2X4s, 1-1/2" expanded polystyrene insulation and fiberglass insulation.

He let me take a few pictures while I was there.

Fifteen feet by seven feet. He has made a lot of progress in the last couple of weeks.
A sixteen year old dog.  An old wood stove.  It does not take much to heat that small of a space.  Trailer on the right side of photo is sixteen feet long and is where he sleeps.  I could see this as a sauna and the trailer as a changing room after Mr Johnson's fortunes take a turn for the better.
I thought his workmanship was outstanding.  Way better than I can do.
He told me that he was a contractor before the economy locked up.  One thing led to another.  His home and his family were collateral damages.  One of his issues is that he has repetitive motion trauma (tennis elbow) that slows down his ability to work.  That is pretty common in older carpenters.  That phone number is still current if you want to send him a text and help him out.
He has a post in his "porch" where he writes the initials of people who have donated materials.  He prays for them every day.  He was pretty talkative.  It was notable that he did not have a shred of self-pity, but then you expect that of people with trucks sporting USMC license plates.

There are compensations.  The view is excellent and the fishing is good.  He caught a 34" Northern Pike the other day.

View to the south
View looking west.  Rope swing on left side of picture.  Fishing dock on right side.
View looking east.
And his horse eats no hay and drinks no gas.

Black Ice

There is black ice out there.

We ended up with about ten inches of snow.  That is about eight more inches than predicted.  The temps were a couple of degrees colder and it came down as snow instead of rain.

Then the sky cleared up.  Warm days and sub-freezing nights resulted in water flowing over pavement and then freezing.

Be careful out there.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Topics in Psychology

Test tomorrow?  No problem.

Hypothetically speaking, if I had the ability to write an extra-credit paper in psychology to nudge my grade a little higher, I would strongly consider writing it about any of these topics.

Prospect theory:  People feel the pain of a lose about three times more acutely than they feel the joy of a gain of similar magnitude.  One explanation is that a loss involves a proven, tangible fact while a gain (as yet unrealized) is only a promise.

One area open to research involves the question of time:  How long does it take for a "gain" feel real?  The gambler in a casino talks about "playing with 'house money'" and seeks riskier bets.  How long does it take for "house money" to become "my money"?  A competing theory is that money does not become "real" until the player makes a deliberate decision to convert the asset from one species to another, less volatile raking the money off of the table and putting it in his wallet.

Self Handicapping:  Deliberate sabotage of future performance to salvage self esteem.

One area open to research involves surveying elite performers (athletes, first responders, etc.) and comparing the results to "average" people.  Another division involves the male/female split: Do different ratios of M/F engage in Self Handicapping in these two group?

Heurisitics:  Select any two heuristics from this article and show how they sometimes work together synergistically (Note: most professors like the word synergy.  Use it at least twice in your paper)

Example:  Combine the heuristics Anchoring and Adjustment with Misconception of chance (with extra points if you work in Insensitivity to sample size) and use the BCS process, Michigan State and Ohio State football as illustrations.  Rating football teams is entertaining but delusional.

"Expert" judgement:   This is a good topic for anybody who is interested in clinical diagnostics.  Experience increases an "expert's" confidence much more quickly than it increases his expertise.  More experience also causes the expert's self-awareness to drift away from his actual thought processes.  Experts tend to justify their confidence by listing the numbers of variables they consider (typically between 10 and 20) and they claim to combine them in configural, as opposed to linear, ways.
The most confident are not always the best.

If mathematically inclined, calculate the number of samples required to run a three replicate, full factorial ANOVA with full interactions for 10, 15, and 20 "variables" to test the likelihood that the exert has enough data to support the configural claim.  Hint: 3*2^(n-1), or 1536 observations, 49,152 observations or 1,572,864 observations respectively.  Quite a bit of information to hold in one's head.

Most increases in clinical diagnostic ability come from actually seeing what ambiguous adjectives really mean.  "Beefy red":  Beef comes in all shades of red.  "Glassy eyes": All eyes are glassy...refers to lack of mobility.  and so on.

Risk assessment:  People engage in risk normalization.  Risk that is "normalized" is baselined into the background.  Only new/novel risk is visible to the decision maker.

Research opportunity:  Survey students on a list of "risky" activities (i.e., drinking and driving, unprotected sex, smoking cigarettes, shop lifting) and elicit their opinions A.) Did they engaged in that activity more than once and B.) Was it easier to engage in that activity a second time C.) How much easier/more likely?  Keep track by risky activity and gender.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Changing weather

What a difference a few days makes.

A few days ago I shelled out beans for seed.

A pleasant day to sit in the sun and shell beans.  This bucket is of Garden of Eden beans.
This bucket is of purple pod beans.  There are several varieties of purple pod pole beans on the market but I suspect they are basically the same cultivar and renamed for marketing reasons.  These beans out yielded the Garden of Eden beans by a wide margin.  I will definitely grow these again.
The seeds of the purple pod beans are a pale buff color.
Relative yields of the two beans.  The one on the left are the purple pod variety, the dish on the right is Garden of Eden.
I still think the Garden of Eden beans are beautiful, but the purple pod beans are better at paying their rent.

This morning

You can see the garden bench in the center of the photo.

Looking in another direction.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Fifty year concrete

Disintegrating concrete.  This is a molded product and the source chose to use round aggregate.

This is a follow-up to the post on Durable Road Surfaces.

I had a comment come in via email.  Rather than post the entire comment, I will quote a portion of it.

I do like your Auto Supplier analogy and I’d be very interested to see how/if that is something we could implement for MDOT.  My first worry is contractors would cry about government overreach and too strenuous of regulation.  My other concern is MDOT currently tells the contractors what to do in pretty specific detail.
The devil is in the details.  I am not a "concrete guy" so I may give examples that will make real concrete guys snicker.  I offer these examples to illustration of how auditing might work.

Suppose that the most common failure modes for concrete road surfaces are
  • Disintegration of the slab at the expansion strips.
  • Spalling that occurs due to voids that are near the surface.
  • Heaving/shattering due to ice formation below the concrete slab.

Further, suppose engineers determined that disintegration of slab near the expansion strip is highly dependent on two factors, the precise geometry of the edge (corner-vs-chamfer-vs-radii) and how soon it is worked after the pour.
A close-up of the molded product shown in the header.  You can see that the rocks are no longer bonded to the matrix.  You can also see a "skin" of concrete delaminating from the core in the upper-right corner of the photo.

This is a section of curb near a handicapper access that was shaved by a snow plow.  You can see that the primary aggregate is crushed limestone.  You can also see that it is more angular than the aggregate shown above and that it is not segregated...i.e., it extends all the way to the surface.  All photos taken at Grand Valley State University.

Also suppose that voids are due to an interaction between the aggregate shape (round-vs-angular/crushed), time of settling and vigor of tamping.

Finally, suppose that heaving/shattering is dependent on many things, primarily the depth of the gravel bed, the uniformity of the gravel size, the slope of the surface the gravel is laid on and the degree of tamping of that surface.

Implementing inspection

Every story is a combination of who-what-how-where-when-why.

  • Who checks the tools used to profile the corners of the slab at the expansion strip?
  • What do they check...the tool....the profile of the concrete?
  • How do they do it?  Is the gage mastered against NIST traceable standards?  It is one thing to eyeball a radius but eyeballing is subject to drift.
  • Where is the inspection done?  Back at the shop or checking the actual tools/radii out in the field?
  • When is it done, at the start of a shift, once a week, at the letting of the contract?  Bear in mind that tools wear out and non-inspected tools are likely to drift onto the job site.  Also, concrete is abrasive and wears tools.


There are two costs to doing road work.  One cost is easy to audit.  It is the cost of letting the contract.  That cost is called "Internal Cost".

The other cost is called "Externalized Costs".  Those are costs that are incurred but are not directly borne by the Department of Transportation or by the contractor.

Pollution is a classic case of an externalized cost.  The exact magnitude of that cost is almost impossible to calculate because it is spread out over thousands, perhaps millions of people.

While externalized costs are impossible to calculate with precision, it is usually possible to estimate some of the larger pieces.

In the case of road construction, one portion of the cost is due to the congestion caused by closing down lanes.

This summer, it was not uncommon to sit in a traffic stoppage on I-94.  The one time I was paying attention to mile markers, it was 11 miles long and it took an hour to get through.  The congestion was two lanes wide and there was a vehicle every thirty feet.  According to Mr Excel, that means there were approximately 3800 vehicles impacted.  Assuming single occupancy (an underestimate) that means that 3200 incremental manhours were consumed in the congestion.

Placing a value on manhours is tricky.  I will go with $25/hour because that is the cost to the firm for a person being paid $10/hour due to the cost of benefits and mandatory reporting.  If Acme Manufacturing values a production employee's time as being worth $25/hour  then I will do the same.

Multiplying out the numbers, the value of the commuter's time that was gobbled up in daily congestion amounts to $80,000/hour or almost a half million dollars a day, figuring 6 hours of peak traffic per day.

Other costs include depreciation of vehicles due to overheating (idling is rough on cooling systems, belts and cam shafts).  There are more fender-benders per mile...that is another cost.  Fuel consumed and additional greenhouse gasses produced are more externalized costs.

On a six lane highway, "twenty year" concrete means that the residents get punched in the nose once every three years (twenty years/six lanes).  "Fifty year" concrete means that the residents will get punched in the nose once every eight years.

We get what we inspect

We communicate our expectations by what we inspect.  It is very easy to specify the heck out of processes.  But specification mean nothing unless somebody checks to ensure that those specifications are being met.

Repeat picture.  By all accounts this looks like "50 year concrete".  It would be interesting to look at the contract to see what specifications were included.

Attributes controlled by interactions are the most insidious.  Minimal tamping might work fine for rounded aggregate, the round gravel falls into place like greased ball bearings.  The folks making the pour become convinced that the spec for tamping is bullshit.  Then a lot of concrete comes in with crushed aggregate and the crew pours miles of porous, voided concrete and does not even realize it.

I don't propose adding more specifications.  I advocate focusing on the specifications that strongly influence the outcome.  I propose auditing conformance to those specifications.  I advocate "strong" adherence to the reaction plans that are probably already written into the contracts.

I don't think building good roads is magic.  The Romans knew how to do it.  I think building good roads is a matter of minding the Ps-and-Qs and not taking shortcuts.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Installing Windows, 5

I picked up five windows from Craigslist for $20 each.  They were samples for a window salesman.  You can see the suitcase handle he added.

I worked until 11:30 until the wind picked up to where it was blowing the shims off the floor and out of the deer blind.

Out of curiosity, I measured the water level in my well.

FerFAL has a series of posts on what it is like to be a modern city under siege.  Water was a major issue.

I had always poo-pooed the issue.  I have my own well and I have a cistern pump.  There are also four ponds with potable water within a quarter mile (400m) of my house.  That water would require boiling to make it drinkable...but they are there.

The problem with cistern pumps is that they are suckers, not pushers.  A sucker can only pull water up about 30 feet.  In round numbers, water requires about a half-pound of head for every foot of rise.  Pulling water is really a misnomer.  A sucker pump pulls a vacuum and the air pressure pushes the water up the tube.  Air pressure (near sea level) is about 14.7 psi.  It can only push it up 30 feet before you create a vacuum.  Actually, it is not a vacuum, it is very low pressure water vapor and CO2 that was dissolved in the water out-gasses due to the low pressure.

I rigged up a wooden clothes pin on the end of a fishing line.  I strung a small, steel washer between a couple of guides on the pole.  I figured the tension on the line from the weight of the clothes pin would keep the washer close to the pole.  I would know when the clothes pin was floating when the washer drooped.  That part worked pretty well.

By my measurements, my water is 42 feet below ground level.

Deep Well Pumps

It is easy to spend a lot of money on a deep well pump.  This one costs $859.

There might be some relatively inexpensive, 12V pumps that are capable of moving water (minimum of 20 psi head).  According to one source on the internet, windshield washer solvent pumps (i.e., from a junk yard) are capable of producing 35psi-to-52psi static head.  Certainly much more than the 21 psi needed to lift my water to the surface.  They are slow, kicking out about 6 ounces a minute or about a 2.5 gallons an hour.

To be continued...

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Women are spaghetti, men are waffles

Mrs ERJ was listening to Family Life Radio (a Christian, family friendly radio station) when she heard that women are spaghetti and men are waffles.  She shared that information with me.

A plate of spaghetti looks like an uncountable number of discrete strands of spaghetti to a man.  A woman knows, in her heart, that there is only one strand of spaghetti and it can be followed, hand-over-hand, from beginning to end.

To a woman, context is EVERYTHING.  For example, my mom starts a story with the order that our ancestors disembarked from the boat at Ellis Island.  To her, every detail dovetails in a unique way and every dovetail is important for the progression of the story.

This monolithic totality that cannot be teased apart into pithy, self contained anecdotes may be an artifact of how women's minds are wired.  In the arch-type prehistoric village the woman watched the children, nursed the babe, tanned the hide and kept the fire going while simultaneously gathered 80%  of the family's calories.  In her mind, the appearance of a venomous snake is irreversibly tied to the other events.  It is all tied together in her mind.

Men, on the other hand, are waffles.  We compartmentalize.  We can have strawberries in one section of the waffle, pralines in another, whipped cream in a third compartment, Smoky Links in another, a scoop of vanilla ice cream in the fifth, and the sixth can be soaked in Bailey's Irish Cream....and we are happy.  Life is good.

While Urda is dispatching the poisonous snake while chewing the hide and nursing the babe, Thog is crawling through spiny bushes, sneakig up on the last mastodon in the valley. He is not thinking about thorns or biting insects.  He is not thinking about Urda's desire for a new SUV or the state of his retirement portfolio.  He is thinking about the next score.

Men's stories tend to be shorter and more self-contained, at least they are early in the evening before the wine skins are broached.

And thus one of the major differences between women and men is explained.

"Robust Vetting Proceedures"

The White House claims that refugees from the Middle East are subjected to a "robust vetting procedure."

Saying something does not make it so.

The thumbnail description of their procedure involves information that is in cyber space.  That means one can assume the identity of somebody who died and be reborn as somebody who is squeaky clean.  Our ability to determine whether any particular person from an area experiencing civil war is deceased is precisely 0.000%.

The "robust vetting procedures" cited by the White House might work well for folks like Obama's daughters.  If they are like most Americans they will take 25,000 "selfies" in their life time.  It is child's play to review their Facebook lives and construct a network of people who can confirm, or deny, the veracity of their identity.

Refugees do not leave a trail rich in verifiable details.  Were I attempting to infiltrate, I would do a cursory search on the ten folks we just executed beside the road and pick the identity of the one who was not carrying a cell phone.

Even when pictures are available they are of little use.  Few people actually look like the photo on their driver's license.  We lose hair.  We gain a few pounds.  We change our shirt.   Nobody really expects a person to look like their photo ID.  Consequently, very few agents will study them for details like noses and ears.

"Robust Vetting Procedure":  One cannot make that statement unless it was tested and surpassed minimum benchmarks.  Was it tested?  Agents test the TSA to see how leaky the inspection process is.  TSA checkpoints fail on regular basis, even when the distinctive silhouette of a handgun is clearly visible on the luggage X-rays.  Why would we believe that they will be any more efficient at sorting through 100,000 average looking people of middle Eastern descent?

Church Hymns

"Anybody who complains about a situation volunteered to help fix it."

That was my Mom's motto while we grew up.  As a result, I am loath to criticize unless I have a plan to make things better.

Many church hymns are "lame"

The Wesley brothers  knew that God speaks through music.  Martin Luther sparked an explosion in music, almost as if he knew that eliminating statues and stained glass created a void that needed to be filled.

Hymn writers appropriated popular secular (folk) melodies and wrote lyrics that were reinforced religious messages.  They were spectacularly successful.

Five hundred years of use leave some of those hymns sounding just a little bit tired.


Take popular songs with simple melodies and change a few words.  This is easier than it sounds because most church hymns are love songs. It does not take much tweaking.

Because I am lazy, I propose that we "crowd source" the tweaking..  The picture in my head is that somebody pick a song, post a video and the lyrics and then change as much, or as little, as they are inspired.  Then, if anybody else can add to it or edit it, and they post the updated lyrics.  The effort continues until it dies of neglect or until it stabilizes with appropriate lyrics.

Most of these efforts are likely to not make it off the run-way or to fizzle shortly after take off.  But what the heck.  I complained;  that means I must contribute to a solution.


I will take the first swing at the pinata.

The song Girl Crush by Little Big Town has a  pensive, haunting melody and creepy lyrics.  The melody is very simple and the range is well within the range of most congregations.  The instrumental support is simple and sparse.  It is a reasonable candidate for mutating into a church hymn.

Actual Lyrics

I got a girl crush, hate to admit it but
I got a heart rush, ain’t slowin’ down
I got it real bad, want everything she has
That smile and the midnight laugh she’s givin’ you now

I wanna taste her lips, yeah, ‘cause they taste like you
I wanna drown myself in a bottle of her perfume
I want her long blonde hair, I want her magic touch
Yeah, ‘cause maybe then you’d want me just as much
I got a girl crush, I got a girl crush

I don’t get no sleep, I don’t get no peace
Thinkin’ about her under your bed sheets
The way that she’s whisperin’, the way that she’s pullin’ you in
Lord knows I’ve tried, I can’t get her off my mind

I wanna taste her lips, yeah, ‘cause they taste like you
I wanna drown myself in a bottle of her perfume
I want her long blonde hair, I want her magic touch
Yeah, ‘cause maybe then you’d want me just as much

I got a girl crush
I got a girl crush, hate to admit it but
I got a heart rush, it ain’t slowin’ down


Churchified lyrics:

Changed text highlighted in light green.

I found Jesus, hate to admit it but
I got a heart rush, ain’t slowin’ down
I got it real bad, want everything He has
That smile and the midnight calm he's givin’ out now

I wanna taste that wine, want to eat that bread
I wanna drown myself in the love of God
I want to take His name, I want His healing touch
Yeah, ‘cause maybe then He’d want me just as much
I found Jesus, I found Jesus

I didn’t get any sleep, I didn’t have any peace
Thinkin’ about Him on that cross
The way he's calling my name, the way that He’s pullin’ me in
Lord knows I’ve tried, I can’t get Him off my mind

I wanna taste  that wine, want to eat that bread
I wanna drown myself in the love of God
I want to take His name, I want His healing touch
Yeah, ‘cause maybe then He'd want me just as much

I found Jesus
I found Jesus, hate to admit it but
I got a heart rush, it ain’t slowin’ down

Anybody else want to take a whack at the pinata?

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Deer stand update

I did not go hunting today.

I am switching banks and I had to do the liquidity dance.  Move money from heyar-to-thar, thither and yon.

I bought 32, 8' two-by-fours before I figured out that I had a liquidity problem.  I used the remainder of the day to work on the deer blind.

View out of the north "window"opening.
View out of the east "window" opening.
The south side rates TWO windows because it is a prime travel corridor.
This is the view out of one of the south windows.  While it does not look significantly different than the other directions, it looks over a trail that runs from bedding areas to the east and prime food sources to the west.
Looking west.  Off screen to the right are persimmon trees, GoldRush and Keepsake apple trees, oak and chestnut trees.

Word is getting around that I am throwing together a deer blind.  Advice is being offered.  I listen.

Some of my favorite pieces of advice were to make room to record every deer harvested out of the blind...Who, when, method-of-take, details about deer.  J.K. who lives south of town let me look at his blind.  He had record of thirty deer taken from his blind.  They were written on the door frame and reminded me of parents documenting the growth of their children.

Another suggestion was to plant cover species that will provide good contrast with deer. 

Black Currant bushes
Deer are very easy to see when snow is on the ground.  They are much harder to see when standing in brownish-gray brush.  Why not plant "brush" that has chalky-white stems to provide that contrast through the entire season?  Suggestions for those species include Elderberries, Highbush Cranberries, Currants and Salix irrotata.

Salix irrorata is a species of willow that grows from south-east Wyoming to Mexico.  It has powder blue stems which would provide maximum contrast to deer-brown.  I have to find some cuttings of this species.  Image from HERE.
Oxford Violet (Salix daphnoides) is another possibility.  "The young twigs are a delightful pale violet and turn turquoise with a white bloom in the second year."  Image from HERE.

Monday, November 16, 2015


One of our deer hunting party is a student of life.  He entered college late in life, after retiring in his fifties.  He is taking his first psychology class.

Those of us who went to college earlier in life were a bit condescending.  His joy and enthusiasm were energizing but his admiration of Freud was, well, a bit embarrassing.  I don't know of any practicing psychologists who take Freud very seriously.  They think Freud is quaint.  I have to admit that my opinion was biased by the statistic (pseudo-statistic?) that the half-life of knowledge in the field of psychology is about five years.

My opinion changed 180 degrees after thinking about it overnight.

Some of the very hottest research involves the cognitive mechanisms that create the phenomena called "cognitive dissonance".  The thumbnail for this bleeding edge research is that we, humans, have an excruciatingly flawed and abbreviated self-awareness.

Not only is our future multi-branched and is our past.  We create narrative by cherrypicking anecdotes that make our present-self seem inevitable and totally rational. In fact, our narrative sways like a willow tree in a windstorm as it aligns with an every mutating present-self.

Doesn't that sound like Freud's sub-conscious with a bunch of trendy words packed around it to make it sound new and salable?

A fairly new approach to parenting contends that children need both "mom" and "dad" to develop as complete persons.  The radical approach breaks it down this way:

Self-love and unconditional acceptance is the "feminine" form of love and nurturing.  Freud called this Id.

Self-esteem and earned self worth is the "masculine" form of love.  Freud called this Super Ego

Adulthood is when we can get these horses to pull in tandem.  Freud called this Ego.

So I owe the enthusiastic "new" student an apology.  Freud really did knock it out of the park 120 years ago.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Deer hunting

All politics are local.

All deer habitat is local.

Most of the land near my Dad's property in northwest Eaton County is leased by the same farmer.  The farmer runs a simple Corn-Beans rotation.  To keep the logistics manageable, he split the land he farms.  One side is corn while the other side is soybeans.  The next year it flips.

The years "our" half is in corn is a great year for deer hunting.  They pour out of the swamp (about 400 acres) to eat the spilled corn or to bang around in the standing corn.

The years "our" half is in soybeans is a deer hunting drought.  By November 15, the beans are all harvested and the land is either chisel plowed or disked.  There is no deer food above ground.  Not only is there no food, but the ground is soft and mushy.  Given their druthers, they will avoid walking across freshly tilled ground because it is too much work.

This is a soybean year for us.

Undoubtedly, the deer are working fields that are worked by a different farmer, one who is not following "our" farmer's rotation.

I saw three deer today.  One was dodging traffic on M-50.  One was a wounded deer limping across a corn field fifteen miles from where I have permission to hunt.  The third deer was a deer that had been poorly hit and it scooted onto an unfriendly neighbor's property and was not trackable.

Like the old guys say, "It is called hunting for a reason.  If there were guarantees then it would be called shooting, not hunting."

In spite of the dearth of deer, it was a beautiful day.  The high may have touched 60 degrees F.  I saw spider lines blowing in the wind.  I heard bullfrogs.  Squirrels (the size of bison) kept me awake by rummaging around in the dry leaves.

It has been a good day!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Aging parents

One of the reasons I choose to remain anonymous is so I can speak plainly about challenges we all face.  By remaining anonymous, I hope to be able to share more details while still respecting people's dignity.  More details make it more interesting.  More details increase the chances that it will help you, my readers.

Aging parents

One challenge most of us will face involves the dynamics of aging parents.  Adjustments must be made as they age.  The frequency and size of those adjustments increase as they get into their eighties and nineties.

My family had a pow-wow this evening.  Seven of the eight kids showed up.  The eighth kid is working second shift in a town seventy miles away.  He visited with Mom and Dad earlier and received an advanced preview.

Dad is scheduled for tests and some surgery over the next couple of weeks.  The outcome could be a yawner, or a lengthy recuperation, or an irreversible impairment.  God, time, his surgeon and his native constitution will determine the outcome.

A few of the more salient decisions:
  • Each kid will pick a day to be the "point person".  
    • On our day, we will drive Mom (and maybe Dad, if he is up to it) to Mass
    • We will bring them dinner
    • And we will clear the Dry Erase board
      • That might entail grocery shopping, dishes, laundry, house keeping....
      • That might entail transportation to docters visits or picking up meds
  • Mom and Dad will accumulate their needs by either writing on the Dry Erase board or by pasting sticky notes on the board.  They are most comfortable with paper and pen/pencil
  • We might escalate to taking a digital picture of the board and posting it on social media
    • The advantage of social media is that we can see their needs and it might be more convenient to integrate those tasks into other parts of our on the drive in to town. 
  • There was some concern about dehydration.  "Thirst" becomes less reliable as we age and become more sedentary.  Urine color works but only if one is drinking enough to produce urine. One solution was to place a set number of water bottles out with the expectation that they will all be consumed before bedtime.

 I read about single children tending to aging parents two thousand miles away.  My heart goes out to them. Most of my siblings live in the neighborhood where we were raised.  One lives seventy miles away.  I live 20 miles away.  The rest live on the near Westside.

I am blessed to be a member of such a large, strong family.  We are not perfect.  Like many families we competed for attention when younger and it is easy to drop back into that mode.  Also, ten people in a 1200 square foot house means that toes got stepped on, feelings were hurt, needs (OK, in retrospect they were wants, but they felt like needs at the time) unmet.  This evening we all became the adults our parents strove to raise.

Brothers and sisters, I salute you.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Working Terriers

Home Invasions, continued:

Suppose you were given the job of creating the world's greatest early warning system.

Some of the requirements might look like this:
  • Multi-modality sensing....optical, vibration, volatile organic compound sensing
  • Vibration sensing finely calibrated to discriminate between events/non-events
  • Modest initial purchase
  • Inexpensive maintenance
  • Insensitive to weather
  • Self directive
  • Mobile
  • Tireless
  • Learning
  • Able to work alone or with others
  • Self-replicating
  • Willing and capable of attacking  marauders
  • Provides entertainment when off-line (like a smart phone)
I found a blog that is all about these units.

History lesson

Small landholders in Europe had a need for the Swiss Army Knife of dogs.  It had to be small enough to feed economically.  It also had to be small enough so it did not arouse the King's attention regarding poaching.  It had to be quick.  It had to be inquisitive and self directed. In a fight with vermin it had to become immune to pain.  It had to be physically robust and able to heal from a constant stream of wounds.

A thousand of generations of selection pressure led to a type of dog.  That type showed up in many different places in Europe because the selection criteria were so similar.  That type is known as a terrior.


Vermin are characterized by scratching and gnawing sounds.  These dogs go ballistic when they hear that.  The scrape of a jimmy or a screwdriver are very similar to those gnawing sounds or the fox attempting to dig its way into the henhouse in terms of rise time and harmonic content.

These small dogs have a hyperdeveloped rage reaction.  They clamp on and shake.  They are single-mindedly beyond pain.  They will prevail.

They have no fear of the dark or of confined spaces.

Many rural properties in the United States look much like those prototypical, European small land holdings.  It should not be surprising that the dogs that were optimal for Scotland, England and Germany can very comfortably fill niches in Virginia, Kentucky, Michigan, Texas and Oregon.  They are no longer the first line of defense against rodents but they still strike terror into the hearts of the footpad who seeks to pillage the farmstead.

The only caveat is that one should seek pups from working stock.  Many breeders select primarily for physical appearance. A few select for performance.

I concede that physical characteristics impact performance.  Four pound, hairless dogs do not do well in in barns during Michigan winters.  However, the law of diminishing returns kicks in.  An active, muscular, well haired dog of fifteen pounds can take a surprising amount of cold if it is out of the wind and has access to food and soft, dry bedding.

Examples of that size dog are Fox Terriers, Jack Russell Terriers, large Rat Terriers, Scottish Terriers and medium sized Beagles.

Give Terrierman a peak if this topic is of any interest to you.

Home Invasions


Wild Willie is one of Kubota's friends.  Due to a variety of reasons, his family does not have a vehicle nor are any of his adult family members licensed drivers.  He needs 100 hours of supervised driving to turn his learner's permit into a license.  Consequently, I often find myself in the passenger's seat while Wild Willie is driving.

Nothing hammers the fundamentals home more than teaching a newbie.

"Distance is time.  Time is safety."

"Drive in the center of the dirt road because you don't know which side a deer might jump out from."

"Drive in the center of residential streets because you don't know when a kid might chase a ball into the street...and you don't know what side it will happen from."

"Nobody is going to charge you rent on the space between you and the car in front of you.  Give yourself space, lots of space."

"Distance is time.  Time gives you options."


A fifty year old Progressive chiding an eighty year old woman:

"You must to stop watching Fox News.  I think they are manipulating you.  They just want to make you fearful.  You should listen to news that reports the positive things."

Taken to the ridiculous extreme, the eighty year old woman should take down her smoke detectors.  After all, they only report bad news.

I did not need to comment.  The eighty year old was more than capable of ignoring the do-gooder.


A Vietnam Vet recently wote:

The art warfare evolved to a stagnation point during the Middle Ages and then became obsolete during the evolution of the military industrial complex and modern world warfare that included airpower and massive tank warfare. It was not revisited and perfected until the mid-20th century, in a small country police action in a faraway country called Viet Nam.
The lessons learned and strategies and tactics ultimately deployed became so refined and successful they remained in military application even to the modern Afghanistan war, and American mountain base camps and varies only due to advanced technology in weaponry and early anti-intrusion detection.
The lessons learned and strategies and tactics ultimately deployed became so refined and successful they remained in military application even to the modern Afghanistan war, and American mountain base camps and varies only due to advanced technology in weaponry and early anti-intrusion detection.
He then goes on to describe systems that provide early warning and impede the bad guy's progress.  Distance is time.  Time gives you options.

Rural locations

Locally, the preferred method of defeating dead bolt is to beat them down with a hammer and then slide the bolt out with a large screw driver.  This guy was a rookie.  You can complicated the bad guy's life by trapping the housing of the dead bolt with four, short sheet metal screws.  A small Philips head screws will be difficult for them to engage (remember, they brought a BIG screwdriver) and they will not be able to beat the housing down.

Rural locations offer many advantages.  They also have some disadvantages.  According to Fer-FAL, rural locations are particularly vulnerable to home invasions.  Isolation is the bad guy's advantage.  There are few nosy neighbors to watch the bad guy and his two buddies skulk around back, waiting for you to come home.  There is nobody to hear you scream for help.

The sad fact is that most of these rural break-ins and invasions are by people who know you in a peripheral way.  They know what you have, where you keep it, when you are vulnerable.  If "caught" they can claim that Jimmi or Billy or Samantha told them to come over.  It is their Get out of Jail free card.

The average Joe must consider whether they can shoot somebody they sort-of know.  The average Joe is probably better served with a three ounce canister of bear spray that they will use without hesitation than by a gun they do not know how to use or will hesitate to use.

The ERJ homestead is amply supplied with both pepper spray and firearms.  We like our perps well seasoned.

The stereotypical home invader is not a lone wolf.  They travel in packs.  The first one will get hosed with the entire can of pepper spray.  The rest get lead.  Failure to haul ass when the point man is hosed is proof of ill intent.

I occasionally get accused of being a fear monger!?  I see preparing for known, proven threats to be no different than advising Wild Willie to allow a generous two seconds of gap between our vehicle and the car in front of us.  Nor do I see it as any different than installing smoke alarms and keeping the batteries up-to-date.

You are entitled to you own opinion.  I advise you to call before visiting our house.

Switching banks 8-(

There is never a convenient time to switch banks.  It does not help that I have little experience in the venture.

I am in the process of "firing" the bank that has handled my accounts since I was in high school.  That is more than forty years.  I am also firing my credit card holder of more than two decades.


The bank is easier to explain.  They were absorbed by a larger bank.  Then that was gobbled up by an even larger bank.  The number of branches was reduced.  The closest branch is about 12 miles from my house.  It is in a part of Lansing where I rarely go.  That was not a problem when every ATM took deposits for competing banks.  Since the war on terror, I must now drive a single purpose, 24 mile round trip to deposit cash.  I can mail checks....the cash needs to be hand delivered..

I moved my account to the bank I drive by four times every day.  Ann, the branch manager was very gracious.

Switching all of the auto-pay bills is a pain.  One of them told me that it takes twenty days for them to transact the change.  I think they must have very slow electrons in their computers.  The  helpful lady on the phone suggested that I could send a paper check and they could apply any overage to the next month's bill.  Unfortunately, I don't have enough liquidity to double-pay all of my bills.

Speaking of liquidity

A few months ago my credit card company sent me new cards with little explanation.  I cut them up and pitched them.  I assumed (a word that will get you into trouble) that they were complimentary "extras or convenience cards.

The last thing I need is to have more cards floating around.

Well, they were the new federally mandated "chip" cards.

Attempts to contact my credit card company kept getting batted around and eventually ported to a phone number.  I dislike phones.

Earlier this week, my non-chip card with an expiration date of 2018 was de-activated by that company.  That and left me dead in the water.

I shopped around and found a card through a local bank that offers 1% lower APR, cash back and 12 months of no interest.  Adios old card.

In fact, it was the need to change the card that triggered the bank change.  I dreaded rooting around through websites and changing auto-pay files.  It looks like many of these businesses depend on "friction" to keep people from shopping alternatives.  Why would a major life insurance company with total assets over $800,000,000,000 not have a "Search" function on their payment site?

Forced to grub around in those websites, there appeared to be no better time to make some changes in my banking.

The downside?

I have a liquidity problem.  The new card has a much lower limit than the old card and the transfer maxed it out.

That leaves me scritching-n-scratching.  I will undoubtedly tap my "Emergency fund".  I want to do that in the most minimal way possible.  That means that I need to know precisely when/where the extra liquidity needs to be injected.

You can blame me when the economy goes into the tank.