Tuesday, June 30, 2015

June in Review


In a word:  RAIN.

Nine-and-a-half inches to be exact.  Versus an average of three-and-a-half inches.

And now mosquitoes.  They reproduce any place there is standing water.

Old tires, regardless of their current state.
Every bucket that was left open end up.
Hoof prints.
Water in the worn paths.
Pugging in the shade.
Pugging near the water tank.
Few things make a grafter look like a genius more than a rainy June.  Scion knit eagerly to vigorously growing understock.



Every graft I made of Lena and H-120 persimmon took.  Not a single graft of Szukis did.  It is just one of those things.  Novice grafters should not take failures too seriously.  Sometimes we fail due to factors we have no control over.  In the case of Szukis, it is one of my less cold-hardy cultivars and last winter was a test winter with a temperature of -20F.

Illinois Everbearing Mulberry.

Raccoons are eating the mulberries.  They break the branches when they climb out to the ends.  This tree was over the dog kennel.  Needless to say, the dogs were not very charitable to the raccoon that dropped in on them.

Allergies


Allergies were rough this month between the pollen and molds.

 
Ear wax remover on the left.  Allergy relief eye drops on the right.
While not admitting anything, I can now lip-read much more clearly and the landscape no longer has that sepia tint to it.

And a few day trips


I got to visit Schupbach's Sporting Goods store in Jackson, Michigan.  It came highly recommended by one of my coffee drinking buddies.  He spent many a dollar there in the 1940s and 1950.  This is an old style sporting goods store right in the heard of downtown Jackson, Michigan.

Long guns
Bows
Ammo
Hand guns
And reloading supplies including a healthy selection of Alliant, Western Powders, IMR and Hodgdon's smokeless powders.
Add caption
Including some eight pound jugs.
Some goodies for the volume shooters.
This guy keeps an eye on all of the action. 
After exercising super-human will power (I did not buy anything), we went to a brew pub.  Most of the selections were pretty strange.  They offered a "Breakfast IPA" with hints of coffee beans, oatmeal, grapefruit rinds and blueberry muffins.  It was a little easier to exercise restraint than it was in the gun store.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Chasing return

The financial markets are turbulent right now.  Greece is giving European bankers heartburn.  Puerto Rico is giving US bankers heartburn.  And China is giving everybody heartburn.

This is to be a good time to pop over to my 401-k and check things out.

Asset classes


One way to maximize gain and minimize pain (risk) is to invest meaningful percentages in different asset classes.  The hope is that while one sector might be struggling other part of your portfolio is going like gang-busters.  The plan is to rebalance those assets when they become excessively lopsided, thereby automatically harvesting some of the gain from the sectors that are doing well and investing it in sectors that have yet to shine.

This usually works pretty well.  There is much wealth in the world and it gets invested somewhere.  When investors pull assets, en masse,  out of one class (thereby causing the price to drop) they immediately park those assets in another class (causing its price to rise).

Fear and greed


The biggest play is between fear and greed.  When greed dominates, the equities (stocks) are the place to be.  When fear dominates, then bonds are the place to be.  (Minor editorial note:  equities are a bad place to be near the end of the period when greed dominates.  It is a bit like scalping tickets....one needs to have the tickets in-hand before the demand picks up)

The quandary is that greed has dominated the market for so long that bond funds (hither-to-fore, the safe option) morphed to become more attractive to greed buyers.  They are now juiced up, jazzed up, risked up to increase their appeal.  I fear they lost their functionality along the way.

I used to be able to look at the prospectus for the bond funds offered by my Trust and see a few simple things:  Issuer (Gov or industry), quality (risk as rated by a third party), and duration.  If I was fearful I could buy Gov, high quality, short duration and get a good nights sleep.

Sadly, those days seem to no longer be with us.

My Trust offers 30 options.  The bond options, i.e. the "safe" options that my Trust currently gives me are:
  • Emerging market
  • High Yield (aka, high risk of default)
  • Intermediate Gov (inflation protected, 7 year weighted maturity)
  • Intermediate Gov (50% Euro exposure, 4 year weighted maturity)
  • "Stable value" Income fund (High derivative exposure)
The prospectus for the "Stable value" Income fund does not include information about "duration" or "weighted maturity".  Instead, it has dense thickets of verbiage like this:

The Income Fund invests in a diversified portfolio of high-quality bonds, such as government securities, corporate bonds, mortgage-backed and asset-backed securities, and cash equivalents. The fixed income investments (bonds/bond funds) are paired with investment contracts known as benefit responsive wrap agreements issued by high-quality insurance companies and banks ("Wrap Contracts"). These contracts contain financial obligations intended to protect investors' principal balances from fluctuation resulting from changing market conditions. The wrap contracts smooth return volatility and allow participants to transact at their invested balance plus any accrued interest. Wrap Contract coverage is subject to certain limitations; such as redemptions prompted by plan-level actions (e.g., layoffs, early retirement windows, spin-offs, sale of a division, facility closings, plan terminations, changes in laws/regulations and bankruptcy of the plan sponsor). Distributions resulting from one of these events may (will) be subject to a principal reduction.

Risk


The investment contracts and securities purchased for the Income Fund are backed solely by the financial resources of the issuing entities. The portfolio is managed to minimize the risk of principal loss. Although not expected, loss could (will) occur in the event of default of a wrap contract or bond issuer. To reduce the risk of loss, Xxxxxx selects only wrap contract issuers that have been approved by Xxxxx's Credit Research Team, and buys only securities that are rated investment grade and above by national rating agencies such as Moody's or Standard & Poor's. In addition, Xxxxxx conducts its own in-depth securities analysis of bond issuers and financial institutions, and manages the portfolio in accordance with strict credit and diversification guidelines. An investment in the Income Fund is not insured or guaranteed by the manager, the plan sponsor, the trustee, the FDIC, or any other government agency.
For the record, I am approximately 40% "Income fund", 35% Equity Index and 25% Inflation protected bond fund.  I am more concerned about hanging onto the buying power of my savings than I am in wringing every last scintilla of gain out of this bull market.  I am reconsidering where to park my Income fund money because the language of the prospectus gives me the willies.  Based on the dearth of choices in my Trust, I simply do not know where to park it.


Fr. Charlie Irvin

Every once in a while I will attend Sunday Mass and the sermon will be exactly what I need to hear at that precise moment in time.  This past Sunday was one of those times.

We had Father Charlie Irvin, a retired priest stand in for our regular, parish priest.  This guy is sharp.  He has a website and puts his sermons on the net.  Last Sunday's is posted HERE.

He got my attention with his intro:

I’m going to begin this homily with a warning. The things I am about to share with you are depressing.

The war against terrorism and ISIL is long and will continue for quite some time. If you are at all familiar with history you recognize that we are in a clash of civilizations that extends back some fourteen hundred years in time. The toll for fighting against Islamic terrorists will likely result in many more dead and maimed American soldiers over the years ahead, whether in Iraq or elsewhere.
Globalization is also taking its toll on us in the form of loss of jobs and in the shifting of our American economy away from being industrial based and into other economic bases.
Immigration problems will continue to confront us into the distant future. There are no quick fix solutions to these problems.

New strains of disease will face us as our globalized populations continue to intermingle at an ever-increasing rate.

What we know of as the traditional family and our traditional understanding of marriage will continue to be challenged as alternative life-styles and relationships gain momentum by force of law.

Given this list of things, a list that is by no means complete, is it any wonder that many of us are depressed?
Fr Charlie was right.  His intro depressed some of the parishioners so much that they left the sanctuary.  They just could not listen to his sermon.

Jumping deeper into his sermon he quoted from Sunday's readings

The Book of Wisdom reminds us that: God did not make death, nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living. For he fashioned all things that they might have being;.... justice is undying. For God formed man to be imperishable; the image of his own nature he made him. But by the envy of the devil, death entered the world, and they who belong to his company experience it.
--------

Both of these healings (Mark 5:21-43) are not just physical healings, at a much deeper level they are spiritual healings. Overcoming fear and approaching God in faith leads not only to being cured but also to being saved. Notice Jesus’ final words to the woman were “Daughter, your faith has saved you.”
We, too, need to be saved. Doubt, disappointment, disillusionment, depression, defeat, despair, and spiritual death bedevil us. They are the “ anti-sacraments” of the devil, his weapons to attack us. To overcome them we need to draw close to Jesus, let him touch us, and there, because of our faith, find our cure and our salvation. God and God alone is the One who can save us. Human experience gives ample testimony that we cannot.
The major media is overloaded with bad news. Nevertheless you and I know of really good people doing wonderful things that go unreported. It was once said that it is better to light one candle than the curse the darkness.

So, I ask you, my readers, to kick my butt when I become too negative.  I will try to remember to emphasize the positive and to keep my sense of humor.  We are all in this together.  "Justice is undying and God formed man to be imperishable."




Sunday, June 28, 2015

"JOOooooOOOOE, the roof still leaks!!!"

Words I did not want to hear.

The next step in the escalation was to reshingle the corner of the roof that is leaking.  Lucky for me, the leak appears to be four feet from the gutter and three feet in from the edge of the roof.

My roof was put on in fall of 2001.  It is plain-Jane, 3-in-1 asphalt shingles.

I figure the greatest risk of leaks is where the 3-in-1 shingles butt together.  The second greatest risk is near the cut lines.  I decided to make sure that my butt joints did not align with the original butt joints, and I decided to make sure the cut lines in the shingles I was laying did not align with the cut lines of the existing shingles.

Most roofers roof from left-to-right and offset the 3-in-1s by a half shingle each course.  The first butt joint was one full shingle from the bottom, right corner of my roof.

Yup, sure enough.  The butt joint on the next course was off-set a half shingle to the left.  I laid the shingles backwards, that is, right-to-left and I cut my first shingle 2 1/2 shakes long with the 1/2 shake on the right side.  That put my butt joints 1.5 3-in-1s away from the original joints.

One, two, skip a few, one hundred.  I got busy and forgot to take pictures.  This is where the first bundle ended.  I got comfortable and started laying left-to-right.  I was using 1 3/4" roofing nails which are much friendlier to thumbs than the shorter ones.

This is what the joint on the left side looks like.  The shingles were hosed down to keep them cool.  This is not a bad job on a 4/12 roof...except that I am getting to be an old man and this is rough on my knees.

The last course I pried the shakes on the original roof up.  I trimmed a 3-in-1, reversed it and slid it up beneath the shakes of the original roof.  I left the trimmed shingle long enough so the exposed asphalt could bond to the pried-up shakes of the old roof.

I slathered roofing compound on everything that looked like it might even THINK about leaking.
The completed patch is 7 feet wide by 8 feet from edge-to-peak.

I figure that I earned an adult beverage.

Peasant Cunning

I am a process oriented kind of guy.  I believe that the means matters.  Actually, it is more than that:  I believe that the only way to ensure the "end" is to armor, guard and cherish the "means".

I am distressed by the events of the last week

First

The Legislative Branch of the United States government gave broad and sweeping powers to the Executive Branch with the TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership act).  According to Wikipedia, the TPP is
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a proposed regional regulatory and investment treaty.
Treaties, hither-to-fore were negotiated by the Executive branch and ratified by the Legislative branch.  The Emperor is gathering his powers.

Second

The Judicial branch gave the Executive branch a free pass to re-interpret legislation (laws)  if/when it suited the ideology of the moment or if/when it proved expeditious.  In other words, the court told the vast legions of bureaucrats that the written law was subservient to the exigencies of the moment.

I want to take a moment to point out that the root of the word "Authority" is "author".  To "author" is to write down, to record in an immutable form, thus to lend stability and predictability.

This ruling, essentially, vaporizes legitimate authority.  "Law" will be whatever the loudest, most aggressive bully wants it to be.

Peasant cunning



Frankly, this is not a new condition.  The oppressed have a play-book.

The first chapter in that play-book is titled, "Non-participation".  Non-participation is when the kid takes his basketball and goes home.  That is Gandhi and his spinning wheel or Gandhi walking to the sea to make his own salt.

Fred Reed wrote a essay, The Meat Bourse where he outlined how heterosexual marriage plays out in "activist" jurisdictions.  That is, jurisdictions where organs of the state intervene and tilt the playing field.  It is worth reading because he does a fine job of showing how the interlocking feedback loops "tipped" in unison.  Being oblivious to feedback loops is a prime failure of the greedy and grasping.

For a while, however inadvertently, they (interventionists) made a degree of sense. All decent people (I hope) have supported equal pay, equal opportunity, and such.
As a forties-ish man in Washington DC years back, dating mid-thirties-ish women, I and my fellows in this condition saw in women consistent patterns.  They wanted husbands. Now.
This made (Washington D.C.) a guy’s market (for shoppers, not buyers). If you were a man of forty-five, employed, not actually a serial killer, and had fewer than five nostrils, you did well. The women, though desperate, were often attractive, smart, good-looking, warm-blooded, and great people. They were catches, certainly all that I dated, but we were not looking. I had been burned in a divorce—my wife wasn’t bad at all, but the marriage was—and I was perfectly happy seeing a girlfriend on weekends and maybe Wednesdays. I had nothing to gain by marriage. None of us did. And feminists had made marriage dangerous.
Seasoning this sorry broth was the success feminists had in turning law and divorce courts against men. The motive usually was hostility, not justice for the woman or the welfare of the children. (Feminists, being in the Sapphic traffic, seldom mention children, to them an alien concept.) Men found themselves being screwed regarding custody, visitation, and child support. Fraudulent accusations of sexual abuse of the children became almost routinely encouraged by lawyers. Men had their passports confiscated by feminist judges, male and female. 
Thus, rational, eligible, bruised men chose non-participation in marriage.



Given the ever-tilting playing field it is reasonable to expect rational people to choose non-participation in the economy.  The only way to stay free of Brier Rabbit's metastisizing tentacles is to minimize ---eliminate if possible--- contact with the its organs.  That means minimum contact with the medical industry.  That means minimal economic activity.

"Minimal economic activity" is a neutron bomb for business and, consequently, for tax revenues.  Those in the position of collecting tax revenues will be trapped in a race against increasing demands and diminishing returns.  They will be like a dying bonfire, the last flames slowly gnawing their way down the stubs.

---Sidebar---
Some hyper-cynics claim that the ruling on "Gay Marriage" is collusion between the courts and the IRS, an attempt to force churches to relinquish their 501-c status, thereby making tithing subject to taxes.  Follow-the-money suggests it is more about extracting revenue (tribute) than about social justice.
---End sidebar---

Friday, June 26, 2015

Gun P*rn: Swedish Mauser

This followed me home today.  The seller was asking $200 less than the bottom end for Swede Mausers on Gun Broker and Auction Arms.  I think I got a deal.

Long barrel, heavy rifle chambered in the low recoiling 6.5X55mm cartridge capable of throwing a 120 grain Nosler Ballistic Tip at 2900 fps.
1919, after the Great War, production was less frantic.  The stock appears to be stained beech wood.
568....remember those last three numbers
568....
568....
The rifle is not perfect.  The top edge of the bolt release is a little bit scuffed up.
The screw at the back of the rear sight shows a little bit of red, flake rust.
Still has cosmoline in the bore.
Bolt face is not pristine but is still pretty sharp.
Looks good here.
I have a favorite cousin who shoots in a Cruffer League.  Cruffer: That is "Curios and Relics".  They have a bone-stock military division and he competes with a Russian Mosin-Nagant.  He is a wee bit disadvantaged.

I may let him buy this rifle.  He is not a felon, druggie, domestic abuser or any of the other deal-breakers.

Family does things like that for each other.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Connectivity, persimmons and cool rides

Connectivity issues continue.  My computer guy thinks it might be malicious software.  He is currently scanning and scrubbing.  Computer guy has my power cable that is shared between the prime and backup computer.  I have about two hours of charge left, so I shall not dally.  Fancy writing may be a casualty.

We have a second computer in the house that is exhibiting this condition.  I will give my computer guy an honorable mention if he gets this straightened out.

Persimmons


Persimmons are slow to germinate.  They are not native to Michigan, even though most selections show sufficient cold hardiness.  I think the seedlings just get started too slowly to compete with other, faster out-of-the-starting-blocks species.  This bucket of seedlings is from my 2014 crop.  There are over 100 seeds in this bucket.  They are, just now, starting to pop up.

Vehicles


I saw this while running.  This would be a cool ride to take down town.  A cool, eco-friendly cab and a pot-hole capable chassis.  It sends a message.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Ug-99, the story that disappeared

Ug-99 (aka, Race TTKSK) is a strain of wheat rust (Puccinia graminis f. sp. tritici) that was first identified in Uganda in 1999.  It demonstrated the ability to overcome the most common sources of genetic resistance to wheat rust that have been bred into modern, high yielding strains of wheat.

The spoors of this disease are spread, primarily, by wind.  It spread rapidly.


Image from FAO, Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN.
Africa is not a huge producer of wheat.  However, Pakistan and India are.  Together, they produce...and consume...one eighth of the wheat produced in the world.

Like all commodities, wheat is priced 'at the margin'.  That is, commodities are priced based on the transaction price of  the last unit sold. A shortage of a commodity with no viable substitutes entails impoverishment of the marginal bidder and extinction of all sub-marginal bidders.  That is an oblique way of saying that a war will start.

One must wonder if the arrival of Ug-99 in Iraq and Syria amplified existing geopolitical tensions and energized the ascendancy of radical groups in the region.


Defense in Depth


Military people often discuss a concept called Defense in Depth.  Distance is time.  Time is the ability to respond.  Plant breeders think the same way.

We were lucky, this time.  The disease originated in BF Uganda.  That bought the world 15 years to respond.  Several lines that show economically significant resistance to Ug-99 have been identified.  There has been time to build up seed stocks prior to the arival of Ug-99's arrival in the Indus valley.

This story would have played out differently if the mutation first shown up in the Indus valley, the Ukraine, Argentina, Northern China, France or South Dakota.  We were lucky.  There was time to respond.


Adagio



Classical music compositions often have a period of relatively peaceful music between more intense scores.  It is often an interlude used by the composer to redirect the theme.

Ug-99 continues to mutate.  It continues to evolve around genetics that were used to buttress primary sources of wheat rust resistance.  It is slowly chewing its way east.  Wheat fields are few and far between.  Mean distance between hosts is not favorable to rapid spread.

We have yet to see how this theme develops.  The Great Composer is not done.

Church sanctioned gambling



People who are entirely opposed to the idea of church sanctioned gambling rarely consider the fact that 80% of all weddings are officiated by clergy and take place in houses-of-worship.


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Striped?

What color are you?  That seems to be the question of the day.

Is "striped" a color?



Roof Leaks

Incoming.
24 hour accumulation.  Eaton Rapids just southwest of Lansing.  We got about 3.5 inches.
This showed up in the Master Bedroom.
The only thing I found close to the center of the leak was an exposed nail head.  It is approximately 40mm above the pivot of the pocket knife.
Close-up of the exposed nail head.  It does not look like much but there is about 30 feet of roof expanse uphill of the nail.
A little bit of roofing cement.  The bottom of a beverage can.  The key is to really butter the cement into the pebbling of the roof on the up-hill side of the leak.
Almost like living in an Airstream trailer.
I inspected the attic and found another water leak at the bathroom vent pipe outlet.  I slathered a bunch of goop on this as well.

A job well done merits a nap.  Sadly, not everybody in Eaton Rapids shows the proper respect to the lord and master of the manor.  NO further comment shall be made regarding this unfortunate breach of propriety.