Monday, February 29, 2016


A photo of the Berlin Wall.  It was intended to keep people in, rather than to keep immigrants out.

Immigration is not a topic I would normally tackle on this blog, but the times give me little choice.

Not only is immigration a "hot topic" in this election cycle, but a close family member recently announced their intention to marry an "undocumented alien".  Consequently, you get the benefit of a ring-side seat as I grapple with "Immigration" and become clear on what I believe.

The nature of the issue

Difficult issues, almost by definition, are multi-dimensional and the dimensions are linked together in hidden ways.

Normally, we solve problems by picking the most painful aspect (or the easiest part to solve) and addressing it.  Then, after it is resolved, we address the next biggest problem and wear that one down.  An example would be shoveling snow off of driveways.    Start with the shortest drive to create the most benefit in the shortest amount of time.  Then keep shoveling drives until they are all cleared.

That approach does not work when shoveling snow off of one driveway inevitably results in more snow being heaped on the adjacent driveways.  This class of problem cannot be solved by unilaterally addressing individual facets of the problem in isolation.  They must all be solved together.

Chronic underestimation of the difficulty of the immigration issue has undoubtedly  contributed to the schizophrenic, multiple-personality feel to how our government deals with immigrants.

Some Two-by comparisons

In spite of the limitations of univariate analysis, it still has value as a way of defining the landscape of the issue.

National sovereignty -vs- moral burden to other humans

As a Christian, I am duty-bound to consult the Bible as a primary reference.  Even within the Bible there is much tension.  In the Old Testament there is the tension between the entire book of Exodus
"She conceived and bore a son, whom he named Gershom; for he said, “I am a stranger residing in a foreign land.”  Exodus 2:22
and the divine covenant giving the Jewish people the Promised Land (which was already inhabited).  In the New Testament there is the tension between the Sermon on the Mount and many, many uses (in Parables) of the image of a house barred against the evils of the night.

As a Catholic Christian, I am also obliged to give direction from my church ample and serious consideration.

We benefit from immigration...but who should we let in?


 Most economists tell us that the economy "needs" a growing population.  US women have a "fertility rate" of about 1.9 and to simply maintain our population we need a fertility rate of about 2.1 (a rate of 2.0 would be enough if all women lived to at least age 49...but that is not the case).  We do not make enough children to sustain, much less grow, our population.  Europe is in far worse shape, demographically.  The average birth rate in the European Union is 1.6 children per woman.

Even those of us who wistfully remember the days when you could hunt pheasant where the Lansing Mall now stands really want to turn the US population back to 1965.  As a pragmatic matter, we need young people to take care of us when we are in a nursing home.

There was a time when the United States was the preferred destination for intellectuals displaced by Fascism and the chaos of war.  Even today, the United States is attractive to Asians with expertise in medicine and engineering.  A manager of an engineering department in mainland China can expect to make $8000 a year while he might make 10-to-15 times that in the United States.

One must be aware of the dynamics that drive economies to equilibrium.  The disparity of costs is not lost on corporations.  Why import Asian talent when the work can be so cheaply out-sourced to Asia?  And from the medical front, the Affordable Care Act reduces the economic prospects of individual physicians.

The pernicious effects of amnesty

On the face of it, amnesty seems like a humane action but it is a very cruel lottery ticket.  According to the comments at Marginal Revolution, that ticket (US citizenship) is worth about $100K

Countless Latin Americans are in the US, absolutely sure that they will be granted amnesty at some point in the future. They are starting families and businesses, all while being at risk of being rounded up and deported.  Meanwhile, their compromised status makes them extremely vulnerable to coercion, exploitation and fraud AND it completely destroys their chances to pursue legitimate paths to citizenship.

The dilemma is that granting general amnesty would validate those immigrants and trigger an even bigger wave of undocumented immigrants.

Random positive effects of Latin American immigrants

Do you suppose this young woman has ever sewn on a button?
Most of them come to work.  That is better than many native born US citizens.

Most immigrants grew up in places where they could see workers fabricating and assembling.  They saw blacksmiths and foundaries, welders and sewing machines.  They saw mechanics rebuilding engines and transmissions.  In terms of skills, these immigrants are like the Americans of the 1950s.

Coming from places where the scales are much smaller, they often have a much firmer grasp of how the "parts" of an enterprise fit together.  They saw tobacco leaves coming in the back door, cigars leaving by the front door and everything in between.  They know this in a very concrete way and are far more pragmatic way than most business students.


By push and shove and the evolution of ad hoc decisions, we achieved a stalemate.

For the most part, "undocumented" immigrant are allowed to stay invisible if they do not break any major laws.  He/she is granted driver's and marriage licenses.  He/she is employed and usually paid cash.  They receive medical care in Emergency Rooms and receive immunizations at county health clinics.

As of now, they have no path to citizenship and always have the risk of deportation nipping at their heels.  But their children will be citizens.

And, as some Biblical scholars have pointed out, Exodus tells us that the Jewish people wandered the desert for two generations. Virtually none of the Jews who left Egypt as adults made it to the Promised Land....not even Moses.  Citizenship for the children of "undocumented" immigrants improves upon that by one generation.

That may be the best we can do.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Life is good

The sun is shining.

The snow is melting.

Kubota and Belladonna are home.

Mrs ERJ is frying up chicken.

You guys are on your own today.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Things Iraq, middle-Eastern wheat politics

Yellow is Sunni, Green is Shiia.  Blue is ethnic Kurd.  Baghdad is in the middle of the Sunni-Shiia frontier.   Map from VOX.
Map of ISIS controlled regions from Geopolitics.RO.
The actual territories held by ISIS/ISIL/Daesh are much more discontinuous than portrayed by this map.

Agricultural land use in Iraq.  Source
Iraq per capita wheat production, pounds of wheat/person/year.  This is the profile of a country struggling to feed itself.

Mid-East soil moisture estimates.
A close-up. The Kurds have a lock on northern Iraq.  The Shiia control most of the well watered areas east of Baghdad and into Iran.  Israel dominates most of the well-watered sliver along the Mediterranean sea.
The politics of food have the ISIS pushing hard to control north and east of their current areas.  They currently control some highly fertile irrigated areas but those areas are dependent on technology and pesticides to continue producing at high levels.

ISIS also controls the southern portions of the Kurdish wheat producing areas.  Those areas have been blessed with exceptional rains this year and should yield well this year....if the farmers can get out and work those fields.

The four horsemen of the Apocalypse ride together.  War brings pestilence because refugees are packed together and lack the basic means for hygiene.  War brings famine because farmers do not feel safe working their fields.

Bonus chart

Pounds of wheat per person per year, Syria

24 Hour Campfire added a Rural Living forum

24 Hour Campfire added a Rural Living forum.  It was triggered, in part, by the overload of election drek on the main forum.

So far, participants have been discussing how to till up gardens, attract hummingbirds, the features to look for in lawn/garden tractors, deer resistant landscaping, caneberries and Brussel Sprouts, potatoes, pollinators, hand tools, and zero turn mowers.

You might pop in for a look if you enjoy those kinds of topics.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Super Predators

Do you believe that a disproportionate share of the violent crimes in America are committed by a relatively small share of the people who have fallen afoul of the law? 

Bureau of Justice Statistics  Take home quote:
"A sixth (16 percent) of released prisoners were responsible for nearly half (48 percent) of the arrests."
Most cops will tell you that the same names come up over, and over, and over again when the crimes are aggravated assault, armed robbery, shootings, car jackings and the like.  The challenge is not figuring out who did it.  The challenge is finding enough "admissible" evidence to convict.

These "super predators" are highly resistant to resocialization and are destined to either die a violent death on the street or to spend a major portion of their lives in prison.

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton was challenged at a recent event when a guest pilloried Mrs Clinton on some statements she made regarding "super predators" twenty years ago.

Nobody ever disputed the factual basis of the "super predator" theory.  Nope.  It was discarded because it cast certain races in an unfavorable light.  The theory became tainted with the label of "racists".

If, as a process engineer, I find myself with a process equally affected by incoming material and process parameters, and if I find that one particular source of materials is "fussier", then it is simple pragmatism to adjust the processing parameters for the "fussier" materials.

Denial only results in a higher scrap, or incarceration, rate.

Feeding Donald Trump

Some might lay this attack at the feet of Bernie Sanders supporters.

Few consider that this turn of events benefits Donald Trump even more than it does Bernie Sanders.

Who are you going to believe:  Your lying eyes or good, socialist theory?

Donald Trump's supporters want to puke every time they are forced to say white-is-black, good-is-bad, left-is-right, up-is-down, blacks cannot be racists, GLBT is automatically better.....

Hillary had to eat this turd and smile while doing it.

Nothing damages the "Democratic Brand" more than their stark denial of the reality that is staring everybody in the face.

Who loses?

Data Source.  Murder victims/offenders, FBI statistics for 2013 by race.
The number of White victims by other races is almost exactly what you would expect with 13.2% African-Americans and 17% Hispanic.

African-Americans represent 44% of this nation's murder victims.  And it is almost entirely at the hands of other African-Americans.  Based solely on percentages, one would expect 100 Black-on-Black murders (5723*.132*.132)  Clearly, something is causing Blacks to kill each other at rates that are 22 TIMES HIGHER what simple statistics suggest.

Blind worship of victimology hurts minorities far more than it hurts the over-all culture.

Empathy for Mrs Clinton

I have empathy for Mrs Clinton.

Twenty years ago she made a factual statement.  Now she finds herself in the position of having to apologize for stating what is-and was-blatantly and obviously true.

Every person toiling in corporate or government American completely understands her dilemma.  And that is why they want to vote for Donald.

Drywall repair

Over time our interior walls have accumulated more than their fair share of dents, dings and holes.

Sometimes a kid will go "Oops!" and smile, almost as if it were funny.

Today, Kubota started learning the fine art of drywall repair.

It becomes a lot less fun after you figure out that each hole requires a minimum of 30 minutes to repair.

They upside is that Kubota is learning a salable skill.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Mrs ERJ edition

A circular 5.5mm reference item placed in background to help viewer judge length of the thorn.

Mrs ERJ sent me to the Redi-care on Tuesday to have my head examined.  She determined that I had a surplus of holes in my head.

If you recall, I was cutting Black Locust brush on Saturday.  Out of respect for the trees, I carefully broke their fall with my head.

By Tuesday, all of the minor punctures were healing nicely, except for one.  I asked Mrs ERJ to root around with a pair of tweezers and to pull out the thorn fragment that was undoubtedly stuck in my scalp.  After a bit of rooting, she commanded, "Hie thee down to the Redi-care."

Women, in general, are much better calibrated regarding when to seek professional medical help.  Most men wait too long.  For instance, the average male experiencing a cardiac episode wait 13 hours before seeking professional help.  On the flip side, those of us who do seek medical help often go too far the other way and become hypochondriacs.

I am a celebrity

More accurately, I am the spouse of a celebrity, at least at the Redi-care.

"Oh, you must be the husband of the famous Mrs ERJ!"

I bask in her (reflected) glory.  "Yes I am.  She is awesome, isn't she?"

Kerry, the Nurse Practitioner expertly shaved away the crater of skin around the puncture wound.  That serves two purposes.  It removes any debris that might have been deposited between the  layers of skin and it gave her more length-of-shank of the thorn to grab with the hemostats.

Bonus link:  If you only bookmark one item from my blog, bookmark this page  ==>Emergency Medical Care<==  Just in case you cannot get to the emergency room in a timely fashion.

Kerry is unique, in my experience.  She prefers to use a large caliper, hypodermic needle to peel back the cratered skin.  This is not the first time that Kerry removed embedded, foreign objects from me.

Kerry placed the thorn in gauze and placed it in a urine sample cup.  She directed me to present it to Mrs ERJ and tell her, "Yes, dear.  You were right.  Sending me to the Redi-care was exactly the right thing to do."

Which I did.

She is in my head

It is snowy outside.  I tracked in some snow.  I fiddled around a bit in the the bathroom.  I looked down.  And I saw snow-melt.  Muddy snow-melt.

This posed a dilemma.  I could leave it but I was pretty sure that Mrs ERJ would not appreciate it when she walked into the bathroom with her bunny slippers.

I could use one of her towels to clean it up but something told me that she would not fully appreciate the gesture.

So I mentally played out the conversation that would likely ensue:

Me:  "So what would you have used?"
Mrs ERJ: "I would have used the 'dog towels'"

After living with somebody for a while, we start carrying them around in our head.  It is a good thing Mrs ERJ is petite.

Note to reader: we reserve the grubbiest, end-of-life towels to rub down the dogs when they come in wet and/or muddy.

I trudged out to the entry-way and grabbed a couple of "dog towels".  They worked every bit as well as her face towels.

And she will never know unless she reads this blog.  Which is a good thing.


Heavy, sticky stuff.
The Boston Terrier was not amused.

Gitmo, an engineered solution

Image from HERE
Not all coyotes attack sheep.  Some "clans" of coyotes specialize in eating rodents, and rabbits and such.  Those clans are considered beneficial.  Indiscriminate shooting of coyotes, on the basis that they might be bad, can open up the ecological niche to clans of coyotes that are bad.

Coyotes kill large prey by strangulation.  Their jaws are not sufficiently powerful to challenge the prey's spine, so they rely on strangulation/possible carotid artery penetration.  They clamp onto the prey just below the jaw and don't let go.  The reason that they grab "up high" is that a low grab makes them vulnerable to being dragged and stomped.

A ewe wearing a "Livestock protection collar".  Image from HERE.  Many gory photos of coyote attacks.
The livestock protection collars are essentially a collar that holds two "juice pouches" in the position shown in the illustration above.  The juice pouches are similar to the ones you see "healthy moms" give their kid at soccer games.  The only differences are that the mylar film of the pouches on the sheep are tougher and treated with UV protection....and the contents are neuro-toxins.

A coyote biting the bottom of this ewe's neck gets a mouthful of sodium fluoroacetate.  Clans of coyotes, and coyotes that diligently stick to the business of eating rodents are at no risk from these juice pouches.

The engineered solution.

It would be very useful to be able to track released Gitmo detainees, especially if  30% of them rejoin terrorist cells.

Released terrorists are an intelligence asset.  At a minimum, we need to know where they are.  That is a trivial exercise with laparoscopic surgery, cell phone technology and GPS.  Battery life would be conserved if the device did a daily "up periscope" at random times. 

In some cases it would be useful to include microphones in the package.

Being able to pin-point the exact location of high-value targets gives the military the means to drop a guided munition on top of their head.  A patient commander could wait until a high level meeting was in progress before dropping the hammer.  No telling how many bonus targets might be killed.

A more passive solution would be to insert a pre-programmed devise with a small pouch of coyote juice.  Inform the detainee that there certain places he must not go.  If he violates the geographical constraints the device punctures the pouch.

The most passive solution would be to simply create a surgical scar at the base of their skull and tell them a device had been inserted.  It will be necessary to implant a metal "dummy" in case the bad guys use any imaging technologies to verify the claim.

At a minimum, a released detainee will be less welcomed by his former associates if they think there is the slightest chance that he is carrying a bug.

Note:  This essay was inspired, in part, on the assassination of a terrorist known as "The Engineer".  One account HERE

Wednesday, February 24, 2016


We had high winds last Friday.  Another mid-Western blogger wrote about it HERE.  We had sustained winds of 40 miles per hour.  Who knows what the gusts were...maybe 65 mph.

I had very carefully poured an anchor on the windward side of the blind, fully intending to lag-bolt it to the leg.  Obviously, it did not happen.

Now, there is nothing to do but set things right.  Literally.

The first couple of tasks involve squaring up the structure while it is still on the ground.  Then a bunch of diagonal bracing needs to be installed to ensure it will withstand the rigors of tipping it back upright.
Image from HERE
I used to work with a gentleman named Dino.  Dino's dad was a rigger on the railroad.  Dino regaled me with stories of his dad (and a crew) lifting, moving and setting upright steam locomotives that had derailed.  They used little more than wedges, railroad ties for cribbing and sledgehammers.

Flipping a 500 pound deer blind ought to be a piece of cake.

The plan:

The rough dimensions.  The Center-of-Gravity is already four feet above the ground.
Raising the C-of-G another four feet should be be fairly easy if I take it a little at at time.  I need a cribbing plan so I can throw in a shim every four or six inches.  Tipping the structure has the additional advantages of "biting" the feet into the ground so they don't slide and raising the attachment point to give me better leverage.
A rope will be attached at the bottom of the enclosure and run up, over the sill.  Then it will go to the top of a 12' tripod (poles cut on-site), then to a snatch-block, then to The Captain's tractor.  The math noodles out to a rope tension about 85% of the structure's weight.  Peak height of the C-of-G noodles out to about 10'-10" above the the the job is more than half done once I get to here.
And then I will definitely bolt the anchor to the leg of the stand.  I don't want to do this again.

News Flash: Bank STOPS bribing politician

Actual news headline:

PNC Bank Suspends Contributions To NJ Congressman In Wake Of Anti-LGBT Statements  Headline is a link if you want to read the article.

My first inclination is to question, "Why is my bank, with razor thin operating margins, in the business of bribing politicians?"

My second reaction is...."We are so corrupt that a bank NOT bribing a politician is a newsworthy event."

Some folks, those with skin in the game, will bristle over my use of the word "bribe".  How can it be otherwise when only "contributors" have access and influence.

The world has become very strange.  Businesses and tycoons and special interest groups contribute freely to both sides of the ballot to ensure they will be "heard" by the winner.  Somehow, politicians overlook the fact that the only advantage they gain from these contributors is the NET contribution vis-a-vis the "other guy".

This is a crazy world.

More gun gobbledygook

"A man accused of randomly killing six people in (Kalamazoo) Michigan had a personal cache of weapons"
Perhaps more accurately, "He had more than one gun in his house." or, "He had more than one gun in his safe."  Personal cachet is a term deliberately crafted to sound selfish, and whacko and anti-social.  Disingenuously, the term is not targeted at the can somebody who has just murdered 6 people be made to sound more evil?  Nope, it is intended to tar honest gun owners as people who are evil by association, because we share something in common.

"There may not have been a way to stop a person from doing evil,” Hoadley (Democrat) said of the Kalamazoo shootings. “But that should not derail a conversation about what we can do overall to reduce gun violence.”
This legislator admits that increasing gun regulation would have had NO effect on this crime.  And he still wants to limit access to guns.

A short story

Kubota brought home a story on Monday.

A young man at the high school deliberately beaned a smaller kid in the head with the football.  The smaller kid knocked the bully unconscious in the ensuing fight.

According to the story, it was a very righteous ass-whipping.


What makes the righteous whipping particularly gratifying is that the smaller kid is a cancer survivor and his hair is, well, scanty.  The smaller kid is also a member of a minority (about 4% of the population).

The bully made a bad choice of victim selection and paid for it....pick on a smaller, funny-looking, sick kid who is a member of a small minority.  What could go wrong? I am sure the bully thought his violence was hilarious, right up until it started costing him.

Bullies abound.  Not all of us are young men.  Not all of us will face one-on-one odds.  Not all of us command the fierce will to prevail demonstrated by the smaller kid.

By all means, let's not derail a conversation that makes the world safe for bullies.

...reported from Detroit

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Three-toed sloths

The Three-toed Sloth is the slowest moving mammal.  It moves so slowly that plants (algae) grow in its fur.

Am I the only person who associates green-haired employees with three-toed sloths?

Perhaps it is just a coincidence but I can only see three fingers on this woman.
Note to my children:  Do not go to job interviews with green hair unless the job entails handling large, skittish herbivores.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Button Ministry

One of the guys I occasionally drink coffee with is about 80.  He lives in a "travel trailer" in a barn that used to be his.  He parcelled out his property to his kids because he did not want them fighting after he was gone.  He miscalculated, slightly, and lived longer than he thought.

He nets about $7000 a year.  He heats with wood.    You cannot shoehorn a very big wood stove into a 16' trailer.  It shuts down at gets downright chilly in his trailer by the butt-crack of dawn.

One of the major vexations in his life is that he cannot find anybody to sew buttons and zippers on his shirts and coats.  Cutting wood is rough on clothes and he relies on those items to maintain body temperature.

He thought he had found one lady to do it but she sewed the zipper-tape right over the snaps of his Carhartts.  And then she died.

I asked him why he did not sew on his own buttons and he told me that his eyes were not good enough to thread a needle any more.  That was easy enough to fix.

I threaded two, large-eyed needles with about 24" of #69, black, nylon thread each.
This is a close-up of the needles and the thread.
6, 3/4" buttons, a medicine bottle and a couple of rubber bands finishes the kit.
I have this stashed in my car so I can either sew the buttons on his shirt or give him the kit.

Kind acts do not need to be big.

Myotonia congenita

Tennessee Fainting Goats have a genetic condition called myotonia congenita.  Their muscles "lock-up" when they become excited.  They also stack on big slabs of muscle due to the condition.
Have you ever had one of those conversations in the bleachers that sets a little bell to ringing in your head?

I was talking with the dad of one of the "weight room" kids.  This kid pegged the meter when it came to being able to put on muscle mass in a hurry.

I am sure they got it from the dad.

Working in a warehouse

The dad told me that he was a supervisor in a warehouse.  About half his time was spent in an office and the rest of it was on the floor, driving around on a scooter.

About twice a month he would join "the guys" and lift at the gym.  So how much do you think he can bench press?  Remember, he has a sedentary job, is forty years old and only works out twice a month.

He said that he usually tops out between 350 and 400 pounds.  He might have been lying to me...but he sure looked like he could bench that much.  That degree of strength sounds super-human to me.

Full-body cramp

The dad went on to tell me about his glory days playing football.

He was a running back.  One game he had broken through a hole in the line.  He was streaking from midfield toward the endzone.  There was NOBODY who was going to be able to catch him.

He did not score.  He locked up in a full-body cramp at the 15 yard line and dropped like a side of beef on the 10.

It sounded a bit like Tennessee Fainting Goats to me.

Myotonia congenita

Myotonia congenita  occurs in humans at a rate of approximately one person in every 100,000 people.  It is inherited, so some populations have higher rates than others.  For example, people of Northern Scandinavian descent are ten times more likely to have it (1:10,000) than the general population.

One wonders how long it will be before genetic testing will become part of college coach's recruiting toolbox.

Imagine that there are large framed former athletes with this condition.  Further, suppose they stopped pursuing athletics in middle school due to painful cramping before, during and after practice.

Given proper support (lots of stretching, trainers, pharmaceuticals, ice, warm-ups, even more stretching, etc.) these people could perform at a level that would make them look like a different species on the playing field.  The first coaches to start looking for these kinds of athletes would have a big advantage because those athletes are invisible to competing coaches.

Lamb with callipyge gene on left.  Regular lamb with similar breeding on right.
There are other genes that may be of interest to an athletic coach.  The callipyge gene for instance.  Callipyge is Greek for "Beautiful Buttocks".  I bet we could find it in humans if we looked hard enough.

Regarding the morality of genetic testing as a recruiting tool, one must consider that the individual benefits by knowing if they have an unusual condition that might preclude the uses of certain drugs or therapies.

Take home messages:

  • Don't get athletes with myotonia congenita excited unless you have a fork truck handy.
  • A person with a good looking derrière can be accurately described as having callipyge...but don't say it with a leer.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

The dance

This motor coach was carrying school kids on a field trip when this happened.  The driver was talking on his cell phone and did not see the bridge he smashed into.  Source.

Co-evolution is a topic that fascinates me.

It is like chess.  One player makes a move.  The other player responds.  Back-and-forth.  Back-and-forth.  It is a dance that has been going on since the first amoeba started chasing bacteria.

Electronic devices

What would your reaction be if a surgeon was operating on your eye and his cell phone went off?  You would undoubtedly be shocked and angry.

What if the technician assembling the brakes destined to be installed on your car or truck had a cell phone go off?  What would your reaction be?

One of the local assembly/sequencer plants supplying the local automobile factories is instituting a new contract.  In that contract, there is language that possession of an activated electronic device while "on the line" is grounds for instant dismissalYou will be fired if your boss hears your cell phone go off while you are working the line.  Or if he sees you pop it open to check Facebook or the check sports scores.

Bridge?  Bridge?  I didn't see no stinking bridge.  The driver was using a hands-free phone and was arguing with his wife.  The bus was in the right lane.

There are less harsh ways of dealing with this issue.  There are scramblers that disrupt the signal but the FCC refuses to allow factories and schools to use those devices. 

So rather than ship defects and lose productivity, the company is forced to use a sledge hammer to kill a mosquito.  The FCC's rigidity on this issue, that all people should have access to communication in all places at all times, will result in enterprises denying people access to work spaces.  That is, they will be fired.

Safety incidents

Safety incidents trigger outside safety audits.  In many cases, incidents are caused by unsafe actions on the part of employees.  Auto factories even have mandatory ways of opening and closing doors so fingers do not get caught by the door.  Example:  Always close the door by placing your (one) hand on the outside door handle and pushing it shut with just enough effort to get the latch function.

The next question the auditor will ask is, "And how do you enforce the use of these safe operating practices?"

The answer will be,  "We have a discipline process."

And then the auditor will ask for documentation proving that the discipline process was followed on the last 10 or 20 incidents.  It is a case of the auditor hard-assing the manufacturer.

The first time an employee crushes their finger in a door they are likely to get unpaid time off work.  The next time they hurt themselves they are likely to not report it. Move.  Counter-move.  Counter-counter-move.

Food safety

It is easy to focus on factories because they are large targets.  Restaurants are a little bit different.

Inspectors like to bang restaurant owners for easy-to-measure things like the dimensions of their ventilation hoods and the width of the door going to the restroom.

The real action is in employee actions.  Are they washing their hands?  Are they rotating stock?  Are they jamming debris against cooling coils in the refrigerators?  In a buffet setting, are the overstocking the trays so the shrimp on the top of the pile don't stay hot (or cold)?

Given that people, as a population, do not vary significantly, every restaurant over a certain size should have evidence of screw-ups.  Where is the proof that the employer issued discipline?

This approach tends to cause soft-hearted people much anguish. They think it is heartless to hold people working marginal jobs accountable.  They ignore a couple of important points:
  • Food poisoning is 100% preventable.
  • Norovirus (and its kin) are highly preventable.
  • Food poisoning and dehydration due to Noro can kill children and elderly people.  Don't they merit concern?
  • Marginal jobs are "starter" jobs for many people.  They are stepping stones to "better" jobs.  Employers expect workers to have learned certain critical skills from their "starter" jobs, things like showing up when scheduled, not being stoned, drunk or hung-over....and following directions.


A final bonus section on food industry inspections

It is very easy to pencil-whip inspections.   One way to combat this is to require the inspector to fill out information to ensure traceability.

Suppose an inspector in an auto factory uses a template to ensure that weld studs are in the proper position.  Requiring the inspector to record the vehicle number of the job he inspected will give him pause...he cannot later claim "Well, the one I inspected was fine!" should a problem arise later on.

Another way to combat pencil-whipping is to require that the inspector record variable data.  Rather than check off a box "All food at appropriate temperature", require that he scan the top of every buffet pan with an IR scanner and document all food between 50F-to-120F with the actual temperature observed.

The point is to make it easier to actually do the job than to fake it.  Additionally, potential problems can be identified before it impacts customers.  I would rather have a restaurant catch the fact that one of their heating elements in the warming table failed before a second heating element crapped out and the temperatures drifted into the 70F-to-90F range.

FAFSA and taxes: Done

Taxes completed.  We owe on the Federal so we will e-file when we get the money in the checking account.

FAFSA filed.  FAFSA is the mandatory federal program where you have to spill your financial guts to yet another federal agency with leaky computer security.


Cash-money-out-of-pocket for all things medical was about $16K for 2015.  That takes a nip out of the Golden Years fantasy.

I am not complaining.  Norovirus is rampant on cruise ships and I can find sub-literate people with exotic cultures locally.  If I need something on-the-cheap, I ask my friends at coffee.

I am publishing that number because medical costs in retirement were one of the hardest costs to find data on.  It is just one data point, nothing more.

Speaking of medical...Bayou Renaissance Man had an interesting post on Medicaid.  In very simple terms, Medicaid is a mandatory, hidden reverse mortgage on your home and other property.  I wonder if that also impacts Medicare, a program I paid into while I worked.

Full Frontal....

Full frontal skunk juice on Hercules.

Herc is Belladonna's dog.  He is four years old and this is the first time he caught one.  Or one caught him.  Or whatever.

He now sports his own, personal, force field.

He gets to sleep outside tonight.

Addendum:  I just came back from town where I picked up a couple of gallons of milk.  One the way back I got my first whiff of "skunk" 3/4 mile from our house.  I am not sure it was Herc's skunk, but the odor was continuous after the first whiff.

Pruning trees

I was pruning trees today.


This image was photographed in my orchard at the end of July.  The combination of heavy fruit set and long branches necessitated my propping up the limbs.
Small trees are more efficient at producing apples.  There are several reasons why.  For one thing, smaller trees have better light penetration and produce higher quality apples.  The better light penetration and the ease with which breezes can pass through small trees results in less disease pressure as the leaves and fruit dry off more quickly.

But small trees also produce more fruit per square foot of orchard space, assuming you plant the trees at appropriate distances apart.

In this model, the diameter of the limb at any given point is (32*distance from weight(inches)*weight/Pi/allowable stress) ^ 0.333

This is a chart showing the amount of "wood" a tree would have to invest in to hold a pound of apples out in space.  The horizontal axis is the number of inches the cluster of apples is held from the trunk.  The vertical axis is the number of pounds of "wood" required to hold those apples out there.  I used 40 pounds per cubic foot for the wood density and 400 psi as the working strength of the wood.

Clearly, the carbohydrates invested in growing wood cannot be used to ripen apples.

So a tree with 24 inch limbs would invest 0.2 pounds of carbs to hold a pound of apples out in space.  That same tree would have to invest 0.6 pounds of carbs to hold that pound of apples 48 inches from the trunk.  While 0.6 pounds to hold one pound of apples does not sound like too bad of a deal, you have to remember that 0.6 pounds of carbs equates to about 4 pounds of apples due to the water-weight of those apples.

Clearly, there are many simplifications in this analysis.  Most apple trees set fruit throughout the canopy and not just at the ends of the branches.  Also, the tree invests those resources over several seasons.

I took a pretty fair amount of wood out of the trees.

It is a popular misconception that "dwarf" trees stay dwarf on their own.  Wrong.  All trees grow.  It is simply easier to keep dwarf trees smaller.
Dwarf trees grow so slowly that they collect moss and lichens.  This is from a tree grafted on M-9.  This is actually a very artsy picture if you zoom in on the lichens.  There is a universe of detail.

Trees that grow more vigorously tend to shed bark plates and shuck off the lichens and mossy parts.  This tree had dwarf roots but the scion rooted because it was planted too deeply.

Black Locust

It may be that Black Locust have break-away tips so small chunks are embedded beneath one's skin.  Sort of the arboreal version of a porcupine.  If you embiggen the picture by clicking on it, you will see that the thorn in the center-foreground has its end broken off.

I don't know what it is about Black Locust thorns.  I have an adverse reaction to them when I get stuck.  My hands are swollen up.  No other thorny plant affects me that way.  I don't know if it is allergy or bacterial or small parts of the thorns breaking off?

I just don't know.