Saturday, March 12, 2016


As noted earlier, I am attempting to walk 1000 miles this year.  I noticed on one of my "regular" routes that some drainage ditches have a goodly supply of watercress growing in them.  The ditch shown above is three miles from my house.

Other ditches have been recently "channelized" and are devoid of watercress.  This ditch is a mile from my house.

What do you think a dedicated guerrilla gardener would do?

You cannot tell it from the photo, but the roots were writhing with "bug" life.
Yup.  I scraped a hat full of watercress out of the one ditch and placed it in the plastic grocery bag that I always carry in my pocket.  I had taken the precaution of checking watercress at the local grocery store to ensure I had properly identified it.  This much watercress would cost about $4.

This is half of what I picked.  I followed it as it floated down the ditch in the current.  I took this picture after it settled against the stick.  The other half I collected went into a different ditch a mile and a half from home.

The watercress might not "take" but it cost me nothing.  I was already going for a walk.

Administrative notice:
This is the last post on Eaton Rapids Joe blog.  Recent changes in the .blogspot. platform (owned by Google) reminded me that nothing is really private on the internet.  Part of what drew me to this kind of blogging was that anonymity allowed me to be much more revealing that I could otherwise be.   That made the stories better and the advice more concrete.

Changes at Google, changes that are inevitable if Google is going to recover their investment, make it harder to keep the blog uncoupled from my real life.  It is not a problem unique to Google, it is a consequence of the paucity of ways companies can create revenue out of internet traffic.

Thank-you for being such a kind audience.  You have been  very tolerant of essays that were WAY too long and you overlooked tortured sentences and the too-frequent grammatical errors.  Again, thanks for inviting me into your breakfast nooks, your work cubicles and your commuter trains.  My only regret is that I wrote too much political dreck and did not post enough pictures taken outside.

Fast growing oak

By my count, this tree is 14 years old. No, it is not Photoshopped.

And its growth was not slowing down.
This was one of the Q. robur I marked for culling.  It was a fastigiate form. It also leafed out early and held onto its leaves late, effectively increasing its growing season relative to the trees around it.

Privacy on the Internet

It is delusional, of course, to assume that privacy on the Internet is anything more than an illusion.


Consider the prime rule of investigative journalism:  Follow the money.

As one example, Wall Street values Facebook at $200/world-wide-user.  Since the majority of Facebook users are in what are charitably known as "developing" countries, that means that Facebook users who are US citizens must pull up the average.  Conservatively, they must be valued at something north of $700/user.

If you are a Facebook user, are YOU paying $70 a year for the privilege?  Nope.  Nobody is.  It is impossible to put "a meter" (like a taxi cab) on the Internet.

So how will Google and Facebook and Linkedin and Twitter and all of the other wannabes create a revenue stream out of their users to justify those lofty market valuations?  The answer should be obvious.  They will sell your information.

There is an inherent asymmetry in the sale of private information that is troubling.  In an explicit transaction I have the ability to opt out.  Suppose somebody walked up to me on the street and offered me $6 for both of my kidneys.    I would then run through some quick mental calculations and decide which offered me more utility, $6 or my kidneys.

Third parties selling your information removes you from that decision.  Under the fine print you gave away your control over your personal information.  Think about it, nobody is going to pay $700 for information about your eye color.  They are paying for the good stuff, the highly profitable stuff.  And as highly profitable as it is to them, it will be even more unprofitable to you.  Otherwise you would have already "sold" it.

Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto

"I am human, and nothing of that which is human is alien to me."  -Publius Terentius Afer
Nor is any human absolutely immunized against perpetrating any of the crimes recorded in the annals of history.  Pol Pot can happen again.  Stalin, Hitler, Idi Amin, Mussolini, Mao Zedong, Kim Il-sung will all happen again.

The unlikely becomes inevitable as the population grows.  Belladonna thinks my concerns are absurd but she is visualizing the 50 people she knows best.  A one-in-a-million event is invisible in nearly all samples of 50 people but becomes inevitable in a nation of 317 million.

Can you imagine Hitler with access to social media?  Can you imagine him with every citizen willingly carrying around a microphone and a camera that can be turned on remotely?  Can you imagine him with voice-to-text capability, databases and the computer ability to search through those databases?  Can you imagine those smartphones with their batteries locked so they cannot be removed (iPhones)?

The Diary of Anne Frank would not make it past the first paragraph.

Picture in your head what would happen if the word C-U-N-T were strongly correlated to terrorists activities.  The more often a person said C-U-N-T the more likely they were to commit multiple murders and crimes-of-mass-destruction.

How long do you think it would take to identify the 1000 biggest users of that word?  Perhaps a week to write and download the software to the devices, another week to gather data and a day to crunch it.  And then those same smartphones will happily tell the authorities their GPS coordinates for easy collection.

Their infraction? Guilty of pre-crime.  This is already being tested in Fresno, California.

That might almost seem value added to most Americans.  But what if the "crime" was to utter the words, "Mrs Clinton is a weak president."  That scares me.


"You know, all of those hooligans who cheer for Manchester United (or Crimson Tide or the Wildcats or....) found an outlet for man's inherent tribalism in way that does not involve cutting off heads."

Friday, March 11, 2016

Spring is coming

Vernal Witch Hazel.
Biologically we are at about 40% bloom of the Silver/Red Maple species complex.  Vernal Witch Hazel is at full bloom and it is very sweet smelling.  I have a Vernal Witch Hazel on the northeast corner of the house.  Honey bees can work both maple and witch hazel but their first "big" nectar and pollen flow is pussy willow, Salix discolor and, at my house, Apricots.  That gets them setting brood.

Our maple sap season was a bust.  Maple sap flows well when the days are warm and the nights are sub-freezing.  We jumped right from freezing-freezing to warm-warm.

The spring peepers started singing a couple of days ago.

According to one weather report, we have a total of 21 Growing Degree Days (base 50F).  That is not very much.

Cutting scion wood

The donor tree, much in need of pruning.

This is what I am after.  One year old wood, vigorous, well ripened in the full sun.

On the ground.

Parted out.  Only the one year old wood.

Cut to length, bagged and labeled.  This is smaller diameter than most of what I am cutting. 

Chapter 22 Bankruptcy

Chapter 22 Bankruptcy is the phenomena of companies, or cities, going through reorganization more than once.

It occurs when major stakeholders do not trust each other.  They dig in and insist that other stakeholders should take a bigger whipping.  The reorganization plan leaves the court with unresolved systemic and structural issues. If you take a couple of steps back, it becomes apparent that these entities deserve to go out of business because they demonstrate uncontrolled auto-immune disease: They are no longer viable.

The two largest reorganizations seen in Michigan involved General Motors and the City of Detroit.


General Motors now has an "Altman Z-Score" of 1.3.  High numbers are good.  Low numbers are bad.  A Z-Score less than 1.8 indicates a "distressed" company.  A Z-Score between 1.8 and 3.0 is considered to be in the "gray" or "watch" zone.  Z-Scores above 3.0 are considered "Safe".

And that is with a record shattering 17.5 million domestic vehicle market in the rear view mirror.  One wonders how it will respond if credit tightens or when the market must digest an increasing glut of off-lease vehicles.

The preliminary draft of the Detroit Bankruptcy identified the legacy costs associated with a huge base of retired (and soon to retire) municipal workers, generous pension benefits and a shrinking population base.  The preliminary draft also threw a stake into the ground that retirees would receive 17% of their promised benefits to leave the City on healthy financial ground.  That is, they would take an 83% hair cut if the first order approximations (back of envelope calculations, if you prefer) were followed.

After much dickering, the pensions were cut a whopping 4.5%.

That is the equivalent of a doctor doing triage determining that a patient needed to have their left leg amputated at the hip.  And then the hospital's board of directors authorizing an amputation at the ankle.

This is a viable strategy if you believe in unicorns and magic,  leprechauns and philosopher's stones.

The rest of us figure it is just a matter of time before Detroit is back in Bankruptcy court.  The only question in our mind is whether it is Chapter 11 or Chapter 7.

Thursday, March 10, 2016


March madness is almost upon us.

One of my friends was commiserating about his wife.

She MOPPED UP during the football bowl season.  Her method of picking the winners was simple.

She chose the teams that had "animal" mascots.

Kubota has a case of mono...

..monosyllabic grunts, that is.

Nature's spring tonic

If you are serious about being able to provide for yourself and your family out of a garden, you must give serious consideration to "The Hungry Gap".  From Wikipedia

In cultivation of vegetables in a British-type climate, the hungry gap is the gardeners' name for the period in spring when there is little or no fresh produce available from a vegetable garden or allotment.
I walked around my garden this morning and snapped a few pictures.  Clearly, there is not enough calories out there to sustain a family.  But calories are usually what is easiest to come by.  Grain is compact, stores and ship well and is easy to distribute. Starchy vegetables like potatoes store well.  Vegetable oil is even more compact than grain.

The missing ingredient are green vegetables, nature's spring tonic.
A couple more photos of Kale.  I had about 10% survival rate.

Brussels Sprouts.  This variety is Diablo.  I had a "horse race" between Savoy Cabbage (Deadon) and Brussels Sprouts and the Savoy Cabbage won.  The Brussels Sprouts were much more vulnerable to deer damage, had more waste and not as well liked by the family.
Here is a head of Deadon cabbage that did not get picked.  It is a total loss while one could still salvage some edible greens from the Diablo Brussels Sprouts.  Our low for the winter was -3F which is about ten degrees warmer than usual.
Shogoin Turnip.   Turnips that hold their growing point closer to the ground seem to be more cold hardy than taller turnips.  That is, round and "top" shaped turnips are preferable to tankard and spindle types.  A corollary of this is that smaller (younger) plants are more winter hardy than big ones.  Roots that are 2" in diameter or smaller seem to have no problem over-wintering here.
Chickweed.  This is a volunteer, that is, a weed.  You can see dead kale plants scattered about the photo.
Multiplier onions
Wild garlic
Wild onion, maybe Nodding onion.
One of the nice things about most of these garden plants is that they can fend for themselves as semi-wild inhabitants of a feral garden.  The two exceptions are the cabbage and Brussels Sprouts.

Kale and turnips are often included in wildlife food plot mixes.

The alliums (onions and their ilk) will happily fend for themselves given moist soil and light shade.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Who should manage public lands?

Stumping for the Republican presidential nomination in Idaho Saturday, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, says the federal government should get out of  public lands management. 
Cruz says feds should transfer public lands to states, private interests. Source

 This statement caused much wringing of hands as can be seen from the comments.  I see it as more of a feature than a defect.  Why do the nay-sayers distrust democracy at a small scale but adore it at the federal level?

Large organizations tend to lock-up and ossify.  Every layer of approval tends to reject 50% of the applications/proposals, according to Mark Nissen who consulted with Naval Procuring.  That is why even simple buys of commodities like toilet paper and gray paint were not executed in a timely way.

Bigger organizations simply have more layers of approval, more inertia.  Each layer of approval acts like compound reverse.  Four layers of approval equates to a 1:16 chance of approval the first time out of the gate.  Ten levels of approval equate to a 1:1000 chance of approval.

What am I missing here?  What can the Feds do that cannot be done at the state level?  Surely, given revenue sharing, the Feds could curtail the most egregious of abuses.

Is timber the big bogeyman?  Surely it would be more efficient to control timber harvest from the demand end.  Building a stick-built house around here has a fixed cost of $15k for permitting and code compliance.  There is absolutely no way that builders can stay in business building 1000 square-foot houses.  There is simply not enough "basis" to amortize the fixed costs against. 

Is overgrazing the primary concern?  Grazing is the ballet of agriculture.  It must follow the rain.  The monolith in Washington DC cannot possible administer grazing because it is at least a year behind the ball.


If you actually read the source of the quotes you will also see this quote

Remember, he lives in TEXAS. He doesn't know any better.

This tells me much more about the writer than about Senator Cruz.  It tells me that the writer does not have the mental agility to grapple with viewpoints that are not exactly like his, coming from people who sound like him, who went to the same schools that he went to.  It points to a hubris that is not earned.

I probably should have issued a micro-aggression alert.  I hope that none of my readers got the vapors.  I will try to be more careful in the future.

Betting on ponies

  Image from HERE
"Waz" loved betting on the ponies.  He asked to cut the meeting short because he wanted to catch the day's horse races.

I had driven 97 miles to be at the meeting and blowing out of work before noon was slacking, even by big-city standards.  I asked him why today was so much more important that any other day?

He told me, "It is the last day of the racing season.  All of the owners who have not won a race all season are going to win so they can pay their stable bills.  Its the chumps turn to win."

"So you are telling me," I responded, "that the races are 'fixed'?"

He looked at me with disbelief.  "Hell ya!  You mean you have not figured that out yet?  They are all fixed.  The last day of the season is when the losers have a chance to pick up enough dollars to keep going for another year."

"Waz" was excited because he thought he had finally figured out a sure way to follow "the smart money."

Big City People

People from the big-city seem to have a different outlook on life.  Many of them really believe that every game is fixed.  All you have to do to be successful is to get in tight with the fixers and do what they do.

I understand the appeal of that approach.  Brown nosing is much less work that diligently working.  Yes, I know.  Not every person who works diligently wins a blue ribbon, but that is the way to bet.

Bernie Sanders took Michigan

You can hear it in Hillary Clinton's voice.  "Stand-down, Sanders!  It is the last day of the season.  It is my turn to win.  I have bills to pay."

That is what she does.  She tells people to "Stand-down!"

Bernie is not so good at listening to immoral orders.  He is ignoring her.

It will be interesting to see if the game really is fixed.  Maybe those big-city boys were right.

Not exactly lost

I think we have all been there.  The directions seemed clear enough at the start:  Eaton county, 2.5 mile east of I-127, 0.5 miles north of Round Lake Road.

My first clue regarding the quality of the directions should have been the fact that Round Lake Road and I-127 are in Clinton County, 25 miles north of here.

The second complication involved the 2.5 miles.  Was that GPS east or 2.5 miles on Round Lake Road?  It makes a difference.  Round Lake Road staggers across the landscape like a drunk on his way to the party store to pick up his third bottle of whiskey.  Round Lake Road is also devoid of shoulders so I had to park a mile ease of the site.

I figure I walked four miles today.  The middle two miles were the hardest.  I was walking on soggy corn stubble.  I never did find the tree I was looking for.

I did see some pretty country and some magnificent deer blinds.

This fellow has a 200 yard shooting range and a pond.  Additional targets at 50 yards and 100 yards.  Bench is on the left end of the grass strip.
Space aliens?  Pirate treasure?  Signaling Soviet landing sites?  Nope, just a deer hunter who mowed his shooting lanes to better see the deer.
Snow melted on Sunday.  Chickweed blooming on Wednesday.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

A good shot

All four of my children were adopted through the open adoption process.

Belladonna established contact with her birth family when she was sixteen.  She follows them with interest.

Her younger "birth brother" plays basketball for a team near Grand Rapids, Michigan.  That school is called Godwin Heights.

They won the Class B state championship last year.

They played Wayland today.  Wayland's record was 18-2.  Godwin Heights is in white.

This short video clip is from the end of the third quarter.

Godwin Heights went on to win.

Belladonna was pleased.

Orwell was a prophet

"Independent" suggests freedom from outside influence or patronage.

In modern usage it has been flipped around 180 degrees.  Now, "Independent" means one is "kept" like one of Pharaoh's concubines.

"Liberals" in Israel are protesting, not because their speech is being censured, but because their whackadoodle art is not being subsidized.  They are not being paid a stipend sufficient to support them in the manner in which they wish to become accustomed.

Culture Minister Miri Regev responds to the protesters with empathy and compassion:  "Cut the bullshit."

No, I am not trying to be funny.  Regev has empathy and compassion for the poor azzhat who is being taxed to pay those self-absorbed Liberals, and then pilloried by those same Liberals because the azzhat is bound by a sense of duty to do what must be done.

I always considered myself independent.  I went to my job, worked my 45-to-65 hours a week.  Then, on my off time I used my own funds to promote what I thought was important.  And yes, I resented the public funding of "artists" who attempted to desecrate sacred images by sculpting them in feces.

True artists will self-finance.

Found a Rock Elm today!

It looked just like fifty Bur Oak that I had already checked out in the hopes they were a Rock Elm.  The bark on the trunk looked just a little bit "elmier" than the oak.  Still, my hopes were pretty low as I walked up to it.

This tree shouts "Bur Oak".
And that is definitely an Elm twig.
And that is an Elm leaf.
It is about 20 feet east of Michigan Highway 50.  GPS coordinates 42.580838, -84.835881 
Ironically, this tree is about a quarter mile east of the Eaton County Conservation District office.  I had just left the Conservation District Office after ordering 25 Quaking Aspen and 10 Speckled Alder for a guerrilla gardening project.

From Google Street view.  Yup, still looks like an elm tree.
I took a few scion and will try to find some Siberian Elm to graft them onto.  I will  go back in late May and look for seeds.

Scion wood and cuttings

Flooded pasture.

This is a great week to cut scion wood for grafting.  Winter's back is broken.  The twigs will be fully hydrated and still dormant.

Mrs ERJ and I are in negotiation regarding refrigerator space.

Black walnuts (Emma Kay and Sparrow)

Mulberry (Illinois Everbearing)  I think I have shot more raccoons out of Illinois Everbearing Mulberries than out of all other types of trees combined.

Apples (Liberty, Novaspy, Keepsake, Gold Rush).  Not the pizza box strategically positioned on the south side of the trunk to fend off sunscald.  Gold Rush's patent expired in 2015 so it may now be legally propagated.

Black Currants
Miscellaneous oak, chestnuts and persimmons.

Did I mention it was wet out there?  Water running down cow paths in the pasture.  Zeus in forground.

African fact-of-the-day

According to Oliver and Attmore, nearly all Africans who were sold into the slave trade and ended up in the Caribbean sugar industry or landed on the mainland of the North American continent came from four countries, Ghana, Togo, Benin and Nigeria.

This suggests a mnemonic: "Ghana benin togo (to) Nigeria".  That is, "Going to begin to go to Nigeria."

These countries were marked by internal struggles that produced large numbers of prisoners-of-war and acceptable harbors for European ships. The African slavers used the profits to buy guns, gun powder and horses which further fueled the internal strife of the Ashanti expansion.

Many African-Americans affiliate with Maasai warriors.  Unfortunately, the homeland of most ancestors of African-Americans is 2600 miles west of the areas habituated by the Maasai tribe.  That is approximate the same distance as between London and Baghdad.