Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016: End of Year Mast Report

Rose hips.  Rosa palustris

As always, you can click on the picture to embiggen.  Close up of hips.  Pretty as rubies.  I do not have R. palustris on my property but it is within spitting distance.
Rosa canina 
Persimmons.  Morris Burton is carrying the largest amount of fruit, probably because its fruit is smaller and gravity does not exert as great a tug on the fruit.
Close up of fruit.  Not all mast shown on this page can be eaten by humans.  Both rose hips and persimmons are edible.
Bittersweet Nightshade Solanum dulcamara , not edible. 
Poke Berries.
Box Elder seeds.  Acer negundo   Not very impressive hard mast, but beggers cannot be choosers.  According to Allen Dean Olsen, the seeds can be scorched to minimize the samara (the wingy part) and ground for flour.
Black Locust seeds.  Not considered edible for humans.
Sumac seeds.  Considered more of a flavoring than a food.  Most of our sumac seeds were eaten early this year by flocks of starlings.
Wild grapes.  GONE.  In this part of the world 95% of the vines are Vitis riparia.
Gold Rush apple
A crabapple, Malus prunifolia
Asian pear, Chojuro
Burdock seeds.  Not something I would want to eat but the seeds are loaded with oil and birds will tear these apart to get at them.
Honorable mention:  American Bittersweet and Highbush Cranberry.  No pictures because I do not have any specimens of these species on my property.

The Art of Invisibility

An image of my nostrils.  Picture from Wikipedia
Note to readers:  My cold is winding down.  You all know the old saw, "Colds last seven days if untended but only last a week with aggressive treatment."  You will get one or two more days of light-weight pieces and then I hope to put out something with a little more research.

They walk among us
There are some preternaturally strong people who quietly walk among us.

I am not talking about Body Builders.  Body Building is a performance art.  They do what they do for show.  Body Builders want to be noticed.

Question:  How many Body Builders does it take to change a light bulb?
Answer: Four.  One to do the deed.  Two to hold the mirror and one to exclaim, "Dude, you are HUUUGE!"

Nope.  I am talking about those who are quietly strong.  

How do I recognize them?
Primarily by their hands.  If you shake their hand and it feels like you latched ahold of a brick or a is a good bet that person is strong...very strong.

Some of them are big.  Wes, for instance, had to tip his head to the right to drive a car.  Wes can bench press a piano.  He can dead lift the back end of a Crown Vic and he can "squat" with a side of beef on his shoulders.  There are many like Wes.

Some are of a more normal size.  The man who sits behind me in church is my height and weight.  He has the hands and shoulders of a stone mason or of somebody who regularly flings 40 pounds bales of hay onto a wagon two at a time.

Most of the time you cannot pick the strong ones out of a crowd.  They hide.

They have tricks.
They hang out with other large people to minimize the contrast.  When other large people are not available they stand four paces behind the next largest person in the group.
Guess what one of the richest, most invisible men on the planet wears.
They wear the cloak of that is two sizes too large.  Baggy gray sweat pants.  A 4XL Detroit Lions with "90" on it.  Crocks.  The sensitive avert their eyes.  The others simply avoid eye contact and all they can remember is "Loser".

They are handy to have on your side in a pinch
Mostly, I have been very lucky and not needed these guys.  I don't have that many stories to tell but I would love to read your stories in the comments.

"I said I never had much use for one. I never said I didn't know how to use it." ~ Quigley

Part of what escapes most people is that "invisibility" is also a performance art.  Just because they usually prefer to avoid being noticed does not mean they are at a loss when they need to make a Significant Emotional Event happen  for someone else.  In fact, given their physical strength and their intensive study of what people notice and do not notice, they are especially gifted at making SEEs happen.

My one Best Example
A strong fellow was displeased at being stonewalled. 

He gripped the edges of the counter top that separated him from the person who was not giving him satisfaction.

He lifted it eight inches.  Actually, it was more like he snapped it up eight inches and gave it a little flip, the way you do to flip a wrinkle out a quilt on a bed.  The entire counter top levitated and then banged back down into place.  I think he was getting ready to sail the counter top into a far corner of the room, much like a frisbee.  He did not need to.  The stonewalling stopped.

These are guys (usually) who accidentally break furniture when they are being very, very careful.

They are good people to have as friends and bad people to have as enemies.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Recalibrating: Wants and Needs

Tub's Island, Martiny Lakes, Michigan
Few things will recalibrate your perception of what are "wants" and what are "needs" more efficiently than a camping trip.

It is a decent hike to the convenience store.
If you cannot find an island to camp on, then camp in your backyard or at granny's
The best camping trip is "primitive" camping.  Leave the Keurig and Starbuck's gift cards at home.  Channel your inner French Canadian voyageur and drink tea.  Or drink instant coffee from the same cup that held your oatmeal, the same cup you will use to hold the water when you brush your teeth.
You might have to make concessions when you have kids.
At least once a year pick a campsite that is not within easy walking of a "commissary" or ice cream joint.

Are you annoyed by your neighbors and family "back home".  Well, bless the black flies and mosquitoes because your neighbors won't seem nearly so bad when you go back home.

Beer is proof that God loves man.  Whiskey (in plastic bottles) is proof that God loves campers.

Not being able to find anything to eat because nothing in the house appeals to you is a symptom that you have become "Appetite driven".  Appetites are wants based.

Gnawing on the dry rind of a stale bagel is evidence that you are nicely transitioning to a "Needs based" perspective.

There is even value in camping in a travel trailer.  It shrinks your footprint.  It moves you toward the mode of "thinking ahead" instead of "another quick trip to Big-Box store".

You will know you reached the goal when you are happy because you are Warm (enough), Dry (enough), your Belly is full (enough), your bed is comfortable (enough) and you enjoy the people you are with.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Pension Underfunding: A quick review of the safety-nets that are already in place

Mrs ERJ and I were taking our daily walk when the conversation turned to pensions.

The recent news about the Dallas Police and Firefighter's pension triggered the discussion.  In case you have not been following the news, Dallas retirees have been opting for "lump sum" settlements because they realized that "40% funding" means that sooner-or-later there will be no "later".
Image from HERE
It is as if the pension managers are flying a plane toward a mountainside (liquidation).  They are praying for an updraft (return) as they claw for altitude (assets).  Every retiree taking a lump sum settlement effectively lowers the plane's altitude by fifty feet. Each lump sum payout increases the chances of the plane flying into the side of the mountain. Eventually, a crash becomes inevitable.  The Dallas mayor has since placed a moratorium on lump sum payouts.

Government rescue
At this point it appears unlikely that the Federal Government will step in and rescue failing pension plans.  While pension funds are "insured" the assets of the insurance programs are woefully inadequate for the systemic failure of pension funds that may be coming.

As we walked, it occurred to me that there already are Federal safety nets in place.  There is the SNAP, Energy Assistance programs  Telephone assistance  and Medicare/Medicaid programs.

To the best of my knowledge there are no programs to help indigent seniors make house payments.  Many states do offer means-tested discounts on property taxes.  Washington State's program is structured such that the taxes on the property's first $60,000 is forgiven.  That could have a chilling effect on the value of high-end retirement communities.  Pensioners who suddenly find themselves destitute will still be on the hook for paying property taxes on $190K of the property assessed at $250K. 

All of the usual editorializing applies.  Pack your own parachute.  Learn to live within a small footprint.  Make ties within your community.  Make an effort to be "nice".  Volunteer at the soup kitchen or thrift store.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

In a post-fossil fuel world, ACREAGE is wealth

We watch with bated breath as government entities expand their reach.

Zero Hedge informs us that we do not own the rain that falls on our property.

What will be next?

Image from HERE
It is a fair bet that the courts will extend that to sunshine as well.

Property taxes are a proxy for income taxes.  It was reasonable to assume that a farmer with 240 acres of tillable ground had twice the income of a farmer with 120 acres of tillable ground.  If the farmer with more property did not farm it all, then the farmer was guilty of sloth and the tax was an incentive to bring the property into production or to sell it to others who would.

In a post-fossil fuel world, property ***acreage*** is wealth.

Energy is the uber-resource.  It is easy to envision folks with non-liquid investments in Chicago or New York City demanding that folks in Western Kansas put up solar farms...or that the Feds invoke eminent domain to boot the backward yokels off the land.  It was done for hydro-electric power.  You can bet that it will be done for solar power.

The land owner in Western Kansas would be within his rights to ask, "Why is my ownership of this land being condemned when it is 'irrational'  to have factories so far from the power sources?  Wouldn't it be more sensible to the property in Chicago and New York, pay them fifteen cents on the dollar and have them relocate to Scottsbluff or Garden City?

The Russians did something similar to the Ukrainians in the early 1930s.  They taxed each of their fruit trees and dairy cows.  Much of the Ukraine has a brittle, continental climate similar to Oklahoma City or Pierre, South Dakota.  Many of those fruit trees and dairy cows were "marginal", as in, they were the margin of survival in bad years.  A flat, annual tax on them squeezed the kulaks.  Cutting down the trees and slaughtering the cattle would avoid the taxes...but then the family would starve during the years when the rain did not come.

This was not an oversight by the Soviets.  It was a design feature.  Submission or extinction was the goal.

Charles Hugh Smith recently wrote an essay about how many Greeks are petitioning the courts to relinquish inherited property.  Mr Smith regards Greece as the canary-in-the-coal-mine.  This too will be coming to a theater near you.

In a competitive environment, what is the next logical "play" when all traditional forms of wealth are corraled by the "players"?  What is left?

My vote is to tax land owners on the solar energy that falls upon their property...whether they harvest it or not.

Mrs ERJ and I got matching colds for Christmas

Footage taken from my Scanning Electron Microscope of a Rhinovirus attacking and entering a cell in my nasal membrane.  I had to hold VERY STILL during this filming.

Mrs ERJ and I are walking around with matching tissue boxes.  She is a couple of days ahead of me.  It felled her as she wrapped presents Christmas Eve.  Mine struck the day after Christmas.

A few outdoor pictures from the day after Christmas
We went from 6 inches of snow to green in twenty four hours.  An inch of fifty degree (F) rain will do that.
Turnip greens.  This plant showed up at the base of one of the posts that holds up our clothes line and I could not bring myself to kill it.
A little bit of pruning in the orchard.  This is a "before" shot.  The bag wrapped around the trunk is to minimize sunscald.
Branches on the ground.

After shots.  Bags of leaves are for mulch.  I will spread them in the spring after vole/mouse risk is reduced.
This is a good example of a two-scaffold tree.

I left a few extra twigs on them to serve as a source of scionwood in case I decide to propagate this variety.
Corwin Davis's advice was to open it up to where you could throw a bushel basket through the tree.

That makes more sense to me now that we are harvesting all of our apples.  You cannot pick the apples if you cannot fit your body...and a bushel basket...into the tree.

Most of my trees are pruned to a two-scaffold/central leader system.  The first flush of branches (i.e., the first scaffold) starts at my belt buckle.  The second scaffold is about four feet above that.  I had been leaving the bottom scaffold too dense and it was a bear to fit a step ladder in, close to the trunk, and be able to pick the apples in the higher scaffold.

We get old too soon and wise too late.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Heads-up on Antibiotics, Jan 2017


(Starting January 1, 2017 animal owners) must work with a licensed veterinarian with whom they have an established veterinarian-client-patient relationship (VCPR) in order to receive permission to order and use... a VFD drug (i.e., any oral "veterinarian grade" antibiotics).

The use and distribution of antibiotics in animal agriculture is changing and producers of all sizes need to begin preparing to adapt in the coming year. Focusing on the one-health concept of combating antibiotic resistance, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is working to ensure the judicious use of humanly medically important antibiotics. Changes include eliminating the growth promotion use of human medically important antibiotics and expanding the list of feed-grade antibiotics classified as Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) drugs. Historically, a majority of feed-grade antibiotics used in or on animal feeds have been available to producers over-the-counter, without approval from a veterinarian. By Jan. 1, 2017 the FDA will move all human medically important feed-grade antibiotics to the VFD drug process.

It is important to note not all antibiotics will be considered VFD drugs (Figure 1). The use of injectable antibiotics will not be affected. 

The last time I used "veterinarian grade" antibiotics was when Herc decided to kick a raccoon's butt.  Unfortunately, the raccoon was in the bottom of a ditch filled with stagnant water.  The fight was a draw.

After a day, his wounds became large, soft and puffy.  At Belladonna's urging I whacked him with a couple of days of antibiotics from our supply.

I still ended up taking him to the vet.  Bella came home from college for the weekend to check Herc out and was worried about him.  The vet said he was healing just fine.

The two times before that I had used antibiotics on myself.  Mrs ERJ frowns on my experimenting with the kids.

I accept no responsibility for any misuse of the information presented here.

Storage life
For those of you who are tempted to lay in a supply of vet-grade antibiotics, I reproduce this table from HERE. It must be noted that the extended life is under ideal storage conditions.

In general, antibiotics lose potency as they age.  "Old" Tetracycline family antibiotics have the potential for liver damage  as they age due to the nature of the chemicals they decay into.


Length of Original Dating Average Total Years Extended Total Shelf Life Obtained
Doxycycline 100mg tablets 2 years 5 years 7 years
Ciprofloxacin 500mg tablets 3 years 10 years 13 years

    Extension Time (Mos.)
Antibiotic Dosage Form No. Lots Tested Mean Range
Amoxicillin sodium Tablets 21 23 22–23
Ampicillin Capsules 5 49 22–64
Ampicillin sodium Injection-solution 8 57 29–87
Cefazolin sodium Powder 10 82 63–110
Ceftriaxone sodium Powder 4 60 44­–69
Cefoperazone sodium Powder 4 46 25–57
Cefoxitin sodium Powder 10 24 24–55
Cephalexin Capsules 6 57 28–135
Cephaprin sodium Powder 13 74 50–114
Chloroquine HCl Injection-solution 4 64 27–98
Ciprofloxacin Suspension 7 32 25–40
Ciprofloxacin Tablets 242 55 12–142
Clindamycin phosphate Injection-solution 31 44 18–77
Doxycycline hyclate Capsules 13 50 37–66
Doxycycline hyclate Powder 31 27 14–52
Doxycycline hyclate Tablets 169 27 15–91
Erythromycine lactobinate Powder 4 60 38–83
Neomycin and polymyxin B sulfates and bacitracin zinc Ophthalmic ointment 5 28 12–40
Penicillin G Powder 15 49 22–95
Penicillin G benzathine Suspension 4 70 61–84
Penicillin G procaine Powder 7 70 67–72
Primaquine phosphate Tablets 12 55 41–80
Spectinomycin HCl Suspension 8 83 55–109
Sulfacetamide sodium Ophthalmic ointment 4 39 35–44
Sulfadiazine silver Cream 37 57 28–204
Sulfadozine and pyrimethamine Tablets 8 67 34–93
Sulfisoxazole Tablets 4 56 45–68
Tetracycline HCl Capsules 11 50 17–133

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Ve haf not solved Da Prroblem (fiction)

Ivan Petrovich (Pete) Golovina's eyes darted to the pack of Marlboro cigarettes in "Jim's" shirt pocket.  He preferred the Marlboros to the Camel cigarettes in Stan's pocket.  Cigarettes were freely available and smoked though out the day....except for the six hours in "the interview room".

The smoking of cigarettes was not the only thing that was unusual about this government facility.  The facility was an anonymous looking "big box" stuck on the back of a Coast Guard facility.  It was ostensibly an IRS data storage facility.  The employees kept to themselves.  There is no such thing as "good" attention from the IRS.  Nobody pestered the staff for information or to ask them out on dates.

Furthermore, the rooms were separated by four layers of drywall and a full Faraday cage.  Each sheet of drywall was individually adhesive-bonded on butyl rubber blocks and each room had powerful, stand-alone HVAC units.  That is 5000 pounds of drywall for each room and incredible amounts of white noise.  Somebody was very serious about keeping whatever happened in Keokuk, in Keokuk.

Jim asked, "What do you want to talk about today?  Siberia?  Soviet air defense doctrine?  Logistics of POL?"

Jim and Stan had both noticed  Pete's interest in the cigarettes.  They knew that they were in for a bitch session.  You get to know somebody very well when you spend eight month, two hours a day totally devoted to interviewing somebody...and the remaining 8 hours of your work day analyzing everything they said.

"This bores me.  When do I get my Hooka lounge in Eugene?" was Pete's lead off.

"Maybe when you stop sounding like Boris Badenov from Bullwinkle." was Jim's retort.  Jim spoke Russian with the precise enunciation of a person educated in St Petersberg while his English betrayed his origins in a Pennsylvania, Pollack steel-town.  He pronounced "Boris" in the Russian manner, "Boor-Reese"
"Fine" said Pete with an expressive wave of his hand.  "We will discuss Soviet Air Defense Strategy.  You could save me the trouble, it is in every book."

"Central Dispatch identifies a penetration.  Three fighter groups are scrambled.  Two are vectored by Central Dispatch to block access to the most likely or valuable targets.  The third is vectored to intercept.

The intercept team is to out-number the estimated number of intruders by at least three-to-one.  Central Dispatch updates the optimum intercept coordinates as more information develops.

All teams are to achieve maximum operational altitude at full military power and then proceed to their stations."

Stan asked, "Why do the teams operate from maximum operational altitude?"

And that is how the debriefing of defectors was handled.  The same questions were asked over-and-over by different teams of interrogators.  The answers were transcribed and reviewed the next morning.  Often, errors were introduced into the transcripts to "test" his reliability.  Other times, the shabby quality of the interpreters introduced glaring errors.

Pete sighed.  "Fighters operate at maximum operational altitude to provide Central Dispatch with maximum discrimination between friendly and foe.  Fighters operate at maximum operational altitude to minimize exposure to Surface-to-Air missiles.  Fighters operate at maximum operational altitude to activate their look-down radar."

Stan looked at his notes.  "Would you like a cigarette?" he asked.

Nicotine is the preferred drug of soft interrogations.  It is the only addiction that can be reinforced fifty times a day.  The flip side is that it is the only drug that can be withheld fifty times a day to good effect.

Pete shrugged.  Camels were much better than nothing and they were certainly better than the Virginia Slims that Tanya on Team Two smoked.

Part of the debriefing protocol was to immerse the defector in vintage, US TV programming.  That included cigarette ads.  Soviet pilots adored Gunsmoke, Bonanza and admired Hawkeye Pierce's alcohol still.  They craved manly cigarettes.  Propaganda has never been done better.

Stan continued after the cigarette was lit and Pete had inhaled.  "Why does the radar on your fighters only have "look-down" capability?"

Part II
Pete was a radar expert.  He had defected to Keflevik with a second-tier fighter.  Pete graduated with a Master's Degree from Moscow State Technical University.  He placed second in his class and his thesis, A Method for Efficient Synthetic Aperture RADAR Transformations of 3X2-D data into Optimumized Trajectory Cones, subtitled With Compressed Communication protocols between data collection points put him in the elite with regard to desirable defectors.

Pete's thesis was elegant in its simplicity.  It created the theoretical basis that enabled the launch of three Surface-to-Air missiles which would act like three eyes.  The missiles would communicate back to the brain in the last missile launched.  The brain calculated the path of the target through space and ignored flares and all other distractions that did not stay within the limits of the target's performance envelop.  The brain guided the three missiles to three different intersections with the target at quarter second intervals.  A good pilot might avoid the first missile.  A great pilot might avoid the first two missiles.  But the maneuvers required to avoid all three missiles would peel the wings off the plane.

Pete had unrestricted access to the planes that were being used to test RADAR upgrades.  The test flight took off without incident on the day he defected.  One of his wingmen experienced a fuel pump warning light 150 miles over the Barents Sea and turned back.  His other wingman's weapon controls would not activate when Pete went radio-silent and turned his plane west.  Neither event was an accident.

Our side was less interested in Pete's plane than in what he knew and the scuttlebutt he had heard.

Pete replied, "You know why our fighers have look-down capability.  Central dispatch coordinates the battle.  Our central dispatch radar has more capability than you are aware of.  Our fighters only need look-down capability."

Stan said, "Tell me about the capability I am not aware of."

Pete deflected the question.  "Maybe after the plastic surgery, when I can really believe you intend to make good on your promise of the Hooka bar."  That is how debriefing went.  Nobody has to teach a shark to swim.  Nobody has to teach a Russian to play verbal chess.

Stan said, "As a fighter pilot, would you like to have full up-down-sideways-fore-aft capability?  Can't you imagine a time when that might be handy?"

Pete replied, "Of course we would love to have that.  But we cannot package that amount of capability into a plane."

Stan said, "We keep coming back to that, don't we.  You are still using tubes.  Why is that?  We know that you are capable of making very high quality integrated circuits."

Pete replied, "We will be using integrated circuits.  Someday.  And then we will kick your ass out of the sky because Russian pilots are much better than American pilots."

Stan pressed on, "But why aren't you using them now?"

Pete said, "Clearly, it is because we have not solved The Problem."

Part III
Every defector said the same thing.  "We have not solved The Problem."

The art of debriefing is to look for patterns.  And to look for patterns within patterns.  And then to look for even the slightest deviations from those patterns and to pursue those dangling thread to the other end.

"Da Prroblem" was a major riddle.  We had no clue what they meant by this universal "Da Prroblem"

The interrogator's dilemma was that questions reveal much to the person being interrogated.  Good interrogators condition the interviewee by always asking questions that the interrogator already know the answers to.  They do this over, and over and over again.  And one question in a thousand might be a question where we are not sure of the answer.

The best information is volunteered.

A direct question reveals too much.  Some defectors were plants.  They scurried back to Mother Russia.

Stan said, "Ahh!  Yes!  The problem.  It was difficult, but you know we have great technology.  We solved it."

Pete said, "You know, as a matter of professional interest, I wish you would tell me how you did it."

Jim changed the subject, a fact not completely lost on Pete.  "Tell us about the Siberia.  Why are there so many RADAR stations in Siberia?"

"There are some things that just do not add up for us." Jim said shortly before their two hours were up.  Everybody was tired and raggedy.

"Your phased array RADAR transmitters are carved from the side of a mountain and you feed 230 Megawatts of power to them.  Clearly you don't know shit about amplifiers, otherwise you could run your radar with one-thousandth of the power and one-hundredth of the area."

Pete flared up. "You think Russians are clowns, buffoons.  You think we make electronics with big hammers like blacksmith?  Our electronics are big for a reason!"  Pete's Russian accent became thick when he became agitated.

One trick of interrogation is for the questioners to remain absolutely stone-faced.  The person being questioned becomes emotionally volatile when deprived of validation of "affective" listeners.  Emotional volatility impairs judgement.

Pete snapped back, "Your arrogance has made you stupid!  You are a small people and trapped in your small way of thinking."

Stan was dismissive.  "Yah, right.  You went with big because your electronics are big and inefficient."

Pete threw back, "It takes a big array and much power to pump 1.33 Megahertz signal."

The earbuds in Jim and Stan's ear lit up.  "What the FUCK?!?!"  Pete's statement had gotten somebody's attention.

"Why would anybody uses 1.33 Megahertz unless they were limited to electronics they recycled out of a box of Crackerjacks?" Stan said, his voice dripping with disdain.

"What is the wingspan of a B-52?  We turned them into Theremin devices and have fingerprinted every plane you have in inventory.  Did you know that many of your planes have corroded rivets attaching the shear panels to the spars?  Yes.  We know that from the attenuation of the signal.  We wish you would do maintenance on your planes.  It would be a great convenience to us."

Jim intervened.  "Hey everybody.  Let's just chill.  Let's kick back and have a smoke before we shut down for the day.  I am out of smokes, Stan, do you mind sharing?"

Turning to Pete, "Can you really do that?  Man, if I were a Russian I would worry about the ones with the weak return signal.  I might not be able to track them."

Pete calmed quickly.  That is one great advantage of nicotine.  It is FAST.  Smoke trickling out of his nostrils he decided Camels were not that bad.  "Not to worry.  We did tests and we think the ones with the bad rivets will not be able to withstand limit maneuvers.  It is a hell of a thing when your opponent knows more about your assets than you do.  No?"


The next week
"Our analysts are puzzled by these vertical lines across the face of your phased array radar installations.  What are they?"

Pete said, "They are negative resisters."

Once again the voice in the earbuds lit up..."What the hell is a negative resister?"

Jim casually asked, "It has been a while since I was at University.  Why don't you refresh my memory on negative resisters."

Pete relished the role of the pedantic professor.  "A resister is a device that passes increasing amounts of current as the potential, the voltage, increases.  It stands to reason that a negative resister is a device that has decreasing amounts of voltage as the amount of current increases.  In fact, at zero current it has infinite resistance."

The earpiece said, "There is no such thing."

Stan scoffed, "There is no such thing."

Pete arched one eyebrow.  "There are several in this room."

Jim and Stan both registered surprise.

Pete pointed upward with the cigarette he had been nursing.  "The light tubes."

The room was illuminated with eight foot long, fluorescent light fixtures.

"That is a curious thing.  Why do your radar need 'negative resisters'?" asked Jim.

"Lightening strikes.  Many lightening strikes in the mountains.  Regular lightening rods are conductors and mess up field-and-waves.  Negative resisters do not.  Then we figured we could use them to shield our radar from the problem.  You know they work in reverse... We installed capacitors to energize them to protect the array."

Jim asked in an amused kind of way, "If they solved the problem for the land based radar, why didn't you just apply them to the radar in the planes?"

Pete said, "Too fragile.  It is the sensors, you know.  We can armor the CPU and filter the power.  But the sensors must be sensitive.  Hard to armor from EMP pulse from Tactical Bomb.  Gas filled glass tube too fragile for combat and used too much energy to transmit signal.
"The Problem" was that Soviet offensive doctrine included an integrated strategy of using Tactical Nuclear devices.  Their planes used vacuum tubes because the Electromagnetic Pulse would destroy traditional integrated circuits.  The Soviets assumed the US had the mirror image of their doctrine and that we had somehow found a way to armor the integrated circuits in our planes.

We had not.  We smugly assumed that NOBODY would be insane enough to initiate the use of nukes, potentially triggering MAD. Our planes would fall from the air like so many sets of car keys when the silicon based devices in their avionics and engine control systems were turned into sand.  The planes that were on the ground would stay on the ground.

Our military (and congress) collectively soiled their pants.

According to the version of the story that I heard, within a week teams of men wearing cheap, gray, polyester suits were paying visits to the Deans of every research University in the US.

They asked a few simple questions.  "Do you have any professors capable of performing research on fiber optics?  How many grad students can they manage?  How soon can their other projects be mothballed or handed off to other faculty?  If cost is not a constraint, how much money will your institution be able to absorb before it becomes counterproductive."

And that is how fiber optics went from a curiosity to being the commodity that is probably delivering this story to your device.

I was surprised by the interest in the short fiction published earlier this week.  I decided to give it another shot.  I want to hone my ability to write dialog (which intimidates me) and I want to present the idea that fluorescent light tubes have unique properties that might make them valuable to armor electronics against voltage surges and EMP.

All characters in this story are fictitious.  'Pete' combines the first two names of Pavlov and the last name of a journalist in Moscow.  Jim and Stan are throw-away names.  I made it all up...I don't need to be visited by men wearing cheap, gray, polyester suits.  Really.

But if "Pete" were real, his net worth is now somewhere north of $23 million....well run Hooka lounges attract profitable enterprises the way magnets attract nails.  He is twenty kilo heavier and has more massive cheekbones than when he defected.  And his voice makes him sound like he could be Jim's twin brother.

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas!

And to those who think that we no longer need the message of an old-fashioned God who lowered himself to be born as a human in the humblest of places (a winter stable that was undoubtedly floored with pounded animal crap) let me offer a short word experiment.

Things are different now
How many times have you heard or said "Things are different now."

Perhaps you believe in the perfectability of the human animal. The core beliefs are simple.  Our society improves.  Energy is invested expanding and refining its norms and constructs.  Those who expound the gospel of human progress contend that the human species is being refined over the generations so it is worth the ever-increasing fixed costs.

By way of counter-argument, suppose that your forebearers started shaving their heads in the year 200 AD.  Suppose very generation that contributed to your DNA shaved their head twice-a-day because they believed a shiny pate exemplified perfection.

How many generations must shave their heads before the children will be born bald?  How many generations must to shave their heads before all of their ancestors would be born free of the stain of headly hair?

Every child, even after 100 generations, would grow hair...even if every forebearer assiduously shaved every square millimeter of their scalp twice-a-day.

So why would you expect societal norms (an externality that is imposed on the individual) to change the human condition (an inherent, internal characteristic)?  Do you really expect people to be born unstained by the human propensity to focus on our individual short-term, self interest?

I contend that the promise of an illusion called "progress" is not worth the real, escalating fixed-costs and the loss of our individual agency.

I contend that the messages in the Bible is still germane to life in 2016-2017.

You are free to draw your own conclusions.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Why did I come back?

Nobody asked yet.

The original reason I left involved a "gut feel" regarding changes to Blogger/Google privacy policies.  They were coupling their various applications more closely together and I thought that would make it harder to keep the various parts of my life compartmentalized.

My other concern was based unknowns in the Google business model.  There is a huge asymmetry in the price a third party receives for the data I consider "private" and what it might cost me.  A raccoon skin might command $5 in the open market, but it is worth far more than that to the raccoon.

I did not want to be that raccoon.

Recently, the Blogger platform started inserting comments that look like ads.  Undoubtedly, there are programmers honing their artificial intelligence models trying to figure out if certain readership bases are more likely to buy gold coins, fishnet stockings or dating services.  Clearly, they will be watching the number of readers who click on specific ads to determine the value of various readerships.

My memory is shaky, but it seems like I remember a vignette in Asimov's Foundation where the moral was to never trust an entity when you do not know where its brain lives.  More recently, that theme was repeated in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.  The "brains" are Tom Riddle's (aka, Voldemort) via his charmed diary.

It is a theme that I take to heart.  When playing poker, if you do not know who is tagged to be the patsy....well, it is you.

I understand advertising.  The patsy is the poor smuck who reads this blog and associates the Blogger inserted ad as an endorsement by ERJ.  I don't endorse specific ads, but I do endorse Blogger trying to make an honest buck.

I will not object if you click on the various ads, just to keep life interesting.