Friday, December 15, 2017

Broken alarm clocks

After twenty years of faithful service Mrs ERJ's alarm clock finally broke.

She wanted to get up early this morning and asked me to wake her at a certain time.

Being a big fan of Sleeping Beauty, I knew just what to do.

I was a little surprised when she tapped me three times on the forehead after I kissed her.  I think she wore the clock out hitting the "snooze" button.  Mrs ERJ can be a sound sleeper.

Fake News Friday: Plant Breeders

Fake News Friday: You too can be a benchrest shooter

I visited Family Shooters Corral today and Russ Nelson told me Uncle Buck's sure fire way to "tune in" rifles so they are capable of shooting 1" groups.

The most important thing is to buy a box of premium ammo.  All snarkiness aside, you cannot go wrong with Federal Premium Vital-Shock loaded with Sierra Game Kings or Nosler Ballistic Tips in a weight that is appropriate for the game.

Then, set up at the fifty yard target.  Most people grossly overestimate range so it is reasonable to test your rifle at fifty yards for what you will judge to be one hundred yard shots in the field.

Then, fire all twenty cartridges at the target.

It is very important to take your time so your barrel can cool off between shots.  As incredible as it seems, it is not excessive to take an entire three minutes to shoot twenty times.

Then circle the three shots that are in the tightest group.  That is the three-shot group size.  Viola!  A one inch group.  Now that was not so hard, was it?

Don't despair if the group size initially appears to be larger than one inch.  Count the number of holes in the target.  If you count the holes in the target shown above you will see that there are only sixteen holes.  That obviously means that four of the bullets went through the same hole that was made by an earlier bullet.

The gun, ammunition, and most importantly The Shooter is clearly capable of half-inch, three shot groups!

You too can become a master marksman by simply hanging out at your local shooting range and by asking guys like Russ Nelson "How does Uncle Buck do it?"

Editor's Note:


I did go to Family Shooter Corral yesterday and shot honest 2.5", three shot groups at 100 yards. I had horizontal stringing which suggests that I have a lot of trigger work to do.  The load was nothing exotic.  .308 Winchester, 41 grains of IMR 4895 and Hornady 165 grain boat-tailed softpoints.  The load is a full 10% below maximum and shoots as gently as a 75 year old man flatulating.

I had the scope on 4X as that where I will most likely set it when hunting.  Magnification is a trade-off between speed and precision.  My preference is to hit with less precision rather than missing with higher precision...but that is just me.

I intend to upgrade to a Nikon Prostaff or a Vortex scope after I win the lottery.  $200 can buy a lot of scope now days and $40 will buy a set of Warne Maxima rings.

For a Tactical rifle, hunting rings and bases are not strong enough. The standard twist in type rings are fine for a rifle that will only be used a couple times a year but not for a rifle that will be dragged through hell. For this reason I chose WARNE MAXIMA rings and bases ($57.00 for the whole set). These use torx type fasteners and are tough as nails. These are the only civilian rings and bases I will recommend. They have served me well and are very exact in initial zero. The screws for the bases are torqued to 25 inch pounds and the rings to 13 inch pounds. This is rock solid with steel-to-steel contact at all points.  Source

Ballistics software suggests impact velocities over 2000 fps at 200 yards which should be plenty to make the bullets expand on targets coyote sized and larger.

For the technical types, both plots have a standard deviation of 4" which suggests that 90% of the shots should fall within a circle with a 13" diameter and 70% of the shots will fall within an 8" circle.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Moping around today

We got some news this week that we did not want to hear.

My brother has been fighting cancer for the last 9 months and recently had some imaging done.  The imaging was not favorable.

It was a punch in the gut because everything seemed to be going so well.  He, his wife and his three daughters (ages 18, 20 and 23) are regrouping.

Prayers requested
I am requesting prayers on his behalf and on behalf of his immediate family.

If it helps to have a name then you can think of him as "Firefighter".  God will be able to figure it out from there.

If it helps to have some Bible verses to help focus then Matt 6:25-34 or Luke 12:4-9 might be a good starting place.

If you are not a problem.  All prayers are welcome although human sacrifice is discouraged by the management.

You might be out of the practice of praying but that is more than OK.  It is the wheel that has been idle the longest that makes the loudest squawk.  I am sure Firefighter will be tickled if you give it the old college try.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Still snowing

I had a 1973 Chevy Impala that was almost a dead ringer for this vehicle. 350 V8 and a two barrel carb.

I sold it to my brother in 1987.  Good times.

Yup, it snows in Michigan.  Get over it.

Wherein Jack invades Northern Georgia

The Battle of the Bulge was NAZI Germany's last big offensive on the western front and was notable for the deep snow in which it was fought.
Jack came to coffee yesterday.  More accurately, his close friend Rollin (pronounced Rah-lin) drove him to the restaurant and they ate breakfast.  Jack's son-in-law was also in attendance.

We had a full house.  Everybody but Fast Eddie was there.  Junior met Jack at the door and Jack addressed him by his "Driver's License" name, Darryl.  In turn, we all went one-by-one to pay our respects to Jack.

Jack is 94 and was wounded in the Battle of the Bulge.  He recently suffered a heart attack.  His daughter and son-in-law are taking him back to Georgia when they leave.

This was probably Jack's last trip to coffee.

Rollin is distressed, although stoic.  Rollin and Jack did almost everything together.  They went to church together.  They went to yard sales.  And, of course, they went to coffee together.  Sometimes they arrived early and they would remain in Rollin's truck to listen to the last bit of an inspirational radio show before coming in.

Rollin noted that Jack is less "sharp" than he was even a month ago.  The heart attack affected his cognitive abilities.  Rollin fears that Jack's daughter will find him too much to handle and will put him in a home.  Rollin wonders, why not let Jack live in his own home and then move him to assisted living in Michigan when the time comes?

Jack's son-in-law announces to everybody who will listen, "It is the right thing to do.  Everybody says so."

Most of us drinking coffee have the luxury of not having any skin in the game.  Jack and Rollin are admirable men and it is a time of hard decisions.  It is a time when the best decision is a clear and firm decision...empathy but not waffling.

It looks like Jack's departure from Michigan will be a snowy one.
Vaya con Dios, Jack.   Fair winds and may God be with you....and look out for shrapnel.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Peering into the future

Courtesy of  ERJ's proprietary crystal ball crypto-software my readers get a flash preview two decades into the future.

The economy of privilege

Green arrows show direction that money flows.  Black arrows show the direction that merchandise flows

 Most of us have a pretty good feel for the money economy.  Each link of the chain involves two actors.  One actor gives money to the second actor.  In exchange for the money the second actor gives the first actor merchandise or services.  The transactions are consensual in our model and the magnitude of the money and goods are approximately equal.

This is very similar to how cell membranes pump potassium and sodium ions and conserve pH.

The Economy of  Privilege
A naval example of the economy of privilege
The economy of privilege works in a similar fashion.  Privilege travels in one direction and it is counter-weighted by reciprocal responsibilities, obligations and accountability.  Sometimes the word "authority" is used in the place of "privilege".

This system works regardless of the Captain or sailor's political affiliation, gender, sexual orientation, race or creed.
Lets look at one link of the chain and a very specific case: The captain of a ship considering whether he can grant his sailors shore leave.

The Captain was given a mission by the Admiral.  He was entrusted with his ship and crew.  In return for being given the privilege of acting as captain he has an obligation to complete the mission and return the ship and crew in good condition.

The Captain must consider whether the advantages of shore leave; stress reduction, better focus in the long term and better employee retention - outweigh the costs.  The costs being leaving the ship under-manned while in port, potential loss of crew, exposure to STDs and foreign jail cells and a crew that might be hung-over the first day back.

If the Captain decides to permit shore leave then the sailors are under obligations to not put the Captain's mission and obligations at risks.  They accept the conditions that will minimize that risk.  That is, that they can be found and ready to sail in the morning.

Our first exposure to the economy of privilege is in the family.  In our younger years we receive privilege.  As we mature and assume adult roles in the family we dole out privilege.

Seventh and eight grade are a very tricky time as adolescents transfer allegiance from their family to their social group. It is a trying time for parents as our kids seem to lose 30 points off of their IQ.

We should not be surprised that their social skills are primitive.  They are, after all, young.

Their allegiance to their new social group is absolute and uncritical.  Deviations from the norms are punished with banishment.  It is a brutal time.

Ideologies, institutions and movements that pander to adolescents are likewise primitive.  They are absolute and completely ruthless in weeding out any independent thought.  Petrified by the possibility of being tossed out of the fortress, most young people comply.  Without the stress of challenges and the messiness of reality, the adolescents' minds becomes trapped like a bugs in a drops of amber: Comfortably fossilized.

Shielded from the messiness of reality the ideologies, institutions and movements become brittle, unable to respond to changes.  A few pathetic "True Believers" hang on.  The last few Shakers.  Small enclaves of New Age believers listening to a Thetan channeling through a monk.  But most of the former believers slink off when the cognitive dissonance becomes too painful.

Ah, the earnestness of young people.  You know, the ones who shake their fingers at us oldsters and deign to tell us how to live our lives in the minutest detail.  They crave authority but failed the "earn" part of earnest.  They want the privilege but refuse the web of reciprocity.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Pubic Service Announcement

Five minutes long.

We are entering the Christmas party season.  Please share.

2017-2018 Flu Season

According to The Daily Mail the flu season is off to a fast start and will be a bad one based on data from the Southern Hemisphere.  Australia, for instance, recorded 2.5 times as many flu cases as the average year.

Two factors came into play:

The H3N2 strain that is the major player this year mutates rapidly and the H3N2 component in this year's vaccine is a dubious match for what is out in the field.

Another factor is that fewer people received the vaccine so there is less "herd effect".  That is, people who are not immune are fire-walled from the chain-of-transmission if a critical mass of people around them are immune.

The question of whether the H3N2 component from earlier year's vaccine is a good match was never addressed.

Hand Sanitizers
This product was highly rated at Amazon. Unfortunately, it is not stocked at any of the local stores.
I just ordered a batch of hand sanitizer that has Benzethonium chloride as its active ingredient. Benzethonium Chloride is particularly effective against enveloped virus like influenza.

Not only does it not dry out the skin like alcohol, it has residual protection against the flu after it has dried.

In addition to its highly effective antimicrobial activity, benzethonium chloride contains a positively charged nitrogen atom covalently bonded to four carbon atoms. This positive charge attracts it to the skin and hair. This contributes to a soft, powdery afterfeel on the skin and hair, as well as long-lasting persistent activity against micro-organisms.

The difference between a severe case of the flu and a mild case probably depends on two things.  One is the state of your immune system.  The other is the initial dose of infective agent you receive.  If you receive a mild dose then it takes multiple generations to build numbers and that buys time for your immune system to get in the game.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Economic downturns

It can be challenging to blog about the economy.

The economy is rife with contradictions and "springs" that are over-wound and begging to be released.

It does not take deep intellect to marvel at the contradiction and precariously balanced "potential energy" of a hoodoo.  Nor does it take deep intellect to be bearish about the economy.

It is not a question of "if" there will be a down-turn, but "when" and the "why". 

The "why" is easier to speculate about.  Will it be an earth tremor?  Perhaps a vandal chipping away or a thrill seeker attempting to scale.  Or maybe it will be on more anonymous grain of sand, one of the quadrillions that carved out the hoodoo, that topples it.

The "when" remains a mystery.

Light intensity and horticultural grow lamps

If you have no other information regarding the latitudes that are most favorable for your target species then 1000 W/m^2 is a good first guess.

A question that sometimes comes up is "How close should I put my grow lamps to my plants?"

That is a tricky question and is going to be specific to the species, clone, grow lamps and grow-room.  Rules-of-thumb that worked for Metal Halide lamps might be too conservative for LED lamps that produce far less heat.

One way to generate a starting point for LED lamps is to look at natural sunlight at various locations and extrapolate.

Data collected at Argonne National Labs, 41.7 Latitude.  Multiply by 3.16 to convert to W/m^2
Looking at June light levels.  Remember that June is the best month for growth rates in the Northern Hemisphere because it has the most hours of light.

This is the June light intensity "probability density" graph blown up for easier viewing.  Note that the horizontal axis represents hours and the vertical axis represents light intensity.
This is the same graph with the 50th percentile day filled in with orange.  This graphic is a little bit optimistic because most sites will have some shading in the morning and evening due to surrounding vegetation or structures.
Same as above but the yellow box represents what 1000W/m^2 LED lighting looks like when on from "sunup-till-sundown".  The fact that horticultural grow lights can provide twice as much light over the same time period is a major reason why growers can see such fantastic growth rates.
Please note that the 1000W/m^2 is the power level that corresponds to noon on June 21 in the Chicago, Illinois area on a clear day.  If the species or clones you are trying to grow are not stressed by this power level then you should be fairly safe at this power level.

When you actually go through the math and translate this into the number of lamps in the grow room you will see that this looks like a lot, lot more light than you would expect.

How to use these numbers
Choose the latitude where your crop grows best.  For example, leaf lettuce grows fantastically well in Bangor, Maine (45th Latitude).  Pick the peak power from the chart at the top (980W/m^2).  Then set your lamps so the brightest region is providing about 80% of that power (flux).

Why 80%?  Because the light intensity will increase as the tops of the plants grow!  The leaves get closer to the lights.  The plan is to let the plants tell you when they are getting too much light.

MONITOR at least daily.  When you see scorching or signs of excessive light then record the distance between the tops of the plants and the lights.  Then increase the distance between the lights and the plants.

The distance you recorded is specific to your set-up, your species and your clones.  Any change to your set-up reduces the precision of that number.  For example, increasing ventilation (more fans) might allow you to grow closer to the lights.  Increasing the fertilizer concentration will increase your growth rate and you might find it necessary to increase the distance between the plants and the lights because they close the distance so quickly.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Producing at a loss

One of the paradoxes of the business cycle is that companies will often produce products and services at a loss.

Classical Economics
In the absence of competition, firms will choose the production model that makes the most profit given the anticipated demand.

Small demand will drive the firm toward low fixed cost and higher variable costs.  Think boutiques and artisans.

Large demand will drive firms toward high fixed cost and lower variable costs.  Picture highly automated factories.

Firms do not exist in the absence of competition nor is demand constant.

Consider an economy that hosts a universe of firms that have chosen different paths.  Some are artisan producers and others are low variable cost producers.  What happens when demand collapses? Do the producers whose production model most appropriately matches the the new demand prevail?


What happens is that all producers continues to produce as long as the price exceeds the variable cost.  Even though they are losing money they are losing less money by producing than by idling.  Since the highly automated plants have lower variable costs they continue to flood the market even though they are producing at a loss.  That cuts the bungee cord that tethers price-discovery to reality and amplifies price excursions.  The artisan firms are monkey hammered as the highly automated factories continue to flood the market long after the artisan firms idled.

How can Uber be losing money?  Really?  What are their costs?  They have mature code and apps.  They have brand recognition.  They have revenue.  Their variable costs are almost zero.  Their fixed cost are purely optional.  How can Uber be losing money?


Well, they are looking over their shoulders at the competition.  Uber's business is not technically difficult.  There are other firms who want a piece of the action.  Firms with brand recognition in other areas.  Every social media company can replicate Uber.  Google/Alphabet can replicated it.  The auto companies can replicate it. They all have the programming expertise and  they all can leverage other strengths.

An example:  Social media collects GPS coordinates of users through-out the day.  After a while they can pattern any individual just like a hunter tries to pattern a trophy buck.  Do you suppose that would be useful in scheduling and routing of drivers?

Uber is losing money because they are in a race for their lives.  They are trying to code work-arounds and strengthen brand loyalty.  They are losing money because the last firm standing in the event of demand collapse is the firm with the lowest variable costs.

Even if the last firm standing hemorrhaged profit through 3/4 of the business cycle they will attract recapitalization if there are no other alternatives.  Because with no alternatives the last firm standing will have much pricing power.

Ring Tones

Kubota snuck into the house today when I was not looking.

I had reason to converse with him so I called his cell phone.

I heard a "rabbit-in-distress" ring-tone go off in his bedroom.

I was filled with warm and tender thoughts.  "Hey, he is getting ready to go hunting  coyotes with me!" is what I thought.  "How smart!  We can put his phone at the end of a long finger of cover or the end of a brushy fencerow, hang a chicken wing to twirl in the breeze and position ourselves cross-wind...then I can call the phone.  The coyotes should come running!."

Coyotes are territorial and are death on other, smaller predators like cats and fox.  It is not so much that they eat them, although they will, it is that coyotes are intelligent enough to recognize that the fox and feral cats compete for the same prey that coyotes hunt.  That competition makes it harder for the coyotes to survive.  The moguls of the 1880s have nothing on coyotes for creating monopolies.

I believe that coyotes respond to rabbit-in-distress cries not so much to eat the rabbit but to home-in and kill the competition.  They will come to a R-I-D call even when they are full.

Full of bonhomie I congratulated Kubota on his cleverness.

He was baffled.

His ringtone was not a R-I-D cry.  It was a newborn baby cry.  He commented that he picked that ringtone because the only times I called him was to complain about things.  That is, I was a cry-baby.

That dampened my spirit...for a bit. Then I realized that I can probably talk one of my brothers into putting an R-I-D or Cry-Baby ringtone on his smart phone and WE can go coyote hunting.  To heck with Kubota!

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Zero-dark-thirty scam

The first icy blasts of winter arrived this week and as regularly as the swallows return to the Mission San Juan Capistrano so, to, arrived the Zero-dark-thirty scam.

Imagine you are on the verge of waking and you get a phone call from the power company.

"Mrs Forgetful, we are calling to inform you that our crew will be showing up this morning to shut off your power."  the voice on the other end of the call informs you.

You panic.  You are sure you paid the bill...right?  The wind howls outside as you fight clear the cobwebs from your head.

The helpful voice on the other end suggests, "Why don't you give us your credit card number and we will bill it for $100 'good faith' money and we will sort it out later.  If it turns out that your payments have been misdirected then we will simply credit it to your next bill."  Oh, so helpful....

Yeah, like the charge will only be $100 and like you will ever see it back.

Alternately, they call your place of business right at the starting bell.  You know, the time when you come blasting out of the starting blocks.

"What!!!  You can't shut me down.  I have clients streaming in."

The helpful voice on the other end suggests...

In both cases politely say "Thank-you.  I need to call Sidney my account rep to see what is happening." and then hang up.  Immediately call the utility's 1-800 number just in case the account really is balled up.  Hey, it could be true and they really want to know when their customers are being scammed.  It means they might have a security breach that needs to be addressed.

The relative value of tourists and bacon

Florida:  Man sentenced to 15 years for dropping a pound of bacon in Palm Beach.
California:  Man to be sentenced to time-served (24 months) for killing a 124 pound tourist in San Francisco.

John Conyers

John Conyers Jr is stepping down and endorsed  his oldest legitimate son as his replacement.

Food Poisoning

You can click on the picture to embiggen

"Mmmoooahn"  Kubota said, holding his stomach and rocking.

"What's that?" I asked.

"I think I have food poisoning." Kubota said.

"Quit joking around.  You have to get ready for school." I said.

"No, dad.  I am serious.  I went over to the Great Brain's after school yesterday and I think it is from something I ate over there." Kubota said.

"What do you think it was?" I asked.

"I am pretty sure it was some Bad Venison Sausage." Kubota confided.

Rock Stars

Joan Runkel and Paul Friday.

Lupe Rios and Dennis Fullbright.
All four of these Rock Stars were genuinely fun people to talk with.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Generous employers

I showed up at my employer's door at 6:30 yesterday morning to car pool to Grand Rapids.

Things proceeded as expected until exactly two miles from his house when the transmission in his van started slipping.  I think he must have blown a transmission oil cooler line because he barely had enough time to pull off the road.

Quite by coincidence he was able to park the van in the back parking lot of the dealership that had sold him the vehicle.  The good news is that we were not on the freeway in the middle of Grand Rapids.

After a very short business meeting I found myself running back to his home to pick up Old Red, my 1995 Chevy S-10.  It was a very fast run as I had a 30 mile per hour tail wind.

After transferring the cargo from his van to Old Red we continued our drive to Grand Rapids.

Fifteen minutes into the drive my boss said, "You haven't thanked me, yet."

Slightly confused I asked, "For what?"

"Not many employers allow their employees to exercise while 'on-the-clock'" he responded.

He knows that I started running again so it was actually kind of funny.  I guess I was getting paid to take a two mile run 'on-the-clock'.

What I did not tell him is that I walked up the hill at the south end of Gidner Road.  There are some things he just does not need to know.

Candy bars and soda pop

Candy bars and soda pop are great motivators for 7th, 8th and 9th grade kids.  Especially when you want them to talk.

It is a truism that neurons that fire together, wire together.  7th-through-9th graders readily open their mouths for sweets.  Noise spills out of there mouths when the mouths are open.  Some of that noise is recognizable as words, sentences and coherent thoughts.  No guarantees...just sometimes.  Neurons that.....

Twenty years ago Snickers bars and Reese's Cups were the candy bars of choice and Mountain Dew was the 7th-through-9th grader's tipple of choice.

Today they prefer Twix, Kit-Kats and Pepsi.  I have no reasons for why it changed although I do remember Mountain Dew as having AWESOME commercials "back in the day".

Monday, December 4, 2017

Hoppes #9

It is not my intention to throw anybody under the bus, so no names will be mentioned.

The forensic evidence suggests that a 2 ounce bottle of Hoppes #9 solvent experienced a precipitous increase in entropy last night.  Contributing factors include a 48" drop in elevation, a coil of #8 floating fly line and a box of fifty, 9mm hollow-points although history may never record the roles of the supporting cast.

Hence I am writing this post in a cloud of "Love Potion #9" as our computer sits in the same 6'-by-12' room that housed the fated bottle.

One wonders if a certain senior in high school will know if it is "day or night".

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Underfunded post-retirement promises

Data from
I thought it would be interesting to see how some local, Michigan communities compared for underfunded, post-retirement promises.

I was surprised to find that Eaton Rapids is the outlier in a negative way.  The City of Eaton Rapids' obligations to her current and future retirees adds up to over $3000 for every man, woman and child within city limits.  That compares to roughly $1350 for Charlotte and $70 for Potterville.

On a per-household basis, it amounts to an obligation of $12,000 per household in a community where the median annual income is $40,000 per household.

The biggest portion of the shortfall is due to benefits after retirement and not actual pensions.  According to the notes at

"The City provides retiree healthcare benefits to eligible employees and their beneficiaries. This is a single employer defined benefit plan administered by the City. The benefits are provided under collective bargaining agreements and council-adopted policy."
If I read this note correctly then this shortfall can be reduced by changes in the "collective bargaining agreements" and by changes in "council-adopted policy".  That is, those "obligations" can be removed with the stroke of a pen.

It is worth noting that only active employees vote on accepting or rejecting collective bargaining agreements.  At some point funding benefits for retirees will cannibalize a significant chunk of the funding available to pay for current employee's wages and benefits.  My guess is that current employees will vote to reduce retiree benefits so they can enjoy a living wage.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Looking for deer

Kubota went hunting deer yesterday.  He took a shot so we did our best to find the animal.  There was NO evidence that he connected with it but we still spent a couple of man-hours looking.

One place where magazines do a disservice to people learning to track is that they overstate the amount of "sign" you are looking for.  The photo shown above is just the tiniest dab of mud on the barb of a top strand of wire.  I suspect that the barb combed it off the rear hoof of a deer that was jumping the fence.

Sometimes you find a lot of hair.  Sometimes you find just the tiniest few strands.  This is somewhere in the middle.

Mr Pepper's firing pin is in
The pin holding the washer that retains the spring was centered before being handed off to Mr Pepper.  

The dishwasher stopped working

I picked up a used dishwasher from Craigslist.  The previous owner claimed they replaced their appliances with stainless steel.  I have my doubts.  The "normal" cycle does not shut off.  We will try the other cycles and see if any of them finish.  Our back-up plan is to run the dishwasher for an hour and then hit cancel and drain.

Administrative notice
Posting will be touch-and-go until Friday.  I have a job in Grand Rapids that runs from 8-till-6 and there is about an hour-and-a-half of road time on each end of the day.

Friday, December 1, 2017

"Glamor" fields are vulnerable to predation

I feel like a cold bastard for bringing this up.  I waited to see if anybody else would point it out, but so far nobody else has.

Glamor jobs
Glamor jobs are high visibility job that have the illusion of creative control.  Any job in media, acting, modeling, politics and the like are all "glamor" jobs.  You could probably even call jobs in psychology "glamor" jobs.

Consider psychology for a minute.  United States universities graduate approximately 100,000 students with degrees in some kind of psychology.  In total, there are 90,000 jobs in the United States that require a psychology degree.  If  4% of the employees retire or leave the field every year, then there are 3,600 job openings for those 100,000 graduates.

How about acting and modeling?  In New York City or LA you can advertise that you are auditioning for red-headed, massively bosumed Amazons with one brown eye and one green eye and you will have scores of candidates standing in line at your door the next morning.  As for garden variety gorgeous blondes or brunettes and you will have them by the gross (144).  All of them painfully beautiful.  All of them capable of memorizing their lines and reciting in any regional accent you care to request.

The implacable forces of supply-and-demand create an environment where job candidates are expected to "differentiate" themselves from the herd. 

And, gentle reader, what assets do those actresses and actors (yes, men too) and psych majors have with which to differentiate themselves?  Sexual acts.

If you care to hand-over-hand your way back to a root-cause then you are likely to find yourself in college career counseling offices.  And if you keep digging you will find yourself looking at how student aid is apportioned.  The universities are simply following the money and the government is indiscriminately throwing it out of the helicopter.

There is no attempt to synchronized supply with demand.  There is no reality check that throttles back loans to students who are pursuing low-percentage careers or who have demonstrated that they cannot perform in remedial, college classes.  The money just keeps gushing.

I know that it sounds like I am blaming the victims.  That is not my intention.  My intention is to figure out how we got here and what can be changed.  The only thing the victims are guilty of is listening to shills who told them what they wanted to hear:  "Go with your dream.  There are TONS of jobs out there in...."

Those of us who counsel otherwise are deemed "Dream killers" and accused of calling those we would advise "stupid" or "ugly".  We are told "You hurt my feelings!" when we try to point out the math.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Union Army as a cultural melting pot

Some historians claim that the American Civil War (1861-1865) was a struggle between the rising industrial North, primarily the industry in the Connecticut River valley, and the rural, agricultural South.

The industrial economy in the North was teetering on the brink of exponential growth, according to these historians.  Further, the North was able to economically strangle the South by legislative legerdemain.  According to this narrative, the North enacted many, protective tariffs which made British goods more expensive and essentially financed the capital expansion of Northern industry at the expense of the Southern economy.

I propose a slightly different perspective of the Civil War's influence on the industrialization of the North.

The Union Army as a cultural melting pot
Let's take a quick look at Michigan's contribution to the Union Army.

Michigan's population was 750,000 in 1860.  Approximately 90,000 soldiers were from Michigan.  Based on a 1840 population of 212,000 and a birthrate of 3% then the ten year "slice" of young men who were native born Michiganders was approximately 32,000 of the 90,000 soldiers.

Where did the other 68,000 soldiers come from?  20% of Michigan's population in 1860 were immigrants from other countries, primarily Ireland.  It is reasonable to assume that they enlisted at the same rates as natives so they probably accounted for an additional 20,000 soldiers.

Most of the remaining soldiers were probably born in New York's Hudson River Valley.  The Erie Canal was completed in 1825 just as much of the fertile soil in the lower Hudson River Valley was "playing out".

The companies that Michigan sent to the Civil War were extremely heterogeneous.

The culture of the Union Army
Much attention has been paid to the long shadow thrown by the Scotch-Irish in the Confederate Army and the resultant influence on "Southern" culture.  Less attention has been paid to how the culture of the Union Army influenced the North.

I propose that the discipline of Army life baselined a generation of young men and prepared them for their future roles in the upcoming Industrial Revolution.

The Union Army was a hierarchy magnitudes larger than any other ever seen in the United States.  As a hierarchy it conditioned those in the army to accept fragmented tasks, unquestioning acceptance of authority and become comfortable with extreme specialization.

The picture of the North teetering on the brink of the industrial revolution only makes sense with the information that only comes from hindsight.  What if the industrial revolution "took off" in the United States because of the Civil War rather than simply being one of the stresses that precipitated it?

Irish, German, French-Canadian, Michigan and New York boys enlisted into Michigan companies.  Men, US citizens, inured to stupidity mustered out.  This is the fodder that caused the industrial revolution to explode across the north...including Michigan; the human capital spawned by the US Civil War.

Why not the south?
It is fair to challenge the perspective because the soldiers of the South faced many of the same environmental factors that the Union soldiers faced, and yet the Industrial Revolution pass the South by for half a century.

Part of the reason is due to the devastation the Northern armies and subsequent occupation had on Southern industrial centers and rail transportation.

Another reason is that the North was more favored with the proximal location of basic resources like iron ore, coal and limestone.

J.E.B. Stuart exemplified the mobile commander who exploited short-lived opportunity.

A softer reason is that Southern military groups were more autonomous.  They were the consummate welterweight boxer darting in-and-out peppering the heavyweight with flurries of jabs.

Casualties: Antietam

The Northern military was the bear seeking to trap the welterweight in the corner where it could immobilize his opponent and pummel him into submission.  The Union army was a meat grinder and brooked little autonomy in its commanders or soldiers.

Footnote of history?
This essay might seem to be little more than a whimsical footnote of history except that we are currently facing similar challenges of assimilation.

It is too cynical to think that the Civil War was initiated to homogenize the population and optimize it for the Industrial Revolution.  People are just not that smart.  But it is not too cynical to think that diplomatic solutions would have hammered out if the participants suspected that the soldiers who would muster out afterward would have poisoned the Industrial Revolution.

It is risky to attempt to describe the "perfect citizen" of 2035 and even more risky to propose homogenizing events that would foster that kind of citizen.  Fun to think about, but risky.

Code for "I wish I had been born in West Virginia"


Presumably, there are fifty-nine places in the Bible where some version of "He who does not work shall not eat." is written.

Slackers are not a new problem.

Debate rules

John Kelly's map of the blog-o-sphere.  If you looked at the connectivity (blog roll connections) you would see there is not much cross over between conservative, liberal and technology.

It is obvious that the blog-o-sphere is heavily larded with rancor and people shouting past each other.
I thought I would post a few "debate rules" and see how blogging scores against them.

•No interrupting!!!
•When it is your turn, you must paraphrase everything you heard the other team said.
•You cannot continue until the other team agrees that you accurately heard what they said.
•Then you must list everything your team mostly agrees with.
•Address the parts you don’t agree with by saying, “…and I could agree with mention part here if present argument here.
•Support your team’s position with authoritative sources.

No interrupting
Blogging is a venue where it is impossible to interrupt.  That might be part of its appeal.  The participant can develop their thoughts without the chimps screaming from the peanut gallery.

Paraphrase what you heard the other team said
Blogging gets a mixed score on this.  Bloggers often create a flawed "strawman" and then knock it down.  It is not so much "what we heard them say" as "a derivative of what they said that will make the most spectacular strawman takedown".

You cannot continue until the other team....
Blogging fails this rule because it is poorly suited for dialog and few people read blogs by the other team.

You must list the things you agree with
This is similar to improvisation's rule of "Yes...and..."  It makes dialog flow like hot maple syrup over fresh pancakes.  You see very little "agreeing" in the blog-o-sphere because writers see it as a waste of pixels. 

Address the parts you don't agree with....
There are a few bright spots on the internet where the authors go beyond wringing their hands and offer practical solutions of substance.  I like to think that the ERJ blog falls into this category every once in a while.

Support your team's position with authoritative sources
Blogging is spotty about using authoritative sources.  Remus at The Woodpile Report sets the standard.  When he stumbles across an interesting essay he researches the internet to find the earliest antecedent.  Sometimes he will unearth versions of the essay that are 9 years old.

The blog-o-sphere is fated to fragment due to the technology's current inability to support near real-time dialog.  Inability to support dialog allows provocateurs to go forward with flawed, invalid strawmen.  Inability to support dialog provides no incentive to think about or list the things we agree about first.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Mistakes were made

I have been hunting a pasture that is about 100 yards across.  It is bounded by brush except for where it connects to another paddock.  That connection is about 20' across.

Due to houses in the background, I cannot shoot to the north, southeast or the west.

One of my stands is beneath a spruce tree at the north end of the pasture.

View to the east
View to the south
There I was sitting when a deer sneezed in my right ear.

Because I wanted to not leave a lot of scent in the brush where the deer would be traveling so I walked across the pasture, pushed down the fence and entered that stand from that direction.  It was also much easier walking.
On the fence five yards to the east of my stand.
The deer noticed the pushed down fence and decided that was the easiest way to enter the pasture.  Rather than jump a 52" tall fence they could step over a 28" tall fence.  Surviving in the wild is all about conserving energy.

I did not put my stand in the middle of a deer run.  The act of putting up my deer stand changed the environment (the fence) and enticed the deer to change their travel habits.  My stand, and my travel patterns put a deer run through my deer stand.

This is  classic mistake, to assume that actions on our part will not result in changes of behaviors in others.  A classic example would be the Affordable Care Act defining "full time employment" as 28 hours a week of work or more.    The authors of the bill were completely blindsided when employers simply scheduled their employees for fewer hours to keep them "part time".

This information about deer seeking out low places in the fence can be used to my advantage.  I can pick a spot where it is to my advantage to have the deer enter the pasture and drop the fence at that location.  Or I can install a gate, keep it closed with the cattle are in the paddock but otherwise leave the gate open.  Then, rather than have to step over 28" they can stroll in without having to lift their feet. 

Bonus picture of a doe eating apples out of a GoldRush tree.  Ignore the time and date.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Resilience: A modest proposal

The inside of this cloverleaf has a footprint between ten and fifteen acres.

Mrs ERJ and I drove Southern Belle and Handsome Hombre to the Detroit Airport on Sunday.

We left at two in the afternoon and it was a clear, sunny day.  Usually, it seems like trips to the airport are in the dark or when it is snowing.  But not today.  It was a beautiful, seventy-five mile drive with no drama.

There is a town that is about fifty miles from Eaton Rapids that one must pass through on the way to the airport.  There is a university in that town.  Like most universities, it attracts idealists, seekers, free-thinkers and folks seeking alternative ways of doing things.  That could be code for saying that there are large numbers of able-bodied, unemployed young people in the vicinity.

Another attribute of this town is the price of land.  Vacant land is priced between $100,000 and $150,000 per acre.

As noted earlier in this post, it was a sunny day.  The sun lit up the leaves of the Pyrus calleryanna.  P. calleryanna is almost an evergreen; the leaves turn purply-red-green and hang on late into the fall.  The entire cloverleaf was sprinkled with two and three foot tall P. calleryanna seedlings.  As were the cloverleaves immediately to the east and west.

This should not be a surprise.  P. calleryanna is now considered an invasive alien.  This town has clement weather and much of the commercial landscaping made prodigious use of P. calleryanna.

Ironically, P. calleryanna is a decent rootstock for edible pears.  And therein lies an opportunity.

The modest proposal
The guerrilla gardener in me sees this as an opportunity.

I read some of the articles at the "Resilience" websites and a common theme is local food production.  Another common theme are calls to increase "commons" and to redistribute property.  A third theme is the "growing" of skills.

Here it is!  $1.5 million worth of property three miles from the center of town.
I know that some of the authors of Resilience type essays are not well versed in the Bible, but it is well for them to bear in mind that it forms the bedrock of our shared values in the country.  Consequently, even if you are not a believer it behooves one to know a little bit about it if you seek to convince others.

One of the stories in the Bible involves three stewards who given "talents" to manage while their master was away.  Two of the stewards invested well and increased their master's wealth.  The third steward buried his opportunity and did nothing.  The moral of the story is that much is expected from those to whom much has been given...AND...opportunities lost will cost the actor who could have benefited if only they had the sand to do it.

It begs the question:  "What are idealists doing with the common property that is already available to them?"  There is no better sales pitch than to be able to point at a finished project.

As a guerrilla gardener I look at this $1.5 million piece of property.  It is not protected by traditional, one-owner property rights.  It is close to all of those underemployed idealists.  God already planted hundreds of pear rootstock on the property.  If pears will grow there then so will apples and many other fruit trees.

A secondary benefit of grafting these P. calleryanna seedlings over to edible pears is that the seedlings will not grow to sexual maturity and add to the P. calleryanna population explosion.

A gentleman in Lansing grafting volunteer crabapple seedlings in an underused portion of a Lansing City park.

A few:
  • The people who decided to GG this property either need to know how to graft or be committed to learning.
  • The people who decide to turn this cloverleaf into an urban orchard better plan on mowing it.  That is the only way to keep the Michigan Department of Transportation from mowing down your nascent have to take care of it.
  • Lack of traditional property rights means that ANYBODY can walk in and pick the fruit.  At one level, this is what some of the Resilience people envision.  Others, for all of their pro-Socialism lip-service, understand that people will not work if they do not benefit from the effort.
  • Legal impediments exist.  Police could choose to write citations claiming that gardeners were trespassing on a limited access road.  A little bit of political greasing of the skids would go a long way towards reducing this risk.
If it is such a great idea, why has it not been done?
Maybe because "common property" is not a great idea.  It has been tried and found wanting in many places.

Perhaps because of bureaucratic territorialism.  Many bureaucrats are loath to give up control, even if it costs them nothing.  Some of them see projects like this as a way to increase their reach and budget.

Perhaps doing never occurred to the idealists holding down seats at the local brew-pubs.  The idea of doing without meetings and planning and consensus is not a part of their universe.

Maybe it is a simple lack of basic knowledge.  Maybe they cannot identify three foot tall P. calleryanna seedlings while driving 80 miles an hour down I-94.  Boggles the mind but there might be people who cannot do that.

For my part, I will gladly donate scionwood and time if anybody wanted to graft some of those seedlings next April.  Just leave a comment with contact information and we can get the ball rolling.  This is a quiet "Put-up or shut-up" challenge.  Idealists leaving comments will validate that their values are in alignment with their published desires.  Not capitalizing on the offer suggests that the idealists have other motives, be it territorialism, status, budget or a strong distaste for physical labor.