Friday, April 28, 2017

Captain Hardass visits the Assembly Line: Industrial Engineering fiction

Subtitle:  What smartphones tell observers

The new Plant Manager's nickname was "Captain Hardass" and I learned why during his first visit to the Body Shop.

I may have been the first member of "management" in the Body Shop to see him.  He walked into the shop fifteen minutes before the monthly dog-and-pony show.  He walked over to the production line and watched each station for about two minutes (two cycles).  He was watching "Metal Finish" which was six stations long with two operators in each station, one on each side of the line.

He was notable for three reasons.  One was his deep, Brazilian tan. He had just transferred from the Corporate operations in São Paulo. It was February and everybody else in the plant looked like uncooked bread dough. 

The second reason was his crisply starched, brilliant, white shirt.  Nothing stays white in the Body Shop.  Even the fluorescent lamps are dingy.  Paper gets a patina within a week of being exposed.  It is from weld dust, vaporized oils and burning, PVC-based sealer.

The third reason was his shoes.  They were extremely fine, leather, Italian loafers.  

Plant Managers seldom visit the Body Shop.  Body Shops are loud and dirty.  Body Shops are not labor intensive so there is less potential cost savings compared to, say, Final Assembly.  "Body Shop" issues never show up in the top 25 problems.  A happy combination of over-speed and large buffers meant that the Body Shop never impacted throughput.  It was a great place to work if you wanted to be ignored by top Management.  I loved it.

I was invited to the dog-and-pony show. I stood in the back. Raymond was in top form.  Raymond had twenty, densely packed Powerpoint slides and he could drone on-and-on-and-on over each one.  Raymond's voice was not exactly a monotone.  It was more like the buzzing of a blue-bottle fly sniffing out potato salad at a picnic.  His voice rose-and-fell in a random manner that bore no relation to the content. I think a teacher once told him it made presentations more dramatic and it was advice he took to heart.

It was exhausting to listen to Raymond, so nobody did.  We sat there, in the overly warm conference room and went into a state of suspended animation for thirty minutes until the Area Manager (the boss of the Body Shop) would cut Raymond off (usually on his seventh slide) and dismissed the meeting.

That is not how Captain Hardass rolled.

Sixty seconds into the first slide Captain Hardass raised a hand and interrupted:  "Excuse me."

Raymond blinked.  "What?"  He had never been interrupted in the ten years he had been giving this presentation.

"Has anybody in this room used this slide to change the way we do business.  That is, has anybody, in the last month, looked at this slide and used the information to change our process?"

Everybody looked around the room at each other, shaking their head "No."

Captain Hardass said, "Throw that slide in the trash.  Show me the next slide.  Same questions."

Raymond was through all twenty slides in about five minutes.  He was in a cold sweat because he had never had to speak extemporaneously.  He had no need to worry.  It was no longer his meeting.

Captain Hardass said, "If you are not using this stuff to run the business then don't waste my time showing it to me.  It means you are trying to blow smoke up my ass.  We have more important things to talk about."

Jim, the Area Manager (and two levels below Captain Hardass on the org chart) was the model of decorum and graciousness.  "Well boss, what do you want to talk about?"

Captain Hardass said, "Your Metal Finish line has too many people on it.  I will give you two weeks to fix it and then I want the Social Security numbers of the six employees you put out the door."

Jim said, "I don't mean to dispute you but I look at our conversion numbers every week and we are competitive with every other factory in the Corporation."

Captain Hardass replied, "I don't run the Corporation.  I run this Plant.  I will fix this Plant and maybe someday I will run the Corporation.  In case you have been sleeping for the last two decades we have not picked up a single percentage point of market share...so it is not like you are comparing yourself to the best. So don't compare yourself to the Corporation."

I have to hand it to Jim.  Everybody else was sitting in stunned silence.  Jim was the first to regain his wits, "Captain Hardass, you are going to have to teach me.  I just don't see it.  What do you see that we don't see?"

I could see Shane out of the corner of my eye.  Shane was the supervisor of the Metal Finish line and he was starting to bristle.  Nobody likes to be publicly embarrassed and Captain Hardass seemed intent on making an object lesson out of him.  Shane is a big, Irish good-old-boy and his face turns bright red when he is getting close to blowing a cork and his face was flaming red.

Captain Hardass said, "Jim, I am glad you asked.  I watched each station in Metal Finish for two cycles.  The first time I watched a station was when I was one station downline.  The operators invariable finished their job ten-to-fifteen seconds early and then went over to play on their smartphone.  Then I watched them while I was in their station and they took the full sixty seconds."

Captain Hardass continued, "Ten of the twelve operators had a smartphone on their table and the phones were running.  That tells me that these jobs are 20%-to-25% underloaded because nobody leaves their phone on when they can only look at it for five or seven seconds.  20% under-loading over 12 jobs means you have two people per shift too many."

"Anytime you see a production line and smartphones together you have evidence of overstaffing.  Guaran-damn-teed.  Whenever we see an operator playing on their smartphone we should thank them for the information and immediately give them more work."

"Any questions?"

Shane could not keep quiet.  "They can have their phones on the line.  They only use them when the line is down!  They were using that time to make secondary checks."

Captain Hardass looked at Shane as if he was a stinkbug caught swimming in his soup. "That tells me one of two things.  Either you never spend time on your line or you are a liar.  Neither one is much of a recommendation."

Shane took it like a shot to the jaw.

The action plan
Captain Hardass laid out our marching orders.  "I will give you a week to rebalance the line (move jobs around) to eliminate the two jobs.  Then I want you to run it that way for a week.  I want you to put stools at the end of Metal Finish and have the two low seniority workers sit on those stools all week long.  Those are the two guys who are going to lose their jobs.  I want everybody on the Metal Finish line to have to look them in the eye for a week, knowing that their unwillingness to do the job-as-written cost them their jobs."

"At the end of the two weeks put the low seniority guys on indeterminate layoff.  Send me an email with their Social Security numbers.  Trust but verify.  That is my motto."

Shane replied, "We cannot do that.  That is not our process.  We just can't move work between teams."

The temperature of the room dropped about thirty degrees.  Captain Hardass said, "Work does not belong to 'teams'.  It belongs to Management.  That is us.  That is me.  We can move the work anywhere if it gives the customer better value or the shareholders more profit.  Not only can we move it, we have a fiduciary responsibility to move it."

"And this sudden concern for process has me baffled.  I assume you are talking about all the secondary checks you used to pad out the work cycle?  The "process" is to improve your quality and then to remove those checks.  Your employees figured out the checks are not needed because they are not doing them and there have been no negative consequences.  Don't try to stand behind 'process' when you are not following it."

"I only require six Social Security numbers.  If you cannot do your job, or if you refuse to do your job then I will be very happy to have your Social Security number be one of the six.  And if I don't need you, then I don't need your counterparts on second and third shift.  Incidentally, it will be YOUR job to tell your counterparts how you screwed the pooch and got them fired.  Your call."

Then he looked around the room.  "And I am not picking on him (pointing at Shane).  I think I would have found the same thing if I had visited any other functional area in this shop.  If I can walk into this shop and see it in fifteen minutes then you sure as hell ought to be able to see it.  Next month, when I come in, I will look around and I won't be nearly so polite next time.  If you won't manage then it is clear that I can run this shop without managers.  Either use the next month to fix your lines or start putting out resumes."

Captain Hardass stood up and left the room.

I understand he was gentle with us compared to how he was in Final Assembly.  There he went off like a hand grenade in a barrel full of frogs.

That is what happens when employees use their smartphones on company time...at least in some places.

Cider Press; sizing calculations

I am going to use the cider press discussed yesterday to introduce readers to some of the fundamentals of industrial engineering and Theory of Constraint.

It is inevitable that some step in any given process will become the metronome that paces the output.  Sometime it is a random station (meaning the industrial engineer did not do their job).  Sometimes it is a malingering worker.  Sometimes is due to an incapable process that requires much rework (painting is an example).  Sometimes it is inspection when defects saturate the repair capacity and the amount of "re-inspection" bogs down the system output.

It is desirable to use some intelligence to select the station that will be the bottleneck.  That way the person sizing the components in the system can configure it to "armor" the bottleneck station.  "Armoring" entails doing everything economically possible to protect the bottleneck's run-time and quality-of-output.

In this case, the most expensive piece of equipment is the centrifuge (washing machine) so it makes sense to configure the system to make this the "bottleneck".  The intelligent solution is to do everything possible to ensure that the centrifuges receives "service" at the expense of all the other stations.

Suppose the engineer (you) assumes a 10 minute spin cycle and 5 minutes to unload-reload.    Further, assume that 9 cubic feet will hold 6 bushels (240 pounds) of crushed apples.  That means that  at a minimum the crusher must be able to shred 240 pounds of apples in 10 minutes.  Since the crusher is inexpensive relative to the centrifuge, it makes sense to buy significantly greater "over-speed" to recover from hiccups.

One possible sequence of operations, starting from when the centrifuge finishes its 10 minutes spin cycle is:
  1. Open lid to centrifuge
  2. Hook rope loops of bag with cherry picker, lift and rotate away from centrifuge.
  3. Slide pre-fill hopper over opening of centrifuge (probably need some kind of roller track, it weighs over 240 pounds.
  4. Drop bag out of pre-fill hopper into centrifuge
  5. Close lid
  6. Start centrifuge  (Does that look like less than five minutes to you?  It does to me)
  7. Push pre-fill hopper back into place
  8. Insert the mesh bag.  You will need two because the first one is still hanging on the hook
  9. Start grinder
  10. Dump spent pomace (crushed apples) out of the used bag.
  11. Shake bag.
  12. Rinse bag
  13. Hang bag on hook near grinder for next cycle.
  14. Load six bushels of apples into the hopper feeding the crusher.
  15. Stand next to centrifuge waiting for it to finish its cycle.  This is the "loafing" position.  Physically it saves walk time (which is dead-time) after the centrifuge finishes cycling.  Psychologically it reinforces the idea that the entire process is "serving" the centrifuge.
So how much cider might this set-up produce an hour?

Using three gallons of cider to the bushel, you would expect 18 gallons of cider per cycle (remember, you are processing six bushels a batch).  At fifteen minutes per cycle you should get 4 * 18 gallons per hour or about 70 gallons of cider an hour. 

Just to illustrate the significance of details like the pre-fill hopper:  The person engineering the system might be tempted eliminate the pre-fill hopper and have the operator load the bag into the centrifuge and have the grinder deposit the shredded apples directly into the centrifuge.  The point is that the centrifuge cannot be spinning when the operator is inserting the bag.  The centrifuge cannot be spinning as the grinder fills the centrifuge's drum.  Realistically, eliminating the pre-fill hopper will add another 10 minutes to the 15 minute cycle time and will lower the output to about 45 gallons per hour.

With this kind of capacity, it might make sense to mount it on a trailer with a gas generator and do custom processing. At 24 bushels to the hour, it would take about 15 hours (two work days) to process the apples from a 100 tree orchard, figuring 3 bushels to the tree.  The cider pressing season is about four months long, mid-September to mid-January.  That would be a lot of cider!

Fake News Friday: Waters for President


Fake News Friday: National Endowment for the Arts to fund Bass Fishing

In a move widely seen as an effort to widen their political base, the Democratic National Committee now wants to partially de-fund PBS, dance and fine arts and support bass fishermen, expectoration artists and country music artists.
Darius Rucker, Country Music Artist
"Clearly" Bernie Gravely stated, "there is such a huge amount of support for Sesame Street and some of the PBS news shows that the enterprise could be self-sustaining if they simply dumped shows aimed at the tiniest niches.  And let's face it, 99% of all Classical Music, Ballet and Fine Arts are Euro-Centric.  We need to set an example and be more diverse, more inclusive."

A coalition of the Less Common Genders (Numbers 5-through-58) met at a local Starbucks and wrote a strongly worded memo criticizing the move.  It is estimated that 85% of America's (and yes, that includes Canada) LCG population was able to crowd into the Starbucks and sign the document.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Cider presses

One of the gentlemen who attends the same church I attend has a commercial orchard.  Not only is it a commercial orchard but a significant portion of their profit comes from certified, organically grown fruit.

I asked Steve if he had any advice for anybody who might wish to follow in his footsteps.  His advice was succinct.  "Get a cider press."

He went on to say that even with the best of culture, organic practices will produce a higher percentage of blemished fruit.  A cider press gives the orchardist a marketing channel for those ugly fruit.

Personally, I am a bit skeptical about the taste and nutrition advantage of "organic" foods.  But I will gladly concede that organic cider is head-and-shoulders above conventional cider.  Conventional cider typically routes the small, green, low-sugar fruit from the shaded regions of the canopy into cider.  It also routes the bruised and damaged fruit.  As the programmers say, Garbage in, garbage out.  The organic cider is made primarily from full sized fruit with balanced sugar/acid and fully developed aromatics.  The fruit's only flaw were unsightly blemishes.

Orchards over 20 acres can purchase turn-key cider mills.  They use a continuous process.  Fruit is poured into a grinder.  The grinder places a continuous pile of ground fruit on a coarsely woven, mesh belt.  The belt carries the ridge of ground fruit between two, closely spaced wheels that look almost exactly like the tires on your lawn tractor.  There is a scraper that cleans the de-juiced pulp off the  belt.  Lather, rinse, repeat.

Those of us who have smaller operations are not as lucky.  The equipment is about as efficient as the printing press Ben Franklin used.

So, I have a modest proposal.  I will suggest certain pieces of equipment as conceptual thought-starters.

Picture a raised platform.  A cylinder, call it a pre-fill hopper, of approximately 20" diameter and 40" of height sits on the platform.  A bag of coarsely woven mesh lines the hopper.  The bag has a line around the rim.  A fruit grinder (like a garbage disposal) is positioned above the hopper.  The goal it to fill the hopper with ground up apple, pears...whatever.  Provisions are made so juice that drains out of the ground up fruit is collected.

Now picture a 9 cubic feet centrifuge capable of spinning 1000 RPM (340gs!!!).  A cherry picker is positioned nearby to pluck the mesh bag of spent fruit grindings out of the centrifuge.  The pre-fill hopper has no bottom.  Sliding it over the centrifuge will cause the bag to drop into it.

Here is an over-priced version of the 9 cubic feet centrifuge.  The reason this centrifuge is over-priced is because it has many features this application does not require.  It is within the bounds of reason that de-contenting this platform so it was only a 1000 RPM centrifuge might reduce the price to $400. 

The pre-fill hopper is required so the grinder can be operating at the same time as the centrifuge.

I once used a garbage disposal to grind fruit and ran into problems with thermal overloads.  Garbage disposals are not designed for continuous operation.  They do not have "cooling".  It would be necessary to find a 1/2 horse power food-grade grinder rated for continuous duty.

Just wishing I could buy a set-up like this, ready made.

Mystery scion wood

This is Prima/M7.  I put four grafts of Enterprise on it.
I was grafting the last two apple trees for this season.  I was top-working a couple of varieties that have not been "paying their rent".

I reached into my bag of scion wood, pulled out a stick and made my cut.

It did not look right.

A normal apple scion has wood that is yellow-green.  This twig was lavender-lilac.

That was perplexing.  There are red flowered crabapples that have purplish wood.  I cannot understand how I ended up with scion wood from crabapples when I thought I was harvesting it from between two rows of Enterprise.
A photo from Feb 14. Enterprise apples.
I collected the wood from a commercial orchard.  It was hard to find wood that was large enough to collect.  I ended up cutting much of my wood from prunings that were lying on the ground.  It is possible that the orchard manager had planted a crabapple as a "pollinator" tree in the row but it seems unlikely.  He did not have large blocks of any one variety which would require dedicated pollinator trees.

I tossed the twig and picked another out of the bag.  It was the correct color.

It makes me wonder, how much of the wood I was grafting was not Enterprise.  I guess I will find out in about three years.  It always pays to collect wood from trees you have personally fruited out and verified as correct.  It pays to look at what you are doing and rogue out anything that looks strange before you invest three years in growing it.  Oh, and be sure to label the bag.

Furnace and A/C are working!!!

Honeywell R8239 "Fan Center"
I think the guy who installed this in the furnace was colorblind.

Signal comes in the bottom and goes out the top to the fan center in the cable on the left.
From left-to-right, white-stayed-white, red-became-yellow, green-stayed-green, yellow-became-blue, red-stayed-red and blue-became-red.  What a nightmare.  It looks like none of the wiring diagrams on the documentation for the fan center.

But rather than straighten out the world, I just mindlessly wired the new unit exactly like the old one.


Except I did not like the short wires between the bus shown in the bottom photo to the fan center.  while it looks tidy it means that fat, old, nearsighted men have to squat on the ground and do all the wiring inside the device.  It is SO much nicer when you can detach the device and hold it in your lap as you switch it over, one wire at a time.

This looks a lot more cluttered but every jumper is now 24" long.  I did not have blue or yellow wire so I wrapped the ends of white wire with the appropriately colored electrical tape.  I coiled up the extra and used twist ties to hold them.  I will use a cable tie to tidy it up even further, but for now I am basking in the glow of success.
Fan works.  A/C works.  Heating function bypasses the fan center and the fan powers up based on a temperature switch in the heat exchanger.  I think we are good-to-go!

The important questions


Suppose you believed in "Spontaneous Generation":  That is the belief that a pile of rags creates mice.  You would be ridiculed as being stupid and anti-science.  Perhaps that "science" was good enough for Aristotle but as Wikipedia puts it  "Spontaneous generation or anomalous generation is an obsolete body of thought..."  But does acting as if you believe an "obsolete body of thought" make you "stupid"?

Consider Thomas Kuhn's proposition in The Structure of Science Revolutions:  Scientific paradigms change when the new paradigm is better at answering "the day's questions of interest."  Since "the questions of interest" are the questions that are least well answered by the existing paradigm, the new paradigm has an advantage.  It does not need to address questions that everybody already knows the answer to.  Those issues are "handled".



Let's get back to Spontaneous Generation.  Public Health officials and wildlife management scientists understand that you must manage the habitat it you hope to control, or manage, the biologicals.  As the father of every daughter knows, babies come from the combination of hot summer nights, cheap pink wine and Pontiacs with capacious back seats.

"Spontaneous Generation" is not obsolete when the questions revolve around managing populations.  In fact, it is the most robust tool available.  You want to eliminate malaria and yellow fever?  Drain the swamps.  You want to get rid of rabbits and woodchucks?  Get rid of brush piles.  You want to stop an epidemic?  Break the transmission cycle.

"Spontaneous Generation", as a theory, leads to more actionable conclusions than mitosis, meiosis, zygotes, halitosis and "ontogeny is the recapitulation of phylogeny."  So contrary to what Wikipedia claims, Spontaneous Generation is not truly obsolete.

We often find that totally abandoning the old paradigm will initiate failures in systems that were considered foundational, systems that were so well understood that they stopped being "interesting".

Sometimes the issue is that decision makers are bored with the old paradigm.  The old paradigm is still considered valid.  It has not been replaced by another, newer paradigm, but by virtue of being "old" is is considered safe to ignore.  An example of this is the high levels of lead seen in many municipal water systems.  The science of controlling pH and phosphate levels has been known for a long, long time.  The guys who used to run those plants had college degrees in science.  The current crop are notable for their political reliability rather than their understanding of chemistry.

Food safety
One of the cornerstones of safe food is cooking.  Cooking kills bacteria, worms, virus, amoeba, paramecium...  It even destroys some of the toxins that spoilage creates.

The Industrial Revolution put a premium on foods that shipped and stored well.  Those foods typically lacked some of the nutrients needed by humans.  In short order, "eat your vegetables" was heard at the kitchen table.  Then the cult of raw/unpeeled food arose to ensure that the maximum amount of nutrition made it to human stomachs.  This was enabled by the science of the Industrial Revolution, sanitary sewage handling, refrigeration and "chemical" fertilizers.

The pendulum swings.

The world is more crowded.  As the population grows, larger and larger percentages of the gross planetary product goes directly to humans and our surrogates.  Pathogens that used to smolder and then extinguish for lack of suitable hosts now thrive because of the short hop from host-to-host.

A fine example of this is the Rat Lungworm.  According to this article in The Atlantic, RLW is now endemic to the southeastern United States and is relentlessly marching north and west.  RLW is transmitted by the invisible snail-trails found on lettuce, kale, tomatoes...heck, everything that snails and slugs might crawl across.

So the food safety paradigm that used to mandate cooking food, swung to eating raw, unpeeled food and is now likely to swing back to cooking food.

Politics
Will be discussed another day as this post is already a bit too long. 

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Another great day to work outside

The high point of the day is that Salamander came out and mowed.

Things are coming back together.  In the beginning there was chaos.  And then, thread-by-thread order is being woven out of the chaos.  The orchard, once again, is starting to look like an orchard.

It has been two long days of physical labor.  I was sitting on a bench on the front porch.  Salamander had finished his chores and he joined me.  He had a bottle of spring water.  I had a PBR.  Salamander was in a reflective mood.

Pride
Pride is what gets men out of bed each morning.  It is why we gird our loins and join battle against the forces of darkness and entropy.  A man without pride is not worthy of the air he breaths.

We think we understand our mission.  We train for it.  We gain expertise.  We think we are listening to the orders.

And sometimes the mission changes in mid-stride.  God has a way of getting our attention by hitting us between the eyes with a two-by-four...at least those of us who are too dense to pay attention to every shift in the wind.

It is a hard thing.  A very hard thing; to be focused on executint the mission and yet be attentive the stones shifting beneath our feet.


God gives us today.  Sometimes he does not even give us the entire day.  Each of us are but a tumble off a ladder,  a few feet from the path of a driver who is texting,  a clot cleaving from the wall of an artery away from leaving this mortal coil.

But today was as close to heaven as it gets.  It was warm and partially sunny.  It was breezy enough to discourage the flies and mosquitoes.  The trees are blooming.  All of the equipment worked.  The air is filled with promise.

And if you look closely you can see perfection in even the smallest bits of creation.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

A great day for working outside

It was a great day for working outside.

As reported earlier, I have been spending a lot of time in Salamander's Orchard.  The other half of the operation is on the other side of the road.  There is a cottage, a beach and several outbuildings.  The guy who ramrods the operation on the east side of the road will be known as "Hero".  No sarcasm.  It is simply a name that works for him.

Because the wind was out of the southeast I was able to spray the cattails without the over-spray drifting out into the lake.  I took a pair of beater shoes and waded out into the water so I could spray with the wind.
This is Hardy Hibiscus.  It is a Michigan, wetland native.  It also has 8" flowers!  This variety is called Luna Pink Swirl.  I want to convince Hero to let me plant this where the cattails are encroaching.  The best way to keep something out is to have something already filling that niche.

I also sprayed around the buildings and trees.  I sprayed around the guy-wires at the utility pole.  I sprayed under the fences.

Then I mowed the ditch with my push mower.


I started "armoring" the new apple trees against deer.  A thirty inch piece of 2X4" welded wire makes a cage that is about 10 inches across.

I marked the grafts I top worked some trees to.  This one looks pretty severe, the entire top had died so I whacked it off where the shoots were coming out.

Then I dragged brush and mowed in the western most aisle way.  Dragging brush is starting to lose its appeal.

This is the top of a pear tree.  It is covered with Poison Ivy.  Normally I would cut something this big into two or three pieces but I did not want to cover myself with Poison Ivy sawdust.  Mrs ERJ loses her sense of humor when I give her a rash.  So I tied a rope to it and dragged it out of the orchard and down to the swamp.  Salamander will have to be a little bit careful when he pushes this one in.

Gratuitous wildflower p0rn.
Not a great day for blogging but it feels like a got a lot done.


Monday, April 24, 2017

"I need a faster tractor"


Today, at coffee, Freddie announced "I need a faster tractor!"

This surprised us.  Freddie's lawn is very small.  He mows the median of M-99 just so the can get the engine good and hot before shutting it down.  He knows that engines that don't come up to heat collect moisture in the oil.

Now, you have to have a mental picture of Freddie.  He is about five feet tall.  He says that is because he worked all his life.  Carrying heavy loads pushed his shoulders down and walking extra miles wore the tread off his feet.

He is eighty-two and looks like a peanut-in-the-shell.  He is from Union City, Tennessee.  OK, I lied.  He was thirteen years old before he went to the big city (Union City).  He grew up on a farm near Union City, Tennessee.

His wife died twenty years ago.  His life is mostly about the waitresses who serve him food (all of whom he adores, and they adore him in return), the nurses at the hospital who he delivers donuts to on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, the old guys where he goes to church...and the coffee crowd.

We were surprised that Freddie suddenly, at age 82, felt a need for a faster tractor.  We asked him "Why?"

Freddie segued into the ongoing battle he has with his resident woodchuck.  It has been going on for almost fifteen years.  Given the normal life expectancy of woodchucks, it is likely a multi-generational family feud at this point.

In early spring the vegetation is thin and the woodchucks are ravenous from their winter hibernation.  They range far from their burrows seeking enough poundage of succulent spring growth to stuff their bellies.  The females are pregnant and that also dials up their caloric needs.

"I almost got him the other day.  I was a-gaining on him.  I was sure I was gonna catch him."  Freddie told us.  "And then he made it to the hole by the gay-rogg.  As noted earlier, Freddie adores girls.  Since that woodchuck is his mortal enemy it must be a male.  That is why the woodchuck is always him.

"I figure if I get a mower that is just a little faster, why, next time I'll slice him up like lunch meat."  Freddie had a bright twinkle in his eye as he foresaw the doom of his arch enemy.

That is the essence of life in a small town.  Old guys with horizons that are compressed to the next 24 hours and a fifteen mile radius.  Old guys who love everybody who helps them make it through the day.  Old guys whose highest ambition is to turn woodchucks into "lunch meat."

Pictures: 305 Growing Degree Days (B42)

Trout Lily also known as Dogtooth Violet also known as Erythronium americanum  Sadly, I have none of these growing on my property.  These photos were from our walk.
The earliest blooming apples are in full bloom.  This is a crabapple (Malus X robusta) that has a branch of Liberty grafted on the left side of the tree.  Liberty is considered early for a domestic apple and it is still several days behind the Malus baccata, M. X robusta, and M. prunifolia.

This a tree of Trailman, one of the super-hardy varieties out of Canada.  It has much Malus baccata in its background.
The latest pears are in full bloom.  That would include Harrow Sweet, Shenandoah and Concorde.

The fragrant viburnums are in bloom.  That includes the hybrids with V. carlesii in their backgrounds.  I planted one of these because they were in bloom at the hospital when my oldest son was born.  It must have been a very late year because they usually bloom one-to-two weeks before his birthday.
Kids playing on the oil well
Darned if I know why they took off their shoes.
This picture was taken Sunday morning.  I hauled a metric ton of brush.  Mrs ERJ limbed out and dewhiskered fire wood.  I was able to mow most of the yard today.

Rejuvenescimento

I once worked for a company that had Latin American affiliates.  One of those affiliates had a practice called  Rejuvenescimento.  That is, Rejuvenation.

The practice was very simple.  They fired 10% of their workforce every year.  Each level had a 10% levy.  My boss, who had spent time with that affiliate, claimed it was extremely motivating.  You did not want to be in that bottom 10%.  Heck, you did not want to be in the bottom 30% due to measurement errors.

Another advantage was that it created upward mobility for skilled people in the lower ranks.  It was guaranteed that the best-and-the-brightest would have promotional opportunities every year.  It created quite an up-draft and, consequently, promising employees did not need to leave the firm to seek advancement.

A final advantage was that it enables a flat organization structure.  For example, a "span" of ten means that a firm of 1000 employees only needs three levels.  A "span" of three would drive six levels.  As firms age the "span" often shrinks, especially at the higher levels.  Rejuvenation provides a solution to the executive who got promoted above his competence or became corrupt or complaisant.  There is no need to provide him with an office and retire-him-in-place.

It did not just "enable" a flat organizational structure, it forced it.  Functionally, losing 10% of the players at any given level is self-healing.  The other 90% can pick up the slack and train the incoming players.  At a span of three, the loss of one employee is 33% and the remaining two will not have time to both do their job (necessary to avoid being selected for the next year's levy) and train the new guy. 

Rejuvenation pretty much forced a span of at least ten.  Otherwise every year became a huge shit-storm as each high level manager postured, juked and waffled to avoid having to fire any of his three underlings.  It was much cleaner to tell each manager, "You have to fire one of your ten employees every year.  Plan on it."
From the movie Zootopia, the Secretary of State scene.
I wonder what it would take to get the Government to practice Rejuvenescimento. 

Careful, you might get what you ask for

One of our small-town Romeos dumped his girlfriend a few months ago because she was too demanding.

He undoubtedly believed the grass was greener outside the relationship.

After breaking up he found that benefits were harder to come by than his friends had led him to believe.  Perhaps it is because he now had a reputation for dumping girlfriends.  Maybe it was because he looked like he needed a good dose of worming medicine; he projected the aura of over-cooked spaghetti, pale and languid.

He tried to get back together with his old girlfriend.  She wanted nothing to do with him.

Nobody every accused Romeo of being the sharpest knife in the drawer but he was smart enough to go on-line and research what others had done in similar situations.

He texted his ex-GF and told her that he was despondent (not a word he would normally use) and was thinking of ending it all.

A short time later Romeo heard from the girl's dad.  The dad informed Romeo that the dad saw suicide as a viable option.  In fact, if Romeo wanted to die all he had to do was text the dad's daughter one more time.  Ever.  (Menacing glower inserted here)

Better than a protective order from a judge.  The young man now cruises parking lots to ensure that  the ex-GF (or any of her family) is not in the store before parking his vehicle.  He was standing in the checkout line at the auto parts place when the ex-GF's grandfather walked in the door.  Romeo laid his items down on the counter and left without speaking.

Nothing like the threat of brutal, physical violence to rekindle a young man's sense of self preservation.

I consider that a happy ending.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Polliator follow-up. 295 Growing Degree Days (B42)

Control.  Approximately six inches of fly ribbon.  Picture taken approximately three o'clock in the afternoon.
Approximately six inches of the fly ribbon in the apple orchard, most buds not open.
Six inches of fly ribbon in the pears.  Potomac pear in full bloom.
Close-ups of some of the pollinators from the pear orchard

This one was under the apples.
---Added later---
Very few bumblebees this year.  I think it is because all of our rain flooded out many of their in-ground nests.  Charlotte, the town just west of us, recorded over six inches of rain in the last 45 days.