Sunday, November 19, 2017

A few thoughts on Capital

A superb article here on the consumption of Capital.

A few key points:

Capital is more than money. 
It is the maintenance guy on third shift who knows what to check equipment and set it up so it can run another 23 hours without attention.  It is the equipment bolted to the floor.  It is the building and the roads and rail and network of suppliers and customers.

Capital is not eternal
People retire.  Equipment wears out.  Designs become obsolete. Suppliers and customers fail.

Capital must be actively created and maintained
Capital must be protected from entropy and losses must be replenished.

Capital is not infinitely flexible
The Capital used to create smartphones and apps is unlikely to be useful for plowing fields, picking apples or knocking cruise missiles out of the sky.

Capital can be stranded
Capital that resides on a different continent is not under your control.  The goods produced by offshore Capital is made available to you by a historically unique set of circumstances.

Politics can separate investors from their Capital.  Consider that governments often succumb to the temptation to nationalize industries they see as "essential".

The Welfare State is antagonistic to Capital
The Welfare State sees Capital as a force of nature like the tides or the rising of the sun.

Capital depletion is exactly like driving on bald tires.  It makes sense because nothing bad happens and you consider your choices to be validated.  That is, nothing bad happens until something bad happens and then it is too late.

ERJ's thoughts
While this seems all doom-and-gloom there are some positive things that can be gleaned from it.

As individuals, we can all develop our own Social Capital and Character Equity.

We all have a brain.  Develop it.  Practice skills.

We all have a body.  Eat reasonably well.  Exercise.  Take your vitamins and stay current on your immunizations.

We all have social contacts.  Don't screw them.  Helping those social contacts are great ways to get exposed to new skills!  Double bonus.

If you have a vehicle, maintain it.

If you have a house or property,  enhance it but use intelligence.  Not every gadget is worth the time or money.  Consider edible landscaping.

If you know a business owner, offer to buy them a cup of coffee.  Thank them for the service they are doing for humanity.  Applaud them for holding-the-line in the face of an increasingly hostile society.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Food Banks

I overheard a conversation between one of the people who works in a local food banks and one of the extremely generous people who donates.

The person who works in the food bank said that there seemed to be less demand this year than in prior years.  That is great news if it is true.

I looked for independent verification.

According to the USDA, the number of clients on food stamps declined from 43,417,443 in October of 2016 to 41,321,480 in August of 2017 or a decline of approximately 5% in the past year.

You can look it up.

No matter where you go, there you are!

Like scientists being hauled in front of theological authorities during the Renaissance, Denise Young Smith the former Director of Diversity at Apple has been pilloried by the Left for stating the obvious:  "There are axes of diversity beyond gender and race."

It is not that the Left disagrees with Ms Young-Smith but factions within the Left want to head off where that observation inevitably leads: That we are all individuals and all minorities of one.

Once stated, then advantages based on attributes like race and gender are diluted and the erosion of the primacy of that attribute starts.  The "victim" industry is too lucrative to tolerate the threat of erosion.

The conservative looks at events and observes, "Nothing really changes."

Rain day

Three inches of rain in the last 24 hours.
Things are slow around the ranch today.

Mrs ERJ gave me the assignment to get a camper moved from a friend's yard to the end of our driveway.  Southern Belle and Handsome Hombre will be visiting from Miami over Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Moving the camper out of the friend's yard will have to wait until the ground firms up.

The other thing I did is I direct wired some 4' shop lights to bypass the ballast to make them more compatible with LED lights.  It turns out that I have many vintages of fluorescent light fixtures around the place.  Some are a snap to convert.  Others are a pain, primarily due to having no extra length-of-wire to work with.

"Economy" Halophosphor fluorescent tubes should be replaced every 10,000 hours of operation.  That is a very rough number because more "starts" and cold temperature "starts" reduce the life expectancy.  Another consideration is color shift.  Looking for stains in the laundry room or trying to sell merchandise?  Then you want great color rendition...that suggests even shorter replacement intervals.
Mrs ERJ is happy with the new LEDs.  What is not to like about twice the light (as the old fluorescent tubes), crisp 5000K light and lower cost to operate?

Friday, November 17, 2017

A pat-on-the-back for Menards

These mittens are not perfect.  Perfect would be if the gauntlets were just a little bit longer.  But they are darned excellent for $5.
An official ERJ atta-boy for Menards.

I bought three pairs of these mittens.  It is easy to find gloves but few stores carry mittens.  And when they do have mittens the are "ski" mittens and usually cost about $25 a pair.

The mittens at Menards are well constructed and have a pile lining.

Gloves have a place, but when you really want to keep your hands warm you cannot beat mittens.  Keeping your fingers all together keeps them warm, just like puppies dog-piling on a cold, winter night.

The other thing about mittens is they can be constructed of thicker, more wind resistant materials because they don't even try to support manual dexterity.  More than one person I know wears a thin pair of gloves beneath a  pair of mittens made of a sturdy, high-loft material.

Perhaps one reason that Menards offers such reasonably priced cold-weather gear is because they are based in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Record low of -43 F tends to make people sensitive to cold.


Non-native earthworms rebound more quickly than native species after the soil is tilled.
Most Americans have never seen a native species of earthworms.

What stresses earthworms?
Tillage is a problem because it kills worms outright, it destroys nightcrawler burrows and by incorporating surface litter, it makes it more difficult for worms to find food.  Worm species from western Eurasia are more adapted these stresses.

Earthworms are relatively resistant to herbicides.  The problem with herbicides is that it reduces the amount of plant life which impacts the amount of surface litter later.

Mowing and grazing favor earthworms.  A six inch tall grass-clover sward has a ton of edible matter for earthworms per acre but most of it is out of their reach.  A six inch blade of grass is as accessible to them as an apple atop a 40' tree is to us.  In particular, management intensive grazing produces and even distribution of manure around the sward.  Manure is awesome worm food because the plant material is already broken down into small particles that can be easily ingested by all types and sizes of worms.  Think of cow manure as the Chicken CmNuggets of the worm universe.

In some areas, like northern Minnesota, non-native worms are impacting the ecosystem.  They quickly gobble up the mat of decaying leaves.  That tilts the niche in favor of some species at the expense of others.  For example, acorns and beechnuts that might have escaped being eaten by deer and turkeys because dead leaves drifted over them are now exposed.

Worms have been explored as a way to process solid, human waste.

There are two approaches.  One is very low-tech and has been proposed as a better way to handle system over-loading along wilderness trails.  In theory, passing pathogenic human wastes through worms is likely to break the transmission pathway that would infect other humans.  Worms do not demand the same level of care and the high temperatures that other composting toilets require.

The high-tech approach is more energy intensive as it demands pressurized water.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Extreme savers

Link will be provided at the bottom....

Think of the most frugal person you know.  What percentage of their monthly "check" do they live on?

The best Mrs ERJ and I did before kids was to live on 55% and to bank 45% of our net.

What would you think of a man who lived on 4% of his gross?

What is doubly amazing is that his co-workers are notorious for splurging.  He did not run with the herd.

When asked the secret of his savings he said the key was to identify several things that bring you joy and to not spend money on anything other than those joy-givers.

In his case "...the things I love the most in this world (reading math, doing research, playing chess) are very, very inexpensive."

This gentleman's name is John Urschel and he was paid very well to play a game.

He is currently going to MIT and is working toward a doctorate in Math.  Frequent commenters Lucas and Guy will be pleased to learn that his home town is Winnipeg, Manitoba (Canada).


Hat-tip to Salamander

I cut the cord

Yup, sure enough.  I cancelled the land-line today.

It will save $64 a month.  Looking at the bill, much of that went to fees and transfers that were completely unrelated to the cost of delivering signal to my house.

The nice gentleman who cancelled my account had difficulty finding it in the computer.  Strangely, AT&T never had any difficulty with the billing software sending me bills.

Guess I will have to find something else to spend $768 a year on.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

No deer were injured in the production of this blog post

I did not see a deer.

Kubota spent the morning with me.  He assured me that hoodies were plenty warm enough for deer hunting.  He was wrong.

Later that morning I asked if he was suffering from hypothermia.

He said, "No.  I am suffering from hypo-fur-mia.  Ain't seen nothing with fur on it yet."

I did not had much time to hang out and talk with my brothers.  Early in the season we are focused on putting deer in the freezer.  I am particularly gladdened to see the one who was shot in the face with a 30-06 in his youth and hope to have some time to chat with him.  Plastic surgery is amazing.


He was attending school at University of Michigan, Flint campus in 1990 and he worked third shift at a gas station that is exactly 1.98 miles from the heart of town.

The gas station was on a major road and during the daylight hours the customers were working stiffs buying cigarettes or gas.  After dark the customers were less affluent and significantly rougher.

He was working in the shop and did not hear anybody pull into the station.  The next thing he remembers was looking down at the blood and thinking, "Da*n, the boss is gonna be pissed if I don't get the floor cleaned."  That is the definition of tough...when your first concern is how you going to clean the floor after getting shot in the face while on-the-clock.

Based on the shell casing that was found at the site the weapon was determined to be a 30-06.  Fortunately for my brother it hit the corner of his mouth and traveled between the skin and the inner part of his right cheek.

He did not tell mom and dad, who live in Lansing, for three days.  Really, it turned out OK and his wife finds his lopsided smile endearing.


God formed man to be imperishable;
the image of his own nature he made them.
But by the envy of the Devil, death entered the world,
and they who are in his possession experience it.

But the souls of the just are in the hand of God,
and no torment shall touch them.
They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead;
and their passing away was thought an affliction
and their going forth from us, utter destruction.
But they are in peace.  Wisdom, 2

I have a friend who is tormented by the wealth inequity in the United States.

He sees the 1/10th of 1% and the wealth they hold and he perseverates on it.  He is stuck.

The great joys of life are passing him by.

Hold hands with a pretty girl.  Giving her a kiss.

Watching the joy of learning in a child's eyes.

Catching a big fish.

Harvesting a garden.

The sound of a well played instrument.

Reading a book.  Composing a poem.  Comforting an elderly person.

I wish I could reach him but every conversation is like a record with a skip that keeps going back to "...the real problem is....  Capitalism is bad because...."

He is not tormented because of the 0.1%.  He is tormented because he gave others the power to separate him from happiness.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Wednesday's post

Warm and breezy predicted for tomorrow.

The guns are sighted in.  There was a bit of drama after Kubota's friend, The Great Brain, helped him sight in his gun.  But now everything is good.

 Thurdy point buck.

Trunks of trees in the orchard were painted white to reduce the risk of sun scald.

I had an anomaly in the reloading room.  I set the powder measure for 6.8 grains of a popular pistol powder.  I double checked it.  I ran about a hundred rounds.  I rechecked it and it was 7.8 grains.  7.8 grains is WAY over max for the cartridge I am reloading.

My technique is to make five powder drops into the scale's dish.  That smooths out the noise.

It looks like I have to pitch about a hundred rounds.

I checked the powder throw between full powder hopper and nearly empty powder hopper and saw almost no difference.  I considered the possibility that I had thrown four measures instead of five but that does not work out because 4*7.8= 31.2 grains while 5*6.8=34 grains.

Head room

Fitting four vehicles into the driveway continues to be a struggle.

Kubota's place was clearly marked out and everybody else gridlocks if he does not pull up to his marker.

This morning his truck was a good two or three paces shy of the marker.

Clearly, words and reasons did not work.  So, I fixed the problem.  I moved his truck.  No reason to yell are get mad.  No reason for my blood pressure to rise.

Leaving some head room
It is more effective to move the truck sixty yards out into the pasture than to park it 400 yards away in the most remote corner.

Parking it 60 yards away embeds all of the information that parking it 400 yards away does.

Parking it 60 yards away still leaves ample room to "turn up the volume" should it become necessary.

Remember the two primary causes of instability in control systems are excessive gain and lag time.

Head room of a different type
One of the places where I drink coffee was recently remodeled.

Everything is new and shiny.  I am sure that the people at corporate want customers to notice.

That is probably why they placed the new urinal so it can be seen from the dining area.

Maybe I am just shy, but somehow I don't want to be shaking the dew from my lily, look up and see Mrs Grundy choking on her fries in the opposite corner of the dining area.  I reckon she does not want to see me, either.

Ibuprofen, the breakfast of champions

I was on a ladder for five hours yesterday.

It is the first time that I used wire connectors like this.  Keywords "wire connector push" will make them easy to find if you shop on-line.  Wago is a brand name.  They worked very well for solid wire.

Monday, November 13, 2017

.450 Bushmaster, PSA

.450 Bushmaster on the left, .223 Remington on the right.
A couple of years ago Michigan liberalized her hunting regulations to allow some kinds of centerfire rifle rounds in the highly populated, southern counties.

Hunters asked, "Why can I hunt deer with a .357 or .44 Magnum pistol but not a long gun?  The long gun is more accurate and is less likely to send a stray round skipping over the horizon."

Rather than list the cartridges that are allowed, the DNR stipulated that the diameter of the bullet be over .355", that the walls of the cartridges be straight and that the minimum case length be 1.16" and the maximum case length be 1.8".

For a variety of reasons the .450 Bushmaster became the cartridge of choice.  In my estimation, the two main reasons were that several world-class rifles are chambered for this round and because world-class hunting ammo is available.

But then...
There have been spot ammo shortages.

This post is a Public Service Announcement to inform my readers that Russ Nelson at Family Shooters Corral (517-663-3805) has an ample supply of .450 Bushmaster ammo. It is 250 grain, Hornady Flex-tip ammo and the asking price is $31.80 for twenty rounds out-the-door.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Gill Nets

Watching some of the TV shows on subsistence living in Alaska renewed my interest in gill nets.

There is not a lot of information on the internet, primarily because gill netting is illegal for most people in most of the Lower 48.

The following information was collected on some lakes in Minnesota, primarily in the fertile, southern part of the state.

Lower axis is mesh size in mm.  Curves are number of fish caught in each mesh size (CPUE).  I chose non-game fish or the most abundant, small game fish of the ones reported.  As you can see, from a numbers standpoint bullheads are a great way to go.  That may be due to the fact that bullheads are the last species to die of oxygen deprivation.  Oxygen deprivation occurs in small, shallow ponds that become snow covered.  The vegetation dies and starts to decay which gobbles up all of the dissolved oxygen.

One problem with this data is that a perch caught in a 19mm (3/4") mesh trap is about the size of a toothpick.  What would the data look like if it were adjusted for fish weight?

Weights were normalized within each species.

32mm (1-1/4") mesh monofilament caught the greatest weight of bullheads but the 38mm (1-1/2") mesh caught 80% as much mass and you would have fewer to clean.

51mm (2") mesh, monofilament caught the greatest mass of carp, white suckers and bluegills.  The 38mm (1-1/2") mesh caught about 80% as much mass in bluegills as the 51mm mesh and might be a good compromise if you were targeting both bullheads and bluegills.

The greatest mass of yellow perch were caught with the 19mm mesh nets.

Same picture as above but reposted for convenience.
 There is more information that can be extracted from the graph.  For instance, the mass for both suckers and carp are still rising rapidly at the 51mm mesh with the carp rising faster.  That indicates that even more mass of carp and suckers would have been caught if mesh sizes larger than 51mm had been tested.

The mass for bluegills, on the other hand, shows very little gain from 38mm to 51mm suggesting that the optimum is somewhere in that region.

If the only fish in your ponds are bullheads, you cannot go wrong with a 32mm or 38mm mesh monofilament gill net.

If the water you are fishing has significant numbers of suckers and carp, then you cannot go wrong with a 51mm mesh, monofilament supplemented with a 32mm or 38mm net for bullheads.

As always, you are responsible for complying with your local laws.

The Efficient Frontier

From Investopia

What is the 'Efficient Frontier'
The efficient frontier is the set of optimal portfolios that offers the highest expected return for a defined level of risk or the lowest risk for a given level of expected return. Portfolios that lie below the efficient frontier are sub-optimal, because they do not provide enough return for the level of risk.
The critical point about selecting assets to include in a portfolio to exploit the efficient frontier is that one must choose asset classes that do not rise and fall with a high degree of sychronicity.

Consider a portfolio that contains several US based .com companies.  They will all rise and fall with the same tide and there is no efficient frontier.

Now consider a portfolio that contains US based companies and gold.  When times are good the companies will do well and gold will languish.  When times are bad the companies will run into head-winds and gold will shine.

Historically, "The Efficient Frontier" is used to explain why it is good to have non-US stocks in your portfolio.  Given the tight coupling of the global economy that might be a moot point.

One place where The Efficient Frontier still has huge amounts of validity is in agriculture.

Agricultural income is extremely "lumpy" because it is effected by world prices, weather, disease, input costs.  It is inherently "not smooth" because most crops are a single, yearly harvest.

Getting fancy
I think placing a small portion of the farm into solar panels should be considered because it makes sense from a "portfolio" sense.  For one thing, the panels can be placed parts of the field that are marginal for agriculture.  Eroded, south facing hillsides and poorly drained areas underlain with clay hardpan come to mind.  Another reason is that solar panels don't require any new equipment.

But the financing...
Utilities are under the gun to produce "renewable" power.  Solar power qualifies.

Many utilities are so distressed that they offer financing to people willing to put in solar.  This in not all altruism.  They can borrow money at 4% and loan it out to their Solar Financing subsidiary at 5%.  The utility funds the projects and the "owners" of the solar panels agree that instead of getting checks from the utility, those monies will go to paying down the installation.  Not only does the utility get "renewable" power but they can make a decent spread on the money they plowed into the venture.

Even fancier...
Suppose I went to a farmer and made this sales pitch and tried to make it look attractive using "The Efficient Frontier" argument.  I will not make much headway because he will not see any income for the first five or seven years.

Now suppose I was working with a utility that had some flexibility.  What if the utility kept, on average, 75% of the income stream to paydown the loan and allowed 25% to flow to the farmer.  Better, no?

Super fancy...
What if instead of a flat 25%,  the contract used a formula to calculate payouts based on gross proceeds (yield per acre X acres X spot prices on November 1) to counteract the lumpiness of farm income?  Heck, you could even get fancy and factor in the price of diesel as a proxy for input costs.

When the farmer has a great crop and solid prices all of the solar money flows into paying down the loan.  When the farmer has a dismal year then he might get 50% of the solar money as monthly checks to help tide him through the hungry times.

Using a variable formula suddenly makes solar farms a fantastic asset to put into the farmer's portfolio.  The utility is still getting paid back although it will be over a longer time span.  They are not hurting too bad because they borrowed at 4% and loaned it out at 5%.

Getting monthly checks takes a lot of the sting out of a crop failure.  And since it is in a different bucket it should not jinx crop insurance payouts.

Some of you are gritting your teeth.  "Damned goobermint needs to get out of people's business!"

Allow me to talk around the problem...
There are some farms near Weidman, Michigan that grow fabulous corn.  The soil is total crap.  It is blow-sand, that is, ancient sand dunes.

The corn is +200 bushel to the acre because it is irrigated and because the true, economic reason for the farm is that large, local dairy farms need a place to spread manure.  See, I told you the land was total crap.

The dairy farms have legal obligations to dispose of their manure in ways that do not contaminate surface water or ground water.  The best way to do that is to sequester the nutrients in corn and feed it back to the cows.
This is what the fields can do without irrigation and manure.

So who is bruised by the fact that farms around Weidman can now economically grow corn?  Not the people buying milk.  Not the people drinking water from local wells.  Not the fisherman in Isabella County. Not the dairy farmers. Not the owners of the fields that before irrigation and manure slurry produced 500 pounds of Poverty Grass and Russian Knapweed per acre.

I don't see how farmers who places a few acres into solar panels are significantly different than the farmers planting corn in Weidman.  They are both just trying to feed their families.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Pictures of leaves from a few willow species

Willow cultivar Millbrook on top, a male selection of  a native species, Salix discolor on the bottom.  All photos taken November 11, 2017 in Eaton Rapids

Millbrook on top and cultivar Onondaga on the bottom.

Millbrook on top and Fabius on the bottom.
Millbrook was chosen for the "control" because it seems to do as well or better than other selections across a wide range of planting sites.  It certainly carries a generous number of leaves in the canopy even this late in the growing season.  It also roots very well from hardwood cuttings.

High Class White Trash: That be me!

Eaton Rapids, denoted with the star, is mid-way between Lansing and Jackson, Michigan.

According to RoadSnacks, Jackson, Michigan is the tenth most "White Trash City in America"

"This is where the high class white trash live. You think you’re ‘all that’ with your 11 Dollar Stores, 9 payday loan outlets, and large number of fast food restaurants to wear your pajamas, swimsuits, and wife beaters to."
HCWT is a badge I shall wear with honor.

Friday, November 10, 2017

How to spot an "Exagga-Rator"

 A Highland Appliance radio commercial, "The Exagga-Rator"

From Linkedin

First job:  Managing a team of engineers and test technicians at a Fortune 500 firm starting in 1983.

Education:  Graduating with a Bachelor's degree in 1988.

GM must have been pretty desperate for managers if they were hiring high school seniors to manage product development teams.

Fake News Friday

The Electral and Oedipal Society of Southern California is passing around petitions to legalize, um, conjugal relations between parents and children.

"The ancient and barbaric prohibitions against intimate relationships between parents and their children are unnecessary in our enlightened times given the efficacy of modern contraceptives.  The government should not be in the business of censoring any form of love."

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Windows in the deer blind

The blind on Salamander's farm where I intend to be hunting.  Kubota always sits on the left because it has better shooting.  I sit on the right where it is always windy.  I decided to do something about that this year.

Not very fancy engineering.  Pieces of acrylic sheet screwed to lengths of 2-by-2.  Then attached to the inside of the blind with hinges.  Sheets swing so they can be pushed up when needed.
The tamarack is pretty this time of year.

A boy named Bro-ham

I grew up on the west side of Lansing, Michigan in a neighborhood that was mostly Catholic.  The kids were named after saints and angels and Notre Dame football coaches.

It was a time of innocence.

When I was in the fourth grade, sometime in the late 1960s, my mom decided that I needed to take a class at "the Y" to round out my education.   That is where I met Bro-ham.

Other than the sissy shirt with lapels, this kid is a dead ringer (or dead singer) for Bro-ham.
With the disarming lack of dissembling common to clueless kids, I commented that I had never met a kid named "Bro-ham."  I knew bushels of Mikes and Joes and Pats and Marys, but not a single Bro-ham.

I asked him what country Saint Bro-ham came from.

Bro-Ham expanded my horizons when he told me that he had been named for his Daddy's favorite car.

Thinking furiously, Cutlass?  Nope.  Delta?  Nope.  98? Nope.  Vista Cruiser? Nope.  The closest I could come was Jimmy and nobody I knew in Lansing drove one.  We were an Oldsmobile town.

Did I mention that I was not very wordly when I was in fourth grade?

So I asked, " 'N what kind of car is that?"

"You know." Bro-ham said.  A Buke Duece-inna-qwadda Bro-ham."

Seen through that lens, Kubota's name is not all that original.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Shaking my head with disgust

For about half of my working career I worked in Product Engineering.  In the other half I worked in Manufacturing with an emphasis on quality.  Because my employer manufactured products that people sometimes misused and died while using, and because they were perceived as having deep pockets, they were a frequent target for litigation.

The company responded by sending many of us to a class titled "What every Engineer should know about Product Liability."  Some of the information stuck.

One of the restaurants in Eaton Rapids was recently remodeled.
I went in to check it out.

One of the additions was a bar that is about 42" above the floor.  Instead of chairs they had tall stools; stools with a narrow footprint and willowy structural members.

Looks can be deceiving so I up-ended one of the stools to see what was beneath the hood, so to speak.

The problem with warnings

Posting a sign "Vicious dog.  Jumps fence and bites people." does not protect you from litigation.  For one thing, the pedestrian is in peril if they are close enough to read the sign.  Another thing is that the sign is evidence that you know that you have a dangerous dog and that you are a weasel who tries to scrape the blame off on innocent pedestrians.

This sticker reads, "Do not sit in this chair without all four legs on the floor."  Hmmm!  How many customers will read this sticker?  Zero would be my guess.  How many customers will lean back in the chair?  More than zero, would be my guess.

Another line on this sticker reads "Inspect this a minimum of once every four months, for:
Instability due to bent legs (!!!) or unevenly worn glide(s)
Broken welds or similar signs of stress of abuse
  -The chair feels wobbly when sitting on it.
  -The legs can be easily flexed side to side."

One presumes that they have a history of bent legs and broken welds.

Just out of curiosity, let's look at those welds.  Out of a sample of three stools, multiple defective welds were found.  The most photogenic are shown in the next three images.

Porosity.  Porosity at the end of a long weld is less troubling than porosity at the end of a short weld.  In this case, the porosity compromises 25% of the length of the weld. 

Off-position.  It might be a nice weld but it is not joining the two piece of metal because it is in the wrong place.  The portion of the weld that appears to have fused to both pieces of metal has porosity.

Cold-lap.  The weld did not fuse or melt into one of the two pieces.  They might as well have used toothpaste to join the two parts.  The sticker attempts to claim that broken welds are "stress of abuse" but this weld was shipped this way from the factory.  Weasels.

But wait....the restaurant is not off the hook...
Presumably some executive at the restaurant's national headquarters OKed the purchase of these stools.

That means the restaurant, a national chain, bought into  "Inspect this a minimum of once every four months"

  • Can the restaurant prove, in a court of law, that the company trained people to perform the inspections?
  • Can the company produce test results that validates the effectiveness of their training and verify that their inspectors can properly identify defects?  
  • Can the national chain document that the only people who inspect stools received the training?  It is not enough to have a manager, who was trained, sign off on inspections done by untrained people. 
  • Can the restaurant chain produce records documenting when the inspections were done at each store?  Can they identify who did the inspections?  
  • Can they identify the number and types of defects found at each inspection?  
  • Can they document the disposition of the defective stools and prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defective stools did not re-enter service until repaired and re-inspected?
It would be nice if this line of furniture was pulled before somebody gets hurt.

My guess is that some fat kid is going to topple over backwards out of one of these stools because the welds will break.  They will whack the back of their head against the tile floor and become a vegetable.  I also predict that a moderately competent lawyer will take the restaurant chain to court and procure a $6M settlement.

I also predict that the restaurant chain will assume it is a fluke and not pull the stools from service.  They will quickly find themselves fending off twenty or fifty similar suits in short order.  Stupid hurts.

If there are any lawyers or engineers out there in my readership I would love to have you comment.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

New truck owners say the darnedest things

"Hey, Big-D, I think we can get this in one trip.  There is room here for another forty bags of see-ment, easy."


"Hey mom, I need money for gas.  I don't have enough gas to get home from school."

"No problem.  I will come and get you."

"You don't have to pick me up.  You can just get a gas card on the way to the high school."


"I was picking you up to bring you home.  I have five dollars worth of chores that need doing.  That should be enough gas to get you home (four miles)."

"Wow! Look at that!  I turned the key and I have PLENTY of gas to get home."

Monday, November 6, 2017

When did resilience become synonymous with socialism?

I carry a link to "Resilience: Building a world of resilient communities" on my side-bar because they have an interesting article every once in a while.

They also are dyed-in-the-wool socialists who have little use for capitalism.

This post is a communication to them even though it is unlikely that anybody from the Resilience website will ever read it.

The Tragedy of the Commons
Garrett Hardin wrote an essay in 1968 and The Tragedy of the Commons was a small part of that essay.

Let me retell the story in just a few words.

A village has a common pasture available for the ten families of the village to graze.  The pasture produces enough grass to produce 200 pounds of milk per day.  Each family has one cow on the pasture and harvests 20 pounds of milk (200 pounds/day divided by 10 cows).

As rational economic actors each family realizes, independently, that adding a second cow will almost double the amount of milk they get each day.  (200 pounds/day divided by 11 cows times two cows = 36.4 pounds/day).

Each family increases the number of cows to two, or three or four.  The pasture is quickly grazed down to the roots.  With no blades of grass intercepting the sun there is nothing for the cows to eat.  The cows die and the topsoil washes away.
 The benefits are "privatized" while the costs are "socialized".  That is a sure-fire recipe for disaster.

The allure of socialism
The writers who espouse socialism envision an economy run by a benevolent dictator with a deep, deep understanding of the environment.  As you read their articles you cannot help but think that the benevolent dictator they envision are exact clones of themselves.

Friedrich Hayek wrote that people are drawn to the new because mastery of the old is difficult.  The only requirement to be in the vanguard of the "new" is a poor memory.

The myth of the 'benevolent dictator'
The fatal flaw of the writer's assumptions involves the nature of dictators.  Dictators are rarely benevolent because the playing field selects for the ruthless, single-minded pursuit of power.  Consider Stalin, Mao, Pol-pot...even recent US politicians as we tip toward socialism.  Homework assignment:  Watch the movie Sophia's Choice.

The utopian community sketched out by the writers might as well require unicorns for leaders as unicorns are about as common as benevolent dictators.

At least with capitalism the owner wants to protect his blood, sweat, toil and tears.  The owner must live with the consequences of his actions.

But there are places where socialism DOES work
Places like the family.  Places like very small tribal units.  What is the difference?

The difference is that families are bound by customs and taboos that are incredibly strong.

Those are the same customs and taboos that most of the writer's peers are dedicated to destroying.  The irony is delicious.  The only examples that can serve as a template for the future envisioned by the "futurists" are being destroyed by those same "futurists".

It begs the question:  Which do they want more, the utopia they spin with their words or naked power?

Sunday, November 5, 2017

The last rose of summer

A weekend of culture

We had a pleasant and uneventful weekend.

Yesterday we went over to Mom and Dad's to rake leaves.  It is a family event.  Dad can't quite keep up with the yard work any more.  The fact that he had his 92nd birthday last week might have something to do with it.  Danged party animal.  Still recovering.

He had a recent bout with low blood iron.  The most likely cause appears to be that tiny aspirin tablet he took every day.  Even though it was enteric coated it still allowed small intestinal bleeds to whittle down this iron reserves.

After raking, Mrs ERJ and I went to Grand Rapids.  Belladonna wanted to subject us to culture.  I think she wanted to hang out with us because her left shoulder is sore.  She thinks she has a slight tear in her upper pectoralis major...probably from dwarf throwing.

For whatever reason enormous numbers of dwarfs converged on the front steps of her townhouse on Tuesday night and she had a tremendous workout.  She thinks she might have over done things.

Stool samples.
The first museum we went to was The Grand Rapids Museum of Proctological Sciences.  Surprisingly, this is one of the very few museums of its type in the country.  In the end it did not appeal to my sense of taste.

Then we went to the Grand Rapids Art Museum which was, frankly, easier on the eyes and nose.  Every work of art had the admonition "Do not Touch!".  None of the exhibits at the GRMPS had those kinds of signs.

Mrs ERJ even got in trouble when she attempted to get the mobile that hung from the ceiling to move by blowing on it.  Perhaps it would have been less obvious if she had bothered to extinguish the cigar she was smoking at the time.

It caused Belladonna boundless mirth when this picture caused me distress.

It was painted by Mathias Alten and is titled "Birches in Winter".  Presumably it was painted a year before his death.

The thing I find bothersome is that the trees are very clearly American Sycamores, a tree that is very, very different than a birch.

I suspect they found the canvas when they were cleaning out his studio after his death.  Some low-level clerk at the auction house saw white bark and said "birch" catalogued it as such and the deed was done.

Otherwise, I find the art of Mathias Alten to be to my taste.  Big color.  Minimal fussy detail.  Solid composition.  Realistic looking people and animals.

Much ado about nothing

Seattle "Refuse Fascism" protest crowd shot
Boston protest crowd shot
LA crowd shot.  Significantly, no photos from elevation or a drone to allow independent estimates of attendees.
The suicide squad.
The REALLY big crowds were in Portland!  Oh.  Wait.  These are images from a high school cross country meet in Portland, Michigan.
It is telling when a high school cross country meet at a Division III high school in Michigan pulls more of  crowd than the inevitable wave of history.

Team T vs Team S: How might it play out?

Here is our arena.  It is 1300 feet E-W by 1500 feet N-S.  Both teams are dropped in corners where one road is primarily commercial and the other road is primarily residential.

One scenario has Team T looting the commercial properties before cracking into the residential properties.

"What?" you say.  "Looting is not part of the mission."

This is a classic case of game theory and almost identical to The Prisoner's Dilemma.  Consider the individual actor on Team T.  The actions of the other fifteen team-mates are not under his control.  Those actions are environment.

If the other fifteen loot and he goes out and eradicates Team S then all the good loot will be skimmed and he is likely to be killed.  If he loots then he gets 1/16th of the booty.  Therefore he will loot if the other fifteen loot.

If the other fifteen go out to eradicate Team S and he joins them he might get killed.  If he loots then he gets to skim all of the best merchandise.  Therefore it is very much to loot even if the other fifteen choose to execute the primary mission first.

Every other actor is thinking the same way.  Loot first.  Primary mission afterward.  Loot most lucrative targets first because they will eventually run into Team S and start fighting.

Team S's response depends on how much intelligence they have.  If, for instance, they knew there was a jewelry store, a pawn shop or a party store within sight of the Team T drop-off then their job is easier.  Let's suppose they don't have that kind of intelligence.

Team S bails out of their bus and grabs their gear.  Some of it they sling into the bushes for later retrieval.  They carry the rest of their gear with them.

They move quickly and silently to blocking positions shown by the white arrows.  Remember, it is midnight and most Team T are likely to have lights on their pimped-out AKs.  Their locations should be easy to pinpoint given Team T's lack of sound and light discipline.

Optimum firing distance is probably 50-to-100 yards.  The exact location would depend on cover and having a clean exit route.

The Team S members who went furthest west have the potential to separate Team T from their supplies because they probably lacked the discipline to carry them very far, or cache them effectively.  Fear of being cheated out of the loot ensures that nobody stayed behind to guard the supplies.

If Team S is able to purloin the supplies then Team T needs to start fires to warm themselves.  This neighborhood is in west Detroit and it is cold in early December.  Carbon monoxide might get some of them.  Structural fires might get some.  Movement to get fuel exposes them to  Team S sniping.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Skills vs. Technology

This is a very old argument.  Or, in my opinion, non-argument.

Technology does not compete with skill.  Technology multiplies skill.  Anything times zero is still zero.

Skills can stand alone. 

A mental exercise

45 acres randomly snipped out of a large city.  Businesses along the major streets.  Residential housing on side streets.  Vacant lots where derelict properties had been put to the wrecking ball.
Suppose two forces were to enter approximately forty acres of urban territory.  Neither force had ever set foot on the parcel.

Images from Google Streetview to show what the neighborhood looks like.
Both forces have identical missions, to eradicate every member of the other team either by killing them or forcing outside the perimeter.  Both forces enter the parcel at exactly midnight, December 5, 2017 from opposite corners.  In case the math is too hard, they both have thirty days to prepare.

For the sake of simplicity, let's say the parcel has been completely abandoned by the residents.

Team T: "T" for Technology
Sixteen stone-cold killers culled from prisons across America.  They are between 17-and-27 years of age.

They are given fully automatic AK-47s with thirty round magazines.  They are allowed to carry as many magazines as they want.  They are also given $1000 each to pimp-out their weapon.

Team S: "S" for Skills
Eight soldiers or marines who recently fought together as a team.

They are given NEF Handi-Rifles in .357 Magnum and, as a nod to their training, the sights are switched to rear aperture and hooded, front post sights.  These are "iron" sights with no magnification.

Incidentally, the Handi-Rifle is a single shot firearm that uses a basic design that was first put into production in 1837. I chose the .357 Magnum because it is not significantly more powerful than the ammo used in the Civil War in 1863.

The math
Team T's raw capability is 30*16*14...Thirty round magazines times sixteen sets of boots on the ground times 14X magnification of the scopes some of them bought.  That gives them a score of about 6700.

Team S's raw capability is 1*8*1...One round in the gun times eight sets of boots on the ground times no magnification.  That gives Team S a score of 8.

The odds
The math says 840:1 in favor of Team T.

Our experience tells us 30:1 in favor of Team S.

The difference?  Team S has skills and will make effective use of their month to train, prepare and plan.

Knowledge and technology are nouns.  "Skills" are implied verbs.  Skills are developed through repetition.

Consider the difference between Sex Education and Sex Training.  Sex Education is passive.  And please forgive the humor, Sex Training is hands-on and active.

One scenario of how it might play out