Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Mrs ERJ's minivan has new tires

Mrs ERJ's minivan has new tires on it. Like all honorable men I take care of the wimmin-folk and children first.

The gentlemen in the tire room approached the project with trepidation. "Are you sure these are the tires you want?" the first man asked.

"Yup. I am sure." I said.

"Never seen these on a minivan. Are you really sure?" he asked.

"Yup. I am sure." I said.

He sent a minion into the back room to get them and he came out with two when the computer said there were four. I looked at the tread of what he brought out. "That is not what I ordered."

This back-and-forthed about three times. "Are you SURE this is what you want?"

"You darned betchya." I said.

They finally believed me when I told them we have four children and Mrs ERJ is immune to whining, whether it came from hungry kids or A/T tires on the pavement. My priority is to keep her, and the van, on the pavement. Or, if it goes into the ditch to have tires on the vehicle so Mrs ERJ has a fighting chance of getting it back out of the ditch.

It is more than just the traction. A/T tires have stouter sidewalls than all-seasons and have greater resistance to trash in the ditch poking a hole in them.

After the tires were installed on the minivan, I drove it out to where I hunt to make a few minor repairs.

My impression is that the friction on dry roads is noticeably less than the tires that came off and that the whine on normal pavement was non-existent.

All tires are compromises.

Snow vs dry friction
We live where blowing, drifting snow is a likelihood four months of the year, Dec-March and can happen November and April too.

I will happily trade friction on dry roads for improved grip in fresh snow and slush. Friction on ice is a myth so I don't give that much consideration.

I recall when a lineman for the utility was working on a power-pole in our side yard. It was after midnight. The wind was blowing fifteen miles an hour with gusts to thirty. The transmission line had dropped off the pole and caught the top of it on fire. Their truck got stuck in the yard due to the torrential rains we had received earlier.

I made some "empathy" comment about this call really having a high suck-factor. The spotter on the ground replied, "Power lines never fail when it is sunny and seventy." What he was telling me was that field calls almost always have a high suck-factor, that nasty weather is when they earned their paychecks. In good weather, they drank coffee.

I feel the same way about tires. Even bald tires will work fine when the pavement is clean and dry and you leave enough room between you and the joker in front of you. I see little reason to spend money to improve performance on dry pavement when dry performance for any tire is already four-to-ten times better than performance on snow.

Retirement used to mean that I could look out the window and say, "I am staying home today." but that changed with mom-and-dad care. There is a back-up but that is for emergencies, not six inches of snow.

Tread life
The other factor involves tread life. More is more better.

It is truism in the Quality world that the more often you have to make adjustments to the equipment the more defective product you will produce.

Bringing the analogy back to cars: Suppose you had a choice between two vehicles, one has a fuel tank that can only hold sixty miles worth of fuel and one that can hold ten thousand miles of fuel. Which vehicle is most likely to leave you stranded on the road with an empty gas tank?

Let me be clear, I am not asking which vehicle must visit the gas station the most often or which will have the highest fuel costs, I am asking which one will leave you walking in BF Nowhere most often?

Even if you are anal about replacing tires before the tread is completely gone, the tires that last longer will give you a bigger window to notice the degradation and schedule, or finance, the tire replacement.

Good tires are one thing I am willing to put on the credit card if it means I can have them on the vehicles before the weather gets bad.

Cletus and Zeke in Flippin, Arkansas

Cletus and Zeke were in Flippin, Arkansas thinning a fifteen-year-old plantation of hardwoods that had been planted into played-out bottomlands.

The owner worked in Branson and was mostly an absentee owner.

He got them started. "You came highly recommended by David up in Illinois, so I know I don't have to tell you every little detail of the job."

He set them up with chainsaws, gas, files, spare chains and a gator for transportation.

"I want you to take out every third row but I want you to use your eyes and your brain. If the trees to either side of the row you are cutting will never make a good log, then cut one of them instead of the one in the row." the land owner said.

Driving around the property before they got started they saw that the landowner had the trees planted on ten-by-ten foot centers to make it easy to drive in the trees with the gator.

The trees had good growth. Weeds had been controlled the first couple of years with herbicide. Access lanes ran about every hundred yards.

As they cut, Zeke and Cletus topped out the thinnings that had a decent pole and tee-peed them in a convenient tree so they wouldn't rot. To minimize walk time they had a tee-pee every ten trees or so. They left the tops where they fell.

They cut the saplings at 4" so the gator could be driven over them without hanging up. Cutting at 4" minimized the risk of running the chain into the dirt.

Ultimately the owner wanted to manage for walnut and oak but the original planting was a blend with just about everything; gum, hickory, pecan, walnut, red oaks, white oaks, sycamore, locust, hackberry and cypress. He even had persimmon, cottonwoods and soft maples in the mix.

When they asked him about it, the land owner said that neither he or his children would live long enough to see the timber harvested but they would get enjoyment hunting the property and looking at the growing timber.

There was no drama. It was good work, good tools, good weather and a good boss. Afterward the landowner called his buddy in Illinois and thanked him for the recommendation.

Stub 9.0: One hand washes the other

Zev was perched on a boulder on the east face of the Monte Bello Ridge warming himself in the early morning sun. He had a phone call to make.

Consulting the list of contacts his former handler had loaded into his files, Zev selected Aaron Ducat as the best place to inject the information he had.

Zev was about to share information he had collected on a boozy night spent with other titans of industry when a theater group from the Russian Far East had toured the Bay Area. Zev had not attempted to match the Russians drink-for-drink. His peers were not as wise.

Zev had found himself babysitting one of his competitors in the pharmaceutical sector. Zev was disgusted. His competitor was a sloppy drunk with a weak stomach. He also turned into a motor-mouth.

Zev had always been curious about how his competitor had been able to stay in business. His products were commodities with no pricing power, his factories were over-staffed and his equipment and processes were total crap.

The sloppy drunk cried a river of tears of how much money he had to pay to bribe product from the Mexican border into Cali and thence into the continental US. From the sound of it, he was bribing almost half of the Cali government. His competitor’s real business was the import of undocumented pharmaceuticals, the commodity drugs were just a front.

He also lamented the rising cost of doing business. The product was packed inside of truck tires south of the border and then driven northward. This method had always resulted in the tires overheating and the tires shucking the tread. The problem was that the Sedelia/Cali night of fire had destroyed millions of tires he was no longer able to replace them. The drug running trucks were running almost all bald tires.

That resulted in additional costs as cops along the highways had to be bribed to turn a blind-eye to the bald tires.

The drunk told Zev other useful things about the smuggling business, things that Zev filed into his memory.

Aaron Ducat was the Sedelia attorney tasked by the tiny Sedelia government with cauterizing the flow of money and assets that was flowing from Sedelia and enriching Cali.

“Mr Ducat?” Zev asked when the other party picked up.

“Yes, how may I help you?” Ducat was polite but distant. His number was unpublished but he still got random calls. Nevertheless, he had learned that being polite increased the chances of more dollar bills falling into his pocket.

“Mr. Ducat, I have a favor to ask you as one civil servant to another.” Zev said.

“I am sorry.” Ducat said. “I did not catch your name.”

“You wouldn’t recognize it if I told you, even though I am a highly placed official in Cali.” Zev allowed a bit of pomposity to creep into his voice as he surveyed the panorama from his lofty perch.

“A civil servant in Cali! Now you really do have my attention!” It was almost possible to see the twinkle in Ducat’s eyes as he responded.

“Good. I am glad we can work together.” Zev said. “The Cartel has become quite niggardly in their payments and I have expenses. I want you to pop one of the trucks they use to smuggle drugs just to let them know it is not healthy to ignore me when I tell them I need more money.”

Aaron pushed some buttons, attempting to get a trace on the call and to run voice recognition. It hardly seemed possible that somebody could be so delusional but stranger things had happened.

“Do you have some way of identifying this truck?” Ducat asked.

“Well, yes. Of course. I have the plate numbers." Zev dissembled. "Damn! They were right here a second ago. I can't find them right now but I can tell you what to look for if you promise to only stop one truck.” Zev said. He was enjoying the game.

The trace came back as coming from somewhere in San Mateo county, deep within the heart of Cali. The voice recognition came up empty.

"I promise we will stop one truck.” Aaron said.

“Very well. I want it done soon. Those baboons need to be taught to respect their betters.” Zev said.

“I assume you have those video cameras that can see heat. What are they called?” Zev said.

“I believe they are called infrared cameras.” Aaron supplied, helpfully.

“Yeah. That is what they are.” Zev said.

“They carry the drugs in the tires. It makes the tires hot.” Zev said.

“Tires always get hot. The pavement is hot. I don’t see how we will be able to find them with IR cameras.” Aaron said, letting a little bit of doubt and boredom creep into his voice.

“The sidewalls get hot on regular trucks. The tires that are carrying drugs have the treads get much hotter than the sidewalls.” Zev informed him, as if Aaron were a simpleton.

“Hmmm!” Aaron said, as if unconvinced.

“Can you give me anything else in case we can’t find them with IR cameras?” Aaron asked, fishing for just a little bit more.

The notes in the file that Zev’s handler had given him characterized Aaron Ducat as a tireless researcher who always asked the next obvious question. Zev had been counting on that.

“Well, I suppose you could look for north-bound reefer trucks.” Zev said.

“We have all kinds of refrigerated trucks coming north from Mexico.” Aaron said.

“Well, duh!” Zev said, twisting the inflection to make it an insult. “But they are carrying food. The refrigeration units are running. The trucks carrying drugs don’t run the reefer. Even if you don’t have an IR camera to see if the unit is running you can tell if condensate is dripping out or not.”

Aaron made a quick note. The chances of a legitimate reefer truck coming out of Mexico deadhead, that is, without food in it, was approximately zero.

"So how is it that you know the plate numbers of these trucks? Just curious, one civil servant to another." Aaron asked.

"How else would be able to tell the Sedelia police to not stop them?" Zev asked. "Heck, we must be shipping drugs on one truck out of every twenty. Can't let 'the man' stop one by accident."

“I would like to make sure the appropriate party gets credit for this information.” Aaron said. “What did you say your name was?”

Zev smiled. “Let’s just say I am a very highly placed source in the Cali government. And make sure you only impound one truck, otherwise all hell will break loose. Until next time Mr Ducat.” And then Zev broke the connection.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Getting pumped up about deer season

Kubota is inclined to open windows when he is hot rather than take off over shirts.

Mrs ERJ is inclined to turn off the furnace when Kubota opens windows.

Sometimes it gets chilly in the house.

I tried a different kind of ammo in the Mossberg 500.  This is at 100 yards. Five inch groups are nothing to brag about but being within 3 inches of the point of aim will kill truckloads of deer.

One person I talked to suggested that barrel heating might be the cause of my vertical stringing. His thinking was that the barrel grows with heat while the magazine does not. The magazine and the barrel are joined about 1/3 the way from the muzzle. That could cause the barrel to tip downward. While I don't fully buy the theory, the first shot has always been the highest.

This ad suggests that the stock Mossberg 500 trigger has an 8.5 pound trigger pull.
I see that there are aftermarket kits for Mossberg 500 trigger springs. I might have to spend the money and check that out.

Herc, our older German Shepherd, does not like anything snake-like. I think he got the vibe from Belladonna and he is protective.

Pity that I will have to buy new tubing for my trickle irrigation.

Michigan Firearm season opens Thursday.
I seem to be on the mend from the cold.

I am getting excited. The current plan is for my youngest brother to share the Taj with Doug, a family friend. I will be in the orchard stand with Nephew Nick while Tom and Max are in the swamp stand and Mack is in the tree stand on the north property line.

The orchard stand is windy and can be bitterly cold. I put in windows last year but one of the hunters who used it later in the season broke one of the windows. I hung a flap made from a dog food bag over the broken window today.

This will be the first deer season since my brother died. Deer season was a peak experience for him. I am looking for a good photo of him to put in the Taj, his usual stand.

People who are fey claim that the separation between the living and the dead varies. They point to road grades in Appalachia. Sometimes the coal seam is deep. Sometimes runs just below the surface. Sometimes the seam is exposed to the open air. The coal seam is very close to the surface during deer season and I expect it will be exposed and smoking when we are tracking a blood-trail.

One of the things we have not discussed as a family is whether we should try to shoot a deer to feed a poor family. I think local families that were struggling to put groceries on the table ate twice as much venison as my brother and his family did.

Michigan has Chronic Wasting Disease and the DNR really wants to knock back the breeding population. That means that doe tags are easy to come by. Much easier to buy a tag than to find one an bring it to bag, that is.

Cletus and Zeke in Greenville, Mississippi

Zeke was summer help at the big cemetery in town. Summer help was a bit of a misnomer. It was mid-October but the grass was still growing even though the kids were back at university or high school.

Zeke looked up at Rollie, the old-timer who was the sexton of the cemetery. "Where is the gas for the mower?"

Like many places that cut large amounts of grass, the county had purchased industrial mowers that used two-stroke gas engines. Consequently they ran on "mixed gas."

"Its in that five gallon can right next to you." Rollie said in his mush-mouthed way.

"No it ain't." Zeke said. "I started to pour some out but it is yellow gas. Mixed gas is blue."

Rollie bristled. He didn't like damnedyankees on principle and having one look him in the eye and tell him he was wrong really set him off.

"I don't care what color gas is 'up nort', but down here mixed gas is yeller just like regular." Rollie sputtered.

Zeke chewed on that for a second. Then he walked over to where the string trimmers were racked up against the wall and picked up the can of gas by them. He started to pour the tiniest trickle into the mower's tank and when he said, "Gee-golly. Look at that. This gas is blue just like the gas in the tanks of the string trimmers."

Rollie looked over at the string trimmers and it was as clear as day that the translucent tanks were filled with blue gas.

Zeke started the mower and moved off to mow the grass he had been directed to mow.

Rollie was plenty pissed off. His own son, Worthington (named after his wife's pappy) had been fired at the beginning of the season. Worthington had been smoking weed in the old part of the cemetery when the pastor and his wife from the Assembly of God caught a whiff of the smoke as they walked and prayed and hallelujahed their way between the stones. Worthington had been caught red-handed and the city manager went to one of them screaming churches. The manager wouldn't listen to reason.

Rollie figured that if he ran through enough temporary help that he might be able to get Wuffless, as he was universally known in town, hired back on.

Sixty minutes later the city manager and Rollie pulled up to where Zeke was mowing.

The city manager got right to the point. "Did you use a different gas than what Rollie here told you to use?"

Zeke nodded his head "Yes."

Zeke started to say it was because Rollie told him to use the wrong gas but the city manager cut him off impatiently.

"Rollie been sexton of this cemetery for the last thirty years and his daddy was sexton for the thirty years before that. I reckon Rollie knows what kind of gas to put in the mower." the city manager spouted.

"Ever since Rollie's boy took his vacation from work we had you temporary burn up four of these $1000 mowers." the city manager said. "You are fired."

Zeke could see that Rollie had been planning to bone him from the beginning. It didn't matter to Zeke why Rollie set him up. Rollie set a trap that Zeke avoided and then Rollie went out of his way to get him fired anyway.

"I was gonna quit anyway. The place got haints." Zeke said.

The city manager frowned. "Whaddya mean, 'haints'?"

"Evil spirits. Demon animals. Zombies." Zeke said with complete and devout certainty.

Rollie had a good chuckle at that. "There ain't no ghosts in this cemetery."

"There certainly are." Zeke said. "I can hear them scratching. You done buried them alive. Their scratchin' is to call their demon animals to come dig them out. Then they git out, they gonna be waitin' to snatch good, Christian souls before Elijah and the angels can lift them to heaven."

Rollie har, har, har-ed at that but the city manager was silent. He did not like what he was hearing. He was counting on riding a chariot with Elijah when his day came.

Later, at lunch Rollie made sure that everybody who came into the Toe-main Tavern heard about the damnyankee that he fired. "And I thought spics and jigaboos were scairty-cats." Rollie bellowed.

The patrons were uncomfortable with Rollie's language. Usually he didn't use that kind of language but Rollie had celebrated Wuffless getting promoted to  'being on vacation' rather than being fired. He had celebrated by having a couple of 'nips' from his jug in the lower right drawer of his desk. A 'nip' was a half filled water tumbler.

"Yessirree. Said they was trying to claw their way out. Smatterfact they be as dead as this dill pickle." Rollie chuckled a liquid sounding chuckle. "They ain't scratching their way out of nowhere."

Simple, church-going Christians don't like to be reminded that the state requires that they be embalmed. Christians believe they will be resurrected on the last day with a glorified body, but Jesus was pretty clear that following him involved pain and suffering. They were just hoping all that pain was gonna stop after they died. But they couldn't see how being resurrected when you were full of pickle juice could be anything but uncomfortable.

Then Rollie went through Zeke's saying that the town would know the cemetery was 'hainted' and Christian souls were getting snatched when demon animals started digging up the coffins.

Rollie had the story on a short tape loop. Most everybody of the 100 or so diners heard it at least twice before Rollie wobbled back to his shed.

---Later that night---

Zeke showed up with a bag from the hardware store and a five gallon bucket three-quarter filled with warm, liquid grease from behind the KFC. Zeke found the spud bar behind the sexton's shed and started his project at the biggest, richest looking monuments near the front of the cemetery.

He alternated driving the spud bar in deep and shallow. He would guestimate where the deceased's chest was likely to be. For the deep ones he would drive the spud bar in two or three times to get the hole 24" deep, then he would wiggle the bar to make the hole larger. Next he ladled in a big cup-full of the fragrant grease. He finished by kicking loose dirt into the hole to bring it to ground level.

Moving on to the next grave he would do a shallow one of six inches. He finished those off in the same way. He figured the shallow ones would get attention right away and the deep ones wouldn't get much attention until after the coons, possums and stray dogs had tore apart the shallow ones and pickings got scarce later in the winter.

He took great care to ensure that the plots were visible from the street.

When he ran out of grease, he went over to Rollie's work truck. Opening the driver's side door, he depressed the lock. Then he filled the body of the door with an entire can of expanding, polyurethane foam...the same kind that is used to seal cracks in houses. After slamming the door shut he pulled a fresh can out of the bag and used it to glue the door to the truck's door frame. That door wasn't ever coming open.

The city wouldn't scrap out the truck if one of the doors worked and Rollie would have to haul his fat ass over to the driver's seat from the passenger side. Zeke would have paid good money to see that, but he planned on being fifty miles away by morning.

Cletus and Zeke lived by a simple set of rules.
  • A full day's work for a full day's pay and 
  • Never go down without giving five times as much pain as you were given. 

Their interpretation of eye-for-eye comprehended the fact that most people couldn't afford to push back. It was hard enough to get another job after you were fired by a mouth-breather like Rollie. Most folks couldn't afford the additional stigma of being sent to jail.

So Cletus and Zeke figured dishing out five times as much pain was about the right amount of thumb to lay on the scale to even things out for the other little guys who couldn't kick.

Stub 8.9: Tim-Tom and AJ

Tim-Tom and AJ Cwiok were nursing their drinks in the bar of the newly opened “Bora Bora Island” paradise in Sedelia. They were both part of the Alpha class that was working the kinks out of the concept.

They had just heard the news of Mark Smothers’ death.

It hit Tim-Tom particularly hard. Tim-Tom worked for Smothers’ social media platform and had even been in a couple of “diagonal slice” meetings with him. Tim-Tom felt a personal connection with Smothers and felt as if somebody had cut one of his hands off.

AJ worked for Alf-Omeg, the world’s dominant data company.

Tim-Tom and AJ were fraternal twins from Illinois. They had been tagged as potential programming protégés while they were in fifth grade. Their scholastic careers had been subtly guided through middle-school.

Special scholarships had covertly been created so Tim-Tom and AJ could go to summer camps where they competed head-to-head with the best programmers from the US, Eastern and Western Europe and Asia.

Tim-Tom and AJ proved to both be academically brilliant, incredibly intuitive, ruthlessly competitive and to have a certain sparkle that raised them head-and-shoulders above all comers.

By the end of their sophomore year in high school the remainder of their academic careers had been charted down to which professors would teach which classes. They did not go to graduate school. The two corporations most interested in them did not want them to waste time swimming with the minnows.

Tim-Tom was slightly more devious while AJ tended to have a broader reach. There was no need to flip a coin to see who went to Smothers and who went to Alf-Omeg.

At age twenty-eight they had exceeded all expectations of the titans who had personally followed their development. Only one-in-four potential protégé successfully make the transition to corporate culture. Tim-Tom and AJ crushed the maximum expectations.

And that is why the were the very first to be rewarded by an extended stay at the Sedelia “Islands” project.

Tim-Tom, so named because his Kindergarten teacher could not keep his name (which was really Tom) straight, was very, very impressed by the project.

Tim-Tom and AJ did OK with the ladies of Silicon Valley. They were both young, articulate and fit. Smothers and Alf-Omeg both believed in protecting their investments and placed a VERY high priority in clean, healthy living. Both Tim-Tom and AJ worked out four days a week.

The problem was the girls. The girls in Silicon Valley were pretty. But then all reasonably healthy girls are pretty.

The issue was that the girls from Silicon Valley would always pull some bullshit Social Justice Warrior card just when Tim-Tom (or AJ) thought it was getting serious. It was if the girls felt threatened by Tim-Tom or AJ and had some insatiable need to put them “in their place.”

Frankly, any rational person should feel threatened by Tim-Tom and AJ. They were dangerous by virtue of their laser-sharp minds and doubly dangerous due to the vast responsibilities, and resources, that their employers had placed in their hands.

Tim-Tom and AJ got very tired of having girls with I.Q.s of 105 spasm into kung-fu dominance poses. Tim-Tom and AJ were off-scale with regard to I.Q., I.Q. was simply not a meaningful measure for people like them. And yet average Cali girl harbored some irresistible complusion to piss up their leg.

How-some-ever, the girls in the Island project in Sedelia were a totally different species.

Their eyes did not roll back in their heads when you explained that you were writing code to high-jack computation resources of near-by devices that were underutilized. They did not change the subject and insist that Hillary Clinton had been robbed of the presidency or that Maxine Waters had been robbed of the same by being born twenty years too soon.

And please trust me on this, no young man wants to have visuals of either of those women rattling around in their heads when they are intent on 'getting busy'.

No. The Sedelia girls leaned forward and asked, with totally absorbing interest, “How do you decide what level of encryption is most efficient?” or “How often do you poll location and decide when to pass back partially completed tasks.”

Oh, and they were so very, very beautiful! They GROOMED themselves. They did not have braided armpit hair. No dreadlocks. Any body odor was faint and athletic and, well, healthy smelling.

The girls were not sluts. You had to earn your way into their beds. But Tim-Tom and AJ were clearly the alpha males in this venue. They could have had five different girls every night. But Tim-Tom and AJ, being who they were, quickly sorted through the population and found great fits.

The eternal question is Ginger-or-Mary Ann. They both chose a Mary Ann. One Mary Ann. Not that any of the Mary Anns of the Islands were plain.

“It had to be the government.” Tim-Tom asserted.

“Why do you say that?” AJ challenged.

“The only people who have guns are the government, the gangs and the Cartel.” Tim-Tom said.

“The gangs and Cartel spray-and-pray from five paces. Only the government has people who can hit meat six-of-seven times from two hundred yards.” Tim-Tom said.

“Ok, I am not arguing with you.” Tory said. Tory was AJ’s Mary Ann. “But why would the government knock off Smothers?”

Tim-Tom said, “You gotta look at context. Azrael got killed. Those two guys got killed at the lacrosse game. Now Smothers gets knocked off. The government declared war on industry.”

Tim-Tom and AJ allowed themselves one drink a night. Tonight, they were working on their second and it made them both exceptionally loquatious.

“If you look at it from the perspective of gov-vs-industry, why aren’t you including Spirochete?” Radhika asked. Radhika was Tim-Tom’s girl.

“Spiroshete could be looked at as either gov or industry. But right after him, Bona-Brown died. Let’s be realistic. Unless he was snorting nose candy there is no way he would have a stroke at his age.” Tim-Tom asserted.

“It looks to me like somebody assassinated Spirochette and Bona-Brown and now the .gov people are mowing down the ranks of the industry.” Tim-Tom said.

AJ, who had been mostly listening because he knew Tim-Tom needed to vent, finally spoke up. “Any fool can come up with a theory that explains everything that happened in the past. The value of theories is their ability to predict what will happen in the future.”

“Given your theory, what will happen next?” AJ concluded.

Tim-Tom thought for a second. “I would expect industry to launch a round of reprisals. I would expect an exceptional number of government officials to die by violence in the next few weeks.”

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Financial planning

I will be turning 59-1/2 in a few months.

That is one of the magic numbers with regards to retirement savings. There are wing-of-bat-eye-of-newt ways to get your hands on the money sooner but you give up flexibility with WOBEON methods.

The traditional advice is to withdraw no more than 4% of your principal every year. Given the low rates of bond returns and the spindly legs holding up equity returns, withdraw rates less than 4% might be smarter.

That is the background of the painting.

The foreground involves immediate needs. I have two vehicles that need new tires and winter is coming.

Mrs ERJ admitted that after living here almost 30 years she would like a water softener and we need a new hot-water heater.

In the mid-distance the roof will need replacing and I am leaning toward steel. The furnace is forty years old and I am leaning toward geo-thermal. Both items are big ticket items.

Life is not a set-piece battle but it is comforting to know where the artillery is positioned at the start of the contest.

When punching somebody in the nose is an act of kindness

Today's litany of stupidity includes a celebrity who punched a heckler in the nose. The heckler called the celebrity's daughter a "cunt".

Rather than simply reporting the facts, most news outlets are editorializing and condemning the celebrity. Those news outlets are wrong.

This is not something you have to explain to most men. We protect our women. We protect our children.

The heckler was not five years old. He cannot use the excuse "I didn't know what the word meant."

From a different perspective, the heckler was issuing a "cry for help." That term usually makes me cringe but I think it has applicability in this case. The heckler was looking for limits and guardrails. The sooner he finds them the less damage he will do to himself and others. Getting punched in the nose is a clear indication that you found that guardrail you were looking for. No ambiguity there!

Likely, words were meaningless to him. If you are reading this blog then you undoubtedly have a functional command  of the English language. It is easy to forget about the person whose ability to process verbal information is in the oneth percentile. Three very short, declarative sentences and he is done. If it were listed as an IQ, it would an IQ of 55 for verbal processing.

Lansing is not very big as cities go. The metropolitan area is about 400,000. That means there are 4000 oneth percentile people walking around at any given time for any given attribute.

Punching somebody in the nose is excellent communication. It is immediate and it transcends any language barriers. The only time it is not appropriate is when the other party is trying to goad you into escalating the conflict and they have numerical or hardware advantages.

Now I know a few of you reading this are trying to make it more complicated that it is. You are thinking, "He was asking for it. The name-caller wanted the big reaction, so he won." If you are that person, I ask you to look inside yourself. In many cases people who embrace "reverse psychology" lack the stomach to do what needs to be done. Reverse psychology gives those people intellectual cover to shy away stepping up and doing what must be done.

It is like the overweight parent who never refuses the overweight child food. "Well, he would just get sneaky and eat more to spite me." Yup. They would get sneaky but it is unlikely they would eat more if you simply kept less food in the house or kept fewer foods that were "Yummy!" But that would cramp your style, wouldn't it.

I dare say that Trump's simplicity is what most enrage his haters. They see him as a bully or a brute. Or it may be that his direct approach exposes the hater's intellectual dishonesty and lack of courage.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

A bad pun and toilet talk

Not a lot to write about because I did nothing today.

I am fending off my second cold in three weeks. The worst part is that it makes me impatient. Mrs ERJ attributes it to not being able to hear as well.

It is worth noting that hearing loss is correlated with memory loss and dementia. I can tell that I retreat from the present when my hearing is impaired. I also am quicker to tear, slash and rend...probably as a way of defending a larger space bubble.

Some of the neuroscientist attribute the loss of mental function to the loss of input. A motor that is not spun-up every few years tends to seize.

It could be said that music can bring memory Bach.

One of my mom's struggles is due to osteoporosis. Her pelvis is shot and it hurts to walk.
The magazine rack is a nice touch. We have to take measurements to ensure the unit will fit in the bathroom, along with my mom's walker.

Going to the can is a chore and I believe there are all kinds of power lift seats and toileting assists that can help. We just have to sort our way through the choices.

Pops up just like a toaster!

Mom does not want to jump right to the power lift units. Mom has a recliner that has the launch feature and she loves it. I guess it would mean that she has to admit that she is no longer middle-age.
I think I saw something like this in a James Bond movie. BTW, she is not my mother.

This has been quite an education.

Mrs ERJ reads the reviews. This type of unit comes highly rated but is not appropriate if the user is much stronger on one side than the other. The technology fails spectacularly when the user tries to use just one side to assist their lift-off. My mom often strains one shoulder or the other, so this is not a good choice for her.

If any of my readers have any experience or strong opinions, I would love to hear them.

A response to Scott Pi

A new reader posted a comment requesting the beginning of the Zev story.

The very beginning of the story is about 10,000 words in Jim Curtis's anthology Calexit. That piece was titled The Farm. Mr Curtis is the very finest example of a southern gentleman and he took a chance on me.

After a bit, the characters kept nagging at me so I started a series I called "Installment" after the great era of installment stories in magazines.  The lead installment in "Installment" is HERE. That story-line petered out on July 4 and I thought I would get some peace.

Later that month some of the minor characters started to have arguments in my head. They said, "We are not 'minor'. We have our own stories."

I called that story arc "Stub" because I had no idea if their stories had legs or if they would just be spurs that ended quickly. The first installment of Stub starts HERE.

The older installments have a link at the bottom that should take you to the next installment.

Worker fired for wearing shirt

If you follow the news you have undoubtedly heard of the hospital worker who was fired for a picture showing him wearing a shirt with a Confederate Flag and a noose on it.

The worker was not charged with a crime. He was not convicted in a court where he was granted the protections in the Bill of Rights.

I always figured that what I wore and what I did after work hours was my business, not my employer's business. As long as I was not leaking intellectual property and reported to work ready to do my job, i.e. not hung-over, stoned or drastically short of sleep, it was not their business.

I don't think the progressives who are applauding this development have thought this through.

By extension, an employer could fire somebody who cross-dresses on their own time. Clothing choices on your own time are now a fire-able offense.

They could fire somebody who has a tattoo that is usually covered up but is revealed in a single photo posted on social media.

If I can get fired over a tee-shirt I am wearing on my own time, it means I can get fired for who I share a bedroom with or my choice in erotic accessories: silk-or-nylon-or-leather, live-fresh-or-frozen.

Firing somebody over a picture of a tee shirt, no matter how distasteful it may be to some people is a very bad precedent.

---The guys at coffee wanted to know who took the picture of him voting. In Michigan, it is a felony to take pictures inside a polling place. I assume it is the same elsewhere.

So did the person who took the snapshot commit a felony and then did the hospital use the image created during the commission of that felony to fire the worker?

Excitement in the big city

Mom and Dad had some excitement last night.

The police were pursuing an SUV ( Suspect yute's vehicle ) through the neighborhood when said SUV started driving across yards.

The good news is that the vehicle did not crash into mom and dad's house. Rather, it flattened six Hillary/Caine and fifteen Gretchen Witmer yard signs in the yard of a neighboring attorney as it rolled to a stop.

Three yutes fled the SUV. One was apprehended.

FEMA slow to respond. Bush widely blamed.

The good news is that mom and dad had taken out their hearing aids and had been alerted by the flashing lights that life was interesting.

Friday, November 9, 2018

What is a native?

The distinguished guest who toured our property runs a nursery specializing in native plants. One of the questions we batted about was "What is a native species?"

The question, "What is a 'native' plant species?" can be surprisingly sticky.

At one time, most native oaks that had bristles at the ends of the lobes were lumped into two or three species.

In time, it was accepted that there were enough differences to justify splitting of many different species.

Suppose I live in Michigan and I wished to plant oak that dropped their acorns later in the season. Furthermore, suppose I wished to hedge my bets with regard to climate change...whether for warmer or colder. Finally, suppose that the places where I could plant new trees had been recently vacated by ash trees and were very wet, for the most part.

Is Shumard Oak a Michigan Native?
County-by-county range map of Shumard Oak based on pollen capture.

Most plant nerds would grudgingly concede that Shumard Oak exists in Michigan in very scattered plantings.
Shumard Oak leaves

You have to remember that to the common man, most of these oaks look nearly identical and trained botanists have only looked at a very small percentage of the trees out there.

How about Cherrybark Oak?

It is in Illinois and Indiana.

Most plant nerds could agree that this oak species is not a native of Michigan but they would also agree that it would thrive in the southern third of the lower peninsula and within 25 miles of Lake Michigan. The only reason it is not a native to Michigan is because the Wabash river flows south rather than north.

What about Water Oak?

The northern limits of the documented range is only sixty miles farther south than for Cherrybark Oak. Do you really think the scientists caught every single specimen in the wild?

Sometimes called Duckfoot Oak. These leaves are certainly different than the three shown above.

Not a native of Michigan but certainly worth a trial in the southern 1/3 of the lower peninsula in the wettest sites where very few species will grow.

What about Nuttall Oak

The northern limits of Nuttall oak are about the same as for Water Oak although the east-west range is much smaller.  If multiple specimens can be found in New Madrid, Missouri then who is to say that scattered specimens are not waiting in Cairo and Brookport, Illinois waiting to be found?

ERJ's seat-of-the-pants opinion
A species can be considered "potentially native" if the main, contiguous population is within 300 miles north-or-south of your site and the sites are within 500 feet elevation of each other. Distances greater than that can be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

Why this is important
There are places where favorable zoning or tax treatment is given if/when the site is planted to "native" species. It can be difficult to find a robust portfolio of "native" species to plant when the site is degraded by salt, drainage or pollution.

In those cases, a certain flexibility in the definition of "native" is expanded to include species from regions that are nearby but not particularly close. Those of us north of Fort Wayne, Indiana benefit the most from this loosening of definitions. Glaciers bulldozed the soil to mineral dirt and species have only had a few thousand years to migrate north.

Those of us north of the glacier line have relatively few paint daubs on our palette if we are forced to stick to the strictest definition of "native".

Red Squirrels

My dad has Red Squirrels in his garage.

My first effort was to foam this press-plate into place.

That was not successful for reasons I won't get into.

Let's see them get past three, 2" T-25 deck screws!

Life is like a bag of marshmallows

I was grubbing around for something to read the other day when I unearthed a collection of rememberances compiled by Rita Van Amber. The series of books are titled Stories and Recipes of the Great Depression.

One quote caught my attention:

Man has always relied on knowledge acquired through experiences of previous generations. If we were to make all our own errors, life would not be long enough to make them all and it would be a lifetime of aimless frustrations filled with defeat and failure.

"Progressive" thinking is enabled by vast amounts of expendable wealth.

Have you ever roasted marshmallows over a fire? People don't treat every marshmallow the same even though they are identical for all practical purposes.

The newly opened bag suggests an infinite supply. Campers are hungry. The first marshmallows become torches as impatient campers hurry and burn the first efforts.

This is THE major flaw of Progressive thinking: That somehow the laws of thermodynamics will be different this time because I am the one who is hungry. This conceit is tolerated, even encouraged because there is a super-abundance of marshmallows and there is a presumption that the Progressive thinker will learn from their experiences.

But if there is never a downside for the impatient mallow-roaster, what incentive is there for them to learn?

The rest of the bag
Things usually settle down after a quarter of the bag has been wasted. Marshmallows are slowly roasted to a golden brown and they are harvested before the very last of the interior is molten. Waiting too long results in the marshmallow leaping into the coals.

The disposition of the last few marshmallows depends on the maturity of the crowd.

Hunger sated, the least mature crowd wastes the last few marshmallows by using them as flaming missiles directed at the prissiest campers,  those with the cleanest hair and clothing.

More mature campers horde the last few marshmallows in case a hungry camper comes wandering into the party late.

Cletus and Zeke in Catahoula Parish

Cletus and Zeke were working a second shift gig in Catahoula Parish, Louisiana.

While driving to work they noticed that the utility company was replacing many of the utility poles. Warmth, humidity, hurricanes and termites make pole replacement an never ending task.

Zeke, who was smarter than he looked...sometimes, had figured out how to put items on the local craigslist.

One evening, while driving home at 2:00 AM, Cletus and Zeke stopped and put three of the utility poles scattered about the ground into the back of the Dodge truck. It was a heroic chore, but through brute force, pry-poles, winches and many cuss-words they were able to secure the poles in place even though the tips dragged on the ground.

They had to be careful once they got back to the campground because they could not put the truck in reverse due to the dragging poles. They parked the truck beside the tent.

They were rudely awakened by a masculine voice at 9:00 in the morning.

"Are you Mr Cletus Fedewa? the deputy asked. Clearly the deputy had run the plates.

"Yeah. Why?" Cletus yawned, stretched and scratched.

"That your truck?" the deputy asked.


"Did you put those poles on your truck?" the deputy asked. The deputy had followed the drag marks in the pavement and then the dirt road.

"Sure. I don't see what the problem is. Lots of people use those old pole for fence posts and the like." Cletus said as he became more awake.

"That may be so, Mr Fedewa. But most most folks don't take the new poles."

Stub 8.8: When your skin crawls

Zev took a day off to recover.

He had been burning more than two thousand calories a day and had been taking in less than twelve hundred. There comes a time when it becomes difficult to think clearly.

Zev collected his smartphone from where he had stashed it and then slowly made his way up to his hide in the rugged hills west of Silicon Valley. He ate two of the food bars Scooter’s wife had made. He did nothing for one, entire day except digest food, drink clean water, absorb sunlight and pray and plan.

He was heartened to learn that Scooter had recruited an information technology person who had been “outed” because he was suspected of being unreliable. Zev passed along the coordinates and time frame of his next action. Zev also requested misdirection at appropriate times. This next step was going to be a little hairier than the lacrosse game.

Even if the communication had been intercepted, the people intercepting the comms would have only seen pictures of babies and trophy fish and dogs since they did not have the burn-pad that identified which of the 2 million pixels in the picture were encoded. Sending locations were masked by anonymous bounce sites.

Thirty hours later…
Zev eased himself into the weeds that marked the cusp of the road grade separating I-280 and the lots at the end of Redwood Dr.

Zev had identified the ambush site decades before. He had been driving south on the Junipero Serra Freeway when he suddenly became so uncomfortable that his skin crawled. The location was just west of Foothill Boulavard where the roadbed went sub-grade and swept from heading south-east to due east.

The early morning traffic came to a complete standstill as drivers rounded the corner and were blinded by the rising sun. They could not see anything but the brakelights in front of them. Stationary, blinded targets, trapped sub-grade. It was as perfect of a killing field as Zev had ever seen. He never took that freeway again. He drove surface streets even though it sometimes took thirty minutes longer. His reaction was just that visceral.

The Sedelia offensive had dropped the spans over Foothill Boulevard and traffic had to exit the freeway and re-enter on the other side of Foothill. That would have been a major cluster festival except the Cali economy was so moribund that traffic was only 25% of what it had been before Sedelia had succeeded.

Zev positioned himself while it was full dark. He had learned from his experience at the lacrosse game and had doused himself with insect repellent. Looking like garbage might fool humans but ants were not deterred.

Zev hoped that whatever support he was getting from Scooter’s IT guy was focused on the right place and time.

Time passed slowly. The photosensor on Zev’s Red Dot scope kept adjusting to ambient light as full dark passed to dark gray into the light gray of pre-dawn.

Zev's scope had a two minute-of-angle laser dot and no optical magnification. At two hundred yards the glowing red dot that marked the point-of-impact in the scope covered a four inch diameter circle. That is, it covered half of a man’s face at two hundred yards.

Traffic picked up as expected.

Birds sang.

Zev could hear pedestrians, those lucky enough to have jobs, leave their homes in the subdivision to his right. He heard them walk toward the bus stops on Foothill. His senses were extremely acute due to his low calorie status and the tension of the mission.

On cue, the sun rose and the traffic became a rolling goat festival. Just like every morning in Silicon valley.

Zev inserted his hearing protection. It was almost show time.

Zev saw the persimmon colored CTS-V from four hundred yards away as it came around the curve. It glowed as if it were radioactive in the brilliant, early morning, California sun. It slowed in anticipation of exiting the freeway.

At two-hundred-twenty yards, Zev shot the center of the windshield of the vehicle in front of Mark Smothers’ Cadillac.

The driver hammered his brakes and swerved to the right, clipping the car next to him.

The CTS rear-ended the vehicle Zev had just punched a round through and came to a full and complete stop.

Zev could clearly see Smothers’ silhouette inside the car.

Zev’s aimed his second shot in the center of that silhouette. He needed to break the windshield before he was certain that he was hitting Smothers.

At the second shot, the full-power 855 round blew Zev’s supressor off the end of the barrel and it flew 40 feet downrange. Zev was fully focused on the mission and did not even notice. The full power, military ammo cycled the action of the firearm and Zev was able to maintain the supported, prone position and to continue firing without breaking stock weld.

Zev fired five more rounds into Smothers’ stationary silhouette. Zev’s sight picture deteriorated as the windshield became increasingly opaque due to the cracks inflicted by the penetrating rounds.

Zev shifted his aim around. High of center. Higher of center. Left of center. Right of center. Center. Hitting the wire of the chainlink fence had been a reminder that Murphy stalked the optimistic. Zev was not going to have his mission fail because his rounds were being deflected by the steel-cored rim of the steering wheel or the left windshield post.

The other drivers were oblivious. They were encapsulated in their hermetically sealed vehicles.

The neighbors were not oblivious.

Popping his hearing protection, Zev heard stirring from the neighborhood.

In seconds, he broke down his weapon and had it stashed in his trash bag.

He dumped seven 7.62mm cases on the ground and poured his spent brass into the ziplock baggie.

Then he was hoofing northwest. Distance is time. Time is safety. His plan was to go a mile northwest, cross under 280 and then head back into the wilderness.

95 miles away, somewhere west of King City, Scooter and Young Jung Kim the IT guy were watching in real-time via the security cameras Kim had hacked into.

“Damn!” Young Kim exclaimed. “I don’t ever want him mad at me.”

“Can you cover for him?” Scooter asked, anxiously.

“No sweat. I saved some footage of a white SUV starting up on Deodara, driving east and then turning south on Foothill.” Young Kim said. And, with a few key-strokes, Kim over-wrote the footage of Zev heading northwest on foot. “It won’t fool them for long because the time-date stamps are wrong, but it will confuse them for a while.”

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Don't ask me. Look at the map.

It is one of the supreme ironies of parenting that your ability to influence fades to insignificance just as your child's challenges are most overwhelming.

How can one doubt that God has a sense of humor?

The crux of the problem resides in us, the parents. Tactics that worked when our child was four and six and ten no longer work. But we continue to use them because we mastered them. What is that saying about hammers and nails?

So we need to learn some new skills. This is not insurmountable. Skills improve with use. You can practice in front of a mirror.

The first skill you need to learn is to say "Hmmm!!?"

Hmmm!!? is two-thirds amazement and one-third bewilderment.  You can make a half million dollars a year dispensing therapy if you can master "Hmmm!!"  Start with "Amaze" and end with "But I don't quite understand?"

Child: "And then the steering wheel was ripped from my hands, the truck leaped across six lanes of traffic and then went head-first into a ditch and the responding policeman found, gasp!, five grams of cannabis in my truck."

You: "Hmmmm!!?"

The other skill you need to learn is to start your "advice" with, "And what do you think I am going to say?"

There is an 80% chance they know exactly what you are going to say. If you go ahead and say it then you are training them to not listen to you.  You did your job. They are carrying you, whether mom or dad, around in their head.

The next part of your job, after embedding your value-landscape in their heads, is to train them to access that value map. You do that by asking them, "And what do you think I am going to say?"

Just when we, as parents, think our job is to give 'micro' advice, our job is to tell them to look at the map.

Michigan's Blue Wave now has a hat

Make Michigan Illinois, Again

Or if you are a conservative, Make Me Ill Again

Cletus and Zeke in Whitefield, Oklahoma

Zeke and Cletus were working at an industrial construction site outside of Whitefield, Oklahoma.

A Korean concern was building a factory to make automotive components: headlights, taillights, brake calipers and such. The firm had milked regional and state incentives and subsidies into the eleventh hour and construction was behind schedule.

Zeke was driving a dump truck and Cletus was driving a Bobcat, spreading fill.

Recent shifts in electoral patterns had emboldened progressive regulators and they had driven Equal Employment Opportunity initiatives into the tiniest subset of victim. A mathematician would have suggested that they had discovered -1^(1/2), that is, found imaginary numbers.

Consequently, otherwise marginally qualified job candidates found themselves in positions beyond their ability.

One of those positions involved traffic control of the dump trucks.

The controller was screaming at Zeke to get out of the dump zone the second he had finished his spread. Zeke did not mind working fast, but he was uncomfortable when it was somebody he had never worked with before.

One of the unspoken rules was to trust your ground-spotter. They have a better perspective than you do.

Zeke hammered the throttle as he was lowering the hopper of his truck.

He never saw the pipe-and-electrical trestle that brought utilities and industrial chemicals into the plant. The hopper and accelerating truck ripped them out of the ground and set construction back two weeks.

Zeke was fired. The traffic director was moved to an inside job.

Cletus picked up forty hours of overtime a week. Zeke caught the biggest catfish of his life during his enforced vacation and fell in love with waitresses calling him "Darlin' "

Stub 8.7: Mark Smothers

Mark Smothers was the beating heart of Silicon Valley.

He was the man most credited with creating "social media." As a student at a second-rate, but obscenely expensive and exclusive Eastern University, he coded up a simple website that allowed fellow students to "connect."

The time was ripe. The platform exploded. Mr Smothers was a canny businessman and a superb programmer/engineer. The fact that he dropped out of the snooty university did not hurt his career.

By 2020 half of the world was addicted to Smothers' platform. Not having a presence on Smothers' site was a death-knell for any business that wished to remain competitive.

Even Bona-Brown, the former, unlamented leader of Cali had been frightened of Smothers' power to send a continent's economy back to the stone age when crossed.

That success came with a price. Every major government was clamoring to have Smothers' platform broken up, defanged. Smothers' influence was likened to a astronomical black-hole swallowing up flights of fire-flies. The smart money was sure that the shoals of envy and fear were about to rip the hull out from beneath Smothers' vessel.

Nobody ever accused Smothers' of being stupid nor risk-adverse.

He recognized that he needed to attend to his public persona after decades of neglect.

He had money. He had the lime-light. He hired the best consultants and forged them into a team: Project Uncle Smothers.

The breakthrough came when the team lead told Mr Smothers to stop thinking of public opinion as, well, people. The team lead told him to think of it as a programming challenge in front of a a Wii instead of on a keyboard.

From then on, Smothers was all-in.

While many, many factors were identified and tweaked, one of the major factors was Smothers' voice.

Smothers' thought like an engineer. Higher frequency signals can carry more information. Smother's voice was high, strained and squeaky. He spoke a mile-a-minute. The optics of his voice had never been an issue. If you were a programmer and wanted to be a millionaire or billionaire, you did what Mark said. Otherwise you were unemployed. It was a binary set.

The public perceived his voice differently. His voice made him small and shallow. It reminded them of the used car salesman who spoke quickly so-as to deny the buyer time to think. Coupled with his choice in clothing, clothing that made him look like a minor minion in the engine room of the Star Ship Enterprise...the kind of minion that was killed off in the first ten minutes of the episode. Smothers' voice triggered the same associations that the shrilling of an alarm clock did in the chill of morning dark.

Smothers hired the best. Many came from the entertainment industry.

By way of illustration, his voice coaches segmented the market. By working on his cadence, lung-fill and insisting on the full shaping of every vowel phonemes, people over the age of forty rated Smothers' new voice as more believable than Morgan Freeman's. By focusing on the harmonics and sub-harmonics and adding some "growl", women below the age of forty rated his voice as more protective than Vin Diesel's or Chris Hemsworth's. Hearing Smothers' new voice made them weak in the knees and warm in the middle.

No rock was left unturned. No toad remained unkissed. Smothers was as ruthless in his pursuit of public approval as he had been of market share.

In the end, Mark Smothers was hailed as everybody's favorite jovial, obscenely rich uncle...the one you never had but was sure you deserved.

One surprising recommendation was that Smothers' acquire a "hobby" that made him seem both bigger-than-life and flawed at the same time. Smothers' chose to collect vintage, fast cars. Very fast cars.

We don't want our heroes to drive a Prius or Smart Car. We want them to drive 420 cid, supercharged Duesenbergs.  The right kind of passion or flaw makes superman seem more approachable and we can relate to them better.

That morning Smothers chose his Cadillac CTS-V with the supercharged Corvette V8 to drive to work. He had his software guys install a switch to detune the throttle response. In ground-pound mode, Smothers had liquified all four extremely large and gummy tires in a single, 4WD launch. While it was insanely fun to do that, folks tended to bitch about the clouds of smoke.

Getting into his burnt-orange Cadillac, Smothers did not know he was going to die before making it to his office.

Next Installment

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Achille's Heel

Achille's mother had premonitions that her unborn son would die by violence.

She wrestled an indulgence from the gods on Mount Olympus, he would be made invulnerable if he were dipped into the river Styx, at least those parts of him that were wetted.

History proved the promise was valid. Arrows bounced off of him.

Until one day when Paris, the hero of Troy, shot him in his heel. One suspects the death was not instantaneous but was due to dung-induced infection.

Parenting 101
As a parent, we learn that every lie has the seeds of its unwinding coded into the weft and woof of its weaving.

A critical reading of any of the dozens accounts, aka narratives, of the Central American 'caravan' quickly reveals that the Achillies' heel involves mass transit.

In fact, nearly all "popular, spontaneous demonstrations" share that same vulnerability.

Interviews of protestors in Ferguson, Missouri revealed that many of them came from the East Coast. Clue-bat: They did not walk. There is not enough room for them to park their personal vehicles. They rode buses.

Cletus and Zeke would not try to gum up the flows of financials or attempt to shame the shameless. They are far more direct than that.

They would find out where the buses were parked. One of them would chat-it-up with the one guy who is smoking and the other would walk down the other side of the line of parked buses and kick the tire valve-stems out of every tire he could reach.

All it takes is a pair of work boots and good aim. The actual physical damage to the bus is nil. The issue is that it takes time to repair all of those wheels. Not every shop can handle bus and truck tires.

The primary result is 2000 protestors find themselves stranded 900 miles from home without food vouchers and hotel reservations.

The secondary result is that bus lines stop supplying services to activists who take their buses into harm's way.

Just sayin': The "narratives" are telling you what parts of the operation were not dipped in the River Styx.

A day of collecting

The utility companies are doing quite a bit of pole maintenance. They typically cut the old pole into pieces short enough to handle and leave them in place for a week or two before sending a truck to collect them.

I, being the fine fellow that I am, I helped them out.

I shouldn't complain about free stuff, but it would have been nice if they were eight feet long instead of seven. I use eight foot posts in the vineyard and these would have made world-class end posts.

Using 32 lbs/ft^3 these sticks weighed about 140 pounds. I must be getting old. I found it a chore to drag these out of the ditch and get them pitched into the back of the truck.

Belladonna is going to laugh when she reads this. She was disappointed when she did not PR deadlifts this week. She did a couple(!) of 405 pounds as a warm up and then stalled when she tried to deadlift 435 pounds. She got the weight three inches above her knees when the bulge of her rectus femoris wrecked her lift. I should have had her pitching the sticks into the back of the truck. She probably could have done it one-handed.

A distinguished guest
We had a distinguished guest walk the property today.

The lady is retired and she grows native plants as a small business. She looked and moved like an athletic forty-year-old. Just shows that we rust out way faster than we wear out.
A Claypool hybrid, K-6, is bluish-black, has citrus-y nose and is incredibly productive.
Some of the seeds she collected were from persimmons. Persimmons are not native to Michigan but are native in Central Indiana. Some of her clientele might have an interest in more southern plants as a way to diversify their plantings in the event of climate swings.

She also collected seeds from a Mapleleaf Viburnum. It lives up to advertising as being adaptable to dry, shady sites. This clump was growing on a sandy ridge beneath some White Oak.

The lady was pleasant company and it was interesting to hear that other parents have had some of the same experiences with their kids as we have had with ours.

Taking care of a friend
One of my friends is 78. One of his heart valve went tango uniform. His insurance insists that he find three doctors who agree that surgery is both indicated and survivable.

He works full time, five days a week. His wife has a condition that is progressive and going to work is essential to his sanity. It is the metronome of his life. He cares for his wife five hours a day, commutes, works eight hours.

It has been a chore to find those three doctors.

One of the candidates told him he would agree to the surgery if a dentist pulled his teeth. So now he is nursing some very sore gums.

I planted a few hazelnut bushes for him today. He did not come out and help. I think he is feeling pretty beaten down.

Cletus and Zeke in Baxter Springs, Kansas

Zeke was standing in line at the check-out of a convenience store near Baxter Springs, Kansas.

When it was his turn he put a twelve pack of beer on the counter and a box of condominiums (keeping it safe for work, I am). As an afterthought, he fished two packages of M&Ms out of the box beneath the counter and slapped them down next to the cash register.

"I have a date tonight." Zeke said.

The check-out girl looked at the box of condominiums and thought that Zeke was an optimist.

"I figured." the horse-faced girl responded with a sniff of disapproval.

After ringing him up, she started bagging. "Would you like two bags with that?" she asked, surveying the sharp corners of the 12-pack.

"Nah." Zeke said. "That is what the beer is for."

Michigan election results

Stub 8.7: After Action Report

Zev kept his head down for a full seventy-two hours.

In the late evening of the third day he mosied on down to Anthony's parking lot.

He took fifteen minutes to survey the lot before entering. It looked different. Where there had been three very distinct populations, there was now one very large population and a tiny nucleus of a second in a distant corner.

Zev took his time percolating through the crowd. When he got to Anthony he asked, "What's new?" in a casual voice.

Anthony cast a sharp look over at Zev. "Where have you been?" Anthony asked.

"Oh, I been around. Kind of out-of-the-loop, though." Zev deflected the question.

"It was pretty exciting around here for a bit." Anthony said. "The military came in and scooped up 'Team Go Blue'* and transported them to God knows where."

"I was figuring you somehow got scooped up too, when nobody had seen you." Anthony finished.

Zev raised an eyebrow into an elegant question mark. "Why did they do that?" Zev asked.

"Go Blue claimed some of the school yards southwest of here as their own turf. They had a spat and killed a couple of bigshots from San Jose. Cali said "enough" and now Go Blue don't exist anymore. No Go Blue, and that doesn;t give team 'Red/Green' much reason to stick together." Anthony said.

"Team Go Blue did it, huh?" Zev asked.

Anthony knew when he was being pumped for information. That was his business, disseminating information.

"That's the official story. A lotta folks think it was a government hit. Gang-bangers don't shoot people from a quarter mile away." Anthony said.

"Wow, that's a long shot." Zev said, unintentionally making a pun.

"Nobody heard the shots. It had to be from a long ways away. There were also rumors of fresh shell casings found nearby, 7.62mm, military issue. The other thing that makes the smart money think it was Cali is that usually there are hundreds of 9mm casings laying on the ground when the gangs start getting noisy. Nobody found any 9mm casings, not a single one." Anthony said.

Zev knew that he was pretty much home-free as far as suspicion was concerned, but getting away with killing people was not his goal.

Zev's goal was not to fight a war, but to start one. And to do that, he was going to have to get the public's attention off top-dead-center. They had to KNOW it was Cali offing its citizens. And to do that he had to think big.

*The flags of Guatemala, El Salvadore and Honduras have backgrounds that are two-thirds light blue. The background of the Mexican flag is two-thirds green and red.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Get them in Frog-green and Fire-engine red

Belladonna is in Hacienda ERJ gracing us with her presence.

She drove down from Grand Valley to vote.

She made a few spelling corrections on an upcoming Stub installment "H-e-m-s-w-o-r-t-h, dad. Get it straight!"

She also shared one of her favorite sequences from the show House.

People value the illusion of control more than actual ability to influence events especially when it requires work. And what is supremely ironic is this woman probably has a sign in her front yard declaring "Science is real".

Pro-choice, Christian ministers

On November 9 many faith-leaders will gather at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Columbus, Ohio to "bless" it.

It is their intention to bless it as one might bless a food pantry or farmer's field, as a venue for doing God's work. It is not their intention to bless it in the sense that broken people might be given the gift of God's healing.

Many of the faith-leaders claim to be Christian ministers.

Pro-choice, Christian ministers often justify their position by pointing to Exodus 21:22. After all, you cannot argue with the Bible:

When men have a fight and hurt a pregnant woman, so that she suffers a miscarriage, but no further injury, the guilty one shall be fined as much as the woman’s husband demands of him, and he shall pay in the presence of the judges.
They neglect to mention the next verse:

But if injury ensues (to the mother), you shall give life for life
My interpretation is that miscarriages were common events in Biblical days, driven in part by not enough calories and austere living conditions. By some estimates one out of every three pregnancies ended in a miscarriage.

God, via the Bible, tells us to judge the men who are fighting with mercy, that the mother may have miscarried whether she had been bumped by the fighting men or not. A coincidence of timing.

However, if the fighting men left marks or injury, bruises perhaps, on the mother then the community is to judge the lost baby as a byproduct of the men fighting and the man who is not the husband is to be put to death.

Unborn baby lost to natural miscarriage, nobody is held accountable.
Unborn baby lost as collateral damages to men fighting is to be treated as murder.

I think the faith-leaders who are blessing the Planned Parenthood clinic should get honest and stop pretending to believe the Bible.

Reminder to Progressives

Just a reminder to my progressive friends:

If you are not able to get out and vote today, the make-up election will be held November 23, also known as Black Friday.

Please remember that the voting will be held at Walmart. Every $200 worth of merchandise purchased with credit cards will count as one vote for progressives!

Finally! Election day 2018

It is wise to remember that regardless of which party dominates the midterm elections, the sun will still rise in the morning, the wind will blow, rain will fall, babies will be born and old men will die.

Winning comes with a cost. The market pundits tell us the next two years are likely to be rough. If the government is split than the party that chooses to be obstructionists or that fixates on vengence will be blamed for torpedoing the economy. If the government is not split then they will be considered complicit.

Remember, the most important people in your life sleep under the same roof that you do.

Cletus and Zeke in Ainsworth, Nebraska

Life in Nebraska stops when the Corn Huskers are playing. It goes into reverse when it is a big game.

The Corn Huskers played the Buckeyes and it was a close game. Babies stopped being born. Old folks stopped dying for the duration. Sinners stopped sinning and cops stopped writing tickets.

It was a nail-biter right to the end, and then it was time to go home.

The bartender peered out the window. "He is still there." was all he said.

Zeke and Cletus looked at each other. "Well, I suppose we gotta go sometime." Zeke said.

They slouched out the door. As they stepped outside they burst into song. They sang loudly, off-key and most of the words were wrong:

Suddenly, I'm not half the man I used to be
Oh, I believe, I've leprosy
Why my arm falls off, when I cough, I wouldn't know... 
Then would burst into hilarious, raucous laughter. As they walked it was clear that both had difficulty balancing. Like a couple of punch-drunk fighters they leaned on each other to avoid falling.

They wobbled their way over to the Dodge truck. Cletus dropped the keys before he could stab the lock. Leaning over to pick up his keys he fell on his dupa.

Zeke called him a bad name loudly enough that the 250 patrons still in the bar could hear him.

Deputy Andrew Aguecheek could hear them both from inside his patrol car. He had listened to the game on a single ear-bud as regulations require that he monitor the radio; not that anything was going to happen during the game.

Andrew was an angry and bitter man. It was just his luck to pull this shift. He was tucked into a turn-around across the road from the rural bar. There used to be a town around the watering hole about seventy years ago but now only the bar and graveyard remained. Farmers and Husker fans from thirty miles around made a pilgrimage to the bar every game-day. It is just what they did.

Cletus started up the truck and pulled into the drive. He stopped and turned on his turn indicator.

Andrew was not by nature an unfair man. He turned on his lights so the drunk could see that he had been watched. Even though dusk was falling, his light bar was clearly visible and there was no doubt that the drunk was being watched by a cop.

Then the drunk doubled down on his stupidity. He pulled out onto the highway.

Andrew tucked in behind him. He really needed 'probable cause' before he pulled him over. Andrew was certain that the drunk would not be able to stay under the speed limit or would wobble out of his lane, given the difficulty he had walking from the door to his vehicle.

The truck had Michigan plates, and that made it even better. The sheriff wouldn't be getting an irate phone call from a voter about over-zealous cops.

The drunk must have set the cruise-control because he kept the speed pegged at 2 mph below the limit. Then after driving for two miles he tapped the brakes and turned on his signal indicating a right turn. He made a perfect turn to the right.

Patrolman Andrew ran out of patience. He turned on the gumball lights and the truck slowed down, pulled over and stopped.

The driver had his registration and proof of insurance ready, which was unique in Deputy Aguecheek's experience.

After waiting the required 20 minutes, Aguecheek had the driver blow into the breath-o-lizer. The needle did not move. Aguecheek told him to do it again, watching to ensure that no funny business happened. Again, the machine registered 0.00%

"What the Hell!" the frustrated deputy exclaimed.

"Well, dontchya know, I am the DD." the driver informed him.

The deputy looked at the passenger who had been a model of decorum and tact, unlike every non-sleeping drunk on the planet.  "He ain't drunk." the deputy stated with disgust. "He don't need no designated driver."

"I ain't the designated driver. I am the designated decoy." Cletus said.

The deputy swiveled around and looked at the bar's parking lot. It was empty and not a single vehicle had gone down the highway behind the patrol car.

And that was when Cletus and Zeke got paid $100 to watch a football game to and sing.