Tuesday, January 23, 2018

ERJ visited a Cathouse today

I was invited into a cathouse today.  There were between fifty and sixty cats in the structure.  The proprietor can't keep up with the count.

In other news, I had my annual physical.  After reviewing all the changes that Mrs ERJ is making in my life, the Old Curmudgeon raised one bushy eyebrow and pronounced..."Too soon for medicine.  Just keep doing everything Mrs ERJ tells you to do and we will recheck your lipid panel in three months."

Things keep breaking

I replaced this part about four years ago.

Can you see the break?
How about now?
That is why it is handy to have test tools.  You can find things that you cannot see.

The new part is ordered and should show up Wednesday or Thursday.

I seem to have failures when the kids run the dryer.  They run it on the High heat setting.  I don't know why they are in a hurry.  They invariably let it sit over night before attending to the dried clothing.

My belief is that the dryer runs the Low heat setting on 120V and the High setting on 240V.  Power is Amperage .times. Voltage.  Since Amperage is a function of voltage and resistance, the heat is V*V*R.  That is, doubling the voltage quadruples the heat.

No wonder it always craps out when the kids are running it.

Water Heaters
Mrs ERJ mentioned that the hot water heater seemed to be running at reduced capacity.  The water would go luke warm partway through her shower.

I checked out the water heater while I had the test tool out.  The lower heating element is burned out so I need to replace that as well.

Fortunately the parts are relatively inexpensive.  Heating elements for the dryer run between $20 and $40.  Heating elements for the water heater run between $10 and $20.

Monday, January 22, 2018

When Rory met Malia

Exclusive Eaton Rapids Joe footage of when Rory Farquharson and Malia met.

Darned nice of those Secret Service agents to help Rory down off his horse.

Urinary Tract Stones

Not me, the Boston Terrier.

Not My Dog
The Boston Terrier is a dog that was chosen by one of the two older children.  My child chose this dog because it was "cute".  That, and because they thought they would be given $600 every time somebody wanted to breed Boston Terriers.  No surprise to Mrs ERJ or me, the breeding fees never showed up.

When that child left home, their dog stayed.  This is a fact-of-life for parents.  Kids move on.  Dogs don't.

Diversity complicates management
Different sizes of dogs have different needs.  German Shepherds like being outside even when it is -10F.  German Shepherds like playing in the snow.  German Shepherds are happy when they can run for miles.

Boston Terriers are much smaller.  Our's weighs about 15 pounds vs. 75 pounds for the GSDs.  Boston Terriers have short, flat coats compared to the German Shepherd's deep, lofty fur.

Boston Terriers do not like cold.  They do not like snow.  They don't like drinking cold water on cold days.

Another difference between BIG dogs and little dogs is dietary.  Little dogs need more calories per pound especially in cold weather because they shiver more.  They are also vulnerable to excess calcium in their food.  Small urinary tract passages are easier to plug.  Higher rates of H2O transpiration and lower water intake in cold weather cause lower urine volume and result in more solids precipitating out of their urine.  Not good.

Dog food
We decided it was time to get a dog food that will be specifically for the Boston Terrier.  No more big-bag food for that little boy.
We purchased a bag of Hills Science Diet Small/Toy Breed Adult dog food.  The bag lists the calcium content as Min...0.65%.  The internet says 0.96%  That is a very large difference.
Mrs ERJ and I went to a pet store yesterday.  We were bedazzled by the array of special dog foods.  Aisle-after-aisle of foods.  We checked bags for calcium content. Many brands of dog food seem to think nutritional information is not important, they listed no quantitative info.  Unfortunately the bags that did list calcium content only listed the minimum content so the information is partial. 

The foods formulated for small or toy breeds have a higher fat content.  Higher calories means less food per day which means less calcium.

Water is the magic ingredient
One source on the internet suggests that feeding the food moist helps small dogs get more water into their systems.

In miniature Schnauzers, increasing dietary moisture content increased total moisture intake, and reduced urine specific gravity, urinary oxalate concentration, and calcium oxalate RSS (Stevenson et al. 2003b). In contrast, there was no effect on the urinary concentration of Labradors (Stevenson et al. 2003b), indicating they may regulate water balance more effectively. These data show that small breeds that tend to be at greater risk of calcium oxalate formation may benefit from increased dietary moisture in order to help maintain urinary tract health or manage calcium oxalate urolithasis.  -Source

The same source also suggested that adding common table salt, sodium chloride, to the dog's diet also stimulates water intake.  The plan is to moisten the Boston Terrier's food with chicken bouillon and kill two birds with one stone.

The other little tweak is to give the little pooch distilled water.  Our water is hard and the primary cation is Ca++.  I know that it does not add very much calcium in the overall scheme of things, but distilled water is cheap and we will go back to "regular" when the weather warms up.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

House values and the interest rate

The latest data from FRED shows the median sale price of an existing house is $250,000

The value of houses is very sensitive to interest rates.

Shoppers are typically working within a budget.  They can only afford what they can afford.  Eventually, sellers must price to the market.  This mechanism is completely independent of the effect rising interest rates has on hours worked.  In practice, the budgets most buyers are working with also shrink when interest rates rise.

If the market starts at 4.0% a 1.0% rise in the interest rate will reduce the selling price by 10% and start to push new home-owners underwater.  That assumes 10% down and 30 year fixed mortgages.

Rising interest rates also puncture the wealth-effect of rising equity in homes.  Few things make you feel poorer than seeing a $25,000 loss on paper.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Shithole countries

This is a section through a mulberry log.  Somehow it seemed like an appropriate, G-rated, picture to lead this essay.
Let's look at Senegal, West Africa.

Completely ignoring culture, what would it take to fix the "fecalized environment"?

Wastewater treatment
The state-of-the art is activated sludge bio-degradation of human wastes.  The wastewater, a slurry of water and "other stuff" is run into a settling pond.  The "other stuff" is quantified in terms of Biological Oxygen Demand or BOD.  BOD is the amount of oxygen that the slurry would suck out of the water if it were dumped into a river.  That loss of oxygen typically results in fish kills.
Oxidization Ditches where the effluvia recirculates is considered one of the more appropriate technologies for austere environments.  Each "ditch" should be wide enough for a Bobcat to enter and scrape out.  Multiple ditches allows the system to keep running even when part of it is being maintained.

Approximately half of the BOD is removed from the wastewater after 24 hours in a settling pond.  The liquid is then sent to ponds where air is forced into the water.  Some systems use bubblers, others use paddlewheels or vertical turbines.  Some use jets of water to entrain air bubbles, much like a Jacuzzi.

Finally, the water is treated with chlorine or UV light and released to the wild.

How much power does it take?
A significant portion of Senegal's electrical production is from hydroelectric sources.  Once exploited, it is rarely possible to "scale up" the production at a site.
According to the CIA Factbook, the average daily electrical power consumption of a Senegalese is 0.50 kW-hr.  This is a bit of a myth because a few, rich city people use far more than that and the vast majority of the rest of the people use far less.  Approximately 40% of the population live in rural areas and have almost no access to electricity.  But let's go with the average because it is what we have.
Senegal is not even that bad, relatively speaking.

The average African produces twice as much fecal material as the average North American due to the higher fiber content of their food.  Constipation is rarely a problem in Africa.  That equates to about 0.25 lbs of fecal dry matter per person per day.

According to the Army Corp of Engineers it takes between 0.20 kW-hrs and 0.55 kW-hrs to deliver the air necessary to digest one pound of BOD.  That means that simply injecting the air in the activated sludge digester would consume  0.05 kW-hrs per person per day.  (0.25 lbs/person X 0.5 left in the settling pond X 0.40 kW-hrs)

That is 10% of the electrical produced in Senegal for just one stage of the wastewater treatment.

One reason shithole countries are shithole countries is because they have almost no economy.  Technology is a wonderful thing but it stands on a foundation of infrastructure...including electrical production.  To provide a useful frame-of-reference, the average electrical consumption in the US is about 65 times as much, per person, as in Senegal.

Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner

Serving the customer

I grit my teeth when people in the "public sector" define an outsider as "He came from business."

To me, "business" was so broad of a term as to be meaningless.

I stand corrected.

People who come from "business" understand the insanity of punishing their customers.  

During the 2013 shutdown.
 During the last Federal Government shutdown the Administration configured things to inflict maximum pain on the public.  The Executive Branch assumed there was a transitive property to pain, that they can hurt the other side by punishing the "other side's" constituents.

Note the different mindset:  "Business wins customers through service." while "Government punishes until the subjects submit."

Much of my interaction with the Federal Government is through the internet.  That is, ported through servers (computers) and in nearly all cases the processes I use are automated.  For all practical purposes, a Federal shutdown becomes invisible to me if nobody powers down the servers.

Does that cost a little bit of money, to keep the servers powered up?  Yes, maybe a little.  But it also costs money to keep the buildings heated and the fans running to prevent the plumbing from freezing.  The cost of the keeping the servers running is probably 0.001% of the Federal budget.  They probably spent more money in labor to shut the servers down than they saved in power.

Obama's Executive branch powered down .gov servers the minute the government shut down.

So far, the servers I "tickled" this shutdown remain up.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Annual physicals

My annual physical is scheduled for the middle of next week.

I had my blood work done ahead of time so the information will be available for the doctor at the time of my physical.  The numbers are about what you would expect from an overweight guy who is almost sixty.

I was moaning about the timing of the physical.  Can there be a worse time to have your blood work done than after the gluttony of the holiday season?  Cheese logs, generous libations, ham, sweet taters, mashed taters, gravy, breakfasts out with company, desserts...oh the desserts!

The other thing that conspires against favorable "numbers" is that it takes a great deal of discipline to exercise.  For one thing, there is less time for exercise when entertaining.  For another, the weather outside is discouraging.  It is hard to walk outside when the roads are covered in slush or ice. 

Another factor is that dieting makes the temperature seem 15 degrees colder.  We are genetically programed to eat when it is cold.

Mrs ERJ's take on the situation is a little different.  "Deal with it.  December and January are 1/6th of your life.  The numbers are real.  If you don't like the numbers than do something about it."

I don't like the numbers and told Mrs ERJ so.

The last few weeks Mrs ERJ has made a project out of me.  She drags me out walking every other day regardless of the weather.  She feeds me leafy greens.  Fried foods are now forbidden.  I get the impression that she wants to keep me around for a while.

For my part I am doing portion control and gave up my nightly tipple.  I also bought a bathroom scale because our last scale disappeared.

Weighing myself weekly has been disappointing.  According to the scale I had gained weight after the first week.  This morning was the end of the second week and I am a bit below my starting weight.

I started at 213 and this morning's weight was 210.  And for the Canadians who are reading, that is pounds, not kilograms.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Things are different now

"Things are different now" is one of the great lies.  One reason it is such a fantastic lie is because it is partially true.

For example:  Many kids graduating from high school today can casually sit down with a tablet, laptop or other computer and edit video.  To them, it is not an extraordinary thing.

That is inconceivable to bosses and coaches who might be only ten years older than those students.

We are all familiar with how useful video can be when coaching things like swinging a golf club or throwing dwarves.  We are less familiar with the uses of video in industrial applications because it has rarely used.  The reasons for that rarity are rarity of equipment and rarity of editing and analysis talent.

In industry
Consider a robotic welding cell where four robots weld parts.  Each robot is programmed with interference zones.  If an adjacent robot is in "the interference zone" then the robot in question pauses until the adjacent robot moves out of the interference zone.

Using video, the process owner can take footage from several different angles.  The footage can be synchronized by ensuring that some definitive event like the last weld, the club impacting the golf ball or the release of the dwarf occurs at the same time on each screen.  Then, the process owner can determine if the robots really are at risk of impacting.  Sometimes a simple fix that eliminates the need for the interference zone becomes obvious, like a reorientation of one or both robots or to have one of the robots start welding from a different direction or start on a different weld.

Additionally, it becomes clear if it makes sense to program multiple interference zones.  Robot A might make two welds and then make a big move away from Robot B and make three more welds before leaving the interference zone.  It might make sense to program two interference zones in Robot B.  One stops Robot B for Robot A's first two welds but allows it to nibble its way toward Robot A after they are done.  After completing the work that is "safe" when Robot A is welding its last three welds then Robot B can pause, if necessary, until Robot A clears. 

That kind of work is difficult to do in real time but a snap with videos and multiple views.  What has changed is that people who can do the video work are no longer a limiting factor.  Belladonna could do this kind of thing as a Junior in high school.

It is not uncommon to have one process or operator be significantly faster than the others.  It is easy to dismiss the faster operator as being "more athletic" but that is not always accurate.  Their speed is often an accumulation of little things:  How do they hold each part.  Orientation of the part as they approach the assembly or fixture. How they use both hands.

Happy tools
This wrist band frees up one hand that would otherwise be carrying screws and/or eliminates motions (like an up/down on a ladder) to get more fasteners.
Sometimes the greater speed is because the operator is using "happy tools".  Happy tools are named after the toys that came in McDonald Happy Meals.  They are cheap, simple assembly aids.  They can include aprons or specialized tool and part holders.

The observer who is walking by the work-space is likely to miss the use of the happy tool while the person watching video can quantify exactly how much productivity gain can be attributed to the use of that tool.

A surprising number of kids graduating from high school and college can do video editting.  All you have to do is ask them.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Some old songs

My dad used to sing.  Most often it started was when the front tires of the '58 Plymouth station wagon hit a dirt road.  I don't think he realized he was singing.  Just him driving and the kids behaving in the back of the car.

This song captures the type of song and the (almost) a cappella delivery

Can she bake a cherry pie?

She'll be comin' round the mountain...

Put your head on my shoulder

Taking a Knee

For through faith you are all children of God in Christ Jesus.  For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendant, heirs according to the promise.  Gal 3:26-29

Approximately 150 protestors spent part of Martin Luther King, Jr Day outside of the Diocese of Lansing's office.

They were protesting how Lansing Catholic High School handled four football players who took a knee during the National Anthem before the Homecoming game with Ionia.

To recap how the Lansing Catholic's coaches and administration handled it:
  • Mid-week the coach asked if any of the players intended to take a knee during the National Anthem. (ERJ comment:  I applaud the coaching staff for being proactive.)
  • Four players indicated they would.  (ERJ comment:  I applaud the students for being honest.)
  • After conferring with the administration, the coaching staff offered the four players ten minutes with a microphone during the half-time show to make a public statement if they would not take a knee. (I applaud the administration and coaching staff for coming up with a fabulous solution, one that appears to give the students more than they were asking for.)
  • The students accepted the offer. (Good choice.)
  • After discussing it with their families, the players informed the coaches that the deal was off.  That they were going to "take a knee". (This is where the story goes into The Twilight Zone.  Cui Bono?)
  • The four players took a knee during the National Anthem.
  • None of the four players started the game.
  • All of the four players were put back into the game before half-time. (I applaud the coaching staff for finding a proportional response to the transgression.)
Lest this point elude the reader, "Taking a Knee" in football means:  "I declare that I choose to not  participate."  Take a knee after taking the snap?   It means "Play over, I don't want to participate."  Take a knee while fielding a punt?  It means, "Play over, I don't want to continue on to the next logical part of the game."

For whatever difference it makes, I support the process used by the Diocese of Lansing through this circus show.  They negotiated in good faith.

And, as an organization dedicated to getting people to heaven, they are keeping their eye-on-the-prize.  And the prize is not fleeting glory on the athletic field; the prize is the character (conscience) developed on those fields. 

There are some things that are binary.  Are you saved or going to perdition?  Are you a Catholic (or Baptist, or Methodist or Muslim) or not?  Are you a member of this team or are you a free agent.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Demon: Thy name is Chaos

Image from Lee Reich's gardening blog
Remus over at The Woodpile Report #512 informs us that many liberals now claim that "Future Orientation" is racist.  This is not a surprise as "math", "statistics" and "compound interest" are also considered racist.

That presents a quandary:  Math, statistics, and Future Orientation are tools that are absolutely necessary for success.  The obvious conclusion is that success is racist.

I want to prod about and look at some less obvious conclusions.

Future Orientation
Gardening is a great way to become a competent planner.  Gardening forces you to think about time differently.  You have to work backwards.

You start with the goal.  Suppose you want to harvest green beans to serve with sweet corn in mid-August.  The package says that the beans are "pole beans", that they mature in 60 days and that they require warm soil to germinate.

The gardener, working backwards, realizes that "matures in 60 days" is often optimistic and refers to just the very first ripe green bean.  The gardener also realizes that he might get two weeks of picking from his beans.

He is likely to scattergun his solution.  That is, he will plant seeds 60 days, 67 days, 74 days and 81 days before his hoped-for harvest.  That would be June 16, June 9, June 2 and May 26 respectively.  That means that he should be out in the garden in early May with his rototiller.

He also needs poles which must be cut in advance.

"Why not just plant bush beans?" the reader asks.

Again, the gardener is planning ahead.  His youngest kid graduates from high school this year.  And the gardener is getting a bit big around the middle.  He would rather pick beans standing up.  See, he is thinking ahead.

How long do you think the gardener would continue gardening if hooligans vandalized his garden at seemingly random intervals?  What if the production was purloined in the middle of the night? How long?

Not very long.  There is too much emotional investment.

Therein lies one of the root-causes of the planner/non-planner divide.

Cultures that are run by "planners" are intolerant of people who steal and intolerant of people who generate chaos.  The thieves and disruptors are pushed to the margins where they can do less damage.

Cultures that are not run by planners are tolerant of disruptive people.  They even celebrate them...think "rappers".  These cultures often encourage disruption because disruption draws more resources.

Chaos vs coherence 

Consider the simplest of examples:  The freeway.

Freeways move millions of vehicles a day.  In general, they move those vehicles quickly and safely.  The reason they are successful is because "the rules" foster coherence and because "limited access" restricts the injection of chaos to predictable amounts and locations.  Therefore, the chaos seldom rises above levels where "the rules" can dampen it back down.

Even a modest loss of coherence causes things to break down.
The guy who zigs-and-zags?  He is aggravating because he is breaking the rules.  He is chaos.  He makes the system more fragile.

Stages of development
Rule breaking is a developmental stage.

It occurs when the youth is old enough to have some autonomy and has the intellectual powers to ask, "What happens if..."

That developmental state is mercifully short in cultures where chaos is not tolerated and where the costs incurred by the chaos are levied against the perpetrator.

That developmental state becomes the endpoint in cultures where chaos is tolerated or fostered.

Source of graphic
Baltimore schools have had attendance issues for a long time.  Basically, half of the high school students miss one or more days a week.

The study linked above lists the following "reasons".
The reasons are strongly clustered around drug/alcohol abuse and its inevitable consequences (circled) with a few smaller satellites of bullying and peer pressure.

It is not racist to repudiate substance abuse and bullying.  To not repudiate them is to embrace chaos, to invite failure.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Turbo Tax

No down bump in the stock price.
I went to Walmart to pick up a copy of Turbo Tax 2018.

The sales assistant informed me that she had just read an internal email saying that Walmart was not going to carry Turbo Tax in their stores.

Walmart is conspicuous by its absence, although I do see Sam's Club
If this is true then one would expect a downward movement in the stock price of Intuit.  Losing Walmart as a customer has to sting from a sales volume standpoint.  Software is a high fixed cost business.  Selling incremental units adds almost no cost.  Consequently, profit is exquisitely sensitive to volume.


Contributing to the vibrant tapestry that is America.

They would not be here if I did not feed them.  The little, white whiskers are falling snow.

They are giving me the stink-eye.
I think they resent having to visit the low-rent part of town to get their food.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Bankruptcy Filings, 2007-2017

Quarterly bankruptcy filings, all chapters.  Data from HERE.
Interesting ripple in the data.  April-May-June period seems to have the highest rate of filing.  Taxes?

Vertical red lines approximate presidential elections.

The depths of the Great Recession had twice as high a bankruptcy rate as mid-2007.  The rate now is lower than mid-2007, especially when you consider that the US population has grown about 10% since then.

In very round numbers, approximately seven of every thousand US households declare bankruptcy in a year.

It is good weather for soup

Mrs ERJ and I have different "styles" of soup.

Hers tend to be flavorful and are intended to be one part of a multi-part meal. 

Mine tend to be like cowboy coffee; you can stand your spoon in them and are a complete meal when complemented with bread, biscuits, rolls or crackers.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Thinning out the woods

An apple tree immediately to the left of the spruce tree in the center of the frame.

And now the spruce tree and a Black Locust are gone.

I went out with the chainsaw this morning to open up the canopy around specimens I wish to favor.

My fingers got cold.  Yesterday's freezing rain locked up the mechanism on the back of our outdoor thermometer and faked me into thinking it was 30 F outside.  Wrong.

A photo looking up, into the canopy before cutting.

After cutting.  Clearly, the apple tree will get much more light than before the cutting.

Another before-after sequence.  Cutting Black Locust suckers that are over-topping a  small Chestnut planting.
The Chestnuts are the trees that are still holding their leaves.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Trigger words

"Hey kids.  What are you doing home?  Aren't you supposed to be in school?"

"We got kicked out, Pops." my oldest boy said.

"Bull-cookies.  Why would they kick out such well mannered and precise young people as you?" I asked.

"The teachers say that we 'trigger' them." my daughter responded.

"Impossible." I said.   "Now Timney, I want you to take Jewell, Shilen and little Basix back to school.  Triggering.  Indeed!"

Replacing Fluorescent Light Fixtures with LEDs

This seven minute video shows a young lady in the third grade installing a RedBird Stripit kit.

One of the more interesting LED lighting upgrades I ran across is the Cardinal Stripit kit manufactured by Redbird LED in Georgia.  These kits have two major selling points.

One is that they are relatively easy to install.  All of the work involves using a drill-tool in the vertical orientation.  That became an issue for me when I was using another firm's products to do a retrofit while atop a 15' ladder.  The need to drill holes in the horizontal plane caused the step ladder to matchbox.  Fortunately I was near some steel trusses and was able to grab one and stop the collapse.

The other factor is the light output.

Light output of brand new, fresh out-of-the-box fluorescent tubes.
Some of the Stripit kits that are available.  The entries that are highlighted in green are products that should be considered when replacing specific fluorescent configurations.
Even though some of the highlighted products produce slightly less light (lumens) than the new-in-box fluorescent product, the LED product will retain its light production over time better than the fluorescent tubes they replace.  This is especially true if the purchasing department opts for the "economy" fluorescent tubes.

As the guy who spends time at the top of the ladder, I think that it is awesome that two, 48" Cardinal Stripit strips can produce enough light to replace two 96" fluorescent tubes.  The typical retrofit involves replacing the two 96" fluorescent tubes with two, twin-TLED fixtures.  Twice the work and more problematic from the standpoint of ladder safety.

Other advantages include less labor costs in installation.  I am making a wild guess here, but I would not be surprised if labor runs about 25% of the project cost.  It is possible that using Cardinal Stripit kits could reduce the labor to 15% of the project cost.

Less labor means the installation can be done more quickly.  The crew can exploit shorter maintenance windows or, if working during normal operation inconvenience staff and customers for a shorter period of time.

Finally, crew availability can be a bottleneck.  Shorter installation time reduces the loading of this critical resource.

Anybody who is interested in buying Cardinal Stripit kits in the Indiana, Michigan, Ohio area can buy them from Hulinek Lighting Service (517) 543-5658 or hls@wowway.com.  Tell him Eaton Rapids Joe sent you and he will give me a discount on recycled electrons.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Utility Right-of-way Update

The snow is melting and things are wet, wet, wet.
This is what the right-of-way looks like now.
They used a bobcat with a shredder on the front.  I can only imagine what happened.

I know there is a lot less barbed wire along the fence than there was.  I bet that was a treat to untangle from the shredder.

Maybe I don't need to imagine what happened.  Gouges and chunks missing from the side of this Tee post.

They trimmed this Swamp White Oak and I appreciate the restraint they showed.
A load of shredded brush was delivered.  Thanks, Wright Tree Service.  This photo is from a couple of days ago.  The snow is gone.
I paced off the right-of-way and it is about 130 paces long.  I will be able to squeeze in about 70 hazelnut seedlings.  The nice thing about hazelnuts in this application is that they are bushes and they will not mind getting leveled every ten years.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Belladonna car update

It took about $1000 but the Malibu Classic is back on the road.

New battery $130.

New alternator $170.

We still had the battery light coming on at that point so I punted.  We took the vehicle to Wilder's Automotive in town because the most likely cause of the persistent battery light involved problems with the wiring harness.  Nothing I wanted to chase down in sub-zero weather.

Turns out the replacement alternator was defective.  It happens.

While it was at Wilder's they addressed some brake issues.  A new master cylinder, calipers....and so on.

The next morning
It did not start.

It turned over fine.  But it did not start.

This car has always been vulnerable to fuel issues.  The fuel tank is shaped like a potato chip.  It is wide and shallow.  Consequently it cools off quickly, especially when it is partially full.

Belladonna had run it down to just above 1/4 full.  Her rational was that I asked her to fill it when it got below 1/2 and 1/4 is below 1/2.

I heated up the top of the engine by covering it with a blanket and running a blow drier in the "tent" for  a couple of hours.  Still no joy.  That suggested that electrical/coil issues were not likely.  The next day old Malibu fired right up when the temperature rose above 10 degrees F.

I drove it into town.  Topped off the tank and I put in a red bottle of Heet.  Then Mrs ERJ and I delivered it to Allendale, Michigan.

Exotic Failure Modes
One of the major automakers used an exotic process to encapsulate the rotor of the electric motors they used in their fuel pumps.  The pumps experienced a high level of mortality.  The engineers diagnosed the root cause as the pumps running dry.

Their "fix" involved additional parts to ensure the pump was always submersed in fuel and always had fuel to pick up.  That tripled the price of replacement parts but may have also contributed to some of my problems.

The engineers did not dead-head the fuel line at the engine.  They installed a fuel return line and had the return line dump the fuel into a "toilet bowl" that contained the pump.

Another part of the "fix" involved a sock on the fuel pick-up.  As envisioned by the designers, the sock would hang limply into the lowest part of the tank and suck up fuel even when the tank was down to vapor.  Incidentally, that extreme, lowest portion of the tank is where water/ethanol puddles up in cold weather.

One exotic failure mode involved "snow" precipitating out in the fuel.  Water/ethanol can crystallize in the form of tiny ice particles suspended in the fuel during extremely cold weather.  The snow can clog the sock and cause the engine to starve for fuel.  Stopping the engine stopa the fuel pump.  The "snow" will fall off the exterior of the sock when the sucking stops.  The driver can restart the engine and have acceptable power for another thirty miles until the sock clogs again.

Fuel systems without the sock would ingest the "snow" and it would either get stopped in the fuel filter or would "melt" when it got up to the engine and be re-incorporated with the fuel and burn.

Exotic materials and hardware create exotic failure modes.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Situational Awareness

And the Lord said to Gideon, “The people who are with you are too many for Me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel claim glory for itself against Me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’ Now therefore, proclaim in the hearing of the people, saying, ‘Whoever is fearful and afraid, let him turn and depart at once from Mount Gilead.’” And twenty-two thousand of the people returned, and ten thousand remained. 
But the Lord said to Gideon, “The people are still too many; bring them down to the water, and I will test them for you there. Then it will be, that of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall go with you,’ the same shall go with you; and of whomever I say to you, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ the same shall not go.”
 5 So he brought the people down to the water. And the Lord said to Gideon, “Everyone who laps from the water with his tongue, as a dog laps, you shall set apart by himself; likewise everyone who gets down on his knees to drink.” And the number of those who lapped, putting their hand to their mouth, was three hundred men; but all the rest of the people got down on their knees to drink water. Then the Lord said to Gideon, “By the three hundred men who lapped I will save you, and deliver the Midianites into your hand.     -Judges 7:2-7 NKJ
This passage is sometimes dredged up by folks who dislike dogs to justify their prejudice.  After all, God Almighty does not like dogs so it is OK for them to not like dogs.

I, as a dog love, deconstruct this passage differently.  It is an exercise in context.

Ancient battle was often as much theatrics as personal contest.  In soccer we called it "dancing around the ball."  Saying ‘Whoever is fearful and afraid, let him turn and depart at once from Mount Gilead. cleared the field of those who were tempted to show up and "dance around the ball".  Presumably, two-thirds of the army fell into this category.

Lapping water like a dog
For the next part I want you to banish the image in your head of a dog lapping water from a stream.  That is a distraction.  Rather, I want you to imagine the posture of a human sucking water from a shallow stream.  They are either lying on their bellies or on their hands-and-knees.  In a word, they are "vulnerable".  

They are vulnerable for a multitude of reasons:
  • Inability to maintain situational awareness
  • Hands occupied and unable to grasp weapons
  • Posture completely defenseless, unable to ward off blows or launch strikes.  
Now I want you to visualize the posture of somebody dipping their hand (singular) into the water and bringing it up to their mouths.  
  • They are able to maintain situational awareness.  That is, they are free to look around and to use their ears.
  • While they are drinking with their one hand, the clean one, they still have their left hand available.
  • They are in a posture to move and avoid blows and can quickly spring to their feet.

The ability to see into men's hearts

This story presents us with a miracle but it is not the miracle seen by the casual reader.  This is not an example of God being inscrutable. This is a miracle where God gave Gideon the ability to look into his men's hearts based on their actions, actions that anybody can observe and interpret.

A man who is extremely thirsty and still exercises situational awareness and combat readiness when drinking is a man who is ready to battle.  The point is driven even deeper when you realize that the undisciplined were not only filling their bellies more quickly, they were also muddying the stream as they drink.  Also bear in mind that the observant Jew was not using both hands.  He was lifting up the water with a single, clean, hand.  A very slow process.

A man who exercises self-discipline in the smallest of things is more likely to follow external discipline during the chaos of battle.  The man who abandons self-discipline in the simplest of things remains a question mark and is a potential failure point.

This story suggests that one percent of an army are "the three hundred".  That is exactly the same ratio proposed by Heraclitus
“Out of every one hundred men, ten shouldn't even be there, eighty are just targets, nine are the real fighters, and we are lucky to have them, for they make the battle. Ah, but the one, one is a warrior, and he will bring the others back.”