Saturday, September 22, 2018

I am proud of my oldest son

We lost track of our oldest son for a bit.

His phone number was disconnected and he stopped frequenting the usual social media.

Today, Mrs ERJ and I hunted him down.

It turned out he was economizing.  He dumped his phone/carrier and switched to a far more economical plan.  He lost his phone number in the process.

He has also been working sixty hours a week, hence no time for social media.

He is stressing over money issues.  He is not the first to get in over-his-head with payments and he certainly won't be the last.

I am proud of how he is handling it.  He battened down the hatches, trimmed the sail and is riding it out.

He is also getting some debt counseling.  He is looking into debt consolidation because even with sixty hours a week he might not have the horsepower to power out of the stall warning.

Clearly, he is embarrassed to have been caught in this situation.

I think it is important that he hear that I am very proud that he is "owning" his situation and grinding his way through it. 

I also think it is important that he knows that he is a man in my eyes.

Primitive weapons

The Defense and Freedom blog has an outstanding essay on primitive weapons.

He leads off the essay with the double bow which is NOT the best part of the essay.  The best part is below the video and is titled "Third, some general remarks on non-firearm weapons:"

The author gives a very quick and precise rundown on a wide variety of pre-firearms weapons listing key visual features, effective tactics, economics of production and effectiveness against infantry, horse and armor.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Ron Johnstone

I once worked with a maintenance electrician named Ron Johnstone.

The factory we worked in had two lines: The M System that had the newer equipment and extra redundancy and the C System that had no "back-up" capability.

Ron was the lead, third shift electrician on the "C" System respot line. Day-after-day, week-after-week the C System beat the snot out of the M System for quality and throughput and Ron was a big reason why.

His philosophy was to have his system ready to run 22 hours straight with no maintenance except for changing caps. If he or anybody on his crew was not absolutely certain that a shank or a jumper or hose would make it another 20,000 welds then they replaced it with new.

They bootlegged chemicals in the plant.  Nothing exotic; mostly toilet bowl cleaner. That was the best stuff (10% hydrochloric acid) for cleaning copper connections that were exposed to cooling water.

They also cobbled together "water savers" before they were "a thing".  They fabricated small brackets to mount proximity sensors for the handles that turned on the cooling water.  The equipment would not move if the electricians had not turned the water back on after changing caps.

They nickle-and-dimed the maintainance budget but the production guys loved them and you can buy a bunch of $20 prox sensors when each additional weld cell costs $4-to$6 million.

I took Ron's lessons to heart. Better to over-kill an installation or a rebuild and KNOW that it wouldn't need any special attention for a very long time.  After all, I suck at maintenance and I know that. Thing is, I have been told that there are many people who suck even worse...and they are the ones who tend to kludge crap together and hope it makes it one more cycle.

Double Standard

Image from Daily Mail Online, a paper out of the UK.  Article clearly mentions that the shooter is "transgender".
From CBS.  At no point is the shooter identified as anything other than a "temporary worker" or a "woman".
Seems like the American press leaps to identify LGBTELaMeNOP (pronounced L-G-B-T-L-a-MeN-O-P) people when they do anything perceived as positive.

And yet they cannot bring themselves to identify LGBTELaMeNOP when they do something that suggests they might have mental illness.

Making use of salvage

The pole with the flag is the one being replaced.  Replacement unit is behind the white bucket.
I mentioned that I needed to replace one of the poles that supported the feed-wire to the electric fence. Mrs ERJ suggested that I install a lightning rod since lightning is the reason most electric fence chargers go tango-uniform.

Casting about for tall, sturdy poles I asked my friends at coffee for suggestions.  Fast Eddie suggested that I use one of the posts commonly found in portable basketball hoops.  You have seen them, they have a large, hollow plastic base that you fill with sand or water.

Just so happened that Fast Eddie had one in stock.  Eddie specializes in salvage.  He gave it to me.  It is four inch square, steel tubing and the piece is 12' long.
U bolt on top (left) and smashed down the end and through bolt on bottom.

I happened to have a 10' piece of galvanized, electrical conduit in my stock.

I had to buy a bag of insulators for the fence wire.

Looking down the length of the assembled post/lightning rod.  I suppose it could have been straighter and I suppose the lightning won't care.
Two feet down with the auger.  Then dug out around the top to provide room for a concrete collar.  This is a great place to throw old steel wire and such-like.  I lost style points here because it is a proven fact that 16" pieces of steel rebar are the optimum reinforcement.
My major concern at this point is whether I find it on the ground this morning.  We are expecting twenty mph winds with gusts to forty mph.

The top of the whip is 19' above the ground.  At least it is in this photo.  I moved the location of the support so it was in line with something I already have to mow around.

Stub 5.6: Setting up the lab, Part II

Hunter was glad Indie was home to move the boxes inside. The Fedex van filled half the porch. It wasn’t that they lived in a high crime area, relatively speaking. It was just that some neighbors had very good vision and loose definitions of private property.

Indie and Donald helped him unpack the boxes after he came home from class. Most of the stuff looked like what Indie imagined a lab equipment to look like but some of it raised her eyebrows.

“A microwave?” Indie asked.

“Yup, nothing better for drying samples and for pasturizing small amounts of liquid.” Hunter said.

Indie’s eyebrows nearly shot off her head as they unboxed the largest package. “A waterbed!!! Just what do you plan to do in this lab...create life?”

“The boss gave me a protocol to follow. The cheapest way to keep the cultures at 95 degrees is in a waterbed.” Hunter said.

Hunter sterilized forty, twenty-ounce pop bottles with screw tops using materials he had from his homebrewing enterprise.

Hunter mixed up four gallons of phosphate-buffered saline in the coffee urn and set it to “Brew” to sterilize it.

Then he and Indie started filling the waterbed mattress with warm water, trying to hit 95 degrees.

The first pop bottle that Hunter filled he measured out 500ml with great care. It came up exactly to the top of the label. After that, Hunter simple filled each bottle in turn. He unscrewed the cap of the sterilized bottle. Filled it from the smoking hot coffee urn and then put the cap back on. After filling, he turned the bottle upside down to ensure that the heated liquid sterilized the top of the bottle.

After filling the forty bottles, he placed them atop the water bed mattress and flipped a couple of comforters on them. He would check the temperature in the morning and call “the boss” if they were between 90-and-95 degrees.

All told, between himself and Indie, they had put in eight hours of work.

The next morning, the inexpensive IR thermometer told him that he was good-to-go. The bottles in the center of the bed were slightly warmer than the ones along the edges so Hunter placed them all close together.

Hunter sent “the boss” a text. The return text directed him to send pictures.

After sending the pictures, "the boss" said that the starter culture would be delivered via expedited shipping late that evening. The text also asked how many hours Hunter had into the project.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Stub 5.5: Setting up the lab

Indie Turner came home from her six hour shift at the dollar store after picking up Donald, Indie and Hunter’s three year old child at day care.

Indie and Hunter would have married four years ago if it wouldn’t have screwed up Hunter’s student loans and cut into their “assistance”. As it was, they both thought of themselves as “common-law” married. At least Donald knew who his daddy was, unlike many of the other kids at the subsidized daycare.

Indie heard Hunter before she saw him. He was dragging an old appliance out of one of the rooms they kept closed off. The big, ramshackle house had several rooms that were filled with junk left by previous tenents.

“Whatcha doing?” Indie asked. She had high hopes that Hunter was clearing out a room to use as a nursery with number two on the way.

“I am claiming this room for a study.” Hunter said. “Actually, more of a lab than a study but it is almost the same thing.”

TVs and appliances with metal in them were stacked by the curb. Meth-heads would pick it up and take it to the scrap metal yard to turn a few bucks for their next hit.

Broken furniture was stacked in the “bonfire” pit. Boxes of old magazines were discretely staged in the garage. They would be added to the fire once it got going.

Plastic trash was broken up and in trash bags.

The room was 8’-by-14’ and would have been perfect for two baby cribs. Indie sighed.

They mopped out the old vinyl floor with bleach and water. They scrubbed the walls with Lysol. Hunter had a couple of gallons of paint and paint rollers ready to go.

“Where did you get the money for those?” Indie asked. As the primary breadwinner at 24 hours a week of minimum wages, she kept close tabs on where the money went.

“My new job came with a pre-paid credit card.” Hunter said. “Just a heads up, I ordered a bunch of stuff from for overnight delivery. It should show up tomorrow. If you are here when it comes, just put the boxes in the study.”

“I don’t suppose you could buy a package of Pampers with that card. We are out.” Indie said.

Hunter gave it a moments thought. “Don’t see why not. I dropped $1000 on lab materials. I can always say the Pampers are for toxic waste control.”

Hunter kept a couple of tables, some sturdy chairs and a fifty-cup coffee urn and all of the extension cords he found in the study. Everything else was pitched.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Resistance, baling twine and suspensions

I put a multimeter on the fence where there is a gate.  That way, I was able to measure the resistance of the wire and connections for the system for the entire perimeter.

My multimeter measured 2,260,000 ohms.  For a frame of reference, I measured the resistance of my body from thumb-to-thumb and came up with 1,500,000 ohms. This information is useful because it tells me that even if no power is lost to shorts-to-ground via vegetation, less than 40% of the energy the charger puts out (using a constant current model) is available to excite the body touching the wire.  Using a constant voltage model the available energy is much, much lower.

Then I did some math to calculate the theoretical resistance of a 2.0mm diameter, steel wire that is 1000 meters long. That came to about 50 ohms.  That tells me that the problem is not the wire. The problem involves the connections between the various strands.

This line problem-solving will be continued with pictures at a later date.

Mistakes were made
Have you ever left a wee, bitty length of twine hanging over the tailgate of your pickup?

That is over a 1/4 mile of baling twine.  And yes, it was mine.  Fortunately it patiently waited in the center of Canal Road until I came back that way.

My arms got tired pulling it back in.

The minivan is in the shop.  New struts, shocks and stab-bar hardware are going to run about $1100.  Then a new set of tires for the winter.

I was moping around the house thinking about how much that was going to cost when Mrs ERJ suggested we go to the store to buy a few groceries.

I stopped for gas on the way back home and the fellow pumping gas next to us had a new truck.  New as-in two weeks old.

The tires did not look stock.  I asked how much they cost and he said $400....per tire.

He spent more on replacing perfectly good "factory" tires, $1600, than I spent for my truck.  I paid $1350. My eyebrows must have gone up because he commented, "They have some great rebates out right now."

I don't feel so bad about dropping $1600 on the minivan to get another three or four years out of it.  Imagine, $1600 for tires!  The "factory" tires did not have tread that wrapped up the sidewalls and did not look "cool" enough.

Don't mess with Texas

Texas granny takes down 12', 600 pound gator that ate her pet. Winchester made this granny the apex predator in her pond.

Story here

Elon Musk announces new, non-carbon source of electricity

Wires on right side of image.

Stub 5.4: Homebrew

Croyle and Tony Spada verbally agreed to do business. There are many things that are too sensitive to commit to writing or electronic media. Croyle’s project was one such thing.

Croyle did nothing until confirmation arrived that the first $5 million had been deposited in his working account in a US based bank.

Croyle quickly deduced that the strain of C. botulinum used by Azrael Industries was a commercially available strain curated by the University of California, Berkeley. It had been a simple matter of buying a low-level lab-tech from Azrael Industries Cosmos at the local pick-up bar and letting her talk about how important her job was.

The particular strain, UCB-257nte (University California Berkeley, 257, Neuralogical Toxin Enhanced) had been chosen by Azrael because it had resistance to the penicillin and tetracycline families of antibiotics and because it was a prodigious producer of the toxin used in wrinkle-elimination therapies. It was also desirable because it had a unique DNA profile that allowed technicians to identify when the production strain had mutated sufficiently to justify a new “starter” culture from the UCB lab.

It was a simple matter to find a technician at University of California, Berkeley lab who had a gambling problem and to purchase 5 ml of UCB-257nte culture. Croyle assured the tech that he represented a pharmaceutical giant that was investigating new product lines and wanted to develop the technology on the Q.T. Croyle also took the tech’s resume and assured him that he would be among the first to be hired when the pharmaceutical giant opened its facility.

Croyle then flew to Chicago and rented a car. He proceeded to visit DeKalb, Illinois, Bowling Green, Kentucky, Muncie, Indiana and Kalmazoo, Michigan. He visited the shops that specialized in the home-brewing of beer. He placed a help-wanted ad in each shop after chatting a little bit with the manager.

Croyle changed his appearance with brilliant blue contacts, black-rimmed eye glasses.  His hair was cut high-and-tight and he had it grayed.  He also wore a heavy, gold University of Wisconsin class ring proclaiming him to be a proud member of the class of 1999.

These communities had been selected because they all hosted mid-level Universities that churned out far more graduates with Biology degrees than the local economy could absorb. He chose home-brew shops because he was looking a certain skill-set and inclination.

Then Croyle waited for future developments. He was not idle. He discretely collected information on the optimum cultures and protocols for culturing C. botulinum. Then he researched sources and prices.

His first nibble was from Russelville, Kentucky. Hunter Clifton was in the final year of his Master’s program at Western Kentucky University and was shocked to learn that nobody was impressed with his 3.35 GPA. The best he could hope for was a $14/hour job at the local VD clinic and he would have to beat out a dozen candidates to get that position.

Hunter was desperate. His live-in girlfriend had their second child on the way. He owed a pile of money for student loans. He was interested in “side jobs.”

Croyle learned that Hunter lived in a large, old, shambling home with few neighbors. He also learned that Hunter was an accomplished brewer of beer. Croyle decided to meet with Hunter and get the project kicked off.

The interview in the local cafe went better than Croyle could have hoped for.

Hunter was slavishly thankful that Croyle was picking up the tab.

Croyle learned that the Cliftons of eastern Kentucky had been moonshiners since Moses wore diapers.

Croyle said that he had never heard of any famous moonshiners named “Clifton” and Hunter primly informed him that GOOD moonshiners were never famous. It was simply a matter of valuing profit over fame.

Croyle hired Hunter. He gave Hunter a Bill-of-Materials and pre-paid card with $2000 on it. Empty pop bottles, whey protein isolate and the ingredients for phosphate-buffered saline don’t cost much.

“Give me a phone call after you have it set up and validate the temperatures. Then I will come back down and give you the starter culture.” Croyle said.

At no time did Croyle ever have to dust off his cover story of being associated with a pharmaceutical giant. All Hunter needed in the way of credentials was the fact that the waitress verified that the pre-paid card had a balance of $2000.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Phantom Memories

A classic example of a false memory from the second year of life described by the Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget (1896–1980) and reproduced in English translation by the US psychologist Elizabeth F. Loftus in her book Eyewitness Testimony (1979): ‘I was sitting in my pram, which my nurse was pushing in the Champs Élysées, when a man tried to kidnap me. I was held in by the strap fastened round me while my nurse bravely tried to stand between me and the thief. She received various scratches, and I can still see vaguely those on her face. Then a crowd gathered, a policeman with a short cloak and a white baton came up and the man took to his heels. I can still see the whole scene, and can even place it near the tube station. When I was about fifteen my parents received a letter from my former nurse saying that she had been converted to the Salvation Army. She wanted to confess past faults, and in particular to return the watch she had been given on this occasion. She had made up the whole story, faking the scratches. I, therefore, must have heard, as a child, the account of the story, which my parents believed, and projected it into the past in the form of a visual memory’ (pp. 62–3). See also constructive memory, deferred action, eyewitness misinformation effect, infantile amnesia, reality monitoring, recovered memory.  Source

Jean Piaget is the rock-star of developmental psychology and Christine Blasey Ford, a psychology professor undoubtedly studied Piaget.

Cognitive dissonance is another psychological concept. The human mind constructs bridges between memories to make the memories coherent and orderly. In time, those bridges become indistinguishable from the "true" memories.

I am not saying the Ford constructed her memories out of the whole clothe, but intellectual honesty as a psychology professional requires that she admit that the potential exists that she holographically constructed her memories out of partial snippets of information.

After all, that is exactly what Piaget did, a man whose shoes she is not fit to tie.

The paradox of blogging

The basic paradox of blogging is that when you are busy and have lots of great stuff to blog about you don't have a lot of time to blog.

Today was six hours of eldercare, a three mile walk with my sweetheart and then changing the rear brakes on the minivan.

I expect to hurt tomorrow. The walk included a few pushups along the way and changing brakes involves bending my body in ways it is not accustomed to.

Adventures await next week. I am half expecting an invitation to drive down to Wilmington, North Carolina to clear fallen trees. I am biding my time. The airport is closed until Sunday. I don't see any point in driving down there before the flooding is down and power restored.

Stub 5.3: The Five-point Line

Mick Scerba settled into his recliner to enjoy one of the few vices he allowed himself. He was going to binge-watch basketball. Not just any basketball, but professional basketball.

He had been aghast when the league instituted a bunch of rules that changed the game. They added 10’ to both the width and length of the court. They added a five-point line about five feet out from the three-point line. Finally, they raised the rim from ten feet to eleven-and-a-half feet,above the court.

Two reasons were given. The primary reason was that $50 million/year athletes were injuring each other with unsettling frequency. Too much beef, too close together.

The other reason was that pro ball had become so divorced from high school and even college ball that it was hard to relate to. With the rim raised 18”, dunks in a pro game were only slightly more frequently seen than in high school ball.

The pro teams were struggling to adapt to the changes with varying degrees of success.

Mick certainly needed the distraction. He had blown his top that afternoon when he found out that Shelly had over-night freighted the case of Domo’s Delight to Miami. Of course, she was only doing what he told her to do, but he figured Domo’s friend was in LA, ninety miles to the south...not 2000 miles east. The accountant in him screamed when he saw the $80 bill to ship the $2 of product (his cost at the factory).

He really needed to get his mind off work.

The first game he queued up was the Heat vs. the Pistons. It was the middle of the first quarter when he tuned in and the Pistons were already getting pounded. Miami had too many good, big men and the Pistons couldn’t do anything beneath the basket. The basket might be eighteen inches higher but rebounding is rebounding.

Mick had been hoping to see the Piston’s new guy play but the coach kept him on the bench. The camera scanned the bench and Mick could pick him out but could not put a name on him. Mick figured he looked familiar because he must have seen him play college ball, somewhere.

The score sloshed around with the Pistons trailing anywhere from six points to, at one point, twenty points. Mick was sure the game was safely in the bag for Miami when they were leading by twelve points with just two minutes to go.

And then the Pistons coach put in the new guy.

BAM! He knocked out a five point basket like it was nothing.

The Pistons got the ball back and fed it to him again.

BAM! Another five point basket.

In the course of 15 seconds of clock time the Pistons were only trailing by two.

Then Miami put their best defender on him on the shooter. The defender was all over the shooter but the refs turned a blind eye to the infractions. The crowd was going nuts.

The new kid was working his ass off to shake the defender with limited success.

The other Miami players were also collapsing on the shooter which allowed the Pistons big-guys to stay in the game.

The Pistons would score, tying the game.

Miami would score, pulling ahead by two.

Back-and-forth. Back-and-forth. It looked like it was heading to a Miami win or overtime, depending on who had the last possession.

In the last three seconds of the game the new guy, absolutely drenched with sweat, rolled off the defender and then one of his own forwards. The defender was clutching at the shooter but could not keep a grip on him.

The new guy spun around his forward and was fed the ball.

BAM! Five points.

Pistons win by three.

Damnedest thing Mick had ever seen. That is, it was the damnedest thing he had ever seen until the new guy grabbed a bottle out of his gym bag and guzzled it down in a single go. Slamming it down on the bench, DeLeon Redd said, “Damned thats good” loud enough for the camera to pick up. The camera zoomed in on the bottle and Mick found himself staring at Domo’s enormous smile. It was a bottle of Domo’s Delight EF ORS.

Mick jerked the microphone off his shirt collar, depressed a couple of keys and roared, “Domo. Get your ass up here. You got some explaining to do.”

Monday, September 17, 2018

Draw your own conclusions

District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia: Geographically close but with vastly different degrees of Second Amendment freedoms.

The gun grabbers and the urban elites would lead us to believe that Virginia should have the highest homicide rates.

Stub 5.2: Contaminated Product

Nick Spada was not comfortable talking to the sketchy guy in the park. It all seemed too much like spy-vs-spy.

“The information you are asking for is expensive.” The man said. “And managing it as a project is even more expensive. Are you sure you have the bank-roll to swing it?”

“I am sure.” Spada said.

Marie Spirochete had given him the rough edge of her tongue when he reported his findings. He had reported that contamination was what kept everybody in the pharmaceutical industry awake at night. He told her about a simple incident with a burst filter that had shut down the factory for 72 hours and cost nearly seventy million Callors.

He expected to be patted on the head and given direction to dirty-up Azrael’s factories.

The ‘tune-up’ Spada was on the receiving end of convinced him that Aestral was to be thoroughly destroyed, not just inconvenienced or beaten into poverty.

The man’s proposal was simple. Contaminate Azrael products. Create evidence that suggested that Azrael had knowingly been shipping contaminated product for years. Ensure that the contaminated products killed dozens of high-profile people and then connect the dots so investigators could not help but track it back to Azrael’s facilities.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Basic blocking and tackling, electric fences

Sixteen seconds.  Testing an electric fence with a weed cutter.

One of the best electricians I ever worked with is named Javier.

We had a spot weld gun that had a top-end of 15.5 thousand amps.  Since the weld schedule started at 13 thousand amps and we added one amp for every weld to account for cap wear, the gun ran into problems after two or three thousand welds.

The issue is that the transformer ran into saturation problems.  That means that when the controller modified the input to ask for one more amp, the output was less than the "requested" additional amp.

In point of fact, any weld engineer who has a system where the "degrade" mode is to run on the stepper is never comfortable unless the "top end" is 2X the base amperage.

Since these guns were asked to make 12-to-15 welds per job and we made over five hundred jobs per shift, you can see we had a problem.

One way to squeeze more capability out of your weld gun is to "double jumper" it.  That is, where the design calls for one jumper (a REALLY thick wire) you install two.  Jumpers are cheap.  That is what we decided to try.

Javier and his crew worked third shift.  They had just enough time to do the work.  They checked their work and the current meter told them they had bumped the gun from 15.5 thousand amps to 32 thousand amps for a 100% shot.  They high-fived and started production at 5:30 in the morning.

Two hours later the weld checker wandered over and checked his first job of the day and there were no welds!  What happened?

If you think of a weld gun in the simplest possible terms, it is your thumb and index finger pinching together.  In their haste, Javier and his crew had run both sides of the transformer to the same finger.  There was NO current passing through the metal that was to be welded.  The current went up through the double jumpers on one side and down through the double jumpers on the other.

The electricians had checked their work but they made the mistake of putting the current meter around the jumpers and not the arm of the weld gun.

Electric fences
I installed the lightning choke and air-gap device.

I replaced the main feed to the fence.  The original feed was 17 gauge (0.95 sq-mm) steel with two splices.  I replaced it with a single run of 14 gauge (2.0 sq-mm).

Coat-hanger wrap connections were replaced with double cable clamp connections.

The final check was to turn on the fence and go to the nethermost reaches.  There, I took my Canadian Thistle weeder and I shorted across the hot wire and the woven wire fence behind it.

It made a satisfying "Snap!"

When they say to "Lubricate liberally"


Blocking and Tackling

I had a boss in the mid 90s named Jim Zubkus.  Actually, he was the boss of the entire facility and I was about six levels lower in the organization.  That may sound like a lot of layers but you have to know that the facility employeed 17,000 people at the time.

Mr Zubkus was a member of the 1959 - 1961 University of Michigan football team.  He played defensive end.

One of Mr Zubkus's duties was to hold meetings that are akin to the coach's half time pep-talk. Sometimes it was to steady the team.  Sometimes to give them a pat on the back. Sometimes to kick ass. Usually, it was a mix of all three.

Invariably, the meeting would conclude with Mr Zubkus reminding us to focus on the basic "blocking and tackling" of our daily jobs.

I thought all "big bosses" spoke that way but I have rarely heard it since.

Blocking and tackling
Blocking and tackling is work!  It takes effort.

Blocking and tackling is not glamorous.

Blocking and tackling is not "creative".

Blocking and tackling are impact events.  They make your body hurt for days afterward.

Blocking and tackling must be done perfectly on every play.  Sloppy or "tired" blocking or tackling on one play has dire consequences.

Even though it is boring. Even though it hurts. Even though it rarely wins applause. Failure to block or failure to tackle likely means that the other team will score and that might be the balance of the game.

I suck at blocking and tackling
I suck at weeding my garden.

I suck at keeping vegetation off my electric fence wires.

I suck at maintaining things.

I have a lot of room for improvement.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Is there a link between acne treatments and teen obesity?

One of the beauties of blogging is that the writer can float highly speculative ideas and nobody takes them too seriously.

It occurred to me that one of the reasons that teenagers used to watch their diets back when stegosaurii roamed the earth was that everybody knew that greasy foods like chocolate and double-cheese pizza caused acne to break out.

There are now many effective treatments for adolescent acne, including maintenance doses of antibiotics and Isotretinoin.  These treatments are so popular that many patients, and their parents, gloss over the fact that some of them increase the risk of suicide by a factor of six.

It also means that teens can gorge on pizza and taquitos dipped in ranch dressing, and other fatty foods without the near-real-time feedback of their face breaking out.

Proving once again that it is not nice to fool Mother Nature.

Laying out an orchard

I laid out part of an orchard today.  The rows are 20 feet apart and the flags are 6 feet within the row.  That is about 360 trees to the acre.  A commercial orchard would run over 1000 trees/acre, typically planting 4' within the row and as tight row-to-row as their mowing equipment allows.

Then I sprayed glyphosate to kill the grass to prepare for early April planting.

Friday, September 14, 2018

An imaginary conversation between a Libertarian and a Statist

"How would you achieve your goals?" the Libertarian asked the Statist.

"That is simple.  We will have total control the parameters that are truly important." the Statist replied.

"And everything else?" the Liberatarian asked.

"Inconsequential." the Statist said said with a dismissive wave of the hand.

"You sound very sure." the Libertarian said.

"We have given this a great deal of thought and have total understanding of the issues." the Statist said smugly.

"That would mean, of course, that you have considered and dismissed every parameter that you chose to not, or cannot afford to control." the Libertarian said.

"Well, of course." the Statist agreed, puzzled.

"Would you mind sharing that?" the Libertarian asked.

"Sharing what?" the Statist asked.

"The list of everything 'else' in the universe that you are not controlling." the Libertarian said.  "The list of must have a list if you considered everything."

"That is clearly impossible." the Statist retorted.

"Then it is clearly impossible for you to 'have total understanding' and you are doomed to fail." the Libertarian replied serenely.

Shorts in electric fences: If you do this long enough you will see a bit of everything.

Looking up at the insulator you can see where there is a wrap of old wire around it. Knowing the history of this fence, it was probably soft wire that had been stretched by animals going through it and the fence repair crew "tightened" the fence by putting wraps around the body of the insulator.  Then, the next time the animals went through the fence they garroted the insulator.
Looking down from the top the fact that the insulator is compromised is not the least bit obvious.

I found two by listening but may have more of them out there.

Touching the post gave quite a tingle when the fence pulsed.  That may be one way to find these situations.  Put the multimeter on "hold" and tape one end to a metal walking stick and probe the posts.

The other way would be to train the dogs to home-in on the ticking sound, although I don't think Herc will be too enthusiastic anytime soon.

What is next?

Many industries "dominated" the economy.  None of them saw their downfall.

Agriculture, steel, rail, domestic auto; they still exist but as the supporting cast rather than the marque actor.

Something will come after Google and Facebook.

My bet is on smartphones "finding" their soulmates in a distributed computing/database environment. The phones will enable their carbon units to find each other in meat-space.

Samsung is my bet for the lead corporation on this.

Stub 5.1: Domo's Delight Part II

Domo was nervous as the brass from the front office filed into the mixing shed kitchen.

To the field crews even the lowest secretary was a near-mythical creature. They could screw-up or fix you pay stub or get you tossed out of the housing with an errant stroke of the keyboard.

Domo had never even heard of “Mick” but he noticed how deferential the others were toward him.

Domo relaxed a little bit when Mick pulled a half gallon box of vanilla ice cream out of an insulated bag.

Mr Mason replicated Domo’s tasting session with the big-wigs. Even Mick Scerba was impressed with the third blend. Mick became down-right excited when he heard that it only added four cents a liter.

Mick directed Mr Mason to mix up five-thousand liters of #3. Domo started to speak up, to say that he wanted to fiddle with the recipe a little bit more.

Mick waved him silent. “You will have a lot of time to fiddle with recipes, young man. The thing to do is to get this out to some customers and see if they like it.”

“What do you want us to use for labels?” one of the secretaries asked.

Mick thought for a second. “Domo, put on a chef’s hat and stand next to that industrial mixer.”

Then, turning to the person who asked the question, Mick said “Take a few pictures of Domo. We will call it ‘Domo’s Delight’ and use his picture on the label.”

“Are you OK with that?” Mick asked Domo.

Domo beamed his joy as the secretary took several snapshots with her phone.

Mr Mason started scooping out the ice cream when Domo tugged on Mick’s sleeve. “Ummm, Mr Scerba. Would it be OK if I sent a case of this to one of my friends?” Domo asked.

“Sure.” Mick said, distracted.

“Shelly,” Mick said, “once we get rolling help this young man ship a case of this to his friend. Make sure he gets it before this hits the shelves.”

Thursday, September 13, 2018

A mindless meme

Not much to write about.

Prayers for the folks in the Carolinas and Georgia.

I walked the electric fence this evening and found some shorts, including a couple through insulators on the posts.

I will take pictures tomorrow.

Thinking outside the box

Stub 4.9: A hurried proposal

Raymond met Margie at her apartment building at five in the afternoon.

They promenaded once around the pedestrian mall and came to a stop in front of an ice cream shop, one of the new businesses that had popped up since independence. The courtyard of the ice cream shop was swarming with 11 and 12-year-olds and was clearly a rousing success.

“I have been thinking.” Raymond started. “We should get married.”

“There is stuff we haven’t talked about.” Margie said. “Important stuff.”

“Like?” Raymond prompted.

“Kids, for instance. What do you think about kids?” Margie asked.

“In principle I don’t have a problem with them. In practice it depends on the kid. Some I like, some I don’t like.” Raymond said.

“That isn’t what I meant, you dummy.” Margie said. “If we got married, do you want kids or are you dead-set against them?”

Raymond had never thought about fatherhood. His life had been an avalanche of chaos and he did not see that changing much.

“I know this makes me a weasel, but I think that is more your call than mine because you are going to have to do most of the work. But if you decide, or if God gives us children then I will be 100% with you and be the best dad I can be.” Raymond said.

“When do you want to get married?” Margie asked. “Not that I am agreeing to anything, yet. Because you really haven’t asked me.”

“What about tonight?” Raymond asked.

“Wow! That is sudden.” Margie said, taking a step backwards. “Where did that come from?  We have been seeing each other for what, four weeks?”

Raymond had already decided to be truthful with Margie if the question came up.

“The man who visited your apartment last night was not a thief. He came there to kill you and your mother. Because you are close to me.” Raymond said.

“Are you sure?” Margie asked.

“As sure as I can be.” Raymond said.

“There are only two ways for me to protect you. One is to walk away from you and forget you exist, and that would tear the soul from my body. The other way is to live with you, and I would do that as your husband.” Raymond said.

“Nobody has ever accused you of being indecisive have they? Or of doing things half-way.” Margie mused.

Raymond shook his head “No.”

“You know, I just wish your asking me had been a little more romantic. I mean, this is like negotiating a business deal.” Margie said, a little bit sadly.

“I thought you might feel that way.” Raymond said. “So I took the precaution of making a few preparations.”

Raymond turned to the kids in the courtyard who had slowly grown quiet as Raymond and Margie had been talking.

“Hit it, Maestro.” Raymond said.

Kazoos came out of pockets and the kids started playing the lead musical score from the latest romantic comedy. The younger kids, the ones who could not carry a tune, started reaching into bags and pelting Raymond and Margie with flowers made from the ice cream parlor's colorful paper napkins, popsicle sticks and wire twist-ties.

Raymond went down on one knee and pulled a ring box out of his pants pockets. “Margie Kolache, will you do me the honor of being my wife?” The box held matching rings, stainless steel with a thin band of red-gold running through the middle.

Raymond and Margie were able to overlook the fact that the flowers were being thrown with a bit too much vigor.

Raymond continued, “I did not buy an engagement ring because I want to marry you tonight after I ask your mother for her blessing.”

Margie said “Yes!”

An hour later Raymond, Margie, Margie’s mother and Raymond’s AA “Godfather” entered a storefront chapel. A thin man was sitting near the front of the chapel beneath the cross.

Raymond said, “Hello Preacher. I have some work for you.”

Preacher, Raymond’s first shift paint lead was working his second job as the chaplain of the small, four pew chapel.

“Sorry boss. Can’t help you. I am on the clock working for this guy right now.” Preacher said pointing at the cross.

“Do you do weddings when you are on His clock?” Raymond asked.

“Yup.” Preacher said.

“Then today is your lucky day. I am going to be paying you and so will He.” Raymond said.

---Note to readers--- 
This seemed like a good place to end the Stub series but some of the bit players started agitating for air-time.  

Our attention will move elsewhere for a bit so Raymond and Margie can enjoy some privacy during their honeymoon.

I will gladly entertain any topics or problems that will confront Sedelia.  I have little pride and steal good ideas anywhere I find them. For example, I have a segment on Schizophrenic street people inspired by one of Raconteur's Report posts coming up in a couple of weeks.
---End Note---

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Allegations of sexual harassment

One of the people I worked with very closely up until about 1990 was just whacked with accusations of "sexual harassment."  What stings is that he is an unabashed Christian and the accusations were made very public.

I sent him an email of support and thought I might as well toss it on the blog.

Please know that you are in my prayers and in Mrs ERJ's prayers.

Having been "a boss" for twenty years I have great empathy for how difficult your situation is. I too have been investigated for a word too quickly said, a joke carried on fifteen seconds too long, exercising authority in ways that others took exception to.  It takes very little for somebody to feel victimized, especially in these time and when a power disparity exists between you and the other person.

Please remember that those who must exercise discernment regarding the sequence-of-events are frail and fallible humans.  Sadly, you might get a ruling that seems unjust.  But also remember that Peter was judged to have fallen many times...and yet he is the rock upon which our Church is built.

Whether you were guilty of sexual harassment or not is almost irrelevant to me.  Rather, I am concerned about your well-being and your ability to pick yourself up and renew your commitment to be a witness for Christ.
These times are good times to reflect and pray and study.

Blessings and prayers

Eaton Rapids Joe

Harvesting some of the ornamental corn

Click on the picture to embiggen.

Trying to beat the stupid squirrels to the harvest.

I am a sucker for the "chinmark" pattern, that is, tiger-striping.

It will be interesting to see how the colors change as the corn dries.

Avoid even the appearance of evil intent

Mrs ERJ and I were walking in downtown Lansing yesterday.

At one point we were walking on residential streets.  There was a couple in front of us who were not walking very fast.  I suggested we cross the street.

They crossed over in front of us.  I suggested that we take a cross street.

Mrs ERJ expressed concern that the couple might think we had crossed the street and taken the side street to avoid them because they were of a different race.  She was curious regarding my motives.

I told her that walking up behind somebody is stressful for the person being walked up on.  It triggers predator/prey hormones.

I have a strong preference that folks don't hover in my blind-spot when driving and I prefer that they not come up on me from behind if there are other options. I was extending a courtesy to the couple in front of us. The man could listen to his date with 100% of his attention rather than have to track our progress.

While my actions are covered by "Do unto others..." my motive at the time was to avoid even the appearance of evil intent.

It is something I learned handling farm animals, good seldom comes from needlessly stressing animals.  Easy does it.

Stub 4.8: Stains in the carpet

“Papa, I need a gun. Do you know where I can get one?” Raymond asked.

“Iliana” Raymond’s father said to Raymond’s mama, “why don’t you take a walk. Maybe talk with some of those women down at the laundro-mat...the ones who talk for hours. Raymond and I need to talk man-to-man.”

Much to Raymond’s surprise, his mother picked up a full laundry basket and left the apartment without a word.

“Sit here.” Raymond’s father commanded as he left the kitchen.

He came back a minute later and put a gun, holster, magazines and ammo on the table. “This is what you need.”

His father picked up the pistol. “This is how you drop the magazine.” showing him the lever and catching the magazine as it dropped out of the well in the handle.

“This is how you remove the round from the chamber.” he said as he racked the slide.

Raymond picked up the gun and looked at it. “Taurus? A bull?” Raymond asked.

“A Millenium 9mm G2. It will do everything you need it to do.” the old man said.

“Thanks, dad.” Raymond said with a heartfelt voice. “But I only need the gun, none of this other stuff.”

The old man was offended. “What good is a gun if you don’t have it with you? The holster is at least as important as the gun.”

Raymond looked at the holster with distaste. It was an unweildy looking affair of leather and plastic. Even the name, Cross-breed, seemed vaguely insulting. It did not seem possible that such big device could be worn without it showing.

“It goes inside your pants waistband.” his father said. “Put it on.”

Raymond looked askance.

“That is why I shooed your mother out of the apartment. A grown child doesn’t want to pull down his pants in front of his mother, does he?” the old man said.

“I cannot wear this.” Raymond said after he put it on. “The leather bites into me.”

“It is leather. It will mold to your body given a few days of wearing. The sweat will soften it and it will reshape itself. That is why the holster maker chose leather for this part.” the old man said.

“Ten times a week you must dry-fire the pistol. Drop the magazine and live round from the chamber. Ten times a week, pull the pistol out of the holster and dry fire it at a target. Do it in the dark. Do it when you are tired. Do it with whatever clothes you have on.” the old man said. "You might only have time for one shot, so teach your muscles how to do it without you thinking."

“But what if it doesn’t work with some of my shirts?” Raymond said.

“Get rid of those shirts.” the old man said.

“Carrying a gun cannot be a some-time thing.” he said as he lifted up his shirt and showed that he was carrying an identical gun and holster, even as they spoke.

Raymond grunted. He opened up the box of ammunition...Gold Dots, whatever that meant...and exclaimed “Papa, these bullets are, like a hundred years old. They cannot be any good.”

“I wouldn’t say that.” the old man said. “They worked fine last night.”

Raymond stared at his father.

“Did you have a visitor last night?” Raymond asked.

“Yes. Unlucky for him the dog next door barked.” the old man said.

“That dog barks at everybody.” Raymond said.

“Perhaps. But if you listen you can tell the difference between ‘Neighbor, I am keeping an eye on you’ and when a dog is really raising alarm.” the old man said. "The dog woke me up."

“I had my gun in my hand when he came through the door. I waited for him to close the door before I shot him.” the old man said.

“And this little gun stopped him?” Raymond said, amazed.

“It will if you shoot him twelve times.” the old man said. “Your mother and I threw him off the balcony.” he said by way of explaining how they disposed of the corpse. “That is why she is not talking to me. She had just finished cleaning up the mess. Next time she wants me to wait until he is not standing on the carpet before I shoot him.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Steam-punk lightning choke

An induction coil or lightning choke should be installed in the fence lead-out wire near the energizer. The induction coil is made by coiling 6 to 8 loops of heavily insulated 12 gauge wire in an 8 to 10 inch diameter circle and taping the loops together. A lightning choke is made from a loose coil of hi-tensile wire with 8 to 12 loops spaced about 2 inches apart on a mounting board.   -Gallagher Electric Fence Company

Inductance is a form of impedance.  That is, it impedes the flow of electricity.  It is not "resistance".  Resistance is proportional to current.  Inductance is similar to inertia, it is proportional to increases or decreases in the rate that current flows through a wire or path.

Inductance is proportional to the area of the loop so eight loops with a diameter of 10 inches has an area of about 600 square inches.

Inductance also depends on the material within the loop.  Iron inside the loop increases the inductance a LOT!  This is one reason why automotive companies transitioned to DC resistance spot welds, especially for guns that welded the center of the floor pan.

Beyond the basics, it is my understanding that only the material that is very close to the wires comes into play when considering very fast, very transient events.

A 3/4" by 8", Grade 8 bolt inside a PVC sleeve with two wraps of wire around it.  The two wraps of wire is a SWAG, nothing more.
Hardened steel is considered magnetically "hard" because it retains magnetism.  Mild steel is considered magnetically "soft" because it does not retain magnetism.
The fact that the wire is not closer to the steel bolt concerns me a little bit but I want the insulating effect and don't want the wire, rated for 600V, to short to the bolt.
I am probably a bit "under choked" but figure I will be OK since I am very tightly fused with the air-gap arrestor.  I just need to make sure that:
A.) I have a fabulous ground for the arrestor
B.) I have very good connections to the rest of the fence to guarantee that the voltage gets dragged down enough to not shunt through the arrestor.

In words, the way this system works is that lightning hitting the feed wire raises the voltage of the line between the charger and where the lightning hits.  The "choke" restricts the current attempting to enter the box.  The voltage between the lightning strike and the choke rises enough to "pop the cork" on the air-gap arrestor.  The resistance of the arrestor drops to zero and the voltage dumps to ground.

Why not do it the way Gallagher said to do it?
For one thing, I don't like having large amounts of hot wire hanging out where folks can bump into it.

The other way to do it, with insulated wire, is kind of pricey.  The wire I have is rated for 600V and I am not sure that would be good enough.  That and the fact that I would need almost thirty feet of just seemed more economical from a space and material standpoint to use much less wire and a bolt that I had laying around.

Seen on Gregslist

For sale: Glock 81 and two magazines $300 firm

Cash only.  No FFL required.  100 available.

When Gen Y retired

When Gen Y retired, it was called "college".

Financed with loans.  Five years of beer drinking, partying and football games during the prime of their youth.

After retirement they work until they die.

Some undoubtedly harbor a plan to hasten that event, death.  That is their "retirement plan".  But in truth, they already had their retirement.

Happy birthday, Brother

Stub 4.7: Thinking like an executive

Raymond called into work in the morning. He told Gary Haskell, the Project Manager, that he needed a day off. He had a sense that time was critical.

He took in a morning AA meeting at the usual place. He announced that he needed to identify somebody.

A thin, weedy man in his forties suggested they go to coffee afterward and talk about it.

Raymond handed over the SD card and described the giant thug.

A few hours later Raymond got an anonymous text suggesting it would be a good idea to eat lunch at a certain, Mexican cafe. Since that was the same cafe where he had first met McDevitt, Raymond was there fifteen minutes early.

The hostess gave him his own table. She had been expecting him. Precisely at noon, McDevitt entered the cafe’s dining area after coming through the kitchen doors.

McDevitt got right down to business.

“The pictures you gave my man are of a thug from Seattle.” McDevitt said. “Where did you see him?” he asked.

“He broke into my girlfriend’s apartment.” Raymond said.

McDevitt shook his head. “She is a very lucky girl if she is still alive. He specializes in wet-work.”

That was a new term for Raymond. “Wet-work?” For some reason that made Raymond think of drywallers and the final flood coat of compound they apply to walls.

“He is a hit man. He kills people.” McDevitt clarified.

Raymond was shocked. He had assumed that the man was a simple thief.

“What tipped you off that this guy might be out-of-the ordinary?” McDevitt asked.

“I dunno. Maybe because I would have noticed him if he was local. You don’t see that many guys the size of Yao Ming walking around LA. I guess the other thing is that he was so pale. I figured he was either fresh out of prison or lived underground.” Raymond said.

“Hmpf.” McDevitt grunted.

“Somebody wanted your girlfriend dead. You made some powerful enemies. I am surprised that they didn’t try to take you out.” McDevitt said.

“Maybe they did. But I sleep in a lot of different places. I have a bunch of different places where I string my hammock.” Raymond said.

“Here is the deal.” McDevitt said. “I can offer you some protection but I cannot protect your girlfriend unless you move in with her. Then she gets protection as a side benefit. I am willing to give you protection because I got an investment in you and it pisses me off that people are coming into my turf and I don’t know about it.”

“Another thing is that I cannot protect you if you keep moving around. Just to hard to pull off logistically.” McDevitt said.

“The third thing you gotta think about is not being predictable. It worked to your advantage last night. You gotta take different routes and make the timing of your trips unpredictable.” McDevitt said. “There is a ton of information on the internet about executive security. Whether you like it or not, between your work and your political exposure, you are now an executive target.”

“For example, we will never meet again in this restaurant” McDevitt said. “and the next time we meet, if we ever do, it will not be at lunch time.”

“The last thing is that you better think about getting a gun.” McDevitt said.

“Can’t you get me one?” Raymond asked.

“Haven’t you ever heard of plausible deniability?” McDevitt said sharply. “You have connections. Use them.”

And with that, McDevitt left the table and exited the restaurant through the kitchen doors leaving Raymond to finish the meal and pick up the bill.

Monday, September 10, 2018


Help me understand. Why would any aggressor capable of 1940s, or more advanced, chemical capability use chlorine gas as a weapon?

From a technology standpoint it is the equivalent of a muzzle loading gun and percussion caps.

Something does not smell right.  I could see rebels with very limited resources using chlorine but not Assad.  Am I missing something or is it possible that forces supporting the rebels are "spinning" the story?

Steam-punk lightning arrester for the electric fence charger

This is what the device looked like before I screwed the lid on.
I needed a small project to keep me occupied this afternoon after eldercare. So I whipped up an air-gap surge protector for the electric fence.

Source of data HERE
This data shows the kV required to breakdown an air-gap of various distances of  four different geometries.  The outlier, the blue line, is sphere-to-sphere.  The other three geometries are point-to-sphere, flat end rod-to-sphere and point-to-sphere reverse polarity.

I am pretty sure that my fence charger can withstand 8kV since that is the open circuit output and it would probably be OK with 10kV.  That suggests a 10mm-to-13mm air gap as long as I can avoid having the gap look like sphere-to-sphere.

NOTE: This is only half of the arrestor system.  It also requires a "choke" or inductive load between the fence charger and where the air-gap device attaches to the fence.

Solid metals like iron and copper increase in resistance as they heat up.  The electrical resistance of iron, for instance, increases by about a factor of ten between room temperature and melting.

The resistance of gasses drops to zero for all practical purposes once an arc starts.  Technically, the resistance becomes negative since the voltage between the electrodes DROPS with increasing current due to the increase in free electrons and nuclei.

So an air gap makes a pretty good overload switch.  It has near infinite resistance when it is open and it automatically closes at an appropriate voltage if you have the geometry right.

One advantage of a sphere over a needle or point is that they dissipate heat very well.  Skinny needles don't have much mass and the arc only has one point to leap off of.  Spheres have far more mass and the arc's launch point migrates around the sphere.
This animated gif gives you a sense of how the arc wants to "walk around" if it has a little bit of room.
A compromise is to use a flat ended rod or a cylinder instead of a needle.  The arc nearly always circles around the outermost corner of the cylinder/tube as magnetic forces "push" it sideways, thereby spreading the thermal loading and making this protector more than a one-shot deal.

A picture of my electrodes before trimming.

1/2" rigid copper tubing with 14 gauge copper wire soldered in for leads.
This is what the back end looks like.
The whiskers on the business end were trimmed short, about 1.5mm by my calipers.  I want to give the field a very clear "hint" about where they should initiate the arc.  To wit, I want to avoid the perfect field effect that forces the breakdown voltage to 22 kV.
Dry assembled.  The white is some PVC pipe I needed to shim the copper pipe to fit the holes in the conduit body.
Dry assembled.  I did not want the two initiators 180 degrees apart but I did not want the to line up either, so they are about 90 degrees apart.
Why dry assemble?  To get the gap close before attaching the conduit box to a mounting board.

Screwed the 1/2" conduit body to the mounting board and "glued" the other parts in place with silicon adhesive.  9.5mm from the tip of the initiator to the edge of the tubing opposite it.
A close-up showing the silicon squeeze-out.
One nice thing about using "electrical" boxes is that they will help contain the arc and minimize the risk of starting a fire.  Another advantage is that copper parts in an enclosed electrical box stay clean!

Added later:  I know that some of my readers have more electrical design expertise in their left pinkie toe than I have in my whole brain.  Let me know if I am missing anything important or if I am way overthinking the issue.

Net Neutrality

I wonder how many of the people applauding Alex Jones (a right-leaning writer and aggregator) being deplatformed were in favor of net neutrality.