Monday, November 19, 2018

Cletus and Zeke in Nebo, Illinois

Cletus swore that they weren't going to take on any more gigs in Illinois but the money was just too good.

They were putting in guard rail, something that had become one of their specialties.

The crew consisted of Cletus, Zeke and a slender girl named Cheryl who they called Olive Oil. Cheryl was completely baffled by why they called her Olive Oil but she didn't think it sounded disrespectful.

Almost any kind of hard, physical labor can become beautiful, performance art if you put your mind into making the motions smooth, powerful and safe.

Cheryl really struggled at the beginning but Cletus and Zeke coached her on how to lift one end of the eight foot 6"-by-8" posts. They also showed her how to tell the difference between the pressure treated oak and the lighter, softer woods.

After working with the crew for a few weeks, Olive Oil could keep up with the two big guys as long as she stuck to the lighter posts. She dragged the post so one end was next to the hole. She lifted up that end to belly button height and then pivoted along-side of it, allowing the mid-point to bounce on her near-horizontal thigh. As the low end teeter-tottered upward she latched ahold of it and lofted it upward, neatly dropping the descending end into the waiting hole and the rest of the post pertly lofting to vertical.

The crew was working their way in front of one of Nebo's three churches.

The custodian came out and watched for about five minutes, sipping on his coffee. Then he decided to be a gentleman and "help the little lady."

While it is impossible to know what he thought he was going to do it should be noted that he did not come anywhere close to matching Olive Oil's graceful, seemingly effortless caber toss with the oak post that was next in line.

He limped back to his closet and is probably still looking for his truss.

AOC household cleaner

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is reported to have signed an endorsement deal with Procter and Gamble.

For an undisclosed fee she is allowing them to use her name, initials and likeness for a suite of new household cleaners.

The family of new cleaners is reputed to be more self-absorbing than any competing product while leaving a residue that scares away spiders.

Look for this product in local stores and legislatures soon!

Palliative Care

We recently had a family meeting.

One advantage of having a large family is the portfolio of skills siblings bring along. My younger brother ran the meeting AND took notes. He took them by the simple expedient of recording it with his smartphone. He also graciously asked everybody's permission before recording.

One of the items on the agenda was the question of palliative care. For those who are not familiar with the term, think of it as "in home hospice". The goal is not heroic, life-saving medicine. The goal is to provide support and comfort as life winds down.

I suspect that the insurance companies love it because it has to be cheaper than plugging failing, elderly patients into multi-million dollar milking machines "for the duration".

Patients like it because they are not treated like fodder in some industrial process. They stay home with their loved ones.

Dad is resistant
Dad does not see how they fit into the medical ecosystem.

"Do they replace my regular doctor?" dad asked.

"No, you would still see Dr. Awesome on a regular basis." one of the nurses in the family informed him.

"Would they replace Tammi?" dad asked. Tammi is the woman who assists mom when one of the daughters/daughters-in-law are not available.

"No, they would not replace Tammi." we tell him.

"Would you guys stop coming?" dad asked. This may be one of his biggest fears, that we will scrape our responsibilities off on these palliative care people.

"No dad. You will still have 8-to-1 and 5-to-8 coverage from family members seven days a week." we tell him. Dad is in bed by 8 nearly every night.

"So I don't see what good they will do.  I have everything I need the way things are now." dad said.

I could see past dad and mom's face was working. Dad was so focused on the technical side of things he was not tracking mom's need to have something, some plan, to escalate the next time we had a crisis. After all, dad made it VERY clear he does not want to go back to the hospital.*

Palliative care is more for mom's need to do something more than hold dad's hand and say Hail Marys for his soul when she finds him laid out on the floor than it is for dad.

Dad is a stoic. If the family members cannot get an appointment with Dr Awesome until Wednesday then he is willing to suck-it-up.  Heck, what is a little bit of chest pain.

Mom is an empath. She feels the pain he does not. Palliative care means she can call them and know that some kind of help is on the way and will relieve her of being the pivot pin.

But before Mom can have that ability, palliative care needs to establish a professional relationship with mom and dad. She cannot call them out-of-the blue.

The resolution

We make a concerted effort to not treat our parents as fake-adults. We don't pretend to allow them control like you might pretend to give a mentally retarded adult to humor them and make it easier to manage their behaviors. We don't treat them like some goofy-but-lovable team mascot. They have actual control.

It cannot be denied that neither one of them are as mentally sharp as they were at the height of their mental powers. Dad used to keep a running tally as the groceries were checked out and correct the cashier when she double rang items or missed them.  He did that for fun.

But they are still piloting their own ship and doing a very fine job.

Dad told us that he needed to discuss the issue with mom. They weren't going to do that in front of us. I suspect it will take a week for them to sort it out.

The answer may still come back "No."

*Dad softened a little bit regarding going back to the hospital. If it were for a procedure that would improve his ability to take care of mom, like a cortisone shot for his knee, he is willing go to the hospital for the procedure. He does not want, however, to be plugged into the milking machine again.

Stub 9.3: Skillz

It is important to understand the nature of the programming that Tim-Tom and AJ did if one is to understand the nature of the program Dilip unleashed on Cali.

Tim-Tom’s specialty was to find under-utilized computer resources and to “borrow” them to run his employer’s social media apps.

The resources were abundant. Lights and microwave ovens had microprocessors embedded within them. So did every other appliance or device that could be voice activated. Then there were the smartphones in people’s pockets just twiddling their thumbs. There were swirling hordes of resources. The trick was to correctly predicting the best devices to "borrow" and to write code that minimized thrashing, excessively busy passing of data and programs.

The Social Media platform that employed Tim-Tom could not function without borrowed resources.

For instance, it is easy to predict which videos are about to go viral. They are the videos that are pre-loaded on the “borrowed” resources and then rebroadcast locally. Since bandwidth was a limiting factor, the only videos that can download at speeds that support unbuffered, real-time viewing are the ones that have already been downloaded to "borrowed" resources ahead of time. Slow video never goes viral.

Preloading data worked because memory had become free. Chips were three dimensional and bytes were alkali earth metal ions stored in zeolite garages. The byte was read by tapping it with a UV photon pulse and the capture/non-capture of the resulting 420nm radiation. Memory was written and overwritten by larger taps with the same UV pulse. Zeolites are a kind of clay. Clay and limestone are abundant and cheap. Memory became, for all practical purposes, free.

There was a symbiotic relationship, some would say mutually parasitic relationship, between the Cali government and the information technology industry, especially the social media portion. Controlling streaming rates controlled content. Controlling content controlled opinions. Controlling opinions turned citizens into domesticated animals.

Tim-Tom’s programming gift was to be able to predict who was going to be interacting with whom, when and where. And then to be able to render that intuition into concise, robust code that actually worked “in the wild”. The code he wrote worked in a seamless way that was completely invisible to the actual owners of the computer resources.  Tim-Tom’s code high-jacked millions of resources billions of times every day.

AJ’s coding gift was bent in a different direction.

AJ wrote code that wormed its way through networks and connected data in databases back to the parties that created that data. The data would be lifted and passed to the cloud. His code was also deft in its ability to substitute proxies for data that was missing.

By way of example: A person can hide income and transactions by paying cash and barter but defensible estimates can be imputed based on the value of houses in the neighborhood and “chaff” like expensive vacations and savings hidden in off-shore accounts. Residents of Cali who earned the median income were struggling to afford 2000 Calories a day. They weren’t going on cruises twice a year and shipping off a king’s ransom to accounts in the Cayman Islands.

Alpha-Omega make a pile of money advertising cheap plane fares to Switzerland to Cali government officials whose "chaff" suggested they had recently enjoyed a cruise to the Grand Cayman and had been forced to pay fees for extra luggage.

AJ’s art used fuzzy logic to draw unfuzzy conclusions.

Alpha-Omega, the corporation that AJ worked for, had databases filled with proxy and imputed data for every person on earth and AJ had the keys to those databases

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Random pictures

Undoubtedly media. They are blue and were wearing sunglasses.

Christmas shopping

Kubota has been doing a lot of hinting around about what he wants for Christmas. "Black with just a little bit of chrome." "It has gotta have cool wheels." "A nice seat is important." "It has to look good in the driveway."

By giving us more time to shop he is hoping we can meet all of his requirements.

We will count this as a success. And it was under budget! The place where my nephew works just replaced all of their office furniture. It was FREE!

It is a good thing Kubota does not read my blog or it would ruin the surprise.

Kubota is going to be SO happy!

To sing is to pray twice

I did not attend Mass last Sunday. I took Kubota into the Emergency Room and then had to fill perscriptions. I wasn't feeling too hot myself.

Mrs ERJ put her foot down. "Stay home with Kubota. You don't need to make those little old men and women sick."

After Mass, Mrs ERJ was filing out. Father Dwight stands by the door to greet the members who wish to be greeted. He commented that he missed me.

Not a lot of people sing the hymns at Mass. I try to make up for the slackers.

St Augustine once observed that to sing is to pray twice. First by having the words tickle your neurons (not his exact words) and second by making joyful noises.

In my case, it counts as praying eight times. The words, the noise and the six people near me who are praying for my singing to end.

Ballistic Gack: Trajectories

The AR-15 platform chambered in 5.56mm NATO with a 16" barrel is the default firearm in America today.
50 grain Hornady V-Max starting at 3080fps. Three different zeros. Sights 1.5" above bore. All data collected from the on-line Hornady Ballistic Calculator

55 grain Hornady soft point with cannelure starting at 2900fps. Three different zeros. Sights 1.5" above bore.

60 grain Hornady V-Max starting at 2790fps. Three different zeros. Sights 1.5" above bore.
Three different weights with 200 yard zero over-plotted. Max range reduced to increase resolution between offerings.
Same as above but plotted out to 400 yards.
  • Once zeroed in, the differences in trajectory are small out to 250 yards.
  • The slippery 60 grain V-Max never overcomes it disadvantage in starting speed, at least not within the first 400 yards.
  • The 50gr V-Max stays above 1700fps past 400 yards. 1700fps is sometimes used as the threshold for expansion or mushrooming for rifle bullets.
  • The 55gr soft point stays above 1700fps to 325 yards
  • The 60gr V-Max stays above 1700fps to 350 yards.
  • Initial velocities were fudge-factored down from Hodgdon reloading data for H-335 for the respective weight bullets and a 24" barrel.
  • On a short range, a 200 yard zero can be approximated by "zeroing" at 1.0 inch above line-of-sight at fifty yards or 2 inches above line of sight at 100 yards.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Deer hunting continues

Painting by Montague Dawson

Belladonna dragged me out hunting this morning.

We shook two out walking to the blind.

Then she saw an 8 point buck walking through the tall grass five minutes later.  More accurately, she saw an eight-point rack sailing over the tops of the tall grass, Giant Foxtail, Setaria faberi for those who care about such things.

Like a sailing ship in stormy seas, Bella could see the sails and rigging but could not discern where the vital parts of the body were. She did not shoot.

She saw 16 deer this morning and a Pileated Woodpecker. We heard mallards, a loon, squirrels, chickadees, more squirrels etc.

Michigan DNR forbids any kind of baiting or attractants in my part of Michigan because of Chronic Wasting Disease. It is my opinion that those rules are being followed because, suddenly, the orchard is irresistible to deer.

Her vision is much, much better than mine.

Reducing Thursday's deer
No soybeans were harmed in the production of this image.
About 2/3 of Thursday's deer is reduced to food.

The prime cuts were left in chunks so people who cared can cut them to the thickness they  prefer. Belladonna will be taking some back to school.

The rest is cut to stew-meat and simmered until tender. Cooled slightly, poured into containers. The juice jells. The jellied stew-meat is put into freezer bags and frozen.

Goes great over potatoes, noodles, dumplings, toast, biscuits, cornbread. Can go into stew, soup, chili or gravy. Mixed with vegetables or beans or eaten plain.

I think of it as an upscale MRE.

I hope to finish up processing the deer tomorrow and hope I have enough freezer room.

Death by flower


Nordic cooking often uses flowers as garnishes, flavors and decorations. This is particularly true of wedding cakes.

The European Union, in its infinite wisdom, decided that this represents a threat to the health of all Europeans and is in the process of writing regulations that dictate what species of flowers, at what age and how many per 100 square centimeters can be used. And of course, regulations come with additional bureaucracy to administer and penalties to punish the scoff-laws.  -Source

The US still has not stooped to that level.

Furnace Fan short-cycling

This is the fan limit switch at the cabin. Honeywell L4064B. Moving the two lower pointers farther apart should reduce short cycling.

I spent the night before opening-day of firearm season at the cabin.

The furnace was short-cycling.

Today I put in a new thermostat. I did not think that was the cause but it was easy and it needed replacing because it was a mercury switch thermostat.

Honeywell makes a $25 unit that is an exact match for the one that came off the wall.

The fan is still short-cycling.

Potential causes include:
  • Clogged ductwork (think Red Squirrels here, folks)
  • Clogged air filter
  • Not enough ducting (the ducts in 2/3 of the rooms were shut off so this might be a player)
  • Excessively cold return air (don't know where return air ducts are, perhaps in the shutoff rooms that are not heated or the unheated crawl-space beneath the cabin)
  • Defective temperature limit switches
  • Improper limits set on the limit switches. This is a possibility. I will move the Fan Shutoff to the low limit and see if this helps.
  • Holes rusted in ductwork and/or drain features plugged. (Suggested by an email friend who often chooses to be anonymous.)
Source of troubleshooting punchlist 

I need to find a manual for this unit so I can figure out where the air filter is.
Some people wouldn't bother to get the furnace straightened out, but the cabin has been a source of emergency housing when assorted family members have found themselves without housing.

Perseus and Medusa

Medusa was one of three sisters, the gorgons, but she was the only mortal one. Some versions say all three were born as monsters, but the predominant myths had them as gorgeous maidens. Poseidon turned her and her sisters into monsters with live snakes covering their heads. Medusa kept her beautiful face but everything else was so monstrous. And whoever dared to look into her face ended up being turned into stone.

(By some the standards of many she was irresistibly beautiful but all who dared look at her face ended up dead.)

Perseus was a Greek parent was human and the other was a god.

Perseus was able to get close enough to Medusa to cut off her head and kill her. He was able to approach her without turning into stone because he used his polished shield as a mirror, thus not looking directly into her face.

Hence my mom's little joke: one of the people that the United States Secret Service must protect is judged to be AWESOME by many people but in fact is a monster. Thus forcing them to wear reflective, ballistic eyewear.

Apologies for the obscure mythological reference. I will have words with my mom.

Dogs and flatulence

Nobody ever named their small lapdog Tout de Suite.

That would include my parent's dog who loves to stretch out on the back of the couch behind guests.

Chester and Festus

Chester, Illinois and Festus, Missouri are about 35 miles apart.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Fake News Friday: Christmas gifts for your artistic, liberal friends

Talking with one of the progressives in my family I asked them what they wanted for Christmas.

After thinking a bit, they suggested something artistic, maybe a bust of Hillary Clinton.

This is the best I could find on the internet.

Fake News Friday: Why some Secret Service teams always wear ballistic eyewear

My mom knows that I get on the internet and can find things out. Sometimes she "plays" me.

"Did you ever wonder why some Secret Service teams always wear those mirrored eyeglasses?" she said.

I shook my head "no" but then helpfully added, "I can look it up on the internet."

She said, "No need. Just wanted to see if you knew. It is because the military no longer carries polished shields in its inventory."

Cletus and Zeke in Sunfield Township

Cletus was 15' up in a Black Walnut tree and had been all day. The walnut was in the crotch of a "Y" formed by two drainage ditches that came together and then flowed west. It was generous to call them drainage ditches but they were too wet to plow, filled with skunk cabbage and marsh marigold in the spring and mosquitoes in the summer.

In the fall they became prime conduits for deer traffic.

He was hunting deer with a bunch of shirt-tail relatives and a few of the property owner's neighbors.

One of the neighbors was Ken and his two, teenage boys, Ben and John Joseph.

Ben and John Joseph were 16 and 14 respectively and they were just starting to acquire that cynical, know-it-all attitude that makes teenagers repulsive. Cletus did not find their behaviors attractive.

Ken had been a hell of a hunter in his youth. Hunting became a lot harder for him after a kid T-boned him while Ken was riding his motorcycle. By all rights he should have bled-out on the pavement but the mangled strand of flesh that connected the one leg to his body had been twisted enough to crimp off his femoral artery.

Ken survived but the leg did not. Ken's days of going on 10 mile hikes through the swamps of Michigan hunting deer were over.

Money was tight in Ken's house. The first half of the month they ate a lot of potatoes and chicken. The second half of the month it was potatoes and dried beans. Balony sandwiches were a luxury. They really looked forward to adding venison to the menu.

Ken, Ben and John Joseph were on one arms of the Y. They had posted up in a ground blind since Ken wasn't climbing trees. Ben and John Joseph had chairs. Ken was standing on his one leg, leaning forward on his two crutches, .357 at the ready.

With fifteen minutes of legal light left, Cletus heard a "BANG!" from their direction some 300 yards away. From his vantage point he could see a deer streaking through the denuded elderberry bushes and dogwood.

50 yards out from his stand he saw it get woozie.

Its chin hit the soft, black, peaty soil fifteen feet from the trunk of the Black Walnut.

Cletus waited.

Ken, Ben and John Joseph waited for 30 minutes. By then it was full dark. More deer are lost by attempting to track them to soon. As the Great Doug Smith once observed, deer and off-roaders with automatic transmissions don't go anywhere after the transmission has had enough time to leak down to dry.  Both blood and transmission fluid are red.

Cletus climbed down 45 minutes after dark. It did not look like the shooters were going to claim the deer but he figured he better go to the cabin to verify the fact.

K,B,JJ had beaten him there.

Ken said they had looked and looked and looked. They found hair right away but no blood.

Then Ken asked, "Can you guys give me a hand. More eyes might find the blood trail."

Cletus don't talk much and the tiniest germ of an idea was rooting in his head.

They all piled into trucks and drove the 1/2 mile to where K,B,JJ had been standing.

Ken talked through where they had been standing. The gap in the fence the deer had come through. Cletus went over and the ground was beaten bare with deer tracks. There would be no possibility of sorting out one from the other.

K,B,JJ had marked where they found the hair and Ken pointed out the general direction the deer had run off. It was about 30 degrees off from the straight line between where the deer was shot and where it ended up.

Ken was standing at the hair to give the trackers a base reference point.

The best trackers with the best flashlights started making concentric arcs trying to cut the trail.

Ten yards: Nothing

Fifteen yards: Nothing

Twenty, twenty-five: Nothing.

Things were looking pretty bleak for K, B, JJ bringing their deer to bag. Ben was starting to make snide comments.

Then Cletus said, "Kenny, I reckon you are going to have to track this one by scent, just like the one you shot in '87."

Ken hadn't known Cletus in '87 but had a quick and playful mind. 'Sides, Ken didn't have anything to lose by playing along.

"Yeah. That was pretty exceptional." Ken said.

Cletus got up right next to Ken's side. "I remember you sticking your head way down and taking a big sniff" Cletus demonstrated "and thinking WTF!"

Ken imitated Cletus. It was dark. Nobody saw Cletus give Ken a poke with his duck-wing to direct him forward and a bit to the left.

"Damned if I can't smell this one!" Ken bellowed in a "Praise the LORD!" voice.

The party zigged-and-zagged their way across the swamp grass. Ken tended to drift too far to the left when Cletus was on Ken's right side and too far to the right when Cletus was on the right. But every twenty yards or so Cletus would blow his nose or adjust his flashlight and then reappear on the other side of Ken.

When they were 75 feet from the big walnut, Cletus said "The other thing that impressed me back in '87 is that you air-scented the blood when you got close. Moving another 15 feet closer, Cletus raised his head and started sniffing the air like a pointer hunting for quail scent.

Ken was highly attuned to Cletus by now. Ken did the same but in a much bigger, stagier way. "YUP! I smell him now. He's gotta be close." Kenny announced.

Ben and John Joseph started scanning through the sparse stems of the elderberries with their Malice Green commemorative edition Maglites and damned if the biggest doe ever shot in Sunfield township wasn't slumped on the ground within a stone's throw of the tracking party.

Two drops of "transmission fluid" were found next to the deer. The other 5 quarts had bled out internally.

Ben was a much sweeter kid after that.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

I need a mulligen on C&Z and Stub

It was a long day. Up at 4:30. On the stand at 6:30. Lunch at 11:30. Back on the stand until 6:05 PM. Tracking, gutting and dragging deer until 9:00 PM. Driving on slush at 40 MPH back home. Hanging deer. Just sitting down now at 10:19 PM.

Tomorrow is a mom-and-dad day so I will be busy until two in the afternoon.

C&Z and Stub will be back in battery Monday morning if we don't kill a pile more deer.  Michigan DNR is issuing up to ten doe permits in my area to control Cervid Wasting Disease. They really want us to knock the snot out of the does.

Each doe is good for about 70 pounds of boned-out meat.

Cletus and Zeke in northwestern Eaton County

Deer hunting.

First legal light at 7:00 AM, straight up.

Stub 9.2: Coding errors

It was a time for teary good-byes.

Word had come late the afternoon before that all programmers in Bora-Bora were to be expatriated.

AJ and Tim-Tom had asked the Sedelia administrators if they could be given asylum based on the political turmoil that was happening in Cali.

The administrators had already discussed the possibility among themselves. They were unable to offer asylum based on people’s premonition of future evil. Claims of asylum demand evidence.

Tim-Tom and AJ were both students of history and the fracture of the alliance between Silicon Valley and the Cali government had the same stench as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact that sundered Poland before WWII. Like Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Soviet Union, the pact was based on incredible distrust of the other party. Consequently, dissolution of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was incredibly swift and cataclysmic in its unwinding.

The violence of the unwind resulted in the Soviet Union suffered 27,000,000 fatalities while the German Military suffered 5,500,000 casualties on the Eastern Front alone.

The alliance between Silicon Valley and the Cali government had evolved over time but there was no less tension between those two parties then there had been between Hitler and Stalin. Cali and Silicon valley were like a couple of enormous slabs of rock precariously balanced against each other. The erosion of time had cut away support and made the system inherently more unstable. The only things that kept the alliance going was the near-parity of power between the two monoliths and the friction between them.

Zev attempted to disrupt that equilibrium by first throwing his weight one way, and then the other. If Zev could challenge the perception of near-parity of power then the unwind could become self-sustaining.

Rumors on the net suggested that nearly all of the heads of Cali’s Information based industry had fled the country. And now the peons were being rounded up.

Neither AJ or Tim-Tom slept that last night. It was not due to pursuit of romance. It was to code a poison pill. It was a simple, recursing piece of code that initially mined data but then floated the data in the cloud in the devices nearest the targets.

If all went well and AJ and Tim-Tom were able to call Tory and Radhika every day then the poison pill would stay in the bottle.

If the daily calls ceased or if the code word “cancer” was said by either Tim-Tom or AJ in one of the daily calls, then the bottle would break.

AJ and Tim-Tom boarded the buses with the other programmers and the buses headed north. The buses did not even slow down at the frontier but it was waved on through. The buses did not take any of the westward exits that would have taken the bus toward Silicon Valley, rather they continued to travel up the Central Valley.

AJ elbowed Tim-Tom and said, “Tim-Tom, I think we are well and truly fucked!” as the bus pulled into the “mental health” hospital complex that was built on the ruins of the town of Paradise.

After de-boarding the bus, the programmers were in-processed. They were separated from their personal belongings. In-processing included hair cuts, showers and sprays with harsh disinfectants and insecticides.

Then they were issued uniforms and shown their “dormitories” which were small cubes three meters on a side with three, three-man bunks precast into the concrete walls.

Even though the officials said the programmers were their “for their own safety” it was clear that the programmers were in a prison.

Meanwhile, back in Sedelia…
Tory and Radihka were pouring over thousands of lines of code. AJ and Tim-Tom’s effort was a first draft.

Tory and Radihka had been able to get the two main modules to compile. They found a few minor errors and had been able to correct them. The code even benchmarked against the straw-man data but Tory and Radihka could not get the two parts of the program to talk to each other.

Time-after-time Tory or Radikha had an idea. They made changes or added some code or tweaked the existing code. No cigar. The database mining worked and the cloud portion worked but they coughed up a hairball when they were put together.

It was 1:30 in the morning and empty coffee cups littered the table in the nearly abandoned Bora-Bora complex. A young man who had that look that screamed “Programmer” was walking through, head down, hands clenched behind his back.

He almost missed Tory and Radikha until an angry flurry of keystrokes caught his attention.

He strolled over. “How is it going?” he asked.

“Sucks big donkey dicks.” Tory said, frustrated.

“Class project?” Dilip asked.

“More important that than.” Radikha said.

Dilip nodded as if he understood. He was not in the mood for long stories.

He was quite taken by their intensity. If they were curious about the presence of a programmer after all the Cali rock-stars left, they did not show it.

Dilip picked a seat behind them. “Mind if I watch?” he asked.

“Only if you keep your mouth shut.” Tory said. Tory could be direct.

It only took a few minutes for Dilip to see that they were struggling to pass variable from one portion of the program to the other.

He noticed what they were drinking and brought back a couple of double lattes for them. They barely noticed.

After forty more minutes, Tory said, “Well, I am stumped. How about you?” she said addressing the question to Radikha.

“I got nothing.” Radikha said.

Tory finally turned to Dilip and said. “What have you got?”

Dilip said, “I know this sounds stupid, but try resizing your screen.”

“That does sound stupid.” Tory said. But she resized the screen on the monitor. She would have tried rain-dancing if anybody had suggested it.

Dilip said, “I don’t know what your code is trying to do, but it looks like you were in a hurry when you coded it. You have a carriage return there" he said, pointing at the screen with his pinkie finger "instead of a ‘blank’ free-format space.”

Tory, short for Victoria, looked back at the screen and Tory and Radikha simultaneously shouted “SHIT!”

The change was made.

Tory graciously turned to Dilip and asked, “Would you like to type in the compile command. I have a feeling you are lucky.”

Dilip agreed that he was feeling lucky. Dilip typed in “compile and run” and hit enter.

If computer code sounded like motors Dilip would have heard a sound like a thousand gas-turbines slowly starting to spin.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Cletus and Zeke in Huntsville, Alabama

Cletus and Zeke were in Huntsville, Alabama working on a construction site for a future metal stamping plant.

The press-pits were dug first and then footings were poured.

The site was considered a "brown-field" site. It had been used for various types of industry before. The EPA loved putting new industrial sites on old brown-fields rather than bulldozing productive habitat.

The issue with brown-field sites is that many of them dated back 150 years and the drawings were more artistic interpretations than drawings that reliable dimensions could be pulled from.

So it was no surprise to Cletus and Zeke when the backhoe ripped some piping out of the ground. The piping was not indicated on any of the drawings and it looked old. Very old. Much of it looked like clay tile.

At first the ends of the pipes wept. Then they seeped. The a rivulet came forth. Finally, they were all pouring into the press pit which was the size of an Olympic swimming pool.

It only took one whiff to determine that the outflow was raw sewage from somewhere.

Cletus and Zeke high-tailed it to the foreman's trailer. He was on his desktop computer and was staring intently at the screen.

"Go away." he commanded.

"Boss, we gotta problem." Zeke exclaimed.

"Go away. I have some critical paperwork that I gotta get finished by the end of the shift. Whatever it is it can wait to the next shift." the foreman said.

It is a common fallacy that members of management are any different than the run-of-the-row population. There are good ones and bad ones. Smart ones and stupid ones. Ones who care and ones with broken give-a-gollies.

And there were some who watched porn videos on company time, as evidenced by the reflection in the picture frame behind his desk.

Every hour, on the hour Zeke and Cletus went in to report how much the pool of raw sewage had risen in the press pit.

Each time Cletus and Zeke went into report, the foreman kicked them out of his office so he could work on his "paper work".

The second shift foreman came in a half hour early and swung through the construction site to see, first hand, how things were going. He blew a gasket.

The first shift foreman, who had seniority on the second shift guy, called Cletus and Zeke in and read them the riot act. Basically, the threw them under the bus.

While the second shift foreman and the first shift foreman had words outside the trailer, Cletus hopped over to the other side of the first shift foreman's desk and popped the "p" and the "q" key off the keyboard and swapped them. Seeing that he had a few seconds more time, he did the same for the "m" and "n" keys. Cletus had seen that the foreman was a hunt-and-peck typer.

Cletus and Zeke were fired.

The next morning the first shift foreman's account was frozen after he incorrectly typed his password, "numberone" three times. IT reset his password to "Password1". And he failed three times. He called up IT and used abusive language. They reset it again to "password" and the foreman got bounced again.

The foreman threatened the IT helpdesk with physical harm as well as using abusive language. Never a good idea when talking to IT.

On a whim, IT pulled his browsing log. He was fired before lunchtime.

Crocodile tears?

If you have been reading this blog for a while then you probably realize that I identify as a "conservative".

Conservatives spend a lot of time jumping up-and-down pointing out the theatrics of the other side.

That doesn't mean that conservatives don't engage in theatrics. In fact, I would be disappointed if we didn't. Theatrics make complex ideas interesting and make points-of-view "sticky".

Trump is a master of theatrics. That is a good thing if you are a conservative and a bad thing if you consider yourself a progressive.

One must wonder if Trump's hand-wringing over rising interest rates is mostly theatrics.

If a business slow-down is in the cards then Trump wants the carnage cleared before November, 2020. If the slow-down had started before Nov 2018 then voters would have blamed the Republicans, the party that is nominally the more conservative.

With Democrats in control of the House and baying like hounds to destroy Trump, Trump has the perfect scapegoat if/when GE (and Tesla and any five, medium sized banks you care to name) goes into reorganization and property values tank. It is not Trump's way to "play nice" and settle for a bone. He plays for the win and does not allow the other team to control the tempo of the game.

In a perfect world, interest rates would slowly rise to the point where it made economic sense for people to put money in the bank. I contend that is 3% more than the rate of inflation.

In a perfect world, the speed with which rates were raised would result in a rate of sovereign, business and personal liquidations that the economy could recognize and absorb the write-downs, redeploy the real assets and still show a little bit of real growth.

I don't think that is going to happen because I think the time frame for that sure-footed absorption of malinvestment would extend way beyond 2020.

Stub 9.1: Pigs get fat and hogs get slaughtered

Luis Aparicio and Barb Eppling sat in the squad car watching the minutes tick off the clock.

They were parked beside Highway 86 a couple of miles north of Kane Springs.

“This is stupid.” Luis said for the 12th time.

Barb ignored him. She knew it was his way of dealing with the stress of waiting. It was how he got his game-face on.

“Tell me again why we can’t just whack the next runner.” Luis demanded.

Barb sighed. This was not the first time they had this conversation. They had watched dozens of trucks that matched the IR profiles they were looking for stream north toward Cali and Oregon.

“If we whack every one of them they will figure out that we are on to them. They will either find other routes or stop putting the drugs in the tires.” Barb said. Then she added a bit more that she had picked up through the “old girl” network. “The guys at HQ want to get inside Cali’s heads. They know there are folks up there accepting bribes. They want us to follow this schedule because it is the best way to fuck up the most people up in Cali.”

The story on the “old girl” network was almost spot on.

People who design experiments take great pains to avoid accidental patterns that generate false-positives. There is also a discipline, a much smaller discipline, that looks for ways to maximize false-positives. An example of the second discipline are the people who design lottery games. They want buyers to believe that they are on the verge of breaking the code.

Aaron made a series of phone calls after fielding the call from Zev. He rated it as somewhere between 25% and 50% credible. One of the calls found its way to a mathematician at Cal Poly. He proposed a pattern of “stops” that would appear to “validate” the largest number of high level officials in Cali.

In explaining it to Aaron the professor asked Aaron to consider the difference between the numbers 23 and 24. Twenty-three is only divisible by the number 1 while twenty-four is divisible by 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8 and 12. Consequently, samples of twenty-four are much more likely to tickle connections than samples of twenty-three.

Aaron sort of understood it and was willing to use the plan proposed by the professor. Still, it was hard to convince street cops to let known smugglers skate

Another thing that pissed off Luis was that they didn't get to pull over the suspect truck. They radioed it into to a special dispatch number. The dispatcher then directed a regular patrolman to pull the truck over.

Sometimes the regular patrolman flopped around. He knew that was a truck he was supposed to let go.

When the dispatcher received push-back the dispatcher had a very succinct response. "We have a tip from a very highly placed source in Cali that this is a drug runner. Pull them over and call the K-9 or lose your job."

Word quickly got passed up the line that there was a rat in Cali.

After whacking three smugglers on exact 2 hour intervals, Sedelia issued a press release informing the public that several large drug shipments had been interdicted. No further details were given.

A period of two days elapsed during which no more shipments were interdicted.

Then another burst of three trucks-at-2 hour intervals was executed. Dispatch included the additional information that the Cali source was motivated by the perception that the Cartel bribes were insufficient.

The second burst of drug busts was followed up by a press release claiming ten (not six) shipments had been interdicted. When reporters asked if the source was in Cali the spokesperson said, "I am not at liberty to discuss details of ongoing operations." which was taken as a confirmation.

By dawn the next day more than fifty Cali government officials had been murdered. Most murders were small caliber pistol rounds to the back of the head. Several involved arson and the death of the official’s entire family. A handful had their throat slashed in broad public. Two were garroted.

The Cartel had been led to believe that they had been granted the exclusive monopoly for smuggling drugs from Mexico to Oregon. They knew they had lost six shipments. Hearing that ten shipments had been intercepted was taken as proof that Cali officials were two-timing them.

They were not pleased.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Ron A. Mock

So there I was, minding my own business watching a soccer game when I noticed a mother approaching Mitch and giving him a piece of her mind.

After politely listening for a minute, Mitch reached into his backpack and pulled out a piece of paper and handed it to her.

She read it for a minute and then threw the piece of paper on the ground and left the area-of-operation at a high rate of speed.

Mitch is, well, mellow. His 14-year-old son Ronnie will probably end up driving for NASCAR because he likes to lean into the guardrails. He is what the Professionals call, "emotional regulation challenged." But for all that, Mitch is mellow.

I sidled over to him. I write a blog and am always on the lookout for easy stories to steal.

"What was that all about?" I asked. I may, or may not have changed names to protect privacy. Just sayin'.

"Aw, she just wanted to give me some parenting advice." Mitch said.

Knowing Mitch's son, I have to imagine it was not the first time it had happened.

"How did you get her to stop flapping her jaws?" I asked.

"I gave her some paperwork to fill out. I told her I was more than happy to let her test her theories on my son but I needed to have her sign a Waiver of Responsibility first." Mitch said with a grin.

I sped read the document and this is what it said, to the best of my remembering:

Waiver of Responsibility:

First, thank-you for volunteering to help us improve our parenting skills.

Second, research tells us that parenting techniques cannot be assessed in less than two weeks of very consistent application. We expect you to return him with all of his poor behaviors completely "extincted".

___print name legibly___ do hereby accept all responsibility for minor foster child Ron A. Mock for a period of two weeks. I understand that I and the other adults in my household are fully responsible for Ron A. Mock’s behaviors during that two week period and release legal foster parent from all responsibility, including but not limited to, for damages (physical, emotional, financial and other) caused by fire, flooding, toxins, irritants, feces, urine, wanton destruction, directed destruction, accelerated depreciation, loss in resale value, broken furniture, glass, drywall and appliances.

I _____initial____ hereby release the legal foster parents from responsibility for any damages caused by physical assault, including but not limited to lacerations, contusions, punctures wounds (deep and shallow), fractured bones (simple, compound, green-stick), ruptured organs, loose and missing teeth. I accept responsibility for the consequences of aforementioned physical assault whether the damages are to me, other adults, my children (both younger, same-age and older) or to other people who do not live in my home. This release only applies to the two weeks Ron A. Mock resides with me.

_____initial____ understand that I am also legally liable for any sexual predation Ron A. Mock may engage in as he acts out childhood experiences. I understand that by signing this document and initially this paragraph I acknowledge full knowledge of this risk and cannot shift it to the legal foster parents.

_____initial____ understand that I am also legally liable for any damages that Ron A. Mock may incur if he finds my car keys and takes my vehicle joy-riding. Parenthetical note: You may want to inform your auto insurance carrier and purchase a rider.

_____initial____ understand that I am also legally responsible for any illegal drugs found in my house regardless of whether they were brought into my house by myself or others.

_____initial____ understand that I am legally responsible to get Ron A. Mock to his three, weekly, random urine drops and his scheduled counseling sessions on the other side of town. I understand that I have 60 minutes to get Ron A. Mock to his urine drops and will be financially liable for the counseling bill if Ron either chooses to not attend or cannot be found at the time of the appointment.

Signature/Date Witness One __________________
Signature/Date Witness Two __________________
Signature/Date Adult#1 in home_______________
Signature/Date Adult#2 in home_______________
Signature/Date Adult#3 in home_______________

 "I didn't know Ron was a foster child." I said.

"He isn't." Mitch said. "But they don't know that." he said, looking at the woman who had distanced herself from Mitch.

Mrs ERJ's minivan has new tires

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

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

"Yup. I am sure." I said.

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

"Yup. I am sure." I said.

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

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

"You darned betchya." I said.

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

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

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

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

All tires are compromises.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cletus and Zeke in Flippin, Arkansas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stub 9.0: One hand washes the other

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hmmm!” Aaron said, as if unconvinced.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 12, 2018

Getting pumped up about deer season

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

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

Sometimes it gets chilly in the house.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cletus and Zeke in Greenville, Mississippi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zeke nodded his head "Yes."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

---Later that night---

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stub 8.9: Tim-Tom and AJ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Why do you say that?” AJ challenged.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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