Saturday, April 20, 2019

Watching Belladonna pitching dwarves

Mrs ERJ and I were in Grand Rapids, Michigan watching Belladonna pitching dwarves.

She was all pins-and-needles. She was going to be throwing on a plywood floor and she was not used to the springiness or slickness of the surface.

Before she threw I sniffed the air and said, "Do you know what I smell?"

She sniffed, maybe expecting a skunk or a sewage backup.

"Nope." she answered.

"I smell a personal record." I said.

I was wrong, but she did the best today that she has done in the last 22 months. She pitched the dwarf 50.74 inches. It probably helped that the dwarf she drew for that round was particularly flatulent.

I think the dwarves like Bella. She treats them with respect.

Frankly, I will not be surprised if, in the future, Bella starts plying dwarves in beverages that are reputed to cause flatulence.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Hyphaene thebaica, an interesting tree for xeriscapes

Looks like much of the American Inter-mountain West except for the baboons in the image
The olive baboon is the most widely distributed primate in Kenya as it occupies the greatest range of habitat types. ... Here, east of Lake Turkana, the average annual rainfall is less than 200 mm and it may not rain for several years.  (200 mm is about 8")
Doum palm (Hyphaene thebaica), are one of the tallest (up to 15 m) and most common (and often dominant) tree species on the banks of Kenya’s luggas, rivers and oases. The fruit is large, often abundant, and has a water content of >24%. The shoots of the germinated seeds are eaten by people, baboons and other species. We have encountered baboons feeding on doum palm fruits at many sites throughout the lower, drier regions of Kenya.
That night we camped within a grove of doum palms…which is always ‘interesting’. All past experience tells us that doum palms should be avoided if one wishes to get a good night’s sleep.
Photographs by Yvonne de Jong and Tom Butynski showing fruit clusters on Doum Palm.
The doum palm (Hyphaene thebaica) appears to be a keystone tree species for many mammals in northern Kenya, providing food, water, shade, and refuge. Notice the abundant, large, fruits and the dense cover provided by the leaves.  Source

Doum palm is only listed as being hardy to 20F, that is, USDA Zone 9.

There are some reasons to test that limit.

Hyphaene thebaica showing bare trunk and branching habit.
Palm trunks are often stripped of leaves. The leaves are used for fiber and building materials. It also leaves the trunks vulnerable to temperature fluctuations.

Where Hyphaene thebaica leaves are not harvested for building materials, the leaves are persistent and form a shaggy barrier around the trunk. If the low temperature excursions are of short duration, that is for a few hours before dawn, then the trunk will be protected and will not experience the radiant heat losses a naked trunk must endure.

Another reason to test the conventional wisdom regarding the minimum temperature Hyphaene thebaica can endure is the fact that the species is amenable to coppicing. That means that it eagerly sprouts from latent buds at the base of the trunk or from root suckers.

Saw Palmetto (Serenoa repens) which has been documented as recovering from -10F shares the characteristic of suckering from the base or roots. It is most useful as a fire regime adaptation but is also very useful for recovering from freeze damage.

Pumpkin color is Zone 8 where growing Hyphaene thebaica might be a stretch. Red is Zone 9 where it should do well with little effort.
There is a tremendous amount of Zone 8 west of the 100th Meridian where Doum Palm MIGHT thrive.

Bentley-DePue Drain

One of the topics of neighborhood discussion is the performance of the upper reaches of the Bentley-DePue drain.

Last year, Columbia Highway was impassible for 37 days due to flooding.

The dashed portion of the drain, shown here, is underground. It is of an age where it is clay tile, butted end-to-end. The inside is rough and it is vulnerable to cracking and to tree roots intruding.

Another factor exacerbating the situation is that there is only 4' of drop over the half a mile of buried drain.

This chart is a sensitivity study. Numbers from this website.

In the nominal condition (18" drain, roughness coefficient of 80, 6" rain and 4' of head) it would take 53 days to move all of the water that falls on the square mile drained by the upper reaches through that drain.

12" diameter tile was evaluated to simulate degraded performance due to sediment, roots and partially collapsed tile. 24" diameter was looked at as an upgrade.

Increased head, the height of the water in the swamp, was also evaluated.

Smooth plastic pipe was also looked at. Plastic pipe comes in much longer lengths than clay tile so there are fewer joints. The inside is smoother. The walls are impervious to roots.

In the nominal condition (18" drain, roughness coefficient of 150, 6" rain and 4' of head) it would take 28 days to move an all of the water through that drain.

Obviously, much of the water percolates through the soil as the estimated times shown on the charts are WAY longer than observed.

My take-away is that drains are very sensitive to increasing diameter (good) and smoother walls (good).

This image added in response to comment by B.

Seven Skinny Cows: All in; lock, stock and barrel

Luke sent his mom a note. "Let me know what you need. I will send it back."

Kate responded, "Think we will be OK. Thanks. Will let you know."

Mrs O'Conner died eight hours after her coronary event peaked.

Milo kept his mouth shut regarding Duckworth's smirky comment. To repeat it would be to give Duckworth more leverage. Still, he could not stand by and do nothing.

“You know they did you a favor.” Nyssa said.

“Forgive me if fail to take joy in the favor they did me.” Kate said. A rare note of bitterness crept into her voice.

“At least three of those men were oozing Ebola from open wounds and another three looked feverish and had no energy.” Nyssa said. “Burning down the building and everything left in it was the only practical way to sanitizing it.”

“Dmitri pulled a report off short-wave that said Michigan was reporting 2% Ebola. Based on what I saw it could be ten times that.” Nyssa said.

“The other thing is that in two months most of those men will either be dead or blind.” Nyssa said. “We can rebuild but we should be patient and wait until spring.”

“I can understand the radio, but why did they take everything else?” Kate wailed. She was still in denial and was struggling to come to grips with the violence that had been dealt her.

Rick said, “I guess that they were bunkering up. They took stuff because they did not plan ahead.”

That is when Dmitri walked up.

“I saw what happened.” Dmitri said. “It was the same in Romania under Cousescue.”

“You were smart to get out of the way. Many unarmed people died in Romania when they tried to stop armed men.” Dmitri said, trying to cheer Kate up.

“But the radio station? There is no way we can get more equipment. We are finished.” Kate said.

Dmitri looked around. “Did they touch the antenna?” he asked.

“No. Why would they?” Rick said.

“Because good antennas are the hardest, most expensive thing to replace.” Dmitri said.

“But the transmitters...Where would we get more of those?” Kate asked.

“Transmitters are everywhere.” Dmitri said. “So are amplifiers. It is a simple matter to retune a transmitter.”

“Of course, it is even easier if somebody had the foresight to purchase backup units ahead of time.” Dmitri said.

“I take it that you never looked at the detailed receipt I gave you. The equipment we installed was three hundred dollars short of what you gave me. That was spent on spare parts.” Dmitri said. "The only question is a matter of timing. When is the best time to go back on-line?"

A quarter mile to the west...
Janelle and Nyssa walked over to Kelly’s shop after hanging the laundry. There was always something going on over at Kelly’s.

Today was no exception. Kelly and Milo were having a heated discussion about the best way to fabricate some shape.

Janelle helped herself from a cold beer from the cooler and sat down to listen while Nyssa went over to stand next to Milo. It was the best entertainment available.

From the sound of discussion, they were trying to go into production and make a hundred of something. That roused Janelle’s interest because she had worked in various custom shops on the west coast that specialized in those size production runs.

The problem was that Milo and Kelly had very different ideas of how to make things. Both were masters of making one-of items but they didn’t know diddly about making hundreds or thousands of pieces efficiently.

Carrying her bottle of beer over to the table, Janelle saw that they had a disassembled, single-shot 12 gauge shotgun on the table.

The barrel and the receiver were in the center of the table and those seemed to be the parts generating the heated discussion.

Kelly had a rack full of 0.75” ID, 0.125” wall steel tubing in stock and he wanted to ream the chambers. Milo argued that would make the walls too thin just where the stresses were the highest. He wanted to make a tapered spud and drive it in with a hammer to dilate the tubing. Kelly said they would never be able to pull the tapered spud back out.

Kelly was at a loss for the receiver. He did not have enough steel billet in stock to make a hundred of them and even if he did it would take forever to whittle one out on the milling machine. Milo wanted to weld them from plate. Kelly objected that the tolerances would not work.

Round and round they went.

“Why do you need a hundred of them?” Janelle asked.

“We want every adult in Kate’s Store to have a weapon.” Kelly said. “This is the simplest thing we could think of and it isn’t so simple.”

“How many times is the user gonna shoot it?” Janelle asked.

“Maybe never. Maybe a couple hundred times.” Milo said. “It isn’t a front-line weapon. These are last ditch weapons to shoot home intruders.”

“Or woodchucks in the garden.” Kelly added.

“Hmmm. Why don’t you hydro-form the barrels?” Janelle asked. “Custom chopper shops out west do it all the time.”

“That takes special equipment.” Kelly said. “Equipment we don’t have.”

“Nope. That is not so. You have everything you need to do hydro-forming here.” Janelle said.

“Ok, miss smarty-pants, how would you do it?” Nyssa asked.

“I would hydro-form the barrels two at a time, breech-to-breech and cut them apart afterward.” Janelle said.

“How do you seal them hydraulic fluid so it doesn’t spray all over creation?” Kelly asked. Kelly did know a little bit about production processes.

“You don’t use hydraulic fluid for short production runs. Use a cylinder of rubber. Put a piece of tubing twice as long as a finished barrel into a die where the outer diameter is bigger in the middle...for maybe six inches where the chambers will be. Form them breech-to-breech...then a mandrel in one end of the tubing, then the rubber slug and then a ram in the other end. The rubber pushes out when you crush it and the tubing expands to fill the larger outer diameter.” Janelle said. “Split the two pieces in the center after you are done.”

“You just have to do a little bit of math to figure out how big the outer diameter of the chamber area needs to be to give you the right inner diameter.”

"That won't work." Milo said. "We don't have any rubber like that."

Janella refrained from rolling her eyes. "You have to want to make this work, silly. If you don't have rubber then use bread dough."

“Have you seen this?” Kelly asked.

“Sure. Hundreds of times.” Janelle said. "I mean, not with bread dough, but I have seen it with the rubber slugs."

“Got any ideas about the receivers?” Milo asked.

“Out west they would have cast them from ZA-7 but we probably don’t have any of that. What about using your piece there” she said pointing at the table “as a pattern and casting them from melted down aluminum wheels. That has to be pretty good alloy. You might need to add some tape to thicken up the walls to account for shrinkage, but you would be close to your final shape.” Janelle said.

In spite of herself, Nyssa was proud of her older sister. Once Milo was in a shop surrounded by milling machines, lathes and welders he had a hard time listening. Janelle's knowing WAY more than he or Kelly did about production processes really rocked him back on his heels.

Janelle, you go, girl.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Robert Francis O'Rourke meme

The camel got its nose beneath the tent flap and nobody noticed

Michigan levies a 6% sales tax on items sold in Michigan.

The item I was going to purchase from Amazon cost $66.99

Six percent of $66.99 is $4.02

Amazon charges $5.76 for tax because they roll in the cost of shipping.

Shipping is a service. I, and every other on-line shopper, are now paying sales tax on shipping. We are paying sales tax on services.

You are looking at a precedent that nobody is challenging. Every state in the union is stacking up "precedence" where they are charging sales tax on services.

What next?

Suppose you paid $400 to have your taxes prepared. If you live in a state with 8% sales tax then expect to pay $432 next year. If it is legal (i.e., unchallenged) to force people to pay sales tax on shipping then it is legal to compel them to pay sales tax on every other service.

Mechanics worked on your vehicle and the work came to $500 in parts and $600 in labor? Expect the bill to go up $48 next time because you will be paying sales tax on the labor.

Do you really expect states to NOT exploit this newly created revenue windfall?

Seven Skinny Cows: Ed's After Action Report

“Welcome to Mr Ed’s Coffee Hour. Transmitting on paper in 12-point font. Mr Ed’s Coffee Hour where you will read the news straight from the horses mouth.”

“I am dictating this show to Janella Salazar from beside the smoking foundation of Kate’s Store, where the men are men and the women and children can shoot a flea off a hound’s backside at two hundred paces.”

“Most of you have already heard. We had visitors yesterday. They were dressed up like State Police and Ingham County Deputies but they did not act like police. Nope. They were Viking raiders intent on looting.”

“There are two things I want to get off my chest.”

“One is that everybody who came to witness the looting was smart. We saw thirty men with weapons and they had the drop on us. It was tempting to start something but nobody did.”

“The second thing I want to say is that we were smart but not smart enough.”

“If any one of them looters got twitchy there would have been thirty dead Ronnie Rubbernecks on the ground. This will happen again. Next time, go home, send the kids and your wife someplace safe, grab your gun and ammo and pick someplace defensible to post up and keep an eye on things.”

“And that ain’t standing in the open thirty feet from men who are wearing body armor and holding automatic rifles.”

“Someplace defensible is a place that has elevation and clear fields of fire out to a couple of hundred yards...even a quarter mile out Someplace defensible is a place that is visually cluttered which makes it harder for the bad guys to pick out where you are shooting from. Someplace defensible is a place where logs or sandbags are stacked or foxholes are dug and can shield the majority of your body from return fire. Finally, someplace defensible is a place you can retreat from when things get too hot so you can live to fight another day. Corpses can't fight.

Ed took a sip of coffee to sooth his throat.

“Today’s tipple is a stout cup of instant coffee. Today is not a day for weeping. Today is a day for rolling up our sleeves and getting on with it.” Ed said. “There is a time and place for caffeine. Now is the time and Kate's store is the place.”

"The day before yesterday we were fat, dumb and happy. We were sitting pretty.  We have good, fertile land and sweet water. For the most part we have neighbors who truly care about other's well-being.  And we could always run to Kate’s store for all of those little things we forgot."

"Yesterday was a wake-up call. Our innocence died yesterday. It reminded us that evil walks in the world and that it can strike at any time."

"Today we stop coasting. We will get this done but only if we bring our “A-Game” every day. "

"And now a word from our sponsor, Kate’s store.

If you are running a balance with Kate, she needs help sifting through the ashes for anything that can be salvaged. That is a good way to work down your balance."

"If sifting through ashes aren’t something you want to do, Kate is in the market for tool handles. For those of you who like to whittle, she is looking for straight ash poles about an inch-and-a-quarter in diameter and at least five feet long."

"Kate is also in the market for any tools with broken handles, so look around those barns and sheds for shovels, hoes, rakes and the like."

"Kate is also in the market for paint. The fire burned the paint off the metal siding and Kate wants to repaint it before re-using it. Color don’t matter. It just needs to be exterior grade paint."

"Now I am going to let you in on a secret. Betsy Salazar brought a little bit of silver with her from New Hampshire. She is giving it to Kate so Kate can pay cash-money, $1.10 a day, for workers."

---in point of fact, the seventy pound backpack that Mark slung into the back of the SUV held 1000 ounces of silver in "junk" US coin. At current exchange rates that was a thousand man-days of labor.---

"Kate plans to re-open but it will be a couple of months before Kate and Rick can rebuild the barn, and even then it will be smaller than it was."

"Regarding the cargo that was abandoned. Don't go near it. It is contaminated by Ebola. Dmitri thinks he has a way to rig up a solar panel, a battery and an ozone generator to sterilize the trucks but he can only guarantee one truck a day. Work with Dmitri regarding which trucks are cleared for salvage."

"The final thing I want to say is to the people who betrayed us."

"These thugs did not stumble on us by accident. They had inside information. They knew where to park. They knew how many trucks to bring. They knew what we had to steal."

"To the rats who betrayed us, you will rot in hell because people will die this winter because of your actions. In fact, Mrs O’Connor had a heart attack last night and is probably not going to make it."

Wednesday, April 17, 2019


Big D, one of Kubota's friends was visiting yesterday.

I commented, "That was a great looking rack you had sitting in your truck the other day."

Big D furrowed his brows in concentration. "What day was that?"

"I don't know. Monday?" I ventured trying to remember the last time I saw him drive his truck down the road. "Why would that matter?"

"Because I am currently dating three different women." Big D said. "I wasn't sure which one you were talking about."

I think he was joking with me.

I was able to clarify that I meant the deer antlers that were piling up on the dash of his truck. Big D likes looking for sheds.

A slightly different angle
He brought one of the sheds into the house to show off. No trick photography here. The shed is touching the milk jug. I hope that big boy made lots of babies.

In the middle-ages people thought that some types of mushrooms signified where a coven of witches recently had an orgy with demons. I have no idea where they would come up with an idea like that.

More tree planting. I think I am done with the apple and pear trees at Salamander's farm for this year. I got sixty in the "serious" orchard and forty planted out in the pucker-brush to attract deer.

You can click to embiggen. The area circled in red is where the apple and pear trees went in. As you can see from this image and the one shown above, there is still much canopy blocking light.

If I remember correctly, the distance from the horizontal line near the middle of the image to the bottom of the image is a 120 yard shot.
I sometimes get questions about the lay of the land. This is a topo of the same parcel shown immediately above. The dark red, horizontal parcel line runs through the red, dill pickle where I am planting the trees.

One American Elm shaded one of my plantings of nine pears. I did not want to bother with dropping the tree so I ringed it.

To Much Information
Pyrus calleryana rootstocks. Oregon State University says this about "P. cally"

Trees on seedlings of P. calleryana have shown about as much decline as trees on Winter Nelis seedling and somewhat less decline than trees on Bartlett seedling. P. calleryana is not sufficiently winter hardy for use in areas where winter injury has been a problem. Trees on P. calleryana are vigorous, but in contrast to most vigorous stocks, they begin bearing at an early age. The mature trees are slightly smaller than those on P. com-munis seedling. P. calleryana is resistant to oak root fungus, Phytophthora root rot, and crown gall. It also tolerates wet soil better than other stocks. It is subject, to lime-induced chlorosis. Seedling P. calleryana is often the best choice of seedling rootstock for any pear variety but particularly for Cornice, Bosc, and Seckel.   -Source
Fruit ripening data from Adams County Nursery. Data is from southeastern Pennsylvania but is fairly accurate for my part of Michigan. Leftmost vertical line is September first. Rightmost vertical line is November first. Michigan bow season starts October first. Michigan regular firearm season starts November 15.
I had a little bit of time so I grafted a few of the pear rootstock. My original plan was to plant them and let them establish a year before grafting. I chose Harrow Sweet and Olympic, aka Korean Giant aka Dan Bae. In general, the more aliases a cultivar has the better it is.

For the sake of being thorough, this is from the same source as the pear ripening image. These are apples. The vertical red line on the left is October first. The vertical red line on the right is December first.

Seven Skinny Cows: Chernovsky unbound

Chernovsky was invited to Paul Seraph’s house to discuss ‘Lessons Learned’ from the recent engagement.

Paul lived in a 1955 vintage ranch house on the south side of town, east of the big cemetery.

Chernovsky walked from his apartment above the dollar store. The snow was ten inches deep and still falling. The wind was brisk enough that the snow drifted as it fell.

A few hardy citizens were shoveling snow by hand but not a motorized vehicle could be heard running even though it was nine in the morning. That included snow plows.

Chernovsky plodded the half mile to Seraph’s house and a gray-haired woman who Chernovsky pegged as Paul’s wife let him into the enclosed front porch.

He stomped the snow off his boots. Seeing “outside boots” lined up next to the door, Chernovsky took his off and entered the home stocking footed.

The woman asked him if he would like a cup of coffee. Chernovsky said it would be a treat.

Seraph was in the sunroom on the southeast corner of his house. There was another man speaking with him, somebody Chernovsky thought of as being the same ‘vintage’ as Seraph. There was also a thirteen-year-old boy entertaining himself playing a game on a smartphone.

Paul introduced Chernovsky to Rick Salazar. Rick had cross-country skied into town.

Paul did not beat around the bush. “We were lucky. We were not prepared and we escaped getting whipped.”

Rick started to object.

Paul bid him stop. “We can save a lot of time if we don’t candy-coat things. Let’s speak plainly. Rick, you had first crack the thugs. What has to change so you can turn back future raiders before they get to the city of Eaton Rapids.”

“Wow. Throw us under the bus.” Rick said. "By the way, how did you know they were thugs and not legit?"

"Did anybody show you a badge or any kind of credentials?" Paul asked. "Of course not. Because they did not have any." Paul was a former cop and a gaffe like that would be glaringly obvious to him.

“Look. We all have different missions. I don’t want invaders bursting into the city. You don’t want them rampaging over Kate’s Store. Our goals aren’t identical but they do overlap.” Paul said.

“You forget that I have to worry about gangs coming south on M-99 and north out of Jackson on M-50.” Paul said.

Paul had large scale, topographical maps laminated to poster board. The maps were propped up against the now-useless, large screen TV.

“If you can plug the dike and keep gangs from Delta Township and Grand Ledge out of Kate's Store then I won’t have to deal with them. That means I WANT you to be successful.” Paul said.

"Well, for one thing, it would grand to have a few hours warning before we had to deal with raiders." Rick said.

Chernovsky let the older men talk. He had nothing to add.

“Don’t forget it is not just Delta Township and Grand Ledge. We are going to get people marching out Old Lansing Road and turning left.” Rick said. “That doubles the number of people we will have to fend off.” Rick was pointing at the map that covered the terrain between the center of Eaton Rapids and Billwood Highway,

Chernovsky cleared his throat. “What kind of numbers are we talking about?”

Paul ticked the numbers off on his fingers. “Ten-thousand in Oneida Township, basically the City of Grand Ledge. Thirty-five thousand in Delta Township and maybe another twenty-thousand in Lansing who might scatter this way.” Paul said.

“Roughly sixty thousand?” Chernovsky said. “No way can we stop them.”

“Its not as bad as it sounds.” Paul said. “I figure a third of the people fleeing Delta Township will come this way. The others will go north and west.”

It remained unsaid that none of the people fleeing Delta Township would head east, that would take them into Lansing.

“So we are still talking ten thousand from Delta Township alone.” Chernovsky said.

“We are talking a base population of ten-thousand. Realistically, gangs are young men and that is who we really need to worry about.” Paul said.

“The question still stands, ‘How many’?” Chernovsky pressed.

Paul looked over at Rick who was more of a numbers guy.

“Five percent.” Rick said. “Males between ages fifteen-and-thirty are ten percent of the population. Figure half join gangs to survive.”

“Call it a five-hundred-to-one-thousand.” Rick concluded, the upper estimate adding in the numbers from outside Delta Township.

Chernovsky got up and looked at the maps. “Why wouldn’t you try to shut them off here?” Chernovsky said pointing to three choke points that throttled north-south traffic in and out of Eaton Rapids.

The Grand River snaked back and forth as it traveled from south-to-north across Eaton County. Chernovsky splayed his right hand with a finger on each bridge and his index finger pointing at the first road that completely avoided the river. That road continued north through the heart of Delta Township in an unbroken line.

“You know how to read maps?” Rick asked, surprised.

“Sure. I had a crazy uncle who used to hide five dollar bills when we camped as a family. He marked where they were on map and then cut us loose to find them.” Chernovsky said. "I sure liked finding that money."

Paul regained control of the meeting. “That is where I was heading.” Paul said.

“Rick, you would have a fighting chance of holding your own if you had advance warning. What do you think of putting observation posts where they can monitor incoming traffic. At least then we would have time to katy-bar-the-door.” Paul said.

Chernovsky looked at the map. “How many people live between Eaton Rapids and Billwood Highway?” Chernovsky asked.

Paul shrugged and looked over at Rick. Rick said, “Maybe two thousand. Depends on how many went to the big city.

“What is five percent of two thousand?” Chernovsky asked.

“One hundred.” Rick said.

Looking at Paul, Chernovsky said, “If you and the City of Eaton Rapids can hold the bridges on M-99 and Waverly, I can hold the roads west of that with 100 fighters.”

“Well, get that out of your head.” Paul said. “We are 99% sure that Kate’s Store, Pray Church and the neighborhood north of Eaton Rapids city limits are clean. The other 1200 people, we don’t know.”

“If we are lucky you will get enough volunteers to man an observation post on the road west of M-99.” Paul said. “OBSERVATION posts.”

The rest of the After-Action-Report was even uglier.

Paul had grossly overestimated the ability of his shooters to physically move around. Paul was physically fit and could jog or bike five miles with no apparent effort. The same could not be said of the shooters at Slocum Drain.

The one-inch-at-one-hundred-yards marksmanship the shooters bragged about was pure fantasy.

The plan was OK but it put Paul too close to the line of fire.

The multiple layers of defense worked well. The barriers on the bridge turned the moving convoy into a line of stationary targets.

The siting of the ambush worked well. Clear fields of fire for the defenders and setting up at a higher elevation than the hostiles put the hostiles at a disadvantage.

Having advance warning so shooters could select positions with cover worked well as did having enough time to laser distances. In fact, if there was one single factor that allowed Seraph's men to succeed, it was the luxury of advance warning.

Having two groups of shooters who could work the hostiles over from right angles relative to the hostile’s formation worked well in spite of the shooter’s limitations.

Nobody could find fault with Chernovsky’s performance although Paul would have preferred Chernovsky had used both magazines.

Chernovsky defended himself saying, “I would rather play within my limitations and do it very well rather than over-reach and fail.”

Then Chernovsky commented "I had a few hummers fly overhead. I think you may have forgotten I was a mile downrange."

Paul winced. It had completely slipped his mind that he put a man downrange of firearms capable of killing men seven miles away. There was a long  learning curve ahead of them and it was all steep.

This was the first time Rick had run into Chernovsky. If you didn’t know a little bit about Chernovsky, he could be a little bit off-putting. For one thing, the man floated on a cloud of testosterone vapors like the Charlie Brown character Pigpen. Chernovsky didn’t sit, he sprawled. Some of it was due to his size. The other part was character, he was going to claim as much floor-space as possible.

“You know,” Rick said “I think this might be a good time for you to tell me a few things about yourself. Paul told me you played college ball...”

Hunter Chernovsky grew up loving all things football. Most of all, he loved playing linebacker.

Hunter got a scholarship to attend a Division II school. He was a realist. Linebackers from Division II schools rarely get recruited by the pros.

Hunter loved the make-a-plan, execute-a-plan tempo of football.

Hunter loved the freedom his position gave him. What is odd about football is that most of the players on the “offense” are dedicated to defending a few “skill” players while most of the players on defense hunted and killed the ball carrier. Linebackers are the defensive player with the most discretion in how and where they play than any other player on the field.

And nobody on his team was more dedicated at finding and killing the ball carrier than Hunter.

Hunter loved the dynamics of the game. He loved noodling out the offense’s intended play. He loved it when the quarterback called an audible seconds before the snap because the QB knew, he FEARED that Hunter had figured out the play.

Perhaps most of all, Hunter was jazzed when he saw that fear in a quarterback or running back’s eyes just before the hit. It was not that Chernovsky was cruel or liked to inflict pain. It was because that is when he knew he had done his job.

Graduating with a degree in Exercise Science, jobs were limited. He enrolled at the community college and took auto repair classes. The best thing about auto repair was that it was counter-cyclic. The worse the economy gets the more folks are willing to spend on repairs if it kept them out of a new car payment. Another advantage of being a mechanic is that the skill is portable. He could get a job anywhere.

Hunter scratched his itch for the physical by teaching power-lifting and conditioning classes at one of the local gyms. Because some of his clients participated in more than just football he found himself paying more and more attention to them.

As a football player he used to dismiss basketball and hockey as frenzied chaos but his views evolved as he watched more films so he could understand the physical demands placed on the players.

He was particularly enchanted by hockey as a metaphor for life. Only in hockey does a team play in degrade mode with one or more players in the penalty box. Hunter was fascinated by how a team’s style of play needed to change the instant they went down players. Teams that could not adapt lost.

“You are hired.” Rick said when Hunter slowed down.

“Beg your pardon?” Chernovsky said.

“You are hired.” Rick said. “How would you like to lead the defense of Kate’s Store?”

"On one condition." Chernovsky said.

"What is that?" Rick asked.

"That my men have freedom to engage the invaders in addition to 'OBSERVING' them." Chernovsky said.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Dilyea's Dork (Bonus fiction)

Paul Seraph actually got to meet Doug Dilyea at a cop charity golf event. At that time Doug was a minor celebrity in Southeastern Michigan law enforcement circles.

Dilyea was in Paul’s foursome. Like Paul and Dilyea, the other two in the foursome were also cops.

Since Dilyea was retired and more than seven years had passed since the dork was invented, it was not hard to convince Dilyea to tell the un-edited story. The fact that Doug had a few beers before teeing off didn't hurt.

The course was selling beer for $10 a can which is how they made money for the charity. Some cops are big drinkers. Dilyea was in a class of his own.

“This is the absolute, no-shit truth.” Dilyea started his story in time-honored fashion.

“I got a call about a domestic disturbance and it was a full scale riot when I got there. The address was an unregistered “Little-bit club”. Little bit of moonshine, little bit of weed, little bit of numbers, little bit of got the picture?”

“Anyway, I was young and stupid and thought I could dance with anybody. So I didn’t wait for back-up, I got out of the cruiser and started dancing.”

“Except I found myself dancing with a four-hundred pound man, no shit. And he was kicking my ass. He was slippery as a seal with sweat and he was slammin’ my ass.”

“Well, the one thing a cop can’t do is lose control of the situation. Problem being I had lost my service piece somewhere along the way. That was before we had decent secondary retention holsters.” Dilyea said.

Dilyea’s beer was empty and one of the guys handed him a full one.

“Anyway, this guy is batting me around like drunk Mexican hitting a pinata on Cinco de Mayo when I finally get twisted around enough to pull my back-up piece out of my ankle holster. He hits me two, three more times before I can untwist enough to stick it in his gut.”

“Did I mention he was a big guy? I jammed the gat into his gut at least six inches and pulled the trigger.”

“Nuthin happened. I pulled two, three more times and the piece won’t go off.”

“Well, finally back-up shows up and they have mace and batons and all kinds of other good stuff. They break up the fight. I find my issued service piece. And I am madder than hell. I had the guy and the gun didn’t go off.”

Dilyea need another beer and he got one.

“I talked to the department armorer. He asked me what I carried and I told him, an H&K P2000. Then he told me, ‘Your slide was out of battery.’ “

“I asks him, what can I do about that. He said ‘Carry a wheel gun’.

“That wasn’t going to do because I loved that gun. Shit, it was a .40 and it shot duty ammo. I haven't bought ammo in twenty years and I wasn't about to start.”

“So I talks to my brother who worked at the tech center. He said he would help me out but I had to make sure he got credit for the invention. I say ‘Sure. No problem.’”

Another beer.

“He shows up the next day and clamps this...THING on the rail of my piece. It is one of the pins they use in auto factories to locate parts. Said he had a couple of hundred of them at home.”

“The guys at work, they ask me what it is and I tell them it is so my piece won’t go out of battery. And they asks me, 'Whats is it called?'”
Dilyeu's Dork, aka NAAMS APS122M, half inch diameter, 1 1/4" long. Stiffer than Bruce Lee's index finger and twice as painful when it is stuck in your ribs.

“Then one of the bastards points at my crotch and says, ‘It looks like Dilyea’s dork.”

“Me and my brother were selling ten, maybe twenty of them a week. Charging $100 each, too. And my brother got them for free because the heat treat was wrong. So then he asks me, ‘Did ya make sure I got credit for inventing it?’”

“An I told him, ‘Sure, we named it after you.’”

“An he asks, ‘Hows that?’ So I tells him, ‘They named it after you, Dilyea the dork...and you are the only Dilyea who is a dork so its gotta be you.’”

Paul bought one on-the-spot.

Seven Skinny Cows : Battle of Slocum Drain

Paul Seraph was just finishing up his meeting with the river development committee.

Eaton Rapids is blessed with two, very small hydro-electric plants. One is in the middle of town and the other is a mile-and-a-half southeast of downtown. One of the critical items in the development plan was to flesh out a plan to protect the power lines from the outlying hydro turbine.

The other developing issue was to have a plan in place to harvest the maximum amount of protein out of the Grand River as possible. There are twenty miles of open river downstream of Eaton Rapids. Fish that migrated upstream to spawn would stack-up at the State Street and Spring Brook dams.There had to be a fair way to give everybody access to the resource.

Paul’s next meeting that morning involved “precincting” Eaton Rapids into self-policing sub-units. The leading citizens in East, North, Downtown and Southwest were waiting outside the conference room when Paul got the call on his portable CB.

“Hey, Paul. Something is happening in Kate’s Store. I think it might be important.” the caller on the other end informed Paul.

Paul exited the meeting. The secretary would handle closing the meeting. It was not the first time Paul left a meeting early.

Paul retreated to a corner and tried to connect with Gladys in Kate’s Store and was met with a barrage of calls and people stepping on each other. Remembering Kate’s Store protocols, he tuned in to 37 and met another impenetrable thicket of jibber-jabber. That got his attention.

He dialed up to 41 and encountered moderately heavy traffic. He was able to cut in. “This is Paul Seraph in Eaton Rapids. Can somebody connect with me on channel 7 and give me a quick update?” Paul said.

Channel 7 was Paul’s “native” channel.

One of the voices said. “Yup. Just give me a minute.”

Paul turned the channel selector to channel seven and waited.

In a minute he got the call. “Hey Paul, got your ears on? This is Kelly Carney.”

“Yeah. I hear you fine. What's going on?” Paul said.

“Bunch of thugs got the drop on us.” Kelly said. “They showed up in Humvees and box trucks. They are wearing uniforms that look like Michigan State Police and Ingham County Sheriff uniforms. Said they were ‘supplementary’ troopers.”

As a point of fact, Eaton Rapids is in Eaton County and warrants issued in Ingham County have no standing, even if the Lansing, the state capital happens to be in Ingham county.

“They are stripping Kate’s store of everything that is not nailed down.” Kelly said.

Paul looked at the clock. It read 2:15 in the afternoon. There were more than three hours of light left.

The geography around Kate’s store was very defensible. That meant that there was little point in riding to the rescue if the bad guys already had possession of the high ground. Three hours of light meant that they would finish up at Kate’s Store and then push into Eaton Rapids city. That was not something Paul would tolerate.

“Thanks for the heads up.” Paul said. “I know you have a lot of balls you are keeping in the air, but if there is any chance you could tip me off if they turn south after leaving...the information will be very much appreciated.

“Is there anything else I ought to know?” Paul was effective because he knew there was ALWAYS more to the story.

“Yeah.” Kelly said. “Word is going around that Nyssa saw blood blisters on at least three of the thugs. Sure-as-hell they are infected.”

That certainly changed the complexion of things.

Paul shooed the Water Resources board out and ushered in the next group.

“The shit is hitting the fan at Kate’s store, right now, even as we speak.” Paul said.

“Sure as God made little green apples, they are going to come this way when they are done.” Paul said. “That means we are going to meet them at Slocum’s drain.”

Then Paul started issuing directions.
Thick gray line is road, opposing forces coming from the north. Blue line is drain. Yellow diamonds are shooters. Red brackets are guard rails on bridge over drain. Black 'sticks' are maple logs. Blue boxes are Humvees the bus and trucks, ten total. Distance from south shooters to trucks 270 yards. Distance from west shooters to trucks 100 yards.
“Ray, you have the list of shooters. Get a hold of them. I want at least two shooters west of the bridge over Slocum’s Drain and as many shooters as you can stack on the ridge south of Slocum’s Drain.”

“Tell the shooters to bring a full load-out of ammo. Laser the ranges. I want full magazines and a round in the chamber and the weapon safed. We will use channel eleven to coordinate the shooters.” Paul said. “Go!” and Paul gave Ray a brisk swat on the ass.

“Dale.” Paul said. “We are going to see if your idea for spinning the logs works. Get it done.”

Dale had come up with the idea of balancing large, straight maple logs on blocks. The logs were aligned on both sides of the road and parallel with it. Dale claimed that the maple logs could be spun to close the road. When critics said the logs could be just as easily swung to un-block the road, Dale responded that logging chains would prevent that.

Dale demonstrated his concept with four, twenty foot maple logs that averaged 24 inches in diameter. A single man could not swing them but any kind of powered vehicle or two men with pry-bars could. Oh, and he was right about the logging chains. Paul was about to shut down one of the main arteries into Eaton Rapids.

“Rachel, what am I forgetting?” Paul said.

“I am not sure, boss. But what is to stop them from just backing up and trying a different way into town?” Rachel asked.

After a moment of thought, Paul called Willy's Auto Repair. "Hey, Justin, is Chernovsky there with you?"

"Yah." came back Justin's slow, laconic drawl. "No customers. We were just sitting here drinking stale coffee and countin' dead flies."

"Hey, Chernovsky, do you want a chance to prove you are as big a bad-ass as you tell everybody you are?" Paul asked.

"Beats being bored." Chernovsky said. "Whatchya have in mind."

"Meet me on the ridge just above the water-plant." Paul said. "Easier to show you than tell you."

An hour and a half later Paul was standing at the log barricade that made the bridge across Slocum’s Drain impassible. Soft mud to the east and west made bypassing the bridge unlikely for the Humvees and impossible for the trucks.

Paul waited as the convoy whined its way south. He had a ten minute heads-up because Kelly had given him a call. Paul used the time for a few last minute tweaks to the plan.

The lead vehicle went right up to the barricade and tried to push through it. The vehicles behind the lead vehicle packed in tightly behind it. Paul thought that was particularly dumb move on the part of the convoy leadership.

A man got out of the passenger side of the lead Humvee.

“Clear this bridge” the man demanded from the other side of the maple logs.

Paul beckoned the man to the west side of the road. “Come here.”

The man said, "You come here."

"I ain't moving. You wanna talk, you gotta come here." Paul said.

The man strutted to the logs, looked them over and realized it would be impossible for him to maintain his dignity climbing over the filthy logs.

The man had to negotiate the blockade by traversing the steep slope outside the guard-rail as the maple logs and logging chain also made the road impassible to humans. His shoes were not well suited for the task.

Paul met the man before he climbed back up to the level of the road grade. “State your business.” Paul said.

“I have warrants to serve.” the man said.

“Let me see them.” Paul said.

The man handed the warrants to Paul. Paul was nonplussed to see that he was the subject of one of the warrants and the other warrant “impounded as evidence” all of the liquid petroleum fuel of the convenience store on the north end of town.

“I’ll take care of it.” Paul said. And then Paul very provocatively balled up the documents and pitched them into the drain.

“Waste of time, hay-seed.” the man said. “I can always print up more. Now, you either move these trees out of my fucking way or I will jam them up your ass.”

Being called a “hay-seed” shouldn't have irritated Paul, but it did. What the pompous ass could not know was that as a former police officer from Dearborn Heights, Paul spent most of his career patrolling neighborhoods less them five miles from the Brooks and Mackenzie neighborhoods of Detroit and exactly five miles from Dearborn, home of ISIS-North America. Evil does not respect invisible lines on a map.

“I suggest you turn your clown parade around and return to whatever hole you crawled out of.” Paul said, icily.

“You and what army?” the man said.

Paul had been running his mic hot. The shooters were deployed in two-man teams. When they needed to communicate team-to-team, one of the team could easily switch to another channel.

“The army that is about to shoot out your hazard lamps.” Paul said in a simple, conversational voice.

“Men, on the third blink starting...NOW.” Paul said.

The cocky man could not help but turn and look. He was sure that the skinny, old man standing in front of him was bull shitting. Waiting another three seconds would not change the outcome in any material way.

In three seconds a rolling thunder rolled across the north side of Eaton Rapids. The teams had been deployed along the brow of a ridge that gave them forty feet of elevation looking out over Slocum Drain. The laser range finders indicated that the “targets” were two-hundred, sixty-five yards from the shooter’s positions.

Shooting from a bench-rest, most competent shooters with a modern, scoped rifle can turn in a two-inch group at a hundred yards more than half the time. Sure, every once in a while they will luck into a one inch group but realistically you cannot count on that.

Paul’s defense group were not shooting off sand-bags and bench rests. They had hurried to the site and some of them were still huffing and puffing. Two inches in one hundred yards would be five inches at 260. The fire teams fell woefully short of that mark. Most of the first volley missed the hazard lamps, as did the most of the second, third, forth and fifth volley. Cumulatively, though, most of the hazard lamps were disabled by the fifth volley.

What Paul had not anticipated were the effects of the high powered bullets after they passed through the cheap plastic and thin metal on the front end of the trucks.

The hunters brought 30-06s and .270s and 7mm and .338 Magnums; rifles capable of taking moose, bison and brown bears. The bullets blew up automotive hardware near and behind the hazard lamps. They exploded batteries and punched through firewalls. In one case a bullet shattered the right kneecap of one of the drivers.

One hunter was careless with his trigger finger and launched a round that ricocheted off the pavement near Paul and whined off over the horizon.

The lack of expertise in execution was more than masked by the enthusiasm with which it was delivered.

The electronics on the vehicles with the damaged batteries started acting "weird". Motors raced. Dashboards burned out.

“I got thirty men in those trucks.” the man sputtered. “What is to stop me from lighting your men up?”

The impact of the man’s challenge was deflated by the shrieks of pain from the driver whose kneecap had been hit by a round from one of the mangums.

“Teams on the west, shoot out their side windows and rear tail lamps.” Paul said.

The teams on the west were a scant 100 yards away and had thirty feet of elevation on the targets. They took care to ensure that the drivers were not immediately downrange when they aimed for the side windows.

Drivers were showered with glass splinters as side windows exploded. Bullets hit windshields from the inside and split them asunder. The men in the bus cowered as bullets ripped through the rear end after striking the tail lamps

“You know, I ought to...” was what the man intended to say but he found himself pushed up against the bridges guard rail with the muzzle of a pistol jammed up into the juncture of his chin and throat. The pain was breath-taking.

Paul never found out what the strutting peacock though he ought to do.

Many men carry handguns. Most of them carry semi-automatics. Most semi-automatics have a “rail” beneath the barrel to mount accessories. Most men mount lights or lasers on that rail. Paul Seraph had “Dilyeu’s Dork”* mounted on the rail of his SIG 229.

“Shut. The. Fuck. Up.” Paul said, enunciating very carefully into his ear. “Get your sorry ass into your clown car and go back to whatever hole you crawled out of.”

Chernovsky is the yellow diamond. Blue boxes are Humvees and trucks. Hostiles are heading south-to-north.
Paul's instructions to Chernovsky had been clear. "I want you to set up at the S-curves north of town. I want you to disable or kill the vehicles but I want you to do it in a way that gets them to get as far away from Eaton Rapids as possible before they puke. The last thing I want is for those infected to walk back here."

"That is why I picked you. You are a mechanic." Paul said.

"S" curves are common on north-south country roads. Some of them are due to the lack of precision in older surveying methods. Most of them are due to the fact that it is not possible to lay a grid of square-miles on a sphere. The curvature of the earth's surface adds up and it must be reconciled every 30 miles or so.

Paul had given Chernovsky his own, personal AR. Chernovsky slinged it up and rode his mountain bike the mile north of town to the S curve.

Chernovsky counted ten vehicles that passed his position as they headed into Eaton Rapids. Thirty rounds in the magazine. Even a gym-rat like Chernovsky could do that math. Paul had given him two magazines but Chernovsky didn't want to dick around with changing out magazines when he needed to be shooting.

The first driver heard the shots and saw the muzzle flashes as he entered the first S-curve.

The driver was not a soldier. He was a truck driver with the Department of Management and Budget. He delivered copy paper, carpet, desks and such. The closest he came to crime was when he trucked evidence to the vaults. He did what any bureaucrat motivated by forty easy hours a week and a pension that was almost within his grasp would have done. He floored the gas pedal.

The other drivers followed his lead.

Chernovsky put three rounds into each radiator. He kept the rounds low because Seraph said his rifle was dialed in to hit two inches high at fifty yards. Chernovsky hit the radiators low because he wanted to completely drain the engine. He had never done the math, but there was a one-chance in three that any one of his bullets would sever one of the tubes in the radiator. The other 2/3s of the space was filled with fins which did not carry coolant.

The two Tahoes did not have heavy-duty transmission oil coolers and there was a 70% chance of being disabled by the three shots. The box trucks and bus had discrete transmission coolers and there was a 90% chance that one of the three bullets would sever at least one tube in either the radiator or transmission oil cooler. Total loss of coolant or transmission fluid would was enough to immobilize the vehicle.

The first vehicle dropped out three miles after the S curve. The others vehicles stopped to render aid and puked in quick succession. The vehicles that suffered a catastrophic loss of tranny fluid lost the ability to "clutch up" into gear, that is they were stuck in Neutral. The vehicles that suffered catastrophic coolant loss were shut down by their computers. Vehicles with exploded batteries would not start once turned off.

Chernovsky had been following the caravan on foot. He saw great swaths of orange coolant and red transmission fluid in the dim light of the late afternoon. He knew that at least some of them were not going to make it back to Lansing. Looking up the road he saw the disabled vehicles.

Chernovsky radioed back to Seraph. "I got some of them. You might want to call Kate's Store because they stalled out almost where the road leads into there."

Paul got on the horn to Kelly Carney. Several of the young bucks grabbed their guns and hauled ass to keep an eye on things.

They were amused to watch the strong backs completely unload the one working box truck and then all of the men getting into it to ride back to Lansing.

By chance, the one working truck was the one carrying the radio equipment. Nessel had the men stomp on the delicate electronics, urinate on the bags of flour and shoot the jugs of oil to drain them.

Dan Nessel originally planned to ride in the cab of the truck but shards of glass were embedded in the fabric of the seat from the blown-out side window. That, and it would be as cold as hell.

The worst part of the ride back, for Nessel, was that the "strong back" next to him kept leaning against him and kept drooling down Nessel's arm and hand.

Somebody in the truck was wearing aftershave that made Nessel's eyes burned. He rubbed them.

Outside, the snow started falling.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Official start of the grafting season

Official start of the grafting season.

I put a fresh blade into the utility knife after removing the manufacturing oils with rubbing alcohol.

I grafted nine quince and three pears this morning. Eight of the quince were Claribel and the last quince was Skorospelka.

I did a couple of things differently this year.

I pre-wrapped the scion with parafilm. That is, I wrapped it before I grafted. That way I was not stressing the graft as I pulled and stretched the parafilm.

The other thing I did differently is that I warmed the strip against my forehead after tearing a six-to-eight inch piece off the roll. Stretching the parafilm activates the stickiness of the coating and makes it more flexible. Parafilm is more likely to break than stretch when it is cold.

Parafilm is similar to the stretch wrap you put over the salad bowl before you put it in the refrigerator except it is coated on both sides with wax. From the feel of the wax after the parafilm is stretched, it has some micro-crystalline wax in the formulation. Toilet bowl rings...those sticky, stretchy cheese colored rings of wax are made of micro-crystalline wax.

Once again, Tashkent showed the least twig die-back with Skorospelka running hot on its heels. One of the Skorospelka had two blossoms last spring. I am looking forward to getting some fruit off these trees either this year or next.

Seven Skinny Cows : Duckworth smirked

Dan Nessel knew he was a very lucky man.

He derived great satisfaction from his job. Other people considered him a “tool”. Dan simply knew that most people were punished for bullying people. He got paid to do it.

Dan was in the lead vehicle of the convoy that was visiting hate-crime sites in the boonies. Dan’s buddy, Norm Contrares was in the trailing vehicle. Between them was a bus and seven box trucks to "collect evidence".

Pulling into the third site of the day, Dan dismounted and served the warrant.

The woman was older than most of the folks he had been dealing with on this assignment. She blocked his entrance into the building while she read the warrant. That pissed him off. It was cold outside.

“This warrant was issued in Ingham County. This is Eaton County. I don’t accept this warrant.” and she handed it back.

Dan remained standing. He had not had that happen before.

“Look, ma-am, I got a job to do.” Dan said.

“And what would that be?” the woman said.

“What it said in the warrant.” Dan said. Fortunately he had been paying attention when the suits at the Attorney General office had given the morning prep session.

The woman raise an eyebrow.

“There have been reports of hate crimes. I am here to 'confiscate materials used in the commission of hate crimes.' I am here to 'collect evidence of the crime of hoarding.' I am to give you a receipt for the materials and then I am to 'assess the site’s potential to be an attractive nuisance and to take steps to remedy the risk'.” Dan said.

“We have not committed any ‘hate crimes’ here.” Kate said. “We have not been convicted of any ‘hate crimes’ so how can you claim we have materials used to commit hate crimes?”

Dan hated women, especially mouthy ones who challenged his authority and twisted his words. Dan was a simple straight-ahead kind of guy.

Norm had finished dismounting the crew. The crew consisted of Dan, Norm, twenty ‘gunners’ and ten strong backs.

“Ma-am. You can either move out of the way or we will move you.” Dan said. He was sweating a little bit because the sound of the convoy’s diesel engines had alerted the neighborhood that something unusual was up. The crowd pulled back as the ‘gunners’ came out of the bus.

The gunners were wearing kevlar helmets, body armor and were carrying AR-15s with magazines inserted. Five of the gunners were so goofy that Dan insisted that the magazines be empty, but the rest were carrying live ammo.

Dan almost hoped there was an incident. Dan had buddies who were ready to edit any video evidence they collected from the cameras they wore on their body armor. His buddies guaranteed that gun-shots would be dubbed in before his crew raised their weapons.

Dan’s concerns about an ‘incident’ was based on the fact that most of his gunners had been pressed into service from the Secretary of State and Department of the Treasury.

Most of the crowd from the neighborhood knew a thing or two about firearms. The lack of muzzle discipline gave them the heebie-jeebies. This was clearly a Keystone Kops operation and they had little confidence that there would not be an accidental discharge. The more prudent members of the community moved back a solid fifteen paces.

A few of the more foolish members, including Carson Duckworth crowded closer even as most of the watchers moved back.

As soon as Dan had three of his more reliable gunners backing him up, Dan took great pleasure in grabbing the old lady by her forearm and giving it a big yank, causing her to tumble down the two steps leading up to the porch.

Then he and his three henchmen went inside of the building and tossed out the remaining customers and employees.

Rick Salazar, Kate’s husband, and Nyssa showed up about a minute after Dan went into the building.

Based on the crowd’s response, Norm had half the gunners reorient to low-ready to address Rick and Nyssa.

The last person pitched out of the front door was Ms Sheridan and she was as frenzied as a cat that had been dunked in icewater.

Kate brought Rick and Nyssa up-to-date with developments as the ‘strong backs’ started carrying the radio station equipment out of Kate’s store.

The strong backs did not stop with the equipment. They carried out bags of grain, jugs of vegetable oil, 2-stroke oil for chainsaws, sleeping bags…..and loaded the loot into the box trucks.

Nyssa had been watching the men working and something clicked in her head.

Nyssa had torn her ACL in her senior year of high school. Rather than sit on the bench and watch the varsity play soccer, Nyssa helped the JV coach with the younger athletes.

The JV coach had delegated the “subbing” to Nyssa so the coach could focus on strategy and tactics.

Because Nyssa studied the girls, she became very skilled at seeing which girls were gassed, which ones were ‘on strike’ and had stopped trying. Nyssa could see when a shoe need retying, a blister was forming or a strained muscle needed ice.

Then as she navigated through life she found she had a gift where she could watch somebody’s gait...even if they were one hundred yards away...and tell if there was something wrong with them.

Obviously, this trait is in every person because predators rely on it to select which member of the herd to chase. Nyssa had been gifted with the trait in a very high degree and then had reason to develop it.

Nyssa quickly sensed that at least three of the ‘strong backs’ were sick. Very, very sick. Looking more closely Nyssa saw that the skin beneath their collars was the color of raw meat. Blood blisters.

Looking at the ‘shooters’ Nyssa could tell that several of them seemed exceptionally listless, even as they had nothing to do but stand there.

Nyssa walked over to her dad as he was comforting Kate.

“Dad: I have the ping-pong paddles. Take mom inside and insist she take a hot shower with lots of soap.” Nyssa said.

“I have the ping-pong paddles.” was family code alluding to the signal corpsman guiding pilots onto aircraft carriers. It was code for “I have better information than anybody else. Trust me.”

Then Nyssa walked over to Ms Sheridan who was about to get butt-stroked by a very frustrated Dan Nessel.

Nyssa whispered something into Ms Sheridan’s ear.

Stacy Sheridan recoiled in distaste. She spat on Dan’s boots, turned and stalked away.

The last thing Dan Nessel did was to have his strong backs break all of the windows in the structure, slosh ten gallons of gasoline on the floor and walls and to toss a lighted newspaper in through the front door.

Then they stood by to ensure the structure became fully engulfed before they left.

Nyssa asked Milo to move the closest spectators away from the fire. She did not want to have to treat any of them for burns or smoke inhalation.

Milo went around to the seven or so who did not have the brains to give the thugs and the fire a wide berth.

“OK, Duckworth, shows over. Time to move away.” Milo said.

“Not quite, Talon. In fact, I was thinking of getting marshmallows and wieners.” Duckworth said with a smirk. “Too bad. It was a nice business. But that is what happens when you piss off the wrong people.”

Nessel and his crew got back into their vehicles. Nessel had done his job and had enjoyed it. He knew he was a very lucky man, especially when he had all the information he needed from the 1-888-462-3465 Report All Hoarding number.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Irrational fear of Capitalism

The 2020 presidential primaries give us a good look into the minds of the Democratic contenders.

Perhaps more accurately, it gives us a look into what the Democratic contenders think is suitable bait for voters.

It is a bit like carp fishermen. Bread? Boilies? Worms? Corn? Fishermen use what they think carp will like. Some of that is driven by history. The rest of it is driven by personal bias. We will never know if soap is good carp bait because carp fishermen don't eat soap. Nor are we likely to learn if brewers yeast, peanut butter and soy sauce makes a good carp bait.

What we see is that Democratic politicians have an irrational fear of capitalism or they think voters fear capitalism.

Talking with liberals, I see that they are enchanted by the non-profit sector. They are loath to judge and be judged. They are certain that the world would work much better if all decisions were made by altruists.

They define "profit" as theft from the customer or workers. As a conservative, I define "profit" as the additional value created by the intelligent combination of materials, tools, intellectual property and human labor. If combining those inputs destroys value, then the venture loses money and sum-value-in-the-universe is decreased. The venture should fail.

The only way a venture that destroys value can stay in business is when coercive forces are in play.

A quick word sketch
Suppose somebody invented something great. How about a cure for Diabetes?

Then, suppose that out of the goodness of their heart they "gifted" it to the public domain.

There is a very good chance that the invention would not be brought to market because there is no "moat" around the profit. The firm that invested in developing the invention and chasing it through the approval process would not be able to protect their investment.

They would be patsies. Their competitors would be able to reap the benefits of the first firm's investment without having to invest any of their own resources.

Putting a moat around intellectual property provides the incentive for capitalists to develop promising ideas.

At this point, some readers might say, "The government can develop those promising ideas."

Sadly, the track record of the government developing technology without private industry is dismal. Without the profit incentive (increase value) the ability to tell a compelling story becomes the basis for choosing winners.

Some images from the prior week

In a perfect world I would have between 30 and 50 fruit rootstock to graft every spring. I decided to grow some seedlings for that purpose. This tub was filled with Kerr fruit and sawdust. I decided to stratify the seeds in-fruit

Unfortunately for me, the rat-bastard red squirrels like apples seeds for a snack.
90% of the large trees in this image are dead ash trees. I have Cherrybark Oak seedlings in the black bucket
This is what "muck" looks like. It is even blacker in real life than it appears on the screen.
The site is wet. That is why I want to try Water Oak, Water Tupelo and Bald Cypress.
This is what the addition to the orchard looks like so far
Crocus self-seeding on a hillside
A couple of banana boxes seeded to two types of birch, Betula nigra and Betula lenta
A fresh woodchuck hole. This will provide the dogs with endless entertainment this summer
Bloodroot Sanguinaria canadensis
Mrs ERJ is fond of moss. She finds it delicate and refined. The image does not capture how the shades of green change as your head moves and the light's incident angle changes. This tiny glade almost has the feel of a chapel.
A slightly different angle
The ramps Allium tricoccum are up.

And self-seeding like crazy. The tiny white speckles are urea. I don't mind giving preferred, wild species a leg up.
A small bumblebee working over a catkin in the windy, 49 degree weather. She does not seem to mind that this is not a native species. It is a cultivar sometimes called Mt Aso. This is not the most vigorous willow. I need to cut the sumac before it is completely shaded out.

Frequent reader Milton F asked what happened when I forgot to take the cages off when the trees got large. They usually open up if you only fasten the cut ends in three places, high, middle and low. I now cut the wires differently and will demonstrate in a later post.

Violets. This is a particularly thick patch of them.