Wednesday, June 26, 2019

More on pollinator/parasitoid wasp attracter plants

Rugosa rose is very attractive to native pollinating insects and, presumably, parasitoid wasps. It smells very pretty, produces hips that are rich in Vitamin C and has a long bloom period.

My rugosa roses started blooming on June 6 at 420 GDD b50 and may be the "bridge" species I am looking for between horseradish and motherswort. The horseradish was blooming hot-and-heavy on June 6.

Now I have to figure out where I am going to squeeze in a few specimens in my orchard.

Picture taken approximately June 3, 2019, 370 GDD b50
Cleavers, on the right side of image, have a long bloom period and tiny white flowers that might be attractive to pollinators. I will have to put out some sticky traps to find out. Cleavers are still blooming.

Seven Skinny Cows: John Wilder

John Wilder was not the typical middle manager in a large, American corporation.

His dad was a cop in a medium-sized town. John went to a second-tier state university and majored in history. Even then there were many academic advisers who gave the rotten advice “Follow your passions.”

Graduating with student debt the equivalent of a new car, John found that his degree gave him exactly zero incremental hiring advantage over a new high-school graduate.

Determined to not make the same mistake twice, he did some research and chose a Master’s program where jobs were both abundant and lucrative. His research suggested that the straightest line between where he was and where he wanted to be was to get a Master’s degree in Business Administration. His belated research also revealed that graduates with an MBA from any state’s flagship university commanded starting wages 50% higher than graduates from any of the me-too universities.

As the son of a city employee, he had almost no idea what “Business” meant. He knew “Finance” had something to do with accounting and he didn’t want to sit behind a computer all day and do other people’s taxes. He remembered his dad going nuts on April 14th every year and he wanted nothing to do with “Finance”.

He opted for Marketing. He though his flair for writing bullshit would make that a cake-walk.

And it was a cake-walk until the section of Statistics for Business Majors he was scheduled for was cancelled and the other sections had already filled up. He had a choice, take a different statistics class or spend another half year in school. He opted for Statistics for STEM Majors.

The class thoroughly kicked his ass. He would have failed except for the Chem major he sat next to. She was cute and quiet. Her name was Sam.

She dragged him kicking and screaming through that class. And then the next one. Sometime during John’s academic Baatan Death March a switch flipped in his head. He saw the power of statistics and he fell in love with Sam.

He graduated in the upper-middle of his class. He thought that his chances for a job were decent. He was surprised to find that his services were avidly sought by insurance companies. They were impressed that he took “real” statistics classes rather than the watered down pap most MBAs took. Who knew?

His love of history informed him that Black Swan events are about a once-a-century events for the dominant culture. After a hundred years, all of the people who experienced the previous Black Swan were dead. Dominant cultures are a lightening rod for envy and chaos.

John had little success convincing his company to pad the rates for those Black Swan events. They would point to the paucity of wars and pandemics and famines and debauched currencies and say that the statistics did not work for sparse data. His argument that Black Swans could be aggregated and then there were enough data points was met with silence. He was informed, “Things are different now.”

John and Sam found themselves swimming in money.

Sam’s needs were simple. She did not crave cruises or spending time in all-inclusive resorts. Nor did she want a fancy BMW or a prestige house address. She bought a two year old Impala and drove it for five years before buying another. They had lived in the same blue-collar neighborhood for the last twenty-five years. She could have bought any or all of the prestige artifacts that define affluent people on her salary and bonuses. Her team had hit a home-run with a single drug a decade ago and had several Chemotherapy synergizing drugs that had come within one trial of being approved

She could have bought those things but felt no need.

John created his own insurance plan for the dreaded Black Swan event.

He rejected the billionaire plan of jetting to Fiji or Australia or Alaska. Moving is always a shock and why would people in Fiji want another mouth to feed, especially when that mouth was not family? And Australia or Alaska, he never understood the attraction of moving to an austere environment where the deer had to have legs that were six feet long to move through the snow or where every snake, bug and plant was toxic and could kill you.

Rather, he started buying farmland in Eaton and Ingham counties.

Ebola bankrupted his company. Life insurance is predicated on the idea that there will never be more than 1.4% of the population dying any given year.

The family bunkered up.

While holed up, John made an intensive study of England before, during and after the Black Death wiped out a third of the population. John chose England because the event had been extensively documented. History does not repeat itself but John was convinced that history rhymed.

John’s take away was that labor would be in short supply, wages would go up and that the price of most commodities would deflate.

Another thing John gleaned before the internet went down was that livestock became the crop-of-choice after depopulating events. Growing grain and other food crops is labor intensive. A single man and a dog can manage a flock of six hundred sheep, about the number that a quarter of a square-mile of prime, mid-Western corn land could support. Without tractors or domesticated animals to pull implements, it would take eighty adults to farm that same amount of land.

Furthermore, it takes thirty years to double the number of “workers” in the population. Under ideal conditions the population doubles in twenty years but the majority of the increase is under ten years of age and not able to do heavy, ag work.

On the other hand, a flock of sheep can increase by 60%-to-70% every year. A flock of six ewes can grow to sixty in five years and 600 in ten, 6000 in fourteen and 6,000,000 in twenty-three years.

Unless John was willing to let his farmland revert to brush, the only real option was to become a shepherd.

The other thing pushing John in that direction was that fabric made from synthetic fibers was soon going to become nothing but a mythic memory. Cotton does not grow in Michigan which left hemp and wool as the only two options.

Fortunately, John had often worked from his home office. It was well stocked with toner cartridges for the laser printer and 24 pound, acid-free paper. John downloaded books on agriculture, animal breeding and sheep. Not trusting that his laptop would run forever, John printed them out and put them in three ring binders.

The first challenge for John was going to be to find seed-stock. Few commercial sheep farmers in Michigan raised “wool” sheep because the market had placed a large premium on “meat” breeds.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

ERJ 5-0 WC

This is a first for me. The woodchuck ran into the livetrap even though it had no bait.

I had the trap on top of an old barn foundation. Apparently they like elevated highways.
Here he is giving me the eye.

Africa always wins

Belladonna's friend from Ghana made a statement something to the effect that "Western science does not work in Africa." The context was using science to improve crop yields.

Like all broad generalizations, there are elements of truth to the statement as well as some important caveats. In general, Bella's friend was mostly right.

The literature pretty clearly supports the contention that ag experts from temperate regions cannot go to tropical farms and use the same boiler-plate soil chemistry targets.

For example, in temperate regions most people target a pH of 6.5. pH is a measure of soil acidity/alkalinity. 6.5 is just slightly acid of neutral.
The southwest corner of Ghana gets a lot of rain. 1300mm is over four feet of rain.

The challenge in high rainfall, tropical areas is that most of the soil is a gritty clay with lots of kaolin. In temperate regions the clay is greasy with large percentages of bentonite and montmorillonites.

The tropical kaolins are highly leached and acid. The nutrients that are not leached away are either bound up in plants or "locked" in complex, insoluble compounds with aluminum and phosphate.

Dumping enough limestone on the soil to jack it all the way to a pH of 6.5 results in releasing toxic levels of those elements, like manganese, that are locked up.

The same southwest corner that gets dumped on with lots of rain is deficient in calcium. No surprise there.

The "smart money" does not recommend wholesale application of limestone on acid, tropical soils. It recommends an incremental, feel-your-way along approach where limestone is treated like a nutrient and relatively tiny amounts are added and the results monitored.

Variable versus attribute data
Another major impediment is that most African farmers don't believe in higher math like division.

In the United States farmers actively seek incremental yield/incremental input data. They want to know, "How much nitrogen must I add if I am planning for 200 bushel/acre harvest?" They understand that each bushel of corn removes a set amount of nitrogen, about 0.7 pounds. Some more is lost to leaching and vaporizes. Some more is tied up in the leaves and most farmers expect to apply one pound of nitrogen for every sixty pounds of corn they expect to harvest.

A pound of nitrogen costs $0.30 (spot price anhydrous ammonia, by the ton) while the spot price for corn at the time of this writing is $4.60 a bushel (almost 60 pounds). That is like a machine that you feed one dollar bills into and it spits out a fifteen perfectly legal dollar bills back out. Why would you not buy fertilizer?

Lack of trust. How does one know that the pale powder that looks like dirt is what the seller says it is?

This is a two-factor experiment. For example, the red shaded area might be ten pounds of limestone per tree and white area a quarter pound of potassium. Or, red might be five pounds of calcium and the white ten pounds of calcium. There is also a freebie hiding in the setup. If care is taken and the trees beside the road are harvested separately the scientist can also evaluate the effect of lower density planting.
Even if an enterprising agent were to set up field trials most farmers would struggle to assimilate the information. Why should they pay cash money out-of-pocket...which is very difficult to come by...when they get some harvest for free. Any finite number divided by zero is infinite. It is hard to be more cost effective than that. The fundamental watershed in thinking is to divide incremental yield by incremental input.

This "divide by zero input" thinking was common in the United States in the 1920s. "Why should I pay money to buy Hereford calves and pay money to feed them five pounds of grain a day? I can raise the native cattle on grass alone to market weight."

Well, Sodbuster, it took you seven years to raise that sway-backed, cat-hammed steer to market weight on unimproved pasture. Improved cattle plus a little bit of grain means you can take that calf to market in 20 months, not 84 months. That is four times as many gross receipts in your pocket

One intermediate step is to put the nuts harvested into each tree into its own, individual basket. It helps if the baskets are color coded. Then, weigh the baskets and rank order them from heaviest yield to lightest yield. It should be clear if most of the heavy end is one color and most of the light end is a different one. This is a variation of the Tukey End Count test.

It is beyond dispute that fertilizer application levels are suboptimal in Africa. Some studies indicate that yields could be tripled if recommended levels were applied.

Africa and other tropical areas are rapidly being deforested to plant oil palms, even as they import edible oils. Applying fertilizer seems far more benign than leveling the remnants of tropical rain forests.

The tribal thing
The other issue is that little trust exists between tribes. Since fertilizer looks like dirt, who is to say that the rascal from the other tribe didn't divert most of the fertilizer to his cousin, mix in dirt and made you pay full price?

It happens.

Consequently, you buy only from your uncle or cousin or a person from your own tribe. There are few economies of scale to be had, especially when you layer on every level where mordita occurs. It shouldn't be hard to find limestone in Ghana, for instance. Deposits occur west of Accura, Oterkpolu and Jama. For all practical purposes there is no part of southwestern Ghana that is more than 160 miles from a commercially viable limestone/dolomite deposit.

Money funny business
Ghana, like many other third world countries, got squeezed by the world banking organization. They were put on an austerity diet and stopped subsidizing fertilizer purchases. Crop yields dropped. Exports dropped at the same time prices tanked. The currency traded at 2000 to the USD before austerity and 7000 to the USD afterward.

The issue of bringing rigorous science to Africa is not a problem that can be attacked in isolation. In the end, Africa wins.

Post Script on tribalism: Tribalism is like the system of water-tight compartments on a warship. While it incurs costs it also firewalls epidemics. It may be that Africa's obdurate tribalism is the most viable strategy for dealing with certain diseases. It will never minimize the number who die but it guarantees that a sustainable population will survive somewhere.

Under the conditions of Africa, virulent tribalism may be the only rational system of organization.

Seven Skinny Cows: Little Wedgie Stubert

Richard "Wedgie" Stubert had an IQ in the low 80s and fancied himself “a player”. He was the poster child for every negative stereotype that urban dwellers have of "rednecks".

Some people assumed Wedgie’s low IQ was due to the fact that his mother “liked to have fun” as one of her friends charitably phrased it. Even though his mother was sixteen when she became pregnant she had no problems getting her hands on copious amounts of alcohol. Something about older boyfriends who liked young girls who “liked to have fun”.

Others pointed out that Wedgie was a low birth-weight baby and his mother was barely seventeen when he was born and both of those are statistically related to lower intelligence.

Few observers had any energy for the Stubert family but those rare few decided it did not matter whether Wedgie was stupid because of genetics, pre-natal conditions or childhood environment. The entire Stubert family was stupid and the variables were knotted together and could not be separated.

Wedgie thought everybody else was an idiot because they all nodded when he told a big windy, that is, an outrageous fabrication.

Frankly, nobody cared about his miscreant behaviors and nobody saw an upside to pointing out that everybody knew when he was lying. On the rare occasions he told the truth, he stopped licking the corners of his mouth and stopped batted his eyelids every half second. When he was lying he alternated licking the corners of his lips reminiscent of the Tin Man pumping the oil-can to unstick his lips and Wedgie batted his eyelids like a metronome. That, and when he was lying he stuck “I swear to God!” in about every third sentence.

Another habit Wedgie had was that he spit everywhere. He was sure it made him look manly and it was a way of showing his dominance and disdain for everybody around him. Marking his territory, if you will.

The first four years of Wedgie’s academic career were unremarkable. He was lost in the herd.

By the beginning of fourth grade little Wedgie started to stand out. The social worker said he had Oppositional Defiant Disorder. His teachers said he was just being a Stubert. Wedgie did not complete assignments. His teachers passed him hoping the herd effect would pull him along. Besides, having him in the classroom was exhausting and the teachers the next grade up might be able to do something with him.

He graduated with a solid D- GPA. He was happy. He considered school to be a waste of life’s energy and in his mind there was no benefit to getting a D when a D- was good enough. It must be noted in passing that he graduated with lower reading ability and math skills than when he left third grade.

The economy was hot when Wedgie graduated and he drifted from job-to-job, getting “released” for an enterprising range of bad behaviors. Sometimes he was caught rifling through a co-worker’s purse. Sometimes it was taking fast-food home that he had not paid for. Sometimes it was for dealing a little bit of weed out the back door.

Once he was caught removing safety shields from mowing equipment. The boss told him to put them back on. Later that day the boss saw the mower had all the safety shielding removed. When challenged, Wedgie said it was like that when he picked it up in the morning.

Of course he was fired and, of course, the employer could not find the shields  because Wedgie was smart enough to hide the evidence by throwing them into tall weeds. The employer lost the use of the mower for most of the season because the replacement parts were back-ordered. There are many, many Wedgie Stubert clones in every community and represented a profitable business segment for the mower's manufacturer.

Wedgie was not the least bit conflicted by authority. He expected to get screwed by them so he always made sure he got in his licks in preemptively.

Wedgie knew that everything authority figures wanted him to do was going to be to his disadvantage and he automatically did everything in his power to derail their efforts. It was a stupid-simple optimization strategy.

Nothing changed for Wedgie with Ebola.

The first time he was entrusted to use the chainsaw Wedgie deliberately bent the bar so the crew could go home early.

He lost steel wedges every day.

He broke sledge handles.

Within a week the only job he was trusted with was to hump firewood, and even then he had to stack it on his own, personal pile because the straw-boss could see Wedgie was malingering and not carrying his fair share.

Wedgie was booted from woodcutting the second week when the straw-boss caught him pitching chunks of wood from the main pile into his own personal pile.

Deprived of gainful employment, Wedgie sponged off his mother, who still “liked to have a good time” even though she looked fifty when she was only thirty-five. There were always guys who didn’t care what she looked like as long as she turned off the lights.

Initially the oldest profession did well, post-Ebola. Families were shattered. Lives were stressful. Men sought solace where they could find it and paid for it with whatever they could.

One of Ms Stubert’s customers paid her with a fake Rolex watch and left her with a whacking big dose of Ebola virus.

Ms Stubert shared the virus with her entire family, including Wedgie.

It was a point of pride for Wedgie that he violated the curfew. He and his buds would pillage vacant home looking for money, food and drugs. Some of his friends had girl friends and they weren’t very discriminating after they passed out. It was party-time every night of the week.

Like a comedy sketch of a bowling ball that knocked down every pin in the bowling alley, Wedgie’s sloven habits, indiscriminate mating and exuberant and juicy expectorating not only infected all of his “buds” but resulted in the near extinction of their extended families.

For the most part the families that met their demise did not contribute much to the economy, either before or after Ebola. There were a few exceptions. One family had the misfortune of having their daughter going through a phase where she flirted with the bad-boys; her therapist called it the ‘Leader of the Pack’ stage of life. Unfortunately the phase happened EXACTLY when Ebola hit Wedgie’s posse like a torpedo.

But for the most part Wedgie’s gift took out the grifters, the drunks, the slatterns, the lazy and stupid.

By the time Ebola burned out in Kates Store and Pray Church they had both lost another third of their population. The net effect was to raise the average IQ by five points and wiped out the sub-90 skirt of the bell curve.

The people who Ebola culled from the gene pool were the same people who sowed the seeds of chaos and discord due to their insatiable envy, inherent suspicions and their instinctive opposition to every rule.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Is Vehicular Homicide when you want to kill a vehicle?

Belladonna had a car problem today.

Who knew that starters had a Smoke Emitting Diode to signal that they were malfunctioning?

My best guess is an internal short.

Yes, we drove to Grand Rapids to see if it could be "fixed" with zip-ties and bicycle inner tube. I hoped that the insulation on one of the starter motor wires had rubbed through and the juice was shorting to the engine. No joy.

Mr Mechanic is going to make a dime or two off Belladonna's car.

Will government cease to function during an Ebola event?

(In reference to Hard Times make Hard Men) This reminds me of Duckworth's demise - people getting caught not helping the community. 
I figured Ebola would make it into the community at some point, and drugs is as likely as any other method - though when you mentioned young men, I was expecting the problem to be women. 
You haven't mentioned government in a while - are the feds or locals making any attempt at governing at this point? Or are they not mentioned because they are irrelevant at this point since anything they are doing doesn't affect the community?   -Frequent commentor Jonathan H

What happens to government is mostly outside the story arc but they are worth discussing, just because.

Very early in the epidemic government will beef up with contractors and by leveraging through charitable organizations.

A key trigger point, at least in Michigan, will be when the schools see 25% absenteeism. The reason that 25% is a key measurement is because that is when a "school day" does not count toward No-Child-Left-Behind metrics and toward graduation requirements.

The decision to suspend school operations at 25% absenteeism until there is sufficient evidence that the epidemic is over has already been enshrined in state law. That will probably be the de facto trigger for the suspension of all "non-essential" government operations and martial law in the tenser, urban areas.

A key point is not "25% of the students are sick", it is "25% of the students did not show up." You can bet that many parents will choose to keep their kids home if/when they pick up on the fact that the epidemic is Ebola, not the seasonal flu. In fact, I bet the schools blow through that 25% absent number the day after the second case is confirmed in a community.

For the sake of simplicity, the Governor will suspend government operations on a county-by-county basis. He/she will shut down the county when the largest school district in the county trips the 25% threshold.

So who is left? The "essential employees." First responders, prison guards, water treatment operators, the guys who fix traffic lights and the military.

First responders will be hardest hit with Ebola. First responders and prison guards will get blue-flu. The military will be confined to base.

Recap: three weeks after the second case of Ebola is confirmed in a community there will be no government. If you are lucky, the toilets will still fill and flush.

80% mortality means 20% survival, right?
Not so quick, Feldman.

With IVs and what we consider to be low-tech intervention, the number of 20% survival rate is bandied about. That presumes a long logistical tail supporting the head of the spear. Who is going to stick the IV if the medical personnel are dead or (wisely) decided to stay home? Who is going to wash bedding, change dressings, feed, toilet and clean the patient?

Assuming that everybody in the household will die is a reasonable first-order approximation if Ebola shows up in post-collapse, snow-flake America. Even if they put the carrier on the proverbial ice-floe, it will be too late. Everybody in the house had already been exposed.

Even if the patients survived Ebola and "only" has cognitive impairment and trashed vision, they must still learn to avoid predators in the new normal even as they figure out how to find or grow food and avoid freezing to death.

It is a tiny bit of a spoiler, but I figure Kates Store will spin-down to a low-water mark of twenty living people per square mile. It started out with fifty or sixty per square mile.

Areas that are not as organized as Kates Store and/or have a high percentage of low-trust residents will spin down to ten living people per square mile...even if they started with three thousand. It might be different if a city were 100% inhabited by devout Quakers or Amish or Mormons.

Michigan currently has about nine-million residents. Most of them live in low-trust areas. A reasonable low-water mark for Michigan's post-Ebola population is 60,000 people. That is a 0.7% survival rate.

I would not expect any meaningful difference for any part of the US east of a line from Fargo, South North Dakota - to - Houston, Texas or for the states of California, Oregon, Washington or Hawaii.

Weaklings favor coercing others with the power of the state

Men who are physically weak are more likely to be socialists.
The study, conducted in 2017 and published in the Evolution and Human Behavior journal, ​found that the weakest men of the group favored socialism.The physically stronger males had less interest in socialist policies.-Source

Much of the article goes on with the author speculating whether the chicken or the egg came first.

One view is that physical fitness is part of a bundle of attributes that spell "success" and successful people don't want to have their money stolen by the State"

Another view is that successful men are more likely to take care of themselves by exercising.

A theory that does not get discussed in the article is that people who are weak are forced to rely on collective effort or intercession by the State to achieve results. That forced dependence morphs in their minds into thinking that collective effort is a virtue.

The study, conducted in 2017 and published in the Evolution and Human Behavior journal, ​found that the weakest men of the group favored socialism.

© Neon Nettle
Men who are physically weak are more likely to be socialists, according to an academic study.

© Neon Nettle
Men who are physically weak are more likely to be socialists, according to an academic study.

© Neon Nettle

Seven Skinny Cows: Hard times make hard men

Wade Hawk eased down the gravel road through the humid darkness.

In a month the extensive flooding would bring forth a plague of mosquitoes. But for now all he heard were spring peepers and barking dogs.

Wade was investigating a couple of barking dogs. It was telling that the dogs had barked sequentially and from different houses. Wade was pretty much on a first name basis with most of the dogs in the neighborhood.

Wade was one of the older men tasked with enforcing the curfew that everybody hoped would squelch the plague.

Yes, Ebola and the Black Death had penetrated Kates Store. Perhaps it was inevitable given the abundance of refugees percolating through the countryside and the number of ground squirrels and other rodents.

The horror of Ebola and the Black Death was that it was a virtual death sentence for the entire family when the first family member showed symptoms. The diseases did not care; man, woman, old, young, toddler, infants.

The protocol was to drop off prepared foods as the family fought the losing battle with either disease. Then, after the last member burn the house.

The disease popped up seemingly without rhyme or reason.

The pestilence hit the east end of the neighborhood particularly hard. That was expected given the population density and the refugee traffic on the paved, north-south road. Curiously, the pestilence had only hit one home in the northwest corner of the neighborhood.

Wade had his own ideas about the spread of the disease. By his own calculations, nearly all of the families that had experienced the plagues either had teenagers or young men in their twenties.

Wade had been among the first to insist on a curfew and had been the very first to insist that the roads be policed and the curfew enforced.

That cause huge amounts of agony within the political elite of Kates Store. Enforcing rules meant that there needed to be consequences. The consensus was that miscreants who were caught breaking the curfew would first be warned and then be evicted from Kates Store if caught a second time.

Wade came to a stretch of road that had a ditch lined out along the east side. Unlike all of the other ditches, the spring frogs were not making any noise.

“Who goes there?” Wade called out.

Nobody answered.

Wade pulled out his four D cell flash light, turned it on and slowly and methodically swept the ditch. It would cream his night vision for the next half hour but he had a premonition that he had stumbled across what he had been looking for.

Wade searched with his ears as much as with his eyes. Perhaps more so. He slowly looked close then lifted the torch so he could see down at water level then lifted it even higher so he could look up and over the opposite ditch bank.

Then he shifted the beam half the beam’s width and repeated. Every fifteen feet he silently crabbed sideways. In a month the brush would be all leafed out and even the thousand foot-candle Maglite would not be able to penetrate. But for now, the only green was the random honeysuckle and the ubiquitous garlic mustard. The native shrubbery had pessimistic genes.

He found his quarry thirty yards further down the ditch. The young man was attempting to hide by crouching behind a dense stand of naked elderberry bushes on the far side of the ditch.

“Andy! Is that you?” Wade called out.

“Turn the damned light off. I can’t see a damned thing.” the voice called out.

Wade did not turn the light off but he shifted it to his left hand and lowered the beam so the 1000 foot-candles were not directly in Andy’s eyes.

“Come out here so we can talk like civilized men.” Wade said.

“You come down here.” Andy said. “I like it here a lot better.”

Wade was not surprised. Andy always made things difficult.

“Whatchya doing out?” Wade said. “You know you are violating curfew.”

“Cornbread gives me gas. I stepped out so I didn’t stink up the house.” Andy said.

“Bullshit.” Wade said. “Nobody walks a half-mile from their house and hides in a ditch just to fart.”

“Try again.” Wade said.

“I was going to visit a friend.” Andy said.

“Which one?” Wade asked. “I don’t recall you having any friends in the neighborhood...”

“Unless you were referring to your customers.” Hawk finished.

“Whaddya mean, ‘customers’.” Andy asked

“Anybody with a brain knows you deal drugs.” Wade said. “Not too many kids working part-time, minimum wage jobs can afford a new Camaro.”

“Dammit all, Wade.” Andy said. “A business man has to make a living. My customers have needs.”

Wade Hawk was old school. He didn’t cotton to teenagers, even if they were nineteen, treating him as a peer and calling him by his first name.

“I ain’t asking you, I am telling you.” Wade said. “You can’t be breaking curfew. You cannot be out after dark.”

“OK, I won’t let you catch me again.” Andy said. Wade could hear the smarmy tones.

“You ain’t listening.” Wade said. “It is not a matter of ‘catching’. It is a matter of you doing what you are supposed to be doing.”

“Well, Wade old buddy, that ain’t how I see it. I will do what I gotta do and it is your job to try and catch me.” Andy said.

Wade lifted the flashlight slightly so it was directly in Andy’s eyes.

The 158 grain hollowpoint entered Andy's sternum directly between his nipples and shattered his spine on the way out.

Andy’s body started to slump into the ditchwater but the dense stand of elderberries arrested his slide.

Wade extinguished the flashlight and moved down the road a bit. Then he waited for the ringing in his ears to abate and for the bright, lavender spots in his eyes to fade.

"I guess I won't have too much trouble catching you now." Wade said to Andy as Andy's consciousness faded.

Wade slept late every morning because he stayed out late every night on curfew enforcement duty.

He was drinking his first cup of coffee when Connie, his wife, came into the breakfast nook. She was as excitable as Wade was phlegmatic. She was clearly busting with news.

“What’s up?” Wade asked.

“Heather Miller went in to wake up Andy this morning and he was gone.” Connie said.

“Shit happens.” Wade said. “Especially to pieces of garbage like Andy Miller.”

“I don’t know why you are so hard on him. After all, he IS your nephew.” Connie said.

“Hard times make hard men.” Wade said.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

ERJ 3 - 0 Woodchucks

Three woodchucks in two days. All three have had skin lesions, even the youngsters. I attribute the wet, wet weather.

Potatoes are about 2/3 canopied over. Sunlight that falls on soil does not make food.
Corn has a long way to go. All three crops have the same row-to-row spacing, 42 inches. That is set by my rototiller. This corn will explode if we get some hot weather.
Cabbage went in today. They look pretty pathetic. This is a savoy variety named Deadon and it seems to be fairly caterpillar free. I attribute it to the leaves being purple. The green worms glow like neon signs to passing birds:  Food - Food - Food  

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Hammers, toads, woodchucks, Fourth of July and motherswort

We spent the afternoon at a graduation Open House. Rather than money we gave the young man a 22 ounce, steel handled, framing hammer. Money is soon forgotten but this hammer can last him decades.

A study in camouflage. I almost stepped on him.

This year should yield a bumper crop of amphibians due to the extensive and prolonged flooding.

I did not see very many tadpoles in the burn pit this spring. I think they count on the cows "fertilizing" the water. Best practice has been to fence livestock out of open water. I wonder if that contributed to the decline in amphibians.

I have about fifty cabbage seedlings to plant. I also have an infestation of woodchucks.

I caught a young one within fifteen minutes on the lower set.

Knee high by the Fourth of July  looks possible but not a sure thing.

Motherswort keeps churning out blossoms as it grows
It just sort of came together for me as I was mowing. My mentor was a very strong believer in pushing trees to fill their allotted space. He had little patience for people who rhapsodized over making trees struggle as if that would make the fruit more saintly or special. He considered it laziness masquerading as virtue.

A very rough guideline in Michigan is to fertilize to get two feet of terminal extension a year on your trees while they are young and you are filling the allotted space and then to back off on the nitrogen. At that point terminal extension of 12" a year should be your target. Obviously you will have to prune the trees as they try to grow out of their envelop.

Roger typically doubled that target while growing trees and I saw him get eight feet out of a sweet cherry tree in one year.

Growing locations that are farther north or get colder than Michigan should aim for less growth so the trees have time to store carbs for cold resistance.

The part that came together for me is that you are probably not fertilizing young trees with enough nitrogen if you don't have a "weed" problem with nettles and motherswort.

Both of these plants fill a similar niche and both are very nutrient demanding. I prefer motherswort of the two. It is a good pollen/nectar plant with a very long period of availability and it will not make you itch like nettles. The motherswort has been flowering for a few days. I was not paying that much attention. It is now about 770 GDD-b50.

Another plant that occupies a similar niche is asparagus.

It is serendipitous that a common weed that WANTS to grow in a well fertilized orchard is a keystone species for parasitoid wasps and honey bees and bumble bees.

Now I am looking for a perennial pollen/nectar species that will bridge between horseradish and motherswort. There was a tiny bit of overlap in the bloom time between the two this year.

Snow-on-the-mountain is a groundcover that comes close to meeting my needs for flowering time and morphology but I prefer a native species or an edible one if I can find it.

Friday, June 21, 2019

The last installment of Seven Cows is scheduled for July 5

Just a heads-up.

The last installment for the Seven Cows story is scheduled for July 5.

Endings never make people happy because in real life stories never really end. Endings are artificial constructs for the convenience for the writer.

As a neophyte writer, I prefer to leave a story when it is effervescently bubbling and the readers can carry it forward in their own imagination. That is the goal of telling a paint a series of pictures in the reader's imagination and have the momentum of the story carry them into the probability cloud of possible futures.

If history is a guide then I will savor the accomplishment of putting a story "in the can" for a month or two. Then a few of the minor characters will start talking to me, asking to have their story put into words.

Then it starts again.

Are public sector employees inherently more virtuous than private sector employees?

Listening to the 947 declared Democratic contenders for the POTUS position, you will pick up vibes that they all believe that the public sector is inherently more virtuous than the private sector.

Peel a little deeper and you are likely to pick up that they believe that public sector employees, as a group, are more virtuous than mammon-grubbing private sector employees. What other justification can there be for moving more of the economy under the control of the public sector?

A few simple questions: If public sector employees are so virtuous, then why is it necessary for them to have Unions?

Why do progressives treat Law Enforcement people differently (less virtuous) than a clerk at the Secretary of State?

My hypothesis is not that public sector employees are more, or less virtuous than the general population. I contend that they are the same population as the general public and the same as public sector employees. Same-same-same.

Further, I will speculate that the difference between the cop and the clerk is that the cop's output is visible and he is held accountable while the clerk can be a total screw-up for thirty years and still retire.

Let me point to the Catholic Church scandals as one example of an organization that thought it was employing extremely virtuous people and put them in positions where crimes could be hidden and there was no outside accountability.

What basis can any thinking person have for believing that giving public sector employees access to private health information, financial records, consumer habits, etc will result in behaviors that are any more virtuous than were seen with the Catholic Church?

Screw me once, shame on you. Screw me twice...

Brett McRae is the Chairman of the Eaton County Democratic Party. He recently ran an op-ed in the local papers titled Let's just 'Fix the Damn Roads'.

The backstory is that the Democratic party just swept the Michigan statewide offices in the recent election. The new governor's campaign theme was 'Just Fix the Damn Roads' and she implied that the Republicans were incompetent, corrupt and incapable of managing budget to get basic services delivered.

Milliseconds after being sworn in, the new Govenor said, "Hey, I gotta raise taxes. Not much...just an additional $0.45 a gallon gas tax. Lemme get back to you next year. That might not be enough."

There was pushback from the electorate. She implied that she was going to fix the roads by eliminating corruption and incompetence. She never said she intended to raise taxes before the election.

Now the local spear-carriers for the Democrats are making the sale pitch: "The unhappy fact is that it's going to take some serious money to fix the roads."

McRae then goes on to write that it will require an additional $2.5 billion every year. He gives us choices: Raise the state income tax 25% or increase the tax on businesses by 325% or increase the sales tax by 22% or increase the gas tax by forty-five cents a gallon.

Let's look at them one at a time
The state income tax is a flat tax. Flat taxes are considered regressive because people with less income have much less discretionary income. A flat tax makes the margin even tighter. So the Democrat's proposal for raising the income tax is regressive.

The Democratic proposal for raising taxes on businesses by 325% is a job killer. Approximately 58% of Michigan's 9 million residents do not have jobs so that might seem like a winner of an idea but that 58% depends on the people who DO work. Raising business taxes by +300% is a case of saying, "Here, Illinois, hold my beer."

Increasing the sales tax is considered regressive for the same reasons raising the income tax is. Furthermore, people who have more means are more likely to pay for services (not subject to sales tax) or spend big money outside the state on things like vacations.

Increasing the tax on fuel is both regressive and transfers resources from rural and suburban areas to urban areas. Most of the damage to roads is due to weather. Urban areas get more dollars per mile of road than rural areas while rural drivers often drive as much as four times as many miles per year.

In summary, the Democrat's proposals are REGRESSIVE, JOB KILLER, REGRESSIVE and REGRESSIVE.

The shell game
The big sales pitch when the lottery was introduced was that every cent was going toward education.

What they did not tell us is that there would be zero incremental funding of education. Education was defunded dollar-for-dollar and the incremental increase was be seen in the general fund.

It is a mathematical certainty that the identical thing will happen with any funds raised "for roads."

The State of Michigan pension funds are approximately 60% funded and the bull market in stocks is at the extreme geriatric stages of expansion. In plain language, the pension funds did not catch up when times were great and unless a miracle happens it never will.

That miracle will be for politicians to get voters to agree to tax increases between 22% and 325% with the expectation that more work will be done on the roads. Stupid voters. That money will simply free up funds to backfill the ever-growing pension shortfall. There will be no net increase in road funding.

Rather than being transparent and saying that the State mismanaged the pension promises and asking voters to approve funding for pension shortfalls, the politicians are promising road repairs (a tangible benefit) knowing full well that none of the $2.5 billion a year will result in a single additional pothole being fixed.

They know that is a very, very tough sell because most public pensions are more generous than private sector pensions and it will be tough to get people who are looking forward to eating cat food in retirement to vote to take more dollars out of their wallet and give them to public sector employee pensions.

Remember, money is fungible. It is not possible to say "This dollar went here" after the dollar is inhaled by the state.

Seven Skinny Cows: Loose ends

Mark’s homecoming was a tremendous surprise.

Paul Seraph had handed off the task of resupplying Mark to a minion who had connections in Albion and points south. Then Paul was distracted by a pressing problem and spaced the fact that he had promised to tell Kate and Rick that Mark was alive. That is one of the hazards of being a micro-manager.

Paul rode his bike out to Eaton Rapid’s southern frontier after the guards radioed that a man-and-daughter named Mark and Rosie requested safe passage. Paul recognized Mark as soon as he laid eyes on him.

Then he apologized profusely for dropping the ball. He said he would make it right.

He called Di Carney on the CB and requested priority service. He needed her to hook up her fastest horses to her lightest buggy. He had two people who needed to be carted back to Kates Store.

Then he whistled up Rick and Kate and told them that Mark was alive and to expect him on their doorstep in two hours.

It took closer to three but that is a damned good speed for a twenty-four mile round trip.

Unfortunately, Mark and Rosie had to go into quarantine but there was plenty of room in the Duckworth mansion.

The celebration was muted. Every family was waiting for somebody like Mark to show up. Most of them were disappointed.

Chernovsky’s forces requested that their sub-sonic (i.e. quiet ammo) be enhanced the way their high-speed hollowpoints were. Quinn was more than happy to help. Bill and Judy spent another couple of days collecting material and dipping the tips in melted wax/lard and powder.

The results were staggering. Zombies started dropping as if hit with .357 magnums. They worked almost too well. Many of the bodies barely crawled off the pavement.

Confident shooters make good shooters. The most vigorous hostiles were still shot in the heart-lung area but the ones that seemed less vigorous were tagged with liver-kidney shots.

What Chernovsky’s fighters did not know as that they were seeing the results of Ebola, Bubonic Plague and extreme dehydration brought on by prolonged diarrhea.

The toxin in the tropical seeds impaired protein synthesis and while lethal in very, very small doses it took five-to-ten days to kill. The time-frame for the strain of Clostridium perfringens that came from the swine filth was slightly shorter with death usually occurring three-to-six days after being shot.

The huge increase in knock-down power was not due to magic ammo. It was due to the fact that the hostiles were infected with a rogue’s gallery of infectious diseases and were barely able to remain vertical before they were shot...the very reason the hostiles were being repelled. It did not take much trauma to push them into the abyss.


The disaster that Squad One experienced drove a host of changes.

Chernovsky informed Salazar that all Team-Leads needed handguns and appropriate holsters. Salazar authorized the purchase of handguns and holsters from the Dimondale population. They were awash in Glocks and Smith & Wessons and Hi-Points etc. taken from dead zombies. A Glock 19 with two magazines could be had for a hundred pounds of corn, the consequence of the implacable laws of supply-and-demand.

Salazar reiterated that the goods had to be in a pot of boiling water when Chernovsky purchased them.

Tomanica’s advice was to purchase 9mm. Everybody knew that 9mm had less stopping power than a 40 or a 45 but the ammo was everywhere and Tomanica’s advice was to shoot the magazine dry and to carry multiple magazines. Warfare is different than peace-time

Tomanica had several friends who had been active in IDPA. They hand loaded 9mm ammo and, in the spirit of Defensive Pistol shooting, they eschewed cheap, full metal jacket ammo and shot the same type of hollow points they carried for defense. Hearing of the circumstances they both volunteered a thousand rounds. That put a dent in their supplies but it was for a good cause.

Tomanica also advised Chernovsky to let any fighter who was willing to carry the extra weight to carry a handgun. Murphy’s law dictated that the next time you needed somebody with a handgun the designated carrier would be in the shitter

Tomanica also advised that the troops be drilled on handling and dry-firing but not accuracy. His reasoning was that any target far enough away to require careful aim was far enough away that the troops could get a rifle.

Other changes included putting up alarms. The simplest alarms were installed before nightfall. Those alarms were fish line strung through the trees at knee height and tied to cans filled with rocks.

Within a week, each camp had a dog. The dogs were trained to be on the alert for anybody entering camp. Barking was optional. The training was easy. Each person who came into camp asked, "Did he go on alert?". If the answer was "Yes." the dog got at least one kibble. Since that was the dog's only source of nutrition, the dog became highly motivated. It is true what they say, hunger doubles a dog's intelligence.

Dmitri worked on electronic alarms but did not get them perfected in time. Even the cheapest smartphones have microphones and accelerometers embedded within them. There was no physical reason they could not be attached to a wooden stake that had been driven into the ground and trigger an alarm via WIFI.

Chernovsky also outlawed fried food. It just smelled too good and hungry people can smell the tiny fat particles from half a mile away if the wind was right.

The troops grumbled even more when he required “cold camp” on the rare days when the wind blew toward the road. At least he still allowed Cookie Girl to visit.


Chernovsky was walking past Quinn when something caught his eye. "What the hell is that?" he asked.

Quinn followed Chernovsky's pointing finger to the web gear on his chest. He mentally looked in the mirror and found nothing amiss. "With all due respect, what are you pointing at?"

"Your magazines." Chernovsky said.

Quinn was carrying three, duplexed, 30 round AR magazines for a load-out of 180 rounds. The magazines were taped together, with the second one upside down.

Quinn pulled one out. "Whats wrong with it?"

"Its not 'factory'." Chernovsky said.

"Yes it is." Quinn untaped them and snapped them apart. Then he snapped them back together. "They are designed to do this."

"Lose it anyway." Chernovsky growled.

"Why?" Quinn asked.

Chernovsky was tempted to say "Because I told you to." but checked his tongue. He was not entirely clear why he had a visceral, negative reaction to the magazines.

"I'll get back to you on that. But for now I want you to carry your magazines as singles." Chernovsky said.

Quinn understood this to be the collective "you" and so he directed his fighters to breakdown their duplexed magazines into singles. There was much grumbling.

That night, at the campfire talk Chernovsky talked about his directive.

"Why do you duplex the magazines?" Chernovsky asked.

"Because it is faster to reload." one of the fighters responded.

"What happens when you are under stress?" Chernovsky asked.

This was a tough question to answer. There had not been many engagements where the fighters were effectively being fired at. The prepared positions were solid. The surprise was nearly complete. The marksmanship was good. It was a slaughterhouse for the hostiles.

Chernovsky did not get a response.

"I will tell you what happens. You go into tunnel vision. All you see is the target in front of you and all you do is pull the trigger. You have to work to remember to move." Chernovsky said. There had been many times he had not heard the whistle on the football field that signaled the end of play but stopped because his target stopped.

"What happens if you are in a hot fire-fight and you forget you already switched to the second magazine? I guarantee it will happen."

"You will switch to a dry magazine. And you will yank on the trigger. And you might not even notice that your rifle is not firing." Chernovsky said.

"Then you are fucked and so is your buddy next to you."

"Lose the duplexed magazines and practice dropping empty magazines and grabbing and loading full ones...with your eyes closed." Chernovsky ordered.


Thursday, June 20, 2019

Operation "Rescue Trash Panda"

Various family members have been staying over night to help mom with toileting.

There have been several reports of "chittering" from behind the doors of the fireplace insert. The consensus opinion is that a teenage racoon fell down the chimney.

I was nominated to the rescue team. I agreed as long as I got a small keg of brandy to strap beneath my chin.

I needed every inch of that 28' extension ladder.

Yup, sure enough. A trash panda. He was a little bit shy about coming out of his hole. I will recover the gear tomorrow. 12X optical plus another 3X digital brings him in close.
I am glad he didn't die and stink up the house.

Bonus picture

It looks like six cuttings are leafing out.
I was getting double duty out of this pot.

The grape cuttings are a variety called St. Paul and was hybridized at Chateau Bortnov. The seeds that are pushing are Water Tupelo, Nyssa aquatica.

Water Tupelo is one of those species that might do well in Michigan if mass selection can find specimens with -15F cold hardiness. We have a shortage of trees that can withstand long periods of submerged roots and produce autumn/winter mast.

One factor mitigating against natural, mass selection is that seeds are produced in the autumn and the ducks that eat them are southbound. Ducks bring very, very few seeds north on the spring migration.

Most of the seeds are digested but a few make it through the duck properly scarified or sometimes the duck dies enroute, freeing the seeds.

Seven Skinny Cows: Two pounds of bacon

Perhaps the shit-storm would not have happened if Squad One had not been given a gift of two pounds of bacon.

Or perhaps it would not have happened if the wind had not been the gentlest of zephyrs from the south.

Trying to make sense of the attack, Chernovsky concluded that the hostile force was one of the less skilled who had survived by adopting the tactic of staying off the roads and staying out of the way of the more aggressive and more competent gangs.

That was Squad One’s undoing.

Binoculars depict location of observation posts.

The notable thing about Squad One is that they had been tasked with observing a piss-ant gravel road that meandered in a southerly direction in the most indirect and leisurely of ways. They also observed Vermontville Highway, a paved road that ran east-west and connected with the freeway some five miles to the west of the observation post.

Neither road saw much traffic and perhaps that served to lull the fire-teams in Squad One into a complacency that proved fatal.

Six fighters of the ten squad members were in camp shortly after breakfast had been eaten. Two fighters were in the Vermontville Highway observation post that was a quarter mile southwest of the camp and nestled into the gravel pit that overlooked the road. Two more fighters were in the other observation post that was a quarter mile to the east of the camp.

Unlike the camps of Squad Two and Squad Three, Squad One’s camp was west of the north-south road so the camp was equidistant from, and could support both observation posts with equal ease.

Chernovsky concluded that the group of hostiles had been picking their way overland when they smelled the frying bacon. Nothing improves a person’s sense of smell more than deep hunger and nothing throws a scent farther than frying bacon as each exploding sputter launches hundreds of microscopic globules of fat aloft to be buoyed and carried by the breeze.

Had the wind been stronger the turbulence would have baffled and mixed the smell of the bacon. Had it been weaker the scent would have settled to the ground.

It was just one of those things.

The six fighters in the camp were completely unprepared to have twelve hostiles burst into camp from the north.

None of the fighters had handguns. They were deemed to be little more than dead weight and nobody carried them anymore.

Terry Lake, John Gault’s team-leader had his hands deep in hot, sudsy wash water.

John Gault was closest to the tents. His instincts were good. He secured his personal weapon, inserted a magazine, cycled the bolt and shouldered his weapon.

But then he froze. Almost half of the hostiles were young women.

Terry threw the tub of hot water into the face of the first hostile. The steam prevented him from seeing one of the women rushing at him with a knife.

Gault saw it from a different angle. He could see the woman carrying the butcher knife. He saw it happen but could not process the presence of the knife + woman quickly enough to do Terry any good. The woman jammed the knife into Terry’s gut, angling upward until it had been run in all the way to the hilt.

The other four fighters were throwing off the lighter hostiles and trying to work their way to their weapons.

Finally, the screaming of one of them drilled into Gault’s consciousness “Shoot them. Shoot them.”

Belatedly, something clicked in Gault’s brain and he began servicing targets. The targets were so close that their heads were fuzzy in his scope. No matter, at this range he could not miss.

The last one he shot had dreadlocks. The hostile was twenty yards out and fleeing. Gault was numb. He did not care if it was a man or a woman. He shot "dreadlocks" in the back of his head.


Gault never figured out who called Chernovsky.

In addition to Terry, the other Team-Lead was a casualty. Although not fatal, the deep slice from one of the attacker’s knives had severed several of the tendons in the TL’s right forearm. He would not be able to function as a fighter.

Squad One did not have a functioning Team-Lead

After listening to the stories of the surviving fighters and getting the OK from Salazar and Tomanica, Chernovsky moved Donnie from Team-Leader of Squad Two to be the sole Team-leader of Squad One and left Quinn as the sole Team-Leader of Squad Two. Chernovsky needed Salazar's buy-in because Squad Two still had eight days left on their forty day quarantine.

Chernovsky cycled Gault, the guy who froze from Squad One to Squad Two.

Chernovsky also had Squad One move their camp from west of the N-S road to east of the road so prevailing winds would be less likely to carry smells and sounds to the road. He left the observation posts where they were. "Ease of servicing" suddenly became a very, very low priority.

“I shouldn’t be a fighter any more.” Gault said as a shell-shocked Gault and Chernovsky walked back to Squad Two's camp.

Chernovsky’s response was short and direct. “Bullshit.”

“I failed.” Gault said. “You should send me home.”

Counseling was not Chernovsky’s strong suit. Never-the-less, that is what he had to do.

“I already lost two fighters. I cannot afford to lose another.” Chernovsky said.

“I screwed up.” Gault said.

“Did I ever tell you about Matty Norton?” Chernovsky said as they walked east toward Squad Two.

“Who was Matty Norton?” Gault asked, in spite of himself.

“Matty was a football player in my home town.” Chernovsky said. “The thing is that he was way better than I was. I went to college on a football scholarship and he never went to college. Do you know why?”

“No.” Gault said. Of course he did not know why.

“Because every time he would miss a tackle or not sack the quarterback he would put on this big show about how mad he was.” Chernovsky said.

“It was as if he expected the crowd to applaud his high standards rather than his football ability.” Chernovsky said. “I would miss tackles, too. But I put the past behind me. I learned from my mistakes...but I did not let it poison me. Matty couldn’t do that.”

“Who is going to trust me after the story gets out?” Gault asked, voice heavy with misery.

“Stop being Matty. Lose the cry-baby voice.” Chernovsky commanded.

“I trust you. I bunk with Squad Two. If I thought you were a loser I would send you home.” Chernovsky said. “Lose the pity. Stuff it in a box. Do whatever you have to do but keep putting one foot in front of the other.”

Gault never did find out that Chernovsky had never played football with, or against a player named Matty Norton. But that did not matter. Matty was a composite of all the cry-babies Chernovsky ever met.


Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Mom update

X-rays showed that her shoulder was not dislocated. Images showed subluxation with the humerus forward (IIRC) of where God originally put it.

The images showed much arthritis and the suite of muscles and tendons that comprise mom's left rotator cuff is more like a "s__t_ _f m_scl_s_and t_nd_ns". Some of it is there but much important stuff is not.

The doc had mom drop the Mobic and switch to three daily doses of 600mg of Ibuprofen, alternating with Acetaminophen. Sling. Heat but not ice. Come back in four weeks. The reasoning behind the 3X Ibuprofen is that it is the doc's belief that the pain suppression and anti-inflammatory action will have shorter periods of low activity.

If mom rejoins the circus and is using the trapeze in four weeks then she will cancel the appointment.  More likely, she will feel better as the inflammation will have had time to settle down. Then the doc will prescribe physical therapy to build up the s__t_ _f m_scl_s_and t_nd_ns as much as possible to prevent a re-occurrence.

Seven Skinny Cows: The population increases

Sheila Gault looked up at the man and his extended family. If he was a grandfather, he was an exceptionally young one. He only looked to be in his mid-forties, although his driver's license confirmed he was fifty-five.

“Let me repeat myself, you cannot come into this area unless you have been invited by a family who lives here and they agree to sponsor your quarantine for forty days.” Sheila said.

She was getting frustrated. The man was polite and courteous and not taking “No” for an answer.

“I have property here. We won’t be a burden.” John Wilder repeated. “I am sure if you check you will let us in.”

There were things about the party that set off alarms in Sheila’s head. They were too well dressed and too fat. They looked healthy. They were pushing their goods in wheeled carts. How did they not get mugged by the zombies?

Sheila’s husband discretely nudge her. “Let’s you and me talk. Billy can keep an eye on them.”

They stepped away from the barricade.

Sheila’s husband said, “The piece of property just up the road from us...the eighty acres on the owned by a man named Doc Wilder. I wonder if it is his. Doc Wilder owns several other parcels around here. Big ones. Guess he needed the tax break.”

“Do any of Doc Wilder’s properties have houses? Even if it is him, he can’t live in a field. Somebody has to feed him. And how are we going to figure out if it is him?” Sheila responded.

“One thing at a time, honey. That is why God gives us time, so we can sort through things.” her husband said.

“Do what you are good at. Just talk to him.” he finished.

Doc Wilder was a semi-mythical figure in the neighborhood. They knew his family favored Ford pickup trucks because that is what showed up during hunting season. They knew he and his boys favored deer stands that were a full 12’ off the ground and they knew that he bid more than the prevailing rate to purchase property that was contiguous to other property he owned.

They also knew that he favored large, well drained fields that had a history of growing good crops of corn. Unlike some land-buyers, he continued to rent out the properties to the last farmer who had worked the land and he did not squeeze them for rent, preferring to have a business that ran on autopilot rather than one where his renters went out of business and he would be left scrambling to find somebody to rent the property the next year.

Learning that the refugees might not be grifters did wonders to improve Sheila’s disposition. She had dealt with too many people who had no business coming into Pray Church or Kates Store. Some of them had violently stormed the barricade and it had been necessary to kill them.

Sheila carried a handgun in a small-of-back holster. She had used it and did not relish that she would likely have to do so again.

Sheila favored the group with a small smile. “You understand we have to be careful about who comes into our community.”

The man obviously had people skills. He quickly agreed. “That is why we decided to come here. We had other options.”

“How would you know that?” Sheila asked.

“Peppermint Patty is one of our must-listen-to shows.” the woman volunteered. “Both John and I were news junkies. We were bunkered up and bored to tears. Peppermint Patty kept us sane.”

The man nodded in agreement. “Reading between the lines, you still have the rule-of-law. Heck” John said, pointing at the barricade “the fact that you control your borders is proof of that. Another thing that was attractive is that you have a curfew.”

“Another thing we picked up from Peppermint Candy’s broadcasts is that you still have working infrastructure and division-of-labor.” John said.

“There are still a few things I need to do before I can let you in.” Sheila said. “I need to contact Pastor Sam and Rick Salazar and tell them about the circumstances. I need their blessing before I can let you in.”

“You also need to verify who you are. Can the rest of you put some ID on the table and specifically identify the property you own?” Sheila said.

The other five adults laid drivers licenses on the plywood top of the barricade and stepped back. John also put several envelopes on the table and shuffled through them until one that said "Eaton County" rested on top.

“What are those?” Sheila asked, pointing at the envelopes.

“Tax bills.” John said. “Property taxes.”

“Can you open them and lay the contents on the table. You can use some rocks to hold them down against the breeze.” Sheila said.

Sheila would have whistled had she been a less disciplined woman. Looking at the tax bills, it was clear that the Wilder family was one of the top three land owners in the area...that is, if they were the Wilder family.

"Just out of curiosity, how many parcels do you own in Eaton County?" Sheila asked.

The woman piped up "About twenty, a bit more than two-and-a-half square miles in Eaton County."

“Which one of these will you be staying in?” Sheila asked.

“The hunting camp on Canfield Road.” John said without hesitation. “It has a pantry and should have plenty of food to hold us for a couple of months to get us through quarantine.”

Sheila cocked an eyebrow. “Would you also be known as ‘Doc Wilder’?”

The woman spoke up. “That would be me. ‘Doc’ as in Ph.D. My name is Samantha and friends call me Sam or Doc.”

“John was an insurance executive and I did research on drugs for chemo-therapy.” Mrs ‘Doc’ Wilder clarified. “The thing about insurance executives, they are risk adverse.”

Sheila offered them bottles of water, which they graciously accepted and then placed some calls to Pastor Sam and Rick Salazar. She strongly recommended that the Wilder family be allowed in despite the lack of a sponsoring family. She saw that as a formality. If the Wilder family could be believed, they did not require one.

Their arrival was going to cause some issues. Several families had started to infringe on their land for gardens and other chunks had been involved in Salazar’s scheme to reforest unclaimed land for firewood.

Issues are different than problems. Sheila had the sense that the Wilder family would be easy to work with.


Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Phenology report

Brome grass is pollinating. Last year it was pollinating on June 13.

Multiflora rose is in full bloom. This is a good time to go on search-and-destroy missions for this plant.

Raspberries are almost done. Pollinating insects and parasitoid wasps like Rubus species like raspberries.

Most of my grape varieties are pollinating at 570 GDD b-50. The Riverbank Grape, V. riparia was pollinating ten days ago at 460 GDD b-50.

Most of my grapes show evidence of Downy Mildew.

I picked up my cabbage plants from Hastay's greenhouse. The seeds were planted May 15.

Rain predicted for three of the next four days.

Bonus picture of a grafted Butternut. Nothing special about the scion. I just wanted some butternut trees on the property and they can be grafted onto Black Walnuts.

How many generations?

How long does animus last between nationalities after the original friction that caused the animus ceases?

This question is germane because first world nations are importing peoples from war ravaged nations in gross lots. Many of these immigrants bear deep animus in their hearts, not gratitude.

My maternal grandmother's family left Ireland in approximately 1850. My grandmother was born in the 1890s and died in the 1974. Until the day she died she carried a deep anger against the British.

Let me do the math for you: 1974-1848 (middle year of the potato famine) = six generations.

Anecdotal data is limited because of sample size. Is there a better way to measure animus over time?

One way would be via first names.

Let us speculate that Anglophiles are more likely to name their children after British royalty: Names like Edward, Philip, Charles, William, Harold/Harry, Victoria, Elizabeth, Kathrine/Kate, Diana. Let us also speculate that those who bear the British animus are less like to use those names.

The Social Security Administration publishes annual lists of how popular any given first name is.

The test of how quickly animus wanes would be to compare the rate of "Royal names" for mother's whose last name starts with "Mc" or "O'" as a percentage of the US population's base rate.

If the percentage of "Royal family" names in Mc-O' families exceeds some arbitrary floor, say 70%, then one can conclude that the level of animus can "hide" in the general population. A reason to use a arbitrary floor is because of the tendency for people to name children after ancestors. If nobody in your family from your parent's generation was named "Elizabeth" then you are less likely to choose that name for your child.

That would be an interesting study and it would give us a sense of how many generations it will take for refugees who currently blame the US (or Britain or the EU) for bombing/strife that forced them out of their homeland to assimilate.

Posting will be slow this week

Posting will be slow this week.

The Seven Cows story installments are scheduled.

Mom dislocated her shoulder yesterday and we are scheduled for five days of care this week.


Upgrade from Girlfriend 2.BabyBump to Fiance 1.0

Maybe I am a cynic but when ever a street criminal has a problem with the police and goes to the press, Girlfriend 2.3 is automatically upgraded to Finance 1.0

Case in point, the person in Phoenix who shoplifted underwear and whose child shoplifted a doll. Cops came and arrested him.

His pregnant girlfriend, with whom he has already had two children instantly morphed into his fiance. It is part of the script.

Call me cynical. If he had not married her after the first baby then he was never planning to marry her.

I'm currently running the latest version of GirlFriend and I have been having some problems lately. I have been running the same version of DrinkingBuddies 1.0 forever as my primary application, and all the Girlfriend releases I have tried have always conflicted with it. I hear that Drinking Buddies runs fine as long as Girlfriend is ran in background mode and the sound is turned off.

Unfortunately, I can't find the switch to turn the sound off. Therefore, I have to run both of them separately. Girlfriend also seems to have a problem coexisting with my Golf program, often trying to abort Golf with some form of timing incompatibilities.

I probably should have stayed with Girlfriend 1.0, but I thought I might see better performance from GirlFriend 2.0. After months of conflicts and other problems, I consulted a friend who has had experience with Girlfriend 2.0. He said I probably didn't have enough cache to run Girlfriend 2.0 and eventually it would require a Token Ring to run properly. He was right, as soon as I purged my cache, and realized that no one in their right mind is installing new token rings, Girlfriend 2.0 uninstalled itself.

Shortly after that, I installed Girlfriend 3.0 beta. Unfortunately, there was a bug in the program and the first time I used it, it gave me a virus. I had to clean out my whole system and shut down for a while. I very cautiously upgraded to Girlfriend 4.0. This time I used SCSI probe first and also installed a virus protection program. It worked okay for a while until I discovered that GirlFriend 1.0 was still in my system. I tried running Girlfriend 1.0 again with Girlfriend 4.0 still installed, but Girlfriend 4.0 has a feature I didn't know about that automatically senses the presence of any other version of Girlfriend and communicates with it in some way. This results in the immediate removal of both versions.

The version I have now works pretty well, but there are still some problems. Like all versions of GirlFriend, it is written in some obscure language I can't understand, much less reprogram. Frankly, I think there is too much attention paid to the look and feel rather than the desired functionality.

Also, to get the best connections with your hardware, you usually have to use gold-plated contacts and I have never liked how GirlFriend is “object-oriented.”
A year ago a friend of mine upgraded his version of Girlfriend to GirlFriendPlus 1.0, which is a Terminate and Stay Resident version of GirlFriend. He discovered that GirlFriendPlus 1.0 expires within a year if you don't upgrade to Fiance 1.0. So he did, but soon after that, he had to upgrade to Wife 1.0, which he describes as a huge resource hog. It has taken up all his space: He can't load anything else. One of the primary reasons he decided to go with Wife 1.0 was because it supposedly came bundled with a feature called FreeSex Plus.

Well, it turns out the resource requirements of Wife 1.0 sometimes prohibits access to FreeSexPlus, particularly the new Plug-ins he wanted to try. On top of that, Wife 1.0 must be running on a well warmed-up system before he can do anything. Although he did not ask for it, Wife 1.0 came with MotherInLaw which has an automatic pop-up feature he can't turn off. I told him to trying installing Mistress 1.0, but he said he heard if you try to run it without first uninstalling Wife 1.0, Wife 1.0 will delete MSMoney files before uninstalling itself. Then Mistress 1.0 won't install because of insufficient resources.

P.S. Watch out for the K-I-D-S virus because they have an insatiable appetite for memory and CPU time over and above everything else above

Seven Skinny Cows: Rounding third base

Mark and Rosie’s travels were slowed by weather and flooded bridges. Even when they could travel Rosie’s footwear limited them to ten-to-fifteen miles a day.

Mark followed his intuition and his compass. He stayed off paved roads correctly assuming that is where the most conflict would be. He did not want to be on the wrong side of a gun when the person carrying it had an itchy trigger finger.

As they headed north and were confronted with a fork in the road, Mark always chose the left fork. He knew they were too far east to hit Eaton Rapids.

Mark and Rosie took pains to be as invisible as possible. They traveled in the earliest morning hours and left the road when they heard people approaching. You can’t shoot a ghost.

They had an unusual encounter with a native guarding a bridge over the north branch of the St Joseph River. He asked for their names and where they were headed.

Mark replied “My name is Mark Salazar and I am heading to Eaton Rapids. I have family there.”

The guard scratched his head and said, “Seems like I have heard of Eaton Rapids. Isn’t that near Kates Strore?”

Mark ruefully acknowledged that he had never heard of a community called Kates Store.

Another encounter in Amboy Township was similar. That encounter occurred just south of the bridge across the south branch of the Kalamazoo River. The situation was almost surreal.

On a hunch Mark followed signage a mile west to an Amish store. It was still in business. The proprietor would not let him in the building but negotiated prices from the front porch. Mark had some old, silver coins he had found in Grumpy’s attic. He had given them to Rosie and she handed them right back.

She could not be bothered to carry coins. She knew that wasn’t ‘real’ money.

The proprietor was more than happy to sell corn nuts (deep fat fried kernels of corn), peanuts and other food for real silver.

Heading back to 29 Mile Road Mark ran into another person guarding a bridge. The guard knew exactly where Eaton Rapids was and knew somebody who had radio communication with somebody in that town.

Mark decided this was a good time to take a break.

Things got a little bit tense when Paul Seraph said that the Mark Salazar from Eaton Rapids was dead and his one daughter was accounted for. It took the better part of an hour to play twenty questions to assure Seraph that he was the real Mark Salazar and that the young woman Mark was with was his adopted daughter.

With Ebola, Cholera, Typhus, Bubonic plague and fraternal violence running rampant there had been a great deal of familial re-arrangments.

Seraph apologized for not being able to send transportation. His people were stretched too thin. Paul said he would inform Kate and Rick that he was alive and well and four days hard travel from home, weather permitting. Seraph also said he would do what he could to have “care packages” of food available at 10 mile intervals. It would not be much...some oatmeal or hardtack or whatever could be spared by the locals.

Mark had never cared much for Paul Seraph. Paul had only been in Eaton Rapids for a few years before Mark joined the Coast Guard. Mark had a bit of a chip on his shoulder. Paul was much, much older and from “the big city.” Mark was sure that Paul looked down on all the country mice.

Having been away for a decade, Mark never had a reason to reassess his biases.

Mark was almost undone by Paul’s efficient kindness. The worst of the fighting was over. Mark was almost home.