Tuesday, April 30, 2019

A "Liberal education" should calibrate the graduate's bullshit indicator

Bellatrix LeStrange and the perpetual emotion machine.
Some would justify the teaching of political doctrine within public schools on the basis of "We are teaching students how to learn. It does not matter what we teach them as long as they learn."

They might also point to the half-life of knowledge. The half-life of a "fact" in the field of psychology, for instance, is shorter than the time it takes the average student to matriculate with a Bachelor's degree. Why worry about the 'facts' students are being taught when the facts are as ephemeral as the flowers of spring?

The problem with teaching an ever changing kaleidoscope of 'facts' is that the student never has a coherent or pure-tone to serve as contrast to the dissonance of bullshit.

When every 'fact' is dissonant and syncopation occurs so frequently as to step upon each other...the graduate is doomed to never hear the sour note, the clunk or squawk.

An unfortunate dynamic in recently retired couples

Mrs ERJ and I have been retired for a few years now. Since most of our friends and family are of a similar age we have front row seats watching friends and family make the transition.

One dynamic that merits mention is how men and women react to increased time together.

Many women feel "bonded" when they live-stream their thoughts. This is not wrong, but it is more of a woman-woman mode. It can come with a price when the woman feels that there is no need for a filter.

Grumpy old men tend to live in their heads more. We observe. We analyze. We make comparisons.

Visualize a situation when the GOM has a 'lightbulb' moment.

Suppose he has been watching the dog scratch himself far more than is usual. Woman took the dog to the vet. The vet looks at her records and notices that the dog is vulnerable to alergies. It is spring. The vet recommends a common, off-the-shelf antihistamine.

The dog continues to scratch himself silly. The GOM changes the air filter. The woman vacuums the carpets twice a day. They buy dog food made from Patagonian, free-range lambs and rice grown by virginal, Tibetan monks.

And the dog keeps scratching.

Then the GOM thinks, "Maybe our dog has fleas!"

He shares that thought with the woman.

If she is in live-stream mode, what falls out of her mouth is something like "You are wrong. That cannot possibly be. I took Dog to the vet. The vet would have seen the fleas. Dog always gets allergies in the spring."

Then, after a minute of reflection the woman says "Maybe we could treat Dog for fleas. That probably won't hurt anything."

What GOM hears "You are WRONG." Then he hears a bunch of stuff he already knew so he filters it out. The only thing he heard was "You are WRONG."

If a man is alone in a vast forest and he says something, is he still wrong?
It is a joke until you realize that the woman craves "bonding" with GOM. Her instinct to live-stream has exactly the wrong effect unless she filters or changes her speech/thinking habits. Leading with "You are WRONG." will push GOM away and, at the minimum, make him clam-up.

Much preferred, lead with "Why would you think that?"

WWYTT (or 'white') is neutral, passive and elicits more information. Writers are advised to avoid the word "would" at all costs because it is the epitome of passive. In this case, however, 'would' is the perfect word.

You might give it a try if your grumpy old man resists bonding.

Seven Skinny Cows: We play on Saturday the way we practiced all week

Chernovsky was chewing Quinn’s ass. Again.

The squad had been running across a flat expanse when Chernovsky slipped on the surface and a string of obscenities escaped his lips. He had been surprised.

He scraped the snowy surface and uncovered ice.

He blew the whistle and beckoned the squad form up on him.

Then he got on the radio and informed the “offense” to stand down.

“Spackle! WTF is this.” Chernovsky demanded, pointing down at the ice.

Not knowing where Chernovsky was going with his question, Quinn honestly answered “Ice.”

Chernovsky looked around and the snow was as flat as an airport runway for nearly a hundred yards in every direction.

“What is under all this snow? Chernovsky asked.

“More ice.” Quinn answered.

“What does ice turn into when it melts?” Chernovsky asked.

“Water.” Quinn answered.

“Did you know this was a swamp when you led us in here?” Chernovsky asked. He was giving Quinn the benefit of the doubt.

“Yes sir. Everybody knows it is a swamp.” Quinn said.

“And how would they know that?” Chernovsky asked.

Quinn pointed to the trees. “Those are soft maple.” Quinn said as if explaining to a six-year-old. “The only place they grow in solid stands like this is where it floods in the spring. The flooding kills everything else.”

Chernovsky pinched the bridge of his nose as he got control of his temper.

“So we are out here running exercises so we can overcome our enemies. These exercises are supposed to build our muscles and make our decisions automatic...AND YOU LED US INTO A FUCKING SWAMP!” Chernovsky ended up yelling.

“All of you” Chernovsky said, swinging his arm about, pointing “you should all know better. You have a responsibility to speak up when you see something that risks the mission.”

“Four mile run.” Chernovsky said.

And off the squad ran pulling their sleds.

Quinn and his squad were a major source of stress for Chernovsky. On paper, Quinn’s fire-team should have been mopping up all of these exercises. Donnie, who Chernovsky expected to be a boat anchor could suddenly ran neck-and-neck with Quinn.

Quinn’s fire-team had SO MUCH POTENTIAL and they muffed every exercise with screw-ball antics.

Chernovsky was much calmer when Quinn’s squad came back.

“Teams play on game day the way they practice all week.” Chernovsky said. “I want you to think about what you were doing. Is this something you would do if real hostiles were chasing you after the snow melts? The answer is no, you wouldn’t try to run across a swamp. That means then you should not be doing it now.”

That is when Quinn contradicted him.

“That is not quite right.” Quinn said.

Chernovsky glared at Quinn. “OK, Spackle. Explain.”

“This swamp is “Y” shaped. It has a finger sticking into it. With the right kind of bait I bet we could get the hostiles to run out onto the finger and then be trapped and we could fire on them from right angles.” Quinn said.

“Show me.” Chernovsky said.

Quinn walked Chernovsky through the swamp. It was formed by two drainage ditches coming together from the west and then draining out to the east. The finger that projected out into the flooded area was between the two ditches coming into the swamp. It also happened to be the side facing the road. While not pronounced it was clearly above the ice.

“How would you gull the bad-guys into the trap?” Chernovsky asked in a conversational voice.

“I dunno. Maybe tracks leading out, onto the finger. Put a guy on the far side and have him hollering that he’d broke his leg.” Quinn said.

“We would have to put enough tracks onto the ground so it isn’t obvious that the squad split off from the main set of tracks.” Quinn added. “The squad would have to hunker down there, there and there where there is concealment.”

“Set it up.” Chernovsky said. “Your job, Spackle, is to make this work. If it does we are going to call this the Pied Piper play.”

At dinner that evening, Chernovsky announced that Quinn’s squad would be the defense again. He also announced that the rule-set changed. The offense was now allowed to leave the road and pursue the defense.

The exercise was working like a champ when one of Quinn’s guys blew the setup.

A loud “mutherfucker” was heard from the ambush as Quinn’s guy stood bolt-upright.

The hostiles were not all within the kill-sack.

Quinn’s fire-team was massacred while the other fire-team was still able to hold the line.

Chernovsky had Quinn’s fire-team run four miles. As they were running, Quinn asked his guy “What the hell happened?”

His guy said, “Cameron threw a snowball that hit me in the face.”

Cameron was the leader of the other fire-team on his squad and it was not the first time that Cameron had sabotaged Quinn’s team.

Quinn decided it was time to have a talk with Cameron.


Monday, April 29, 2019

More California dreaming

An earlier blog post noted that the number of people who migrate to California from other states is highly dependent on the distance between California and the sending state.

What would happen if we could somehow wash out most of the effects of distance? Would that give us better resolution between the affinity between various states and California?

The bottom axis of this chart is the distance between Los Angeles, the most populous city in California and the most populous cities in the 48 contiguous states + Washington D.C.

The vertical axis is the percentage of the state's population that migrated to California in the past 20 years.

The blue dots are actual data.

The red dots are MS Excel's goal-seek, best fit with the formula of (Average distance for population * Average percentage migrated for population)/(distance^0.954) where 0.954 was the number goal seek found for the best-fit.

The seven highest affinities as measured by distance above the red "prediction based solely on distance" curve are:

Washington DC....11.5%
New York...............1.3%

The seven lowest affinities as measured by the distance the real data falls below the red curve are:

New Mexico......-1.8%
West Virginia...-1.3%

Seven Cows FAQ: How fast will Ebola spread?

One way to mimic progressive burn rates with spherical powder is to mix retarded and non-retarded powders together. The proportionately small amount of non-retarded powder lights off first and creates the heat-and-pressure needed to light off the retarded powder. The larger amount of retarded powder then burns, pressurizing the ever increasing volume.
The conventional wisdom is that every Ebola patient will infect two more and that the incubation time will be about two weeks.

The underlying premise in the Seven Cows story is that the US is made up of a crazy mosaic of different cultures. That mosaic is stretched, bent over, hammered down and stretched out again.

Those cultures have very different standards of behavior. My culture, for instance, is 1e-9 times as likely to share a syringe-and-needle than the druggie culture anywhere. Indigent populations are also less likely to launder their clothing resulting in rashes and pimples which can be access points for Ebola.

Ebola will spread like wild-fire through indigents and homeless populations perhaps exceeding the rates seen in Africa. Since Ebola is spread by body fluids from the infected being smeared on mucus membranes of the non-infected, it is HIGHLY probable that it is also spread by sexual activity. So subcultures that are sexual promiscuous are also likely to have a very high rate of spread and a high ambient level.

The risk to the people who engage in low-risk behaviors is that Ebola will diffuse into their culture from the high risk groups due to the extensive contact points between the two cultures.

So in addition to the story being about the challenges of thriving while social institutions and infrastructure are rapidly disintegrating, the Seven Cows story is a story of one culture armoring itself against another.


Seven Skinny Cows: Boot Camp

Quinn hated Chernovsky with an undying passion.

Chernovsky, for his part, killed Quinn at least three times a day.

Quinn was one of six fire-team leaders and the senior FTL in his squad.

Chernovsky ran training as a game, squad-on-squad. He also had them multi-task. They never just “ran”. Rather, they would run cross country to become intimately familiar with it while dragging sleds filled with supplies to build forward observation posts.

Set-piece battles were only run once a week. That was their recovery day.

“Bounding” or “Broken Play” was run six days a week. One squad was in bounding retreat. Two were in advance.

The exercise was exceptionally demanding of the defense. They had to retreat away from their position so they were out-of-sight from the road. Then they had to haul ass south to get well ahead of the offensive forces. Then move to the road close enough to effectively ambush the offense.

Sometimes they gamed with snow-on-ground where a retreating squad leaving tracks visible from the road was instantly killed. Other times it was snow-not-on ground where fastest path was safest, provided the advancing force was far enough back not see them move.

The irony was that there was ALWAYS snow on the ground. It was one of the coldest and snowiest winters on record. With the huge increase of wood burning for warmth, there were far more 'particulate' matter in the atmosphere to trigger snow. Snow reflects sunlight back into space and does not turn it to heat. First it was snowy. Then it was COLD.

Quinn learned where the drifts were deepest and learned to avoid them when gaming S-N-O-G. Bounding offense used the road while defense did not. It was almost impossible for the defense to stay ahead of the offense. Staying out of deep snow was the only chance defense had to make speed. Consequently, they learned where the snow drifted.

They gamed north-to-south, which was the direction that they would be pushed if an overwhelming force rolled through their set-piece defense. But they also gamed south-to-north. South-to-north gamers carried max load-outs. It was also a way to move supplies up to the line.

The game was simple. The defenders had a head start arbitrarily announced by Chernovsky at the start of the bound.

The defenders had to bound back to the next defensible salient. Then they defended it with smartphone cameras. Chernovsky loaded apps that both time-dated and ranged the “shots”, photos.

Chernovsky was totally ruthless. If you were carrying a .22LR and launched a shot that was more than 200 yards, he killed the whole squad. If were carrying an AR and shot before it became clear the suppressed .22 L$Rs couldn’t handle it, he killed the whole squad. And yes, each squad member carried their personal weapon. They loaded the magazine, racked a cartridge and then put the weapons aside and continued the “game” with smartphones.

The sessions became more and more brutal.

Short bounds became a rarity. By the second week the typical bound was between one and three miles. Squads pulled sleds with hundred-fifty pound loads. The loads were not just to build muscle. The logs and sandbags were strategically placed where elevation and field-of-fire were advantageous but cover was lacking.

Chernovsky demanded that every “hide” have a secondary. He also had them build forward hides that covered likely lines of advance toward the primary. Strong attackers always expect defenders to fall back. They are perpetually surprised when defenders ‘retreated’ forward and take the attackers off at the knees.

Quinn’s squad was successful one-time-in-three on offense. They were killed the other two times. On defense they were killed seven-times-out-of-eight.

Quinn tried to point out that it was not logical when Charnovsky killed off both the advancing and the defending squads.

Chernovsky was unmoved. “You can have a tactical win but if you leave one survivor who is carrying Ebola and they get into Pray Church then you are still all dead, even if it takes the bullet four months to land.”

Quinn had to admit that his squad was much sharper than when they started. They were at that magical age between fifteen and twenty-two when young muscles, clean air and obscene amounts of exercise grow muscle and lung capacity at a freakish rate.

Quinn’s squad was able to pull three times as much, move three times farther and at twice the speed as when they started. More important, they could break-down and man defensive positions within three minutes of hitting the salient.

Quinn quickly learned to avoid salients where his squad were quickly wiped out.

One time he completely smoked the opposition. Chernovsky started them out on the west side of the road. The west side had very little in the way of favorable defensible terrain.

Quinn put the spurs to his men and was just barely able to cut across the road to the east side as the advancing group trudged up the opposite side of a hill. They crossed at a side road where other traffic masked their footprints.

Quinn’s squad cut the advancing force to ribbons because the advancing force KNEW that the defenders were on the west side of the road. That was one of the few times when Chernovsky praised Quinn.

Another time Quinn saw birds flying around a small patch of cover growing on a rock pile near the middle of the field. His team gave it a wide berth. The force they were pursuing had left an ambush that was intended to whack Quinn in the back after they passed. That earned Quinn another atta-boy from Chernovskt.

Quinn learned when to concentrate forces. He learned when to leave a trailer to collect intelligence. He learned when to stretch out his forces to dilute the firing power of opposing forces. Every lesson was hard won.

They practiced “bounding” four hours a day. Then an hour of recovery. Then an hour of reviews where Chernovsky ripped them for their mistakes. Then the teams broke up for firewood detail.

As soon as the squads had mastered fixed defense, Chernovsky had them drop the trees that restricted visual access to the killing ground. They dropped the trees with chainsaws but bucked them up with cross-cut saws. Not only were the cross-cut saws quieter but no better tool has yet been invented to develop core strength. Chernovsky demanded that they alternate days sawing right handed and left handed. Get caught using the wrong “hand” and your fire-team had to do an additional 100 push-ups.

The firewood was distributed to the local families.

Quinn would have rebelled long ago but Chernovsky was a force to be reckoned with.

Quinn watched him rip branches four and five inches in diameter from the trunk of a cottonwood tree they had just dropped.

He wasn’t mad or anything. He just got impatient waiting for the guy with an ax to show up. He gripped the branches in his hands and ripped them off the trunk as easily as a teenage boy ripped the wings and drumsticks off a roast chicken.

Later Quinn learned that Chernovsky regularly deadlifted and squatted 600 pounds in the gym. Quinn did not have a basis for comparison, but that sounded like a lot of weight.

Chernovsky effortlessly ran with the defenders to better critique them. The son-of-a-bitch weighed 270 and loped along like a marathon runner.

Quinn hated Chernovsky, but listened to him just the same. It was an alpha male-alpha male thing.


Sunday, April 28, 2019

Seven Cows FAQ: The Nuclear explosion model

Some of the chatter I have been getting from folks who know my email address has been asking the question: "Is there some over-arching organization to how you (the writer) has the plague unfolding?"

In fact, there is.

The skeleton for the story-line is a plague that hits the rural population much like a nuclear detonation impacts the surrounding area.

The first wave of destruction is Electromagnetic radiation and moves at the speed of light. The people closest to the point source are vaporized. People farther out have the skin on the blast-side charred. People even farther out are blinded and the UV damage to DNA can cause cancer later in life.

In a plague examples of the speed-of-light damage would be catastrophic failure of the grid. Loss of pressure in natural gas lines. Government agencies running amok.

The second wave of destruction in a nuclear explosion is the blast wave. It travels at the speed of sound in air, roughly five seconds per mile.

The leading edge of the blast wave will be refugees. They are pushed by non-family groups of young men, sometimes called 'yutes'.

The dynamics of the yutes migration is driven by the strategic and tactical advantages of holding home territory and expanding that territory to increase access to resources.

The least capable "gangs" will be pushed out of their home territories and will be hot on the heels of the refugees. These gangs will be easy kills.

Gang size:
Consider a "less competent" gang that relies on charisma and personality for Command-and-Control. A group of five is easy to manage. A group of ten is hard but doable. With enough personality, that leader might have three lieutenants commanding sub-groups of five or six...but then the group size stalls at a maximum of twenty and is always at risk of splintering.

Later elements of the blast wave will be near-competent gangs that resisted being pushed out...but in the end were not able to fend off even more competent gangs.

In the final stages the most competent gangs will extend their territory until they hard-stop against another competent gang or they run into  internal command-and-control limitations.

After a period of stagnation they will consolidate into warlord domains. Instead of sixty "gangs" in a metropolitan area of 120k there will be three warlords.

Initially the consolidations will look like a joint-ventures but the more ruthless leader will eliminate or push out all of the people whose loyalty is suspect.  Think of Stalin consolidating power after the Russian revolution.

Every stage of the evolution of gangs results in hostiles spewing out of the urban area.

The blast wave part of the story has the best material for story-telling but it is where I am least competent in telling.

The last wave of destruction of a nuclear blast is the fall-out. Those are radioactive isotopes that are carried into the atmosphere and rain-down for thousands of miles down-wind. The risk time-horizon is hours-to-years due to the multitude of radioactive isotopes, their decay rates and their propensity for bio-assimilation.

In the Ebola example, the fall-out stages is when Ebola becomes endemic and some people living in the next neighborhood are contagious. The other isotopes are the pantheon of other diseases that will emerge with the loss of modern medicine: Yersinia pestis, Typhus, Typhoid, Cholera, Measles, Mumps, Rubella, scabies, lice, fleas and so on.

Weaknesses of the model
Life is rarely as neat and tidy as any simple model.

I anticipate some lively comments. I won't argue for-or-against because we really don't know what will happen.

I chose this model because it seems plausible and it carries a story well. The first part of the story, the radiation, happens so fast it cannot be defended against.

The blast wave is a vectored threat. It can be oriented against and defended against. Again, good story arcs within the larger story.

The fallout phase is less intense than the blast wave but relentlessly grinding and always probing for moments of weakness.


Phrenology report from central Ohio

A man fishing

I spent most of yesterday 200 miles south of home.

Spring moves quickly. They are about two weeks ahead of us in terms of phrenology. Their flowering trees are in full-throated roar. The redbud trees of central Ohio are exceptionally beautiful.

One thing I found notable about the area we were in was that the planners used native tree species. One street was lined with Tulip Trees on one side, Sweet Gum on the other while the next street over was lined with Tupelo.

Tree swallows are nesting two hundred miles south of Eaton Rapids

An apple tree growing in cattails.
The apple tree surrounded by cattails is an anamoly. Fruit trees are usually very sensitive to wet-feet. There are multitudes of microbes that will kill and rot the roots under those conditions.

Like all things in nature, individuals vary in their abilities. This particular specimen does not seem to be bothered by long periods of saturated soil.

I purloined a small twig from this tree. I am thinking of starting a collection of Malus specimens that demonstrate exceptional ability to resist wet feet. Who knows, maybe there will be some unidentified genes that will be of use in rootstock breeding programs.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Some pictures from around the place

Day lilies do well under Black Locusts. The can form a solid mat. They are considered edible with the unopened flower buds looking like green beans.

Clover seedlings in a cow pat

Apple seedlings in a cow pat

Birch seedlings are coming up. These are the River Birch. The Sweet Birch are smaller. I intend to plant a couple of birch trees every time I take out a Box Elder.

Garlic. I harvested the tiny bulblets from the scape and broadcast across the top of a tub with soil in it. This is a porcelain type garlic.
Flowers starting to push on Krymsk #1 rootstock. This is a plum rootstock from Russia. There were a couple of bees working the flowers even though the temp is 64 and 15mph winds.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Social Justice Warriors are the new Janissaries

They began as an elite corps of slave soldiers made up of kidnapped young Christian boys who were converted to Islam, and became famed for internal cohesion cemented by strict discipline and order. Unlike typical slaves, they were paid regular salaries. Forbidden to marry or engage in trade, their complete loyalty to the Sultan was expected. By the seventeenth century, due to a dramatic increase in the size of the Ottoman standing army, the corps' initially strict recruitment policy was relaxed. Civilians bought their way into it in order to benefit from the improved socioeconomic status it conferred upon them. Consequently, the corps gradually lost its military character...

As Janissaries became aware of their own importance they began to desire a better life. By the early 17th century Janissaries had such prestige and influence that they dominated the government. They could mutiny and dictate policy and hinder efforts to modernize the army structure. They could change Sultans as they wished through palace coups.

By 1826, the sultan was ready to move against the Janissary in favour of a more modern military. The sultan informed them, through a fatwa, that he was forming a new army, organised and trained along modern European lines. As predicted, they mutinied, advancing on the sultan's palace. In the ensuing fight, the Janissary barracks were set in flames by artillery fire resulting in 4,000 Janissary fatalities. The survivors were either exiled or executed, and their possessions were confiscated by the Sultan. This event is now called the Auspicious Incident. The last of the Janissaries were then put to death by decapitation in what was later called the Tower of Blood  -Wikipedia

The comment "Forbidden to marry..." plotting of palace coups" and the self-serving growth in numbers (8000 in 1530 to 50000 a hundred years later) made me think of the bloated legions of debt ridden, men-hating graduates from our universities.

The Tower of Blood
Human nature has not changed in the last 4000 years. One of the advantages of studying history, real history not the modern tripe staggering along beneath a metric shit-ton of propaganda, is that it will give you the answers to the questions you will encounter at the end of the term.

Donald, are you paying attention?

Posting will be light tomorrow

Mrs ERJ and I will be traveling to Columbus, Ohio to watch Belladonna compete in a contest of strength and speed, technique and control.

In other news, three swallows were seen on the electrical wire along a neighbor's driveway. I am not smart enough to know if they are tree swallows or barn swallows. My guess is barn swallows because I think the tree swallows are among the last of the birds to arrive here.

Swallows catch and eat flying insects. Mid-spring has a few flying bugs but nothing like later. Things must be pretty sparse down south if they are up here already.

The truck is red-tagged for a blown brake line.

Kubota approached me last night and I knew we were in for stress as he shifted his weight from foot-to-foot and started out in his BS-and-Bluster voice.

That voice is an amped up version of a man-about-town confiding to another man-about-town.

"Dad, I need the truck tomorrow. I promised my girl-friend I was taking her to lunch." Kubota said.

"No can do. The truck is not safe to drive. You will have to find another way." I said.

The conversation went downhill from there.

Seven Skinny Cows: Firearms training

The fire-teams were selected in the simplest possible way.

Milo snow-shoed a track around one of the sections to pack the snow.

Then groups of recruits were released in small groups to run the four miles.

The six fastest times were the six team leads...for now.

Then Chernovsky dealt the team-members from the bottom. The fastest leader got the slowest runner of the thirty. Buddy was exempt.

Then the second fastest leader to the second slowest...and so on.

Quinn was the second fastest runner around the block. He grumbled that it made more sense to group all the fast runners together.

Chernovsky interrupted the grumbling. “Each team can trade ONE member, and one member only with another team.”

One of the leaders, who was a rabbit in personallity as well as speed, volunteered to swap himself out with a team-member on another team who was a natural leader and almost as fast.

Chernovsky said, “This is your team. Own it. It moves no faster than the slowest person. If you don’t like that, figure out a way to fix it.”

Quinn looked at Donnie, his slowest guy. Donnie’s dad was one of the drunks who moved to town. Quinn had played basketball with him and Quinn did not remember Donnie as being a particularly slow runner.

“How come you let Petie beat you? I know you are faster than he is.” Quinn asked.

Donnie lifted up his right foot. “Its my damned boots.”

Donnie was wearing an ancient pair of “Tims”, a common brand of work boot. Donnie’s boots were worn smooth on the bottom.

“What size do you wear?” Quinn asked.

“Size eleven-and-a-half.” Donnie said.

“Lemme ask around. I think we can do better for you.” Quinn said. Next chance he got he was going to ask Bill Spackle to shake the bushes and see if anybody had some decent footwear in size eleven-and-a-half or 12.

In Quinn’s estimation, things were looking up.

Firearm training
Firearm training was an exercise in humility for Chernovsky.

He had enough maturity to not open his mouth when he didn’t know the answer. That was the only thing that saved him.

Most of the kids, as he thought of them, could run circles around him with regard to marksmanship.

Larry Tomanica had been teaching neighbor kids to shoot ever since he mustered out of the Marines thirty-five years ago. There was not a lot of un-teaching that had to happen.

Quinn pushed back against the rifles they were issued. Like most people, he did not hold the .22LR in high regard.

Larry Tomanica changed the subject.

“Nice buck you got two years ago.” Larry said. “Ten point, wasn’t it?”

Quinn like talking about his big buck. “Yeah, I never had it officially scored but I taped it out as 150 class buck.” Quinn said, modestly.

“Tell us again, what did you shoot it with? I am a little fuzzy on the details.” Tomanica said. In fact, Uncle Larry remembered every detail with crystalline clarity.

“I shot it with my Hoyt compound bow.” Quinn said. “It is an over-draw.” he said by way of explanation.

“How far was the shot?” Tomanica asked.

“Twenty-seven yards.” Quinn said. “I lasered it afterward.”

“How far would you be comfortable shooting a deer with your bow?” Tomanica asked.

“Fifty yards. But it is dumb to take the long shot when you can be patient and take the shorter one.” Quinn said.

This was all Bowhunting 101 to Quinn.

“Do you think deer are dumber in the woods than city people?” Tomanica asked.

Quinn snorted. “Hell no!”

“So you are telling me that you shot a big buck at twenty-five yards and it never knew you were there but you don’t think a rifle that can shoot two-hundred yards, eight times farther than twenty-five yards you shot a buck at, can kill zombies?” Tomanica asked.

“Bullshit.” Quinn said.

The tight training timeline made the instillation of military discipline a touch-and-go thing at this point.

“.22LRs are squirrel guns. They aren’t any good past seventy yards.” Quinn scoffed.

“Let’s see.” Tomanica said. He had anticipated push-back and was glad to get it out of the way.

Tomanica had a pile of DeNile delivery boxes in his garage. He said to Quinn “Put them out there.” gesturing with his arm to indicate the weed field behind his house.

“Pick out six of them and put them anywhere between ten and two-hundred paces, then come back here.” Tomanica said.

It was clear that Tomanica intended to shoot them so Quinn took the precaution of inspecting the six boxes to ensure they didn’t already have bullet holes in them. A few did but the holes had been patched with masking tape.

The boxes were standard 12” by 6” by 24” boxes. There were already a couple of boxes out on "the range." Quinn faced the boxes so the target was 12” wide by 24” tall facing the shooter so they matched the boxes that were already up. He had to settle them four inches in the snow so they wouldn’t tip over in the wind.

He put one at fifty paces, one at one hundred, one at one-twenty, one at one-fifty and the last two at two-hundred paces and then came back to the garage where Tomanica was holding his class.

Tomanica activated the range with the standard, “Ready on the right….”

He loaded a magazine into this .22LR, cycled the bold and then threaded his left arm through the sling, raised it to the off-hand position and fired almost as fast as he could pull the trigger.

“Let’s all walk out there and look.” was all Tomanica said. He picked up the roll of masking tape and put it in his pocket.

All of the shot were solid hits. Tomanica said, “You won't shooting squirrels, so stop thinking of it as a squirrel gun.”

“These are zombie-killing rifles. Everything about this weapon is tuned in to make it a zombie-killing machine.”

That is when Tomanica started walking them through the science of ballistics, the use of the sling and getting the most out of field expedient supports. He strongly advised that they carry a plastic grocery bag with them. It can be filled with leaves or the half-rotted duff that collects between rocks and then used as a "sand bag" in the field. Plastic bags weigh almost nothing and have a thousand other uses.

He focused very heavily on basic field positions.

After the recruits left, Tomanica had a heart-to-heart talk with Chernovsky. “Basically, you are screwed by your Rules-of-Engagement. Paul Seraph in Eaton Rapids is scared you will go ‘cowboy’ on him. He insisted that your primary weapons be .22LR because your primary mission is 'observing'.” Tomanica said.

“He was also worried about stray rounds hitting civilians. He doesn’t want to have to explain giving a bunch of teenaged boys high-powered rifles after things get back to normal.” Tomanica said. “You can be sure a bunch of Monday-morning quarterbacks will be all over anything that goes haywire.”

Chernovsky was shaking his head. He was a novice at this Rules-of-Engagement bullshit. In football the rules were clear and they did not change. Don’t clip. No late hits on the QB. Kill the guy with the ball. Disrupt play when you cannot kill the ball carrier.

“Another thing I don’t get” Chernovsky said “is why so many team-leaders. I thought three squads, three leaders.”

Chernovsky thought of team-leaders as management, that is, non-productive workers.

Tomanica gave Chernovsky’s comment a few seconds thought before answering.

“Suppose you send a squad of ten on a mission.” Tomanica said.

Chernovsky nodded his head. That was exactly how he planned to run things.

“The squad encounters the hostiles.” Tomanica continued.

“What will work better, if they split up and one team creates a distraction while the other team hits their blind-side...or to have the one team take on the hostiles from a single direction?” Tomanica asked.

“Obviously splitting them up and hitting them from the blind-side.” Chernovsky answered. That was a no-brainer in his book.

“How does the squad manage itself if it doesn’t have two fire-team leaders?” Tomanica asked. “Are you going to do it by radio? In that case, why have any team-leaders at all?”

Then Tomanica drove the wooden stake into the heart. “Seraph agreed to let fire-team leaders carry AR-15s.”

“Rick Salazar made the case that the team-leader needed to be able to project over the entire team’s footprint, that the leader needed a weapon with a longer reach so he could support every person on his team.” Tomanica said.

“Under your Rules-of-Engagement the only way you will get a reasonable number of AR-15s is if you run a little bit rich for fire-team leaders.” Tomanica said.

Chernovsky grumbled but grudgingly agreed that ten man squads composed of two, five-man teams was the only way to fly.


Thursday, April 25, 2019

Spring marches onward

This is a mom-and-dad day.

Mrs ERJ was not impressed with the solitary bees hatching out of the wood pile.

The face shown in the photos is warmed by the western sun. Mrs ERJ was trying to unload groceries and the bees decided she smelled nice. I don't think they sting but Mrs ERJ found them annoying.

The apricots are just starting to bloom. They will be bee magnets for a while, just like the pussy willows were before them.

I picked up some shallow fruit boxes at the local grocery store and filled them with potting soil. I started Mrs ERJ's romaine and leaf lettuce. I also started the cut-and-come again broccoli.  I am also trying a fragrant, weedy, medicinal plant called Sweet Annie.

The seeds were tiny. Five-hundred seeds were like a pinch of dust. My success rate with seeds is proportional to size. I hold little hope that I will get these to grow, although the fact that they are a "weed" gives me hope.

Seven Skinny Cows: Recruiting

Chernovsky’s first morning of recruiting was turning into an exercise in frustration.

He showed up at Luke’s store in Pray Church expecting to have a line of young men wanting to join the defense force.

Two hours after sunrise a fifteen year old boy showed up.

Chernovsky regretfully told him he was under-age and to not even fill out an application.

The second applicant showed up about an hour later. Chernovsky estimated him to be seventeen years old. The youth had spaghetti-thin arms, sallow complexion and a multitude of piercings and tats.

Scanning through the youth’s application, which was barely legible, Chernovsky was surprised to see he was twenty-four. He also noticed the the youth had lived in Lansing up until four months ago.

“Why did you move out here?” Chernovsky asked.

“Dude! I just moved in with my girl-friend.” the young man said. “Its not like I wanted to move out here but my mom kicked me out.”

“Twenty-four and still living with your mom? What's the story there?” Chernovsky asked.

“Dude! I am going to school. I gotta double-major.” the young man said.

That was something Chernovsky could relate to. He figured that between his Bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science and working-out/practice twenty hours a week, year round for football he was pulling the equivalent of a double major.

“What are you majoring in?” Chernovsky asked.

“Mixology and Cannabis Blending.” the young man said, happy to have found a common ground with Chernovsky.

“Why do you want to join the defense force?” Chernovsky asked.

“Dude! Its like my girl friend is my baby-mama and she expects me to do stuff. I mean, she had to take me in because I am her baby-daddy but, shit, she keeps telling me to do stuff.” the young man said.

“Like….?” Chernovsky asked

“You know, like house work or bring home money or something.” the young man said. “I left my job back in Lansing and it is too far to walk every day.”

Chernovsky felt some relief. The guy had a job. He couldn’t be THAT bad. At least he had some skills.

“What was your job?” Chernovsky asked.

“Dude! I am a drummer in a band. Blue Clam Calculus. I am sure you have heard of us.” the young man confided. "We played two Saturdays a month at the Slam-Dance club."

“So let me get this straight. You want to join the defense force because you are tired of your baby-mama, who you didn't marry and because you think she is too demanding?” Chernovsky summarized.

“Yeah man, that's it exactly.” the young man said.

Chernovsky slid the application in a drawer. “I am afraid I cannot use you.”

“Dude! Why? I was counting on it. I already told Charlene I was moving out.” the young man said. “Don’t worry about that baby. It ain’t like I owe it anything.”

Chernovsky correctly interpreted that to mean that Charlene, the baby-mama had already kicked the slacker out.

“Let’s just say that I don’t have absolute confidence that you will be there when things get tough.” Chernovsky said.

A couple more hours went by. Pastor James popped in to see how it was going. Then, because James’s sermon was done for the weekend he hung around to watch.

Shortly after Pastor James showed up, two young men walked into Luke’s store.

The one who moved like an athlete filled out both applications. Then they both sat in chairs on the other side of the table.

“I want to interview you alone.” Chernovsky said. To him it was a perfectly reasonable request.

“We come as a two-fer, Mr Chernovsky, two-fer-the-price-of-one.” the athletic one said. “My name is Quinn Spackle and this is my cousin Buddy.”

“OK, Mr Spackle. Why should I let you join the defense force?” Chernovsky asked.

The athlete was at a loss to explain why he would be an asset. Heck, everybody knew him. He thought Mr Chernovsky would just KNOW why he was the man for the job.

“Well, I guess because I am a bow hunter. And I hunt sheds and mushrooms. I’m not much for schooling but anything outside, I am your man.” Quinn said.

“And how about you?” Chernovsky asked the other young man.

“I want to be with Quinn.” the man said, haltingly.

Chernovsky scanned the applications. The handwriting was painfully neat.

“I’ll get back to you.” Chernovsky said as he put the applications into the drawer.

After they left, Chernovsky said, “Hey, Pastor James, what is the story there?”

“Quinn and Buddy Spackle?” Pastor James said.

“Yup.” Chernovsky said.

“You took them, right?” Pastor James said.

“No. Quinn looked OK but Buddy's lights are on and nobody is home.” Chernovsky said.

Pastor Sam sat down across from Chernovsky.

“Here is the story.” Pastor James said.

“When Quinn was sixteen and Buddy was fifteen they were staying with some of their cousins while their parents went to a Detroit Tigers game.”

“The boys went to a bonfire. The older guys were doing some drinking and then offered to take Quinn ‘hood-surfing’.” Pastor James said. “You know what that is, right?”

“Where somebody stands on the hood of a car while it drives down the road.” Chernovsky guessed.

“In this case it was a truck that had been lifted.” Pastor James said.

“The thing is that Buddy wanted to go real bad so Quinn let him go first. Things happened. Buddy’s head hit the pavement. The cousins agreed to not tell the parents and hoped nobody would notice.” Pastor James said.

Chernovsky knew a little bit about concussions. “How bad?”

“Buddy will always be a ten-year-old.” Pastor James said. “That is why Quinn feels so responsible toward him. Quinn figures it should have been him and he would have landed on his feet, Quinn being athletic and all.”

“Well, then I definitely can’t use Buddy.” Chernovsky said, dismissively.

“You don’t know people or small towns very well, do you.” Pastor James said.

“You know Larry Tomanica, the guy Salazar lined up to train your recruits how to shoot ‘The Marine Corp way’?” Pastor James said. “Quinn calls him ‘Uncle Larry.’”

“Do you know what a bow hunter is? He is a guy who sits out in rain and snow for four, six, even ten hours at a crack. Not moving. Not scratching his face. Barely blinking….and they do it for FUN. They brag when they are so still that a deer pees on them.”

“Everybody around here looks up to Quinn, especially the ones who are a little bit younger than he is. You take Quinn and you will have five more just like him the next morning.” Pastor James said.

Pastor James was wrong. It was fifteen young men. Buddy received a special assignment. He became Chernovsky’s Executive Assistant.

With a core of Quinn and his near clones, Chernovsky didn’t have any problems filling out the rest of the roster. He shut down recruiting when he had thirty-two, counting him and Buddy.


Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Morality of dwarf tossing

A recent commentor invited me to discuss the morality of dwarf tossing.

Let's start by discussing pole vaulting. The pole vaulter builds up kinetic energy, plants the pole and his forward momentum deflects the pole which is little more than a spring.

Leaping upward, the potential energy that is stored in the pole is converted into kinetic energy (the upward speed of the vaulter) and a different kind of potential energy (the height of the vaulter's center of gravity above the floor).

After releasing the pole and, hopefully, clearing the bar, the vaulter falls to the padding below.

The short video shown above captures Mondo Duplantis from team Geaux Tigers clearing a 19' bar and then falling to the padding below.

Is that morally suspect?

Most people will answer "no" because the vaulter is an adult and he is consenting to the activity. Also, due precautions are observed regarding safe management of his energy before, during and after the event. So pole vaulting is morally "OK" even though the energies involved are five times the energies involved in dwarf tossing.

As long as those conditions are met for dwarf tossing, why would there be any objection?

Would you discriminate against jockeys (people who ride horses professionally) because they are small? Would you deny them a chance to put money in their pockets for a time-honored activity that is mutually consensual, does not spread communicable diseases?

I venture that riding horses is significantly more dangerous than getting tossed by a college coed.

ERJ Travel Tip

Traveling can be arduous when you find yourself seated on a plane with somebody who wants to talk.

Most people can take a hint. Always have a book you can pull out and start reading. You will be surprised at how quickly bores stop giving you details about their lives and family.

Seven Skinny Cows: The Blast of War Summons, Dishonour not your mothers

Hello all:

Peppermint Candy Mandy broadcasting on 104.3, your source of information in Kates Store, Pray Church and elsewhere.

The big news today is that Hunter Chernovsky is looking for a few good men to move our first line of defense farther to the north. Folks, we are taking the battle to the enemy.

Mr Chernovsky is looking for men from sixteen-to-thirty years of age. He is looking for a four month commitment starting now. If you are that man, or if you know that man, forward those names to Kate, Rick in Kates Store, Pastor James or Luke Salazar in Pray Church or Paul Seraph if you live in the area immediately north of Eaton Rapids.

A few of you said you liked yesterday’s reading, so that is how I will close this broadcast

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English dead.
In peace there's nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;

Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favour'd rage;
Then lend the eye a terrible aspect...

Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide,
Hold hard the breath and bend up every spirit
To his full height. On, on, you noblest English.
Whose blood is fet from fathers of war-proof!
Fathers that, like so many Alexanders,
Have in these parts from morn till even fought
And sheathed their swords for lack of argument:
Dishonour not your mothers; now attest
That those whom you call'd fathers did beget you.
Be copy now to men of grosser blood,
And teach them how to war. And you, good yeoman,
Whose limbs were made in England, show us here
The mettle of your pasture; let us swear
That you are worth your breeding; which I doubt not;
For there is none of you so mean and base,
That hath not noble lustre in your eyes.
I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game's afoot:
Follow your spirit, and upon this charge
Cry 'God for Harry, England, and Saint George!'

From Ecclesiastes Chapter 3, King James Version
To every thing there is a season, 

 and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die;
  a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

A time to kill, and a time to heal;
  a time to break down, and a time to build up;

A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
  a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; 

  a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

A time to get, and a time to lose; 

 a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

A time to rend, and a time to sew; 

 a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

A time to love, and a time to hate;

 a time of war, and a time of peace.

What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboureth?

I have seen the travail, which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised in it.

God hath made every thing beautiful in His time:

And moreover I saw under the sun the place of judgment, that wickedness was there; and the place of righteousness, that iniquity was there.

I said in mine heart, God shall judge the righteous and the wicked: for there is a time there for every purpose and for every work.


A candle placed within a reflector made from a beverage can is visible from five miles when placed on the shores of a wilderness lake. That same candle is not visible from more than fifty feet when placed in a parking lot illuminated with sodium vapor lamps.

The difference is contrast.

If you place a package of cigarettes on the roof of a car, satellite imagery can discern the brand of cigarettes if anybody cares enough to look.

Twenty Watts of power at 104.3 megahertz was plenty of power to punch up to those same satellites.

The collapse of commercial media and the death of the power grid created the contrast.

The computer's algorithms had already identified 104.3 as a frequency of interest.

The format of the last show, the same two minute segment repeated four times at set intervals, twigged more filters.

Voice-to-text, then keywords finally floated it up to actual human ears.

The young man who listened to the segment was instantly homesick. It had been too long since he heard a 'normal' girl talk. To him, a normal girl was one who did not out-rank him.

He parsed the station history and saw that the transmission site was different than yesterday's. From the map overlay, he saw that today's site was from a cemetery two miles east of the tall white pine.

Out of curiosity, the young man listened to the previous broadcast as well.

Then he bumped it upstairs. The food-chain upstairs would be interested in armies being raised in the continental United States. The term 'upstairs' was an aping of western idiom rather than literal fact. There were very few stairs in Zhenjiang.


A note to the readers: The narrator, Peppermint Candy Mandy, works in a coffee shop a few blocks from where my parents live.

I recently learned that an elderly customer who is mentally handicapped frequents this shop. He always asks, "Do I have enough for some apple juice?" as he hold a single nickel between his calloused thumb and finger.

Peppermint Candy looks at the money and says, "Why, yes you do." and sells him an apple juice for five cents. After he leaves, Peppermint Candy adds $2.07 to the till so it will reconcile at the end of the shift.

PC does not work at the shop every day. Her customer confronted her. "Why does apple juice cost more when you are not here?" He was confused.

PC said, "They only call me in when there is a sale on apple juice."

Everybody was happy.

That is PC I can live with.


Tuesday, April 23, 2019

The end of an era

Mrs ERJ and I started attending our children's sporting events in 1996. We started with "T ball" and soccer games. Since then we have always had a child involved in sports of some kind, even if it was just dwarf tossing.

Belladonna will be graduating from college soon. Her final "athletic" event will be a dwarf tossing event near Corpus Christi, Texas at the end of May.

Mrs ERJ put her foot down. We are going. It will be the last sporting event we will attend as parents. She made the hotel and plane reservations. We will be there a couple of extra days so we can transition toward empty-nesters.

I beg my readers, are there any notable Do-Not-Miss attractions in the Corpus Christi area at the end of May? The attractions can be reptilian, cactilian or BBQuilian in nature.

PS: One of my extended family informed me that it is not healthy to argue with Texans. They will shoot you. Like, that would not happen in Detroit?

Free tuition is not free

(Michigan's Governor) is asking the GOP-led Legislature to swiftly authorize tuition-free community college or technical training for nontraditional students — those 25 and older without an associate's or bachelor's degree.  Source

"Free" tuition is a cornerstone issue for progressives. What is there not to like?

I can think of a few things.

Any time you have carve-outs you create winners and losers.

Why would anybody enter into a community college or go into technical training at age 23 or 24? If they wait just a little while they can go for free!

Two things will happen because of that. Some will put their lives on hold and become life-time slackers. Others will tread water for one, two or more years and enter college only to learn that they are not college material.

Time value of money suggests that this will be extremely expensive for them. They pissed away years of their lives.

Another group of people who will be gouged are those who matriculated with worthless four year degrees. Shouldn't they have a shot at lucrative technical degrees? It is not as if $40k in student loans and a BA in Dance Science gave them anything salable.

Wouldn't it be better to target tech ed programs (where the jobs are). Invest the money in facilities and to lower lab fees (Kubota paid over $200 in lab fees for a welding class due to the materials consumed) so more people can afford to go regardless of whether they are "left behinds" or not?

As for "free tuition" community college, do we really need more students with degrees in psychology? It is a safe bet that 9% of the students tapping "free tuition" will be in psychology and social sciences programs.

And it is not "free", at least not to the tax payers. It is expensive. And if students don't care enough to put some of their own skin in the game then I don't see why I should have to pay

Raising taxes, spending more money for feel-good programs that hurt the recipients. No wonder progressives love "free" tuition.

Seven Skinny Cows: Thy rod and thy staff comfort me

Rick was sitting near the woodstove picking on a guitar.

He had always intended to pick up the skill but never had time. Now, after the sun set, there was nothing but time.

He was not working very hard at it.

Kate had been distant, cold even, after the store had been burned down. She grieved the loss. Rick didn’t know how to deal with that.

Rick, for his part, had a raging need for intimacy with Kate.

A year earlier, that need for intimacy had been flagging. He attributed it to the inevitable effects of aging. That diminishing of libido had taken an abrupt reversal when Milo started working with Rick on physical conditioning. Rick felt like he was twenty-five again.

That made Kate’s withdrawl particularly vexing.

One of the advantages of being sixty is that many learned patience.

Rick continued to pick at the guitar, slowly adding notes to the string he was working on.

“Wanna talk about it?” Rick asked.

“ ‘bout what?” Kate said.

“What do you miss the most?” Rick asked.

“Was it meeting the people?” Rick asked.

Kate could talk about that. “Nope. I still get to see them.”

Rick picked for a couple of more minutes then he tried again.

“Do you miss the old barn?” Rick asked.

“It does feel like a lost tooth, doesn’t it?” Kate said. “I remember losing my teeth when I was five. I couldn’t help but pushing and pulling at that tooth with my tongue. Then, after it was gone it just felt so strange. I kept running my tongue over that spot.”

“But no, it is not the barn that I miss the most.” Kate said.

Rick kept picking on the guitar. It was getting complicated and he had to slow down to get it right.

“What makes me mad” Rick said “is the shear waste of all they destroyed. The fire destroyed so much. They did it just to be mean.”

“Hmm.” Kate made a non-committal sound.

Rick shifted to another chunk of melody. He did not know if this was the best way to learn to play but it did fill up the time.

After a minute Kate spoke up. “The bullies think they won.”

“That is what bothers me most. That, and there are hundreds of families huddled in their houses not knowing what is going on. At least I have the store and I get to hear what is happening.” Kate said.

“The radio station?” Rick asked. That is not something he would have guessed, that Kate grieved the loss of the radio station more than anything else.

Kate nodded her affirmative.

“We have the hardware. We can restart it later.” Rick said.

“People need the information now.” Kate said.

"An entire family east of M-99 committed suicide. Times are hard. Times are much harder when you think you are totally alone.” Kate said.

Rick thought that sounded just like Kate. Kate was an empath. She felt other people’s pain. That is why she was hurting.

“The raid could have just been an extinction burst. We could start transmitting again and everything might be fine.” Rick ventured.

“And it might not have been an extinction burst.” Kate said. “I would be putting us all in danger.”

Yup, Kate had a dilemma on her hands.

The next day, Rick sought out Dmitri.

“How hard would it be to restart the radio station?” Rick asked.

“Not hard. I have all the parts.” Dmitri said.

“What if we wanted to do it clandestinely?” Rick asked. “Is there a way to do it that won’t point right back to us?”

Dmitri said, “I wondered when you would ask.”

“FM is easy. AM, almost impossible.” Dmitri said.

“OK, what would it take for the FM station?” Rick asked.

“You just need a battery and a high place to mount the antenna. I can put the transmitter and amplifier on a board.” Dmitri said. “You will want to shift around and transmit from different places each show.

“You want to pre-record the show...maybe put it on a smart phone and then just play it through the earphone jack.” Dmitri said.

Well, that made sense. Sometimes it got windy out there. Wind and mics don’t get along.

“Anything else?” Rick asked. So far this looked like it was going to be a snap.

“You need a different announcer.” Dmitri said. “As soon as they hear Mr Ed they will know it is you and then it will be game over.”

Oh, yeah. Rick had not thought of that. Who could he find that had the time and skill set to host the radio show…


“Good evening everybody!” the cheerful, well-modulated alto said with every phoneme roundly and precisely formed.

“I am Peppermint Candy Mandy recording on the banks of Peppermint Creek and transmitting at 104.3 on the FM dial.”

"This is my first broadcast and I don’t have much material prepared so I am going to steal from the best."

Among the books the Heilers left behind were a copy of the Bible and a 1937 reprinting of book of poetry compiled by James Mudge in 1907.

Peppermint Candy Mandy had been bored off her rocker in quarantine. She jumped at the chance to record a ‘dramatic reading’ on Uncle Rick’s phone. He passed a wireless mic to her when he brought the food and he stood with his phone on the other side of the window as she recorded.

Rick had batteries. Milo had no problem pitching a weight with 200 feet of 550 cord tied to it way up in a white pine growing two miles away

Dmitri expressed concern about National Guard 155mm cannon that can lob rounds fifteen miles based on EM emissions. Based on Dmitri's concerns, Milo decamped to an observation point a quarter mile distant before starting the timer. He gave himself fifteen minutes to evacuate.

Milo also remembered Dmitri telling him that antenna towers that conduct electricity are a problem. He knew that living trees conduct electricity so he took the precaution of turning up the gain-knob on the amplifier one more increment, plus a scootch

Unbeknownst to Milo, the dial was log-scale. That is, each major hash mark increased the gain by a factor of ten. Instead of transmitting with one Watt of power, Milo had set the amplifier to transmit twenty Watts.

Since it was advisable to wait for a response, Milo programmed his smart phone to repeat the two minute-thirty second transmission four times on fifteen minute intervals.

Back at Casa Salazar...
Rick was picking at his guitar that evening when the timer on his phone went off.

He casually strolled over to the radio and turned it on before walking back to his chair.

Kate was mystified.

Then she heard Mandy's voice coming through the radio speaker.

Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
“Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns!” he said.
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred….

After The Charge of the Light Brigade Peppermint Candy Mandy recited The Twenty-third Psalm. She added nothing. She took away nothing. She read it the way the authors intended it be recited.

...The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me…

The teller of the Seven Cows story does not share intimate details. However, I am allowed to share that after the transmission ended, Kate turned off the lights, extended her hands to Rick as he sat in the kitchen chair with the guitar, forgotten, on his lap.

She pulled him up, kissed him and led him to the bedroom. That is where the telling of this episode must end.


Monday, April 22, 2019


Many observers noted that one of the major factors resulting in people of European ancestry being able to wrestle the Western Hemisphere from the native peoples was that Europeans grasped the concept of a "campaign" while the native peoples were focused on the "battle".

Kubota helped me in Salamander's orchard today. Mrs ERJ does not want me up on a ladder using a chainsaw unless there is somebody "spotting" me. If things go in-the-ditch she wants somebody there to staunch the bleeding and to call 9-1-1. If things go REALLY in the ditch she wants them there to call the Life Insurance company.

The thing that I needed to explain to Kubota was that the tasks that seemed random and not-related were in fact part of a larger campaign.

That is the thing about campaigns. They can absorb lessons-learned and apply them to current and future efforts.

Gardeners, orchardist, musicians and computer programmers are inherently attuned to 'campaigns'.

Time-clock punchers, can-kickers, people who focus on the primacy of feelings and legalists are not.

The disciples of Saul Alinsky are kicking our backside. Alinsky's rules are rules to run a campaign.

Allowing Alinsky to write the rules is to be trapped into the 'battle' mentality. We might learn, as individuals, to dance the Politically Correct dance but we will lose the campaign.

Washington State may be the first state to recognize composting of human corpses

Washington state lawmakers on Friday passed a bill that would allow residents to take part in “natural organic reduction” of human remains, citing in part research that said careful composted human remains could be safe for use in a household garden, reports said.

Just a handy hint for those who have daughters about to embark upon dating, you will need equal weights of damp sawdust and the deceased whom you wish to compost (henceforth known as 'Chip') to maintain the ideal 25:1-to-30:1 carbon:nitrogen ratio.

Running Chip and the sawdust through the wood chipper together three times results in a well blended starter.

Coarse sawdust is less likely to pack down and will stay aerobic longer.

There is no need to compensate for the C:N ratio even if Chip was wearing biodegradable fabrics at the time of chipping.

I hope this blog post will be useful to you in your future endeavors.

Working in the orchard

2018-2019 counts as a test winter for us. We had one night when it dropped to -18F and another about a week later when it dropped to -16F. This is a pear named Shenandoah.  Shenandoah is marginally hardy for these kinds of lows, at least on P. betufolia rootstock on my soil and fertilizer program.

This pear tree is in Salamander's orchard. The ladder is about 15' tall for reference.

I topped out the tree because it will shade one row of the new trees we are putting in. It will be easier to harvest the fruit now that it is shorter. This tree has a few different cultivars on it. Once I have them labeled I will leave Sheldon and take out everything else.
Re-using wire cages that protected grapes last year.

Those wire ends are pokey.

Seven Skinny Cows: The Phoenix arises from the ashes

Bill Spackle walked up to Rick and Kate as they were raking through the ashes.

Bill was not entirely comfortable around women. He had come of age in rural Michigan in the mid 1960s and standards had changed. Behaviors that used to be acceptable, even funny back then were now almost criminalize.

Bill farmed onions, carrots and corn on muck ground before he retired and sold the business to a multi-state conglomerate.

They bought Bill’s land. They bought Bill’s customer list. They did not buy his tractors or his barn.

“Hi Bill.” Kate said. “What’s up?” she asked wearily.

“I ain’t using my barn, much.” Bill gruffly announced.

“It would be OK if you used it until you were back on your feet.” Bill said.

“That is very generous of you, Bill.” Kate said.

It was, in fact, very generous. Bill’s barn was in the exact center of the neighborhood and it was a beautiful barn with a concrete floor, running water and many doors.

“I am not sure I want to re-open the store.” Kate said. “This happening...” she said, looking around...” has been a kick in the gut.”

“And I am not sure I can, in good conscience, put your property at risk.” Kate said.

“I think you earned the right to lick your wounds and recover.” Bill said. “My wife has been getting in touch with nephews and grand-kids. They will be over tomorrow. Give them a list and they will start moving stuff.”

“Bill, I don’t feel heard.” Kate said. “I. Can’t. Do. This.”

“Ma-am. With all due respect, this is bigger than you. Do what you gotta do. But this neighborhood NEEDS a store and you don’t wanna piss off my wife.” Bill said.

A hundred years from now anthropologists will sort through what defined “family” in the late 2000-teens and twenties. In some places family is defined solely by the maternal-offspring bond. In other places “family” is defined with much more generous and expansive rules.

In Bill’s “family”, half-siblings and half-siblings of half-siblings were considered brothers and sisters. Cousins ran to the multiple hundreds.

When Bill’s wife stepped up and said, “Bill, let Rick and Kate use the barn for a while.” Kate instantly had an army and intelligence organization that spanned three counties and numbered over four hundred after Bill’s line and his wife’s line were combined.

Kate’s decentralized style came to her rescue. While others might have insisted on control of inventory, Kate was perfectly happy to let the owner’s warehouse their products and to let the price float based on conditions. She valued happily making their products available over squeezing the the very lowest price out of suppliers. If demand went up, Kate thought it only proper that she pay more.

The warrant Dan Nessel handed Kate could have not been more wrong. Kate did not hoard goods. Very much the opposite, her store pulled goods into active trading and helped them find people who needed them most. Nessel’s warrant claimed she was a price gouger. Again, Kate priced goods to balance supply and demand. As shown by the limestone, letting prices float motived risk-seeking suppliers to find new supplies.

Nessel may have burned the the physical facade of Kate’s store but his actions had the effect of energizing the core idea of trading what you had a surplus of to others so you could get more of what you had in short supply.

Much to Kate’s surprise, the consignment tables were the first space to fill up. Kate did not have a way to compensate the owners for the loss of the merchandise that had been on the tables when Dan Nessel burned the store. That mattered little to most of the people who filled the tables. Kate had always treated them well and there was no other outlet for the goods cluttering their attics, garages and barns.

Winter gripped Michigan. People would die without access to warm clothes, clothes that sellers had grown out of or whose kids had grown up and moved away.

Luke sent half of his merchandise back. He also sent old chainsaws, splitting wedges, axes, windows and boxes of copy paper. He had been taking them in as trade.

Janella and Ms Sheridan signed on for 24 hours a week. Nyssa signed on for 16 hours. Various other folks in the neighborhood signed up for four-to-twenty hours.

Kate did need a rest. She had run the good race. She had finished the fight. Now it was time for others to carry her while she healed.