Wednesday, September 18, 2019

"rural, white American" must be code...but for what?

Paul Krugman, the perpetually wrong economist in New York, identifies Senator Ted Cruz as the arch-type "rural, white American" who can "do a lot of damage" to the inevitable future.

Ted Cruz who was not born in the United States.

Ted Cruz who grew up in the Houston metropolitan area (Population 6.5 million documented residents)

Ted Cruz who graduated from Princeton and Harvard.

Ted Cruz, first Hispanic from Texas to serve in the Senate

Ted Cruz who represents the great State of Texas, home to more illegal aliens than any state other than California.

That Ted Cruz?

So by comparison, who does Krugman consider an informed, urban sophisticate? A former bartender, perhaps.

The Shrewd King 9.3: Cutting hay days four, five, six and seven

Daylight in Blastic’s Demesne lasted for sixteen hours a day during the last two weeks of June. It was possible to cheat another half-hour on each end if the needs were great enough and work seventeen hours a day.

Wesley counted on the fact that the hay cutting was proceeding apace and the fact that his father had hit the bourbon particularly hard the night before and loafed a wee bit on the morning of the forth day. He arrived at the field fifteen minutes before sunrise. Denny, his dad, was already there. It did not go well for Wesley.

Denny demanded to know why there was a fifty-yard, zigzag border on the west side of the field that had not been cut. Wesley interpreted that as an actual request for information and started to tell Denny. The “back-talk” earned Wesley a clout to the side of the head.

“I ain’t asking you. I am telling you. Cut the damned grass.” Denny said.

Ear smarting from the blow, Wesley dutifully started up the tractor and lined up along the extreme west edge of the field, running the tractor’s tire on the cusp of the river bank.

Predictably, twenty yards into the cut, Wesley dropped the left, front tire into a gully that crumbled beneath the weight of the tractor. He was able to haul it out by putting the tractor into reverse and backing it out on the slightly less steep path created when the bank crumbled.

He backed up and carefully eased away from the river to get around the gully. If his dad wanted him to cut every damned blade of grass, well by golly, Wesley was going to accommodate him.

Wesley ran in dead-low gear and went half as fast as before. It did not matter to him that there were still fifty uncut acres that he could be dropping. His dad said cut beside the river...then Wesley was going to cut beside the river.

A couple of hours after sunrise, Wesley hit a spring where water bubbled up from a gravel seam and liquified the peaty soil. The soil exhibited thixotropic properties. Water saturated peat, when not excessively stressed, acts like a solid. When agitated, thixotropic materials change from semi-solid butter to warm gravy.

The first hint Wesley had that he was in trouble was when the front wheels punched through the netting of roots that bound the soupy soil together. The tractor stopped RIGHT NOW.

Putting the tractor into reverse, Wesley tried to ease his way back out of the hole. The reversal of shear forces from wheels turning forward to wheels turning rearward were his undoing. The rear of the tractor dropped into the hole as if somebody had kicked the jack-stands out from beneath it and it sank to the rear axle.

Extricating a tractor from a mud hole is not rocket science. You turn off the tractor. Go to the nearest woodlot and cut a pole that is four feet longer than the distance between your rear wheels. As close to the ground as you can get, you lash or use logging chain to span the rear wheels with two feet, give or take, projecting past the wheels. Then you put it into reverse and the pole allows you to move about six feet rearward.

Remove the pole from the front of the wheels. Reattach to the rear. Lather. Rinse. Repeat as many times as required.

Vernon had been watching the show with glee.

The only way to survive a father like Denny was to throw your siblings beneath the bus every chance you got. As the youngest, Vernon was the one who most often ended up with tire tracks across his backside as he lacked the sophistication to anticipate and maneuver out of the way.

That glee ended when Denny took control of the rescue operation. No way was he going to let Wesley screw-the-pooch for an hour when he had over fifty workers jerking off. He could see that they were flipping hay much faster than Wesley was cutting it.

What Denny failed to comprehend is that Vernon’s crew had to flip all of the hay Wesley had cut that week and they had to flip it every day. The crew was a tattered wreck. Hands were blistered raw. They were going through the motions. In all honesty, Vernon was getting about one man’s work out of every seven workers. But it was a conspiracy of victims. Nobody was going to tell Denny that using fifty people to push one tractor out of a mudhole was folly, if only because of the limited amount of room at the rear of the tractor for people to push against.

Everybody but Wesley was surprised the next morning when Denny insisted that Wesley keep cutting on the west side of the field, next to the river. Denny was sure the problems would clear up. Wesley was sure they would not. Wesley was right.

On day four and five, Wesley cut a grand total of ten acres of sixty acres that had been uncut at the end of day three and Vernon’s crew had not turned over or fluffed any of the cut grass on those two days.

On days six and seven severe storms blew through the area and dumped two inches of rain.

Wesley was not able to get the tractor back onto the field for two days but Vernon’s crew was able to go out and turn hay on days eight and nine.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Apple picking

This worked better than expectation. I lashed a 15' length of 4", corrugated, plastic drain tile to one leg of the 8' step ladder I use to pick apples.
Next time I will also lash a one-by-two to the leg so the open end will be twenty or thirty inches above the top and will be located in a repeatable location.
This is the Liberty apple tree the ever-lovely Mrs ERJ and I picked today.
It appears that even tree frogs favor Liberty apples.
Liberty is our favorite apple for making apple sauce. These are still just a little bit under-ripe for that use but they should be fine in a week.
We picked about a hundred and fifty pounds of apples off that tree in a bit less than an hour. I estimate that it tripled our productivity when we were picking from the ladder. We could pick two-handed and not have to stop to carry apples down the ladder to the box.

What the pictures fail to show is that we ran the bottom end of the drain tile into a large, poly bag. As long as the tube sloped downward, it did not clog up and delivered the apples to the bag.

Fifteen feet is longer than optimal (because it was difficult to keep it sloping downward for its entire length) but it is much easier to make the drain tile shorter. I plan to cut a couple of feet off the piece for the next tree we pick.

Exciting times

Things have been a little bit exciting on the mom-and-dad front.

I spent Saturday night with them.

Mom only got up once during the night. We all had coughs. Dad coughed a little bit a couple of hours after he turned in. It sounded "liquid" and productive.

Mom and dad woke up a little earlier than usual. Both looked fine.

My sister, a nurse, had the Sunday morning shift. She saw something she did not like. She listened to his lungs and the left one was whistling like a tea-kettle (her words).

She took him into an urgent care clinic and he was diagnosed with pneumonia.

They prescribed a Z-pack and Cefdinir pending the results of cultures coming back.

Monday about noon, dad had chest pains. He also left iron-clad directions that he is not going back to the hospital. He is 93.

When I got there, one of the nurses handed me a dog leash and instructed me to take Honey for a walk. Things were under control. They had dosed dad with a couple of chewable, "baby" aspirin and a couple of Tums.

Looking in the rear-view mirror, chest pains and shortness of breath are documented (rare) side effects of Cefdinir.

In discussions with dad's primary care physician, they decided to discontinue the Cefdinir and continue with the the Azithromycin.

Dad flipped right-side-up quickly. Every half hour somebody asked him "How are you doing?"

Every half hour he answered, "Better than the last time you asked me."

The Shrewd King 9.2: Cutting hay Part II

Wesley knew that cutting hay when the dew is still on it was stupid.

The whole point of making hay is to dry the grass and standing grass dries much faster than grass that is on the ground.

Wesley knew that cutting hay when the dew was still on it was stupid. He also knew he was looking at hell on earth if his dad caught him not cutting hay at first light.

Wesley cut it a little bit close, he was only a few hundred yards out in the field when he looked back and saw his dad glaring at him. Wesley was going at the speed of a slow walk and cutting the hay a foot off the ground.

Wesley’s plan was to cut along the west side as that is where the sun would hit first and to let the grass stand as long as possible on the east side.

Unfortunately, the west side of the field was the side that was closest to the river. Wesley quickly figured out he could watch the left front wheel of the old Ford 3000. When muddy water started pushing out like the bow-wave of a speed boat, Wesley quickly jogged away from the river toward higher ground.

Wesley knew that he was in for criticism for the sawtoothing of the path from his father. It could not be helped. He would take his ass-whipping at the end of the day when he came back to the barn, but for now he had a full tank of gas and an additional ten gallons in jerry-cans strapped to the drawbar of the three-point-hitch.

Wesley was unaware of the hydrology of the Grand River valley and the dynamics driving it.

The valley was “bathtub” shaped. The sides of the valley were steep and the actual river looped from one side of the valley to the other over most of its course. Over the centuries, the river bed would fill with sediment and during a flood the river would pick a different set of channels to follow.

Where Wesley was cutting hay, the river made an uncharacteristically long straight run along the west side of the valley and there was a wide, flat area only slightly above the level of the river along the east side of the river.

East of the valley the land was slightly rolling and approximately forty feet higher in elevation for the next twenty miles. Rain falling on that higher land percolated down into the ground and found seams of gravel and sand left when the glaciers melted nine-thousand years ago.

Those same seams of gravel also ran beneath the bottomland that Wesley was mowing and the pressurized water could start bubbling up anywhere in the flats given the slightest provocations. Consequently, the soil was always saturated, which was one reason that ants had to build their nests up, to get out of the water.

At four-feet-per second, running a five foot cutter bar, it was going to take Wesley at least another sixty hours to cut the hundred acres.

Five thousand pounds of dry matter per acre meant that Wesley was laying fifteen-thousand pounds of green grass on the ground. The tall, rank grass created a springy mattress” five inches thick.

It also meant that the sun had to evaporate 10,000 pounds of water per acre out of that grass to turn it to hay.

The sun struggled to penetrate more than one inch into the “mattress”.

The third day Wesley was cutting, Denny Blastic checked out the swath of hay Wesley had cut two days earlier. He found the bottom of the mattress as green and as juicy as the day it had been cut. It did not occur to him that the ground it was resting on was oozing water and, in time, the grass would have struck roots and started growing again.

Denny Blastic was hot and sweaty by the time he got to the corn field where Vernon’s crew was pulling weeds (and young corn plants). He was in an exceptionally foul mood. He did not care for physical exertion, at least when it involved him sweating.

Ten minutes later the entire crew was trotting toward the hay field. Denny directed Vernon to cut forks from trees for the crew to use to flip the swath of hay over to expose the bottom of the swath to the sun.

Vernon’s fifty member crew, crippled by dysentery and wielding ten pound, two-tine forks, was just barely able to keep up with Wesley’s cutting. Not only were the workers frustrated by the crude tools, they were also frustrated by the fact that the grass had settle down into the 12” tall stubble. It was not a simple matter of sliding the fork beneath the swath and a quick flip. The stubble fought the forks and dragged and tugged at the drying grass, trying to tip the forks and pull it off the tines before it was high enough to flip over.

Many times, the best the workers could do was to fluff up the mattress and bring wet, green grass to the top. The workers pretended to have flipped the grass over. Vernon pretended to not have notices and everybody kept an eye out for Denny.

At fifteen thousand pounds of wet grass to the acre, the workers had to lift 1.5 million pounds of grass to fluff the entire hundred acre parcel.

Monday, September 16, 2019


Does it seem odd that the spokesperson for Progressive Insurance is a white human?

And another thing, if they were truly "progressive", rates would be on a sliding scale based on income and privilege and unemployed, illegal aliens would be PAID to carry progressive insurance.

The Shrewd King 9.1: Cutting hay, Part I

Denny looked out over one-hundred acres of chest-tall grass blowing in the gentle, late-June breeze.

It had occurred to him while he was eating breakfast that this is when he usually started buying hay for his horses. It did not register in his mind that much of that "new cutting" hay had been sitting in barns for three or more weeks.

Hay is a natural product and varies wildly in quality. Horses demand the very highest quality hay. It cannot be the least bit moldy, nor can it be primarily stalks and stems. Conversely, it cannot be all alfalfa or it will disturb their digestion. The other complication with alfalfa and clover is that pure stands tend to mat down when cut. Air does not circulate through it and it does not dry well. Furthermore, they will lose most of its leaves if dried it too much, leaves being the most nutritious part of the hay.

Farmers who specialize in alfalfa hay, for instance, have cutters that crimp and crush the stems so they dry at the same rate as the leaves, partially overcoming the issue of over-drying the leaves to ensure that the stems were dry enough to not mold in storage.

Hay also varies by when it is cut. First cutting grass hay tends to have many stems and stalks and relatively few of the more nutritious leaves. Second and third cuttings tend to have a much higher proportion of leaves but are much, much smaller than the first cutting in terms of tonnage.

Denny had driven by this field a hundred times but had never walked it. For reasons that were opaque to him, his none of his neighbors liked him. Not that he noticed. His neighbors’ reactions were identical to the people he interacted with socially and at work.

The property in question had been owned by an elderly couple who had both died during the epidemic. In spite of Denny’s hints, which he thought were subtle, they had never harvested the river-bottoms for hay, preferring instead to keep in in a conservation program that protected the nesting habitat of bottomland and prairie bird species.

Denny had never bothered to study grass species. By his reckoning, there were only two kinds of grass. The short grass was always called Kentucky Bluegrass and the taller grass, the kind harvested for hay, was always called Bromegrass.

That is what Denny called the grass in the bales of hay and if the people selling the hay knew the grass was Orchardgrass or Perennial Ryegrass or Tall Fescue they knew better than to correct a man who was pulling $100 bills out of his wallet.

As Denny gazed over the wind rippled field, he marveled at the shear mass of the growing forage. Completely out of character, he bent over and pulled some stems of grass out of the ground. Lush, long, wide blades clung to the stems. A blade emerged every three or four inches stem, more than a dozen blades to the stem. It was the leafiest grass Denny had ever seen.

A sour grin twisted Denny’s face. That is when he knew he had been screwed by folks selling him grass hay. He was lucky to find first-cutting grass-hay that was half leaves and this was easily three-quarter leaves.

Looking over at his second son, Wesley, Denny said “Cut it all. What we don’t use we can sell.”

Wesley was the one Denny trusted with the horses and farm equipment.

Wesley looked dubiously at the low, flat field. He could smell the muck. “What if the tractor gets stuck?” Wesley asked.

Denny had already told Wesley that they were behind the eight-ball for time and that they were going to use the tractor to cut and bale the hay.

“That is what the servants are for” Denny said. “They can push you out.”

“Now stop wasting daylight. No telling how long this weather is going to last” Denny said.

Not knowing any better, Wesley left the equipment to run at the height the farmer had it set at when he parked it in the barn thirty years ago.

The low field had many tussocks and anthills that reached up out of nowhere and grabbed the sickle-bar cutter. The first time it happened it was right in front of Denny…who promptly bit Wesley’s head off.

Wesley had to shut-down to make the adjustments on the ancient equipment. He had to cold chisel off the bolts since they were so rusty the heads no longer had any form to them. He replaced them with new. It took him two hours to raise the cutter four inches.

And Westley promptly ran into another anthill.

And Denny ripped him a new asshold.

And Wesley shut down to raise the bar some more and it only took thirty minutes to make adjustments.

And he hit another anthill.

And he raised the bar so it was a full twelve inches above ground level.

And then Denny chewed him out for wasting hay.

So Wesley dropped the bar down two inches.

Under Denny’s hectoring, Wesley tried to make up time by running in a higher gear at maximum RPM.

He lunched the cutter-bar when he hit the next anthill.

It took him the rest of the day to swap out the cutter bar with an even older one they found in the back of the barn. The rust-thinned frame of the hay-cutter was twisted and warped from the forces generated by the cutter bar crashing. 

Nothing wanted to line-up on reassembly.

By the end of the day, Wesley had cut just a bit less than an acre of the hundred acre field.

Even though he did not maximize the cut, he still put over five thousand pounds of dry matter on the ground for hay.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

A Fable

Two villages existed near the mouth of the Limpopo river on opposite sides of the river when Northern traders sailed their dhows up the river from the sea. The traders brought luxury goods.

The men from the Orient brought jade and silk, spices and medicines to trade for ivory, rhino horns, diamonds and gold.

The most athletic and desirable single men in Chu (pronounced like the exhale of a steam engine), the southern village, would only look at and flirt with girls who were wearing Oriental trinkets.

The most athletic and desirable single men in Xai (pronounced by clicking one’s tongue against the roof of the mouth), the northern village, listened to their mothers and only made eyes with the girls who honored their family and village; girls who hoed the weeds out of the fields and kept the home cistern filled.

To woo their suitors, the girls in the southern village hoed the fields and looked for diamonds and gold nuggets rather than paying attention to the pumpkin plants and weeds. They uprooted all the wiry grass that grew beside the paths that lined the family fields because the grass roots often capture diamonds.

The girls of the southern village goaded and teased their younger brothers and fathers and uncles, saying they were not men if they could not bring home elephant tusks and rhino horns.

To woo their suitors, the girls in the northern village planted jackfruit and banana trees to add to the value of the family farm. They also planted seeds from the oranges and exotic fruits the traders brought.

In time, elephant and rhino could not found around the southern village. The younger brothers and paters had to venture far into the veldt to find them. Many did not come back.

In the northern village, the elephant and rhino learned to fear the villagers and avoided them and did not destroy their fields and orchards. But when a family needed some money, the younger brothers and uncles did not need to travel far to find one. And when they found one, it was on land they knew well and they could safely ambush the dangerous animals.

Seven years after the traders first came in their dhows, the rains did not stop.

The hillside fields of the northern village were covered with healthy pumpkin vines. The leaves were like umbrellas, slowing down the rain. The vines of the pumpkins struck roots every place they had touched the soil and the roots bound the soil like nets.

The wiry grass beside the paths that outlined the fields slowed the water as it sheeted across the fields.

The bananas and jackfruit and oranges ripened even though the wind blew and the rain fell. The people of the northern village ate oranges and jackfruit and told stories as the rains fell.

The hillside fields of the southern village were bare of pumpkin vines and only a few, young weeds struggled to grow on them. The soil soaked up the rain and become heavy, slippery mud.

The muddy hillsides slid one night, pushing the village of Chu into the raging Limpopo river. Those who escaped drowning or being buried alive found no food and fled into the veldt.

The next spring, when the dhows came, they found two villages. One on the north and one on the south. They were both named Xai. In both villages, the young men listened to their mothers and the girls took care when hoeing the pumpkins and always kept the family’s cistern filled.

A ten years later, it was impossible to tell which village was the elder as both had jackfruit and orange trees of impressive size and productivity. The traders bought elephant tusks, rhino horns, gold and diamonds. But they also filled their dhows with jackfruit and oranges for the long trip home.

The traders from the Orient paid with jade and silk and spices. They paid with axe and spear heads and hoes and shovels. The villages of Xai-Xai were a good place to live.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Fairy-tales that celebrate self-control

Mrs ERJ and I were driving home from watching Mom and Dad and talking about Chicago and some of their issues.

The conversation turned to culture and fairy tales. Fairy tales, Aesop's fables, tropes, memes are not just markers of culture, they define culture and transfer it to the next generation.

If I could wave a magic wand and change one thing in the inner-city culture it would be to inculcate the skill of being able to delay gratification.

The Ant and the Grasshopper were the only tale that came close to inspiring that characteristic. For the most part the tale's payoff were short-term karma on steroids.

Another problem with the Ant and the Grasshopper involves bugs. It is difficult for humans to empathize with bugs. In some cases, bugs are racist.

Studies show that children who exhibit the skill of being able to delay gratification are significantly more successful than those who cannot.

I think it is important to talk about delaying gratification as a skill rather than an immutable personality trait. Skills can be improved through practice. The practice has to be realistic and involve multiple repetitions. Later practice must branch out so the child gains skill in recognizing situations when it is appropriate to transfer that skill.

Does the urban landscape offer any memes that are the equivalent of not eating the seed corn but planting it instead? Does it offer many venues where those skills are exercised and extended?

My mental image of the inner-city is that lack of self-control is not just tolerated, it is celebrated and enabled. Those who show self-control "lose."

The Shrewd King 8.6: Bonus installment.

Hunter Chernovsky needed a day off to get his head straight.

Gimp said he would keep an eye on things.

Hunter rode his bike into the City of Eaton Rapids in the early morning.

He found Justin, his former boss, in the auto repair shop. Justin was attempting to fit an electric motor on to a bike frame.

“Hey boss. Got a minute to talk.” Hunter asked.

Hunter did not have many people who he could confide in. In his mind, he was able to lead because of his aura of invincibility.

“Sure.” Justin said, putting the electric motor down on some scraps of cardboard beneath the bike. “This ain’t going anywhere fast.”

“What’s on your mind?” Justin asked as he sat down in one of the deck chairs in the shade of the building. It was going to be a hot day and it was already warm.

Hunter sat in the chair next to Justin. “I need advice.”

“I am not sure you came to the right guy, but I will do what I can.” Justin said.

“I got women problems.” Hunter said.

Justin shot Hunter a quick look. “You gonna be a daddy? Is that what you are telling me?”

Hunter said, “No. I got one I like and she isn’t knocked up. I know that for a fact.”

“You came to the wrong guy.” Justin said. “I don’t know ANYTHING about women.”

Hunter blinked his eyes a couple of times. That is not what he expected to hear.

“I don’t think so.” Hunter managed to say. “You have been married, like, twenty-five years, right?”

“Actually, I have been married thirty years. I don’t tell very many people this, but Sharon is my second marriage. The first one lasted about five years.” Justin said.

“So how can you say you don’t know anything about women?” Hunter said.

Justin looked around the parking lot, trying to think of a way to explain his thoughts.

“Women ain’t like spark plugs.” Justin said. “I can take a new spark plug out of the box, check the gap and throw it into an engine and I KNOW exactly what it will do. Don’t matter which what spark plug or what long as the gap and torque are right, it is going to fire.”

“Women ain’t a manufactured product. EVERY ONE IS DIFFERENT.” Justin said. “Never forget that.”

“I can tell you what makes Sharon happy but it will be worse than useless to you because your girl ain’t Sharon.” Justin said.

“Everything you ever heard about ‘women’, plural, get it out of your head.” Justin advised. “I mean other than common decency. Nobody wants to be called ‘fat’ or ‘stupid’ or be freezing cold.”

Hunter was not the smartest guy, but he certainly wasn’t the stupidest.

If Justin was right, then everything he had ever learned drinking beer with the ‘bros’ was useless.

“Lemme guess.” Justin said. “You and your girl had a fight.”

“Not so much.” Hunter said. “Not a fight. She said she wanted to get married and I said I didn’t.”

“I think she was crying when I dropped her off at her house.” he said.

“Oh-oh. That is a toughie.” Justin said.

“Absolutely dead-set against marriage, are you?” Justin asked.

“No. I just don’t think it is for me.” Hunter said.

“Lot of young guys think that.” Justin said, agreeably.

“And old guys don’t?” Hunter said.

“How many old guys you know that got divorced and then remarried two, three years later?” Justin asked.

“ ‘bout a hundred.” Hunter said.

“It says a lot that those guys who just went through the sausage grinder of divorce court weren’t totally turned off by marriage.” Justin said. “It means that ‘marriage’ wasn’t the problem with their first marriage. It means they weren’t a good fit or, more likely, one of them wasn’t ready.”

“That would be me. I ain’t ready.” Hunter said.

“So does she want to get married this week?” Justin asked.

“No. That is not what she said.” Hunter said.

“Why don’t you tell me what she said, as exact as you can remember it.” Justin said.

“She said ‘If we ain’t growing, we are dying.’ she said ‘My clock is ticking.’ “ Hunter said.

“What did you say?” Justin asked.

“I said I wasn’t the marrying type.” Hunter said.

Justin winced. “Bad move.”

“Well, I ain’t.” Hunter said, defending himself.

“How do you know that?” Justin asked. “Women aren’t like spark plugs. Men aren’t like spark plugs. Marriages ain’t made with cookie-cutters. Marriages look like all different kinds of things. How do you know that you and whats-her-name can’t work something out that will work for both of you?”

“Because I am on-call, 24-7. Because I can’t be there to help with the kids.” Hunter said, a little bit of anguish leaking through the words.

Justin had to think about that a bit. Finally, “Did Grand Valley stop playing football after you graduated?”

Hunter looked sharply over at Justin to see if he was being made sport of. “No.”

“Did they play defense without Linebackers?” Justin asked.

“No.” Hunter replied.

“How did that happen?” Justin asked.

“They recruited Linebackers every year I was there. Some washed out. Some moved to other positions. Some were back-ups for when the we got injured or needed to catch our breath after a big hit.” Hunter said. “When I graduated, a player almost as good as I was stepped into the right-side Linebacker position.”

“Are you doing that with your fighters, developing talent to replace yourself?” Justin asked. “If you aren’t, why not?”

"So what do I do?" Hunter said. He had made a hash of things and didn't know how to start putting things back together.

"Tell her you were wrong." Jesse advised. "If you can't look your girl in the eye and tell her that you screwed up and want to make it right, then you aren't grown-up enough to be married. And, at your age, if you can't admit you were wrong and change direction, its likely you never will be able to."

Hunter Chernovsky was a much happier man riding back home. But first he had to drop in on Janelle and have a little talk with her. He decided that maybe he was the marrying kind of guy, as long as it was with her and that they had time to sort a few things out before they tied the knot.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Customizing Google News AND pushing back against "Progressive" media outlets

I was messing around with Google News feed. It occurred to me that there had to be a way to customize news sources. If, for instance, you have a low tolerance for stories from CNN, NPR or Slate then Alphabet programmers probably have a way to turn them off.

Furthermore, Google News is a big player and they probably don't get a lot of "signal" from their viewers. Google is all about algorithms. It certainly counts clicks but it also, certainly, counts the number of readers who divorce news outlets.

The generic algorithm is likely to start skipping stories from a given source after enough clients actively turn that particular source off. That starts biting the ad revenue of the news source in big way.

This is how to do it.

This is a story sourced from Slate. Slate is not my favorite news source. They don't "break" stories. They "interpret" them. That is, they spin them and tell the public how they are "supposed" to react to them.

If you hover your cursor over the source, several icons show up. The icon on the extreme right is three dots arranged vertically or like the letter "L" in Braille.

Click on the three, vertical dots and you pull up a menu that looks like this.

Clicking on the middle choice hides all stories from that source.

Verifying your work

You can verify that you successfully turned off that particular news source by going to the main menu (left column) and going to the bottom of the list where it says "Settings"

If you click on Settings you will get a menu that looks like the image shown above.

If you then click on Manage you will generate a screen that looks like the image shown below.

What was curious was that I found conservative news sources turned off when I first accessed this screen.

I have no clue who turned those sources off.

Business cycles

I had breakfast with a local businessman yesterday.

The conversation veered from red squirrels to business partners to family to the temporary nature of jobs.

He expressed his disgust at quoting jobs and then finding out that his spec-sheet had been used to purchase parts on-line and installed by unqualified people. He was making money for Amazon.

One question that came up a few times was "How far will the can be kicked down the road?"

Easy money
The problem with "easy money" or easy credit is that it masks pathologies that lurk in every system.

The power in Just-in-Time inventory is not the reduced carrying costs, although that is not a small number. The power in J-I-T and lean manufacturing is that it forces manufacturers and merchandizers to find and kill the problems that force enterprises to carry extra inventory "as insurance".

Easy money is like all that extra inventory. It masks problems. Failing retailers like K-Mart can by competitive retailers like Sears and suck the life's-blood out of them. Amazon can borrow money or issue equities and bone suppliers between time of sale and dispersement of funds.

Businesses with rotten business plans can hide failure for years as long as they generate accelerating revenue metrics.

In the meantime, the corpses of businesses like my friend's litter the ground, pulverized by large company's access to cheap money. Those debt fueled companies are like amphetamine-wired truckers with no peripheral vision barreling down the freeway at 90 miles per hours. By one metric they look fabulous. By a more comprehensive set of metrics we wonder why they still have keys to any vehicle, much less a truck with a GVW of 40,000 pounds.

I understand Trump wants to get reelected and a rising stock market helps. Truth be told, I want to see him get reelected.

Even if Trump fails to get reelected, handing a booming economy over to the next guy/gal and then having it do a face-plant validates Trump's legacy.

I am not sure we will make it that far without a retrenchment of pricing in the equity market.

And I think we are over-due for a brush-fire to clear out the dead wood. A rising tide raises all boats and a receding tide reveals who is swimming naked.

The Shrewd King 8.5: Penultimatum

Kate found Hunter Chernovsky a place to stay that was in the geographic center of Kates Store, Pray Church and Chernovsky’s Annex a mile from where Gimp Sullivan lived. It was also six miles from where Janelle lived. For a healthy, young man and a bicycle it was a twenty-five minute ride. He saw her four or five days a week.

Hunter Chernovsky finally figured out that he was going to have to let Janelle set the pace and timing of his courtship with her.

It was a hard pill to swallow.

Chernovsky’s biggest successes had always come from going up-tempo. Take the QB out of his game. Trip up the offense by getting ahead of their ability to observe, analyze and react.

As stupid as it sounds, Chernovsky’s breakthrough came when he was pushing Janelle in a tire swing. The swing sets the tempo. Timing the pushes faster only gets you bruised.

Then he remembered the times when a slight hesitation pulled the offensive line out of synch, when they hyper-focused on him and his teammates carried the day.

Five weeks into the courtship Janelle suggested an activity that relieved much of the pressure on Hunter. It was nothing that would ever “make a baby” but it did provide Hunter with much relief. Janelle had learned more than how to bend and join metal in those years on the West Coast.

A week after that, Janelle broached the subject he never wanted to talk about as they were strolling the mile of road Janelle lived on.

“When are we getting married?” Janelle asked.

“Why would we want to do that?” Hunter Chernovsky asked. “We have a great thing going. Why would we want to ruin it?”

Janelle cast him a sidelong glance. “If you aren’t growing, you are dying.”

There were others out for a stroll. One of the others getting the benefit of the last of the day’s breezes and the effects of the mid-evening sun was being pushed in a wheelchair by a thirty-year old African American.

“Hello Mr. Sambaer.” Janelle said to him as he passed.

“Whats with that?” Hunter asked.

“That is his son, Jerry.” Janelle said.

“How old would you guess Mr Sambaer is?” Janelle asked.

Hunter turned it over in his mind. Mr Sambaer’s skin had an unhealthy yellow tinge to it but it was not very wrinkled. On the other hand, he was in a wheelchair.

“I don’t know; 75-80 years old.” Hunter ventured a guess.

“He is a little over sixty.” Janelle informed him.

Hunter frowned. “Was he in an accident or something?”

“Nope.” Janelle said. “Sixty is old if your knees are shot and you can’t get cortisone or chicken-fat injections or new knees.”

“That is the new reality.” Janelle said.

They walked a bit farther as Hunter chewed on that.

“Anyway” he said “we have a good thing going. Why would we want to ruin it?”

“Do we have a good thing going.” Janelle asked.

God, he hated it when women talked in riddles.

“What would you change? It is exactly as if we were married. The only thing missing is a piece of paper.” Hunter said.

“And standing on an altar and promising in front of God and witnesses that we will be true to each other and stay together for life.” Janelle pushed.

“Yeah, well you got that now.” Hunter said. “So what is the difference?”

“If there is no difference then you don’t have any reason to NOT do it. That argument works both ways.” Janelle said.

The corner of unpainted floor Hunter was standing on was getting smaller and smaller.

“I just want to be sure.” Hunter said.

Janelle stopped and reached out both hands to his. He responded by extending his and holding them.

“You just want to be ‘sure’ “ Janelle said. “What does that mean? That you want to see other women?”

“How can anybody ever be sure, one-hundred-and-one percent sure?” Janelle asked. "We could be together twenty-years and a pretty, young girl catches your eye 'Hey hun, hold the phone. I gotta check this one out.'"

“I still can’t see the advantage of getting married. What if it doesn’t work out?” Hunter said. He knew a hundred couples whose relationships had crashed.

One of the things that Hunter liked about Janelle is that she could be logical and rational. That was not working in his favor at this exact moment.

“What if I said getting married was like getting vaccinated. It increased the chances of it working out. Because that is what I believe. Swearing before God and man...most relationships fail because either one party or the other gives up. They just roll over.” Janelle said. “We are both proud people. I cannot see us ‘rolling over’ if we after we married in public.”

Janelle went into a dramatic swooning pose. “There I was, trapped in a loveless marriage!” with huge histrionic emphasis on ‘trapped’.

Hunter guffawed in spite of himself.

“The other thing you aren’t considering are the advantage it offers you as a man.” Janelle said.

“There aren’t any.” Hunter said with finality.

“If there weren’t, then why did virtually every man in the last two-thousand years get married? It is not like Friend of the Court made them.” Janelle challenged.

“Name one advantage.” Hunter said. He was on firm ground here. He and his friends had debated this very point in a hundred beer-fuelled bullshit sessions.

“Who is going to push your wheelchair when you are sixty?” Janelle asked. “Your bastard? Your current thirty-something girlfriend...if she sticks around at all?”

Hunter didn’t dispute that he had abused his knees over the years. Maybe medicine would be back to where he could get artificial ones. Maybe not.

Scrambling over the broken scree of his thoughts, he quickly rejected his parents or brothers and sister..he did not even know if they were alive. He knew that health insurance was history. He also knew that most people were scrambling for basic survival and would be unlikely to help.

“I concede that point.” Hunter said. “I could always just eat my gun.”

“Who will get everything you worked for?” Janelle said. “You are basically the father of a country, Chernovsky’s Annex. You will spend your whole life building and protecting and who will get it. Somebody you never met.”

That cut deep. Hunter Chernovsky was not a man of half-measures. He had strived mightily and accomplished much. He thought about his legacy. To see it blow away like smoke in the wind was a hard thought.

“We could just make a baby.” Hunter offered.

“A bastard. A bastard who will hate you because you did not have the balls or guts to do the right thing. Correction: Hate us because we did not have the balls or guts to do the right thing. No. I don’t think so.” Janelle said.’

“You want everything to stay the same.” Janelle said. “I have a clock that is ticking. I have a limited amount of time I can invest in you. If we ain’t growing, we are dying. You wanna grow or you wanna die. Your call.”

Hunter may have imagined it, but he thought her eyes were filling with liquid.

And with that Janelle gave him a kiss and left him on the road as she walked up the drive to her house, back ramrod straight. She did not look back.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Vectan A0 and GM-3 smokeless propellants

This data is from my loaders, with the manufacturing "lots" I bought, with my bushings, weighed on my scales. If you want to try Vectan powders you need to follow best reloading practices. If you don't know what they are, don't reload.
---End WARNING---

GM-3 upper-left corner. A0 upper-right corner. Unique bottom-center. It is useful that the powders look different.

Executive Summary: I will be running smaller powder bushings in my Lee Loadall-2 with the two Vectan powders than I did with Unique.

GM-3 in the 12 Gauge
I planned to run 22 grains of Unique in the 12 gauge with 1-1/8 ounces of shot. With my lot of Unique and my set of bushings, that was the "171" bushing. I have run as high as 25 grains of Unique and been below book-max.

The the lot of GM-3 powder I purchased also threw exactly 22 grains of powder with my 171 bushing. From the Graf Reloading supplied Vectan Reloading data, the vast majority of hull-wad-primer combinations listed a max of a tiny whisker above 20 grains.

Mindlessly switching powders without verifying data (recipes) and weighing charges would have resulted in a 10% over-charge from my modest Unique loading and a 25% over load if I was using the hotter Unique load.

---The 155 bushing (approx 2.5 cc) threw 20.3 grains of GM-3. That is where it is going to stay.---

AO in the 16 gauge, one oz
The sixteen gauge is set up with the 148 bushing and, for my lot of Unique, throws a charge of 18.5 grains. Again, this is not a max load.

The AO throws a charge that is 10% heavier than my lot of Unique. AO is a slower burning powder and the 20.3 grain charge is slightly below max according to Graf's data but will be noticeably warmer than what I am shooting with the Unique. Since most of these loads are destined for a lightweight, single-shot, I intend to install a smaller bushing to reduce the AO loads.

AO in the 20 gauge, 7/8 oz
The 20 gauge reloader is set up with the 134 bushing and throws 17.5 grains of Unique. Again, that is for the lot of Unique I bought. Yours may differ.

Based on the AO throwing a 10% heavier charge than the Unique, I expect the 134 bushing to throw charges of 19.3 grains.

The Vectan data has several hull-wad-primer combinations that list 17 grains of AO as the max and one H-W-P combination that lists 15.8 grains as the max. Obviously 19.3 grains is much more than 17 grains and I need to use a smaller bushing if I don't want to have to pay much attention to hull-wad-primer combinations.

The Shrewd King 8.4: Tannin

Samantha (Doc) Wilder walked into the Shaw farmyard at eleven in the morning. Traveling was better after the dew had a chance to dry, especially if you expected to leave the road.

A gout of children came gushing out of the front door and she heard dogs barking inside the house.

“Is this where Shad Shaw lives?” she asked the first child to reach her.

“Shad.” the boy yelled loud enough for everybody within two hundred yards to hear. “You gotta customer here.”

Shad blushed when he saw who it was. He was embarrassed by the mess.

Sam was not the least bit put off by it. Her dad had been a millwright at a paper mill and she had visited the factory several times. The Shaw yard had the same feeling of purposeful clutter, with large amounts of material coming and going, the feel of a profitable enterprise.

“Hello Docter Wilder.” Shad said. “What can I do for you?”

“First I wanted to see how your calcium grease project was going.” Sam said.

Shad led Sam and a whole passel of kids to a small pond downwind of the barns. “Mom and dad don’t want me cooking things where sparks might blow into the barns. Cooking the grease here takes the smell out over the ponds and won’t bother the animals or start a fire.”

Shad showed her the various stages of production. “I am still dialing the recipe in so I am still cooking in steel, five gallon buckets.” Shad said.

Sam commented on the color of the red, rubbery intermediate product. “It almost looks like strawberry Twizzlers.”

“Yeah.” Shad said. “I am trying transmission fluid instead of engine oil for the second stage. I think it might melt easier.”

“I was wondering if I could ask a favor of you and your brothers and sisters?” Sam asked.

Of course the five siblings were immediately on board with the project. Shad wasn’t so sure.

“What is the project?” Shad asked. “I am not sure I can help YOU.”

“I need some people who know the area and can go places to check things out.” Sam said.

“We will need to start a tannery to process hides into leather.” Sam said. “And to do that we need tanning chemicals.”

“Do you kids know what ‘rawhide’ is?” she asked.

“Sure! Those are the chew flips we give the dogs.” the young man who had announced Sam’s arrival said.

“Can you imagine boots or belts or harnesses made of rawhide?” Sam asked.

All of the kids, including Shad shook their heads ‘No. They would be too stiff and would crack.’

“It takes caustic and tannin to tan a hide. Caustic is lye or slaked lime. Shad, here, already makes slaked lime so we are half-way there.” Sam said.

“So what is ‘tannin’?” Shad’s younger brother asked. It was clear that he was something of a pistol and was just itching to give Shad a run for the money.

“Tannin is a chemical that is found in some parts of some plants. It grabs a hold of the protein in the hide and stabilizes and preserves it.” Sam said.

“How do you know if a plant has ‘tannin’?” one of the girls asked.

“Tannin also makes black ink when you combine it with iron in the +2 state.” Sam said.

Looking at the children’s confused faces she said, “Shad can explain it later.”

Reaching into her pockets she pulled out two clear, plastic flasks that used to hold vodka. “These bottles hold a solution of iron in the ferrous state. If you cut a twig on the diagonal and dip in into this solution, the parts of the twig with tannin will turn black.” Sam said as she handed both flasks to Shad. "Of course,most of them won't have much tannin."

“The way you do this” Sam said “is to pour a little bit into a separate cap and dip the stick. Then toss the contents of the cap, never put it back in the bottle.”

Sam walked over to the edge of the pond and asked if any of the young men had a knife to help her demonstrate.

Paul, Shad’s brother was the first on the scene. He whipped out his Buck knife and sliced off the stick she pointed at with one, diagonal slice.

Sam poured a little bit of reagent into another cap that magically appeared out of her pocket and she dipped the cut end of the stick into the liquid for about twenty seconds. Then she pitched the liquid into the weeds.

“You might have to let the end dry out before it colors up.” Sam said as she leaned the stuck up against the bush it had been cut from. The cut end of the stick was virtually unchanged in color.

“You can also check out seeds or leaves or almost anything else. You only need a little bit to check it out.” Sam said.

“When you find something that you think has a lot of tannin, I want you to tie a bit of ribbon or twine to the bush and then make a note in a notebook so you can find that exact bush again.” Sam said.

“And will this tannin be worth anything?” Paul wanted to know.

“Yes and no. On a per-pound basis it might not be worth much but over-all it will be valuable because we are going to need tons of it.” Sam said.

“Can you give us any hints of where to look?” Paul asked.

“Oak, chestnut and some kinds of willow bark. Oak leaves and galls. Grapes. Tannin is where you find it.” Sam said. “In general you will find it in plants that bugs don’t bite and in leaves that don’t get mildew.”

Shad asked, “We might go through a lot of that reagent. Is it something we can make?”

“Sure. Find something rusty like nails that have been out in the weather. That is what I used. Dissolve the rust off of them with vinegar. That gives you a solution of iron in the +3 state.” Sam said.

“Then visit Gabby Gonzales and ask her to give you some beer wort that just started fermenting. Mix three parts vinegar solution to one part wort. Make sure you screw the cap on loosely. The yeast will steal the extra oxygen from the iron and convert it to the +2 state. It is called Biological Oxygen Demand.”

"When the iron in the +2 state encounters tannin it forms a complex with it. Think of it as being like two dancers who don't want to let others cut in." Sam Wilder said. "When it dries out, the iron switches back to the +3 state and becomes ink."

"Ink?" Paul asked with a puzzled expression on his face.

"That is how they made ink in the middle ages. They ground up oak galls, soaked them in water and mixed the 'tea' with ferrous sulfate." Sam said. "It soaked into the paper and then the air changed the iron to the +3 state and made the ink was dark. It was really permanent because it was not on top of the paper, it was in the paper."

A diabolical grin crossed Paul’s face. “Can you imagine what ma is gonna say when she finds us with whiskey bottles and smelling like beer?” It was almost as if he was looking forward to the event.

“I should probably talk to her before I give you the bottles.” Sam said, belatedly.

“And you want us to tell you where we find the tannin?” the Paul asked.

Sam looked benevolently out over the assembled Shaw progeny and said “Nope. I want you to go into the tannin business. I asked around and the Shaw family never gouged anybody on the price of lime. Don’t expect you would start with tannin. A fair profit for fair work.”