Saturday, October 19, 2019

A compromised fence insulator

The wire was not run through the prongs. Then the wire arced to the post. You can see bird poop on the wire. That may have originally bridged the air gap and triggered the arcing.
A closer image of the carbon trace from the arcing.
This run of fence was installed to contain a horse that left a decade ago.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Light posting the next few days

Today and tomorrow are mom-and-dad days.

The Shrewd King 13.5: Character sketches

Di pulled the wagon into the drive that circled the Blastic farm yard. She had twenty bushels of shelled corn in the back.

Two teams were deployed in Pray Church. Two were in Chernovsky’s Annex and the Equestrian Coach was now Di’s competition in Kate’s Store. There was still no shortage of work for Di.

Dogs were barking. Then a fat man came shuffling out of the main house. He walked like his shoes were too tight or as if he were constipated, Di was not sure which. She assumed this was the Denny Blastic she had heard so much about.

“I brought the first week’s rent.” Di said.

The man shuffled over to Di’s wagon and held out his hands. “Where is it?” he asked.

Di jerked a thumb and pointed in back. The man must be blind. “Right there” she said.

The man’s glance flitted to the grain bags and then back at Di. “I don’t want that crap. I want the $134 silver that you agreed to.”

Now it was Di’s turn to be confused. “I beg your pardon?”

“The price of corn was $100 for fifteen bushels, silver when you made the deal. That is the price you agreed to pay. Twenty bushels of corn at $6.67 is $134, silver” Blastic said.

“No.” Di said, drawing out the word. “I agreed to pay 20 bushels of corn, not $134 in silver. The current price of corn is $60 for twenty bushels. If you prefer, I can pay you $60.”

“I can’t accept this corn and we did not agree to $60. We agreed to $134, silver.” Blastic said, dismissively. “I am not going to let you weasel out of your agreement.”

It was pretty clear somebody was weaseling and it wasn’t Di.

Di released the brake and said, “Giddi-up, Dobbin. Giddi-up Dart.”

Blastic jumped back so the back wheels of the wagon did not run over his feet.

“Hey, where are you going?” he demanded.

“I am going to get your horses.” Di said. “I cannot do business with somebody who bargains in bad-faith.”

“Hey...Wait a minute. Don’t you know a joke when you hear one?” Blastic said with a tiny trace of panic in his voice.

“Didn’t sound like a joke to me, and I bet if I had paid you the extra $74 you would have kept it.” Di said. Di kept driving.

Blastic caught up with her after she had driven a half mile. She had heard enough stories about Blastic that she had her .22 semi-automatic rifle down from the rack behind the seat. The rifle was there to pot the occasional game animal and to discourage feral dogs and humans.

Blastic pretended not to see it. “I am afraid I got off on the wrong foot.”

Blastic knew how to behave in a civil manner. He just rarely felt the need to do so. This was one of those rare times.

Di, for her part, was thinking of how disappointed the new Capiche Cab drivers were going to be when Di collected their horses to return them to Blastic. A second thought that crossed Di’s mind was that the horses probably had a better life in their new homes than in Blastic’s over-grazed pastures.

“So what is your remembering of the deal?” Di asked.

“Two bushels of corn, per animal, per week.” Blastic said.

“I was dropping it off as a courtesy.” Di said. “After this week, you can come and collect it yourself.”

Di turned the team around and went back to the Blastic farm. She did not help unload.

Once unloaded, Di wasted no time heading back home. Her dislike of Denny Blastic was visceral and total.


Luke and Brittany Salazar were sitting on the old farm-house wrap-around porch catching the last stray breezes of the evening.

The older kids were playing in the sandy dirt of the yard. The new infant was in a car seat that served admirably as a cradle for rocking the child with a simple nudge of the foot against the carrying handle.

One of the consequence of the grid going down and the moribund economy is that people’s lives were once again synchronized by the rising and setting of the sun. The twenty-four hour economy had been replaced by the natural light economy.

The last customer left hours ago. Stew, snap-peas and the first green beans from the garden, lettuce and dinner rolls had been served for supper. Luke had eaten too much and now he was waiting for his system to compact things down.

He wasn’t thinking anything in particular when he happened to glance over at Brittany. She had a few strands of hair wafting up and backlit by the setting sun. She unconsciously reached up and patted them down.

The effects of nursing a new baby, working and a diet high in water, fiber while low in fats resulted in a rapid loss of the weight she had picked up during her pregnancy.

That is when Brittany’s physical beauty smote Luke between the eyes.

She was beautiful in the regal, classical way. There was nothing hyper-fashionable or over-wrought in her features or figure. If anything, her bosom was enlarged because she was nursing but even that was not grotesque or a caricature of a teenager’s fantasy.

Luke had never wanted children. He had been a precise and detail oriented child. The children fostered by his parents, Kate and Rick, had demolished his stamp collections and broken sacred artifacts from HIS childhood. There were no artifacts left from Luke’s childhood; no stuffed birds, no model airplanes, no wheat pennies or butterflies mounted with exquisite precision. There would never be a Luke Salazar museum as a consequence.

Later interactions with girls had cemented that “fact” that he was not normal. The mean girls had belittled him while the more maternal ones saw him as “safe” and treated him like an animated version of a Ken doll. None of them treated him like a nascent man.

After being stabbed in the back by some of the maternal girls he had considered peers, he decided that girls were just too unpredictable. Collectively, the population of Eaton Rapids High School decided he was gay and he did not argue with them.

He and Brittany had been co-habitating for three months. He was protecting her by giving her an identity that distanced her from Carson Duckworth. She was protecting him by squelching lingering rumors of his sexual orientation.

During that time she had effortlessly balanced the needs to advocate for herself and her children while supporting to his authority as the head of the household and master of the store.

In that instant, he realized that he wanted Brittany in every way that a husband wants his wife.

It was a revelation.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Tactical retreat

Several readers pointed out the possibility of High Explosives being abandoned at National Guard Armories.

I don't want to dive down that rabbit hole because my ignorance is total. I could only speculate and would probably get important details wrong.

It does raise the question of likely actions by the National Guard if civil strife looked like it would go critical-mass.

My guess is that they would make a tactical retreat to major bases. In Michigan that would be Grayling in the middle of BF-Nowhere and Fort Custer which is mid-way between Detroit and Chicago.

Grayling is infinitely more defensible and Fort Custer is infinitely easier to support logistically.

The order of shipment would be fuzes, shells, then tubes.

Without fuzes, High Explosive is modeling clay. Fifteen fuzes take up the same space as one 105mm projectile so the least logistically demanding way to make ammo inaccessible to insurgents is to ship out or destroy the fuzes.

Without shells, tubes are very heavy telephone poles. One-hundred 105mm HE rounds weighs about as much as a 105mm howitzer.

A minimum amount could be kept together to ship with the tubes in case locals got ideas and barriers needed to be breached.

Any comments from the professionals will be much appreciated.

ERJ's quick guide to Political dolls

The Shrewd King 13.4: Looking the other way

Quinn was deeply disappointed by the performance of the sensors in the field.

They rarely picked up pedestrians and vehicles had to be within fifteen feet for the sensor to register.

Quinn sent a message to Dmitri claiming the senors did not work. Dmitri made the ten mile trip to support the installation. It was a twenty mile round trip by bike the day after he made the fifteen mile round trip to the M-99 bridge by bike. Dmitri was not a happy camper.

“Show me the installation.” Dmitri commanded.

Quinn showed him the upside-down plastic cup on the side of the road, right where the shoulder transitioned to tall weeds. Quinn chose to put the sensor where the road was below grade on the far side of the bridge.

Dmitri asked, “Did you adjust the sensitivity screws?”

Quinn gave him a blank look. “What screws?”

Dmitri shook his head in disgust. He was sure they had covered that in training but Quinn had undoubtedly been in over-load mode.

Dmitri sighed. Pulling the sensor off the T Quinn had used to pin it to the ground, Dmitri turned it over and pointed to the heads of two screws that were visible. The little screw adjusts the sensitivity of the low frequency. Low starts with “L” and little starts with “L”. The big screw adjusts the high frequency.”

Dmitri had a limited number of transistors to play with and was only monitoring two frequencies. “Low” frequency was four Hertz and “high” frequency was thirty Hertz. It was a judgment call on his part. The cup was flimsy and its ability to track frequencies above thirty Hertz was limited.

“The other thing is that you did not pick a great place for the sensor. You need to pick a place where the road drums” Dmitri said.

“What does that mean?” Quinn asked. By now they had an audience as the other fighters, Roger and Randy were listening.

“Drums! Like a bowl full of jelly. Wet, spongy soil drums. Bridges drum. New fill drums. Packed gravel and sand...well, not so much.” Dmitri explained.

Quinn raised an eyebrow in an unspoken question.

“Move the sensor half-way between here and the bridge, where the road is above grade.” Dmitri commanded.

Manuel did as Dmitri commanded.

“Now walk down the road.” Dmitri said.

Manuel was twice as far away when the tell-tale started strobing.

“That is still not sensitive enough.” Quinn said.

Dmitri rolled his eyes. He plucked the sensor off the T and pulled a small screwdriver out of his back pocket. “In is more sensitive. That is clockwise.”

Dmitri gave both screws a quarter turn clockwise and re-installed the sensor.

“Try again.” Dmitri said.

This time Manuel was four times farther from the sensor when it lit-off.

“It is still not sensitive enough.” Quinn insisted.

“Why are there two screws?” Jason asked.

Dmitri easily dropped into lecture mode. “A sensor can fail in two ways. It can not signal when it should and it can signal when it should not. Giving you two frequencies to fiddle with means you can better tune the sensors into the specific site and still not have lots of false alarms.

Dmitri kept notes as Jason, Miguel and Quinn messed around with the sensor. They finally got it dialed in to where they were happy when Dmitri directed them to place it mid-span on one of the bridge beams, out of sight from the road bed.

There the sensor proved exquisitely sensitive.

“Can it be too sensitive?” Jason asked.

Dmitri shrugged. “There aren’t many deer left so they won’t set it off. Mostly, you need to worry about stray dogs and raccoons. If they don’t set them off, then you are probably OK.”

What Dmitri did not consider was the fact that there was a surprising amount of nocturnal traffic, none of which wished to be noticed. Some of it involved the pursuit of non-marital intimacy. Some involved the sale and trade of stolen goods or illicit substances.

Quinn made an executive decision. The locals were the people he had been sent to protect. He could not do his job without their support. That support would evaporate if he threw any of them under-the-bus.

The second night, when his fighters were rudely awakened and detained an amorous, married man crossing the bridge to take a “walk on the wild side”, Quinn told the man “I can turn a blind eye to your cheating but only on two conditions.”

The man asked, “And those are?”

“You cross the bridge at exactly the same time every night...or you don’t cross it.” Quinn said.

“What is the second condition?” the erstwhile lover asked.

“That you are armed.” Quinn said. “If we are lowering our guard so you can scratch-your-itch then you have to carry and carry heavy so we are not left swinging naked in the breeze.”

The man blinked in surprise. “You are going to let me keep crossing the bridge?”

Quinn said, “I would rather have you use the bridge rather than to beat a path through the brush that invaders could use to sneak across the river and get behind us.”

“What does ‘carry heavy’ mean?” the man asked, not quite believing his good fortune.

“AR or AK with two extra magazines.” Quinn said. “You go out like you are still hunting deer and you come back the same way, slow and quiet. What you do inside whatever house you are going to, I don’t care. But coming and going you have to be our eyes and ears because we are turning ours off to let you cross the bridge.”

That wasn’t going to be exactly true, of course. The alarm would sound and if it was at the agreed-upon time, the fighters might look down at the bridge but they wouldn’t rush down there to challenge the bridge crosser.


The interactions with the smugglers went much the same.

Most of the merchandise were salvage goods that somehow evaded being logged into Benicio’s inventory and was being sold in Capiche or points south for personal profit.

The first smuggler offered Quinn a bribe to look the other way. After briefly considering, Quinn refused.

“I am here to guard this bridge.” Quinn said. “You need to have absolutely no doubt that if you ever become a threat that I will not hesitate to pull the trigger.”

And then he let them cross, unmolested. Quinn did not see how his job of guarding the bridge had anything to do with protecting Benicio’s economic interests. He allowed free passage as long as the smugglers passed word ahead of time when they planned to slip through.

Quinn’s crew held the information about the smugglers close to the vest. The smugglers would find another way to infiltrate or would be executed if word of their identity and activities leaked out. Quinn's belief was that it is better to have a grudging truce with the devils you know than to open the gates of hell and let new ones out.

Quinn impressed upon the entrepreneurs that his ONLY interest was protecting Capiche and that any scuttlebutt or rumors that might impact the safety of Capiche would be much appreciated.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Sprite had cows out

A couple of days ago, one of Sprite's cattle got out.

We spent four hours yesterday troubleshooting Sprite's fence.

Based on what we saw, one three-hundred yard run of the fence had not been electrified in more than a year. Also based on the amount of wire touching the ground, I am not sure if he had any significant charge in any of the fence for the last couple of months.

God bless cows. If they have water, food, salt and company they will stay in a fence out of habit.

Not to speak ill of the dead, but the Captain's frugality caused him to weave every strand of material that remotely resembled "fence" or "insulator" into his perimeter fences. He also jumpered from top wire to middle wire or bottom wire in a random kind of way.

It made for challenging troubleshooting.

I showed Sprite how to use a long blade of grass as an impromptu fence tester. Hold the base of the blade and touch the wire with the very tip of the blade. If you hear somebody yell, the world jumps and you are suddenly sitting, then the fence is hot.

Even though we were finding issues, we were still not getting any voltage in her fence.

The leads from the energizer to the fence were battered and the end of the hot lead was wrapped around the fence wire. I replaced those and used a clamp to ensure there was good contact. Still, nothing.

One of the outlets on the receptacles was so loose the plug for the energizer kept wanting to fall out. We plugged into another receptacle. Still, no heat.

We finally made progress when we tied our two fences together. A couple of years ago I ran some wire over-head to the Captain's fence and it ends in a set of vice-grips so that I can clamp to one of his fence wires. That gave both of us more redundancy in case of lightning strikes.

My fence energizer is more energetic than hers.  We started hearing pinging and snapping. Then it was easy to find the major issues.

After cleaning up a hard short caused by piece of wire that had been scrapped-in-place we had a hot wire. We made the executive decision to leave her fence connected to our energizer until we made a few hardware upgrades to her fence.

Oddly, she had no desire to test the fence after I demonstrated the yell-and-jump blade-of-grass method.

The Shrewd King 13.3: King of the Battlefield

Dmitri was unhappy with how the meeting was going.

“We were attacked once by soldiers in motor vehicles. Why do you assume it couldn’t happen again?” Dmitri repeated his concern.

“It isn’t that it cannot happen again. It is that the odds are against it. Nobody can afford higher taxes to get better equipment.” Wade Hawk explained.

“You might as well just call the boys back in if you are just going to leave the boys hanging out there without the means to protect themselves. It might give you a warm feeling to throw them out there, but in the end what good can they do?” Dmitri asked.

Rick stepped in before the debate became more heated.

“Dmitri, we all respect what you are saying, but we have limited resources. The ‘boys’ as you call them were able to throw back the invaders once before and they did it with the same weapons they have now. The other thing they will do is sound alarm. That will give folks back here time to drop their tools and grab a rifle or shotgun” Rick said.

“What good will birdshot do against a truck that has steel over the windows?” Dmitri scoffed. “Do you think our enemies are so stupid that they will fail exactly the same way again-and-again?”

“What do you propose?” Chernovsky asked. He had been uncharacteristically quiet. His fighting force was rapidly mutating and he wasn’t sure he was totally in control anymore.

“Artillery” Dmitri said.

Artillery was the king of the battlefield in Soviet combat doctrine. Dmitri had been in the Romanian military which was about as far behind the Iron Curtain as one could be without actually being in the Soviet Union.

Combat thinking had evolved since the Cold War. No longer were enormous, set-piece battles against known enemy locations foremost in planner’s thinking. Artillery, for all of its power requires massive logistical support and a high degree of targeting. Consequently, it lost favor to more flexible “asymmetric” assets.

Wade Hawk scoffed. “Well, that ain’t gonna happen. I don’t see how anybody is going to find or make a 105mm howitzer, for instance.”

“I think you overestimate our industrial capability.” Rick said to Dmitri. “There are some things that are just way beyond us.”

“I am probably more aware of our limitations that anybody else.” Dmitri said, stiffly.

“I am also aware that our grain auctions are getting visitors from outside of Capiche. It is only a matter of time before somebody with a functioning military hears about us and decides to pay us a visit” Dmitri said.

That gave the group pause.

In the end, they agreed to let Dmitri and Janelle perform a study to see if there was any way to better support the fighters manning the roadblocks at the bridges leading into Capiche.


Janelle and Dmitri were looking at the twin spans of M-99 crossing the Grand River. One span supported southbound traffic and the other supported northbound traffic.

“Why don’t we just mine the bridge?” Janelle asked.

“We don’t want to destroy the bridge. It is too valuable and we don’t have the ability to rebuild it.” Dmitri responded.

“How about Claymore mines?” Janelle asked.

“Out in the weather? Somebody will steal them. Besides, if they can be seen, they can be avoided.” Dmitri said.

“Mining the road-bed?” Janelle asked.

“It is paved in concrete. How do you hide it?” Dmitri asked.

“Armor piercing rounds for Berfa?” Janelle asked.

“Can they hit a moving target at a quarter mile?” Dmitri asked rhetorically.

“Why artillery?” Janelle asked.

“Because close counts in artillery. And because we know where the target will be. They have to be on the bridge or lined up to cross it. We can lay in the tubes and the targeting will be a snap.” Dmitri said.

Janelle was shaking her head. “The problem is the lack of high explosives.”

“I can heave any weight you want a quarter-mile with black powder. No problem. But I cannot pack enough black powder into a shell to shred vehicles with shrapnel” Janelle said.

It is little appreciated that most artillery shells function by generating shrapnel. For example, only 15% of the standard, high explosive 105mm howitzer shell is TNT. The other 85% of the weight is the steel casing that is turned into super, high-velocity razor blades upon detonation.

Black powder has enough energy density to rupture steel containers but does not have enough energy density to burst it into thousands of tiny projectiles. That is one reason why black powder is still used in stone quarries. Black powder will shear off large blocks of stone while high explosive turns it into gravel and dust.

“What if you put twenty-five pounds of black powder in a can and tossed that?” Dmitri asked.

Janelle winced. “I run out of black powder. Or, more accurately, sulfur and saltpeter...although I can make black powder without sulfur.”

“So the bottleneck is saltpeter?” Dmitri deduced.

“Yup. Nitrates.” Janelle explained. “Explosives combine a fuel and an oxidizer. Nitrates are the oxidizer. High explosives combine the fuel and oxidizer in the same molecule, like nitrogycerine of TNT. Black powder is a mix of nitrates, charcoal and a little bit of sulfur to sensitize the mix.”

“The other thing is that apparently the farmers need nitrates to grow corn. More black powder means less food.” Janelle concluded.

“Guns or butter.” Dmitri mused.

Janelle shot a quick glance over at him to see if he was making fun of her. He wasn’t.

"I am an engineer.” Dmitri confided. “I believe that a well-defined problem is half solved.”

“People like you and me” he said “cannot help ourselves. We cannot leave a well-defined problem alone.”

“We need artillery. It has to have an explosive shell with the power of ten pounds of black powder and the tube has to be able to shoot it a minimum of a quarter mile.” Dmitri said.

Playing along, Janelle asked “And how many rounds of ammunition will your Highness require?”

Thinking quickly, Dmitri said “Twenty rounds of ammunition….per observation post. Forty for M-99.”

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Nerd humor

White power symbol

I should probably have included the area the flux was incident upon but did not want to work that hard.

Low Stress Animal Handling

The animal the presenter is handling in this video is a bull but his methods work even better with cows. He able to get this bull to go through a gate in the middle of a run of fence, which is pretty amazing.

This is a good video where the presenter shows how to move cattle using their natural instincts. Note: Low stress handling does not mean that you don't occasionally pressure the animal.

Every herd animal has a safety-bubble or flight zone when predators (you, based on your eyes facing forward) approach. If you move inside of the flight zone the animal will move away from you.

How big is an animal's flight zone? She tells you that by the distance she put between you and her when she stoped moving away. She stops when she feels comfortable and that is the outer limit of her flight zone. That distance defines the gas and brake pedal. Moving deeper into the flight zone is to press down on the gas pedal. She will move faster. Stepping outside of the flight zone is to step on the brake pedal. She will slow down and stop.

Cows do not want you behind them. If you think you can "push" a cow from behind you are sadly mistaken. She will curl around so she can keep her eye on you.

She is least skittish if you approach her from the front where her limited binocular vision functions.

Walking at her four-o'clock and eight-o'clock positions will move her in the twelve-o'clock direction. Again, speed is controlled by how close you are to her body. Secondarily, her speed is controlled by your "o'clock". Moving to the five and seven o'clock positions will cause her to squirt ahead but you lose directional control. That is not a big deal if she is in a corral.

Democrats' Dilemma

Polls released Sunday, October 13, 2019 Source

The Democrats' dilemma is that the three front-runners are as fatally flawed as mythic Gods.

Biden's corruption is catching up with him. Expect the erosion to continue.

Faux-a-hontas's false claims of EEO advantage have actual, economically depressed minorities angry. They see it as the equivalent of stolen valor. African-Americans are 13% of the vote and they will simply choose to not show up on election day.

Bernie is stuck in time like a fly-in-amber and he has health issues.

At this point, everybody else is running for Vice President or for 2024.

Many Democrats are rooting for Michelle Obama to enter the race. She is a blank screen that any message can be projected upon and she guarantees the African-American vote.

She has enough information to not want the job.

Trump's campaign style is bruising and I doubt we would have as high of an opinion of either Obama after a campaign because Trump has no inhibitions against airing anybody's dirty laundry.

The Shrewd King 13.2: The Duckworth hacienda

Mark and Betsy Salazar lived in the Duckworth mansion for a month before they moved a mile west and a mile north.

Even in mid-May the huge house used huge amounts of firewood to take the edge off the morning chill.

Betsy felt a bit stifled by being so close to Rick and Kate. After the move they were a mile-and-a-half from the store and almost two miles from where Rick and Kate lived. Betsy judged that to be the perfect distance, a half-hour walk to the store and a twelve minute bike ride to the house.

They moved into a 1200 square foot house that was perched on a rise. It had mature maple and a weeping willow tree for shade. Best of all, there were neighbor kids the same ages as their own children.

Betsy had a garden. Mark worked for Farmer Don even though the thousand ounces of silver he had stashed in the SUV when bugging out made working unnecessary, at least for a while.

Mark also became something of a preacher, specializing in baptizing and burials.

Mark had been his paternal grandmother’s favorite grandchild and consequently he spent much time with her.

His Grandmother Salazar believed that the living and the dead were separated by a gauzy veil. She included her own mother and grandmother in conversation as if they were sitting around the kitchen table drinking coffee as she taught Mark how to make gingerbread cookies.
It seemed no stranger to Mark than his father's talking to the dog. Rick had often told him, “Nobody knows how much dogs understand. I don’t see any harm in talking to them as if they were high school kids.”

Mark grew up with no fear of death or of ghosts. His grandmother taught him such fears are for those who choose to live unrighteously.

The great wave of births had yet to break. Long, dark winter nights and no access to reliable birth-control made that almost inevitable. August-through-November promised to be a joyous if laborious time.

The deaths, however, were already too-frequent. It was possible to be in arrears on your tetanus vaccination and never know it before Ebola struck. After Ebola, digging in the dirt with sharp tools and the recent mining of old manure piles with pitchforks made lockjaw an easy, if fatal, diagnosis.

Nyssa encountered a lot of resistance on the first few puncture wounds that she attempted to treat. Treatment involved aggressive irrigation from the bottom of the puncture with large quantities of sterile water and a blunt, hypodermic needle. Then vigorous scrubbing with the largest, sterile brush that would enter the wound. Then more irrigation. Repeat three times. Then shave off all of the skin within a half inch of the wound to expose any foreign material that may have been wiped off by layers of skin as the foreign object penetrated. Without the benefit of local anesthesia, it was a painful treatment.

Even after word of the slow, painful deaths spread around the community, there was still hesitation at being treated until Dr Sam Wilder and Gabby Salazar got together and cobbled together a process to convert ethanol alcohol to dimethyl ether.

Gabby hated the downtime associated with switching processes so she ran the ether until she had filled up three, 20 pound LP gas pigs before shutting down and switching back to making ethanol. To her way of thinking it was just as easy to make ten gallons as it was to make a pint.

For the most part, Pastor James handled baptisms and burials in Pray Church and the northern part of Chernovsky’s Annex. Mark Salazar handled baptisms and burials in Kates Store, Blastic’s Demesne and the southern part of Chernovsky’s Annex.

After three burials, it was natural when neighbors asked if he would lead a Sunday service.

Initially, he found that intimidating. As a Catholic, he had been raised to believe that preaching was a sacrament and a very, very big deal. After talking with Betsy, and praying (and yes, having some conversations with his grandmother in his head), he decided the need was great and God would understand.

He settled on reading an Old Testament passage, from a New Testament “letter” and then from one of the four Gospels. The first few Sundays he read the Book of Jonah and Paul's letters to Timothy. For the Gospel readings he started right at the beginning with Matthew.

In the beginning, Mark decided that the material could stand on its own. He felt no need to add any commentary. Better to be a transparent window than a lens that distorted. After a couple of months, one of his church members asked, “I don’t see how that applies to me.” Then Mark decided to spent no more than one minute after each reading to observe how he, personally, saw the readings apply to his own life and to ask his small congregation if any of them would like to add their own comments.


Benicio had no problem finding a minion willing to go to the store Kate ran and purchase a few items. In the course of purchasing a few items, the subject of Duckworth came up. The minion learned that the entire Duckworth family simply disappeared at the time of the last, major blizzard. Nobody had seen any of the Duckworths since early March.

The minion had no problem finding the Duckworth mansion. The drive was overgrown and showed no sign of traffic. The minion was a former cop who thoroughly tossed the place. He was unable to find what he was looking for, although he found the safe with the missing door still lag-bolted to the framing of the house.

That left Benicio in a bit of a quandary. The crew he sent to raid Duckworth’s mansion back in May had disappeared without a trace. He suspected that Duckworth had slipped away with his family and the drugs but he could not rule out the possibility that the lieutenants he sent on the raid may have seen an opportunity and absconded with the goods.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Turbulence happens

Cigarette smoke in a calm room. Ten second video.

Nobody was allowed to smoke in my grandparent's house except for Father James McKouen.

I remember being fascinated by the smoke that rose from the cigarette as it was perched on the ashtray. It rose as straight as an arrow for about eight inches and then broke into lazy figure eights.

It should be noted that my grandparents did not have a "forced air" furnace. Their furnace had an octopus of enormous vents and the air circulated by convection. The air in the house was very still.

Perhaps that is a useful analogy for our current troubles. The Anglo-Saxon culture bound us for a while but then microscopic perturbations become self-reinforcing and things went sideways. Maybe it is inevitable.

Maybe we will power through it. An amicable divorce happens at Re numbers of 10^6.

Upgrading insulators on posts

The style being replaced. I have issues with them cracking beneath the wire.
Sometimes bolt-cutters are actually used to cut bolts. In this case, both the insulator and the bolt.
The hole is just a tiny bit too small to run a 1/4" bolt through. That is easy enough to fix.
Quarter inch-by-four inch, galvanized bolt. Both ends of the bolt get a split "lock washer" and a flat washer with the flat washer closest to the insulator and post on their respective ends.
Ceramic Zareba part number WP22E insulator and a UV stabilized, indoor/outdoor cable-tie. The lock is spun so it is beneath the body of the insulator.

The Shrewd King 13.1: Third Auction

“Welcome to the third grain auction” Ken said.

The number of cards given to bidders was higher than the previous week. There was a buyer from Mason and Mrs Treadwell from Charlotte as well as the usual crew. Denny Blastic was not in attendance.

“We have a consignment we have been asked to auction off” Ken said. “Unlike most auction houses, we are going to auction off the highest quality corn first. Then we will auction off the regular corn. After that well will sell the soybeans and wheat. That way, most folks can leave and get back to their homes at a reasonable hour.”

Ken pointed to four, 100 pound bags of grain. “Mr Yoder and some of his neighbors were kind enough to send some grain for us to sell. Let’s hope they get the price they need so they can keep doing so.”

“Mr Yoder, what can you tell us about this corn?” Ken asked, pointing to the samples.

“Lot A is fifteen bushel from Mr Gruber. It is an open pollinated variety called Waspie Valley that ripens in 85 days. If you handle the kernels you can feel how big and heavy they are.” Mr Yoder said.

“Lot B is fifteen bushels from my farm and was grown organically. It is from hybrid seed.” Mr Yoder said.

“Lot C is fifteen bushels from Mr Yutzy and he used some super-phosphate on that field the year before so it is not technically organic. It is from hybrid seed.”

“Lot D is fifteen bushels from Mr Miller’s farm, the one who lives near the Little Thornapple River, and he grew it on bottomlands. It is a late ripening hybrid and he used propane to dry it.” Mr Yoder said. If you knew the Amish well, you would have caught a faint touch of approbation at the needless spending of money on the propane and the resulting decline in quality.

“They all have a reserve and I will nod to Mr. Ken when the reserve is met.” Mr Yoder concluded.

“OK! Whaddle-I-Be-Havin’ for fifteen bushels of Lot A. Who will gimme 100 silver dollars?” Ken started off.

“Ibbiddy-ibbiddy-ibbiddy-ted, ibbiddy-ibbiddy-ibbiddy-doo...who will give me $200?” Ken said.

“Caught you sleeping didn’t I. OK, nobody bid one hundred ibbiddy-ibbiddy-ibbiddy-dee, do I hear $90? Ibbiddy-ibbiddy-ibbiddy-dee?”

“Do I hear $50 ibbiddy-ibbiddy-ibbiddy-dee?”

Ken paused and looked out, over the audience. He did not see many friendly faces.

A good auctioneer has to read the audience. This crowd wasn’t going to make his job easy, at least not today. A good auctioneer doesn’t begrudge the crowd a bit of sweat to get a good price. If they are reluctant bidders he drops ridiculously low and gets somebody to bid something.

“Alrighty. Best corn I have seen all year, even better than mine ibbiddy-ibbiddy-ibbiddy-dine, who will give me nine ibbiddy-ibbiddy-ibbiddy-fine?”

Pete raised his card and the bidding started.

The price edged up two dollars a step. When Ken tried to push for five dollar jumps the bids stalled. Dropping back to jumps of two and he was able to squeeze out another bid.

Nine, eleven, thirteen, fifteen...

...Seventeen, nineteen, twenty-one, twenty-three...

Ken needed a sip of water to wet his whistle.

...thirty-nine, forty-one, forty-three…

Ken was running out of lame jokes.

...fifty-seven, fifty-nine, sixty-one...and Mr Yoder nodded that the reserve had been met.

Ken was relieved. He was running out of voice on the first lot of the day.

“OK, folks. I just got the nod from the seller that the reserve has been met...does anybody want to bid sixty-three ibbiddy-ibbiddy-ibbiddy-dee?” and darned if Uncle Earl didn’t bid on the corn.

Then Mrs Treadwell. Then the man from Mason. The bidding finally petered out at $83 for the lot of fifteen bushels with Uncle Earl winning. As the auctioneer it was not his place to question why, but as a fellow farmer, Ken was darned curious why Earl was buying corn.

Mr Yoder asked that each Amish lot be sold separately. Lots B, C and D all sold for $61 a lot or four dollars a bushel, silver. Pete, Kate and Luke were the buyers.

Ken said he needed a break because he needed to rest his voice. He went outside to use the outhouse and to quickly confer with Farmer Don. “We ain’t gonna get our reserve.” Ken said.

“I know that.” Don said. “Should we drop it?”

“Yeah, I think so. Nobody left the auction, so we have people who want to buy it, if the price doesn’t gouge them.” Ken said.

“What are you thinking, number wise?” Don asked.

“Well, if their reserve was $60, I don’t feel bad about getting $45 a lot. That is still three times what we were getting four weeks ago.” Ken said.

Don would have choked on $45 a bushel until Ken put it into the perspective of when Kate was setting the prices without really consulting them.

“OK, give it a shot. Let’s see if we can move any corn at that price.” Don said.

Ken followed the same format as the previous week. The winning bidder could pick as many lots at the winning price as they wanted. Then, if there were additional lots they were made available to the other bidders who had participated. Then, if there were any left after that, it was opened to the floor.

Ken had to drop the initial bid down to $5 to get any action. Then he had to work it up $2 a bid until he hit $35 a lot. After that he was working to get a dollar increment. At $42 he was sawing away and getting fifty cent bids. He finally got the $45 a lot and sweat was pouring off his forehead. He was delighted to announce that the reserve had been met.

Kelly was the winning bidder and took two lots. Mrs Treadwell was the other bidder and she picked one lot. Benico bought a lot for a total of four lots.

The farmers walked home together. It was a quiet walk.

Don was depressed. He had been counting his chickens before they hatched.

“You should be smiling.” Ken said. “We got $180 for sixty bushels of corn. A month ago we would have gotten less than half that for seventy-five bushels of corn. The other thing is that we didn’t sell out. We throttled demand if you figure that Earl BOUGHT a lot of corn, we only sold a net of three lots.”

“Yeah, I guess that may be so.” Don said, morosely. “For a week I was a rich man. Now I am back to being a working stiff.”

“Hey Earl,” Ken said “Why did you buy corn at the auction. Its your own business but it just seem odd.”

“Did you feel that corn? It felt as heavy as buckshot. Son, I wasn’t buying corn. I was buying seed” Earl said. "There was enough seed there to plant thirty acres of corn."

“I’ve been watching that Amish seed we planted. It is two feet taller than the f2 hybrid we are growing, its got more leaves and heavier tassels. That comes in handy when it comes to shading out weeds.”

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Unintended consequences, Part II

Mrs ERJ and I paid a visit to Sprite today. I took my tool box.

The first thing we tackled was the seat adjustment for fore/aft that was frozen up.

I don't know EXACTLY why it was frozen up, but it moves fine now.

Sprite fished out a glove none of us had seen and something came flying out when I muscled it. It flew into the dark recesses of the barn so nobody knows what it was. If I had to guess, I would guess it was a cable tie that the Captain had threaded through both the seat and the track to hold up a cable bundle.

Sprite was very happy to have the seat in the full-forward position. It was probably a good three or four inches farther forward.

We looked at adding a shim to the sensor's target. We validated by having Sprite put the tractor in gear in dead-slow and easing up, out of the seat. The tractor did not switch off. Even a 1/4" of shim was too much.

So we removed the shim and Sprite will see how it works with her center-of-gravity 4" further back in the seat. It may make all the difference in the world.

Wisdom in few words

"I have a dream that one day my children will be judged, not by the color of their hat, but by their character within."  -Emil Que

Things were tougher in the early '80s

At one of the factories where I worked, an electrician took a week of vacation, drove out to Idaho in a full-size van with a buddy. They worked like dogs and harvested more than a ton of weed growing wild beside the irrigation ditches.

They drove back home to Michigan, hung it in a barn to dry and then went to work.

Just before it was dry enough to package, somebody helped themselves to the entire crop.

Nice payday for somebody...maybe the buddy.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

You get fewer posts when I am busy

I spent the last 36 hours at mom and dad's.

Everybody is fine. Many chores to do on Saturday schedule.

Otherwise, not much to post.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Wisdom in few words

"Don’t set the house on fire because you want the kitchen remodeled."  -Michigan State Senator Ruth Johnson

Fake News Friday: Smiling Joe to publish book on parenting

Filled with many helpful hints on parenting:
  • Use the skulls of your enemies for ash-trays to set the tone
  • Ideas are more dangerous than guns, don't let the children have unapproved ideas
  • The death of my dog is a tragedy. The death of a thousand people I don't know is a statistic
  • People are problems. Where there are no people, there are no problems
  • The only real power comes out of a rifle
  • Trust no one, not even yourself
  • How can you expect the middle-class to revolt when they don't even dare walk on the grass?
  • Heroes do not make history. The writers of history make heroes
  • The fools who sells us bullets and rope deserve their fate
  • The press must grow day in and day out - it is our Party's sharpest and most powerful weapon

The Shrewd King 12.5: Never look a gift horse...

Lorraine Blastic met with Di Carney at the pub run by Gabby Salazar. The pub was on the Carney property and was the best place to catch up with Di.

“This is quite a treat” Lorraine said as she ate a burger and picked at some french fries. It was rare that Lorraine had a chance to eat anything she had not cooked herself. For Di, it was almost a necessity as she was run from pillar-to-post trying to keep up with the demand for transportation.

Di suggested that Lorraine meet her at noon when she changed out horses. Neither talked directly to the other. They both communicated through Gladys who was the operator of the local CB net.

Di was impatient. She didn’t have time for social chit-chat. She only agreed to the meeting because it seemed so unlikely.

Lorraine immediately picked up on Di’s fidgets and got to the point.

“My husband, Denny, wants to lease out some of our horses. We thought you might know of somebody who needed them.” Lorraine said.

That got Di’s attention like nothing else could.

Di had almost enough horses. She could be doing heavy hauling every day but that would be too much for her horses. She compromise by doing heavy hauling on Tuesdays and Fridays and light hauling on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday. She and the horses took Sunday off.

Heavy hauling involved hitching up both horses to the wagon and moving big loads.

The days she did light hauling she hitched up one horse to the buggy and swapped out at mid-day.

While she probably could have pushed her horses harder, she was concerned that if one of them lamed up that she would be out of the heavy-hauling business and the economy of Kates Store and Pray Church would suffer.

The horses seemed to enjoy the variety and there was far more cartage work than she and her horses could keep up with.

Di had approached various neighbors with horses, but even after the rise in the price of corn the neighbors were reluctant to let somebody else work their horses. They didn’t mind working them personally, but they were leery that anybody else would abuse them.

“How many horses are you looking to lease out?” Di asked, carefully.

“Ten.” Lorraine said.

In addition to reducing her work load, Di was also motivated because she was appalled at the sudden loss of social status experienced by many women. Before Ebola, equal-pay-for-equal-work was enshrined in both the culture and the law. After Ebola, it suddenly became apparent that most women could not do “equal work” in the absence of knowledge work, electric motors and diesel engines.

Work meant physical labor, usually labor that demanded much upper-body strength. There were some exceptions, weeding crops for example. But for the most part it took twice as many woman to drag wood out of the swamp as men and, consequently, their work was valued half as much.

Di was lucky on two counts. She was married to man with high status in Kates Store and she had two horses. If a horse can do the work of ten men, then simply owning them gave her the status of twenty, ordinary men.

She wanted other women, especially unmarried women, to have the same opportunity. For it was her studied opinion that the average woman is better at handling horses than the average man. There was no shortage of young women who learned horsemanship through Four-H and FFA. There was a shortage of horses, however.

“I think I might be able to help, depending on what you are asking for rent.” Di said. Her next hauling gig would have to wait.

“I am afraid the conditions are not negotiable” Lorraine said. “Whoever leases the animals has to return them a month before they foal. They have to feed them enough to keep them in the condition they are in and care for their hooves. They will be responsible for providing all of their tack and shoes and so on.”

“That is reasonable” Di said. “How much is the rent?”

Lorraine drew in a breath, “Two bushels of corn a week, per horse” and then she waited for Di to explode.

Di rolled the number around in her head. Kelly was buying quite a bit of corn but he had found out that brewer’s waste was highly sought by folks who raised chickens because it had high levels of protein. Eggs and chicken meat is mostly protein.

Consequently, he recovered a high percentage of his cost outlay for the grain when selling the brewer’s waste. That was in addition to the value-added for the alcohol which was in high demand for drinking, fuel and other chemical processes.

The other consideration was that Kelly had a huge credit balance. That had gone a long way toward reducing his job stress and their relationship had improved markedly. Di had no doubt that Kelly would advance her “seed money” to get the horses-for-ladies project going.

“Ok, I am in” Di said. “I will take them all.”

“My only condition is that I want them two-at-a-time so I can make sure they are well placed before I get the next team.” Di said.

“That won’t be possible.” Lorraine said. “You have to take all ten.”

Denny was bluffing. He was behind the eight-ball for feed. He needed to to reduce the number of mouths by ten and increase his reserves of corn NOW.

Di considered for five seconds. “OK. I can take all ten tomorrow. Do they all get along or do I have to separate some of them?”

Lorraine assured her that all ten horses got along. She knew that for a fact.

After Lorraine left, Di got on the CB and asked Gladys to cancel all of her afternoon commitments. Di had to find five horsewomen in a hurry and she was going to start by driving over to the 4-H leader and former Eaton Rapids Equestrian Team coach who lived just south of Kates Store to get a list.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Unintended consequences

The cattle are getting close to the end of the grass in the pasture. Sprite decided to feed them hay on my pasture.

That is to my benefit. The hay they eat is pooped out on my pasture, enriching the soil. The other benefit is that they may eat mostly hay but they will continue to nibble the grass for dessert. Having the grass nibbled down close is good for frost seeding in mid-winter.

I may lose some red clover I planted last winter because it won't have time to recover from prolonged defoliation, but on the whole I think I will come out ahead.

When safety features aren't
The unintended consequence is related to the seat switch.

Sprite weighs about 80 pounds and doesn't have enough lead in her pockets to keep the seat switch closed. Several times she hit some bumps. The bouncing caused the seat switch to un-make and the tractor stopped RIGHT NOW.

It will be very, very hard for her to feed the cattle the 150 round bales she has if she cannot use the Captain's her tractor.

I swung by the Kubota dealer and asked if there were lower-rate springs that can be installed in the seat. The parts man said, "Sorry buddy. Lawyers run the world. Can't help you out."

Then he went on to tell me that removing one of the two springs was also forbidden as that deviated from the design as validated by the factory. He especially advised against removing the spring on the same side of the seat as the sensor module as that would make it so even a 79 pound pre-teen could use the tractor.

I thanked the man profusely not being able to help me out. Of course, I cannot remember his name nor can I remember which Kubota dealership I went to.

The Shrewd King 12.4: High tech and the pull economy

“Sensors are not magic” Dmitri was telling Quinn. “They have to be in the right place. They have to be properly installed. They have to communicate and somebody has to be paying attention and most important, the person paying attention needs to take action.”

“I am going to show you how to install them and how to set up communication nodes” Dmitri said. “But first, I want to demonstrate what they do.”

“Walk over to that shed as quietly as you can” Dmitri said.

Quinn slowly picked places to place his feet, bringing the balls of his feet gently in contact with the ground. Nothing happened.

“Now walk back the same way” Dmitri said.

Again, nothing happened.

“Now walk normally toward the shed.”

This time a strobe at the peak of the shed started flashing at Quinn’s second step and a siren started hooting.

“We are going to start with seismic sensors. They sense the ground shaking” Dmitri said. "Like I said, sensors are not magic. They can only pick up what is there."

Reaching into a box, Dmitri pulled out a plastic, soft-drink cup with a couple of wire leads protruding from its mouth. “This is the actual sensor.”

Tipping it so Quinn could look inside, Quinn saw a round ferrite magnet glued to the bottom of the cup and several turns of thin, copper wire glued to the sides of the cup.

“Nobody picks up trash, right?” Dmitri said. “That makes this a sensor you can install in plain sight and nobody will notice. You just have to make sure that the cup stays upside down, even if it gets windy.”

“How does it work?” Quinn asked. It hardly seemed possible that something so simple could sense ground shake.

“The bottom of the cup acts like a diaphragm and the weight of the magnet resists moving. The coil moves up-and-down through the magnetic field and generates a tiny amount of electricity” Dmitri said. “Most of the magic is in processing the signal.”

“So the coil moves and the magnet doesn’t?” Quinn asked.

“Exactly” Dmitri said.

Quinn spent the rest of the morning learning how to install the sensors and hook up the processing units. He also learned to locate and install the battery and mini solar panel.

Something Dmitri could not teach Quinn was how to set up the alert system to maximum advantage. Dmitri had designed the system with both an audible and a strobe. Obviously, a poorly designed system would alert the intruder while failing to alert the defenders.

The afternoon was spent learning the basic technology and installation of signal repeaters. Quinn’s vision was to install sensors at the potential staging sites to backstop this human intelligence network.

Dmitri cautioned him that he needed to learn to walk before he ran.


Mr Yoder met with his Amish neighbors. They were floored by fifteen bushels of corn going for $100, silver.

“Well, I guess when you are hungry, you will pay what is asked.” Mr Yutzy observed.

Mr Miller, the youngest of the four farmers said, “That does not make it right.”

Mr Yoder responded, “When people don’t pay a fair price, they get wasteful. I think the English farmers don’t want to run out of grain before the next harvest comes in.”

Mr Miller scratched his chin beneath his beard. “I am be willing to sell the English corn for less than $6.67 a bushel but I don’t know what a fair price is.”

Mr Gruber, the oldest of the four Amish farmers spoke up for the first time. “What did we get the last time we sold corn to the elevator in Charlotte?”

“That was before the government took all the corn we were storing in the elevator and shut them down.” Mr Yutzy said.

Mr Yoder was looking through his little, pocket notebook. “The last corn I sold I was paid $3.93 a bushel.”

Miller, Yutzy and Gruber chimed in as they checked their notebooks: “$4.05/bushel”, “$4.10/bushel” and “$3.90/bushel” respectively.

“How good was the corn they were selling?” Mr Gruber asked.

“Not very good. They let it stay on the stalk too long and it got rained and snowed on.” Mr. Yoder said. “Our corn is much better.”

Bragging is frowned upon by the Amish. As Mr Yoder saw it, it was purely a matter of being accurate.

“It is no farther to Kate’s Store than it was to the elevator.” Mr. Gruber noted. “I think we could each sell them fifteen bushel of good, Amish corn and have a minimum bid of $4 a bushel.”

“Would you take paper money?” Mr Miller asked.

Gruber said “Silver. The paper money is backed by the promises of the same people who stole our corn out of the elevator.”

Mr Yutzy suggested the men share the plan with their families and to pray about the decision.

It would be telling if the English farmers did not allow the Amish to sell their corn at the auction. If they refused, then they were motivated by Mammon. If they were welcomed, then the English farmers were obviously most concerned about a poor harvest and running out of corn in the coming year.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

The Shrewd King 12.3: Forgotten promises

Squirrel was grousing about having to hike up to the potential staging area every day. He was looking forward to the end of the week when he and Mike would rotate to the Columbia Highway bridge and he could get away from Quinn.

“I don’t see why we don’t wait for them to come to us” Squirrel said. “We have Berfa. We have road-blocks and we have dug-in positions.”

“That will work for common infantry, if we know they are coming.” Quinn said. “But it is not going to work when we are attacked by mechanized troops or armor.”

Squirrel scoffed, “Nobody has any fuel. How can you say we are going to see troops in tanks?”

Walking over to an abandoned vehicle, Quinn said, “Walk around this car and look underneath it.”

When Squirrel was looking beneath it he said “So?”

Quinn took out his belt knife and drove it into the gas tank at the very lowest points. Gasoline came gushing out.

“How did you know that?” Squirrel asked.

Quinn said. “I was with my Uncle Bill when he ran out of gas. He had us both get out of the truck and rock it on the springs to slosh enough gas out of those pockets to get us the rest of the way back home.”

“He used to work at the GM plant and stamped out gas tanks. He said most gas tanks have a gallon of unusable fuel in them because of all the ripples in the bottom” Quinn said. “If he knows that, then lots of other people know it, too.”


“It's not throwing somebody under-the-bus if I am just asking you to check something out, is it?” Quinn asked Gimp.

“What is on your mind Spackle?” Gimp asked.

“Back in April, Squad One was over-run while they were cleaning up after breakfast. We figured out later it was because the zombies had smelled the bacon frying. Our guys had no warning and we lost two men.” Quinn said.

Gimp nodded. He hadn’t been a part of Chernovsky’s fighters but people talked and he had heard about the incident.

“At the time, there was a lot of talk about electric sensors and other fancy stuff” Quinn said. “We strung lines and cans and got dogs but everybody seems to have forgotten about the electronic stuff.”

Gimp frowned. “Seems like you should bring this up with Chernovsky.”

“I did, but he said I was imagining things and I am sure he didn’t follow up on it” Quinn said.

Gimp could see how that was an awkward situation.

“Do you really need them?” Gimp asked.

“Chernovsky says we don’t. But he isn’t out here. He forgets how thin we are spread” Quinn said. “Besides, we need some way to communicate with the people near the staging areas. They are willing to keep their eyes and ears open but there probably won’t be time for them to hoof-it all the way here to tell us.”

“You aren’t giving me much to go on, Spackle. I don’t suppose you have some names to go along with the rumors?” Gimp said.

“One name I remember is ‘Dmitri’ “ Quinn said. He did not think he needed to tell Gimp that those rumors came from Dysen, not Chernovsky or anybody in his chain of command.

“No promises, but I will look into it” Gimp said. “As long as you are making out your Christmas list, is there anything else Santa promised you?”

“Electric bikes.” Quinn said. “We were supposed to get electric bikes with little tow-behind trailers.”

Gimp rolled his eyes but promised to look into that, as well.


Dmitri knew EXACTLY what Quinn was talking about. “I have a pilot set of equipment sitting on the shelf. I was wondering when somebody was going to come by and ask for them.”

“Pilot?” Gimp asked, not familiar with the term when applied to hardware and software.

“Pilot means more developed than prototype. It is ready for limited field testing. Once we have the bugs shaken out, then we will go full production.” Dmitri said.

“What is it going to take to get these out, into the field?” Gimp asked.

“I need to have the lead fighter come here for a day so I can train him in how to install them. Then I give him the suite of sensors and let him play around with them.” Dmitri said.

The electric bikes proved more elusive.

Rick Salazar clearly remembered Paul Seraph promising some electric bikes. In fact, Zane at the salvage yard had donated three solid car batteries and the same number of super-high efficiency motors from radiator/condensor cooling fans.

It took until the next day to track down Seraph and he was initially evasive. “Folks claimed them after nobody showed up.”

“That doesn’t make the bikes their property.” Gimp said.

Paul was willing to concede the point, but he pointed out, “Some of those folks paid money for those bikes.”

“Then whoever got that money ought to pay it back or find some more parts and make some more. I can see that we are going to need more than three of them, so maybe whoever made them ought to start a factory” Gimp said.

“Regardless, I need at least one of those bikes tomorrow morning and the other two by the end of the week” Gimp said.

The next day, Gimp told Quinn that he was to report to Dmitri at first light the next morning for training. The electric bike was waiting there as a surprise. Quinn was going to have a butt-load of equipment to take back to camp with him.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Working on the electric fence

We did not know if Sprite, the Captain's widow, was going to keep the cattle.

She had Sparky, her son, sell the ones with bad dispositions and plans to keep them, at least for now.

It is one thing to have a high maintenance fence when the neighbor who is using your pasture is handy and walks the pasture daily. It does not take much of a fence to keep cattle in when all their buddies, the water, the salt and a good stand of grass are on one side.

It is a different situation when the owner might not walk the pasture every day. The hose might get knocked off the water tank. They might have forgotten to throw the salt block in. Or the cattle might have run through the grass quicker than expected.

That is when a top-notch fence earns it's keep.

The perimeter fence around my pasture has just about every combination of post and insulator imaginable. After living with it for twenty years, I have definite ideas about which combinations are trouble-free and which ones are drama-queens.

Today, I started giving the most troublesome drama-queens cement overshoes.

Two neighbors back, the fellow borrowing the pasture was given some 2" diameter pipe. He thought it would make dandy fence posts, so he cut them to 54" and drilled holes into them to attach insulators.

Being only 54" long, he could only pound about 12" into the ground, but that was all the sweat he cared to break into. 12" was plenty deep enough as long as the dirt never got wet.

The poles leaned. The poles spun. Combined with the fact that the Captain used re-purposed barbed wire for electric fence wire, that invariably put the points of the barbs in close proximity to the steel pipe. That combination is the high-runner for fence shorts of all the combinations out there.

I briefly considered pulling out all the round posts and replacing them with T posts. I can get used T posts for about $1 when I catch the guy at the salvage yard in a good mood. Some of them are even straight! Then, I decided to use my 6" auger to drill an 8" deep hole, re-sink the short, round fence post slightly deeper than it was and to pour concrete pre-mix into the hole. Total cost of the fix, about seventy cents a pole.

I also snip the barbs that are pointing back toward the post and position the post so it is midway between sets of barbs. Again, the smart money would re-run the entire fence with smooth, galvanized wire.

It is hard to make the economics work if you figure my time is worth anything. A single fence post takes all of five minutes but I am only saving fifty cents by the time you cost-in the new insulators. I still have a few of those $1 T posts in the barn. It gives me comfort to know that I have something I can slam into the ground speedy-quick when I need an emergency fence repair.

The Shrewd King 12.2: The second auction

Kate was mad enough to spit. That, in itself was a rare event. The fact that everybody else in the store was agitated was also notable.

“What happened?” Ken asked when he noticed everybody glaring daggers at him. Frankly, he was not very popular and he was kind of used to it. But this was exceptional.

“La-Loyd and Wesley Blastic showed up and tried to make me take a beat-up nag...telling me it was the collateral that Denny used to take the loan.” Kate said.

“It is all your fault, you know.” she added.

Ken was clueless.

“How do you know it is not the same horse?” Ken asked.

Kate whipped out her smart-phone. There was no cell coverage but they were still very useful as calculators...and cameras. Kate scrolled through a bunch of pictures and finally pulled out the one she was looking for. “There. That is Suzy. The one Denny Blastic pledged as collateral. Look at her color! Look at the star on her forehead and look at how straight her back is and the muscling in her hindquarters.”

“Now, come out here and look at the pony they tied to the tree behind the store.” Kate said.

Ken good naturedly followed Kate outside. Tied to the small walnut tree behind the store was a shaggy, geriatric pony, much in need of brushing and very much in need of having its hooves trimmed.

“Do you have any documentation that this is not the pony Blastic pledged?” Ken asked.

Kate withered him with a stare. “Of course I had him sign a contract. He pledged a chestnut Standardbred mare named Suzy. For God’s sake, Ken, this pony is a gelding!”

“Point taken.” Ken said. “Blastic had to settle up with you to be eligible to bid next auction. Looks to me like he tried get off cheap.”

“What do you want me to do.” Kate challenged.

“If it were me, I would start billing Blastic for boarding his...” at this point Ken could barely keep a straight face...”boarding his horse.”


The next auction was held on Monday. The room was arranged as before. Blastic raised a stink when he was not issued a bidding number. After verbally roughing up Earl and Don, he decided he would just buy corn from one of the other bidders after the auction.

Walking into the room behind the chairs, he noticed the two Hispanic men. They were eating some crackers and cheese. He muttered under his breath, “Looks like we got ourselves a little Spic-nic here, don’t it.”

Blastic snorted with laughter when the younger man started to rise. Blastic would have broken him like a twig. Damned good thing the other Spic settled him down. Blastic never got tired of jerking people's chains. It was cheap, easy fun.

Like the week before, Kate, Luke, Pete, Benicio had numbers. Blastic did not. Paul Seraph had a number this week as did Abraham Yoder, one of the Amish from west of Kate’s Store.

“For sale is Lot-Number-One. There is a reserve on this lot. If the reserve is not met, none of the other lots of corn will be sold.”

“Lot-Number-One is fifteen bushels of prime, clean, last-years, Michigan corn. Who will give me 95 silver dollars?”

“Ibbidy, ibbidy, ibbiddy dee” Farmer Ken singsonged in traditional auctioneer fashion.

He paused and looked around the room.

“Who will give fifty? Ibbiddy-ibbiddy-ibbiddy-oo”

Pete said “I bid sixty.”

“I have sixty, I have sixty, do I have seventy? Ibbiddy-ibbiddy-ibbiddy-dee”

Kelly, with hardly a pause in the bidding said “I will give seventy.”

Back-and-forth, without any hesitation Pete and Kelly scrambled up the ladder in jumps of $10 a lot until Kelly bid $90 in silver for a lot.

“I have ninety, I have ninety, do I have a hundred? Ibbiddy-ibbiddy-ibbiddy-dee” Ken sing-songed.

“I bid ninety-five.” Pete said.

Ken paused the head-long rush in bidding to announce “The reserve has been met.”

Kelly bid $100 a lot and Pete let him win the bid.

Ken asked Kelly “How many lots do you want?”

“I will take four.” Kelly said.

“More lots are available. Does the other bidder want lots at the same price?” Ken asked.

Pete said. “I will take two.”

Ken, Earl and Don had talked about how many lots to make available. Before the first auction, they had been shipping out seventy bushels a week or roughly five lots a week. Since they hadn’t shipped any grain the entire previous week, they budgeted a total of ten “lots” for the current auction.

That left four lots unspoken for.

“Additional lots remain available.” Ken said. “I can offer a lot to every person with a bidding card who did not bid.”

Benicio, Kate, Luke and Seraph nodded that they each wanted a lot. Abraham Yoder shook his head “No.”

Farmer Ken declared the bidding was over for the week.

Blastic swaggered over to Kelly and demanded that Kelly sell him fifteen bushels of corn. Kelly, a shorter than average man, had always hated bullies. Kelly said “No thank-you.” as he walked over to the office to “settle up.”

Much to his distaste, Blastic went over to Pete and demanded fifteen bushels of corn. Pete looked at Blastic as if he were something slimy found after turning over a rock. This was the man whose son pulled a gun on his brother.

Yoder, the Amish non-bidder said, “Maybe I can help you.”

“You didn’t buy any corn. How can you help me?” Blastic said, dismissively.

“I did not come here to buy. I am selling.” Yoder said.

It snapped into focus. The Amish had harvested their fields in November before the plague reached Eaton Count. Then half of them died in the plague. They had WAY more corn than they needed for the next year.

“I will give you a silver dollar a bushel.” Blastic said.

Suddenly, Abraham Yoder was as implacable as an old Testament prophet. “You are not in a position to set the terms.”

“You will settle up with Kate Salazar. You pledged the chestnut mare on the team you drove here. You will honor your pledge.” Yoder said.

“I already honored that pledge. I can’t help it if she weaseled on the terms.” Blastic tried to bully his way through.

Yoder’s gaze was impassive as the sun. “You will honor your pledge before I will do business with you. The horse you tried to give her is barely fit for rendering.”

“But I cannot drive my wagon home with just one horse.” Blastic said, grasping at straws.

“That will not be a problem.” Yoder said. “The price for you, for fifteen bushels of corn, is the other horse. It is just as easy to not drive a wagon home with no horses as it is to not drive it home with one horse.”

Blastic did not really have a choice. His horses were starving. His slaves were starving. He had penned up two horses with the “brome grass” hay and they appeared more inclined to eat dirt than to nibble on the poorly made hay. After a week they had eaten less than a quarter bale of hay.

Another man might have called on the radio to get a ride back home. But Blastic was not another man. He would have died before he advertised over the open CB channels that he had fared poorly.

He waited until dark and then walked home. His footwear was ill suited for walking on gravel roads. He favored soft, thin-soled shoes that were almost slippers. By the time he had walked the five the dark...he was lamed and in very ill humor.

Monday, October 7, 2019

I think it is time to boycott the news

 Where I want my head to be.

I think it is time for me to try a one-week boycott of the news.

It has been harshing my mellow. I need to listen to more Sibelius and Saint-Saëns and to less head-banger news.

Keeping it real

One of the temptations of blogging is to be less than honest about my screw-ups.

The clothes dryer did not stay fixed.

We bought a new one. Mrs ERJ informed me that Mother Maytag did not put the hinges on the correct side of the door for how our laundry room is arranged.

Today I fixed that problem. Twice.

I had it all put back together when I realized that I could not find the large screwdriver I used to hold the two halves of the door apart so I could file out hinge clearance in the side moldings.

Yup, sure enough. I had reassembled the door with the screwdriver between the inner and the outer. I considered leaving it in place for Mrs ERJ's amusement but decided I may need that screw driver in the near future.

A failure is just a side-excursion unless you give up. Then it is a failure.

The Shrewd King 12.1: Capiche?

Jason, Miguel and Squirrel were getting worn ragged by the hikes, so Quinn decided to make the next one shorter.

They were hiking out to potential staging area one to develop relationships with some of the residents. It was very much in Quinn's mind that his first engagement against the zombies had a good outcome because Chernovsky had been tipped off beforehand by a local resident.

“Why don’t we just put somebody in some of the deer stands?” Squirrel asked as he pointed to one of them they were passing along the way.

“A couple of reasons.” Quinn said. He was glad to have a chance to explain what they were doing. Squirrel’s asking meant that Jason and Miguel were also probably wondering.

“The biggest one is that we don’t have the warm bodies to do it” Quinn said. “Another reason is that there weren’t any deer stands close to where we need eyes.”

After walking a bit farther he added “Sometimes there were deer stands on the edge of fields when we ambushed zombies. The zombies always assumed there were shooters in the deer stands and shot at them. They were magnets for the return fire. Never saw a wall on a deer stand that would stop a bullet.”

It wasn’t too hard to figure out which houses still had residents. There were tracks through the tall grass leading to the doors.

Quinn had the three young men stand by the road and he went and knocked on the door. Quinn had his rifle slung across his back.

Only one resident in three chose to answer their door. Perhaps the others were out foraging. Perhaps they were timid.

Quinn introduced himself as part of the Chernovsky’s Annex, Pray Church, Kates Store defense force and offered them one of Dysen’s 900 Calorie cookies. They always took the cookies.

The resident of the second house where somebody answered the door furrowed his brows when Quinn introduced himself. “Oh, you mean ‘Capiche’. Nobody around here calls it Chernovsky’s Annex and all that other stuff. Mr. Spagnolo shortened it down and it stuck.”

Quinn asked where Mr. Spagnolo lived since he deserved a cookie.

"What I wanna know," Jim the resident said "is when will Pete's store have more corn to sell?"

"Folks around here been living hand-to-mouth and it is hitting us bad." Jim said.

The young men went home after the supply of cookies was exhausted. It was Quinn’s expert opinion that a much higher percentage of the residents would answer the door the next time he knocked.


The Amish communities Milo was delivering ground limestone to were very interested in events happening in Kates Store and the surrounding area.

Learning of the farmer’s belated attempts to get fertilizer on their fields and the struggles the community of non-horse people were having with using their horses, the Amish loaned Milo six sets of horse harnesses. It was not as big of a sacrifice as it seemed at first. The Amish community had suffered 50% losses from the Plague and while the horses survived, there were not enough adults to drive them. The harnesses really were “spares”.

After dropping off his last load of the day, one of the teenagers offered to go back to Kates Store with him to show the locals how to fit the harnesses and whiffle-trees to the individual horses.

Di and Ms. Sheridan questioned him very carefully and had him pick out the one to use as the pattern for the harnesses the seamstresses and carpet layer were making. The young man had a good eye. He recognized that the “English” didn’t have any true draft animals. But he also recognized that they would likely start “breeding up” the size of the animals they did have. Since a well cared-for harness can last for decades, he advised that provide enough adjustment for the future.

Wood-tick heard of the manure brigade from his brother who lived on Gun Road and quickly implemented the same. Wood-tick was not democratic in how he allocated the manure. Only the cleanest plots got the fertilizer. Wood-tick’s reasoning was that fertilizer also makes weeds grow faster.

After half a week, it became abundantly clear that only 1/3 of the families had gotten religion about weeding their plots. Two-thirds of the plots were still overgrown with weeds.

Wood-tick had never been accused of being indecisive. He unilaterally gave the untended plots to the families who were doing an adequate job of tending their own plots. When they complained that they were barely able to care for their own, Wood-tick told them to hire the slackers on a per-diem basis.

One of the slackers challenged Wood-tick’s authority. That particular slacker happened to have an advanced degree in political science and his nose was out-of-joint that he was not running the show.

After informing the slacker that it would be far simpler to kick his ass than explain anything to him, Wood-tick said that life was about choices.

None of the old geezers had any doubt that Wood-tick could whip the young upstart with little effort, a possibility that eluded the slacker.

The slacker had many choices when the seeds went into the ground. Due to some of the choices the slacker made earlier, some people had futures that were no longer available to people who talked a good story but don’t work.

The political scientist was sure that he was on the high, moral ground. “Who appointed you to be God?” he challenged.

“Your belly.” Wood-tick responded without hesitation.

That response was met with a baffled look. That was not the intellectual plane the “scientist” expected to joust upon.

“I beg your pardon?” the political scientist asked to buy time.

"You wanna eat. You do what I say. Actually, you do what Mr and Mrs Mead tell you to do.” Wood-tick said. “You are detailed to support their new, expanded holdings.”

“That makes me a serf!” the political scientist exclaimed, truly horrified.

“Whatever.” Wood-tick replied. That was one of the few useful things he had learned from his grandkids. The all-purpose, throw-away response.

“You had every chance to not be a serf.” Wood-tick said. “You turned your nose up at every choice.”

“You and your family wanna eat. That land’s gotta be worked. The Mead’s get it done. You don’t” Wood-tick said. “What is so hard to understand about that?”

“But you don’t have the authority to do that.” the political scientist wailed.

“Tell that to your belly. Tell that to your kid when they are crying themselves to sleep because they are hungry.” Wood-tick bored in. “I don’t care. You can live in your house. It is yours. But if you don’t do EVERYTHING the Meads tell you to do, you don’t get any of the harvest.”

“If you think you are going to steal food, then we will horse-whip you in public, in front of your family.” Wood-tick said."You think you are not going to do your fair share and then eat as much as everybody else...well, in my mind that is the same as stealing."

“You don’t like it, just start walking down that road” Wood-tick said pointing at M-99. “Take your family or not. I. Don’t. Care.”

“You got three choices” Wood-tick said. “Pick up your hoe and start on the row Mr Mead tells you to start on, or start walking, or get horse-whipped.”

"Do you understand?"

Sunday, October 6, 2019


I was mowing yesterday and got whacked on the ankle by a couple of bees.

Kind of takes the joy out of mowing.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

The Shrewd King 11.6: Maps and pictures

Overview. Twelve miles from north-south and twice that east-west.

Close-up of the Buffer Zone. Observation posts at the Waverly Road bridge, M-99 bridge and on Canal Road where it enters Chernovsky's Annex.


Quinn Spackle's first training march. Started at observation post where Waverly road crosses the Grand River, to the north edge of the buffer zone, along the south side of I-96 right-of-way west to Canal Road and then return by the same route.

Likely staging areas for opposing forces' mechanized assault.
Columbia Road bridge where Spackle was previously assigned. Columbia Road is the east-west road on the bottom of the overview map. You can double-click on the photos to embiggen them.
Waverly Road bridge. Two lanes, narrow shoulders, post-and-rollformed guard-rail.
M-99 bridge. Two full lanes each direction. Full shoulder on one side, half shoulder on the other. Jersey Barrier guard-rails.
Potential staging area one with significant depth fore-shortening due to telephoto lens. Camera is looking northeast.
Potential staging area one looking southwest.
Potential staging area two looking northeast.