Saturday, February 29, 2020

Sunk-cost trap

Mrs ERJ looked up from the magazine she was reading. Squinting over her cheaters, she said "They figured out why men make billions and billions of sperm for every egg a woman makes."

"Oh?" I replied. "Why is that?"

"Sperm won't stop and ask for directions, either."

*

In the first factory I worked in, there was a skilled tradesman named Tony D. At lunch, Tony came over to our crib and read the Wall Street Journal. He made copious notes every day.

It was widely circulated that Tony was a millionaire. Tony never denied it.

One day, I asked him about his notes.

He said, "I have a system. Whenever I buy something, I set a target "Sell" price."

I asked him "How do you figure a sell price."

Glancing left, then right, he said...."I sell when the stock goes up 20%. A lot of stocks have another five percent left in them, but I like to sell a little too soon rather than a little too late."

Then I said something that pissed him off. "Gee, I don't know. Seems like there will be times you ought to dump a stock regardless of what you paid for it. In a way, what you paid for it is irrelevant."

*

The two cases, me not wanting to stop and ask directions or to drive back to the last intersection where we KNEW we were on the right track AND Tony refusing to consider anything but his buying price in calculating a Sell price, have something in common.

In both cases, the decision-maker is delaying the recognition that things are off-course.

The errant navigator does not want to acknowledge and lock-in the loss of time that driving back to a known position entails. He hopes to bumble his way out the other side without having to write-off a significant chunk of investment.

Tony the stock-picker does not want to lock-in his loss by selling. He hopes that the market will miraculously find value in Acme Inc and he will be able to bail out with his target profit. As long as he does not lock-in the loss, he can avoid acknowledging that he made a mistake or was unlucky. He can delay the pain and if he waits long enough, maybe he can completely avoid it.

There are legitimate reasons in favor of sunk-cost analysis. Changing direction incurs transaction costs. There comes a point in every project when it is time to shoot the engineers (and marketing team) and go into production.

Cost accounting determines cost per unit by estimating future sales volume to amortize fixed costs. Discontinuing a product before that projected volume is met locks-in the loss.

Sometimes that is the right thing to do. Tony could take a 25% loss and roll that money into a stock that, hopefully, had brighter prospects. I could get back on track and reach my destination without having to drive through Outer Elbownia after midnight.

A sense of responsibility
Academic studies indicate that people with a high sense of responsibility are more vulnerable to the sunk-cost trap. That means that the kind of people who fight their way into leadership and investment positions are the exact ones most likely to make poor decisions based on the sunk-cost trap.

One thought-game to avoid the trap is to ask yourself, "How would I play this hand-of-cards or allocate this portfolio or manage this brand if I inherited it from somebody who fell over dead from a massive heart attack?"

Would you have dumped Boeing when the 737-Max fiasco broke even if it had not quite met your Sell target or would you hang onto it?

Would you replace the monkey-suits with ones with elastic wrist bands as the old ones wore-out or would you let inertia carry you along?

Would you remove the door between the office and the semi-airlock and put it on the office side so the dislodged dirt went into the offices instead of the clean room? Or would you just accept what the sharp-pencils at HQ decided?

Would you continue to fund a weapons program that was collapsing under the weight of mission-creep or would you write-off the unrecoverable losses and reallocate the program's future funding to rejuvenating the products it was slated to replace?

When do we roll up the sidewalk and weld the doors shut?

Everybody will do this differently. This is truly a case of "your mileage WILL vary".

How to not do it
The worst way to do it is to not have a plan. That creates the boiled frog who never jumped out of the kettle because it started out cold and there was never a sudden change in temperature.

The second worst approach is to overly-couple the pull of the trigger with what others do. That makes you vulnerable to the fact that others might be asleep-at-the-switch or to those who are envious of the fact that you though ahead and have the means to reduce contact.

Don't talk too much about your plans. (<sarcasm font>Yeah, here I am announcing it on the internet</sarcasm font>) The crab-bucket phenomena will be just as real as the boiling frog. In this case you will have to fend off a rush of people who either want to join you or, more likely, want you to 'share' your preps before you go dark.

A key factor in when you can roll up the sidewalks involves your level of self-sufficiency. We are retired. We don't have to gird our loins every morning and hi-ho our way to work. We don't have tons of money but our needs are simple.

Rolling up the sidewalks
I decided that we will roll up the sidewalks when a confirmed case is reported in Lansing, Jackson or Battle Creek. More accurately, in Ingham, Eaton, Jackson or Calhoun counties.

The three closest towns/cities of any size are Lansing (population 100k) at 17 miles, Jackson (pop 30k) at 20 miles and Battle Creek (pop 50k) at 30 miles. Those  distances are as the crow flies.

Rolling up the sidewalks means a monthly shopping trip and Mrs ERJ and I will have no other voluntary human contact closer than 10' outdoors. The people living in the house excepted.

Parenthetical note: The first shopping trip will involve buying at least nine months supply of dried dog food.

We will continue to take care of mom on Fridays and the occasional weekend.

We would stop attending Mass on Sunday.

Other leaks: Kids

Kabota
Kubota is taking welding classes at Lansing Community College. The lab work is in a large, well ventilated shop and there is much UV light. The classes are generally 2/3 full and they sit at tables.

Kubota is not working, so that is a non-issue.

Kubota doesn't like crowds and generally hangs out with one or two buddies. Hanging out generally means watching TV.

Belladonna
Belladonna goes to work and is taking 12 credits at Lansing Community College.

School is easy, it is already 75% electronically delivered.

Belladonna's work environment is our greatest exposure risk. She works in a plasma center and has too much contact with donors who already cough, hack, spit and often look like they are desperately in need of their next fix. She wears standard phlebe-tech PPE but that does nothing to protect nose/mouth and eyes paths.

Bella likes to go to a Sports Pubs two Fridays a month with a handful of her friends.

Welding the doors shut
The kids have a choice: They can be in the house when the doors are welded shut or they can be living someplace else.

They have all been informed that Mrs ERJ's and my age puts us at much higher risk of mortality. It will be far more expensive if we get it than if they get it.

Covid-19 isn't Ebola. It is not a civilization-threatening event. To put the current guess of mortality rate into perspective, it compresses two years worth of mortality into a three month time-frame. In any given two-year time span, society can expect between 2% and 3% of the population to shuffle off the mortal plane.

From another perspective, any given company will see 2%-to-3% retire in any given year. Not a big deal.

The big deal is that the attrition will not be planned and orderly. The big deal is that various economic entities will not re-start because they were already dead-men-walking. Unfortunately, many of those dead-men-walking produce critical widgets for society.

Welding the door shut
The trigger for welding the doors shut will be when they shut-down the schools. Both kids go to Lansing Community College. Colleges and universities are likely to try to hobble along longer than the elementary and high schools. We will pull the plug when Lansing or East Lansing schools suspend operations.

Covid-19 has been an incredibly fast-moving disease. So far, everybody has been shooting behind the duck.

Friday, February 28, 2020

Sometimes a hammer is the right tool (fiction)


General Mark Richards was in his converted UPS van/mobile-office at 10:00:05 when mortar crews started dropping rounds down the tubes. He was filling out the reports that populated Thorvaldsen’s “dashboard” and he was taking pains ensure the data was not contradictory. That is the problem with making up data, it doesn’t always agree.

Chernovsky had the mortars arranged in three teams of three. The Capiche-standard mortar threw an air-fuel round approximately 660 yards. The round held 14 ounces of fuel, a dispersal charge and a fuze. Benicio's "suddenly" finding an abundance of potassium nitrate unplugged the bottleneck that had been restricting mortar ammo availability. Capiche now had hundreds of rounds of ammo.

Winds were a gentle 4 mph out of the southwest. Air-fuel explosives, aka hyperbaric rounds, are synergistic. A pressure pulse from a single round out in the open disperses quickly and has a limited sphere of destruction. Blanketing an area with ten rounds or more rounds and detonating them simultaneously is like the hammer of Thor smacking the ground. There is no place to hide.

A multi-round volley followed by an ignitor round is not effective when the fog of fuel is rapidly dispersed by the wind. That was not going to be a problem today.

The center crew was tasked with first hammering General Richards’ command post and the administrative units clustered around that command post.

The other two crews were tasked a mile to either side of the center crew. They were tasked with putting the smack-down on the roving armor units for those sectors. It was not a coincidence that the armor units were also the command centers for General Richards' Lieutenants. They thought armor was the safest place to be.

But today the armor units were not roving as the exhausted, dehydrated soldiers clogged the pavement like some many ants as they struggled to find their new fighting positions.

The first eleven “incoming” were not impressive. They detonated thirty feet above the ground. A great deal of effort had gone into coming up with a system that detonated the rounds well above the ground. The contact fuze was good enough for its time, but too much fuel was painted on the ground or on obstacles. There was too much opportunity for the detonation front to fizzle.

Janelle and Dmitri collaborated. The winning combination was a triad of optical sensors around the fuze and a pulsing “arming” laser. The laser passed through a set of lenses that fanned the beam outward twenty-five feet for every hundred yards of range while increasing the thickness of the fan one foot for every hundred yards. At six hundred yards, the arming field was 150 feet wide and six feet in height.

The beam pulsed at 10kHz. The descending warheads took 25 milliseconds to pass through the illuminated zone. The logic counted out sixty pulses and then detonated. In theory, the crews could shoot through the laser beam as long as it wasn’t more than a hundred yards behind them. The shells would pass through the narrow beam so quickly it would not accumulate the required 60 pulse...but nobody wanted to test that theory.

Richards’ command post was nestled in the median between the elevated roadbeds where the freeway passed over a railroad grade. Richards chose the position to minimize exposure to enemy fire.

The twelfth round was filled with ether rather than gasoline or diesel fuel. The dispersion charge was also salted with aluminum dust to ensure a sparkler effect. Janelle really, really wanted the rounds to go off.

The twelfth round detonated and a hundred foot-by-hundred foot patch of vehicles were flattened, including the van that Richards was in. The confined area of the median where Richards sought shelter functioned like a parabolic reflector and increased both the magnitude and duration of the pressure pulse.

The crew traversed the mortar so rounds would land a hundred feet to the east and repeated the exercise. Then two hundred feet to the west.

Each mortar had fired twelve rounds and they were breaking down to move to their next target two minutes after they dropped the first round down the tube. They had another command post to destroy three miles up Livingston County line.

*

Medics extricated Richards from his demolished van a half hour after the attack. They used a cold chisel to cut off the hinges. The doors were so badly sprung that they would not open.

Richards was still breathing although blood was trickling from his ears and nostrils.

Richards and a dozen other gravely wounded officers were loaded on three flat-beds and evacuated to Howell.

*

The lead flat-bed encountered an Improvised Explosive Device when it went beneath the first overpass.

The truck was disabled and the driver was killed. The stretchers were transferred to the two running trucks.

After that, the two-truck convoy left the freeway via the exit ramp and re-entered by the entrance ramp to avoid overpasses.

The lead driver saw that the bridge over Doan Creek was gone due to the crisp lighting and the ridge of material that had been displaced by the explosion.

The two flat-beds backed up the eastbound lane until they came to an “Authorized Vehicle Only” crossing which they used to cross to the westbound lanes.

They exited the freeway at Williamston Road. Mentally flipping a coin, the lead driver chose to turn north….into “Thar be Dragons”.

The bandits who ambushed the vehicles simply threw the stretchers, bodies and all, into the ditch beside the road followed by the bodies of the drivers.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Why I pack my own parachute

Contamination is a frequent cause of fish-eyes and craters in paint. Some classes of dirt (antiperspirant is notorious for this) repel the paint film and it will not level around the dirt.
When you walk up to a new vehicle, what do you see?

Do you see the engine? Nope, that is beneath the hood.

Do you see the radio or the seats? Nope, those are inside the car.

Do you see the bare metal? Nope. You cannot tell if it is galvanized or bare, thin or thick.

Most of what you see is paint.

History
I used to work in the automotive industry. I was blessed to work in all four shops: Metal Stamping, Body, Paint and Final Assembly.

Each of the shops have their own culture and language.

The Paint Shop, for instance, operates in a clean-room environment. The number one defect, by count, in Paint is "dirt". That category dwarfs all others if you include all forms of paint film contamination.

A sixty-job an hour production line might have twenty people per shift dedicated to repairing paint defects and the majority of those defects are "dirt". Obviously, there is big money at stake.

Big money!
Every new hire in the North American, unionized, automotive environment can be looked at as a $5 million commitment: Pay for thirty years, benefits for life.

Twenty warm bodies, three-shifts, $5m per equals $300m and that does not include the investment in floor space, equipment and utilities.

That $300m does not include the warranty costs where dealerships see and repair paint defects, nor does it include the cost of sales lost because the customer chose a different product.

What does that have to do with packing your own parachute?
I want to call attention to three features I noticed in the last automotive Paint Shop I worked in. I won't mention any names because it should be acutely embarrassing to them.

Personal Protective Equipment
To enter the Paint Shop clean-room you have to don a polyester monkey suit. A very specific, non-fiber shedding set of gloves is mandatory.

Booties are NOT mandatory. Take about five seconds and think about which articles of apparel carry the most dirt. Your shirt? Your trousers? Your socks?  Nope. As a general rule, none of them touch the ground (dirt) on a regular basis. The answer is "Your footwear". But no booties? What the heck.

Airlocks
The next thing you notice is that you walk through an semi-airlock and have to stand under a room sized blower reminiscent of the one in the Men's room at MacDonalds. Oh, and it is about as loud.

The first few times you go through this room you won't notice that the steel grating used for flooring does not have a plenum beneath it. That is, the high speed blast of air does not flow down from the ceiling, wash over dirty, despicable you and thence into the floor->ducting->filters->outside.

Nope, it scrubs the dirt and dust off of you (hair, outside of monkey suit, clip board, lunch bucket, etc) and blasts it out into the clean room.  You see, it is only half of an airlock. There is an air-tight door separating the air-blast (and noise) from the office area but it is open to the paint clean-room.

When I pointed out the absurdity of this to the boss, he rolled his eyes and stated "Paint HQ did a study and most of the dust falls to the ground and is trapped in the steel grating."

Yeah, right. Most by weight? How can you know how much is actually being blown off the people coming in. Oh, and how do you clean out the grating without blasting a significant portion of that dirt back into the air?

I suspect that they were able to wring quite a bit of cost out of the building by not having to include ducting and by being able to down-size the fans needed to keep the clean-room positive pressure. Somebody was a hero for penciling $5m out of the cost of the construction.


Where do you keep your armies?
In your sleevies, of course.

The final thing you are likely to notice is that the monkey suit does not have elastic sleeves, nor does management require that operators keep the sleeves snapped tight.
Image of lint and dander flowing out of the end of a sleeve and onto a surface about to be painted.

So an operator can be wearing a shirt that is shedding lint like a German Shepherd in April and the un-snapped sleeves guarantee that the lint will pour out of the sleeves at the wrist land on the tops of fenders, hood, deck-lid and roof of the vehicle.

Still not clear on why I pack my own parachute?
The Paint Shop is an example from the profit motivated, private sector where highly-trained management at all levels failed to take the simplest, most fundamental steps to contain contamination.

Not only did they fail to contain contamination: THEY MADE IT WORSE!

If a highly motivated, private sector company cannot pull its head out of its nether region and take SIMPLE, EFFECTIVE steps to control visible contamination, why would I trust untrained, public-sector organizations to do better at "managing" the invisible Corona virus?

Intentions are not enough. The air-blast was designed with good intentions.

Results matter.

Act Four (fiction)


“The first thing I am going to do when I get back to Howell is to see you and your mouthy buddy, Patrick, knocked back to privates. You, I am gonna have your fat ass digging ditches and I am gonna have Patrick cleaning latrines.” General Mark Richards threatened.

“Don’t you think that is a little bit harsh?” General Rife asked. His mama had always counseled him that a mild answer turns away wrath. Besides, Rife wasn’t worried. They were the same rank and Rife had more time-in-grade.

“You and Patrick haven’t showed the brains God gave half-wits. In fact, both of you have been total fuck-wits” Richards shouted at the microphone.

It was 5:30 AM and Richards still had not received a shipment of supplies from Howell.

Three convoys sent out, four if you count the abortive trip up Mason Road, and not a single drop of water or round of ammunition had arrived at the front.

“Look” Richards said, “we haven’t had a single problem with these rubes. And Benicio has been afraid to crawl out of his hole.”

“The only thing I need to drive a wooden stake into their heart is MORE SUPPLIES!” Richards bellowed.

Rife responded “Since you are so sure it is easy, and since you have damned near every tank and flat-bed, why don’t you just send a dozen or so back here to collect your supplies.” In spite of hisself, Rife was getting hot under the collar. He prided himself on being competent and Richards somehow knew right where to sink the harpoon.

“I just may have to do that” Richards said, nastily. “And you might want to start looking for a shovel that suits you, fatty.”

Richards pitched the radio into the corner of his mobile office.

Richards was actually relieved that the other side was scheduled to surrender in three-and-a-half hours. He pretended to not hear the muttering but even he could see that his troops were running on fumes. He wasn’t sure that the twelve trucks he sent east toward Howell would come back.

For that matter, he was pretty sure a convoy of twelve trucks would have to stop multiple time times on the two hour trip back for drivers to run into the bushes to crap.

And he really, really needed the supplies he was going to demand as tribute.

*

At 6:15 AM, one of his aides was finally brave enough to approach Richards and inform him that significant numbers of soldiers had deserted in the night.

That was not a total surprise to Richards. After all, he had given the order to machine-gun deserters seen walking back to Howell. After the deserters stopped going by and he figured the problem had been solved.

A quick nose-count by radio along the line indicated that a third of the men had fled during the night. There were some stretches on the extreme northwest end of the line where virtually every fire-position had decamped.

Richards was decisive. “I want all firing-positions from the east end to where the line hooks north to be manned. Then I want every other position manned until we run out of people.”

That movement of people turned into a goat festival in the blink of an eye.

On paper, the easiest way to do it was to have groups slide east and south to fill the gaps. The problem with that method was on the ground. Virtually every fire-team had to break camp and move. They were told to leave their supply truck because none of the deserting fire-teams had driven away. But the soldiers still had to lug all of their personal gear, the gear issued specifically to their fire-teams and their weapons.

The other alternative was to let the fire-team stay in their position if that position was slated to remain manned. Then to maximize the number of fire-teams who only needed to move a mile. Finally, a few teams were going to have to move a long distance but the smart commander would have waited for the short-movers to get settled in before uprooting the long-distance travelers.

By choosing the easy way on paper, nearly two-thirds of the Howell line was not dug in and totally disrupted by chaos.

*

Richards showed up at “Bishop Inn” at 9:15 AM, fifteen minutes after the scheduled start. Richards was a firm believer in setting the tone of the meeting.

The enemy had taken the time to push most of the tables to the sides of the room. Two rectangular tables had been pushed together to form a six foot square.

The three enemies had arranged three chairs at one corner and three more at the opposite corner.

Richards swaggered in, selected a chair and pushed it over to the corner where the enemy clearly intended to sit.

“What are you waiting for?” Richards demanded. “My time is very valuable.”

Chernovsky was smirking inside. His messenger had informed Chernovsky of Richards’ assumption that Capiche and Benicio were surrendering. Chernovsky was going to get a great deal of satisfaction in rubbing this guy’s nose in the pile of crap he was making.

“First, a few house-keeping details” Chernovsky said. “We are going to run a hot-mike so a few of the folks back-home can keep tabs on how this goes down.”

There were actually three hot-mikes running. One was transmitting on a frequency monitored by Chernovsky's team-leads. One was transmitting to Benicio. The third was blasting out on Richards' "open frequency" and being picked up by every swinging richard on the line.

“Over-ruled. I won’t allow it.” Richards said.

Chernovsky coolly looked at the two aides Richards had brought along. They were a couple of nervous, bookish young men...the kind that used to be derogatorily called “pencil-necked”.

Chernovsky had borrowed one of Benicio’s lieutenants, an older man named Ramiro with the battered face of a street enforcer and Chernovsky also had Donnie Galigan watching his back.

“I suppose you can try to stop us, but bear in mind that we are transmitting now. We ARE at war and if you try to touch any of these radios I will either shoot you or break your neck.” Chernovsky said.

Physical bravery was not Richard’s forte.

“Our demands are simple” Chernovsky said.

“You leave your weapons on the ground. You leave your tanks and your flat-beds. You and your ‘soldiers’ get on your buses and go back to where you came from” Chernovsky said.

"I ordered our side to honor a cease-fire until 10:00 AM. After that, it will be game-on. Unless you surrender now."

It took Richards a few heartbeats to catch up with the fact that Chernovsky was not surrendering. Rather, he was dictating the terms he was willing to accept from Richards.

“We are through, here” Richards said.

“Before you walk out that door” Chernovsky said. “You need to be aware of one thing.”

“This is your one-and-only offer. After this, no mercy” Chernovsky said. "You can end it now. Or not."

Richards pivoted and walked out the door, with his aids scurrying after him.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Real ID

Mrs ERJ and I did the paper-chase today.

We found our birth certificates.

We had to go to Lansing to get our marriage certificate as Mrs ERJ's name changed.

Then we went to the Secretary of State.

Michigan's SOS added staff to handle the expected rush. I got one of the experienced clerks. That did not make it go any faster. She had three of the newbie clerks ask her questions while she was processing my information.

I wish I had the entire story for one of the clerks that popped in several times. As best I can piece it together, a man tried to repo a vehicle that was not his. He had a counterfeit title and the older woman who owned the vehicle called the cops. The repo man decided to try to bluff his way through.

The clerk who was waiting on me seemed very certain the woman was not suffering from dementia. She also knew the clerk in the other branch who waited on the repo man...maybe he presented false documents and asked for a title reissue?

The clerk advised the newbie to put a hold on the security tapes for the cameras in the other branch. Every transaction is time-date-location stamped. If the repo-man did what I think he did, things will not go well for him.

I wish I knew the whole story.

Third Act (fiction)

It took three hours to assemble the fourth convoy. Well, actually convoy 3.5. The flatbeds did not need to be loaded but convoy escort was still an issue.

General Patrick refused to release any “tanks” for guard duty. His reasoning was that he only had a few left and they didn’t seem to improve the odds of the convoys getting through.

General Rife unbent, a little bit. He found two dozen fighters and put them on two flat-beds, one at the front and one at the rear of the convoy. Grab-ropes were added to the flat-beds. The picture in Rife’s head was that fighters would ride with their legs dangling over the sides and grabbing the rope with one hand. Their rifles would be slung across the front of their chests.

Rife listened to the drivers from the previous attempt. Hearing about the difficulty of turning around the convoy of long flat-beds on narrow, country roads, he added a third type of vehicle to the convoy; a motorcycle.

The motorcycle quickly proved its worth. It was able to zoom down east-west road and verify if the bridge was there. The Honda CR250 was easy to maneuver.

The flat-beds with the soldiers slowed the entire convoy down to a bit less than fifteen miles per hour. The bike had no trouble staying ahead of the convoy.

The dirt bike was waiting for the convoy as they reached each westbound road. The rider made a big show of shaking his head “NO!” and the lead truck did not even slow down. Then the dirt-bike dashed ahead of the convoy to check out the next east-west road.

The convoy hit pay-dirt on Coon Lake Road. The dirt-bike found that the culvert that carried the West Branch beneath the road was unsullied. He kicked up a rooster-tail as he turned around to inform the convoy.

The theatrics attracted the attention of a foraging party from the the city-state of Wolverine. They had just enough time to set-up an ambush.

The fire-fight was one-sided and over before it started. The soldiers on the flat-beds had rifles but no ammo.

They could not surrender quickly enough.

Their decision was undoubtedly influenced by rumors of high quality brew-pubs (true), excellent beer (true, but expensive) and uninhibited sex workers (true and cheap).

The foraging party threw the dirt-bike on the back of one of the trucks and rode back to Ann Arbor in style.

*

Chernovsky watched the Livingston County fighters desert the line with increasing consternation.

He called Mr Ed and asked that he include a Public Service Announcement in his daily broadcast. Mr Ed was more than happy to oblige.

That evening, Capiche and the surrounding areas were informed that enemy desertion rates were escalating and that strangers should not be approached. Mr Ed also advised that doors be locked and that adults should carry a firearm at all times. In addition to the firearm, Mr Ed advised a minimum of twenty rounds of ammo.

With the setting of the sun, entire fire-teams, thirty individuals at a whack, deserted. NCOs are also vulnerable to thirst, doubt and dysentery.

Richards’ command post was near the east end of the line. His rational was that he needed a close link to Livingston County. He had his roving armor fire on his own people as they attempted to percolate around their fellow soldiers.

The sound of the gun fire alerted other groups of deserters. The way to safety was not east and north. That led into Benicio’s domain. It wasn't back down I-96, that led to General Mark Richards summarily executing deserters.

The reputation of the fighters to the south was becoming almost mythic. They were like fog. They had also neutralized Livingston County’s most competent armor groups without a twitch.

That left west as the only safe direction to desert. Directly away from Livingston County. Away from home and family.

*

Chernovsky sent a runner to the Livingston County line. The runner carried a white flag.

He was ushered into an audience with General Mark Richards.

Handing over a document, the runner said, “My commander wants to negotiate terms of surrender tomorrow at 8:00. He asks that you meet him at the Bishop Inn and bring no more than three aides.”

Mark Richards said it would take a half hour to answer the runner. The runner went outside the repurposed UPS truck and waited.

Richards asked, “Where the hell is Bishop Inn?”

It took more than half an hour to find a fighter who was familiar with the area.

“Bishop Inn is right over there.” he said, pointing to an abandoned building a half mile up M-99. “It is on the corner of M-99 and Bishop Road.” he explained.

“But the sign says that is the Coaches Pub” one of the aides contradicted.

“Yeah. That is what the sign says. But it was Bishop Inn for thirty years and that is what all the locals call it.” the local expert said.

Richards had the runner ushered back into the truck.

“We are willing to accept your surrender but will not be able to attend the meeting until 9:00” Richards intoned. No way in hell was he going to let the losing side dictate any of the terms.

“Tell your Generals to bring their list of terms. We might grant some of them.” Richards said.

The runner replied “I am authorized to accept your proposal of a surrender meeting at 9:00 AM, tomorrow, October 12.”

The runner had been ordered to deliver a message and schedule a meeting, not to clear up basic misunderstandings. That was above his pay-grade.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

A very short primer discussing how blast interacts with structure

You may remember this image from an earlier post.

This short essay attempts to give the reader a sense of how a blast interacts with the bridge structure. Important caveat, these physics only exist in Capiche and surround areas and should not be used to pad your resume.

Brown is dirt and/or concrete. They have similar mass densities and act in similar ways in the initial stages of the blast. Medium gray is bridge span. For the sake of this example we will consider it to be steel reinforced concrete.  Red cross-hairs are the location of the charge. The small, solid red circle between the bridge span and the dirt is the roller-nest. Assume the span is symmetric.
Work is (force X distance). The force is equal around the center of the blast but the energy is deposited where there is the most movement, that is, the least resistance. The blast has lobes. A smart demo will have the charge closer to the vertical face of the abutment than to the horizontal plane of the pavement to ensure a major lobe disables the abutment. Pavement can be repaired with loose fill. Abutments require concrete.
Fill displaced by the blast will form an above-grade ring around the crater. The shadow of the blast will lift the bridge span, shatter the end closest to the blast, put large bending-moments on the span and compress it.




The compressive strain causes the span to spring back toward the center of the blast after it hits the travel limits on the roller nest that was not destroyed. The span may, or may not, end up in the stream depending on the amount of rebound.

A likely outcome of a well executed demo on one end of a steel reinforced, concrete bridge.



Clumping kitty-litter

H/T to Taint for image

Second Act (fiction)


Milo was awakened by somebody tapping on the sole of his boot.

Gimp had fighters sleeping on a two-hour rotation. They slept at the ambush site in the event that things happened suddenly. Sleeping at the ambush site also reduced the fighters’ vulnerability to hostiles infiltrating and slitting throats.

Squinting up at the sun, Milo judged it was almost noon. He could hear the groaning of truck transmissions and the hiss of tires on the pavement.

Milo looked over at Gimp. “Same plan as last time.” Gimp said.

The convoy came into view as they rounded the bend two miles east of the ambush. Gimp glassed the group of trucks and grunted.

“Looks like they have two tanks, one in the front and one for the caboose.” Gimp said. The tall dump trucks were easy to identify.

A few seconds later, Gimp announced, “And they have at least four flatbeds.”

Gimp had plenty of time to make adjustments. At 25 mph it took the convoy over four minutes to cover the intervening two miles.

Gimp put the AR-10s on the driver’s side and tasked with stopping the tanks. He even had “extra” shooters set up for the flat-beds in case he had miscounted.

The last three minutes as they waited for the convoy to get into the kill-basket seemed to take forever.

Unbeknownst to the ambushers, there had been radio chatter. The tanks drove by video camera and did not have the long distance acuity of the Mark I eyeballs in the flat-beds. Consequently, the tank drivers did not see the missing convoy.

Ordinarily, the tanks would have blocked the down-road view from the flat-beds, but the three rearmost flat-beds were able to look up the road when the lead tank started dropping down into the West Branch valley.

The flat-beds chattered among themselves and the new quartermaster back at HQ took notes.

*

Luck counts, but only fools count on luck.

The double armor in front of the tank driver was sufficient to stop even the upgraded, harden steel armor-piercing ammo fired from the AR-10.

Jimmy and Gabe poured fire into the steel plate protecting the drivers of their respective tanks. They were confident that the drivers were being shredded.

The experience of being in an armored vehicle that is under fire from AP ammo is similar to having a trash-can over your head and having somebody beat it with a golf club.

Except, in a trash-can, you don’t look over and see your shotgun’s head explode.

The driver’s floored the gas pedal and attempted to accelerate out of the ambush.

The lead tank was successful.

The caboose was not. He was tangled up in the disabled flat-beds.

Pedal-to-the-medal, the lead tank...the one with all of the ammunition for the relief of the fighters on the line...continued to accelerate until the governor kicked in at sixty mph.

The driver was human. We see what we are looking for. He was not helped by the coarse resolution of his viewing cameras, nor was he helped by the orientation and depth of field. One was too shallow, the other too deep.

The driver was not expecting a gap in the pavement where the freeway crossed Doan Creek. Even if it was a possibility, he would have been distracted by the incoming small-arms fire from his right side.

It takes a vehicle traveling sixty miles per hour approximately a third of a second to travel thirty feet. In that time the front bumper bar dropped 18 inches.

The truck’s sudden encounter with the western bridge abutment was not survivable. The ammunition intended for the fighters was scattered across a quarter acre and the bottom of Doan Creek.

*

The driver of the caboose tank tried manfully to extricate his vehicle from the tangle of flat-beds. He half-consciously registered that the firing from the belt-fed weapon in the box behind him had stopped firing, whether from malfunction, skosh on ammo or dead gunners, he did not know.

AP fire directed at the windshield and where the door windows had been remained ineffective.

With Jimmy’s target out of range, he added his fire to Gabe’s. On a hunch, he started punching rounds through the body of the door about six inches below the window.

That quickly sealed the deal as the truck stopped jacking into forward and reverse.

Once again, Gimp sent a crew down to move the trucks up the freeway.

“Why are you doing that?” Jimmy asked. “They have to know about us now.”

“It is a matter of denying the enemy any cover they might use.

Jimmy looked east over the burned half mile leading up to the I-96 bridge crossing West Branch. They might get pushed off the Wallace Road overpass but it would not be cheap for anybody trying to do it.

*

Ninety minutes later, another convoy was ready.

They were running out of tanks. There was only one in the lead. The new quartermaster recognized the voice of the driver who had radioed in and identified him as the lead tank.

The quartermaster erroneously deduced that the lead tank was the most effective.

The tank and four more flat-beds did not take I-96. Rather, they moved west on Mason Road.

The lead tank went into the West Branch river when the driver did not recognize the fact that the bridge was missing. The crew manning the machinegun in the back of the tank were flung against the front of the box. Just looking at how they were sprawled, raggedy-Anne style, told the other drivers that everybody in the tank was dead.

The first flat-bed was almost able to stop and was high-centered with the front wheels dangling over an eight-foot drop.

Truckers are truckers. They had tow straps. The were able to pull the lead flat-bed back from the abyss.

Lacking armor support, the surviving trucks headed back to HQ.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Some "throw-back" music


There are still artists who can play the guitar and don't rely on wardrobe malfunctions and technology.

She would have been huge in the early 1980s.

Catching Covid-19 multiple times

There are reports floating around that the new corona virus, Covid-19, can be caught multiple times by the same person and each wave is more severe than the last.

If true, that does not bode well for a vaccine.

Some diseases, tetanus/lockjaw for instance, do not always render immunity to future episodes because such tiny amounts of the pathogen are required to produce the amounts of toxin needed to create the disorder. Furthermore, Clostridium tetani is an obligate anaerobe, it will not grow where there is good blood circulation. That tiny amount is not always enough to trigger a robust, durable immune response.

However, the vaccine ensures that enough bacterial seedcoats are inserted into the circulatory system where the immune system can get a good look at it.

The contention that patients are vulnerable to multiple waves of Covid-19 is puzzling. Let us hope that the appearance of multiple infections is really the virus lurking and manifesting in different organs rather than completely new infections.

ERJ: Romance columnist

Imagine my surprise when a beautiful young lady approached me and asked for my advice on romance.

At first blush, this seems incredibly improbable.

Not to brag, but I have skills.

You can talk to anybody in Eaton Rapids and every one of them will inform you that I did much, much better at finding a soul-mate than, say, Mrs ERJ for example.

I also have the ability to observe human beings and see patterns.

The dreaded "bro-zone"
The woman in question had many friends who were guys.

To her chagrin, they saw her as a brother, somebody they could call when their romances were not going well and to get insights into the female psyche.

I asked the young lady about her interactions with "the guys".

It quickly emerged that she "didn't take crap from any of them", or at least that is how she perceived it.

In other words, she acted like a 25 year-old guy defending his status in the pecking order.

When I suggested that might be the problem, the young woman vehemently rejected the role of a simpering, passive, clingy chick.

That was not what I was suggesting.

The spectrum of responses is not binary.

Sometimes an outrageous comment is an invitation to converse
These young guys don't have a lot of tools in their toolbox.

They might say "    insert name of favorite sports team here     sucks" to get the conversational ball rolling. Their thinking is that it is easier to ride a bicycle when it is rolling forward, even if it is moving in the wrong direction.

The bro-zone response is "You are an idiot." and then to point out all of the shortcomings of first person's favorite team.

The "I am interested in you" female response is to bat her eyelashes, perhaps raise one eyebrow and to say "That is fascinating. I have never heard anybody say that before. Why do you think that?"

The young man breathes a sigh of relief and can expound on a topic where he is comfortable because of the home-court advantage.

Yes, and...
Starting sentences with "Yes, and..." is the secret of improv comedy.

"Yes..." harvests the momentum of the other person's energy while the word "...and..." gently redirects it.

Momentum killers are words like "no", "but", "idiot", "loser", "What is wrong with you" ....typical bro-zone conversational gambits used for the speaker to gain time to collect his thoughts.

My advice to the young woman was to purge the momentum killing words and phrases from daily usage and to find variations of "Yes, and..." that feel natural to her.

A partial list
"That's interesting..."
"Do tell..."
"I never heard that before..."

Like a duck on a Junebug (fiction)


Lieutenant Martens might not have been the smartest guy in Livingston County, but he was not far out of the hunt.

He was certainly smart enough to know when he was being bent-over and about to be corncobbed dry.

He called for Corn Dog.

“Yessir. What can I do for you, sir” Corn Dog spouted.

For a guy who had fallen into an NCO position by pure, dumb luck, Corn Dog had picked up the military lingo and additude quickly.

“The Livingston County forces west of here are encountering heavy resistance.” Lieutenant Martens informed his NCO by way of prefacing the conversation they were about to have.

An emotion fleetingly crossed Corn Dog’s face. It was like the shadow of a gauzy cloud blowng before the gale.

“Our forces are winning but they are expending large amounts of ammunition.” Lieutenant Martens continued. “I have been ordered to collect all available ammunition and send it to the front in the next convoy.”

Corn Dog processed both what Martens had said and how he said it. Martens did NOT say “I am ordering you to collect all available ammo….”

“I am on it like a duck on a Junebug.” Corn Dog popped to attention, saluted, did an about face and almost ran into the warehouse.

Five minutes later, Corn Dog came back and deposited three rounds of ammo into Lieutenant Martens’ hand. “All available ammunition returned to Lieutenant Martens, sir!”

Martens’ face was impassive as he looked down at the three rounds.

“Sighting in the rifles consumed most of the ammo, sir.” Corn Dog said.

Technically, that was accurate if you were referring to the ammo that had been expended and not the amount issued. Corn Dog had used a couple of rounds to clobber a couple of enormous racoons out of a tree the other day. The fatty meat had been a treat for the men of his squad.

“Very well.” Lieutenant Martens replied. “Carry on.”

Martens knew that Corn Dog had not returned all of the ammo. He had taken great care to pose the information in a way that did not paint Corn Dog into a corner.

General Patrick and Rife were total company men. If ordered, they would probably commit suicide. Martens was not quite that committed. The tactical situation stank and was rapidly getting worse. The thought was not fully formed in Martens’ mind, but he was leaving some parachutes cached in a few strategically chosen places, just in case.

Martens’ last stop was in the extreme northeast corner of the Howell/Brighton AoO. “Hey, Strider, I have been ordered to collect all available ammo to forward to the front.”

Strider was not a NCO but he was a very capable grunt. So capable, in fact, that Martens habitually bypassed the official NCO and went straight to Strider. It was a matter of convenience. If Martens went looking for the NCO, Martens would find him. Then Martens would be forced to discipline him for being stoned while on duty. Then Martens would get his ass in a wringer because the NCO was in the protected class and was needed to “make quota”.

Better to just go to Strider.

“The ammo is locked in the safe. It will take me a few minutes to get the key from Sarge. Have a seat and a cup of coffee if you want.” Strider said as he glided out the door.

Most of the grunts moved like Frankenstein. Strider...well, he moved like a big cat.

Five minutes later, Strider handed him a heavily taped, cardboard box. Mentally weighing the box in his hand, Martens judged that it had a quarter of the ammo issued to the outpost.

Assessing what was going through Martens’ head, Strider said, “We had to send some of our ammo to the fighting group that was in the old State Police Post. They burned through a bunch of it the night they found that truck.”

Martens shook his head in the negative. “No worries, Strider. I have no doubt that when I tell you my orders, that you will do the right thing.”

Strider gave Martens a strange look. The language was so convoluted and indirect compared to Martens’ normal speech that Strider knew that it had to be in some kind of code.

*

General Richards was livid. The convoy was scheduled to leave at eight in the morning. At twenty-five miles per hour, it should have covered the forty miles in exactly 96 minutes.

The quartermaster on the east end of the line was intimately familiar with General Richards incendiary temper. He waited an extra half an hour, sure that the convoy would show up. After all, what could have happened to it?

After double-double checking to ensure that it had, indeed, left the dock in Howell at 8:00 AM on-the-dot, the quartermaster called General Richards’ aid. He did not expect it to go well.

The quartermaster was relieved of his position and placed into a line position. Richards was incandescent that he had not been informed IMMEDIATELY when the convoy did not show up at the designated time.

Richards personally called up Livingston County. He had no patience with the excuse about broken glass and punctured tires.

“Send another convoy.

I. Need. Water.

And I need ammo. Send the convoy out with brooms. How ‘eFFFing’ hard can it be to drive forty miles. MY entire fighting force made it here without a single flat tire.” Richards said, tearing strip-after-strip of skin off the unfortunate NCO on the other end of the radio.

The need for ammo was completely fictitious. There had been almost no resistance, a fact that Richards took to mean that they had won by intimidation.

Richards wanted to drain the little bit of remaining ammo out of Howell/Brighton because coups run much more smoothly when the other side cannot shoot back.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Bernie blasts Dems contenders in Nevada

Your current cable package
Your cable package after you rent the movie "Three Dacha Bernie"

"Sure, Jazzamine, the trailer looks great, but my grandma told me that downloading the movie corrupts your cable package and requires new hardware and a total software reboot."

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Usnea lichens

All images from Sharnoff Photos
One thing leads to another which leads to a third.

The discussion about the Woodland Caribou led to a reader sending me information about lichens.

Most of us who know anything about lichens think about the silver-dollar sized patches of pastel mush pasted to rocks and the bark of old trees.

Some scholars suggest that the manna in the dessert that fed the wandering Israelites may have been lichens delivered by the hand of God.

Not all lichens are two-dimensional. Some of them resemble Spanish Moss and represent a fine example of convergent evolution...or God reusing something that worked elsewhere. Take your pick. The most notable genus of lichens that do so are Usnea.

Some authors contend that Usnea is the favored browse of cervids in early winter on days when the wind is not blowing...that would be hunting season in most places.





There are dozens of species of Usnea and many of them happily grow on the leeward sides of the Great Lakes and at elevation in the Appalachian Mountains.

They are also found in great abundance in the Pacific Northwest wherever it gets foggy. Dried Usnea sells for about $20 a pound on eBay. How do I know this? I went looking. You cannot buy a package of lichen seeds. Lichens are symbiotic relationships between a species of fungi and a species of algae. Propagation is very much a hit and mostly miss affair as both organisms need to show up at the same place at the same time.

The easiest way to propagate lichens is to strategically place some crumbles (or in the case of Usnea, tie some strands) from an existing specimen in the place you want new ones. In my case, I think it would be very cool to reintroduce Usnea to my area on the lower branches of Pin Oak and Swamp White Oak. Both species grow where fog accumulates (low areas) and both species are notoriously poor at pruning their lower, dead limbs. Thus, a ready made, long lasting scaffold for Usnea to colonize.

Imagine that, lichens hanging from trees where a happy caribou does not even need to paw the snow away!

Wolf Lichens
Not all lichens are edible.

For example, Letharia species are rich in a toxin, vulpinic acid, that has been used to poison wolves and coyotes.



Note the yellow color. In this case, yellow is poison.

We bought a truck!

A screen grab of some of the vehicles currently offered at Stewart Allen Motors.

Stewart Allen Motors is a used vehicle dealer in Dundee, Michigan who specializes in "work trucks".

They started selling vehicles about fifteen years ago. Like everybody else, they had a little bit of this and a little bit of that on their lot.

Over the years, they decided they liked the kind of customers who buy work vehicles. Everybody we met at SAM was laid back. Their attitude was that you either buy the vehicle or you don't. Make an offer. The listed price is just a starting point.

If you don't buy the vehicle, somebody else will.

Folks who buy work trucks aren't buying a trophy girlfriend. We are looking for reliability and low maintenance. A few blemishes and dents are OK as long as minimum dollars will go maximum miles.

The advantage from SAM's standpoint is that customers are quick decision makers. They don't try to beat the price down $100 for every paint scratch or ding.

So our new family member is a 2013 Silverado with about 130k miles. Very good tires. Former fleet vehicle for ATT out of northern Ohio.

The electrical gremlin was due to a couple of wires in the cap that were pinched. Either one was intermittently grounding or the other was intermittently energizing. Electrical tape and a re-route fixed the problem.

I don't claim to have made a fabulous deal on the truck. I wasn't trying to get a great deal but I did offer 15% less than they were asking. 

So if your needs are simple, if you are looking for a work truck and live in northern Ohio, northeast Indiana or southern Michigan...check out the Stewart Allen Motors website.

Will Covid-19 be inflationary or deflationary?


Looking at the Covid-19 response from small-town, Michigan, I am forced to speculate on the effects Covid-19 will have on inflation.

The glib answer "It will be both inflationary and deflationary" is probably the right answer because there will be three different "states".

Before the wave hits, Covid-19 will be highly inflationary. Want face masks? Put in a bid. Want them badly enough and have enough money in your checking account and you will win the bid.

In the middle of the wave, Covid-19 will be highly deflationary. People will be in quarantine and unable to spend money. Factories will be shut down and won't need coal, or people to sweep the floors. Prices will be in free-fall as the market is unable to discover prices due to lack of bidders.

This is a classic case of deflation: Money is sucked out of an economy by banks, bond-holders and property owners expecting the contractually defined rents while those properties are no longer able to create value by combining resources like labor, parts and intellectual property. No longer able to create value, the economy is unable to suck money in to service debts and rents.

After the wave Covid-19 is likely to be mostly inflationary. Goverment responses will have been to print money. For example, they will inject money into industries that were unable to pay their rent through the crisis so they could stay afloat. Due to hits to key personnel, some/many enterprises will fail and will stop producing goods and services. More dollars chasing fewer goods is the classic recipe for inflation.

Some types of goods are likely to get cheaper. You will find fabulous deals on condos in Sun City and on Florida properties next to golf courses.

In other cases, it may become impossible to find certain kinds of goods although it is far too soon to predict what those goods might be.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Woodstoves, 2020 and the EPA

New Environmental Protection Agency rules for woodstoves took effect January 1, 2020. The new rules cut the amount of permissible smoke in half.

Dealers can sell out their old, non-compliant stock until May 15.

If you have been thinking about a woodstove or fireplace insert, there might be some screaming deals out there.

The new stoves are likely to be more expensive as many of them rely on catalytic converters to meet the more stringent goals.

Not every manufacturer found it necessary to add catalytic converters.  For instance, Drolet seems to have figured out how to inject and mix air in some clever way to negate the need for a platinum/palladium/rhodium catalyst.


Ice ballerinas

On March 2, 1986 the future Mrs ERJ and I went canoeing on the Red Cedar river. We had been dating each other exclusively for about three months.

The temperature was about 31F.

The four days before our adventure, there had been a heavy rain.

Then, as the river fell, the night-time lows were in the high-teens with day-time highs approaching the freezing mark.

Every root, stick and grass stem looked like upside-down wine flutes or ballerinas. In some places, the roots had multiple flutes: Champagne flutes at the top, white wine tulip in the middle and a stout brandy snifter near the bottom.

A skin of ice froze on the surface near the end of the chilly nights. Then, during the warmth of the day, the river dropped and the horizontal plane drooped everywhere except where it was anchored to a root, stem or vertical plane.

It was like a fairy tale.

The end of the story had some kind of moral, although I am still trying to puzzle it out.

On the way back up-river, we ran into rapids just above the Kellogg Center. We tried to paddle our way up them twice.  Our third effort involved backing up so we could build up speed crossing a deep, still pond before hitting the rapids.

We ALMOST made it. We were paddling like dervishes when my paddle disassembled itself and the ferrule that joined the two haves of the kayak-type paddle went spinning into the drink.

Rapids are shallow. Everybody knows that. We were dead in the water until I retrieved the ferrule that joined the two halves of my paddle.

I rolled up my pant legs and waded into the rapids to find the missing piece.

As expected, it was not quite knee deep.

And there it was, the bright, shiny, turned 6061-T6 aluminum ferrule, whirled and whelmed by the current. Caught by a rock, then, after wiggling in the current, breaking free and making another short dart until caught by the next rock.

I gave chase.

If you make a critical study of the fluid dynamics of rapids and pools and study the natural sorting of aggregate along the bottom, you learn that at the tail-end of the rapids where the high velocity current jets into the deep pool, there is a sharp shelf comprised of spherical, greased, egg-sized gravel.

The first thing I heard as my head popped back into the air was the silvery tinkle of the future Mrs ERJ laughing. LAUGHING!  She thought it was funny.

Mallards air-braking (fiction)


Milo, Gimp and the others on the Wallace Road firing positions heard the convoy before they saw it.

Shading the binos to avoid alerting the hostiles with reflection from the lenses, Gimp studied the trucks coming their way.

“Looks like a tank in front” Gimp called out loudly enough for everybody to hear. “Then three flatbeds behind that.”

Studying a bit more, Gimp announced “It looks like there is about forty feet between each vehicle.

“Jimmy and Gabe, you take out the driver and the person riding shotgun in the tank.’ Gimp said.

Jimmy and Gabe had AR-10s, semi-automatic rifles that fired the NATO 7.62X51mm round. They both had full magazines of armor piercing rounds.

“After you take out the people in the cab, knock out the goons in the box” Gimp said.

Then he called out six more names, three on the north side of the span over westbound I-96 and three who were in line with the median.

“OK, one last time” Gimp said. “I start the party. When I start shooting, everybody else service their designated target. If you get a confirmed, hard kill, then start shooting the goons in the back of the dump-truck.” Gimp said.

He got six “Roger, wilcos” in reply.

“What do you want the rest of us to do?” Milo asked.

“Well, if you don’t mind, what do you think of jumping in those trucks after they stop rolling and driving them a half mile up the road.” Gimp said.

Milo cocked an eyebrow signifying a desire for more information.

“I want the next convoy coming up the road to see those trucks before they get to the bridge. Maybe they won’t be looking for ambush here.” Gimp said.

Gimp told the men to lower their heads.

Gimp got down, prone. People look for “heads” up high. They don’t look for heads below guardrails and mostly obscured by the post.

Gimp fired when the lead truck was about sixty yards out. He wanted a quick hard kill on all the trucks in the hope that they would not have the presence of mind to work the radio.

It was the proverbial shooting fish in a barrel. Even though the trucks were moving, they were moving straight toward the shooters. The shooters were above the targets and the shots hit slightly high, but not enough to make a material difference.

Gimp drilled the expanse of steel plate that covered the windshield of the “tank” focusing on where he imagined the driver to be. Then, as he saw Jimmy’s fire punching holes in the steel plate, he switched to the driver of the rearmost vehicle. If both of those vehicles were incapacitated, then the other two would be trapped.

The ambushers were lucky. The driver of the lead vehicle lived long enough to mash on the brakes. The truck immediately behind him plowed into the back of it and left the road. The third truck slew violently sideways, started to roll, righted and then stalled. The last truck ran into the median before puttering to a stop.

Milo and the rest of the crew dashed down the embankment to the level of the free way.

Milo had his handgun in his right hand as he ripped the driver’s door of the “tank” open.

The driver would have flopped out except for his seat-belt. Multiple, tumbling .30 caliber bullets make a mess of meat.

Milo disengaged the buckle of the seat belt and raked the driver out.

He saw the passenger yanked out the other door. Milo waved the helper back. It only took one person to drive.

Three more men quickly volunteered to drive the three flat-beds.

As they got the convoy moving west, Milo got a call on the radio.

“We heard shots. Is everything OK?” came the disembodied voice across the radio.

Thinking quickly, Milo lied “Hello no! Everything is not OK. We just ran into a bunch of broken glass and had a bunch of blow-outs. We are moving good tires to get two running vehicles and will leave the two non-runners at...” Milo looked at a passing mile marker “near mile marker 124.”

Looking in his rear-view mirror, Milo could see that he had gone far enough down the road. The next convoy would catch a glimpse of the vehicles before dropping down into the West Branch valley and then see them again when they were two hundred yards east of the Wallace Road overpass.

Then they would be mallards air-braking and dropping into a spread of decoys. Easy meat.

As an afterthought, Milo ripped the hot cable from the battery post. The last thing he wanted was for a transponder to tell Livingston County that all four vehicles were stationary. Better they should have no information and have suspicions than to have good information.

As Milo jogged past the trucks heading back toward the Wallace Road overpass, he noticed that the three flatbeds were carrying four water-cubes each.

He wondered how long it would be before then convoy was missed on the other end and a second convoy loaded and sent their way.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Wait a second. Quarantines are 40 days...

Quarantine originally meant that an incoming ship sat out in the harbor for forty days to ensure any plague announced itself or symptomatic sailors either perished or recovered to the point of not being infectious.

The quarantine for Covid-19 has been 14 days, not 40.

This magic number, 14, is being fiercely debated in the academic world. One example HERE.

"While the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates the incubation period of COVID-19 could be up to 14 days, this upper limit was actually observed for a small proportion of cases of SARS."

"In the context of an accelerating COVID-19 epidemic and growing uncertainty, a higher upper limit (possibly 21 days) for the incubation period seems reasonable and warranted in the interest of adequately protecting the public."

"One study from China reported an upper limit of 24 days for the COVID-19 incubation period, but the WHO commented that this "can reflect a double exposure" or "outliers," and that the "outlying observation" of 24 days "needs to be taken seriously" but in the "context of all of the other studies."

Note that the 14 day number is based on a small number of patients with different corona virus (SARS vs. Covid-19)

In a different paper, it was claimed that

The first section of the new paper focuses on how long coronaviruses can survive on inanimate surfaces, such as tables and door handles. The authors show that, depending on the material and the conditions, human coronaviruses can remain infectious from 2 hours to 9 days.
At temperatures of around 4°C or 39.2oF, certain versions of the coronavirus could remain viable for up to 28 days.
For giggles, lets consider a high-midrange of the 2 hours-to-9 day range. Pulling a number out of my rectum, let's say seven days for the shady side of the door knob or the bottom of a seat bun. Then add any number you want. Personally, I vote for the 24 days because the speculative dismissal 'could have been double exposure' is a slender reed to justify the risk to billions of potential, down-stream patients.

So, 7+24 give 31 or more than twice the quarantine that is currently being bandied about as bullet-proof. And once you sucked it up and accept 31 days as a defensible duration, why not eliminate all doubt and go the full 40?
28 second recap of Quarantine to-date

I would love to be wrong but the entire response has been a Keystone Cops cartoon.

Little bits

Belladonna has been sick for four days. She missed work. She missed school. The upside is that much of her school-work is available on-line.

I have been getting lessons on axons, ganglia and neurotransmitters.  And no, GI Joe is not an axon figure.

Boy Scouts
I regret that they are going bankrupt but it is probably simply recognition of a reality.

Bankruptcy is better called "reorganization". It frees up viable resources and buries the non-viable.

Scouting has many great things going for it but there is nothing to stop other organizations from copying those things. Merit badges, for instance. Camping. Oath, motto...

Scouting's failure is nothing more and nothing less than thinking that "My group of humans is not vulnerable to sin." Due diligence was not followed. "Hey, old Fred couldn't be doing that. I know him. It is just not possible."

Heads will be bent in sorrow. A few tears will be shed. The parts that are worth salvaging will be salvaged and people will move on. And we will keep making that mistake over, and over, and over again. "...not my party..." or "...not my church..." or "...not my family..."

Callousing box
This is a pretty simple set-up. If used for rooting, the cuttings should be placed in the dark (like black plastic bag) as blue light inhibits rooting in many species.
A callousing box is a heated box used by horticulturists to knit grafts together or to push cuttings into throwing roots.

Commonly grafted species like apples and pears callous easily, consequently they are easy to graft. Callous is undifferentiated tissue that covers and heals wounds in a plant.

"Difficult to graft" species are often difficult to graft because they are fussier about the temperature and will not produce enough callous at cooler temperatures.
Just a little bit warmer.  The setup is simple. It is a translucent storage tub purchased from Walmart. It is on top of a 1" piece of foam insulation. I have a dark Tee shirt in the bottom and a heat lamp shining through the top. I modulate the temperature with the newspaper. The temperature in the basement is 53F.

Most species callous most profusely at temperatures between 80F and 85F. Mother Nature does not produce those temperatures on command. One way to get difficult species to knit together is to create a warm space for them...like a callousing box.

With regard to rooting, many plants that root from cuttings must first produce a ball of callous. After enough callous is produced, some of the cells get a clue and strike out as roots.

Callous is the equivalent of Stem-cells for plants.

I intend to graft some pears to some unrooted quince cuttings. The quince will be the roots. Then I will simultaneously heal the grafts and, hopefully, convince the quince to throw roots.

Running
I am an on-again, mostly off-again runner.

Covid-19 convinced me to start running, again.

We will see how long that lasts.

"Everybody" says to run every-other day. I am slowly accepting that as a +55 year old in my particular body I might need to run one day and have a two "off" days for my recovery period.

An alternative might be to keep the one-day recovery and alternate short and long runs.

I hesitate to even call it running. I am going SOOOO slow.

Cards
Mrs ERJ mailed the last of the cards I was on the hook for. A surprising number of people showed up for Dad's funeral back in December. I was given a list of names and a stack of cards. I flew through them but somehow could not finish that last card.

In retrospect, it was because I would have to admit that Dad was no longer in this mortal realm.

Yesterday, Mrs ERJ gave me a nudge. "Cousin Tish needs her card."

After finishing it, Mrs ERJ told me where she had hidden my keys.  No, just kidding.

Lichens

It is interesting that Woodland Caribou used to inhabit Michigan's Upper Peninsula. They ate lichens. After being expatriated, they were replaced by Whitetail deer. The deer are an asymptomatic host for a brain-worm that is nearly always fatal for moose and caribou.

Procrastinating
I gotta bad case of it, right now.

Covid19
I had breakfast with a small businessman. He called a supplier yesterday to place an order. The supplier informed him that he was supposed to ration parts. Headquarters had been informed that China had set up roadblocks and have testing truck drivers for fever for the last week. If they did, they parked the truck on the street and the driver was popped into quarantine.

Gangs showed up at night and stole the trucks from beside the roads. The police were too busy enforcing quarantine to deal with hijackings.

Rabbits
Rabbits are enjoying the branches I pruned out of the apple trees. They prefer the bark.

When plans meet reality (fiction)


Wade Hawk called back to Chernovsky “Something weird is going on.”

Wade Hawk and Mike Danek had just come back from plugging up the drain-tiles on the West Branch and Doan Creek. Work had gone much faster than expected. Wade, confronted with the physical limitations of being over seventy-five years old, made some executive decisions.

One advantage of being a little older is that you know people. Wade called in some favors and paid hard, cash money to get the work done. In this case hard, cash money meant silver.

Wade and Mike had no sooner settled in back home when they got the call to man the fighting positions that protected Kate’s Store.

Wade grumbled. He lived a quarter-mile from the store but the new fighting position was a mile-and-a-quarter north of his home. He grabbed the backpack he took east to plug the drain-tiles. He threw in a few snacks and a couple 2 liter bottles of water. He assumed it was a false alarm and would be back home in a few hours.

Walking out the door, he picked up his .270 Winchester. Everybody else was toting .30 caliber rifles but those arms brought Wade no joy. Wade was old-school, he would dance with the one that brung him.

Sure-as-shit, early the second day a group of armored vehicles made their way up Gunn Road, heading directly toward Kate’s store. The lead vehicle was a dump truck with a deep box. Wade could see the barrel of a belt-fed weapon protruding above the high sides of the box.

The dump truck was followed by what looked like a prison transport van.

The last vehicle was a flat-bed truck.

Steel plate covered the windshields and side windows of the vehicles. The plates were painted primer gray. To Wade’s surprise, there were no viewing slots cut in the windshields. Looking through his scope, he saw pods mounted on the roofs of the trucks. His best guess was that they were web cams.

Wade made a tactical decision. As the lead truck approached the second blast zone, Wade had his demo expert fire the southern but not the northern charges. Wade’s team would know soon enough how well the trucks’ backup cameras worked.

Wade had no need for glory. He let the other shooters do the shooting. His job was to “run” the operation, not pull the trigger.

Countless hours and endless bottles of beer had been used up discussing the best way to incapacitate improvised, armored vehicles. The consensus was that the side windows were the weak point.

Windshields are sloped for aerodynamic reasons. Sloped armor was one of the reasons for the Soviet T-34’s incredible survivability under fire. Side windows, are a whole ‘nother kettle of fish. They have very little tilt and are easier to penetrate.

Take out the driver and the vehicle is dead-in-the-water. Everything else can be dealt with at the ambushers’ leisure.

The flurry of armor-piercing, .30 caliber bullets made Swiss cheese of the driver’s side windows of all three vehicles. If three shots was probably sufficient, then thirty was ten times better.

It was not just the projectiles bouncing around the cabs of the trucks like peas in a whistle, but the slug of material that the projectiles punched out of the armor.

Wade knew that there would be no need to blow the second set of explosives when the brake lights on the trailing vehicle went off and it idled into the vehicle ahead of it.

That is when the script left the rails.

The fighters who poured out of the prisoner transport van did something they had never done before, they fought back.

In the previous Livingston County raid, the fighters surrendered en masse as soon as the vehicles were disabled.

Not only did the fighters not surrender, but they mounted a spirited counter-attack.

Wade cursed and dropped his radio. Picking up his trusty .270, he started prick-punching hostiles from 400 yards out. He had chosen his position based on the ability to see the entire battle, not optimum shooting range. His men who were closer were not able to see the Livingston County fighters closing with them. Wade could.

There were no un-wounded survivors from the Livingston County side. That was unusual in the extreme.

Wade Hawk called back to Chernovsky “Something weird is going on.”

“What’s that?” Chernovsky asked. Things were going pretty well on his end.

“I am at the roadblock north of Kate’s store.” Wade said.

Wade thought all the extra words were a waste of time. Chernovsky SHOULD know where Wade was. Chernovsky put him there. But Gimp said everybody should be repeatedly redundantly repeated in their radio transmissions and Chernovsky agreed. Wade would play the game.

“I copy” Chernovsky said “message from Wade Hawk at Kate’s store roadblock.”

Wade rolled his eyes.

“We just took out a raid heading south toward Kate’s store.” Wade said.

Wade could not see Chernovsky nodding his head.

“They fought back.” Wade said.

“That is sort of their job.” Chernovsky said in a dismissive way.

“Mebbe so” Wade said. “But we took two causalities and out of maybe twenty hostiles we took mebbe three prisoners, and they were all severely wounded. I am not sure they are going to make it.”

“Let me repeat, hostiles fought to the last man standing” Wade Hawk said.

Chernvosky frowned. “Please repeat.”

“We got the drop on them. Everything worked better than expected. They fought back even when it was clear they had lost.” Wade said.

“Copy that” Chernovsky said. “Hostiles fought back much harder than expected.”

Looking over at his small support staff Chernovsky said “Probably an elite fighting force.”

Even so, the fighting will of the Livingston County forces was far in excess of what they had ever seen before. It did not bode well. Chernovsky might have dismissed the report if it had come from somebody else, but he knew Wade had seen the elephant and was not inclined to exagerate.