Thursday, April 30, 2020

Bend over, America


Dave Crabbe of Cottage Grove, Tennessee just wanted respite from the stresses of everyday life.

Work had been just brutal.

Sagging back into the twenty-five year-old recliner he sighed and opened the bottle of fizzy, brown, sugar-water he had paid $1.59 for at the local convenience store. The Pepsi cost twenty-three cents to make and deliver. The difference...that is the profit...was reported by the Pepsi Cola Company to the state of New York and duly taxed by them. Pepsi incorporated in New York State.

Ripping open a bag of Frito-Lay chips (a subsidiary of Pepsi Cola), Dave started scarfing down the twenty-six cents of potatoes, fat and salt he had paid $3.49 for when he bought the Pepsi.

Looking around, he did not see his wife, Diane. Sighing, he cracked windows on opposite sides of the room for cross ventilation and lit up a Marlboro. Marlboro is manufactured by Philip Morris which is incorporated in New York State. The profit on the pack of cigarettes is reported in New York State and the state dutifully taxes Philip Morris on the profits made on the sale of the cigarettes in Henry County, Tennessee.

Diane walked into the room and started giving Dave hell. "How many times I gotta tell ya. Met Life sez they ain't gunna pay on the life insurance if you have tar in your lungs when you die. We got a break on the premiums because we said you weren't smoking any more."

In fact, the premiums were "only" $200 a month. Dave prided himself on being a good provider and he intended to be so, even after he died.

Dave shook his head. The insurance salesman had been very persuasive and given them a big wink when Dave said he was a non-smoker. Met Life is incorporated in New York State.

States love taxing corporations. Corporations don't vote. Corporations would prefer to not pay taxes but it is just the cost of doing business. They don't kick as long as all of their competitors get the same haircut.

Diane did the bills and she was always giving him hell for spending money. That is why he still used the twenty-five year-old recliner. They didn't have enough money to buy a new one. Fortunately, it was as comfortable as hell, the bottom contoured to exactly match his ever-expanding posterior.

"Tough day?" Dave asked, attempting to redirect the conversation.

"We are being audited...again." Diane said. "Our company doesn't have enough accountants to fend off the tax auditors so we hired Price-Waterhouse-Cooper to be our agent" Diane said.

"I thought your company used Delloite for accounting?" Dave said, confused.

"We do but the lawyers made us switch because the tax auditors use Delloite and we had to avoid appearances of conflict-of-interest" Diane explained.

"What that means is that I have to spend my day collecting information for BOTH companies...in addition to my regular eight-hour job" Diane said.

Both Delloite and Price-Waterhouse-Cooper are incorporated in New York State.

Diane opened up her Verizon tablet to pay bills. She accessed her account at Citi and swore under her breath. Citi had just extracted "fees" of $75 dollars and she didn't have time to ascertain why.

One of the bills she had to pay was the $287 monthly fee charged by Verizon for services that cost them less than a dollar (variable cost) to supply.

Both Verizon and Citibank are incorporated in New York State.

Dave turned on the Sony TV and tuned in NBC to watch the news.

Both Sony USA and NBC are incorporated in New York State.

Lester Holt was ravaging Mitch McConnel for suggesting that New York's pension shortfalls were a New York problem.

"I like him" Dave said.

"Who, Lester?" Diane asked distractedly.

"No. McConnel. I also like that Kennedy guy from Louisiana" Dave said. "They tell it like it is."

Lester  posted a video clip of Cuomo rebutting McConnel. "New York State puts more money into the US Treasury than almost any other state" he claimed. "We are the cultural capital of the United States. It is only fair that we get our tax revenues back from the Federal Government and that the rest of America pay 'their fair share' for the cost of maintaining culture."

"Why are pension funds in trouble?" Dave asked. Diane was his go-to person for financial issues.

"States can't run deficits" Diane said. "So they found a way to cheat. They made pension promises but didn't put the money away to pay for them. They used that money to fund pet-projects like the arts or promoting diversity or funding colleges granting wonky degrees like Race Baiting and Gender Studies."

"I always wondered" Dave mused "how you address a person with a Master's degree in Race Baiting?"

"I can see why they have a problem" Dave said. "Everybody is leaving New York. What do they MAKE there? For Gawd's sake, the cost of doing business is outta sight."

Diane shrugged because she was distracted. Looking at her reflection she could see it was time to redo her hair coloring. Clairol is incorporated in New York state even though the products were made in Indonesia. Even though the hair coloring wasn't made, packaged or shipped through New York, New York claimed taxes on the profit, just as they claimed taxes on the advertising companies that Clairol hired.

"You know, I don't think folks in Tennessee should have to pay for New York's problems" Dave said. "We do what we have to to stay in budget."

"The last thing I want to have happen is for Tennessee to become a tax-donkey for high-spending politicians in New York."

--- TOO LATE, AMERICA. YOU ALREADY ARE ---

Quest: Numb

It is widely accepted as fact that anything is possible given enough grad students and an endless supply of coffee.

Grad students have nothing on fully grown Amish men who have been told by their wives to “get it done”.

Four days later, Walt was looking at over two-hundred pounds of pure clay the deep, velvety brown of chocolate syrup. The Amish had not been content to simply scrape up the dirt. The screened out the pebbles and washed out the sand. There was nothing to do, now, other than pour the water off the top of the clay as it continued to settle in the buckets.

Rather than wait for Steve and Sally to go to Ames and back, Walt decided to find where the rail line crossed the Mississippi and continue recording local prices.

He had a pretty good idea of had been on Sally’s list.

The Amish family he was staying with loaned him a horse and Sonny, one of the older sons to serve as a guide.

Ironically, it involved backtracking to Burlington and then heading west. Walt and Sonny made about 25 miles a day. The irony deepened when they made it to Ottumwa after three days of travel. Walt did not have the fruitcake and only regretted the fact in passing.

Rather than turning northwest to Des Moines, the state capital, Walt and Sonny continued west for three additional days. They turned around at Osceola figuring to just barely beat Steve and Sally back to the Amish of Sperry, Iowa.

*

Steve was loath to admit that leaving the rail was a mistake. They had to purchase supplies and were camping out rather than sleeping in heated houses. There was no shortage of abandoned houses and barns. Steve didn’t mind the barns so much. The houses still gave him the creeps since you never knew if they contained corpses.

The horses that had been thriving on twenty-five miles a day, high quality hay and five pounds of grain a day became testy when had to start scrounging for forage rather than have it placed in a manger in front of them. Steve bumped up the grain to seven pounds a day to compensate but the horses had no problems expressing their displeasure.

The weather had turned cold but no significant snow had fallen. Steve studied the western sky as intently as any sailor in hurricane season. It was only a matter of time before their luck changed for the worse.

As it was, each day seemed to be almost identical to the last. Wind, low scudding clouds, cold, never quite enough to eat or enough light to get everything done.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

How much diesel to run a railroad?

Let's play the math in figuring out how much oil it would take to make a seven-hundred mile run with thirty boxcars and a stop every twenty-five miles.

Modern diesel engines have a peak fuel efficiency of approximately 0.4 pounds of fuel per horsepower hour. For example, a 300 horse-power Cummins diesel engine uses approximately 17 gallons of #2 diesel per hour.

The weight of an empty boxcar is approximately 60,000 pounds. Assume a smoldering economy like in the Quest story would half fill it...that is, another 60,000 in cargo.

It takes 1.25 horsepower-hours to accelerate that 120,000 pounds to 25 miles per hour which is probably a reasonable maximum speed before large amounts of time have been invested in bringing the tracks back up to snuff.

Assuming 30 boxcars, then it takes about 40 horsepower-hours to accelerate the entire string to 25mph.

Waving our hands to make inefficiencies disappear, the locomotive must put out eight minutes of 300 horse-power to bring the train up to speed and will consume 2.3 gallons of diesel while doing so.

Since there are roughly 28 stops along the way, there will be 54 "starts" or about 120 gallons of fuel used to overcome the inertia of the train for a round trip.

This is where we throw a fudge-factor at the inefficiencies we blithely ignored. Double the 120 gallons to an even 250 gallons of diesel for a round trip.

Mid-Western oil production
Looking at just the oil production in Indiana:

Indiana was producing approximately 120,000 barrels of crude oil per MONTH over the last few years. That is 60 million gallons a year.

Let's make some crude assumptions. Let's assume they can get 5% of production back on-line and let's assume they can separate 20% into products by simple fraction distillation.  That pencils out to 600,000 gallons of "diesel" fuel a year. Running our tiny railroad two round-trips a month would use 6,000 gallons of fuel or 1% of our calculated production capacity.

Freight versus personal transportation
The states of Illinois, Ohio, Indiana and Iowa have a combined population of approximately 35 million. In a typical year, they use about 5 billion gallons of gasoline for personal transportation.

Our 6,000 gallons per year divided by the current usage of 5 BILLION is one part in 830,000.

So the assumption "There will be no oil" is true for current consumption habits involving use of 4000 pound vehicles driven 10,000 per year in a post-Ebola economy.

That same assumption is probably false if the consumption habits shifted to very minimal use for freight carried by steel wheels on steel rails AND some of the currently producing wells can be restarted. Local production would not be stressed to produce 6,000 gallons of diesel a year. Remember, we only looked at Indiana production and we only assumed 5% would be reactivated.

The thoughts of those in the petroleum industry will be much appreciated. Aggie...that might be you.

Movies and WYAIWYWW

Morris Massey made his fortune peddling the idea that what you are is where you were when you were 20.

Before age seventeen most kids have little awareness of the outside world. Life is all about their friends. At age 17, kids start thinking about a trade or college or getting drafted. Their focal plane expands outward and they flail around trying to make sense of what is inherently senseless and chaotic.

After age twenty, the concrete in our heads set and we become much more resistant to new ideas, new world views. We need to be exposed to Significant Emotional Events (another term he coined) in order to liquefy the concrete and MAYBE we will change our minds.

He claimed that we are joined by common experiences and that those shared experiences and values define a "generation". People who came of age in the 1930s, for instance shared a common set of values. Ditto for those who came of age in the 1940s.

The advent of big media changed that. The loaf of bread was sliced thinner as one cohort came of age watching All in the Family, another watching M.A.S.H. and a third watching Hill Street Blues.

Two movies from that WYAIWYWW period in my life were One Flew Over the Cuckcoo's Nest with Jack Nickolson. Another was Sophie's Choice with Meryl Streep.

The basic storyline of Cuckcoo's Nest is that a renegade finds himself in an insane asylum and does not fit in well. The head nurse, Nurse Cratchet, is a control freak.

The Trump Presidency makes me feel like we are reliving the movie with Trump as McMurphy, the Deep State as Cratchett and with Deplorables as "Chief". I hope Trump has a better ending than McMurphy.


The "Choice" in Sophie's Choice is that she has to decide which of her children is to be shipped off to the concentration camp and which child she can keep. (Spoiler, neither child ends up surviving).

Sophie's Choice is a gut-wrenching movie which is probably why it is not perpetually available on cable. Seeing it once is about all I can stand.

The unfortunate thing is that Sophie's Choice has some great messages embedded within the Significant Emotional Events. It is a movie that todays uber-liberal twenty-year-olds would be well served to watch.

At one point, Sophie is telling Stingo (the narrator) the backstory about her fall from belonging to one of Poland's elite, bourgeois families to becoming a refugee in post-war Europe.

Sophie's father was a professor at Poland's premier University. He espoused everything that the NAZI party promoted, including forcibly taking all Jewish wealth and "The Final Solution". Sophie's husband was one of her father's most cherished students and a virtual clone of his thinking.

They welcomed the NAZI invasion of Poland and expected to become stars in the occupied, Polish government.

Instead, they were plucked up and cast into the concentration camps just like the Jews, Roma, Jehovah Witnesses and other "unreliable" people.

Somehow, the fact that Totalitarian governments ALWAYS ruthlessly weed out any factions that MIGHT compete with them totally escaped Sophie's father. He saw himself as an "insider". Those on the inside saw him as potential competition and acted accordingly.

Pluralism
The big take-home for the current twenty-somethings is that today's path away from pluralism means they are more likely to find themselves standing with Sophie's family at the rail siding waiting to be deported to the concentration camp (or kneeling beside a freshly dug pit in the Katyn Forest) then to find themselves invited into the halls of power.

"Yeah, but Trump is the NAZI!!!" I can hear them bellow.

In spite of what you may have learned watching Harry Potter movies, calling something a name does not change it. The NAZIs are the ones who silence all dissent from their narrrative and meticulously organize things to the nth degree. Trump is a disruptor, not an organizer. He seems to enjoy chaos and dissent.

A NAZI would not have delegated any power or control to the State level during the latest Covid-19 issue. Trump was criticized for delegating too much.

Calling Trump a NAZI may be emotionally satisfying for some people, but it is not even the correct phylum much less species. You have to look elsewhere to find the NAZIs. Hint: They wore masks before masks were mandated. Another hint: They micro-managed the C-19 crisis to punish political rivals and provide spoils for supporters.

Quest: Splitting up


Walt Shaw threw Steve and Sally for a loop when he informed them that they were had to part ways.

They had just crossed the Mississippi river from Illinois into Burlington, Iowa.

Both Steve and Sally were taken completely off-balance by the news.

Walt was apologetic but firm. He even had a letter from the Charter supporting his claim.

Steve was to continue on to Ames, Iowa. Walt had business that needed to be attended to and that business was on the west bank of the Mississippi River, some 200 miles by road or eight days away from Ames.

Walt was very willing to stick with the expedition for one more day. The Amish north of Huntington, Indiana had entrusted the expedition with a half-dozen fruitcakes to give to satellite community in Iowa. The expedition had been amply paid with hams and smoked pork. The timing was excellent. It was a week before Christmas and the Amish community was on the way to Ames.

The expedition found the Amish community with no problem. They were nestled in the erosion-sculpted hills between Kingston and Sperry, Iowa. The fields too small and irregularly shaped for modern farm equipment to operate economically but they were of a scale well suited to the horse-farmer.

Unfortunately, only five of the six families were still in the area. The elder...who was not all that old...apologetically said that the sixth family had moved to Ottumwa, some seventy miles to the west.

Steve was disinclined to deliver the last fruitcake before fulfilling his mission. Traveling to Ottumwa entailed back-tracking ten miles to the south before heading west. And the Amish in Sperry didn’t have an exact address. All they could share was that the one, missing family was somewhere south of Ottumwa.

The parting of ways was anti-climactic. Steve counted out silver to Walt to “settle up” Walt’s trading profits. A half dozen, five-gallon buckets and Walt's “kit” were off-loaded and then Steve and Sally were on their way. At least neither of them were walking and their daily mileage could easily surpass 25 miles.

Walt bunked the first night in one of the Amish barns. Even at 10 degrees Fahrenheit, a deep mattress and blanket of fresh, bright straw can be a cozy bed.

Walt was surprised when at first light he found himself accompanied by most of the adult, Amish men in the neighborhood.

“Our wives sent us to help you” the Elder told Walt.

“Don’t you have chores to do?” Walt said, baffled by the workforce at his disposal.

“It is the middle of the winter. We all have children who can pump water and care for the animals” they assured Walt. Walt did not need to know that the children, in many cases, were ten and eleven years old. They were PROUD to be trusted with the family animals and would undoubtedly do a sterling job in caring for them.

Walt decided to not look a gift horse in the mouth.

“Do you fellas know of any old lead or zinc mines?” Walt asked. According to the old atlases and encyclopedias this part of the Mississippi valley had once been the United States' primary source of those metals.

“You mean like the old mine down yonder?” one of the men said, pointing toward a gully east of the barn.

“I am not sure. Let’s go look?” Walt said.

Four miles later, Walt and the five men found the old mine. The seam was collapsed but that was not where Walt’s interest lay.

“I don’t know a lot about mining, but I was told that the ore was processed and then the waste...what they call the tailings...were dumped somewhere. That is what I am looking for. The tailings.” Walt said.

The Amish looked one to the other. They were mystified by Walt’s blindness.

You see, it was glaringly obvious to the Amish where the natural features that had eroded over thousands of years were covered by man-made piles. It was as obvious to them as the differences between 12 point Times New Roman and handwritten cursive is to a modern reader.

Much of the Amish men’s life had been spent behind a plow. The plow peeled back the sod and revealed what was beneath the hood, so to speak. Over the decades he learned to read subtle changes in the surface and know if the ground was light-and-easy sand, clutching clay or grabby cobbles beneath the surface.

Walt was skeptical as the Amish men swarmed the site, driving stakes in to delineate the boundary between the spoils and the virgin land.

By then, the shadows were lengthening and it was time to head home. The Elder invited Walt to dinner and to sleep in his barn that night.

Much to Walt’s surprise, the entire crew of Amish were at the job site the next morning.

It did not matter that Walt’s request, to peel off the spoils and skim the clay beneath it made no sense to them. Their wives had made it clear to them. What Walt wanted. Walt got.

Walt only needed to tell them once. He only wanted the clay that was stained a deep, walnut brown. In some places it was only a quarter inch deep. In others, almost an inch.

Most men would have been totally gassed in half an hour. Shoveling dirt and rocks is the heaviest work imaginable. The Amish hit it hard for a full, eight hours. While slightly more arduous than most of their farm work, they were hardened by pitching thousands of bales of hay into the barn lofts, shoveling hundreds of bushels of grain and walking hundreds of miles behind plows.

On the third full day, the Amish brought horses and back-blades. The horses were in need of exercise.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

When it is your time...


And when I go, I don't want to be buried or cremated.

Guerilla Gardening post

One of the challenges in Guerilla Gardening is low fertility. This crab-apple twig is thinner than a man's pinky finger and I count eight, annual growth rings.
I spent last night at Mom's.
The community garden is in the upper, right corner of the image.

In the morning, I zipped over to a park near her house. The west side of the park borders a railway spur. The park also hosts a community garden. I thought the gardeners might enjoy my upgrading some of the trees near their garden.

Birds planted crab-apple seedlings and Calleryana Pear seedlings. I decided to do a little bit of grafting.

These are in the southwest corner of the park behind one of the ball diamonds. All told, I grafted about ten trees.

I remember thinking as I grafted these pears "This is really stupid. Why should I care more than the people who live next to this park?"

I grafted them anyway.

The event that triggered that thought was Cuomo demanding that the Federal Government...meaning people like you and me and our grandchildren...bail out New York State's finances.

Like most "Blue" states, New York piled up un-funded pension obligations and now they want us to step beneath the falling piano.

They did not care enough to fund those obligations. Why should I care more than they did?

Before

After
Close-up of grafted side branch. Note that I used masking tape to pull it into a more upright position.

I did not mark this one with surveyor's tape.
All pears were grafted to Olympic (aka, Korean Giant, Dan Bae). All apples grafted to Liberty.

In a different location
Mr Woodchuck will be in for a surprise.

Detroit Metro Airport

One of the mysteries in how badly Covid-19 hammered Michigan is the fact that C-19 homed in on Detroit like a heat-seeking missile.

How did it make the jump from Wohan to Detroit and seemingly skip over the most likely, intermediate steps (U-of-M is in Washtenaw county, MSU in Ingham)?

One possibility is that virtually all employees in Detroit Metro Airport are both residents of the City of Detroit and belong to "economically disadvantaged minorities".

Every ticket-taker. Every custodian. Every person working in a shop or handling luggage.

So rather than fanning out through the suburbs, where most Chinese nationals live, it vectored into the inner City where the Detroit Metro Airport workers live.

Just a hypothesis. Detroit got hammered by over-zealous "Affirmative Action".

Follow-up on Purvis Nursery post

Harglow Apricot
From an email Mr Purvis was gracious enough to send me:

For apricot cultivars that impress me but also have a wide range of adaptability, I would name Hargrand, Harglow, and Harval for their disease resistance, good flavor, and adaptability.


Two New Jersey apricots are worth noting: Ilona (released in 2015 by Rutgers University, good disease resistance, self-fruitful, large flavorful fruits that ripen fairly early) and Sugar Pearls, a mid-season white apricot, later blooming, fully hardy at -20F and possibly even to -35F in Wisconsin, very sweet, dries well, but requires cross pollination with another later-blooming apricot.

Tomcot
Alfred, Jerseycot, and Tomcot have also been widely adaptable.  They all are later-blooming and have superior resistance to spring frosts.  Jerseycot was a very good apricot for me in the suburbs of St. Paul, MN.   In New Jersey, Jerseycot had crops 20 years of 22 and a light crop the other two years.  That's very impressive for a location marked by disease, wintertime thaws, and spring freezes.

Tomcot has done well in Washington, D.C. as well as Las Vegas although it was initially from Washington State.
Brookcot. Photo credit Gilby's Orchard

For people living in Alaska's banana belt, I recommend Westcot or Brookcot, both from the Prairie Provinces of Canada.

For people in the deep-South, if chilling hours are not a consideration, probably Jerseycot or Alfred.

Quest: Lead on the target and smooth sailing

“It doesn’t matter how much lead you can throw downrange if you can’t hit anything” Tomanica growled at the grunts. “Only hits count.”

“Now pull your heads out of your ass and focus on making the next shot hit the black.”

The grunts didn’t complain, they whined.

They whined about everything. They whined about the food. They whined about the range. They whined about the wind, the ammo and their spotters.

“Look” Tomanica said, disgusted “it don’t matter if you are shooting a 50 caliber BMG. If you can’t hit the target then you wasted a round. That is the only thing that matters. You have to hit the target.”

“Yeah, but we are shooting BB guns” one of the ‘men’ said.

“It is a pellet gun, not a BB gun” Tomanica corrected him. The first few squads he had run a mile each time they were technically inaccurate but it cut too deeply into the training time.

“All of the principles are the same. Breath. Sight picture. Trigger control. Hold after shot” Tomanica said. “I ain’t gonna waste ammo trying to train on any asshole who cannot shot a pellet gun. You can haul mortar rounds and water if you cannot shoot.”

Even the dullest of students started to pick up on the fact that the ‘skilz’ they had picked up playing video games didn’t necessarily carry over to shooting real firearms.

Tomanica had the same push-back when he introduced the trainees to the suppressed .22s as he got with the pellet guns.

“We want to shoot real guns!” they said.

“If you cannot shoot a .22 then you cannot shoot anything. You might think your shooting will get better but you are just fooling yourself” Tomanica told them.

“Besides, .22s are ‘real’ guns” Tomanica told them.

“Maybe for shooting sparrows” the troops jeered him.

“More deer have been poached with .22s than with everything else combined” Tomanica told them. “And a deer is a dead-ringer, pound-for-pound, for humans.”

“If a .22 can kill deer and steers, it can kill humans.”

Tomanica didn’t feel it was necessary to tell them that over a thousand hostiles had been killed by 30 Capiche defenders during the initial waves of invaders...and most of them had been killed with the lowly .22.

He also did not tell them that almost half of the fighters were to be equipped with .22LR, semi-auto rifles. Given all of the other gear they had to lug in battle, it only made sense to economize on weight. 200 rounds of .22LR ammo weighed less than two pounds. 200 rounds of 5.56mm “AR” ammo weighed more than five pounds while 200 rounds of the armor-piercing .30 caliber weighed over 12 pounds.

For example, mortar crews would be issued .22 rimfire weapons because they were hauling tubes and baseplates and mortar rounds….lots of mortar rounds. They might come under enemy small-arms fire but their main function was to stay out of sight and drop death on the enemy from above. Personal weapons were secondary to their primary mission.

It also meant that the squads and shooters who did not meet Tomanica’s standards were going to be donkeys. He was not one to make idle threats.

*

Steve, Walt and Sally’s trip suddenly became easy as towns bent over backwards to be hospitable.

There were a few glitches. The leaders of one town tried to pressure the expedition. They assumed that they were in a position to dictate terms since they were twenty-five miles from the last “station”, they had ample sidings and they were much larger than the surrounding communities.

Steve could not tell if the mayor was myopic or simply very aggressive. The mayor kept moving closer to Steve, to the point where the mayor was bumping Steve with his belly. Later, the expedition joked about it as the probable origin of the word ‘bellicose’.

The instant the mayor poked Steve in the chest with his finger, Steve said “Pack the wagon.”

It was a simple matter to get out of town since nothing had been unpacked. The expedition was deaf to the entrities of the town’s people.

The expedition went another two hours west on the road before coming to another town with sidings. Even though the expedition had originally adopted the story of restarting the rail line as a cover story, the longer they thought about it, the more sense it made.

Their reports would have value. The prices, condition of the facilities and attitudes of the people would all be important considerations for anybody restarting the lines.

And, the sooner the line restarted, the less difficult it would be to bring the equipment and railbeds back up to snuff.

They made no secret about the plan to drop-and-hook every twenty-five miles. That was a viable plan if the locomotive could cover 125 miles a day.

Sally found herself with multiple notebooks. One of them listed old railroad men and heavy-equipment mechanics who were willing to go back to work. The expedition sat through more than one heated discussion regarding the virtues of steam-versus-diesel.

From Walt’s standpoint, it was very simple. Diesel won until you could not do diesel anymore. Diesel needed less than a half a pound of fuel for every horse-power-hour vs steam’s two pounds of coal and five pounds of water. Diesel needed about one-tenth the maintenance.

The flip-side was that steam could use local fuel and the parts could be made in low-tech machine shops.

Walt’s gut feel was that the mainline locomotive would be some form of diesel. It would drop-and-hook a car every twenty-five miles. Then, a small steam engine would shuttle the car, for a fee, to the satellite towns on the rail.

The expedition experienced two other hiccups east of the Mississippi river. One of them involved detouring around some civil strife in El Paso, Illinois. Fortunately, the citizens of Gridley were aware of the incursion by the forces from Bloomington/Normal and warned the expedition. It necessitated a couple of day’s jog to the north to ensure they did not get tangled up in the conflice.

The other hiccup was planned. They skirted south of Peoria since it counted as a “big city”. They also had a contact in Peking, Illinois who was more than happy to provide them with food and lodging and get them back in contact with the rail road and the road to Burlington, Iowa

Monday, April 27, 2020

Purvis Nursery: Supplier to Connoisseurs of ultra-hardy fruits


One of the unexpected bonuses of the cool, slow spring is that nurserymen are still in the process of grafting stock for sale next year.

This is does not come into play if you buy your fruiting trees from huge concerns like Starks or Adam County Nursery but it can be a major benefit if you buy from smaller mom-and-pop nurseries.

Today, I want to talk about Purvis Nursery in Homedale, Idaho. The great news is that he is still taking orders for trees to be delivered for Fall-2020 or Spring-2021 season. He can be reached by email at purvisrc (at sign) msn.com

Bob Purvis spent almost twenty years in the Anchorage, Alaska area. Then he moved to Idaho to support the orchard industry. Then a few years in Minnesota then back to Idaho.

Bob's passion is stone fruits....apricots, plums, peaches and such. But his true love is Apricots. Seems like quite a stretch, doesn't it? Apricots, source of nectar and the icon of sun-drenched California and mid-Eastern hills being the passion of somebody who lives in Alaska, Idaho and Minnesota?

All progress in human history is due to the unreasonable person. The reasonable person looks at things the way they are and sees a million reasons why they cannot change. The unreasonable person looks at what could be.

Looking at Apricots in his catalog, I see forty varieties from places like Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Wisconsin, Ontario, Manitoba, Colorado Rockies, California and Illinois. Many of these selections have the added bonus of sweet, almond-like pits!

I see forty-five Plums in his catalog. Some are the "Japanese" type and others are the Prune-type plums. You want plums that can shrug off -40F or -50F? Bob Purvis has them.

He also has some killer pear and apple varieties.

If you have a yen for those kinds of fruits...Apricots, Plums and Pears but always assumed that your climate was too hostile to ever grow them...send Bob an email in the next week or so. He will probably be willing to custom graft some trees for you that will exceed your expectations. Or you can call him on his cell phone

---NOTE: I will add to this post later---

Transcript of Trump's comments on "disinfectant"

"So I asked Bill a question some of you are thinking of if you're into that world, which I find to be pretty interesting. So, supposing we hit the body with a tremendous, whether its ultraviolet or just very powerful light, and I think you said, that hasn't been checked but you're gonna test it. And then I said, supposing it brought the light inside the body, which you can either do either through the skin or some other way, and I think you said you're gonna test that too, sounds interesting. And I then I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in one minute, and is there a way you can do something like that by injection inside, or almost a cleaning. Because you see it gets in the lungs, and it does a tremendous number on the lungs. So it'd be interesting to check that. So you're going to have to use medical doctors, but it sounds interesting to me, so we'll see. But the whole concept of the light, the way it goes in one minute, that's pretty powerful."  -Source

Let's look at this critically.

 "So I asked Bill a question some of you are thinking of if you're into that world, which I find to be pretty interesting. So, supposing we hit the body with a tremendous, whether its ultraviolet or just very powerful light, and I think you said, that hasn't been checked but you're gonna test it. And then I said, supposing it brought the light inside the body, which you can either do either through the skin or some other way, and I think you said you're gonna test that too, sounds interesting. And I then I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in one minute, and is there a way you can do something like that by injection inside, or almost a cleaning. Because you see it gets in the lungs, and it does a tremendous number on the lungs. So it'd be interesting to check that. So you're going to have to use medical doctors, but it sounds interesting to me, so we'll see. But the whole concept of the light, the way it goes in one minute, that's pretty powerful."

The context of the paragraph was about using light to kill (or disinfect) the virus.

"So I asked Bill a question some of you are thinking of if you're into that world, which I find to be pretty interesting. So, supposing we hit the body with a tremendous, whether its ultraviolet or just very powerful light, and I think you said, that hasn't been checked but you're gonna test it. And then I said, supposing it brought the light inside the body, which you can either do either through the skin or some other way, and I think you said you're gonna test that too, sounds interesting. And I then I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in one minute, and is there a way you can do something like that by injection inside, or almost a cleaning. Because you see it gets in the lungs, and it does a tremendous number on the lungs. So it'd be interesting to check that. So you're going to have to use medical doctors, but it sounds interesting to me, so we'll see. But the whole concept of the light, the way it goes in one minute, that's pretty powerful."

Immediately adjacent to the word "disinfectant" is a phrase that qualifies the treatment in terms of the time required. Then, later in the paragraph Trump repeats that exact time and explicitly links it to the concept of treating virus with light.

If Trump was referring to chemical disinfectants that were injected into the body the treatment duration would be related to the half-life of the chemical agent and would be measured in hours, not "...in one minute..." and would not be included in the discussion because it is a characteristic inherent in the chemical rather than a parameter controlled by a medical technician.

It is my non-professional opinion that Trump exercised a lack of precision when he identified the ultraviolet (or blue) light by its "verb" rather than by its generally agreed upon noun. Unfortunately, the word he chose is usually reserved for certain classes of chemicals.

You may now returned to your regularly scheduled programming.

Did anybody else notice...

Did anybody else notice the primers have already been struck by the firing pin?

Hat/tip Dads Deadpool Zone

How many life insurance policies have "pandemic" riders?

I wonder how many life insurance policies have a clause that makes them void if the death is due to a pandemic?

Imagine you purchased a policy for a respectable amount of payout...lets say a cool, quarter-million. You made payments on it for all of your working life.

Then, you die but the company refuses to pay your beneficiary, let's say your wife who is now past her working years, because you coughed a few times before you slipped your mortal coil.

The hospital, as directed by the State, lists your cause-of-death as Covid-19 and the insurance company invokes the pandemic cause.

One must ask: Who benefits from re-assigning the cause of death from other, natural causes to Covid-19? Who benefits?

That would almost make sense from one perspective. Life insurance companies are at risk of going bankrupt. Their business model depends on a smooth, orderly, continuous exit of paying customers. If too many customers die in a given six month period, and if the stock market tanked, then they run out of assets and issue rubber checks. They go bankrupt.

Hence the pandemic clause.

Hence the government's bounty on C-19 deaths where hospitals get compensated for declaring questionable deaths as being due to C-19. The hospital gets $19k. The insurance company does not need to pay out $250,000. The politicians get the undying gratitude of the insurance company with deep-pockets and granny (your wife) gets screwed.

The Book I take moral direction from takes a very dim view of profiting at the expense of widows and orphans.

Quest: Guess quickly


Quinn started working out with the fighters.

Livingston County had not been big on physical conditioning. It showed.

It was all Quinn could do to keep up with the most obese of the fighters, at first.

He spent a lot of time fiddling with how to wrap his healing ankle. He fiddled with his stride. It did not take him long before he was almost as fast as the middle of the pack on smooth, level ground. He swung his injured ankle through almost like swinging a golf club.

He kept driving himself.

Dysen worried. She saw the raw skin when he undressed for bed.

“Why are you punishing yourself?” Dysen asked.

“More pain now, less blood later” Quinn said.

“I don’t get it” Dysen insisted. “You are a leader now. Why would anybody shoot at you?”

Quinn looked at Dysen. “You know by now that I am a learn-by-doing person. I don’t know how to lead from behind. A lot of people probably can, but that is not me.”

“If we are in a battle then I need to be where I can SEE what is happening”
Quinn said. “A bullet isn’t going to stop and ask ‘Is he an officer?’ or ‘Is he disabled?’”

“But isn’t the whole point of Lieutenants so they can be your eyes and ears. They can tell you over the radio what is happening?” Dysen said.

“Words can mean a lot of things” Quinn said. “Words can lie. Words can mislead. I refuse to put my men at risk because I am too lazy, or too much of a coward...to do my job the best way I know how.”

Dysen’s concerns grew over the weeks. Quinn rarely spent the entire night in bed. He seemed to get by on three hours of sleep.

Dysen started keeping track of the gasoline they were using. Based on the rate it dropped in the containers, Dysen figured he must be motoring fifty miles a night.

She did the math in her head. If he was riding at a safe twenty miles-per-hour and motored fifty miles, that left about two-and-a-half hours unaccounted for each night. She did not suspect a mistress. Quinn was way too amorous every night for that to be a possibility. But she was very curious where Quinn was going and what he was doing in that unaccounted-for two or three hours.

*

Larry Tomanica gave Quinn’s Lieutenants an intensive, one-week training session on the capabilities of the Capiche-standard weapons.

They fired suppressed .22s, AR-15s in 5.56mm, and .30 armor-piercing. They not only fired the Capiche standard mortar, they lugged it and plugged it. Ranged it and then demoed surplus-to-need buildings with it.

“Just because it has a maximum range of 660 yards does not mean that is how far you should be from the enemy when you engage them” Tomanica lectured them.

“If you engage at max range then they can pull back fifty yards and send scouts in to take your scalp” Tomanica said. “Far better to engage at 400 yards and smoke their ass. And, if they try to outflank you, shift your azimuth and smoke their asses too.”

“David, what is ‘azimuth’?” Tomanica demanded.

“Azimuth and elevation are the two components to aiming the mortar” David said. “Elevation is that angle of the tube. Azimuth is the point-of-compass it is aimed.”

Tomanica did not care for David. Privately, he admitted that David was his best student but there was something about his half-hidden smirk that galled him. It was as if he had just picked Tomanica’s pocket and Tomanica didn’t know it.

“You are 66.7% correct” Tomanica said. “We also have the ability to vary the powder charge to increase or decrease range, although we rarely do that.”

John Galt perked up. He had used the mortars before and didn’t know that the powder charge could be varied.

“Why don’t we vary the powder charge?” Galt asked.

“Not much payback” Tomanica admitted. “If we had real mortars with more energetic propellants then lower charges would reduce hang-time and reduce the error caused by windage. As it is, you better be picking up your small arms if the enemy is within 200 yards of your position.”

David’s smirk became just a tiny bit more evident as if to say “I was right. There are only two components to aiming these rinky-dink mortars.”

Tomanica believed in competition. Striving to beat the other team will stretch a man more than a DI yelling at him. Tomanica set up two teams and gave them two buildings to collapse with the losing team having to run and fetch drinking water for the winning team.

Galt's team mopped up the floor with David's team both times. David’s team made small, incremental adjustments with David calculating each adjustment. Galt's team fired-for-effect and overshot on correction but quickly converged to a killing solution

Tomanica did a post-mortem. "Why did you choose to over-correct?" he asked Galt.

"Nine-times-out-of-ten poorly trained troops are going to retreat from explosions" Galt explained. "It is better to guess quickly and over-correct because they aren't going to be standing still. Even if I guessed perfectly, the chances of them being there when the next round landed is about zero" Galt explained.

"Explain what you did when firing with the cross-wind" Tomanica demaned.

"Except for max range, every target has two solutions, a high one and a low one" Galt explained. "When the wind is gusty the low solution will be less effected than the high one because it has a shorter time-in-flight."

*

Tomanica’s next round of training involved squad leaders. They were rotated out for a week of training. No east-west band was ever more than 33% depleted.

Their training was similar to the Lieutenants’ training but with a slightly different focus.

The Lieutenants’ training was designed so they could internalize the performance ENVELOPES around their teams and what reasonable expectations were withing that envelop. It was like teaching a neophyte chess player that the knight can jump two in one direction and then one perpendicular to the first direction. A knight cannot jump three in a single direction nor can it jump just one square. It can only do what it can do.

The Lieutenants had to know WHAT each weapon system was capable of doing so they could effectively site their men relative to the incoming threats. They had to be exquisitely aware of every weapon’s limitations. Asking troops to execute a task that was beyond the weapon’s capabilities merely alerted the enemy and depleted ammo.

The focus for the squad leaders was more the HOW of each weapon system. How and where do you position your ammo? How do you dig a fox hole. How do you withdraw your force when taking fire?

"The way to win against really bad odds is to use the ambush. Have them looking one way, attack from another, then gut them from the side when they reorient for the first attack." Tomanica drilled them.

"Terrain dictates tactics. Weapon capabilities define what terrain is significant and what terrain cannot be exploited. If you don't have the range, you cannot close the kill-sack."


Sunday, April 26, 2020

Just another Sunday





Plants virtually stopped growing after April 8 as the temperatures stayed below 50F. The daffodils, forsythia and apricots are still blooming. On April 8 we had 40 growing degree-days, base 50. At the end of today we were at 55 degree-days, base 50 and are about 10 days behind "normal".

According to the weather guessers, we will go above fifty tomorrow and the day after.

I planted some elderberry cuttings outside today. I started them inside under lights.

The cuttings were from some plants I had seen while taking Kubota into class in Lansing. The tops of the bushes were poking above the 5' tall, wooden fence. Based on the shape of the fruit clusters I think they are a variety called Bob Gordon. I asked the home-owner if I could have some cuttings and she graciously agreed.

Then, I did a little bit of research on elderberries and it appears that there is a variety called Marge that is easily twice as good as any other cultivar. It is more resistant to drought and bugs than other varieties and it yields twice as much per year.

I guess I will be looking for cuttings of "Marge" next winter.

I found and fixed a short in the electric fence.

I threw some fertilizer around the younger trees in the orchard.

I dug a few oak seedlings today and traded them for some spruce seedlings. The lady also threw in a tamarack seedling for good luck.

I did see one thing I thought was odd. I have a couple of super-hardy apple cultivars. Like Alaska/Saskatchewan/Alberta hardy. One is Kerr and the other is Trailman. Both of them had pollinating insects swarming them even though the flowers look like they are five days from opening. They either have extrafloral nectaries or they emit a scent that is irresistible even before the flowers open.

The only other notable thing I did was to put brown, paper lunch-bags over some of the grafts I made earlier this week. The brown bags function like small greenhouses and warm up the graft just the right amount. Plastic bags would cook them.

I slide the bags as far down the stem as I can and then secure the bottom (the open end) by squeezing close to the stem and taping with masking tape.

One tweak that is necessary in windy areas is to crush the length of thepaper bag. Otherwise, the loose paper acts like a flag and batters the scion. In very windy locations, it is desirable to use masking tape to secure the crushed bag midway between the bottom and top so it does not balloon and then batter.

But I thought we were supposed to be socially distancing?


If you never encountered or engaged in thinking, it is easy to mistake the random repeating of tired clich├ęs as deep thought.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Main Stupid Media

I was at Mom's yesterday and most of today.

I was listening to the news as she bounced from station-to-station. Mom is a new junkie.

One of the stations (CBS, maybe) breathlessly listed hypertension, obesity and diabetes as risk factors.

From memory, they claimed

50% of the patients on ventilators had high blood pressure
40% were obese
30% were diabetic.

Let's look at those predisposing conditions in turn.

According to the CDC, 45% of the population has hypertension under the new, more stringent guidelines implemented about a year ago. Source

According to the CDC, "The prevalence of obesity (in the United States) was 42.4% in 2017~2018." Source It should be noted that a person who is 5'-9" tall and weighs 203 pounds is considered obese.

According to the CDC, about 10% of the population has diabetes and another 20% has a made-up condition called "pre-diabetes". Added together they come to 30%.

The term "risk factor" suggests that the person with that characteristic is at HIGHER risk of having a problem. Yet, on the face of it, the people ending up in the hospital and on ventilators don't look any different than the base, United States population. 50% HT vs 45% base-rate. 40% obese vs 40% base rate. 30% diabetic vs 30% baserate (if you lump in pre-diabetic).

But if...
But if by "hypertension" they mean severe hypertension like systolic pressures of +150mm Hg

and if by "obese" they mean BMIs over 40 (or our 5'-9" person must weight more than 270 pounds)

and if by diabetes they mean real, diagnosed diabetes and don't lump in pre-diabetic...

Well, then they should say so. Numbers like that have predictive capability. For example, 10% of adult Americans are severely obese so if 40% of the people plugged into ventilators are severely obese then that means they have a four times greater chance of C-19 problems than the general population.

Genius


Mom subscribes to Consumer Reports. They have an article on fast foods.

I had to do a double-take when I read the name on the extreme right of the photo. My eyes saw a "T" as the last letter.

I bet that has vast subliminal appeal to a large segment of the consuming public.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Just for fun



Chess set



Progressive Spin-meister Panic

One can only imagine the Progressive panic with recent announcements that Covid-19 appears to have genetic sequences "lifted" from HIV.

That was not totally unexpected. Covid-19 appears to have HIV's ability to hi-jack lymphocytes and "hide" from our body's immune system.

Now imagine you are the mainstream media and have been captured by Chinese funding and the LGBT lobby. Who takes the fall?

Do you spin the virus as originating in a Communist Chinese weapon lab or inside the body of a gay, Chinese, bat gobbler?

"Why are you so paranoid?"

"Why are you so paranoid?" is a legitimate question from a college-aged person to a person in their sixties.

Some of it is attributable to the environment we grew up in.

If you were technically minded and grew up in the 1960s and 1970s there was enough information floating around for you to design your own fission bomb...as in nuclear bomb. The most difficult thing about constructing a functioning nuke for the local science fair was finding 25 pounds of Pu239. Ahhh, if only they had Amazon.com back then...

The mechanism behind an uncontrolled, nuclear event is similar to how epidemics spread: Patient 0 (or the first atom) emits virus (neutrons) that combine with other patients (nuclii) of the same species. The new patients/nuclii go unstable and spew another generation of virus/neutrons which in their own turn combine with new naive patients/nuclii.

And if you thought about critical mass a little bit, you quickly came to an understanding about how geometry played a role. The critical mass of a sphere is lower than the critical mass of cubes spread out in checker-board fashion or if shaped into the rind of a grapefruit. Detonating "the bomb" generally involved rapidly changing the dispersed Pu or U into a shape resembling a sphere.

Nuclear explosions are self-limiting. The heat causes the fuel to expand or vaporize. It quickly changes from the efficient geometry to one so dispersed that less than 1.000 neutrons are captured for every nucleus that splits.

Efficiency, from a weapons designer's standpoint, involves changing the geometry rapidly enough, and keeping it super-critical long enough to maximize the amount of material that splits before it is dispersed.


The Demon Core
There were events in the 1940s where nuclear scientists fiddled with borderline-critical masses of radioactive material. Sometimes they killed themselves.

The most documented events involved the Demon Core.

The Demon core managed to kill two nuclear scientists in two separate events. 

What is most notable is that the scientists were not twiddling with the core but with the environment around the core, modifying the number of neutrons reflecting back into it.

Covid-19
The two scientists who were killed, Daghlian and Slotkin, were among the best-and-brightest of their generation.

It is inherent in the nature of events described as having "exponential growth" that things can get out-of-hand faster than normal controls can activate.

Human reactions were simply not quick enough.


The "drop" criterion for the control rods needs to be dispersed, aggressive, automated and  unambiguous. The rods can always be inched up after the rods are triggered. Covid is everywhere and another "light off" will be faster than the original event.

In the economic restart of Covid-19, the edicts of Governors will also be too slow if/when it lights back up. There will not be time for speech writers to craft pretty language, or time to schedule TV time or time to be "orderly". That is when it pays to pack your own parachute and make your own conclusions.

One observation is not data
I read in various comments that Covid-19 was a fizzle and that proves Covid is not a force to be reckoned with.

I think that is drawing too large of a conclusion from one go-around.

Slotkin's fatal experiment was an experiment he had run several times before with no ill-effects. It was a tiny thing that made the difference. His screwdriver slipped for a fraction of a second. A very tiny thing.

Quest: Murmering

Training relaxed as the ground got icy. Pushing too hard, especially in the dark of night, put too many fighters onto the disabled list.

The picket of sensors that Sam was extending on a daily basis reduced the need for night watchmen. The need would never completely disappear but it was pared down to about 20% of what it was, with half of them in quick-reaction mode and half actually patrolling.

The West Branch border was not hermetically sealed. A small amount of trade moved across the river.

Young men vary, but most are wired to need six hours of sleep a night. They might like more, but the hard ground mitigated against lounging in the rack any longer than was needed.

Campfires started popping up as young men sought to entertain themselves. Stories were told, plans were made, information was shared.

A group of men gathered about a campfire approximately 10 miles south of I-96. The campfire was set a good fifty yards away from any of the other fires or tents. The men were there by invitation only.

“You know, this is bull shit” Jeremy said.

“We have been through this a thousand times” David said. “We have to bide our time. Tit-for-tat, buddy. Don’t have any leverage unless we have something of value to trade.”

“Still, its bull shit” Jeremy said. “Every mutherfucker in Livingston County can order pizza. Every Mfer in Howell can get drunk, have a girlfriend and get laid. And we are out here freezing our asses off.”

“He’s got a point” Smitty said.

David rounded on Smitty. “I expect stupid from Jeremy. I expect better from you.”

Smitty said “I am just sayin’ that Jeremy has a point. We are playing your game but it would go a lot easier if we weren’t living like fucking monks. You know what I am sayin’?”

David looked around. This was not a mutiny...yet.

“We can desert right now” David said. “and what does that get us?”

“We can be in downtown Howell in four, maybe five hours and what happens to us?” David said.

“We end up doing shit details and settling for sloppy-seconds with the women” David said. “Am I right?”

“But if you can keep your mouths shut and your pants zipped, and wait just a few months...what will we have to trade for?” David asked.

“We can offer the assholes from Ann Arbor safe passage through the buffer zone. All we will ask is that we be appointed administrators of Ingham and Eaton Counties.” David said.

“The choice is simple: Flake out now and suck left-hind tit for the rest of your life...or be patient, play MY game and get first pick of prime, table-grade women, booze and weed for the rest of your life.”

“Why would they GIVE us Ingham and Eaton County?” Jeremy asked.

“They gotta give it to somebody?” David said, reasonably. “Look at who they put in charge when they took over Livingston County? They didn’t have enough people to take over, so they rewarded the fighters who helped them out.” David said.

“Put yourself in their shoes. They didn’t have the warm bodies to control Livingston County. They aren’t going to have the warm bodies when they take over Ingham and Eaton Counties. Who do they turn to? The people who are on their side and have the muscle to get the job done.” David said.

Jeremy shook his head, mulishly. Smitty calmed down.

David kept Jeremy around because Jeremy was predictable. If he flushed Jeremy, David wouldn’t know who was going to step into the role of “the loyal opposition”. Better to have somebody predictable, somebody who was entirely predictable and a total idiot.

What David did not account for in his calculations was somebody with exceptional hearing, somebody who was not completely welcome at any of the other fires. Somebody like Donut Wohlfert.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Covid-19 as an agent of disruption

In 2011, a survey conducted by TIAA-CREF Institute senior researcher Paul J. Yakoboski estimated that 73% of professors with senior tenure ranged between the ages of 60 and 66 and that the remaining 27% were above the age of 66.   -Wikipedia

I stumbled into this topic by accident.

Belladonna is trying to get into a program and the mandatory, prerequisites for transfer-students are not being offered. The reason given "We don't have the staff to teach them."

Bella is pursuing having those prerequisites waived or replaced with similar classes. She is pursuing it "with-in channels" and I will not pollute her chances by commenting any further on her specific issues.

But it does raise the point that Covid-19, especially if it hangs on through the better part of a year or it revisits the population in recurring waves, will have a purgative effect on the University education system.

Cynic say that Universities exist to create a very limited number of tenured professors and all other functions are ancillary to that goal. Educating students? An unfortunate necessity to claw money from the public weal. Research? A gateway to limit the number of wannabes trying to claw their way to the plateau.

Once tenured, life is easy and lucrative. Unfortunately, the path is long and many decades are spent reaching the top. That means that tenured professors may be the "oldest" profession in terms of age of its members.

Unfortunately, college students tend to be stupid about communicable diseases, asymptomatic AND the death-rates more than double with every 10 years of age.

That makes being a +65 year old professor teaching swarms of college students in meat-space something like swimming in a piranha tank. It is not surprising that many of them are either retiring or taking "a leave" while events sort themselves out.

Covid-19 is one more challenge to the University system as executed in the past. The University system is demonstrating fragility and we need parallel paths for credentialing...ones that don't put students $50k in debt and don't rely so heavily on people older than sixty to function.

Quest: Charise

It took Miguel four days to find Charise.

She wasn’t in the trailer park. The couple who lived in the unit thought she had moved to Brighton, five miles to the east.

Miguel didn’t just go dashing off to Brighton. Forewarned is for-armed. He had almost been scooped up by a Livingston County impress gang the last time he had been in there.

He reached out to his cousin Howard.

Howard managed an apartment complex before Ebola. After Ebola, he was a low-level maintenance man in one of the complexes where survivors were swept into a pile.

Miguel didn’t have any illusions about the strength of family ties. Miguel buried most of the “funds” had had been carrying to execute the mission. As long as Miguel didn’t ask Howie for much and paid his own way, Howard would make a modest effort to help Miguel.

A safe place to sleep at night was not a trivial contribution.

Miguel got a job at one of the big pizza joints in Brighton. They kept records of everybody who ordered pizza. Miguel brought the “no-pay” orders home to Howie who was more than happy to scam some free food. In fact, Miguel suspected that Howie called in a couple of orders a night to random addresses. Of course the addresses refused to pay for the pizza, making them “no-pays”.

Miguel found one Charise in Brighton. In the middle of the evening he rang her doorbell. Everybody answers the door for the pizza guy.

She looked exactly like Ozzie’s description: 5’-8”, 160 pounds, 4” ‘fro, topaz colored, almond colored eyes.

“We didn’t order a pizza” she said. Her voice was a warm contralto delivered in the slow, thoughtful cadences of a person raised where thought was habitually expended before speaking.

“I know” Miguel said. “Ozzie ordered it.”

Charise did a double-take. “Is this a prank?” she demanded.

“Nope. He paid” Miguel said, playing it straight. “He also asked me to deliver a letter.”

He handed over the extra-large, Philly cheese-steak (garlic crust) pizza and the letter.

“I will be back tomorrow about this time for your answer” Miguel said.

Miguel was counting on the fact that an extra-large, Philly was about three-times the cost of the typical “medium” cheese pizza that was their high-runner. People play all kinds of weird mind-games. But most people aren’t going to pay serious money on a guess...a guess that happened to be her very, most favorite pizza in the world.

Charise gave Miguel a piercing glance and accepted the pizza...and letter.

Ozzie had handwritten the letter in his sprawling, open script. He explained that he had been a prisoner-of-war but had been able to work his way into a position of responsibility and was now in a place where he could care for her.

Charise gave Miguel an envelop the next evening. “Please return that to my husband” Charise said. “And thank-you for your efforts.

*

The next Sunday, Charise dressed up in her Sunday-go-to-Church finest. She also took her young niece and nephew. She hired a cab and they rode to Gregory, Michigan to attend the community church there.

Two decades earlier, it might have been scandalous...a single black woman with a couple of children in tow attending a revival in Wonderbread-White, rural Michigan. That was then. This was now. The small congregation was tickled to have new blood show up, especially somebody who took the time to put their best foot forward.

If anybody had followed her, their attention would have wandered over the course of the four-hour service and the meal afterward. As it happened, nobody had bothered to follow her. She was a nobody from nowhere.

Miguel was waiting for her when the services ended. He had very carefully cased the joint and determined that they were not under surveillance.

Charise slipped off her high-heels and put on a pair of tennis shoes. Together, the four of them walked the mile-and-a-half to the site of the demolished bridge that used to span the West Branch of the Red Cedar river. A temporary rope bridge had been stretched across the frigid water. Ozzie was waiting on the other side.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Young love: Great intentions, poor execution



I would be afraid to ask her for a sammich.

Hat/tip Belladonna

Quest: Shopping list

“I am going to need four things to start the nitrate program” Dr. Sam Wilder told the war committee.

Sam was comfortable presenting. It had been part of her life before-Ebola. The other reason was that one of the men on the committee was her husband, John Wilder.

Sam passed a single sheet to each of the men at the table. Each item was identified and a few, key characteristics were written below the item.

Sam read out-loud:

Air compressor
-oil-free, 3000 psi or more

Firewood
-200 face-cords, dry, ready to burn

Anhydrous ammonia
-to jumpstart downstream processes

Charise Virgil
-Chemist, currently lives in Howell

Rick Salazar winced as he heard the needed items. “These are not going to be easy to come by”

“If they were easy I could get them myself and not bother you” Sam said. She didn’t have any energy behind it. She firmly believed that you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. Besides, she had seen how the planning was beating the tar out of the men.

Rick sighed. “Let’s go through these items one-at-a-time”

“The process runs at 3000 psi. I need to be able to pump nitrogen and hydrogen to that level.” Sam said.

“Can you drive a diesel engine with a motor and get that pressure?” Salazar asked.

“I think I can only get 1000psi, and it won't be oil-free.” Sam said.

“I have seen multi-stage compressors where three cylinders fed one cylinder. We might be able to get to 3000psi doing that” Kelly Carney said. Then he asked “What happens if there is oil?”

“Over time it poisons the catalyst” Sam said. She didn’t expect them to understand what that meant.

“We can only do what we can do” Carney observed. “Maybe you can filter out the smoke. How big of a compressor do you need?”

Sam smiled. “I am sure that anything you come up with will be more than big enough.”

Salazar read out “The next item is 200 face-cords of firewood and you want it seasoned.”

“I am sure we can get you the firewood but you know that nobody is going to want to part with seasoned firewood going into winter. Especially after last winter when even the most paranoid ended the season living hand-to-mouth” Rick said.

“We can put out the word that every family in Capiche has to pony up a face-cord of firewood. We can say it should be dry and seasoned but we aren’t going to police it” Rick said.

Sam graciously accepted the help. “Thanks. That is better than I hoped for.”

Looking down at the next item Rick read “Anhydrous ammonia...I thought that is what your assignment was.”

“Actually, the assignment was to develop nitrate based explosives and propellants” Sam said, smoothly. “Synthesizing the ammonia is the first and hardest step of the process.”

“So why do you need the anhydrous?” Rick asked.

“Suppose you wanted to canoe down a river and you knew there were a bunch of trees that had fallen across it making it impossible to canoe. If you were in a hurry, would you just send one guy with a chainsaw?” Sam asked rhetorically.

“I don’t think so. You would send three or four guys. One would start where you were launching the canoe. You would send the second one a third the way down the river to start there and the last guy you would send two-thirds the way down the river” Sam said. “I am doing the same thing. I need anhydrous so one of the teams can work on a process to turn it into nitrates.”

“How much do you need?” Rick asked.

“We could make a lot of progress if you can find a tank with fifty or a hundred pounds in it.” Sam said.

Rick looked around the table. “Kelly, you took the compressor assignment. I took the fire-wood assignment.”

Looking at the men, in turn, Rick sighed again and said “Looks like I am the best guy for the anhydrous assignment.”

Everybody pretty much knew that Kate would do most of the work. She would put us a sign asking for anhydrous and pass the word to the other store keeps in Capiche.

“OK, I give. Who is Charice Virgil and why is she important to you?” Rick said.

“I found one good chemist and one sort-of-OK chemist. I need a third. My good chemist is married to Mrs Charice Virgil and he vouches for her abilities. If we scoop her up, then I get another good chemist and the eternal loyalty of the one I already have.

“Chernovsky, this looks like it is in your court” Rick said.

Chernovsky mulled it over for a minute before asking “Have you considered asking Mr Virgil to send her a letter. Maybe she doesn’t need ‘getting’. Maybe she needs an invitation. If your guy writes the invitation, I can make sure it gets in her hands.”

Twenty-four hours later, Miguel found himself skulking through a dark, mobile home park trying to find a specific address.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Michigan C-19 Symptom data

Data from HERE  A modest amount of smoothing* was used to make the curves a bit less noisy.
The graph shown above are the percentage of patients showing up at a doctor's office, Emergency Room or clinic and presenting with the primary symptoms of Covid-19, specifically some form of Fever + Shortness of Breath.

Each line represents a different age group. For instance, the blue line on top represents patients who are pre-school children.

The terra-cotta line (red if you are an eight crayon guy) represents school age children.

As you can see, in normal times those two groups have much higher rates of C-19 symptoms even before C-19 showed up. Closing schools crushed the rates for school aged kids in just a few days.

Surprisingly, the stay-home order eventually brought down the pre-school rates as well. Maybe mom and dad decided to economize and keep the kids home from daycare.

The remaining age groups show very similar characteristics. If you average those curves you get a chart that looks like this:


Last data from April 17.

* Smoothing algorithm was ((t-1) +2*t +(t+1))/4 where (t-1) was the observation from the previous day, t was the observation of the day plotted and t+1 was the observation on the day after the day plotted.




Splitting it out by regions, Region 3 was better than other regions. Data for regions 1, 5, 6, 7 and 8 looked very similar and were averaged (gray line). Region 2 was in the dog house and Region 2 South is plotted in dark blue and Region 2 North is plotted in brown.

Based on this data, Region 3 is at pre-Covid levels of symptoms and has been for a week. There is no reason to keep the stay-at-home order in-place in Region 3.

Regions 1, 5-8 are close to pre-Covid levels of symptoms and need a week to demonstrate it is not a statistical fluke.

Bear in mind that this analysis would be more meaningful if the "noisy" 0-18 year-old data was purged.

Region 2 South needs ten days.

Region 2 North is still in the ditch.

Kim Jong Un

Rumors of his impending death are flying on social media after his recovery from a surgery took a turn for the worse.

According to South Korea Tabloid, Kim was having stretch marks removed from his belly when surgeons noted evidence of Clinton misdeeds tattooed on his skin.

Surgeons are now on the lam from both North Korean officials and the Clinton Foundation. The 0.6 square meters of skin removed from Jon-Un with the Clinton evidence has not been recovered and it is believed to be in the possession of the surgeons.

The Ecuadorian embassy in Vladivostok has been cordoned off by Russian paratroopers.

CDC issued statement implicating impending death as a Covid-19 related fatality.

Quest: Things get easier and more testing


The expedition pulled into Goodland, Indiana about an hour after breaking camp.

The storekeeper was waiting for them, wringing his hands. “I was afraid something had happened to you.”

The storekeeper in Monticello had called by radio and told the storekeeper in Goodland to be on the look-out for the travelers.

Not only was he eager to assist them in gathering data, he had a keen understanding of the difficulties of traveling by horses in the wintertime. He had two bales of second-cutting hay and twenty pounds of grain sitting beside the door.

“Weather this time of year is unpredictable” the storekeep said. “You shouldn’t have any trouble making Watseka by dark but it gives a body comfort to know that he can duck out of the weather if a storm pops up.”

Sally ran through the list of commodities.

“What price do you want?” the storekeep asked. “What I pay or what I generally sell for?”

Steve, thinking quickly said “We want your selling price. That is public knowledge, right?”

“What you pay suppliers for local trade is none of our business. Knowing the selling price we can make some educated guesses about what you are paying your suppliers.” Steve said.

“The thinking is that if somebody between Pennsylvania and Nebraska can produce merchandise for half or a third of what you are selling it for, maybe it makes sense to buy it from them in-bulk and pay the shipping costs rather than buy in dribs-and-drabs and getting a wide variation in quality” Steve said.

The storekeeper nodded. One of the challenges of selling post-Ebola was that not every ham was well cured nor every cord of firewood well seasoned. If he could buy cheaper, even after shipping, and if the quality was more consistent then he could move more volume and make more profit.

The other challenge was that folks wanted to barter and brought in items he had no market for. What was he going to do with a cow hide? If the railroad ran again, maybe somebody along the line would open a tannery and then he could take hides in on trade and make a reasonable profit in both directions.

Yessiree, getting that rail line up and running was a great idea.

“You know” the storekeeper said to Sally “the one thing you aren’t asking about that has me surprised is you aren’t asking me what I have a surplus of.”

Steve leapt to Sally’s rescue. “We were going to get to that.”

“Well, I don’t want to forget to tell you, in case it could help get the locomotives going again” the storekeep said.

“Goodland, Indiana has a small foundry and machine shop that specialized in making cylinder liners” the storekeep said.

“Cylinder liners?” Steve asked. “You will have to excuse me. I don’t know a lot about locomotives.”

“For rebuilding engines” the man said. “You know, jugs. Pull the heads, pull out the worn or cracked sleeve and press in a new one. Makes the engine as good as new.”

“Most of that work went to China but there were enough odd-ball tractor engines to keep Smedley’s in business. He also made replacement parts for old steam engines” the man said. “Not boilers, of course, but nearly everything else. You would be surprised at the number of old steam engines sitting in barns around here. Folks used to take them to shows.”

*

Samantha Wilder, Ph.D. was getting a little bit desperate. The first four people she interviewed had NO practical knowledge of chemistry in spite of what they claimed.

Wilder decided that the effort to make nitrates had to be a Manhattan Project type effort. She split the task into three major efforts:
  • Synthesizing ammonia
  • Converting the ammonia to nitrates
  • Combining the nitrates with organic compounds like cellulose or hydrocarbons.

Wilder was sure she could juggle all three projects as long as she had strong leaders at the head of each effort.

She needed leaders with a fundamental grasp of chemistry.

She needed leaders who neither oversold, or undersold their efforts.

So far, she had been sorely disappointed.

She had passed word to Chernovsky and the other leaders of Capiche. She had multiple volunteers from the forces defending the buffer region just west of Livingston county. In fact, the four previous candidates CLAIMED to have Master’s in Chemistry from prestigious Universities.

Apparently, they thought hanging out in a warm laboratory was a much better way to spend the winter than camping out and ten mile runs in full gear.

The fifth interviewee was a tall, black man named Ozzie Virgil. He gave Sam a fleeting smile.

“I will be video recording your lab work for the manager to review” Sam said as she fingered her iPhone. “I can’t help you out very much but feel free to ask questions.”

The man nodded. He looked nervous.

“What am I supposed to do?” Ozzie asked.

“Oh, you weren’t told?” Sam said in mock surprise.

“I think you are suppose to do a ‘titration’. The solute is in the green, glass container and the reagent you will titer it with is in the small, clear, glass flask.” Sam said.

There were three containers. A green, glass gallon jug and a tiny, clear, glass flask and a one liter flask labeled "Distilled Water".

Ozzie looked at the bench. He noted the standard assortment of glassware and a titration stand.

“Where is the PPE?” Ozzie asked.

SCORE! Sam thought in her mind. None of the other interviewees had thought to ask.

“I think it is in the drawer next to the sink” Sam said.

“Do you know if either chemical is considered hazardous?” Ozzie asked.

In fact, they were both well-water. But Sam wasn’t going to tell him that.

“I don’t think they are particularly toxic but anything can kill you” Sam admitted. It wasn’t a lie. People had been known to drown in water.

Ozzie found safety glasses with side-shields and a face-mask. Then he tried on a couple of lab coats until he found one that fit. Then he hunted around and figured out how to turn on the hood ventilation. So far, Ozzie was a freaking rocket scientist compared to the first four interviewees.

Ozzie stared at the tiny bottle of “reagent”. “Is that expensive or hard to replace?” Ozzie asked.

“Yes” Sam said. “Both.”

“How precise do you want this titration?” Ozzie asked.

“I dunno. I am just recording your work” Sam answered.

Ozzie hummed as he worked.

He took a pipette and put 49ml of distilled water into a beaker. Then he pulled 0.5ml of “reagent” from the bottle and added it to the beaker. Then he added a bit more distilled water to bring it to exactly 50.0ml. Then he labeled it 1:100

For the benefit of the camera Ozzie said “Add the acid to the water, the way you really oughter.” Adding water to acid can make it pop and splash. Getting acid on your face or in your eyes during a job interview is bad form.

Then he found a second beaker and and repeated the exercise using the diluted “acid” instead of the full strength acid from the stock flask. He labeled that one 1:10e4

“What do I use for an indicator?” Ozzie asked.

“It is already in the solute” Sam answered.

Ozzie very slowly added the fifty milliliters of the 1:10,000 acid to the solute, drop-by-drop. There was no change of color. His big hands moved deftly over the tiny glassware.

“I didn’t think it would trip” Ozzie said. “But if it had, you could have saved the 1:100 for the next guy.”

Then Ozzie repeated the exercise using the 1:100 dilute. If anything, he went even more slowly. Again, no color change.

Before going to the next stage and loading up the titration stand with pure “acid” from the small flask, Ozzie turned to Sam and said “This stuff is expensive. I think we should ask the boss if he wants me to keep going.”

Sam was delighted. She found a leader who knew his way around a lab and knew when to slow down and ask for guidance

"You have done this before, haven't you?" Sam challenged him.

"Yes ma'am. I worked for a company that sold chemicals to companies that plated parts for the automotive industry. When something went wrong, they would send a sample of their tank mix to our lab and we would figure out how to fix it." Ozzie said.

Sam looked Ozzie in the eye and said “I have two questions.”

"Can you recommend any other chemists and when can you start?"