Monday, April 22, 2024

Eclectic Skill-sets (Cumberland Saga)

“I got some bad news” Samson Davis told his heavily pregnant wife, Heddy.

She was cleaning up a puddle of vomit left by their Jack Russel puppy. In retrospect, getting a puppy while Heddy was still caring for their two-year-old and had another on the way had not been their best move.

Heddy put down what she was doing, with a sigh. She turned to face him and asked “Tell me what is going on.”

“A mob of "protesters" broke into the Armory” Samson told her. She didn’t need to ask if he meant “his” room in the basement or at the National Guard.

“When did it happen?” Heddy asked.

“Last night. The guards were directed to stand-down and just let the mob take everything they could carry” Samson told her, bitterly. “It was not reported to the press. The police have their hands full and flat-out told us that there would be no effort to retrieve the weapons.”

Samson was one of the Armorers for the North Carolina National Guard*.

Samson left the military after his second deployment. He had planned to make the military his career but "politics" tripped him up.

When deployed forward, he was required to get permission from “upper” every time he pulled his trigger in his role as a designated marksman if the target deviated the slightest bit from the Rule-of-Engagement profiles. During one firefight, Samson dumped every “skinny” who was lugging anything that looked even remotely like it might be supporting the drones overhead. That put the first letter into his file.

Samson was glad that “upper” had never found out about the 2.4GHz radio-activated Claymore mines he and his spotter had used to salt the promontory that was most favored by the drone jockeys. The buzzards ate well that week. Prior preparation and all that.

The second letter occurred when he was back in the Green-Zone and was told to report for the 8-hour, mandatory, weekly, sensitivity-training.

Samson pushed back. He had just received five, beaten up, belt-fed heavy machine-guns that needed rebuild. The only things that kept the Forward Operating Bases from being overrun were area denial fire from M-2s and aggressive sniping by teams that had infiltrated into areas where local troublemakers were known to congregate.
Arty was under-resourced and over-subscribed and slow in coming. The Airedales were even slower. The FOBs were reduced to dancing with the ones-they-brung.

The M-2s were rode hard and put away wet. Without spares, his FOBs would be left without interlocking fields of fire if they lost another M-2s. The bad-guys would figure that out soon enough.

While Samson’s commander fully agreed with him, the person walking past the open door did not and she reported it to HR.

BAM! A second letter in the file.

Samson did not re-up.

Dumped into civilian life at 27, he grabbed the first high-paying job that wanted him. It was in construction.

The unit he was in hit a month-long lull in jobs and he was going to get laid off. The site-manager knew Samson would have some time off and also knew, via the grapevine, that Samson could not afford the air-bubble in income due to family responsibilities.

Over coffee, the manager voluntold Samson that there was a place for him in the local National Guard in an Engineering Unit that he, the site-manager, just happened to be responsible for. He needed somebody who could rebuild equipment without just throwing money at it. Oh, yeah, and by-the-way, his skills would be appreciated on the shooting team. Maybe this year they could beat South Carolina. 
It was well within the Commander's authority to expedite Samson's application and to coordinate his "stints" with the National Guard and the lay-offs from construction.

Samson was in heaven. The unit’s efficiency rating was in the toilet because they were over-budget and under-equipt. The Pentagon clearly had a bone-up-its-azz with regard to North Carolina and sent them shot-up, end-of-useful-life, obsolete equipment. Spare parts, if they were available, were salvaged from the bone-yard and were only slightly more usable than the ones that were removed.

The officer who recruited him got him into 3-D printing and pointed out several custom foundries who could turn a plastic model into the cast-steel equivalent via investment casting. To a man, the owners of the foundries were patriots who had served their country in the military. They charged the NCNG time-and-materials and billed it as Miscellaneous Training.

Of course, the business owners were not stupid. They pressured their congressmen to have the replacement parts approved as “secondary sources” for the parts. A single trunnion-knuckle for a bogey-wheel on a Electro-Magnetic-warfare carrier could generate $5k in profit and every EM-warfare carrier had 14 bogey-wheels.

The tempo of deployment was hard on the equipment and worn trunnions resulted in thrown tracks. Not only was the EM-warfare package incredibly expensive, but the technology was proprietary and supreme effort was invested in recovering them...or they were demo-ed in-place to prevent the technology from being stolen by the skinnies and traded to Iran, Russian or China.

So when the diligent, intensely focused young man called from the front gate of the foundry, he was given first-class treatment and NCNG projects got high priority.
Samson's unit went from RED to BLACK for Readiness, the Maintenance budget went BLACK and the Training budget was fully-utilized.
Everybody was happy.


“I am not sure why you think that is bad news” Heddy replied.

Samson looked around the house they were leasing. A typical doctor or lawyer would have considered it a “dump” but it was the nicest house Samson and Heddy had ever lived in.

“Mostly because you won’t be delivering in a hospital” Samson said. He had grown up in rural, western Virginia and knew of some home deliveries that had not ended well.

“The second one is easy and the ones after that fall out like a string of sausages” Heddy laughed. “At least that is what Mom always said.”

What Samson could not know was that Alice had been referring to puppies.

Samson left a voice mail with his firm and informed them that he would be taking an indefinite leave-of-absence, No-Reason-Given.

The NCNG didn’t have voice mail. It had a push-button-one-for-menu-in-English system.

Then Samson called his commander on his personal phone and explained that he was resigning from the NCNG in protest of “upper” not committing the resources needed to secure the Arms Locker.

His commander understood.

There was nothing left to do but to pack and to leave.
Hat-tip to Old-NFO and Will C. for suggesting some possibilities. All errors are mine.
*My apologies to the North Carolina National Guards for any technical or organizational mistakes I made. It is not my intention to impugn the reputation of the NCNG. I have no doubt that the NCNG upholds the finest traditions of the US Military and is a bastion of world-class fighting men and women struggling to excel in an increasingly hostile world.
North Carolina had the misfortune of being well located relative to the fictitious community of Copperhead Cove.

Thank-you to all National Guardsmen, regardless of state.

Sunday, April 21, 2024


Mil-Spec Data: Piping, General

1. All pipe is to be made of a long hole, surrounded by metal centered around hole.
2. All pipe is to be hollow through out entire length.
3. All pipe is to be of very best quality, perfectly tubular or pipular.
4. All acid proof pipe is to be made of acid proof metal.
5. O. D. of all pipe must exceed the I. D. otherwise the hole will be on the outside
6. All pipe is to be supplied with nothing in the hole so that water, steam or other stuff can be put inside at a later date.
7. All pipe is to be supplied without rust, as this can more readily be applied at the jobsite.
8. All pipe is to be cleaned free of any covering such as mud, tar, barnacles, or any form of manure before putting up, otherwise it will make lumps under the paint.
9. All pipe over 500 feet long must have the words "long pipe" clearly painted on each end so that fitter will know that it is long pipe.
10. Pipe over two miles long must also have these words painted in the middle so that the fitter will not have to walk the full
length of the pipe to determine if it is long pipe or not.
11. All pipe over six inches in diameter is to have the words "large pipe" painted on it, so that the fitter will not use it for small pipe.
12. All pipe closers are to be open on one end.
13. All pipe fittings are to be made of the same stuff as the pipe.
14. No fittings are to be put on pipe unless specified. If you do, straight pipe becomes crooked pipe.
15. Fittings come in all sort of sizes and shapes. Be sure to specify the direction you are going when ordering.
16. Fittings come bolted, welded or screwed - always use screwed. They are the best.
17. Flanges must be used on all pipe. Flanges must have holes for bolts quite separate from the big hole in the middle.
18. If flanges are to be blank or blind, the big hole in the middle must be filled with metal.

Saturday, April 20, 2024

Back on-line


Glad that Blogger resolved the issue that was buggering up my ability to post.

I am sure that the recent upgrades to FISA and funding for the NSA had nothing to do with the interruption in service.

Chelidonium majus

Celandine is an invasive, non-native species that is resistant to being browsed by deer. Consequently, it does well here. I went on a search-and-destroy mission today and will resume S-a-D tomorrow. It is better to whack them before they set seeds. I started using a commercial wetting agent and it is the cat's-meow for plants that have hard-to-wet leaves like celandine.

These leaves form a distinctive rosette and really stand out on the floor of the forest in the early spring.

I also cut some brush around the place and sprayed the stumps with herbicide. I probably went a little bit light and over-diluted.

On Friday, I went out to the property I am managing and sprayed Multiflora Rose with glyphosate. The best time to spray them is just before or after they flower so I am a bit early. If need be, I can spray them again.

Morel Mushrooms

The black morels are still popping up beneath one particular apple tree. The tree was planted in 1994 and is Liberty grafted on top of either MARK or M-26.

Southern Belle put them on top of pizza. Yeah, heresy. I expect to have another bag of them picked by Monday.


Bayou Renaissance Man has a post of an interview of a survivor of the Bosnian Civil War. Sobering stuff.

I splurged

I splurged and bought a new mouse for my lap-top. The USB port was not reliably "seeing" the old mouse.

Weather shift

We are back to seasonable temperatures with highs in the mid-40s.

It feels much colder after our warm spells.

A bunch of our family are dragging anatomy. I feel like I am running about 65%. The fact that I have poison ivy dermatitis on the insides of my forearms is not making me happy, either.

And this too will pass.

Planting by the phase-of-the-moon (Rabbit-hole alert)

Lars Nordstrom in his book Making it Home has a very short bit of prose that sheds light on why many cultures swear by "planting-by-the-phase-of-the-moon".

Paraphrasing (because I no longer have a copy of the book):

Everybody in Scandinavia knows that the full moon brings frost.

There are countless times when people were fishing at night (quite possibly for capelin which spawn in fjords*, in the spring during the night) when the clouds parted to reveal a full moon. The temperature plummeted and frost immediately followed.

This seems like a clear case of cause-and-effect where the full-moon caused frost. It would only be logical to avoid planting tender plants when the moon is full, right? But let's dig just a little bit deeper.

Clearing skies

First, let's consider what kind of weather results cloudy skies becoming clear.

Typically, it would be a high-pressure dome displacing a low-pressure front. High pressure domes, in the springtime, are often cold, dry air.

Radiant heat losses

Clouds act like blankets that buffer temperature extremes. They reflect solar radiation back into space during the day. They reflect surface heat back toward the earth at night. Nights that are cloudy seldom experience the large, downward temperature change that occurs when the sky is clear.

Clear skies do not buffer temperatures that way. At night, temperatures plummet when there are no clouds because surface heat radiates outward as infrared radiation and there is nothing to reflect it back. That is why deserts are brutally hot during the day and (surprising many people) brutally cold at night.


When are night fisherman most likely to notice that the skies cleared? There is not much change to trigger an observation when the moon is not in the sky. It goes from dark to....still dark. No change there. Or would they be more likely to take notice and make a mental note when there is a full moon and the night goes from dark to much brighter very quickly?

So everybody knows...

So everybody knows that the full-moon brings killing frost because Great Uncle Ole  or Uncles Angus and Paddy were fishing in the shallows of the North Sea and saw with their very own eyes that the sudden appearance of the full moon in the middle of the night was  immediately followed by a heavy, killing frost.

The other cultural event when normally-sane people would not be snug-in-their beds at that time of year is if they have sheep and are lambing-on-pasture. That is, if they didn't keep the ewes confined in buildings while they were lambing. Different cultures have different lambing practices driven by predator levels and length of grazing season**.

In logical-debate the connection between the bright moon and frost is called a spurious association. Yes, it occurred. Yes, is not uncommon. But no, the presumed chain of cause-and-effect is flawed because the null hypothesis was not rigorously tested. How many nights did killing-frosts occur when the moon was new and a high-pressure dome displaced a low-pressure front in the middle-of-May? We don't know.

Everybody "knows" that full moons cause frost, that is, except for people from cultures that did not harvest capelin or lamb-on-pasture. They were snug in their beds when those spurious associations were happening.

Since the Schwertler Swabians that formed the nucleus of Copperhead Cove were not from Scandanavia, Scotland or Ireland or Denmark I decided to forego their "planting by the phase of the moon" because I did not want to be guilty of parroting information that may not have been universally followed by Appalachians who were not of Scots-Irish decent.

*A big tip-of-the-hat to Lucas Machias who called my attention to capelin as a possible resource that would be attractive to Scandinavians.

**The narrative of Jesus' birth as written in Luke suggests that Jesus might have been born in April based on when shepherds would be out at night with their flocks in the hills near Bethlehem. That time-frame was suggested because that is when locals timed the lambs to drop to maximize forage utilization.

Friday, April 19, 2024

Mortality during the 1800s in the United States

One source estimates that the life expectancy in the United States did not increase between 1780 and 1890.

For example, the life expectancy of a man in his twenties in the 1780s was 67.4, thirties was 70.1 and fifties was 74.3.

In the 1870s it was 64.3, 66.3 and 72.3.

Those decades were chosen because the data came from diaries and the decades after the Revolutionary War and the Civil War inspired many people to write diaries while memories were fresh. That is, there were a lot of data-points for those two decades.

The increase in life expectancy as the person ages indicates that death-rates for people in the prime-of-life were significant. Cut your skin with an could die of an infection. Get the flu and you could die.

Cause-of-death data is pretty skinny for that century but we have reasonably good data for 1900. For the years 1900, 1901 and 1902 the official data lists.

Causes 1, 2, 4 and 10 are communicable diseases. Some circles believe that poor nutrition in the 1800s made diseases more lethal due to vitamin and mineral deficiencies.

Causes 3, 5, 6 probably include uncontrolled blood pressure, diabetes and inflammation from dental infections as well as clotting disorders.

  1. Death by Pneumonia and Influenza at 113478
  2. Death by Tuberculosis at 113113
  3. Death due to diseases of the heart at 85681
  4. Death by diarrhea and intestinal issues 74076
  5. Death by what we now call "strokes" 64383
  6. Death by diseases of the kidneys 54536
  7. Death due to accidents 46302
  8. Death due to cancer 39860
  9. Death due to senility 29095
  10. Death due to Diphtheria or Bronchitis  approx 8k/year

Quicksilver collected her first bee-sting for the season

Quicksilver got stung twice on her left foot yesterday. It was a paper-wasp that was still drowsy from sleeping all winter. It was lazing about on the carpet when Quicksilver stepped on it.

She is just a bit short of two-years old.

She has been retelling the story of the mean bee that made her go "Ow! Ow! Ow!" I think we are on the sixth retelling. The story gets better with each retelling.

I suspect that she will be a blogger when she gets older.

That apple didn't fall too far from the tree.

Wild Roses go with Pumpkins (Cumberland Saga)

The repetitive act of pulling potatoes out of the bag and cutting them into golf-ball sized chunks was a salve for Amira’s soul.

“You said you wanted to pick my brain about gardening” Sarah reminded her.

“Yes. My mother and I lived with my aunt in a small village in Bosnia for two years during the civil war. I was twelve at the time, so of course I didn’t pay much attention. But my aunt used to look at the trees and the flowers to decide when to plant her garden” Amira said. “I wondered if you did anything like that?”

“Civil war?” Sarah asked.

Amira shot Sarah a glance. Of course she didn’t know about the Bosnian civil war.

“After the Iron Curtain fell, Yugoslavia broke into several smaller countries. Bosnia -Herzegovina was one of those countries. No one group was in the majority. Basically, it was about a third Muslim, a third Serbian/Orthodox and a third Croat-Catholic. An election was held and the Serbs rejected the results and started a war.”

“My father had a small farm and cafe in an area that was primarily Serb. He also worked part-time in a factory. He was arrested. We were told that to get him out of prison we had to sign-over the farm and cafe to the prison warden” Amira said, bitterness creeping into her voice.

“We moved to Sarajevo, which is a very large city. We thought we could be safe. But we weren’t” she continued, her voice was flat and emotionless.

“My father sent my mother and me to stay with my aunt while he and my brother stayed in Sarajevo. I never saw them again” Amira said. “Snipers got my father. My brother was conscripted and went missing-in-action.”

Sarah continued to cut potatoes.

Amira looked over. There were tears in Sarah’s eyes.

“I am sorry” Sarah said. “I didn’t know.”

“It is not something that is easy to share” Amira admitted.

Sarah nodded her understanding.

“But we can talk about happy gardening” Amira offered.

Sarah nodded, and then started talking about tulips and potatoes, lilacs or peonies and corn, Black Locust and tomatoes and beans, pumpkins and okra and wild roses*.

Evan was mesmerized as he stood between the handles of the large rotary tiller.

The rumble and shaking of the tiller drowned out everything else. The task demanded just enough attention to satisfy his OCD streak. He could see why men liked riding motorcycles!!! Video games just couldn’t capture the joy….

Blain was driving pegs and stretching cord to mark the rows across the land as soon as Evan finished tilling a strip. He was following up with a heavy hoe and making divots every fifteen inches. The seed potatoes would be planted in the divots.

“How is Walter?” Sarah asked.

“Much better” Amira said. “Copperhead Cove agrees with him.”

“He walks for hours and gets sunshine. He brings home mushrooms and greens and they go into the soup. Let me know if you need any greens. He brings home more than we can eat” Amira laughed.

“Yes, please. I would love greens. I am afraid our diet suffers during spring planting” Sarah said.

Amira paused, thoughtfully. She was looking at Evan and the tiller.

“You know, there is no reason Blain and Evan can’t split their time between my garden plots and yours” Amira observed.

“Well, there sort of is, at least for now. You need to plant at least two of your plots to potatoes and you are way behind. Maybe they can bounce back-and-forth once you are caught up” Sarah pointed out.

Amira rubbed her chin, deep in thought.

“In that case, maybe I can come over and help you plant your gardens while Blain and Evan are working on ours. Blain said it would be a train-wreck if Walter or I were in the gardens while he was working Evan” Amira said.

“I can’t think of a better way for me to learn how to garden in Tennessee than to be your helper...if you will let me” Amira concluded.

Sarah instantly saw the advantages. Having two people...her daughter Mary being too young to do everything that needed to be done, would save a lot of time in just the picking-up and putting-down of tools. And humans, especially women, are social animals. Work can be a joy when you are doing it with somebody whose company you enjoy.

"And when do you want to move the plants you sent me? I am afraid I already planted them..." Sarah asked.

"Please, keep them as a gift. I can get starts from you after they are growing but I think that to keep moving them will stunt them" Amira said. Then, as an after thought "That is, if you want them. Not everybody has room for fruit bushes."

"I will be honored to accept them" Sarah replied. Maybe Amira wasn't such a dragon after all.

*Note from ERJ: These pairings are my best guesses. Please don't take-them-to-the-bank.

The study of the order of biological progression through the season is sometimes called "Phenology". Using biological markers makes some sense but plants cannot predict the future. The timing-and-order are related to heat-accumulation and the need to be available to keystone pollinator insects and to hit the same time-window as other plants of the same species.

The pairing that is shakiest is Black Locust-tomatoes. Every once in a while, the Black Locust gets whacked by the frost. If you roll-the-dice and plant your tomatoes early, it is good practice to have extra plants that you keep under cover...just in case.