Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Maiden voyage of the fireplace insert

Today we did the inaugural, shake-down run of the fireplace insert.

It is forty outside. It seemed like a good idea to bake off the manufacturing oils while it was warm enough to open windows and air out the house.

The wood seems to last a long time. I currently have half-rounds of 6" Black Locust going.

The heat is NOT blowing us out of the room. The fireplace is in a 800 square-foot "great room" and doors to basement and the hallway back to the bedrooms are open. Inside temperature is 67 degrees which is three degrees higher than when we started the test three hours ago.

It seemed like a long time before the fan activated. There is a snap-disc thermostat that closes at 110F to energize the fan. There is also a rheostat inline to modulate the fan.  I think a dab of heat-sink grease or adhesive will tighten up the thermostat performance.

I also admit to having a jaunticed view of snap-disc durability and am considering adding a second one in parallel with the factory one which is mounted below the firebox. I understand that the factory location was predicated more on a desire to keep the blower modular and to keep wiring out-of-sight than to optimize performance. From a performance standpoint, I think the fan will kick-on in a more timely manner if a thermostat is mounted on the side of the firebox about two inches above the floor.

I am not sure this is the very best solution if things went totally in the ditch. The fan pulls 140W which is very doable if the sun is shining. If the best it can do is to raise the living space temperature by thirty degrees above ambient (during the sunny hours) then that is thirty degrees better than being outside. Although we drop below -15 F five times a decade, our normal, nightly, winter-time lows tend to be about 20F.

50 degrees Fahrenheit is a much happier temperature than 20 degrees F!

---Just noticed the furnace fan is running. We have had it ON to maximize filtration of our inside air. I turned off the fan to see what the temp rise in the great room is. Will report later.---

Burrito meat

Belladonna was quartering and coring an apple for her breakfast this morning.

"Save your core for me. I need it to bait a trap" I said.

"What are you trying to trap?" Bella asked.

"Burrito meat."

Actually, it is a woodchuck in the barn.

It dug several holes through the compacted gravel. The most accessible hole drops straight down like a 12" diameter manhole. The, 18 inches below ground it takes off toward the north.

So far, the compacted gravel and the enormous diameter have stymied my attempts to set-up a body-grip trap. Hence the live trap and apple cores.

Bella changed her request for her birthday meal from Mexican to Chinese.   No worries, I have it covered.

Sleeping on your belly with a CPAP machine

This brand of butterfly pillow is no longer made but there are probably others.

Early reports suggest that sleeping on your belly (prone) is associated with a higher rate of good outcomes with Covid-19. Obviously, anything we can do to stay out of the hospital is a very good thing.

Proning vented patients significantly helps oxygenation. Even self proning the ones on nasal cannula helps.  -Source

As with all things Covid-19, this is subject to revision and change as more information becomes available.

Many people sleep with a CPAP machine to overcome sleep apnea. CPAP masks and sleeping on one's belly don't always go together.

Does anybody have any tips or "essential gear" for sleeping on one's belly with a CPAP mask? Please reply in comments.

Now is the time to fiddle around with the practice.

Quest: Trading

Sally got to watch Steve “peddle” on the fourth day.

They were passing through Branch County when one of the local Amish men called out “Are you a peddler?”

Steve could not help himself. “I sure am.”

The man needed eyeglasses. Steve had some. In five minutes, the man had two pair that suited him and Steve had five pounds of cheese and a wind-turbine with a cracked housing. Joyce and Cairo did not notice the extra weight. Well, maybe Cairo did but Joyce didn’t let it affect her performance.

The wagon went west to Michigan Highway 66, then south into Indiana.

Steve traded most of the cheese for a Delorme Atlas of Indiana and an Atlas for Illinois. Steve traded the wind-turbine for two solar panels. And so it went.

Steve lamented that they were moving too fast for word-of-mouth to get ahead of them. He kept asking what was in demand, hoping that he might have better trading goods on the way back.

He was surprised that people in that part of Indiana had not figured out how to refill “disposable” lighters from bulk LP. He vowed to collect as many empty lighters as possible in the hope of refilling them and reselling them.

Sally had never appreciated how information was critical for trade. For example, they could have brought cheese but cheese was far more abundant, and cheaper, in Branch County than it was in Eaton County. On the other hand, some things like eyeglasses and refilled, butane lighters were abundant in Eaton County but dear in Branch.

Suddenly, Steve’s “pickle-shaped” tours made sense. He gathered information of what was needed on the outbound leg and made money on the return leg by filling those needs.


On the fifth day somewhere west of Fort Wayne, Pup smelled game and deserted Sally before she could command him to stay. Pup was a mongrel Sally had purchased from Nyssa Talon. A mix of Lab and Brittany Spaniel and Beagle and perhaps a dash of coon hound.

Pup demonstrated his Beagle heritage by his boneheaded deafness when trailing game. Sally could hear him but she couldn’t quite catch him.

She had been following the wagon and had just about been to the point where she was going to jog to catch up when Pup caught scent of something.

She was several hundred yards off Indiana 26 when she burst into a clearing where two men had Pup by the collar.

Sally could tell instantly by their leer that this was not going to end well.

Sally was a veteran of live performances. She was a pro.

Things happen. Stars get sick or drunk or break bones and somebody has to fill in. IF they cannot remember the lines they improvise.

Props break. Fellow actors forget lines. The band gets lost on the way to the venue. The veteran actor improvises.

As the yahoos were sizing her up, Sally morphed from a delectable young lady in her early-twenties to a babushka in her late sixties. Sally’s mouth mushed down like she was missing teeth. Her posture stooped and her shoulders humped so quickly and naturally that one was to doubt that one saw her confidently striding through the undergrowth.

“Thank-ee for collaring my dog.” Sally cackled with her face looking down toward the ground. She shucked her hood to put her face deeper into the shadow.

“I kin take him now.” Sally said in her MacBeth's Witch voice.

One of the young toughs edged around to get behind her.

The one who had Pup said “You can have him but it is going to cost ya.”

“And what might that be?” Sally asked, pretending to not be aware of the man behind her.

“I never had a BJ from somebody with no teeth. I heard it was something special.” the man said.

“What is a ‘BJ’?” Sally temporized.

“You know, a hummer.” the man said. And with that, the man unzipped his fly and dropped his jeans. Grabbing his pride-and-joy, he shook it at her as if expecting her to know what to do.

Sally squinted at the man’s private parts. “Be you one of them trans-jenners? I don’t see nothing.”

Then pretending to squint even harder she said “Oooh. There it is. I never seen one that small.”

“I guess there is no harm in playing your harmonica as long as you let me squirt some soap on it first.” Sally said.

By now she was less than a yard from Romeo.

17% OC pepper spray was not legal in Michigan before Ebola. That does not mean that nobody had it. It just means that people had a harder time replacing them when the “Best by” date expired. Sally hoped that there was still enough propellant to get the job done.

Sally didn’t need to worry. There was plenty of zip left in the three-ounce, Magnum canister. And there was plenty to hose down the man behind her, too.

Sally grabbed Pup and left the two men writhing on the ground. One clawing at his gonads and the other tearing at his eyes.

As she jogged to catch up with the wagon, it gave her time to think about what Steve had said at the beginning about young women being a lightning rod for trouble. She saw how even old women were targets (although less than nubile, young women) and knew that she had gotten lucky. There was no guarantee that the second guy would be where she expected him to be when she turned and sprayed.

Even as she jogged, she could feel her right eye burning. Had the wind been slightly stronger or the opening less sheltered by brush, she would have been as incapacitated as her would-be assailants.

When Steve asked why she took so long, Sally brushed the question aside. “Pup started sniffing at something and I had to dig him out of the weeds.”

For now, Sally would keep Pup on a leash but her mind never stopped churning about her near-miss.

Monday, March 30, 2020

For the Fly-fishermen: Nancy P

Kelly Galloup's "Nancy P", named for the most famous crustacean in congress.

A crawdad pattern streamer.

Available in
"Natural" that is, gray
"Olive" as in Martini
"Orange" as in Screwdriver
"Fire Tiger"

Nothing says "Bite me!" like a Kelly Galloup fly.


Ah, yes. The bone-headed, oppositional and defiant yutes.

You might as well throw illegal immigrants into the same mixing bowl. They did not get here by following rules and are overwhelmingly young (20s) and male.

It is tough-decision time for the love-them-into-adulthood crowd. Keep enabling or make them comply.

Each parent in traditional, two-parent families has a different role. Most likely, the mother was the font of unconditional love. Dad was more results oriented. Dad did not give you approval if you approximated the position of the stud beneath the OSB when driving a framing nail.

The normalization of the single-parent family and the vilification of all-things-male overwhelmingly meant that parenting styles saw a swift and massive shift shift to "unconditional love", mommy-style parenting as the "correct" way. , and then when the yutes proved incorrigible, the kids were turned out into the street/peer-groups and went semi-feral. Parenting by abdication.

Dad said "Don't go." Kid went anyway. Dad won't let adult son back in house. Press swoons.

Events like the New York parent who locked out his headstrong, 21 year-old, adult son when he came back from spring break are now considered newsworthy. By law, kids are kept on parents' healthcare plan until age 26, furthering the infantilization of young adults.

How will big cities and other governmental arms respond to the natural and logical consequences of their choices?

Most evidence suggests they are not going to step-up. The lunatics are running the asylum. Authorities are not enforcing separation and curfews because they fear riots. They don't have the political will to use fire-hoses, rubber bullets and even live rounds. At least not yet.

Your mileage will vary. Nobody can watch their own back 24/7. You need family, but it needs to be the portions of the family that won't sneak out and hang with the homies.

If you live near a "sanctuary city", the pinnacle of Mommy-knows-best government, you have my condolences. You are on your own.

Quest: Wish list

“I need better intelligence” Quinn said as he looked around the small room at his “staff”.

Quinn’s staff was 60% Livingston County “retreads” and 40% tried-and-proven fighters from Capiche.

“How much intelligence do you need?” Timmy Scopazzo asked. “Seems pretty simple to me. Pour the fire on the lead elements of the invasion as they pass through, then a rear-guard action harassing their resupply.”

Quinn stared balefully at Timmy. Timmy had not spent much time getting shot at.

“It would be nice to know” Quinn enunciated carefully “if the invaders have drones and can see our defensive positions.”

“It would be nice to know if the mortars they are reputed to have can fire NATO ammo and what kinds of ranges we will have to counter-battery from if we expect to survive.” Quinn said.

“It would be nice to know when-and-where they stage the initial attack from. I, for one, function better when I have a couple of hours to prepare.” Quinn said. His tone had grown icier with each sentence.

“We can go through the motions, lose a lot of people and not give Capiche much relief” Quinn said. “Or we can get our shit together, kneecap the bastards and not lose too many fighters.”

The Livingston County retreads had a wide range of expertise. They were in agreement that a two-pronged attack was likely and it was a near certainty that one of the prongs would be along the I-96 roadbed.

Furthermore, they concurred that bridging any of the destroyed bridge sites was almost trivial for combat engineers. They also noted that Ann Arbor was famous for a university that hosted one of the top four engineering schools in Michigan.

They also agreed that a classic, 1860s style infantry march, unaided by mechanized support was unlikely. Rather, the attack was more likely to be like Operation Barbarossa where NAZI Germany invaded the USSR, but with minimal air support.

After arguing for two hours and starting to replow ground that had already been covered twice, Dysen held up her hand and asked to speak for the first time.

“Let me read back what I recorded as the consensus: Up to five-thousand attackers. May be one or two prongs. If two prongs, the prongs may be simultaneous but more likely to be staggered by four hours to pull defenders out of position before the main attack. I-96 is almost sure to be attacked. The other attack is likely to be on one of the paved roads because the top of the roadbed is 40 feet wide” Dysen summarized.

The men nodded in agreement. Some of them had argued otherwise but it had been in the vein of being the devil’s advocate.

“The only other notable thing is that one of you said that we needed to be able to, and I quote ‘rain death on them while they are still east of the river, as the cross the river, as they move west through our territory and we need to threaten their logistics enough that they have to send armor with every convoy.’” Dysen said.

“I think we are to the point to where we need to make a wish-list. What do we need to rain death and counter-battery their mortars if they are NATO units?” Dysen said.

That was the start of the second skull session.


Janelle was looking at the shopping list that Quinn had submitted to Chernovsky.

“They are insane” Janelle complained.

“What is the problem?” Chernovsky asked.

“They want 2000 IEDs with shaped projectile heads. That is 10,000 pounds of high explosive! They want another thousand pounds of high explosive in 2 liter soda bottles.” Janelle said.

“And get this, they want the mortars upgraded from 600 yards to 6000 yards. They are hallucinating.” Janelle said.

“What is the issue?” Chernovsky asked. Frankly, he knew the issue but wanted to hear it come out of her mouth.

“The amount of explosives.” Janelle said. “They are asking for twenty times the amount of explosives we used in the last conflict, all to defend a five mile wide strip of land.”

“It might be only five miles wide, but it is almost fifteen miles long.” Chernovsky said. “That is twice the area of Capiche and they don’t know where they will be penetrated.”

“So you see the problem as Benicio being tapped out on the amount of explosives...nitrates.”

Then Chernovsky smiled a wry smile, “Like my hero said, ‘If I can’t find a reindeer, I will have to make one instead.”

That is how Janelle found herself talking to Dr Sam Wilder. “I need to know how to manufacture nitrates.” she concluded her plea.

“Making nitrates isn’t hard” Sam said. “They show up on the framework of compost piles and chicken coops all the time. Your problem is that you need to manufacture LOTS of nitrates.”

“That is it in a nutshell” Janelle said, glumly.

“Nitrates aren’t hard to make if you have ammonia and ammonia was one of the first chemicals that was synthetically synthesized. The catalysts are  not exotic; either powdered nickel or iron...I will have to look it up. The only difficulty is that it is energy intensive.” Sam said.

“Solar?” Janelle asked.

“Too intermittent. Once you get the process rolling you can’t afford to stop. Besides, you need methane as a feed-stock.” Sam said.

“Methane, like the gas they flare at the landfill?” Janelle asked.

“Which landfill?” Sam asked, the germ of an idea starting to develop in her head.

“The one by the river. You can see it from the freeway when you drive to Grand Rapids.” Janelle said.