Saturday, August 31, 2013


Picture from here.

I used to joke around and call vacations "Retirement training sessions."

Well, eating 5 meals a day may work for a short vacation but it does not work for retirement.

Everybody in our house is grumpy because we are all on diets.  Mrs ERJ just wants to tone up.  Youngest daughter wants to improve her athletic performance.  The doctor was "alarmed" at Jr's rate of weight gain.  And I am on a diet because I picked up 10 pounds in my first 10 weeks of retirement.  No good!

 It is hitting Jr. hardest.  Food is his language of love.

For my part, the math is simple.  I was eating 500 Calories a day (3500 Calories per pound of body fat divided by 7 days) more than I was burning.  To lose a pound a week I need to eat 1000 Calories a day less than I had been eating (and drinking).  That is about one and a half meals a day that I need to stop eating.

So I made a chart and posted it in the hallway that leads to the bedrooms.  It shows a glide-path starting at 186 and ending at 168 at year's end.  I gave  the kids fact, encouraged the kids to bust my chops if I fall off the glide-path. Tomorrow morning is my once-a-week weigh-in.  I did a couple of informal weigh-ins and was depressed to see I was up 3 pounds at mid-week.  I think I may  have done my initial weigh-in on a down dip.  I expect the kids to hoot on me and lobby to ditch the diet.

That is not going to happen.

More bran flakes and less sausage.

Apple sauce or fruit preserves on pancakes instead of syrup.  Syrup soaks in while apple sauce stays on top.  You can only taste what is touching your tongue.  Idea and picture from here.
Few or no meals out.  Switch to hard and sharp cheese and use 1/3 of the amount.  Increase the number of items in the menu rotation to include some kid non-favorites.

Deserts are likely to be ripe bananas dipped in chocolate syrup or vanilla yogurt.  Picture from here.

I will stop eating before I am stuffed.  Those clever Europeans have a saying, "You cannot tie a bag shut if it is more that three-quarters full."  I think that speaks to the ability to move and perform work when one is too full of food.

Picture from here.
Oh, and stop eating 5 meals a day.

My goal is to lose about 30 pounds.  That would put my weight at 5 pounds more than on my wedding day.  I want to be let my arms hang down and to be able to count my ribs.  It will be very nice if I can get there by my anniversary at the end of March.


Saturday night I belatedly decided to check the repeatability of my scale. My preferred method would be to weigh several different items in a random way and then reweigh those items in a different, random order.  The two measurements can then be plotted on a chart with one measurement as the X axis and the other as the Y axis.  They SHOULD make a 45 degree line.

As it was, I hopped onto the scales and weighed myself.  I hopped off and spun the scale 90 degrees and re-weighed myself.  Then I removed and reinserted the batteries and repeated the exercise.  I got a two pound swing just spinning the scale.

Too late in the evening to shop for a new bathroom scale.   This morning's weigh-in came in at 185.2 lbs but I have little confidence in it. I will be shopping for a new bathroom scale on and will appreciate any recommendations.

Friday, August 30, 2013


We are filling up the last little bit of summer.

I toured the Michigan State University Horticultural gardens.  I took my 14 year old son but he copped an attitude and would not leave the truck.

Larger photos can be viewed by clicking on the pictures in the post.

Nothing thematically consistent about the pictures.  These are just pictures of specimens I enjoyed.
Luffa (as in the sponge) is an outstanding ornamental vine.  Fast growing, clean foliage, 40mm dia butter yellow flowers.

These kinds of gardens require constant attention.  This young lady was moving mud that had washed onto a walk way.

Theme gazebo in Children's garden.   The steps were fabricated by standing cordwood on end.  Not a great idea.  The steps were slippery.
This area had been a maze but became overgrown.  They are doing a re-start.
The gate in the center-foreground drives a pump that makes the frogs spit.  This was an action shot.  You can see the blurring of the gate and the spray coming from the frog on the left.
A waterlily from the frog pool
This is a guy named Ryan who is returning to school after about 12 years.  He bakes scones and other sweet edibles from 2:00 AM until 8-ish.  Then he drives 60 miles to take horticulture classes.  He said that he is not the oldest non-traditional student.  He said that one of his classmates is a neurosurgeon.
Cassia didymobotrya (Popcorn Plant).  The leaves smell like buttered popcorn. Unfortunately it is a tropical so it will not over-winter outside.
In the Children's "Native American" garden.  The same kind of tobacco the Woodland Indian tribes used to grow.  It can have up to 3 times as much nicotine as Burley.  It makes a good insecticide.
A dragon tunnel of willow wattle (woven willow withes)
Some girls.  About 50,000 of them.
My attempt at artsy photography.  Rain drops on Spicebush berries.
This is a cultivated variety of basket willow.  It has an interesting name.
A white, Asian eggplant.  The tag was lost but it looks like the cultivar "Gretel".  These were in a raised bed and are strikingly beautiful. 
I tried to capture how prolific this tomato is.  It is sprawled out like drunken, beached octopi
Continuing with the mis-named and marine animal motif, this amaranth should be re-dubbed "Kracken"
This species has the misfortune to be named Chokeberry.

The light was a bit muddy to capture the color play in this okra.
Integrated Pest Management pest monitoring station.
The flowers on this trumpet vine are easily three times as large as the flowers on the vine over my back deck.

Another volunteer

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Squirrel control

Apologies to Rocky of Bullwinkle fame.

It is sometimes necessary to engage in varmint control when living in the country.  Maybe they devastated your pecan or walnut crop.  Maybe they filled your mandolin with shelled corn.  Perhaps they chewed a hole in the LP line that was running by your wood stove.

It should be noted that most varmints make fine table fare.  This time of year raccoon does a fine job for any dish that calls for pork.  Squirrel and woodchuck benefit from moist heat cooking and make better gravy than any cut of beef.

This is how I deal with squirrels (and woodchucks and chipmunks and...).  110 Body grip traps are ideal for rabbit and squirrel sized animals.  160 work well for woodchucks.  220 is probably optimum for raccoons.  A 110 currently costs $6.50 at the local grain elevator.  This source has a good reputation.

It is possible to be unique and useful. 

You want the trap to be held firmly but you don't want to have to fight it to set the pawl that the trigger releases
Rumor has it that running an 8' long piece diagonally across the corner of fence top rail is devastating.  Works best when set horizontally.

I may add a staple.

Credit for this method of setting a trap goes here.

Don't fret

For Want of a Nail

  •  For want of a shoe the horse was lost. 
  •  For want of a horse the rider was lost. 
  •  For want of a rider the message was lost. 
  •  For want of a message the battle was lost. 
  •  For want of a battle the kingdom was lost. 
  •  And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

The earliest reference to the full proverb may refer to the death of Richard III of England at the Battle of Bosworth Field. This short variation of the proverb, was published in "Fifty Famous People" by James Baldwin. The story associated with the proverb, describing the unhorsing of King Richard during battle.

This event has also been identified as the origin of the Humpty-Dumpty ditty.


Blisters are the bane of those who really work on their feet.

I have been ratcheting up my long runs.  I ran 8 miles on Saturday.  But I think the cause of my blister was when I went into town to pick up a gallon of milk and I did not wear socks.

Can you find the boo-boo?
It may not look like much but it is a complete show-stopper if not treated with respect.

Secret weapon:

Hat tip to Grand Pappy
In the world of structures, material erosion due to rubbing is called "fretting".

So don't fret, put on a second skin.  A snug, slippery pair of nylons will protect your skin and provide a slippery surface so your main, cushioning sock will not grab and rub your skin.

---Disclosure statement---

The photo of the foot was taken after today's 9 mile run.  The "before" pictures disappeared due to my failure to put the SD card back into the camera.  The "after" pictures are virtually identical to my memory of the "before" pictures.

My next challenge is to armor against sweat running into my eyes.  This is what my glasses look like after nine miles.


"I hate my name."

It must be difficult to be a sixteen year old girl.

We were riding along in the minivan.  She was driving.  I was telling her about one of the new blogs I had stumbled across and was enjoying (Mostly Cajun).  He has a fairly simple format.  He rotates between Today in History, political cartoons and The Name Game.  Oh, and he will sprinkle opinion pieces amongst them.

The Name Game is where he opens up the newspaper and gives a quick summary of the number of out-of-wedlock-births and the number of divine conceptions.  Then he shares some of the non-traditional names.

Why might names matter?  In Freakenomics, author David Levitt attempts to correlate names with economic success. He used educational attainment of the mother as a proxy for economic success of the child.  He sliced the problem two ways.  First he looked at a relatively common name (Jasmine) that is vulnerable to creative spellings.  Then he performed a regression based on position in a histogram.  The only instances of Prof Levitt predicting high economic hopes for an exotic name (or spelling) was for certain historical, Biblical, Hebrew names.

That would not be In’diah Denae Joycelynn La’Hagen Peace.

I like my daughter's name.  It is a name that is easy on the mouth and has proven as durable and as practical as a steel belted, all season, radial tire.  It has been the name of saints, sinners, queens and cooks.

I asked my daughter why she did not like her name.  "Too practical.  Not exotic."

I asked her what she would name herself.  The winners are:

Schuyler, which is the name of a very good grape
Lilyonah (da water).  Latin name Nymphaea....not sure I like where that is going
Nightshade.  I tried telling her that Belladonna is a much better name.  It is in the Nightshade family and is Italian for "Beautiful Woman" but she claims that it does not sound cool
Well, it is pretty clear that acorn did not fall too far from the tree.

Incidentally, I am pretty safe writing this post because my daughter assured me that she would never read this blog.  Not even on a bet.  Not even if she was paid.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Critical Race Theory (rant)

You can be sure that if something does not make sense to you, that it making dollars for somebody else.       -Dave at Holt Auto Clinic

I try to keep an open mind and to expose myself to new ideas and experiences.

So in honor of MLK's I have a Dream Speech I decided to broaden my horizons and look at things from another perspective.

Critical Race Theory

I wish I could tell you more about this but I could not make sense out of the entry in Wikipedia.

I can affirm that the authors of the piece are in love with the words "academic" and "critical" and "analytical".  These words appear as repeatedly as streaks of suet in well marbled cut of Angus beef.

CRT makes more sense after you remove all sentences contain those words.  The reason the entry is confusing to the point of being unreadable is that it lies each time it uses those words.

CRT is all about victimhood, narrative, scripts and stories, and "What is to my advantage today."  It is not analytical.  It is situational. It does not follow the academic legal tradition of critically evaluating a judgement in light of precedent.  When CRT uses the words "Critical" or "Academic" or "Analytical" it is using them in the Orwellian tradition.

CRT is not an not a discipline or a theory.  It is a hustle.

Every thing is a game and every game is fixed

I grew up a small town boy and one of the things that took me by surprise was the attitude that many big city people had.  They believe that every game, every horse race, every promotion, every election, every jiggle of the stock market...everything is fixed.  And the secret to getting ahead, in fact the only way to get ahead, is to get the ear of the fixer.

I get the sense that the author(s) of the quoted material are big city people. 
*The intersections theory is the examination of race, sex, class, national origin, and sexual orientation, and how their combination plays out in various settings, e.g., how the needs of a Latina female are different from that of a black male and whose needs are the ones promoted.
"...and whose needs are the ones promoted."???  

OK, it sounds hokey, but as a small town boy I believe in self-reliance, being prepared and packing my own parachute.  I don't want anybody to "promote getting my needs met".  I don't need the additional fixed costs.  Getting my needs met is my duty. Abdicating my responsibilities is to let others steal my power and authority.  I won't stand for it.

When I use words like duty, responsibility and authority I use them in the Rockwellian tradition.  As in, Norman Rockwell

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Robust Processes

"Robust process" is an overused term.  Many people who bandy it about have only the vaguest idea of what a robust process really is.  They figure that a robust process any process they happen to like (or sell).  Or they figure, "I will know it when I see one".

Let me offer a solid, well thought out definition of a robust process:  "A robust process is a process that can absorb all anticipatable variation in the inputs and still produces an acceptable output."   Bruce Kelly P.E. of Kelly Welding Solutions

In other words, a robust process is like a funnel.  You can have variation in the stream of liquid you are trying to pour into a container.  Without the funnel much of the liquid would spill, which is rarely an acceptable outcome.  With the funnel, most or all of the liquid will go into the container.

In a sense, a funnel provides you with a wide "process window".  You can pour a bit high, you can pour low, to the left or right...and it will still go in.   Obviously you can still miss the top of the funnel but your job became significantly easier because you widened your process window, that is, you made your target bigger.

I want to tell you a story about how two engineers who were tasked with the assignment to create a robust process.  I want to share this story because these guys are super intelligent, observant and practical.  Their methods can be applied to many different kinds of problems.

Resistance spot welding is a process widely used in the automotive industry.  A typical auto body has over five thousand spot welds holding it together and an auto factory can churn out one thousand autos every 24 hours.  Five million welds a day is big business.

Back around 1980 Dr Michael Karagoulis (Greek for Black Rose) performed an academic paper search and found over 300 "variables" that peer reviewed literature identified as variables.  Simple fact of life, it is not economically feasible to control +300 variables five million times a day and produce a vehicle that ordinary people can afford.

So Dr Mike and Bruce Kelly, PE, developed a plan to structure a process that would be inexpensively and precisely controlled.

Eliminate gratuitous variation

There were more than thirty styles of weld caps in the corporate catalog.  Most welding engineers really liked the A nose cap and specified it as the default.  In my opinion they specified it out of habit and because it looks cool.  It looks like a bullet. That is what weld caps are "supposed" to look like.

Dr Mike and Bruce looked at the menu of weld caps.  Their sole concern was; which weld cap can absorb the greatest amount of outside "noise" and still produce good welds.   They saw themselves as industrial scientist and decided to make decisions based on data rather than looks or history or ideology.

So they created a small welding lab and started methodically sorting through the more than thirty weld caps in the catalog.  They chose a metal stack (galvanized 0.028"-to-galvanized 0.028" if memory serves) that had a narrow process window and started doing current sweeps.

It did not take them  long to identify the ball nosed cap as having the widest process window and as being supremely indifferent to off-angle welding and being moderately indifferent to cap misalingment.  Off-angle welding commonly occurs in hand welding because humans are not as precise as machines.  Cap misalignment usually occurs when shanks get bent or spun and typically occurs when the caps weld themselves to the work piece and the robot pulls away.

The long version of it had the longest life of any cap and the 5/8" diameter version was the most common diameter and was also the least expensive.  So they made the 5/8" long, ball nosed weld cap the mandatory cap.  By doing that, they eliminated approximately 30 other weld caps.

In spot welding the process window is defined by "cold welds" at the low end and "caps sticking", or welding themselves to the work-piece at the high end.  The ball nose cap was more efficient at wicking heat away from the weld interface because it has more copper around the weld (bigger wire).  It also had a couple of desirable quirks.  Weld caps sink into the work-piece as the metal becomes hot and taffy-like.  The ball nose cap rapidly increased the contact area and so was self-quenching.  The other quirk was that as the cap eroded the contact area increased in a linear way so it was easy to compensate for cap wear by increasing weld current.

A nose on left.  Ball nose cap is second from the left.


Saturate variables to turn them into non-variables

The next thing they did was to observe than many of the inputs to the welding process show saturation characteristics.

Saturation is the term used when increasing current to a transformer results in little or no increase in output.  Saturation is a defect in a transformer or a sign of an undersized transformer.

This is where Dr Mike and Bruce dazzled me.  They had the perspective to realize that saturating variables turns them into non-variables.  What is a defect in a transformer could be stood on its head and used in ways to their advantage for other inputs.  That is, minor, anticipatable variations in the input could have minimal effect on the output but only if the nominal setting was in the middle of the saturated region.

Water flow vs Heat Dissipation.  "Saturated" region where process is insensitive to minor variations in water pressure is circled in red.

You can weld with only 0.2 gallons per minute of water flow but minor variations in water flow (like when a hose flexes or the line gets spliced or a hose in the next cell ruptures) changes the process window and you will suddenly find yourself sticking caps or making cold welds.

Not a welding application.  But you get the idea

Water is cheap.  Pumps are cheap.  Hose is cheap.  Bad welds are expensive.  Why would you complicate your life for the entire production run (possibly decades) when you can set the system up so the water flow is in the middle of the flat region circled in red on the picture.

So how much water flow did they specify?  Enough!

Actually, they specified more than enough.  They specified ample, generous, bountiful amounts of water flow.  Water flow is cheap.  Bad welds are expensive.  By their way of thinking "enough" means pushing the response curve very solidly into the flattened out region where slight variations and imprecision in measurement become irrelevant.

Several other variables were identified and saturated.

One thing at a time

Attempting to perform multiple operations, simulaneously with the same control equipment was a legacy from the time when electronic control equipment was expensive, fragile and in short supply.  So an entire generation of weld engineers had been trained to minimize electrical control content in tools and McGuyver the control by mechanical means.  For example, three or four weld guns might close at the same time and be powered by the same transformer/controller.  The engineers would twiddle with balancing the current between the welds by varying conductor thickness, gun pressures and the like.  But conductors flex and break and get warm which causes their conductivity changes.  Bushings in guns break and lubrication runs out so gun pressure changes.  Those changes degrade the process and it is not obvious to bystanders.

Times changed but that generation of engineers retained the old mindset.  Not only that, but many from that generation had risen high in the bureaucracy insisted that the new generations of handbooks still include the old rules and guidelines.

Dr Mike and Bruce realized that Weld controllers are (now) cheap and bad welds are expensive.  They simply tore that chapter out of the handbooks.

They insisted that only one weld be driven at a time from a given controller/transformer set-up.  That is the only way they could be sure that each weld received the specified time and current.


The work done by Dr Michael Karagoulis and Bruce Kelly, PE is now considered "obsolete" by the organization they worked for.  I share the methods they used because I think those methods have wide applicability to the problems that frustrate and bedevil us everyday.  Dr Mike still works for the same organization but Bruce Kelly, PE is retired and does occasional consulting work and he can be reached at Kelly Welding Solutions, 517-819-2582