Monday, September 30, 2013

Married Men Live Longer

It is pretty well documented that married men live longer, on average, than their unmarried counterparts.

Many reasons are given.

One reason that resonates with me is that wives tend to cluck and fuss at us about health issues.  They keep us up to date on our vaccinations, they send us to the doctor more often than we would go if left to our own judgment.

Alternative explaination

There is another reason why married men live longer.  We have both the inherent nature and the day-to-day practice of following direction.  We are the pilots who pay attention to the signal man at the end of the carrier deck.

Marriage is a financially risky move.  It offers a tax disadvantage.  Some claim that benefits that were once almost exclusively a benefit of the nuptial bed are now more abundant "on the market" then inside the contract.  But getting married is the right thing to do.

And so is getting vaccinated, annual physicals, daily vitamins, losing a few pounds, stopping smoking, drinking in moderation, and seeing the doctor for chest rattles, sucking chest wounds and the proverbial sharp-stick-in-the-eye.  People who by nature, a natural inclination reinforced by continuous practice, "do the right thing" simply live longer. 

FW Owen

F.W. Owen was one of the giants of the GRAZE-L mail list.  He came from a rural Ohio school system that was serious about graduating competent high school graduates.  The quality, content and grammar of his first draft material far exceeded anything I can accomplish in three drafts.

He frequently posted off-the-cuff essays on the mail list.  He just sat down and typed them out between farming chores.

In one essay he discussed the abrasive nature of the dairy farming profession.  Farming constantly subjects the user to nicks, cuts, bruises, crushed phalanges and broken meta-tarsals and other body trauma.

His wife would give him an inch-by-inch inspections.  He knew it was an inch-by-inch inspection because she traced out his skin with her fingers as she looked.  The inspection was accompanied with a sound track of tsk-tsks and mild scolding.  He bore the inspections least in front of her.  As a master storyteller he had us hanging when he voiced his concern about his wife's apparent obsession with his salvage value.  Was she thinking of trading him in?  Was she worried about how much she would get for "trade-in"?


Mrs ERJ did not direct me to go to the doctor.  She shared her concerns about infections and noted that we only have two eyes compared to, say, ten fingers.  She observed that doctors have really good lights and magnifying glasses, dyes and so on.  She said she cared about me and worried on my behalf.  She asked me to consider going to the doctor.

I went to the doctor.

He completely understood about "the wife thing".  He has been in practice long enough that he has some patients that went to the doctor to see about those twinges in the chest.  And he had some patients that tried to tough it out.  The difference was often a wife who spoke up.

He prescribed an ointment that has an antibiotic and a steroid in it.  Applying it is a two person job.  The instructions do not specify tsk-tsks and mild scolding but I get some of that anyway.

I feel much loved.


Sunday, September 29, 2013

When REM Sleep is Bad

The family came to a collective decision to step up and maintain the family orchard.  As the designated "Plant" guy, I have a lead role.

I started today.  I tagged the trees that have not been "paying their rent" and they will either be removed, or more likely, topworked to a more suitable variety. 

I talked with Dad and he said that he like Spigold apple for size, flavor, lateness and storage characteristics.


Not being one to put stuff off (at least things I enjoy doing) I went to the orchard today and sprayed Round-up beneath the trees to kill the grass and Poison Ivy.

While spraying, I walked into a low hanging twig.  It funnelled down the canyon between my left eyebrow and nose and buried itself in the corner of my left eye.  Then, being the limber, springy twig that it was it twisted, torqued and corkscrewed into my eye.  If you are saying ""Ouch" you get an A for empathy.

Driving home sucked.

Resting, Ibuprofen, a couple of  doxycycline for good luck.  Doctor in the morning if inflammation does not calm down.

Brave?  No, a brave man would have told his wife that he finished spraying before starting the drive  home.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

No Jobs but Plenty of Work

Rust Never Sleeps

Rust Never Sleeps used to be a jingo for Rustoleum paints.  Later, it was used as a title for an album released by Neil Young in 1979.

But it is not just rust.  It is rust, rot, depreciation and the other forces of entropy that never sleep.  And it takes work to set thing right.

Jobs vs Work

For most of human history there was no such thing as "a job".  Only work.  Day laborers got that name because they worked a day at a time.  These were the workers that the owner of the vineyard hired to pick his grapes on a day-by-day basis.  He might pick different men every day or he might have a core group that he mostly stuck with...adding a few and dropping a few based on how the owner felt about each individual.

Farmers might find themselves in need of a few extra dollars to pay the tax man or the bank.  They would leave the farm during slack periods and cut some lumber, or lay some rail or pick fruit.  In general, it was a temporary gig to earn some money for a specific purpose.

Jobs became the aspiration when Ford introduced the concept of buying an automobile "on time".  The magic piece of paper that made this possible was a "pay stub" from a "job".  In other words, evidence that you had a reliable stream of future income.  That evidence allowed the holder of that magic piece of paper to enjoy the artifacts of wealth long before he "earned" that money.  It really was like magic.

While real estate had been purchased via financing for a long time, the critical difference was that real estate was not mobile and did not depreciate.  A property going into default exposed the lender to little risk.  Automobiles, on the other hand, are mobile and do depreciate thus exposing the lender to greater risk if the buyer was not able to make the payments.

Jobs vs Work continued

Walking up to a business owner or home owner and saying "I want to work." is like walking up to a pretty girl and saying "I want to buy you a slice of apple pie and a cup of coffee."

Walking up to a business owner and saying, "I want a job." is like walking up to that same girl and saying, "I want you to marry me and give me copies of all your credit cards."

The person wanting work is offering the business owner (or girl) a nearly risk-free proposition.  She can walk.  Or, if the young man proves to be a sterling character it might lead to greater things.

The person who wants a job is offering the business owner a proposition with all the risk loaded at the front end and any pay-off somewhere in the misty future.

No Jobs

I read that there are no jobs.  That our communities have become wastelands of vacant homes and vacant stares.

I run around my small town.

I see work.

I see Poison Ivy growing up maple trees on North River Street.

I see sidewalk blocks heaved on Center Street.

I see maple trees growing in eave troughs, porch steps rotting, broken windows, peeled paint, hedges that obstruct vision at corners.

These are all things that diminish the quality of life for most people.  There is plenty of work.

But there appears to be a lack of appetite for work unless it leads to a guarantee of a pay stub.

Cider Pressing

A short photo essay.

Spreading the tarps.  It is critical to keep track of the side that stays down to avoid contaminating apples with deer feces.  The best tarps are bi-color.  Brown-goes-down is easy to remember.

Send some skinny, young guys up into the tree to shake the limbs.  They have to check the bottoms of their shoes before they walk across the tarps to ensure that they do not track deer poop onto the tarps.  Deer LOVE apples.
We shook 6 trees.  One Priscilla, two Golden Delicious, two Jonafree and one Northern Spy.  It is desirable to have a mix of sweet, tart and aromatic apples. 
Starting to roll the apples to the center of the tarp

The edges of the tarps were rolled up to puddle the apples in the center.  They were then scooped up and put into boxes and clean bags.
Somebody's Ford diesel has an electrical glitch.  It gave me GREAT pleasure to give it a jump start with the CHEVY Cavalier.
Happy Crew
I wish this was the end of today's post

And now you know....

Therese (far right) and Max (third from left) took the apples to the cider mill for pressing.

They arrived shortly before the Noon cut-off and waited at the end of a long line.  They waited for nearly four hours before they could unload.

The press master refused to press the apples after the first bag was unloaded.  He claimed litigation exposure as the reason.  He said that there were too many leaves in the apples and that was evidence that we raked them off the ground.  He is not held to the standard of proof.  He is held to the standard of what, might have, maybe happened.

Therese showed him photos on her cell phone and was able to get him to finish one "pressing".  He did so very grudgingly.  One pressing used up 4 bags of apples, or about one-seventh of the total we picked.  Those four bags yielded 28 gallons of cider.

Therese and Max took the remaining apples back to the orchard and dumped them.  They were using borrowed equipment and had to return it this evening.

So a conservative estimate is that we lost 180 gallons of cider with a retail value of $4/gallon.  That is $720 to the math impaired.

---Warning: Editorializing about to occur---

There is no value in being bitter or angry.  The press master has to stay in business in a political climate that is extremely anti-business....unless you are a mega contributor to the party that won.  We want him to be in business next year and the year after.

But it is beyond sad when a fabulous, family get-together ends this way.  $720 of wholesome food ends up being left for the deer and raccoons.

And there-in lies that fault of central planning:  Unanticipated consequences.  Reality is infinitely messy and independent actors will almost always act in ways that minimizes their exposure and maximizes their profits.  That rarely aligns with the planner's model of what "should" happen.

---End Warning---


Sidebar on food contamination:

Excerpted from FOX article:
  • "The owners of a Colorado cantaloupe farm were arrested Thursday..." 
  • "...the federal Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention determined the Jensens didn't adequately clean the cantaloupe."
  • "The Jensens' farm in southeastern Colorado filed for bankruptcy..."
  • "... the case against the Jensens ... do not require intent, just the fact that they shipped contaminated food..." 
  • "Asked why it took so long to file charges, Dorschner said officials needed time to develop the case."
  • "The illnesses quickly were linked to the Jensens' farm, with the FDA saying on Oct. 19, 2011, that the outbreak probably was caused by pools of water on the floor and old, hard-to-clean packing equipment..."

Friday, September 27, 2013

Forgetfulness is a sign of old age

I forgot my fanny pack (and camera) when I went into town.  So after dropping off my gym partner,  I swung by where I park at the start of my run, I reset the trip odometer, swung by Quality Dairy (a local convenience store that is a block off my route), picked up a couple of bottles of Powerade and spotted them along my route.  I finished driving around my route and parked in the usual place.

5.0 miles.  Hmmmm!

Obviously I could not cut through the soccer and softball complex but I also did not go through the Church campground and come out behind where I that should be about a wash.

It sounds stupid, but I feel a lot more tired.

Current alternatives to running are to bike and to fish.  Maybe bike on Tuesday and fish on Thursday.  This story is still developing.


My wonderful, younger sister Therese organized an apple picking and cider pressing party for tomorrow.  I dropped off 10 clean grain bags and a tarp.  Cider apples do not need to be treated gently.  One can just shake them down from the tree.  The trees are at my mom and dad's cottage.

I walked the orchard and yellow jackets are going to be a pain.

I don't know if I will get out to help.

I started a jug of hard-cider yeast culture just in case my wonderful sister Therese offers me some.  I took a gallon of store-bought cider (from Quality Dairy, no preservatives!) and added a package of  Red Star Cotes des Blancs wine yeast I found while grubbing around in the freezer.  Yeast can double every 2 hours so a 20 hour head start can result in 1000X more viable yeast cells to out-compete the wild.

I also found some small pistol primers in the deep freeze.  Gotta love freezers.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Crazy Squirrel

This tragic scene occurred a half mile north of the Eaton Rapids (Michigan) High School.  These photos are not copyrighted.....if we can save just one squirrel it will be worth it....





Formula from here.  Mahmood and Paluszny.




The four mile run turned into a 4.7 mile run when I had to find an empty beer can.

Squirrel was not moved.  Can fit like it belonged there.

I counted 14 squirrels (13 live and one road kill) on my 4.7 mile run.  Ironically, I only saw one in the White Oak Cathedral.   


Whining is NOT a Leadership skill

We all find ourselves in leadership positions.

It is not always due to authority that is granted from above.

The signal man was the guy who directed planes that were landing on the WWII aircraft carriers.  They were not Admirals who graduated from the top of their class in Annapolis.  Nor did they did have college degrees like the pilots.

But at the time of the landing, they had the best look at the plane.  They had the best information, the most timely information.  Those guys with the ping-pong paddles were in a leadership position.

One-person-in-forty is "primarily motivated by achieving results through other people."    That is, one person in forty is hard wired to be a leader.

Given that we must all function as leaders and that only 1-in-40 is hardwired to be that way;  then it is critical that we practice and model what looks like Leadership.  Because we play like we practice and we become what we do.


Nothing says "I have no power" like a person in a leadership position who whines.

How is it possible for the troops to have power after the leader abdicated his?

We seem to be in a race of learned helplessness.  A cult of victimhood.  Sadly, it works in the short term for some of the players.

Cowbird out-competing legitimate nestlings.  Picture from here.

Whining is not a leaderships skill.  I checked.  It is not listed in the Lominger competencies....although it may show up there soon.

I deplore whiners.

St Cosmos and Damien:

One of my goals is to attend Mass more often.

One of the things I appreciate about the priest who presides over these Masses is that he gives a quick review of the "Saint of the Day."

Today's saints were  a couple of martyrs from early Rome.  They were both doctors.  They were both beheaded because they refused to comply with a system that demanded collusion.   They refused to conform to the "standard rate schedule".  They were put to the death when they professed a higher loyalty to God than to the corrupt system.  They did not whine.

The priest ended his homily by requesting that we pray for a constructive result from the Affordable Healthcare Act.

Mr De


Mr De emigrated from Sicily as a young man.  He busted his butt and retired in his early sixties.  Even though he is 5'6" in his wingtips, he is a scrapper.  He works at staying physically fit, but like many of us wears a blanket of "good living".

His kids make sport of him behind his back because he finished his workouts by punching himself in the stomach 25 times as hard as he can.

Mr De spends part of his retirement in Northern Michigan.  He was riding his bike around Higgins Lake (thirty mile trip) when two young thugs pulled in front of him and dumped him into the ditch.  They jumped out of their car.

"Give us your wallet." they said.  This looked like a move that they had practiced before.

"COME AND GET IT!" Mr De snarled back.

"What the F___!"  They replied in surprise.  "Don't you know we are going to beat your azz if you don't give it to us?"

"COME AND GET IT!" Mr De snarled again.

No whining.  No bargaining.  No cringing or grovelling.

The two thugs looked at each other, shrugged, got back into the car and drove away.  Either they did not want to get dew on their athletic shoes or they wanted no part of a crazy old man.

The funny thing is, to his kids, their old man did not carry a wallet when riding his bike.

Mr De is one of my heroes.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

In town run

Today's 4 mile "in-town" run went much better.

I started out hydrated.  Temp was 68.  Humidity was low.  I carried two, half liters of electrolyte.  My pace was about one minute a mile slower than yesterday.

Looking east down Greyhound Drive.  Kousa Dogwood in foreground.

Band practice.  I pretend they are playing for me as I run by.  They were playing something with lots of slinky sounding brass.  It sounded like this 

Running through the Softball and Tennis Complex
Running through the Soccer Complex.  I watch a bunch of soccer games here and even coached a few.
Running north down Smithville Rd.  Yup, those are oil wells on the left.
Trashy people are everywhere.  All they needed to do is call Grampa Ed at 663-8745 or Danny Hector at 663-8996
Disclosure statement:  I nicked an apple from this tree yesterday and it was delightful.  Probably a MacIntosh seedling.
After Picking by Andrew Wyeth....He captured it, didn't he?
West down Barnes Hwy.  I ran on the north side of the road today and it felt better.  Part of the reason is that the Mail Truck wore a path that widened the shoulder giving me a little bit more wiggle room.
Gnarly!  Sugar Maple limb by Hastay's Nursery
One of the many municipal Eaton Rapids boat launches.  This one on North River Street.
An old stone church.
A pretty girl walking her younger sister
A Buick Commercial.
McArthur Park.  Looking up-river
Another municipal boat launch
Finish....12 minutes early so I have enough time to screw around.  This church camp abuts the school complex and is a serene and peaceful place.  It is an ideal place for my cool-down walk, even though I probably smell like a wart hog's underarm.
There are about 50 charming gingerbread cottages like this one.
A Cathedral of White Oak.  Many campers park beneath these during the peak season.

Mission Creep

Mission Creep, in the industrial context, is when a maintenance task increases in scope to the point where the pre-task planning no longer comprehends and armors against all hazards.

I find myself in Retirement Mission Creep.

My mission morphed into transporting a person to/from a gym every weekday.  Afterward I have an hour to kill before I pick up Kubota at school.

I need ideas on how to productively fill that hour.

Yesterday I ran four miles and it was a hard four miles.  I had given blood the day before.  I started out slightly dehydrated.  I had water on my run instead of electrolyte.

I am going to try again today with electrolyte and see if that makes it anymore fun.

Garden cover crop:

Expand the picture and see if you can find the white, five gallon bucket.

Need a hint?

It is about mid-way between the photographer and the door of the barn.

Look for the rim.

Daikon and turnips are about ping-pong ball diameter.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Politics in Four Short Lessons

Political power is the ability to make viable claims on resources.

Political power is an extremely perishable commodity.

Extinction of political power is prevented ONLY by the continuous exercise of that power.

The only way to increase political power is to invent conflicts and use those conflicts to make preemptive claims.


We were late for a 7:15 AM meeting this morning.  That event triggered this cascade of thoughts.

Being late was an easy-to-predict outcome.

Both of my at-home kids compete to see:
  • Who can use the most bathroom time
  • Who can be last person in the vehicle
I swear, the only way they could move any slower would be if they walked backwards.

I have a sister-in-law who has 5 sisters.  Her dad was an engineer and thought he solved the problem when he built his house.  He put the wash basins/make-up application stations outside the shower/throne portion of the bathrooms.  He had 6 basins!

And they were still late.

Because the wash basin/mirror/make-application station was merely the agreed upon field of battle.

It was about the maintenance of relative power positions via the exercise of there-of.

Funny?  Really, it is cut-throat business.  Who can guarantee that we will never be confronted with Sophie's Choice? 

Children's continuous demands erode well-worn paths, ruts, in our value landscape.  The children are preparing for the day when we must choose who gets the last morsel of food, or who we will drag into our life-boats.


I had a boss who talked too much about his private life.  He was married to "Muffy".

Muffy came from a wealthy family and Bossman was very proud of the fact that he could continue to support her in that fashion.

Every three years the credit cards would be maxed out.  Bossman went to the bank and took out  another home equity loan which was always enough (it was a very large house in an elite neighborhood, of course) to zero out the credit card balances.

Then it happened that he went into the bank.  He was shuffled to a side office.  "Mr Bossman, you now owe more on your house that it is worth.  We cannot extend you a home equity loan.  So sorry."

Bossman went home and told Muffy that they needed to economize.

Muffy, not the sharpest pencil in the box, decided that Bossman had a piece of fluff on the side and divorced him.  In her universe, the only way there could "not be enough" was if there was competition.

Bossman shook his head.  100% was not enough for seven.  Somehow, in her mind, she was sure that she and the five children would have more with only 50%.

Diminishing prospects creates its own mathematics.



The exercise of power does not change as we get older and political horizons become bigger than the family.  It is still about access to resources.  It is still about avoiding the extinction of political power via continuous exercise.

Those of us who flatter ourselves by thinking of ourselves as "Productive members of society" instinctively fear those who practice the exercise of power.  We know that we are rookies at the game.  We know that they are the predators and we are the meat.  Becoming one of them would make us non-productive.

This is not a recent phenomena.  The following was written almost two thousand years ago.
First of all, I ask that supplications, prayers,
petitions, and thanksgivings be offered for everyone,
for kings and for all in authority,
that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life
in all devotion and dignity.  1-Timothy 2:1 



Author Marvin Harris defines technology as "science which results in the definition of new resources."

Case in point:  Prior to 1765, the year that James Watt is credited with inventing a steam engine that represented a quantum leap in efficiency, coal was mostly considered a very inferior stone.  It was not strong.  It was rapidly degraded by the weather.  And God forbid you should think to build a chimney from coal.

Technology elevated coal.   No longer was it a piss-poor example of masonry.  It because a source of energy and made it very valuable.

Before Watt coal was not a valued resource.  After Watt it was.


My strategy, much to my children's dismay, is to divide my "wealth".

I have a utility portion of my wealth.  I have minimal risk of others coveting my house (1400 square feet, 40 years old), or my vehicles, or my clothes or my bling (flip phone and wedding ring).  I have what I need and I wear it out.

I have a vaporous portion.  It is real to me but it is fog or smoke to any who would try to make a viable claim on it.  My faith.  My skills.  My character.  I lump all these under "Character Equity".

The last portion I don't count because I expect the spasms of diminishing prospects to smash it.

My gut feel is that opportunity exists to use technology to morph the last portion into items that are like polarized light.  That wealth will be visible to me but not visible to those wearing the lenses of kings and authoritarians.

Monday, September 23, 2013


Two packages into the mail. 

One to Jimmi in Ludington, returning a beach towel that ended up in the Cavalier.  There may also be a belated birthday present or two.

One to R in Baton Rouge.  Mostly some fleece jackets and such.  She plans to attend a Turkey Shoot next weekend and wants to be able to dress for the weather.  Looks like a fun time and I wish I could go.

Mrs ERJ commented that the dogs coming into the house with too much dust in their coats.  Kubota and I rototilled the dog-run, raked it out and spread shredded hardwood mulch.  It looks nice but the mulch is not nearly thick enough.  It looks like I need another two yards.  I learned that shredded pallets (oak) are free so I will investigate that source of mulch.  We also put fresh wood shavings in the big dog house after raking out the remnants of last year's straw.  I think Mrs ERJ will be pleased.

Then I went and gave blood.  I am currently replacing with another red fluid.  No, it is not Dexron III.

Four chicken quarters are in the oven at 325, coated with a mix of corn meal, salt, brown sugar, black pepper and garlic.  Mrs ERJ and Belladonna are expected home in 45 minutes.  I will "let" them pick the vegetable.

Sunday, September 22, 2013


Campfires fulfill many primal needs.  The need for warmth.  The need for safety.  The need for human connection.

It is a rare person who has not revealed more via a text message, email or social media than was prudent.  The flicker of the 60Hz screen replaced the flicker of burning wood for most of us.  Most of the time.

Cooler weather is upon us.  Yesterday, I went for a six mile run and pushed too hard.  Today, I hurt.

Burning the pile of trash wood was a task I felt up to.  Most of the wood is the same kind that Noah used for the Ark, Gopher wood.  As in, throw an armload on the fire and Go-fer some more.

We used to have a Border Collie.  Border Collies are hardwired with the instinct to stalk and control animals.  They are able to manipulate flocks of sheep that outweigh them 500 times over by way of domination and intimidation.  They stare.

Staring at an animal is a hostile action.  It translates to:  "You will be my dinner."

Somehow, the Northern European culture morphed staring, eye contact, with telling the truth.

But our bodies know differently.

It is easier to be intimate, to risk and to share when we do not have to look into another's eyes.  It is easy to be intimate when we feel safe, when we are warm.

Campfires are the prototypical space of warmth, safety and intimacy.  Our first arch-myths were forged in monosylabic grunts beside the fire, safe from the roaring lion...those same myths were retold by Homer and are retold by Hollywood today.

The flicker of a laptop or smartphone is a sad, pale substitute for the genuine article.

I lament for those who will never experience the real thing.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

A Scot's Dream

Word spread around town like wildfire.

Angus, the most stoic and dour of Scots was in the pub and crying.

Iain, a fine, brave lad stepped forward and volunteered to question Angus, a notable brawler.  A crowd gathered outside the door.

"Angus, why are you tearring up?  Do you have sometin in yourrr eye?"  asked Iain.

"Nay, laddie.  Tis worrse than that.  Ya know me two Clydesdales, Billy and Ben?" said Angus.

"Aye, Angus.  They be the two bonniest horses in the county."

"Well, laddie.  They up and died on me."  said Angus.

A collective gasp arose from the crowd assembled outside.

"NO!"  exclaimed Iain.  "Twatt a terrrrible shame."

"Tis worrrse than you know."  said Angus.  "Not only werrre they the two finest horses in the county, but I was training them not to eat 'n I'd a had em down to nothing in another week."


You think you heard the punchline but did not.

Substitute US economy for Clydesdale and Socialist for Scot.

Now you are crying too.


One of the most fundamental, one can even say foundational, question at the start of any project is "How do you hold it?"

I coughed up the dough and bought a decent sized vice for Kubota's work bench.  I expect that I will use it more than he does.

There is money in vice.  It is what we call, "A New Pair-a-dime".
I have no idea why he insisted on painting the top of his bench red.


Friday, September 20, 2013

Self Love vs. Self Esteem

From Brigid, a fellow blogger at mausersandmuffins:
For my parents still allowed us room to make our own mistakes, to achieve on our own merit. They weren't the kind of parent that has their child ...(get) praise and accolades for pretty much showing up, further fostering the self absorbed entitlement that is your personal burden and their future failure.
There is a school of thought that contends that much needless suffering results from the inability to discriminate between self love and self esteem.

It is cliché that Eskimo have scores of words for snow.  Snow is used for a multitude of structural and other life needs by the Eskimo.  Snow-ice comes in a spectrum of graduations, each with varying suitability for each of those end uses.  Hence the need to discriminate between fluffy new snow, granular older snow, stiff snow with the granules fused together, opaque ice with good impact properties and the clear ice that shatters easily.  Eskimo are intimately familiar with each type of snow, its properties, its limitations and its suitability for substitution.  They have a vocabulary that captures those distinctions because their lives depend upon that knowledge.

Unfortunately, we are not as careful with the terms self love and self esteem.  They are as similar yet as different as water and food.

Self love is unconditional.  It is the internalization of the unconditional love that we most often associate with our mothers.  Our mothers proudly taped our creations to the refrigerator door no matter how ineptly they were executed. Self love is needed because even the best of us get kicked in the teeth, even the best of us don't always come in first.  Self love tells us that we have innate worth independent from our accomplishments. 

Self esteem is earned.  It is the earned recognition that we internalize and is often associated with fathers.  It is a little more nuanced than self love.  It is also more politicized. 

Self esteem is why our reach will always exceed our grasp.  If self love allows us to believe we are OK even when we fail, self esteem allows us to hold our heads high because we know we tried our best.  Our need for self esteem guarantees that our reach will always exceed our grasp and that we strive to get better.

If self esteem is modeled on the earned recognition that is wrestled from a tired dad, then dad is no longer expendable after donating his DNA.  Dad cannot be replaced by a check or a village or a woman.  The contention that self esteem is rooted in earning Dad's recognition and approval makes this definition of self esteem a non-starter in many circles. 

Let us put political ideology aside and play with the idea.

If self love and self esteem are not interchangeable, then one will be left with a void, a hunger if one attempts to fill the one need with the other.  It is trying to satisfy hunger with ice water.  It may temporarily mask the pangs but they will come back in ever more insistent waves.

If the need for food is not met, then anything that is a close approximation will be pressed into service.  Pets, cadavers, sawdust, motor oil, leather, paper, clay, mice....

The prevalence of gangs in inner cities is evidence that young people, especially young men, have a burning need for self esteem.  They are denied the normal, healthy "Dad" source so they find other men who can knight them with a quest and earned recognition. Men who do not have the young man's best interests at heart.

Your dad may not have been an iron fisted man's man.  He may not have been a fire breathing, steel eating specimen of manhood who walked in a billowing cloud of testosterone fumes.  But he was a MAN.  He went out into the adult world like a knight in the days of yore.  He survived.  He brought home the bacon.

Most families had measures of manliness.  It may have been shooting hoops, or who could catch the most bluegills.  It may have been playing Scrabble, shooting clay birds or arm wrestling.  It could have been cracking hickory nuts with your fist, or how quick could you swap out a set of spark plugs.  It was a way you could measure yourself against "the old man" and judge your readiness to go forth in the world.  It was a great and notable day when you beat "the old man."

Our culture tried to substitute self love for self esteem and it failed.  It is time to man up.

Eaton Rapids Joe Pear Breeding Project

I decided to try my hand at pear breeding.

Most modern fruit breeding involves having grad students carefully bag flower buds with gauze bags, then removing the bags at the proper time, surgically remove the petals and anthers, brushing on pollen from selected male specimens, rebagging, coring out fruit, growing seedlings in a greenhouse and then selecting.

There is another model.  It is called Mass Selection.

The advent of DNA testing revealed that many of the controlled crosses....were not.  Somehow, mother nature and/or an enterprising pollinator circumvented the best laid plans of the major professor.

The idea behind mass selection is that since controlled pollination is partially fiction, why not plant prodigious quantities of seeds that are likely to have the desired parents?.  In the case of my pear experiment, the maternal parent is Potomac and the likely pollen parent is Olympic.  These trees are planted close together.  In fact, the branches interlace (it is like when I am walking so close to my wife that I can put my hand in her pocket).  They bloom at the same time.  Many of the fruit on each tree were likely to be pollinated by the other tree.

My goal is to select pears that are precocious (produce fruit early in life), resist most common pear diseases, ripen late, taste great and keep in common cold storage until February.

Efficient sorting:

Efficient sorting is considered an obsolete subject.  Everybody has huge amounts of computing power and massive amounts of storage capability.

But I used to work with very large databases using an antiquated Time Sharing computer and my project were assigned back-burner priority.  I learned a few lessons about efficient sorts. 

The first lesson is to thin the herd as quickly as possible.  I might have four criteria to sort on.  One criterion might weed out 5%, another criterion might remove another 10%, the third criterion might remove 20% and the last criterion might remove 99%.  Sorting through five million records required 17.4 million actions if sorted in the order listed.  Reversing the order reduced the number of actions to 5.2 million actions or about one third of the inefficient way.

One might think that a plant breeder would be extremely protective of his creations.  Well, we cannot afford to be; at least in the early stages.  The watch words are to kill them quick and kill them cheap.

I placed an email to Joseph Postman, one of the curators at the Pear Germplasm reserve in Corvallis, Oregon.  I asked him if there was a quick, easy way to sort through the seedlings to determine if, in fact, they were the assumed cross:  Potomac X Olympic?

He responded in less than an hour.

He said to look at the edges of the leaves and I would see that the Olympic was saw-toothed and the Potomac was smooth.  Seedlings of the two will show the saw-toothing but Potomac by other pollen parents will likely not.

Olympic leaf on left, Potomac on right
I love competent, helpful people.

A First Rate Madness

Yesterday was not only Talk Like a Pirate Day.  It was my brother Jimmi's birthday.

I had a great day in Ludington, Michigan as I was able to combine my increased "More Interesting" family duties with hanging out with Jimmi and his lovely wife Kim.

Jimmi and Kubota walking on pier.  Jimmi 'splaining stuff to Kubota
We spent much time walking about town and talking.  I told him about the book I started reading, A First Rate Madness.  AFRM is based on the premise that crisis leadership is so different from steady-state leadership that it requires different leaders.  In fact, the traits that make crisis leaders effective are considered symptoms of mental illness during steady-state times.  The author performs case studies on several leaders and discusses their lives during the times of crisis (successful) and non-crisis (often dismal failure).  He also performs clinical assessments of their mental health.

One of the strengths that mentally ill bosses can bring to a crisis is "Divergent Thinking",  generating many unusual solutions to problems.

It triggered a memory of a boss Jimmi had early in his work life.  He was in his very early twenties and was a $4/hr manual labor guy.  The boss told him to go around and change out the wall sconces in a Victorian mansion-converted-to-offices building.

Mansion similar to this one
My brother dumped the circuit (turn on lights and, one-at-a-time un-screw fuses to find the circuit).  Then he started changing out the sconces.

Wall Sconce

Note that this is not work typically given to 20 year old, non-electricians.  One could even suggest that Jimmi's boss was mentally ill (or at least possessing severely impaired judgment) to give that kind of a job to an unsupervised 20 year old.

Part way through the job my brother got seriously whacked by a live wire that was wired through one of the junction boxes.

Be aware that wiring standards in the 1920s were a little more casual than today's National Electric Code.  Also, the insulation was braided fabric and vulnerable to wearing through.

My brother was stymied.  He could not dump the power to the entire building because there were four active offices that would be royally POed if the power went down.

He went to the boss and explained his dilemma.

The boss said, "Let me show you how this is done."

The boss went to the offending junction box.  He stood to the side, took a large screwdriver, laid the shaft of the screwdriver against the edge of the metal junction box and vigorously started stirring.
"There.  The stray circuit is dead.  Just stir every box before you jump in.  Make sure you swap out all the blown fuses when you are done.  I will field any calls from the other four offices.  Now hop-to-it."

And that is as fine of an example of "Divergent Thinking" as I have ever stumbled upon.

The problem is the solution to the problem.

Thanks Jimmi!