Saturday, November 30, 2013

Sunday Thought: Over the Horizon

The ERJ family spent Thanksgiving day near Suttons Bay, Michigan.  Due to the weather, it was a five hour drive each way.  The kids were in the back of the minivan.  Mrs ERJ and I were up front.  We had some good conversations.

Mrs ERJ commented that she found herself misspeaking herself more often now than when she was a young sprout.  She would mean to say one thing but a different word would come out of her mouth.

I told her not to worry.  Self-reporting is notoriously unreliable.  It may be that she simply has greater self awareness.  I think that we more consciously listen to ourselves as we get older.

Then I told her about a sermon I heard at a funeral in the mid-1990s.

The Sermon

There are times when we watch a loved one die a millimeter at a time.  We see them slip away.  Sometimes it is cancer.  Sometimes it is Alzheimer's or MS or Lou Gehrig's disease.

As Christians, we are encouraged to remember that our body is a tent that temporarily shelters our soul.

The ship

Imagine that you are Mrs Christopher Columbus watching your husband sail away.  You stand at the quay.  You wave.  The ship gets smaller.  You can still hear your husband and see the details of his movement.

As the distance increases you hear less and less.  You cannot see all the finest detail of his movement.  You cannot see the movements of his eyebrows or fingers, yet you know he still has them.  You can hear shouting but can no longer discern normal conversation, yet you know he continues to speak and to listen.

The ship continues to move out over the ocean.  It gets harder and harder to pick your husband in the bustle on the deck.  In time you cannot see individual figures.  The ship gets smaller and smaller.  Finally, in one blink of the no longer see the ship.

Our Beloved Live

And yet we know that our beloved lives and believe, pray, that we will be rejoined with them.

Advance scouting party

I shared that story with Mrs ERJ.  Then I told her that when I forget what I am going to say or grossly misspeak myself, I like to think of it as evidence that another contingent of my brain rematerialized in Heaven as an advanced scouting party.  The picture in my head is the Startrek teleporter where the body dematerializes from the sending location as it reassembles at the destination. It is simply taking me longer than it does in the movies.

Mrs ERJ enjoyed the idea.  The only downside is that it became a bit of a family joke.  Whenever I make a boo-boo I am likely to hear, "A few more brain cells just showed up in heaven..."

Still, it is a very comforting image.

Blessings to all.


Wind-fall Management Plan

A "Wind-fall" is an unexpected income of significant size.  It is the numerical opposite of having to replace the transmission in your vehicle.

One of the key markers that separates affluent people from less-affluent people is their mindset about money.  We see money differently.

It is common for an affluent person to look at the money decisions made by people who are struggling and ask, "What the heck were they thinking???"

For example:  When a person who is financially struggling receives a windfall, they often spend it with breathtaking speed.

When asked, they often respond with what seems like circular logic, "It is all going to be gone before the end of the month, anyway.  I might as well get some joy out of it."

If you examine their thinking a little more closely, and with an iota of compassion, you will learn that they are deeply in debt and the windfall is not big enough to zero out any of those debts.  They are engaging in black-and-white thinking.
I am in debt now.  Regardless of what I do I will still be in debt next month.  I have no control.  Therefore, the only 'utility' I can get from this money is to buy some temporary joy.

That is one of the weaknesses of "attribute" data.  It is either "Yes" or "No".  It is devoid of all those stepping stones that can carry you from one side of the river to the other.

Variable Data

One way to flip debt to Variable Data is to project its retirement date.    That windfall can move that retirement date a bunch.

Professional Help

Don't guide your financial decisions based on advice from the person who cuts your hair or the person standing behind you in the grocery check-out lane.  Shop around and find a professional.

Fee-Only Financial Advisers do not face the moral hazard of trying to serve two masters.  They are not shilling any particular line of financial products.  You pay your money and they coach your financial life.

And by all means, have a plan for windfalls before you wind the lottery.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Potty-Mouth Soap

Now available in Hi-Impact Horehound and Humulus

Unbridled Capitalism, Part 2


The Song of the Vineyard 

Isaiah Chapter 5

1Now let me sing of my friend, my beloved’s song about his vineyard. My friend had a vineyard on a fertile hillside;

2He spaded it, cleared it of stones, and planted the choicest vines; Within it he built a watchtower, and hewed out a wine press. Then he waited for the crop of grapes, but it yielded rotten grapes.

3Now, inhabitants of Jerusalem, people of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard:

4What more could be done for my vineyard that I did not do? Why, when I waited for the crop of grapes, did it yield rotten grapes?

5Now, I will let you know what I am going to do to my vineyard: Take away its hedge, give it to grazing, break through its wall, let it be trampled!

6Yes, I will make it a ruin: it shall not be pruned or hoed, but will be overgrown with thorns and briers;


Marxism employs a very narrow definition of Capitalism.  It is a logical slight-of-hand to defining a caricature of something, to describe your foe as a buffoon, to consruct a flimsy straw-man and then argue against it.  That is what Marxist do when dissing Capitalism.

From here:
First, capital is in the first place an accumulation of money and cannot make its appearance in history until the circulation of commodities has given rise to the money relation.

Second, capital is money which is used to buy something only in order to sell it again.

Third, money is only capital if it buys a good whose consumption brings about an increase in the value of the commodity, realised in selling it for a Profit 

 A Capitalist defines capital as

Capital goods:  Tools, machines, facilities and long term items used in the production of goods and services; goods and services primarily intended for consumption of others.  That clearly includes grape vines, walls, watchtowers and wine presses.

Working capital: Money used to buy raw materials, pay wages, carrying costs for work-in-processes. 

The Capitalist is a person who defers immediate consumption (that is, defers immediate gratification) to free up those resource.  They risk those resources in the hope that the capital goods will combine raw materials and labor and create a new, more valuable form.  They hope to recover their capital and a premium for risking their capital and for brokering the exchange.


Picture a Subway sandwich shop, one of the few manufacturing workplaces that is still accessible to the general public.  A customer has a green piece of paper in their pocket and is hungry.  The customer verbalizes what will best satisfy their needs.  A worker removes a loaf of bread from an oven (capital goods), manipulates it by cutting it and combining with other ingredients.  They may put it back into a toaster oven (another capital good) for a short time.  The customer trades her wrinkled green paper for a warm, satisfying sandwich.

Marxism in the  Bible:

Many of Jesus' parables were derivatives of stories from the Old Testament.  Jesus' audience was intimately familiar with those stories and it was an economical medium to use as a canvas for His new message.

Jesus used Isaiah 5 as a springboard for one of his parables.  I think it speaks to Marxism.  Jesus is clearly (to me) using Marxist ideas as the nexus of evil.  Marxism and redistribution dogma is not a new idea.

Green is capitalist.  Note that "the son", metaphor for Jesus, identifies with the Capitalist
Blue is labor
Pink, of course, are the Marxists.

The Parable of the Tenants. 

33 “Hear another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a hedge around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a tower. Then he leased it to tenants and went on a journey.  
34When vintage time drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to obtain his produce.  
35But the tenants seized the servants and one they beat, another they killed, and a third they stoned. 36Again he sent other servants, more numerous than the first ones, but they treated them in the same way. 37Finally, he sent his son to them, thinking, ‘They will respect my son. 
38 But when the tenants saw the son, they said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.’  
39 They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. 

Your mileage may vary.  Pray without ceasing.  Test everything.  Keep what is good.  It is your immortal soul that hangs in the balance.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Unbridled Capitalism

Pope Francis called for renewal of the Roman Catholic Church and attacked unfettered capitalism...         Source

The goal of catechesis is to provide the Christian with a well formed, and well informed conscience.

Many rules in the church are to be considered strong guidelines that should be given due, even ample, consideration in the formulation of a decision.

Would you run a red light if your wife was bleeding to death in the passenger seat and the hospital was just the other side of the intersection? In the extreme, nearly all laws are situational.

"...unbridled capitalism..." means different things to different people.
  • Is the externalization of costs by dumping pollution into the environment "unbridled capitalism"? If so, then he is talking about China. 
  • How about a family farmer who owns the property he farms, he uses cover crops, conservation tillage, riparian buffers and 'tithes' 10% of his property into wildlife/conservation uses. He is a capitalist...but is he an "unbridled capitalist"?
  • How about the person who invests their 401-k in Socially Responsible mutual funds?

Hearing those comments worries me. Those words will be twisted into tools to attack productive people and businesses. Those words will be used as a banner to justify more intrusive controls on businesses that are already staggering.

I think much of that mindset is rooted in cultures where corruption, bribe-taking and tax evasion are facts of life. The only way a business is guaranteed profit is when they are monopolies, collude or are otherwise corrupt. Those who talk-that-redistribution-talk are sure that business profitability is an unstoppable force of nature. It is inevitable (in their minds).

It will be interesting, in an academic kind of way, to see if jamming intrusive controls onto otherwise transparent operations will force them corruption and collusion to survive.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Deep Survival, a partial book review

As a young nipper, I was a voracious reader.  In fact, honesty compels me to admit that I was beyond voracious, I was an indiscriminate, mega-reader.  I could read and assimilate material very, very quickly.

You know that guy (the asshole) who was flipping a coin twenty minutes into the hour long test to mop up the last few questions....that was me.

Things have changed.  I am more demanding.  Perhaps it is that I sense that I am a mortal and have a limited number of heartbeats left.  I want the remaining time to count.

I find it impossible to stay with a book that is average or less.

Deep Survival by Laurence Gonzales

This is a partial book review because I am on page 109.  I am not finished with this book and I already want to share.  It is that good.

This is a WOW book.

He writes about how our brain is wired: Emotion vs. Intellect.

He writes about evolution.

He writes about perception and systems.

He writes about humor.

He writes about people that, but for the grace of God, could have been me.

Samples: should come as no surprise that, in many cases, basic survival mechanisms, which have been hardwired into us and sculpted by experience, turn out to be not only the most powerful motivators of behavior but to operate at their peak efficiency out of reach of the conscious decision-making powers, which makes it easy for reason to be overwhelmed.  Once emotional reaction is underway, there can be overwhelming impulse to act.  (Underlining by ERJ)

...the main difficulty with neophytes who go into the wilderness: We face the same challenges the experts face.  Nature doesn't adjust to our level of skill.

Most people operate in an environment of such low risk that action, inaction, or the vicissitudes of brains have few consequences...Mistakes spend themselves harmlessly and die out unnoticed instead of growing out of control.

The word "experienced" often refers to somebody who's gotten away with doing the wrong thing more frequently than we have.

As James Gleick writes in Chaos, "Strange things happen near the boundaries."

It is typical of the best survivors that, despite his injuries, Hillman was surrounded, as the Tao Te Ching puts it, "with a bulwark of compassion."

Perrow's Normal a work of seminal importance because of its unusual thesis...efforts to make systems safer, especially by technical means, made the systems more complex and therefore more prone to accidents.

(People, led by their prior observations) believe that the orderly behavior they see is the only possible state of the system.  Then, at the critical boundaries in time and space, the components and forces interact in unexpected ways with catastrophic results.

If your time is limited, then read Chapter Five and Six.  Mr Gonzales is an accomplished writer.  He does a superb job of leading with actual events and then using them to illustrate some aspect of HOW the disaster came to be.


Reloading Shotshells, Follow-up


I went to Alliant's website and pulled down their most recent reloading manual.

My goal is to produce some lower recoil loads to increase Belladonna's comfort level.  The recoil from the loads we were using (1 and 1/8 ounce of #6 shot at 1330fps ) got her attention.  That load shreds bunnies.

I favor #6 shot.  It does a fine job on Michigan upland game like rabbits, squirrels and barn lions.  It rolls plastic milk jugs with authority and is adequate (although not best) for clay birds. 

The standard 12 gauge load is 1 & 1/8 oz.  The standard 16 gauge load is 1 ounce, even.  The standard load for a 20 gauge is 7/8 ounce.  The standard muzzle velocity is 1200 feet per second.  Express loads are usually 1330 fps and their primary advantage is they take a little bit of the guesswork out of how much to lead moving targets.  They all kill game cleanly and humanely.

One way help a shooter improve is to remove distractions so they can focus on the target.  In this case, removing distractions means "down loading" my 12 gauge so it mimics a 20 gauge.  That is, 7/8 oz at 1200 fps.


I went to Gander Mountain and the pickings were a little bit slim.

I got some of these

The only shot they had was 7 1/2, so I dipped into my stash of #6.

I also picked up a pound of Red Dot powder which has a burn rate that is right in the sweet spot for light, 12 gauge loads.

The  Alliant recipe is for 17 grains (412 loads per pound) of Red Dot in a "tapered" hull with 7/8 oz shot (457/bag) and a WAA12SL wad for 1200fps. The 148 bushing in my Lee Loadall throws 16.6 grains from my lot of Red Dot I bought.  Plenty close enough.


Smokeless powder is designed to work best at certain peak pressures.  Too low of a pressure and ignition will be inconsistent, erratic and in worst-case scenario the bullet will not exit the barrel....causing much excitement the next time the trigger is pulled.

Too high a pressure will cause excessive wear of the firearm, failure of the hull to contain the pressure or, in extreme cases, catastrophic failure of the firearm...bad for face/eyes and hearing.

The SAAMI maximum pressure for 2&3/4 inch, 12 gauge shotgun shells is 11,500psi.  Good manuals list the measured pressures for the loads listed.  The Alliant catalog lists 7000psi for this load, so there is a considerable margin of comfort.


Charts that map from bushing size to charge weight are not Gospel.  The approved ERJ method for weighing powder charges is to empty the hopper of the dispenser using good, safe practices.  Fill hopper 2/3 full with new powder (after checking label to ensure you are using the correct bottle!)  Cycle dispense 6 times to orient powder column and stabilize dispense.  Many powders are flakes or rods and will orient as dispensed.  

Throw multiple charges into the scale's tray.  Use the same technique you will use when reloading.  If you tap the hopper three times when reloading, then tap three times when throwing your weight verification charges.  Throwing multiple charges will reduce the noise-to-data ratio.  Make sure you keep count of the number of charges you throw and to divide your measured weight accordingly.

Winchester Universal Hulls

It looks like this recipe will work well with the Universal Hulls.  My issues with the Universal Hulls has been the reinforcing cup inside the hull.  It resists the seating of the wad so the resulting stack of components (powder, wad, shot) is too tall to take a crimp.  This is emphatically not a problem with this load.

Red hull on left is Universal.  Green hull on right is Remington Gun Club

As you can see, the crimp is cupped downward.  The component stack is obviously not too tall.  These shells passed the shake test.  Nothing came out.

In my "just messing around" mode I found I could control the cupping of the crimp by how much I pre-compressed the wad before I dumped the shot.  If I had not been able to get the Universals to pass the shake test, there are paper and cardboard pieces I can position on top of the shot to stop leakage.

Now I need to figure out a way to mark each shell so we know which are Belladonnas.  I am leaning toward a color coded paint pen mark across the base.

Second Week of Deer Camp

Michigan culture.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Early Christmas Myself

Kubota had a half day today.

We drove over to Laingsburg and picked up Wild Willie,  one of Kubota's buddies.  We swung by a shooting range on the way back.  The range was closed but there was still good stuff in the trash dumpster.

Just call me "Skippy".  It is a British term.

Festive shades

I picked up a few 20 gauge (Yellow).  A bunch of Gunclub (Green), a few Federal (Dark Red) and Winchester (Bright Red).  Too many Universal with the tall plastic inner cup. 

I am looking for some one ounce recipes for the Universal shells.  Any favorites will be appreciated.

I also found one very unusual hull in the bag.

I don't plan on loading this one up.
Have a great evening.

Tempest in a Teacup: The "F" Word

The following story was told to me by Bill Sainz, at teacher with the Eaton Rapids School District.

One of the shop teachers, in a moment of excitement slipped and said "the F word".

There was no immediate reaction from the students.  The teacher moved on.

That night, email in-boxes filled up:  The teacher's, the principal's, maybe even central office's.  Reactions from parents and grandparents were concern, dismay, condemnation....even a touch of hysteria.

Early the next morning, the teacher was pulled aside and asked, "What were you thinking?"

He tried to explain.

In the end, the administration did the only thing they could.  They counselled the teacher but stood behind him.

Some of their reasoning was that students will hear all kinds of words and need to be resilient learners.

I remember picking up my five year old daughter at daycare and hearing all of the George Carlin words used in one sentence...including the ones with the hard consonant sounds.  These kids have been exposed to every word imaginable.  They are tougher than you think.

There is also the issue of community standards.  Eaton Rapids has many carpenters, machinists, tool makers, plumbers and so on.  The "F" word is one they use nearly every day.

Regardless of the outcome the entire process was a bit discomforting to the teacher.

That is the last time he will say "Fractions" in shop class.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Pilfered Quotes

"Responsibility (the power and ability to respond) carries its own honor."    -Brigid at  Words in parenthesis added by ERJ

"Duty endures, even when hope is gone."    -an anonymous firefighter

 "With great power comes great responsibility."  -Spiderman's Uncle Ben

 "The devil fights hardest for those he fears the most.  The best allies are the most fearsome foes."      -Comments on why "those kids" are worth saving.

Permission to Track, follow-up

I had a call today at about 2:00 PM from a hunter who had tracked a wounded deer onto my property.

He had my cell phone number from a letter I gave my immediate neighbors.  He was the (younger) brother of one of the recipients and had wounded a deer yesterday.  They tracked it to the southeast corner of my property.  They pushed it off its bed and it ran north.  That is when they called me.

The younger brother came over.  We made a plan.  We executed the plan.  Slow and easy.  He was the stander.  I was the pusher.  He got three more shots at 25 yards.  She was limping along as quick as she could.  He did not think he had hit it.  I told him he had (crap, most people have no problem dumping bunnies with a scattergun at that distance).  The smart money would have two hits, minimum.

He said it ran back onto his brother's property.  I suggested he go home, savor a cup of coffee and then go looking for 140 pounds of brown fur.

My work here is done.

Hamlin Square Coffee Shop

The two kids have half days today and tomorrow.

Belladonna had personal conditioning after school.

She met us at Hamlin Square Coffee Shop across from City H ll.  City Council is considering replacing the missing letter.  They putting it out for bid.  Rumor is that they will consider other vowels if it can be purchased at a significant discount.

Like many coffee shops, this one is warm, humid and fragrant.  We got to rub elbows with Eaton Rapids titans of industry. 

A posse of  eighth grade boys passed through and Kubota really wanted to go "hang out" with them.  But I was able to convince him to wait until his sister showed up.  Have you ever noticed that most Darwin Award stories start  out with "Some guys were hanging out together."  The next sentence is almost invariably, "They had been drinking beer when one of them had an idea."  Clearly, having ideas is dangerous and brains with a history of "having ideas" should be registered.

Coffee shops also seem to be magnets for extremely thin girls wearing shrink-wrap clothing.  Caffeine must be an essential part of their diet.

I had a very pleasant, leisurely lunch with my two youngest children.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Sunday Thought: Praying for Dead People

One of the more common Roman Catholic practices that mystifies many people is that we often pray for dead people.  They ask, "Why?  It cannot help them.  They are dead.  Their trial, their test is done."

Luke Chapter 20

27 Some Sadducees,  those who deny that there is a resurrection, came forward and put this question to him:...23 Jesus said to them, “The children of this age marry and are given in marriage; 35 but those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age and to the resurrection of the dead <snip> 36 They can no longer die, for they are like angels; and they are the children of God because they are the ones who will rise.  37 That the dead will rise even Moses made known in the passage about the bush, when he called ‘Lord’ the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob;  38 and He is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to Him all are alive.”  (bold added by ERJ.  NAB translation)
As humans it is easy for us to project our limitations on God.  But God has no limits.

Humans are trapped in time.  We can only crawl along in one direction, like an ant crawling along a stretched thread.  In fact, we have even less freedom than the ant, we do not choose our speed nor can we reverse our direction.

But God can move freely to any place along that thread.  He can cut it, knot it, unknot it, knit it into a Tee shirt, ball it up in his fist or burn it.

Think of a sand castle.  As humans we can modify any tower or feature, regardless of whether it is the feature we are currently making or whether it was the first feature we made.  So it is with God.  He created time.  He can do anything he wants with it.  He is not trapped within it.  He is not immobilized like a mosquito in amber.

Psalm 91

9 Because you have the LORD for your refuge
and have made the Most High your stronghold,
10 No evil shall befall you,
no affliction come near your tent.
11 For he commands his angels with regard to you,
to guard you wherever you go.
12 With their hands they shall support you,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.
13 You can tread upon the asp and the viper,
trample the lion and the dragon.

How many times today did an angel stand between us and the cup of temptation?  How many times today did the wolf drive down our street and not see our home?  How many times did the wolf walk past us or one of our loved ones, perhaps so closely that our sleeves brushed....and the wolf did not see us because an angel stood between us?

Even as the principle in our life's story we remain oblivious to most of the help we received.  It is a logical trap to assume that something cannot exist if we do not understand it.  But trust me, your body's immune system exists and nobody fully understands it.  And I believe that prayers activate our spiritual immune system.

As Catholic-Christians, we pray that God be quick to send angels to guard us...for both the living and the support and protect us in our times of need.  We pray that we be shielded from temptation and from evil. We pray that God be generous with the gifts of wisdom and strength and compassion, for both the living and the dead.. 

The results of our prayers will remain a mystery until we can see God face-to-face.  We must act on faith.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Whomping Willow

The Whomping Willow in Harry Potter was an example of "pollard" tree management.  Pollard willow trees were also a favorite subject of Vincent Van Gogh.

Road with Pollard Willows and Man with Broom, 1881

Not just ornamental

I am moving in that direction with some of the specimens on my property.  Advantages are:
-I can produce large numbers of  poles and sticks with diameters between 0.25" and 1.25".  A gardener can never have enough sticks and poles.  This is also the optimum size for feeding rocket stoves.
-I can harvest them with loppers and hand snippers.  Fast, quiet and efficient.
-I can harvest them without bending over or climbing a ladder.  I am not getting any younger.
-Willow, one of the most amenable group of species for this management technique, produces excellent pyrotechnic charcoal.
-Willow are the premier genus to use as riparian buffers.  Riparian buffer trap nutrients (sequester them, to use the jargon) that would otherwise degrade rivers and other surface water.
-Mature pollard trees are pivotal for biodiversity.  Pollard produces many more crevices, pockets, hollows and other structure that can capture organic material and shelter plant and bugs and provide nesting sites.
-A pollard tree retains juvenility and even short-lived species can live hundreds of years.

I was about half done trimming this pollard willow when I saw something that made this blog worthy.
This particular willow tree was acquired as a cutting from a tree in Burchfield Park growing beside Peppermint Creek in Ingham county.  It is nothing special.  It was planted in the ditch that drains the south two-thirds of my property.  My thinking is that if I spend a penny on fertilizer I don't want it to leave my property uncontested.  This tree is near the the southwest corner of my property, so the leave from this tree blow back onto my property, given our prevailing winds.
Can you see it now?

How about now?

This is about 95% done.  I will use a little hand nipper to trim up the little whiskers.
Saw included in picture to provide scale.  All branches removed with loppers.

Sausage Tasting Update (pictures added)

This was the first time I made sausage.

Of the five tasters, 4 liked it exactly the way it was.  One of the tasters simply prefers less black pepper.

Next time around I will probably make the following adjustments

Per 10 pounds of meat:
1 oz non-iodized table salt...(same)
1 oz rubbed sage.................(a little more)
.5 oz black pepper...............(half as much)
.25 oz chipolte pepper.........(same)
All spices measured by volume.

Much of this sausage will go into breakfast burritos.  That is, the seasoning will be diluted by approximately 3 times as much egg as sausage.  A breakfast burrito uses meat as flavoring and can absorb much spiciness.

One of the things I could have done was been more thorough in mixing the ground meats/spices.

I was also introduced to the oldest joke in sausage making....."I wonder which of the bags the bandages ended up in?"

Friday, November 22, 2013

Waking Up Teenagers

A prerequisite to blogging is to believe that the most mundane detail of your life is interesting to somebody, somewhere.

Waking up Teenagers

My father used to wake us up by reaching beneath the covers and gripping one of our bare feet.  It worked well.  The colder the room, the more we wanted to stay under the covers and the colder his hands.

We slept two-to-a-room and Dad had two hands.

It appears that early childhood exposure to this method granted my children a degree of immunity.  Also, all four of my kids played soccer so they are extremely proficient kickers.  Part of me suspects the kicking is more than mindless, instinctive reaction.

Valuing my fingers caused me to cast about and find an alternative method.


Singing sappy, 1960s and 70s songs gets them out of bed with the alacrity one would associate with tossing a squirming pit-viper beneath their covers.

If You Are Happy And You Know It (clap your hands)
Hokie Pokie
Puff the Magic Dragon (PP&M)
Morning Has Broken (Cat Stevens)
anything by Tony Orlando
You Light up my Life (Debbie Boone)

You are welcome.


I realized after Kubota shot his deer that my possibles kit was at the other hunting location.  It was faster to improvise than to drive to a store or to where we had been hunting.

Syringe body cut off at 6.0cc.  Outlet welded shut with the heated handle of a butter knife.
Black powder substitutes are a little bit goofy.  They are typically measured by volume given as Blackpowder equivalent.

For example, "80 grains" of Triple Seven is approximately 5.4 cc (or ml, if you prefer) and weighs somewhat less than 80 grains.

80 gr volume equivalent.....5.4cc
90 gr volume equivalent.....6.1cc
100 gr volume equivalent...6.8cc

This is not the first time I found myself separated from my possibles kit.  I think I am going to standardized on 6.0cc, or just a scootch less than 90 grains.  Syringe bodies are easy to come by out here in farm country.

I am loaded and good-to-go for tomorrow morning.

Persephone's Seeds

Persephone was the daughter of Demeter, the Goddess of production, of crops and harvest.  Persephone was beautiful (of course) and very desirable.

Hades, the God of Death, Destruction and Decay, kidnapped Persephone and took her to the underworld.  His intention was that she should be his bride.

Demeter went into mourning and all growing things withered.

Persephone was a child of the sun, breeze and flowery meadow.  She was in misery living in a dank, stinky cave filled with dead people.  In protest, she chose to give Hades the cold shoulder.  She refused to eat or drink anything.  Finally, weakened by fatigue and hunger, Persephone ate 5 pomegranate seeds.

The Gods negotiated.  Persephone was released.  Living things thrived.

But part of the settlement was that Persephone pay for the five pomegranate seeds she ate by spending five months of the year in hell as Hades' wife.  FOREVER.

Those five months of the year are the months we know as winter.

Ancient Myths

There were undoubtedly tens of thousands of myths in ancient Greece.  Each village had its own library of myths to explain various natural phenomena.  A very tiny handful of those myths survived.  They survived and have been retold countless times because they have deep, cultural, universally important messages embedded within them.


Today Hades would be the corner loan shark, or the guy in the boiler room phone bank offering you an investment opportunity.

Or Hades could be a bureaucrat offering Government assistance.


Is it irrational to guide our actions by a 2500 year old myth that is clearly bad science?

Consider the West Bengali farmer who waits while the monsoons do not come.  His family is starving.  He could eat his cow and live a bit longer, a bit more comfortably.  But his knife is stayed by his "irrational" reverence for cows.

The rains come.  He can plow and plant his fields.  His neighbors, who ate their cows, must go to the city and slowly starve to death as they have no means for making a living.

As a thinking conservative, I strive to keep the pomegranate as far away from me as possible.  Forever is a long time.

Sausage Grinding Day

If all goes well, I will be making breakfast sausage today.

Nothing fancy:  20 pounds of venison scraps, 20 pounds of pork shoulder, 4oz non-iodized salt, 4oz ground black pepper, 3oz dried, ground sage, 1oz chipolte pepper.  All salt and spices by volume.

I expect it to take a while.

Weird stuff note

Lately, I have been experiencing the weirdest body twitches.  I have been about three times more physically active since retiring than I was before retiring.  I have sore, tired muscles so "when I sit, I sits loose" especially when I am in my beloved recliner.

These weird body twitches have both legs flying up like somebody put a firecracker under a ragdoll's legs.

I think I figured it out.  I am shivering.

I am sitting so loosely that my body heat drops.  I have been doing sit-ups as part of my physical fitness plan.  Those twitches are much more powerful than I ever experienced before.  So powerful that I did not recognize them.


Thursday, November 21, 2013


I enjoy reading blogs that have a balance of good-news stories and the occasional, that-stinks story.  A ratio of about three good-news to one that-stinks seems about right.

It gives me deep satisfaction to write today's post.  I see it as evidence that some of the people in charge are intelligent people, thinking about the important things.

Unannounced Lock-down

One of my that-stinks posts was about how one place I worked bungled evacuation drills.  Standard norms of behavior, many of them safety absolutes, were suspended during announced evacuation drills.

We will play on game day the way we practiced all week long.  The key to victory is to practice the way we want the team to play on game day.

The dysfunction of those evacuation drills was such that the population (including me) was being set-up for a gross failure.

So it gives me deep satisfaction to tell you that one of our local schools executed the first unannounced lock-down drill in Eaton County. 

My source informs me that the performance was good but not perfect....let's say they received a solid B.  Some rough edges were identified.  Those edges will be honed smooth in short order.  More importantly, all buildings in the district (and maybe the county) will be carpet bombed with the counter-measures.

Emotion vs Logic

Emotion wins because it is so much faster.  The emotional response system is parallel process and open loop.  The logical response system is sequential and closed loop.  We need both to survive as a species.

I am trapping mice in the pantry.  Emotions are mouse traps.  They trigger.  They go "BAM!"

I visit my "trap line" twice a day: That is logic.  I tabulate results.  I empty, rebait and reset traps that were effective.  I move traps that did not attract a mouse.  I tether traps that were too sensitive and caught an arm or a tail and got dragged off.

When the adrenaline dumps, "BAM!" is guaranteed to out-run and overwhelm ERJ's twice-a-day trap-line runs.

There is stunningly little cross-talk between "BAM!" and logic. Very little effective training of "BAM" happens with traditional, logic based training.

The key to A+ performance is to form deeply worn ruts (behaviors) in the "BAM!" portions of the brain.

That is what Bill at e.IA.f.t. is trying to make happen here.  Muscle memory and ruts in the "BAM!" portions of the brain.

The unannounced lockdown drill started forming those ruts.

Setting mouse traps

The role of the logical mind is to be the coach that sets the stage so the initial ruts are in appropriate directions.  Then, to perform post-event analysis and make adjustments.

I first set the traps in likely places.  I monitor results.

I keep what is good.

Some actors will not 'get off the X' the trap that does not attract a mouse.  I take corrective actions. I might change the bait (stimuli). I might move them.  Sometimes I move them close to a trap that works very well.

Some actors the trap that catches feet or tails.  I might reduce the amount of bait.  Sometimes trap triggers due to it having been placed in a mouse trail and the mouse walks or jumps over it.   I might move that too-sensitive trap to a place with less stimuli.  Or, if that is not an option, I tether it so I can recover trap and wiggly mouse.

The Super

Dr. Bill DeFrance is the Superintendent of Eaton Rapids Public Schools.  He would be gratified if you were to give him an atta-boy.  Or, if you have investment in school or institutional safety, you might drop him a line.  I think he is a sharp guy.

Email:  "Bill DeFrance" <>
Phone:  (517) 663-8155

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Be Generous. You might start something

We can all be the spark that starts something wonderful.  Be generous.

We can all be that little girl in the pink hoodie.

Deer season, 2013 Update ---gory pictures warning---

One of my younger brothers shot both a buck and a doe on the second day of Michigan's general firearm season.  He shoots Winchester Partition Golds out of a Remington 1187.  Two shots, two deer.  I offered to trade him a single shot for his semi-auto, straight up....but he declined.

We were all delighted at his good fortune.  That last year or two has not been kind to him.  You will never meet a nicer guy.  It was good to see his Karma kick in.


Kubota shot a doe yesterday at 5:20 PM.  We waited 15 minutes and then started looking for hair.  No hair found.  The deer was at 80 yards and Kubota had a steady rest.  He can hit a beverage can 4 times out of 5 at that distance.  The deer was stationary and oblivious.  I was confident he hit it.

We tried to "cut the trail" at a paddock division fence it had jumped over.  No blood.

We tried to cut the trail at the perimeter fence.  No blood.

We scanned the tall grass outside the perimeter fence.  Often there will be blood on the tall grass that wipes the sides and bottom of the deer as it passes.  No blood.

Kubota was all done.  It was dark.  I sent him in.  I kept looking.

I slowly worked my way down a trail that seemed a likely exit for the deer.  I went slowly because there are many things that look red in the light of the headlamp.

Do you see the speck of red about 14 inches to the left of the gun's buttstock?

A sumac berry.
I heard an animal moving away from me.  That was encouraging.  It did not move away quickly.

I ran into first blood about 150 yards and one hour after Kubota dropped the hammer.  Based on the amount of blood, the deer had bedded down.

Blood to the left of the tissue.  More blood was off picture, slightly further down trail.
I dropped a tissue next to the first sign and went back to the house.  I let Kubota know that he had hit the deer.  I called one of my brothers and had a pow-wow with him.  He advised to wait until morning.  Sounded like good advice.

A mortally wounded animal can run a long way.  Or the hunter can be patient, let the animal bed down again and let it peacefully slip its mortal coil over night and collect it in the morning

I started looking in the morning while there was still frost.  The blood looked very dry and there was very, very little of it.

The blood was much more visible after the frost melted.  Also, those specks in the blood are rumen contents.  These are things I figured out after-the-fact.

It was a matter of following the deer trails off my property.  This is what I saw on the second trail I walked down.

She made it about 300 yards from point of impact.  That is, she went another 150 yards from where she bedded down the first time.

I flipped her over to get a better picture of where the bullet exited.

If you look closely, you can see the exit wound.  It is about 8 inches forward of the rear leg, near the bottom of the deer's body.  I believe that this deer stepped forward just as Kubota pulled the trigger.  The bullet hole is exactly 15 inches aft of the heart.  Stuff happens.

Mrs ERJ will be a little bit miffed that Kubota's new girl friend is parked in her half of the garage.

The Captain came over and assisted with the skinning.  THAT is a great neighbor!

We were very fortunate to be able to reduce this girl to possession.  The bullet hit her rumen and her abdomen walls and very little else.  Fortunately for us, her path looped around in a big " C", else she would have been off-property.

Soccer Throw-ins

I had a call from a new soccer coach asking for my opinion on throw-ins.  Here are my thoughts


Two-thirds of all points in soccer are scored from play restarts: Corner kicks, penalty kicks and throw-ins.

Throw-ins occur about ten times more often than either corner kicks or penalty kicks. 

A team that is organized and practices "throw-in" plays has a huge advantage over teams that have not.

Fractals and Julian Sets

One of the fascinating things about fractals is how a very simple rule set can generate extremely intricate and complicated outputs.

The throw-in play described below is fairly simple but looks very complicated to the other team.

Set up

Mid-fielder throws in.  Holds ball in hands in low position.  They shout out either the name of a random food or a color.  This serves two purposes, it starts the play and is a distraction to the other team....there is only one play.

Two strikers (forwards) are up-field from the throw-in.  They should be positioned about 5 yards farther away from the mid-fielder than he/she can throw and spread out by 20 or 30 feet cross field.  At the sound of "SPAGHETTI!" or "RED!" they start walking toward the mid-fielder.  They should be hollering "I'm open.  Throw it to me!"  The strikers should be synchronizing their speed so they stay even with each other as they move toward the mid-fielder.  Ideally, the defenders will follow the strikers. 

One eludes defenders with changes of speed and/or changes of direction.  This play requires that the strikers do both.

The mid-fielder is running this play.  He/she "turns" them when they lift the ball.  The mid-fielder should not turn them until they are within spitting distance.  The strikers then spin 180 and sprint toward the goal or up the sideline.

At the same time, a stopper will accelerate up the sideline from behind the mid-fielder.

The mid-fielder must be able to throw the ball in front of one of the strikers.  There is no off-sides penalty on a throw-in.

If that does not work out, the mid-fielder can drop the ball in front of the stopper.  The stopper can either cross the field (where a mid-fielder is waiting), loft it between the opposing keeper and the strikers or dribble the ball up the side of the field.  These options are listed in order of preference.

Key points:

  1. The mid-fielder runs the play.  They start it.  They control when the strikers pivot and accelerate.
  2. The mid-fielder must know how far they can throw the ball.  Practice, practice, practice.  Better too soon than too late.
  3. The strikers must coordinate and distract
  4. The stopper must be positioned, and ready to clean up any messes
  5. On field mid-fielders must be ready to receive a cross from the stopper.
This play is all about timing.  If the timing falls apart, you are really no worse off than if you did not have a play.  If it works, the other team will be caught flat footed and will waste a lot of time trying to decode the "plays".

Good luck.

Prostitution and Artwork

A hat tip to Remus over at Woodpile Report for this item:

None Dare Call it Prostitution (

Indeed, there is an intellectual debate over the moral status of prostitution. In Germany there has been an attempt officially to treat it as just one way of earning a living like any other, but this has rather odd consequences, at least in a welfare state where people receive state benefits when they are unemployed. For if we really believed that prostitution were the same as hospital cleaning or serving in a shop, those who were unemployed could justifiably be forced into prostitution if an opening for a prostitute became available. There was allegedly such a case not long ago in which the social-security system demanded that an unemployed woman take up prostitution, and even if it turned out to be an urban myth the case pointed to the logical consequences of the belief that no moral reprobation attaches to prostitution: not to the prostitutes themselves, not to their customers, and not to the pimps who help bring supplier and customer together.

I read this aloud to Belladonna and her reaction was:  "The underlying implication is that my body belongs to the State if the State can force me into prostitution.  I guess that is another vote for prostitution being 'anti-woman'".


The stock market shows many signs of being a bubble.  The "smart" money is becoming desperate to diversify their portfolios in case/when the market pukes. Other money is simply spilling over into alternative markets.

The stock market is popular for several reasons.
  1. The S.E.C. provides some degree of oversight and uniformity in reporting/documentation
  2. The market is liquid.  If you want to sell your assets today, they will get sold today with little or no haircut.  You cannot say that about your house.
  3. The market is HUGE.  In ordinary times, individual buyers cannot drive the market up with buying or cause it to tank when they sell.
One of the assets that is benefiting from money's flight from traditional assets is artwork.  The art market has none of the advantages listed above.

Prices bid for artwork (some of dubious merit) have become astronomical.

My belief is that people who always fight human nature end up getting punched in the nose.  Therefore, I am going to flow with this trend.

Therefore, I am granting my readership first-bid on some primitive folk art:  A banner that functions as a road sign to compel drivers to "slow down".

Three minutes of work, a paper lunch bag, two round dots of reflex tape and 24 inches of baling twine.  It ought to be worth $12,500 in today's market.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Smart Phone Arms Race

Middle and High school kids seem to be engaged in an arms race.  Instead of missiles and nuclear warheads, this arms race involves ever more expensive and complex smart phones.  It is driving their taxpayers (parents) into penury.

Yes, I am guilty.  I admit to spoiling my yuppy-larvae.  I promised Kubota that he would be the very first kid in the Middle school with an Eye-Phone 6.

And yet, I know in my heart that his joy will end even as he first holds it.  The joy is in the yearning and reaching, not so much the grasping.

Trans fats

Please bear in mind, gentle reader, that I write essays for a blog.  These essays are not news.  I don't compete on timeliness. I compete on content.

Why trans fats? Why now?

I am the only person responsible for what goes into my mouth.

The Food and Drug Administration recently floated a proposal to ban "trans fats".  This baffles me.  My body cannot tell the difference between a stearic acid molecule that originated in a cow's body, atop a palm tree, from a soybean or synthesized across a powdered nickel catalyst.  Stearic acid is stearic acid.

So, are the people at the FDA stoopid, political hacks or economic reconstructionists?  Perhaps "or" is the wrong choice of words.  Maybe I should have used the word "and".


I once had a boss named Ron who made Machiavelli look like a piker.  His directions were veiled, obscure and often contradictory.  His instructions made sense only after you drilled through the micro-tactical-detail and looked at his long term strategic intent.  After you noodled out his long term goals his instructions became transparent and one could operate with more autonomy.  I like to think that we worked well together.

My Pavlovian reaction, when I encounter directions that are veiled, obscure and often contradictory, is to speculate regarding long term, strategic intent.

Who benefits?

So who benefits from a ban on trans fats?  Certainly not me.

One of the more cynical views is that perhaps the Indonesian Oil Palm industry or Montsanto upped the ante to the regulatory "protection racket" and simply out-bid ADM (ADM will be used generically.  There are several suppliers of trans fats.)

Another cynical view is that ADM is looking to dump the cost structure of hydrogenation plants.  They can now achieve acceptable shelf life and product sensory characteristics with palm oils and soybean oil.

Obscure factoid: soybeans have been around for a long time but the oil quickly went rancid.  They did not explode as a US crop until after genetics were integrated into the seedstocks that yielded a lipid profile that had acceptable shelf life.  There is vast amounts of data (much in the public domain) regarding soybean genetics/lipid profiles.  This is where Montsanto comes into play; they are the US's largest supplier of agricultural seed genetics.

The cynic would have ADM looking for a graceful way to dump a high cost segment of their business.  If they can score political points for themselves and their political puppets while doing it...well, they have a fiduciary obligation to orchestrate such theater.

In the end, the cynicism is non-value added.  I am the only person responsible for what I put into my mouth.  I am already a passive victim if I expect the FDA to protect me from "evil" donuts and potato chips.

Sidebar:  One thing I learned from this Administration is that it is impossible to over saturate an audience with repetition.  "If you like your..."  It creates credulous state of mind because the listener/reader subconsciously thinks "It must be true because I know I have heard that before."

Let me know if my new habit of book-ending the take-home makes you nauseous and I will stop.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Storms, Part 2

We were able to tag-team the child who caused issues during the storm and brainstormed a "self-sooth kit".

The unedited list follows:

  1. Quad  ****
  2. More lights.  Lights on longer  **
  3. TV/Videos
  4. Pinball arcade.  Hand held games.  See expanded section below.
  5. Bounce house
  6. Personal Gym
  7. Herc (German Shepherd) *
  8. Go to restaurant.  (This is what I am trying to avoid) *
  9. Pizza, if we can find a place that will deliver.  (Oven will not work without electricity) *
  10. Pastaroni.  Stove will work but must be lit with match or lighter
  11. Ramen Noodles *
  12. Spaghetti  **
  13. Corned Beef Hash **
  14. Dumplings **
  15. Beef Stew
  16. Canned creamed corn. **
4a. Wii U
4b. PS 4
4c. PSP
4d. Laptop---not mini---with integral DVD player
4e. I Phone 4 or 5 **
4f. Larger inverter.  Larger than 400W *

Stars were added as we discussed most desirable options.  Of course, the kid has no appreciation for costs.



I will lay in a supply of canned corned beef hash, dumplings, beef stew and creamed corn.  For various reasons these are comfort foods to the kid.  They are cheap and have a long shelf life.


I will buy a larger inverter.  I am looking at this one.  Based on the negative review and my other experience with inverters, I will replace the factory supplied leads with longer, heavier gauge leads with serious terminals.  I think the inverter will be happier if I can locate it further from the heat of the car engine.

The plan is to park a vehicle in the garage with door and windows open.  Clip the leads to the battery posts and keep the vehicle idling.  My only concern is potential overheating.  My garage is separated from the house by two sets of doors and a fifteen foot breezeway.  I have a very long extension cord.

One horsepower is 726 Watts.  In-rush at start-up/stall is usually figured to be 3X max power.  A 1/3 hp motor (my sump pump) should have a transient in-rush of.....a little over 700 Watts.  The inverter at the end of the link has a surge capacity of 2200W.

I looked at up-grading from compact fluorescent to LED but only went from 13W to 7W per light.


We were chill-axin' until the inverter faulted.  We had been watching a movie on DVD on the big, power-sucking TV.  It would be VERY nice to have a stand-alone, low power consumption option to the big TV and X-Box.

I need to confer with my wife and help-mate to see if we go with a laptop like these.  Or if we go with a dedicated, portable DVD player like this.  Any advice from my readers will be appreciated VERY much!


We usually keep a case of bottled water in each vehicle.  I also have forty-two gallons of stabilized water in the pantry.

My pump is 220V so the inverter will not make that work.

One option is to have a set-up like this ready to plug-and-play.  I did buy a cistern pump but the power kicked on before I needed to mess with it.

I also have one plug on the exterior of my garage that is 220V.  My thinking was that if I ever back-feed with a generator or want to do some serious welding....I will probably want to do it outside.  My garage is 36 feet by 24 feet.  I have two bays inside and one, 12' wide bay that we call "The Overhang" that is outside.  The 220V outlet is in "The Overhang".  While I do not have a generator, I have several family members who do.

Back-feeding into your home circuits is a BIG DEAL.  Make sure you know what you are doing!  It is very easy to kill line-men if you do not dump the circuit breakers that connect you to the grid.  Make sure you know what you are doing (intentionally repeated)!



I hope all in the mid-West and Eastern Canada survived the fast moving line of T-storms (in November ?!?) that went through the area last night.

It does not look like we suffered any property damage but I need to walk around in the daylight to really know.

We did lose power for about four hours.

Cat Whiskers

Mrs ERJ once shared with me that I should be very glad that she had "that time of month".  That was a novel concept.  I asked her why.

She told me that every 28 days I was going to know exactly what she was thinking and feeling. That it would be delivered in short, declarative sentences with no filtering or spin.  Then, if I heeded the information I received in those two days, the other twenty six days would be jolly and wonderful.

Yesterday I saw a barn cat thread its way through my raspberry patch.  It was undoubtedly using information from its whiskers to avoid brushing against the thorny stems.  Additionally, the whiskers do not make the stems quiver....which would have resulted in the cat being drenched by the rain saturated canopy.

We can make corrections in our behaviors based on very small amounts of information if it is the right information.  Those changes in behavior can make our lives much better and help us avoid discomfort.


Storms are little trial runs of when things go Tango Uniform.

I score us a C-

Personal dynamics were our downfall.  There still exists the belief that banging on Mom and Dad will somehow result in their getting more of what they want.

"I wanna go to McDonalds. I wanna go to McDonalds, I wanna go to McDonalds.  I wanna go to McDonalds......"  succeeds often enough to keep the belief alive.

Most of us regress when things get crappy.  A teenager can lose ten years, behavior wise.  It was stressful and distracting.

The other behavior was one of the kids started needling and pushing buttons.  Nobody can climb inside another person's head, but I suspect that they had anxiety and getting a rise out of sibling, Mom and Dad was vastly more entertaining than thinking about werewolves, vampires, ax murderers and other denizens the dark.

C- is not a fail

C- is not a fail.  Mrs ERJ took them to a pizza place for a couple of hours.  Coming back, two of the roads were closed due to downed trees.  She also filled up the minivan so we could run the DC-to-AC converter off of her battery for an extended period.

I stayed home and chilled out, listening to classical music on the battery powered radio that lives in a place of honor on our living room mantle.

We need a better back up plan.  The family should not have been out on the road.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Sunday Thought: The Sign of the Cross

As a Catholic, I have the quaint custom of making the "Sign of the Cross".  I want to share the origin of that custom.

In Matthew's account of the Good News, Jesus's last words are: 
"All power in heaven and earth have been given to me.  Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit;  teach them to observe all that I have commanded you.  And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age."
So making the Sign of the Cross is a renewal of our Baptismal promise.

To take on a name is to enter into a family.  In the time of Christ, that engendered a degree of totality that is almost incomprehensible to us today.  There were no social programs that served as safety nets.  There were no Greyhound buses to California.  There was no French Foreign Legion.  Family was life.
The closest image I can give of the emotional impact of taking on a name is when the Bride and Groom are at the altar.  The Groom presents the ring to the Bride and holds stationary in space.  The Bride either willingly places it on her finger by pushing her finger through it.  Or she opts to not enter into marriage and take the Groom's name.

When a Catholic (or other Christian) performs the Sign of the Cross and says those words, we are joyfully reaffirming our baptismal promises and acknowledging our privileges and responsibilities as brothers and sisters of Christ.

Grammar Matters

This post is dedicated to Mom in Lansing and to Frank, a retired Language Arts teacher in Battle Creek.

Grammar matters

We are a nation of distracted multi-taskers. 

Multi-tasking is the act of switching attention between many (often five or more) simultaneously occurring events.  It is a bit like speed dating only much, much faster.

Speed reading is the act of skimming written material and "registering" about every fifth word.  Your brain interpolates the meaning of the missing content via context, size and shape of missing words and cognitive magic.  The reader slows down, i.e. more words are registered, when the results of the interpolation starts to contradict.

Holonomic information

Based on this evidence, it seems likely that the human brain can function with very sparse information (one-part-in-five transmitted, just to throw a number out) when the information is holonomic. 

Holonomic is defined as "Every piece of information is distributed over the entire structure so that each part of the network contains information of the whole."  Definition adapted from Wikipedia

That is, the internal consistencies of the sentence regarding tense, gender, passivity, plurality allow the listener or reader to reliably infer the remainder of the message based on a very small sampling of the content.

Grammar matters when your message matters

Ego demands that our listener to pay complete, rapt attention to us.  The reality is that people are addicted to multi-tasking.  Also, we transmit in an environment of background noise,  with radios and cell phones that have static.   Many listeners suffer from hearing loss in some or all of the normal audible range.

Use of standard, proper English ensures that the message you intended to transmit is received with fidelity.

Thanks Mom!

I was blessed with a mother who taught English before becoming Mom.  I grew up submerged in proper, grammatically correct English.  I was lucky.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Country Bass

I received feedback at deer camp that the story about rattlesnakes was decent.  Here is another story told to me by one of the Haley clan.  It is not my story.  I simple wrote it down.  All errors are mine due to the frailty of my memory.

The Pond

Kris and Jerry Haley have a bass pond in their backyard. The pond is right outside their back door. It is about 80 yards long by 30 yards wide and 18 feet deep. The bottom is gravel out to about 4' of depth. Jerry keeps the brush and weeds cleared out except for 15 yards of shore on the south end. 

Kris likes the pond because it is a magnet for the family. She also likes to float in the pond on hot summer afternoons. She paddles around, chasing the shade in her floating lounge chair. A cool drink at one hand, a Debbie Macomber romance in the other.

Jerry likes the pond because he likes to fish and he likes to catch BIG fish. .Jerry raises largemouth bass for the same reason people raise giant pumpkins. He wants to see just how big he can grow them.

Anybody raising trophy bass in Michigan faces an uphill climb. Bass grow best during the long, hot summers of the south. They runt out early in the north. Still, Jerry works at it....except it is more like play when you work at something you enjoy.

Like any farmer, Jerry knows there are two parts to raising critters. You have to start with the right breeding stock. And then you have to feed them right.

Jerry visited Michigan lakes known for giving up lunker bass; lakes with names like Cloverdale, Gun, Morrison, and Coldwater. He made a point of picking lakes that were more than 60 miles apart because inbreeding is the bane of raising healthy animals. He carried them in two 55 gallon barrels in the back of his truck. He put clean, healthy bass in one barrel and clean, healthy bluegills and sunfish in the other. These fish were his seedstock.

Feeding bass right means getting rid of cover that baitfish can hide in. Jerry left 15 yards of the bank in willow, cattails and rushes because he did not want the bass to wipe out all the breeding bluegills. The pond is filled with swarms of 2" and 3" long bluegills. Lots of bass food..but the bass still have to chase them down one at a time, and really big bass are like really big people. They resent having to move unless there is a very big payoff.


Jerry used to be very generous about allowing people to fish in his pond. That changed the day the bluegills were on their beds and one of the young men in the neighborhood showed up at the door. Jerry was at work.

"Good morning Mrs. Haley. Mr. Haley said we could fish the pond." Said the young man.

"Go ahead." Kris said. "You know where it is."

The next time she looked out the window she saw six young men with cane-poles catching bluegills. It was like watching wheat fall before a combine. They harvested that pond. They filled five gallon bucket after five gallon bucket with nice, slab-sided fish. That was never going to happen again, not if Kris and Jerry had anything to say about it.

Today, there is a very short list of people who are invited to fish in Jerry's pond. Mostly they are kids and they fish for bluegills. Jerry coaches them on how to catch them. Kids who don't listen or play by the rules don't get invited back. Jerry keeps an eye on them the whole time they fish. Partly, Jerry wants the kids to be successful because he wants everybody to enjoy the outdoors as much as he does. Partly, you don't let kids mess around in an 18' deep pond unless you keep an eye on them.

Jerry tells the kids to wade out into the pond and toss the baited hook into the weeds on the south end of the pond. Then, when you get a bite, to drag it out as quick as you can. Even so, a bass will rip the 'gill off the end of the line more often than not.


After a while, Jerry noticed that the bass congregated around them when they waded out into the pond, kind of like Indians circling a particularly prosperous wagon train. The bass anticipated an easy meal. Well, Jerry wanted to get a better look at them. So he caught a frog in the tall grass east of the pond and waded back out into the water. He gripped the frog by the front legs and dangled it in the water out in front of him. It did not take the bass long to become accustomed to this new form of easy meat.

Feeding frogs to the bass became one of Jerry's favorite forms of entertainment. He would catch two or three frogs every night and feed the fish. He even fancied that the bass recognized him personally. The idea is not as farfetched as it seems. The small pond is nestled in a depression and its surface is seldom marred by any ripples or waves. 

Another reason that Jerry liked feeding the bass was because he could monitor how they were growing. He would let a neighbor kid catch a few when it looked like their growth stalled out. They would usually put on a nice growth spurt after being thinned out.

The Boyfriend

Then, one fateful day, his daughter brought a boyfriend home from the Big City. Jerry is a traditional kind of guy and bringing home a boyfriend means something in these parts. He recognized that the boyfriend was a prospective son-in-law and his daughter was trolling him in front of the family to get their read on the situation.

It turns out that the boyfriend was a big-time bass fisherman. He had all the videos and watched all the pros on TV. He had heard stories of the lunker bass in Jerry's pond. He discounted the size of the fish as exaggerations. Bass just don't grow that big in Michigan. But he brought his $500 dollar tackle boxes and $200 fishing rods with him, just in case Jerry invited him fishing.

Kris and Jerry talked it over. Jerry was kind of protective about his bass. He believed in the old adage, "Screw me once, shame on you. Screw me twice, shame on me." Why make yourself vulnerable?

Kris, on the other hand, was getting a little tired of the bass.

Kris belonged to an informal book club. The ladies who patronized Kris's hair stylist all shared books. All you had to do was buy one book a month and then it was leave-one-take-one. 

Kris loved to spend the hottest summer days floating in her recliner and catching up on her reading. The temperature would be in the mid 90s. She would be following the antics of the Debbie Macomber's Christmas angels, Shirley, Goodness and Mercy. Snowflakes would be floating down from the sky. Lost in the story, Kris would forget and let her hand dangle in the water. Hey, it was hot and the water was cool. It feels darned nice to let your fingers play in the water. 

Then, a mega-bass would try to eat her hand. It was becoming awkward trying to explain why so many of the books she brought back had that "sat out in the rain" look.

After much discussion, Jerry and Kris agreed to let the young man fish the pond on a catch-and-release basis. They figured that there is no better way to learn about a man's character than to watch him fish or hunt.

The young man consulted his tarot cards, horoscope, three websites and his stockbroker's recommendation. He selected his portfolio of lures and spent the next two hours beating the water to a froth. He did not get a single rise. It does not take much to put the fish down when you are fishing a half-acre pond. Jerry watched. Jerry was amused.

"There are no fish in this pond." the young man stated after making the 25th cast with the last lure he had selected.

"You are wrong." Jerry replied, "There are bass in there, and some darned good ones, too."

"Nope. If there were any fish in this puddle, I'd have caught them." said the young man.


One thing you need to know about Jerry is that he is a millwright.   Millwrights are the Labrador Retrievers in the universe of skilled trades.  Electricians are poodles; scary smart but some individuals can be temperamental.  PLC programmers are beagles;  they are impervious to heat, cold, hunger, thirst, human voices and #6 shot when on a hot scent.  Small tool repair are dachshunds;  good at what they do but limited.  Tool makers are German Shorthair Pointers;  precise and high-strung.

Labrador Retrievers are a robust breed of dog that is strong and resilient and versatile and plenty smart enough.  Labrador Retrievers are noted for having a "soft mouth" but the term is relative.  It does not seem "soft" to anybody threatening their people.  It is a bit like calling a yellow pine two-by-four "softwood" as it is being vigorously applied to your backside.

The point is that Labs not only can do what needs to be done, they will get it done  without hesitation...even if they give up a few style points.

Millwrights, like Labs, tend to be big dawgs.  There is not much fluff on a Lab.  What you see is meat.  And it is the same with millwrights.

Nobody likes to be called a liar. Especially a millwright, a skilled tradesman, who prides himself on knowing exactly how many fish he has in his pond...and knowing exactly how big they are.

Ego and deceit

"Your problem," Jerry said, "is that you are relying on ego and deceit. These are country fish. Country fish are like country folk.  We like things simple and honest."

"Whaddya mean, 'simple and honest'?" challenged the city slicker.

Jerry is more of a "doer" than a talker.  So Jerry showed him.

Jerry waded out into the water out in front of the city slicker. He made a fist and reached down into the water.  Beneath the water he made a "come hither" motion with his middle and index finger where the city slicker could plainly see what he was doing.

From the depths of the pond Hogzilla herself saw those big, meaty millwright fingers.  These were not lissom leopard frog legs nor petite junior bullfrog legs.  NO!  These were veritable sides of beef beckoning her. And she responded.

The water around Jerry's arm boiled as Hogzilla chomped down on the "frog legs".  Jerry clamped onto the lower jaw with his thumb. Jerry lifted the massive bass out of the water.  It was a bass that would drawn "ooohs and aahs" in Florida.

"That's all you gotta do around here.  Be simple and honest." Jerry said.

The young man never came back.