Friday, February 28, 2014

An old quote

An old quote that should exist, but alas, does not.

"It is OK if you cannot pay me with gold and silver.  Pay me with powder and shot instead."

Motorcycles and Vegetables

My two youngest brothers have a great love for machines with motors.  They love quads.  They love snowmobiles.  They (even) love lawn mowers.  But most of all, they love motorcycles. For a period in their lives they competed against one another.

My family's interactions with motorcycles has been spotty.  Any attraction I had for them ended when my dad came back from a quick spin around the block on a neighbor's dirt bike.  The entire length of this right leg was bleeding.  At that time, he explained to me that there is no such thing as "soft gravel."  Yes, loose gravel exists.  But it is not soft.  He had the evidence to prove it.

My youngest brothers, Johnny and Jimmy, were too young to absorb that lesson.

As they came of age they raced each other.  They made tracks through the woods.

I almost killed my youngest brother.  It was purely by accident.  One of the orchard trees was leaning due to the effects of prolonged rain and wind.  I stretched a nylon line from an adjacent tree to the leaning tree.

Jimmy never saw the line.  He was accelerating up the hill as he hit it.  It flipped him off the bike an yanked the tree out of the ground, as cleanly as a radish is plucked from moist, garden soil.  Had he been a couple of feet to the north it would have decapitated him.  My concerns about lingering brain damage are still in a flux.  He became a radiologist but I suspect he sometimes votes for Liberals.

Spiky HP curves

Jimmy was sure that he was going to kick Johnny's butt.  He bought himself a RACING bike. 

He took it to the same stretch of gravel road that dad had ridden the neighbor's dirt bike.  He filled it with mixed gas, using the premium Castrol racing two-stroke oil the previous owner recommended.

His anticipation was palpable.

It fired up but was running a little lumpy.  Jimmy figured it was due to not having been run in a while.  He put it in first, gave it a little gas and eased off the clutch.


and it flipped him off the back of the bike.

Jimmy did a little bit of research.  He discovered that racing bikes make astronomical amounts of horsepower.  But that occurs in a very narrow range of RPM.  The art of riding a racing bike is to keep the RPM in that band.

If you recall from an earlier post, Bruce Kelly's definition of a Robust Process,

A Robust Process is a process that can absorb anticipateable variation in the inputs and still produce an acceptable output.

It is a lot of work to keep the RPM between 8500RPM and 10,000RPM.  You live and die by the tachometer.  Minor variation in the RPM resulted unacceptable variation in torque.

Jimmy did not keep that bike.  He rode bikes for fun.  Racing bikes were like trophy girlfriends....much envy from friends, some fun in the riding but extremely unforgiving and the maintenance costs far outweighed the tangible benefits.


There are some vegetables that are like the racing bike.  Huge output but under a restrictively narrow range of conditions.

And then there are vegetables that are like Mrs ERJ who punches well above her weight and exemplifies resilience and accommodation.  These are the vegetables that will feed your family even when...or perhaps especially when...things do not go according to plan.

Eaton Rapids Joe's List of Robust, Season-extending Vegetables

Deadon Savoy Cabbage

Savoy cabbage, in general, exhibit rock solid coldhardiness.  I have some heads of Deadon cabbage that are beneath 18" of snow.  I am confident that they will be in edible condition when the snow melts.

Deadon cabbage is delicious.

Deadon cabbage is a purple tinted cabbage.  Cabbage worms are green.  They show up against Deadon leaves like neon lights.  The birds are not oblivious to the easy pickings. 

Deadon cabbage that is seeded May 15 (in zipcode 48827) is not bothered by cabbage worms because the heads do not start to form until after the peak pressure from cabbage loopers have past.  The worms cannot hide in the tightly packed heads because those do not start to form until late August, long after peak bug pressure pasted.

Cooked cabbage has a bad reputation.  It is due to institutional cooks boiling it to within an inch of its life.  My one recipe for Deadon savoy cabbage is to cut it into wedges (usually eighths).  Cut the head so each wedge is held together by part of the core.  Pat/rub the cut surfaces of the wedges with olive oil, or bacon grease, or butter or salad oil.  Dust the wet surface with your choice of uniodized salt, or black pepper or garlic powder.  Stand the wedges on a cookie sheet.  Bake in an oven at about 350 degree F for about 25 minutes.  You will know when they are done when they start smelling good, the wedges start falling over or the tip is browned.

Mini Broccoli

I have grown Happy Rich, a interspecies cross between European broccoli and Asian Kailon.  It is sometimes called "cut-and-come-again broccoli".  Similar varieties are Green Lance and Apollo.

Brussels Sprouts

Another vegetable destroyed by institutional cooking.

Cook similar to savoy cabbage but slice spouts in half, season cut surface the same as the cabbage.  Bake the sprouts with the cut-side-up.

Brussels sprouts were selected from savoy cabbage and exhibit similar resistance to the cold and rain of November-through-March.

If there was one vegetable that exemplified the British Victory Gardens of WWII, it was Brussels sprouts.  They are prodigious producers of vitamin rich vegetables through the depths of the "hungry time" of the year.  Brussels sprouts were the vegetable of choice during the most dire hours of the Battle of Britain.

Shooty stuff

My local gun store has many powders in stock.  Until the shortage eases, they have a rule.  Only one pound of powder per day.

They did not have some of my favorites.  They did not have Red Dot...but they had e^3.  They did not have Blue Dot...but they had Pro Reach.  While I would much prefer to be able to buy an 8 pound jug I am still quite happy to replenish my supply one pound at a time.  One pound of e^3 is sufficient for 400 "light" 12 gauge loads.  The Pro Reach will only stretch half as far because it is for "heavy" loads.

They also were able to get some #6 shot.  That bag of shot now resides in the bowels of the ERJ armory.


My string of one-shot kills on bunnies stopped at 5.  I think # 6 was hit low. He was closer than I thought.  I held a little bit lower than where I wanted to hit.  I think I gave his brisket a haircut. I will go back with one of the dogs and see if they can find him. 

Bunny # 4 was eating walnut twigs.  It boggles my mind to imagine any animal being hungry enough to eat walnut twigs.

Lessons Learned and Relearned

Mrs ERJ is driving down to Florida with her brother.  His name is Rob.

Rob is an engineer.  Like me, he graduated while Jimmy E. Carter was president.  Times were tough.  Jobs were hard to come by.

Unlike me he was unlucky.  The subsidiary he worked for was spun off the main company.  That subsidiary declared bankruptcy as the "legacy" contracts from the mother company expired.

He was still employed but the pension he was counting on was vaporized.  Some classes of employees in the company had their pensions "made whole".  Engineers were not one of those classes.  He was 47 when that happened.

Amazingly, he is not bitter.  He enjoys going to work each day. He is glad he has a job. That is a blessing.  He figures that he will work until he can no longer do so.  Then, they will figure out how to make do.

Slide Rules

While waiting for Mrs ERJ to pack, we talked about slide rules.  Rob has a co-worker who is going to a slide rule Olympiad near Detroit.

Rob asked one of the younger engineers if he knew what a slide rule was.  The kid hemmed and hawed.

Rob and I were among the first generation of engineers to go through college with powerful, portable,  affordable calculators:  a TI-30 in my case.  Our professors were not impressed.

A recurring message was "Don't become intoxicated by 8 decimal place precision."  I heard an earthier version of that same message two decades later, "Don't measure a pile of manure with a micrometer."

Our professors gave us positive role models.  For example, "Consider the DC-3.  It was designed with three decimal places of precision.  The magic of the DC-3 is that the designers (and heavier than air flying machines) had been around long enough so they could see and handle many broken parts.  They saw patterns.  Parts broke at interfaces.  The key to making parts....wing spars, fuselage stringers, engine mounts...that were durable was to leave extra beef around every bolt, every rivet.  They learned that sharp 're-entrant' corners killed."

Lessons learned and relearned and re....

Those lessons get learned with every new generation.  Twenty years after the DC-3 was designed a new generation of aircraft engineers who designed the de Havilland Comet.  They made a fundamental mistake.  They designed an aircraft with windows that had corners similar to the cargo holds on the Liberty Ships (early 1940s).  Holes with sharp corners kill, especially when one expects the (closed) section to resist torsion.

There seems to be a ten year cycle.  Designers, engineers, project managers and project accountants learn a lesson.  Ten years later they have been promoted or moved into other positions.  The new crop of designers and engineers seems to be fated to learn those lessons again, the hard way.

One repeater is due to an innate, human desire to define the performance of a material by a single number.  In the real world, the strongest materials are often brittle or vulnerable to exotic failure modes like hydrogen embrittlement, stress corrosion cracking or cracking due to mercury or halide contamination.  No matter how much a neophyte engineer might wish it were so, one cannot go to a big book and pick out one number and "make it happen."

I got huge enjoyment out of the short conversation I had with Rob.  I am blessed with great in-laws.  The more I get to know them the better I like them and the more respect I have for them.

Report Out, End-Of-Day One

Mrs ERJ made it to Alabama on their first day of travel.

Belladonna and Kubota went to the Eaton Rapids Men's basketball game last night.  It was senior night for the team.  Nobody watch "The Office" DVD.

I stayed home.  There were no reports of misbehavior.

One of my other responsibilities is to maintain a second blog.  My goal is to post one entry a week.  I failed that goal.  Over the last couple of days I have written about 4000 words (three posts) to make up for the deficiency.  The topic has one more post in it before I am done.  Writing those posts is absorbing much of my time.  It is amazing how productive I can be when I am avoiding other doing our taxes.

I shot three rabbits with the Savage Mark II (.22LR).  Three shots, three dead rabbits. For me, that is fabulous shooting.

We ate pizza.  We made lemon bars, which were a minor fail.  Kubota did not read the directions (its a guy thing) and mixed the pre-packaged crust with water and eggs.  The "save" was partially successful. The graham cracker crust floated to the top of the lemon filling.  Ugly dessert but it still tasted good.

Mrs ERJ actually read the instructions on the package of Pop-Tarts and informed us that we are prohibited from microwaving them due to the possibility of burning our tongues.  In a masculine show of indifference to (other's) pain and suffering, and a swaggering disdain for accepting outside direction, I microwaved the kid's Pop-tarts this morning.  On paper plates!

I had a few glasses of red wine and went to sleep.

The kids are doing better than I am.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Mrs ERJ is on her way to Florida

The way to tell if a country girl is going someplace fancy it to check to see if she put Armor All on her Red Wellies.
Mrs ERJ and her brother pulled out of our driveway at about 10:00 this morning.  They are traveling to Florida to pick up Uncle Bob's ashes and to have him interred at a cemetery in Mobile, Alabama.  They will be gone until the middle of next week.

They picked a good time to go.  We are expecting a low of -12 tonight.


The plan is to have a steady stream of distractions.  Belladonna proposed that we watch 90 minutes of The Office DVD each night.  We also plan to have a bowl with the names of restaurants in it.  Belladonna will put in the names of three restaurants, Kubota will put in the names of three restaurants and I will get to pick three.  Then we will pull names out of the bowl.

Also, as a distraction, the house is filled with the piping of fifes, flutes and piccolos. The source of that music is shown below.

Not a great picture.  The chipmunk-striped birds are Ameraucana pullets (girl chickens) and the yellow birds are ducks...either Khaki Campbells or Indian Runners.  I selected the individual birds myself.  Much to the amusement of the sales lady, my choices were based on their native predator avoidance skills as much as anything.  In other words, this was one of the few times when playing hard-to-get scored points with me.

They were too crowded and have since been separated.  The chickens are in one banana box and the ducks are in their own, private banana box.  The ducks love water and splash it all over the place.  They are real party boys.  The chickens are prissy around the water and do not care to be wet.

Introducing the dogs to their new mates should provide plenty of entertainment and activity for the next few days.

Comfort foods

I laid in a goodly supply of comfort foods: frozen pizza, lasagna, Cherry Pop-Tarts, pancake mix and iced tea.

I rarely do New Year's resolutions but I did this year.  I stopped drinking.  I plan to give myself a mulligan on that resolution for the next 6 days.  Nothing dramatic, just a couple of beers a night as we are all settling in for the night.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014


A few pictures from the woods.

Black Locust.  I took these pictures the next day.  They had dried out, so I coated the cut ends with vegetable oil to attempt to recapture the look of the fresh cut.  The location of the sun did not help me on this shot.

English Oak.  I should have pruned these off five years ago.  They make an interesting pattern as the base of the limb swelled as it joined the trunk.

Close up of one of the cut ends of the English Oak.  It is almost like jewelry.  I like working on oak.  It saws well, does not peel a strip of bark at the bottom and is quite predictable.  Oh, and it is pretty.

Some of the tools of the trade.  The snow is almost as stiff as styrofoam.  That makes it easy to stick your tools in if for easy storage.  It is advisable to plant sharps where you are unlikely to fall on them.
Another English Oak.  You can see the pile of cut branches scattered about the base.  Trimming up trees makes a mess of the forest floor.  If you look to the right of the tree in the foreground you will see a tree that is being managed as pollard. 
Some scionwood saved from one of my "elite" English Oak.  I have two English Oak with good tree structure.  I will be grafting my smaller English Oak over to these two selections.  One selection is named "South" and the other is named "North".

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Fifty Dollars worth of Acorns

This is what fifty dollars worth of acorns look like.

One pound of Willow Oak (Q. phellos), about 400 seeds.  Pocket knife included in picture for size reference.

Three pounds of Nuttall Oak (Q. texana/nuttallii), about 300 seeds.  These were the pricey ones.  The variation in shape of the acorns (round, long) and color are interesting.
Current recommendations are to plant approximately 500 trees per acre (about 10'-by-10' spacing).  We will see how many useable trees we get out of these 700 seeds.

For my Friends in Connecticut


I was having a work conversation with Brenda.  Brenda supplied my department with various types of computer support.  We were talking about a Cindy, a co-worker who was one of my peers.  The conversation got around to sharing opinions regarding her single minded zeal to do her (my peer's) job in the best possible way.

Brenda said, "Cindy is an absolute, cold-hearted bitch once she gets an idea in her head."

No sooner were the words out of her mouth than she heard herself and her "audience" snapped into focus.  You see, Brenda works for Cindy and Cindy was my peer.  Incidentally, the names have been changed to protect both the innocent and the guilty.

Brenda said, "I did not say that."

I said, "I heard you say that Cindy is as relentless as a pitbull in pursuing what she thinks is right."

Brenda said, "Yes!  That is what I said."

Fact vs Truth

I reflected back the truth in Brenda's observation, not the fact of Brenda's observation.

Most people make the (understandable) mistake of thinking Fact and Truth mean the same thing.

Let me clarify:  Aesop's fables are Truths, not Facts.  Consider the stories of the Lion and the Mouse.  In my favorite version, the lion forebears killing the mouse after the mouse pleads for his life.  Later, the mouse gnaws away the cords of the snare that had captured the lion.

Does anybody think this actually happened as written?

A video

In the video on the other end of this link, there is a Piece Of Something who is factually correct and truthfully wrong.

I regret to say that this video was sent to me by a nephew who commented, "I like his attitude."

The POS in the video gives a fine exposition on how to become a lightening rod for a Darwin Selection Event.  The POS is wrong (opposite of Truth, not Fact) is so many ways.
  • He is proud of his behaviors
  • He shares this video
  • He is so pathetically seeking attention and approval he reminds me of a Cocker Spaniel that pees on himself when the burglar.
  • He cynically throws out transparent lies, virtually taunting the cops
  • His display of attention seeking behavior will penalize everybody within lightening strike range of his smoldering corpse. 

The Julie Englehardt Shooting

Julie Englehardt was the first woman killed in the line of duty in Lansing, Michigan.

Officer Julie Englehardt was shot and killed after responding to a call from two boys who had reported a man had taken their sled away. When Officer Englehardt confronted the man he shot her. Officer Englehardt returned fire critically wounding the suspect.
The suspect was found not guilty by reason of insanity and committed in a mental institution.
I had occasion to drink a cup of coffee with her partner 18 months after this incident.  He was still shaken by it.

Julie took the call.  Interviewed the two boys.  Then she followed the line of footprints in the snow that the boys pointed out.  It led toward the house the boys identified as the destination of the man.

Julie crossed a dip (parks are often placed in low areas that are inhospitable to development) and started climbing a gentle rise that the row of houses was built on.

The perpetrator opened fire from the doorway of the house, presumably without warning.  Julie sought cover behind a tree.

In the exchange of gunfire Julie was able to hit the perpetrator with a solid body shot (his hip if memory serves).  The perpetrator continued to return fire.  One of his shots hit her at the hair line and removed the top-rear of her head, killing her instantly.

Back-up arrived 20 minutes later.  Aid was rendered to the perpetrator, thereby saving him (barely) from bleeding to death.

The perpetrator's older brother was in the house the entire time.  By all accounts the older brother was the dominant personality.  The brother made no attempt to intervene.  The brother did not call 9-1-1.  The brother claimed to be sitting in the living room, separated from his brother firing a handgun by a simple stud-and-drywall partition, and claimed he did not hear anything.

So why am I sharing this story?

Six months after the shooting the house was burglarized and the older brother was shot and killed.  The crime remains unsolved.

Did the cops do it?


Simple Rules

A professor at a major university was interested in game theory and rule-sets.  He sought the simplest rule-set that was robust under the maximum range of games.  There are many rule-sets that work great....until the opposing team throws a screen pass.  The professor was seeking a simple rule-set that somehow captured the ability to learn and adapt.  He designed an on-line, interactive game to provide a Skinner Box so he could monitor autonomous people "in the wild".

His finding was that Tit-for-Tat, with a few caveats, was the winner by a very wide margin.

The caveat was that the player start on the high road and adds, by exception, to his playbook as he goes along.

If another player takes a certain kind of cheap shot, then that player made that type of cheap shot a "permissible" play.

Players who are confident of their power (let's call them adults) know that they can survive a certain number of unanticipated, cheap shots.

Players who feel fragile feel a need to be preemptive and "do" the other players before they are "done".

So what happened to the brother?

His house was broken into.  He had accepted homicide as a permissible play.  The whole world knew that.  He got "done."

And that is the Truth.

Monday, February 24, 2014


Mrs ERJ will be traveling soon.

Mid-week she will leave to inter her Uncle Bob.  Uncle Bob lived in the Pensacola, Florida area.  He was 89 when he passed away in November.  He had plenty of time to orchestrate how things were to play out after "the event".

His remains were cremated.  He has a plot in a cemetery in Mobile, Alabama.

Mrs ERJ and her brother will be his final honor guard.

Uncle Bob believed in America, the Episcopal Church, the Republican Party, the sanctity of private property and Southern Hospitality,  purebred dogs, upper-mid level distilled goods and very strong coffee.  He served his country in WWII.  He was, to use a threadbare term, an Old Southern Gentleman.

He traveled, collected clocks and intricately carved wooden furniture.  He made pottery and provided much amusement for the widows in Navarre, Florida.  Although vastly outnumbered he acquitted himself with grace, charm and (sometimes) valor.

He will be joining many friends on the other side of the Pearly Gates.  He had to give up imbibing the last few years for health reasons.  He was the opposite of a binge drinker....his habit was marked by moderation and duration. He once observed that precision equipment requires the regular application of a modest amount of lubrication for optimum operation. It gives me joy to know that at 5:00 Heavenly Standard Time he can once again enjoy a toast with his friends.

He will be sorely missed on this side.

Road Trip

Mrs ERJ will be leaving mid-week and will return in the middle of next week.  They will drive down from Michigan in two, leisurely legs.

Mrs ERJ is the glue that holds this family together.  The rest of us will tunnel through to a parallel universe while she is gone.  We will live on scrambled eggs and ham, pizza and iced tea.

We will be out-of-sorts.  Everybody in this family has a different way of manifesting "moping".  Some withdraw.  Some amp-up and become insatiable attention sinks.  Putting the two (three) of us together in the same room is not a recipe for happiness.

Mrs ERJ informed our circle of friends and family.  The plan is to dilute the time we spend together by orchestrating a stream of diversions.

Expect updates.

My departure

And now it is time for me to depart.  My lovely daughter, Belladonna just informed me that her calculator is in dire need of Triple A batteries.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

I Hate Rabbits

As a boy scout in Troop Eight, one of the gems of woods-wisdom that we passed on to the youngest scouts was that one could make the smoke from a campfire change directions by chanting "I HATE rabbits.".

Given that the breeze at ground level is never steady, it appeared to work fairly well.

I HATE rabbits


These trimmings have been on the ground for a week.  I don't mind when they chew on these.

I do mind when they chew on one of my grafted apple trees.  

Close up of the damage.  The only part of a tree's trunk that grows is a very thin, very delicate layer of cells between the "bark" and the wood.  That layer will dry out and die unless I can protect it.
Who said the Main Stream Print Media was non-value-added?  I refuse to comment on the content (I did not read it), but the actual news paper is of deplorable quality. It tears very easily.
I saw a raccoon foraging for food.  He climbed this tree before I could snap his picture.
He was grubbing around in this spring when I first saw him.  He was one sad looking specimen.
This winter has been brutally hard on most of the local wildlife. I finally got a clue regarding what the wild turkey are eating.

I saw a big flock (30-50) working a field where a dairy farmer had recently spread cow manure.  I don't know if they were picking undigested corn out of the poop or if they were just filling up with poop because they could get some calories out of it.  It is certainly too cold for there to be many bugs in the poop.

Our next significant warm spell is likely to be March 9.

I still hate rabbits

Revenge is a dish best served cold.

California Drought

The mid-West may be the nation's bread basket, but California is the nation's fruit and vegetable basket.

The southwest quarter of the United States is in the grip of a severe drought.  It remains to be seen if this drought is the start of a mega-drought.  The tree ring evidence suggests that California experienced two mega-droughts in the last one thousand years.  One of those mega-droughts lasted 250 years.  It was followed by a short reprieve.  Then another mega-drought of 150 years occurred.

Water Allocation

The law surrounding water rights in the west is a highly developed thing.  Much of it is based on seniority of the claim and location relative to the head waters.  I do not have enough knowledge to go beyond that.

Needless to say, lack of water can make a farm or ranch worthless.  Access to water can make a section of desert a highly desirable subdivision or golf course.  More voters reside in subdivisions and golf at golf courses than typically live on farms or pursue recreation upon farm property.

Quoted material from HERE

The projected 2014 zero allocation to all but a handful of agricultural districts supplied by the federally run Central Valley Project comes three weeks after forecasts of similarly drastic cuts were announced by managers of a separate water-delivery system operated by the state.

California grows roughly half of all U.S. fruits and vegetables, most of that in the Central Valley, and ranks as the No. 1 farm state by value of agricultural products produced each year.
Clearly, water that does not exist cannot be allocated.  100% of nothing is nothing.  I feel the most pain for those farmers who have massive investments in vineyards, citrus and almond orchards.  Those assets become stranded, doomed investments. 

Great Lakes Water

There has been some fear mongering regarding the diversion of Great Lakes water to the American Southwest.

I cannot see it happening.  For one thing, it takes an enormous amount of energy to pump water long distances.

From Art Ludwig's website

To put our energy use in a human, comprehensible perspective, try measuring it in units of energy slaves (es). If you shackled a very fit slave to an exercycle, they could generate about 75 watts of power, twelve hours a day. This is about what a bike rider expends cruising on flat land. To make the math easier, we’ll round it up generously to 100 watts = 1 Es This is a level of energy expenditure which an average American might be able to keep up for thirty minutes before collapsing. Now look around for energy slaves at work. 

A pump station sends water 3000 feet over a mountain pass. At full capacity, it uses 2,460,000 energy slaves of power. If the entire population of the city of Los Angeles did nothing but pedal hard and sleep, they would generate this much energy. By importing water from up to 600 miles away, Los Angeles removed its growth-limiting factor. It’s population has increased by a factor of 1000 in 150 years. During the drought of the 1990’s, at the point when the state water project agricultural deliveries were slashed 90%, LA was conserving 5% (Voters) Limits—Running out of water, electricity, gas, whatever, at some point, are a key ecological design feature which hones awareness and keeps consumption from growing out of reasonable bounds.
The example above discusses the (hidden) energy costs of moving water 600 miles and over 3000 feet of elevation.  Consider the energy required to move water 2000 miles and over 7000 feel of elevation.  There is also an incredible amount of energy embedded (hidden) in the concrete and steel used to fabricate the conduit and channels used to move the water.

What can I do?

This topic captured Mrs ERJ's attention.  She loves fruits and vegetables.  The garden will definitely get much attention from both of us this year.

As a gardener, I can focus on fruits and vegetables that have great storage life.  California's "niche" in my food plan is to fill the hunger gap between December and May.  I need a Plan B.  I need to plant a significant amount of brawny, broad-shouldered vegetables that can shrug off the indignities of storage.

To be continued.

News from Sochi

Korean News

News from Sochi courtesy of the Korean Central News Agency of DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea)

Kim Jong-un (Supreme Leader of all Korea) announced the medal count from the 2014 Winter Olympics held in Sochi, Russia.

Gold Medals:  Democratic People's Republic of Korea....98
Silver Medals: People's Republic of China..........................98
Bronze Medals: Russia.....................................................98

All running dog oppressors combined................................0

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Pole Vaulters

Mrs ERJ and I were in the bleachers watching the athletes warm up before the competition.

I turned to Mrs ERJ and asked, "Do you mind if I make a special request?"

"Go ahead." she said, eyes still watching the athletes.

"If it turns out that reincarnation is true, and it is not too much trouble, would you consider coming back as a pole vaulter?"

One runs a risk anytime one suggests that one's spouse might be anything less than the absolute pinnacle of evolution.

Having watched many young athletes I must confess to having a soft spot for pole vaulters.  Every part of their body is braided steel.  From the tips of their fingers to the tips of their toes there is no frivolity, no jovial bounce.  Every fiber is focus, purpose and explosive potential.  There is no part of their body that is developed at the expense of another part of their body.  Pole vaulters are a balanced package: Physically, probably what God had in mind when He created us.

After a heartbeat or two she answered  "On one condition."

"What is that?" I asked.

She slowly (reluctantly?) peeled her eyes off the floor and faced me.  Looking me in the eye, she said, "As long as you come back as one too."

One runs a risk anytime one suggests that one's spouse might be anything less than the absolute pinnacle of evolution.  It is not always the risk one expected.

Data Limits

Post # 442.  I watched a boatload of these (Olds 442) go down Saginaw Street when I was a Safety Patrol in Lansing, Michigan
Belladonna has track meet in Mount Pleasant, Michigan today. She qualified for "States" in Shot put in Indoor Track.  I get to watch 8-)

Data Limits

We blew through our data limits again.  I think Kubota has a game on his smart phone that sucks down bandwidth.

My kids are oblivious to the resources the are sucking down.  They believe in "free stuff".  As in, radio waves fly through the air, air is all that stuff that pops into my phone must be free.

It must be for some of their friends.  Oh, the joys of living in the city where you can pirate somebody else's signal.

Kubota is sure that he is being magnificently generous when he hands out the password to our network to his buddies when they visit.  Those are the weekends where we will burn through 10% of our monthly allowance in one session.

We have two more days left before our data package refreshes.  Time to go unplug the wireless modem.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Are You a Doomsday Prepper?

One of Kubota's friends was over and he asked me "Are you a Doomsday Prepper?"


Word is getting around certain circles in the Eaton Rapids Middle School that Kubota "makes bullets".

When he has a friend come over they often (always) ask about it.  I go with them to the basement because that is the responsible, adult thing to do.

The 12 gauge Lee Load-All is set up to crank out 7/8 ounce of #6 shot over 17 grains of Red Dot.  That has a book pressure of 7500 psi verses a SAAMI maximum of 11,500 psi for standard 12 gauge shells.  The load is very, very mild and the bag of shot and bottle of powder go a long way.

Kubota's friend took to it like a duck to water.  He got a huge kick out of each shell he cranked out.  Part of the joy was being able to walk up the stairs, remove Kubota's Mossberg from the gun safe and try to bust some clay birds with the shells he loaded the minute before.  (Yes, we did that outside.)  To quote Junior Doughty, some things are better than money.

The Family

I know the family a little bit.

I put together a laundry basket with a "loaner" Lee Load-All and the makings for about 200 rounds.  I will loan that to the Dad when he comes over to pick up Junior in the morning.  I included a separate bag with a bottle of Blue Dot, some bushings and some Federal Hulls so Dad can crank out some turkey loads for this spring's hunting.  The only thing I did not have for the turkey loads are the Remington RP12 wads.

Am I a Doomsday Prepper?


Mostly, I enjoy doing this kind of stuff.  I enjoy seeing kids get excited.  I enjoy teaching kids about making things---and being safe while doing it.

And I see great utility in being able to make my own "bullets" and grow my own fruit and vegetables.

I won't be surprised if I get some RP12 wads out of the deal.

Distracted Driving

Belladonna continues to exceed expectations.

Contrary to my assumptions, she was not texting when this happened.  She was adjusting the radio and the heat controls.

Mrs ERJ informed me that driver's education teachers have given up on directing kids to not allow them selves to be distracted while driving. 

That is a massive fail.

Bus hits bridge

The big ah-ha moment for many people came from this incident.

From page 22 of the report:

The bus driver stated that he was upset at the time of the cellular telephone conversation with his sister because he believed that he had been mistreated by the lead bus driver during the trip. The bus driver stated that the lead bus driver had refused to communicate with him about the details of bus movement, had departed from the terminal without him, and had departed from the airport before the accident driver had finished boarding his passengers.
The bus driver said that he did not notice the signs warning of low-clearance restrictions for the Alexandria Avenue overpass while driving toward the accident site on the Parkway and that he did not recall seeing the bridge until (after) the accident occurred.
I told Belladonna why I had heartburn over distracted driving.  To show her that I still love her I got her an early birthday present.


It is entirely possible to be too cynical and clear-eyed for your own good.

At least two dynamics come into play.

Tournament Payout Structure

One dynamic was called "Tournament Payout" by Steven Levitt in the book Freakenomics.

Levitt used it to describe the compensation structure for (illegal) drug merchandizing organizations.  The gentleman on the corner who is retailing recreational pharmaceuticals is probably making about minimum wage.  He would not even be able to afford a place to live on his own.  Typically, he is either living with his mom or with a girlfriend and two or three children in some form of subsidized housing.

As crazy as it seems, the drug delivery system could not afford to exist in its current form if were not subsidized by the government in the form of housing subsidies.

So why the miss-match between our perception and the actual state of affairs?

The players two levels up in the organization, the winners of the tournament, are conspicuous consumers.  One of their functions is to motivate the street soldiers.  The street soldiers are not out on their corner shivering and running the risk of getting capped for $5/hour.  Nope.  They are out there because they believe that they have a shot at Escalades, bling and babes.

People are not motivated by receiving things.  People are motivated during that (brief) period when a large reward seems both imminent but still at risk.  The magic of the tournament payout structure is that there is a huge payout and there is an element of chance.  There is a chance that even the dopiest of street thugs could become the player in the third layer.  It could happen if the right people get mowed down by bullets and Dopey is in the right places at the right times.

The drug culture arrived at a robust business model.  It has been emulated by other businesses.

You are the Best!

The dreaded self esteem message.  It is well intentioned but it causes a few problems.

For the purposes of this post, the biggest problem is that it implies that only the best has any value.  That is, second place is the first loser.  From the perspective of the kid, you have no value unless you are the best.  It implies a binary value judgement.

Another problem is that it reduces the kid to a noun: The Best.  Nouns are static things.  Consider how the emphasis changes in this sentence, "You are a hard worker."  The focus is on a verb..."hard worker."  Verbs move.  Verbs change things.

A pernicious effect of "You are the Best!" is that it is perceived as a immutable fact by the kid.  In the kid's mind, the only way to validate the message "You are the Best!" is by flaunting being a natural...that is, by being successful and conspicuously not working at it.

A third problem is that the message becomes a lie.  "You are the best!" might be true in second grade.  What happens when the kid reaches middle school?  Or starts to play sports in an elite league?  The message sender becomes a liar and the kid becomes worthless.

The final problem is that the message will not build self esteem.  Self esteem is earned.  "You are the Best!" is an accident of genetics.

Aside:  Baseball may be a boring sport but it has the advantages of having a cast of thousands and not being very aerobic.  There was always a place for the chubby kid in right field.  The value of the chubby kid was not because "He was the Best!"  It is that he showed up.

Clear Eyed Cynicism

So what happens when a mathematically literate kid who has been fed a diet of "You are the Best!" takes a clear-eyed look at the tournament compensation structure?

First, he becomes depressed.

Then he quits the team.

He spits on the ground, says, "Take that job application and shove it.  I refuse to be a  pawn"

The value of a pawn

"Able Fox Five to Able Fox. I got a target but ya gotta be patient."
What is the value of a pawn?  I asked an expert, "Nik" at the Livingston County Chess Club blog.

My question to "Nik"

Subject: Pawns

Oh wise and all-knowing Poobah:  Can you make me smarter about pawns?
In the game of chess, how much does the smart play of pawns contribute to success?  1%? 2%? 5%?
Flipped around another way, is eagerness to sacrifice pawns positively or negatively correlated with success?  Or is it not correlated at all.
I am trying to squeeze a blog post out of how to be an intelligent, autonomous, invisible pawn.

Nik's reply

Francois-Andre Danican Philidor - a powerful chess player in 17th century France said,
"Pawns are the soul of chess."
Pawn play is at least 70% of the game in my opinion. 
Since they cannot move backwards, once advanced, they cannot be retreated.
And since you cannot win unless you advance them to give space to your bigger forces - not only will you not win, but you will be quickly strangled with your limited space to manuveur. 
So why, when, where, how far, how many pawns you advance - is critical in your planning.
Also, most endgames are won due solely to pawn structure and location - when the numbers are even. 
Sometimes structure and location trumps numbers.
The timely pawn "push" or "lever" to open lines for attack is essential to victory on the chess board.
 Perhaps I need to play more chess with Pelée.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

USA 35b Air Foil

Silhouette of airfoil with 6 degree angle of attack shown.  Rectangle with thick black lines are 1.5" by 7.25"

It looks like the amount of whittling that needs to be done for my windmill blade(s) can be reduced if I can talk my good friend John into running the 2 X 8 through his planer and take three degrees off the bottom and 20 degrees off the top.

One other nicety will be if I can be smart about the warpage.  If I am lucky enough to get edge grain (quarter sawn) I won't have to think about warpage.  If I cannot get edge grain then  I think bark-side-down is preferred.  That will add some concavity to the bottom surface which is not a bad thing.

I mentioned to Kubota that I wanted to put up a wind turbine. 

"Oh, yeah, right.  Do you know how much those things cost?"

That is when I told him I was going to make it.  I got that look, you know the one.  It is the same one crazy people get when they claim they can spin straw into gold.

Any idiot can make a windmill.  It takes a special idiot to make a cheap and simple wind turbine that actually makes some power.

Of Acorns and Snow Storms

The weather is rapidly turning to crap.

It is snowing sideways outside and I just heard a big boom of thunder.  This is what Weather Underground says to expect.

* A wintery mix of freezing rain... sleet and snow will begin around 6 am south of I-94 amd move north.

* Ice accumulations of a coating upwards to a quarter of an  inch expected this morning.

* A chance of thunderstorms this afternoon.

* Winds gusting to 50 to 55 mph along the Lake Shore tonight and 40 to 45 mph inland.

* Snow squalls and blustery winds of 25 to 45 mph on Friday.

Kubota has a doctor's appointment in East Lansing this afternoon and then math tutoring in Eaton Rapids right after that.  I need to cancel the math tutoring.  There is just no way I am going to be able to get him there in time.


I got an email from Lovelace Seeds.  I was informed that they would not be able to completely fill my order.  The people who go out in the woods and who sweep up acorns out of parking lots have been unable to supply Lovelace Seeds with the usual number of acorns.

I requested that they make some substitutions with some species they do have in stock.  We will see how that goes.

If you get really bored (like you are stuck in an airport) and are into trees, you might consider looking up "New Madrid Missouri Quercus nuttallii".  There is specimen of Nuttall Oak that is at the extreme northern fringe of the species natural distribution.  The tree is in the I-55 rest area just south of New Madrid, Missouri.

Picture from HERE

The new flushes of growth (every time you water it or you get a good rain) are can bright cherry red or grape-juice purple, depending on the soil and climate.  The tree has proven hardy to southern Wisconsin.  It is pretty close to a "Super Tree". 

I ordered Q. nuttallii acorns from Lovelace Seeds and it is one of the species they do have in stock. According to Judy, their Q. nuttallii acorns are collected from near the Missouri/Arkansas border.  Maybe I will get lucky and get something as spectacular as New Madrid in my seedlot.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Drone Pilot (fiction)

Some of my readers might remember ERJC.  ERJC had some struggles in early January.  I had a conversation with him last night.  Right now he is meds-noncompliant but is hanging on.  He prefers the mood swings to the side effects of the meds.  He has them stashed in a safe place, though.  Just in case the moods incapacitate him again.

ERJC is a pretty good writer but needs some grease on the skids and a stout push from the rear to get going.  He suffers from perfectionism.

I offered to take some of his writing tweak the punctuation and flesh it out a bit. He agreed.  My hope is that I will set the bar low enough that he can look at it and say, "Hell, I can do better than that!"

Incidentally, ERJC will henceforth be known as Pelée.

Drone Pilot

Pelée was walking home from Kroger with two bags of groceries.  The walks had not been shoveled and he was negotiating the frozen slush, picking his way over the slick, fractured surface with care.  The frozen slush had captured the imprint of every foot-fall from the day before.  The impressions were deep, steep sided, bone hard and snot slick.

Walking reminded him of going hunting with his dad.  He hated it then and he hated it now.  Scan.  Look down.  Pick the next three places to place your feet.  Look up, scan.  Take your three steps.  Repeat.

Pelée did not expect to get mugged.  It was the wrong time of day and he had been here a year and was starting to become part of the neighborhood.  Muggers usually did not whack pedestrians on Washington Ave.  There was too much traffic.  Besides, the roads and sidewalks were treacherous with frozen slush.  Muggers shut down when a quick get-away was dicey.

Still, he was easy pickings at 6’2” and 120 pounds and he had quit smoking a few weeks ago.  Smoking calmed him down and he was a jumpy as a whore in church.

Pelée made it to the apartment building without incident.  It was hard to believe that the apartment building had once been a desirable piece of real estate.  65 years of hard use had ground off most of the glitter.  The poured concrete bones remained.  It was a solid building even if the amenities were dated.

Walking up the stairs he smelled somebody baking.  That was an unexpected bonus.  Usually it was boiled cabbage, rarely it was barbeque.  Today it was something sweet and redolent with the warm fragrances of cinnamon and some other spices he could not name.  It made him think of his mother.  She was a Godly woman who had firm beliefs about the redemptive powers of soap, hot water, fresh vegetables and baked goods made with real sugar and butter.

He entered the apartment he shared with his roommate.  Pelée did not have a job and was “crashing” with Stosh.  Pelée was chilled to the bone.  He made a couple of slices of cinnamon toast, a tribute to his mother.  Thank God bread was still cheap and abundant.

He turned on the TV.  The one truly astonishing thing about this dump was the cable TV.  The TV was huge and had very high definition.  The connection was blindingly fast and never glitched.   He did not know who Stosh had paid to hack the connection but he was glad.  Pelée did not have a job or friends nearby.  That TV was his life.  It gave his life meaning.

The TV had channels that nobody else’s did.  Pelée watched programs, docu-dramas, of FEMA death camps, radiation sickness, wartime atrocities. 

His favorite channel was an interactive game: Drone Pilot.

Pelée had been playing it forever.  And, beyond his wildest expectations, he was The Superstar.

In the beginning, Pelée’s timid style of play had been the butt of much derision.  But then the nature of the game changed.  It became a war of attrition as access to Neodymium-Boron magnets and monocrystaline PV panels was cut off.  Suddenly, the player who could dance at the skirts of the conflict and draw attackers into a firesack…and then turn invisible was held in the highest regard.

The new drones were crap.  Husbanding, hoarding and protecting the old gave him an immeasurable advantage.

And Pelée was the best.  A lifetime of being bullied paid off.  The skills he had learned on the soccer field, the tease, the feign and the jagged drive--juking to avoid getting hammered--were in demand.  The situational awareness of living in a dangerous city, the full 360 scan every few seconds.  Those were skills that had saved him many times.

Pelée was now Fatboy.  The irony Pelée, thin as dental floss, being know as Fatboy never occurred to him. Fatboy was the kernel of the mission.  The game would be over when Fatboy flew through the doors of the Prime Bunker.

That would be a while, yet.  This afternoon’s game was in mid-Pennsylvania.  Attacks were held in the afternoon when the batteries were fully charged.  Steep hills in the late afternoon combined to produce unpredictable thermals. He would have to remember that.  The attackers could gain more altitude and use it to their advantage. 

He was closer to the skirmishes now because they were getting closer to the Prime Bunker in western Maryland. 

He was still getting used to being Fatboy.  His drone was the best in the fleet, but now it was bogged down by the payload.  The other side knew who he was.  Pelée’s side was burning out the defense.  Small chunks of it were seduced out, cut off and chopped to bits.  That was one of Pelée functions:  Designated Decoy.

The other side knew who he was.  He was the irresistible target, the Queen Bee.  The endgame for one side or the other was near.  The next few weeks promised to be very interesting.