Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Potato Barn

Picture from HERE

Michigan State University has an active potato breeding program.  I have been invited to visit it tomorrow.  This will likely be one of the high points of my spring.

I learn something new every time I visit.  For example, last time I went I learned about the advantages of sterilizing the knife you use to cut seed (with 10:1 water:bleach) between each potato you cut.  This is not as big of a deal if you always buy new seed.  It is a big deal if you think you might want to save some seed potatoes for following years.

Potatoes in general

Consumption of processed potatoes has gone up while consumption of fresh potatoes has gone down.  Consequently much of the attention in potato breeding has focused on processing potatoes.

Michigan State's  program is balanced.  My guess is that 70% of the focus is processing potatoes and 30% is table potatoes.  Part of the value of that approach is that you might be breeding for processing...and accidentally produce the best table potato in history.  It is likely that the breeder would cull that selection if he/she did not have a venue for evaluating table potatoes.  And that would be a tragic loss in a world where there are hungry people.

If you are interested in growing much of your own food and are north of the Ky-Tn line, then potatoes are one of your "heavy lifters".  A bonus in eating tablestock potatoes is that they are very efficient in terms of embedded energy.

Culinary end-uses

Potatoes are cooked in many different ways.

Baked potatoes are typically dry, high specific-gravity potatoes.  The American consumer typically looks for long, russet potatoes because the arch-type potato for this application is the Burbank Russet.  Ironically, many of the russet potatoes on the market are not high solid potatoes (Norkota, Goldrush).  Dry, "mealy", high specific-gravity potatoes are also considered highly desirable by consumers in the United Kingdom.

Processed potatoes are typically dry, high specific-gravity potatoes that have low soluble sugars.  The problem with soluble sugars is that they cause browning under the rigors of industrial processing.  They are likely to be round, white, smooth skinned potatoes because the processing occasionally misses some of the skin.  Consumers do not notice smooth white skin while russet or pigmented skin is considered coarse and undesirable by most consumer.  Another characteristic that is common in processing potatoes is very long storage life.

Picture from HERE.  Click picture to enbiggen.

Boiled potatoes and "cold" (i.e. potato salad) potatoes are typically moist, lower specific-gravity potatoes.  They tend to hold shape and not "explode" when boiled.  I once gave a bag of "dry" potatoes to a neighbor for evaluation.  Their feedback was that they took too much gravy to make them edible.  I guess it did not occur to them that they could add more liquid when mashing them.

Most "boiling" potatoes are red skinned, yellow fleshed or round white skinned.  It is not that these traits are genetically linked but that the consumer (and recipes) link these visual cues to certain culinary characteristics.

"Boiling" potatoes are often popular with home gardeners because they produce huge bulk in terms of potatoes.  Total yields of one pound per square foot (4.8 kg/m^2) are possible.  One downside of low gravity potatoes is that you end up storing a large amount of water, which is a waste of space.  The other downside is that many of these potatoes develop deep eyes when grown to full maturity.  Deep eyes are a pain when you (the hubby) are the designated potato peeler.

One of the challenges for the breeder is to not push the envelop too hard.  There is very little profit in betting against the market.  Breeders are attempting to develop higher yielding potatoes, potatoes that have fewer "culls", potato varieties that have horizontal resistance to common diseases. Not only that, but those selections must conform to the visual cues that potato buyers are looking for.

Jacqueline Lee

Data Sheet

I grew Jaqueline Lee for several years.  It is a humdinger of a potato.  My favorite way to eat them is to split them in half, microwave them cut side down and then eat them cut side down.  The juices migrate to the cut surface and then evaporate when cooking.  Those concentrated juices are what touches your tongue when you eat them that way.  To me, that is the acid test of potato flavor.

J.L. is an extremely vigorous plant and can hold its own in my less-than-perfectly weeded garden.  It is a prolific setter of seeds which could be fun for some casual breeding experiements.

J.L. is not quite perfect.  It yields less than the low gravity potatoes like Red Pontiac....but that is because there is less water and more solids in the potato.  It is also a little bit smaller than what some buyers are looking for.  I don't have a problem with that because the skin is very thin and smooth.  It cleans easily and I do not notice it when eating them microwaved.  Size matters most when considering the labor required to remove the skin.  It becomes irrelevant if you choose not to peel your potatoes. YMMV.

My Pilgrimage

Tomorrow I go to the potato barn.  I have been given the heads-up that I will be asked to trial something a little bit different than Jacqueline Lee on my Marlette Loam, 5% grade test plot.  I am not quite as excited as a kid on Christmas Eve....but it is close.

How can you not love going to a place that believes in potato valentines?  Picture from HERE

Potatoes, Part II


I was out cutting trees in one of our orchards.  I am removing every other row to improve access to the remaining trees.

I put my chainsaw down and thought, "Gee, that stick looks like an antler."

Fifteen feet away from the first antler
I left the two antlers out there.  I plan to have Kubota help me clean "trash" out of the orchard today.  Wink.  Wink.

One of Kubota's friends has a German Shorthair Pointer who finds sheds.  That is cool.  

Springtime, when thoughts turn to love

Belladonna got invited to the Prom.

The young man did his homework.  He talked to three of Belladonna's friends to sound out
  • If she already had a date
  • If she might say yes if he asked her
  • The best way to approach her and ask.
Belladonna is floating on a cloud.

I see this young man's initials written on our white boards (dry erase boards) with curlycues and exclamation points.

She is singing and humming as she scoots around the house.  For no reason at all.

Busting Chops

I have a roll to play.  I am the dad.  I am the parking brakes.  If they go parking, something is going to get broken.

I decided to bust her chops a little bit.

"So, Bella, does he shoot a 12 gauge or a 20 gauge shotgun?"  I asked.

"I don't know." she said.  "But I am sure it is one of those two.  He shoots and hunts and fishes."

I am warming to this young man and I have yet to meet him.  I like people who are capable of putting food on the table and protecting themselves and the people they love.

But I am not going to tell that to Belladonna.  I am still the parking brake.

Springtime When Thoughts turn to....



I picked up Kubota and two of his buddies after school.  Kubota had his birthday party this weekend.  The plan was to take the kids to play laser tag, feed them pizza and pop, watch a movie at home.  Let them play video games and then crash.

Our timing was a little bit off.  We got caught behind the caravan of school buses leaving the transfer lot.  The fellow in the car ahead of us was in no hurry.  He let all of the buses turn east on Greyhound Drive ahead of us.

The boys in my car decided to entertain themselves by interacting with the stream of "walkers".  Walkers are kids from the neighborhood who walk to school.  A couple of particularly fetching young ladies walked by.  And it turned out that the young man in the passenger seat was going to "Eight Grade Formals" with one of those two ladies.

I cannot know what was going on inside the heads of the two boys in the backseat.  I am not inside their heads.  I suspect they were envious and decided to try to embarrass the young man in the front seat.  Catcalls and lewd gestures were directed at the young ladies.  I "shushed" the catcalls.  I did not see the lewd gestures.  I was driving in stop-and-go traffic.

The young man in the front seat tried to call his lady friend on his cell but she did not pick up the call (That, I understand).  He was already in damage control mode.

Traffic flow bottlenecks at a left turn onto a two-way street.  By then we were going a little bit faster than the pedestrians and the two young ladies were behind us.  The monkeyshines peaked just before they could no longer see the young ladies.

The woman in the truck behind us thought the gestures and calls were directed at her.  She was not impressed.

I received a call from the Eaton Rapids City Police after I came home. 

Community Policing

I took Kubota into the police station the next morning.

The officer "casually interviewed" him.  She asked, "What happened?"

To his credit, Kubota was a good witness.  He said what happened in factual terms.  He added nothing.  He took nothing away.

He was contrite.  He had been carried away by the excitement of seeing girls who were not wearing parkas, the excitement of a birthday party and of being with two of his buddies.  He got carried away.

The officer shared with us that the person who filed the complaint wanted to press charges IF there was no remorse, the kids minimized the event or if the kids still thought it was funny.  The officer said that Kubota showed enough remorse that it would end here.

At that point, with just the tiniest little bit of prodding, Kubota offered to perform some community service to demonstrate remorse....because talk is cheap.  It is easy to cynically put on a show and thing it is all a big game.

Putting a little bit of skin into the game, say a couple of hours of raking leaves or washing cop cars, is enough to help the lesson sink roots.  The fact that he volunteered also triggers that cognitive dissonance mechanism.

We all screw up.

I am proud of how Kubota stepped up and took responsibility for his poor decisions.  I think he is growing up.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

April Fools and Pranks

I am a sinner.


Moe (yes, his real name) is an easy going guy.  He loves people and loves interacting with them.  He could talk with anybody.  He remembers the name of your wife and kids.  He remembers their ages and what sports they play.

He has only two deficiencies.  He is an Ohio State fan and he worked in a factory infested (his word) with Spartans and Wolverines.  And he is a Luddite, he hates computers.

His job required that he fill out a standardized report at the end of each shift.  He had to log onto his computer....for the first time of the day....and then he had to enter information from the shift's run.  It took him longer than most because he had never learned to touch-type.  He was strictly a hunt-and-peck guy.

Twas April Fools day

Twas April Fools day, and little did I know that Moe and his wife were planning to jump into the truck and drive down to Eastern Ohio to visit grand kids as soon as he could get out of the building.

About an hour before the end of the shift I snuck up to his office on the second floor.  He was out on the production floor hob-knobbing with people.  He would not be up to his office until very last thing because, like most of us, he put off the parts of the job he disliked as long as possible.

I popped the "p" key and the "q" key off of his keyboard and swapped them.  I did the same for the "m" and the "n".  Then I stealthily snuck down the back stairway and went about my business.

Five minutes after quitting time

Five minutes after quitting time I was overcome with remorse.  My original plan had been to switch the keys back the next morning.

I went back upstairs. Moe was standing in the center of his office screaming into the telephone at some poor fellow in Bangalore.  Moe's face was suffused with rich shades of magenta and purple.

Picture from HERE.  Many other beautiful photos at this site.

"Mellow Moe", the guy also known as "Moe Betta" was on the verge of heaving his computer through the plate glass window.

He was on his third password reset.  It appears that his original password had either an "m", "n", "p" or a "q"  in it.  The IT center in Bangalore had a stock password that changed each day.  It appears that the stock password also had an "m", "n", "p" or a "q" in it.

The poor fellow in Bangalore was trying to figure out how to expedite a computer replacement and still manage a hard-drive swap.  You see, somebody had set up Moe's desktop and he was incapable of navigating on anybody else's computer.

I quietly sat down in his chair and switched the keys back.


Mostly I am going to leave that to your imagination.  It was at least a month before I could look Moe in the eye.  His face would turn red every time he saw me.

In some ways I was lucky.  He could have had a stroke.  He could have been so late that he had a traffic accident.  He could have pitched the computer out of the second story window and hurt somebody.  The company could have scrapped out a perfectly good computer.

Moe is a perfectly mature adult.  Except when he is sitting in front of a computer.  Then he is a child.  It is cruel to play "mean" tricks on children.  Even when the child is in his fifties.

Friday, March 28, 2014

A Little bit of in-state Humor

Cubic Inches: Part IV

Well, that was humbling.

Large Families

One of the advantages of belonging to a large German-Irish-Polish-Ukranian-Croatian Catholic family is that they have a wealth of skills to draw upon.  Family members are often eager to share their innermost thoughts and feelings. 

Cousin Timmy got his advanced degrees in Wood Chemistry and moved to Wisconsin.  We have not had a lot of interactions since then.  Cousin Timmy is a really smart guy and I think he might be helping me out.

Please understand that email between family members is often more causal than business memos.  Cousin Timmy probably did not anticipate that I would post this email on my blog.

Joe, you moron:


You MORON.  Engineers never change.  Good science involves replicating previous results before attempting to improve the process. It is arrogant of you to assume that you can do better than 800 years of evolution.

Didn't you ever think that flour/starch had probably been tried and rejected about a thousand times already?

You noted in one of your earlier posts on propellant that the process bottleneck for combustion is the availability of the carbon due to its high vaporization temperature.

Wood cells are like egg shells.  They retain that shape even after they are turned to char.

A little bit of math shows a two ounce egg has about 10 square inches of surface area.  Two ounces of egg shells have about 210 square inches of surface area.

You dope.  It is not about "Cubic Inches."  It is about "Square" inches....that is, the collective surface area of the charcoal you are using.

Yes, you can grind charred cornstarch pretty fine.   But the grains are still egg shaped.

You want to use the same types of wood that were used in the 1800s.  They were "go-fer" wood, the kind of wood you threw on the fire and immediately had to "go fer more".

They are white-woods with no visible summer wood, that is, no visible growth rings.  You want finely pored wood (i.e. small cells).  You want wood with low density, that is, cells with thin walls.

You need to stop pissing around with corn starch and start from the beginning.  You need to replicate with charcoal made from willow, aspen, cottonwood, alder or maybe basswood.


Thank-you cousin Timmy.  I will take your sage advice under advisement.  I plan to use up the cornstarch based charcoal that I have already made up.  Then, when the rain stops, I am going out back and cut some "cookies" out of a hybrid poplar that toppled this year.

Again, thank-you.

Frustration with the Medical System

I don't share much about medical issues because they are so intensely private.  I hope to be able to nibble around the edges enough to give you guys a feel for what is going on.  It is my hope that I can leave enough unsaid to protect the privacy of the individuals involved.

A few weeks back...

One of our family members had a minor change made to the meds they are taking.  It seemed like a good idea at the time.  All the arrows were pointing in the direction that this was a good adjustment.

It turned into a slow moving train wreck.

A call was made to our Doctor at 10:30 at night.  She directed us to admit the patient to the hospital via the Emergency Room.  She went to medical school.  I did not.  She prescribed the various medicines and knows the side effects and the various "acceptable" signs of an effective up-titer or down-titer.  She said "Go!"

We went.

That trip to the E-Room resulted in a four day hospital stay as medicines were adjusted and monitored via blood and urine tests and other symptoms exhibited by the patient.

The Insurance Company

The health insurance company is pushing back. 

Based on the information they have at this time, their artificial intelligence program indicates that there was a "reasonable" chance that the med adjustments could have been handled on an out-patient basis.

Pending investigation, they are withholding payment.

In a perfect world I would be able to bill the insurance company for tmy time they are obliging me to commit to chasing down the documentation and details.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Coaching Young Soccer Players

My oldest daughter, the one in Baton Rouge will be coaching soccer.  The kids are seven and eight.  She has eight kids on her team.  She has been coaching 13 year olds and been enjoying it.  She is baffled by these young kids.

I was thrilled when she called and asked for a little bit of advice.

This is what I told her.

Keep expectations low

The priorities are
  • Keep it safe
  • Keep it fun
  • Keep them moving
  • Maybe teach them a little bit about soccer.


Keep it safe and fun

Don't practice more than half an hour without some kind of water break.  Part of the fun is the socializing.  Plus, she is going to be having them move more than they are used to.

Slow the kids down a little bit if they start getting bonkers.  But mostly let them play.

Snacks are a big part of soccer when you are a young kid.

Keep them moving

With all of the "hyper" kids you would not think this is a problem.  But it is.  Too much TV.

Dead time is bad.  That is where you are talking at them.

Most drills are high-dead time and it is debatable that many of the skills you drill on will get executed in a game.

"Games" like keep-away and scrimmages are GOOD.

Always ask yourself, is there any way I can increase the number of balls in play? Can they play keep-away with two balls instead of one?  Is there any way I can piggyback skills...Example: If the keep-away is done on a smaller "pitch" then many out-of-bounds will result.  That is a great time to practice throw-ins.

Keep them moving Part II

Another way to keep them moving is to go "fat" in the middle.  Have one "striker", three "mid-fielders", and one stopper and one sweeper.  Those young kids will want to run the entire field anyway.  Teaching position is harder when kids have to keep left-and-right in their brain as well as which sector along the length of the field is theirs.

Keep them moving Part III

Pay attention to how often you use the whistle.  If you are blowing it more than once a minute you are blowing it too often.  If you blow it less than once every five minutes you are missing teaching opportunities.

Remember, remember, can blow the whistle to call attention to a player who is doing something particullarly well.  For example, that kid who is not near the ball but is perfectly positioned for a pass or a shot.  Or maybe it is the stopper who is roaming the half-field line waiting to pounce on the ball and push it back up the field.

Maybe teach them a little bit of soccer along the way

Better Soccer, More Fun: A website that does a nice job talking about teaching soccer to young kids.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Belladonna got invited to the Prom

Belladonna had an unusual little skippity-jump in her walk as she came out the the minivan after "The Battle of the Sexes."  Some young fellow I never heard of had invited her to the prom.

Five seconds later Kubota punctured the afterglow with, "Dad put Oreo down."

Don't ask questions when you don't want to know the answer

"Dad.  You took him to the vet.  Right?"

No answer.

"Dad.  You took him to the vet.  Right?"

"Do you really want to know the answer?"

"Dad.  You took him to the vet.  Right?"
"Do you really want to know the answer?"

"Dad, I would not ask if I did not want to know the answer."

"Bella, I shot him in the head."

Things did not go well after that.


Looking back, I think part of Belladonna's grieving is that the "Dad" of her imagination died.  The pliant, pleasant, joking guy she thought she knew did something unexpected. 

Another part is grieving is the death of our middle class status.  We no longer can afford to pay people to do things we can do for ourselves.  Why pay money for iced tea when we can make if for one quarter of the cost?  We are letting go of those markers of status. 

Mrs ERJ also had a piercing observation:  Vets do not like to put dogs down.  They bust their butts to save them.  Putting dogs down tears their hearts to pieces.  We are not doing the vet any favors by taking in the family pooch.  Putting down Oreo the way I did was not as sacred and stately  as a church service.  But it was calm, dignified and fitting.  Oreo was in a wonderful place and in a peaceful state of mind when the switch was flipped.

In the final analysis, most of Belladonna's grief was because she lost another facade that stands between the innocence of youth and the fact of our own, bodily mortality.  Having a third party, a vet, do the deed does not knock down that facade and stamp it into the dirt the same way as when your own, beloved dad is the agent of death.

Some parts of growing up suck.

Putting Dogs Down

Today's major task is to put down one of our dogs.  He entered our household as a young dog.  He came with issues but we worked around them.  In retrospect his dysfunctions may have been manifestations of dysfunctions within our family.  Perhaps Oreo was like the swine in Mark 5:9-13

Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” The unclean Spirit replied, “Legion is my name. There are many of us.” And he pleaded earnestly with him not to drive them away from that territory. Now a large herd of swine was feeding there on the hillside. And they pleaded with him, “Send us into the swine. Let us enter them.” And he let them, and the unclean spirits came out and entered the swine. The herd of about two thousand rushed down a steep bank into the sea, where they were drowned.
 If so, the Oreo was a hero.

He is now thirteen or fourteen.  His "nipping" graduated to full-fledged biting.  He broke the skin on Kubota's wrist.

It is time.

Telling kids

One of the hardest things has been telling the kids, but not for the reasons you think.

At this point, there is little love for the dog.  But we still owe the dog dignity and we have very different views of what that entails.

Having been the guy who transported various sick, broken, and old dogs to the vet for that final time....they know.  It is not the clean, antiseptic, painless procedure that my kids want to envision.  The dogs know.

My vision of a dignity is to walk the dog out to a favorite place, one where he has busted pheasant and bunnies.  Tie a long leash to a tree.  Sit down about twenty yards away.  Let the dog explore and settle down. It might take a minute.  It might take half an hour. Say good-bye and pull the trigger.

I have done the deed both ways and much prefer the second way.


It strikes me as ironic that the second way will put some people in a tizzy.  Fortunately, I don't think very many of those people read my blog.

In my mind's eye, those people are pro-euthanasia and pro-abortion.  In theory they are all for dignity, self-determination and clinical efficiency.  They really want to forget that there are people in the loop actually doing those things.

It is the same naive thinking that cause people to imagine that flushing waste down a toilet makes it cease to exist, that they will always have reliable power at every receptical without dead birds/fish/lizards or carbon emmissions somewhere, that every farmer in Iowa can switch to growing environmentally friendly baby-salad mix and they will still have bacon bits to sprinkle on top..

As a young person I did not understand how the old guys could put their own dogs down.  I have a better understanding now.

How Much Information

Much discussion passed between Mrs ERJ and me regarding how much to tell the kids and when to tell them.  My inclination was full disclosure but I am deferring to her judgement in this regard.

Mrs ERJ's concern is that their anxiety will rise to a crescendo and they will be debilitated by the knowledge.  Her thinking is that it should almost be like a dog getting hit by a car.  You just never know when a dog will see another dog on the other side of the street and dart across.

The kids know.  They know that it will be this week.

The Remains

Forgive the pun but the remains remain a challenge.  The ground is frozen.  Part of my job will be to find a suitable place to inter his remains.  We have ten acres, much of which is scenic.

When my time comes I want my remains to be planted someplace where the soil needs the fertility...much like Mark Twain's aunt who was planted beneath the grapevines.

A final lesson

Advanced age is not a license to snap at people.  I will be well advised to keep this in mind as I get older.  After all, what comes around goes around.


Oreo was buried beneath a young Burr Oak (Q. macrocarpa) on a rise in the southwest corner of my property.

He will get a log cairn over his remains and I planted a ByronGold plum to mark the spot.  I wanted something that attracts raccoons, possum and squirrels and has attractive flowers in the spring.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Duck Dynasty's Jessica Robertson

Fox interviewed Jessica Robertson regarding her upcoming book.

The more I see about the Robertson clan the more I am impressed.  Not only is Jessica a pleasant looking young lady, she is also quite gracious and discrete.

She talks easily about important things in her life and knows when to stop talking.

Jep did well for himself.

Monday, March 24, 2014

I still HATE Taxes

Still churning my way through the taxes.

My former employer mailed my W-2(s) in two separate envelops.  When I entered Box 12 into Turbo Tax the bottom of the drop-down list was cut off and I entered 12D instead of 12DD.  Those little subtleties had me owing more than $12,000 in additional taxes.

That was truly heart stopping.

I got that sorted out but I still have to grind through miscellaneous and charities.

The portion of the code about High Deductible Health Insurance is brutal.  We switched to my wife as primary health insurance when I retired.

Tennessee Riding Goats

Kubota has a birthday coming up.

He is enchanted by all things with wheels and motors.  I think part of it is that he is a big guy and he sees no logic in breaking into a sweat when technology exists.

He has been told the old bromide about "If it wears lipstick or has sparkplugs, it is going to cost you money and cause you heartache."  But to no avail.

As his birthday nears, his curiosity has become boundless.  He keeps dropping helpful hints regarding his preferences of Silverados vs. F-150s vs. Ram pickups.  He leaves magazines open to pages of pictures with dirt bikes and quads flying through the air.

He pummels us with questions.  His curiosity regarding what he will get for his birthday is boundless.  He fixates almost to the point of pathology. I am getting tired and beaten down.

His Lady

His lady rides horses.  He has gone to watch her ride a few times.  Being able to do things with your lady is a great thing.

Retired, not much money

It is not as if I am proud of the fact. But as a coach in a rec league, I learned that you play the roster you are given as best you can.

I firmly believe that we played on game day the way we practiced all week long.  Sloppy, don't-give-a-rat's-azz practice yields sloppy, lackadaisical play on Saturday night.  Running a tight ship resulted in minor surprises damping down and not tipping us over.

It is the same with money.



One of the cost savings associated with Tennessee Riding Goats is that they do not require bridles and such.  They are steered by the horns, much like Peter Fonda's chopper in Easy Rider.

I am going to ask a few friends to leave some calls on the home phone number.  They will be "responding" to inquiries about the "Riding Goats" they have for sale.  I expect the will be telling me about how the Billy Goats are much cheaper because of their vile tempers and stench.

Kubota always makes a bee-line to the answering machine every time he enters the house.  He knows his dad pretty well.  I expect that he will be quiet concerned that I will go for the bargain.

I am also asking around to see if anybody is willing to do some minor photoshop work for me.

I don't suppose you guys know of anybody who sells goat saddles, do you?

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Punji Sticks

Carl S. was a Vietnam vet and fanatical bow hunter. He owned 10 acres.  It was not much but it was his.

On the east side of his property he had a swamp hole.  Deer funneled through it as they moved from the oak woods to the north and east to the standing corn that was planted between his house and this stand.  It was a very productive place to put a tree stand.

It was about this time of year when Carl decided to pull the stand.  He generally left them through the winter but pulled them before the coons started szitting on them in the spring/summer/early fall.

Carl had been doing a little bit of maintenance through the winter.  It had been a winter like this one.  Much snow.  Much blowing and drifting.  He got out a few times and cut a few more shooting lanes and an access trail.  Carl kept rotating the lanes.  They would grow shut with brush and he simple found it easier to cut new ones through more mature growth.  There were fewer stems to cut and it went faster.

Gray Dogwood.  1.25" diameter. 
8" to 10" long.  Slanting cut is due to jabbing loppers down into the snow to cut the stem as close to the ground as possible.
The pictures shown above are from my place but it is the same species that Carl was cutting, Cornus racemosa.  "Cornus" derives from "horn" as in "Unicorn" = an animal with one horn.  The genus earned this name by way of it exceedingly hard, white wood. 

Carl's honeyhole was downwind of an open cornfield.  Snow blew in from the field and filled in the dogwood thickets with snow.  Carl is a bit like me.  He got impatient.  He did  not wait for the snow to melt.  Perhaps he had cabin fever.  He did his cutting when the snow was on the ground.

The fateful day that Carl chose to pull his treestand was in the middle of a week of freeze-thaw.  The days were warm and sunny.  The nights were cold.  It was maple sugar season.

Carl climbed the treestand ladder and undid the strap.  Carl said that he was leaning out to undo the strap, one of the ladder legs punched through the ice crust with an audible "Pop!"  In that instant, he knew something very bad was going down.  Carl had neglected to put on the lower, safety strap.

He intuitively calculated the trajectory.  He knew where he was going to land.  It was in the middle of a bed of 18" tall punji sticks.  Carl served in 'Nam as an E-5. Unlike many who went to Viet Nam, he spent significant time out in the pucker brush.  He knew more about punji sticks than any mortal ought ever know.

He bailed.

That was a good decision.  He really did not have any other viable options.  In most cases he would have been OK.  He would have landed in the damp, soft, black peaty soil and may have pulled a muscle....he would have been OK.

His screw-up is that he thought too quickly.  He dropped down right next to the trunk.

Trees that grow in swamps often have buttressed bases similar to this tree.  Carl landed on the base like a set of Jarts; pointy ends down.

After screaming until out of breath and wiping the tears from his eyes, Carl looked down and saw his feet sticking out sideways from his legs.

He crawled back home, out of the swamp, across the muddy corn field.  He dragged the phone off the counter by the wire.  He called 9-1-1.

The Orthopedic surgeon was amazed.  All of the bones that interlaced to form Carl's ankles had "unzipped" without breaking.  That is not uncommon with children.  Children's bones are like stiff rubber.  They are bendy.  Having the bones unzip is a rarity among adults because our bones are more highly mineralized and are more brittle.  For being unlucky, Carl had been very, very lucky.

The surgeons knitted and purled their way around each ankle and popped the end of each bone back into place.  Then they put him into rehab.

This is one of the stories I remember when I am out cutting brush.  Like Carl, I became impatient.  I just could not wait any longer.  It has been that kind of winter.  Looking at the Punji sticks I left behind gives me the heebie-jeebies.  I for darned sure keep my boot laces tied.  No way in heck do I want to trip.

Old man winter is not loosening his grip.  I just keep slipping further and further behind.

Sunday Thought: Hymns as Love Songs

I cannot figure out how to embed this video. 

This is the fun part of the post.


The next time you are in church, listen to to words of the songs in terms of them being a love song.  Jesus uses the metaphor of Groom/Bride/Wedding night many times.

I know that many of us have trouble getting to church every Sunday.  Sometimes it is work related.  Sometimes we are between churches.  Sometimes we are:  Just. Too. Tired.  Lent is a great time to get back into the habit.

This is the more thoughtful part of the post.  I love the gentleness of this hymn and that it sounds good even when sung with a mediocre voice.

---Disclosure:  This song was played during the wedding ceremony when Mrs ERJ and I got hitched. 
End Disclosure---

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Being Interviewed in Front of Cameras

This is an exercise in being interviewed.  I apologize for the length of this video.  It is eight minutes long.  You will not need to watch the entire video.

The first thing I want you to do is to turn off the sound on your computer.  Turn it completely off.

Notice the downward direction of his glance?  You will see two klieg lights reflected in his glasses as his head bobs. At 1:26 you will see a brief head bob when a klieg light directly above his head and to his right is reflected.  At 2:13-2:15 you can see there is also one to his left.  He is in the middle of a Hasbro Easy-Bake Oven.  Toast is on the menu.

His eyes are watering at 2:39.

By 3:40 he is channeling Richard M. Nixon as his forehead and cheeks start to glisten with sweat.  What do you expect when you have 1200 W of lighting pointing at you and you are wearing a suit and tie....perhaps suggested by the interview team.

The interviewer emotes reasonableness and impartiality.  Later events transpire that suggest he has a vested interest in the event.  But by then the interviewee is but a minor footnote in history.

The interview is not going the way the interviewee hoped.  He sees that he is trapped.  His pupils are still large.  Maybe he had a little bit of medicinal you-know-what beforehand to calm down.  Maybe one of the sympathetic stagehands even offered it to him and stood watch so he would not get busted.  Those large pupils are destroying him in that lighting.

Or perhaps he is just highly charged from an emotional standpoint.  That will also make your pupils large.

4:44.  He is screwed and he knows it.  The region between his eyebrows is sheeting sweat.  He is melting.

5:30.  The interviewer is going in for the kill.  He is interrupting every sentence.  The interviewee has a message and it is constructed of well honed sentences.  The message is demolished when he can not finish a complete thought.  The interviewee's frustration grows.

6:44.  The interviewee just wants it to be over.  He knows that he is the designated whipping boy.  But there is no way he can gracefully exit.

7:10.  Pictures of the saint that the interviewee was bullying.  Inset of interviewee with flushed, sweating, angry looking face, struggling to make eye contact with the camera.

7:21 Interviewer pummels interviewee with a 20 second question.  Interviewer owns the camera.

THAT is why one should only grant video interviews to outlets you KNOW are sympathetic.

Mr Shirvell, the interviewee, lost his job and was sued for $4,500,000 in Federal court on the basis of that interview.

As a sidenote, I wonder if Mireille Miller-Young will receive equal "justice".

Associate Professor Mireille Miller-Young

This post will not be about Associate Professor Mireille Miller-Young's boorish behavior.  Sadly, boorish behavior is not novel or newsworthy.  The behaviors shown by Miller-Young are required credentials for professional victims.

So why did this story get traction in the mainstream media?

Reason number one:  Not just one, but two reasonably photogenic targets.

Reason Two: Story captured on video and posted to parallel media first.

Document, document, document.
Short captured much of the incident, which she charged was a "deliberate" provocation by Miller-Young, on a cellphone video later posted to YouTube

Reason Three: The targets pressed charges

Bullies succeed through intimidation.  Part of that intimidation is through passive-aggression.  They twist the narrative and bind their target through shame and fear.

The Short family did not accept the twisted narrative.  They demonstrated fortitude and righteousness.  They exercised the system.
Miller-Young was charged with one misdemeanor count each of theft, battery and vandalism in the March 4 incident, Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce Dudley announced Friday. The charges came days after 16-year-old Thrin Short and her parents met with prosecutors.

Reason Four: An abundance of physical evidence.

I have put down dogs for less than what is shown in these pictures.

Reason Five:  Miller-Young is not photogenic

Modern media is driven by visual images.  I don't defend that position.  I merely report what I believe to be fact.

Reason Six: Miller-Young is a caricature of a Liberal Intellectual

Miller-Young plays into many of the stereotypes of a Liberal Intellectual from the affection of her hyphenated name to her fields of expertise.

Miller-Young, whose faculty web page says she specializes in black cultural studies and pornography...

There is a body of aggrieved people who will believe every vile accusation that might be made about Miller-Young. 

Reason Seven:  Miller-Young's monumental ineptitude in handling the situation

We all do dumb things.  Adults cool off, assess the situation and apologize.  If we are in really deep doo-doo we seek professional advice.  I see no evidence that Miller-Young did any of these things.

She did not cool off. She did not assess the situation. She kept doubling down.  A bad move when you have a pair of deuces in your hand.

Rather than apologize she is quoted as saying

In the report filed by campus police, she claimed she had a "moral right" to act in the manner she did.

 Is the tide turning?

Some hope that this will be a watershed event.  That it is a harbinger of the mainstream media holding self-appointed elites to the standards of accountability that the rest of us enjoy.

I think not.

However, this event can provide a functional template of how to get one's side of the story out even when the deck is stacked against you.


  • Video.  That means a team of three if a confrontation is anticipated.  The "actor", the person shooting the video and a third person to provide situational awareness for the person shooting the video.
  • Do not bait or antagonize.  Video does not lie. Truly stupid people do not need any help being stupid.  It is their special gift.
  • Protect physical evidence
  • Parallel media first.
  • Press charges.  Crimes were committed.
  • Make spokesperson/people as photogenic as possible.  Get professional advice about what photographs and videos well.  
  • If interviewed in front of cameras, choose a sympathetic outlet.  If you are not sure that the outlet is sympathetic, stick with no-video policy.  Any producer can make you look like an evasive liar by shining bright lights directly into your eyes.  You will blink, turn your head and appear to be avoiding "eye contact".  You can be pure of heart and God can be in your soul...but that producer can make you act like you are lying your azz off.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Romantic Songs

It has been an uphill fight.  I am trying to convince Kubota to learn a few romantic songs to sing to his lady.

They had a spat yesterday and he needs to do a little bit of repair.

A little bit of Otis Redding, Percy Sledge, Bill Withers, Van Morrison or Lionel Richie.  It does not cost a dime and is far more romantic than anything he can buy with somebody else's money.

Any favorites from my readers will be much appreciated.

The only downside to writing this kind of post is when Mrs ERJ reads it and wants me to start singing to her.

Cubic Inches, Part III


193.7 fps

ERJ propellent 2.0 was tested.  I do not know if it was completely dry but I am an impatient kind of guy.

16 ounces of corn starch was charcoalized until no more gasses were being given off.  To my surprise, it was almost like a switch being flipped.  I measured 3.5 ounces of char (including the weight of the bag.)

I had 2.7 ounces of charcoal after two trips through the grain grinder.  A huge difference from the 11 ounces from ERJ-P 1.0.

I combined it with 11 ounces of commercially available potassium nitrate.  I dry stirred it.  Then wet with 6.0 ounces of 70% isopropyl alcohol.  Paste was passed through grinder one more time.

Paste was fluffed up with fork and dried under a heat lamp until isopropyl smell was gone.  Material was sifted to eliminate big chunks.  100 grains were measured out. and fired as before.

No hang fire was detected.

Audible "POP" at firing.

Chrony registered 193.7 fps.

I was pretty happy to see some progress. In terms of  "energy" the new batch generated about 9.5 times more kinetic energy in the projectile than ERJ-P 1.0

The Plan

Continue drying it out for two more days and replicate test.  I really do not know if this batch is completely dry or not.

Go to Yea-Old-Big-Box store and buy more corn starch.  My plan is to test multiple batches of propellant with varying amounts of charcoal.

Design of Experiment:  

KNO3 standardized at 10 ounces as that is an easy batch size to handle. 

Ounces charcoal           % Charcoal (of total)
       1.5                                 13%
       2.0                                 17%
       3.0                                 23%
       3.5                                 26%
       4.0                                 29%
       4.5                                 31% <====maximum listed in literature

Addendum added March 25:  

A small quantity of ERJ-P 2.0 was dried with a heat lamp overnight.  100 grains was loaded up and fired as before.  367 fps was measured.  That is about 3.5 times more energy than the 196 fps measured with the "green" powder:  Take home lesson,  Make sure your powder is dry.

To be continued

Making Sugar

The Captain has access to many, mature sugar maple trees.

He is making sugar this week.

Stack has guy-wires.  Wood splitting station in background.  Very wet ground.
The Captain runs a three station operation.  Big tub is pre-boil.  Rectangular tub closer to stack is second boil.  Canning and finish boil is in kitchen.  This stuff burns easily once it gets to syrup stage.

Fiberglass used as gasketing.  The Captain let me hammer on the ends of this tub to curve them inboard to fit the stack and round wash tub with less leakage.  Frustrated by taxes I was overjoyed to have a chance to hit things with a hammer.

Picture of the Captain bringing out the first of the sap and a dipper.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

I Hate Taxes

It is that time of year.

I am in a foul mood.  I am in avoidance mode. 

I hate taxes.

What is Jason Greenslate's "fair share" of my paycheck?

Jason Greenslate is a rational 29 year old from the state of California.  He determined that he was better off receiving $60,000 worth of benefits in California for zero hours of work ($60,000/0.0 = infinity) than to move to South Dakota, work 2000 hours and receive $80,000 (gross).

The Tax Industry

In previous years I had an accounting firm do my taxes.  I paid an embarrassing amount of money for the service.  My early professional life was messy from a financial standpoint.  I wised up fairly early and simplified my financial life.  But I still kept going back to the CPAs.  To their credit, they advised me that I could have taxes done elsewhere much more cost effectively.  Inertia kept me there.

Taxes are intimidating.  It is one of the dark corners where one is guilty until one can produce documentation proving otherwise.

This is my first year of cranking through my taxes on my own.

I hate taxes.


I love Mrs ERJ.  She is sweet.  She is trusting.  She believes in charity.  Honesty forces me to admit that I have received countless benefit from Mrs ERJ.  She lets me commandeer 60% of the refrigerator every spring for my projects.

I wish that Mrs ERJ's awesomeness was my little secret.  Unfortunately, every charity in the western hemisphere has Mrs ERJ's number on speed dial. 

I wondered why we had so many pieces of "junk mail" coming in with complimentary return address labels.  Now I know.  She gave them money.

It started out innocently enough.  It was Vernon from St Johns, Arizona.  He claimed to be a disabled vet and he had a distinctive voice redolent of age, low humidity, unfiltered cigarettes and high octane whiskey.  He ended every paragraph with "God Bless!"  Mrs ERJ gave him some money and we received some $2 per bag trash bags.

I think Vernon belonged to a fraternity.  The crib notes for the quiz were archived.  Pretty soon "Vernon" was calling from Florida and Nebraska and Puerto Rico and Bangalor.  Little did we know that the disabled vets had an alliance with the Broward County Thespian and Absinthe Sipping Society.

The things one learns about one's spouse, and the world, when doing their own taxes.

I hate taxes.

There is an upside

I have gotten a great deal done around the house while in avoidance mode.

Picture to follow.

The Meat of Strangled Animals

One of the pivotal moments in the diffusion of Christianity occurred when the apostles met to decide whether salvation was open to Gentiles, and if so, what Mosaic Laws must be honored by those Gentiles.

In Acts 15: 20  James issues the following ruling:
"...tell avoid pollution from idols, unlawful marriage, the meat of strangled animals, and blood."
So why does "avoid the meat of strangled animals" rate co-billing on the marque with the first commandment?  That is a riddle.

Cultural Materialism

Marvin Harris tells us that cultural riddles are rarely maladaptive responses of dysfunctional societies.  Marvin Harris goes on to demonstrate that those "riddles" are often highly adaptive responses to environmental challenges.  Those responses are often highly nuanced to comprehend local resource scarcities.  The onus is on the observer to achieve the proper perspective and focal plane if we are to understand the richness of the culture that is under study.

It is too easy for us to dismiss those riddles in our arrogance of resource abundance.  We deprive ourselves of a chance to learn something if we do not explore reasons why some rule or taboo might make sense.  That is not to say that the person who tells us of these taboos is fully aware of the economics that under-gird the situation.  Very likely, they believe that God issued the taboo.

Strangled meat

In your imagination, place yourself into a stereotypical, middle-Eastern village in the year 800 B.C.  Imagine that it is a small village (12-to-20 dwellings).  Also imagine that it is fairly isolated.  Perhaps it is near a spring or on a favorable stretch of a river.  The nearest village is 3 miles away which necessitates a two hour round trip to visit.

Where would strangled meat come from in that small village?


The problem with snares is that they are too effective, too cheap and too lethal.  Snares are little more than 18" of limp twine or wire.  They work around the clock.  They require no bait.  It is within the bounds of the possible that every dwelling could maintain 20 snares on a continuous basis.

That number of snares could easily disrupt the economy of the village.

American Boy's Handybook by Daniel Carter Beard.  This is a beautiful set.  It requires very little non-native material, it funnels traffic and it exploits the natural habits of the target species to travel along the ground.  This set would typically be placed in paths leading to open water,  dusting sites or grit deposits.

Ah-ha, you think you got me.  They did not have metal wire for snares...  Perhaps, but they did have horse and human hair.  They also had the capability to make deadfalls which would result in meat that had not been bled out.

Do you see anything unusual about the mouse in the lower left corner of this picture? This was a baseboard set.   The trap was originally placed slightly further to the left with the trigger aligned with a natural runway between the blackboard ((leaning against other side of wall) and the baseboard. 

It is easy to visualize the decimation of a village's poultry, lambs, cats and dogs by way of snares and deadfalls.  Traps will capture non-target animals even when placed with the greatest of care.

Yup.  I caught a bat with a baseboard set.
Teenage boys are always hungry.  I can picture them considering Aunt Miriam's prize hen to be quite a windfall if they were only expecting to catch a 6 ounce quail.  I also believe that most teenage boys are tone-deaf to sensitivity and situational ethics.  They are, however, calibrated to the wrath of God.

The injunction does not prohibit traps.  Traps are too useful for capturing predators when used with discretion.  The law prohibits eating the meat, thereby eliminating any incentive to set traps that might destroy Aunt Miriam's flock and possibly triggering a feud that no village can afford.

Back to James

Perhaps James realized that the prohibition against strangled meat was like the keystone of an arch.  The integrity of the entire structure is controlled by the keystone in many ways that are not obvious. The keystone must be cunningly cut and placed. The keystone throws the longest shadow. The keystone must be protected. 

The prohibition against strangled meat (snares) protected the village economy and ecosystem.  In those days they were identically the same.  Accidentally burning down all the brush within walking distance of the village would result in no joy.  Ditto for polluting the well.  Economy and ecosystem share the same root, "oikos", Greek for home.  The distinction between the two is a modern conceit.

The prohibition against strangled meat put an impermeable wall against the temptation of bush meat...and roasting Aunt Miriam's chickens that had been snared on the way to the dusting beds.

The prohibition thus shut off the most likely path to blood feuds that would destroy the village.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Grey Man -Vignettes- : Book Review


The Grey Man -Vignettes- by J.L. Curtis

This book caused me to postpone my bed time.  The last book that was engaging enough for me to forgo my beauty sleep was Red Storm Rising written by a hack named Tom Clancy.

Is the book perfect?  No.  There are still a few loose ends, story line wise, that beg a prequel and at least a couple of sequels.  Some people will not see that as a grave flaw.  Those same flaws did not seem to cripple Clancy's career.

It seems like I should write something negative about this book to establish my objectivity.  It is required in serious book reviews. 

I struggle with writing anything negative because TGM-V- is a self published book.  It is 1000 times better than anything I will ever write.  TGM-V- would be a little bit stronger if it were more tightly edited.  But asking an author to edit his own work is like asking a 3rd grader to drown puppies.  It is an unnatural act and it is a tribute to JL Curtis that this book is as awesome as it is.

Will this change your life? Maybe.  I know I went out to Yea-Ole-Big-Box Store and bought one of these.

I highly recommend The Grey Man if you enjoy realistic thrillers that will increase your need for caffeine the next morning.

Embedded Energy: Food

Suppose I offered you an exclusive investment opportunity.  As a careful reader you soon deduce that this company GUARANTEES that it will turn grubby, dirty, polluted $20 bills into crisp, new one dollar bills.



I just ate a portion of Stouffer's frozen, Five Cheese Lasagna.  It costs about $1 per serving.  Each serving contains approximately 250 Cal.  My gut feel is that the aluminum pan and cover represented at least another 250 Cal per serving.  Energy is embedded in growing the food, transporting the food, processing the food, assembling the food, freezing the assembly, putting the assembly into an attractive cardboard coffin, transporting the coffin, keeping the coffin frozen in the store, and cooking the assembly (135 minutes at 400 degrees F).  It is probable that 50 Calories were expended for every Calorie that was hoisted upon my fork.  That is, the 250 Calories I swallowed required 12,500 Calories to produce and deliver.

One foot on the dock and the other in the canoe

That which cannot be sustained will not be sustained.  However, we must all survive the short term.

One thoughtful way to approach this issue is to throw a few dollars at those items and producers who are relatively efficient in terms of Calories-on-fork/Calories-used-to-produce.  Throwing a few dollars their way will keep them in business which may turn out to be a very good thing.

Food that looks like its original state and is robust enough to not require special packaging tends to be energy efficient.  Apples and other local fruit lead the list.  They do not even need to be cooked.

The other end of the spectrum are delicate, perishable unmentionables that must be flown from the far side of the globe.  Raspberries in January and South American farm raised salmon come to mind.


The other thing that every consumer can do is to reduce waste.  That bell pepper that got moldy in the refrigerator does not represent 100 Calories.  It represents 10,000 Calories.

This presents a bit of a dilemma.  That Little Debbie yum-yum represents a great deal of embedded energy but it has the shelf life of Egyptian Royalty*.  The foods that have the least embedded energy often have shorter shelf lives.

The elegant solution is to be aware.  Pay attention.  Know what you will eat, and how much.  The examined life is well worth living.

*"...shelf life of Egyptian Royalty"  term stolen from writer Barbara Kingsolver.  She was writing about fresh, in-clove garlic.


We have eight ducklings.

Today is a day that only ducks would enjoy.  40 degrees Fahrenheit, drizzling.

The ducks are gloriously messy.  They splatter everywhere.  They are unrepentant slobs.


Jo, the secretary up at the High School informed me that Belladonna named all eight ducks.  For some inexplicable reason, she saw fit to name all eight of them "Kubota".

Bath time

See their grubbiness and seeing the puddles of standing water I decided to give the ducklings a bath.  I found a tub, ran tap water into it (about 65 degrees because it has been sitting in our accumulator. 

I tossed in the ducks and then walked out to the mailbox and back.

Hey, wait.  I only counted 7 little heads bobbing?

And there were three other heads rapidly losing altitude.

It only takes two things to fly.  Altitude, pilot skill and air speed.  Pick any two.  Body temperature should be added to that list if you are a duck.

Their grubby feathers were not capable of insulating them, even from the 65 degree water.

Four of the birds are under a heat lamp, prostrate and shivering.  The other four are cussing me out like sailors.

Another 'speriment gone bad.

I hope to have it sorted out before the kids come home.

Slop, Hysteresis and Lag Time

Slop, hysteresis or lag time is the bane of all controllers.

Picture yourself driving a very old, very beat up dump-truck.  The steering gear has beau coup slop internally and the rubber bushings that it nestled snugly within are but a distant, hazy memory. 

You constantly fight to stay in your lane.  You hand-over-hand to the right until you have feedback of a correction....only to slingshot over to the other side of the lane...and beyond.  You feverishly hand-over-hand to the left and narrowly avert customizing the side of the Toyota that was blithely driving in the lane to your right.  Left side, right side, left side.  Never a moment's peace.  Never a predictable response.

So it is with life.

Iced Tea

Kubota has been a bear to get up in the morning.  He has been enjoying cold iced tea.  I mixed up a gallon and put it in the refrigerator.  Kubota got up in the middle of the night for a snack, saw the iced tea and decided to have a glass.

Mmmmm!  Good!

And another glass....and another.  Yes.  It has caffeine.

He woke me up at 5:00 this morning because he was bored and lonely.  He was watching the Simpson's TV DVD.

There was less than an inch of iced tea left in the jug.

It will be an interesting day at the Eaton Rapids Middle School.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Hypochondria, final post

I took Belladonna in to see the old curmudgeon.

Belladonna was not diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis.  That is why you go to a family doctor and not a student in a nursing program for medical advice.  The family doctor has all of your records and history.

Her symptoms are consistent with titer-up/titer-down side effects of a medication she is taking.  That is, she is likely to get neurological symptoms if she gets sloppy about taking her med and misses a few days here and a few days there.  Well, "Da!" she is sixteen.

The plan is for her to religiously take her med and record it in her phone.  Then, if the symptoms do not abate she can look at her phone to see if she missed taking the med.  If it proves impossible for us to reliably deliver the med, there are other choices that are less sensitive to titer-up/titer-down issues.

As far as I am concerned, that was a happy ending.

Cubic Inches (continued)

Too poor to paint.  Too proud to whitewash.  Test 1.0 on ERJ propellant, 64-point-05 Feet Per Second

Slow Pitch Softball, Anybody?

I became impatient. and wanted to see what ERJ Propellant t would do.

I loaded 100 grains, weighed on a balance scale.  I used Hornady 50 caliber, 385 grain Great Plains Maxi-bullets (#6620) as the pay load.  The launching platform is a CVA .50 caliber "Wolf"muzzle loader.

I measured 64 feet per second which is way below the 1400 fps or so that is my end-point.  A detectible hang-fire was observed.

The positive is that it combusted and generated enough pressure to expel the bullet.  8-)

Four potential theories for the gap.  Countermeasures are ways to prove/disprove theory.

1.) Powder not completely dry.
Countermeasure:  Continue to dry powder and try again in a week

2.) Cornstarch not charred completely enough.
Countermeasure: Make another batch from the beginning.  Char until no smoke is being generated.

3.) Granulation too coarse.
Countermeasure:  Sift powder to provide uniform granulation.  

4.) Formula non-optimal
Countermeasure: Investigate variation in formulation after eliminating 1-3.

The theories are listed in the order given because theories one and two are both consistent with the hang-fires.  Theory one requires the least effort to check out.

Theories one and three combine well and theory two is a stand-alone that can be pursued in parallel with (1 + 3).

There is little point if fiddling with formulation until I can get 500fps with no hang-fire.

To be continued

Hypochondria (continued)

Well, that did not take long.

Belladonna's Stage III cancer progressed to Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis which is sufficiently novel to qualify for an article in The Lancet. Other athletes tear the ACL.  Belladonna gets ALS.

Every time Belladonna blinks her tongue goes numb.

"What should I do?"  she wailed.

My first thought was to tell her to find a new study partner.

You cannot make this stuff up.

Monday, March 17, 2014


It is exam week for Belladonna.

She frequently goes over to a friend's house to study.  It is quieter than our house.  Both the friend and the mom are students.

Her friend's mother wanted to improve her life, so she quit her job and took out student loans to go back to school to become a med tech or nurse.  The improvement in life was immediate.  The entire family got cell phone upgrades and Belladonna's friend has a car to drive.

Belladonna is a bit resentful of our inability to manage money as well as her friend's mother.  Mrs ERJ and I were both working full time and we could not afford cellphone upgrades nor would we get Belladonna a vehicle for her sole use.

Nevertheless, it is a quieter, calmer place to study.


The meat of this post is that the mom is a hypochondriac.  That would not bother me much except that Belladonna is now using the mom as her primary source of medical information.

I can tell what the mom is studying based on the latest, dire disease that Belladonna insists that she must be checked out for.  Two months ago Belladonna was diagnosed by the mom as being bipolar.  Last month Belladonna was diagnosed as having internal parasites.

I am pretty sure they are studying the immune system this month.  Belladonna informed me that she has Stage III cancer.  The basis for this diagnosis is that Belladonna has two enlarged lymph nodes beneath her ears.

I would laugh this crap off, except Belladonna is really starting to fixate on this stuff.  Mrs ERJ told me to get Belladonna a doctor's appointment.  Women take lumps seriously.

I pisses me off that I have to drop $114 on an office visit to have my favorite curmudgeon (who DID graduate from Medical School) tell Belladonna that enlarged lymph nodes simply means that her body is doing what it is supposed to do:  Fight off microbiological challenges.

I shudder to think of what I will hear when the mom is studying the reproductive system.

From the Merck Veterinary Manual:

Low Maintenance Girls

I drove the kids into school today.

At one point, a Dodge Neon turned off of a side street in front of us.  Belladonna said, "That is Jess."

I said, "I like Jess.  She is really low maintenance."

Then Kubota asked, "What does low maintenance mean?"

Hmmm!  Sounds like a topic for a blog post.

High maintenance vs. low maintenance

High maintenance means High Input + Low Output ===> Not Good

Low Maintenance means High Output ===> Good!

How to tell the difference

Long fingernails, super nice clothes (taffeta), nicknamed "Princess", no muscle tone, more than one bag of luggage are correlated with "High Maintenance".

Smells like bacon and maple syrup in the morning, smiles frequently with no apparent effort, comfortable clothes, other people brighten up when she walks into the room are signs that she is probably low maintenance.

People with addictions are invariably highest maintenance with the sole exception of wedding cake induced nymphomania (for husband only).

High input is not necessarily "high maintenance".  A girl can be a brain surgeon who works 14 hours a day, 6 days a week and still be low maintenance.  It is pretty likely that she will not be texting you for 14 hours of the day.

Low output is not necessarily "high maintenance".  A girl who is struggling to make ends meet could live in a trailer park and still bring joy to everybody who crosses her path.

High maintenance is when a girl does not have a strong internal compass that informs her of who she is.  She demands constant reassurance from the environment (boyfriend) that she is "special".  She usually demands frequent artifacts of her specialness in terms of expensive trinkets.  High maintenance girls are often created by "daddy".  Perhaps he feels threatened by the fact that he will not always be the #1 guy in her life. 

A low maintenance girl is a girl who is comfortable in her own skin.  I like low maintenance girls.