Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Risk Equivalencing

===> Understanding Risk by Bernard Cohen, 1990 <===

 Much good reading at the link shown above.  For example: Driving one hundred miles has an equivalent effect on average life expectancy as smoking four cigarettes (about 40 minutes reduction) and every extra pound of body weight reduces our life expectancy by an average of about a month.

While roughly 140,000 people are killed each year in job related accidents .PLUS. job related illnesses, it is even more dangerous to be unemployed and live in poverty.

The reader should be cautious about the assumed direction of causality.  Is life expectancy negatively impacted by being unemployed or might there be a shared, underlying cause like substance abuse, mental illness or poor health or obesity causing job loss and early mortality?

In some many cases there is correlation between the factors listed below.  Race, education level, smoking cigarettes, living in poverty, obesity, employment status, marital status and suboptimal access to medical care all have positive coefficients of correlation.  One cannot simply add LLE numbers.

Aside: Shepherds used to separate causes of lamb mortality into many causes but recently "lumped" the three biggest causes of lamb mortality into Starvation/Mismothering/Exposure.  Mismothering is the glue that joins the complex.  A good mother will bond with her lambs, will call to them and actively encourage them to fill their bellies with milk.  A good mother will stay with her lambs and shield them from weather if it is not possible to lead them to a more sheltered place.  It is academic to try to decide if a lamb might have survived a cold rain IF it had a full belly.  A good mother makes those decisions a moot point.

I propose that somebody develop a catchy phrase to describe the early mortality of antisocial people.  The best I can do is Western Culture Renunciation syndrome.  Avoid education, avoid work, avoid marriage, wallow in recreational drugs, sit on your butt....basically flip Western Culture the bird...and die young.

End Aside



Activity or risk*LLE (days)

Living in poverty3500

Being male (vs. female)2800

Cigarettes (male)2300

Heart disease*2100

Being unmarried2000

Being black (vs. white)2000

Socioeconomic status low1500

Working as a coal miner1100


30-lb overweight900

Grade school dropout800

Sub-optimal medical care*550


15-lb overweight450

All accidents*400

Vietnam army service400

Living in Southeast (SC,MS,GA,LA,AL)350

Mining construction (accidents only)320


Motor vehicle accidents180

Pneumonia, influenza*130

Drug abuse*100



Air pollution*80

Occupational accidents74


Small cars (vs. midsize)60

Married to smoker50


Speed limit: 65 vs. 55 miles per hour*40


Poison + suffocation + asphyxiation*37

Radon in homes*35

Fire, burns*27

Coffee: 2 cups/day26

Radiation worker, age 18-6525


Birth control pills5

All electricity nuclear (UCS)*1.5

Peanut butter (1 Tbsp./day)1.1

Hurricanes, tornadoes*1

Airline crashes*1

Dam failures*1

Living near nuclear plant0.4

All electricity nuclear (NRC)*0.04
*Asterisks indicate averages over total U.S. population; others refer to those exposed.

Special Olympics

I am proud of Belladonna.

Belladonna wants to volunteer to help with Special Olympics.  She is pretty excited about it and has even recruited a few of her friends.  Attached is the email Bella and I received.

Dear Mr and Ms Doppelgänger

It was a pleasure speaking with you today.  Eaton Area Field Day for Special Olympics will be on Tuesday, May 13th at Olivet High School.  We have a variety of options for anyone looking to volunteer on that day:

·         Registration (morning)
·         Events (various times available)
·         Classroom partners (all day)
·         Lunch distribution (mid-day)
·         Ribbon distribution (various times available)

Please, let me know if you and/or your daughter are able to help out and which events your most interested in helping!


Kathryn D. Perry
Assistant Professor
Health & Human Performance
Olivet College

Office Phone: 269.749.7324
Mott Academic Center 105-F

Actual contact information included so any reader who wishes to volunteer can easily do so.  Picture is "borrowed" from the brochure for the 2014 State Special Games.

One issue that Belladonna needs to sort out is to find a way to have the volunteering count as a day at school.  Eaton Rapids has a track meet against our arch rival Charlotte.  Belladonna will not be able to compete unless she can find a sanctioned way for her to be a volunteer at Special Olympics.

Belladonna asked her coaches for guidance.  My hope is that they can find a way make her good-to-go in terms of having the time count as academic experience.  Perhaps she can take some pictures and write an article for her school paper.

Utopian Fantasies

Utopian fantasies have been a book genre for thousands of years.  They are a reliable source of entertainment.  First, they entertain when contemporaries read them as serious missives.  Later, they provide entertainment of the chuckle-snort-and spit variety.  Unfortunately, every generation succumbs to the temptation to bend utopian fantasies into a blueprint for political and economic decisions.

Voltaire splendidly satirized this in his book Candide.  (Spoiler:  The cure is to first tend one's own garden."

A few reads of the chuckle-snort variety include Walden Two where a character points to the (fictitious) children and trumpets them as proof of the method.  Another book that is so painfully earnest that it is funny is Ecotopia.

Much less funny is the Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx.  Here are a few illustrations.

Frequent contributor Doug offered the following commentary from Mark R. Levin's book, Ameritopia, the Unmaking of America.

Utopianism is irrational in theory and practice, because it ignores or attempts to control the planned and unplanned complexity of the individual, his nature, and mankind generally.

Utopianism substitutes glorious predictions and unachievable promises for knowledge, science, and reason, while laying claim to them all. Yet there is nothing new in deception disguised as hope and nothing original in abstraction framed as progress. A heavenly society is said to be within reach if only the individual surrenders more of his liberty and being for the general good, meaning the good as prescribed by the state. If he refuses, he will be tormented and ultimately coerced into compliance, because conformity is essential. The individual must abandon his own ambitions for the ambitions of the state. He must become reliant on and fearful of the state. His first duty must be to the state -- not family, community, and faith, all of which challenge the authority of the state. Once dispirited, the individual can be molded by the state with endless social experiments and lifestyle calibrations.

Especially threatening, therefore, are the industrious, independent, and successful, because they demonstrate what is actually possible under current social conditions -- achievement, happiness, and fulfillment -- thereby contradicting and endangering the utopian campaign against what was or is. Indeed, the individual's contribution to society must be downplayed, dismissed, or denounced, unless the contribution is directed by the state and involves self-sacrifice for the utopian cause.
This "threatening" class looks much like Charles Hugh Smith's "Ninth Class."

This class is self-employed, free-lance, entrepreneural, sole proprietors with adaptive skills.
(They are) the "wild card" class that falls outside all conventional class/income hierarchies. It includes those seeking outlier wealth and those who have chosen voluntary poverty.

Though this class wields little conventional financial or political power, it has a potentially large leadership role in social and technical innovations. This is the 4% Pareto Distribution that can exert outsized influence on the 64%.

The other eight classes are hidebound by conventions, neofeudal and neocolonial arrangements and a variety of false choices and illusions of choice, including democracy itself.

Utopianism gains momentum because it promises that mediocrity is plenty darned good enough for first place in every contest.  It is a sop to the short-sighted, the undisciplined, the selfish and the lazy.  (Note, we are all born with those attributes but Western culture informs us that progress requires that we push away from the comfort of our "natural" state.  Some listen to our cultural information better than others.

Those who promote Utopianism make me think of a certain person in my household who thinks that cleaning the lint trap on the drier is a needless, anal ritual.  He then finds himself expending psychic energy defending the position that he likes wearing damp clothing to school on cool mornings.

Idiotic?  You bet it is.  But he is an 8th grader.  He will probably grow out of it.  What excuses do people with advanced degrees from "top-tier" Universities to rationalize the elimination  of "needless rituals".

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

A Warm Space (Houston, we have ignition.)

This went on to over-shoot to about 87 F.  I turned down the thermostat on the aquarium heater.  Now that I figured out how to get it hot enough it should be a snap to dial it in to the 80 F target.

I had to flip the fan over and use cable ties to secure it to the shelf.  The temp topped out at 67 degrees with the fan turned the other way.  The blast of air is violent enough to ripple the surface of the water and is undoubtedly mixing it as well.  Obviously, with exposed copper wire this is not for children to muck around with.

Some Canela Russet potatoes that are warming to help them break dormancy.  This is one of the potato cultivars that give Joan Rivers a run for her money with regards to shelf life.
You can see a wee bit of a sprout starting at the eye.

Poaching Plants

Mrs ERJ has been trying to domesticate me for almost 30 years.  She has been successful for the most part.

One of my weaknesses is that I will liberate plants from what appear to be abandoned places. I had mentally marked an old foundation on Billwood Highway last summer.  There were an abundance of what looked like heirloom roses that had spread up and down the edge of the brush that had grown up around the place.

The property is up for sale for commercial real estate.  It was either me or the bulldozers.

No tip die-back.  This selection spreads by rhizomes and has many, "soft" thorns.  Flowers were pink "cabbage type".

I also scored a goodly handful of violets.  There are many, many species of violets. Based on the fragrance I think these are the non-native Viola odorataThis is certainly a vigorous selection, the better part of a half acre was carpeted with them.

Many of the older landscaping plants quickly petered away.  They were not good fits for the environment or were vulnerable to disease.

Perhaps the ones that survived are invasive aliens.  Rhubarb, yellow roses, horse radish, orange triploid day lilies, lilacs, apple trees, and Norway spruce are common markers of old home sites.

I am fond of almost any plant that smells nice and can fend for its self.  Low maintenance is good. 

PS: Rose hips and all parts of the violet are edible.  I also like food.

Monday, April 28, 2014

A Warm Space, continued

The warm place has had about three days to come to an equilibrium.  The outside temps are about 50 F.  Inside temp stabilized at about 68 F.  Warmer, but not warm enough.  My target temperature is 80 degrees F. The water in the tub is clearly +80 degrees.  On the plus side, the humidity is positively tropical.

I cannibalized a fan out of a broken microwave.  Wired it up to the cord that supplied the microwave.  It is now in the re-purposed refrigerator.

The only unfortunate thing is that the air blast is not pointed down toward the surface of the water.  I tried flipping the fan over the but shroud was too short to protect the blades from the metal grating that forms the shelf.

My thinking is that more air blowing by the tub will improve the transfer of heat to the air.

I will see what the temperature is tomorrow.  I also need to start thinking about how to handle the condensate.  Humidity is good.  Liquid water dripping on potatoes is not.

Power Outage Plan

I bought a used, 5000W generator last week.  I am pulling together my "Power Outage Plan".

Frankly, I am OK with "camping out" in my house....even in the winter time.  There are other members of my family, some who have higher standards of personal hygiene and others who are fearful of members who do not consider electricity to be a luxury. 

One of my tasks is to develop and communicate the plan to everybody in the house.  It will cause much grief if somebody decides that they need to use their blow-drier.  Or worse yet, I am not home and one of the kids decides they need to switch on the generator and do not drop the power at the utility pole.

While it may seem a little bit hokey, the reasons are listed as symbols.  Crosses are safety.  "Nuts" are functional, as in "the nuts-and-bolts" of making it work.   Boxes are for initials of who actually dropped the breaker or pulled and taped the power cord.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Planting Potatoes

The math and biology of planting potatoes


This is the earliest I ever planted potatoes.  My potato patch this year is in a very favorable spot.  It has elevation and gentle slope.  The soil is dark and warms quickly.

I see that we have a weather system blowing in.  There is a significant chance of rain for the next four days.  It will be a week before I can get back on the garden.  One must respect the limitations of biological systems.  I need three dry days after a significant rain before I can rototill my soil.  That is a simple biological fact.

Plants do not read calendars.  They develop based on the accumulation of warmth.  A few hot days will push development as much as a few weeks of cool weather.  Scientists use Growing Degree Days to quantify the accumulation of warmth.

Gardeners will often use easy-to-observe biological markers the same way.

Daffodils in full bloom

Dead nettle (Lamiun purpureum) in bloom.

Box Elder (Acer negundo) shoots approximately two inches long
Burdock (Arctium lappa) leaves slightly smaller than the size of a man's hand

Stinging Nettle (Urtia dioica) shoots between two and six inches tall.


All planning is, necessarily, based on approximations.  Two common techniques are to use "averages" and then to add some "cushion" (typically 25%) to the final number to provide some forgiveness in the event of boo-boos.  Another technique is to alternate optimistic and pessimistic estimates of parameters. 

One pound of seed potato will plant about 10 feet of row (1kg will plant about 7m of row).

Plant spacing within the row profoundly impacts tuber size.  Seed potatoes for baby red-skin boilers are planted very close together.  Mega sized russet potato-bar potatoes are planted much, much further apart.  Assuming you have the ability to water, one seed potato every twelve inches (1 every 300mm) is a good starting point. 

A foot of row can be expected to produce one pound of potatoes.  You might get twice as much but that means you were never late on irrigating the garden and you were perfect in your fertilizer, timing, plant spacing etc.

So a fifty pound bag of seed potatoes can be expected to plant 500 feet (150m) of row.  That 500 feet of row will likely produce 500 pounds (225kg) of potatoes.

If you had to live on just potatoes, you would need to eat about 4.5 pounds of potatoes a day to receive 2200 Calories per day.  So, in very round numbers, you would need to plant 170 pounds of seed potatoes (1700 feet of row) per person.  If you planned to supply 25% of your calories with potatoes that would scale to about 40 pounds of seed potatoes and 400 feet of row per person.

Tape (orange) is wrapped around the tool handle to make measuring row-to-row distance a snap.  I wrapped tape on both the spade handle and the hoe (leaning against far fence) handle.

Potatoes are cultivation intensive.  It is necessary to till between the rows and scrape the loose dirt over the growing tubers with a hoe.  That suggests that one must either be very generous in row spacing so the rototiller does not wipe out the growing tubers or one must make accommodations for removing sets of tines from the tiller as the tuber size increases as the season progresses.

Being a lover of round numbers, I went with 39.37 inches for my row-to-row distance this year.  I have used 42 inches (very generous) and 36 inches (a bit snug) in the past.

Picture showing seed potatoes before being covered up.
Seed potatoes come in many different sizes.  I cut mine to a little smaller than 2 ounces (50 grams).  That is a bit smaller than a golf ball.  I let them dry on sacking or pavement until the cut surfaces are no longer wet to touch.  This seed is planted with the tops of the pieces approximately 1.5 inches (40mm) below ground level.

I was able to get about 600 feet of row out of my bag of Spartan Splash seed potatoes.  And that was after dipping about 10 pounds out for my sister's garden.

As stated earlier, all planning is based upon approximations.  It is good to have the seed go further than planned (smile).

It is typical to have seed run out in the middle of the row.  My recovery plan is to plant onion sets to finish the row  Onion sets and broccoli transplants make great biological row markers for seeds that are slow starters.  Not only are they very visible but they are edible.

A Joke for my Louisiana Readers


I woke up dead one morning.  I found myself standing on a giant conveyor belt that stretched for hundreds of miles.  Far, far ahead I saw the Pearly Gates.  Through some optical quirk I was able to see the entire length of conveyor belt.

The souls were lined about 7 abreast.  The conveyor moved slowly but smoothly.  I could see that God had been upgrading the facility to keep pace with the increasing population.

I settled down to await developments.  One advantage of slipping one's mortal coil is there is no need to urinate, eat breakfast, smoke a cigarette or drink a cup of caffeine.  (I found out later these things are optional.  If you make it to the good place you can eat an omlette with sides of bacon, toast and raspberry freezer jam.  You can drink a fresh cup of French Roast and smoke a Punch Robusto....but you are not physically compelled to do so.)

Up in the distance I saw an enormous He-Devil carefully scanning every soul as they passed by.  He sure looked like Quality Inspection.  I wish I could communicate back to earth.  There were more than a few Production Supervisors who suspected as much.

As I got closer I saw him grab an occassional soul by the nap-of-the-neck and the seat-of-the-pant. He would roar "MINE" when he did so.  With a slight twist of the body he would step on a treadle, a trap door would fly up.  Then that He-Devil would pitch the hapless soul down into a roaring fire, the flames crackling and bletching oily soot.

Hell clearly has a waiver from the EPA.

Every once in a great while the He-Devil would start his little dance but suddenly stop in mid-treadle step.  He would grimace, give the soul an extra, angry little shake and then pitch the soul onto a hither-to-fore unnoticed pile of souls.

I traded places with a guy near the edge of the belt so I could get a better look at the operation as I went by.  The fellow on the He-Devil's side of the line seemed quite apprehensive and had no problems trading places with me.  I have always been a window seat kind of guy.

Just as I came up even with the He-Devil the conveyor lurched, shuddered, made a screeching sound and ground to a halt.  Souls are light but try carrying hundreds of millions of them, year-after-year.  That kind of thing takes its toll.

Based on the number of skilled trades I saw scrambling to a smoking junction box and the smell of hot rubber, I figured we were going to be waiting for a while.

I struck up a conversation with the He-Devil.

I told him I surmised his purpose and that I "got" the purpose of the scanning and the trap door (and what lay beneath it).  I then shared my puzzlement over the pile of souls.  "What is the deal with them?"

The He-Devil said "Theys Cajun." as if that explained everything.

So I asked him, "You mean Cajun don't go to Hell?"

The He-Devil shook his gigantic head, a look of disgust on his face, "Nope.  It is just that they is too wet to burn."

Efficient Markets: Medical

The ERJ family is a very heavy consumer of medical services.  It is not something I am bragging about.  It is simple the launching pad for this post.

How heavy?  We blew through our roughly $4000 deductible by mid-February.  That was all out-of-pocket so we were attempting to economize.  And we still burned money at the annualized rate of $32K/yr.

One of the things we have been introduced to are some alternative sources of medical services.  No, nothing metaphysical or  Just suppliers who have lumpy demand and can flex to provide services in their slow times.

I would love to report that I have had many informative conversations with the billing specialist at this medical provider.  The fact of the matter is that this woman does not return phone calls.  The only time I ever had her call back was after they lost our Social Security numbers.  She was soiling her shorts because they were in violation of multiple Government reporting protocols.  My strong impression based on her behaviors is that she is as baffled by the execution of the billing as everybody else.  She has no clue why some bills are discounted, some evaporate and some are sent to collections.  And the numbers dance from monthly invoice-to-monthly invoice as if they were Disney animates.

The wise and lovely Mrs ERJ decided that we will mail them a check for $50 every month to show good faith while their software give a credible imitation of a dog with dengue fever attempting to pass a peach pit.

How Markets Work

One of the enablers for markets to work efficiently is that the "list price" must be closely linked to the actual "transaction price".

Markets are efficient when the list (or asking) price has information embedded within it.  A very small bird flying over the punch bowl can pollute it to the point where it is unusable.  Likewise, a very small amount of chaos can pollute the information embedded within the pricing enough to destroy efficiency.

The Housing Market

Consider the housing market when times are good.  The typical seller will get three appraisals and pick a price that is ten percent higher than the mid-point between the two highest appraisals.  When times are good it is easy to compare prices because every seller inflates the price by a similar amount and leaves about the same amount of fluff that can be negotiated away.

Consider the housing market when times are bad.  Some sellers will follow the "old" rule or perhaps they put their house on the market when times were good and the list price is a legacy from that time.  Many other sellers will follow a process similar to the one described above but will add a cushion of 30%-to-40%.  Their logic is that gives them more room to make concessions, that the buyer can think they really beat the seller down...and the seller can still get an acceptable price.

The market becomes chaotic as the linkage between asking price and transaction price becomes less predictable.  It becomes impossible for shoppers to perform metric driven sorts to narrow the universe of choices.  A buyer cannot winnow through a thousand properties and select the 5 best alternatives for actual boots-on-the-ground visits.

The market for medical services is an order of magnitude more chaotic than the real estate market.


Gary is a professional landlord.  He self-insures and has a true Act-of-God deductible...something like $50K.  Gary needed new knees.  Gary naively assumed that he could shop for medical services the same way he could hire people to lay carpet, replace locks, etc.

He visited three local hospitals.  The bottom line was that all billing was done by computer systems.  All computer software is configured to be backward looking.  The sole purpose of the software is to generate bills to submit to insurance companies.

None of the hospitals could generate an estimate.  The function did not exist.  They could not even tell him the price of a single aspirin tablet.

Gary is a problem solving kind of guy.  He asked if they could supply him with the three most recent billings for the procedure with the names redacted.  The hospitals claimed doing so would violate HIPA and they refused.

And then the hospitals told him that the billings would be useless for his purpose anyway.  The billings against the insurance companies are a total fiction.  The actual reimbursement the hospital received was related to the billing in the most casual of ways.  The itemized reimbursement shared noun-names of services with the billing...and that is where the relationship ended.

High deductible insurance

One advantage of "high deductible insurance" is that it is more common for patients to be billed the actual insurance reimbursement rate.

It is to the insurance company's advantage to have the patient in the deductible period as long as possible.  They are raking in premiums during that time and not writing checks against those moneys.  The insurance companies now require that doctors bill insured patients the discount rate.  That increases the amount of time at the beginning of the year when the insurance companies have very positive cash flow.

My frustration is that the medical market will never be efficient as long as there is no linkage between the list price and the transaction price.  Gary's story tells us that a "list price" does not even exist for many procedures.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Puppies and "Ball Drive"

I want to publically thank Tom Brownlee for his recommendation of "Kong" toys as a substitute for dog water dishes for doggie toys.

"...virtually anything made by Kong….they make puppy versions of their regular Kong, which I like to put a rope through and make a tug out of- its interactive with you, hence a lot more fun for the dog. But across the line their products are the industry standard….excellent stuff."

I ended up buying one of these.

Tom Brownlee is a certified master trainer with the American Society of Canine Trainers.  He is also an internationally renowned hunter of leopards.   More info on Tom here.

Man, I love the internet.  Where else can I get to rub elbows with experts?

A Warm Space

I want to thank my readers.

I originally started blogging to keep my mind sharp and to catch up on all the conversation that I either did not have time for when I worked or it would have been politically awkward when I worked.

One of the more common Bible quotes where I worked was the first half of John 8:32:
"The Truth will set you free..."

An additional benefit, one that I did not anticipate, is that blogging holds my feet to the fire.  If I report that I intend to run seven miles in the afternoon, then I feel obligated to report on the run and include pictures of the run.

Gas thieves

About five years ago the ERJ household was the victim of a serial gasoline thief.  I would come home from work and find empty gas cans strewn beside my garage.  Or I would need to refill a mower or rototiller and find all the gas cans empty...even though I had filled them (20 gallons) the week before.

I have a friend "Grandpa Ed" who is in the salvage business.  He thinks kindly of me because I loaded him up a life time supply of 30-30 Winchester and 44-40 Winchester cartridges.

I asked Grandpa Ed to find an old refrigerator for me.  The picture in my head was to store my cans of gas in the refrigerator and to secure the door with a lock and hasp. I also thought there would be some advantage in that the temperature swings would be moderated.  Most gasoline has some butane in the mix (particularly in cold weather) and the butane will evaporate out of the mix when it gets hot.

The thefts ended as abruptly as the started.  Then about a month after they stopped, an industrial refrigerator showed  up beside my driveway.  I tucked the refrigerator out of sight for a future project and promptly forgot about it.

A warm space

Until today.

After writing the last post I kernoodled around looking for some way to both heat the inside of that refrigerator and to control the temperature.

This is what I came up with.

The trays are very stout.  There is a vent on the top of the cabinet that I snuck the extension cord through.  The exterior is aluminum and the door looks like stainless steel.  After installing the extention cord I covered the top of the cabinet with plastic film and then 3 inches of fiberglass insulation.

This is a tub with two gallons of water and a 200W submersible aquarium heater. Aquarium heaters are designed for an operating range between 72 F-to-85 F.  That is right in the sweetspot for my needs.  I paid about $30 for the heater and another $10 for the extension cord. at a local brick-and-mortar store because I was in a hurry.

Starting temperature is 50 degrees Fahrenheit.  Target temperature is 80 degrees F.  I will add a muffin fan if I cannot heat the inside evenly with convection alone.

It may take a while to come up to temperature.  In addition to two gallons of water, I have about 60 pounds of seed potatoes (Kennebec and Canela Russet), a seedling tray and a bundle of grafted oak trees and a bundle of cuttings I am trying to root.
Again, I want to thank you guys.  Your interest motivated me get off top-dead-center and I got something done.

Lessons Acquired During the Week

On matters related to the production of propellant

Kiln drying wood vastly increases the speed of the charcoal production process.

Do not attempt to kiln dry willow wood in a household oven at temperatures above 250 degrees Fahrenheit.

Four smoke alarms sounding off simultaneously are sufficient to awaken King Tut.

Willow wood will sponatenously burst into flame at 350 degrees Fahrenheit when exposed to sufficient oxygen.

Ray Bradbury, author of Fahrenheit 451 is not to be trusted on matters of combustibility.

Streams of white smoke emanating from my windows no longer result in neighbors calling the fire department.

The power of suggestion is insufficient to convince others that the smell of willow smoke is due to the use of a new, bacon scented air freshener.

Observing that women were historically the gender to grind grain in the home, and suggesting that should extend to the production of pyrotechnic charcoal is not a path to marital bliss.

On matters relating to car keys

Few things motivate old geezers to start picking up the house.

Looking for misplaced car keys is one of those motivators.

Old geezers lose their car keys far more often than young geezers.

It is a strategic mistake to text your wife at work and ask if she accidentally took your keys to work.

Unless you strategically un-pickup the house afterward.

Mrs ERJ attributes the increased rate of misplaced car keys to the fact that I now putter around a larger, more random path about the house prior to leaving it.  My "morning" routine is no longer a rigid routine.

On matters related to cable sleeve crimping tools

The inexpensive cable sleeve crimping tool I bought has a generic, straight jaw profile.

The preferred geometry is cupt-to-cup.

The desired geometry can be approximated with a 5/16" diameter file.

Inexpensive tools might be inexpensive due to wide acceptance windows for component hardness.  That is, the components may, or may not, be tempered after quenching.

One jaw of my inexpensive tool was so hard it took the teeth off of my chainsaw file.

MAPP gas is good stuff.

Color charts for indicated temperature still work when used with discretion.   The very faintest of dark red glow when seen in a dim room is probably between 900F and 1000F.

Tempering a fully hardened, high carbon steel at 900F takes it down to about spring-hard.  That is, between 35 and 40 Rockwell C for hardness.

Garden stuff

The more I garden the more I see a need for a warm space.

The optimum temperature for callous formation is about 80 degree Fahrenheit.

Roots form out of the undifferentiated callous tissue.

Callous is the "glue" that bonds the scion and the rootstock of a graft together.

Some potatoes (like Canela Russet) have incredible storage ability due to their inherent, genetic make-up.  They are very tardy at popping up when planted into cool garden soil.  Pre-sprouting the tubers is like remedial reading classes.  It gives them a fighting chance of keeping up with their peers.


Baby calves are cute.

Puppies are aggravating.  Especially when they decide that full water dishes (we use two quart plastic snap-top containers) are their new, favorite play toy.

Few things bring more joy than watching one's children compete on the athletic field.

Kubota gave up on me.  He took matters into his own hands.  He decided that I was not going to scratch his itch for a motorized vehicle that he can ride on.

Kubota is buying (with his own money!) a used ride on lawn mower. 

Friday, April 25, 2014

Weddings an Funerals

My Aunt Marie once told me that there are two events that bring people together: Weddings and Funerals. In general my Aunt Marie preferred weddings.  You can read that last sentence three different ways and they would all be correct.


One of the blessings of being a retired guy is that I can now attend funerals. 

Today I attended the funeral of one of my high school teachers who later married one of my co-workers.  Both Lynn and Jim seemed much younger than their calendar ages.

Jim approached life like a large puppy.  Every experience was new and wonderful.  He radiated enthusiasm and optimism.  We shot skeet together off a small hill in northwest Eaton county.  Jim was of German extract and enjoyed a good beer.

Had Lynn been a guy, I would have said that she experienced life "balls-out".  She threw herself into every experience like a swashbuckling hero from the golden age of Hollywood.  She fenced (as in swords), baked, traveled, spoke multiple foreign languages.  She was elegant, gracious and refined.  She supplemented her income by modeling.  She was the Zorro of Science Teachers.

Lynn actually almost thought I was OK when she got to know me as an adult.  It may have been out of respect for Jim.  I was a stinker when I was a kid.

By my best figuring, Lynn was Jim's senior by 17 years.  Their mutual zest for life (and Lynn's stunning good looks) made that a complete non-issue.

It took the cancer a while to beat her down.  Death, to a Christian, is not the ultimate tragedy.  We will all die.  Dying while in a state of separation from God is the ultimate tragedy.  Lynn had always been a Godly woman.  She had plenty of time at the end to be ready.

Jim shook everybody's hand during the funeral Mass.  The cantor had to go extra innings while singing.  The cantor was a seasoned professional.  He was attuned to the possibility and did not falter on a single note.

I talked briefly with Jim.  He seemed to be in a very good space, considering.

Lynn's funeral is not a funeral I could have justified going to when I was a working stiff.

I am glad that I was able to go for Jim's sake.  I expect a payback....a fresh-from-the-oven apple tart, extra cinnamon when I get to the Pearly Gates.

Welfare Fraud

The pictures in this post are my first attempt to visualize the issue of welfare fraud.  Being able to visualize an issue gives us a common means to discuss it, to analyze it and to start addressing it.

I cranked these out at 4:00 in the morning because I could not sleep.  These graphics are the equivalent of scribbles on a dry-erase board.  It is a working tool.  You will not agree with everything I wrote or how it is organized.  You will see many things that should be added or fine-tuned or word-smithed.  That is GREAT!  It means that we have the start of a shared visualization of the issues at hand.

I need to catch a nap.  I plan to add some text between the pictures at a later time.


Click to enlarge.  Chart makes the most sense if you start with box in lower left corner.  A red arrows is a necessary condition for the box being pointed to.  Blue arrows are countermeasures to the box being pointed at.

Looking more closely at specific functions of money

My strategy to reduce welfare fraud is to cripple the Bridge Card's ability to serve as an alternate form of currency.  Since all actions will be defeated, to some degree, by those who wish to defraud the system, it is necessary to seek "horizontal resistance".  That is, to implement multiple countermeasures that put a "tax" on each attribute that defines a viable currency.
Universally accepted appears to be the best choke-point.  I believe there are already many generic laws on the books regarding fraudulent use of Electronic Fund Transfer cards.  The Feds have many restrictions on laws that specifically target Bridge Cards but using existing, generic laws avoids those restrictions.

The Orange Arrow denotes a factor that will assist, but is not a necessary condition, for the box being pointed at, but is not required.  It is valid to have the same countermeasure show up in several places.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

State Senator Rick Jones

I really like my State Senator, Rick Jones.

He treats the money spent by the State of Michigan the way I treat the money I pull out of my own wallet.

I swapped a few emails with him recently thanking him for his diligence.

---Paraphrasing alert---

One issue that he is emotionally invested in is EBT Food Stamp Fraud.  In Michigan, those cards are called "Bridge Cards"

There are three legs to his emotional investment.

First Leg

Rick was a working stiff for thirty years before he ran as a law-maker.  He was a cop.  Like nearly all cops, he worked his share of crap shifts.  It seems to be a nearly universal law that things fall apart starting at about 10:30 at night and rapidly go into the toilet after midnight.  Cops who work that shift do much of the heavy lifting of law enforcement.

Police respond to human failure.  The view they carry of humans is a heavy burden because, mostly, they see what is marinating in the bilge.

Rick responded to countless calls where the human failure resulted in children being separated from their parent(s).  In many cases those children were hungry.

This is not a Rick anecdote:  One story is where the police found only soda pop in the home.  The parent had the brilliant idea of buying the pop with the welfare check, draining the soda and recovering cash-money for the ten cent Michigan can deposit.  If the kids were hungry they could drink some of the pop.

Rich carries the righteous anger of an Old Testament prophet when welfare fraud results in kids going hungry or being exposed to prostitution and/or illegal drugs.

Leg Two

Rick's daughter is a Special Education teacher.  She adopted two kids, ages 10 and 14.

Older children in the foster care system are difficult to place.  Older children are classified as "Special Needs" solely on the basis of their age and difficulty to place.

The foster care system gets a slug of babies shortly after birth.  Often a plan was made before the baby was even born. These children are rapidly absorbed by adopting parents. Then a trickle of children come into the system between ages six months and six years of age.  At ages five and six, the children enter the public school system.

Employees of schools have rigorous reporting requirements for suspected abuse.  I am not talking about "The parents make them eat fish on Friday abuse." or "The parents make the hungry kids pause for 30 seconds to say Grace before a meal."  I am talking about cigarette burns, bruises, cuts and malnutrition abuse.  That often results in a series of court interventions to help the parents become better parents.  Sometimes that does not work and the six-to-seven year old (and all of their younger siblings) end up in the foster care system.

Rick is a foster Grandpa.  Welfare abuse that deprives children of a full belly impacts him in a very personal way.  It is as if somebody was starving his grandkids.

Leg Three

As a working stiff, Rick knew how far a dollar went.  He also saw the difference between the Gross number and the Net number on his paycheck.

It is a heavy burden when you are raising a family, trying to do the best for them.  He does not begrudge money that is used wisely.  Nor does he begrudge money that is judiciously doled out to give people a path out of poverty.

But it is frustrating to see people crassly misuse money that came out of one's paycheck.

It is angry-making to see politicians cynically looking the other way... Those same politicians talk about the poor, dispossessed and powerless and beg for more money on the legislative floor.  But then actively fight against steps to ensure that those same resources actually benefit the poorest and most powerless: the children.

Children don't vote.  It is almost as if the purpose of those funds is not to help people but to buy votes for certain politicians.  To buy those votes out of the (Gross - Net) from the paychecks of working folks, many who are working crap jobs, crap shifts....making many sacrifices.

Eaton Rapids Joe Editorializing

Terrorists are quick to use children and other innocents as human shields.  They dare authorities to do their job. They say, "Their blood will be on your hands."  Anybody who follows these kinds of situations realizes that the prognosis for most human shields and other hostages is grim at best.

Sadly, too many politicians demonstrate that they are woven of the same moral fiber as terrorists.  They wonder why elected officials are held in such low regard.

There are still good politicians.  I believe Senator Rick Jones is one of them.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Katy Bar the Door

<======Back to Part II, Door #2

Don't you hate it when you carefully document every step of a project with photos and then find out the memory card was not seated when you try to down load them?

As noted in the previous post, even steel, exterior doors are structurally vulnerable to delaminating at the lock/dead bolt when impacted.  That is due to the whitewood and particle board core.  One way to address this deficiency is to provide a redundant load path to pick up the load when the door fails.  That is, bar the door.

Parked.  No door trim installed.
1/8" galvanized steel cable, 2000 lb breaking strength.  Bushing is Zareba  ICDB-Z.  Two wraps of cable around bushing.  Three gritted crimping sleeves Zareba HTGCS2425.  The bolt is 3/8 inch by 4 1/2 long lag bolt.  Bolt could be longer due to  length being consumed by drywall and length of bushing.

3/8"  by 3 1/2 inch eye-bolt.  Eye was heated and opened up as shown.  Painted flat black.  Installed at 58" above floor.  58" is elevation of Deltoid muscle on 50% male.

The cable simply slides in.

Same Eye-bolt as above but the "rams horn" curls the other way.  This bolt is installed at 36 inches which is the elevation of the Greater Trochanter of a 50% male.  As before, the elevation is taken from the floor that the bad guys will be standing on.

It pops into place.  Note that most battering ram tools will challenge the door at this elevation.

System relaxed.  It stays in place because of gravity and the springiness of the cable.  For those with inquiring minds, no, this is not my bedroom.
System under stress. Two strands of cable, each with a breaking strength of 2000 pounds.  That is a lot of comfort.  I recommend replacing the cable if it is ever seriously challenged.
The studs that the hardware were screwed into are 34" from center-to-center.  The cable was cut to 124" in length.  The bushings were positioned so the centers were 15" from the ends.  The cable assembly ended up being 94" from bushing-center-to-bushing-center.  I will probably make it two inches shorter center-to-center next time.  I will also make a simple fixture with spindles at the desired center-to-center distance to simplify fabrication.

A couple of nice things about this system is that the cable is a fair devil to cut, even if the bad guys had the foresight to bring the proper tools.  Another nice thing is that the cable is unobtrusive so it is hard for the bad guys to figure out what they are can even be aligned with the framework of any window panes in the door.  Finally, it is a little bit more stylish than a two-by-four and big steel brackets.  That matters when there are womenfolk ERJ must make happy.  This cable was painted flat black but it could be painted any color.

Door #2 Continued

<=====Back to Part I, Threat Assessment and Armoring my House

I want to discuss why Door #2 is the critical choke point.  I will discuss each door in order.

Door #1

Garages are extremely porous.  My garage door is frequently up.  Mrs ERJ parks in the garage.  I park outside.

Our automatic garage door opener went Tango Uniform about 4 years ago and has not been replaced.

As a family, we do not have the discipline to secure our garage.

Additionally, based on the layout of my property, my garage is my "front" door for guests arriving.  We cannot hear them knocking on Door #1 from inside the house.

Door #2

Door #2 cannot be seen from the street so bad guys would not be nervous about beating on that door.  That means that a half-apple attempt to armor that door will have little benefit.

Also, since the bad guys walked through my garage they could have easily picked up any number of items to use as tools to either beat on this door or pry on this door.

A topic that will be discussed in a future blog post is the fact that $220 steel, exterior doors are little more than visual barriers to a motivated intruder.  They function more as fire doors than as security doors.  The edges of the door are particle board faced with "white wood".  Easy to drill, easy to cut, easy to install.  Easy to defeat.

But won't they just use another entry point?

Probably not!

There is a high probability that the person entering your house is a person who has been there as a guest.  It could be your boy's former girl friend or a ne'er-do-well cousin.  They came in through that door.  That is the door they will try first because that is how their mental map is oriented.

Once a bad guy commits even a modest amount of effort into overcoming a specific entry point they usually fall into the sunk-cost trap.  The sunk-cost trap is the bane of problem solving because it causes tunnel vision which blinds problem solvers to root causes that are outside their original diagnoses.

I have a brother who is a firefighter.  One of the primary objectives in extradition training is to internalize a "clock" so the team knows when to abandon a technique or strategy that is unsuccessful.  The standard technique when extracting a victim from a crumpled vehicle is to put some blocks beneath the vehicle beneath the hinges of the front door, then to start cutting structure.  The vehicle usually opens up and allows access to the occupant, simultaneously unpinning their legs.

My brother's team responded to one call where an eighty year old woman had been in an accident.  She was driving a 25 year old Olds Delta 88.  The frame of that car was so cheesy with rust that they were not successful in pulling her out until they tried the third plan.

The extradition was observed (and timed) by one of the Battalion Chiefs.  "Hey, Smedley.  How long do you think it took to extricate that woman?" the Battalion Chief ask my brother.

It was a pretty intense event. The extrication team had to work around EMTs who were running IVs and preemptively pushing fluids into her in anticipation of bleeding and a blood pressure crash.  My brother was soaked with sweat.  "I dunno, Chief.  Maybe 70 or 80 minutes."

"Nope.  It was just a skoosh over seventeen minutes."

Tunnel vision includes sensory exclusion and loss of time calibration.  The guys battering on Door #2 do not have my brother's training.  They are unlikely to step back and formulate a Plan B or a Plan C.  Their default Plan B is to turn around, get back into the car and leave.

The key to sucking them into the tunnel vision trap.  That means that the armor on Door #2 must be unobtrusive but effective.

Door #3

The National Rifle Association has excellent information about "safe rooms".  The drill is to gather everybody into the safe room, call 9-1-1 and to stay on the phone.  It is critical that you communicate the exact location of your safe room to the 9-1-1 system.  In my case it is the room in the southeast corner of the house.

The National Rifle Association advises that you stay inside your safe room until the police knock on your door and the 9-1-1 operator confirms that the people knocking on the door really are the police.  Do not, do not, do not leave your safe room and go hunting the bad guys.  That strategy does not have a happy ending.

That strategy keeps you out of harms way and simplifies the job for the police.  They will Taser (or otherwise subdue) everybody in the house who is not in the safe room. 

If you hate guns, then invest in some pepper spray gel.  Get several containers so you can practice outside using a tree as a target.  I am not wild about spray because it will also blind you if your furnace is running.  But if you are on a budget then this item is a great choice.

This item contains 17% OC.  Michigan Law prohibits pepper spray that contains more than 10% OC.

My gut tells me that police who respond to a home invasion and find the bad guys in your bedroom, alive but incapacitated; those police are more likely to commend you than to read the fine print on your container of pepper spray.
---End Disclaimer---

Continue to Part III, Katy Bar the Door ====>