Sunday, November 30, 2014

A Joke

Mrs ERJ and I took a vacation this fall.  We went to southern Indiana where one can hunt ducks, geese, pheasant, woodcock and a multitude of other games species.

While driving around looking for a place to hunt we saw a huge flock of Ring-neck Pheasant fly across the road into a field of corn stubble.  There was a single farmhouse near by.  We pulled into the drive to ask permission to hunt.  I let Mrs ERJ do the talking.

The farmer was kind but adamant.  He said we could not hunt because he raised race horses.  The least expensive animal on his property was valued at a quarter-million dollars.  He simply could not afford the risk of gun shots spooking the animals and having them run into a fence.

Mrs ERJ can be very persuasive.  She asked if we could try to harvest them without using firearms.

The farmer was a bit taken aback.  He said it was foolishness and a waste of time but he gave us his long as we did not discharge firearms.

About ninety minutes later we were back on his front porch dragging two, large burlap bags.

Mrs ERJ told the farmer that we got carried away and went over the limit.  We wanted him to have the "extras".  She slid the heavier burlap bag inside the door.

He pulled out a bird and carefully inspected it.  There were no pellet holes.  He was amazed.  "I know that I did not hear any gunshots.  Just how did you harvest these birds?!?"

Mrs ERJ told him that we 'uglied' them to death.

"How does that work?" he asked.

"Well," said Mrs ERJ, "you know those birds will be holed up on the downwind side of corn shocks on a cold, windy day like this.  So we snuck up on those corn shock, walking downwind.  Then we jumped out and made a face like this 8>( .  It stops their heart."

The farmer was amazed.  "Wow!  I never heard of 'uglying' birds to death.  Can anybody do it?"

Mrs ERJ rather apologetically said, "Nope.  Mr ERJ cain't do it, for one."

The farmer inspected me very carefully.  From his expression, I could tell that he thought I had a GREAT deal of potential for this kind of hunting.

"Why ever not?"  He asked.

Mrs ERJ replied "He tried once,
but he tore up the meat too bad."

Advent Wreaths

Due to scheduling issues we did not attend our home church.  We attended a church in East Lansing.

Father Jerry surprised me in his sermon.

Today is the first day of Advent.  Advent is the period of anticipation and preparation leading up to Christmas.

South Haven Lighthouse.  Picture from HERE
Father Jerry told the congregation that Michigan has 106 lighthouses.  He knows because he is a lighthouse groupie.  He is enchanted by lighthouses.

Picture from HERE

He suggested that we think of the candles in Advent Wreaths as moral lighthouses.  Through the course of the year we drift from the course.  Sometimes the weather is sunny.  Often the weather is stormy.

It does not matter.  The lighthouses' rest on foundations of rock.  The paths they mark do not move.  We look to the light to adjust our paths.  Sometimes the adjustments are small.  Sometimes the adjustments are violent.  We ignore the light at our peril.

It is an intriguing idea.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

"...learn from Ferguson"

According to Google News, there are 1570 news articles and editorials that have the word string "learn from Ferguson" in it.

It seems unlikely that we will learn 1570 things from Ferguson.  After reading some of the articles, is seems unlikely that we will learn anything.

Ferguson, Missouri is a blank screen upon which every writer projected their fears and biases, their vision of the future.  It has become America's Rorschach test.


The foundation of persuasive debate is to establish mutual agreement before charging off into the pucker-brush.  The vast majority of the writers assume their readers share a world view that is identical to the writer.  That is a flawed assumption.

It is similar to the Farsi fable of the four men who encounter an elephant in the dark.  Much heated argument regarding the true nature of what we "learn from elephants" results.  The vitriol does not end until a woman shows up with a lamp.

My rice bowl

There is a bizarre psychology to competition for "rents".   Competition is relatively benign when markets are growing because of a shared illusion that everybody's station in life is improving.  Competition becomes ruthlessly cut-throat when markets implode. This ruthlessness occurs because Prospect Theory tells us that humans feel losses three times more intensely than they feel an equivalent gain.

Much progress in civil rights occurred during times of unprecedented economic expansion.  It is nearly painless to be magnanimous when your paycheck goes up every year.

Is it possible that Michael Brown's death was a trigger but the real "energy" came from tectonic tensions in an economy that cannnot afford endless growth of "social programs"?  Those who benefited the most from the social programs have gone to the wall defending them.  It is no surprise that the most articulate protesters in Ferguson, Missouri are preachers and professors of African Studies from places like Clemson, South Carolina (650 miles away).

Scientists tell us that evolution occurs most rapidly when periods of  "easy living" are occasionally stressed by periods of "tough sledding".

During the easy times, recessive genes have a chance to find each other.  They can combine with other traits that are seemingly anti-survival and, possibly, create a synergy.  Consider the porcupine:  It has stiff, hollow hairs that are fused together and the ends point backwards (three or four anti-survival traits), the hairs are very poorly anchored (five) and it fights by turning its back on danger and swinging its tail (six and seven). 

The tough times clear the playing field of the also-rans.  That frees up resources for the next round of Darwinian experiments.  It is all very grand and elegant, unless of course, you find yourself grouped with the other also-rans.

My crystal ball tells me that it will get uglier unless the economy picks up.  The "business model" of tilting the playing field based on a status of historic victimhood will start cavitating and go into free-fall.  How will municipalities like Ferguson (and Detroit and Camden and...) participate in the economy with no geographic advantage, burnt out shells for infrastructure and academic and social skills that are on-par with Yemen? 

Those who benefited from the social programs will not roll over and go peacefully into the night.

Common polymer (plastic) abbreviations

Have you ever looked at the molding mark on a plastic item and wondered what the heck the part was really was made of?

Most common polymers have standardized abbreviations.  Matweb has a page that provides a list of most of those abbreviations  ===>HERE<===

A short snippet of the list is included so you can see what it looks like.
PA Polyamide (Nylon)
PA Polyacrylate
PAE Polyarylether
PAEK Polyaryletherketone
PAI Polyamide-Imide
PAMS Poly(Alpha Methylstyrene)
PAN Polyacrylonitrile
PARA Polyarylamide (polyaramide)
PAS Polyarylsulfone
PASA Polyamide, Semi-Aromatic (Nylon)
PASU Polyarylsulfone

Other information included in the molding mark usually includes the manufacturer, the cavity number and information regarding when the part was molded.  That way, problems can be traced back to specific cavities for tool work or performance issues can be sorted for on the basis of when discrepant material was molded.

Friday, November 28, 2014


Our family spent Thanksgiving with Mrs ERJ's side of the family.  The in-laws find themselves together in back-eddies as "the family" relives summers at Lake Bellaire, Bradley falling through the ice of the Shiawassee River etc.

I got into a conversation with Mark and Luke.  Luke is a junior in a rural high school in southwest Michigan.  Mark is Luke's dad.  Their current passion is Luke's Robotics Club.  The club competes.

I was intrigued

One of the projects they are incubating does not look like a typical, industrial robot.

The verbal, waving hands-in-the-air explanation is to have an RC all-terrain crawler climb a ladder onto storm-damaged roofs and map the roof on a half-meter-by-half-meter grid.  A camera will inspect the roof.  A high-frequency speaker might emit sound in the attic to be picked up by a microphone on the crawler.

Dodgy sections of the roof will be marked with a paintball gun mounted on the crawler.  The insurance estimator can come back and count the number of paintball marks and locations on the roof.  There are about 50 marks to the "square".  That information can be used to write very precise repair estimates.

Estimating damaged roofs is not glamorous and sexy. It is boring and dangerous.  Estimators can fall through the roof.  Sometimes they fall off the roof.  Human beings can damage roofs simply by walking across them.  Humans get distracted and miss things.

The impressive thing about this project is that Mark and Luke (and the rest of the team) are working it from both ends.  They started with a good problem (dangerous, boring, repetitive), figured out how to implement a solution using primarily pre-engineered component sets (ladders, RC crawlers, wireless video and cameras, paintball guns) and are stitching them together using software to create a robot.

The concept is extendable.  It could be used to look for natural gas leaks, mapping magnetic anomalies or even sniffing for IEDs.

And the other upside is...

I think Luke has a jones for some new RC toys and paintball equipment.  Just sayin'

To do lists

Both of my kids are attempting to bend Mrs ERJ and me into their own personal, executive assistants.  They have lazily slipped into the habit of tossing us assignments as they head out the door.  When challenged they dismiss us with, "Well, you guys are retired and have nothing better to do."  Later, their feelings are bruised when they came home from their slumber party and find that we had not dusted and ironed their collection of silk butterflies to their standards.

Several years ago I was in a similar situation at work.  The issue was resolved by instituting a work-order system.  The work-order form adhered to the battle-tested Who-What-How-Where-When-Why format. 

The top of the work-order documented the customer's desires regarding deliverables and timing. The timing requirement of "ASAP" was not permitted. 

The middle portion of the work-order outlined what the customer was required to deliver to us before we started the work: drawings, account number, materials and so on. 

The bottom part of the work-order documented our estimate of the resources required, actual manhours consumed, clockhours and any findings that would make the next job more successful.  The primary function of this bottom portion was to calibrate our estimates and verify that we had met the customer's timing and deliverables requirements.

The pull on the resource dropped by 80% after the customer were required to pony up all of their pre-work obligations before the work started.

The 20% that did not evaporate were not initiated until all of the customer pre-work was in hand.  Once started the work was executed with speed and precision.

My new "To do" list

My new "To do" list form also follows the Who-What-How-Where-When-Why format.  So far it has accounted for a mopped floor, two sets of snow tires installed and a slow leak addressed.

It seems to be working.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Seven Things (was going to be five)

Today I intend to savor, and be thankful for the following "things".


She puts up with a lot.  Our relationship evolved through the decades(!).  Wild passion in the beginning.  Early parenthood.  The trials of teenagers.  The stresses of multiple job assignments.  For almost two years I had a 6-day-a-week job with a 94 mile, one-way commute.  Now retirement.  She has been a Proverbs 31 woman through it all.

The Bill of Rights

I can blather on the internet.  I can go to the church of my choice.  I can pursue ballistic therapy.  I have protections against BS allegations from those who would use the powers of government as a blunt instrument or as a tool to acquire what is mine.

The Land

It is a peasant thing.  I am thankful for the equitable climate, the fertile soil and the abundance of life in my little piece of the universe.  All parts of staying warm and very well fed.  God is good. God is great...

The rest of my family

There are people who "divorce" their families because they cannot stand them.  Not me.  I have a great extended family.  I do a poor job nurturing the extended family but part of that is due to the effort I am investing in my most immediate family.  They have been like gravity:  Reliable, always there, keeping me tethered to the ground.

My health

Nothing is fun when you hurt.

My readers

I like you guys.  Thanks for reading.  Thank-you for continuing to check in, even after a string of mediocre posts.  Special thanks to Old-NFO who reliably comments and provides feedback.  Someday I will buy you a cup of coffee.

My pension

This seems trite but it is something I am thankful for.  I will spend Thanksgiving with Mrs ERJ's side of the family.  Several of them lost their pensions, one after forty years of service with the company.  We even worked for the same company.  Their division was spun off and went bankrupt.  My division went bankrupt.  Two separate courts handled the proceedings.  They lost all of their benefits.  I was "gifted" with mine.  It was purely the roll-of-the-dice.  Such events make one cynical.  Political expediency now seems to trump law. I do not consider my pension to be an immutable fact but think of each check as a gift.  Each check is proof that God has stayed the rapacious hands of pride, greed and envy for yet another month.

Be safe.  Have a great Thanksgiving.  God let us live another year.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Single payer

One place where conservatives have failed in the Obamacare debate is that we have failed to articulate why we are fearful of single payer, one of the potential evolutionary endpoints of this legislation (or what may replace it.)

This story out of Pakistan is from NPR, an organization that is rarely considered a bastion of conservative principles.

Over the years, government teaching jobs in Pakistan have routinely been handed out as political favors. Thousands of so-called "teachers" pocket wages but do not go to work.
...estimates four out of 10 teachers in the province never set foot in a school: "Some of them run shops, some work in the media, some for feudal landlords."
...nearly half of Pakistan's 58 million kids of school age are not in school.

Single payer prevents patients from voting with their feet.  Management becomes a bureaucracy.  It is invariably easier to manipulate metrics than to change policies, procedures, personnel and infrastructure. The goals of every five year plan will be exceeded by a safely defensible margin regardless of actual performance.  Nobody looks too hard because no link in the chain can withstand scrutiny.

It is a very short step from cooking numbers to a spoils system where "reliable" people are placed in the most critical positions.

Just like the "teachers" in Pakistan.

I have worms

City Slicker:  "Boy, your dog is some special kind of ugly!"
  Country boy:  "Yep.  He shore is."
City Slicker: "Can he hunt?"
  Country boy. "Nope.  He don't hunt."
City Slicker: "Is he a good watchdog?"
  Country boy: "Nope.  He just sleeps all the time."
City Slicker: "Is he a fighting dog?"
  Country boy: "Nope."
City Slicker: "He does not even look healthy."
  Country boy: "He's got worms."
City Slicker: "Why in tarnation do you keep that worthless thing?"
  County boy: "Well, I do love fishing and I never have to dig bait."

Picture from HERE
I did a little research and determined that our Boston Terrier is afflicted with tapeworms.  The medications used for round worms are not effective on tapeworms.

The drug of choice to control tapeworms is Praziquantel at 5mg-to-10mg per kg of body weight.  It is given as a single dose and no special feeding regime is required. It has a fairly wide therapeutic window. The lowest cost option of treating all three dogs with Praziquantel (80kg at 10mg/kg) will be in the neighborhood of $35.

Fenbendazole is the second choice.  It requires 50mg/kg, applied three days in a row.  Fenbendazole is widely available and is economical in horse and cattle formulations, the  most common dilution is 100mg/gram of product.  The primary advantage of this product, for me, is its availability.  The lowest cost option for treating all three of my dogs with fenbendazole is approximately $20.  They take liquid meds well when mixed with shredded cheese.

Vets get nervous when patients go "off label" and use products intended for other species.  The biggest concern is that most people are incapable of math.  

A related concern is that specific species (and the target pathogen) can have wildly differing dosages.  As a very general rule, species that are herbivores or scavengers can tolerate higher dosages and have shorter elimination half-lives than carnivores.  The usual explanation is that herbivores have greater "gut-fill" due to the lower energy density of their food, plus evolution demanded that they have ways of excreting or otherwise tolerating phyto-toxins  Scavengers needed mechanisms to excrete or detoxify myco and bacterial toxins.  Ominvores typically fall between scavengers and and carnivores.

An example is ivermectrin dosing. An 80 pound ewe would be dosed with 9 cc of 0.08% pre-mix.  The dosage for an 80 pound dog (for heartworms) would be 0.3cc, or 1/30th of the sheep dosage.  And this much, much lower dosage can still be fatal for certain breeds of dogs.

Preventative measures

Tapeworms can be spread by fleas so a key part of tapeworm control is flea control.  Winter is a great time to knock back the flea population.  There are countless products that can be fed to the dogs, squeezed across their backs or put around their necks.  The other half of the control program involves sanitizing the environment: dog bedding, carpets, furniture and so on.

Business opportunity

Mrs ERJ has vetoed many of my business schemes.  Given high school and college girls' unquenchable desire to have concave tummies, I proposed selling tapeworm segments on eBay...for scientific purposes, of course.  I figured it was no grosser than "colonics", that is, recreational enemas.  For some reason Mrs ERJ does not want me vermi-farming tapeworms for the flat-tummy market.  Bummer.  

Never one to begrudge anybody a promising business idea, I will gladly send seed-stock to any of my loyal readers...for a price, of course.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Monster Hunter Alpha (2011)

Monster Hunter Alpha by Larry Correia is a functional primer for small town defense.

Monster Hunter Alpha is the third in a series of books in the fantasy/horror genre.  Since the antagonists are mythical and souless, the author has no need dance around political correctness.

Sidebar: I wonder if the concept of were-wolves is an attempt to explain certain kinds of mental illness.  What did villages do before haloperidol, Abilify, riperdone, clonidine, Adderal, nicotine, cannabis,  alcohol...even chewing gum were readily available?  Did they banish the raving lunatic from the village for three days?  What did they think when he staggered back into camp, gaunt, naked, cut, bleeding, dazed?  One set of circumstances that would create a Monster Hunter Alpha scenario would be an interruption of the logistical supply chain that keeps modern were-wolves controllable.

The story line explores the necessity of having both a defensive and an offensive strategy,  On the defensive end it does an exemplary job illustrating defense-in-depth, passive defense
  • cinderblock walls are your friend 
  • fences and traffic impediments at YOUR optimum stand-off distance)  

On the offensive side there is a particularly graphic scene that illustrates the effectiveness of developing target-rich kill zones and then being able to exploit it from an unexpected axis of attack.  The reader who approaches this book as if it were a textbook will also see the importance of standardizing weapons, at least to the degree of standardizing on the ammo used. and of the importance of a command structure headed by focused, effective leaders.

It explores issues around communication within the group and with outside resources. The student will see that excessive reliance on cellular communication results in civilization collapsing back to the days of isolated fishing villages being picked off by Vikings if/when cellular service fails.

A serious book review must also point out a few "weaknesses".  A core constituency of The Monster Hunter series are weapons enthusiast.  The author gleefully trots out exotic, expensive and spectacularly powerful arms that are not available to the average guy.  That "weakness" is counterbalanced by two practical expositions where vehicles are used as weapons, a how-not-to guide on the deployment of Molotov cocktails, the use of fire and the simple fact that you will never run out of ammo for edged weapons.

Personally, I am tickled that the author chose to stage the story in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  I do not know if Mr Correia was consciously writing a primer for the small town in defense or if it is merely a happy accident spawned by a masterful story teller weaving a compelling story.  But I am glad he wrote it.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Suddenly I am a Rock Star

This has been the most unexpected turn of events and I don't expect it to last long.

I was transporting the kids last Wednesday.  The weather was crappy and I was attending to the driving. 

And then it seemed like Belladonna was asking a bunch of "kind of" random questions.  I had been answering them with the portion of my brain that was not driving and not paying that much attention.

Finally, I asked, "What's that all about?"

"I am playing Trivia Crack with Shea." Bella said.

"Who is 'Shea'?'" I asked.

Bella said, "name redacted's mom."

Suddenly, my kids want to spend time with me

Kubota thought it sounded like fun.  Ping somebody who you know thinks they are way smarter than you are.  Mention Trivia Crack.  Then smack them down.

Belladonna has specialized.  She is now stalking the boys who graduated last year and are attending "prestige" universities.  She finds special joy in deflating "college men" who want to think they have risen above their origins.

The kids handle the recent history, music and movies from 2000.  I am relatively strong on ancient history (pre-2000), science, geography and literature.  There are a few holes in the database but it seems like they consistently nail 80% of the questions...with a little help.

My kids ask me how I can know some much.  I tell them it is what we had to learn to be able to graduate from Junior High "back in the day."  The truth of the matter is that the authors of the game gleaned much of their material from the Uncle John's Bathroom Reader series.  I figure that any book devoted to bathroom humor probably qualifies as "Junior High School" material.

They now get irritated with me when I leave the room.  It has become difficult to even read paperback books when both of them are banging on me, asking for information. 

Frankly, I am basking in the glow.  I doubt that it will last long.  Bella's friends will wise up.  The fad will fade.

But I have this blog entry that I can refer back to.  To remember when I was a Rock Star!!

Windy Weather

Wind gusts up to 60 mph (100kph).  Black Locust trees whipping like fly rods.  Ground is soaked.  Some of the other locals have lost power due to tree branches into the power wires.  Gonna be some flooded basements tonight with the sump pumps down for the count.

High winds affect my internet connection.  I don't know if it rattles my wireless antenna and messes up the aim or if it is the rain.  So tonight's post will be a simple one.

Stay out of the weather as much as possible.  40 Fahrenheit (5 C), rain and wind kills more people due to hypothermia than sub-zero weather does.

Downed power wires are NOT 110V.  Stay back..heck, stay WAY the heck back from them.

Grab your sweetie, light some candles, crack open a bottle of wine and put on some romantic music.

Be safe.  Yeah hear?

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Herding Hogs

Kubota and I helped the Captain load up some hogs to take to the butcher.  I was one of the "gate" men.  Kubota helped wrestle the critters into the trailer.  There are some advantages to having seniority.

A soupy mess

Sunday morning is when the Captain could get the help, so Sunday is when they got loaded.  The guy dragging the hog out of the pen is not the largest man in the world, but his hands are as hard as rocks.

This is a very short video clip I was able to take.  Hogs are vocal and this one was expressing his displeasure at being pulled away from the feed trough.  The video quality is poor because my main job was to keep the rest of the hogs in the pen as they snaked the "chosen ones" out one at a time.

For those who live in the city, a pig becomes a hog when it passes the 180 pound (80kg) mark.

They refined their method as we loaded more hogs.  A bucket over their head calmed them down.  They skidded more easily when both rear legs were noosed.

I did not get a picture of Kubota dragging any of the hogs, but the crew was mighty glad to have him.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Self-Sooth Box

Having adopted all of our children it has been necessary for me to become more open to the idea that my kids will be different then me and to try parenting techniques that are totally foreign to me.

Our first social worker tried to prepare us.  He told us about Michael, the Cambodian child that he had adopted.  Michael was a fisherman from the day he could toddle.  He was drawn to any open water.  He would peer into it, hand grasping a stick like a spear and trying to poke the Jesus bugs.  Even as a toddler.

He graduated to fishing rods as he got older.  Any time Michael was not in the house they knew he was fishing in the river.  He was always easy to find.

His adoptive mom and dad were oblivious to fishing.  It is not that they disliked it.  Fishing simply did not make a blip on their radar.  It elicited as much interest in them as a discussion regarding the finer points of paisley patterns would elicit in me.

Michael's passion for fishing was genetic.  There is no other explanation.

The culture of parenting styles

Whether we appreciate it or not, our culture of parenting is "tuned-in" for personalities that are similar to our own.  We seek mates who are similar to us in critical ways.  The acorn does not fall too far from the tree.  It is likely that the styles that successfully raised us will be successful on our biological progeny.

We, of course, have little appreciation for the things that simply fall into our lap.  We are oblivious to how finely honed our family/cultural techniques are for people who are very, very similar to us.

Adopting kids from an assortment of backgrounds strips away the complacency (and conceit) of cruise-control parenting.

Adopted kids

Adopted kids have a different biological heritage.  Our "finely honed techniques" hit a rough patch.

Genetics might not be the only reason why adopted kids are not as predictable.  It can be that they are trying to connect with two heritages and we have somehow telegraphed what we know about their origins....similar to the reasons why good science requires double-blind experimentation.

One example is our oldest daughter.  She was raised in the Roman-Catholic Christian tradition but she has been drawn, like a magnet, to the evangelical, literal Christian tradition.  Both her biological mother and grandparents were of the evangelical, literal Christian tradition.  Was it genetic or was it because I knew about her birth mother's heritage and somehow telegraphed it?

Our oldest boy lives in a black-white world of absolutes and has a strong sense, a passion, about how the world should run.  He shares those attributes with his birth mother.

These differences (and others) have forced me to be more open to parenting tools that my parents did not need to resort to, even though they raised eight kids.

One of those tools is the Self-sooth box.

Some kids seem to be unable to change their direction when they find themselves on a bad path.  Call them bullheaded, stubborn, knuckle-heads...whatever.  They find themselves in a hole but refuse to stop digging.

The self-sooth box is a box of distractions.  The contents will vary by the kid's natural proclivities and age.

Examples of contents might include:
Obviously, these contents will change a little bit as the child gets older.  But be mindful that comfort is found in items that we have spent the most time with.  Mac-and-cheese, peanut butter toast with apple sauce...Those foods transport us back to simpler times and calm us.  The goal of the self-sooth box is not to have it be edgy but to be comforting.

Good luck.  We are all in this together.  I am pulling for you.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Carrier landings

Kubota appears to be exploring a career as a Navy A-V-A-tor. 

He has been practicing "carrier landings" on the livingroom sofa.  Kubota is somewhere north of 250 pounds.  It is what landlubbers would call a controlled crash landing.

The sofa lacks the appropriate arresting cables and has been taking a beating.

Today's chore was to replace the legs.  I cut some lengths of 2-by-4 and attached them to the frame with a generous number of deck screws.

Kubota has the eyesight and reflexes to be a Navy A-V-A-tor but I don't think he is bowlegged enough.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

270 Win for Coyotes

I am fending off a cold that I got from Belladonna.  One of the nice things about being retired is that I can stay home and nap about 23 hours a day.

The downside for the blog is that the posts will be a little bit simpler.

Things don't always turn out the way I plan

Label pasted to inside of the lid.  This information will be useful the next time Josh needs more bullets.  Pasting it to the inside protects it from the weather.

This part turned out well. The brass did not need trimming, which is always a bonus.  Josh and his brother plan to shoot coyotes.  The 270 Winchester is a capable taking moose when loaded with appropriate bullets, so it is plenty of medicine for coyotes.

Josh and his brother need a little bit of polishing on their woodcraft skills but I cannot fault them on their enthusiasm.  There is no shortage of yodel-dogs around here.

Dang!  My mascara ran.

This did not turn out.  I did not have clear packing tape to protect this from the weather so I sprayed it with clear-coat.

This information is on the top of the lid because the ballistics information will come in handy at random times. The only two pieces of information that are critical are that he "zero" the gun to hit 2" high at 100 yards.  The other piece of information is the number of clicks to come up at 300, 350 and 400 yards.

Range estimation

Josh needs a laser range finder.

I recently read an account of the owner of a gun shop (in Wyoming, I believe) who sold a boat load of range finders.  He would ask his customers -practiced and experienced outdoorsmen- to estimate the range to the flag pole in the center of town.  The majority of the estimates were between 600 and 800 yards.

Bear in mind that this was ground these people had walk many, many times.  Bear in mind that there were usually pedestrians walking about the town square providing a very solid reference size.

The owner of the gun shop would hand the outdoorsmen a range finder and they would laser it at 325 yards.  Many did not believe the number.  The owner would suggest that they pace it off.

He sold a lot of range finders.

Nothing new under the sun

This is not a new phenomena.  Sportswriters in the 1920s and 1930s wrote reams of stories with lines like, "I saw the flock of six mountain goats a half mile climbing up the mountain.  The head of the harem was a monster.  I drew a coarse bead on the leader, holding 3 feet above his back and touched off  'Ol Betsy'.  The goat slid 200 yards down the mountain."

At a half mile the front sight of 'Ol Betsy' would have covered the entire flock of five goats.  There was not three feet of hold over and no half mile shot.

Experienced, steely-eyed Wyoming hunters cannot estimate range.  Sportswriters from the '20s and '30s could not estimate range.  That tells me that Josh needs a range finder.  Even if he is shooting a 270 Winchester.

My guess is that he will never see a coyote beyond 300 yards.  After lasering enough coyotes he will figure out that he just needs to hold in the center of the hair and s-q-u-e-e-z-e.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


I used to work with Bobby Hamilton.  He is a very fine electrician.  Now he is a very fine taxidermist.  Sorry, Lucky, I could not find any examples of Pomoxis nigromaculatus.

And for those who want a little bit of "enhancement", well, Bobby can help you out with that as well.

Tracking job

I had a tracking job last night.  No, it is not what you think.

Much of the property in my neighborhood is owned by two separate gentlemen.  One of these gentlemen started out selling cars for a living...and he was very, very good at it.  The other gentleman started out as a plumber.  Both gentlemen now have a variety of business enterprises and business associates.

One of the ways they "recognize" associates who have been dependable is that give them permission to hunt their various properties.  That permission means more than money to some people.

Over the years we have become accustomed to seeing a motley collection of vehicles at the access drives to the farm fields around here.  The specific vehicles change but they all look the same....mostly high mileage pickup trucks with scuffed up beds and a smattering of Jeeps.  They mind their business and we mind ours.

Until last night

Last night at 8:30 PM Kubota told me that one of the vehicles was parked about 3/4 miles east of our house.  The temperature was 16 degrees Fahrenheit and there was a steady 12 mph wind out of the southwest.  The windchill was somewhere between 0 F and 5 F (-18 C) Sunset is about 5:50 and it is unusual for anybody to stay in the woods past 6:30 unless they are tracking a deer.

I decided I better go check things out.  A few years ago one of the guest hunters had fallen out of a tree stand while bowhunting.  He was badly stove-up and laid on the ground until is wife came looking for him.  Fortunately for him, the weather was in the fifties.

If a fellow has not thought things through, he might find himself on the ground with a broken arm and no way to tunnel through the three layers of clothing to get at his cell phone.  Or, sometimes, a hunter will have a heart attack.  Stuff happens.

Batteries do not like cold weather.  Not knowing how long I was going to be out, I had taken the precaution of loading 4, fresh AA batteries into my flashlight.

It was not a difficult tracking job.  We had about an inch and a half of snow (40mm) and he walked along the east side of a block of standing corn.  In fact, it was about like tracking a dog that had run across a newly poured pavement.  The best contrast occurred when I held the flashlight at waist level and pointed the beam 20-to-30 yards ahead.

I walked off to the side and was able to track him with no trouble at all.  I paused several times and slowly scanned the horizon and tree tops with my flashlight.  I did not want this guy popping me if he was "shining" deer.

I appreciated the brightness and focused beam of my flashlight.

Found him!


There is a pot-hole near the left side of this photo.  It is the tall tuft of Cottonwood trees that is the highest point of the treeline.  I suspect this is where the hunter was holed up.

Close up of the pot-hole.   Too wet to plow.  Too dry to drink.

I met the hunter about 250 yards in from the road as he was walking out.  Some deer had bedded down right in front of him at deer-thirty.  He did not want them to "bust him" so he figured he would try to out-wait them.  They stood up and moved away as I started crunching my way across the field.

He was about thirty and fully understood why I was checking him out.  He was not mad.  In fact, he appreciated that I had "pushed" the deer.  He was getting a wee bit chilled.

And the moral of the story is.....

I sleep well at night.

This episode had a happy ending.  But that is not something I could have known when Kubota shared his observation with me.

I could pontificate about how mutual aid makes for resilient neighborhoods.  I could be smarmy and self-congratulatory about being my brother's keeper.  But that is not what motivated me.

The reason I did it was because I value my sleep.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Do not bear false witness...

With a decision in Ferguson, Missouri regarding the possible non-indictment of Officer Darren Wilson imminent, I asked Belladonna her thoughts.  As one of the few "people-of-color" in Eaton Rapids High School there is a chance Bella will be tapped as some kind of spokesperson.  It was a sneaky way to try to coach her.

I did not need to worry.

Her response was, "I don't have enough evidence to have an informed opinion.  I have to trust the members of the Grand Jury who have seen all of the evidence.  It is not my place to talk 'crap' when I just don't know."

"Thou shall not bear false witness." is one of the Ten Commandments.  Whether one believes the Ten Commandments were delivered directly from God or not, one must accept that these rules passed a very severe test.  The Jewish nation wandered around in the desert for forty years.  That is the equivalent of being trapped on an elevator for a very, very long time.  Small infractions of courtesy amplify under those conditions.  There is no escape.  It is a rigorous test of any rule-set.

Talking 'crap' or making up facts to buttress one's emotional proclivities definitely qualifies as "...bearing false witness."

I am proud of Belladonna.  She has her head screwed on straight.

Charitable Giving

The adults in the ERJ extended family no longer exchange gifts at Christmas.  We already have too much "stuff".  For the last several years we have been pitching the money into a jar and "Grandpa" decides where to send that money.

I suspect that other's thoughts also turn to charitable giving at this time of year.

Person-to-person, focused or umbrella

Amish and others in the Mennonite tradition have a strong belief in person-to-person service as charity.  It is their belief that charity is a Biblical directive that is too important to delegate.  Further, the risk in paying others to perform your charitable duty is that the donator will feel "superior" to or "separate" from the recipient.  Person-to-person is the ultimate of focus.  The downsides are the limits on how far one can project one's charity, the limits on the skill-sets (and ultimately the problems that can be solved), and the risk of getting bamboozled by a con artist. 

Focused Charities
A focused charity is a charity with a very clear and limited scope of action.  Examples include pet rescue organizations (Example), homeless shelters (Example), community organizations (Example) as well as organizations like Scouting,  Big Brothers and Nature Conservancy.

Umbrella Charities
Umbrella charities present the donor with a dilemma.

At their best, they are low overhead operations due to the huge revenue the fixed costs are amortized over.  They have the ability to "pull" a dizzying array of skills and talents.  They hold assets in reserve for events like earthquakes and tornadoes and epidemics.

At their worst they are unfocused and they subsidize activities that are repulsive to specific donors.  Peoplen who are pro-life are horrified to learn when a portion of their donations subsidize abortion clinics.  Or monies might go to "community activists" who organize and participate in anti-business protests. Another downside of umbrella charities is that they can become over-focused on fund raising.  The flip size of this downside is when the recipient organizations loses sight of their core constituents as they try to mold themselves to be more attractive to the umbrella funders.

At their most disingenuous, umbrella charities offer a "designated giving" campaign where they sell the illusion that your donation will "go" to the charities of your choice.  If questioned further, they will tell you that your dollars will be the "first ones allocated".  What they really don't tell you is that the organization will then "top off" the funding of the charities to the levels predetermined by their board.  That is, your designation makes no difference in the net funding.  Your "designated" charity will simple receive less from the commingled funds and the one(s) you find odious will receive more.  In the reality of net funding, your dollars were commingled and supported the charity you found despicable.

Due Diligence

There are several websites dedicated to helping donors sort through public charities.

It is still a case of "let the buyer beware."

You might go to a site like Charity Navigator  and use their handy-dandy ratings.  While that is certainly easy you may still be misled and waste money.

For example: 
You might compare The Southern Poverty Law Center (Financial score of 83) with Cross International (Financial score of 72) and conclude that TSPLC is significantly more efficient from a financial perspective than Cross International.

You would be wrong.

The actual where-the-rubber-hits-the-road number, the percentage of revenue spent on "programs" is 65% for The Southern Poverty Law Center and it is 95% for Cross International.

---Full disclosure---
I have been unable to replicate the Charity Navigator's financial ratings using the Charity Navigator's published methodology.  I calculated Financial scores of 74.5 for TSPLC and 78 for Cross International) using the data and methodology published by Charity Navigator.
---End Disclosure---

Poking around in the fine print of their published methodology (as opposed to the one they actually use) reveals that just over half (57%) of the variable* portion of the financial score is due to efficiency measurements.  The Charity Navigator double-counts fund raising efficiency so even that calculation can be gamed by shifting headcount from "fund raising" to administrative.

Approximately 30% of the financial score is due to growth metrics....or increasing popularity, if you prefer.

The remainding 14% of the score rewards inefficiency in applying donations to their intended purpose.  That is, an organization that raises funds but does not disperse them receives a higher score than an organization that quickly injects those resources into their intended targets. 

Charity Navigator gives TSPLC the highest score possible because it has over seven years of working capital squirreled away.  Cross International is given the lowest score possible because it disperses checks as soon as the donations clear the bank and has no liquid assets on hand.

Two final observations

Some of the umbrella charities receive substantial funding from governmental units.  An example would be the unaccompanied minors that were coming from Central America.  The Federal government vendored out the "placement" and care to existing human services charities because they have the infrastructure.

That can place charities with a religious affiliation in a political bind, especially those with a medical or human services ministry.  Mammon vs. God.

Defunding by the Feds, a likely outcome in a highly politicized environment, will cream the financial rating score due to the 30% growth metric component.  The less diligent researchers will dismiss some very fine charities because they let somebody else do their thinking for them.  That is, if they mindlessly accept the Charity Navigators composite score.

The other consideration is that internet rating services do not canvas every charity.  Many charities choose to not spend administrative resources on asking to be rated or in filling out the necessary paperwork.

A portfolio approach

It is my opinion that all components in the charitable landscape: P-2-P, Focused, Umbrella, can work together in a dynamic ecosystem.

The P-2-P helps us become better, more empathetic human beings.

The Focused not only fill a charitable need but can be fine social organizations.  They also serve as a signal to the Umbrellas.  They provide information to the Umbrellas that help them adjust their allocations.

The Umbrella charities extend the reach of the little guy.  I will never go to Africa and drill a well.  But I can help pay for one.

*Charity Navigator spots every charity 30 points on their financial score.  Only 70 percent of the score is variable.  

Monday, November 17, 2014

Deer Hunting, Clothing

Yesterday's session in the deer stand only lasted a couple of hours before Kubota got cold.  The floor of the stand is 12 feet (4m) above ground and it gets a wee bit breezy up there.

Hunting from a stand is a sedentary occupation.  You might be cooking along at 1.2 METS sitting motionlessly in that stand....perhaps 100W.  Walking with all of your gear, by contrast, is churning out 3.5-to-4.0 METS...300W.  That creates much more body heat.  A clothing system that is perfectly comfortable walking around at -5 F (-18 C) will result in misery if you are sitting still at 30 F (-1 C).

Kubota was very nattily attired in form-fitting togs of matching camo.  That kind of thing is important to kids. He looked sharp!

Kubota has warmer clothes, but they make him look fat.

I, on the other hand, wore layers, layers and more layers.  I look like a very dingy version of the Michelin Man, except I wear enormous, mil-surp, insulated mittens.

Whereas my brothers look more like the Puff Marshmallow man from Ghostbusters.

Kubota got cold.

The first rule of teaching your kids to love hunting is to stop while it is still fun.  He seemed to notice that he was cold immediately after his bag of M&Ms was empty.

It kind of sucks to climb out of a stand at Deer-twenty-five.  But I really don't need the meat and I want my kids to love the out-of-doors.  Priorities, priorities, priorities.

My hope is that Kubota will upgrade his wardrobe the next time we go out.  Few things are as motivating as a little bit of discomfort.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

View from the Deer Stand


Looking north from the stand. One of my brothers bought a new tractor and he cut the shooting lanes through the Goldenrod.   Picture taken November 16, 2014.
Looking northeast from the stand, Nov 16.
Same as above but picture taken Nov 15.
Picture taken directly east.  This is known as "The Orchard Stand" because it is on the corner of this orchard.
Looking east-northeast over the ravine.  Picture taken November 15.  Most deer traffic is from right-to-left from this view.
Looking south over a picked corn field.
Looking west.

This is the buck my youngest brother let walk so the nephew who has not shot a buck could have a crack at it.

Coyote Blog added to the Blog roll

Coyote Blog has been added to my blog roll.

The author is a business owner in an extremely competitive, very "human resources" intense industry.

He has a gift for explaining things in a way that makes sense to me.  For example, he explained the recent Government foray into "regulating" the internet in this way:

There is a battle that goes on in the marketplace in virtually every communication medium between content creators and content deliverers....In fact, this fight for rents across a vertical supply chain exists in virtually every industry.  Consumers will pay so much for a finished product.  Any vertical supply chain is constantly battling over how much each step in the chain gets of the final consumer price.
What "net neutrality" actually means is that certain people, including apparently the President, want to tip the balance in this negotiation towards the content creators...

Two companies (Netflix and Google) use half the total downstream US bandwidth.  They use orders and orders of magnitude more bandwidth than any other content creators, but don't want to pay for it.
Why should you care?  Well, the tilting of this balance has real implications for innovation.  It creates incentives for content creators to devise new bandwidth-heavy pretty much wipes out any incentive for ISP's (cable companies, phone companies, etc) to invest in bandwidth infrastructure.
There are folks out there who always feel better as a consumer if their services are heavily regulated by the Government.  Well, the Internet is currently largely unregulated, but the cable TV industry is heavily regulated.  Which one are you more satisfied with?

That is some darned good writing and I am proud to put him on my blog roll.

(Note:  This essay was excerpted and any errors were made by me, ERJ.)

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Deer Season Update

My brothers like busting my chops.

They told me that their friend had sent them this picture of a monster deer that had been hit in Eaton a woman driving a minivan.

I am afraid to ask Mrs ERJ if this is the deer she hit.  I prefer to think that my brothers are messing with me.

From three blinds our party took two bucks and a doe.  One buck had been an eight point but had broken off a tine.  The other buck was a four point.

Temperatures were in the mid-20s (F) with winds out of the southwest at 6 MPH, gusts to 12.

I am proud of my youngest brother.  He passed on the eight point so one of the nephews, who has never shot a buck, could have a crack at it.

I have a wonderful family.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Deer Season starts Tomorrow!!!

Tomorrow is the first day of Michigan's firearm deer season.  There is a VERY good chance I will not post tomorrow.

Instead, I will be catching up on advances in radiology, extrication, haz-mat, storm drains, nuclear medicine, lawn care, audiology, as well as personally researching how much breakfast one can eat and remain mobile.

Spending the night at camp

This will be the first time I have spent the night at "camp" in decades.  The Cavalier is down due to suspected timing chain issue.  Mrs ERJ hit a deer and it is in the shop with +$4000 damage.  So we are down to one vehicle.

Belladonna has to work tomorrow.  Mrs ERJ will drive me out to camp and drop me off.

Shooting stuff

This is what is going into the woods with me.  That is the makings for six shots.
It is important to label items when repackaged into pill bottles.  For instance, loose Triple Seven propellant looks remarkably similar to instant coffee.  One makes the bullet go.  The other makes the hunter go.  It is not wise to mix them up.

An educational video

I learned about this while sharing a deer blind with one of my brothers.

The Columbus fire department lost a firefighter a few years ago.  He had fallen through the floor and was unresponsive.  His team had to evacuate before they could figure out a way to McGuiver a way to save him.  He died.

The Columbus Drill evolved from that problem.  Five guys, two lengths of rope.  This is how it is done.

A common industrial health issue is back strain due to lifting from an awkward position or lifting too much weight.  This is particularly common among skilled trades when they try to pull heavy components out of a tool, items like transformers, hydraulic cylinders and so on.

It does not take too much imagination to see how four beefy millwrights with two lengths of black iron pipe and some sling-strap could easily conjure up a sky hook that could pop a 300 pound part out of a mole-hole.

Same deal for dragging a deer out of the woods.  Two guys, some rope and a shovel handle.

For all of you who will be hunting this weekend, be safe.  For the rest of you...I will try to remember the new jokes I hear.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Ground Blinds

Kubota and his best friend, Willy-Pete, built a ground blind today.  I will collect pictures tomorrow.

I did a little "pre-work" while they were at school.

"Deer's eye" view.  Forty yards out from the blind.  The blind will be nestled on the right side of the middle Norway Spruce near the center of the frame.  A round of firewood is in lower right side to to delineate the kill-zone.  Camera is looking north.
This is a close-up of where the ground blind will go.  Surveyor's tape wind-sock.  A second chair was added and additional spruce boughs woven into the fence and upwind of the chairs.
View from the stand looking south.  Rounds of firewood on extreme left and right defining kill-zone.  My township has a population density of approximately 110 people per square mile.  One must be ever mindful of what is down-range.
The close round of firewood at 25 yards, the far round at 70 yards.  Some magnification was used when taking this photo.
I figure the sweet-spot for shooting White-tailed deer is 40-to-70 yards.  That is far enough out that they are unlikely to hear your heart thumping but close enough to make an ethical shot a piece of cake.

I am following my own advice regarding baiting.  Small amounts of corn will be sprinkled out at 40 yards most afternoons.

One fact that is seldom considered is that deer and other ruminates only have teeth on their lower jaw.  It is very difficult for them to eat ear corn as the ear just spins when they try to peel the kernels off the cob.  Shelled corn, on the other hand, they can suck up like Snickers bars.  Deer will walk through 40 acres of standing corn to inhale a pint of shelled corn.

Mouse traps

It is that time of year.  The outside mice decide they want to be inside mice.

I like this style of mouse trap.  The trigger is a marvel of engineering.  It is sensitive to mice setting it off while being easy to set without it firing upon your fingers.  It can be made even more robust with regard to negligent discharge during transport by wedging a short pencil beneath the tread-plate of the trigger. 

Trap as purchased on extreme left.  Ok, I lied.  I popped the staple that holds the trigger bar.

Raisin wedged in bait well on left.  Same thing but smeared with peanut butter on right.

Next is a trap with a raisin wedged in the bait well.  Sophisticated city mice are capable of licking peanut butter of cheese-whiz off the trigger without setting of the trap.  The raisin makes them tug.  This step is not as important with this type of trap but essential with the older style triggers.

Third from left is the same as second from left but it has peanut butter smeared over the raisin.  Peanut butter has a scent that will draw them in.

The fourth trap is set and has a tether and a drag weight.  Waxed dental floss makes a good tether as it holds knots well and is very strong.  I used a very large nut for the drag weight.  One downside of this type of trigger is that they sometimes fire too soon and only catch a front leg.  The animal drags off the trap, dies in some inaccessible place and starts smelling.

Trap placement

The goal of trap placement is to maximize the chances of catching the target species (mice) and minimize the impact on non-targets (wives, dogs, cats, etc.)

Mice like to run behind objects and beneath objects.  Do you see that piano pushed up against the wall?  Yup, place a mouse trap behind the piano.

Mice are attracted to food odor.  A mouse trap goes behind the trash receptacle in the kitchen.  It will be placed between the receptacle and the wall after I ensure that there is enough room for the bail to swing freely through its arc.

Another one goes behind the hat-and-mitten bin by one of the pet food dishes.  Like the trash receptacle this place meets the mouse's need for cover and its desire for food.

A third mouse trap goes in the pantry down in the basement.  It will be placed along the baseboard near the door.  Doorways are natural funnels and baseboards near doorways concentrate traffic.  I can enhance the traffic by pulling the portable shelving a couple of inches (50mm) away from the wall to create a secure run-way for the mice.

The fourth mouse trap goes into Kubota's room.  His room offers an abundance of both cover and food.  Fifteen year olds.  Sigh!!!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Influencing events

From Wikipedia:

In 2003, Steven Lerner, creator of Albino Blacksheep, created a parody webpage titled "French Military Victories".[22] When typed into Google, the first result (or the "I'm Feeling Lucky" result) led to a webpage resembling a Google error message, reading, "Your search – French military victories – did not match any documents. Did you mean French military defeats?" The page received over 50,000 hits within 18 hours of its release.

Mr. Lerner was able to exploit Google's "learning" algorithm.  He had all of his buddies the lived in his dorm type "French Military Victories" into Google and then dig through the listings until they came to his page.  Then they clicked on the link to his page thereby floating it up in the rankings.

Nearly all Main Stream Media sites use a similar "learning" algorithm to keep their fingers on the pulse of their audience.  They float news items that receive many hits to the front page.  They sink older items off the page as the hits slow down.

One way activists can gain visibility for pet issues is to go to the MSM websites and perform a search using key words linked to their pet issue.  Like Mr. Lerner, they need to enlist their friends because this is a game of numbers.

For example, a person who wished for increased coverage on the disingenuous, smoke-filled-room process behind the passage of the Affordable Care Act could encourage all of their friends to go to CNN (or any other MSM outlet) and search for "Jonathan Gruber Affordable Care Act".  Access the most recent article listed.

Barring editorial cherry-picking, articles with that content will start showing up on the first page after enough people perform that search in a compressed period of time.