Thursday, December 31, 2015

Geosynchronous orbit

One of Mrs ERJ's oldest friends is visiting for New Years.  This is a decades long tradition.

They are busy catching up on events of the past year.

The friend was talking about how there is a "sweet spot" for distance or space in relationships.  Conceptually it is similar to "Geosynchronous orbit".

Orbits that are too far away have the bodies drifting away.

Orbits that are too close are a frenzy of change, the frictions of atmosphere and death spirals.

Geosynchronous orbits offer enough distance to provide the illusion of stability but close enough to offer durability.

I am going to have to think on that idea.

Hunting Coyotes

I got a call at 11:00 AM from the Captain.  "Do you want to go hunting coyotes?"

"You darned betchya!" I replied.

It was a small enterprise.  The Captain was joined by his son and his brother.  We pushed about a half section of land, alternating standing and driving.  We hunted until 3:30 PM.  I figure I walked four or five miles.  That estimate was verified by the Captain's son.  He has an App on his phone that tracks distance and it said he walked 4.2 miles.

Walking through standing corn is hard work!

I did not see any coyotes but two of the guys who were standing did.  They launched 8 shots but did not connect.  The after-action-analysis was that 12 pellets (times 8) of 0-0 does not get it done at 100 yards.  The song-dog squirted out between our two standers, who were 200 yards apart.  They knew they were too far away but fired anyway to "Let it know we cared." 

We need more shooters!

The Captain suggested that I invite Kubota for the next hunt.  Kubota was thrilled to be invited.  The Captain and company understand that we need to actively recruit new participants if we are to keep shooting sports viable.  They are already talking about inviting some of Kubota's friends on future expeditions.

A quick tour of the internet suggests that 45 pellets of "T" shot, Remington RP12 wad, Federal hulls, 35 grains of Blue Dot, shot buffer and  full choke is good coyote medicine.  Lucky for me the Lansing/Mason gun show is this weekend and I might be able to find some T ( 0.20" diameter shot).  One more shooter shrinks the gap to one hundred yards (fifty yard max shot for somebody) and the T shot loads should be able to reach that far.

Unlike the "old" guys, I like driving more than standing.  The guys who are standing are far more likely to have a quality shots at coyotes.  The driver, or walker, gets to see more countryside.  I have already decided to load up with #6 shot for the next hunt.  I have little doubt that I will limit out on rabbits.

This was more fun than a barrel of monkeys and I am looking forward to our next outing.

Terminal Velocity

This chart is offered for entertainment purposes only.

That which goes up must come down.

Calculated terminal velocity (fps) for assorted projectiles shot directly up into the air.  Assumes 32.4 ft/sec^2 gravity and standard air density.  Coefficient of Drag figures, shot weight and diameter from the internet. Higher velocities to be expected at higher elevation, higher latitudes and higher temperatures.

150 fps "Smarts, don't it?" line was extracted from my rearmost orifice.  For frame of reference, the Daisy Red Ryder Youth model has a muzzle velocity of 240 fps.  The "Smarts, don't it?" is also a variable of projectile weight.  A bowling ball does not need to be moving at 150 fps to inflict pain upon impact.

Bottom line

On my property, if anybody fires up into the air at midnight it will be birdshot only, while wearing baseball caps....and don't look up, it will put your eye out.

Christmas Gifts

I have wonderful dogs.  Each of the three dogs bought me one hundred, 124 grain, 9mm, Speer Gold Dot Hollow Point bullets for reloading.  Smart dogs!  I think the German Shepherd Dogs feel a special affinity for the 9mm Parabellum.  GSD also stands for Get Stuff Done!  (Mrs ERJ told me that they bought them from Wideners...she let them use her credit card)

I found several hundred pieces of F-C brass and got busy.  Except for the brass (Both brands weighed 58-60 grains) I used the recipe from HERE.  Safe in mine.  You are on your own in yours, I accept no responsibility.  I ran several rounds through the test gun to check for good feeding.  5.1 grains of Unique gave me a pretty, 8" diameter muzzle flash in low light when fired out of a 4 inch barrel.  Just something to keep in mind.

One of the things about being retired is that the check shows up on the first of the month.  Projects near the end of the month require economizing.  The cartridge carrier on the right comfortably holds between 150 and 170 loaded rounds of 9mm and is free.  The one on the left is prettier and is better for storing fired cases for re-use.  They both have a  place in the scheme of things.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Regulations: The stealth virus that kills the economy

It is not possible to overestimate the chilling effect that regulations have on economic activity.

A vignette

Richard (not his real name) is in his seventies.  He and his wife downsized their house.  They bought a $135K house.  They had $100,000 of equity from the house they sold.  They borrowed $50K because Donna (not her real name) wanted to do $15K worth of nesting, new carpets, drapes, furniture.

Their credit scores are well north of 750.  Their life-long bank gladly loaned them $50K with the $135K house as collateral.

The bank sold the mortgage to recover their capital and to meet the liquidity guidelines required by the government.

Somewhere, somehow, the mortgage became encumbered with a package of regulations and requirements.  The package is a half inch thick of small font, densely written federal gobbly-gook.

Richard made a passable stab at reading these encumbrances....stipulations that he never agreed to or signed off on.  But they now apply to him.  All because he borrowed $50K.

According to Richard, the federal government can take possession of his house and evict him if his vehicle weeps motor oil, even if it was a third party that changed the oil and did not tighten the oil pan plug or oil filter.  He can be evicted even though he has $100K, his only $100K, of money invested in the house.

He can be evicted if a used blister pack of cold medicine is found in the ditch in front of his house.

He can be evicted if he uses a perjorative or "archaic" term in speech, written communication or on the internet.  Of course, the list of terms that are considered perjorative is ever changing.

He can be evicted if heavy metals (like lead) are found on his property.  That is, if he discharges so much as a .22 LR.

You get the idea.  The list is nearly endless.

Richard and Donna saw how the IRS targeted conservatives.  They do not trust the federal government.  Especially frightening to them is that the government can do this outside of the checks and balances of the judicial system.  You can sue them but it will be at least ten years before your case is resolved...and you have to pay rent during that time.

They have choked back on all of their discretionary spending in order to get out from under the $50K  He was downcast as he was telling me his story.  He is not even sure that paying off the loan will remove the encumbrances from the property.  He fears that he is Brer Rabbit and the loan was the Tar Baby.

Imagine Richard and Donna times 5 million.    That does not bode well for the economy.

Richard speculates that the encumbrances were originally targeted at slum-lords as protections for renters.  The paperwork has HUD (Department of Housing and Urban Development) headers.  The SJW decided that normal, constitutional processes were too slow and so they created extrajudicial paths.  Then middle-age spread and bureaucratic sloth made it easier to tack those regulations ontio any loan that so much as cast a shadow on any desk of any federal agency.

"But we would never do that." from a bureaucratic minion is not as reassuring as "But we could never do that."  Why grant yourself the power if you never intend to exercise it?

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Nik's Rules to Live By

Sometimes our best efforts are not enough and we look silly.  So what?
Today's essay is lifted from Nik's Poker Palace.  Advance notice:  Nik (Faldo) admires beautiful women....not scrawny, emaciated, tubercular waifs.  He likes WOMEN.  You will see pictures of beautiful, healthy women if you visit his page.  They will be wearing clothes but you will see a lot of skin.

Reprinted with permission.

Rules to live by:

Here is a list of personal rules Faldo thought he would share. They will help you in poker - but also make for a much happier existence away from the felt also.
  1. Forget about the bad luck. Shit happens. Play the next hand (round, day, night, date, meeting, project, interview, game, etc).
  2. It is not how often you fail, it's how often you try.
  3. It's important to do what you say you will do.
  4. Personal integrity is the highest ethical imperative. Personal loyalty is a close second.
  5. There are two types of problems: Those you can do something about and those you cannot. Of the ones you can do something about - there are two of those: those worth doing something about and those that are not worth it. Of those worth doing something about - there are two of those: those that you WILL do something about and those you will not. Save all your time and effort on those you CAN and WILL do something about. [See how much less stress you have already!]
  6. All things being equal - make every decision in your life so that it will give you more options than fewer.
  7. You can live to be 100 or get killed by illegal alien or a Muslim today. The age thing is unlikely, and the outs for death by a Muslim are rising daily. Still, plan for the long term. Plan for survival long term. James Dean said it best - "Dream like you will live forever, live like you will die tomorrow."
  8. Always have a plan B...and a plan C...and a plan D......................and a plan Z!
  9. You rarely regret what you did as much as you will regret what you didn't do. So when it doubt - DO IT!  
  10. You are responsible for all the consequences of your actions - even the unforeseen ones.
  11. You are only responsible for the consequences of your actions - and not the actions of anyone else.
  12. Nobody can make you feel angry, sad, hurt, happy or anything else. How you feel is up to you.

Run, Rabbit. Run!

In track, the "rabbit" is an athlete of middling ability who is chosen to "pace" distance races.  There is no expectation that the rabbit will finish the race.  A rabbit for a 3200m race might run the first third at the blistering pace and either drop out or run at a "recovery" pace for the remainder of the race.

"Rabbits" are employed for two main reasons. 

In some cases the rabbit is used to gull the opponent's top athletes into a pace that is not sustainable for the entire race.  Two-thirds the way through the distance the opponent is completely gassed and hobbles to the finish line.

Sometimes the rabbit sets a pace that is incrementally faster than what the home team's best athlete's personal best.  By running up-tempo, the top athlete gets locked into a cadence that puts them on-track to set a personal best.  Additionally, the "rabbit" breaks the wind for the nominal "winner".  This is not a trivial thing when running outdoors.  Headwinds make a difference.  The nominal winner can husband their strength for the final push after the rabbit drops out.

The cosmic joke is that sometimes the rabbit wins.  They find some magical reserve.  They find that the faster pace stands astride as sweet-spot that they never knew existed.


Politics, unlike running track, is a multi-dimensional enterprise.  Politics run their own rabbits.

Rand Paul?  Rabbit!

Chris Christie?  Rabbit!

Mike Huckabee?  Rabbit!

Donald Trump?  Rabbit.

But can a rabbit win?

Well, of course one of them can win. 

This gets your pulse rate up, doesn't it?
The challenge faced by the rabbit is not capturing the imagination and triggering the deepest emotions of the voter, it is sustaining that favor in the face of reality.

How many 33 year old men, young fathers, go into a car dealership and fall in love with cars like the one shown above?  They fantasize about it.  They imagine themselves driving around in it.  When asked by friends, "Would you buy one of those?" they answer "Absolutely!!!"

When the day comes to put their money down and buy a vehicle that will be a part of the family for four or eight years....well, they decide to buy something that is a little bit less primal, a little more multi-functional, a little more economical.

They buy a slightly used "soccer mom" van.

A Suxdonut moment?

Not really.  All of that virility posturing and billowing clouds of testosterone was to attract a mate.  And we succeeded. 

We no longer raid neighboring villages, seeking to carry off a mate.  Nope.  We are on the other end now.

We are protectors and providers.  We keep the home fires burning, the vermin out of the garden and slay the predators that dare approach the demesne.  Our war horse is now a plow horse.  The thrill of the raid is still with us due to prior programming but we now answer to a higher calling.

The rabbit must convince the majority of voters, at the instant they pull the lever, that the rabbit's over-the-top (or one dimensional) approach is the best choice for the long run. 

A girl might be a lot of fun to date, but do you want to marry her?  Do you want to see that face and hear that voice the first thing in the morning every day for the rest of your life?  Do you want to clean up her messes and pay for her stupid decisions?

All I can say is that I see far more minivans on the road than boy-racer coupes.

This is going to be an interesting primary season.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Downed power wires

Photo taken with cell phone.  I was not as close as this photo makes it appear.  I cropped out a bunch of photo to make it look like I was close.

Southern Belle took me out for one more run before I take her to the airport.  Once again she kicked my butt.

The crappy weather showed up while we were running.  We came across this tree that had blown across some power wires.  You can see two places where the wires are arcing to the tree in the lower-right corner of the photo.

I called 9-1-1 and left this in the road.

It grew as we watched.  Finally, a char-path spanned from wire-to-wire.  Lots of smoke for about fifteen seconds.  Then the closer wire separated, putting a "hot" wire on the ground.  With all of the weight of the tree on the farther wire, the cross piece on the utility pole crapped out.

It may be a while before a crew gets out there.   A half inch of freezing rain is predicted and wind gusts out of the east at fifty miles per hour.  I am not looking forward to driving Southern Belle to the airport (about 90 miles).  I am going to hate to see that girl go.

God bless frugal women

Last four digits of the credit card were covered up.  Otherwise, this image is untouched.
Mrs ERJ had a few coupons that knocked the price of gas down at one of our local gas stations.

God bless frugal women everywhere.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

New Year Resolutions

Retirement has been sedentary.  I picked up a few pounds in the wrong places.

I did not notice until Mrs ERJ bought a light coat for me.  It was made by Dickies, a brand that targets working guys.  She has been noticing my blimping out.  She bought me a "Large".

And it was too small.


How can that be?  I am only five-eightish.

I could go into denial.  I could say it was not a big deal because I was wearing a fleece beneath it or that it was OK because it was tight across the shoulders.

But the fact that it was made by Dickies should have accounted for guys with upper body strength.  My problem is not too much muscle.  It is that extra forty pounds of fat I picked up since retiring.

Another event that brought my decrepit condition into focus is that Southern Belle took me out for a run.  Three years ago I could run six miles without too much strain.   This time I had to take a one-minute walking break every mile.

My New Year Resolution

I will move more.  I will walk and/or run a total of 1000 miles in the year 2016.

That works out to about 3 miles a day.

That distance is not totally arbitrary.  It is about a one hour walk or a half hour run.  It is the distance of the "block" that Mrs ERJ and I walk around.

My plan is to occasionally publish my miles-to-date on the blog.  It will be a simple line at the bottom of a post.  You will help me.  Putting that number out there will hold me accountable.  

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Reloading minutia: Are you a tapper?

Image of Alliant Unique powder from National Center for Forensic Science database
As you may know from earlier posts, I reload ammunition.  One of my favorite propellents is call Alliant Unique.  It is a very old powder that is still around due to its versatility.

One source of frustration is the extremely wide range of powder loads from various sources.  This essay will attempt to demonstrate how several independent labs can work to the same specifications and reach widely differing maximum powder loads.  I will also discuss how this might impact your loading techniques.

The SAAMI spec

This is a "snip" of the actual SAAMI specs for the 9mm Luger, one of the cartridges that I reload.  The figure that is quoted most often is the Maximum Average Pressure, which is 35,000 psi in the case of the 9mm Luger.

If you look at the second column from the right you will see "Maximum Probable Lot Mean".  The footnotes tell us that the technician is to use a lot size of ten.  This is an attempt to comprehend the variation that occurs from bullet-to-bullet.

One way to calculate this is to take the average and add 1.3 standard deviations to it.  That yields the "90th percentile" number, assuming a normal distribution.

Distributions are rarely normal

Image reposted for convenience.
Getting back to Unique.  Unique is a flake powder.  It is shaped much like very small potato chips.  And like potato chips, the powder column has a tendency to settle when agitated.  Being flat, they tend to pile up on ledges.  Being small, they can adhere to plastic parts due to static electricity.

I, personally, am a "tapper".  I tap the side of the measuring drum twice after it has filled up and twice after dispense while the mouth of the cartridge is still in position.  That settles the powder column in the powder measure, it knocks them off any ledges or irregularities within the powder measure, it dislodges any grains that might want to adhere due to static electricity.  By tapping the powder measure, I consistently bias the powder charge I am throwing to the maximum possible for the actual settings of the device.

Today I quantified the effect of "tapping"  I threw ten powder charges using my typical technique.  Those ten powder throws weighed 52.3 grains.  Then I threw ten powder throws using the smoothest, least agitating strokes of the powder measure that I could manage.  Those ten powder throws weighed 47.7 grains.

Striped column is actual weight of the powder thrown.  Green column is the calculation, AVERAGE + 1.3* Standard Deviation.  Powder weight is used as a proxy for pressure.  Pressure can actually spikes dramatically as powder approaches maximum capacity.
What is counter-intuitive is that the "calculated" maximum for a "bimodal distribution" is much greater than the is even higher than the larger powder charge.  A bimodal distribution is what often happens when two distinct populations are blended together.

If you were a powder company trying to sell powder on the basis of high velocities (that are consistent with SAAMI specs) you would weigh each charge to the hundredth of a grain.  Especially if your powder is a flake powder like Unique.

On the other hand, a company that is selling bullets is less likely to exercise that same, extreme level of care.  They might even game their procedure in the other direction to ensure they comprehend both tappers and non-tappers.


Electronically collected data can be very noisy.  So noisy that it is not useful.

This is data that is collected from vehicles hitting stationary barriers.  The jiggly data is not raw data, it has been subjected to analog filtering...otherwise all you would see would be a big, hairy caterpillar.  The authors of this paper went even farther.  They fit the filtered data with a simple Sine fit.

A powder company that was trying to achieve the highest possible velocity for a given pressure might be tempted to more aggressively filter the piezoelectric sensor data.  That would provide the illusion that pressures were lower than the sensor actually saw.

So why am I a tapper?

I am a "tapper" because all of my errors will be in the direction of reduced powder charges.  Should I neglect to tap I will throw a powder charge of 4.8 grains instead of my target.  Powder charges that are 10% below the target rarely cause guns to blow up.

A non-tapper runs the risk of setting this powder measure to throw 5.2 grains, for instance, and unintended vibration will result in a powder charge of 5.7 grains.  This might not be an issue if the reloader's target powder charge is a long way from the max allowable charge (Alliant Powder lists 5.8 grains of Unique for 124 grain Gold Dot bullets) and he is shooting a stout, full size gun.  It is a script that might result in disaster if he is loading at the max and his gun not of the highest quality.

This is the kind of minutia that makes reloaders pay attention to the little details.  Tapping probably makes very little difference with more spherically shaped powders but it is a big deal with flake and flattened powders.  The little things can add up.

BLM narrative of Obamacare failure?

Unfortunately, the Lansing Police Department had a call that went sideways.  The person whose actions most likely originated the call ended up dead.

From the local media:

7:30 PM on Dec. 24th Lansing Police officers responded to a report of a home invasion in progress

When officers arrived, they established a perimeter around the house, and confirmed that a male suspect was inside.

Officers talked to the man in the home for almost two hours, until approximately 9:50 PM when fire was seen inside the house. Officers entered the residence, to secure the people inside and protect them from the fire. 

When they went into the house, shots were fired at the officers, forcing them to retreat back outside. A short time later, they encountered the accused male suspect and he challenged them with a gun. Police officers shot the man, then secured him and removed him and themselves from the fire. 

Officers began giving medical aid to the man, while the Lansing Fire Department, who were already staged at the scene worked to put out the fire. Emergency crews transported the subject to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead. 
Image from the internet
Police have identified the 24 year old dead man as Terrozza Tyree Griffin of Lansing.  His race was not stated.
Reading between the lines, the man made a series of really stupid decisions. In a time when we were less afraid of sounding judgmental, we would have speculated, "That guy had to have been crazy!"  I have to wonder if Mr Terrozza Tyree Griffin had ever been prescribed anti-psychosis medications.  I also wonder if the implosion of Obamacare made it impossible for him to obtain those drugs.

It is worth noting that Abilify (aripiprazole ) was the most profitable (legal) drug in 2013.  Abilify is indicated for schizophrenia,  mania associated with bipolar disorder, major depression, irritability, impulsivity and aggression.  And Abilify is just one of a dozen drugs that treat these conditions.  There are a lot of people out there who need drugs to keep their train on the tracks.  BAD things happen when they stop taking them!

---Added later--- 
There are many other drugs, older drugs, that act like Abilify but are less expensive.  For example, Risperidone costs about $10 a month (after coupons) and has a similar therapeutic profile.  Admittedly, that only solves part of the problem.  There are people who do not believe they should have to spend any of "their own" money to stay is not their problem.  And there are others who fail to take their meds even when they have them.  
---End addition---

Perhaps "implosion" is too strong of a word.  Obamacare, as written and implemented, failed to enroll many of the neediest segments of society due to high costs.  Insurance clearing houses (co-ops) are going bankrupt due to Federal subsidies being 87% lower than anticipated.  Mandatory coverage drove up costs to businesses. Businesses responded by reconfiguring to staff with part-time help.  Workers who were formerly full-time with some health insurance coverage found themselves part-time with no employer supplied health insurance.

Real journalist would stop trying to cram every story into the BLM narrative and investigate why there seems to be an up-tick in these events.  These young, black men may be dying, in part, due to the perverse nature of the legislation called Obamacare.

Life is like a roll of toilet paper

Image from HERE

Life is like a roll of toilet paper.  In the beginning you think it will last for ever.  Then it goes faster and faster as you get closer to the end.

I heard that bit of wisdom at the dentist's office.  The dentist, Dr Stone, heard it from a patient earlier in the day and felt compelled to share it.

I almost like getting my teeth cleaned.  I get to be the center of attention.  A pretty girl cheerfully chatters at me the entire time and she has no expectation that I should do anything to "help" the conversation. 

Friday, December 25, 2015

How would you describe....

The cast of characters
Stalin, Hitler, Clinton, Trump

Lists of adjectives were culled from the internet via search engines.  Example: "Hitler adjectives".  Those lists of  adjectives were massaged to make them more consistent. Your job, readers, is to match the character to the list of adjectives that popular culture assigns to that character.

List One:
Brutal, self-serving, ruthless, greedy, not capable of empathy, power hungry, amoral, duplicitous, corrupting

List Two:
Liar, dishonest, untrustworthy, experienced, strong, smart, crook, untruthful, criminal, deceitful

List Three:
Brilliant, condescending, ingenious, huberis, cunning, manipulative, cold hearted, populist

List Four:
Arrogant, bombastic, idiot, clown, egotistical, outspoken, crazy, brassy, strong, asshole

Merry Christmas!

Thanks to all who stop into this blog and read.

A BIG thank-you to those who comment.  Crazy people talk to themselves.  Comments turn this into dialog.

Thanks to everybody else who blogs.  I learned much by reading, watching and asking.

And the biggest thanks goes to our Creator.  What so ever we do to the least of our brothers, so we do unto Him.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Why German Shepherds have attitude

Something about being the first to know.

Habits, our first line of defense

Pigpen51 commented on yesterday's post and mentioned an interest in cost effective (free) ways that one can defend themselves.  That caused me to remember a story.


The corporation I was working for was imploding.  The corporation responded by shutting down approximately 25% of its North American capacity.  The movement and unemployment benefits of the hourly employees was contractually defined.  The salary, or "management" was left to fend for themselves.

My plant manager was an awesome human being named Betty.  Betty called all around the corporation and got each of the 220 salaried employees one (1) interview.  It was clearly communicated to us that we had one shot at the brass ring, make it good.

The interview

The manager interviewed me on the floor of the Body shop while it was in production.  He had two openings and between fifteen and twenty applicants.  They all claimed to have vast amounts of experience in a Body shop.

Unfortunately for him, there was no good way to verify the expertise of the applicants.  There were no systems in place within the corporation to support this kind of mass movement of people.  For example, I could claim to have invented cold-fusion and there was no way to verify that claim.

After a little bit of small talk, the manager stopped in the middle of an area with multiple power-and-free conveyors.  The floor was yellow-and-black striped (no parking of equipment or material baskets allowed).  The area was where power-and-free conveyors ramped up overhead and returned to the production area.

I was not able to articulate why, but I was as nervous as a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.

I danced around while the manager talked and slowly sidled off of the X he had placed me on.

Four minutes later he offered me the job.

What happened?

Production facilities can be dangerous.  Power-and-free conveyors are unpredictable, they "take off" when commanded by the PLC.  There is no warning.  Power-and-free conveyors can kill people*!

People who have actually worked in a production environment make a habit of not standing in the path of power-and-free conveyors.  It is not healthy.

The manager interviewed me under the descending conveyor because it was his quick test to see if I had enough sense to come in out of the see if I had the habits that were consistent with the story.

Habits keep us safe

The list is nearly endless.  How we drive, where we walk, who we hang out with.

Do we lock doors?  Do we keep the gas tank more than half full? Do we explore alternative paths to important places? Do we put things in exactly the same pockets every time?

Do we avoid drama queens? Do we avoid dressing in provocative ways?  Do we stay out of bars?  Do we avoid needlessly antagonizing people?

Do we dissemble when asked personal questions? Do we minimize our social media footprint?  Are our vehicles political statements or transportation?

Do we practice heightened situational awareness in novel situations?  Situational awareness is good but good habits keep us safe with less cognitive effort.  According to Kahneman, we have a cognitive effort budget that is easily depleted.  Good habits free up "cognitive budget" so our minds can process the truly novel portions of any situation.

In other words, situational awareness and good habits are not mutually exclusive.  In fact, they work together to keep us safe....and they are free.

*One of the plants where I had worked previously suffered a power-and-free fatality.  A tradesman in a scissors lift parked in the path of a power-and-free and started working on a water feed to a water fountain on the next floor up.  The power-and-free took off and snagged the bottom of the scissors lift.  The lift whipped like a flyrod and smacked his head into the bottom of an I-beam.  W e also had a production worker get pinched by a power-and-free.  It crushed her calf (it was a "low truck)as it bumped into the conveyor ahead of her.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Rain, rain, go away

24 hour precipitation Dec 23, 2015
Both girls are home.  I picked up Southern Belle in Farmington Hills.  She was staying with a college friend for a few days.

I drove past several gated communities on the way to pick her up.  Those just felt weird to me.

On the way there I stopped by Island Lake Shooting range and scrounged some shotgun hulls.  The grounds keeper had twenty gallons of them in the back of his gator.  He graciously gave me five gallons. I wish I had thought ahead to bring some trash bags.  He LIKES to have people recycle them.  It bothers him to send perfectly usable goods to a landfill.

9mm brass

I called up Russ Nelson at Family Shooters Corral.  I asked about 9mm Luger brass and he said he did not have any.  I was stunned.

Folks come out to shooting ranges and shoot 9mm 50, 100, 500 at a sitting.

Russ said that people seemed to be transitioning to 9mm from both directions.  People who used to shoot .22 LR moved to 9mm because the 9mm is reloadable and if you cannot find ammo in the stores you can reload your own.  Folks also paid attention to the FBI moving from 40 S&W as their standard sidearm to 9mm.  Right, wrong or indifferent....following the FBI's lead is an easy decision to defend.  Such is life in a litigeous society.

I have the itch to reload some ammo.  Nothing but wind and rain outside.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015


"Yooper" is, one of my coffee drinking buddies.  He was in fine spirits this morning.

Apparently his wife had been more that a wee bit frosty this past week.  It kicked in shortly after she had asked him what he was buying himself for Christmas.

He told her he was planning on buying a .223 (Remington).  .223 is usually pronounced "two-twenty-three"

He finally figured out that her hearing is not as good as it used to be.  They have been married for 49 years so I know she is well into her seventies.  She had mentally appended the words "year olds" to Yooper's shopping list.

They eventually figured it out, hence his good mood.

I don't see how she could have made that mistake.  Yooper strikes as the kind of guy who would prefer a .243 or .338 to a .223, at least in the feminine company department.  I happen to know that he is pretty happy with his .177


A typical example of a semi-automatic handgun that uses the blow-back principle.
I am pondering what might happen if the Federal Government decided to confiscate all semi-automatic firearms.

For one thing, the only part of the firearm that is registered is the "receiver".  Legally, the receiver is the gun.
The receiver is the part circled in red.  All of the other pieces are anonymous.  This firearm is a Hi-Point Carbine

Unless something pretty extraordinary happens, the only thing a gun owner would have to do would be turn in the receiver.  He can keep the barrel, magazines, trigger group, springs and so on.  The receiver is the part that joins them all into a functioning gun.

The evil semi-automatic pistol

Gun Control fanatics fixate on two "most evil" guns.  Those are the ill-defined "assault rifle" and the semi-automatic pistol.

Many of the semi-automatic pistols are a simple "blow back" design.  That is where the forces generated by firing the gun are reacted by "mass".  This is a very simple design.  It is the equivalent of diving off of a boat that is anchored in deep water.  The mass of the boat is enough larger that it acts, for all practical purposes as if it were solid.  Anybody with a 10th grade physics education can do the math. 

A Sten gun.  It is not pretty but it works.

Simple translates to inexpensive.  During World War II the British were stamping out "Sten" guns for about $5 a copy, approximately $70 in 2015 dollars.  It was a fully functional, 9mm machine pistol.
This "XXX-strut" costs $1.60 a foot.  It comes with holes already cut into it for triggers, magazines, etc and you can see the guide rails already preformed on the bottom of this section.  What to outlaw this stuff?  You better be ready to strip it out of every industrial building in America.  It is everywhere.  Just look up into the steel work the next time you are shopping in a Big-Box store.
The fact that the forces are reacted by mass means that the forces do not travel through the receiver and thence to the bolt.  That means the receiver is not highly stressed and non-premium materials can be used.

Attempting to confiscate all of the semi-automatic weapons in America would be an exercise in futility. Anybody with a hacksaw, a file and a catalog of coil springs can make their own.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Lions and Shingles and Ebola, Oh My!

What do Puma concolor, Shingles and Ebola have in common?

You never know when or where they will show up.

My brother-in-law saw a Puma concolor, a Mountain Lion, on December 6, 2015 at 3:30 AM.  He was northbound on I-69 (a name that provides much merriment to the college kids and an expense to MDOT as they keep replacing highway signs) somewhere between mile marker 42 and 46.

Young males are highly migratory.  They get pushed out of their home territories by mature males and then go looking for romance.  Large predators can travel a thousand miles over the course of months.  One can show up anywhere in the continental United States.

Departments of Natural Resources tend to be coy about reporting repatriated species, especially iconic predators like bears and cougars.  They are afraid some yokel will hunt down the young family and kill them.  Rumor has it that the DNR knew of a denning bear within 12 miles of downtown Grand Rapids.  The Grand Rapids metropolitan region had a population of 1,021,703 in the 2010 census.  I am not sure if the counted the bear or not.  The point is that biologists have learned to keep their mouths shut.

I have no doubt that my brother-in-law saw a cougar.

Ebola and Shingles

Two of the people at the last Christmas party I attended had experienced Shingles.  One of them was currently suffering an outbreak.  The other had recovered after losing a couple of months of work.

Shingles is a flaring up of the Chicken Pox virus that has quietly remained dormant (latent) in the central nervous system for decades.  There are certain conditions that make a flare-up more likely:
  • As we age our immune systems become less aggressive.  
  • Various medicines like prednisone, chemo-therapy, drugs treating Lupus/Psoriasis/Rheumatoid Arthritis and drugs administered after transplants to reduce the likelihood of organ rejection also beat down our immune systems.  Those therapies increase the risk of a Shingles outbreak.
  • Becoming pregnant  involves some complex biological processes where the mother's immune system becomes less aggressive at rooting out "invaders", lest she spontaneously abort her fetus. 
  • HIV is another way immune systems can be compromised.  
  • Stress and/or poor nutrition lowers our immune response.

It now appears the Ebola has the ability to hide within its victim's bodies much like the Chicken Pox virus.  The latest news out of Liberia is of an Ebola survivor, hither-to-fore considered completely immune to future Ebola infections, became symptomatic when pregnant....and infected several people in her circle.

I guess the bottom line is to be a bit paranoid of anybody exhibiting "hemorrhaging" symptoms, even if you are in Best Friend, South Dakota or Birkenstock, Connecticut.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

No dogs in Heaven or children in Church

Today at Mass I was reminded of  a story about a man who refused to go to "Heaven" because the Keeper of the Gilded Gate refused admittance to his dog.  The man traveled a bit further and found a threadbare sanctuary that welcomed him and his dog.

The man opted to spend eternity in the threadbare sanctuary only to learn that it was the real heaven.  The gatekeeper of the more welcoming heaven  told the man that the essence of hell is that it is populated by people who abandon their loyal friends for superficial gain, while the essence of heaven is loyalty and steadfast love.

Today in church

The sanctuary of my church is square in shape.  The alter is in the northwest corner.  Aisle radiate away from the alter like spokes of a wheel.  Consequently, the blocks of pews are triangular in shape with the pointy ends close to the alter.

This works vert well as there is an abundance of the highly desirable seats in the back, close to the exits.

We arrived late today and were lucky to find seats in the very rearmost pew.

At offertory, the usher found herself with a dilemma.  Three pews ahead of me there was a couple next to the aisle, 30 feet of vacant pew and a father with his young son at the far end.

The six year old boy solved her problem by bringing his dad's offering to the aisle, but then confused the matter by insisting on taking the basket to his dad.  The usher relented and handed the brimming basket to the young man.

Something clicked...

Something clicked in that young man's head as he started back toward his dad.  He saw thirty feet of polished hardwood and his brain screamed: BOWLING!!! 

Before anybody could blink, he accelerated like Franco Harris at the snap. His arm swung back. I heard a deep, indrawn breath from his dad as enlightenment dawned.

Half way down the "alley", the young man released the ball using the sidearm release as necessitated by the height of the pew and his diminutive stature.

His dad pounced, attempting to save God's money. The young man has a great future in bowling. Had there been pins at the end of the pew they would have EXPLODED. Dad was just a little bit too slow.

No joy in Mudville

After Communion I attempted to comfort the dad. I thanked him for bringing his son. I don't want to go to a church that does not welcome children. Churches are not for perfect people. For one thing, they don't exist. For another, Jesus explicitly stated that he came for the sinners.

Personally, I thing God used that young man as his agent on earth. He probably wanted to count the collection before it went into the office.

The Malibu is back on the road

I ordered an alternator on Tuesday.  The best price I could find was on eBay from for $74 with no core requirement.

The alternator showed up Friday (from California!!!).

I ran errands for Mrs ERJ.  She had the snow tires on the back and a slow leak in the right rear that had been diagnosed as a cracked rim.  Stupid aluminum wheels.

I bought a plain-jane steel wheel and painted it aluminum color.  That will hide it until it is as dirty as the other wheels.

There was an hour wait at the grain elevator where I have my tire work done. The guys rotated the tires front-to-rear so the snow tires are on the front and swapped out the good, steel wheel for the cracked aluminum one.  I felt like that was a bargain at $35.

Back home.  Mrs ERJ went to Grand Rapids to pick up Belladonna and I started disassembling the front of the engine bay to get to the alternator.

An hour and twenty minutes and I was done.  The hardest part was the serpentine belt.

We will have four drivers at the house over the holidays.  Mrs ERJ was not looking forward to having only one working vehicle.  I just doubled the number of vehicles in the fleet.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Why the love for the .410?

12 gauge on the left.  .410 on the right.  Original image from Guns and Ammo.

Names for most shotgun chamberings are based on the number of “round balls” that can be cast from one pound of pure lead.  It should be obvious that larger round balls will weigh more and will result in fewer balls-per-pound.   
Thus, a 12 gauge is larger than a 20 gauge.   

A 12 gauge round ball weighs twelve-to-the-pound or 1-1/8 ounces while a 20 gauge round ball weighs twenty-to-the-pound or a little bit less than 7/8 of an ounce. 


The only exception to this naming convention is the .410 which is named after the nominal inside diameter of the barrel.  By the standard measure, the .410 would be a "68" gauge.

Pundits poo-poo the .410 saying that is inadequate even as a starter gun for young people.  They point out, correctly in my thinking, that the 20 gauge offers more versatility, more commonly available ammunition and, surprisingly, less expensive ammunition.  They also point out that the 20 gauge is easier to “hit” with.  It offers more gross capacity.  And when loaded with “light loads” it patterns better than a .410 with a similar payload.

Shooters versus hunters

A couple of the guys I drink coffee with are .410 enthusiasts.  Their average age is in the upper 70s.

They agree that the .410 is not a good choice for the novice shooter.  They contend that the .410 shotgun is the gun-of-choice of the master hunter.

Their arguments follow:

There is nothing a 12 gauge with a full choke can do at 40 yards that a .410 with a full choke cannot do at 25 yards*.  Most failures of shotgunning involve “running out of pattern”.  A half ounce of #7-1/2s out of a .410 at 25 yards has better pattern density than 1-1/8 ounce of #6 shot at 40 yards.  Both will kill rabbits dead if you can hit them.

The definition of a skilled hunter is one who knows his limitations (and his equipment's limitations) and practices the woodcraft to get close enough to the game to nullify those limitations.  He does his hunting before he pulls the trigger. Native Americans killed countless whitetail deer with extremely primitive (by today’s standards) bows.  The magic lives within the magician, not the wand.

An old man can tote a single shot .410 all day long.  It is pretty hard to kill game when your weapon is still in the gun safe or the trunk of the car.

Shooting a .410 out of a 5 pound single shot it will not shred an old man’s rotator cuff.  The same cannot be said of a 12 gauge.  You better be ready to catch your dentures when you touch off a 5 pound 12 gauge.

An old man can walk all day with five .410 shells loaded with #7-1/2 in one pocket and 3 slugs in the other and never know it.  The same cannot be said for a 12 gauge.

That same single shot can live in the barn or shed.  It is not a big deal if it gets a few rust freckles on the outside.  After all, it is just a working gun.  Used .410 single shots cost about $80 at the time of this writing.

Image from SoCal Bowhunters
Some writers dismiss .410 slugs as not suitable for any animal larger than a jack rabbit.  The old men point out that the FBI recently switched to the 9mm handgun.  If a handgun shooting 124 grain bullets at 1100 feet-per-second is the best choice for stopping drug-crazed, 240 pound felons**, then a 125 grain slug leaving the muzzle at 1500 feet-per-second should suffice for harvesting a shy, vegetarian, 170 pound deer.

Critics will point out that the .410 shooter will likely have to track the deer a greater distance before bringing it to bag.  The old men scoff at this.  They realize that tracking is part of the game.  Only novices expect the deer to collapse in a cloud of dust.  Most novices do not look hard enough, or long enough.  The old timer knows that there is a dead deer out there somewhere.  He just needs to find it.  He does not quit until he finds it.

Mr Pepper (age 81) is the coffee table’s greatest advocate of the .410.  He loves Alaska and in his mind he is ready to strike off into the bush, filling his kettle with meat as he goes.  Barring the chance encounter with mama bears and the occasional moose with a bad attitude, there is nothing he would feel under gunned with when carrying his .410.  If the small game is within 25 yards then Mr Pepper knows he can take it.  The same goes for larger games at fifty yards with a slug, especially if the game is relaxed and unaware of the hunter’s presence.

Image from Wikipedia
Mr Pepper points out that there will always be far more ptarmigan, grouse and snowshoe hares than caribou and Dall sheep.  A fellow will eat far more steady if he looks down under the bushes rather than across the valley.  Another factor to consider is that a person can carry a boatload more .410 shells than he can carry 12 gauge shells.

Image from Fred Miranda.

And then there is the economics of weight.  Shooting a 3 ounce whisky-jack *** for the pot with a 1.5 ounce 12 gauge shell, really?  You would be further ahead carrying a 1.5 ounce candy bars.

The biggest drawback the .410 has for the master hunter is the lack of shell availability and their cost.  I am tempted to start reloading .410, even though I don’t own any.  It is rent I am willing to pay for the privilege of enjoying a piece of Mr Pepper's fantasy.

A few “Internet” recipes.  Use at your own risk:

BPI Thug-slug recipe
2.5” Cheddite hull, fold crimp`
Ch209 primer
10 gr Unique powder
One “Thug-slug” (125 grains)
1505 fps

2.5” Fiocchi hull, fold crimp
Fio 616 primer
10 gr Blue Dot powder
MG410 wad
½ oz. lead shot (recommend 7-1/2)
1200 fps

2.5” Winchester AA HS hull, fold crimp
Win 209 primer
13 gr Hodgdon Lil Gun powder
Winchester or Claybuster wad
½ oz. lead shot
Velocity not listed
2.5” Winchester AA HS hull, fold crimp
Win 209 primer
15.5 gr Hodgdon H-110 or Winchester 296 powder
Winchester or Claybuster wad
½ oz. lead shot
1200 fps

* The same argument can be made for the 12 gauge with a cylinder (no choke) at 30 yards and the .410 at 20 yards.  The use of the smaller shot is justified because the shorter range results in higher pellet velocity when it impacts the target...the shooter can "give away" some shot weight to get more pellets.

** The FBI switched from the 40 S&W to the 9mm Parabellum because they believed that the 9mm is easier for most people to shoot well.  Only hits count.  The same can be said of shotguns.  .410 is less likely to produce flinching and 125 grains at 1500 fps is "enough" within fifty yards.

***Albert Johnson (The Mad Trapper of Rat River) subsisted primarily on Canadian Jays during his flight from the Canadian Mounted Police.