Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Metal polishes

I made good use of our issue with no internet connect.

I reloaded some 22-250 Remington and 40 S&W.  The 22-250 cases had been sitting around for several months and had some stains where they had been touching the box they were stored in.

I shopped various brands of metal polishes today.  I was surprised by what I found on the bottom shelf at a local store.

The second item is the one of interest.  From the MSDS Sheet.

Hydrofluoric acid

From Wikipedia
In addition to being a highly corrosive liquid, hydrofluoric acid is also a contact poison. It should therefore be handled with extreme care, using protective equipment and safety precautions beyond those used with other mineral acids. Owing to its low acid dissociation constant, HF as a neutral lipid-soluble molecule penetrates tissue more rapidly than typical mineral acids. Because of the ability of hydrofluoric acid to penetrate tissue, poisoning can occur readily through exposure of skin or eyes, or when inhaled or swallowed. Symptoms of exposure to hydrofluoric acid may not be immediately evident, and this can provide false reassurance to victims, causing them to delay medical treatment
Once absorbed into blood through the skin, it reacts with blood calcium and may cause cardiac arrest.  Burns with areas larger than 160 cm2 (25 square inches) have the potential to cause serious systemic toxicity... ERJ note:  5 square inches, or less, for a 40 pound two year old.  Especially if a sleeve or pant cuff is wet and it stays in contact with the skin.

From Wikipedia

More to the point, HF acid is a precursor to other, more toxic compounds.  (Note to readers:  a search on this topic is likely to trigger an NSA flag that bumps you to a no-fly list.)

Why is this stuff still on shelves where toddlers or kids could spill it on themselves or drink it, where the GDP can buy it and misuse it.

Connectivity problems

Hello all:

I am blogging from the public library.  Connectivity is down at the ERJ ranch.

Read the folks in the sidebar.  They do great work.

Normal content will resume after my ISP gets their act together.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Chuckit! 14S

"Hello.  My name is Joe.  I am a guerrilla gardener."

Guerrilla Gardening

Guerrilla Gardening is the premeditated act of committing agriculture on property one does not have explicit permission upon which to garden.  It can be as simple as tucking a single bean seed into the window box at a business.  It can be as brash as tilling up an entire vacant lot, the ownership of which is hopelessly entangled by remarketed mortgage bundles and defaulted middlemen.

My guerrilla gardening project for this year is to help Mother Nature seed water detention swales with native trees.

This swale is next to a local Big Box store.  The open water is approximately 250 feet long by 70 feet wide.  The grassy, fenced in area is approximately twice as big as the open water, or almost an acre.
This project is complicated by the fact that the majority of these swales are fenced for safety reasons.  The sides are steep and the bottoms often have standing water in them.  A toddler would not stand a chance.

So how does one plant seed from a distance?

The Chuckit! 14S

You use one of these.

How well does it work?

I decided to find out.  I went to Northwestern Elementary School's parking lot.

I was throwing from the north end in the hope that the slope would minimize rolling of the test subjects.
I threw five walnuts by hand and measured the median distance.  Then I chucked ten walnuts and did the same.  The reason for the larger sample with the chucker is that I wanted to have enough samples to dilute any learning curve.
Unfortunately, the walnuts rolled after contact.  Fortunately, they left behind physical evidence of where they impacted the pavement.  The median distance for the hand-thrown walnuts was 29 paces.
The median distance for the chucked walnuts was 68 paces...more than twice as far as the hand-thrown nuts.
As you can see, the walnuts smacked the pavement pretty hard.  That suggests that they will punch down through standing grass and might get close to mineral soil.
I had two misfires where the nut slipped out of the cup.  You can see that these walnuts do not completely fill the cup.  One landed fifteen feet in front of me.  The other landed behind me.
One can use this tool to plant smaller seeds if one mixes the smaller seeds with clumping kitty litter and form round dirt clods of the proper sizes.  Also, one can launch small fruit....persimmons, plums, large crab apples, etc.... with the seeds still in the fruit.

This tool can also be used to chum for fish.  One can either freeze lumps of sweet corn or one can mix corn with flour to form corny-dough balls.  Some people swear by complicated concoctions of flour, oatmeal, sugared soda-pop and yeast.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Don't Feed the Trolls

A masochist and a sadist found themselves stuck on a stalled elevator together.

The masochist turned to the sadist and said "Hurt me!"

Slowly, comprehension dawned in the sadist's eye.  After thinking another second she replied, "No.  I don't think I will."

Belladonna was home for the weekend.  She is getting schooled on the range of humans that exist.

One of Belladonna's new dorm mates is a prima donna, a drama queen, attention whore, diva.....take your pick.

The dorm mate hurls out incendiary , provocative comments.  This works particularly well when texting because texting is bereft of all tonality and body language.  Then the dorm mate does the victim's swoon when others respond.  Belladonna is of an age where she has the idealistic belief that all stupidity should be addressed.

This girl has been eating Bella for lunch.


We worked on the Pontiac Salute.  The Pontiac Salute is a shrug and "Whatever" delivered with absolute apathy, completely devoid of energy or interest.  It was coined by workers at the Pontiac Assembly Plant.  It is verbal judo, the linguistic equivalent of bullfighting....the matador is not behind the fact, there is no matador.  Bella needs to affect less concern than she would show when informed that the price of kimchi in Busan dropped 0.7% overnight.

This is where a rich vocabulary is valuable.  She needs to radiate ennui (God bless the French and their highly developed lexicon for "attitude") when this girl is throwing harpoons.  Bella needs to emote tedium when the girl is jerking the gaff.

All evidence suggests that Belladonna's dorm mate is energized by strife.  She feeds on attention.  The fog of apathy will starve the behavior.  Likely she will go elsewhere to get her "fix".  Even a diva cannot sieve nourishment from fog.

It pleased me that I was able to share useful things I learned during my work life.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Measuring temperatures

It is amazing what $16 can buy.

Yup, it has plenty of range.  The diameter of the target is 1/12th the distance between the thermometer and the work piece.

You can click to embiggen.  The display shows 252 degrees F.  This thermometer has back-light display capability which is handy in dim places.

More problematic is the oven immediately adjacent to the adjustment knobs.  The knobs were below 100F.  The back plate, where your finger tips might brush, were 144F.  For me, discomfort starts at 110 F when holding metal objects.  One issue might involve diabetics or people who lack sensation in their extremities....they might unknowingly burn themselves.

Part of the problem is lack of venting near the front of the unit.  Cooling air convects along the back but there is nothing directing it toward the front.  I imagine the designers wanted to limit exposure to connections and bare wiring.  That exposure could be spilled liquids or curious children with bent wires.  That heat cannot be doing the plastic parts in the switches any good.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Toaster oven: Follow up

The shelf is the same size as the one the microwave sits on.  The supports were tapered to give the illusion of space efficiency.  Nobody will ever accuse me of being a cabinet maker.
We ended up buying a West Bend 74106. Our local Menards (a Big-Box store) had them for $59.99. has them for $147.59.  That is an incredible spread.

Mrs ERJ is OK with the size as long as I built a shelf above the microwave oven.  Done!  I am happy that I had all the "makings" at hand.  Scrap 2-by-4s, deck screws, finishing nails, wood glue, luan ply...

A couple of observations regarding this particular unit:
  • The switch is mis-wired.  The upper heating element heats up when the switch is turned to "bottom heat" and vice versa.  That may be the reason for the excellent price: Sometimes a seller will discount a known, "soft" defect suspecting that customers will be happy to work around if after they saved almost $100.
  • The top-exterior of the unit heats up to 240 degrees Fahrenheit when the unit is set set to 450 degrees/convective.
  • The top of the control panel with the dials heats up to 127 degrees F, which is uncomfortably warm, under the same conditions.
  • The power cord is only about two feet long.
Our family is in the process of downsizing with Belladonna off to college.  We peaked out at two adults and four kids.  We are down to two adults and one kid.

One picture in my head is to cook in the garage during the hottest days of the summer.  It is stupid to heat up the house and then pay money for air conditioning.  This gives us one more option.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Friday Menu

Starting in the upper-left corner and proceeding clockwise:

  • Sliced apples sprinkled with sugar, cinnamon and ascorbic acid.  Apples are a combination of Spigold and Novaspy.
  • Squashed Red Kuri squash. No butter, salt or sugar.  Just squash.
  • Broiled chicken thighs.

A sampler of squash.  From left-to-right, Red Kuri, North Georgia Candy Roaster, Dickenson. 

Toaster Ovens

I am shopping for a toaster oven and I am frustrated.

It is difficult to compare exterior dimensions because there does not seem to be a standard for the order listed.

For example, one toaster oven is listed with the dimensions of 13.8 inches x 18.8 inches x 11.5 inches  and it is pretty clear that the width is 18.8 inches.  But then another oven, from the same manufacturer, is listed as
12.5 inches x 14.75 inches x 23.5 inches where the last number listed, 23.5 inches, is the width.

Mrs ERJ is most concerned about the exterior footprint with depth being most critical.  More compact is better.  Width and length are less critical.  We are looking for (minimum) internal dimensions of 14" by 9" by 5" high.  Convection is a plus.  Sixty minute timer is required.

Right now I am looking pretty hard at the Black & Decker TO1675B but I cannot tell if the depth is 13.8" or 11.5".  I have to find one in stock and measure it.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Loading docks

Image a screen capture from Google Maps.
I thought this was a smart way to configure a loading dock.  Traditional loading docks require that the tractor-trailer be backed up 90 degrees from to the side of the building.  They consume a lot of real estate because of the need to snake the trailer in between trailers that are already parked.  Another issue with traditional loading docks is the lack of visibility and the attendant hazard to drivers and dock workers who must move among the trailers.

The sawtooth configuration allows the truck to pull past their assigned space and back into it with very little maneuvering.  The real estate requirements are significantly lower than for the traditional system.  The dispersed system spreads out the exterior traffic and probably increases the visibility of dock workers while minimizing their exposure to traffic.

The downsides of the sawtooth configuration are that building construction is more complicated and that the docks are more dispersed.  In some cases, dispersed loading docks are advantageous because it reduces in-plant shipping and mobile equipment traffic.

Checking out the local talent (Black Walnuts)

It was a glorious day to be road tripping.

Foliage health

A tree cannot make timber, firewood, nuts or fruit if it cannot hang onto its leaves.  Nor can it build up the carbohydrate reserves that are critical to maximum winter cold hardiness.  The primary issue with Black Walnuts is anthracnose.  Michigan is not particularly severe for disease pressure compared to the mid-South, but that means that our local landrace of Black Walnuts are likely to be deficient in innate resistance.

Selecting "mother trees" on the basis of leaf health is smart business.

As always, you can click on the pictures to embiggen.

A Black Walnut completely defoliated by anthracnose by September 24, 2015.  This tree is growing on Gunnell Road in Eaton County.   After a bit, you can start separating out "families" of trees based on defoliation.
A Black Walnut growing 200 yards away from the tree shown in the top photo.  Both pictures were taken within five minutes of each other.  The leaves on this tree are healthy and busy photosynthesizing.  The four neighboring trees clearly shared this characteristic.
A tree growing alongside M-50.  This tree bears heavily most years.
Leaf health is only so-so.

Sectioning nuts

It is the inside that counts. 

Emma Kay on the left.  A Gunnell Road nut on the right.  Can you see the grinning Jack-o-Lantern in the Gunnell Road nut?  Clearly, the Emma Kay nut has a much higher ratio of nut meat to shell and the Gunnell Road nut has the kernel "trapped" by the shell.  The shell is approximately 2mm thick on Emma Kay and 6mm thick on the Gunnell Road nut.  Clearly, the energy that goes into producing shell is not available to produce nut meat.  All samples cut with a hacksaw and a 24TPI blade.
This is a pretty typical nut for mid-Michigan.  It was collected on Vermontville Highway.  As you can see, the shell is much thicker than M-50 but the kernel is not trapped.
This is a variety called Emma Kay.  As you can see, the kernel has some sinusing but not enough to trap the kernel.  While the shell appears thicker than M-50, the nut is flatter and the center divider is thinner than M-50.  Emma Kay scores very well for kernel percentage.

This is a local Shagbark Hickory.  You can see all of the sinus features in the kernel.  Picking out these kernels is slow and tedious work.

Nut from M-50 compared to the Gunnell Road nut.
Of the nuts collected today, M-50 looks best.  I intend to collect more nuts from this tree and to snitch a little bit of scionwood.  I know you "pecan" guys mock my Black Walnuts.  But they serve a niche.  They are flavoring....not a major food group.  Just sayin'.

Gratuitous apple picture

Gloster 69  Fruit size: Large, 80mm; Red Delicious type. Conic shape, fully red fruit with calyx-end shoulder bumps, tarter flavor than Delicious. Extremely productive tree, ripens late in the season. Long storage life similar to Golden Delicious and Jonagold. At present, one of the few apples of the Delicious-type that finishes well under Northern European conditions.

Full Metal Jacket


Full Metal Jacket is an iconic "Vietnam War" movie that was released in 1987. 

The first half of Full Metal Jacket recounts Marine Boot Camp.

The primary boot camp story line revolves around recruit Leonard 'Gomer Pyle' Lawrence.  Recruit Lawrence is not a good fit for the Marine Corp.

To risk being politically incorrect, he exhibits symptoms of mild mental retardation.  My guess is that his IQ is between 65 and 70.  Not only is he mentally "slow", he is also oblivious and completely lacking the street cunning or awareness that allows many "less gifted" to survive and integrate into groups.

Gunnery Sergeant Hartman is tasked with turning Recruit Lawrence (and the rest of the unit) into Marines.  He uses time honored techniques.  Those techniques are not gentle.  Most recruits respond.  Recruit Lawrence does not.

Gunnery Sergeant Hartman escalates by disciplining the entire squad for Lawrence's transgressions.  Unlike real boot camp, Hartman rewards Lawrence for his transgressions (Example, lets him eat the jelly donut) while the rest of the squad is disciplined with PT.

He knows that the squad will become highly motivated to help redirect Recruit Lawrence. 

This strategy is not very successful until the squad bands together and administers a beating to Recruit Lawrence in the middle of the night.  It is done silently and in a way that does not leave visible bruises.

After the beating, Recruit Lawrence appears to be a model recruit.

He graduates.

He learns that he has been assigned to Infantry (and likely to deploy to Vietnam).  Recruit Lawrence somehow acquires live ammunition "7.62, Full Metal Jacket" and murders Gunnery Sergeant Hartman and then commits suicide.

So why the recap?

So why the recap of an old movie with niche appeal?

Nobody knows how the current social tension will unwind.  The most useful predictive model is a probability density cloud.  Clouds have lobes.  Each lobe has an ever-shifting size, shape and density.  The nature of the cloud changes as the future unfolds.

There are enough parallels between what I see occurring in society and the events in Full Metal Jacket to make it a plausible metaphor.  That is, one lobe of our predictive cloud.

In this metaphor, the least productive (whether due to intelligence, awareness or culture) are being rewarded by the power brokers.

The ones who are following the rules are being punished.

Political pressures prevent many of the less gifted from being washed out of demanding positions.

In the story line we would be on the verge of a "blanket party".

The major twist in the story line is that it was not the rule followers who rebelled.  They did exactly what was expected of them.  It was Recruit (now Private) Lawrence who "blew up".  His disproportionate response was not directed at his more capable peers, it was directed at "The Man". A cautionary tale, there.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Vinyl + Heat = Dioxin ???

The translucent, yellow walls of this robotic work cell are vinyl "flash guard".
It is common practice to use tinted, vinyl sheeting to shield workers from the byproducts of weld processes.  The generic name for this product on the factory floor is "flash guard".

The problem is that "flash" is used to describe two very different weld byproducts.

One of those byproducts is the "arc flash" of MIG, TIG, drawn-arc welds and Stick welding processes.  The damaging component is UV light.  UV light can blind a person.  Some people also find that arc flash triggers migraine headaches. Flash guard is designed to shield workers from incidental exposure to UV light and the suppliers clearly state that this is it intended use.

The problem is that weld expulsion, the sparks, are also sometimes called "flash". 

Each one of those sparks is over 2700 degrees Fahrenheit.  Over time, they burn holes through the vinyl sheet.

Where does the "burnt" material go?  Mostly, it is vaporized but some of it is pyrolytically decomposed.

Studies in Europe linked the pyrolytic decomposition of vinyl with dioxin.  Dioxin is a carcinogen and is the main contaminant that made "Agent Orange" exposure a health issue.  The study states that copper is needed to catalyze the reaction. 

Weld expulsion that originates from between the sheets of steel is very low in copper.  Weld expulsion that originates between the weld cap and the surface of the work piece has significantly higher copper due to cap erosion.  Weld sparks from MIG welding also has elevated copper content because the filler wire is typically coated with a wash of copper to provide a clean, conductive surface to the gun's weld tip.

It is my unqualified opinion that use of "flash guard" to shield workers from weld expulsion/sparks is a misuse of the product and might expose them to carcinogenic, chlorine containing byproducts, i.e., dioxin and similar compounds.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Addressing trip hazards in the orchard

Mrs ERJ noticed that the orchard floor is not a very friendly place from the standpoint of trip hazards.  The picker is focused on moving around the tree.  The picker's eyes are looking upward, identifying apples and plotting a path to get to them.  They are not looking at the ground.

This is the specific hazard that prompted Mrs ERJ's observation.  It is a Box Elder stump that has been cut back many times.  Box Elder has a strong will to live.  Unfortunately, I have many of these scattered about the orchard.
 Particularly hazardous is when the picker is backing out of the tree while carrying a fully loaded basket.

Holes are another hazard.  This is where a tree was grubbed out.  Other holes are caused by woodchuck dens.
This is a apple trunk from a tree that was culled.  I sprayed glyphosate around to facilitate mowing.
Mrs ERJ suggested that I step up and deal with all of these hazards.  Addressing them is not glamorous but it is work that needs to be done.

Apple trunks were cut flush with the ground with the chainsaw.
Trash was thrown into the holes and covered with dirt.
The fill was slightly mounded to account for future settling.
Box Elder coppice were trimmed down short and a fire was lit.
This fire is still burning.  Those coals are much like a thoughtless, unkind word; they will burn long after the flames are not visible. 

Data usage, follow--up

The red line is the trend line.  We have one more day left in this billing cycle and it looks like we are going to make it.
I count it as a pretty good save.

Based on the dashed line, we were on a path to have a $130 overage fee at $10 per Gig.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Technology classes at Eaton Rapids Public High School

I saw three lathes of various sizes in the Eaton Rapids High School Metal Shop.  This one is  small but makes up for it by being photogenic.

Technology is the science of production.  Eaton Rapids continues to offer "Technology" courses because the School Board and the Superintendent both recognize that society needs people who can work with their hands and that, for some students, hands-on is their strongest "learning modality."

This anvil is used for both hot forming and cold riveting.
According to Bloomberg, 88% of public high schools still offer Career and Technical Education (aka, Vocational/Technical) courses. The difference is in the number of V/T credits the average student earns.  In 1982 the average student earned 4.6 V/T credits.  By 2009, fewer than 20% of high school students earned three or more V/T credits before graduation.

Mr Brantley apologized for the mess.  You can see by the barrels beneath the bench that them make a lot of chips here.  This lathe is much bigger than the blue one shown at the top.  Both are useful in teaching the fundamentals of machining.
To achieve an average of 4 V/T credits per student would require that 15% of the staff be dedicated to teaching V/T classes.  In Eaton Rapids, approximately 5% of the staff teaches traditional V/T "shop" classes.  If you added all the bits-and-pieces taught by other instructors, you might find another 5%.  Those classes would be in computer technologies, photography/digital/video technologies, fabric arts and so on. 

Extra curricular activities like float building, stage/set construction and FFA are not considered in this essay but are other high school affiliated activities that expose students to the "technology of production".

They have many press brakes for bending sheet metal.  "Metals I" is their high runner.
"Technology" classes are expensive.  The equipment is costly.  The insurance exposure is significant.  The classes require a large footprint.  School districts that offer strong "Technology" programs are districts that are well run from a financial standpoint.

One way the School District has been financially prudent is that it has been able to avoid most of the daffy curriculum fads that blow through the education community every three years.  Some of it is simple, tight-fisted financial conservatism.

Those old Bridgeports will run forever.  The shop has two.
It is similar to a fleet manager refusing to trade in his Dodge trucks for Fords on the promise of slightly lower cost-per-100K miles.  He knows that there many hidden costs that do not get captured, costs like his inventory of spare parts and retraining his mechanics.  He also knows that comparisons between the proven and the theoretical are almost always biased in favor of the theoretical.  He is unswayed by the greater creature-comforts and extra bells and whistles offered by the new Ford trucks.  Creature-comforts are not critical to the truck's "core mission".

This is one has a digital read-out.  Everything is manual, so they have to take up lash manually.
Another thing that Eaton Rapids has able to do is to leverage existing resources to meet many of the unfunded, governmental mandates.  Since about 80% of the cost of running a school district is "people",  "leveraging existing resources" usually comes down to good will between the administration and the employees.  That is demonstrated by a willingness by employees to be flexible and administration has reciprocated by refusal to "lard the ranks" of administration with drones.

Resistance spot welder
Most school districts in Michigan have been shrinking.  Part of it is due to economic conditions.  Michigan was hit hard by the long economic soft period.  Some of it is shifting demographics.  Some of it is due to private schools and charter schools competing for a shrinking pool of students. 

Eaton Rapids has been very aggressive at addressing legacy costs.  They have been quick to vacate buildings, to consolidate and restructure.  This has been painful for parents who favor neighborhood schools and it has been arduous for staff who must move buildings, rooms and grades taught.  But staying ahead of the cost curve has been instrumental in keeping the district solvent.

I am pretty sure this is a tubing bender.

The following Technology courses are listed in the 2015-2016 course catalog
  • Wood Technology (aka, Wood shop)
  • Wood Technology II
  • Small Engines 
  • Drafting Technology
  • Advanced Drafting
  • Metals Tech
  • Advanced Metals
  • Home Electrical I
  • Home Electrical II

Beyond that, Eaton Rapids School District has an agreement with Lansing Community College where college classes can be taken on the School District's dime.  The classes count as college credits and count toward high school graduation requirements.  Eaton Rapids also has a Cooperative Education program for students who are pursuing a Career Technical Education program.

The Middle School

The Eaton Rapids Middle School house 6th, 7th and 8th grade.  They also have a Technology department.  Most of their technology revolves around wood technologies.

They do some fun things integrating V/T with applied physics.  For example, they make vehicles powered by mouse traps or rubber bands.  They also do "egg drop" tests where raw eggs are secured in expanded polystyrene cups and dropped.  Students get to see, first hand, the effects of harnesses made of scotch tape, padding, packing peanuts, bubble-wrap "air bags", casting the egg in jello, etc.