Thursday, August 31, 2017


I get a check tomorrow.

I logged onto my computer to schedule a payment on my credit card for tomorrow.  The transaction will post at 5:00 in the afternoon.

The bank bounced the payment because I did not currently have "sufficient funds" in my account.

Morons!!!!   That is why I was scheduling a future payment.

Did it ever occurred to these brilliant MBAs that making it more difficult for customers to pay their balances is likely to drive more accounts into non-performing status?


Few commercial growers around here want to mess around with pears.

I completely understand.

These were ready to pick five days ago.

Now half of them are on the ground.

I picked these off the ground.
These are windfalls.

I have a use for these particular pears.

Kieffer pears
Kieffer is a variety of pear that is much maligned by fruit snobs.  The fruit is coarse, hard and lacks intensity of flavor.

Fruit growers, on the other hand, adore Kieffer.  It produces tons of fruit every year without fail.  It is also extremely forgiving about picking window.  Because it is hard, it can fall forty feet, smack limbs on the way down, bounce off a granite boulder (cracking the boulder in the process) and still be salable.  Kieffer is the pear tree you want when you wae stranded on Gilligan's Island.

My use for these fruit is to replicate the original Kieffer cross.  The original cross was Bartlett, also known as Williams' Bon Chrétien, and an un-named Asian pear.  By a serendipitous sequence of events, the tree that produced these pears is next to an Asian pear named Korean Giant, also known as Dan Bae or Olimpic.  In case you have not picked up on the fact, the more synonyms a fruit has the better the tree.

Korean Giant is Mrs ERJ's second most favorite Asian Pear.  It also blooms at the same time as the tree that produced these pears.  Korean Giant ripens about October first in my climate.  One other awesome characteristic of Korean Giant is that the pears hang on the tree even after they are ripe!  They patiently wait until I have the time to pick them.

The other slight deviation is that I am not using Bartlett as the female parent.  Bartlett is a GREAT pear but it lacks resistance to fire blight.  This pear is a variety called Potomac which is a D'Anjou cross.  It is my hope that I will succeed in pyramiding or stacking different genetic sources of fire blight resistance, thus producing durable resistance.

I hope to harvest five hundred seeds, give-or-take.  I will line them out and ruthlessly cull anything that shows leaf scab.  I should be able to identify hybrids based on leaf size and orange-red color tones.  The hybrids will be fruited out.  The seedlings that are pure Pyrus communis will be used for rootstocks.

I want to produce a pear that is as grower friendly as Kieffer but has five times the quality.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Kids and jobs

One of my coffee drinking buddies was telling us about his grandson, a young man of twenty.

Earlier this year the die-casting plant was hiring.  Base wages are approximately $20 an hour after the 90 day probationary period.  This job was a non-starter for the young man because the job came with the stipulation that he might be expected to work fifty-six hours a week when demand was high.  Overtime was $30 an hour.  There was also the possibility that he might get placed on second or third shift (actually, it was a near certainty). That was just too much work!

The young man got a job at one of the fast food places.  They scheduled him for five days in a row during training.  Even more insulting is that they expected him to MOVE.  They did not appreciate how easily and how profusely he sweated.  There were some fine looking women who worked at the restaurant and sweating in public was simply not acceptable.  He quit after a week and a half and management did not try to talk him into staying.

Then the young man seemed to have found his groove.  He was stocking shelves in one of the small stores in town.  That went well for a few weeks and then the young man decided he needed to take a Sunday off.  The obvious solution was to stop going to work.  He has not been back since.

My coffee drinking buddy realized that the young man was soon going to have to venture farther afield to find a job as he left a trail of disappointed employers.  He offered the young man his back-up truck.  For free.  It is old.  It is beat up.  It is a Dodge.  But it runs.

The young man looked his grandfather in the eye and informed him, "Gramps, that truck ain't good enough for me.  I am going to save my money and buy a NICE truck."

Gramps' response was FYATHYRIO, which has something to do with riding and horses, if memory serves.

Gramps is mystified.  How is a young man able to save any money when he refuses to earn any?  Must be that new math.

Sadly, "Gramps" is not alone.  A goodly portion of our young people seem to have similar attitudes regarding work.

RICO don't lose that number

Cop set on fire by Antifa demonstrators.  Image from HERE
From Wikipedia:

RICO predicate offenses

Under the law, the meaning of racketeering activity is set out at 18 U.S.C. § 1961. As currently amended it includes:
  • Any violation of state statutes against gambling, murder, kidnapping, extortion, arson, robbery, bribery, dealing in obscene matter, or dealing in a controlled substance or listed chemical (as defined in the Controlled Substances Act);
  • Any act of bribery, counterfeiting, theft, embezzlement, fraud, dealing in obscene matter, obstruction of justice, slavery, racketeering, gambling, money laundering, commission of murder-for-hire, and many other offenses covered under the Federal criminal code (Title 18);
  • Embezzlement of union funds;
  • Bankruptcy fraud or securities fraud;
  • Drug trafficking; long-term and elaborate drug networks can also be prosecuted using the Continuing Criminal Enterprise Statute;
  • Criminal copyright infringement;
  • Money laundering and related offenses;
  • Bringing in, aiding or assisting aliens in illegally entering the country (if the action was for financial gain);
  • Acts of terrorism.
Pattern of racketeering activity requires at least two acts of racketeering activity, one of which occurred after the effective date of this chapter and the last of which occurred within ten years (excluding any period of imprisonment) after the commission of a prior act of racketeering activity. The U.S. Supreme Court has instructed federal courts to follow the continuity-plus-relationship test in order to determine whether the facts of a specific case give rise to an established pattern.

Looks like the wheels in Antifa are vulnerable to prosecution under RICO Statutes.  Organized crime by another name.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Optimum window for seasonal flu vaccination

I had been given the information that the protection due to seasonal flu vaccine attenuates if one gets it too early in the season.

I decided to research that information.

This article on the Flu of 1918 suggests that our immune system has an incredibly long "memory".   Blood was drawn from people who had been alive during the "Spanish Flu" of 1918.  Antibodies were extracted from the blood and the antibodies were tested against the flu which had been reconstructed from cadavers recovered from the permafrost.

Bear in mind that the blood was obtained from senior citizens...really senior, and that senior citizens are not celebrated for having the most robust immune systems.  Also bear in mind that their immune systems had not been challenged by this virus for over eighty years so there was no booster effect.

The antibodies were still very effective and slaying the Spanish Flu virus, even after eighty or ninety years!

One source is good, two is better.

I was not able to find any studies on humans showing antibody titers-vs- days after vaccination.  These curves were generated in studies on mice, presumably selected for having immune responses similar to humans
 Key point:  Antibody levels have risen to therapeutic levels by day 28 and continue to rise for a full seventy days then they flat-line out past three-hundred days post-vaccination.

If the first seasonal flu challenge that concerns you is the first day of school, then vaccinating your little rascals a month before the first day of school is a smart move.  The antibodies don't wear out.

The flu strains that are in circulation "evolve around" the ones in the vaccine thus giving the appearance that the vaccine has become less effective.  It is not that the antibodies your body created in response to the vaccine wore out or disappeared.  The target changed.

If the first challenge that worries you is Thanksgiving Holiday when people jet all over the globe, then getting your vaccination at least a month before Thanksgiving is a good move.  Getting it two months before Thanksgiving is an even better move.
Mrs ERJ suggested that I get the flu shot in the Drive Thru lane.  She wanted to see how that worked.  I like flirting with the girls so I went inside.  Now she has me wondering how it works.

Disclosure, I will be trotting into town to get my flu shot in just a few minutes.  I don't see a downside to getting it "early".

Some pictures of reloading the .410 with simple tools

Removing the old primer

A 3" long 5/16" diameter bolt with the threads on the end half filed off.  In the future I will use a four or five inch bolt.

Jaws of the vice spread far enough to allow the primer to move downward but close enough to support the base of the hull.

This is what it looks like after a tap with a hammer.

Then the removal of the primer is completed using the claw of the hammer.

Time elapsed, about 10 seconds when done in lots of fifty.  I got faster as I picked up the knack of just how hard to tap the primer.

New primer installed
Primers are taken out of the box and spread out with the fat ends down.  The hull is placed over the primer and pressed down to partially insert the primer.

The jaws of the vice are not gripping the body of the hull.  They are spaced so they catch the rim of the hull.

A flat bar is placed over the primer and used to seat the primer.  The bar is tilted slightly in this photo so you can see the primer.

Seated primer should look like this.
Elapsed time of about six seconds per hull.

Refilling the shell
Here is the tool set for refilling the shell.  This is about the amount of table space you will need to get the job done.
Kubota donated an empty Dr Pepper can to the project.  This is a simple spiral of aluminum sheet that can be manipulated to form a funnel.

Here it is squeezed down to show that the small end can be varied in size.
The funnel went through a bit of trimming and tweaking.  This is what the funnel looked like at the end of the project.  It does not take much material!

The lack of three hands resulted in this awkward shot of the powder being dumped into the hull.  Rest assured that the small end of the funnel is in the mouth of the hull.

Sending the wad.  This is the most difficult part of the enterprise.  I found that it worked best when the mouth of the funnel was just barely inside the mouth of the hull.

The hull installs easily after it is started.

2.6cc of #6 shot weighed 0.5 ounces.  Things are so small and fiddly that I needed to remove two pellets before I could get a decent crimp.
Elapsed time of about 40 seconds a hull. Most of the hulls went faster than that but I had some prolonged arguments with some of them when it came time to insert the wads.

Finished goods
Making the crimp is a fiddly bit of work.  I ended up reversing my pocket knife and pressing in the folds in six places in multiple passes.  This is a place where I need a better tool.
Elapsed time of about 90 seconds a hull.  It will go faster after I make a better tool to make the crimps.

Tools used
  • Bench vice
  • A 5/16" bolt with modified threads
  • Claw hammer
  • Table top
  • Flat piece of steel
  • Small piece of aluminum from a beverage can
  • A custom powder measure made from the casing of a fired cartridge and a paper clip
  • A couple of plastic containers to hold smokeless powder and shot
  • A 1.3cc, Lee dipper
  • A pocket knife

A comment from Aggie

Aggie left a comment on the post "You Can't Evacuate 6.5 million people" that was too well written to leave buried in comments.  Aggie's points are sharply reasoned and elegantly posed.

Consequently I am running it as a "guest post".  Aggie, let me know if you feel bruised and I will remove this post.

"(The Mayor is) deflecting criticism to a straw man. The choices are not "Evacuate nobody" or "Evacuate everybody", that's just an utter failure of creative reasoning, and a failure to react well to an evolving situation.

Everyone is dredging up the tragedies associated with Rita's evacuation in 2005, where a hundred or so died, as if that's a good reason. 2005.... 2005! What the hell has the Office of Em. Mgt. been doing since then, besides padding their backsides as well as their overblown pensions? Throwing up their hands, calling the Governor an that's real emergency planning leadership for you.

How about a partial evacuation of everyone in low-lying areas affected by the floods in 2016....and 2015....and Ike, in 2008? Not a bad start? Everyone of those floods were bad, and recent.

The National Hurricane Center had the storm forecast track coming directly over Houston on Wed. morning 23rd. That was the start of this clock. I think the mayor and the OEM will have some explaining to do. saying it's too hard is not going to be good enough."

Monday, August 28, 2017

If Simon Cowles was a German Shepherd

From Daily Mail Online

How long would it take to evacuate 6.5 million people?

The red shaded area is the envelope of most likely paths.
First order approximation
  • There is one working school bus for every thousand residents.
  • They are in good repair and can operate twenty-four hours a day
  • There is sufficient fuel and drivers to operate them around the clock
  • The average capacity per trip will be 50 passengers.  Note that the capacity of a standard school bus is 72 children
  • All of the major cities between the inner and outer circles are four hours by road from Houston.  The inner circle is approximately 100 miles from downtown Houston and the outer circle is 250 miles from Houston
At 50 passengers a trip the bus must make twenty round trips of eight-hours each to transport its "share" of 1000 residents.

20 trips times 8 hours per trip is 160 hours.  160 hours is a little over six and a half days.

If the target destinations were to activate their buses then the number of buses would be doubled and the evac time would be halved to a little over three days.

If the goal were to move the residents to the 100 mile line then the turn-around time would be significantly shorter.  Essentially the Houston area buses could transport to College Station and the receiving cities would pick residents up there for final leg to the destination.  In that case the first order approximation for totally evacuating 6.5 million residents from the danger zone would take 2.5 days.

That assumes ZERO commercial buses are pressed into service.

That assumes that nobody would evacuate by personal vehicle.

That assumes that every single soul complied with the evacuation order.

That assumes buses operating at 2/3 capacity.

One snide commentor suggested that the fastest way to evacuate Houston would be to put out a Facebook post that an Alt-Right rally was going to be held in Dallas on Saturday.  Then Antifa would handle the logistics of shipping half of Houston's population out of the danger zone.  Just sayin'

"You can't evacuate 6.5 million people."

Houston mayor deflected criticism for not evacuating by claiming that "You can't evacuate 6.5 million people."

What that tells me is that relatively few of those 6.5 million people get in a vehicle five days a week and goes to work.

Taxes on Head Lice

It is claimed that the Inca levied a tax of head lice on towns that were unable to pay "tribute" in more liquid forms of wealth.

I wonder if the IRS would accept a pre-payment in the form of ripe pears shipped through the mail.  It is a pity I cannot grow durian.  I can pretty much guarantee that the "wealth" would be liquid after traveling through the US Postal system and exposure to August heat.

One scenario for hyperinflation in the US involves the departure of the baby-boomers from being net savers to being net consumers.  Instead of paying into 401-k plans they start withdrawing.  If they are lucky enough to have a pension then the trust must start liquidating assets to make payments.  In the realm of health insurance they go from drawing less than the premiums to being heavy consumers of medical care.

You might say, "ERJ, that has nothing to do with inflation."

The issue is that money is fungible.  The vast amounts of liquidity flowing into the capital markets means that the US government was able to borrow cheaply and expand services at very low cost.  The government used that money to live beyond its means.  One use of the  borrowed money is to pay the interest on money it borrowed in previous years.

As that vast flow slows and then reverses to an outflow, capital will become dearer.  In a normal economy the interest rate would go up and marginal investments would be starved for funding.  Unfortunately, rising interest rates would also put the government, and the Deep State that suckles on it, out of business.

Governments are much like a ratchet.  They expand enthusiastically but then resist reduction with all the tenacity of cellulite.  The clients of government largess scream when they are shorted what they consider to be their due.

Quantitative Easing is the practice of "printing" electronic money without an asset backing.  The academic mumbo-jumbo used to justify this practice is "If we print it, the assets will come."   The government continues to collect taxes for the sake of appearance and to keep the hoi polloi in their place.  Quantitative Easing creates inflation just a surely as printing paper money.

The organic capital markets, in turn, attempt to demand more return on their investments to compensate for the debasement of the currency.  So far they/we have not been successful.  The central banks have no limits on printing electronic money.  They do not have to engrave new plates with higher denominations nor do the run the risk of a shortage of paper.

The fear that the government will outlaw "cash" is short sighted.  They don't need to make it illegal because in a decade or so paying in "cash" will become impractical.  The government's status as a debtor and their control over the money supply guarantees inflation and, as long as $100 bill is the highest bill in circulation, rocketing prices will make cash impractical.

Meanwhile, some folks who are thinking ahead are packing their lifeboats.  Perhaps "ark" is a better term.  Noah's Ark allowed him, and his family, to weather the storm with virtually no interactions with outside forces.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

ERJ calls in the Cavalry

My parent's house was built in the early 1920s and was not designed for elderly people.  When dropping off their meals last Friday my father mentioned, for the second time, the difficulties imposed by high thresholds.  The one that causes the most problems is between the ramp and the back porch.

There are times when my parents use wheeled conveyances to help with mobility.  My mother, in particular, is fond of a walker that has wheels that are about 8" in diameter.

My father described a very simple, wedge shaped molding.  The picture in his head, as near as I can discern, was to have a wedge that ramped up to the 1-1/2 step created by the threshold.

Mrs ERJ and I stopped by Home Depot on the way home and were not able to find any moldings similar to what my dad described.  We found many wedge shaped moldings but none that were 1.5" wide.

We did find an extruded, aluminum molding that I was pretty sure I could shingle over the existing threshold to smooth the transition.

The good news is that there was a step in the existing threshold and the top of the aluminum molding nested in it and the top surface was flush with the surface of the hard rubber threshold molding.

The bad news was that my parent's needs were not satisfied.

For one thing, the bottom of the door dragged on the molding.  Maybe not a big deal for you or me but not something my dad wanted to, or should have to deal with.  You can see from the rub mark depicted by the top arrow that the molding was hooking the door in the shut position.  I can just see my dad beating on the door in the winter time while standing on the icy, wooden ramp.

I think my dad might also have been wanting a gentler angle than was afforded by the aluminum molding.

Asking for help
I occasionally run with the pastor of a local church.  I asked him once, "When you look out over the congregation, what percentage is women and what percentage is men?"

He responded "80% women." without hesitation.

I asked him what he attributed the imbalance to.  He responded, "Men find it harder to ask for help.  Maybe it is because we are wired that way and we are socializing to be independent.  Going to church and praying is an admission that there are things that are beyond our control.  Women, in general, seem to be more aware of that than men and more at peace with asking for help."

I could see that I would really struggle to meet the needs of my mom and dad.  I lack the tools to do the job well.  I lack the skills and I rarely work on jobs that require that level of attention to detail.  I decided to ask for help.

I called my younger brother.  He gladly took on the task.  He said, "Joe, don't sweat it.  I got this.  I have a planer and I can custom make the ramp the way dad wants it."

But it is not just the tools.  He likes doing that kind of thing.  He is also the kind of guy who automatically cuts moldings with 0.7 degrees of back angle so the don't even show a hairline when he matches them up.  And he will probably use some kind of wood that will last until doomsday and look good to boot.

Thanks, Little Bro.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Working in the orchard

Peaches are ripe

So are the pears

These were gifted to the lady who provided daycare to Kubota and Belladonna.
I was cleaning up storm damage today so I could mow.
I found a Yellow Jacket nest yesterday.
More accurately, they found me.  I got whacked five times in the ankles.  Circles around flying Yellow Jackets.  I got stung one more time while taking the picture.  Yellow Jackets put down a scent marker when they sting you which alerts other Yellow Jackets.
Nearly all of the young trees set terminal buds.  That bodes well for winter hardiness.  Instead of sinking carbohydrates into shoot extension they are packing them into roots and increasing bud hardiness.
Spreading branches is one way to induce early fruiting of trees.  There are many ways to pull vigorous shoots from the vertical to approximately 45 degrees.  Unfortunately, tying them to a ground weight like a chunk of firewood makes them vulnerable to breakage.
This was an exercise in reframing for me.  Zeus crashed into the string three times before he ripped the branch off the tree.  I had to remind myself that the tree still had three shoots with 36" of growth.  I had to remind myself that Zeus is a young, healthy dog.  I had to remind myself that I am fortunate to have a place where I can plant an orchard and where my dogs can run.  I had to remind myself that many folks would not have bothered to tie down branches because they just don't know. 

So the loss of this branch was the result of many, many good things coming together.

This is another place where I used a deadweight on the ground.  I cut this line after taking the photo.  It is not just dogs that can trip over these lines.  Deer can snag them.  I have walked into them when distracted.  I even had somebody drive into one with a dirt bike and get flipped off his bike.
Here is another method of branch positioning.  The trees are protected by 48" tall, 10" diameter, welded wire cages.  The horizontal wires can be snipped and the branch moved downward.  Bending one of the wires as shown positions the branch.  I need to place insulation between the branch and the wire before sub-zero weather arrives.
Here is a third method of pulling down branches.  This works well for higher branches.  I must remember to cut the zip-tie before it girdles the stem.  I figure I have a few years before I need to worry about that.
Larry Sibley grows some MONSTER garlic.  Both bulbs are the same variety.  The bulb on the left has more wrapper leaves.
This is one of the patches of ground between the new trees.  Much light hits the ground because the trees have not canopied over.  It is a great place to plant things like garlic.
This is what it looks like after planting twenty cloves of garlic and mulching.

DNA studies suggest that many types of garlic that are sold as different clones are, in fact, identical.  For example, there are 36 varieties that have identical DNA to "Artichoke".   Vendors figured out long ago that customers will buy one of every clone offered.  More clones means more sales.  I have no idea what Larry's clone really is, but it looks much like one offered in commerce named 'Montana Giant'.
I have a trail cam in the orchard.  The wind made the Foxtail seedhead bob.  The bobbing seedhead triggered the camera.  I have 345 pictures of that seed head.  Note to self:  In the future make sure there are no weeds that might fall in front of the camera.