Monday, September 30, 2019

Red Squirrels

The war against red squirrels continues.

They are either learning or I weeded out all the mouthy ones.

The one I got today stopped chattering when I entered the 150'-by-150' black walnut woods. Then he didn't utter a peep for the next twenty minutes.

I was easing my way out when I saw him silhouetted against the sky. He was perched, motionless, on a walnut branch twenty feet in the air. The base of the tree was about ten yards away from where I was standing and was a lone walnut in a clump of white pine.

The firearm I was carrying had no choke and throws VERY open patterns. It also has a red dot scope. It is the perfect tool for shooting game at fifteen yards and the load of #7 shot nailed him.

I am curious regarding the normal home-range of red squirrels.

I know I have a bunch of them in the large walnut tree along my west property line. I have been reluctant to hunt them because my neighbor immediately to the west has nervous dogs and often has grandkids (toddlers) over. I am not sure how she would respond to my pest control efforts.

It has been a couple of weeks since I thinned out the red squirrels on the east end of the 150'-by-150' woods. Now the western squirrels are diffusing their way east. I see the evidence on the ground. Pecan fragments. Sawtooth oak acorn fragments. Freshly chewed black walnuts.

Odds will tip back in my favor once the trees lose their leaves. They will be much easier to see. I expect the black walnuts to be naked in a couple more weeks. The oak tend to hang onto their leaves and the white pine, of course, stay green year-round.

I stopped keeping count around eleven red squirrels and guestimate that I am up to about fifteen.

The Shrewd King 11.1: Gimp

“Mr Spackle, may I have a word with you in private?” ‘Gimp’ Sullivan asked Quinn Spackle.

Chernovsky gave Quinn a nod, indicating that he was OK with the request.

“Sure.” Quinn said, less than happy at having been singled out of the crowd. That was rarely a good thing.

If there was one person in all of Kates Store-Pray Church-Chernovsky’s Annex that creeped Quinn out, it was Gimp Sullivan.

At first Gimp had been almost totally invisible. He was Chernovsky’s shadow. Always there to carry something or write down information.

It had nothing to do with his appearance. Sure, he had a limp because the bones in one of his ankles were fused.

It wasn’t his reputation. Uncle Larry Tomanica, the man who had taught Quinn how to shoot both quickly and accurately held Gimp in high regard.

Nope. The roots of Quinn’s trepidation were that Gimp suddenly seemed to be excessively interested in everything Quinn did.

It started just after Chernovsky uncharacteristically took a day off. The rumor mill suggested it had something to do with a girl, although Quinn discounted that possibility. Guys who looked like Chernovsky always had plenty of girls, Quinn was sure.

Gimp took them by surprise the day Chernovsky took the day off. He suddenly showed up in camp. No dogs barked. No friendly neighbors rang a bell or announced him. Perhaps it was because the dogs were trained to pick up the ticking of the ratchet in the rear hub of Chernovsky’s bike. Perhaps it was because the neighbors were looking for two bicyclists or were keying on Chernovsky’s bulk.

Quinn’ detachment had just rotated from the Columbia Highway bridge to the Waverly Road bridge. He found that the other half of the crew, the complement that rotated clockwise, was even more ‘entrepreneurial’ than the half-crew they had rotated away from. And there was this one guy, ‘Squirrel’...not because he looked like a squirrel but because he was squirrelly...

That day was a Keystone Cops episode as Quinn tried to reel-in the fighters who were off running trot-lines.

Gimp just stood, placidly waiting. If he was agitated or noticed anything wrong, he gave no indications.

What Quinn could not know is that his was the third camp that Gimp had ridden into and found massive ‘irregularities.’

A smaller-minded man would have thrown them under-the-bus as soon as he saw Chernovsky.

A less thoughtful man might have simply written it off as an anomaly and forgotten it.

A man who did not care would have dismissed the importance of following orders.

Gimp Sullivan was none of those things. He had learned a long time ago to know the answer before asking the question when it was important that things not go sideways.

That, and he was truly curious as to what was going on.

Gimp told Chernovsky that he needed to perform inspections of the regions around the camps. Chernovsky had much better woods-craft skills than he had seven months ago, but he was still a bull in the china shop compared to the kids who had grown up around Eaton Rapids. Chernovsky was more than happy to add forty minutes to one stop a day to let Gimp snoop around.

Most days, Gimp chose to snoop around Quinn’s camp.

It was not a matter of personal attraction. It was because Quinn was the acknowledge opinion leader and a genuine hero. If Quinn was doing something, it was for good reasons. Gimp wanted to puzzle out exactly what Quinn was doing, and why, before he made any decisions about what to do next.

The first few “deep inspections”, as Gimp came to think of them, revealed two things. One was that the observation posts were death-traps. Two was that there was almost no signs of scuffing or wear on the dirt floors of those posts.

The observation posts were well located, well constructed and well concealed but they were death-traps nonetheless. Any standalone stationary defense can be picked out, surrounded and destroyed with relatively few, lightly armed forces. There is no way five men can defend 360 degrees out to 300 yards with just a door, a window and a few shooting ports.

The other observation was that the fighters were spending almost no time in the death-traps even though Chernovsky’s instructions were to do exactly that. The mud was not trampled and the tracks were either very, very fresh or the edges of the tracks had dried to several shades lighter than the damp soil that made up the floor.

The question in Gimp’s mind was, “If they aren’t in the observation post, then where were they and what were they doing?”

Had they been fifty yards away, tucked behind trees at a higher elevation, then Gimp would have happily forgotten the evidence of wrongdoing. Really, the post was there so observers could have protection against inclement weather. Gimp, for one, would applaud their initiative for leaving the post and working from a better position.

But that is not what he found. The few natural positions that were within two-hundred yards of the observation post showed little traffic. Gimp filed that away in his mind, partially because those natural positions were also natural sniper hides and the logical place to stage attacks against the observation posts.

Gimp found the first, solid clues of what the fighters were doing in their spare time at the camp dump.


Internet down

Shrewd King installment will be late. Apologies for inconvienence.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Vehicle-buggy accidents, Part 5: Putting some of the pieces together

Plan view of ladder frame
A quick recap of where we are to date and to marry some of the ideas together.

A ladder frame is welded of 2"-by-4", 16 gauge steel. It is composed of two longitudinal members, approximately 36" apart. All members are in the same plane and all sectionss are in "portrait" orientation.

The first cross piece from the left is to stabilize the longitudinal members as they crush. The second, third, fourth and fifth cross pieces are for seat attachment.

Side view
We still have the issue of rearward pitching of the occupants because the force the bullet vehicle is applying to the frame is below the buggy+occupant's center-of-gravity.

One detail to help address the pitching is to add a detail to the rear of the longitudinal members to stick the ends into the bullet vehicle like a dart. The detail should span from 16" above ground to 24" above ground to maximize the chances of hitting significant structure in the bullet vehicle's body. Hardened steel points...say 2" long, Grade 8 bolts with the tips ground into 45 degree cones... increase odds of penetrating flubber and "sticking" into bumper bars or other metal.

The sticker plate will punch through plastic and thin metal and embed in solid structure in the bullet vehicle. Most bumpers are curved in the plan view and cause the longitudinal members to splay out-of-position unless you tie them together or have a sticker-pad.
Damage done to the bullet vehicle is energy our structure does not need to dissipate. It is one of the energy sinks labeled "other".

The sticker pad helps control the pitching by forcing the entire structure to rotate around the rear of the vehicle, increasing the apparent rotational inertia.

Current state: 
  • The buggy is now stuck to the front of the bullet vehicle and both are moving 26 miles per hour. The mass of the buggy slightly slowed the bullet vehicle
  • 12-to-24 inches of the longitudinal members crushed in an accordion-pleat fashion.
  • None of the passengers experienced fatal trauma unless they weighed less than fifty pounds and were not in a protective, child seat.
  • The seats are in the full rearward position but will flop forward as soon as the frame starts to decel
  • On decel, the occupants will fly forward, out of their seats unless they have some kind of restraint.
  • The front of the frame is lifting upward
  • The front of the frame is about to impact the rear of the 1000 pound horse at 26mph. That impact will further slow the assembly to 23mph.

Vehicle-buggy accidents, Part 4: Seats

The fundamental challenge in designing a system for the Amish buggy rocket sled is the potential variation in ballasting.

Longitudinal rails that generate a 15G pulse when accelerating 800 pounds of humans and 200 pounds of apparatus generates a 37G pulse when the only occupants are 2, 100-pound boys. 37G is not survivable.

Dialing back the longitudinal rail structure so it produces a 15G pulse when the two boys are riding in it produces a 6G pulse when carrying 4, 200-pound men and requires over four feet of crush space. If you run out of crush, then the accel spikes and you kill the men.

Twelve inch links tipped 30 degrees forward
Providing each occupant with their own seat is one way to address differences in ballast. That would be a change from the current Amish practice of one, common bench seat.

Same links tipped 30 degrees aft. Total rearward travel of 12". That is 50% of the 24 inches we need for the 15G, 30 mph rocket launch or a third of the 36 inches we need for the 10G launch.
I used the symbol for a spring in the image but it needs to be constant force spring. One way to create a constant force spring with the required degree of extension is to have a lubricated, tapered mandrel expand the inside-diameter of a tube as it is pulled through the tube. The free end of the mandrel would be attached to bottom of the seat and the free end of the tube is attached to the top. It is prudent to fill the tube with grease to prevent rust.

System tuning
We still have some significant, technical challenges. It is not possible to provide adequate protection for all occupants with one constant force spring. There needs to be at least three of them and we need to design a system that can turn them on-and-off.

To illustrate the challenge:
Suppose we want to stay within the 10G-to-15G window. A spring that produces enough force for a 15G, 50-pound girl (a typical, seven-year old girl) will produce a 10G pulse for a 75-pound girl (a ten-year old girl) and a 4G pulse for a 180 pound man.

Suppose it were possible to design a mechanism that locked a seatbelt buckle beneath the seat when a person who was sufficiently heavy sat on the seat. Furthermore, assume the seatbelt webbing ran parallel to the other constant force spring. Occupant restraint systems already use tear-out stitching to limit the forces on occupants and to manage energy. The tethers on fall-hazard harnesses use the same technology. Ripping stitching is proven technology to manage loads and energy.

If a sufficiently robust system were found to latch-unlatch the webbing, then next range would be from 76 pounds (still a ten-year old girl) to 115 pounds (a fifteen-year old girl, although Amish tend to run small).

A second belt (third spring) can be added which could be tuned to keep 116 pounds to 174 pounds in the 15G-to-10G window respectively.

Word picture
Imagine a full grown man sitting in one seat and a second-grade girl sitting in the seat next to him.

They are rear-ended by a pickup truck.

The full grown man's weight depressed the seat cushion and inverted, seatbelt buckles engaged two lengths of webbing in addition to the default, diagonal constant force spring.

The man gets a rocket launch of a bit less than 10G if he weighs more than 175...rather rare for an Amish man. They DON'T tend to fat.

The little girl's weight is not sufficient to depress the seat cushion and the only diagonal member that is engaged is the default, constant force spring.

The little girl get a 15G rocket launch.

Part 5

Evading responsibility with the practiced ease of a drunk, passed out in the gutter

My browser gives me "suggestions" for essays to read when I open a new window.

Have you ever seen a pretty girl and when she got a little bit closer noticed that something wasn't quite right? It is as if you were taking a hallucinogenic drug and her face and figure melted as she got closer and turned into a nightmare by the time she got to your table? Yes, it was one of those kinds of articles.

The girl starts out with how she was "too shattered" to write her brother's obituary.

As she continues to write, we learn that she was too self-absorbed to know her brother. She had to go to the internet to get basic facts about him, even she thought considered him to be the human she was closest to.

She explains their estrangement: "our relationship became too toxic for me to sustain."  "In 2010, after I disagreed with a statement he’d made, my dad smashed a chair to pieces in front of me, screaming while verbally berating me, and threw me out of the house...clear-cut cases of domestic violence".

Poor princess. Twenty-four years old and just now learning that your father has no obligation to provide you with housing after your most royal highness disrespected him. No worries. Just hate on all men because THEY are the toxic ones.

Having little to say about her brother she proceeds to spend most of the article talking about herself. She tells us about how she got a degree in humanities so she could heroically joust with " constructs, questioning and challenging the power structures around me..."

She explains how she is still irreparably scarred by the fact that she was not the Homecoming Queen in high school because she was a person of color...East Indian dontchyaknow. Apparently she was asleep at the switch when they stopped handing out participation awards and thought everybody got to be Homecoming Queen.

Race, and religion and good grades and national origins and wealth are all evil "social constructs". She laments being an outcast in her own neighborhood. Apparently, she forgot that she already told us that both she and her brother went to a private school where the headmaster who spoke with a British accent.

Hey lady, go to a different school than all your neighbors and they will have their social circles and you will have yours. Apparently your feelings weren't hurt so badly that you chose the local community college over that Ivy League school in New England.

She cannot see the contradiction.

Her brother made a mountain of money but he was a good person anyway because it did not mean anything to him. Somebody paid to send her to the Ivy League school so she could learn to write drivel. But money is evil.

She cannot see the contradiction.

She is angry because boys would not ask her out on Saturday night. The problem is always "the pain of a sensitive boy who succumbed to the impossible, unforgiving demands of an unhealthy relationship to masculinity" not "I am an angry shrew who evades personal responsibility with the practiced ease of the drunk, passed out in the gutter."

She cannot see the contradiction.

Normally, I would not waste my time writing about this self-absorbed snowflake but the last sentence of the article threw me:

Her first book, about Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, is out this November from Workman Publishing.
That sheds a bit of light on the Belletrix Lestrange phenomena. Lestrange's fangirls are mentally ill.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Vehicle-buggy accidents, Part 3: Head rests

One of the most critical parts of the system in limiting the peak accelerations experienced by the occupant's head is the head rest.

Designing the head rest is a good introduction to the differences between occupants. The head of a mature man weighs approximately 10 pounds. The head of a pre-teen weighs approximately 6.5 pounds. A system designed for a 12 G decel of an adult male head will result in an 18 G decel in the pre-teen's head...a nogo condition.

Plastic hinge theory suggests that a rectangular, ductile beam in bending will max out at a moment equal to 0.25*Width of beam*Yield stress of material*thickness^2.

The problem is that younger, shorter, lighter occupants lower the headrest and the bending moment DECREASES, thus raising the force level generated by the plastic hinge.

Having a stepped or tapered guide rod partially addresses this issue.

Position of head rest with a tall person, presumably with a heavy head.

Position of head rest with short person. The effective beam length is longer due to the increase in effective length.
It is worth noting that the upper guides don't need to be in full contact with the guide rod. That is, the guide rod does not need to be skinnied up as much as shown in the concept illustration. A groove could be ground in the backside of the guide rod and the upper, rear guide block could have a lug that only contacts the guide rod inline with the groove or not-groove. That would be similar to the groove ground in the bolt of many rifles for the ejector.

All units are inches. Bogey is 288 inch-pounds for a six pound head and 8" guide rods.
The table shown above assumes a functional bending length of 8" in the lowest position, a six pound head and 12 G target decel. The table assumes TWO rectangular, steel, strap-type guide rods for the head rest with a yield strength of 30ksi.

One might reasonably expect to get a travel of 4" from 8" long guide rods in bending. From a budgeting standpoint, we need about 30" of launch-pad to accelerate the occupant to the velocity of the bullet vehicle and a well designed head-rest gets us almost 15% of the needed distance AND gives us a way to positively discriminate between low-mass and high-mass occupants. And it is cheap and does not weigh much.

Part 4

Vehicle-buggy accidents, Part 2: Some math

Fortunately, there is a great deal of research if you know where to look.

Head Injury Criteria

For instance, the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards define the Head Injury Criteria as a moving window with the average acceleration (in Gs) raised to the 2.5th power. A Head Injury Criteria over a thousand is not good. The moving window is usually 15ms as the structural properties of the human head function like a low-pass filter. Jiggly acceleration signals in the 5ms range and shorter duration are noise.

The HIC (Head Injury Criteria) was developed for impacts that drive the human head rearward. There are significant structural differences in how the human head responds to frontal hit and to rear hits, but we will use the FMVSS HIC number as a starting point.

Crush Space
Not the easiest table read. A seven G pulse (which equates to HIC of 130) requires 206 inches...17 feet... to accelerate a mass to sixty miles per hour. A fifteen G pulse (which equates to a HIC of 870) requires 24 inches to accelerate a mass to thirty miles per hour.

Simply equating kinetic energy (1/2*mass*velocity^2) and force through a distance (accel rate X distance) and doing a bit of math shows us that an object can be accelerated to 30 miles per hour in a space of 51.5 inches when subjected to an even acceleration of 7 times the rate of gravity.

Said another way, the chart tells me that if I want to limit the HIC to 499, then I need to limit the maximum acceleration to 12 Gs. If I limit the acceleration to 12 Gs, then I need to find 30 inches of crush space and design a structure that will generate the proper force pulse to generate 12 G.

Magee and Thornton (1978)

Magee and Thornton published formulas for approximating the average force it takes to crush round and square pipe in the axial direction.

As a convenience, rectangular sections are approximated using the formula for the square section by taking the average of the height and width of the section.

Magee and Thornton's approximation is:
Average axial crush force for a rectangular section = 17 * (metal thickness in millimeters)^1.8 * (Material's Ultimate Tensile Strength) * ((Height + Width)/2)^0.2

This is where reality rears its head. Steel tubing is not available in an infinite range of exterior dimensions and metal thicknesses. Furthermore, axial crush force is exquisitely sensitive to metal thickness and surprisingly insensitive to the height and width.

2" by 2" and 4" and 6". Metal thickness  in inches listed in second row from top. 60ksi ultimate tensile strength assumed.

Assuming four fat men and two hundred pounds of seats and framing, we are looking at a max load of 1000 pounds. Assuming we have one longitudinal rail along each side of the buggy, the table shown above translates rectangular tubing dimensions into the accelerations in Gs for maximum ballast condition.

Functionally, this would perform similar to a 2"-by-6" section if the flanges were one inch, each.
The longitudinal rails for the occupant protection structure for the buggy would optimally be 16 gauge steel and 2" wide by 4" high in order to provide sufficient energy capacity for maximum ballast conditions.

Additional "crush distance" for less than maximum ballast conditions must be engineered into the individual seats to avoid excessive HIC numbers for the occupants.

Part 3

Vehicle-buggy accidents, Part 1

A pickup truck with the hood 40" above the ground about to hit a buggy with 38" diameter wheels. Occupant in image is sized to be about eleven years old.
Mid-Western states have a growing population of people who live the Amish, Christian tradition.

One characteristic of the Amish is that they avoid many modern technologies, including powered transportation like gas powered automobiles. Unfortunately, they lose the benefit of many of the safety improvements that come with a modern automobile.

Traditional horse-drawn buggies have many characteristics that make serious injury, even death, likely when in accidents.

They are typically fabricated from wood. Wood does a poor job absorbing crash energy. It does not deform plastically and it is difficult to create efficient joints between separate members. An additional issue with wood is that it splinters and pose a puncture risk.

The geometry of buggies place the occupants high in the air and the seats do not support the head and neck for whiplash events.

Part 1 will only discuss the likely fate of a buggy passenger being hit by a pickup truck from behind.

Image One: The truck is blue and is traveling from left-to-right. Occupant of buggy has a sitting height of 48"

Image Two: Buggy wheels shatter and/or go flying off the buggy so quickly that no energy is absorbed. Events happen so fast that the occupant is essentially suspended in space through the rest of the event.

Image Three: Same as above but the occupant has been replicated with basic shapes to illustrate likely "articulation" through the rest of the event

Image Four: Leading edge of hood impacts rear-and-bottom of the occupant's hip. Shear forces cause severe damage spinal cord immediately above hip-girdle and to brain-stem. Trunk of body is experiencing negative pitch.

Image Five: This image shows the occupant flying toward the truck windshield like a human cannonball. Net velocity of the occupant vis-a-vis the truck is approximately 40 mph. Hips slightly elevated from prior position as the top of the occupant's trunk rotates aft relative to the occupant's center of gravity.

Image Six: Head impacts windshield, snapping it forward on his neck creating Dale Ernhardt brain trauma. Steam-flash trauma occurs in the frontal lobes of the brain. Knees overbend and rip ALCs to shreds.
Word pictures describing the remainder of event:
  • The vehicle airbag did not deploy. This event looks like a deer-strike to the module tasked with determining deploy/nondeploy events.
  • The windshield will partially cave in and the occupant will slide up the windshield like dirt being pushed by a bulldozer blade.
  • The top-back of the occupants head will hit the steel structure supporting the top of the windshield (called the windshield header).
  • The occupant's body will fly up into the air(as much as 20 high), forward and off to the side after hitting the windshield. It might land in the lane of on-coming traffic or, more likely, beside the road.

Key points: 
  • Height of the bullet vehicle and the vertical location of the occupant make a HUGE difference in the subsequent dynamics of the buggy occupant.
  • Sixty mph (approximately one inch per millisecond) impacts may not be survivable. As a frame-of-reference, the sound of fingers being snapped is about five milliseconds.
  • Many impacts occur at lower speeds as distracted driver notices problem before impact and manages to hit brakes and scrub off some speed.
  • Thirty mph impacts may be survivable with structural modifications to the buggy to remediate trauma causing sub-events.
  • A collision involves multiple impacts, any which can kill or seriously maim the occupant.
  • Examples of impacts with potentially fatal results include the neck trauma in Image Four, the frontal brain trauma and, separately, the neck trauma in Image Six, the post-impact landing of the occupant after ricocheting off the windshield.
Part 2

Friday, September 27, 2019

Fake News Friday: Musk makes new product announcement

The actual AR-$15B unit is somewhere beneath the photo released by Musk
Perpetually cash-strapped Elon Musk held a press conference where he unveiled a new Tesla product, the AR-$15B.

A prototype was available during the press conference but no photos were allowed.

Musk announced that proprietary, auto-pilot software makes it impossible for the person holding the AR-$15B to shoot people with higher social credit scores.

While demonstrating the product, the AR-$15B jumped when touched by a CNN journalist and shot the stringer hired by Fox in their smartphone. Sadly, the stringer was carrying his smartphone in his breast pocket.

Elon Musk said that the programming feature that caused the issue had already been identified by engineers and updated software was being downloaded, even as he was speaking.

Reporters for Outdoor Life suggested that most outdoorsmen will find the 600 Watt, SolarCity panel which powers the AR-$15B too top-heavy and unwieldy to be useful in the field although the Tesla lithium-ion battery could be useful for starting fires.

California legislature immediately approved the $15 Billion Musk said he needed to fully productionize the product.

The Shrewd King 10.5: Wood-tick

Farmer Earl was looking at the eighty acres that had been planted to wheat and corn.

The wheat would have to take care of itself. It had been broadcast and broadcast heavy and it was impossible to cultivate. No matter, the wheat had exploded out of the ground and was shading out most of the weeds.

The corn was a different story. It had been planted in widely spaced rows. Weeds had ample moisture and sunshine to grow and were competing with the overmatched, juvenile corn plants.

Pete had a map of the planting and stakes had been pounded into the ground at intervals to mark where the various plots started and stopped.

Earl was an old-style farmer. He had been one of the last to accept no-till and Round-up Ready crops. He plowed and tilled until the bank made him stop. It had been a point of pride that his fields were as free of weeds as the fields of the progressive farmers who sprayed glyphosate.

He would have hung his head in shame over the deplorable condition of the plots. Not only were the plots choked with weeds, but more telling, there was almost nobody out in the fields working.

Seeing a figure Earl thought he recognized, he waded out into the weeds a couple of hundred yards. There, screened off by the jungle of weeds that surrounded it was a plot that met Earl’s standards.

“Zat you, Wood-tick?” Earl asked. Nobody had gotten around to making a list of who had survived Ebola and who had died. Clearly, Daniel Wood, aka Wood-tick, had survived.

“Yep. Its me.” Wood-tick responded. “I was too mean and ornery to die.”

“Ornery is right.” Earl said.

Turning to Pete, Earl said “Wood-tick and I got kicked off the football team together. We were too rough, the coach said.”

Wood-tick’s laugh was a short bark.

“We were JV and playing Charlotte. We knocked three of their players out of the game in three straight plays. I hit high and Wood-tick hit low. Tore them apart.” Earl said with a chuckle.

Wood-tick chimed in, “What were we, about 125 pounds dripping wet? Thing was Earl was heading west when he hit him and I was heading east.”

Pete was not a student of “American” football but even he could see the potential for mayhem.

Earl looked around at the plots surrounding Wood-ticks. “Pathetic.” was all he could manage.

“Gonna be a lot of hungry people this winter.” Wood-tick said.

“Gonna be a lot of hungry people next week.” Earl corrected him.

“How do you figure?” Wood-tick asked.

“Credit is going to dry up.” Earl said. “We ain't selling corn on credit if it doesn't look like they are gonna grow enough to pay us back in-kind. Looking at this field, there is not a snowball's chance in hell they are going to get a crop. Only a fool would keep extending credit.”

Pete looked like he needed to throw up. Pete was extremely adverse to conflict and he saw no happy endings for this story.

“I see where you are coming from.” Wood-tick agreed. “Most of this corn isn’t worth spit.”

“What can I do?” Pete wailed.

“You wanna get this straightened out?” Wood-tick asked. He wasn’t really sure. Sometimes people did stupid things because they WANTED to fail.

“Yes.” Pete said.

“Then you stop selling them corn. You only sell to me and the people who I tell you to sell to.” Wood-tick said. “Tell them, the only way they are going to get food is if they toe the line I draw.”

"That means that they are out here hoeing and pulling weeds every damned minute I am out here working on my plot." Wood-tick said.

Pete looked dubiously at the old game-cock.

Earl said, “He is as good as his word. I seen him knock a Holstein bull on its ass with a cinder-block when he was sixteen. You don’t have to be the hard guy, Pete, just let old Wood-tick be hisself. Its a simple case of putting a square peg in a square hole."

Earl did not think it was necessary to tell Pete that the bull only weighed 800 pounds. Sometimes its the parts you leave out that make the story.

“What about the old guys who cannot work in the fields?” Pete asked. The question had been buzzing around the back of his mind.

Earl looked at him like he was daft. “Have them kill coons!” he said as if it were the most obvious thing in the world.

Pete knew that ‘coon’ was an ethnic slur and he wasn’t absolutely sure it wasn’t being applied to him. “Beg your pardon?” he said.

“Raccoons.” Wood-tick said. “We are close to the river and the only corn field for miles around. We might get hundreds of them.”

“And raccoons eat corn?” Pete said, trying to imagine how much damage a cute, little animal could do.

“Dirty, rotten bastards do more than eat corn. They tear down the stalks and then might take one or two bites out of each cob. I seen where a single coon destroyed a hundred corn stalks in a night.” Earl attested.

“You bet.” Wood-tick said. “You put those old men out here with a dog and a shotgun and I guaran-damn-tee you that they will earn their keep.”

Pete did not see a downside. Wood-tick would do the heavy lifting as Pete saw it. The field couldn’t be any worse than it already was.


Thursday, September 26, 2019

Changing this to that

God willing, I will get 32 37 to seal.

The Shrewd King 10.4: Sometimes, the hardest problems are at home

Rick, Kate and Luke Salazar came into the office together.

They intended to talk reason to Ken and get him to back down. Folks just couldn’t afford the kinds of prices they feared Ken would demand.

Kate agreed to let Rick speak for her. She was too emotionally invested and knew that her voice would start shaking. It wasn’t that she was losing control. Rather, it was that her voice refused to cooperate.

Rick started the ball rolling, “We are here to establish our credit for next week’s bidding. And we are also here to try to talk you out of what you clearly plan to do.”

More than any of the other bidders, Ken saw Rick, Kate and Luke as peers and valued their opinions. It stung that they judged him so quickly.

“From where you stand, what does it look like I am trying to do?” Ken asked.

Kate started to speak but Rick reminded her by placing his hand on her knee to let him talk. “It looks like you are trying to squeeze as much profit out of hungry people as you can get away with.” Rick said evenly.

“Let me tell you how it looks from the outfield.” Ken said referring to the fact that the farms were in the extreme southwest corner of KS-PC-CA.

“I see a bunch of people sitting on their ass expecting ‘somebody else’ to feed them.” Ken said.

“I see huge amount of work that need to be done. I see roads that need to be graded. I see lumber that needs to be milled. I see fields that need to be hoed and weeds that need to be pulled.” Ken said. “I see horses getting fat behind barns because corn is so cheap.”

“Think of it, a man can work one day and earn a bushel of corn...enough calories to keep him alive for two months.”

“Before Ebola, when we had diesel and pesticides and fertilizer and medicine and trucks that ran...did you know anybody who made enough working six days a YEAR to get by?” Ken asked. “Didn’t think so.”

“You know what else I see? I see Kelly and Di literally killing themselves working too many  hours because they care too much. I see you three working just as hard and it is only a matter of time before you hit the wall.” Ken said.

“And before you tell me that folks are old or sick, let me remind you that Earl is 77 years old and he is working just as many hours as you are. Where is the justice for Earl? Is it justice to kill Earl with over-work just to GIVE corn to folks who aren’t motivated to work?”

“Getting back to that ‘working six days a year’; We will all starve if most adults around here only work six days a year. Hell, we will starve or freeze to death if most adults only work five days a week.” Ken said.

“Me and Earl and Don talked this over. The only way we saw to get all the players off the bench and into the game was to raise the price of corn and to raise it a lot.” Ken said.

“I ain’t going to pretend to be some kind of saint.” Ken said. “I want my wife to have a ceiling fan that works and it would be awful nice if we could make ice for our neighbors and had a way to refrigerate food.”

“But the big thing is that we are going to have the mother of all train-wrecks if we don’t get people working ‘cause there is an assload of work to do and nobody is looking in their mirror and seeing the ‘someone’ who is going to do it.”

Silence graced the office for half a minute. Ken rarely used coarse language like "ass" and it communicated Ken's desperation and anger more than yelling ever could have.

Then Kate spoke up. “Ken, you have to help me out. I grew up in Holt...about as typical of a suburb as you can imagine. Can you help me see all this work that isn’t getting done. Just give me one good example.”

Then Ken thought for a minute. Farmers are comfortable with silence. When they speak, they want it to be right.

"The one biggest thing we need right now is fertilizer...Nitrogen. The corn plants are all yellow and runted. I don't know if we are going to get ANY corn if we cannot find some fertilizer to spread. And we gotta find it quick because the plants need it NOW." Ken said.

"All those horses I was talking about. Have you seen any of them?” he asked.

Kate nodded her agreement. She had seen some of those horses.

“Everyone I have seen had a manure pile outside the barn. Usually about five yards but sometimes ten or twenty yards in size.” Ken said.

Rick and Luke nodded. Luke helped one of the “horse women” one summer to make a little folding money. Shoveling stable waste loomed large in his memory.

“Every yard of manure has ten pounds of nitrogen in it and that is enough to boost the yield…” Ken did some mental calculations...”a little bit more than ten bushels.*”

“So giving you a yard of stable manure is almost the equivalent of a fifteen bushel ‘lot’ of corn?” Kate said, starting to get excited.

“Hold on, not quite so fast.” Ken cautioned. “There are always losses. IF a yards of horse manure and stable waste were spread evenly over the corn field at the beginning of the growing season, it might increase the yield by ten bushels. It is much safer to estimate half that because all of the nitrogen won't be available this year.  But they darned well better get on the stick because the corn will be too tall to drive wagons over in about two weeks.” Ken said

"Thing is, there aren't enough of me to cart the manure here and then spread it on the fields. That is the work, right there." Ken said. "It ain't just the somebody saying I can take it. It has to be spread evenly in the corn field."

"And if they don't have manure, they can cut cattails, nettles or giant ragween in the muck fields." Ken said.

"If they don't want to do that, there are plenty of older folks with manure piles who aren't capable of shoveling it, so they can team up. One can donate the pile and the other can move and spread it."

"Heck," Ken said "lots of people have swimming ponds that are choked with seaweed this time of year. Most of them would be tickled if somebody volunteered to rake out the weeds just so they could have something to spread on the corn fields."


Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Dancing on a slippery slope

I was on the road today so you get a quick post.

Mrs ERJ was telling me of a discussion she had with one of her friends regarding right-to-life vs. right-to-chose (abortion).

Mrs ERJ's friend said that she wished she knew when the soul entered the developing fetus. In her mind, that is when the fetus changes from a lump of flesh to a human. Before the soul enters the fetus, an abortion is as moral-neutral as removing a skin-tag.

This argument is seductive and it is also fraught with a high degree of slippery-slope risk.

For example:
  • What if a gifted orator makes a compelling case that children less than four-years old have no soul?
  • What if somebody who hates people who sunburn easily makes a compelling case that red-heads have no soul?
  • Or cat lovers?
  • Or people who ever scored less than 80 on an IQ test? 
  • Or people who ever scored above 120 on an IQ test?
  • Or people who listen to rap music?
  • Or listen to Vivaldi?
  • Or people who blog?
  • Or people who go to certain news sources?
Ultimately, the "no soul" criteria metastasizes into the guilt-free killing of anybody who is different enough from me---along any axis---that I can deny any empathy-bonds with that fellow human.

The Shrewd King 10.3: Credit

“I want to see Pete, next.” Ken said after Kelly left the office. “He has farthest to go and doesn’t have anybody to travel with.”

Pete entered the office with trepidation. Kelly’s outburst was beyond the pale in the culture he was from.

“I understand that I need a line of credit to buy corn next week.” Pete started.

“Yup.” Ken said. “Either horses, solar panels or promissory notes to be paid off, in-kind, when the field south of your store is harvested.”

“How much credit will you extend on field south of my store? It makes a difference on what I can pay for corn.” Pete said. He was no stranger to haggling.

“Right now, I cannot extend you any credit on that field.” Ken said.

“But you said it was secured by the next harvest.” Pete said.

“Yeah, well about that.” Ken said. “The three of us took a ride around and looked at that field. Except for one or two small patches, it is choked with weeds and you aren’t going to get any corn off it. We cannot extend credit when we don’t have confidence that you will have a harvest and be able to pay it back.”

Pete blinked. He was not a farmer and had assumed that the neighbors were taking care of business.

“What do you propose I do?” Pete asked.

“I can’t tell you what to do, but if it were me I would continue to sell to the the one-or-two people who are taking care of their share and to stop selling to the people who expect ‘somebody else’ to do the work.” Ken said. "Slackers are generally pretty quick learners, once they get hungry."

That was going to go over like a turd in the punch bowl.

“And if we get the field acceptably weeded by next Sunday, then can you extend us credit?” Pete asked.

“If me or Don or Earl looks it over on Monday and we like what we see, we will give you credit.” Ken said.

“Can one of you come over tomorrow so you can coach us on just how perfect the weeding needs to be?” Pete asked.

That sounded perfectly reasonable to Ken so he agreed that one of them would show up about 10:30, late enough for Pete to assemble a work crew.

“Can you give me a hint about what the reserve will be next week?” Pete asked.

“Lemme ask you a few questions. Then maybe you can figure it out for yourself.” Ken said.

“Where did you come from, Pakistan?” Ken asked.

“Close. Western India.” Pete replied.

“Manual laborers, men with no particular skills, how much money did they make a day?” Ken asked.

“Maybe two-hundred Rupees a day.” Pete said.

“How much rice would that buy?” Ken asked.

“About ten pounds.” Pete said.

“You can expect to pay at least that much for corn.” Ken said. “We don’t have fertilizer. We don’t have pesticides. India did.”


Benicio was the next person Ken met with.

Benicio, more than anybody else, understood exactly what Ken was doing. Benicio’s former business, at its core, was really no different than Ken’s current business. Both were retailing and both were virtual monopolies.

“I know you cannot predict next week’s prices.” Benicio said. “But do you think six, 600W panels with controllers will provide sufficient credit for next weeks bidding?”

“I can almost guarantee that it will.” Ken said.

“I will send them tomorrow to give you time to verify that they work. Where do you want them sent?” Benicio asked.

“Send them here but tag them ‘Collateral for grain auction’ so nobody is confused about why they are here.” Ken said.


The next person Ken met with was the rude, fat man.

“Do you know who I am?” the fat man demanded as he barged through the door.

“I expect you are Dennis Blastic.” Ken said.

Ken could have worked in a factory or gone to college. Rather, he chose to farm because he found a certain class of humans to be unbearable. He could kick a tractor and there was no harm done. The tractor never tried to stab him in the back.

Denny was the kind of human that Ken had the least patience with.

“Then you know that I don’t have to apply for any credit.” he said. “Kate already cleared us.”

“This ain’t Kate’s rodeo.” Ken said. “In fact, before you can bid you need to settle-up on your previous loans with Kate.”

Denny’s mouth gaped open in mock amazement. “You mean to tell me that 22, prime breeding horses aren’t enough collateral for you?”

“Not only that, but I have four-hundred tons of prime, grass hay.” Denny said.

“Yeah” Ken said, “me and Earl been meaning to ask you what you plan to do with that Canarygrass you cut. The other thing we wanted to ask was ‘How much did you lose in the barn fire?’ I am thinking you don’t have four-hundred tons now.“

“Whaddya mean ‘Canarygrass’, you rube. It is prime bromegrass hay. The best there is.” Denny demanded.

“Have you tried feeding it to your horses?” Ken asked. “Lemme know how THAT goes.”

“But we ain’t here to argue about hay.” Ken said.

“You want to bid next week, you settle up what you owe Kate and you bring a couple of horses for us to inspect. And if we agree they are worth enough, you can bid if you leave them for collateral.” Ken said.

Denny’s face grew even redder beneath his sunburn. He shook his head like a gill-hooked bullhead. Sure-as-hell he was going to feed that hay to his horses, he just hadn’t gotten around to it yet.

Denny would play along, for a little while. As soon as he got the chance he was going to jam it up the prissy farmer’s backside and break it off.


Tuesday, September 24, 2019

My name is Joe. I burn applesauce.

My name is Joe and I burn applesauce.

I don't always burn applesauce. Sometimes I can suck-it-up and not burn it.

But then I push the envelop. I turn the heat just a little higher. I use just a tad less water in the bottom of the kettle. I add a few more apples.

And then I burn the applesauce.

The batch of apples I was cooking down to mush is ruined.

The kettle is impaired. I have to scrub, and scrub and scrub...and even then apples cooked in the kettle pollute future ventures.

I am also an engineer

In theory, a double-boiler where the intermediate fluid has a boiling point significantly above the boiling point of pure water but far below the temperature that scorches apples would create a very robust process.

Commercial canneries use pressurized steam. Water is cheap but equipment is not. The fixed costs of the steam equipment is amortized over enough volume that it become insignificant. That is not the case for the typical, home canner.

The next best thing would be to use an ethylene glycol-water solution as the intermediate fluid. My first swing at the pinata was to use a 2/3 EG:1/3 water solution with a boiling point of 236F...almost 25 degrees higher than pure water.

My concern was that the EG:water solution would boil and over-flow into the apples, thus contaminating them.

I investigated that concern by performing a trial run with the EG-H2O solution and using a full kettle of pure water as the test load.

This is what I found.

A turkey fryer. Nominally 55k BTU/hr. Sides modified to accept larger diameter double boiler. I cranked it up as hot as it would go to give it a severe test.

Three nuts to hold cooking vessel away from the bottom of the double boiler.

1.5 gallons of 65%:35% antifreeze:H2O. Large kettle has ID of about 15.5 inches. Smaller kettle has ID of about 11.5 inches.

Started at 11:36 AM. H2O payload hot-to-touch at 12:06. Antifreeze:H2O heat-transfer fluid bubbling at 12:11. H2O in cooking vessel at rolling boil at 12:20.

The primary concern was that the heat transfer fluid would bubble up and contaminate the apples being cooked. This photo shows the amount of rolling of the heat transfer fluid when the water in the cooking vessel was at a full, rolling boil and the turkey fryer LP burner was pegged.

The results of this trial run are promising enough to redo the experiment with real apples.

Energy slaves

Suppose the world suddenly changed and we needed to use human slaves to replace fossil fuels. How many slaves would it take to do tasks we now take for granted.

A pump station sends water 3000 feet over one mountain pass. At full capacity, it uses 2,460,000 energy slaves of power. 

If the entire population of the city of Los Angeles did nothing but pedal hard and sleep, they would generate this much energy.  -Source

A Ford Expedition SUV—1700 energy slaves. Arranged on bikes four abreast (a bit wider than a standard ten foot road lane) and squeezed so there was just a few feet between the front wheel of one and the rear wheel of the next, the Ford Expedition would require a column of energy slaves nearly a mile long...  -Source

So depending on how we count, each American has somewhere between 75 and 400 “energy slaves” working for him or her (24 hours a day), and the richer ones have thousands. The global average energy use is of course lower, and represents figures between 18 and 90...  -Source

In an austere environment, whether due to resource depletion, issues with distribution or scarcity created by political disagreement, a robust distribution system will diminish resources allocated to lower-utility uses to protect higher-utility uses. For example, rational people would choose to not air condition their garage if it means they have energy to transport their wife-in-labor to medical help.

Planned economies...socialism/communism...historically are terrible at efficiently allocating resources.  Political elite eat strawberries in January while peasants starve. Celebrities fly private planes to distant locations to discuss "justice" while women walk fifteen miles a day to collect firewood to cook their family's bread.

Technologies that can convert waste to either food or mechanical/electrical energy will be the Philosopher's Stones that converts dross to gold. Those technologies can be draft animals, gasifiers or steam engines. They can also be structural, using the waste heat in a loft to dry herbs, for instance. 

The Shrewd King 10.2: Ibbiddy-ibbiddy-ibbiddy-oo

“For sale is Lot-Number-One. There is a reserve on this lot. If the reserve is not met, none of the other lots of corn will be sold.”

“Lot-Number-One is fifteen bushels of prime, clean, last-years, Michigan corn. Who will give me 100 silver dollars?”

“Ibbidy, ibbidy, ibbiddy dee” Farmer Ken singsonged in traditional auctioneer fashion.

He paused and looked around the room.

“Who will give fifty? Ibbiddy-ibbiddy-ibbiddy-oo”

“Do I hear twenty? Ibbiddy-dee”

“Ten? Ibbiddy-ibbiddy-ibbiddy-oo”

The fat man hollered “I will give you five.”

“I have five. Now do I hear ten, do I hear ten, I am looking for ten Ibbiddy-ibbiddy-ibbiddy-dee”

I have five, do I hear seven? Ibbiddy-ibbiddy-ibbiddy-oo”

Benicio raised his card.

“I have seven, I have a seven, do I have a ten? Ibbiddy-ibbiddy-ibbiddy-dee”

“Eight.” the fat man countered. That was half of what he was currently paying and it was his limit.

“I have eight, I have eight, do I have nine? Ibbiddy-ibbiddy-ibbiddy-oo”

Slowly and painfully, the price inched up to fifteen dollars a load which was exactly what the stores had been paying. Then the price held.

“I hear fifteen, I hear fifteen, do I hear fifteen-and-a-quarter…..”

“I have fifteen once….I have fifteen twice….I have fifteen a third time...”

“Reserve not met. No corn will be sold this week.” Ken said.

Except for the hum of the fan, you could have heard a pin drop.

“What is the reserve?” the fat man demanded.

“The reserve is the minimum price the seller will accept.” Ken said.

“I know THAT.” the fat man said. “But what is the price?”

Ken really did not like the fat man.

“I could tell you what the reserve WAS but it will be higher next week. So there is no point in sharing that information.”

“On to the soybeans.” Ken said.

“How many are here to bid on soybeans?” Ken asked.

Only Kelly raised his hand.

“Can’t have an auction with only one buyer, so I will tell you the reserve and we will transact at that price.”

Kelly nodded. That seemed fair to him.

“Why don’t you step into Kate’s office and we will take care of business.” Ken said. Ken suspected that Kelly was not going to be happy with the price and he wanted a modicum of privacy.

Then Ken said to the others, “After Kelly, I will see anybody who wants to bid next week to make arrangements for credit.”

Ken asked Kelly to shut the flimsy door behind him.

Ken told Kelly what the reserve price on the soybeans was.

The blast of anger from behind the door nearly knocked the others in the auction room off their seats, it was so unexpected.

“What the FUCK do you mean, I can buy soybeans for $25 a bushel!!! I was paying $3 a bushel yesterday.”

Ken’s voice, low and calm filtered through the crack at the bottom of the door, too quiet to make out the words.

“FUCK NO! I can’t afford that.” Kelly’s voice burst out.

More low rumbling from Ken.

“You are fucking killing me. My customers can’t afford those prices and I can’t eat the loss.” Kelly said.

Inside the office, Ken said “I know that. And we wouldn't have been able to put in a crop this year without your and Milo's help. We are might appreciative for all you have done.”

And that is when Kelly came unglued.

Kelly was running on fumes. Stevie Wonder could have seen it, had he taken time to look.

Ken saw it coming. Don saw it. Earl saw it. That is why Ken wanted to do business in the office, to give Kelly at least a shred of privacy and dignity.

What the farmer’s couldn’t know...but they suspected...was that Kelly was eating poorly and sleeping worse. They also suspected that Kelly and Di had not been intimate in months.

Farming is a high stress profession. They had all been there. They could see the signs. It was like looking in the mirror.

Kelly raged on for five minutes. Every time he started to slow down and Ken tried to say something, Kelly lit back up. It was a short loop and he repeated himself several times. But there was nothing that Kelly said that was untrue.

The crowd in the auction room were riveted by the drama. Mr Ed turned off his smartphone. It would be rude to record a man who so completely lost control.

Finally, Kelly wound down, more from his voice hurting than for lack of something to say.

“Like I was saying” Ken said as if Kelly had not been screaming at him for five minutes, “we are awful appreciative of what you have done.”

“We kept track of the field-work and log hauling you done.” Ken said. “We kept track and credited you with it.”

“Whaddya mean, ‘credited me with it’?” Kelly asked.

“Credited you and Milo.” Ken said.

“We know to the gallon how much diesel it takes to work our fields.” Ken said. “We worked it backwards to the number of man-years and we credited you with that.”

In fact, both Ken and Earl had done the math separately and then had Phil Wilder check the math. They figured that a gallon of diesel equaled 13 horse-power-hours which was the same as 130 man-hours or about twenty man-days  per gallon of diesel given the fact that most men couldn't put in a full day of physical work. When there was a range of estimates, they gave Kelly the benefit of the doubt to account for the wear-and-tear on his equipment.

Ken took the piece of paper that was on the desk in front of him. He spun it around and pushed it across the table to Kelly.

Kelly picked it up. “What is this?”

“It is a receipt acknowledging the balance we owe you.” Ken said.

Kelly sat down. The number was large, eye-poppingly large...almost fifty man-years of labor.

“You might want to think about using some of that money to hire some helpers.” Ken said. “We cannot afford to have you work yourself to death and I think there will be a lot of men looking for work in a week or two.”


Monday, September 23, 2019

A day of fixing "stuff"

I installed a motion activated light on mom and dad's back porch. We have care-givers coming and going all hours of the day and night. With the days getting shorter, more of those entries will be in the dark and it is hard to hit the keyhole in pitch dark.

I removed the overhead light and installed the motion activated light. Then I switched the light switch on inside and covered the switch with tape.

I got a call last night. The new light stopped working.

Dad took the dog for a midnight walk last night and very carefully removed the tape, switched the light off and then reapplied the tape.

I installed a battery powered, motion activated light. At this point, nobody is going to change how dad does things.

The clothes dryer
Mrs ERJ informed me that the clothes dryer squealed at her and then quit.

I assumed it was a belt problem.

I was wrong. The rear bearing on the engine was squealing. I was unable to figure out how to wrestle the motor out of the unit.

Attempts to give it a bath in the unit were unsuccessful.  Turning the motor by hand still resulted in squealing.

I reassembled the dryer and stuffed it back in the hole. "What the heck" I thought. I had nothing to lose. I pushed the button and the drum would not even spin.

Pushing in the "Go" button with one hand, depressing the door position switch with a screwdriver held between my teeth and "helping" the drum start spinning with my other hand...the dryer found its groove and spun...with no squealing.

I have no clue why it is working. None at all. The lube I dribbled on the motor bearings will collect dust and make a mess, but maybe we can get another six months out of the beast.

The S-10
Transmission fluid leak. That was disconcerting as the vehicle only has 55k miles on it.

The transmission fluid cooler lines that run to the radiator had rotted out. Things like that happen on vehicles that are 17 years old and get winter salt on them.

$400 bucks to fix it, mostly parts.

The Silverado
The fuel fill pipe (or neck) is also rotted out and gas drips when filling the vehicle.  Looks like a job I can do myself. The parts are $95. The parts are ordered.

The Shrewd King 10.1: The Auction House

Farmer Ken stood behind a table at the front of the main show room in Kate’s store. She had agreed to use her store as the site for the auction, even though she was not happy about the possibility of the price of corn going up.

She had no idea.

Tables and shelves had been dragged to the sides of the room, opening up the space in the middle where folding chairs had been arranged in rows.

Farmers Earl and Don were sitting at a table to Ken’s left, checking in bidders and assigning numbers as they came through the side door.

A couple of young Hispanic men sat toward the back of the room. There was something “urban” about them: Maybe their footwear, maybe the fact that they wore sunglasses rather than baseball caps.

A fat man with a sunburned face entered the room after they did. He mumbled something just under his breath as he passed them.

The younger of the Hispanic men started to rise out of his seat when the older man, all of thirty, made a small motion and the younger man sat back down like a well trained dog. The younger man was clearly not happy about being brought back to heel.

The fat man sat two rows in front of the Hispanic men and stretched out his arm, taking up all of three seats and parts of two more. He stretched out his legs and pushed the seat in front of him forward before farting.

Kate and Luke already had numbers.

A thin, east-Indian man that Ken recognized as Pete got a number and sat on the other side of the aisle, the side that was away from the side door.

John and Sam Wilder came and got a number. They sat behind Pete.

Gabby Gonzales (formerly Salazar) and Kelly Carney, of gasifier, brewing and soy-oil fame, sat together and shared a ticket. They needed grain for the distillery and soy beans for the oil operation.

Paul Seraph arrived but did not register.

Mr Ed Hall got a number as did a few of the other locals. Ed was fiddling with a smartphone. Clearly, he intended to record the auction and play it back as a broadcast.

Entertainment was hard to find on a Monday evening.

Ken banged the gavel against the top of his "podium". His Casio read exactly 6:00 PM.

“This is the first auction to sell grain held by the three of us” Ken said, gesturing at the two other farmers who still sat at the registration table.

“We will hold an auction every Monday. We will not sell grain outside the auction. When the auction is over, selling is over until the next Monday” Ken said.

“The grain will be sold in lots of fifteen bushels.” Ken said. "That is about a thousand pounds of ear corn and was chosen because it is about what most wagons can carry."

It was also about what a hundred people would eat in a week if they didn't have chickens or livestock to feed. It was a good, round number to work with.

The fat man interrupted “How do you intend to measure the grain?”

“I was getting to that.” Ken said.

“The grain will be sold in lots of fifteen bushels.” Ken repeated.

Ken had been to many auctions. Sometimes, when the auction was being run by a young auctioneer, the auctioneer would lose control of the selling. Ken had observed that the old-timers did not allow buyers to set the pace or agenda. When interrupted, the old-timers repeated what they had been saying and continued with their patter. In fact, they would often punish the impatient by slowing down their delivery as if talking to somebody who was especially stupid.

“Shelled corn runs 56 pounds to the bushel. Corn-on-the-ear runs 68 pounds to the bushel. We sell by the volume. If you object to the volume we will weigh the weight of the measure. If measure is light, the entire load is discounted in favor of the buyer. If the measure is heavy then the buyer must pay the extra for the entire lot. We will only entertain a weight measure ONCE per buyer. Is that understood?” Ken said.

The bidders nodded although the fat man grimaced at the possibility of having to pay extra if the volume measure proved to be in his favor.

“How do I know your scale is honest.” the fat man interrupted again.

Ken looked down at him, coldly. Ken was an honest 6’-2” tall and the fat man was sitting. “If you don’t trust us you are free to take your custom elsewhere.”

“Buyer is responsible for bringing any containers. We are selling in bulk.”

“Buyers are responsible for monitoring quality. We make no warrants or guarantees for after the corn leaves the property.

“Buyers must pick up their corn within a week of buying. We will not store sold corn beyond a week.” Ken said. "If you don't pick it up it becomes our corn."

“Terms of the sale are cash-on-the-barrelhead or credit if the sellers agree to the terms.” Ken said, pointing at Kate’s office. Since Kate did not have a podium, Ken had taken an actual barrel and sawed 10” off one end to use as a podium and to serve as a place to strike his gavel.

“In the future, credit must be secured before you will be issued a bidding number.” Ken said.

“For today, and today only, we accepting the following at par value:
  • 300 silver dollars (about 230 ounces of silver)
  • one-man-year of labor,
  • one healthy, full-sized horse between two and six years of age
  • 1200 Watts of solar panels with integrated controllers.

“Seller has placed a reserve.” Ken said. "If the reserve is not met on the first lot then none of the lots of that product will be sold."

“More than one lot is available but I am not at liberty to say how many lots are available.” He finished.

“Soybeans will be sold after the corn.” Ken said. “May I see a show of hands, how many bidders are here for corn.”

Five hands went up.

Benicio and his wingman were there to see if they could pick up a bargain.

Denny Blastic was going through the corn faster than he could account for. The horses were not touching the hay he had cut and he was supplementing with even more corn than he used in the winter.

Luke, Kate and Pete were there to buy stock for their stores.

“With no further ceremony, let’s start the bidding." Ken said.


Sunday, September 22, 2019

A day of rest

I added some information stickers to my Lee Load-All rigs for reloading shotshells. This is the 12 gauge setup. It gives me information to double-check to ensure safe reloading, that is, the powder bushing size (155) and the shot bushing size (1-1/8 oz). It lists the powder it is setup for and the measured weight of the charge dropped.

The sticker on the 20 gauge rig. Murphy is an optimist. Putting the information on the reloader means I don't have to rely on memory or generic

Someday I want to watch De Zaak Alzheimer, a movie about an aging French hitman who implements many coping skills to negate the effects his disability has on the execution of his chosen profession.

I also bit the bullet and bought another twenty pound LP cylinder. I suspect that somebody thought they needed my old one more than I needed it.  I like using the turkey cooking setup outside when making applesauce. It helps keep the house cool.