Thursday, October 31, 2019

Computer flow charts

Do you remember computer flow charts?

Mrs ERJ called her credit card company to inform them that she will be traveling in the near future.

It turned into a surreal experience when the customer service representative started asking off-the-wall questions.

The deeper into the exchange, the more off-the-wall the questions became.

Our best guess is that the customer service representative had been given a branching flow chart. If she had a caller with a home equity loan the tree branched one way. If the customer was a credit card holder the tree branched a different way. If they had a mortgage with the bank, the tree branched a third way.

In retrospect, the customer service representative was reading across, left-to-right, row-by-row asking the questions regardless of Mrs ERJ's answers.

The managers who assembled this instruction or job-aid assumed that the workers would be familiar with flow-charts. After all, how smart does a customer service representative need to be? They need to know how to read and use a phone.

Bad assumption.

It was like the time one of Mrs ERJ's supervisors handed her a package of Avery, pre-cut sticker labels and made it a job requirement that she use them. The supervisor assumed Mrs ERJ knew that Word had a template that would put the right information in the right places. What the supervisor spaced was the fact that not all employees had attended the training seminar that taught workers that MS Word had templates.

Those of us who have been around the block a few times can read flow charts and process flow charts with ease. We know the rules.

Younger people who think programming is what you look up to see when Dancing with Stars airs or something you do with your TiVo are mystified by a branching flow chart.

Just a reminder: Don't assume that because you know something or it is second nature to YOU, it will be something your worker will know how to do or will instinctively do.

PC Lipstick for men

A very manly color, in my opinion. Image from the linked article.

Pretty good tutorial HERE.

Readers expressed much interest on the essay about making Aspirin-Caffeine-Paracetamol tablets. I thought I would post an essay on making PC lipstick dispensers for men.

The lipstick portion of the assembly. Image from the linked article.

Some of the details that don't seem that important upon first reading...but ARE important:

  • Some specific powder-coat paint formulations glue the bullets together when baked. Others don't flow the same way and the bullets are easy to separate.
  • The specific container used to hold the bullets and powder while swirling them together is critical toward generating the static electricity to make the powder stick to the bullets. 
  • The original poster STRONGLY advises that you use Cool-Whip or sour-cream containers for your first effort at powder coating cast bullets.Those containers are polypropylene and are recycling code "5"

One suggestion is to keep a log. You may find that the powders that work well for the original poster in dry Idaho might not stick well in more humid parts of the country. Keeping a log is valuable. You may find that the coatings that the original poster rejected because they apply themselves too thickly in Idaho are the bee's-knees in summer in Michigan.

The Shrewd King 15.4: Never enough

John Wilder approached Benicio and his bodyguard before the Monday auction started. “If it is not too much trouble, I would like to have a word with you after the auction.”

Benicio gave John an appraising look. “And who are you?” Benicio had a pretty good idea. He rarely asked questions when he did not know what the answer was likely to be.

“I am John Wilder. I am a local property owner and raise sheep.” John replied.

“It will not be a problem. We can meet after the auction.” Benicio said.

After Benicio “settled up” for his weekly buy, he looked around and saw John chatting with his bodyguard.

“What is on your mind?” Benicio was not a man to waste time.

“I have a shopping list of items I cannot buy in Capiche. I checked you out. You are a man who gets things done. I would appreciate it if you can find these items.” John said.

Benicio said “I am not an errand boy.”

John said, “I know that. But you have men who work for you who can also get things done.” as he gestured to the bodyguard. “You don’t hire fools. If you tell them to ‘do it’, it will get done.”

“You have the list?” Benicio asked.

John handed it over without a word.

Benicio scanned down the list and read it out loud. “Potassium nitrate, ammonium nitrate, 6-24-24 fertilizer...selenium dandruff shampoo.”

Benicio raised his eyebrow. “What is this for?”

“Like I said. I am a property owner and I need fertilizer.” John said.

“Shampoo?” Benicio asked.

“For the sheep.” John said.

“What is this worth to you?” Benicio asked.

John knew this was the make-or-break question. If he offered too little, Benecio would never do business with him. If he offered too much, Benicio would know how desperate John was and would jack up the price.

“The first two items, a silver dollar a pound. The third item comes in forty-pound bags and I will pay $5, silver a bag. The bottles of shampoo are worth $5, silver if the seals are not broken.” John said.

“Why so much?” Benicio asked. It was more than he expected and enough to be worth his people’s time.

“I got here late so I have less time to put in a crop.” John said, honestly. “Chemical fertilizers act faster than horse shit. Things cost more when you want things fast.”

Benicio nodded. He understood that. “No promises but I will see what can be done.”

“If you find something, I am willing to send a team to pick it up. There is no need for you to haul it on Monday to auction.” John said. This was something of a gamble because it might tip off Benicio how critical these items were.

John made a small, dismissive smile. “These are small things for you but important for me. It would be easy for you to forget and then I would be two weeks behind.”


Three days later, one of Benicio’s lieutenants passed word to Gladys that they had found some of John Wilder’s items.

John, his wife Sam and Mo hired Di to drive them to the corner of Creyts and Millet Highway. John and Mo were armed with AR-15s, Sam had a handgun and Di had her .22 semi-auto clipped to the buggy’s roof. Benicio’s lieutenant had not indicated how much of the list they found, so John took 200 silver dollars, a tidy haul for a thief.

The actual merchandise was a let-down. The lieutenant had four bags of 6-24-24 fertilizer and two bottles of shampoo. After paying him and loading the bags, the lieutenant slapped his forehead. “I almost forgot this.” as he pulled a bag from beneath the wagon.

It was a twenty pound bag of hydroponics grade potassium nitrate of a brand much loved by cannabis growers.

John paid for that, as well.

The ride home was subdued. Sam told John that Janelle ultimately needed a ton of black powder. Dmitri specified that each of the ten observation posts have twenty mortar rounds capable of firing rounds with ten pounds of black powder. Except for the M-99 observation post. There he wanted forty rounds. Twenty rounds times ten observation posts times ten pounds of black powder per round (plus an additional twenty rounds for M-99) was over 2000 pounds of black powder.

The twenty pounds of hydroponics potassium nitrate was enough to make about 27 pounds of black powder, a little more than one-percent of what Janelle needed. The upside was that 27 pounds of black powder was a hundred times more than the four ounces Janelle had on-hand and would be enough to power plenty of “practice” rounds.


The wheat harvest was not very efficient. Ultimately, that was not a problem. There was lots of labor. The most important thing was to get the wheat out of the field and under cover.

The wheat was cut and rolled into round bales for ease of handling.

Then the round bales were spooled into a threshing machine which ran off the PTO of Milo's tractor with the gassifier. Lots of double handling but there were many hands and the hay equipment had been converted to horse power.

Everybody watched and calculated the yield with great anticipation.

Ultimately, the fields yielded 63 bushels to the acre. Far less than the pre-Ebola 80-to-100 bushels per acre but twice the pessimistic estimate of 30 bushels per acre.

If a starvation diet is a pound of grain a day, then the winter wheat harvest ensured a third of that amount for each of the 800 residents of Capiche for the next year.

A third, that is, before seed was kept out for planting next year’s crop and before outsiders started bidding on the grain at auction.


Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Reloading .45 ACP

Today I tried to reload the .45 ACP. For those of you who do not like firearms, please rest assured that 45 ACP stands for 450mg of Aspirin, Caffeine and Paracetamol, guaranteed to eliminate headaches and put a smile on your face.

The picture shown above is the tool that reshapes the bottle that the pills are later placed into. As you can see, the carbide ring fractured. What you might not be able to see is that the ring is also split longitudinally.

The pills measured .451" diameter (coincidence, there) and the pill holders had an inner diameter of 0.446" the long way and 0.443" the short way after running through the fractured bottle resizing die. My concern is that the pills might set-back when loaded into the pill dispenser. Does anybody have any experience with this?

Another frustration is that the pill holders are so wide and shallow that my universal pill-holder mouth expander was not as universal as advertised. A chamfer tool seems to be enough to keep the pills from crushing the bottles but that is slower than running them through the pill press.

The client specified that the pill bottles be loaded with 4.5 grains of Titegroup baking soda to ensure very modest amounts of effervescence. That hardly looks like any baking soda at all, inside those big pill bottles.

The Shrewd King 15.3: Summertime, when the living is easy

Dmitri and Sam hit it off like two people from the same, small home-town who unexpectedly ran into each other at Disney World.

They could have been speaking Greek, for all the sense it made to Quinn. All Quinn needed to know was that Dmitri wanted Sam to be the go-to guy for all the fussy work of installing sensors and antennas. That suited Quinn just fine.

Quinn would far rather be on over-watch, holding a rifle than working fifty feet up on a pole where anybody would take a pot-shot at you.

Dmitri cobbled together a set of headphones that Sam could jack into the transmitter/receiver module attached to the antenna. Another transmitter/receiver module was mounted on a pole near Tim’s house and aimed by-the-compass to the site where Sam was installing. On the hour, a sixty second “ping” of 800Hz audible was transmitted from Tim’s antenna so Sam could dial the installation into the center of the 20dB lobe.

Sam quickly picked up a few tricks. He fitted the clamps to the antenna with just enough torque so he could spin assembly around the pole with hand pressure. Then he used a “Sharpie” pen to draw a vertical line across the mounting bracket and the pole when the audible signal peaked.

Experience taught him that the clamp wanted to spin as he tightened the screws and sixty seconds was not enough time to verify that it had not spun too much. It took him about five seconds to aim the antenna and draw the line, a fact that he figured might come in handy some day.

After drawing the line, he tightened the screws with the Allen wrench in a top-left, bottom-right, bottom-left, top-right pattern, a turn at a time. He rarely had to loosen them and realign the line segments.

Sam was surprised when Quinn publicly expressed awe at Sam’s intuitive grasp of electronics and comms. Quinn had botched an installation of an antenna early in the evolution. Frustrated after four attempts, each an hour apart, Quinn had stripped out the holes in the bracket as he savagely tried to finish the job in during the sixty second transmission.

After that, nobody gave Sam any shit. They figured Quinn would both kick their ass and then make them climb poles if Sam decided to stop doing installations. Besides, Sam was a likable guy, if a bit gullible. It is hard to dislike puppy dogs.


The end of July is notable for several things. The first tomatoes and sweet corn ripens. In the absence of sweet corn, the ears of field corn have enough substance to make them worth harvesting and cooking as roasting ears. They are not nearly as delicious as sweet corn but are far more filling.

Summer greens are growing with profuse abandon. Many weeds in the fields were edible: Lambsquarters and amaranth in the corn and purslane in the soybeans. The stems were woody and tough but the top three inches of the growing shoots were still tender and could be had by the hundred-weight with minimum effort. Greens do not have enough calories to sustain human life but they add variety, flavor and vitamins to diets that can be monotonous.

The end of July is often near the end of the summer drought. The river level is low and carp can be harvested by the wagon load with pitch forks or spears as they forage in shallow water. Sometimes the water is so shallow that the carp turn on their sides with pectoral fin gyrating in the air like a dizzy drunk, seeking to regain his balance.

Looming foremost in everybody’s minds, though, was the winter wheat harvest.

Winter wheat is planted in the fall. Sometimes it is spun or broadcast into a soybean field before the leaves fall off. The seeds germinate rapidly when in contact with soil and in the shade of the soybean leaves. Other times the seed is ‘drilled’ into the soil with a planter in October when the soil moisture and temperature is optimum for germination.

The winter wheat grows to a height of about six inches before lower temperatures and snow shuts down growth for the winter.

When spring arrives, the young plants grow rapidly and shade out weeds. By July 4 the wheat berries are mostly filled and the next three weeks are more about drying down than growing.

The last weeks of July are fraught with anxiety for the farmers. And, now that the line between a full belly and a successful farm had been shortened, fraught with anxiety for every soul in Capiche. The heads are heavy with grain and vulnerable to driving rain, high winds and hail. Any one of which can topple the straw and put the not-yet-dry ear of wheat into contact with the ground.

Farmers Ken, Don and Earl had all planted ten acres of winter wheat. Yields of 80-to-100 bushels to the acre were the norm before Ebola, but that was when they could supplement with additional nitrogen and spray with fungicides. When Milo Talon approached them and asked them what it would take to grow enough wheat to support Kates Store, they conservatively budgeted for 30 bushels to the acre, a number Earl remembered as being considered a reasonable expectation back in the 1940s.

Since the wheat had been planted, the community of Kates Store had been joined by Pray Church and Chernovsky’s Annex. Throw in Blastic’s Demesne and the population was almost five times what Milo had originally anticipated.

The farmers were guardedly optimistic. Nobody wanted to come out and say the harvest looked promising. They were afraid they would jinx it.

Each farmer walked his field daily, even when it was raining. They judged the density of the stand. They picked ears of wheat and rubbed the kernels of wheat off. They rolled the kernels between their thumb and the palm of the hand. They chewed them to judge moisture content.

They knew they weren’t going to get 80 bushels to the acre. But they sure as heck were going to get more than 30. While they didn’t have nitrogen fertilizer they had never added THAT much to wheat. More nitrogen made the stalks taller and more vulnerable to blowing over, called “lodging” in the farming business. More nitrogen also made the wheat leafier and more vulnerable to fungus diseases.

The big questions in the farmer’s minds were, “Will the harvest be closer to thirty or eighty bushels per acre?”, “Will the storms hold off until after the harvests?” and “How the heck are we going to harvest this grain when we don’t have diesel to run the combine?”

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Old guys drinking coffee

I went to coffee this morning. It has been weeks since I last attended.

The big news was that the weather girl on Channel Six was missing. Even a month ago they were wagering when she would have her child. Day-by-day she got bigger and bigger.

The speculation is that she is now a mother.

The weather "girls" at the other stations were discussed but there was no clear consensus as to which was the most watchable. They are all good looking but they lack the sense of impending drama that the Channel Six girl offered.


The other tip involved fishing. The first decent sized bluegill you catch you re-hook to a beater spincasting rod like a Zebco 202. Add a bobber about three feet above the fish and let it go. The fish will rejoin the school...which likely moved in the hubbub of reeling in the first fish.

Use the bobber as a guide. Either cast or, if you use a cane pole toss your hook in the general direction of the bobber.

The old-timers slay the bluegills this way. And if you have a treble hook as a trailer and use a rubber band to secure it to the bluegill just in front of its tail, sometimes you pick up an whopper Northern Pike or bass.

Your feel-good story for the day

Motorcyclist Who Identifies As Bicyclist Sets Cycling World Record

In an inspiring story from the world of professional cycling, a motorcyclist who identifies as a bicyclist has crushed all the regular bicyclists, setting an unbelievable world record.  -Link

Hat-tip Timb Bomb 2000 

A bias toward action

The Captain's untimely death has had one good outcome.

I got off my butt and started installing some of the hardware I bought but never quite got around to finishing the job.

In addition to the motion activated lights I have been putting in over at Sprite's, I installed the automatic garage door opener I bought three years ago.

Mrs ERJ loved her automatic door opener. It kept weather and animals out. It kept the garage warmer in the winter and it was easy, easy, easy.

The old one went Tango Uniform about five years ago.

I finally got the new one installed yesterday. Mrs ERJ programmed the fobs and I am once again a hero.

The other thing I have been doing is reloading odds-and-ends of ammo.

We live in a golden time. It won't last forever. I am scratching my head trying to anticipate what I might need if/when the liberals wrestle the three branches of government away. If that happens, then we will be looking at a multi-generational drought for firearms and ammo.

If push-comes-to-shove, I can cast projectiles that are .30 caliber and larger. That leaves primers, powder and brass, shot and 0.224" diameter projectiles.

"Ready made" ammo in .22LR, 7.62X39mm and 9mm FMJ are either very difficult to reload or can be purchased for less than the cost of reloading.

The Shrewd King 15.2: Communication is hard

A single candle can be seen from three miles way, across a wilderness lake. It helps to have a beer-can reflector but it is not exceptional.

The lack of light pollution and the clear line-of-sight make it possible.

So it was with radio communication after Ebola. No longer were there millions of wireless devices reaching out and shaking hands. No TV stations transmitting. The only radio stations were low Wattage and had short antennas.

Dmitri was a ham radio operator. He was also a trained engineer. Dmitri could have whipped up a directional antenna by looking in handbook and cutting wires to appropriate lengths. Wires sag without support so Dmitri would have made a skeleton from PVC tubing to hold the conductors in place.

But it was just a whole lot easier to “lift” antennas and transmitter/receivers from various back-up generators.

The challenge was to find somebody to hold up the other end of the network. Gladys was over-burdened with the day-to-day CB traffic. There was no way she could monitor the “military” network 24 hours a day.

It couldn’t be just anybody.

It wasn’t the kind of job somebody could hold down in addition a regular job. Nor could it be somebody who was a heavy sleeper or somebody who regularly spent the nights with a significant-other.

Ideally, the listener would have spent time in the military. If the balloon went up, the listener would have to piece together a dog’s breakfast of sensor information, human intelligence and reports from the observation posts. Then he would have to “activate” local resources to respond.

Dmitri made the point that the best network in the world was useless if the information it generated is filtered to conform to a preconceived narrative or is totally ignored.

Dmitri also made the point that the worst time to plan was when the shit was hitting the fan. Radios had a place but are not an efficient way to activate the entire community. People are way from their CBs when working in the fields and they did not always respond when the radio chirped in the wee hours of the morning.

There was little point in installing sensors and tranmitters when there was no plan on the receiving end to trigger action based on the signal.

It is not enough to generically aim the antenna at Capiche. Depending on the actual location of the receiving antenna, the target could be as much as 85 degrees off.

At a more practical level, the person who manned the station would have to be identified because the antennas for the sensors had to be aimed.

The only way Dmitri could stretch out battery life was to use very efficient, directional antennas. How efficient? The most efficient lobe was 20dB or 100 times more sensitive than the flattened side and rear lobes. The price of that efficiency was that the efficient lobe was only about 20 degrees wide. In other words, mis-aiming the antenna by more than ten degrees meant that the signal would not get through.
Elevation profile from Tim's location on left to sensors on Vermontville Highway exit on I-69. Note that much of the distance is over the Horner Swamp.

Elevation profile between Tim's location on left to Cedar Street exit on I-96
The other consideration was elevation, of the sending station, the receiving station and the rolling hills between the two.

The only viable candidate for the operator was Tim. Tim had been in Armor and picked up a load of shrapnel from an IED when he was riding in a Hummer in the big Sandbox. The shrapnel severed various nerves in his left leg as well as giving him dimples in many interesting places. He had been on disability before Ebola but there was nothing wrong with his ears or his tactical sense.
Tim's house at 906ft elevation. Potential sites for antenna masts at 916ft elevation and 918ft elevation marked with triangles. Left edge of image is road and Kate's store is just west of the 918ft site.

The only thing that made Tim the less-than-perfect choice was that he lived two-hundred yards northeast of Kate’s new store. Kate’s store had attracted raiders once and it was a prime target. There was much of reservation about putting the Capiche command-and-control center so close to a target.

In the end, Wade Hawk’s opinion carried the day. “If the raiders come to Kate’s store then her neighbors” here he jabbed his thumb toward his chest “are gonna have to pin them down until the young bucks arrive. We need to make them think they hit a hornet’s nest and convince them to keep their heads down so they don’t go poking around.”


Manuel needed to talk to Chernovsky and Gimp. Donnie insisted that they leave the bodies exactly where they were. He also insisted that Manuel not pull wallets and look for ID. Miguel stopped arguing when Donnie said he could take it up with the brass.

Chernovsky and Gimp listened to what Manuel found. Chernovsky’s glance darted to Donnie who said, “Hear him out.”

Manuel concluded with “Those people were murdered and who ever did it needs to be punished.”

“You know” Chernovsky’s voice rumbled after a few seconds of thought “we might tell you to do the same thing...kill men and women...and yes, even kids.”

“And I expect you to do it without thought or hesitation.” he finished.

Manuel looked stunned. “What?”

“Suppose we had squatters living in a swamp a few hundred yards from your family. No big deal, right?” Chernovsky explained.

“Now suppose somebody brought Ebola to that camp. They are refugees, right, they come from everywhere. It is still out there. It is in every house where somebody died. It is on coyotes and possum and wild dogs, crows and buzzards.” Chernovsky said.

“What if they did not leave when we told them to move out? We cannot have them polluting Capiche. They cannot stay. But what if they refuse to move? Do you want them living two hundred yards from your mom and dad, your sisters, brothers and cousins?” Chernovsky said. “Do you think a dad WOULDN’T break into your house to steal blankets to warm and comfort his sick children and wife?”

“So you are saying it wasn’t murder.” Manuel said.

“No, I am not saying that. I am giving them the benefit of the doubt because I don’t have resources to deal with it. We are a thin line and you have to stay focused.” Chernovsky said.

“If you ask any of the fighters Donnie fought with, they will tell you they shot and killed men, women and teenagers. Did you ask Donnie how many people he killed without 'fair warning'?" Chernovsky asked.

"No." Manuel said with a small voice.

"Donnie, by your count, how many people did you shoot?" Chernovsky asked.

"Eighty-three or eighty-five. I sort of lost count." Donnie said.

"And you might ask Donnie to tell you about John Gault and what happened when he hesitated.” Chernovsky said.

"So you are saying there is nothing we can do." Manuel said, bitterly.

"Nope. That is not what I am saying." Chernovsky said.

"You can tell your family...your parents, your brothers and never become refugees. Tell them do do whatever it takes, to prepare, to harden their house...but to never, ever become refugees." Chernovsky said. "Because this is what happens to refugees."


Monday, October 28, 2019

Biden campaign: DOA

The Shrewd King 15.1: Gone without a trace

Gabby’s Pub was where all of the movers-and-shakers of Capiche met. It probably had something to do with the fact that there was no other place to meet, at least, no other place that had tables and served food, coffee and adult beverages.

Janelle had invited Docter Sam Wilder to a lunch meeting. She hoped to brainstorm with Docter Wilder on a problem that she saw as unsolvable.

“I need nitrates” Janelle said as their chili and french fries showed up. Janelle had felt nauseous this morning and was sticking to water. Doctor Wilder was sampling the local version of chickory “coffee”.

“What do you need it for?” Doctor Wilder asked.

It was not an idle question. Chemicals come in various grade. Industrial, end-use grades are relatively impure. For example, potassium nitrate used for fertilizer could be 90% pure and still produce admirable results.

The next grade of purity up was ten times more expensive.

Then there were “reagent” and “pharmaceutical” grades that were a hundred times more expensive.

“I need it for black powder and explosives.” Janelle said.

That put it firmly between the lowest grade of chemicals and bulk, commodity chemicals.

“How much do you need?” Dr Wilder asked.

“I lot more than I have.” Janelle said, darkly.

“How much is that?” Dr Wilder asked.

“Today, I have precisely four ounces on hand.” Janelle said “And I need at least a thousand pounds and I need it yesterday.”

“Where did you get what you are were using?” Dr Wilder asked as she shook her head.

“I had Shad Shaw scrape it off piles of chicken shit” Janelle said. “That was before they all got spread on the corn fields. Now there is no saltpeter to be found for love nor money.”

Dr Wilder put on her thinking cap as she dredged the thick, crispy french fries through the chili and ate them.

After a bit, Dr Wilder said “I don’t want to get your hopes up, but did you ever think of buying it from that Benicio person from Delta Township?”

“He sells potassium nitrate?” Janelle asked, surprised.

“No, but I bet he would be willing to sell us 6-24-24 fertilizer.” Dr Wilder said.

Dr Wilder doodled a few notes on the piece of newspaper that Gabby had given them for napkins. “With a little bit of care, you ought to be able to net 20 pounds of potassium nitrate from a forty-pound bag of 6-24-24.”

“How do I separate it out?” Janelle asked. She was getting excited. She had seen pallet loads of 6-24-24 fertilizer in various big-box stores and nurseries in Delta Township.

“Well, it will be slow. You need to make a compost pile, about like those piles of chicken shit….” Dr Wilder went on to explain that the most common form of nitrogen in fertilizer is NOT nitrate but urea. Turning urea into nitrates involved culturing bacteria, fermenting the compost pile, leaching the results and then dehydrating what was leached.

Luckily for Janelle, potassium nitrate is not particularly soluble in water and were the first species to crystal out of solution so no subsequent purification was required.

“What do you think Benicio will charge for fifty bags of 6-24-24?” Janelle asked.

“That depends on how good of a negotiator you are. He might not be willing to sell you fifty bags. Or, if you have something he really wants, you might get them cheap.” Dr Wilder said.


“I don’t know where they went” Miguel said as he was showing Donnie the bottom lands south of Columbia road where refugees had been camping.

It is not where Miguel would have picked to camp. Way too many mosquitoes for his taste. But Miguel found the refugees to be a reliable source of raccoons that could be turned in for the bounty. They were more than willing to let Miguel be the go-between.

History had not treated the refugees kindly. They fled the cities and suburbs with nowhere to go. Some went north to the sandy soils and pine trees. They quickly figured out that there was little food to be found.

Some went to the big city. When things went into the ditch they had no tribe to help them though the tough times. Without tribe there were not enough eyes to “have their back” and to inform them of resources that became available. They did not fare well.

Others knew that they could not make their way back to family in California, New Jersey and Mississippi. They also knew that the cities and suburbs were death-traps. They left their homes. The left the PTA, their churches and clubs and gyms. They packed what they could carry on their backs and headed to the wildest country that was within walking distance; The Grand River bottoms.

Before Ebola they had been doctors, lawyers, stock-brokers, real estate agents, executives and lobbyists. Now they were untouchables and invisible.

They had enough on the ball to see that Denny Blastic’s deal was a poor choice.

The took their chances in the bottom lands and worked odd-jobs, when they could find them. They quickly learned that whenever there was a conflict, the locals always assumed they were lying. They learned to rely on themselves and to not expect any help from the locals.

Donnie became impatient as Miguel tried to make sense of the tracks, over-turned cook ware and collapsed tents. Why would the refugees leave without taking their tents?

Miguel started to see where hoof prints had plunged deeply into the soft, alluvial soil. Oddly, the hoof prints zigged-and-zagged rather than moving in a line.

Squatting down, Miguel could see where blackberry bushes and multiflora rose canes had tip-rooted and then something had crashed through them, ripping the rooted tips of the canes out of the earth and then dragged them so they were pointing north. Whoever had crashed through them had been so panicked that they ignored the ferocious thorns. Miguel’s tracking moved faster after that.

After a half mile, both Miguel and Donnie picked the smell of rotting flesh. They did not find the fifty, scattered Fiocchi shotgun hulls. They were translucent-white and had fallen beneath leaves of the may-apples, goldenrod and poison ivy that covered the ground.

They found some of the dead refugees. Many of the bodies showed signs of being chewed on by coyotes and wild dogs. The wounds that were visible were unmistakable. Multiple holes meant shotgun. The size of the holes meant buckshot.

Not that many residents used shotguns. The shells were heavy and the range was limited. There weren’t that many targets that merited an ounce of lead when 40 grains of lead would put them in the soup-pot.

It seemed unlikely that whoever had ambushed the refugees had killed them all. But the survivors, if any, were gone without a trace.


Sunday, October 27, 2019

What have you done for me today?

I had a boss whose standard greeting was "What have you done for me today?"

He was probably the best boss I ever had.

The ox in the picture, what do you suppose happened to him the day he could no long pull the plow? He was either sold to the glue factory or turned into hamburger.

I wonder when it will occur to the Titans of Tech that they are no different than the ox in the picture.

Maybe it is all theater. Maybe the "You did not build that" politicians are only pretending to use Zuck and the rest for punching bags.

It should be noted that the German Industrialists supported Adolph Hitler and the NAZI party because they assumed they could control Hitler, that he would be a sock puppet. They were wrong.

If history rhymes, then the government the Progressives created with all of its extra-Constitutional, competing organs will become "polycratic chaos".

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Warranty work on the barn wiring and HVAC work at the hunting cabin

I installed some 24" drawer slides beneath the door to Sprite's chicken coop. It had been running on dry lumber and was difficult to open and close. I tried greasing the wood but it did not get any better.

After installing the bearing I found that the door, which had been raised about 3/8" of an inch, was hitting a piece of framing. Thirty seconds with a chainsaw fixed the interference and I thought no more about it until Sprite told me that the light in the coop was not working.

I had bumped some wiring while using the chainsaw.

While I was there, I re-aimed the sensor on one of the motion activated lights.

I bought a reciprocating saw for this job. It is the first one I have ever owned. They used to be $200 but can now be had for $40. The bargain saw worked great.
The furnace was short-cycling. I made adjustments to the analog fan control and added this cool-air intake to the plenum. The cool air intakes were in rooms we closed off during the winter.
I added a label to the breakers to indicate which one activates the furnace.
There is a second switch (and fuse) on the southwest corner of the furnace.
I took a walk in the woods after the HVAC work. This is the first specimen of Toxicodendron vernix I have seen out there. It is a beautiful plant but not one you want in your back yard.
This view is not from the hunting cabin. There is a solitary house on the far side of the lake. Not all of Michigan is Detroit. You can click the image to embiggen the image.

The Karpman Drama Triangle

Drama. Who needs it?

Apparently, more people than we realize.

The Karpman Drama Triangle is a model of how some humans interact. There are three basic scripts.

Victim: This actor is the pivot man. In my experience the Victim will often push scripts onto the other two, sometimes unwilling, actors.

Persecutor: Can't have a victim without a villain. All of that PC stuff is useful for creating villains out of innocent dupes just minding their own business.

The last thing somebody addicted to drama wants is for people to mind their own business.

Rescuer: There is no profit in being a victim if there is not a rescuer to stripmine resources from. It is often difficult to see what benefit the Rescuer accrues from Drama. It is usually a sense of power or agency that may be missing in 'real life'.

Other scripts
How many counsellors does it take to change a light bulb? One, but it has to want to change.

Other scripts only work when the actors want to change.

Victim can be reworked into "vulnerable, developing problem solving skills"

Persecutor can be reworked into "assertive but not punishing"

Rescuer can be reworked into "caring but not over-reaching and growth stifling"

Another parallel mapping that is sometimes proposed is

Victim can become "a creator who is outcome oriented and takes responsibility for their actions and decisions. Key question, 'Was I effective?'

Persecutor can become "a challenger who clarifies the creator's assumptions and goals and helps them stay focused."

Rescuer can become "a coach who asks the creator questions as a way to create a trail of bread-crumbs that lead to the creator solving their own problems."

Social Media
Social Media's primary function seems to be to create drama.

Drama creates victims, persecutors and rescuers.

You just have to shake your head when you hear that a simple reminder to pick up your dog's poop generates 327 comments on a neighborhood Facebook group and results in five families feuding.

Friday, October 25, 2019


Projection is nearly everywhere.

Nice kids from nice homes do charity work or advocate for "victims" and get their throats slit. They never saw it coming because it is not something they would ever do.

Crass, cynical older people know that everybody is "on the take".

What we believe about "everybody" is a short resume of who-we-are.

I am not sure what that says about me. I believe that every person is capable of great kindness and great cruelty at any given time. We are all saints and boneheads.

And while I believe that almost everybody seeks to maximize their gains, it is not possible to discern what any person sees as a gain, similar to Maslow's Hierarchy but more far more chaotic and capricious.

The Shrewd King 14.5: Chicken Run

It was after a rainy day in mid-July when the Blastics discovered that two-thirds of their labor force had departed for parts unknown.

In retrospect, the families that had flown the coop had used the day not working in the fields to pack their meager belongings and to screw up their courage.

The first hint of trouble was when Vernon’s work detail did not line-up at 9:00 in the morning. A few older couples with no children showed up. The gray-eyed girl, her brother and mom were there. But that was it.

Vernon cursed as he marched toward the “cottages” where the help lived. He assumed they had gotten drunk on home-brew and were hung-over. It would not be the first time.

The first cottage he visited had no residents in it. The workers had so few belongings that it was not really possible to determine if they had decamped with their belongings or were shacked-up in another cottage.

After the third cottages, Vernon was running from building-to-building, throwing the door open and yelling inside. His cursing was no longer under his breath.

Denny’s mood was always foul when awakened early in the morning. It got appreciably worse when informed WHY he had been awakened.

Denny soundly cuffed Trey because Trey was responsible for “security”. The look Trey gave Vernon was poisonous.

Then Denny and Trey got on horses and went looking for their help.

As the trotted down the muddy road Trey observed “If they ran once, they will run again.”

“I know that” Denny said, his bourbon induced headache not improved by the hot morning and the jarring of the horse’s hooves.

“So what are we going to do when we find them?” Trey asked.

“I am working on that” Denny said.

The two riders worked their way east. Denny was 99% sure they had not moved west into Capiche. It was far too likely that Denny or one of his boys would encounter them if they had. If they hadn’t moved west, then they probably moved east.

After riding about a mile, Trey said “Do you smell that?”

Denny couldn’t smell a thing. “What do you smell?” he demanded.

“Wood smoke.” Trey said.

Hooking to the north and riding along the cusp of the river valley, the two riders could see the haze of wood smoke hanging in the still, dense air. By then even Denny could smell it.

“That is probably them.” Trey said. He did not really believe that. He figured all the workers were at least ten miles away. He knew that he would spend the entire day in the saddle if Denny didn’t get some satisfaction and that is not how he wanted to spend the day.

“So, what is your plan?” Trey repeated.

“You ride around to the south end of the woods and drive them to me. I will give them a double-ought education.” Denny said.

Denny was a "shotgun" man. The shotgun is a forgiving weapon if you have a horse to carry your ammo. A twelve gauge shotgun with a tight choke can reach out sixty yards and put at least one pellet of buckshot onto the target. Without medical care, one pellet was almost certain death, even if it took two weeks for the infection to finish the job.

Man, woman, child; it meant nothing to Denny Blastic. Pushed by a man with a gun riding a horse and with the sound of a gun going off somewhere ahead of them, most campers tried to avoid the man on the horse.

The wild dogs feasted with abandon.


Thursday, October 24, 2019

More barn wiring

Rat's nest is both figuratively and literally true.

I have been looking at the wiring in the barn closest to Sprite's house and it is starting to make sense.

The first generation of lighting was incandescent bulbs on 12 gauge wire.

The second generation of lighting was Metal Halide on even heavier wire.

The third generation was big, LED corn-cobs screwed into half of the incandescent fixtures.
A wire in the peak of the building that has been capped off. There is a reasonable chance this wire is hot and it is my second choice for powering-up the run of wire I will be using.
There are at least four runs of wire scrapped-in-place up in the trusses.

Room for two more breakers but I don't want to screw around with that
My plan is to re-purpose one of the 12 gauge wires and to tie it back into breaker box via a receptacle that the wire will reach. This is not considered best practice because lighting should be on a dedicated circuit so an overload will not cause the lighting to dump.

The scrapped run of wire already goes to a flood-light on the exterior of the building. I will replace that flood light with a motion activated light with two, 9 Watt BR-30 bulbs in 6500K. Then I will daisy-chain a second motion activated fixture just around the corner to light that side of the building.

I will be living in sin because the outdoor cable I have is 14 gauge and it will be fed by a 20 Amp breaker in the box. 14 gauge copper is rated for 15 Amps/1500 Watts.
Second motion activated light will be on the shady side of the barn
My excuse is that the run will only be six feet* and the load will be 18 Watts. It seems incredibly unlikely that anybody will find a way to put more load on the end of that six foot length of wire, 12 feet up in the air.

*There are exceptions in the National Electrical Code that recognizes a class of wiring sometimes called "chassis wiring". That means that the electrician must run heavy wire to the electrical dryer but internal to the dryer the manufacturer can use lighter gauge wiring. The rational is that runs less than 12' do not cause appreciable voltage sag AND because copper wire rejects heat out the ends as well as by convection to air. Short segments can avoid overheating failures if they have more generous wire gauge

High temperatures caused by a loose connection. I want to call your attention to the fact that the cable temperature decreases as you move away from the heat source, indicating that heat is being conducted along the cable, away from the heat source.

Hopium Croissants, Part II

Reader Trumpeter commented that he put TWO Hopium Croissants into the shipment of 6561 croissants shipped from Abitibi, Quebec to Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.


An approximation for our hero's chances of identifying one of the two Hopium Croissants follows.

There are fifteen ways (numbers down the left side of the table) two Hopium Croissants can present themselves in three, large lots.

There are four ways (highlighted in yellow) one Hopium Croissant can show up on each side of the balance beam and both get tossed on the assumption that the Hopium Croissant is in the unweighed lot.

4/15 = 0.27

There are eight ways (shown in pink) where one Hopium Croissant is unknowingly released to the wild and one is kept in the pool. At that point, the selection process goes as described in the previous post and our hero nails the Trois-Fils in court.

8/15 = 0.53

The remaining three-of-fifteen cases are where both Hopium Croissants are in the lot that is kept.

3/15 = 0.20

Definition of success
From the standpoint of the detective, success is being able to deliver to the Prosecuting Attorney the strongest possible evidence of wrong-doing while staying within the rules established by the court.

Suppose it was possible for him to isolate both Hopium Croissants. If he delivered both of them to the Forensics Lab it would taint the evidence and the case would be thrown out. He cannot deliver crumbs. He cannot mash ten of them together and weigh out the equivalent of a croissant. The court said he could send one croissant.

Success, under the rules the detective must follow, involves finding one Hopium Croissant in the lot of 6561 and delivering it to the lab.

Looking at rounds two-through-eight
The odds of both Hopium Croissants being lost in the second round are 0.20 (the chances of both Hopium Croissants being in the sample) * 0.27

The odds of losing both Hopium Croissants in the third round is 0.20 * 0.20 (the odds of both HCs being in the sample) * 0.27

The pattern is (0.20^(n-1))*(4/15)

The last round has different odds because it is not possible to have two Hopium Croissants in a single lot of one item. The odds of losing both Hopium Croisants in that round is 0.20^7 * 0.33

Adding up the chances that both Hopium Croissants will be lost in any of the eight "tests" yields 27% + 5% + 0.2% and then a bunch of very tiny numbers.

The bottom line is that there is a 32% chance both Hopium Croissants will be lost and a 68% chance our hero will successfully deliver one of the Hopium Croissants to the Forensics Lab.

Pretty good jump in odds from 0.015% to 68% chance of success.

The Shrewd King 14.4: Excruciating nerdy detail

Quinn, Miguel, Donnie and Sam met where I-96 crossed over Cedar Street, three miles east of the M-99 exit.

Quinn figured the best way to train Donnie and Sam was to have them install sensors. He brought along a half dozen of Dmitri’s latest-and-greatest; combination seismic and audible sound sensors.

Several things about the installation were challenging. There were two spans to monitor, securing the sensors to the structure were challenging and disguising the solar cells that powered the sensors was almost impossible.

Quinn knew that eventually they would tie the sensor information into the wireless grid. To do that, they would have to mount antenna high enough to have line-of-sight with Capiche some fifteen miles distant.

Fortunately, there was no shortage of utility poles close to the overpass. The sensors did not need much electricity and it was simple to mount a small solar cell near the top of one of those poles.

It should be noted that “simple” is not always “easy”.

Wires were dropped down the center of the pole and routed through an access hole near the bottom. The wires then ran to a battery that was tucked up beneath the south span on one of the I-beam flanges.

In lieu of the WIFI transmitter, Quinn had Donnie install an LED laser that would strobe when signal inputs exceeded pre-programmed thresholds. The laser was pointed toward Capiche and could be seen from five miles away IF the viewer were in the right place.

They dialed in the sensitivities while Donnie was up in the air by having him hold his hand in front of the laser while Miguel thumped the middle of the span with an 8’ two-by-four. Miguel held the stud vertically and lifted and dropped it from knee height.

Below the span, Quinn fiddled with the sensitivity screws until it went off reliably while Miguel was thumping. Then Quinn increased the sensitivity by a quarter turn. Rubber soled boots are quieter than pine boards.

After Donnie got down, he asked Quinn “Why can’t Dmitri put tell-tales on the sensor? That sure would be easier than hanging onto the pole one-handed for ten minutes.”

Quinn said, “That is a great idea. I think you should tell him.”

Donnie tuned in the next sensor while Miguel was on the pole and Sam, Donnie’s right-hand-man thumped the bridge.

Quinn explained the procedure. One screw was turned to minimum sensitivity and the other screw was slowly increased in sensitivity until it reliably triggered. Then tuner kept count of the turns it took to return it to minimum sensitivity and wrote that number down.

The same procedure was repeated with the other screw except it was not necessary to turn it back to minimum sensitivity afterward.

The tuner returned the first screw to the position where it reliably triggered and then added a quarter-turn to both screws.

The upside of the two-by-four method was that it was fast and absolutely bullet-proof for triggering when horses and vehicles crossed the bridge. It was not quiet as bullet-proof for foot traffic.

After a late lunch, Quinn floated the idea of sending Miguel back with Donnie and taking Sam back to the M-99 observation post. Columbia Road was Miguel’s home grounds and he could show Donnie subtle details that would otherwise take him a month to find.

The other advantage was that Quinn could cross-train Sam on what they knew about mortars and setting up repeaters.

The only person who was ambivalent about the proposal was Sam. Miguel’s legs were still rubbery from being on the pole and he knew Donnie had to be feeling it. He figured it would be a leisurely trip back to the Columbia Road bridge and he had been making a pile of money taking critters to Steve’s store.

Sam, on the other hand, had heard stories about how hard-core Quinn was. The stories had lost nothing in the retelling. Sam was not sure he wanted to spend much time near Quinn.

Quinn was a total bad-ass. He killed five hostiles while he had a broken leg. The last two were close enough to spit on and he ten-ringed both of them.

According to the stories, Quinn decided some guy named Cameron was holding the team back. He then proceeded to kick Cameron Duckworth’s ass and then convinced of the squad to do the same. Cameron quit the fighter force shortly afterward and then disappeared.

Heard across a campfire, miles from home, the story had sinister overtones.

Sam’s concern was that he wasn’t sure he fit in with the rest of the fighters. In a word, Sam was a nerd.

He knew what baud-rate and frequency meant and could code applications for a Raspberry Pi and write Python applications. He recognized a Yagi antenna by sight and knew the difference between a serial data bus and parallel data bus.

He also wore glasses.

It wasn’t that he was physically infirm. Even before Ebola Sam was on the track team but he wasn’t into contact sports.

Sam was anxious that Quinn would decide he was another Cameron Duckworth. Sam did not want to get his ass kicked multiple times. Nor did he want to leave the fighters.

If Sam did not say much on the hike back to M-99, Quinn did not notice. He was busy scanning the surroundings. After a bit, Sam picked up on Quinn’s restless attentiveness and he started scanning as well.

After a bit, “We are being watched” Sam reported to Quinn.

“Yup.” Quinn agreed.

“As long as we stay on the road and keep moving, we won’t have any problems.” Quinn said.

“How can you know that?” Sam asked.

“Most of these folks think there are two kinds of people with guns.” Quinn said. “We stay on the road and keep moving unless there is a problem. The other kind of people with guns are ones who stop and make problems.”

“They will give us the benefit of the doubt as long as we keep moving. Or, if there is a problem and we show up to help.”

“Otherwise, all bets are off” Quinn concluded.


Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Obligatory corn picture

Dollar bill on left for scale. They did much better than expected for being planted June 9.

The Curious Case of the Hopium Croissant

You are a detective famous across the vast reaches of Chippewa county, Michigan. You just intercepted a shipment of 6561 croissants that originated in Abitibi, Quebec.

You are immediately suspicious because Abitibi is home to your nemesis the feared French-Candien gang Trois-Fils. Rumor in the swamps is that the Trois-Fils are the source of hopium, the new, synthetic heroin that is destroying the country.

Hopium is odorless, does not show up on x-rays and is otherwise undetectable except for the fact that hopium has approximately the same mass-density as gold. Hopium is also astronomically potent. The amount of hopium the size of a croissant is enough to turn every tweaker in the United States into a mindless zombie.

To nobody's surprise, the shell corporation that owns the shipment of croissants files an injunction with the 9th District Court to prevent you from inspecting the shipment. To everybody's surprise the 9th District Court will allow you to test the chemistry of one sample croissant.

The Chippewa county District Attorney files a counter-suit and the 9th District Court amends their decision. They will allow you to make 8 weight measurements before you choose your sample to send to the lab.

Can you find the Hopium Croissant with only eight, weight measurements?

The Shrewd King 14.3: Fire in the hole

M-99 bridge. You can click on the image to embiggen.
Quinn’s cadre rotated counterclockwise. Quinn, Jason and Miguel moved from the Waverly Road observation post to the M-99 post. Like all change, there was both good news and bad news.

The good news was that Donnie rotated up to the Columbia Road observation post. That put him only six miles away, close enough that they could train together and socialize. Donnie used to be in Quinn’s squad but was later promoted to Team Leader of Squad One. Donnie was leading the combined forces of Squad 1 and 2 into an ambush when Quinn was wounded. Donnie was able to salvage a blown operation through patience, skill and luck.
Clockwise half-squad billeting in houses circled in red. Houses at the 860' elevation, same as M-99 roadbed.
The bad news was that the half squad that rotated clockwise on the odd-weeks was drunk-and-disorderly. They had been in-place for a week and would rotate out in another week. They were taking advantage of the posh houses where M-99 crossed the river. They seemed to have forgotten that there were hostile forces about and it was their job to guard the double spans that crossed the river.

A couple of fighters on the clockwise half-squad were ace scavengers. There was never a shortage of high-end booze. All three of the “fighters” were snockered at 1 in the afternoon when Quinn rolled in.

It was a test of wills. Quinn demanded that they move their bivouac every night and that the bivouac site always be handy to the elevated plateau south-east of the bridge spans. The clockwise half squad saw no reason to desert the luxurious lodgings along the river west of the bridge.

It was very clear to Quinn that his survival depended on every team member doing their job: Right place, right time, right gear, right mindset. The clockwise boys were not cutting it.

If the clockwise crew thought Chernovsky or Gimp were going to say anything about the sudden profusion of black eyes, swollen noses and scuff-marks, well, they didn’t know Chernovsky and Gimp all that well.

It took a few days, but the clockwise crew finally rolled over. Quinn had no doubts that they would revert back to their lazy, sloppy ways as soon as they rotated to Waverly Road, but they would only have a week to settle in before Donnie rotated in and kicked their asses. Again.

Chernovsky and Gimp were much more aware of what was going on than any of the fighters realized.

Chernovsky was all about getting all of the fighters in-line with what Quinn was creating.

Gimp advised going slow. “Quinn's system is still a work in progress.” he informed Chernovsky. “We can roll-out what he is doing but we will have to redo it three times as he gets better at fitting the pieces together.”

Quinn’s crew was busy. Janelle dropped off a mortar tube and practice rounds of ammo. Quinn was extremely skeptical. The rounds were 14.1 ounce propane cylinders ballasted with water. The nose-cones were concrete and the nose-cones had 6” long probes sticking out of them. The mortars were 48” long pieces of 3” pipe. The mortar rounds did not have obdurating rings but relied on primitive “reed valves” to vent the air displaced when the rounds slid down the tube.

“You don’t have a lot of flexibility with this ammo.” Janelle apologized. “You have one powder charge. Setting up the tube at 60 degrees should get you almost exactly a quarter mile of range. Maximum range is at 45 degrees and is only a little bit more...maybe 500 yards.” *

“Why did you pick a quarter mile?” Quinn asked.

Janelle looked around the observation post. “Everything in Michigan was originally laid out in 40 acre parcels. They are a quarter mile on a side. There aren’t many places around here where you can’t stay out of sight and get within a quarter mile of your target.”

What Janelle was not telling him was that increased range equated to less accuracy and more powder per round. More powder per round meant the fighters would have less ammo to launch toward the enemy, exactly when it was harder to hit them.

At a quarter-pound of black powder per round, a maximum range of 500 yards was the equivalent of an 8”, adjustable wrench...the smallest size that offered a high degree of applicability.

Quinn tossed the “round” from one hand to the other. It did not feel like much mass. “What is going to be in this?” he asked.

“We are still working on that.” Janelle admitted.

“I am 95% sure that the live rounds will be this size, weight and powder charge. These will be close enough for you to pick some firing spots and lay the mortar in.” Janelle said.

Optimum mortar site in lower portion of image: 900 ft elevation. Target zone 1800 feet downrange at 855 ft elevation. Enfilade orientation of target means that sweeping target zone involves changing elevation without minimal adjustment of the azimuth which means the target zone can be quickly saturated with rounds.

“Firing spots?” Quinn said. “Are we going to get multiple mortars?” he asked, hardly daring to hope.

“Nope. Just one.” Janelle said. “But you need a primary site and a back-up.”

Elevation profile from mortar site (left side of image) to target zone.

Quinn called Janelle back the next day and told her that a quarter-mile of range just wasn't going to cut it.

Janelle sighed and said she would be on-site in a couple of hours.

"Why won't a quarter-mile work?" she asked as they stood on the site that Quinn had determined was the optimum site for the primary mortar installation.

"Because it is 600 yards to where an enemy convoy will stack-up as they try to breach the barricades." Quinn explained.

Janelle could see how the high, level site was a great place to set up a mortar. The cusp of the flat visually shielded the crew from the hostiles.

"Why don't you move closer?" Janelle asked as she pointed to another shelf that was closer to the bridge.

"No egress." Quinn said, not wasting words. "Egress" was a word he would not have used if you had paid him when he was in high school. Now the word rolled off his tongue with no effort because it was the single best word to explain why the flat shelf Janelle suggested was not acceptable.

Well, that and the fact that the mortar would still be more than a quarter mile from the target.

Janelle sighed. If you are going to ask for advice from an expert then it behooves you to give it ample consideration.

"So, how much do you absolutely need?" Janelle asked.

"1800 feet." Quinn replied.

"I will give you 2000 because you might be shooting into a headwind." Janelle announced. She had played this game before. Damned if she was going to re-figure the powder loading an infinite number of times.

It took 20% more powder but in the end even Janelle admitted it was the right thing to do. After consideration, she could see how a crew might need to shoot corner-to-corner across a 40 acre field and that is almost 1900 feet. Problems don't always fall square-to-grid.


Laying in and sighting in the mortar with the longer range ammo was incredibly time consuming until Miguel suggested they paint the practice rounds bright pink. After that, it was much easier to find.

Quinn came to the realization that it was better to over-shoot the bridge than to try to drop rounds right on top of it. That information occurred to him when he was sure they had lost the practice round the day there was a cross-wind. They found it in the two-feet deep water thirty feet east of the east span of the bridge. Quinn was 99% sure that a live round would not go off under water. And even if it did, it would have minimal effect on the enemy twenty feet above the water line.

Lobbing the rounds slightly past the bridge ensured the probe of the fuse would hit a surface that was hard enough to detonate the primer and guaranteed that it would be easy to find where the practice round landed.

Quinn kept notes on every round they send downrange. He figured that every degree of increased elevation between 60 degrees and 75 degrees brought the point-of-impact 50 feet closer to his launch point and an additional five degrees moved the impact 250 feet closer.

He wrote up a 3" by 5" cheat-sheet and attached it to the mortar tube.

*Nominal exit velocity of 260 feet-per-second yields those ballistics and an estimated 14 second hang-time for the 60 degree launch.


Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Flossing your nerves

You might want to floss your nerves. You think I jest.

The dots were created by pressing my thumb to locate where my leg was tender. The tender tissue had a tendency to squirm, otherwise the dots would be more in-a-line.

I stopped running due to pain in my left knee. Belladonna suggested it might be because I am not stretching my quads.

One thing that was curious was the location of the knee pain. Sometimes it was above the knee. Other times it was in a band below the knee running along the top of my calf muscles to alongside the inside of the shin.

Isn't the Internet grand?
The Saphenous Nerve is a likely candidate. The tender region is not muscular nor does it feel like a blood vessel. It moves around even when there is muscle tension so it is not connective tissue. The Saphenous nerve is in the right zipcode and can be aggravated by tight quads, so Bella may be onto something.

Darn, just what I need, one more muscle group to stretch and another body part to floss. Getting old ain't for sissies.

The Shrewd King 14.2: Driving sheep

John Wilder was getting a new appreciation for the Gospels. He remembered Jesus comparing humans to sheep many times in the various parables. In fact, one translation has Jesus mentioning sheep 41 times in the four Gospels and lambs six more times.

John’s new appreciation was that Jesus was not flattering humans. In his opinion, sheep had to be the dumbest animals on the planet.

John, his sons and Mo Pockets were driving one quarter of their new flock from Mrs Treadwell’s farm to their farm. It was a distance of ten miles, as the crow flies. Unfortunately, the sheep seemed intent on going in every direction except for a straight line. Like a new golfer, the harder they tried to drive the sheep straight, the more aggressively they hooked and shanked.

The Wilder men were struggling mightily.

Mrs Treadwell and Mo suppressed their smiles. It takes a while for a new flock to settle down. It takes even longer for new sheep herders to do the same.

Sheep are social animals. Various individuals audition for different positions in the flock. A few are leaders. Some are adventurous. Some are natural stragglers. But most, however, want to be in the middle of the flock.

John was a task oriented person. He waded in and started heaving lambs in the direction he wanted them to go. That threw the process into disarray and added another half hour to what promised to be a long day.

Mo did not offer any guidance other than holding his position at the flock’s seven o’clock position. He had given the Wilder men a pre-game pep-talk. Clearly, all of his advice had flown out the window as soon as they were confronted with forty bleating ewe lambs and seven cantankerous cull ewes.

Mo knew that biology was on his side. In an hour or so, John and his boys would get tired and settle down. The lambs and the older ewes would also be less frisky. It would turn the ten-hour evolution into a twelve-hour task, but Mo did not know a more efficient way to train his employers.

Mo played the flock the way a soccer midfielder plays the ball. There is an optimum distance for both endeavors and, surprisingly, it is almost the same distance.

When a teammate is dribbling the ball down the field, the midfielder tracks along about forty feet distant from the teammate in possession of the ball. Forty feet is far enough away that the defenders will not be able to follow the pass but it is close enough that the opposing team cannot anticipate the pass and steal it.

Forty feet from the flock was close enough to provide some pressure but far enough away that a significant number of lambs on the fringe of the flock could see him and respond to his almost imperceptible modulation of “threat”. He could make himself bigger or smaller based on the position and tiny motions of his hands and hat.

The risk of being too close to the flock was that they would split into two, panic-driven flocks. The risk of being too far was that there would be no pressure and forward momentum would be lost.

The game-plan HAD been for John to lead. He was to carry a five gallon bucket with a tiny amount of corn in the bottom. Every fifty paces, or so, he was to shake it. Every two-hundred paces, he was to dole out a tiny bit of the corn to one of the older ewes.

The lead set the pace. His instructions were to never let the flock string out over thirty yards. That should not be a problem because the lambs were much more athletic than the older ewes who were leading the flock and they shouldn't have any issues keeping up.

Mo and one of the Shaw kids were at the seven and five o’clock positions.

They were carrying pump shotguns on tactical slings slung to the front. Their primary concern was not humans but feral dogs. It seemed like the people most likely to not neuter their dogs favored large, aggressive breeds. Once it became difficult to feed them, or their owners died of the Plague, the dogs ran free and bred with abandon. The young pups were now large enough to hunt and were in the ravenous, insatiable young adult stage of growth

Mo was of the opinion that a hard winter would devastate the wild dog population. There were too many dogs for the ecosystem to support. They were too large and their hair was too short for the climate. There was much speculation about what meat source was sustaining them. Dark rumors claimed that they ate human corpses.

Mo knew for a fact that the packs of dogs had no fear of humans. He did not doubt for a moment that they pulled down and ate humans on a regular basis. There really was no other large source of meat.

The large dogs were extremely mobile. The twenty miles from Lansing and Jackson, or seventy miles from Flint or ninety from Detroit was almost insignificant distances over the course of a week's travel time.

The shotguns were not loaded with birdshot. They were loaded slug-buckshot-slug.

The sound of shotguns going off within feet of the flock would undoubtedly throw the sheep into a panic and it would be a job to get them back. But having them chased into the next county by dogs would even more destructive.

Mo’s gut feel was that the first group would have the least trouble from dogs but the most issues with organization.

The first flock would lay down a stream of sheep poop that would reassure the flocks that followed just as surely as it would attract packs of predators. Mo was also thinking that they could re-use the most tractable of the lead ewes for future drives.

The first flock also had forty lambs bleating their hearts out. There is something about the bleat of a lamb, the bleat of a fawn, the squeal of a rabbit and the mad chatter of a squirrel that is a magnet for predators. Mo supposed it was some frequency that was too high for humans to hear. Regardless, when repeated enough times those sounds would call every predator within ten miles.

As Mo expected, things slicked up when John stopped trying to manage every lamb and concentrated on managing the few lead ewes. Once the flock started moving at a steady pace, everybody got with the program.

Every two hours the crew rotated, except for Mo. He wanted to stay at the seven o’clock position. They let the lambs graze for half an hour before getting them moving again.

Mo had plenty of time to think. The pump shotgun held five rounds. There was no guarantee that every shot was going to connect. Even if they did, there was no guarantee that the pack of feral dogs would cooperate and only have five dogs.

Mo was going to ask John Wilder if he could carry an AR or an AK on future drives. There is much to be said about a firearm that carries thirty rounds and has magazines for quick reloads. Mo might even shoot a poodle with one of them.