Saturday, November 30, 2019

One of our dogs died yesterday

The Boston Terrier's decline was swift.

Last week he was sneezing and coughing as if he had a virus.

In the last three days his kidneys must have shut down or his heart valves were trashed and he was suffering from congestive heart failure. He retained water.

He passed away sometime Friday evening while I was at Mom and Dad's.

I buried him this morning in a sunny corner of the orchard. Smuggles is planted between a Crimson Crisp apple and a Tashkent quince.  Belladonna, who pays far more attention to how things look than I do, suggested that I put something red in his coffin to match his collar.

I hereby lift a toast to the little, blind Boston Terrier that could not pass a woodchuck hole without going down it and kicking the resident's it woodchuck, possum or coon.

To a life well fought!

A failed test

I spent 24 hours with Mom and Dad this Friday. I went in at eight in the morning and left at eight on Saturday.

Dad had not slept well Thursday night. He said his room was freezing. Dad struggles with blankets. The over-blankets are folded accordion style at the foot of the bed and, in theory, he pulls them up as he gets cold through the night.

Some nights theory conforms to reality. Other nights theory does not.

Mrs ERJ and I devised a plan. I would check on dad through the night. After each time I helped mom with toiletting I would pop into his room and touch his hand to see if he was cool. Dad agreed that might work.

Mom had an active night. She got up five times. The second time she got up was 11PM. Afterward I went and check on dad as agreed.

He startled when I checked his hands. Attempts to calm him were not very successful because he did not have his hearing aids in.

Five minutes later I heard his door rattling. That is the little dog's signal that she needs to go out. On a typical night she goes out twice, at Mom's 1AM and 4AM trips to the toilet.

I went to the door and found my dad barricading himself in. He told me to leave and that he would take care of the little dog.

No problem, I thought.

Mom woke for the morning at 7, about an hour earlier than usual. I had not taken the little dog out. Commenting on the fact, Mom said it might be a good idea if I took her out so she did not make a mess.

I opened dad's door, little dog was waiting and scooted out the door. She looked pretty eager to go outside.

Ten minutes later dad came out his door and he was breathing fire.

He gave me repeated ass-chewings for disobeying him, for invading his space, for kidnapping the little dog. I made dutiful son sounds. I "Yessirred", hung my head, apologized. It was just more gasoline on the bonfire.

Mom was distressed but there was nothing she could do.

Dementia is a cruel disease. I am contemplating shaving my beard so I don't look like that guy who is the home invader.

There is usually more information in a failed test than a successful one. A part that does not fail has only given partial information regarding the number of cycles it can sustain. A part that failed gives definitive information in that regard.

The trick is to shift through the noise and find that information. I think the lesson is that there will be times when we do our best but regardless of the purity of our intentions and quality of execution...we cannot win. Not that we will not win, but that we can not win. Dementia is a cruel disease. There will be many times when we cannot win.

Friday, November 29, 2019

An exercise in Anthropology

One way I survive the holidays is to treat the family parties like exercises in anthropology. You know, like Margaret Mead living with the cannibals of Paupa New Guinea.

The researcher must exercise care and not attempt to deduce too much information from the interviews. While tempting, the venue is artificial and the research subjects might be "playing" the researcher.

Consider the following, slightly fictionalized exchange.

Me "So, when do you graduate?"

Twenty-something said "I graduated two years ago."

"Interesting. What did you major in" I asked.

"I had a dual major. I majored in Political Science and Economics." T-s replied.

My eyebrows went up, surprised.

"What have you been doing with yourself since you graduated?" I asked.

"Oh, I have been working as a community activist and campaigning for Richard Slimy at the grass-roots level." T-s replied. "But I am ready for a change so I am going to stop doing that."

"What do you see as the next step in your life?" I asked.

"I was thinking of taking a gap year and traveling. Then I will apply to grad school" the T-s said with assurance.

"What would you major in?" I asked, making the expected small talk.

"I am leaning toward a Masters in the Humanities but I might go for the money and go to law school or get an MBa." the T-s said, buffing her fingernails.

"Humanities?" I queried. It didn't seem to fit with the other two.

"Yeah. It is kind of my fall-back. The faculty already approved my thesis." T-s said.

"Which is...." I asked, leading her on.

"Gender fluidity of Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus as Revealed by Authoritative Translations" she replied.

"Doesn't sound like the kind of discipline with a lot of jobs." I responded as kindly as I could.

"I know. That is why I plan to get a Ph.D afterward." T-s said.

"In Humanities?" I asked.

"Oh, no. I would get a Ph.D in Ceramics Engineering." T-s said.

Face twisted into a frown. "Do you think a Masters in Humanities will prepare you for Ph.D level work in Engineering?" I asked.

"No problem." T-s said.

Thinking this through and counting on my fingers I stated the obvious "So you might actually start getting respectable paychecks when...when you are twenty-eight?" I asked.

"Something like that" she said.

"Maybe things are different now," I said "but it seems to fly in the face of time-value-of-money."

"What is that?" she asked "Time value of money."

"It is a basic concept in economics. A dollar today is more valuable than that same dollar next year."

"Oh, you mean inflation." she said.

"Nope, inflation is different. Inflation is loss of purchasing power so you really aren't talking about the same dollar." I explained.

"Time-value-of-money is what creates money markets. Some people are willing to forgo consumption and invest their money but only if they will receive more money in the future. The collective knowledge of the crowd sets the rates." I said, proud of having worked the word "collective" into the conversation.

"That is immoral" T-s stated with all the certainty of a twenty-four year old.

"Actually, the Christian Gospels speak of the master leaving servants money and becoming very angry when they did not invest it. That, and the government would shut-down tomorrow without access to borrowed money." I replied.

That is when I heard the words "Pumpkin Pie".

Voting machines

A few tidbits from the Thanksgiving get together.

One of the twenty-somethings is working for a Democrat who will soon be facing re-election. It was her contention that Trump stole Michigan because many of the voting machines in Detroit failed to work. She laid that failure at the feet of the Republican Secretary of State.

She holds high hopes for 2020 because Detroit has new voting machines.

A little bit of research reveals that maintenance of voting machines belongs to the municipality or region, not the Secretary of State. The SoS does not rent space and store the machines. They send out "Reliability Tests" to ensure functionality but it is the region that executes the test, not 10,000 SoS employees.

From the Detroit Free Press:

Several problems with Michigan’s voting system were discovered after the November 2016 elections and the subsequent recount of the presidential race that was requested by Green Party candidate Jill Stein. In Detroit, a state audit showed that more than half of the precincts couldn’t be recounted for a variety of reasons, ranging from the number of ballots not equaling the number of voters who showed up at the polls, improperly sealed ballot boxes and poll books that couldn’t be balanced.

While there was some voting machine failure in Detroit, the Secretary of State said most of the problems were due to human error. New machines won’t help that, but the city and its precinct workers have been going through additional training since the audit was released in February.

One of the discrepancies was that 782 more votes were counted in Detroit than voters were signed into the process.

Fake News Friday: Black Friday to be renamed Orange (hair) Friday

Black Friday will be scheduled for the day after Halloween and will be renamed Orange Friday starting in 2020.

Black Friday was originally named "Black" because many retailers were "in the red" until the big sale the day after Thanksgiving.

Orange is the new Black.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Cattle prices

Sprite is in the position of having to liquidate her cattle holdings.

Beef prices. Most of the valleys fall in the September/October timeframe. Data source
She arrived at that decision back in October. She consulted with somebody in the trade and they suggested that prices would probably be higher in December, so she kept her finger off the trigger.

It looks like the person Sprite talked to was right, the prices bobbed up almost $20/hundred.

According the the University of Nebraska, prices skyrocketed in the 2011-2014 time-frame because of a drought pushing many cattle producers into liquidating their herds. Initially, liquidation exerts downward pressure on prices as all the mama-cows hit the market but then the limited number of calves cause it to spike.

It can take three or four years to rebuild numbers of mama cows.

2019 was a horrible year for hay and grain through much of the corn belt.

The only think keeping corn prices from blowing through the roof is the huge overhang in the pork market due to China is not importing US pork. Even though you don't see it at the supermarket, yet, the pork market is saturated and prices have to get soft. Soft prices means some producers will fold and reduce production. Fewer hogs means less buying pressure on corn.

The fly-in-the-ointment for cattle producers is the effect cheap pork chops will have on beef prices as various cuts of meat compete side-by-side in the grocery store. A tsunami of pork will beat down beef prices causing even more beef producers to liquidate.

Sprite's current plan is to sell most of her cows and her bull in December. Feed the calves (hay + creep feed grain) plus one boss-cow (hay) through the winter. Graze them on pasture until August and then pull the plug on them.

Ten year price data on 700-800lb feeder steers. Data from the University of Nebraska report
Hanging onto the calves until August gives her a chance to watch the market. If 2019-2021 look like a repeat of 2011-2013 then she may stay in the cattle business. It is much easier to book a profit at $150/hundred than it is at $95/hundred.

Eaton Rapids Joe taking Sprite's cattle their Thanksgiving feast
Part of what is influencing Sprite is the labor requirements of feeding cattle hay and grain. She could reduce that labor for part of the year if she reduced numbers and rotationally grazed them through the growing season. She could run six paddocks and rotate about once a week. Feed some hay during the July/August slump. Once the fence posts are pounded into the ground, there is not much labor beyond moving the water and letting the cattle into a new paddock when the old one is sufficiently grazed down.

If she wants to work extra hard, she can mow each paddock as they move out after June first.

Safe words

Thanksgiving dinner will be explosive in some families.

Arguing can be fun. It releases endorphins. The problem is that it can escalate and one of the participants can feel threatened.

One strategy is to have a "safe" word or phrase. If enough people know the safe word then they can distract the parties who are arguing or insert themselves between the two parties.

After considering and discarding various phrases: "Still your president", "Shiffer-brains" "I liked it better when you were a Non-Playing Character", I decided on the safer phrase, "I wanna look at the pumpkin pie". That gives me an excuse to leave the field of battle.

Your mileage may vary.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

I am grateful for shelter

Miserable weather today.

Windy. Rainy. I am recovering from a cold.

When deer hunting I become very aware of the benefits of being out of the wind and rain. The windward side of the blind is colder than the leeward side even though the crack at the bottom of the windows is only a half inch wide.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Grape trellises and winter pasture

Adding posts to the grape trellis. This soil comes from 24 inches beneath the surface. The mottle suggests that it does not drain very well.
Big, ugly brutes
The local utility replaced some poles and cut the old ones into 8' lengths. It was all I could do to tip them into the back of the truck. I split them into thirds.

The cattle are beating up the pasture.

The upside is that it provides a good seedbed for the Festulolium I am planting. I took the precaution of fencing the cattle out of this paddock. I won't let them back in until after the ground freezes.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Bang for the Buck

There is a fair amount of interest in .32 handguns. Some of the interest is based in personal or family history. Some is because of their inherent shootability  and easy of carry.

If .32s are so appealing, why aren't there more of them out there?

One reason is that they are on the wrong side of the Bang-for-the-Buck line.

Kinetic Energy from Hodgdon Reloading site. Titegroup powder for most applications. Prices rectally extracted after looking at auction sites.
If you plot out the Bang-for-the-Buck, you will see that the 9mm Parabellum offers the most bang-per-dollar. You aren't just buying the bullet. First you have to buy the platform that launches the bullet. It should come as no surprise that the 9mm is a very, very popular choice.

The .38 Special also offers significant Bang-for-the-Buck. A new Rock Island M-200 goes for about...wait for it...$200 on sale.

The .380 ACP in a Hi-Point handgun is cliche but it always goes bang, has as much energy as the .32 H&R and the ammo can be found everywhere.

The .38 S&W was eclipsed by the .38 Special and handguns in the chambering are historical legacies.

So what is the appeal of .32s?
Less BANG!
H&R 732 Revolver. Ugly enough to be cute. Tough enough to pound tent stakes into caliche.

No, really. If the firearm is a family heirloom then the cost to the shooter is ZERO. And the .32 S&W Short and .32 S&W Long are very pleasant to shoot.

For example, the .32 Long gives up about 35% in energy to the .380 ACP but the combination of less powder and a longer barrel means less muzzle blast.

Some people believe that the shape of a revolver "finds their hand" more quickly than the shape of a semiautomatic. That could be an great reason if you carry your firearm in a purse, for instance.

The pedestrian velocities of the .32s means that the bullets will not expand, but they will certainly have plenty of penetration.

When the .32s evolved, the metallurgy and designs did not support high pressure rounds. Conversely, medical science did not recognize bacteria nor were their antibiotics. Getting shot in the torso usually meant you were going to die. Maybe not in the next fifteen seconds, but within the next fifteen days. Only a total loony-tune took those kinds of odds.

Even today, most rational people don't want to get shot. Crime is a job or a business venture for most thugs. The cost-benefit ratio takes a major hit when the intended victim starts putting holes in the businessman.
A typical example of the break-open, .32 caliber revolvers that were popular in 1900.

Granted, there are some drugged up lunatics out there. But if your choice is grampa's .32 Hopkins and Allen or taking selfies with the bad-guy, I think the .32 revolver is the better choice.

I am grateful for family

No pictures. Sorry.

...‘Warren,’ she said, ‘he has come home to die:
You needn’t be afraid he’ll leave you this time.’

‘Home,’ he mocked gently.

‘Yes, what else but home?
It all depends on what you mean by home.
Of course he’s nothing to us, any more
Than was the hound that came a stranger to us
Out of the woods, worn out upon the trail.’

‘Home is the place where, when you have to go there,
They have to take you in.’...  -Robert Frost, Death of a Hired Man

 I am thankful for Mrs ERJ, for my parents and siblings. I am thankful for my children, that none have done anything stupid or unlucky enough for them to die before their time.

I am grateful that they would take me in, even when I am not pleasant nor ornamental.

Plum cake

Recipe HERE
Plum cake is a central and eastern European dessert. Mostly, it is a matter of working with local materials. Certain types of plums grow well in central and eastern Europe.

It uses small, dry plums called Zwetsche or Quetsche or sometimes called German Prunes. Juicy plums would flood the cake with juice.

A couple of examples of Zwetsche plums are Pozegaca and Gras Romanesc.

Pozegaca is notable for being the plum-of-choice for slivovitz plum brandy, being cold hardy to zone 4 and blooming late, thereby avoiding late spring frosts.

Gras Romanesc is notable for having a very high sugar content and is originally from Romania.

I am on the verge of ordering one of these two trees because the pictures of the plum cakes look so delicious.

Sunday, November 24, 2019


I am grateful for diversity

This house does not discriminate based on size, shape, color, age or national origin. Nor do we discriminate against rifles that identify as shotguns or vice versa.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

You say "Sociopath" like it was a bad thing

Context is everything.

Attention Deficit Disorder is considered a disorder because people who have less ability to focus are less effective in modern society. They struggle to fill out forms and complete repetitive, boring tasks.

But consider that same person in a primitive society. He is the one who hears the flash-flood coming down the wadi. He hears the stampeding gnus and can move the tribe to safety while there is still time. He does not have to tighten 6000 lugnuts a shift.

If somebody with ADD has less ability to focus than most of the tribe, a person who is a sociopath is somebody who has less empathy than most.

The optimum amount of empathy varies depending on the context or situation.

Excessive empathy can be debilitating, even fatal.

Lack of empathy

I do not know Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook.

Is it possible that Facebook would be less successful if Mark Zuckerberg had been endowed with more than the average amount of empathy? Would the world be a better place if Facebook had never been invented?

People who are on the lower end of the "empathy" curve find ways to cope. We stop pulling the wings off flies in public. We learn to emulate empathy, like an Apple products emulating a Windows environment to run software. We send our wife to functions where empathy must be genuine.

To label somebody with less-than-average empathy a "sociopath" is cultural imperialism. It is an easy trap to fall into, to think that our time...our neighborhood is "normal", "right" and the long-term datum.

Tribalism, by its definition, is sociopathy. Tribalism is to define members of "my tribe" as humans and everybody else as less-than-human and not deserving consideration or...empathy.

The majority of the people in the world function as members of tribes. In terms of gross numbers and history, how people live on 4 Privet Drive or 1714 Blackberry Lane is not the human norm.

Groups of people who did not have a generous sprinkling of "sociopaths" were killed or absorbed by those tribes that did.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Fake News Friday: Data proves CNN Racist!

Images from official photographs. Swath clipped from forehead with lower corners in corners of eyes.
Three young, charismatic, Democratic Representatives were elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2018.

Searching CNN for Alexandria Ocasio Cortez at the time of this writing pulls up 873 references at CNN.

Searching CNN for Omar Ilhan pulls up 446 references.

Searching CNN for Ayanna Pressley, an African-American, only pulls up 189 references.

These numbers correlate exactly with the "whiteness" of the Representatives.

PROOF that CNN is racist!

Fake News Friday: "Take-a-knee" Kaepernick to try-out for kick-off return team

"Take-a-knee" Kaepernick to try-out for kick-off return team

Fake News Friday: Undocumented enclave of Shakers found in Portland, Oregon

Shakers were notable for dancing,

equality between the sexes

and celibacy.

Dianechia Fields is a hero

Dianechia Fields of Memphis, Tn was angry that Elizabeth Warren was throwing another generation of inner-city, blacks under-the-bus to court the votes of the unionized education industry.

Ms. Fields funded parents going to Atlanta and confronting Warren at one of her rallies.

Youtube stepped on all video related to this event so I have to direct you to a site that doesn't embed.

That points out one of Warren's weaknesses. Socialism is a system of "spoils". There are victors and there are victims. It is a zero-sum-game or worse.

The more complicated and convoluted the plan, the more victims

The distinction between "Socialists" and "Democratic Socialists" is clear.

Socialists rob Peter to pay Paul.

Democratic Socialists rob Peter to pay Paul while robbing Paul to pay Peter.

The Shrewd King 18.5: Indomitable

Vernon Blastic was walking past one of the barns when he heard a whimpering, like a puppy with a paw caught in a trap.

It was a half-hour before sunset.

Concerned that it might be a survivor of the red-force seeking shelter in the barn, Vernon drew his handgun and went to investigate.

Earlier that week, Denny had directed Trey, Wesley and Vernon to ALWAYS carry their handguns when outdoors. And to ensure they had one in the chamber and a full magazine.

Denny was fuming that Chernovsky refused to compensate him for the destruction of La-Loyd’s store.

Chernovsky said “I could do that, but then I would have to charge you double for cleaning up the mess you should have handled.”

La-Loyd confirmed that several hostiles had escaped into the bush, most of them heading east, toward the heart of Blastic’s Demesne.

Entering the barn, the light shifted from bright-to-dim-to-bright depending on the windows.

Entering the tack-room, Vernon first noticed his father, Denny.

Denny, who had never a small man, had grown to Falstaffian proportions since Ebola. His gut was enormous and his fingers were like sausages.

Denny was naked. Vernon almost missed the fact that Denny was efffortlessly pinioning the gray-eyed girl’s hands with one of his massive hands. She was ineffectively jerking to escape.

The gray-eyed girl was also naked. She had a multitude of lash marks on her body. Not all of the marks were new.

Vernon noted in passing that her breasts were no bigger than silver-dollar pancakes although her nipples looked very mature. Her hip bones stuck out and looked painfully sharp and her hair had frizzed up in the humidity, making it look like an angry cat had taken residence atop her head.

Denny looked up and virtually spit the words, “You will have to wait your turn. You can have her any time you want when you are in the fields. Now it is our turn.”

Vernon shot his dad in the mouth and Denny fell like a three-hundred pound sack of potatoes.

Hearing the shot, Trey came crashing into the tack room. He was carrying a horse-whip in one hand and handcuffs in the other. Trey was completely naked.

“What the hell, Dad. You said I could have ‘sloppy seconds’ before we did her.” Trey said. Trey did not register that Vernon was in the room.

Vernon shot him three times.

Then. Looking over the carnage, Vernon said “Oh, my God. What have I done?”

Placing the gun beneath his chin, he pulled the trigger.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Catalpa wood

I cut a Catalpa tree down today. The coin on the stump is a quarter.

I had no recollection of the trunk girthing up that quickly.

It smelled a little bit like rootbeer as I cut the tree.

According to the internet, Catalpa wood is moderately rot resistant and "throws" light as it is tipped. It is also soft and carves easily.

Farmers used to plant a quarter acre (100' X 100') of closely spaced Catalpa trees as a fence post plantation. You can still see some of these plantings if you know what you are looking for.


Pressure from Detroit, Toledo and Flint

Howell attacked Capiche and Amish lands. Did not attack Benicio but he is territorial and stepped in on the side of Capiche and Amish

Capiche is the hub of the wheel connecting Benicio and the Amish lands.

Think of Benicio as a world-class executive. Many of them are sociopaths. They are also smart enough to realize they need "gloves", i.e. underlings, to present an empathetic, human face to their decisions.

Also consider that nobody in Capiche knows what Benicio did with the prisoners. They are wondering, though, why Benicio wants more than a thousand mortar rounds. That seems excessive.

Man is a social beast

Population density is not a great predictor of Suicide rate. The band is an order of magnitude wide. There is, however, a clear trend.
The outliers in the good direction are Nebraska, North Dakota and Minnesota.

The outliers in the bad direction are West Virginia, New Hampshire and Rhode Island.

North Dakota's economy is booming with oil production.

West Virginia's economy is in the septic tank due to Obama destroying the coal industry.

The other states are harder to explain. It will be interesting to see if the crisis in farm revenues will move Nebraska out of the extreme outlier position.

It would be interesting to look at some pairings. Minnesota vs. New Hampshire...access to mental health services, time spent on social media, clustering of events...

The social media facet is particularly interesting. Are people substituting on-line relationships for meat-space relationships? Is there a numerical relationship between hours-per-week spent in cyberspace and the rate of suicide attempts?

The Shrewd King 18.4: Message

Learning that Capiche had war prisoners and no way to deal with them, Benicio volunteered to take care of them.

The prisoners, secured back-to-back were boarded on the bus and handed over to Benicio’s people.

Benicio’s driver took the bus to a freeway cloverleaf. The raised roadbed of the inside cloverleaf made an ampitheater. He parked the bus upwind of a small tree with three people beneath it.

After interviewing the prisoners, they identified an honest-if-slow-witted soldier in the hostile force. He was taken off the bus and frog-walked to the tree where he was placed next to the mutilated, barely alive body of Derious and shackled, back-to-back with Wendy Peffercorn.

Then, after securing the doors, Benicio’s people threw Molotov Cocktails into the bus through the open windows.

Sidney, the slow-witted soldier got to hear, and then smell his comrades burn to death: First the smell of burning hair, then cooking pork, then burning meat.

Then he got to observe Hyena torture Wendy Peffercorn the same way he had tortured Derious to extract information. As a reward for her service, he only tortured her half as long as he had tortured Derious.

After Wendy, Hyena cut off Sidney’s right hand. Then used a pair of vice-grips to individually crush every bone and joint in Sidney’s left hand. Hyena took his time. When Sidney passed out, Hyena patiently waited until he regained consciousness before resuming.

When Sidney regained consciousness, Benicio shot Derious and Wendy between the eyes. “This is what happens to people who invade me. This is what happens to people who betray me.”

“And in case you are wondering about your comrades who were supposed to invade the Amish? They are the ones who betrayed you. That is why we were able to crush you so easily. I have spies everywhere.” Benicio said.

“Except for them, you are the only survivor.” Benicio said.

The last thing Benicio told Hyena to do was to burn out Sidney’s eyes with a soldering iron. If anybody from Howell ever invaded Benicio again, they would not be able to use Sidney as a guide.

The next windy night, one of Benicio’s men drove Sidney to the outskirts of the stronghold where Derious had found support. Benicio’s minion drove him there in Derious’s SUV and left Derious’s smartphone on the dash. The smartphone had a multitude of pictures of the carnage wreaked upon the forces from Howell. It also had video of Derious spilling his guts, including one segment where Benicio says “That agrees with what my spies in Howell told me” in a voice one might use if they were unaware of a ‘hot mic’. Some of the information Derious was spewing was information that would only be held by people who were the closest to the throne.

Leaving the SUV running in the middle of the road, the minion took a length of two-by-four and ran the driver’s seat forward until the two-by-four activated the horn. Then the minion took off, westward, at a ground-eating lope. Ten minutes later, the minion would leave the Interstate and pick up Mason Road to continue westward.

Sidney’s amputated stub had been crudely stitched up. He only needed to remain lucid for another two days, although history would have him survive another five years.

Benicio expected Derious’s sponsors to be very interested in interviewing Sidney.


“How are we going to rout the hostiles out of Amish land?” Salazar asked Chernovsky.

“I cannot tell you that. At least not yet. We need intelligence.” Chernovsky said.

“I can tell you one thing” Salazar said, “we can’t count on any help from the Amish. They are non-violent.”

“I know that. And that is a major complication.” Chernovsky said.

“But we can’t focus on what they WON’T do. We need to know what they WILL do.” Chernovsky said.

“At any rate” Salazar said “it will be interesting to see of Mr Yoder shows up for the next auction.”

“I don’t want to wait until Monday.” Chernovsky said. He was also aware that Kate’s store lay in flinders across three acres of land and the new venue for the auctions were undecided.

“Who do you think we should send?” Salazar asked.

“What about me?” Chernovsky asked. Janelle had just told him that she had missed her period, a period that had been like clockwork for the last seven years. He needed to get his head screwed on straight and a trip out-of-town might help with that.

“We cannot afford to lose you.” Rick said, dismissively.

“What if we have one of your trusted team leaders take a couple of mares to Amish Land. The cover story is that they need to be bred. It just needs to be somebody who knows a little bit about horses.” Rick suggested.

Chernovsky grunted. He vaguely remembered Donnie talking around the campfire like he knew his way around horses.

“The other thing I am concerned about is where these guys came from. Benicio said they came from about forty miles east of here and they were being pushed from the east and the south.” Rick said.

“Benicio is of the opinion ‘better an enemy you know than one you don’t.” Rick said. “For some reason, he doesn’t expect them to try to invade us anytime soon.”

Chernovsky said, “I wish I could be so sure.”

“There is some good news on that front.” Rick said.

“Benicio was impressed by our mortars. Very impressed. He seems to think the big crater where Fairhaven used to stand was because of our mortar rounds.” Rick said.

“He magically found three hundred pounds of potassium nitrate and wants to go ‘halvesies’ on another run of mortar tubes and shells.” Rick said.

“Do you trust him?” Chernovsky asked.

“That is the million dollar question, isn’t it?” Rick replied, not really answering Chernovsky’s question.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Random thoughts

How long before Tauras offers .350 Legend in The Judge?

After eating large amounts of winter squash over the past few weeks, I can verify that I now have X-Ray vision.

After sharing this information with Mrs ERJ, she suggested that I could increase my super powers by eating more hot chilies.

She also implied that the beams of molten lava would not come out of my eyes but would come out of an orifice somewhat lower on my body.

Bariatric Surgery

I was recently treated to a scathing review of bariatric surgery (aka Stomach Stapling, Belly Banding, etc.) with regard to long-term outcomes.

The person who shared the review was privy to patient historys and had observed that the reality of bariatric surgery is rarely as good as the click-bait ads put out by the clinic.

I decided to do some followup research.

According to one, long-term longitudinal study, the median patient had a BMI of 47 versus a target range of 21-to-24. In simple language, they were twice their "healthy" weight.

NOTE: I will be committing statistical sins as I use medians and averages as if they were the same thing.

The 74% who underwent RYGB (the more drastic procedure) were still 50% overweight seven years later. That suggests a BMI of 34.

The 26% who underwent LAGB were still 78% overweight seven years later. That suggests a BMI of 40.

Another thing that is troubling is that almost 20% of the participants in this study dropped out by the seventh year. My perception is that people who lost weight are like vegans...they want to tell EVERYBODY. Further, my perception is that people who relapsed are less likely to remain with a study. So would the 20% that dropped out make the numbers more favorable or less favorable?

Bariatric surgery is not a silver bullet.

The Shrewd King 18.3: Spackle

The argument had gone on for hours.

Rick Salazar had expected as much and had reserved a back-room at Gabby’s Pub.

Sides formed up quickly. One side, led by Wade Hawk, claimed that they owed Quinn Spackle nothing, that he knew the odds and his disability was due to bad luck.

The other side, led by Larry Tomanica and Chernovsky, claimed that they owed Quinn a future livelihood.

The linchpin of Hawk’s argument was that there was no money to provide a pension. Further, he was extremely leery of putting a taxing scheme into place.

The linchpin of Tomanica’s argument is that if they kicked Spackle to the curb then only the worst sort of people would volunteer for the defense force.

“Look, they got to sit on their asses the whole time we were rooting around trying to make a go of Capiche.” Hawk said. “I ain’t gonna hand them a life of sitting on a couch while I am busting my ass, barely making a go of things.”

Tomanica replied, hotly “The boys who did not join the defense force have been out there getting on with their lives. The MEN on the defense force put their lives on hold when they could have been out claiming a house, putting in a garden and dating girls.”

The crowd was about evenly divided.

John Wilder had listened in silence, only occasionally asking a question when something was not clear.

His first question involved the extent of Quinn Spackle’s injuries. The answer was not pretty.

Nyssa and Dysen assisted Doctor Fox in Eaton Rapids. The Doctor Fox was a D.O. and had done rotations through Emergency Rooms and Orthopedic reconstruction. He had none of the tools he really needed.

He cleaned out the wound and removed flesh that was so mangled that it was impossible to regain circulation. He pushed the larger chunks of bone into approximately the correct position.

The bones of the ankle are like a zipper. That allows the bones to move relative to each other but still able to bear load. Outside of a major hospital and multiple follow-up surgeries, there was no way to reconstruct the zipper. The best the doctor could hope for was to contain any secondary infections and to fuse the bones so Quinn’s left foot could bear his weight.

Quinn’s days of running for miles-and-miles were over.

It also severely impacted his ability to earn a living in a culture that had become supremely physical. Even in the best of times, Quinn was not a “thinker”. Quinn was a doer.

When Wilder asked why Dysen assisted, Rick told informed him that Quinn and Dysen were engaged and Dysen would be changing Quinn’s dressings and cleaning drainage tubes. Plus, it never hurt to have one more person with trauma skills in the community.

Wilder kept his counsel as the group argued their way around the topic. One thing led to another to another but little was resolved.

The third time they dipped their plow into soil that had already been churned to mud, Wilder spoke up.

“You know, this is not a new problem. Every society had to deal with it. Some societies failed. Some thrived, depending on how they treated their veterans.” Wilder said.

Hawk’s temper had not improved through the evening. He was hungry and he was used to getting his way. That, and he had an instinctive dislike of successful, educated men. “If you got something useful to add, just blurt it out. Ain’t got time for all this jibber-jabbin’.”

Wilder had his Bachelor’s degree in history and still enjoyed reading. “The Roman’s solution was probably the best” he said.

“When a career Centurion retired...if he lived long enough to retire, they gave him title to fertile land very close to the frontier. They required that he build a house and that he keep arms mounted beside the door.” Wilder said.

“That served several purposes” Wilder said. “It got potentially dangerous men out of Rome and provided a deep defense for when the barbarians broke through the Roman perimeter.”

“The other thing it did is it provided the equivalent of senior NCOs along the line. Training soldiers became more and more difficult as Rome recruited non-Romans as soldiers. It never hurt to have a half-dozen, grizzled vets to call up when a young upstart needed to be humbled or the line was wavering and needed to be stiffened.” Wilder said.

“So you are saying to just give Spackle a chunk of land? That is what I have been saying. There is unclaimed land all over the place” Hawk said. “We don’t owe him anything.”

“Not quite what I am saying” Wilder said. “It has to be choice land. Considering how small Capiche is, it should be within a quarter mile of our frontier. We need to give him a sovereign deed to the land. The other thing is that we have to sweeten the deal with seed money, livestock, free plowing for five years and maybe building a bunkhouse for help.”

“Bunkhouse?” Hawk looked mystified.

“He won’t be able to do all the physical work. That means he needs help. It also means he needs more than 40 acres because 40 acres won’t support several families.” Tomanica piped up. He could see where this was going.

“80 acres, minimum” Wilder said. “And he should get to choose it.”

“I commit to supplying bred ewes and a couple dairy heifers” Wilder said, putting his money where his mouth was.”

“I will supply the free tillage” Milo said.

Around the table the principles pledged various things. Wade Hawk pledged scrap iron and hand-tools.

The only person to not pledge anything was Denny Blastic. He pressed his lips firmly together when Salazar pointedly observed that the only thing Spackle lacked for a viable homestead was horses

Denny had crashed the meeting to complain about Capiche forces destroying La-Loyd's store. He demanded compensation. Instead, the group collectively told him to shut up or they would present him with a bill for throwing the invaders off HIS property.

Denny was thoroughly steamed and wasn't about to be helpful.

Waverly Road along east property line

Presented with the plan, Quinn had no problem choosing his 80 acres. He chose the plot south of the river and just west of Waverly Road. It had river frontage and the Skinner Extension drain had enough flow-and-drop to power a small sawmill in March and April when the fields were too wet to work. The drain also had a strong run of suckers.

Timber stood further back on the property. The bottomlands were thick with soft maple, cottonwood and a little bit of sycamore. The uplands had stands of sugar maple and red oak, beech and tulip poplars. Even now there was a shortage of planking for shelving as people dug root cellars and pantries for canned goods.

Quinn was also good with the idea of the bunkhouse. Miguel had visited him earlier and told him about “Uncle”. Sounded just like the kind of guy Quinn needed to hire.

Quinn hoped, that in time, Donnie would choose the 80 acres east of Waverly.


Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Total life-cycle cost of buying a new firearm

When I was a kid, I rarely considered the total cost of purchasing something. For example, people buying a cheap, used snowmobile rarely consider the cost of maintenance, storage, a trailer, a truck to pull it up north and the cost of ten nights in a motel up in the snow-zone.

That $1200 snowmachine quickly morphs into $10k. It is different, in my mind, if it is a tool you will use once a week. Then you don't need the trailer, truck and lodging. That would be the difference between a snowmachine in southern Michigan and utility quad or tractor you can use to haul wood, spin seeds, drag deer, carry fencing tools.... through moch of the year.

The cost of a firearm includes buying secure storage like a safe. That presumes you don't already have a safe with room in it and that you might have visitors who are not trustworthy around firearms.

Let's look at the .350 Legend.

Suppose you have room for one more firearm in your safe space. Also assume you have a friend-of-a-friend who will let you borrow an AR lower.

.350 Uppers can be found for about $250. Add twenty bucks for shipping and you are looking at $270.

Budget another $200 for a scope and $50 for the rings. Rolling that into the $270 gives you $520.

A set of flip-up iron sights, aperture rear and post front, are going to run another hundred.  $620

Reloading consumables, bullets-and-cases, and a set of dies will run at least another hundred. $720.

Three hours of range time will run about $50. $770.

Can you do it cheaper? Heck yes. A scoped "package" gun from a major retailer might run $350 on sale. Buy a box of factory ammo. Don't sight it in and you can be hunting with a .350 Legend for half that price.

Or, I could buy the upper and install high quality iron sights on it for about $350. Iron sights are perfect for the finish-wounded-deer mission and very adequate out to 100 yards in any reasonable light. They give up something to the scope when shooting in heavy cover. With a scope, you are more likely to pick a window in the brush and hit the deer in the vitals.

So it comes down to a choice between buying that new freezer Mrs ERJ has been talking about or buying something to fill that freezer more elegantly than the Mausbert 5000 that has been filling it for the last twenty years.

The other dimension is the forlorn hope that Michigan will see the light and allow downstate hunters to use everything up to .30 caliber centerfires as long as they are in elevated stands. The point about the elevated stands is that the hunter is often shooting DOWN at the deer and have a dirt back-stop.

And I have a friend-of-a-friend who would loan me a nice .308 or ought-six.

The Shrewd King 18.2: Boom

People who are tired suffer from tunnel-vision.

If you are aware of it you can make adjustments. If sleep deprivation is not something you are familiar with, or if you have never been in a demanding environment when sleep deprived, then are likely to think you are operating at 90% efficiency when you are only functioning at 45% efficiency.

Sheldon remembered to enforce convoy security. One SAW forward, one in the middle of the convoy and two in the caboose position. It is easier to shoot forward than to shoot rearward.

The vehicles non-gunship vehicles were immediately in front of the gunships. Then there was a 200 yard space, then another block of vehicles.

Better to lose a flatbed than to lose two squads of fighters or a gunship.

The convoy made good time to the destination. They covered the twenty miles in about an hour.
Four buildings connected by 30' wide, underground drives. Corners of buildings 20' apart. Team One west of complex with ability to sweep exits to underground parking. Due to creek valley, only a few sandbags and barrel of SAW visible. Team Two set up to sweep interior of horse-shoe and also cover exits. Team Three includes Janelle and flash-bang grenade team. Team Three in shadow of building two WRT Team Two's automatic weapon.

Before pulling off M-43/Saginaw Hwy, Sheldon radioed in. “Confirming we are at 8646 West Saginaw Hwy. Confirming Fairhaven Apartments. Are you SURE this is the place?”

Wendy responded “Multiple prisoners verified info. Recon. Report.”

Shrugging, Sheldon made the universal signal for “Get on with it”. He raised his hand, extended his index finger vertically and rotated it. It never occurred to him that he could have just sent a scouting force.

The convoy entered the drive

A few sentries fired at the convoy but bursts from two of the SAWs made them flee.

Sheldon sent a full squad down the ramp into the underground parking.

Two guys popped out almost immediately. “Definitely barrels of oil here.”

A couple of minutes later, most of the squad popped out of the southeast entrance. The buildings were arranged in a horseshoe with one entrance in the southwest corner of the property and the exit in the southeast corner.

“Lots of good shit there, boss.” the squad leader confirmed.

Then Sheldon took a stroll.

The each of the four buildings had its own, brilliantly lit, underground parking garage. The first one he entered had HUNDREDS of barrels. The air was redolent with the smells of gasoline and diesel. “Did you check the barrels to see what was in them?” Sheldon asked.

As an answer, the squad leader unscrewed the plug in the top of one of the barrels and stuck his finger into the liquid. Pulling it out he said “Smell”

It was diesel.

"Shit!" Sheldon exclaimed in resigned disgust. "Tell the troops to dump all the bags of grain on the ground. We gotta make room for these barrels."

“Once they get the trucks cleared off, tell them to pull the flat-beds in here and start loading.” Sheldon said.

“Anybody find any weapons or ammo?” Sheldon asked.

“Lots of pallets.” the squad leader said, pointing behind the densely packed barrels. “Hard to know what is in them.”

The pallets were wrapped with layer-upon-layer of stretchy, shrink-wrap plastic.

“Is there cargo in each of the garages?” Sheldon asked.

“Yup.” the squad leader said.

“Tell the drivers of the flat-beds to space out, one to a building.” Sheldon said. The last thing he needed was to have tired, clumsy troops tripping over each other.

Almost miraculously, each garage had a set of ramps and a single appliance dolly. It was going to take a while to load.

Fifteen minutes later, Wendy pinged in.

“We have reports of Mr Heavy forces breaking off and heading north. We suspect that you were seen and they are coming to defend the warehouse.” Wendy said.

“You might want to pick up the pace. You will have company in less than an hour...maybe as soon as thirty minutes.”

Sheldon cursed.

“Get all the fighters in here. They can start muscling the barrels up to the flat-beds.

A minute later, the only red forces not in the underground garages were the four fighters manning the pintle-mounted Squad Automatic Weapons in the beds of the armored trucks.

That is when Janelle triggered the first set of charges.


Air-fuel bombs are fussy beasts.

Military has the advantage of being able to test, test, test and access to exotic chemicals.

Janelle had neither of those luxuries.

The ideal ratio of air-to-gasoline is between 10 pounds of air to 1 pound of gasoline and 15 pounds of air to each pound of gasoline.

Dispersing large volumes of fluid so that MOST of it mixes into the ideal ratio is very difficult.

Air is surprisingly dense. The amount of air in a medium sized refrigerator (13 cubic feet) is approximately a pound.

A gallon of gas weighs about 6 pounds. That means that a gallon of gas needs about 75 refrigerators worth of air.

By Janelle’s calculations, a five gallon bucket of gas needed a plug of air eight feet tall with a diameter of about thirty feet. It would take more than twenty-five, five gallon buckets to fully utilize the air beneath ONE of the apartment buildings.

Another complication was the mixing. Simply exploding a charge in the center of the bucket would atomize the fuel but would be inefficient at mixing it with the air and would likely result in much of the fuel painting the floor and ceiling rather than mixing with the air.

Janelle configured the dispersal charge to minimize the up-and-down pulse but there was no way to eliminate some of the fuel wetting concrete. It helped that the fuel-bombs were on top of 55 gallon drums, helpfully disguised in buckets that originally held motor oil and hydraulic fluid.

A third complication is that explosions first evacuates the air within the space followed by a massive air in-rush. The best time to detonate the air-fuel fog is when the maximum amount of air has in-rushed.

A forth complication is the difficulty of synchronizing the detonation of multiple charges.

Janelle threw up her hands. She reverted back to a ditty she learned when she first started hanging out in machine shops. “When in doubt, make it stout, of stuff you know a lot about.” When brute force does not work, it probably means you did not use enough of it.

Where two, five gallon buckets of gasoline might have been more than ample to create a pressure pulse that would incapacitate the hostiles, Janelle decided to use eight in each underground parking space.

She insisted that they be wired in parallel. She insisted on two car batteries wired in series to generate 24V which closed redundant relays which fired the airbag inflaters

The inflaters, shorn of everything but the electronics and explosive capsule were nested in the Tannerite and Janelle hoped they would be sufficient to detonate the four ounces of Tannerite.

Upon hearing that Benicio’s people had flash-bang grenades, she had two of them lined up near the emergency exit at the top of the horse-shoe, ready to dash down the ramp and lob grenades into the garages in the event the air-fuel bombs did not self-detonate.

Which they did not. Gasoline is formulated to be difficult to ignite. That is what "octane" means. Low octane causes engine knock, lost power and can destroy pistons.

The grenade launchers did succeed in lighting off the twenty million BTUs of gasoline-air fog.

Benicio was very grateful. He awarded the grenade launcher’s next-of-kin with two year’s worth of pay.

The peak pressure was less than the pressure at Kate’s store but, contained by the mass of the concrete structure, was of much longer duration. 45psi is fatal. 150psi leaves an ugly corpse. 600psi shot the men into concrete walls like 150 pound bumblebees hitting the windshield at 200 miles per hour.

SAW armed trucks liberated from the strike force that invaded Capiche and the mortar crews set-up beside them made short work of the shell-shocked trucks guarding the entrances to the underground parking. Having arrived early, they had the advantage of sighting in and were dialed into the range where guard trucks HAD to be.


Monday, November 18, 2019

Jonesing for a new firearm

One of the hunters in our party brought a new firearm.

It was an AR platform weapon in .450 Bushmaster.

I was sharing a blind with my youngest brother. He was using a muzzle loader. He loves his muzzle loader. He is exceptionally accurate with it. It does, however, have limitations.

In our party, we are expected to "finish" wounded deer. Whether we wounded them or some other hunting party wounded them. It is a matter of respecting animals and not allowing them to face a lingering death. A muzzle loader with one shot and an extended reload time is not optimal for that task.

That got me to thinking.

Southern Michigan's deer hunting rules are Byzantine. I can hunt coyotes, woodchucks and red squirrels with a .300 Magnum or an elephant gun but I cannot hunt deer with a 30-30 Winchester.

To hunt deer, I am restricted to shotguns (which can have rifled barrels and launch 300gr, saboted bullets at 2200fps), muzzle loaders, revolvers or center-fire rifles with cartridges less than 1.8" and without shoulders.

There are at least two cartridges that meet southern Michigan requirements that fit in the AR platform: The .450 Bushmaster and the .350 Legend.
Speer 180gr, 0.358" bullet designed for impact velocities of the .35 Remington. Speer # 2435

I was leaning toward the .350 but as I read more I learned that the groove diameter is 0.355" while most of the bullets available for reloading are 0.357 or 0.358" diameter. It is possible to take 0.358" bullets and pass them through a resizing die but that is one more step I really don't want to do.

The .450 is similar. Most ".45" rifle bullets are 0.458" while the Bushmaster uses 0.452" bullets.

I will keep my eye on this. I just may end up buying a bolt action .350 Legend to replace the firearms I lost canoeing with Mr B. But I don't want to do it until one of the major bullet manufacturers (Hornady, Nosler, Sierra, Speer etc.) offers a slippery, 170gr or 180gr bullet designed specifically for .350 Legend groove diameters and impact velocities.

Planning ahead

American Persimmons (mix of K-6 and Lena)and Asian Pears

Korean Giant Asian pear nominally pollinated with Chojuro Asian pear

K-6, 90 Chromosome American Persimmon. Nominally pollinated with Szukis
I am heading out to where I hunt. I will step these into the ground where I want deer to show up fifteen years from now.

Pears on the high ground. Persimmons under the multi-stem, soft maple that need to be culled.

Planting this way is a low percentage operation. The seeds and my time are cheap. Even if I only net five trees, I will have a good time and it will be five more mast trees than I have now.