Sunday, May 31, 2020

Sprite's calves are back on her property

The pasture in the upper-left portion of the image were not mowed because it was too soupy.
The cattle moved easily. They do like that festulolium. Even though I had a bucket with corn in it, they still stopped and grazed the areas I planted.

The variety I planted, Duo, is a very light green so it will never be a lawn grass.

I did get them into the paddock on Sprite's place where we agreed it would be good to start the rotation.

Then, we pulled the back-blade off the Kubota and installed the brush-hog. Sprite is a great help and not afraid to yank on something heavy to get it to move.

Then I took it over to my pasture and  mowed.

There are a bunch of good reasons to mow the pasture after the cattle move, especially this time of year.

For one thing, I suffer from hay fever and grass pollen is my kryptonite. Orchard grass is the worst. We are a week away from the grass pollinating. mowing the grass now removes the seed heads that generate the pollen.

Another reason to mow is that the grass that the cows did not eat this time around will be even less palatable in four weeks. It is better to cut it now and to get the nutrients back to  the soil.

Cattle eat by gripping a mouthful of grass/clover and ripping it free. As the stems become more woody and tougher, it becomes almost impossible for the cows to rip the grass loose. It is much better to cut the stemmy grass and then the blades of grass that follow are much less likely to be too tough for the cows.

Another benefit of mowing is that it encourages clover. That land of milk and honey you read about....yeah, that means they had lots of clover growing there. Clover is good. Clover is short and susceptible to being shaded out if the grass is allowed to get too tall.

The pasture is still very wet in places
Hercules photo-bombing
This is what the sward looks like when the cows eat it down. It is about 1-1/2" tall versus the 6" the brush-hog leaves. Ideally, I would be able to mow it to three inches but that is not what the equipment is capable of. I will take what I can get.
The disconnect/diagnostics are coming along. Handle pointing down so 3/8", rubber tubing does not fill with water. Hot wire into the bottom and load wire out the top. The rubber tubing is about 4" long and it is to extend the handle to keep my fingers far away from the circuit.

The sensitivity of the device can be adjusted by spinning the "electrodes" and increasing or decreasing the air gap.

Probably not the best wire to use, but it works for now.

Implementing a Police Complaint data-base

A couple of thoughts occurred to me after writing the last post.

There are two basic approaches to the task. The beautiful thing is that they are not mutually exclusive.

The most elegant approach would be to engage the private sector and have them develop a composite-risk index.

Why the private sector? Because that is where the coding and actuarial expertise lives.

If the task was given to the public sector, it would probably end up living at the Michigan State Police unit that consolidates and up-loads Uniform Crime Reporting to the FBI. Writing software is not something they are staffed to do.

The private sector, on the other hand, has many actuarial experts who could rough out the code while taking their morning shower.

How might it work?
The way to improve performance is to re-organize the system so the people who have their hand on the switch have skin-in-the-game.

Visualize a police force where every policeman is required to personally purchase "indemnification insurance" or liability insurance.  The raw statistics of every policeman are fed to the insurance companies: Training level, years in law-enforcement, physical fitness scores, precincts worked and number of complaints.

 As a sub-set, the complaint history would have a thumbnail of who made the complaint; did they leave valid identification information, how many other complaints has that person made and perhaps a scan of the actual complaint. After all, it is a valid concern that a prolific complainer could poison many otherwise sterling law enforcement careers.

For the sake of argument, suppose the average premium for indemnification insurance is $3000 a month for a rookie, $2000 a month for a second year law officer and $1000 a month for law enforcement officer with more than two years experience.

The police force can pick some level of the average...let's say 120% that they are willing to supplement the premiums. So, for the rookie, they would be willing to kick in up to $3600 a month. Anything over that amount, the rookie must pay out of his own pocket. THAT is the skin.

Suppose we have a veteran police officer with 18 complaints against him. It is reasonable to assume his premiums might be $10,000 a month because he is a lawsuit waiting to happen. If he wanted to stay in law enforcement then he would have to cough up $8,800 a month out of his own pocket. At that point, it is not a job, it is a super-expensive hobby.

The officer's supervisor does not need to run the gauntlet required to fire a union employee with seniority. The "bad" officer fires himself because he cannot afford to work in law enforcement.

The nail that sticks up gets pounded down. Or, in this case, the nail that sticks up does not get unduly subsidized by the police force to the detriment of his fellow officers.

Back to implementing the reporting in the public sector
Good software is not easy to write.

Legislature should invite experts to testify regarding the scope of the project. Some of those experts should come from the Michigan State Police since they will have to staff the effort afterward.

How long would it take to hammer together a pilot project?

How much money will it take?

What deliverables will serve both the public-facing reporting function and efficiently populate insurance company risk calculations?

It is my belief that the effort would not die-in-the-dark if report-outs to legislature and implementation dates were scheduled for May 25, the date George Floyd died. It also happens to be about six months before state-wide elections. Legislators and governors who deep-sixed the efforts would find themselves held accountable at the ballot box.

Marching and yelling accomplishes little. Minor changes to the system can be huge if they put some of the pain in the right places and are enshrined in law.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Pass the trash

I supervised union employees from 1995 until 2013.

95% of those employees are people I respected. They came to work every day. They did their jobs. They were (generally) pleasant to be around.

5% of those employees were a burr in everybody else's knickers. That five percent created more work for me, as a supervisor, than the other 95%.

The first "discipline" I was involved with took five hours of my time.

Later "disciplines" I was able to whip out in three hours, or so.

Every discipline was invariably "challenged". Often, my management would roll-over and expunge the discipline. The miscreant would be back with back-pay and a shit-eating smile. My management informed me "We got something we needed from the Union by erasing your discipline."

I saw 3-to-5 hours of my life wasted and my authority destroyed.

The Pareto Principle
Pareto was an Italian economist.

Pareto was the first person to document the idea of the significant few and the insignificant many. I think his original observation involved people who paid taxes. He postulated that a small number (say 20%) invariably paid the largest part (usually claimed to be 80%) of the taxes.

An industrial problem-solver stumbled upon the concept. He noticed that a small number of causes were responsible for a large percentage of the defects.

Sometimes the Pareto Principle is called the 80:20 rule.

Pass the Trash
My dad worked in education.

Teachers, in Michigan, have strong unions.

Some teachers were not able to do their jobs.

Some teachers were very inappropriate.

Some teachers were dangerous (shop, chemistry, physical education).

Every year, teachers who had "a problem" in one building were sent to a new building. It was called "passing the trash". Many, many times it was the same teachers who had to be moved.

Black Live Matter
Do Black Lives Matter more than Organized Labor?

Because that is where the chain of inquiry ends. Do the Byzantine contracts and Union bosses-backroom deals get a dose of transparency? Do the citizens that police are supposedly protecting matter?

Back to Pareto
If every police officer is an independent process, then it is reasonable to presume that some/most are not a problem. They may occasionally/rarely stumble into an unfortunately situation, but that is not the norm.

On the other hand, there are a few officers (maybe 5%?) who are lightening rods for "complaints".

The thing about "complaints" is that complaints represent a very small slice of the problems generated by a given process. Bridgestone Tire Company recognized this and postulated something that became known as The Bridgestone Law of Quality.

One of the auto plants in town (Lansing General Motors, Plant 2), one that I never worked in, had a unique contract.

Supervision was allowed to issue discipline based on "patterns". For example, in a typical United Auto Workers contract the employee might be allowed to miss five days a year and as long as they called in an hour before starting time there was nothing the supervisor could do about it.

At LGMP2, the supervisor could issue discipline the third Friday the employee called in. You see, three makes a pattern.

If every-other missed day was a Friday, then the supervisor could issue discipline. There was a pattern.

Addressing Black Lives Matter in an effective way
If you don't change anything, then nothing is going to change.

If I ran the universe, I would allow people supervising police to put individual officers on-notice based on "patterns".

I would designate one person to handle the administrative burden of officers who are put on-notice for issues like excessive force. That way, supervisors (who already have a full work day) would not be tempted to look the other way because they don't want to deal with the extra five hours of work.

At the state level, I would pass legislation that indemnified agencies who black-balled "trash" lest they be passed from one agency to the next to the next. Because what happens now? When an officer starts getting too much heat in one police organization they move to another agency.

And what happens to the organization where he/she currently works if they do not give him/her a glowing recommendation? They get stuck with the toxic officer and are likely face a lawsuit for defaming the toxic officer's reputation.

An alternative would be to have the equivalent of the sex-offender registration list. Any officer who receives a complaint for excessive force (or something similar) gets it recorded in a database that is accessible to the public. If an agency hires an officer with multiple entries in the database...well, they get to explain it if that officer has issues in their community.

And, as long as I am running the universe, I would have a chat with every union official.

Union officials are legally required to represent the people who pay their dues. They do, however, have some latitude in deciding how aggressively they represent them.

Union members who are "written-up" for driving fork-trucks while drunk get a very minimal representation. Operators of power equipment who are drunk imperil other dues-paying union members. It is a go-through-the-motions representation.

My chat would point out that overly aggressive "representation" of abusive police officers results in targets being painted on the back of every other (95%) police officer in the field.

Some issues are worth fighting management about. Some are not. I submit that the system is broken if 2% of the officers in law enforcement are not redirected out of that profession every least until the bad apples are purged.

Gresham's Law
Gresham's Law states that bad money drives out good money. If your local currency is debauched, then people load their good money (Swiss Francs, US Dollars and so on) into suitcases and move it out of the country before officials can confiscate it.

It also applies to organizations. Bad teachers drive out good teachers. Bad officers drive out good officers.

Either police administration, and their partners in the Unions, get their arms around the issue or they will be sitting on a powder keg in a lightning storm.

Link to a follow-up post

Reports of shots in Eaton Rapids

Oh, the irony

Two nights ago, Minnesota police ordered people to remove themselves from an area that appeared to be heating up.

A crew from CNN refused to move.

The Minnesota police arrested them and removed them.

Yesterday, the Governor of Minnesota apologized profusely and repeatedly. We got "Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa"

Jeff Zucker, the head of CNN had called the Governor and gave him a harsh ass-chewing. One wonders if the phrase "Don't forget who put you in office" was uttered.
This video was chosen because it is only one minute long.

Last night rioters demonstrators attacked CNN headquarters.

Zucker was not in evidence. One presumes he was on the phone with the mayor and the governor telling them to remove their police so his crews could get closer to the rioters protesters. NOT!

Friday, May 29, 2020

The Great Virtual Race across Tennessee

The race season for runners is pretty much shot.

An enterprising chap in Tennessee offers an alternative. A virtual race across the great state of Tennessee!

The race started May 10, 2010 and ends August 31. The entry fee is $60. To complete it if you start today you have to average about 10.7k a day. That is a bit over six miles a day.

Nobody says you have to run it. You can walk.

There is also a "doggie run".

It is an interesting concept. It does add some motivation.


Outrage is the tool-of-choice for manipulating large groups of people.

Rage, like all powerful emotions, produces a rush of endorphins. People become addicted to those rushes.

We all know people who are addicted to the euphoria of falling in love. Staying in love? Well, maybe not so much. The longer you stay in love the longer it is before you can get your next rush of euphoria.

We know people addicted to the adrenaline rush of bungee jumping, roller-coasters and the like.

And it is possible to become addicted to rage. Rage confers a sense of being 10 feet tall and bulletproof. Mice become Viking berserkers. Great feeling, that.

Outrage is rage we feel on behalf of somebody else.

Could it be more perfect? We get the "rush" of rage and we can feel noble doing it. Oh, to wallow in self-righteous bliss while experiencing god-like powers! How seductive.

Outrage also plays into in-group/out-group dynamics. Outrage plugs into and exploits "identity".

As a guy with a few miles on his odometer, it is prudent to remember that when somebody starts pounding the Outrage key on your piano, there is a very good chance that somebody, somewhere is attempting to manipulate you.

Pop culture
The second Harry Potter book, The Chamber of Secrets revolves around Tom Riddle's notebook. At one point, one of the characters (probably Dumbledore) makes the observation that one should never trust something when you do not know where its brain resides.

The notebook's brain is Voltemort. Tom Riddle was his name prior to becoming the dark lord.

I am not totally adverse to manipulation. I let my wife manipulate my diet, pulling away potato chips and ice cream and replacing them with healthier choices. I do not resent my parents taking me to the doctor and getting vaccinated.

I knew/know where those brains/hearts were/are. They had my best interests at heart.

Somebody who is attempting to incite me to outrage? I don't know where the brain pulling those strings lives, I have zero confidence that the brain pulling the strings has my best interests as its top priority.


There are people in my life who are filled with rage.

Not only that, but they are filled with rage because I am not equally filled with rage.

We failed
We told them "Life is not fair".

"Why are you so angry?" I asked.

"Because somebody should not die because they were writing rubber-checks or passing bogus $20 bills."

"Life is not fair." I replied

Glowering waves of rage.

We failed
We told them "Avoid even the appearance of impropriety." Great line. I stole it from the Bible.

"Innocent Black people, especially young men, are detained by the cops all of the time."

"Where? What time of night? Who are they with?" I ask. "I agree that some young Black men are detained for driving-while-black but that is not the norm."


Rage has a place and purpose. It is the over-the-redline, turbo-boost + Nitrous reserved for times of great peril.

Rage should not be the default setting.

Rage is to cut your way out of an encircling pack of wolves. Se feel no pain when we are captured in a rage. Rage is hard on the equipment.

Rage, and it cousin on the other end of the spectrum "catatonia", destroy our agency.

As a Christian, I believe that death is not the worst thing that can happen to a man. Death is inevitable.

The worst thing that can happen to a man is to die while in a state of separation from God.

To live in a state of perpetual rage id give up the last shred of agency and that is to separate from God.

Rage has a place
When the KKK is walking up your driveway. Yup, that is the right time for a man to be filled with rage, to steel himself while he stands between chaos and his family. Whack-em and stack-em. And maintain sight-picture and trigger control with your last millisecond of consciousness.

There is no need to coddle the equipment. You are likely to not have a tomorrow, at least not on this mortal plane.

But to use "rage" as a membership in an exclussive club, to have it be a requirement for some kind of solidarity...Sorry, not for me.

Quest: ...your barn can only hold five...

Rick had a once-a-week meeting with Benicio. Benicio was the drug-kingpin/warlord who ruled Delta Township and the west side of Lansing with an iron fist. There were always more things to talk about than time.

Rick mentioned the need to start collecting taxes, just in passing.

Benicio admitted that he collected 25% sales tax. “Most of the stores double the price from what they pay to what they sell it for. They keep half the profit and half of it is mine.”

“Isn’t that a little bit steep?” Rick asked.

“I have a big organization. I have expenses. And it is the only tax. There is no income tax, for instance.” Benicio said.

“Aren’t they tempted to cheat?” Rick asked, marveling at a 25% tax. In Capiche, the talk had been for a 10% sales tax and people were up-in-arms.

“Of course they are. And some probably cheat a little bit. Maybe for things they sell their closest family” Benicio admitted.

“What happens when somebody gets greedy and does more than shave the corners?” Rick asked.

“I make an example of them” Benicio said.

"It is much easier to keep track of a few stores than to monitor every family" Benicio advised.

Talk turned to the problem of purchasing the steam engine. Benicio INSISTED that they take one of his lieutenants the next time the bargaining committee made a trip up to South Riley. Benicio seemed to think this lieutenant could help bargain down the price.


It was a tight fit in the truck with Milo driving and Fred in the passenger seat. Rick and Janelle sat in back.

Rick and Janelle were conversing about what they could afford to pay for the engine. Janelle believed that the engine could easily produce power for another forty years as long as it was fed clean water, the right kind of lubricant and a machinist could keep it in bushings and rawhide seals.

“They designed them to run for fifty years” Janelle assured him. “I doubt it ran for more than ten years before it was replaced with an electric motor.”

“The other thing you need to realize is that they didn’t know crap about water back-in-the-day. They would dip it out of a creek or used well water. Heck, we can run our water through a water softener and then reverse-osmosis. It is gonna be sweet!” Janelle enthused.

Fred was a silent as a sphinx. He had mumbled a greeting when they picked him up at Benicio’s headquarters. He had a very heavy Central-American accent.

It was impossible to determine his age. He could have been fifty or ninety. His face clearly had decades of damage from sun exposure. His face looked like an Aztec statue that had been carved from a mountain with blasting charges.

Fred had a curious way of looking at things. His eyes did not dart about. He slowly swept and then when he determined the most interesting aspect in the passing landscape, he serenely looked at the feature until the moving truck removed it from sight.Then another slow scan.

Rick and Janelle had no idea how this silent man was going to help them negotiate a better price but Benicio was a good ally, in fact, their only ally. If Benicio thought Fred should accompany them, then Fred went with them.


The owner of the steam engine went into used-car-salesman mode as soon as Milo pulled in the drive.

Unfortunately, it was impossible to hide the fact that the party from Capiche was very interested in the engine. A sixty mile round trip was not a trivial undertaking and the group from Capiche had shown up for a second round of negotiating.

The seller knew they were hooked.

It was a piss-poor position for Rick and company to bargain from, but it could not be helped.

They looked at the engine one more time. It was in the barn, out of the weather.

Mile confirmed that he had a trailer that could support the 10,000 pound engine. The boiler would require a second trip. Fortunately, the trailer was a “lo-boy” and loading it would be a trivial exercise for an experienced rigger.

Janelle brought a light that she could shine into the cylinder. The bore was dark but free from rust. She pronounced it good. The seals had dry-rot but those would have to be replaced on a regular basis anyway.

Fred had not say a word.

Rick cleared his throat and started the negotiations. “We can’t afford your price. How much lower can you go?”

The price of a horse had remained unchanged since pre-Ebola times. Before Ebola, you could buy a horse for 250 ounces of silver. For all practical purposes, that price had not changed

The seller's reasoning was that a fifteen horsepower motor can work around the clock and replace 45 horses. He also made the point that you did not have to feed the steam engine when it was not working. That was only partially true. The heating-cooling cycle was hard on the equipment. It was more efficient to keep it at-heat for a few hours than to let it cool and then re-heat it.

The seller demanded the price of 40 horses, or 10,000 ounces of silver. Mark Salazar had a thousand ounces that he was willing to kick in. John Wilder had a couple thousand more ounces he was willing to invest in war-bonds. The purpose of the taxes was to pay-back the men for fronting the cost.

John Wilder, for his part, had more than 2000 ounces of silver but he had other enterprises he needed to fund. He could only spare 2000 ounces.

Everybody else had hoards of silver that measured in 20-to-200 ounces. There was no way to squeeze that much silver out of Capiche.

Maybe Capiche could cough up four-thousand ounces of silver. Maybe.

“The price is ten-thousand ounces of silver, the price of forty horses.” the man held firm.

Fred spoke for the first time in two hours. “Why do you need so many horses? Your barn is only big enough to hold five.” His accent made him difficult to understand.

The man ignored him. Fred was clearly not one of the main bargainers.

The group was now outside. The seller’s back was to his house. The negotiating party asked about buying-on-time.

The seller insisted “cash on the barrel”.

Fred observed “Where I come from, there are malo hombres on every corner who will kill for the price of one horse.”

That earned a scathing reply from the seller. “Well, I have guns and I know how to use them. I would turn them into Swiss cheese if they broke into my house.

Rick and Milo asked if the seller would take timber or (gasp) a gassifier or some other kind of merchandise in trade.

Verbal wrangling went on for another five minutes.

The seller insisted on silver and maybe a couple of horses.

Fred’s calm gaze was not on the seller. He was looking at the house. “Silver does not burn.”

It took the seller a couple of minutes to translate and process the comment.

“What the hell does that mean, ‘Silver does not burn’?” the seller asked, testily.

“If your house burned down, somebody could shift through your ashes after they cooled and collect the silver.” Fred observed.

The seller settled for five horses, a set of tack and two-hundred ounces of silver. The horses were good, five-year-old-geldings and the tack was servicable but not fancy.

Fred said nothing on the drive back to Benicio’s headquarters.


Thursday, May 28, 2020

Who were the other two co-conspirators?

More information is trickling out.

There were four police on the scene when George "Big Floyd" Floyd was arrested.

Two of them were dealing with two additional people-of-interest. An early account claims that the original call involved people passing counterfeit, $20 bills.

In many states, when somebody dies during the commission of a felony or in the events leading up-to or immediately-after the felony, then all co-conspirators can face charges of First-Degree Murder.

Suppose you and two of your buddies rob a bank and then mow-down a granny during your get-away. Bam! Expect the charges to include three counts of First Degree Murder.

Or, if during the commission of the bank robbery, one of your co-conspirators is shot and killed by the bank guard. Same deal, the two surviving parties involved in the commission of the felony can expect to be charged with First-Degree Murder even if one of the survivors was patiently waiting in the car as the get-away least in many states.

So, here is the money question: Are either of the two co-conspirators associated with people of influence? Are either of the two co-conspirators related to the mayor or any city counsel members or congresspeople? Are they related to anybody in the media, local celebrities or race-hustlers? Does their involvement and possible exposure to First-Degree Murder trial cause anybody angst?

Inquiring minds want to know.

When the magician wiggles his left hand, don't take your eyes off his right.

George Floyd

Section spun 90 degrees from Minnesota event
If George Floyd's trachea was being crushed so he could not breath, then how were we able to hear him speak on the videos?

If an autopsy indicates George Floyd died of a massive heart attack, then the four officers were wrongfully terminated and will be back at work in eighteen months, with back-pay. Then, a month later they will retire under some kind of mutually agreeable "disability" package.

Right now, those cops are probably in Northern Minnesota fishing for walleyes and letting their hair grow out. Their lawyer told them to get out of Dodge. They are staying in a cabin owned by one of their fraternal, law-enforcement brothers.

If an autopsy is not performed, then the four officers will be back at work in eighteen months.

NOTE added later: Prosecutor warns there is evidence that does not support criminal charges for cops. It is purely speculative on my part, but toxicology screens come back quickly and some drugs are associated with heart attacks.

Windshield caved in. Flash-bangs started flying after this damage was done.
You only need to watch the first twenty seconds to get a feel for the mood.

The flash-bang, tear-gas came after rioters smashed police cars and threw rocks, breaking car windows.

Mothers who took their children to a riot and put them at risk of getting beaned with a rock big enough to cave in windows should have their children removed by Child Protective Services.

Stay away from crowds. They are being played.

Quest: Only two things in life are guaranteed

Dmitri was all smiles when Janelle came back. Janelle had taken the precaution of bringing another picnic basket.

“I think I have good news” Dmitri started out.

“Your source in Farwell thinks there is a steam engine in South Riley. He said South Riley is near here but I never heard of it” Dmitri said.

“Did he give you any details about the engine?” Janelle asked. She had no intention of traveling around war-torn Michigan in mid-winter in search of an engine that was probably junk.

“Vern said it was used for pumping water and making ice ‘back-in-the-day’. He said the engine was reported to be in good condition but the boiler was trashed” Dmitri said. “He also said the owner bought a pipe to re-tube the boiler before he had a stroke.”

Janelle racked her brains. She only had the vaguest idea of where South Riley was. Unfortunately, she thought it was down near Detroit. That is, in enemy held territory.

Later that day, she bought her dad lunch at Gabby’s Pub. “Dad, what do you know about South Riley, Michigan?”

“What do you want to know about it?” Rick asked as he stuffed a french fry in his mouth. Meat may have been in short supply but potatoes, fry grease and cheese were not.

“Well, for one thing, where is it?” Gabby asked.

“It is a tavern on Francis Road, a little bit northwest of Dewitt” Rick informed her.

“That's it? A tavern?” Janelle asked.

“It probably used to be a town” Rick said. “It probably had a church and a store and a bunch of houses. But now all that is left is the tavern.”

“It is like Kinneyville and Petrieville. You know about Kinneville and Petrieville Highways but you probably never put two-and-two together. Those roads used to go through a town named after somebody named Kinney and the other used to go through a town named after a family named Petrie. Incidentally, both of those towns used to be on the river” Rick said.

“So it is close by” Janelle exclaimed.

“Well, sort of. It is probably a good thirty miles away” Rick said.

“Why do you ask?” Rick finally got around to asking. It was unusual for Janelle to take an interest in obscure, Michigan towns.

That is when Janelle brought him up-to-speed. She had a line on a 15 horsepower, stationary, industrial steam engine that had been state-of-the-art in 1915. And it was in South Riley, Michigan a scant thirty miles away.


The original owner had passed away.

The current owner knew that he had a gold mine. There was some debate about how the current owner had come into possession of the engine, but the fact remained that possession is nine-tenths of the law.

The two parties went around-and-around-and-around.

The current owner wanted the price of forty horses. He contended that the advantage of a steam engine was that you did not have to feed it when it was not working. The argument had some merit.

Milo had driven Janelle and Rick up to South Riley.

Yes, the engine existed. Yes, the factory plate rated it at 17 horsepower at the belt. Yes, the engine turned over. Yes it had a boiler. No, the boiler was not functional.

The seller had taken the time to get smart about steam engines. He knew the jargon. “It is efficient. It makes 17 horsepower with 15% cut-off and the boiler is set-up to super-heat the steam.”

Milo, who was better-than-average welder observed “The tubes are rotted out. The only things in the boiler that are worth salvaging are the shell and the bulkheads.”

It was a hard thing to do, but Janelle, Rick and Milo walked away from the deal. For one thing, they did not have deep pockets. Frankly, nobody did.


Rick gloomily retold the story of the trip to the north to the Capiche leadership. So close, yet so far away.

John Wilder was tapping his finger on the table while Rick spoke.

Even John did not have the funds to buy the non-running engine at that price...and then pay to repair it and put it into service.

“I am going to hate myself afterwards, but I think it is time to talk about taxes” Wilder said after Rick finished his recounting.

“What do taxes have to do with steam engines?” Chernovsky asked. He had pretty much heard the same story from his wife, Janelle.

“Taxes have everything to do with buying steam engines and fighting wars. Taxes, money, are the sinews of least according to Cicero, a guy who was a big deal back in the time of Rome” John Wilder said.

“The war machine is a ship that floats on a sea of money” John said. “Way more than what any one man can pay. We need to issue war-bonds and we need to levy taxes to pay the interest on the notes.”

The assembly would not have been any more repulsed than if John had pulled a snake out of his bag and thrown it on the table. Is there anything more universally hated than taxes?

Eventually, Chernovsky asked Wilder “Why would you, of all people, want to raise taxes. Won’t you end up paying more than anybody?”

Wilder shrugged. “If we lose this war I end up with nothing. They will take my land. Likely, I will be executed. If we win this war, I will pay taxes but the war-bonds I bought will pay interest for thirty years.”

“Really not much of a choice. Poverty-or-death on one hand versus paying taxes and collecting a return on one of my investments on the other” Wilder said.

“The only real question is “How do we come up with an even-handed, efficient method of collecting those taxes?”


Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Post-graft care

The white patch in the middle of the image is the masking tape I wrapped over the rubber band. Scion above the white. Rootstock below the white. The rootstock is Geneva 210 which is about 40% Siberian Crabapple. Siberia has a short growing season. Plants from Siberia tend to get-up-and-go early in the spring. You can see that the buds on the scion are way behind those on the rootstock

This is the time to follow-up on your grafts and strip the sprouts off the rootstock.

You may have done it when you grafted, but that rootstock wants to live.

It is likely that you stored your scion in a refrigerator or other cool place and then waited for the weather to warm up before grafting. That gives the rootstock a headstart.

When a bud breaks dormancy it puts out growth regulators that suppress surrounding buds from breaking. The biologists call it "apical dominance". From the organism's perspective, the extra buds are insurance. It is a waste of resources to have more buds start growing than there is sunlight to capture.

Since buds on the rootstock are nearly always exposed to more heat units than the scion, they push buds first and that suppresses the scion.

The key is to strip the growing buds off the rootstock until the scion takes off and grows. For some shy scionwood, you might have to come back two or three times before the buds start growing.

Too kind-hearted to do that? It is a matter of priorities. A concert pianist shouldn't break bricks with karate chops. You have to harden your heart and convince the rootstock that supporting that scion is the only way it will survive.

Rootstock that produce optimal branch angles
I was not a believer. I did not see how it was possible for the rootstock to change the angle of the branches springing from the scion.

I now see how that could be possible.

When you look at last year's growth on an apple tree, you will notice that the branches (shoots, really) near the top of the tree tend to be far more vertical than the branches lower on the stem.

Some apple varieties (Northern Spy, Granny Smith and Fuji for instance) are notorious for producing "blind wood". Blind wood are lengths of stem bereft of any side shoots. Blind wood typically occurs on the older part of last years growth. The few side shoots that grew tend to be closer to the apex. For whatever reason, many of the buds did not break dormancy and start growing.

If the rootstock produced some kind of growth regulator that stimulated "feathering" on the portions of stem that would otherwise be "blind", then those feathers would likely be at near right angles from the stem. So it would be more precise to say desirable rootstocks enhance the bud-break along the entire length of the previous year's growth than to say they produce "optimum branch angles".

The optimum branch angles are a by-product of the feathering. The apple grower has far more branches to choose from when pruning. He is not forced to take the vertical ones near the top because those are the only ones available. He has a wealth of branches along the length of the stem including an abundance of shoots at "good" angles.

An alternative hypothesis is that the desirable rootstock "eats" or destroys the growth regulator produced by the growing points. The lower level of the dormancy extending growth regulator would encourage buds to break dormancy and grow.

Good weather to not live in the city

I had to go out on the duckling's front porch several times to cut pieces of wood. For example, we used lengths of 2-by-4 to prevent the upper sash from sliding upward and thus spitting out the AC unit.

While out there, a minor verbal altercation erupted between two families on opposite sides of the house.

To set up the visual picture, most of these houses have 4', chain-link fences around the yards and pitbulls with names like Caesar and Pablo Villa running the yard. Caesar took a dislike to me and kept lunging up, trying to get  a piece of me. There was only so much room between the house and the fence where I could walk.

I recall thinking that 2-by-4s have many uses and we were out of sight of the porch...but I digress.

Most of the houses had families out on the porch. I think A/C is a novelty in that part of town.

"You know dis ciddy gotta noise ordiance" da one hombre shouted across da street.

Da hombre on the udder side turn down da stereo. "Whachu say?"

"Tanks, manno. Dat betta. I like you music but you godda turn it down."

"Tanks, man" and den the udder guy turn his music back up.

Everybody happy. Everybody respected.

Quest: Mail

“Mom, what is the fastest way to get a letter to Buckley, Michigan?” Janelle asked Kate, her foster-mother. Janelle rarely called Kate “mom”. It was a sign that the issue Janelle was broaching was important.

Kate looked over her “cheaters”. As she had aged she had found a little bit of magnification to be a big help when dealing with small print. Especially on dark, winter days.

“Remind me, where is Buckley and why is the name familiar?” Kate said.

“Buckley is the other side of Cadillac” Janelle informed her. Before Ebola it would have been a quick, three-hour ride in a truck. That same trip after Ebola would take about fifteen days, weather permitting.

“I went up to Buckley for the steam show five-years-running” Janelle reminded Kate.

Kate put down the items she was working on and faced Janelle. “Hmmm. I think you need to get with Dmitri. He has a shortwave radio and he might not get somebody in Buckley but he can dictate it to somebody a whole lot closer than here.”

Janelle held up several other letters. “The same probably goes for these, too.”

Kate looked at the addresses. “The one to Dansville and the one to Leslie are ones I can get delivered. The others...well, Dmitri is your best bet.”

“What is the best way to approach Dmitri?” Janelle asked.


Later that day, Janelle found herself walking up Dmitri’s drive. She had a picnic basket with her.

Dmitri invited Janelle into the living room and asked “To what do I owe the honor, Mrs Chernovsky?”

“I have a favor to ask” Janelle said as she started pulling jars out of the basket. They were pint jars of her father’s fruit preserves: Blackberry, Plum and Black Current. There were also dried fruits pickled in Black Current flavored liquor, a delicacy that had never appealed to Janelle.

Dmitri’s eyes widened. “It must be some kind of favor if you are bringing me some of Rick Salazar’s personal stash of fruit preserves." Dmitri, it would appear, had a sweet-tooth.

“I have the names of some people who might have a line on where we can find a steam engine” Janelle said. “There isn’t enough time to send them letters or send somebody to talk to them personally. My mom said you might be able to help.”

“So, what are the names of these people and where do they live?” Dmitri asked.

Looking at the locations, Dmitri filled the air with “Tsk, tsk, tsk”

“Northern Michigan, mostly. Hard but not impossible.” Dmitri said.

“How are you going to get the engine if it is in Farwell or Buckley?” Dmitri asked.

“What I am hoping for is an engine that is closer” Janelle admitted.

“The steam-engine community is pretty tight-knit. Everybody knows everybody and they gossip like old ladies. If somebody saw a steam engine at a barn sale then everybody hears about it...even if the engine was not for sale” Janelle said.

“Kind of like a Facebook group, no?” Dmitri suggested.

“Well, I gotta admit, a lot of them did end up starting FB groups. It was a great way to stay in touch” Janelle said.

“Let me see what I can do. Come back in three days. This might take a while” Dmitri said.


No matter how badly you want to get home, you can only travel so far in twenty-four hours unless you are willing to kill your horse.

Since Steve, Sally and Walt were six-hundred miles from home, they had no intention of killing their horses.

The upside of retracing their steps was that they had left each host city on good terms and if it took them until after-dark to make their twenty-five miles it was not an issue. The previous town had informed the evening’s destination to expect visitors. A family had a warm place for the travelers to sleep and barn space and feed for the horses.

They did not need to make camp on the frozen ground. They did not need to founder in the snow or attempt to shovel snow off the grass to help the horses forage for feed.

The snow meant that the horses had to pull harder. The wagon went slower. The travel days were longer. The upside was that the feed was much higher quality than the winter-killed grass they had been eating on the way west.

Sally had come up with a system of folders. Every town on the way wanted to hand them letters to go east. Sally had a folder for every major town on road east. She asked the people mailing the letters to name the closest town and that is the folder it went into.

Sally made no promises to hand deliver the letters. She said they would be dropped off at the town’s most prominent merchant and it was up to him and the addressee to sort out all of the other details.


Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Today's adventure

Today's adventure took me outside of my comfort zone.

I do not consider myself to be a competent carpenter. However, that is where today took me.

I received a call last night from somebody who falls beneath the ERJ protective umbrella. They had dropped $600 on two air conditioners and could not figure out how to install them.

One of them was a 5000 BTU unit on the second story. The other was a 12,000 BTU unit on the ground floor.

The house is on Lansing's near-south side and has 1920 vintage housing.

My little duckling described some brackets that might, maybe work because (supposedly) an AC unit had been in one of the windows and the brackets described (supposedly) supported it.

I punted on the second story unit. I went to Lowes and bought a commercial, metal support bracket. If I am going to install things overhead where they might fall and hit somebody on the head, then I want an engineered product backed by a company with liability insurance.

The ground floor unit got the fabricated, wooden brackets.

Cautions about the wiring (and fuses) not being able to support the added load bounced off.

While installing the unit on the second story I figured out why the duckling's efforts crashed and burned. The window casing was aluminum. The self-drilling/tapping screws that came with the "economy" bracket they purchased were not up to drilling through 0.060" of aluminum, at least not when hand-turned with a Philips screwdriver.

I left the wooden brackets and I pre-cut some treated 2X4s to scab beneath the window and tie into the studs. The ducklings wanted to give it a shot.

The case for deflation followed by hyper-inflation

We see the deflation. Demand sagged. The price of fuel followed. At one point the price of oil was below zero.

Customers are not going to the mall, not trying on clothes they really did not need, not buying them.

Customers don't need power lunches or neck-ties or $500 wing-tip shoes. Kids don't need soccer togs or new swim-suits.

The entire pipeline between Big-box, America and China was full. It drained into a market with no customers.

Retailers are screwed. They need cash to make payments. They have inventory. "Make me an offer"

Companies going bankrupt will put assets up at fire-sale prices. Want to buy a car or a Boeing 747? The next six months will be the time.

Hyper-inflation is a harder call.

What happens when you give everybody $1200 a month and a substantial portion of the population is not producing anything? More dollars, fewer goods and services to purchase.

The other factor is the nose-dive in productivity associated with the new protocols.

Big-box, America is no longer open 24/7. And mom decided to stay home to home-school Buffy and Jody.

Politicians can "not print money" as easily as you can "not slap a mosquito that is biting you".

Mrs ERJ and I
Mrs ERJ and I are having on-going discussions about the "best" way to spend stimulous money.

Mrs ERJ has a very tender heart. She knows many families who are barely getting by in the best of times. Her thinking is "We are doing OK. We could give it to KD or KC or MSDS or....."

My thinking is a little bit different. This money was conjured up out of thin air. It is a loan we took out that our grandchildren will have to pay for.

Debt falls into two categories, in my mind.

There is good debt. That is the debt you take on to start a business, buy a house or buy a reliable vehicle so you don't get fired. Those are debts that will presumably increase your wealth and create assets that will last longer than the loan payments.

Then there is the other kind of debt. That is the trip to Aruba you put on the credit card or the game system that your kid "had to have" but will be obsolete in six months.

My thinking is that there are hard-working roofers and furnace men and plumbers and the like who would be happy to take that stimulus money and make our castle cheaper to run and more comfortable for us.

Quest: Picking up the pieces

Quinn visited each of the remaining Lieutenants. He did not call them to HQ. He wanted them on the job.

He informed the Lieutenants who had been least crippled by desertions that they would have to give up one squad, each. “And don’t try to scrape your weakest squad off on me. I am not asking for the best, just one in the middle. But, if you try to jerk me around I will come back and TAKE your best.”

Quinn also demanded, and got, two seasoned squads of fighters from Capiche.

The squad led by Donnie Galligan was installed on Denis Road and Donnie was promoted to Lieutenant.

The squad led by Mike “Pepperoni” Prestigacomo was installed on Howell Road.

Quinn took Pepperoni aside and had a chat with him. “By rights, I should promote you to Lieutenant but I can’t, yet.”

Quinn could see by the mulish set of Pepperoni’s jaw that Pepperoni really though he should be the Lieutenant now, not some chubby kid who looked like he needed to shave once-a-week.

“Looks like a kid, doesn’t he?” Quinn asked. Dysen’s near perfect grammar was starting to rub off on Quinn.

Pepperoni nodded.

“You know, he killed at least ten rebels” Quinn said.

Pep was silent. By his count he had killed at least eighty invaders the spring after Ebola crashed into Lansing. Pep was not impressed.

“He shot them at 400 yards. I paced it off myself” Quinn said.

Quinn could see the wheels turning. Pep had documented kills at that range.

“Two of them were head shots. They were using an ammo shed for cover and that kid didn’t want to risk blowing it up. Figured he would need that ammo later” Quinn said.

That got Pep’s attention. While Pep had killed at 400 yards and, theoretically could hit a head at 400, he had not actually done so.

“At night. With them shooting back” Quinn concluded.

In fact, Mark Wohlfert had used the bloom of the muzzle blasts as his aiming point. If somebody is shooting at you, then the head is immediately behind the bloom. It is a simple optics problem as long as you don’t flinch as the incoming bullet whines past your ear.

And with that, Pep recognized that Wohlfert was a warrior and not a fuzz-faced kid.

“OK. He is the Lieutenant” Pep conceded. “But I am going to call him aside when he screws up.”

Quinn nodded. “Do it privately. He is still learning the ropes.”

"One reason I am putting you with Lieutenant Wohlfert is there are a lot of things he is clueless about. I am counting on you to help him figure out which squad should be placed in which position. That takes a lot of maturity. I am asking you to manage your manager" Quinn said. "I have a lot of confidence in you."

“Oh, and one more thing...if you hear anybody call him ‘Donut’, that gets a ten-mile motivation run for the whole squad. That includes you” Quinn said.

While Pep could run ten miles, it was not his favorite thing. Quinn was willing to bet that nobody in Pep’s squad was EVER going to call Lieutenant Wohlfert ‘Donut’.

Quinn called Tomanica up. “I need an expert. Are you available to come on-site and review our plans?”

“Chernovsky said the plans are in the shitter” Tomanica said.

“Yeah. But it is where we are starting from” Quinn admitted. “My hope is you have some sneaky ideas that we can use.”

"How soon can you break free?" Quinn asked.

Tomanica agreed to spend the ten days in the buffer zone. He couldn’t promise anything but he was delighted to have a challenge other than teaching soldiers how to dig holes and set fuses.


Chernovsky and Janelle were having some pillow talk.

“It looks bad, real bad, for Quinn” Chernovsky told his wife.

“I thought you said there was good news regarding getting more ANFO.” Janelle said.

“Well, that is what I thought. But then there were a lot of details that made it no-big-deal” Chernovsky admitted with a regretful sigh.

“Like what?” Janelle asked.

“Well, like they can barely run five or six hours a day because they are limited to solar power” Chernovsky said.

“I thought you said they were going to get steam power” Janelle said.

“I thought so too, but there isn’t a steam engine in Eaton County” Chernovsky said.

“Bullshit!” Janelle said.

Chernovsky went up on one elbow. “Do you KNOW where there is a steam engine?”

“Tell me how big a steam engine you need and I bet I can find one in a month” Janelle bragged.

“Twenty horsepower would be perfect, but ten-to-thirty would work” Chernovsky said.

Chernovsky was thinking that they might not have a month.

Janelle got out of bed and put on a robe. It was cold in their small house.

She started writing letters. She had little assurance that the people she was addressing them to were still alive but she included (or next-of-kin).

She went through a “phase” when she was a regular fixture at the Steam Engine shows in Buckley and Mason and even a few of the shows in northern Ohio and Indiana. The old farts called her “that snot-nosed kid” even though she was almost twenty. The term, the way they used it, was a term of affection.

The old men were watching their hobby, their love, die for want of new blood. Not only was Janelle young, but she was handy. Need a bronze bushing machined to some odd-ball dimension? Janelle not only could do it but she didn’t charge an arm-and-a-leg and she usually had it in the mail within a week.

The old men were more than happy to overlook that Janelle was as pretty as a mud-fence. Janelle had developed a fondness for the huge, hot, smoky, ground-shaking machines although it never became a “love”.

And then Janelle moved to the west coast and other things grabbed her attention.

Janelle was counting on old men having long memories.


Monday, May 25, 2020

Bella got her flowers planted today

Bella went for the "mound" look on this island. Taller flowers in the center and shorter one around the edges. The creamy-yellow snapdragons in the center are a good foil for the scarlet petunias in the next ring.

Bella opted for the "wedge" look on this island. It is farther away from the center of things. She planted taller flowers on the left and them ramped them down to shorter ones on the right.

Bella used a flower I never heard of before: Gazanias. She had some tried-and-true heavy-lifters. She had petunias, marigolds and nicotiana. She also had Gazanias.

It is good to try new things.

I saw something odd while grafting
Apologies for the crappy photo.

This is the stem of a Black Walnut. Is this sapsucker damage? I wonder if it impacts the grain of the wood.

I am down to grafting the last of my Heartnut scion (Thanks Lucky!!!) and my last Shellbark Hickory scion.

Pulling off the bags
It is about time to start pulling the bags off of trees grafted two or three weeks ago. This is an apple I grafted to a seedling I want to take a closer look at. The apple resembles a large, later version of Gala.

Gala is an apple with outstanding flavor but it loses that appeal in storage. It is still a competent apple after two months of storage but it no longer carries the aromatics that give it identity.

I think there is a market for a Gala-type apple that retains those flavors later into the season.

I don't know if this seedling is "the one", but I made a couple of copies of it to reduce the risk losing this genetic combination in the event of the original ortet dying.

Now I need to start making cages of poultry netting or welded wire, otherwise the deer will strip the tender new growth of the trees I grafted.

About those "Disaster Recovery Plans"

I used to work for a metal stamping plant. It was a medium-sized plant as stamping plants go.

They had an office that contained their Disaster Recovery Plans. The plan was held in 23, 4", 3-ring binders.

Earthquake? That was in Binder #15. OK, I made that up because I cannot remember the binder number.

Extended utility outage? Binder #3.

Active shooter? Binder #2

Fire? Binder #1

All enterprises over a certain size were strongly advised to have Disaster Recovery Plans and to have them in great detail.

Preserving evidence
It begs the question: What is/was the State of Michigan's Disaster Recovery Plan in the event of a Pandemic/epidemic?

If one does not exist (almost impossible), which Disaster Recovery Plan that predated Jan1, 2020 was most applicable and should have been applied?

Has anybody requested it under the Freedom of Information Act?

Going Cowboy
It can be exhilarating to manage during chaos. The rush is enormous as chaos breaks the binds that hold things in place and you can do impossible things in the fluid times during a disaster.

The downside of "Going Cowboy" is that humans fail at integrating the needs of multiple stakeholders and rarely consider secondary effects when we make plans while the bullets are flying overhead. Those parts of a well-developed plan require time to consider and deferring to experts in other areas.

If Governor Whitmer followed the official, State of Michigan Disaster Recovery Plan as written for Pandemic/Epidemic, then I have been too hard on her.

If Governor Whitmer REWROTE the plan for this pandemic because she thought the official one was "wrong", then she is personally culpable for the thousands of elderly people who died in nursing homes. She is personally culpable for the million bankruptcies that will soon clog the courts. She is personally culpable for the suicides.

Evil-doing; the doing of that which ought not to be done; wrongful conduct, especially official misconduct; violation of a public trust or obligation; specifically, the doing of an act which is positively unlawful or wrongful,

Whitmer (and Cuomo and Murphy) are guilty of Malfeasance if there was a plan and they deviated from it in a manner that resulted in additional deaths and economic destruction.

They are the head of the Executive branch. Executive is based on the word "Execute". They had a plan. All they needed to do was execute it. They pulled a Pelosi and tore-up the plan because it did not suit their political agenda and it did not inflate their egos.

I hope somebody is preserving the evidence.

Quest: Waste not, want not

Ozzie Virgil, his wife Charise, Dr. Samantha Wilder and her husband, Chernovsky and Rick Salazar were having a meeting. It was a huge meeting by the standards of Capiche.

Ozzie and Charise were hearing the story of the last few days and were learning why their projects were suddenly about to get a lot of “help”.

Dr Sam was doing most of the talking since she oversaw their projects but she frequently bunted the conversation over to Chernovsky or Rick when they had better information or could tell some part of the story better.

“So you see our problem” Chernovsky concluded. “The deserters broke into one of the armories and stole some of our weapons and ammo. They also know our defensive plans. The enemy will soon know our capabilities and plans and can work around them. In fact, if they have NATO mortars they can shell us from just outside our range and we can’t do jack-shit about it.”

Ozzie was a good listener. “So it is all about the range. And for that you need more propellant and for that you need more nitrates.”

Dr Sam nodded her agreement. “And you need ammonia to make nitrates” she added for Rick Salazar’s benefit.

“The reason we are here” Dr Sam said “is to get a handle on how much nitric acid you think you can make. How soon can you ramp up to that production level and what do you need to get to that level of production?”

Ozzie had expected the questions but not so soon, nor under such dire circumstances. He had some rough notes on 3-by-5 cards in his shirt pocket. He pulled them out and looked at them thoughtfully.

“Thanks to Dr. Sam we are using a 300 gallon oil tank to hold the catalyst column because she told us to leave room to expand” Ozzie said.

“There is room in the tank to hold five more columns assuming they average 2X larger” Ozzie said. “I don’t see any point in making each column 15% bigger when there is no harm in going larger than optimal.”

“That equipment set should be able to produce….about two kilograms of ammonia an hour” Ozzie said.

“How much ANFO would that be?” Chernovsky asked. “And I think better in pounds. What is it in pounds?”

Charise piped up. “That would be ten pounds of ammonium-nitrate per hour.”

Chernovsky whistled and leaned back in his chair. “Two-hundred-forty pounds a day, almost two-thousand pounds a week!”

“You are jumping ahead” Ozzie said. “We might be able to make that much if we have the inputs.”

“Even half of that would be huge” Chernovsky stated.

“We will be lucky if we can manage a quarter of that” Ozzie stated.

Rick Salazar asked “What is holding you back?”

Ozzie looked gratefully at Rick. “Inputs. The solar farm Mr Benicio hooked us up to only generates electricity six hours a day. We need the electricity to make the hydrogen and run the process. The thing is we have to burn wood around-the-clock because we cannot afford to let the catalyst cool off.”

“What about nitrogen? Making ammonia requires both nitrogen and hydrogen.” Dr Sam asked.

Charise dismissed Dr. Sam’s concern with a lazy wave of the hand. “Lots of those portable oxygen generators around. We hooked a bunch of them together where we ran the exhaust of one to the intake of the next. Get rid of the oxygen and what is left is almost pure nitrogen.”

Charise and Ozzie were assigned different projects but they collaborated with each other.

“The thing that sucks is that we cannot even run a full six hours” Ozzie said. “It takes a bit to generate enough hydrogen to pressurize the system at the start of the run.”

“Why can’t you make it the day before and store it?” Rick asked.

“It turns out storing hydrogen is a real pisser” Ozzie said. Ozzie was a gentleman and rarely used coarse language. “Pisser” was about as close to cursing that Ozzie would get.

“Everything leaks. Hydrogen is hard to pump up to pressure and then nearly all of it has leaked out by morning” Ozzie said. “It isn’t like some gasses that turn to liquid if you compress them enough. We would have to store it as super high-pressure gas.”

The mood was distinctly gloomier than it had been. Chernovsky’s dream of a ton of ANFO a week was down to a few hundred pounds. Still, nothing to sneeze at but not a slam-dunk.

Charise raised her hand. “Can I change the topic a little bit?”

Ozzie and Charise shared a couple of quirks. They were extremely, almost excessively polite. It was how they had been raised.

They also shared agile, inquisitive minds and had few inhibitions about playing outside their official “sand-box”.

Much of that was their intrinsic nature. Some of it was an artifact of the company where they had worked.

The company sold chemicals for plating processes. Those shiny, chrome parts on your last vehicle? The company Ozzie and Charise had worked for probably sold some of the chemicals to the people who made that grille or door handle or grab-bar.

The business was ancient by modern standards. It longevity was due, in part, to the partners who owned the business. They valued flexibility.

The business was small enough and leanly enough staffed that every employee had to wear several hats. Employees who stressed about playing-out-of-position did not last long. During his tenure, Ozzie had worked in the lab, worked in the warehouse, printed labels and even made deliveries out-of-state.

“Hmm? Yes. What is it?” Dr Sam asked. She was about ready to wrap up the meeting and was shuffling her papers to better fit them in her bag.

“My grandfather grew up in Cuba in the late 1940s” Charise said. “They grew sugar cane.”

The assembled group looked politely at Charise. Ozzie had his hands steepled in front of his face. He and Charise had talked this over before-hand and he was letting her run the ball.

“They burned bagasse to boil the juice down to molasses. Bagasse is what is left of the cane after it is crushed and the juice is removed.” Charise continued.

“That is all very interesting” Chernovsky said “but I don’t see what it has to do with us.” A tiny bit of inflection indicated that Chernovsky didn’t find it all that interesting but that he allowed that maybe somebody around the table might find it so.

“The point is” Charise said “that the sugar mill run a steam engine on the waste heat. Our process generates gobs and gobs of waste heat. We could run a lot more than five hours a day if we could find a steam engine and a generator to harvest that heat.”


Sunday, May 24, 2020

Proof-of-concept trial

The short. A bare wire touching a steel fence post that is jammed into the ground. The problem is very visible in this image. It is much harder to find when the wire and the posts are rusty or a scrap of old wire that looks like a twig got pushed into a hot-wire somewhere.

An eight second video showing what was happening at the diagnostic disconnect.

I was not very clear about how this disconnect is to be implemented.

Suppose you have a mile of perimeter fence in various stages of repair. Also suppose that the perimeter fence is composed of five different wires.

The genius who installed it has a neutral bottom wire made of barbed, a hot smooth wire, a neutral barbed third wire and a hot fourth and top wire. Suppose the bottom wires are close together to deter coyotes and dogs from scooting under or through the fence.

Suppose the paddock divisions are two miles of single, hot wire but it is mounted on flimsy posts or with posts and super-long intervals.

When your energizer informs you that you have a short, you have over a mile of perimeter fence to walk and two miles of paddock division wire to walk and you might not see it the first time. You have to inspect five miles of wire.

The way I envision these gizmos being used is to use the top wire as the "power bus". The top wire is typically the wire most resistant to picking up ground trash or tangling with another wire. That is, it is the wire LEAST likely to have the short.

The other wires will be fed from the power-bus wire.

Conceptually, you want to break the fence into separate runs of approximately the same degree of risk-for-of-shorting.

The wires with the highest risk of shorting...the first hot wire with a neutral barbed wire above and below it...would be broken into shorter runs and each run would have a single feed through one of these diagnostic gizmos. So if you had a mile of perimeter fence you might break up the bottom wire into four, discrete runs.

For runs that are a lower risk of shorting...the paddock divisions and the middle hot wire in the hypothetical five-wire might feed the entire run through their own unique diagnostic gizmo.

So, on that night when you have a short you can drop out the middle wire.  Was the short in the middle wire? NOPE! Great.

Is the short in the paddock divisions? Drop out that diagnostic gizmo. No sparks? Good!

Then, you would walk the perimeter of the fence and drop out the run of bottom wire one section at a time until you found the run that "sparked" or ticked. You found the run of fence with your problem.

Without some diagnostic method you have five miles of wire to inspect. With the diagnostic, the worst you will have is two miles if it is in the paddock divisions and that wire is usually very visible.

Let me tell you, your ability to find a short is 100 times better when you KNOW it is in a specific 1/4 mile run of fence than when you are racing around looking at five miles of fence where it might be.

The only way to do it by checking voltage is to drop out the run and check the main fence to see if the voltage got higher. You are trying to follow current, not measure voltage.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

My effort to make it easier to find shorts in my electric fence

This is the prototype of the electric fence disconnect and short-circuit diagnostic.

I intend to proof-of-concept today.

My original intent was to use a neon lamp as the indicator but Mrs ERJ convinced me to try an air gap. Not only does an air gap provide a visual spark, it also generates an audible "SNAP!".

That snap is one reason why some shorts are easy to find while others are difficult. A short that arcs across an air gap can be identified from 100 feet away while you can be looking at a hard, metal-to-metal short and not recognize it.

The snap will also make diagnosis easier on sunny days.

A slightly closer look at the air gap. The blue parts are Gardner Bender 16-14 AWG ring terminals similar to these. Wire was crimped-into-place and then snipped flush with the end of the terminal to create the electrode that (we hope) will generate a spark. Obviously the gap size can be adjusted.

According to this academic paper, the break-down voltage for a 5mm air gap in clean, dry air will be approximately 4000V. 5mm is approximately the thickness of two nickels and one dime.

Beyond proof-of-concept
  • The mounting needs to be figured out.
  • The installation needs to be "ruggedized"
  • The insulated portion of the blade needs to be extended
  • The fence needs to be modified so runs are not doubly and triply connected. The diagnostic only works when there is a single feed into the run

Predatory attorneys assessed court fees

This is something I rarely see:

U.S. District Judge Janet Neff dismissed Curtis Blackwell II's allegations that he was wrongly terminated because he declined to speak to detectives during an investigation into a possible sexual assault committed by football players in 2017. Neff agreed with another judge's recommendations that Blackwell's attorneys used the court's processes to "harangue the MSU Defendants into exhausted compliance in the form of settlement."

Neff removed Blackwell's attorneys, Thomas Warnicke and Andrew Paterson, from the case, and ordered they pay monetary sanctions to the defendants. The order does not specify the amount of sanctions against Blackwell's attorneys.   Source

Other news sources indicate that Blackwell's former attorneys will have to cough up somewhere between $200,000 and $300,000 in monetary sanctions.

Normalizing the economy

I want to expand on a concept that I implied in several earlier posts.

The premise is that life will "normalize" more quickly if smaller geographic regions are allowed to dash out ahead of Michigan in terms of economic (and freedom of association) freedoms. I used the word "percolate" which implies liquid seeking its way through a jumbled mass of material attempting to hold the liquid back.

Like nearly all vague and obscure concepts, it has applications in real life. It has been studied. There are formal disciplines to optimize it. One of those disciplines is sometimes called Theory of Constraints and one of the gurus is named Eliyahu M. Goldratt.

One of the prime killers of productivity is unnecessary coupling or linking together of events. Let me share a few examples:

Imagine two production lines that make welded steel structures that are used to make automobile bodies. One line makes parts for the left side of the body and the other line makes parts for the right side. The parts are almost mirror images of each other and the equipment set is nearly identical.

The electrodes that contact the parts when making spot welds are a consumable part are need to be replaced on a periodic basis. That interval can be anywhere between 3000 and 10000 welds for a robotic welder.

Each welding robot has a counter and it alerts the maintenance department twenty minutes before it reaches the end of its allowable electrode life. That way, the maintenance technician can be waiting at the cell, tools and parts in-hand when the cell trips out.

All of the robots in the cell go into the cap-change position when the first robot trips out. The maintenance technician locks out the cell and changes the cap. Then he pushes a few buttons and the production worker resumes making parts.

These two hypothetical production line have a total of eight production workers so the impact of a robot "stepping out" should be (five minutes * 1/8) of its gross productivity.

That is how it is SUPPOSED to work.

How does it work in real life?

All eight workers walk off the line to the cafeteria and the entire line is down for a half hour.

Their thinking is "Station 3 went down. I work in Station 2. There is no point in me building in my cell when the station down-line isn't pulling parts"

And the folks on the left side rationalize walking away with the logic "They cannot build bodies if they don't have parts for the right side. There is no point in us "building up the bank" just so the assholes on the next shift can sit on their butts."

The maintenance technicians don't quibble. They change all of the electrodes on all of the robots, which might take half an hour.

The supervisor doesn't see the issue. That is the way it has always been done. Plus, he supervises forty employees and something is always going in the ditch somewhere.

Back to the design intent of the system: The engineers who designed the line placed ten part buffers between each cell. In theory, they would typically run at about half full. If the cell upstream of your cell went down for maintenance then you could build out of the five parts in the buffer supplying your cell. If the cell downstream of your cell went down then you could pack the buffer for an additional five minutes before you tapped out.

The system was designed to have buffers between the cells to decouple them. The cells were still coupled together via human nature.

Another example:
Suppose there is some project that needs to get done at home. Let's say you want to redo the backyard patio. You want a new BBQ rig and the Mrs wants new pavers and landscaping.

One way to do it is for you to buy your BBQ without consulting the Mrs and the Mrs to contract the landscape work without getting you involved.

The other way to do it is to insist that they be done together. The Mrs wants to know what your BBQ looks like so she can coordinate the color palette. You want to be involved in the landscaping to ensure there is enough room around the BBQ rig to move a 400 pound hog and a skid-steer loader.

Guess which way of doing it takes longer?

Back to normalizing the economy
Insisting that "we are all in this together' and insisting that smaller sub-regions cannot be de-coupled from the other parts of the state guarantees that normalization will take a very, very long time.

One of Eliyahu M. Goldratt's metaphors is of a group of Boy Scouts hiking up a mountain. Herbie is a younger, fat kid with a case of soda-pop in his backpack. Guess who is the slowest kid?

One part of Goldratt's solution was to unpack Herbie's backpack.

That solution petrifies metropolitan areas. The analogy of unpacking Herbie's backpack is to allow less urban areas to operate at their potential and open-up ahead of Detroit. Then, employers in the Detroit area would out-source to those areas that were not drunk-and-disorderly.

What would that do to Detroit's tax base? Yup, it would vaporize which in-turn would further crater Michigan's budget.

There are elements in the government that are loath to sever Michigan's financial generosity to Detroit. They would insist that the ship be sunk before making adjustments.

Well, the ship is sinking. I can feel the water sloshing around my ankles.