Friday, July 31, 2020

Double-blind studies



Not all college sports programs are struggling

University sports programs across the country are struggling due to Covid-19 and the civil strife triggered by BLM and Antifa "demonstrations".

Therefore, it is heartening to see that some schools are doing very well.

The Finlandia University Lions, for instance, are having a difficult time keeping university branded apparel on the shelves. Massive quantities are being sold downstate. The exact reasons are not clear to the university but they are making hay while the sun shines.

Get yours before they run out.

Quest: The cadence increases


The conscripting and arming of Sayed’s foot-soldiers was a hurried thing.

Most of the firearms that had been collected when Bicklebaugh took power had been destroyed.

Most of what remained was a hodgepodge of cheaply made “jam-o-matic” handguns, single-shot shotguns and .22 “farm guns”. The officials who were handing out the guns had not even test fired them.

No ammo was handed out. The logistics of feeding the huge variety of weapons was still being worked out. Besides, giving surly conscripts ammo would undoubtedly result in “friendly fire” incidents with a large portion of those wounds being inflicted on officers.

Training consisted of providing the conscripts with a sturdy pair of shoes if their current footwear was not suitable.

The first hundred were driven to within three miles of the West Branch river and herded toward the front. The people doing the herding were the conscripts who had shown the most sadistic tendencies.

They used TASERS and when the troops got too kinetic for TASERS to be effective, the sadists DID have live ammo for their firearms. Pepper spray had been considered but rejected. The goal was to either deliver “effective” troops to the front or to leave corpses on the ground. Pepper spray would slow the advance or would leave live malcontents in the wake of the attacking troops.

It was a culture shock to the troops who had been civilians three days earlier, civilians who had grown up getting participation awards for simply showing up.

*

Dmitri had been following the trucks since they left Howell. He had been tweaking the limits on the sensors and had them dialed in to where they were +95% reliable to pick up engine noise. That was the nice thing about software; it can be updated.

General Spackle had come to the conclusion that Sammy had gone into overload.

Sammy was no longer at the front so Spackle could no longer keep an eye on him and steady him down when he got frantic. Sammy had been moved to an abandoned Ingham County Road Commission facility two miles west of Doan Creek. Doan Creek was the western boundary of the Buffer Zone.

The fifteen acre facility was on Howell Road and had an abundance of buildings, water and even piles of gravel. The facility was devoid of trees that might otherwise shade solar panels and it had a perimeter fence in good repair.

Not only had Sammy taken up residence there but that is where Dot decided to stage the fuel and other expendables for the reconnaissance plane. The site was almost nine miles from the front which Dot judge to be distant enough to make noise discipline a moot issue but close enough to launch the plane and have it overhead were needed in a reasonable timeframe.

Spackle reasoned that if Sammy could work remotely then the other “signal analysts” could do so as well.

The other analyst had been assigned primary responsibilities that were slices of land with the long way oriented north-south. Since there was no fighting going on in the two western slices, those analysts were under-worked.

Spackle decided that was a criminal waste of talent, especially since Sammy was prone to locking-up when stressed.

Spackle assigned Sammy the northern portion of the Buffer-Zone, a section that included I-96. Spackle assigned the middle section to Dmitri, a section that included Howell Road. And Spackle assigned the southern section to Dinglehoffer, a section with degraded roads that were not well suited to supporting heavy traffic.

*

Dmitri was puzzled by the vehicles stopping three miles short of the frontier. He had alerted Spackle and the three Lieutenants most likely to be affected.

Spackle had the recon plane launched.

Fifteen minutes later, Dot reported that the vehicles were three school buses and she saw “squads” crossing a field heading west toward the frontier. By then, the squads were within a mile-and-a-half of the West Branch river.

Spackle asked Dot how much loiter time she had. She responded that she was good for another couple of hours. Spackle did some quick calculations in his head and “suggested” that she refuel and then get back into the air.

Wohlfert wanted to hit the invaders when they bunched up crossing the river.

Dmitri could pick up the noise of the squads as they bushwacked cross-country. The fact that the sadists occasionally needed to shoot a straggler was a boon to Dmitri. The sound of gun-shots is a very distinctive, broad-spectrum signal and is easy to pin-point given enough sensors. Dmitri had more than enough sensors to follow the unruly lot.

Same as before, the attacking squads bunched up east of the Kane Road crossing. One soldier waded across and tied a rope to a tree on the far side.

That is when the mortar crews in the Buffer-Zone lit them up.

The Ann Arbor plane that was orbiting at 2000 feet reported the coordinates of the mortar crews.

Ann Arbor mortar crews who had set-up while the foot-soldiers were straggling fired in counter-battery. The foot soldiers had been decoys to reveal where the Buffer-Zone mortars were.

It was a messy affair. The Ann Arbor mortar crews were not very precise. Most of their first rounds missed which gave the Buffer-Zone mortars time to button up. Most of the first rounds missed but not all.

The observer in the plane was so busy “walking” rounds into known mortar positions that he did not see other Buffer-Zone mortar crews activating.

Dot and her observer were able to pin-point the location of the offending Ann Arbor mortars and the Buffer-Zone made short work of them.

But, unfortunately, a significant number of the invading foot soldiers had crossed the West Branch.



Thursday, July 30, 2020

A kind word for Michelle Obama


Michelle Obama was recently touted as Joe Biden's running mate. It was seen as a match made in heaven. The fans of Obama saw this as a way of guaranteeing 16 years of Obama, Progressive rule.

Word-on-the-street is that Michelle knew how much work POTUS should be and did not want to invest that much of her life in the project.

We dig our graves with our knives and forks
In spite of all the crap conservatives gave her for her efforts to make school lunches healthy, I think she deserves some credit.

If you were going to pick ONE THING that would improve the health outcomes of Black-Americans it would be to improve their diets.

Cut back on the fried foods and dietary fats.

Cut back on the sodium.

Cut back on the sugars.

Add fiber, vegetables and fruit.

Since some Black-Americans learn their dietary habits at Head-Start programs and public schools, that is where the leverage is.

While we (conservatives) groused about the intrusiveness of .Gov mandating what was in school lunches we conveniently overlooked the fact that every item on the school lunch is subsidized by the Feds and is approved, nutritionally, by the Feds.

As the twig is bent, so grows the tree. Hungry kids will eat almost anything. After eating something eight times, it becomes their normal. Then there is at least a fighting chance that kids who grew up in families where their parent(s) did not cook will make healthy food choices when they are older.

And isn't that the essence of being a conservative? Individuals making choices. Individuals having enough information to make informed choices.

Quest: Malice and Mosquitoes

Malice Johnson was sweating his ass off. It was as bad as when he was doing two-a-days at Redford Union High in mid-August.

His mama hadn’t really named him Malice. She intended for him to be named “Malik” but spelling wasn’t her strong suit. What went on the birth certificate is what the school went by. His mama spelled out the name M-a-l-i-c-e and that is what he was known by.

Malice didn’t know why sweat was rolling off of him. Sure, the night was one of the first really warm nights of spring but it wasn't that warm.

Johnson and his baby-mama were camping in a park near downtown Ann Arbor. The park had been turned into a "sanctuary" for the refugees that were suddenly flooding into Ann Arbor.

Maybe Ann Arbor wasn’t handing out fried chicken and bacon but the nice ladies from the church were bringing all kinds of food to the folks in the park. Some days it was only cornbread. But it was hot and there was plenty of it and on a good day, they had butter to go with it. It beat pushing aside desiccated corpses to root around in an unlit basement for cans of green beans and tuna fish.

Malice couldn’t stand the blankets or the warmth radiating from his girlfriend’s body. He couldn’t stand the stillness of the tent or the sounds of his girl and their child breathing.

He got up, carefully zipping the tent flap shut to keep out the clouds of mosquitoes. There was a tiny bit of breeze, just enough to make up for the mosquitoes and a bit more. Malice decided to sleep on a bench. He wasn’t the only one. Nearly all the benches were inhabited.

*

Kristen Shomsky was Omar Sayed’s political officer. As a devout Muslim, Omar paid no more attention to her than an insect buzzing in his ear.

Sayed went to Bicklebaugh’s war council to tell them what he needed to conquer the Buffer-Zone and then food-rich lands to the west.

“They have us figured out” Sayed informed the council in a peremptory manner. “If it has a motor and runs on wheels, they kill it.”

“Bullshit!” one of the second-tier advisers exclaimed.

Sayed gave him a look dripping with contempt. “I have data. My predecessor lost nearly 200 vehicles generating data. How many more vehicles do you want to squander before you admit you are wrong?”

Koivun brushed aside the objections. “What do you propose and what do you need from us?” he asked. Aimo Koivun had campaigned to get Sayed into his current position. It was in Koivun’s best interest to see that he was successful.

“I propose that we march infantry into battle without benefit of motorized transport” Sayed said. “Think of it as being mid way between the American Civil War and World War One.”

“Without vehicles, the barbarians we are fighting will lose a big part of their strategic advantage” Sayed said.

“I also need an airplane and a pilot. My troops told me that the barbarians have an airplane. I suspect that is directing artillery. I need a plane to kill that plane and then to direct our artillery” Sayed said.

Bicklebaugh seemed lost in thought. There had been a side-discussion before Sayed had been ushered into the room. Certain agreements had been made and Sayed’s proposals were in conflict with those agreements.

“What kind of losses do you anticipate?” Bicklebaugh asked.

“Does it matter?” Sayed asked. He was an eminently practical man. “Even if we lose ten-to-one, the barbarians cannot withstand those loses for long while we can sustain them almost indefinitely.”

Bicklebaugh cleared his throat. Ann Arbor’s precarious logistical situation was a tightly held secret. “The issue is that there are economic...penalties...if this conflict continues indefinitely. It needs to be wrapped up in a very timely manner to not trigger those, um, penalties.”

Sayed stared at Bicklebaugh, “So I suggest that you not drag your feet. I need 2000 foot soldiers and weapons for them.”

Bicklebaugh had been glared at by better men, and women, than Sayed. He was not intimidated.

“We will try it your way first. But if you slip any farther behind schedule, Political Officer Shomsky will direct you to activate certain weapons” Bicklebaugh said.

Sayed was not concerned. With two-thousand fighters flooding across the West Branch, he would crack the barbarians like an egg shell.

*

Wyatt took his last breath three hours after the Ann Arbor troops were beaten back across the West Branch.

There was not much the medics of the Buffer-Zone could do.

Wyatt was bleeding out, internally. They sealed his wounds with tape. They gently evacuated where air had infiltrated between his right lung and the chest wall, which prevented the lung from inflating.

They replaced lost blood with saline solution and prayed that the blood vessels that had been severed by the bullet were small and would clot shut.

It was not to be.

He slowly bled out. The tube that had pulled out the air pulled out bloody liquid.

They pushed fluid to maintain volume, but it was a losing game.

Eventually, Wyatt didn’t have enough red blood cells circulating to carry sufficient oxygen to his heart and brain to keep him alive.

With a shudder, Wyatt slipped his mortal coil while his buddy Keagan held his hand.

*

As Malice Johnson slept fitfully, a mosquito of the grex Aedes vexans landed behind Malice’s ear and bit him. As she started to suck, Malice rolled over and batted at his ear. The mosquito flew off.

There are about sixty species of mosquitoes native to Michigan. Aedes vexans and related species are a group of species that blur from one to the next and sometimes hybridize.

This mosquito had overwintered as an egg beneath maple leaves in the park. Before Ebola, crews of workers would have raked the leaves and they would have been carted to a facility that composted them. Likely, the egg that developed into this mosquito would have also been carried away and composted.

The melting snow and torrential spring rains had washed her into a low lying area that flooded by virtue of the drain being plugged with the same leaves that had not been raked. There, she progressed through the various stages of wrigglers, growing by fits-and-starts as the water was warmed during the infrequent sunny days.

She shed her juvenile form just as the crabapple trees were blossoming. Malice was her first bite. She needed the protein so she could produce eggs. Malice had not given her enough protein. She would have to bite another mammal before she had enough.

Malice had given her more than a tiny bit of his blood. He had also given her a strain of Ebola that had evolved to where it could live in the salivary glands of mosquitoes just like her.

That particular mosquito would lay three sets of eggs in her life. Each raft of eggs required another meal of blood. She was not the only mosquito to bite Malice that night, nor the next.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Presented without comment


Using filters to maintain photo security

The Daily Mail recently posted an article showing how heavily "influencers" filter and Photoshop their public images.

A couple of images follow. The left side of the image shows what the public is allowed to see and the right side shows an unfiltered version of the influencer.

Ready?

I bet the one on the right makes outstanding carrot cake and chocolate chip cookies.
How about another picture

Nice looking Russian girl on the right.  I wonder what the one on the left has been doing with her hands. Maybe she gardens?

Belladonna makes all kinds of disparaging comments about "Boomer's" aversion to technology.

I decided to surprise her and post a filtered picture of Eaton Rapids Joe.


Quest: Steep Learning Curve


The invaders were slipping westward and inspecting the decoy defensive positions.

The stealth came to an end when the found the first real one. The two inhabitants went down in a flurry of bullets from the invaders handguns and the remaining invaders started vectoring toward the sound of the shots.

Fifty yards up-slope, Keagan and Wyatt didn’t even bother with their handguns. They started shooting with their AR-15s and immediately became the focus of the hundred aggressors.

Keagan had just enough time to vocally transmit “Ten-double-ought. Repeat, Ten-double-ought” before dropping the mic, shooting and scooting.

Ten-double-ought was the code for defenders down, fight actively underway.

Both Wyatt and Keagan could aim and hit with as little conscious thought as sombody could slap a mosquito. Unfortunately, there were a hundred mosquitoes and only two of them. The next closest support team was four hundred yards away and there was a steep-banked valley and a grassy meadow between them. The path that did not expose the other team to fire was much longer than 400 yards.

The voice transmission came with a GPS envelop that gave the coordinates.

Tory was turning out of the loiter pattern and cranked up the power to push the plane faster.

Her first pass at 3000 feet showed little. The new shoots and leaves on the trees were too thick. She banked sharply and tipped the nose down. She leveled out at 500 feet above ground and Shelly felt sick to her stomach. Shelly didn’t know if it was the acrobatics, the thought of “her guys” getting shot up or the fact that they were now in range of ground fire.

Shelly furiously transcribed the location of the defenders to the positions used by the mortar crews.

There is a time for code and there is a time to transmit in the clear. Shelly transmitted verbally in the clear.

“Shelly to anybody with their ears on. Attackers east of position 6083-comma-1507. Repeat, attackers east of position 6083-comma-1507 and in contact with defenders. Attackers in a line from previous position to quarter mile east of position.

A mortar crew on Denis road, a mile north of Keagan and Wyatt were the first to respond. “Can you give us laser targeting?”

“Affirmative.” Shelly responded.

“Let us know when you have them lit up” the Denis road crew responded.

Tory didn’t know how steeply the shells would be reentering and she didn’t want to be in the path. She scooted the plane a half-mile east and then nodded to Shelly.

“Target illuminated” Shelly said tersely into the mic. “Target illuminated.”

A couple of seconds later another voice broke into the conversation. “Can you illuminate fifty yards east of the Keagan’s position?”

“Sure.” Shelly said. The laser pointer was on a wooden stock with a scope. The infrared LASER which is not visible to the human eye was co-aligned with the scope.

Except for maximum range volleys, there are always two “trajectory solutions” when firing artillery. One solution is the high arching shot while the other is a flatter, line-drive.

When the mortars had bombarded the truck convoy three days earlier, they had used the high-arching solution. That put the maximum amount of the shrapnel at the height of the targets but the shrapnel was spread in a 360 degree arc that indiscriminately peppered everything in range. That worked great as long as assets were not mixed in with the targets.

Supporting Keagan and Wyatt demanded the other solution.

The flatter, line-drive trajectory laid a downward spray of shrapnel, a ribbon of smoking-hot iron in a tightly controlled band. A smaller percentage of the shrapnel was target bound as much of it went upward.

The mortar crews worked like maniacs screwing the optical fuses into the noses of the mortars. This mission caught them by surprise.
Red dot shows Shelly's LASER designator. Gray rectangles are shrapnel patterns from incoming. Note, LASER designator is not perfectly still due to the vibration of the plane, a fact that distresses Shelly.

The optical fuse “looked” perpendicular to the shell's its path and when it saw the pulsing laser dot it detonated.

Traveling in from the west, the first round detonated fifty yards from Keagan and Wyatt and cleared a fifteen yard swath clear of invaders. The reason for the small beaten zone was because the ribbon of shrapnel was perpendicular to the column of attackers. The smaller zone was the price of greater precision, precision that allowed the mortar crews to “scratch” Keagan’s back. More shells followed.

“Can you start walking the laser dot east?” the disembodied voice on the radio asked Shelly after they had sent the fourth mortar round down-range.

Meanwhile, the crews to the north and south were doing the same. The crew to the north started 200 yards east of Keagan and Wyatt’s position and worked east. The last thing any mortar crew wanted was a blue-on-blue casualty on his conscience.

The crew to the south started at Kane Road and worked west. The ribbon of hot iron from those shell bursts were parallel to the column of invaders and were devastating to the attackers.

After four minutes, Keagan and Wyatt’s squad-mates were able to join them. Wyatt was down but Keagan was still combat effective.

Wyatt had taken a 9mm round through his right lung and had a sucking, chest wound.

Keagan and the other squad-mates took no prisoners.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Project Managment Literature: A Classic text on Managment...how does it look today?

This is a change of pace. The oldest text advising project managers on how to conduct their business predates the modern science of business management.

I thought it would be entertaining, perhaps even enlightening to post chunks of the ancient wisdom and frame it using "modern" ideas.

The "ancient text" is from Nehemiah in the Old Testament. The book of Nehemiah was written in approximately 525 BC.

Plan before acting. Have a time-line
“If it please the king, and if your servant is deserving of your favor, send me to Judah, to the city where my ancestors are buried, that I may rebuild it.” Then the king, with the queen seated beside him, asked me, “How long will your journey take and when will you return?” My answer was acceptable to the king and he agreed to let me go; I set a date for my return.

Secure resources before starting
I asked the king further: “If it please the king, let letters be given to me for the governors of West-of-Euphrates, that they may give me safe-conduct till I arrive in Judah; also a letter for Asaph, the keeper of the royal woods, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the temple citadel, for the city wall and the house that I will occupy.” Since I enjoyed the good favor of my God, the king granted my requests.

Perform a first-person, boots-on-ground review
I set out by night with only a few other men and with no other animals but my own mount (for I had not told anyone what my God had inspired me to do for Jerusalem). I rode out at night by the Valley Gate, passed by the Dragon Spring, and came to the Dung Gate, observing how the walls of Jerusalem were breached and its gates consumed by fire. Then I passed over to the Fountain Gate and to the King’s Pool. Since there was no room here for my mount to pass with me astride, I continued on foot up the wadi by night, inspecting the wall all the while, until I once more reached the Valley Gate, by which I went back in. The magistrates knew nothing of where I had gone or what I was doing, for as yet I had disclosed nothing to the Jews, neither to the priests, nor to the nobles, nor to the magistrates, nor to the others who were to do the work.

Ensure recognition is dispensed with a lavish and accurate hand
Eliashib the high priest and his priestly kinsmen took up the task of rebuilding the Sheep Gate. They consecrated it and set up its doors, its bolts, and its bars, then continued the rebuilding to the Tower of the Hundred, the Tower of Hananel. At their side the men of Jericho were rebuilding, and next to them was Zaccur, son of Imri. The Fish Gate was rebuilt by the people of Hassenaah; they timbered it and set up its doors, its bolts, and its bars. At their side Meremoth, son of Uriah, son of Hakkoz, carried out the work of repair; next to him was Meshullam, son of Berechiah, son of Meshezabel; and next to him was Zadok, son of Baana.

Assign work that is meaningful at a personal level
Above the Horse Gate the priests carried out the work of repair, each opposite his own house. After them Zadok, son of Immer, carried out the repair opposite his house, and after him the repair was carried out by Shemaiah, son of Shecaniah, keeper of the East Gate. After him, Hananiah, son of Shelemiah, and Hanun, the sixth son of Zalaph, repaired the adjoining sector; after them, Meshullam, son of Berechiah, repaired the place opposite his own lodging.


Multitasking is sometimes a necessary evil
When our enemies realized that we had been warned and that God had upset their plan, we all went back, each to our own task at the wall. From that time on, however, only half my work force took a hand in the work, while the other half, armed with spears, bucklers, bows, and breastplates, stood guard behind the whole house of Judah as they rebuilt the wall. The load carriers, too, were armed; each worked with one hand and held a weapon with the other. Every builder, while working, had a sword tied at his side.

Have a plan to communicate
A trumpeter stood beside me, for I had said to the nobles, the magistrates, and the rest of the people: “Our work is scattered and extensive, and we are widely separated from one another along the wall; wherever you hear the trumpet sound, join us there; our God will fight with us.” Thus we went on with the work, half with spears in hand, from daybreak till the stars came out.

Do not take excessive advantage of supplier’s misfortune
Then there rose a great outcry of the people and their wives against certain of their Jewish kindred. Some said: “We are forced to pawn our sons and daughters in order to get grain to eat that we may live.” Others said: “We are forced to pawn our fields, our vineyards, and our houses, that we may have grain during the famine.” Still others said: “To pay the king’s tax we have borrowed money on our fields and vineyards. And though these are our own kindred, and our children are as good as theirs, we have had to reduce our sons and daughters to slavery, and violence has been done to some of our daughters! Yet we can do nothing about it, for our fields and vineyards belong to others.”

You will never make some critics happy. Don't squander resources trying to please them
When it had been reported to Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab, and our other enemies that I had rebuilt the wall and that there was no breach left in it (though up to that time I had not yet set up the doors in the gates), Sanballat and Geshem sent me this message: “Come, let us hold council together at Chephirim in the plain of Ono.” They were planning to do me harm. I sent messengers to them with this reply: “I am engaged in a great enterprise and am unable to come down. Why should the work stop, while I leave it to come down to you?” Four times they sent me this same proposal, and each time I gave the same reply.

Editorial note: This is a fabulous strategy. By not varying the message the critics had nothing to work with, no discrepancies to wedge open. A verbatim response is ENTIRELY appropriate if the underlying conditions have not changed.



Summary:
The advice is still applicable today and has since been supported by peer-reviewed studies. For example, the advice about dispensing recognition and assigning work that is meaningful at a personal level was considered ground breaking when Frederick Herzberg published his work on motivation. HP popularized Management by Walking Around.

The only advice that seems jarring is to not take excessive advantage of distressed suppliers. A close look at the Toyota Production System and the relationship with Kaizen/Suppliers might show the wisdom of cultivating one's suppliers.

Summary justice in a summer lacking justice

When times are good, organizations and cultures develop vertically. Additional levels are added to the organization chart. If-then-else loops become more complicated. Hierarchies are refined to the nth degree.

When things go into the septic tank, organizations and cultures get flattened.

Layers of middle management get eliminated. The rolls of the mandarins get purged. If-then-else loops get simplified to If-then loops. Hierarchies implode.

One can make a reasonable case for the "going into the septic tank" at least for anti-social behaviors and the responses to those behaviors. Perpetrators of crimes deemed "minor" by judges and politicians are being released from jail/prison in job-lot numbers.

If we are devolving to a summary justice environment, what crimes become worthy of capital punishment?

Before we get rolling, though, I want to caution that these must be observable actions and not assumptions about the person's political beliefs. We can imagine any number of vile things about people we do not like. We are better than that, even if the other side wallows in it.

I propose the following crimes for the list and offer a few reasons:

Arson: This was a no-brainer in the 1800s because there were no firecodes. On October 8, 1871, for instance, wild fires killed 2000 people in Wisconsin, 500 in Michigan and 250 in Chicago...all on one day.

Fire codes blunt the risk but do not eliminate it. People drag all kinds of flammables into their houses and apartments. Modern plastics, like vinyl, produce carcinogens when they burn. Fires, particularly in older, crowded parts of urban areas still have the potential to kill hundreds or to shorten the lifespans of thousands.

Inhibiting the flow of emergency vehicles and personnel: There have been multiple cases of emergency personnel, i.e. figher-fighters and EMTs, being prevented from completing their "runs".

The people inhibiting that movement are acting as judge, jury and executioner for the person on the receiving end of the help. A mother in labor who needlessly passes away? A "brother" having a coronary (which was the biological cause of George Floyd's demise)?

Pedophiles: I am going to make a distinction here. Statutory rape is when one partner is below the age of consent and the other is above that age. In Michigan, a couple can be having sex like bunnies when both are below age 18 but on the birthday of the older partner it becomes a crime. Then, when the younger partner passes the checkered flag and is also 18, it no longer is a crime.

I propose that Pedophiles who are more than two years older than their victims be liable to summary justice.


Inhibiting the free passage of delivery trucks: It is not possible to know what is in a UPS or FEDEX truck, for instance. It might be insulin. It might be antipsychotic drugs. It might be parts to repair an air conditioner or CPAP machine.

Inhibiting the free passage of personal vehicles: This is a two-fer: The demonstrators who inhibit the free passage of a passenger vehicle have no knowledge of the driver and passenger's errand. Also, some percentage of drivers will panic and mow down demonstrators. The driver (who may have documented anxiety issues, although the demonstrators cannot know that) and the demonstrators are equally culpable.

Also, some drivers don't have the night vision we used to have. Demonstrators wearing black and lying down in the street to stop traffic is stupid.

Destroying places where people work: If one uses longevity as a proxy for health and happiness, then people who engage in meaningful work live healthier, happier lives.

If rioters destroy a place-of-business and put 10 people out of work and 7 of those people die three years sooner than they would otherwise...how is that not manslaughter?

Please add to the list in comments. I am particularly interested in the reasons.

Fine Art Tuesday

Harvesting Potatoes by William Preston Phelps painted circa 1880

Born on the family farm near Chesham, in what is now the Pottersville section of Dublin, New Hampshire on March 6, 1848 to mother Mary Phelps and father Jayson Phelps. "Preston", as he was known, grew up helping out on the very active family farm. Preston drew constantly, when he wasn't tending the animals or mowing the fields.

Phelps was a plein air painter, that is, he would set up an umbrella and paint what he saw outside.

This painting captures the social nature of harvest. One senses that the potato field is not much more than a half-acre. One notes baskets, a wheelbarrow, bags and a horse-drawn cart each with their own human(s) in attendance. In the near-background we see the bright green of carrot-tops on the left side of the image.

Source of image
The young man in the blue shirt (foreground) appears to have lost his hat in a sudden gust.

Fences are low and built of stacked fieldstone and wood.

Fences are low. The trees appear to be Lombard poplar or fastigate forms of sugar maple. The low mountain in the background is denuded of trees on its lower reaches.

Phelps is known to have painted in Bavaria, France, Scotland and New Hampshire in that time period. The Lombard poplars and the absence of goldenrod in the background suggest this picture may have been painted in Europe.

And remember, stay away from crowds.

Quest: Melee

Sayed's second offensive thrust was west along Howell Road, a fact that surprised nobody in the Buffer-Zone.

The mortar fire supporting the thrust was not particularly accurate but it was abundant. It was clear that the attackers had some intelligence. They knew where the decoys were. Unfortunately, the wide spread of the incoming fire included some of the actual defensive positions.

Sammy’s sensors indicated the trucks coming in, but it was a small number compared to the number on I-96. He neglected to pass the information along.
Red arrow is invader infantry approach north of Howell Road
Sayed was trained in the sciences, as much as history can be considered a science. He was running an experiment. He had infantry on foot approaching the West Branch 800 yards north of Howell Road.

The sensors were not fused tightly enough to auto-trip.

The attackers on Howell Road were mortaring the shit out of the positions guarding it. Those same positions also guarded Kane Road, the one north/south road that crossed the West Branch.

While the ladder/bridge truck was slowly moving toward the bridge abutment of the demolished Howell Road bridge, a hundred foot-soldiers were crossing at the site of the old Kane Road bridge. A volunteer had crossed the river and tied a cable to a tree on the other side. The fighters waded through the belly-button deep water and spread out on the other side.

After the entire contingent was across the river, they crossed the short section of three-foot tall grass and moved into the woods. The lead elements moved from tree-to-tree as the mortar shells arched over their heads. Their orders were to contact and destroy the defenders.

*

Even though the mortar teams a mile south of I-96 had destroyed their counterparts on the Buffer-Zone side of the river, they had no foot-soldiers to cross the river and establish a toe-hold and a defensive perimeter.

Lacking spotters to call out targets that were closer to them, they concentrated their fire on the various buildings along I-96. One of their shells scored a direct hit on the building that used to house Sammy and his communication center.

The invasion force that threatened to move up the median of I-96 shuffled back-and-forth but did not cross the 1200 yard line. It was almost as if they were teasing the Buffer-Zone mortar crews to demonstrate the full range of their mortars or to pull the defenders out of position.

The continued firing of the attacking mortar crews a mile south of I-96 caught the attention of Shelly. There are no substitutes for sharp, young eyes and Shelly’s were the best you were going to find.

Once Shelly found them under the hazy green of the shrubbery that was just beginning to leaf-out, it was a matter of thirty seconds to approximate their coordinates on the map and call it in. Then, Shelly called in corrections to walk the shells into the target.

The attacker’s mortar crew had no idea where the shells were coming from. They were not able to counter-battery and they died.

*

Slowly, the fire-truck eased up to the river and deployed the portable bridge. An assortment of support vehicles were behind it. Several mounted machine-guns.

Just as the truck started to ease across the newly installed bridge, the defenders closest to the bridge drove the plunger downward and blew the far-side bridge abutment. The charges that were lined up for two hundred feet east of the abutment blew sympathetically and flipped the support vehicles.

The defenders had discussed the optimum order of demo several times. The consensus was to blow the far side so the near-side abutment presented a steep, barbed-wired enhanced face to the invaders.

Even as the clods and rubble rained down on the defenders along Howell Road, the advance elements of the invaders who had crossed at Kane Road fell in among the defenders in the woods east of the Kane Road bridge and the killing started.

Monday, July 27, 2020

Progressives can be counted on for one thing: They eat their own first

Kurt Schlicter paints a grim picture of what conservatives will face if the Progressives achieve a sweep of the House, Senate and White House.

I want to share a snip from an email I received from Nik Faldo of Nik's Poker Palace recently.

(If) Biden wins – ...Chaos, hate, killings, financial problems and shortages of all kinds happening.

Biden gone before the 6 months is over and a new puppet VP inserted. Slowly, but steadily, union officials, professors, media people, top CEO’s and countless others – some semi-famous and some  barely known (but) who helped bring about the collapse of the USA will also start disappearing.
New regimes never like to owe favors – according to history. I guess union officials, professors, media people, top CEO’s and countless others – never read a history book review of a successful communist revolution. Pity.
Conservatives, as a rule, just want to be left alone.

Progressives, on the other hand, want the entire world to reorient to dance in cadence to the phantasmagoria convulsing their neurons.

Leaving aside debates about whether that is desirable, the fact that the convulsions are syncopated and not synchronized Progressive-to-Progressive makes it impossible for Progressives to work with each other as peers.

Only one Progressive can call the dance tune. More than one creates dissonance. All others must be vanquished.

In the end, when Progressive are in power, Progressives can tolerate Conservatives better than they can tolerate other Progressives.

If I was a card-carrying Progressive who lived in an urban area and felt honor-bound to put a Black Lives Matter sign in my front yard, I would be worried. Very worried.

Quest: Second Effort


Chris Pearl’s head rolled. A general who loses 20% of his rolling equipment and suffers 50% casualties on the first day of the war is not a competent leader. He had to go.

He was replaced with Omar Sayed, one of Aimo Koivun’s Ph.D. students. Omar’s thesis explored the leadership structure, techniques and technologies of the Sudanese during the Mahdist Revolt of the 1880s and 1890s.

It was a choice that did not bode well for the Buffer-Zone. Sayed was not the typical PC, political-hack. He could mouth the words well enough to stay out of trouble but that is not why Koivun pushed to get him into that position.

*

The invading forces pulled back to the extent that their mobility allowed.

Tory and Dot alternated reconnaissance flights over the next two days. Other than the movement of casualties, nothing was moving.

Some saw that as a very positive development. Other, more pessimistic thinkers, believed otherwise.

“If they are calling off the invasion, then why are so many vehicles still parked in Howell?” Gimp challenged.

Rick Salazar shrugged. “They have to park them somewhere. Why not Howell?”

Wilder, who was familiar with logistics, raised the point “It seems odd that they would have so many empty flatbed trucks as part of the invasion. According to the reports, half of the second wave consisted of trucks dead-heading west.”

“I can only think of one reason why they would do that but it hardly bears thinking” Wilder said.

“Oh, yeah? What is that?” Rick asked.

“What if Ann Arbor is living hand-to-mouth for food and supplies. What if the Ann Arbor forces were going to strip the countryside bare as they went. What if they shipped every kernel of corn, every potato back to Ann Arbor as they went?” Wilder asked.

That gave the war council pause. Benicio’s spies reported that Ann Arbor lived high-on-the-hog, that there was no evidence of hunger or starvation.

“Stripping the countryside of food would certainly make it hard for partisens to mount an active resistance” Gimp ventured.

Chernovsky spoke up. “I don’t think that is the reason. Spackle said that the invaders didn’t expect any significant resistance. Why would they have measures in place to squelch resistance when they didn’t expect any. I vote for Ann Arbor running out of food but too proud to make any adjustments.”

The men and women pondered the inconsistency Chernovsky had pointed out.

Rick asked “Is there anything else that would be so important that they would have those trucks stacked at the front of the invasion.

Gimp said “Not that many trucks. Not that far forward. I cannot think of anything they would want to remove, besides food, that couldn’t wait weeks or months before shipping.

Rick voiced the obvious conclusion. “So if they are desperate for food and they didn’t move their trucks then they will be back. Not only will they attack again, but the attack will be through the Buffer-Zone.”

Chernovsky and Gimp both nodded in agreement.

*

General Sayed’s command began with probes of the Buffer-Zone defenses.

Instead of throwing a major force up I-96, he sent a small contingent and had them mortar the defense with harrassing fire around-the-clock.

Sayed relied heavily on drone footage to watch the defenses during the barrages.

That is how he figured out the counter-volleys were not coming from the troops immediately in front of him.

Additional drone coverage determined that the majority of the counter-battery, which appeared to fall short, was actually coming from mortar crews 1800 meters to the southwest of where the rounds were landing. So much for the Ann Arbor military estimates of a 1000 yard maximum range for the Buffer-Zone mortars.

Sayed looked at a map and determined there were ten “suitable” east-west roads that crossed the West Branch and one north-south road that crossed it by virtue of the river’s meandering.

Sayed sent probes to investigate each crossing. Drones took detailed footage of the defenses. Humans walked the terrain and took pictures of the bridge abutments to assess their suitability for temporary, transportable bridging.

Ann Arbor was down to nine of the ladder/bridge trucks. He was not in a position to spend them cheaply.

*

The attack began like the others.

Vehicles staged out of the marshalling area in Howell. What was unusual was that there were new classes of vehicles.

Tory and Shelly, being farm-girls, had no difficulty identifying the four-wheel-drive, articulated tractors or the off-road vehicles. The flatbeds were hauling hay-wagons.

It did not take a genius to figure out that those vehicles were capable of traveling up the soggy median that had defeated the trucks with their 110psi road tires.

Shelly sent the information back in coded bursts. Tory concentrated on flying the plane.

The harrassing fire from the small contingent that was already invested in positions on I-96 went into continuous fire.

The Buffer-Zone forces a mile south of I-96 started their counter-battery with the intention of gulling the attackers into range.

Then an unexpected the barrage of invader mortar fire came directly from the east. None of them survived. Damn those drones.

One of the short-comings of the Buffer-Zone communication plan became apparent. Nobody had thought to develop protocols when the other party went off-line.

The push up I-96 was the feign but it showed every indication of being successful.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Is 26 the new 18?

As nearly everybody knows, Obamacare, also known as Affordable Care Act, requires that working parent's healthcare MUST include children up to age 26 if they have no other insurance.

Before Obamacare, policies varied but it was typical to carry children up to age 21 provided they were enrolled full-time in an accredited university. If you weren't in college, well, tough bananas.

The reason given for forcing carriers to include kids up to age 26 was that Progressives believe that "it is really hard" to shop for and pay for health insurance.

However, they don't seem to think it is not too hard for their parents or for young adults age 26 and above to shop for, or pay for.

In other words, Obama and the Progressives think children under age 26 are immature. And Progressives give us concrete evidence that they think children under age 26 should not be trusted with "really hard" decisions.

If 18-through-25 year-olds are too immature to be held responsible for purchasing healthcare insurance...
Then 18-through-25 year-olds are too immature to make irrevocable decisions regarding changing their gender.

Full stop.

Period.

If you make a poor choice in health insurance then you have the ability to change it. Not so with gender changes.

Trans-genders have among the highest rate of suicide attempts. They don't need somebody cutting on them. They need psychotherapy and antidepressants.

Giving an unhappy 18-through-25 year-old child life changing surgery is like amputating a leg to eliminate the pain of a stubbed toe. It should be grounds for malpractice.

However, surgery is much more profitable than mental health. That is what the insurance guys call a "moral hazard".

And where there is profit there are lobbyist. And where there are lobbyists there are favors and "contributions" to be had.

May they all burn in hell.

Nest boxes for Tree Swallows

Nesting box installed on an endpost in my vineyard. The opening is facing north-east to avoid inclement weather.
Yesterday and today's project is to build and install nest boxes for Tree Swallows.

I had been feeling pretty good about how few Japanese Beetles were in my grape vines. I attributed it partially to the wet spring rotting the pupating beetles and partially to a robin nest in a pear tree near the west end of the orchard/vineyard. Those baby robins eat a lot and the grape vines were the closest source of an easy meal.

Rather than leave birds nesting in my orchard/vineyard to chance I decided to put up some nest boxes for one of my favorite birds: Tree Swallows.

As you can see from the range map, Tree Swallows breed in the northern half of North America and Michigan is pretty close to the middle of the range.

Not only are the Tree Swallows likely to eat a bunch of Japanese Beetles but they will also eat biting flies on cattle.

The basic plan from HERE 
Having been an engineer in a previous life, there is no design that I cannot make better. Or, if not better, more complicated.



Instead of a hole, I opted to go for a slot. Advantages discussed HERE. The primary advantage is that a properly sized slot is more effective at excluding English Sparrows than round holes. English Sparrows are probably the #1 cause of small, cavity-nesting bird reproduction failures.

It is also easier to construct.
A $3 Gutter-Outlet used as a raccoon guard.

The second modification was to use a common "gutter outlet" typically used to connect down-spouts to gutters as a raccoon guard. I used the 3" version but the 4" version would probably be better.

Here is a picture of a more typical raccoon guard. The mesh extends far enough out that a raccoon cannot sit on the roof and reach in and grab nestlings or parents.
A view looking up, into the gutter-outlet showing that none of the slot is obstructed. I think it is important to have the top of the gutter-outlet as close to the top of the slot as practical to deny the raccoon's arm a chance to pivot downward at the elbow.
I used a piece of dimension lumber to shim the gap. 1" dimension lumber is 3/4" after drying and planing. I "eyeballed" the additional 1/8" but you can add a paint stir-stick to the thickness of the dimension lumber if that makes you more comfortable setting the gap.

I screwed the top piece on first (a 1"-by-2" piece). Then I used the shim to determine how low to put the bottom piece of the front.

The other minor modification was to not rip standard 1-by-6s to 5 inches. It seemed like non-value added work.

I can get a little bit more than 3 boxes out of an 8' 1-by-6 and an 8' 1-by-8. Including the cost of the Gutter Outlet, I have about $8.50 into each box.

This box was the beta version. Now I have eight more to crank out. I don't expect any swallows to nest in them this year but they will be waiting for them when they come back next spring.

In the "For what it is Worth" category, Tree Swallows are not highly territorial. They will accept nest-boxes that are 100 feet away from another pair of nesting Tree Swallows.

House wrens are the other small species of cavity nesters that might use these boxes. I like House Wrens and will be fine if they take advantage of some of the boxes.

We don't have many rat snakes around, so I don't expect them to be a major predator of the Tree Swallows.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Unleasing the Dogs of War

Outcomes are out-of-proportion to inputs when the input un-dogs potential energy.

What are the Democrats thinking?

To give James Howard Kunstler his due, he predicted civil unrest as upward channels of mobility became a patent fiction for larger and larger numbers of Americans. The tension has always been lurking beneath the surface.

Stevie Wonder can see it coming
A cop or Federal agent will get separated from his group.

The "demonstrators" will start assaulting him.

Other demonstrators will prevent his squad from coming to rescue him.

A cop or agent with too little sleep and too much stress will pull his weapon, flip off the safety and start double-tapping.

The tactics that are brilliant when the opposition have rules-of-engagement that prevent lethal force are stone-cold stupid when bullets start flying.

Brut thuggery relies on concentration of bodies.

A typical Glock 19 magazine holds 15 rounds. A typical AR-15 holds 30. A load-out of six extra magazines would not be unusual.

If only one cop or agent starts shooting, anywhere between 90 and 180 bullets might come into play. If a half-dozen start shooting (hey, the sound of gunfire can do that to people) then 540 and 1080 rounds might come into play.

Firing into a concentration of bodies, one-round-in-five from the AR is likely to produce a life-threatening injury. Perhaps one-in-twenty from the Glock.

Yelling "fire in a crowded theater" is a crime because panic kills when people are close together. You think they will panic when they hear the word "fire", wait until they are getting skippers off the pavement.

As things are heading, it is only a matter of days or weeks before it comes to pass.

The mayors are trying to keep one foot on the dock and the other in the canoe.

The prosecuting attorneys are grandstanding.

The judges have forgotten the victims, current and future.

My Progressive friend "Zolton"
I swap emails with some Progressives (capital P). It is too much to talk in person or on the phone.

It is an article of faith among them that ALL of the people committing violence in the "demonstrations" are Trump's jack-booted thugs.

And I ask "So why don't the Democrat mayors of those cities crack a few heads, make arrests and dox the trouble-makers?" If what they believe is true, then the Democrat mayors (and governors) have EVERYTHING to gain and nothing to lose by doing exactly that.

"Well," my Progressive friend says "they would but they are committed to non-violence."

"Wouldn't arresting violent people and putting them in jail reduce violence in the community?" I ask with all innocence.

"Some of them are Black. Ok, a lot of them are Black" my Progressive friend admits. "Letting police arrest Black people is to sanction their murder."

Wrinkling my brow (difficult to communicate via emails, I might add) I observe "It must scare the hell out of the Democrats to see how many Black people are Trump supporters."

My Progressive friend bristles. "Where the hell did THAT come from?"

"You said all the violent people are Trump supporters and then you admitted that a significant percentage of them are Black. X=X" I crow.

"Ahhhh" he says. "They are PAID actors."

"Wouldn't arresting them and dragging them in front of a judge expose that to the light of day?" I ask.

My Progressive friend changes the subject. "Trump has the KKK in his back pocket. He is going to use them as Storm Troopers just before the election."

"How many KKK members are there in the United States?" I ask.

"Why does that matter?" my Progressive friend asks.

If he can deflect, then so can I.

"Seriously, how many do you think there are?" I ask.

"I don't have a F---ing clue" he responds.

"Let's attack the question from a different direction. How many people would it take to tip the election via intimidation, cheating, and so on? Since we are talking about the KKK here, you also have to bake in a little extra to overcome the 'taint' of the association." I asked him.

He is pretty good with numbers.

He said "I dunno. I suppose it could be any number between 1000 and 3,000,000. I know it is a big range but there are a lot of variables."

"A thousand?" I asked. I sent it in <font=doubtful>

"Yeah, well, it is a stretch. But if they had prior planning, good organization, a solid command-and-control structure, training...a thousand could tip the election" my progressive friend said.

"Taking everything you know about the KKK in 2020, do you think they can perform high-level planning...command-and-control and so on?" I asked him.

I knew he thought they were semi-literate buffoons.

He waffled. "We have no idea of their capabilities."

Yeah, right, buddy.

I pushed.

"Taking what you believe to be true about the KKK, how many of them would it take to tip the election?"

"I dunno, maybe 50,000 or 100,000" he ventured.

"The internet says that there are 3000 KKK members in the USA" I informed him.

I did not mention that some of them are in the KKK in-name-only so they can sound tough at the bar. Others are in their late-eighties and not likely to intimidate anybody the the undertaker who attempts to put a smile on their face before the viewing.

No Guest Fiction this week

The gentleman who asked about posting guest fiction withdrew his submission so there were be no guest fiction this weekend.

My apologies to those who were looking forward to it.


Friday, July 24, 2020

Fake News Friday: Cory Booker still reinventing himself


Fake News Friday: Johnny Depp throws hat in ring for POTUS


In a surprise announcement, Johnny Depp filed to run for President as head of the newly formed Jolly Roger ticket.

"I mean, why not?" Depp told reporters breathlessly covering his candidacy announcement. "I hate Trump. Everybody who hates Trump should vote for me."

"My publicist told me, just after we opened another bottle of rum, that I had 14.7 times the name recognition of that guy sitting in his wife's basement in Philly or Jersey or wherever he is" Depp claimed.

Turning to his aide, Depp was picked up on a hot mic asking "What the hell is that guy's name?"

Asked for the elements of his platform other than hating Trump, Depp rambled a bit.

"I believe in a Kracken in every pot. I believe in weed and good booze and I believe that hating America is not a disqualifier for the office. Heck, I can name a lot of politicians who clearly hate America" Depp claimed.

Furthermore, Depp claimed "Who better to be a politician than an actor. We had Ray-gun. We had Trump. Actors are trained to be convincing liars. That is what politicians do, we lie."

"And the best thing is that I can pardon myself!"

Remember, you read it on the Eaton Rapids Joe blog first!

Quest: Encore

Tory and her spotter, Shelly, were orbiting over Howell in slow, lazy-eights.

Tory had moved into Dot’s house a week before the expected invasion date. Shelly lived a quarter mile from Dot.

Shelly had all of the attributes of a first-class observer.

She had learned “birding” at her grandfather’s knee. She had a high-end set of Nikon binoculars and knew how to use them. Furthermore, she weighed less than a hundred pounds. The fact that her grandfather had been murdered by mauraders looking for food and trinkets made her a highly motivated observer.

It was Tory’s day to fly. Dot and Tory alternated lead pilot days.

A call went to Shelly. She showed up in slippers, jammies and a hooded sweatshirt. The key point is that she didn’t even stop to brush her teeth. She was at the hanger seven minutes after receiving the call.

Tory and Shelly pushed the Zenith 701 out of the hanger. Dot had already hopped into the support truck and was heading toward the field ‘strip’ they had set up.

Tory went through the checklist, started up the Zenith and launched into the air.

Shelly wrote down and translated the codes related to the developing hostilities.

Trimming out at 3000 feet, Tory headed due east. They crossed the West Branch river six miles south of the hostilities unfolding along I-96. Tory had no intention of running into a decending mortar shell. That kind of thing could ruin a girl’s whole day.

The black shell burst were visible from 3000 feet.

She could see the vehicles attempting to make their way back to Howell.

Traveling at her quietest RPM and airspeed, Tory and Shelly drifted ten miles to the east and orbited Howell.

There, Billious Hook’s OCD painted a clear picture of the coming invasion.

While the first wave was approximately fifty vehicles, the second wave was approximately 200. Billious had carefully segregated them by wave and ordered them by planned departure.

Half of the second wave appeared to be empty flat-beds and the force seemed to be re-ordering itself to drop out fifty of those flat-beds.

The inclusion of two firetrucks was puzzling to the young ladies but they didn’t try to figure it out.

They watched for fifteen minutes, long enough to see the first trucks being staged on the eastbound lanes of I-96.

They had transmitted what they could in code. The shortcomings of codes quickly became apparent. It was just not well suited to reconnasciance where novel circumstances are encountered.

Nevertheless, they transmitted what was easy to encode. The size of the force, its location, its apparent path and a guess at the estimated-time-of-arrival. The code did have enough flexibility to include the lanes of I-96.

*

Ann Arbor fighters were still oozing out of the carnage the Buffer-Zone mortars had wreaked on the leading wave of the Ann Arbor invasion.

The edge of the pancake-of-shrapnel that was rising mostly rattled to ground some 1200 yards distant. The chunks of nodular iron were far from aerodynamic.

The shrapnel that was angled downward had a different fate.

Projectiles that ricochet off of pavement and hard surfaces tend to leave the surface at an angle of 1-to-10 degrees regardless of the incident angle of impact. Most of the ricochets are in the 4-to-7 degree range and are tumbling with a ferocious buzz-saw snarl.

Because of the low angle, a great many of the Ann Arbor force sustained wounds to the abdomen, groin, legs, ankles and feet.

Most of the wounds to the abdomen and thighs would ultimately be fatal. The ricochets picked up traces of horse shit when the impacted the pavement and the tumbling, chunky pieces of iron created horrific wounds.

Wounds to the knees, lower legs, ankles and feet were incredibly painful and likely to leave the wounded solder a cripple but were not necessarily mortal wounds.

It was a slow, pitiful parade of these wounded who were leaving the wreckage of the invasion force.

Urdie had a plan.

The the second wave approached the Buffer-Zone, driving west in the eastbound lanes, Urdie had his mortars launch an extended volley but with the settings that matched the most eastward extent of the previous engagement. That is, the mortars with a range of 6000 yards dropped their rounds a thousand yards east of Wallace road.

Since the convoy was still a quarter-mile east of the 1000 yard mark, it was not difficult for them to come to a halt 1200 yards east of Wallace road.

The leader of that wave decided to reduce the Wallace road defenses with mortar barrages. He would volley for five minutes and then wait for counter volley to determine if the target had been sufficiently softened up.

What he could not know was that the mortar crews shielded by the earthworks that raised Wallace road were buttoned up tight. The return volleys were not from the Wallace road mortars but were from the mortars a mile south of I-96. The rounds from those mortars also hit a zone 200 yards west of the invading force. It was by design of course.

Volley, counter-volley. Volley, counter-volley. Every fifteen minutes or so Urdie passed word to the crew south of I-96 to slow the cadence to mimic another crew member being lost.

After two hours of mortaring the fighters of Wallace road, the leader of the invasion decided he had reduced their capability to a level that would produce acceptable losses.

By then, nearly all of the vehicles of second wave had pressed in tightly. Clearly, the Buffer-Zone mortars were only capable of a range of 1000 yards.

The leader was not too worried about operational security. The force mounted in plain sight of the Wallace road defenders. They moved westward toward Wallace road….

And the defenders rolled them up just like they had done with the first wave earlier in the morning, except this time it was one-hundred-fifty vehicles rather than fifty.

*

Miles to the south, Wokes-Cold's thighs were crushed between the dashboard and the seat of the ladder truck. Cold bog water had infiltrated the cab but had not reached her...yet. She heard the intense shelling to the north and concluded that Ann Arbor was still contesting the I-96 corridor, a route that would have been a walk-in-the-park if her commandos had been successful.

Wokes-Cold had failed and failed spectacularly. No amount of responsibility shifting could hide that fact.

Gretchen Wokes-Cold unholstered her 9mm and looked at it with disgust. It was filthy. No matter, Wokes-Cold had put a lot of disgusting things in her mouth to get where she was. She had only one more thing to do. She would only taste it for a second.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Lawn mowers

The garden tractor is now working.

The starter did not have voltage. We could hear the solenoid clicking.

There was voltage on the output side of the solenoid when activated.

Clearly, there was a broken wire somewhere between the solenoid and the starter.

Engines vibrate. Trash and branches get pushed up into the innards. There are a lot of things that can stress a wire.

Wiggling the wire to see if I could feel a floppy spot found me nothing.

Before heading off to the farm store to purchase some terminals I could crimp on to the end of a length of scrap 6 gage wire that was left over from fixing the air-conditioner, I took one more check on the starter terminal.

I about fell on my but when the motor turned over and started.

It blew out a bunch of smoke but that was from when the "scrappers" picked it up. Since one of the scrappers was Kubota, he offered it to me for just a bit more than he could get at the scrap yard.

Southern Belle took it for a spin around the yard. The mower deck goes up-and-down and the blades spin.

The deck needs a little bit of tweaking because it hangs with a pronounced list to the right. I also want to get larger diameter bogey wheels. The mower was scalping the grass.

So I am now the owner of three mowers that run. The old one. The new push mower and now the garden tractor which still would benefit from a new wire from the solenoid to the starter.

Belladonna update
Belladonna finished her last prerequisite today to get into an accelerated nursing program. It is a competitive admission. I am proud to announce that she knocked out an A in every class for both Winter and Summer sessions.

No Child Left Behind

Several members of my extended family are teachers.

To a person, they have nothing good to say about No Child Left Behind.

The crux of the issue is that NCLB collectivized the responsibility to learn. It is no longer solely the student's responsibility. Under NCLB the community failed when a student fails.

That sounds wonderful from a 40,000 foot fly-over level but fails when viewed from a Game Theory perspective.

The student quickly learns that he does not need to succeed. He can swoon and drop into the fetal position. Somebody, some collective, will grab the loop sewn into the back of his shirt and drag him into the endzone.

Some kids get test anxiety? No problem. We will give the kid three attempts to pass the test.

The kid feels bad because he was labeled? No problem. We will give EVERY student three chances to pass a test or write a paper.

Guess what, you just tripled the teacher's work-load because EVERY student will take the test or write the paper three times.

There might be some professional satisfaction if the quality between the first and the third effort increased but that is not the norm. The teacher lavishes attention on the paper and it comes back with the same mistakes. Mistakes, incidentally, that are readily flagged by MS Word grammar checker functions.

Darwin
The problem is not that the students are stupid. They are optimizing their behavior to the existing effort/reward structure. If not explicitly then they are conforming to the culture that evolved during the NCLB years.

Once a kid hits twelve, he should be signed up with an apprenticeship program with the nastiest ones being filled with the youngest students who take a dive.

Bomb-out as a twelve-year-old, apprentice with the guy who pumps septic tanks.

Bomb-out as a fourteen-year-old, apprentice with cement workers carrying hods and blocks up the scaffolding.

They didn't fail. They made early career choice decisions.

Quest: Shell Shocked


Gimp had worked with Janelle on the new mortar rounds for the 81mm mortars.

Gimp was willing to give up maximum range in return for larger amounts of more uniform shrapnel. Consequently, the Capiche rounds were more cylindrical than the tear-drop shaped NATO M821 81mm round and weighed 13 pounds to the M821’s 9 pounds.

If the M821 shrapnel pattern was donut shaped, the shrapnel pattern of the newly designed Capiche round was pancake shaped. More shrapnel in a tighter pattern meant more hits per square foot over a smaller area.

Gimps reasoning was that rural Michigan is flat. He wasn't worried about snipers shooting from third story windows or multiple mountain strong-points that varied in elevation by 100 feet. The pancake pattern was sub-optimal for those situations but were the cats-meow for targets on the flat-and-level.

Urdie had the detonators set to go off six above ground level

Because the rounds were coming in at an a slight angle, the pancakes were tilted. Half of the shrapnel was below six feet in elevation, half was above.

Even as the four mortar crews were servicing the target zone, fighters were leaving their trucks and running for safety. Many of them made it. Many did not.

As the survivors made their frantic dash to safety, they noticed that each mortar burst left a cloud of filthy black smoke. The stench of sulfur and the rich aromas of imperfectly refined petroleum was so heavy it could be tasted. It was a scene from Dante's Seventh Circle of Hell, a river of boiling blood and fire.

The bursting HE liquified the pitch within the shell. The high-explosive generated the incredible pressures required to first separate and then accelerate the shrapnel. The pressure aerosoled the pitch as the highly viscous liquid was forced through the gaps between the accelerating shreds of shrapnel.

On the Wallace Road overpass, fighters were encouraged to shoot invaders. The goal was not to burn through the maximum amount of ammo. The goal was to obtain as many hits as possible. If they could not get a good sight picture on a fleeing invader they were directed to not squeeze the trigger.

Six hundred yards is a long way to shoot. A thousand yards is a very, very long way to shoot. Not every shot hit. For some shooters, they were barely getting one-hit-in-ten. Each hit was a casualty. Even a modest wound meant that the soldier would not be returning to the front lines any time soon.

The panicked invaders never had a clue that they were taking fire from the west. The buffeting from the concussive mortar bursts, the shock of seeing team-mates riddled with multiple shrapnel hits. The stink…

The mortar crew continued to walk the column of vehicles from rear to front. Most of the vehicles were rendered inoperative. There was no way the westbound lanes would be cleared without the serious attention from a crew of wreckers.

Once they got to the head of the column, the mortar crews reversed direction and then walked the vehicles from front-to-back, mowing down running soldiers by the score.

*

Even as the enemy combatants fled the field of battle and the beaten zone moved eastward, Buffer-Zone fighters slipped out of the underbrush and started working their way up the line of vehicles.

Everybody carried a silenced, 9mm handgun.

Some of the fighters established over-watch. The other fighters worked their way from vehicle-to-vehicle looking for ammo and weapons to salvage. They left the wounded and dead. They had no means for caring for them.

They also placed explosive charges between fuel tanks and chassis frames. It was inevitable that the invaders, if they still had the stomach to continue fighting would realize that the line of wrecked vehicles was excellent cover to get closer to the Buffer-Zone and were prime positions for snipers.

Forewarned is forearmed.

*

Donnie Galligan was inspecting the bridge Wokes-Cold had thrown across the West Branch.

Galligan had a security detail on the east side of the river to alert Donnie if aggressors started moving in their direction.

Donnie was intrigued by the leveling feet. He knew something about hydraulics so he recognized the hoses by the crimping.

He didn’t have a lot of time to demo the bridge. It would not be easy to mine it. The spars were sleek and a package of explosives would hang out like balls on a goose.

Not knowing when they would get company, Donnie settled for cutting the hoses. Lacking proper cutting tools, they made do with a couple rounds of Armor Piercing ammo.

*

The staging area in Howell, ten miles to the east was in total chaos.

Radio discipline was non-existent. Everybody was stepping on each other.

The second part of the convoy, the logistical support, had panicked and left the deserting fighters behind.

The third part, which was preparing to embark was bottled up by the returning logistical vehicles and became a snarled mess.

The highly refined and well honed “process” Ann Arbor had developed to invade her neighbors had been mauled.

Every one of their moves on the battlefield had been anticipated and neutralized with surgical precision and ruthless force.

Their losses, in absolute terms, were manageable. 20% of the first wave KIA. Another 30% wounded and not capable of fighting. The loss of so many fighters was painful but not a show-stopper.

It was the loss of prestige that stung. Everybody wants to be in the military when it has the aura of invincibility. Chris Pearl’s force just had its ass handed to it by a force that was expected to be little more than a speed-bump. As far as Pearl could tell, his forces had not been able to launch a single, aimed shot at the defenders and he was looking at 500 casualties.

It was a fortunate thing that Ann Arbor was starting to fill up with refugees from Detroit. Pearl could put them to good use. There was not much time to train them, but how much training is required to stop a bullet? Eventually, the Buffer-Zone had to run out of bullets, right?

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Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Quest: Pitch Perfect

The hierarchy of targets had been a subject of great contention in the days leading up to the invasion. The discussion went in circles until each player was able to articulate what he saw as his primary mission.

Urdie’s inclination was to expend the minimum ordinance and expose his men to as little hazard as possible. He contended that his primary mission was to stop the initial thrust of the invasion.

Spackle argued otherwise.

Perhaps it was an artifact of Quinn Spackle's rapid rise in rank, or perhaps it was because Capiche did not have an established military tradition, but Spackle seemed to think it was important for his Lieutenants to agree with his reasons for doing things. Spackle could have just ordered Urdie to do it his way but there were reasons he chose not to.

In the course of arguing, sometimes the Lewies brought up points he had not considered. Then, they wrangled about how to get most of what Spackle wanted while incorporating the new information.

Other times, the point the Lewie raised was a minor point in the overall scheme of things. While it was important to the Lewie, it was strictly a local issue and optimizing it for one zone would make it sub-optimal for the everybody else.

Urdie argued that blowing through a significant percentage of his ordinance in a single engagement, in a single hour, was foolish.

Spackle thought for a second about how to best argue his vision. “Suppose you are in a bar fight and the guy you are fighting is bigger than you. Suppose he gives you a clear shot at his chin. What do you do? Do you step back and say, ‘Well, I might hurt my hand”?

“Hell no. You punch him in the throat. You punch him in the chin. You hit him until he falls down or he gets his guard up.” Spackle argued.

“Because the only reason he offered his chin was because he was arrogant, or sloppy or you were already beating him silly” Spackle said. “If you don’t beat him when he gives you an opening like that, what is to prevent him from going to his car and coming back with a bat or a gun?”

“If we don’t knock-the-snot out of them when they come waltzing down I-96 not expecting a fight, then they will pull those forces back and hit us where we aren’t as prepared.”

Urdie would have rolled over if Spackle had simply ordered him to burn through most of his artillery shells but Urdie would not have taken a personal interest in the positioning of every tube, the location of the ammo dumps and the targeting.

What tipped the argument in Spackle’s favor is that the supply chain was delivering pallet loads of artillery shells every day. They had worked through some perplexing technical problems while the chemical plants were churning out ammonium-nitrate. Once those problems had been resolved the floodgates opened and the ammo came rolling in.

For one thing, the only viable material for making the shell casings was cast iron. Capiche and Delta Township no longer had the infrastructure to forge steel on the scale required by the coming conflict.

Cast iron is a horrible material for shell casings. For one thing, it is extraordinarily brittle. The sharp shock of high-explosives detonating turn it to sand-sized particles.

The answer had been to use a kind of cast iron called nodular iron. Ordinary “gray cast iron” was filled with flakes of graphite much like a bowl filled with corn flakes. When it was fractured, it cleaved along the flakes and exposed the graphite. That is why the iron looks gray when broken, because of all the graphite that was exposed.

Nodular iron was virtually identical to gray iron except a very tiny addition of magnesium resulted in an increase in surface tension between the molten iron and the carbon that was dropping out of solution. Instead of forming flakes, it formed tiny spheres that did not interrupt the iron matrix nearly as much as the flakes.

Janelle didn’t get into the metallurgy. She handed the problem off to a tiny foundry in Springport, Michigan just south of Eaton Rapids. They knew about nodular iron. They also knew what automotive components were cast from nodular iron.

Benicio had labor. He had hundreds-of-thousands of disabled automobiles. Soon, crankshafts and front suspension struts and the like were being trucked to Springport for melting and casting as shell casings.

Janelle had other issues she was working on.

Even with the increased ductility of the nodular iron, completely filling the shell casing with the compressed ammonium-nitrate and powdered zinc-aluminum had two unfortunate outcomes. One outcome was that the explosion shattered the nodular iron into fragments too small to travel far or to penetrate targets. The other unhappy outcome was that the small particles rapidly spread apart in space and the high pressure gasses leaked around them without transferring as much energy to them.

Not completely filling the shell resulted in incomplete detonation or duds. The AN-ZA explosive demanded compression to detonate in a reliable way.

The solution came from the most unlikely of places.

Janelle found an old muzzle-loader enthusiast. She sought him out because the old “pineapple” grenades from WWII used cast iron and black powder. She hoped against hope that he might have some insight that she would find useful.

He invited Janelle to sit with him on his front porch. It was on the south side of his house and the sun felt nice. Janelle took him up on the offer. The bent-wood rocker fit her body well.

“Do you know why we lube cast bullets and cloth patches?” the old thunder-stick enthusiast asked Janelle.

“So they don’t stick in the bore?” Janelle guessed.

“Nope. So the gas-cutting doesn’t shred the patch or weld the lead to the bore” the old geezer informed her. “The lube is a floating seal.”

"What did you use for lube?" Janelle asked.

"Depended on the weather" the old geezer told her. "Lot of folks used straight lard or Crisco. Some mixed lard and wax. Others used wax."

Walking back to the shop, Janelle wondered how she could use the information. Her first efforts involved a slug of AN-ZA centered in a tube of polyethylene. After all, polyethylene is basically a wax with a high melting point.

It worked well. It worked even better when the 3/8” thick casing was scored into a grid of 1/4” squares. Unfortunately, polyethylene was hard to come by and she didn’t have the equipment to process it on an industrial scale.

That problem was solved after she shared it with her husband, Chernovsky. He had worked on a roofing crew after graduating from college. The crew worked on flat roofs.

Chernovsky wondered if the pitch they mopped down and then covered with stone would be an acceptable substitute for polyethylene. Chernovsky's thinking was pitch melted like wax and burned like wax.

It proved a very good substitute for polyethylene. And it was available in massive quantity from the builders supply warehouses and the local paving companies. Even though it was extremely flammable, nobody ever tried to burn it...at least nobody ever tried a second time. It stank like a Stygian cesspit and when it leaked out of a stove it invariably started a fire on the floor.

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