Monday, May 17, 2021

Remnant: Come a little bit closer...

The next team of mules to leave Fabulous Acres include two women in their ranks. One of the women was Louisa, Gilbert’s daughter-in-law. The other woman was Carmen, Louisa’s sister.

Between the two of them, they had cooked up a plan.

Both women were carrying packs. Louisa was carrying mostly clothing. Carmen was carrying bribes to get past the Customs Station.

The two women split from the men when the men turned west at the power-lines, the women continued another half-mile south, then a half-mile west to the Customs Station. Moving closer to the station, they could see a fire and the “agents” trying to stay awake and warm themselves in the frosty night.

Carmen opted for the direct approach. “Hey, you guys. You look cold.”

They spun them away from the fire. Of course, their night vision was toast. They did not see the two women until they were in the middle of the men. Boys, really.

The roads they were guarding never had much traffic, even before the Covid and now they had the tiniest trickle. They had volunteered to guard the roads, lured by certain riches. The riches proved an illusion and being the youngest men selected they had been given “midnight” shift.

Other Customs Stations may have been raking in the loot hand-over-fist but not these guys.

“We felt sorry for you guys and brought you a bite to eat” Carmen said.

It doesn’t take much to make tamales. Masa, a tiny bit of greasy meat, some spices and something to wrap them.

They were like to food of the Gods to the cold, tired, hungry boys guarding the roads. The sympathetic voices of the women were like a honeyed balm to their bruised souls.

Carmen, the unmarried sister, was an outrageous flirt. She could not help it. It was how she was wired.

She sorted the men out as they interacted. It took her just a few minutes to figure out who was really in charge.

Then she sidled just a little bit closer as she button-hooked upwind of him. She smelled of soap and a hint of lilac. Oh, and two dozen still-warm tamales.

She laid a hand on his upper arm as he reached into the pizza warming bag for his tamales.

Her touch was firm as she massaged his muscles through his too-thin jacket. “Oh! You are a big and strong one, no? No wonder you are a guard” she marveled. "I like men who are big and strong."

Like a butterfly she fluttered from boy-to-boy and kept stitching back to the one she had pegged as the leader. Every time she came close to the leader Carmen touched him. Nothing overtly sexual but feminine and very possessive. If any of the other men had carnal thoughts toward Carmen, they were tempered with the knowledge that she seemed to be under the leader's protection. Alpha-wolf bitches are off-limits.

When the women left, nobody noticed that they left in a different direction than the one they had had entered the station.

Carmen promised to bring tamales again the next night. After all, the nights were long and cold and where else would a comely lass find such good company?

None of the men really believed she would come back. Before she left, she made them promise to save her some scraps of meat so she could make tamales suitable for big, hard-muscled, working men like them.


The fifteen mules varied their route from the previous night. They hooked farther south and farther east than the night before.

That is something they had noticed about traveling in the cities. Whether they zigged-and-zagged every block or went as far east as possible before turning north the distance was the same. And, given the issues with the Section 8 housing, it might even make sense to add distance to the trip if it gave hazards a wide berth and prevented ambushers from “patterning” them.


Hermes Aiello told Gilbert that the two women had jobs. They were to scout out trailers and abandoned houses where people could squat and they were to compromise the Custom Stations people fleeing Fabulous Acres would have to pass.
Gilbert was directed to help them in any way he could.


Gilbert had split his crew into two separate work-parties.

One of the land owners smelled the campfire where they were roasting their lunch and objected. None of the crew was particularly proficient at English and they were unable to defend themselves.

The land-owner called the Mayor. The land-owner harangued the mayor in front of the idle work-crew.

The Mayor, while not very religious, had upon occasion looked in the Bible for wisdom. Recalling something from the Old Testament, he asked “Would you deny an ox a bite of grain while it threshed it for you?”

“I don’t know what the hell you are talking about. These guys are eating better than Americans. I never told them they could eat any of this meat” the man fumed.

The mayor turned to the crew. “This man does not want your help. Leave him. Go here. They need you more”  as the mayor showed them an address.

That is when the land-owner lost it. His animal was half butchered and the campfire was still burning. The butchers dumped the animal on the dirt to retrieve their gambrel and hoist.

The mayor said “You just fired us. Don’t bother asking for help again. There is more than enough work for these men; work where people will not get in their way and stop them from doing their jobs.”

The mayor called the next job ahead. “Hey, the crew is available sooner than I thought. I just wanted to clear up a potential misunderstanding. These guys don’t have food or a kitchen. You can either feed them or let them eat some meat scraps while they butcher. It don’t matter which. Preparing their own food won't slow them down. They just fit it in.”

The men from Fabulous Acres could understand spoken English much better than they could speak it. It was clear that they wouldn’t have any trouble collecting plenty of scraps for the bribe-tamales and the mayor was a good-guy to work for.


Dar Spaulding sought the comfort of the marital bed and for the second time in their marriage, Leslie refused.

She had a blistering headache.

Dar attributed it to “that time of life” even though that had been years earlier.

Dar took it more philosophically than the first time it happened. For one thing, he was twenty years older and his needs weren’t as urgent. For another, sleep is a wonderful medicine and Leslie was clearly not feeling well. He wanted her to get better.

Sunday, May 16, 2021 an abundance of caution...

How often have we heard the phrase " an abundance of caution..." as justification for a decision during Covid?

Usually, the justification was for some decision that was otherwise indefensible.

Herd Immunity

One of my sisters-in-law is a retired nurse. God bless her, she administers vaccinations to the residents of Ingham County.

She was lamenting the resistance many residents had to the vaccination and despaired of ever reaching "herd immunity".

So I asked, what seemed to me, the obvious question "Can't we reach herd immunity without everybody getting vaccinated? Isn't it a combination of those who were immunized and those who actually GOT the disease?"

She poo-pooed my feeble, layman's understanding of immunology. "Nope, Joe. It doesn't work that way. Lot's of people who were diagnosed with Covid have almost no antibodies."


"Polymerase chain reaction is a method widely used to rapidly make millions to billions of copies of a specific DNA or RNA sample"

DNA and RNA will cheerfully replicate given certain conditions. It must be able to do that for cells to divide. Given enough generations, a single virus trapped in snot will register as a Covid positive test. That only means that the patient's mucus did its job in filtering out particles, not that the patient was infected and shedding Covid virus.

Kubota, for instance, worked in a facility with a person who registered positive for Covid. His test came back positive. He never had symptoms. He lives with us and we never had symptoms. I would happily bet $20that he was never really infected with Covid. Sure, he had some virus trapped in his nose-snot. But that is not "infected".

The 35 generations of PCR amplification was justified " the abundance of caution..." and now they don't know who really had Covid and who simply inhaled Covid without it causing an infection.

"Oh what a tangled web we weave

when first we practice to deceive."

Somehow, given government's extensive experience in disseminating, deceiving and outright telling of lies that they would have been smoother in their Covid narrative.

" an abundance of caution..." joins "I am from the government and here to help".

Tar and Feathers


I worked one summer of my misspent youth on a roofing crew. We roofed flat roofs with tar and stone.

The "kettle-man" ran the kettle. He broke up 100 pound plugs of tar with an ax and tossed them into the propane fired kettle.

It was pumped to the roof and "hot" guys carried it in buckets to the skilled guys who poured and mopped it. Gravel was added later.

I was a "hot" guy.

One morning we lost our kettle-man. He always started early...four in the morning if memory serves...because the crew had a temperature window to work with. The tar had to be hot and liquid when we showed up.

Because he started early he also punched out early and a kettle that is 1/4 comes to heat more quickly than one that is full. So a big part of his job, early in the shift is to refill the kettle, never adding so much that it dropped the temperature below the working temperature of 450F.

Unlike ice which expands when it freezes, tar shrinks. It shrinks a lot. So every plug of tar had a deep cavity in the top.

One night it rained. In the morning, the kettle-man did as he always did. At some point, when the kettle was almost full, he tossed in a piece of tar from the top of one of the plugs. It still had some water in the cavity....perhaps the recess in the top had partially "bubbled". I don't know. I never saw the kettle-man again to ask.

The water flashed to steam and sprayed the kettle-man with molten, 450 degree liquid tar which immediately congealed upon hitting his skin. The kettle-man was a big man. It was hot near the kettle. He was not wearing a shirt (but he was wearing sunglasses).

The Emergency Room physicians resorted to using a hand-cleanser, GoJo, to soften and remove the tar. A eighth-of-an-inch of slagged on tar burned equally deeply into his flesh. 

Everywhere he was splashed, except for the spider webs, were third (and fourth) degree burns.

  • First-degree burns damage the outer layer (epidermis) of the skin. These burns usually heal on their own within a week. A common example is a sunburn.
  • Second-degree burns damage not only the outer layer but also the layer beneath it (dermis). These burns might need a skin graft—natural or artificial skin to cover and protect the body while it heals—and they may leave a scar.
  • Third-degree burns damage or completely destroy both layers of skin including hair follicles and sweat glands and damage underlying tissues. These burns always require skin grafts.
  • Fourth degree burns extend into fat, fifth degree burns into muscle, and sixth degree burns to bone.    Source

 Modern medicine is a miracle. It can save nearly every person who has less than 40% of their skin covered with third degree burns. The first hospital stay is long, 20-to-40 days. The treatment is excruciating as the patient is put into a whirlpool for "debridement". Debridement is when the dead and infected flesh is removed by the water and mechanical scouring.

In the absence of modern antibiotics, sterile whirlpools and an economy rich enough to subsidize putting a person into intensive care for a month....burn patients with 40% of their body surface covered with 3rd degree burns are going to die a very, very painful and protracted death. Many will opt for suicide.

The lucky ones are the ones who die quickly. They will be unable to replace fluids or their electrolytes will get out-of-balance and they will tag-out with a heart attack. They will die within days. Still excruciating pain, but only days of it.

The unlucky ones will linger for weeks, and then die.

Back-in-the-day, to be tarred-and-feathered was not a joke and almost inevitably fatal.

If you survived (unlikely), you would have horrible scars and everybody would know, "You were the guy..."

Not a joke

Today, the term "tar-and-feather' is something of a joke, a meme or shorthand for taking action against somebody who you disapprove of.

It is not a joke. It is a death sentence.

And it is telling that at various times in our country's history people felt it was not just justified, but required.

Saturday, May 15, 2021

May 15: Corn and cabbage

 May 15 is a critical date for me as a gardener in Eaton County, Michigan.

May 15 is my target date for planting my "winter cabbage" and my ornamental corn.

One of the nice things about ornamental corn is you can save your own seeds and create a blend that you like.

Corwin Davis, a market gardener from Bellevue Michigan once advised me that the corn that sold like hot-cakes had twice as much yellow as white, twice as much white as red and twice as much red as blue.

The striped pattern on the kernels of the left-most ear is striking and the ear on the right seemed almost like translucent glass when first harvested.

The ear on the left was enormous.

A close-up of one of the ears. The kernels remind me of the candy-corn we got at Halloween.

Hmmm! A big miss on the 65% yellow, 20% white, 10% red and 5% blue.

From a different angle. These are the tip-ends. One notable thing is that all of my seed sources (except the enormous ear, third from left) filled out to the tip very, very well.

Five, 60' rows of corn

Oh, and I did get the Deadon cabbage seeds planted today.

Woke cities have a new theme song


Upgrading the labels in my breaker-box


Our house was built in the mid-1970s.

The label on the inside of the breaker-box door was yellowing and the handwriting was never all that great.

I decided to upgrade. It was one of those quick projects I could execute before heading off to Mom's for the day.

I printed it in 14pt Verdana Bold. Then I laminated it between a couple of clear sheets of sticky plastic.

The door fell off as I was attempting to tape it into place.

No problem. It was easier to work on off-the-junction box.

I reinstalled the door. Went upstairs and noticed that our security camera monitors were dark.

I tried a couple more circuits and found another that was dead.

Trotting back down the stairs, I saw that three of the breakers on the left side of the box had been tripped when I put the cover back on. Easy fix, right? I flipped the three breakers to the "On" position and went back up the stairs sure I had solved the problem.

Still no joy. The monitors were still dark and it was time to go to Mom's to relieve the previous caregiver.

On the way home, I swung by Menards and purchased a couple of breakers in case I had fried them. Unfortunately, I did not have an example with me so I bought two of the more common types.

Once home, I put on my head-light and grabbed my handi-dandy multitester. The lead coming into the left side of the panel read 124V.

The first breaker, one that I knew had tripped read zero. I cycled the breaker and made sure it had cycled on. I also pressed it to make sure the clevis had firmly engaged the tab on the breaker-bar. The last part was just for show as the surface of the breaker was even with the others.

Still no joy.

Then I worked my way down the row of breakers on the left side of the box. All DEAD!

I checked a couple on the right side. They read 124V so it was not a case of my multi-tester being dead.

What a puzzler.

That is when my eyes focused on the actual writing on the faulty breakers.

I had not tripped three breakers when I reinstalled the breaker-box cover, I had tripped seven of them. When I toggled the three I had turned them off.

Fixing the problem involved turning the breakers on the left side of the box from "Off" to "On".

As a last resort, read the directions....or the labels on the part.

Now I need to find some screws to ensure the cover doesn't jump off the box again.

Friday, May 14, 2021

Former Senator Harris and Biden's new theme song


I suspect their core voters in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, North Florida and Maryland are not very impressed.

PS: You gotta watch that Toby Keith. He is a right slippery bastard.

Remnant: Retribution

Fritz Speicher and Dar Spaulding went way back. Dar remembered Fritz from second grade. In fifth grade, Fritz discovered he had a neighbor who received magazines in plain, brown paper covers.

Since Fritz got out of school sooner than his neighbor came home from work, it wasn't hard for Fritz to intercept some of those girlie magazines.

Fritz was suddenly a very popular fellow. He and his school chums...including Dar...marveled at the gravity defying assets of Mr. Hefner's girlfriends.

Stealing is a sin, of course. The magazines were slipped back in their brown wrappers and delivered about five days afterward.

The boys knew there must be more to "sex" than oohing-and-ahhing. But details would have to wait.

You would have to be blind to see that Dar was one of the few who was in-the-know. Fritz was not blind.

"Do you know who done this to me and Clair?" Fritz baldly asked Dar.

That put Dar on the horns of dilemma. He had a damned good idea who did it.

Jarrell and the Mayor were working on a plan to foment rebellion. That was all well and good, but that was a long-term goal. People were hurting now. People Dar knew and trusted.

Fritz could see Dar was chewing on something. He knew better than to push.

"Tell me again about the trucks the gomers were driving" Dar said.

"Blue Chevy, maybe 2010 blue with lots of metal-flake. An old Ford...mid-70s. Two-tone, brick-red and cream" Fritz responded.

Dar started scrolling though pictures on his phone. "Did it look like this one?"

Fritz looked at the image of the 1977 Ford truck. It was identical to the one that had been driven by the raiders who visited his farm. Identical, except for the bullet holes in the windshield.

"Yeah, that looks like the one" Fritz said.

"What about the other one?" Fritz asked.

"Lots of 2010 Chevys out there" Dar said. "Hard to tell."

"How important is it to you that you put some pain back on the people who did this to you?" Dar asked.

"They pointed guns at Clair. There wasn't anything I could do about it. That just ain't right" Fritz said.

"I would give my left nut to put some pain on the assholes who did this" Fritz continued.

Dar scrolled through a few more pictures. Then he showed Fritz the Letter of Marque that had been in the red-and-cream colored Ford.

"See the bottom name? That is the name of the asshole who pointed the gun at Clair" Dar said.

"See the name above it? That is the name of the person who told him to do it"

Fritz looked at the signature block. "Boris Dragonov? That name is really familiar."

"He is your township clerk" Dar said.

"Son of a bitch" Fritz cursed.

"I know what you are thinking of doing. I would do the same myself. But I shared this with you because I know I can trust you" Dar said.

Dar held up his hand to forestall Fritz's objection.

"I ain't gonna tell you to not do what you are thinking. But you gotta make it look random. There are wheels-within-wheels here. You can really gum things up if you let out how you got this information" Dar said.

Fritz looked at Dar for a minute.

"You are saying I can kill him?" Fritz asked.

"Some people need killing. If he told somebody to point a gun at Leslie or Melody then you better not stop me from killing him" Dar said.

"I am just putting some boundaries around it. You cannot breath a word to anybody about how you got this information. Better yet, make it look like a robbery gone wrong or random violence" Dar said.

That seemed like small enough of a condition.

At one in the morning, Boris Dragonov woke to the sound and fury of his garage burning down. 9-1-1 gave him no satisfaction. There were no units to send.

Grabbing a bucket, he rushed out the door, only to catch a load of high-brass #6 shot in his lower gut.

Nobody saw the person who pulled the trigger. They estimated he was ten-to-fifteen feet away from Dragonov when he pulled the trigger based on the diameter of the pattern.

It would have taken a crack team of emergency room surgeons to remove the 250 pellets from his abdominal cavity. Between hunting down the pellets and repairing the perforated bowels and kidneys, it would have been a four hour surgery. Except there were no functioning Emergency Rooms and no crack teams of surgeons.

Dying from sepsis is not a pretty way to go.


After a long day butchering, Gilbert asked Fritz about a camper that was on a property a half mile from the Speicher farm.

Gilbert struggled to give directions, but Fritz eventually figured it out after Gilbert pointed anbd made lots of hand gestures.

"Who owns it?" Gilbert asked.

"Not really sure. Why?" Fritz asked.

"My son has a new wife. He wants to move her to Eaton Rapids so they can live as man-and-wife" Gilbert informed him.

Fritz could understand that.

"He wondered if he could move into that camper" Gilbert continued.

"It isn't mine to say 'yes' or 'no'"  Fritz said. That property belongs to a trust down in Indiana. A couple weekends a year somebody uses that camper and they play poker, do some drinking and might even go hunting."

Gilbert's face fell.

Then Fritz matter-of-factly added, "I don't think anybody local cares much one way or the other. You guys are working your asses off. If you could pop the door open without damaging it, I reckon your son could live their until the rightful owners show up. Its called squatting."

"You did the right thing. You asked first. Just have your boy leave it better than he found it and I am sure it will be OK" Fritz said.

Fritz was 99.9% sure the owners in Indiana would NOT be making the trip up to Eaton Rapids any time soon.


Nora Odenkirk peered through her sapphire tinted contacts at the TV camera. "And we have some good news to report. A convoy of forty semi-trucks successfully brought a load of grain from Maumee, Ohio to Washington D.C. For all the people here, I want to say 'Thanks Maumee!'"

The wheels were slowly starting to turn. Conscripted truck drivers were put into trucks and forced to drive to distant grain shipping facilities, fill up the trucks and then return.

The return trip involved dodging bullets from disgruntled locals. Armored Personnel Carriers attempted to sanitize the route but some rounds always slipped through. No convoy ever made it back to the East Coast intact.

And while forty semis sounded like a lot of trucks, it was a drop-in-the-bucket when divided up by the population in and around the Beltway. The situation was even worse for the northern part of the Megalopolis, from New Jersey north.

Any hopes of the Federal Government restoring order and facilitating commerce west of Harrisburg were dashed.

Cities like Lansing were left to fend for themselves.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Mowing grass, burning brush and irrigating



I am way behind on mowing. I did some catching up today.

We have had about three inches of rain since March 1. Things are getting a little bit dry.

I blew out the drip irrigation by uncapping the ends and running water of an hour. Then I closed up the ends and ran it for another three hours. I have 2gph emitters so each tree got a drink.

The dry weather made it a good day to shrink the burn pile.

I also moved the seedlings of romaine lettuce from flats into Mrs ERJ's garden.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

I-40 Bridge over Mississippi River, Cracked member


First, let me lead off by saying that I don't have any inside information.

Second, me assure you that I have done more stress and durability analysis than the usual Internet, Armchair Expert.

Had the cracks occurred at the ends of the doubler plate it would have been understandable. Cracks occur at the end of reinforcing plates every day and twice on Sunday. But this crack was not at the end of the reinforcing plate and was more than a "crack". It was a total fracture.

What is baffling about this fracture is that there are no visible, abrupt changes in geometry that say "stress riser". Nor, looking at the location in the overall structure, is there any reason to suspect high stresses at this particular point.

Perhaps there are internal gussets and reinforcements that are not visible but that would not be an economical place to put them from a fabrication standpoint.

While it is remotely possible that the beam was too short and a bit was welded onto the end to make it longer, the fracture is not quite perpendicular to the section. That makes the fractured weld hypothesis very unlikely.

What no responsible engineer wants to suggest is the possibility that steel beams with very-low, cold temperature impact toughness were built into critical, US infrastructure like bridges.


Low-carbon steel is a marvelous material. It is inexpensive, tough, amenable to common fabrication techniques and equally strong in all directions.

During WWII, steel became critical to the war effort. War runs on nitrates, oil, steel and blood.

Somebody had the bright idea adding a little bit of this and a little bit of that to common, low-carbon steel and increasing the strength by 50%. The thinking was that if it was 50% stronger than applications like ships would use 30% less.

Contributing to the soon-to-be-problem, production science suggested that welding was faster than riveting. Ships designed to transport US war materials to Europe were made of High-Strength-Low-Alloy (HSLA) steel and were primarily of welded construction.

U-boat predations of merchant shipping made more northerly routes advisable. The high seas of northern latitudes made it more difficult for Nazi U-boats to get a good periscope fix on targets to launch torpedoes.

Toilet paper

Toilet paper comes in rolls. The strip of paper is scored with a row of tiny holes about every four inches. I trust that most of my readers have seen pictures of toilet paper if they have not personally used it.

The user unrolls the desired amount and initiates a tear at the closest row of perforations.

Almost always, the paper separates at the desired location. It happens with such reliability that those of us who use toilet paper rarely give it a thought.

Some materials are supremely insensitive to suggestions like the row of perforations. Bubblegum is a prime example.

Other materials are supremely sensitive to suggestions. Glass for instance. The slightest scoring of the surface will cause a pane of glass to fracture in the indicated location.

Back to WWII

It was well understood that higher strength steels were often more brittle than lower strength steels.

Alloys were prepared. Tests were run. Ships were built.

What nobody had anticipated was that the first generation of HSLA steel used to build the Liberty Ships were temperature sensitive. Alloys that performed well at 60F could fail miserably at 20F.

North Atlantic. Cold. Stormy. High, humped waves.

All welded construction. 

Square-cornered access to holds, designed to facilitate rapid production.

Documented cases of captains looking for U-boat periscopes seeing six Liberty ship in one direction and by the time they swept back in that direction there were only five. The sixth ship had snapped in half and sunk just that quickly.


Why did ship-designers choose the first HSLA alloys?

The entire point of choosing them was that they didn't use rare, costly alloying element nor did they require exotic thermal processing at the mill. After all, mill capacity was a limiting factor.

Those economics have not changed. First generation HSLA steels are still less expensive. There is economic advantage to slipping a few (or more than a few) into the mix. After all, when the Interstate system was first built the ability to give every steel beam a unique bar-code label was a pipe-dream. It would not be that hard. And if they were sent to a hot state like Tennessee, what are the chances of them ever getting cold?

The crappy thing is...

The only good way to test for low-temperature notch sensitivity is to cut a sample, notch it, cool it and test it.

There might be twenty million steel beams built into bridges in the US.

Furthermore, those beams might be just fine until somebody comes along and cuts a sample out of them. Then the beam will be like the pane of glass with a line scored in the surface.

Like I wrote earlier, no responsible engineer wants this to be the case.

They really, really, really want to find some other "smoking gun". Otherwise it will be at total shit-storm.

Cougar Pine


Not my best work, but certainly not my worst.

Three-and-a-half hours which included a half hour coffee and laceration break. That beat my 5 hour estimate by a significant margin. I will count that as a victory.

Detail of header on the hinge end.

The non-hinge end had disassembled itself in the box. It was stapled together which was clearly not up to the task of being moved by fork-trucks. I put 2-by-4 blocks in the corners and shot construction screws into it to hold it together.

One of two complications

I figured out why they specified a person in the attic during the installation. It was to hammer the unit down into the opening. The side-frames were bowed and gravity was not enough to settle it into the opening.

The other complication was due to the choice of wood species. The manufacturer uses a type of western, yellow pine known as "Cougar Pine".

This species was so named because cougar hunters noticed that cougars, when pressed by hounds, always chose the tallest, straightest pines. Obviously, that kind of tree makes premium lumber for applications like attic ladders.

Unfortunately, like cougars everywhere, they have an ingrained tendency to pounce down  on unsuspecting prey.

That was the second complication. While fiddling with the bottom segment and trying to position it to saw off the excess, the unit pounced on me like a 45 year-old divorcee on a 29 year-old in the construction trades.

While I did not invest my heart and soul in this project, I can honestly say I donated some blood.

Legs are trimmed and deck screws installed. This sucker isn't going to pounce an any more carpenters.

Things that need to be said

A scope with a higher magnification will not help you hold your weapon any steadier.

High-maintenance should never be mistaken for high-class.

You might be able to out-run a cop car but you cannot out-run radio transmissions.

More chilies don't make the meat fresher. More beers don't really make the girls prettier.

The difference between a dog and a fox is six beers.

As I age, I find I now get drunk on a single drink. Usually the fifth one.

Character isn't how folks act when everything is going right. It is how they act when things go poorly.

Pepper spray means you can have a really good laugh about it....six years later.

Don't ask me to explain women. I have only been married once and she is not on the market.

Someday your kid will hear your voice come out of their kid's mouth. "Dad, you can borrow my tools but make sure you put them back where you found them. These are my GOOD tools."

It is as easy to drive on the top half of the gas tank as the bottom half and it is a lot less worrisome.

Folks would be a lot more civil if there was a chance they would get their asses kicked for being rude.

The only time it makes economic sense to buy a new car is if your current vehicle is so unreliable you are likely to lose your job.

Progressives want to take conservative's weapons because they realize the only real weapon is a functioning brain. They want to level the playing field.

Please feel free to add your own.

Iguana control



Sniping iguana in south Florida. Iguana burrow and munch on landscaping. In cold weather they fall out of trees into traffic and on to pedestrians.

I bet they taste like chicken.

Iguana Solutions has a boat-load of videos. Some with snare poles. Others with airguns.

Her airgun deserves comment. It fires a .22 caliber, 25 grain pellet at about 850 fps. It uses a tank of pre-compressed air so she can get multiple shots. She really lays them out with head-shots. It is not cheap at $1400 but it is a tool they use every day.

Velocity fall-off

About fifty shots from a fully charged tank before the shooter starts to see velocity fall.

One concern with a weapon that uses a precharged tank is that velocity is likely to fall-off as the pressure in the tank falls.

One work-around is to use a regulator to control the pressure ported to the pellet. Obviously, the regulated pressure must be less than the pressure in the tank. Regulators cannot create energy!

That presents the designer with a dilemma. If he chooses a lower pressure to extend the plateau then he loses power. If he chooses higher pressure to maximize power than he shortens the number of shots available to the shooter before trajectories become unpredictable.

Air rifles work for Iguana Solutions because there is no brass to police and they are quieter than .22s, even though there are many low-noise .22 rounds available. Those options include CB, and CCI "Quiet" .22LR and even the humble .22 Short.

Remnant: Moving things the old fashioned way

Figuring out how to move the 600 pounds of grain from Eaton Rapids to Fabulous Acres proved to be a much tougher problem than the Aiello brothers anticipated.

Lansing, like many cities, was surrounded by a ring of limited access “Interstates”. In the case of Lansing, the outer ring was almost square and measured 10 miles on a side.

The Acting Governor had roadblocks set-up on every road that went over or under the Interstates. He was deadly serious about stopping any food “smuggled” into Lansing that he was unable to “tax”.

The obvious solution was to get some trusted residents from Fabulous Acres jobs at the road blocks.

“No way, Chico” the head guard laughed in their faces. “You have to know somebody to get one of these jobs.”

Few jobs have more opportunity for graft, corruption, bribes and the petty exercise of power than to be a Customs Agent. And the most desired positions of all were the ones on midnight shift.

Victor and Hermes discussed the possibility of slipping over the Interstate in the dark-of-night but further intelligence gathering indicated that the roads were patrolled by various types of vehicles. The guards were armed and had no inhibitions about shooting at shadows.

Maybe one or two people could manage to slip over the Interstate but the neighborhood needed a dozen men to carry the six-hundred pounds and it needed to happen every night.

Barbecue-Man was the one who thought of the duck-boat.

Rodney had a 14 foot long jon-boat that was painted in dark, smudged colors to resemble marshy vegetation. He also had an electric motor and a deep-cycle battery.

The battery was brought to full charge by running a vehicle and tapping into its battery.

In the dark-of-night, the boat was transported beneath a tarp and launched in the Grand River at the end of Jolly Road. From there Antonio, a slightly-built 17 year-old rowed the boat up-river. Luckily, the river had almost no current as it was dammed a couple of miles downstream.

The Grand River flows from South-to-North (bottom to top). The North-South road passes over the Interstate so the church is masked from view of the Customs station

After two miles of rowing, he passed beneath the Interstate and another two-hundred yards placed him behind the Dimondale United Methodist Church.

Six-hundred pounds of corn in fifty-pound sacks were loaded into the bottom of the boat.

The young man needed help pushing off. The combined weight of the corn, the young man and the battery put the boat almost 300 pounds over its weight limit.

The bags of corn were perfect ballast, the water was still and the motor low power. Antonio’s biggest risk would be if he plowed into a sandbar he could not push the boat off of or if he hit a partially submerged log. If he didn’t hit the log square, there was a slight chance he could roll the boat.

Antonio motored back downstream, keeping his speed low enough that there were no sounds of the water being pushed by the bow.

He didn’t go to Jolly Road but stopped a mile short where power-lines crossed the river. Fifteen men were waiting at the outside of the bend. The bags of corn were quickly removed from the boat and deposited into a grab-bag of pack-baskets and back-boards. The three extra men were for security. It was a six-and-a-half mile walk back to Fabulous Acres.

The young man returned to the sandbar behind the Methodist Church and his brothers, the four-strong-backs on the butchering crew, collected him and the boat. They stashed the boat beneath some forsythia bushes that were just starting to bloom. It was invisible beneath the vivid, yellow flowers looking so much like dried, winter weeds. The men put the motor, battery and oars in the back of the truck they had borrowed.

Back, beneath the power-lines, the fifteen-men took off with two armed guards in the front and one at drag.

They marched under the powerlines until they hit Williams Road. Then they traveled north until they  hit Jolly Road. As soon as they hit the Lansing city limits they were bracketed by massive, Section 8 Housing Projects. Lansing, in a political power play, had packed the tiny sliver of Eaton County within city limits with subsidized housing to flip the electorate of that county.

The fifteen men moved at a quick walk and they moved almost silently. They continued east on Jolly past Waverly, moving into Ingham County. Both sides of the road were now very urban.

They did not percolate through the neighborhoods. The neighborhoods had their own gangs and enforcers. It was better to risk the police.

Police drove around in vehicles. With almost no civilian vehicles on the road, it was not difficult to melt into the scenery until they had passed.

They stayed on Jolly for a total of two miles. Then they turned north on Pleasant Grove road for two miles, then east on Mount Hope until it hit Fabulous Acres.

It had been a long day for all parties.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Enbridge Pipeline #5

Whitmer says "Hold my beer"

While Virginia, Georgia and North Carolina reel from the effects of the Colonial pipeline that was shut down by hackers, Governor Whitmer (Idiot, Michigan) insists she will start occupying Enbridge property if they don't shut down the Enbridge #5 pipeline that ships Canadian oil into Michigan's Lower Peninsula on May 12.

Even as left-leaning media wails about the lack of infrastructure to back-stop the Colonial outage, Whitmer is unconcerned about the price of gasoline, LP and heating oil and the shortage of trucks and liquification capacity to meet demand.

Whitmer has the mental agility of a reptile. All she sees is a challenge to her authority. She is either incapable of seeing what it will cost Michigan residents or she is incapable of caring. Perhaps both.

Attic ladder

It is my personal belief that a good ceiling fan means you can run the A/C between two and five degrees warmer and still maintain the same comfort level.

We do not have a ceiling fan in our living room. Mrs ERJ gave me a list of projects to keep me out of trouble and one of those projects was to install that fan.

To install the fan, I decided I needed better access to the attic. I currently have a 21" square hole through the ceiling that I must shinny up. The access is in the closet in Kubota's bedroom. It is a chore to empty the closet, hoist myself through the hole (which seems smaller every year), do the task and then reinstall everything in his closet.

I decided that I am old enough to treat myself to a pull-down ladder to the attic.

I have been holding off on drywalling the ceiling until after the new roof. Leaks, don't you know.

We have the new roof.

I started stripping the pressed-paper ceiling tiles out of the kid's bathroom, the better of the two potential locations for the ladder.


The house was built in the mid-1970s. The tiles had been installed with a staple gun. All I had to do was look at them cross-eyed and they fell off the ceiling.

Cutting the lath the tiles were stapled to was not a big chore.

Then it got ugly.

I cut the fiberglass batting and was rewarded with three bushels of blown-in, cellulose insulation on my face and down my shirt.

Peeling the insulation back I was rewarded with the sight of electrical wires strung across the opening where I had hoped to install the ladder.

I piddled around for five hours running wire to clear up the mess. One of those hours involved trip(s) to the hardware stores. Then I had to knock-off for the day because I was scheduled to take food to Mom.

An occupational hazard of blogging is that I might imply that I am handier than I really am. A real electrician would have been able to rewire this in less than an hour.

I will give it another whack tomorrow. The directions for installing the ladder say I need two people but I am going to try it by myself. A real carpenter could probably knock it out in an hour so it will consider it a glorious victory if I can knock it out in less than five.


 "nigger" is a word, just a word.

It is a word like "ginger", "pelosi", "hater", "snowflake" and "redneck". In fact, if you look closely, "ginger" uses the same letters as "nigger", just slightly rearranged.

Men are social animals. We communicate. Sometimes we are effective in our communication, often times we are ineffective.

An effective communicator is able to anticipate all of his listener's reactions and adjust his message until the expected reactions match his intentions.

The problem with the word "nigger" is that it refracts the message rather than focuses it. Twenty different people hearing or reading a message with the word "nigger" in it will hear about a dozen different messages.

It is doubly damning that every listener will be absolutely sure that their interpretation is the ONLY valid interpretation. It is a four-blind-men-and-an-elephant word.


"nigger" is a flashpoint because of its association with dominance.

It cuts both ways.

For every White and Asian person who uses the word "nigger" there are twenty Black people who use it. When a Black person uses it in front of a White person, the Black is perceived as rubbing the White person's nose in the fact that Whites must submit to Black feelings but Blacks don't.

Even Blacks sense the aggression of being called "nigger" by other Blacks. It is a way of telling the listener that they are of so little consequence the speaker does not deign to remember their name.

As an aside, rap-artists are the group that most visibly uses the word "nigger" for dominance and they also have an extremely short life-expectancy. Coincidence?

Historically, Blacks were made submissive to Whites, by violence if necessary. The word "nigger", when used by a White person, triggers those memories.

That makes "nigger" an incendiary word. Like matches and bottles of kerosene, those kinds of words have their narrow utility. However, walking around with a Molotov Cocktail identifies you as an enemy combatant to somebody (and a hero to others). Using the word "nigger" in mixed company has the same effect.


While I have a strong preference to not use the word "nigger" and do not allow it in comments, I don't think people should lose their jobs if they uttered it at some point in the past. Certainly, it pales in comparison to pedophilia, graft, treason and murder.

That is an exercise in dominance. Ditto for the Confederate flag. And I certainly don't believe that the State should remove your child from your home because you have a rock painted like the Confederate flag.

Using the word "nigger" or flying the "Confederate flag" send messages that are interpreted differently by different people. The message it sends to me is that you are an ineffective communicator or, in the case of the flag, you refuse to blindly submit to authority.

Your mileage will DEFINITELY vary.

Fine Art Tuesday


This is the first Steve Hanks painting I ever saw. I bought a print because his subject looked nearly identical to my oldest daughter at the time. That would have been in 1992.

Steve Hanks born in 1949 in San Diego. His father was a highly decorated, Navy flier. Hanks died in 2015.

“I’ve tried to be responsible and put positive images out into the world,” says Steve Hanks. “I hope that my work brings comfort, pleasure and insight into people’s lives.”

Steve Hanks is most notable for painting women. The women in Steve Hanks paintings tend to be robust, and magnificently feminine. While other artists might favor frail, thready orchids of women who appear to be greatly in need of a dose of worming medicine, Hanks prefered women who are unapologetic women; they have curves. If they were flowers they would be ruffled irises, peonies, calla lilies and vast trusses of fragrant sweet peas.

Hanks is a prolific painter. If these images appeal to you but are not exactly what you are looking for, use an image search and see if something he painted scratches-your-itch.

Monday, May 10, 2021

Food Fads

Back in a simpler time, food fads swept through the ERJ extended family every summer.

As siblings collected significant-others, we would be exposed to their favorite foods.

One year it was Hillbilly Bread.

I am eating 4-Bean salad as I type. That is what motivated this post. Mine has Great Northern beans, Red kidney beans, green beans and garbanzo beans. This is good food for bachelors.

Another year it was Four-bean salad. We all felt very cosmopolitan eating garbanzo beans and actually liking them.

Another year it was New York State Fair Chicken (marinated in Italian dressing).

Yet another year it was vegetables brushed with olive oil, sprinkled with garlic salt and roasted over the grill.

One S.O. who did not last long made Red-eyes a favorite for when the temperatures are above 90F. Half V-8 vegetable juice and half cheap beer (he favored PBR).

#How people survived before Pintrest

#Interacting with humans in carbon-space

Back to the normal workday

Not many pictures today.

I went to the hunting lease and closed up the shooting ports with poultry netting. Every fall I get to sweep raccoon poop out of the blind. It is about time I did something to stop that.

Going up on a ladder and inspecting the blind from the outside shows it is very much in need of a major refurb. I will add it to the list.

While working on the blind I saw a Bald Eagle. That makes three, maybe four in one week. I saw two on Island Highway, east of Charlotte yesterday. I saw one fly overhead today and then minutes later the same, or another WAY UP HIGH. If it was the same bird he/she grabbed one hell of a thermal.

After buttoning up the blind, I went out into the woods and started planting acorns and northern pecans where the ash and elm have been dying off.

The forest composition at the hunting lease does not meet with my approval. Way too much "soft maple", aka Silver Maple. Too much dying ash and American Elm. On the positive side, there is a decent amount of Black Walnut, some Swamp White Oak and a bit of Shagbark Hickory.

Some would look at the dying ash and elm as a tragedy. I see it as an opportunity. They will come back but at a much lower level than they were. This is a chance to inject some mast producing trees that are fast growers and heavy producers of mast.

The acorns are ones I purchased from an eBay seller near Zanesville, Ohio. They were advertised as Northern Red Oak and they are very, very large. Large acorns work well for direct seeding because they have enough resources to punch a root deeply into the soil and perhaps even put out two flushes of growth.

Choosing seed sources from locations 200 miles south of me increases the chances of three flushes of growth in a growing season vs. two flushes. A difference of two hundred miles might be a big deal for species where I am right on the raggedy edge of where they can survive, but Northern Red Oak happily grows in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, Wisconsin and Minnesota so it has lots of site plasticity.

Glyphosate/Round-up damage 20 yards into the woods. They must have been spraying on a windy day and running high pressure. Lower pressure makes bigger droplets that don't blow as far.

Likewise, the pecans were from southern Indiana, western Kentucky (thanks Lucky!) and Pawnee pecans from (cough, cough, Texas). The Pawnee are "lottery tickets". Pawnee nuts would be plenty hardy enough if pollinated with northern pecan pollen like Kanza or Missouri wild pecans. God only knows what they were pollinated by in Texas. Lottery tickets.

It is important to stay hydrated.

I planted for about two hours and I was whipped. I planted three to a hole. If a spade leaves an 8" gash in the ground, then the three nuts/acorns were space 4" apart.

I planted deep to deter the squirrels. Between the nuts already splitting and the acorns throwing roots, the rapidly warming weather and the number of squirrels reduced by the winter....some of them might survive.

Of course I had more nuts/acorns than energy to plant in the woods fighting with the roots and all. I tilled up an area near the road and raked out the nuts. Then I covered with composted woodchips. "Composted woodchips" sounds really ambitious. It was a pile of woodchips that I successfully ignored for several years and was the closest source of material I could use as mulch. Now you know.

Super Sugar Snap peas

The third flight of Mrs ERJ's SSS peas went into the ground today.


Mrs ERJ enjoys sewing. She doesn't engage in major projects but she gets a great deal of satisfaction in repairing the wear-and-tear that clothing experiences and being able to return it to service rather than sending it to a land-fill and buying new.

So I was very happy to find this product that is particularly useful in the creation of button-holes, especially for buttons around 3/8" in diameter. I found it at BGS in Hastings, Michigan.

Shooty stuff

The .350 Legend comes very close to mimicking the 35 Remington for velocities and energy. Yes, the .350 Legend is shaded toward lighter, faster projectiles but much of that is the shift in our culture and our comfort with lighter/faster projectiles.

This site Page One, Page Two, discusses terminal ballistics of commonly available bullets for the 35 Remington.

One observation by the author (paraphrased) that really caught my attention was "A modern, jacketed bullet has no terminal ballistic advantage over a cast, gas-checked bullet (12 BHN) when both bullets are launched at 2000 fps." For the record, common wheel-weights cast and air-cooled are usually about 12 BHN.

Fired into saturated phone directories. Even at spitting-range, the ductility of the 12 BNH lead keeps it mostly in one piece. Any one of those bullets would put venison in the freezer.

This has me thinking about gas-checking 158 grain cast bullets for the .350 Legend.

Ruger-vs-Savage Axis for .350 Legend

The price advantage goes to the Axis by a wide margin.

The shorter lift for the bolt handle goes to the Ruger. If you have the dollars for a Ruger you have the dollars for a high end 3X9-40mm scope.

The Ruger's ability to accept AR  style magazines is a distinct advantage. They are cheaper than proprietary magazines and rock-solid, robust in the field.

If you opt for the Savage with the 90 degree bolt lift then you should strongly consider a simple, 4X32mm, fixed-power scope. The slimmer profile of the scope makes a quick second and third shot far easier to accomplish.

Honestly, with a .350 Legend you are not going to be attempting 300 yard shots and 4X should be plenty of magnification. A very-good 4X32mm scope is much cheaper than a junk 3x9-40mm scope.

With either combination:

  • Ruger American w/ high-end 3X9 scope
  • Savage Axis w/ 4x-32mm

The only thing that will prevent you from filling your freezer is a shortage of deer/hogs or a lack of woodscraft on your part.

Remnant: Bones shining in the moonlight

If one were to characterize the differences between a farm-dog and a horse, one might say that the horse was likely to live three times longer and that the horse was a higher “touch” proposition, needing near-daily currying and hoof care.

So while it is entirely plausible that a farmer or hunter might have five or six dogs during his adult life, it is equally plausible that a horse-lover might only have two horses or that a grandparent might give a grandchild a horse and that horse be a part of the new owner’s life until they reached early adulthood.

The horse owner would contend that the difference in the degree of bonding between a horse and a farm-dog is the same order of magnitude as that between the farm-dog and a barn cat.

So you can imagine Clair and Fritz Speicher’s distress when two trucks stopped in front of Tri-Color Horse farm and they potted four of their horses. Then, while two of the men aimed rifles at the horses the elderly Speichers, the other two men hacked off the “hams”, dragged them over to the trucks and departed.

The needs of the community demanded that as much usable meat be recovered from the horse carcasses as possible. Emotional investment and physical limitations required that it be somebody other than the Speichers who butchered the animals’ remains.

So it should come as no surprise that when Mayor Wagner’s brother Rodney called and asked if there was any possibility of Eaton Rapids selling food to the residents of Fabulous Acres, Mayor Wagner was quick to ask if anybody in Fabulous Acres had any experience as a butcher.

“We don’t need money. You can’t buy anything with it, anyway” Mayor Wagner informed his younger brother.

“We have city people coming out here and shooting farm animals and then leaving most of the meat to rot” Mayor Wagner said.

Rodney winced. As a hunter, he had a keen appreciation of how much work it was to butcher an animal, especially if you wanted to recover every edible bite. He also knew that inexperienced, rushed butchers left a lot of meat.

“Here is the deal, brother” Rodney said. “There are 1200 people in Fabulous Acres. We might be getting half as much food as we need. So another half-pound of grain, per person a day would make all the difference in the world.”

“What would it take to get 600 pounds of corn a day?” Rod asked.

“Let me touch base with a few people, but if one of your neighbors is a half-way decent butcher, I can almost guarantee that is worth 600 pounds of corn a day. But let me check first.” Mayor Wagner said.

“I need to check on this end, too. There might not be any butchers” Rodney admitted.

Mayor Wagner had absolutely no problem getting Clayton Osborn, the owner of the local grain elevator to commit to 600 pounds of corn a day to pay for a butcher. Horse owners were his most loyal, and most vocal customers. Reality is a bitch, but the slaughtered horses were almost family to their owners.

Rodney, for his part simply had to ask Victor Aiello if their were any butchers in the neighborhood. “One butcher will get us 600 pounds of corn a day.”

In fifteen minutes, Victor responded “I have a crew of six lined up. Gilbert Contraras and his son are experienced butchers and the other four are needed to do the heavy lifting to keep them cutting.”

“Where do you need the butchers, brother?” Rodney asked his brother.

Mayor gave Rodney an address. If he noticed the ‘butchers” plural, he gave no indication.

An hour-and-a-half later, a battered pickup truck loaded with tarps, winches, butcher knives and tubs left Fabulous Acres. Gilbert and his son rode in the cab. The four ‘strong backs’ rode in back. Nobody bothered them on the trip to the horse farm.

Men who are experienced in working with their hands get into a rhythm at work. Depending on the task, work elements shift from worker-to-worker depending on how much work there is and their individual speed. A crew might start out organized one way but it dynamically evolves and at the end of the shift might look substantially different with regards to who is doing what.

Nobody rushes. Often it looks like the men are standing-around, but if you watch carefully, the person who is waiting varies and they are rarely standing for more than a minute or two. Sometimes it is simply to catch their breath.

Gilbert was a natural-born teacher. He watched the ‘strong backs’ and as they showed aptitude he encouraged them to pick up a knife and help. He started with simple tasks. The meat between the ribs is tedious to collect but it is perfectly suitable for sausages. The meat and tissue between the vertebrae is even harder to collect. The intestines can be washed out and used for casings. It all adds up.

Because they started late in the day and the four novices were in the steep part of the learning curve, the full moon had risen before they had completed butchering out the four horses.

When they were done, the bones were so clean they gleamed in the moonlight.

Clair and Fritz had a camper behind the barn. They invited the men to sleep in the camper for as long as they were in Eaton Rapids. They let the men inside to wash-up and gave them linens for their beds.

While the men had been butchering the remains of the horses, one of the men built a small fire and they had roasted kabobs made from wooden skewers and meat-scraps over the coals. It was a slow, cool fire and other the food required no attending except to turn it over a few times.

Unlike many immigrants, these men had come from rural villages and small farms south of the border. The work and the conditions reminded them of their childhood and the food was far better than what they had been eating for the last three months.

They agreed to stay-on as long as grain was shipped as agreed and there were animals to butcher.

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Michigan's Vietnam Veteran's Memorial

Michigan's Vietnam Veteran's Memorial is tucked between behind the Michigan Historical Museum and Michigan's Hall-of-Justice. Like so much of the Vietnam conflict, it is hidden as if to make it easy to forget.

The actual monument is magnificent. The wall with the names of those lost in Vietnam is suspended through most of its arc. It immediately called to mind a page half turned...and then interrupted.

The names are broken down by county.

Eaton County

Ingham county. I recognized names from both: Farhat, Klco, Hanna, Beatty. I went to high school with brothers and sisters by those names.

A book with pages of stainless steel and ink of laser etching. If you served with a buddy who didn't make it, and you didn't know what county he was from, you can look him up.  It is sobering to turn the pages.

Off to the side is a stone for those who were wounded, either in flesh or in spirit.

 The back of the monument has a very brief history of the conflict.

Worlds of pain and loss, reduced to a few words; ashes. Our country, those of us old enough to remember, are still deeply divided by Vietnam. We didn't stop the Godless Communists in Vietnam but they did not take over Thailand or Indonesia or the Philippines. It is not an experiment we can run twice; first one way and then the other.