Saturday, February 27, 2021

Bonds

 

Captured from Zero Hedge
If you follow the financial markets you have probably seen headlines like the one shown above.

What does it mean when bonds get hammered?

It means that interest rates went up and are expected to continue going up.

Interest rates are unusual. They go up when inflation is expected and since interest is a major cost of doing business for some businesses rising interest rates can cause inflation to accelerate.

It is a vicious, not-virtuous cycle.

Sailors furl the sails and batten the hatches when heading into a storm. The financial equivalent furling and battening is to pay off debt and stock up on durable items you KNOW you will use in the next few years.

If you expect that hyper-inflation might be in the cards then you might consider what kinds of businesses (enterprises) you can get into that do not require purchased inputs or, most especially, inputs that are not produced within your country of residence. Making a small investment (no more than 10% of your assets) in foreign countries is also a hedge although I cannot suggest any country that stands out above the others.

Depression Era Recipes

 


Bob's Gun Shop in Hastings, Michigan

Mud Creek, upstream of Thornapple Lake. It is nice to see some open water

 

I was talking to Jim who is often behind the counter at Bob's Gun Shop where reloading components are sold.

Jim told me that I was in luck today. He sends out an order every four weeks and it had just arrived. There was a lot of magic dirt on the shelves including the slow-burning dirt I needed for Jack O'Conners' favorite.

Jim said they have been selling 150-to-200 pounds of the magic dirt a week. They charge about $10 a pound more than you can find on the internet but that is not a deal-breaker.

If you live within sixty miles of Hastings, Michigan and are looking for any special kind of magic dirt, call Bob's at 269 945 4106 and ask for Jim. He can tell you if it is in-stock. He is also very willing to share when he expects his next shipment to come in if you just want to browse.

It is also nice to see some bare ground. I took Zeus for a walk around the property and he shook-out five bunnies. They were all sunning themselves on snow-free ground.


Trending...

 

 

Reported to be #1 download on iTunes

Not quite safe for work but be prepared to be (pleasantly) surprised.

Due Process Denied?

 

Michigan State Attorney General had  press conference announcing that a  prominent coach had been indited on 24 felonies involving human trafficing, sexual abuse of minors and so on.

Two hours later, the coach was found dead of gunshot wounds.

My first reaction was "Well, that saved the public a lot of money."

My second reaction was "Just like Epstein, we will never know who else was preying on these vulnerable, young women and their eager-for-glory parents."

What public good was served by the Attorney General's very public accusations. All I see is harm. No connecting the dots and bringing enablers and co-conspirators to justice. No certainty in the closure for the victims. 

No promise of trial-by-peers and purity-of-evidence. The AG convicted in a trial-by-TV camera. That could be any one of us deplorable, right-wingers with scary-facial-hair and camo clothing.

Friday, February 26, 2021

T & A: Second Friday in Lent edition

Complete the quiz:


Hints:

Thess 5:18

Matt 25:40

Depression era recipes

Looking for a fast, easy, vegan recipe that is easy on the budget?

Consider the modern reboot of the Depression era recipe "Boot-lace soup".


Brought to you by Biden-Harrisville Recipes and Skinner Funeral Home where families who starve to death qualify for the three-to-a-casket discount.

Remnant: Growing Capacity


“Is there any chance you know Dan O’Sullivan?” Mayor Wagner asked Jarrell.

“Yeah. I do. As a matter of fact he watches my dog when I am working” Jarrell said. “How did you know?”

“As mayor, it is my business to know a lot of stuff” the Mayor deflected.

It was not much of a guess.

Jarrell came to town every morning with the rank skunky/cat-piss smell of weed clinging to him. He didn’t smoke but his girlfriend Ashley and her mother Krystal were heavy smokers.

Danny was the biggest grower in town. Dan O’Sullivan and Jarrell graduated from high school the same year.

Two plus two equals four.

Danny O’Sullivan was the biggest residential consumer of electricity in Eaton Rapids by a very, very wide margin. The snow on the roof of the 24-by-48 foot pole barn behind the O’Sullivan house never stayed very long after if fell, even in the coldest of weather. 15,000 Watts of electrical loading will do that.

Recreational cannabis is legal under Michigan state law but the number of plants that a person can grow was limited. Danny solved that problem by (on paper) leasing out room in his pole barn. Then he had paper-work designating him as the caretaker of those plants. He accepted payment in-kind...that is, he kept nearly all of the crop.

As long as Danny didn’t sell to minors there was not much the Mayor could do about it so he just looked the other way.

Now the Mayor was going to ask Danny to shut down the grow business until the terrorism stopped. He did not expect it to go well but that was beside the point. For Wagner to have any moral authority to ask others to make sacrifices, he had to take the bull by the horns and confront the biggest power user in town.

Jarrell listened to the Mayor while he outlined the problem and his thinking. He didn’t ask any questions.

Jarrell and the Mayor were lost in their respective thoughts as they trudged to the north end of town.

Jarrell let the Mayor do the talking.

Mayor talked about the rapidly dropping pressure in the natural gas feed-lines. He talked about the need for conservation. He pointed out that if nothing changed the utility would not be able to deliver power to Danny’s operation anyway….so would Danny consider pulling the plug NOW to smooth the transition for his neighbors.

Danny was stunned. It had never occurred to him that the events in the news would impact his operation.

“I won't. I can’t” was all Danny said. Every week Danny planted the seeds for the plants he would harvest in 13 weeks. Half of those weeks involved growing the plant. The second half involved the formation and ripening of the “bud”. Pulling the plug meant he might be able to salvage two-weeks of inferior “bud” and some leaf but it would mean he would have, at a minimum, a 13 week period with no product.

In Danny’s mind, it was a no-go.

Jarrell spoke up for the first time. “Can you taper-down. If you knew the power-plant couldn’t supply you power long-term, is there a way you could reduce your use or speed up ripening?”

“I suppose I could turn off the lights in the 1-through-7 week plants portion of the building. Those run 24 hours a day. The ripening half only runs twelve hours.” Danny said. “Summer is coming and I can probably make that production back growing outside.”

“OK, that just reduced use by two-thirds” Jarrell said.

“Not quite” Danny said. “I cram the young plants closer together so the footprint is smaller. It won’t be that much of a reduction.”

Danny was in a dammed if he did and damned if he didn’t situation.

Then Jarrell had an idea. “What if you bought a generator?”

In an instant Danny was on his smart-phone checking stores and auction sites. Generators were being offered for ten-times retail and were being snapped up within seconds. Jarrell was not the first person with that idea.

“No” Danny said after a minute. "The market for generators is white-hot. I can't get a bid in edgewise."

But that was enough to trigger a thought in the Mayor’s head. The proverbial light-bulb went off above his head.

“Tell you what. If you buy the magneto, I am sure the City has a diesel tractor with a PTO that can drive it. I will LOAN you the tractor if you supply the diesel fuel* and feed the power into the grid during the twelve hours you are not running the lights” the Mayor proposed.

It would mean getting Richards over to ensure the controls to match phase were adequate, but it looked like a way for Danny and the Mayor to both have their pie and eat it, too. 


"How do I know you will keep your word?" Danny asked.

The Mayor extended his hand. "We will shake on it."

It was a novel experience for Danny. Most officials looked down their nose at Danny. They eagerly took his money but then treated him like a social pariah. Mayor Wagner hadn't asked for any money. He just offered a business deal that was to their mutual advantage.

Danny shook the Mayor's hand.

Seconds later, Danny was on his phone and looking at generators sans motors. They were a hot item but not as hot as self-contained units. He purchased the first 15kW, PTO driven generator head that was anywhere close to Michigan. He had no doubt he could sell it locally if things with the City didn't work out.

Many people around town owed Danny favors. The only hard part might be finding somebody who wasn’t too stoned to drive to Kansas City to pick up the unit.

A half-hour later, Jarrell and Jim Morris were driving Mayor Wagner's personal, 2004 Silverado west out of Eaton Rapids to pick up the generator in Kansas City. Danny and Mayor Wagner agreed that it would take too long to ship it and the seller might sell it again at a higher price. He might not do that if he knew two guys were already on their way to pick it up.

Danny was already thinking of how he could split the ripening plants into two groups and alternate the twelve hours of light between them. If he did it right, he could put the smaller plants on pallets and shuffle them from one side to the other and he could use the space in the aisles to keep most of them growing.


*Back of envelop calcs: A 30hp tractor is recommended to run a 15kW gen-head. An efficient 30 hp turbo-diesel will use about 1.5 gallons an hour or 36 gallons every day at peak power.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Some Pictures

 

The ERJ Fig Farm. Cuttings stuck Feb 8

Applying for rebaits. Not too many wild animals will turn up their nose at half a peanut butter sandwich made on a fresh slice of white bread.

Panning for gold. Or boxing if you want to be picky about it.

I am not sure what Belladonna is cooking but I am not volunteering to be the first to try it no matter how sweetly she smiles at me.

I didn't buy this but the price made it look like a screaming deal. What do people use 18 AWG copper/steel com cable for? And what job-site did they steal it from?

This struck me as odd. Looking south, picked bean-field to the west (right side, mostly off-frame) with widely spaced sugar maple beside road. To the east of the maples the snow melted but not between the maples. The best I could guess was that the wind picked up speed beneath the maples and inhibited drift settling so the snow was not as deep to start with. Any other guesses?


Sucker fishing or, Mother Nature is a fickle lady

White suckers migrate up feeder streams and spawn when the water hits 50F. In Canada, they spawn when it is 10 Celsius. One surmises that the Canadian Whiskey in their blood stream acts as an antifreeze.

Same timeframe on all of these thumbnails, March 20-to-April 15. The red line is 50F.

Pretty neat that I can go on-line and see what the water temperatures are in my local river.  This site is not the easiest to navigate but you can use it to find a stream near you.

I want to catch a mess of White Suckers this year and pressure can them. First, I have to catch the suckers.

Three different rivers in Michigan's Lower Peninsula. The blue line is the Grand River near Lake Michigan. The black line is the River Raisin in Michigan's extreme southeast corner near Lake Erie. The green line is the Manistee River near Wellston in the northwestern, center of the Lower Peninsula.

What a crap-shoot. The good news is that I can program an alert through this site to my cellphone when the temperature goes over 9.5 degrees C!

Maybe this year.


Remnant: Shrink the foot-print


Mayor Wagner could contain himself no longer. He speared the “Mute” button with his index finger and said “Bullshit. Total bullshit!”

Governor Ratched startled and reared back as if Wagner had spit in her face. Her face contorted with rage.

“Mayor Wagner, you WILL NOT speak out of turn” Ratched spat back.

“And since when have you given us a turn to ask questions?” Wagner challenged. “I will tell you when: Never.”

“I think the only reason you have us sit here is so you can stroke your ego and practice for your next interview on CZZ” Wagner continued.

That harpoon struck close to home.

Ratched was ready when the second round of attacks hit. Her aides had created a special projection room in her house for video interviews. The temperature was in the low sixties and the lighting was incredibly diffuse to downplay the rivers of sweat that turned her make-up into glossy plastic.

She continued to push the trope that the attacks were fomented by right-wing terrorists and claimed to have ample evidence to support the contention. She could not share the nature of her ‘evidence’ because it would hamper the on-going FBI and Michigan State Police investigations.

CZZ lapped it up and the other major outlets followed suit.


“And what evidence do you have?” Ratched demanded.

“It makes no sense at all. Conservatives love energy. It is the Green-weenies that hate fossil fuels and the infrastructure that supports them” Wagner said.

“Did it ever occur to you that the terrorists are intentionally misleading you?” Ratched asked in an insufferably, condescending voice.

Wagner shrugged. He was a pretty good poker player. “As a matter of fact it did. And I could agree with that IF the attacks had failed or been very limited in scope. But these attacks are massive.”

It was true. Michigan’s economy was still staggering as the Covid crisis gutted the economy and try-as-it-might, Main Street could seem to find firm footing beneath its feet.

Michigan was almost 85% back to baseline when the second wave of attacks hit. Now the pressure in the natural gas pipelines was in free-fall as the wedge of states starting with Michigan and Illinios and extending east to Washington D.C. and north to Maine were suddenly found themselves cut off from the Gulf States where most of the natural gas came from.

Furthermore, most of the largest electrical generation plants were off-line. While it was true that any one severed High Voltage line could be repaired fairly quickly the talent and equipment couldn’t be everywhere at the same time and there were literally hundreds of lines to repair. And some of those lines were in difficult terrain. A ground based attack might struggle on steep Appalachian slopes or crossing boggy barrens but the attack jellyfish were oblivious to the terrain.

Even the thermals that would otherwise complicate the attack in the rugged Pennsylvania hills were minimal in the middle of the night when the attacks were staged.

Mayor Wagner needed to be out there coordinating the town’s people but he was obligated to sit in front of the screen and listen to his megalomaniac governor preen. He really had better things to do.

In many ways, Michigan was lucky. Having been subjected to the first attack, they had run this play before. They had a plan for dropping load and some very agile minds had been thinking about ways to do even better.

For one thing, Michigan has many summer homes. Call them “cottages” or “cabins”. Every fall, usually after firearms deer season, the cottages were winterized. The plumbing was drained and antifreeze was sloshed into the traps of the fixtures.

If you don’t have to protect the plumbing, it is possible to shrink the "warm" footprint down to a single, small room; perhaps just a kerosene lantern burning in a single bathroom. It is possible to keep warm at night with an electric blanket pulling 100 Watts and quilts.

Instead of drawing 40kW-hr a day and burning 750 thousand BTUs a day, four people with electric blankets would draw 4kW-hr a day and no BTUs for space heating. That can free up a lot of fuel for power generation.

Wagner’s problem was that he had to convince the town people to share their electric blankets and sleeping bags and quilts. He had to convince them to drain their plumbing and to take sponge baths for-the-duration.

It was going to be a hard sell because some people had health issues and would not survive extremely austere conditions. He had to protect them and still convince the hale-and-hearty to undergo privation. It would be a massive test of his ability to lead.

And he was stuck listening to this sorry excuse for a human brag while important work needed to be done.

The pointless exhibition was almost porn-like. It was more than what any man with integrity should have to endure.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Why not .38 Special or .357 Magnum?

From Johan in the Comment section of Random Curiosity

"I am curious about the caliber choice of 9 mm. I would think that .38 special/.357 magnum chambering would be easier for production with a minimum amount of equipment."

I see two advantages to the 9mm Luger for this application.

Mass of the platform

Size comparison: .38 Special, 9mm Luger, .357 Magnum. For all practical purposes the .38 Special and 9mm Luger are ballistically identical. From a packaging standpoint, the volume aft of the bullet in the .38 Special is 65% airspace since smokeless propellant is more energy intensive than black powder. Even though it is wasted space, the gun designer must still put structure (mass) around it.

The SAAMI maximum over-all cartridge length for the 9mm is 1.169". Add an additional 0.10" for clearance but then subtract about 0.12" for the extractor groove where the case is not supported and you are left with a minimum cylinder length of 1.06".

Maximum SAAMI cartridge over-all length for a .38 Special it is 1.55" and 1.59" for the .357 Magnum. Subtract 0.060" for the rim and then add 0.010" for clearance gives you 1.50" and 1.54" as the practical minimum for the length of the cylinder.

The cylinder for a Ruger Blackhawk .357 Magnum weighs about 11.5 ounces.
 

Shortening the cylinder from a length capable of supporting a .357 Magnum to just long enough to support the 9mm Luger immediately reduces the mass by about 30%. As noted before, you would also loose mass from the top-strap and bottom of the frame.

To be clear, most .38 Special and .357 cylinders are lighter than the one shown in the image.

Since the copper alloys suggested for the frame are 10% denser than steel and only as strong as steel that is not heat-treated, it might be necessary to increase thickness in selected areas to ensure durability. That might make it tough to meet a 20-to-24 ounce weight target.

Reloads

To match the defensive potential of a Glock 19, the shooter needs a minimum of a full cylinder and two reloads.

To match the defensive potential of the Glock 19 and two additional, standard-capacity magazines requires a full cylinder and 8 reloads. 

Reloading aids for revolvers can be awkward in shape. Anything that can be done to make them more compact or less obtrusive or lower volume is highly desirable.

There are some minor advantages to the 9mm. Since it is thermodynamically more efficient than a .38 Special it uses less powder to generate identical energy. Less powder means less muzzle blast.

Questions about the pressure differences are worth entertaining. While the .38 is half the pressure I am not sure that benefit can be fully reaped in material reduction in the cylinder because there are limits to how thin a section can be machined without the surface distorting. If the material is there for machining reasons then you might as well run the higher pressures.

The last thing I want to say about pressure in the 9mm is that it drops rapidly as the volume behind the bullet increases. My guess is that a Quick Loads comparison would show similar pressures in the barrel, so the only places where the structure would need to comprehend the pressure differences would be in the cylinder, and perhaps not even in the front of the cylinder.

So, given the ubiquitous nature of the 9mm Luger round, it seemed like a good candidate for the back-of-envelop study.


Remnant: Who does that guy think he is?



It took Brett 15 hours to drive to Huntington, a trip that normally would have taken 11 hours. The cities were congested messes. People were jumping into vehicles and trying to join up with family. Vehicles were running out of fuel and clogging up lanes.

Brett didn’t need to refuel. Injun Country rules meant that his buddy tanks were full and he was able to make the six-hundred mile trip with stops for coffee, both intake and exhaust.

The prelim meeting was the usual goat-festival of a few odds-and-ends of the crew in place, photographic images, specs on the line and timetables.

After the meeting an old man in a rumpled polyester suit that looked like it had come off the rack from JcPenney's thirty years ago approached Brett. “My name is Jim. Mikhail should have told you I wanted to talk to you.”

Brett looked down at the very, normal-sized man. “Big Jim?” Brett asked with a question in his voice.

“Yeah” the man said. “That's me.”

“Mikhail said that you buried the pipe up in Connecticut when you repaired it. I want you to do the same here” Big Jim said.

That was not in the specs.

Brett temporized “That takes special equipment. Based on the news I was hearing I don’t think there is any boring equipment available. A lot of other places are going to have dibs on that equipment.”

Big Jim gave Brett a glare that was a “I don’t want to hear your fucking excuses” kind of look.

“Equipment is not a problem. This is West Virginia. We got equipment that can shave a mountain down to ground level on Sunday morning and still have time to take a shower and make the twelve-noon church service. Don’t give me ‘we ain’t got equipment’ excuses.”

“Tell me what you need and I will get it.”

Brett was tired. Brett had pulled bleeding co-workers out of rubble. Brett had driven 500 miles without eating. Brett was just a little edgy himself.

“Well, if it is just that simple, then why don’t we just dig a trench across the river and lay the pipe in that...if you can stand the screaming of the eco-warriors” Brett snapped backi.

Big Jim glared back at Brett. Then his expression changed. “That is an excellent idea. The hydrahoes will be on-site before you will. I will take care of the eco-weenines” as he turned and stomped off.

“Just who does that that guy think he is?” Brett fumed.

Brett’s local contact smiled his first smile of the day. “I am not sure who he thinks he is but most folks around here call him “Governor”."
 

Brett grab a few hours of sleep and was at the first job-site two hours before sunrise.

True to his word, there was an enormous, track-mounted chainsaw on one side of the river. The toothed buckets of the saw were four feet wide.

Brett was no stranger to big equipment but this took it up an entirely new level.

“How deep of a trench can that dig?” Brett asked the operator.

“Depends on how many passes” the operator said after moving his chew to one cheek and spitting.

“I reckon given how deep the water is I can get you 12’ from the bottom of the tracks on the first pass.” the operator estimated.

"What if you hit rock?" Brett asked.

"It is all rock" the operator assured Brett. "But don't worry. It is only Pennsylvania Sandstone and this baby will go through it like a fat kid through a bag of potato chips."

Then, pointing at the teeth on the buckets "This baby has carbide inserts."

Brett asked "What can you give me in two passes?"

"'bout 20 feet" the operator said.

Downtime on big equipment is expensive. Brett didn't know how long he could hang onto this equipment.

There are times for three-decimal-place precision and there are times when it is more important to get-it-done. Brett didn't have surveyors or a CAD team or any of the usual support teams.

"Do you suppose you can eyeball a 10 degree approach and 20 through the bottom of the stream bed?" Brett asked. A ten degree ramp is about one foot of drop for every five-and-a-half feet of horizontal distance.

"I can do better than that" the operator chuckled. "This baby comes with GPS, encoders and levelers. If I start in the middle of the streambed I can program 20 feet down and 10 degree approaches."

"You do know, though, that a bunch of the burden I pull out of the trench will wash back in, right?" the operator asked.

"I can deal with that" Brett said.

The coal country operator wanted to impress the oilman. He took 90 minutes to excavate the trench. By then, Brett had his local contact pull together a "wide load convoy" to accompany the trencher to the next pipeline that had been bombed.

Brett's local contact said it wasn't strictly needed, given the emergency declaration."

Brett insisted. "I want half of the escort from the West Virginia side and half from the Kentucky side."

Brett's thinking was that he was leaving a hell-of-a-mess on the Kentucky side of the Big Sandy River and throwing a few dollars their way would lessen the sting.

The trencher had a road speed of 5 miles per hour and the 6-truck escort convoy was paid both by-the-mile and by-the-hour. The fee was a flea-bite in the overall scheme of things but it was much appreciated by the families of the volunteer firefighters.


Note from Management: A tip of the hat to John Wilder over at WilderWealthyWise blog for advising about the petroleum industry. Contrary to persistent rumors, Brett Stillwater is not closely modeled after Mr Wilder.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Random curiosity

 

I believe that the gun-haters will never stop chipping away at our right to bear arms. I also accept that they will have occasional victories that are hopefully temporary. 

For whatever illogical reasons, they fixate on semi-auto arms.

Since I like options and technical challenges, I wonder what the venerable top-break revolver would look like if chambered in 9mm Luger (a short cartridge) and the design was tweaked to take advantage of modern materials and metal cutting/forming technologies. The benefit of a short cartridge is that the heaviest part of a revolver along its length is the portion that includes the top-strap, cylinder and bottom.

I would be inclined to enlarge and square-off the front of the trigger guard.

What the guts of a revolver look like after removing grips and side panel.

I would maximize net-form and near-net form technologies like precision blanking, powered metallurgy and investment casting. I would avoid some of the precision, mating surfaces by inserting polymer "wipers" to keep grit and grime out of the action.

With Computer Aided Design, it might be possible to use one of the exotic copper alloys like C87900 or C87500 to investment cast the frame. These materials melt at a low enough of a temperature that they can be melted in a kiln used to bake ceramics. 

CAE can guide the designer into where to locally add more beef to minimize stresses and maximize stiffness. It also provides information about where material can be pared out or eliminated and replaced with thin sheet-metal.

I would use the S&W J-Frame guts as the basis of the action. The patents on the J-Frame expired long ago and it is a proven design. Unlike the image shown above, the J-Frame uses a coil spring for the hammer spring.

I wonder what a 2" or 3" model would weigh, how it would feel and what a reasonable MSRP would be.

Of course, if somebody were casting and assembling it in their private workshop then the question of an MSRP is nonsensical.

Fine Art Tuesday

 

 

Today I want to call attention to "biological" paintings. All of today's images come from the University of Wisconsin Zoological Museum.

Surely every outdoorsman has seen pictures of large, beautiful char and trout and salmon and pike. Those are trophies and very photogenic. But who know darters and dace and stone-rollers and suckers had such colors?

Other museums and universities produce posters highlighting their own, native wildlife.

I think this genre of art is under-rated.

Remnant: DIgging out the Survivors


Brett called the boss five minutes after the blast. 

Even though Injun Country rules required that the crew be spread through the hotel, Bunny’s room was next door to Brett's for purely logistical reasons. The echoes were still ringing and the floor still swaying when Brett and Bunny met outside their doors.  

Brett and Bunny quickly found two more of the crew and Brett delegated finding the remainder of the crew and getting them assembled next to the flag-pole in front of the building. 

Then Brett called the boss while Bunny started moving some of the crew’s klieg lighting and portable generators to the damaged part of the building to help with the search. The explosion had apparently knocked out the utilities. Bunny was running a mental inventory of the porta-powers and rigging they had on-site, just in case the first responders would let them assist with the search.

“Mr Ivanovich, we have a situation here.” Brett informed his boss.

Brett knew that he had awakened the boss. It was three in the morning in Texas.

“What do you have?” Mikhail asked.

Brett really did not know much. “Explosion at the hotel. Major structural damage. Does not look like a gas explosion. Still getting a roll-call.”

“Put your phone on ‘speaker’ and tuck it in your shirt pocket. I will patch-in dispatch. Anything you need, say ‘Alexa, I need...’ and then tell us what we can help with.”

Mikhail had a sense of humor. He had hired an emergency dispatcher who used to work 9-1-1 in Houston and her name was “Alexa”.

“We are here to support you, not give you more work. But I ask of you, if anybody goes to the hospital I want to know their name. I want their wives to hear it from us first.” Mikhail said.

That is the beauty of modern communication. As long as the cell towers didn’t overload, a dispatcher in Denton, Texas can support an emergency in North Hartford Connecticut almost as well as a dispatcher in Connecticut.

Brett did a quick check on his battery. His phone had been charging all night but he knew full-time speaker mode gobbled battery. Just to be sure he would be good until lunch, Brett slipped an auxiliary, 25,000 mA-hr power-pack into one of his pockets.

Brett got a call from the boss at 8:10 AM.

Brett gave him a quick rundown. “Three guys in the hospital. One sliced thigh, two blunt object traumas. One of the BOTs is still bleeding internally but they think he is going to be ‘OK’.”

One of the nice things about pre-stressed, pre-fabbed concrete construction is that the rubble is large and there are many, large air spaces. Regular masonry produces large amounts of smaller rubble that acts first as shrapnel and then as weight that smothers. In short, pre-stressed concrete means that if you are not killed outright, you have a pretty good chance of surviving

The boss said “Thank-you. I have teams on the way.”

“The bad news is that I need you in West Virginia as soon as you can drive there.”

Of course Brett had been too busy to follow the news. Mikhail brought him up-to-date regarding the additional attacks on the country’s infrastructure. Mikhail’s firm was tapped to repair the two easternmost attacks, the ones on the Big Sandy River.

“Leave Bunny in charge. Drive down to Huntington, West Virginia for briefing. The only thing I need to add is that Big Jim will help in any way he can. He will want to talk with you before you get started” Mikhail said.

“Great!” Brett thought. “That is all I need. Some pompous local who thinks he can help.:

Brett answered “Yes sir.” and hung up.

Bunny had already dispatched the next shift's crew to relieve the night crew. Standing orders were that you could not leave until your relief tagged you out.

Brett told Bunny that he was in charge as he handed over the smart-phone power-pack. Brett surmised that Bunny was going to need it. The power was still not on and it was clear that the power-outage impacted more than the hotel.

*

Evelyn Lovelace watched the chaos unfold from her country-home in Bolton, Massachusetts.

Mrs Lovelace was the Matriarch of the Lovelace clan. She had seen it during its heyday and she had watched the inevitable decline as far-flung arms of the dynasty had “diluted the brand” through dissolute living.

Her husband, Dorian, had been no better than any of the others. Elected to Congress he drank-and-debauched like a Roman senator and left Evelyn to clean up the messes. A raped waitress here, a love-child there. A car-crash and a brain-damaged passenger in another place. It never ended.

Evelyn was Dorian’s second wife. Dorian's first marriage had married for “love”, whatever that was.

Evelyn and Dorian’s relationship was based on business. If Evelyn was angry and resentful of Dorian’s behaviors it was because his indiscretions burned through vast quantities of the family’s political and financial capital. It seemed as if Dorian could have taken the smallest of precautions.

Most men in Dorian’s position had one or two very attractive, very fit 35 year-old women on their staff. The women were old enough to understand that their out-sized paychecks were not entirely due to their expertise in foreign affairs or energy policy. If, after five years they fell out of favor with the Senator or Representative they were given an extremely generous severance bonus for the extracurricular activities and a younger, perkier “cookie” was slotted into the rotation.

But Dorian would have none of it. He remained the perpetual juvenile who got attention by acting out and getting away with it. He made Evelyn the laughing stock of Boston and Washington D.C. and he continued his fecklessly squander the family name until his fatal heart attack.

The next generation was no better than Dorian. The family reproduced like locust and they looked to Dorian as the model of how to behave.

It had taken Evelyn fifteen years to stop the hemorrhaging. That too had come at a cost. The tabloids had taken to calling the clan “The Unlucky Lovelaces”. Hardly a year didn’t go by when some scion of the family didn’t perish in a private plane accident or a boating accident or a skiing accident.

Evelyn just barely tolerated Nancy. The Irish and the Italians had come to an agreement in Boston.

But Evelyn loathed the newest faces in her party. She thought of them as mewling drama queens who had not paid their dues and no appreciation for order or the machinations of governing.

She was completely oblivious to the irony that the Irish of the 1920s held the same position in the party as the Caribbeans, Palestinians and Somalii of the 2020s.

The muted hum of the turbine-driven generator was drowned out by the classical music she played for background. Evelyn had four different news stations playing in caption mode. She could read much more quickly than the pretty bobble-heads could talk.

 Evelyn refused to be assigned the role of "footnote".

Monday, February 22, 2021

Sometimes life is a drag

 

A floormat.

A few tie-wraps and a length of pole.

Drag 1.0

Not fabulous but still 100% better than no drag. I tried with and without several times. On the flat-and-level Herc, the steadier of the two dogs, still would lunge forward fast enough to crash the sled into my calves when running without the drag. 

With the drag, I got a few bumps at the beginning while he was still full of beans and maybe a couple more times on an 8% downgrade but other than that it was a fine, 3 mile drag.

Herc playing peek-a-boo with the squirrel. Look at those ears. He knows where that squirrel is to-the-inch

Some wins, some ties and a few losses

My efforts to teach the dogs to find my set of keys has not gone well.

Finally, Mrs ERJ suggested that maybe we need a different breed of dog if I expect them to find keys.

"German Shepherds are pretty smart" I said. "If not German Shepherds, what would you suggest?"

"Have you considered a Keeshond?"

Remnant: Second attack

Note from the Management. Sorry for the confusion. I am transitioning from one laptop to another because one of the Shift keys puked. the story-line got scrambled as a result. Your patience is appreciated.

Stephanie Stewart rode in the back of the beat-up work van. It has slowed to 20 miles per hour and Stephanie was spooling out the jelly-fish. Stephanie and Ted made countless test runs working out a system.

More than 20 miles per hour battered the balloons to the point failure was likely. Ted insisted on using 95 gallon garbage liners since they were harder to track than weather balloons. The cluster of three bags had a gross buoyancy of 1.5 pounds. There wasn’t much to work with.

GLF did what they could to minimize weight. They used clear 1.5 mil plastic bags. One thing that really torqued them off was that the government refused to credit them with the attacks. They counter-measured by adding literature in every balloon. Surely some of them would fall into the hands of folks who would post the truth on social media.

Another complication involved the balloons getting trapped in the backwash that followed the van. That was resolved with a drag-weight and a quick-release on a fifty-foot trip-line.

The countless practice runs were paying off as Stephanie filled and released the jelly-fish on time and at exactly the right locations.

In a few minutes the Susquehanna Nuclear Power plants were going to shut down with big booms and sparks and take 2600 MW of capacity off-line. If all went according to the time-table, Stephanie and Ted would have ditched the van and be traveling west on motorcycles.

The attacks were more heavily biased toward attacks on the electrical transmission line than gas lines.

GLF was scaling up the attacks on the powerlines because garbage bags, kite string and fine conductors were commodities that were easy to obtain without leaving a documentation trail. The high explosives needed to breach pipelines were a thousand times more tightly controlled.

GLF’s first attacks targeted regions that were easy to isolate.

GLF’s second series of attacks targeted net electricity-exporting states: Pennsylvania, Alabama, Illinois, West Virginia, Wyoming and Arizona. It should be no surprise that nuclear power plants were the first ones targeted.

They also targeted Interstate natural gas lines feeding out of the Marcellus Shale formations. They targeted lines from Canada. They targeted five lines entering Illinois where they crossed the Mississippi river, five in Indiana at the Ohio River. About the same number of pipelines were severed in eastern Kentucky at the Big Sandy River.

The previous attacks impacted 20 million in Michigan and New England and 40 million in California.

The second wave of attacks freshened up the denial-of-service for that sixty million people and added another one-hundred-fifty million citizens.

The biggest difference, though, was that now New York City was impacted. Suddenly, the News Media noticed.

How much physical decline is inevitable with age

 

Expressed as speed to make it more intuitive. Bigger number means more endurance.

Minimum qualifying times for the Boston Marathon for men. Hard-core marathon runners are near the high-end for human endurance performance.

Same as above but expressed as a percent. For example, as a man in the 60-65 age group and if I had taken maximum care of myself, my cardiovascular-pulmunary function could be expected to be 80% that of an 18-to-34 year-old me.

Stated another way, measured from the middle of those two age-spans, I can would lose 20% of my maximum endurance performance over that 36 year interval.

That is a much smaller number than I expected and I presume my flagging endurance is related more to the amount of extra lard I am carrying around and my increasingly sedentary habits than due to the inevitable programming of age.

Maximum endurance includes a bunch of factors but primarily the maximum volume of oxygen your lungs can transfer from the atmosphere to your blood stream.

Other factors include your liver's ability to cleave glycogen into glucose, your ability to sweat and dissipate heat, circulation in your muscles, pain tolerance and so on.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Sledding

 

The youngest child's hair was extremely fine and the static electricity made it do odd things.
 

"Hey, Uncle Joe....want to go sledding?" my nephew asked.

"Sure. Why not" I said.

I thought I was going to be able to stand around at the top of the hill, flirt with the pretty girls and push the kids over the edge.

The kids had other ideas.

I was supposed to ride down the hill with them.

Then I was supposed to pull the sled back up the hill for them.

Then I was supposed to let them ride in the sled as I pulled it up the hill.

Nephew had no problems with it. He had two of them in the inner tube and pulled them up the hill and wasn't out of breath.

It was all I could do to pull one of them up the hill and I was gassed.

A sad reminder that 60 year-old lungs cannot perfuse oxygen the way a 30 year-old set can.

History shows

 


Saturday, February 20, 2021

Winter Squash

 

Winter squash is one of the most un-loved and under-appreciated vegetables in the modern garden.

We have not been able to give away our abundant harvests. The people we attempt to "gift" the produce to look at us with a quizical expression and ask "What do you expect me to do with this?"

Pumpkins, ornamental corn, fruit....they will take by the hundred-weight. Squash? Not so much.

If things go in the pot regarding food security

Winter squash should be on your short-list of foods to grow for several reasons.

Food security might hit urban areas harder than rural areas. Urban areas are often shady. No light; no food. Squash grow on vines and vines can be trained to grow upward, into the light.

Squash have large seeds that germinate and grow aggressively IF the temperatures are warm. Said another way, it will be easy to figure out which seedlings are squash and which are weeds.

Squash seeds are easy to obtain. Every squash is full of them and they are the easiest seeds to save. Just dry them and save them until needed. Yes, some squash seen in stores are hybrids but there is a 99.99% that the squash produced from their seedlings will be edible. This could be a very big deal this year as commercial seed companies sell-out or close their doors to their non-commercial customers.

Immature squash can be harvested and eaten.

Most winter squash is packed with Vitamin A. If we go into total economic free-fall, government agencies will probably be almost adequate at supplying enough calories. Don't count on niceties like vitamins. Vitamin A deficiency is a leading cause of blindness world-wide and it usually occurs in refugee-camp type environments. Vitamin A is fat-soluble so you can eat excess amounts in the fall and your body will store it all year.

Winter squash can provide a break from food-fatigue. The blossoms are edible and most of the blossoms are male so they can be eaten without impacting your crop. The seeds are delicious after toasting and salting.

Types of winter squash

Unlike many garden plants, multiple species fall into the category "winter squash".

The advantage of multiple species is that they will not cross pollinate so you can save seeds from several lines of squash and do not need to worry about keeping them isolated.

Cucurbita pepo

Acorn squash, Delicata, most pumpkins. Most "bush" squash are pepo. In general, pepo are sweeter-less-starchy and have shorter storage life than the others. Seeds run smaller.

A very small number of pumpkin varieties are good winter squash. Winter Luxury and all of the "African Pumpkins".  In Africa "pumpkin" is the general term for edible squash while in North America it is nearly always applied to ornamental, orange shells that are 97% water.

Cucurbita maxima


 
Buttercup, Hubbard, Candy-roaster, Jumbo Banana are examples of maxima. Squash vary in size from large to stupendous. Vines are often rampant growers. Seeds are large. Flesh tend more toward starchy/filling. Disclosure, I like maxima best for table fare.

Cucurbita moschata


 
Butternut, "Cheese", Trombonchino and Dickinson (the variety used to make the canned 'pumpkin' used in pies) are moschata. These varieties are touted as being very adaptable to environmental stresses like drought, heat, challenges by insects and eye-popping yields. They are also the champs regarding storage life. The downside is that the flesh often resembles orange wax with little carbohydrates and minimal flavor.

Butternut is my mother's favorite squash because the ratio of edible-to-seed cavity is high.

As with all gardening posts, I am looking forward to comments from readers to correct my mistakes and to add experiences from a wide range of growing conditions


Friday, February 19, 2021

Hydrogen fuel cells

This post is along the lines of "give a zealot enough rope..."

I keep hammering on my token, Progressive friend about the problems with intermittency of solar and wind-power.

He assures me that those problems were solved in the 1960s(!).  He claims that debugged, validated hydrogen fuel cells are ready to rock-and-roll, that excess electricity at the solar farm or wind farm can be turned into hydrogen and piped via existing pipelines to people's homes.

According to my friend, a Hydrogen Fuel Cell the size of a toaster oven can supply all the electricity needed by a house. A HFC enough electricity for a school and so-on and so-forth.

When pressed, he says he is too busy to dig up the research and the academic papers, but he has personally talked to generals in the military and titans-of-industry who agree that it is so.

If you were looking for a tree you would look in a forest. If you were looking for a fish you would look in a stream or the ocean.

If you were looking for a pilot (or production) HFC economy you would look in countries with developed technology, abundant sunshine, hostile neighbors and no petroleum reserves and no hydro or geothermal resources.

Candidates that come to mind are Israel, Pakistan (hey, they have the nuke), India, South Africa (they had the technical chops at one time), Australia, the leeward side of the big Island of Hawaii, California.

If HFC is plug-and-play technology, one would expect to see some running at least at the university level.

T & A: First Friday of Lent edition

 

Lenten tip: The favorite book of the Bible for most beer makers and tea drinkers is He Brews.

Remnant: Injun Country, Part II


Every firm had various levels of “Injun-Country” rules. Every firm had slightly different titles for the sets of rules and every set of rules had some commonalities.

Since workers in the petroleum industry are very mobile (forgive the pun) in terms of the firms they work for, the guys in the field don’t use the formal document names. They call them “Injun Country” rules, even the Native-Americans.

There is one set of rules for Islamic countries where drinking alcohol and consorting with the opposite sex is illegal.

There is another set of rules for regions where sanitary measures taken for granted in developed countries are absent.

And there is a set of rules for operation in places torn by terrorism and civil war. It was this last set of rules that applied to Brett’s men.

Some of the rules were annoying. The vehicles had to be washed everyday after leaving the work-site. Vehicles had to be parked pointing nose-out to facilitate quick egress and to make it more difficult to identify rental/out-of-town vehicles by simply cruising through parking lots.

A minimum of three different routes between the hotel and work had to be randomly alternated. 


Some of the rules were not that big a deal. Work-days were standardized at 13 hours with an hour of overlap at each end. That avoided the Sargasso Sea of bad-luck-and-stupid between midnight and 3:30AM when many “accidents” happened.

Drinking was not prohibited but it was restricted to two drinks, had to be done in a locked motel room and the drinker had to be “in” for the evening. 

Meals had to rotate between restaurants and the number in rotation could NOT be seven. For that matter, six and eight were frowned upon. A target is harder to "pattern" when the restaurant he customs shifts back two days every week then when he shows up at the same fish-fry every Friday. Many employees chose to cook in their rooms.


Rented sex was prohibited.

Even though the behaviors of the men changed markedly, they would still never be mistaken for a Southern Baptist convention. The men were bigger, fitter, tanner, younger and much more sloppily dressed than the typical preacher.

Brett’s firm had no policy on personal defense weapons. Mikhail decided his employees were adults and could decide for themselves. Mikhail's company was an exception.

Brett’s team chose to ignore the fact that Connecticut does not recognize concealed carry permits from other states.

In Louisiana, Texas or Oklahoma any sentient adult would have recognized a group of mature men (and women) who watched people more than the big-screen TVs or their smart-phones; adults wearing large, floppy shirts that weren’t tucked in...they would have been recognized for what they were. A team of men not to trifle with.

In Connecticut they were simply dismissed as “rubes”.

*


Mayor Wagner had egg on his face. He had made a mistake and it was a lulu.

Not only had he made a mistake, he had rolled it out to the public. Both his personality and his business experience told him that the sooner the mistake was corrected the sooner it will be forgotten.

“Hey, I need to talk to the leaders again. Same deal. Pop free in twos. Figure out your own coverage” the Mayor rotated his team.

Once again, Jarrell was in the first team to be briefed.

“Do you remember the first briefing when I told you more adjustments would be made as we got smarter? I said something like ‘we will roll them out on-the-fly?” the Mayor started out.

Jarrell nodded. He remembered. Even if he had not remembered the Mayor was making perfect sense. Things were chaotic in the beginning and now things were settling down and actions could be refined.

“I made a mistake. A simple math mistake. Richards down at the power-plant caught it.”

Richards was the city worker responsible for the TLC of the two, ancient, reciprocating engines that provided back-up power. The engines were WWII vintage marine engines and had been upgraded through the decades as controls became more advanced.

“Richards caught a decimal error I made. The generators don’t produce 50 Watts per person, they produce 500 Watts per person or about 1500 Watts per household.”

Jarrell asked “What does that mean in real terms?”

“It means people can leave their refrigerators and freezers running. It means they can leave their furnaces running. It still means clothes driers, space heaters, electric ovens, dishwashers and water heaters are al no-go” Mayor Wagner said.

Roger, the other crew lead that had reported for the briefing said “That is GREAT news!”

In fact, it was great news. It took the electrical availability during the two-hour, planned black-outs from the level of the average citizen of Bangladesh to double that of Mexico’s. 


The other good news the Mayor had to report is that the Journeyman electricians crapped all over his plan to have them pull breakers (as required by the governor). No way in hell were they going to leave exposed conductors in the breaker-box and there weren't enough "dummy plugs" to go around. *

They had walked each home-owner through the process to shut-down a breaker. First, shut off all load at the appliance, either at the thermostat by turning it down or at the on/off switch. Then, when turning off the breaker in the breaker-box to not stand in front of the service box. Rather, to put their fingers on the breaker in question, step to the side and flip the breaker off with their faces turned away from the service box.

Arc-flash hazard is a real thing. If the box explodes, it explodes away from the wall and you don’t want to be in front of it when it goes. Metal slivers in your scalp are preferable to shrapnel in your eyeballs.
 

Once the breaker was in the “off” position, they secured it with duct tape. The duct-tape wouldn’t stop anybody from flipping it on but it would serve as a reminder as to WHY the breaker was off.

Reactivating the circuits that had been taken down to conserve energy would be a relative snap to bring back on-line as the process was simply reversed.


*


The fifty-pound bundles of ANFO in Needles, California, Port Huron Michigan and Hartford, Connecticut detonated at 3:30 EST. Crews repairing energy infrastructure were targeted.

The satchel of explosive was in the room beneath the bedroom of Brett’s suite. The bed had been moved and the charge laid directly on the poured, concrete slap of the floor.

Unbeknownst to the attacker, Injun-country rules had the oil-men dispersed around the hotel. Not only that, but they changed rooms every three nights to elude targeting.

Brett’s new room was on the other side of the hotel.

A single-mother from Hialea, Florida was not so lucky. She was touring Ivy League campuses. She was on the brink of fulfilling her life-long ambition.

Additionally, a half-dozen gamers were vaporized by the charge. They were at a gamer’s convention and were taking advantage of the hotel’s blistering fast internet (available for a $5 a night upgrade). They were furiously bounding on their computer keyboards when the charge went off. Their motto had been “We can sleep when we are dead”

The Media named the weapons used to attack the power distribution wires "Jellyfish"

 

Gaia Liberation Front also bombed natural gas pipelines and attacked the power grid that night.


* A tip-of-the-fedora to Tanker over at Mostly Cajun for helping me with the Arc-flash bits. All errors are mine. I blame it on having cold fingers.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Somewhere in Texas

 


Is Antifa a paper-tiger?

 

Berkeley, California
 

I did multiple image searchs for this post and I found huge crowds of Antifa supporters.

The odd thing was that those huge crowds were not of demonstrations in the United States.

When I restricted the image search to demonstrations in the United States I found some high-impact images like the one shown above.

But does the image withstand close scrutiny?

Let us assume that the photographer was a good journalist in the sense that he/she/it was attempting to maximize the dramatic impact of the image. That is, they were not attempting to minimize the number of Antifa members.

Further, let's assume that the Antifa members are on the move and had strung out into a tadpole shape. Combining this with the first assumption leads us to believe that they captured the head of the tadpole, in all, about thirty Antifa demonstrators.

Now look in the background and let's estimate the ratio of gawkers to number of Antifa


To make this easy, I grayed-out regions to make a keystone shape that simulates the effect of perspective and I put yellow stars on the Antifa demonstrators. For those of you who labor under the handicap of common-core math, there are six stars.

Next, I put red boxes around blocks of approximately fifteen people. Four blocks of fifteen represents 60 people on one side of the marchers. 

For this static, frozen instant in time, there is a gawker/Antifa ratio between 10:1 and 20:1 depending on whether there is an equal crowd of gawkers on the side of the demonstrators where the person who snapped this image is. In the interest of being conservative, lets take the average...15:1 ratio between gawkers and demonstrators.

Furthermore, if Antifa is marching, there are likely gawkers lined up-and-down the street which suggest many multiples of that 15:1 ratio.

Another perspective

California is the most populous state in the United States with about 40,000,000 legal residents. Perhaps the very biggest Antifa demonstration had thirty-ish demonstrators turn up.

Small towns like Eaton Rapids (population 5000) have churches that sponsor co-ed softball teams. I believe that any two of those church teams, if flown to California with their normal softball gear could take the Antifa demonstrators shown above in 98-times-of-100 if it became physical.

That should tell you everything you need to know about how badly elected officials hung law-enforcement out to twist in the wind after betraying them with eviscerated rules-of-engagement and catch-and-release policies.

 

This guy doesn't seem over-awed by Antifa's physical presence.

The real question isn't Antifa's inability to project a presence outside of communities with a history of subsidizing untreated mental illness. The real question is "What should we be looking at? What does the media/political nexus NOT want us to be looking at?"

Caveats: Antifa much bigger in Europe as most of Europe realizes that Germany won WWII. It took them seventy years but they ended up winning.

BLM does appear to be a home-grown organization with the ability to generate massive, grass-roots support.

Ballistic therapy

 

Fifty yards. He is getting close to having it dialed in.
The kid up the road has a new (for him) .22 that he is dialing in for squirrel hunting.

Since I was tagging along he let me shoot the .38 Special, Double-Action

Firing from 10 paces, two-handed. Slow makes smooth. Smooth makes fast.

Overall, 85% (28/33). I still need to work on sight-picture and firming up my grip. Most of the fliers to the left were first-of-string-shots.  I was doing some tactical reloads with Bianchi speed-strips. A "tactical reload" is where I don't shoot the gun dry  but dump the empties and top it off. Consequently, many of the shots counted as first-of-string.

The best shooting were quick strings-of-six. The head-shots were a string-of-six plus a random, additional round. The additional round is the one that hit low.

One of the other shooters at the range was a nurse in radiology. It was his educated opinion that "most of the shots would have hurt" but "The ones in the center of his face...they wouldn't have hurt at all"

In real life, heads are hard to hit because they bob-around so much. Still, that might be the only target you are offered.

This is not an example of fabulous shooting. Like Rocky Balboa replied when asked to assess his skills as a fighter, "I'm a ham-n-egger". This is ham-n-egg shooting, nothing special but good enough to get the job done much of the time.

You can also see that my target selection is informed by my experience harvesting animals for meat. Hunters don't aim for guts. We aim for the blood vessel rich heart-lung area. A liver-shot deer is good for a half-mile run and more than two hours of functionality. Too many bad things can happen in two hours.

No absolute standards in firearms

It is interesting that the kid is off by an inch-and-a-half at fifty yards and that isn't good enough while I am grouping 9"-by-9" at one fifth that distance and consider that "functional"