Monday, May 31, 2021

The Murph from Bella's perspective....

Belladonna here for a short guest post.

Today I did “The Murph” – a crossfit challenge workout.

I started crossfit about 2 months ago, and I really enjoy it. Going from dwarf tossing to training for powerlifting, my body had enough of the heavy lifting and I needed something a little more cardiovascular, except running..I’m sure ERJ has emphasized how much I hate running. Crossfit pushes me to my limits and moves me to where I need to be for physical workouts, adding in the benefits of cardio to weight training in one, intensive package.

Some workouts we do are called Hero WODs(Workout of the day) – to honor fallen soldiers who have sacrificed their lives so that we may have our freedom. A very popular one that I mentioned above is called “The Murph”. So, on Memorial Day weekend, crossfit gyms all around the country host their Murph Challenges in honor of Lt Michael Murphy. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to do this one with my gym-goblins but I still had dad around to help encourage me.


  • 1 mile run
  • 100 pull-ups
  • 200 pushups
  • 300 squats
  • 1 mile run (Did I mention that I hate running?)

LT. Michael P Murphy was a U.S. Navy SEAL who did this work-out to prepare himself for recons. LT Murphy was the officer in charge of a 4 man SEAL team who got ambushed while on duty in Afghanistan, June 2005. After taking fire for hours, Murphy made his final stand on an open cliff where he could get reception for his radio. He called the base for QRF and immediate assistance. 

Murphy knowingly put his life in jeopardy and accepted the consequences of making himself a target while protecting his team. He made the ultimate sacrifice. He was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor on October 27, 2007. The movie Lone Survivor depicts what happened on that fateful day for that crew.

So we do the Murph Challenge to push ourselves past our limits, humble us and dedicate some pain, blood, sweat and maybe even a few tears to honor Lt Murphy for making the ultimate sacrifice so that we may keep our freedom.

Dad says he was just the driver but he happily accompanied me on the runs, and continued to run while I was doing the stuff in between... he ran a total of 5 miles today! He’s still pretty spry for an old guy. He even took me out for lunch after. He’s pretty awesome.<Grudgingly allowed by the censor/editor>

Happy Memorial Day!

Over and out,


Belladonna finished "The Murph Challenge"


Every Memorial Day, fitness enthusiasts and newcomers around the country and across the globe prepare to honor fallen Navy SEAL Michael P. Murphy and many others who have made the ultimate sacrifice by completing “The Murph Challenge.” The grueling workout consists of a one-mile run, 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, 300 squats, and another one-mile run.   Source
She was going to write a guest-post for me about the experience but all she has done since finishing has been to take a shower, limp around and ask "What is for dinner?"

Bella took the Murph Challenge at Charlotte's Aleve Fitness Center because they have pull-up bars and a marked, half-mile path for running. Obviously, a one-mile run is two trips around the trail.

It was her first "Murph" and she finished in 1:23. 

She partitioned the workout, which is allowed.. She broke up the grueling ordeal into twenty sets of five pull-ups, ten pushups and fifteen squats. But she didn't stop and she didn't complain while doing it.

My contribution was to drive her over there. She wasn't sure she would be fit to drive afterward.

Remnant: Satan's forge

The leg from Alpine, Texas to Kingsville added 380 nautical miles to Don’s flight. 130 nautical miles due east, then another 250 nautical miles to the southeast to the airfield south of Corpus. The jog was necessary to stay out of Mexican airspace.

Don flew that leg deadhead. He had dropped off his “friends” at Alpine and spent the night there. They had a compound somewhere in the area and they were joining with those who were already there.

Alpine would not have been Don’s first choice for a bug-out location but he was not paid to give advice. He was paid to fly from the greater Chicago metropolitan area to Alpine, Texas and to keep his mouth shut. He assumed his passengers had roots in the area. He wished them no ill-will.

He picked the couple up at a heavily guarded airstrip outside of Kankakee, Illinois. It had been a 12 hour trip with stops at air-fields near Springfield, Missouri that catered to very high-end executives and a second stop at Abilene, Tx.

The Cessna 206 had long legs and he could have pushed it but he liked the idea of having enough fuel to make several alternative fields if the primary field was compromised. 

That conservative approach was validated when his primary field near Wichita Falls was scrubbed due to wind-gusts approaching 35 miles per hour. The field in Abilene was oriented differently and he could land into a head-wind.

Don did a low level pass over the field near Corpus and looked for broken glass and cacti. Not seeing any issues, he lined up and landed on the grass strip. His contacts were waiting for him and it took only a minute to load the “cargo”.

Don was expecting a five gallon bucket with a manifest weight of 60 pounds. They also handed over a thirty pound block of unprocessed gum rubber and plastic bags of additives. Don tucked the printed information into the plane’s header console and oversaw the refueling.

Don saw this coming from a long time ago. He had an experimental aeronotical, diesel engine retrofitted into his plane. Battle Creek, Michigan has a lot of high-end mechanics who were willing to swap the engine and make the other, needed changes. For example, a cable to heat the fuel line. It gets cold at elevation even in the summer.

Av-gas is expensive and not readily available and the 206 guzzled fuel. Diesel, on the other hand, was everywhere. The quality isn’t always the greatest but Don had a large “fuel conditioner” to strip out the water and biological scum. He was also religious about adding a lubricity enhancer to every tank of fuel.

Don’s plan was to spend the night near Springfield, Missouri. He was fifteen miles north of Kingsville flying at 500 feet, high enough to not have to worry about the wind-turbines that littered the flat, coastal plain but low enough to not be an issue for jets coming out of CRP ir NAS-Kingsville when movement out of his right windscreen caught his attention. The base of one of the tall towers at a local oil refinery was blooming outward. It appeared to be a fuzzy, white ball.

Then the mist bloomed to flame and Don, knowing that a shock-wave was likely to follow, turned tail and ran. As he dropped his nose he saw contrails streaking toward other refineries. Mentally, he registered groups of three contrails per vector.

On the ground it was chaos. The missile had hit the bottom of the fractionating column. The mechanicals of the missile were virtually identical to those of the fifty year-old Exocet anti-ship missile. In fact, the mechanicals were less advanced. They used smaller fewer premium materials and slightly less efficient propellant. Since it was reverse engineered, it was a bargain at $150k per copy.

The huge advance was that it was child’s play to program these missiles. The aspiring terrorist simply connect to his smartphone with WIFI. He pulled up a popular mapping app, zoomed in and tapped the intended target. Then he had the option of identifying the type of target.

Since these missiles had been designed and manufactured in the eastern Mediterranean, oil refineries were of the targets on the pull-down menu.

If launched within 40 km of the target, the missile used GPS technology to find and map the optimum path to the target and optical and IR imaging to select where refinery was most vulnerable to damage.

For that class of target, the 300 pound warhead was programmed to detonate 3m after impacting. The high aluminum flake content of the propellant guaranteed ignition of the expanding ball of petroleum vapors. The high aluminum content also made it easy to see the contrail from the air as they streaked over the freshly worked fields destined to be planted to sorghum and soybeans.

Shock-waves dissipate proportional to 1/R^2. Shock waves travel at Mach 1.0 and Don’s plane was only capable of 0.25 Mach but every inch is your friend.  His plane was was severely buffeted by the passing shock-wave but the the wave had dissipated enough that his plane did not suffer any structural damage.

Looking back, Don could see the contrails led back to rest-area beside an Interstate 69-E. The entire eastern horizon was a specter of fire and smoke and soot. It was gazing into the forges of hell.

Don cranked up the throttles of the plane and pushed north. Optimizing for fuel economy was not an issue since he was not carrying 1000 pounds of passengers and their gear.

Black columns of smoke stretched to the horizon until after he cleared Tulsa.

Gaia Liberation Front had grown fangs. 

*A huge tip-of-the-hat to Mr. B (a fellow blogger) who did his best to keep me from spewing nonsense when writing about pilots and planes. All errors are mine.

Sunday, May 30, 2021



To all who served: Thank-you.

Words fail when emotions are strong.

Saturday, May 29, 2021

A day at Mom's

The leaves of foxglove plants are very toxic. Half a leaf is enough to fatally poison a raccoon-sized animal.


Yesterday and today were spent at Mom's. Saturday is the designated clean-up day and it rotates through the siblings.

Mrs ERJ is back and that made it ten times easier.

I took a few minutes outside to trim the roses that were starting to sprawl over the sidewalk. I also took some grafting supplies and put a couple of Korean Giant over some P. cally seedlings and I grafted an Illinois Everbearing Mulberry over a mulberry seedling. They will not be able to stay there because they will not get enough sun but it seemed to be a shame to waste them.

I also made a side-trip at lunch to a big-box store to buy some motor oil. I recently purchased a small, Wen inverter generator and it specifies straight 30W oil when temperatures are above 40F. The picture in my head is that this generator will be plenty of power to run the blower on the fireplace insert in the event of a power outage and it (supposedly) gets 12 hours out of a gallon of gas at 400W output.

My understanding of multi-viscosity oils is that the base oil is the smaller, low temperature number and the high temperature viscosity is achieved with molecules that "uncoil" like an octopus coming out of a cave when the temperature rises. The extended tentacles increase the viscosity. The downside of those viscosity enhancers is that they are more vulnerable to shear and temperature degradation. Extreme duty, like a stationary, air-cooled motor operating at full capacity, the oil's high temp viscosity can drift back toward the viscosity of the base oil.

And that could all be marketing BS. Maybe some folks who know more about petroleum can chime in.

I also bought a couple of Foxglove plants (digitalis). They are very pretty flowers and pretty much bomb-proof...or at least deer and rabbit proof. Many outlets are reluctant to carry them because the leaves are very toxic and kids/litigation.

Once back home I moved a persimmon seedling into a spot that has been death on everything I have planted there. Nettles and grass seem to like the spot just fine. We will see if the persimmon survives.

Other than that, it has not been a very productive day.

Managing gmail storage

I get occasional messages from Gmail informing me that I need to manage my mail or start paying for additional storage.

Some of my messages are hogs for storage. I get video files from friends and I send photos from my phone to my laptop via email.


If you want to identify the emails that are gobbling up your space, go to the search line at the top of the page and insert the command "larger_than:NUMBERmb" where you supply NUMBER. (Info here)

 In this case I chose 15mb. I wanted to shave my way down from the top and look at the kinds of emails I was deleting. I decided I wanted to get rid of all of those emails so I mass-selected and moved them to trash.

Then I searched for emails larger than 12mb, then 10mb....then 5mb. All sent to the old byte-bucket in the sky.

Friday, May 28, 2021

Attributes of people who would survive a 95% die-off


I think most readers would agree that mortality will not be totally random. For example, there are about 1.6 million people living on Manhattan's 23 square miles. Five percent of 1.6 million people is 80,000 people.

There are 1.6 million people living in Phoenix and 500k in Tuscon. In the absence of robust shipping and irrigation, it is not plausible that 80k would remain in Phoenix and 25k in Tuscon.

It is a huge issue that 19-out-of-20 will not quietly slip their mortal coil so the 20th will survive. We will claw and fight and all twenty will perish.

A more plausible scenario is that enclaves will survive and large areas will experience what is essentially 100% mortality. My best guess is that large cities will get hammer and areas lacking adequate rainfall or fertile soil or a predictable growing season will suffer disproportion losses.

Life will become intensely physical

 95% mortality will essentially destroy the petrochemical industry. Alternatively, destroying the petro-chemical industry would bring about 95% mortality. Either path would be acceptable to the environmental loonie-tunes.

The best data available for a non-petroleum based life is from a study done on the Amish in Southern Ontario. For a frame of reference, a typical adult requires 2000-to-2500 steps to cover a mile.

Amish men accumulated 18,425 ± 4,685 steps per day (mean ± SD), whereas Amish women accumulated 14,196 ± 4,078 steps per day, averaged over 7 d (see Fig. 1). The highest 1-d total was 51,514 steps per day, recorded by an Amish farmer who performed harrowing (smoothing the ground surface after plowing and planting), while walking behind a team of five Belgian horses for the entire day.   Source

Mortality will hammer those of us over 55. It will hammer those who cannot jump off the couch and walk three-to-time miles a day and do physical WORK for ten hours a day, day-after-day. Not only must they be physically capable of doing it, they must be willing to do it.

This willingness to step up and do physical work is one facet where populations with multi-generational entitlement income will likely fail; Native Americans on Reservations and many people living in inner-cities, Section 8 housing or recently emigrated from refugee camps fall into this category.


Nobody can do it all. Nobody can stay awake 24 hours a day. I don't know anybody who can put a bandage on a wound between their shoulder-blades. Some skills are specialized, blacksmithing and leatherwork for instance. Nobody can do it all, or even most of it.

I suspect that populations that are close to "traditional"roles for men and women will adapt most easily to the 95% die-off. I think women should be able to shoot guns and men should know how to sew but that doesn't mean there should be a 20 minute discussion every time something needs to be shot or darned, as if these needs have never arisen.

Who is left?

A subset of the younger rednecks. Not all of them. Many of them are even more addicted to motorized toys than city people. 

General Infantry and Marines.

Recent immigrants from rural areas from less-developed countries....say Bulgaria and less developed. That would be a value-added-per-employee of $10k per year or less vs $83k for the US. The value-added is a reasonable proxy for the mechanization on the farm.

Not run-the-row billionaires.

Not super techie weenies or the guy doing their post-doc on Quark theory. Sorry Sheldon.

Not the guy with a million gadgets.

Not the gourmet chef who does not have a recipe that uses less than 7 spices and herbs.

There will be exceptions.

Any thoughts will be appreciated.


I see evidence that I am not as sharp as I used to be.

I went to the park to run and while I was stretching I noticed I was wearing "garden shoes" rather than running shoes. Battered shoes with blown-out sides and the soles separating from the tops.

It matched my knees and gut. I must not run very hard because the old body is still holding together. The shoes made it 3.5 more miles without issues.


Cheerful, blue flower. Tentatively keyed out as Linum perenne

I have no idea what this is. Non-woody herb. Growing in damp soil associated with nettles, and jewelweed. 15" tall. Showy pollen producing structures at each leaf-bud.

Old bull, young bull

Kubota and I are having old bull-young bull issues.

It all seems pointless from this end. My name is on the deed and his is not. If somebody must move out it will not be me.


I received an email from a friend in southwest Missouri. She had lost all of her apples and pears to frost, again.

This selection in the USDA gene bank is listed as very resistant to fireblight and the taste is characterized as tart.

There are at least three species of crabapples native to the eastern United States, Malus coronaria, Malus ioensis and Malus angustifolia. All three of them tend to be much later blooming than Malus domestica, the common apple with M. angustifolia being the most reliably late bloomer.

These crabs come with many negative traits. The ones I have personally tasted were spitters...and then spit again to get rid of the remnants of the taste. Astringent and bitter and soapy tasting. The fruit were small and hard. The foliage was riddled with Cedar Apple Rust.

But research suggests that some of these crabs are only sour and not nasty. Sour can be fixed with sugar.

These crabs have some positive traits beyond their late blooming. They tend to be resistant to fireblight. Many of them are resistant to collar rot.

Neils Hansen a breeder in South Dakota used M. ioensis and coronaria in some of this breeding. Because of Mendelian genetics those crosses with M. domestica probably don't have super-late blooming but a sibling cross and plant-out would likely produce some seedlings with that trait.

House insurance

Mrs ERJ called the company that carries our house insurance to report the new roof and hopefully get lower rates.

The person on the other end of the phone was sympathetic but our rates went up due to assorted reasons. One of those reasons is that insurance companies base coverage on replacement costs and construction materials are getting pricey and you (might) need to pay a premium to get a crew to show up.

I think I have some readers who are in the insurance business. Any comments will be appreciated.

Garden report

We got a half inch of rain a few days ago. It soaked in quickly.

Something to do when bored, eliminates hunger pangs, reduces anxiety, helps focus, always there when needed and makes every task easier. But if you cannot take your wife to war then tobacco is the next best choice.

I got my tomatoes and a couple of short rows of tobacco planted yesterday. My timing was good. It looks like we picked up another half-inch of rain last night.

Yeah, I know what some of you are thinking "Tobacco. That kills people. Why would you grow THAT?"

Tobacco can also be used as an insecticide. Historically, tobacco has been used for money. It is ornamental. Once I have a strain it produces seeds prolifically and I can keep it going by re-grows and keeping in the freezer. If things get dicey then it would be hard to get seeds.

"Why not grow cannabis?" you might ask.

Well, a few different reasons.

Smokable cannabis kills give-a-golly while tobacco seems to soften both boredom and terror and helps people focus.

Smoking cannabis influences people much, much longer than the effects of nicotine.

Cannabis makes people hungry while tobacco dulls hunger pangs.

Growing cannabis is likely to attract attention from the wrong kinds of people even where it is legal while tobacco will not get a second glance.

Quality of cannabis is highly dependent on the absence of viable male plants in the area, something that a small-holder cannot control. Tobacco does not care.

Tobacco makes a fair insecticide which could be important if ectoparasites like lice become an issue.

Remnant: An Honest Day's Work

Alice found herself in a bit of a pickle.

Ed and Alice had married right out of high-school back in the ‘sixties. Ed joined the military rather than get drafted.

After batting about the states, they moved back to Eaton Rapids after Ed mustered out. Ed worked various jobs to support his growing family. Often times, that job was as a mechanic.

Shortly after moving back to Eaton Rapids, they had been invited over to a neighbors for the first grill-out of the spring.

The neighbor, unhappy with how long it was taking the charcoal to get started, decided to add some more lighter fluid. He started squirting it on the already smoldering coals.

Ed came up behind the neighbor to inform him that squirting more fluid on a burning fire was a bad idea when the flame from the fire started running up the jet of fluid being propelled from the rectangular, metal container the neighbor was squeezing.

Seeing the flame rapidly climbing toward his hand, the neighbor squeezed more energetically thinking he could outrun it. The neighbor pitched the container to his right just as Ed was drawing abreast.

The released can sucked in the flame and a goodly amount of air and promptly exploded, showering Ed with burning lighter fluid.

Ed’s recovery was long and slow.

Much of the family’s food came out of Alice’s garden that year. The first thing she did after coming home from the hospital and seeing Ed all wrapped in bandages was to double the size of the garden.

Once Ed got back to work she shrunk it back to “normal” size.

Then, as Ed neared the end of his career he uncovered fraud at work. He found  maintenance logs signed off as done. Furthermore, they were signed off with his name and he knew he had not done the work.

Since he would be held responsible if the brakes failed on any of those rigs, he made copies of the fraudulent logs and logs that proved the equipment he supposedly maintained had been on the road at the time. Ed ran up chain-of-command in spite of severe pressure from his management. He ended up in the CEO’s office and several people got fired.

Ed knew the gig was up. He knew he had a target on his back after he was written up for dropping a paper towel he had used to clean a dipstick on the floor. Ed planned to pick up the towel after he reinserted the dipstick. Ed was written up for “Creating an unsafe working environment”. Two more write-ups and he would be fired.

He and Alice talked it over. Clearly the fraud was more pervasive than they had imagined. There was no way he could work in the shop for three more years, looking over his shoulder all the time. There were too many "accidents" that could happen.

So he quit, just a few years short of his retirement.

Those were tough times.

Alice doubled the size of the garden and they got through it.

They were now in their seventies and if there was ever a time to double the size of the garden, it was now.

But it was complicated. Many of the people Alice knew who could plow the garden or prep it were gone, either dead or moved to Florida.

Life had been good the last fifteen years and Alice had let the garden lapse. The brush encroached; blackberries and wild rose, sumac and poison ivy. There was almost nothing left of the garden.

It was going to take a lot of muscle to get the garden ready for May planting and Alice did not know where that was going to come from.

Most of her kids had moved away from her, admittedly, domineering personality. Her one son-in-law was laid up with a broken upper arm.

So Alice responded in classic “Alice” style, she networked.

Ed and Alice were at Bingo when Alice started asking around. She knew none of the oldsters were capable of helping with the garden, but maybe they knew somebody.

A lifetime of habit made Alice’s voice loud. A lifetime of loud speech made her voice gritty and her desire for attention made the inflections novel, rather like the classic pig-calling “Sooey, sooey, sooey!”

Consequently, everybody at Bingo heard about Alice’s desire for a strong, young man to come over and get her garden ready for planting.

As Ed and Alice were packing up to leave, Doreen came up to them and suggested that she could send over one of her new neighbors. They lived a mile west of Eaton Rapids and Ed and Alice lived a mile east.

Alice agreed to pay $10 an hour as long as the helper was not a total slacker. It hurt Alice to pay that much but she was in a bind.

Two men showed up at first light the next morning. Mostly they spoke Spanish.

Alice was leery about hiring them. She had her own prejudices, many of them based on TV shows about drug runners and news reports about Cartels.

She looked them over. They were wearing work-boots that were very broken in. They had callouses on their hands and work-gloves tucked into their back pockets. They had battered straw-hats on their heads and carried their lunch in a five gallon bucket.

Alice wavered. She had not asked for TWO men. In her experience two young men were less productive than a single worker because they played grab-ass and distracted each other. Then she realized that these guys had started walking at least forty minutes before sunrise to get to her home. They WANTED to work. Alice figured she could always fire them part-way through the day if they were unsuitable.

Of course they didn’t have any tools. Two miles is a long way to carry a full set of hand tools.

Fortunately Ed loved going to auctions and the shed and garage were bursting with used hand-tools of every type. She opened the garage and let the young men pick through the tools at the front. Their eyes lit up when they saw machetes and axes and shovels and mattocks and….

Alice checked on them every hour. She brought a pitcher of sweetened tea. She told herself that she would get more work out of them if they had caffeine and sugar through the day.

Seeing their lunch, a couple of cold pancakes each, she scoffed and fixed them a hot lunch. She was not going to pay $10 an hour and not get her money’s worth because they ran out of gas in the afternoon.

Alice considered herself to be worldly and a hard-as-nails boss to work for.

At the end of the day, the garden was nearly a half-acre in size and tall brush to the east and west that would have shaded it was leveled.

Alice went out to pay them. Two men, ten hours each was a steep, heavy price for retirees on a fixed income but the two men had earned every penny.

And then the men asked “Can you pay us with pots and pans and the machetes? We moved here with the shirts on our backs and we have nothing. We saw some cooking things in your garage and we would rather have those than money.”

“Do you have children?” she asked.

Si, senora” the older man said.

“How old?” Alice asked.

“Eleven, eight and six” said the slightly older man, proudly.

“Eight and five” the younger man volunteered. "They are cousins."

Alice, a woman who thought she had a heart of granite, melted.

Many a younger man thought Alice to be overly full-of-herself and pompous. They scoffed at suggestions that she could be a force.

The wind of righteous indignation filled Alice’s sails. “And you have NOTHING?” she asked.


“We will see about that!” Alice promised them.

Every one of her peers had closets and outbuildings and attics crammed with “stuff”.

Every one of her daughter’s peers had tub upon tub filled with outgrown children’s clothing.

Alice pulled out her phone and pushed a couple of buttons. “Jenny, do you still have kids clothing that will fit kids under eleven?”

Alice had her faults. She was judgmental, slow-to-forgive and had deep-seated biases. In her defense, she reserved the severest judgment those who failed in their Biblical duty to clothe and feed the cold and hungry, especially if those in need were children. She could not tolerate that in anybody, much less those she considered her friends. It was woven into every strand of her DNA.

Alice was the hub of the phone chain and the two, honest laborers had gained a powerful  and ferocious patroness.


*Hat-tip to George True for asking how Eaton Rapids might respond to having almost a thousand migrants drop into their laps. This is a work of fiction and there could be many other outcomes. However, women like "Alice" are common in these parts and based on the guys who roofed my house, an honest day's labor for a day's pay is still the norm among some.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021


My new brother-in-law retired and moved from the Flint area into my sister's house. They had been dating for thirteen years and he is one of my hunting buddies.

Time has been heavy on his hands.

I had an invitation to have lunch in Indiana with a friend. On a whim, I invited him along. My friend had no objection to a third person.

We are all roughly the same age and share many of the same interests.

We arm-wrestled over who got to pick up the tab. My brother-in-law won.

I had the Swiss Steak Special at $9.99 and a piece of home-made cherry pie.

I heartily recommend Clay's Family Restaurant in northeast Indiana. It is a little bit off of I-69 and just south of the Indiana-Michigan border. From my house it was a 70-to-80 mile trip.

The restaurant is extremely retro from the air vents in the ceiling to the baseboards. The coffee is good and Mr Clay swung by several times topping off coffee cups and offering desert.

My brother-in-law was easy to have around. He contributed his fair share to the conversation but let my friend do most of the talking. I cannot remember a meal when I enjoyed the company more.

In the interest of operational security, the new B-i-L will be known as "Shotgun" cause he sat in the copilot's seat on both legs of the trip. I foresee more road-trips with Shotgun in the future.

Remnant: The Beaches of Dunkirk

Pastor Morales’ problem was essentially a tactical problem with major social ramifications.

Fabulous Acres was no longer a viable place to live. Nobody in the neighborhood had any “pull” or “stroke” with the powers that be. Staying in Fabulous Acres was a dead-end. The best that could happen was slow starvation. Worse would be slavery and plague.

Pastor Morales discretely asked around. More important, his wife put out feelers with trusted friends. The questions were oblique and spread around.

There were 1200 souls living in Fabulous Acres. Between 200-and-250 of them would never leave. They would hang on until the bitter end. While the vast majority of the residents were Hispanic, the north-end held an enclave of African-Americans. Relations were strained in the best of times. Sadly, the African-Americans tended to trust politicians and faceless bureaucrats more than they trusted their neighbors.

If they ever got wind of how the extra grain “magically” appeared, somebody would rat them out in a heart-beat. To that end, it was a very, very small group of mules who made the 13 mile, nightly round-trip. One of them was Pastor Morales and several others were church Elders. Since they were already in-the-know, using them as mules meant they didn’t need to bring more people into-the-loop. Every additional person was additional risk of a leak.

The grain was deposited in the church basement before sun-up and then divvied up with the meager allotment the City was giving food centers in the less-favored parts of town. The vast majority of those who received the grain never knew it came from a different source.

While an additional half pound of grain per person was a God-sent, it wasn’t enough for survival. It simply delayed the inevitable.

The obvious answer was to depopulate Fabulous Acres. The devil was in the details.

Besides the 250 who had an unshakeable faith in the eternal benevolence of government, there were another 200-to-250 whose health was in rapid decline.

The loss of power, space heating, tap water and hygiene, medications, the high level of stress and anxiety all played a part. Perhaps the most widespread debilitating syndrome was plain, old diarrhea*. Sketchy drinking water. Not being able to wash hands. People crammed together cheek-by-jowl. The means to heat food to kill pathogens and the lack of refrigeration. They all contributed. Diarrhea meant wet, contaminated clothes with inadequate means to sanitize them. The epidemic snowballed.

The first to die from diarrhea had both been couples! They died of hypothermia. Wet clothing and bedding do not retain heat. Nights in April are cold. If either of the couple had not been hammered by Noro or salmonella or whatever, one could have cared for the other and they would have both made it. But, both were afflicted at the same time and they were gone before any of the neighbors realized they were in trouble.

That group might be able to ride a bus out of town but a 20 mile hike was completely beyond them.

The tactical problem was to determine the most secure order for the 750 residents who were candidates for relocation. As in many things, the distribution of risk was bell-shaped.

A hundred candidates were prime choices. They were tight-lipped and had a very-strong sense of group affiliation. They would let somebody pull out their fingernails before they put later groups at risk. Those were the easy ones.

The next five hundred were a mixed bag. Some of the women were addicted to social media. Pastor Morales could just hear some of them rationalizing “What is the harm in one little post and a few pictures?” That group had to be sorted and the lowest risk evacuated first to delay the inevitable implosion.

Pastor Morales knew in his heart that there was no possibility of getting through all five-hundred of “the middle” without a major security breach. At that point options were limited. The single best option, in Morales’s estimation, was a quick, mass rush for the exits before the powers assimilated and reacted to the information.

Of course the last hundred in the 750 potential sojourners were least likely to respond when word went out “You have to leave NOW with the clothes on your back and a single water bottle”

Morales was a realist. Knowing what he did about people, he thought it would be a miracle if they could move one-third of the 750 out of Fabulous Acres before the balloon went up.


Three groups of ten huddled two-hundred yards north of the Customs Station. The groups left Fabulous Acres at different times. Two of them left in the daylight.

They covered various distances before dropping into a huddle. Then, after dark they moved to a common rally point. Shortly after midnight the thirty moved an additional half-mile to the staging area just short of the Customs Station.

All thirty were Guatemalans. While Guatemalans are not overly fond of Hondurans, and Pastor Morales was from Honduras, they were even less fond of Mexicans. They appreciated that they had been allowed to take-the-gap before most of the others in Fabulous Acres.

Pastor Morales promised them that he would care for la tias and la abuelas as long as he was in Fabulous Acres. He would care for them as his very own unless he got word that they had ratted.

Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador live under the shadow of the drug trade. They knew what “ratting” brought. They knew an honorable man when they met one. They would not betray their grandmothers and beloved aunts that stayed behind.

Carmen had passed information back that forty was too many. She could hear them from a quarter-mile away. Of course she knew they were there and was listening.

She cranked up the decibels to cover the rustling and jingling. Louisa, nobody’s fool, also started chattering and laughing and even danced a little jig to make the sounds of shoes striking the ground.

At thirty per night, it would take almost a month to move the 750 out of Fabulous Acres.

Execute, execute, execute! 

*A tip of the fedora to Anita Bailey for pointing out this obvious health issue. Diarrhea is easy to overlook because it is gross and so very pedestrian.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Never underestimate the utility of women's lingerie

One of my esteemed blogging buddies observed "...preparedness and survival.  I never considered (women's) lingerie to be an important part of the process"

By an amazing coincidence I had been running in the park the other day (three miles in 1.45 fortnights!) when I met a young lady named Amy. Amy was preparing for a 50k race in Michigan's beautiful Upper Peninsula. The course ran atop the Pictured Rocks and crossed the Two Hearted River.

While talking, she shared that women's "nylons", i.e. shear panty-hose, deterred ticks.

Ticks and chiggers qualify as a "preparedness and survival" issue.

Mrs ERJ wanted more details so I opened a search engine and typed in "Panty-hose Ticks"

A typical article like this one said it was for-real.

White is the preferred color to make it easier to see them climbing your legs.

Sadly, it is only a partial solution. Ticks will climb until they find a place to dig in.

I have to wonder if a sweat-band-like construction could stop the ticks if it was impregnated with insecticide or female-velcro to entrap them or smeared with Crisco or Vaseline.

Fine Art Tuesday


May Theilgaard Watts born 1893 in Illinois, died 1975.

Mrs Watts was notable for being a naturalist at Morton Arboretum in Illinois and for writing a series of books including "Reading the Landscape of America" and "Reading the Landscape of Europe"

She illustrated her own books. Her spare, ink drawings removed all extraneous, distracting detail and subtly exaggerated the features she wanted the reader to attend to. In many ways, her drawings were far superior to photos for her purpose.

Mrs Watts was a master of time progression. Her compositions created indelible memories that were easily recalled.

Hedges are a good metaphor for "Remnants".

Hedges are begrudgingly laid around the edges of fields or verges of roads. It is a small percentage of the area dedicated to the main business of growing a crop.

Hedges are where most of the diversity exists. There is even a movement in Europe to register "Ancient Hedges". Ancient hedges are identified by the number of species per given length of segment. (quick read on Ancient Hedges)

During WWII, the Allies fought field-by-field, hedge-by-hedge through Western France.

During WWII, much of Europe collected berries, rose-hips and "fluff" from hedges. The berries and rose-hips provided much needed Vitamin C (in short supply due to submarine warfare shutting off the supply of citrus) while the fluff was used for bandages. Mischievous boys discovered that the seedy, insides of rose hips (R. canina) made an excellent itching powder.

During Holodomor (the 1933 Ukrainian famine), families gleaned foods from hedges to survive after the Soviets raked every grain, potato and turnip from the kulaks' homes. Filberts, dandelions, nettles, rose hips, haws, sloe, plums, quince, Cornus mas, rabbits to snare, nests to look for eggs.....  

Many older pear and apple cultivars were found growing in hedge-rows and were propagated.

Construction of a traditional, European hedge. This is a hedge that has just received its 20 year maintenance. Big wood is hinge-cut, tipped and woven between hurdles to compress it and make it impenetrable. "Horse-high, bull-strong and pig-tight"

Another view. How would you like to fight a war with defenders on the other side of this, peering through tunnels they cut through the hedge. Not much opportunity for flanking.

Sometimes hedges got away from the farmers. War, legal entanglements, laws, land being sequestered by the government were all reasons why a hedge drop out of the twenty-year maintenance cycle. These are beech trees that over-topped the hedge and took on a life of their own.

Monday, May 24, 2021

Data that bears false-witness

I want to offer two thoughts for your consideration.


The first is Col. Jeff Cooper's observation "In times of crisis we rarely rise to the occasion. Rather, we regress to the level of training we have mastered."

Got that, when the poop hits the propeller, it is almost a certainty that we will default to the response we have most recently invested a significant number of repetitions in.


Regression-to-the-mean suggests that any response we make to the challenges we will be exposed to when the poop hits the propeller will appear to be validated.

Humor me for a couple of minutes. Let me suggest a mental experiment.

Suppose you have three dice. You put them in a cup, shake them and roll them out onto a table.

If you get a mixed roll, say a combination of (ones, twos and threes) and (fours, fives and sixes) you do nothing. Life is normal.

Now suppose big numbers are bad and smaller numbers are good. Let's say you roll some combination that are all big numbers. Statistically, you will roll one of those an average of once every eight rolls.

What are you going to do? In real life some people will get stoned on drugs or drink alcohol until they feel nothing. Others will beat their wife. Still others will gamble or go hoeing.

Some will swoon.

Then there will be some who pray, or invest in improving the situation. Some will seek to strengthen bonds with family, friends and neighbors.

Others might see retribution against those they see as having initiated the poop-fling.

Incoming tide raises all boats

Every one of those people will feel validated as the roller-coaster surges up-and-down. The down will become an up. The drinker, the drugger, the good neighbor and the vigilante will all feel validated.

In a similar way, when circumstances that seemingly plateaued suddenly turn into the ditch, every person will feel that their efforts to maintain order were invalidated.

Data that bears false-witness

This is false data because there was no control. We do not have the means to compare the outcomes of a hundred drunks and a hundred prayerful, industrious people who do the right thing, even when it seems pointless.

So, if we become the new Zimbabwe or Rwanda^2, use your heart and use your brain. Use it NOW to ingrain good habits. During ZR^2 will be nothing but rumors. People will claim that the only way to get ahead is to treat others like crap: Stick knives in their backs and use the hilts as rungs of a ladder.

Sadly, they will even believe it is true. They will believe that they are giving you good advice.

Others will swoon. Many of those who swoon or give-up will make it through the first spasms of whatever evil might be coming our way. They, too, will testify that the one-true-path is to abase one's self and radically accept "the new reality".

Neither of these paths are likely to be "best". Yes, there may be an occasional down-time when you can hoist an adult beverage with a trusted friend. There may be times when the goblins have the drop on you and you really have no other choice than docile compliance.

But just as a single, sunny day does not make it summer, an isolated instance when a given strategy is appropriate does not make that action the best default strategy.

...that we have mastered

I believe that the best path has already been marked out before us. It is in the Bible. It is found in pithy advice like "Pack your own parachute" and "The Rule of Threes". It can be found in the writings of the Austrian school of economists and what our parents and grandparents tried to teach us.

It is entirely possible that you have different paths picked out. No worries. But practice whatever paths your intellect tells you is the best path; practice now so when the poop-hits-the-propeller those skill-sets and decisions are at the top of the stack. When things get tense, you will not take the time to look at the top seven dishes to see which one is cleanest. You will grab the top one.

In spite of our best efforts

People will die. That does not invalidate our paths or strategies or lives.

People die. If you are born, you are going to die. Someday.

Don't let data that bears false-witness as proof that you should abandon those actions you have taken to keep rust, rot, depreciation and entropy at bay.

I was walking down an assembly line with a Plant Manager once. He asked me what I heard.

I could tell it was a trick question. I listened. It sounded like a plant making money to me. I said as much.

He said "I hear an assembly line that has too many people."

He then went on to explain that the business model was to load the job content so once every twenty jobs the unit they were working on would "bump" and a unique melody would play to alert a flex worker (team leader) to pick-up the next job.

Since there were forty job stations within earshot (160 jobs) and we did not hear eight melodies playing, ever, he knew the plant was not conforming to the business model. In fact, it was rare to hear two melodies playing. There were too many workers for the work-content.

Being the loyal stooge that I am, I relayed the conversation with the executive in charge of that part of the plant. Clearly, it was the Plant Manager's intention that I do so.

The executive informed me two weeks later that the plant was not over-staffed. That stretch of line had experienced a period of extremely stable manpower. Everybody knew their jobs very, very well.

The next shift-area preference would probably blow that out of the water. It would be STUPID to strip out manpower just before a shift-area preference and then have the newbies be crushed by the heavy job loading.

The Plant Manager probed. The Area Manager investigated and came up with a rational, thoughtful response.

Many times, the most rational response is to stay-the-course.