Tuesday, August 31, 2021


It is being reported that:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) on Tuesday blocked the names of the 13 US service members killed in the Kabul blast from being read after a moment of silence on the House floor.  Source

Dilemmas in investing

This can be a challenging time to be an investor.

Like a many people in my age group, I saved a few dollars while working with the intention of using that money to make the reduced income of retirement pinch less.


Inflation is theft against people who didn't relentlessly consume every penny they earned as soon as they earned it. Furthermore, it benefits those who consumed MORE than they earned.

Inflation steals from the savers and gives relief to the borrowers.

Nevertheless, it is better to have saved something than to have not saved at all. Look at my gross income, my pension (and I am blessed to have anything) pays 27% of what I received when I was bringing a paycheck home.

It is nice to have a few dollars set aside for luxuries like heating oil, gasoline and hotdogs.

From this juncture in time, there appear to be two kinds of inflation. There is the "everything costs more" and there is the "not available" kinds.

Many economists would argue that "not available" isn't inflation but from a practical standpoint the item is available IF YOU ARE WILLING TO HIRE SOMEBODY TO LOOK FOR IT AND ARE WILLING TO PAY ANY PRICE. From a practical standpoint the cost of an item that is not available approaches infinity.

Either that, or one must substitute more expensive or less suitable (and often less durable) items. Paying the same for an item that lasts half as long is 100% inflations.

Inflation makes "Bonds" and fixed income financial vehicles a loser's game.

Reserve currency status

Many nations are colluding to dethrone the US Dollar from its world reserve currency status.

If that happens, even in part, then many of the US dollars that were circulating through the world economy like so much financial hydraulic fluid will become surplus-to-need. The countries and foreign banks and corporations holding those dollars will use them to buy US assets. Since everybody will be doing it, asset prices will rise and the purchasing power of the dollar will plunge.

More inflation

Domestic equities

Under that scenario, domestic equities (stocks) are likely to provide a flimsy shield to preserve one's wealth.

The price of stocks are founded on two things: Future profits that are discounted to comprehend time-value-of-money and the collective emotional state of "the market"

Both pillars holding up stock valuations will be crushed by inflation. The discounting pillar will be battered as the discount rate rises. The collective emotion pillar will be crushed because nobody will have any expendable income to invest and "momentum".

Foreign equities

The efficient frontier concept is that allocating assets between different world markets can increase returns and reduce volatility.

I took a hard look at this option.

The largest economies in the world as a percent of the US economy are:

If the goal of divesting into foreign equities is to find a safe-haven in the event of the US economy tanking, then the save-haven must be VERY decoupled from the US economy.

That leaves Germany*, Russia, Brazil, Australia, Turkey and Poland.

The "*" next to Germany is to indicate that the other EU countries are equally decoupled but if you had to choose a robust local economy in the EU would you choose Germany or any of the countries on the Mediterranean?

Russia is in the enviable position of being able to sell energy to either the EU or China but its financial transparency is suspect and corruption is a risk.

Virtually no country has balanced demographics. We are either aging like Japan or blowing up like Brazil.

Whither to go?

Two paths present themselves.

One is to balance my portfolio heavily in bonds since a fast elevator ride down is preferred to an uncontrolled ride down. Keep that position until blood is running in the streets and then look for buying opportunities.

The second path is more fun. Looking around my property, there are many projects that are in various states of completion. I am very, very good at starting things. Not so great at finishing everything.

Viewed through the lens of "How much incremental function do I get for each incremental dollar I spend today?", punching several of those projects into the end-zone are clear winners. By a lot!

A fifty year-old milling machine is capable of easily lasting another fifty years if cared for. Additionally, the basic machine can accept digital and CNC upgrades.

Viewed through the lens of inflation, I will be trading depreciating dollars for hardware, that if cared for, will not halve in value every decade...or year.

The last hundred years have not been particularly inflationary in the United States yet a paper dollar minted in 1914 lost 96% of its purchasing power over that time. A milling machine that can last 100 years looks pretty attractive in comparison, especially if one already has a machine shop.

(NOTE: I do not have a machine shop but use the milling machine as an example. There are hosts of other durable items...including sheds to store and protect your other items, tool boxes to keep them organized and protected and so on...that merit consideration.)

Fine Art Tuesday

Thomas Kinkade born 1958 in Sacramento County, California. Died 2012.

Panned by critics (likely motivated by envy of his commercial success) as "pop art" and "kitch" and "crassly commercial". 

Kinkade produced and sold a prodigiously large number of paintings.

His paintings evoke a sense of coziness and welcoming, a perpetual sense of homecoming.

His admirers overlooked the sometimes improbable treatment of water, luminous fog, and (sometimes) insanely busy cottage gardens.

They adore his windows glowing with fires and candles well-lit, gardens lovingly tended and homes meticulously cared for.

Perhaps this is not the reality most of us go home to every day after work, but it is the what we wish it to be. Kinkade's paintings offer a bit of respite from hour-long commutes, expansive and sterile lawns and Home Owner Associations' anal-retentive love of bland earth-tones and vinyl siding.

Who am I to judge. These paintings make some people happy and give them peace.

Monday, August 30, 2021

September and October are my favorite months


Heuristics: First Impressions

This post is the start of something new.

I intend to discuss one "Heuristic" each Monday until I lose interest.

For those who have not stubbed their toe on the word "Heuristic", a heuristic is a mental shortcut. We use them to reduce cognitive burden so we can think about, and pay attention to other things.

A simple example of a heuristic nearly all of us have used is "You can remove your foot from the brake pedal and press on the accelerator when the traffic light turns green"

The actual "rule" is "You may proceed after the light turns green, the intersection is clear and it is safe to proceed".  Very important if you are not the first vehicle in line.

Heuristic: Adjustments and Anchoring aka First Impressions

When confronted with a novel situation, we typically assess the incoming stream of observations and information. Then after we have a "sample", we form a preliminary or operating assumption. As life moves on, we continue to receive information. Some of that information supports our preliminary assumption. Some data will be contrary to that preliminary assumption.

Research universally supports that we always over-weight our initial mental model and almost never modify that model to the degree that math suggests is appropriate.

The reason is that we use our initial model as a filter. We are bombarded with information. Consider how many conversations going on in the background of a busy restaurant and yet your mind effortlessly ignores them! That is because you have a heuristic running in the background that the only the people at your desk or table are important.

The First Impressions heuristic functions the same way. It tosses information that is not coherent with your mental model (This salesman has integrity, this house is a good structure, the sports teams I follow are superior to other sports teams) discards contrary information as "noise" just like you filter out side conversations.

If it helps, the First Impressions heuristic is like a weir over a water inlet that filters out sticks and trash that is not in alignment with the wires but lets straight sticks that are in alignment in.

Stupid, smart, wise

Stupid people form snap judgements based on small or inherently biased samples of information. The idea of a small sample is self-explanatory. The inherently biased sample is a little trickier. For example, you might base your house buying decision based on a large sample of data but all of that data might be from real estate brokers.

Smart people (at least with regard to this heuristic) will make a concerted effort to research a topic from several different sources. They will tread water until they have a model that stops wobbling with each new bit of information.

Wise people will move between the two. Some "wrong" decisions don't come with a high cost. Other times, our mental models offer such low predictive capability that there is little sense in investing in them. I suggest that choosing politicians because "I think he is an honest man" while thinking it will predict how he will vote is one of those low cases.

Wise people also understand that there are times when the consequences are so dire that any decision is better than a delayed decisions. "One foot on the dock and the other in the canoe" is the classic case. Wise people make an effort to avoid analysis-paralysis.

When you are trying to influence the decision maker

This heuristic is very frustrating to somebody who is attempting to influence a decision maker.

Consider the person who emails their boss some article or tidbit that contradicts the boss's decision. Over the course of six months they send 20 such articles and academic papers. Then after confronting their boss to seal-the-deal, they are devastated to learn that the boss cannot remember reading a single one.

The way to drill through the "First Impressions" filter is to overwhelm it.

But don't use just any kind of data. Use overwhelming amounts of VIVID data. Real people are vivid. Video is vivid. Color is vivid.

In one case an engineer changed a fog-lamp mounting system because she videoed what happened when a car (hers) exited a steep driveway (at the facility that provided daycare for her children). It lunched the foglamps. The video captured the crunch. She stopped the vehicle and the video captured the broken glass. The video also captured the fact that she was moving at a very cautious speed.

The fog-lamp mounting system, the one she had been trying for months to have changed by sending lab test results (not quite acceptable) to management, the one that they had adamantly refused to change because of cost...was changed. The management team needed all of 20 seconds after viewing the video to reach that decision.

Computer simulations

It is under-appreciated that the out-sized role of computer simulation in our lives is due to the vivid display tools that are part of the package.

These tools are so vivid that they don't just overwhelm the filtering effect of First Impressions, they completely replace the mental model the decisionmaker was using.

Computer simulations are still vulnerable to garbage-in-garbage-out but they allow the decisionmaker to be wrong with great precision and confidence.  Key point here: Decisionmakers conflate confidence with quality.

Bonus link

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Seeking intelligence to facilitate infiltrating new A-o-O



I don't know if I have any readers in South Florida, but if I do, I could use some guidance.

The ever wise and lovely Mrs ERJ informed me that we will be visiting Southern Belle in South Miami sometime this fall/winter.

I COULD go wearing a sweat-stained baseball cap, baggy, camo, cargo shorts (with neatly sewn rips and patches), sagging tee-shirts and old running shoes and mismatched crew-socks, but that would mark me as a hick, a Yankee or a street-person.

That violates my preference to be "gray".

Can anybody give me guidance of what respectable men in their fifties and sixties wear for after-work casual in Dade county?

  • Hats?
  • Shirts? (colors, patterns)
  • Slacks/shorts? How long? How tight? Colors? Cargos OK?
  • Footware? Sandals? Running shoes? Sock length?
  • Facial hair?

I want to look like the guy who has partial ownership in a tobacco store or the very successful used car salesman while he entertains a few friends after work.

Links to images will be much appreciated. Or, links to videos of family reunions/after-work party kinds of events.

When bureaucrats bend science to be more convenient


After reading all the Sturm und Drang of Australia's response to the Covid virus, I decided to take a closer look.

I stumbled across the video (linked above) showing part of their response; that is, very large concentration camps.

Australia decided that packing huge numbers of people who MIGHT have been exposed to Covid into close proximity is a good idea. That is the biological equivalent of packing all of your U-235 into one, big pile.

Yes, yes, yes...I know it is very convenient for the bureaucrats who want to track and control potential carriers as well as creating a bunch of jobs for minions. But it completely misses the point of fire-walling potential contagion.

Covid (in all of its mutations) is in every large country already, including Australia. Mandatory in-house quarantines are a splendid idea. Fine people if their cell-phone GPS leaves the home but don't incarcerate them behind razor-wire in close association with other travelers.

If you want to employ your mouth-breathers, then hire them to deliver food to the quarantined traveler's doorstep.

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Went to the zoo, zoo, zoo....

Mrs ERJ and I went to the Grand Rapids zoo today.

The high point of the visit came after we left the aquarium. At a loss for where to go next, we spotted three young ladies doing face painting in the shade of a food kiosk.

One of the young ladies, Madeline, took us firmly in hand. "I have been thinking about this all summer" she declared. "And you are the first people to ask my opinion."

She drew arrows on our map and wrote down numbers to indicate the preferred order. Her two buddies nodded in agreement.

Mrs ERJ and I were done after two hours in the 90 degree heat. We could have pushed on but it was getting close to not being fun any more. We got half-way through Madeline's itinerary. 

Grand Rapids has a very nice zoo. It has many water features where water is pumped up and then rushes through exhibits. Even the sound is refreshing. The zoo is spread out enough that there are few "animal smells". The only place that had a distinct smell was the barn-yard that had domestic goats.

Lots of trees for shade. Beautiful landscaping. Places to buy food, ice cream or drinks every three hundred yards. Benches. Lots of water fountains to refill your bottle (of water).

Washington D.C. Craigslist: WTB Ice Floe. Text K.H. at N.O.O.C.ie


Lunch with my niece

Yesterday was a change of pace.

I had to be in Lansing yesterday. For those who don't have a picture in your head, Lansing metro region is about 300k people. There is an uber-liberal enclave on the east end (a University). The city's population for the last four decades and the population flat-lined since 1980 and remains at 120k. The roads are beat up. The population is tipping toward "diversity".

I had lunch with my 26 year-old niece who lives in Lansing and I had a very pleasant time.

It had been an exciting week in Lansing.

There had been a traffic accident in front of the building where her mom works on Thursday. Not only was it where she worked, it was during normal working hours.

The driver responsible for the accident lost his self control when the cops showed up. He had a firearm and started shooting at cops. Then the shooter fled into the parking lot of the aforementioned building.

He surrendered after (quickly) running out of ammo. It wasn't much of a fire-fight. Reading between the lines, he emptied his magazine and continued to point his weapon at the cops. In short order, the suspect collected a gunshot wound and decided to surrender.

The cops fired one shot and the suspect is listed as being in critical condition at the local hospital. I commend the police on their trigger discipline and marksmanship.

Then, my niece shared that she had just received a text that a human body had been discovered beside the trash-dumpster behind her place of business. She assured me that she had nothing to do with the event.

That is one good thing about the city. They might be thieving and murdering, but they don't litter.

My niece assumed it was a drug O.D. or a suicide. Covid has been tough on folks.

I asked her if she had a plan if things got "spicy" in Lansing.

She does. She would abandon her house and move in with her youngest brother's family. "Hell yes they would take me. Free baby-sitting!"

She also has mentally drawn out routes in her head that avoid the likely hot-spots should a Get-out-of-Kabul timeframe come to Lansing.

She has one thing on her bucket list. She wants to go to Florida and see a manatee in-the-wild. She doesn't think that is going to happen this year.

On a different topic

I asked her if she wanted to go deer hunting this year.

I am ashamed to admit that I had never invited her.

She leapt at the invitation.

Friday, August 27, 2021

There are times to bend the boundaries of your swim-lane

Reltney McFee who is the head-scribbler at Musings of  Stretcher Ape posted about "Eloise", a coworker who bent the markers on her swim-lane and saved a patient's life.

There was nothing about Eloise that flagged her as a hero. She didn't have dozens of years of specialized schooling. She didn't have years-and-years as a first-responder. She was given a job that was menial...she was the lady who suited up in the moon-suit and in-processed people for a drive-through Covid nose-swab clinic. Bear in mind that she was wearing that moon-suit on days when the heat index was over 100.

What Eloise DID have were her powers-of-observation, a firm grounding in what is "normal", the discernment and trust to know when to break protocol and escalate an issue.

If you have two minutes consider popping over to Reltney's blog and reading his account.

And good on Reltney for supporting the woman's decision to escalate. We get more of what we recognize and celebrate.

Ferry capsizes in Bangladesh. 3 Americans drown

News grabs us, as individuals, only to the extent that we can have empathy for the victims.

The headline read "Ferry capsizes in Bangladesh. 3 Americans drown" Buried in the last paragraph as a footnote is the information that 15,678 Bengali also perished.

Biden lost the support of the Mass Media when he treated the "reporters" stranded in Afghanistan the same way he treated the other Americans.

The Mass Media had a shit-pie shoved in their face. Biden/Harris served notice that they do not think reporters are "special" or "one of us". Nope. Reporters and other members of the Mass Media are every bit as expendable as the unwashed masses, the deplorables.

Until now, the Mass Media had no more empathy for deplorables than most Americans had for the 15,678 Bengali who drowned on that fateful day. They were a back-drop, no more than cardboard cutouts.

Now the shoe is on the other foot.

Suckers. They nibbled on your ear and said they REALLY loved you. You believed them. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned...or journalist.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Race whoring


REVEALED: Black homebuyers are 80% more likely to get rejected for mortgages than whites because of secret bias hidden in loan-approval algorithms

That means that 91% of Black applicants are approved for loans while 95% of White applicants are approved.

Alternate headline

White homebuyers are only 4% more likely to be approved for mortgages than Black buyers because loan-approval algorithms are more color-blind than historic methods

But that wouldn't sell many newspapers, would it?

We are being manipulated. Outrage is being generated because the rage-reaction shuts off logical thinking.

To the credit of the Daily Mail, they stopped putting this article on their main page shortly after I saw it.

Updates: Yellow Jackets and 110 traps

 I found one Yellow Jacket nest.

I was out at 8:30 AM but there was no action.

I went out again an hour later. I was standing about 30 feet west of where I had been stung.

I heard bees whizzing around me but did not see any where I expected them.

I moved my perspective a little bit and the hole was six feet from where I had been standing.

Maybe there are two nests!

This one was pretty busy with a landing or departure every ten seconds.

I hosed it with the better part of a can of commercial spray. Going back several hours later it didn't seem to have any effect.

I don't see any point in looking for the second one until after I deal with this one.

110 Traps

I slacked off after I started harvesting hazelnuts. Getting a good picking was my sole motivation.

I was catching mice and the odd chipmunk but no red squirrels.

I think I need to get the trap up in the trees to catch them. William Reid in Kansas has a system.

The 5 gallon bucket that is 3/4 filled with water and topped with sunflower seeds has been the bees-knees for catching chipmunks. Many thanks to whichever reader suggested it in comments.


Bruce Bussing is one of the finest supervisors I have ever been privileged to work with.

Bruce is fond of telling a story about the time a Committeeman (Union Steward) approached him late one afternoon and made an impassioned plea to expunge the record of an individual Bruce had fired. Expunging his record was the first step toward clearing the way to have the fired employee hired back into the firm.

Bruce said "Let's talk about it tomorrow morning." 

The next morning, Bruce told the Committeeman, "I don't like to make decisions in a hurry. Whaddya say we meet at Bob Evans for dinner on Saturday night, you, me and Smedley and we will discuss this like grown men."

That was far more than the Committeeman expected and he quickly agreed.

On the appointed day and time the Committeeman and Smedley found Bruce at the local Bob Evans restaurant. Bruce was accompanied by a  couple in their early twenties with a toddler. The Committeeman assumed Bruce brought his son for some sick, twisted reason.

After eating, the Committeeman launched into his pitch. Smedley had been on the wagon for six months and had a clean record where he had been working. Surely six months was long enough to establish Smedley had turned over a new leaf.

You see, the backstory was that Smedley had a mishap with a fork-truck in the plant and it was determined that he was drunk. There are not a lot of things that will get you summarily fired in a union environment, but driving power equipment while intoxicated was one of them. The union's dues-paying membership was dwindling and they didn't want drunks to hurry the decline.

Bruce listened impassively. The young couple seemed nervous. The woman was anxiously twisting her napkin the entire time the Committeeman was talking.

Then Bruce started talking.

"Apparently you didn't call the place where Smedley was employed. Or, more accurately, the place where he used to work. Smedley was fired last week."

The Committeeman shot Smedley a dirty look.

"Yup. I talked to a couple of his buddies and they told me where he was working. I called them to see how he was doing and the dock-master told me Smedley drove a 12,000 pound fork-truck off the end of the shipping dock."

"Before we go any farther, I want to introduce you to Roy Ingraham and his wife. They are fine people" Bruce said.

The Committeeman nodded. "I am sure they are."

"You probably don't recognize Roy. He works second shift."

Bruce's train-of-thought was opaque to the Committeeman. It seemed like a terrible breach of professionalism to bring an unrelated employee to a meeting where the discipline of another employee was being discussed.

"Roy is the model employee. He is never late. He leaves his work-cell spick-and-span. Never fights with the other employees."

"Of course you know Smedley because you are old friends. Seems like he needs your help every three months or so."

"So I can understand you not knowing Roy...seeing how he is on a different shift and never gets into trouble."

"So why is he HERE?" the Committeeman asked.

"Well, if I bring Smedley back, Roy is the guy with the least seniority in the plant. He is the guy I have to let go. Bringing Smedley back does not create another job" Bruce said.

"So I want you to look at Roy...who has been paying his Union dues for the last five months...look at his wife and his child and you tell them that Smedley is more deserving of Roy's job than he is. I want YOU to fire them."

The Committeeman slapped a $20 bill on the table to pay for his portion of the bill.

Smedley asked "Who is paying for mine?"

The Committeeman snarled "GFYS" at Smedley and stalked out.

Bruce looked over at Roy and his wife and said. "Thanks for coming. Looks like you still have your job."


If you have a set number of positions on your life-boat and have penciled in the names of the people who will fill them, then THEY will take out the trash after it is made clear that letting others in means that they gave away their seat.

The key to making this work is to get the designated passengers aboard as quickly as possible.

Zero-sum-game can be your friend.

Who do you let into the life-boat?

Glen Filthie recently posted that he was inclined to "hunker down" rather than go Mad-Max and head for the hills in the event of massive social breakdown.

His reasons and the readers who commented are worth reviewing.

I suspect that a goodly number of my readers already departed The Big City and are rearranging the doilies on the arms-lockers as we wait for events to unfold. 

Something worth considering is that many people in The Big City plan to evacuate and they plan on camping in your house. As Duncan Long wrote in his classic Backpack Fever:

A lot of people will be headed for the same spots. (Don't laugh that off, either. In my area, every eighth person has confided his secret retreat spot to me. And about half of them are all headed for the same spot: an old missile silo devoid of water and food. I suspect that the battle at the gates of the old missile base will rival the Little Big Horn.)

No matter how out-of-the-way their destination, most survivalists are kidding themselves if they think others won't be headed for their hideaway spot along with them.

Who do you let in?

Who do you send packing?

Are you ready to enforce your will? 

One thought is that your haven might be the ark that keeps the flame of Western Civilization alive and not just an overnight flop-house.

From that perspective, inviting intact families with married parents would receive very high priority from me, perhaps even more important that "skilz".

Skills can be learned. Loyalty, not so much.

Why?  Because loyalty and commitment have become rare commodities in this world. An intact family suggests that the two adults are not afraid of commitment and have a tangible track-record of being able to work with one other adult in close quarters.

A man who has a wife and children behind the walls will fight with great courage. Can the same be said of a "man" whose squeeze is a random hookup du jour? Which one is more likely to sell-out and lead them to the loot by the back gate?

While I would prefer people I am related to, I don't have very many family members who are in the 20-to-50 age range who are married and have children.

Women-and-children first

While the idea of taking in dozens of nubile, young women has a certain, passing attraction, qualifying as both women and children, there are some good reasons to NOT do that.

For one thing, young women tend to have daffy ideas. Ideas like "This is a Democracy and we should vote on every issue". Furthermore, an imbalance in the men/women can lead to some unhealthy competition when it is critical that energy should be focused on feeding, housing and protecting the lifeboat.

And, it is with dismay that I must report that many young women have issues with authority (especially when wielded by a man) perhaps because of daddy-abandonment issues. Many young women seem to feel totally justified in doing whatever their emotions direct them to do. Then, when there is an aweful outcome they rationalize it with "My heart was in the right place"

Another question is "How many"?

That number will vary. It will be more if they bring a trailer or are willing to live in an outbuilding or even in a tent.

It will be much higher if they are willing to use an outdoors pivy. If you will forgive the expression, the first thing on Hacienda ERJ that will crap-out as numbers climb will be the septic and drain field.

Hey, Cuomo...

An old man died. His dog laid down next to him and died also.

They were standing on a dusty road through the clouds when they awoke. They were standing near massive gates encrusted with gold and pearls and other precious gems.  A sign next to the gates read "Herein lies Heaven. Absolutely no dogs allowed."

Looking at the sign, the man shook his head in dismay. He didn't enter but started walking down the road with his dog.
Rounding a corner they saw another set of gates. The posts were old and sun-rotted. The writing on the sign had faded to the point where it was unreadable. An old, bearded man in a cowboy hat was emptying a bucket into a water trough beside the gate. 

The man realized that he was extremely thirsty and his dog's tongue was dragging on the ground. 

"Excuse me,…" he said.


"Peter, what are these gates?"

"These lead to heaven."

"And what were those?" the man asked, pointing back up the road.

"Oh, those were to hell, we don't tolerate f____rs who abandon friends here"


Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Drat and dag-nabbit. Stung by another yellow-jacket

Yellow-jackets are social insects that mark threats with a scent-marker.

The marker is a smoke flare for other yellow-jackets to home in on and sting the snot out of.

Same orchard as last time.

Same row, same grapevine. Other leg, down by the ankle where my leg entered my shoe.

The upside is that it was the front of my leg so I could identify the culprit.

Tomorrow morning, shortly after sunrise, I intend to be sitting in a lawn chair some 40 feet west of the scene of the crime. I will be looking for where the yellow-jackets are coming out of the ground.

If my legendary good luck holds, it will be where it is grassy and easy to approach.

If it is beneath the grapevines, then additional planning will be required.

Popular blue masks only filter 10% of exhaled aerosol


None of the usual suspects in my corner of the blogosphere reported on this item, so I figured I would take a whack a the piñata.  SOURCE

Most blue surgical face masks used by many during the pandemic are not enough to avoid people from being infected with COVID-19, an alarming new study (from the University of Waterloo in Canada) has found. 

The blue, cloth surgical masks that have become popular during the pandemic were found be only 10 percent effective as it doe(s) not cover the face properly. 

Yarusevych and team said that many people wear masks that don't fit their faces properly, unlike the N95, which straps itself tightly around the wearer. 

This causes aerosol droplets to escape through multiple openings between a person's face and the cloth mask, which could spread COVID-19 in populous areas. 

The N95 was conversely able to filter over 50% of aerosol droplets while the other half is dispersed above the wearer's head.  

... we have provided solid numbers and rigorous analysis...


And the "money quote"

Yarusevych team added that ventilation tests revealed even modest ventilation rates provide about the same level of protection as the highest quality masks

I want to remind readers that legacy cities like New York and Detroit saw horrendous rates of transmission early in the Covid-19 event.

Many of the structures in those legacy cities were built before forced-air heating was common. They relied on steam heat/radiators and in-room gas combustion. The air was not pulled to a common furnace, run through a filter and then dispersed back to the various rooms.

Additionally, most of the shopping spaces were not "big box", well ventilated spaces. They were convenience stores and hole-in-the-wall bogedas.

Updates to the HVAC systems took the path of least resistance. They did not blast holes through walls and run duct work. Nope. They went to electric baseboard heating or ventless gas heaters.

Coincidence is not proof, but it does shade our understanding.

So what can WE do?

Most of us live and work outside of legacy cities.

Most of the buildings we live in or work in have central heating.

Most HVAC systems have gobs of over-capacity. The heating system in most houses are capable of heating it even when the outside temp is 20F lower than the typical January low and cooling it when subjected to record, July highs.

That means that the fan is loitering much of the time, especially when the weather is clement. 

The easy fix is to "force" the fan to run full time and/or to open windows and place fans in them.

At the risk of belaboring the point

How many times have you walked into the store and watched the clerk discretely pull their mask up over their nose?

The fact that they have the mask over their nose NOW does nothing to address the fact that they were aerosoling dropets the last fifteen minutes. In the absence of effective ventilation, most of those droplets are still suspended in the air. The rest plated out on surfaces you are likely to touch.

Masks are a very flawed countermeasure because they depend on constant policing of the wearers to ensure they are properly fitted at all times. Very few people enjoy policing others. It is not in our nature.

Surveys suggest that one-person-in-forty is motivated (energized) by achieving results through others. Perhaps another 5%-to-10% are control freaks. That leaves 85% of us who are disinclined to police others.

Running the fan 24/7 is easy-peasy. In many cases, it is a simple flip of a switch and then it is done and stays done. Monitoring is simple. The fan is either running or something is wrong.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

"South Dakota" plums


"South Dakota" plum was released in Minnesota. A graduate student brought the variety from South Dakota. Some people think it is pure P. americana. Others think there is some Japanese plum in its pedigree. It is considered a very good pollinator for other, diploid plums.

See the suture line?

South Dakota is a freestone. That means the stone lifts right out of the ripe, cut halves.

I was harvesting the seeds for planting but could not bring myself to eat four pounds of plums in one sitting nor to throw them away.

Cold-pack pints are 25 minutes of boiling. Then I took the jars and the kettle outside to cool off. Our A/C does not need the extra load.

Bonus factoid
Sphere packing is not very efficient. Shot in shotshells and fruit in jars will run about 60%-to-65% efficient.

Why might that be useful?

Suppose you were reloading 20 gauge hulls that somebody had given you as a gift. Also suppose that your standard "load" is just a bit too bulky.

You cut off the petals of the wad and weigh them and learn they are 9 grains.

How many #8 pellets does that equate to?

Since the wad is made of low-density polyethylene with a density of approximately 1.0 grams per cc and lead has a density of approximately 11 grams per cc, if spheres packed perfectly efficiently then the petals would be the equivalent of 11 * 9 grains or 99 grains of pellets. At 1.1 grains per pellet of #8 shot, that would be 90 pellets.

But since we know spheres are not very efficient at packing, we have to multiply that 90 pellets (100% efficiency) by something between 60% and 65%.

If we use 60% we get 54 additional pellets. If we use 65% the math predicts 58 pellets. Flipping the computations around, cutting off the petals of the wad are the equivalent of shaking out 54-to-58 pellets of #8 shot.

Another use involves calculating how much syrup you will need to make when canning near-spherical fruit. Plan on 12 to 13 ounces of syrup and you will be close. If the fruit is soft, you can squish them a little bit to get better packing efficiency.

Images I enjoyed

Unifying theme: Woodwork and Russia

From the ornate

To the less flammable

People included for scale

I am not calling this Fine Art Tuesday because...well, it isn't "Fine Art".

Bump. Up-Periscope at Bison Prepper

James Dakin, author of the dormant Bison Prepper posted here https://bisonprepper.blogspot.com/2021/08/august-article-50-prepper.html

"Dormant" isn't quite accurate. He went private but decided to give folks a peek at what they are missing.


I don’t want you to JUST survive on wheat or soy or rice. I want you to have enough to be able to survive on long term, as a base calorie. To get enough calories to have the strength to add other foods to that core. That if you had no other food for stretches of time, to at least survive with no ill effects other than taste fatigue. And believe me, I’ve been there, taste fatigue is NOT what you worry about at the time. It is hunger. The taste fatigue comes AFTER.  Emphasis mine

Software induced hydraulic lock


Samsung South Africa has now announced that they would be remotely blocking all TVs looted from shops during this period. They will do this using a security feature known as Television Block Function which is found in all modern Samsung Television sets. The block will be activated on all Television sets looted from their warehouses in Durban last month.

Maybe Biden can ask Samsung to turn off all the Korean chips used in US Military equipment in A-stan... Biden is big on asking.

I am mildly curious about the process for software updates in vehicles and aircraft. Is it solely hardware like thumbdrives carried to the device and inserted and thence activated via a key-code (most secure system)? Or can it be done remotely the way Hughes Network turned off hacked unscramblers just before the Super Bowl one year?

It is difficult for me to believe that there is a total absence of "back-doors" that could be used to de-tune captured equipment. Coding changes as simple as tainting data-lookup tables in trajectory calculators or flooding a single cylinder of a diesel engine with fuel as it starts its pre-startup sequence. The "failures" could be randomly assigned to make it look like simple incompetence. 

For all the sports thinking of investing in precious metals


A cube of lead that weighs 2200 pounds is 17.7" on a side. You could fit it in the trunk of a Cooper Mini.

Monday, August 23, 2021

How many batteries in Afghanistan

If the post-collapse Taliban supplemented with the regular Afghan army deserters measures 300,000.

And if an infantry battalion of 500 soldiers runs through $150,000 worth of batteries a year which works out to $300 of batteries per set of boots-on-the-ground.

Then the Taliban will have to find $90,000,000 a year to keep their new toys in batteries.

Running list of winter tasks

-Prune Norway spruce of side limbs to 10' in height

-Harvest all Black Locust over 6" diameter. Cut to 8' bolts/posts. NOTE: Leave some big ones on hill along west travel corridor.

-Remove Black Locust suckers by fence line with Sprite

-Remove all 4 Lucie Kuhlman grapevines. Tentatively replace with Steuben

-Remove five Swenson Red from west end of south trellis. Tentatively replace with Reliance seedless grape.

-Remove remaining V. riparia on north trellis. Replace with ???

-Prune purple-leaved plums back to European plum buds.

-Prune CC limbs back to pollinator varieties budded on them.

-Remove vines climbing trees in the Black Walnut plantation.

-Remove another 4' of branches from the White Pine east of the Black Walnut plantation

-Cull Wild Black Cherry and Silver Maple

-Cull Ash that is crowding Black Walnuts or other mast producing trees

-Remove non-IEM branches from trees where grafts of Illinois Everbearing Mulberry took

-Clear barn foundation of Sumac. Fig nursery?

-Cull apricot trees from east yard.

---Added 9/5---

-Create 10' wide buffer area along east side of northern paddocks, approximately 350 feet long. That is, move hot-wire ten feet to the west.

-Plant "clumps" of 

  • hazelnut seeds (Jefferson, NY 398 and seedling), 
  • South Dakota plum seeds O.P., 
  • peach pits from Madison O.P. trees 
  • Marge elderberry cuttings, 
  • David Johnson's L-50sxTrebbiano O.P. grape seeds, 
  • Lehman's Delight O.P. persimmon seeds (might be too tall)
  • Husk tomatoes
  • Stupice tomato
  • Jerusalem Artichokes
  • Pawpaws
  • Northline and JB-30 Saskatoon
  • Polana raspberry

The goal is to create a "hedgerow" that will stay short enough to not bother the power wire.

Gratuitous orchard pictures


March 2018 Image from HERE
You can click on the images to embiggen them.

August 2021, approximately the same vantage point.

Swenson Red grapes
As long as I am posting pictures of food
This is a hybrid of a Minnesota riparia (L-50s) and Trebbiano, a white grape grown in Italy. It was made by David Johnson in Milton, Washington. The long, elegant clusters have widely spaced berries which is good for avoiding rot but bad for bird losses.

Shenandoah pears on a branch bending beneath their weight

Liberty apples are coloring up.

Hazelnuts from a seedling hazel bush. This is one of the better yielding seedlings. Some of the nuts are in clusters of 10

A close-up

NY 398 aka "Gene" in upper-left, Jefferson upper-right, seedling lower center.


Canadian Plum, Prunus nigra. Notable for being very cold-hardy and suckering less than American Plum, Prunus americana. These are from a planting where the plums are less astringent than most local selections.

I did not grow the Canadian plums but had permission from a neighbor to harvest them. I am going to age them off the tree to see if the residual astringency diminishes. Then, I will save the seeds for planting.

Prunus nigra range map

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Presented without comment

Nearly 80 years after his death (on Saturday August 21), Ensign Francis Flaherty was finally laid to rest in his hometown.

The Charlotte native died during the bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. He was on the U.S.S. Oklahoma, which was hit several times by torpedoes and began to capsize. Flaherty remained on the ship as others escaped, holding a flashlight so others could find their way out.

His actions meant he was awarded a posthumous Medal of Honor, the United States' highest honor for military valor in action.

John Flaherty, the ensign's 79-year-old nephew, thanked the people of Charlotte for showing up to honor his uncle. 

"It seems like just the entire town of Charlotte was lined along the streets to bring him home," John said. "We cannot thank you all enough."

Text and images from the Detroit News