Thursday, September 23, 2021

Wet

 


Five-and-a-half-inches of rain in the last 48 hours.

The weather radar has been goofy. I will hear the rain pounding on the roof and I will look at the radar to see when we have a lull coming. The radar will not show any rain for twenty miles. The radar presumably updates every ten minutes.


Lift-Kits

Kubota is moping around. His truck needs parts and he is not getting very many hours at work.

His truck has a radical lift-kit in it and it has not been driven gently.

The CV (Constant velocity) boots are cracked and spraying lube. More important, the cracked boots allowed grit into the joint and they are wearing quickly.

He needs new ball joints. Installing new ball joints requires an alignment.

One of Kubota's rocket-scientist buddies pointed out that longer control arms would mitigate the angle of the intermediate shafts. In stock configuration the intermediate shafts are nearly in alignment with the output shaft and the boots only flex when going over bumps rather than with every rotation.

So now Kubota is convinced he needs longer control arms which would totally mess up the geometry of the front suspension. The good news is that I don't think you can get longer, after-market front control arms for late '90s Chevys.

The other thing is that his tires are rapidly approaching "slicks" status. Oversized tires are more expensive than stock tires. The tires on his truck retail for $340 each while less radical "stock" All Terrain tires might run $125-to-$150 per donut.

I suggested he could save money in the long run if he removed the lift-kit and reverted back to stock. That idea went over like a fart in church. Much of Kubota's identity is wrapped around his driving a "manly" truck.

Some people just have to learn the hard way. Unfortunately, I don't think Kubota will live long enough to recreate 4000 years of wisdom.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Never trust a man who has not been punched in the face

You don't have to beat a bully to win. You just have to lay a little lumber on him

I remember this quote being attributed to Theodore Roosevelt but it could have been from any number of hard men.

More to the point, you do not have enough information to know if you can trust a man if he has never plowed onward in spite of pain and adversity.

Bullies

Can we agree that many elements on the Left are "bullies"?

Bullies are predators as long as they can get their jollies for free. Antifa and other Leftist shock-troops are given a free-pass by judges, mayors, governors and DAs in the cities where they are strong.

Bullies look for other games when they start getting punched in the face, their kneecaps crushed or their homes "Havana Syndromed".

Yellow Jackets

I made a minor tactical mistake in eradicating the nest in the vineyard.

I flooded it for six hours in the day. I did not remember that many of the workers would be out foraging. Had I flooded it at night I would have wiped out queen, larvae and workers.

All is well that ends well. By drowning the larvae I shut-off the recruitment of new workers. The internet suggests that average lifespan of a yellow jacket worker is about 21 days.

By drowning the queen I shut off the supply of pheromones and new larvae. The pheromones are chemical communicators. Pheromones are the insect worlds command-and-control structure.

The orphaned yellow jacket workers were not very aggressive and quickly dissipated, mostly because the queen was neutralized.

Cooking pumpkins (and squash)


My luck with cooking pumpkins is not that great.

I get impatient. It seems to take FOREVER in the oven. Pumpkins like Winter Luxury (selected for pies, not ornaments) have a very thick edible rind.

While settling in to sleep last night, a picture popped into my head.

By cutting the pumpkin into wedges similar to how we eat cantaloup and then scoring the slices, I could lay them flat and the "deepest section" would be significantly smaller.

One thing led to another.

Speeding things along by running pumpkin halves in the microwave is not efficient because the heating in a microwave is not very uniform through the volume. Being able to flatten out the scored wedges makes a microwave pre-heat viable.

The advantage of the microwave pre-heat is that it deposits heat deeper into the chunks. That is advantageous because the last thing to be fully cooked are the centers of the thickest sections and radiant and convective heat deposit their energy on the food's surface.

Furthermore, if the cooking of the pumpkin is limited by the incident radiant and convective heat, cutting them into wedges and then scoring means you can spread them out.

Between the two pans, approximately four pounds of uncooked pumpkin


And here they are in the oven

Why not just cook them in the microwave or boil them?

I like the way roasted foods taste. They are sweeter because some of the moisture is driven off. The surface is slightly caramelized.

I will give these guys the knife test in 30 minutes.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Grab-bag

We are in the process of cleaning out Mom's non-frostfree freezer in the basement of her house. One of the items we rescued are Klondike bars. Lots and lots of Klondike bars.

Since nobody in our family really needs the calories, and because wasting food is a sin; I decided these would make fine treats for the two German Shepherds.

I did eat one of them, for scientific research, and there were a few ice crystals in them so I am dubious about donating them to a food bank. Not that they are bad but that people have expectations even when things are "free".

Belladonna was not happy with me feeding Herc chocolate. She laboriously peeled the chocolate from the quarter-bar I was going to give him.

That started a conversation about "How much chocolate can most dogs tolerate?"

The internet came to the rescue.

Mild chocolate toxicity occurs at about 20mg/kg of theobromine. A gram of milk chocolate has about 2.4mg/gram or 67mg per ounce.

If you use a quarter of the "mild toxicity" level as a threshold, then an ounce of milk chocolate* per 30 pounds of dog should not a big deal.

Since the chocolate on the Klondike bars is a thin wash (primarily to make them easier to handle) and is very low in chocolate and because the German Shepherds are in the 75-to-100 pound range, the amount of milk chocolate (for them) is well below the three ounces that our (conserative) calculations indicate are unlikely to be an issue.

Belladonna forgave me.

Pewter casting

Long-time readers know that I sometimes cast knick-knacks from pewter. It helps me pass the time on rainy days and keeps me out of trouble.

I recently picked up a gently-used, six cavity mold on fleaBay for about $60 and I gave it a work-out today. I was able to cast about 600 knick-knacks in an hour-and-a-half.

One of my neighbors, upon hearing of my hobby, informed me that he had many, many pounds of suitable alloys. Later that day he sheepishly apologized that he didn't have nearly as many wheel-weights as he thought he did. Would I have a problem accepting about ten pounds of 50:50 lead:tin solder instead?

I graciously accepted his gift. What a great guy!

Programming radios

A couple of BaoFeng radios fell into my clutches. Because China exports to hundreds of countries with conflicting regulations, they sell the radios and they have a chip-set that allows them to be programmed to be in compliance with the jurisdiction's regulations.

My first swing at getting them programmed leads me to believe that I need a genuine, BaoFeng programming cable instead of the generic programming cable.

The FAQs suggest that the contacts in the microphone ports of the BaoFeng model I am working with are a little bit deeper than the de facto industry standard. You can push on the connecter body until you are blue-in-the-face but if the tolerances stacked in an unfavorable way, your laptop will not talk to the radio.

It seems as if much of this "radio" hobby involves waiting for a boxy, brown truck to park at the end of your driveway.

Apple picking

We picked the majority of our Liberty apples yesterday at about 2800 b50 Growing Degree Days. To give you a sense of how the years vary year-to-year, 2017 was a cool summer and we had about 2400 GDD by September 20 and 2016, 2018, and 2021 were warmer and we had about 2800 GDD on that date. 2019 and 2020 were in the middle with 2450 and 2600 GDD respectively.

Liberty is our heavy-lifter for applesauce.

I had a conversation with Steve Tennes who is the owner of The Country Mill which is a commercial orchard. I asked him when he intended to pick his Liberty.

He informed me that he watches the wind forecast. Liberty's aromatics increase hugely with ripeness but the variety is more vulnerable to getting knocked off the trees than many other apple varieties. Starting about September 10 (in southern Michigan) he starts looking at the weather forecasts so he can pull-the-trigger and pick them before high winds show up and they end up on the ground.

Looking at the apples we picked on our property, these apples would not store very long as they are at the cusp of ripeness. They should make superb applesauce.

Next year I hope to pick them a little bit sooner and ripen them in the garage.

Fall arrived right on schedule

Highs were in the eighties last week and will be in the sixties and seventies next week.

The weatherguessers think we will have 2" of rain over the next couple of days.

We can use it.

*Milk chocolate is relatively low in theobromine. Other types of chocolate have significantly higher amounts. The calculations in this post DO NOT apply to other types of chocolate.

Wisdom teeth

I went to the dentist today.

He looked at the X-rays and poked at my teeth.

"Your upper wisdom teeth are starting to deteriorate" he announced.

"It is probably time to have them pulled."

A date with the Oral Surgeon is booked for the middle of October.

Belladonna had hers pulled when she was 14. For bragging rights, she opted for laughing gas. She suggested that I opt for General Anesthesia.

It will be my first surgery. Ever.

Fine Art Tuesday

 

Twins
Clint Herring born 1962 in Alabama. Primary medium is watercolors.

Nominated by a reader.

Notable for having regional "projects" represented by portfolios of paintings. He has a Bahama project, a Texas project, a Charleston project and a Lower-Alabama project and perhaps others.

Paintings can be purchased via his Facebook page





Pulling out all the stops

 

Patriots: So scary Biden even sent the agent with the man-bun.

Monday, September 20, 2021

Roofs

 


It is an easy mistake to make. We look at native architecture or other responses to environmental challenges and mistakenly think that the solutions that evolved over the millennia are "quaint" and not driven by functionality.



If you approached an aeronautical engineer and asked them to estimate the "lift" of a wing profile that resembled a classic, Japanese temple and they would laugh you out of the room. It has negative lift. That is, the wind pushes DOWN on the structure.

Concave roofs are not easy to build. There are reasons why they evolved other than the fact that they would be photogenic some thousand years in the future.

Since the timber-frame construction is light-weight but strong in compression, it is able to resist typhoon winds when topped with the classic concave-sharp ridge-concave profile while modern, flatter roofs are lifted and ripped off buildings in high winds.

Fluid flowing over the top of a convex surface creates lift. Great pains are taken to prevent the fluid from "separating" from the surface and creating back-eddies.

Fluid flowing over the top of a concave surface creates negative lift. The sharp feature at the ridge of the Japanese temple is guaranteed to create separation.

Japanese engineering is not a new phenomena.

Marxists at the University

 

Mrs ERJ was marveling at college professors and public school teachers unshakable commitment to the Left.

I had an insight I shared with her.

In their experience, totalitarianism works and works very well.

They have near-total power over their students.

They are the "smartest one in the room'.

Why would they NOT want to expand this model to the entire nation?

The Insensitivity to Sample-Size Heuristic

This is a clear example of the the Insensitivity to Sample-Size Heuristic.

What looks like a marvelous system to the person swimming in it is a train-wreck to those who do not.

The two major issues can be quickly listed:

The system is an enormous resource sink. The true cost to put a kid in college for a year is approximately $40k and then you can add another $40k in opportunity costs.

The product is not just mediocre, it is tainted.

Resource sink

You scoffed at the numbers. "Nobody pays $40k a year to go to college."

Granted, very few students attend private universities. But going to a public university isn't less expensive. The difference is that the public coffers subsidize the tuition.

Throw in the capital expenses, pensions and benefits that are often hidden in other budgets and you are probably talking about $40k per student per year regardless of where they attend.

Many systems look like viable alternatives until you kick the subsidies out from under them: 

  • Wind-power
  • Aquaculture
  • Heated greenhouses
  • Poly film mulch
  • Factory trawlers (fishing vessels)

Wind-power is barely viable when there are no other alternatives. Furthermore, they use vast amounts of materials that cannot be produced using wind-power. You cannot run a cement kiln or a steel mill on intermittent power.

Commercial Aquaculture relies on cheap protein, including fishmeal from Peru.

Heated greenhouses use fossil fuels and poly films or panels. The gross energy in is vastly greater than the food energy delivered to the consumer. 

Factory trawlers are subsidized by various tax credits including credits to the firms that build the vessels. It is worth a financial loss to China, for instance, to provide employment and protein. It is less clear why Germany does it...but maybe it is a case of national pride.

Product quality

One reason it was so hard to pin Dr Larry Nassar (the pedophile doctor) down was because he was wily enough to commit his crimes at a University.

Most professors are mediocre instructors. They got their tenure because they played the political game. The present the same material that is available in the book. They tell a few self-aggrandizing stories and then let the students out of class ten minutes early.

Many of them do not write their own tests.

The tenure system exists to cover mediocrity, unprofessional and downright criminal activity. It is the opposite of transparency.

Transparency is what allows consumers to reward innovative, high-quality and less expensive producers with resources (i.e. purchase their products and services). 

If the University model was extended to the economy-as-a-whole, resources that are sucked up by resource-sinks are not available to reward innovators and efficient producers. The economy tanks by all measures. It tanks in absolute standards and it tanks relative to other, competing nations.

Externalities

If one of the key metrics of "sustainability" is the absence of external inputs or externalized costs then one must look at the number of students who drop-out.

Nationally, fifteen-percent of students do not graduate from high school in four years and forty-percent do not graduate from college in six years.

What other industrial process would tolerate scrap-rates between 15%-and-40%?

Scrap is expensive because it consumes resources (manpower, facilities, raw materials) and does not produce a salable product.

If the entire economy were remade in the image of the college classroom, where would the rejects go? Failed students are an externalized cost no different than water from a nuclear reactor being dumped into a river.

From an industrial standpoint, it would be far better to not admit students into the University or high school if they are very likely to fail.

These realities are not visible to college professors and public school teachers. They think the system they work in has been perfected and believe, with every fiber of their being, that it should be scaled up to include the entire economy.

With them running the show, of course.

Mustique as a lifeboat

 

Mustique is about 200 miles from Venezuela, 900 from Haiti, 1000 from Cuba and 1800 from Jacksonville, Florida.

1800 miles is a long way to project power if the US military is tied up with other duties.

For what it is worth, having a half-dozen titans of the silicon and financial industries and their most loyal minions penned up on two square-miles and then have the poop-hit-the-propeller would make a dandy story. Lord of the Flies but with megalomaniacs and soulless henchmen instead of school kids.

Geopolitics is destiny.

Heuristic: Insensitivity to Sample-Size

This is actually a cluster of heuristics and rather than tease them out individually I will give a few examples.

One

I shared with my sister-in-law, a retired, Registered Nurse, that I thought that the nurse who prepped me for my Colonoscopy was drunk.

She assured me that was impossible. "She is an RN. She cannot be drunk."

Her reasoning was that because she was an RN and she would NEVER show up to work under-the-influence that all RNs were immune to the possibility.

Regression-to-the-mean tells us that as the sample size gets larger it will drift toward the mean for the population regardless of what my sister-in-law wants to believe.

I had a similar encounter with an attorney. He simply could not believe that data showed that some sub-populations are more likely to commit violent crimes or engage in mass murders of people who do not belong to their sub-population. His argument was "I personally know one fellow lawyer from each sub-population and I refuse to believe what you are telling me."

Two

From a distance, the crowd is dark gray. The Jumbtron inset shows that smaller samples is bright blue. People constantly see examples like this.

People expect small samples to "look" like the over-all population. This expectation persists in spite of ample evidence to the contrary.

Map of racial distribution in Los Angeles, 2010 U.S. Census. Each dot is 25 people: WhiteBlackAsian Hispanic.  Image by Erica Fischer

The City of Los Angeles, California is approximately 50% Hispanic, 30% non-Hispanic white, 10% Asian and 10% Black and yet there are many neighborhoods where nearly every household is Black, or Asian or Hispanic.

EVERYBODY KNOWS THIS. And yet, at a visceral level, we still expect small samples to look like the population was put through the Bass-o-matic and poured into a tumbler.

Homogenous/Heterogenous are concepts that are scale dependent.

Three

People expect strings of random numbers/events to look "random" when, in fact, Heads-H-H-H-H-H-H-H is a perfectly random string of coin flips that comes up about once every thousand flips.

If the first eight flips are all Heads, then assuming the game is rigged is a reasonable assumption since there are 1023-of-1024 other equally-likely outcomes.

But if the string of eight Heads in a row occurs in the middle of a thousand flips, then that is not evidence of an unfair coin and at some point the absence of "strings" is evidence that the coin is rigged.

Mortality risk

Given very large samples, some people are going to die in strange ways.

The Detroit Metro area has a population of about four million people. The 90 people who die in bed every 24 hours is never newsworthy but the guy who got his head stuck in the storm-drain and drowned (he had dropped his keys) is newsworthy. 

Because the storm-drain death made the news soccer moms KNOW they are death-traps, just like plastic bags, five-gallon buckets and wildflowers.

In a similar way, a drug-dealer gets into a shoot-out with the cops and a stray round hits his girlfriend/business partner. It makes the news. Everybody now "knows" that cops are blood-thirsty brutes who shoot some people on-sight.

And cities burn.

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Looking for a life-boat

 


Suppose you were a multi-billionaire. Suppose you were looking for a place to flee to if/when things go Mad-Max in the US and Western Europe.

Where would you go? What is left?

Oz and New Zealand lost their luster and they are very close to Communist China.

Canada will follow the US into the ditch.

Where would you go? Belize? The Outer Hebrides? Dapp, Alberta? B.F. Nebraska? Argentina? Fiji? Moscow?

Many distant bolt-holes that look enticing will have severe fragilities if/when the U.S. craters.

There are some things cubic meter bales of $100 bills cannot buy. Loyalty is one of them. If push comes to shove, family will win.

Moral behavior is amplified when actors realize that there is no way to escape the consequences of their actions. My read of the situation is that there is no place to run to, no place to hide.

I am interested to hear if my readers have any thoughts on where they would bunker-down if they were worth many billions of dollars.

Two Thumbs-up for the Pier House in Ludington

For those who wondered where we stayed, we were in the Pier House in Ludington 930 feet from Lake Michigan. We were in the new building which is considerably more posh than the old building.

Incidentally, I finally figured out that the pedicure towels are the ones with the Velcro strips for the sponges. Not being given to pedicures, I found the Velcro to be a fine substitute for Luffa for scrubbing my back. Your mileage will vary.

Saturday, September 18, 2021

"Democrats declare war on Senior Citizens"

The Epoch Times reported that The Biden Administration reneged on their promise to support Florida with a supply of the antibody cocktail that has been effective in reducing the ravages of Covid-19.

When asked for a reasons, the Administration answered with a non-answer:  "Equity"

One of the dangers of acting in arbitrary and capricious ways is that it opens up the actor to a host of interpretations. Lacking a consistent frame-of-reference, those interpretations can be all over the place.

However, that does not make them wrong.

Is the Biden Administration dooming hundreds of senior citizens to death because they are petty, vindictive?

Or maybe the cheat is in and the Democrats no longer need senior citizens' votes the way they no longer need domestic births. Euthanasia is a kissing-cousin of abortion.

Florida is synonymous with blue-haired ladies driving 20 under the speed limit. Choking the supply of the antibody cocktail to Florida is guaranteed to disproportionately impact older people. Maybe that is by design.

Maybe the Democrats just declared war on senior citizens.

Something in her DNA

"Where is the bathmat?" Mrs ERJ asked from the bathroom.

"I dunno. Which one is the bathmat?"

Once more we are in a hotel room. Mrs ERJ did not tell me the price but I suspect it is on the high end because there are 16 towels in the bathroom and the shower pressure could drill holes through rubies.

Mrs ERJ patiently explained the use of each towel, again.

"This is the bath towel. This one is the pool towel. This is a hand towel. Face towel....pedicure towel? Any questions?"

I stare at the pristine, snowbank of perfectly folded, plush towels beautifully arrayed on the shelf.

"No ma-am. No questions." It wouldn't do any good.

The bathmat is the one I had used to dry off after the shower. I had left it draped over the bar supporting the shower curtain.

Friday, September 17, 2021

Out-of-town and aches-and-pains

Mrs ERJ and I are traveling this weekend.

In prior years we would join my siblings in Ludington the weekend before Memorial Day. That did not happen the last two years.

We seem to be in a lull in the Covid craziness and my youngest sister called an audible.

And. Here. We. Are.

I am turning in early.

I started my antidepressant this week. My personal flavor of Seasonal Affective Disorder seems to bite as the days get shorter. September-through-December 31. I believe that is atypical as most SAD people get hammered Nov-through-March.

The antidepressant messes with my hunger and thirst reflex. It doesn't hurt me to miss a few meals but I need to remember to drink through the day.

Another thing that happened this past week is that I had my treadmill stress test. The technician stopped it at ten minutes telling me that they had enough data for what the doctor ordered.

I wish I could say I could have lasted another five minutes but I would be lying. 

I went for a run a couple days after the stress test and went up-tempo on the speed. My distance has been OK but the speed suggested that I needed a calendar rather than a stop-watch. The up-tempo got me well below 13 minutes/mile (see, I told you I was slow) but I am paying the price.

Achy muscles are the feeling of weakness leaving your body. I would dearly love to get down to 10 minutes/mile but things are going to be what they are going to be.

Blogging might be spotty.

Murdered by selfish people who refused to get vaccinated

 

Riiiiight!

If it saves one child...

Funny, Biden is only threatening productive, working people.

Don't the lives of people on Welfare matter? You would think it would be a very high priority since the cost of caring for sick people on Medicaid comes out of the public pocket. Furthermore, poor people often live in places with limited access to healthcare and have comorbidities. It would be for their own good and if it saves one child....

Shouldn't their $4000/month in benefits be withheld until they are "fully vaccinated?"


Thursday, September 16, 2021

Watermelon

 

Blacktail Mountain

Mrs ERJ's mother grew up in western Louisiana approximately 30 miles from the Gulf. Frankly, I don't know how anybody can decide where Louisiana ends and open water begins. That is a judgement call I don't have to make.

Nevertheless, Mrs ERJ inherited a love of pecans, fresh fruits and especially a love of watermelon from her mother.

So Mrs ERJ was overjoyed when Lucky Pittman, one of my fruit growing friends in Kentucky sent an email discussing the varieties he was trialing this year. While he didn't go into detail, I am of the impression that he grows a few, proven favorites as benchmarks and maybe three times as many new varieties. A horse-race, if you will.

Lost treasures

Even into the 1960s there were hundreds of strain of watermelon grown in the United States. Some of them came over from "the Old Country" and were grown by just a few families. Others were regional favorites.

Watermelons are relatively hard to ship and low value for the volume and mass. That kept those varieties safe for a while. 

Four things happened that drove many, if not most of those varieties into extinction. 

  1. The Interstate System made is economically viable to ship relatively low-value, fragile goods long distances. 
  2. The hundreds-of-thousands mom-and-pop retail outlets were wiped out by large chains like Krogers. 
  3. US families got smaller and craved more variety so they had no need of a 20 pound melon. 
  4. Finally, the US consumer preferred the convenience and lack-of-mess of seedless varieties of watermelons.

The changes in the market environment resulted in the development of hybrids which ripen all of their fruit at the same time. That way, a crew can make one sweep through the field and then the farmer can plow it up and plant another crop. The heritage melons might ripen fruit for three weeks or a month which was convenient for a family or neighborhood.

Another aspect of commercialization is that the size, shape, shipping characteristics and exterior color of the melon became more important than the taste. 

This has been taken to extremes in the European Union where legislators, at the urging of a few large corporations that sell hybrid seeds, made it illegal to sell cucumbers that are too long, too short or not straight. That pretty much wiped out landraces of seeds that were swarms of genetics rather than clones that produced cucumbers (and other produce) that was 200mm +/- 10mm. One assumes similar laws have been passed regarding every other crop where it is easy to save seeds.

Quite the boon for producers of hybrid seeds. While hybrid seeds will germinate and grow watermelons, the melons will exhibit a wide range of characteristics. That forces the producers to buy new, hybrid seed every year.

Wilson Sweet

A few people kept growing the old varieties. Some of them loved the memories of the family sitting on the porch steps eating slices of melon and spitting seeds. Some craved the different tastes, textures and colors the older varieties offered. Some wanted a connection to their heritage by growing melons that came from their family's country or region of origin. Most of them were just stubborn in a good kind of way.

The rise of the internet made it much easier for watermelon connoisseurs to find each other and to share seeds.

Lucky Pittman's tasting notes:

Blacktail Mountain was the first to ripen and a nice little melon... far better than Sugar Baby

Golden Midget was interesting... rind turns yellow when ripe, so it's easy to determine when to pick them... tasty little melon, just not terribly productive

Wilson Sweet - first one picked may be the best melon I've had yet... but later-ripening melons were just average; guess I jumped the gun in proclaiming it 'best ever'. 

Wibb -  deepest red flesh I've ever seen - it has the 'crimson' gene.  This one was bordering on overripe, but overnight in the fridge helped!  A friend who's grown it in the past says it's a little finicky about needing to be picked at just the right time not to be overripe.   At end of season, this one is my top pick across the board; will definitely plant it again next year. 

Orangeglo - My wife raved about the flavor, which is quite different from most red/pink types, and it is good, but like most yellow/orange ones I remember from the past, it's just not as 'crisp' as a good red/pink.

Halbert Honey -  planted this one I remember from my childhood... but it's been, overall, a disappointment; don't know that I'll plant it again. 

Had a few seeds saved from a GA Rattlesnake X Crimson Sweet cross a friend sent me... they're big... have a HUGE one I'm holding for Labor Day weekend, when we hopefully will have a crowd to help consume it.  It was - as I anticipated, very good!  Smaller ones - still pretty big - harvested later were all flavorful and crisp.

Crimson Sweet & Charleston Gray were planted very late - almost as an afterthought...seeds were in the end-of-season clearance bin at the feed storee... so they're quite a ways behind... CG vines died back before the melons had a chance to really ripen fully;  Crimson Sweet... always seems to be a top-flight melon for me, with crisp, sweet flesh; even the smaller, season-end melons are pretty good

Chou Cheh Red... one my wife picked - catalog description said it was really sweet and won 2019 taste test at Baker Creek Seeds.  Not so here... and they're tiny... many of them fist size; I'd not realized that it was a mini until I started picking them... Avg size supposed to be 5 lb... not sure many of mine got that big.  Not all that tasty. Won't plant this one again.
Winter King top melon. Kholodok green melon on right. Wintermelon pale green w/ stripes on bottom.

Wintermelon on the inside

Planted three 'winter-keeper' watermelons this year... Kholodok (a Russian watermelon), King Winter, and Wintermelon.  Supposedly, you can pick them just as tendril opposite the stem begins to wither, put them in a cool place(50F), and they'll ripen over a 3 month period..  Have had a couple of larger King Winter melons that cracked at blossom end after I harvested and were beginning to rot - but flesh was crisp, pink and reasonably tasty, even though they're supposedly not fully ripe at this point.  Based on my average earliest frost date, I should have planted them in mid-late July, instead of late May/early June - but IDK if the vines would have withstood whatever pests/diseases typically cause them to wither and die. 
Lucky's melon patch before planting

Same patch about 60 days after planting

Lucky is serious about extending his watermelon season. Not only does he grow "winter melons" but he dehydrates slices of melon when the crop gets ahead of his ability to eat them. It may take two, even three days. There is a lot of water in a watermelon!

Another way Lucky extends his season is by planting a portfolio of varieties with different ripening dates but it might be simpler to pick one early variety like Blacktail Mountain and plant it in flights like sweet corn.

And don't be afraid to try varieties that get mixed reviews. Some melons like to ripen when it is really hot. Others have better quality when it is not so hot. Different melon varieties like different soils. A melon that does poorly in the lower pH of the southeast might be awesome in the higher pH of the high plains of Colorado or the Texas panhandle.

If any readers want to comment about watermelon varieties they found to be "connoisseur's" melons, I am sure Mrs ERJ will be happy to read them. It will also be helpful if you mention where you are gardening and a word or two about your soil.

What changed?

 

MARQUETTE — Longtime WLUC-TV6 weatherman Karl Bohnak has announced his departure from the station.

Bohnak announced the move in a Facebook post Wednesday after more than 33 years of employment with the station.

“I am leaving TV6 because the station’s corporate owner, Gray Television, has mandated vaccination against COVID-19 for anyone entering a property owned by the company,” Bohnak stated in the Facebook post. “Since I chose not to take one of the shots, I was fired. Many of you have taken one of these injections, and that is absolutely your right. It is also my right to choose the medical options I feel are right for me. I have authority over my body.

At the start of this Covid event, companies bent over backwards to find ways to allow people to work from home.

In some cases, they found out people were more productive. In other cases the employees where were not productive became glaringly obvious.

Something changed.

Now you know the rest of the story...

One school of thought is that peer reviewed science takes time. Papers will start hitting scientific journals in December/January and their conclusions might not be that comforting.

Sure, some of the papers can be smothered. But they cannot stop papers from being published in India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Russia.

It will only take a whiff of cytokine storms* or sterility or impotence or increased dementia risk to make the vaccine a hard-stop for most people.

It seems likely that the Executive Branch is watching the research and has advance notice of which way the wind is blowing.

...and a treat for those of us who wear tin-foil headgear...

There was a despot who was extremely paranoid. For the sake of yuks, let's say his name is "Saddam"

Saddam was sad because he liked good food but he had a hard time hiring chefs. It was probably because after a week or two Saddam would assume that his chef was about to poison him and have his chef executed.

As you can imagine, Sad's fears were not totally unfounded. There were many people who wanted to see Sad dead. Nevertheless, it made recruiting chefs a challenge.

One day, a country bumpkin volunteered to be Saddam's chef. The bumpkin could cook like a dream and Sad was no longer sad.

On schedule, Sad had the chef called before him. "I am sure you are going to poison me. Do you have any last words before I have you shot?" You see, Sad was a sadist and loved seeing people squirm in abject fear.

The bumpkin stood with a total lack of fear.  "You are almost right, sir. I poisoned you with an exotic poison in the very first meal and have been feeding you the antidote ever since."

At last, Saddam found a chef he could relate to and trust. The chef was not executed.


Hat-tip to CoyoteKen for the story about the weatherman.

*Back in the 1980s there was a lot of interest in beefing up vaccines with "adjuvants" that were known to enhance immune responses. One such adjuvant is Levamisole. Interestingly, it is an antihelmetic (worming medicine) like ivermectin.

Human trials were halted very quickly when a very large percentage (like 40%) of healthy volunteers experienced cytokine storms. If memory serves, there were even fatalities involved.

Our immune systems are (usually) finely tuned and in-balance. The challenge needed to prepare an immune system in an older person is different than the challenge needed to optimally prepare the immune system in a younger person.

Said another way, there is a risk that a vaccine hyper-optimized for "the most at risk" will kill healthy young people.

Winter Squash

 

It is advisable to "cure" or dry the stems before putting winter squash into storage.
Mrs ERJ is keeping me honest.

We might eat one or two of these a month, September-through-March so that means a maximum of 12 winter squash will go into storage.

The smart money would save a mix. Eat the C. pepo first because they don't store as long and eat the C. moschata last because they have great storage life.

From a nutritional standpoint, Vitamin A is fat soluble so you can load up on it by gorging on yellow/orange/green vegetables and then coast for months.

Decisions, decisions, decisions....

Golden Hubbard, C. maxima
Winter Luxury pumpkin and a hybrid named Jester. C. pepo
Butternut and a hybird named Gray Ghost. C. moschata

Winter Luxury production trounced the other varieties this year but the seeds were planted in richer soil.

Bonus picture
I drove Mrs ERJ into town to mail some letters and I parked behind this guy while she made a dash to the mail box. It is striking how vehicles have grown in size over the years.


Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Any word on Tanker?

Tanker at Mostly Cajun seems to be down.

For those who are in Cajun withdrawal, here is a tiny bit of music to help you get by until Tanker is back on-line.

6 minute run time

The puzzle pieces start to fall together


Miley allegedly striking a deal with Communist China to circumvent lawful orders to protect the US against all enemies foreign and domestic.

$80 billion dollars of state-of-the-art US arms falling into the arms of....Communist China and Iran, allegedly because the Brass bungled at a level that would make a Tenderfoot Boy Scout hang his head in shame.

That same shambling train-wreck in Afghanistan poisoned the US's ability to work with her closest allies.

Related?

If so, how deep is the rot?

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Substitutions

One way to mitigate the pinch of supply-line issues is to be nimble when implementing substitutions.

In some cases material substitutions like a range of material thicknesses are already specified in the "Notes" section of the part drawings.

In other cases, particularly with cast materials, there are often "sister" alloys with slightly off-set (but overlapping) alloy composition or microstructure. It should come as no surprise that alloys with wider ranges of alloying elements allowed are less expensive and more available than alloys with very tight tolerances. The wider toleranced alloy allows for a greater percentage of scrap and post-manufactured re-melt while tighter toleranced alloys require a greater percentage of virgin materials.

One of the more vexing impediments to making substitutions involves the documentation required to verify compliance with a host of Federal regulations.

For instance, Fuel Economy is determined, in part, by what weight class a vehicle is in. That weight-class determines the drag used in the dyno rolls and they are broken into classes of 125 pounds each. It does not take very many substitutions to jump to the next weight class and potentially invalidate your fuel economy certifications.

In a similar way, something as simple as substituting a brand or size of tire that is more available or filling engines with 5-W30 oil instead of 0-W20 oil will materially impact the fuel economy of the vehicle as-delivered.

Other major categories of regulation include how the vehicles protect occupants in crashes and tail-pipe emissions.

It is my slightly informed opinion that modern automobiles have many layers of redundancy. For the most part, they meet tail-pipe emissions standards even when one or two sensors fail. The problem is that the vehicle is materially different than the one the factory certificated as meeting the Federal standards.

From a crash standpoint, there is a great deal of latitude between airbag Deploy and Non-deploy events and minor substitutions in alloy or thickness might move the Deploy/Non-deploy threshold. For example, the airbag might deploy when hitting a 150 deer at 50 mph vs. 45 mph for the stock vehicle.

The real-world issue is that as new vehicle production is choked-off, the fleet ages and the less affluent end of the market is stuck with vehicles that should be scrapped. Or less affluent people make-do by cramming more people into the few vehicles that are still running.

The change in crash performance in new vehicles is microscopic compared to the degradation seen in a thirty year-old vehicle from areas where dirt roads are hit with chloride, salt is applied to snow or where salt mist from oceans is carried inland. The effect corrosion has on the structure that absorbs the energy of frontal collisions is relatively small because the metal is thick but the same cannot be said for the thinner metal that absorbs energy from side and rear impacts.

Regulators have the power to soften the impact of supply-chain shocks. They also have the power to make the shocks worse. The question I want them to ask is "Do I serve the American public or do I serve the regulations?"

Batting a thousand

Both kids are peeved with me today.

Belladonna was behind me and fiddling around doing something in the kitchen as I sat in the Official Blogging Chair. She was nattering away about something.

I didn't assume she was on the phone or anything. I didn't invest enough energy to assume anything. If it was important then she would address me directly and sit in my line-of-sight and we would have a conversations that didn't involve multitasking.

In retrospect that was not an assumption Belladonna shared. She felt like I had blown her off. From my perspective I was unwilling to invest 40% of my cognitive processing ability processing a message she did not value enough to invest more than 10% of her energy into transmitting.

Kubota is pissed at me because he horned in on a conversation I was having on the phone. He was making throw-away, rude comments that the other end could hear.

Kubota's hearing can be exceptionally acute. He heard the other person's response.

I then paraphrased what Kubota said using polite, civilized language to the other end.

The other end found it entertaining and laughed.

Kubota was pissed for not being taken seriously.

I guess that is a risk of using adolescent language.


Wrong on so many levels

 

Humans are one of the few animals that can sexually copulate when the female is not "in heat".

Humans also have incredibly long childhoods.

Whether you favor evolutionary-biology or God's Plan as the cause, the two observations stack: Humans would not be able to accumulate and pass on technology without the long period of child/parent interactions and mothers would not be able to raise children without a second adult---specifically a man---bonded to her.

Sex is the sticky side of the duct tape. Sex is what holds couples together.

Biology and culture are not to be trifled with.

Fine Art Tuesday

 

I had a conversation with somebody who has a tiny bit more discretionary income than most and he has an office that is seen by the public. Consequently, he invests a wee-bit in artwork.

I asked him to name some artists he liked.

At first he struggled with the question. Finally, the crux of the issue came spilling out.

He liked one kind of art. His wife liked art that was much, much different.

He grew animated talking about "Horse Shoe Contest" by Norman Rockwell. The energy. The tension. The emotions in the faces.

His wife likes paintings by Pati Bannister



I must confess that my tastes lie closer to the gentleman's than to the lady's.

The faces of the waifs have a certain sameness, as if they had all been injected with Botox.

***Upon re-reading this post, perhaps I have been too harsh. Maybe the china-doll faces help the woman find serenity. Tastes and reactions differ***

Take heart if your tastes are different than your wife's. This couple has been married for almost fifty years.


Monday, September 13, 2021

Yeah, about that 100 Employee mandate

PPOTUS Biden issued an Executive Order requiring that all businesses over 100 employees must vaccinate their employees.

Most prudent people believe that Biden's edict is Executive Branch over-reach but Biden's handlers are betting that corporations will put pressure on employees regardless of how events play out in court. The realities of the time required to get people vaccinated and the time to chase issues through courts really does not give corporations time to dally, a fact that PPOTUS Biden is counting on.

We don't have to play this out completely in our heads. Some hospitals are already doing this and they have already had some percentage of their workforce quit. Other workers, who consulted with attorneys, are not going to make it easy for the hospitals. They are going to force the hospitals to fire them and to generate cubic meters of paperwork. Any discrepancies in that paperwork makes the hospital liable for financial settlements at a later date.

Trucking

My crystal ball tells me that truck drivers are the group that will bring the economy to their knees. Truck drivers are one of the single biggest occupational groups in the US with 3.5 million people engaged in that occupation.

Statistics are difficult to find but one statistic is that 97% of the trucking firms have twenty-or-fewer "trucks". Those companies are almost assuredly below the 100 employee cut-off and will not be impacted.

However, on the basis of actual tonnage moved, it seems likely that the market is dominated by firms over 100 employees. The trucking industry has been consolidating as government regulations squeeze firms. The overhead associated with documenting "compliance" is cheaper, on a per-per-ton-shipped basis, when it is amortized over the hundreds or thousands of trucks of a large firm than the twosie-threesies of mom-and-pop firms.

My impression of truck drivers is that they will tell their employers to pound-sand if Human Resources attempts to pressure them to get vaccinated against their will. They know that there are a butt-load of smaller firms out there that are hiring.

Factories will be impacted in hours as JIT inventory levels are depleted and they run out of places to store finished goods. Trucks don't just deliver parts, they haul away finished goods.

Grocery and liquor/beer stores would be impacted in a matter of hours or days. So will gas stations.

Drug stores might be able to hold out for days or weeks.

Garbage collection will start to impact quality of life in weeks and months.

If you are going to play chicken then you need to be aware that there are people out there who subscribe to a different form of "rational" than you subscribe to.

Truck drivers are rational, but in a different way than Ivy-League graduates. A fact that is about to spank our would-be-rulers if they don't pull their heads out of their nethermost regions.


Pro-tip when arguing with Liberal Idiots

 

And while you are at it, buy a raggedy baseball mitt that fits your hand and some scuffed-up balls and stash them next to the bat you carry behind the seat of your ride.

Your defense attorney will thank you for it.

A few thoughts on animal husbandry

 

The conventional wisdom is that meat animals first grow their frame or bones. Then they add muscle. Then, when their muscles are mostly developed, calories go to growing fat.

Muscles are protein. Fat is...well, fat. Fat is flavor. Fat is energy.

High end buyers are looking for a 1/2" or thicker blanket of fat beneath the skin which they believe correlates to "marbling" and tenderness.

The first calories a calf consumes goes to "maintenance". Maintenance energy pumps the heart, moves the lungs in-and-out, moves the calf around the pasture, swats flies and keeps up body heat.

The larger the calf the more maintenance calories are needed.

The only calories that put money in my pocket are the calorie AFTER maintenance.

Palatability

Concept drawing of the relationship between palatability, growth rate and the amount of standing forage. Time of cutting or grazing on left. 
As a guy raising calves on pasture I have to balance the calves needs for high-quality forage, the amount of forage available against the community of plants in the pasture (called the sward) and their growth characteristics and their ability to retain palatability as they mature (and over-mature).

The joker in the deck is the weather. If I have good rain I can move toward the left side of the chart and feed younger, more palatable pasture. The calves will eat more and it is more nutritious per bite so they grow faster.

If I don't have good rain then I can slow down the rotation by making them stay in each paddock longer. That gives each paddock longer to recover and (on average) the sward will spend more time in the middle of the growth-rate bell-curve.

If I have a very poor year for rain or if I was overly optimistic regarding stocking rates then it will be impossible to grow enough forage even for maintenance levels and I will need to supplement with grain or hay.

Because rains are not predictable, it is a great idea to have the ability to supplement because you can get into run-away acceleration of your herd. They will finish off a paddock and the next one is not quite ready but you move them anyway. The next paddock is even less ready and so on. By the time you get to the first paddock you are in trouble because all of those early jumps add up.

A few thoughts on forage species

Tall Fescue is a grass that people love to hate. Even in the best of times it is not very palatable. It is usually infected by a fungus (endophyte) that produces chemicals that repel insects (Yeah!!!) but can cause health problems in grazing animals (Boo!!!).

Tall Fescue is tough. It can grow in very damp soils. It can grow in soils with low fertility. It resists baking sun and freezing cold.

Tall Fescue has one endearing quality: It "stockpiles" well. The clumps and blades stick up so it is easy for animals to find them beneath the snow and scrape the snow off of them. The blades don't degrade after severe freezes or months of drenching rain.

So even though most graziers will admit that Tall Fescue's palatability is "not that great" they are quick to agree that it is a niche player and the quality is "plenty good enough" to keep animals alive through the winter...even if they don't gain weight at an impressive clip.


Situation Normal: All Fouled Up

The nursing home where Mom now resides is not allowing visitors due to a confirmed case of Covid. That condition went into effect Thursday and will hold for 10-to-14 days provided no new cases are found.

On Saturday Southern Belle, my oldest daughter, informed Mrs ERJ that she had a case of the sniffles and suddenly lost her sense of smell. A few hours later her husband also lost his sense of taste and smell. 

Kubota just got sent home from work. They require a negative Covid test before he can return to work. Kubota lives paycheck-to-paycheck and the loss of a single day's pay bites deeply. Losing a week while waiting for the test results will bite far worse.

As an aside, I was in a big-box store and was floored by the cost of new electrical wiring.

On the plus side

Mrs ERJ still seems to be fond of me.

Belladonna is chugging through her program. She will be unhappy if Kubota tests positive because that will get her tossed or into remote learning mode.

The weather is clement

We have food in the pantry and enough standing forage for sixteen weeks of feeding the calves. Sprite, my neighbor has even more forage. I am going to see how few weeks of the winter I need to feed hay.

Pumpkins and squash are about as ripe as they are going to get.

Potatoes are patiently waiting in the ground, waiting to be dug.

We have a decent crop of tree fruit and a bumper crop of black walnuts.

I have 75 peach pits and 105 plum pits to plant this spring. One thing you can say about planting fruit trees is that it gives you something to look forward to.

All of our vehicles are working.

The exercise is working. I feel stronger and more agile.

For the first time in my life I have TWO reloading setups, side-by-side. One is dedicated to long-gun cartridges and the other to smaller cartridges. 

Heuristic: Unwarranted Certainty

 

Human beings are almost universally poorly calibrated with regard to "Certainty".

This poor calibration is most pronounced at the extremes, 100% Certain and 0% Certain.

Furthermore, this poor calibration is highly resistant to mitigation.

The scientific literature would be funny if it were not so sad.

A typical peer-reviewed paper describes test subjects who are in their second year of graduate study.

They are given multiple choice tests of "General Knowledge" content. A typical question might be:

The common, white potato is native to what country?

  • A. Peru
  • B. Ireland
  • C. France
  • D. Nepal

The subjects are asked to answer the question to the best of their ability and then to rank their "certainty" that they answered correctly. Some tests offered 0%, 25%, 50%, 75% and 100%. Other tests offered 90%, 99%, 99.9% and 99.99% for choices of certainty.

After scoring the tests and establishing the graduate student's dismal calibration, the authors used a one hour class session to discussing what certainty is and hammered the point that 99.99% certainty meant that 10,000 questions so labeled would only have ONE wrong and 99.9% meant one-in-one-thousand would be incorrect.

They re-ran the test (using different questions) and the results were identical at the highest confidence levels.

Graduate students. Who needed to use statistics to prove their thesis.

The authors gave the graduate students a WEEK LONG seminar in the meaning of confidence (in this context) and re-ran the test. The results on the high-end twitched the very tiniest amount.

0% Confidence

One would have expected that nobody would have labeled any of their answer 0% confidence as a random guess would have a 25% chance of being correct.

Nobody chose this level in the tests ran after the one-hour seminar.

Caveat Emptor

These studies were replicated at multiple, competitive-admission graduate schools.

These were not artifacts of small numbers. Many hundreds of students were involved in each replication.

Since the certainty of "experts" is almost universally poorly-calibrated and is so highly resistant to attempts to improve that calibration, it is incumbent upon the users of "expert opinion" to automatically substitute "80% certain" every time they hear the expert say "I am absolutely certain".