Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Back to being a working-stiff, sort of

Yesterday was a long day and today promises to be the same.

11.5 hours between when I walked out of my door and when I walked back in.

3.5 hours of time on the road. Thankfully, I only drove 0.5 hours of it. I HATE traffic.

8.0 hours on my feet.

The rental equipment I was training on was old, creaky, slow and imprecise.

I am stiff this morning but it is nothing a strong cup of coffee, a hot shower and a couple of Tylenol will not straighten out.

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Esters

Highbush Cranberries (actually a viburnum) provide winter color in the landscape. The berries look like bright red jelly-beans.

In chemistry, combining an acid with an alcohol results in an "ester".

The esters of many organic acid/alcohols are extremely fragrant.

Fragrances are extremely non-linear. For example, butyric acid is named after butter because in very low concentrations it is the main component of what humans perceive as "buttery" smell. At significantly higher concentrations, it smells like dog-feces.

Butyric acid is produced by many biological processes. For example, a cow's rumen is a vast, fermentation vat and the bacteria convert cellulose into short fatty acids like acetic acid, propionic acid and...butyric acid. Rumenants are funny animals because much of there metabolism is driven by short-fatty-acids rather than glucose.

Those same bacteria live in a dog's lower bowel and the output is tipped toward butyric acid and not the other SFAs.

One ester of butyric acid is with common ethyl-alcohol, the alcohol found in vodka. That ester has a fruity, pineapple-like smell which is a far cry from the smell of dog-feces or butter.

Highbush Cranberries

Highbush cranberries are a beautiful ornamental that produce prodigious quantities of jewel-like, translucent red fruit. Fruit that smells like dog feces after it has frozen.

Part of me wonders if the fruit would be more palatable if it were pickled in ethyl-alcohol after freezing.

The other part of me quails in fear of my trying it in Mrs ERJ's kitchen.


What you call somebody who insists on arguing politics with you?

What you call somebody who insists on arguing politics with you?

Anything you want to call him. It is not like he is going to listen to a thing you say, anyway.

Monday, October 3, 2022

Did the Democrats really just go there?

The Michigan 7th Congressional District race between Elissa Slotkin (D) and Tom Barrett (R) is turning into a real barn-burner.

I suspect the Slotkin campaign is looking at polls and becoming desperate.

(Apologies. I was not able to find video or images to include in this post)

One of the Democrat's "plausible deniability" hit organizations, DCCC.org is running an ad that starts with a picture of Barrett overlain with the text

"TOM BARRETT EXTREMIST"

Then they follow with some blabbing then a visual of a man sitting at a desk with his back to the camera

"TOM BARRETT IS DANGEROUS"

The thing that rings-my-bell is that the next visual is only shown for about 0.7 seconds and is a paragraph of text where Candidate Barrett introduces himself to an audience. His first sentence, the only one you have time to read is

"I am a Christian..."

---

The trouble with lobbing hand-grenades is two-fold. They cause excessive collateral damages and the target can lob them back.

This ad is one of those hand-grenades. The Democrats just connected the dots. They told us that they think "Christians", "Extremists" and "Dangerous people" are almost mutually synonymous. 

The weaselly, Democratic hatchet-men are resorting to sly imagery, innuendo and guilt-by-association to imply that voters should reject Candidate Barrett out-of-hand based on the faith he professes and practices.

The collateral damages for Elissa Slotkin is that many Progressives still believe that a candidate's choice of religion should not be that basis for whether one chooses to vote for him or his opponent; whether the candidate is Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist or a Manchester United fan.

Lobbing the grenade back is simply a matter of pointing out where the Democrats went and what they did. Do they really want to turn elections into referendums about which religion is most popular? I am pretty sure Slotkin would lose by a very wide margin if that is what they are calling for.

Just saying, if that is the rule they are throwing on the table, let's make them live by it.

Reciprocity


It seems like everybody is yapping about the shortage of skilled tradesmen. One person told me that there were 1200 opening for pipe-fitters, electricians and tin-knockers in Jackson County, Michigan alone. It seems like every industrial building in Kent County is offering huge signing bonuses for those same trades.

Due to a general lack of understanding of "trades", the folks who think they are smart are completely unaware of one of the largest impediments to creating new skilled tradesmen, lack of universal reciprocity.

Reciprocity

In the ancient guild system, an apprentice would study under a master for a set period of time with four years being fairly typical but with younger apprentices serving a longer stint.

When the apprentice had spent enough time and demonstrated enough skill, he became a journeyman and could travel (make journeys) and practice his craft without the master's oversight. He could move from village-to-village and cast bronze items or make pans or do fine leatherwork. In time, if he were dedicated, he too could become a master.

The economics of the system were that the first-year apprentice was little more than a set of muscles and an appetite, often more of a burden to the master-craftsman than a help. A fourth-year apprentice was quite profitable as he could almost do a journeyman's work but was basically working for room-and-board. Also during that last year or so, he was expected to fabricate the tools-of-his craft.

The modern system of licensing and creation of "journeymen" is a snake-pit of conflicting requirements in different states and municipalities and that lack of uniformity causes lack-of-reciprocity issues.

Impediments to interstate trade

The State of Michigan used to have its own requirements of what was legal to put into sausage. Things like chicken-lips and hog rectums, tripe and spleens were verboten. Other states filed suit claiming that Michigan's laws were anti-competitive and in violation of Federal Laws that govern interstate trade.

Federal courts invalidated Michigan sausage laws claiming Federal law supersedes State law*.

In another instance, Herbert Hoover standardized the dimensions of bricks in the United States during the 1920s, replacing hundreds and hundreds of local patterns with the now-standard 2"x4"x8" brick. That allowed builders to comparison shop between every brick kiln within economic shipping distance and be assured that the bricks would fit and the numbers required would not vary.

Treating a human-skill as a commodity like a brick or a sausage might seem demeaning, but consider that apprentices currently get even fewer rights than a sausage or a brick. They might enter a program in one state or city and learn...two years into it...that their journeyman's card will not cut the mustard in any other area. Basically, apprentices are tied to the geographic area just like a Russian serf.

Obviously, credentialed skilled trade unions like the hodgepodge, at least if they are in areas of high demand as the price they can command for their labor goes up. Companies like long apprentice programs because they pay less than they do for a journeyman and get a longer period of payback.

The cost-to-society is that demand for skilled trades varies at a faster tempo than they can be naturally created. Consider Florida right now. In a perfect world, every electrician, plumber and HVAC guy with a journeyman's card could travel to Florida and start repairing the damage from Hurricane Ian much like the linemen are doing.

Or, if Michigan or Indiana are opening factories and there is a surplus of electricians in Texas, they can travel up here and work for whatever period of time suits them.

Proposal

The median for State licensing (by population) is used as the national benchmark for Journeyman status. If the program you apprenticed through equals or exceeds that bogey, then you are good to go anywhere in the nation.

Additional certifications can be earned for challenges that are truly unique to a state or region. For instance, additional certifications for some work done by pipe-fitters might be warranted in regions that have a history of earthquakes over Richter's 6.0 more frequently than once every 20 years. Tasks that did not have seismic requirements could still be done by the out-of-area PF at local PF rates.

Or an additional certification for an electrician might be warranted in legacy cities with many, archaic buildings with exceptional fire-risk.

If you came from a state or municipality that was below the median, your prior time-in-grade locally is counted toward the time requirements of the national standard and you would be allowed test-out any formal education requirements.

Military MOS in skilled trades would be given a similar fast-track if the de-mobbed soldier/sailor/marine/airman/coast-guard wished.

Other nations

It bears mention that other nations have had other approaches. In some nations (Australia, for instance) the rail system was nationalized and one of their missions was to churn out journeymen skilled trades.

This made a certain amount of sense because minting journeymen is not always profitable. Business goes up. Business goes down. Furthermore, a case can be made that a strong core of skilled trades is a national security interest. I am not advocating this approach but presenting it to show there are other solutions.

*One must wonder why California is allowed to have their own pollution and water-use standards.

Sunday, October 2, 2022

Nineteen words, and I can make a song run through your head for days...

Brandon, Brandon, Brandon on the bathroom bowl.

What do you do when you're Brandon, and there's nothing on the roll?...

 

At least I can if you are over 60-years-old.  You can thank me later.

This and that

I picked up a minor traffic ticket in September. The officer pointed out that I could request that my infraction, which came with "points" could be swapped for a nuisance ticket with no points but a higher fine.

I jumped through the hoops but did not check frequently enough. The request was approved but I failed to pull the trigger quickly enough.

The point that is interesting to the larger audience is that the "nuisance ticket" was for obstructing traffic. I was surprised to see that this infraction does not put any points on the license of the perp and consequently has no impact on their insurance rates. For that matter, if they are on their parent's policy, it has no impact on the rates that the parents pay and, in fact, it is likely that the parents will never know of the infraction.

My reaction is two-fold. Obstructed traffic often leads some less-patient or less experienced drivers to make decisions that have tragic consequences. The other reaction is that it gives protestors a free-pass to expose themselves and others to harm with no push-back. It seems to me that people who obstruct traffic should be liable for the same number of points that exceeding the speed-limit by 11mph should be exposed to and to allow the officer discretion in whether he issues a warning or a ticket.

Then, protestors will have a little bit of skin in the game and they might make safer choices.

Job-training

I signed up for three more days of job-training next week.

Naturally, I would prefer to be working a paying job but then I would have to report the income to the IRS.

Out of respect for Mrs ERJ's time, I bit-the-bullet and purchased one of the fence energizers at the local farm store. I need a fence that will keep the animals where I put them since my training will be off-site and I will be hitching a ride.

Persimmons

Persimmons are ripening. I tasted a "Journey" for the first time. It had only the tiniest bit of bitterness in the membrane that covers the seeds. Otherwise totally free of the bitterness sometimes found in American Persimmons. Seeds were very large. Fruit was smaller than I expected for a D. kaki x virginiana hybrid but that might be due to the dry year.

Lehman's Delight continues to amaze with regard to yield. I-115 and Juhl are outstanding persimmons as well. Juhl is also known as Yates.

Closures

I am chipping away at tightening up closures on the garage and other buildings.

In an earlier post about the cost of raising kids, one reader commented that adding kids does not add to the fixed cost of housing. Well, I am here to tell you that maintenance is not a fixed cost and kids can be hard-to-very hard on a building, depending on the kid.

Maintenance costs are not always visible because they are sporadic and we usually lump them with infrequent, not-recurring Acts-of-God line-items in the budget. But maintenance costs of a dwelling can be very large especially if you are not handy (or suffer from vertigo or infirmity) and have to hire everything done.

Saturday, October 1, 2022

Ghosted

I placed an order for an electric fence charger with DeNial (da Smile) on-line retailer for a 6J, low-impedance, electric fence charger.

One week later, I received a message from DeNial that they were canceling the order because the retailer was MIA. They said I could attempt to contact the retailer but they gave no contact information. Searching the internet revealed that there are multiple entities in various states with a name identical to the name given to me by DeNial.

Hmmm! That stinks. I have a 0.3 Joule charger sort of charging the fence and I expected the new charger last week sometime between Tuesday and Friday. For those who are math impaired, 0.3J is 1/20th of 6.0J.

Another tilt at the windmill

Another search of the internet. Another order placed. $25 to have it delivered October 7-11, and October 10-15 if I opt for free delivery.

Source

It would not break my heart to have two chargers. I may end up making a road-trip to Indiana where the closest distributors who carry Parmak fence chargers can be found. Two weeks is a long time to rely on a fence charger that might be up to the task.

Trouble-shooting the old unit

A wise person is guiding me in attempting to trouble-shoot the in-op unit. So far there has been no joy. 

The gray-beard hauled me back from hyper-focusing on things that MIGHT be causing the problem and redirected me to splitting the circuit in half and determining which half, then splitting it in half again.

There are no relays in the unit. The problem is upstream of the main capacitor.

In very broad brush-strokes, the circuit board ---is supposed to--- charge a 500V capacitor. When it hits (roughly) 500V, it exceeds the break-down voltage of an inert-gas lamp. Once the lamp activates, it acts as a switch and dumps the capacitor's charge through a 20:1 transformer which fires 10,000V to the fence.

Replacement circuit-boards are $55 retail and "out-of-stock" with no estimates of when they will be available.

Local retailers

I went to two of the local farm stores.

One's website said they had 6J fence chargers in-stock but that prove to be false when I visited the store.

Visiting the other store, the guy at the checkout did a hard-sell on the service plan. Paraphrasing, he said they were selling junk and if I bought the service plan I could swap dead chargers for new rather than having to deal with the company who made the units. I declined to purchase the unit.

Heavy-handed Covid-19 response: The ripples are still spreading

Local hospitals are shrinking their manpower by 7% due to horrific and totally unexpected decreases in revenues.

Loss of patients during the height of the Covid panic were partially covered by Federal transfers. Many procedures were pushed off-site. Medical providers quickly recognized the higher ratio of billable procedures-per-hour-on-the-clock (not having to commute to the hospital). Insurance companies quickly noted the procedures were significantly less expensive without the hospitals troweling on another layer of overhead.

The panic ended. The procedures did not come back to where they had traditionally been done. Furthermore, a significant number of the caregivers over the age of 55 who worked for the hospital had bailed out.

What do you do when your admissions tank and you still struggle to meet Federally mandated nurse:patient ratios? You pull out your pad of pink-slips and start laying people off.

I wonder if the people who will be looking for work next week will thank Governor Gretchen Whitmer for starting this sequence of events.

Friday, September 30, 2022

Fake News Friday: The .400 Snare

Local inventor, Roger Snare, recently released a wild-cat cartridge that consists of  30-06 Springfield brass trimmed back to 1.750" of length with a 0.401" diameter bullet. The chamber reamer offers 0.350" of free-bore and a standard, 3 degree taper as the bullet engages the 1-in-16 inch rifling.

Mr Snare claims the new invention headspaces on the mouth of the cartridge and any .308 Winchester barrel can be rebored and rifled to the new cartridge.

When asked why the world needed another rifle chambering, Mr Snare admitted the cartridge was designed to fill a niche market. Rumors abound that State DNRs will soon require hunters to document the action type and the chambering of the weapon used to harvest big-game. Mr Snare designed the cartridge to be legal in the maximum number of states, to be "cast-bullet" friendly and to cause State game-law enforcement personnel to "stroke out" after thousands of hunters claimed that they had harvested game with "a Snare".

What a difference a quarter-mile makes!

Our neighbors asked me to look after their dog, a Dogo Argentino-Mastif mix*. That means chaining its collar with a double length of logging chain and affixing the other two ends to a concrete pier before opening the door for it to go outside and do its business.

The dog is surprisingly calm after it drains the water-bed and I enjoyed sitting on my neighbors' front stoop and watching the sun rise. I also saw a boatload of deer. The visibility was surprisingly good considering the early-morning haze.

Of particular interest were the deer percolating through the fence and leaving my property. One of them was a doe. She stopped and two fawns came up to her and nursed. While I have many deer use my property, the heavy cover prevents me from seeing them from the house.

*I may have taken liberties with the dog's ancestry for privacy reasons.

Fake News Friday: FDA Approves use of Lithium Grease to treat Depression

 

The FDA recently announced that it approved the use of Lithium Grease for the treatment of anxiety and depression in Americans, just in time for the mid-term elections.

As most people know, Lithium Carbonate was the first drug approved for treatment of depression but it is a difficult drug to administer.

Lithium Grease is much less fussy in dosage and avoids problems with how it is introduced into the body.

It will be administered as a suppository.

Thursday, September 29, 2022

A productive day

I got the anode rod in the water-heater changed out. I told Mrs ERJ it was a three-hour job. It took 20 minutes. Well, it COULD have taken three hours if things had gone poorly. Mrs ERJ suggested I order another anode rod for next year and have it and the tools staged. Smart girl!

I got the lights in the basement either working or changed out. It is much brighter down there.

Mrs ERJ commented that the refrigerator was "warm". I used our IR thermometer and it agreed with her. She may have just caught it in a defrost cycle. This bears watching. I bought some time by buying four, seven-pound bags of ice and stashing two in the fridge and two more in the freezer. I put them in aluminum foil, lasagna pans to catch the drippings. Technically, we have what used to be called "an ice-box".

Mrs ERJ was so pleased with the advice rendered by you, the readers, with regard to the washing machine that she "suggested" I solicit your advice regarding refrigerators. Mrs ERJ favors freezer-on-the-bottom models.

Mrs ERJ had a personal victory that I am not at liberty to disclose but we are both exceptionally happy about it.

Possibility of frost tonight. I brought in the last of the squash and three watermelons.

Oh, and I was able to hobble around today in spite of 6.5 hours on my feet yesterday.

Trump "optimistically" listed the value of some of his property

President Trump is in a spot of bother because the New York Attorney General is concerned that he overestimated his net worth and the value of some of his properties.

If memory serves, EVERY bank (public corporations, I might add) refused to mark-to-market assets that were not performing in 2009. Furthermore, they refused to mark-to-market other assets in those tranches.

The real-estate values peaked in August 2006 with a median, adjusted CPI value of $314k.

Median values slid until February, 2012 to an adjusted CPI value of $222k...if you could find a buyer.

Both Q4, 2009 and Q1, 2010 loans printed a 90 day "nonperformance rate" of more than 5.6% vs a historical average of about 1.0%.

Assuming 50 million houses + duplexes in the US, does Attorney General Letitia James have any intention of prosecuting the banks "hiding" the fact that $5 TRILLION of assets vaporized. $5 TRILLION dwarfs the amount of value that President Trump supposedly assigned to some of his property.

OK, I get that the Statute of Limitations probably expired...but what comes around goes around.

If real-estate valuations go in the toilet over the next 6 months, will Leti be bird-dogging the banks and prosecuting CEOs and CFOs for lapses in mark-to-market?

Just asking for a friend. I am sure Leti will be extremely popular when she started poking around the records of those New York banks.

Retail space

 

In the period between 1880 and 1920, the United States covered itself with a net of railroads. Towns sprung up on a five-to-seven-mile-grid across the eastern agricultural areas as that was about the maximum, economically viable distance to haul produce to the shipping dock with horses or oxen.

Lured by the promise of a "sure-thing", investors piled into railroad stocks and the dense network of rail lines marched through the eastern, and then the western Great Plains.

Technology moved on.

With the advent of motor-vehicles and better roads, many of the spurs and feeder-lines became obsolete and were allowed to slide into disrepair. Lines consolidated. Many went bankrupt. Towns that relied on the commerce associated with rail lines became ghost towns.

The "sure-thing" over-played its hand and became a classic case of a growing organism overshooting the carrying capacity of its habitat or host.

Retail space

One could make a cogent argument that the United States, and to a lesser extent Canada, are grossly over-built in terms of retail space.

If one were to look at the European Union and Japan as a basis, one could state that the United States has approximately five-times more retail space, per capita than it "needs" and Canada has four-times as much.

Nature abhors a vacuum. With that much space and so few customers, is it any surprise that America's malls are patrolled by feral youths?

Like three crack-heads trading financial advice

It gets worse.

The amount of space devoted to supporting e-commerce (warehouses) grew at an exponential rate over the last fifteen years. The largest players, realizing they were approaching some kind of limit, either cancelled projects or allowed them to be finished...but did not take possessions.

For various tax reason, many of those warehouses were not actually owned by the e-commerce retailers. Speculators built them on faith and a contract...a contract that had "escape clauses" on page 47.

Government officials, who had been rubbing their hands with glee in expectation of fat paychecks to tax and escalating land values to bloat property tax collections, were dismayed to find themselves with 500,000-square-foot, attractive nuisances on their hands.

Investors are fleeing like rats leave a sinking ship. The limited-partnership of the investment structure allowed them to walk-away after losing their initial investment with no further entanglements.

Government officials are doing what they always do, they "help".

Even as I type, there are undoubtedly clerks cranking out applications for grants to convert abandoned warehouse space into retail and entertainment venues. Never mind that these enormous buildings are far from other retail destinations. Never mind that retail is (arguably) grossly over-built. Never mind that these warehouses have parking lots that are approximately 20% as large as a comparable purpose-built retail building would have.

Government has an answer for everything. Public transportation will "fix" the problems with poor location and lack of a parking lot...and the drunks that spew out of the yuppy bars at two in the morning. Search for the funding for the public transportation will result in more grants.

Expect municipalities to float bonds to subsidize redevelopment of the sites. Bonds that taxpayers will be on-the-hook for if things don't pan out.

Memories are short. Seven years ago they were writing grants to turn vacant retail space in inner-cities and first-ring suburbs into warehouses.

Grab your popcorn, folks. This promises to get interesting.

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

The US economy is connected to the EU economy in ways that are not obvious

In the summer of 2012, an industrial accident shut down a small portion of a chemical plant in Germany.

Normally, such an interruption would be of little importance. This particular string of reaction vessels, however, were the world's only source of a boutique polyamide that as used in the fuel lines of most of the automobiles sold in the developed world.

This particular PA had the exact balance of crystalinity/amorphous, molecular weight and cross-linking so-as to be impervious to hydrocarbon vapors and yet remained flexible between -60F and 350F.

Within hours of the news leaking out, arbitrage buyers were bidding up every tote of that specialty PA on the market as the world's automakers were trying to secure the resin they needed to make fuel hoses.

This is not to say that other types of plastic were not suitable, or that some combination of plastics could not be co-extruded to provide similar performance. This was because various US Federal and EU regulations produced a heavy burden of validation. Selling products that failed to meet emissions mandates, even some 10 years into the future, would produce financially crippling fines.

To the best of my knowledge, the chemical company was able to repair the damage and start producing the PA resin before any major manufacturers' production was impacted, but it was a close thing.

The point of this rambling story is that the EU is an expensive place to do business and the companies that manage to stay in business do it by producing hundreds and thousands of critical, boutique, smallish-volume items that cannot be easily outsourced to commodity producers.

For example, the EU produces many of the pigments and tints used in paints. You might not think it is a big deal but what if you cannot open your shopping mall because OSHA Yellow and OSHA Blue paint are not available to mark off the handicapped ramps and parking areas? As the owner of the shopping mall, you cannot open the mall because you do not have the number of handicapped parking places defined as REQUIRED BY FEDERAL LAW but you will still have to pay the monthly nut.

The ripples of the Nordstream pipeline sabotage will spread to this continent and will likely touch every person before the first robins of spring sing in the apple trees.

Work After-Action Report

The "boss" picked me up at 6:40AM. He drove for an hour-and-twenty minutes. We worked until 3:00PM with a fifteen minute lunch. Then I rode home with Prentice, his helper.

I was on my bum leg for 7 hours and the hardest part was standing up when Prentice dropped me off at the end of my driveway and I had to walk to the house.

It was probably the best physical therapy money could purchase. It put one stake into the ground of what my physical condition can support.

Nobody ran but nobody stopped moving for the time we were there. The "boss" promised light work, and it was.

Prentice tried to order a pizza for lunch. They billed his card but never bothered to cook the pizza.

Fortunately, I brought a couple of peanut butter sandwiches and a banana. I cannot make any money if I eat lunch.

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Scraping the bottom of the barrel

Put me in coach, I'm ready to play...

I have to laugh at all of the politicians saying they are going to bring manufacturing back the the US. I hear story-after-story about people who call ten plumbers, get three who say they want the work and none of them show up. Same for roofers and electricians and drywall hangers.

There is a conceit in government. They think they can throw money on the table and capable people will spring up like mushrooms after a rain.

How many states formed Blue Ribbon committees to start solar cell manufacturing plants? Promising candidates were plugged into all of the key positions. Four years later...not a single functioning solar cell has been shipped to an actual customer.

If brute applications like making solar panels is like pouring slabs of concrete for a parking lot, then semi-conductors are like crafting lost-wax mold for an elaborate, gold, filigree brooch.

One of my neighbors called me this afternoon. He asked if I was available to lend him a hand tomorrow. He said that all he needed was a man with a strong back and a weak mind. Fortunately for me, he doesn't need a guy with two legs running at 100%.

With inflation rearing its reptilian head, it is not a bad thing to have some recent work-history and a friend who calls when he needs a hand.

Fine Art Tuesday

 

Anshelm Schultzberg, born in Sweden 1862. Died 1945.

Prolific painter of landscapes and winter scenes.






Monday, September 26, 2022

Through many dangers, toils and snares...

A friend recently purchased a derringer in .45 Colt. She did not ask my opinion, and even if she had I doubt that it would have made any difference.

The .45 Colt, in most loadings, has a robust recoil. Tiny grips accentuate that recoil. .45 Colt in a derringer will have a ferocious recoil.

In my humble opinion, she would have been better served on a per-dollar basis if she had purchased a used, .380 ACP Hi-Point pistol or Taurus .38 revolver than what she bought, but what is done is done.

Actual picture my friend sent to me

She purchased ammo on-line and it arrived....squashed. It is almost as if somebody who worked with the shipping company deliberately dropped a weight on the package to damage the contents.

I immediately cautioned my friend to NOT shoot any of the cartridges. Pressure spikes rapidly in pistol cartridges when the bullet is set-back and the starting volume is compromised. Shooting damaged cartridges like the ones in the picture can turn a handgun into a grenade.

This is not the first time I have seen shipping companies damaging packages delivering shooting-sports supplies. In April, 2022 I ordered 1000 brass cups from Capital Cartridge.  The package I received had been torn open and contained about 20 pieces. The package was prodigiously stamped with "Damaged blah, blah, blah..."

The USPS refused to honor the damage. Capital Cartridge has not shipped replacements. Odd that the only packages that get damaged, in my experience, are the ones that might contain shooting-sports items.

I went on-line and .45 Colt brass is currently unobtainium. I would gladly purchase a set of dies and show her how to reload some patty-cake loads but it is not to be...not that I, personally, own any firearms. No-sirree. I rely on my rapier-like quick-wits, my manly physique, repulsive body-odor and pepper-spray.

I will be visiting some of the local shooting ranges and seeing if I can scrounge up a handful of brass. A firearm without appropriate ammo is little more than a paperweight.

Bonus points for readers who correctly identify the hymn that contains the title of the post.

Presented without comment








A Post for Señor Filthie

It would be misleading for me to imply that I have any special insights into the mind of the fairer sex. Every once in a while I do stumble across an acorn that might be worth sharing. And when a person like the super-famous Glen Filthie, blogger extraordinaire expresses bafflement about some nuance about the behavior of grown wimmin-folk...and I think I can help...well I am on it like flies on tater-salad.

The most esteemed Senor Filthie was marveling at mature wimmin's ability to be enraptured by the most inane drivel and hokem. According to him, even intelligent wimmins are sometimes mesmerized by it.

It is all about evolutionary biology

Men are expendable. That is the price of launching 200,000,000 missiles with every ki-yi-yippi-yi-yea. The tribe does not need very many of us.

Biologically, men are the ones tasked with stalking mastadons with sharp rocks lashed to crooked stick with half-rotted caribou guts. We are the ones who crawl through cacti and over ant-hills to sneak up on antelope at watering holes. Men are the ones who must sneak into the nearest village to steal an ember when a sudden downpour quenches all of our tribe's fires.

Women, on the other hand, are in the inner-ring. They are slightly expendable.

Criminal Minds

Belladonna adores the TV show Criminal Minds. I never paid much attention to it. I might listen to it for 30 seconds when I was near her and it always seemed like fiction written by a precocious 8th grader. You know, all narrative and 'splaining.

Every aspiring author has it drilled into them to SHOW the reader...not TELL them. Yet these shows and news programs TELL, TELL and TELL some more.

There might be four or five psychologists sitting around a table, cantilevering vaulting spans of speculation from tiny shreds of observation. "Dr. Reid, it is obvious that based on the wisp of fiber found wedged beneath the elm tree near the 13th victim that the perp was right-handed, has a Hula Bobble-head fetish and drinks Absinthe from a gold-rimmed goblet while driving a red Camaro at 105 mph through residential neighborhoods."

The more ridiculous and far-fetched the better it is received by the audience.

The point is that because wimmins are slightly expendable, there is enormous competition to be in the inner-most ring that is NOT expendable. It is not the content of those TV shows, it is the tone and the implied 'confidentiality'. As the audience, you get the vicarious thrill of being one of the very inner-most and cherished sanctum, the NOT expendable. You are the fly-on-the-wall, the sixth, world-class psychologist.

As men, we are socialized (and perhaps genetically predisposed) to risk our lives. The appeal of being in the inner-most sanctums is opaque to many/most of us.

As wimmins who are slightly expendable, the appeal of KNOWING that they will be the very first one in the lifeboat or the heifer defended to the last adult musk-ox is hard-coded in them.

Another cold, hard fact is that the most valuable musk-ox is the springing heifer, the one closest to having a calf and with the greatest potential for future calves. The musk-oxen who is past her calf-bearing years is biologically expendable (perhaps even more-so than the males). The TV shows that baffle Senor Filthie are lobbing soft pitches right down the center of the strike zone for those old-biddies. It scratches an itch they cannot get scratched in "real life'.

If you believe in Jung's archetypes, then the person who watches The View is trying to bump her way into the role of the village witch; the one who makes love potions, poison for dart tips (or unfaithful husbands), poultices...and has dirt on everybody.

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Make or buy?

 

One of the fundamental calculations done by Industrial Engineers are Make-or-Buy calculations.

They calculate the cost to make something in-house. They calculate any costs associated with purchasing an item outside. Then they compare the two.

According to one estimate by the Brookings Institute, it will cost parents about $310,000 to raise a child to age 17 in the United States. That cost is blind to the costs borne by the greater public...libraries, public education, employer-paid healthcare insurance or Medicaid and so on as well as costs that occur after age 17 such as University educations and legal services. Also missing from the equation is the "opportunity costs" of lost income if one parent chooses to drop out of the workforce and parent-in-person.

If 2 million, young-but-working-age migrants are pouring across the US border every year, that equates to a $620,000,000,000 yearly cost-avoidance.

The obvious question is "Why does it cost so much to raise children in the United States?"

Three-thirds makes a whole

Hotel manager educates demanding customer on math and fractions
 

One of my nephews spent the weekend in Ludington, Michigan at a tourist hotel.

The hotel had recently changed management and service was not what he expected. In fact, the toilet clogged the very first time he used it.

He went up to the office to complain to the manager and he was asked, "How many plops before you flushed?"

"That question doesn't make any sense" Mack replied.

"Sure it does. Only tree plops and then flush. If you need to go more, than another tree and then flush again".

"That still doesn't make any sense" Mack replied.

"Sure it does. Tree-turds makes a hole but four-turds is bigger than a hole."

Unplugging from the "News"

I think it is time for me to take a vacation from what passes for "News" now days.

I did not access any news yesterday and it felt pretty good. I think I will try it for a week. Maybe I will have some Give-a-Gollys in the tank after that.

I will count on the bloggers on the right side of the page to let me know if WWIII or CWII kicks off.

Saturday, September 24, 2022

Hospitality job on the chopping block

From the drink menu of The Dead Rabbit
If you remember back to 2021, the current administration pointed to block-buster job-growth and used it as evidence that they were "on the right track". Breathlessly high jobs growth was reported every month (only to be revised downward three months later so they could be recounted in the current month). The stock market soared.

Cynics pointed out that most of the jobs growth were due to the belated lifting of Covid restrictions. "Belated" because many of the restrictions had proven to be of dubious value.

The sectors that rebounded the most were the sectors that had been hammered. Specifically, the hospitality industry.

Suddenly, people could not quench their taste for $8 cups of coffee, fruity $19 cocktails and $400, stained-glass suncatchers crafted by androgenous humanoids invariably named "Maeve".

While this is the least of the problems we face collectively, it becomes a huge problem if you are an aspiring artist/actor/bartender and your livelihood evaporates.

Households across America are looking at their 401-k and 403-b plans and soiling their shorts.

People spend "found money" far more easily than they spend money that they equate with blood, sweat, tears and privation. Losing $100k of "found money" sweeps the legs out from beneath the discretionary spending that buys those lattes, vodka-drinks and suncatchers.

Friday, September 23, 2022

Retrospective: The 2022 Growing Season


I learn something every growing season. Sometimes God blesses me and I remember what I learn.

The big event this year is that I broke my leg on the last day of April, arguably the first day of the growing season. Looking at it from a certain perspective, there are lessons to be gleaned. For example, it is a reasonable simulation of "guerilla gardening" but on my own property. I was not physically capable of providing much care for the food producing plants on my property. Some produced well. Others were less productive.

Winners:

Liberty apple on the smallest, freestanding rootstock that grows in your climate.

Asian pears

FIreblight resistant European pears.

Stupice tomato

American persimmons

Chinese and hybrid chestnuts

Sweet peppers

American plums

The pasture. I was surprised at how well it held up in terms of mass. The paddocks I let the cattle into probably held 4000 lb/acre of standing dry matter and that was after a horribly dry year by local standards. At 4% dry matter per day consumption, each of the four back-paddocks holds 2 weeks of forage.

Locally, alfalfa continues to excel in spite of the drought.

Treading water:

Small fruits. Swenson Red and St Paul grapes will be culled. Swenson Red ripens unevenly, is too prone to over bearing and is not very disease resistant. St Paul is too early. The other varieties of grapes will get to live for another year.

Principe Borgoulash and Sweet Aperitif tomatoes

All apples other than Liberty

Butternut squash

Apples in the semi-wild planting. Large numbers of lower limbs died off. Maybe Nectria? It is an opportunity to plant something useful in the understory since sunlight is now hitting the "forest" floor.

Fails

Potatoes. The kid I hired to rototill the potato patch tilled down five of the seven rows because he could not recognize potato plants and was too proud to ask. Weed control suffered after that. I don't think that was a "potato" failure but a failure to find good help.

Tashkent quince: Seems very sensitive to fire-blight. Fire-blight rages when the temperature is over 70F and has a special affinity for entering the host through its blossoms.  Quince flowers about 10 days later than pears when temperatures are higher. The surviving Tashkent quince will be grafted over to Potomac pears. Skorospelka and a cultivar "borrowed" from the alleyway between Clement and Fairview streets in Lansing seemed to shrug off the fire-blight with minor twig damage.

The lawn. Sigh. My ego is shattered.

Apricot trees. Canker got all except one. 

Hazelnuts. Squirrels #$%^#$%^

Bush beans. The smart money plants pole beans and protects them until they are up out of rabbit's reach. A lesson relearned.

Fake News Friday: Raggedy Annie busts Doocy's chops over Long-Covid

Doocy: People are beginning to talk about Biden's decline in mental ability and they are wondering if they are seeing Long-Covid "brain-fog". Do you care to comment on that?

Raggedy Annie: How would anybody be able to tell?

Fake News Friday: Department of Homeland Security to outlaw coffee creamer and flour

White House Press Secretary, Raggedy Annie announced that the Department of Homeland Security had determined that coffee creamer and wheat flour were dangerous explosives and would be taken off the consumer market.

Peter Doocy pointed out that flour would still be used in commercial bakeries and there were a host of other, combustible dusts that could be pressed into service as field-expedient explosives.

Raggedy Annie responded that General Milley had already committed to giving all NCOs lobotomies when they retired to ensure that information did not leak out to the general public. Furthermore, members of Congress would be granted a waiver so they could continue to use make-up.

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Shorts and Chargers

 The cattle are in the newly defined, 1/2 acre paddock.

Entirely by chance, the wire was resting on the parting-line from the molds. You can see the smut from where the vaporized zinc deposited.

A few oddities popped up. I had a ceramic insulator that was shorting through the body of the insulator. I assume there was a crack or void in the insulator and suspect it is related to the parting-line.

I temporarily fixed the problem by spinning the insulator 90 degrees on the bolt. Then I followed up the next time I walked the fence by replacing the insulator AND spinning the new one so the parting line was horizontal.

Fence Chargers do not last forever (Sorry Mr. C.W. Swanson...not that kind of Charger)

My fence charger is acting funny. It was skipping about every eighth impulse and it was "bouncing" on some of them. I don't know what is in the guts of the charger/energizer but if I had to guess I would vote for a relay problem.

The plan is to purchase a new charger and install it. Then put the old one on the bench and see if I can deduce if any of the components are relays and if I can purchase replacements or substitutes with similar characteristics.

Of course my problem gets a lot simpler if I find a relay with a broken connection at the terminal. Then it is a matter of soldering on or crimping on a new terminal on the wire and re-attaching to the relay.

Oddly enough, the old charger seems to be behaving now that the new section of fence is attached. The fence around the new paddock has some weeds touching the wire. Many dynamic systems "behave" when there are resisters or dampers (i.e. energy dissipators) in the system but "ring" after the energy dissipator is removed. I don't know if that is a clue.

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

More fencing means less posting

 

I-115 Persimmon. It is a bad wind that blows no good.
The weather has been unsettled the last few days. Thunderstorms swept through twice yesterday during the day and once today. Winds are gusty and the trees are really shaking.

I don't like walking through the woods in windy weather.

That means that I will need to turn off the electric fence and walk through the pastures to get to the back pasture where I am working on the fence rather than walking around, through the woods.

I am stripping off the barbed wire that the Captain repurposed a decade ago. Barbed wire that is electrified has two major problems. One, it can tangle people and animals up such that they cannot pull-off. Two, it hangs up on any wire it blows against and is seems at least five times more likely to short-out than smooth wire.

Stripping off the barbed wire, rolling it up, tossing it over the fence is slow, pricky work. Replacing cracked insulators is mandatory if I want ten years of trouble-free operation. The work is also unpleasant because my shoes get soaked.

The other portion of this work is to move one paddock division fence. Google maps has a neat feature where you can make a polygon and it will tell you the amount of enclosed area. I fiddled around and found that by moving one paddock division I can make four paddocks that are all almost exactly a half-acre each.

My hope is that the rain softened the ground enough that I can wiggle them around and pull them out...and then move them over.

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

The best gardening video you will watch today

 

Eight minute run-time.

I agree with about 95% of this gardener's thinking. He is very deliberate in what he does. 

I diverge from his thinking where labor requirements spike (about the 7 minute mark). Labor and management will always be limiting factors and must be considered.

Crop rotation is a hot topic in some gardening circles. Skeptics ask how an mature forest of oak trees or tall-grass prairie can exist on the same plot of land for 300 years with no problems if yearly rotation is mandatory. Those who are for it claim that "agriculture" is an artificial, monoculture environment that fosters disease and pests and therefore rotating crops is mandatory. Pop some popcorn and grab a beverage, everybody has an opinion. 

This guy's take on rotation is that disease and pest cycles are not broken by TIME but by the number of generations of non-host crops. At the 5:20 mark of the video he talks about his hoop-houses. He rotates four classes of vegetables: Vining vegetables (squash, cucumbers, etc), Nightshades (tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, etc), Leafy winter vegetables (lettuce, greens) and Root winter vegetables (beets, turnips, carrots).  Personally, I think he misses a trick by not splitting the houses in thirds and raising chickens as part of his rotation.

One neat trick that might slip by you is that he allows "weeds" as long as they are edible and are short enough that they don't compete with his primary crop. Portulaca oleracea, Stellaria media, Fragaria, Allium tuberosum, Fagopyrum esculentum and Physalis pruinosa are just some of the options available. Weeds happen, just like feces. Might as well guide and direct them so benefit can be gaind.

Very odd: A video by a Brit of a Russian/Pole farming in Japan. We live in an interesting world.

Fine Art Tuesday

 

White Cliffs Spitfire

Headlong Attack
From this website where they are available for purchase. Many more pieces of fine art highlighting the Battle of Britain.

Theme chosen to honor the passing of Queen Elizabeth, may she rest in peace. 

Images presented as "Copyright, exceptions" per UK laws under provisions of teaching/education and non-commercial research/study.

Hat-tip to Lucas Machias.

Red-neck engineering

Mrs ERJ and I dropped off our old washing machine to a woman whose machine was on-the-fritz.

Mrs ERJ suggested that I help remove the old machine and install the new one.

While horsing the "new" machine up the back-steps of the woman's house, I noticed the clothes-line on the other side of the privacy fence.

"I have never seen a clothes-line done quite like that" I observed.

The woman shook her head. "I worry about him".

It transpired that the neighbor's domestic partner was short and the neighbor was lazy. The partner wanted a clothes-line and poles to prop it up so the laundry would not drag in the dirt as the line stretched.

The lazy neighbor tied one end of the line to the privacy fence post. He attached the other end to his pickup truck's hood latch.

"There!" he told his partner. "Lower the hood, hang the clothes and then raise the hood while they dry."

Before you ask, the truck was parked parallel to the fence so the line was pulling the hood sideways.

Red-neck engineering at its finest.

Monday, September 19, 2022

Is it logical to use quarter-million dollar weapons to kill $15k targets?

Looking at an academic paper published in 1976, written when heart by-pass surgery was in its infancy, 15% of the operations were to by-pass a single clogged artery, 40% were for two arteries, 39% were for triple by-pass, 5% for quadruple and the remaining 1% was for quintuple by-pass.

Anecdotally, single by-pass surgery is far more common and triple and quadruple by-passes are now far less common. Open heart surgery, while still a serious affair, is no longer reserved for patients in extreme situations. Better to address a single clogged artery (with the change of throwing a clot) that to wait for it to worsen. 

Something similar happened with smart-weapons.

Originally designed to shoot-down very fast, maneuverable targets with stealth-capability they have become so commonplace that they are now used to shoot down a trailer carrying petrol pulled by a Toyota Hilux and armored personnel carriers with a single fighter running a machine-gun.

One bit of footage from early in the Ukrainian conflict shows a Russian Hind flying on the straight-and-level. My untrained eyeball estimates it is moving at 40 knots and about 150 feet of elevation. Fighters some 200 meters in front of the Hind fire a manpad from the craft's 2 O'clock and the pilot has no time to react.

If you can believe the footage played by the mainstream media, most targets that get smoked by expensive, smart-weapons could just as easily have been "killed" by a dumb 107mm rocket with a smart head/steerable fins based on a commodity "Android smartphone" with the IR filter removed from the lens.

Eventually the economics of using quarter-million dollar smart-munitions to kill $15k fuel trucks tips in favor of the team fielding the trucks.

If I were the Pentagon, I would commission some smart grad students to re-jigger dirt-cheap smart-phones to drive smart-heads. I would use the "portrait mode" face finder to find hot targets. Then trowel on a P-I-D, Ziegler-Nichols algorithm to drive the fins to center the hot-spot. Commodity + a commodity = a custom app. 

Incidentally, one pre-paid cell provider offers at least six smartphones that cost less than $60. Any one of those phones probably offers more computational power than the Apollo space craft that landed on the moon.

Waiting for the other shoe

Does anybody else have a sense of waiting for the other shoe to drop?

NATO and US inventories of "smart weapons" depleted and five-to-seven years to bring inventories back up IF we stop shipment to Ukraine.

China sabre-rattling over Taiwan.

US men of an age to provide military service are too fat, too stupid, too drugged-up or too masculine or too emotionally fragile to serve.

US to magically reconstitute herself into a manufacturing powerhouse overnight because "robots". I spent many years working around robots. They come with limitations.

Meanwhile, Mother Nature continues to do her thing.

I hope I am wrong.

On a more humorous note

I had my teeth cleaned this morning. Stephanie, the dental hygenist, is a chatty one. She told me that she started taking music lessons now that they are empty-nesters.

That is when Dueling Banjos floated to the top of her play-list.

It was the first time I had my teeth cleaned in 8 minutes and 23 seconds.

Sunday, September 18, 2022

Infrastructure

 

Progressives justified kicking migrants off of Martha's Vineyard because of a "lack of infrastructure".

That is easy enough to fix. Send every migrant to Martha's Vineyard with a tent, sleeping bag, camp-stove and a 12-pack of ramen noodles. Also give them a map to the estates of the most vocal, pro-immigrant residents and call it good. It should only cost about $200 a person.

Might as well give them the "keys to the city" while we are at it.


I wonder if anybody started a Gofundme for that purpose of supplying immigrants with "infrastructure" to help them establish in places like the Hamptons and Martha's Vineyard.

When Vikings come a-raiding

One of the factors that led to the Vikings being such efficient raiders is the fact that they appeared on the horizon without warning. One day is just like every day that came before it. The next morning dawned with boats filled with Vikings with the village unprepared for defense.

Another shortcoming was the lack of mutual-aid agreements. The Vikings cracked each village individually and sucked out the wealth. Then they moved on to the next village.

But the primary enabler for Vikings was the fact that their transportation out-ran the communication system of potential defenders.

If a person knew when the thief was coming, he would make preparations. He would move livestock to a secure location. He could prepare a warm reception. If the thief passed over his domicile, the responsible home-owner would come to the aid of his neighbor who was not so lucky. 

This need not be something that involves huge amounts of bravery, physical prowess or personal risk. It could be as simple as firing up the chainsaw and dropping a tree across the road to close-off that avenue of retreat to motor-vehicles. Thieves are not going to steal if they cannot get their loot back to a safe-haven. Furthermore, the economics of looting tips significantly if they experience significant attrition on the round-trip.

Detection

You cannot beat a dog or two. Learn their barks. Unlike electric systems, dogs are self-replicating. Small-holders in Europe favored small terriers while rural Americans favored "curs".

Geese are another great choice. The girls lay eggs. They eat fresh grass and make meat. Unlike dogs, they are much less likely to be preemptively poisoned or shot by raiders. Of course, the two types of animals compliment each other. Most people do not want to bring geese inside of their house.

Communication

Communication systems can be simple

Mutual aid

If nothing else, the old granny can keep her eyes peeled and neighbors can keep their eyes open for your stolen property. It is highly likely that raiders are getting some aid from one or two of your neighbors. Identifying those moles and dealing with them will go a long way toward securing your entire neighborhood.

Secure storage

Thieves look for easy-pickings. This is a good time to do some maintenance on your outbuildings. Grease the track for sliding doors. Trim brush away from doors to provide clear lines of sight. Keep your fences hot...check grounds to ensure your weed trimmer did not pull the wire out of the clamp...yes, multiple grounds.

Consider how you would brace your house doors with a length of 2-by-4 so it cannot be forced in. It can be as simple as a cleat attached to the floor with deck-screws and 36" of 2-by that drops into place to catch the bottom corner of the door or it can be fancy.

Ability to rapidly move assets to secure storage

I love management intensive grazing AND I feed some grain because it makes the cattle far easier to handle. Shake that bucket and they come running.

One possible trajectory for a dystopian future involves a vast increase in the amount of physical work we will have to do. That means that animals will have to shift for themselves...grazing or more free-range foraging. That exposes them to more risk.

Some people keep roosters because they can be protective of their hens and provide warning with regard to hawks. Time is distance and distance is time.

Saturday, September 17, 2022

Girls show us their guns

 











And of course, no dissertation on girls and their guns would be complete without a picture of a Glock.