Friday, January 21, 2022

Zeus, more Fireplace, Air Filters and Food


This was a down-day.

I walked Zeus around the block. He is frantic when we put him out in the kennel. He appears to be a dog with a very high need to be with his pack. With Herc gone, Zeus is alone in the kennel and he does not like it. We are his pack and we are in the house.

We saw a Pileated Woodpecker on our walk. You can recognize them by their swoopy flight from a great distance. They are the size of crows but typically solitary or a mated pair. They have a fly-coast-fly pattern of flight and the path is reminiscent of a telegraph wire stretching across the prairie. 

They also fly with a head-up attitude like a boat with an outboard motor with too much weight in the back.


I purchased a grate for the fireplace insert. I had been holding the wood up off the firebrick floor with a couple of 1-1/2" diameter pipes I had salvaged. Unfortunately, 1-1/2" was not a tall enough passage-way and would clog up with coals and ash. The new grate has a floor that is about 3-1/2" above the firebrick.

The reduced headroom makes it more challenging to put larger pieces of wood into the firebox but it is all part of the learning process. Our insert has always shown a strong preference for smaller diameter wood.

Dried sumac wood

I have been using dried Staghorn Sumac wood as kindling. It burns like it was soaked in grease.

Staghorn Sumac is common around our place. It primarily spreads by suckers. The seed heads retain their berries and the birds work them all winter long. Rabbits favor Staghorn Sumac bark as winter forage when the snow is deep.

The seeds appear to need fire to germinate since sumac sprouts appear around places where we have been burning brush. No, you cannot burn the seeds and have them germinate. They are atop the soil and the ones that get the Goldilocks amount of heat germinate.

The wood is soft and brittle and has a large pith, stems up to 1-1/2" diameter cut easily with a pair of long-handled loppers. Because it grows in open thickets, it produces an abundance of straight "sticks".

Make sure you have the right kind(s) of sumac if you use it for kindling. Poison Sumac is not your friend.

Air filters for dirt-bikes

My youngest brother rides a dirt-bike. Dirt-bike riding can be very dusty, especially if you are not in front. My brother was lamenting the high cost of the proprietary materials used to clean and re-stickify the two-stage, foam air cleaners.

Being a resourceful young man, he looked up the Material Data Safety Sheet (MSDS) for a common brand and he determined that it was a 50:50 mix of paint thinner and semi-synthetic 2-stroke oil.

He had been concerned that using gasoline would weaken the adhesive bond used to turn sheet-foam into a foam sleeve. Gasoline can be a real dog-breakfast of hydrocarbons. Paint thinner is all non-aromatic hydrocarbons like naphtha. "Aromatic" hydrocarbons have a benzene ring in their make-up and some of them are powerful solvents.

The polybutene in the semi-synthetic 2-Stroke oil makes the foam tacky and helps it hold dust so it does not shake off under impacts.


Mom visit

We are back to visiting Mom twice a week.

Mom has "smart" hearing aids and one of my siblings brought the device that slaves them to the TV. The problem is that adjusting the TV volume with the remote has no impact on how loud it was for Mom.

It was confusing to fiddle with the remote and have Mom telling us that she could not hear us. Pushing the volume button on the hearing aids also had no impact on the volume Mom was hearing.

The only thing that worked was to use the Mute on the remote.


We are --->||<--- this close to being empty nesters with Kubota moved out and Bella either at work or school or hanging out with her boyfriend.

Mrs ERJ and my diet took a dramatic turn for the better. We are eating the foods we like. They tend to look like the foods we ate as kids. Remember when you could look at a plate and identify the actual cut of meat or chicken, the vegetable was clearly recognizable as green beans or peas or broccoli and the potatoes had their own corner of the plate and were baptized with gravy and you actually knew what went into the gravy? Do you remember those days?

Kids seem to like the prepared foods they are served in school cafeterias. Vats of Johnny Marzetti or lasagna casserole or gelatinous mac-n-cheez. They like deep-fried everything.

I like some of those foods too, but my body rebels at too much fried food.

This evening we had peas with a bit of butter, broiled tilapia (from Costa Rica) and about a half-cup of tater-tots from the air-frier. Portion control is easier when the food is parceled out as separate components rather than ladled out as mound of soylent-green (with electrolytes).

The Stock Market

I prefer to look at the S&P 500 rather than the Dow or NASDAC because the S&P 500 is a weighted index that is more reflective of the universe of publicly traded stocks in the US.

In general, I have little respect for "Technical Analysis" where analysts look for "patterns". To me it is as unscientific as throwing chicken entrails on the floor and attempting to divine the future.

One exception to that is something Joe Croyle tipped me off about. Most punters in the market are content to let minor losses ride because "they are playing with house money". Easy come, easy go.

After that money has been in their accounts for a year, they start thinking about it as "their money". That means that all hell will break loose if/when the S&P 500 drops below the level it hovered at 365 days prior.

Looking at this chart, that means that the market will puke its guts out shortly after the S&P 500 drops below 4000. The punters will stop listening to the cheerleaders who tell them to leave their money in.

The market will drop like an elevator with a broken cable and any vestiges of civility and order will depart.


  1. It makes me sad to hear that you understand the source of distress in Zeus but seem unwilling to do anything about it.

    Pileated woodpeckers are cool. We see them around our summer place in upstate NY. The first clue that they are around is often the unmistakable raucous call, but it's pretty hard to miss a crow-sized black and white bird.

  2. I've been thinking about whether I should pull some money out to invest in tangibles, I'm set in lots of ways, so I'm looking for a store of value that will also be useful when things fall apart... No decisions yet.

    1. Reloading supplies, long shelf life medical supplies, and tools/materials for homesteading and or pioneering.
      Printed reference books will be priceless for the rebuilders.
      And do not laugh... Get some historical textbooks. A lot of our technology will disappear. But with some old textbooks and ingenuity you'll be able to rebuild locally a lot faster.

  3. All dogs are pack animals. Some can tolerate being alone for a while...none of them would choose to be alone. So if you can't keep the dog inside or with you most of the time get him a companion.

  4. Ditto the sentiments about where 'the market' is (teetering, yes). Suprised to hear your opinion about TA (Technical Analysis) however? I agree it does have that voodoo chicken-bones kinda feeling where one set of candles says one thing, while an identical set says something else... But since you're a statistician, check out "The Pattern Site" or associated book by Charles Bulkowski (
    By his calculations some chicken bones produce a 2/3rds chance in your favor. I can make money with those odds.

  5. Bring Zeus inside with y'all. Putting a dog outside alone is about the meanest thing you can do to them. It's worse than solitary confinement because they've got the mentality of a toddler. We got much better results with a large crate in the bedroom or other quiet room for confinement. After a very short while every one of our shepherds started viewing the crate as a den or safe space.
    It's hard for me to confine my dog when my security depends on their access to the lair but it's even harder when they indiscriminately chew stuff up... Nevertheless, if you can make the confinement kennel a pack area or safe space it'll probably mitigate some of or most of Zeus anxiety.
    A lot of people will say "get another dog so he'll have a playmate" but sometimes (and I'm at that point myself) a dog person realizes that it's time to be dogless for a season... YMMV.
    And y'all have my sincerest condolences for Hercules passing. That's a pain that hurts like nothing else. Probably due to the purity of a dogs love...
    Love y'all,

    1. Zeus spent most of the day inside yesterday.

      Nevertheless, he needs to get used to being outside and alone. Maybe not for all of the daylight hours but we will leave the house for one-to-four hours to do errands on a regular basis and he needs to feel at home in his kennel.

      Having a one-dog house is taking a bit of getting used to.

    2. Yeah, there's a big furry hole in y'all's lives... Gonna take a little time for the sharp, crisp edges of that hole to start crumbling off and filling in.
      Yes, you're right. He needs to be emotionally comfortable in his kennel (that probably sounds weird) gonna take time to heal the pack.

  6. Pileated Woodpeckers are almost as prehistoric looking as a Great Blue Heron. There's a mating pair that hang around my trout camp, and we see them frequently driving around Cross Village way, and in some areas of the Keweenaw Peninsula. Cool birds. In regards to Zeus and kenneling a dog, we've used a small indoor kennel for our critters, but never an outdoor kennel. I prefer to have my dog at my side, or my feet, when home. We give our critter free roam of the house once they reach about a year old. I did not know that dried sumac was such a good fire starter wood. Sounds like it burns as hot and fast as Georgia fatwood.

  7. Gotta say I'm with the others about the dog being alone. I'm not going to venture into the indoor/outdoor discussion, but regardless they do thrive as pack animals.

  8. Also, I'm sorry, but I cannot countenance anything good being said about sumac. I hate the stuff.

  9. Regarding your mothers hearing...I have/am losing my hearing, when it is time to converse with people, be it on the phone, face-time, or in person, I shut the TV, radio, or my laptop off so that I may fully concentrate on the conversations. It stops the background noises that might make me miss something said or worse- misunderstand what was said. What I suggest you do is mute what you can and shut off what you can't, so that your mother can hear everyone much easier and better.

  10. Another use for sumac ....
    Used to burn dried sumac seed heads in the bee smokers. Calms the bees nicely.

  11. Just checked my stock app. On 1/22/21, the S&P 500 was at 3841.46 on 5.08B shares traded. If historical wisdom holds true, that will mean a support level at 4000.

    IF the level of losses on Friday persists, it's going to take 47 days to be very, very close to 4000. Day 48 would be the breach, if it happens. So early March.

    I expect that there will be some upward swings as the Plunge Protection Team steps in. There will be some because of suckers "buying the dips". There will be some just because.

    Or "They" figure out how to tie string on the end of the rope and drag this out a bit longer. They can conjure up more money with a few keystrokes, and I am morally certain they will do that and more to keep a big drop at bay.

    This is going to be the most interesting year of my life, I think. Or it could be next year or the next. I don't see how it can be further than that. Pity it didn't happen when I was younger and more able.

    This prognostication comes with the double money-back guarantee. If I'm wrong, you get twice what you paid for it. :-)