Saturday, April 30, 2022

No wonder there are so many unemployed journalists


 Insert {random_city_name) in place of "Lansing" and this could be anywhere.

Potato photos


Stored in the pantry beneath our porch over the winter.

A little bit of shriveling but the potatoes look pretty good

Good internal quality. I have some white potatoes and some yellows. I pulled seed from three different boxes to get a mix of varieties.

Enough pieces cut to plant a row, plus a little bit.

The S&P 500. Hash-mark depicts Election day 2020. It will be interesting to see where it is on Election day 2022.

I don't care who you are: That is funny. Occasional-Cortex is the one who said "mean tweets" about her were motivated by a desire to get into bed with her.

Friday, April 29, 2022

Day Two of Bachelorhood

I made Belladonna a cup of coffee in the morning.

I planted a row-and-a-half of potatoes.

I went and spent two hours with Mom. She was lucid. The folks at the home have gotten great enjoyment out of Borepatch's "Dad jokes". The one about "What do you call a pig with three eyes?" had them in stitches.

I did some shopping while in The Bit City. I ran into two of Mrs ERJ's friends. Fortunately, they did not catch me in front of the Little Debbie snack-cake shelving.

I finished planting the potatoes after I got home. Total length of row is about 480 feet (8 rows at 60' each). I planted more closely then I ever have in the past. I planted 10" apart in the rows with the rows 42" apart. If my math is correct, 18 pounds of urea will add 200 pounds of N per acre.

I sprayed nettles with 2,4-d. Nettles are hogs for nitrogen. Knocking back the nettles means that the plants that produce food get the nutrients.

I mowed a little bit of grass and now I am whipped.

Tomorrow's big event is to attempt a five-mile run.

Tired is good.

Unlocking the value...

Elon Musk promised to unlock the value of Twitter to benefit the shareholders.

Presumably that means moving from California with its high, non-value added taxes and moving the Headquarters to a lower tax state.

The dude could create a value-unlocking assembly line.

That is what happens when politicians use corporate profits to buy voters. Companies don't necessarily avoid high-tax state as long as the taxes are spent in ways that benefit the business climate.

Paying drug-addicts and illegal aliens to deposit feces where your expensive talent needs to walk is not benefiting the business climate.

Peering into my crystal ball

Reader Jonathan H. wrote "Any thoughts on what the next cycle will be?

I think we're not far from it starting, the big question is how bad things will get before they get better, and how much of the world will be affected.

Tough questions!

I cannot offer much clarity because there is far too much mud churned up in the water. Much of it intentionally churned up, incidentally.

Huns and Vandals and Vikings swarming over the wall

My guess, and it is only a guess, is that much of the world will see barbarians destroying everything they cannot understand, raping, pillaging, looting and burning.

Many of those barbarians will be natives. The slight hiccup we saw with regard to the supply chain foreshadows that possibility. MOST of what was stalled was non-essential crap from China and people lost their minds because stores no longer had enough merchandise to have over-stock sales.

For the most part people have no understanding of the technology that surrounds them. Let me repeat myself "...barbarians destroying everything they cannot understand, raping, pillaging, looting and burning."

Tribalism seems to be winning. We have straight-up tribal peoples and we have people regressing to tribalism to survive.

From here...

One path is that we become intensely local. We pull up the drawbridge. Stop going to The City. We don't treat our chest pain or cancer symptoms or infections beyond what the local sawbones can do. Strangers are closely watched. If they offend any of the locals then they disappear in the dark-of-night. If a local family vouches for them and the stranger turns out to be a "revenuer" then the family disappears.

Another path is even grimmer. Nukes are detonated by the scores or hundreds. Fall-out is added to the scenario.

On the other end of the spectrum is a soft-landing in a renewable-energy future. The reasons why this seems improbable are many. Will people (once again) accept the sun as the ultimate clock? Will 95% go to bed when the sun sets and wake up with it rises? This is also an intensely local society. No flights to Miami to see the grandchild. It is also materially poor: Two sets of stained work-clothing and one set of "church clothes". Will they be content walking to work at a job that is extremely physical?

The people who are the biggest cheerleaders for renewables have no understanding of how fossil fuels undergirds their lifestyle. They envision a renewable energy future as identical to our current lifestyle but "way cooler" and with more trinkets and stuff.

It is not that we will run out of oil and coal in a flip-of-the-switch way but that energy will (eventually) become so expensive that they will be reserved for the most marginally profitable enterprises like war, synthesizing fiber, pesticides and medicines.

The primary factor mitigating AGAINST any kind of soft-landing is Government intervention. Businesses will not invest because they perceive too much uncertainty. Keystone-on, Keystone-off, Keystone-on, Keystone-off. Ethanol-on, ethanol-off, ethanol-on. Wind-on, wind-off, wind-on, wind-off...

The rational path is to provide modest subsidies to fund pilot projects that advance the technology. Test-bed projects.

Government metastasized to where they pick winners to enrich their favorite people. Any production or technology advancement is incidental, accidental and to be avoided because that upsets the apple-cart.

"I think we're not far from it starting, the big question is how bad things will get before they get better, and how much of the world will be affected."

Like they say on Wall Street, the market can remain irrational longer than short-sellers remain solvent. Trying to guess timing is a no-win exercise. The risk is that you might set a for-certain date in your head and then have your readiness collapse the day after that date passes.

I will be thrilled if I slip my mortal coil before the ugliness goes exponential. I have prepared my children to the extent of my capabilities. What happens after this is for them to sort out.

How bad will it get? Our government and media already lie to us solely out of habit. Our medicines kill and maim the youngest and most hale. Our food is air, grease, salt and flavor. Our children are indoctrinated to hate us. Men lose their livelihood because they said the word "nigger" in 1997.

Man is very adaptable. Communism seemed inevitable late in the Industrial Revolution. And then Organized Labor seemed to spontaneously rise and provided a counterbalance to the power of the Industrialists. Marx was furious because he was no longer the messiah. He hated Unions.

I think the home-schooling facet of the Covid response is huge. As Soros is the new Marx, Home-schooling is the equivalent of Organized Labor. Factory-schooling is the equivalent of a secular madrassa producing radicalized suicide bombers intent on destroying society.

It is possible that the next set of elections is blatantly stolen and enough formerly rank-and-file Democrats decide to "cap" their party officials and election workers*. How many Secretaries-of-States and County Election Commission officers would need to be executed to change the course of events? How many pissed off victims executing Woke judges, DAs and Police Chiefs? 

Probably not very many.

An unlikely agent of salvation. The arch-type liberal was content to let the leaders engage in their personal fantasies as long as Moore's Law improved their lives every year. It is easy to share wealth when the tide is raising every boat.

Bullies are bullies because they can get their jollies with zero risk, zero cost. The "Italian solution" creates risk, creates potential costs. The object of an object-lesson is to plant the seed that "The next one could be you". The object lesson changes behaviors.

*Eaton Rapids Joe does not promote or advocate violence. I am merely observing out that in a universe that is infinite, events that seem are extremely improbable are really inevitable.

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Day one of Bachelorhood

Recipe from HERE
Pelé (my oldest son) came over after I took Mrs ERJ to Detroit Metro Airport.

He helped put in some of the potatoes and pushed the lawnmower around the orchard. Between the two of us, we got in five of the eight rows I have planned so I am well ahead of my timeline to have all of the potatoes planted by sunset Friday.

Then Belladonna came home from work and she dragged both of us out on a two-mile run before cooking us dinner. She served us oven-roasted sweet potatoes, salmon filet and heart-of-romaine lettuce salad.

I think they were trying to keep me busy and out of the greasy-spoons in town.

They were successful and I am grateful for their efforts.

Hibiscus sabdariffa

A friend sent me some seeds of Hibiscus sabdariffa and informed me that they were difficult to germinate.

Hibiscus sabdariffa: Roselle is highly edible plant that is related to okra.  In tropical and subtropical regions around the world the leaves are consumed as a vegetable, a spicy version of spinach.  They are used in food preparation, while the calyx and flowers are used as a flavoring, coloring and for making teas.  The calyx is also used in making wine, jam, juice, jelly, and syrup, while also used as a spice.

Rosella hemp, which is extracted from the stems, is a strong fiber that is used for making sacks, twine and cords. 

The recommendations on the internet suggested soaking the seeds for 24 hours in warm water.

I could see that the seed coats repelled the water so I split the seed lot into two halves and soaked one in well water and the other in 20 parts well water and 1 part household, chlorine bleach.

After 24 hours of soaking in plain water, the seeds were still as hygrophobic as the bottoms of a water-strider's feet.

The ones soaked in the bleach solution had clearly absorbed water. My only fear is that 24 hours may have been too long.

Side-by-side comparison: Plain water on the left, 20:1 water:bleach solution on the right.

I heard about the bleach-solution trick from a breeder of blackberries. The seeds normally become scarified in their passage through bird digestive systems. In the absence of birds, soaking them in caustic chemicals can sometimes get the job done.

I don't know if this will work but it looks promising.

Burning brush

It is normal to have profound thoughts while staring into a fire.

The challenge is the same as with dreams, to remember them the next morning.

My target date for planting potatoes is May 1. As of 17:00 yesterday, one-third of the 2022 'tater patch was still covered with brush that had been cleared from other areas of the yard. I had do deal with that before I could till and prepare the ground for planting.

The weather-guessers predict that we will be entering another rainy cycle on Saturday so it is urgent that I get the brush burned.

My best success with burning brush is to start a "campfire" and then add some split hardwood from our horde of firewood for the house. Once I have the split firewood going, I start stacking the brush on top of the burning wood.

Most of this brush was cut a month or two ago. There is not much drying power in the sun in mid-spring in Michigan. We get a lot of rain and the brush doesn't have many cut-ends that expose the wood to the air. Bark is a good wrapper for preventing drying and it shows. Shorter pieces burn better than long whips.

Some species start out drier than others. The Carpathian walnut that I cut 10 days ago feels drier than the willow and hybrid poplar I cut two months ago. Black Locust suckers dried quickly. The prunings from fruit trees dry quickly, especially after the rabbits de-bark them.

For a long time, nothing seems to happen. With time on my hands I can be selective. I find sticks that are dryier that most in the pile of brush to be burned and drive them in like lances to get the stems over the tiny part of the pile that is actually burning.

The younger stems of the box-elder shine with moisture as the heat starts driving it out. Smoke and steam rise from the pile. Some of the dead grass starts to burn. The wind is negligible (about 4mph out of the northeast) and I beat out the flames with my shovel.

Aldo Leopold, author of A Sand County Almanac died at the age of 50 while fighting a grass fire. My brother, the one who is a firefighter, told me that it is more than likely that he died of carbon monoxide inhalation. It is almost impossible to tell the difference without an autopsy. I heed my brother's admonition and take care to stay out of the smoke plume while I beat the flames in the grass.

Things start to speed up after the bed of coals grew to be about 24" across. The small stuff that had been roasting and drying lit off and burned like a blast furnace for about 10 minutes. The tiny sticks added a little bit to the bed of coals and the 6' high flames helped roast the overburden of brush that was not in its direct path.

Then the cycle of pushing brush to the center began.

Fill the center up.

Wait for the fire to incubate.

Watch it burn.

Push more to the center.


Watch it burn.

That is when the profound thought happen.

I was watching the Babylonians, the Greeks, and then the Romans.

Each civilization building on the bed-of-coals left by the last.

And then after the Romans....darkness.

I dragged the hose out into the garden and drenched the bed of coals. I soaked her down good. I soaked it until it stopped hissing.

And in the morning, I will go out there and I will find pockets of white, columns where some burning coals were sheltered by a chunk of wood or some act-of-God where the other sticks and coals shingled the burning pocket coals.

Irish monasteries, Nicaea, Egyptian libraries and Persian universities. Tradesmen passing on trade secrets to their son and witches and herbal healers to their daughters and granddaughters.

Who could have predicted where those flickering candles of knowledge would have been? The flames that lit the Renaissance.

It has been a jolly big fire since then. Lots of fuel discovered and pushed to the center with exploration and Imperialism and technology.

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

The value of statistics

One of the mental tools we use to navigate through life is to create mental maps of Cause==>Effect. That is: If I do THIS, then THAT happens.

We continuously make IF choices and occasionally update our expected THEN THAT results.

Most often, the actual result is close enough to the expectation that we do not bother to fine-tune the expected results in our mental maps.

We rarely "update" our maps as frequently enough or far enough

There are two kinds of errors we can make in updating our mental maps to incorporate new information. We can not update them (the typical error) or we can update them too much. In both cases the cost of obtaining the new information is wasted.

Not updating the map is seductive. We don't have to admit that our prior-belief was flawed. We don't have to deal with the uncertainty of a new setting.

Excessively zealous updates creates instability and non-convergent solutions...or non-solutions. There are probably evolutionary reasons for humans avoiding frequent updates.

The kernel of the problem is there is no simple, intuitive way to "feel" the proper amount of adjustment to make in our Cause===>Effect tables.

That is where statistic thinking has a place.

An example:

Suppose you stumbled into a process where the outputs were:

250, 250, 250, 255, 250, 250, 250, 255, 254...

Suppose you were given the task of adjusting the process. Would you average the data to figure out how much to adjust the dial? Would you do something else.

Like much of what happens in life, it depends.

Suppose you were on patrol and at deer-thirty you started getting incoming fire and you could see muzzle-flashes at 250 degrees and 255ish degrees. Firing into the pucker-brush at 251.56 degrees will accomplish nothing. The firing positions are at 250 and 255ish degrees. Incidentally, 1.56 degrees translates to about seven-and-a-half feet at 100 yards.

Statistical thinking suggests that you are at more risk from the shooter at 250 degrees so you might put cover between you and that source of incoming fire and then wait for a muzzle-flash at 255 degrees before sending one downrange.

It may be just one shooter shuttling between two firing positions and he might be favoring the 250 position because he has better cover there.

It is counter-intuitive to NOT shoot at the average position. It is even more counter-intuitive to first neutralize the position that seems to pose the least risk. But that is where statistical thinking can take you.

Another example:

There were two sources of a given component that went into an automobile body. The dimensional differences influenced the dimensional characteristics of the automotive body such that workers were hired to adjust the fit of the hood, doors and trunk-lid of the finished product.

The factory chose to find a happy medium and had to "fit" every vehicle.

It might have been smarter to set the equipment to build the vehicles built with parts from one source perfectly and only "fit" the vehicles built with parts from the other source. The time and effort of moving swing-metal 1.0mm vs 2.0mm was negligible. The only risk was the chipping of paint.

If in doubt, plot it out

Man really is an analog beast. Digits or numbers are almost meaningless. We can manipulate them but they really only sing to the idiot savants. Plot the data. Make a picture. It will speak to you.

Even if you hate statistics.

Testable hypothesis

Life on the fringes of the frontier favored the well-armed man who did not hesitate to use his weapons.

There are Social Scientists who put forth the hypothesis that African-American culture is more violent than the general culture because they aped the honor-culture of the Scotch-Irish who settled in the upper-Piedmont regions of the south.

Furthermore, they speculate that the culture will become less violent as they come into contact with gentle, refined, Urban peoples in the more educated North. Economic issues would be resolved as they were assimilated into the booming Urban economies.

Even in the realm of the hypothetical, there are some problems with the hypothesis. For one thing, the Scotch-Irish were dirt-poor and did not have, could not afford, slaves. If by pure luck they landed on good agriculture land they were pushed off by richer neighbors of English extraction.

Since much of what they farmed was hilly, erosion was a major issue and the farms played-out rapidly. The Scotch-Irish pushed westward faster than other white people with the possible exception of the French in Canada.

It is difficult to make a cogent case that African-Americans had extensive contact with the Scotch-Irish while their "culture" was forming. It is also difficult to make a cogent case that the Scotch-Irish culture would be "aspirational" for African-Americans.


This is a simple comparison between the "Death-by-Firearm" rate of rural African-Americans in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana and the "Death-by-Firearm" rate for African-Americans in Chicago.

Why Chicago?

Great Universities. Enlightened, Progressive population. Politicians very ready to help the under-class. Strong economy. Aggressive gun control laws. Vivid, patchwork mosaic of ethnic diversity fostering the rapid assimilation via osmosis.

A priori predictions:

A key feature of "Science" is to test the hypothesis by predicting the results, informed by the hypothesis, before running the experiment.

Based on the hypothesis, one would expect the Death-by-Firearm rate to be highest in rural-whites in the Deep South. After all, that is where those nasty Scotch-Irish (aka, Rednecks, Hillbillies) are.

Then one would expect the rural, African-Americans in the Deep South Death-by-Firearm rate to be lower than that of the rural-whites because "derivative" suggests that the culture has other influences that dilute the Scotch-Irish inputs.

Finally, one would expect the Death-by-Firearm rate of urban, African-Americans to be lowest of all since generations of their culture has been ameliorated by enlightened, progressive, Northern whites.

Attempting to quantify the results, if rural whites in the Deep-South have a Death-by-Firearm rate of 100% then it would be reasonable to speculate that rural African-Americans might have a Death-by-Firearm rate of 50% and urban, Northern African-Americans might have a Death-by-Firearms rate of 10%.

Take just a second and make your own predictions based on the hypothesis and untainted by your experiences. Write them down in 1-2-3 Order and then guess what the ratios will be.

Monday, April 25, 2022

Amplifying the signal

The Shekel recently posted that the authors of an article in the New England Journal of Medicine put their thumb-on-the-scales to make deaths-by-firearms appear even worse than it is. He claimed that including 18 and 19 year olds in the data skewed the results.

2019 & 2020 data combined. Source

The death-rate by firearms (less intentional self-harm) per 100,000 is nearly eight times higher for 18 and 19 year-olds (15.4) than it is for 14 year-olds (2.1). That will certainly skew the results.

The death-rate by firearms (less intentional self-harm) for 18 and 19 year-old African-Americans is 15 times higher than it is for White-not Hispanic 18 and 19 year-olds.

If Black Lives actually Matter, maybe we should address cultural issues rather than hardware. Just saying, you won't find your car keys if you don't look for them where you dropped them. It doesn't matter how much better the light is in the other place.

A week of transition

Happy Monday, Everybody!

Mrs ERJ leaves for Miami on Thursday. Our oldest daughter is expecting a child in mid-May and sweet-talked Mrs ERJ into joining her and Handsome Hombre for-the-duration plus two-weeks.

This week will be filled with fiddly, getting ready things and she already started the pep-talks about not going to auctions and yardsales. Our house IS a bit cluttered and she has a new rule that I cannot get anything knew unless I get rid of two things first.

She/we are getting practiced at this. She spent the month of May with her ailing sister last year. We managed. I missed her so much that I slept on the couch so I could listen to the dogs murmur in their sleep.

I intend to be more proactive this year. I put out feelers about finding some work. One person has an open time-slot on Sunday afternoon. Another gentleman from church has some painting they need done. I hate painting but work is work.

One complication is that I am scheduled to be with Mom on Mondays and Fridays so my availability is weird. Mostly I am looking for things to keep me busy Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. Between that, the garden and mowing grass I should be busy enough.

OCD and Tomatoes

I am not afflicted with OCD but some of my work undoubtedly triggers those who are.

My father and two brothers are the kind of people who would use a transit to site-in trees in an orchard. I poke a couple of stakes in the ground. I might stretch a string between them. Then I pace distance and dig holes.

One of my failures in orcharding was that I planted them too close together. Then I did not stay on top of pruning. It became a jungle. It is easy to underestimate how much aisleway you need between the rows of trees.

I fixed it by removing every-other row. Boy, did I cry a river of tears.

Then I got mad because I was mowing so much grass that could be growing food so I planted a row of grapes between each row of trees. It looks very not-orchardy.

It gets worse this year. The southern-most row is a variety named Swenson Red. Swenson Red is just a little too sensitive to diseases for my liking. It did fine the first few years but now it struggles.

I removed the five vines on the west end of the row and will replace them with dwarf pears. Since I will be planting the rootstock and then grafting-them-in-place, the new pear trees will be tiny and I will be back to forty feet of row not paying its rent.

Then I realized that with the trellis in place, I have plenty of room to run a tomato vine between each quince rootstock without unduly shading the tiny trees.

Does anybody have any recommendations for a big slicing variety? I have a preference for an heirloom variety. Brandywine, Purple Cherokee and Kellogg's Breakfast look interesting.

I am sure Dad is going to look down from Heaven and shake his head. An orchard with rows of grapevines. A row of grape vines with quince and tomatoes alternating on one end.

Crazy world

Did you know that the Supreme Court ruled in 2020 that health insurance coverage must also cover transgender surgery*. Meanwhile health insurance companies can refuse to cover the cost of surgery to repair cleft lips and palates because they are "cosmetic" i.e. "elective".

The court rules on what the lawyers representing each side presents them. The lawyers representing the side in favor of transgender surgery made the case that that transgender surgery was critical for people who were unhappy with their body. That is, the patient was clinically depressed and the patient decided the reason they were unhappy is because they had been born into the wrong body.

Previous law does not allow providers and employers to discriminate between mental/emotional health and physical health. They are all "health" issues.

If you are a normal person and the least bit observant, you know that man is not a rational animal, he is a rationalizing animal. That is, things happen and then we find reasons to back-fill events. Those reasons invariably maintain our dignity and self image.

So rather than looking inward at why the patient is unhappy, medical practitioners were given the green-light to enable the patient's break from reality.

Spoiler alert: The patient is still unhappy after the surgery because "God made a mistake" was not the reason why they were unhappy. They are still stupid, or a bitch, or lazy, or using drugs, or have grandiose ideas of their importance after the surgery. They were unhappy because they had real issues that they refused to address.

The suicide attempt rate among transgender persons ranges from 32% to 50% across the countries.  Source
Perhaps surgery for cleft lip and palate would be covered if the parents said their child had a dream of being a trans-gender who practiced fellatio and repair of their mouth was the first step in that path.

*The cost of tranny surgery ranges from $10k for the chassis work (ball joints, new grease zerks and so on) to $70k for chassis work, boob-job and liposuction-redeposit body sculpting. Most tranny surgery is in the range of $20k-to-$25k. Cleft palate and lip surgery runs $10k-to-$20k.

Sunday, April 24, 2022

You know you live in a small town when...

 ...I was listening to Mrs ERJ chatting with another woman where we attend church.

Mrs ERJ mentioned that one of the local school bus drivers called both her and me after they spotted one of our children stranded beside the road with a flat tire.

It is worth noting that this is at least ten years after said bus driver transported our little darling to school.

Tom and Steve

I worked with a couple of Toolmakers (Union classification) who had transferred to one of the Lansing plants from the Detroit metro area.

Steve was livid. He had just found out that Tom had been stealing golf carts from the "livery" when they went golfing and that this had been going on for two years.

Tom always volunteered to rent the cart, a fact which should have been a red-flag because Tom never volunteered for anything. He loitered by the cart-corral and when a golfer returned one he jumped in and drove it off.

Steve was furious because Tom had been collecting half-the-cost ($20 per round of golf, twice a week) of renting the cart from Steve for those two years.

Tom, on the other hand, was gleeful that he had perpetuated and gotten away with the scam for almost two years and had pocketed $40 of Steve's money a week and NOT spent $40 a week for his share of the cart rentals.

What is morality?

Those of us from small towns and rural areas flatter ourselves to think we are more moral than big-city types. While that might be so, it is not due to any inherent virtue. Rather, it is more likely due to the fact that we have no realistic chance of getting way with poor behavior.

Tom's logical fallacy was that "It is OK because I got away with it."

Our logical fallacy is "I am morally superior because I am able to resist the temptation when I know I cannot get away with it."

Moral judgements aside

There is no "virtual anonymity" on the internet. We may think we are remote and anonymous and safe but SOMEBODY whose initials rhyme with NSA knows who we are and where we are sitting to within +/- 1 meter.

The behavioral defaults that got programmed into us knowing that our family, neighbors, bus drivers and others in the community were watching SHOULD provide some degree of protection on the internet. Loose lips sink ships and all that.

It is puzzling that some players are given free pass for smoking crack, banging hookers, embezzling funds, cheating on their taxes and saying "nigga" fifteen-times-a-minute. Maybe they are bait. Maybe they are "protected species". In either case, there is no advantage in assuming their protections extend to us.

General James Norman Mattis's advice still holds: "Be polite. Be courteous. And have a plan..."

Playing with the new blogging camera


Bees buzzing around an Apricot tree
The lens cover on my Samsung S5 shattered and the replacement lens cover produces blurrier photos than the original equipment.

I purchased a Nikon Coolpix L29 for taking serious photos.

Zooming in on the original photo, I can make out the wings on the bees.

The same apricot tree with a White Pine behind it for contrast. The left side of the tree is the seedling rootstock and the right side is a named cultivar (whose name I forgot)

Bees really love apricot blossoms. They must be a feast.

I think these are Mason Bees. We have them buzzing around the wood-piles. They are either hatching out of their pupae or are packing in groceries and laying eggs. Mason Bees, unlike humans who are Masons, are solitary creatures and don't form hives.

They also tend to be earlier than honeybees.

Seedling trays

A tray of Happy-Rich broccoli and Sweet Aperitif tomatoes. A tray of Principe Borghese tomatoes and Sparx lettuce. A tray of Stupice tomatoes. I want to take another photo in a week to see how much they have grown.

Men in Black Neuralizer


How soon before Law Enforcement starts carrying mini-EMP generators that can "wipe" smart-phones?

"And just-like-that, there were no more videos of LEOs doing their jobs on the street."

Ten second run-time

Jimmying the door-switch on a microwave oven and running it with the door open might work. Of course, it would be a little bit rough on people wearing pace-makers.

Clanged when he walked


...Managing to evade capture for several days, Carr was physically exhausted, starving, and suffering from continued exposure to the elements. Carr finally decided it was better to surrender to the Germans rather than be discovered.
Carr made his way to a nearby enemy airfield with the intention of turning himself in.  When he arrived at the enemy field, Carr observed a ground crew in the process of fueling and arming an Fw190. Carr kept hidden and waited for the german ground crew to leave, then snuck through the perimeter fence, and  climbed into the enemy aircraft cockpit. There he quietly spent the night familiarizing himself with the cockpit gauges and controls of the Fw190, which were unfortunatly all labeled in German. 
After an entire night of informal self taught enemy aircraft ground school…and as dawn broke over the enemy airfield, Carr shattered the quiet morning air as he fired up the enemy fighter's engine, and hastely took to the skies westbound with absolutley no resistance from the still completely oblivious enemy forces.

After skimming the treetops for over 200 miles, Carr arrived at his home base with a non functioning radio and no way to communicate with his base to let them know he was a friendly. Carr elected a more direct approach. Rather than slowing down, dropping gear and flying the pattern, Carr remained screaming inbound at treetop level, chopping his power and belly landed his aircraft before the airfield defences had time to train their weapons on his aircraft. 
Entire story at Sierra Hotel 

Saturday, April 23, 2022

Eighty-one F in the shade

Well, I got the cap off of the truck. I got some angle iron bolted on the back of the box so I can slide planks in to use as a tailgate. No pictures. Operational Security and all that.

The cap proved to be made of steel and was as heavy as the wages of sin. I sank some posts and made a buck to hold the cap. I hired Kubota to help me. I backed into the buck and tied the cap off to a tree. Inching forward (after removing all eleventy-seven bolts and shimming it up to break the supervisor tape*) Kubota gave me the sign that my tail-lights had passed the rearmost set of 4X4s. 

I jacked up the trailer hitch to raise the rear of the truck. We slid a 2X4 upwards along the vertical 4X4s and shot four deck screws to secure the 2X4. Then I dropped the jack to lower the azz-end of the truck.

Then forward another 6 feet. Lather, rinse, repeat.

It was stunningly easy after the ground-work had been done.

Today I installed the angle iron and planks.


This is stupid. I have been nursing along about fifteen apple seedlings in a 30 gallon tub. The seeds were open-pollinated Novaspy from a local orchard. I know nothing about the pollen-donor except they were successful at whispering sweet, sexy promises into the ears of the honeybees.

Rather than grow out an entire seedling tree, I grafted a length of stem from each seedling into the canopy of a mature Liberty apple tree in my orchard.

Bernie Nikolia of Edmonton, Alberta (Canada) is a fellow fruit grower and he is exceptionally observant. 

He deduced that a variety can be hurried into fruiting by grafting a longer-than-average scion on to a horizontal branch. The scion responds by forcing growth into multiple buds which produces short fruiting spurs. So rather than investing 10 years and 225 square-feet into finding out what kind of apples each seedling produces, I can invest 4 square feet and two additional years.

As long as I graft a long scion on-to a near horizontal branch. Which I did.

I had 10 seedlings with wood large enough (barely) to graft. I marked each branch with an 8" flag of masking tape. It is with great regret that I admit to having pruned off precious, grafted branches in my haste to gitter-done.

One thing you can say about fruit growers is that we always have something to look forward to.


We got about 3" last night.

The sump pump is running as the crock fills up.

The ground is squishy, the ditches are full and the ducks are happy.


I want to thank my readers for the quality of your comments.

I think I have great readers.

A recent exchange occurred where one commenter suggested another reader might rely on CNN as their primary source of information. The person who had been accused of such heinous lack of sophistication agreed with the points the previous commenter made he/she could agree with and then moved on.

The accuser did not indulge in the need to have the last-word.

None of us rely on our writing skills for our primary source of income. It is tough to communicate even when we have all kinds of body language and tone-of-voice to fine-tune the message. It is much, much harder when we do not have those advantages.

Thanks to all parties for being classy and giving the others the benefit-of-the-doubt.

* I was recently informed that this is a local term. "Supervisor tape" is the local term for two-faced tape.

Friday, April 22, 2022

What would a Russian/NATO nuclear weapon exchange "look like"

What would a Russian/NATO nuclear exchange look like?


  • NATO vastly underestimates Russia's willingness to use nukes
  • NATO vastly underestimates the rate Russia will escalate
  • NATO vastly underestimates Russia's willingness to go to scorched-earth tactics

Russia's willingness

The US Airforce was baffled by the USSR's use of vacuum tubes in aircraft avionics and radar.

Every few years a Soviet pilot would defect to the west. Technical experts disassembled the planes and expert interviewer debriefed the pilots. The interviewers were careful to keep the questions general in nature. They suspected that some of the pilots were "plants" and the Soviets would gain advantage when the "defector" returned and enumerated the questions they had been asked.

Granted, the vacuum tubes were world-class vacuum tubes but this was at a time when kids in 5th grade in the US could purchase "Seven Transistor" radios with money they made cutting grass. Transistors were smaller, cooler, faster and more resistant to shock than vacuum tubes. It was a puzzle.

The vague generalized question was something like "I see you are still using vacuum tubes." and the response was always something like "We still haven't solved the problem. But as soon as we do, we will implement them."

The interviewer would nod sagely and them move on.

Ten or more years went by and then one of the defectors added the tiniest bit more information. "We still have not figured out how you armored your transistors against the post-detonation EMP."

While transistors and other semi-conductor devices are smaller, cooler....they are also a million or more times more sensitive to voltage spikes. Even today, vacuum tubes are used as amplifiers for outdoor Public Address systems in areas at high risk for lightning strikes. Detonating a nuke generates an electro-magnetic pulse that interacts with wiring in the plane and creates a voltage surge.

Two things snapped into focus. The Soviets fully intended to drop nukes, fly the planes home and load up with more. The other thing that snapped into focus is that the US and NATO had always approached strategic bombing with nukes as an academic problem.

Milliseconds after detonation the plane that dropped the bomb might be 20 miles downrange but it would fall out of the sky like a set of car-keys. The computer that modulated fuel injection into the jet engine would fail. The navigation would fail. Electronic warfare countermeasures would fail.

Many pairs of undershorts were soiled.

Given the US's commitment to semiconductor-based-electronics and a generation of doctrine that was based on NATO aircraft capabilities, it was decided to address the problem by replacing electrical wires with fiber optics. Glass is not a conductor. It does not generate power surges when subjected to EMP.

Sidebar: Soviet doctrine for fighter deployment was to use central RADAR to vector to the threat, gain altitude and then use very primitive , narrow-angle look-down RADAR to pinpoint the threat and then attack. It was not because Soviets are control freaks. It was because Soviet airborne RADAR lack discrimination due to the limitations on the number of vacuum tubes that could be packaged.

NATO doctrine was to use vastly more capable avionics/RADAR/Weapons systems and give individual pilots more autonomy in battle.

End sidebar.

Let me rephrase a critical part of this story: The Russians walked into the bar carrying knives and fully intending to use them before closing time. The Americans walked in with fancy firearms and were 100% sure they would be able to talk themselves out of any trouble.

I don't think that changed in the last 50 years.

Russian rate of escalation

Every Russian plays chess. If the slow game favors the opponent then you play a fast game.

Various on-line videos discussing a nuclear exchange show Russia launching nukes up to 24 hours after the first one is launched. I don't put much faith in that assessment.

Nukes are not artillery. They don't have to engage in battery-and-counterbattery. 

My impression of Inter Continental Ballistic Missiles with multiple warheads is that they can be launched in waves and in rapid succession. The first wave might be 30-to-50 mile elevation air bursts to maximize damage due to Electro-Magnetic Pulse.

The second wave could be sixty seconds behind the first and be ground-contact detonations to maximize shock-waves disrupting in-ground silos and US military command-and-control.

Scorched earth

Remember how Soviet fighter/bomber doctrine was formed based on the limitations of their equipment set?

The same seems likely for their nuclear strategy. Let's say it would be possible to neutralize Chicago as a logistical center with five, small, precisely targeted nukes used in air-burst mode. Those nukes might target the switching yards that service Burlington Northern, Union Pacific, Canadian National, Norfolk Southern and CSX. There would be sufficient damage to nearby freeways and airports to take them out of the game as well.

That is how NATO/US would approach the problem.

The Russians, on the other hand, would approach it like a blind-drunk trying to shoot a wasp with a shotgun. Precision is not the first thing you think of when you talk about Soviet/Russian weapon systems. Suppose a single Russian warhead has a probable accuracy of +/- 30 miles. Would you fire five small ones when your target zone is a mile across or would you fire 20-to-40 big ones and saturate the 60 mile zone of probable hits?

Furthermore, it is convenient to classify nuclear detonations into four categories.

The first one is the 30-to-50 mile above ground detonation that maximizes EMP.

The second is the air-burst, typically at 2000ish feet to maximize the area hammered by over-pressure, air shock-wave and thermal flash.

The third is ground strike which maximizes seismic shock-wave and fallout. The dirt, concrete and steel that is vaporized is carried aloft by the mushroom cloud and then "falls out" in a plume that is carried by the winds, both aloft and at ground level.

The last kind of detonation is the "salted bomb". The dirty bomb is salted with elements that convert to radioactive isotopes at detonation and maximize damage due to fallout. They have been studied as an area denial weapon when salted with materials that convert to isotopes with short half-lives like Sodium-24 and Zinc-65. .

In as much as a nuclear detonation in wartime can be considered "clean", they are listed in their order of cleanliness.

EMP turns off the lights. Well, the lights, water pressure, sewage treatment, traffic lights....

Air-burst punches down and destroys military, strategic and logistical targets in a sort-of precise way with minimal fall-out. Fires are still a major consideration.

Ground-burst disrupts in-ground utilities, subways, topples buildings with conventional concrete foundations. Depending on the material immediately around the detonation, a single ground-burst produces an unpredictable plume of of radiation that might be 20 miles across and 150 miles long.

"Salted bombs" are horrifying because they are designed specifically to maximize collateral damages and because deaths will continue to occur long after the conflict ends.

If you are the drunk with the shotgun, you opt for ground-strikes because it maximizes the chances that you will neutralize your target. You might miss "long" but there is a good chance the wind will carry fall-out over part of your target anyway. The messy thing about ground-strikes is the (small) possibility that your warhead hit near a shed or truck filled with de-icing salt (sodium-chloride) and you inadvertently created the mother-of-all salted bombs.


Presumably, the Russians would opt for more air-bursts if wind forecasts suggested the fall-out would blow eastward over Russia.

Then again, it is hard to predict what the Russian elites will do. They might have hidey-holes in the southern hemisphere and rather than face ignominy and trial for war-crimes they might pull the trigger on ground-strike attacks anyway.


Cattle, hay and pears

Life got better yesterday at 5:30 PM.

I let the round-bales run out. Then it rained a few days. Then Sprite was working her day-gig and caring for her mother in the evening.

Normally, I just call up Sprite, run over and use her tractor to move some of her old round-bales to my pasture. She no longer keeps cattle and wants the side of the hill cleared of bales.

Sprite has not had the best luck with people. A distressing number of them take advantage of her when she is generous. Consequently, I am very, very careful to never borrow her equipment without her knowing about it and her explicit permission to do so.

I opened up all my paddocks to give the cattle the illusion of having something to eat. They were not impressed and let me know it every time I popped my head outdoors.

At 5:30, Sprite gave me a call. "I have a bale on the spear. Where do you want me to deliver it?"

What a deal! Free hay with free delivery thrown in.

She dropped off three bales and the critters are tearing into it.


Plants need warmth to heal injuries.

Grafting injures plants. For a tree to heal across the cut surfaces, it needs to experience temperatures that are high enough for the cambium (the layer between the wood and the outer-bark) to start growing vigorously. In grafting-speak, the bark is slipping. That is, the cells of the cambium are young, tender, juicy and the tissue has not become woody or "lignified".

Some species of trees get busy in the mid-fifties (Fahrenheit) while other species need mid-seventies to get going. Not surprisingly, trees that have been domesticated for a longer period of time are easier to graft. That may have been something to do why they were domesticated or it may be a result of genetic shift while they were domesticated.

Apples, pears and plums are considered easy-to-graft largely due to their cambium being active at this time of year.

The trees are almost impossible to see due to the woodchips I used for mulch.

Still hard to see. I bind the graft with rubber bands and then cover the rubber band with masking tape to protect it from UV degradation. I also gave each graft a "hat" made of masking tape to reduce the water loss through the top.
Looking ahead at the temperatures for the weekend, I got the jump on the grafting season. I was moving some pear seedlings in the old nursery and decided to graft them as I moved them rather than coming back later. My track record of "coming back later" is not 100%. Consequently, I now have 10 seedlings grafted to Chojuro* in my new, more compact nursery.

Then I top-worked a few pears in the orchard. I originally planted a lot of Shenandoah pear but am now moving away from it. The limbs get large lesions of sun-scald damage in my orchard, has never seemed very productive and I like later ripening fruit. I flipped three Shenandoah and one Yoinashi pear to three Sheldon and one Highland. Sheldon becomes a great big brute of a tree and the trees I grafted were on the most northern row of the orchard where the shade they cast will not bother other trees.

Bonus Images


A tray that is 1/3 Sweet Aperitif cherry tomatoes and 2/3 Happy Rich cut-and-come-again broccoli.
*Chojuro (PI 97347).--Orig. in Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan in 1895 by Chojuro Toma. Chance seedling of P. pyrifolia (Burm.)Nak. Introduced to U.S. in 1930 by U.S.D.A. Evaluated at University of California, Davis beginning in 1955. Fruit: medium, about 66 mm diam. 55 mm long; oblate, thick russeted skin green to orange-brown; flesh white, mildly sweet and bland, firm and coarse, crisp with distinctive aroma; ripe mid August in Oregon; stores 20 weeks. Tree: medium, vigorous and spreading. Resistance to an outbreak of scab (Venturia nashicola Tanaka et Yamamoto) in 1897, high sugar content, high productivity, and resistance to black spot (Alternaria kikuchiana Tanaka) helped Chojuro to become an important cultivar in Japan. Poor quality fruit when grown in a dry climate.

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Peace-loving Democrats for Ucranium-235



3-1/4 silicon wafer with an astounding 109 64k memory chips etched on its surface. Circa 1978. Prices of these leading edge chips dropped from $25 apiece in 1981 to $5 each.


December 4, 1985, Los Angeles Times:

Six Japanese semiconductor firms “dumped” memory chips in the U.S. market in violation of tariff laws, the Commerce Department ruled Tuesday in a preliminary decision.

The U.S. semiconductor industry has been battered by plummeting prices for more than a year, a phenomenon that it blames on Japanese pricing tactics as well as a worldwide slump in demand. A trade group claims that the slump has cost 54,000 jobs this year.

The case involves a type of semiconductor called a 64K DRAM, (for dynamic random access memory). It can store about 64,000 pieces of information and is the most common type of chip in computer memories.

Prices for the 64K product plummeted to as low as 35 cents apiece from $3.50 within 18 months, with disastrous financial consequences for some U.S. firms.

To provide a frame-reference, an inexpensive 256GB memory stick currently retails for about $10 at Walmart.

There are one million "KB" in one "GB" so the 256GB device is 4 million times larger than the 64KB chip.

Put another way, the 64KB capacity is analogous to a two-seater outhouse while the 256GB device is a city of 8 million New York City. I will avoid the temptation to compare the quality of the contents in either case. My readers are better than that.

What does four-million times more capacity and faster access "buy" the consumer?

In all fairness, it buys you less power consumption and faster access times because the discretes on the device are smaller.

It buys you more space to put "code".

Increased "code" means that the systems the chips are built into have the capability of being coded to recognize and adapt to rapidly changing events or novel-but-not-unique conditions.

Example: There were two early contenders for gasoline engine control algorithms.

One example looked at a gasoline engine as an air pump. It measured the absolute pressure in the intake manifold between the throttle-plate and the intake valves. It measured the engine RPM. The algorithm used those two bits of information to "look-up" the amount of oxygen passing through the engine and adjusted the injector's pulse-width to modulate the amount of gasoline to match the available oxygen. The system used an interpolation scheme to guess values between the ones in the look-up table. The algorithm used data from the O2 sensor that monitored the exhaust gas chemistry to slowly update the look-up table(s) to comprehend clogging of the catalytic converter, wallowing out of cylinder walls and other aging-related phenomena.

It was a simple, robust approach that was not computationally intensive. In my humble, out-dated opinion, this system worked spectacularly well in 99.9% of the situations drivers encountered.

The other system used an insulated post covered with a heated foil film and thermometer in the intake stream to measure the instantaneous velocity/temp/density of the incoming air-flow. The O2 sensor data was used to rapidly update the look-up table.

The advantage of this system is that you could run out of standard gasoline fuel in Poontang, Minnesota and after you refilled with E-85 the system would rapidly recognize the lower quality fuel and make the necessary adjustments in terms of the amount of fuel to inject (assuming you could get the vehicle to start). It should be obvious that the second approach is more computationally intensive.

And once you, the person responsible for programming the engine control system, have virtually limitless computational capability, you can do things like monitor the spark/ignition system on a cylinder-by-cylinder basis. If the system recognizes that cylinder Number 3 is behaving abnormally (say a squirrel chewed the insulation off of the spark-plug wire) then it can shut off fuel to that cylinder to save the catalytic converter and reduce the risk of emitting excessive pollutants.

"Limitless" refers to the fact that there is more room for "code" than you have competent coders to fill that space and more speed and memory to run said code than that code can demand.

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Vignettes offered for entertainment purposes

We were with Mom on Monday. She vastly prefers Judge Judy to any of the soap operas that air at 12:30. Judge Judy reruns from 2012-2015 run in that time-slot.

One of the cases Judge Judy officiated over involved two men who were working out in a gym. One of the men was doing squats with 210 pounds and he lost control of the weight. It dropped down from shoulder height, rolled across the gym and pinned the other man's legs against a stack of weights on a Nautilus machine.

Judge Judy ruled in favor of the man who was injured to a tune of $2600 dollars.

The man who was ruled against pointed out that the gym's paperwork had members sign a waiver because working out with weights is inherently risky and members had to accept responsibility for being aware.

The question that was NOT asked was...was the man who was injured wearing ear-buds?

Dropping 210 pounds of dumb-bells from five-feet makes a big noise.

If the man who was injured was wearing ear-buds then had abrogated his responsibility to maintain situational awareness and was at least partially culpable.

Earbuds and Hand-free-everything were a "young-person" thing in 2010. Judge Judy never considered the possibility because it was foreign to her experience.

Automobile seats

Multiple models and makes of driver's side, automobile seats were recalled in the mid-1980s because they suddenly started collapsing backwards.

In extreme cases, vehicles that were rear-ended (collision) ejected the driver through the rear window. Some of the drivers were even wearing their seat-belt. The seat tipped backwards and the driver shot backwards as if by a cannon.

How could multiple corporations with very professional engineering and testing facilities all have this same problem?

The load environment changed.


Major fast-food restaurants realized that drive-through windows cost less-per-diner and more than half of their sales volume was delivered through the window.

Franchisees were told to install drive-through windows or lose their franchise.

Before 1984, a few drivers paid tolls. Typically they kept coins in the ashtray and fished out a couple of quarters at each toll booth and pitched them into the basket.

The new-fangled drive-through windows at fast food emporiums were totally different. Drivers had to pull out their wallets. They braced their feet against the firewall, planted their shoulder-blades against the top of the vertical seat bun and ARCHED their body to lift their butt out of the seat so they could fish out their wallets. Very high, rearward loads were being input into the seats high on the rear seat bun. Visualize a claw hammer pulling out a nail.

The bolts that held the front of the seat tracks were fatiguing and ripping out of the body sheetmetal.

A load condition that simply never happened in 1979 was now happening between once-a-week to twice-a-day for the majority of Americans and the change happened in less than five years. Some of those American weighed 300 pounds.

A small thing, drive-through windows. But it changed how automobile seats were attached to the body in very fundamental ways.

Cost death spiral

There was a large factory in an old, legacy city. The city taxed the factory at a very high rate so voters did not have to pay high taxes.

Approximately 50% of the factory was dedicated to making a low-volume, boutique sports-car. Approximately 35% of the factory floor-space was dedicated to making rear axles for a model with a volume of 500,000 per year. The rest of the factory was dedicated to making bumpers.

In accordance with time-honored, Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, the overhead (office space, security, taxes, engineers, secretaries, depreciation) were allocated on the basis of time-card hours. Since the boutique sports-car employed 80% of the hourly employees it was saddled with the vast majority of the fixed costs.

Note that "management", that is salaried employees, do not have time-cards. They are overhead.

The boutique sports-car was vastly more popular than expected. The firm sold three-times as many vehicles in the first year as had been forecast. Sales eroded rapidly after that, partially because the product was not very refined in its first couple of years. Production of the boutique sports-car was suspended after five years of production.

Because of rapid evolution in robots, the robots used to make the sports-car were not salable. They were old-tech. The firm decided to turn off the lights, mothball the 50% of the plant that made the sports-car and to continue to make axles and bumpers. The robots were scrapped-in-place and depreciated for tax reasons. Depreciation is a cost. That cost was rolled into the facility depreciation-and-maintenance costs.

Since the number of hourly employees, and 80% of the time-card hours disappeared, the bean-counters increased the overhead per time-card hour by a factor of five even though the axle and bumper operation did not consume a single additional square-foot of factory floor-space.

The over-head per time-card hour now dwarfed the employees wages and the cost of his benefits.

The industrial engineers were very busy. Automation projects that had not been economically viable when the axle employees (for instance) were only carrying 15% of the costs of the facility were suddenly justified when the axle employee's "costs" inflated to comprehend that they were now carrying 80% of the factory's costs.

Automation increases fixed costs. There is more equipment to depreciate. Automation reduces labor. There were fewer man-hours to amortize the increased costs against. The bean-counters made the necessary adjustments by increasing the additional costs-per-time-card-hour.

The increased toll justified even more automation.

The bean-counters were stunned to learn that the bumpers could be purchased for less than it cost, by their reckoning, to make them. The bumper operation was phased out.

The axle operation struggled along for a couple more years before it too was phased out.

The city refused to reduce the building assessment and property taxes from what it was when 3000 hourly employees worked in the building. Their thinking was that the firm had screwed them by outsourcing the work and depriving the city of the income taxes they received from the 3000 employees, many of whom did not live in the city.

The firm leveled the building.

The city still refused to lower property taxes.

The firm took them to court and eventually received some tax relief.


If you peel away the extraneous details of the story, you realize that the root of the problem is the crude way that "overhead" or "fixed costs" were handled. It made sense to assign it by time-card hours back in 1925 when GAAP was developed because most of the cost was direct labor and fixed costs were a thin sprinkle on top. 

Tools were cheap and rudimentary. Tasks were simple and repetitive so few supervisors were needed. Workers were legion. Buildings were dark and heated by waste heat from the steam engine that powered the assembly line or overhead shafts.

By the 1980s overhead was typically twice the cost-per-piece as direct labor and the labor was not always in the same building as the fixed costs. For example, in a modern automobile factory, a Paint Shop will cost a half-billion dollars due to emissions requirements and will employ about fifty employees per shift because most of the processes are automated. People still hand wipe and inspect the vehicles before the process. They apply sealer to the joints. They inspect and repair vehicles before shipping to Final Assembly.

On the other hand, the Final Assembly operations employs more than five-hundred per shift and the Shop cost less than $100 million to setup. That is, 20% of the cost of the Paint Shop and ten-times as many employees.

The distortions caused by GAAP's primitive understanding of costs resulted in bean-counters making multiple, sub-optimal decisions in adding automation and then killing potentially viable enterprises. If you take several steps backwards, you can see something similar in the First World countries with decreasing numbers of productive employees and ever-increasing numbers of drones.

The number of productive employees decreases due to ever-increasing administrative and regulatory burdens. Operations are outsourced. The number of drones increase.