Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Activities of Daily Living

 I sent my doctor an email asking if Ibuprofen was still forbidden.

Osteopaths seem divided regarding the effect that Non-Steroidal-Anti-Inflammatory-Drugs have on bone healing. Some research finds no impact. Other research suggests that it inhibits bones growing back together.

My doctor leans toward the conservative. If it might slow healing, use something else like Tylenol. Inflammation is not necessarily a bad thing. Inflammation is a sign that an injury is calling for more blood flow and more of the body's resources. Why would you want to stop that as long as the swelling was modest and the pain controlled?

Then my doctor gently suggested that the picture in their head regarding my activity level was to restrict myself to the necessities of "activities of daily life".

  • Dress myself.
  • Feed myself.
  • Toilet myself.
  • Park myself in bed at night.

A bitter, bitter pill to swallow. I am currently scratching around trying to find some exercises that do not involve my lower, left leg because I will go nuts if I am not doing something. Maybe there is some way to fiddle with a rowing machine so the left leg just goes along for the ride. I don't know. Suggestions will be appreciated.

I did go for a walk this morning. It was before the doctor phoned me and told me to cool my jets. I went twice as far as last week and I went 30% faster. My leg hurt less at the end of the walk than it did at the beginning.

A curious thing about my walking cast, which is more of a boot with velcro and air bladders than it is a cast, is that my toes hang off the front of the sole and cannot touch the ground. I was baffled that I needed to hang on to the walker for balance until I realized the obvious. Our toes, especially the big-toe, are important for balance.

My next doctor's appointment is near the end of June.

Tomatoes into the ground

Hey ho, hey ho. Its off to work we go!

I need to get water to this sometime today.

Second trip. These did not hold together in a rootball like the first batch so I got to drag hose and water them immediately after planting.
I was extremely motivated to get some points on the board even if it was just a field-goal. The orchard grass is on the verge of starting to pollinate and that causes me problems. Once it starts, it continues for about five days.

And then I got to move the cattle tank back to where I could reach it with the hose and refill it. Better to wrestle with the 30 gallon "tank" than to chase cows.

The new baby

Mrs ERJ informs me that at three days of age the new addition definitely has our daughter's personality.

Southern Belle is a make-lists, take-names, get-stuff-done kind of gal. Quicksilver (the handle I will use for the new addition) has already demonstrated that there are certain schedules that will NOT be violated. Like the feeding schedule.

Fortunately, Handsome Hombre is thrilled by the miracle of his new daughter and has been basking in the praise showered on him for making (with a little help from Southern Belle and God) such a beautiful child. Handsome Hombre is an easy-going guy and SB and HH make a great team.

Smoke alarms

I have a smoke alarm chirping in the basement and it was suggested that my going up-and-down stairs is not a good idea.

I have an app on my phone that informs me of the spectral content of ambient noise. I can state with a relatively high degree of confidence that the primary component of the chirping is 5100 Hz. I am surprised it is that high. I was under the impression that men lose the ability to hear in the higher registers as we age.

Belladonna is expected home tomorrow afternoon.

Kubota impressed me

In years past, Kubota and his buddies would spend Memorial Day weekend at Silver Lake.

Silver Lake is a state park that is next to Lake Michigan and is noted for its sand-dunes and for the fact that it is one place where off-road vehicles are allowed to tear them up.

Kubota and his buddies would drive like maniacs and see how many thousands of dollars they could trash on their vehicles. Few parts were safe. U-joints, Pitman arms, alternators, throttle-spools...the fine, powdery sand got everywhere.

Beer may also have been involved.

This year he looked at his finances before the weekend and decided to NOT go to Silver Lake. Not only that, but he found a gig house-sitting. Just the fact that he looked at his finances before doing something that either involved hotel bills or many hundreds of miles of driving is HUGE.

I think he is growing up.

Industrial Fiction: Random Parts

John Snodgrass had let his refrigerator run out of the makings for sandwiches and other lunch type foods.

Consequently, he swung by a big-box store that had a grocery department close to one of the doors.

Pulling into the parking lot, he saw a girl standing forlornly next to her car with the hood up. She was holding a pair of jumper cables. As he slowed down, she gave a shrug as if asking “What are you going to do?”

She was a good looking girl and it should only take a second to give her car a jump.

Snodgrass did what any red-blooded man would do. He pulled his truck in so the vehicles were pointed nose-to-nose.

“You don’t have to get out” she yelled. “I can handle this.”

She probably could but Snodgrass had just come off a 14 hour day and he just wanted to get his stuff and go home. The other factor was that she was pretty and young and only a clod would stay in his vehicle and not try to help out any way he could.

“No worries” Snodgrass said, hopping out.

She was wearing a long-sleeved shirt that Snodgrass vaguely thought of as “Cow-girl style” and a pair of jeans that were snug enough to reveal her form but neither ripped nor skin-tight.

The first try at a jump was not successful.

Snodgrass wiggled the connections and deduced that the positive terminal of the girl’s battery post was loose. Snodgrass had a set of wrenches and he addressed the problem, being careful to not strip out the soft lead of the battery.

The second try was successful.

“Thanks” the girl said.

“I would love to stay and chat” the girl said “but I have to hurry so I won’t be late for class”

“What are you taking?” Snodgrass asked. And then he kicked himself for asking such an inane question.

“Physics” she replied. Snodgrass was impressed in spite of himself.

“Come here often?” Snodgrass asked.

“I work here” she replied. “My name is Abigail but I really gotta run.”

Abigail pitched the jumper cables into the trunk of her car, slammed the hood. Jumping in behind the steering wheel she quickly drove off.

Snodgrass never thought of himself as a player but he was usually much smoother and self-possessed around women than he had been around Abigail. At least she shared her name and the fact that she worked here.

Snodgrass picked up deli meat and bread and bananas and granola bars and yogurt and squeeze-packs of applesauce. He had been eating like a horse since he started working the line and didn’t seem to be able to keep weight on.

The next morning’s standup meeting followed the usual routine. Paula shared that he was going to be working in a station called “random parts”.

As he worked he learned that the station had a bad reputation with both the operators and management.

Operators hated it because it was the station that installed parts that didn’t seem to belong any particular place. So the industrial Engineers had swept those parts into a pile and assigned them to that particular station. That meant that the station was “busy” with many, many parts; none of which took very long to install but the correct part had to be selected from the bins. And that was the rub. Each of the four products the plant manufactured had hinges that looked almost identical and had gas-struts that looked almost identical and had SD cards that did look identical.

The problem was exacerbated by the fact that the “pick face” or the racks that held the parts spanned over 30 feet of the line. Every job required that the operator pick the hinges, the gas-strut, the SD card and the other parts by walking the entire 30 feet and then dashing to where the product was on the assembly line and installing them before the product entered the next station.

Management hated the station because it had a miserable Process Failure Modes and Effects score. That is, it spewed defects at a steady rate. Wrong hinges caused cross-threaded screws. Wrong gas-struts didn’t stay attached to the ball-studs. Installing a wrong SD card meant that the “handshake” with all of the other discretes was corrupted and the unit had to be pulled off-line and a thirty minute purge and re-download initiated.

As bad as that was, there was some evidence from the field that some of the product COULD get out with the wrong SD cards and function, sort of, for a while before totally locking up. That was a totally intolerable situation for people who considered the units to be mission-critical equipment.

Engineering had already informed the Plant that engineering solutions were off-the-table due to the cost of revalidate any changes. 

In the station Snodgrass found the simplest of systems for designating parts: Colored stickers. The order of the parts bins seemed entirely random. Sometimes the parts were ordered A-B-C-D but most often it was a random mix left-to-right.

The operators brought some order to the system by putting colored stickers in front of the bins with Red stickers for the oldest model, Yellow (which had faded to white) for the second model, Green for the third model and Blue for the newest model.

Next Installment

Monday, May 30, 2022

Memorial Day, 2022

Today we honor the Soldiers, Marines, Sailors, Airmen and Coasties who gave their lives while honorable serving our country.

I also want to recognize EVERY person who served or is serving in the military. But for the grace of God, any one of you could have been killed while serving. That is a burden many carry. "Why was Billie a half-step ahead of me when we went into that room in Kandahar?"

And at the risk of pissing off the military, I also want to recognize the cops and fire-fighters who served and are serving honorably. Too many of them also fall to suicide, addictions and cancer (Fire-fighters have a rate of cancer deaths that is three-times that of the general population).

A day of rest


I saw this vehicle as I was walking across the parking lot at a local farm-store
I even bumped into the fellow who owned the vehicle. That is one of the joys of moving at a snail's pace.

We chatted a little while. He gave me his card.

I asked him if he was swamped with work.

"I am working steady but can always use more work" he replied.

I asked him what kind of work he liked best. He seemed to be at a loss to answer the question. I helped him along by mentioning some gunsmiths seemed to enjoy building "race guns" or high-tech guns or African guns with $2000, figured wooden stocks.

His reply was "I like working on everything. The gun I have on my bench right now is a break-open shotgun that is rusted shut. The guy who brought it to me wants it restored to working order."

"A lot of guns out there that the owner might disassembled to clean and couldn't get it put back together or maybe a little spring went flying. Sometimes it is a safety that won't stay in detent. I just get joy out of taking paperweights and returning them to working tools" Mike said.

I haven't seen any of his work but he has been "schooling
" for 12 years and went to gunsmithing about three years ago after his wife passed on. The work helped him focus and pulled him out of his funk.

Much interest in motor vehicle accidents in the comments

Motor vehicle deaths per 100,000 males in the United States 1999-2020, by age and "urbanization"

One of the options in extracting the data is to pull it out based on how urbanized the environment. I suspect the data is confounded and some of the data is where the accident occurred and maybe other data is the location of the hospital where the victim was pronounced dead.

If you look at age 30 (on the X-axis), from lesser-to-greater death-rate the degree of urbanization is in the order:

  • Large Central Metro
  • Large Fringe Metro
  • Medium Metro
  • Small Metro
  • Micro Metro (Nonmetro)
  • Non-core (Nonmetro)

No huge surprises but something unusual does happen from ages 19-to-22, inclusive (circled in red). Traces for Large Fringe Metro, Medium Metro and Small Metro which have robust separation at every other age are stepping on each other in that four year span.

Large Central Metro is not in the mix. Economics (cost of insurance, cost to park the vehicle) probably keep many inner city kids out of the driver's seat.

But the next three levels of urbanization are right on top of each other.

That suggests that some common cultural "thing" is transcends the economics and mean-distances of driving. Maybe it is a legacy of the Fast-and-Furious and Smokey and the Bandit franchises. Maybe it is the heady feeling of being a newly-minted adult as yet unfettered by family or responsibilities.

Driving stoned

California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Oregon and Washington states all legalized recreational marijuana back in the 'teens. The chart shown above is the combined mortality rate (per 100,000) of men ages 15-through-25 from those states due to motor-vehicle accidents from those states.

The only thing that is quirky about this chart is that "zero" on the X-axis is the year recreational marijuana was legalized. -1 is the year before and 1 is the year after and so on.

If I were to draw two conclusions they would be that naive populations see a 10% jump (from-18-to-20%) in mortality rates when recreational weed is legalized.

The second conclusion is that the advertising campaigns of the Cannabis industry to discourage driving while under the influence are effective but take a few years to reach all consumers.

Why didn't I use more states? Because everything got weird in 2020 due to Covid and those were the large states that made the change soon enough that I could grab 3 years past the change and not get data polluted that was polluted by Covid. 

Taking requests

If you want to have me pull data for anything special (Alaska and Montana or Texas) I will probably do it. Just ask for what you want in the comments section. Please remember that data gets noisier as it is sliced into thinner and thinner sections.

A day of rest

I made it to church today. I was deeply touched by the privilege of being able to spend time with fellow worshipers.

As I was walking into church one of Mrs ERJ's friends said "Joe...your backside is showing. May I have your permission to pull your shirt down?"

I was wearing a fanny pack and the shirt had ridden up and I had not noticed it was breezy back there.

"Please, Angelica. Mrs ERJ would be mortified to have me walking in public looking like a hobo."

I think it made Miss Angelica's day to save Mrs ERJ from embarrassment.

I did not get the garden planted. Maybe tomorrow.

I am glad Mrs ERJ is in Miami

Apparently things are hopping down there and it has been a blessing for Southern Belle to have one more able-bodied adult on-deck.

Carrying water

Carrying any significant quantity of water when using a walker is an exercise in frustration. Tomorrow I will try strapping a couple of gallon milk jugs together and throwing them over one of the bars of the walker saddle-bag style.

A promising hypothesis

My younger sister is both a nurse (Yeah!) and had one of her knees replaced.

The surgeon told her that it is almost impossible to insert the new parts without cutting a little bit of the sheathing that stabilizes the knee and it might take up to six months for the other fibers in the sheathing to pick-up the slack.

My sister told me that the tent-stake that was installed in my tibia undoubtedly took the same path as her new knee.

That would explain the pain below my knee-cap when attempting to lift my leg when it is horizontal or to straighten my knee under the same circumstances.

The other bit of evidence that supports that hypothesis is the first time I lift it the pain is sharp but the next 19 lifts are virtually pain free. It is as if my brain has sorted out which nerve impulses to fire to avoid contracting damaged muscles.

Six months is a heck of a long time but I think it could be much shorter than that if I work on my leg-lifts and knee-bends when lying on my bed. It is a matter of training my brain and strengthening the other muscle fibers in the compromised sheaths of muscle.

Sunday, May 29, 2022


Liberal tears

 A drinking story

Mabel who was a bar-lass at the neighborhood pub called to tell us that Grandpa had slipped his collar and had been drinking at the bar before leaving alone.

An hour later we heard the front doorbell and went to open the door. Grandpa was leaning against the door and fell into the room when we opened it. The fronts of his trousers were ripped and bloody and so were the palms of his hands.

"I am so drunk" he declared "that I cannot even stand. I cannot remember the last time I was this drunk"

"Mabel called us" I informed Grandpa.

"She said you forgot your wheelchair again."

Oak trees as pollen sources for insects

This is a Bur Oak (Q. macrocarpa) that is one of the corky-barked, fire-resisting clones. This clone leafs out late in the season.

It was getting a lot of attention from various insects that (I assume) were collecting pollen and maybe nectar. I never saw that before.

I am very interested in plants that produce nectar between May 10 and June 10 because that is when many fruit pests are active. Readily available nectar increases the lifespan of parasitoid wasps by a factor of three so each wasp has the potential to lay eggs on three times as many pests. Over the years, increased reproductive success of parasitoid wasps jacks up their population.

A walk around the orchard

Kubota declined to mow the orchard with a push mower. He said the grass was as high as his head.

I decided that I needed to take a look and to strip shoots from below grafts I made back in April.

Claribel quince

For the record, the seedheads of the grass were between knee and waist high.

Most of my collection of quince varieties blossomed so I might get to sample some quince this fall.

I recently read an article discussing disease resistance of quince in humid climates and the only variety I have that fared well is Ekmek. One that I do not have, Limon, fared very well.

Reference: Page 295 for a table of quince variety disease resistance (less fireblight)

Two of my trees died over the winter. I failed at rodent damage the winter before and they limped through the summer before crashing-and-burning this past winter.

Duramax diesel

Like a rabbit slinking out from beneath the brush-pile after it sees the shadow of the hawk sail away, I bided my time until the sound of the Duramax went down the driveway and thence down the road.

I mixed up some glyphosate spray and sprayed the weeds where I want to plant the tomato plants. I sprayed about 1200 square-feet. I expect Belladonna to be back tomorrow evening and will ask her to drive some stakes 48" from the east row of potatoes and stretch a string to give me a guide for popping the tomatoes in.

Stupice, which is a shorter variety will go next to the potatoes.

Sweet Aperitif and Principe Borghese are taller varieties and will be the row east of the Stupice. The reason for doing it that way is to minimize the shade thrown on the potatoes.

I know some people frown on the use of synthetic pesticides but I plead special circumstances. I frown on the possibility of Eaton Rapids Joe and the ever-lovely Mrs ERJ being hungry. I am 99.5% sure that my left knee will not be able to tolerate the forward-yanking of the rototiller. Nor is it in good enough shape to wheel truck-loads of shredded brush from the drive to the garden.

Yes, I have had a surprising number of offers from help, some from nearby states. But I can be a stubborn SOB. The other thing is this gives me one more opportunity to get my kids engaged in learning a little bit more about food production. 

Mrs ERJ is fully aware of the deficiencies in my character. I have strict orders to text her at 8:00 AM and 8:00 PM so she knows I am still kicking.

Organic methods of potato beetle control

Colorado Potato Beetles (Leptinotarsa decemlineata) are difficult to control organically/biologically.

There are strains of a bacteria that is reputed to kill beetles and grubs called Bacillus thuringiensis ssp tenebrionis, morisoni, japonensis and san diego. The difficulty is not finding B.t. based products but in finding one with the sub-species that primarily attacks beetles.

One source, pricey!

All is not lost. research suggests that the most common strain of B.t. ssp kurstaki will impair beetles and works synergistically with a fungus called Metarhizium robertsii

Most folks don't really look at bugs, especially dead ones.

But if you ever saw a dead bug covered by clumpy, green "cauliflower" then you saw Metarhizium robertsii. I will be on the look-out for these dead bugs with the plan of culturing them on black soldier fly larvae, pureeing and spraying on my CPBs.

One of the great things about biological controls is that they throw a long shadow after you build up their populations. They might not be totally self-sustaining at levels high enough to provide economic control but they can knock the population back some.

Older drivers

In God we trust. Everybody else must bring data. Data from CDC Wonder data retrieval tool.
I expected a drop-off in the mid-60s as many people no longer have to commute to work on a daily basis.

I did not expect the death-rate per year (not per mile!) to climb starting at age 65. Nor did I expect the twenties to be so uniformly bad. Yes, the early 20s but things don't settle down until about age 30.

The declining death-rate in the 20s is due to increasing risk-aversion and improved judgement. The increasing death-rate starting in the late 60s is probably due to both declining driving skills and increasing fragility of health.

Again, let me reiterate, this data is not deaths-per-mile data nor is it deaths-per-drivers. This data is death-rate as calculated against the total population of people in that age group.

Male-female breakdown. Males in red. Females in blue. Y axis is deaths due to motor vehicle accidents per 100k. The average male drives about 17k miles per year and the average female drives 11k. Average mileage drops about 30% after retirement. Source Kelly Blue Book

Saturday, May 28, 2022



Mrs ERJ has many super-powers. Foremost among them the ability to be fully invested in the person she is with.

We were talking at 9:05 yesterday morning when she said, "Gotta run. I am getting a call" and then she went dark. I got a text at 8:57 PM "Baby is here. Both mother and baby are beautiful".

Amen, amen, I say to you, you will weep and mourn, while the world rejoices; you will grieve, but your grief will become joy.

When a woman is in labor, she is in anguish because her hour has arrived; but when she has given birth to a child, she no longer remembers the pain because of her joy that a child has been born into the world.

So you also are now in anguish. But I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you.  John 16:20-22

As long as we are on the topic of super-powers 

Maybe we need more "toxic masculinity", not less

2800 feet yesterday

The branch I intended to graft to broke off when I pulled it closer to do the grafting. I grafted two other branches that were lower. I like to graft above where deer are likely to browse but sometimes I have to make exceptions.
 400 feet to graft a persimmon. This was significantly easier than the mulberries the day before. For one thing, I did not need to traverse the ruts left by the tractor when moving bales of hay across muddy ground nor did I have soft garden soil to deal with. Also, nobody drove up the driveway with a Duramax while I was grafting.

800 feet round-trip from vehicle to visit mom and feed her lunch and back to vehicle. I was on my feet for about 90 minute of the two hour visit.

1600 feet to visit Walmart and buy a tick- collar for Zeus.

The most difficult part of the entire adventure was getting back into the vehicle in the Walmart parking lot. There was a parking place close to the door but the person who parked next to it crowded the line. So I also crowded the line. I was next to the cart corral so I wasn't too worried about pissing off any other drivers. What I did not anticipate was the difficulty of snaking my walking cast back up into the vehicle when I was only able to partially open the door.

Note to self: Don't do that again.

I got home and took a three hour nap.

Signal Intel

A picture of my primary defense weapon
OldNFO and Lawdog briefly touched on Signal-Intel on their most recent pod-cast.

Signal or electronic intelligence has strengths and it has weaknesses. From the standpoint of the people collecting the intelligence its strengths are that it can be done remotely with little physical risk and it is cheap, cheap, cheap.

The downsides from the standpoint of the people collecting information is that it is completely blind to people who do not participate on the internet and whose friends do not participate on the internet. It is also vulnerable to filter-clogging, that is, being overwhelmed with key-word hits and images that are decoys (chaff). Enough hits trigger a human look-see and humans are not cheap, not cheap, not cheap.

Another weakness of automated signal intelligence is that it is blind to context, sarcasm, body language and tone. Human Resources types tell us that less than 20% of the information in face-to-face communication is captured by a transcript.

Given the likelihood of "Red Flag Laws" I expect my blog will get noticed. I hate to disappoint visitors.

Phenology report

Peak Black Locust bloom here.

I had the privilege of traveling by automobile from Denver, CO to Phoenix, AZ in late May of 1985. Iris and Black Locust were blooming in Michigan. Iris and Black Locust were blooming in St. Johns, Arizona, elevation 5680 feet and 34.5 degrees North vs our 900 feet elevation and 42.5 degrees North

Administrative note: Blogging will be a little bit lighter than usual for these last few days of May.

Friday, May 27, 2022

Shrinking your "kit"

How many of us have taken a walk in a park ten miles outside an urban area and seen other hikers fearfully clutching their water bottles? More to the point, they are only fifty yards from the trail-head and they appear to be "Dudes".

I know it sounds like I am slagging on them, but they just don't know any better. Likely, they haven't spent much time outdoors and have little idea of how much distress their bodies can endure under the conditions of 80 degrees F and modest activity levels.

That is one of the beauties of being active. With enough activity, we learn to auto-calibrate. How much water for modest activity like walking at 80F? For me about a half-liter (16.9 oz) an hour will do and 0.7 liters (24 oz) is living high-on-the-hog.

Another example of the amazing, shrinking kit involves hunting with a muzzle-loader.

Front-stuffers attract kit like picnics attract ants and flies. As a young man in my 40s, I carried a small fishing tackle box out to the deer stand filled with 4 ounces of 777, assorted projectiles, a hundred primers, ball-starters..... You get the picture.

By the end of the season I would go out with my smoke-pole, five primers, a single speed-loader and a ball-starter. The ramrod rode on the weapon. I was lighter on my feet and moved more quietly.

The most I ever shot my muzzle-loader was twice in one trip. I had a buck tag and a doe tag and I filled both of them in one morning.

21 minute run-time

This guy is a hard-core backpacker. He claims to have hiked about 10,000 miles in his life. Much of what he says will contradict deeply held beliefs (One-is-none, and two-is-one). I still think he is worth listening to.

Three take-aways for me were "Confront your fears", "Large see-through zippable plastic bags are your friend" and "Multi-use items are preferable to single-purpose items"

Confront your fears

Take small "risks" to stretch your comfort zone. Like the folks clutching a Nalgene in each hand. Maybe drink your fill before setting off on that one-hour hike and only carry ONE Nalgene.

If you are out hiking maybe you consider taking that Buckmark instead of the Glock 10mm. Most things you will need to shoot will never know the difference...feral dogs, porcupines, sneks and muggers. If stoked-up crack-fiends or mama bears are on the menu then you might need to up-gun but other than that do you need the extra weight?

Large, see-through, zippable plastic bags

Every container adds weight. The lightest container is a plastic bag. Clear containers allow you to see what is inside without opening so you can stash more gear in each container and still be efficient when you need to find it. A clear bag allows you to manipulate items (spread them around) without having to open it.

Multi-use items

A single, long sleeve shirt with buttons is insect protection and sun protection and can keep you warm when it is cold and can open up when you are hot.

Special purpose items keep sporting goods stores in business and factories running. In most cases they are not absolutely necessary "in the bush". Those sour-doughs in the 1890s made do with primitive, heavy kit and still were able to walk to the Klondike.

Wring it out

The pivotal message is that shrinking your kit is not a mental exercise.

You have to wring it out in the field.

Industrial Fiction: Repair float

The try-out started with very little fan-fare.

The first set of cubbies were rolled to the line at 9:16 AM. Ganzer had already gone through them. He had set up an overhead, point light source to highlight any defects.

He did not find any. He was working ahead to get a sense of how the tryout might run.

It took the operators a little bit of getting used to to figure out the optimum place to stand when pulling the panels. Operators never like changes. It takes them out of autopilot.

The alarms were never totally consistent and seemed to come in streaks so nobody got excited when twenty, and then thirty minutes went by without an alarm.

Then one hour, then a second hour.

And then the streak ended. Three panels in quick succession were scarred. The operator went down to the station to sign the bad-boy sheet and the Quality inspector pointed out where the defects were. Ganzer was also there. He had missed the defects and wanted to sharpen his game.

Walking back to the station, the operator confided to Ganzer “I think I nicked the panels with my ring”. The panels that had been scarred were ones that had been installed “backwards”. The operator put on a pair of gloves to cover her rings and she generated no more defects.

Snodgrass stayed four hours into second shift. The operators on second shift were just as unhappy with the new, more complicated way of pulling the skins as the first shift had been.

By the end of the shift, the operators had the hang of the optimal place to stand when pulling the skins. They still were not happy about having to pay attention to the skins every time they walked up to the rack but they were very happy to not get called down to the quality station and having to answer alarms.

One sunny day does not make it summertime. Two good shifts proves nothing. The proof of the pudding would be whether Hyperopia could maintain the quality they were currently shipping.

Nobody was happier than the Plant Manager. The end of the quarter was in three weeks. If he burned unlimited repair over-time, he could have the “repair float” down to normal levels. The units did not register as revenue until after they were loaded off the shipping dock and into the back of a truck.

He would gladly take a beating for exceeding guidelines on repair over-time as long as he could ship the volume he was expected to.

Product in the repair float is money left on the table.

Next Installment

Thursday, May 26, 2022


"What in tarnation do you think you are doing?!?" Kubota bellowed.*

In Mrs ERJ's absence Kubota appointed himself my keeper.

I knew I was in trouble when I heard the Duramax come up the driveway, but I can only sprint just so fast with the walker. Add that to the 100 feet of sod, the soft dirt of the garden and the snarled mess of 14 gauge wire between me and safety, I knew I would just have to take my ass-chewing like a man.

"I am grafting" I told him.

It did nothing to calm him down.

The good news

The first mulberry I was going to graft

Good looking tree, right? Unfortunately you are looking at the hazelnut behind the dead mulberry.

Blurb Silk Hope mulberries
 I could not see that it was dead from the house. Oh well, I had three Silk Hope scion that I wanted to get grafted today. (thanks Lucky in Kentucky).

Mulberry wood is soft and easy to work. The bark can be filled with latex and the Genus demands high temperatures to knit together, but I have lots of heat to work with this late in May.

The potato patch. The soil is too wet to hoe.

Well, I just happened to know that I had several mulberry seedlings growing in the asparagus patch on the other side of the potato patch. Onward, ho!

Not my best work but not my worst.

I opted to use black, EPDM #33 rubber bands because they have lots of UV resistance. The stripped-off shoot you see is on the rootstock. The latent buds at the base of the shoot emit growth regulators that prevent the rootstock from aborting the area damaged by my surgery and promote healing.

I had pre-wrapped most of the scion in the house and followed up with wrapping the graft up to the pre-wrap with parafilm when I was in the field.

I was this close ===><=== to being done when Kubota pulled up the drive.


I told him I would behave. And then, under my breath, added "for the rest of today."

* Those might not have been his EXACT words.

Attribute versus Variable data

I was able to inspect this "T" bud (the green shoot) today and trim the host-branch back to just short of the growing bud. That is a task I was not able to do yesterday.


It is convenient to separate types of data into two very broad categories:

  • Attribute data
  • Variable data

Of the two, variable data is much more valuable for problem solving.

Attribute data

Attribute data is binary, yes/no information.

  • Pregnant/not pregnant
  • Pulse/no pulse
  • Edible/not edible
  • Minor/adult

Variable data

Variable data is continuous.

  • 3.14159/3.14160
  • 98.6F/101.5F
  • 2678fps/2702fps
  • 6574.0/6574.9

Good attitude

People continue to comment on my "good attitude". In part, it is due to my using variable data wherever possible.

So far, every day has given me a gift of things I could do that I was not able to do the day before. Sometimes it is small, maybe just another half-inch in how far I can swing a limb. Other days it is huge, like being able to put weight on my left leg.

Attribute data has its uses. It is fast and decisive. That makes attribute easy-to-use for triggers.

But in general, if you have a problem you are grappling with, tracking variable data is far more robust than using attribute data.

When does attribute data become variable data?

This is not a trivial question. Precision costs money and ever finer increments cost exponentially more. So how much precision is enough?

That is dictated by the problem. If I want to raise cattle for the market a scale that measures in 25 pound increments might be precise enough for me to evaluate different types of cattle feed. If I am going to be competing in long-range target shooting, I might need a scale capable of measuring to the 1/20th of a grain. That is a difference of 3,500,000 in precision.

Mathematicians to the rescue

Mathematicians tell us that data starts behaving more like variable data than attribute data when the precision is sufficient to separate the data into seven or more "bins".

And you thought Microsoft Excel used seven as the default number of bins for histograms because it looked nice. Nope. The 957 Math Ph.Ds who work for Microsoft agreed that seven was the right number for mathy reasons.

Minor/Adult, 6574.0/6574.9 days old

I don't comment on mass-shootings unless I feel I have something unique to add. Since I have no first-hand knowledge of any shootings to-date, I don't comment.

 Violent crime is a problem, not just mass casualty events. A disproportionate number of them involve young men who recently turned 18. A VERY large percentage of the time these individuals were already known to local law enforcement officials.

Unfortunately, the current way of looking at "young people" is attribute data. They are either considered minors or adults and there is a fire-wall between the two categories.

Many school districts in the United States separate students, based on age, into Pre-elementary, Elementary, Intermediate, Middle and High School. They do this based on expert's advice that these age groups have different cognitive abilities, different needs and present different educational challenges.

Throw in folks over age 80 and you have the seven categories that turn it into variable data.

But how would it be useful?

This is just a stake in the ground, a starting point for discussion, but what if any minor, Elementary or above who committed a homicide had that stay on his permanent record and followed him into adulthood?

What if any minor who was Intermediate or above who committed armed robbery or aggravated assault had that stay on his permanent record.

Or any minor who is Middle or above who Breaks-and-Enters has that stay with his record.

I am not married to this-crime-but-not-that sticking. I am married to a sliding scale that selectively softens the impenetrable firewall that allows people who are documented as being violent to walk unfettered among us.

"27 Things To Buy Now!!!"

You would think that a guy with all kinds of time on his hands would love to watch pod-casts. In my case, you would be wrong. I crave information density. I like the thrill of the hunt. I love searching for and finding dense nuggets of information.

So when I heard about a Doug Casey pod-cast where he was going to reveal "The 27 things to buy now" I went hunting for the list (in text form) on the internet.

I did not find it but I did find a list of "27 Things To Buy..." compiled by somebody who wants to tell you how we can all grow rich by selling glass-beads back-and-forth to each other. That is, retail arbitrage.

His list has value as thought-starters and for entertainment purposes.

His list is presented with blue highlighting. My comments (his suggestions after being bent by the prism in my head) follow in standard font.


Joe's comments: Avoid gem stones. A function of money is infinite divisibility. Gem stones' value falls off a cliff if they are cut into smaller stones. Very thin market for jewelry. You might get ten cents on the dollar if you are a distressed seller. One ounce silver rounds or wearable Southwestern style silver are better choices.

Fashion sunglasses

Wrap-around, tinted Z-87 rated safety glasses (that is, ballistic eye-wear). Buy dozens of pairs. You only have two eyes.

Shoes and socks

Boots, trail-running shoes, sandals and calf-length athletic socks with high percentage of synthetic fiber for toughness and quick drying.

Sleepwear and underwear

Basic laundry products

Lingerie and shapewear

Compression shorts. Chafing is debilitating.

Activewear, women's leggings, sports bras

Is there any other kind of wear? Good point on leggings, gaiters and wind-pants.

Add fanny-packs, pocketed aprons and other ways to free up hands while carrying around necessities. Double your productivity by never moving from one place to another without also carrying something that needs moving.


I recently talked with a woman who gave all of her elementary aged kids smartwatches because they can communicate during chaotic events like school shootings. This was before the mess in Texas. The smartwatches can also transmit GPS location in case the designated rally-point is out-of-reach.

My conversation with this lady was one of the high-points of my day. A very sharp lady (and her husband, too).

Video games

Load games on your smart-phone. Game systems are not portable nor as multi-use as a phone.

Phone accessories

Power-packs, phone chargers including solar ones, headphones.

USB charging dock

Surge protectors. Uninterupted Power Supply for critical equipment.

Security cameras

Security cameras and monitors. Can be inexpensive "back up cameras" like the ones that can be retrofit on vehicles.

Unmanned Flying Vehicles, aka Drones

Retailers love UFVs because they crash and break which ensures more sales. I want to say this is a good idea BUT I have reservations that these systems will be operative when you really need them.

Kid's toys

Lots of traditional, education toys/games like Scrabble, chess board and Legos.

Kid's formal wear

(Sound of ERJ puking) Camo for Kids.

Pet clothes and toys

Many working breeds of dogs have strong "ball drive" and are rewarded by letting them mouth a ball or their "Kong". Pet clothes (which can be as simple as a tube-sock with the toe cut off) are useful for small, short-haired dogs in cold climates. Coyotes need fiber in their diet, too.

Pet care supplies

Brushes, collars-and-harnesses, worming meds, powdered sulfur to make ointments...

Beauty products

Moisturizers or facial creams with SPF. Chap-stick. Toothbrushes.

Grooming and skin-care products (mens)

Nail clippers. Work gloves to protect against blisters. Bars of soap.

Candles and essential oils

Lavender, chamomile, orange, sandalwood, clary sage, lemon and jasmine might help with stress and help you sleep. It is a try-it-and-see proposition.

Fitness tracker

Bathroom scales or a leather punch to add more holes to your belt.

Indoor fitness equipment


Shaker bottles and personal blender

Dishes, bowls and cups that are easy to hand-wash and resistant to breaking.

Healthcare equipment

If not you, then somebody in your "family" with extra room to store a wheelchair, walker. Throw in an oxi-pulsometer, a couple of good thermometers and an array of bandages and disinfectants. Sippy-cups, urinals, a bed-pan, slippery-sheets, gait-belts can also be handy.

Halloween items

Specialty watches

Self-winding watch

Keto products


Vaporizers and E-cigarettes

Bulk tobacco and smoke emitting munitions for tactical maneuver

Industrial Fiction: Baseball Bats

Snodgrass ran through what he found out at the next morning’s meeting at the standup.

When he was done, Paula excused herself and made a phone call. “Hey, something came up” she said to the party on the other end. “I am going to miss our meeting.”

“Who was that?” Snodgrass asked. “Your next meeting?"

“Nope. That was the Plant Manager. I have a standing, 10 AM meeting with him. We are going to be busy.”

Looking over at Matthias, Paula informed him “You don’t get Snodgrass today.”

He nodded his understanding.

Then she made another call. Snodgrass could hear the fellow on the other end boom, “Hello Paula. Whatchya need?”

“Hey Barker. Got a few minutes? I need your expertise” Paula said.

It appeared that Barker had as much time as Paula needed.

Paula led Snodgrass to a mezzanine or suspended floor in the middle of the factory. Exiting the elevator, she wended her way through the crowded office toward one of the back corners.

Barker was a large man confined to a wheel-chair. His voice was a deep, rumbling bass.

“What is up?” he asked.

Paula looked over at Snodgrass and said “Tell him what you found out. Barker is in Material and is going to work some miracles for us.”

Snodgrass faithfully repeated what he found out.

Then Paula said, “I have funds for Engineering tryouts. I want to do a one-week tryout where the suppliers pack jelly-side-to-jelly side and we reverse the direction of the cubbies so the new product is sequenced last.

Barker winced. “Appearance side-to-appearance side is doable, but I am not sure about changing the direction the cubbies flow through the system.”

“Why is that?” Paula asked.

“We will have to pay premium shipping. Hyperopia Corp packs the soft-skins into a dense-pack cubby that cycles between their factory and Crowe Industries. At Crowe Industries they pack the three models they make, in sequence and add the ones from Hyperopia” Barker said.

“Why did we do it that way?” Snodgrass asked.

“Couple of reasons” Barker said. “Crowe is a very large supplier to the plant and they sequence a lot of things. We have trucks arriving from Crowe every half hour. The other reason is that we expected the new product to be about 20% of our volume and it wouldn’t make any sense to ship cubbies ¾ full from Crowe to Hyperopia. The new product being 50% of the volume caught everybody off balance.”

“Explain the premium shipping” Paula commanded.

“If we ship from Crowe to Hyperopia and then to the plant, we will have to hire special, expedited shipping trucks to move the cubbies” Barker said.

“How much money to do that for a week?” Paula asked.

Barker estimated the additional shipping cost.

“And to run the Engineering tryout?” Paula asked.

“We are going to get a lot of push-back from Crowe” Barker said. “I am really not sure what it will cost.”

Based on Barker’s estimate of the increased shipping cost Paula had enough budget to run the tryout for two weeks. The plant was running out of places to store defective product waiting for repair. If she spent the money well and got some relief on the problem, she was sure her try-out budget would be made-whole.

“Do it” Paula said.

Barker started working the phone as Paula and Snodgrass sat in his office.

First Barker called Hyperopia. “Hey George, Barker here. I gotta couple of questions for you.”

“Stevens (Paula’s last name) wants to run an engineering tryout where we have you do the sequencing of the skins. Do you have room for that?”

“No...not the way Crowe is doing it. They would sequence their parts into the racks that now get shipped to our line but then ship those racks to you and you would put your parts into the open cubbies. They don’t touch your parts. You don’t touch theirs.”

“Cool. Lots of room” Barker said.

“Another thing Stevens wants to do is have the appearance side of the skins for the odd job sequence numbers facing to the left and the even job sequence numbers to the right.”

“Yup, clips-to-clips and appearance-to-appearance. Still need to have them oriented up-down like they will be built so it probably makes sense to put bar-code labels on both ends” Barker said.

“How soon can you get back to me on when you can pull the trigger?” Barker asked.

Hanging up, Barker said his contact would have double bar-codes by 6 AM the next morning and they could support the other changes any time after that. Then, as an after-thought Barker commented, “It makes the timing better for them. Because they will be closer to the line they will have more time between when they get the build orders and when they have to pack them for shipment out of the plant.

It occurred to Snodgrass that Hyperopia’s gain was going to be Crowe’s loss.

The phone call with the representative from Crowe did not go so well.

“Hey, Bernie, I am putting you on speaker phone because I have an intern here in the office” Barker said. He pointed at Snodgrass to let him know that he was asking him to play along. He did not mention that Paula was also listening in.

“Hey, as you know we have been struggling with the skins. They are really killing us. Stevens wants to run an Engineering Tryout that she thinks will help.”

Bernie snorted. He didn’t seem to think too much of Engineering Tryouts. “I am telling ya, Hyperopia is a piece-of-shit supplier. You should have given us the business.”

Snodgrass shot a quick glance in Paula’s direction. It was water off a duck’s back.

“So what does she want us to do?” Bernie asked.

“She wants to ship empty cubbies to your factory, just like we do now. You will load your parts, in sequence, into the appropriate cubbies and then you will ship the racks to Hyperopia to load their parts.”

“The other thing that she wants to do is to have you put bar-codes on both ends of the part and load them into the cubbies with odd numbed unit-sequence-numbers with the appearance surface to the left and even numbers with the appearance surface to the right.”

“You cannot afford it” Bernie said dismissively.

“Stevens want to run the tryout for a week” Barker continued as if he hadn’t heard.

“I said, you cannot afford it” Bernie repeated.

“Why not?” Barker asked.

“Bunch of reasons. We are going to have to pay premium shipping. We wont have enough time to build the skins because we will have less time between the data drop and when we have to ship them.”

“Tell Stevens to stop dreaming and stick to something she knows something about” Bernie concluded.

Snodgrass watched Paula’s left eyebrow rise approximately 1/8th of in inch. He filed that away in his memory. It is good to know the signs of when your boss is getting pissed.

“We pay the shipping and we will make arrangements of expedited shipping” Barker said.

“Funny, Hyperopia seems to be able to build skins under the exact conditions you are complaining about.”

“So I need a ball-park estimate of how much it is going to cost to run the tryout on a per-piece basis. I need something I can carry back to Stevens so she can do her planning” Barker said.

“Tell her it will be $10 a skin. No, scratch that. That is too round of a number. Tell her it will be $12.53 more a skin. That should make her run back to her office.

Barker heaved a sigh that showed he carried the weight of the world on his shoulders. “I was hoping it wouldn’t come to this.”

“You remember that Intern who is sitting in on this call?” Barker asked.

“Yeah, what about him?” Bernie asked.

“I have never seen anybody who could write P-R-Rs (Problem Reporting and Resolution) more quickly or with such detail. His P-R-Rs are bulletproof” Barker said.

There was a pause from the other end of the phone. “He doesn’t have anything he could write us up for” Bernie declared.

Barker was shaking his head. Snodgrass could actually hear his jowls clacking.

“I am looking at the draft of his P-R-R right now” Barker said.

Of course there was no such draft.

“He wants to ding you for fifteen defects per hour and two hours of repair time at $120 per hour” Barker said.

“Bullshit!!!” Bernie shot back. “It doesn’t take that long to repair our skins.”

“I agree” Barker said. “He is dinging you for the Hyperopia skins.”

“The hell he is. Tell him he needs to file that against Hyperopia” Bernie demanded.

Sorrow filled Barker’s voice. “I would, but every sequencer contract we let requires that the person filling the cubbies inspect every part. If you shipped it, it is your defect and you need to write your own P-R-R against Hyperopia and you need proof they are shipping the defects to you.”

“You know your own assemblers snag those panels. You can’t make that stick. Bernie said.

Paula wrote something on a slip of paper and slipped it across the table to Barker. He quickly read it.

“You can say that, but we had Ganzer checking product before our production operators touched it. The latest data is that you are shipping 27 defects an hour since we count every snag as a separate defect.” Barker said.

“So, what is it going to be. Are you going to play ball or am I going to stick the bat up your ass and break it off?”

Next Installment

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

I needed this (Hat-tip Billybob)


I am the proud owner of a walking cast

Kubota took me to today's doctor's visit. He is as bad as the girls, lecturing me to take my time and pointing exactly where he wants me to go to minimize trip-risk.

I am in a walking cast. The doc gave me permission to do "weight bearing" exercises on my left leg. She told me to use pain as a guide.

The stability muscles in my left leg are slow to respond. The first day back from a four week long vacation. I get that.

I went to my super-secret training spot and walked 2300 feet. I walked with a walker for balance (those stability muscles, don't you know). By my figuring I was walking about one-foot per second so I was out there about 35 minutes.

I had discomfort but nothing I would call pain. That will show up tomorrow.

My purpose for base-lining my stamina is I am curious to figure out how quickly I recover. In distance running, the rule-of-thumb is that you can add 10% to your distance every week which results in a doubling of distance every seven weeks. I expect this to go faster because I still have swelling that is subsiding.

When I got home I decided to walk down the driveway to get the mail. The driveway is only about 150 feet long but it is gravel and undulates. I aborted the mission before I was half-way to the road. A man has to know his limitations.

The doc gave me a script for an antibiotic. She did not like the spongy look near the middle of the incision nor did she care for the Bride-of-Frankenstein multi-color look. The thing about trauma is that most meat is able to sequester blood-flow. It calls for it and your body regrows the vessels. But some battered areas...maybe not so much. She is playing it safe.

Along those same lines, I didn't start my mini-walkabout until after my second antibiotic capsule. I didn't want to be the next Jim Henson.

Tomorrow is a recovery day.

A shift in the wind direction

By the time you read this Mrs ERJ will be flying to Miami, hopefully with the aid of an airplane and I will be at the doctor's office learning if I can put weight on my left leg.

Our first grandchild's arrival is imminent. Southern Belle implored "Is there any way you (Mrs ERJ) can come down?" She is more than a week past her due-date and it is getting close to time to induce. She had been hoping for a home-birth with a mid-wife but that is looking less and less likely.

We had a quick huddle.

Mrs ERJ is going.

I was cleared to drive Wednesday of last week since my injuries were to my left leg. I just never had a reason to drive anywhere. Mrs ERJ and I made a trip to the local grocery store with me driving. No problemo there. If all goes according to plan I will have driven Mrs ERJ to the airport at O-dark-thirty and then boogied on home.

There are a few things I need to sort out from my end. Much of it revolves around caring for Zeus. Belladonna is preparing for some exams that will give her professional credentials and will be in-and-out. Being able to put weight on my leg will be a big deal for the days Bella is not around. My fall-back plan is to clip him to the run for much of the day.

We keep bulk dog food in the basement and bring it upstairs five gallons at a time. It will be easier to buy MORE dog food than it will be to go down the stairs, if that becomes necessary.

Hand update

I went to the hand-specialist yesterday. He poked and squeezed and stretched my hand.

Paraphrasing what he said into simple English: My hand was the bumblebee that hit the windshield. The parts of the hands and wrists that are not particularly well supplied with blood heal slowly. He proposed that I use my hand gently (five pound weight restriction) and work on range-of-motion for four or six more weeks. If it isn't any better, give him a call.

Personally, I like doctors who are slow to suggest surgery or invasive procedures.