Wednesday, August 31, 2022

"Improvements" to the dehydrating set-up


Is there an engineer alive who cannot look at a simple, elegant system and think "I can make that better"?

Guilty as charged.

I moved the food dehydrator off of the porch which is on the north side of the house and put it on the picnic table in the center of the yard.

After scratching my head, I decided it really NEEDED an solar air pre-heater.

I had 16' of 4" diameter (5" OD), black, corrugated drain pipe. Black is good for collecting solar energy.

I did a little bit of measuring:

The opening for the air-intake in the top of the dehydrator is approximately 1-5/8". This is an inside-diameter

I looked through my scrap pile and found some steel tubing that used to support a soft-sided swimming pool. It has an outside diameter of approximately 1-7/16"

I cut a 5-1/2" long piece with the end on the slant like the pointy end of a hypodermic needle. That was so when I assembled the device I could not bottom out the edge of the short, white pipe to the inside wall of the black drain pipe.

Mediocre picture of the 5-1/2" long piece

Assembled black drain pipe and white adaptor. The open part of the slant cut is facing the long way.

Yes, I know there is crud on the outside of the drain pipe. There is also one other problem. It will suck air from the short end and not pull it from the solar heated section.

That was easy enough to fix with a plastic grocery bag and some crumpled up newspaper. Not much in the way of premium materials were used in this system and it was laid-up loose so I can fiddle with how it sits.

The next improvement will be to move the picnic table about 8' to the south so it is exposed to sunlight for a longer period during the day. You can see from the first picture that it is in the shade.

Incidental notes: 

The cooling for the electric motor is in the bottom of the unit and does not draw its cooling air from the top of the unit.

The unit draws 300W and the motor probably draws about 40W. So most of the energy draw is to heat the air swirled through the unit.

If the grid gets shaky, then it would be stupid to use solar generated electricity to make heat when you can get it directly from cheap, dumb plastic pipe and/or plastic film. 300W can drive 7, 40W fans but only one dehydrator.

Is "Systemic Racism" a form of Phlogiston?

For those who are not familiar with the term "phlogiston", it is a discarded, scientific theory that was casually held by the ancient Greeks and formally proposed in scientific literature in 1667. "Phlogiston" was THE dominant theory in spite of some grave contradictions between theory-and-observed results until 1770.

Scientific careers, especially in France, were destroyed if the scientist did not agree with Phlogiston theory.

From Wikipedia, my edits in red font

"The French Americans viewed phlogiston systemic racism as a very subtle principle that vanishes in all analysis, yet it is in all bodies."

Johann Heinrich Pott thought that phlogiston systemic racism should not be considered as a particle but as an essence that permeates substances

  1. The form of phlogiston  systemic racism consists of a circular movement around its axis, presumably always turning to the left.
  2. When homogeneous it cannot be consumed or dissipated in fire explaining  race-rioters' love for Molotov Cocktails.
  3. The reason it causes expansion in most bodies is unknown, but not accidental. It is proportional to the compactness of the texture of the bodies or to the intimacy of their constitution.
  4. The increase of weight during calcination is evident only after a long time, and is due either to the fact that the particles of the body become more compact, decrease the volume and hence increase the density as in the case of lead; or that little heavy particles of air become lodged in the substance as in the case of powdered zinc oxide. Other scientists suggest sugar-rich and fried foods and a sedentary lifestyle might have something to do with increased weight.
  5. Air attracts the phlogiston systemic racism into of bodies.
  6. When set in motion, phlogiston systemic racism is the chief active principle in nature of all inanimate bodies.
  7. It is the basis of based on colors.
  8. It is the principal agent in fermentation.[9]

Pott also observed the fact that when certain substances burn People-of-Color they increase in mass benefit (from systemic racism) instead of losing the mass of  because some of the phlogiston systemic racism as it escapes

ERJ notes:

Theories (like Marxism, mass-hysteria, space aliens) that "explain everything" fail because they are not capable of explaining variation within classes of "everything".

Racism exists. But racism cannot explain disparity in outcomes between individuals of various races because there is much variation within each race.

As many have noted, "If racism in America is so heinous and intolerable, why don't people move to Nigeria which has almost no white people and has lots of oil?"

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Guilty pleasures and a surprise

One of the Youtube channels I have been enjoying is called Simple Living Alaska. The videos are very well produced and the couple seems genuine and lacking pretense.

The couple does not pretend to be perfect. They freely admit they make mistakes. They lose stringers of fish. They don't catch a fish every time they throw the bait in the water. Their onions don't ripen and so on.

The videos document "process" more than "trophy".

Three starter videos to see if you like them are Hooligan, Vegetables, Pike

I know that Howard, one of my occasional readers lives in the area. I am interested in his take on the couple. BS or real?

Stealth Camping

One of the things I do is to hunt deer.

Once upon a time, my brothers and I would engage in deer "drives". Several of us would post-up in good ambush sites and the rest of us would walk through cover to "push" the deer toward the shooters.

I recall times when I pushed deer out of tiny, postage-stamps strips of cover, smaller than my living room. I suspect they knew they had enough cover AND were able to see out, 360 degrees, from their resting spots.

So it is ingrained in me that a person dressed in subdued colors who can maintain his cool really does not need very much concealment to remain invisible. People see what they expect to see. In most cases they expect to see nothing.

I was intrigued to find Steve Wallis's Youtube channel where he goes stealth camping in the most unlikely of places, like in the center of traffic round-abouts and behind warehouses and police stations.

I have to confess that part of the appeal is that Steve seems like the arch-type Canadian, just like Glen Filthy. Humble. Respects authority (mostly). Enjoys a beer every now and then. Maybe he is a little bit goofy but then many Canadians think US citizens are it all evens out in the end.

I also like that Steve is not a gear-hound. He does not spend $300 on a tent when a tarp or a hunting blind can be repurposed. His kind of camping is very accessible.

So I was taken aback when his latest video showed up in my feed "Rest in Peace, my Beautiful Wife".

Steve appears to be about 40 years-old. As he tells it, "Two of us went to sleep Saturday night and only one of us woke up on Sunday morning."


Steve, I feel for you man. Hang in there. There but for the grace of God could be any one of us. We are pulling for you.



78 degrees F in the shade at the end of the walk.

10 mile per hour breeze.

20% of the route was shaded.

Initial load-out. It was not enough liquid. I swung through a party store that was near my route to add one more bottle.

About 16 ounces or 1/2 liter of liquid per hour or a total of about 77 ounces.

9 miles in five hours and five minutes.

I was hit on April 30, so it has been four months by the calendar since my leg was broken.

Two motorists stopped and chatted with me as I walked. That was unusual.

Two-of-three dogs I encountered took a distinct dislike to me. Small sample size but I think my lurching gait puts them on edge. Something to keep in the back of my head.

In my nine miles of walking I saw 4 corn fields and one of them will not be worth harvesting due to poor yield. There will be very little corn harvested in my little corner of Michigan this year.

I like the composition of this image. This is the Eaton Township hall.

I got sprinkled on. Five hours in the weather means you might encounter a little bit

Turtles sunning on a rock in a pond.

A recliner somebody pitched into a swamp.

Leather! There are people who recover books who would love to recycle this

What is not to like about a blonde with freckles? C.W., eat your heart out. Yellow Jewelweed (Impatiens pallida)

This plant is an honest 5' tall.

Horses in adjacent paddocks racing

A murder of crows. You may need to click to embiggen the picture to where you can see the crows flying.

The first acorns are starting to drop.
I established that I can walk 9 miles. Now I need to work on speed and payload.

The next chapter

God willing, Southern Belle and Quicksilver will be somewhere over Georgia and I will be catching up on my sleep when this post goes "live".

I am grateful to Handsome Hombre for letting us keep them for the month of August. I think he might have enjoyed eating fast-food for the first week but I am sure he will be glad to see them.

Mrs ERJ and I will be NINKs, No Income (no paychecks), No Kids and it is the start of a new chapter in our lives. We have had children in our house for the last 32 years. It will take a little bit of getting used to.

I wonder if I dare tell Mrs ERJ that I installed a second thermostat behind the books in the study 15 years ago and disconnected the one in the know, the one the kids kept adjusting.

Fine Art Tuesday


End of Harvest by Morgan Weistling

Apple girl by Morgan Weistling

About the artist: His subjects are often women and children in settings of simpler times. A deeply religious man, Morgan brings his spirituality to his artwork. "My hope is that people will enjoy viewing my artwork as much I enjoyed painting it. For me, art is my language used to communicate to others how I see God's creation. When I experience another artist's work, I love to see through their eyes and find out as much about the artist as the subject they painted."

Monday, August 29, 2022

Today I am thankful for modern dentistry

I spent my early morning sitting in the dentist's chair.

My dentist is an early riser. So am I.

He values his time. So do I.

So when I had two teeth in my upper, right jaw that needed crowns but insurance that only covered part of the bill, I suggested that he repair them both as an efficient use of his time.

His billing person sharpened her pencil. Doing them both at once involves certain efficiencies such that it requires less of his time than doing them separately.

The new estimate was adjusted downward, although still more than what my health insurance covers for the year.

Today was the prep-work. I was in the chair from 6:55 AM until 9:30 AM.

My opinion is that I want to get ahead of my disintegrating teeth because I don't want to get in another lock-down and have one of my molars disintegrate.

Odd facts

External fixation screws for fractures were developed by an Army dentist.

One of the dental officers who was killed during WWII was Capt. Benjamin Lewis Salomon. He received a Medal of Honor for his heroic action on the island of Saipan on July 7, 1944. Salomon killed 98 Japanese soldiers and received several bayonet wounds and 76 bullet wounds. (Bad to the bone!)

One requirement (left over from the Civil War) was that inductees have at least two sets of matching, front teeth and at least twelve teeth (total). The front teeth requirement was from the days when the soldier had to rip open a paper cartridge with a pre-measured amount of black powder with his teeth. Later, it was handy for movie stars pulling the pin on grenades.

It was common, even into the 1950s for adults in their twenties and thirties to have all of their teeth yanked and dentures installed. Novocaine? We don't use no steenkin novocaine!

Dental infections were a major, proximal cause of death.

Likely, imminent, severe injury or death, untreatable by medical arts...

Michigan's Governor Whitmer is up for re-election this year.

Her opponent, Tudor Dixon is on record opposing access to abortions even when "the health of the mother" is at stake.

Predictably, the Whitmer ads hammer this point without ceasing since there is almost nothing positive she can point to during her four years in office.

"The health of the mother"

Let me spin out a bit of dialog:

Pro-Whitmer campaigner: "Surely you must allow abortions 'for the health of the mother'!!!"

Pro-life apologist: "No. Not so fast."

PWC: "But then you are condemning the mother to death if she has high-blood pressure or one of several other conditions!!!!"

Apologist: "Then why don't you say '...allow abortions in cases where continuing the pregnancy is likely to result in imminent, severe injury or death to the mother if untreated by other medical arts...?"

PWC: "But that was implied in the language I used."

Apologist: "The language you used also gives the green-light to abortions if the mother displays any signs of anxiety* or depression** since your language makes no allowances for the overlap between normal, biological symptoms of pregnancy and symptoms that can lead to a diagnosis of emotional-health issues."

PWC: "But mental-health issues are real."

Apologist: "I agree that mental-health issues are real. I also believe that most mental illnesses can be treated so they do not threaten the life or health of the mother. They can be treated with medications and therapy."

PWC: "What about depression. People commit suicide all the time. That is a problem for me."

Apologist: "But suicide is not likely and depression is treatable

The problem with your scenario is that hormonal changes in the mother make her hungry and tired and anxious for the future. That is how our bodies are wired. We are preparing a nest for a new life. Your language would allow any provider-of-abortions to see normal, healthy changes in the mother and make a diagnoses of depression and use that as an excuse to abort the baby.

That is just wrong."

Symptoms of anxiety disorder

  • Feeling nervous, restless or tense
  • Having a sense of impending danger, panic or doom
  • Having an increased heart rate
  • Breathing rapidly (hyperventilation)
  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Feeling weak or tired
  • Trouble concentrating or thinking about anything other than the present worry
  • Having trouble sleeping
  • Experiencing gastrointestinal (GI) problems
  • Having difficulty controlling worry
  • Having the urge to avoid things that trigger anxiety

 **Symptoms of depression

  • Feelings of sadness, tearfulness, emptiness or hopelessness
  • Angry outbursts, irritability or frustration, even over small matters
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in most or all normal activities, such as sex, hobbies or sports
  • Sleep disturbances, including insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Tiredness and lack of energy, so even small tasks take extra effort
  • Reduced appetite and weight loss or increased cravings for food and weight gain
  • Anxiety, agitation or restlessness
  • Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or self-blame
  • Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
  • Frequent or recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts or suicide
  • Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches

Sunday, August 28, 2022

The first photoshopper doesn't stand a chance


Vain art teacher in New Jersey offends parents with her Instagram posts.

The images are clearly photoshopped. Notice how "fat" her elbows are where she compressed her waist.

Shake-down run

One of the enduring mental images from my childhood are from events I never personally observed.

The images involve my Uncle Steve.

Uncle Steve was a genuine G.I. Joe in WWII. He was captured by the Germans after his unit was "rolled over" by enemy forces. He survived the night of combat by strategically using a vegetable clamp in the middle of a harvested field as cover from enemy fire. The NAZI forces swept the field with fire from an MG-42 and Uncle Steve said he could feel the clamp "quiver" from the force of the 7.92mm rounds.

In the morning, the German forces walked over the field and Uncle Steve became a Prisoner-of-War.

But that is not the image in my head.

The image is of staid Uncle Steve, an engineer (God bless the G.I. Bill) who worked for IBM flying down the Ohio Turnpike with his terrified family screaming, packed like sardines in their new Oldsmobile station-wagon.

Uncle Steve liked to save a penny when he could. He found he could purchase a "company used" Oldsmobile in Lansing, Michigan (his home town) and avoid paying dealer prep and destination charges. So, on his annual trips to mid-Michigan, he would purchase a new Oldsmobile when the family ride needed to be replaced.

Is there a man alive who has not taken his new vehicle to a deserted stretch of road and put the hammer down to see what it will do?

To the delight and dismay (depending on which family member is telling the story) Uncle Steve had a preferred stretch of the Ohio Turnpike for the shake-down. He put the pedal-to-the-metal and kept it there until the speedometer needle stopped climbing. Cousin Vinny estimates they usually peaked at 6957 screams/hour.

For those readers who are not familiar with the Ohio Turnpike and Ohio State Troopers, exceeding the speed-limit in Ohio in a vehicle sporting Michigan plates is a capital offense.

I think the thrill of the danger added to Uncle Steve's joy in the shake-down, just as the intense hunger he experienced when his camp was liberated added to his lifelong joy in eating raw asparagus...the asparagus growing in the village just outside the camp were the first fresh vegetables he had eaten in more than half a year.

The reason for my reminiscing is that I am contemplating a shake-down walk-about. A nine-mile jaunt seems like a stretch but I will spot refreshments every couple of miles and we will see how it goes.

The weather and my schedule for Wednesday appear to be ideal for the venture.

Stay tuned.

The FUSA will become Haiti, not Cuba

Kings and feudal Barons did not relinquish power to the people out of a sense of altruism. Representative forms of government did not evolve due to power-brokers suddenly being smitten by a sense of feelz-goods.

Nope, representative forms of government and the co-commitment to freedom of expression were pressure valves that reduced the likelihood of King Freidersnitzel having his (and his extended family's) throats slit when the government was overthrown. The King Freidersnitzels of the world stepped aside (or moved into ceremonial figureheads) because they valued their necks.

The vast increase in wealth and industry was a lucky side-effect of the increase in liberties. Gifted individuals could rise to the level their skills could support while dead-wood sank.

Denial or corrupting the mechanisms of representative government will not result in governments never being overthrown (Cuba and North Korea being exceptions) but will force a reversion back to the methods used before the pressure valves were installed.

The gutting of our processes and institutions will also result in misery and suffering as tinpot despots will choke productivity and initiative and the free flow of goods and ideas.

Haitians and South Africans have the quaint custom of settling political beefs by placing a tire around their opponent's neck, adding a liter of gasoline and igniting the "necklace". This is what happens in places where democracy died.

Nord Haiti, here we come.

Saturday, August 27, 2022

I dodged another Y-J nest

I was pushing the mower in the orchard and wanted to look at a yellow-jacket nest I had sprayed yesterday.

There were still a few yellow-jackets flying in-and-out so I went hunting for my sprayer.

On my way back to that nest I saw a cyclone of yellow-jackets exactly where I had been standing to observe the nest I had sprayed. I think I must have covered the opening of the nest with my foot and they could not recover fast enough to whack me when I left.

Did I mention that I am moving more quickly now? Good thing, too.

I hosed the newly found nest from 12 feet away. Early tomorrow morning I will stretch a hose to the hole in the ground and start flooding it. It is a very long way from the spigot but I own plenty of hose.

I think I will let the grass grow in that row of the orchard a few more days before I mow it.

Drying tomatoes

A mix of Stupice and Roma halves on the tray

I am trying a batch with the tomatoes (1.25" diameter) quartered rather than halved. I was not happy with how long it took for the halves to dry.

Racial disparities and Monkeypox

If you do an internet search today on "Racial disparities monkeypox vaccine" you will learn that African-Americans and Hispanics (aka, People-of-Color) are over-represented in terms of the per-capita rate of MPX cases...over-represented by about a factor of two. They are also under-represented in terms of the number of people who received MPX vaccine...under-represented by 50% on a per-capita basis and 75% on a per-case basis.

My understanding is that MPX patient are asked to produce a list of people who have been exposed and efforts are made to find those people and offer them vaccine.

In a similar way, if somebody learns that they were involved in a, ahem, "sporting event" where they might have been exposed then can present themselves to a clinic and they will be offered vaccine.

As a visual, public-health officials are attempting to construct a rings of immune patients around patients diagnosed with MPX.

Possible reasons for the disparity include:

  • P-o-C are actively denied vaccine even though they claim exposure.
  • P-o-C who are identified by MPX cases are not contacted by healthcare providers.
  • P-o-C who engage in "sporting events" are unaware of the epidemic.
  • P-o-C do not know where to go to declare exposure and get vaccinated.
  • P-o-C do not have transportation to clinics with vaccine.
  • P-o-C might be vaccine-hesitant in general and not be fully trusting of Authorities.
  • The true names of P-o-C who engage in "sporting events" are not always shared with other contestants at the "sporting events".
  • P-o-C might be more hesitant to come out of the closet with regard to their participation in "sporting events".
  • Non-P-o-C MPX cases might be hesitant to identify P-o-C that they attend "sporting events" with and thus might not identify them to healthcare providers.
  • Many STDs are characterized by skin lesions that make it easier for pathogens to enter the body

  • There might be non-"sporting event" modes of transmission that are higher for P-o-C than for non-P-o-C and the CDC is blind to those modes. For example: it might be that other STDs make patients more vulnerable to virus transmission and that the P-o-C (who might have higher rates of STDs) can catch MPX at a tailgate party and not even have to enter the stadium of the "sporting event". Obviously, this hypothesis might make some people angry.

Clearly, MPX is getting away from efforts to contain it. The CDC and State Health teams better sharpen up their game.

They are missing something.

Critical Thinking Skills sit on a foundation of (assumed) knowledge and skills

According to Texas A&M:

The core curriculum focuses on the development of six skills that have been shown to be effective in preparing students for the job market and their role in a diverse world and democratic society.

  • Critical Thinking Skillsto include creative thinking, innovation, inquiry, and analysis, evaluation and synthesis of information.
  • Communication Skillsto include effective development, interpretation and expression of ideas through written, oral and visual communication.
  • Empirical and Quantitative Skills to include the manipulation and analysis of numerical data or observable facts resulting in informed conclusions.
  • Teamworkto include the ability to consider different points of view and to work effectively with others to support a shared purpose or goal.
  • Personal Responsibilityto include the ability to connect choices, actions and consequences to ethical decision-making.
  • Social Responsibilityto include intercultural competence, knowledge of civic responsibility, and the ability to engage effectively in regional, national, and global communities.

I used to work for a company that maintained ISO certification. One of the requirements of maintaining the level of certification that we had achieved was to "measure" the effectiveness of training, that is, to quantify the amount of "learning" that had occurred in the training session.

To that end, a test was administered to every student before any "learning" had been delivered and the same test was delivered to every student after the training. The difference in the scores (assuming the post-test scored higher than the pre-test) quantified the learning that was delivered.

Given the amount of time, talent and treasure squandered  on college edumacations it seems that quantifying the "learning" that was delivered should be a high priority.

Two possibilities would be to re-administer the ACT/SATs and/or the placement tests used to determine the need for remedial math, writing or science education.

To ensure the purity of the measurement, the scores of the students who did not graduate would have to be purged from the "before" scores. Ideally, the re-test would occur (or be re-administered) in the fourth year of college to also test retention and the product before being delivered to the customer.

One wonders if the growth in abilities is sufficient to justify the costs? 

If it did, then I would expect the Universities would already be measuring it and using the results to attract students and encourage employers to visit their campuses. "Super-size your education! Enroll at Making Stuff Up university!!!"

I wonder how abysmally the Universities would fail. Statistically, one would expect some percentage of the students to regress in their abilities. That percentage might be surprisingly high for students of some colleges/majors.

Friday, August 26, 2022

Presented without comment


Fake News Friday: Hillary Clinton crushed by Kardashian

Hillary Clinton, a woman often touted by Social Justice Warriors for her keen, legal mind was trounced on a quiz of legal knowledge by Kim Kardashian by a margin of almost 3:1. It should be noted that the venue favored Clinton and she still could not beat Trump Kardashian.

Picture of Kardashian and some guy

In TOTALLY unrelated news, Chelsea Clinton removed Kardashian's ex-husband's music from her play list. That will show her!

Oh! Wait! That is not fake news.

So sorry.

Farm Trip: After-action Report

From the comments of yesterday's post: 

I'm very interested in your visit to the farm. Blending old, proven ideas with some level of modern tech is so appealing. How they minimize dependence on cheap energy inputs, in all of their obvious and hidden forms, especially.

Me describing people with empathy

First observation: Every individual of this family is extraordinarily industrious.

It should be obvious that a farm that foregoes most modern, labor-saving equipment and chemicals will be labor intensive.

Everybody on the farm is lean and fit and radiates "good health".

Second observation: Every speck of "infrastructure" on the farm is rationally positioned and in top-notch repair. No ratty, falling down buildings or old, wheezy equipment here.

An enabler of getting by with a "lean" equipment set is that the equipment must have high up-time.

For example: The previous owner was into management intensive grazing and had subdivided the pasture into about six-million paddocks (slight exaggeration). After living with the paddocks for a couple of years the couple asked "How many paddocks do we really need and how much fencing can we realistically maintain over the long-haul?" Then they reduced the number of paddocks.

Third observation: The family is extraordinary in their ability to find partners and like-minded people to collaborate with.

For example: They are in a milk-share agreement with some other like-minded neighbors (neighbor being loosely defined as family or anybody living within five miles of them). Many families might have wistfully thought about getting a cow but been intimidated by the time commitment and the vast quantity of milk produced. Not this family. If they need 3/7ths of a cow then they get together with some other people and sort through which three-days-a-week they will be milking the cow.

Milk-sharing also means they can go on vacations, which is a very big deal as their kids get older. They only have so many more years before the kids leave the house or get sucked into the whirlwind of outside activities. They want to make those years count.

Fourth observation: They have a big wood-lot

They have ample firewood and places to collect nuts, mushrooms and to hunt.

Fifth observation: They are always picking up and dropping enterprises. In the jargon of modern business, they are agile.

Some enterprises prove to not be good fits in spite of all the research.

As the kids get older, enterprises that used to work might not be a good fit later.

People change as we get older. Work that we could tolerate can get to be too much. Sometimes a local supplier you depend on closes and you cannot afford to drive to Zeeland for that input. Sometimes the level of aggravation due to more BS in the outside world can become overwhelming and you don't want to deal with certain people. It is a case of "Know when to walk away, know when to run."

Many businesses, not just farms, fail because they cannot divest operations that suck resources but do not provide sufficient returns.

Sixth observation: Basically, there are two kinds of businesses: Businesses that provide commodities (fast-food joints, gas stations, box wine) and boutique businesses (up-scale restaurants, custom furniture, vintage varietal wines). Commodity businesses operate on razor-thin profits (or huge losses). Boutiques can be much more profitable on a per-unit basis.

Boutique businesses tend to service small markets that have not attracted big players with deep pockets. Boutique businesses also tend to be "high-touch" and people-interaction intensive. Grumpy old bears like me don't do well in boutique businesses.

This family seems to have mastered the art of developing and servicing boutique businesses.

For example, suppose you found that your patch of the earth grew exceptionally fine, honey-dew melons with fluorescent-lavender colored flesh*. You cannot sell them to Kroger's because they want millions of pounds delivered year-round and they want them at commodity prices.

What do you do?

You sell them by walking samples into businesses that cater "events". Caterers are always looking for an edge and for novelties. You build demand by delivering quality product, on-time and quantity + a small bonus. The nice thing about selling to somebody who caters is you have contacts that you might visit once a week and are selling as many melons to each contact as you might to 200 retail customers if the weekend's event is a big wedding reception.

The thing is that most people who would grow fluorescent-lilac fleshed honey-dew melons are adverse to walking into kitchens of caterers and then adverse to making custom deliveries on Friday afternoons.

This family has the broad portfolio of skills and personalities and several of them are unfazed by walking into catering businesses (for instance) and pitching their products.

Seventh observation: This is really a combination of the two previous observations.

Because boutique businesses are so rich in human connections, closing one of those enterprises causes a surprising amount of grief and sense-of-loss. Clients will be deeply saddened by your closing and since most good people-persons have a lot of empathy it means that they feel the client's loss too. Plus, you really LIKE some of your clients (collaborators and workers) and you cannot justify visiting/hiring if you are not making deliveries. People who thrive on human-human connections are pained by those losses.

The process of grieving losses is part of the farming business. The loss of animals. The loss of crops. Sometimes the loss of family members, either to death or to moving away or they might be seduced by different sets of values...The loss of clients and businesses.

Eighth observation: Picking up new businesses is a coping strategy to dealing with loss. Picking up new things keeps us young and our minds agile.

But learn something from your experience. Don't pick up a new enterprise that has all of the reasons why you dropped an old one. That way the new business will at least have the entertainment value that comes from high-centering the canoe on different rocks in the river.

Bonus observation: They have the equivalent of a very nice camper and every time I have visited it has been occupied by a "guest".

This is certainly not for everybody but they make it work.

Every guest is carefully vetted. Sometimes it is a relative who is visiting the region (maybe looking for work or working a local gig like pipeline welding). Sometimes it is a person who is going through a life transition and has been vouched for by the pastor of their church. For example: A single person who just returned from a long-term over-seas mission trip and they are re-acclimating to US culture.

As a guest, the resident(s) are not charged rent but they are expected to put in as many hours in the garden(s) and with the other chores as the matriarch of the house. Slackers are not tolerated.

Final note:

The family was incredibly generous with their time as they let us hang out with them yesterday. Thanks a million!

*I deliberately changed some of the details of this report to protect the privacy of this family. To the best of my knowledge they do not sell honey-dew melons with fluorescent-lavender colored flesh.

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Road-trips and tomatoes


I loaded this post into the torpedo tube for future publication.

Southern Belle, Quicksilver and I are on our way to visit a farm that mimics an old-style, integrated production farm from many years ago...except it has modern conveniences like a tractor and such.

One of Southern Belle's friends operates an "Agri-cation" destination in Southern Florida where students can experience food production and farm animals. This is a business and schools pay a fee-per-student for the privilege. Today's destination does not do that, at least not yet.

The owners graciously allowed me to invite myself and Southern Belle (and Quicksilver) to their farm. My primary responsibility will be to care for Quicksilver while Southern Belle helps with the chores.

The picture in my head is that we will all have a jolly-good-time, the farm will get an extra set of hands and there may be a cross-pollination of ideas.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch

I picked a little bit orange because I irrigated overnight and tomatoes are vulnerable to splitting. Better to pick and shelf-ripen than have them split and rot on the vine.


We took our first whack at dehydrating garden produce. At 13 cents per kW-hr and a 300 Watt dehydrator, it costs 47 cents to run a batch for 12 hours.

The Sweet Aperitif are tedious to process due to there small size.

The Principe Borghese are distinctly less sweet than the SA tomatoes but about 1.25" in diameter. They really have not "turned on" with regard to production.

The Stupice is about the same size as the PB but is an earlier ripening tomato and fast to pick as the clusters with ripe tomatoes usually have three worth picking so there is less hunting around for ripe ones.

The seeds I saved from last year's Stupice were an afterthought and I was not selective in which plants I chose fruit from. It shows this year. Some fruit are big, some are smaller. Some vines are extremely vigorous with long internodes. Some are more compact. I have already tagged one plant to collect seeds from based on fruit size, form and plant habit. I want to tag one more plant later in the season.

Notable because a 1.5" diameter tomato represents about 8 times less work on a per-mass basis.

Imputed Income and Marriage Disincentive

A couple more questions regarding the $10k "forgiveness" for student loans popped into my head overnight.

Will the $10k of "forgiveness" be treated as imputed income and will income tax be owed on it? So if a former student has a marginal income tax rate of 15% in 2022, will they find themselves owing an additional $1500 on April 15, 2023? This might be a good thing to know before the mid-term elections.

Also, suppose two people with student loans are contemplating marriage. Furthermore, suppose their combined income exceeds $125k per year. How will their income be calculated for "loan forgiveness" reasons? After all, if the Democrats forgave $10k in 2022 then it is reasonable to speculate that more will be forgiven in future years. If the household income is used to determine eligibility then the "forgiveness" will function as a marriage tax.

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Does the Executive Branch have the authority to "forgive" student loans?

It is a simple question.

If the Student Loan program is enshrined in law written by the Legislative Branch and if it is funded by budgets proposed-and-passed by the Legislative Branch, what language in the law grants the Executive Branch unilateral authority to modify the conditions of those loans?


I have been physically busy. I have even been writing but much of it has been going-on-the-shelf because of my inability to hit the right tone.

Your patience is appreciated.

Noted in passing

Yesterday Southern Belle asked if any of the push mowers worked. As a matter-of-fact, I have three working push mowers.

After two hours of mowing, my oldest brother showed up with his zero-turn and between the two of them they finished mowing the yard.

Notable because three (3) yellow-jacket nests were found and nobody was stung. While a John Deere might not be able to outrun a bumblebee, a zero-turn can outrun a yellow-jacket.

Extermination efforts are underway.

Rodent control

My rodent control efforts in the last two years has been sub-standard. Consequently I lost fruit trees from rodents girdling them.

This year I started with my rodenticide early. I put rat-poison in sport-drink containers. Sport-drink bottles have large mouths so the block of poison slides in with little effort. The bottle protects the block from moisture and curious dogs and non-target wildlife. Mice and voles have no problem climbing into the bottles and consuming the poison.


Southern Belle suggested that it might be a good idea to burn the brush-pile since we are at that magical balance of wet-and-dry. We did.


Later this morning Fast Eddie and I will be picking peaches from a neighbor's tree. Yesterday I offered the neighbor $20 and a quart of home-canned peaches for the privilege. He said I didn't need to pay money.

I informed him that if I paid money for the privilege then I would certainly be there in the morning. If I did not pay money than there was a better than 50:50 chance that the peaches would fall and rot, unused. So my paying him $20 was an insurance policy to ensure I would follow through.

My gut tells me that there is at least 80 pounds of peaches on that tree. Eddie's daughter will get all of them and she will share them with other ladies who can fruit. While I have no expectation of reciprocity, this IS a small town and I can only hope that some of those ladies will be selected for the jury should I ever find myself being judged by my peers.

Bonus image

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Choose your tribe with care

Russ Nelson, owner of Family Shooter's Corral in Eaton Rapids is fond of telling young shooters a story to drive home the concept of "guilt by association".

Russ was growing a particularly excellent strain of sweet corn one year and he knew he was going to have issues with raccoons. One evening, just as the first flight of corn was about to ripen, he and his bride were sitting on the back deck enjoying their evening coffee.

Russ saw a line of raccoons, mama and cubs, making their way toward his corn patch.

As luck would have it (actually, luck had nothing to do with it) Russ had a scoped, .22 WMR long-gun available. He waited until they were in the open and he proceeded to do what he does very well, put lead on the target.

Collecting the deceased, he found eight bodies when there had only been seven raccoons heading toward his corn. During the moment of truth, a rabbit had been heading toward the garden at the same time as the raccoons.

At this point in the story, Russ would pause. Then he would say something to the effect that when push-comes-to-shove that you will be judged by the people you associate with. It might be right. It might be wrong. It can be final.

I pity the young

In some ways I pity the young.

We had time to play around with ideas and associations.

We could try-on various "tribes" for size and see how they "felt".

If/when shit gets real, the tribe they are plugged into is the tribe they will be judged with.

I pity the old

We are too likely to assume that people who share superficial characteristics with us also share our values.

Be on guard.

Too hard to hold

The two hardest things to hold weigh nothing: Our breath and grudges.

Some folks are "energized" by grudges and presumed wrongs. They are sadly mistaken. Those grudges are maintained at a high, but hidden price.

In general, I don't hold grudges. My memory is not that good and I am lazy. Other people might hold different opinions regarding my zeal for holding grudges.

Fine Art Tuesday


A Grand Night Out painted by Mick Cawston. Note: has a lot of dog art.

Poacher encountering will-o-the-wisps painted by Richard Doyle

Driven to Crime

Poacher Pete greeting card by Maggie Roberts

Monday, August 22, 2022

Grab bag

American Plum seedling from Nebraska. This species has a lot of variability in fruit quality. This one is far better than the local talent. A nice fruit load for a small bush.

Belladonna came over and kept us company this past weekend. It was cozy, with the four girls.

Bella suggested that we watch a movie that she enjoyed, The Gray Man.

For those of you who attempt to go-gray and blend in, you will NOT learn anything from this movie. Trust me, leaving a trail of crashed cars/planes/trains, and scores of dead bodies in your wake is no way to blend in and stay invisible.

One egregious no-no was when the hero made a bomb and floated it on the water to take-out the hit team. He dove under the water to avoid the blast. The general consensus of people who know about these kinds of things is that water is more efficient at transferring shock-waves and waves do not behave in a 1/r^2 way when confined by masonry walls. Lungs and ribs become the frangible link in that system.

There were scads of other semi-miraculous recoveries from concussions and stabbings and events that should have broken his ribs and legs. But hey, he was "freakishly good" at what he did, which was kill people. Maybe that confers the power to heal quickly.

One other no-no was that he wore the same, distinctive red-striped windbreaker for much too long. Yes, I understand that the audience needs to be able to pick him out of the crowd trying to kill him...but if you need to be "gray" do not wear anything that is both unique and distinctive from a distance.

P-T update

My Physical Therapist was in a fine mood today. He was able to hear how the new exercises flattened me.

He made adjustments. He reduced the number of reps per set and told me to alternate "off days" and "on days" for the most challenging exercises.

Part of his joy is that he is a traveling PT guy and his next gig is about as far from Eaton Rapids as you can get and A.) Still speak English and B.) Be on the surface of the globe and C.) Not be in a third-world country. If he lands this next gig he will be approximately 9400 surface miles from Eaton Rapids, Michigan.

Nug-safe delivered...

...with no complications.

Cheap eats

Chef's salad and garlic toast for dinner tonight. Strawberry shortcake for desert.

Treasure trove of semi-conductors

I have two boxes of very rare, semi-conductor chips. I know what I have here. Asking $500. No low-balling. Some disassembly required.

A full day is rarely a dull day

Friday's Physical Therapy session was brutal. The Physical Therapist was not satisfied with my progress. His diagnosis was that we were working on the wrong things and he changed the routine. He changed it a lot!

I was lamed up all weekend. I have another session today but not before I do my P-T homework, see Mom at lunch and buy a nug-safe for a friend whose collection exceeds his storage space. Dunham's Sports, a local store, has 14 nug safes on sale today for $180.

I expect to pop up for air about 4:00 this afternoon.

Please keep the internet running until I can come back and contribute.

Sunday, August 21, 2022

Be strong. Fear not.

My son, do not disdain the discipline of the Lord or lose heart when reproved by him; for whom the Lord loves, he disciplines; he scourges every son he acknowledges."

Endure your trials as "discipline"; God treats you as sons.  

For what "son" is there whom his father does not discipline?

At the time, all discipline seems a cause not for joy but for pain, yet later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it.

So strengthen your drooping hands and your weak knees. Make straight paths for your feet, that what is lame may not be disjointed but healed.
  -Hebrews 12

The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose. It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing: the glory of Lebanon shall be given unto it, the excellency of Carmel and Sharon, they shall see the glory of the Lord, and the excellency of our God.

Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees. Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompence; he will come and save you.

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.

Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert.

And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water: in the habitation of dragons, where each lay, shall be grass with reeds and rushes.

And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein.  -Isaiah 35


Pancakes or waffles? Bacon or sausage?

 I conducted a small poll after Mass this morning.

I had approximately 40 people respond. 

Three-to-one in favor of waffles and the same for bacon over sausage.

Among the comments:

  • "I can put more fruit on my waffles than I can pancakes"
  • "I don't like cleaning the waffle iron"
  • "I have a griddle and can cook pancakes for the family faster than make enough waffles."
  • "No bad choices, there."
  • "Just for taste: Bacon. Most food for the buck: Sausage. Depends on who is buying."

I think the speed-of-cooking favors sausage over bacon.

My take-home is that "favorite" might change depending on if you are simply dining, cooking, cleaning or paying the tab or some combination of the above.

Sadly, none of the people I polled invited me out for breakfast.