Sunday, December 31, 2023

Sunday Soup


White beans, chicken, yellow tomatoes from our garden (canned), spices consistent with chili (although out of respect for the purists from Texas who contend that chili can only contain meat, chilies and liquid, I will not call it chili).

For not-chili, it sure is pretty.

Dead-air spaces and convection cells


Fluid dynamics of gas between two panes of glass or between drywall and outer wall of a house. The portion of the Air Velocity profile circled in red is where shear losses occur.
Back in the 1970's people started worrying about the energy efficiency of their windows.

Some VERY basic research identified that the insulating ability of double-pane windows does not increase linearly with increasing distance between the panes.

As the panes got farther apart, the insulating ability grows far more slowly than expected.

It was attributed to convective circulation cells spontaneously springing up between the two panes.

The same amount of energy is pumping the cells regardless of the distance between the panes but the larger distances have less loss to shear and the longer "pumping" distances allow the fluid to reach higher velocities. 

It was speculated that at distances of 0.75 inches (give or take a little bit) the cells self-extinguished due to the shear losses where two adjacent cells met. The bottom of one cell flows in the direction from cold-to-warm while the top of the next cell tries to flow from warm-to-cold, that is, in the opposite direction.

There are also shear-losses in the "boundary layer" between the pane (solid and stationary) and the air flowing vertically close to that pane. A dead-air space that is 4" will have more gentle velocity gradients (for the same mean velocity) than a much narrower space. Shear-losses are driven by the velocity gradient.

While the insulating ability of the windows might increase at distances greater than 0.75", it does not grow very fast and the loss of space does not justify larger air-spaces. 

At least, this was the state-of-the-art in 1980 when I sat enthralled (OK, maybe not enthralled) in Professor Foss's Fluids Class.

Saturday, December 30, 2023

Geography as a springboard for fiction

In the last installment on the Cumberland Saga Jonathan commented:

It's good that they are thinking and planning ahead on a large scale. Are they planning anything to harden the compound or control access? A few  strategically placed large rocks or fallen trees can do wonders...

To answer that, I want to give some insight into how I plot out a story.

First of all, I had to imagine the optimum place for a political embarrassment  to hide. There are really two places. One is as a homeless person in a large city. The other is in B.F.I. rural areas. I prefer to write about rural areas.

Given the ubiquitous nature of facial recognition software and voice recognition software, it would have to be someplace where "technology" is viewed suspiciously. That rules out the "ugly girlfriend" option because she will post 600 photos of her new guy on three different social media platforms.

The easiest community to communicate to readers, the one most readers will intuitively grasp are religious denominations of the Brethren/Mennonite/Amish/Hutterites/Doukhobor cluster.

If they were recent immigrants from Eastern Europe, then they are culturally very attuned to how terrain can be used to limit exposure to the outside world. They would also be attuned to how terrain makes real-estate defensible.

So, I went looking for places that might appeal to recent "fringe" denominations who might have recently immigrated from Eastern Europe.

I struck gold on the eastern edge of the Cumberland Plateau.

The Cumberland Plateau generally slopes from west-to-east with most of the water running to the east, toward the Tennessee river. The soil is thin and not particularly fertile. The underlying rock is shale which water does not percolate into and shale is soft and erodes easily. Those factors combine to create some magnificent erosion features. Deep, steep valleys running from west-to-east. And between the valleys are flat-topped plateaus that are dissected by feeder creeks into the major ravines.

Terrain dictates tactics

"Terrain dictates tactics" which means that the terrain will tell me the story of "what has to happen next" if I listen. It means that if I pay attention then the terrain writes-the-story for me. Since I am basically lazy, I pay attention.

It was a simple matter to pop up topographical maps and simply pick a plateau that appealed to me.

It is approximately 2 miles from the bottom of the ravine on the south to the bottom of the ravine on the north.

If you can read topographical maps, then you can see that the diamond in the middle of this image is extremely defensible from the north, east and south. The west side is least defensible but the approach is choked off by two ravines. The ravine that is to the northwest bounds CHC property and another one a little farther west comes from the south but is on the opposite side of the road from CHC. That plateau, ladies and gentlemen, is Copperhead Cove.

Part of what made this irresistible to me as the springboard for the story is that one of the ravines along the north is named Rattlesnake Hollow. How perfect.

The name "Cove" is a horrible liberty I took with regards to how terrain features are named in that part of the world. Most "coves" are "hollows" or ravines that end as a bayou on the river. Obviously Copperhead Cove is a plateau or up-lands. Still, Copperhead Cove captures that warm, welcoming feeling I was trying to capture and it has consonance. Artistic license is alive and well on the ERJ blog.

So, to answer Jonathan's question: Sig and Roger are exquisitely keyed into defensive measures.

Our fictional Copperhead Cove has only one drive into it. The two that are there in the firmware version of CHC that are "X"ed out do not exist in the fictional CHC.

The drive that is there is circled where it goes up a slope (75 feet vertical in 450 feet horizontal) and it is wooded. It is my belief that 20% slopes (100 feet in 500 horizontal) are borderline impassible for most passenger cars on unimproved surfaces. It would not take a lot of "help" to make a 17% slope impassible for everything except special-purpose vehicles. If the road-bed is exposed shale, something as simple as spraying it with used motor oil or soap would stop most traffic.

For the most defensively minded, routing the drive to the right so it was parallel to Leggit Branch and overlooked by its west bank  (defilade with elevation, known distance, multiple firing positions available for the defenders: Technical term; Fish in a barrel) before a hairpin turn to the left and climbing a 20% grade would make it difficult impossible to overwhelm prepared defenses without exiting vehicles. Think Claymore mines, here.

Roads in that part of Tennessee don't have shoulders. It would be unthinkable for city people to park along the road and hike in. The closest off-road parking is at a cemetery 1.2 miles west of CHC. Infiltrators would have to park and then either walk along the road (with no shoulder) or hike cross-country (copperheads, rattlesnakes....lions and tigers and bears, Oh MY!) if they opted to walk in.

And while the story-line might not ever veer in that direction, the terrain is such that it could happen.

In his very own words


"Pssst, Joe. It is supposed to be Build Back Better"

Bonus image for exclusive release to CNN

Another day in paradise

I gained weight

The bad news is that my weight ballooned two pounds over the holidays.

Back on-track with weight lifting

The good news is that I was finally able to execute four sets of ten-repetitions of 190 pounds. I used the straps. Experience taught me that I need a five minute of recovery between each set. My plan is to repeat this performance two more times with an appropriate number of recovery days between sessions. Then to bump up the weight another five or ten pounds.

Physically, the lifts were not overly challenging. I was able to get it off the ground without straining excessively. I had enough extra strength to play-around with the repetitions. It went more smoothly, for instance when I used delts and lats add speed to the bar just before getting to knee level.

In general, I am not very self-conscious but I had to wonder what the athletes using the other equipment thought of the Shrek-like shape deadlifting.


Mrs ERJ remembered that I have very modest skills at repairing drywall. In this case, "very modest" means that more than 50% of the time the repair looks better than the original damage.

So, I now have some assignments around the house.

Convection Cells

One of the quirks of using a dead-air space as an insulator is something called Convection Cells.

Picture in your head our hero sleeping on a cot suspended 8" above the ground. Consider that the ground and the ambient air is 40F, our hero is 95F. A one-dimensional model would assume a linear top-to-bottom gradient from 95F at the cot to 40F at the floor. With me so far?

What happens when you introduce the second dimension? Let's assume the temperature gradient at the center-line is the same as the one-dimensional model. The first-order approximation of the temperature immediately adjacent to the skirting that separates the dead-air space from the ambient air will be the significantly colder than the 1-D model. In fact, if there are drafts in the ambient space, it will be closer to the ambient temperature than to the 1-D model.

Cold air sinks. If the cot is standing in free-space, then two convection cells will arise where air rises in the center of the dead-air space beneath the cot and air cools-and-sinks at the skirts. Instead of a static, gentle temperature gradient, a convection model where the warmest air next to the bottom of the sling is scrubbed away by moving air comes into play.

That is why you want to fill that "dead air space" with something...waste bubble wrapping, popcorn, crumpled newspapers, beverage containers... almost anything.

Virtual Footprint

I asked Pascal, Belladonna's boyfriend, for some guidance regarding "apps" and security issues. Pascal works in IT and is very fond of the virtual world.

This is ONE IT guy's opinions. Please bear in mind that this post was stitched together from two return email he sent to me. He had no expectation that I would publish it so it is not written to the level of a MBA quality thesis. I did, however ask his permission before posting it and he is fine with the idea and gave me his permission.

The content of his return emails highlighted with light blue. My comments have no highlighting.

This one's tricky, it depends on your risk acceptance and how you determine what you 'trust'.

At a baseline, if you're installing apps through an official app store (google play or the iOS app store), you're going to be very safe. That doesn't mean it's impossible to be compromised, but it's very, very improbable.

Nowadays security is fantastic from what I hear - attacks are going to come from social engineering / credential stealing / or very rarely something that comes from the developer accidentally (development tools being infected, etc. - I think that's what happened with SolarWinds)

"In my mind, (downloading large numbers of apps) is the equivalent of having large numbers of sexual partners. Any one of them is probably "clean" but as the numbers increase the confidence level drops."

It's hard to say in a general sense - but I agree with your analogy. Technically, the more apps you install, the more likely you are to be compromised. How much more likely? It's hard to say, that's like a game theory question.

Me personally, I like to keep anything I don't want compromised off of devices / platforms that are more vulnerable. So personal information and files are encrypted and on devices / partitions that don't get apps installed. I use an app called Signal to communicate in a relatively more secure manner. I hate the idea of having my personal stuff compromised, but when I'm installing apps on my phone I feel very safe - and just in case there's some freak chance that there is an issue, I don't have vulnerable information on there.

It's a really big topic so I'm kind of all over the place rambling here - but I think you're right to be conservative with what you install. I personally install anything I want from the official stores because a lot of what I like to do comes from apps and websites. The scary thing for me would be to have my primary email or main PC compromised. Nowadays, all of my passwords are randomly generated, complex, and unique - but if someone were to compromise my main device, then they'd have access to all my accounts at once. The saving grace there is multi-factor authentication", meaning even if someone has a password, they can't get into my important accounts without also having access to my phone. If they get both then I'm in trouble.

None of this addresses the possibility of an unauthorized player downloading data onto a thumb-drive and then misusing it.

It's a numbers game - I think many important companies also face the same type of issues and they're actually being targeted. The tech companies have done a good job securing things - and that combined with the fact that the average *Joe* isn't exactly being targeted makes me feel like it's safe to at least install some apps.

I'm speaking of 'compromising' as a malicious actor stealing info or harming you in some way. If you're worried about your personal data / digital activity being sold without your permission, then that's almost a guarantee and is likely already happening to some extent.

The way I see it, unless you work very, very hard - your information is out there. It's being sold and shared without your consent. There are laws in place that allow you to stop some of that, but unfortunately we are in an 'opt-out' situation, rather than an 'opt-in'. I look at it as two channels: stuff I don't care that is shared and stuff that I do. If I have stuff I don't want shared, I make an effort to use devices and tools that I believe to be less compromised. For example, I use "Signal", a communication platform that emphasizes security and privacy.

The way I see it, it's more convenient to just accept that your stuff is out there and enjoy the benefits of convenience - as long as you keep it to stuff you don't really mind being shared. If you do mind, then you can either silo off stuff you want private into more secure systems, or you can work hard to try and ensure all of your info is secured. In today's world, unless someone has worked hard to 'opt-out' and secure their stuff, it's already being shared and sold.

One thing I'm curious about is how liable companies are to keep that information private from the *public*. They can share and sell it behind the scenes to other companies, but I wonder if there would be any punishment for them leaking it to the general public and exposing people (i.e. exposing individuals interests, browsing history, etc.) - I would expect that even though they share information with other companies, they're held to some responsibility to make sure the information doesn't become public.

Friday, December 29, 2023

"Sleeping Rough" in cold climates

Don't take this as the final word on the subject. My hope is that my readers who have more experience on the subject will chime in.

My gut-feel is that I have 400 hard-core readers. I also estimate that 10% will have at least as much experience as I have "sleeping rough" in cold weather and 5% or twenty of you will have a LOT more experience.

Tip #1: Contrary to what your physics teacher told you, Heat goes down

Dead-air spaces insulates. Weight crushes the dead-air spaces out of insulation. Climb into a standard sleeping bag on a snowy surface and 80% of your body-heat will leave your body DOWNWARD. More insulation on top of you will not save your bacon if you are losing 4/5ths of your heat downward.

The standard inner-spring mattress is a miracle but it doesn't always translate well to "rough sleeping'. 

A cot with skirting around the perimeter and ANYTHING dry to create a dead-air space (like garbage bags filled with crumpled newspaper) beneath it WILL save your bacon. Heck, you could throw empty, aluminum beverage cans beneath the cot and it would serve the purpose.

In even more austere situations, piling up dry leaves or straw or corrugated cardboard is an option.

Tip #2: Wet kills

Wetness, regardless of the source, destroys insulation's ability to retain heat. Whether it is from rain or snow-melt or condensate from breathing or sweat. Dampness is your enemy. Even with exotic, synthetic fibers.

Tip # 3: Wind kills

If there is no wind, then the layer of air closest to your skin warms and it will (slowly) move away due to very slight differences in air density. Wind-speed brooms away that warm layer and your heat losses go crazy.

Tip #4: Infrared losses are real

Cloudy nights are much warmer than clear nights. Often to a tune of 20F-to-30F. If you have already addressed insulating yourself from the ground, and have strategies to stay dry and are exploiting terrain, vegetation and structures to kill the wind...then suspending a reflective layer like a space blanket or a poncho with a layer of aluminum foil glued to the lower surface 18 inches above your body (or if resources are limited, above your face) can make a big difference.

Little "cheats"

Body warmers can be your friend. Maybe not every night but certainly on the coldest ones.

If you have access to 110V, then an electric blanket or a "massage mat warmer" is heavenly. They use about 60 Watts but a huge percentage of it warms you instead of your bedroom's walls.

If you have a spouse, they are good for about 100 Watts but much of it will escape in other directions.

If you don't have a spouse, dogs are the next-best alternative. "Three Dog Night" refers to a way to stay warm on the coldest of nights.

If you do not have a spouse (or if she objects to your custom of eating pickled eggs and herring before turning in for the night) and if your dogs ran away, then eating a modest meal that is high in fat shortly before turning in for the night might be an option. You DON'T want to eat so much that you need to make a trip to the outhouse, however.

If resources are limited, then if you can only add "extra insulation" to one thing, insulate your head, face and neck.

If you have enough resources to insulate two areas, head-face-neck and trunk.

The big fake-out is that we feel cold in our extremities first. That is because our bodies are smart and they shut-off blood flow to the extremities first. Fingers, toes, hands and feet can drop down to 34 degrees (and be painful) but have little overall impact on our chances of survival. The same cannot be said for our heads or our core-body temperature. The "head-fake" is that people address hands-and-feet when they should be addressing the more important parts.

Using day-clothes as insulation for sleeping

Opinions differ. My inclination is to use them ON TOP of the stack of blankets/sleeping bags to keep them drier UNLESS the temperatures are dire.


Pick a "camping place" that will protect you from moisture (whether from precipitation, snow-melt, driven by wind or from condensation.

Pick a "camping place" that gets you out of the wind.

Have a plan to get up, off the ground and to insulate beneath you. Prosecute that plan aggressively.

Place a canopy or second, inner tent above your body to reflect infrared losses back to your body. If resources are tight, concentrate on protecting your head which is typically the most exposed (and highest priority) part of your body.

Have several rescue or go-to-hell plans in case the temperature drops to -35 F. Candy bars, hand/body warmers, hot water bottles etc.

Having a plan to avoid having to go outside to visit the latrine is pure gold. A "piss bottle" if you are a guy, for instance or a toilet-seat-on-a-bucket if you are of the fairer sex.


My hope is that my readers whose experience dwarfs my own will pipe up and say "Blah, blah, blah is BS. This is what you SHOULD do" or "Don't try to supress shivering. If your body tells you it wants to shiver, don't argue with it..."  or "Be extra careful to not get sweaty before turning in. Sweat is moisture..."

This is a GREAT time to share stories of those times when you were the coldest or had to survive the coldest night of your life.

Jack Reacher Novels, Ranked

Even though he’s a man for our troubled times, Reacher is a timeless hero of legend. Reacher is Achilles, Samson, Cu’Cullaihnn. In Child’s words, he is that eternal wanderer

Child’s prose is famously “frictionless”. You don’t need to follow the impossible plots... Lee ingeniously writes “the fast stuff slow and the slow stuff fast”. Mostly this means the violent stuff...

And Reacher is – of course – about rough justice. Even monkeys hate injustice. 

Above all, Reacher is about suppressed rage on a mass societal level. As these books are beloved by women more than anyone (upwards of 60% of his astronomically large readership is female) is now exceedingly clear to me that they are very much about suppressed female rage.   Source

Scatter chart. Horizontal axis is the year the book was published and the vertical axis is the rating (low numbers good)


Top 5

#1 Bad Luck and Trouble (2007) 
#2 Tripwire (1999) 
#3 Never Go Back (2013) 
#4 Second Son (2011) – short story
#5 Killing Floor (1997)

ERJ notes: the recent TV series is vastly superior to the movie. Reacher works when the hero is big enough to have his own gravitational field because raw, physical power is core to who he is and the hole he tears in the time-space continuum. It seems like a gimmick when Reacher is played by a little dude like Tom Cruise.

Hat-tip to Lucas

Deliveries (Cumberland Saga)

The first “package” arrived the Thursday after New-Year’s Day.

The motion-activated sensor pinged in Sig’s and Roger’s homes at 1:53 PM. Somebody was coming up the poorly maintained two-track that led to the compound. They were not expected.

Sig was standing near the top of the drive when the ten-year-old, Dodge, 4-wheel-drive diesel truck cleared the tree-line and broke into the opening that housed the Copperhead Cove compound. Even though it was only ten years old, it clearly showed a lot of very hard miles.

The driver who stepped out matched his truck, not very old by the calendar but with a lot of miles on the odometer.

“Jerome asked me to drop off a tool box on my way to Asheville” the man said, pointing at the back of his truck.

Looking in the back of the truck, Sig saw a multiple-drawer tool-box on rollers. He recognized the nameplate riveted to the end of the box as one of his nephews. Jerome was in Cincinnati. Realizing that the driver had probably jogged 100 miles out of his way, Sig said “Thank-you from the bottom of my heart. Do you need a place to stay over-night or can we feed you?”

“No, I am sure I can make Asheville before dark if I get back on the road. Just yank out the box and let me be on my way.” the man with the heavy, dark beard said. “My job starts tomorrow and I don’t want to miss any hours. Work has been hard to come by.”

Sig looked over at his wife and said “Make him four ham sandwiches to take with him.”

Calling out to Roger who was snuggled down behind cover 40 yards from the truck, Sig said “Roger, start up the tractor and bring the slings”

Looking over at Blain, who had wandered over when he realized that something unusual was “going down”, Sig said “Help Roger get this tool-box out of the truck. You might learn something.”

And then Sig went stalking off. He was like that.

Roger gave Blain a quick lesson on slings-and-rigging. He showed him how to use chokers to snug up loops and in less than ten minutes had yanked Jerome’s 400 pound tool-box out of the bed of the gentleman’s truck.

Five minutes later Jerome's friend was directed around the loop at the end of the drive so he could drive down the steep, rocky two-track to the public road in relative safety. He had a brown paper bag containing four ham sandwiches, a loaf of bread, a pint of pear preserves and a quart of apple-sauce and quarter-pound of crispy, fried bacon. And he had a quart jar of clear, high-proof liquid suitable for Molotov Cocktails or sedating jangled nerves, whichever was most appropriate in the moment.

Jerome’s friend who drove the Dodge was just the first of many. Within a week, it was a rare day when two-or-three deliveries were not made to Copperhead Cove.

Sig’s letter had resonated.

Tool boxes and bags of seeds for pastures. Solar powered electric fence energizers and wire. Solar panels and electrical controllers. DC powered, drum wool-carders and bobbins for spinning-wheels and garden seed.

Coils of rope and baling twine, rolls of chicken wire and fabric and bird-netting and floating row-covers. Needles, thread, thimbles and magnifying glasses. Pallets of used solar panels and DC technology appliances and pumps.

It was an embarrassment of riches. Sig did not have enough places to put the unexpected riches.

Blain listened to Sig grumble about the seemingly unfocused deluge of "cargo". Specifically, Sig was pointing at the floating row-covers as "yuppy, feel-good junk".

By now, Blain had worked with Sig long enough to push back a little bit. "Ya know, I watch Sarah cutting cabbage for slaw or for soup and she spends a lot of time cleaning out the bug-poop. Either that, or she ends up throwing out a third of the head. Either way, that is a lot of waste. If those "floating row covers" keep the caterpillars off the cabbage, I would say it was worthwhile."

In a moment of self-awareness that Blain had not realized that Sig was capable of, Sig said "I ain't bitchin' because I think it is a bad idea. I am bitchin' 'cause I ain't comfortable receiving charity."

Blain, Sig and the others switched from cutting the downed timber into firewood chunks to pulling an old, portable sawmill out of storage and cutting boards for constructing sheds.

Once again, Blain suffered cognitive whiplash at the seemingly instantaneous change in direction. He had yet to realize that Sig (and Roger) were consummate chess players who were always thinking two or three moves ahead of the actual game. To Blain, it was instantaneous. To the others, it was the switching of rail to a slightly different pre-planned path.

Had Blain been privy to Sig’s thoughts, he would have been surprised to learn that Sig was more than alarmed by the largess.

Five short years ago, Sig had been one of the men from Copperhead Cove working construction where ever the work took him. It only took a glance for Sig to realize that he tool boxes that were showing up were not the men’s “back-up” tools but their main tool boxes.

To one degree or another, Sig knew each of these men personally. They were all wise in the ways of the woods. Where a city-man might only see fallen leaves, these men could see where the deer had passed, scuffling up the leaves. They could estimate the number of deer and assess their emotional state. Given a bit of information of the lay of the land and where other hunters were, they could even make accurate estimates of the life-spans of the deer in the passing herd.

These were not men who spooked easily.

The men sending their tool-boxes to Copperhead Cove were not hedging a bet and buying some arcane, academic option or taking advantage of an inexpensive way to store tools they had no need of.

They were, serious as a heart-attack, planning on landing in Copperhead Cove to sit-out the duration.

And that had implications for Blain.

“I think it is time for you and me went squirrel hunting” Sig said to Blain.

Blain looked up from his task, surprised. He didn’t know Sig was a squirrel hunter.

Roger interjected, “If Sig wants to go squirrel hunting with you, I highly recommend that you go.”

Blain felt foolish toting the old, Crossman 2100 pellet gun while Sig carried an old, pump, 20-gauge shotgun.

Sig was not one to beat around the bush. “My gut tells me that we are going to have a lot of company dropping in on us over the next few months. Folks we ain’t got room to house.”

Blain cocked an eyebrow in a “What does this have to do with me?” question.

“I ain’t about to kick you outta here. You earned your place. But if some of these guests have kids...and I am betting that a lot of them do...then the proper thing to do is for you to let them have the CONEX and we find another place for you to sleep” Sig said.

For the tiniest fraction of a second the thought surged in Blain’s mind that he would not mind sharing a bed with Sarah...and then he realized that he hadn’t earned THAT, yet.

Sig saw the passion surge in Blain’s face and then recede. Blain’s voice was curiously flat and without emotion. “What do you have in mind?”

“That ain’t for me to solve. First, you gotta decide if you are going to do the right thing and let that family and kids move into your CONEX.” Sig said.

“If you do the right thing, then I think the family moving into the CONEX oughta kick in a few dollars to make sure you aren’t sleeping under the stars...or in the rain” he said.

They trudged onward, squirrels forgotten. Blain was sure that if he DIDN’T choose to do “the right thing” he would not be welcome in Copperhead Cove. Blood is thicker than water, especially for people like Sig and Sarah.

"So what are you saying?” Blain asked.

“Figure out what it will cost to knock together an 8-foot-by-12-foot hut good enough to spend the rest of the winter in or to get a van-body towed up here” Sig said. “Somebody shows up with kids they will be thrilled to get the CONEX for that price. If somebody shows up without kids, you keep the CONEX and they get the hut or van.”

It only took Blain a second to realize that the van was the better option purely because it was turn-key and had none of his time invested in it.

“Are you OK if I just look at getting the van?” Blain asked.

Sig nodded his OK.

A moment later he said “See if you can get a volume discount. We might need five of them, if only to have places to store things...”

Thursday, December 28, 2023


I have been writing Start dates on some of the staples we use in the kitchen to get a rough idea of how much we go through in a typical day.

Oatmeal: 2.5 oz per day (just my consumption)

Dried fruit (added to oatmeal for breakfast): 1.8 oz per day

Instant coffee: 0.27 oz per day or 12 oz in 45 days (just my consumption)

Peanut butter: 1.5 oz per day (combined Mrs ERJ and my consumption). I estimate that I use three times as much as she does, so my use is about 1.1 oz per day.


I am burning a mix of ash and hybrid poplar (NM-6 cultivar if anybody cares) tonight. The poplar dries quickly and seems to light well. Some wood, notably Siberian Elm, Box Elder and Sycamore have a bad reputation locally for not drying down quickly. You might think it is dry but it hisses and bubbles when you throw it on the fire. Give me good, honest gofer wood any day of the week.

Chainsaw woes

The Husky threw the chain while I was working and it galled the keels on the chain so they would not drop back into the guides on the bar.

I struggled to pull off of the side-cap, belatedly realizing that I had to loosen the chain-brake and pull it straight off.

Now I have to watch an YT video to figure out how to open-up the brake, which is a band of spring steel, so I can slide it back over the centrifugal clutch. I can see a three-lugged feature that gloves with the same on the handle of the chain-brake. I just cannot get it to turn.

I know I have changed the chain in the past and I don't recall any issues. I wonder what I goofed up.

Walking notes

I walked three miles today wearing my ALICE pack. I have about 45 pounds of sand bags in it for ballast. I think I will be feeling that over the next few days.

I think it is time to shop for a couple pairs of shoes. I have been wearing New Balance 481 and like them. The Asics Venture Gel-8 looks similar but I have yet to try a pair to see how the sizes match-up. I am reluctant to buy shoes on-line until I after I bought a pair in a brick-and-mortar store and have worn them for a couple of weeks. Once I validate that the shoe and size are what I am looking for then I shop around to find the best price and buy a couple more pairs.

Tomorrow is a lifting day.

Last seed into stratification

Well, maybe.

I soaked a few Quercus X humidicola acorns a few days to ensure they were adequately hydrated and I popped them into the stratification media. I also picked some Geneva 935 crabs (a rootstock variety) that had most likely been pollinated by Trailman Applecrab and had been soaked for a couple of days. They also went into stratification.

I still have some peach pits and am thinking about purchasing some Black Locust seeds, European Alder seeds and maybe Manchurian Ash seeds. BL and EA are nitrogen fixing trees. BL can take a lot of dryness and since it is thorny has a little bit of resistance to deer. EU can take a lot of wet and when crowded the stems grow arrow-straight.

Most of the "woods" in my area of operation are in poorly drained areas where it is not economical to farm. If you took a census of trees you would find Eaton County very heavy in Acer saccharinum, (dead) Fraxinus, (soon to die) Ulnus, a smattering of Quercus bicolor and Populus deltoides. The only species on list that is not spread by wind is the Q. bicolor.

Fence-rows lean toward Prunus serotina, Celtis occidentalis, Acer negundo and a sprinkling of oak in the Red Oak clade and some odd-balls like Acer saccharum, Tilia americana and Sassafras albidum. Tree species in fence-rows are more likely to be spread by birds-and-animals than the species found in least in Eaton County.

It can be puzzling to find dryland species like Northern Red Oak in flood-plains but if you look closely you might notice that they are on an inconspicuous ridge, and likely that ridge is rich in gravel. 18" of elevation makes all the difference in the world when the rest of the area is flat. 

I sometimes wonder about the amount of genetic variation in tree species. Surely, not all Northern Red Oak are super-susceptible to honey fungus and root-rots.

The price the upland tree pays when it grows in wet-environs is that it is not very wind-firm. That is usually not a problem for the shorter trees since the flood-plane is bracketed by higher banks but it can be rough for the patriarchs.

It is my impression that Michigan suffers from a poverty of wetland tree species. States blessed by the Ohio River and Mississippi River valleys are much more richly endowed with species. Species like Persimmon, Cherrybark, Overcup, Willow, Water, Shumard, Pin (palustris) and Nuttall Oak, Bald Cypress, Honey Locust and Pumpkin Ash. Mayhaws. Tupelo and Pawpaws (I am within 20 miles of the northern extent of Pawpaws natural range). Pecans and Shellbark Hickories and many, many more.

The Blessing of Same-Sex Unions

The popular press is reporting that the current Pope said that the Roman Catholic Church will "Bless same-sex unions" but will not sanction "Same-sex marriages".

The goal of "catechesis" or basic Christian education, or at least the Roman Catholic version of it, is to produce adults with "well-formed consciences". A well-formed conscience can take a multitude of sometimes-conflicting inputs and reach a proper moral decision.

For example, even though the Catholic Church forbids oral contraceptives, those same pills are often prescribed to stabilize symptoms of menstrual distress. If the symptoms are severe enough, then a proper moral decision would be to use the pills so the woman can function in society until such time that the couple wants to conceive.

Details matter

It has always been a position of the Catholic Church that gay people can be blessed.

Every sinner is blessed by the priest at the end of their confession.

If sex outside of the Sacrament of Marriage is a sin, then sex between same-sex couples is a sin and should be confessed. If confessed, the gay person will be blessed but with the invocation to avoid sin and the circumstances leading up to it.

Societal benefits of confining sex to married couples

The sticky material on a strip of duct-tape is a good metaphor for the function of sex in marriage. If you tore off a strip of duct-tape, even the really good stuff, and then used it multiple times, it would lose its ability to function. It would stop being sticky.

Sex when acquired outside of wedlock dilutes its ability to keep a man-and-a-woman married. The family is the basic building block of society. A married man-and-woman are, hands-down, the best platform for raising children. Ergo, sex outside of marriage pecks away at society's foundation.

Sex reserved for married couples is an absolute standard and many people will fall short. But that is not a reason to water-down the standard.

No moral parent has ever looked at their twelve-year-old child and said "Damn, good going kid. You cannot start having sex too soon!" The act of having sex has consequences.

Statistically, even being able to delay the deed for one relationship has benefits from a public health and a personal mental-health standpoint. If reaching for a high standard fails but stretches most individuals so they came closer to the ideal, then it has benefit.

So my concern for the Pope endorsing the blessing of same-sex unions is two-fold.

First, he seems to be back-pedaling on "Sex reserved for Married Couples"

Second, it seems likely that bishops and priests will not be allowed to exercise their own "well formed consciences" and deny blessings to same-sex couple who demand them.

Wednesday, December 27, 2023

There comes a time in every man's life when...

There comes a time in every man's life when he comes to a fork in the road and must either choose to do something irrational or turn in his "man-card".

I am contemplating how I will celebrate my 65th birthday.

I recently saw where somebody celebrated their 35th birthday by walking 35 miles.

I am pretty sure that I am not physically capable of walking 65 miles in one day.

Even 65 "metric-miles" (i.e. klicks) is a bit of a stretch. My longest "walk" in one day was 26 miles and 65k is 39 miles. At my normal walking speed of 2.7mph, I need at least 14.5 hours of daylight to get-it-done.

I suppose I could bike that far if I worked up to it.

Given that everything takes longer now that I am older, it might be appropriate to walk 65 miles over the course of a week. That seems do-able at this point (Shut-up, knees. I am not talking to you).

Logistically, it would be easiest to walk outbound 8.125 miles and turn around and walk back on four separate days. But that lacks the swashbuckling, grand-gesture that a landmark birthday like my 65th cries screams for. If this was about logistical efficiency I would do it on a treadmill!

A more symbolically satisfying option would be to walk 16.25 miles in each of the cardinal directions on four separate days. Starting from the Eaton Rapids Quality Dairy, that would put me at the Horrock's on M-43 (North), the Dansville State Game Area Shooting Range (East), Bur Oak Golf Club (South) and Olivet College (mostly West). I may have to add a few miles here-and-there to make the goal.

I anticipate carrying a day-pack with 4 liters of water and another 7-or-8 pounds of comfort items.

Another option would be to pick a stretch of the North Country Trail to walk. The downside is that most of the trail that is closest to me involves walking beside narrow, paved, country, two-lane roads with traffic whipping by at 60 mph. Not my cup of tea and the logistics are much harder than parking in Eaton Rapids and starting to walk.

I have a few months to think about it and to work up to it. On the up-side, if I think of it as my mid-life crisis then it means I should live to 130. Any opinions from my readers?

Follow-up on "Random Image"


I assume this pier or column is hollow and might be filled with rubble. Concrete is expensive.

I looked into how hollow, concrete shapes are made and found this video:

Five-minute run-time

Possible failure modes in the process that might lead to the structural failure as shown in the image are:

  1. Temporary failure in the vibrator that shakes and compacts the concrete. That might result in a band of unconsolidated concrete which would crumble.
  2. A short run of dry or inadequately mixed concrete
  3. An interrupted pour

Are there any concrete guys out there who REALLY know what happened?

Butchering Time! (Cumberland Saga)

Roger and Alice scheduled the butchering of their two hogs on the last Saturday before Christmas.

They kept them on the east side of their collection of buildings and were out-of-sight (and downwind) of Sarah’s house so Blain had never paid them much attention until butchering day arrived.

The inside of the pen looked like the aftermath of a WWI battle with huge craters and freshly turned dirt and leaves. It had been a good year for acorns, especially the Northern Red Oaks and Roger had tasked a couple of his grandkids with raking leaves and acorns onto a tarp and dumping it over the side of the pen. The pigs enjoyed the rooting around and the acorns were free food.

“We used to notch the ears and let the hogs free-range” Roger told Blain.

“How did you get them to come back?” Blain wanted to know.

“Pigs like their comfort and their routines. I would feed them a half-bucket of corn every night at exactly the same time and then I would shut them into the pen until morning when I let them out again” Roger said.

“Why did you stop?” Blain asked.

“It was a combination of things” Roger admitted. “Too many neighbors who would complain about hogs tearing up their flower-beds. Too many crack-heads and city people who would shoot them just-for-fun.”

“That, and we got wild-hogs running around out there. I am not sure mine would come back. They might join-up with the wild ones or the wild-ones might rip them to pieces and eat them” he said.

Blain looked at the two hogs. To him, they looked as big as the M-60 that was parked outside the VFW Post in front of the airport back home. It was hard to imagine something mean enough to tear them apart.

“How big are they?” Blain asked.

“Not really sure but I figure the bigger one is pushing 400 and the smaller one is not far behind” Roger said. “There are only two times you can get a good price for a pig and that is when it is 30 pounds and when it is 230 pounds.”

“These are a lot bigger than 230 pounds, though” Blain reminded him.

“Farm animals are sorta like humans. First they grow their frames...their bones. Then they grow meat over those bones. Finally, they put on fat. The commercial markets are all about meat and most hogs are all meat and just a little bit of fat at 230 or 240 pounds” Roger told him. “We use a lot of lard up here and it makes sense to keep fattening them up as long as we have culled ‘taters and turnips and free acorns to feed them.”

“Everybody should kill a hog at least once in their life, so today you get to do it” Roger said.

Blain wasn’t too sure that he wanted to but the crowd of “Helpers” was mostly assembled waiting for the main event to start.

Roger showed him how to load a .22 LR into his “barn-gun”, an ancient, bolt-action single-shot rifle. Then he reached through the feedlot panel and traced on the closest pig's face. “Ya wanna draw two imaginary lines. One from his right ear-to-his left eye and another from his left ear-to-his right eye. The “X” marks the spot.”

“The only thing you gotta be careful about is to make sure that you are holding the barrel close to square with his forehead so the bullet goes in straight” he said.

The hog was contently chowing-down on some cidery, half-frozen apples that Roger had dropped along the base of the feed-lot panel that confined the animals. “Wait for him to lift his head…”

The end of the barrel was about 2” from the hog’s forehead when Blain pulled the trigger. The sound of the shot seemed like a pitifully small “pop” and Blain was amazed when the pig dropped in his tracks like a sack of potatoes.

Roger relieved Blain of the .22 and dispatched the other hog, which had suddenly realized that something was up and was a lot more skittery. Blain was glad that Roger had nominated him for doing-the-deed on the first one and not the second.

Roger used the bucket on the tractor to lift each pig, one-at-a-time by their hind-feet. He slit their throat and let the blood run into a large stock-pot. “The ladies will turn this into Blutwurst.”

Then, after the blood flow had dropped to just a trickle, Roger used the tractor to slowly dip them into the scalding cauldron. After lifting it out, he let it cool for a few minutes in the cool, chill air and then laid it down on a large tarp for the kids to start scraping off the hair.

The rest of the day was endless labor of cutting and splitting wood for the rendering pots which were nothing more than steel barrels with the paint burned out of them. The "kettle" was 1/3 of a 30 gallon steel barrel that nested into the top of the 55 gallon barrel.

Walking by the set-up, Blair saw that there was about an 1-1/2" of clearance between the sides of the kettle and the top of the 55 gallon barrel which had a small door cut near the bottom where wood could be added and which could be adjusted to tweak the draft. 

There was almost no stand-around time for Blain. When he wasn’t feeding the fires he was turning the handle on a meat-grinder or cutting pig-fat into strips for Sarah to feed into the rendering kettles.

Sarah used a dipper with screen on the end of it to scoop out the deep-brown, very shrunken strips before adding more new ones. She sprinkled them with salt and offered one to Blain. It was very, very hot...and absolutely delicious; better than any potato-chips he had ever eaten.

Blain passed on the “blood pudding” but surprised himself when he wasn’t squeamish about cleaning intestines for sausage casings.

Blain’s least favorite kettle to feed was the one boiling the pig’s heads. The slow boil kept them roiling up. He didn’t know which one was the one he had shot (the heads had been skinned) but he imagined that both of them were giving him looks of hurt and betrayal through their cloudy, cooked eyes.

The few short breaks he got he spent with the older men who were preparing the “pink brine” for curing the hams, bacon and other bits. Even Sig was chatty. Seeing that much rich food put everybody in a joyous mood.

Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Random image


Boxer Day

We had our Christmas celebration on the afternoon of Christmas Eve.

Too much rich food and too little moving is taking its toll.

We have been enjoying unseasonably warm weather. It got to the mid-fifties yesterday and I was wearing jeans and a tee-shirt while I pruned some pear trees.

Several years ago I collected scion from a couple of "monument" trees near Vermontville and from an unknown Asian Pear tree near Family Shooters Corral near Olivet. Judging by the number of spurs on the trees I will get a chance to evaluate the fruit quality. 

My expectations are pretty low. If I had to guess, I would guess that the two trees from Vermontville are a variety named Kieffer which was very popular in the 1920s and is still sold today. It does not have "commercial quality" but it is a stalwart producer and the pears are plenty good-enough for canning.

The Asian pear has shown extreme sensitivity to fire-blight so it will probably get it and die. It has WAY too many spurs on the tree and I will have to thin the fruit.

It used to be common practice to take carpet beaters through peach-orchards and whale-the-tar out of the blossoming trees to reduce the fruit load. I wonder if that would work for pear trees.

Boxing Day

In the US more accurately known as  Boxer Shorts day.

Men who for the last three months honored their wife's requests that they buy nothing that might show up beneath the Christmas tree hie thee off to the big-box stores to lay in a supply of socks and tee-shirts and boxer-shorts. At least those of us who were naughty and did not receive them from "Santa".

The shelves of the local Walmart were almost stripped clean. Every brand of pocketed Tee-shirts in Large and XL were gone. Packages of calf-height, crew-socks were almost as bad. Under-shorts were available in all colors, sizes and shapes.

Figure-8 Lifting straps

I fiddled around with some webbing that I have laying around. My first guess on the length was 31" with 1" of overlap so I could sew them together.

31" of webbing version on the bottom. 28" of webbing version on the top.

My wrists are 7" in diameter circumference (yes, I am that puny) and my first guess was too long but now I have a baseline. Every inch I take out will "lift the bar" up 1/4 inch. Since the bar is somewhere between 1/2" and 3/4" lower than I want it, that means my next effort should be 28" strap length.

 ---Update: 28" was perfect---

The one I made is usable but I have to twist it several times to shorten it up. Today I will use it on my left (weaker) hand at the gym.

One consequence of my hyper-focusing on my grip is that my general form has gone down-hill. Form gets very important as the weight goes up. You can be sloppy when working with lighter weights but heavy weights are unforgiving. 

---Second Update---

The gym was crowded. Stupid me. I forgot that many people would be off work.

I used the two straps (with two twists in the longer one) and was able to knock-out two sets-of-ten of the 190 pounds.

Because I was not rushing, I was able to remember to drop my tush down a couple of inches and to arch my lower-back before I started lifting. And just like that, I was back to lifting with my legs and not my back.

I have a couple of "store-bought" coming on Thursday but the lifting straps were a nice beginner's project for webbing. The second one went together much faster than the first. I was wetting the tip of the needle with a bit of spit and it penetrated the webbing significantly better. I assume a drop of liquid soap would work as well or better. I also got smarter about where in the weft/warp to insert the tip of the needle to make it easier to push in.


Quicksilver's parents are on vacation. That means I have extra time on my hands.

God willing, I will get a few installments ahead on the two series now running.

Fine Art Tuesday


The cathedral in Cologne.

"Cathedral" comes from the Latin word for "chair" and refers to where the local Bishop sits.

Work on the building started in 1248 and was completed in 1880.

Monday, December 25, 2023

Stolen valor, co-opted umbrage

I had some dead-time and was fiddling around watching whatever Oy-vay Toob threw into my feed.

This one came up:

I know that I have some readers who don't like to feed-the-beast and avoid Oy-vay Toob like a chancre riddled ho, so let me summarize:

A woman-of color signals her virtue by claiming that she would NEVER date a cop because they continued to perpetrate the legacy-of-slavery to keep people-of-color down.

(Random fact: Police officers are over-represented by African-Americans to the tune of 30%, Prison-guards by 200% and Private Security by 260% Link)

The woman dismisses the host of the podcast's opinion about 15 seconds into it by labeling him "white-boy".

The host points out that dismissing anybody solely on the basis of their race is...racist.

The woman...who had been presenting herself as a spokesperson for "black people" does a back-flip and claims that she cannot be racists because...she is half-white. The most incredible thing is that she does that amazing, logical contortion with absolutely no effort or cognitive dissonance.

The mind boggles.

Questions that popped into my mind were not very charitable:

  • If she is white, then why is she presenting the "Black" perspective? Does she think they are too stupid to speak for themselves?
  • If she is both "White" and "Black", then at what percentage does she think "Reparations" should be denied? For what it is worth, 12% of the people who identify as "White" have measurable amounts of "African" genes in them in the states of Louisiana and South Carolina. Do THEY get reparations? If she chooses 49%, then she might want to consider that her "black" parent was probably 25% Caucasian (genetically) and therefore she is not "...half white..." but 62% White meaning she is only 38% "Black".
  • If she can seamlessly flip from one-to-the-other depending on which offers the most advantage, does race really matter?
  • If she can effortlessly and opportunistically change her self-assigned race, doesn't that make her the equivalent of a post-Civil War carpet-bagger?
  • If she can casually look at somebody else and assign them their race, who made her God? Don't they get to identify just as she demonstrated that SHE can identify which race she chooses to identify as (on a moment-by-moment basis)?

Perhaps we owe this young woman a note of thanks. I doubt that she is the only person who engages in cherry-picking, but she is one of the few who threw the bread-crumbs so closely together.

Eventually we will sort this out. Or we won't. But being able to rake it out into the light is valuable.

I cannot help but wonder how a black-as-a-telephone prison guard would respond to this latte-extra-creme chick saying she would never date him because HE is the racist.

There is real racism. There is no need to manufacture faux-racism.

Wealth Inequity (Asphodel Chronicles)


(Be gentle. First draft quality.)

Cassandra had been slowly building up the format for the virtual bookstore and her audience.

Live-stream viewers had plateaued at about thirty. She heard that was common. Unfortunately, the number of “views” after the pod-casts were posted on-line rarely climbed much over 100.

She figured it would take them a few months for the group to find their sea-legs and a few more for their natural audience to start finding them.

To make the incubation period endurable, she invited more people than would be optimal for a polished video with good “production values”. She also chose to invite guests who were opinionated inclined to have spirited conversations.

Sometimes, one gets more than they bargained for.

The first book review of the day was from a retired economics professor and he was reviewing Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations and expounding on The Invisible Guiding Hand.

His presentation was drier than dust.

Cassandra was philosophical about such things. There had been a lot of growing pains when they first opened their bookstore. Imagine, they had two entire, full-length shelves dedicated to comic books!

One of the disadvantages of the very-high-end unidirectional microphones Cassandra had been gulled into buying is that they picked up EVERYTHING, especially when they had 30dB gain along their axis and the videographer had them pointed directly at her most volatile contributors.

The side conversation Jana was having with the lady next to her was clearly picked up. “That is total bull-shit” she said, nodding toward the retired professor.

“Why do you say that?” the lady asked.

“That invisible-hand is a trope to justify the obscene wealth inequities in America” Jana said, dismissively. “It is immoral.”

Jana’s voice had gotten louder as she had been talking. Jana was extremely passionate about what she saw as the root of all evil: Wealth Inexuities.

Cassandra looked around. She could shush them or let them keep going. The professor’s spiel was looking more-and-more like a total write-off. She decided to let Jana’s umbrage mature.

Turning slightly, Cassandra asked “Do you care to elaborate?”

The professor, who frankly had not ever been very effective at teaching, became distracted by the side discussion as well.

“What I mean is, how much money does a person really NEED” Jana started out. “Look at all of these millionaires with 500 foot-long yachts and mansions all over the place.”

“And just to rub salt into the wound, millionaires go to fancy restaurants in places like Los Vegas and they don’t even have to pay their bill! The restaurant ‘comps them’ and writes it off as a marketing expense!” Jana said.

The economist rubbed his chin and then asked “When you say ‘millionaire’ what is the picture in your head? Where do you think he keeps his assets?”

“I don’t know” Jana said. “But that is not the important thing. What is important is that these blow-hards and braggarts are spending money like water. Money that could be helping poor people.”

The elderly gentleman who had been wiping down the tables near the pod-cast squeezed out his wash-cloth and put it into the rubber apron around his waist. He decided to take a break and listen.

The young lady running the cameras noticed the elderly gentleman and “slaved” one of her camera/microphone pairs to follow him. The person who trained her told her that it made sense to “buy a few lottery tickets” when you have extra cameras.

“When a person buys a boat, any boat, where do you think the money they paid for it goes?" The professor asked. "Do you think it is stacked into a pile in the middle of the floor and set on fire or do you suppose it goes to the workers in the factory and to the people who supplied the materials used to make the boat...all the way down to the people in Indian and Thailand who harvested the teak used to make the floors and rails?”

Jana, sensing a trap, danced around the question. “That is beside the point. The money Beelzebub Jefferies spent on his yacht could have been given directly to the poor people without them having to sweat for it or be exposed to environmental toxins.”

Jana had just read an article about the kinds of solvents used in many kinds of plastics.

“What about the hundred or so people who are currently employed taking care of that yacht or who work at the marina providing logistical support for that yacht?” the professor asked. “They have no work if there is no yacht.”

“You are missing my point” Janna pressed. “Nobody NEEDS a yacht.”

Cassandra mused under her breath “And nobody ever NEEDS another book”. And of course the microphone slaved to her picked it up.

Cassandra had spent extra for the window-within-a-window-within-a-window option in Oyvay-Toob. Viewers could customize their viewing experience by following specific speakers or they could jump to most-recent speaker or they could let Oyvay-Toob’s algorithm guide the windows.

Later, looking at the traffic, Cassandra saw that the viewership hooked sharply upward after her comment.

“Ok, forget about Beelzebub Jefferies for the moment. Look at Prometheus Lunge. He bought a social media site just so he could write irresponsible graffiti whenever he wanted to” Jana said.

The old guy in the much-laundered, gray Dickies (65% polyester, wears like iron) who had been wiping down tables startled and moved toward closer to the group.

He entered Cassandra’s cone-of-vision. She looked over and recognized him. “Yes, Bob, do you have something you want to share?”

Bob’s gaze flitted over the assembled group. It was not his job to interject himself or his opinions upon paying customers. “It depends on what they want” he said, nodding toward the people in the pod-cast “I don’t offer opinions where they are not wanted.”

“Yes! Of course!” Jana interjected. “He is exactly the kind of guy who is exploited by ‘the invisible guiding hand’ and by wealthy people.”

“Are you sure…” Bob asked, tentatively. He was looking directly at Jana. “Are you SURE you want my opinion?”

The very faintest ghost of a smirk formed upon Cassandra’s lips.

“Absolutely!” Jana said.

“What do you think of Prometheus Lunge buying Spitter for $50 BILLION dollars! Money that you could have used to feed your family?” Jana crowed.

“I think that if he paid his own money for it, he can do any darned thing he wants with it, excuse the cussing” Bob said.

It took Jana a heartbeat to process what he said.

“How can you say that?” she asked.

“We recently had the stalls in our restroom repainted. Do you have any idea how much it costs to repaint a bathroom?” Bob asked.

Jana frowned and shook her head “No”.

“It cost $2000 to have six stalls repainted to cover up the graffiti. They have to use a special kind of paint” he explained.

“At least Prometheus scribbles on his own walls and not on somebody else’s property” Bob opined.

Jana had never thought of it that way. That graffiti was vandalism and somebody had to pay to clean it up. She had thought of it purely as a freedom-of-expression issue.

Jana pivoted again. The conversation was not going the way it would have if she was having it with her retired, college professor peers.

“But you have to admit that if the millionaire who owned this truck-stop was more generous you could afford better clothes and could actually eat better food” Jana offered.

“No, quite to the contrary” Bob said.

Jana swept her gazed from his water-stained work-boots to his faded, gray Dickies to his cheap wrist-watch and thin, plain, gold wedding band.

“I don’t think you have a very good grasp of economics” Jana said in as kindly of a tone as she could manage. “What did you and your wife have for dinner last night?”

“We shared a chicken-basket that a customer complained about. She said it was over-cooked and demanded the shrimp basket to make-it-right” Bob said.

“THERE! That is what I am talking about. If the owner of the truck-stop wasn’t so damned cheap, you could be eating steak instead of garbage that customers refuse to eat.” Jana crowed.

Bob seemed to be mulling over some question in his mind. Finally, he made his mind up.

“What is the name of this truck-stop?” he finally asked.

“It’s Bob’s Truck-stop. Everybody knows that!” Jana said as if the bus-boy was an idiot.

Bob pointed at his name-tag. “My wife and I own the truck-stop.”

Slightly edited, that became Cassandra's break-out video. It had over a half-million views in the first month.

To Jana's credit, she agreed to allowing her part in it to be viewed. A lesser person would have been embarrassed. Jana saw it as a growth opportunity.


The three most common "reasons" for couples to break-up are:

  • Money
  • Family (family events, holidays)
  • Sex

"...reasons..." is in quotes because there is a shared, underlying commonality that they are manifestations of.

All three "reasons" are about the allocation of a limited resource. They are about "who holds the power" because the person who determines how a limited resource is spent is the dominant person, the one who holds the power.

Money Part One

Money is always a limited resource. Who gets to decide how it is allocated? The person whose opinion prevails demonstrates dominance. They have the power (even if they achieve their goals via passive-aggression).

The time that can be spent with family, especially during holidays is a limited resource. In fact, time is the ultimate limited-resource. Every human has a finite number of heart-beats and each one ticks off a second of life.

Time at holidays

This is front-and-center this time of year and triggered this post.


Sex is about the use of that tiny bit of time left after getting ready for work, working, commuting, preparing and eating food, washing clothing...sleep.

Every couple that endures must find their own solutions to these conflicts.

Some couples "auction off" the holidays a day at a time. "You get first choice and I get next"

Some couples negotiate by the minute "I can spend more minutes awake-in-bed with you if you help me catch-up on folding and putting away clothing"

Money Part Two

Money is a tough nut to crack in part because we have the opportunity to spend money several times a day.

Another factor is that there are two very different styles of spending; the Nibbler and the Plunger. One style is frequent-but-small purchases like food, toilet paper, utility bills, a dozen golf-balls, a bottle of nailpolish. Another style is infrequent but large purchases like a bass-boat, golf-clubs, travel, a remodeled kitchen.

The Plunger can think himself virtuous because he goes months without spending money and think the Nibbler is killing the budget with a thousand paper cuts. And then in ten seconds of impulsiveness, he can mash the Purchase Now button and spend $5000 dollar.  Merchandisers are EXPERTS at triggering impulse buys.

The Nibbler sees himself as the heroic defender of the line and having to make dozens of spending decisions a day (admittedly some will be sub-optimal) only to have the Plunger invite the enemy (extravagant spending) in through an unguarded flank.

Clearly, money is a ready-made fault-line in a relationship and it will be an intractable problem until it is recognized as money-as-a-proxy-for-power.

One solution is to stake out domains like Barons in feudal times. One partner might be responsible for daily needs and the other partner determines how most of the money in-excess-of-daily needs is spent. For example, one might do the grocery shopping and the other plans the vacations but it is all with defined amounts of money.

But every couple must feel their way along and find their own solutions.

Sunday, December 24, 2023

Forwarded to me by a friend who is a retired cop


SJW, Crazy-Cat Ladies and Evolutionary Biology

Arthur Sido, author of Dissident Thoughts blog recently posted a long article titled Liberal White Chick Do-Goodism. Adult-content warning: He use language and words that will trigger snow-flakes and most younger people.

The comments took a slight turn from the content of the post.

To cut to the chase, the comments homed-in on the thought that most women are biologically programmed to fulfill the biological imperative to reproduce and raise enough sproutlings to the age where they could create the next generation.

"...biologically programmed..." or hard-wired to be that way. Not just the urge to do those things that result in an egg getting fertilized but the whole ball-of-wax about raising sproutlings.

The commenters point out that there is an emotional "economy" in raising children. Not only do children NEED nearly constant attention but children shower constant attention down on their caregiver (along with drool, body-fluids, partially digested food and endless stream of verbal gibberish).

The commenters may have used slightly different words, but they pointed out that a woman's craving for unending attention (from her children) is a core-building block that allowed humans to survive our incredibly long childhood. 

Compare us to pheasant chicks which can venture out of the nest and hunt food three hours after hatching. Young humans are easy-meat for the first three YEARS of life for any mid-sized predator that happens along.

The woman's high-need for nearly constant attention is not a "bug" but a feature absolutely essential for the survival of the human race because the mother's need-for-attention is satisfied as a byproduct of attending to her children.

What happens when you remove the load from an electric motor or an internal combustion engine? It over-revs. 

That is what Social Justice Warriors (+80% young women) and Crazy-Cat Ladies are. They are women who were denied the biologically normative source of attention that they need for their dopamine fix. God and evolution put the need-for-attention into women at a cellular level (probably the need for dopamine surges) and by not having children those women find other ways to get those dopamine highs.

This model partially explains "helicopter parents" (most of whom seem to be moms), the vast number of "Instagram influencers" who are women and even the seemingly endless number of women who post nude photos on the internet.

Saturday, December 23, 2023

From the comments on "Sig's Christmas Letter" post


Those cull dairy cows have been eating lots of grain and alfalfa hay all their lives, will probably not do well on rough pasture and three year old, outdoor stored grass hay, unless she has found them at a pasture based dairy. Preferably, they should be al;most any breed of cow other than the standard holstien cow found in 90% or more of commercial dairys. 

Some people like detail. This post is for you.

For the person who wrote this comment (Howard, was that you?), thank-you.

The standard Dairy Holstein

That standard Holstein is a cow that is biologically programmed to produce about 22,000 pounds of milk per year of approximately 3.5% milk-fat, protein and lactose. That is almost 800 pounds of fat, protein and lactose (carbs) each. That works out to an average of 17,000 calories a day, net.

At a minimum, she will need 40 pounds of very high-quality feed every day. That includes grain (called "concentrate" in the business), alfalfa hay and perhaps some corn silage.

Cows have a very funny metabolism. Most of their "energy" is derived from the short-fatty-acids that are generated by the fermentation process in their rumens. A cow with a healthy rumen has a distinctive odor from the volatile 2, 3 and 4 carbon-chain fatty-acids. That enormous rumen's fermentation process is why cows can digest fiber (cellulose) and lacking that rumen, humans cannot. Those short, fatty acids drive the tissue that creates butter-fat in the milk.

Even when a cow is very well fed, it loses body-weight early in its lactation when it is producing the most milk. In the normal course of things she gains that weight back in late-lactation and in the two (or so) months before she calves again when she is not producing milk

It is fair to characterize the nutrition of top-producing dairy cows as being like flying a very fast plane very close to the ground. Things can go south in a hurry and there is little margin to respond.

Throw that cow into an austere environment like Copperhead Cove and feed them junk-hay and you will have a big problem on your hands.

About that 22,000 pounds of milk per year...

Bill Bivens was our county agent some twenty-five years ago. He commented that he had never worked in a county where every registered dairy-herd was not above average. (Sounds a little bit like the children in Lake Woebegon, Minnesota)

Knowing a little bit about statistics, I asked him how that was possible.

He explained that dairy farmers work hard and are proud people. Nobody wants to be below average or to get mocked for having a herd that produced less than 22k pounds per head per year.

The obvious solution is to split the herd into two separate herds. They high performers go into the registered herd whose results get closely measured and published. The lower producing cows go into the un-registered herd. When a cow in the un-registered herd shows potential, she knocks a marginal producer in the registered herd off the end-of-the-bench and the marginal producer goes back into the un-registered herd.

There are good management reasons for doing that. The higher producers need larger amounts of feed. They need higher quality feed. They might get milked three-times-per day while the lower producers get milked twice-a-day.

So if the registered, high-producing herd is making 22k-to-23k pounds of milk per cow then the off-the-books herd is probably making at least 10% less that that and the bottom end of the off-the-books herd is probably making a lot less than that.

Reasons cows stop producing

Sometimes she is just old.

Sometimes it is because she lost one-quarter of her udder to mastitis.

Sometimes she has foot-issues.

Sometimes it is because she is getting bullied by the other cows.

Sometimes she is culled because she took too long to get pregnant which means she will be "dry" for more that two months resulting in her being a drag on the profits.


If you had fabulous rapport with the dairy-farmer, he could earmark some soon-to-be-culled cows that he thinks would survive on your crappy hay...maybe the one missing a quarter of her udder and the one who was bullied or the one that was slow to get pregnant.

He could have those artificially inseminated with a dual-purpose breed like Milking Shorthorn or Simmental  or a Jersey bloodline proven to do well on pasture.  Any one of those crosses would be better suited to Copperhead Cove than the standard issue Holstein. Every one of those crosses should show some out-breeding vigor. Virtually any beef breed could be used as long as the teet-size conforms to the milking machine or hand-size of the milker.

Plausible production numbers in Copperhead Cove

In my stories, I figure Sarah-and-company will be lucky to average 12,000 pounds of milk per year per cow. They are feeding no "concentrate" and the dominant grass species is likely to be Tall Fescue. Furthermore, the low pH of their leached soils means legumes like white clover and red clover will struggle and alfalfa is pretty much a non-starter.

On the flip-side, the high percentage of forage means the milk will probably have more than 3.5% fat.

That is still an average of 8000 calories per day of high-quality food for humans.