Friday, March 24, 2023

Exploring the origins of Ce'Diff: Part II

As a supervisor, I had an employee for a very short time who was molly-coddled. I will call her "S" during this short essay.

"S" was immersed in drama. In the two days I was her supervisor, she reported that her vehicle had been slammed into by another vehicle in the parking lot and that she needed to go to "medical", the in-plant nurse.

I informed my management. They said "send her". Apparently "S" was a frequently at least once a week.

I walked the parking lot where she said the event happened looking for broken glass, plastic from grills or tail-lamps. Nothing.

She declined to give me any details about what kind of car she drove so I was not able to identify it and look for damage.

Management told me to write-it-up-and-email the report but not to contact the police. It happened on private property.

Live moved on.

A short while later, the nurse in medical deduced why she was losing so many syringe bodies and needles. It was "S". The nurse suspected. She counted the syringe bodies in the top drawer when she saw "S" in the waiting room. The nurse also took a picture. Then counted counted again immediately after "S" had been in the room. "S" had pocketed half the syringe bodies.

"S" was terminated.

"S" came back but was put in a different building "in case it was environment that caused her to commit crimes".

"S" tested the error-proofing on the tools, putting left-side parts on the right-side of the assembly to see if the machine would run. it did. The error-proofing was looking for "present", not correct part.

The last I knew, "S" was still employed by the company. For all I know, she might be dead, now.

Why was management so unwilling to address the issue?

So why did management tolerate "S" non-stop lying to the company?

A few factors came into play. "S"'s parents both worked for the company.

Also, somebody in management, HR maybe, decided that addictions were a "disability" and under the ADA we had to make accommodations.

There was plenty of language in the contract to dismiss her. Write up the medical pass outlining her cock-and-bull accident-in-parking-lot story and have her initial it. The contract clearly specifies that submitting false documentations is a first-time, termination-justified offense.

The parking lot has 24 hour, high resolution coverage. We terminated a worker who vandalized another (contract represented) employee's vehicle based on the surveillance video.

The Ce'Diffs of the world exploit the enabling language in various Federal laws to create a universe where they receive preferential treatment.

Fake News Friday: Biden does not think infants are humans


Freudian slip?

Thursday, March 23, 2023

What enabled Ce'Diff?

Ce'Diff is an interesting character because there are great, thundering herds of people just like her and the existence of even a single one is a curiosity. Where did they come from? What changed in the environment?


We raised sheep for about a decade. Being frugal, I decided that I wanted to do a GREAT job and be profitable. So I read a great deal. Two of the resources at the time were e-lists GRAZE-L and SHEEP-L.

One of the writers sketched out how sheep get a reputation as being fussy, fragile beasts that are unprofitable.

Picture in your head a small, hobby-flock in the eastern part of the US. Perhaps the shepherd chose an exotic breed thinking that the premium prices for breeding stock will off-set some of the lost economies-of-scale.

Some of the ewes, perhaps 20%-to-40% of them will have difficulties lambing and caring for their young. That would not be uncommon for ewes the first-time they lamb, especially if they are over-fed. The shepherd bottle-feeds the lambs. Maybe a ewe dies. The children insist that "Fluffy" be kept as the replacement. She is almost family.

In seven years, most of the ewes are former bottle-babies. They did not receive "mothering" from their mothers so it is a moot-point whether "mothering" is genetic (didn't get it from there) or imprinting (or from there). The flock has become incredibly labor intensive and requires much, expensive milk-replacer as the majority of the lambs need human intervention to survive.

Compare that to commercial flocks in Texas, the Dakotas and Montana. The ewes crank out singles and twins with almost no human intervention. If the mother does not do a good job, the lamb dies. If the ewe loses both of her lambs, she is culled. No drama. Just put onto a trailer and shipped off.

I propose that we have so many Ce'Diff clones because our institutions have become exactly like the hobby farmer with his/her flock of pet sheep. The management bonded with their trouble-makers instead of doing the rational thing and freeing them to find employment or educational opportunities (like earning a GED after accumulating some scar tissue) that were more suited to their temperaments.

Vicarious Farming

From my farmer friend in Nebraska

The planter is 24 years-old. It can plant 300-to-350 acres a day.
Farming can result in wear-and-tear on the equipment and facilities.

Thanks, Jim. Great videos.

03232023    Lots of twos-and-threes today

A few pictures from the day


Stocky Red Roaster pepper seedlings that I moved from the tray where I germinated the seeds into individual pots.

I moved about 15 Romaine lettuce seedlings to this cobbled-together cold-frame. It i a double pane window held up with 2"-by-4"s with the ends left open for ventilation.
You might be a red-neck if you repurpose rotisserie chicken containers as mini-greenhouses for garden seedlings.
The ends were covered with 1" galvanized poultry netting to keep rabbits out.

A few of the fence posts I am marshalling.

The pasture is starting to green up

Not quite shuffle-girls


Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Hey, just wait a gol-durned minute


My pepper seeds were taking off. There was a marked difference between the Aji peppers (Capsicum baccatum) and the the Capsicum annuum varieties. The C. annuum varieties were EXPLODING out of the ground.

Then something clicked in my head. The "peppers" looked just like the weeds that came up with my onion seedlings. I got the dirt from the same bag. Ergo, the "peppers" weren't peppers but were weeds that some enterprising chipmunk had deposited in the dirt bag.

Based on the reddish stem, I suspect an Amarantus species like retroflexus or a Rumex species. I will be snipping them with a pair of scissors as I make positive IDs on them.

75 feet of onions

One of the comments in an earlier post asked why I planted a single, 75' long row of onions and not several shorter rows.

The reason is that the onions are not very vulnerable to the ravages of rabbit and woodchucks so they will be planted outside the fence. The fenced in area is a bit less than 75' by 75' because poultry netting comes in 150' rolls and I bought two of them. 300' divided by four sides equals 75' a side.

Today's garden chore was to go out into the woods and split an 8' long black locust log into quarters that are light enough for me to carry back to the garden for use as corner posts. That was about a 90 minute chore.

Profitability of Disney Animated Films


Log scale. Worldwide, Gross Receipts on vertical axis.
Disney's first two animations returned 100 TIMES the original, budgeted investment.

Their last two animation returned 2.13 times and 0.58 times the budget in Worldwide, Gross Receipts. That does not include merchandising revenues for branded merchandise.

Looking at the stretch from 1996 until 2012, 

Log scale on vertical axis
Disney was struggling until the first of the Frozen franchise hit the theaters.

The question is not "Why is Disney tightening their belts and laying off people?"

The question is "What took them so long?"

I realize that Log-scale is hard to visualize, so here is a comparison of Lion King (1994) and their most recent release (Nov 2022) using Linear-scale.

Heller and Shannon: Last installment

George Forsythe was a banker's banker. He did not believe in the Tooth Fairy, Fairy God-mothers or luck.

It was George Forsythe’s personal opinion that eleventh-hour White-Knight offers were more myth than reality. Oh, sure, bottom-fishers would tender low-ball offers near the end of highly distressed Chapter 11 reorganizations but in every case he was familiar with, all of the major players “took it in the shorts” regardless.

So Forsythe was extremely dubious about this urgent request by a Mr Aarons for a meeting to preview a way out of the contentious Whelen Sports Chapter 11 hearings, which for all practical purposes was trending toward a Chapter 7 (total liquidation) with a barely controlled crash landing with the brand struggling to keep even a handful of stores operating after the reorganization.

Forsythe would have quietly ignored Mr Aarons’ request except for the fact that he had been called, personally, by the chief officer of Barclays of Isle of Mann to request the meeting. The chief officer informed Forsythe that the company Aarons was representing had deep pockets and it would be worth his time to meet with him.

Forsythe chose a small, generic conference room close to the restrooms. He hadn’t been sleeping well and relied on coffee to stay awake. What went in had to come out.

Mr Ken Aarons was a very unremarkable looking fellow. Forsythe had his administrative assistant investigate Aarons’ profesional credentials. He had graduated summa cuda laud from a very large but otherwise undistinguished law school. He specialized in intellectual property law and was not noted as being a player in serious financial negotiations. Still, Forsyth was cognizant of the fact that sharks can swim in any ocean. The important thing is that a shark is a shark.

Forsythe introduced his two administrative assistants, actually glorified go-fers to iron out details as they became visible.

“I am authorized by Apidea Wealth Management incorporated in the Isle of Mann to tender the following offer and to negotiate on their behalf” Aarons said.

He slid a single, 8-1/2” by 11 sheet over to Forsythe and kept one in front of himself. He started reading the highlights of the offer.

“Apidea offers a 20% premium on all outstanding debt. The basis for the offer will be yesterday’s closing prices on the debt taken by Whelen Sporting Goods”

That was an extremely generous offer. The prices had a downward trajectory and the bank managers’ financial fiduciary responsibility made the offer a no-brainer.

“Apidea requires that the leases on the following outlets be dissolved”

Aarons slid a second sheet over to Forsythe. Forsythe scanned the list. Apidea was axing a lot of stores.

“Basically, it is all of the stores that are in urban areas within jurisdictions that do not prosecute shop-lifters, retail fraud or simple assault” Aarons said. “We also require that lease duration be shortened on the remaining stores so we can cut our losses more quickly if the local business environment changes.”

It was Shannon's opinion that fully a third of the stores were “legacy” stores that had been open for more than three decades and been kept open for nostalgic reasons and simple, mental inertia. Ironically, the dowdy, run-down buildings were charging higher rents than the newer stores in areas with lower property taxes. Locations that were once viable had changed over time and became chronic money-losers.

"The list also includes the new mega-stores that Whelen has been opening over the last two years” Aarons said.

Shannon had done her homework. Memories of hundreds of bull-shit sessions with her fellow professionals at happy-hour and around campfires came flooding back to her. It had been the collective opinion that the era of Big-Box stores was over and that outlets the size of “dollar” stores were more profitable. Larger stores had much, much higher rents and required much higher staffing to run them.

Shannon’s buddies in construction confirmed that there are “steps” in the code where larger buildings were required to withstand higher wind and snow loads, required more plumbing and fire suppression and the number of mandated, handicapped parking places increased the distance able-bodies customers had to walk. Not only were there more square-feet, customers disliked the additional walking and landlords had to charge more per-square-foot to recover their costs.

Forsythe knew that would be a difficult thing to sell to the judge. The judge thought business existed to provide employment, not turn a profit. The stakeholders continued to hemorrhage cash while the judge fixated on perserving Whelen's entire footprint. 
The biggest stores were enormous and would be difficult to rent...but given how the proceedings were going it seemed very unlikely that Whelen's could stock and run those stores after reorganization regardless.

“However, Apidea will retain all of the racks and shelves currently in the new stores…” Aarons said.

Shannon realized that the shelving and racking had been designed to minimize “shrinkage”, that is, shoplifting. None of the shelving in the new stores was taller than 60” high. The racks were very flexible with regard to configuration and were also shorter than 60" tall.

Going back to the main sheet of highlights, Aarons said “We want to retain your bank as our primary source of local credit”

“The first order-of-business is to restock the shelves. Apidea will pay suppliers IN FULL, to 60-days-net with the understanding that the future flow of merchandise will be expedited and there won’t be any foot-dragging.”

Forsythe bristled at that. “The bank will not allow the suppliers to get preferred treatment.”

Aarons responded blandly, “The offer is contingent that condition. The only merchandise Whelen's currently has is virtually unsalable. We cannot turn a wheel until we get desirable products on the shelf and to do that we need to make our suppliers whole.”
40% of the floor-space in a typical Whelen's was devoted to apparel and it had been a major revenue and traffic generator. The stock was depleted, picked over and dated. The colors of the remaining stock were bizarre, the sizes were low-runners and the workmanship was haphazard. In a word, unsalable.
Without a rapid, major injection of desirable, new merchandise the Whelen's brand would be toast, even with the slimmed down, efficient distribution network.

Forsythe didn’t have to like it. 20% over market prices for the debt was a compelling case, but he still didn’t have to like it.

Forsythe’s aids were busy scribbling and frantically looking up technical detail. The Apidea offer would shrink Whelen Sporting Goods footprint to 55% of the previous aggregate square-footage. It would also eliminate the perennial drag those stores had on the bottom line. Every dollar of merchandise shoplifted required the sale of at least five dollars of merchandise at a gross margin of 20% to break-even.

Forsythe couldn’t help but poke and prod a little bit. “You are giving up a lot of prime locations. For example, you are giving up the locations near the major universities.”

Shannon had checked those outlets out, personally. College students were not shopping in the discount sporting goods outlets. They shopped at high-priced boutique outlets or they shopped on-line or at Walmart.

“We are aware of that” Aarons said. “We do not believe that the premium prices for the rent are justified by the incremental revenue. Same for the mall locations.”

Line-by-line Forsythe and Aarons went through the list of the conditions on the offer for the 20% premium. Forsythe was impressed by the comprehensive nature of the list and by the single-minded focus on consolidating the profitable parts of the business and ditching the money-losing parts. Few people would have been as ruthless in excising surplus square-footage, for instance.

After eight hours (with four potty breaks and sandwiches catered-in), Forsythe pushed away from the table. “We could spend another six months in court quibbling about every tiny detail and would still get less than this offer contains. A dollar today is worth more than a dollar six months from now. I will recommend to our team that we do what we can to “sell” this package to the other stake-holders.”

Aarons’ shirt had wilted from the sweat. He had been staying calm by doing isometrics when Forsythe went off on a tangent that was not critical to the negotiations. There had been many.

It had been a long, marathon push to get to this point.


Kevin sat down next to Lon’s bed. “Can you talk yet?”

Kevin was Lon’s “boss”. He was also a cut-throat psychopath who had learned to be smooth and to project empathy, warmth and emotion. Kevin was very smooth and very, very cold.

Lon shifted his eyes side-to-side to signify “No”

“But I can ask you some questions, right?” Kevin asked.

Turner rolled his eyes up-down signifying "Yes". He really didn’t have a choice. It wasn’t as if he could throw Kevin out of the room or even push the nurse-call button on his own.

“The accounts are in shambles” Kevin told him. “Every one of our clients is reporting insufficient-funds issues.”

Lon frowned. There should have been enough money in the various sub-accounts to cover one month’s round of checks.

“We have also been unable to find the accounts where you banked the companies assets” Kevin’s voice held menace.

“I will be in touch. As soon as I get word that you can talk, I will be back so you can tell me how to access those funds” Kevin said.

Shit! Shit! Shit! SHIT!

Of course Lon had a back-up set of data. It was recorded on an archival-quality DVD in a weatherproof case that Lon had deposited next to a grave marker at the cemetery a scant mile east of his house. The problem was that Lon could only identify identify the marker by sight but could not describe the subtle details that made the marker unique.

He couldn’t run. He couldn’t produce the necessary information. And even if he could produce the account locations and numbers, there was a very high probability that Kevin would see him as a loose-end to be tidied up.

Shit! Shit! Shit! Shit! Shit! Shit! Shit! Shit! Shit! Shit! Shit! SHIT!


“Mom. I have to move back home” Ce’Diff wailed into her phone.

“Whatchu talkin about?” Ce’Diff’s mother replied.

“I got fired” Ce’Diff said. It had started out as a delayed paycheck because of "a temporary cash-flow issue" and Ce'Diff pulled the race card. She demanded that SHE be paid NOW. That is when Ce'Diff's management decided permanent separation was a better option.

"Don't surprise me none. All you ever wanna do is fight" Ce'Diff's mother said.

“Get another job. That’s what I ollays did” Ce’Diff’s mother said.

“That won’t work for me. It is going to take me a while to find another one that pays $95k a year” Ce’Diff said.

“Then git two jobs while you lookin' for a betta one” her mother replied. “Or if that ain’t enough, then git three jobs.”

Ce’Diff’s mom knew about low-paying jobs. She worked in a nursing home. She also knew about working multiple jobs.

“But my car got repo-ed. I can’t get around” Ce’Diff said. “I have to move back home while I get back on my feet.”

“Cain’t happen, honey. Damian don’t like you” her mom said. Damian was her boyfriend.

“You gonna pick your boyfriend over your pwn flesh-and-blood?” Ce’Diff dropped her educated pronunciation and slipped into the cadences of her youth.

“I see Damian every night. I ain’t seen you in over a year. You don’t even pick up the phone when I call you” her mom said. "You thirty-four years-old. Past time for you to grow up and clean up your own messes."

Ce’Diff and Damian had a fight the last time she had visited her mom. Damian called B-S when she started lecturing him on intersectionality and male privilege. She doubled down. He did not back down so she called him a dumb nigger and stormed out.

Her mom’s voice pulled her back to reality.

“If I was you, I would find a homeless shelter on a bus route” her mom said. She had been there and done that, too.


Later that year, the Chief Financial Officer for Lookout Mountain Capital Management Company near Chattanooga, Tennessee was the victim of a home invasion. Two men in a “landscaping truck” had tidied up her yard one hot, spring day when one of them asked for a glass of water.

She had been trussed up. Her home ransacked and all computer storage devices had been collected. Before leaving, she had been shot in both knees and both elbows. 
Several weeks later the CFO of Asheville Capital Management suffered a similar fate.

Both CFOs had been in Turner’s list of contacts and both lived within a two-hour drive of where Snek and Slider lived. Coincidence, I am sure.

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Working with what you got


She looks a little rough but she is still running
This is your basic, use-it-one-summer-and-throw-it-away mower. It was made in Vietnam, a popular destination for young, American men from the mid-1960s to the early '70s.

It was clearly a "first effort" by the manufacturer. Equally clearly, the manufacturer had no concept of how roughly Americans would use them.

That is similar to how the early Japanese vehicles were in some respects. The Japanese were late-to-the-party with respect to drink holders. In Japan, driving was a ceremony, a sacred event steeped in honor and reverance. In Japan, one did not slurp a 44 ounce cup of sweet tea while weaving in-and-out of traffic. It took the Japanese a while to figure out that American drivers perceived and used our vehicles differently than most Japanese drivers.

This mower has been fragile. Various doo-dads were attached to the main casting via screws threaded into long, fragile ears that projected from the block and were cast integrally with the block.

Die-cast aluminum alloys are brittle because they are high in silicon. The silicon is added to make the molten aluminum more fluid and to reduce shrinkage. The die-casting process also entrains air which is  then trapped after the molten metal hits the walls of the die and a skin solidifies. That trapped air causes porosity. Porosity is like the scoring on your toilet paper. That is where the part will fail.

Yes, you guessed it. One of those ears broke off.

Another failure is that the plastic piece that held the air cleaner on relaxed (wrong polymer, no mineral fill) and fell off. And shortly thereafter, the air-cleaner element disappeared.

That was fixable

Your eyes do not deceive you. That is one of those hated, disposable face masks

The final "fail" that is worth noting is that the linkage for the carburetor is exposed. Furthermore, it is oriented so if you run into a dried stalk, such as you might encounter in a garden or while mowing rough, overgrown lawn, the stalk will jam the governor and the motor will rev-up well beyond the governed speed.

I suppose it is just a matter of time before it throws a rod out of the side of the block.

Mrs ERJ got her money's worth out of me today



After. Three-hundred onion-sets in 75' of row. Actually, a double row with 6" between the rows and about 4" between sets in-the-row.

Looking east. Before



Looking up the row.

Fifty feet of Super Sugar Snap peas

I have about a week to get the 24" poultry netting up to exclude the rabbits and woodchucks. I figure I have at least that long before the seeds germinate.

In the house

Patterson Onion seedlings. I will move these outside in a few weeks

ERJ's theory of profiting from business fads

Investors are at least as susceptible to passing fads as 7th grade girls.

Like the 7th graders, the environment is chaotic and the winners-and-losers change hourly. Theories, no matter how stupid, collect a following and that drives a self-fulfilling-prophesy-loop.

The engine that drives fashion is that fashion leaders create status by changing fashion and thereby making 97% of the other girls uncool because they are wearing styles that are obsolete.

Market makers create personal wealth by changing The-Next-New-Thing thereby making 97% of the other investors "behind" the curve. The 97%'s "old" investments, being uncool, cannot command a premium in the marketplace while the "new" investment is in short supply and is bid-up past mathematically defensible levels.

Supply enters the market, chasing the outsized profits. Prices stabilize. The cool-kids find a new, "must have" investment and most of the market is left with an investment they paid a premium for in a market where prices are cratering.

Over-and-over-and-over again.

What would the smart money do?

They might supply the start-ups with all of the countless, mundane support services the core-business needs and do it at a very hefty mark-up.

Payroll, building maintenance, custodial services, IT, supplies, code-compliance, banking...the list is very, very long.

The geniuses running the start-up see those support functions as a distraction. The market is flooding their industry with venture capital. They can throw money at the problem and focus on the arcane bits of their specialty: The witch-doctors' dance and shaking their rattles.

The smart money doesn't need to know WHICH casinos will win the most market share. They provide the same services to all of them and can seamlessly shift resources from losers to winners. They have chips riding on every slot of the roulette wheel. They don't need to worry if there is a huge shake-out in the number of cannabis dispensaries. Ditto for micro-breweries. The smartest-money provides mundane, nothing-special, services (that they can procure at commodity prices) to all of them at obscene mark-ups because they offer "turn-key convenience".

The Heller and Shannon story-line

Lon Turner has a problem. They are vampires sucking the blood out of viable businesses but they have to put the money SOMEWHERE. It is almost the same problem Heller and Shannon have.

Turner's band of thieves have been putting it in "Logistical Management Support" (the details of getting bacon, shrimp, prime-rib, toilet paper to the right place at the right time in the right quantities), Payroll and Personnel (Ce'Diff works for a temporary manpower agency), Building Maintenance, Media and Advertising, Accounting and Banking, Commercial Real-estate and so on.

All of those mundane functions are as invisible as the offensive line of a football team. They are invisible until somebody misses an assignment. All of those mundane functions are absolutely dependent on the steady injection/flow of money to ensure reliable execution.

Turner and Company also have the issue of convincing banks to make loans to the businesses they buy. They need to have SOME successes to counter-balance the stacks of exsanguinated corpses littering their back-trail. Those successes would be the service providers. Turner subsidizes them to grow them to size but then turns them into cash-cows.

Fine Art Tuesday


Hans Andersen Brendekilde born in Denmark 1857. Died 1942.

Notable for being able to evoke "This too will pass" in these times of craziness.

This artist's work is worth looking at if you want a "window" to help put the spasms of today into a larger (or smaller) context.

Hat-tip Lucas

Monday, March 20, 2023


Voodoo in its various incarnations and spellings is a traditional, African religion that has the tenacity of cellulite.

Image from the Disney animated movie "Pocahontas"

Voodoo is "animist". People who practice Voodoo believe that objects like trees, animals, bones, rocks and objects touched by a human have a spirit, are alive and can harbor malice.

Image from Disney animated movie Mulan

Voodoo believes that the spirits of departed humans roam the earth and influence events for evil or for good. Voodoo believes that these spirits can be invoked to act as agents on behalf of the living.

Voodoo believes in multiple gods that are similar to the gods in Norse mythology. The gate-keeper god who must be appeased before any of the other gods can be asked to intervene is the god of chance and caprice, analogous to Loki.

The sea is a dangerous place where death can come unexpectedly so Loki's high position in the Viking pantheon is not surprising. So it should come as no surprise that a similar god holds a high place in Africa where death is never more than a heartbeat away. 

Voodoo altar with statues of Christian saints used (misused?) as fetishes

In some places, Voodoo has a veneer of Christianity, a white-wash if you want to think about it that way. Christian on Sunday, Voodoo the rest of the week.

Those syncretic religions are not Christian as they are polytheistic and if they have an economy-of-salvation it is tortured and convoluted. It also fails in that Christianity is "universal' (lower-case c "catholic) and applies to all humans while Voodoo claims to only be applicable to certain families, tribes or select few.

Furthermore, the Bible is full of admonitions to avoid dabbling in the occult.

From a practical standpoint, time and resources spent trying to influence events are not available for learning Newtonian physics, statistics or writing for comprehension. To believe in Voodoo is to always have an excuse for failure and a thousand reasons to give up.

Heller and Shannon: Delegating is an art

Agent McCafferty had been confident that a lead would pop up. That is what investigation was, relentlessly sifting through data until motive, opportunity and means presented themselves.

The phone data revealed two non-natives phones sat in the Turner driveway for exactly 63 seconds and then departed. One of those phones called 9-1-1 and the 9-1-1 logs verified time and GPS position. The caller declined to identify herself but that was of little consequence.
The FBI had the phone numbers and were rapidly vacuuming up their life histories: Encounters with law enforcement, social media posts (even the parts they might have deleted), call and texting history. Everything.

McCafferty was convinced they had the get-away driver. If McCafferty had not been a professional, he would have classified her as “typical, down-river trailer-park trash”, but that is not how he described her in the daily meeting. People can draw their own conclusions.

“The primary person-of-interest is a woman, age 23. No known employment history. Known to law-enforcement for shoplifting, driving with a suspended license and being disorderly in public. Latest address of record is in Ecorse, Michigan. Self-described as a 'party-girl' on her social media accounts.”

Ecorse was a rust-belt, poverty-blighted suburb wedged in the armpit between Detroit and the Detroit River. It was not an “aspirational” suburb.

“Our social media team is constructing a map of known associates.” 
"We haven't been able to locate either phone because they must have turned them off and then dumped them. We have warrants to bring them in for questioning.”

It felt good to be able to report some progress on the case!


Ken Aarons, Shannon and Heller’s lawyer sat in his minivan and had another meeting with Shannon. It was lunchtime and Shannon asked to meet him in the parking lot of a farm-supply store on the south side of Ionia, Michigan.

Normally, Aarons would not have inconvenienced himself but given the amount of money she was randomly throwing away, he would have driven to the North Pole if that is where she wanted to meet.

Aarons was taken off-balance by her request.

“Heller and I had a long discussion and we want to buy a business” is how Shannon started out.

“That sounds like a very practical thing. Of course I will be glad to help you with that” Aarons responded. Giving away millions of dollars wasn’t normal and he was glad to be returning to activities he was more familiar with.

“We then we want to give it back to the employees” Shannon continued.

“Well, that would be your choice” Aarons said. “It is your company. You can do what you want with it.”

“You might want to consider the tax implications, though. The IRS will consider it ordinary income and you will create tax liabilities that will force the employees to sell their stock at a loss to pay those liabilities.” Aarons said. Any lawyer would have.

“I didn’t think of that” Shannon admitted.

“Another thing you need to consider is who will actually own the business before you give it to the employees: You? LR? Split it 51%-49%?” Aarons said. “Life is more complicated because you two are not married.”

The expression on Shannon’s face indicated that she had not thought of that, either.

“The other condition is that we want to be completely anonymous” Shannon said.

“Tough, but doable” Aarons said confidently.

“Do you have a business in mind or do you want me to help you find one?” Aarons asked. He had lots of connections in the Detroit area that would be very helpful in the search.

“Oh, we have one picked out” Shannon said. “Whelen Sporting Goods.”

It took Ken Aarons’ mind a second to whir-and-click into place. The scope of what Shannon was proposing was...breathtaking.

“Are you sure you have enough money?” Aarons ventured at last.

“Well, that depends on how good of a negotiator you are, doesn’t it?” Shannon responded. “They are in Chapter 11 and it isn’t going well for anybody. Their most senior bonds are trading for about forty cents on the dollar and they really porked up on debt at the end...that junior debt is running a bit over a penny on the dollar.”

The young lady continued to amaze Aarons. Just when he started thinking of her as young and naive, she started spitting statistics like a Wallstreet Analyst.

Aarons started to backpedal. “THAT will be a lot, lot tougher” he confided.

“There will be a lot of scrutiny from the courts and even more from the banks” Aarons said.

“Federal law requires that banks report large cash transactions. It is part of the war-on-terrorism and the war-on-drugs. You can’t just give them a pile of money and expect to remain anonymous” Aarons said.

“You know, it is probably time for me to give you the standard talk on MY legal obligations” Aarons said.

“I am an agent-of-the-court. You can ask me if something is a crime and I will tell you if it is or it isn’t. But if you TELL me you are going to commit a crime then I have an obligation, as agent-of-the-court, to stop you” Aarons said.

“Another thing is that if you TELL me that the money we are moving around is the fruit of illegal activity, then I cannot help you although I can still represent you should you find yourself being criminally prosecuted” Aarons said. “If you DON’T TELL me that it is the proceeds of illegal activities, then I will assume that the money is not tainted and we can continue to do business.”

“So are you telling me that we cannot buy Whelens or that we can buy Whelens?” Shannon asked.

“I am telling you that it will be impossible to buy it and turn around and immediately give it to the employees while remaining anonymous” Aarons said.

“Immediately…?” Shannon said.

“You can hire me to create a series of off-shore, shell corporations and we can bounce the money around between them several times, then one of the shell-corporations can make a White-Knight offer for Whelens” Aarons said. “Run it for ten years and make stock-options a substantial part of the employee pay. Then after ten years offer the remainder of the company to the employees.”

“Own and run Whelens...while working as a bank teller...for ten years. Sure, why not” Shannon said.

“I have the money in three crypto accounts. Let me hand you the thumb-drives” Shannon said. Having a pro run the money through off-shore, shell corporations sounded like a good way to make the money less traceable. Mostly, she just wanted the monkey-off-her-back.

“Don’t you want a contract?” Aarons asked, surprised.

“No. Pay yourself what you are worth plus 20%. And about those off-shore accounts, why don’t you pick countries you and your wife want to visit. Its not like Heller and I will be visiting them.”
Note from author: I was blessed to have a top-notch lawyer help me with this passage. I will gladly identify him if he gives me permission. All errors are mine.
If you need a lawyer, don't rely on fiction. Get a lawyer.

Sunday, March 19, 2023

Phone update

Mrs ERJ got a text while we were in church. Somebody found my phone in the gravel parking lot behind the Quality Dairy in Eaton Rapids.

We retrieved it. It had 7% charge left.

I am in the process of emailing my contacts to my account. That is what I would miss the most.


If the weather-guessers have their act together, we will have a string of three days without rain. That means that by Tuesday afternoon, the garden MIGHT be dry enough for a first-pass with the tiller AND I can plant some onions and Super Sugar Snap peas.

Today was also a good day to get out and do a little bit of cutting.

I found a seedling plum tree in the southwest corner of my property. The only plum seeds I remember planting back there were Waneta X Elephant Heart. I eliminated cottonwoods, sumac and willow that was shading the tree because I want to ensure the tree gets ample sunlight. I hope to catch it in bloom so I can provide a bouquet of P. americana for pollination. I am very curious to sample the quality of this survivor plum.


It is not uncommon for "Woke" people to lecture practicing Christians on how they think Jesus would respond to their Woke dogma.

Their onslaught can be disconcerting and it can be hard to think in the moment. So, it can be useful to have a few go-to Bible passages that we can use to test the Woke dogma.


This is really a trash-can of related ideas. Male-guilt. Reparations. Non-LGBT-guilt and so on.

One passage is John 9:1-3

As he passed by he (Jesus) saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him.

This passage addresses Old Testament ideas of "Generational Guilt" where misfortune will follow the sinner's family for seven generations. Jesus responds that the guilt of previous generations is not the cause of misfortune and not what we should be focusing on. Rather, we should be attempting to discern and bring to reality how God can be made visible through our lives.

A second passage is Mark 7:18-22

He (Jesus) said to them, “Are even you likewise without understanding? Do you not realize that everything that goes into a person from outside cannot defile, since it enters not the heart but the stomach and passes out into the latrine?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) “But what comes out of a person, that is what defiles. From within people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly.

So the egg and the sperm that combined to make a white, cis-male cannot be a cause of guilt because they came from outside that person.

Intentions matter more than outcomes

Another pillar of Woke thought is that intentions matter more than outcomes and that the giver's resulting sense of altruism and self-righteousness is the ultimate metric of the purity of their intention.

James 2:15-17

If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

I think this verse speaks directly to the Woke idiots who feelz so good about encouraging grade-school kids to cut off their junk and take hormones.

Another passage that speaks to this is in Luke 9.

“Two people went up to the temple area to pray;
one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector.
The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself,
‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity —
greedy, dishonest, adulterous — or even like this tax collector.
I fast twice a week,
and I pay tithes on my whole income.’
But the tax collector stood off at a distance
and would not even raise his eyes to heaven
but beat his breast and prayed,
‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’
I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former;
for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled,
and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Some "pretty good" music for Sunday


This will move some people. It might leave others cold.

Suggested by Southern Belle, who currently hails from Miami but (with God's help) is planning to move her family closer to Eaton Rapids. 

Notable for being recorded in Miami and the exceptional quality of the sound.

The intersection of adult-type humor and innocent Six-year-olds

"Were you in the military?" one of the dads from yesterday asked me.

"No. I never had the honor. Why do you ask?" I said.

"It was one of the jokes you told" he said.

Given the age of the kids and the fact that I was helping a Christian organization my joking around was edited a little bit.

It had to be the exchange that happened after I told one of the six-year-olds (a fact that he proudly shared with me) that the screwdriver he was using was magnetized.

He had to check it out and the fact that it held the Philips screw in position all-by-its-self was a great delight to him.

Then he asked "Is the hammer magnetized?"

I told him "Only tack-hammers are magnetized."

Him: "What is a tack-hammer?"

I told him "An A-10."

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Too much excitement

Mrs ERJ's minivan had an identity crisis. One of the CV joints on an axle-shaft suddenly identified as a hand-grenade. Un-tethered from one end, the axle-shaft swung around and appears to have sheared the shifter-cable from the side of the trans-axle aka, transmission.

This may be the end-of-the-road for Vinnie. He has 307k miles on him and if it were just the axle-shaft it would be worth replacing. But if it includes the tranny then cost-to-repair probably exceeds what we could get peddling it.


Fortunately my sister has a spare vehicle and she gladly let us use it. However, somewhere in all of the excitement my phone went AWOL.

The rear power door locks engage when the vehicle is put into drive but they don't actuate open. It took me a few minutes of searching on the internet to find the secondary body electrical center. It was in integrated into the carpet retainer on the passenger side. I removed the 25 A fuse and now the power door locks don't work in either direction. 

The concern was that we might have to remove Quicksilver quickly and it would be stressful to fight with a door that does not unlock.


We have lake effect snow blowing in. It is like summer showers. Start. Stop. Start. Stop. High temp for the day is 24. Roads are icy with the blowing snow being beaten into polished ice by passing tires.

Trail Life

I encountered a faith-based alternative to Boy Scouts called Trail Life.

More than ever, boys need a uniquely masculine program where their assertive, audacious, and adventurous nature is celebrated, not sequestered.

Let Boys Be Boys

Too many boys are turning to virtual worlds of television, video games, digital media, and the internet to find realms they can conquer and areas where they can excel. The result of this virtual conquest is often apathy, apparent rebellion, or outright resistance to real-world challenge.

Trail Life USA is where boys thrive! Adults are equipped to lead a program in a structured outdoor environment where boys are engaged in real-world challenge and experience camping, hiking, and fishing; they develop skills in riflery, archery, and canoeing;  and learn character and leadership in a practical hands-on manner that is naturally engaging.

The troop was helping a local charity by washing windows, vacuuming, painting, assembling dressers for baby clothing and so on.

Kids were 6-to-11(ish). All of the leaders were men which is very different from cub scouts. All of the dads seemed live very solid, patient guys and there was an impressive turn-out of men to ride-herd on their little bundles of energy.

Friday, March 17, 2023

Pepper seedling pictures


Top two images Aji peppers

Ajvarski sweet pepper

The black, white-faced heifer is in heat and the steer is riding her like a tricycle all around the pasture. Kind of like watching an 80 year-old Romeo trying to make time with the pretty girls. She isn't standing for it.


The construction and frequency of "boma", the fence around the compound and village is very hap-hazard.

In some countries like Gambia, they appear to be very common while other countries they are infrequent. Construction is from stout to tight to haphazard piled brush to sketchy.

I am not attempting to diminish the issues with large cats, but there seems to be little relationship between lion and leopard populations and the presence of boma.

I consulted with Peter (Thanks Peter!!!) over at Bayou Renaissance Man and he informed me that the fences are also intended to keep some domesticated animals in (like chickens) and others (like semi-feral dogs) out. Also a shout-out to commenter Arc who mentioned bomas.

He also said that they offer a layered defense against...whatever... There is often a wall around the village (which might be as small as four family groups) and then another that connects the hut, chicken house and grain-storage into a courtyard. 

The Tribal nature of Africa

I don't pretend to be an anthropologist but even a casual reader of African history makes it clear that "tribal" is used in a couple of different ways.

The way it is used by the mainstream media is as a synonym for "language spoken by". So the Bantu tribe is the collection of all people who speak Bantu as their primary language.

At the boots-on-the-ground level, "tribe" means those you recognize by family ties. That is, at the village level. Tribal warfare means raids on, and skirmishes between villages. When available, the village will pick one that speaks a different dialect. But if the closest village speaks your dialect then they are equally likely to raid that one as walk an extra two km to raid a different language group's village.

A few more pictures

The short-wall around the well reduces the amount of fecal contamination at the start of the rainy season.

You have to look closely to see the perimeter fence.

The hut of the village leader

I like how they wove finer brush into the bottom of this fence

I like how they plugged the gap with loose brush

I will add a couple of more later. I hear Quicksilver stirring.

Bookends. Top photo from Kenya in East Africa and bottom photo from Ghana in West Africa

Heller and Shannon: Many hands make light work

Shannon had clearly been crying. Her face was puffy and her eyes were red.

Rose was working the window next to her and over the course of the morning coaxed the story out of her.

Shannon and Heller had a fight last night. Their first. And it had been a hum-dinger.

Rose was a sympathetic listener. She learned that Heller had not cheated on Shannon but that Shannon felt that Heller had betrayed her trust.

"He should have told me!" Shannon said.

"Why didn't he?" Rose asked.

Shannon said "He said he thought I would hear about it from other people first. It didn't cross his mind to tell me, at first. And then, later, he was afraid I would leave him."

"So what didn't he tell you about, if I may be so bold" Rose asked.

Shannon thought for half a second. "He got into a fight with another guy and hurt him really badly" Shannon said.

"Was Heller hurt?" Rose asked, aghast.

"No" Shannon admitted.

"So he didn't cheat on you or steal from you, he didn't raise his hand against you, it wasn't drinking-n-drugging, he didn't lose his job nor did he go around behind your back and tell stories...and he is afraid you will leave him" Rose summarized. "Honey, around here that is considered marriage-material."

In fact, that is about what Shannon had concluded at the end of the fight. Heller was contrite and had shared his anger about what had befallen his friend, Dusty. Confiding intimate details about how he felt was not something Heller had much practice with.

Heller had been surprised that there was zero coverage of the home-invasion in the news. He deduced that media reported school shootings because it is "newsworthy" but didn't report home-invasions when rich people are involved because they don't want people to get any ideas.

The couple had reconciled but it had been a very, very long night.


Ken Aarons decided to subcontract the flow of thumb-drives to the charities. Since Shannon had specified that getting the money dispersed quickly was her highest priority and since Aarons already had a full plate, delegating seemed to be the smartest course.

Had he asked Shannon, she would have been thrilled. It was one more layer of separation.

Ken walked into the office on the fourth floor of his office building. It was in the interior of the building and had no windows. The walls were painted industrial gray and Ken knew-for-a-fact that the tenants were struggling to pay their rent.

One of the lawyers, Ken was pretty sure it was Lute, was manning the receptionist’s chair. “What can I do for you?” Lute asked.

The two lawyers, Lute and Burn reminded Aarons of when he started his own practice. Everything was on a shoestring. The cheap haircuts. The suit-jackets that didn’t quite fit. The thrift-store neckties.

“I got about 20 hours worth of work I want done. It doesn’t require a lawyer to do it but I know you guys and trust you. It involves making some deliveries and helping with some banking errands.”

“Yeah, we can fit that in” Lute said without consulting his calendar.

Aarons and Lute haggled over price and settled on $3500, a very deep discount relative to Aaron’s billing rate of $400/hour.

“I am offering bonuses if you can get it done in two days” Aarons said.

“How big of a bonus?” Lute said, starting to show some enthusiasm.

“$500” Aarons said.

“How about $1000 bonus if we get it done in 24 hours?” Lute pressed.

“How are you going to do that?” Aarons wanted to know.

“I'm going to hire my kid brother who is in law school to help” Lute said.

“OK. $4500 if you get it done by 10:00 AM tomorrow. That is 25 hours but I need receipts as proof that you delivered the thumb-drives” Aarons said.

Aarons had a high degree of confidence that Lute and Burn were going to claim the full bonus. He also had a high degree of confidence that there would be more than just one, younger brother helping with the assignment.


Dominick Lutoglio entered the headquarters of Mink Liberation Front. The messy office had the cat-piss smell of weed and the walls were decorated with Communist banners and anarchist logos.

Dominick would never get invited to Mensa, but even he could see that the leaders of MiLF were total retards. Communists are totalitarians and anarchists are at the opposite end of the spectrum. Only a stoned idiot thought the two political ideologies were compatible.

And what kind of moron is going to pick an acronym like "M I L F" for their organization. That is a bad joke waiting to happen. These guys were oblivious.

MiLF had a shady history and had been accused of arson and assaulting celebrities with blood. They had also been accused of vandalizing farms, cutting fences, destroying heavy equipment and trying to blow up detention ponds of agricultural waste.

Dominick had a very high need for fun and was determined to see just how outlandish of a tall-tale he could get these idiots to believe.

Dom told the MiLF leadership that his client had inherited the money from his rich uncle who was a gold-miner in Labrador (like the dog). The uncle had struck it rich after shooting all of the Eskimos and bulldozing fifty square miles of tundra down to bedrock. His client didn’t want the dirty money but wanted to use the money to fix Mother Earth blah-blah-blah…

The vacant-eyed zealots almost orgasmed over the story and were excitedly sending screen-shots of their bank balance after the $750,000 was deposited to everybody they could think of.

Dom left before they thought to ask his name.