Friday, March 31, 2023

Layout of 2023 garden (subject to change)


For a sense-of-scale, the fenced garden is 65' on a side.The house is to the northeast of the garden.

The food growing area becomes progressively less groomed as one moves away from the house.

The wildlife travel corridor is about 65' wide and extends to the rear of the property along the west edge of the parcel.

The west edge of the orchard are "standard" sized pear trees, as much to provide a wind-break as to provide fruit.

Berries in northwest corner are primarily elderberries.

The orchard is currently alternating rows of dwarf fruit trees and grape-vines.

Ratio of nightshades, corn, fallow is 5-3-5. I can see that watering the nightshades will be a challenge. I will probably need a booster pump to have enough pressure to run impact sprinklers.

Tree nursery is shrinking.

Thursday, March 30, 2023

I am as good, once...

I am out of gas.

In my current state of fitness, seven hours of manual labor is about all I can manage.

  • Pulling fence posts
  • Driving fence posts
  • Dragging feedlot panels
  • Cutting brush
  • Dragging brush
  • Burning brush
  • Tilling part of the garden

Action shot of Sprite delivering a bale of hay. We had a low of 15F overnight

I added a hoop over the top of the "trailer simulator". I will stretch a tarp over it tomorrow.

Looking northwest diagonally across the patch where the peppers, potatoes and tomatoes will be planted. Very approximately 65' by 30'. I expect to squeeze in seven rows with 42" between them for a total of about 450 feet of row
I must report, with chagrin, that the fence that separates the south-annex from the pasture is bowed to the disfavor of the garden area. I am rectifying that this year. That is why the tilled area is OUTSIDE of the current location of the fence posts.
Looking from the west. I have some trees that need a haircut if I expect to get much production from the west end of this patch.

Potatoes go in early with a target date of May 1 +/- seven days. That means I need to do a rough-till two weeks before I intend to plant so the roots and surface trash has a chance to break-down. Tomatoes and peppers are traditionally planted Memorial Day weekend. Peppers, tomatoes and potatoes are all in the nightshade family and have similar pests. It simplifies crop-rotation to treat them as a block.

Given my druthers, I will let green stuff (aka, weeds or cover crops) grow as long as possible. I like the idea of the plants capturing sunlight and adding to the organic matter of my "patch" without me having to truck it in. The fact that those plants reduce erosion and capture nutrients that would otherwise leach away is a bonus. That has to be balanced with the amount of time it takes for them to break down.

Larger seeds (like beans and corn) do not require as fine of a seed-bed as smaller seeds (like carrots and lettuce) and consequently I don't need to lead-the-duck as much for corn as I do for lettuce. Another factor is that vegetation breaks down more quickly when the soil is warm. I need to lead-the-duck more when the soil is 40F than when it is 75F.

I need three, honest, dry days before I can rototill. Today was my one window for the next ten days.
Some springs are wetter than others. The canny gardener never really trusts the weather-guessers...but he pays attention to their educated guesses.

Talking very round numbers, the sweetcorn patch looks like it will be 40 feet long by 30 feet wide. That noodles out to 30-to-40 dozen ears. It is currently covered with waste hay that the cows trampled.

I am doing something a little bit different this year. I am running a "fallow patch" that is currently seeded in rye in the fall and I just broadcast in some red-clover seeds today. That patch is the same size as the potato patch or roughly 40% of the south-annex garden.

I will also be planting strawberry plants along the north edge of the annex. That will complicate the spacing of the rows. Tall plants like the corn will shade the strawberries if I crowd them too much, although the shading will be temporary as the corn plants will be cut after the sweetcorn is harvested.

Onions are looking like 70(ish) feet by 10'.

The fenced-in garden is roughly 65'-by-65'. It would be larger but I have asparagus encroaching from the south and hazelnut bushes on the north and an old tree nursery on the east.

Things are starting to come together.

April Fools, AI, Buzzards gotta eat and Calcium for Fruit Quality


Scheduled for April Fools day.

You cannot make this stuff up.

Artificial Intelligence

An irrational fear of rational thought.

Folks are terrified by the relentless, implacable application of....logic.

We all have our own, personal short-cuts and "hacks". We have our pet "rules" we derived after observing small samples of data. We like to think our rules are better than consensus-science (as opposed to politicized-science) but part of us knows that that is not the smart way to bet.

Buzzards gotta eat

Yesterday's Garden Grizzly will be repurposed to powering avian flight. If all goes well there will be trail-cam pictures.

Foliar calcium sprays (fertilizer) for fruit quality

"Foliar" is a misnomer. Calcium is not very mobile in a plant. There can be lots of calcium in the soil and the plant can have difficulty delivering it to the fruit where it functions like a glue that binds cells-to-other-cells. To get calcium into the fruit, you must spray it ON the fruit.

Lack of calcium in fruit is a cause of blossom-end-rot in tomatoes and peppers and corky-spots, water-core and bitter-pit in apples and cracking in pears.

One frustrating thing about these disorders is that it is most common on very fertile soils. Repeated additions of organic material jacks up the potassium levels which in-turn reduces calcium uptake. The larger fruit produced on those soils also stresses the plant's ability to deliver enough calcium to the fruit.

One way to rectify these problems is with multiple sprays of solutions with calcium as the fruit sizes up.

Solubility (grams/100ml) of common calcium minerals in distilled water at 20C. Expressed as % of water's weight.

  • Calcium carbonate (aka Limestone, chalk) 0.0007%
  • Calcium sulfate (plaster-of-Paris, gypsum) 0.25%
  • Calcium acetate (egg-shells and vinegar) 34%
  • Calcium citrate 0.1%
  • Calcium nitrate 120%
  • Calcium chloride 74%

Commercial growers of difficult-to-grow apples like Honeycrisp (notorious for bitter-pit) will spray 0.2%-to-0.25% calcium chloride foliar sprays every two weeks starting from when the biggest apples are the size of the end of your thumb. That works out to 1.5-to-2 pounds of calcium chloride per hundred gallons of spray.

If you are adverse to math or don't want to buy calcium chloride or calcium nitrate, then you can get pretty close to that concentration by breaking up some dry-wall (gypsum board) and covering with warm water overnight. The saturated calcium sulfate solution will be very close to the calcium concentration of the commercial products. The bucket+drywall can be reused all season long since very little of the gypsum is dissolved each session.

Another home-grown method is to dilute a generous cup of 5% vinegar with water to make a gallon of solution, then throw in a bunch of egg-shells. Let it sit over-night and maybe stir it occasionally. The solution in the morning should be close to 0.25% taking two molecules of acetic acid per atom of calcium.

Add a wetting agent like a bit of dish detergent, wait until noonish of a sunny day and spray your fruit. Make sure you spray the FRUIT since the calcium is not very mobile within the plant. Wet them thoroughly. I find that I get better fruit coverage by spraying upward since the leaves act like umbrellas and shield the fruit which hangs below them.

The reason for waiting until noon of a sunny day is that the fruit will be slightly dehydrated and will suck the moisture in like a sponge. Also, doing it relatively early in the day will ensure that the leaves will dry-off quickly and you will not be fostering fungal diseases.

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Grizzly sighting in Eaton County


There have been credible reports of the dread, Garden Grizzly being sighted in my part of Eaton County.

Fortunately for the photographer, the Grizzly was taking a nap at the time of this photo.

One of these bad-boys can mow down a row of green bean seedlings in a single go.

Somebody has been eating my porridge...

Chipmunk on left side of trap. You can see the white streak on the streak.

I think that tail belongs to a Red Squirrel

A meecy-mouse

I have been putting bait in my live trap and not catching the critters eating it.

Dog food is cheap, but I really want some fur in the trap to justify the effort.

It appears that chipmunks, Red Squirrels and mice have been helping themselves.

Was intended to be satire and they nailed it



Reputed to be from the BBC and was intended as satire. Satire: human foolishness or vice is attacked through irony, derision, or wit.

In modern use, satire usually includes exaggeration.

...all I could think of was the line "...once a month" as if it were a chore. Obviously, she needed to train her husband a little bit more.

God is great. Beer is good. People are crazy.

Delusional thinking

The news has reports of "activists" who claim that the shooter "had to" kill the six people in Nashville because...reality did not conform with her desires.

Because she "had to" kill them, and because she had no other options, she is blameless.






The flaw with this kind of thinking should be obvious. What if everybody held that moral viewpoint? Then it would be open-season, no bag-limit on everybody who made somebody uncomfortable.

Is that really what the not-norms want? Really? Did they think that through?

Weed and paranoia

One of my buddies from high school who I had lunch with Saturday, used to smoke a lot of weed.

He dried out. No drinking. No weed. No pills.

I asked him about the weed and he told me "It made me paranoid. REALLY paranoid. I could not function."

Noodling around the internet, paranoia is a documented side-effect of THC, one of the active ingredients of weed. It is also a side-effect of "bath salts", the synthetic cannabinoids found in "K-6", "Spice" and other JWH concoctions.

Unless you have been living under a rock, you know that the THC concentration in street weed has risen from 4% in 1995 to the 12% range in 2014 to +20% THC today.

Furthermore, weed has been decriminalized in many jurisdictions, even in states where it is still, nominally illegal. Prosecuting for simple MJ possession is seen as "racist".

Growth in percentage of population with Paranoid Personality Disorder. If these estimates are correct, PPD rose from 1% in the 1989-to-2002 range to 4.4% in 2008/2009 Source

More weed being smoked (10X?). Stronger weed (5X). Weed associated with paranoia. People going crazy and shooting up the place. Hmmm! Makes you wonder, doesn't it.

Paranoid Personality Disorder is considered a "delusional" disorder. The person with the disorder maintains strong beliefs (i.e. strong enough to act on) even when all evidence points to the contrary. Sometimes paranoia is warranted. That is, there IS evidence that you are a target. That is not PPD.

If mainstream media reports if traffic fatalities were not wearing seat-belts, if they report when alcohol was a factor, wouldn't it make sense to report if THC was found in the system of a mass-shooter?

Don't expect it to happen. The government sees legalizing weed as a great way to exercise their insider trading privileges. They also see it as a great way to generate more revenue through taxation. The machine wants legalized weed and they will not do anything that might throw some speed-bumps in the way of that goal.

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Training cows to enter trailers

I drove Southern Belle and Quicksilver to the Detroit airport. All parking in the ramp was full and drivers were being diverted to "the green lot" or to drop-off.

Southern Belle opted for drop-off. She was absolutely loaded down with baggage. Obviously, I could not leave the vehicle. She and Quicksilver made it to the gate but I am sure it was a hard slog.

Shipping cattle

I have been feeding the steer in the shipping coral. The two pallets really threw him for a loop.

I have been fretting about getting the steer comfortable with the idea of getting up into the trailer.

Cows are not very smart.

Cows are cowards and are easily frightened by new environments.

The fix, I think, is to simulate (from the cow's perspective) what is different about entering the trailer. The steer will be going into the dark, something that they prefer not to do. He will be stepping on a strange surface that will make noise.

I moved the shipping coral to avoid having to drive over a soft-spot in the pasture. I also started simulating the trailer. I added a couple of pallets to mock-up the sides of the trailer. Then I will bend a hoop over the top and add a tarp over the top and in front of the cow. The final step will be to slide an old, steel door so he must stand on it to get to his grain. I have about three weeks to train him to associate "dark", "enclosed" and "strange floor" with food.

Tomato seeds

I could not hold myself back any longer. Carmello, Estiva, Stupice and Orange Icicle. I will probably plant them in a 4-3-2-1 ratio, respectively.

Fine Art Tuesday


Cabbage leaf (and snail)

Edward Weston born in Chicago in 1886. Died 1958.

Famous for capturing textures of everyday items with his impeccably focused, high resolution black-and-white images.

Weathered wood (cypress?)

Another cabbage leaf



Monday, March 27, 2023

Prices at the local Walmart

Gluten-free Tortillas: 53 cents per ounce

Tortillas with EXTRA gluten (wheat protein): 41 cents per ounce

Tortillas with the same amount of gluten that God put in the wheat: 16 cents per ounce

Home Owner Associations

I wonder if HOAs will be less popular if the price of housing tanks.

The average fee is $250 a month or about $20k over a seven-year time horizon.

I can see the utility for short time-horizons because it is a form of insurance that your resale value will not plummet if the neighbor-from-hell moves in next door.

The value is less clear to me over very long time horizons. I can also see people quailing at spending the money if resale value falls and the selling price will not exceed the original cost plus that cumulative HOA fees.

I wonder if Brexit was Britain deciding the HOA fees to EU were not worth the benefits and the oversight by the Karens.

Sunday, March 26, 2023


The arrival of spring is reminiscent of a train starting out. The engine revs up and a series of "CRASH!" is heard down the length of train cars. Then another series of the same as the slinky rebounds.

Warm. Cold. Rain. Warm. Cold. Rain....

There are several days in the next week forecast to have highs over 50F so it is time to cut scion-wood. I could have cut it earlier but I am running out of time if I want to cut it in its fully-dormant condition.

Time to scatter some red clover and some alfalfa seed in the pasture. And it is past time to de-junk the yard.

Tomato seeds to be planted April 1. Mrs ERJ graciously agreed to let me germinate them in the oven with the light on. That is how we warm bread-dough to get it to rise. Might be a good day to go sucker fishing if the water isn't too high.


Travel is not my favorite thing. I am a home-body.

I have been informed that I WILL travel down to Miami in the next couple of months and I will help drive a moving truck back up to Michigan.

Southern Belle and Quicksilver will be flying back to Miami to pack up the household and then she and Handsome Hombre will be moving in with us while they look for an apartment or house to rent.

Southern Belle has been an exceptionally easy house-guest. She bought a week's worth of groceries for the month she was here. I noticed inroads in my supply of oatmeal, peanut butter, pancake mix, applesauce and instant coffee, so it is not like she eats "fancy" or expensive.

It is also notable that she washes a sink full of dishes every day.

Stressing about transporting the steer

I am stressing about transporting the steer to the butcher shop. A friend told me about a fellow who rents his out for $50 per 8 hours. I need to catch up with him and put down a deposit to reserve the trailer.

They say a little bit of stress in one's life is a good thing.

Lunch with the high-school buddies

The guys I went to high-school with had their third lunch yesterday. I have attended two of them.

My goal was to keep my mouth shut and avoid talking about politics. I was successful. I ate too much.

I was out-of-the-loop when they were talking about sports-ball and celebrities. Not my thing.

One theme that came up was how some of the late-bloomers had surpassed the fast-burners. Some of the girls who had been invisible in high school had become beautiful and some of the "lookers" in high school had faded.

The same was true for the guys. One of my buddies, who I had last seen as a contractor engineer in San Diego for the Navy had enlisted in the Air Force and become a pilot. Then he went on to Delta and was a commercial pilot. He was offered a retirement at the start of Covid. He looks like somebody Central Casting would send to act the part of Ronald Reagan. Yep, the goofy kid who backed over the family cat in the driveway turned out well.

Beware of women with green hair when it it is not St Paddy's day
One of the guys recently became single and re-entered the dating scene. He entertained us with what it was like "out there". He thought his last date was going well when his date's former girlfriend came over and punched him in his shoulder. It hurt! Guess you gotta be aware that there are switch-hitters out there.

Saturday, March 25, 2023

Black-White Test Score Differences

From the Brookings Insitute:

The gap appears before children enter kindergarten and it persists into adulthood. It has narrowed since 1970, but the typical American black still scores below 75 percent of American whites on almost every standardized test.

...when black or mixed-race children are raised in white rather than black homes, their pre-adolescent test scores rise dramatically. These adoptees’ scores seem to fall in adolescence, but this could easily be because their social and cultural environment comes to resemble that of other black teenagers.

Studies of mixed-race children and black children adopted by white parents suggest, however, that racial differences in test performance are largely if not entirely environmental in origin.

Collecting accurate data on black and white parents’ habits, values, behavior, and ideas is not easy, and it would take time.

The timing of the gap (occurring before formal education) suggests that the culture of African-American child-raising, whatever the differences might be, are key players in the differences.

I suspect the typical African-American parent might spend less time with the child on their lap reading books to them. Kids learn about those black-squiggles being important while sitting on that lap. They learn about left-to-right, top-to-bottom hierarchies.

Interactive toys like this alphabet floor-mat or basic shapes floor-mat can be introduced at a very early age. 

Magnetic letters are an easy way to introduce the young child to the fact they can manipulate those squiggles and can order them in meaningful spell their name. Key points are to select BIG letters to avoid choking hazard and to work around the limitations of fine-motor skills a young kid might have. Another point is to keep it simple. All you need are the upper-case letters for the little nippers. 

Letter-sound connections can be painlessly imparted with songs.

Finally, once your little bundle-of-joy starts trudging off to school, sets of "pattern books" will make them feel successful and start the reading habit.

Age appropriate cook-books are a great way to connect "Reading" with "Empowerment". Those black squiggles can show you how to turn flour, eggs, sugar...into cookies.

Do any of you readers have any suggestions you would like to share with new parents (or grandparents) to help their kids be academically successful? Please feel free to share them in comments.

Daily-news induced indigestion

Pentagon determines Seven-year-olds mature enough to cut off their junk

Can one assume that they are also old enough to register for the draft?

Pelosi denied communion

'Bout time

French Gov't workers riot over Macron raising retirement age

Presumes they are working while employed.

Tornados kill at least 21 in Mississippi

My prayers are with you

90% of Chicago 3rd Graders not capable of reading at grade-level

7% of Chicago is Asian. Wanna bet they are underrepresented in the 90%? Asian parents take personal-ownership of their children's education and don't "throw it over the fence".

Clinton official's death caused by "software glitch" in plane's controls

Welcome to the internet of everything. Control systems compare (subtract) the actual state to the desired state and make corrections based on that computation. Changing one "minus" to a "plus" in a hundred-thousand lines of code can make it blow up.

Husband with eight prior felonies stabs wife to death at Bible study

The best predictor of violence is a prior history of violence. Gang-tats on the neck are a close second.

Florida NAACP tries to torpedo Florida's tourist industry, tells Blacks to "Stay Home"

Miami Beach thanks them

Biden says "Banks in pretty good shape"

Thanks, Gilligan

Kyrsten Sinema says Democrats are "a bunch of old dudes eating Jello"

What a legacy: Killing unborn babies, maiming children, manufacturing new species of victims and destroying manufacturing...and eating Jello.

Friday, March 24, 2023

Fun with maps

The distance from Brookport, Illinois to Muscle Shoals, Alabama is 170 miles.
Outside of Cairo, southern Illinois is more like Northern Alabama than it is like Chicago.
As the crow-flies, the distance from Eaton Rapids, Michigan to Glen Arbor is 178 miles.

The distance from South Miami, Florida to the Georgia state-line is 360 miles.

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.