Thursday, August 31, 2023

Wisdom is where you find it

Mesoamerican urbanism revisited: Environmental change, adaptation, resilience, persistence, and collapse

I found this to be an interesting paper with many worthwhile observations.

I also found the "climate change" white-wash to be a little bit distracting but I can accept the fact that one must bend to the demands of the primary audience for your papers or they will not get published and you will become irrelevant as an academic.

Quoted material is highlighted in blue. My comments have a white background.

Long recognized as a distinct cultural region, prehispanic Mesoamerica was the setting for one of the world’s original urbanization episodes despite the impediments to communication and resource extraction due to the lack of beasts of burden and wheeled transport, and the limited and relatively late use of metal implements. Our knowledge of prehispanic urbanism in Mesoamerica has been significantly enhanced over the past two decades due to significant advances in excavating, analyzing, and contextualizing archaeological materials. We now understand that Mesoamerican urbanism was as much a story about resilience and adaptation to environmental change as it was about collapse.

The text that is underlined caught my eye because that is a situation we would encounter in the event of widespread social collapse.

Urban social organizations vary and are adaptable to environmental change. Worldwide urbanization has been occurring for the past 7,000 y. In this span, individual settlements have come and gone, and some once-flourishing urban systems have vanished. Many other cities and urban systems have lasted for hundreds thousands of years. To achieve such endurance, problems had to be recognized, solutions devised, collective action coordinated, institutions, norms, and beliefs adjusted, new technologies deployed, and previous ways of doing things modified or abandoned  

Mayan cities had enormous longevity and were not tiny. An impressive accomplishment for a human-powered universe

Mesoamerican urbanism often appears in collapse narratives and represents, by extension, a source of negative lessons. Yet,when seen as a history of longevity, adaptation, collapse, and reconfiguration, Mesoamerican urbanism can inform contemporary discussions of urban sustainability. The sudden, by historical standards, diminution, and in some cases outright disappearance, of prominent urban centers was indeed a feature of Maya history. However, the collapse was not a sudden unitary phenomenon; it took place over almost 200 y and Maya peoples continued to build new cities in other locations. While the causes of the Classic
lowland Maya collapse remain a subject of coalescing debate, sizeable changes in the populations of many cities occurred. These changes in population have largely blinded scholars to the remarkable successes of lowland Maya cities that persisted, adapted, and flourished for many centuries and were then replaced by smaller cities that subsequently arose and flourished. It has been argued that the abandonment of previously established equitable and sustainable practices was a factor in this collapse.  It is working. Lets break it.

We would argue that any collapse seen in the past archaeological record was in part the result of vulnerability due to the removal or rejection of previously established risk reduction practices in antiquity. Sounds like what many conservatives say about current events like "justice reform".

When considering how Mesoamerican urbanism was affected by and responded to environmental change which could include resource depletion, it is helpful to have working definitions of the related concepts of risk, adaptation, and resilience...We adopt the definitions used by the IPCC(4, 30) in which a sustainability perspective sees risk, adaptation, and resilience as inherent attributes of human-environmental systems. Risk is defined as the potential for adverse consequences...for human or ecological systems. Adaptation in human societies is defined here as the process of adjustment to changes in the natural (or physical) and social environment and their effects, to moderate harm or exploit opportunities. Resilience is defined as the capacity of social, economic, and environmental systems to cope with a hazardous event, trend, or disturbance, while responding or reorganizing in ways that maintain their essential function, identity, and structure, as well as the capacity for adaptation, learning, and transformation.

...variation in urban form among highland and lowland Mesoamerican cities provided a multitude of different adaptations. While some urban dwellers incorporated agriculture, silviculture, and orchard gardens within the city itself, others primarily practiced agriculture outside city boundaries; others relied on imported agricultural goods from elsewhere. Differences are also seen in access to potable water with some cities relying on more centralized control of reservoirs than others during the dry season of the tropics. The variability of ancient Mesoamerican cities and their incorporation into continent wide networks provided mechanisms that allowed the inhabitants of these cities to adapt to environmental risks through both exchange and migration. The way I read this is that every neighborhood that survived long enough to be studied was formed through a series of experiments that developed custom-fit solutions for each region's unique profile of stressors.


While I am a dyed-in-the-wool country-mouse, I realize that factors that make urban areas less livable will result in more people "pressuring" my area of operation.

To keep rural areas "rural" comes at a cost of maintaining the social and economic order of urban areas.

While there is similarity and variation among these cities, we note that their governance systems and built infrastructure were among their more successful adaptations to forces of external change. At their peaks, most Mesoamerican cities were prosperous and sustainable...Governance, however, was fickle and was
subject to shift between more collective and more autocratic systems over the course of history. Also particularly striking in terms of the abandonments of Mesoamerican cities–and opposed to earlier understandings- is that most of their collapses are associated with a rejection of these successful adaptations for strategies more focused on autocracy and inequality

This is a troubling passage because both sides of the political spectrum will see it as a vindication of their predispositions. The left will point at the right as autocratic and wealth-hording...and the right will reciprocate by pointing to the weaponization of various governmental agencies. What both can agree upon is that the "fickleness" of the system appears to be increasing. Instead of moderate swings between right-and-left the oscillations have become more pronounced and there is little overlap in policies.

Another reason that it is troublesome is that "collective" is usually associated with a form of property ownership rather than governance. The typical terms for collective governance are "representative", "democratic" or "elected representatives". Economic systems with a high degree of collective ownership quickly devolved to systems of autocratic governance so the choice of words by the authors is needlessly ambiguous and given the lack of records may be speculative.

Good news


Two years ago a Canadian graduate student triggered furor when she reported that ground penetrating radar had identified over two-hundred, hithertofore undocumented potential graves on parcels that had housed native-Americans.

Furthermore, more potential graves were being identified daily and the grave sites were on reservations that had been administered by the Roman Catholic Church.

Like the US, Canada had sub-contracted the administration of "Indian" Reservations with large charities, which in that day meant religious organizations. Typically, a given tribe would be serviced by a given religious denomination.

The mainstream media ran with the story. The qualifier "potential" was either eliminated or buried in paragraph 13 of the story. If a reader had extra time and an inclination to dig, the original paper that triggered the fecal storm stated that there were many other natural phenomena, like rotting stumps and tree roots, that were capable of producing the anomalies that were identified as "potential grave sites".

Catholic churches in Canada were vandalized. Bishops groveled.

It was ugly.

And now, two years later, it turns out the anomalies were...due to natural causes.

With respect to the mainstream media, dare I suggest that they were projecting their own, pervasive, institutionalized ill-will toward their fellow man on to the charities in question?

Offered in the interest of art appreciation


Five minutes of video footage of a Labrador Retriever plying his craft at Brabantse Kempen in the Netherlands. Interesting because many of the artists featured here painted in the Netherlands (the Dutch school) or Denmark which is within spitting distance of the Netherlands.

Skip the first 30 seconds to get to the good stuff.

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Chesterton Academy of St George in Jackson, Michigan

The Chesterton Academy of St. George was started by three fathers from the Jackson (Michigan) area: Thomas Hulett, Joseph Gruber, and Matthew Anderson. The families that choose Chesterton come from a variety of backgrounds but all have the common desire for our counter cultural education that will help their children to be disciples of Christ in the midst of the modern world.

The Chesterton Academy of St. George offers a classical education in the Catholic tradition for grades 9-12. Our education is structured according to history, so that each year a student's classes are naturally in dialogue with each other. Thus, freshman year students study the ancient world in all their classes so that what they are reading in history and philosophy interweaves with theology, math, science, etc. Daily Mass is the most important activity each day. Furthermore, we train our students in virtue through a House System that encourages community, self sacrifice, and resiliency. 

This school has come about primarily through God's grace. It is He who has led people to us to help with fundraising, enrollment, teaching and the facility. Our donors often give to us because they recognize the importance of a more intentional formation of young people in a thoroughly Catholic environment. Our families choose us because they are looking for a fully human formation for their children, one that will teach them to be the men and women God is calling them to be. 
We are located in the Bethany House facility here in Jackson: 1000 E Porter St, Jackson MI 49202. It is the old Felician Sisters orphanage, so we have a chapel, a gym, classrooms, and office space. 
The process for starting the Chesterton Academy of St. George began in January, 2021 as we three fathers were considering where we wanted to send our own children to high school. We saw a need for this type of education here in Jackson, and so we worked over the next year to set up the school. The school itself opened in August, 2022.
Much of modern education is influenced by a relativistic philosophy that trains students in the belief that they create their own truth. This belief is a fundamental hindrance to faith, which is founded on the idea that we receive a truth from a higher source outside ourselves. Classical education, on the other hand, helps to pass on the world view that truth is found outside ourselves and is something to which we must conform. Parents see that the value of living in conformity with the truth brings fulfillment, and so thus are willing to make the sacrifices necessary to provide that for their children. For their part, students experience the unique joy and healing that the true, the good and the beautiful bring to life, which makes them want to attend Chesterton. Last year, many of our students were actually disappointed when summer vacation began because of the profound impact this education is having on their lives.
Four things potential students and their parents should know
The joyful culture is definitely unique. As an example, each month we have a happy hour at Grand River Brewery for adults where we enjoy a good pint and discuss the most important things. 
Furthermore, our philosophy course is very unique at the high school level, but it has proved invaluable for teaching children how to think, not just what to think. 
Similarly, having choir, drama, and art for all students has been a very influential part of the curriculum. These classes introduce students to the beautiful, but they also teach students how to learn new skills that are not in their comfort zone
Historically, this education is probably most similar to the British model of education at the time of Newman...1850-1880
Plans for growth
We are growing the school one grade each year. So, last year we began with just freshmen, this year we have freshmen and sophomores.

Advice for those who might wish to replicate the Chesterton Academy in their local community
  • Most fundamentally, I tell people to pray, to ask God if He is calling you to step out of the boat and do something beautiful for Him. 
  • Start talking to everybody they know. Gauge their interest and how much they might want to be involved.
  • Be humbly aware of their own failings and surround themselves with people that will be able to do a better job in certain areas than they can. There has to be a willingness to learn and try new things, but if someone is stronger at something else, they need to be asked to do it. 

Note: All copyrights for this blog post are assigned to Matthew Anderson, Headmaster of Chesterton Academy of St George.

Matthew Anderson
517 295 3735

Three Italian men, sitting on a bench...

Three old Italian men were sitting on a park bench on a cold, dreary day in Brooklyn.

As was their custom, they were arguing.

The first old man asserted "Da besta way ta die is ta be 77 ana drivin' a Ferrari atta hunn-ed an foaty mile-a-houa an ta hit a bridge. BOOM! Gone, justa lika dat!"

The second old man disagreed in his deep, gravely voice. "Na. Da besta way ta die is ta be 88 ana drivin' a jet aereoplana and playin' hinky-da-pinky wid a 22 yea-old and to fly inta da sida mountain. BOOM! Fireball, and gone justa like dat"

The third old Italian disagreed in his high, quavery voice. "Na. Ya boas a wrong. Da besta way ta die is ta be 99 an ta be shot in da backa da head by a jealous husband."

Side conversations

There was a side conversation in the comments of an earlier post that I am going to hi-jack.

But before I do that, I need to elaborate on my mental model of how most of us will meet our demise. Medical people: Feel free to take me to the woodshed in the comments.

Most of us will plateau in our late teens-to-mid-twenties and there will be a long, gentle glide-path of decline. At some point we will experience some major body function starting to "fail" or to rapidly decline. That will not be a big deal. Human bodies are extremely resilient and modern medicine can support us through one failed system.

It could be kidney failure and through adjustments in diet and dialysis we can coast along for many decades of life. It could be our pancreas going Tango-Uniform and through diet, exercise and insulin we can live a full life for many decades of our life. COPD, same-same. Diminished heart capacity: same-same.

The tip into the abyss happens after the second, major system goes into failure. The remaining systems, which have been laboring for years under stress often fail in an accelerating cascade after the second system goes Tango-Uniform.

The time-lag between the first system to fail and then the cascading failures is largely determined by how well we maintained the body God gave us. If we abused it with potato chips, cupcakes, lack of exercise, smoke... then the second failure arrives more quickly (perhaps triggered by a fall or seasonal viral infections or some other minor perturbation) than it does for the identical twin who did everything right.

Under this very simplified model, it can be very difficult to figure out the specific system that failed that was the "single cause" of the person's death. It is actually most precise to say "They died of old-age" because every system failure interacted with the others and the reason they failed is because all of the tread was worn off the tire and the patient was running with the reinforcing cords touching the pavement.

My evidence for this opinion is that I heard an interview held with a British doctor who performed a massive statistical study to build a computer model to "rationalize" or triage which patients got ICU beds. The plug was pulled due to political reasons so the results were never available to the general public.

That doctor said it was like economics when John Maynard Keyes who said "Do the maths until you understand the concepts and then tear up the maths". Once the statistics had been digested, it turned out doctors did not need a computer model. All they needed to know to was the number of systems "in failure". If it was just one, then they were justified in sending the patient to ICU. If more than one, Hospice.

Ultimately, we are all going to die of SOMETHING. Some of us will die relatively sooner. Others will pass the century mark.

In this model of Health (or Death) lifestyle does not cause death. Death is a given. Lifestyles set the pace of the metronome that ticks off the seconds until our first and time between our cascading system failures. Some of us are genetically gifted and we have a lot of tread on our tires. Others were born with tires that were already bald.

OK medical folks. Flame away.

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Fine Art Tuesday

Hans Fredrik Gude born in Norway in 1825. Died in 1903.

You could throw a dart and any one of his works would look stunning on any wall in your home, study or office. He was just that good. Or, dare I say, "He was just that Gude!"?

Woman making lace. Anchor on left side of image...wooden flukes and stone weight.

Hat tip to the incredible Lucas Machias

A few pictures from the "greenhouse"


August 18

August 28

In our oldest tray

Density of plants

Density after harvesting every third row.

Harvesting every third row means that each plant in the remaining double-rows has one direction it can expand into.

The lettuce was harvested with kitchen scissors to minimize the disturbance to the roots and to reduce the amount of dirt I brought into the kitchen.

The seedlings I transplanted late last week


Green Forest lettuce

Yesterday afternoon. Lettuce on the left. Mizuna on the right. So far the nod goes to Mizuna for growth-rate.

Prices of Prescription Drugs in the US vs. the rest of the world



The 32 non-US countries used in the comparisons, i.e. "...the rest of the world..."

Key points: 

  • The study used Manufacture's Suggested Retail Price as the basis for their analysis
  • The 60 drugs with the highest US sales volume had prices that were almost 4X higher for US consumers than for the rest of the world.
  • Conversely, generic drugs had MSRP prices in the US that were slightly LOWER than in the rest of the world.

Editorializing Part I

There are precedents for what appears to be an anomaly. Coal was, in fact, exported to Newcastle.

Production costs come in two forms. Specifically, up-front fixed costs and on-going variable costs.

When an industry like Pharmaceuticals or mining has very large up-front costs compared to the on-going costs of production then there is a strong incentive to price (later) incremental sales less than the prices set for early-production sales.

The up-front costs to produce Pharmaceuticals is beyond brutal. Not only must your product pass an expensive array of field-trials which a very low percentage of drugs manage, but the revenue of the ones that do pass must bear the burden of the costs of the ones that failed.

Once a drug has been approved by the FDA, the manufacturer prices the drug based on expected domestic sales volume such that the costs of development (including the costs incurred by the drugs that didn't make it) are covered.

Those new drugs also incur marketing costs. They are advertised in media AND handsome and beautiful "drug reps" drive from doctor's-office to doctors-office like so many Fuller's Brush Sales Cheerleaders touting the value of the drug and offering samples.

Only after the new drug has elbowed its place along the feed-trough domestically is any real effort made to gain approval in non-US countries. Since all of the heavy-lifting in covering the fixed-costs has already been accounted for, the profit margin is considered to be the sales price minus the cost of on-going production.

In the arcane world of accounting, the sales price in a foreign country can be 25% of the price in the US and the profit margin for those sales will still noodle out as many times higher.

Editorializing Part II

Politicians LOVE to say they reduced the cost of drugs! Prescription drugs are a large part of older citizen's cost-of-living and older people VOTE.

Because of the temptation, politicians "game" the numbers. For instance, they will fold the "sample" population into the pricing and they will stack all of the manufacturer's discounts (even though the discounts are often mutually exclusive or time-sensitive). The biggest games are to cherry-pick just one or two drugs...insulin and epi-pens seem to be favorites and just report those...or to report the increases in prices rather than the actual, base prices.

One of Trump's initiatives was to beat the Pharmaceutical companies down so that the US Medicaid and Medicare prices for major drugs was the same as the prices for the rest of the G-7 (a subset of the 32 countries used in the study quoted).

This initiative was very unpopular with the Pharma companies because those other-country prices were not sustainable without US prices amortizing the fixed-upfront costs of introducing those drugs.

At the risk of understatement, the Pharmaceutical industry did not favor Donald Trump and his America First policies because it was in conflict with the accounting models that drove their pricing and profits.

It is also worth noting that Pharmaceutical advertising puts a lot of revenue into the pockets of the mainstream media. Threats to Pharma profits are also an indirect threat to the mainstream media's revenues. The top-60 drugs by revenue are the top-60 due to heavy advertising.

Monday, August 28, 2023

Form 4473

I was standing in line at a local sporting goods emporium and watched a gentleman attempt to purchase a Ruger 10/22 long-gun.

For those who are not into guns, the Ruger 10/22 would be a fine choice (top 5) if you could only have one fire-arm to last the rest of your life. It uses ammo that is widely available and it has enough power to reliably take down animals up to 40 pounds with a single shot. Larger animals too if you pick your shots or can pump several rounds into the heart/lung area.

The gentleman had a young woman who appeared to be about 16 in tow. He was chatting with the gentleman behind the counter informing him that he was purchasing it so his daughter could go squirrel hunting with him.

He filled out the 4473 and he was rejected due to how he answered one of the questions.

The question was "Are you purchasing this firearm with the intention of either selling or transferring it to somebody else?" (paraphrased)

He answered "Yes" because in his mind he was purchasing it for his daughter to use.

In the eyes of the Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and other stuff, he was attempting to make a "straw purchase" and was rejected.

Remember, in circumstances like that you are purchasing the firearm for yourself and you might temporarily loan it out if the person in question meets certain criteria (not a felon, not in this country illegally and so on). Hunting guides do this on a frequent basis when the dude's rifle is lost by the airlines or he drops it and knocks the scope out of alignment.

One of my other Top Five choice would be the Maverick 88, 20 gauge in the Bantam configuration (12" length-of-pull and 22" barrel). My reasoning is that sending a young person or a wizened old coot out to fill the stew-pot incurs a lower opportunity cost than sending out the lumber-jack or adult in his-her prime. 

The shorter stock and the combination of a 20 gauge in a fairly slim, lightweight configuration is a winner for younger shooters, petite women and old geezers.

Other uses for a scatter-gun include knocking squirrels out of your nut trees and ground-sluicing bunnies in your cabbages. Neither of those uses require a shotgun that is fitted so it naturally points at the target when you bring it to your shoulder. The small-holder doesn't take that many shots at birds-in-flight, that is for the sportsmen. So although the 22" barrel and shorter stock not point and swing that smoothly for guys over 5'-8", those same features make it a great shotgun for the B-team and make the firearm surprisingly handy to store and carry.

These kinds of firearms are currently available and if you have a few extra dollars you might think of purchasing one of these kinds of firearms...especially if you don't already have one.

Boiling Frogs (fiction)

Big Mike's main chore today was to drive his wife Margie to their granddaughter’s birthday party. Poppy had turned four years-old last week but their son did not have custody of her until this weekend.

Margie gently put the birthday gifts in the trunk of the Chrysler 300. She had never cared much for the styling of the car. It reminded her of a dorky man’s shoe but she had to admit it was roomy and comfortable and the trunk was large enough to stash several bodies.

At four, Poppy was just sophisticated enough to value size, numbers AND quality of gifts. Consequently, Margie had wrapped enough boxes to carpet-bomb an orphanage and came close to filling the trunk.

Mike carefully backed out of the narrow driveway that separated his 100 year-old “Sears Kit House” from his neighbor’s 100 year-old Sears Kit House. Most of the houses on his street were identical cubes varying only in color and the ornamentation that spruced up their front porches.

When Mike and Margie had first moved in, it had been a move-of-convenience. They only planned to stay for five years before moving to their dream house. But life happened. Mike Junior came along. And then Leah. Mike lost his job and was out of work for a year before something came along. Mike and Margie’s parents got old and needed care...fortunately they lived close to both sets of parents and had been able to care for them.

Only Mike’s mom was still alive and she was in a nursing home. Margie had started talking about moving but Mike was resistant. He was comfortable here. Fixing up a house to sell was a lot of work. Finding a new house was a roller-coaster of emotion. Moving was disruptive. A "forever" home seemed like a forever house when you are in your early-30s because you expect to live forever. In his mid-sixties, Big Mike hoped he had another ten or twenty good years left. With time accelerating, it hardly seemed worth the bother to move.

Margie pointed out that all of their old neighbors had moved to Florida or into condominiums or had passed away. Margie was the more social of the two and she felt the loss of those neighbors more acutely than Mike did. Mike told Margie that she was too sensitive, that the coldness she felt from the neighbors who replaced their friends was in her imagination.

But today was not a day to be sad. It was a birthday. A day to celebrate.

Margie kept up a running commentary as Mike drove. He regretted not turning down his hearing aid and Margie would certainly notice if he did so now. Mike joked that Margie did not have a clutch between her brain and her mouth, that she could not think unless her jaws were flapping.

Traffic was backed up by construction. The governor had been trying to soften the latest recession by spending a mountain of money to re-build infrastructure. Unfortunately, it snarled up traffic and it was impossible to drive from Point A to Point B anywhere in the state without getting tangled up in it.

“Oh, look!” Margie said. “The Westside Urgent Care is closed down. How did I miss that in the Lansing Pulse?”

The Lansing Pulse was the newspaper that actually had staff that reported on local events and had mostly replaced the moribund, legacy newspaper. Margie read every issue from cover-to-cover. She liked to keep her finger  on the pulse, so to speak. Mike didn’t bother to read it because it covered mostly cannabis stores, new adult-entertainment venues and music events.

“Oh my goodness. CVS took down their sign” Margie informed Mike as he inched the big Chrysler forward in the stop-and-go traffic.

Mike ventured a quick glance at the store. The lights were off which is a bad sign when it is 1:30 in the afternoon. “Musta closed” Mike said, stating the obvious. Some local “dudes” were hanging out in the parking lot. Mike got “the stare” as he inched by.

It was totally opaque to Mike and to the angry young-men loitering in the parking lots and to Michigan's feckless governor that the "infrastructure jobs" created to "fix" the economy had vaporized the customer traffic that supported nearly all of the entry-level jobs that would have otherwise occupied those youths.

“Oooh. That is going to hurt. Lebandowski’s grocery has a For Sale sign up” Margie said. Lebandowski is where Margie purchased her kielbasa and pierogies and Polish pastries. It was also one of the anchors for the neighborhood around it.

Mike grunted. He had assumed that Levandowski’s license to sell hard liquor would have carried them through this latest downturn. Being able to sell booze was a license to print money, in Mike’s opinion.

As they stop-and-goed to the party, Margie kept noting the business that had closed and the pawn-shops, weed-joints and titty-bars that had opened.

Mike let it wash over him. Even with the hearing aids his hearing wasn't all that great. He lived mostly in his mind and Margie's chatter quickly faded to background noise.

It took them almost a half-hour to drive the three miles to the Danny Dairy Company on M-43. Danny’s was Mike Junior’s go-to destination when he had Poppy for the weekend. He bought a hat-full of tokens. Poppy was enamored of Danny’s costumed mouse mascot and loved the games and the bland pizza. Mike Junior appreciated that he could have a discreet beer or four and watch football on the large screen TVs that lined the walls.

The other reason that Mike Junior gave Danny’s his patronage was that Margie watched Poppy on those Saturdays when Mike Junior had a date. Danny’s was conveniently located between his parent’s house and his apartment in Grand Ledge.

Danny’s had been one of the original businesses in a strip-mall built at the outer edges of suburbia when Big Mike was in his twenties. Urban sprawl built up around it because that was the place to be. Apartment complexes sprang behind Danny’s strip-mall to house the twenty-somethings who were starting out in life and who worked in the hot-bed of commerce that new suburbia created.

Over the last forty years those trendy apartments had back-filled with subsidized housing tenants and the up-scale businesses had seen a steady, downward glide-path. The only up-scale business in the entire stripmall was the jewelry store next to Danny’s. In light of the habit of the locals, the jewelry store had windows that were barred and it was locked up like a fortress.

Helping Margie carry the gifts into Danny’s, Mike Senior noticed that Mike Junior was not the only single-dad there. Most of the clients were beaten-down, tired, discouraged looking young men who were keeping a lackadaisical eye on their errant spawn.

The party really got started when Leah showed up. Leah and Austin didn’t have any kids. Judging from Leah’s career ambitions, she probably never would. She made up for the lack by spoiling Poppy.

The waitresses at Danny’s delivered the birthday cake and sang “Happy Birthday”. Danny really understood his customer base. The waitresses were beautiful and their outfits showed lots of cleavage. The waitresses also wore mouse ears and round, red squeeky-noses for the kids.

Poppy squealed as she opened each box.

Mike nudged Margie with his elbow. “Why so many outfits?”

Margie replied “Mikey doesn’t wash any of her clothes. She wears them one, maybe two times and then he pitches them.”

Mike frowned. “Why doesn’t he wash them. Doesn’t his apartment building have washing machines?”

Margie looked to see if anybody else was listening but they were all engaged with Poppy. “You know how things are now days. Mikey is afraid he will be accused of being a pedophile if he is seen washing little girls’ clothes.”

Big Mike shook his head. Everything was different now.

The party was winding down when Margie was coming back from the drink counter with a Royal Crown-and-Coke for him and another beer for Little Mike when he heard fireworks going off in the parking lot. It barely registered with him that the 4th of July had been almost two months ago.

Then several young men, boys really, burst through Danny’s front doors. They were wearing all black hoodies and face-masks and they were hauling ass. They were moving so fast that he never really got a handle on how many there were.

As they charged through the crowded restaurant, they ruthlessly knocked Margie over.

Big Mike was old. Big Mike was sixty pounds overweight and his knees were shot. But Margie was his and his to protect. Mike was old, but he was still a man.

He rose to his feet and angled to confront the men.

He heard a blast and it felt like he had been kicked in the back. A pain even worse than when he passed the kidney stone in ‘17 smashed into his left side.

He looked down. His hands had moved of their own accord and where bunched up below his short-ribs, about six inches below his nipple.

Blood was starting to leak between his fingers.

“Oh my. Oh my sweet Jesus. What have I done?” as his knees buckled…


Hat-tip to Lucas Machias for the story idea. He asked "Why are people oblivious to creeping risk?"

Second tip of the hat to Bayou Renaissance Man who marvels and is dumbfounded by people's blindness to the risks of living in certain places and their naive denial that anything bad could happen to them.

Sunday, August 27, 2023

Towed Sonar Antenna Arrays

Begging for some audience participation. I stalled out on one of my short-stories and need a nudge. I need some

Our lives are oversupplied with sources of "information" that buzz and chatter but have little actionable information. Many of them are echo-chambers that mindlessly repeat information of dubious value or the information has been overcooked and lost context.

How would you characterize the human sources of information who you can count on to give you authentic information? Information they personally observed. Information that might not be totally cutting-edge but has enough value that what it loses in timeliness it gains in value because the information is not perishable.

I am not asking who provides the best analysis. That is up to each individual to process. I am asking who seems to have their fingers on the local pulse and is willing to share it with you.

Hair-dresser or barber? Bus driver? Mailman? Librarian? Bartender? The aide at the local playground? Plumber? Clerk at a convenience store?


If you were into antisubmarine warfare, I am looking for people who are the equivalent of towed sonar antenna arrays.

Thanks in advance.

The increase in the diagnosis of Autism and other Mental Illnesses


Graphic shamelessly stolen from the Feral Irishman. I cannot vouch for the accuracy of the content.
Many people observed the increasing rate of autism and noticed the increased number of vaccinations given to children.  At one time, many/most vaccines were stabilized with mercury compounds and mercury is toxic to brain tissues. They put two-and-two together and arrived at a logical conclusion. The theory was that the additional mercury was causing the autism.

I want to offer another possible cause for the 65-fold increase in the rate of diagnosed Autism in the United States between 1980 and today. Not that I totally disagree with the vaccination hypothesis but because there are some issues with the stream-of-logic; for instance, mercury is not used like it was back-in-the-day so it is unlikely to be the causal agent.

The hypothesis that I offer is that the modern educational environment is so toxic, especially to boys who run afoul trying to conform to the Byzantine social norms. It does not help that some teachers and administrators are virulent feminists who see normal boys and their latent masculinity as pathological specimens who need to be "fixed".

A diagnosis of Autism give the boy a get-out-of-jail free and satisfies the virulent feminists. The boy does not get permanently expelled and gets future "accommodations" under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The feminists get their beliefs validated.

Similar themes play out in the work-place. Hostile Workplace Environment claims force workers into a defensive posture. Going to a Mental Health Professional and getting a "diagnosis" might be the only way to save one's job after a tiff with a Woke colleague. It is a bit like the defensive "castle move in chess" where the normal rules of how pieces move do not apply for one move.

I DO believe that there are more mental/emotional health issues out there because the command-and-control structure demands that workers deny reality and offer not viable way to address frictions. But the increase rate of diagnosis is driven more by the need for workers and students to defend themselves in the bath of vitriol and toxins that the Woke movement created.

Progressives will claim that the Woke movement does not create a toxic environment but fixes it. That is undoubtedly true for some people and some classes of people but it is done at the expense of others.

The old open-door, chain-of-command system required that good-faith efforts be made at the lower level before it was escalated. That meant that the two parties in conflict had an obligation to resolve the issue before invoking anybody else. The Woke process seems to involve immediately running to Human Resources and filing a complaint with the "aggressor" being hauled into a kangaroo court where he is whacked with a predetermined ruling.

Shortly before I left the work world, two people were conversing and a third person walked behind them. The third person heard a fragment of the conversation and filed a complaint with HR. The person who was speaking (a supervisor) was removed from her job and assigned to another production plant.

Just. Like. That.

I am thankful that I am no longer in the work environment. It became a nightmare where rules changed daily and the threat of termination hung over my head for even the most arbitrary or capricious of reasons without any regard of my productivity or economic contribution to the enterprise.

I doubt that I am the only person who felt that way.

Saturday, August 26, 2023

Public Service Announcement

68% of Eaton County was without power after the storm.

Isolated pockets will take a while to restore.

Some churches are offering ice from their kitchens to those who need it to keep the food in their fridge from spoiling.

For instance, the church I attend, St Mary Catholic Church in Charlotte, Michigan has ice and all they ask is that the people who need it use it responsibly. You don't have to go to our church.  You will not be charged.

The phone number is 517-five-four-three-43-nineteen. Regular office hours start on Monday at 8:00 ish. The point of calling is to ensure that the ice machine is keeping up with demand before you make a trip into town.

Adventures in canning

Today's fun project was to train Handsome Hombre in the fine art of pressure canning meat.

It took us about a half-hour to fill 15, pint-jars with cut up chicken breasts. The local market had a sale on them for $2.49 a pound. I wanted this to be a simple training session so I opted to use chicken that was ready-to-go.

Because I was curious to "blueprint" the performance of the canner and the 1000W hot-pad I took measurements.

The temperature at the start of the run was about 60F. No time was recorded.

At 11:49 the temperature was 157F.

12:09 it was 175F (about a degree a minute)

1:36 it crossed the magic 240F where I can start the timer. The bogey for pint jars of meat are 75 minutes above 240F.

The temperature continued to rise and plateaued at 2:01 at 254F (and 16PSIG).

What that tells me is that my particular pressure canner came from the factory with enough "extra" pressure to safely can meat up-to 10,000 feet of elevation. Outside of a few towns in Colorado, that means just about everywhere in the United States. 

If you decide to use 240F to start your timing instead of when the weight starts singing and dancing, it is convenient to use an infrared thermometer. If you do, then it is worth your time to spray a patch of the side of the kettle with flat, black paint. Otherwise, your device will be reading the background reflected in the shiny aluminum.


I told Handsome Hombre that one of the consequences of smaller families is that each member had to be able to do more things. A large family might have 40 cousins. One cousin (or their spouse) would surely be a mechanic or a carpenter or a good gardener or a...

But when families are only one, two or three kids then there are many fewer cousins. So each person has to be able to wear more hats and be able to perform an adequate job of the task.

I am cross-training HH so he knows how to take advantages of windfalls. I will be surprised if he doesn't purchase a pressure canner (and maybe an IR thermometer) and have it shipped back to his homeland.

The Quicksilver Morning Play-list

We settled into a morning routine.

I hand Quicksilver her bottle and she marches over to the Official ERJ Blogging Recliner.

I settle down into the recliner and pick her up.

Then I play the following three songs for her.



Man on Fire

Overall, these are upbeat songs with decent messages. Yes, I know one of them includes "...fell on your ass..." and another line declares that " you more than Jesus Christ..." but that is probably accurate for most people who are newly in love.

Don't be hating on me. It beats the snot out of turning on the news first thing in the morning.

Parasitic effect of maintenance costs

One thing you pick up as you work in the physical world: Orchards, Vineyards, Gardens, Factories, that maintenance costs are not trivial.

Replacing trees and trellis posts is a fact of life. Machines need attention as weld tips wear, weld shanks crack, gun arms fracture, bushings wear. Vehicles need oil changes and tires and the Insurance company demands regular payments.

I think the lack of appreciation for secondary and tertiary costs is a major failing of people who live in their minds. As a class, that includes a disproportionate share of Progressives.

Progressives become strident and sometimes violent because "conservatives" will dismantle their programs. Honey, it will not be the conservatives who do that but entropy and lack of resources to maintain the over-reaching programs Progressives implement and somehow expect Divine intervention to stay the hand of time.

The irony of their position eludes them. Once implemented, they are EXTREMELY adverse averse to change, which is their operating definition of a conservative.

After a fire a forest will grow rapidly. The roots are still in the soil. Sprouts are not shaded by other trees. There is a very large ratio of leaves (net producers) to stems and fruiting structures (net consumers). As the canopy fills and the trunks grow, the ratio drops. At some point it reaches an equilibrium. The trees cannot grow any taller because there is no energy left over after the metabolic energy required to keep the trunk and roots alive are subtracted from the photosynthesis for the year.

Even though each tree in a climax forest is in intense competition with every other tree, they are also dependent upon their neighbors. If a couple of trees die, say to a disease or insect pest, there is a high likelihood that the nearby trees will topple like dominoes in the next strong windstorm. The roots are only large enough to support the swaying of the trees as long as the excursions are limited by close neighbors.

That analogy suggests that the entire Progressive movement is doomed. Their primary recruiting tool is that they are making changes and making things "better" while the whole enterprise is rapidly approaching an equilibrium that will lock the relative positions into place. Furthermore, the competing factions within the Progressives are in a very delicate balance of competition with the other factions while simultaneously being totally dependent upon them for their continued existence.

Women, Hispanics, Blacks, LGBQTIP, Furries, Druggies, Mentally Ill, Felons, Gamers, Single Moms, Fundamentalist Muslims, Recent Immigrants (categories are not mutually exclusive)...all competing ferociously for a diminishing pool of resources. Nearly all of them oblivious to the parasitic effects of secondary and tertiary costs of products and services and monuments that are not desirable enough to compete in the private sector.

Fake News Friday: Common Sense Beer Cooler Control Laws


Apologies. I am running a little late this weekend.

Friday, August 25, 2023


The trace from a weather station a few miles west of us

This is not going to be much of a report because there was not much action.

This is not Mrs ERJ and my first rodeo.

We did not know the extent of the storms nor did we have an appreciation for how long the power might be out.

From previous outages, most interruptions are fixed in two hours of daylight. So our plan was to hunker-down until mid-morning and then if we did not have power to fire up the generator. 

One of my brothers had been a firefighter/EMT/Ambulance-driver dude. His advice had consistently been "Stay off the roads. Don't get in the way of the people with the training and equipment. Don't become another ambulance run by doing something stupid."

I am 1.5 miles from the nearest natural gas so trying to run a whole-house generator is economically painful. I have a small, inverter type generator that will (supposedly) run 11 hours on a gallon of gas in economy mode (400W). 

The only appliance I was worried about was the refrigerator. We waited until the interior hit 60F and then I strung the extension cord and fired up the genny.

It ran a half hour before the lights came back on. I let it run an additional fifteen minutes because...well, just because I didn't want to have to wrestle the refrigerator back out of its cubby and plug it back into the extension cord if it were just a transient blip of service.


We did a fair amount of camping when the kids were younger. We were "tent campers", not trailer campers. Our kids hated us for that.

Tent campers have an entirely different mindset than trailer campers, even if we are not back-packing in.

As long as we have glass in the windows, two days of in-house camping is a snap.

The "glass in the windows" comment is not a random comment. We had a wind-shear back in October of 2000 that picked up and threw the swingset through our picture window. It also javalined some two-by-four splinters into the roof and the other debris it threw totaled out the minivan. 

What was notable about the windshear was how narrow the path of destruction was. Fifty feet one side or the other there was very little damage. Unfortunately, in the year 2000 we had the cross-hairs on our barns and house.

We were much more fortunate this time.

Windstorms are nothing to take lightly but God was good to us. Nobody was bleeding. Everybody got a good night's sleep. Southern Belle and Handsome Hombre both went to work in the morning. SB went early so she could take a shower at work...our well is electric and no electricity means we quickly run out of water pressure.

We have 12, one-gallon jugs of water in the pantry as well as countless 24-packs of water bottles. Also, five, six-gallon water jugs in the pantry. Top-side, I have two, 275 gallon intermediate-bulk-containers of potable water.

We also had the foresight to have an LP stove as our main kitchen stove. The auto-ignitors do not work with no power but a butane lighter works just fine. So I had the luxury of a couple of cups of hot coffee earlie-in-the-mornin'.

One of our neighbors still had a tree across his driveway as-of 4:00 PM today. I rode my bike over to check them out. They are waiting for the insurance adjuster. The tree damaged a vehicle and they don't want to remove the tree until after the adjuster takes pictures.

I must confess that I missed the internet. No juice meant the router was down. Cell service was slow. I actually read part of a a dead-tree book when things slowed down.

Back on-line

We had some wind blow through at 9:45 PM yesterday. We lost power. It was restored at noon today. 

A Black Walnut that snapped in our 1/4 acre Black Walnut wood-lot

12' tall corn does not like wind

Posts in the vineyard snapped at the base

Multiple apple trees down. About half snapped at the graft and I might be able to save the other half

Another downed apple tree

This one is a goner. It snapped.

A pear branch leaning against a grape trellis

Close-up of where the pear branch broke. This delamination suggests that it broke in torsion
These trees will get benign neglect. I will do more damage trying to sort them out. I will address the survivors after the apple picking season.

Thursday, August 24, 2023

Lansing, Michigan is #17

I had reason to go to Lansing today.

Many "campers" in Lansing's Adado Riverfront Park. Read: Homeless.

Crazy woman camping beneath the Oakland Street bridge on Lansing's Riverfront Trail which used to be one of the crown-jewels of the city.

Lansing made a list as having the 17th most violent crime, per-capita in the nation.

Maybe. But Biden's Department of Justice no longer compiles statistics the way previous administrations did. Major cities, nearly all of them Democratic by some coincidence, have been given permission to NOT report crime statistics until 2025 which by another major coincidence is AFTER the next presidential election.

Is Lansing the 17th most crime-ridden city in the United States? How is it possible to know if many of the historically most crime-riddled cities are choosing to not report.

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Somebody asked about the construction of the planting trays

Sized to be 1-1/2" longer and wider than the feed-lot panel that forms the bottom

I use "economy" lumber. Use the most warped pieces for the ends which are shorter.

I only use one 3" deck-screw on each end of the diagonal brace (or gusset) and I bias it toward the top because the feedlot panel will reinforce the bottom. The nails are primarily an aid to hold it together before installing screws and the bottom.

Fencing staples positioned near ends of diagonal braces and every sixteen inches along the length of the long side

Cut 7" longer and wider than the dimensions of the tray. Corners notched out of mesh to get it to fold neatly into tray.

Plastic mesh over the feedlot panel and then paper from feed-bags over the plastic mesh so potting media does not wash through it.

Wet potting soil is as heavy as the wages of sin. 2 cubic feet weigh about 120 pounds and the bag is floppy and wants to tear. Fortunately, Mrs ERJ is much stronger than she looks and takes direction well.

New Mizuna transplants. Seeds were planted 10 days ago.

New Green Forest Romaine Lettuce transplants. Seeds were planted 10 days ago.

A picture showing the progression. Left, newly transplanted seedlings. Center, seeds grown 10 days and then transplanted about a week ago. Right, seeds planted a month ago and transplanted about 20 days ago.
Trays are held off of the ground with three, 8" cinder blocks on each end.