Monday, April 15, 2024

Father Time Waits for no Man, or Woman (Cumberland Saga)

Abe was not home when Blain walked Evan back to Walter and Amira's house.

Amira looked at Evan and told him to wash up and grab a quick bite to eat. They had places to go and things to do.

“I don’t wanna go” Evan said, petulantly.

Amira narrowed her eyes and said “I guess that means that Blain needs to keep you longer tomorrow.”

Evan decided that he didn’t want THAT to happen, so he changed his shirt and washed up using the cold water in the bucket by the sink. Then he ate a couple of corn muffins to keep his stomach from screaming.

No dwelling in Copperhead Cove was more than ten minutes of brisk walking away from the main entrance. Evan took the time alone with his mother to rail about the treatment he had been enduring.

“Blain is working me like a Mexican” he carped.

“I don’t know what that means” Amira replied.

“It means he has me doing Mexican work” Evan elaborated.

“I still don’t know what that means” Amira replied.

Evan rolled his eyes. “He has me doing landscaping. Using shovels and moving dirt.”

“Why do you call it ‘Mexican work’?” Amira asked.

“Because that is what Mexicans do” he said, exasperated. “That is all they are good for, cutting grass and shit like that. It is degrading. I don’t know why you aren’t hiring Mexicans to do this shit-work like you did back home.”

Thinking back, Amira realized that Central Americans had been ever-present in University City, driving old-trucks that pulled trailers and tirelessly mowing and trimming and fertilizing and spreading pesticides. There presence was questioned no more than a flock of starlings or a cloud of tree pollen was.

Amira didn’t have time to answer as they had arrived at their destination, Sarah’s house.

Sarah was standing at a table made from three planks laid across a couple of large wire spools that were standing on their ends. She had bags of potatoes on the ground and appeared to be cutting them into chunks. The chunks were laid out over part of the table in a single layer.

Blain was about a hundred feet away and he was fiddling around with a rotary tiller. Just because Evan’s work-day was over didn’t mean that Blain could stop working.

Sarah’s attitude toward her much-older sister-in-law was still not easy. She considered Amira to be pushy and rude; a blue-jay at the bird-feeder, if you will.

“What do you want?” Sarah asked. Sarah was sure that whatever Amira wanted would be another imposition.

“I want to pick your brains about gardening” Amira said.

“You can ask, but I have a lot of work to do so I cannot show you around” Sarah replied.

“That’s OK” Amira said. “Do you have another knife. I can help.”

Sarah shot Amira a quick look to see if she was being mocked.

Amira wasn’t kidding.

Sarah had another knife in the tool bucket beneath the table.

Amira looked over at Evan. “Unless you want to stand around listening to a couple of old ladies gabbing, you probably ought to go over there and see if you can help Uncle Blain.”

That suited Evan fine. At least Blain had the good grace to be silent when he was working.

Wandering over to the machine Evan where meticulously checking the oil level, Evan said “Hi” as if he wasn’t quite sure how he would be received.

Blain had been paying attention out of the corner of his eye, not sure how this was going to all play out.

“Glad to see ya” Blain replied. “I can use and extra set of hands.”

“What’s up?” Evan asked. The tiller was the first pieces of power equipment he had seen at Copperhead Cove other than the chainsaws the men were using to clear timber.

“Your Uncle Sig bought this tiller from a scrap-yard and then he installed Genuine-Made-in-China diesel engine on it. He said the new motor is ‘tight’ and would be hard to start” Blain said.

“He wasn’t kidding.”

Blain had been contemplating tying the tiller to a tree so he could pull the rope-start. The few times he had tried to start it by himself he had toppled the tiller which was now top-heavy. The diesel engine, although small, was much heavier than the defunct gas engine it replaced.

Blain had just checked the oil (again) to make sure it wasn’t dry and he wasn’t pulling against metal-on-metal contact.

Evan looked the motor over. It was as alien as some of the engines on his video games. Pointing at an inconspicuous lever, Evan asked “What does this do?”

Blain looked at the lever and read the small metal tag “Compression Release”.

Pulling the manual out of his back pocket, he said “Let’s see.”

Between using the compression release and Evan holding the top of the tiller against the force of Blain pulling the rope, they were able to get it started.

Blain beckoned to Evan that they step away from the incredibly loud machine so they could talk.

“Do you want to run it?” Blain asked.

“I have the corners of the plot that needs to be tilled marked with flags. Just run it to the edge and then come back over what you tilled to make sure you get deep enough.”

Evan looked at the shaking handles and listened to the hyper-masculine roar of the engine. Why not? It had to beat shoveling shit.

Over at the table where Amira and Sarah were cutting seed potatoes.

"I don't know what I am doing wrong" Amira was lamenting. "I just can't make our food taste anywhere near as good what you served. Especially the potatoes. They just seem so bland."

Amira was serving a LOT of potatoes. It was what Alice could spare.

“Constanze didn’t have a kitchen garden, did she?” Sarah clucked in disapproval.

Amira cocked an eyebrow in the universal “tell me more” sign.

“Every good housewife should have a herb garden to flavor food. Things like mint and pie-plant, sage and rosemary and oregano and garlic….” 

"No. I didn't see anything like that" Amira said in dismay. "And I am not sure where I could get any of those plants to start a herb garden.”  The gardening season was advancing as relentlessly as Father Time himself.

“I can spare some starts” Sarah offered. “They needed to be thinned out anyway.”

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Novel way of propelling a small boat

Novel way of propelling a small boat

It is a long video but you can see everything important in about 15 seconds. I took the liberty of jumping ahead to the interesting part so you don't have to wade through 3 minutes of filler.

I never saw anything like this before.

Low tech. Cheap. Efficient. Downsides are high center-of-gravity and awkward posture for long periods of time. Lucas commented that it only works for boats with low gunwales so it would not be practical for choppy waters.

Note to self: I lifted today. I only managed three sets of my target weight. Lifting once every three weeks is not enough!

Saturday, April 13, 2024

It is impossible to predict the future

I recently attended the funeral of a coworker. He was 93 when he died. He was a life-long believer and I have little doubt that he ended up in a good place.

One tiny bit of his life's story is worth sharing.

He was in his fifties when his wife informed him that she found him irritating and though her life would be better if he was not under-foot. That would be in the late-1980s/early-1990s.

She had been taking classes and was about to embark upon a new career. He was not as supportive as she wanted, perhaps because he was critical of the amount of time and money that she was spending on classes and on "gear" she would need for her new business.

She filed for divorce.

He eventually remarried.

She did not.

At the funeral, she was sitting way off to the side. It was awkward. They had been married for more than 25 years. Their shared children wanted her to be there. She consented because it was about their loss, but there was no defined place for her.

Very sad.

The career she dumped my coworker for never materialized. In retrospect, it was the 1992 equivalent of an aspiring Instagram Influencer or Rapper or Cyber-currency trader.

She was going to make her fortune in photographs. You know, on 35mm film.

She was not alone. Another one of my other coworkers dreamed of retiring and opening a camera store in Hawaii. Photographs, film, cameras...all seemed viable and tangible and reasonable in 1992. Who knew that smartphones and digital cameras were about to destroy the entire "film" and photographic industry?

What advantage does a human offer vs AI in the universe of Influencers, Rap Music and Cyber-currency trading?

Why do you need a human photographer to sweat the details of getting great photos of a house that is being put up for sale when you could take 30 mediocre pictures and direct AI to clean them up?

If you ran a marketing campaign, wouldn't you hedge your bets by buying AI content at less than 5% of the cost of human influencers like Dylan Mulvaney (transgender Bud Light shill). Frankly, how could they have worse outcomes?

Given the repetitive, primal, simplistic content of rap "music", could AI do worse?

I am just trying to point out that some of the legs of the "new economy" might not be very sturdy.

Flirting with disaster

I flirted with disaster at a family party and was chastised.

I was directed to collect a cupcake from "the box on the extreme-left".

Me, being the wise-elbow that I am, replied "Got it, one cupcake from the Bernie Sander's box.

The host scowled at me and told me to put a sock in it.

Well, Okey-dokey. His house. His rules. That is how we find boundaries.

I don't know any Democrats who consider Bernie to be a moderate-left politician but perhaps one of them was in attendance at the party.

I hate election years.

This might come in handy some day

 About 30 seconds long

Friday, April 12, 2024

The gas stations in Charlotte, Michigan were a zoo

Mrs ERJ and I stopped at a gas station in Charlotte, Michigan after working out at the gym.

The one we stopped at was a total zoo. Vehicles were stacked up heading into each bank of pumps.

Do you suppose it was because people are smart enough to equate the threats of Iranian missiles hitting Israel with a total lock-down of middle-Eastern oil exports and oil/gas shortages?

Behaviors and rewards (Cumberland Saga)

Blain was waiting for Evan when he woke up in the morning.

Evan started to talk but Blain waved off his objections. “Eat. You are going to need it.”

Remembering how long he had to go until lunch the day before, Evan started shoveling in the fried eggs and potatoes and gobbling down toast with peanut butter, glaring at Evan the whole time.

“I need to use the shitter” Evan told Blain as they left the house.

“That sounds reasonable” Blain agreed.

Blain was leaning against a sourwood tree waiting for Evan when he finally popped out of the outhouse.

“Man, you are just fucking creepy” Evan spouted off.

“That will be an extra half-hour” Blain said without rancor.

“What?” Evan said.

“I told you that you hadn’t earned the right to use adult language. You just earned an extra 30 minutes of work before we break for lunch” Blain said.

Evan continued to mutter, but it was low enough that Blain could pretend to not hear what he was saying.

They had only managed to spread the fertilizer over two of Walter and Amira’s eight garden plots the day before. Blain was hoping to manage another four today since the fertilizer had already been dropped off.

They got off to a slow start. Evan’s hands were blistered.

“I guess we have to knock off until my hands heal. Bummer” Evan said with patent insincerity.

“No. We can keep working. We just have to make some adjustments” Blain said.

“I got more wrong with me than blisters” Evan said. “I am so stiff that I can hardly move.”

“Well, I got some great news for you. Once you start working your stiffness will magically fix itself” Blain replied. “Let's go. We need to find a wheelbarrow.”

Blain insisted that Evan accompany him in the quest to find the desired tool.

“What is it with you?” Evan asked. “Its like you are my shadow. Don’t I get ANY privacy?”

“I am your conscience” Blain told him.

“I don’t need no conscience” Evan exclaimed, heatedly.

Blain looked over at him. “Your opinion is in the minority.”

“Your mother and father are concerned that you don’t seem to have one, so they asked me to be yours until you grew one of your own.”

“Don’t you have, like, a job?” Evan asked.

“I did” Blain said, “But the leadership of Copperhead Cove put their heads together and decided that finding you a conscience was more important than what I had been doing.”

Once they had secured the wheelbarrow, Blain and Evan alternated shoveling fertilizer into it and rolling the partially filled loaded barrow to the tipping point.

Evan was actually the one to point out that they could reduce the number of trips if they loaded up the four buckets and two-buckets worth of fertilizer into the barrow. Then they could “bomb” three points on the grid with each trip.

Constanze had not had an ownership position in one of the Cove’s cows so she did not harvest her corn-stalks for forage. The winter weather had knocked them down, so rolling the barrow through the corn-stubble was not easy. Consequently, whoever was delivering the fertilizer would push the barrow to the closest tipping point and then carry the buckets to the two farthest drop points. After dumping the buckets, he would then empty the barrow and return to reload.

Blain broke for lunch after they had fertilized three garden plots. They went back for the fourth after lunch. And when that one was done, Blain released Evan for the day.

Evan was astounded after Blain pointed out “Don’t you like it better, getting done in mid-afternoon rather than 9:30 at night? I want you to notice that we got twice as many garden plots fertilized today than we did yesterday, even though you are not physically 100%. I want you to think about why that might be.”

“So, when do I get my phone back?” Evan asked.

Blain had decided the other night when they were discussing the plan on Sig’s patio that he wasn’t going to candy-coat news. He wasn’t going to take the easy way out because easy in the short-term was almost always harder in the long-term.

“Probably never” Blain said.

“You CAN’T do that. It is MY phone” Evan blew up.

“My guess is that it is actually your mom’s phone and on your mom’s plan” Blain responded.

Evan postured as if he were about to physically attack Blain when Blain added “If you lay a hand on me, I am gonna hit you so hard you are going to wake up in the back of a truck heading to North Carolina.”

Evan melted down in rage...but stayed more than an arm's reach away from Blain.

Looking around, Blain saw a knotty round of firewood. Constanze’s attempts to reduce it into stove fodder had failed so she had repurposed it into a seat for the corner of the garden plot they were in.

Blain walked over to the corner and sat on the round.

Evan followed him, his rage and fury, thunder and lightning escalating.

Blain fished a gallon-sized, plastic zip-bag out of his back pocket and removed a pipe and some tobacco. Focusing on the ritual of loading and lighting his pipe, he ignored Evan’s caterwauling and theatrics.

Slowly puffing to ensure the dottle was evenly ignited, he rotated away from Evan so he could enjoy the view while he smoked in peace.

Refusing to be ignored, Evan moved to get back in front of Blain, his volume increasing with every breath and his flailing gestures becoming bigger and more jerky.

“Remember what I said about the back of the truck” Blain reminded Evan whose flailing arms were getting too close to Blain. Evan moved back a couple of steps but continued his tantrum. 

Blain returned his attention to his pipe. Normally, he only smoked a ritual-bowl while sitting on Sig's porch. He had to remember to slow down so the bowl and stem stayed cool and the smoke did not get harsh.

Blain spun on the round so he wasn't looking at Evan and Evan continued to move so Blain HAD to look at him.

The game continued for at least ten minutes with Evan becoming ever more apoplectic. Finally, Blain relented. He knocked the coal out of his pipe and gently scraped it with the head of a nail he had brought along for the purpose.

“Anybody ever tell you to never try and bullshit a bullshitter?” Blain asked Evan after he was satisfied with the condition of his pipe.

Evan, who was red-faced and totally out of breath wheezed “What the hell does that mean?”

“That was quite a show you put on” Blain said, dismissive of Evan’s anger.

Evan bristled and started to rev back up.

“Save your breath” Blain advised. “I ain’t buying it.”

“What do you mean” Evan asked with face thrust forward and his fists balled in anger. “I am so pissed off that I am going to hurt someone!”

“If you are so ‘out-of-control’ then why did chase after me when I walked away from you? If you are so ‘out-of-control’ why did you keep moving to make sure I was watching you?” Blain pointed out.

“I didn’t see a teen who was dangerously out-of-control. Nope. I saw a spoiled brat trying to manipulate an adult” Blain said.

“And THAT is why you can't get your mom’s phone back. After that show, caving-in and giving you the phone would reward you for childish behavior and that isn't something we can afford in Copperhead Cove.”

Fake News Friday: NY determines that Life Insurance is a form of Healthcare Insurance


In a ruling widely applauded by Progressives, Judge Engoron of New York ruled that "Life Insurance" is actually a form of Healthcare Insurance since death is related to health.

Furthermore, Judge Engoron explicitly stated that prior-death is a preexisting condition and preexisting conditions cannot be a basis for denying healthcare insurance coverage. Additionally, Engoron ruled that the policies had to be retroactive 30 days prior to when the purchasers purchased the policy.

"Grieving family and dead people should be given a break. They have a lot on their minds. It is not fair for greedy corporations to take advantage of them by not allowing them to back-date the start of the policy" Engoron is reported to have said.

It was also reported that President Biden's Department of Justice pledged to use the full extent of the law to investigate insurance companies who either raised their rates in New York or who withdrew from the New York Life Insurance market after Engoron's ruling.

Thursday, April 11, 2024

Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?

Mature content. Nothing titillating but I discuss topics that some will find disturbing.

Also high in nerdy math.

Proceed at your own risk.

Busy in the gardens and orchards

It has been a couple of busy days outside.

I was asked to "manage" a property that has been neglected for a few years. 

Tuesday I was cutting multiflora rose out of their orchard. I was using long-handled loppers.

It is a bit like reducing interlocking fields-of-defensive-fire without the benefit of artillery. I had to cut a path in, kneel down and then take out the base with precision, long-range fire lopping. I took received many puncture wounds. The thorns on multiflora rose hooked so they grab you and attempts to pull away drive the points in or drag them along your skin and cut it like a tiny, moldboard plow.

While I was at that property I grafted a few Illinois Everbearing Mulberries on some volunteer seedlings. Then I fertilized the trees. About 30% of the apple trees are dead and need to be removed and replaced.

Apple rootstock

Mrs ERJ and I got the apple rootstocks planted yesterday.

As noted in an earlier post, they were "Grade B" plants. I got a lot more cheerful when, by actual count, the nursery had graciously included an extra 10% rootstock. 

The other pleasant surprise is that I noticed on the tag that they had shipped Geneva 214. I thought I had ordered Geneva 210. I pulled the invoice and I had ordered G.214. Geneva 210 might be a little better in resistance to soil diseases that build-up and so it might be a little bit better choice when replanting an orchard. 

G.214, on the other hand, is very good at delivering calcium to the scion variety. Calcium is critical for fruit quality and keeping ability. Honeycrisp apples are notoriously sensitive to calcium deficiencies and G.214 is probably the superstar rootstock for Honeycrisp apples. G.214 has good resistance to soil diseases and is still a solid performer in replant situations, but maybe not as good as G.210.

It is raining now and the rootstock are settling into their new homes.

Sugar Snap Peas and tomatoes

We also got half of Mrs ERJ's Sugar Snap Peas planted yesterday.

I "pricked out" the tomato seedlings and moved them to trays with 4-square-inch cells. 

The planting season is accelerating.

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Tools make work easier (Cumberland Saga)

Evan reluctantly walked over to the shovel.

“I got some work gloves if you want them” Blain informed him.

Evan looked at the grubby, battered gloves and declined. No way in hell was he going to put his hands into those things.

Awkwardly picking up the shovel, he saw Blain pick up the fork.

Walking over to the chicken shit piled into the trailer, Evan tried to jam it in and wasn’t very successful.

“Try to take a smaller scoop” Blain suggested. “and try sliding the blade of the shovel in where you see a band of bedding”

If Evan hadn’t been such a flight risk, Gregor would have run the skid-steer and would have fluffed up the chicken-shit to make it easier to shovel. As it was, the fertilizer was still caked and stiff.

Evan finally got a modest amount of fertilizer balanced on his shovel and dumped it to the side.

Blain effortlessly speared an identical amount and dumped it six feet to the side of Evan’s. Then he pointed with his fork “My pile, your pile. I am going to take just as much off this trailer as you do. No more. No less.”

“But it will take all day” Evan wailed.

“It will only take that long if you spend more oxygen yappin’ than workin” Blain said. “Take another shovel-load out.”

Bit-by-bit, Evan started to get the hang of using the shovel. It wanted to twist and turn in his hands.

“Put on the gloves” Blain told Evan.

“I already said ‘NO!’ “ Evan told him, petulantly.

Blain held out his hands. Pointing to the palm of one of them he said. “See those? Those are calluses. You don’t have them. If you don’t put on a pair of gloves you are going to have blisters.”

“So I won’t work if I have blisters” Evan rebutted. Check-mate!

“No work. No food. Even if you have blisters” Blain informed him.

With a comical look of disgust on his face, comical to Blain, anyway, Evan pulled on the work gloves.

It took an hour-and-a-half to unload the trailer when it should have only taken fifteen minutes.

Blain tooted on the horn to let Gregor know that it was time to move the truck. It only took Gregor five minutes to walk the quarter-mile distance between where he was working and where he had parked the truck.

It only took an hour to remove the second half of the load.

Blain tooted on the horn again and Gregor drove off in the truck while Blain and Evan took a break. Blain shared his mid-morning snack.

Gregor showed up with the second load a half hour later. He had loaded it himself and had fluffed up the chicken-shit.

Unloading went even faster at forty minutes per half-load.

“Its time for lunch” Evan informed Blain.

“We aren’t working by the clock, here. We are working by the job” Blain told Evan.

“What the hell does that mean?” Evan asked, completely confused.

“We work until we get four hours of work done” Blain said.

“Its been four hours” Evan said.

“It was two hours worth of work” Blain informed him. “We still have two more hours worth of work to do, and if you keep cussing, I will add to it.

Evan folded his arms over his chest in disgust. “You can’t do that.”

Blain didn’t respond, he just looked steadily at Evan until Evan broke eye-contact.

“Now we have to spread the fertilizer” Blain told Evan.

“Ick!” Evan said. “Isn’t there a machine that does that?”

“We are going to use five-gallon buckets. We fill them. We carry them. We dump them on a grid” Blain outlined the plan.

Evan shook his head in disgust. Nope. Just NOPE.

When filling the first five-gallon bucket, Evan slid the shovel deeply into the pile of fertilizer and lifted up on it, snapping the handle.

“Darn! Too bad. I guess I can’t work” Evan said, his voice oozing insincerity.

Blain didn’t respond. He walked to the bed of Gregor’s truck and pulled out one of Sarah’s trowels.

Handing it to Evan, Blain said “Nope. You can still work. It will just take longer before you get to lunch.”

Evan flung the trowel out into the garden plot.

“Don’t matter” Blain said. “You can use your hands. Tools make work easier. Getting rid of the tools does not make the work disappear. It just makes it harder.”

Evan swore a stream of words that Blain pretended to not hear. Blain calmly leaned on the handle of his fork and waited for Evan to wind-down. Finally, Evan went hunting for the trowel.

It was three in the afternoon when Blain and Evan walked back to Walter and Amira’s cabin for lunch. Amira pointedly asked Blain “Did he do enough work?”

“He did enough to earn lunch” Blain informed her “but he hasn’t done enough to earn dinner.”

It was dark before they stopped spreading fertilizer. Evan started trudging toward the cabin when Blain stopped him.

“Where are you going?” Blain asked. By his figuring, the two of them working together had taken 12 hours to accomplish what would have taken him 4 hours to do if he had been alone.

“We are done. I am going to get dinner and then fall into bed” Evan said, mumbling in his exhaustion.

“We aren’t done. We have to take care of our tools” Blain told him.

He had Evan pick up the shovel with the broken handle and together the two of them went over to Sig’s house.

Blain knocked on the back door.

“Evan broke the handle of this shovel. I know it is late, but can you replace it so we can use it tomorrow?” Blain asked Sig.

Wordlessly, Sig pushed open the screen door and led them to his small workshop.

In spite of his exhaustion, Evan was intrigued as he watched Sig make the tool handle. Sig turned on an LED light and then inspected the broken handle and then selected one of the quarter-rounds he had standing upright along the wall. Sig first split a plank from a four-foot long, knot-free flitch of hickory. Then he split a square-shaft from the edge of the plank. Clamping  the rod with a foot-treadle activated clamp on a bench, he used a spoke-shave to round the square shaft into a round handle.

“Why do you do it that way?” Evan asked. “Wouldn’t it just be easier to buy one?”

“All the strength in the wood is with the grain” Sig said. “Store-bought ones are milled from planks that don’t follow the grain. They gotta make them a lot thicker and heavier than they need to be, cause of that.”

“If I am going to use a tool all day long then I don’t want it to weigh an ounce more than it has to be. It might be less effort to buy a handle but you pay for that cheap with every scoop you take.”

Evan was nodding off as he finally got around to washing up and eating the (cold) supper his mother had saved for him. He had nightmares about shoveling hot chicken-shit with his bare hands.

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

A conceptual map of how Evan got screwed up


This is a "map" of how kids like "Evan" (miscreants) view the world.

Layering on some additional detail. Not to belittle all mental health professionals, but they are not neutral observers and referees. They tend to cram everything into the Oppressor-Victim-Rescuer triad. They also have no skin-in-the-game. They could have 15 patients commit suicide and there would be no push-back. They could have 100 patients decide they have "gender-dysphoria" and mutilate their genitals and the mental health professional would probably be applauded.

Friends go out of their way to convince the miscreant that he is losing and needs to try harder to stay in the tribe. When you are parenting a miscreant, you are also fighting the bench and the referee.

One story: "Friends" told a miscreant to tell "mom" that he had seen dad cheating on her. Miscreant had been convinced by his friends that he would get twice as many Christmas and birthday presents and that on "dad" weekends he would be left unattended and could drink dad's hooch and smoke dad's weed.

Parents, sadly, exist to be manipulated and strip-mined in this model. The reason is because "...there is no other source of they have to manipulate and strip-mined..."

Adding an additional layer of detail and letting the ripples spread.

Parents of friends teach kids to tell lies. When a kid goes down the "miscreant" fork in the road, their options for friends becomes severely limited. They are fishing from the bottom of the barrel. Their friend's parents are using them to harvest prescriptions for controlled substances with street-value or for personal consumption. In the worst cases, they are using their kids as bait to sweeten-the-pot for the johns. Honest, I am not making this up.

Universities create novel, "cool" new theories that have no better (and likely have even worse) predictive capability than older theories. For example, Evan could be seen in the light of the Oedipus Complex (1899) where he sees himself in competition with his dad for his mother's attention. Dad is weak. Dad displaced Evan as the baby of the family. Obvious solution that springs from Oedipus diagnosis: Show Evan other ways, healthy and productive ways, he can gain his mother's attention.

Fine Art Tuesday

Hieronymus Bosch was born in the Netherlands approximately 1450 and died in 1516.

His work was widely copied and far more paintings are attributed to him than can be confidently identified as such.

Notable for fantastic juxtaposition of unlikely characters, scandalous actions and very, very busy compositions.

Bosch was painting in the middle of the European Renaissance and the Dutch were among the most active explorers, bringing back exotic treasures from Africa, the middle-East and the Orient. Novelties were actively sought and displayed. Some people find it notable that he included images of naked Africans in his paintings.

As a side-note, there were psychedellic drugs in the late 1400s. Ergot infected rye produced lysergic acid (the "L" in LSD). Fly Agaric mushrooms had psychedelic properties...and is very toxic. Heavy drinkers who suddenly stop a broke artist might...have horrific dreams. Various nightshades that are indigenous to Europe (like Belladonna and Bittersweet) have alkaloids that can cause hallucinations.

A close-up of part of the image shown above

Hat-tip to Anonymous

Monday, April 8, 2024

Grafting weather seems to fall when the suckers are running!

I feel like I am still dragging. The upside is that I am no more uncomfortable moving around working than I am when I sit in my recliner and moan.

Four mulberry seedlings were grafted to the old standard Illinois Everbearing Mulberry.

One Enterprise apple tree which I butchered after the wind blew it over got a graft of Suncrisp apple for a pollinator. I took out the top so it was less top-heavy.

One persimmon seedling was grafted to Lehman's Delight.

I had a single graft of a hazelnut take last year. It put on enough growth that I was able to get enough scion to graft four more trees.

I started repurposing one gallon plastic milk jugs to use as shelters for newly planted rootstock. The Grade-B plants don't have much in the way of roots and the milk jugs reduce wind-whip and provide a tiny bit of warmth.

I also put a milk-jug shelter on a Pyrus calleryanna seedling that I grafted a Blake's Pride pear on. I will probably put jugs on the five P. cally I grafted in the food-hedge as well.

Southern Belle unexpectedly took an interest in the elderberries. She used elderberry syrup in Miami to fight off the flu and was impressed. I might be able to subcontract out the harvesting and processing of our elderberry crop!

I have been enjoying the Craftsman Vision Youtube channel. It shows a lot of small-scale production facilities with (mostly) low-tech tools. Nearly all of the footage seems to be shot in China. America used to be great at that.

First tick of the season was pulled off of my leg.

Congratulations to the South Carolina Game Cock's Women's Basketball team.

A difficult bit of scripture

From Acts Chapters 4 and 5:

The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common.
With great power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great favor was accorded them all. There was no needy person among them, for those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale, and put them at the feet of the apostles, and they were distributed to each according to need.

A man named Ananias, however, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property. He retained for himself, with his wife’s knowledge, some of the purchase price, took the remainder, and put it at the feet of the apostles. 

But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart so that you lied to the holy Spirit and retained part of the price of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain yours? And when it was sold, was it not still under your control? Why did you contrive this deed? You have lied not to human beings, but to God.” 

When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last, and great fear came upon all who heard of it. The young men came and wrapped him up, then carried him out and buried him.     

This can be a troubling passage for Christians. Communists, on the other hand, love this bit of scripture. They see it as proof that God told Christians that they should hand over all of their wealth to the Communist Party's local officials.

A key point that escapes the Communists is that the early converts exercised free-will to join the growing church. It was not coerced.

The period of time when "The (entire) community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own..." was seemingly of short duration. There are still Christian communities where individuals take vows-of-poverty and own little more than their undershorts. 

It is fair to wonder if the early church didn't have issues with the holder-of-the-treasure being tempted (like Judas of Iscariot).

Most modern commenters on this passage are likely to focus on the individual. Ananias was of divided heart when he (supposedly) committed himself to the new church. He hedged his bets. It cost him.

The take-home is not that we feel coerced into giving all of our property away to fallible humans but that we be fully committed and that we be prepared, even to the point of poverty and death, to live our faith.

The tough thing is knowing that we are that committed and are not delusional like Ananias (and his wife) were.


He who does not work (Cumberland Saga)

The birds were chirping and the sky was brightening when Walter rolled the two boys out of the sack.

Evan insisted that he wasn’t going to work with the men today. “I can barely move and I have a splitting head-ache.”

“And you can’t make me work with that hillbilly kid. He is psycho” Evan finished.

“I have other plans for you today” Walter said.

Abe’s hopes were dashed when Walter continued “...but you have to work with the men.”

“What about the psycho?” Abe asked, angling for a day off.

“Did you have a problem with him before you tried to fight him?” Walter asked.

“No” Abe admitted.

“Did your brother have a problem with him before he called him a ‘muther-fucker’?” Walter asked.

“No” Abe admitted, again.

“Then don’t call him a muther-fucker and don’t start a fight with him and you will probably be fine” Walter finished.

Abe couldn’t leave it alone. “Probably?”

Walter mentally rolled his eyes. Pick, pick, pick, pick at the details.

“Don’t say anything that is not literally true and don’t lay a hand on him or throw anything at him. Got it?” Walter said.

Walter had the sudden perception regarding why the word “Literally” aggravated him so much. It seemed like kids now days used the word “Literally” to preface a sentence that they really wanted the listener to believe (not that it was actually any more factual than any other sentence they uttered). When he grew up, words were for conveying truth but his kids used words to exaggerate, bend and distort reality. 

Part of his realization that it wasn’t so much “when he grew up” but “where he had grown up”. The need to exaggerate is a linguistic clue that a person feels powerless. Walter and Amira had been raising their children in a society where nearly everybody was conditioned to be powerless.

“I still hurt too much to work” Evan insisted.

“No worries. You will be riding around in a truck” Walter assured him.

That was much more to Evan’s taste.

Blain knocked on the door as the two boys were finishing breakfast. “Come with me” he told Evan.

Together, they walked over to Gregor’s truck where he was waiting.

Evan sat on the bench seat between the two men, a factor that made him extremely uncomfortable. For one thing, they smelled like sweat rather than fancy laundry products. For another, Gregor would not let him even touch the knobs on the radio. Bastard!

Gregor drove over to the trailer which Blain hooked up. Then Gregor drove down the two-track toward the road. During the night, somebody had pushed the boulder out of the drive enough so Gregor's truck could squeeze past it.

“Where are we going?” Evan asked, hoping for a chance to eat some fast-food.

“We are going to the chicken farm” Gregor informed him.

“Is that a restaurant?” Evan asked. Chicken wasn’t his favorite but maybe they had breakfast sandwiches with sausage and eggs and processed cheese spread!

“Nope. It is a real, honest-to-goodness chicken farm” Gregor assured him.

“What are going to do there?” he demanded.

“We are picking up chicken-shit” Blain said.

Evan made a face that showed his disgust.

“Why the hell would you do that?” he asked.

“First of all, you haven’t earned the right to use words like ‘hell’ and ‘fuck’ so stuff a sock in it. Second of all, you and I are going to be shoveling shit today to fertilize your garden so you have something to eat this year” Blain informed him.

If Evan hadn’t been bracketed in by the two men, he would have opened the truck door and jumped out in spite of the fact that it was moving.

“You can’t make me” Evan challenged him.

Blain looked calmly over at Evan as Gregor slowly motored toward the chicken-farm.

“Your mom and dad and I had a conversation last night while you were sleeping” Blain informed him. “Your mom is a wizard at writing up forms.”

That was a fact that Evan was well aware of. At one time she had tried to get him to sign behavior contracts.

“Your parents granted me power-of-attorney to act in their behalf as a surrogate parent to you. Nice word, ‘surrogate’, don’t you think? In return, they agreed to not feed you unless I explicitly tell them that you satisfied my requirements in terms of behavior and the work you performed” Blain said.

The reason Gregor was driving slowly was because he had made arrangements to have the trailer loaded. He was aiming to hit the loading dock at exactly 7:59 AM and be on his way back to Copperhead Cove at 8:01 AM. Amira and Walter would just have to add the limestone by hand.

Neither of the men left the cab of the truck. Gregor slipped the gentleman who loaded the trailer with the skid-steer by lowering the window a crack and slipping him a sawbuck. Evan had no chance of making a bolt for freedom.

Arriving back at Copperhead Cove, Gregor piloted the truck and trailer down the two-track to a plot that formerly belonged to Constanze. He turned off the truck and pocketed the keys.

Blain got out and pointed at the pitch-fork and scoop-shovel that were waiting for them. “We empty out half here and then Gregor will pull up to the next plot and we empty the rest there.”

“I am not getting out of this truck!” Evan declared.

“The truck is my property. If you don’t get out, I will reach in and throw you out” Gregor said. “And I promise you I will NOT be gentle.”

Evan decide that this was not the time to be stubborn. There were no other people who would witness the child abuse and he really did not like pain.

Evan got out and stood at the back of the truck.

“Grab the shovel” Blain said as he removed the tail-gate of the trailer.

“Get your own damned shovel” Evan said.

“I will be using the fork” Blain said. “And what did I tell you about using adult language?”

Evan refused to walk over and pick up the shovel.

After putting the tail-gate to the side, Blain picked up the pitchfork and walked over to the back of the trailer and waited, expectantly.

Gregor grinned and tossed Blain the keys and walked off. It looked like Evan and Blain would be standing there a while.

“What?” Evan said, confused, looking around.

“These are your family’s garden plots. I am helping you. But I am not going to do any more work than you do. That is what ‘helper’ means. I will take one fork-full for every shovel-full you take off this trailer” Blain said.

“All we have to do is to empty out half the trailer into a pile, move the truck and then empty the other half” Blain said.

“Well, I guess we are done here” Evan said. “You can just leave because I ‘ain’t’ gonna touch that shovel.” deliberately drawling out the word ‘ain’t’ to mock Blain.

“I am not going anywhere” Blain serenely informed Evan. “I have to report whether you met my expectations. And if we don’t shovel it today, we will shovel it tomorrow.”

“And if I don’t shovel it today, why would I shovel it tomorrow?” Evan sneered.

“Probably because you will not have eaten lunch, dinner or tomorrow’s breakfast” Blain suggested. “Being hungry is a great motivator.”

Sunday, April 7, 2024

42 leading causes of death for two-year olds

Per request from Jonathan in comments: The raw numbers

Numbers are for FIVE YEARS to dilute noise..

Causes are rank-ordered with highest-runners floated to the top.

"Drowning" causes highlighted in blue.

"Assault/homicide" in pink.

"Fire" and "heat" (unattended in vehicle?) in bright yellow.

"Vehicular" fatalities underlined

Even though IDC-10 Code Y07.9 is not officially considered "Assault/homicide" I highlighted it as if it was.

Cause of death



Crude Rate Per 100,000

W67 (Drowning and submersion while in swimming-pool)45619,780,4352.3
R99 (Other ill-defined and unspecified causes of mortality)19619,780,4351.0
Y09 (Assault by unspecified means)19319,780,4351.0
X00 (Exposure to uncontrolled fire in building or structure)11519,780,4350.6
V89.2 (Person injured in unspecified motor-vehicle accident, traffic)11219,780,4350.6
W69 (Drowning and submersion while in natural water)11119,780,4350.6
V09.2 (Pedestrian injured in traffic accident involving other and unspecified motor vehicles)8219,780,4350.4
C92.0 (Acute myeloid leukaemia - Malignant neoplasms)8119,780,4350.4
Q24.9 (Congenital malformation of heart, unspecified)7819,780,4350.4
Y07.9 (Maltreatment/Neglect By unspecified person)6619,780,4350.3
X95 (Assault by other and unspecified firearm discharge)6219,780,4350.3
W74 (Unspecified drowning and submersion)5719,780,4350.3
V03.0 (Pedestrian injured in collision with car, pick-up truck or van, nontraffic accident)5519,780,4350.3
C74.9 (Adrenal gland, unspecified - Malignant neoplasms)5219,780,4350.3
B34.8 (Other viral infections of unspecified site)5019,780,4350.3
V87.7 (Person injured in collision between other specified motor vehicles (traffic))4919,780,4350.2
C91.0 (Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia - Malignant neoplasms)4819,780,4350.2
V09.0 (Pedestrian injured in nontraffic accident involving other and unspecified motor vehicles)4719,780,4350.2
W34 (Discharge from other and unspecified firearms)4719,780,4350.2
W79 (Inhalation and ingestion of food causing obstruction of respiratory tract)4719,780,4350.2
V03.1 (Pedestrian injured in collision with car, pick-up truck or van, traffic accident)4519,780,4350.2
A41.9 (Septicaemia, unspecified)4419,780,4350.2
W68 (Drowning and submersion following fall into swimming-pool)4219,780,4350.2
X30 (Exposure to excessive natural heat)4119,780,4350.2
G80.9 (Infantile cerebral palsy, unspecified)3519,780,4350.2
C71.9 (Brain, unspecified - Malignant neoplasms)3419,780,4350.2
R96.0 (Instantaneous death)3319,780,4350.2
J18.9 (Pneumonia, unspecified)3219,780,4350.2
I67.8 (Other specified cerebrovascular diseases)3119,780,4350.2
W65 (Drowning and submersion while in bath-tub)2919,780,4350.1
Q04.3 (Other reduction deformities of brain)2819,780,4350.1
E75.2 (Other sphingolipidosis)2719,780,4350.1
Q23.4 (Hypoplastic left heart syndrome)2719,780,4350.1
W80 (Inhalation and ingestion of other objects causing obstruction of respiratory tract)2719,780,4350.1
D43.2 (Brain, unspecified - Uncertain neoplasms)2619,780,4350.1
E75.0 (GM2 gangliosidosis)2619,780,4350.1
G93.1 (Anoxic brain damage, not elsewhere classified)2619,780,4350.1
V43.6 (Car occupant injured in collision with car, pick-up truck or van, passenger injured in traffic accident)2619,780,4350.1
C49.9 (Connective and soft tissue, unspecified - Malignant neoplasms)2519,780,4350.1
G40.9 (Epilepsy, unspecified)2419,780,4350.1
J98.4 (Other disorders of lung)2319,780,4350.1
W75 (Accidental suffocation and strangulation in bed)2319,780,4350.1 

Causes of Death for Two-year-olds

Quicksilver turns two-years-old next month.

Not to be morbid, but I was curious to see what the most common, preventable causes-of-death for that age group is:

Accidents are the single biggest cause of death for two-year-olds being listed as the cause of 36% of all deaths in that age-group. Non-transportation causes were more than twice as likely as transportation-related causes.

Drowning in swimming pools accounts for about 1/3 of all non-transportation accidental deaths of that age group with drowning-in-total accounting for 60% of the non-transportation accidental deaths.

17% of NT-accidents were from fire and choking/inhalation of objects (usually food). Many 2-year-olds are very oral; everything goes into their mouth.

Other than accidents, the next biggest preventable cause-of-death in two-year-olds was homicides/assault at 9.3% of all deaths in that cohort. That is an astounding number!

CDC data for 2016-through-2020 inclusive.

Saturday, April 6, 2024

I'm as good once...

Clearing a place to put the apple nursery

Dragging brush and stacking it beside the driveway

Garlic in the foreground, turnip cover-crop over Mrs ERJ's 2024 kitchen garden, a row of multiplier onions as a divider and in the background the plot for the apple root-stock

The multiplier onions
The patch for the apple root-stock is approximately 20 feet by 30 feet. Apple nursery on the left side of the photo.

Please forgive me for the bad pun, but I am really dragging today. I might indulge in a couple of ibuprofen.

I am probably a poor outdoorsman but I lump ribbon snakes and garter snakes together.

Some people claim that garter snakes taste best on artisan bread rolls with brown mustard while ribbon snakes taste best on plain hot-dog buns with sweet relish and yellow mustard.

A young mourning dove that is still learning the ropes of flying.

A row of daffodils that I planted with Belladonna in the fall of 2015. Going stronger than ever.

Tomato seedlings. They came up in four days. Ukrainian Orange Icicle on the left and Stupice on the right. They look much more like baby plants today.
The Guajillo pepper seeds finally germinated (today). I planted them March 22. It pays to be patient.

Tax "Avoidance" is legal

An article that almost slipped through without notice suggests that part of what has Progressive's panties in a bunch is that Trump engaged in "tax avoidance" to minimize tax penalties involved in raising funds for a project.

For the sake of clarity: Tax EVASION is illegal. Tax avoidance is not.

What is the difference? Tax evasion is when you engage in a transaction that generates taxable income (usually) but you do not declare it and do not pay it.

Tax avoidance is when you configure your transactions in a way to trigger the lowest taxes.

Suppose you are retired and most of your assets are in a 401-k. Furthermore, consider a parcel of property comes up for sale in November and it is a property you want.

If you negotiate with the seller to pay half of the price in the current year and the remainder in January of the next year...and you extract those funds from your 401-k by liquidating assets and taking it as income over the two years, you avoided taxes because of the "progressive" income taxes. That is, you paid a lower marginal-rate on the money you extracted because you did not climb as high up on the ski-jump. That is perfectly legal.

While it might seem pointless, one of the side effects is that it reduces "thrashing" where assets are bought-and-sold at high frequency. Thrashing makes the market disorderly and hampers the rational determination of "value".

If the Progressives want to change the definition of the kinds of activities that are considered "evasion", they are welcome to try to do that through the Legislature. If they are envious of Trump's wealth then they are free to attempt a "wealth tax". 

Both proposals have enormous potential to fragment functioning enterprises and making them less-than-viable. That is, it is the equivalent of NYC being force to pay-as-they-go and resorting to cutting struts out of the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge and selling them as scrap to create cash-flow.

Friday, April 5, 2024

UPS delivered my apple root-stock today...

My root-stock for fruit trees showed up today. I planted seven in the "serious" orchard to replace losses.

The only ones that were available when I got of my dupa and looked were "seconds" or "regrades". From a practical standpoint, it means that I will lose a year of production because I cannot bench-graft them and toss them into the ground. I need to plant the root-stock and give them a year without the added insult of grafting them.

One work-around is to bud them during the summer. Working with sharp utility knives on work 4"-to-8" from the ground is not very attractive. I have a new pair of glasses and the bifocal component is not what I am used to.

However, I can plan for success. Planting the root-stock on an angle will present the stem in a more favorable way for budding. I can chip-bud near the end of June or T-bud around August 1.

I ended up with two kinds of apple root-stock. One is MM-106 which is mechanically very easy to graft (the wood cuts well) and is a vigorous grower. It has flaws. It is sensitive to viruses and is not sufficiently winter-hardy under super-productive, late-season apples like Gold Rush or Yellow Delicious. It is also susceptible to collar-rot which occurs in poorly drained soils (clay or low-spots). It is, however, very productive and well-rooted. The graft-unions are very strong.

The other apple root-stock is Geneva-210. As far as I know, there are no serious flaws except this root-stock that it is intolerant of neglect. It produces free-standing, very productive trees where most of the fruit can be picked from while standing on the ground. It is easily shaded by trees and even nettles. It suffers if the sod is not controlled and the tree must compete for moisture. If you really want a lot of apples, you almost have to irrigate. The up-side is that you can figure on 10 pounds of apple per foot-of-row almost every year.


I was watching crows this morning. I saw two of them flying with dead rodents. The first one was a dead chipmunk. The second was a mouse. I didn't know they were such efficient predators!


May 1 is still the target date for potatoes going into the ground.

One of the professionals who I respect is of the opinion that most non-professionals plant too soon. "Sure you can plant your corn May 1 and your potatoes even sooner, but they will sit there until the soil warms up. Most people would be better off waiting until the soil warmed up and then tilled down the weeds...and then planted."

His point is that most duffers don't have access to the herbicides that make super-early planting viable for professionals. If, however, you are on a first-name basis with your hoe, then you are good-to-go.


I believe that I am going to tuck some of my excess tomato plants into my food-hedge.

Last year's tomato supports will be repurposed to an assortment of climbing bean varieties. The twine will be augmented with trashy-brush I have been cutting. Beans evolved climbing brush. It is what they are designed by our Creator to do.

The nightshades will index east and I will plant only 200 feet-of-row of potatoes (sigh!).

"Talls" like okra will be planted beside the corn.

Mrs ERJ gave me the OK to plant 20 dozen Bodacious sweet corn for freezing. Mrs ERJ likes sweet corn and you cannot throw a cheaper party than one where you, the host, provide sweet corn and melon and a camp-fire.

Molasses-Spice cookies

I am not a big "recipe" guy but I was able to pull the bacon out of the campfire and ended up smelling like a Rose.

Dry Ingredients

  • 2-1/4 cups Great Value Pancake mix
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/4 tsp cardamom

Wet Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup warm butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1 egg

Mix the dry ingredients together.

"Cream" the wet ingredients together.

Mix the combined dry ingredients with the "wet" ingredients.  You will probably have to use your hands at some point.

Pack down.


When ready to make cookies, roll a golf-ball sized wad into a ball, flatten and put onto an air-bake cookie sheet. Make however many cookies as you wish.

Cook at 350F for 10 minutes and not a second more. Let cool for three-to-five minutes before removing from the sheet with a spatula.

These are not intensely flavored cookies. They are pleasant and light and not overwhelming. Think "Mary-Anne from Gilligan's Island" cookies rather than "Carmen Electra or Cardi B." cookies.

Physical fitness

Mrs ERJ and I heading off to the gym

Mrs ERJ and I are alternating days that we go to the gym due to our watching Quicksilver.

I dislike running outside when it is windy. It is a personal quirk. On the plus side, it is now warm enough to lift outside.

I am still building "foundation".

Honesty compels me to admit that the treadmills do have advantages over running on the road when building up "foundation". Primarily the heart-rate monitors.

My stamina varies by a surprising amount from day-to-day. I suspect it may be partially related to hydration status.

I use the heart rate monitor to stay within the sweet-spot. Some days I can run "fast" for four minutes and "recover" (i.e. walk) for a minute for an hour. Other days I need to make adjustments, increasing the length of the recovery times and decreasing the "fast" times. Since five-minute increments are easy for me to manage I usually increase my walk-times until my BPM gets close to 140 and then run for the remainder of the five minutes.


One of the guys from the old neighborhood reached out to me a few days ago.

He is exactly one year older than I am and has an interesting history.

He worked as a common laborer for about ten years. Then he entered a 12-step program. He networked. He found mentors. He moved up the corporate ladder. The ladder he was on was vaporized due to internal politics. He moved. He is now the equivalent of a VP in a think-tank near the Beltway.

He is a shining star of the economic mobility that the US can provide as long as the individual is willing to take personal responsibility.

He shot me an email and asked "How are you doing?"

At its very best, the internet is a tool of the angels.

Fake News Friday: The Curious Case of Ronald Opus

As reported in The American Academy of Forensic Science:

On March 23 a medical examiner viewed the body of Ronald Opus and concluded that he died from a gunshot wound of the head caused by a shotgun. Investigation to that point had revealed that the decedent had jumped from the top of a ten-story building with the intent to commit suicide. (He left a note indicating his despondency.) As he passed the 9th floor on the way down, his life was interrupted by a shotgun blast through a window, killing him instantly. Neither the shooter nor the decedent was aware that a safety net had been erected at the 8th floor level to protect some window washers, and that the decedent would most likely not have been able to complete his intent to commit suicide because of this.
Ordinarily, a person who sets out to commit suicide and ultimately succeeds, even if the mechanism might not be what they intended, is defined as having committed suicide. That he was shot on the way to certain death nine stories below probably would not change his mode of death from suicide to homicide, but the fact that his suicide intent would not have been achieved under any circumstance caused the medical examiner to feel that he had homicide on his hands.
Further investigation led to the discovery that the room on the 9th floor whence the shotgun blast emanated was occupied by an elderly man and his wife. He was threatening her with the shotgun because of an interspousal spat and became so upset that he could not hold the shotgun straight. Therefore, when he pulled the trigger, he completely missed his wife, and the pellets went through the window, striking the decedent.
When one intends to kill subject A but kills subject B in the attempt, one is guilty of the murder of subject B. The old man was confronted with this conclusion, but both he and his wife were adamant in stating that neither knew that the shotgun was loaded. It was the longtime habit of the old man to threaten his wife with an unloaded shotgun. He had no intent to murder her; therefore, the killing of the decedent appeared then to be accident. That is, the gun had been accidentally loaded.
But further investigation turned up a witness that their son was seen loading the shotgun approximately six weeks prior to the fatal accident. That investigation showed that the mother (the old lady) had cut off her son's financial support, and her son, knowing the propensity of his father to use the shotgun threateningly, loaded the gun with the expectation that the father would shoot his mother. The case now becomes one of murder on the part of the son for the death of Ronald Opus.
Further investigation revealed that the son, Ronald Opus himself, had become increasingly despondent over the failure of his attempt to get his mother murdered. This led him to jump off the ten-story building on March 23, only to be killed by a shotgun blast through a 9th story window.
The medical examiner closed the case as a suicide.   Source

War-room Planning (Cumberland Saga)

That evening, only the men met on Sig’s patio: Sig, Roger, Walter, Gregor and Blain.

Each man described, in turn, what he believed had happened.

Sig had to work over-time to control his temper. He had never had an “easy” relationship with his older brother Walter. Walter's swooning-catch-me routine had pushed a lot of buttons. That was counter-balanced by Jesus's parable about leaving the 99 lambs and searching for the lost one.

Roger had Alice’s first-hand testimony which he repeated back with surprising fidelity. But then, this is not a culture that added extra notes to songs or to “make stories their own” by tweaking details. What was indisputable was that Evan had done something that brought Copperhead Cove to the attention of law enforcement. The first rule of being invisible is to not attract attention. Evan had violated that rule.

Walter was at his wit’s end. Everything had seemed normal until his health tanked. And then his kids starting acting up. They sought the best counseling available but the advice they received only seemed to make things worse.

Walter was also averse to attention from law enforcement, primarily from a cultural standpoint. The problem with seeking professional advice is that it created documentation trails and open-loops. But what had been done could not be changed.

Gregor’s take on the situation was that Evan and Abe needed their asses kicked on a regular basis until they straightened out. While that view got a lot of sympathy, the men doubted that the women would stand for the idea and it could backfire if Evan went to the cops and claimed abuse.

Blain mostly kept his mouth shut. He was reminded of the story of the blind men and the elephant. 

After forty-five minutes and a thorough rehashing of what had already been discussed, Blain spoke up. "Let me recap what I think I heard."

“Something has to be done or Walter and his family will have to move out of Copperhead Cove.”

Walter looked around the group of men. He could see their faces in the light of the kerosene lantern. They were nodding their heads in agreement. Sig and and Gregor were nodding without reservation, the possibility that Evan could vandalize the tractor on Gregor's truck was totally unacceptable. Roger was reluctantly nodding. Walter felt trapped.

“Sig, you have too much on your plate to take Evan in hand. And even if you had the time, you have too much history” Blain said.

Both Walter and Sig nodded in agreement.

“Roger, please don’t hear this as criticism, but you are old and whoever rides-herd on Evan has to be able to work him into the ground. Your heart is in the right place but you just have too many miles on the odometer” Blain said.

Roger unhappily agreed. Sig was looking at Blain thoughtfully.

“Gregor, you are the Swiss Army Knife of Copperhead Cove. You can do everything. It would be a shame to pin you down with trying to rehabilitate Evan...and Abe if it comes to that. Push is coming to shove and we need to keep you flexible.”

Gregor could not disagree. Gregor’s arrival had been a huge boost to the productivity of Copperhead Cove. Not just because he was young, strong and skilled, but because he had a truck and contacts on the outside.

Looking directly at Walter, Blain said "You had your swing at the pinata. Evan knows how to manipulate you and his mother. He can read you like a book. It is time for you and Evan's mom need to pull-back. Let him know that you love him...and at the same time he needs tough-love. It is time for him to grow-up and not hide behind Mommy and Daddy."

Looking around at the men, Blain said “And that leaves me.”

None of the men would have thought to involve Blain. It was a family matter. But the way Blain sketched it out, it was the only way forward that made any sense. And, even though he had not been married to Sarah for very long, it did, technically, make him family.

Blain looked around at the circle of men, men he had come to trust with his life. It was time to share some history.

“Fifteen years ago I wasn’t that different from Evan. My parents were struggling to control me and put me in counseling, so I have some idea of what Evan has been through” Blain said. Then, looking at Walter, "And what he is putting you and Amira through."

“I think I can make a difference, but there are a few things that I need. Not just “want”...but need. If you can’t agree to help me then we might as well tell Walter to pack-up and leave tomorrow morning.”

Sig spoke up first. “What do you need?”

Sig resented his older brother. Sig found everything about Walter’s wife, Amira, irritating. He had a hundred different reasons to send Walter packing.

But family trumped all and as much as it galled him...there was that parable about lambs.