Wednesday, January 31, 2024


Gym Notes

I added some push-ups to our walk on Sunday. I started with sets of ten but that was too many so I dropped it down to sets of seven every two laps and ended up with 93 push-ups for the session. The upper bands of my pectoralis muscles are still sore.

The "right number" for squats at this time seems to be four sets of four reps at 3/4 my body-weight. I am paranoid about not dropping down far enough.  According to Coach Belladonna, a proper squat involves slowly lowering my body until my thighs are parallel to the ground and then slowly rising to a full, upright position. 

This is one time when having a gym-buddy would be very helpful. Once I know what it feels like, I will only need an occasional recalibration check.

My goal for squats it to be able to perform four sets of ten squats at 100% of my body-weight.

The machine that simulates "pull-ups" increments in 20 pound jumps. The right number this week is sets of ten-reps at 110 or 55% of my body-weight. My pectoral muscles were still complaining from the push-ups two days ago.

My goal for pull-ups is to be able to do sets of ten repetitions at 100% of my body-weight.

Dead-lifts stayed at 4 sets of six reps at 100% body-weight.

Garden comments and mental sharpness

I have an annual physical coming up. The doc might give me a baseline dementia check. Having the personality that I do, I went on-line to see what questions I might encounter. There are many versions out there. They all have "the clock" test.

I was delighted to see one test-question where the patient was asked to name as many types of vegetables as they could in sixty-seconds. I should rock at that: French-fried, mashed, steamed, sauteed, julienned, fresh, canned, frozen, wilted, gumbo, au graten, baby, shredded, with bacon....



One version of collapse in the constellation of TEOTWAWKI scenarios involves authorities delivering "staple foods" to cities like the Siege of Leningrad. That means 70% of calories from grain + 30% from vegetable oil. That 70:30 ratio also looks like many folk's emergency preps. The people living on Caribbean Islands survive on this diet by supplementing with "greens" which add fiber, protein and vitamins.

Bonus links to go with the video: African Diaspora seed collection, cold weather greens collection

Greens like Callaloo (Domesticated Amaranth, Link One, Link Two) have the advantage of being able to produce a harvest in relatively short times...40 days being realistic. They can also be picked on a continuous basis without having to replant as long as they get water and fertilizer. 

End Aside

Or, I could start with the Cajun Cooking Trinity; onions, celery, peppers, garlic which are sauteed for almost every soup and casserole at Casa ERJ, add tomatoes and potatoes. Then hit the vegetables that are over-wintering in the garden; turnips, rutabagas, radish, cabbage, kale. Include the wildings; chickweed, mustard greens, lambsquarters. Mrs ERJ loves sweetcorn, watermelon and cantaloupe.

Maybe that is why gardening is considered good for brain-health. It makes it easier to answer the questions on the test. 

I wonder if I should add Biden, Harris and Occasional-Cortex to the list of vegetables. Would I get marked down?

Word recall is pretty common. The patient is presented with a list or a picture with multiple items on it. They are asked to read the list and then it is flipped over and they are asked to repeat what was on it. A couple unrelated questions are asked and then the patient is asked five minutes later what was on the list to test long(er) term memory.

Another test is counting backwards, sometimes by multiples. Example: count backwards from 100 by sevens.

Bonus: Test your mental sharpness

  1. What do you put in a toaster?
  2. Say "Silk" ten times as rapidly as you can.
  3. What do cows drink?
  4. If a red house is made from red bricks and a blue house is made from blue bricks and a pink house is made from pink bricks and a black house is made from black bricks, what is a green house made from? 
  5. You are driving a bus from Waverly to the Community College. At MLK Ave, 17 people got on the bus. At Cesar Chavez Drive, 6 people get off the bus and 9 people get on. At Diag Alley, 2 people get off and 4 get on. At Deadon Street, 11 people get off and 16 people get on. And at Tuhell Road, 3 people get off and 5 people get on. You then arrive at the college. Without going back to review, how old is the bus driver ? 

 Answers below the fold. Hat-tip to CoyoteKen for the test.

Learning Spanish update

It feels like I am making some progress.

Learning a language is a set of three tasks. One is to be able to comprehend the spoken language. Two is to be able to speak the language. The third is to be able to read/write the language. There is some overlap and they are mutually supportive but they are very different skill sets.

I have been listening to this guy to tune my ear. I set the automatic subtitles (in Spanish) and just let him speak. He speaks slowly and enunciates clearly. Most of his homilies are in the eight-to-ten minute range and his topics are usually interesting to me. This exercise helps me parse out the stream of sounds into discrete words. Thanks to BillyBob in Arizona for suggesting this channel.

On the read/write standpoint, I printed out a list of the English "High Frequency" or "Dolch" words and have been hand-writing each word on the pre-Primer and Primer lists in English followed by its Spanish equivalent every day. Writing-by-hand activates a lot of mental paths which I believe is helpful for recall. The Dolch words are grouped by pre-primary, primary, 2nd, 3rd and so forth based on word frequency in common use and the word's complexity.

A few simple words like quein, que, como, donde, cuanto y por que (who, what, how, where, when, why) convey a huge amount of context for decoding other words.

Quicksilver update

Quicksilver's stay with her paternal grandparents has been extended another two weeks.

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Fine Art Tuesday

Charles-Olivier de Penne born 1831 in France. Died 1897. He like to paint dogs and hunting scenes.

Not COdP

H/T LM for suggesting the first artist and VC for the final image

Husband-Wife Families: Necessary and Sufficient

Ever so slowly, more people seem to be coming to the conclusion that the traditional, intact, husband-wife family is best way to raise children.

That the traditional family is "best" isn't just my opinion, it is supported by virtually all objective measures of what a "successful" child/adolescent/young-adult looks like.

Society seems hell-bent on destroying the nuclear family. Spawning out-of-wedlock babies is the norm in some communities and their violence, crime-rates and poverty are terrifying. "Men" brag about how many women they had sex with and how many progeny they left behind. "Women" are complicit as well.

Communities that never abandoned their belief in traditional, husband-wife families are branded as "bigoted" or "quaint".


It may be a consequence of "small sample size", but it seems as if a disproportionate share of the attacks on the traditional, husband-wife family are from older, childless married couples.

That could have been ERJ and Mrs ERJ. We built our family by adopting our children and that might give me a unique perspective.

The older, childless couples may be driven by a belated desire to leave a legacy. Not having any children to carry their legacy onward, they choose to "change society". Not having children, they don't have skin in the game. They don't see the corrosive effects their feelz-good efforts have, they don't see the secondary and tertiary effects. Maybe they don't care? Their "legacy" is the important thing.

Or maybe they are grieving the loss of their youth and are grasping at straws to remain hip and cool, cutting-edge and trend-setting. Sorry, Linda. Sixty-three is not "young" any place outside of a nursing-home or a convent.

The older, childless couples throw a long shadow because they are influential in the work-place after having put career above family. They are incredibly influential in media which is the fountain young people drink from.

Pray for traditional, husband-wife families.

Pray that young people learn and use effective problem-resolution skills.

Bonus verse

The White Progressive's Burden

Take up the White Progressive's burden—
    Send forth the best ye neighbor's breed—
Go bind her daughters to exile
    To serve your captives' need;
To wait in heavy harness
    On fluttered folk and wild—
Your new-caught, sullen peoples,
    Half devil and half child.

Take up the White Progressive's burden—
    In patience to abide,
To praise the threat of terror
    And exault the show of pride;
By open speech and simple,
    An hundred times made plain.
To seek another profit,
    And work another gain.

Take up the White Progressive's burden—
    The savage wars of peace—
Fill full the mouth of Famine
    And bid that racism cease;
And when your goal is nearest
    The end for others sought,
Watch Sloth and heathen Folly
    Bring all your hopes to nought.

Take up the White Progressive's burden—
    And tawdry rule of queers,
But toil of serf and sweeper—
    The tale of common fears.
The ports ye shall not enter,
    The roads ye shall not tread,
Go make them with your living,
    And distance them with gated-community's dread!

Take up the White Progressive's burden—
    And reap her old reward:
The blame of those ye betters,
    The hate of those ye guard—
The cry of hosts ye humour
    (Ah, slowly!) toward the light:—
"Why brought ye us from bondage,
    Our loved Egyptian night?"

Take up the White Progressive's burden—
    Ye dare not stoop to less
Nor call too loud on Freedom
    To cloak your weariness;
By all ye cry or whisper,
    By all ye leave or do,
The silent, sullen misgendered
    Shall weigh your Gods and you.

Take up the White Progressive's burden—
    Have done with childish days—
The lightly proffered laurel,
    The easy, ungrudged praise.
Comes now, to search your legacy
    Through all the thankless years,
Cold-edged with dear-bought wisdom,
    The judgment of your Facebook peers!

Apologies to Kipling

Monday, January 29, 2024

One Second After, with a twist

CoyoteKen commented:

When I lend "One Second After" to my friends they tell me that they have their wives read it and they usually ask "Are you sure you have enough guns and ammo and food?" ---Seems to work.---ken

Has it occurred to you that the Lunatic Left is the human version of the Electro-Magnetic Pulse that reduced civilization to the stone-age in "One Second After"?

  • Gasoline and diesel engines stopped working.
  • Communication was reduced to paper-and-pencil.
  • Medicine became witch-doctor and wing-of-bat stuff.
  • Crime became brutal and common as did citizens' responses to it.

For the record, Terry Blackstock's "Restoration Series" another outstanding introduction to civilization unraveling faster than can be comprehended. The first book in the series is "Last Light". It is my impression is that it is easier for some women to identify with the character(s) in "Last Light" then the ones in One Second After. Another factor that makes Last Light worth reading is that the protagonists live in an upscale subdivision near a large town. The location comes with its own set of challenges. "What do you mean, nobody has anything to carry water with?"

Rejects from England

Much has been made of how rejects from England were deported to colonies which then went on to thrive.

There has been very little critical analysis regarding "what changed, how did anti-social people become productive?". The question is generally dismissed with "Well, the laws in Jolly olde England were stupid. They just needed a fresh start." I suspect that reaction is because nobody offered a better explanation.

It occurred to me that breaking the deportees into relatively small groups and then putting them under maritime law for three-to-six months may have been a factor. The very worst actors were tuned up with marlin spikes, billy-clubs or a handle from the capstan. If they persisted, they were beaten until they were either brain-damaged, severely lamed or they were given swimming lessons in the dark-of-night.

The others benefited from the strict discipline of ship-board life. Transgressions could not be hidden. Consequences were swift and severe. Thieves living with thieves could not hide their actions and were (probably) dealt with internally.

It was a different group of people leaving the ship than had boarded it.

Was going to be Fake News Friday

"Donald Trump announced that he will repurpose 85,000 IRS Agents to ICE on his first day in office.

The agents will be reduced out by seniority and re-assigned new jobs as Immigration Agents.

They will be required to work from home. All immigrants who they allow into the country will be bused and released directly in front of the agent's home.

Trump stated that the main problem with the Federal Government is that the people in it have "No skin in the game" and they can avoid personal responsibility. 

"Dropping immigrant off in front of the agent's home while he/she is working there is the surest way to ensure that only those immigrants who are law-abiding and who have solid proof of refugee-status will be allowed into the country." Trump is reported to have said.

Sunday, January 28, 2024


Mrs ERJ and I went to a Celebration of Life for the woman who was my mom's room-mate in the nursing home.

"J" was as sharp as a tack and was my mom's "guardian angel". Mom's hearing was impaired and she appeared to be suffering from dementia toward the end. "J" advocated for mom with the staff and alerted us to when things were amiss. With three R.N.s, one LSWM and an honest-to-goodness medical doctor in the extended family most issues could be addressed when we knew about them.

Our family members who lived close to the nursing home continued to visit "J" even after Mom passed away. They took her "Big B" coffee; strong, fresh, well-brewed coffee.

The nursing home offered coffee as one of the beverages they served with breakfast but they were short-staffed and the small cup of weak, stale, tepid brown-drink did not resemble the coffee that "J" craved.

"J" was 74 when she passed away.

I talked with the owner of the tavern where the celebration was held. He lamented that he was still suffering from the effects of the state of Michigan's Covid response. He cannot hire help and is running four-days-a-week and short-hours. Imagine, an established tavern forced to delay opening until 3:00 in the afternoon on Saturdays and closing at 11:00 because he cannot find help.

I asked him if he had been able to negotiate a reduction in his rent. He was not able to do so.

And that is in a college town where you would think there would be students looking to earn some fun-money. is still easier to borrow it and the students keep hearing that they will never have to pay it back.

Tomato stakes

Mrs ERJ continues to drag artifacts out of the "study" that we are cleaning out.

If you recall, this room is (one of) the Sargasso Seas of Casa ERJ.

The uses of many of the items she has been finding are opaque to her. She piles "like" items together for me to deal with.

She kept running into thin metal rods that were about 30" long. The ends of the rods intrigued her.

After extracting the nth one from the Sargasso Sea, she approached me and asked why the tomato stakes had that funny shape on the end.

I looked down my nose and informed her "Those are not tomato stakes. Those are cleaning rods from Military Surplus rifles."

And then my heart stopped.

Mrs ERJ slowly pivoted and looked at the pile on the end of the table. I could SEE her counting them.

She asked me "How many came with each rifle?"

I was tempted to fib and tell her "Three", but I didn't. I said "Generally one per rifle although..." swallowing "...sometimes the rod gets lost and a rifle comes without a cleaning rod."

She turned back to me. "Yeah, they are too short for tomato stakes."

And that was the end of it. At least, I think that was the end of it. I may have to buy her some expensive, round artifacts with a hole in the middle of each one of them to even things up.

The mini-van needs new tires. That should count for about four cleaning rods off the end of the table.

Still mostly unplugged

I am adding in squats and starting to use a machine that mimics "pull-ups". At this point I am fiddling with form and trying to sneak up on the weight I should be using.

For a guy of my height, being able to step up to the second step on a step-stool using only one leg (standing flat-footed with the foot on the ground) is the equivalent of being able to squat my body-weight. I am not quite there, yet.

I use free-weights when I can so I have the benefit of improving my stability muscles but you cannot beat a machine for the speed with which you can make adjustments.

We are in the middle of a warm period and the snow and ice are gone from the roads. As soon as the mud firms up a little bit, I intend to add running into the mix.


One of the few times when having hand-writing that is totally illegible works in your favor.

I am at the point where I need to write things down. To be totally honest, I passed that point about five years ago but pride got in the way.

Juvenile humor

Some humor only works verbally.

Riddle: Do you know how you can tell genuine molasses from counterfeit molasses?

Answer below the break

Saturday, January 27, 2024

Menstruating People

I know that I have a few readers who are women (Hi Linda!!!) so I want to pose a question to you.

Do you find the term "Menstruating People" to be demeaning? I recently saw a video clip of Alexandria Occasional Cortex doing double-backflips to avoid using the word "woman" and instead replaced it with "menstruating people".

If you subscribe to the word "woman" then you are still a woman after the age of fifty even if you ceased menstruating. You are still a woman after you went through chemo-therapy or if you had your ovaries removed.  Woman is a status you earned and it cannot be taken away from you.

"Menstruating People" smacks of ageism and ableism and division.

And for the record, women who have stopped menstruating can still become pregnant through hormone therapy and implanting of zygotes produced via in vitro fertilization. There are women who carried their grandbabies when their daughters or daughters-in-law were not able to medically do so. They are not "non-mensturating people". They are women and in my book they are F-ing heroes.

People who insist on using newly made-up terms to avoid stressing the mentally ill seem to be blind to the pain they cause normal people who paid their dues and who are not detached from reality.

Any thinking person knows in their heart that Alexandria Occasional Cortex is a 34 year-old retard who is applauded by the left when on those rare occasions when she does not eat her Crayolas during live interviews.  

Garden Notes

This is a good time to start dried tree seeds that need stratification.

I have four different species that need three different treatments.

Fraxinus mandschurica (Manchurian Ash) needs to be soaked for 24 hours to hydrate the seeds, then warm stratified for 30 days followed by cool/cold stratification for 60 days. That will put me at about May 1 for when the seeds go into the dirt.

Cercis canadensis (Eastern Redbud) wants to be soaked in very hot tap-water (120F) for 24 hours to soften its seed coat and then cold stratified for 60 days. I will stratify for 90 days to keep them on the same schedule as the other seeds.

Alnus glutinosa (European Gray Alder) wants to be soaked for 24 hours at room temperature to hydrate the seeds and then cool/cold stratified for 90 days.

Robinia pseudoacacia (Black Locust) seeds need to be dumped into boiling water for 60 seconds. They are a species that evolved in a fire-ecology and the heat of the fire steams the seeds which triggers their germination. Without the steaming, the seed-coat is as impermeable to water as polyethylene. After the hot water treatment, the seeds require no other cold period.

Cover crops

Managing Cover Crops Profitably

This link is placed here so I can find it later.

The Second Commandment

You shall not invoke the name of the LORD, your God, in vain. For the LORD will not leave unpunished anyone who invokes his name in vain.

I offer the following commentary for your thoughtful consideration. I am not selling anything. I am not buying anything. I am not trying to lead anybody astray from their current beliefs.

Scott Hahn is a theologian who now lives in Ohio.

He proposed that whenever we see the word "" in the Bible we should consider the possibility that it could be read as "" or "...tribe..." and see if it gives us useful context.

He also suggests that "using the name" is analogous to signing binding contracts or declaring war because you are not just using a word, you are committing the entire "tribe" to that action.

Using his suggestion, the Second Commandment morphs from "Don't use the word 'God' when cussing" to something like "Immerse yourself in God's wisdom so you don't foolishly expose God's tribe to annihilation."

The reason I think this perspective is worth pondering is that God's name is probably unpronounceable by humans. The words we have for God's name are nicknames or titles or riddles that allude to who He is (I AM WHO AM) so the commandment seems redundant. How can we use somebody's name improperly when we cannot say it or spell it?

I think that Christians already understand this at some level. The Extreme Progressives have been frantically attempting to provoke violence from the Christians and so far we have not taken the bait.

The price of smokeless propellant

Well, folks, there are two wars going on.

A single yank of the lanyard of a 155mm howitzer can burn 25 pounds of "propellant". For the record, each "can" of propellant in the current system contains about five pounds of triple-base propellant, of which the largest proportion is nitrocellulose and nitroglycerine. NC and NG are also the primary components of the propellants used in small-arms like 9mm Luger, .223 Remington and other common firearms.

When the enemy is close and fire-command calls for lobbing in shots, relatively few "cans" of propellant are used. When the enemy is distant then five cans are used. As a rule, the crews manning the artillery prefer shooting at the enemy at-distance. Consequently, many/most of the shots use five cans per shot.

How much is 25 pounds of propellant? This not intended to imply that the powder used in artillery can be loaded into small arms. It cannot be. Rather, it is an attempt to quantify how much propellant cannot be manufactured for small arms because critical resources are being diverted to military consumption.

25 pounds of smokeless propellant is enough to make 35,000 9mm Luger, 45 ACP or 38 Special cartridges.

25 pounds of smokeless propellant is enough to make 7000 5.56mm NATO or 12 gauge shotgun shells.

25 pounds of smokeless propellant is enough to make 3900 7.62mm NATO or 6.5 Creedmoor.

THERE IS NO "EXCESS CAPACITY" for smokeless propellant ingredients that can be activated.

Every yank of the lanyard makes 35,000 handgun cartridges disappear.

The price of smokeless powder doubled in the past year or so. Expect that trend to continue as wars pop up like mushrooms after a rain.

If you are thinking of reloading then the following table may be useful:

A pound of smokeless propellant is running between $40 and $60 per pound. The good news is that you can find it on-the-shelves at this price. And the drought for large rifle primers seems to be easing.

A pound of smokeless propellant is enough to to make 1400 of the most common pistol cartridges.

A pound of smokeless propellant is enough to make 440 20 gauge reloads.

A pound of smokeless propellant is enough to make about 270 5.56 NATO or high-end 12 gauge reloads.

A pound of smokeless propellant is enough to make 160 7.62 NATO (.308 Win) or 6.5 Creedmoor or 120 30-06 Springfield.

A final note

The type of powder used in handguns is almost never used in rifle cartridges like 5.56mm or 7.62mm NATO but some handgun powders are used in shotguns (and vice versa).

Friday, January 26, 2024

The First Commandment

The first three commandments of The Ten Commandments outline the proper relationship between man and God. The last seven commandments define proper relationships between men. 

Various translations have slight variations in how they are written out. For example, some translations lump "coveting of your neighbor's wife or female servant" with coveting (envy) of his material possessions.

The Ten Commandments show up twice. Once in Exodus Chapter 20 and again in Deuteronomy. The First Commandment shows up three times in the Old (Jewish) Testament. It is first mentioned in Deuteronomy is in Chapter Five but is repeated again in Chapter 6. In fact, Chapter 6 has some very specific directions to ensure that we keep the First Commandment on the top-of-our-stack.


Today I went around and installed Mezuzah cases on our door posts with the appropriate text inside of them.

The words

You shall not have other gods beside me.

You shall not make for yourself an idol or a likeness of anything in the heavens above or on the earth below or in the waters beneath the earth; you shall not bow down before them or serve them.

seemed to be a particularly timely reminder as the "State" stridently demands that it be our god. 

Keep your eye on the prize!

Fake News Friday: Planned Parenthood announces new line of ornaments for the mentally-ill


Planned Parenthood announced a new line of sacramental regalia and party favors to let the world know that you are signaling your virtue while celebrating your young child's first round of puberty blockers or sex hormones.

The collections include vestal virgin or androgynous acolyte garments, Gwyneth Paltrow candles, sage-rue and cannabis incense bundles, charm bracelets festooned with polymer-impregnated gonads and ethically-sourced leather-bound missalette of Satanic Prayers.

Fake News Friday: Nikki Haley announces switch to Democratic party


Based on in-depth analysis of the polling data from Iowa and New Hampshire, the Nikki Haley campaign realized that she has a better chance of capturing the Democratic nomination for the 2024 POTUS race than the Republican nomination.

Consequently, Haley announced her switch to the Democratic party as she nervously switched a heavy carpet-bag stuffed with dollars, renminbi and Euros from her right-hand to her left-hand.

Robert Kennedy is reported to have responded "Meh! Whatever."

60 Million Bison!!! Really?

The number of American Bison at the time of the American Revolution is often estimated to be 60,000,000 animals.

Perhaps "estimated" is not the most accurate word. Perhaps "echoed" or "repeated" is more accurate.

Is 60,000,000 American Bison even possible?



North America was home to many kinds of mega-fauna before humans who were proficient at chipping stone points and starting fires showed up. In a relatively short period, giant sloth, mammoths/mastodons, giant armadillos, cave lions and so on were extinct.

Bison were mobile and had more rapid reproductive rates than the other mega-fauna and the forage that had been consumed by other species was now available for them to eat. The Native-Americans had limited success hunting them in the wide-open prairies where there was limited cover to conceal their stalk.

Maximum, historic range on left.

Core range, blown up. Note that this is "short-grass prairie" and west of the dry-line.

It is my opinion that although sprinklings of bison were reported in the area of the "historic range" that there were not large numbers of them and they were primarily restricted to islands of tall-grass prairie maintained by frequent burns by Native-Americans or started by lightning.

Bison are most vulnerable to Timber Wolves (their only real non-human predator) when they were calving. Like the Passenger Pigeon, they congregated in large groups when calving/nesting and super-saturated the local area. Wolves might pick off a few of them but most would survive.

It seems probable that early estimates of bison populations were made as white Americans stumbled across these dense herds in May/June and they extrapolated beyond "as far as the eye could see".

The US cow-herd

A first-order estimate of "How many bison?" can be made by looking at the cow-herd in the "Plains States" + Texas.

If the typical rolling-cow herd in the US is 33 million, and if 60% of that herd resides in the states listed, then we are looking at roughly 20 million animals.

Those animals, especially the ones in the eastern-most portions of the Plains States and those in feed-lots get a lot of calories from corn that was raised with the help of nitrogen fertilizer and (often) irrigation. The domestic cattle herd also gets "helped" with stored feed so winter losses are usually very small compared to what a free-range, wild herd would endure. So the standing biomass of that 20 million cattle probably represents an over-estimate of the standing biomass of wild bison the same land area would have supported.

A more reasonable estimate than the 60 million mindlessly repeated as a fact, an estimate of 10-to-15 million bison seems more defensible based on the typical productivity of the short-grass ecosystem.

"But, but, but....ERJ, you are completely ignoring the TALL-GRASS Prairie ecosystem!!!" you might challenge.

I have to admit that history is not my strongest subject, but the reports of massive concentrations of bison were reported when the railroads hit the dry-line, not east of the dry-line. White settlers did not have the technology to kill bison in massive numbers before rifles with metallic cartridges came into common use. Before that, the number of "mountain men" was microscopic and the common settler probably had a smooth-bore musket with a bore between 0.57" and 0.68". Looking at the dates when bison were expatriated in Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota and so on and considering the technology of the settlers, it is hard to believe that they existed on the Tall-grass Prairies by the tens-of-millions and were wiped out by the settlers.

Bonus link:

Standing biomass of wild mammals

Spoiler alert: Swimming biomass of marine mammals exceeds standing biomass of wild land mammals.

The species with the largest standing biomass is the North American Whitetail Deer

The species of mammal with the largest standing biomass are are humans followed by domestic cattle (two species).

Top nine wild land mammal species ranked by biomass

Thursday, January 25, 2024

Grab bag

Life is settling into a routine with my being semi-unplugged.

Mrs ERJ appreciates the fact that I am less of a zombie.

Itasca Tundra Pac Boots

I am still getting two hours a day of hard, physical activity. I have many sore muscles. While the weather has been unpleasant, I have still been able to walk outside. I carry the 45 pounds of sand in the ALICE pack. Since it is snowy outside, I am wearing winter boots with felt liners. They feel pretty heavy after walking 90 minutes though snow.

I dealt with stress on Monday by doing sets of ten pushups. I don't know why my Latissimus Dorsi are sore but there you have it. Must be something weird in how I do pushups.

205 pounds is still the right weight for dead-lifts. No more adding 10 pounds each week. With my five-minute recovery between sets I spend about 40 minutes in the gym on a "lifting day".

My weight is not going down but I am telling myself that I am gaining muscle-mass and if my weight is staying constant then I must be losing fat. Math: It can be our friend.

You can tell the guys at the gym who never miss an arm day.

I really liked one of the comments on an earlier post "Be a mouse but carry a box of matches". I want to BE strong, not look strong. Yes, I know that those guys are super-strong, but they basically "open carry with a Barbecue Gun". 

My disposition is more "compact Tupperware with 12 in the magazine". I know there are more discrete choices than the CTW12ITM but that size magazine means there is enough THERE to grip and aim effectively.

One of the old-guys at the gym pulled out his ear-bud the other day and we chatted. He initiated the conversation. "Old-guy", yeah, he was about my age.

Another hour-and-a-half is fiddled away looking after the house and livestock of a neighbor who was invited to the Gulf Coast by a friend who recently lost her husband.


One of the jokers-in-the-deck with regard to scaling of food production or manufacturing is the hollowing out of the support infrastructure.

Lansing used to have dozens of small machine shops scattered about town where jobs could be farmed out to. To a lesser degree there were tool-and-die shops and pattern-making (for castings) shops. In case you were unaware, machinists, tool-and-die guys and pattern-makers don't tolerate stupidity well. They will quit at the drop of a hat. Many of them figure out that the only boss they can work for is themself.


There are similar issues on the food-production side of the house.

Every small town used to have at least one butcher. There were guys who would pick up your animal(s) and haul them to that butcher if you did not want to do the deed yourself.

There were lots of guys with plows or discs who would work up your garden.

Let them eat bugs

Back in the late 1970s there was a huge amount of interest in a process where organic wastes like turkey guts and restaurant wastes were turned into something similar to crude-oil through heat and pressure and steam.

The promoters claimed "We never need to run out of oil!!!"

Small pilot plants were built and run. The process actually worked.

Investors were lined up and their funds accepted.

And then.....and then......

A crusty old guy in the Petroleum Industry asked "Where do the turkey guts come from?"

The smooth, fast-talking salesman said "Why, they come from turkeys."

"How much oil do you get from the guts of one turkey?" the crusty guy asked.

"I can't tell you that" the salesman said.

"Be very lucky to get more than 1-1/2 ounces by my figuring" the crusty old man (who was very into chemical processing) said.

"Well, we raise a lot of turkeys in this country" the salesman said.

"How much oil does it take to raise a single turkey?" the crusty dude asked.

"I can't tell you" the salesman said, exasperated.

"It takes a bushel-and-a-half of corn and soybeans to raise a turkey. By the time you add in all of the inputs for on-farm-fuel use, fertilizer, transportation and processing, it prolly takes four, maybe five gallons of oil to raise a single turkey" the crusty engineer said.

"So?" the slick salesman asked.

"How we gonna 'never run out of oil' when your process turns five gallons of oil into 1-1/2 ounce of oil?"

After that, interest in the process fell off of a cliff. Feedstocks have to come from SOMEWHERE. No process creates energy (calories), or for that matter, protein.

So where do the feedstocks for raising bugs come from? Fruit waste has very little protein.

Another thing is that bugs are cold blooded. They will not eat and will not grow when the temperatures are low. It gets cold, even in the south. What then?

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Attending college is a net economic loss for most


A study performed " Mount Royal University...meta-analysis aggregated numerous studies measuring college students’ IQs conducted between 1939 and 2022. The results showed that undergraduates’ IQs have steadily fallen from roughly 119 to a mean of 102 today..."

Joe adds: If intelligence is "normally" distributed, then an IQ of 119 puts you at the 90th percentile (at least 1.3 standard deviations above the average*). That is, you can mentally process text and abstract ideas better than 90% of the population. An IQ of 102 means that you have no advantage over the average person in the population in performing those tasks.

 "...being accepted to college today no longer requires the intelligence that it used to..."

One influential study showed that for white American undergraduates with an IQ only slightly above average, their chance of graduating is essentially 50-50.

...the (average) price (of college per year) increased to $28,775. 

Joe notes: A substantial number of the students admitted to college and who incur debt have IQs BELOW 102! They are doomed to wrack up large amounts of debt with no increase in earning power. 

“employers can no longer rely on applicants with university degrees to be more capable or smarter than those without degrees.”  Joe adds: And therefore businesses see no reason to pay them any more than somebody who does not have a degree. That is, the attainment of a college degree (in and of itself) confers no incremental ability to earn more.

Joe notes: So it is even worse for somebody who graduates from college than for the person who flunked out after one semester. The person who graduated wracked up six years of debts (what it now takes to obtain a four-year degree) and still has no advantage after graduating. Oh, and they lost six years of wages while pursuing their degree.

Joe continues: One of the richest people I know cheerfully admits that he failed in his first term at MSU. He got some life-experiences and then tried five years later, graduating with a degree in accounting and passing his CPA exam on his first try.

Another person I know who graduated with a four-year degree took a six-week course to learn a medical-technology. That paid the bills while she pursued a degree in Nursing which she attained in 18 months. She now makes a comfortable wage with the skills she learned outside of her traditional, four-year degree.

Hat-tip to CoyoteKen

*In round numbers, the "average IQ" is 100 and the standard deviation is 15 points.

IQ in the US rose from approximately 80 in 1934 to 100 in 2000 and has been in slight decline since then. Nutrition, exposure to more vocabulary and exposure to higher math like algebra and trigonometry and the increased prevalence of printed matter have been suggested for the rise in IQs.

Is crime caused by repression?

I pay more attention to Latin America than most folks because Handsome Hombre, my son-in-law, is from Latin America.

I got a bee-in-my-bonnet to look at murder-rates by country and then compare them to how much social freedom the countries have. That seemed like a good test of the theory that crime is higher in more repressive societies.

In order to provide contrast, I picked the three countries with the highest murder-rates and the three with the lowest rates. I found that information on Statista

As a proxy for social freedom, I used the EIU Democracy Index for 2022.

Murder rates for 2022 underlined in red. Democracy Index highlighted with yellow. A low DI indicates that a country is authoritarian and represses their citizens.

At first glance it appears that there is no relationship between social freedoms/democracy and murder-rates.

Two of the three countries with the highest murder-rates have fairly high Democracy Indexes (A little bit lower than Belgium) while two of the three countries with the lowest murder-rates have poor Democracy Indexes.

Chile is one of the outliers. It went through a period between 1973-1990 when it was very authoritarian and now it is much less authoritarian and has low murder-rates.

Venezuela is the other outlier. They are a socialist country that is imploding. 

In other news:

My laptop is in the process of puking. That is part of the reason why posts are few and far between.

Budget for a new laptop is expected to show up in early February.

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

What happens when China's financial system implodes?


If you want to start closer to "the good stuff", click HERE (about 30 minutes into the video).

The lines are the amount of gross debt each country "owes".

SPOILER: We are going to have to learn how to "assemble" things again. Financially, we are fairly well buffered from contagion but China is near the end of the supply-chain and a lot of tentacles feed into it.

Suggested by Lucas Machias

Fine Art Tuesday


Our First Restoration
Charles Freitag was born in Iowa and is a hale and hearty 39-years-old.

All images reposted with permission and copies are for sale at the links beneath them.

Charles is very prolific. If you like what you see but it doesn't quite ring-the-bell, visit his site and see what else he painted.

Grandpa's Farm

Standing Tall

To Protect and Serve

End Rows

Resting Place

Working the Stalks

Monday, January 22, 2024

False Binary Choices: Part 2

Spurious detail creates unwarranted confidence

  "Sam has a quiet demeanor and was a good listener. He calmly folds his hands on his desk in front of him while listening. He wears eye-glasses with extra-large lenses and thick, black rims. At home, he favors Argyle socks and old, comfortable cardigans. Sam cares about the environment. He once sold a cat-carrier to his next-door neighbor for $20 and laboriously filled out a bill-of-sale."

The previous paragraph is the kind of "description" authors insert right before or after introducing a new character. 

The characteristics in the paragraph convey NO INFORMATION about Sam's profession. Regardless, you will have much more confidence if I inform you that Sam is a librarian or an accountant. EVEN THOUGH he could just as easily be a cop or a brick-layer or a hit-man for the mob.

Bayes' theorem informs us that each incremental piece of information contributes decreasing amounts of "confidence" (as a mathematician would define it) to a body of information or its ability to support a hypothesis.

Bayes' theorem is powerful because the human mind does not process that way. If the additional piece of data supports our hypothesis it is grossly over-weighted and if the data contradicts our hypothesis then it is ignored.

The author of the article referenced yesterday lamented the "certainty" and "confidence" created by false, binary choices even though the peer-reviewed literature is filled with cautions about misplaced confidence in sophisticated analysis.

Case One: A large automaker purchased sophisticated software in the mid-1980s to process strain-gage data. The software offered several calibration options, from "linear" to fit-with 5th-order-polynomial.

The engineer in charge decided that 5th-order-polynomials HAD to be better than simple linear (which is what the company had been using, successfully, for 40 years).

After six months of data collection and processing, somebody printed out a one of the calibration curves and looked at it. It looked like a snake with several concave-ups and concave-downs. There was no plausible, physical reasons for that degree of curvature.

The program was restarted and suddenly became a very expensive "crash program" that ran on overtime and caffeine because it was six months behind.

Case Two: A major newspaper wrote a huge series on various school districts in the Detroit area and their results on the Michigan Educational Assessment Tests. They grade the school districts based on whether they outperformed the computer predictions or under-performed them.

At the end of the article they listed the variables that were used. The weightings on the variables were derived by "regressing" data from the previous year against student scores.

A partial list of the variables:

  • Percent single-parent homes
  • Average income
  • Percent rental housing
  • Percent subsidized lunches
  • Percent students who identified as "minorities"
  • Drop-out rate 
  • Percent students taking College Entrance tests
  • Crime rate
  • Funding per-student
  • Teacher-student ratio
  • Percent of teachers with advanced degrees

If you look at those variables you might assume that they VARY together. That is, they are manifestations of a common cause(s).

One quirk of "regression" or curve-fit software is that factors with low correlation with the results will often have HUGE weighting factors while factors with high correlation will have more modest weights. That means that noise in the factors with less correlation will have a disproportionate impact on predictions.

There can also be "perverse" weights. For example, a very high drop-out rate will remove the least capable students and can be expected to raise standardized test scores relative to the actual population of students who started their educational career in that school-district. The percent students who took college entrance exams (ACT, SAT) can function in the same way. All the administration must do to "outperform relative to prediction" is to tell their least motivated students that the test is for college entrance and they are excused not attend school that day. 

Case Three: Robyn Dawes was a professor at Carnegie-Melon University and he wrote a brilliant paper on "The Robust Beauty of Improper Linear Models in Decision Making" (behind paywalls)

He evaluates the results of computer models where the weightings (which were between the values of -1 and 1 and listed with two-digits of precision) were replaced with the equivalent of -1, 0, 1.

Since multiplying any variable with "0" makes it disappear, the model becomes binary...either -1 or 1 being assigned to each variable. If it is important then it either pushes or pulls.

Professor attributes the concept to Benjamin Franklin who recommended that decision makers take a sheet of paper and draw a line down the center. On one side of the line write down all of the reasons why you should decide in favor and on the other side write down all of the reasons why you should decide against.

Whichever column is longer wins.

So Robyn Dawes wrote a paper suggesting that "Improper Linear Models", i.e. binary models, can run neck-and-neck with far more sophisticated, more expensive, slower models.

A question

So who has the unwarranted confidence? The people who believe in "False Binary Choices" or the people who navigate in a foggy landscape cluttered with spurious data trying to decide between a continuum of subtle, shifting shades of gray?

Sunday, January 21, 2024

"False Binary Choices"

A friend sent me an email recently and linked to an article in a magazine like The New Yorker or Atlantic. The author of the article was wringing his/her hands over the rise of right-wing populism.

The writer then went on to dissect what they perceived to be the "pathology" of populism.

"False Binary Choices"

One of the writer's key points is that we face very sophisticated and confounded and interlocking problems. The writer claims that right-wing populists present "false binary choices" that serve to give followers false confidence.

The writer undoubtedly typed the article on a computer workstation. They used a word-processor with spell-check and grammar aid software. Then emailed the article to their editor over the internet. After being published, 90% of the readers accessed the article on-line and read it on their hand-held super-computers. The check to the writer was delivered digitally to their bank-account which was a bunch of zeroes-and-ones stored on a cloud somewhere.

The supreme irony that the massively sophisticated arrangement that allowed the writer to compose an article about the deficiencies of binary-thinking, and then distributed to article to readers who uncritically accepted the writer's starting assumptions was flawlessly enabled by systems that run and communicate at the "binary" level never entered the writer's thoughts.

So may I be so bold as to suggest that the writer's starting premise, that sophisticated and confounded problems cannot be addressed with a series of "binary" decisions is patently false and poisons everything else they wrote?

Saturday, January 20, 2024

I loath election years

I loath election years. (in my best Gollum voice) "I hates them, I do!"

I vow to take better care of myself. Right now, that looks like I need at least two hours a day, outside, moving. Walking/running/hunting/fishing/gardening/whacking the heads off of dandelions....are all great ways to sublimate stress.

I would also like to lose 30 pounds. At one pound a week that puts me near the end-of-July to hit that goal.

The bottom-line for you, gentle readers, is that my writing output will drop tremendously. You have the chance to turn it into something positive. Take the three or five minutes you would have spent reading my blog and practice throwing rocks or building campfires or trying out your new bullwhip or cast-net or shooting your pellet gun.

If those sound too arduous, then hug and kiss your wife for three minutes. Just remember to breath breathe.

Taylor Swift and Tribalism


Burger King is introducing a new version of their iconic "Whopper" called the Taylor Swift. It comes with no buns, very little meat and a pimento.

And, in other news...

In one of those headlines that makes me go "Huh?", the Daily Mail reports that "black" students (and what is with the lower-case "b"?) and Somalian students had a race riot in Minnesota. I thought Somali people were "(b)Black".

For those who are unclear on where Somalia is:

Africa. Yellow shaded region is the Sahara Desert. Country circled in red is Somalis. Immediately below Somalia is Kenya, home of Barack Obama's father. Barack Obama, you will remember, was the United States' first Black President.

Of course, it makes sense if you remove the now ubiquitous (and therefore meaningless) word "race" and insert "Tribal".

Groups at the bottom of the economic ladder have always displayed the most vigorous tribalism. The new immigrant Irish in the 1870s felt pressured by freed Blacks from the south. Immigrants from eastern-Europe (called Hunkies back in the day) were pressured by Italians and Blacks and Hispanics and so-on and so-forth.

The root-cause of the competition at the bottom of the economic ladder is that unskilled-labor is a commodity. The color of the guy at the end of the shovel doesn't matter and a wave of people coming into the country who are willing to work just a little-bit-cheaper is a HUGE threat to your upward mobility. That was the old model.

The cynics will say that the new "industry" for the people at the bottom of the economic ladder is to vote every two years and to riot when they are told to.

You can make a case that tribalism still exists higher up the economic food-chain but that it is not as overt. Economic advantage is gained or denied in less kinetic ways at those levels, a whispered innuendo, an unsubstantiated allegation or the insertion of corrupted data in a file.

Friday, January 19, 2024

Sports Illustrated laying off most of their staff

Trans-gender on cover of 2021 Swimsuit issue "Opening eyes, Speaking truths, Changing minds"

 Legacy Media giant Sports Illustrated laying off most of their staff.

You can only ignore the preferences of your paying customers for so long before they start ignoring you.

I have no glee in sharing this. I rode-the-avalanche while working for a domestic automaker. There are very few winners when a company implodes.

A very smart person learns by watching what happens to others.

Most of us have to experience pain once to learn a lesson.

Pirated image of the 2024 Swim Suit Issue cover model

Stupid people must get kicked by the mule several times before they figure things out which end to respect.

Maybe those journalists can be trained to "code" or to shoot Javelin missiles at Ruskie tanks.

Of course...AI can also code and shoot missiles, so there is that.