Thursday, February 29, 2024

Saw-buck (for cutting firewood)


The legs of the "X" with their tops on the right side of the pivot were cut on-the-angle to lower the lift-height from the loading/cutting side. The tips were then bobbed to make it less stabby. The cut is about 22 degrees from horizontals sloping toward the "crotch" of the "X".

Our fireplace insert does best with 15" long sticks.

Today I fabricated a folding sawbuck with four "X" vertical supports. I went with four so I could have them 15" apart so I could use the uprights as visual guides.

I say it is a folding sawbuck but I used some deck-screws as construction aids to hold the two members of the X at exactly 90 degrees from each other. Then the two, horizontal stringers (2"X6"s) are stops for the legs of the X when they are unfolded.

The pivots are 4" long, 3/8" galvanized carriage bolts.

Since I don't have to move it very far, I left the construction-aid deck-screws in place for stability.

I could have made it a little bit taller. The top of a 6" round is about 34" above ground. The other side of the coin is that the higher the  X, the higher the sawyer must lift the log to put it into position.

Not my very best work but certainly not my worst.

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Very Confusing! (political)

I once had a boss named Ron L.V. who was brilliant but Machiavellian. He would ask us to do the strangest things. I eventually learned that he had some deep-seated need to manipulate people even if they would willingly do what he wanted if he simply asked them.

My relationship with Ron got much better when I learned to noodle-out what he wanted (his ultimate goal) and then to deliver it as quickly as possible. That freed me from the constant, tiny irritants of pointless directives. It was a relief to short-circuit the drama.

Looking at this story from the upsides and downsides for Trump, he cannot lose.

Hell will freeze over before a guy like Trump will win Illinois's electoral votes in the general so he has almost zero downside.

The move is likely to galvanize his base and many of the undecideds, especially those who are following the Colorado case in the Supreme Court. Many Blacks are looking at the repeated attempts to railroad Trump and saying "Hey, I know what THAT feels like."

Looking at the story from the perspective of the Judge in Cook County, either she is a closet Trump fan who is playing 3-D chess or she is a moron who is trying to impress her chardonnay-sipping, Cook County cronies.

People who are doing this have no sense of perspective and obviously never played "The Prisoner's Dilemma".

Grab bag

From Anonymous "Wait. Where is the story of the wedding?"

In this particular branch of the Danube Swabians, weddings are a proclamation before God and his people of your intention to live as husband-and-wife for the rest of your lives.

The D.S. also believe that God watches us all the time and we should always say "Yes" when we mean "Yes and "No" when we mean "No" and not embellish. The modern wedding comes across as "Well, I really mean it...this time... See, I brung witnesses even though I had to bribe them with a prime-rib dinner and an open bar."

And even though weddings are a happy time, extravagant celebrations are seen as being very self-centered "Look at me, look at me, look at me!!!!", much like wearing flashy or ostentatious clothing or taking pictures of yourself.


The kid I was cutting brush with yesterday came down with a case of the Johnny-trots today. He called and said that he was falling asleep on the toilet.

That seems to be one of the common forms of Covid in the strain that is prevalent locally. Probably a flip-of-the-coin that I get it. I spent 90 minutes in a vehicle with him.

Lovely. Absolutely lovely. And this too will pass. That which does not kill us makes for great blog posts.

Whitmer as Biden's VP?

Chlamydia Harris is a sea-anchor for the Biden campaign. Gavin Sputum adds nothing to the ticket, Biden would carry California as an embalmed corpse. Michigan is still considered a swing state.

Whitmer term-limits out in two years. Ironically, she might be a more solid choice for securing the "Black" vote. Her face has been compared to Michael Jackson's (singer) late-in-life face more than once.

If Biden strokes-out and does a face-plant en-route to ambient temperature, would the VP side of the ticket automatically ratchet up?

Thunder and lightning

We had a lightning storm roll through last night.

Zeus, our German Shepherd never used to be bothered by them. But then Hercules died and Zeus became the senior partner.

I slept part of the night on the couch. With great powers comes great responsibility.

After the storm-front passed through, I returned to my normal sleeping arrangements.

Mrs ERJ woke up later in the night. I must have left the gate to the basement open because that is where he was found.

Annual physical

I have my yearly physical tomorrow. I went in for blood work and had the result mailed to me so I would not go into the physical cold.

By some quirk, the lipids panel was missing from what was mailed to me.

All of the out-of-range items had explainable causes. I have a genetic condition where my bilirubin is high which explains my stylish yellow-green complexion. I also have slightly higher levels of some enzymes related to bone growth, undoubtedly due to my accident two years ago. And for some reason, my monocytes have been just a freckle above the normal range.

Of course, if I feel ill tomorrow, I will ask for a reschedule of my physical. I do not what to make the Old Curmudgeon sick. He is good people.

Roger is a genius

Roger is a reader who comments fairly frequently. He has been a carpenter for 40 years and lived/worked in the mid-Atlantic and on the West Coast.

Off-and-on he owned rental property. Disgusted by how long it took the legal system to boot bad tenants, he figured out a way to "encourage" bad tenants to find housing elsewhere.

He keeps the water-bill in his name. When the tenant starts trashing the house or giving him hard-luck stories instead of the full rental payment, he turns off the water.

Let's read between the lines. He might go to the Board of Water and Light and direct them to turn off the water. They might get to it in a week. The tenant might see them doing it and convince them to stop.

OR, maybe  Roger has a sillcock key and knows where the shut-off valve is. Sometimes it is part of the meter. At mom-and-dads, there was a bronze trap-door cast into the concrete of the sidewalk. Maybe Roger puts in his order to shut off the water and when the crew shows up...days...weeks later they find it is already shut-off.

You cannot do that with electricity (the other major utility) unless you are an electrician. But you don't need to be a plumber or pipefitter to turn a sillcock key.

Roger, you are a genius!!!!

Sally gets in a Tussle (Cumberland Saga)

Lliam was bunking with a friend and Mary was spending the week with Sig and Ellie while Blain “settled into” Sarah’s house.

He continued to work during the days although he took long lunches back at the house.

Consequently, he was there when Sally drove his battered, old truck up the driveway to drop off groceries.

That was an unusual occurrence. Usually Sally dropped them off a the turn-around at the bottom of the drive, just off of the public road.

Blain recognized the rattle-and-wheeze of Sally’s old truck and since he was just getting ready to rejoin the crew cutting trees to extend the pasture, he stepped out to see what Sally was up to.

“Holy crap, Sally! What happened to you?” Blain said as Sally opened the driver’s door and stepped out.

Sally had a split lip and his left eye had evidence that he would soon be sporting a magnificent shiner.

“I got in a tussle” is all he shared.

Blain frowned. He knew Sally did not give his patronage to bars since they were expensive and Sally had a steady source of home-made liquid-goods. He also knew that Sally was affable and was nearly always able to talk his way through any kind of difficulty.

“How’d that happen?” Blain wanted to know.

“First, I gotta have you fish alla yer groceries outa the back of the truck and tick them off the list. I dunno if maybe some of them got stolen, and it ain’t like I'm seein’ too good with one eye swellen shut and the other sorta teary…” Sally said.

Soon, Blain was joined by Sarah and Ellie and they worked as a team. Blain doing the lifting, Sarah reading off the contents of each bag and Ellie ticking off the items. While they were working, Sally regaled them with the tale of his sorry escapade.

“I was on the way back from Athens when I stopped at that grab-n-go on Twenny-Seven to git a slushy of Mountain Dew” Sally said. “A man’s gotta stay hydrated, ya know.”

Ellie and Sarah nodded. The grab-n-go had been on the south side of Dayton since forever.

“So I come out, drinking my slurshy when I sees these two wimmen pullin stuff outa the back-a my truck. I go over to ask them real polite-like to stop and they started whalin’ on me” Sally said in amazement. “Spilt my slurshy, too.”

Sally went on to bemoan the indignity of wearing Mountain Dew. Wasn’t no way he was going to be able to ‘splain to his wife he was drinking coke, him having “sugar” and all. Not only had he gotten a physical beating, he was gonna get a tongue lashing when he got home.

“Looks like it is all here” Ellie said in a businesslike way.

“Yah, I din’t think they woulda taken any of your stuff. Ain’t like a meth-head is gonna haul off ten-pound bags of flour” Sally said.

Ellie’s ears perked up. “You reckon they are meth-heads?”

“Yup. I could smell it. Somebody nearbye is cookin’” Sally said.

Ellie frowned. That was bad news.

“Kinda surprised, actually” Sally said. “Last I heard it was a lot cheaper to smuggle it in from Mexico than to cook it up here.”

“Its a money-maker for the Cartels” Sally explained. “They might transfer it from one vehicle to another out here but they do their warehousin’ and most of their distribution in the city.”

“Somebody cookin’ meth up here is prolly a freelancer and the Cartel takes a mighty dim view of freelancers” Sally concluded.

Sarah said to Sally “Give me your shirt. I can rinse it out. You will be more comfortable that way.”

“Mighty obliged, Miss Sarah. Mighty obliged” Sally said.

That night the adults had a pow-wow on Sig’s patio. The main topic of conversation was the possibility of a meth operation in the neighborhood. They had chosen Copperhead Cove because it was remote and completely off the radar screens of any authorities. Unfortunately, that made it ideal for cookin’ meth.

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Cutting Multiflora Rose is bloody business

I think I traumatized an impressionable young man.

We were cutting multiflora rose. Some of the colonies were probably a decade old.

Our plan was to use about 50' of 2", yellow tow-strap to lasso the top of the bush and have the young fellow pull it toward him. Then I would cut the base of the plant.

We opted for that division of labor because the young nipper outweighs me by about 100 pounds and can really lean into the tow strap.

I used a bill-hook and was whaling away at the stems. Fear not, the rose bushes were getting their revenge on my back-stroke. The backs of my hands were getting perforated.

Some of my readers may take a low-dose aspirin a day. Those of you who do, realize that when you get a hole poked in your skin you leak for a longer period of time before it stops of its own accord.

So, there I was, huffing-and-puffing like a steam engine. I was wearing my winter work-parka for protection and that was making me run-hot as we worked in the sun. We were making pretty good progress considering our 1880 technology when....the impressionable young fellow caught sight of my hands.

Game over! He was all done. "I ain't callin' yer wife and telling her that I killed ya"

I tried to tell him that teenage girls cry easy and old men have leaky skin but it was a hard no-go.

We will hit it again tomorrow. I plan to take loppers and a tree-trimmer on a pole. Maybe I can reach into the tangle and cut the canes. I CAN use herbicide and probably will to control resprouting.

This is one time when a tractor would be a Godsent. I heard that multiflora rose isn't too hard to yank-out using logging chain wrapped around the base of the colony.


The case for unexpected, rapid deflation runs something like this.

The total market capitalization for "debt" in the United States is approximately $90 trillion or to make the number more comprehensible, $820,000 per household.

The total market capitalization for "equities" in the United States, that is, stocks is approximately $50 trillion or $454,000 per household.

The total market capitalization for "commercial real-estate" in the United States (apartment and office buildings) is approximately $180,000 per household.

If the specter of the Covid-19 response is resurrected when owners of commercial real-estate were not allowed to enforce rental agreements, that is, renters could continue to inhabit the space without paying rent...and if jurisdictions required the owners to continue to pay taxes like they did during Covid...then there will be a massive rush to liquidate those holdings and move those funds into equities and bonds.

One wild-card is a recent precedent that some jurisdictions will prosecute owners if they do not instantly mark-to-market using the lowest possible assessment. That will gut property owners' access to the credit market because they will not be able to offer the property as collateral for loans. They will be unable to finance even minor expenses like maintenance in the face of non-payment of rent by tenants and/or increased work-from-home pressures.

Commercial real-estate will be seen as a toxic investment to be divested at any loss. Think Love Canal, Johns-Manville, J&J Baby Powder all rolled into one ball.

In a perfect world, the divestment would be orderly and assets could be moved to bonds and equities but it seems unlikely that it would be orderly. A loss of 2/3 of the value of commercial real-estate values would evaporate $14 Trillion out of the US economy.Evisceration of the commercial real-estate sector will taint the collateral held by commercial banks and tank the bond and derivative markets.

A point to consider is that most commercial real-estate is "leveraged" so risk is diluted but profits accrue to the partnership. During market downturns, that leverage works in reverse and clobbers partnerships. Evaporating value hammers the equity partners and the banks are protected until....the equity-partners stop making payments. Then it becomes the bank's problem.

Interest rates will skyrocket and credit will be locked-up as banks frantically increase their loan-loss reserves. The market-value of all housing will plummet. In 2008/2009 the banks muddled through by NOT marking-to-market (if they had they would have technically been bankrupt) but held onto the properties, whistling past the graveyard, until property values rebounded.

But now we have the precedent of aggressive prosecution of entities that do not instantly mark-to-market, again, not just the median estimate but the very lowest estimate. Violation of this new precedent exposes the business entity to punitive fines on the order of the entire value of the property in question.

The wealth effect (the halo that owning property that seems to appreciate in value) will evaporate and domestic spending will fall into the septic tank, impacting equities as demand for iPhones, Teslas, Chinesium trinkets on Amazon  hits the wall. Revenues of municipalities will plummet as home owners demanded that property taxes be adjusted for the new, much lower market-value of their homes.

The Chinese economy falls off a cliff and they start a hot-war with Taiwan and Vietnam.

Red. Hot. Mess.

Monday, February 26, 2024

Efficient Market Theory

Several members of the far-flung ERJ family are in the market for automobiles and smart-phones.

It tested my faith in The Efficient Market theory.

"The Efficient Market theory" contends that all information is available to enough parties at the same instance that all knowable information is instantly incorporated into the price for an item like a stock in the stock-market (or used automobiles or smartphones).

The strongest form of TEMT contends that even insider information is of limited value, unless of course, you are a member of Congress.

The crowd-sourcing effect of free-markets means that items with dimmer future-prospects are discounted relative to items with brighter future-prospects.

When the egg-heads who proposed this theory released their academic papers, some of the best people on Wall Street challenged them. "Let's have a competition. If you say throwing-darts is just as good as our stock-picking, then let's all chose 10 stocks and see where we are at the end of the year. You throw darts at a page from the Wall Street Journal and we will unleash our formidable analytical powers."

The two professors assembled ten portfolios of ten stocks each (by throwing darts) and the high-rollers from Wall Street also assembled ten portfolios. At the end of fifty-two weeks there were no clear winners or losers. The results were scrambled.

Well, they were "scrambled" until you backed out the brokerage fees the "shooters" would have charged clients. If you did that, throwing darts came out ahead.


All that is well and good, but emotions are at LEAST as powerful as analysis and rational thought.

When it really matters, even an attorney or accountant who graduated in the bottom 10% of their class is better than representing yourself...because they are FAR less likely to get emotionally engaged.

For better or for worse, various family members are making long-term commitments to various pieces of hardware.

Violence against churches more than quadrupled since 2020


A recent report indicates that the number of violent incidents reported at churches is escalating rapidly.

The most frequent type of violence is "Vandalism" with "Assaults" and "Arson" being the other high-runners.

Typing "Vandalism Church" into a search engine and hitting "News" suggests that most of the "perps" are habitual offenders. 


Historic church in Philly vandalized

At the risk of speculating, it appears that a person can destroy several thousands of dollars worth of property and it is still considered a misdemeanor and not worthy of any follow-up by the justice system.

Source in Colorado

New York. Aimed for neck, slashed jaw.

The New York perp lived in a homeless shelter.

If these articles are any indication, the perps have severe mental-health issues, are violent and resentful and are unemployed. And if I had to guess, many of them complete the losers' trifecta and have substance-abuse issues.

The current fad is to consider drug-abuse and public displays of mental-health issues to be "victimless crimes" and to not incarcerate. The opinion leaders pushing that agenda conveniently forget that incarceration involves "drying out" the perp, and treatment for their mental illness. It CAN be a new start for them.

So even though the explosive growth in violence against churches is easy to interpret as an extension of the Progressive Left's hate for religion, it seems to be more a result of the mass emptying of prisons and jails and of a foolish sense of "justice" rather than an attack choreographed by progressive ideology.


The high-brow language used to 'splain away the behaviors mirrors the old language but the response to the violence is 180 degrees different.

The new language includes phrases like "It is a cry asking for help" and "He is seeking limits" and "He needs concrete guard-rails to his behavior". And the response is to make an appointment for counseling at an out-patient clinic and then release the perp back into the wild. Of course, the perp never attends the counseling session.

The old language (and response) was more like "He was asking for an ass-kicking so Louis, Villie and Slugger gave him what he was asking for, a Hickory-Shampoo"

Irony Part II

The perps are damaging churches because churches are symbols of "limits" and the word "don't". Churches are symbols of the social order and the perps hate the social order because the perps are failures. It is easier for them to blame the social order than it is for them to look inward and make changes to themselves.

They also damage churches to get a reaction.

Other symbols of limits include cop-stations, courthouses, city-hall and people wearing judge's robes. They are all down-range of the churches. Won't the priestesses of progressive justice be surprised when their pet Gila Monsters and Wart Hogs turn on them?

Hat-tip to CoyoteKen

Sunday, February 25, 2024

Flying by instrument

If you don't trust your instruments, you should not leave terra firma. Thinking you are going to straddle the two you will end up in worse shape than the fellow who has one foot in the canoe and the other firmly planted on the boat dock.

So, there I was helping a buddy with a new firearm. While sighting it in, the fellow a few positions to the left very kindly offered to let us play with his new toy. I think maybe he was trying to amortize the cost by getting more use out of it. "Look, honey, I helped out a couple of hobos at the shooting range today..."

Bullets that were "expected" to have a muzzle velocity of 3100 fps were reported to have a muzzle velocity of 2750 fps. Bullets that were "expected" to have a muzzle velocity of 2700 fps had reported velocities of 2200 fps.

Results were replicated with a second chronograph. 

A second generation of load development (different smokeless propellant) produced a velocity of 2460fps with the same bullet that produced 2200fps in the first try. That load has promise.


It is widely accepted that reputable companies that publish reloading data use SAAMI standard test barrels that are cut with "maximum material, minimum clearance" chambers, throats and barrels. That is, the tightest chambers, the shortest throats, the steepest allowable leads and the minimum diameter barrels.

Safety over-rides all other considerations. The maximum powder weights listed in the manuals are under SAAMI standards for those one-in-a-thousand barrels. Because if a manufacturer makes 100,000 rifles, then 100 of those weapons will be TIGHTER, and have higher pressures than SAAMI standards.

There are "fast barrels" and "slow barrels". Fast barrels are closer to SAAMI minimum standards. Slow barrels have more generously cut chambers, longer free-bore (throat) and so on.

It appears that my friend has a barrel with very generously cut chamber and free-bore.

Pressure makes velocity and...

John Barsness, a better-than-average gun-writer claims that higher-than-expected velocities are evidence of higher-than-expected-pressures. A 30-06 load that might be expected to produce 2900fps but chrono-ed at 3100 fps has "issues". One reloader experienced this and after double-checking found out that he was using very hot Magnum primers and elderly, pull-down powders. Maybe not a great combination.

On the flip side, Barsness claims that if you are using a "canister grade" smokeless powder of recent manufacture from a reputable supplier and your velocities are very  consistently and significantly lower than published data, you can undoubtedly well below SAAMI published maximum pressures.

Range estimation

Humans suck at estimating range.

When LASER range-finders first became commercially available, they were incredibly expensive.

One gun-store in a western state (Wyoming?) had a display model. The store suggested that  customers estimate the distance from the front door of the gun-store to the flag-pole in front of City Hall. Most estimates ranged from 440 yards ( a 1/4 mile) to 1000 yards (almost a mile).

Please bear in mind that this was in a state of far horizons, pronghorn antelope and long shots.

Trusted patrons were allowed to step outside the door and "shoot" the flag-pole with the LASER range finder to test their judgement. It was 225 yards from the gun-store's front door.

Not believing that, many patrons paced off the distance and had to admit that the device was on-the-money. Who knew?

What that means is that very few mere-mortals (excluding Marines...and one can argue that they do not fall under the category "mere-mortal) will ever launch a bullet at a target more than 200 yards away. Maybe one-in-ten-thousand.

If you are following my logic, then the criteria for muzzle-velocity and maximum range becomes maximum-mid-range-deviation-from-line-of-sight of 2" and an impact velocity between 2800fps-and-2000fps to keep bullets in the sweet-spot for terminal ballistics.

Using that criteria, the 2200fps load drops below 2000fps at 125 yards and has a +/- 2" trajectory of about 185 yards. That makes it a 125 yard load.

Adding a puny 300fps (to 2500fps) stretches that to 225 yards for terminal ballistics and 200 yards for +/- 2" trajectory excursions.

To be excruciatingly explicit: at 2200fps, the load is the limiting a factor in how far proficient hunters can reach out and ethically harvest big-game animals. At 2500fps (77gr, 0.44 G1 BC) the shooter becomes the limiting factor in 9999/10,000 cases.

And, in all fairness, bow-hunters routinely harvest deer with arrows traveling at 300fps at ranges of less than 30 yards and thugs with knives and sharpened screwdrivers murder humans at much shorter ranges.

Saturday, February 24, 2024

A post about posts, wind, fruit trees, sprouts, wood-ashes-lime-and-grain

Mrs ERJ and I cut some Black Locust down for use as posts in our small orchard. We got eight posts out of one tree (splitting the first log into quarters and the second log into halves). We got four posts out of the other tree (first log into halves and then two more, 8' posts).

Why so many posts?

Our orchard is in a windy spot.

Elevation profile along a section in the direction of prevailing winds (left-to-right). Circled area is where our orchard is perched. The wind picks up speed across almost a half-mile of crop-land and our little postage-stamp of paradise sticks up like a flagpole in the wind.

Elevation is good for staying out of puddles of cold air which helps for frosts and winter damage. It is good for sun-exposure. It is bad for wind-whip and trees snapping off at the graft during windstorms.

Wind-whip triggers growth regulators that make the trunk get more girthy. That is why an oak in a dense forest is arrow straight and very slender while the same species in the middle of a field has a very broad trunk. The tree in the middle of the field is subjected to more flexing and the tree diverts more energy into wood growing the diameter of the trunk than extending upward.

A tree in an orchard is subjected to the same mechanism. A tree that is not supported will build girth. That is, it will invest calories into growing trunk. Sinking calories into the trunk delays fruiting and robs carbs (sugar) that could be increasing the quality of the fruit.

So, I am resigned to planting a stout post beside every orchard tree I plant  to limit wind-whip. Sometimes I get sloppy and the post is inadequate or it rots. Then I get a wind-storm and I get to replant trees. The kick in the head also has me inspecting the posts of the trees that did not blow down and replacing the ones that are puny.

This spring my plan is to plant six G-210 rootstock where I lost trees and graft them to Liberty (five trees) and Enterprise (one tree). I also have a P. cally pear rootstock planted where I lost a tree and it is penciled in to be grafted to Blake's Pride, a European pear cultivar that has modest vigor. I also have two persimmon seedlings that I intend to graft to Lehman's Pride. 

Additionally, I have a couple of apple trees of Nova Spy that I am flipping to Liberty. Nova Spy is absolutely delicious but it is not very productive for me and the fruit has been subject to bird and Japanese Beetle damage.


Radish spouts were the winner for speed with kale a close second. Two Tablespoons of seeds became over 10 ounces, by volume, of sprouts.

According to Mrs ERJ who is my gold-standard for taste testing, both radish and kale sprouts are very acceptable on cottage cheese/crackers. We decided on using cottage cheese as our test-bed.

Radish sprouts taste like radishes (duh!) and kale sprouts taste cabbage.

Lentils are completely out-pacing the garbanzo beans for speed. I do not have a taste-test report.

Pantry moths and grain storage

I ran across an idea that impressed me with the elegance of its simplicity: Grain stored in buckets can be protected from pantry moths and other insect pests with wood ashes or slaked lime. Note that it is key to thoroughly mix the grain and the ashes/lime.

It is important that the bucket have very tightly fitting covers to exclude moths that might attempt to enter the buckets and lay eggs because the caustic nature of the ashes/lime diminishes over time as it binds with carbon-dioxide. It kills the moths/eggs on the surface of the grain when stored but cannot be counted on to provide years of residual protection.

Friday, February 23, 2024

Dare I say "Better Days"?


Sipping from the Cup of Joy (Cumberland Saga)

Roger woke up barely able to move.

Roger informed Gregor of the problem when he showed up to get the money for the day’s supply of limestone.

“I musta pulled a muscle yesterday liftin’ them bags” Roger said.

“Yeah, and the dummy kept lift’n um too. Shoulda asked for help” Alice added.

“Can you drive the skid-steer” Gregor asked Roger.

“Yeah, I think so. I just can’t bend-over and pick stuff up” Roger replied. Roger knew that the whipping back-and-forth would still be a challenge but he could be gentle with the controls and minimize that.

Alice gave Roger a couple tablets of Ibuprofen. Roger found it more comfortable to stand and to walk around than to sit and drink his coffe.

“Gonna take me about an hour to run to the elevator and pick up the bags of limestone” Gregor told the elderly couple. “Keep walk’n around and see if your back loosens up. See if you can line up a couple of kids to help Roger.”

Unlike the city, in Copperhead Cove it was not the least bit unusual to see a couple of six or eight year-olds carrying a fifty-pound bags of chicken feed with one kid on each end of the bag. They might have to set it down once or twice if it was a long way from the trailer to the barn but they could get it there.

Gregor’s mind was racing. He was trying to visualize where he could stack the bags of lime on the loading dock where Roger could get to them with a skid-steer and the kids would be out of sight and out of harm’s way.

Alice had given him enough cash for another 30 bags of limestone.


Sig was also having a rough day.

Blain tapped him on the shoulder. “I need to have you take some breaks.”

“I’ll be fine” Sig grumped.

Blain could see that Sig was shoveling at about 80% the speed he had been shoveling the day before.

“Tell ya what” Blain offered. “Because we are only going to have five minutes of dead-time while Lliam is getting another load, I want you to take a five-minute break when the trailer is half empty.”

That is when Sig had been switching sides. He shoveled from the left side of the trailer for the first half and then switched to shoveling from the right side for the second half.

“That ain’t gonna empty the trailers any quicker” Sig said.

“I’ll cover ya. You hop down and get a drink of water and walk around a little bit. Maybe you will see something I am missing” Blain said.

Sig was still ambivalent.

“Look, I need to have you anchoring this team all day long. But I am not sure you are going to make it if you don’t take care of yourself. Think of it as setting an example for the rest of the shovelers” Blain said.

Sig grudgingly nodded his agreement, handed his shovel to Blain and hopped down out of the trailer.


Shortly before noon, a dump truck showed up to load manure at the chicken-farm’s loading dock.

Roger surrendered the skid-steer while the ten-yard truck loaded up.

Gregor showed up about ten minutes later to pick up another trailer. Seeing that there was going to be an “air bubble” in the supply, Gregor called Sally who informed Blain. Blain told each tractor driver to stop where they were and to break for lunch.

Gregor called Sally again when it looked like the dump-truck was almost full. Sally told Blain and Blain restarted the spreading. Much of the crew was still eating but there were enough who had finished early that they could start spreading while the others finished up.

The wind picked up in the afternoon as the storm approached. The shovelers could not loft the shovel-loads and so the swath of manure and bedding shrank from 35 feet across to 25 feet across. Attempts to toss the fertilizer farther sometimes resulted in the fluffy, poop-contaminated bedding blowing back into the face of the shovelers.

The tractors very precisely cut over to the two-track as they approached Constanze’s farm plots to avoid even driving across them. Then they drove onto the plot on the other side of Constanze’s. The word was out. If she was not there with a shovel and helping...then she was not going to get any fertilizer.

The storm held off until 4:30 but the crew scattered at 4:00 due to the increasing winds and the unseasonal rumble of thunder. Living atop a plateau, the folks of Copperhead Cove had a healthy fear of lightning strikes.


The next morning, Peggy and Judith knocked on Constanze’s door.

“What do you want” Constanze demanded, recognizing Peggy as the driver of the tractor who had witnessed her dust-up with Blain.

She did not recognize Judith. Judith was...well, she was invisible. Judith was small for her age and quiet. She tended to observe and not talk. In a group of three people, Judith is the one who was there but you could not recall that fact a day later.

“We came to tell you that we think you committed the sin of being a false witness when you called Miss Sarah a fornicator” Peggy said as Judith solemnly nodded her agreement.

“How dare you JUDGE me, you stupid children? Get off my porch before I take a broom to you” Constanze shrieked.

The two young women hurriedly beat their retreat.

A half-hour later, there was another knock on Constanze’s door. This time it was Peggy, Judith and Alice.

“What do you want?” Constanze said. Her voice was much friendlier than when she had addressed the two young women earlier.

Constanze was sure that if she played her cards right that she would be moving into Alice and Roger’s house as soon as they died or it became “too much for them”. It would be a magnificent step-up in her living quarters. Since that was her plan, she was leery of angering Alice even though she though Alice was a feeble old woman who was taking too long to die.

“I was informed by five witnesses that you accused Miss Sarah of fornicating” Alice spoke. “Is that something that you personally witnessed? Did you see it with your own eyes or hear the event with your own ears?”

Even though illicit sex happened in Copperhead Cove, it was almost impossible to keep a secret. Walls were thin and most people used outside privies so there were always people slipping around after dark to “relieve” themselves and would note any unusual traffic of men slipping in through doors where they had no legitimate business.

“I don’t need to. Any fool can see that they are doing it” Constanze stated. "I can tell by the way she clings to him."

“So you admit that you are making claims that will destroy Miss Sarah’s reputation and that you cannot substantiate those claims” Alice kept pushing.

“She destroyed her own reputation by the way she is socialized with that man” Constanze with a dismissive sneer.

“You refuse to repent?” Alice asked. Outwardly, Alice was as calm and as serene as a pond covered with lily-pads. 

Inside, Alice was seething. The entire community worked very hard to protect the virtue of young women like Peggy and Judith. It would all be undone if the young women believed that their reputations would not be defended by the communities, if everybody believed "they were doing it". If that were so, then why shouldn't they taste the joys of that cup?

“I have nothing to repent” Constanze declared. “Now if you busybodies will leave, I have a house to sweep.”

“Very well” Alice said. Turning to the girls she simply said “We tried.”


That Sunday, Constanze noticed that there were very few people heading to Sunday worship, a fact that she attributed to the continuing drizzle of rain.

Arriving at the home where the services were held, she tried the door and found it barred from the inside. Rattling the door and calling, she got no response from inside even though she could hear people inside the building.

She knocked on the door and still got no response.

Thinking back, not only were there fewer people walking to the Sunday service, there had been NO people walking there.

Going around to a window, thinking her calls could be heard there, she stopped as she heard Sig’s “church voice”...

“….and Brother Blain, do you come before this altar of your own free-will? Are you free in the eyes of God to take the hand of Sister Sarah in Holy Matrimony…”

Constanze ran off. She was being SHUNNED!!!

Dashing home, she saw a pile of bills beneath a rock on the corner of her porch. There was a page torn from a spiral notebook what was covered in writing in Alice’s hand. It was the page where Alice kept account of the monies Constanze saved with them.

The enormity of it pressed upon her. She had no friends. She had no family. She had no neighbors who she could pay and would work for her. She didn’t have an tools or a cow. It was as if she had become a ghost.

She had no choice. 

She had to move to town!

Thursday, February 22, 2024

"Game-keeper's" gun

"Game-keepers Guns"

Single-shot. Must disassembles to reload. Weighs three-pounds and shoots a 16 gauge shell. Disassembles into three, smaller parts.

An unusual set of specifications for a "Game-keepers" gun but not unusual for a poacher's gun.

At three pounds it has a ferocious recoil. It is entirely possible that "in-the-day" the poacher game-keeper reloaded his own shells with blackpowder. Typical BP shotgun loads typically ran 950fps-to-1050fps and ran very low pressure. The "kick' would have been a bit less fearsome and it would have been plenty powerful enough to mow-down rabbits or a row of pigeons sitting on a power-wire.

Image from HERE. Lower pressures results in rounder shot and better patterns. It also means your cottage-industry shotgun is less likely to explode in your hands.

The slow rate-of-fire is a feature, not a bug. Ragnar Benson in his book on Survival Poaching informs us that the sound of the first shot alerts people. It is the second shot that let's them locate where you are. In other words, the second shot is the one that gets you caught.

The closest firearm to this one that is currently sold is a 20 gauge single-shot at 4 pounds, 11 ounces.

Hat-tip to Lucas

Quicksilver update

She is back. We are watching her. She was gone for six weeks so there is a little bit of getting re-acquainting going on. I had to make a third burrito for lunch because she helped me so much with my first two at lunch today.

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Do you feel empowered by "technology"?

Mrs ERJ is in the throes of switching from a high-cost mobile carrier to a much, much lower cost carrier.

The first carrier she attempted to migrate to said they supported her phone...but then back-pedaled when they saw it was the GZ version (GZ in 8-point-font).

The second carrier she attempted to migrate to lost her messaging apps. I suspect there was an operating system download that corrupted her native one as multiple icons "print" on her screen on top of each other.

Mrs ERJ is the picture of serenity. Better her than I.

Meanwhile, I sit in my recliner and fiddle with bits of brass, swaging and chamfering and such. The "new" tech bits of brass I was fiddling with today were last updated in 1963 and 1957. I am not too worried about them becoming in-op due to unrequested operating system downloads.

Is NYC starving yet?

Reader "Michael" commented:

Well, it's Tuesday so has anybody in NYC reported any discomfort yet? I'm pretty sure the mass media will not report it until it's three days ripe.

Any brave NJ readers available to do a research run into NYC?

Being curious, I dipped into the internet and saw that NYC was ALREADY experiencing food-shortages BEFORE the so-called trucker boycott.

This article from two-weeks ago informs us that NYC's Education system supplies about 900 thousand free meals a day to NYC students. That is one meal for every student. Great way to raise socialists: They give us food because we are poor and we NEED it. Even greater way to raise fans of the free-market, the most popular foods are unavailable but "Vegan Nuggets" are still available.

A $60 million November cut to the Education Department’s school foods division forced the agency to chop a number of popular items, including cookies, bean and cheese burritos, and roasted chicken, Chalkbeat first reported last month. Middle and high schools with cafeterias that resemble food courts lost chicken tenders, French fries, burritos, and grab-and-go salads

Socialism is awesome until you run out of other people's money.

As a frame-of-reference, 14% of Michigan Students are identified as "Special Ed". 13% of Detroit students are identified as "Special Ed".

Shortage of food in Bronx

Migrant benefits compared to SNAP benefits for citizens

Another story from the Bronx (Occasional-Cortex's district)

My take-away is that the Socialists are doing a fine job destroying the delivery system. Maybe it is OK if truckers pull-back from the boycott. Better that the issue not be confounded. Better that there should be no other parties in-play that the Socialists can blame.

After Action Report (Cumberland Saga)

The sun was a fading, orange ball on the western horizon when Sig looked at Blain and raised his eyebrows in an unspoken question. The trailer was empty.

Like Blain, Sig only had a few quick bites to eat for lunch. Unlike Blain, Sig had been relentlessly burning four-hundred Calories an hour for the last ten hours.

Blain drew his fore-finger across his throat in the universal signal “We are done.”

Sig banged his shovel against the back of Lliam’s seat. When Lliam looked back, Sig repeated Blain’s signal. Lliam nodded in agreement. As much as he liked driving a tractor, ten hours is a long day for a 14-year-old.

Peggy saw Lliam turn toward the barn with Sig still riding in the trailer. She had not quite caught up to Lliam but she was close, oh, so very close. Finishing this load would put her slightly ahead of Lliam...but then she would be done, too.

Peggy nodded to Blain as he walked toward her to give her the news. She wanted  to let him know that she had seen his signal to Sig. There was no reason for Blain to walk a single step more than necessary. Peggy had seen that he had been on his feet the entire day. He even took turns shoveling when there were lulls or air-bubbles in number of volunteers showing up.

It had been a very long day for all parties concerned.

Blain trudged toward the barn where Roger housed the tractor and got there just as Sig got out of the trailer. It was clear that he was stiff and sore from the exercise he had demanded of his shoveling muscles.

Sig said, in a gruff voice “I would like it if you and Sarah came over after dinner. We can sit on the patio and talk about what we need to do tomorrow.”

Blain nodded. All he wanted to do was to eat dinner and crash, but if Sig wanted to chit-chat...well, Blain figured he could sleep with his eyes open.

Dinner was a quick throw-together of cold cornbread and beans. Then Sarah and Blain hustled over to Sig’s.

Sig was in his rocking chair, smoking his pipe. Gregor was smoking a cigar...Blain didn’t even know that he smoked, but he should have been able to guess. Alice of Roger-and-Alice was there. Alice informed them that Roger had a strained back so she was attending in his stead. Sig indicated the chairs where Blain and Sarah could sit. Sig handed him a pipe and said “This en’s yers.” It was already charged with a modest load of tobacco.

Blain’s mind raced ahead. There was NO WAY Sig could have heard about his losing his temper with Constanze. Unless Sig was playing three-dimensional mind-games, the pipe was a conciliatory gesture and Blain felt obliged to indulge.

Which he did. He was more cautious about pulling in the smoke and the warming calmness was a gentle rush.

Sig started out, “Proper prior planning prevents piss-poor performance.”

Gregor grunted. It was not the first time he had heard this.

“Sally said the storm is expected to hit about 4:00 tomorrow afternoon” Gregor volunteered.

Blain leaned back and looked at the smoke drifting up in an arrow-straight shaft from the bowl of his pipe before breaking into curls and loops. “We got about a third of the plots fertilized” he said.

Sig nodded. That is about what he had figured. 

Gregor added "We are about out of limestone. I gotta get some more but I can do tomorrow before the sun rises."

Then looking over at Alice "Is there money for that?"

"I can git ya some. See me in the mornin'. We will be up early" Alice said.

Blain was figuring out that Roger-and-Alice were the equivalent of a small bank.

“Any way we can speed up spreading the fertilizer?” Sig asked.

Gregor volunteered “We had a steep learning-curve this morning. We will come out of the starting-blocks a lot quicker tomorrow.”

There was some truth to what Gregor said. The morning was more than half gone before they got the second tractor on-line.

Blain rolled over in his mind possible solutions. There wasn't room for more than four shovelers on a trailer but maybe a fifth shoveler working from the back? It would be a filthy job in the slip-stream of the other shovelers and he wasn’t sure it would actually empty the trailer any quicker.

“I just wish there was a way to not lose 20 minutes when Lliam and Peggy have to go to get another trailer” Blain blurted out.

Gregor looked at him as if he was daft. “There is. Don’t you remember? If we had another trailer then I could have one staged at the turn-around.”

Blain looked confused.

Gregor explained. “The way it works now, Lliam or Peggy shows up with an empty trailer. They have to unhook it. I have to hook it up to my truck. I drive the 2.3 miles to the chicken-farm and Roger dumps a load of manure into the trailer. I drive back to the end of the driveway. I unhook the trailer. Lliam or Peggy has to hook it up and then drive to the field before you can start spreading.’

Blain was tired. His mind was not as sharp as it usually was.

“I don’t see why another trailer would help. Can you draw me a picture?” Blain said. He had enough trust in Gregor to know that Gregor would not make sport of him.

“If we had a third trailer, I could have it filled and waiting for him at the end of the driveway. Heck, I know how high his ball-hitch is. I could have the tongue of the trailer a couple inches higher. He can back up, I can drop the tongue and throw the dogs and he would be on his way in less than half a minute.” Gregor said.

Alice, Sarah, Sig, Blain and Gregor contemplated the possibility of each tractor going from spreading fertilizer from 40 minutes on the hour to 55 minutes.

Blain was the first to break the silence. “Sally has another trailer but the tires don’t hold air.”

Gregor said “Flat tires can be fixed. What size wheels and tires?”

Blain was embarrassed. Lliam would have known the answer but it wasn’t something Blain ever thought would be important. “I don’t know” he admitted.

Gregor looked over at Sig, his dad. “Do I have your permission to call Sally and ask him?

“As long as you don’t send no pictures and you don’t dawdle with unnecessary small-talk” Sig said.

Gregor rolled his eyes. “This is Sally that I will be talking to. It ain’t like its possible to have a short conversation with him.”

Sig sighed “Whatever. Just be as short as you can.”

Ten minutes later, Gregor had ascertained that Sally’s trailer with the leaking tires took 8-bolt, Chevy rims and yes, such rims and tires were available in the Cove. He had also negotiated the use of the third trailer in exchange for replacing the leaking tires-and-rims with good ones.

“How did you know we have those rims?” Blain asked.

“The van you are living in, what make and model is it?” Gregor asked.

“Its a 3500 Chevy Express, why?” Blain asked.

“How many bolts to the wheels on your van take?” Gregor asked.

“I dunno” Blain said, feeling stupid. “Eight?”

“Yup!” Gregor said.

“Rather than keep ya-all waiting in the morning, I figure I will go over and change out the wheels and tires tonight” Gregor said. "That's what lights are for."

Blain started to stand up “I’ll come with you”

Sarah laid her hand on Blain’s arm.

Gregor said “Nope. I got this.” and walked out of the circle of light.

Sarah then said to Blain “Will you walk me home?”

As they were leaving the patio, Alice saw Sarah reach out and slide her hand into Blain’s. He reciprocated, entwining his fingers with her's.

Looking over at Alice who was still seated even though the meeting was clearly over, Sig asked “What is on your mind?”

Alice had hardly said a word during the meeting.

“Something you need to know about” Alice said. “I had five young ladies in my kitchen tellin’ me a story...

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Why does society tolerate bullies?

From the comments:

It seems quite incongruous that a woman (Constanze) of that temperment and language would be tolerated in the Cove. Yet she is and has been.
What's the angle? She own the land or sumpin?

It is a mystery why people like that are tolerated anywhere and yet, as Old NFO observed, there is at least one in every group.

Her character is interesting enough that it merits some discussion.


First, I want to talk about the community of Copperhead Cove.

Copperhead Cove resembles an 1800's fishing or whaling village, a 1930's small, rural town or a contemporary village in the mountains of Guatemala or Honduras. Lots of kids. Many women of all ages. Very few men of working age at home at any given time. A sprinkling of very old men.

Because most of the inhabitants of the settlement are young, the people like Constanze have always been there, like gravity or the mountains behind the village.

Everybody grew up accepting what appears to be the reality of "There are rules for everybody but Constanze." For the older people, they had their own "Constanze" to deal with...perhaps one of her parents or grandparents.

Constanze is in her forties and is married. Her husband sends a little bit of money every month but only spends four-or-five nights a year with her because she drives him away. They have no children.


Tribes operate on a loose transactional basis. Members have responsibilities and members have privileges. I chose the word "loose" because the transactions are not tightly tied together in time or in proportion.

I might supply another member of my tribe with tomato seedlings in the spring and get some homemade spaghetti sauce in September. I might graft some apple seedlings in the fence-row beside their alfalfa field and get an invitation to shoot does out of that same field in November. It is not negotiated ahead of time. It is just that when there is a surplus of SOMETHING, that surplus is offered to the closest members of your tribe first.

Relatively speaking, Constanze is rich in cash. She hires out a lot of work. Roger and Alice have a lot of equipment. They loan it out to trusted people and they are never hungry. People like interacting with Roger and Alice. They do not like working for Constanze but they are constrained by the rules of the tribe.

Constanze has been trading on the "loose" part of the tribal economy, harvesting the privileges and shirking the responsibilities part. 


Bullies navigate through life "victim-testing".

They isolate intended victims and launch a harpoon and wait for a reaction. The harpoons are often ambiguous enough that some part of it might catch and cause a reaction. If the bully gets a reaction that makes them feel powerful, over time they continue to launch harpoons seeking larger reactions.

Every victim feels like they are the only one. Bullies learn to perpetuate that illusion. Victims feel like they cannot report the bully's behavior because bullies take great care to avoid witnesses and if the victim (rightfully) believes that he-said-she-said will be dismissed.

People with Borderline Personality Disorder are bullies on steroids. They wrap around their intended victim like a boa constrictor and isolate them from the world. Then, after the victim has no independent ties to "reality", the BPD sufferer sucks the victim dry, psychically using the same harpoon methods.

Constanze, specifically

Constanze is a rage-filled person and her days in the Cove are numbered.

Over the years, she succeeded in driving other members of the tribe out of Copperhead Cove. They just got tired of dealing with her attacks. Some of them will be coming back due to the economic troubles, older, wiser and more powerful. They will be bringing other people with them, non-tribe members who will not give Constanze a free-pass to behave the way she had.

Constanze screwed up. Blain was the first of the non-tribe members she had to deal with. She sensed that Blain was a threat because he was not yet conditioned to accept her dominance.

Blain came from an environment that was rich in people like Constanze. He was conditioned to hyper-react to her victim-testing strategy. That enraged her because she had never encountered it before. Her rage blinded her to the fact that there were five young-people with impeccable hearing eves-dropping on her attacks.

Fine Art Tuesday


Vladimir Volegov born 1957 in Russia and currently lives in Spain.

Famous for his paintings of fully clothed, attractive women.

Monday, February 19, 2024

A request to my readers: NYC Food Panic?

It is reported that some over-the-road truckers will refuse to take loads to New York City. I have no first-hand knowledge of the situation and have no way to verify the scope of the boycott so I choose to not post any details. You all have search engines.

My request is for the addresses of "feeds" or videos that post images of bodegas and neighborhood grocery store shelves in New York City. 

From an academic standpoint, the items/shelves that are depleted first and how quickly they are depleted are important. Prices are of secondary interest. Even if the grocery stores do not raise prices "players" will buy up the entire supply and then "scalp" as people panic when confronted with evidence of the shortage.

Maybe there will be no panic. Maybe the trucker's boycott is all bark and no bite. On the other hand, it might be a trial-run for events we will experience sometime in the future.

Snakes in Eden (Cumberland Saga)

Blain was boggled by the sheer “social” nature of work being done by the people shoveling chicken-shit.

It was an unquestioned article-of-fact among the groups he had hung-out with after leaving college that all work was coercive and exploitive, that it was impossible for the working class to know “joy”.

And yet nearly everybody was chatting up a storm. Boys and girls were flirting. Nobody was working THAT hard...except for Sig. It was more like a three-legged-race at a picnic or watching the girl’s, high-school track-team yucking-it-up at practice.

Of course every family sent volunteers to shovel shit when the trailer was traveling over their garden plots, but each family also seemed to send plenty of volunteers to help the owners of adjoining plots.

Blain had no clue of how they did it. How did they know when to show up?

He wasn’t complaining. Even a 4th grader could toss the light, fluffy chicken-shit and bedding off the back end of the trailer.

Over the course of the morning and early afternoon it occurred to him that the swirl of “manpower” was like a paisley pattern of blues, reds and greens where each color was a different age-group. Adults, teens and pre-teens were like swarms of tadpoles. It seemed like most people had a best-friend who Blain always saw them with. Sometimes the "besties" showed up in a swirl of others their age-group. Other times they were embedded in a family group, nearly as many besties as actual family members.

The extravagant surplus of labor made the long turn-around times particularly vexing to Blain. He hated losing 20 minutes of productive time for every 60 minutes of clock-time but he had no way of fixing that. At least he wasn’t losing 30 minutes!

And then something totally unexpected happened in the mid-afternoon. Sig had just finished drinking some sweet tea his wife brought him and then climbed into the back of the trailer. As he climbed back in, the swarms of tadpoles simply evaporated. The ones who had been shoveling hopped out of the trailer and walked away as the wheels of the trailer bumped across the footpath that separated one garden-plot from the next. And the “reserves” who had been following along chattering like a mob of starlings melted away, too.

Sarah started to get up into the trailer to help Sig shovel when Sig gave her an almost imperceptible shake of his head, waving her off.

Out of the corner of his eye, Blain saw a woman dressed in Sunday-go-to-Meeting clothing heading toward Sig like a heat-seeking missile. He vaguely remembered her from Sunday worship and dredged through his memory to retrieve her name…, Constanze. The other vague memory is that Sarah did not seem to have much affection for her.

Constanze started remonstrating with Sig. He mournfully shook his head and pointed at Blain. “Talk to him. He is running the operation.”

Constanze spun in place and fixed her sights on Blain.

Blain saw Sig give Lliam a small gesture...a slight lifting of the chin and a look toward the distance.

Lliam didn't need to be told twice. He goosed the tractor's gas-pedal and let out the clutch. It lurched forward.

And then Constanze was on him like the clouds of mosquitoes that descend upon anglers from willows beside a northern trout stream.

“You need” she said, jabbing him in the chest with her index finger “to make them” she said, pointing up the two-track at the young people joyfully shoveling shit from the trailer Peggy was pulling “come over here and fertilize MY garden!!!”

Blain may have been a babe-in-the-woods in the skills important in Copperhead Cove but he had earned his chops arguing in a hundred, boozy bull-session back in Michigan. It was going to take far more than hackneyed "dominance" moves to cow him.

The best defense is an attack and the best attack is a question.

“Where were you twenty minutes ago? Everybody else has been helping their neighbors” Blain demanded.

He felt Sarah tuck in behind him. For whatever reason, Sarah was afraid of this harpy.

“How dare you question where I was?” Constanze snarled. "It is not your place to question your betters."

“For that matter, why aren’t you on that trailer shoveling your own shit” Blain challenged. Never let initiative starve for lack of follow-up. Momentum is a "thing".

Glancing to his side, Blain noticed that Lliam was scooting along, two, maybe three times times faster than he normally drove. Sig was still shoveling like a metronome, no faster or slower than he had shoveled on any other plot.

But unlike every other plot, there were not four people shoveling...just Sig, and the tractor was moving markedly faster.

Constanze, because she had not helped on any of the other plots was oblivious to the fact that Lliam was fleeing the scene of the conflict as quickly as he could without dumping Uncle Sig onto his dupa.

“Don’t be an idiot” Constanze shot back. “You cannot expect somebody wearing their nice clothes to shove shit.”

Blain wasn’t going to accept her deflection. “Only an idiot would wear nice clothes on a day when they knew they would have to shovel shit!"

Constanze was incapable of comprehending that her will was being defied. Especially by a drifter, a hired-hand of no consequence, scum, white-trash.

Fifty yards closer to the compound and thirty to the side, Peggy could see by their body language that the two adults were arguing. She depressed the clutch and turned off the motor to hear what they were saying. The four girls who were shoveling in the back felt the tractor coast to a stop and heard the motor stop. They stopped shoveling and looked up to see what was the matter. They saw Peggy looking intently ahead of them and they followed her line-of-sight.

They saw Blain shielding Sarah from Constanze with his back toward them.

All five of the young ladies adored Sarah.

They saw Constanze’s face twisting in rage and they heard her shriek “...and that UGLY BITCH you are f*cking!”

Then they saw the most amazing transformation. Blain body flared like the hood of a cobra about to strike. He rocked forward onto the balls of his feet and his entire body expanded as his shoulders rolled back and outward while his arms flexed outward into a grappling position.

They saw Blain suddenly grow to three times his natural size, an illusion reinforced by Constanze’s sudden shrinking back as she suddenly realized she had stepped WAY over the line and she had absolutely NO idea of Blain’s history or what he was capable of doing.

“Don’t! You! Ever! Talk that way about Sarah again or I will break you in two like a rotten stick!” Blain exploded, all of the self-control he had been exercising the last four months totally depleted. Gone. Vaporized.

His index finger snaked out lightning fast and thumped her squarely in her chest driving her back a full nine-inches. He started to pursue her.

Only the sensation of Sarah's hand pulled him back from the brink of the mayhem he was within a heartbeat of unleashing.

Constanze fled.

Blain turned and held Sarah. He could feel her shaking like a leaf.

Noting the silence, Blain looked up and saw the five girls staring at the two of them with eyes the size of saucers. Blain made a small motion with his hand indicating “Move along. Nothing to see here”

Blain buried his face in Sarah’s hair as Peggy started Sally’s tractor and the girls started industriously spreading manure on the garden plot they were fertilizing.

Blain and Sarah stood there until Sarah stopped sobbing. For a while, the world would have to spin on its own without Blain’s help.

To be continued...


Note to commenter Anonymous Feb 17, 12:56 PM: Please ask your wife if she approves of the heating up of the romance angle. Apologies for the F-bomb but the story required it. I am still pretty new at writing.

Sunday, February 18, 2024

The battle for hearts-and-minds


Marketing people predict that by 2026, there will be $3.86 spent on advertising embedded within internet content for every dollar spent for TV exposure.

The ramifications are enormous.

For one thing, legacy media are dead-men-walking. They are extremely costly to produce and they are rapidly losing the race to the inexpensive, customizable content offered on the internet. High cost and declining revenues have only one ending, and it is not a happy one.

Another ramification is that if businessmen who are in cut-throat competition with each other are spending four times as much money on the internet attempting to persuade potential customers then it either means that there are four-times as many eye-balls on the internet -OR- viewers are significantly more likely to find content on the internet to be more credible -OR- those customers have a lot more money -OR- some combination of the three factors.

The perceptions of the advertisers that consumers of TV and other legacy venues are poor, stupid and old becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy as media hollows out and survives by operating in WIFI repeater mode, echoing stale news generated and reported in other venues.

It is incredible how quickly "Cable News" went from bleeding-edge technology to "the opiate of the gullible".

If you look at media through that lens, you can see why people who want to control-the-message are freaking out about free-speech on the internet. There are thousands of "channels". That is why they are pushing "Hate Speech" legislation and censorship. It is infinitely more difficult to control a thousand channels than it was to control CBNBABCNNFAUX.

Water-cannons and other devices


The Netherlands (Holland).

If there ever was a time for water-cannons...  I wonder if those are available as a factory-installed option

"Do not Travel" and "Advisory" map. Most of Western Europe has the same rating as Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and the State Department has England (for instance) under a higher level travel-advisory than Baltimore, MD.

Michigan's Democrat controlled legislature and Executive branch passed several new firearms laws making it more difficult to purchase, give-to-family-members and to activate firearms during an emergency. Those laws went into effect February 13, 2024.

As a person living in a rural area, the "activate during an emergency" causes me some heartburn.

I live in Eaton County, Michigan. It is approximately 600 square miles and has a population of approximately 100k. One-third of the population lives in the extreme northeast, 36 square-miles adjacent to the city of Lansing. They get 24-hour coverage from the Eaton County Sheriff's department due to a contract they signed with Delta Township. The remaining 570 square-miles of Eaton County and two-thirds of the population gets zero coverage from the Eaton County Sheriff's department between midnight and 6:00 AM. They do not have the resources.

Maybe calling 9-1-1 is a viable option for urban people but even in a city sometimes 9-1-1 just isn't going to be quick enough. Consider how many news articles you have read of a woman who broke-up with her boyfriend and he got drunk with his buddies. Then he visited her house and kicked in her door. Time enough for 1911 but not enough time for 9-1-1.

Under the new laws, Michigan firearm must be unloaded and "securely stored" and your ammo must be "securely stored" in a separate area when there is a minor on your property. As-of February 17 a locked-hardcase was not considered secure storage in the State of Michigan. The basis for my understanding is that the State of Michigan provided temporary amnesty from sales tax on "secure storage" devices for firearms and lockable hardcases are not on the list of "no sales tax" devices.

Saturday, February 17, 2024

Dipping our toe into "sprouting"

One of the weak spots Mrs ERJ and I identified was the availability of vegetables through the winter months. Mrs ERJ does not considers potatoes to be honest vegetables. Her body craves GREEN vegetables.

There are not many options for shelf-stable, green vegetables that do not require refrigeration.

Fortunately, there are many kinds of seeds that cheerfully sprout are relatively low temperatures (55f-to-65F) and we are giving it a whirl. Our goals are very modest. Can we actually "sprout seeds" and "which species does Mrs ERJ find most appealing"?

Lentils soaking on the left. Garbanzo beans in the right. I do not expect the garbanzo beans to be happy at our cooler temperatures.

Wheat on left, repeat of lentils on right. I expect the wheat to be a solid performer at low temperatures.

Dwarf Essex Kale on left and Daikon Radish on right. I expect both of these to excel at cooler temperatures.

Each test-lot started with 2 Tablespoons of seeds. The small seeds will get a 12 hour soak while the larger ones will get soaked for 24 hours.

Mung beans, field peas and soybeans are on my list to test in the future. Peas are reliable sprouters at low temperature but I have no information on the other two. Link to a source for seeds for sprouting.

I suspect that we will be making stir-fry in the next week or so.

To be continued....

Honor in work well done (Cumberland Saga)

With nothing to do, Blain watched Sig and the crew shoveling shit out of the back of the trailer as Lliam inched it forward.

By now, Blain had worked with a shovel long enough to have some opinions of his own. Watching Sig work, he knew that he was in the presence of a master, a man honed by days, nay, months and years of practice with a shovel.

No motion was hurried or jerky. The scoop of the shovel never cleared the side of the trailer by more than an inch.

The manure fanned out evenly and settled to the ground in a tall, elongated, slanted “f” shape.

Every toss was a perfect repeat of the one before. Calligraphy writ with shit and a shovel.

Then Blain realized that Roger had a hand in Sig’s perfection. Roger must have used his time to fluff-up and homogenize the shit when he was mixing in the pulverized limestone. The people spreading the shit were able to insert their shovels with no more effort than if it had been dried cornflakes.

Blain guessed that Roger had also spent ample amounts of time behind a shovel, too.

Blain was keeping an eye on the time and it was fully a half-hour before Sally came roaring back up the drive with his first load of manure.

Pulling up to Blain, he asked, “Where do you want me to start?”

Blain thought “Damn, I should have anticipated that question.”

“Gimme a second” Blain said, and then he trotted over to the trailer and hopped aboard. Sig felt the bounce of Blains weight and turned to see who had joined them.

“Whaddya want?” Sig said impatiently. He had been in-the-groove shoveling and the tractor didn’t stop moving.

“Quick question” Blain said. “Which garden plot should Sally start on if we are to get a little bit of fertilizer on the plots owned by folks not in this row?” Blain said, pointing at the line of plots Lliam was inching his way up.

Sig’s impatience melted off his face. It took about two seconds for him to reach a decision.

“Tell ‘im to start on the other side of the two-track, second plot in.” Sig said.

Blain repeated “Other side of two-track, second plot in.” hopped off the back of the trailer and trotted back to Sally. Beckoning with a come-hither motion, Blain trotted over the the plot Sig had indicated.

Blain dropped the tailgate and like magic, a crew of teenagers showed up, shovels in hand and started spreading shit as Sally starting slowly moving parallel to the main two-track that traveled along the spine of almost-level ground that held the Cove’s cultivated ground.

Two hours after Gregor and Roger had left, the first trailer was empty. Blain was deeply worried by how slowly the process was going. He was also distressed that the trailer had only gotten six garden-plots down the two-track before running out of manure. By his calculations, they should have made it fifteen-or-sixteen plots if they were spreading it at the agreed-upon rate.

Blain conferred with Sarah. “What should I do? I promised Sig that we would just put on enough to double the crop from 30-to-60 bushel and acre and they are spreading on more than twice that?”

Sarah walked over and kicked at the almost invisible trace of chicken-shit and bedding atop the soil of her plot. Looking back at Blain, she said, “Sometimes it is easier to spread butter thick rather than thin. Will it harm to spread it thick?”

Blain shook his head “I don’t think so.”

“Sig knows what the plan was. You can bring it up at lunch” Sarah suggested.

While the other shovelers had been “relieved” Sig stayed in the trailer shoveling like a machine. He had switched from shoveling from the left side of the trailer to shoveling from the right side on-the-hour. His calligraphy was just as impressive regardless of the direction he was tossing.

“This isn’t going very fast” Blain fretted.

“It is going faster than if we counting on the pigeons to fertilize the fields” Sarah said philosophically, using the Cove’s term for mourning doves and starlings.

Lliam’s turn-around time was 25 minutes.

Sally’s trailer was empty in 45 minutes and he had a 30 minute turn-around. Blain suspected that Sally had been gabbing with Gregor at the bottom of the hill while his shovelers were waiting for him.

Blain was frustrated that he could not be everywhere.

While Lliam was getting his third load, Blain went over to chat with Sig.

“I hate bosses who micro-manage” Blain started out. “A lot of times, the guy doing the work sees things the boss don’t.”

Sig stared steadily at Blain, his face devoid of all emotion and feedback.

“So, when we made this agreement, I wanted more than one trailer-load of chicken-shit per acre but that is what we agreed upon. The only reason I am bringing up that you are spreading more...a LOT more than that is because I don’t wanna be sneaky and let something slide that you might not be aware of” Blain said.

For him, that was a long speech to a man he was still intimidated by.

Sig nodded. “I know how much we are shoveling.”

“One-load-per acre don’t FEEL like enough to make a difference. If we are going to pull people away from their regular chores for two, full days I want it to be enough to make it worth the effort” Sig said.

Blain simply said “Thanks”, turned and walked away. It was something he had learned from Sarah and Lliam.

Part-way through the morning, Blain looked over and saw one of the young ladies from his Algebra class driving Sally’s tractor and Sally was standing on the ground jabbering to the kids who were waiting their turn to shovel.

Blain caught Lliam glancing back at Sally’s tractor and noticed that the driver of Sally’s tractor seemed to be very aware of where Lliam’s tractor was.

Aha! The two were “interested” in each other and Blain knew they were both very competitive individuals.

Blain went over to Sally’s tractor and asked the driver to slow the engine so he could talk. “I have you pegged as a really smart girl” he started out. “Is there any way you can ‘slick-up’ how you get the next trailer of fertilizer to maybe make it go a little faster?”

After she had picked up her first load, Blain went over to Lliam’s tractor and signaled that he should slow the engine so he could talk. “I timed Peggy and she was able to get a load of manure in 19 minutes. I don't want ya to do anything crazy, but do you think you can match that?”

Lliam nodded his head. Anything Peggy could do, he was sure he could do better.