Sunday, June 30, 2024

Mature Women have more men in their lives than Gen Z!!!

A recent survey by MSU* recently discovered that "Granny" has more men in her life than virtually all Gen Z women!

A typical woman who was born in the 1950s or early 1960s wakes up with Charlie Horse, spends most of the morning with Arthur Itis and the afternoon with Dr. Phil, dines with Ernest and Julio, studies the desert tray with Will Power and goes to bed with Ben Gay.

Eat your heart out, Emily and Hannah!

*Making Stuff Up University in East Lansing, Michigan

Dedicated to Anon in Southern New Hampshire and Annie in Ocala

Urban Vulnerabilities: Crime

Crime can be looked at as a tax that is applied in a random manner.

Taxes are extracted via coercion. Taxes suppress economic activity by reducing monetary incentive and by increasing uncertainty. Taxes involve the transfer of resources from producers to non-producers.

Crime does all those things with "...increasing uncertainty" being the most pronounced. Crime has the additional characteristic of being able to destroy you as a functioning, biological organism.

The additional costs of crime are not just what is stolen or destroyed, it includes the cost of security or "protection money" paid.

Gasoline and diesel

Gasoline and diesel are keystone resources. Access to many other resources are highly dependent on the availability of gas and diesel. "I will just burn wood!" you might say...but what are you going to put in your chainsaw? How are you going to haul the wood off the mountain and into your urban apartment?

If you can only look at one commodity as a canary-in-a-coal-mine, you are well served if you look at the price of liquid fuel.

Mogadishu is the main port into Somalia. Prices of imported goods should be least expensive there as compared to cities in the country's interior.

According to Expatistan website*, if you can find gasoline for sale in Mogadishu, a liter of gas will cost you $26 (USD) or a cool $99 a gallon. The price in Cape Town, South Africa, which is farther away from the refiners and it should be more expensive, is $1.30 per liter or about $5 a gallon.

Said another way, the gangs and thugs of Mogadishu are adding a $94 per gallon "tax" to the price of gasoline over-and-above what South Africans are paying.

But wait, it could be worse!

It was estimated that it cost $400 to deliver a gallon of gas to Forward Operating Bases in Afghanistan. You can scoff about Pentagon inefficiencies, but there are not a lot of data-points in the public domain regarding the cost of providing fuel in those kinds of environments.

During the siege of Sarajevo, many people started burning wood because LP, natural gas and liquid petroleum fuels were not available.

Blue-hive politicians like to paint property crime as "victimless". Nothing could be farther from the truth. Food needs to be cooked to kill pathogens and inactivate some toxins. Water for baby formula needs to be boiled. Spaces need to be heated in the winter if only to keep the pipes from freezing and leaking. Food needs to be transported from fields to tables and so on.

If there is a hiccup in EBT cards or the availability of goods inside of urban areas, it seems likely that thugs and gangs will take wholesale redistribution of property into their own hands.

Importing thugs and gangs from cities like Mogadishu into US cities is like blowing the internal columns out of a high-rise apartment building. No other external stresses will be required to have the building collapse.

*At the time this essay was written.

Saturday, June 29, 2024

Saturday morning walk-about (with dog)

We picked up an inch of rain last night. The towns along the I-94 corridor 25 miles south of us received 2"-to-3" and were under flood advisories.

At nine this morning, I decide to take a shake-down walk-about and at the last moment grabbed Zeus, our 10-year-old German Shepherd.

Nothing catastrophic happened but I called for a hotdog pickup at the 6.5 mile mark. Zeus was fading fast.

Even before that, I modified our route to drop in on a friendly neighbor who let Zeus tank-up on water. Then, before we left, I hosed him down to make sure his coat was damp.

Not in BAD shape but clearly running out of gas. He was  slowing down on the up-grades and speeding up a little bit on the down-grades.

His fur looks funky because it is wet. The dirt is usually more of a butterscotch pudding color and the dull brown indicates that it is still damp from the rain.

Humans have an advantage over dogs because we can sweat. We can also adjust our clothing to the weather. It was only 78F but the humidity was high. All that sparkly stuff is sweat.

I already put in an order for some collapsible, silicon dog bowls. He already has a back-pack so it will not be a big-deal to put 1.5l of water and a bowl in his back-pack. The only (minor) issue is that it might take him five minutes to camel-up the water.

We saw this while walking. That is a lot of money to have parked in the weeds. I wonder what the story is.

Mrs ERJ had this waiting for me when I got back home. I LOVE that woman.

8 miles for the shake-down walk-about. TEVA Omnium 2 Sandals exceeded expectations. A compression sock and an athletic sock on my left leg and an athletic sock on my right leg. Cargo shorts and bright yellow Tee shirt performed as expected. Electrolyte mix needed more sugar and salt but it was OK and I went through 20 oz per hour which is about what I planned for. I have a larger fanny pack already on the way, the two bottles were a tight squeeze.The next trip will include compression shorts and SPF before I head out.

Next trip will be with more hydration for Zeus, an earlier start time (for cooler temps) and I will clip his nails first. Having a way-station lined up was a great move although the stop did not perk him up as much as I had hoped. Maybe we left too soon. I need to get better at "reading" his condition. Watering him out of half-liter water bottles will give me information about how much intake he is getting.

Urban Vulnerablilities: Long Supply-Chains

At the risk of beating a dead horse, US Urban areas in 2024 are vulnerable to supply-chain disruptions.

If you were to ask a bubble-head who lived in the Bronx about supply-chains, she might dismiss it with a wave of her hands saying "I hardly buy anything. I won't be impacted."

Maybe. Maybe not.

Making numbers "real"

If you can believe government statistics, every man-woman-and-child in the US has the equivalent of their body-weight in freight shipped 650 miles EVERY DAY.

I am willing to bet that is much more than the bubble-head from the Bronx would estimate she based on the weight of the two cartons of Pork-fried-rice delivered by DoorDash from the other side of the block.

There is a huge amount of the supply chain or value-adding chain that is invisible to the end consumer.

That (Body-weight * 650 miles) does not include the 800 pounds of potable water that each person uses daily or the 2800 pounds of irrigation and industrial-processing water used every 24 hours.

"Oh, but I drink bottled water?" Bubble-head dismisses the idea that it would impact her. The classic reply is "What do you flush the toilet with?"

An idea that eludes most people is that a siege or blockade of NYC does not have to involve dropping the bridges leading to Manhattan (although it could). The economy of NYC could be tanked by dropping electrical power distribution equipment in Pennsylvania, bridges in Ohio and Virginia and gas-and-oil pipelines  and fiber-optic trunks in North Carolina and West Virginia.

Attacking a remote choke-point only means that the shock-wave will be delayed days or perhaps a week as compared to dropping the Verrazano Narrows or RFK bridges.

California is even more vulnerable that NYC while Hawaii and Alaska are even more vulnerable than California.

What hard-core Progressives are saying about the debate

 Four minute run-time.

Are Cities Eternal?

Matt Bracken's CW2 cube showing potential fracture-planes in society.

Aesop at Raconteur Report wrote a couple of posts (One and Two) where he makes a case against the headlong rush toward the Us-vs-Them mentality that seems to be coalescing along the Rural-Urban divide (reference Bracken's CW2 Cube).

Three of Aesop's main points are:

  1. There are vast numbers of potential "rural" allies are in cities, even if their resources have been co-opted by goofy, sticky-fingered Progressives
  2. Cities are home to huge amounts of resources and in a straight-up military contest Mr Aesop contends the shear numbers of city dwellers would steam-roller Ma and Pa Kettle in Hinterboonies, Mi
  3. Cities are (essentially) Eternal and almost impossible to destroy.

Whether you agree with his points or not, he presents them with the economical use of words.

The point I have been gnawing on is the third point. To be completely fair to Mr Aesop, it barely counts as one of his main points, it was more of an off-hand observation on his part. Still, the statement intrigues me.

Distinction One

When a person says "City" do they mean the location? Do they mean the "name"? Do they mean the Charter and Articles of Organization? Do they mean the Political Soul of the Founders? Does a city remain a "city" if it falls in population and loses dominance?


Populations may rise and fall but strategic importance of certain sites can last for a very, very long time.

Map courtesy of Google

Excavations at Troy reveal the ruins of 9 "cities" like a stack of pancakes over a 4000 year time-frame. That suggests that the city was destroyed and rebuilt 9 times. The military and logistical importance of the site remained viable for 4000 years even if each the 9 incarnations were destroyed. 

I am not sure if that proves-or-disproves Mr Aesop's point. If you were a citizen of any of the "Troys" when it was sacked, you might disagree with him. If you were one of the founders of the next incarnation you would probably agree with him.

Ultimately, there was no 10th Troy. The compelling strategic reasons for the city disappeared as commerce and politics and the technology of war evolved. If you look up "Ancient Troy" on Google, the cartographers wryly note "Permanently Closed".

Survivor Bias

Survivor bias is a heuristic whereby samples that became extinct are ignored because they are less "available" and sub-optimal conclusions are reached due to the skewed data.

For example, it was easy to look at Silicon Valley in 1999 and reach the conclusion "The only way to make money is to be invested in Technology." That conclusion failed to account for the tens-of-thousands of firms that failed for every "Apple" or "Google".

It is much easier to call-to-mind Athens and Rome and Jerusalem and Berlin and Baghdad than it is to call-to-mind Ankor Wat, Machu Picchu, Copán or Cahokia.

Cities may seem eternal because they last longer than a single human, often more than a single family-line. But the evidence suggests that they have finite lives and will cease to exist when the reasons they thrived weaken or disappear. And if you live in a city when it is "sacked" or the end is near, you will be as surprised as the residents of Phnom Penh were in 1975.

Friday, June 28, 2024

Little bits and pieces


This is on a dead elm tree. I tried to get an ID on the kind of mushroom. They don't look like Chicken-of-the-woods or Hen-of-the-woods or Turkey-tails or Dryad's Saddle. And dead-elm is not a usual tree for choice, edible shelf fungi. Morels, yes. But not so much shelf fungi.

Darned if it doesn't look like Oyster mushrooms and a very lovely shade of yellow, too. You can click on any of the images to enlarge them.

Shooting bench update

The shooting bench at The Property sits on a concrete pad and was wobbly. I added an "X" brace in the front.

And I made a form to pour a concrete bulkhead behind the seat. I was ticked off. The bags of concrete are now 50 pounds (shrink-flation) and I had sized the volume for a 60 pound bag. I ended up purchasing two bags.

Manchurian Ash seedlings

I moved 42 Manchurian Ash seedlings from the seedling tray to the ground today.

Apparently Zeus, our German Shepherd, did not think I was tamping them in firmly enough and decided to help me out.


I have been doing lots of weeding. I am not keeping up but I am making a much better show of it than last year.

Fake News Friday: Dems fast-track replacing Kamala with Johnny Depp


It is reported that Democratic king-makers are fast-tracking the replacement of Vice President Kamala Harris with actor Johnny Depp. They are looking for somebody who is experienced with cleaning up after somebody shits-the-bed.

In related news, Biden strategists float the idea of finally admitting Trump won the last election. They claim that the Constitution prohibits Trump from running a third time since he already won twice.

Ten seconds of the debate

Mrs ERJ wanted to listen to the debate.

She walked into the living room listening to it on her smartphone.

At first I thought she was listening to a Trump impersonator. He sounded less NYC, less abrasive and bombastic, more reasonable. It was almost as if he was channeling Reagan's "Well, there you go again" persona.

Then a Joe Biden "impersonator" responded. He sounded like somebody with emphysema, barking out short, angry sentences with the words crammed he had no air left in his lungs. His words tumbled out of his mouth all tangled together like passengers deplaning a burning 737.

I grabbed a seed catalog and evacuated the room. I already know who I am going to vote for. I don't need to listen to the debate.

Thursday, June 27, 2024

Cumberland Saga: Author Brain-dump

One of the major reasons I am walking away from the Cumberland Saga is because of the issues on the horizon are issues I don't care to write about.


Miss Shannon's husband, Bob is coming back. How will he respond when he finds out that his wife invited four families to "squat" on their land. As a man of integrity, he will honor his wife's decisions, after all, she didn't know that he was on the verge of returning.

But what kind of man is he? Is he a micromanaging control-freak? Is he laid-back? What kind of background does he have that might help him adapt to the new reality? Will he be wise enough and flexible enough to know when to operate in line-control (like in the emergency room) and when circumstances demand that he function in a more collaborative fashion?


Copperhead Cove is a benevolent dictatorship. Sig is nominally in charge but he gets a lot of help from Roger, Alice and his wife Ellie.

What will the governance of Five Families look like? How will they manage conflicts? What if a family bails out? Do they own the property? Are they leasing it? Is there common property? How is it managed? 

To what degree do they specialize? They only need one bee-keeper. They only need a couple of people milking cows/goats/sheep. They only need a couple of people good a fishing. They only need one blacksmith, leather-worker, cheese-maker in the neighborhood.

Resource Base

What assets are likely to exist at Five Families (other than 10 acres of corn, another 10 of pasture and 10 of turnips/rape/clover and the pond)?

What kinds of animals would it be likely that Miss Shannon had? What kind of animals would be most desirable?

Relationship with neighbors

Five Families has more neighbors than Copperhead Cove. How to they interact with them? At least five of them also have ponds. Are they prepared to harvest them in a meaningful way? Do they have the knowledge? Do they have the equipment?

Relationship with Copperhead Cove

Could get sticky if CC considers Five Families to be their "little sister".

Internal commitment

How will the community respond when one of the adults decides they "don't want to keep playing the game" and wants to go back to Cincinnati or Savanna or Nashville or Huntsville or... Does the family that split-up lose their house?


How do Copperhead Cove and Five Families deal with stragglers? Does Five Families have to go through the same learning experiences that CC did or will they avoid making the same mistakes? Probably depends on if Gregor and Rosa draw long-straws and are at Five Families.

"Abandoned properties"

Some of the properties in the neighborhood are vacant because the owners were trapped in a city or in California or in Spain or someplace else or maybe they died. What are the "rules" for squatting in a house that appears to be abandoned? What degree of proof will be required to boot-out the squatter when somebody who claims to be the owner shows up? Does Canina make the rules? She has to enforce them. The U.S. Homesteading Act required that the person on the property had to IMPROVE it to make their claim. Would she know that or is it obvious enough that it will occur to her? 

Can the 'squatter' stay as long as they are maintaining and improving the property but must leave if they are destroying or not caring for it? If they are maintaining/improving then they are care-takers or stewards (a Biblical term) rather than 'squatters' or 'interlopers' or 'usurpers'.


How did Sarah's first husband really die? Was it really a suicide? How did an oil-barrel show up in the middle of the woods? What crime or sin could he have been guilty of where somebody staged a suicide as a way to resolve the issue without outside scrutiny? Who (perhaps plural) in Copperhead Cove would have the iron-will to do the deed and the ability to keep his/their mouths shut?

My resistance to writing about those things

There is no, single, "right answer" to most of these dramatic tensions because the primary resource at this time became the collection of people. What will be optimal for one, random collection of people could be a total disaster for a different collection of people.

I am very comfortable throwing a stake into the ground about how many square-feet of ground is a reasonable "first guess" for the amount of corn, potatoes and onions that needs to be planted, per-person, east of the Missouri River. People...well, that is a crap-shoot.

In fiction it is way too easy to make "too many" of your characters unbelievably good and virtuous...or too base and self-centered. Most of us are a mix of both and we choose which persona we wear based on external cues. Really good writing is difficult because it is SO EASY to just narrate those cues and those internal thoughts and EXCEPTIONALLY DIFFICULT to "show" those cues via dialog and description to the degree where the reader anticipates what the character will decide or do.

Wednesday fishing report


Softshell turtle on right. Feel the love

Both Shotgun and I caught a Softshell turtle. Mine was about 12" from front of shell to the back. His was about 10".

I caught a 10" Largemouth Bass.

I hooked something that was about 20" long. It may have been a Northern Pike. It either bit through the line or slashed with its gill-plate. It was thrashing violently as I was reeling it in. I wish I had landed it.

All fish and turtles were released.

The "ethic" for how fish are reeled in and landed changed since I was a kid. Back in the '70s is was all about how heavy of a fish you could land on the lightest line possible. It was seen as giving the fish "a chance" and to prolong the thrill of catching the fish.

Since then, it has come to light that fish that are exhausted by prolonged struggles frequently die. Much of what we learned was from Bass Tournaments where only LIVE fish can be weighed and count toward points.

Now the ethic is to use heavy line and unceremoniously winching them in as quickly as possible. Fish that are to be released are often not even lifted out of the water, they are unhooked while in the net or while the fisherman has a grip on their lower jaw. Youtube is your friend.

Final Post for Cumberland Saga

Canina could hear the Sheriff’s sarcasm in his response to her report. “Natural Causes?” he replied.

“The preacher and I looked at the evidence and we both agree that they died of Natural Causes.” Canina confirmed.

The Sheriff looked at her response for a minute and considered his options. He could drive out there and look at the “stiffs”. Or he could try to find a doctor willing to do that but they would have to hustle to get there before the bodies were buried.

Or, he could let Canina’s judgment stand and have the bodies exhumed at a later date if it became an issue.

“OK” he finally texted back. Sometimes you just have to trust your people.

Frankly, he was pinned down in Dayton. Direction had been issued by the Governor, “Keep the roads open and the traffic flowing”. That meant clear wrecks, keep the gas-stations and convenience stores open and address “bandits” that disrupted traffic on major roads.

He had plenty of other action on his hands as people took advantage of the chaos to settle old, and new, scores. Carlton Marx was no longer a thorn in everybody's side. Somebody had decided that the odds of getting caught were low enough that they had done donuts with their dirt-bikes in his front yard and when he came out to yell at them...they shot him in his head.
The county clerk refused to leave her house, such was the anger over the recent elections. There were reports from other counties of clerks being murdered and she wasn't taking any chances.
The Sheriff, himself, was being exceptionally careful. He had not shortage of enemies. It came with the job.


After Canina returned the supply-truck, it made a trip back to Copperhead Cove with Lliam and Eddie as passengers. They were hailed as returning heroes and everybody was eager to hear the details of the operation and much relieved that nobody had been injured (except for some very sore backs and a banged-up thumb or two).

Plans were made for the return of Miss Shannon and her mother for the next morning and the return of half the men who had taken part in the operation.
Even though that was joyous news, it paled compared to the fact that Miss Shannon had received a text from Bob, her husband. He would be back in Tennessee by the end of the week.

After the two women were settled back into their homes, the plan was to have the women who had expressed an interest in being part of the four “guard families” make a tour of the grounds. They would go one-at-a-time and they would tour Miss Shannon’s farm and look at the housing situation, which was to be assigned based on drawing lots.

Sig promised to send the saw-mill and a crew to build housing at Miss Shannon’s as soon as the two units that were being built at Copperhead Cove were sealed-up and weather-tight. But until housing was built, the available housing was a camper, the shed that held dairy-goats, and OLD house that Bob had been using for a storeroom and shop...and a tent.

Gregor and Rosa had already expressed an interest in being one of the four guard-families. Gregor had already asked Samson to fabricate a ring from a silver coin he had been given by his grandfather. If he though “popping the question” was going to surprise anybody, he was very mistaken.

For a shining moment in time, all was right with the world of Copperhead Cove and Miss Shannon's.


Thanks for reading.


Wednesday, June 26, 2024

From the comments: "What is the poop on poop-decks?"

From the comments:

Do you have any references on how harbor taxes drove ship design? I've never heard of that concept and it sounds fascinating.  Asked by Rick T

Indulge me for four minutes. Let me share the "story" as I remember it.

The Mediterranean Sea is very well suited to short-hop trading. There is an abundance of harbors that are close together due to the wrinkled nature of the topography. Many civilizations popped up so there are/were many cities sited on those natural harbors.

It is conceivable that a trading ship could spend almost as much time in port unloading-purchasing-loading as sailing. It might drop anchor in a new port after sailing two days so it could conceivably be averaging 50 port-calls a year.

Compared to the 2000 miles of east-west coastline of Africa approximately 2500 miles to the south (Sierra Leone to Camaroon), the 5000 miles of Med coastline from Spanish Gibralta to the mouth of the Nile boasted in approximately the same east-west extent and a far more salubrious climate (important for developing surplus for trade), and MANY more ports. Africa being handicapped by shallow seas, barrier islands and mangrove swamps for the majority of that coastline.

Competition for rents

Economists use a strange term for the allocation of profits in a value-chain. They call it "competition for rents".

Consider how that bowl of cornflakes showed up in your cereal bowl this morning.

Salesmen sold seeds, fertilizer, pesticides and equipment to a farmer who rented land and grew the corn. He sold the corn to an elevator who sold it to speculators in Chicago who sold it to Kellogg's. Kellogg's hired an advertising firm and paid multiple media outlets to advertise their brand of corn-flake. Kroger and Walmart and Dollar General bought pallet loads of the cereal and you or your beautiful wife probably purchased a box of them for $5.34.

OK...who gets how much of that $5.34? At the farmer-to-elevator hand-off the amount had been whittled own to about $0.15 for the weight of the corn that went into that box.

Back to the ship...

The same dynamic was in place as the ship traveled from port-to-port. The ports charged some fee for the use of the facilities each time a ship docked. Governments (sigh, shrug) never change. At fifty port-calls a year, the fees became astronomical to the ship owner.

The ports took a stab at adjusting the rates based on estimates of how much the owners could pay. You cannot get blood out of a turnip. So they charged more for larger boats/ships than for smaller ones. They charged little or none for boats that called that port "home".

How do you measure a ship?

Remember, simple arithmetic beyond counting was more than most adults could accomplish.

The simplest way is to pace the length of the boat "1,2,3...15,16" and then continue counting when you paced the width "...17,18,19,20" and then base the harbor tax on that combined number. Another way would be to multiply the length and the width "16 times 4" but that is vastly more complicated than the string counting method.

The assumption was that if the ship was multi-deck, the top deck was not only the most accessible but it was usually the largest. 

"Tumblehome" is where the top-deck is narrower than a lower-deck.

It didn't take ship owners too long before they added a small, raised deck and added tumble-home to the designs. Bear in mind that wooden ships might only last 10 years in sub-tropical waters so they might get replaced three-to-five times during the owner's productive lifetime.

Like the fox chasing the rabbit, both got faster. The ports changed the procedure so the tax-collector measured the second deck. Another deck was added at the front midway between the height of the poop-deck and the mid-deck. The procedure was changed again...

But you asked for references, not narrative

Back in the golden days of the internet, it would have been easier to dig-up references. Alas, it is now so cluttered that it is hard to find things.

The best I could do in 30 minutes of digging is this snip from Wikipedia

It is a persistent myth that the fluyt (a type of cargo ship) was developed and functioned to evade Sound Tolls. The toll registers, however, show that during the 70 years from 1562 to 1632 it was a well-established procedure in the Sound for the toll-officers to use the bills of lading to determine the loading-capacities of the vessels passing through. They did not employ any sort of measuring device to assess the width, length, and depth of the vessels and then calculate the size of the ships.     -Source

"Sound Tolls" were the harbor-taxes for the home-port of this type of ship. Reference back to the second paragraph in the section "Back to the ship...". This snip is very specific about "Sound Tolls" and does not reference any of the other, non-home ports the ships visited world-wide. Frankly, if you were an Italian portmaster in 1600, would you trust a Dutch bill-of-lading? Would you be able to read it? What if you were an Ottoman portmaster? Egyptian? Indonesian?

Gratuitous Image

Bonus section

There is a lot of reasons that I ran across on the internet that 'splained why wooden sailing ships had features like poop-decks (the one in the stern). Most of those reasons smelled of bullshit.

One reason that was given was "Poop decks increase the buoyancy in the rear of the boat." Point-of-fact: Only the portions of the ship below the water-line have any influence on buoyancy..

Another reason given was "It improved the handling of the boat". That seems improbable because portions of the boat the project upward raise the center of gravity and act like sails that cannot be adjusted. Those sound like bit minuses for handling.

A third reason "The raised poop-deck meant that the captain could see what was happening on the deck." This person watched too many movies. If visibility were the goal there would not be a blind-spot immediately ahead of the poop-deck and there would definitely not be any decks in the bow that were higher than the poop-deck.

You have a brain. I presented the evidence I was able to collect in a hasty trip around the internet. Draw your own conclusions.

Tuesday, June 25, 2024

"Collapse": Anasazi

One of the societies that Jared Diamond discusses in his book "Collapse..." are the Pre-Columbian Anasazi of Utah-Colorado-Arizona-New Mexico.

Anasazi ruins

The Anasazi were (possibly) ancestors of the Hopi/Navaho puebolan Native-Americans. Or (possibly), they became extinct root-and-branch.

Evidence from events like forest fires and sequences of dry-and-wet years makes it possible to determine over-lap or "shingling" of when the logs were living trees and to march back into time hundreds of years.
One random factoid that makes Anasazi fascinating to anthropologists (like catnip to cats) is that the brittle climate of the interior, American southwest made it possible to establish exquisitely precise timelines by virtue of the tree growth-rings of the beams used to support the roofs-and-floors of their multi-story dwellings. There is sufficient overlap as the communities grew, and sufficient "uniqueness" in the patterns that timelines can be projected backwards for 800 years with +/- 365 day precision.

Brittle climates

A useful visual metaphor for "brittle climates" is of a drunk who stumbles out of a bar looking for a place to relieve his bladder (because the single urinal in the pub is over-subscribed) and attempts to irrigate the base of a lamp-post.

His aim wobbles-and-weaves. Sometimes the base of the lamp-post is blessed with nearly all of the discharge. Other times, the base of the lamp-post only receives a nominal sprinkling.

If our drunk is a regular at the pup (perhaps his wife became strident over the money and time he spent there), it is possible likely that there will be evenings that he misses the lamp-post completely due to exceptional inebriation. There will be times that he passes-out just after stumbling out of the door and weeks or months might go by while our drunk is in rehab.

Due to the cycles-within-cycles-within-cycles, there can be long periods of favorable rainfalls when regions rapidly expand in population. A 3% annual rate of population growth translates to a doubling of population every 25 years. 200 years of uninterrupted good weather translates to 8 doublings in population or a 250X increase in population.

Other nerdy factors-in-play

As a "flat-lander" it is easy to get trapped into the thinking that access to resources is a function of R^2 where "R" is the distance that resources can be transported from. The implicit assumption is that resources (like solar energy) are evenly distributed and area of a circle "Pi * R^2" is a very good proxy for the resources that are available to harvest.

This rule-of-thumb is not written in stone. If we swam in the sea our baseline paradigm might be resources as a function of R^3 which scales with volume.

Anasazi culture was based on water flowing through arid regions: Small rivers and creeks and seep-springs. Their access to resources is linear, i.e. R^1 since moving very far from the flowing water meant you were standing in a desert.

For a flat-lander, the difference between walking 10 minutes and walking an hour increases the access to nominal resources by a factor of (60/10)^2 or by a factor of 36. For the riparian obligate Anasazi, it increased it by a factor of six. That is a big difference!

Alluvial fan agriculture based on sub-surface moisture diffusing out beneath alluvial fan from erosion.

The people who depended on sub-surface water in alluvial fans at the bases of buttes and mesas for agriculture were even more limited. Not only were they hemmed in by the linear distribution of alluvial fans, the distance around the base of the mesa or butte was very finite.

How bad did it get?

In just a few short word-sketches:

A multi-generational span of exceptionally favorable wobbles of the climate led to gross population-overshoot.

All sizable trees suitable for construction within 15 miles (5 hour walk, one-way) of sizable settlements had been harvested.

Climate wobbled back to long-term averages (regression-to-the-mean). Food production crashed.

Study of coprolites (feces preserved by arid conditions or fossilized) uncovered human feces with entire rodent skeletons within. The archeologists speculate that people working in fields would catch mice that scurried away and swallow them whole...before they could be stolen by other workers.

I have never been THAT hungry.

But wait...there is more...

This is the point where our casual student moves on. The stark, implacable barrier of resource depletion. Case studies like the Anasazi are foundational to the Intellectual Left's visceral war on use of resources.

One of the major players that is NOT discussed in the case study (perhaps due to space constraints) is the role that technology plays in access to resources.

Pico Island, Azores. Grapevines.

Something as simple as a ditch or an underground aqueduct to move irrigation water or putting a plant in a shallow basin (swales) with flat slabs of rock (or pavement) to direct rain runoff to the basin and the use of windbreaks to reduce evaporation losses are "technology". Tubing and pumps, drought resistant species, wheels, domesticated animals, bore-wells, wind and electric powered pumps...they are all "technology".

Irrigated land, Saudi Arabia

It is not an exaggeration to claim that "technology creates resources". Consider coal. Before James Watt invented the valving that made steam-engines efficient, coal was an oddity. It was a very poor building material because it weathered rapidly and you did NOT want to build a chimney out of it. It was a stone that nobody had much use for. Evolving technology "created" a resource called "coal".

But then the depletion of forests and the vast increase in demand due to the shuttle-valve steam engine created a demand for coal...and it replaced sails and donkeys and horses...and freed up the land dedicated to growing cotton and flax and forage and oats...

There are limits to technology. But it is also undeniable that "technology" can blunt the brutal math of Malthus.

First attempt at Tsukemono

Tsukemono are Japanese pickled vegetables.

Many options for the pickle-press HERE. Pickle-presses have a spring-loaded pressure plate to keep the vegetables submerged in the liquid. This is what 1kg of "load" looks like in a 1.5l pickle-press before the salt has not extracted much juice.

By weight, mostly shredded carrots and Napa cabbage. Trace amounts of round, red radishes (tops-and-bottoms removed and then 1/4ed) and green beans (ends cut off and halved). A little bit of dill greens.

By weight, 950 grams of shredded/cut vegetables. 15 grams of non-iodized salt and 2 grams of food-grade calcium chloride. I also added 50ml of 5% apple-cider vinegar.

Now we weight wait.

Presented without comment


Fine Art Tuesday


Montague Dawson born in London in 1890. Died in 1973. Famous for painting sailing ships.

Mrs ERJ had a recent conversation about the Spanish Armada and how the Spanish ships were designed with multiple, flying decks to minimize harbor taxes. Locating cannon and firing from elevation makes sense when you are on land. It is a horrible idea at sea.

The sea is unforgiving.

The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 was a huge boost for steam-ships as there is no room to tack in a canal nor is there much room for keel slippage. At that time, steam accounted for about 20% of British shipping tonnage.

When steam ships able to burn fossil fuels arrived in the early 19th century the result was stunning. Since the 1840s the volume of cargo moved by sea has increased by a factor of 400 (that is to say we transport 400 times as much cargo today as we did then) to 8 billion tonnes in 2009 (see Figure 1 below). Today we transport 1.2 tonnes of cargo each year for every person on the globe iv . For rich countries such as the European Union, imports are closer to 3 tonnes per capita.   -Source

Heading our way?


Aqua colored dot approximate location of Eaton Rapids. Red arrow direction of storm.
It looks like the southern edge of this storm will clip Eaton Rapids around 8:30 this morning. Leading edge is approximately 100 miles away.

Monday, June 24, 2024

Albanian Village Life

My apologies for the length of this video. It is an hour long. You can do what I did, I sped it up to 1.5X speed and slowed it down for the parts I found most interesting.

It is from a Youtube "cooking" channel set in Albania. Albania is the European equivalent of West Virginia. It is very rural and mountainous and very clan-oriented.

Unlike West Virginia, it staggered under a corrupt, incompetent, Communist regime from the late 1940s until 1992.

Like all Youtube channels, you have to take what you see-and-hear with a grain of salt. They imply that this is a remote village untouched by modern life and yet we hear jet airplanes descending for landings. Never-the-less, there are gold nuggets to be mined.

The dog is appealing. Several of the chickens are "game-cocks and hens". They have a still and use poly tubing to pipe cooling water to it and seal leaks with a putty made of whole-wheat flour and water.

It is ironic that Albania is perhaps the most "Muslim" country in Europe with approximately 60% professing to be Muslim....and here is this couple cranking out "grappa" and "slivovitz" like nobody's business.

They fill in some of the dead-spots barbecuing fish (probably mullet according to my expert-in-all-things including matters piscine, Lucas)...a saltwater species. The rack for holding the fish is interesting.

The grape trellis posts are concrete.

They have Kaki persimmons drying in the background.

The grape clusters are HUGE.

The apparatus for heating the still seems very inefficient. Also, they would benefit from a "thumper" as a single-stage still tops out at 30% alcohol due to the relatively close boiling points between water and ethanol.

My guess is that they are in their fifties or early-sixties and they are in great physical shape.

My fascination with less economically developed countries is that older technologies are still used on a regular basis and I am inspired by how people solved universal problems like roasting chestnuts, broiling fish, preserving food and so on.

Their other videos

Most of their other videos have the woman making elaborate meals and desserts under austere conditions. She has an undeniable elegance about her! Brewing tea with rose hips, crystal glasses, plum-cakes and massive pies.

I liked this video because the gentleman was more involved and, frankly, I like grapes and I like wine.

Hitting the ground running

What are the differences between snails and slugs?

That is a question that came via email.


In a nutshell, a slug is a snail that has been drinking tequila.

Some of the local talent on Giant Foxtail before they head off to the Holiday Inn.


Ain't science wonderful?



About 60 open-pollinated G.935 seedlings. Since the mother branch was grafted into a tree of Trailman and they both flower at the same time and have the same shade of flowers, it is a good bet that Trailman is the papa.

Do I have a breeding goal? Not really although it would be cool to have a free-standing, precocious, semi-dwarf apple root-stock that can survive -45F.

The roots were very fine and thread-like and they carried their own rootball.

Natural Causes: (Cumberland Saga)

Lliam was up as the sun first started to ease the darkness on the eastern sky. He was going to collect eggs for breakfast. He could not figure out how to get into the hen house.

As he was poking around, the sun rose and he heard the door to the chicken-coop opened with the hum of an electric motor and the excited clucking of the 8 mongrel hens as they came charging out to forage for the day.

Intrigued, he searched around until he found the photo-eye and by shading it with his hand he was able to make the door close. By removing his hand, it opened.

Miss Shannon and her husband Bob were not as resistant to technology as the inhabitants of Copperhead Cove. Where Copperhead Cove had a super-abundance of “labor”, with Bob traveling and Miss Shannon’s time absorbed in caring for her mother...Miss Shannon's operation needed technology or the wheels would fall off the bus.

Lliam filed the memory the photocell and the automatic door in his brain. He also marveled at the rollout nest boxes. Lliam could clearly see advantages other than labor-savings. For instance, the roll-away nests had no eggs that had been cannibalized by other hens, a major source of losses in Copperhead Cove. Another advantage was that the eggs were so clean that they did not need to be washed.
Oh, and his ma would have appreciated that the door for collecting the eggs opened to the outside so whoever collected the eggs wouldn't be tracking chicken-shit everywhere they walked.

With nobody collecting eggs for the better part of a week, there were a LOT of eggs.

Back in the kitchen, Lliam and Eddie played short-order cooks. The easy adjustment of the LP stove was a technical marvel to both boys compared to the fiddly, little camp-stove they had been using and the wood-stoves back home. They had two griddles and all four burners fired up as they turned out flap-jacks, fried eggs, jam or syrup made from brown-sugar and coffee.


About nine in the morning, former-Deputy Canina received a text from the Sheriff. “Can you investigate potential homicide? Bodies at corner of Chapel-and-Hendon”

Canina texted back “Can you pay me with gasoline?”

The Sheriff replied “Yes.”

Canina borrowed the supply truck. It took the crew guarding the entrance a few minutes to knock the chocks out from beneath the log obstructing the drive and roll it out of the drive. The “Password” for when she returned was to be four, long toots on the horn. Before she left the drive, Canina double-checked the horn by giving a long toot. It would be just her luck to be borrowing a vehicle with a blown fuse for the horn!

Deputy Canina (she had reverted back to her former life oh-so-very-easily) drove the truck around the block so she approached the intersection from a direction that didn’t reveal that she had only been a mile-and-a-half from where the dead bodies had been found.

There was a very young-looking, thin to the point of painful, man nervously waiting for her. He was wearing "dress clothes" and shiny, leather shoes.

“I am Deputy Canina. And you are?” Rosa left the question hanging…

“I am Reverend Clarke. I am the new pastor at the church” he said, pointing across Chapel Road to the southwest.

Looking in that direction, Canina saw a small, weather-beaten church and cemetery just like the thousands of others that littered the rural South.

“How old are you?” Canina asked.

“Twenty-four. Why do you ask?” Rev Clarke answered.

“First church?” Canina asked. Of course it was his first church. That is where new graduates from second (and third) tier seminaries started...poor, little congregations where maybe 25 or 35 families were registered and maybe half as many regularly made contributions. If he stuck it out for three years, avoided scandals and got married, he would be offered a position in a church with 60 families, and in the fullness of time an associate position in a wealthy church with a 150 families or more.

“Yep. I graduated from seminary six months ago.” Rev Clarke replied.

Reassured that the good Rev Clarke was unlikely to call BS on anything she said, she forged ahead.

“Show me the bodies” she commanded.

Looking at the bodies, Canina was glad that the shower curtain’s pattern of goldfish and seaweed blurred Billy’s girlfriend’s private parts. She didn’t know if the preacher would have been able to keep it together if it hadn’t.

The bullet-riddled faces were a mess and unrecognizable. Canina checked the pockets of the two looters who were wearing clothes for ID even though she knew for a fact that the two looters had been relieved of their wallets.

“Let me tell you what I am going to advise the Sheriff” Canina said. “I am authorizing you to prepare and bury the bodies. If you can figure out who they are, send word to their next-of-kin. If you cannot get an ID on them, bury them as John Doe One, Two and Three and Jane Doe One. Get a snip of their hair and put it in separate zip-lock baggies with their names, JD1, JD2 and so on. Send the bill to the county.”

“Get ahold of your Elders or Church Board. You and them are going to go through the contents of the truck and figure out who it belongs to. Looks like sets of silver and such. Somebody will recognize some of the things. The rest of it, you hang onto for your orphans-and-widows fund. I gotta feeling you are gonna need it” Canina said.

“Don’t you need to keep them for evidence?” Rev Clarke gulped, his prominent Adam’s apple bobbing.

Canina frowned. “Evidence for what?” She asked. “They died of natural causes.”

Frowning in consternation, the Reverend looked at the multiple bullet-wounds and said “How do you figure?”

“I spent my summers with my Nana. We went to church every day and I heard a lot of the Bible. Doesn’t it say somewhere that “He who lives by the sword shall die by it”?

“Yes” Reverend Clarke said. “I believe that is in Matthew Chapter 26.”

“So if these people were looters, and all of the evidence points to the fact that they were, then their deaths were a natural consequence of the crimes they chose to commit, no?” Canina offered.

The Reverend wavered.

“If I call this a crime-scene, then the people who had their belongings stolen will not get them back until the court no longer needs them as evidence” Canina pressed.

“I don’t see any smoking gun suggesting who might have killed them. The case will get shelved, maybe for years” Canina continued. "They done wrong and got what they had comin' to them. The way I see it, they died of Natural Causes."

“What about the truck?” the Reverend asked, clearly relieved of the responsibility of having to make those kinds of decisions.

“The county has a contract with a towing company to handle abandoned vehicles. I will send them a text” Canina promised. "I won't send it until late this afternoon to give you plenty of time to get the truck unloaded. They will prolly show up late this evening."
Canina wanted as many people to see the truck as possible. An object lesson doesn't work if it is kept a secret. She knew that if the truck sat at the corner all day while it was unloaded and the contents processed, at least a couple of local gossips would see it and spread the word.

As she was thinking that, a neighbor sidled up to them and asked “Kin I take some pictures to put on F-book? I been gittin' a signal a couple-a hours a day.”

Canina said “No pictures of the bodies. They deserve what dignity we can give them. But you can take pictures of the cargo and maybe help the Reverend find out who it belonged to.”

As an after-thought, Canina said to the preacher “Make sure you log who claims what items. There might be a few people thinking to take advantage. Knowing that you are keeping a record might discourage some of that.”

Then, looking at the Reverend “Do you think you can handle this?” Canina asked.

The very young Reverend drew in a deep breath and then slowly let it out before answering. “With God’s Grace, I can do anything.”

Sunday, June 23, 2024

Rain, Pollen, Mediocrity, Snails and Beer, Jews and Japanese and Amish

We picked up 0.1 inches of rain last night. Just enough to make the mosquitoes frisky.

I am running the sprinkler.

Timothy (grass) and chestnuts are at peak pollinating @ 1100 Growing Degree Days b50.

"Only the mediocre are always at their best."  Attributed to Somerset Maugham

Every day will not be a Grand-Slam Home run. Every post will not be AWESOME!

Snails and beer

We will see if beer-traps for snails work. This year stands out as having an exceptionally large number of snails. I found them on peppermint, nettles and a host of other plants that I assumed would not be attractive to them. I was wrong.

Jews, Japanese and Amish

The people we have come to know as Jews wandered through the inhospitable desert for two generations, a pariah people with no allies other than God. Imagine being trapped in an elevator with your Mother-in-law for forty years. Having no other options, you would gladly accept God's rules for harmonious relations as the alternative was to be cast-out, into the inhospitable desert.

The Japanese have very little arable land as much of the country is mountainous. As an island, they were able to isolate themselves from outside pressures and influences for hundreds of years. Imagine the pressures to not waste resources as Maltusian pressures mounted. Imagine the pressures of a regimented society where antisocial behaviors could not be erased by moving elsewhere.

While many modern Jewish people embraced secular "progress" and the pressure-cooker of pre-1860 Japan eased, the Amish voluntarily chose to live lives with very narrow and limited horizons.

All three of these groups developed highly refined codes-of-behavior because of the restrictions of their environments where "costs" could not be externalized because there was no "external" to dump them to.

Consider a young company that sells gourmet hamburgers for 3-to-5X the cost of the most expensive hamburger on McD, BK or Wendy's menu. Growth is initially explosive as everybody flocks to the new restaurant to see what the "Buzz" is all about.

The company borrows money to open many new outlets. They want to saturate the market before the me-too competitors do. They determine that the buildings formerly occupied by an auto-parts retailer were optimally located and cheap, cheap, cheap...even though they were 8000 square-feet.

The bank is very happy to loan the money. The paper-work to loan out $20M is not that much more than to loan $20k. The footprint of the new Gourmet Burger company more than doubles year-to-year-to-year....

And then they implode.

The massive inflow of borrowed money masked the fact that very few outlets were making a profit on a stand-alone-basis. With the books swimming in cheap-borrowed-money, nobody felt any pressure to sharpen their pencils, rationalize manpower, eliminate waste.

Explosive growth, saturation...and then collapse.

The Jews, Japanese and Amish (besides being favored by God) were spared this fate because there were no sugar-daddies, no banks looking to make loans, no inheritances to subsidize (and mask) non-viable businesses, no vassal-states, conquests and booty to paper over losses. It was/is hand-to-mouth. Stupid choices were almost instantly painful.

It was my father's opinion that every young person should have a challenging  first-job: Picking pickles, roofing, paving, laying carpet...

His thinking was that it would provide motivation to upgrade our skills. It would give us a safety-net should the economy collapse. And ultimately, knowing how to survive on meager wages makes it very easy to save money when you start getting generous paychecks.

Saturday, June 22, 2024

Stone-Cold-Killer (of Poison Ivy)

Today's mission was to go out to The Property and spray Poison Ivy. I put four gallons through the sprayer.

I started spraying at 9:30 AM and was done by 10:30. Rain is predicted for 10PM so the active ingredients will have 12 hours to soak in. The label says that the product is "rain fast" after four hours, so I should be good-to-go.

Two of the three ingredients are "ester" formulations which are much better at penetrating the waxy cuticle than the "amide" formulations. So far, Gordon's Brush Killer has been an impressive product.

I need to wait about a week and touch-up where I missed. There is a LOT of Poison Ivy in places where people will be.

There is an old shooting bench on the property and a 108 yard range with markers at 25 yards, 50 yards and 108 yards. The bench was wobbly and I added some bracing to it. Portable generators are a blessing!

In case you haven't guessed, one of my compensations for improving the property is that I already have permission to hunt it.

Bonus Video

Hat-tip Lucas

A crisis of incompetence?

One of my buddies just sent me a text.

A couple of months ago he had a new, heat-pump HVAC system installed. It was supposed to be the coolest thing. It is what the Norwegians have been using, almost exclusively, for the last several decades. Of course, Norway is rich in hydro-electric power so it makes lots of sense for them.

The installation was problematic from the beginning. The unit that was supplied would not fit into the crawl-space beneath the house. Maybe somebody didn't know how to run a yoyo?

No problem. They installed it in the attic.

My buddy turned it on after the installation. It did not start.

Owner of company showed up. All of the control-boards had been blown. Somebody had botched the power-hookup.

A month goes by while new control-boards are found and shipped. Maybe from Norway?

The owner of the company "ate" the cost of the new control-boards.

The system ran OK through the cold weather. Hot weather showed up. Buddy flipped it into A/C mode and water started dripping through the ceiling. My buddy made another service call.

Crew showed up and spent a few hours in the attic clanging-and-banging, then they left.

Buddy started it up in A/C mode. Still leaked. Buddy called again.

Same crew, more banging-and-clanging. They tore apart the 1/2" PVC drain-line and re-gooped every joint and reassembled. Then they left.

Buddy started it up again. It leaked again.

Company owner showed up and determined....his new (and now former) crew-boss had installed the unit upside-down. So presumably, the PVC drain line was installed to the TOP of the unit as it had been installed and the condensate was following gravity and flowing downward through the unit.

Crew + company owner took six hours to disconnect electrical and refrigerant lines, spin unit, re-duct, reconnect electrical and refrigerant lines and recharge system. They finished just before midnight.

And that is what happens when somebody in a position of trust does not check their work. EVERYBODY makes mistakes. Competent people check their work as they go along. Finding a mistake is not an admission of incompetence or inferiority. It is part of life.

Friday, June 21, 2024

Judge Ōoka Tadasuke

Judge Ōoka Tadasuke was born in 1677 in Japan and died in 1752. Judge Ōoka Tadasuke was legendary for the wisdom of his judgments and stories about his cases are an integral part of Japanese culture.

In one of more celebrated cases, he solved a case that had been festering for more than 100 years. Two very powerful families contested an ambiguous will. Each family interpreted the will as bequeathing several fields to THEIR family and not to the other. Since the families were both powerful, whichever family lost the judgement would become powerful enemies of the judge who rendered the judgement.

Ōoka Tadasuke agreed to hear the case. His rivals were sure he was going to create enemies. He called senior representatives from each family into his courtroom and he told them that they both had strong claims on the fields and so he was going to solicit divine guidance. He told them that each family was to raise a crop of red beans (presumably what we know today as adzuki beans) and whichever family produced the highest yield (on a per-area basis) was the family chosen by the gods to have the fields.

At that time, as a nation based on a rice-and-seafood economy, protein (and fats) were always in short supply.

Both families were very good farmers and were proud of that fact. They were both sure that they would win.

The family that won had been growing the red beans on a trial basis and had learned how this kind of bean was different than rice. Additionally, adzuki beans will cross with wild-beans which makes finding good seeds problematic if you don't produce them yourself and isolate them from wild-types. They won the trial by a very wide margin.

Everybody agreed that letting the gods decide was wise.

At a deeper level...

Granting the land to the farmers who were most proficient at growing this emerging, high-quality protein source was the right thing to do for Japan as a nation. It increased the resource base for the nation. Using red beans as the test and linking it to divine intervention legitimized the growing and eating of that particular food.

Many, many years later, Dr Taguchi postulated that "quality" and "specifications" had to be comprehended in the context of maximizing value (and minimizing waste) at the societal level and not just the level of the factory-floor or the accountant's ledger-book.

The Japanese industrialists were quick to absorb the message.

I am willing to bet that Dr Taguchi and the Japanese industrialists were all intimately familiar with the stories of Ōoka Tadasuke.