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Firewood Moisture Percentage

This winter seems a good time to check on the value of a woodshed in keeping firewood dry.  I’ve made it in far enough that I can sample wood that has been in the shed since last April, and I still have some firewood stacked out to dry from late fall – tarped, but not so well protected from the elements.

Now the half-dozen blocks that I’ve moved inside the house might as well have done their time in a dry kiln – my harbor freight moisture meter checks them out at 5 or 6% moisture.

The wood that is half-way back in the woodshed, protected from rain since April, is  checking out at 11 or 12% moisture –  the data suggests that a woodshed with three walls does a lot to keep the firewood dry – atmospheric humidity doesn’t seem to be causing much change inside the wood as rain does.  All this wood did have the benefit of being undercover through a hot, dry summer, and having a couple rows of wood between it and the outside during the rains we did get.

In stacks outside – all set up between October and the end of November, things aren’t quite so dry.

The books say that firewood moisture should be between 15 and 20%.  From that perspective, the outside stacks are still pretty good . . . but it is kind of a luxury to start the fire with the really dry wood that comes from the woodshed.

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Alec Baldwin Back in the News

On October 21, 2021, Alec Baldwin fired a single-action revolver and killed Halnyah Huchins and wounded Joel Souza.  On January 19, 2023, Baldwin was charged with involuntary homicide.  From what I read, he plans to fight the charges.  It’s going to be an interesting case to watch.  In 2018, Baldwin spoke for a “No Rifle Association Initiative” politically going after the National Rifle Association.  I suspect the NRA firearm safety rules are going to come up in his trial

When handling a gun, follow these three fundamental rules:

  1. ALWAYS keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.
    This is the primary rule of gun safety. A safe direction means that the gun is pointed so that even if it were to go off it would not cause injury or damage. The key to this rule is to control where the muzzle or front end of the barrel is pointed at all times. Common sense dictates the safest direction, depending on different circumstances.

  2. ALWAYS keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.
    When holding a gun, rest your finger on the trigger guard or along the side of the gun. Until you are actually ready to fire, do not touch the trigger.

  3. ALWAYS keep the gun unloaded until ready to use.
    Whenever you pick up a gun, immediately engage the safety device if possible, and, if the gun has a magazine, remove it before opening the action and looking into the chamber(s) which should be clear of ammunition. If you do not know how to open the action or inspect the chamber(s), leave the gun alone and get help from someone who does.
https://www.nrablog.com/articles/2015/7/the-rules-of-nra-gun-safety/

As near as I can see, Baldwin missed 3 for 3 on following these safety rules (though he has asserted he didn’t pull the trigger, I’d hate to need to convince a jury on that claim).  The involuntary manslaughter case, as I understand it, deals not with intent, but negligence.  His assistant director, David Halls, signed a plea agreement to the charge of negligent use of a deadly weapon, and has 6 months probation and a suspended sentence.  Hannah Guitterez-Reed (the set armorer) is charged with the same crime as Baldwin – and it basically boils down to negligence.

Baldwin’s attorney has his own comments: “a terrible miscarriage of justice,” said Luke Nikas, Baldwin’s attorney. “Mr. Baldwin had no reason to believe there was a live bullet in the gun – or anywhere on the movie set. He relied on the professionals with whom he worked, who assured him the gun did not have live rounds. We will fight these charges, and we will win.” 

I would hate to be in Baldwin’s shoes.  Over fifty years ago, I rolled a car, and came to in the wreck to find my passenger thrown out.  I was lucky – Barb was virtually uninjured – she landed on both feet with only a quarter-inch cut from broken glass on her hand.  I only had five or ten seconds believing that I had killed a friend – and that horrible thought is still with me over half a century later.  I feel for the man.  Still, despite the right A-frame failure on my car, I was the guy at the wheel. 

Baldwin has a record of calling for the elimination of the organization that provided and taught the gun safety rules.  He has denied pulling the trigger, and neither the prosecutor or I find that claim credible (my opinion doesn’t count).  The case should be interesting.

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These Banners May Be Red Flags

There has been a bit of traffic on the net about banning gas stoves.  I didn’t pay a lot of attention to the bans until I retired, came home, and started a bunch of retirement careers.  As I started on building a new house, I encountered the bans.  My toilets are all 1.6 gallon flushers – but that’s an old change.  My showers are low water use.  The dishwasher – a poor, fragile beast, is designed to run for long periods and minimize water use.  My gas cans have been modified to spill more as they protect the environment from evaporating fuel.  Some states and provinces are setting deadlines for the last internal combustion engines in automobiles.

I don’t mind having safe products.  I don’t particularly mind being protected.  I do mind it when half-wits are making my decisions for me.  Unfortunately, there are a lot of half-wits who want to limit what other people can do. 

Let’s talk about groundwater – Dickey Lake’s water surface is shown at 3,111 feet above sea level.  I’m living at about 3,180 feet, a little over a mile away.  Amazingly enough, the water level in our drilled wells is somewhere around 70 feet deep when they aren’t being pumped.  I’ve taken a couple of courses in hydrology – and that doesn’t make me an expert.  Still, I think my evaluation of the water supply, depth and my needs is probably better than the political decisions of urban dwelling bureaucrats and politicians.  Perhaps it’s just an ego thing.

I have neighbors who live off-grid.  That propane stove qualifies as a near-necessity to them.  I suspect that none of the gas stove banners live off-grid.  Propane stoves, water heaters and clothes dryers are part of bringing life off-grid close to living on the grid.

The fifth circuit overturned the ban on bumpstocks – so they’re not legal in my neighborhood, but they’re legal again in Texas.  Even if they get back to being legal in my neighborhood, they’re not a problem to me as long as I’m not buying the ammunition.  I watch the pistol brace laws with fascination – what the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (sounds like a C-store in a tough neighborhood, no?) declared as a pistol brace in 2012 is now a stock for a short-barreled rifle.  I anticipate the Supreme Court will get rid of a bit more ambiguity.

“Political tags — such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and so forth — are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. The former are idealists acting from highest motives for the greatest good of the greatest number. The latter are surly curmudgeons, suspicious and lacking in altruism. But they are more comfortable neighbors than the other sort.”

Robert Heinlein
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A New Tremelo Harmonica

My new harmonica came with some sort of songs and tablature that I can’t read – fortunately, the website listed 江苏天鹅乐器有限公司 – and when I type it in, google offers to translate from Chinese.   So my latest harmonica – a Swan Tremolo harp in C and G is a Red Chinese import.

I’m not particularly surprised – tremolo harps are more an Asian thing than American – the standard we measure against is the old Marine Band and the Chrometta – my grandmother got me into the Chromettas

and I don’t know who it was that turned me on to Marine Bands and Blues harps

Still, years ago, I found out that I like the Tremolo harp.  The Swan Both Sides flips over to shift from the key of C to G . . . and I’ve been using a standard single-sided Tremolo harp (well, a couple of them, really) for over 20 years.  This article at harmonicatunes.com  describes using them . . . and I still need the standard harmonicas for blues.

The Tremolo Harmonica

“In recent years I’ve become part of the Asian harmonica scene, due to a Chinese harmonica lesson website I launched in 2006 with a Chinese partner. While the site has over 70000 members, most Asians don’t play 10 hole harmonica, the subject of my lessons. Instead, many play the Tremolo.

I was initially unimpressed with the Tremolo. I’ve changed my mind.

The Tremolo has either 21 or 24 holes. The comb has a divider down the middle which doubles the number of holes. The Tremolo is actually two harmonicas, tuned slightly apart and played in unison. The beating which occurs between the notes creates the Tremolo sound, not unlike a piano accordian. It’s an acquired taste, I’m starting to like it.

This double reed layout means that two notes are played at once. It also means that notes can’t be bent (actually, single tremolo notes can be bent a little, not the double ones however). Unlike the diatonic, each hole has one note only, either a blow or a draw. This takes getting used to, applying air at the wrong place means no sound. Also, no bending limits options for blues.

However the Tremolo is great for tunes. It’s also (kind of) laid out like a diatonic, as the diagram shows. The top holes in the diagram are the blow ones, and make a C chord, just like a diatonic. Each note is doubled, so the space in the diagram above the first hole D has another D reed, the space below the second hole C has another C and so on.”

From “Harmonica World” Oct-Nov 2010

Foy the rest of the article, click the link above . . . but if I haven’t turned you on to the tremolo harp already,  the challenges are:

“The problem is that the draw notes change position. The diagram shows higher draw notes to the left of the blow notes in the bottom octave. The middle octave has the higher notes one space to the right of the lower ones. In the top octave the higher notes are 3 spaces to the right of the adjacent lower notes.

Hard to remember, hard to play. At least for me. Initially I kept missing notes in the bottom and top octaves, especially the top. However, the feel of the two reed plates working (almost) together is nice.”

Personally, I like the tremolo harp – and I don’t mind buying an instrument from China.

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Thoughts on the National Debt

If you can solve a problem by writing a check, you have an expense.  If writing a check won’t solve the problem . . . well, maybe the problem should be addressed directly instead of by writing checks.

On Friday the 13th, Janet Yellen sent a letter to the Speaker of the House saying that “Public Law 117-73 increased the statutory debt limit to approximately $32.381 trillion . . . I am writing to inform you that beginning on Thursday, January 19, 2023, the outstanding debt of the United States is projected to reach the statutory limit.”

A month ago, I wrote about the 1.7 trillion dollar budget – it came out to $5,151 for each individual living in the USA.  The national debt is about 19 times larger – so we could pay it off if each of us wrote a check for $100,000.  If we had the ability to do so, the national debt would indeed just be an expense.  Since we don’t it’s a problem. 

Secretary Yellen continues, “Once the limit is reached, Treasury will need to start taking certain extraordinary measures to prevent the United States from defaulting on its obligations.

The two extraordinary measures Treasury anticipates implementing this month are (1) redeeming existing, and suspending new investments of the Civil Service Retirement and Disability Fund (CSRDF) and the Postal Service Retiree Health Benefits Fund (Postal Fund) and (2) suspending reinvestment of the Government Securities Investment Fund (Gfund) of the Federal Employees Thrift Savings Plan.”

I’m not an economist.  I’m particularly not a Keynesian economist.  Somehow, it seems to me that, if you can’t write a check to solve today’s problem, increasing the debt limit, in the hope that a couple years down the road you’ll be able to write a larger check, is not a rational solution. There are government services and expenses that I can live without –

“In 2022, the Biden administration and the U.S. Congress have directed nearly $50 billion in assistance to Ukraine, which includes humanitarian, financial, and military support, according to the Kiel Institute for the World Economy, a German research institute.” 

https://www.cfr.org/article/how-much-aid-has-us-sent-ukraine-here-are-six-charts

Nothing personal, but I was kind of glad when the Cold War ended – and I’m not convinced that funding Ukraine isn’t just getting it back for some jackasses who profited from it.

I’m looking at the BATF rules on pistol braces – maybe we could just amend the 1934 National Firearms Act to cut out the wording on short barreled rifles and shotguns, give that agency less rules to administer, and save half the budget.  Heck, they might even work on real crimes, with real victims and make a safer country.

If the first “extraordinary measures” are just cutting out retirement obligations, what might we discover if we just looked at cutting out foreign aid until the budget is balanced, and creating a federal employment ceiling to cut every time the debt gets out of control?  If we can’t write a check to turn the problem into an expense, we need a solution.

One of my solutions would slightly change Congress – a small dormitory, with single rooms and a cafeteria for each elected member of Congress.  Drop the pay to the US average wage, provide a coach ticket home and back each week, and see if that wouldn’t change the quality of government. 

If you can’t write a check to cover your expenses, you have a problem.

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In Search of the Perfect Cartridge

A friend shared an article about an ideal rifle cartridge.  The thought brought back to mind a brief lecture delivered by Leonard Bull at Trinidad State – hearing his students arguing on the merits of different cartridges, Leonard was explaining why gunsmiths shouldn’t have favorite cartridges – “Everyone has the cartridge he likes.  Your concerns are to do a good job, build a good rifle, and get paid for it.”

Leonard was probably the best gunsmithing instructor we had when it came to precision work with hand tools.  Others may have been better with mills and lathes – but he had learned his trade in Kenya, and as a professional hunter as well as a gunsmith.  His work sniping during the Mau-mau uprisings had left him permanently unable to return to Kenya – the country that he had represented in (I believe) three Olympic competitions.  And he was a friend of John Buhmiller – Eureka’s top barrelmaker.

TSJC probably had the finest academic library on firearms in the nation back in the mid-eighties, so I dug out Cartridges of the World, read a bit, and decided I needed more information.  Leonard pointed out that brass cartridges came along in the 1860’s, and rifle bores shrunk to about 45 caliber, and that smokeless powder was first loaded in 1888 in the French 8mm Lebel.  In England, they had compressed black powder, increased the velocity, and developed the 303 British cartridge.

Leonard was slightly too polite to assert that the US moving to thirty caliber rifles was due to British research – but the timeline makes it look like the calculated ideal caliber did come from Enfield – unsatisfied with the 303 performance, they developed the 276 Enfield in 1909, using a .282 bullet weighing from 144 to 190 grains.  World War I came along, and the Royal Army’s quest for the perfect cartridge was put aside, and they soldiered on with the old 303 Brit.

At the end of the first World War, the US Army wasn’t satisfied that the 30/06 was their ideal cartridge either.  John D. Pedersen did the calculations for the ideal US Army cartridge, and the book lists the 276 Pedersen – with bullets weighing from 120 grains to 150.  In 1932, with the Great Depression underway, and millions of 30/06 rounds left over from the brief US involvement in the first World War, General MacArthur ended the army’s search for the perfect cartridge . . . but that isn’t the end of the story.

The US entered the second World War with the only semiautomatic rifle fielded as standard – the M1 (Garand).  Both Pedersen and Garand had been doing their development work with the 276 Pedersen . . . and the M1 (Garand) was accepted and changed to 30/06.  The action was plenty strong enough for the 30/06 cartridge – but the operating rod, designed for that ideal 276 Pederson, wasn’t.  The 30/06 cartridge used in WWII was the “Cartridge, Ball, caliber 30,M2 – downloaded to 150 grains and 200 feet per second slower.  The reduced cartridge didn’t bend the op rods.  Of course it had another consequence – the older 172 grain cartridge gave the 30 caliber machine guns a maximum range close to 6,000 yards.  When the 30/06 was downloaded to the M2 cartridge, maximum range dropped to about 3,500 yards.

Which is where the 308 Winchester comes in – it didn’t compete with the full 30/06 – its competitor was the weakened M2 cartridge – and besides, the M14 had more or less the same operating rod as the M1.

I guess Leonard left me knowing that the big developments in cartridges occurred before I was born – and, from what I’ve seen, all of my choices are pretty good.

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Linguistic Relativity

The concept of linguistic relativity has its origin in the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis – a concept appearing a little before the second world war.  While Edward Sapir was a noted linguist and anthropologist, Benjamin Whorf was a chemical engineer, who melded Sapir’s linguistic expertise along with the early studies of quantum physics to come up with the idea that our language strongly influences how we view the world . . . which affects how we do research.  Whorf was definitely not the sort of scholar who publishes in today’s professional journals.

At the extreme, our reality is constructed by the language we speak, and different languages result in different realities.  The structure and lexicon of your language influences how you observe and conceptualize the world, and does that in a systematic way. 

Sapir wrote (1929): “Human beings do not live in the objective world alone, nor alone in the world of social activity as normally understood, but are very much at the mercy of the particular language that has become the medium of expression for their society.  It is quite an illusion to imagine that one adjusts to reality essentially without the use of language and that language is merely an incidental means of solving specific problems of communication or reflection.  Even comparatively simple acts of perception are very much more at the mercy of the social patterns  called words that we might understand.  .  .  We see and otherwise experience very largely because the language habits of our community predispose certain choices of interpretation.”

Whorf reversed the western view of language.  Instead of language following the rules of logic, he showed that western logic conforms to the necessities of western grammar.  According to Whorf, the Hopi language, with its three tenses of present-past, future and generalized, is better equipped to describe modern (quantum) physics, while English imposes the two Newtonian universal forms of static universal three dimensional space and perpetually flowing single-dimensional time.  (Makes it hard to describe the Big Bang in English)

Fortunately, Alibris exists – and MIT published Language, Thought and Reality: the collected writings of Benjamin Whorf back in 1964.  It’s worth reading.

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Thinking about Chickens

As the price of eggs continues to climb, thoughts about chicken farming continue to increase.  I don’t recall any Extension Chicken specialists from my time with MSU Extension – though I did meet SDSU’s last Chicken Specialist around 2000.  He was 80 then, and hadn’t retired as a chicken specialist. 

Chicken specialists don’t get a lot of respect.  I met a Hutterite school teacher – had his degree, his teaching certificate and all . . . a minister from another colony (more conservative) had met him, learned of his credentials, and opined “Your colony is missing a good chicken man.”  

Still, thinking of South Dakota’s Hutterites and poultry does lead me to pointing out one of the advantages to raising chickens in northwest Montana.  We’re not in the flyway, with huge flocks of migrating birds bringing bird flu to our farms and ranches.  I recall bird flu ravaging the local chicken operations twice in the 15 years I was there.  Here, we can probably get bird flu, but vastly fewer migratory birds reduces the odds.

I’ve just written most of my knowledge on chickens – but for the essential item in my yard: I have predators, some airborne and some four-legged.  Open range should not be part of a chicken operation for me.  Eagles and coyotes would both be a significant risk to any flock I let run loose.  Fortunately, Minnesota’s Extension Service had Extension Educator Betsy Wieland on staff, and before she left, she published an article on raising chickens at extension.umn.edu

You can order chicken tractors on Amazon, or from Wayfair.  It might just be the way to keep eggs on your plate.

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Next Summer’s Garden

The garden is still covered in snow.  We will find out how the blackberries handled the -29 temperatures this coming summer – they are a bit more cold sensitive than our other brambles – but they have had several years for the roots to grow.  Hopefully they have survived.

In January, it’s a good time to see what NOAA projects to be in store for us – temperature and precipitation.

So, it appears we’re looking at a colder Spring with more precipitation coming in.  As we grab the next outlook, we see temperature outlooks returning more toward normal and

The Summer outlook maps suggest plenty of growing degrees, and a good time for irrigation:

So, it looks like it will be time to plan on a good corn crop, and it is probably time to order some short-season melons and cantaloupes.  January and February are times to make sure we have the seeds on hand for planting – but I’m not ready to predict the last Spring frost date . . . yet.

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Just the Facts Ma’am, Just the Facts

There are times when I realize that I’m wrong.  Sometimes in a discussion where, all of a sudden, a single, well-reasoned statement demonstrates where I made a logic blunder or an omission.  When this occurs, the rational response is to abandon the argument.

When I saw this quotation, it kind of hit me as an explanation:

I’d been talking with a friend about the “Never Trumpers” and the “Only Trumpers.”  In a nation of 330 million people, it is highly unlikely that I can’t find someone better fitted for the presidency than Donald Trump.  It’s equally unlikely that I won’t be able to find someone worse for the job than Donald Trump.  You can substitute names like Mitch McConnell and Nancy Pelosi and their jobs if you want.  Probability says that there are poorer choices than Joe Biden. 

I think Doctor Who might have hit it right about folks who alter the facts to fit their views.  I read an intriguing comment on global warming/climate change – the writer suggested that all of our climate and weather data be charted in degrees Kelvin.  If you’ve forgotten the Kelvin thermometer, it starts at absolute zero . . . if I remember correctly, back in my high school days Mr. Calvert explained that absolute zero was about 273 degrees below zero Celsius.  I listened to the argument that it is the point where all motion ceases, and then I think I took it on faith that Mr. Calvert knew more than I.

“The coldest theoretical temperature is called absolute zero, at which the thermal motion of atoms and molecules reaches its minimum.  This is a state at which the enthalpy and entropy of a cooled ideal gas reaches its minimum value, taken as 0. Classically, this would be a state of motionlessness, but quantum uncertainty dictates that the particles still possess a finite zero-point energy. Absolute zero is denoted as 0 K on the Kelvin scale, −273.15 °C on the Celsius scale, and −459.67 °F on the Fahrenheit scale.” 

https://www.thermal-engineering.org/what-is-absolute-zero-temperature-definition/

Still, I have the nagging uncertainty – how could we tell if things got colder than absolute zero?  I accept absolute zero as the best factual explanation we have.  I can see why graphs from absolute zero might be a bit less confusing.  And I suspect that political disagreements stem from “My mind is made up.  Stop confusing me with facts.”

I think back to the presidential election of 1964 – I kind of liked Goldwater, probably for his black rimmed glasses . . . yet Dick Sharp explained to me that Goldwater would start a nuclear war – a matter more serious than the black rimmed glasses.  Goldwater lost – but Lyndon Johnson’s foreign policy efforts in Southeast Asia led to several deaths among our classmates.  We were using propaganda and advertisements instead of facts.

On October 15, 1969, as I cut through the Student Union between classes, I heard a few sentences from a speaker for the VietNam Moratorium.  As I recall he said, “You don’t need to be concerned about Ho Chi Minh.  It’s your own politicians that can hurt you.”  A simple statement – and I think we need to look at the potential harm each elected and appointed political can do.