Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Moving dirt

Yesterday I did some dirt moving. Our ranch yard and driveways are not paved. They are just dirt and the stuff that grows in dirt.

Over time traffic and nature team up to form potholes. From time to time the potholes need to be fixed. I've let them get into an awful state.

But there's an app for that! It's called learning how to fill potholes on the ranch with a Bobcat.

Addressing the problem begins with trying to understand the problem. Observation over time is a useful framework for suitcasing the problem.

I've worked out a theory for fixing the potholes. Fill them with dirt. How do you do that and how well does it work? One approach is to get stuck in and give it a try. In theory you learn as you go and find out over time how well your ideas work and how well your theories match of with reality. It's a process. In theory.

Here's what it looks like when I've dumped dirt into big, deep puddles. Yuck!

Hmm. It looks like the filling in part might actually be working. Freaky!

Direct hit! Here's an interesting question -- what's another name for dirt? Heh-heh. And will my efforts here work? What will happen over time?

Wait a minute...farming?!? There's no food production in the middle of a crisis!!!

The process of figuring out is very enjoyable.

A bit more dirt pondering, a Bobcat shutdown tip, and a wildly popular chicken update!


Richard Feynman told a story about going for walks with his Dad when he was a lad. He's point to a bird and ask his Dad the name, because he wanted to have the same level of bird knowledge as his chums, whose fathers were all masters of bird identification.

Feynman's Dad, who was a uniform salesman and not a scientist or ornithologist at all, told him that if you know the name you really only know what a lot of people agree to call the bird, and nothing about the bird itself. Nothing wrong with knowing the name, but if you want to really understand birds you have to do the work of understanding birds.

Today we have a new crop of birds. Flatten the curve. Novel virus. The world has changed forever.

Everywhere across the first world people are saying the names. They're doing a crackerjack of a job. They can say the names right out without faltering or hesitation.

And they don't know anything about the birds.

Worse yet, they think they know everything about the birds because they get all this marvelous information telling them what they are supposed to think.


Everybody knows the fairy tale and that it was about a stupid king and stupid advisers believing a bunch of shyster cloth makers who were selling invisible cloth; cloth that could only be seen by really, really smart people. So naturally everybody signed on to the deal because no one was willing to admit they could see no cloth -- that would mean they weren't really, really smart you see. Then some little kid comes along and says, "holy revealing robes, batman, the king is naked!"

The fairy tale was a fable, right? It was fiction with a point. The point wasn't about how dumb those bumpkins were or how inbred the king was or how the cloth makers were oppressing and victimizing everyone. The point is that every partially evolved lizard-ape has the ability to be gullible, and also the ability to double down to near infinity on their own gullibility because (as the kids say these days) reasons.


I find it somewhat amusing that so many people hold those idiots of the past who got into depressions and famines and wars and rampant anarchy in such deep, deep contempt. The most dangerous people in the world today are people who are certain they understand the situation and certain they cannot be fooled. But then that's true all day, every day.

Today these people are demanding that the government do something, mostly with the belief that the government has the ability to act with precision in each and every individual case. They want toilet paper, and they believe that the government has a guy (millions of guys) all trained up and ready to not only bring them the charmin, but to wipe they butts as long as the guy is there anyway.

Is that an outrageous proposition? Methinks not. Sorry 'bout that.

Everyone has the ability to see and understand that government can only do government stuff, and government stuff is not a precision tool. For some reason a lot of folks have the idea -- despite a great deal of evidence to the contrary -- that government is a single great mind controlling many little hands that are doing purposeful stuff with care, precision, and good reason. In reality government is many, many thousands of minds struggling to control a very few, very big, and very uncoordinated hands. When one of those flailing hands splats down you really don't want to be very close. But many people prefer the rainbows and unicorns version.


If people are genuinely worried about the virus thingy, they should be trying to suitcase the actual level of the threat. I believe that many folks are doing just that, but I feel kind of lonely surrounded by so many who are constantly parroting soundbites like a bunch of drunken magpies.

One of the important things to try to understand is how many people are getting the virus. That's a basic fundamental a person needs to begin to understand the problem and how best to respond.

Unfortunately, you can't tell what the numbers really are until after the fact analysis is done. We're in the middle of the thing and we can't know the future.

But wait, it gets worse!

The preliminary numbers that everyone seems to be focusing on and building speculative projections from are badly flawed, and cannot help but be badly flawed.

How are the basic numbers counted? Where are the numbers coming from, and how are they being handled, from the moment the coughing patient walks in the door? I actually know how it's done, and I know from direct experience that untold thousands of office and ward clerks, nurses, and physicians make a lot of simple little mistakes when checking boxes on forms during the best of times. When suddenly faced with new forms, a suddenly changed operating environment, a new and clearly important mission set, collection and transcription errors are going to go through the roof. That's where the numbers are coming from. At that level there isn't any question about motivation, but at that basic level, which is where the data are coming from, there is no way to avoid error, and there's bound to be a lot of error.

Forget about the level of information dissemination. It should be self evident that there's a great deal of manipulation at that level. A lot of butchers have a lot of thumbs on that scale. When in history has that not been the case?

If a person wants to actually understand the problem as described in the common day to day narrative, they need to understand how much confidence they can have in the reported numbers and therefore whether the speculative projections are reasonably valid. They hear a lot of horror stories, but there are no "bring out your dead" events happening in their neighborhoods. So what should they do, and how should they arrive at a well reasoned decision?

Two choices, often continually intermingling. Look to reality, or look to a flawed and patently distorted narrative version of reality.

That later is a form of psychosis -- a belief that reality is wrong and something else is right.


Today with the wonder of the interwebz you can actually get a pretty good handle on the reality of the situation and develop a basic level of pretty valid understanding free of the massive errors attending much of the common narrative. I'd opine that this is what people who are actually concerned should be doing, and I'd also opine that there are massively more people doing this than I fear. There are good signs of that, as well.

It looks to me that the virus thingy is not much of a threat at all. Sure, old and sick people are highly likely to be shoved out into the River Styx is they catch it. But that's not fundamentally different than before the bird "novel virus" showed up.

There is a very serious threat present, however, one far more serious and liable to do far more destruction than any virus could ever dream of.

Across the first world people have unleashed the big, flailing hands of government. We're well past the point of no splatter. The question now is whether people are going to have the will to rein in the flailing hands before really bad stuff happens.


I'm not optimistic so far as the severity of damage from second- and third-order consequences. I hope I'm wrong.

It doesn't really matter though, because I'm stuck -- just like everyone else -- having to navigate the storm as it happens. I've got to keep putting one foot in front of the other, and I can only take the counsel of my fears at very great personal peril.

In times like these Kipling's If and TR's Man in the Arena speech are worth re-reading.

Be well and embrace the blessings -- one of which is responsibility -- of liberty.


  1. All I really know for sure is it's a Superbadtransmitablecontagiousawfulvirus!
    That, and if the Big Government is gonna try to fix it, their gonna fix it with the same hammer for everyone.
    Ain't it grand! (HSWHTPFIHC)

    1. Grand indeed! ;-)

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting Skip!

  2. Now I'm going to hear Carole King's I Feel the Earth Move all the live long day. But there are worse things to have stuck in one's head!

    I come here for a dose of reality and you never fail to deliver Shaun.

    This virus thing will pass, one way or the other. It's dealing with the repercussions we should be concerned about, we shall see how this plays out, or we'll all be dead. I have faith, it keeps me going.

    1. Thanks Sarge. Maybe I should do more reality and less bullsheets.

      As Oddnall said, "Have a little faith Baby, have a little faith!"

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  3. O.M.G... you used the R word... How DARE you... Sigh. Times like this are when you find out the true nature of people. Those that rise to the occasion and work to make a difference/solve the problem and those who run in circles screaming, shouting, and blaming others... PERSONAL responsibility is the key right now. Do what you can to control what directly impacts you. That is the key point right now.

    1. It's not a popular concept, that's for sure.

      I keep forgetting that 99+ percent of the population have never been in the shit, never even been on the same continent as the shit. Maybe this will help a few folks realize that you can actually function in the middle of the shit.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  4. Using the way back machine to when I mismanaged construction projects, may I recommend you investigate geotextiles? These fabrics are designed to separate substrate from gravel while allowing water to pass through. The two main advantages are reducing the need for maintenance long term and reducing the amount of gravel on top needed. The cost/benefit may not be favorable in your case.

    1. The wayback machine is filled with brilliant solutions for all of today's problems. But since that's how old people did it...

      I've looked into several options to help mitigate some of the driveway/ranch yard problems we deal with but none of them make a lot of sense for our particular problem. It's actually a small problem that routine maintenance works well on and human engineering can only very slightly improve.

      Thanks for the tip and thanks for stopping by and commenting WSF!

  5. Except for the music, what Sarge said. Spring has sprung here in North Carolina and we are moving small amounts of dirt to plant small things like small trees. Lots of little things to keep busy and there is no need for a machine. Machines are good, but I want to cut back on the number of things that I need to keep running. Stay safe, healthy and happy and things will work out.

    1. I wonder if Carole King runs a Bobcat?

      Spring is here too, and typical of spring here, air temps tumbled overnight and it's presently 21 degrees in freezing fog/mist. The forecast is anticipating an inch or so of snow later in the day. Good spring moisture!

      You do the same Mark. I've no doubt you're correct.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting!