Monday, January 22, 2018

Urinary Tract Stones

Not me, the Boston Terrier.

Not My Dog
The Boston Terrier is a dog that was chosen by one of the two older children.  My child chose this dog because it was "cute".  That, and because they thought they would be given $600 every time somebody wanted to breed Boston Terriers.  No surprise to Mrs ERJ or me, the breeding fees never showed up.

When that child left home, their dog stayed.  This is a fact-of-life for parents.  Kids move on.  Dogs don't.

Diversity complicates management
Different sizes of dogs have different needs.  German Shepherds like being outside even when it is -10F.  German Shepherds like playing in the snow.  German Shepherds are happy when they can run for miles.

Boston Terriers are much smaller.  Our's weighs about 15 pounds vs. 75 pounds for the GSDs.  Boston Terriers have short, flat coats compared to the German Shepherd's deep, lofty fur.

Boston Terriers do not like cold.  They do not like snow.  They don't like drinking cold water on cold days.

Another difference between BIG dogs and little dogs is dietary.  Little dogs need more calories per pound especially in cold weather because they shiver more.  They are also vulnerable to excess calcium in their food.  Small urinary tract passages are easier to plug.  Higher rates of H2O transpiration and lower water intake in cold weather cause lower urine volume and result in more solids precipitating out of their urine.  Not good.

Dog food
We decided it was time to get a dog food that will be specifically for the Boston Terrier.  No more big-bag food for that little boy.
We purchased a bag of Hills Science Diet Small/Toy Breed Adult dog food.  The bag lists the calcium content as Min...0.65%.  The internet says 0.96%  That is a very large difference.
Mrs ERJ and I went to a pet store yesterday.  We were bedazzled by the array of special dog foods.  Aisle-after-aisle of foods.  We checked bags for calcium content. Many brands of dog food seem to think nutritional information is not important, they listed no quantitative info.  Unfortunately the bags that did list calcium content only listed the minimum content so the information is partial. 

The foods formulated for small or toy breeds have a higher fat content.  Higher calories means less food per day which means less calcium.

Water is the magic ingredient
One source on the internet suggests that feeding the food moist helps small dogs get more water into their systems.

In miniature Schnauzers, increasing dietary moisture content increased total moisture intake, and reduced urine specific gravity, urinary oxalate concentration, and calcium oxalate RSS (Stevenson et al. 2003b). In contrast, there was no effect on the urinary concentration of Labradors (Stevenson et al. 2003b), indicating they may regulate water balance more effectively. These data show that small breeds that tend to be at greater risk of calcium oxalate formation may benefit from increased dietary moisture in order to help maintain urinary tract health or manage calcium oxalate urolithasis.  -Source

The same source also suggested that adding common table salt, sodium chloride, to the dog's diet also stimulates water intake.  The plan is to moisten the Boston Terrier's food with chicken bouillon and kill two birds with one stone.

The other little tweak is to give the little pooch distilled water.  Our water is hard and the primary cation is Ca++.  I know that it does not add very much calcium in the overall scheme of things, but distilled water is cheap and we will go back to "regular" when the weather warms up.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

House values and the interest rate

The latest data from FRED shows the median sale price of an existing house is $250,000

The value of houses is very sensitive to interest rates.

Shoppers are typically working within a budget.  They can only afford what they can afford.  Eventually, sellers must price to the market.  This mechanism is completely independent of the effect rising interest rates has on hours worked.  In practice, the budgets most buyers are working with also shrink when interest rates rise.

If the market starts at 4.0% a 1.0% rise in the interest rate will reduce the selling price by 10% and start to push new home-owners underwater.  That assumes 10% down and 30 year fixed mortgages.

Rising interest rates also puncture the wealth-effect of rising equity in homes.  Few things make you feel poorer than seeing a $25,000 loss on paper.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Shithole countries

This is a section through a mulberry log.  Somehow it seemed like an appropriate, G-rated, picture to lead this essay.
Let's look at Senegal, West Africa.

Completely ignoring culture, what would it take to fix the "fecalized environment"?

Wastewater treatment
The state-of-the art is activated sludge bio-degradation of human wastes.  The wastewater, a slurry of water and "other stuff" is run into a settling pond.  The "other stuff" is quantified in terms of Biological Oxygen Demand or BOD.  BOD is the amount of oxygen that the slurry would suck out of the water if it were dumped into a river.  That loss of oxygen typically results in fish kills.
Oxidization Ditches where the effluvia recirculates is considered one of the more appropriate technologies for austere environments.  Each "ditch" should be wide enough for a Bobcat to enter and scrape out.  Multiple ditches allows the system to keep running even when part of it is being maintained.

Approximately half of the BOD is removed from the wastewater after 24 hours in a settling pond.  The liquid is then sent to ponds where air is forced into the water.  Some systems use bubblers, others use paddlewheels or vertical turbines.  Some use jets of water to entrain air bubbles, much like a Jacuzzi.

Finally, the water is treated with chlorine or UV light and released to the wild.

How much power does it take?
A significant portion of Senegal's electrical production is from hydroelectric sources.  Once exploited, it is rarely possible to "scale up" the production at a site.
According to the CIA Factbook, the average daily electrical power consumption of a Senegalese is 0.50 kW-hr.  This is a bit of a myth because a few, rich city people use far more than that and the vast majority of the rest of the people use far less.  Approximately 40% of the population live in rural areas and have almost no access to electricity.  But let's go with the average because it is what we have.
Senegal is not even that bad, relatively speaking.

The average African produces twice as much fecal material as the average North American due to the higher fiber content of their food.  Constipation is rarely a problem in Africa.  That equates to about 0.25 lbs of fecal dry matter per person per day.

According to the Army Corp of Engineers it takes between 0.20 kW-hrs and 0.55 kW-hrs to deliver the air necessary to digest one pound of BOD.  That means that simply injecting the air in the activated sludge digester would consume  0.05 kW-hrs per person per day.  (0.25 lbs/person X 0.5 left in the settling pond X 0.40 kW-hrs)

That is 10% of the electrical produced in Senegal for just one stage of the wastewater treatment.

One reason shithole countries are shithole countries is because they have almost no economy.  Technology is a wonderful thing but it stands on a foundation of infrastructure...including electrical production.  To provide a useful frame-of-reference, the average electrical consumption in the US is about 65 times as much, per person, as in Senegal.

Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner

Serving the customer

I grit my teeth when people in the "public sector" define an outsider as "He came from business."

To me, "business" was so broad of a term as to be meaningless.

I stand corrected.

People who come from "business" understand the insanity of punishing their customers.  

During the 2013 shutdown.
 During the last Federal Government shutdown the Administration configured things to inflict maximum pain on the public.  The Executive Branch assumed there was a transitive property to pain, that they can hurt the other side by punishing the "other side's" constituents.

Note the different mindset:  "Business wins customers through service." while "Government punishes until the subjects submit."

Much of my interaction with the Federal Government is through the internet.  That is, ported through servers (computers) and in nearly all cases the processes I use are automated.  For all practical purposes, a Federal shutdown becomes invisible to me if nobody powers down the servers.

Does that cost a little bit of money, to keep the servers powered up?  Yes, maybe a little.  But it also costs money to keep the buildings heated and the fans running to prevent the plumbing from freezing.  The cost of the keeping the servers running is probably 0.001% of the Federal budget.  They probably spent more money in labor to shut the servers down than they saved in power.

Obama's Executive branch powered down .gov servers the minute the government shut down.

So far, the servers I "tickled" this shutdown remain up.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Annual physicals

My annual physical is scheduled for the middle of next week.

I had my blood work done ahead of time so the information will be available for the doctor at the time of my physical.  The numbers are about what you would expect from an overweight guy who is almost sixty.

I was moaning about the timing of the physical.  Can there be a worse time to have your blood work done than after the gluttony of the holiday season?  Cheese logs, generous libations, ham, sweet taters, mashed taters, gravy, breakfasts out with company, desserts...oh the desserts!

The other thing that conspires against favorable "numbers" is that it takes a great deal of discipline to exercise.  For one thing, there is less time for exercise when entertaining.  For another, the weather outside is discouraging.  It is hard to walk outside when the roads are covered in slush or ice. 

Another factor is that dieting makes the temperature seem 15 degrees colder.  We are genetically programed to eat when it is cold.

Mrs ERJ's take on the situation is a little different.  "Deal with it.  December and January are 1/6th of your life.  The numbers are real.  If you don't like the numbers than do something about it."

I don't like the numbers and told Mrs ERJ so.

The last few weeks Mrs ERJ has made a project out of me.  She drags me out walking every other day regardless of the weather.  She feeds me leafy greens.  Fried foods are now forbidden.  I get the impression that she wants to keep me around for a while.

For my part I am doing portion control and gave up my nightly tipple.  I also bought a bathroom scale because our last scale disappeared.

Weighing myself weekly has been disappointing.  According to the scale I had gained weight after the first week.  This morning was the end of the second week and I am a bit below my starting weight.

I started at 213 and this morning's weight was 210.  And for the Canadians who are reading, that is pounds, not kilograms.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Things are different now

"Things are different now" is one of the great lies.  One reason it is such a fantastic lie is because it is partially true.

For example:  Many kids graduating from high school today can casually sit down with a tablet, laptop or other computer and edit video.  To them, it is not an extraordinary thing.

That is inconceivable to bosses and coaches who might be only ten years older than those students.

We are all familiar with how useful video can be when coaching things like swinging a golf club or throwing dwarves.  We are less familiar with the uses of video in industrial applications because it has rarely used.  The reasons for that rarity are rarity of equipment and rarity of editing and analysis talent.

In industry
Consider a robotic welding cell where four robots weld parts.  Each robot is programmed with interference zones.  If an adjacent robot is in "the interference zone" then the robot in question pauses until the adjacent robot moves out of the interference zone.

Using video, the process owner can take footage from several different angles.  The footage can be synchronized by ensuring that some definitive event like the last weld, the club impacting the golf ball or the release of the dwarf occurs at the same time on each screen.  Then, the process owner can determine if the robots really are at risk of impacting.  Sometimes a simple fix that eliminates the need for the interference zone becomes obvious, like a reorientation of one or both robots or to have one of the robots start welding from a different direction or start on a different weld.

Additionally, it becomes clear if it makes sense to program multiple interference zones.  Robot A might make two welds and then make a big move away from Robot B and make three more welds before leaving the interference zone.  It might make sense to program two interference zones in Robot B.  One stops Robot B for Robot A's first two welds but allows it to nibble its way toward Robot A after they are done.  After completing the work that is "safe" when Robot A is welding its last three welds then Robot B can pause, if necessary, until Robot A clears. 

That kind of work is difficult to do in real time but a snap with videos and multiple views.  What has changed is that people who can do the video work are no longer a limiting factor.  Belladonna could do this kind of thing as a Junior in high school.

It is not uncommon to have one process or operator be significantly faster than the others.  It is easy to dismiss the faster operator as being "more athletic" but that is not always accurate.  Their speed is often an accumulation of little things:  How do they hold each part.  Orientation of the part as they approach the assembly or fixture. How they use both hands.

Happy tools
This wrist band frees up one hand that would otherwise be carrying screws and/or eliminates motions (like an up/down on a ladder) to get more fasteners.
Sometimes the greater speed is because the operator is using "happy tools".  Happy tools are named after the toys that came in McDonald Happy Meals.  They are cheap, simple assembly aids.  They can include aprons or specialized tool and part holders.

The observer who is walking by the work-space is likely to miss the use of the happy tool while the person watching video can quantify exactly how much productivity gain can be attributed to the use of that tool.

A surprising number of kids graduating from high school and college can do video editting.  All you have to do is ask them.