Shear Pins, Slip Clutches, Pressure Valves, Fuses, and the Unsung Nobility of Sacrificial Parts

Balance and Configuration:

I was helping my employer troubleshoot some electrical problems we were having in the barn. They had followed a ground wire outside and wanted me to cut it and put it on a new pipe. I pulled out my trusty multitool and made short work of it. That night suddenly the silos unloaders wouldn’t run, I checked the breaker box, ah, an easy fix, one of the breakers was tripped, I went to reset it. The ensuing flash and thunderclap as I tried to reset the breaker is probably as close as I’ll ever come to being hit by lightning. Once I managed to swallow my heart back down my throat, it was definitely time to call the electrician. It wasn’t long before they tracked down the issue, what my employer had thought was a ground wire was actually part of the silo electrical circuit. Needless to say it was brought up to code, and it was the final nail in the coffin for my giving people the benefit of the doubt when it comes to competency.

Our modern world is full of nifty devices and technology that constantly safeguard infrastructure and people. If a load goes beyond intended or safe parameters there are built in points and components that will fail, and are more easy and cheap to replace than the entire assembly. They can be single use like fuses, shear pins and rupture discs (for electrical, mechanical and pressure applications respectively) or breakers, slip clutches and pressure release valves which will reset themselves or are much quicker and easier to reset once the problem is corrected.

Well adjusted people have similar mental mechanisms. They have the drive to do things with their life, and enough strength of conviction to persevere consistently even as the going gets rough, but they also don’t get catastrophically bogged down in the insurmountable quagmires, they know when to quit.

The Cascading Failure:

How many times have you had seemingly one thing go wrong, and then nothing else seemed to go right? A friend of mine related a story where they had a flat tire, this being at night they left their lights on but shut the engine off, after they changed the tire the car of course wouldn’t start, their cell phone had no connection and they had to walk. Gremlins, right? One of those days!

“One of those days” is a terrible superstition to carry around with you, because they are self fulfilling prophecies. The sooner you can stop repeating that saying and taking mental control of the situation, the sooner you’ll sail into smoother waters.

Cascading failures are a common phenomena however, and I would hazard the guess that they are most commonly brought about by MERH buildup. Let’s look at my friends example and see how this could have been prevented or mitigated.

Malaise: Things just aren’t quite right. While there are road hazards which can flatten tires and bad luck can just happen, how often do we perform our routine maintenance? How old was that battery? Were the tires properly inflated, did they have enough tread, etc? In a word, it comes down to preparation, say it with me, failing to prepare is preparing to fail. We lead very frantic lives and let’s face it, sometimes we just drop the ball and don’t see where it rolls and soon enough forget about it until it shows up somewhere problematic.

Emotional Response: This will be the momentum and leverage of the problem. Usually, it is anger or rage (focused or unfocused hostility) that really screws us over. My friend was pissed off that the tire went flat, it was probably late at night, they were tired, and just not in any sort of mood to deal with such BS. Shutting the engine off may have been a matter of safety, but like as not, they simply didn’t think it through. We can’t consider every implication of every consequence of every action even in good circumstances, but in the fog of emotion our sight is further limited. This is where discipline is of great help, we won’t engage the negative thoughts, rather let them be, and muster our logic and rational behaviors to our side. Yes, easier said than done!

Haste: the final nail in your coffin of waste. While it is critical to keep up a good pace to get things done in life, it is just a fact of life that the faster you go, the larger the scale and scope of the fallout from screw ups will be. Throw an old vinyl record against a wall and it will shatter, but in a tornado, that same record can embed itself into a telephone pole.

Contraindication and Nuance:

There are many different grades of sacrificial parts for many different applications, and although for instance you could place a 25 amp fuse in a 5 amp fuse to effectively bypass the safety rig and get a job done, it would be risking a much more costly (and unsafe) situation. Likewise we can draw a line in the sand and insist we get our way on something, and in plenty of matters in life this is what honor demands, but we must consider the costs. Priority should always be set in context. In your day, beating a particularly frustrating video game should get a 5 amp fuse; games are fun but the return on investment is nominal, and so if you are getting unduly miffed over something, let it go quickly. Beating a personal best weight lifting record should get a 15 amp fuse, do your best because there is so much to gain, but don’t risk injury which will only cause you setbacks (if not a broken back). Beating a rival and getting a great payday and recognition should get a hefty 25 amp fuse (if not an entire proverbial relay setup!) because this will be a great challenge, you’ll be diverting a great deal of energy to the matter and things will heat up, you’ll need to be strong under pressure. But, say if it is going to come to blows in a 40 amp situation, let it go.

The amazing thing about people as opposed to machines is that when you subject a person to a difficult situation (with appropriate recovery) they will adapt and grow to meet the challenge again. In this way you can upgrade your fuses to accommodate heavier loads, or, to allow you to drop petty matters much quicker.

The person who takes up the inverse of the sacrificial part mindset would be a pretty sorry individual indeed. This person would be very noncommittal and lacking in initiative, get little done and have plenty of setbacks, but would also be that person to dig their feet in over the most senseless and petty affairs. Most unfortunately for us in our day and age not only do hapless people paying no particular direction to their lives get caught up in this quagmire, but it is actively prescribed by certain elements of society. Plenty of good people choose to confront such ilk, but personally I see it as a self defeating menace.

The value of balance, of yin and yang, drive and rest, has been acknowledged throughout the ages and across cultures because it has so much merit, yet its lessons become so quickly forgotten.


A Few Mental Tricks for Perseverance and Tranquility

A Few Mental Tricks for Perseverance and Calm

Getting caught up in our day is something that happens to everyone. Some people have a coolness under pressure and can withstand the daily grind with grace. Body posture can have an effect on the mind, and so can mental posture.

Notice where in your head the focus of your consciousness is. Mine tends towards the middle front of my head. You can play around with it and move it elsewhere and it can have some interesting effects. Shifting it forward happens in concentration and heavy mental lifting. Forward is the area of fight or flight, and also where we start talking to ourselves and wallow around in depression, if you aren’t careful extended forward mental focus can be like slumped shoulders and signal your body it is under siege.

Shifting it to the back of your head helps with perception and relaxation. You will feel more in control and equanimous. It is a great spot to set as your base, especially in our stressful world. For a centering and clearing sensation you can try squeezing your consciousness to the periphery of your head and let it swirl around all over from there, even down into your body and outside of it.

You can pair this with a smile, and keeping your eyes in the upper half of the sockets. They don’t have to be all the way up, though play around with it. Keeping your gaze just above half way usually with luck and practice generates an uplifting feeling in your mood and spirits. It is a great way to empower yourself and a nifty way to work yourself into a trance. Allow the use of your whole peripheral sight too, not just a narrow focus. As part of an overall relaxed, confident, open body posture and mindset keeping your focus reigned back can help you keep a calm place in the storm of your day. This is the nature of being grounded, you can take the emotional charge of the area, and let it pass through you, resulting in a calmer more balanced state. This has the benefit of being perennially attractive to people, it is uncommon after all in our era for people to field such a feat.

The next trick is engaging our imaginations a bit. Pending on your disposition you can imagine yourself as a puppet, or in the embrace of an angel, or the clutches of a demon. Your energy is coming from a higher force, you can feel it pulsing and writhing through you.

In the worse times you can perform a bit of legerdemain and rationalize your problems as good. Rejoice in your agony and misery you wretch, it is your lot to suffer. The pain you feel is justice, you allowed your ego to grow beyond your worth. You are being cleansed of the pernicious false entitlements. Don’t try to turn away or escape it but face it and take it in, experience it to the full breadth and magnitude possible. I like to imagine myself as a product of necromantic reanimation, conjured into a miserable world for the express purpose of doing the bidding of other higher entities with no consideration for myself. (Enjoy that bit of catharsis as you realize just how close to reality that is for so many people!)

 bed chopper

Often we are subconsciously haunted by clutter and neglected low hanging fruit. Disorganized surroundings tend to reflect a disorganized mind, and a quick clean up will give not only the benefit of knowing where things are, but counts as a small victory in your day to give you positive inertia towards your goals and desired outcomes. Similarly leaving easy quick tasks undone has a way of nagging in your mind that will only serve to undermine your efforts in other areas. If perforce you can’t address it immediately at least write down a reminder to do so later, because even worse than failing to head off a quick problem is having it sneak around behind you to pounce later.

Avoid at all costs sabotaging your work out of a sense of revenge. This will only metastasize into poison in other aspects of your day, you will know that you didn’t do your best, and this will hurt you far more than your employer or customer. You’ll be entrenched and defensive, never a good position to be in. Doing the opposite will have the benefits however. The inner pride of forging quality in averse circumstances is unrivaled, and in time your actions may build up in the immediate environment you frequent, and even as you grow accustomed to the unpleasantries, they may diminish. This is that precious gift of the presence and aura of a hero. You can become the decisive factor upon which the work revolves.


The art and judgment is in discerning when and where to stand and develop, or if your resources are better saved for other projects and it would be better to move on. Good books have been written on that, but it mostly comes down to your call. If it seems likely to be productive, then proceed and hang tough. Err on the side of fickleness too long and you will blow through life on the wind, but the other end of the spectrum is getting into a rut, waking up one day realizing the world has long since left you behind, and you inhabit a life utterly alien to what you dreamed of. There will always be trade offs, your inner values will point the way you want to go.

The Mental Toxin Filter

The liver works by treating toxins in the body and dumping them out of it.

Bad thoughts will poison your mind and feed your demons, remove them by writing them down in a notepad as vitriolically as possible, and then forget about them. If they resurface (which they should do less since the sting has been taken out and we tend to forget what is committed to paper) then simply dismiss them by telling yourself no-no, I wrote that down, I don’t need to rehash and remember it.

In time look them over and laugh at your silliness, or banish them forever by conflagration. (Yes, literally kill it with fire.) You may look for common themes and patterns and seek to address them.

Do be sure no one else looks at it if they happen to be a prominent problematic figure.

Acoustic Acclimation Accoutrements

A small but callousing grasp of our impending future can be had fairly easily by taking any given appliance of modern convenience and running it’s non fossil fuel burning counterpart with it. In our polarized age teasing out nuances can be a tricky proposition. Something that seems to be overlooked by my friends putting environmental concerns in the vanguard of their priorities is just how much more productive fossil fuels make us at a task. This isn’t to say overall it is a net good, however. It is much less hassle (and costly) overall to bike a given distance than to take a car. But, in shear productivity the fossil fuels win out, which is why those who lack access to them are completely out competed. The chainsaw beats the ax, the rototiller beats the hoe, and the pimp beats the ho. A single gallon of gas has the same amount of energy as hundreds of man hours of work.

The blind singular obsession with productivity is in no small part responsible for the mess we are in, something that business oriented types don’t quite seem to grasp. It is fairly common enough for members of our species to get hung up on a goal and not consider the ramifications. “More for the sake of more.” In video games you can spend hours “farming” (beating enemies so that you get experience and/or loot) so that you can go get new weapons and skills and go on to farm bigger enemies. It is fun to watch the numbers keep crawling up and tinkering with things and save up for a big buy. The balance must be made though, it is entirely too possible to lose vast chunks of your life to games. Some members in the manosphere get a similar problem. The drive for novelty can metastasize and become all consuming, aspiring players may commend a man for being disdainfully blasé while swamped in the company of beautiful women, to everyone else the exercise seems a bit pointless. This can mostly be mitigated with a bit of grounding in experience and perspective.

The blood curdling reduction in available resource abundance due us in the coming years is what stems from this capability difference between blood and oil. As more and more proverbial ax’s supplement and even replace chainsaws, there are going to be ripples everywhere. In our ax example overall firewood availability would drop of course. Wielding hand tools is drastically more hunger inducing and much more wear and tear on the body, we’re also not even taking into account the decrepit state of fitness most people are in. These would place more strain and demand on already reeling systems of food and health care.

Reading into any current business book an overall motif that comes out is to hire only A+ people. These are the best, brightest, most motivated individuals. They will go above and beyond in their duties and bring all manner of benefits to your fold and everyone will have a great time. Your productivity will boom. These are the Olympians, they eat sleep and train their one specific task.

In and of itself there is nothing wrong with that, other than the No-Shit-Sherlock element. However this leaves everyone else. A and A- aren’t going to cut it, and so have to redouble their efforts to get ahead. The B students can rally and still do tolerably good for themselves but not as much nor as easily as they might have in years past. Among these ranks you’ll find the majority of your natural aristocracy, those who would learn and practice simply for the sake and virtue of learning and practicing. These will mostly adapt and get along.

The lower ranked classes are progressively in worse and worse trouble and dysfunction. They crack open cheap beers, not books. When they manage to get work they all but certainly require the motivation of a pencil crisply smacking a clipboard and a glowering manager to get any work out of them. They’ve been left behind and they know it, on some level. The liberal crowd is big on defending them and drumming up high minded rhetoric but the fact remains,you are better off without them. Some people just want to drink themselves to death.

The problem is, is that their still there. Still needing food and the other human accouterments. What do you do with those who can’t help themselves in this economy? Currently they are bought off with food stamps and welfare. This isn’t a rhetorical question, it is a major blind spot in our culture, and will have to be addressed sooner or later. Some (many?) people are simply not well suited for a market economy. Alternatives and options however are currently few and far between.

With a sudden drop in productivity per person afforded by dwindling energy concentrations however, more and more people are going to need to be more generalist as demand for necessities (if hopefully not luxuries) remains. More people can start picking up relatively cheap ax’s and making at least some of their own firewood, and tending their own gardens. This will take a bit of pressure of centralized systems, and it will also leverage the magic of what is reserved for the realm of the entrepreneur. Doing a monotonous task goes from drudgery when getting paid poorly to, well, more meaningful drudgery when doing it results in something productive for you and people you like. There is a copious amount of motivational literature on finding useful and beneficial things to do with yourself that other cultures seem to have as standard issue, or at least no enterprising authors have taken to producing the fanfare. Japan is renowned for inculcating honor and devotion into its people, though breaks in the facade come our way in the stories of the grass eating generation.

With the great success of sites like Pinterest coupled with a dearth of cheap mass produced junk made in far away places, and growing numbers of people once again actively producing their own goods and services, a possibility for the coming years may be a resurgence of craftsmanship. This will likely be a tide to ebb and flow with the times, but anyone who has ever picked up an old handmade tool or artifact from the turn of the century and before has probably experienced that tacit feel about it. Another human being very competent in their work and most likely working with better stock than what is commonly available today, put a part of themselves into that thing. The malign neglect afforded the 4th great R (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) Repurpose is already underway having dust and rust buffed off. Towards that end the dark horse material of the future will probably not be some hyper alloy or man made plastic, but wood.

Wood is one of our lovely background technology/materials so ubiquitous and so marvelous it is exceedingly difficult to really appreciate. Wood can last for centuries if kept dry. Wood is also biodegradable and most environs conducive to human life readily reintegrate wood back into the ecosystem. Wood is one of the strongest materials on a per weight basis. Wood objects can be reassembled and reconfigured cheaply and easily in most cases into all manner of different objects, shipping pallets can become shelves, raised garden beds, and fencing with literally no structural structural change. As stated earlier when the wood has outlived its useful life, assuming it hasn’t been treated it can return to the soil, or, if properly dry, it can serve a final time as fuel.

Our continents have been denuded of trees before, so as wonderful a resource as it is, we must be very careful to conserve and steward it. Relearning to work with organic growth will be a stern lesson for our culture. An ax and brush blade can still quickly clear out a decent sized tract of land in a day. Regrowth back to a given level, even using coppicing methods, is measured in years.

Till your deserts, Embellish your graves

1 century ago now one of mankind’s most blood soaked endeavors was in full swing. The past year I’d kept waiting for stories on World War 1, and other than Dan Carlin’s epic “Blueprint for Armageddon” I encountered precisely nothing on the subject in any form of media. A day by day remembrance of events and battles 100 years later seems like it would have been an awesome idea. Maybe the end of an era or the blatantly senseless loss and emptiness of sacrifice for king and country is a little too somber right now. Gallant French Dragoons charging the enemy only to be liquefied by a cloud of bullets, their remains never to be properly buried because the very landscape would soon become a veritable vision of hell on Earth. Hard to propagandize that.

And yet as 2015 starts up, the propaganda and rhetoric is hot and heavy. Unrest is seething and calls to action are simmering up from even the usually circumspect voices of our time (such as they are). As yet it is a general sense of resentment and broad hostility that hasn’t yet coalesced around a central issue, though race in America and Islam in Europe seem poised to be the front contenders as the catalysts of an impending bloodbath.

Soon a grand cause will be found, perhaps you already have a few of your own favorites, for which it will be rationalized that violent action must be taken, to expel evil, or to protect good.

On one side we have movements like Inconvenient Truth Environmentalism where anti-fracking signs adorn pickup trucks, apparently with no sense of irony. I was invited to a green party once where parking in the entire small town was full, and everyone in attendance was decidedly against fossil fuel use, even those who charted a bus from NYC which was well over 100 miles away. Myself included, though no one else seemed to share my humor about it.

The manosphere is rife with high caliber people who have life all but figured out and are living better than any other lifeforms in the history of existence. Meaningful work with very high rates on return, low overhead, free time and security, all in abundance. Yet there is a contingent who are hellbent on taking that treasure and squandering it on social warfare with dregs.

Proclamations that others start living a way that you deem acceptable, whether from an ivory tower or from the sewers, will fall flat, whether you are living your code or not. The Russians are credited with a saying “They can’t kill us all” which I’d add the corollary “We can’t kill all of them”.

I have no delusions that we will “all just get along”. Solidarity and group identity do have their appeal and merits. We live on a manifestly overpopulated planet, and brutal conflict on many levels is going to be one of the primary, veteran agents of catabolism and balancing out of that condition. At least we won’t go full on Idiocracy.

Look around your local environs. Know yourself, specifically are you going to be a combatant in the coming conflicts? Do you hear the call? If you do and are located in a tame backwater, or if you don’t and live in a pressure cooker, I’d humbly suggest to you an appropriate change of scenery, post haste. The conflicts will almost certainly be impossible to totally avoid, and just as surely, in due course they will cool and peace and stasis will resume for a time. The active tire themselves out, and the lethargic grow bored and restless.