A Ukraine War Story….

From Cdr Salamander’s FULL BORE FRIDAY 3-18-22

Your town isn’t a small town at a bit over 34,000, but everyone knows each other more or less. It isn’t so big that you are disconnected from your neighbors. You are always one degree away from having a connection to anyone. Maybe 2.

Any American from New England would feel comfortable here. The weather is not that different, really – perhaps even a few degrees warmer.

Trip Advisor does not give your off the beaten path home (even though you are a stop on the railroad line to Odessa) a big write up, but you have nice restaurants and pubs. You have shockingly beautiful parks. Again, you are poor, but you were, at least before the Russian Army came, a tidy and proud town in a post-Soviet way.

Not so tidy now, especially near the bridge where you used to swim as you can see on the google streetview, but still proud.

Do you think your town is worth fighting for?

Do your neighbors? Do you run, or do you stay?

The people of Voznesensk seemed to have answered that question, at least for them.

At first, I thought this story about the Ukrainian stand at Voznesensk was too rah-rah to be true, but when WSJ picked it up I figured, “Must be right.”

From most reports I’ve seen, Voznesensk is a Russian speaking town…but as true as that may be, they were Ukrainians to the core.

As the CBS report isn’t behind a paywall, let’s pick up the story;

Ukrainian troops in Voznesensk came up against a Russian invasion force that was armed to the teeth. They had heavy artillery and helicopters. In a heroic act of self-sacrifice, they blew up the main bridge into the town to keep Russian tanks from crossing.

The mayor guided CBS News through the rubble and around the anti-tank mines still littering his town.

“This is where we stopped them,” said Velichko.

His sleepy country town, without heavy weapons of its own, routed a Russian battalion.

Even locals like 66-year-old Sushenko Nikolay Semenovich, a retired minesweeper in the Soviet army, pitched in to repel the Russian force.

“I jumped out and shot with my own rifle,” he told CBS News. “Our commander told me, ‘get back in the basement, grandpa!’ But my heart simply couldn’t handle just sitting in the basement. These Russians don’t give up. We will kill them all.”

The Wiki summary is solid;

On 2 March 2022, elements of the Russian 126th Naval Brigade advanced northwest towards the city of Voznesensk from Mykolaiv, attempting to find a crossing over the Southern Bug river. The Russian column was alleged to have consisted of 400 men and 43 vehicles.

In preparation, Yevgeniy Velichko, the mayor of the city and one of the Ukrainian commanders, stated that local businessmen helped Ukrainian forces create numerous roadblocks and destroyed a bridge over the Mertvovod River in Voznesensk, as well as digging out the shoreline of the river so that Russian vehicles couldn’t ford it.

Russian forces initiated the battle by shelling the city, damaging several buildings. Russian paratroopers were dropped to the southwest of the city, while an armored column advanced from the southeast, staging in the neighboring village of Rakove [uk]. Russian snipers created nests in several houses in the village, and Russian forces set up a base at a local gas station. A Russian APC fired at the local Territorial Defense Forces base, killing several Ukrainian soldiers. However, Russian forces were unable to push into Voznesensk, and Ukrainian artillery began shelling Russian positions, preventing Russian artillery from setting up their mortars.

By nightfall, Russian tanks began firing into Voznesensk, but retreated after being met with counterfire. Concurrently, Ukrainian forces continued to shell Russian positions, destroying some Russian vehicles. Ukrainian soldiers advanced on foot, attacking Russian vehicles with American-supplied FGM-148 Javelin missiles, destroying at least 3 tanks. Ukrainian forces were also able to down a Russian Mil Mi-24 attack helicopter. Russian forces fully retreated on 3 March, abandoning equipment and vehicles. During their retreat, Russian artillery shelled Rokove, hitting a clinic. Russian forces also looted the village. The Russian column retreated 40 miles (64 km) to the southeast.

In total, 30 Russian vehicles, including some tanks, were abandoned. Among them, Ukrainian forces were able to salvage 15 tanks. Local officials stated that around 100 Russian soldiers were killed and 10 were captured, while Ukrainian forces suffered some causalities, mainly among the Territorial Defense Forces. 12 civilians were killed during the battle.

Second battle

On 9 March, Russian forces conducted another attack on Voznesensk. Ukrainian forces positioned a defense near the destroyed bridge. The following day, Russian forces captured the city. However, Ukrainian forces recaptured Voznesensk three days later on 13 March. By 18 March, Ukrainian counter attacks around the area , had pushed the Russians 120 kilometres back from the city.

The local Ukrainian forces continued to fortify the city after the second assault, believing that Russian forces would continue their attacks.

This would make a great movie.

Who will pay grandpa?

I would like to offer that the couple at the beginning of this video (after the rail car full of dead Russian soldiers) would be happily played by CDR and Mrs. Salamander. We’d do it gratis.

Mrs. Salamander would simply play herself, because that is pretty much what she might have done…after telling me to get off the ground….


Drought Map for March 17th 2022

As the Twig Is Bent: A Memoir

As the Twig Is Bent: A Memoir

Read Aloud on Wisconsin Public Radio’s Chapter A Day starting Monday, March 14 through Friday, March 25, 2022. Read by Norman Gilliland

As the Twig Is Bent: A Memoir

by Wallace Byron Grange (Author), Joseph L. Breitenstein (Editor), & Richard P. Thiel (Editor)

Wallace Byron Grange (1905–87) was an influential conservationist who worked alongside Aldo Leopold. Grange’s story vividly describes his mostly idyllic childhood watching bird life in the once grand prairies just west of Chicago. He documents his family’s journey and pioneering struggle to operate a farm on the logged cutover country in northern Wisconsin, a land that provided him with abundant opportunities to study the lives of wild creatures he loved most.
Written when Grange was in his sixties, As the Twig Is Bent conveys how a leading conservationist was formed through his early relationship to nature. In beautifully composed vignettes, he details encounters both profound and minute, from the white-footed mice attracted by cookie crumbs in his boyhood clubhouse to the sounds of great horned owls echoing through the wintry woods. As he develops his own understanding of the natural world, he comes to an awareness of the dramatic and devastating role of humankind on ecosystems. Grange’s poignant observations still resonate today amid global conversations about the fate of our natural resources and climate change.


“Original and refreshing, reminiscent of the poignant writings of Increase Lapham, Fran Hamerstrom, and John Muir. Grange does a superb job of portraying societal life a century ago in Illinois, and the pioneering life of the Grange family in the ‘cutover country’ in northern Wisconsin.”—Sumner Matteson, author of Afield: Portraits of Wisconsin Naturalists, Empowering Leopold’s Legacy

“An engaging memoir of the making of a devoted conservationist, evocative of the unhurried pace of a bygone era. Grange shares with us a voluminous, detailed treasure trove of experiences that reveal the making of a man who dedicated his life to the cause of conservation.”—Arthur Melville Pearson, author of Force of Nature

About the Editors

Joseph L. Breitenstein is a licensed psychologist and professor at Luther College. His professional interests include the intersections between psychology and environmentalism. Richard P. Thiel is active with the Timber Wolf Information Network and the International Wolf Center. His books include Keepers of the Wolves and Wild Wolves We Have Known.

March, 2022

Putin Tracks…

For The Love Of A River – The Minnesota by Darby Nelson

from a post by Dave Solheim

“Everyone with an interest in the Minnesota River Valley or southern Minnesota in general should read this book. It is well-researched and informative based on the author’s experience and has several useful features. If one wants only the travelogue of canoeing the Minnesota River, read only the chapters marked with paddles in the table of contents. One may also include the chapters of the watershed lakes.

“The opening chapters present the geologic history of the river valley, and scattered throughout are short chapters on the continuing efforts to restore the water quality of the river. The book is also a swan song of the author who spent his early childhood in the valley and his adult life living, teaching, and canoeing in Minnesota. The book is available at ItascaBooks.com.”

How Minnesota Fk’d Up Butternuts

Butternut canker and legality


Another reason you might not see butternuts is because of the disease that affects them. Butternut canker, a sort of fungus that attacks the trees, is bad news, similar to the blight that hit American chestnut trees as far as impact–not a good thing if you’re a butternut tree. Some trees I’ve picked from seemed to have a good resistance though, and if you look closely you can see the scars on the trunk to prove it. Unfortunately, the losses in Minnesota are bad enough that the tree has been listed as “of special concern” since 1996, and is now considered endangered, and, in a nutshell, that’s why it’s illegal.

I couldn’t believe that a food plant so reasonably well known in the wild food community could be illegal myself, so I called the Minnesota DNR and, after a number of calls over the span of a few months, I finally got the answer. Essentially, listing it as an endangered species invokes the full legal the full legal protocol making it completely illegal to harvest or possess the nuts. Don’t gather the nuts, pick them up, move them, eat them, plant them, or, drive around with some in your car, unless they’re in a secret compartment. That’s right, even if you wanted to plant the trees, be the Johnny Appleseed of butternuts, you could technically be facing jailtime, a felony and all the trimmings that go with it, including the loss of your voting rights.

When traveling with butternuts across state lines into Minnesota, try to hide them in a place the Police won’t look. Here I’m using the old school “He’s got nuts” method.

The law here is obviously overkill, but I can understand the intent. Plant gets blight disease that slowly destroys it? Put it on the endangered list–easy as, pecan pie, right? It seems to me like a knee jerk reaction that had unintended consequences. At least to me, there’s a stark contrast to someone possessing the edible fruit of a tree, one that’s harvested in quantity and legal in the surrounding states, to possessing something like a boreal owl, destroying the den of a timber rattlesnake, eating bald eagle egg omelets, or gathering other vascular plants that are endangered for some purpose, as in the case of the ginseng black market.

Not even the state can possess the nuts for propagation

It gets better though, and by better I mean bad. The law is fascinatingly byzantine in the case of butternuts, and I’m quoting the DNR here: “not even the State Nursery can possess the nuts for purposes of propagation”. So, you can’t plant butternuts, I can’t plant butternuts, and neither can the state. So, my question is, how the hell are we supposed to help this tree if no one can touch it? Is there nutting we can do?

Fresh butternuts (left) Dried butternuts (right).

Hammons Black Walnuts


David Shields On Black Walnut Candy

David ShieldsOn Black Walnut Candy

Of all the nuts in the antioxidant rich Juglans family, the black walnut has the most distinctive flavor—sweet, with a licorice note, a mild bitterness, and a mellow resonance as the oils linger in the mouth.

The chemistry of the nut is complex, high in y-Tocopherols, and highest in poly-unsaturated fatty acids among nuts, with a rich array of Phenolics and Flavanoids. Food scientists have long been aware of the beneficial effects of black walnut on human health.

Because of the notorious difficulty of removing the nut meats from the shell, the commercial culinary exploitation of the nut has been modest compared to its relatives the hickory, and the walnut.

Currently the Hammons Company of Missouri is the major supplier of processed nut meats, but home foragers have kept alive a rich tradition of home baked black walnut confections and candies.


Because of its distinctive flavor, the black walnut was subject to extensive experimentation as a candy ingredient–an array of fudges, taffies, chews, and brittles came into being. One of the classic creations was a candy in which chopped meats were coated with molten maple sugar, water and butter.

A southern version of the candy used the following formula:

Three cups of white sugar; 1/c cup of vinegar; 1 tablespoon of dark molasses, 1 tablespoon of butter. This was cooked until the water test turned the hot mixture brittle. Take off fire, stir in 2 cups of black walnuts that have been pounded fine. Stir mixture until it thickens. Pour rapidly in a buttered dish and cut into squares. The Pullman News (December 1928), 270

This basic formula could be tarted up by adding almond or orange extract and by upping the molasses component from 1 to 3 tablespoons.

Among the stranger black walnut confections was Sauer Kraut Candy: which used equal parts black walnut meats and shredded coconut as the material for a brown sugar, goldens syrup, milk and butter matrix. It was cut into long strips. I’ve never tasted this or seen this made.

Black walnut brittle was the simplest candy to make. You poured a salted simply syrup onto chopped nuts onto a cold candy slab and set it set.

There was a moment in the early 20th century when taffy chews were made with black walnuts, but the near equal mix of sugar, corn syrup, an molasses in the candy body made this rather noxiously sweet.

Coating black walnuts in chocolate was the path of late 20th century confectionery and is probably the most common form of black walnut candy now commercially available. I think the darker the chocolate, the more interesting the experience.

And as black walnut brittle


(Ian Henderson 2-18-2022 lifted from a paywalled FT report by Robert McCauley) [See link at end]
Bitcoin is off its all-time high of $69,000 set on November 9, 2021. It suffered a wrenching $12,000 flash crash over the first weekend in December, amid accounts of leveraged positions being closed out. And yet, even at the current price of $49,000, guests on financial TV news continue to tout it as the best-performing asset of the last N years, where N can be just about any number from one to ten.

They also increasingly judge it as a credible investment in its own right.

This contradicts the longstanding skeptical view by many economists and others that what bitcoin really is, in effect, is a Ponzi scheme.
Brazilian computer scientist Jorge Stolfi is one voice who has contended this. His view is based on the following observations:
Investors buy in the expectation of profits. That expectation is sustained by the profits of those that cash out. But there is no external source for those profits; they come entirely from new investments. And the operators take away a large portion of the money.

All of this rings true. But in calling bitcoin a Ponzi scheme, critics are arguably being too kind on two counts. First, bitcoin doesn’t have the same end game as a Ponzi scheme. Second, it constitutes a deeply negative sum game from a broad social perspective.

On the first count, it’s worth assessing how it compares to the original scheme devised by Charles Ponzi. In 1920, Ponzi promised 50 per cent on a 45-day investment and managed to pay this to a number of investors. He suffered and managed to survive investor runs, until eventually the scheme collapsed less than a year into it.
In the largest and probably the longest running Ponzi scheme in history, Bernie Madoff paid returns of around one per cent a month. He offered to cash out his scheme’s participants, both the original sum “invested” and the “return” thereon. As a result, the scheme could and did suffer a run; the Great Financial Crisis of 2008 led to a cascade of redemptions by participants and the scheme’s collapse.

But the resolution of Madoff’s scheme has extended beyond its collapse on account of the remarkable and ongoing legal proceedings. These have outlived Madoff himself, who died in early 2021.

Many are unaware that a bankruptcy trustee, Irving H. Picard, has doggedly and successfully pursued those who took more money out of the scheme than they put in. He even managed to follow the money into offshore dollar accounts, litigating a controversial extraterritorial reach of US law all the way to the US Supreme Court. Of the $20bn in recognized original investments in the scheme (which the victims had been told had reached a value more than three times that sum), some $14bn, a striking 70 per cent, has been recovered and distributed. Claims of up to $1.6m are being fully repaid.

By contrast to investments with Madoff, Bitcoin is bought not as an income-earning asset but rather as a zero-coupon perpetual.
In other words, it promises nothing as a running yield and never matures with a required terminal payment. It follows that it cannot suffer a run. The only way a holder of bitcoin can cash out is by a sale to someone else.

Bitcoin’s collapse would look very different to that of Ponzi’s or Madoff’s scheme. One possible trigger could be the collapse of a big so-called stablecoin, that is, ersatz US dollars that have sprung up to provide a cash leg for cryptocurrency transactions. These “unregulated money market funds” have been sold as dollar stand-ins with safe assets that match their outstanding liabilities. Given the lack of regulation and disclosure, it is not hard to imagine a big stablecoin “breaking the buck”, as occurred with a regulated money market fund that held Lehman paper in 2008.
This could so disrupt the whole ecology of crypto that there could be no bids for bitcoin. The market might close indefinitely.
In this event, there would be no long-running legal effort to chase down those who cashed in their bitcoin early in order to redistribute their profits to those left holding bitcoins. Holders of bitcoin would have no claim on those who bought early and sold.

In its cashflow, bitcoin resembles a penny-stock pump-and-dump scheme more than a Ponzi scheme. In a pump-and-dump scheme, traders acquire basically worthless stock, talk it up and perhaps trade it among themselves at rising prices before unloading it on to those drawn in by the chatter and the price action.
Like the pump-and-dump scheme, bitcoin taps into the pure desire for capital gains. Buyers cannot stand the sight of friends getting rich overnight: they suffer an acute fear of missing out (FOMO). In any case, bitcoin makes no promises and cannot end as a Ponzi scheme ends.

On the second count, another big difference between bitcoin and a Ponzi scheme is that the former is, from an aggregate or social standpoint, a negative sum game. To the extent that real resources are used up to make bitcoin run, it is costly in a way that Madoff’s two- or three-man operation was not. From the social standpoint, what Madoff took out of his scheme and finally consumed is a redistribution in a zero-sum game (the trustee sold his penthouse). Stolfi’s fourth observation above that “the operators take away a large portion of the money” lumps together Madoff’s take and bitcoin miners’ revenues, but these are very different in economic terms.

With bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, the game is to name the country whose electricity consumption equals that of all the puzzle-solvers (miners) who get to effect transactions and receive bitcoin in reward. Even if the electricity were priced to include its contribution to global warming (its “environmental externality”)—which presumably it mostly is not—this represents a real cost.

How big a cost? At the beginning of 2021, Stolfi put the cumulative payments to bitcoin’s miners since 2009 at $15bn. At the then price of bitcoin, he put the increase in this sum at about $30m per day, which mostly pays for electricity.

At today’s higher bitcoin prices, the hole is growing faster. About 900 new bitcoin a day require most of $45m a day in electricity. Thus, the negative sum in the bitcoin game is in tens of billions of dollars and rising at over a billion dollars per month.

If the price of bitcoin collapses to zero, the gains of those who sold would fall short of the losses of holders by this growing sum.

To liken bitcoin to a Ponzi scheme or a pump-and-dump scheme, both basically redistributive, is to flatter the cryptocurrency system.

To conclude, an economic analysis of bitcoin must recognize its uniqueness in the history of manias. As an object of speculation, bitcoin is unprecedented in the degree to which there is no there, there. This post-modern mania features big prices for entries on nobody’s spreadsheet.

A zero-coupon perpetual has arrived not as a joke but as a trillion dollar asset. Unlike a Ponzi scheme, bitcoin cannot end in a run.
In a crash, the holders of bitcoin will collectively have lost what they have paid the miners for their bitcoin. This sum may be not far from the sum originally invested with Madoff, after accounting for inflation.

But bitcoin holders will have no one to pursue to recover this sum: it will simply have gone up in smoke, a social loss. The holders of bitcoin would then only wish it had been a Ponzi scheme.

[[Robert McCauley, is a non-resident senior fellow at Boston University’s Global Development Policy Center and associate member of the Faculty of History at the University of Oxford. In this post McCauley argues that comparing bitcoin to a Ponzi scheme is unfair to Ponzi schemes. https://www.ft.com/…/83a14261-598d-4601-87fc-5dde528b33d0%5D%5D