Wednesday, 25 May 2016

08:14 – Barbara has been gone for three days, but Colin and I are making do. She called around dinner time yesterday. She’s relaxing and having a good time, which is the important part. Also, Colin is behaving much better than he usually does when Barbara’s away for a few days. He’s still pestering for attention, but not as much as I expected.

He’s a very needy Border Collie, and Barbara recognized that the first time we visited him in his litter. All the other puppies clustered around our feet, playing and nibbling on each other’s paws and ears. Colin, then named Eddie, was off by himself. Barbara recognized immediately that unless someone who was very familiar with Border Collies adopted this puppy, he was very likely to end up in BC Rescue. So she picked him and he picked her. As it turns out, we agree that Colin is the smartest BC we’ve ever had, which is saying something. People think I’m kidding, but I’m entirely serious. A smart dog uses deductive logic. All of our BCs, Colin more so than the others, also uses inductive logic. It’s obvious from watching his decision-making process.


Posted in Barbara, dogs | 66 Comments

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

09:43 – Barbara has been gone for 48 hours. It sure is boring when she’s away, for both Colin and me. I didn’t want to bother her yesterday while she was in class, so I sent her a text to check in. That was the first text message I’d ever initiated. She called back at dinner time to say everything was going well and that she was having a good time. Colin and I both really miss her, but she needs to get away from the daily routine around here and going to one of these craft classes with her friend Bonnie Richardson is a good way to do it.

I’m about at the point of dropping Firefox entirely. Every new release is worse than the last, less stable and eating more resources. It’s a bad application, and it keeps getting worse. A year or so ago, I played around with Chromium for Linux and found that I couldn’t live with the gaping holes in its functionality. So now I’m playing around with Opera, which I last looked at probably a decade ago. So far, it’s looking okay, so I may shift all my stuff over to it.


Posted in Barbara, personal, technology | 71 Comments

Monday, 23 May 2016

09:33 – Barbara has been gone for 24 hours. Colin and I are still alive. She called yesterday afternoon at 1650 to say she’d arrive safely after driving seven hours with a few stops. Her cell signal wasn’t great, but at least she has service out there in the middle of nowhere. Verizon has a pretty good network.

More science kit stuff for me today. I need to make up more solutions for chemistry kits and run a bunch more bottle labels. When Barbara gets back, she’ll have plenty of bottles to label and fill.

Colin and I haven’t been able to find any wild women, so in the evening we’re watching reruns on Netflix streaming. That and playing ball. Or, as Colin plays it, keep-away.


Posted in Barbara, science kits | 13 Comments

Sunday, 22 May 2016

10:03 – Barbara took off about 9:40 for a week in Brasstown, down in the far, far southwest corner of North Carolina. It’s about 300 miles and a six hour drive from here.

She did take along a pretty comprehensive get-home bag, with food, water, water purification gear, fire-making gear, knife, multi-tool, chainsaw, Coghlan’s Folding Stove with half a dozen 8-ounce sawdust/paraffin firestarter blocks, a decent first-aid kit, blankets and spare clothing, a .22LR rifle with 100 rounds, and so on. She also understands that it’s important to keep her gas tank as full as possible. Her Chevy HHR has a 16-gallon fuel tank, and gets at least 25 MPG on the highway, so in theory she has a range of 400+ miles. She plans to stop on her way down to refuel, and then to top off her tank as soon as she arrives.

For Colin and me, it’ll be a week of wild women and parties. Well, that and working on kit stuff.


12:53 – Colin is not a happy camper. He watched Barbara drive away three hours ago, and he’s been pestering me ever since. He wants constant action. I’m sure he remembers the days back before September 30th, when Barbara was at work all day long every weekday, but he’s spoiled by the fact that we’ve both been home pretty much all day every day since then.

Someone emailed me to ask if I’d be eating from long-term storage while Barbara’s gone. I thought about it, but I decided that I’m going to eat mostly sandwiches, packaged frozen foods, and so on. Barbara left me with a pretty full freezer, including a couple of Stouffer’s Chicken & Broccoli Pasta Bake meals.

Email from Jen. They start and run their generator for about a pint’s worth of gasoline the first of every month. They did that yesterday, three weeks late for this month, and found it wouldn’t start, even with ether-based starter spray. I told her my guess was that they’d been running it with gasoline polluted with ethanol, which is notorious for gumming up the carburetors in lawnmowers and other small gas engines. Her husband is hauling their generator to the local small-engine repair guy tomorrow to find out what went wrong and what he needs to do to fix it himself if it happens again. I suspect that it’d be a good idea to keep some carburetor cleaner on hand, and know how to tear down the generator far enough to clean the gunk out of the carb. I just checked pure-gas.org and found that there’s one place in Sparta that sells ethanol-free gas, or at least did the last time the list was updated.

Posted in Barbara, Jen, prepping | 96 Comments

Saturday, 21 May 2016

09:28 – Barbara is cleaning house this morning and then packing to leave tomorrow on her trip to Brasstown, NC, which, as it turns out, is more like 300 miles from here than 200. It’s a five- or six-hour drive, depending on what route she takes.

I’ll try to convince her to toss a comprehensive emergency kit in the back of her car, and to keep her gas tank full enough to get home from wherever she happens to be. It’s not that I expect a disaster to occur while she’s away. I don’t, but there is a small but finite chance of something really bad happening at any moment, and there’s no reason for her not to have a good emergency kit in the car. Having it with her costs nothing but an extra five or ten cents worth of gasoline to haul the extra weight.

People sometimes ask me what I think the chances are of something “really bad” happening. My simple wild-ass guess is that there’s maybe a 3% chance of that over the next year, 20% over the next five years, and 50% over the next ten. So, while the probability is close to 0% of it happening today or next week or even next month, I think the odds are very high that it will happen sometime over the next 10 to 15 years. That doesn’t mean we have 10 or 15 years to prepare, because the probability of it happening tomorrow is just as high as it happening 15 years from tomorrow.


Posted in Barbara, prepping | 33 Comments

Friday, 20 May 2016

10:12 – We got an offer on the Winston house yesterday. We countered. They countered. We accepted. This morning, our realtor sent us a contract to sign. We signed it, I scanned it to PDF, and I emailed the executed agreement to our realtor. Now we wait. If things go well, we might expect to close around the end of June.

Barbara is getting ready to leave Sunday for a week-long trip to Brasstown, NC, which is about as far down in the southwest corner of NC as it’s possible to go–about a 200 mile drive from here. She’s going to a resident folk school that teaches various old-timey skills. Last time, she did a week-long course on wood carving. This time, she’s doing a stained-glass course.

I told her last night that I didn’t intend to take any showers while she’s gone. I just don’t trust my balance enough to do that without her in the house. So I’ll be taking sponge baths for the duration.


Posted in Barbara, personal | 35 Comments

Thursday, 19 May 2016

09:57 – We just got our first offer on the Winston house. It was low, at about 89% of the listing price, but it’s a start. We countered, of course.

I’m reculturing bacteria. I just made up and sterilized a liter of phosphate-buffered saline, which is the medium for the suspension, and a 50 mL centrifuge tube of broth media that I’ll later inoculate with the culture.

We’re making up chemical bags for the biology kits today.


Posted in personal, science kits | 84 Comments

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

09:27 – Barbara is off to the gym and the bank. The final settlement check from our corporate bank account in Winston-Salem just arrived in the mail. She’ll deposit that to our new corporate bank account here in Sparta, at which point all of our banking will now be in Sparta.

Speaking of which, I just got a PDF form from one of our state government customers, asking for lots of information they need to set us up as an approved vendor. One of the items they want is our corporate bank account number and routing number. That makes me uncomfortable, given the number of big corporations and government agencies who’ve lost tens of millions of customer records to hackers. It’s my understanding that with only those two numbers, anyone anywhere in the world can withdraw as much money as they want from our bank account. I’d prefer that the customer write us a physical check rather than pay by electronic funds transfer.



Posted in business | 59 Comments

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

09:45 – Colin and I got several solutions made up yesterday. Today, Barbara and I will fill bottles.

One of the solutions we made up was 4 liters of Benedict’s Reagent, which requires a bunch of sodium citrate. While making up the solution, I saw that we were down to less than 500 g of the reagent grade sodium citrate. I was about to order more when I realized that it made more sense just to stock citric acid. I can dissolve a weighed amount of citric acid in water and neutralize it with the stoichiometric equivalent mass of sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) to yield a solution of sodium citrate, which is just what I need. Also, citric acid and baking soda are both cheap, at about $2.70/lb and $0.50/lb respectively, whereas, at about $50/kilo, reagent-grade sodium citrate from a chemical supply company is not. The 10 pounds of citric acid I bought and the baking soda are both FCC/USP (food-grade), which is more than pure enough for making up Benedict’s Reagent. And doing it this way ensures we’ll always have plenty of citric acid (and baking soda) on hand to make up baking powder and various other useful things.



Posted in prepping, science kits | 61 Comments

Monday, 16 May 2016

10:49 – Barbara left this morning to go down to Winston for a dental appointment and to run some errands. For Colin and me, it’s wild women and parties. Well, that and making up solutions for biology kits.

Email from Jen. She and her family are planning to run another preparedness exercise over the July 4th weekend. As she said, every time they run one of these exercises, they discover something they hadn’t thought of. She realizes that in a real emergency there are always going to be things they hadn’t planned for, but their goal is discover and eliminate as many of these gotchas as possible before there’s a real emergency. Which strikes me as a pretty good idea.



Posted in Jen, personal | 91 Comments