Sunday, 23 November 2014

09:35 - I cleaned the fallen leaves out of the troughs on the roof yesterday. This year is the first time I haven’t climbed up on the roof to do that. Instead, I stood on the ladder and used a leaf rake with a handle extension duct-taped onto it to drag the leaves down and over the edge. I wasn’t able to get all of them, but I got enough. I won’t be climbing up on the roof any more. As Dirty Harry said, “A man’s got to know his limitations.”

Today will be a good day to stay inside. The forecast is for rain and thunderstorms all day. I’ll finish the last load of laundry today and do some work on science kits.

I’ve been researching the competition for the prepping book. I’ve now looked at more than a dozen of the current general prepping titles and, with just one exception, they are universally bad. Not just bad, but hideously bad. And the exception is mediocre, at best. Almost without exception, the authors have no clue what they’re talking about on most or all of the subjects they “cover”. Pretty clearly, they’ve used the Internet as their source of information rather than actually having done any of this stuff themselves. One, for example, divides defensive weapons into four major classes: pistols, shotguns, rifles, and … carbines. Another talks about “hamm radio”, and it’s obvious from the rest of what she has to say about comms that this isn’t merely a typo. She’s completely clueless about radio. In her list of “top brands” of transceivers, she recommends, and I quote: “MURS (Multi-Use Radio Service), Yaesu VX-3R VHF/UHF, Handheld VHF 2 meter Amateur Radio Transceiver 5watt, and TYT TH-F5″. Geez. It’s like listening to a science lecture presented by someone who’s stumped if asked the orbital period of our planet.

11:48 - I’ve been getting the daily free Kindle books email from for a couple of years now. Usually, I just jump down to the mysteries section and download any that look interesting for Barbara. Today, I decided to look at the non-fiction category, where I found six or eight prepping books and three or four on Kindle publishing/marketing. So I downloaded all of them.

The prepping books are ridiculous, both in terms of content and size/price. A typical prepping “book” runs anything from 15 to maybe 60 pages and is normally priced at $2.99 to $4.99. What a rip-off, even if the content were worth reading. As to the books about publishing/marketing on Kindle, I’m not even going to bother looking at them. Why? Here’s the cover from one of them:

Posted in personal, prepping, science kits | 32 Comments

Saturday, 22 November 2014

10:17 - A lot of preppers are concerned about a nuclear EMP attack or a repeat of the CME Carrington Event taking down the power grid. I estimate the probability of the former to be < 0.001/year and the latter to be about 0.01/year. Of considerable more concern to me--especially given recent news about Chinese attacks on US computer systems–is the grid being taken down by computer crackers, Chinese or otherwise. I estimate the probability of that occurring as > 0.1/year. If that estimate is correct, the probability is about 0.65 that some sort of serious computer attack on our infrastructure will occur within the next decade.

I am flabbergasted that critical facilities–power grid control, nuclear power plants, pipelines, municipal water treatment plants, and so on–use ordinary general-purpose computers, many of them running MS Windows(!). If that’s not bad enough, what moron decided to allow critical control systems to be connected to the Internet? Those control systems should be secured from physical access, running stripped-down versions of Unix/Linux or another secure OS, with the OS and applications on ROM, no connection to any network, and the USB ports epoxied closed. Apparently, none of that is being done in most critical control systems.

Posted in prepping | 26 Comments

Friday, 21 November 2014

09:55 - I still need to build some science kits. As of this morning, after shipping today’s orders we’ll be down to two biology kits and one forensic kit in stock. I have everything I need to build another couple dozen of each, but I need to bag the chemicals before I can build the kits. So after I get the outstanding orders queued up to ship, that’s what I’ll be doing today.

I see that Mr. Obama has done what he himself said not long ago he was Constitutionally prohibited from doing. I’m sure he believes this is the right thing to do. That’s one clear difference between libertarians like me and progressives like Obama: libertarians try to do what they believe is the right thing, but only at their own expense; progressives try to do what they believe is the right thing, but only at other people’s expense.

Work on the prepping book continues. Right now, I’m writing about keeping insulin cool as a short-term solution and about isolating insulin from animal pancreata as a long-term solution. The latter is surprisingly easy. The hardest part is identifying the pancreata in animal corpses. Using animal insulin does raise allergy issues, but it’s a hell of a lot better than nothing. The thought just crossed my mind that if I were writing a post-apocalyptic novel, as I originally intended to do, I’d probably have characters isolating insulin from the corpses of people who’d attacked them. In fact, I might have them keeping prisoners and killing one as necessary to produce more insulin. But then I’m a bloodthirsty kind of guy, at least when it comes to writing fiction.

Posted in politics, prepping, science kits, writing | 75 Comments

Thursday, 20 November 2014

10:33 - I’m still hard at work on the prepping book, but I need to take some time off to build some science kits. Kit sales this month are running slightly ahead of last November. Two-thirds of the way through the month, we’re at about 80% of last November’s total sales, so if the trend continues we’ll end up at about 120% month-on-month. Then comes December, which is a pretty heavy month, so we need to get finished-goods inventory built up for that.

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard has a good column posted about the US-China climate deal and its effect on the oil industry. I agree with the substance of his arguments, but I think he underestimates the impact of solar on petroleum. Forecasts are nearly always wildly optimistic over the short term and wildly pessimistic over the long term, and I think that’s the case here. The question is, how long a term?

Solar is poised to become a major source of electric power. We’ve known for a long time that this would happen eventually. Insolation on every square meter of the planet’s surface amounts to about a kilowatt. The only questions have always been how to convert that solar energy to a useful form–i.e, electricity–and how to store that electricity.

As to capture, the science is already there. We have the science and increasingly the technology for very high-efficiency solar panels. The real problem has been storage. Back in the 70’s I read a book on storage batteries by a guy named George Vinal. It was published in something like 1907, and the technology had hardly changed during the intervening 70 years. It’s changed massively in the 40 years since I read that book. Revolutionary advances have been made in the labs, and are now working their way into mass production.

So now it’s just a matter of engineering and manufacturing, and we have plenty of good engineers and factories. Even now, you can walk into a Home Depot and buy a pretty impressive solar array. They’ll even send a crew out to install it on your roof and connect it to your battery bank. Costs are plummeting, and more and more people are adopting solar power for part or all of their power needs. In many areas of the US, solar is already at “plug parity” with utility power. As costs continue to drop, solar will continue to displace utility power. My guess is that in 10 years solar will be commonplace, and in twenty it will have largely displaced electric utility power all over the US. The utilities will go down fighting, of course, but down they’ll go.

All of this is to the good. Better that every building is self-sufficient in electric power, including for cooling and heating than that we continue to build large power plants and run millions of miles of wire to distribute that power generated centrally. And far better that we cease consuming fossil fuels and instead leave them as feedstocks for chemical manufacturing.

Posted in prepping, science, science kits, technology | 40 Comments

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

09:44 - I see that Buffalo got six feet (1.83 meters) of snow. This anthropogenic climate change–or whatever they’re calling it this week–has to stop. We didn’t get any snow, but our overnight low was 19F (-7C). That’s much too cold for November around here.

I’m not sure why everyone is making such a big deal of the expected Ferguson, Missouri grand jury decision. From what data I’ve seen, the man who was killed was a thug who’d robbed a convenience store minutes before the shooting and then attacked a cop. I’m not sure how a grand jury could rule this anything other than a good shooting. And if other thugs decide to riot, loot, and burn, I hope the authorities and good citizens of Ferguson deal with it with lethal force. Apparently, solid citizens in the area are arming themselves, which is a good decision. Fortunately, Missouri is a very strong Castle Doctrine state.

Posted in news, personal | 54 Comments

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

11:13 - I’m going to hell for this. I’m writing a sidebar in Chapter I-14 on Preparing for Financial Emergencies. The sidebar is about inflation and fractional-reserve banking, and I’ve titled it, “Money From Nothing (and Your Checks for Free)”. I may be drummed out of the Austrian School for that one. Or not.

Crap. I just Googled that exact phrase and came up with six hits dating back to 2009. Oh, well. I thought it was original when I coined it a few minutes ago. I guess it was far too obvious not to have been coined years ago. Actually, it was probably coined by you-know-who. As Dorothy Parker famously observed, “I never seek to take the credit; We all assume that Oscar said it.”

We don’t have a vacuum sealer. As usual, before we made our Costco run Sunday we looked through the coupons. They had a Food-Saver vacuum sealer on sale for $120, which was something like $40 off. I checked Amazon for a price comparison and found that Costco’s deal was in fact a good deal. Fortunately, I also checked the reviews on both Costco and Amazon. There were a lot of very negative reviews, many of which said that they were on their second or third vacuum sealer, that they’d bought the Food Saver brand in the past and that it had worked well and lasted a decade or more. Their comments about the current models weren’t so kind. Dying in a couple months if not DOA; wasting the (very expensive) Food Saver brand bags, and so on. From these reviews, it seems that Food Saver products made years ago were excellent but newer models suck. I ended up ordering a Nesco model from Amazon, which was half the price and had excellent reviews on Amazon and elsewhere. It’s a very new product, so it has no track record yet, but we probably won’t be beating it death as some people do, so it’ll probably work just fine for us.

Posted in prepping, writing | 50 Comments

Monday, 17 November 2014

09:13 - Wow, the cold weather has really moved in. Our lows are below freezing for the next several nights. For tomorrow the forecast high is just above freezing and the low is 18F (-8C).

Costco run and dinner with Mary and Paul yesterday. Mary is vegetarian and cooks amazingly good no-meat dishes, so I gave her a copy of the list of seasonings that Frances and Barbara came up with and asked her to please add to and annotate it from the point of view of someone who was going to be cooking meals from boring staples like rice and beans over a long period. I’m sure Mary will come up with some worthwhile additions and suggestions.

Yesterday was the first Costco trip in a long time that I didn’t buy much in the way of shelf-stable foods. Other than six jars each of spaghetti sauce and apple sauce, a pack of seven one-pound assorted pastas, a jar of red pepper, and two bottles of Worcestershire sauce, the only thing I added to our cart was two 12-packs of 12-ounce cans of evaporated milk. I couldn’t resist those. They were on sale for about $0.75/can.

Posted in personal, prepping | 70 Comments

Sunday, 16 November 2014

13:08 - I just started doing an initial inventory on the food we have stored in the basement. Until now, I’ve just been buying stuff and sticking it on the shelves in the basement, without any attempt to organize or inventory it. My goal was to get us, as quickly as possible, to a one-year supply of food for Barbara and me. (Or more likely, as I’ve said, a 3-month supply for the two of us and six relatives/friends, or a one-month supply for the two of us and 22 relatives/friends/neighbors.)

With roughly 1,200 pounds of stored food, we’re at the point now where the two of us could eat reasonably well for a year. The mix needs to be tweaked somewhat. For example, we need more spaghetti sauce, fruits, meats, and several other items, as well as more dehydrated/freeze-dried stuff like butter powder, cheese powder, and so on. And I’m going to add more staples–various types of flour, white rice, brown rice, egg noodles, white sugar, confectioner’s sugar, brown sugar, corn meal, etc.–but those we’ll pack ourselves in gallon foil-laminate Mylar bags with oxygen absorbers. Doing it that way is cheap–about half the price of buying the stuff in #10 cans at the LDS Home Storage Center, which is itself much cheaper than any other source for staples in #10 cans–and the staples will remain usable indefinitely.

Posted in prepping | 11 Comments

Saturday, 15 November 2014

11:07 - Barbara’s sister Frances stopped over after work last night. We had dinner and then spent the evening talking about what herbs, spices, and other seasonings to recommend for long-term storage. Frances was also kind enough to bring over some of her loose-leaf recipe books from when she ran a food-service operation. They’re on a large scale. One I remember listed the first ingredient as 20 pounds of chicken pieces.

I told Frances and Barbara to start with the idea that we were cooking over a period of months or longer with long-term packaged staples like flour, sugar, pasta, powdered milk, beans, etc. along with some canned meats and other foods. The goal is turn turn this stuff into appetizing meals, and we spent the evening talking about which herbs, spices, sauces, and other seasonings to include in preparations, at what priority, and in what amounts for one person-year. They both came up with excellent suggestions, which I’ll now incorporate in the book.

Posted in personal, prepping | 44 Comments

Friday, 14 November 2014

11:37 - The morning paper reports a home invasion in Walkertown, a few miles from here. Two masked invaders robbed the home and fatally shot one of the occupants. Barbara has a metal baseball bat sitting in the corner at the front door. I think I’ll replace that with a 12-gauge pump, even though we live in a very low-crime neighborhood.

Work on the prepping book continues. At the moment, I’m writing about why it’s a terrible idea to buy one of those X-person/Y-year emergency food kits that Costco and Sam’s Club sell.

14:31 - I just checked statistics and found that the prepping book is now 123 pages and about 46,000 words. It’s still full of gaping holes and nowhere near ready to have anyone see, but my impression is that I’m about 30% of the way through the first draft. I’m pleased with progress so far and I hope I can continue at the current rate.

Posted in personal, prepping, writing | 18 Comments