Tuesday, 19 September 2017

11:48 – I’m not feeling very well today. I decided to take the day off, other than processing and shipping kit orders.

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Monday, 18 September 2017

09:16 – It was 57.2F (14C) when I took Colin out at 0630. It was still dark, and on the eastern horizon Venus was in close conjunction with a thin crescent Luna. I almost woke Barbara to come out and see it.

The violent “protests” in St. Louis continue, yet another symptom of a country that’s coming apart at the seams. If it hasn’t become obvious to everyone by now that cultural diversity is a very bad thing, it should have. Humans evolved to live in small groups, tribes, and shoehorning millions of us into urban agglomerations is a guaranteed way to spark tribal warfare between and among those many groups. I have nothing in common with the urban underclass, and they have nothing in common with me.

So long as those diverse groups were assimilated into the common white Anglo-Saxon culture that prevailed in this country until relatively recently, we could all get along. Now that we no longer have that common culture, we’re fragmenting into smaller groups that are increasingly at war. This doesn’t bode well. The first literal shots in these wars have already been fired, and it won’t take much for things to degenerate further.

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Sunday, 17 September 2017

09:00 – It was 53.4F (12C) when I took Colin out at 0650, partly cloudy.

Barbara and I were in downtown Sparta yesterday from mid-morning through mid-afternoon. She was volunteering at the historical society museum while I helped man a booth for the Sparta Amateur Radio Club. That was one of a hundred or so booths set up for the annual Mountain Heritage Festival. They closed off the streets downtown, and there were probably a couple thousand people wandering around over the course of the day.

One thing that struck me immediately was the racial makeup of the crowd. I actually started counting people as they passed the booth, but gave up when I got to five hundred. In that first 500, there were 497 white people and only three non-whites, an Hispanic couple and their child. The rest of the day, I spotted five more Hispanics, a group of teenage age boys together, and a total of five blacks, two couples and one child.

The other notable thing was people’s weights. I know we’re supposed to have an obesity “epidemic” in this country, but in all the hundreds and hundreds of people I saw, I noticed only one that I’d consider morbidly obese, a handful that I’d describe as “fat”, and maybe 20 more that I’d describe as “chunky” or “chubby”. The rest were of normal weight, ranging from many who were actually very thin, what I’d call underweight, through some middle-aged and older people who had slight beer bellies. But a very, very high percentage of the people I saw appeared to be in a normal weight range.

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Saturday, 16 September 2017

08:12 – It was 53.6F (12C) when I took Colin out at 0700, partly cloudy.

We’re taking the day off to do personal stuff. Barbara is volunteering at the historical society this morning, and we have a lot of stuff to get done around the house this afternoon. We’re in good shape on finished goods inventory for this time of year, and we have enough finished subassemblies to make up a bunch more kits on the fly if necessary.

Barbara’s friend Joanne and her son Colin stopped by yesterday afternoon with their new rescue puppy, Abby. She’s about six months old, and adorable. She and Colin (our Colin) sniffed each other thoroughly.

They’re still working on the house next door, but making good progress. It should be finished in a couple of weeks, after which Grace will be moving in. She loves dogs, but as much as she wants one of her own she’s going to wait until next spring to get a puppy. As a teacher, she’ll be away from home all day until school lets out, and she didn’t think it’d be fair to a puppy to be left on its own all day. If she waits until next spring, she’ll have three months to be with the puppy all day long before she has to start back to work. I told her that in the interim she was welcome to borrow Colin as often as she wants to. He’ll love it.

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Friday, 15 September 2017

09:10 – It was 53.7F (12C) when I took Colin out at 0700, partly cloudy.

The Equifax breach just keeps getting worse and worse. First it was revealed that they’d waited almost six weeks after discovering the breach to make it public. Then it comes out that high executives with the company sold lots of their stock soon after the breach, supposedly not being aware of it. Yeah, right. Now it’s revealed that they were aware of the vulnerability for months, that there was a patch for it, and that they didn’t bother to apply the patch. Jesus.

And their response is pathetic. One year of free credit-monitoring service? How about lifetime free credit-monitoring service? And how about a significant payment to anyone affected by the breach? Say an amount equal to the combined credit line of each person. We have only two or three credit cards, with combined limits of maybe $50,000, but other people may have much more. Say the average is only $10,000. If 143 million people were affected, that would cost Equifax $1,430 billion, so it might put a crimp in their stock value.

But all of the credit agencies are in the wrong here. The default should be to freeze credit on everyone unless they specifically ask that it be unlocked temporarily if they want to apply for credit. It’s inexcusable that this is not the default, and even worse that they charge to freeze an account. At least North Carolina requires them to freeze an account without charging.


Email from a guy who’s pretty well prepared on the basics—water, food, shelter, cooking/heating, communications, etc.—but lacks antibiotics for his beloved decorative pet fish. He’s uncomfortable with the idea of buying antibiotics from Mexican or Canadian pharmacies, eBay, or other random Internet sources, but is comfortable storing Thomas Labs fish antibiotics, available from Walmart.com and many local pet supply stores. Interestingly, it appears that Amazon.com has stopped offering Thomas Labs fish antibiotics. I hope that’s not a sign of things to come. I’ll include only retail list prices below, but third-party vendors generally sell these products at a 15% or 20% discount.

He wanted to know that if I limited myself to these products, which one or ones would I stock, and how much of each per fish. With the usual disclaimer that I am neither a physician or a pharmacist (nor a veterinarian), and assuming that his fish have no drug allergies, I recommended the following, roughly in order of priority:

Note: All of these dosages assume that we’re treating a 160-pound (72 kilo) adult fish that is not pregnant.

1. Doxycycline, 100 mg tablets or capsules – This would be my top priority, as it is broad-spectrum and is generally tolerated well except by pregnant and juvenile fish. A typical course of treatment is one 100 mg dose every 12 hours for 7 to 10 days, so for one fish I’d want to have 14 to 20 tablets on hand. Thomas Labs sells a bottle of thirty 100 mg doxycycline tablets for $50 or 100 tablets for $150.

2. Sulfamethoxazole/Trimethoprim (SMZ/TMP), 400/80 mg or 800/160 mg tablets – This would be my second priority, assuming your fish have no sulfa allergies. A typical course of treatment is one 400/80 mg tablet every 12 hours for 7 to 10 days, so for one fish I’d want to have 14 to 20 of the smaller tablets (or 7 to 10 of the larger tablets) on hand. Thomas Labs sells SMZ/TMP as 800/160 mg tablets, which are scored and can easily be split into two 400/80 mg tablets. A bottle of thirty 800/160 SMZ/TMP tablets (equivalent to sixty 400/80 mg tablets) sells for $15 or 100 tablets (equivalent to two hundred 400/80 mg tablets) for $35. This stuff is cheap and is effective against many common serious infections, so there’s no reason not to have it on hand.

3. Metronidazole, 500 mg tablets or capsules – This drug was introduced as Flagyl in the 1950’s as an anti-protozoal and it was only discovered by chance in 1962 that it’s also effective against anaerobic bacteria. The other antibiotics listed here have little or no effect on either protozoal infections or anaerobic bacterial infections, so metronidazole is definitely something I want in my arsenal. A typical course of treatment varies, depending on the particular disease and its severity, but ranges from 2000 mg/day for five days up to 4,000 mg/day for ten days, so to be safe I’d assume one course is a total of 40,000 mg. Thomas Labs sells Fish Zole Forte as 500 mg tablets, at $45, $65, and $100 for 30, 60, or 100 tablets, respectively. A daily 2,000 mg dosage is therefore four tablets, and a 4,000 mg dosage eight tablets. You’ll want to continue this for up to ten days, so for the maximum 4,000 mg/day for ten days, you’ll need 80 of the 500 mg tablets. Go with a bottle of 100 to be safe.

4. An antihelminthic drug – This is not a Thomas Labs product, but it’s important just the same. Parasitic worms are probably responsible for more morbidity and mortality in fish than any other parasite, so you’ll want something on hand to treat them. My first choice here would be mebendazole, with albendazole a close second. Unfortunately, both of those are extraordinarily expensive in the US. (About $.01 to $0.10 per dose outside the US, but $200 to $400 per dose in the US. See the Wikipedia entries on those drugs to find out why.) My next choice would be pyrantel (50 mg pyrantel per mL as the pamoate salt), which is over-the-counter in the US, and sells for $0.50 to $4.00 per dose. It’s not effective against all types of helminthic parasites, but works for the most common ones–pin worm, hookworm, and roundworm. As far as I know, pyrantel is sold only as a suspension. Typical dosages of the 50 mg/mL concentration are 1 mL per 10 pounds of body weight, so you’d give your 160-pound fish 16 mL. Call it one tablespoon. A 16-ounce bottle—roughly 32 adult doses—sells for $15 or so, and a 32-ounce bottle for twice that. A course of treatment for any of these antihelminthics is usually just one dose, so a little goes a long way. The best-known version of this drug is Reese’s Pinworm Medicine, which sells for $7 or $8 per ounce ($3.50 to $4 per dose), but it’s also available as a generic OTC medication in pint and quart bottles for about $0.50/ounce.

If you’re stocking for a family or group of fish rather than just one fish, you won’t necessarily need to multiply the quantities per fish by the number of fish in the group. For example, for 25 adult fish, we’d keep 200 grams of metronidazole on hand, which is only five maximum to twenty minimum courses.

Keep these drugs unopened in their sealed bottles, and stick them in your freezer, where they’ll remain safe and potent for literally decades. The only exception is the one liquid drug on this list, pyrantel pamoate suspension, which should be refrigerated, where it’ll remain safe and potent for many years.

Posted in news, personal, prepping | 49 Comments

Thursday, 14 September 2017

08:11 – It was 56.4F (12.5C) when I took Colin out at 0650, mostly cloudy and damp. Barbara is off this morning to Winston to run errands, returning this afternoon.

Walmart is getting better about packing shipments. FedEx showed up yesterday with my eight #10 cans of Augason dehydrated potato slices, and all eight cans were completely undented. Let’s hope the same is true for the two steel shelving units that are on the FedEx truck for delivery today.

Yesterday, I mentioned to Lori, our USPS carrier, that these two shelving units should be showing up soon, and asked her if she’d mind doing a small welding project for me. Like all of these steel shelving units, instead of including four 6-foot angle-iron corner verticals, they include eight 3-foot units with four steel sleeves. You have to pound one of the sleeves onto the bottom half of each vertical and then pound the top half of the vertical into the sleeve. So I asked Lori if she could weld them together instead. She said she’d be happy to take a look at them, and do the welding if she could. She even refused to accept any payment for doing it, although I’ll insist.


I just started re-reading an SF series that seldom appears on lists of prepper/PA titles, but definitely belongs in the top rank of prepper fiction. It’s Eric Flint’s 1632 series, which I first read soon after the first title was released. It’s since become almost its own ecosystem, with dozens of titles ranging from full-length novels to short-story collections, written by dozens of authors, many of whom any SF reader will recognize.

The only reason this series is usually categorized as SF rather than prepper/PA fiction is that the Event involves a chunk of West Virginia being displaced in space-time and ending up in medieval Europe. Flint’s paints his canvas on a gigantic scale, with the Thirty Years’ War raging, and historical characters like Gustavus Adolphus and the kings of England, France, and Spain playing major roles. The series is fundamentally about an ordinary group of contemporary Deplorables finding themselves in a literal TEOTWAWKI situation and then going about rebuilding a modern society. Flint and his collaborators write well, and the series is definitely worth checking out.

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Wednesday, 13 September 2017

08:56 – It was 51.7F (11C) when I took Colin out at 0700, clear and calm. We had a total of 1.8″ (4.5 cm) of rain and some stiff breezes from Irma’s remnants. If we hadn’t known there had been a hurricane, it would have just seemed like a normal couple of rainy days.

Barbara is off to the gym this morning, after which we’ll get back to building science kits. After an August that ran about 135% of last year’s August revenues, September is running about even with last September.


I’m seeing an increasing number of articles about former lefties who’ve “taken the red pill”. I never saw The Matrix, but I’m told that’s a pop cultural reference to progressives waking up to the ridiculousness of the progs and political correctness. IOW, people are starting to recognize that the emperor has no clothes, and saying so publicly. Let’s hope that trend continues and accelerates.

Someone forwarded me links to several articles about the growth in ham radio, which is on track to reach 750,000 licensed hams in the US this year. A lot of articles mention the 2007 elimination of the code requirement as a factor in the growth of ham radio, but most of them also point out the growth of the prepper movement as the major factor. I don’t have any real data to support my belief that most of the growth is in fact a result of preppers becoming licensed, but I do note that many of the preppers I hear from are either licensed or pursuing their licences.


I just read an article that says that about 900,000 homes and businesses in Georgia are without power, and they don’t know how long it’ll take to restore it. The real problem is that they don’t have the crews or trucks they need to do so. Power companies all over the US, particularly in the South and Southeast, sent trucks and crews to Texas to deal with the damage caused by Harvey, and then again to Florida to deal with Irma’s aftermath. The upshot is that there aren’t a lot of crews/trucks left to respond to Georgia. I don’t know for a fact, but I’d guess that our electric power company, Blue Ridge Electric, probably sent crews and trucks to Texas and Florida. I’d guess they probably have maybe one truck and crew left to deal with any local outages.

Posted in personal, science kits | 92 Comments

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

10:06 – It was 54.3F (13C) when I took Colin out at 0715, with gusty winds and blowing rain. We had about 1.5″ (3.8 cm) of rain overnight. Today is supposed to be more of the same.

Barbara is volunteering this afternoon at the Friends bookstore, and I have various administrative tasks to do. Tomorrow, we’re back to making subassemblies and building more science kits. Kit sales are still okay, although they’re starting to taper off, as they always do in September.

I have two cups of coffee every morning, made in a single-cup brewer that holds about a pint of water. As I was setting up my second cup this morning, I thought to weigh the coffee I was using. It turns out, I use a scoop that weighs about 13 grams to make a pint of coffee. That means a 3-pound can of coffee is about 100 cups or 50 days’ worth, and a case is 300 days’ worth. Barbara, Frances, and Colin don’t drink coffee, and Al likes his coffee much weaker than I make mine, so two cases of coffee is a year’s worth for Al and me. Of course, I also drink tea, as does Barbara, and we have enough of that in LTS to make a few hundred gallons.

I just remarked to Barbara this morning that we’re both old enough to remember when it was a standing joke about property developers selling swamp land in Florida to rubes from out of state. Back then, Florida was a relatively small state population-wise, and for good reason. It wasn’t until the 50’s and 60’s that major development ramped up down there, and for good reason. Until then, people understood that it was a really bad idea to build in coastal areas, which are subject to frequent hurricanes. The population of Florida back then was a quarter or less what it is now, and that was too many people even then. Of course, other coastal areas like the Gulf Coast and the entire West Coast have also seen huge increases in construction and growth in population, which was just as bad an idea.

Posted in personal, prepping | 26 Comments

Monday, 11 September 2017

09:28 – 9/11, a date that will live in infamy.

It was 51.7F (11C) when I took Colin out at 0700, overcast and breezy. Our forecast for this afternoon through tomorrow remains the same, heavy rains and strong winds, although from the weather radar it appears that former Hurricane Irma has become disorganized, crossed the Florida peninsula to the east coast, and is running up the Atlantic coast. Odd that the forecast track remains the same as it was.

Frances and Al came up Saturday morning and left to head back to Winston after dinner yesterday. Barbara and Al worked outside Saturday, getting the garden tilled and several rows of turnips planted. Sunday, Barbara and Frances got Barbara’s autumn decorations unpacked and put out, while Al and I installed more shelves in the downstairs food area.

We installed Spur slotted shelving tracks and snap-in shelf supports that we’d brought up from the house in Winston. After we got the tracks installed, we put in shelf supports spaced to allow two #10 cans vertically on each shelf. What was odd was that all of the shelves but one indeed had plenty of vertical clearance for two #10 cans, but that one shelf was a slip-fit for two #10 cans. I’m not sure how that happened, since the vertical tracks have double sets of slots to hold the shelf brackets so there couldn’t have been any error in spacing.

The number and length of the 1X10’s we had on hand limited us to installing four 6-foot shelves, but even that gives us shelf space for another several dozen #10 cans. We ended up with six shelf brackets and four 6-foot vertical tracks unused. I may use those later to extend the shelves to 10 feet, although that’s not a priority. I may also replace the 1X10’s with 1X12’s, which are wide enough to allow #10 cans two-deep without staggering.

We’d originally bought the Spur tracks and brackets at Lowe’s or Home Depot, probably 15 years ago. When I searched their sites, I found that, although Spur is still in business in the UK, they apparently no longer have any vendors/distributors in the US. Fortunately, a US company called Knape and Vogt makes shelf brackets and other components that are supposedly compatible with the Spur products.

Oh, and once again I learned the danger of assuming. Among the stuff I intended to transfer to the new shelving was a case of Costco coffee, which I assumed were #10 cans. Not so. They LOOK like #10 cans, but they’re slightly taller (#11?). So they won’t stack two-high with the current shelf spacing. When I mentioned it to Barbara, she said she’d known they weren’t #10 cans, just by looking at them.


13:56 – We just started seeing the first effects of Irma: a torrential sprinkle and hideous winds gusting up to maybe 5 MPH. I’m not sure we’ll be able to hold out.

Posted in personal, prepping | 40 Comments

Sunday, 10 September 2017

09:08 – It was 46.4F (8C) when I took Colin out at 0645, clear and calm.

Happy Anniversary to us! Barbara and I have been married 34 years today.

The latest Irma forecasts have it tracking further left, aimed at Memphis, which should limit the effects here. The local forecast now calls for 1 to 4 inches (2.5 to 10 cm) of rain and sustained winds of 20 to 30 MPH (30 to 50 KPH). Barbara has already brought in most of the outdoor items that are subject to blowing away, and will get the rest indoor this afternoon.

The leftward shift is also good news for several of the Prepper Girls, most of whom are located in extreme western North Carolina and Virginia, and eastern Tennessee. I haven’t heard from any of them recently, so presumably they’re busy preparing for Irma. Of course, my email generally has been extremely light. I’m not even getting much spam. I think between Harvey and Irma, people have had better things to do with their time.

We’re working around the house today. First up is installing more shelving in the food room downstairs. That’ll be adjustable track shelving, so we don’t need to worry about vertical spacing. I plan to use these shelves mostly for #10 cans, which are relatively light, so I’ll probably install tracks only every other stud. We should end up with enough additional shelf space for maybe 200 more #10 cans.

At Barbara’s suggestion, we’re leaving the wall space under the chair rail free of shelves. We’ll stack stuff like 5-gallon buckets, plastic bins, and so on there.

Posted in personal, prepping | 36 Comments