Monday, 16 October 2017

09:21 – It was 52.6F (11.5C) when I took Colin out at 0700, overcast, damp, breezy, and nasty.

I’ve been ill since early this month. It started with some congestion and insomnia, which I almost never suffer from. My temperature was normal, so I figured it was just an allergic reaction to something that had started dumping pollen.

When I inhaled it felt like I was only able to inhale half as much air as usual. Barbara gave me a 12-hour Mucinex, which helped a lot. The first time. The second time, it helped, but not as much. After a couple of days on the stuff, I felt a pain in my lower back. Ruh-roh. Kidney stones are a side effect of guaiphenesin. Also, my fluid intake was down from my normal gallon or so (4 L) per day little over half that. So I discontinued the guaiphenesin and starting trying to force fluids. No lower back pain since then. I think the insomnia is an artifact of the breathing issue. I just can’t get comfortable, lying down, sitting up, whatever.

This morning, around 0400, I was thrashing around trying to get settled. I woke Barbara up, and she announced that she wasn’t going to go on her trip. She’s due to leave Friday. She said there’s no way she could enjoy herself, worrying about me the whole time.

So we talked about it some more, and I agreed to go to the doctor and get checked out. I hope it’ll just be a matter of him prescribing an antibiotic that’ll clear up the problem in a day or two. But even if that is the case, it wouldn’t surprise me if she decided to bag the trip and stay home to keep an eye on me.

I hate that. Barbara deserves some downtime doing things she enjoys. She shouldn’t have to stay at home to babysit me. But, on the other hand, I confess that the idea of being on my own here for ten days does concern me.

If she does decide to bag the trip, I’m going to insist that she still use that ten days as the closest she can come to being on vacation. Eating out a lot, taking day trips to various places near here, and so on. It won’t be the same as a real vacation, but it might be better than the daily grind.

Posted in personal | 65 Comments

Sunday, 15 October 2017

09:17 – It was 55.5F (13C) when I took Colin out at 0700, mostly clear. Lows this week are to be in the 30’s, so our first frost and perhaps a hard freeze isn’t far off.

Barbara is getting ready for a vacation trip. She and a girl friend are driving up to the Finger Lakes region of New York, leaving this Friday and returning on Sunday the 29th. I’m happy that she’ll return well before the antifa Days of Rage, which is scheduled for November 4th and the days following. Not that I seriously expect any major problems, but when a terrorist group announces that they’ve scheduled large-scale, widespread protests (i.e., riots), it’s a good idea to at least keep it in mind.

I’ve watched a lot of the videos that Jaime and Jeremy post on their Guildbrook Farms YouTube channel. Yesterday, Barbara watched several of them with me, and said she enjoyed watching them.

Their “farm” is actually a ranch house sitting on one acre in what used to be an exurban development, but because of urban sprawl has now become suburban. It’s in Davidson, NC, which is the Charlotte metro area. They’re homesteaders and preppers, and they post a lot of videos. I just checked, and they have 157 videos posted in just over one year. Roughly one every other day. There are a few short ones, but most are 12 to 20 minutes long.

Posted in Barbara, personal | 48 Comments

Saturday, 14 October 2017

09:06 – It was 54.5F (12.5C) when I took Colin out at 0625, mostly cloudy. Cooler weather is starting to move in. Our low temperature on Monday is forecast to be just above freezing.

I’m trying to get my application for ARRL Volunteer Examiner (VE) status completed and submitted. A VE functions basically as an exam proctor, keeping an eye out to avoid cheating, scoring the tests completed by license candidates, and submitting the results to the FCC. SPARC, the Sparta Amateur Radio Club, is currently running a training class for people who want to get their Technician Class license. There are a dozen students, which surprised me.

Administering the exam requires at least three VE’s be present. At this point, I believe SPARC has four VE’s. Unfortunately, two of them are related to some of the people who are taking the exam, which means they can’t be VE’s for that exam session. So I offered to become a VE.

At first, I thought it’d be easy. One of the current VE’s sent me the application form to become a VE with the Western Carolina VEC. I filled that out. All it required was my license and contact information and the names of three references. With their permission, I used the three VE’s who’d been examiners at my own exam. I submitted the form by email, and heard nothing. A week or so ago, one of the current VE’s sent me the VE application form to become a VE with the ARRL VEC (rather than the Western Carolina VEC).

That one requires a lot more work, including studying a 96-page VE manual and then completing a test. They say it’s not actually a test, but it sure looks like one. Then I have to submit all the paperwork and wait to be approved. I’ll try to get that complete and submitted in the next couple of days.

Of course, since I have only a General Class license, I’ll be qualified as a VE only for Tech Class exams. At some point, I’ll get my Extra Class license, which will qualify me as a VE for all three license classes.

Posted in amateur radio, personal | 57 Comments

Friday, 13 October 2017

09:21 – Friday the 13th falls on a Friday this month.

It was 55.5F (13C) when I took Colin out at 0625, overcast and drizzling. Barbara is heading for the gym and supermarket.

Until June of this year, news articles about the Yellowstone Supervolcano were pretty much background noise other than on some alt-right sites. Then came the news of a big cluster of small to medium earthquakes in the vicinity, which geologists reassured us were nothing to worry about. Then NASA announced that they planned to drill holes to allow them to cool the magma and reduce the probability of a catastrophic eruption. Or increase it, depending on who you listen to. Then came the news that some scientists are now saying they believe a catastrophic eruption is imminent, not just in geological terms, but on a human timescale. They’re saying an eruption may occur today, or perhaps 50 or 100 years from now. They’ve discovered that processes that precede an eruption and were formerly thought to occur over a period of centuries in fact occur over a period of only years to decades.

I’m starting to see MSM articles like this one on Fox News: Yellowstone supervolcano could blow faster than thought, destroy all of mankind

Leaving aside the hyperbole common to all headline writers, it’s pretty clear that a lot of people in and out of government are getting concerned. I’m not, simply because there’s nothing I can do about it. Depending on the scale and duration of an eruption and the amount of ejecta, such an eruption could range from catastrophic for the continental US and extremely serious for the rest of the Northern Hemisphere to an extinction-level event.

Even a modest eruption–if you can use the word modest in relation to a supervolcano eruption–could cover most of the continental US west of the Mississippi with anything from half an inch to three or four feet of volcanic ash. (Even here in Sparta, we could expect 1 to 3 mm.) The Northern Hemisphere would see another Year Without a Summer, if we were lucky. It could easily be a decade, a century, or more without a summer. The planet’s albedo would increase dramatically, and that would probably trigger the next Ice Age. Even if it didn’t, the grainbowls of the central US and Canada would be out of production for years to decades. Scores of millions of people would die from the immediate effects of the eruption, and the follow-on effects would kill hundreds of millions and possibly billions more.

And that’s assuming a moderate eruption, call it VEI 7.5. One on that scale occurred about 70,000 years ago and resulted in a bottleneck in the human population of the planet. By some estimates, we were down to less than 1,000 individuals remaining alive.

But Yellowstone has the potential to produce a VEI 8+ eruption. Call it 1,000+ cubic kilometers of ejecta. That would be a true extinction-level event, and there’s nothing that can be done to prepare for it. Other than relocating off-planet.

Posted in personal | 52 Comments

Thursday, 12 October 2017

09:13 – It was 60.9F (16C) when I took Colin out at 0615, partly cloudy.

They’re still working on the house next door, but it looks as though things are winding down. The last few days, the flooring guy’s truck has been parked up there. It’s the same company and the same installer who did our downstairs and master bath flooring recently. He’s installing hardwood and ceramic tile throughout.

When Ricky and Kim bought the place at auction, they told us they were going to do a lot of work on it, but we didn’t expect as much as they’re doing. They basically gutted the interior, added a deck, replaced the windows, replaced the HVAC, and ripped out the floors and walls down to the joists. My guess is that they’ll end up spending as much on renovations as they spent on the house itself. When it’s finally ready for Grace to move in, I think she’ll be very pleased with it.

I spent two or three hours yesterday trying to get my Epson Perfection V350 Photo scanner working on my Linux Mint desktop. No joy. I’ve been using scanners on Linux boxes for 15 years now, with various scanners and various distros. Sometimes, it Just Works. Sometimes, it eventually works, but is a hassle to get set up. Sometimes, it works fine until a software update that borks it. Sometimes, I just can’t get it to work. This time, I actually started to wonder if my scanner was dead.

So I connected my notebook, which also runs Linux Mint, to the scanner. At first, I thought I wouldn’t be able to get it working, either. I did get it working with Image Scan! for Linux and xsane, although I haven’t tried to get the Epson scanner software working yet.

Posted in personal | 54 Comments

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

08:13 – It was 66.4F (19C) when I took Colin out at 0630, dark and overcast. Barbara is going to the gym this morning and then driving down to Winston this afternoon to have dinner with a friend and then return home this evening.

The guy I mentioned yesterday said he hopes I’m right but fears that there will be widespread violence extending outside the central cities. He lives in the suburbs of a medium-size city that’s had BLM protests before and fears this antifa-initiated thing could be much worse. They have a vacation cabin an hour from town, and he and his wife decided to head up there Friday afternoon and spend the weekend. If nothing much comes of the protests they’ll head back home Monday morning after a relaxing weekend. Otherwise, they’ll stay at the cabin until things calm down. Which sounds to me like a good plan.

I watched a video yesterday about canning sausage. Nothing special there, except the price of the sausage. In 2014, she’d paid $2/pound for pork sausage at Walmart. It’s now $3.60/pound, an 80% increase. I’d noticed similar increases over the last two or three years on LTS food items I’d bought. Not just at Walmart, but at Costco, Sam’s, Amazon, and so on. Not on everything–in fact, some items are actually cheaper now–but on balance prices have gone up noticeably, and continue to do so.

Posted in personal | 58 Comments

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

09:17 – It was 66.3F (19C) when I took Colin out at 0715, with full overcast and a heavy fog. We ended up getting just short of 5 inches (12.5 cm) of rain.

I got email from a reader asking what I expect to happen on November 4th, when BLM, antifa, and the rest of the racist terrorist groups are calling for “peaceful protests” (i.e., violent riots) across the US, with the goal of driving the Trump administration from power. Yeah, like that’s going to happen.

The short answer is that I’m not expecting much. Pretty much what’s now become commonplace. Rioting/looting/burning in large cities, mainly by blacks and useful-idiot whites, with the cops standing by just watching. Maybe using tear gas and water cannons if things really get out of hand. Lots of property damage, burned police cars, etc., but very few arrests and a low body count.

But this is not a one-day event, and things could escalate. If the rioters restrict themselves to urban centers and blocking highways, it’ll probably just be the usual mess. But if masses of rioters start heading out from the city centers into the suburbs, things could get dicey. Middle-class people expect the police to protect them and their property. If the cops won’t do it, they’ll do it themselves. If something like that develops, there could be a very high body count, most of whom are likely to be progs.

I’d be stunned if anything at all happened in little Sparta. Progs are an endangered species up here in the mountains. The population is overwhelmingly white, conservative, and church-going, and the relatively few blacks and Hispanics generally share the same values.

But November 4th and the days following would be good days to avoid big cities and crowds. Of course, that’s true of any day.

Posted in personal | 110 Comments

Monday, 9 October 2017

08:44 – It was 68.0F (20C) when I got up this morning at at 0620, pouring down rain. It was 0730 before the rain slacked off enough to take Colin out. We’ve had 4.6 inches (11.7 cm) so far, and it’s still drizzling, with heavier rains forecast for later today and tomorrow.

Barbara made a skillet dinner last night with Costco sausage, macaroni, and a jar of Classico spaghetti sauce. I washed out that jar, of course, and will use it for repackaging LTS food.

Not for canning food, though. The Classico jars look like canning jars. They even have “Atlas Mason” and a graduated scale molded into the glass. But they are most definitely not actual canning jars, and everyone from Classico themselves to the Center for Home Food Preservation says not to use them for canning, particularly pressure-canning. Here’s an article that summarizes everything you need to know about re-using commercial glass food jars as canning jars.

In short, don’t do it. You may get away with it, and if the lid seals the food will be safely preserved. The big issue is that both failed seals and broken jars are likely, particularly if you pressure-can rather than use a boiling water bath. It’s simply not worth taking the chance of spoiled food, broken glass, and so on to save the relatively small cost of a real canning jar.

Since 2014, I’ve bought (at a guess) three or four dozen boxes of Krusteaz Cinnamon Crumb Cake. We’re now down to whatever’s left in the kitchen pantry–maybe three boxes–and I don’t intend to buy any more. We like the stuff well enough, but when Barbara made one yesterday I commented that I liked the chocolate pan cake we make up from scratch just as well or better. She feels the same, so no more Krusteaz cake mix. That, and the fact that the price has increased from $2.14/box to $3.58/box. We can make it ourselves exclusively from stuff in our LTS pantry, and make it a lot cheaper.

The same thing is true of the Krusteaz pancake mix, which I’d bought in 10-pound bags. (The price on that has jumped from about $8/bag to about $10/bag.) We have everything we need in LTS to make pancakes from scratch, so why bother paying more for the pre-mixed stuff?

As we’ve been cooking more and more from scratch, one of the things we’ve discovered is that (usually) it doesn’t take any longer starting with discrete components than it does to start with a mix. And having those discrete components gives us much more flexibility. The only thing we can make with a box of Krusteaz cinnamon crumb cake mix is a cinnamon crumb cake. But we can use the discrete components to make up literally dozens of different things. It costs less, it takes little or no more time, and the shelf life of our stored raw materials is essentially unlimited, which can’t be said for mixes stored in cardboard boxes.

I’m thinking about doing the same thing to replace our stored stock of soups as we use them. Although a can of soup doesn’t cost much, and Sam’s (and presumably Costco) still sells Campbell Cream of Mushroom or Chicken for about $9/10-pack, Walmart, Amazon, and other vendors are typically up around $1.50/can or higher. That’s maybe five times what it costs to make them up on-the-fly. I have a recipe for Cream of (fill-in-the-blank) soup, and it’s pretty simple. Just make up a rue with butter (or butter powder and oil or shortening) and flour and stir in the name ingredient. It takes five minutes, and we can do that while we’re standing in the kitchen working on other parts of the meal. And, once again, that gives us a lot more flexibility.

I’m still working on my post-apocalyptic novel, but it’s a matter of an hour here and 15 minutes there, as I can find the time. I just fixed something in it yesterday. Amateur radio plays a small part in the novel, and I’d been trying to come up with decent fake call signs.

I was going to use my old call sign that I had back in the 60’s, because the FCC has completely forgotten that I ever had a licence back then. The problem is that that call sign is now showing up in the database as unassigned, which means the FCC could end up assigning it to a real person. For obvious reasons, I didn’t want to do that.

What I really needed was a ham radio equivalent of the hokey 555 telephone exchange that’s always used in TV shows and movies to provide non-working fictional telephone numbers. Unfortunately, there’s no such range for amateur radio call signs.

I’d never seen the TV series Last Man Standing, but an Internet search turned up the fact that Tim Allen’s character is a ham radio operator, and the show’s producers ran into the same problem I did. They wanted a real-sounding call sign, but found only one way to do that. They made his call sign KA0XTT, which looks kind of like a real ham call sign, except that the X in that position indicates an experimental station and would never be assigned to a real ham operator.

I briefly considered using strings that could never be assigned to a real ham, like K33RTK. The problem with that is that any reader who had any knowledge of ham radio would be jarred by such a fake call sign, probably enough to knock himself out of the story. I don’t want any clangers like that, so I ended up using the X the same way that Tim Allen’s producers used it.

The next issue I had to fix was when news reports of the Las Vegas Massacre revealed that the shooter had used a bump-fire stock. Shit. I’d already written a section that had one of the main characters mentioning the three Slide Fire stocks he’d bought recently for his family’s AR-15’s, and how they were completely legal. So I rewrote that to have him buying them years before and paying literal cash so there was no record of the transaction.

Posted in cooking with LTS food, long-term food storage, personal, prepping, writing | 77 Comments

Sunday, 8 October 2017

09:34 – It was 66.1F (19C) when I took Colin out at 0625, overcast and foggy with a light mist in the air. The rain is supposed to get heavier through the afternoon and into the evening, with heavy rain and winds gusting to 45 MPH (72 KPH) overnight. Total rainfall is supposed to be 3 to 5 inches (7.5 to 12.5 cm).

We’ll work on some science kit stuff today, although we’re actually in pretty good shape already. Colin won’t get much time outside today.

We finished watching season 7 of Doc Martin last night. In one episode, I was surprised to see a character, a lunatic elementary school art teacher, ask her pupils to bring in their favorite toys for an art project. They all brought in their favorite stuffed animals, which she then attached to the board at the front of the class using a staple gun. Geez.

The title character is an MD who’s strongly Aspergers, or at least some form of ASD. I think the point of the series is supposed to be that he’s abnormal and is surrounded by “normal” people, all of whom have lovable quirks of their own. In my opinion, he’s one of only maybe four characters who are at all normal. The rest of them, far from having lovable quirks, are blithering idiots. They say in the series that he doesn’t tolerate fools gladly (or at all), and he’s certainly surrounded by fools. His wife is just annoying. She knew what he was when she married him, and yet she’s always trying to force him to behave “normally”.

Posted in personal | 47 Comments

Saturday, 7 October 2017

09:24 – It was 60.9F (16C) when I took Colin out at 0630, overcast. We’re supposed to start seeing the effects of the hurricane late this afternoon or this evening, with heavy rains and wind tomorrow and Monday.

A couple people emailed me about the bump-fire stocks. They’d attempted to order one before any new regulations come into effect, and found that there are none to be had. Again, I wouldn’t worry about it.

First, anyone can produce a very high rate of fire with an AR-15 simply by pulling the trigger as quickly as possible. It may not be up to the 800 or 900 RPM cyclic rate of the bump stock, but it’ll be closer to full auto than what most people would expect. Back in the 70’s, I tried this and had someone use a stopwatch to time how long it took me to empty a 30-round magazine. About 4.5 seconds, which meant I was firing about 400 RPM. That’s roughly what an M3 Grease Gun SMG does.

Second, back before bump stocks were introduced, several vendors sold modified triggers for AR-15’s. These flick triggers were designed to allow you to fire rounds as fast as you could vibrate your finger on the trigger. I assume they’re still available, but I have no interest in those, either.

Yesterday morning, Barbara suggested we repackage the 50-pound sack of flour that was sitting in the laundry room. So we transferred the flour into 19 of the 1.75-liter Tropicana Orange Juice bottles, at an average of 2 pounds, 10.1 ounces per bottle. (Ranging from 2’8.9″ in the lightest to 2’14.1″ in the heaviest.) We’ll add oxygen absorbers, label them, and haul them downstairs today.

That 50 pounds of flour totals 83,160 calories (1,663 calories/lb), or about one person-month’s worth of raw calories, assuming 2,750+ calories per day. Looked at another way, it’s sufficient for 25 two-loaf batches of bread dough, 50 pancake meals for four people, or (with 60 pounds of cornmeal) about 180 batches of cornbread.

Nor will we worry about shelf-life. In heavy PET bottles with oxygen absorbers, it’ll stay good for a long, long time. LDS rates their white flour at 10 years shelf life, and they’re conservative. I’ve mentioned before that back in the 70’s I ate bread made from white flour that had been stored in canning jars for 25 years or so. The bread tasted normal. The raw flour had a tannish cast and caked badly, but it had no unusual odor, and merely sifting it eliminated the caking.

Barbara also mentioned that she wanted to go through our stock of LTS canned goods to look for pop-top cans. She decided independently that they aren’t nearly as good for LTS as standard cans that require a can opener, and she’s right. The integrity of the can is paramount for LTS, and pop-top cans have been scored for easy opening. That calls into question the long-term integrity of the can, as far as we’re concerned.

So Barbara wants to locate all of the pop-top cans and move them from the LTS food room downstairs to the upstairs pantry. We’ll use them, assuming they pass the sniff test, but we’ll avoid buying anything else in the pop-top cans.

Posted in long-term food storage, personal, prepping | 84 Comments