Monday, 26 January 2015

10:26 - Barbara is doing very well, even after cleaning house yesterday. She’s up and walking around frequently. She’s checking her work email a couple of times a day, and keeping busy labeling/filling containers for science kits.

It seems that the communist Syriza party has won the Greek election, coming within at worst one or two seats of an absolute majority, with the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party placing third. Given that Merkel and the Germans despise Tsipras and the Greeks, this is unlikely to end well. Merkel believes, wrongly, that Tsipras is bluffing and that in any event the eurozone has the necessary mechanisms in place to survive Greece crashing out of the euro; Tsipras believes, wrongly, that Merkel is bluffing and that the troika will allow Greece to default on its debts and still remain in the eurozone. At this point, the best that anyone can reasonably hope for is that both sides negotiate calmly and arrange an orderly exit from the euro for Greece. That may actually happen, but I think it’s much more likely that one or both parties will misjudge and the result will be a disorderly exit from the euro for Greece. That’s going to be ugly, and the row of dominoes toppling as the contagion hits Italy, Spain, Portugal, and eventually France will be uglier still.

The ECB’s QE policy announced on Thursday was much larger than expected, but still far too little far too late and with far too many conditions and limitations on it. Draghi’s vaunted “bazooka”–at a third the percentage of GDP of the QE in the US and UK and years too late–is likely to be a damp squib.


Posted in Barbara, government, politics | 9 Comments

Sunday, 25 January 2015

09:49 - Barbara is bound and determined to clean house today. While I was walking Colin, she cleaned toilets, even though I’d told her just before I left that I’d do that when I got back. I managed to get the kitchen floor vacuumed before she showed up and demanded that I hand it over. So she’s now vacuumed the den, worked her way down the hall, and into our bedroom and bath.

I’m currently oven-drying some nominally anhydrous magnesium sulfate. The problem with this stuff, like anhydrous calcium chloride, is that it sucks water vapor out of the air. If you pour either one into a weigh boat on a scale and watch the indicated mass, you can actually see it increasing as the solid sucks water out of the air. So I dry it at 300C, fill and pack bottles while it’s still quite warm, and tape the caps. I’ll make an extra bottle, date it, and weigh it on a milligram balance. The last time I did that, it gained only about 0.5% mass in a year, but as soon as the bottle is opened it’ll start sucking up water vapor until the mass of the solid nearly doubles.

This is part of an order that came in Friday from one of our state virtual school customers that provides AP chemistry materials for distance-learning to state residents. I need to get the stuff finished and packed up today so that I can ship tomorrow.


Posted in Barbara, science kits | 5 Comments

Saturday, 24 January 2015

08:39 - One of the things about having Barbara at home all day for the next month is that I no longer have time to re-watch videos that she doesn’t want to re-watch. And until recently that meant any video she’d ever seen. I’d suggest re-watching an excellent series we’d last watched 30 years ago and she’d just say, “We already watched that”.

While she was in the hospital, I’d started re-watching Jericho. I was surprised after she was back at home when she agreed that I could continue re-watching it with her in the room. She even agreed that it was a very good series. So last night I told her that I’d really like to re-watch Everwood, and was surprised when she readily agreed. I’m really looking forward to seeing Emily VanCamp again at age 15. I knew she was special partway through the first episode, and I haven’t changed my mind ten years on.


09:52 - Speaking of Netflix streaming, I convinced Barbara to give Revolution a try last night. I watched the first few minutes before my bogosity meter pegged. What did it for me was a solid line of cars filling both lanes of an interstate at night. As the power failed, the headlights of the cars went out. But they didn’t go out all at once, no. Instead the closest cars went dark, and then the others in sequence like a row of dominoes going down into the far distance. Geez. What moron wrote this? I immediately backed out to the main Netflix menu, turned to Barbara, and asked what she thought of Revolution. She said it was terrible. I agreed.

So we went back to watching Borgia, which features the beautiful Marta Gastini as Giulia Farnese. One of the things I’ve noticed watching other series is that I often have trouble telling young actresses apart. One generically pretty brunette is much like another, so I often have to depend on non-facial characteristics like hair color, voice, build, and so on to differentiate them. With Borgia, I’ve added one characteristic to that list. It has lots of young women running around topless (and bottomless) and engaging in simulated sex. With the girls’ faces at odd angles, often partially covered by their hair or their partners’ heads or bodies, I sometimes can’t tell which is which. But, I have discovered, all of the actresses in this series have distinctive nipples, by which I can identify them even if their faces aren’t clearly visible.


11:21 - I just re-joined Amazon Prime because today-only it’s $72 rather than $99. For $72, it’s worth it to me. Not for $99.

Posted in Barbara, netflix | 19 Comments

Friday, 23 January 2015

10:55 - Barbara’s doing extremely well; Colin, not so well. He has the squirties. He had a large accident last night, fortunately on the hardwood floor. He did pester but we ignored him, thinking he was just acting strangely as he so often does.

After she saw my post yesterday, Barbara pointed out that she did not mention groceries. She was talking about milk. Since we have four cases of non-fat dry milk stored, along with two or three cases of evaporated milk, we didn’t really need milk, either.


Posted in Barbara, prepping | 48 Comments

Thursday, 22 January 2015

08:24 - Barbara’s recovery continues. She’s doing extremely well, better than when she had her other knee replaced three years ago. Colin is assisting in her treatment by snuggling up to her during the day and all night, as well as licking the affected area frequently.

I’m working on science kit stuff, filling bottles and building subassemblies.


09:12 - When the PT guy was here yesterday, he said that he’d been listening to weather forecasts. Apparently, some forecasters are predicting a severe winter storm event and others are predicting nothing. That’s often the case here in the lee of the mountains. What will actually happen is almost impossible to predict accurately. We might get nothing, or we might get an ice storm like the one several years ago that left us without power for four or five days.

After the PT guy left, Barbara wondered aloud if we needed to make a supermarket run for groceries. I told her that if we did, I had no business writing a prepping book. At this point, we’d be okay as long as the ice storm lasted no longer than 12 to 15 months.

Posted in Barbara, science kits | 33 Comments

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

09:49 - Barbara continues to do very well. She has physical therapy every day this week, and is up and walking around frequently.

We finished watching Jericho last night. Well, I watched it while Barbara kind of paid attention to it while she worked her crossword puzzles. On second viewing, I’m even more impressed with it than I was the first time. The best prepping series I’ve ever seen. Yeah, they get some trivial stuff wrong. For example, during a severe winter and a fuel shortage, people continue to live individually or in small groups in their own homes rather than consolidating several families per home to conserve scarce fuel. And, since the Event occurred at harvest time in rural Kansas, there really shouldn’t have been any shortage of food. A large surplus, more like. IIRC, every Kansas farm feeds on average something like 250 people. There should have been grains, beans, and other crops in abundance, and a surplus of meat and dairy products. And Jericho must have had a gigantic warehouse filled with batteries and candles, because three months after they’re isolated, Jericho residents are still using those profligately, with no apparent shortage. Routinely lighting rooms in homes with literally dozens of candles or several battery lanterns, and so on.

But despite those minor quibbles, the writers get it right. They have good leaders and bad leaders. Competent people and incompetent ones. Hotheads and conciliators. Even the good people sometimes behave badly, and most of the bad ones are bad only because they’re forced to be by circumstances. And, beyond the local authorities, government is not their friend. They’re even lucky enough to have a resident wizard.


Posted in Barbara, prepping | 21 Comments

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

10:36 - Barbara starts physical therapy today. She’s already doing very well, and intends to go back to work as soon as possible. The absolute minimum the doctor will approve is four weeks off before she’s allowed to drive or return to work, so I expect she’ll be back at work by mid-February.

As of today, I’m caught up with shipping the backlog of kits. Of course, I’ve also run down my finished goods inventory, so I’ll be building more kits today and the rest of this week.

One of the fundamental principles of long-term food storage that many preppers ignore is to store what you already eat. That’s why we store zero wheat berries and zero dry beans. Both of those have essentially unlimited shelf-lives, but that’s pretty much the best that can be said for them. Few Americans eat diets that are heavy in either whole wheat or beans, and we’re no exception. When we last visited the LDS Home Storage Center in Greensboro, we hauled back close to 700 pounds of food in #10 cans. None of it was wheat or beans. Barbara put her foot down, and I agreed with her completely. Instead of wheat, we bought multiple cases of white flour, which is rated for 10 years shelf life. In reality, it’ll probably be good far longer, but every few years we’ll just add more and keep what we have in long-term reserve. As to beans, we buy pre-cooked beans by the case. (We both really like Bush’s Best Baked Beans.)

The same is true of meat. We eat mostly chicken and beef, with pork occasionally and fish once a week or so. Barbara doesn’t mind the canned chicken breast sold by Costco and Sam’s Club, so we keep three or four dozen cans of it in stock. She doesn’t care for any canned fish, so we have only a dozen cans or so of tuna for me and maybe a half dozen salmon, which she’ll tolerate, for her. She’s not a big fan of roast beef at the best of times, but she will tolerate the canned sliced roast beef sold by Costco, so we keep a couple of dozen 12-ounce cans of it on the shelf.

She does use a fair amount of ground beef, so I decided to stock up on it. Unfortunately, no local vendor carries canned ground beef, so I order heat-and-serve ground beef directly from Keystone Meats. It’s available in cases of 12 28-ounce cans for $80 plus shipping or 24 14.5-ounce cans for $95 plus shipping. I have one of the former in stock and plan to order another case or two. The best-by dates are five years out, but in reality the shelf life is essentially unlimited.

My food storage goal has always been to maintain an absolute minimum of 24 person-months of food, with at least one meal per day that includes meat. That translates to one full year for the two of us or, more likely, four months for six or three months for eight.


Posted in Barbara, prepping, science kits | 53 Comments

Monday, 19 January 2015

09:33 - Barbara is doing very well, better than last time. As usual, the problem is to keep her from over-doing.

I took Latin starting in 8th grade. In 9th grade, we read Vegetius, and his most familiar phrase has always stayed with me: Igitur qui desiderat pacem, praeparet bellum, usually translated as “If you want peace, prepare for war”. Vegetius was a prepper. I thought about that as I was reading an article that was linked to in the comments yesterday: Bracken: When The Music Stops – How America’s Cities May Explode In Violence

It’s a longish article, but worth taking the time to read. I don’t expect things to get this bad any time soon, but it’s certainly a possibility. History tells us that when law and order breaks down, things get very bad very quickly. And right now we’re watching law and order break down.


Posted in Barbara, prepping | 20 Comments

Sunday, 18 January 2015

09:37 - Barbara is doing very well. There’s still knee pain, of course, but she’s taken only four or five of the 5 mg oxycodone tabs since we got home yesterday afternoon (versus the allowable dose of two every four hours). I think she’s holding them in reserve for when her physical therapy sessions start.

I am doing laundry and filling bottles to give me what I need to build more kits.


Posted in Barbara, science kits | 19 Comments

Saturday, 17 January 2015

09:03 - Barbara had dinner out last night, so I took the opportunity to watch several more episodes of Jericho. Also, as usual when she’s out for dinner, I took the opportunity to experiment by making dinner from our long-term food stores.

I’m also experimenting with Thermos cooking, which can be important in a long-term power down situation where you’re trying to minimize fuel usage. Rather than bringing a pot of rice to a boil and simmering it for 20 minutes, for example, you can just add the rice and boiling water to a Thermos bottle or insulated cooler and let it sit. When you open the Thermos hours later, you have hot cooked rice.

One morning, transfer two cups of dry rice, a cup of beans, and some bouillon and spices to a large wide-mouth Thermos bottle. Add the appropriate amount of water, cap the bottle, and by dinner time you have a nutritious meal. Of course, beans and rice get boring pretty fast, so I’m also playing around with food extenders. Last night I tried a can of Dinty Moore Chicken & Dumplings. A 24-ounce can of that is sufficient to make two pounds of dry rice and a pound of beans into an appealing meal for six people, at 1,000 calories each and with plenty of protein and fats. Not gourmet food by any means, but something that most people would find reasonably tasty.


13:33 - We’re back from the hospital, where Barbara had knee-replacement surgery on Thursday. Everything went very well, and the insurance covered all but about $3,000 of the cost. She’ll be at home recuperating for a month or so, which means no more wild women and parties for me.

We stopped at Walgreens on the way home to pick up three prescriptions, one for ninety 5 mg oxycodone. She’s allowed to have one or two every four hours as needed, so at maximum dosage that’s more than a week’s supply. All three prescriptions totaled $33.19, including the $450 worth of oxycodone. Or $0.90 worth, depending on how you count it.

In the long-term section of the prepping book I have a note to myself to write about growing common poppies (P. somniferum, AKA opium poppies) and extracting the opium alkaloids, including morphine and codeine. I’ll probably add some material about processing the raw opioids into more useful forms like hydrocodone.

Posted in Barbara, prepping | 27 Comments