Thursday, 26 March 2015

09:19 - It now appears that that German airliner was intentionally crashed by a suicidal/homicidal maniac co-pilot who had locked the pilot out of the cockpit. No word yet on whether the co-pilot was a muslim nutcase or just an ordinary nutcase.

Barbara and I need something new to watch, so I’m burning DVDs of series eight of Heartland. The final episode doesn’t officially run until Sunday, but I have the first 17 episodes, which’ll hold us until I can get the final episode. They’re running a preview streaming of the final episode today in Canada, so it’ll probably be available via torrent tomorrow. I’ll probably burn these to DVD+RW discs rather than DVD+R because the official boxed set will be available for purchase by September or October. I’ve bought the official boxed sets for all seven available seasons as they’re released, and will continue doing so as long as the series continues.

Today I’ll be working on kit stuff and the prepping book. I have to make up 8 L of one solution for the biology kits and bottle it, which is the last thing I need to make up a bunch more biology kits.

The doorbell rang at 0643 yesterday. It was Hasani, one of the neighborhood kids, asking if he could borrow a cane for a school project. Barbara’s alarm is set for 0645. When it goes off, she showers and I take Colin out the front and get the paper. I see Hasani most mornings, so he knew we’d be up when he rang the bell.

Yesterday afternoon, I was talking to Mary, Kim’s mom, and she mentioned that they’d had a scare that morning. She said that someone rang their doorbell in the middle of the night and that she and Kim had called the police. At first Mary said it had been at 4 or 5 that morning, but when I mentioned Hasani ringing our bell at 0643 she said it might have been around then. I said I’d ask Hasana when he brought the cane back after school and Mary asked me not to say anything. She’s in her 80’s and is sometimes a bit vague, especially when she’d just woken up. I think she was worried that people would think she was foolish. I reassured her that she’d done exactly the right thing, which is also what the cops told her.

Of course, I asked Hasani if it had been him. He’s in middle school but he’s a really big boy, about as tall as I am. I told him that Mary and Kim had been scared when he rang their bell while it was still dark out. I didn’t want to make the kid think he’d done anything wrong, but told him that he needed to remember that women living on their own tend to be nervous about unexpected visitors when it’s dark out. I ignored Mary’s request because I wanted to make sure that it had been him and not a potential intruder. I’ll talk to Kim today and let her know that she doesn’t need to worry about the person who rang her doorbell.

Posted in news, personal, prepping, science kits, writing | 17 Comments

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

08:52 - I got one of those obnoxious robocall IRS scam phone calls yesterday. I understand that most of these scam calls and most spam calls in general originate overseas, and I wonder why the feds aren’t giving them higher priority. I mean, we have SEAL teams operating internationally, kicking down doors and killing terrorists, who are a minor annoyance compared to these phone spammers. Why aren’t the SEAL teams tracking down and killing phone spammers instead?

Every morning I make the rounds of a dozen or so of the top prepping websites. I’m not sure why I bother. There’s seldom any new material worth reading, and it seems that most of these sites are simply attempting to monetize what material they do have at their readers’ expense.

Those attempts often come in the form of Amazon affiliate links, which I consider a questionable activity. You won’t find any affiliate links on this site or in the book, because I consider them a conflict of interest. People who click on them don’t pay any more, at least in theory, but I always wonder what motivated the authors to choose these particular products. Was it because they’re actually good products or because the author gets paid for recommending them?

Then there are the recommendations for outrageously expensive products like freeze-dried foods and MREs. I just read an article on one site that recommended one of those so-called 4-person/1-year food supplies and talked about what a bargain it was for only $5,000. Geez. At 1200 calories/day, it’s actually more like a 2-person/1-year supply, at $2,500 per person. And most of the food is bulk staples that can be purchased elsewhere at a small fraction of the price. But even that’s not as bad as the sites that recommend stocking up on MREs, which cost about $10 each for a 1200 calorie meal. Is anyone really crazy enough to spend $30,000 for enough MREs to feed a family of four for a year?

And it continues with stuff like $70 flashlights, $180 knives, $260 solar ovens, $500 solar battery chargers, and so on. All fine, assuming your audience can drop $100,000 on food and other supplies. Most people can’t. And, from what I can tell, most of these recommendations are thinly-veiled paid endorsements. The company sends the author a $260 solar oven or $500 solar battery charger. The author writes a glowing review, and wink-wink-nudge-nudge isn’t expected to return the product. To my way of thinking, that’s unethical bordering on fraud.

That’s why you won’t see me even using affiliate links, let alone accepting bribes in return for favorable reviews and links. I’m sure a $70 Streamlight is in some sense “better” than the $3.50 flashlights I recommend (and buy in quantity myself with my own money). But it’s not twenty times better in any respect, and if I were going to spend $70 on flashlight(s) I’d much rather have 20 of the $3.50 models than one Streamlight. I know from experience that those $3.50 flashlights are just fine. I’ve been carrying them myself for a couple of years now. I did a drop test with one of them, holding it over my head and dropping it on concrete ten times. It still worked, and didn’t even suffer any cosmetic damage. I have it in my jeans pocket right now. That’s the same flashlight that I (intentionally) ran over with my SUV. Again, no damage at all and it still works perfectly. Same deal on other stuff. The $35 Baofeng HT works fine, so you won’t see me recommending the similar $800 Yaesu model that one prepping blogger recommends. As Jerry Pournelle says, this inexpensive stuff is Good Enough.

Posted in personal, prepping | 50 Comments

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

08:49 - I’ve almost finished reading Under the Dome, so last night we decided to watch the series on Amazon streaming. The book isn’t bad, if you can get past clangers like cops carrying Beretta Taurus pistols, which is kind of like having them drive Ford Chevys. The series is utter crap. Bad writing and bad acting. We bagged it and started watching series seven of Mad Men on Netflix.

Speaking of bagging, I’m thinking it might be time to convert some of the cash in our bank accounts to bags of junk silver coins, one-ounce silver rounds, or perhaps 100-ounce bars, depending on the relative premia. Here’s one place that sells all three.

Posted in personal, streaming video | 77 Comments

Monday, 23 March 2015

08:10 - We finished watching Saving Grace last night. I was kind of expecting her to end up with set of big, honking archangel wings like Earl. Her dog, Gus, would also have looked nice with a set of those wings, Alas, that was not to be. We started watching the Canadian series Orphan Black, which stars Tatiana Maslawny, who formerly played Kit Bailey on several episodes of Heartland.

Speaking of Heartland, I just grabbed S08E17, which ran last night. The final episode of series eight runs next Sunday. Amy and Ty will start series nine as a married couple, and I suspect that a little Ty or Amy won’t be far behind. My guess is that Amber Marshall forced their hand. She loves all small mammals and she’ll have been married two years this summer, so it wouldn’t surprise me if she’s expecting a small mammal of her own.

After reading my page yesterday, Barbara commented that she didn’t want to give up on the idea of relocating somewhere to our northwest just because there were chicken farms. I told her that I wasn’t giving up on the idea, but I want to find a place far from any large chicken farms. Over the coming months, we’ll be taking a few day trips to check out various areas. In the interim, I’m reasonably comfortable where we are.

Barbara watched some of the basketball tournament yesterday. I commented that I didn’t understand why anyone would watch that. It’s basically a bunch of underclass thugs, complete with gang colors and tats. I told Barbara that these guys are not ones she’d want to meet in a dark alley, or a well-lit one come to that.

Posted in personal, prepping, science kits | 27 Comments

Sunday, 22 March 2015

09:00 - Barbara is having a lie-in this morning. Ordinarily, she’s up by 7:30 on weekends but this morning she’s sleeping in. She needs the rest.

I’m rethinking where we should relocate. The paper has been running a series on industrial chicken farming and the stench it creates. North Carolina is in the top three states in the US in chicken and turkey production, and much of that goes on in the areas we’d been considering. Surry County and Wilkes County, two areas we’d been considering, are very high on the list. The chicken factories in Wilkes County alone produce close to 100 million chickens a year. That’s not something we’d want to live close to.

More kit stuff today.

10:30 - Barbara just cut my hair. As usual after a haircut, I’m feeling very weak. I don’t think I’ll be going out and destroying any pagan temples today, or slaying anything with the jawbone of an ass.

Posted in personal | 30 Comments

Saturday, 21 March 2015

08:32 - Barbara likes the new mattress. She says she slept very well last night. So did I, but then I almost always sleep very well. When she was at the store choosing the mattress, the guy asked her about my preferences. She told him that it didn’t matter because I was happy sleeping even on the floor. Which is true. I’m a mattress agnostic. I’ve spent more than a few nights in my life sleeping comfortably in the woods after just scooping out hip and shoulder troughs and piling pine needles to sleep on.

Page A4 of the paper this morning had an interesting full-page article/graphic. I’d known that near the end of the War of Northern Aggression General Stoneman and his cavalry had spent a couple of weeks pillaging and burning western North Carolina, but this page lays it out graphically and day-by-day. Stoneman’s raid was purely gratuitous because the war was very nearly over and also because western North Carolina had tended pro-Union throughout the war. Stoneman’s forces faced some opposition, mostly by teenage boys and wounded Confederate soldiers, but they were welcomed with cheering upon their arrival most places around here. (The fabled Tarheels were mostly from central and coastal North Carolina, where there were many plantations and tens of thousands of slaves. Slaves were relatively uncommon in the western parts of the state, which was mostly smallhold farms. The few slaves held by these family farmers were often treated as members of the family.)

More kit stuff today.

10:49 - The prevailing opinion seems to be that brown sugar isn’t suitable for long-term storage. Everyone including the LDS church says so. I’m not sure why that should be true, but then I’ve never tried storing brown sugar so I’ll assume that these sources may know something I don’t.

Not that it’s a real problem. Granulated or powdered white sugar can be stored essentially forever. The LDS church says 30 years, but the truth is probably closer to 300 years if not 3,000 years. The same is true of molasses, which is basically what’s left over when natural brown sugar is refined into white sugar. It’s easy enough to make up your own brown sugar on the fly by mixing one tablespoon of molasses, give or take, with a cup of white sugar and stirring until they’re completely mixed. So I’m not storing any brown sugar. Instead, I’ll store a couple bottles of Grade A unsulfured molasses.

Posted in personal, prepping, science kits | 33 Comments

Friday, 20 March 2015

08:41 - Barbara took the day off. She ordered a new mattress and wanted to get the bedroom cleaned out and be here when the mattress was delivered.

We’ll both be doing science kit stuff over the next three days. I’m trying to get subassembly inventories for all the kits built up before the summer rush. Today will be a first for me. I’ve never ordered 10,000 of something at a time before, but today I’m putting together a purchase order for bottles and caps. I’ve been ordering 15/415 caps for 15 mL bottles in boxes of 1,440 at a time, but I’d figured I might as well order a full case of 10,000. They’re 20% cheaper that way, and we’ll certainly go through 10,000 of them in the not-too-distant future. I’ll keep ordering the bottles in cases of 1,100 to 1,650, depending on size, because that’s the largest UOM they offer and because our storage space is limited.

Amazon is behaving strangely. Yesterday, I ordered an ebook from them, which as usual I chose to download for transfer by USB. That worked fine, but I noticed that I didn’t get the usual email receipt for the order. So I checked on the site, where the order was showing as “Pending”. It stayed that way for several hours, even though I had successfully downloaded the ebook. Then, this morning, I got email from Amazon saying that my subscribe-and-save order for five 2-pound boxes of Alpo Snaps dog treats had been canceled. When I checked the item it showed availability of 2 to 5 weeks. This is the second time in a row that’s happened, so I canceled my standing order and just ordered the dog treats from WalMart.

09:06 - A victory. Barbara was going to have the old mattress hauled off, but I convinced her we should keep it downstairs. It’s about 15 years old. I think it’s perfectly fine, but Barbara says it’s gotten uncomfortable for her. I pointed out that when we relocate we may do so gradually and it’d be good to have a mattress in each place while we’re doing so. She said she’d actually thought about that, so it wasn’t that hard to convince her to hold onto it.

Posted in personal, science kits | 49 Comments

Thursday, 19 March 2015

08:08 - Moron North Carolina legislators are again falling prey to the SLAGIATT tendency of all legislators. Like most other legislative initiatives, their attempt to pass legislation to allow DNA samples to be taken from anyone arrested for (not charged with, let alone convicted of; simply arrested for) a felony or some misdemeanors will be seen in retrospect as what Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time. Ignoring the Constitutional issues and the fact that DNA reveals much more about a person than simply his identity, the simple fact is that North Carolina cannot afford to do this. The financial cost would be extremely high, and the state crime lab is already running months to literally years behind in processing DNA evidence.

UPS just showed up yesterday with some Rhizobia inoculum, which we include in the biology kits. Rhizobia are nitrogen-fixing soil bacteria that can massively increase yields of certain crops, like peas and Lima beans. But the commercial cultures, which are basically just the bacteria on a peat moss substrate, have very limited shelf lives. The stuff we got in yesterday, for example, has a best-by date of 12/31/15. So commercial Rhizobia innoculant isn’t really suited to long-term storage.

But Rhizobia can be cultured, and it’s well-suited to putting into stasis in a solution of phosphate-buffered saline, where it remains in what amounts to suspended animation for years to decades. It can be reactivated by inoculating some sterile culture medium made by diluting a couple tablespoons of table sugar and and a few ounces of beef or chicken broth in a couple liters of water and allowing the medium to sit at room temperature for a few days. When the medium becomes visibly cloudy, you have a couple liters of inoculant liquid with trillions of Rhizobia bacteria in it. That liquid can be used directly to treat seeds.

So I think I’ll produce the PBS cultures and sell them to people who are doing long-term prepping. I considered lyophilizing (freeze-drying) the cultures, but the PBS liquid cultures will work as well and are simpler to produce.

Posted in politics, prepping | 32 Comments

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

07:52 - One often-overlooked advantage of maintaining a large stock of stored foods and eating routinely from those stores is that it allows you to avoid eating foods that end up being recalled. For example, I see that Kraft just recalled a quarter million cases of their Mac & Cheese dinners. The problem this time is minor–metal bits in a few of the boxes–but in the past there have been recalls for serious issues like botulism contamination.

Speaking of food, I see that our moron state legislators are pushing a bill to deal with the supposed problem of “food deserts” in rural and urban North Carolina. They plan to subsidize convenience stores to carry fresh fruits and vegetables, believing that the problem is that poor people can’t get to supermarkets so the solution is to bring “healthy” foods to the convenience stores where they shop. Needless to say, those fresh foods will rot on the convenience store shelves. The reason poor people don’t eat more fresh foods isn’t because they have to travel to get to supermarkets. The reason is that they’re too lazy to prepare them. They’d rather eat convenience foods.

As I’ve said before, we need to get rid of food stamps and return to the classical Roman grain dole. Any citizen should be able to get a free food supply once a month just by showing up and signing on the line. That month’s food supply should comprise one 1-pound box of salt, a liter of vegetable oil, one 5-pound can of beans, and six 5-pound cans of white flour. That provides all the nutrition one person needs for one month at an actual cost of about $0.50 per day.

Posted in politics, prepping | 61 Comments

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

09:48 - I’m doing science kit stuff today, building boxes and subassemblies for later assembly into full kits. I’m also down to my last case of 100 goggles, so I need to reorder several more cases. This afternoon, I’ll get started on the taxes, which means I’ll be in a bad mood until I get them finished and sent off. I’m sure our taxes will go up this year, as usual. At least we can afford to pay them. A lot of people can’t.

Now that the weather is getting better, I want to have the taxes out of the way so that we can take some weekend day trips up to our northwest to check out potential areas for relocation. We probably won’t be making the move for a year or two, but I want a better idea of what’s out there. So we’ll be making trips up to the Dobson and Sparta and West Jefferson areas.

Posted in personal, science kits | 10 Comments