Tuesday, 24 November 2015

07:48 – Ooh Rah! We’ve finished packing up the stuff we need to take along to the closing next Monday, and gotten it loaded into our vehicles. Other than last-minute stuff, that’s it for this phase. Now we return to packing up stuff for the next trips up: clothing, LTS food, Christmas stuff, and so on. Barbara’s goal is to be completely moved up to Sparta in time to have Christmas there. I think that may be optimistic, but we’ll see. The movers are coming tomorrow to give us an estimate, and we have no idea when they’ll be able to move the furniture. But that really doesn’t matter much. We can certainly be living in Sparta by Christmas, but we may still be using the air mattress, folding tables and chairs, and so on.

I’m counting on Barbara to keep us organized. Time was when I could keep everything in my head, including detailed to-do lists. I can’t do that any more, so Barbara’s organizing skills are critical. That also means she can’t yell at me if I forget something.

Incidentally, my apologies for not being very responsive to comments. We just have so much going on at the moment that I don’t really have the time to keep up with them. I hope that’ll change once we’ve closed on the house and pretty much moved up there.

Back to packing.

Posted in Uncategorized | 36 Comments

Monday, 23 November 2015

08:17 – We’re still packing up for the move. There are boxes stacked all over the place, and more yet to be packed. We’ve segregated the items we’ll need to take up to the closing next Monday afternoon so that we can stay at the new house Monday night. Those items are all going into Barbara’s car and my SUV, which makes it hard to use them for anything else in the interim. Fortunately, we don’t have anywhere we need to go between now and then. Last in will be trash bags full of empty 2L and one-gallon PET bottles. I’ll fill those once we get up there to give us an emergency water supply. I want to have at least 30 liters per day stored for Barbara, Colin, and me, which means we’ll need a couple hundred of those bottles for a two-week supply.

I have a NIB TV I got from Costco. It’s a smart TV, which is supposed to be able to get Netflix and Amazon streaming over a Wi-Fi connection without using a Roku or other external adapter. Just in case, I’m packing up our old Roku 2 adapter, which we kept as a spare when we got the Roku 3. I’m also taking along my notebook, which I have to get set up to use for processing kit orders and printing labels, a laser printer and a supply of paper and labels, a NIB Wi-Fi router, and assorted cables. I have another box with a charger for our cell-phones, a Kindle Fire fast charger, and assorted other minor gear. And lots of AA, AAA, C, and 9V alkalines to power various stuff.

Barbara is also clearing the steel shelving unit we use to store our long-term supply of canned and bottled foods. Most of those are already in cardboard or shrink-wrapped cases, so they won’t need further packaging. Some are individual cans, which she’ll transfer to boxes or flats. All the LDS store stuff is in cases of six #10 cans each, so it’s ready to go. We won’t have room in the vehicles to transfer much of it on our first trip up to the closing, but it’s a high priority to get it up to Sparta as soon as possible thereafter. I’ll expand our inventory of long-term dry staples once we’re up there, either by getting more stuff from the LDS HSC or just by repackaging stuff like flour, beans, sugar, and rice from 50-pound bags into gallon Mylar foil-laminate bags. We’re already in pretty good shape in terms of meal extenders like powdered eggs, cheese and butter powder, bouillon, canned meats, and so on, but I want to expand our inventory of bulk dry staples significantly. They’re cheap, compact, last forever, and it makes sense to have a large amount of them on hand.

Back to packing.

Posted in relocation | 25 Comments

Sunday, 22 November 2015

09:43 – I just got back from walking Colin, who has the squirties. I wore just my hoodie, since the thermometer said it was 47F outside. I’m sure that’s correct, but it didn’t account for the wind, which was gusting up to 25 or 30 MPH. The cold cut through my hoodie and my sweat pants. I have my own metric for wind chill. I subtract one degree from the nominal temperature for each one MPH of wind speed, which yields an accurate “feels like” temperature for me. That means it felt like 17F to 22F out there, which indeed is what it felt like to me.

I did laundry yesterday as usual. Barbara is cleaning house today, as usual, although with all the stuff sitting around packed up she’ll only be able to do a quick run through with the vacuum and clean the bathrooms.

With only a week to go, we’ve still got a lot of stuff left to pack up. I actually thought about renting a storage unit up in Sparta so we’d have somewhere to pile stuff until we can get into the new house, but we might as well spend our time down here getting stuff packed up and then just move it directly to the house once we have it. Barbara said there’s no way she wants to move this stuff twice.

Barbara got a lot of the science kit component inventory boxed up and stacked yesterday, and will get more done today and this coming week. I’ll be working on other stuff, including making sure we have what we need up there to have functioning computers and a TV once we’re up there and have Internet service working. I also need to call the Blue Ridge Electric Co-Op tomorrow about scheduling them to install a propane tank and heater in case we have a power failure. We’re going to get an unvented 25,000 BTU/hr heater, which is enough to keep the downstairs den and bedrooms at normal room temperature and keep the main floor warm enough to keep the pipes from freezing. The biggest propane tank they had when we visited them the other day was 100 gallons, which is enough to run a 25K BTU/hr heater running 24 hours a day for about 25 days. I’m going to see if they can install a 250 gallon tank instead, or even a 500 gallon tank.

Back to packing.

Posted in personal, relocation | 46 Comments

Saturday, 21 November 2015

08:20 – I read an article in the paper this morning about two robberies of two taxi drivers in two days, at the same address. That got me thinking about all those articles I’ve seen recently about cities and taxi companies trying to ban Uber and Lyft. If Uber and Lyft aren’t banned, they’ll put old-style taxi companies out of business except in areas where Uber/Lyft drivers won’t go to pick up fares. And how will that impact those poor robbers who depend on robbing taxi drivers to make a living? It’s just so unfair.

We close on the new house late Monday afternoon, November 30th, so as of 1 December we’ll be officially in the new house. We’ll have a friend house-sitting in the current house for the time being, starting next Friday and lasting through at least the end of the year and possibly through January, depending on how long it takes the current residents to clear out of the house he just bought. We’ll be making multiple runs up to Sparta the first week of December to transfer most of our stuff other than furniture, which we’ll hire movers to transfer for us. Which means we have less than two weeks to get all this stuff packed up and ready to transfer. We have enough finished-goods inventory of science kits to last us through at least mid-December, so we’ll haul part of them up to Sparta initially to allow us to continue shipping uninterrupted.

With everything that’s going on, posts here are likely to be short and sporadic for the next couple of weeks.

09:22 – Hah. I just found the charger for the FRS/GMRS HT’s and put them on to charge. Actually, the battery pack bundled with them holds a charge very well. I tested them by charging them completely and then letting them sit a couple of months. The charge was still at 90%+. Worst case, they can also use alkalines. I just gave Barbara a 15-second crash course in how to use the HT’s. We’ll use one in each vehicle when we’re taking both up to Sparta on transfer runs.

Frances and Al also kindly offered to help with the move, using Al’s pickup. He can haul 1,600 pounds of bulky items, so even one run up there will help a lot. I’m going to restrict my 22-year-old Trooper to 1,000 pounds per run. I was thinking about getting a trailer hitch installed and renting a trailer, but Barbara’s afraid the old Trooper would drop dead on its way up the mountain.

Posted in news, relocation | 48 Comments

Friday, 20 November 2015

08:23 – Barbara and I are both covered up preparing for the move and building kit inventory. We decided we could do without the Trooper for the next couple of weeks, so we’re piling stuff into it that we want to take up the day of the closing so that we can spend the night up there. I have to remember to leave room for Barbara.

One of the many nice things about living in Sparta will be the reasonably dark skies. Looking at the light pollution maps, it seems that our back yard will be noticeably darker than Bullington Farm and Pilot Mountain, which are two of the main observing sites of the Forsyth Astronomical Society, and darker even than the Wake Forest University lodge near Fancy Gap, Virgina, where we used to observe. Barbara and I haven’t been out under the night sky for a long time because of my vertigo. It’s much worse in the dark. If I try to look up, I topple over backward. As she says, though, we’ll have a solid deck and I can observe from a chair without ever having to stand and look up. I wonder if I can still find stuff in the night sky. Once upon a time, I was pretty good at that. We’ll see. The other nice thing about observing there is that there’s a bathroom right there (which women particularly appreciate) and it’s easy to go inside to warm up. Living up there, I may continue work on the Astronomical League’s Herschel 400 list. Many of those 400 faint fuzzies had surface brightnesses way too low to make it practical to log them with a 10″ scope from the light-polluted skies around here.

Speaking of astronomy, there’s been some discussion in the comments about the likely effects of a huge solar storm. We actually sat out in the dark watching the effects of a monster solar storm a dozen years ago. And another, much smaller monster solar storm a couple years before that.

With relocation stuff and building science kits taking up most of my time, I didn’t have much spare time, but here’s what I did to prep this week:

  • I read the other three books in Theresa Shaver’s Stranded series. She’s obviously an inexperienced author, but she gets better with each book. Right now, I’d put her in the same class with the better recent PA novelists like Steve Konkoly and Angery American. Speaking of A. American, three months ago he released the sixth in his Home series, Enforcing Home. I have it on my Kindle, but haven’t gotten around to reading it. Interestingly, after publishing the first five books in the series with Penguin, he’s gone back to self-publishing. It makes sense. He earns a 70% royalty on Amazon. Through Penguin, he earns probably 30% of the 70% Penguin gets, or 21%. At the same price point, that means he makes 3.33 times as much for each unit sold.

So, what precisely did you do to prepare this week? Tell me about it in the comments.

14:13 – We’re just back from Home Depot, where we picked up a mailbox and post, paint and painting supplies, cleaning supplies, contractor bags, and so on. I was thinking about picking up another 5’x2′ five-shelf shelving unit, but decided we could wait until we actually make the move to see many more units we need. I think we could fit at least five of these units–250 square feet of shelving or 350+ cubic feet of storage–in the garage with all-around access and several more in the basement. I do need to find out how cold the garage gets, but we’re moving up there at an ideal time of year to determine that. As long as it stays above freezing in the coldest weather, we’ll be fine.

Posted in weekly prepping | 46 Comments

Thursday, 19 November 2015

08:55 – Front page article in the paper this morning about a traffic accident back in May, where a police car ran a red light and rammed a car proceeding through the intersection on green, killing the driver. The cop wasn’t on a call, wasn’t using drugs or alcohol, nor was he texting, using his patrol car’s computer, or otherwise distracted. He simply didn’t notice the red light. That’s pretty hard to understand, considering there were two lights for the through lanes and a third for the left-turn lane, all red. It was 10:00 at night at a major intersection, so there was no excuse for not seeing the lights. A second patrol car was sitting in the left-turn lane, and its dashcam recorded the collision. The report said the involved patrol car was speeding, but it wasn’t really. The cop was moving at 42 MPH in a 35 MPH zone, which is a normal free-market speed for that road.

The cop was sentenced to 200 hours of community service. Anyone who wasn’t a cop or politician would very likely have been sentenced to jail time for manslaughter, because in today’s way of thinking someone always has to be at fault. In absolute terms, I think that cop received a fair sentence. It was unfair in the sense that anyone should have received that same sentence, but the cop got a pass because he was a cop.

We’re building a couple dozen more science kits today to get our finished-goods inventory built up before the move. By the end of next week, I want to have as many finished kits ready to roll as possible so that we can just label and ship boxes without having to build them on-the-fly. At that point, we’ll be ready to haul half of each type up to the new house once we’ve closed on it the first of next month and be in a position to ship from either Winston-Salem or Sparta. Then we can start building more subassemblies up in Sparta and shift final assembly up there.

We had about 1.25″ of rain overnight, but today is to be sunny with a high in the 70’s. By the weekend, we’ll have highs in the 40’s and lows in the 20’s, so winter will actually be arriving here in Winston. We hope to be living in Sparta by mid-December, just in time for real winter in the NC mountains.

Posted in news, relocation, science kits | 48 Comments

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

08:56 – We’re still packing stuff up for the move. Yesterday, we started staging stuff for the trip up for the closing. We’re making piles of stuff to go into the Trooper that’ll give us what we need on closing day to stay at the new house overnight, including our dorm refrigerator, spare vacuum cleaner, trash bags and cleaning supplies, our air mattress and bedding, tool kit, clothing, drinks and munchies, etc. With less than two weeks until the closing, there’s a lot to get done.

I finished book three in Theresa Shaver’s Stranded series last night. As I mentioned earlier, the first book was a bit rough around the edges, but showed real potential. The second was better, and with the third Shaver is really coming into her stride as an author. I sent her email to let her know I’d mentioned her books on my blog and got the following response:

Wow, Bob! Thank you so much for plugging my Stranded Series!

There are so many amazing prepper/apocalyptic books out there that I LOVE written for adults that I decided to go with the soft touch of Young Adult. It was also my way of worming the idea of being prepared into young people so they might be aware of the basics. Who knows, it might help save some clueless sheeple if their kids have an idea of what’s happening!

There are a few swears in the books because let’s be honest, no matter how “pure” you think your teen might be, chances are they’ve dropped the Fbomb a few times lol. The 4 swears in the book are in extreme situations and I just can’t believe the teen would say “Holy Golly Gee!!” Just my thoughts but I have been called out on putting them in.

I recently reread the first 3 Stranded books for the first time since I published them and there were some cringe moments for me at the writing so I hope that means I’ve gotten better as a writer since then lol. 6 books in I sure hope I have! I’ve just started the fifth book in the series, Frozen. Let’s see how these kids manage a -30 to -40 Alberta winter with no heat!
As for prepping, I do try and keep most of what I have stored to myself but I’m not too worried about it as I will be “out of here” if IT ever happens. Thankfully, we have a decent fall back point if needed. I’m just not sure how I’ll transport all that duty free booze yet!

Thanks again,
Theresa Shaver

Which reminds me of an incident back in about 1962. My mother was driving us over to my grandmother’s house. My younger brother, Bill, who was 7 years old at the time, was in the passenger seat and I was in the back seat. Not far from my grandmother’s house, another driver ran a red light and almost rammed us. The interchange went something like this:

Mom: BILLY!!
Bill: I’m sorry, mommy. I thought that asshole was going to hit us.

I’ve never understood why most adults treat kids as almost a separate species, and a stupid one at that. I’ve always understood that infants are already as intelligent as they’re ever going to be. The CPU and RAM are already there; they lack only data on their hard drives. And young people are constantly gathering data, whether or not adults are aware of that. It’s what kids do. At least some of those data are things that adults would rather the young people not know yet, but they’re going to find out if they have any interest at all. In the era of the Internet, kids are inevitably going to learn more faster than our generation did. We had carefully stashed Playboy and Penthouse magazines. They have an entire world of hardcore porn just a click away.

Posted in personal, relocation | 64 Comments

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

09:39 – I did some testing yesterday and overnight for the section in the book on Thermos cooking. I used two containers, a 2-liter Thermos bottle and, just for fun, the insulated carafe from our Braun coffee maker.

I brought a large pot of water to a boil and filled each of the containers to preheat it. After five minutes, I emptied the preheat water back into the pot, brought it to a full boil again, refilled the containers, recorded their initial temperatures, and capped them. Both were initially at 99.3 ºC. After 2 hours, the Thermos bottle was still at 99.1 ºC and the carafe had fallen to 76.5 ºC. After 3.5 hours, the Thermos bottle was at 95.0 ºC and the carafe had fallen all the way to 58.2 ºC. I dumped the water in the carafe at that point, because it had cooled so far that it wouldn’t be useful for cooking. After 8 hours, the Thermos bottle was down to 90.4 ºC, and I went to bed. This morning, I checked the temperature in the Thermos. After 18 hours, it was at 76.3 ºC, so I dumped the water into the sink.

The Thermos bottle turned out to be fine for Thermos cooking. Maintaining 99 ºC for two hours is essentially the same as boiling something for two hours, and even 95 ºC is close enough to boiling to count as simmering.

I did a lot of Thermos cooking back in the 70’s, in college and after, and I learned there are two tricks. First, ALWAYS preheat the Thermos bottle with boiling water. Second, don’t just dump the dry food into the Thermos and cover it with boiling water. A pound or so of room temperature rice, pasta, or beans takes a lot of heat to get up to boiling temperature, and takes that heat out of the water you just added. Instead, combine the food and water in the pot, bring it to a good boil, and THEN transfer it to the preheated Thermos bottle. You end up with the equivalent of a low-tech, non-powered slow cooker. Oh, yeah, the third thing I learned. If you’re adding meat to the Thermos bottle, brown it first in a little oil, add the water, bring it to a boil, and let it boil in the pot for a few minutes before you transfer it to the Thermos bottle. It’s also useful to have a second pot to hold the boiling water while you transfer the wet, hot food into the Thermos. Then fill the Thermos with the boiling water. Otherwise, you may find you’ve filled the Thermos with mostly water and have lots of food left in the pot with no room left in the Thermos.

Posted in prepping | 26 Comments

Monday, 16 November 2015

09:20 – Work on packing up continues. Barbara and I talked last night about staging the move, what we want to take and in what order, and so on. One thing we agreed is that we’ll haul guns with us back and forth each trip, not leaving any firearms in an unoccupied home. During the incremental move, people are going to be aware that both homes are only occupied part-time, which means that bad guys may also find out. We’ll have neighbors in both places keeping an eye on things, but it still makes sense not to leave firearms in a vacant house. So we’ll haul them with us up and back on each trip.

While I was doing laundry Saturday, Barbara came down to the basement and promptly announced, “Something stinks!” Her nose led her over to the vertical freezer, where she found a one-pound roll of Costco hamburger lying on the floor. It had apparently fallen out of the freezer while she’d been getting food out a couple days before and had been lying there rotting since.

She picked it up like a dead rat and carried it over to the garbage, intending to toss it in the garbage bag and put that out in the rolling garbage cart outside. I suggested that instead of tossing it out we have it for dinner, and she looked at me as if I were nuts. I told her that I just happened to have been writing about using spoiled food in an emergency, and that if we fully cooked it that meat would be completely safe to eat and that cooking would destroy most of the spoiled odor and taste. She looked at me as if I were nuts, and tossed it in the garbage. Oh, well.

12:48 – I see that those bastards at the MPAA have succeeded in taking down the biggest torrent tracker, for what good it does them. One would think they’d understand that the Internet and its protocols were designed to survive a full nuclear war, literally, and that they automatically route around and repair damage. As has already happened. When demonii disappeared, other torrent trackers took up the slack immediately.

Posted in relocation | 38 Comments

Sunday, 15 November 2015

10:48 – We’ve gotten started on packing stuff up for the move. For the last six months or more, I’ve been saving boxes from incoming shipments from Amazon, Walmart, and our science kit vendors, so we have literally hundreds of good boxes of various sizes. I think we’ll have enough to pack everything up, but then I’m an optimist.

We plan to make the move in stages, carrying vehicle loads up each time we go. We’ll take enough stuff up the day we close to let us spend the night up there, including the dorm refrigerator, spare vacuum cleaner, munchies and drinks, clothing, our air mattress, bedding, and so on. That and large trash bags, cleaning supplies, and other stuff we’ll need to get the place emptied out. And, of course, a large supply of shelf-stable food and bottle water. Furniture, boxes of books, and other heavy/bulky stuff will go via a moving company once we’re ready for it, and we’ll reverse things so that we have what we need to camp out at the old house while we’re getting it ready to go on the market.

We’ve gotten science kit inventory built up sufficiently that it should cover us through the moving process. We also have sufficient subassemblies built up to allow us to build another several dozen kits on the fly. We’ll move half our inventory up to the new place and leave half here so that we can ship from either place.

I re-joined Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program the other day. I never transfer books to our reading Kindles via Wi-Fi because trying to use Wi-Fi on either of those Kindles causes them to crash and require a reset to factory defaults, wiping out all the data including categories. The first time that happened on Barbara’s Kindle she was upset; the second time she was livid. So now I always download Kindle books to my hard drive and then transfer them via USB.

The problem with KU is that it doesn’t offer the USB transfer option when you “buy” a book. You have to specify the Kindle you want it transferred to via Wi-Fi and then go back in and download it to the hard drive. It’s a PITA, but it works.

The problem with doing that is that the author doesn’t get paid. Formerly, Amazon paid the author the full royalty once someone had read at least 10% of the book. They changed that a month or so ago. Now they pay $0.006/page starting with the first page. Fortunately for authors, Amazon is pretty liberal about defining a page. A book that’s 200 pages in print is considerably longer in terms of Kindle page count. So if I read through 300 Kindle pages, the author earns a $1.80 royalty. The problem is that if I’ve transferred that book to my Kindle via USB, Amazon has no way to know that I’ve read even one page because I don’t let my Kindle connect via Wi-Fi to Amazon.

Right now, I’m reading Theresa Shaver’s Stranded series. I wanted to make sure she got paid, so last night I brought up book 2 in the series on my Fire and swiped my way through the whole book. So Amazon now knows I’ve read the book, and Theresa gets paid. Of course, Amazon also keeps track of how fast people read the books, so they now think I read at something like 30,000 words/minute. Call it one page/second. I do read very fast, but not quite that fast.

Shaver, incidentally, writes pretty well for a beginning author. There are some minor issues with to/too, that/which, and so on, but the books are readable. She needs to work on writing dialog as well and she has a tendency to explicate, but she shows some real potential as a writer. The novels are aimed at young adults, so of course her main characters are all teenagers. Shaver is Canadian, which comes through in her attitude. It’s actually refreshing to read PA novels written by a Canadian woman rather than an American man. The tone is very different. Canadians are famous for being polite and helpful, and that comes through in Shaver’s books.

Interestingly, Shaver apparently was not a prepper when she started writing this series and wasn’t even aware that there was a prepping movement in Canada. As she researched and wrote the series, she found herself becoming more and more a prepper. She’s a bit canny about the details, but she did say in an interview that she has “87 cans of spam, 4 gigantic just add water bags of pancake mix and a hundred bottles of duty free booze in my basement…bring it on, I’m sooo ready!”

At any rate, if you enjoy PA fiction, give Shaver a try. The first book in the Stranded series is regularly $0.99 but it’s available on Amazon at the moment for $0.00. I grabbed it the other day because Amazon recommended it. When I checked her author page, I learned she was based in south-central Alberta, about an hour from Heartland, so I just had to give her books a try.

I mentioned this series to Barbara while we were on our way up to Sparta, NC the other day. Barbara retired from our library system after 20 years as a public librarian, and I remember her talking back then about young-adult novels. I thought those were characterized by an absence of explicit sex and strong language, so I was surprised when reading the first book to come across what most people would consider strong language, i.e. “motherfucker”. I doubt that anyone who reads my journal would be offended by that or any other language, but you have been warned. Barbara just shrugged it off and said that the definition of YA novels must have changed since she left the library system 15 years ago.

Posted in relocation | 54 Comments