Friday, 5 February 2016

09:57 – Not much interesting going on around here. Barbara is upstairs washing out more 2-liter Coke bottles. Once those have dried, we’ll transfer 100 pounds of bread flour to them. We need to get the steel shelving set up in my office and the unfinished basement “natural area” if only to have shelf space for all these bottles we’re filling.

Although I’ve been calling this long-term food storage, it’s actually medium-term in the sense that these are the containers we use routinely and cycle through. The next time we buy bulk sugar, flour, etc., it goes into the 7-mil foil-laminate Mylar bags sold by the LDS store. I have a box of 250 of those bags on the shelf, along with enough oxygen absorbers to add one per bag.

I also need to get my new desktop system set up, although I’m not happy about running Windows on it. Once I get it set up, I’ll probably pull a couple of backups of the Windows installation and then pull the hard drive and stick it on the shelf. I’ll install a fresh hard drive and install Linux Mint on the system. Now that USPS Click-N-Ship again supports Regional Rate boxes at the Commercial Base Pricing rate, I no longer really need, which was the reason I needed a Windows system in the first place. Not that the new desktop will go to waste. My little notebook system, with only 4 GB of RAM and a slow hard drive simply couldn’t cope with the load I was putting on it. The other day, I had so much stuff running that it simply locked up. The cursor would move, but I couldn’t even quit any of the running programs, let alone start any others. I’m pretty sure the system was using 100% of the available RAM and the processor was 100% occupied trying to swap stuff out of RAM to disk and back. A hard reboot solved the problem temporarily, but the long-term solution is simply that I need more capable hardware to do what I do.

Posted in personal, prepping | 44 Comments

Thursday, 4 February 2016

11:04 – We managed to get the 100 pounds of sugar, 50 pounds or so of rice, and 30 pounds of cornmeal repackaged yesterday, but we ran out of clean PET bottles and so didn’t get the 100 pounds of flour or the 25 pounds of oatmeal finished. We’ll continue work on that today and tomorrow.

We’ve also been drawing down our supply of science kits. This time of year, we’re shipping kits in relatively small numbers, but we need to get more built. We’re down to four or five biology kits in stock and maybe half a dozen forensic kits, so those’ll be top priority this week and next. That, and getting shelving set up in my office and the unfinished area of the basement, which Barbara calls the “natural area”.

I’m back at work on the prepping book, AKA The Book That Will Not Die. In my copious free time, I’m also starting to outline a fiction PA book and write character bios. One of those characters is Lori, the woman who delivers our mail. In addition to her USPS job, she has a 40-acre farm, where she raises Black Angus cattle. I asked her yesterday if she’d like to have dinner with us one evening, to which she readily agreed. I think I’ll name her character Harry the Mailman. Oh, wait. That’s already been taken.

I’m sure that Barbara will be happy to know that, other than stuff I need to do/buy for research on the prepping book, I’m pretty content with our current level of preparations. If things do go pear-shaped, we’re pretty well set to ride it out. Sure, there’ll always be more I want to do, but we’re in reasonably good shape in terms of water, food, shelter/heat, medications, communications, and defense.

I’m not really expecting any kind of catastrophic long-term emergency, but it wouldn’t surprise me if one did occur. I think the most likely such emergency is widespread civil unrest. If that happens, we’re well-placed to ride it out here in small-town North Carolina in the mountains. I don’t expect hordes of rioters and looters to show up here. If anything, the converse is likely to happen. History shows that if things get really bad, rather than big city dwellers heading for rural areas, rural dwellers are more likely to head for the big cities. That’s where jobs and government services are available. If the lights do go out, I’d expect power to be restored first in the big cities. Small-town and rural America would be way down the priority list for emergency aid, restoring services, and so on. And that’s fine with me.

Posted in personal, prepping, science kits | 29 Comments

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

14:12 – I’ve finished the urgent administrative stuff, and everything is submitted. We’ve both been working pretty much non-stop for what seems like forever, so we decided to pretty much take the day off. We did transfer 100 pounds of sugar to Costo PET nut jars and some 2-liter Coke bottles, along with 50 pounds of rice. This afternoon, we’ll repackage 100 pounds of flour, 25 pounds of cornmeal, and 25 pounds of oats to PET bottles, but that’ll be pretty much it for the day.

USPS belatedly discovered that they’d accidentally removed support for Regional Rate Boxes A and B from Click-N-Ship, but they finally got it restored and working. What’s interesting is that USPS never offered retail pricing for Regional Rate Boxes. You could take one to the post office, but they’d charge you postage according to weight and zone, just as if you’d used a regular box. That means there wasn’t any retail pricing for those boxes, so Click-N-Ship now charges Commercial Base Pricing for them, just as they always did. Since about 98% of our stuff ships in either a RRA or RRB box, that means I don’t need any more. I’ll use up the postage I prepaid with them and then go back to using USPS Click-N-Ship. That means I’ll have to pay $18.75 to ship a Large Flat Rate Box with USPS rather than the $16.35 I pay, but we use so few Large FRBs that it doesn’t really matter. Not enough to come anywhere near the $16/month that charges, any way.

I just finished reading Ellisa Barr’s EMP YA PA novel Outage (Powerless Nation Book 1). Despite a few 1- and 2-star reviews, it’s a decent book. There are two sequels, and all three are available to read for free under Kindle Unlimited. I plan to read both sequels.

Now that Barbara has agreed that it’s better to re-watch good stuff that we last watched 20 or 30 years ago, so long that we’ve forgotten any details, we have Inspector Morse and Midsomer Murders back in our queue. We’ve watched half a dozen of the Morses and a couple of the Midsomers and remembered very little about any of them. Some of them, we don’t remember ever watching at all. Others are vaguely familiar, but that’s about it.

Posted in personal, prepping | 46 Comments

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

10:11 – We made a run down to Winston-Salem yesterday. We dropped Colin off at the old house, Barbara dropped me off at the dentist and then went on to get her hair cut. She picked me up, we made a Costco run, picked up Colin and a load of stuff at the old house, and headed home.

The only shelf-stable stuff I got at Costco was 100 pounds each of white sugar and bread flour and 20 pounds of oatmeal. That totaled $84 and about 375,000 calories, which is a 4 to 5 person-month supply of calories, although obviously not nutritionally balanced. We’ll repackage all of that in 2-liter soda bottles over the coming week.

As we were driving down the mountain yesterday, the check-engine light came on in the Trooper. It’s a 1993 model, although with only 135,000 miles on it. We called a local mechanic when we got back. He said to call back this morning and talk to Lynn, which I did. He said he was booked solid for the coming week, which is always a good sign, but he’d try to take a quick look at it on Thursday. If it’s something minor, which he suspects it is, he may be able to fix the problem on the spot. Otherwise, he’ll have to work it into his schedule sometime next week.

I’d intended to call our realtor and get her recommendation for a mechanic, but Barbara felt strongly that we should just call B&T Tire and Automotive. She’d met Bob (the B in B&T) when she was out looking for a Christmas tree and stopped there to get directions to the tree farm. She really liked Bob, who’s about our age, and said she instinctively trusted him. So I called B&T yesterday when we got back from Winston and ended up talking to Travis (the T), who told me to call back today and ask for Lynn.

The thing is, Sparta is like any small town anywhere. As a local, one can trust just about any local business, because word gets around fast. It’s in everyone’s self interest to deal honestly with other locals. So the first time we deal with a local business, I make it a point of telling them that we’ve just moved to Sparta and (more importantly) that we’re now full-time residents.

Posted in personal, prepping | 56 Comments

Monday, 1 February 2016

09:18 – We’re back to kit stuff this week, along with getting my new desktop system installed and working.

Colin got a huge shock this morning when I took him out to pee. As he walked out the front door and around the corner of the house, what should he spot but two or three dozen gigantic squirrels right along the back fence? He shouted, “Look at the size of those squirrels!” and went on alert. I explained to him that they were actually Black Angus squirrels and that it’d be a really bad idea to chase them. He shrugged, lifted his leg to pee, and came back into the house. Oddly, there was one Holstein squirrel mixed in with all the Black Angus squirrels.

Incidentally, I mentioned the other day that I’d gotten through about 25% of Cyberstorm, and that it seemed good so far. Alas, it didn’t last. The book quickly degenerated into a piece of garbage, despite the thousands of 4- and 5-star reviews it has on Amazon. As usual, the 1-star reviews give a better idea of the real quality of the book, which is to say 1-star.

Posted in personal, science kits, technology | 39 Comments

Sunday, 31 January 2016

10:37 – Another month gone, but we got a lot accomplished. When we put in an offer on our new house in late October, I didn’t expect things to progress as quickly as they did. But here we are, pretty much completely moved and settled in. Even Colin considers this home now, although he still has lots of exploration and marking to do on his new property.

Barbara hates to re-read books or re-watch TV programs, but we’re getting to the point where we’ve watched pretty much everything on Netflix streaming that we really want to watch. I have 100+ titles in our queue, but most of those are just series that I thought would be tolerable rather than things we really want to watch. So the other night I told Barbara that I’d much rather re-watch excellent series that we first watched 15 or 30 years ago than new crap, especially since we won’t remember any details. She agreed, and we’ve started re-watching Inspector Morse, which we first watched starting in the late 80’s. After the first four episodes, neither of us remembered anything about any of them, so they’re effectively new to us.

I also plugged a set of earphones into the Roku remote, which means Barbara can watch series that she likes but I can’t stand, notably anything by Shonda Rhimes. With the earphones connected, I can’t hear the audio, so I can sit and read while Barbara watches. It’s a win-win situation. I don’t have to hear these obnoxious series as Barbara watches them, and she doesn’t have to listen to my obnoxious comments on the obnoxious programs. And I suppose it’ll also work in reverse. I can watch re-reruns of Heartland or Jericho while Barbara reads. We can both watch what we want to, and we’ll both have more time to read.

Which will be nice. For the last few years, we’ve been running streaming TV from dinner until Barbara went back to the bedroom around 9:00. She’d read in bed for an hour or so, while I’d sit reading out in the den. That meant we each had only an hour or so of reading each evening. Before that, we’d often have two or three hours a night of reading, which I miss. There are hundreds of books currently on my TBR and TB re-R lists, and I’d like to get back to reading at least two or three books a day.

Speaking of which, Kindle Unlimited is an amazing resource for heavy readers. It has an immense selection of both fiction and non-fiction titles. A lot of the self-published stuff is garbage, but a lot of it isn’t. Which reminds me that I need to put a new Kindle on my to-buy list. My current one frequently skips ahead two pages at a time, and it gets annoying to have to do the page-back/page-forward shuffle constantly. It’s not a hardware issue, unless both of the page-forward buttons have just coincidentally developed the same hardware problem at the same time.

I’m going to do a hardware reset on my Kindle to see if that fixes the problem. Before I do that, I’ll use this site to build a structured list, organized by collections, of the titles I want to reload after the reset. And after the reset, I won’t tell the Kindle how to connect to our WiFi, because connecting to WiFi reproducibly crashes both Barbara’s and my Kindles, requiring a hard reset and reload each time. The other advantage is that the battery charge lasts much longer with WiFi disabled.

Even if the hard reset fixes the page-turn problem, I’ll probably get a spare Kindle and load both of them up with reference books and so on. It never hurts to have important books replicated, or in my case triplicated, since I have many of the titles in hard copy as well.

Posted in Barbara, personal, relocation | 21 Comments

Saturday, 30 January 2016

10:30 – More administrative stuff today and tomorrow. Monday, I start on building more chemical bags and other subassemblies for science kits, as well as getting shelves up in my office and the unfinished basement area and getting my new desktop system set up and configured. Barbara’s been doing yeoman duty upstairs, getting stuff moved in, unboxed, and organized, as well as getting the garage cleared and organized. We’re making progress. We’re entering the slowest period of the year for science kit sales, which gives us time to focus on the other stuff that needs to be done.

My voter registration card came the other day, and I’m debating what to do. I’ll vote in the state and local primaries this spring and the general election in November, but I’m not sure about the federal level races. I’m halfway inclined to write in none of the above for each of them, but I may vote for Cruz in the primary and the Republican presidential candidate in the November election. Whoever that might be must be better than whoever the Democrats run. I’m really inclined to vote for the Libertarian candidates in all races, of course, but they have no chance of being elected except perhaps at the local level. And I’m not fool enough to think that it ultimately makes any difference who’s in office. They’re all bad.

Barbara baked a pan of cornbread yesterday, which turned out very well. Today, she’s baking regular bread and a batch of oatmeal cookies.

Posted in business, personal, science kits | 31 Comments

Friday, 29 January 2016

09:19 – Amazon updated my Kindle Fire, and presumably Barbara’s, to the new version of their OS overnight. The changes are significant, and many of them appear gratuitous, but we’ll see how they work. I normally work in landscape mode, and they’ve moved the home and back arrow keys from the side to the bottom of the display and changed the icons. That’ll take some getting used to.

My new desktop system from Costco arrived yesterday, but I haven’t had time to unbox it. It has three times the memory and about 10 times the processor of the notebook I’ve been using, so it should be a lot better for my typical work habits. On the downside, it runs Windows 10, which I have to leave on it because I need Windows to run the software. All my time over the next couple days is allocated to government-mandated administrative crap, but I’ll get moved over to the new system on Monday.

Other than general relocation/moving-in type tasks, I didn’t get much done this week on the prepping front. Here’s what I managed to do:

  • I read a bunch of PA novels, most of which weren’t very good. One exception is the one I started last night, Matthew Mather’s CyberStorm, which I borrowed with Kindle Unlimited and got through about a quarter of last night. Unlike most of the new breed of PA novelists, Mather can actually write. He’s also prolific and likes to do series, so I expect there’ll soon be a sequel or sequel to this book.
  • I did more research on small solar power setups. I don’t yet understand all the issues well enough to start buying panels and so on, but I’m getting there. My goal is to have sufficient solar capacity to be able to run our well pump and provide sufficient power for basic lighting, comms, and so on. I do know that I’ll focus first on acquiring the high-tech components–panels, charge controllers, inverters, and so on–and worry later about storage batteries. We could, if necessary, use ordinary automobile batteries, although they’re not ideal.

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

Posted in technology, weekly prepping | 65 Comments

Thursday, 28 January 2016

10:30 – Barbara left about an hour ago to drive down to Winston, where she’s running some errands and having lunch with a friend. She was originally planning to go yesterday, but the weather forecast was iffy, so they rescheduled for Friday. Yesterday afternoon, the revised forecast said today would be fine, so Barbara re-rescheduled for today. She should be back mid-afternoon with another load of boxes to be unloaded and sorted out.

My new desktop system from Costco is supposed to arrive today, although I won’t have time to set it up until the first of next week. I’m still busy with administrative stuff, some of which has a submission deadline of 31 January. UPS is also supposed to deliver a “USB” camera cable from Amazon. I put that in quotes, because it’s not a standard USB cable. The A end is standard, but the B end is a proprietary connector that looks kind of like a mini-B, but isn’t. Apparently, that non-standard connector is widely used by camera manufacturers. I actually had to order a mini-B and find out it didn’t fit the camera connector before I realized the cable was proprietary. Sometimes I hate learning something new every day.

Not to sound like one of those crazy prepper types, but reading the headlines lately makes me think it might not be a bad idea to keep a few extra days worth of canned food and water on hand.

That last is a quote from an email I got from a guy I’ve known since I was in grad school 40 years ago. Ordinarily, I’d say they could use a picture of him next to the word “oblivious” in the dictionary, so apparently the prepping phenomenon is spreading even to the general public.

Posted in Barbara, personal, prepping | 32 Comments

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

10:47 – I see that the standoff has ended, with the Bundy family and their supporters arrested and one of them shot dead. No surprise there. But it comes at a cost to the government in the form of decreased trust by the citizenry. After Waco, most normal people thought the fault was with Koresh’s group, although many questioned the use of tanks and firebombing to root out what were, after all, general peaceful civilians. After Ruby Ridge, still more people began to question just what the government was doing. And now with the Bundy family, still more average people are wondering just what’s going on. I think we’re going to see more events like this over the coming months and years, and more and more people will start to see the federal goons for what they are. Federal government goons murdering ordinary civilians.

I’m still tied up with administrative stuff, some of which has to be complete and in the mail by Friday.

Posted in business, news | 55 Comments