Sunday, 2 August 2015

08:20 – We spent yesterday up in the mountains looking at homes in the Jefferson and Boone areas. We’ve ruled out the Boone area, where equivalent homes sell for about 50% more than in Jefferson. And we both much prefer the Jefferson area anyway.

Our real-estate agent is getting some final details resolved before we put in an offer on a house we looked at yesterday. It’s in town, which means the property taxes are twice what they’d be if it were outside town limits, but it also means we’ll have municipal water, sewer, garbage collection, and so on. The house is in great condition. We could move in without having to fix or replace anything. There’s central heat and air, as well as a big wood stove in the basement. There’s plenty of floor space, both finished and an unfinished full basement for the business. There’s plenty of room for Colin to run, an outbuilding for Barbara’s tractor, combine, harvester, and other Green Acres farming equipment, and even a stream on the property.

August is starting typically. When we left about 0815 yesterday morning, we had no kit orders for the month. When we returned around 1630, we had five kit orders outstanding. At the moment, we have enough finished kits in stock to carry us through the first 10 days or two weeks of this month. We’ll be working today on boosting that supply by building more subassemblies.


Saturday, 1 August 2015

07:23 – We got quite a bit done on science kits yesterday, with more to do today and tomorrow. Barbara is taking a week of vacation time later this month to attend a crafts workshop up in the mountains, so I need to have a good backlog of kits ready to ship before she leaves.

Our real-estate agent up in West Jefferson sent us a new batch of listings, so we need to go through those, figure out which ones we want to take a look at, and schedule visits to them. I hope that we’ll find something suitable on our next trip up and be able to put in an offer. As of today, Barbara officially has two months left at work, with September 30th her last day. By that time, we hope to have a house bought and ready to move into.


Friday, 31 July 2015

08:48 – I got email yesterday from another woman who wants to remain anonymous. I’ll call her Jen II, so that I can just use the Jen category. Besides which, she reminds me a lot of original Jen. They’re both determined and decisive.

Jen II isn’t LDS, but she’s prepping for her family of five and has jumped into the Mormon “Big Four” long-term food storage with both feet: 1,500 pounds of flour, oats, pasta, instant potatoes, and rice; 300 pounds of beans; 300 pounds of sugar/honey; 72 pounds of milk powder; 50 liters of vegetable oil; 50 pounds of salt; and various other dry staples. They bought most of that in a couple of runs to their nearest LDS Home Storage Center in #10 cans and foil-laminate bags, hauled it home in their pickup, and stacked it in the basement.

She’s now set for a year of feeding five people on iron rations, and could probably stretch that to 18 months with other regular foods she has stocked. Their basement is now stacked with cases of #10 cans, but she knows this is just the basic staples. She needs to (a) add lots of supplemental dried and canned foods–meats, fruits, vegetables, powdered eggs and cheese, sauces, spices, and so on, (b) get it all organized, and (c) figure out exactly what to do with it if/when worse comes to horrible. Her goal is to have what she needs to feed her own immediate family plus some other family and friends for a year or more. Fortunately, her husband is fully on board with all of this, and is happy to leave the decisions to her. Money isn’t much of issue, nor is storage space.

She and her husband are both retired professionals. They live in a small town that sounds ideal. The rest of her family consists of their adult daughter, their son-in-law, and their early-teens grandson.

My first suggestion to her was to pick up a good cookbook oriented toward cooking from long-term storage, such as MD Creekmore’s The Prepared Prepper’s Cookbook, and the freely-downloadable Shelf Storage Recipes, both of which are collections of recipes contributed by people who routinely cook from long-term storage. Then to go through those, pick out some recipes to try and figure out which ones she likes, and order whatever supplemental foods are needed from Augason Farms via Walmart on-line.

My time this week was occupied almost exclusively on science kits, but I did spend some time in the evenings doing prepping research.

  • I spent a lot of time researching relocation issues. We’re still looking at homes, and have decided to look at some that are farther out into the county. One or two of them are located not far from the oddly-named hamlet of Meat Camp, NC.
  • I read a couple of post-apocalyptic novels, including the first in Angery American’s Home series, Going Home. This one apparently had an editor. There are some misspellings, typos, and other mistakes, but it’s generally readable. Two annoying things it has in common with other PA novels are that the protagonist ends up stuck hundreds of miles from home and has to get there on foot and that the text is often a thinly-disguised shopping list, with specific makes and models of gear. Also, the protagonist is a regular 30-something guy–6 feet tall, 260 pounds, and not in particularly good shape–who walks 250 miles home carrying a 60-pound (!) backpack that contains at least two of everything he could possibly need, including almost literally the kitchen sink. Now, I used to backpack when I was in my early- and mid-20’s and in good shape and I was bigger and stronger than that guy, and there’s simply no way I could have carried a 60-pound backpack for 250 miles. I’ve known SEALs, Green Berets, and USMC Recon guys who would tell you the same thing. I would imagine that any ex-military who read this probably giggle uncontrollably at the ridiculousness of it all. Still, this book stands out among recent PA novels as pretty well written.
  • I was able to get an hour or so in on the prepping book, again mostly just jotting down notes about stuff I want to write about in detail.

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


Thursday, 30 July 2015

08:01 – Amazon changed its spiff a couple of weeks ago for Prime members who opt for no-rush shipping instead of Prime 2-day shipping. Until then, they were offering a $1 credit per order on ebooks and music purchases. I was just accumulating those $1 credits and using them toward buying e-books. Now, they offer a $5 credit/order on Prime Pantry orders, so I’m accumulating those. Not that it’s really much of a deal, because I can get most Prime Pantry items cheaper locally, but if I accumulate enough credits I’ll be able to get a Prime Pantry box or two for free. Of course, this provides an incentive for people to make multiple small orders instead of one larger one, but Amazon deals with this by not issuing the credit until the order actually ships. Presumably, if I put in a bunch of smaller orders, they’ll simply wait and combine those orders before shipping.

Speaking of orders, yesterday was an administrative day. I put in a bunch of orders for chemicals from different vendors and components for science kits. I was, for example, down to about a pound of rubber stoppers, so I ordered another 20 pounds from one vendor, along with a couple hundred inoculating loops and 5,000 plastic dropper pipettes. I ordered three kilos of salicylic acid from one vendor, two kilos of yeast from another, and a bunch of different chemicals from still another.

And yet another fatal shooting of a black victim by a white police officer, this one in Cincinnati. Well, a kind-of police officer. This guy was a university cop, and from the initial news reports it sounds like he was a psycho Barney Fife. If those reports are accurate, which of course is always questionable, this guy shot and killed a middle-age black man after making a traffic stop for a missing front license plate. The DA has already said publicly that this cop should never have been a cop, and apparently footage from the cop’s bodycam, which I haven’t seen, makes it pretty clear that the shooting was not justified. We’ll see if things degenerate into violent rioting and looting.

And, in a man-bites-dog local story, an on-line petition has been created to demand that Winston-Salem authorities remove a marker honoring the Black Panthers, on the basis that the Black Panthers were a violent, racist group.


10:34 – Well, I watched the video, and it doesn’t look to me as straightforward as the police brass and DA said. The cop seemed to behave politely and professionally during the first part of the encounter. I was surprised that he didn’t order the driver to get out of the car and that he allowed him to fish around in the glove box. And the driver did have an open bottle of booze in the car. At the point the cop ordered the driver to remove his seatbelt, presumably intending to order him to get out of the car, things went badly wrong in less than a second. It seemed that the driver was starting to make a run for it when the cop fired. I couldn’t tell for sure if the cop’s hand was inside the window and if he was struck by the window frame as the driver moved the car forward. At any rate, for me the video certainly doesn’t establish that this was a bad shooting.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

07:52 – We’ve had two incidents over the last couple days of drunk drivers driving the wrong way on Interstates. In one of them, a 20-year-old UNC student killed three people, including a 6-year-old girl. He’s been released to house arrest on a $1,000,000 bond. In the second case, from reading between the lines of the news stories, it appears that a drunken Mexican sideswiped another car before a cop rammed him to bring him to a stop.

My question is, why did I have to read between the lines to figure it out? Why did the newspaper and television news not simply report something like, “Rafael Sandoval-Perez, a Mexican who is in the US illegally …” or, better still, “Rafael Sandoval-Perez, a Mexican wetback …” Surely it wouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that illegal Mexicans have a nasty tendency to drive drunk, without a license or insurance, and kill innocent bystanders. Yet another reason to round them up and return them to Mexico, preferably by air-dropping them in bulk, without parachutes. Return them to their native soil, so to speak.


Tuesday, 28 July 2015

08:26 – Barbara’s Y membership expires the end of this month. She didn’t want to rejoin for a year, so she stopped over at Planet Fitness on Saturday and signed up for a month-to-month membership. She’s headed over there after work for her first workout. She says they have more and better machines than the Y, and that she’d have made the change even if we weren’t planning to move.

Work on science kits continues. We’re down to half a dozen chemistry kits, so I’ll get to work today on building three dozen more. What makes me nervous about this time of year is that we might have two or three dozen of a particular kit in stock ready to ship and then get a bulk order that wipes out our stock of that kit. We could increase inventory levels, but I don’t like to have too many sitting in stock because I want to be shipping fresh kits.


Monday, 27 July 2015

07:59 – We stopped over at Barbara’s sister’s house yesterday to shoot HD video and stills for a home inventory for insurance purposes. On the way home we did a small Costco run. In addition to the regular food, the only long-term storage supplies we picked up were a couple 7-pound boxes of assorted pasta, an 8-pound box of spaghetti, and a 6-gallon pack of bottled water. Call it 38,000 calories total, or about two person-weeks.

We’re continuing to build kit inventory to meet the flood of orders we can expect over the next couple of months. Barbara is going to take Friday off so that we can spend a three-day weekend building kits. We’re at comfortable inventory levels on all kits for the moment, but that’ll change quickly as orders start to come in in batches.


15:15 – Back from the dentist. He wrote me a prescription for Augmentin, which I carefully carried home and up the stairs. I can’t find it now. I was holding it and my Kindle in one hand as I came up the stairs, and somehow the paper just disappeared.

Sunday, 26 July 2015 — Checklists versus Wishlists

One of the hard realities about emergency preparedness is that essentially everyone is on a budget. That budget has to cover everything, not just cool stuff.

Many non-fiction preparedness books and nearly all prepping novels are written by wannabes who have no clue about this fundamental requirement. For example, imagine that you’re concerned about social unrest, so you want your preparations to include some means of self-defense in case you’re forced to fend off rioters and looters.

Most non-fiction preparedness books that cover this topic go way overboard on stuff they suggest you buy to prepare for this eventuality. If you believe them, you’ll think you’re hopelessly under-prepared unless every adult in your family or group is equipped with a high-end tactical rifle, a dozen spare magazines, a night-vision sight, and thousands of rounds of ammunition, at a cost of $4,000 or more per person. Call it $25,000 for a family/group of six people. Which is great, if you can afford that much without noticing the cost.

The reality for most people is far different. They need to budget to cover food and other essentials. For the many who have trouble keeping up with routine expenses, spending even $25 on defense means they’ll have $25 less to spend on food or other essential items.

The trick is to do what you can reasonably do without putting yourself in a financial hole, even if that means your total spending on defenses is a used baseball bat that you pick up at a yard sale. And that applies not just to spending money on weapons, but on everything else. The trick is to maintain balance.

We know people who’ve spent thousands and thousands of dollars on weapons, but have only a week’s supply of food and no stored water. They worry us more than a little. If there is a sudden emergency, are they planning to use all those guns to take food and other necessities from other people at gunpoint?

Conversely, we know more than a few families who have a year’s supply of long-term food storage or more, but absolutely no way to defend themselves.  Perhaps they think they’ll make friends with the well-armed first group and feed them in exchange for providing security. Good luck with that.

As always, the key is to strike a balance. If you can’t afford everything you need or want all at once, buy some in each category. Don’t buy that year’s supply of food  and nothing else, and don’t buy the infantry squad’s worth of tactical rifles and ammunition to the exclusion of all else.

Start as small as you need to to keep within budget. If you can’t afford more, buy one rifle or shotgun and 100 rounds of ammunition for it. If you can afford more, buy two or three, and then keep adding to your arsenal and ammunition supply as you can, without shorting yourself elsewhere. If that means buying .22 rimfire rifles, fine. If you ever need to defend yourselves and your property, you’re far better off having every adult armed with a .22 rifle than having only one of your group armed with a tactical rifle. Half a dozen .22 rifles beats one tactical rifle every time.

And the same thing goes for other categories. Rather than buy one $70 Streamlight or Surefire flashlight, you’re far better off equipping your whole group with six or eight $4 flashlights and spending the rest of that $70 on other priorities.

The reality of preparedness is that you need checklists, not wishlists.

Saturday, 25 July 2015

08:55 – Last night I started reading Last Light by Terri Blackstock, Book One in the Restoration series. Ugh. Turns out it’s a fundie religious PA book. Religious porn like this needs to have a prominent label to warn normal people not to bother even picking it up. I’d never heard of the author, which surprised me since she was listed as a NYT Bestseller who’d sold 6 million copies of her books. Turns out that’s because she’s a “Christian author”, and about 5,999,999 of those copies were purchased by fundies. I’m surprised Amazon didn’t flag this title as “WARNING! OFFENSIVE RELIGIOUS CONTENT!”

In fact, all novels with religious content need to have appropriate warning flags. They already do it for inoffensive stuff like sex, describing them as “adult novels”. Why shouldn’t they also do it for truly offensive stuff like fundie propaganda? In particular, garbage books like this that feature full frontal religion should be kept segregated from stuff that normal people read. Books with no religious content at all could be given a G rating; ones with minor religious content like people attending church or praying occasionally could be given a PG or PG-13; ones where religion is a significant part of the book an R; and fundie garbage like this should be given an X and kept away from impressionable young people.


16:23 – Here’s a result they didn’t want to see. The hard left MSNBC was foolish enough to run a poll on carrying guns. The choices were:

1. Yes! The Second Amendment guarantees it.
2. No, it’s too dangerous.
3. Only for self defense.

Obviously, choices 1 and 3 were intended to split the pro-gun vote and allow the No vote to win. But things didn’t work out quite that way. When I checked a moment ago, #1 was far in the lead with 219K votes (91%), #2 was a far-distant second with 12K votes (5%), and the red-herring #3 came in last at about 9K votes (4%). I went ahead and grabbed a screen shot, because you can be sure this one will disappear into the bit bucket. It’s what MSM does.

20150725-MSNBC-2nd-Amendment-Poll

Friday, 24 July 2015

07:10 – The great ammunition shortage seems to be ending, other than .22 rimfire, which is still hard to find and extremely expensive. Bricks of 500 selling for $50! Ten cents a round is outrageous, but the problem is that ammunition makers aren’t willing to build expensive new plants to address what they consider a temporary shortage. They’re working around the clock on existing production lines, but they’re not going to build any new ones.

Interestingly, most common rifle and pistol calibers are readily available at high but not outrageous prices. I just saw one site, for example, that was selling Russian steel-case .223/5.56 in bulk at 22 cents a round, and even name-brand US-made brass-case .223/5.56 was available for not much more than 30 cents a round in bulk. I also found .40S&W cheap stuff for about 23 cents a round, which was cheaper even than .38 Special. At some point, if we start shooting a lot of pistol at the range, I may get us each a .40S&W just to be able to use the cheaper ammunition. I suppose it makes sense that .40S&W is cheap, given that the federal government buys the stuff literally by the ton. I’d guess that ammo makers probably have production lines devoted exclusively to that caliber, so it makes sense that they’d have a lot of overruns to get rid of, keeping prices down. Barbara and I both like to shoot, and we’ll probably be doing a lot more of that once we get relocated.

The latest thing in shooting ranges seems to be “guntry clubs“, which apparently appeal particularly to young people and women and even liberals. Fine. I’m in favor of anything that encourages people to take up shooting as a hobby, even those ridiculous pink pistols. But I’d really rather shoot at a range that’s intended for Good Old Boys who drink plain old coffee and would be flummoxed by Starbuck’s offerings. One of the gun stores in Jefferson that we drove past is also an old-fashioned diner, which is more my speed.

My time this week was occupied almost exclusively on science kits, but I did spend some time in the evenings doing prepping research.

  • I spent a lot of time researching relocation issues. I now know more than I ever wanted to know about Internet service availability in Ashe County. Standard copper-cable service is available in some scattered areas. Fiber broadband up to 1 Gb/s is available in much of the northern through southwest areas of the county, although the service map looks kind of like a doughnut, with no service in towns of Jefferson and West Jefferson.  The fiber infrastructure is being built out under a federal grant, and I suspect the terms of that grant mandated bringing service to the remote areas of the county before they deployed fiber in the towns.
  • I read four or five PA novels, all of which sucked except Ken Benton’s SurviRal, which I bought a week ago on Jen’s recommendation when it was on sale for $0.99. Despite the hokey title, it was actually decent. That author released his second PA novel three weeks or so ago, so I’ll get it as well. Oddly, his two PA novels are not the beginning of a series. The second one has a complete different location, set of characters, etc.
  • I read a half dozen prepping-related non-fiction titles, including one on solar power that was written by an engineer and looked that way. Right now, we have just enough gear to keep a bunch of NiMH rechargeables charged to power things like radios, LED flashlights and lanterns, and so on.  If we end up in a house that depends on well water, I want to have sufficient capacity to power a well pump, which is one reason I’d prefer a spring as our water source. That’s pretty common up in Ashe county.
  • I was able to get an hour or so in on the prepping book, mostly just jotting down notes about stuff I want to write about in detail. I emailed Pournelle yesterday to ask him if he had time to write a Foreward for me. Couldn’t hurt sales to have his name on the cover as well as mine.

Neither Barbara nor I has ever lived in a home that didn’t have municipal water and sewer, so there are a lot of things we don’t know. For example, my reading tells me that a lot of wells have over-size pumps installed. They might have a 1-hp or 3/4-hp pump installed where a 1/2-hp or even 1/4-hp would be more than sufficient. That doesn’t matter much when you’re on utility power, but it makes a huge difference if you need to drive the pump on solar power. The start-up current draw with one of the large pumps may be two to four times what it would be on a smaller pump, which means you need a much larger, more expensive inverter to meet the current demands of the larger pump. If we end up with a well rather than a spring house, I’ll probably buy a smaller well pump and put it on the shelf. They’re not that expensive, and it’d be a good idea to have a spare, just in case.

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


11:28 – In praise of mature women. FTA:

“We have to tolerate young girls because we need them to breed. Outside of that, they’re pretty much worthless until they get some laugh lines and a couple crow’s-feet.”

Just the other night, Barbara and I were watching a program that featured Sasha Alexander, who was in her late 20’s at the time, and Jessica Steen (Lisa on Heartland), who was in her late 30’s. No comparison. Jessica Steen is a much more attractive woman, and that remains true now that she’s about to turn 50 years old. Mature women rock.