Month: March 2014

Friday, 21 March 2014

09:45 – Lots of interesting comments and emails about yesterday’s post. Just to be clear, what I’m designing/building right now are the 144-hour (2-person-3-day/3P2D/4P/1.5D) duffel bags for Barbara’s and my vehicles. These aren’t zombie apocalypse kits, just short-term emergency kits in case we’re stranded in an ice storm or something. Everything should fit in a large duffel bag or two smaller duffels. Everything with a limited shelf life (batteries, drugs, light sticks, some foods, etc.) goes on top and gets checked/replaced annually. Otherwise, they just sit in the vehicles until needed. I’ll post a detailed checklist (including brand names) once I finalize it.

I’ll spend some time today making up more solutions for the kits. If I have time remaining, I’ll work on the earth/space science kit manual.

Read the comments: 37 Comments

Thursday, 20 March 2014

07:58 – Our recent severe winter weather has gotten me started thinking about upgrading our car emergency kits. I intend to build several of them. First, a smaller duffel bag for Barbara’s car and a larger duffel bag for my 4X4. These will remain in the vehicles by default, removed only when we’re hauling stuff or carrying extra people in the vehicles. I’ll design them as 2-person, 3-day kits. They’ll contain at least 2,500 calories per person per day of food that stores well and requires no preparation, 2 liters of water per person per day, clothing, emergency fire-making gear, space blankets, folding knives, multitools, flashlights and light sticks, plenty of batteries, radios (AM/FM/NOAA and FRS/GMRS transceivers), a basic medical kit, and so on. Those small kits are intended to cope with typical emergencies, such as the winter storm that stranded all those people in Atlanta for days. Second, I’ll design larger kits for each vehicle that will support two to four people for 15 to 30 days. Those are evacuation kits, intended to deal with hurricanes and other large-scale emergencies. Those won’t be in the vehicles routinely, but will be available to grab and go.

So I went over to the Red Cross and FEMA sites and looked at their recommendations for emergency kits. Both were fine as far as they went, but they lacked detail and made assumptions that I don’t necessarily want to make. My next stops were the Costco and Amazon web sites and eventually several other sites, where I searched for emergency kits. What a joke. Even the best of them are pathetic. Most contain only shoddy junk, to keep the price down. The medical/first-aid supplies are typically of the two-aspirins-and-a-small-bandaid variety. You usually get a $0.15 plastic whistle for some reason. One of the kits, alleged to be a 2-person-3-day kit, contained a grand total of 1800 calories in the form of six probably-inedible food bars. Worse still, it included only 125 mL of water per person per day in the form of 12 pouches, which according to the reviews leak.

I’d be interested to learn what specifically, my readers carry in their own kits.

10:42 – I find myself buying more and more of the chemicals we need on eBay. I’m making up solutions and just opened my last 500 g bottle of potassium iodide, so I sat down to order more. My regular vendor was charging about $245/kilo for ACS KI, so I checked eBay and ordered a kilo of ACS KI for $126, about as much as my regular vendor wanted for 500 g.

Read the comments: 62 Comments

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

08:14 – Mr. Obama has done a lot of very stupid things, but ceding control of the Internet to “international stakeholders” has to rank among the stupidest. Control of the Internet–more specifically the root nameservers and IP address assignments–is a key US asset, and one that the US should refuse to relinquish under any circumstances. It’s bad enough that the US government controls the Internet through ICANN. Turning over that control to an international body is simply disastrous. Jon Postel must be spinning in his grave.

When I registered this domain name more than 19 years ago, there was little bureaucracy and no charge for a domain name. I had to register an alias, which was initially RBT1 and changed during the ICANN changeover to RT121. As RBT1, I set up two nameservers for my domain, filled in a short form, sent it off, and later that day received confirmation that my domain name was registered and would propagate to the root nameservers over the next day or so. That was it. Simple, fast, and free.

While I was at it, I also reserved a C-block of IP addresses for That was a matter of filling out another short form, including an explanation of why I needed the C-block. The guy upstream of us had to look at the application and decide if the request was reasonable. He decided it was, and a day or two later I had my C-block. Again, it was simple, fast, and free.

Then the US government decided to get more involved. ICANN was the result, and things started going downhill from there. I could live with IANA, but ICANN was a step way over the line. I knew then that we’d eventually regret that day, and there have been warning signs over the years. First, we started having to pay for domain names. Then ICANN took my C-block away from me. Now it appears that we’ll have the UN controlling the Internet, and doing so against our interests.

Read the comments: 35 Comments

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

10:40 – We had only minor icing here, although yesterday there were dozens of car accidents locally and more homes lost power. There’s a chance of more icing this morning. Winter isn’t giving up easily. Barbara drove the 4X4 to work today.

Barbara handed me a postcard that arrived yesterday from the North Carolina Department of Revenue. It’s headed “2014 LLC ANNUAL REPORT REMINDER NOTICE” and says my corporate annual report is due by 15 April. Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to do the required corporate annual report.

1. On the top line of the form, near the right side, I fill in today’s date.

2. On the second line, starting on the left, I fill in the payee, “NC Dept. of Revenue”.

3. In the box to the right of line 2, I fill in the amount, “200.00”.

4. On the line below that, I write out the amount, “Two-hundred-and-00/100”.

5. On the line below that, the memo line, I write out “2014 LLC Annual Report fee.

6. On the line to the right of the memo line, I sign.

Read the comments: 24 Comments

Monday, 17 March 2014

09:43 – There’s not much icing, but it’s a miserable day out nonetheless. The temperature is hovering right at freezing, it’s drizzling, and there’s a stiff breeze. The low tonight is to be below freezing with more rain. Tomorrow morning may be messier than this morning.

I’m building more chemistry kits today.

10:45 – There was an article in the paper this morning about recycling growing in Winston-Salem. We’re now well above average for the state. City residents recycled 13,000 tons (11,800+ metric tons) last year, or about 104 pounds (47 kilos) for every resident. That’s a significant increase over the prior year, and the authorities attribute it to the replacement of small bins that had to be carried out to the curb every week with rolling 96-gallon (365 liter) carts that we roll out to the curb every two weeks.

We’re probably about 20 times the average, call it a ton+ per year. We fill our recycle cart every time, packing it tightly, and we still usually have stuff left over that Barbara drops off at the recycling center or that we stuff in a neighbor’s cart (with her permission). In addition to the usual household stuff–newspapers, soft drink bottles, and so on–we have lots and lots of cardboard and packing material from incoming shipments.

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Sunday, 16 March 2014

12:08 – We’re under yet another winter-weather advisory, with sleet and freezing drizzle to start this afternoon or evening and persist into Tuesday. If the roads aren’t too bad, I’m sure Barbara will drive the Trooper to work tomorrow.

Read the comments: 28 Comments

Saturday, 15 March 2014

13:36 – We just returned from a Costco run, this time without Mary and Paul. We picked up a couple more cases of Costco brand bottled water. I was surprised to see the price had gone up from $3.09/case to $3.59/case. Then I realized that the cases had gone from 35 500-mL bottles to 40 500-mL bottles, so although the price had gone up it wasn’t by much.

Barbara is out in the yard cleaning up fallen branches and planting some new plants. She’s going out to dinner this evening with a friend, followed by a concert. I think I’ll watch Heartland re-runs.

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Friday, 14 March 2014

14:29 – Barbara is taking her mom to a doctor’s appointment this afternoon after which they’ll meet Frances for dinner. Barbara’s bringing me dinner. I’ll probably watch Heartland reruns while I wait. Meanwhile, I’m making up solutions.

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Thursday, 13 March 2014

07:44 – Eventful day yesterday. Barbara and Frances fired their mom’s caregiver yesterday morning. What the woman was doing didn’t rise to the level of abuse, exactly, but she certainly wasn’t doing her job properly. The place was a mess, and all of Sankie’s portable oxygen containers were empty, which should never be allowed to happen. The real problem was the caregiver’s behavior. Two of the staff at Creekside reported hearing her yelling at Sankie. Sankie was terrified of her. She was acting more like a drill sergeant than a caregiver.

So Frances told Barbara what was going on and they fired the caregiver. Frances stayed with their mom until mid-afternoon. Barbara left work early and got over there to relieve Frances at 3:00. The replacement was supposed to show up at 4:30, but it turned out she had some kind of schedule conflict, so Barbara called to say she’d have to stay over there until 6:00.

By 6:00 the bad weather had moved in–very heavy rain, thunder, and very high winds. Barbara called shortly after 6:00 to say the replacement hadn’t shown up yet. I told her we were having a bad storm and suggested she just stay there until it passed through. At 6:30 our power failed. I called Barbara on my cell phone to let her know she needed to pick up dinner on her way home. As it turned out, the replacement showed up just after that call. Barbara arrived home round 7:00 to no lights. The lights finally came back on around 9:30. The morning paper reports one death from the storm. A large tree fell on a car on Robinhood Road, not far from here. The guy driving was killed and the woman passenger is in serious condition.

Read the comments: 33 Comments

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

09:35 – Thanks to reader L. Daniel Rosa, who sent me the following link:

This is not a toy. It’s a serious instrument, albeit one the size of a standard microscope slide and a cost of only $0.50. They’re calling for 10,000 volunteer beta testers, each of whom will use the microscope to do something of their choice and write up a short lab session, protocol, or whatever. These will be winnowed and combined into an open-source biology/microscopy manual. I’m going to submit an application to be a beta tester as soon as I post this. I’d encourage any of my readers with any interest at all in microscopy or citizen science to do the same.

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