Friday, 23 May 2014

07:35 – Barbara is taking today off work. With the holiday Monday, that gives her a four-day weekend. We’d planned to sleep in this morning, but Colin woke us at 6:15 vomiting. At least he wasn’t up on the bed at the time.

Barbara has lots of work planned for the next few days, including painting the new columns on the front porch and the new threshold at the back door. I hope we can keep Colin away from the wet paint. Over the years, our experience with Border Collies and wet paint hasn’t been good.

There’s an article in the paper this morning about state government subsidies for movie and TV production companies. North Carolina has been a major participant. Most of the action takes place in Wilmington, where many TV series have been or are being produced, including Dawson’s Creek, One Tree Hill, Hart of Dixie, Under the Dome, Revolution, Sleepy Hollow, and Eastbound and Down.

But now many states are rethinking these tax breaks and production credits, wondering if they’re getting enough bang for their bucks. Many states are eliminating subsidies entirely. North Carolina is tweaking the rules, eliminating subsidies for talk shows and sporting events and focusing more on credits for building production facilities and other infrastructure. I suspect that North Carolina has already reached critical mass, with major production facilities already located here, a continuing flow of talented and skilled graduates from Winston-Salem’s North Carolina School of the Arts, and our generally low cost of living.

09:16 – In terms of physical components, chemicals are by far the largest cost item in our kits. The chemical cost for a bottle ranges from a few cents to a few dollars each, depending on the chemical. But the second largest cost item for physical components is the containers themselves, which range from about $0.15 to $0.90 each. That may not sound like much until you realize that one kit may contain 50+ containers.

Until recently, I’ve been happy with our primary container supplier. Their prices are competitive, they stock most of the containers and caps we need, and they ship quickly. They also provide free ground shipping on any order of $250 or more, which isn’t a problem for us. But I’m starting to worry about them. In the past, I’d place an order with them and it would be shipped the same day or the following day. I’d generally receive it two or three days after I placed the order. But on the last couple of orders they’ve been much slower to ship. It’s not a backorder problem. When I placed those orders, they showed all items as in-stock. But rather than ship the same or the following day, they’re now taking five to ten business days to ship. In one sense, that’s not a big problem. I always keep reasonable stock levels of the containers we use. But I do wonder what’s going on with them.

11:44 – Amazon just added a new benefit for Prime members, called Amazon Prime Pantry. They charge $6 for shipping, but that’s for a very large box. Adding a Prime Pantry item to your cart starts a new box. Each Prime Pantry item states how much of a box it fills. If you exceed the volume or weight capacity of the box, it automatically starts a new box.

So I started playing around with it, just to see how much would actually fit in the box. I’m still building our long-term food storage (as opposed to just the car emergency kits). Lipids are an issue for long-term storage, and one of the best ways to store lipids is canned Crisco. The manufacturer says Crisco remains good for at least two years, but in fact an unopened can will remain good for at least ten years, and probably a lot longer. We don’t routinely use Crisco here, but Barbara frequently uses vegetable oil for frying chicken, stir-fry, etc. Crisco works just as well for that as liquid oil, so I decided to add some Crisco to the box. (Incidentally, canned Crisco is also excellent for emergency lighting. Sticking a piece of string in a can gives you an emergency candle that’ll burn all day long for literally a month.)

Despite Python, I happen to like Spam canned meat, so I added a few cans of that as well. I ended up with 11 48-ounce cans of Crisco and 14 12-ounce cans of Spam in that one box. Amazon informed me that my box was 100% full and asked if I wanted to check out.

I typically place several orders per month, and every time it offers a discount if I apply for an Amazon Visa card. I finally decided to click on the Learn More link, and I liked what I saw. I’d been using our Costco AmEx card at Amazon. It provides a 1% rebate on all purchases, with a higher percentage for Costco purchases. The Amazon card provides a 3% rebate on Amazon purchases, and lower percentages on non-Amazon purchases. So I filled out the on-line application, asked for a second card for Barbara, and clicked Submit. After about 10 seconds, the screen refreshed and said the card was approved and that it had been set as our default payment method for Amazon purchases. It also said I’d been issued a $60 credit that would be applied automatically to our next Amazon order unless I told them otherwise.

Given that we make a huge percentage of our purchases from either Costco or Amazon, it makes sense to have a stored-branded card for each. We already have a Visa card from our credit union, but it’ll be easy enough to cancel that. The new card has only a $5,000 credit limit, but I’m sure we can get that increased if we need to.