Monday, 15 September 2014

07:41 – I need to pay the estimated taxes today. I really hate writing big checks to the government for money we’ll never see again.

Barbara and I made up a bunch of chemical bags yesterday for chemistry kits. Today, I’ll get started on building another batch of two or three dozen chemistry kits, of which we currently have only three in stock. As expected, kit sales have started to slow down. We have only five kits queued up to ship this morning, plus whatever orders come in today before the mail arrives.

The news reports about Anna Marie Smith, the girl who was found dead at Appalachian State University, aren’t providing much information about what actually happened. Reading between the lines, it sounds like after only a couple of weeks as a college freshman the girl was desperately unhappy. One unconfirmed report from an unidentified source says that she asphyxiated herself, although nothing was said about whether that was an accident or suicide. If true, that won’t be any consolation to her family, of course, but it will ease the concerns of other parents.


12:52 – I get frequent emails asking advice about what to include in emergency kits. Obviously, there are many different types of emergency kits, ranging from ones that weigh a few hundred grams and fit in a belt pouch to vehicle kits that may weigh 20 to 50 kilos or more, not counting water, to fixed-base emergency kits that may weigh several hundred kilos or more.

I concluded a long time ago that no one sells emergency kits worth having. The problem is that they are building these kits to a price point, and that price is absurdly low. No one is willing to pay what a real emergency kit would actually cost. One of those $79 car emergency kits is better than nothing, but not much better. What you’re really buying is false peace of mind. Unfortunately, if you ever really need the kit, that peace of mind will disappear fast. The contents are invariably shoddy, from the backpack that holds the kit to the individual items themselves. And the contents are almost invariably poorly thought-out. So, if you want a real emergency kit, the only option is to build it yourself.

I’ve been building car emergency kits for Barbara’s and my vehicles. I’m doing so modularly and iteratively, modularly because otherwise it’s too hard to keep track of what should be in there and what can be eliminated, and iteratively because I keep modifying and improving as I go along. Here’s what’s currently in the fire-making kits. This is the half-page label that’s on the outer bag.

Fire Making Kit

Zippo lighter: Not fueled. Fuel evaporates within a week or so after filling. Use Zippo fuel in this kit. In an emergency, gasoline, charcoal lighting fluid, Coleman fuel, VM&P naphtha, or a similar flammable liquid may be used. Slide lighter body out of shell, lift the end of the pad on the bottom of the lighter body, and add a teaspoon (5 mL) or so of fuel (sufficient to saturate cotton under pad). If you replace the flint, be careful when removing/replacing the screw that restrains the spring-loaded flint follower. Package also contains: Spare flints, spare wick, and four 15 mL bottles of Zippo fuel.

Magnesium fire starter: Use a knife or the included tool to shave off a small pile of thin magnesium shavings (the light metal that makes up the body of the starter). Strike the tool or knife blade against the flint striker on the edge of the tool, directing the sparks into the pile of magnesium shavings. Caution: magnesium burns extremely hot and with a brilliant white flame.

Stove, Coghlan folding: nominally uses canned fuel, but works fine with twigs, paper/cardboard, and/or sawdust/paraffin fire starters.

Fire-starting bricks (nine 8 oz.): Compressed sawdust/paraffin. Use small chunks as tinder or kindling. If no other fuel is available, may be used as main stove fuel for heating or cooking. One ounce will boil a quart/liter of water in Coglan stove.

Tinder: Vaseline-soaked cotton balls in film cans. These ignite easily and one burns long enough to ignite a pile of kindling of dry, pencil-size sticks.

All of these items are available locally and from Amazon.com and other on-line vendors. The total cost is $40 per kit, give or take. I always have at least two or three lighters in my possession, but for Barbara’s kit I’ll also toss in a three-pack of fueled Ronson Comet refillable butane lighters. The Comets are not particularly reliable, but I’ve determined experimentally that they retain their butane charge for at least months even in a hot vehicle.

37 thoughts on “Monday, 15 September 2014”

  1. I really hate writing big checks to the government for money we’ll never see again

    That fat-assed mother with 6 kids by 14 different fathers, who does nothing all day but worship Oprah, with free health care, free housing, free food, free TV, free transportation (all from her perspective), and then complains that she is poor, thanks you for supporting her and her lifestyle.

  2. Ray, actually she doesn’t thank Bob. All she cares about is herself, and how to get more free handouts.

  3. Jim B “Ray, actually she doesn’t thank Bob. All she cares about is herself, and how to get more free handouts.”

    Indeed, in fact she’s wondering why Bob is such a cheapskate.

  4. We need to move all those people to PRCs and give them a daily NSA to eat. They will get 2,000 calories per day of recycled and flavored soy. Very generous on the taxpayers part if you ask me.

  5. What’s up in Vermont? Do the kids really like kale? Bullshit! Not many kids will pass up a brownie for a cup of kale.

    Brownies and other chocolate treats are now officially banned by the state. Vermont Watchdog reports the state is now pushing fruit kebabs, kale and gluten-free paleo lemon bars as school treats.

    Keep your guns, but ban the brownies.

  6. We need to move all those people to PRCs and give them a daily NSA to eat. They will get 2,000 calories per day of recycled and flavored soy. Very generous on the taxpayers part if you ask me.

    In my generosity, I will also give them one of those small bottles of Tabasco from an MRE. One per week, though.

  7. In my generosity, I will also give them one of those small bottles of Tabasco from an MRE. One per week, though.

    My son’s USMC outfit used to trade those little bottle of tabasco with each other. They were invaluable after several months of MREs. And any other food that had fiber in it (MREs are short on fiber but you know that).

  8. I had some Kale cole slaw on the Missouri river in Montana a couple of months ago. Was horrible. And cleaned me out if you know what I mean.

  9. I need to pay the estimated taxes today. I really hate writing big checks to the government for money we’ll never see again.

    Thanks, that money was spent six years ago. You have a lot more to pay. I wish I was kidding.

    We really, really, really need a constitutional amendment on spending. And a 10% across the board income tax. And a 10% social security / medicare tax. These graduated taxes are unfair if you ask me.

  10. Percentage taxes are really unfair. If we must have a tax, it should be a per capita tax, period. I would suggest a Constitutional maximum per capita tax of $1/person/year, where $1 is defined as a twentieth of a troy ounce of 0.999 gold. This tax is to be collected at the local level. The county, state, and federal governments have to make do with however much, if any, the local tax authorities are willing to contribute to the county government, which decides how much, if any, to contribute to the state government, which decides how much, if any, to contribute to the federal government.

    If someone won’t/can’t pay the per capita tax, haul them down to the border and use a catapult/ballista/trebuchet/onager to deport them with prejudice.

  11. I love kale done the way my grandmother did it: wilted in bacon grease with a tiny bit of molasses. I use honey, instead of molasses.

  12. I just had a kale salad made with broccoli slaw, chicory, cabbage, roasted pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries and poppyseed dressing. Yum! Chuck’s grandmother’s recipe is also a great way to eat kale, which is too bitter on it’s own.

  13. Anyone here regret not attending their 50th HS reunion?

    It’ll be another 30 years before mine. 🙂

  14. My 50th HS reunion will be in 2021, but I can’t imagine why I’d go, even if it were local instead of a 400+ mile drive each way. I have better things to do with my time.

    Fred is seven years older than I am, but things for me in the small-town North were much as he describes for the small-town South.

  15. The useless eaters should not get EBT cards. They should not get bags of groceries or even MREs. Nor should they get housing vouchers, redeemable with anyone willing to rent them an apartment.

    The useless eaters should be housed in purpose-built housing. Toilets will discharge into a purpose-built waste processing plant. The useless eaters’ food will be mushrooms grown on the effluvia. If they don’t tend their waste processing facility, they won’t eat.

    Don’t like those mushrooms, useless eaters? Don’t want to have to grow and harvest them? No problem. Get off your ass and get a job.

  16. The useless eaters should not get EBT cards. They should not get bags of groceries or even MREs. Nor should they get housing vouchers, redeemable with anyone willing to rent them an apartment.

    The useless eaters should be housed in purpose-built housing. Toilets will discharge into a purpose-built waste processing plant. The useless eaters’ food will be mushrooms grown on the effluvia. If they don’t tend their waste processing facility, they won’t eat.

    Don’t like those mushrooms, useless eaters? Don’t want to have to grow and harvest them? No problem. Get off your ass and get a job.

    Well, there are young children in the mix too and it’s not the children’s fault their parents are deadbeats.

  17. Chad, I understand that point… and reject it. Sympathy for the innocent children has given us three generations of welfare parasites.

    If the dole is stopped, either cold turkey or with my fecal fungus plan, anyone who wants to sponsor an innocent child will be free to do so. Don’t do it with money taken from me by force.

  18. “…That fat-assed mother with 6 kids by 14 different fathers…”

    We just need to remember that it was our rulers who told them this was the way to go. And that they also set up a lot of wasteful friction, hatred and bitterness along with it. Yes, the fat-ass pig knows enough to belly up to the trough, but it was the robber baron oligarchy who used our money to put it in front of her. Our anger should be directed at them and then at ourselves, for allowing it.

    “Don’t do it with money taken from me by force.”

    A valid point, and one I mainly agree with; OTOH, like Chad, I would like to find some way to correct the deadbeat and/or absent parents without visiting further mayhem on the kids. There would seem to be many ways to structure both correction and incentives/rewards in this area. Let’s not throw the babies out with the bathwater just yet.

    Another day ends from the salt mine and two hours of commuting; ate up by dreary Outlook and printer issues. I’m gonna be shifting most of that over onto the young techie graduate this week. I gotta concentrate on hw/sw acquisitions, infrastructure proposals, and major upgrades. Looks like they may also be trying to hire a “software engineer,” probably to handle the programming/development end of things, because they can clearly see by now that all that stuff is a bit too much when I already have a ton on my plate. And a three- to six-month learning curve when they need some stuff done now without always having to call in $200/hour consultants who USED to work there. We’d all cross-train, of course, on the hit-by-the-bus theory of IT redundancy.

    One remaining and very pesky Outlook problem tomorrow hopefully resolved and a meeting with the production honcho and some guy I never heard of about future proposals for the Linux servers, the cloud, etc. I know they’ve also looked at cloud solutions for their email, but the previous IT guy and me kinda feel like they’d be better off keeping it in-house and the Exchange server config on the devil-you-know theory of IT. I looked at the Google Apps fandango and from a sys admin POV, it looks just like another big pile of admin stuff to manage and keep track of and troubleshoot, PLUS the learning curve. And unfamiliar email and calendar stuff for a lot of the users, but maybe I’m too negative.

    Mrs. OFD is in the Syracuse area of the Vampire State and got about two hours of sleep last night before working a typically very intense day today. Late and delayed flights from up here to the Mordor hub and from there back up to Syracuse. She is now looking to drop back to one week per month instead of the two and three she’s been doing while I’ve been lying around on my fat ass munching Fritos and bon-bons and watching Oprah and surfing the web for fugly single moms to boff while I steal their EBT cards and liquor.

  19. Well, OFD, all I can tell you is, if you go out hunting for MIWFWSET, go for the gold: one who outweighs you. Shouldn’t be hard to find, judging by what I see around here.

  20. I don’t have a real problem with graduated income tax rates; it’s the Leviathan of a tax code that draws my ire. And yes, I realize that a lot of people have spent a lot of money to create that monster – that’s exactly the point. Simplify the code, encourage saving & investment. No deductions for charity, mortgage interest, etc.

    The first $6,000 / year / individual isn’t taxed, if that’s all you make you’re either genuinely poor or a child. The next $18,000 would be at 5%, so just about everyone has some skin in the game. The next $24,000 is 10%, and the $24,000 after that at 15%. No we’re into the middle class, so the gap goes to $36,000 for the 20% & 25% brackets. An individual who makes $144,000 / year would have a tax liability of $23,100 / year, an effective rate of 16%, and a cost to compute that amount of essentially $0. We could debate exactly where the brackets would fall, but the simplified code would benefit everyone but accountants & people who get paid to figure out how to game the system. I don’t think either of those two groups would go hungry, then tend to be smart, motivated, & productive.

    Even capital gains would be simple. If you hold an asset for less than say 18 months, you (probably) were speculating, so pay your regular rate. You get a 25% discount for assets held 18 – 42 months, 50% for 42 – 84 months, 75% for 84 – 180 months, and no tax for an asset held longer than that. This would benefit (a) people who keep the same house for long periods and (b) small business owners whose net worth is tied up in the share value of their company.

    But any & all new tax code ought to include language which prohibits any & all amendment for a period of five years. And elected officials of the US Government would be prohibited from using a paid tax preparer.

  21. “…go for the gold: one who outweighs you. Shouldn’t be hard to find, judging by what I see around here.”

    Nor around here, either. Hell, my own DIL outweighs me; probably about 5’6″ and 300 pounds. My old fugly pig of a boss when I worked in state gummint up here weighed/weighs twice as much as I do. Of course I’ve dropped from 275 to 245; I tend to purposely lose weight when I start to feel lower back pain more often and it does the trick.

    I like pcb-duffer’s tax proposal. We don’t mind paying a fair share to help support a common defense and a social safety net for the most needy and vulnerable and the staff to run those ops, but we’re damned sick and tired of being punished for working all our lives and seeing our money go for endless wars, supporting the corporate fascist oligarchy, and foreign aid for greedy ungrateful buggers overseas who wouldn’t piss on us if we were on fire. And of course we get as cheesed off as anyone when we see fugly pigs of both (there are only TWO, goddammit) genders bellying up to the trough that was paid for with money taken from us at nearly literal gunpoint, and they’re fat as hawgs while we sweat ourselves silly to make ends meet.

    Dropping to 50 tonight with a 70% chance of rain, according to the weather liars. What’s funny up here is it could be a bright sunny day ten miles up the road and raining catz and dawgs here, or a blizzard there and balmy breezes here. In the summer one mile up the road is sweltering, but here we get the breeze and it’s 10-15 degrees cooler.

  22. …but the previous IT guy and me kinda feel like they’d be better off keeping it in-house and the Exchange server config on the devil-you-know theory of IT. I looked at the Google Apps fandango and from a sys admin POV, it looks just like another big pile of admin stuff to manage and keep track of and troubleshoot, PLUS the learning curve. And unfamiliar email and calendar stuff for a lot of the users, but maybe I’m too negative.

    I am sure you are aware of this but JIC. Statements like “the devil-you-know theory” will not have legs to stand on unless you quantify them in time and dollar terms. I would also consider security implications of migrating and the confidentiality of the information.

    Some things I would look into -off the cuff- are :
    – Research time for the new platform.
    – Planning costs for migration.
    – Self training of IT personnel
    – Product costs and maintenance costs.
    – Functionality of Exchange Server and Outlook client vs Google.
    – Other people training needs, delivery time and time-away from work of users.
    – Deployment of new mail system, possible risks and transition issues. (If you have a small IT team and a large user base and any issues arise it can be very disruptive).
    – Issues with old information and their migration.

    If you do not handle dollars, highlighting issues and providing rough estimates would help.

    Mail is business critical and with a small support team migration can be disruptive and risky.

    Proof of concept should also be considered. That will also add time.

  23. Agreed on all counts; prelim dollar figures have been calculated; we are a very small IT team, just two people at present and not likely to go beyond three, for 200 employees, not all of whom have email there. But are nevertheless using the technology at their jobs in some way, such as clocking in and out on PC’s, barcode/label printers, and even a big-ass robot at some point out in the giant warehouse.

    “Mail is business critical and with a small support team migration can be disruptive and risky.”

    Understood. Fully. Which is kind of why I lean toward keeping the known entity going. It’s gonna be disruptive as it is when we move people from Office 2010 to Office 2013 or 365, both of which I’ve already gone through here at home myself. Throwing another email/calendar interface at them will most definitely be disruptive.

    For that sort of migration and the support aftermath, I can easily see all two of us or three of us devoting our entire work weeks to just that and nothing else, at least for a fairly long time. But I will do the due diligence and provide the dollars and cents for the Spreadsheet worshipers. I do know that they’re gonna have to spend some serious money on IT before the end of this year.

  24. [snip] and the staff to run those ops [snip]

    I certainly don’t object to decent pay for public employees, plus benefits, pensions, and the like. Back when I was completing my undergraduate degree, the State of Florida came around trying to hire any and all of the people getting my degree (MIS). But strangely, no one was willing to take a 40% or more haircut just to work for state government rather than private industry.

    I’d also like to make two demands of public employees. First, I want to fire the bad ones. If a short order chef can’t make an omelet, he’s going to get canned. If a high school chemistry teacher can’t teach chemistry (as was the case for me) she shouldn’t have a job. Secondly, I want the public to understand the real costs of hiring and keeping an employee. John Q. Public and his cousin Susie Sixpack don’t grasp that a public school teacher who has a gross salary of $48,000 / year actually costs the taxpayer much much more; I don’t have the figures for my local system but I’m guessing that it’s close to 50% overhead. And for the police department, it’s even higher. The pensions are compressed by shorter careers, and the costs for liability insurance and training are much greater. That’s not usually the fault of the police chief, but some effort ought to be made to better educate the public as to payroll realities.

  25. “…some effort ought to be made to better educate the public as to payroll realities.”

    Oh, I guess enough of the public understands full well; huge numbers of them would kill for a public job slot or one for their kids, their cousins, etc. That sorta thing is absolutely rampant in my former home state of Maffachufetts, and also Rhode Island and Babylon On the Hudson. The Boston Herald’s Howie Carr has done a regular number on all this stuff for decades now, when he wasn’t also covering organized crime down there; why he’s still alive and well is a mystery. He used to publish names, dates, addresses, places, you name it. And still does. Although there was one attempted hit on him, by one of Whitey Bulger’s crew.

    I’m with Dr. Bob, most likely, on the number of public employees desirable; the bare minimum, a skeleton crew, so to speak, to collect the taxes, and provide for the common defense. The rest I’d turn out to the onion fields posthaste.

  26. Any heater that relies upon combustion is horribly dangerous in an enclosed space

    My wife and I were sleeping in a very small house, heated with a wood stove. It was cold, so we left the stove to smolder all night. Somehow, during the night, the chimney came off the back of the stove. I woke up in a room full of smoke, but it would have been just as likely not to wake up. I suppose we were lucky, in that the chimney attached very close to the fire chamber, so additional oxygen could get in and prevent too much carbon monoxide from being produced.

    – – – – –

    On the deadbeats, I like what Jerry P often writes: You get more of what you subsidize. As OFD says, we just need to structure the incentives properly. One clear error is providing more money when people have more children; the same for providing more money for a single mother as opposed to a married mother. Both of these directly contributed to the the disintegration of the inner-city black family.

    Pay more to couples than to singles. Provide no additional payments for children; children are expensive, so maybe you shouldn’t have them. Make it workfare rather than welfare, so that there is an incentive to find real, paid work. Subsidize the behavior you want.

    – – – – –

    Outlook, how I hate thee. I sympathize totally with OFD. Unfortunately, Outlook provides a really good end-user experience (once it’s working), and people really dislike changing.

    Outlook is only awful from a sys-admin point of view. Getting things set up correctly seems damned near impossible, and when (not if, when) things go wrong, fixing them can be a nightmare.

    Just as an example: If you run Windows in various languages, things get translated. Sometimes they really are translated. For example (I’m under Linux and going from memory here) C:Programme instead of C:Program_files. But sometimes the OS just lies to you, for example, in your home directory you have a subdirectory called “Documents”, but Windows translates this on-the-fly to “Dokumente”.

    Outlook does the same kind of stuff, but unlike Windows, it doesn’t get it right. As an example, in a freshly installed German Outlook I always get two sent-mail directories, one English and one German. Which one is used? Well, sometimes both. When you tie in multiple .pst files – and in newer versions of Outlook you apparently have to have one for each email address – the fun multiplies. There are fixes for most of the problems, but the problems shouldn’t exist in the first place.

  27. SteveF wrote:

    “…anyone who wants to sponsor an innocent child will be free to do so.”

    Or do what the Catholic couple did in The Meaning of Life: sell ’em for scientific experiments.

  28. I have long maintained that 8% is enough for both the Feds and states to take from anyone or any business and states should get the most of that. If it costs more than 8% of what everybody makes, then it does not need doing. 15, 20, even 40% is theft, not taxation.

  29. I think 8% is outrageous. Even 1% is outrageous. The government does absolutely nothing that the free market wouldn’t do better. We certainly don’t need to be spending trillions on social programs, defense, etc.

  30. My growing philosophy is that if you have a kid while on the dole then you should be sterilized at the end of the birth procedure. Don’t like that, then get a job and health insurance.

  31. Which means you have to pass out free birth control, which is a good idea anyway. I also think they should pass out free alcohol, marijuana, heroin, etc. etc. I mean, that’s why the UK kept gin so cheap for 200 years, and it worked for them.

  32. I also think they should pass out free alcohol, marijuana, heroin, etc. etc. I mean, that’s why the UK kept gin so cheap for 200 years, and it worked for them.

    But, then the city police departments would not need SWAT teams.

  33. SteveF wrote:

    “…anyone who wants to sponsor an innocent child will be free to do so.”

    Or do what the Catholic couple did in The Meaning of Life: sell ’em for scientific experiments.

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