Thursday, 2 October 2014

11:05 – I mentioned to Barbara this morning that we need to build another batch of biology kits this weekend. We’ve shipped three so far this month, and we’re down under half a dozen in stock.

When I sit down to write a book, I immediately become aware of how much I don’t know. No worries there. I can always research it, figure it out, do it myself, and so on. What worries me is the things I only think I know, because those don’t get researched, figured out, or done. That’s why a final fact-checking pass is so important, as well as running the rough draft manuscript past people who know more about particular things than I do.

And some of the stuff I only thought I knew turns out to be very interesting indeed once I dig deeper. For example, I was under the impression that exposure to strong UV killed essentially all microorganisms, that placing a 2-liter soda bottle of questionable water in bright sunlight for a few hours sterilized it. In fact, I’ve even tested that by filling a 2-liter Coke bottle with ditch water, leaving it out in the sun all day, and then culturing the contents on different agar media designed to encourage growth of various classes of bacteria, protozoa, and fungi. The agar plates grew no colonies of anything, so I concluded that exposure to UV was indeed a good way to sterilize water.

The problem is, I was thinking “sterilized” as in “killed everything”. That turns out not to be the case. UV does indeed “sterilize” the water, but only in sense of rendering some of the microorganisms unable to reproduce. The UV turns them into teeny, tiny Walking Dead. What’s worse is that they can be revivified by exposure to visible light, ideally in the violet/blue portion of the spectrum. This activates enzymes called photolyases, which turn around and fix the DNA that the UV light broke, reactivating the Walking Dead microorganisms with their full reproductive abilities restored. Geez.

Not that it really matters. Solar Disinfection (SODIS) is used worldwide to provide safe drinking water for tens of millions of people. In practical terms, it works, so I’ll present it as such.

Several people have expressed interest in following the progress of The Ultimate Family Prepping Guide, so I decided to set up a private email discussion list. It’ll be a while before there’s much activity on the list, but eventually I’ll be doing stuff like posting draft chapters for download. If you want to join the list, visit

It turns out that at my age I end up doing things that I later just barely remember doing. For example, I just got an email that began, “Thank you for contributing to Brian Taylor & Kate Doody’s new book: CERAMIC GLAZES: The Complete Handbook” and asked for my mailing address so they could send me the print copy they’d promised. I almost clicked to send it to junk mail before I vaguely remembered doing something that had to do with ceramic glazes. So I sent them my address. Once I get the book, I may even remember what I wrote for them or told them.

11:59 – I’ve already gotten a bunch of new subscriber notices for the new discussion list, but I’ve also gotten a couple of emails along the lines of “I’d like to join but I’m afraid I have nothing to contribute.” Don’t worry about it. Join if you want to, even if you’ll only lurk. You may be surprised at how much you have to contribute. I’m interested in getting a “hive mind” thing going with this discussion list, and over the decades that I’ve participated on such lists I’ve ceased to be surprised at how much useful knowledge is known by so few people. So go ahead and join. Lurk if you have nothing to say. If you do have something to say, say it.

14:41 – It’s interesting how much kit sales swing up and down. Last month, for example, started out big. For the first week or so, I thought we might do 150% or even 200% of September, 2013 revenues. Then things died completely for a few days. Then they started booming again, but that lasted only a few days. The last week of the month was dead slow, and we ended up doing only about 80% of last September’s revenues. But the first two days of this month we’ve done almost 20% of last October’s total revenues. If this holds up, which I’m sure it won’t, we’d do around 300% of October 2013 revenues. Then again, it could hold up, because we have had months where we did 300% or more of the same month’s prior year revenues. I just don’t worry about it one way or the other. As of very early October, YTD revenues are where they were in early December of 2013, so we’re doing fine.