Tuesday, 21 October 2014

08:21 – I’m taking some time off writing today to do kit stuff. We’re low on biology kits, and I need to bottle another 60 sets of a dozen or so chemicals.

The good news is that Ebola has been stopped in Nigeria, no thanks to either CDC or WHO, but due entirely to Doctors Without Borders and local doctors and nurses. The bad news is that Ebola continues to rage in the three countries at the heart of this outbreak, with the best estimates forecasting a peak in the next few months of 10,000+ new cases per week. And the federal authorities continue to insist that Ebola is not airborne-transmissible, despite the fact that it’s been known for 25 years to be transmitted via the droplets expelled when an infected person sneezes or coughs. See the Reston Monkey Virus incident in 1989, which involved the original Zaire strain of Ebola.

Monday, 20 October 2014

09:20 – The panic about Ebola seems to be receding a bit in the absence of any new cases being diagnosed over the last couple of days. There’s still a very high level of concern at all levels, of course, which is a good thing. And people are shunning contact with facilities associated with Ebola, which is certainly understandable.

I’ve heard from several of my European readers who are concerned that the number of new Ebola patients in Africa is expected to climb to more than a million over the next few months with many millions more exposed, and that tens of thousands of them may flood into southern Europe via short boat rides from northern Africa. If things get that bad in Africa, I suspect that Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, and even Greece collectively still have enough of an air force and navy to sink any plague boats attempting to make that trip and would not hesitate to do so.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

09:03 – Late last month, Barbara and I stopped at the Dick’s Sporting Goods store to buy a couple of Marlin Model 60 .22LR rifles and a couple of Mossberg Maverick 88 pump-action riot guns. They had the Marlins in stock, but we had to special-order the shotguns. They said they’d give us a call when they arrived in a week to 10 days.

After waiting nearly three weeks, I finally called them Thursday to ask what was going on. As it turned out, their wholesaler had accidentally canceled the order. The guy at Dick’s said they’d reordered them and they should be in by the 24th. I wasn’t happy about that, but I didn’t have much choice other than to wait yet another week. Friday afternoon, they called and said they’d gotten in a regular shipment and asked if I wanted two of those. So Barbara and I went down yesterday after a Sam’s Club run to pick them up.

Originally, we’d paid $220 each for them, but they gave us 10% off on that whole order because we applied for a Dick’s MasterCard. The shotguns ended up costing us $198 each, which I was happy with. But the manager at the gun counter said they needed to zero out that original transaction and run a new transaction. I said fine, as long as we got the 10% discount. When we finally got through all the paperwork and the manager carried the shotguns downstairs to the checkout lane, the woman at the register said that they were now selling those shotguns for $180 rather than $220, so she rang it up at $180 each. I pointed out that that didn’t reflect the 10% discount, so she issued a $36 gift card to make up the difference. Barbara grabbed that and said that she’d get something she wanted with it. So the end of the story is that we now have two more riot guns at home, for which we ended up paying only $162 each, the same amount we paid for the Marlin Model 60’s.

Incidentally, when I mentioned Tess Pennington’s prepping book I said that my initial impression was that it wasn’t bad. I was wrong. It’s not just bad. It’s horribly, ridiculously bad. Ms. Pennington is an anti-vaxxer, a proponent of “alternative medicine”, and generally anti-science. As just one example, in her short chapter on preparing for a pandemic, she wastes two full pages describing how to make up woo-woo mixtures of essential oils and spices to prevent or treat deadly viral diseases. Good luck with that. And in a chapter on alternative light sources she recommends a method that she says requires only a bottle and water to provide as much light as a 50-watt bulb. She doesn’t give any specifics, but tells her readers to look up the details on the Internet. Yeah, right.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

09:16 – One of the commenters yesterday posted a link to an article from the Weekly Standard that’s worth taking the time to read: Six Reasons to Panic

Actually, I can add a seventh, that no one ever talks about outside scientific papers. The body fluids of someone who recovers from Ebola may remain infective for at least a year, and possibly indefinitely. The recovered patient becomes an asymptomatic carrier, much like Typhoid Mary, and, like Typhoid Mary, the only solution is to quarantine that person indefinitely until they are no longer shedding the virus. Or until an Ebola vaccine becomes generally available. So we could end up having to have Ebola Colonies, much like the Leper Colonies of antiquity.

Someone emailed me yesterday to ask what I thought the chances were of Ebola breaking out in the US and what I would do if it did. I told him what I’ve been telling friends and neighbors: that in the absence of sufficient data my SWAG is that the probability of that happening is somewhere between 0.001 and 0.01. That makes it an unlikely event, but even 0.01 is much, much too high given the consequences.

As to what we would do, we’d operate on the principle that you can hide but you can’t run. We would shelter in place, not leaving our house and yard for any reason. The best defense would be to have the necessary stores in place to allow us to isolate ourselves in place for weeks to months. And, although we continue to encourage our family, friends, and neighbors to build their own emergency stockpiles of food, water, and other necessities, we will continue to build our own stockpiles to make sure we have some excess to share with those family, friends, and neighbors who are not prepared.

Friday, 17 October 2014

07:51 – I had a dream last night. The US House overwhelmingly voted to impeach Obama for malfeasance, misfeasance, nonfeasance, and treason. The vote in the US Senate was along self-interest lines, with all of the Republicans and every Democrat who didn’t want to be lynched voting for conviction, for a total of 100:0 favoring conviction. Obama was stripped of his office, his pension, his assets, and his citizenship, and sentenced to be tarred and feathered, then keelhauled, and then transferred to West Africa to work in an Ebola ward. Mrs. Obama was sentenced to go with her husband to West Africa, where she would be responsible for feeding ridiculously inadequate lunches to school-age Ebola patients. President Biden immediately imposed a complete travel ban to bar anyone who had visited the stricken areas from entering the US.

13:53 – Barbara and I are about halfway through season three of Hart of Dixie on Netflix streaming. It’s a farce, set in rural Alabama. I wouldn’t watch it if it were just me, but it does have a lot of cuties.

As we were watching an episode last night, I commented to Barbara that I was surprised to learn that Montgomery is the capital of Alabama. That’s what my elementary school teachers taught me all those years ago, but since 1973 I’ve thought they’d been lying to me. “In Birmingham they love the guv’nor. Boo, boo, boo. Now we all did what we could do.” I guess that’s why I constantly play that riff on my air guitar the whole time we’re watching the show.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

09:12 – One of the first things I do when I start a book is scope out the competition. I find the best book and the best-selling book on the topic–often not the same book–and scan through it/them to make sure I can write a better book. Ideally, of course, I want to crush the market leader, to make the author slink home whimpering with his tail between his legs. (This doesn’t always work out; there have been several books I’ve considered doing, but I found that an existing book would be hard to beat. If I can’t beat it, it’s pointless for me to write a new book.)

So, when I was stubbing out The Ultimate Family Prepping Guide, I did some looking around. Apparently, both the best general prepping book and the best-selling one is The Prepper’s Blueprint: The Step-By-Step Guide To Help You Through Any Disaster by Tess Pennington. I ordered a copy on the 11th, which arrived yesterday. (Oddly, Amazon Prime charged me only $19 on 10/11, but the price is now showing as $27.) This book really is a best-seller. Its current Amazon rank is #245, which means it’s probably selling several thousand copies per month.

The book arrived yesterday, and I spent an hour or so flipping through it. It’s not a bad book, but she’s obviously trying to write in detail on many topics that she has little or no actual experience of. I can write a better book. Interestingly, her book is pretty much a collection of the articles from her web site, so you don’t really need to buy the book if you’re willing to scroll through 50+ separate articles.

My book may not sell as well as hers because I have neither the time nor the inclination to market the book as heavily as she does hers. Still, word of mouth has worked pretty well for our science kits and I suspect it will for this book as well.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

09:22 – Work on The Ultimate Family Prepping Guide continues. I’d forgotten just how much I enjoy heads-down writing: organizing thoughts, checking facts, constructing sentences that say exactly what I want to say without ambiguity.

I’ve decided to organize the book in three sections: I. The First Month; II. The First Year; and III. Long Term. That inevitably means some duplication, but the overall structure is more important than wasting some space.

I was stubbing out Appendix A yesterday. It’s about building a library, and I suggest getting both print books and ebooks. (There’s no reason ebooks wouldn’t be useful in an emergency, assuming you have a solar charger or other means of keeping your Kindle operating.) Just out of curiosity, I visited Pirate Bay and searched for “prepping”. They had 29 items available, most of which were collections with anything from dozens to hundreds of titles. Many of those were military field/training manuals, short essays, and so on, but there were scores of actual prepping books. After taking a quick look at several of those, I came to three conclusions: (1) most people can’t write; (2) most people don’t know what they’re talking about; and (3) there is a great deal overlap between those two groups.

11:51 – More bad news from Texas. A second health-care worker who cared for Duncan has been diagnosed with Ebola. Like the first one, no one knows how she caught it. And yet the propaganda machine keeps spewing out statements about how difficult it is to become infected with Ebola and that it requires intimate contact with the body fluids of patients showing symptoms. These statements are false, or at best wishful thinking. The truth is that no one knows for sure how easily transmissible this new strain of Ebola is, whether or not infected people who are asymptomatic can infect others, or what length of quarantine is necessary for people who have been exposed to the virus.

The fundamental principle of epidemiology is to stop the spread of an infection as the absolute top priority, which means isolating/quarantining those who are infected and those who may be infected. That’s not being done here. We continue to allow potential carriers from West Africa into the US, and even people known to be infected. Obama should have deployed a carrier battle group to the west coast of Africa a month ago, with orders to shoot down any airliner that tried to take off and to cut road and railway transport to and from the affected areas. Deliver medical supplies by parachute. Those in the affected areas should not be allowed to leave, including volunteers who traveled there to help treat the victims. I don’t care if they are American citizens. If you’re there, you stay there until it can be guaranteed absolutely that you are not a threat to those outside the affected areas. Period.

13:22 – I’ve been reading more of the details about how ill-prepared that Texas hospital was and is to deal with a BSL-4 pathogen. Infected materials stacked in open areas, nurses told to cover their necks with surgical tape(!), a complete lack of appropriate procedures. The irony is that the government has been telling us for weeks now that Ebola cannot break out in the US because our facilities and procedures are so much better than those in West Africa, when the reality seems to be that even bush hospitals in West Africa are better at preventing the spread of the virus.

And in more joyful news, Novant Health, one of the largest hospital operators in the Southeast, announced that Ebola cases would be concentrated in three of their hospitals, one in Charlotte, one in Virginia, and Forsyth Medical Center in Winston-Salem. There’s a front-page article in this morning’s paper, Birthing Center is far from Ebola area. I guess it depends on one’s definition of “far”. The Ebola area is on the first floor. Women’s specialties are on floors three and four, an entire two or three floors away from the plague carriers. Geez.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

08:29 – Barbara enjoyed her trip. She always brings back small gifts for Colin and. This time, he got a black matte Zippo lighter. She brought me some fudge.

We’re still talking about when and where to relocate. Last night, Barbara suggested looking in the Jefferson area along the Blue Ridge Parkway in the northwestern corner of North Carolina. The small town of Sparta, NC isn’t far from there, and it offers municipal water/sewer/garbage collection. We’ll probably make a day trip up there in the next couple months to look around.

Monday, 13 October 2014

09:21 – The first thing many first-time visitors to downtown Winston-Salem notice is usually the old RJ Reynolds Building, which most of them probably assume is a small copy of the Empire State Building. In fact, the converse is true. The Empire State Building is a large copy of the RJ Reynolds Building, which was just added to the National Register of Historic Places.

The confusion is understandable, because the two buildings look identical except for size. In fact, many Winston-Salem residents call our building the Empire State Building. I wonder how many New Yorkers call their building the RJ Reynolds Building.

Barbara is due back late afternoon today. I still have lots of clean-up to do, so I’d better get started.

13:23 – Late afternoon indeed. Barbara called a little while ago from Statesville, about 30 miles down the road, to say they had just finished lunch and were on their way home. Colin and I are frantically cleaning and decluttering. I just finished cleaning the toilets, and Colin is in the hall bathroom licking the floor because I didn’t have time to mop it.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

09:42 – Barbara comes home tomorrow afternoon, so I plan to spend some time getting the place cleaned up and de-cluttered. I’m not great at house cleaning, but I figure I can at least straighten up, clean the toilets, and so on.

I’ve decided to bag the idea of doing The Ultimate Family Prepping Guide as a Kindle book. I’ve been playing around a bit with formatting it for Kindle, and it just doesn’t work very well. On Barbara’s and my mono Kindles, it’s simply hideous. Even on her Kindle Fire HDX there are a lot of issues with using Kindle format.

So I’m going to publish it in trade paperback on Amazon via their CreateSpace service. It’ll be an 8.5×11″ trade paperback with a four-color cover and monochrome images. I looked into using four-color throughout, but if I did that the book would have to be priced at $70 or thereabouts or I’d end up owing money to Amazon for each copy sold. With monochrome images, I’ll be able to price it at $24.95 and still earn a reasonable royalty.

I do want an electronic version to be available for use on PCs and tablets, so I’ll sell the full four-color PDF on my own website for $4 or $5. That version will have the advantage of color illustrations, clickable links, and probably more frequent updating than the print version.

One of the interesting things about writing this book is that it gives me the opportunity to re-learn skills that I haven’t used in more than 30 years. Stuff like canning and dehydrating food and packaging it for long-term storage, keeping a garden, building a sand/charcoal water filter, reloading ammunition, and so on. I’ve even done stuff like building an outhouse, but I think Barbara would draw the line at me building one in our backyard.

For some skills, though, I’ll just have to depend on memory, because practicing them nowadays would quickly land me in a federal penitentiary if not Guantanamo. You know, things like building IEDs, although we didn’t call them that back then. Besides which, at age 61 I’m now fully aware that I’m not immortal. The idea of building a field-expedient claymore mine from a pound of ammonal (AKA the freely available commercial product Tannerite) and five pounds of buckshot or ball bearings scares me to death nowadays. And I already know it works well, because I did it back in the 60’s and 70’s. Fortunately, the statute of limitations on that stuff expired long ago.