Thursday, 29 January 2015

11:40 – Barbara’s recovery continues apace. She got the staples out yesterday, which helps a lot. She’s still frustrated that she’s not recovering faster, although in terms of recovery speed she’s certainly in the top decile and probably in the top percentile.

I’ve been a prepper since the mid-1960’s. I grew up under the threat of Soviet nuclear attack. I well remember the drills in elementary school, just as Barbara remembers spending the night in a fallout shelter in 1962 with other 2nd-grade students, eating crackers and drinking canned water.

Our basement had two small rooms running across the front of the house. One of those turned into my darkroom. The other was a storage room. My parents never said a word about it, probably because they didn’t want to scare us kids, but that room had a good supply of canned food and water and a stack of heavy planks, concrete blocks, and bags of sand. None of us ever said a word about it, but I figured it out when I was in 2nd or 3rd grade. That stuff was there to allow my dad to construct a shelter easily and quickly if the need arose.

Back around 1965, as a 12-year-old kid I didn’t have the money to stock up on more food and supplies, so I decided the best thing I could do was develop special skills. That’s why I got my amateur radio license, for example. (Sadly, I noticed the other night while watching Jericho that I can no longer copy CW. Each episode begins with a short piece of Morse code. Fifty years ago, I could copy CW at the 13 WPM required for a general class ham license; now I can’t even copy the slow CW on the Jericho opening. Use it or lose it, I guess.) By the time I was 12 years old, I probably knew more about radiation and defensive measures than anyone in town, including the CD people. I’d certainly read and memorized Glasstone’s The Effects of Atomic Weapons.

It was around then that I decided to start accumulating “good to know” information and skills, on the basis that if things ever went to hell I wanted to be able to more than pull my weight. So for the last fifty years or so I’ve been accumulating knowledge and skills toward that end. I wanted to be able to step in as the resident “wizard”.

Some of the things I want to do turn out not to be easy. For example, many post-apocalyptic novels feature a character with diabetes, from Dan Forrester in Lucifer’s Hammer to the protagonist’s young daughter in One Second After. Those characters invariably die when the insulin runs out. I decided back in the 70’s that I couldn’t let that happen if I had anything to say about it, so I learned how to isolate insulin from animal pancreata. So far, so good, but what if I don’t happen to have a sheep or a pig when I need one?

Since the late 70’s, insulin has been produced bio-synthetically. Over the last couple of decades, nearly all insulin has been produced by bio-engineered bacteria or yeast. I’ve been trying to get my hands on specimens of those bacteria or yeast (ideally, yeast, because there are advantages to using a eukaryotic rather than prokaryotic organism.) I’ve exhausted my contacts, and simply can’t find anyone who can get specimens for me. The problem, I’m sure is that no one has preserved specimens of the older, obsolete organisms and the newer ones are probably all under trade-secret or patent protection. I don’t want to go into competition with them. All I want to do is breed a large quantity of them, lyophilize (freeze-dry) the sample, and make up a hundred or a thousand RIA vials of the lyophilized specimen. It still takes a lab and a wizard to isolate actual insulin from the waste products of the microorganisms, but they’ve done 99.9% of the work for you.