Saturday, 28 February 2015

08:16 – The supply of 5.56/.223 ammo is already drying up. I just checked Cabela’s for 5.56/.223 ammunition, and it seems that they’re no longer selling it on their website. I suspect that Emperor Obama’s diktat may have something to do with that. He seems determined to use his last two years in office to destroy what’s left of our Constitutional rights by ignoring Congress and the Supreme Court and ruling by executive decree. Sometimes I almost wish I were religious so that I could hope he’d rot in hell.

Those of you who are prepping might be well advised to treat firearms acquisition as a matter of urgency. If you’re not yet armed, drive down to Dick’s or Gander Mountain or Walmart and buy a 12-gauge riot shotgun or three. Do it today. The best bargain going in this class is the Mossberg Maverick 88 security model, which currently sells for less than $200, but any short-barrel Mossberg 500 or a Remington 870 is also a good choice. While you’re there, pick up as many buckshot (#4 or #00) or rifled slugs as you can afford, but at least 100 to 250 rounds per gun. Do it today, but expect the place to be crowded.

12:19 – Barbara and I just got back from a Costco run. Paul and Mary were busy this weekend, so we took advantage of the extra space in the Trooper by filling two shopping carts and buying bulky stuff like cases of toilet paper, paper towels, and paper napkins. I got very little shelf-stable food this run. Two 3-liter bottles of olive oil, a few #10 cans of fruit and vegetables, six jars each of spaghetti sauce and applesauce, and a couple 5-pound cans of lemonade powder.

Friday, 27 February 2015

07:59 – Well, Obama couldn’t get congress to ban AR-pattern rifles, so now he’s trying to ban ammunition for them by executive order on the basis that 5.56/.223 ball ammunition can be fired from pistols and therefore qualifies as banned “armor piercing” pistol ammunition. The issue is that while nearly any rifle-caliber round can penetrate the soft body armor used by cops, very few pistol-caliber rounds can do so. Obama’s position is that since there are pistols that can fire 5.56/.223 rounds, that ammunition can be banned. And there are in fact pistols that can fire that round. In the late 60’s, I fired a Remington XP-100 bolt-action single-shot pistol that was later available in 5.56/.223, and in the early 70’s I shot .223 in a break-action single-shot Thompson-Center Contender. So what? Both of those pistols and others like them are clearly 100% sporting pistols. I’d be willing to bet that no cop has ever been shot with any of them. By Obama’s definition, almost every sporting rifle caliber can be banned because nearly all of them short of elephant-gun rounds are available in one or another pistol model. Anyway, the 2nd Amendment protects the right of the people to keep and bear armor-piercing pistol bullets, or indeed any other weapon.

Work on the prepping book continues. I’m still working in section I (the first month), on chapter I-9 on security and defense.

11:33 – Amazon really understands customer service. On December 18th, I ordered this humidifier, mainly because Consumer Reports recommended it highly. It had about a thousand customer reviews on Amazon, about half of which were five-star. What concerned me was that about a quarter of the reviews were one-star, and most of them mentioned that it had died after a few days’ to a few months use. Those one-star reviews worried me, but for $30 I decided to take a chance. That’s about what it costs to replace the filter set in our large roll-around humidifier, so I figured if this little one lasted an entire season it’d be worth it.

It worked great until Wednesday evening, when it died after only a couple months’ use. Yesterday, I went to the order page on Amazon for this item and clicked the icon to return it. Amazon asked if I wanted a refund or a replacement. I told them I wanted a refund, which they issued immediately to my credit card. The next page gave me return options, all of them free. I could print a label and drop the box off at a UPS store, print a different label and UPS would come and pick it up at my house, or return it myself and be issued an $8.24 credit for return shipping. I chose UPS picking it up from my house and clicked on the Print Label icon. As it turns out, I don’t even have to print a label. UPS will come to pick up the box in the next few days, and they’ll have the label with them. Other companies should take lessons from Amazon to learn how to do customer service right.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

08:08 – They changed the forecast. Yesterday morning, they were predicting 3 to 6 inches, but in the afternoon they changed that to 5 to 8 inches. We ended up getting maybe 3+ inches here of wet snow. The roads aren’t bad. I just came back from walking Colin and it’s mostly heavy, wet snow on top of slush. In some places the slush is frozen solid and crunchy, but mostly it’s just wet slush. Barbara just left for work in the Trooper. She shouldn’t have any problem getting to and from work. Tomorrow morning may be another story, though. Today is to be right around freezing, but overnight it’s to drop 5 or 10 degrees below freezing, which should turn all of this semi-melted slushy stuff into sheets of ice.

Work on the prepping book continues. Right now I’m working in section I (the first month), writing the chapter on security and defense, chapter I-9.

Repeat from yesterday: I just finished the first draft of what is tentatively designated Chapter I-8. It’s from section I (the first month), and it covers Electricity, Lighting, and Communications. If you’d like a copy of the PDF, email me at thompson (at) thehomescientist (dot) com.

I should emphasize that this is a first draft, direct from my keyboard. I haven’t done any editing or rewrite at all. There’ll be typos I’m sure. There may even be major missing sections that I somehow forgot to include. There aren’t any images yet, and I haven’t even started to format it for print. The final chapter may well look a lot different.

If you do get a copy, please keep it to yourself. Don’t post it anywhere. This really is rough, and most authors wouldn’t even consider letting anyone see their work at this early stage.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

08:51 – If you believe the BBC, which is always risky, rats may have been getting a bad rap all these years. A new paper reports that rats were not the carriers of the Black Death. Instead, it was apparently gerbils who carried the plague bacterium, which I still think of as Pasteurella pestis. Just one of many Gram-negative species that has caused untold death and suffering to humanity.

Barbara drove the Trooper to work again today. The forecast calls for more winter weather coming in this evening, with anywhere from 3 to 6 inches of snow depending on who you believe. She’ll decide this afternoon whether to come straight home from work or stop at the gym. We’re under a winter weather advisory until noon today for black ice from the remnants of yesterday’s snow, with a winter weather watch starting this afternoon for the snow expected this evening.

I’ve reached the stage in the prepping book where I already have a ton of material written but it feels like I’m only about 10% done because there’s still so much left to write about. This has happened on every book I’ve ever written, but it always seems to come out okay. Right now I’m working in section I (the first month), writing the chapter on electricity, light, and communications.

14:50 – I just finished the first draft of what is tentatively designated Chapter I-8. It’s from section I (the first month), and it covers Electricity, Lighting, and Communications. If you’d like a copy of the PDF, email me at thompson (at) thehomescientist (dot) com.

I should emphasize that this is a first draft, direct from my keyboard. I haven’t done any editing or rewrite at all. There’ll be typos I’m sure. There may even be major missing sections that I somehow forgot to include. There aren’t any images yet, and I haven’t even started to format it for print. The final chapter may well look a lot different.

If you do get a copy, please keep it to yourself. Don’t post it anywhere. This really is rough, and most authors wouldn’t even consider letting anyone see their work at this early stage.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

07:30 – We woke up this morning to find everything covered in white. We got an inch or two of snow overnight, which no one had forecast. Light snow is to continue for the next few hours, with an additional accumulation of maybe an inch. No one knew it was coming, so the city trucks didn’t pre-treat the roads with brine. There aren’t even any plows out so far this morning. The high today is to be right around freezing, so the roads are likely to remain a mess. There’ve already been dozens of accidents reported. Barbara is going into work this morning, driving the Trooper, but she’ll be running late.

Monday, 23 February 2015

09:48 – Work continues on science kits and the prepping book.

With the amount of text I’m generating for the prepping book, I decided I really have no choice but to break it into two volumes. The first will cover the first day through the end of one year and the second beyond one year. I hope to have the first volume complete by late spring.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

07:57 – Embarrassing prepper moment. While I was doing laundry yesterday, Barbara asked me to bring up some food from downstairs. Canned chicken, spaghetti sauce, applesauce, cream of mushroom soup, and beef broth. I got everything but the last item, which we’d run out of. ARRRGGGH.

Not my fault, as it turns out. We buy most soups and similar canned goods at Costco or Sam’s Club in shrink-wrapped cases of 8 or 10 cans, but neither of them carries Campbell’s Beef Broth, which Barbara prefers. She buys it at the supermarket when it’s on sale, usually ten cans at a time. Those come upstairs with the other supermarket stuff when she returns from the supermarket and are put on the upstairs pantry shelves. So I never did have any beef broth stored downstairs. I didn’t run out of it. I never had any to start with.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

09:19 – As usual for February, I’m starting to feel like the Maytag Repairman. For the first third of the month, we were shipping science kits at a decent rate, but the middle third was a complete washout. This final week will probably be slow as well.

At least that gives me time to work on other stuff that needs to be done, including the prepping book.

Friday, 20 February 2015

10:18 – Yesterday, I received the Baofeng UV-82 dual-band HT that I ordered Monday from Amazon. Even ignoring the $37 price, it’s an impressive looking piece of equipment. It’s not a Yaesu or an Icom, but you can get five or ten of these for the price of one Yaesu or Icom. The Baofeng feels solid, and the case is commercial-grade, much less flimsy feeling than the cheap blister-packed FRS/GMRS radios. This UV-82 feels like a radio that was designed and engineered for heavy daily use. Coincidentally, about half an hour after it arrived I came across this article by my friend Jeff Duntemann, a long-time ham operator who also has nice things to say about it.

I haven’t even put it on the charger yet. Before I do, I need to renew my ham license, which expired in about 1971. All I need is a Technician Class license, which requires only taking a simple test on radio theory and FCC regulations. I’ll read through the ARRL materials on the Technician test and then drive up to Wilkesboro in April, which is the nearest place to take the test, both in terms of date and distance. I’m not concerned about the theory part. That hasn’t changed much since I was last licensed. What has changed is the FCC regulations. In fact, there are whole new bands available since I last operated a ham rig, with odd-sounding designations like 30, 17, and 12 meters. I understand these are the WARC bands, which were created in 1979. Since I have no intention of operating on anything longer than 2 meters, this stuff is immaterial to me other than for test taking.

As Jeff points out in his post, a lot of hams dislike these Baofeng HTs, not because there’s anything wrong with them in terms of quality or performance, but because, being software-progammable, they can be operated on any frequency they support. That’s a pretty broad range, 136-174 MHz and 400-520 MHz for the UV-82. That range covers not just the FMS, GMRS, MURS, and VHF/UHF business band frequencies, but a whole lot of others, including aircraft, marine, and public safety bands.

But the UV-82 is not type-accepted by the FCC for any of these bands, which means the only legal way to operate it is with a ham license on frequencies allocated to amateur radio. Given the popularity of these HTs on Amazon and elsewhere, I’d guess that probably 1% of them are purchased by people who are legally entitled to operate them, with 99% of them being operated illegally on FRS/GMRS, MURS, and other frequencies. I would never do that, of course.

Probably no small percentage of those operators are preppers, attracted by the low price, high quality, and extreme flexibility of these little transceivers. I have advice for anyone in that category. First, don’t get caught using it unless you have a ham license and are running on authorized amateur frequencies. The FCC will come down on you like the proverbial ton of bricks. Of course, that’s not likely to happen if you’re operating on FRS, GMRS, or MURS frequencies, or even marine-band frequencies, because it’ll be hard to pick you out of the crowd unless you’re using marine band frequencies inland. But don’t even think about operating outside those common frequencies, and particularly don’t use sensitive frequencies like the public safety band. You’ll probably be caught and end up paying a large fine.

Also, remember that these are software radios, which need to be programmed before they’ll do anything. You can program most features using the buttons on the radio, but it’s a pretty complex and time-consuming procedure. Better to download the OSS software CHIRP and program the radio from your computer. To do that, you’ll also need a special USB cable. Those are available for $5 and up, but I recommend avoiding the cheap ones. Those use firmware that requires specific drivers that are a nightmare to get installed and configured. Worse, if you’re running Windows, when you connect to the Internet Windows will update those drivers, breaking them. It’s better to use a plug-and-play cable like this one, which costs $20 but Just Works.

If you plan to buy multiple units, also buy a clone cable, which allows you to copy the programming from one transceiver to others easily. While you’re at it, you might also want to buy spare batteries, a battery eliminator with cigarette lighter plug, and a AAA battery adapter. That last is interesting. It includes a dummy AAA battery. If you’re running NiMH rechargeable AAA cells, you use six in the adapter, which provides 7.2V. If you’re running AAA alkalines, you use five in the adapter plus the dummy, for a total 7.5V. If you use six alkalines (9V), the receiver operates but the transmitter doesn’t.

14:49 – Barbara and I started watching series two of Vikings last night on Amazon streaming. Between episodes I mentioned that I’d just had an ironic thought. Here I am an honest-to-god Viking-American, and yet I hardly ever leave the house.

I will admit that from time to time I do feel an urge to head out to do some looting and pillaging, perhaps burning down a monastery or two and slaughtering some monks and sacking a convent and raping a bunch of nuns. Or, being a Viking, I suppose I could slaughter the nuns and rape the monks. But it always seems to be more trouble than it’s worth, and the urge soon passes.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

08:02 – It didn’t get as cold here last night as it was supposed to. The forecast was for 2F (-17C), but the actual low was about 10F (-12C). The forecast low tonight is 0F (-18C). We’ll see. Saturday we’re supposed to have more snow and ice arriving.

Colin got his own back yesterday afternoon. In the morning, all four paws went out from under him and he went down. Yesterday, with the ice just starting to melt, we were on the street in front of Kim’s house when I slipped and went down in the gutter. After checking to make sure I wasn’t hurt, Colin mocked me for going down despite being in six-paw drive. It took me a moment to realize that he was talking about my own two feet and my four-footed cane. Kim and her mom came running out their front door to make sure I wasn’t hurt. I told them I was fine. The only damage was that my jeans got a little damp. The worst part was lying there in the gutter trying to get up with my feet sliding out from under me.

I’m still making up chemicals and filling bottles for science kits. When I eventually get through this batch, we’ll have most of what we need for 30 more forensics kits, 90 more biology kits, and 120 more chemistry kits. Then it’ll be rinse and repeat to get ready for the rush in July through September.

11:52 – Wow. I was just washing out the reservoir from one of our automatic bottle fillers when I noticed that the cold tap water seemed a lot colder than usual. So I filled the reservoir and stuck a lab thermometer in. The temperature was 4C (39F). No wonder my hands were starting to get numb. Falling into a pond at that temperature can kill you just from thermal shock. Even if it doesn’t, you’ll be in bad trouble in 30 seconds and probably dead in a few minutes.