Tuesday, 31 March 2015

09:11 – With the firestorm over the Indiana religious freedom act, I’m not surprised that North Carolina’s governor has announced that he will not support a similar law that’s been proposed here. That’s a shame. As my regular readers know, I absolutely support full civil rights for gay people, but I also absolutely support full civil rights for everyone else, and that includes people who don’t like gay people.

There’s no conflict there, and the only reason there might appear to be is that the progressives intentionally conflate actions taken by the government with actions taken by individuals and private businesses. In short, the government should not be permitted to discriminate in any way against any citizen, but individuals and private businesses have the Constitutional right to discriminate in any way they see fit. The government cannot refuse to recognize marriages between people of the same sex, but individuals and private companies have the right to discriminate in any way they see fit.

A bakery that is owned by a religious person and refuses to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple is within its rights, as is a photographer who refuses to shoot pictures of a gay wedding or a dress shop that refuses to provide a wedding dress for a gay couple. It’s their businesses, and they have a right to serve or not serve any customer, as they see fit. I think anyone who refuses to provide services or goods to a gay person is contemptible, and I would refuse to patronize that business, but they have the absolute right to be contemptible. A church has the absolute right to refuse to marry gay couples (or straight couples) if it is so inclined, or to refuse to allow gay people (or straight people) to be members of its congregation. A landlord has the absolute right to refuse to rent to gays (or straights) or, come to that, to women (or men) or blacks (or whites) or atheists (or Southern Baptists). None of this is any of the government’s business.

Barbara is going to the gym after work. She’s making beef Stroganoff for dinner using only long-term storage stuff, including a can of Keystone Meats ground beef. I’d ordered a case of the stuff some months ago, and wanted to try it before I ordered another two or three cases. I’m sure it’ll be fine. After all, Keystone is a family business whose only product is canned meat products, so they’d be foolish to use anything other than top quality meats. I talked to Lisa at Keystone and mentioned that I suspected that the 5-year best-by date was pretty much imaginary and that their meats would still be fine long after that. She just laughed and said that they were extremely conservative in choosing a 5-year best-by date.

Barbara has been buying Costco ground beef in 5-packs of 1-pound tubes. I asked her last night how much ground beef we consumed per year. She estimated we go through one 5-pound package every couple of months. That’s 30 pounds a year, so we could stock 150 pounds without exceeding even the best-by date. When you consider that we may not have access to fresh meat in an emergency, we’d be dependent on canned stuff, so keeping even seven or eight cases on hand wouldn’t be excessive. Assuming we like it, which I suspect we will. As Barbara pointed out last night, the Keystone ground beef is precooked, which makes it a lot faster to make up beef Stroganoff, spaghetti sauce, or ground beef casseroles.

We have only three episodes of Heartland series eight left to watch. After that, we may start Murdoch Mysteries series eight, the last episode of which ran last night.


Monday, 30 March 2015

10:10 – Costco run and dinner with Mary and Paul yesterday. We had a small list and they had a big one, so for the first time ever we ended up waiting near the checkout lanes for them to finish instead of them waiting for us. Also for the first time ever, the guy who checks your cart against your receipt stopped Barbara and asked her what she had in the box. It was a box of 1,000 Thank-You/t-shirt bags, which we use by the thousands in packing kits. I was getting ready to shout “She has a big-screen TV in there!” but I figured Barbara would kill me if I did that.

On the way into Costco, I gave Mary and Paul each an Ultrafire Cree AA flashlight, which I give to everyone who matters to me. Other than perhaps a Swiss Army Knife, this is probably the most important small item you can carry in your pocket. It can save your life, literally, and relatively few people routinely carry a flashlight other than perhaps one of those pathetic little keyring lights.

At dinner, I did what I’d resolved to do: talk to them about why I’m a prepper. It wasn’t easy, as any prepper who’s done it knows. I value Paul and Mary as friends, and the last thing I want is for them to think I’ve lost it and gone far around the bend. But the threats are very real, very serious, and one or more of them is very likely to materialize over the next few years. In fact, something horrible could happen later today or next week, which is why I have a sense of urgency. It could be widespread rioting and looting or a pandemic or an EMP or a CME. I don’t know, so I try to prepare for anything. And when something does happen, I don’t want Barbara and me to be on our own, which means we need to be in a position to help family and friends.

The big issue is normalcy bias, which affects all of us. Wherever you are on the prepping continuum, from completely unprepared to a Doomsday Prepper, you think everyone who’s distant from you on that continuum is nuts. If you have only a few cans of food in your pantry, an extra case of bottled water, and a spare pack of batteries, you consider that normal and prudent. If you have a 10-year supply of food and water, you consider that normal and prudent. In either case, you think the other guy is nuts.

Normalcy bias operates within families as well. For example, Barbara has no problem with maintaining several months of food and other supplies and a good stock of defensive weapons and ammunition. She’s also as in favor of relocating away from the city as I am because she’s concerned about serious widespread rioting and looting. As she said yesterday, it could happen right here tomorrow. But she’s concerned that I’ll go too far or become “obsessed” with prepping, as she puts it. Ironically, Barbara’s place on the prepping continuum means that most people would consider her a nutcase prepper. She’s not nuts. Nor am I. Nor are those of our friends who are completely unprepared. It’s all a matter of normalcy bias.

I’ve been reading history for 50 years, so I’m very much aware that it can happen here. So is the federal government. Why else would they be buying hundreds of millions of rounds of ammunition and burying them in hidden caches distributed in fields and forests all over the country? Why are they distributing MRAPs and other armored vehicles to small-town police forces and even college police departments? The feds are expecting bad things to happen.

The feds are also aware that they’ll be completely unable to deal with any widespread disaster. Consider Katrina. We had a relatively minor emergency that was confined to a small part of the country with the rest of the country unaffected and able to help. We had plenty of warning. And what happened? The federal response was completely useless. Many people were without power for weeks or even months. Many went for a long time without even food or safe drinking water. The emergency communications system failed completely, leaving federal responders to depend on ham radio operators for all comms. And thousands of people ended up being housed long term in trailers and sports stadiums, which were hell holes. And all that from a minor emergency. Imagine what would happen in a major long-term emergency like a pandemic or a grid-down situation that affected most or all of the country, or indeed the world. We’d be on our own, with just what resources we, our families, and our friends could bring to bear. That would concern me even if I knew for a fact that the probability of such an event was only 1% over the next decade. But I think the probability is considerably higher than that, and that opinion is shared by an awful lot of very bright, well-informed people.


Sunday, 29 March 2015

08:40 – As to the co-pilot who intentionally crashed that German airliner, it appears that he was not a convert to islam. All muslims are nuts, but not all nuts are muslims.

Barbara is cleaning house. I just got back from walking Colin. When the street is clear, I sometimes take him off leash so that he can run home. He runs home, up onto the porch, grabs a stick, and is lying in the yard waiting for me when I get back. This time, he started off in a beeline for home, but then hung a left and ran down a driveway. When he’s done that in the past, which doesn’t happen often, he’s always been sniffing around at the bottom of the drive. I shout “go home” and he heads for home. This time, he was nowhere to be seen. I found him on the street behind ours, sniffing in someone’s front yard. He let me approach him and put him back on leash. When we got home, Barbara told him he was a Very Bad Dog. He’s four years old now, which is about the age that our others have become reliable in responding to voice commands regardless of how interesting something else is to them. We’ll see.

We’ll be working on kit stuff this afternoon.


Saturday, 28 March 2015

09:05 – I got email from Jen to update me on their progress. They have all their food neatly stored on shelves in the basement, with the exception of the 50-pound bags of dry staples. They’re planning on having a packing party next weekend with her brother and his family to get those into Mylar bags and on the shelves. They also picked up several kiddie pools, which they plan to leave on the shelf. They’ll deploy them on the basement and garage floors, wash them out, and fill them with a hose in an emergency, which will increase their stored potable water significantly.

Jen also had an interesting across-the-fence conversation with one of their neighbors this week. The neighbor had noticed Jen and her husband hauling in cases of canned food and asked Jen if she was one of those prepper types. Jen hemmed and hawed and finally told her neighbor that she and her husband were getting more concerned about current events and had decided it’d be a good idea to lay in some supplies in case of emergency. She expected the neighbor to tell her she was nuts, but was pleasantly surprised when the neighbor told her that she and her family were also preparing for bad times. Jen was surprised because they’d known this family for years and had no clue that they were also storing food and other supplies. They had a long conversation, and the upshot is that the neighbors are going to come to the packing party and help Jen and her extended family get their dry staples into Mylar bags this coming weekend.

Prepared neighbors are a Very Good Thing, and Jen’s story made me wonder how many of our friends and neighbors are also preparing. I know of at least one family a couple houses down the street who’s doing so, but there may be others in our immediate neighborhood. It sure makes it easier to know that you’re not on your own.


Friday, 27 March 2015

08:54 – No confirmation yet, but some news sites are reporting that the co-pilot who intentionally crashed that German airliner was a convert to islam. That may be just speculation, but it may be fact. I expect we’ll hear more over the coming days. Or maybe not.

Here’s what I did to prep this week:

  • I added three 33 ounce (0.94 kilo) #10 cans of Augason Farms powdered whole eggs, each of which is the equivalent of six dozen medium eggs. Their best-by date is March of 2025, but in reality they’ll remain good far longer. You can order these directly from the Augason Farms website at $28.29 per can or from Sam’s Club at $66.98 per three pack ($22.33 per can), but Walmart has a much better price, at $17.00 per can with free shipping. That’s more expensive than fresh eggs, but pretty reasonable for dried powdered eggs in a #10 can. Not that I’m planning to have scrambled eggs or omelets in an emergency, although these work fine for that. These are for things like making up pancake batter, which requires one or two eggs per batch.
  • I added a 12-ounce jar of unsulfured molasses, which is sufficient to convert about 22 pounds (10 kilos) of granulated white sugar to brown sugar, at one tablespoon per cup. The advantage of rolling your own is that the shelf lives of white sugar and molasses are essentially unlimited, while brown sugar doesn’t store well.
  • I added about 80 liters (20 gallons) of stored tap water, which is about a 20 person-day emergency supply.
  • I finished reading King’s Under the Dome. It’s a decent novel, but not really prepping fiction.
  • I bought Bill Quick’s Lightning Fall, which is a prepping novel, and made it through about half the book last night. Quick has something like 20 traditionally-published SF titles to his credit and is a competent writer, but this one could have used a copy editor. Otherwise the book is fine. Quick is obviously a prepper himself.
  • I put in another couple days’ work on my non-fiction prepping book. In one sense, that shouldn’t count as prepping, but I do count it because it makes me think things through.

So, what precisely did you do this week? Tell me about it in the comments.


Thursday, 26 March 2015

09:19 – It now appears that that German airliner was intentionally crashed by a suicidal/homicidal maniac co-pilot who had locked the pilot out of the cockpit. No word yet on whether the co-pilot was a muslim nutcase or just an ordinary nutcase.

Barbara and I need something new to watch, so I’m burning DVDs of series eight of Heartland. The final episode doesn’t officially run until Sunday, but I have the first 17 episodes, which’ll hold us until I can get the final episode. They’re running a preview streaming of the final episode today in Canada, so it’ll probably be available via torrent tomorrow. I’ll probably burn these to DVD+RW discs rather than DVD+R because the official boxed set will be available for purchase by September or October. I’ve bought the official boxed sets for all seven available seasons as they’re released, and will continue doing so as long as the series continues.

Today I’ll be working on kit stuff and the prepping book. I have to make up 8 L of one solution for the biology kits and bottle it, which is the last thing I need to make up a bunch more biology kits.

The doorbell rang at 0643 yesterday. It was Hasani, one of the neighborhood kids, asking if he could borrow a cane for a school project. Barbara’s alarm is set for 0645. When it goes off, she showers and I take Colin out the front and get the paper. I see Hasani most mornings, so he knew we’d be up when he rang the bell.

Yesterday afternoon, I was talking to Mary, Kim’s mom, and she mentioned that they’d had a scare that morning. She said that someone rang their doorbell in the middle of the night and that she and Kim had called the police. At first Mary said it had been at 4 or 5 that morning, but when I mentioned Hasani ringing our bell at 0643 she said it might have been around then. I said I’d ask Hasana when he brought the cane back after school and Mary asked me not to say anything. She’s in her 80’s and is sometimes a bit vague, especially when she’d just woken up. I think she was worried that people would think she was foolish. I reassured her that she’d done exactly the right thing, which is also what the cops told her.

Of course, I asked Hasani if it had been him. He’s in middle school but he’s a really big boy, about as tall as I am. I told him that Mary and Kim had been scared when he rang their bell while it was still dark out. I didn’t want to make the kid think he’d done anything wrong, but told him that he needed to remember that women living on their own tend to be nervous about unexpected visitors when it’s dark out. I ignored Mary’s request because I wanted to make sure that it had been him and not a potential intruder. I’ll talk to Kim today and let her know that she doesn’t need to worry about the person who rang her doorbell.


Wednesday, 25 March 2015

08:52 – I got one of those obnoxious robocall IRS scam phone calls yesterday. I understand that most of these scam calls and most spam calls in general originate overseas, and I wonder why the feds aren’t giving them higher priority. I mean, we have SEAL teams operating internationally, kicking down doors and killing terrorists, who are a minor annoyance compared to these phone spammers. Why aren’t the SEAL teams tracking down and killing phone spammers instead?

Every morning I make the rounds of a dozen or so of the top prepping websites. I’m not sure why I bother. There’s seldom any new material worth reading, and it seems that most of these sites are simply attempting to monetize what material they do have at their readers’ expense.

Those attempts often come in the form of Amazon affiliate links, which I consider a questionable activity. You won’t find any affiliate links on this site or in the book, because I consider them a conflict of interest. People who click on them don’t pay any more, at least in theory, but I always wonder what motivated the authors to choose these particular products. Was it because they’re actually good products or because the author gets paid for recommending them?

Then there are the recommendations for outrageously expensive products like freeze-dried foods and MREs. I just read an article on one site that recommended one of those so-called 4-person/1-year food supplies and talked about what a bargain it was for only $5,000. Geez. At 1200 calories/day, it’s actually more like a 2-person/1-year supply, at $2,500 per person. And most of the food is bulk staples that can be purchased elsewhere at a small fraction of the price. But even that’s not as bad as the sites that recommend stocking up on MREs, which cost about $10 each for a 1200 calorie meal. Is anyone really crazy enough to spend $30,000 for enough MREs to feed a family of four for a year?

And it continues with stuff like $70 flashlights, $180 knives, $260 solar ovens, $500 solar battery chargers, and so on. All fine, assuming your audience can drop $100,000 on food and other supplies. Most people can’t. And, from what I can tell, most of these recommendations are thinly-veiled paid endorsements. The company sends the author a $260 solar oven or $500 solar battery charger. The author writes a glowing review, and wink-wink-nudge-nudge isn’t expected to return the product. To my way of thinking, that’s unethical bordering on fraud.

That’s why you won’t see me even using Amazon.com affiliate links, let alone accepting bribes in return for favorable reviews and links. I’m sure a $70 Streamlight is in some sense “better” than the $3.50 flashlights I recommend (and buy in quantity myself with my own money). But it’s not twenty times better in any respect, and if I were going to spend $70 on flashlight(s) I’d much rather have 20 of the $3.50 models than one Streamlight. I know from experience that those $3.50 flashlights are just fine. I’ve been carrying them myself for a couple of years now. I did a drop test with one of them, holding it over my head and dropping it on concrete ten times. It still worked, and didn’t even suffer any cosmetic damage. I have it in my jeans pocket right now. That’s the same flashlight that I (intentionally) ran over with my SUV. Again, no damage at all and it still works perfectly. Same deal on other stuff. The $35 Baofeng HT works fine, so you won’t see me recommending the similar $800 Yaesu model that one prepping blogger recommends. As Jerry Pournelle says, this inexpensive stuff is Good Enough.


Tuesday, 24 March 2015

08:49 – I’ve almost finished reading Under the Dome, so last night we decided to watch the series on Amazon streaming. The book isn’t bad, if you can get past clangers like cops carrying Beretta Taurus pistols, which is kind of like having them drive Ford Chevys. The series is utter crap. Bad writing and bad acting. We bagged it and started watching series seven of Mad Men on Netflix.

Speaking of bagging, I’m thinking it might be time to convert some of the cash in our bank accounts to bags of junk silver coins, one-ounce silver rounds, or perhaps 100-ounce bars, depending on the relative premia. Here’s one place that sells all three.


Monday, 23 March 2015

08:10 – We finished watching Saving Grace last night. I was kind of expecting her to end up with set of big, honking archangel wings like Earl. Her dog, Gus, would also have looked nice with a set of those wings, Alas, that was not to be. We started watching the Canadian series Orphan Black, which stars Tatiana Maslawny, who formerly played Kit Bailey on several episodes of Heartland.

Speaking of Heartland, I just grabbed S08E17, which ran last night. The final episode of series eight runs next Sunday. Amy and Ty will start series nine as a married couple, and I suspect that a little Ty or Amy won’t be far behind. My guess is that Amber Marshall forced their hand. She loves all small mammals and she’ll have been married two years this summer, so it wouldn’t surprise me if she’s expecting a small mammal of her own.

After reading my page yesterday, Barbara commented that she didn’t want to give up on the idea of relocating somewhere to our northwest just because there were chicken farms. I told her that I wasn’t giving up on the idea, but I want to find a place far from any large chicken farms. Over the coming months, we’ll be taking a few day trips to check out various areas. In the interim, I’m reasonably comfortable where we are.

Barbara watched some of the basketball tournament yesterday. I commented that I didn’t understand why anyone would watch that. It’s basically a bunch of underclass thugs, complete with gang colors and tats. I told Barbara that these guys are not ones she’d want to meet in a dark alley, or a well-lit one come to that.


Sunday, 22 March 2015

09:00 – Barbara is having a lie-in this morning. Ordinarily, she’s up by 7:30 on weekends but this morning she’s sleeping in. She needs the rest.

I’m rethinking where we should relocate. The paper has been running a series on industrial chicken farming and the stench it creates. North Carolina is in the top three states in the US in chicken and turkey production, and much of that goes on in the areas we’d been considering. Surry County and Wilkes County, two areas we’d been considering, are very high on the list. The chicken factories in Wilkes County alone produce close to 100 million chickens a year. That’s not something we’d want to live close to.

More kit stuff today.


10:30 – Barbara just cut my hair. As usual after a haircut, I’m feeling very weak. I don’t think I’ll be going out and destroying any pagan temples today, or slaying anything with the jawbone of an ass.