Tomorrow’s Post, but Today

11:30 – I was making up nitrogen-free fertilizer stock solutions for biology kits yesterday when it struck me again as so odd that I’m using reagent-grade chemicals to make up fertilizer solutions.

Each of the solutions contains macro- and/or micro-nutrients. We have to supply them as three separate solutions because if you try combining them in the concentrations needed for stock solutions, you get a nasty precipitate.

So I made up 15 liters of Fertilizer A, enough for 120 kits at 125 mL/kit. Fertilizer A is basically just a concentrated solution of monopotassium dihydrogen phosphate and dipotassium monohydrogen phosphate. (You use a specific mix of the two chemicals to maintain the proper pH.) Fertilizer A supplies potassium and phosphorus, both of which are macro-nutrients (The “PK” in “NPK”). That solution, as expected, turned out clear and water-white.

I went on to make up 2 liters of Fertilizer C, which provides calcium, cobalt, and boron ions. Again, that solution turned out clear and water-white.

Ah, but then I went on to make up 4 liters of Fertilizer B, again enough for about 120 kits at 30 mL per bottle, and provides magnesium, iron, copper, manganese, molybdenum, and zinc ions. What a mess. There’s not a precipitate per se, but the solution is a cloudy brown. Cloudy enough that I don’t want to run it through my dispenser pump, which is a precision instrument. So I guess I’ll hand-fill 120 30 mL bottles. Better that than buy a new dispenser pump.


Tuesday, 30 June 2015

11:30 – Science kit sales are picking up, as expected. We shipped five kits yesterday, and have three more queued up to ship today, assuming that PayPal releases the hold on two of them. We’re at about 150% of last June’s sales. June is always a slow month, but better than the dead months of February through May. The busy period is the two month stretch from mid-July through mid-September, when we can expect to do 40% to 50% of the year’s sales. We’ll likely have many good days during that period when we ship more kits than we do some weeks during slow periods. I’m still making up solutions, filling bottles, and shipping kits, never-ending tasks this time of year.

Thinking about solar power the other day, it struck me that I already have good inverters, in the form of true sine-wave inverters built into on-line UPSs. I have three of those, totaling about 3500 VA, and 3.5 KW is more than enough to power the stuff I’d want to run with sine-wave power. All I’d really need is few high-output solar panels, a charge controller, and some additional gel or lead-acid deep-charge batteries. I’m not sure what voltage the on-line UPSs convert the 120VAC to for recharging the batteries, but I suspect I could just put the UPSs and battery bank in close proximity to the PV panels and run a heavy-duty extension cord downstairs that wouldn’t normally have anything connected to it. The UPSs wouldn’t be connected to AC power other than for the initial charge, and would therefore run all the time as though the power had failed. I’ll have to do some research, but it seems as though it should work and save me the price of a 3.5 KW true sine-wave inverter.


13:34 – I get really tired of reading really bad prepping advice on websites. I just read one on theprepperjournal.com on water filters, where the author recommended the Platypus. That filter is one of the worst choices you could make. Here’s a detailed Amazon.com review that explains why. The reviewer actually knows what he’s talking about, in contrast to the author of the article, who doesn’t.

Monday, 29 June 2015

08:09 – It would appear that Greece is now officially toast. Capital controls are now in effect, Greeks are permitted to withdraw only €60/day from their accounts, and an in/out referendum is scheduled for next Sunday. Assuming that the Greek government is unable or unwilling to pay the €1.6 billion due to the IMF tomorrow, the IMF has already announced that it will consider Greece in default. No grace period.

Meanwhile, the “Greek Disease” is spreading, most recently to Puerto Rico, which has already announced it will be unable to make payments on its outstanding $72 billion debt unless the US federal government bails it out. With US taxpayers already on the hook via the IMF for a considerable portion of Greece’s bad debt to the IMF, that means our tax money will be going to pay the debts of both of these deadbeats.


13:45 – I’d forgotten what a PITA it is to fill bottles with glycerol. The stuff is so viscous that it simply doesn’t want to go into the bottle. Fortunately, viscosity decreases with temperature, so I put the glass dispenser reservoir in a deep tray of very hot water, allow it to sit there for several minutes with occasional swirling, and then fill 60 bottles. Rinse and repeat.

I’m hearing from private correspondents that things in Greece are a lot worse than the media is admitting. Although the capital controls apply only to cash, apparently many/most businesses in Greece have stopped accepting credit cards, presumably because they don’t believe they’ll be paid. I know that I wouldn’t accept any kit orders with a Greek shipping address. I might not be paid at all, and I if payment was honored it might be in worthless drachma, with a non-optional conversion factor applied. Greece is now pretty much a cash-only country. Given the way things are, I wouldn’t accept even a certified check, let alone a wire transfer.

My guess is that Greece will crash out of the euro in the coming weeks, and possibly as early as tomorrow–the so-called Grexident that people have been dreading. At this point, it’s clear that the welfare of the Greek people is the absolute last priority of the eurocrats. So much for EU solidarity. All of them are completely in favor of solidarity, unless it’s going to cost them money.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

08:25 – Interesting article in the paper this morning about the top ten causes of death in Forsyth County in 2014 versus 1914. The death rate is unchanged, at one per person, but the causes differ dramatically. In 1914, the top two killers were tuberculosis and diarrhea, and pellagra (niacin deficiency) was also in the top ten. None of those are on the current top ten list, of course. Cancer, the top killer in Forsyth County since 2004, when it took over #1 from heart disease, killed only 67 people in 1914. Alzheimer’s Disease was also in the Top Ten for 2014, although I wouldn’t have thought that Alzheimer’s ever actually killed anyone. Heart disease, infectious diseases, accidents, and murder are perennially in or near the Top Ten, but that’s been true since record-keeping began back in Classical Roman times.

Email from Jen, who said she was embarrassed to report that they hadn’t done anything to prep last week. I told her that was fine, in my opinion. They’re already pretty well set, so any additions they make will be incremental. If they want to take a week or a month off and just focus on living their lives, that’s their business. We’re doing pretty much the same right now pending the move, so I’m in no position to be a pot calling the kettle black. Or is that a micro-aggression?



Saturday, 27 June 2015

07:15 – Things are a lot more pleasant around here now that the heat wave has broken. I had Barbara pick up a bottle of barbecue sauce at the supermarket yesterday because I wanted to try making barbecue sandwiches with the Keystone Meats canned pork. I could have made the sauce myself with stuff we stock, but I just wanted to try the pork without spending too much time in the kitchen. So we had barbecue sandwiches for dinner last night. Barbara is used to the Western North Carolina barbecue, which uses a thin, vinegary sauce, but I think she liked the Kansas City sauce just fine. KC sauce is, after all, just a derivative of Western North Carolina barbecue sauce. She’s still not crazy about any kind of canned meat. I agree that fresh meat is better, but the canned pork was certainly okay.

A lot of my time this week was devoted to working on science kit stuff, including development work on a new kit, but here’s what I did to prep this week:

  • I spent a lot of time on relocation research issues, as well as figuring out what needs to be done to continue our kit business uninterrupted while we’re in the process of moving.
  • I spent more time researching solar power. As of now, we have what we need to keep a reasonable number of AA and AAA cells recharged using only the sun, but my goal eventually is get beyond that. It’ll be a long time, if ever, before we have a full off-grid solar installation, but I intend to make incremental progress over the coming months and years. Prices have fallen dramatically and will continue to fall, so I’m not in a hurry to buy solar panels, controllers, inverters, batteries, and related gear. Nor am I interested in a grid-connected system or selling back power to the utility company. We’ll eventually have an off-grid solar system, or perhaps a grid-connected system, but never a grid-linked system.

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


16:33 – We just got back from a trip to West Jefferson, where we looked at seven houses. Five, we ruled out; two are possibles. Of those two, my favorite is a 2,500 square foot ranch with a full basement, sitting on a bit less than an acre. That’s 2500 SF of living area on the main floor, with an extra 1,800 SF of unfinished basement, with the remaining 700 SF being basement garage area. It was built in 1951, which means it was built without the shortcuts that builders started making in the 60’s and 70’s, such as eliminating a row or two of concrete block from the basement walls to yield a 7-foot ceiling rather than the previously standard 8 feet. All carpeted, but with hardwood floors under the carpet. Like the other house we liked, this one was listed as having two full baths, but both also had an extra bath with sink/toilet/shower in the basement. Both also had completely dry basements, in contrast to the five rejects, all of which had water problems.

One of the homes was obviously owned by preppers. It’s a dead giveaway when there are piles of cartons in the basement with labels like “Beans – 2012”. Several of the homes had shelves in the basement loaded with scores to hundreds of canning jars, but that’s par for the course in the mountains. The one we liked best also had a spare stove in the basement next to the laundry area, which tells me that a serious canner lived there.

There should be a lot more homes coming on the market in the next month or two, so we’ll schedule another trip to see what’s newly available. But I don’t think we’ll have any problem finding something that suits us and is within our budget.

Friday, 26 June 2015

08:00 – More science kit stuff today.

I knew when we started the science kit business that we would be doing something important, but it’s becoming increasingly clear to me just how important it is. The future of this country, assuming it has one, will come down to home-schooled kids, who are the only ones nowadays who are getting a real education. Public schools have become all about progressive indoctrination. Home-schooled kids are the only ones who are learning about–to borrow a phrase–truth, justice, and the American way. We have to give them the tools they need. So we’ll continue doing our small bit to contribute to that.

On that note, I’ll go back to making up chemical solutions and filling bottles. That seems pretty mundane, but it’s important.



09:05 – I really like these gallon bottles that Costco uses for purified water. They actually hold a gallon when filled to the neck. In fact, for our purposes, they might as well be huge volumetric flasks. I can judge to 3.8 liters ± about 0.5% just by looking at the fill level in the neck. Also, the labels come off without leaving a bunch of adhesive on the bottle. Finally, they’re polyethylene terephthalate, which is the ideal plastic for most chemical solutions other than strong acids or bases. I’m running short of gallon containers, so I’m going to empty one or two of them into 2-liter bottles today so I can use the bigger bottles for chemical solutions. That’ll also cut down on refrigerator space for Barbara’s water.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

08:01 – With a high of 95F, today is to be the last of our recent stretch of extremely hot weather. Tomorrow and the next several days are to have highs in the 80’s, and lows in the lower 60’s and upper 50’s. I blame it on global cooling.

Many of our kit customers buy a biology kit one year and a chemistry kit the next, or vice versa, so we decided to create a combined biology/chemistry kit that eliminates the duplication in equipment and a few chemicals. By doing that, we can sell the combined kit for about $40 less than the total price of the two kits purchased separately.

I want to have this combined kit available to ship by the first of August, and ideally sooner, so I needed to get started on it now. I spent yesterday finalizing the kit contents and getting the web pages needed to sell it set up. I’ll continue work on that today and, if necessary, tomorrow. Then we’ll get a prototype built and figure out the minor details like what size shipping box is needed, how to pack it, and so on.

This is the kind of thing that Barbara being available full time will greatly aid. Having her available to do a lot of the stuff I do now will free me up to design more kits, write manuals, and so on.

Someone sent me a link to an article that suggests we’re approaching Peak Leftism, and suggested that I might feel foolish if we relocate only to find that progressivism has spluttered to a halt and that we’ve returned to sanity in this country. Well, no. In the first place, I don’t believe that’s going to happen, no matter who’s elected. In the second place, I’d want to relocate to a small town even if things were normal now.


14:38 – I’m just back from the dentist, where I had my fangs cleaned, polished, and sharpened. I asked the dentist about having new fangs installed, like that guy in the old James Bond movies. Apparently, that’s not a standard procedure, at least not yet.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

08:40 – The paper this morning is full of articles about state governments banning the Confederate flag and retailers pulling Confederate flag merchandise from their shelves. I’m not sure what the furor is about. I understand that the Confederate flag offends many people. So what? There’s no Constitutional right not to be offended. There is a Constitutional right to Free Speech. If retailers choose not to sell Confederate flag merchandise, fine. That’s their right. But the government does not have the right to ban its production, sale, or display.

To those who claim that the Confederate flag is a racist symbol, I say bullshit. There were two major symbols that represented the two sides during the War Between the States. The Union flag represented just that: a powerful centralized government usurping States’ Rights. The Confederate flag represented just that: a confederacy of sovereign states. That’s it. Period. It had nothing to do with race. Both whites and blacks fought voluntarily on both sides. Union soldiers were fighting to force sovereign states to abdicate their sovereignty in favor of a centralized federal government. Confederate soldiers were fighting to preserve their states’ sovereignty. The bad guys won. It’s that simple.

The Greek farce continues. Yesterday, briefly, it seemed that Greece, or at least Tsipras, might be ready to give in to the Troika demands. The problem is, Tsipras reminds me of the reason the Brits don’t trust the Irish. Back in the day, the Brits and Irish had many pitched battles. The Brits might capture the Irish chieftain and demand surrender. He’d surrender, but the Irish troops would continue fighting on. Their position was the the chieftain had surrendered on his own behalf, but he certainly wasn’t authorized to surrender on their behalf. So the Irish would elect a new chieftain, and the Brits would be left holding the bag. Think of Tsipras as that Irish chieftain. He may surrender to the Troika, but the Greeks will simply throw him out and elect someone new. Which is what’s about to happen to Tsipras, and he knows it. So today he’s a lot more intransigent than he was yesterday.

And it gets worse, because the Troika is not a monolithic bloc. The real problem now is that the IMF rightly says that Greece’s debt burden is unsustainable and the only option is to write it off. The IMF won’t participate in any further Greek bailouts unless the EU and ECB write down their Greek debt holdings. But they can’t do that, even though they know Greece will never pay them back, because recognizing the loss makes it obvious to their taxpayers (AKA voters) that their governments have wasted their hard-earned money by giving it to a deadbeat. So, no deal without the IMF, and the IMF won’t participate unless the eurocrats commit political suicide.


Tuesday, 23 June 2015

08:00 – Another hot one today, with the high forecast to be body temperature. Colin and I won’t be spending much time outdoors today.

I’m still making up chemical solutions for kits, four or eight liters at a time. This coming weekend and the following one, we’ll be filling bottles, thousands and thousands of them. I run the dispenser pump to fill the bottles, Barbara caps. By 1 August, we need to have chemical bags and the other subassemblies built for hundreds and hundreds of kits to accommodate the rush from early August through mid-September. Actually boxing up the kits doesn’t take much time. We can do final assembly of 100+ kits a day easily, assuming we have the subassemblies ready to go.

The Greek farce continues, with the Troika (the IMF, the EU, and the European Central Bank) debating whether or not to lend Greece (I almost typed “Greed”) more money that they will then turn around and use to pay loans coming due to … The Troika. That way, everyone can continue to pretend that Greece isn’t a deadbeat that has already defaulted continuously for a decade and has been bankrupt as long as anyone now alive can remember. Greece is a failed country. Greece has always been a failed country. The Kabuki Theater that’s been going on for a decade now is simply the attempt of the politicians to give themselves a fig leaf so that their voters won’t realize that this has all been taxpayer money down the drain and what’s happening now is simply throwing away good money after bad.



14:38 – I’m taking a lesson from Barbara here. When she wants to be sure she’ll be able to recover information later, she posts it on her page.

How To Install kompozer

Kompozer was dropped from the repos, since it is no longer maintained in Debian. But, you can still install it on newer releases.

Use packages from 12.04 Precise

These packages are installable on at least the 12.10, 13.04, 14.04 and 15.04 releases.

First, install dependencies:

sudo apt-get install libatk1.0-0 libc6 libcairo2 libfontconfig1 libfreetype6 libgdk-pixbuf2.0-0 libglib2.0-0 libgtk2.0-0 libidl0 libnspr4 libnss3 libpango1.0-0 libpng12-0 libstdc++6 libx11-6 libxft2 libxinerama1 libxrender1 libxt6 zlib1g

Then, get the two packages, and install them in the correct order.

For 32bit systems:

wget https://launchpad.net/ubuntu/+archive/primary/+files/kompozer-data_0.8%7Eb3.dfsg.1-0.1ubuntu2_all.deb
wget https://launchpad.net/ubuntu/+archive/primary/+files/kompozer_0.8%7Eb3.dfsg.1-0.1ubuntu2_i386.deb
sudo dpkg -i kompozer-data_0.8~b3.dfsg.1-0.1ubuntu2_all.deb
sudo dpkg -i kompozer_0.8~b3.dfsg.1-0.1ubuntu2_i386.deb

for 64bit systems:

wget https://launchpad.net/ubuntu/+archive/primary/+files/kompozer-data_0.8%7Eb3.dfsg.1-0.1ubuntu2_all.deb
wget https://launchpad.net/ubuntu/+archive/primary/+files/kompozer_0.8%7Eb3.dfsg.1-0.1ubuntu2_amd64.deb
sudo dpkg -i kompozer-data_0.8~b3.dfsg.1-0.1ubuntu2_all.deb
sudo dpkg -i kompozer_0.8~b3.dfsg.1-0.1ubuntu2_amd64.deb

You can now find kompozer in the menu.

Monday, 22 June 2015

07:24 – Email from Jen, who happened to look out one of her windows Saturday and noticed a scruffy person trespassing in their yard. Jen went outside, carrying although not pointing her shotgun, and challenged the person. He told her he was looking for some people whom Jen had never heard of. She told him that he was on private property and to clear out. He left without incident, but Jen said she was still shaken when she phoned her husband at his office and the sheriff, in that order.

They already have an alarm system, and Jen is well armed and a competent shooter, but now she’s feeling vulnerable. She’s aware that if the guy was intending to break the law, his intent was probably nothing more than stealing something easy to carry off and resell, but as she said she doesn’t know for sure. He might have been a serial rapist or murderer.

So now she and her husband are talking about possible ways to secure their property. They talked about fencing the perimeter of their property, but doing so would be extremely expensive. And, as I pointed out, a perimeter fence provides no real security against intrusion unless it blocks the entire perimeter, including the drive, and is under constant watch. I suggested that a large male dog or two would do more to discourage intruders than spending tens of thousands of dollars on a fence.

I told her that if they want to limit access to their property, a living fence, AKA hedge, is much cheaper and much, much more effective than any affordable fence. Something like trifoliate orange or pyracantha, planted close together in a double or triple row, will stop just about anything, including vehicles. The only real downside is that it takes a while to get established and grow to a useful size.