Monday, 31 August 2015

08:52 – Barbara and I have been watching series five of Downton Abbey on Amazon Prime streaming. We’ll watch the last episode tonight. There’s supposed to be a series six, but with the way things are going in the UK I wonder how much longer they’ll be turning out series like this.

I’m still working heads-down on science kit stuff. I want to be ready to roll out several new science kits for 2016, including at least two or three classroom kits. When we started this business, we intended to focus exclusively on home schoolers. We’ve been surprised at the number of kits we sell to public and private high schools and even to colleges, universities, and government departments. So right now I’m working on expanding that part of our business. There’s a lot of room to grow there, but there’s a lot of work to be done to get there.

Saturday, 29 August 2015

08:08 – When I opened the morning paper, I was surprised to see a full-page color spread devoted to emergency preparedness. I’d forgotten that September is officially National Emergency Preparedness Month. Of course it was the usual inadequate 3-day list that FEMA pushes, with no mention of being prepared to defend yourself, but it’s better than nothing. The sad thing is that probably 90% of the American public aren’t prepared even at this level.

Of course, that percentage varies with circumstances and region. Right now, for example, a much higher percentage of the population of South Florida is preparing to hunker down to await the arrival of a hurricane. Before long, though, it’ll be back to business as usual for them.

More science kit stuff for us this weekend.

Friday, 28 August 2015

07:33 – Who would have believed even a few years ago that the European financial crisis, which remains an existential threat to the EU, would turn out to be a mere sideshow? The real threat now is the invasion of Europe by millions of undesirables, mostly muslims. Americans who are rightly concerned about the invasion of the US by millions of Mexican undesirables should thank their lucky stars. Sure, a disturbingly high percentage of those Mexican wetbacks are murderers, rapists, drug dealers, and other scum, but most illegal Mexican immigrants want nothing more than a better life, albeit at taxpayer expense. The muslims who are invading Europe have no intention of assimilating. They intend to make Europe theirs, another outpost of their perverted so-called culture.

And Europe has even fewer controls on illegal immigration than the US does. As of now, Europe has essentially no national borders, and would have no way to defend them against such an invasion even if it did. Even the UK, Europe’s last bastion of semi-sanity, has already been invaded by upwards of five million who were born outside not just the UK but the EU, and Merkel is currently attempting to force the UK to accept hundreds of thousands more of them. Per year. Will there always be an England? Not the way things are going now.

Hint to Europe: the only way to respond to such an invasion is to use armed force. These aren’t “refugees” or “immigrants”. These are invaders, and the proper response is to slaughter them wholesale until they realize that they aren’t welcome in Europe. If Italy had any sense, it wouldn’t be using its navy to rescue these invaders. It would be cordoning off its waters with gunboats with orders to sink any boat or ship attempting to enter their waters illegally. If the UK had any sense, it would block its end of the Chunnel with military forces with orders to machine gun anyone attempting to enter illegally. Haul the bodies in garbage trucks to the sea and toss them to the sharks. Because that’s what these invaders are: garbage. Men, women, and children. None of them belong in Europe, let alone the UK.

Truth be told, it’s too late for continental Europe. It’s toast. Even if it had the will, which it doesn’t, it no longer has the means. The barbarians are not just at the gates, but among them. The muslim invasion has succeeded. But the UK at least still has a chance, albeit a small one, to stem this tide and fight off the invaders. But I’ll be surprised if the UK takes any effective measures to defend itself. The British government isn’t what it once was, nor is the RN, the RAF, or the British Army.

I finished season one of Jericho (2006) on Netflix streaming. This is my third time through. Barbara and I watched it once on DVD soon after it ran originally and then I convinced her to watch it a second time on Netflix streaming a year or so ago. It gets better and less confusing with multiple viewings.

This time through, I’m appreciating more just how nuanced the plotting and writing are. I could have done without the terrorist plot thread that runs through the whole series. I’d have preferred they just deal with the aftermath, its effects on a small community, the personalities, and how they deal with it, but that’s a minor nit. Within the limitations of a network TV series, they did an excellent job. Sure, there are quite a few minor issues with it. For example, a month or two after the EOTAWKI, they have a group gathered in someone’s home, with the room illuminated by literally dozens of candles and battery lanterns. One would think that at that point they’d be trying hard to conserve candles and batteries. And the writers seem to think that barricades of old cars and wooden pallets will stop bullets, when of course they won’t even slow them down much. But again, those are minor nits. The situations and scenarios are realistic, as is the behavior of the many characters. I wish it had run for more than a season and a half.

If you’re at all concerned about the state of things, I’d strongly recommend that you binge-watch this series. Watch it two or three times, and think about it. Think about how you’d deal with the issues that they bring up. It’s fiction, not a non-fiction preppers’ manual, but a key part of prepping is mental preparedness, deciding what you’ll do if a particular thing happens. For that, Jericho is excellent.

Nearly all of my time this week was devoted to working on science kit stuff, but here’s what I did to prep this week:

  • I bought a case of two dozen 12-ounce cans of Harvest Creek Pulled Pork from Costco. I wanted to compare this product against the Keystone Meats pulled pork, which Barbara thinks is just okay in barbecue sandwiches. If she likes this stuff at least as well as the Keystone product, we’ll standardize on it for pulled pork. I’d been paying Walmart $3.59/pound for the Keystone pork in 28-ounce cans. The 12-ounce cans of Harvest Creek pork are $3.33/pound, and are also a better size for us than the 28-ounce cans. Keystone pork is available in 14.5-ounce cans, but at a noticeably higher price per ounce.
  • I bought another case of two dozen 11-ounce cans of Crider Chicken Bologna from Costco. I tried a can of this mechanically-separated chicken. It’s okay, if a bit bland, but it is cheap meat protein at under $2/pound. It can be sliced for sandwiches or cut into chunks for stir-fry, stews, casseroles, etc. It’s basically just chicken meat.

With what we already have, that’ll do for now in terms of shelf-stable meats, other than periodically replacing what we use. If we ever do need to eat solely from long-term storage, our diet will be considerably lighter in meat than it is now, but we’ll have enough to get along.

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

Thursday, 27 August 2015

07:56 – Many of the alternative news sites are claiming that the shootings in Virginia yesterday are identical to the Charleston church shootings a couple of months ago, a racist shooter killing people of another race and then posting a long racist manifesto. The white shooter in Charleston was described by MSM reports as a white racist targeting innocent black people simply because they were black, which is an accurate summary. The black shooter in Virginia was described by MSM reports as a troubled man who targeted former co-workers in an incident of workplace violence, and then posted a long racist manifesto. The implication is that the Virginia murders were not racially motivated, or at least not exclusively so, and that while the Charleston shooter was an evil racist, the Virginia shooter was merely mentally ill. There’s a kernel of truth in that, because the Virginia shooter didn’t go out and shoot up a bunch of random white people but instead targeted two specific white people who were known to him. But the effect is the same, regardless of the two shooters’ specific motivations. Charleston gave ordinary black people yet another reason to mistrust whites; Virginia gave ordinary white people yet another reason to mistrust blacks. As if either group needed that.

I received the following email from a long-time reader, and am posting it with his permission. I think it provides a valuable perspective on prepping.

Hello Bob!

If you are willing to share, I would love a copy of chapter one of you next book. I think your openness about your writing process, in addition to the work you do in general, is one of the things I admire about what you do.

I am slowly working at building my stocks of useful supplies, food, weapons, medicine, etc. It has been on my list for several years now.

My life took a serious slide sideways five years ago, when my wife, Karen, was diagnosed with breast cancer. She passed away a few months ago, at 48 years old. I am rebuilding everything, almost from scratch, with a new house and what we had in storage. At the end of 2011 we sold our home and eventually moved into my sister’s house to afford medical expenses. About the only thing I gained from the last year Karen spent in hospice care were the medical supplies. I have bandages and medicines by the crate full.

I am sharing this, not for sympathy, but as an anecdote on how preparedness can help, even when disaster is limited to immediate family. It is a bit of a ramble. My apologies.

A few months before Karen was diagnosed with cancer, I was explaining to my daughter, then about ten years old, how even though we have a nice home and I have a good job, there is no guarantee that will always be true. We could lose the home suddenly, and may need to live in a way very different than before to survive. It turned out that we did.

Preparedness is not just about what you have in the cupboards. It is also communicating with your family, your dependents, about what could happen, and what you might do about it. It may not be a written plan, but a form of awareness and expectations. It is about being able to have reasoned discussions about possibilities, and not get stuck in a “this could never happen to us” frame of mind, thereby denying conversation. I avoided unsustainable debts, and now that our circumstances have changed, I am able to afford a home again. That took awareness and planning, and a family that realistically accepted the situation. There were tears and complaints, but no denial. We could always discuss issues freely, and make reasoned choices, even when we had no certainty on what might happen in a week or even the next day.

I’ll leave out my gripes about health care insurance.

Interestingly, my daughter, soon to be sixteen, is now fully onboard with “prepping”. She told me yesterday she is interested in being more comfortable with different guns and how to be a better shot. She already has basic self-defense skills, and various martial-arts weapons, which is nice. She also likes that we are building our food stocks and even suggested we have a practice weekend using only stored supplies. This was not from direct prompting by me, but her realization that it makes sense should the world change around her. I think our experience was a lesson, and she learned from it. Another good thing, I guess, to come from an unpleasant time.

I am also hoping I can un-pack my lab gear soon, which I mothballed. Cancer sucks.

Thanks for taking the time to read this, and for doing what you do. It is inspiring.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

08:45 – The morning paper reports that a woman was killed Monday evening by a dog, which of course was described as a “pit bull”. Another woman who came to the first woman’s aid was also attacked. Fortunately for her, a cop arrived just in time to shoot the dog as it was attempting to drag her from the car in which she was trying to take refuge. The dog had apparently escaped from the owner’s home during a thunderstorm by climbing out of a window. No charges have been filed.

World stock markets are still in turmoil, with mixed results yesterday. The Chinese market was down yesterday by more than 7%,for a total loss of more than 20% over the last four days. The US market was down again, but only by about 1.3%. A few markets showed small gains yesterday, but the trend this morning is down. As I said, the real indicator will be the market closes this coming Friday. If the markets haven’t started to recover by then, things could get dire. Apparently, the hope is that investors will be bargain-hunting and start to scarf up these stocks. The problem is, equities are still way overvalued, so there still aren’t many real bargains to be found even at current prices. I make no attempt to predict the stock market. As far as I’m concerned, J. P. Morgan got it right about predicting the market, so there’s no point to wasting time reading predictions by so-called experts. What’s going to happen is what’s going to happen. We’ll all find out when it actually happens.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

08:14 – One of the interesting aspects of offering a free sample chapter of the prepping book is all the emails I get from people whose names I don’t recognize because they never post comments here, including a disproportionate number of women. Maybe 1% of my male readers ever post a comment here; for female readers, it’s probably more like 0.1%. Given that my readership is probably 10:1 male:female, that means we see very, very few comments from women. Perhaps I’ve made this journal unfriendly to women. If so, it’s not intentional and I regret that I seem to attract mostly you crotchety old bastards who are always commenting.

Yesterday’s stock market crash seems to be leveling out, although a significant minority of observers believe much worse things are imminent and even most of the optimists appear to be badly shaken. If one thing is clear, it’s that China is out of control. Yesterday wasn’t the big crash that a lot of people are expecting, but that doesn’t mean they’re wrong. The big crash is coming, maybe not today or next month or even this year, but it is coming. And when it comes it seems likely that it will start in China and quickly flood over the EU like a tsunami. The US and Canada are the only real havens. They’ll both take severe hits, but nothing like the rest of the world.

Barbara’s first day back at work yesterday was uneventful. She’s turning things over to the several people who will replace her, teaching them what she does. It sounds like her final five weeks at work will be relatively calm, which is a good thing.

If you’d like a PDF copy of Chapter 1 of the prepping book, email me at thompson (at) ttgnet (dot) com with the subject line “book sample”. I’ll send you the PDF.

10:34 – At Lynn’s suggestion, I just added the following text as a sidebar in Chapter 1.

What About Cooling?

Cold can kill, but so can heat, particularly the elderly, infants, and others who are less able than most people to tolerate high temperatures and humidity. With power down, the lack of air conditioning can be a lethal threat to these vulnerable people.

Unfortunately, it takes a lot of power to run a whole-house air conditioning system, much more than is practical for most people to make provision for. Keeping whole-house air conditioning running during a power outage requires a very large generator and the fuel to run it.

If you must have cooling, there are two practical options:

First, you can buy a high-efficiency, inverter-based generator1, store enough fuel to run it for the expected duration of the power outage, and use it to power a small portable or window air conditioner to cool one room.

Second, you can do what our ancestors did before there was air conditioning. If you still have running water, use cool water for frequent cooling baths or showers. Utility water usually comes from the tap at about the average year-round temperature for your location. For example, the annual average temperature in Dallas, Texas is about 67 °F and that of Boston, Massachusetts is about 52 °F, so utility water temperatures in those cities are normally within ±5 or 10 °F of those temperatures. (Oddly, the water temperature is usually somewhat higher in cold months and somewhat lower in warm months because it takes six months or so for air temperature changes to penetrate the soil to the depth at which water pipes are usually buried.) Utility water at 65 or 70 °F is far enough below body temperature that bathing or showering in it will cool you down quickly. In fact, spending too long in cool water can produce hypothermia.

If you don’t have running water, use whatever water you do have. Other than shallow ponds, the temperature of natural water sources like streams, rivers, and lakes is usually much lower than the ambient air temperature.

Monday, 24 August 2015

07:35 – Stock markets around the world are crashing as they open this morning. European markets had lost a quarter of a trillion dollars in nominal value by lunchtime. Wall Street isn’t likely to be an exception. This looks to be more than just profit-taking.

The morning paper has an article about a new group in Charlotte that’s protesting police shootings. It’s called True Healing Under God and goes by T.H.U.G. I am not making this up.

Barbara goes back to work this morning. Her last day at the firm is in five weeks. I’ll be glad to have her working at home with me.

12:32 – Someone emailed me to ask if I would be willing to send him part of the book that covers getting started. That sounds like a good idea to me, so I’ll throw that open to my other readers. If you’d like a PDF copy of Chapter 1, email me at thompson (at) ttgnet (dot) com with the subject line “book sample”. I’ll send you the PDF that I just sent him.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

09:03 – We need to make up more biology kits today. We’re down to seven finished biology kits in stock, which might last a few days or might last just one day. We’re in a little better shape on chemistry kits, but not much. We have 15 of those in stock, so building another batch of those is next.

Barbara goes back to work tomorrow. Five weeks left until her last day. Between now and then, I need to get us both signed up for Obamacare. It’ll be a big change, having her at home all day, but a good one for all of us. Colin will be delighted, once it sinks in that it’s not just a weekend, but permanent. Of course, it’ll be even harder for him when she goes on trips, because by then he’ll be expecting her to be home all day every day.

With Barbara available full-time, we’ll be able to ramp up the science kit business, both in terms of volume and the number of different types of kits we offer. Doubling our full-time staff from one to two should allow us to triple or quadruple sales volume and revenues, which is about as big as I want to get.

I’ve been wanting to expand down into middle-school science kits, including earth science and physical science, as well as adding AP-level kits for biology and chemistry. I also want to add classroom kits. We already sell a lot of our homeschool kits to homeschool co-ops, public and private high schools, universities, and so on, but having kits specifically for classroom use should allow us to expand that business significantly.

Saturday, 22 August 2015

08:07 – Barbara got home around 8:15 last night. Colin and I are delighted.

Email from Jen yesterday. She and her husband spent an evening with another couple who are good friends of theirs, and the subject of prepping came up. Jen’s group is made up of her husband and her, Jen’s brother, his wife, and their two teenagers. The other couple also has six in their group; the two of them, two sons in their early 20’s who still live at home, and a third, older, son and his wife, who live nearby. The other couple lives about 30 miles from Jen, in an area equally suitable to hunkering down, and are prepared at about the same level as Jen and her family, which is to say high.

Apparently, the discussion went from the general to the specific pretty quickly. Jen’s husband mentioned that they’d considered and rejected the idea of buying a place up at the lake, just in case they needed a refuge other than their home. The other couple also intends to hunker down at home, but has concerns about what they’ll do if they do need to evacuate. They eventually came to the obvious conclusion; that each family could serve as the evacuation destination for the other. They all know and like each other, and both families have homes large enough to easily accommodate another half dozen people in an emergency.

Which raised the issue of supplies. Enough food to keep six people fed for a year is enough to keep 12 people fed for only six months. Obviously, if one or the other family needed to evacuate they’d try to haul as much of their supplies and gear along as possible, but there are no guarantees. So both families decided that it made sense to boost their long-term food storage by adding enough bulk staples to support additional people. They both have the storage space available, and the relatively small cost of a couple grand for six person-years of flour, sugar, beans, oil, etc. isn’t a big issue for either. And, as Jen said, even if neither family needs to evacuate that just means they’ll both have what they need to feed themselves for another year, which is no bad thing.

I also had an interesting conversation with Linda, whose daughter and her husband live next door. We stood there talking for half an hour or so. Linda and Danny are maybe five or eight years older than Barbara and me. They’re just regular country people who’ve worked all their lives to get by, and Linda says she’s really worried and disgusted by what’s happening. She volunteered that she and Danny own only one firearm, a .22 that she bought for Danny soon after they were married, and that she thinks they need more guns. Things have really gotten bad when there are nice 60-something church ladies like Linda contemplating shooting people to defend themselves.

11:45 – Yet another email from Jen. Her brother, Jim, and his wife Claire visit Jen frequently, and about half the time they make a Sam’s Club or Costco run on their way over. Jen says the four of them start the visit by hauling stuff from Jim and Claire’s SUV down to the basement, where they stack it to deal with it later. Jen never knows what they’ll bring along. Last time, it was a couple 50 pound bags of flour, 50 more pounds of pasta, a dozen #10 cans of assorted fruit, vegetables, and baked beans, two dozen cans of chicken, and four cases of water. Jen says quite a bit of stuff has accumulated, enough that they need to have another weekend repackaging party, but she needs to order more Mylar bags and oxygen absorbers from LDS on-line before they can do that.