Friday, 21 August 2015

08:39 – Barbara returns sometime this afternoon or this evening, which means Colin and I need to get rid of the nekkid women and dead bodies. Fortunately, we get recycling pickup (blue cart) and trash pickup (black cart) today, so I figure we’ll recycle the nekkid women and toss the corpses in the trash. Or vice versa. We got yard waste pickup (green cart) yesterday, but neither Colin nor I was quite ready to get rid of the nekkid women. Or the dead bodies.

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 box of 15 packets of Oral Rehydration Salts, with each packet sufficient to make up a one-liter serving. Actually, we stock the chemicals we’d need to make up hundreds of liters of ORS solution on-the-fly, but I wanted the commercial product to shoot an image for the book. Also, it’s not a bad idea to have these on hand for an emergency, and they’re cheap enough. What’s bizarre is that they have an expiration date two years after the manufacturing date. All the packets contain is anhydrous glucose and some inorganic salts, all of which have real shelf lives measured in centuries or millennia. These won’t go bad any time soon.
  • I continued work on our long-term food storage inventory spreadsheet. Overall, we’re in pretty good shape, although there are a couple areas that need attention.

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

11:49 – When I was talking to Kim yesterday, she mentioned that her aunt had just been taken by ambulance to the hospital. I figured she must be pretty old, since Kim’s mother, Mary, is in her mid-80’s. I asked Kim if this was her mother’s sister or her dad’s. Kim said, no, that it was actually her great-aunt, her mother’s aunt. My estimate of the patient’s age went way up.

When I talked to Mary this morning, she said her aunt had a urinary tract infection. UTIs can be very serious, particularly in older women, where they’re often asymptomatic until the infection is well advanced. One of the standard treatments for UTIs in patients who can tolerate sulfa drugs is sulfamethoxazole/trimethoprim, AKA SMZ/TMP. Like all sulfas, sulfamethoxazole is a broad-spectrum antibiotic, which is useful for a lot more than UTIs. But bacterial resistance to sulfas is pretty widespread, so they’re often used in combination with TMP or another DHFR inhibitor. The two in combination work synergistically and are more effective in most situations than sulfas used alone.

From a prepping standpoint, a lot of people buy Thomas Labs Bird Sulfa tablets, which contain 400 mg of SMZ and 80 mg of TMP each, or Fish Sulfa Forte, which are twice that amount. The problem is the cost, which is $0.50 per tablet or thereabouts. Here’s one place that sells bottles of 500 SMZ/TMP tablets (800/160 mg) for $115, or less than half the cost per tablet. If you’re storing antibiotics for a large family or group, you might want to grab a bottle and stick it in the freezer.

Note that I am not a doctor. I don’t even play one on TV. Sulfa drugs would not be my first choice of a broad-spectrum antibiotic, not least because severe sulfa allergies are quite common. But SMZ/TMP is effective against a pretty large number of bacterial pathogens, and it’s something I’d want in my toolkit.

I just added a new category that I’ll use when I write about something that I’ve found that’s particularly important or a particularly good deal.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

07:38 – Only one more day until Barbara gets home. She called yesterday around lunchtime to remind me to fire up Thunderbird on her notebook and download and delete all the spam so she wouldn’t have a ton of it to deal with when she returns.

As I was doing that, a message popped up telling me that the system was going to reboot automatically in 14 minutes and 50 seconds and suggesting that I save any unsaved work. I canceled out of that window, finished what I was doing in Thunderbird, and clicked on the MS icon in the taskbar. Turns out it was about to upgrade Barbara’s notebook to Windows 10. I called her back and we decided to discuss it after she gets home.

She’s using a low-end Dell notebook. I bought two identical ones when I was having problems getting postage labels printed on the USPS site. I signed up with, which has Windows and Mac clients, but no Linux clients, so I needed a Windows system. Two, actually, one for backup. But USPS has been rock solid for months now, so I finally canceled my account and no longer need a Windows system, let alone two.

I think I’m going to suggest to Barbara that we upgrade her system to Linux Mint. I’ll pull the Windows drives from both of our notebooks and replace them with SSDs for better performance. While I’m at it, I’ll also upgrade the RAM from 4 GB to 8 GB or more.

I finished watching Heartland series 7 last night. I couldn’t find the series 8 discs, so instead of burning another set I just started re-watching Jericho on Netflix streaming. It’s by far the best of the PA series I’ve seen. Yes, there are a few howlers–like the doctor telling someone who’s been exposed to fallout to take two tablespoons of iodine solution PO–but overall they get it right. And the doctor did at least tell the patient to take the iodine with some canned peaches. Those contain vitamin C, which would convert the corrosive, toxic native iodine to harmless iodide ions. The writing is tight, the acting is decent, and the scenario is plausible. Within the limitations of a TV series, they did an excellent job.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

08:12 – Only two more days until Barbara gets home. Colin reminded me that there was some supermarket roast beast sandwich meat in the refrigerator that needed to be eaten, so we had roast beast sandwiches and potato chips for dinner last night.

Since Barbara left, Colin and I have gotten through the first 15 episodes of Heartland series 7, leaving three more episodes to watch tonight to finish up series 7. Colin watches the livestock; I watch Amber Marshall. Then we’ll start re-watching series 8. We’re watching five episodes per night, so we should get through series 8 episode 7 before Barbara gets home. Series 9 premieres on October 4th, but we won’t start watching it until the series concludes next April or May, so that gives me plenty of time to go back and start with series 1 and make it all the way through all eight seasons at least once more, if not twice. Have I mentioned that I love Amber Marshall?

I spent most of yesterday making up solutions and filling bottles, which I’ll do again today. I keep my inventory spreadsheet sorted by number of finished bottles of each chemical, so the limiting items are always at the top and get addressed first. For example, yesterday I was down to four bottles of Fertilizer A, which goes in the biology kit non-regulated chemicals bag. So I made up 8 liters of Fertilizer A, which was sufficient to fill 66 bottles of that. That made the limiting item for those bags, Benedict’s Reagent, which I have nine bottles of in stock. At this point, I could make up nine more biology non-regulated chemical bags, but instead I’ll make up another four liters of Benedict’s reagent today and fill bottles, which makes the next limiting item neomycin sulfate powder, which I have 19 vials of in stock. And so on. Once I have enough of everything in stock to make up three dozen bags, we’ll do that and then start again on something else.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

08:27 – I took Colin for his final walk about 9:15 last night. About 10:30, he ran to the front door and started barking like there was an intruder. I opened the door and looked out. I saw nothing by the light of the streetlights, so I flipped on the porch light. Barbara would have had a heart attack. There was a spider web covering the entire glass surface of the storm door, and in the middle of it at my eye level was a H. carolinensis (Carolina wolf spider). That’s a pretty large species, but with a 1.5″+ (4 cm) body, this one was big even for a wolf spider. So I closed the door, making a mental note to be careful in the morning when I took Colin out. I forgot to look, of course, and it wasn’t until I took Colin out for a full walk a few minutes ago that I realized that both spider and web were gone.

Only three more days until Barbara gets home. Colin and I had a chicken/pasta casserole for dinner last night, but different from the chicken/pasta casserole we had Sunday night. There wasn’t enough of that one left for a full dinner, so I made another with a different recipe. I combined the leftovers from both, which we’ll have tonight.

It seems we may have convinced long-time reader and commenter OFD to write his own PA novel series. I hope he follows through on it, because I’m looking forward to buying and reading the series. Many others are writing such series but the best of the newer writers–like Steve Konkoly and Angery American–are mediocre to acceptable writers at best. OFD can write, and he has the experience and knowledge to write a good novel series. Now he just needs to follow through on it.

Monday, 17 August 2015

07:31 – I dropped Barbara off with Bonnie yesterday about 11:15 a.m., so Day One without Barbara is drawing to a close. Only four more days. Colin and I shared a chicken casserole for dinner, which was actually pretty good. I’m missing Barbara, but I think Colin is missing her worse. He waited for her to come home last night, and finally gave up and went back to bed. We agreed to skip the wild women and parties–mainly because neither of us knows any wild women–and just watch Heartland re-runs instead. That, and play ball. So we watched the first five episodes of series seven last night. And played ball.

The traditional advice for preppers is to store stuff in every available nook and cranny, but I’m rethinking that as I find stuff upstairs that I’d almost forgotten we had, and wasn’t counting toward our long-term food stores. Two dozen cans of tuna. Sixteen cans of Bush’s Best Baked Beans. A dozen Kraft Mac & Cheese dinners. A dozen cans of Chef Boyardee beef ravioli. Eight dozen single-serving cans of assorted Del Monte fruit. Four dozen cans of evaporated milk. Forty more pounds of rice and ten of oats. A case of canned corn and another of peas. A dozen bottles of beef bouillon and another dozen of chicken. And so on. We were originally short of shelving down in the basement, so I stuck a lot of stuff here and there upstairs, such as along the back walls of the cabinets under the kitchen counters. All in all, there’s probably a six person-month supply of food stuffed in those crannies. I’m getting it sorted and grouped together by type.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

09:23 – Barbara leaves shortly to spend a week at a crafts workshop with her friend Bonnie. Colin and I will be on our own, so it’ll be wild women and parties. We’ll get all the evidence cleaned up before Barbara returns Friday afternoon or evening.

I’ll be doing science kit stuff while she’s gone. I’m also building and filling in an inventory spreadsheet for our long-term food storage so that I can get a better idea of what we have and what gaps need to be filled.

I already had inventory records, of course, but those were just counts. It’s useful to know that we have 88 16.5-ounce cans of Bush’s Best Baked Beans in the long-term pantry, for example, but that says nothing about nutritional value–calories, carbohydrates, protein, and fat. My new spreadsheet includes the count of each specific container, the nutritional values per container, and the total nutrition for that item.

When I finish it, I’ll make copies of that spreadsheet available for download. Not really as a shopping list, because your own long-term storage should be personalized. For example, unlike a lot of preppers we store zero wheat, because we don’t use it other than in the form of finished baked goods, and I have no desire to sit there turning a crank to convert it into flour. Instead, we store a lot of flour, rice, and pasta, all of which can be used directly to make meals. But the spreadsheet may still be useful to a lot of people because it already contains nutritional values per container for a lot of items that you may choose to store, and you can easily add those values for items that aren’t in the spreadsheet.

11:52 – Barbara is on her way to Brasstown, NC, which is more than 250 miles from our home and more than four hours by car, assuming no traffic. She’s traveling very light, just her purse, one small duffel bag, and a tote bag. The only emergency gear she has with her is what’s in her purse.

I tried to get her to take along a Sawyer Mini water purifier, but she said she didn’t have room for it. I’m very uncomfortable having her travel without at least basic emergency gear. All she has in her purse is a Swiss Army Knife, multi-tool, and flashlight, assuming she left those in her purse. It’s not that I expect anything bad to happen. I don’t. There’s probably a 99.999% chance that everything will be routine. But I just don’t feel comfortable with her not having at least basic emergency gear when she’s far from home. Bonnie is driving. Knowing her, she may have some stuff in her vehicle.

While she’s gone, I’m going to put together a minimalist kit in a small duffel and hope that she’ll take it along next time. So I need to sit down and figure out what is essential and what she can do without.

Saturday, 15 August 2015

08:59 – Colin seems to have recovered. We’re keeping our fingers crossed. Barbara just left to get her car inspected and the brakes checked.

We made a Costco run yesterday to restock our freezer, mostly with meat. We usually go on weekends, so it was a pleasant change to have half the amount of traffic in the store and at the checkout lines. I also picked up a pair of slippers, two pair of heavy sweat pants on sale for $10 each, and three medium-weight flannel shirts, also on sale for $10 each. Oh, and I also picked up another box of 1,000 Thank-You t-shirt bags. I was right that the Costco bags are heavier. They’re 15-micron versus 10-micron for the ones Sam’s Club carries.

Friday, 14 August 2015

08:48 – We had a tough time with Colin yesterday and overnight. He had the squirties. Fortunately, he goes to the hall bathroom when he can’t hold it, and the floor there is ceramic tile. After several indoor accidents yesterday, we thought he was past it when we went to bed. Not so. He woke me up about midnight and had had an accident. I took him out then, and then again two or three times more. At 4:30 he was throwing up and had rushed to the front door, so I let him out loose. He sniffed around the front yard and finally squatted, but then instead of coming in when I called him he trotted down the street, hung a left down our neighbors’ driveway, and disappeared. We ended up driving around the neighborhood until we found him. We were not amused.

Barbara leaves Sunday with her friend Bonnie. They’re headed up to Brasstown, in the mountains in the far southwestern corner of North Carolina for a craft workshop. They’ll return sometime Friday afternoon or evening.

While they’re gone, I’ll be cooking for myself, using only long-term storage food. There are several recipes and methods I want to try, and this is a good opportunity. Some of the recipes I want to try are real recipes, but I also want to try some ad hoc fast meals like combining rice with a can of Bush’s Best Baked Beans. Barbara would gag just at the idea of that one, although she likes both ingredients separately. I want to see how they go together. I figure that if it turns out inedible I’m out only a cup of rice and a can of beans; if it turns out decent, I’ll know one way to make a quick, cheap, nutritious, appetizing meal in an emergency. I also want to try (re-try) methods like slow-cooking noodles or rice in a Thermos bottle. I’ve done that before and it works fine, but I haven’t done it for more than 30 years.

Most of my time this week was devoted to working on science kit stuff, as usual in August, but here’s what I did to prep this week:

  • I bought a couple packs of these hotel/institutional washcloths. They’re cheap and handy to have around. I wrote about them in the book in the Sanitation chapter, both for bathing and as the best imperfect substitute if you run out of toilet paper or tampons. The idea of using them as a re-usable toilet paper substitute is pretty gross, but it’s much better than using a handful of leaves or doing without. And with only a couple of five-gallon pails, some chlorine bleach or HTH pool chlorination granules, some hand sanitizer, and some rubber gloves it’s perfectly sanitary. Women need sets of three to six; one for bathing, one for micturation, one for defecation, and possibly additional ones if they’re of menstrual age. Men need sets of two; one for bathing and one for defecation. And even if push never comes to shove, they’re handy to have around if only as cleaning rags or paper-towel substitutes.
  • I ordered a Coleman Portable Camp Oven. This can be used on a standard Coleman camp stove, but it can also be used on a propane barbecue grill, a charcoal hibachi, or even a wood fire. For $28, it’s worth having available.
  • I ordered 1,000 each of Crossman Destroyer .177 pellets and RWS Diabolo .177 pellets. At a penny to 1.5 cents each, they’re a cheap way to practice. I don’t think Barbara has ever fired a serious pellet gun. It’ll be a lot closer to shooting a .22 rimfire than she expects, and I think she’ll have fun doing it. Back when I was about 12, I used to take my pellet rifle to the dump to shoot rats. It worked very well on them.
  • I read the first book in Joe Nobody’s Holding Their Own series, A Story of Survival. Like most other so-called authors in the PA genre, he’s a horrible writer. The first volume was barely readable, full of typos, misused words, bad grammar, poor plotting, cardboard characters, and stupid dialog. Adding injury to insult, the price of these books is outrageous. There are almost a dozen in the series, and most of them are priced at $9 or $10 for the Kindle. Like Tate’s books, I suspect a lot of people just torrent them. This style of PA novel seems to be a new trend, unfortunately. Write what amounts to one very long prepping novel, hack it into 10 or so pieces without much regard for continuity, and then sell those chunks at $10 a pop. It’s insulting to readers.
  • I ordered ten 18.8-ounce cans of Campbell’s Hearty Cheeseburger Chunky Soup and a dozen 18.8-ounce cans each of Campbell’s Beef with Country Vegetable Chunky Soup and Campbell’s Chunky Grilled Chicken and Sausage Gumbo. There’s not much nutrition in each can, 200 to 400 calories or so, but one can mixed into a large pot of rice produces an easy, quick, nutritious, and reasonable tasty meal. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t order from Prime Pantry. They started out with reasonable prices, but now they’re far more expensive on most items than Costco or Walmart, and they charge $6/box shipping in addition to the higher prices for the products themselves. But I had three $5 credits for choosing no-rush shipping, so I decided to find what I could that was reasonably priced and see if they’d apply all three $5 credits to one order. They applied two, so I’m not sure what’s going on.
  • I started on a revamp of my long-term food storage inventory spreadsheet, adding nutrition/container and total nutrition columns for net weight, calories, carbohydrates, protein, and fat. That’ll give me a much better handle on what we actually have available. I also institute a formal checkout sheet method for recording transfers from our long-term pantry downstairs to our upstairs kitchen pantry.

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

Thursday, 13 August 2015

07:54 – When I was talking with Kim yesterday, I mentioned Barbara seeing a guy in plain clothes wearing a pistol openly. Kim, who’s a New York City native, said that seeing that would make her extremely nervous. I said, “So, if I strapped on my pistol before the next time I walked Colin down here to see you, you’d be afraid of me?” She just laughed and said that of course she wouldn’t be afraid, because it’s me. What would scare her is a stranger openly carrying a weapon in public, which is a completely different thing from being afraid of the weapon itself. Given what’s been in the news constantly for years now, I have to admit that her fears are not unreasonable. Also, people like us have to remember that sheep aren’t afraid just of wolves. Sheepdogs terrify sheep, too, because we look a lot like wolves.

Speaking of culture, that Winston-Salem alderman who proposed changing the name of the Dixie Classic Fair because he considered it racially divisive has backed off fast because of an outpouring of outrage in phone calls and emails from his constituents. He’s withdrawn his proposal, apparently realizing that if he pushes it he doesn’t have a prayer of being re-elected.

More science kit stuff today. Yesterday was a slow day. We shipped only one science kit.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

08:04 – I made up chemical bags for both chemistry and biology kits yesterday, enough to build another two or three dozen kits on the fly. Today and tomorrow I’ll work on addressing the items that keep me from building more. Barbara is taking Friday off, and will be working with me on more. By this weekend, I hope to have enough of everything on hand to build another four dozen or so of each kit.

I wonder how much longer normal people are going to continue trying to talk with progressives. By now, it surely must be obvious to anyone with even a grain of sense that talking with progressives is not only useless but counterproductive. Letting them define the rules is foolish. I was just thinking back to the bathtub scene in The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, where Eli Wallach is in a bubble bath when an armed assassin enters the room and threatens him verbally at length. Wallach just sits there listening to the threats until he fires his pistol from within the bubbles, blowing the assassin away. Wallach then calmly says, “When you’re gonna shoot, shoot. Don’t talk.” I’m thinking that the time for talking with progressives is long past.

12:21 – Boy, am I looking forward to September 30th, Barbara’s last day of work. The big issue is that she’ll be here at home rather than spending her days downtown. She’s a lot safer around here than walking on downtown streets and the parking deck. The other issue is that I can get a whole lot more done with her helping me. When we work on stuff together, we get about three times as much done in a given time, rather than just twice as much.

When she got back from running errands the other day, Barbara commented that she’d seen a civilian carrying a pistol openly, which she didn’t remember ever seeing before. North Carolina is an open-carry state. There’s no permit required. Barbara wasn’t at all put off or nervous about the guy carrying. Like me, she understands that someone who’s casually carrying openly is almost certainly a good guy. He’s not likely to shoot the place up. If anything, he’s likely to come to the defense of unarmed civilians if a bad guy does start shooting.

But I do understand that openly displaying arms makes a lot of people nervous rather than reassured. That’s obviously their problem, but it’s also the reason I’ve never carried openly. Well, that and it makes it easy for a bad guy to know who to shoot first. If the social situation continues to deteriorate, I may rethink that and start carrying again. For years, I literally put on my Colt Combat Commander when I put on my pants, and if things continue going downhill the day may not be far off when I start doing that again.