Wednesday, 30 September 2015

08:04 – Today is Barbara’s last day of work at the law firm. As of tomorrow, she’s working for our own company.

Instead of rooting my Fire HD7 and installing Android, I decided to contact Amazon about a warranty replacement. Even after wiping it to defaults and using nothing but the standard configuration to check web pages and email, it locks up several times an evening to the point where it requires a hard reboot. The usual symptom is that the screen either goes completely black or the left 2/3 remains lit up although unresponsive and the right 1/3 is black. I’ve had it for only five months, so it should still be under warranty. I’ll contact Amazon today.

Science kit sales are fine. For 8/15, we did only 74% the revenue of 8/14, but for 9/15 we’ve done 153% the revenue of 9/14. Total revenue for 8+9/15 is at 99.8% of total revenue for 8+9/14. One more order today would take us over 100%.

We are getting low stock on biology and forensic kits, so I’ll spend some time today making up chemical solutions and filling bottles.

Email from Jen. She and her husband decided to order that Renogy 400W solar starter kit, a decent inverter, and some heavy cabling for a battery bank. They picked up several golf cart batteries locally. They’re going to charge up the battery bank with an AC charger, connect the inverter, and then run a known load to see what kind of life they get from a full charge. They’ll then connect up the four 100W panels and see what kind of charging performance they get from them. After that, they’ll stick the fully charged batteries on the shelf in the garage and store the panels and associated gear in a Faraday cage they’ll build from copper screening.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

07:54 – It’s Barbara’s next to last day of working for someone other than ourselves.

I’m seriously thinking about blowing away the Amazon-hacked OS on my Fire HD7 and replacing it with vanilla Android. I’m getting tired of the crashes and forced reboots with Fire OS, and the other night for the first time the splash ad screen was a video with loud audio. That’s simply obnoxious. I’m not sure how to go about installing Android, but I’m sure there are instructions all over the Internet. If I brick it, I brick it. No great loss at this point.

I’ve harshly criticized those ridiculous X-person/Y-year emergency food kits in the book, but yesterday I followed a link to the most ridiculous one yet: the Augason Farms Mega 40-Person 1-Year Food Storage Set for only $29,999.09. Wow, enough food to feed 40 people for one year, at “only” $750 per person-year. The catch is that this kit provides only “Approximately 1,297 calories/day/person”, which is roughly what the Nazis fed inmates in their concentration camps. So this kit is fine, if you want your 40 people at the end of one year to look like those stick figures in the newsreels shot when the Allies liberated the concentration camps at the end of WWII. Jesus wept.

Don’t get me wrong. I like Augason Farms products, and recommend them. We have a bunch of AF #10 cans in our long-term storage, but only stuff like powdered eggs, butter, and cheese, TVP in beef and chicken, and similar supplemental items to give some flavor to the bulk rice, flour, pasta, and similar items we keep in quantity. But their so-called 40-person/1-year kit is actually more like a 20-person/1-year kit or even a 15-person/1-year kit. Calling it good for 40 people is simply a lie.

Which got me thinking that I really needed to add a section to the book about Basal Metabolic Rate. I just used the Mifflin St Jeor equation to calculate my own BMR, which is 1,750 calories/day. Understand that BMR is the amount of energy required just for autonomic functions like respiration, circulating blood, digesting food, making new cells, and so on. It assumes you’re lying flat on your back and engaging in zero physical activity. BMR typically accounts for 60% to 75% of total energy needs, assuming only very light physical activity. For my 1,750 cal/day BMR, that means I actually need 2,333 cal/day to 2,917 cal/day. If I’m engaging in heavier physical activity, I’ll need more, perhaps 3,500 cal/day or more.

Monday, 28 September 2015

08:39 – This morning, Barbara starts her last partial week at the law firm. Three more days.

Meanwhile, from the news reports it appears that Europe is in its last partial year of being European. Some pushback against the flood of muslim scum invaders has begun, but it’s going to be much too little, much too late. And Merkel and most of the other EU “leaders” are not just acquiescing with this invasion, but are actively encouraging it. The signs of what’s to come are already evident, with muslims protesting Oktoberfest and demanding that such celebrations cease, and attacking decent European people on the streets. The barbarians are indeed inside the gates. At least the eastern EU countries understand what’s going on and what’s at stake, but the other EU heads of government refuse to listen.

Perhaps the UK can save itself, but only perhaps. There won’t always be an England, I’m afraid.

10:02 – Email from a reader who’s been saving 2-liter soda bottles to use for long-term food storage, and has a good question. She says once they’re washed and rinsed with dilute bleach to sanitize them they’re fine for storing water, which she’s doing, but she’d like to use some of them for storing rice and other bulk staples. The problem is that just inverting them and leaving them to drain doesn’t get all of the water out. Depending on the relative humidity of your home and how much air circulation you have, it can take a week or two for them to dry out completely.

The solution is to use a food-grade drying agent to remove the last of the moisture. The drying agent we use is ordinary rice. You can dry it in the oven on low for half an hour or so if you want to, but it works fine straight out of the bag. Get the bottles as drying as you can by draining them inverted and then shaking out droplets. Then add a cup of ordinary rice to the bottle, cap it, and shake it to bring the rice grains into contact with the inner surface of the bottle. You can use that one cup of rice to dry several bottles. Each time, dump the rice back into the cup and bang the bottle to release any stuck grains. After you’ve done the last bottle, recover the rice and cook it for dinner. Problem solved.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

08:57 – I’ve been thinking about night sights, not just for the AR-15, but for the Mini-14, our shotguns, and our pistols and revolvers. There are a lot of options available, ranging in price from $10,000+ for a top-quality, current-generation night-vision or thermal imaging scope, down to the $100 to several hundred dollar range for decent quality tritium- or LED-based illuminated sights. I don’t think I’ll go with any of those. I don’t want something that requires electric power, and even the junk Chinese tritium sights are costly.

I think we’ll go with the low-tech phosphorescent paint method. A small dab of this stuff is more than sufficient to allow one to see one’s front and rear sights in the dark. Amazon actually carries quite a selection of these paints, including some that are marketed as for gun sights. They all rack up some bad reviews, almost all of which criticize either the brightness or the persistence of the glow. I don’t think that’ll be an issue at all.

The real issue is that these reviewers have probably never experienced darkness. As a teenage amateur astronomer, my back yard was sometimes so dark (on the edge of a town of 30,000+) that I literally couldn’t see my hand in front of my face. When we had a group observing, there was always the danger of walking right into a telescope or another person. It was really, really dark. Nowadays, there are no places that dark east of the Mississippi. Even the most remote locations in the eastern US have enough sky glow that a fully dark-adapted person is in no danger of running into another person or tripping over someone else’s gear. But in a widespread power failure, the eastern US will become completely dark, other than light from the moon and stars. In that kind of darkness, even a minor glow is more than enough to align one’s sights.

So I decided to make my own field-expedient night sights by putting a small dab of phosphorescent paint on the sights of our weapons. I’ll make the stuff up right here in the sink, by adding some of this stuff to a bottle of Sally Hansen’s Hard as Nails nail polish or some similar carrier. Exposing it to sunlight or an LED flashlight for a few seconds should suffice to activate it well enough to work for several hours to overnight in really dark conditions. If the glow does get too dim, I can simply reactivate it with a flashlight, shielding my eyes to prevent loss of dark adaptation. Better yet, I’ll hit it with one of my UV flashlights, which won’t cause any loss of dark adaptation even if I look directly at the beam.

Saturday, 26 September 2015

09:08 – Barbara is down to three more days at work, with her last day next Wednesday. As she pointed out, though, Thursday will be a regular work day for her, but she’ll be working instead for our company. About the only thing that’ll change is that she’ll no longer be using the alarm clock or driving downtown to go to work.

The cool, drizzly weather continues. Between the rain and the gusty winds, we had some large branches down last night. Autumn is coming in like a raging panda, which probably means it’ll go out like a slinking rabid weasel.

In addition to building/shipping kits and doing laundry and other weekend tasks we’ll probably spend some time this weekend getting downstairs organized and inventoried, both kit stuff and emergency supplies. We also need to run a patch through the barrel of this Ruger AR-556— which is made about 30 miles from here, in Mayodan, NC–and figure out how to run it. It’s been close to 40 years since I last fired an AR-pattern rifle, so I need to refamiliarize myself with its operation and teach Barbara the basics. The first step is to RTFM. I also need to order a few accessories for it, including a sling, a few more OEM magazines, maybe 100 stripper clips, and a clip/magazine loader.

Friday, 25 September 2015

08:20 – Barbara is taking a vacation day today and heading out to run errands. We’re in pretty good shape on science kit inventory, so we’ll spend most of this weekend getting things organized, inventoried, straightened up, and cleaned.

The biggest benefit to having Barbara come to work full-time for our business is that by having her do stuff that I’ve been doing until now, my time will be freed up to do stuff that needs my attention. Things like developing new science kits and writing the manuals for them, as well as other things we need to do to grow the business. One of those things is devoting lots of time and effort to the prepping book, which the other demands on my time have forced me to let slide.

As my editor at O’Reilly would no doubt confirm, getting me to declare one of my books finished and ready to publish isn’t easy. He’s basically had to pry every one of them from my fingers, because I always figure that just a bit more work will make the book better.

But with Barbara available to work on science kit stuff I plan to get serious about finishing the first volume of the prepping book, spending at least two full days a week on it. I’ll then get it into print with Amazon’s CreateSpace service as a first edition, with updated and expanded/improved edition(s) to follow. Volume One will cover the first day through the first year, with Volume Two covering emergencies that last longer than one year.

Having to devote a lot of time to working on science kits, making sure our Obamacare coverage is in effect as of 1 October, and researching relocation issues, I haven’t had much time to devote this week to prepping. Here’s what I did to prep this week:

      • I read 77 Days in September (The Kyle Tait Series Book 1) by Ray Gorham. It’s yet another TEOTWAWKI novel that has the protagonist walking for months across country to get home after the entire electrical grid in North America is destroyed by an EMP attack, but at least this author seems to have been paying attention when his teachers were covering spelling, grammar, and sentence structure. Either that or his wife, who is also his editor, fixed his draft manuscript. This is a very odd book. It may be the only extant example of a PA romance novel. It’s almost a Harlequin PA novel, replete with love letters from the protagonist to his wife via the daily journal he keeps on his long journey home, reproduced in full in the book. The real problem I have with this book is that the protagonist is a complete wimp. In one segment, someone steals the guy’s cart, which contains all his food, spare clothing, tent, and all the other possessions he needs to make it home. He takes his .22 rifle and follows the guy, eventually confronting him. The thief shoots at him with a pistol, and he shouts to the thief to keep the cart because he doesn’t want anyone to be hurt. But the thief comes after him, and his only concern is to escape without being hurt or hurting anyone else, specifically the thief. The thief starts shooting at him and hits the protagonist in the arm. Even then, the protagonist hesitates to return fire because he doesn’t want to hurt the thief. Give me a break. He finally shoots the psycho thief and reclaims his cart, but he feels guilty about it. This guy is too dumb to live. His wife, hundreds of miles away in Montana, is also too dumb to live. A deputy sheriff has been pestering her and obviously intends to rape her. She has a pistol. Does she carry it? No. Does she tell any of her friends what’s going on? No. When the likely rapist shows up drunk at her door after multiple warnings to leave her alone, does she shoot him? No. At his request, she gives him a hug, hoping that he’ll then leave her alone. Geez. I’ll give this one two stars because the author at least avoids most of the grammar and spelling errors that are rampant in most PA novels. If I were rating it solely based on plot, dialog, and so on, it’d get one star. The second volume begins on the day he arrives home, and is a more traditional PA novel.

I understand why PA novelists like to use an EMP attack as a plot device. An EMP attack–or a Carrington Class Solar storm, which would have similarly devastating effects and one of which in 2012 missed striking our planet by about a day–is by far the worst thing that could happen. Worse than a 1918-class pandemic virus, worse than a full-out nuclear war, worse than a Lucifer’s Hammer-class asteroid impact, worse than anything else imaginable. And it very easily could happen. If it did, the best response for most people would be the old Civil Defense advice for a nuclear attack:

1. Remain seated
2. Bend forward and place your head between your legs
3. Kiss your ass goodbye

I’ve read all of the unclassified reports on EMP I’ve been able to get my hands on. I may even have seen some of the classified ones that were on Clinton’s server. The consensus seems to be that a bad EMP attack would have very severe effects on our electrical grid and everything else that’s attached to a reasonably long conductor, but it’s very unlikely to destroy the computerized systems in all recent vehicles. Many, perhaps, but probably not even a majority. It’s also very unlikely to cause every plane in the air to crash. Airliners are, after all, sometimes hit by lightning, which seldom causes them to crash.

    • I started doing serious research into the Sparta, NC area as a possible relocation destination. It’s a bit closer to Winston-Salem than Jefferson is–60 to 70 miles versus about 90 miles–but it’s far enough away that I’d be comfortable living there. The underclass population is close to zero, and there’s no serious crime to speak of. It’s just a plain old mountain town, rather than being artsy/craftsy/touristy like the Jefferson/West Jefferson area. There’s some shopping, including chain supermarkets and drugstores, but the nearest Walmart Supercenters are in Galax, VA and West Jefferson, which are both about half an hour from Sparta. Sparta has a good county hospital, and the people who live there tend to be independent and self-sufficient, as you’d expect for the North Carolina mountains. At first glance, homes seem to be more affordable than they are in the touristy Jefferson area.
    • I picked up another 10-day course of high-dosage amoxicillin/potassium clavulanate, a very useful broad-spectrum antibiotic. With some infections, one course of this could mean the difference between life and death. Bacterial resistance to plain amoxicillin is now so widespread that many physicians prescribe it pretty much as a placebo. Clavulanic acid salts are β-lactamase inhibitors, which allow the combination drug to work against bacteria that produce β-lactamase and therefore render plain amoxicillin ineffective.

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

11:44 – We’re just back from a small Costco run. The only long-term storage stuff I got was a dozen one-gallon bottles of Kirkland water. I covet those 1-gallon PET bottles, both for storing solutions for science kits and for recycling as long-term storage containers.

On the way to Costco, we stopped at Gander Mountain and bought our first M4gery, a Ruger AR-556 with a few spare MagPul magazines. Barbara I wanted to buy two, but I Barbara convinced her me that one was enough for now. And it’s true that we already have a vintage Ruger Mini-14 with spare magazines, not to mention a dozen or more other shotguns, rifles, pistols, revolvers, and assorted other ordnance, so one AR probably is enough for now.

Just in passing, I asked the guy if they had any bricks of .22LR. He said no bricks, but they did have buckets of Remington .22LR HVHP, at $80 for 1,400 rounds, so I grabbed a bucket of those as well. Just under six cents a round seems pretty reasonable nowadays.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

07:25 – I have a bone to pick with the US federal government. Why are they wasting the time of SEAL Team Six, Delta Force, and so on by sending them out to track down and kill minor annoyances like Osama bin Laden, when they could instead be sending them out to track down and kill phone and email spammers? I’m completely serious here. I get a dozen or more spam phone calls and thousands of spam emails every day, and I’m sure I’m not alone. (Yes, our phone number is on the DNC list; makes no difference as far as I can tell. What we need is a C/EMAD Call/Email Me And Die list.) We should be relentlessly hunting down and killing telemarketers and email spammers, wherever in the world they may be. And it’s a self-limiting problem. We’d probably have to blow away only 10,000 or 100,000 of them before the rest got the message. What do you call 10,000 dead phone/email spammers? A good start.

Email from Jen. She and her husband are considering improving their alternative electric power situation. They currently have a generator and a limited supply of fuel as well as a 14W portable solar charger. The former is fine until the fuel runs out, and latter is fine if all you need to do is keep a few AA and AAA cells charged. They’re thinking about a low-end off-grid solar installation. They don’t expect to run their AC or even their freezer or furnace, but they would like a bit more solar capacity.

Jen mentioned that they were thinking about buying and installing a Renogy 400W off grid kit and had a lot of questions about whether to go with the MPPT or PWM charge controller, what other items they’d need to buy, how much actual electric power they could expect a small system like this to produce, and so on.

I told her that I’m not an expert on solar power, but I’d be inclined to go with the MPPT charge controller. If they’re concerned about EMP or a solar flare they can stick everything in a Faraday cage and perhaps buy a spare PWM charge controller. Those cost only $35 or so. Under ideal conditions, which conditions never are in the real world, they could expect those four 100W panels to produce maybe 2 kW-hours per day. Real world, I wouldn’t count on much more than 1 to 1.25 KW-hour per day, or about as much as their generator will produce in ten minutes. Still, that’s roughly 25 times as much as their little 14W portable panel produces, and enough to keep all of their rechargeable cells and small devices charged.

They would also need several deep-cycle batteries (like golf-cart batteries), along with the cables to connect their solar charging system to their battery bank and a decent inverter to output 120VAC, ideally a true sine-wave model. A 35 amp-hour 12V deep-cycle battery runs about $75, so they could expect to spend $300+ on those batteries. In a pinch, I told Jen they could recharge standard 12V automobile batteries, although their plates are designed for very high current draws for short periods of time (running a car starter motor) rather than low current draw for long periods, and using car batteries to substitute for deep-cycle batteries would greatly reduce their useful lifetimes. The price of an inverter is determined by its output waveform–square-wave inverters are cheaper than sawtooth or modified sine-wave inverters, which in turn are cheaper than true sine-wave inverters–and its peak/sustained amp rating.

Although I didn’t suggest doing so, I told Jen that they could also get by with buying only the panels themselves and some batteries, doing without both the charge controller and the inverter. These panels output about 18V under ideal conditions, which means they actually output considerably less voltage under real world conditions. They could hook up panels in parallel to provide that same less-than-18V output and run it directly to their battery bank to charge the batteries. They’d have to keep a close eye on things to avoid over-charging or self-discharging but it could be done, although I’d recommend spending the $35 on a basic charge controller. Either way, they could keep a significant amount of energy stored in their battery bank, which they could use with a battery charger intended to operate on normal 12V vehicle power. They’d be able to keep a boatload of 1.2V NiMH cells charged, as well as small portable electronics like emergency lighting, radios, tablets, or notebooks.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

09:08 – Welcome to autumn. It looks and feels like autumn around here. Highs in the 70’s, lows in the 50’s, and rain. Barbara is now down to five work days left, and counting.

While she was out running errands the other day, Barbara stopped at the RV place to fill the new 20-pound propane cannister we’d bought at Costco. When she returned, I looked at the receipt and was puzzled. It showed “10 @ $0.99 = $9.90”. Ten what? Surely they didn’t put only 10 pounds into the 20 pound tank, but a 20-pound tank won’t hold 10 gallons, and even if it could I couldn’t imagine that propane was selling for $0.99 per gallon.

So I called them to find out. As it turns out, they indeed sell propane for $0.99/gallon, but they have a 10-gallon minimum, or about 42 pounds. As the guy said, it would have cost the same to fill a 30-pound cannister or a 40-pound cannister. If you’re actually using the propane routinely, it’d make sense to buy a 40-pound cannister. Those cost about $80 empty, versus $25 empty for the 20-pound cannisters. With one $10 fill, you’d be paying $70 for 40 pounds in two 20-gallon cannisters versus about $90 for one 40-pound cannister, but you’d break even after three fills and then you’d be paying $1/gallon to fill the larger tank versus $2/gallon to fill the smaller ones. We don’t use that much propane, just running our gas barbecue grill occasionally, so for stockpiling it makes sense for us to use the 20-pound cannisters. You can run a Coleman propane camp stove for a long, long time on one 20-pound cannister. We keep two full 20-pound cannisters plus a third one that’s in use, so we average about 50 pounds of propane available at any given time.

With a heat content of 20,000+ BTU/pound, that means we have about a million BTUs in those cannisters, enough to run a 10,000 BTU/hr camp stove burner for about 100 hours, or three hours a day for a month. Another way to look at it is how much water we could boil. Heating water from 62F to 212F requires 150 BTU/lb. Water weighs about 8.34 pounds/gallon, so it takes about 1,250 BTUs to increase the temperature of a gallon of water by 150F, so ignoring losses we normally have enough propane on hand to boil about 800 gallons of water or the equivalent.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

08:03 – Today is the last full day of summer, with the autumnal equinox at 0421 ET tomorrow. Barbara is now down to six work days left at the law firm, and counting.

A vocal group of fringe Christian and Mormon religious nutters is claiming that the End of Days is scheduled yet again for the 28th of this month, so you might want to mark your calendar accordingly and make plans for the 29th and ff.

I called Amy Spell of Peak Mountain Properties, the real estate agency we’ve been using in West Jefferson, yesterday to get her recommendation for an agency in Sparta/Alleghany County. I’d have been happy to stay with Peak Mountain, but they don’t cover Alleghany. She recommended Mountain Dreams Realty in Sparta, so I’ll give them a call today and see if I can get something set up.

I’d have said “wrong with progressivism”, but this guy has a point. The Actors on ‘Fear the Walking Dead’ Exemplify Everything That’s Wrong With Liberalism

Nonsense like “microaggressions,” “nonjudgmentalism,” and “fairness” can only exist in a world built and defended by macroaggressive, judgmental, and unfair people who carry guns and don’t hesitate to use them.

Monday, 21 September 2015

08:07 – As of today, Barbara has only seven work days left at the law firm. As of 1 October, she’ll be working for our own company, which we’re both looking forward to.

A couple of people have mentioned that a married couple working together at home introduces stress, but I don’t see that being any problem at all. We’re both very hard workers who focus on what needs to be done, and I’m certainly not prone too micro-managing. She’s a self-starter, and she’s already familiar with a lot of what needs to be done. I expect things will work out fine, without any stress.

We’ve decided to expand our relocation search to the counties that border Ashe County. Barbara wanted to look at Mitchell County, but a quick scan of homes for sale up there makes it pretty clear that there’s not a whole lot available. Not surprising, considering that the county seat has a population of 464. We want to relocate to a small town, but that may be a bit too small. One of the first places we considered was Sparta, NC. It’s the county seat of Alleghany County, and has a population of 1,770. A quick check on the Internet shows that there are quite a few suitable homes for sale there, so we’ll probably check it out in more detail. The last/first time we went up, we just walked around town and picked up a few brochures. This week, I’ll call a real estate agency up there and tell them what we’re interested in buying. We’ll schedule another trip up there for sometime after next week. It’s 60 to 70 miles from our current house, depending on route, and about a 1.25 to 1.5 hour drive.

We’re not in a hurry. We want to get away from Winston-Salem and its large underclass population, but wherever we move is where we’re going to stay, so we need to take as much time as necessary to get it right.

15:15 – Well, this is good news. The real show-stopper for any house we’d consider even looking at is lack of decent Internet service. The Romans had a phrase for it, “sine qua non“, or “without which, nothing”.

The one time we went up to Sparta, casual inquiries led us to believe that Internet service there was spotty and slow. The people we talked to mentioned DSL. Accordingly, we downgraded that area. One of the major reasons we preferred Jefferson and Ashe County was that most of the county has fiber Internet service. As it turns out, so does most of Alleghany County, where Sparta is. I talked to Skybest Communications, and from what the lady told me it sounds like Alleghany/Sparta is in pretty much the same situation as Ashe/Jefferson: the counties got a government grant to install fiber Internet services for an “underserved” area. There are a couple small parts of Alleghany that don’t yet have fiber service, but those areas have 12 Mbit/s down copper service, which would suffice for our needs. So, with the big potential roadblock out of the way, we can start looking seriously at the Sparta area.