Thursday, 10 September 2015

08:14 – Happy Anniversary to us. Barbara and I were married on 10 September 1983, 32 years ago today. I’m surprised she’s managed to put up with me this long.

We shipped only three science kits yesterday, but at the moment we have orders for 14 more outstanding that I don’t have the kits in stock to ship. I need to build those so that I can get them shipped, along with the other orders that keep coming in.


Wednesday, 9 September 2015

08:00 – One of the neat things about our business is that I get to do fun stuff, like making mud pies. We got a flood of orders yesterday for forensic science kits. Only two of those were from individuals, with the rest a bulk order from a state university. Those orders wiped out our current finished goods inventory on those kits and left us at negative 7 forensic kits in stock. So I’m desperately making up more kits. One of the pieces I’m missing is the spectroscopy questioned soil specimen, which is basically a soil specimen that contains known quantities of various species like barium, cerium, and half a dozen more. I make that up by dissolving the nitrate salt of those species in water, adsorbing it onto vermiculite (expanded clay), and then drying the mud.

So I made up the glop, spread it on an old oven pan, and stuck it in the oven at 350F to dry. When Barbara arrived home from work, she immediately asked what she smelled. I told her that I was baking mud pies. She didn’t even comment.

This morning, I have overnight orders for three or four kits that I do have in stock–as well as another forensic kit–so I’ll get the ones I have in stock queued up to ship and then go to work making up and packaging chemicals for more forensic kits. I already made up some Kastle-Meyer reagent, which needs to reflux for an hour or so before I can bottle it. The only other thing I’m out of is 30 mL bottles of concentrated sulfuric acid, so I’ll get some of those made up as well.

10:22 – I’d mentioned that I picked up a can of Gatorade powder at Costco on Saturday, and someone emailed me to ask if that was a reasonable substitute for oral rehydration salts. Actually, if you mix it according to directions, the G-series 02 Perform Gatorade is a reasonable rehydration solution, comparable to the homemade stuff made with table sugar and salt. It’s heavy in sugar and the osmolarities are outside the WHO recommended low-osmolarity formulation, but Gatorade does at least include some potassium and citrate.

If I’d run out of official ORS, I’d use the Gatorade 02 Perform. Actually, what I’d probably do is use it initially to treat a patient with vomiting and/or diarrhea. If that didn’t start clearing up in a day or so, or if it became severe, I’d switch to the ORS, use the real stuff until I ran out, and then start using the Gatorade again. If Gatorade was all I had, I’d use it for a full course of treatment, because it’s sure a whole lot better than nothing.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

09:22 – The bread turned out fine. It was a bit denser and moister than store-bought, but that was expected. I didn’t add any preservatives to it, so we’ll have the other half of the loaf with dinner tonight.

This Obamacare thing is turning out to be a real pain in the ass, as expected given whose name is on it. There are 36 plans available to us in Forsyth County, all either BC/BS or United Healthcare. We’re both inclined to go for a lower monthly payment in exchange for higher deductibles and total out-of-pocket. I never go to the doctor, and Barbara goes only for her annual girl-stuff visit, which is probably covered anyway without deductible because it’s one of the things Obamacare policies are required to cover. That minimalist plan will cost us $1,199/month before any subsidies, which I doubt we’ll qualify for.

On our way to Costco Saturday, we drove past Gander Mountain. I see on their web site that they carry the Ruger AR-556 tactical rifles for $700 each. I think I’ll see if Barbara wants to take a run by there sometime soon and pick up an M4gery for each of us, slings, and a dozen or so spare magazines. If things ever do go pear-shaped around here, they’d be handy to have on hand. They’re also a good investment, particularly if we keep them NIB.

I’m building and shipping kits today.

Monday, 7 September 2015

09:32 – We made up a small batch of bread dough at 3:00 p.m. yesterday. It rose overnight to about twice its initial size and is baking right now. The recipe is easy enough: three cups of white flour (actually, 420 grams because I use mass instead of volume measure), a teaspoon of salt, a teaspoon of yeast, and 1.5 cups of water. That’s sufficient to make one standard loaf of about one pound.

You can just run the numbers for whatever your target is. For example, if you want to be able to bake one of these loaves every day for a year, you’ll need about 350 pounds of flour, plus the requisite amounts of salt, yeast (or another leavening agent), and water. That loaf/day will provide about 1,700 calories/day toward your total needs, along with a significant amount of (incomplete) protein. One loaf/day would be a reasonable amount if you’re feeding four to six people. More people than that, if you’re also storing a lot of pasta, rice, potatoes, etc., and less than that if you’re depending heavily on bread, pancakes, and similar foods.

That 350 pounds of white flour is seven 50-pound bags, which you can repackage in a bunch of 2-liter soda bottles or roughly 70 one-gallon foil-laminate Mylar bags. If it were me, I’d go with mostly or all bread flour rather than all-purpose flour, because bread flour has more protein (gluten), and can be used for just about anything. As to the yeast, we keep several kilos of SAF instant yeast on hand in 1-pound foil packages, which we store in the freezer, but there are alternatives if you don’t want to store that much. Obviously, you can keep a batch of sourdough starter. We don’t do that because Barbara and I don’t particularly like the flavor of sourdough bread, although we could start a batch of sourdough starter if we ran short of yeast. You can also substitute baking powder, or baking soda with an acid like vinegar to leaven the bread.

Sunday, 6 September 2015

09:24 – I think I must have pulled or strained a muscle yesterday while I was lifting those 6-gallon 50-pound cases of bottled water out of our shopping cart. My right shoulder aches if I try to do much with that arm, and it was uncomfortable if I tried to sleep on my right side. Even lifting a 1-liter mug of Coke makes it twinge. The problem seems to be going away on its own, but I’ll take a gram of aspirin anyway.

I went ahead and reset my Kindle HD to default, so I’m back to using the Silk browser. I couldn’t get it to connect to my mail server, so I configured the Kindle Fire email applet to grab my mail, which works fine.

We’ll make up a loaf’s worth of bread dough today, let it sit overnight, and bake it tomorrow.

Saturday, 5 September 2015

08:34 – Before I bought Barbara her Kindle Fire HDX, I did some reading. The consensus seemed to be that tablets, including the Fire, were well-suited for content consumers but sucked for content producers. After months of using Barbara’s HDX and my own Fire HD, I conclude that Kindle Fires suck, period. Short battery life, unreliable WiFi connections, and my HD locks up frequently and requires a power reset. Barbara is also frustrated with her HDX, whose WiFi connection is even less reliable than my HD’s.

It may be that not all tablets suck as badly as the Fires. I’m prepared to believe that Amazon butchered the OS in the interests of encouraging customers to buy their products. If I have time, I may replace the Amazon OS on my HD with a vanilla Android.

Or I may simply start using the Dell notebook that’s been sitting unused for months on my side table. It runs Windows 8, but even that has to be more reliable than these Kindles.

13:24 – Just back from a small Costco run. I didn’t grab much in the way of shelf-stable stuff, other than 12 gallons (45 liters) of bottled water, 22 pounds (10 kilos) of assorted pasta, six large jars of applesauce, a can of Gatorade lemon/lime drink mix, a couple large boxes of Ritz crackers (which have surprisingly long shelf life even in the original cellophane tubes), a jar of cashews, and a couple other small items.

Barbara is out doing yardwork at the moment, while I do laundry and ship kits. This weekend, we’re going to make bread the easy way.

Friday, 4 September 2015

07:37 – If you ask preppers what they’re preparing for, most will have a primary or even a sole concern. Not that it really matters much, because if you’re prepared for one specific type of emergency you’re almost by definition prepared for other types of emergencies. The essentials are always the same: water, food, shelter, sanitation, medical, communications, and defense.

If someone asks me what I’m preparing for, my standard answer is a zombie apocalypse. Anyone who’s prepared for that is prepared for anything. So we stock water, food, and the other necessities, including of course anti-zombie guns.

But my real primary concern is the same as it has been for years: societal breakdown and violent civil unrest. Not all zombies are the walking dead. We have plenty of live zombies in Winston-Salem. They’re also known as underclass scum, and they’re at least as much threat as real zombies. More so, because they’re just as violent as and a lot faster than those shambling things in the TV shows. Fortunately, they’re not any smarter.

The so-called Black Lives Matter movement was serious enough. It’s resulted in rioting, looting, and arson in cities and towns across the country and a lot of ambush shootings of whites and cops. But it’s nothing compared to the calls from racist black demagogues for blacks to stalk and murder white people and cops. An unfortunately high number of young black men seem to be responding to that call. Predictably, LEOs nationwide are concerned about being ambushed, which of course makes them more likely to shoot first. Their attitude is increasingly better-safe-than-sorry, and who can blame them? Police recruiting is down by 50% or more in many departments, and many career cops are taking early retirement or simply resigning. Again, who can blame them? But it’s not a good omen for society to watch the people who are supposed to defend us instead giving up and looking for other means of earning a living. If the government can’t or won’t defend us, we’ll just have to defend ourselves.

Our relocation search is going much slower than we’d hoped, but we’re patient. We will get away from Winston-Salem to a small town, eventually. If we’re overtaken by events, we’ll just have to deal with it, come what may. If rioting, looting, and arson comes to Winston-Salem, we’ll be as ready for it as anyone can be.

Most 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 hundred feet of paracord and a pack of ten snap-buckles, to be divided between our car emergency kits. I got the real made-in-the-US stuff, not that cheap and cheesy Chinese garbage they peddle at Home Depot, which isn’t even real paracord.

Otherwise, we’re in pretty good shape. I do intend to pick up more pasta on our next Costco run. It’s cheap, stores forever, and it’s useful to have a lot of it on hand.

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

Thursday, 3 September 2015

08:08 – The morning paper reports that a company called RealtyTrac has released its 2015 U.S. Natural Disaster Housing Risk Report, which evaluates the natural risks facing US counties. As far as I can see, it’s completely bogus. It ranks the county where we live as high risk overall because we are supposedly in danger from hurricanes and wildfires, which we aren’t, particularly. Certainly no more so than the counties to our west, north, and east, all of which are rated as lower risks. Give me a break.

Work on science kits continues. All of the biology kits we have in stock are now spoken for, so I need to build more today.

More interesting stuff. The racist demagogue scum Farrakhan calls for 10,000 volunteers from his black muslim scum followers to stalk and kill white people. Interestingly, there have been no calls from white people for 1,000,000 volunteers to stalk and kill black muslim scum. H/T to OFD.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

07:54 – With Barbara retiring at the end of the month, I need to get us covered under Obamacare by then. We need to make a lot of decisions about what level of coverage we want, trading off monthly premium costs against deductibles and out-of-pocket amounts as well as issues like which doctors and hospitals are part of the network on different plans. I’ve already look at small-business Obamacare plans, which look like non-starters based on monthly costs alone. So we’ll start looking at individual plans in more detail. Then we’ll need to do it all over again when I become eligible for Medicare in three years and Barbara in five.

Work on science kits continues. We’re low-stock on all of the kits now, which we’ll have to address this weekend by building more.

12:26 – Well, isn’t this interesting? A call from a terrorist for open season on killing white people and cops, presumably of any skin color. Something tells me that this asshole is not alone. If he or any of his like-minded terrorist buddies show up around here, they’re likely to get a surprise. H/T to Nick.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

08:36 – The final countdown commences. Barbara retires in 30 days, at the end of this month. I’m sure she’s looking forward to it, as I certainly am.

Not that “retires” means she won’t work any more. She’s retiring from the law firm but will be coming to work for our own company, to which we’re both looking forward. What this really means for Barbara is that she’ll have control of her own time. She’ll work when she wants to, or when we need her to. She’ll take time off to do her own thing when she wants to, whether that means taking a long weekend to go to a craft fair with one of her friends or taking a couple weeks off to go on a bus tour with another friend. But mostly she’ll be working for our own business.

All of which got me to thinking about what an odd concept retirement is. The idea that at a certain age, one simply stops working and takes a multi-year (or multi-decade) vacation. Our parents’ generation was the first in human history to take the idea of retirement for granted. Before then, most people worked until they dropped. Everyone who wanted to eat had to work for their food. People who were too old to do hard physical labor worked at tasks that were less physically demanding, like watching children or shelling peas or darning socks or sharpening tools.

When the first Social Security checks were issued in the 1930’s, they were to retirees aged 65, who could be expected to continue living and drawing checks for a couple of years. And those checks were just enough to keep the retirees from starving or ending up on the streets. They were intended to provide only a basic supplement to whatever the retirees had saved on their own. Nowadays, it’s common for a retired couple to draw SS checks of $50,000/year or more. Our children are paying for that, and they can’t afford to do it. The American population over 65 is bankrupting our young people, who are just barely able to support themselves, if they’re lucky. We’ve gone from about 30 working people minimally supporting each retiree in the 30’s to a ratio much nearer to one worker supporting one retiree in style in 2015. That’s simply not sustainable. It never was, and it never can be. That’s why Barbara and I will never really retire. We’ll keep the business active as long as we can physically do so.