Month: November 2015

Friday, 20 November 2015

08:23 – Barbara and I are both covered up preparing for the move and building kit inventory. We decided we could do without the Trooper for the next couple of weeks, so we’re piling stuff into it that we want to take up the day of the closing so that we can spend the night up there. I have to remember to leave room for Barbara.

One of the many nice things about living in Sparta will be the reasonably dark skies. Looking at the light pollution maps, it seems that our back yard will be noticeably darker than Bullington Farm and Pilot Mountain, which are two of the main observing sites of the Forsyth Astronomical Society, and darker even than the Wake Forest University lodge near Fancy Gap, Virgina, where we used to observe. Barbara and I haven’t been out under the night sky for a long time because of my vertigo. It’s much worse in the dark. If I try to look up, I topple over backward. As she says, though, we’ll have a solid deck and I can observe from a chair without ever having to stand and look up. I wonder if I can still find stuff in the night sky. Once upon a time, I was pretty good at that. We’ll see. The other nice thing about observing there is that there’s a bathroom right there (which women particularly appreciate) and it’s easy to go inside to warm up. Living up there, I may continue work on the Astronomical League’s Herschel 400 list. Many of those 400 faint fuzzies had surface brightnesses way too low to make it practical to log them with a 10″ scope from the light-polluted skies around here.

Speaking of astronomy, there’s been some discussion in the comments about the likely effects of a huge solar storm. We actually sat out in the dark watching the effects of a monster solar storm a dozen years ago. And another, much smaller monster solar storm a couple years before that.

With relocation stuff and building science kits taking up most of my time, I didn’t have much spare time, but here’s what I did to prep this week:

  • I read the other three books in Theresa Shaver’s Stranded series. She’s obviously an inexperienced author, but she gets better with each book. Right now, I’d put her in the same class with the better recent PA novelists like Steve Konkoly and Angery American. Speaking of A. American, three months ago he released the sixth in his Home series, Enforcing Home. I have it on my Kindle, but haven’t gotten around to reading it. Interestingly, after publishing the first five books in the series with Penguin, he’s gone back to self-publishing. It makes sense. He earns a 70% royalty on Amazon. Through Penguin, he earns probably 30% of the 70% Penguin gets, or 21%. At the same price point, that means he makes 3.33 times as much for each unit sold.

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

14:13 – We’re just back from Home Depot, where we picked up a mailbox and post, paint and painting supplies, cleaning supplies, contractor bags, and so on. I was thinking about picking up another 5’x2′ five-shelf shelving unit, but decided we could wait until we actually make the move to see many more units we need. I think we could fit at least five of these units–250 square feet of shelving or 350+ cubic feet of storage–in the garage with all-around access and several more in the basement. I do need to find out how cold the garage gets, but we’re moving up there at an ideal time of year to determine that. As long as it stays above freezing in the coldest weather, we’ll be fine.

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Thursday, 19 November 2015

08:55 – Front page article in the paper this morning about a traffic accident back in May, where a police car ran a red light and rammed a car proceeding through the intersection on green, killing the driver. The cop wasn’t on a call, wasn’t using drugs or alcohol, nor was he texting, using his patrol car’s computer, or otherwise distracted. He simply didn’t notice the red light. That’s pretty hard to understand, considering there were two lights for the through lanes and a third for the left-turn lane, all red. It was 10:00 at night at a major intersection, so there was no excuse for not seeing the lights. A second patrol car was sitting in the left-turn lane, and its dashcam recorded the collision. The report said the involved patrol car was speeding, but it wasn’t really. The cop was moving at 42 MPH in a 35 MPH zone, which is a normal free-market speed for that road.

The cop was sentenced to 200 hours of community service. Anyone who wasn’t a cop or politician would very likely have been sentenced to jail time for manslaughter, because in today’s way of thinking someone always has to be at fault. In absolute terms, I think that cop received a fair sentence. It was unfair in the sense that anyone should have received that same sentence, but the cop got a pass because he was a cop.

We’re building a couple dozen more science kits today to get our finished-goods inventory built up before the move. By the end of next week, I want to have as many finished kits ready to roll as possible so that we can just label and ship boxes without having to build them on-the-fly. At that point, we’ll be ready to haul half of each type up to the new house once we’ve closed on it the first of next month and be in a position to ship from either Winston-Salem or Sparta. Then we can start building more subassemblies up in Sparta and shift final assembly up there.

We had about 1.25″ of rain overnight, but today is to be sunny with a high in the 70’s. By the weekend, we’ll have highs in the 40’s and lows in the 20’s, so winter will actually be arriving here in Winston. We hope to be living in Sparta by mid-December, just in time for real winter in the NC mountains.

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Wednesday, 18 November 2015

08:56 – We’re still packing stuff up for the move. Yesterday, we started staging stuff for the trip up for the closing. We’re making piles of stuff to go into the Trooper that’ll give us what we need on closing day to stay at the new house overnight, including our dorm refrigerator, spare vacuum cleaner, trash bags and cleaning supplies, our air mattress and bedding, tool kit, clothing, drinks and munchies, etc. With less than two weeks until the closing, there’s a lot to get done.

I finished book three in Theresa Shaver’s Stranded series last night. As I mentioned earlier, the first book was a bit rough around the edges, but showed real potential. The second was better, and with the third Shaver is really coming into her stride as an author. I sent her email to let her know I’d mentioned her books on my blog and got the following response:

Wow, Bob! Thank you so much for plugging my Stranded Series!

There are so many amazing prepper/apocalyptic books out there that I LOVE written for adults that I decided to go with the soft touch of Young Adult. It was also my way of worming the idea of being prepared into young people so they might be aware of the basics. Who knows, it might help save some clueless sheeple if their kids have an idea of what’s happening!

There are a few swears in the books because let’s be honest, no matter how “pure” you think your teen might be, chances are they’ve dropped the Fbomb a few times lol. The 4 swears in the book are in extreme situations and I just can’t believe the teen would say “Holy Golly Gee!!” Just my thoughts but I have been called out on putting them in.

I recently reread the first 3 Stranded books for the first time since I published them and there were some cringe moments for me at the writing so I hope that means I’ve gotten better as a writer since then lol. 6 books in I sure hope I have! I’ve just started the fifth book in the series, Frozen. Let’s see how these kids manage a -30 to -40 Alberta winter with no heat!
As for prepping, I do try and keep most of what I have stored to myself but I’m not too worried about it as I will be “out of here” if IT ever happens. Thankfully, we have a decent fall back point if needed. I’m just not sure how I’ll transport all that duty free booze yet!

Thanks again,
Theresa Shaver

Which reminds me of an incident back in about 1962. My mother was driving us over to my grandmother’s house. My younger brother, Bill, who was 7 years old at the time, was in the passenger seat and I was in the back seat. Not far from my grandmother’s house, another driver ran a red light and almost rammed us. The interchange went something like this:

Mom: BILLY!!
Bill: I’m sorry, mommy. I thought that asshole was going to hit us.

I’ve never understood why most adults treat kids as almost a separate species, and a stupid one at that. I’ve always understood that infants are already as intelligent as they’re ever going to be. The CPU and RAM are already there; they lack only data on their hard drives. And young people are constantly gathering data, whether or not adults are aware of that. It’s what kids do. At least some of those data are things that adults would rather the young people not know yet, but they’re going to find out if they have any interest at all. In the era of the Internet, kids are inevitably going to learn more faster than our generation did. We had carefully stashed Playboy and Penthouse magazines. They have an entire world of hardcore porn just a click away.

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Tuesday, 17 November 2015

09:39 – I did some testing yesterday and overnight for the section in the book on Thermos cooking. I used two containers, a 2-liter Thermos bottle and, just for fun, the insulated carafe from our Braun coffee maker.

I brought a large pot of water to a boil and filled each of the containers to preheat it. After five minutes, I emptied the preheat water back into the pot, brought it to a full boil again, refilled the containers, recorded their initial temperatures, and capped them. Both were initially at 99.3 ºC. After 2 hours, the Thermos bottle was still at 99.1 ºC and the carafe had fallen to 76.5 ºC. After 3.5 hours, the Thermos bottle was at 95.0 ºC and the carafe had fallen all the way to 58.2 ºC. I dumped the water in the carafe at that point, because it had cooled so far that it wouldn’t be useful for cooking. After 8 hours, the Thermos bottle was down to 90.4 ºC, and I went to bed. This morning, I checked the temperature in the Thermos. After 18 hours, it was at 76.3 ºC, so I dumped the water into the sink.

The Thermos bottle turned out to be fine for Thermos cooking. Maintaining 99 ºC for two hours is essentially the same as boiling something for two hours, and even 95 ºC is close enough to boiling to count as simmering.

I did a lot of Thermos cooking back in the 70’s, in college and after, and I learned there are two tricks. First, ALWAYS preheat the Thermos bottle with boiling water. Second, don’t just dump the dry food into the Thermos and cover it with boiling water. A pound or so of room temperature rice, pasta, or beans takes a lot of heat to get up to boiling temperature, and takes that heat out of the water you just added. Instead, combine the food and water in the pot, bring it to a good boil, and THEN transfer it to the preheated Thermos bottle. You end up with the equivalent of a low-tech, non-powered slow cooker. Oh, yeah, the third thing I learned. If you’re adding meat to the Thermos bottle, brown it first in a little oil, add the water, bring it to a boil, and let it boil in the pot for a few minutes before you transfer it to the Thermos bottle. It’s also useful to have a second pot to hold the boiling water while you transfer the wet, hot food into the Thermos. Then fill the Thermos with the boiling water. Otherwise, you may find you’ve filled the Thermos with mostly water and have lots of food left in the pot with no room left in the Thermos.

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Monday, 16 November 2015

09:20 – Work on packing up continues. Barbara and I talked last night about staging the move, what we want to take and in what order, and so on. One thing we agreed is that we’ll haul guns with us back and forth each trip, not leaving any firearms in an unoccupied home. During the incremental move, people are going to be aware that both homes are only occupied part-time, which means that bad guys may also find out. We’ll have neighbors in both places keeping an eye on things, but it still makes sense not to leave firearms in a vacant house. So we’ll haul them with us up and back on each trip.

While I was doing laundry Saturday, Barbara came down to the basement and promptly announced, “Something stinks!” Her nose led her over to the vertical freezer, where she found a one-pound roll of Costco hamburger lying on the floor. It had apparently fallen out of the freezer while she’d been getting food out a couple days before and had been lying there rotting since.

She picked it up like a dead rat and carried it over to the garbage, intending to toss it in the garbage bag and put that out in the rolling garbage cart outside. I suggested that instead of tossing it out we have it for dinner, and she looked at me as if I were nuts. I told her that I just happened to have been writing about using spoiled food in an emergency, and that if we fully cooked it that meat would be completely safe to eat and that cooking would destroy most of the spoiled odor and taste. She looked at me as if I were nuts, and tossed it in the garbage. Oh, well.

12:48 – I see that those bastards at the MPAA have succeeded in taking down the biggest torrent tracker, for what good it does them. One would think they’d understand that the Internet and its protocols were designed to survive a full nuclear war, literally, and that they automatically route around and repair damage. As has already happened. When demonii disappeared, other torrent trackers took up the slack immediately.

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Sunday, 15 November 2015

10:48 – We’ve gotten started on packing stuff up for the move. For the last six months or more, I’ve been saving boxes from incoming shipments from Amazon, Walmart, and our science kit vendors, so we have literally hundreds of good boxes of various sizes. I think we’ll have enough to pack everything up, but then I’m an optimist.

We plan to make the move in stages, carrying vehicle loads up each time we go. We’ll take enough stuff up the day we close to let us spend the night up there, including the dorm refrigerator, spare vacuum cleaner, munchies and drinks, clothing, our air mattress, bedding, and so on. That and large trash bags, cleaning supplies, and other stuff we’ll need to get the place emptied out. And, of course, a large supply of shelf-stable food and bottle water. Furniture, boxes of books, and other heavy/bulky stuff will go via a moving company once we’re ready for it, and we’ll reverse things so that we have what we need to camp out at the old house while we’re getting it ready to go on the market.

We’ve gotten science kit inventory built up sufficiently that it should cover us through the moving process. We also have sufficient subassemblies built up to allow us to build another several dozen kits on the fly. We’ll move half our inventory up to the new place and leave half here so that we can ship from either place.

I re-joined Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program the other day. I never transfer books to our reading Kindles via Wi-Fi because trying to use Wi-Fi on either of those Kindles causes them to crash and require a reset to factory defaults, wiping out all the data including categories. The first time that happened on Barbara’s Kindle she was upset; the second time she was livid. So now I always download Kindle books to my hard drive and then transfer them via USB.

The problem with KU is that it doesn’t offer the USB transfer option when you “buy” a book. You have to specify the Kindle you want it transferred to via Wi-Fi and then go back in and download it to the hard drive. It’s a PITA, but it works.

The problem with doing that is that the author doesn’t get paid. Formerly, Amazon paid the author the full royalty once someone had read at least 10% of the book. They changed that a month or so ago. Now they pay $0.006/page starting with the first page. Fortunately for authors, Amazon is pretty liberal about defining a page. A book that’s 200 pages in print is considerably longer in terms of Kindle page count. So if I read through 300 Kindle pages, the author earns a $1.80 royalty. The problem is that if I’ve transferred that book to my Kindle via USB, Amazon has no way to know that I’ve read even one page because I don’t let my Kindle connect via Wi-Fi to Amazon.

Right now, I’m reading Theresa Shaver’s Stranded series. I wanted to make sure she got paid, so last night I brought up book 2 in the series on my Fire and swiped my way through the whole book. So Amazon now knows I’ve read the book, and Theresa gets paid. Of course, Amazon also keeps track of how fast people read the books, so they now think I read at something like 30,000 words/minute. Call it one page/second. I do read very fast, but not quite that fast.

Shaver, incidentally, writes pretty well for a beginning author. There are some minor issues with to/too, that/which, and so on, but the books are readable. She needs to work on writing dialog as well and she has a tendency to explicate, but she shows some real potential as a writer. The novels are aimed at young adults, so of course her main characters are all teenagers. Shaver is Canadian, which comes through in her attitude. It’s actually refreshing to read PA novels written by a Canadian woman rather than an American man. The tone is very different. Canadians are famous for being polite and helpful, and that comes through in Shaver’s books.

Interestingly, Shaver apparently was not a prepper when she started writing this series and wasn’t even aware that there was a prepping movement in Canada. As she researched and wrote the series, she found herself becoming more and more a prepper. She’s a bit canny about the details, but she did say in an interview that she has “87 cans of spam, 4 gigantic just add water bags of pancake mix and a hundred bottles of duty free booze in my basement…bring it on, I’m sooo ready!”

At any rate, if you enjoy PA fiction, give Shaver a try. The first book in the Stranded series is regularly $0.99 but it’s available on Amazon at the moment for $0.00. I grabbed it the other day because Amazon recommended it. When I checked her author page, I learned she was based in south-central Alberta, about an hour from Heartland, so I just had to give her books a try.

I mentioned this series to Barbara while we were on our way up to Sparta, NC the other day. Barbara retired from our library system after 20 years as a public librarian, and I remember her talking back then about young-adult novels. I thought those were characterized by an absence of explicit sex and strong language, so I was surprised when reading the first book to come across what most people would consider strong language, i.e. “motherfucker”. I doubt that anyone who reads my journal would be offended by that or any other language, but you have been warned. Barbara just shrugged it off and said that the definition of YA novels must have changed since she left the library system 15 years ago.

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Saturday, 14 November 2015

08:13 – Paris just found out the price one pays and will continue to pay for allowing moslem scum to live among decent people. Naturally, news reports have focused on the shootings and bombings and the death toll among civilized people while carefully avoiding any mention of the open borders that allowed these muslim scum to invade a civilized country and commit these outrages. No calls yet for retribution. Perhaps France and the rest of the civilized world will now focus on eradicating the plague that is islam, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. Governments refuse to recognize and admit that the problem is not “radical muslims” or “muslim terrorists” but islam itself. Civilization is at war with islam, and has been for a thousand years. It’s long past time to stamp it out.

When we were up in Sparta the other day, we stopped by the Blue Ridge Electric Co-Op to sign up for service, giving them our closing date. A lady from the Co-Op called yesterday to say that the current owners had notified them that they wanted to terminate service several days before the closing date and asked if we wanted to continue that service on our nickel as of that earlier date even though we wouldn’t yet own the home. We told her yes, since the last thing we want is for the pipes to freeze. The good news is that that obviously means that the current owners intend to vacate the home prior to the closing date. I told our realtor about the call and that we’d told the Co-Op to continue service uninterrupted. She and the listing agent are going to keep an eye on things in the interim. As Barbara said, the current owners don’t know that we know, which is a good thing.

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Friday, 13 November 2015

08:33 – Friday the 13th falls on a Friday this month.

We’re now in wait-and-see mode on the house. On the plus side, the current owners seem to be packing up their stuff, so Paula, our buyers’ agent, is optimistic that they are in fact preparing to get out of the place. We’ll just have to hope that they do show up for the closing. If they take the wood stove it’ll piss me off, but I’m not going to let it interfere with the closing. We’ll install a propane heater, and if nothing else I’ll order one of these to keep on hand so that we can burn wood in an emergency.

With relocation stuff taking up most of my time, I didn’t have much spare time, but here’s what I did to prep this week:

  • I read Theresa Shaver’s Land (Stranded Book 1), a young-adult PA EMP novel. It’s a first novel and self-published so it’s a bit rough, but I’ve read a lot worse.
  • I got a 2-liter wide-mouth Thermos bottle to experiment with vacuum bottle cooking. It allegedly keeps hot stuff hot or cold stuff cold for 24 hours. We’ll see. I’ll be happy if I get 12 or even 8 hours out of it.

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

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Thursday, 12 November 2015

08:03 – We finished the BBC Wartime Farm series last night. That was the last of the BBC Farm series. I told Barbara I wished they’d make more. She wondered what was left to make Farm series about. I suggested Neolithic British Farm, Roman British Farm, Saxon British Farm, and Norman British Farm.

More relocation stuff to deal with today via phone calls. It’s getting late enough in the year that we may not be able to get this done until the first half of next year, but we’ll keep plugging. Almost everyone involved wants this sale to go through: us, the listing agent, the selling agent, the bank and other creditors, and probably all the neighbors. The only ones who don’t want the sale to go through are the current owners. As our agent said, they’ve been living there for free, running up bills and debts, and they want to continue living there on other people’s money for as long as they can. They’re already bankrupt and judgment-proof, so they’re motivated to throw up as many obstacles as possible and just keep living in the house. At this point, Barbara doesn’t think we’ll get the house unless we drive up there, drag them out, and shoot them.

17:28 – We’re just back from Sparta. We met our agent and the home inspector at the house, and spent the next 90 minutes or so looking at everything. The inspector didn’t find anything serious. Stuff like a GFCI socket that needs to be replaced, some loose weather stripping on the bottom of one garage door, and so on.

One surprise. When we got there, I started following the inspector around while Barbara walked around shooting pictures inside and outside. She shouted up from the basement that it looked like they were taking the woodstove with them. I thought she was kidding, but she was right. They disconnected the pipe to the flu and disconnected the ducting. I didn’t think one was allowed to rip out items that were physically connected to the home, but they obviously plan to take the stove with them. That pisses me off, but at least they’re packing stuff up, so it appears they’re going to show up at the closing.

We also spent some time driving around town to familiarize ourselves with where things are. We filled out an application to join the rifle club. Apparently, shooters are a majority in Sparta. That doesn’t surprise me from those few people we’ve met. Our real estate agent is a shooter, as is another agent at her agency. He’s an officer of the Alleghany County Rifle Association, so we filled out an application while we were sitting in his office. We need a sponsor, and he volunteered to sponsor us. Our real estate attorney is also a member of the ACRA, as is her husband, who owns a gun store. From what I’e seen, I’d guess probably 75% of the adults and teens, men and women, in Alleghany County are shooters. We also filled out an application to join the electric power co-op, and found out what we need to do to get Internet service. There’s already fiber-to-the-home, and the lady at the Internet co-op said all they had to do was press a few computer keys to get the service turned on once we give them the word.

While we were signing up at the electric co-op, I noticed large propane containers and propane appliances out in the display area. I asked about those, and the lady explained what they offered. Assuming the sellers do carry away the woodstove, we’re going to buy an unvented propane heater to heat the basement finished area. It’s only 25,000 BTU/hour, but that’d be plenty to keep us warm and to keep the upstairs pipes from freezing. That heater will consume propane at a bit over one pound per hour, or roughly four gallons per day. A 100-gallon tank will last nearly a month running 24 hours a day. That’s probably plenty to cover us in any normal power failure situation, but I still may talk to them about installing something larger, say 250 or 500 gallon.

Barbara was lobbying in favor of propane. I wanted to go out and buy a woodstove. She understands why I want a renewable fuel but she makes good points about the advantage of propane over wood in normal circumstances. But I’ve already told her that I plan to build an outbuilding eventually, and that will certainly be heated with wood.

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Wednesday, 11 November 2015

08:33 – We’re almost finished watching the BBC Historical Farm series. We watched them in chronological order rather than broadcast order, starting with Secrets of the Castle and Tudor Monastery Farm and working our way through Tales from the Green Valley, Victorian Farm, Victorian Pharmacy, Edwardian Farm, and finally Wartime Farm, which we should finish this evening or tomorrow.

All of them feature historian Ruth Goodman, usually with archaeologists Peter Ginn and Alex Langlands, living and working in an historical dwelling as ordinary people of the time would have done. They’re all well worth watching, but they aren’t available streaming or on DVD. If you want to watch them, you’ll have to grab torrents of the episodes and burn them to DVD or watch them on your computer.

One of the Wartime Farm episodes we watched last night showed one means of dealing with the fuel shortages during WWII. Ruth made a hay box, which is simply an insulated wooden box that can hold a hot pot of food, allowing it to continue cooking for hours without using fuel to keep the food simmering the whole time. The modern equivalent is vacuum bottle cooking, where you bring the pot to a boil and transfer the hot food to a pre-warmed vacuum bottle and allow it to keep cooking over a period of several hours without using any more fuel.

I plan to do some testing with that soon, using a wide-mouth 2 liter Thermos bottle. We’ll start with something simple like cooking noodles or pasta. But before I do that, I plan to test heat retention by preheating the bottle, emptying it and refilling it with boiling water, and recording the temperature initially and then after it’s sat for 6, 8, 10, and 12 hours. Thermos claims it keeps the contents hot or cold for 24 hours. We’ll see.

And I see that Amazon has fixed their Silk browser. Incredibly, an earlier “upgrade” removed the “Find in Page” function, which made Silk almost unusable for serious browsing. The latest update puts the Find function back where it belongs.

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