Thursday, 31 December 2015

09:58 – I suppose that 2015 was a good year for some people, but for most it’s been a year best forgotten. I’d like to think that 2016 will be a better year, but I’m afraid it will end up being more of the same, if not worse. I’ve often said that I expect a slow slide into dystopia, and that appears to be what’s happening now.

For us, 2015 has been an okay year. Business has been noticeably slower than 2014 and even 2013 before it, but we’ve purchased a new house in a rural area and relocated there. We’ll spend 2016 getting settled in, making new friends, getting the old house ready to go on the market, and working on building the business. I don’t really expect any catastrophic trigger event to occur in 2016, but if things do get bad quickly, we’ll be as ready for it as we can be.

Over the last few days, we’ve been hearing gunshots nearby. Hundreds of them, and they seem to be coming from within a few hundred yards of our house. The reports sound like shotgun or heavy-caliber pistol fire rather than rifle fire. I wondered if there was a sporting clays range somewhere out behind our house, so yesterday Barbara and I drove around the back roads to see if we could figure out what was going on. We didn’t spot a range among all the fields and pastures, so we decided it might just be someone on the farm behind us shooting clays. Colin is taking it surprisingly well. Ordinarily, anything that sounds like thunder or gunshots sends him fleeing in terror, but he’s pretty much ignoring these sounds.

Jen and her group are doing another trial run starting today and running through Sunday evening to follow up on the one they did over the Thanksgiving weekend. They had warm weather for the first one, but for this one they’ll have highs not much above freezing and lows well down in the 20’s. They’ll be using their wood stove exclusively to keep warm and for cooking, which should make for an interesting weekend.

Back to work on the unfinished area of the basement.


Wednesday, 30 December 2015

09:39 – The unfinished basement area is still cluttered, but we’ve made a lot of progress on getting it cleared out. We’ll work more on it today. By the first of the week, I hope to have things set up and functional in there for building more science kits.

In moving stuff around, I found myself impressed by just how much food we have stored. A lot of it needs to be repackaged–bags of rice, boxes of pasta, and so on–but (and Barbara will be delighted to hear me say this) we’re in pretty good shape as things stand. I do want to add more bulk staples, but that’s not a top priority.

I also need to do some work on our network and get a working desktop system set up. Again, that’s not a top priority, but it does need to be done. I’ve been surprised by how well this little Dell notebook is doing. Not much processor nor much memory, but it’s getting the job done for now.

One of the things that does concern me is making sure that Barbara is happy here. Other than when she was away at college and grad school, she’s lived in Winston-Salem all her life. This is a big change for her. For me, not so much. I’ve lived in a lot of places, and I’m perfectly happy with just Barbara and Colin for companionship. Barbara, on the other hand, is used to seeing friends and family frequently. Eventually, she’ll make new friends up here, but for now it must be kind of hard for her to have just Colin and me to look at.

So I’ll encourage her to get out and meet people here, to make trips down to Winston whenever she wants, and to invite friends from Winston to stay with us up here for a weekend or a week or whatever.

Back to work on the unfinished area of the basement.


Tuesday, 29 December 2015

09:52 – We left here yesterday morning for Winston. We dropped Colin off at the house and headed out to do errands. Barbara dropped me off at the dentist to get my fangs cleaned and sharpened, and then drove over to get her hair cut. She swung past the dentist’s office and picked me up to do a Costco run. Then it was back home to pack up the Trooper and head back up to Sparta. We got home about 4:00.

There was an interesting front-page article in the WS paper yesterday about North Carolina electric power utilities fighting a constant stream of cyberattacks: Duke Energy, the biggest US electric company, battling steady cyberattacks

One of the people quoted said that he didn’t want to incite panic, but the threat was very real. I don’t think he needs to worry about inciting panic. The panic will occur if/when the grid shuts down, and not before. Most people are oblivious, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. People generally remind me of Scarlett O’Hara, “I can’t think about that right now. If I do, I’ll go crazy. I’ll think about that tomorrow.” But by the time they deign to think about it, it’ll be too late. We live in a world where a lot of people hate us and are in a position to do something about it. Burying one’s head in the sand isn’t helpful.

One of the comments yesterday asked about antiparasitics. In my lay opinion, the best option is to lay in a supply of agricultural ivermectin, which is a broad spectrum antiparasitic, effective on most internal parasites other than tapeworms.

Another commenter suggested that I steer clear of offering medical advice, which I agree with completely. I’m not offering medical advice: I’m offering suggestions about various drugs that I think are good to have on hand just in case. I have no intention of practicing medicine other than in a severe emergency when there are no qualified medical personnel available and the only options are to watch someone die or try to do something about the problem. And even if you are lucky enough to have a physician in your group, he won’t be able to do much about dangerous infections without access to antibiotics, and chances are he’s not carrying a pharmacy along with him.

We’re working this week on getting the science kit stuff organized so that we can build more kits as needed.


Monday, 28 December 2015

07:56 – One of the most frequent prepping-related queries I get has to do with antibiotics: Are animal antibiotics safe for human use? Are antibiotics safe to use after their “expiration dates”? Which specific antibiotics should I store, and how should I store them? And so on.

First, I’ll emphasize that I’m not a physician or pharmacist. What follows is just my own opinion, so take it for what it’s worth. But fish and bird antibiotics sold by companies like Thomas Labs are apparently identical to the same antibiotics labeled for human use, right down to the capsule colors and identification numbering. They almost certainly come from the same manufacturing plants in the same batches. So, yes, in my (very) qualified lay opinion fish/bird antibiotics that are also sold for human use are safe to use in humans. I’ve done titers/assays of several of several of these drugs in human versus bird/fish forms and found that activity levels are within allowable limits. There’s probably more variation from one batch to the next than there is in human versus animal forms.

As to expiration dates, the federal government has required them since the late 70’s, but like food best-by dates they’re pretty meaningless. Numerous rigorous studies have determined that these drugs remain safe and effective for years or decades past their “expiration dates”, and that’s when they’re stored at room temperature. Frozen, their useful lives are essentially unlimited. All those dates really mean is that the manufacturer doesn’t guarantee anything if the drug is used after the date on the label.

Back in the early 60’s, there were some problems with toxicity in outdated tetracycline, but that appears to have been a manufacturing issue that was soon resolved. As best I can determine from an exhaustive literature search, tetracyclines produced in the last 50 years or so have not exhibited toxicity when used after their expiration dates. In an emergency, I wouldn’t hesitate for even a millisecond about using 20-, 30-, or 40-year old antibiotics, particularly if they’d been stored frozen. In a long-term emergency, having any antibiotics available may well mean the difference between life and death.

As to which antibiotics to store, it’s a question of depth versus breadth. I’d love to have a thousand courses of a dozen different antibiotics available, but that’s simply not practical in terms of cost, storage space, and so on. For most people, the best option will be to have a lot of a few antibiotics and a little of several others.

The trick is to decide which classes of antibiotics to store in quantity, and which member of each class. For example, unless you or someone in your family has a penicillin allergy–and maybe even if someone does–you’ll probably want to store larger amounts of β-lactam antibiotics (penicillins, cephalosporins, and carbapenems). Within that class, there are dozens of specific antibiotics, including penicillin itself, amoxicillin, ampicillin, various generations of cephalosporins (Keflex, etc.) and so on. Broadly speaking, most antibiotics in a class have similar spectra, and differ mainly in things like dosage frequency and amount, and so on. One member of the class may be the preferred option. For example, doxycline is the first choice for treating Lyme Disease, but other tetracyclines are also active against that bacteria. In other words, if you find yourself without doxycycline but have tetracycline or oxytetracycline, you can generally substitute one of them successfully.

Drug resistance is also an issue, and one way of dealing with it is to use combinations of drugs. For example, resistance to amoxicillin is so widespread that many physicians now treat it almost as a placebo. But many bacteria that are resistant to plain amoxicillin can be treated successfully with a combination of amoxicillin and potassium clavulanate (AmoxiClav). Similarly, many bacteria that are resistant to plain sulfa drugs can be treated with a combination such as SMZ/TMP (sulfamethoxazole/trimethoprim). Unfortunately, with the exception of SMZ/TMP, most combinations are not sold for bird/fish use. Still, these are the versions that you really want.

Still another issue is the chemical form of the drug. Antibiotics sold for veterinary use are not necessarily usable for humans because of differences between species. For example, penicillin G potassium in oral form is widely used by vets to treat infections in cattle, sheep, goats, horses, and so on. It works great in ruminants and horses because their digestive systems work on cellulose and other plant matter. In humans and other carnivores/omnivores, penicillin G potassium can’t be used orally because our stomach acids destroy the drug before it can be absorbed. (Regardless, I keep a large amount of this antibiotic on hand, because it can be used successfully in humans if administered by injection, retention enema, or suppositories.) For some forms of some other antibiotics, the issues are similar. For example, erythromycin for use in livestock is usually supplied as the phosphate salt, which is also destroyed by human stomach acid. Erythromycin intended for oral use in humans is supplied either in enteric-coated form or as the stearate salt, which is resistant to stomach acid. But again, the phosphate salt can be used successfully in humans via injection or by retention enema or suppositories.

So, which antibiotics should you stock in larger quantities? I’d recommend at least a couple of full courses of each of the following, more if you’re prepping for more than just a couple of people:

  • Amoxicillin/clavulanate – Buy 875/125 mg capsules. In adults, a typical course of treatment would be one capsule every 12 hours for 10 days, so you’d need 20 per course. Because Amoxiclav is much more expensive than plain amoxicillin, you might want to modify the course to five days of Amoxiclav at 1,000 mg twice a day followed by five more days of plain amoxicillin at 1,000 mg twice a day.
  • Sulfamethoxazle/Trimethoprim (SMZ/TMP) – Buy 400/80 mg or 800/160 mg tablets, which can be split. In adults, the usual course is one 400/80 mg tablet twice a day for ten days.
  • Metronidazole – Buy 400 mg tablets. Metronidazole is effective against many bacteria, particularly anaerobes, as well as many protozoa like giardia. Adult dosage amounts and frequencies vary with the disease being treated, but a typical dosage is a total of 2,000 to 4,000 mg per day, divided into three or four doses, for five to ten days.
  • Ciprofloxacin – Buy 500 mg tablets. Typical adult dose is 500 mg twice a day for seven to fourteen days, although some serious diseases like anthrax require that dosage for 60 days or more.
    Which should be enough to get you started.


Sunday, 27 December 2015

09:23 – Frances and Al left for home yesterday afternoon after a nice visit. Colin is officially bored, since he now has just Barbara and me to manage.

We’ll get back to work downstairs starting today. We need to get a literal ton of LTS food and bottled water moved out of the unfinished area and into closets in the finished downstairs area. Once the unfinished area is cleared out a bit, I can start getting science kit stuff shelved and get set up for building more science kits. We’ll use my office as the staging area for getting everything organized.

It looks like the weather is about to turn. Through the end of year, forecast temperatures are to remain 20 or 30F above normal, but that all stops on New Year’s Eve. Our overnight low Thursday night is to be in the 20’s, and starting on 1 January we’re to be back to daytime highs around freezing and lows in the 20’s. I’m expecting to see some significant snow or freezing rain early in the New Year.

Email from Jen. She and her group scheduled another trial run starting Thursday and running through the holiday weekend. Their weather outlook is similar to ours, so they may get a bit chilly without central heating. She picked up a copy of Jan Jackson’s 100-Day Pantry on my recommendation, and plans to use several of the recipes to cook for the group during their trial run.


Saturday, 26 December 2015

09:44 – Colin has had his hands full, with extra people to keep track of, check on frequently, and herd. On the other hand, extra people around means he’s getting more human food than usual, so I’m sure he figures the extra work is worth it.

We’d already met our next-door neighbor on one side, or at least the wife. Vickie is about our age. We haven’t yet met her husband, Gill, because he’s always working. She stopped over one day to introduce herself. Barbara was down in Winston that day, so Vickie stopped over again on Thursday with her two oldest grandchildren, both girls. They’re in sixth and fourth grade, and both attend a Christian school nearby. Barbara and I were both struck by how polite and well-behaved both girls are.

Yesterday, Barbara and I walked up the road to visit our other next-door neighbor, Bonnie Tedder. She’s 88 years old, still mentally sharp, and has lived there on her own since her husband died in 1971. She has both our cell phone numbers, and we told her to call us any time she needed anything at all. Vickie drops by frequently but we figure the more people she can call on the better. Bonnie was immensely relieved that we turned out to be an ordinary middle-aged, middle-class couple. She was afraid she’d end up with a motorcycle club running a meth lab next door.

We’re taking the holiday weekend off from work, both around the house and on science kit stuff.


Friday, 25 December 2015

09:55 – Merry Christmas to all of you who celebrate the holiday.

Our guests should be arriving shortly. Barbara has everything ready. She baked brownies and a cinnamon crumb cake yesterday and baked bread this morning. There’s a Christmas CD playing on our whole-house intercom system, and I have a fireplace video running on Netflix streaming.

No luck again with Santa. He and the reindeer ignored the poisoned milk and cookies. I did get off a snap shot at the sleigh with a 12-gauge magnum duck load, but it had no apparent effect. In retrospect, I probably should have used buckshot. That, or a flechette load. Next year for sure.


Thursday, 24 December 2015

10:52 – We’re taking the next couple of days off from physical labor to relax and enjoy the holiday. Barbara is baking brownies and a cinnamon crumb cake this morning. This afternoon we’ll make up a batch of no-knead bread dough to bake tomorrow morning.

Someone emailed me to ask why installing solar to power the well pump isn’t a higher priority. The short answer is that we already have a 7KW generator, which if necessary I could run for about 10 minutes a day to pump and collect sufficient water for a dozen people at 3 gallons/day each as well as flushing the toilets a couple dozen times or more per day. I could run the generator for that five hours a month for months on just the gasoline we have stored in our vehicle fuel tanks. I do need to pick up a couple cans of ether-based starter fluid.

It’s another drizzly, foggy day here, with thunderstorms predicted for tonight and tomorrow, so we’ll stay indoors again. Fortunately, the highs and lows are both forecast to be in the 50’s F. We’d have a real mess if we got temperatures below freezing.

I just read the first two-thirds of Jacqueline Druga’s The Flu, yet another pandemic PA novel, before I ended up bagging it. To the good, Druga writes competent English prose. To the bad, she spends the first third of the novel introducing her characters. Nothing much actually happens before that. And when things do start to happen, Druga strains her readers’ credulity well beyond the breaking point. She’s completely clueless about the mechanics of a pandemic. She confuses cause and effect. (Amazing true fact according to Druga: septicemia caused the Black Plague, rather than the converse.) She believes that viral diseases can be treated successfully with anti-bacterial antibiotics. If you know anything at all about viral epidemics, you’ll find yourself throwing your Kindle across the room.

On Steve Konkoly’s recommendation, I also used my KU account to pick up a copy of Tom Abraham’s Home: A Post Apocalyptic/Dystopian Adventure (The Traveler Book 1). I’m glad I didn’t pay for it. Abraham’s writing is mediocre at best, typical of self-published PA novels. He goes into excruciating detail about the hardware. I mean, I don’t need to know the brand and model of his tactical rifle, let alone the barrel length or the fact that he’s using 77-grain bullets. Geez. I managed to get through about 15% of the book, just to be fair to the author, but it didn’t get better. If anything, it was getting worse. I can appreciate that Konkoly wants to help his friends, but he loses credibility by even mentioning bad books like this, let alone giving them a strong personal endorsement.


Wednesday, 23 December 2015

12:05 – We’re pretty much finished getting the downstairs finished area ready for use. Barbara is currently unboxing books and transferring them to the bookshelves. My office, the larger of the two downstairs bedrooms, is still cluttered with stacks of boxes, but we’re gradually getting those unpacked. Eventually, we’ll install bookshelves on the walls in here, and probably one of the 5×2-foot freestanding island shelving units to store more kit stuff. There’s a large closet, which is currently about a quarter full of long-term food storage, roughly a person-year’s worth. When we get time, we’ll transfer another six or eight cases of #10 cans of Augason LTS food into that closet as well.

Barbara thinks we already have plenty of stored food, and in one sense she’s right. As I’ve said many times, I don’t really expect a catastrophic SHTF situation, at least anytime soon. I expect a continuing slide into dystopia. But there’s a very real possibility that a trigger event like the power grid going down or severe widespread civil disorder will kick things over the edge, and supermarket shelves will quickly empty and stay empty. If that does happen–and I’d SWAG there’s maybe a 10% chance per year that it will happen–I want to be in a position to feed not just Barbara, Colin, and me for the long term, but also family, friends, and neighbors. Fortunately, we’re now living in an area that produces much, much more food than it consumes, and that production is very diverse. Everything from beef and dairy cattle to grains to vegetables to fruit to poultry. That production would no doubt be seriously impaired by a grid-down or other severe long-term emergency, but even in a worst-case scenario the area should be able to feed its current population.

It’s a drizzly, foggy day here, with thunderstorms predicted for tonight and tomorrow, so we’ll stay indoors other than running a couple of errands sometime today or tomorrow. Barbara also wants to make up a double batch of no-knead bread dough today, which we’ll bake tomorrow. A double batch will yield four standard loaves, which should carry us through the holiday. Longer, if it turns out that our guests don’t care for the moister loaf that the no-knead dough produces. But the bread freezes very well, so it’s not a problem either way.

Barbara has been doing it for years, and I finally decided to start keeping a list of books I’ve been reading and videos I’ve been watching. Most will focus on prepping, because I’m reading/watching a lot of titles that apply to the prepping book I’m (still) working on. Here’s the first entry. I’ll try to keep doing it.

  • Jericho (TV series) – By far the best of the post-apocalyptic TV series. The science isn’t perfect by any means, but the writers manage to hit all the high points and cover all the issues. There are only 29 episodes, but all are worth watching/re-watching. It’s currently available on Netflix streaming.
  • Lights Out (novel) – David Crawford’s post-EMP novel is large and heavy enough to use as a doorstop, but it’s one of the best PA novels I’ve read. Again, it manages to hit all the high points and cover all the issues.
  • Lights Out (non-fiction) – Ted Koppel’s book lays out the threats against our power grids, and the nightmare scenario that would follow a long-term grid-down event. Koppel focuses on the threat of cyberattack against the grids, but acknowledges in passing the threats from an EMP attack or a solar CME.
  • Food Storage for Self-Sufficiency and Survival (non-fiction) – Angela Paskett’s book is the best single volume I’ve found that covers long-term food storage. What few errors there are are minor, and she does an excellent job of covering the issues.
  • Survival Mom (non-fiction) – Where Paskett’s book is deep but not broad, Lisa Bedford’s book is the opposite. It’s a prepping primer that attempts to touch on all of the important issues while not burying the reader in detail.
  • 100-day Pantry: 100 Quick and Easy Gourmet Meals (non-fiction) – Jan Jackson’s book addresses an issue that gets too little attention: how to cook appetizing meals using all that LTS food you have stored. The “gourmet” part is an exaggeration, but Jackson does an excellent job. She assumes that you may be cooking from stored staples but with access to some fresh foods, but she also presents LTS alternatives for when you don’t have access to fresh dairy products, meats, herbs, and so on. We actually own two printed copies of this book. When I got the first one, Barbara flipped through it and said it looked interesting. Some time later, she asked me where it was because she wanted to try cooking some of the recipes. I couldn’t find it, so I ordered another copy. One of those copies will live in our kitchen as we try some of the recipes over the next few months.

Enough for now. More next time.


Tuesday, 22 December 2015

09:05 – We’re having Christmas at our house this year, with overnight guests. Barbara is almost finished getting set up for that, other than a supermarket run on Thursday, followed by baking and so on.

What with everything else going on, I haven’t had time to get my anti-Santa gun set up and camouflaged. That means I’ll have to fall back to a simpler plan: a reindeer net and poisoned milk and cookies. That’s failed before, but it may work this time. It’s worth a try, anyway. I’d rather have the ASG, which has almost worked a couple of times. One year, as the sleigh accelerated away there was smoke coming out of Rudolph’s asshole.

I have a week to get all the year-end admin stuff done, which with the move is particularly involved this year. About the only good thing about business revenue being down for 2015 is that the government will steal less from us this year than prior years. We’ve overpaid estimated taxes this year, and will probably actually get some of it back.

From what little information has been made public, it would appear that the Las Vegas outrage was committed not by a moslem whacko but by an underclass minority whacko. For some reason, the authorities have put her on a suicide watch. I’d have no problem with that if all they were doing was watching her to see if/when she killed herself, but in fact a suicide watch is intended to prevent her from killing herself. I’m not sure why any reasonable person would want to prevent that. Her killing herself would save taxpayers the cost of a trial and subsequent imprisonment and would be, as a friend of mine used to say, no great loss.