Month: January 2016

Sunday, 31 January 2016

10:37 – Another month gone, but we got a lot accomplished. When we put in an offer on our new house in late October, I didn’t expect things to progress as quickly as they did. But here we are, pretty much completely moved and settled in. Even Colin considers this home now, although he still has lots of exploration and marking to do on his new property.

Barbara hates to re-read books or re-watch TV programs, but we’re getting to the point where we’ve watched pretty much everything on Netflix streaming that we really want to watch. I have 100+ titles in our queue, but most of those are just series that I thought would be tolerable rather than things we really want to watch. So the other night I told Barbara that I’d much rather re-watch excellent series that we first watched 15 or 30 years ago than new crap, especially since we won’t remember any details. She agreed, and we’ve started re-watching Inspector Morse, which we first watched starting in the late 80’s. After the first four episodes, neither of us remembered anything about any of them, so they’re effectively new to us.

I also plugged a set of earphones into the Roku remote, which means Barbara can watch series that she likes but I can’t stand, notably anything by Shonda Rhimes. With the earphones connected, I can’t hear the audio, so I can sit and read while Barbara watches. It’s a win-win situation. I don’t have to hear these obnoxious series as Barbara watches them, and she doesn’t have to listen to my obnoxious comments on the obnoxious programs. And I suppose it’ll also work in reverse. I can watch re-reruns of Heartland or Jericho while Barbara reads. We can both watch what we want to, and we’ll both have more time to read.

Which will be nice. For the last few years, we’ve been running streaming TV from dinner until Barbara went back to the bedroom around 9:00. She’d read in bed for an hour or so, while I’d sit reading out in the den. That meant we each had only an hour or so of reading each evening. Before that, we’d often have two or three hours a night of reading, which I miss. There are hundreds of books currently on my TBR and TB re-R lists, and I’d like to get back to reading at least two or three books a day.

Speaking of which, Kindle Unlimited is an amazing resource for heavy readers. It has an immense selection of both fiction and non-fiction titles. A lot of the self-published stuff is garbage, but a lot of it isn’t. Which reminds me that I need to put a new Kindle on my to-buy list. My current one frequently skips ahead two pages at a time, and it gets annoying to have to do the page-back/page-forward shuffle constantly. It’s not a hardware issue, unless both of the page-forward buttons have just coincidentally developed the same hardware problem at the same time.

I’m going to do a hardware reset on my Kindle to see if that fixes the problem. Before I do that, I’ll use this site to build a structured list, organized by collections, of the titles I want to reload after the reset. And after the reset, I won’t tell the Kindle how to connect to our WiFi, because connecting to WiFi reproducibly crashes both Barbara’s and my Kindles, requiring a hard reset and reload each time. The other advantage is that the battery charge lasts much longer with WiFi disabled.

Even if the hard reset fixes the page-turn problem, I’ll probably get a spare Kindle and load both of them up with reference books and so on. It never hurts to have important books replicated, or in my case triplicated, since I have many of the titles in hard copy as well.

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Saturday, 30 January 2016

10:30 – More administrative stuff today and tomorrow. Monday, I start on building more chemical bags and other subassemblies for science kits, as well as getting shelves up in my office and the unfinished basement area and getting my new desktop system set up and configured. Barbara’s been doing yeoman duty upstairs, getting stuff moved in, unboxed, and organized, as well as getting the garage cleared and organized. We’re making progress. We’re entering the slowest period of the year for science kit sales, which gives us time to focus on the other stuff that needs to be done.

My voter registration card came the other day, and I’m debating what to do. I’ll vote in the state and local primaries this spring and the general election in November, but I’m not sure about the federal level races. I’m halfway inclined to write in none of the above for each of them, but I may vote for Cruz in the primary and the Republican presidential candidate in the November election. Whoever that might be must be better than whoever the Democrats run. I’m really inclined to vote for the Libertarian candidates in all races, of course, but they have no chance of being elected except perhaps at the local level. And I’m not fool enough to think that it ultimately makes any difference who’s in office. They’re all bad.

Barbara baked a pan of cornbread yesterday, which turned out very well. Today, she’s baking regular bread and a batch of oatmeal cookies.

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Friday, 29 January 2016

09:19 – Amazon updated my Kindle Fire, and presumably Barbara’s, to the new version of their OS overnight. The changes are significant, and many of them appear gratuitous, but we’ll see how they work. I normally work in landscape mode, and they’ve moved the home and back arrow keys from the side to the bottom of the display and changed the icons. That’ll take some getting used to.

My new desktop system from Costco arrived yesterday, but I haven’t had time to unbox it. It has three times the memory and about 10 times the processor of the notebook I’ve been using, so it should be a lot better for my typical work habits. On the downside, it runs Windows 10, which I have to leave on it because I need Windows to run the software. All my time over the next couple days is allocated to government-mandated administrative crap, but I’ll get moved over to the new system on Monday.

Other than general relocation/moving-in type tasks, I didn’t get much done this week on the prepping front. Here’s what I managed to do:

  • I read a bunch of PA novels, most of which weren’t very good. One exception is the one I started last night, Matthew Mather’s CyberStorm, which I borrowed with Kindle Unlimited and got through about a quarter of last night. Unlike most of the new breed of PA novelists, Mather can actually write. He’s also prolific and likes to do series, so I expect there’ll soon be a sequel or sequel to this book.
  • I did more research on small solar power setups. I don’t yet understand all the issues well enough to start buying panels and so on, but I’m getting there. My goal is to have sufficient solar capacity to be able to run our well pump and provide sufficient power for basic lighting, comms, and so on. I do know that I’ll focus first on acquiring the high-tech components–panels, charge controllers, inverters, and so on–and worry later about storage batteries. We could, if necessary, use ordinary automobile batteries, although they’re not ideal.

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

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Thursday, 28 January 2016

10:30 – Barbara left about an hour ago to drive down to Winston, where she’s running some errands and having lunch with a friend. She was originally planning to go yesterday, but the weather forecast was iffy, so they rescheduled for Friday. Yesterday afternoon, the revised forecast said today would be fine, so Barbara re-rescheduled for today. She should be back mid-afternoon with another load of boxes to be unloaded and sorted out.

My new desktop system from Costco is supposed to arrive today, although I won’t have time to set it up until the first of next week. I’m still busy with administrative stuff, some of which has a submission deadline of 31 January. UPS is also supposed to deliver a “USB” camera cable from Amazon. I put that in quotes, because it’s not a standard USB cable. The A end is standard, but the B end is a proprietary connector that looks kind of like a mini-B, but isn’t. Apparently, that non-standard connector is widely used by camera manufacturers. I actually had to order a mini-B and find out it didn’t fit the camera connector before I realized the cable was proprietary. Sometimes I hate learning something new every day.

Not to sound like one of those crazy prepper types, but reading the headlines lately makes me think it might not be a bad idea to keep a few extra days worth of canned food and water on hand.

That last is a quote from an email I got from a guy I’ve known since I was in grad school 40 years ago. Ordinarily, I’d say they could use a picture of him next to the word “oblivious” in the dictionary, so apparently the prepping phenomenon is spreading even to the general public.

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Wednesday, 27 January 2016

10:47 – I see that the standoff has ended, with the Bundy family and their supporters arrested and one of them shot dead. No surprise there. But it comes at a cost to the government in the form of decreased trust by the citizenry. After Waco, most normal people thought the fault was with Koresh’s group, although many questioned the use of tanks and firebombing to root out what were, after all, general peaceful civilians. After Ruby Ridge, still more people began to question just what the government was doing. And now with the Bundy family, still more average people are wondering just what’s going on. I think we’re going to see more events like this over the coming months and years, and more and more people will start to see the federal goons for what they are. Federal government goons murdering ordinary civilians.

I’m still tied up with administrative stuff, some of which has to be complete and in the mail by Friday.

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Tuesday, 26 January 2015

11:14 – Here’s an article by Kurt Schlichter that’s worth reading: Buy Ammo


[…]An armed, trained populace is not only prepared for when things go bad, but the fact that it is armed and trained makes it much less likely that things will go bad in the first place. Last year, Americans voted for liberty by buying well over 15 million new guns. That’s roughly 40,000 a day, every day. That’s enough to arm three infantry divisions.

Every. Single. Day.

Just don’t forget to buy ammo.

That’s simply stunning. I’d never thought about it that way. Many of those 40,000 new guns per day were black rifles. Sure, 40,000 new guns a day doesn’t really translate to three infantry divisions or anything close. It is, nonetheless, a significant number, to say the least. And it’s pretty obvious that any attempt to confiscate guns on a wide scale would be impractical, particularly in rural areas, not least because many/most of the people who would be charged with doing so are more in sympathy with gun owners than with the government. Not to mention that it would be hideously dangerous for the people doing the confiscating.

On the prepping front, I’m still making up a shopping list for our next Costco run. Barbara said last night that we have enough rice, especially since we have about 200 pounds of it in stock and don’t routinely use all that much of it. She has a point. But she doesn’t object to adding to our stocks of bulk sugar, flour, egg noodles, vegetable oil, and so on, which we do use a lot of. Speaking of which, she volunteered the other day that she’s going to bake cornbread, which we haven’t had in a long time.

We need to get some two-liter soda bottles ready to fill with sugar, flour, etc. I’m fully booked right now with administrative stuff that needs to be complete by 31 January, so that’ll be a project for early February. That and getting shelving set up in my office and getting stuff moved from boxes onto the shelving.

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Monday, 25 January 2016

11:30 – We ended up bagging Orange is the New Black. I don’t have any interest in a series set in a women’s prison, let alone one with with a whining, entitled bitch as the protagonist. We finished series one of Last Tango in Halifax last night, and started on series two. It’s a decent series, as is everything we’ve ever watched that stars Derek Jacobi (AKA Clavdivs and Cadfael). The entire cast is excellent, but Nicola Walker as Gillian stands out even among that group.

I finished Volume 4 of Bobby Andrews’ Prepper’s Crucible series. That didn’t take long. With only six normal-length chapters, this volume barely makes it into novella territory as far as I’m concerned. It’s listed as 115 pages on the Kindle, and totals less than 31,000 words. Still, it was something new to read. But it does highlight a disturbing trend, particularly in PA writing, of writing a third or a quarter of a novel and selling it at the price of a full novel.

I wish I had the time to follow OFD’s and Jen’s lead, and start work on a PA novel series myself. I’m pretty sure I could do a decent job on it, particularly given the generally weak competition. Just for relaxation, I may rough out an outline and a couple chapters to see how it goes. And, yes, I’m still working on the non-fiction prepping book, although the move and the science kit business don’t leave me much time to work on it recently.

13:25 – I just did something I haven’t done for probably 15 years or more: ordered a desktop computer. Our computing environment here is too fragile, and I just don’t have time to build a desktop.

So I ordered a Lenovo H50 desktop mini-tower with an Intel Core i7-4790, which is 25% to 50% faster than the Core i7-980X processor in my old, dead main desktop system. That’ll replace my current main system, so to speak, which is a low-end Dell Inspiron notebook that has only a Core i3 processor and 4 GB of memory. That notebook is simply not enough to handle the way I work, which is with a lot of windows open.

When I built i7-980X desktop several years ago, it was about $2,500 worth of system. The new desktop was $750, on sale for $650. Even with shipping and sales tax, it totaled only $727. I’ll leave it running Windows 10, because I need Windows to run the software. I’ll disconnect the notebook, which is running Linux Mint, from the display, keyboard, and mouse, and start using it upstairs as my secondary system. At least I can get some work done on it, which I can’t on my Kindle Fire.

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Sunday, 24 January 2016

12:31 – I hope USPS is running tomorrow. I have kits stacked up and awaiting pickup. Barbara shoveled the front steps and walk this morning. I got the Trooper out of the garage and used it to punch through the pile of snow that the snowplow had left blocking our driveway.

We’re watching Last Tango in Halifax and Orange is the New Black on Netflix streaming. The former is typically high-quality British drama. The second is up to Netflix’s usual high standards. It features lots of nekkid women and simulated cunnilingus, so it’s not appropriate for pre-pubescent children, although teenagers won’t find anything new or shocking in it.

Last night, I read Bobby Andrews’ Prepper’s Crucible (Omnibus, Volumes 1-3): An EMP Tale. He’s not a great writer, although he gets better as he goes along. He calls this three volumes, but in really it’s one mid-length novel. The fourth volume is also available, like the omnibus volume, from Kindle Unlimited. It’s only a nominal 115 pages, so I’ll go ahead and read it as well. Volume 5 is imminent, and is available for pre-order.

I’m going to help Barbara hang more pictures this afternoon. Tomorrow we need to make up more biology chemical bags and build more biology kits.

Email from Jen. She reads lots of PA novels, and has decided that she could do a better job. She’s currently outlining the first volume, which she intends to self-publish on Amazon. We’ll see. Lots of people start writing books. Few finish them. On the other hand, Jen is a very determined woman, so perhaps she’ll actually do it.

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Saturday, 23 January 2016

10:34 – The snow is mostly past. We’re to have maybe another inch today, but that’s it for this storm. I have no idea how much we got. We’ve had sustained winds of 20+ MPH (32 KPH) the whole time, with frequent gusts up to twice that. Looking out the front window a few minutes ago, there appeared to be a blizzard, even though no snow was actually falling. It was just the wind blowing snow off our front yard. Barbara estimated we’d gotten at least 12″ (30 cm) total, and it may be more than that.

USPS didn’t run at all yesterday. Even counter service was closed. I did get through to them this morning. The guy said they’re doing the best they can and will be running routes today, although they’ll be running very late and may not get to everyone. When I asked him, the guy did say not to worry about any packages with postage labels dated earlier than the current date. He said they’d accept them, even if they didn’t manage to get to them until Monday.

There’s no shortage of snow plows around here, which makes sense. Yesterday and this morning on our road, I saw at least a dozen different trucks with plows on them. There were a couple of different county trucks with plows and salt flings, several private flat-beds and dump trucks, and probably half a dozen private pickups. Most of them weren’t plowing or salting as they passed our house, but several were.

I’d consider us to be pretty heavy users of Netflix streaming, but apparently we’re not out of the ordinary. As of 2015, the average Netflix streaming subscriber was watching nearly two hours per day. Given how many subscribers Netflix now has, that doesn’t bode well for cable and satellite TV. We cut the cord more than a decade ago, retaining only local stations, which we didn’t watch much anyway. As of our move to Sparta, we cut the cord entirely. We have no TV service here other than Netflix and Amazon streaming, and we don’t miss it.

I didn’t do anything specifically prepping-related this week, other than continuing the process of getting settled in our new house. Well, that and starting a list for our next run down to Costco in Winston-Salem. So far, the only things on that list are some 50-pound (22.7 kilo) bags of sugar, flour, and rice; a couple 10-pound boxes of oatmeal; another bottle or two of vanilla extract to replace one that didn’t survive the move; some large bottles of cinnamon and other spices; another bottle of molasses; another jug of oil; and a couple bags of coffee.

This week, I also want to get a bunch of 2-liter soda bottles cleaned and prepared for those bulk staples. We’ll do that on a production line, rinsing each, washing them out with sudsy water, rinsing again with dilute chlorine bleach solution, and setting them aside to drain. The problem is that they take forever to air dry completely. Fortunately, there’s an easy way to speed that up. After they’re drained as well as possible, I’ll simply transfer a couple pounds of dry rice to each bottle, shake it around to absorb any remaining water, and dump it into the next bottle. Two passes with different batches of rice suffice to remove all the moisture from the bottles, and when the rice starts to get damp it can be dried in the oven and reused indefinitely.

12:21 – Colin escaped this morning while Barbara was standing with the front door open, taking pictures of the snow. He apparently sneaked out behind her without being noticed. Some time later, Barbara heard him barking at the front door to be let in. Good Dog. We’re both concerned about him being out loose. At first, it was because he wasn’t thinking of this as his home yet, and we were afraid if he got loose he’d head for Winston-Salem, literally. Now that he thinks of the new house as home, we’re mainly concerned about the traffic on our road and US21. Colin has no fear of cars, and being hit by a car is a leading cause of death of Border Collies. They try to herd the cars. With the wintry conditions and everyone driving at sane speeds, him being loose isn’t much of a problem today. In fact, I let him out the front door off-leash first thing this morning to go pee. He stood on the relatively snow-free front porch looking at the snow-covered front yard, walked over to one of the porch support columns, lifted his leg and peed on it, and then headed for the front door.

Oh, yeah. I just added butter to our Costco list. Ordinarily, we have at least six or eight four-pound packs in the big freezer, but we’re down to two. We’re using more butter for cooking and baking. Just making a regular batch of oatmeal cookies takes half a pound.

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Friday, 22 January 2016

10:37 – The snow came in overnight as expected. They’d forecast 3 to 5 inches overnight. When I took Colin out about 0800, there was about 4″ (10 cm) on the ground. There was no snow falling at that point, but within half an hour it had started to fall pretty heavily. We’re to get another 12+ inches today and maybe another 3 to 5 inches overnight tonight, tapering off Saturday morning. Total accumulation is to be 18 to 24 inches (40 to 60 cm).

I took Colin out off leash because I didn’t want him to pull me over. There’s very little traffic either on our road or route 21, and what traffic there is appears to be locals, all driving about 20 MPH.

I called Bonnie, our next-door neighbor, yesterday to make sure she was ready for the winter storm. She’s nearly 90 years old and lives by herself. She assured me that she was prepared. She mentioned that she has bushels of potatos, piles of canned goods, and large amounts of rice, pinto beans, and so on. As she said, she could eat for a long time from her stored food. She might not like it as well as her regular diet, but she wouldn’t starve. In most places, Bonnie would be considered a prepper. Here, she’s just done what almost everyone does, stock up.

Bonnie called Barbara yesterday afternoon to tell her that she was keeping an eye on me. I’d told her that Barbara was down in Winston and wouldn’t be back until yesterday afternoon. Bonnie had watched me walk out to the mailbox with Colin, and was worried that I’d fall. Barbara told Bonnie that she appreciated Bonnie keeping an eye on me while she was down in Winston, but that I did have my cell phone on me at all times. When she hung up, Barbara said that she loved having nosy neighbors that kept an eye on things.

Vickie, our next-door neighbor on the other side, stopped by here yesterday afternoon to check on us and drop off some banana pudding, which Barbara loves. I told Barbara she was welcome to all of it, and we could just make some more oatmeal cookies or cinnamon crumb cake for me.

I really do like living in Sparta, and I think Barbara does, too. Everyone we’ve met is nice. I plan to get involved in more community stuff over the coming weeks and months. It’s all about networking.

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