Month: February 2016

Monday, 29 February 2016

10:34 – Barbara is at the gym this morning, as usual on MWF. Colin is barking frequently, as is usual when Barbara is not at home. The wind is howling, as seems to be the usual here. Not surprising, considering that we’re on top of the mountain. I think I just saw a couple of cows roll by, end over end. If it’s like this year-round, I’d consider installing a wind generator. Well, not really. Even in locations with strong winds year round, the cost of wind generation is much higher than solar, and has higher ongoing maintenance costs. Wind is also all-or-nothing. One can’t install a small wind-power setup and then gradually expand it, as one can with solar.

Interesting article on the role of psychopaths in politics. Hint: politicians are, almost without exception, psychopaths. So, this coming November election, like all elections, comes down to which psychopath is going to be running things.

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Sunday, 28 February 2016

12:11 – It’s a beautiful day today, with sunny skies and a forecast high around 60F. Barbara is cleaning house. I’m finally set up with a working computer and printer in one corner of the dining room, where I can do routine stuff like mail, web, shipping kits, and so on. I’ll still set up my desktop system in my office downstairs, where I’ll do most of my heads-down writing work.

In the next couple of weeks, we’ll be starting some seeds in pots. Mostly herbs. Our average last frost is in early May, so we’ll be able to give seedlings a two month head start in pots before transplanting them in mid-May. Our deck gets lots of sun, and it’ll be easy enough to bring the pots indoors if freezing weather threatens. Actually, some of them may live in pots year-round, especially the herbs.

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Saturday, 27 February 2016

10:31 – Our Internet service is back to normal. Apparently, the gremlins just went away. I’m now getting normal throughput on my notebook sitting on the dining room table, whereas I was getting 0.1/0.1 Mbps down/up the other day. No changes to anything. It just started working again. I hate that.

Barbara did a quick Costco run yesterday before she headed back up to Sparta. I’d asked her to pick up another case of toilet paper, which she did, but she also picked up another case of paper towels. She’d also stopped at BB&B, where she picked up various stuff for the house, including some small kitchen items like a whisk and a set of biscuit cutters.

I re-read Ted Koppel’s Lights Out last night. It’s a short book, and well worth reading if you haven’t already. One of the points that Koppel makes in passing is the differing levels of preparedness of different areas. Urban residents typically keep very little food on hand. If they’re underclass, they probably keep about a day or two worth on hand. Even if they’re middle-class or better, they probably keep little shelf-stable food on hand because they mostly eat out, eat only fresh foods, or cook microwave meals. Suburban residents are typically better stocked, which corresponds with my own experience. A typical suburban home probably has at least a week or two worth of food on hand, and many have more. Costco and Sam’s Club shopping has encouraged that trend. Suburban homes have more storage than urban apartments, and lots of suburbanites stock up during monthly Costco/Sam’s runs. Rural dwellers are typically even better prepared. I’d guess that the typical home in Sparta has at least a month worth of food on hand, and many/most probably have more. And that’s just regular people. Those who would class themselves as preppers–and there are probably a lot more preppers in this area than in a typical suburban area–have a lot more. It’s ironic that the closer one lives to food-producing areas, the more likely one is to have a lot of food stored. That’s probably because rural residents are on average a lot more conscious of the need to be prepared and a lot less likely to count on the government to do anything to help them during an emergency.

Barbara just got the electric co-op newsletter, which announced that our electric rates would be reduced by about 1.8 cents/KWh. Last month, we used 1,723 KWh at about 10.2 cents/KWh, so our electric bill should be going down by roughly 18% for the rest of this year, a result of cheap natural gas. Yet another example of why low oil/gas prices are a huge benefit across the US.

Living in an all-electric house, I’m well aware of the dangers of a grid-down scenario. That’s why one of the first things we did when we moved in was install a wood stove large enough to heat our home and, if necessary cook on. That means my main concern about electricity at this point is that we have a well for water, so we need to be able to power the well pump if the grid goes down. As a stop-gap measure, we have a generator large enough to power the well pump. We also have a gas station with probably 40,000 gallons of gasoline about 100 yards from our house. But our next major acquisition will probably be a solar installation sufficient to power that well pump for at least 10 or 15 minutes a day. With a flow rate of 5 to 6 gallons per minute, that’d give us 50 to 90 gallons of water a day, which we could live with. We could probably manage that with one or two 100W panels and the associated electronics and deep cycle batteries.

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Friday, 26 February 2016

09:26 – Internet problems ate my day yesterday. I’m still not sure what’s going on. We’re on Skybest fiber broadband, provisioned for 20 Mbps down and 2 Mbps up. Until yesterday morning, my notebook sitting on the dining room table was getting about 8 Mbps down, which is acceptable given how far it is from the WiFi WAP. As of yesterday morning, it started yielding a 4,500+ ms ping and down/up of 0.1 Mbps, with frequent DNS resolution errors and time outs. Also, the evening before, Netflix streaming died with a Roku unable to connect error. The Roku is on a TP Link powerline ethernet adapter.

I called tech support. Skybest’s tech support is head and shoulders above any other broadband provider I’ve ever heard of. She spent almost an hour on the phone with me, resetting the TA and router and trying various things. At that point, the Netflix streaming was working, as was WiFi to my Fire and Barbara’s notebook. She wasn’t satisfied and told me she’d have a technician visit as soon as one was free. An hour or so later, two techs showed up. They repeated a lot of what I’d already done while talking to support, and verified that I had a decent WiFi signal upstairs as well as down, even though my notebook on the dining room table was still showing 0.1 Mbps down and up. Barbara’s notebook on her desk 10 feet away was showing 8/2 Mbps, even though it connects by WiFi.

After they left, I unplugged the monitor and a bunch of USB devices from my notebook and carried it into Barbara’s office, where I was getting the same 8/2 Mbps. Aha, I thought, for some reason WiFi has taken a dislike to the dining room table. At that point, I gave up for the evening. This morning, I again checked my notebook on Barbara’s desk and it again gave me 8/2 Mbps. So I carried it 10 feet to the dining room table, expecting 0.1/0.1 Mbps, but it tested at 8/2 Mbps. Apparently, the situation somehow resolved itself. Then I plugged in the monitor, USB keyboard, USB printer, etc. I clicked on the Start Test icon to check again. You guessed it: 0.1/0.1.

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Wednesday, 24 February 2016

14:11 – Barbara is downstairs filling and labeling vials of l-glutamine and oxytetracycline for biology kits as she watches Netflix’s House of Cards. I told her that I had no interest in watching a series that features lawyers and/or politicians, particularly one that presents them as the Good Guys, nor any series (like any by Shonda Rhimes) that features prog propaganda, nor anything that has embedded commercials or a laugh track. That limits my viewing choices significantly, which from my viewpoint is a good thing.

We got our electric bill yesterday. It was something like $177 for the month, which included a lot of days with temperatures well below freezing and often down into the single digits F. Considering that we have electric heat via a heat pump, I didn’t think that was bad at all. I asked Barbara, and she said it was comparable to the bill for our Winston-Salem house if you combined the electric and natural gas bills.


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Tuesday, 23 February 2016

10:36 – More labeling of bottles and vials today. Barbara got enough done yesterday to almost run us out of unused 30 mL cylinders and run us down to just over a case of the 15 mL cylinders. I’ll reorder those today.

Barbara is heading down to Winston on Thursday to have dinner with a friend and run errands. She’ll stay with Frances and Al on Thursday night, have lunch Friday with a different friend, make a Costco run, and head back home to Sparta. That leaves Colin and me free to pursue wild women and parties while she’s gone. Or not.


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Monday, 22 February 2016

13:00 – Barbara is pretty happy with the state of the house, so we’re back in kit-making mode. I’m running labels for 15 mL bottles right now, hundreds and hundreds of them, and Barbara is labeling and bagging the bottles. I’ll start making up chemicals tomorrow, and we’ll be filling thousands of bottles and vials over the next week or so.

I also need to re-order bottles. We’re down to maybe 1,500 of the 15 mL cylindrical bottles and about 1,000 of the 30 mL cylinders, most or all of which will be labeled in the next few days.


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Sunday, 21 February 2016

16:00 – We’ve been working all day building kit subassemblies. That’s what we’ll be doing most of this week.

Barbara mentioned that she’s concerned about my physical condition. When we were in Winston, I at least got a mile or so of walking in per day, taking Colin down to see Kim and Sophie, his little Yorkie dog buddy. In Sparta, I’m getting no exercise to speak of. That and the higher altitude (3,000+ feet in Sparta versus about 850 feet in Winston) has really been taking it out of me. I stunned Barbara by suggesting that I might come to the gym with her. I mentioned weights, and told her that when I was in college and grad school I used to lift 250 pounds. I said I wasn’t in the shape now that I had been then, and told her with a straight face that I figured just to be safe I’d start out lifting only 200 pounds. When I saw the look on her face, I quickly told her that I was only kidding, and I’d probably start out at maybe 50 pounds. She suggested 10 pounds would be better. I found myself wondering if the Guinness Book of World Records has a category for the least amount of weight lifted in a clean and jerk.

We finished getting the first batch of shelves up in the garage. Barbara now has 40 more feet of 1X10 pine shelving, most of which she’s already populated.

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Saturday, 20 February 2016

10:16 – Barbara announced this morning that she’s reasonably happy with the state of the house. We still have a few major projects to do, notably putting up shelves in the garage. We’ll work on that today. That’ll give Barbara somewhere to store the stuff that’s currently sitting around in boxes on the garage floor. As a librarian, Barbara prizes organization and despises clutter.

The door guy came yesterday and installed a storm door on the front door, so Colin can again lie in the foyer and look out the door. Getting this done was a pretty high priority for Barbara (and Colin).

I’ll work on the garage shelves today and then start on some computer projects and kit projects.

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Friday, 19 February 2016

12:48 – Barbara and Bonnie Richardson are off seeing the sights of downtown Sparta. There’s so much to see that I don’t expect them back before mid- to late-afternoon.

I didn’t manage to get much prepping stuff done this week, other than more reading and research. I did read several more PA novels, most of which (as usual) were, to be generous, mediocre. I conclude that for every person who can actually write a decent novel, there must be at least 100 who mistakenly believe they can. I may number among that latter group myself. We’ll see.

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

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