Month: May 2016

Saturday, 21 May 2016

09:28 – Barbara is cleaning house this morning and then packing to leave tomorrow on her trip to Brasstown, NC, which, as it turns out, is more like 300 miles from here than 200. It’s a five- or six-hour drive, depending on what route she takes.

I’ll try to convince her to toss a comprehensive emergency kit in the back of her car, and to keep her gas tank full enough to get home from wherever she happens to be. It’s not that I expect a disaster to occur while she’s away. I don’t, but there is a small but finite chance of something really bad happening at any moment, and there’s no reason for her not to have a good emergency kit in the car. Having it with her costs nothing but an extra five or ten cents worth of gasoline to haul the extra weight.

People sometimes ask me what I think the chances are of something “really bad” happening. My simple wild-ass guess is that there’s maybe a 3% chance of that over the next year, 20% over the next five years, and 50% over the next ten. So, while the probability is close to 0% of it happening today or next week or even next month, I think the odds are very high that it will happen sometime over the next 10 to 15 years. That doesn’t mean we have 10 or 15 years to prepare, because the probability of it happening tomorrow is just as high as it happening 15 years from tomorrow.

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Friday, 20 May 2016

10:12 – We got an offer on the Winston house yesterday. We countered. They countered. We accepted. This morning, our realtor sent us a contract to sign. We signed it, I scanned it to PDF, and I emailed the executed agreement to our realtor. Now we wait. If things go well, we might expect to close around the end of June.

Barbara is getting ready to leave Sunday for a week-long trip to Brasstown, NC, which is about as far down in the southwest corner of NC as it’s possible to go–about a 200 mile drive from here. She’s going to a resident folk school that teaches various old-timey skills. Last time, she did a week-long course on wood carving. This time, she’s doing a stained-glass course.

I told her last night that I didn’t intend to take any showers while she’s gone. I just don’t trust my balance enough to do that without her in the house. So I’ll be taking sponge baths for the duration.

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Thursday, 19 May 2016

09:57 – We just got our first offer on the Winston house. It was low, at about 89% of the listing price, but it’s a start. We countered, of course.

I’m reculturing bacteria. I just made up and sterilized a liter of phosphate-buffered saline, which is the medium for the suspension, and a 50 mL centrifuge tube of broth media that I’ll later inoculate with the culture.

We’re making up chemical bags for the biology kits today.

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Wednesday, 18 May 2016

09:27 – Barbara is off to the gym and the bank. The final settlement check from our corporate bank account in Winston-Salem just arrived in the mail. She’ll deposit that to our new corporate bank account here in Sparta, at which point all of our banking will now be in Sparta.

Speaking of which, I just got a PDF form from one of our state government customers, asking for lots of information they need to set us up as an approved vendor. One of the items they want is our corporate bank account number and routing number. That makes me uncomfortable, given the number of big corporations and government agencies who’ve lost tens of millions of customer records to hackers. It’s my understanding that with only those two numbers, anyone anywhere in the world can withdraw as much money as they want from our bank account. I’d prefer that the customer write us a physical check rather than pay by electronic funds transfer.

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Tuesday, 17 May 2016

09:45 – Colin and I got several solutions made up yesterday. Today, Barbara and I will fill bottles.

One of the solutions we made up was 4 liters of Benedict’s Reagent, which requires a bunch of sodium citrate. While making up the solution, I saw that we were down to less than 500 g of the reagent grade sodium citrate. I was about to order more when I realized that it made more sense just to stock citric acid. I can dissolve a weighed amount of citric acid in water and neutralize it with the stoichiometric equivalent mass of sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) to yield a solution of sodium citrate, which is just what I need. Also, citric acid and baking soda are both cheap, at about $2.70/lb and $0.50/lb respectively, whereas, at about $50/kilo, reagent-grade sodium citrate from a chemical supply company is not. The 10 pounds of citric acid I bought and the baking soda are both FCC/USP (food-grade), which is more than pure enough for making up Benedict’s Reagent. And doing it this way ensures we’ll always have plenty of citric acid (and baking soda) on hand to make up baking powder and various other useful things.

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Monday, 16 May 2016

10:49 – Barbara left this morning to go down to Winston for a dental appointment and to run some errands. For Colin and me, it’s wild women and parties. Well, that and making up solutions for biology kits.

Email from Jen. She and her family are planning to run another preparedness exercise over the July 4th weekend. As she said, every time they run one of these exercises, they discover something they hadn’t thought of. She realizes that in a real emergency there are always going to be things they hadn’t planned for, but their goal is discover and eliminate as many of these gotchas as possible before there’s a real emergency. Which strikes me as a pretty good idea.

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Sunday, 15 May 2016

10:23 – As usual, Barbara read the paper this morning and then had breakfast, while Colin pestered me mercilessly to throw his toys for him. Then Barbara came into the den and asked what we were working on today. The two of them are a lot alike, wanting to work constantly. I told Barbara we both deserved a day off, so we won’t do much work on kit stuff today.

When I walked Colin, there were two or three dozen cows and calves near our back fence, including one calf that was lying right up against the fence. Colin did his usual, stalking toward them, staring at the calf as he approached it. Then he did something he does frequently when stalking squirrels, but never with the cattle. He apparently thought he was close enough to pounce the calf, so he made a dash toward it. Naturally, the calf went instantly from watchful to alarmed. It sprang to its feet and took off running away from the fence. Its mother and several other cows took off running with it. It wasn’t exactly a stampede, but there were several cows moving very quickly away from the threat. Those cows may outweigh Colin by a factor of 10 or more, but they know they’re prey and they recognize a wolf when they see one.

I didn’t yell at Colin. I can’t blame a herding dog for being a herding dog. But I really don’t want him bothering the cows, both for his sake and for theirs.

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Saturday, 14 May 2016

09:59 – Barbara and I just hung the final few pictures in her office and installed a shelf in the laundry room over the coat rack. I’m making up chemicals in there now, and I need somewhere to store the large beakers, graduated cylinders, and other stuff I use for that.

We’re going to repackage some LTS food today, including the 50-pound bag of sugar we picked up at Costco Thursday and some baking soda. At room temperature, the stuff is stable essentially forever in the retort bags it comes in, but it’s a PITA to haul out and open a 13-pound bag of baking soda every time we need a teaspoon or two. We’ll repackage it into Costco nut jars, which hold about two liters. The density of powdered sodium bicarbonate ranges from 1.1 to 1.3 g/mL, depending on how tightly packed it is, so we should get five pounds or so in each jar.

Incidentally, if you’re storing baking soda, which you should be, that “room temperature” part is important. I’ve seen people store those big bags in the garage or attic, which is a bad idea. At higher than room temperature, baking soda starts to break down into sodium carbonate and carbon dioxide gas. At about 50C, it breaks down very quickly. I’m comfortable storing it at up to 86F (30C), but I wouldn’t go much higher.

Same deal for baking powder, but more so. Baking powder is a combination of baking soda and a dry acid. It degrades very quickly at high temperatures, and even faster if moisture is present, even from humid air. In fact, baking powder is unstable enough that we don’t store any in our long-term supplies. Instead, we store baking soda and citric acid. Both of those are very stable if stored separately, and it’s easy enough to combine them to make up your own baking powder on the fly.

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Friday, 13 May 2016

09:58 – Friday the 13th falls on a Friday this month.

Barbara and I drove down to Winston yesterday to meet our realtor and get the house listed and ready to go on the market. It should be on the market today or tomorrow. That’s a big thing out of the way.

On our way home, we made a two-cart Costco run, which is unusual for us. Barbara filled her cart with $340 of mostly meat. I filled mine with mostly heavy, bulky stuff, which came to $130.

Not much prepping related stuff this week. We’ve been too busy doing kit stuff. I did pick up three 6-gallon packs of water at Costco, along with a couple large cans of Country Time lemonade, a 3-pound can of coffee, half a gallon of soy sauce, a bottle of vanilla extract, a cannister of cinnamon, and a 500-foot roll of Kirkland/Reynolds heavy-duty 18″ wide aluminum foil. Oh, and a 50-pound bag of sugar, which we’ll repackage today into PET bottles. In the past, we’ve repackaged our working supply of sugar into those Costco PET wide-mouth nut jars, which we keep in the kitchen cabinets. I suggested to Barbara this morning that we should re-purpose some of those nut jars to store baking soda. Those 12- or 13-pound bags it comes in are awkward to use, particularly since we normally use baking soda a tablespoon or two at a time. If we don’t have enough nut jars remaining to repackage the whole 50 pounds of sugar, we’ll just use 2-liter bottles. Or perhaps we’ll use clean, dry jars that formerly held applesauce to hold the baking soda. Either way should work better than those retort bags it come in.

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Thursday, 12 May 2016

07:58 – Well, yesterday morning I made rice, intending to make pork fried rice for dinner last night, but it turned out that we were out of soy sauce. I just added a new category: prepping fail

Next time we make a Costco run, I’ll pick up one or two of the half-gallon jugs of soy sauce. We had one of those before. Barbara hated it because it leaked, so she started buying the smaller glass bottles of soy sauce.

More work on science kits today. We got a lot of bottles filled and capped yesterday. More of that today and for the next several days. Then we can start making up chemical bags for kits.

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