Friday, 30 September 2016

09:07 – The guys got the driveway dug out and graded and got the forms in place yesterday. They were planning to pour the concrete this morning, weather allowing. Yesterday evening and overnight, we got 2 inches (5 cm) of rain, with some hail. Ricky called at 0700 this morning and said the forecast for today was iffy enough that he planned to put off the pour until Monday, which is fine with us. Better safe than sorry.

Email from Jen overnight. She wanted to know what the shelf life of the potassium iodide was and asked if I had any recommendations about storing it. I told her the shelf life was probably about another 4.3 billion years, and that I recommended storing it in solution form to make it easy to measure out doses. A 100-gram bottle of KI is 760+ adult doses, at 131 mg/dose. I suggested dissolving the 100 grams of KI in a gallon (3.8 liters) of water, and then dividing that into four labeled one-liter bottles, each containing 190 adult doses, at 5 mL per dose. That way, doses are easily measured, at one teaspoon per adult dose, a half teaspoon per child dose, and a quarter teaspoon per infant dose.

I warned Jen that potassium iodide is easily oxidized by atmospheric oxygen to elemental iodine, which will give the solution a pale yellow color. There’s no real downside to that–the same amount of iodine is present as before–but some people can’t stand the taste of iodine (versus iodide ions, which have no taste other than a slight saltiness). To prevent that, Jen can add a vitamin C tablet to each bottle to act as an antioxidant.

Jen also asked if there were any other chemicals I’d recommend storing in bulk. I told her that other than the obvious–salt and baking soda–the other one I store in bulk is magnesium sulfate (Epsom salts), which has several uses, notably as an effective laxative. We keep about five kilos of it on the shelf.

Thursday, 29 September 2016

10:20 – The guys showed up this morning to start work on the driveway. They’re prepping the surface and building forms today. If the weather tomorrow is favorable, they’ll pour. Colin has been barking continuously since they arrived, shouting, “Bob! Bob! They’re stealing our driveway!”

Email from Jen overnight. She has one pack of commercial oral rehydration salts in stock, good for making up 15 liters of ORS solution. She and her husband started with the Wikipedia article and then read the other references it links to. They’re prepping for at least the six of them and possibly for two or three times that many, and they decided that 15 liters was grossly insufficient.

They didn’t want to depend on the makeshift sugar/salt solution mentioned in the article, which has much worse outcomes than the formal ORS solution, but neither did they want to spend $300 or $400 on the commercial product, so they decided to order what they’d need to make ORS solution up in bulk. As Jen said, in the larger scheme of things, it’s a very cheap prep. So she multiplied out the quantities stated in the article to determine that for each 100 liters of ORS she needs:

1350 grams (~48 ounces or 3 pounds) of anhydrous glucose
290 grams (~10.3 ounces) of trisodium citrate dihydrate
260 grams (~9.2 ounces) of sodium chloride (table salt)
150 grams (~5.3 ounces) of potassium chloride

She and her husband decided that it’d be a good idea to have at least 300 liters’ worth on hand. They obviously have table salt stored in quantity, so Jen ordered 10 pounds of anhydrous glucose, two pounds of trisodium citrate dihydrate, and a pound of potassium chloride, all food grade. She also ordered a couple bottles of zinc sulfate tablets to use with the ORS. The total cost came to well under $100. When it arrives, they’re going to repackage all the powders in foil-laminate bags with oxygen absorbers, but first Jen is going to use a scale to determine how much of each is needed by volume to make up each liter. As she says, they may not have a functioning scale when they need it, so they’ll label the bags with quantities of each component needed in teaspoons/tablespoons per liter. She also ordered a 100 gram bottle of KI, just in case. That took the total to just over $100.

11:01 – It occurs to me that I should have mentioned that Jen did not fully take my advice about buying bulk components for ORS. I actually recommended that she order them from Soapgoods, a vendor that we buy a lot of stuff from. They used to describe many of the chemicals they offered as “food grade” (FCC) or “USP”, but they discontinued doing that a couple years ago. Most of the items they sell start out as food-grade or USP, but they buy stuff by the trailer load and repackage it into smaller containers. Since their repackaging facility is not certified FCC or USP, they can’t legally describe the repackaged products as either FCC or USP. I told Jen that in my opinion it didn’t really matter, but she was more comfortable buying certified food-grade stuff. If she’d taken my advice, it would have cost noticeably less:

twelve pounds of glucose (dextrose) @ $15.18/6-lb = $30.36
two pounds of trisodium citrate dihydrate @ $3.70/lb = $7.40
one pound of potassium chloride @ $7.62 = $7.62

Or a grand total of $45.38 plus shipping, just over half of what Jen spent ordering all food grade stuff. The citrate salt is in fact the trisodium dihydrate form, which is important. (Sodium citrate, normally described just that way, may be the mono-, di-, or tri-sodium version, in various hydration states, all of which are used in foods, and the “tri” part is particularly important for ORS. The glucose (“dextrose”) sold by Soapgoods doesn’t specify hydration state. It may be anhydrous, but my strong guess is that it’s the dihydrate form.

I understand Jen’s decision. She’s not a chemist, and stuff that I’m comfortable juggling she probably isn’t. I don’t think she was particularly worried about the food-grade stuff from Soapgoods being contaminated. As I said, if she’s worried about it, she could just mix it up in boiling water, which’ll kill any biological contamination. I think it’s extremely unlikely that the product would be contaminated with other chemicals to any significant extent. But comfort level is important, and Jen was obviously more comfortable spending an extra $40 or so to get certified food-grade components.

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

10:36 – More kit stuff today, although things are slowing down, as they always do this time of year. We’ll have a couple of quiet months before things start to ramp up again for the Christmas season and the start of the new semester in January.

Autumn is definitely starting to arrive up here in the mountains. The leaves are gradually starting to change and fall, and the nighttime lows are into the low 50’s F (~11C). Mornings are usually quite foggy.

As I’m re-ordering inventory for science kits, it again strikes me how useful many of these items are in a prepping sense. Antibiotics and heirloom seeds for biology kits, raw chemicals that can also be used for everything from making up oral rehydration salts to 131 mg/mL potassium iodide solution, bottles and plastic bags by the thousands, and so on. I’d actually considered making up kits of useful items like ORS components, KI solution, etc., but we’re not certified by the FDA for packaging items for human consumption. I suppose I could offer items for educational laboratory use only (wink-wink), but it seems simpler just to tell people what to order themselves. Most of it is available in reasonably small quantities on, such as this, this, this, this, and, for radiation emergencies, even this.

Or you could simply buy ORS packets, although they’ll cost you about a buck per liter versus a small fraction of that for making them up yourself, and KI tablets, although again those’ll cost you about $0.50 per dose versus about $0.02 per dose just buying 100 grams of KI.

Which brings up the issue of how many doses of different things you need to stock. If you need ORS, you need it badly, and a course of treatment for one person can require 20 to 50 liters, or more. I do keep a 15-pack of the commercial ORS on hand, but those are for if we need it RIGHT NOW. In terms of raw materials for ORS, our inventory varies, but all of the components are also science-kit inventory items, so we typically have 1,000+ liters’ worth on hand. KI is also a science kit inventory item, so we generally have at least 8,000 to 10,000 doses on hand. The latter would obviously be excessive if we weren’t stocking it mainly for science kits, but the former is actually a reasonable level, enough for 20 to 50 courses of treatment.

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

10:13 – I can’t remember for sure the last time I saw any of a presidential debate. I may have seen part of the 1980 debate, but the last time I remember for sure seeing part of a debate was Kennedy versus Nixon in 1960. I watched a few minutes of last night’s debate, and now I understand why I waited so long. I don’t intend to watch another for at least 56 more years.

I watched it on the Roku box on CBS (I think; I installed the ABC/CBS/NBC/Fox/PBS channels on the Roku yesterday and then just picked whichever one was at the top of the screen). What immediately struck me was that Trump seemed normal while speaking, while Clinton’s mouth was moving out of sync with her voice. I suspect someone was standing behind the curtain with his hand up her back, making her mouth move. It reminded me of Chuck and Bob on Soap, except that Chuck and Bob had better lip sync. I suppose Clinton’s rictus was supposed to be a smile, but she reportedly actually smiles so seldom that she was in danger of breaking her face.

UPS showed up yesterday with my order. One of the boxes was only slightly dented, which for UPS is doing good, but the second box was crushed and ripped. We opened that one while the UPS guy was still there. Surprisingly, given the condition of the box, nothing was missing or damaged. There were two one-gallon plastic jugs of pancake syrup, two five-pound paper sacks of corn meal, and four four-packs of 16-ounce canned chili beans. As usual, Walmart used a box that was too large for the contents, giving those four-pack bowling balls lots of room to bounce around and crunch anything else in the box. They made their usual concession to packing materials by tossing a small piece of bubble-wrap and one small air bag into the box. Just enough to be gratuitous without actually helping to pad the contents.

Not for the first time, Barbara remonstrated with me for ordering stuff from Walmart, asking why on earth I’d order from a vendor who did such a horrible packing job. I told her that sometimes they packed stuff well. For example, the last time I ordered Bertolli Alfredo sauce, they packed all dozen of the jars individually within the box, presumably because they’re glass and even a moron knows what’s going to happen if you ship a dozen glass jars loose. But the real reason I order from Walmart is that they offer a lot of things that aren’t available elsewhere, and that their prices are considerably lower on many items. Amazon might carry the same stuff, and they would pack it well for shipping, but they’d also charge a lot extra, often 50% or more.

Email overnight from Jessica, which is the first email I’ve gotten from her other than her request to get her hooked up with Jen and Brittany. In the past, it’s been her husband, Jason, I’ve exchanged email with. Since Jason and Jessica are both on-board with prepping, that’s unusual. Most email I get from newbie preppers is from women, I think because they’re much more open to asking questions about things they’re not experts on.

Jessica said one of the things that she’s concerned about that hasn’t been talked about much here is nuclear radiation emergencies, whether from a nuke plant meltdown, a terrorist dirty bomb, or a full nuclear attack. I sent her links to several useful on-line documents. She asked specifically about potassium iodide or iodate tablets, and I recommended that, given their ages, these are something they should stock. Iodide or iodate tablets protect against one very specific risk: thyroid cancer caused by ingesting or inhaling radioactive iodine. The tablets provide an excess of non-radioactive iodine, which floods the thyroid and prevents uptake of the radioactive iodine. Because thyroid cancers are very slow-developing and because there are downsides to high doses of iodine, authorities recommend taking iodide/iodate tablets only if someone has been exposed to radioactive particulates and only if that person is under 40 years old. There are also considerations for taking them during pregnancy. I sent Jessica links to information about all of these issues.

Monday, 26 September 2016

09:58 – This is our first autumn living in the mountains, so I’m not sure if the weather we’ve been having for the last week or so is typical. I suspect it is. Highs generally in the 70’s F, lows in the 50’s, and a lot of fog, particularly mornings. The winds generally pick up during the day, which takes the fog off but skies are overcast about half the time and sunny the rest. We’re not seeing any fall foliage to speak of yet. I suspect that’ll change as our lows drop into the 40’s.

I added the ABC News channel to the Roku box this morning, in case we decide to watch at least part of the debate tonight. Apparently, they’re expecting an all-time record number of viewers for this debate. I’m not sure why. It seems to me that about half the country wouldn’t vote for Clinton if she was the last politician on earth, and the other half wouldn’t vote for Trump. So why would anyone watch the debates? Undecideds seem to be the core audience for debates, and there aren’t many undecideds left. I may watch the first few minutes of the debate just to see if Clinton face-plants into the stage.

Email from Brittany overnight. She’s feeling a bit under-equipped firearms-wise after reading Jen’s plans yesterday. She and her husband don’t have even one black rifle, so reading about Jen’s family having one each is inducing AR-15 envy. I repeated my earlier advice to Brittany. Their situation is different from Jen’s. Jen’s family has four high-earners, while Brittany is a stay-at-home mom whose husband’s (secure) job supports their entire family. An AR-15 with magazines, accessories, and ammo will cost them at least $1,000, and they have other places that that $1,000 could be better spent. They’re already very well-armed compared to the average family, so spending lots of money on tactical rifle(s) should be a lower priority for them. They also live on the outskirts of a small town that’s remote from even mid-size cities. They’ve both lived there all their lives, are surrounded by family and friends, and very seldom see anyone on the streets whom they don’t know. In short, they’re part of a community. In a catastrophic emergency, the community will help protect them, and they’ll help protect the community. As far as I’m concerned, their situation is about the best possible one, and should allow them to ride out any serious emergency.

I wouldn’t say they can declare their prepping “complete”, but they’re already better prepared than about 99.9% of the population of this country. Anything more they do is icing on the cake.

Sunday, 25 September 2016

09:55 – I was shocked to learn that the “hispanic male” sought in the mall shooting in Washington state supposedly turned out to be a Turk, presumably musloid. The first image they released was so blurred it was difficult to tell much. Images that they finally got around to releasing later appeared more to be of a young man of Middle-Eastern appearance than a Hispanic, although I saw no comment about that at the time.

Brick and mortar retailers are already suffering at the hands of on-line retailers, so the last thing they want is for people to start thinking it’s dangerous to go to the mall or big-box stores. And the truth is that it’s not particularly dangerous, even with musloid terrorists targeting such places. The risk of being killed in a terrorist outrage disappears into the statistical noise, but it still makes sense to avoid shopping malls, big box stores and similar locations, particularly as they become more crowded during the holidays, especially since there are good on-line alternatives for shopping. Buying from,, and similar retailers gives you the same products at the same or better price, delivered to your door. And you don’t have to go out among the teeming masses to get your stuff. Those were pretty strong selling points before musloid terrorists started attacking groups of people, and they’re even better selling points now. I certainly intend to do most of my shopping on-line, but I’ve been doing that for more than 20 years anyway. The next attack could be in your town, and it’s best not to be there when it happens.

We’re working on more science kits today.

11:35 – Email from Jen. She, her husband, brother, sister-in-law, and two nephews are all experienced clays shooters, and are now well-equipped with tactical barrels, night sights, and other accessories for their Remington 870 shotguns. They also have a large stock of buckshot and slugs for them, as well as a spares kit of items recommended by a local gunsmith. They’re also now well equipped with tactical rifles, magazines, other accessories, and ammunition for them. They’ve all shot familiarization with the tactical rifles and have scheduled regular training/practice sessions with them.

In terms of self-defense, their only glaring lack was pistols. They live in a Constitutional Carry state, and after some discussion all four of the adults agreed that it was time for them to start carrying. The problem is, none of them have any experience to speak of using pistols.

A few months ago, Jen asked me what I recommended. I suggested that all four of them plus the two nephews should find a reasonably local shooting range that offered various pistols for rent and get some experience actually shooting different models and calibers. I also suggested that they look for an NRA-certified pistol instructor and take the intro class.

They did all of that, and then got together to discuss what to do. There were different favorites of make/model/caliber among the group, but they decided for commonality of magazines, spare parts, and ammo that it made more sense to pick one model that everyone found acceptable and standardize on it. The instructor offered gentle advice as well. They ended up standardizing on the Glock 23, which wouldn’t have been my first choice, but is certainly a reasonable one, particularly given the diversity in size and strength among the group members. They’ve purchased seven Glock 23’s, half a dozen spare magazines for each, and several thousand rounds of .40 S&W. Jim and Claire’s sons aren’t old enough to buy pistols themselves, so the parents bought two each. Jen and David bought one each plus an extra one as a community spare.

They’re happy with the stock 23’s, but decided on the recommendation of the instructor (with my support) to install tritium night sights on all of them. They’ve also each chosen a suitable holster, which choice varies from person to person, as well as a magazine pouch. Jen’s husband added a set of carbide dies for reloading .40 S&W, since they’ll be generating a lot of reloadable cases during practice sessions. They intend to get in at least a few hundred rounds each of practice/familiarization on a butt that they’ve set up on Jen’s property. Once they’ve all completed that, they intend to hire their instructor, who’s a retired Marine and police officer as well as a former combat pistol competitor, to teach them how to defend themselves with a pistol.

Saturday, 24 September 2016

06:48 – When I was making up solutions for forensic kits yesterday, one of them required concentrated sulfuric acid, 160 mL of it. I always weigh sulfuric acid rather than measure it volumetrically, so instead of putting 160 mL into a graduated cylinder, I put 294.4 grams of it into a tared beaker.

As I was doing that, it struck me that my failing memory is something I need to take into account. I of course remembered that the density of the acid was 1.84 grams per mL. I’ve known that since I was about 12 years old, along with the densities, freezing points, and other key physical characteristics of hundreds of chemicals. Maybe thousands. At any rate, of any chemical I’d ever looked up even once. I should say, I “knew”, since those tens of thousands of factoids that used to reside in my memory have apparently taken the last train for the coast.

Yes, it’s easy enough to look up the density of sulfuric acid on Wikipedia, but what if Wikipedia is no longer accessible? In this case, it wouldn’t have been a problem, because I have a copy of the CRC handbook on the shelves downstairs. But what about all the stuff I used to know from memory I no longer remember? I need printed copies of that type of information. Either that, or a hypnotist who’s good at recovering lost memories.

Friday, 23 September 2016

08:59 – Barbara has posted a report on her trip up to Cape May, New Jersey. She got home yesterday morning about 9:15 a.m., after spending the preceding night at Al’s and Frances’ house in Winston. Colin and I were both delighted to see her return home. In an embarrassing watch-dog moment, the first either of us knew Barbara was home was when she opened the door from the garage and shouted, “Did I sneak up on you?” Colin hadn’t heard her car coming in the drive and pulling into the garage, or even the sound of the garage door going up and coming down.

When I first heard that Charlotte authorities weren’t releasing the video of the shooting, my first thought was that the video must not support their claim that the guy they shot was armed and brandishing his weapon. From reports this morning, it appears that that is in fact the case. Both the Charlotte police chief and mayor have tacitly admitted that the video does not prove their version of what happened. I don’t really doubt they’re telling the truth, but the lack of video evidence is unfortunate. Of course, even if the cops had knowingly shot down an unarmed man, that would not excuse the rioting. There’s never an excuse for rioting.

And I see that Glenn Reynolds over at Instapundit is now in trouble. It started with a tweet he made concerning a woman whose truck was blocked by rioters, who then broke into the back and looted the contents. There’s no doubt that this woman was reasonably in fear for her life. Reynolds tweeted, “Run them down”, which was good advice for anyone faced with such a situation. But the progs were predictably outraged, claiming that Reynolds was advocating going out and running down “protesters” at random. Twitter, who are in fact a bunch of twits, suspended Reynolds’ account, he’s now in trouble with the law school where he’s a professor, and USA Today has suspended his column for a month and required him to post an apology. An apology for what? Giving good advice for anyone driving when a riot breaks out and rioters block their escape?

11:24 – If you’ve just been thinking about laying in some supplies in case things get bad, now would be a very good time to get off your ass and actually do something about it.

The problem with a lot of people is that humans are very good at adapting to a new normal. If you took normal people twenty years ago and magically plopped them down into today’s environment, they’d be horrified at what’s going on. But it’s the old frog-boiling thing. Most people see another riot and just tacitly accept it as the new normal. But it’s not normal, not even close, and it really is time to get off your ass and make some preparations for bad times to come. Yes, there will be quieter times interspersed with the outrages, but the general trend is downward. You need to be in a position to feed and protect your family. Do it now.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

09:00 – More rioting in Charlotte overnight. You know things are serious when the governor calls out the National Guard. Charlotte is just the latest big city to experience underclass scum rioting. I’m afraid we can expect more of the same in other cities, and we can expect it to become a regular thing. Eventually, I expect rioting to become a regular thing in big cities and to start becoming common in mid-size cities like Winston-Salem. And, if nothing is done to stop it, I expect rioting to shift from occurring just in the city of the week to occurring simultaneously in cities across the country.

Unfortunately, the federal government sides with the rioters, which means there isn’t much the cities can do to stamp out this plague. Killing rioters by the hundreds or thousands would work, but there’s no way the federal government would tolerate the cops actually doing their jobs, because that would involve shooting Democrat voters. The only alternative I see is for city police departments to walk away from the inner cities, concentrate on protecting the surrounding suburbs, and allow the scum to loot and burn freely in the inner cities. That’d obviously be hard on the relatively small number of decent people who live in the inner cities, but what other option is there? Cops, firemen, paramedics, and other emergency personnel are already loathe to work inner city areas. How much longer will be it before they simply refuse to continue risking their lives by doing so?

Barbara returns home today. Colin and I can’t wait.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

09:47 – I see the underclass scum in Charlotte spent the evening rioting, looting, and burning. They even shut down a segment of I-85. No cops dead, but a bunch hurt. As usual, the cops were allowed only tear gas to fight these scum. Whatever happened to 12-gauge buckshot? They call a short-barrel 12-gauge shotgun a “riot gun” for a reason. Anyone can tell the difference between a peaceful protest and a riot. In the former, groups of people are marching around holding signs and shouting slogans. In the latter, groups of people are throwing bricks or shooting at cops, destroying police cars, breaking windows, looting, and starting fires. The former is Constitutionally-protected Free Speech, and should be not just tolerated but encouraged. The latter is a bunch of violent felons destroying property, looting, and endangering innocent civilians, and should be dealt with using lethal force. And what if the former turns into the latter? If you’re a peaceful protester, get the hell away from that riot, as quickly as possible. As Larry Niven famously advised: “Don’t throw shit at an armed man. Don’t stand next to someone who’s throwing shit at an armed man.”

What I’d like to see the next time there’s such a riot–any time there’s such a riot–is for the cops to cut loose with their riot guns and keep shooting until all of the rioters are dead or have fled. A hundred dead scum bags, or a thousand, would serve as a wakeup call for these scum bags, pour le d√©couragement des autres. And it would be, as they say, No Great Loss.

Barbara is due back sometime tomorrow. Colin and I can’t wait. The gasoline situation is starting to resolve itself, although there are likely to be shortages in North Carolina and other affected states for at least the rest of this month and probably into the first part of October. There’s a Beroth Oil tanker truck in the parking lot of the 4 Brothers/Liberty across the road right now, although they still have the pumps blocked off. There’s also a lot more traffic out on US-21 and on our road than there’s been for the last few days. Things appear to be gradually getting back to normal, but I hope people remember this event and take it as a warning of the same or worse to come.

I’m spending today making up chemicals, printing labels, and so on for more forensic kits. We have a pending bulk order for those from a large school district, and we’re down to fewer than a dozen in stock. Tomorrow and Friday will be occupied by building more.

I put in a small order with on Monday, including 32 standard-size cans of chili beans, two one-gallon jugs of pancake syrup, ten pounds of yellow corn meal, a 5.5-ounce jar of cumin, and one 22-ounce test jar each of Prego alfredo sauce and Prego roasted garlic alfredo sauce.

Email from Jen this morning, with a telling observation. With riots, bombings, and shootings continuously in the news lately, Jen says she’s changed her former practice. It used to be that when she heard news of such an event she’d go down to the basement and do an inventory of their preps to decide what they needed to add. Now, she says, this stuff happens so often that there’s no point to doing that because she’d be down there every day counting stuff that she’d just counted.