Month: March 2017

Friday, 31 March 2017

09:14 – It was 53.5F (12C) when I took Colin out around 0715 this morning, foggy and raining. We had several deluges overnight. The electronic rain gauge claimed we had 1.62 inches (4.1 cm) total, but it reads very low, particularly when we get heavy rains. We don’t have the tube gauge outside now because freezing weather fractures them, but my guess is that we had somewhere between 2 and 3 inches (5 to 7.5 cm) total. And it’s still raining. Things have been pretty dry since late January, and now it looks as though we’ll get an entire month’s worth in a couple of days.

I was disturbed this morning when I turned on my Kindle Fire HD7 and the splash screen told me that Alexa had been installed and needed to be activated. I never asked for Alexa. I don’t want it on my tablet, listening to everything we say and sending it to Amazon’s cloud servers. Several times in the past I’ve thought about rooting the Fire and installing Android, but this latest outrage by Amazon may actually be the final straw. If I brick it, it’s no great loss. I think I paid $69 for it. Once I figure out how to install Android on my HD7, I’ll also install it on Barbara’s HDX7. I really resent vendors like Amazon, Microsoft, and Apple, who seem to think that they’re entitled to use other people’s hardware and resources for their own purposes, especially when those purposes are against the user’s interests.

Speaking of annoying software, LibreOffice has gotten worse and worse with each update. For the last several months, it’s been crashing periodically, taking down all instances on the taskbar. Lately, it’s also started hanging frequently. I’ll save a document or send it to the printer, and LO hangs for 30 seconds or a minute before it brings up the save or print dialog. To make matters worse, yesterday the LO rendering went wonky. When I scrolled up or down in a document, it became unreadable.

So yesterday, I decided to uninstall and reinstall LO to see if that’d help. My Linux Mint installation doesn’t offer an option to nuke all of LO; I had to remove each of the applications separately. When I finished doing that, there were no instances of anything LO-related showing as installed. I use only the word processor and spreadsheet, so I installed those individually rather than installing the whole package. When I finished doing that, I rebooted the system, just to be safe.

When I then clicked on a document file in File Manager, it came up normally, albeit ugly looking and with a different color scheme than I’d had–blue rather than Linux Mint green. But the real PITA was that when I minimized that document, it didn’t show up on the task bar. That makes switching between/among open documents very difficult, since it appears that there are no open documents. I can still use Alt-Tab to toggle through the open (but invisible) tabs, but that’s very awkward.

So I downloaded Apache OpenOffice, which, like LO, is a fork of the discontinued OOo, this one sponsored by IBM. I haven’t had time to install it but it may come to that.


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Thursday, 30 March 2017

09:54 – It was 53.3F (12C) when I took Colin out around 0715 this morning, foggy and drizzling. Barbara’s mulch showed up yesterday around lunchtime, so while Barbara watched, I* spent the afternoon hauling and spreading 80 or so wheelbarrow loads of mulch along the edges of the driveway to cover up the bare red clay fill we’d spread after we had the driveway laid. Here’s the house, looking southwest, with most of the mulch already in place and Colin supervising.

We’ll work indoors today. We have chemicals to make up, bottles to fill and label, and subassemblies for kits to make up. At the moment, this March is running about 15% ahead of last March in revenues, not including any orders that arrive today and tomorrow.

Speaking of kit sales, I shipped an order to Ontario, Canada on the 21st. I got email yesterday evening from the customer, who’d been following the USPS tracking information and wondered why his package was now sitting in Paris, France. Good question. I checked the detailed tracking information and found that it had arrived in Canada, been processed and passed by Canadian customs, who then handed it over to Canada Post, who apparently for some reason sent it to France.

Things with Trump are working out pretty much as I expected. The only difference between him and the powers-that-be in DC is that Trump is a moderate leftie with proggish tendencies, versus the rest of them, who are hard left and committed progs.

I could have told John Adams and the rest of his damned Federalist buddies that this was going to happen. Too bad they didn’t listen to Sam Adams, Tom Jefferson, and the rest of the Anti-Federalists. In fact, it’s too bad they adopted the Constitution at all. We should have known what was good for us and stuck with the Articles of Confederation. Then Lincoln came along and killed the Constitution completely, leaving us with a federal system that rapidly became intolerable. I say we need a complete reboot. Unfortunately, if/when that happens it ain’t gonna be pretty.

* Well, I spent about half an hour hauling about 10 loads of mulch, while Barbara spread it. She hauled and spread the rest while I did other stuff indoors.

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Wednesday, 29 March 2017

09:45 – It was 55.2F (13C) when I took Colin out around 0715 this morning, sunny and clear. Barbara is waiting for a dump truck of mulch to show up so she can get the strips of raw dirt along the driveway mulched. The driveway is about 45 yards long and has dirt along both edges, so she’ll be hauling a lot of wheelbarrow loads of mulch today and probably tomorrow.

We had instant mashed potatoes with the leftover pork gloppita for dinner last night. I used the Walmart Great Value potato flakes. The first time we used them, I used only the dry potato flakes and water to reconstitute. They ended up okay, but kind of blah. Not surprising, considering that the Walmart flakes are 100% potatoes. (The Idahoan dry potatoes that we used to get in 3.25-pound boxes at Costco/Sam’s also include dry milk and lots of other stuff that may shorten their shelf-life.)

Yesterday, I made them up according to the instructions on the box for four servings, but substituting weights for volumes for reproducibility. Rather than fresh milk, I used enough water to provide the total amount of liquid specified and just added a quarter cup of Nestle Nido dry whole milk to the dry potatoes. I did use two tablespoons of real butter, but that could easily be substituted for by a fluid ounce of vegetable oil and a bit of butter powder. The result was pretty much indistinguishable from the Idahoan just-add-water potatoes, which is to say pretty decent. Barbara said they were fine, and she’s the ultimate arbiter.

I’d bought just one 26.7-ounce box of the Walmart potatoes to test. I have four cases (42 pounds) of LDS instant mashed potatoes in our deepest pantry, which I bought when my initial goal was one year’s worth of food for Barbara, Colin, and me. LDS sells them for about $3.36/pound, versus $1.60/pound at Walmart. That’s a big enough difference that it’s worth the minor time and effort to repackage the Walmart product in 2-liter bottles, so I’ll go ahead and order another 42 pounds of the Walmart  potatoes and repackage them. In PET bottles with oxygen absorbers, they’ll be good for at least 20+ years and probably 100.


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The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, or a prepper goes to a large public event- guest post by Nick

Ok time for the rodeo report.

Firstly, in Houston, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is a BIG DEAL(tm). It lasts for several weeks, has a fixed carnival and exhibition hall, concerts every night, art galleries, wine tasting, BBQ competitions, lots of displayed animals, with lots of family oriented stuff to do. Oh, and shopping too. Imagine a State Fair on steroids, with more money involved.

Second, I’ve said earlier that I think it’s naive and unhelpful to just say “Don’t be there.” Like many quotes, the original has a lot more context in it. He was specifically talking about places where Bad Things ™ traditionally happen, and it’s well and widely known that someplace IS such a place. Additionally, if we let “them” change the way we live, “they’ve” won. Terrorists and insurgents act to make life so intolerable that even their shitty idea of paradise on earth looks better than what you’ve got. We are NOT THERE YET. Even in places like Columbia, people get on with their lives. They take precautions, they alter their behaviour, but they continue living their lives.

One of the things my wife and I consciously set out to do is to give our kids as many of the same experiences we had growing up, albeit within the current social context. We push WAY outside where many of our acquaintances would stop wrt stuff our kids do, and it’s still just a pale shadow of the freedom we had.

Finally, it’s naive to think you can avoid trouble by avoiding places. Trouble will find you in your bed at night. It will find you on the road. It will find you no matter what you do. I don’t mean you should go looking for trouble (like the author of the ‘don’t be there’ quote meant) because trouble can find you easily enough on its own.

So we go places that are likely targets. I even allow myself to be disarmed in some of them. If the world is going down, I want my kids to have memories of what it was, of the good places and things. How else could they ever yearn to bring them back?

I do carefully weigh the risks and alternatives, and, like avoiding bad neighborhoods at night, I have said “No, we are not doing that.” Specifically and recently involving the Superbowl, I said “NO. Not going, not working on it, not gonna be anywhere near it.” It is also true that when I was younger, I sometimes sought out those ‘bad places’, purposely rolling the dice and daring the world to fcuk me. And sometimes it did. For the most part, I no longer am willing to roll dice. Having survived much more than my share of bad things, I am not looking forward to the scales balancing.

The fact is, there are threats around us every day. Planes fall out of the sky and kill people in their beds. I NEED for my kids to have memories of golden days at the beach with family and grandparents, even if I have to go to Massachusetts to make that happen. I NEED for my kids to live the wonder and magic of meeting the characters they love from their stories, come to life in front of them. I need them because those sorts of things shaped who I am and what I’ve done and I want my kids to have the same chance at that outcome.

Anyway, we went to the HLS&R on the last day of the event.

We went at opening time in the morning, both hoping to escape some of the heat, and the crowd. Due to the efforts of the open carry movement, we’ve seen several venues that previously were not posted become posted no CHL zones. If you gotta buy a sign banning open carry, you might as well take the sign they gave you for free and ban concealed too, right? HLS&R bans concealed carry on the basis that pro-rodeo is a professional sport and TX has exceptions to LTC for pro sports facilities. The livestock area is banned as an official school kids’ area for school sanctioned events. Sucks, and a step back as they are now posted legally and searching for contraband on entry.

Pocket knives are specifically allowed, so I left the 9 in the car, and carried the rest of my normal EDC. The only addition is that when we travel in my wife’s vehicle, my trauma bag moves from my truck to hers. No problem at entry, emptied my pockets into the bin, left the neck knife in place. Walked thru the metal detector- no beeps. They are using modern detectors with multiple indicator lights to show what vertical level the alert was triggered,  which was interesting. Also interesting that sensitivity was low enough not to trigger on the knife or chain. I guess all the big belt buckles would be setting it off…. Wife got a cursory bag check.

The day was sunny, partly cloudy, nice breeze, and somewhere between 80 and 90+ F. At the last minute I decided to wear my CoolVest. I’m really glad I did. I’ve mentioned it before. It’s a vest with phase change gel inside, that you soak with water. The water evaporates, and you are cooled. It is a bit clammy but the cool is worth it. I recharged it 3 times during the day, and would not have made it otherwise. I was still a bit off from all the sun the day before and from being sick last week. A big hat, light clothes, and the vest made the heat tolerable. If you find yourself affected more by the heat, you gotta get something with active cooling. Worth every penny.

We started at the carnival, which is set up with adult rides at one end, down to kiddie rides at the other. We started about 3/4 of the way- at the rides for teens and tweens (both my kids are tall for their age) and where the midway games were. The games gave dad a chance to point out some hard-learned and expensive lessons about carnival games and the value of prizes. Not sure the kids were impressed or convinced. The rides gave the 7 yo a chance to do some independent stuff, as we don’t ride spinner rides anymore. We spent the morning eating, playing, and riding, working our way toward the kiddie end so the 5 yo could ride some of her favorites.

Along the way, we did the farmer’s tour (thru the farmland, collecting fruit and veg, milking cows, shearing sheep, and then selling the results for cash, and depositing the cash in a bank at the end…. All simulated, but good fun for the kids. A bit of an exposition and a treasure hunt in one. The kids really like the milking simulator, now with improved teats! AND there was a corn pit. Y’all northern invaders can have your lame old ball pits, we’ve got Corn Pits!

[Corn Pit!]

[More Corn!]

And teat simulators!


Fun fact- dairy cows need about 35 gallons of water a day. Think about that if you’re thinking post-SHTF. Gonna need a LOT of water if you got cow.

One more pic for Miles 😉

[Fun on the Farm!]

A little while later, while standing in line for a ride, is when the security issue occurred. Something catches my eye. 2 uniformed cops, 50-60 feet away in our direction of travel, holding up some paper money and looking at it really hard. Heavyset hispanic male, wearing all ‘sports wear’ (team jersey and shorts, etc, in appropriate gang colors) covered in prison tats, including the entire hair area of his shaved head, standing there opposite the cops. Suddenly there are 4 cops. This is when I tell my wife we’re moving. We move away and sorta around a ride, the best cover in the area. Trying to keep the little ones behind me as we fade back, me still watching. Now there are 6 cops, and one is standing directly behind the male, with hand on pistol. Lots of discussion between cop and male going on.

I’ve got the wife alerted that there is danger. I’ve got her and the kids behind me, and tucked up against, and behind, the curve of the steel carny ride, while I skin an eye past the ride to keep watch. Kids are starting to realize something is going on, and keep milling around to see what daddy is looking at. Wife is trying to herd them back behind the ride. Now the male is getting a thorough pat down and search, still 6 on one, and postures are focused but not edgy. I don’t think gunfire or a chase is imminent but I sure as hell didn’t want to continue walking in that direction and pass within feet of the whole scene.

I’m pretty sure they’re gonna do a felony takedown and tell the wife that if anything happens to get UNDER the steel ride. We’re quite some distance away now, but can’t retreat farther without giving up what cover we have. Here’s where the prepping comes in…. 7 yo is still trying to get around me to see. Finally (and a bit late) I say what we’ve been practicing and discussing for a year or more. I say the family phrase that means “You have got to listen and do what I say RIGHT NOW. NO QUESTIONS UNTIL LATER. NOW.” And she does. My wife has tried telling her “stay put, daddy put you behind him for a reason”, but that didn’t work (but it did let me know she recognized the threat and my reaction). The trouble phrase did work.

I’m convinced that if you are gonna be out in public with your family, you need a way to alert them that no foolin’ shit just got real and they need to get with the program. You need to reinforce it too, and never use it for anything trivial. It should be normal words, but ones that don’t ever normally occur together, yet don’t sound alarming if overheard.

At this point, instead of things getting sporty, the cops and perp relax a bit, the 4 extra officers leave, and the remaining two escort tat-boy from the premises without cuffs. I guess talking does sometimes work, and not all perps are looking to be dragged thru a carnival in cuffs or go down in a blaze of glory.

Some observations on the scene. NO ONE ELSE seemed to be aware of any of this, or concerned in any way. (or like me the aware ones were very low key) People walked right past 6 cops surrounding a tatted up gang banger without a thought. The interview stance and the scrutiny they were giving the money, and the sudden arrival of additional officers should have been a big clue, even if you discount all the visual warning of a tatted up gang member. Most dangerous things LOOK dangerous.

I can envision at least 3 easy ways for this to have been a serious incident, but while I was watching and planning for a shootout, chase, or stampede, it never actually looked or felt that tense, so I kept my reaction innocuous and I thought at an appropriate level of caution. If words got exchanged or became heated or if others had come out of the crowd, we’d have been headed thru barricade and into service areas and out of there.

Cops had it under control the whole time, most people didn’t even notice, and we took (I think) reasonable steps based on my perception of the threat.

And then our day at the rodeo continued. More fair food was eaten, more rides were ridden, more animals were petted and some learning happened. We visited the baby piglets, and my sweetly vicious 5yo was laughing about how pigs were great because they had such tasty meat inside them. Cows and chickens too daddy!

It started getting to be late afternoon, the crowd vibe started changing. There were more singles wandering around with alcohol, and more of them were visibly impaired. The staff stopped picking up trash and cans were overflowing. Def time to go.

On the way out, we caught some of the Mutton Bustin’. This is awesome, and probably one of those ‘only in Texas’ things. Young kids, doing bronco busting on SHEEP. 5-8yo kids, riding angry sheep that outweigh them by 4x… and doing a damn fine job.

[Mutton Bustin’]

And with that we were off to the parking lot and home, but not before getting some more deep fried food, specifically, deep fried butter balls, with maple syrup and sugar. Boy those were good.

Some observations:

Economic —
The HLS&R sucks money out of people’s pockets like a Dyson. A turkey leg is $14. Bottle of water is $4. Sausage on a stick and a cup of iced tea was $15. Some of the carny games were $20 just for a chance at the big prize. (some were less and lots of people were winning prizes, and if you bought your tickets ahead of time, they were half price.)

Lots of people were throwing money down on food and games. Ride tickets were the same as game tickets, 50c each onsite, 25c prepaid. Some rides cost 12 tickets per person though, or more. The skyway cable cars were 9 tickets per person each way, so almost $20 if we’d bought onsite. $10 one way for the family as it was…. Again, NO SHORTAGE of people buying tickets onsite. By afternoon there were LINES to buy tickets.

The rodeo is very popular. It’s also in the heart of a traditionally black neighborhood, being at the Astrodome. Demographics on the last day were heavily skewed to black and hispanic. Judging by dress and visible tats, hair and nails, these were not the sort of people you would expect to have a few hundred bucks each to spend on turkey legs and carny rides– unless they were getting it from something other than work. In other words, other than families, the blacks looked like gangbangers and the hispanics looked like day labor, but both sets were dressed up in their versions of finery. Don’t get me wrong, there were LOTS of families that looked like ordinary folks. But there were a LOT of ‘urban’ fashions in gang colors, and a hell of a lot of visible tats. Older hispanics tended to be very neatly dressed in tucked shirts, pressed jeans and shirts, very clean and well groomed, basically Sunday clothes but jeans. Hispanic families had mom in charge, with the kids dressed up and neat. Blacks were either families with mom and dad and kids dressed normally, or single males in ‘sports wear’. Whites were in high-style ‘country’ or showing WAY too much flesh and tats. Whites tended to have much more colorful tats, blacks homemade line work, and the hispanics had small related stuff that was in lines instead of blocks (think a row of stars from shoulder to jaw up the neck.)  Gangsters of any color tend to lots of arm, neck, and face tats.

Didn’t see many hipsters. Did see a LOT of short shorts and baby doll tops on young girls.

The groups were all well mixed and getting along fine. Everyone (except the thieves and con artists) seemed to be there to have fun. There were not groups of young men or gangs but there were singles and people who were probably bangers just out with their families. Again though, daytime, on the last day. There was a fair amount of self sorting in proportion. More blacks in the older kid section of the carnival, more hispanics in the younger kid section, and more whites in the livestock areas. Normal demographics for Houston as a whole are 40% white, 40% hispanic, 10-15% black, asian and other take up the rest. In the carnival area, at least, white and black were swapped. Don’t know if it was anything to it, just offered as observation. Everyone goes to the Rodeo.

Did see a fair number of muslims, at least females that were easier to identify by dress. Not one Sihk, very few asians. Didn’t see anyone who was rowdy or out of control, didn’t see anyone who wasn’t well dressed (in their own fashions) or trying to look good.  There weren’t any groups of kids running wild.

The Rodeo is a big deal in Houston. There were a crap ton of visible cops OUTSIDE the venue but NONE inside. (Other than the ones dealing with the counterfeiter, I didn’t see any inside the perimeter that I noticed.) There are hundreds, if not thousands of ‘volunteers’ in vests, shirts, and IDs all thru the grounds. These ‘volunteers’ would be pros in any other event, but they aren’t event pros, they are Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo longtime volunteers. They are VERY well organized. There are committees for every conceivable part of the event. Other than not riding herd on the trash and cleanup staff, I didn’t see any other ‘public event’ issues. The porta-jons were plentiful and clean. There were running water hand-washing stations in every food area. There was a lot of lighting. Cables were all ramped. All the carny stuff was new looking and well painted. All in all a very well run event.

There are always risks involved when people get together. The world we currently live in has a constant low level drumbeat of attacks and incidents. Any given public event has a small chance of being attacked, and in any large event the current mode of attack is very limited in the number of victims possible. I’ll continue to make decisions on a case by case basis, but unless there are large scale attacks or I’ve got no faith in law enforcement or the event organizers, I’ll keep participating in these sorts of things. I’m certainly not going to let my wife take the kids while I stay home (which was my other option this weekend.)

So that was my Sunday. Fun and worth doing, even with the bit of excitement in the middle. Some pre-planning paid off. Some compromises were made. But fun was had by all, and that was the point.


(Deep fried, half inch thick bacon on a stick, oh yes, you will be mine. Fried butter balls with syrup, yes, in moderation. Funnel cakes, oh hell yes. But my favorite had run out, deep fried pecan pie. Maybe next year.)

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Tuesday, 28 March 2017

10:00 – It was 52.1F (11C) when I took Colin out around 0645 this morning, damp and puddles on the drive but not raining. Barbara is attending meetings and volunteering all day. Dinner tonight is leftover slow-cooker pork and mashed potatoes, all from long-term storage.

I just noticed this morning that in the next couple days I should pass 1.8 million total views since I started this WordPress blog back in mid-2011. I remember the good olde days when my journal page drew that many reads in a year or less. Over the two or three years, I’m averaging close to 1,000 reads per day (versus 5,000 to 6,000/day back in the GoD), with my biggest day at around 1,900 reads (versus 32,000 reads in the GoD, which is about what I do in month now). Of course, back then probably 80% or more of my readers were interested in what I had to say about computer hardware and software, which I don’t talk about much any more.

Barbara is still getting our garden lined up, literally. She has rows of planting pots lined up on tables in the garage, from larger ones that hold 5 or 10 liters of soil to those little trays that we’ll soon be starting some stuff in indoors.

We’ll put those inside the French doors to the back deck. I think they’ll get enough light there, and they’ll be warm and cozy.  If they do need more light, I’ll point some 100W-equivalent LEDs at them. Those’ll work about as well as formal plant grow lights. We’ll be planting several things we didn’t try last year, including potatoes and garlic.

I also wanted to plant a few cows, chickens, and pigs, but Barbara tells me none of those will grow very well in our garden. Those and broccoli, which we tried last year with no results. Lori and several others told us that broccoli doesn’t do well here, but I’m still thinking about maybe planting a few landrace broccoli seeds just to see if they’re better-adapted.

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Monday, 27 March 2017

08:44 – It was 54.5F (12.5C) when I took Colin out around 0715 this morning. More rain intermittently over the next couple days, with highs around 68F (20C). Barbara is off to the dentist this morning and then has meetings, so she’ll be gone most of the day. We got another dozen biology kits built yesterday, so for now we’re in good shape on science kits.

The ongoing sage of my most recent Walmart order continues. I placed the original order on March 15th, with a promised delivery date of March 17th. UPS damaged that order and returned it to Walmart. Walmart finally got around to shipping the replacement last Thursday, the 23rd, with promised delivery today. So this morning I checked to see if it was “out for delivery”, only to find this:

Mar 24 9:17 PM


Maybe the third time will be a charm. Maybe Walmart will get tired of replacing damaged shipments and decide to pack things better. The shipment comprised several gallons of ketchup, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce, so it probably made a real mess.

Barbara has Vivaldi set up the way she wants it, and so far she much prefers it to Firefox. About the only thing I did was install Adblock Plus for her. Vivaldi is based on the Chrome/Chromium browser, so I’m not too concerned about them keeping up with security fixes.

I’m also running Vivaldi as my main browser now. There are a couple things I don’t like about it, mainly that it doesn’t remember font size settings for each web site I visit, but I can tolerate that.

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Sunday, 26 March 2017

09:44 – It was 51.9F (11C) when I took Colin out around 0715 this morning. We’re supposed to get rain pretty much all day today, and well above average temperatures for the next several days.

I’m about ready to bag Firefox. It’s slow, bloated, and has a lot of other issues. I’ve had Vivaldi installed for several months and have been using it from time to time. Barbara has also been having minor nagging issues with Firefox on her notebook, so yesterday I installed Vivaldi for her and imported all her Firefox data. We’ll see how she likes it.

I’ve been thinking about our medical preps and looking at various prepping sites for ideas. What strikes me immediately is that many preppers are going about things the wrong way. I try to apply systematized decision making, using a simplified type of n-dimensional multivariate analysis to decision making.

For prepping decisions, the n-dimensional part is 3-dimensional:

  1. How likely is an event?
  2. How easy or difficult is it to take measures against that event?
  3. How much will it cost in time/money to take those measures?

When you finish your analysis, you end up with each event ranked as likely/unlikely, easy/difficult, and cheap/expensive. Deal with the likely/easy/cheap ones first and the unlikely/difficult/expensive ones last, if at all.

With regard to medical preps, a lot of people have built what amount to trauma kits, which fall into the unlikely/difficult/expensive class, but have ignored the likely/easy/cheap ones. It’s all well and good to have what you need to deal with gunshot wounds, assuming you have the skills to do so, but gunshot wounds are definitely in the unlikely group. Sure, it might happen, but it’s not the first thing you should be preparing for medically. Unless you’re a physician or a trauma nurse, you’re as likely to kill the patient as help him.

GI problems on the other hand, are not just likely but almost certain. Between greatly elevated stress levels and less than ideal sanitation, you’re going to be dealing with diarrhea and constipation, not just occasionally but regularly. The former can kill the patient; the latter will just make them wish they were dead.

Fortunately, both problems are probably going to be pretty easy to deal with. Stock up on loperamide for minor diarrhea and oral rehydration salts for more severe cases. Both are cheap and effective. (By the way, unless you really know what you’re doing and have the resources to culture and identify STEC versus non-STEC bacteria, NEVER EVER treat even the most severe diarrhea with antibiotics; doing so may kill the patient.)

As to constipation, stock up on laxatives. The cheapest and one of the most reliable is the saline laxative Epson salts. One tablespoon in a glass of water normally works within a few hours. You can buy a large retort bag of the stuff at Costco or Sam’s for a few bucks. PEG laxatives are also safe and effective. Costco sells a 3-pack with 90 daily doses for about $20 in stores and on-line.

In med school, one of the first things they teach is that when you hear hoofbeats, don’t think about zebras. In other words, consider the most likely cause, horses, first and only after you’ve eliminated the likely causes should you consider the unlikely ones. The same is true for prepping, medical or otherwise.

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Saturday, 25 March 2017

09:49 – It was 48.4F (9C) when I took Colin out around 0700 this morning. He and Barbara are outside right now, getting started on Trump’s Wall. She hauled some rock up from the backyard yesterday to put a small drystone wall around the flower bed at the corner of our garage. It’ll be only five or six feet long and 6 or 8 inches tall, but I feel comfortable that it’ll be enough to discourage any illegal immigrants from taking up residence in Barbara’s flower bed.

Barbara drinks orange juice every morning. She buys Tropicana in those 1.75-liter PET wide-mouth bottles (weight: 59 grams w/o lid; 71 grams w/ lid) that are so useful for repackaging LTS food, particularly fluffy stuff that’s hard to get into the narrow-mouth 2-liter bottles.

One aggravation for Barbara over the years is that I don’t discard or recycle any potentially useful bottles, so at times she feels as though the house is being taken over by bottles. Hundreds of them. Big yard-waste bags full of them. (I did point out once that our house was about 30,000 cubic feet, which meant we actually had room for about 600,000 2-liter bottles, but that didn’t seem to help.)

So I was proud of Barbara when she returned from Winston Thursday. She had a Tropicana bottle half full of iced tea. Al had made too much iced tea, and gave her some of it in the OJ bottle to take home. She mentioned that we saved those bottles for repackaging bulk staples. Al asked if she wanted them to save them for us, and Barbara thanked him and accepted. Barbara getting more bottles for us. Heh. Now all we need to do is get them all full of bulk staples and shelved. We’re gonna need more shelves.

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Friday, 24 March 2017

09:27 – It was 40.1F (4.5C) when I took Colin out around 0715 this morning, with a stiff breeze. Barbara got home about 1330 yesterday and we got all the Costco stuff unloaded and put away.

This site and Barbara’s site were down yesterday evening for at least an hour or so. I finally gave up and went to bed. The site claimed this site was up and available the whole time, but I couldn’t get to it. Several readers emailed me overnight to say they were having the same problem, so I’m not sure what was going on. There’s nothing at all on about connectivity or server issues, so something weird was going on.

I see that the big news overnight was about the Republican catfight about how much lipstick to put on the Obamacare pig. Other than Rand Paul and a couple of others, none of the GOP congressmen wants to flat-out repeal it. Trump says take or leave the current proposal, and that if Congress doesn’t accept it he’ll just drop the whole repeal thing and move along. Then we can just watch Obamacare collapse, as it’s already doing.

Roughly a third of the 3,000+ US counties have only one insurance company issuing ACA policies, and several have none at all. Our county has only one currently, BC/BS, and it seems likely that BC/BS will stop participating in ACA by the end of 2017, leaving us with nothing.

The problem is that about 99% of the congress insists on keeping the two adverse-selection features that doomed Obamacare. Allowing people up to age 26 to remain on their parents’ policies is bad enough because it dramatically reduces the number of young, healthy people who are paying into the system. The ban on refusing to cover pre-existing conditions is much, much worse. It’s adverse selection in a nutshell. The proposed GOP bandaid fixes do nothing to change that. Insurance companies can’t stay in business if they’re forced to insure people who are uninsurable. It’s like forcing a home insurance company to issue policies on homes that are already on fire.

So it’s going to be interesting to see what happens. My guess is Obamacare will be left pretty much as-is, allowed to collapse of its own weight and leaving us with nothing.

And people wonder why we continue prepping. What’s happening now just makes the slow slide into dystopia a lot faster, hastening the inevitable ultimate collapse. Stock up now, while you still can.

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Thursday, 23 March 2017

09:44 – It was 28.5F (-2C) when I took Colin out around 0715 this morning, with a slight breeze. Barbara got all of her errands run yesterday. She has a haircut appointment at 1030 this morning and will make a Costco run on her way home. She should be back by mid-afternoon.

Email the other day from another newbie prepper. I’ll call her Tiffany, but this time that really is her name. She and her husband are both in their early thirties. Both have decent jobs with reasonable job security. They have no children, and aren’t planning to have any. They live in a rural-ish area about 25 miles from the nearest town, which is about 30,000 population. She’s been reading my blog regularly for the last two or three years. They’ve been kind-of prepping for the last couple of years, but Tiffany calls their efforts hit-or-miss. When they think about it, they pick up an extra dozen cans of this or that at the Super Walmart, but she says they have only maybe a three-week supply of food. She wanted to know if I could send her a list to work from. She’d like to start by getting ready for a 3-month emergency.

They already have a good start on a lot of stuff. They have a woodstove upstairs that they could cook on if need be, as well as a fireplace with a woodburning insert downstairs. Their normal water supply is gravity-fed from a springhouse, with a 12V pump to pressurize their tank. That ordinarily runs from house current, but could easily be changed over to 12V battery power. Even without the pump, the gravity feed produces enough water pressure to provide water at the faucets and toilets. They have a decent first-aid kit. Her husband hunts and both of them shoot clays, so they have two shotguns as well as a bolt-action rifle and have accumulated a reasonable amount of ammunition suitable for self-defense. They have three dogs, which Tiffany says let them know any time anyone approaches the property. They have battery-operated LED lanterns and FLASHLIGHTS as well as several old oil lamps, with a good supply of batteries and lamp oil. The only thing she thinks they’re really short on is food.

So she asked me to assume that I was starting with no food and wanted to buy enough quickly to last two people for three months. What, specifically, would I buy? She says they’ll eventually expand that to six months and probably a year, but for now she just wants to make a serious start. So I replied as follows:

Hi, Tiffany

All of what I write below assumes that you’re feeding only two people for three months. I don’t know how big your dogs are, but I’d also store the same foods for them and in the same quantities you’d store for a person of equal weight. For example, if your three dogs weigh 50 pounds each, that’s the equivalent of one 150-pound adult.

Incidentally, the quantities listed below are going to sound huge, but they’re actually just adequate. Don’t forget, you want this food to hold you without outside resupply. You won’t be able to make your weekly supermarket run, nor will you be eating out, ordering takeout, and so on.

The main consideration is calories. Figure on at least 2,200 to 2,400 calories/day for yourself and 2,800 to 3,000 calories per day for your husband plus whatever you need for your dogs. Carbohydrates provide about 1,700 calories per dry pound, as do proteins (meat, beans, etc.). Oils and fats provide about 3,800 calories per pound. You need an adequate mix of all three for good nutrition. In addition to raw calories, all of the carbohydrates except sugars also contain significant amounts of protein—typically 10% to 15% by weight—but grain proteins are not “complete”. Supplementing grain proteins with meat and/or bean protein makes it complete.

I’d recommend that you start by buying adequate quantities of both bulk staples and canned goods, as well as some supplementary dehydrated items to cover you for three months. Try to get the following categories covered equally:

Carbohydrates – 180 to 210 pounds per adult or dog equivalent

You can mix this up however you like, but I’d recommend the following as a starting point. Adjust as you see fit, as long as the total is 180 to 210 pounds. All of these foods provide about 1,700 calories/pound.

60 to 75 pounds of pasta (macaroni, spaghetti, egg noodles, etc.)
48 to 60 pounds of white flour (for bread, biscuits, pancakes, thickening sauces, etc.)
30 to 50 pounds of rice (white rice stores forever; brown rice for five years or more)
30 to 60 pounds of white sugar (or honey, pancake syrup, etc.)
6 to 10 pounds of oats
6 to 10 pounds of corn meal

Adjust according to your own preferences. If you don’t plan to bake (which is a mistake) or make pancakes/waffles, you can get by with a lot less flour, but make up for it by weight with another carbohydrate. If you hate rice, don’t buy any, but again make up the weight with another carb.

Protein supplement – at least 15 pounds per adult or dog equivalent

Although all of the carbohydrates listed except sugar contain significant amounts of protein, it’s not complete protein because it lacks essential amino acids. You can get these missing amino acids by adding beans, legumes, eggs, meats, etc. to your storage. Beans are the cheapest way to do this, but most people prefer meat, eggs, etc. Note that canned wet beans should be counted as one fifth their weight in dry beans, so while 5 pounds of dry beans suffices for a month, if you’re buying, say, Bush’s Best Baked beans, you’d need 25 one-pound cans of them to equal the five pounds of dry beans.

We keep about 100 pounds of dry beans and lentils in stock for the 4.5 of us, but most of our supplementary protein is in the form of canned meats. Cans of chicken from Costco or Sam’s, Keystone Meats canned ground beef, beef chunks, pork, chicken, turkey, etc. You can order Keystone canned meats from Walmart on-line. A 28-ounce can of most of them costs just over $6. We order them in cases of 12 at a time. They also have 14.5-ounce cans, although they cost more per ounce. They might be better for you if you’re planning to feed only the two of you. Also consider the 12- to 16-ounce cans of meats like chicken, roast beef, ham, tuna, salmon, Spam, and so on. The actual shelf life of canned meats, like other canned foods, is indefinite assuming the can is undamaged. Keystone, for example, rates their canned meats at a 5-year shelf life, but in fact they will remain safe and nutritious for much, much longer.

Although the five pounds per person-month is a minimum, you’ll probably want more. For a three-month supply for the two of you, I’d buy 90 cans of meat, plus extra for your dogs. One can per day to split between/among you. That’s going to be the most expensive part of your LTS food purchases, at maybe $200 to $300 for 90 cans. If that’s more than you want to spend at one time, you can substitute dry beans pound for pound for some or all of the meats, at roughly $1 per pound.

Oils and Fats – at least 3 quarts/liters or 6 pounds per adult or dog equivalent

Oils and fats do gradually become rancid, but stored in their original bottles and kept in a cool, dark place they last for years without noticeably rancidity. Saturated fats (lard, shortening, etc.) store better than than unsaturated fats. Poly-unsaturated fats have the shortest shelf life.

We store a combination of liquid vegetable and olive oils, lard, shortening, etc. We also keep anything up to 40 pounds of butter in our large freezer. In a long term power outage, we’d clarify that by heating it and separating the butter solids from the clear butter, and then can the clear butter to preserve it.

For the two of you for three months, covering this requirement can be as simple as buying two 3-liter bottles of olive oil, lard, shortening, or another oil of your choice, or a mix of those. Plus whatever you need for your dogs, of course.

Dairy – at least 9 pounds dry milk per adult or dog equivalent

This amount is all for cooking/baking. If you want to drink milk, have it on cereal, etc. you’ll need more. You can buy non-fat dry milk already in #10 cans, or buy it in cardboard boxes from Walmart and repack it yourself. (There’s also a full-fat dry milk called Nestle Nido that’s sold in #10 cans and has a real-world shelf-life of at least a couple of years and probably much longer.) For instant non-fat dry milk, the cheapest option is the LDS on-line store, which sells a case of twelve 28-ounce bags (21 pounds total) for $46.50, or just over $2/pound. There’s a $3 flat shipping charge no matter how many cases you order. If I were you, I’d order a couple of cases. Just note that although LDS dry milk is fine for cooking and baking, it really sucks for drinking.

Another alternative is evaporated milk or sweetened condensed milk, although it’s mostly water so you’ll need to buy about five times as much by weight. For drinking or use on cereal, consider a milk substitute like Augason Farms Morning Moos (dumb name, but by all reports it’s the closest thing to real fresh milk). It comes in #10 cans and has a very long shelf life. It’s mostly non-fat dry milk, but with sugar and other ingredients that make the reconstituted stuff taste close to real milk.

Salt – at least 2 pounds per adult or dog equivalent

Buy iodized salt. Sam’s sells 4-pound boxes of Morton’s iodized table salt for about a buck each, so a three-month supply for one person is about $0.50 worth. The shelf life is infinite, so buy a lot. Repackage it in 1- or 2-liter soft drink bottles, canning jars, Mylar bags, or other moisture-proof containers. (You don’t need an oxygen absorber.) After extended storage, the salt may take on a very pale yellow cast. That’s normal. It’s caused by the potassium iodide used to iodize the salt oxidizing to elemental iodine. That’s harmless, does not affect the taste, and still provides the daily requirement of iodine (which the soil around here is very poor in).

Meal Extenders/Cooking Essentials (varies according to your situation)

You can survive on just beans, rice, oil, and salt, but the meals you can make with just those foods will get old after about one day. Even if you’ve stored a lot of canned meat, you should also store other items that add flavor and variety to your stored bulk foods, such as:

Herbs and spices – buy large Costco/Sam’s jars of the half-dozen or dozen herbs/spices (sperbs?) you like best. In sealed glass/plastic jars they maintain full flavor for many years. Your preferences probably differ from ours, but at a minimum I’d suggest: onion and garlic flakes/powder, cinnamon, thyme, parsley, dill, mustard, rosemary, pepper, cumin, etc.

Sauces and condiments – store your favorite sauces/condiments (or the ingredients to make them). We store spaghetti sauce, alfredo sauce, canned soups, ketchup, mustard, pancake syrup, etc. in quantity. Rather than storing barbecue sauce, we store bulk amounts of the ingredients to make it up on the fly. (See

Which brings up another issue. You need to plan your meals and figure out how much of what you’ll need to make them. For example, we intend to have a dinner based on that barbecue sauce once every three weeks, or 17 times a year. The recipe makes up a quart or so of sauce, which with a 28-ounce can of Keystone beef chunks or pork or chicken is enough to feed the 4.5 of us. (The buns are just part of our flour storage.) To know how much we’ll need to store to do that for a year in the absence of outside resupply, we just multiply everything by 17.

17 – 28-ounce cans of Keystone canned beef, pork, or chicken
25.5 cups (11+ pounds) of white sugar
25.5 Tbsp (12.75 fluid ounces) of molasses
25.5 cups (204 fluid ounces) of ketchup
8.5 cups (68 fluid ounces) of prepared mustard
8.5 cups (68 fluid ounces) of vinegar
8.5 cups (68 fluid ounces) of water
17 Tbsp (8.5 fluid ounces) of Worcestershire sauce
17 Tbsp (8.5 fluid ounces) of liquid smoke hickory sauce
34 tsp (77 grams or 2.7 ounces) of paprika
34 tsp (194 grams or 6.8 ounces) of salt
25.5 tsp (59 grams or 2.1 ounces) of black pepper

Cooking/Baking Essentials – varies according to your preferences

You’ll almost certainly want to bake bread, biscuits, etc., so keep at least a couple pounds of instant yeast (we use SAF). On the shelf, it’s good for at least a year. In the freezer, indefinitely. You’ll also want baking soda, baking powder, unsweetened cocoa powder, vinegar, lemon juice, vanilla extract—all of which keep indefinitely in their original sealed containers—and possibly things like chocolate chips, raisins and other dried fruits, jams and jellies, etc.

Multi-vitamin tablets/capsules – one per person/day

Contrary to popular opinion, fruits and vegetables aren’t necessary for a nutritious, balanced diet. Still, most people will want to keep a good supply of them. As usual for canned goods, canned fruits and vegetables last a long, long time. We buy cases of a dozen cans each at Costco or Sam’s of corn, green beans, peas, tomatoes, mixed fruit, pineapples, oranges, etc. (Note that pop-top aluminum cans are problematic. Where a traditional steel can will keep foods good indefinitely, the pop-top cans don’t seem to do as good a job. I recommend you stick to traditional cans, and of course that you have at least two manual can openers.)

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