Thursday, 29 June 2017

08:55 – It was 60.7F (16C) when I took Colin out at 0615, partly cloudy and calm. Barbara is out filling bottles for science kits, which she’ll be doing most of the day. She’s headed down to East Bend, outside Winston, around 1700 to have dinner with her friend Marcy. She should be back mid-evening.

As it turned out, it wasn’t the water heater. It was one of the copper feed lines coming out the top of it. Two guys from Shaw showed up yesterday around 1100 and replaced both the old copper lines with PEX. It took them less than half an hour. They were both surprised that we had a 110V well pump. Neither of them had ever seen one before.

A few minutes after they left, Jay Shaw stopped back with a sheath of paint swatches to show me. He matched the existing paint pretty closely with an off-white color called “cotton ball”. I told him that, fortunately, Barbara didn’t really care about the exact color as long as it was an off-white and a reasonably close match for what was on the walls now.

I ordered 250 grams of reagent-grade (AR) iodine crystals off eBay yesterday. Thirty bucks, including shipping from China. If it weren’t for federal regulations, I could have just ordered it from Fisher Scientific or another US supplier. But that involves an incredible amount of paperwork, so much so that many US vendors no longer sell elemental iodine, and if they do the cost is outrageous.

Understand, I’m not breaking any laws by ordering iodine on eBay. It’s perfectly legal for me to buy it, import it, or possess it in any quantity. It’s just illegal for US resellers to sell elemental iodine to US customers without going through all the regulatory bullshit. I can even sell iodine solutions, as long as I don’t sell more than 30 mL at a time and it’s less than 2.2% iodine w/v. That’s fortunate, because every kit we sell includes a 30 mL bottle of Lugol’s iodine solution, which is 1.27% w/v iodine in a 2% solution of potassium iodide.

For that matter, it’s trivially easy to isolate elemental iodine from potassium iodide, which is completely uncontrolled. I could order a hundred kilos of KI, and no one would blink an eye. And all it takes to convert that potassium iodide to iodine is some hardware store muriatic acid (hydrochloric acid) and a jug of supermarket chlorine bleach. I did that as a demo at MakerFaire in 2008 to demonstrate how futile federal regulations are.

Lisa emailed me an update of their progress. They’re well past her initial goal of food/water/shelter for three months, but are still accumulating LTS food and other supplies. They’re now studying for their Technician Class ham radio licenses in preparation for taking the test in August.

They’ve also stocked up on OTC medications, bandages, etc., but Lisa came across one of my posts about SHTF antibiotics and wants to get some. She said that the source I recommended, aquabiotics.net, appears to be out of business. Their web page is still up, but it’s nothing but a placeholder.

They’re actually still in business, but not on the Internet. PayPal and other credit-card processors have banned them solely because they’re selling antibiotics. The owner, Dave Folsom, is now processing orders solely by email. Email him at dcfolsom@reagan.com and ask for his current price list. Decide what you want, total up the price, and send him a check. I know that’ll probably make a lot of people nervous, but I’ve bought from him twice that way, and each time he’s shipped exactly what I ordered via USPS Priority Mail the day he got the check.

I suggested to Lisa that for the six of them (assuming no drug allergies) she order at least a few courses each of 100 mg doxycycline, 800/160 mg SMZ/TMP, 875/125 mg amoxicillin/clavulanate, and 400 mg metronidazole. And, in case nothing else works, at least a course or two of 500 mg levofloxacin. Stick them in the freezer, and don’t even think of touching them unless the S has really, really HTF and you’re convinced the patient is going to die if you don’t take desperate measures.

More email from Jen. They routinely run readiness exercises every time there’s a three-day holiday weekend. This one is four days, which is better still. They’re starting as of 1800 tomorrow and running their exercise through next Wednesday morning. David is on call for a couple of those days, so he has to keep his cell phone on, but otherwise they’ll be completely off-grid for the duration. No grid power or other utilities, no TV other than DVDs and other local stuff, no Internet (although they do cheat and check email and news sites in case there’s a real emergency), etc. These exercises became routine for all of them a long time back. As Jen says, it’s essentially just a family camping trip at home.

Brittany and her family are also doing a readiness exercise over the holiday weekend. These aren’t as routine for them, yet, because they haven’t been doing them as long or as often as Jen and her family have, but they did get most of the bugs worked out some time ago.


11:15 – I forgot to mention one new thing Jen and her family will be trying out. In past readiness exercises, their main problem was keeping a 24×7 watch, particularly when it was just the six of them participating. So they decided to install an HD NV surveillance system. The system they bought has eight Ethernet PoE 1080P surveillance cameras with IR illuminators, and is rated for 100-foot detection at 0 lux (with the IR working). Those cameras feed into a 16-port DVR that has all kinds of bells and whistles.

Jen’s husband, brother, and nephews spent some time last weekend getting cameras mounted and everything installed. The cameras and DVR have standard Ethernet RJ-45 jacks. They mounted the cameras under the eaves at each corner of the house facing out at 45-degree angles and at the center of each wall, facing out at 90 degrees, and ran pre-made Ethernet cables to each camera. Jen didn’t want a bundle of Ethernet cables coming down into the house proper, so they declared the main floor utility room to be their comm center and ran all the cables back there.

They were a bit concerned that the rated 100-foot IR detection range was insufficient, so they also bought one PoE IR illuminator, installed it under the eaves near one of the cameras, and ran an Ethernet cable back to the comm center. They’re going to try that one camera with and without the supplementary IR illuminator and see how much difference it makes. If it greatly increases the range, they’ll install seven more IR illumintors, one per camera.

They’ll power the illuminators with an old 8-port Ethernet hub, of which they have several. They also bought a low-end BPS that should run the cameras, DVR, and illuminator for a long time on battery. The comm center is near their solar power charge controller and battery bank, so in a grid-down situation they’d be able to power their surveillance gear indefinitely.

I’m looking forward to hearing how that all works. They spent a fair amount on all the gear, but getting a smaller system costs only a few hundred dollars and would be a useful security supplement.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

07:52 – It was 50.0F (10C) when I took Colin out at 0620, sunny and calm. Barbara is driving over to West Jefferson this morning to meet two friends from Winston and spend the day walking around town.

Anyone who owns a home knows that if it’s not one thing it’s another. Barbara noticed some water around the base of the water heater. This house is about 10 years old. Water heaters have a service life of 10 to 15 years, and the well water up here is pretty corrosive. So my guess is that we’ll need to replace the water heater. I’ll call Shaw Brothers this morning to see if we can get Herschel out to look at it.