Monday, 9 October 2017

08:44 – It was 68.0F (20C) when I got up this morning at at 0620, pouring down rain. It was 0730 before the rain slacked off enough to take Colin out. We’ve had 4.6 inches (11.7 cm) so far, and it’s still drizzling, with heavier rains forecast for later today and tomorrow.

Barbara made a skillet dinner last night with Costco sausage, macaroni, and a jar of Classico spaghetti sauce. I washed out that jar, of course, and will use it for repackaging LTS food.

Not for canning food, though. The Classico jars look like canning jars. They even have “Atlas Mason” and a graduated scale molded into the glass. But they are most definitely not actual canning jars, and everyone from Classico themselves to the Center for Home Food Preservation says not to use them for canning, particularly pressure-canning. Here’s an article that summarizes everything you need to know about re-using commercial glass food jars as canning jars.

In short, don’t do it. You may get away with it, and if the lid seals the food will be safely preserved. The big issue is that both failed seals and broken jars are likely, particularly if you pressure-can rather than use a boiling water bath. It’s simply not worth taking the chance of spoiled food, broken glass, and so on to save the relatively small cost of a real canning jar.


Since 2014, I’ve bought (at a guess) three or four dozen boxes of Krusteaz Cinnamon Crumb Cake. We’re now down to whatever’s left in the kitchen pantry–maybe three boxes–and I don’t intend to buy any more. We like the stuff well enough, but when Barbara made one yesterday I commented that I liked the chocolate pan cake we make up from scratch just as well or better. She feels the same, so no more Krusteaz cake mix. That, and the fact that the price has increased from $2.14/box to $3.58/box. We can make it ourselves exclusively from stuff in our LTS pantry, and make it a lot cheaper.

The same thing is true of the Krusteaz pancake mix, which I’d bought in 10-pound bags. (The price on that has jumped from about $8/bag to about $10/bag.) We have everything we need in LTS to make pancakes from scratch, so why bother paying more for the pre-mixed stuff?

As we’ve been cooking more and more from scratch, one of the things we’ve discovered is that (usually) it doesn’t take any longer starting with discrete components than it does to start with a mix. And having those discrete components gives us much more flexibility. The only thing we can make with a box of Krusteaz cinnamon crumb cake mix is a cinnamon crumb cake. But we can use the discrete components to make up literally dozens of different things. It costs less, it takes little or no more time, and the shelf life of our stored raw materials is essentially unlimited, which can’t be said for mixes stored in cardboard boxes.

I’m thinking about doing the same thing to replace our stored stock of soups as we use them. Although a can of soup doesn’t cost much, and Sam’s (and presumably Costco) still sells Campbell Cream of Mushroom or Chicken for about $9/10-pack, Walmart, Amazon, and other vendors are typically up around $1.50/can or higher. That’s maybe five times what it costs to make them up on-the-fly. I have a recipe for Cream of (fill-in-the-blank) soup, and it’s pretty simple. Just make up a rue with butter (or butter powder and oil or shortening) and flour and stir in the name ingredient. It takes five minutes, and we can do that while we’re standing in the kitchen working on other parts of the meal. And, once again, that gives us a lot more flexibility.


I’m still working on my post-apocalyptic novel, but it’s a matter of an hour here and 15 minutes there, as I can find the time. I just fixed something in it yesterday. Amateur radio plays a small part in the novel, and I’d been trying to come up with decent fake call signs.

I was going to use my old call sign that I had back in the 60’s, because the FCC has completely forgotten that I ever had a licence back then. The problem is that that call sign is now showing up in the database as unassigned, which means the FCC could end up assigning it to a real person. For obvious reasons, I didn’t want to do that.

What I really needed was a ham radio equivalent of the hokey 555 telephone exchange that’s always used in TV shows and movies to provide non-working fictional telephone numbers. Unfortunately, there’s no such range for amateur radio call signs.

I’d never seen the TV series Last Man Standing, but an Internet search turned up the fact that Tim Allen’s character is a ham radio operator, and the show’s producers ran into the same problem I did. They wanted a real-sounding call sign, but found only one way to do that. They made his call sign KA0XTT, which looks kind of like a real ham call sign, except that the X in that position indicates an experimental station and would never be assigned to a real ham operator.

I briefly considered using strings that could never be assigned to a real ham, like K33RTK. The problem with that is that any reader who had any knowledge of ham radio would be jarred by such a fake call sign, probably enough to knock himself out of the story. I don’t want any clangers like that, so I ended up using the X the same way that Tim Allen’s producers used it.

The next issue I had to fix was when news reports of the Las Vegas Massacre revealed that the shooter had used a bump-fire stock. Shit. I’d already written a section that had one of the main characters mentioning the three Slide Fire stocks he’d bought recently for his family’s AR-15’s, and how they were completely legal. So I rewrote that to have him buying them years before and paying literal cash so there was no record of the transaction.