Sun. May 31, 2020 – burn baby burn…

Hot and humid here in Houston.

Yesterday was pretty hot and sweaty too.

But hey, now we have a pool! And I didn’t have to MacGyver anything. It was all in the box except for 8 bolts. It’s in pretty good shape considering someone set it up, and used it long enough for a dirt ring to form before returning it… They didn’t assemble the ladder, they just used it upside down and in pieces. Doesn’t look like they used the filter pump either.  The brazen theft involved in Amazon returns is breathtaking in scope and will eventually have to be addressed.    My kids were full on nutburgers when they saw the pool and climbed in while it filled.  Only 6 inches of water in it and it sounded like two dolphins in a blender.  Neighbors are going to get tired of the squeals…

Didn’t get much done on my list ‘cuz someone just dropped a day long project in my lap… just saying.

Other than taking the big truck with the push bar into the city, so I could push through a crowd if I had to, it was just like a normal day.

After dinner though, for a lot of people, Sh!t Just Got Real ™.   I spent a few hours last night watching rioting, yelling, crowds milling around, and all sorts of opportunists mouthing off.  I was in LA for the Rodney King riots, and it is not at all “fun” for normal people.  Burning buildings have a particular odor like nothing else.  Watching neighborhoods burn from your front porch and having that smoke blow in your door will CHANGE you.  Ordinary people get caught up in the violence too.  My roommate was hospitalized from injuries he got during a racially motivated attack on day one or two.  He spent three days in the hospital, and he was just one of many.  [added- he and his ex-wife got jumped outside of a QuikMart when they took a break from trying to reconcile to get some coffee.  They had no idea anything was going on in the city.]

Ol’ Remus’ advice is good- stay away from crowds, and Cooper’s advice about avoiding stupid people and stupid places is also good.  Finally, don’t stand next to someone doing something stupid.   Reginald Denny was in the wrong place at the wrong time and it changed his life.  Don’t be caught unaware, and don’t let them get you out of the vehicle.

One interesting thing I noticed in the news footage, all the big name orgs and the local news crews have ‘security teams’ with them this time.  The Ferguson coverage had many of the ‘on the ground’ reporters having to “reposition” and reconnect.  Ironic during a “mostly peaceful protest”, no?  This time they’ve all got security.

It’s gonna get worse before it gets better.  Anyone want to bet that it continues through the elections?


Dinner was beef fajitas from the last delivery, saute’d with onions, served with tortilla and various vegetable sides.  I like the packaged marinade beef in the vac sealed bag from HEB.  Kids and wife ate every scrap.  We’ve barely touched our long term storage, and even the canned inventory isn’t really being drawn down.  Damned weird apocalypse.

Clearly, we’ve got  more to get through.  Think about what a deterioration in your local security situation means for you and your family.  If most of the cops are standing ‘line abreast’ downtown, they aren’t cruising your area and they aren’t investigating crimes or taking other calls.  What’s your normal response time to a 911 call?  What might it be if you have riots in your area?  What can YOU do to improve your situation?

Keep stacking.  Everything’s better with butter and bacon.

 

nick

Sat. May 30, 2020 – and the beat goes on…

Hot. Sunny. humid. Man, I need to change the batteries in my weather station.

Yesterday was hot, and humid, with lots of fluffy clouds and some blue sky. No rain at home or my secondary location.

I did auction pickups today, and went to my secondary to meet a guy about some stuff he bought but never picked up. It was buried, and I couldn’t get to it. Conveniently for him, it’s enough unburied that it could be pulled out for him. However, he stood me up. Rescheduled for this morning.

That made me late to our “Fifth Grade Graduation Parade.” I was a bit skeptical of the idea, and thought a 5th grade graduation was hokey anyway… but I’m glad I made it. I waved from the side of the road as dozens of decorated cars and trucks drove by with the kids waving back. I’d forgotten that I know all these kids from my Hands On Science class, and they think of me as a teacher, who some I’m sure wanted to see one last time. I was very happy to see the kids, and when they recognized me waving, they smiled and sat up and waved. It felt really good. I wasn’t thinking past my own kids, and that was a mistake. My daughter was in a great mood afterwards too.

Hit the takeout lane for our favorite greek casual dining and ate restaurant food for the first time in 2 1/2 months. And it was good.

That led right into story time, and bed, and then me checking the news.

Holy moly, the riots are coming. I hope everyone had been getting ready. I almost flubbed it myself. I’ll be carrying my bear spray today as I go back out to meet my buyer.

And I might stop by my favorite toy store and do a bit of meatspace relationship maintenance.

Then it’s back home to see if the pool has everything we need to set it up. Savvy readers will note that I skipped rotten potato cleanup, and delayed the pool project. Delayed but can’t avoid.

Dinner was restaurant food, and dang it was good.

Avoid crowds, keep your situational awareness higher than mine, and keep stacking.

nick

Fri. May 29, 2020 – fifth Friday this month…

Hot and damp, possibly sunny.

Yesterday was a dog’s breakfast. Depending on where you were in Houston you either got no rain or were dumped on. I got dumped on.

Got my errands done later than I’d have liked, and then went to my client’s house. And the tale of woe continues. More issues with connectivity both on the internal network and externally to the internet.

The AT&T tech was NOT good. He failed to save the account credentials to the DSL modem (which he replaced, as the other one got hit by lightning.) He also used the wrong account and failed to test it with the client’s devices. Seems that AT&T DSL will accept almost anything for account name and password, and tell you it connected to the internet. You can even use the built in tools to ping or traceroute, and they work. But if you launch a browser, you get an AT&T “fix the problems with your connection page” and a wizard that bombs out because of java errors when using Ipads. Iphones and laptops work, but not ipads. Much time was spent trying different combinations of account and password, until finally I got two to match. Before I could do that though, the wizard broke another way. I’d changed the default local lan IP address and gateway for the router to match our internal xxx.xxx.10.xxx scheme. The wizard NEEDS you to have not changed any settings in the box for it to complete. SO MUCH SUCK.

After finally getting the DSL box configured, ports forwarded, rules created, we could finally get out to the internet, but some of the local lan stuff didn’t work… specifically our ipads couldn’t talk to our AV control system. After thinking it was a config issue, and wasting a bunch of time looking at that, I looked at the switch.

Some blinkenlights, not enough blinkenlights. Turns out, the lightning strike on AT&T’s line came in through the copper, smoked the DSL power wart (which shut down the UPS it was plugged into) but not the actual modem, and also smoked the port on the network switch it was connected to. I moved it to another port and got that back up but still no connection to some local hardware. MORE troubleshooting and I discover more dead ports on the network switch. Swap it out for an old HP switch I brought ‘just in case’ and viola, we’re back up. Score one for ‘hoarding’ gear.

Now I’m wondering what gear might have gotten a ‘tickle’ through the network switch and will be failing over the next year…

Moral of the story, lightning strikes have weird consequences. Everything connected to the piece that got hit should be considered suspect. And, AT&T DSL support sucks dead bunnies.

I got home very late, but with a working system behind me. Dinner was more saute’d frozen shrimp, and some instant rice. My wife made it for the kids and I had a plate waiting.

Oh, I took the trash out and realized I’ve got a bunch of rotten potatoes stored. That is going to be my gruesome task today, after swim team practice… cleaning out that mess. Then see if the above ground pool has all the necessary parts, and get sidetracked building same…

But hey, we got an extra Friday this month.

Keep your awareness up, and avoid crowds.

And keep stacking.

n

Thur. May 28, 2020 – more storms

Wet and windy.

Yesterday was a mix of rain and storms with nice sunny blue sky and cool breezes. Lot of rain and wind though.

And the trunk I left open to dry out after I left it open through a storm?? Yep. Left it open through a storm again. I hope it will be dry at some point today.

Didn’t get much done on the bigger projects but I did do some more work on a couple of smaller things. Didn’t end up going to my client’s house yesterday but will be out there later today.

My wife decided that we needed to proceed with some sort of above the ground temporary pool. Only problem is, they are sold out everywhere. EXCEPT— in my auctions. Amazon returns and damaged in shipping auctions had several of the Intex pools. I ended up buying one, 15ft x 42″ high. After fees and taxes it was slightly more than list price- for an open box I didn’t inspect. I figure I can MacGiver around any issues. One other pool went for $100 more than mine, and the last one went for $200 more than mine. It is a seller’s market for above ground pools at the moment. Funny thing is, I picked up a pump/filter a couple of auctions ago thinking it could be a gross filter for my “water tank” inflatable kiddie pool, and I got 3 filters for it too. So even if the filter part of the set is missing, I’ve got it covered.

I’ll be doing pickups at four auctions today before heading over to my client’s house. They had another power outage, and half the stuff is offline, plus AT&T should be there to fix the DSL. The auctions were for some tactical accessories and camping stuff, toilet paper (don’t need it, but figured if I could restock with a good brand, I might as well), the pool, and a weird mix of photography LED lighting and backdrops and a couple of antennas.

The ‘weird mix’ auction seller is new to me. They are perhaps the second worst at it I’ve ever come across. Their pictures suck, what few there are, and their descriptions are all the same- general merchandise. By looking at all the listings, I could tell what some of the unidentified items were despite the bad pix and no description. If the stuff is actually there in the lots, I might have done really well. 20 lots for $109 is great pricing. The two antennas would have been most of that, and I got a bunch of other useful stuff, including practice arrows! The photography stuff should help me get better pix for my new listings. Turns out there is a whole slew of photo lighting and backdrop stuff aimed directly at youtubers. You wouldn’t think that would be a big enough market, but you’d be wrong. It is super cheap cr@p but should be fine for the limited use I’m putting it to.

One of the items in with all the tactical stuff was a marine rescue rope in a throw bag. We were talking about swimming the other day. I didn’t mention that I have self inflating life vests in my truck, and now I’ll have a rescue throw rope too. I’m not a strong swimmer, so I prep…

Dinner was frozen hamburger patties from 2017, and a couple of skewers of frozen shrimp. I opened a jar of sweet peppers I ‘cold canned’ a few years ago. They’ve been un-opened in the fridge this whole time. They are crunchy and delicious. The commercial jar of pickled beets from a couple of years ago is starting to fade, and the beets are maybe a little softer than originally, but they are still tasty and good eating.

I found two more buckets of bulk in the garage, one 25# bucket of salt, and one 25# bucket of flour from 2017. The salt is fine for sure, and I don’t want to break the seal on the flour, so I’m just putting it back on the shelf. That HAS to be all the food in the garage at this point. I don’t have that much more area to go through.

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In the wider world, China is pushing India AND Hong Kong. And, at the same time, locking down new cities because of new wuflu outbreaks. There are so many ways this can go wrong.

Russia is getting frisky in the air with our pilots.

There seem to be some riots going on from the usual crew, for the usual reasons in MN and LA. If it spreads like it did a few summers ago, things will be getting sporty soon. Avoid crowds. Make sure you can get out of one if you get caught up.

And people all over the US have lost their dang minds. For now, I’m going to let someone else poke their finger into the flame to see if flames are still hot. I’m holding steady (although I admit to looking at auctions again, and doing the pickups – curbside.) We should know in just a couple of weeks what effect the changes in restrictions will have, if any. I’ll reassess my stance then.

Nothing I see is changing my mind that things are going to get a lot worse before they start to get better. Keep stacking. Don’t let fatigue make you lower your guard.

nick

Wed. May 27, 2020 – whoo boy, I think I see the crash coming

Hot? Humid for sure.

Yesterday was humid enough after about an inch or more rain overnight. The rain came with some thunder and lightning too. Unfortunately I’d left a footlocker open to air out, and forgot about it. It needed a bit more time to dry after that…and the contents….

One thing I’ve learned is that most electronics can get pretty wet and still be fine, if they’re not under power when wet. Some things seem to rust in light humidity, and others are fine after sitting in a bucket for a week. Funny, but it is true. Getting soaked isn’t necessarily a death blow for electronics.

Spent the afternoon at my client’s house. Electronics DO NOT like lightning and power surges. Two more wall wart power supplies got toasted, one video extender (about 100 ft of cat 5 attached to it), and AT&T’s DSL line all smoked. The UPS did its job and shut down to protect the rack, but the DSL modem was a likely entry point to it. DSL wall wart was one of the casualties. I’ll probably have to replace that UPS at some point soon too. It could be that some of the wall warts that are dying might just be EOL. The replacement I brought, new old stock, had one dead psu right out of the box. The extenders are 7-8 years old and the chinesium psus might just be all dying of old age. Or the damnable ROHS tin whiskers might have got to them. I think I’ll crack one open and see what I can see. We have tried over the years to make it more stable. The client installed a whole house surge suppressor at the panel, I’ve got the UPSs in front of the rack, and some additional surge protection on things like the projector. I added new surge protectors to two of the outdoor TVs yesterday. They are out in the country, and there is a lot of weather out there…

Today I’ve got some errands to run, and then I’m back onsite to work with AT&T on an appointment to get the line back up. I’ve hopefully got my notes from the last time to get me through to second tier support and not get the “I am helping you very much sir” crew for an hour…

Dinner was a pork roast put in the deep freeze a year ago, with some carrots and rice. My wife did the honors while I was stuck onsite. Easter candy for dessert.

My wife has taught our kids to play backgammon, and they really don’t like losing. My little cutthroat kept her older sister on the bar for the whole game and backgammoned her. OH THE WAILING…..

This is the last week of school, and the kids were briefly looking forward to sleeping late and laying around reading and watching youtube vids of people doing stuff in Minecraft… My wife has other plans. They will continue with a modified school curriculum, at least until my wife gets tired of it. I’ll be pushing for some lazy days with nothing to do. That’s what summer break is supposed to be for.

While driving home I heard a radio ad for the local Ford dealer, with a variety of discounts and financing plans on offer. 120 days no payments and 84 months of ZERO interest? $20K off full size pickups? $9K off Expeditions, and similar discounts on most other models? $21.8k for Ranger? Holy crow, they’re gonna be cheaper than used until Hertz crushes the used market by dumping their inventory. The other manufacturers won’t be far behind, nor will the other rental companies. Don’t buy yet, but soon the deals will be hard to resist. If there is any money to buy them.

I don’t think the low car prices are a good sign for the economy, BTW, I think it’s a bit terrifying that they are offering those deals, and on 800+ vehicles, not just a few loss leaders.

We’re really just getting started. Who knows what the economy will look like in 3 months, or 6? I know I’ll feel better about it, no matter what comes, with a full pantry, and safe…

Keep stacking.

nick

Tues. May 26, 2020 – running errands today

Hot and humid, possibly some more rain.

Yesterday was hot and humid until it was cooler and humid, then finally we got some more rain. Oddly it seemed warmer with the rain.

We did get some nice sun during the day.

I still wasn’t feeling 100%, between back pain and ‘weather knee’ so I didn’t do much. Did manage some more work in the garage, and I can see progress, just less and more slowly than I’d like.

Pulled some bike parts out of thin air to keep my wife’s project moving along, and yet no connection between doing that and having all the stuff hanging around. Hmmm.

Had some fun with the archery stuff in the evening. Youth bows and practice arrows mean you can have fun in a much smaller space. And given the number of arrows in the returned merch for sale in our local amazon returns auction, I’m not the only one who thought archery would be a good way to pass the time during the isolation.

Did a quick check of the gardens and fruit trees. Picked and ate a small handful of blueberries with Kid2. Some of the small ones were really sweet and delicious.

Dinner was a prepper fail. It was supposed to be pork ribs on the grill. But, time got away from me and the ribs were in the fridge too long. Vac seal was good, but they smelled bad. I hated throwing them away, but there was no way I could justify the risk of eating them. I kept meaning to seal and freeze them, but didn’t and suddenly it was 3 weeks later. So we ate sausage and red beans and rice. Frozen kielbasa, Knorr side dish rb&r… It was good. Meat was a bit spicy, and the rb&r were not. Kids prefer less spicy.

Today I’ll be headed over to my client’s house again. We had a big storm and he’s got gear that isn’t working. I think we lost his DSL modem, and possibly the network switch, and at least one of the patio TVs. I’ll know better later.

And I’ll keep chipping away at the projects.

Keep stacking.

nick

Monday, May 25, 2020 – Memorial Day

Cooler and wet.

Yesterday was hot and humid until the big front blew through later in the day. Finally got the rain in earnest, about 1.32inches according to the gauge. It was 67F when I went to bed.

Didn’t do much all day. Woke up feeling beat up, and with the pressure changes, most of my joints were aching and my hands were like paddles. Some days are just a pain.

Dinner was hot dogs and whatever greens I could find in the fridge. Dessert was the last of the birthday cake.
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Today is the day we put aside to remember our dead. Veteran’s Day we celebrate and thank all those who have served, but today is for remembrance of those who gave all…

ARLINGTON, VA – MAY 27: Mary McHugh mourns her dead fiance Sgt. James Regan at “Section 60” of the Arlington National Cemetery May 27, 2007. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

Light a candle, raise a glass, smokem’ if ya’ got em’, but spend a short while in remembrance.

Absent friends.

nick

Sun. May 24, 2020 – still no rain

Still hot, still no rain.

We did get the occasional spatter, but nothing more than a few seconds yesterday and it was HOT. 100F in the shade. Humid too, sweaty like a fat man’s thighs.

Mostly I just hid from the heat. I did have to run out to my secondary location and get some gloves that I sold on ebay. Listed for over a year, been months if not a year since the last ones sold, and suddenly I sell a pair. I must have sold the last ones I had here at the house, so off I went. While I was there I did some cleaning.

On Friday while I was there, I got some misc. electronics and stuff to bring home. One of the neighborhood families has kids who are currently interested in taking stuff apart. I’ve got stuff. When the mom sent out the appeal, my wife voluntold me to go and bring some home. So I did. I brought home an old daisy wheel IBM typewriter, a dot matrix printer, document camera, video snapshot printer, hard drive, and some other small stuff. There should be some fun stuff in there for them to discover. I started out taking stuff apart myself and I still enjoy it. It’s a gateway drug to all kinds of learning and fun.

Maybe with kids having all this unstructured time at home, they’ll be able to do some of the stuff I did as a kid. Stuff that involves getting dirty, breaking things, and taking time to explore. Or maybe they’ll just play Minecraft all day.

Elsewhere in the world, if you don’t think things are cracking apart and shifting, what are the live fire exercises in the Persian Gulf? Stuff is breaking loose all over. We’re not the only ones dealing with this wuflu, we are just actually better prepared than a lot of places. WE might be the ones taking advantage of a situation. It would be nice to have the House of Saud unable to meddle quite so much in world affairs. Unfortunately a cornered animal is a dangerous one…

Keep in mind the stories we’re NOT hearing about lately. What has the left hand been up to while the right hand’s been busy and distracted?

Keep your eyes open and your head on a swivel.

Dinner was spaghetti and meatballs. Stored pasta and frozen HEB italian meatballs. Garlic toast. Birthday cake for dessert. Yum.

Stuff is just getting started, keep stacking.

nick

Sat. May 23, 2020 – stuff to do, just pile it higher….

Hot and wet.

Yesterday was another hot swampy day here in the Bayou City. Just walking around the back yard I had sweat running down my back and front.

I did look at the gardens, they’re all doing about the same. Caterpillars were back on the grapevines so I sprayed them again. Then I set up the archery target and a backstop.

Much fun was had by #1 daughter, wife, #2 daughter and even me! I felt pretty good just hitting the foam block. My wife got a bull! and the kids both showed improvement after only a short while. Kid 1 also spent some time with her art supplies in the afternoon.

Yep, we’ve basically quit with the school work. Just like when they were attending full time, the last weeks are empty of learning.

I got out of the house and ran some errands. Picked up some auction items. Drove across town twice. Moved a 2ft cube of canning jars to my secondary, and a yeti style cooler. I don’t have anything to can at the moment, nor will I have any from the garden any time soon, so I got them out of the garage. The yeti style pelican cooler holds ice for a long time, but it’s freaking heavy and doesn’t hold much for the space it takes up. I am reorganizing some of my storage cabinets and I need the space the cooler filled for camping and GS stuff. I’ve got several normal coleman or igloo coolers for ordinary picnic stuff. If I need the high tech, I can go get it. In the mean time, I’ll be putting stuff away at home where my wife sees it every day.

Dinner was another one of the Prime sirloins I got for <$7/ pound. VERY tasty. Canned corn, leftover canned beans, and leftover rice filled out the meal. Birthday cake for dessert (and breakfast.) Other than the canned veg, and occasional box side dish, I'm really not burning through stored food. I'm running low on sliced sandwich ham, because EVERYONE is eating it for lunch, not just me and one child. That is something I didn't plan for. The CDC issued some guidance for schools if classes start up again. Pretty much unworkable. No shared anything, bring lunch from home, eat in classrooms, keep kids six feet apart, no touching, sanitize the playground but don't use chemicals near the kids... just as an example, they recommend skipping every other row on the school bus, and only having one kid per seat. That triples the number of buses or the time it takes to get everyone there and back again. Couple that with reducing classes to one third (to maintain distancing) and not having either the kids or teachers rotate to different rooms, and you've got a fantasy tale. NOT gonna happen. In other news, the State of Texas reminded me to file for my unemployment/ covid payment. I guess I got approved for something, despite not submitting a 2019 tax statement. We'll see if I get any actual money. My sales have been non-existent and I haven't been paid for anything I've done in the last two weeks, so maybe I'll get something. Either way, I'm not concerned. Wife is still working and my sales will either start back up or not. Not much I can do about it. It does point out the benefit of having your financial house in order as your number one prep. Speaking of prepping, keep stacking. The trucks are rolling, the stores have (most) stuff, and money is still worth more than the paper it's printed on. Think really hard about Fall, Winter, and next year. This will still be with us, along with an ever growing list of knock on effects. Few of them are likely to be good things. nick

Fri. May 22, 2020 – yet another week gone with little to show for it

Hot, humid, maybe rainy.

No rain yesterday, but the air was damp enough for a sponge bath… and hot. 100F in the shade hot. Enough wind that I thought the storm would blow in for sure. Thank gnu for a bit of overcast.

I really didn’t get much done except birthday stuff for daughter 1. She had a good day. And that’s not a bad day for me.

I did the tiniest bit of garden weeding, and moving my protective screens around. Did I mention it was hot?

Yeah, it was ‘hide in the house’ hot.

I did get up before the alarm, with a little help from an excited 11yo. That makes three days in a row. Leaving aside my lack of work yesterday, I’m hopeful that my productivity will increase.

If it doesn’t rain, I’ll get the archery set up for daughter 1. I’m curious to see if I can hit anything!

Dinner was lamb rib chops (2019, from the freezer), and brusselsprouts saute’d with onion, bacon, and truffle oil. Dessert was birthday cake (2019,box from storage) with homemade butter cream frosting. The lamb chops are my “Heinlein” dinner. Wasn’t it him who said every man should have one really good meal they could make for company? The marinade and grilling are mine. I can do it for family, or dress it up and plate it restaurant style…

The world is definitely changing. Geopolitical shifts are happening. At home we’re in the middle (or more likely the beginning) of a major disruption. The rest of the world is too. Lots of places won’t have the money to feed themselves, let alone meddle in other countries affairs. That might include the US, by the way. I expect that we’ll be a long time getting back to “normal”, and really probably never will. We never got back to 1932 normal, did we? It’s been my contention for some time that we were headed into one of those periods where everything changes. Like pre-WWI and post-WWII. Like post-USSR vs the Cold War. Think about that and see if you agree, and if you do, how do you position yourself and your family to get through, and get set up for success? Or is it enough to survive?

I want to thrive.

nick