Wednesday, 27 January 2016

10:47 – I see that the standoff has ended, with the Bundy family and their supporters arrested and one of them shot dead. No surprise there. But it comes at a cost to the government in the form of decreased trust by the citizenry. After Waco, most normal people thought the fault was with Koresh’s group, although many questioned the use of tanks and firebombing to root out what were, after all, general peaceful civilians. After Ruby Ridge, still more people began to question just what the government was doing. And now with the Bundy family, still more average people are wondering just what’s going on. I think we’re going to see more events like this over the coming months and years, and more and more people will start to see the federal goons for what they are. Federal government goons murdering ordinary civilians.

I’m still tied up with administrative stuff, some of which has to be complete and in the mail by Friday.




Wednesday, 20 January 2016

10:08 – When Lori picked up our mail this morning, I mentioned to her that USPS had basically destroyed the usefulness of Click-N-Ship by eliminating support for regional rate boxes and eliminating the Commercial Base Pricing discount. I told her not to expect to see many Click-N-Ship labels from now on, because USPS actions had made it useless for probably 95+% of the customers who had been using it. She couldn’t believe they’d done that.

I told her that I’d still be shipping via USPS, but using stamps.com, which still provides the CBP discount and support for Regional Rate. But if USPS can make such a huge arbitrary change, who’s to say they won’t do something equally obnoxious in the future, like eliminate Regional Rate boxes entirely? So I just added a priority item to my to-do list: checking into using FedEx or UPS instead of USPS, should that become necessary.


As I’ve said repeatedly, I’m not really expecting a catastrophic long-term emergency, but my attitude has always been to hope for the best but prepare for the worst. The worst would be a long-term grid-down emergency, as Ted Koppel wrote about in his recent book. That is a very real possibility, either from a solar CME or an EMP attack, and the results would be catastrophic: many millions dead within the first weeks and more to follow as our production and distribution systems collapsed. A deadly virus pandemic would be about as bad. Those are the two possibilities that keep emergency management planners awake at night, and the probability that one or both will occur in the near future is probably on the close order of 0.1 per year. So I do my best to plan for either. By definition, being prepared for the worst also means you’re prepared for less catastrophic long-term emergencies like widespread civil unrest.

The LDS Church provides an excellent prototype for organizing preparations for disasters. They’ve been at it for more than a hundred years, and their focus is on community organization. And, although the LDS church takes no official position on members defending themselves in an emergency, most individual Mormons I’ve known have made self-defense a priority. If things ever get really bad, it will be up to individuals to defend themselves, within the context of their larger communities. In our case, that means Sparta and its environs. I read an interesting article the other day that lays out the framework for a community defense: Defending Our Homeland: How Neighbors Can Protect Their Community. It hits the high points. David Crawford’s Lights Out is an excellent fictional treatment of the same issue. If you haven’t read it, you should.

Over the coming months, I intend to get involved with the local folks who are involved in emergency prep, including the local and county government EM group and the local LDS church. Whatever your local environment–urban, suburban, rural, whatever–you should do the same.


Monday, 18 January 2016

08:50 – I currently have three kits awaiting pickup. If those kits had shipped Saturday, the postage would have been $39.70. If I used USPS Click-N-Ship to generate postage labels for them today, the postage would be $56.25. If I’d used stamps.com to generate postage labels to ship them Saturday, the postage would again have been $39.70. If I use stamps.com to generate postage labels today, the postage will total about $41, which reflects the actual postage cost increase that occurred yesterday. The huge increase in using Click-N-Ship is because it no longer offers Commercial Base pricing, instead using Retail pricing, and because it no longer supports Regional Rate boxes. I need to get the stamps.com software installed on Barbara’s system today and get those postage labels run.

It was cold again overnight. It was 13F (-10.5C) when I took Colin out to get the paper this morning, with another dusting of snow and gusty winds. Fortunately, the heat pump is keeping it warm in here, although I’m sure we’re using resistive heating. Kind of like one of those standalone quartz heaters, but on a larger scale.

I also have a lot of admin stuff to get done over the next few days, including state and federal income tax stuff, state sales tax return, Obamacare stuff, and so on. Government-mandated stuff is taking up much too much of my time.

The new Windows 10 notebook system should ship soon. I’m going to make it my primary PC and carry it around the house with me rather than tether it to my desk. I actually considered buying something that would work with a docking station, but this notebook has a 17″ screen, which is large enough for most of what I do. And I can always plug it into my 23″ 1080P monitor if I need to.

After I get the Windows 10 installation backed up to redundant DVD sets, I’ll probably install Linux Mint in dual boot mode so that I can work in Linux except when I’m generating postage labels.


Sunday, 17 January 2016

10:24 – I knew that USPS was increasing prices as of today, but I didn’t realize that they were making other changes that in total would more than double our shipping costs.

Until yesterday, I was using their Click-N-Ship website, which provided Commercial Base Pricing. Shipping a Large Flat Rate Box cost me $15.80, a discount of a couple bucks off Retail Pricing at the counter. As of today, that discount goes away and Retail Pricing also increases. Shipping a Large FR box will now cost me $18.75, an increase of almost 19%.

But that’s the least of the problem. As of today, Click-N-Ship no longer offers Regional Rate Box postage. About 80% of our shipments go by RR Box, which is no longer offered. The net result is that our postage costs will more than double if I continue using the USPS Click-N-Ship website to generate postage labels.

The alternative is to sign up with Stamps.com, Endicia.com, or one of the other third-party providers. Those cost $15 or $20 per month, which isn’t a big deal. The problem is that none of them as far as I can see support Linux. They’re all Windows/Mac-only. But they do offer Commercial Base Pricing and Regional Rate Box postage, which Click-N-Ship no longer does, so I have no real choice but to use one of them.

The only non-Linux box in the house is currently Barbara’s notebook, which means I’ll need to run postage labels there.


11:36 – So, I just ordered a new notebook from Costco.com and got signed up with Stamps.com.

I need to do something about our appliances. When the former owners built this house in 2006, they installed all Frigidaire appliances. I despise Frigidaire. The dishwasher sucks. Its racks are almost unusable and it simply doesn’t clean dishes. The built-in microwave is failing. The 1-4-7 column on the keypad is dead, so we’ve been heating things for times that don’t have a 1, 4, or 7 in them. Instead of one minute, we’ve been punching in 59 seconds, and so on. Then, last night when Barbara was heating a bowl of soup, the microwave started making very strange noises and actually arced. So we hauled up one of our three microwaves from downstairs and put it on the counter. That’ll be fine indefinitely, but we need to replace the dishwasher sooner rather than later. At least Barbara actually likes the oven, but it’s coming up on 10 years old so it may eventually need to be replaced as well.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

09:05 – We’re having Christmas at our house this year, with overnight guests. Barbara is almost finished getting set up for that, other than a supermarket run on Thursday, followed by baking and so on.

What with everything else going on, I haven’t had time to get my anti-Santa gun set up and camouflaged. That means I’ll have to fall back to a simpler plan: a reindeer net and poisoned milk and cookies. That’s failed before, but it may work this time. It’s worth a try, anyway. I’d rather have the ASG, which has almost worked a couple of times. One year, as the sleigh accelerated away there was smoke coming out of Rudolph’s asshole.

I have a week to get all the year-end admin stuff done, which with the move is particularly involved this year. About the only good thing about business revenue being down for 2015 is that the government will steal less from us this year than prior years. We’ve overpaid estimated taxes this year, and will probably actually get some of it back.

From what little information has been made public, it would appear that the Las Vegas outrage was committed not by a moslem whacko but by an underclass minority whacko. For some reason, the authorities have put her on a suicide watch. I’d have no problem with that if all they were doing was watching her to see if/when she killed herself, but in fact a suicide watch is intended to prevent her from killing herself. I’m not sure why any reasonable person would want to prevent that. Her killing herself would save taxpayers the cost of a trial and subsequent imprisonment and would be, as a friend of mine used to say, no great loss.


Thursday, 17 September 2015

08:21 – I’m losing track of days. Barbara pointed out last night that she’s taking a vacation day tomorrow, not today. For some reason, I was thinking that yesterday was Thursday. At any rate, she’s off tomorrow.

The way things seem to be trending, the American people are making it pretty clear that the last thing they want as president is a politician. On the Republican side, the leaders are: Trump, a demagogue but not a politician; Fiorina, a businesswoman who destroyed Hewlett-Packard, but not a politician; and Carson, a non-entity, but not a politician. On the Democrat side, we have a small group of elderly political hacks, but no non-politicians. Sounds to me like the Democrats are badly in need of a non-politician.

The FedEx guy sneaked up on Colin yesterday, even though the main front door was open and Colin had an unobstructed view of the street through the glass storm door. FedEx delivered one box from walmart.com that contained the five boxes of dog treats that I’d ordered. When I checked the walmart.com site, it claimed my entire order had been delivered, but none of the bottles of Bertolli pasta sauce were in the box. When I checked the FedEx tracking number, it told me that everything had been delivered, but below that line it said that a shipment had been damaged and was being returned to sender. This is the second time this has happened on a Walmart order that contained items in glass.


11:21 – September 30th is Barbara’s last day of work at the law firm. On Thursday, October 1st, she comes to work for our company, The Home Scientist, LLC.

I need to get ready for that so that she can hit the ground running. Actually, I’ll probably give her the rest of that week off so that she can enjoy some free time, unless she just wants to start work immediately. Of course, one of our corporate benefits is that any employee can take as many paid vacation days as he or she wants to.

The first week or two we’ll focus on Barbara learning the business. Eventually, I want her to be able to do everything other than design new kits and write manuals. She doesn’t have any lab experience, so I’ll continue doing stuff like making up chemicals myself, but I will have her at least watching me to get some idea of how it’s done.

I intend to transfer all the administrative to her, including inventory, ordering and receiving, and so on. She’s much more organized and detail-oriented than I am, which isn’t surprising considering that she’s a librarian. I think this will all work out very well. The problem may be in her handling of mistakes. I expect mistakes. They’re just something that has to be dealt with. But Barbara REALLY hates making mistakes, so I’ll have to get her past that. We simply have too much to deal with to expect perfection.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

07:37 – The morning paper reports that state government plans to spend more than a billion dollars more next year than this year, part of which will go towards an across-the-board salary increase for teachers. That’s outrageous, considering that our public school teachers are already grossly overpaid. Many of them couldn’t get a job in a free market, and even they are paid at well above market rates. If you don’t believe that, just compare what they’re paid to what private school teachers are paid.

The solution is simple. Teachers are already contract employees, although like all things government, those contracts almost never lapse. Simply put them all on one-year contracts and require them to bid on specific teaching jobs at specific schools. Lowest bidder for each position wins. Those who don’t win a bid are unemployed, and cannot draw unemployment compensation. I suspect the average salary would end up being not much more than minimum wage, which is what public school teachers should be making. Most of the really good teachers would leave the public school system and go to work for private schools, which again is how it should be.

Eventually, public schools would die, as they should, and all students would attend whichever private schools they chose and could qualify for, as it should be. Public school buildings could be auctioned off to private businesses, and would continue to serve as schools. All students would be issued vouchers that could be used as they saw fit.


10:04 – I just ordered several more cases of bottles and caps, just under 7,000 total. I dithered about the shipping choices, but I eventually chose the free UPS ground rather than the $572.98 next-day option. If they ship today, UPS ground should get it here Thursday anyway. I’m off to build more science kit subassemblies.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

09:30 – The morning paper reports that as many as half, HALF, of our public school third grade students are not able to read at grade level and will be required to attend summer school. After that, they’ll be re-tested to determine if they are promoted to fourth grade or are held back in third grade. Is it any wonder that homeschooling is booming?

The Dell laptop works fine for generating postage labels, but the engineer in me immediately recognized that I just created a single point of failure. If that laptop dies, I’m out of business. So today I’m going to order a second, identical laptop.


Thursday, 24 April 2014

08:54 – Barbara was over at her sister’s house yesterday, when I was struck by a cunning plan. I asked if Al would be willing to let me borrow his Windows laptop overnight, to which he kindly agreed. So I waited until this morning in case we got orders overnight, and then fired it up and attempted to pay for the postage labels in my cart. No joy. I got the same “payment method declined” error message on Al’s Windows laptop. Apparently, it’s not Linux that USPS hates. It’s me personally. USPS will not accept payment from me using any credit card or PayPal on any computer running any browser. I even tried creating a new USPS account and re-entering the label data. When I tried to pay, I got the same error.

Costco says my new Windows notebook system is to arrive tomorrow. It probably won’t work either. But I already have a stamps.com account set up, so I’ll install their client software and just start using stamps.com to generate my postage labels. They charge $16 per month, which’ll probably be less expensive than paying USPS directly because stamps.com discounts postage.


Thursday, 17 April 2014

10:17 – Success! I finally managed to get postage/customs labels printed for the international shipment that’s been sitting here in the queue since Monday. I did it by installing the Opera browser. From now on, I’ll use Opera only for printing USPS postage labels.

Also, as it turns out, I was wrong about not being able to use PayPal Shipping to produce postage/customs labels for Priority Mail International. It didn’t offer me that option yesterday because I was shipping to US addresses. When I ship to an international address, it gives me the choice of Priority Mail International or Priority Mail Express International. Duh.

So at this point I’m comfortable using only USPS. One way or another, I can get postage labels printed, and that’s all that matters. I’m quite happy otherwise with USPS. It’s cheap, fast, and reliable.

Barbara has been quite patient, but she’s mentioned several times recently that she’d like me to get all the kit clutter cleaned up. Currently, I have kit stuff stacked up in my office and the stockroom upstairs, along with the library/living room, dining room, and kitchen. Until yesterday, there was also a lot of kit stuff in the den. In fact, only our bedroom/bathroom, the hall bathroom, and Barbara’s office are kit-free. The unfinished area downstairs, of course, has tons of kit stuff, although the finished area other than my lab is kit-free. So I told Barbara this morning that if she has time to help this weekend, I’d like to spend some serious time getting the clutter cleared away and organized. I’m sure she’s delighted.

The new neighbors, across the street and two houses down, moved in yesterday. They’re a married couple, Zakiah and Bernard. As is so often true of married couples, she is very friendly and outgoing while he is quieter and more reserved. Friendly, but not effusive. If I understood correctly, she is a mental-health counselor and he’s a substance-abuse counselor.

They have four children, ranging in age from 1 to 13. Barbara and I met the three older kids last night when we were walking Colin. The oldest is at a STEM magnet school. He wants (for now, anyway) to major in college in marine biology. Zakiah says that until recently he wanted to pursue robotics, but one way or another it sounds to me as though he’ll be a STEM major.