Thur. Feb. 11, 2021 – starting to get chilly

Cold.  Wet.  Dreary.  With freezing temps on the way.

Yesterday was 0ccasional light misty drizzle pretty much all day.

Once the sun went down the temperature started to drop… da drop, drop…..

46F when I went to bed.

Got very little done during the day.  Got a bit done during the afternoon.   I did do some housecleaning, and a load or 3 of laundry, and put clothes away, and some other domestic bliss, but no where near what my list needed.  Sorting lego from megablox and chinese knockoff ‘building blocks’ doesn’t really count as work, even if it did need to be done eventually, does it?

I made one of my bachelor staples for dinner though.   Canned chicken in maple curry sauce, over minute rice…   It all got eaten, wife liked it and the kids had seconds.   Hooray for me!   Of course my fingers still smell like the curry cubes, and I’ve washed about 7 or 8 times.  Still, super easy, really tasty, and all from long term stores.

I’m going to avoid talking about the show trial.   The language in the reporting is so over the top, I can’t believe I’m reading it.  Does it really play well for the ‘folks back home’?  If so, we’re in a LOT worse trouble than I hoped.   And what must the inside of their heads look like if they hear ‘coded phrases’ in everyday speech?  They sound psychotic.  Thank God they don’t do half of what the voices must be urging them to do.

I am increasing my stores.   Holy cow this won’t end well.   They are actually nuts, and there is no reasoning with crazy.

You need water, and ways to get more.   Food.  Meds.  Comms.  Money.  And you need them in place and outside of normal channels.   “Normal” has left the building, and won’t be back for a while.    And hey, if I’m wrong, donate it to a food bank later on.   I know there will be plenty of them.

Keep stacking.

n

 

Sat. Jan. 2, 2021 – and away we go!

Cold.  Clear.  Gusty.  Starting in the mid 30s and getting warmer throughout the day.  I hope.

It was a nice day, if a bit gusty and cool yesterday.  36F when I went to bed, down from mid-40s.

I basically took the day off.  Didn’t even look at my phone until midnight.  Left it on the charger in the other room.  I did make a nice dinner for New Year’s Day.

I started with five pounds of bone on ribeye roast from the sale last week.  Mashed potatoes with cream and bacon crumbles.  Steamed broccoli from the garden.  Biscuits from a roll, and key lime pie from a can.  Yup.  A can of pie filling, some whipped cream, and a graham cracker crust, a few hours in the freezer, and a delicious treat was served.  I even garnished it with a thin slice of lime, heavily sugared.

Canned pie filling is one of my stored food staples.   Cheap, quick, easy, and very satisfying.  I’ve got everything from key lime to chocolate, with dark cherry and apple being two favorites.  Some you bake, some you freeze, but all have been good and the dark cherry is great.  Crusts are either pre-made graham cracker (which keeps forever in the fridge) or the rolled up pilsbury, also in the fridge, or from some premade mixes.  My wife will make pie crust from scratch.  I don’t.  The other way I use it is to make little ‘mini’ pies in small ramekins.  A circle of pie crust, a scoop of canned filling, another circle to cover, et viola!  Personal sized pies.  I sometimes roll the pre-made crust a bit thinner to be sure I have enough.  Or use the mini pre-made graham crusts, and some jello pudding mix to make little pies…  Everyone is cheered by the sight of a pie.

Which transitions nicely into the idea of morale, and the importance of keeping it up.  Even though we’re not fully locked down and isolated, we were in the early days.  I’d planned for a long time on our lifeboat, and did several things to hopefully improve morale.  Firstly I stocked a variety of food.  I stock a bunch of stuff we don’t eat regularly and some we’ve never eaten as a family.  I figure that coming up with new meals and tastes is important to keep people interested in eating.   I stock a bunch of different canned pie fillings.  They can be used as pie filling, served over icecream, or used in other ways to keep things interesting.  I have some freeze dried “astronaut ice cream” as a special treat.  I have a lot of cake and cookie mixes too.  I figure a nice dessert goes a long way to helping with morale as does good food.

I stocked up on gifts for special occasions.  We were able to augment the stored gifts for birthdays and anniversaries, but I had SOME things ready if needed.  It had been handy pre-covid, to grab a gift from the closet for the ‘pop up’ birthday party the kid forgot about until the last minute.

I have lots of movies and tv shows on DVD that the kids and even my wife and I have never seen.  We’ve got old favorites too.  I’ve got puzzles, games, and art supplies.  Books of course, but also books with activities for kids – like how to draw horses, or making paper airplanes, or how to make origami animals.  I’ve even got a couple of books on learning to play instruments we have.  The idea was not just to have stuff to do, but also some novelty.  A couple of decks of cards and a Hoyles book of card games is a DEEP fallback position.

I stored books and supplies for traditional crafts and handiwork too-needlework and leather-crafting in particular, as there are practical applications as well as busy work.  Keeping hands occupied and accomplishing something usually raises peoples’ spirits.

Lego and Vex kits also keep them busy.  I’ve got other educational kits in reserve too.

Throughout the last 9 months, as the kids were looking for something to do, or needed project materials for classes, I was able to just tap into the stuff I had stored.  When they would get a bit ‘down’ we’d whip out something novel they hadn’t seen or done before.  Sometimes it didn’t work.  But usually it did.

For us here in Texas, and other states that didn’t go full jackboot, the covid restrictions have been a bit of a dry run for the zombie apocalypse or a really bad plague.  Mostly stuff worked well.  There were some gaps, and I’m working to fill those.  Being able to keep prepping and adding to preps during the pandemic has been helpful.   Still a long way to go to prep for civil war, economic collapse, civil unrest/race riots, the Greatest Depression, global cooling, alien invasion, ebola, chicken AIDS, or whatever is coming next to plague us.

People and relationships are important, both virtually and in real life.  Skills are important.  Knowledge is important.  Having the stuff to USE those skills and that knowledge on, or to help out a friend, or build a relationship, is important too.  So keep stackin’, you don’t want to be lackin’…

nick

Mon. Dec. 14, 2020 – king for a day

Cool and wet.  Although the forecast doesn’t have any rain for our area, I’ll believe it when I see it.

Yesterday was rainy throughout.  Lots of thunder, lots of rain in the morning, with more rain and heavy wind gusts all through the day.

I did inside stuff.  Marginally productive inside stuff, testing a couple of things, organizing some stuff, but mostly not doing much despite all the movement.   I did find some meds in my travel kit, and that helped.  I’ll be chasing my prescription today, and taking more steps to stack it up.  I can not skip it if I need to.  Not if I want to be active and effective.

Kids spent the whole day by themselves.  My wife ran errands and made cookies.  Yummy PILES of cookies.  I made 2 pounds of bacon for breakfast.  It got eaten too.  Dinner was pulled pork from cans that our Costco carried for a while.  I drain them, heat them, and add BBQ sauce.  Served them on King’s Hawaiian rolls.  Some leftover carrots, baked beans, and fresh onion filled out the plate.   The pulled pork isn’t as versatile as the chicken but it makes a nice change of pace and was widely available and not expensive.

Today I’m at home, while my wife goes into the office, so I’ll be doing at home stuff.   I hope to be a bit more productive today.  Since I’m not going to be allowed to solve the country’s problems today, I’ll have to keep working on my own.

On the wuflu front, we should be seeing peaks from the Thanksgiving spread this week and next.  We’re up, but not storing the dead in freezer trucks, and I’m very glad for that.

On the national insurgency/coup/civil war, it’s just getting started.  Pretty sure lots more is coming.   Someone online pointed out that the dems are not confident.  They aren’t dancing in the street.  They and their propaganda arm are doing their best to gaslight, censor, restrict, and obfuscate, but if they were confident they’d be a whole lot more “in your face” about it.   I find that heartening, but ultimately, I think the deep state and a bunch of others had their Quisling ‘peace in our day’ moment.   The cheaters know they cheated.  The others know they cheated, and they decided NOT to kick off CWII this week.   I think they haven’t bought nearly as much time as they think they have.  I guess we’ll see.

We’ve got a bit more time to get our stuff straightened out.   I could load a box truck here at the house if I was serious and had somewhere to SEND all this stuff.  I might just have to.  I did make two ebay sales yesterday.  I think my net was $40.  That isn’t going to buy much in the way of preps… and it’s not clearing stuff out fast enough.  I usually move the equivalent of two pallets at the March hamfest swapmeet.  That isn’t happening this year either.  On the plus side I figured out how to get more stuff thrown away, even if I can’t get the forklift running right.  I’ll cut it up and move it piece by piece, instead of moving it then cutting it up at the dumpster.  There’ll be a lot more handling of the stuff, but I’ve got the equivalent of a 53 foot tractor trailer taking up space I need for other things.   I won’t get it all back, I’m keeping some of the shipping containers, but they’ll nest to a degree.  I just need to find 10 hours during the day when I can go do it, and when it’s not raining.

Where did I go wrong?  I kept buying stuff long after it stopped selling.  I’ve found myself doing the same with preps…   I get a bug that I should pick up item x, and keep doing so long after I should have recognized I’ve got enough x and moved to y.  So take stock of what you have, where you need to be, and how you hope to get there.   You might be surprised by the hills and the valleys in what you thought was level ground.

I’m sure there are valleys to be filled by more stacking.  And if not, it’s time to level up skills.  A good scanner for Christmas and leaving it on while you work so you can get an idea about what’s going on in your area might be a place to start, if you’ve got the rest taken care of… or start working on your HUMINT so you can get a feel for the restlessness of the natives.  Get out of the house and talk to some people, at a safe distance of course.

Figure out your needs and keep stacking them.

nick

 

Tues. Nov. 17, 2020 – the wheel turns…

Cool, damp, but sunny and clear.  I hope.

Stayed cool and clear all day yesterday. It was 45F at midnight but 70s and maybe into the low 80s at some point during the day.  Cool in the shade though.

I got stuff done around the house.  Moved the rest of the insulation into the attic.  Broke down a whole bunch of scrap.  Messed with the pool liner so it will hopefully finally dry out.  Poked at a couple of other things.

It doesn’t sound like much but it was forward progress.

On the other hand, my cough and sore throat don’t seem to be getting better.  I’m going to try to get a test today or tomorrow.  I don’t have a fever, or any of the other serious and definitive symptoms, but I’m supposed to be driving to Florida to spend a week with my mom at the end of the week…  I’m still not comfortable with that, and especially so if I’m not feeling well.  Maybe I’ll try a rapid test this time, and pay for it.

I’ve been feeling tired and run down, but then I’m not sleeping enough either.  Being tired is a natural consequence of not sleeping.  Anyway.   Better to test if I can.  And if I can trust the results.  And if I can actually get a test.   To be honest, I stopped paying attention, and the pictures out of El Paso shocked me.  Daily Mail had this to say,

it has become a particularly heavy burden upon rural America.

Counties with fewer than 10,000 residents now have the highest rate of new daily coronavirus infections per capita of any size county, according to an Axios analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University.

These rural counties – referred to as ‘non-core’ by the National Center for Health Statistics and US Census Bureau are suffering an average of 60.4 new cases per every 100,000 people, whereas 35.4 out of every 100,000 people living in large central metro areas are being diagnosed a day.

As a result, the national rate of infections seemed to be climbing more slowly, but hospital systems are more likely to be imperiled now than they were during the first spring peak of the pandemic in the U.S.

Rural areas have fewer beds to begin with, meaning that they can quickly become overwhelmed, as El Paso, Texas, has. That means that even if the absolute numbers of new cases and hospitalizations remain low, facilities may run out of space and personnel to treat patients, and people may die faster than space an be made in small local morgues.

Aesop and others had mentioned this very scenario way back in the early days…  Other than total deaths, most of what was outlined before this became political has remained on target.  Waves.  Of decreasing size.   For years.  Rural areas with no resources quickly overwhelmed.

No one called the political aspects. Always there are second and third order effects.  Those are much harder to predict.


Violent rhetoric and  actual violence against conservatives are increasing.  The radical elements on the left are becoming emboldened (or the ones who are in the know are becoming desperate.)  If I was a conspiracy guy, I’d say we’re due for a major incident that will overwhelm the election stories.  Bonus if it kills Americans, bonus if it can be used to bludgeon Trump for not giving up and letting Biden in the door.  And if it looks like Trump might actually be successful in his challenge, expect someone to try for him.  It’s kinda amazing that he’s made it this long considering the forces aligned against him.  They’ve tried smears, they’ve tried legal action, they’re trying election fraud, what’s left?  And Harris is waiting in the wings to step in…   The flip side is some antifa/blm/black bloc kids get sacrificed to create a narrative that Trump’s nazzi white supremacist thugs are out of control and need more crackdowns…

Or dozens of other potential scenarios, most of which end in increased violence and lead toward civil ware…..

The good news is, if you are prepared for zombies, you’re prepared for most of the rest of the threats too.   Don’t get caught short this time.  Stack what you need.  Stack it high and deep.

nick

 

 

Tues. Oct. 13, 2020 – back to school

Another fairly hot and very humid day.  No rain forecast though.

Monday was so humid I was sweating just standing outside talking with the roofing contractor.  It got up into the low nineties too.  Hotter in the sun, I’m sure.  Roofing is one of those jobs that I would do just about anything to avoid.  Septic pumping is another.

I did my pickups.  Got my roof vents and the rest of my household stuff.  Not much for resale in these two auctions.

The roofers got the back side of the house and some of the garage done.  Today they’ll finish with the garage and do all of the front side.  The new color shingle looks great.  It really freshens up the look and I can’t wait to see it on the front from the street.  House will look good for the riots at least.

I really don’t like having the crew in my driveway and around the house in the back where all the good stuff is.  The generators and water tanks are pretty hard to miss if you are in the yard.  The food is a bit more undercover.  @paul would probably recognize what I’ve got going on.  I’ve used night shields (aluminized fabric set up like an old school movie screen) horizontally to cover my three sets of shelves where my canned goods are stored.  The night shields are normally used in a grocery store to cover the open face of reach in coolers and freezers at night.  I picked up three at some point.  They work great as retractable ‘doors’ in front of the metal shelves.

Hard to maintain OPSEC when you’ve got people crawling all over your house.

Once the roofers are done and gone, I’ll be able to get more Halloween decor out.  That gives me a sense of normality that I kind of need right now to counter my sense of dread for what I see coming.  Every one of these milestones I want to make as normal as possible for the kids, so if things do go pear shaped, they have that to remember.  And if they DON’T go pear shaped, all the better to have celebrated the small events, instead of skipping them.  On the other hand, I can be pretty sure we won’t be doing 4 Trunk or Treats this year.  As long as we get one Trick or Treat night I’ll be happy.

Ate one orange from my tree today.  A bit sour and woody.  Very disappointing.  I hope the others are better.  Daughter 2 wanted to make cookies, and used a box of mix Best By 2018.  It was pretty bad.  There is something bitter in there.  For everything that lasts well past its BB, there is something else that doesn’t.

On the other hand, I used a skillet flavor mix from 2018 to make chicken tacos last night and they were REALLY good.  Chicken from the freezer, ‘street truck’ one skillet flavor packet, and I made the tortillas from the big bucket o mix.  Just add water!  I’m getting the hang of it.  They aren’t round, but I’m getting them cooked more consistently and rolled out to a more consistent and thin thickness.  The dough really needs to be kneaded, and it really needs to rest.  After that it rolls out nicely.  The tortilla press was a failure again.  Operator error or just not needed, the press is going to Goodwill.  I don’t have a comal but the western rolling pin works just fine and I’ll keep trying.  Sometimes the simplest things are much harder than they might look.  That’s why we need to practice the skills.

And keep stacking.  So you have the resources to use with those skills…

 

nick

Fri. Oct. 2, 2020 – another week gone and good riddance

Cool in the morning, warm in the afternoon, cool again at night.

That’s what yesterday was like anyway.

I did a few little things.  The main two were looking at roofing samples with the wife under various lighting conditions trying to pick the one to go with.  Simple for me, not so simple for her.  And D/L’ing and trying some different security cam NVR software.   I like the one from Russia with love, Xeoma Video.  The playback is very nice and intuitive.  It’s easy to zoom both the live video and the recording.  The load on my pc is MUCH less as well.  The main difference is that there are license fees for the product.  There is a free version, some limited versions, and lots of additional cost add ons.  I like it, but I’ll have to see what the cost would end up being.  I was able to add all my cameras, even the weird old ones.  There is a version that runs on linux.  This may be the case where the additional cost is well worth it.

Couldn’t find my micro drip irrigation supplies.  Bummer.  I’ll have to buy some to water the ‘window’ boxes on the fence.  If I don’t, I can be pretty sure I won’t be successful growing anything in them.

I ate too many carbs at lunch and had to take a nap.  I decided to lay down, as I’m tired of waking up in my chair with a sore neck.  That’s been happening more than I’d like.  I’ve been coughing more than I’d like too.  Part of cleaning up my bedroom was to control the dust under the bed and around the corners…but that didn’t solve the issue.   My temp is normal as is my pulse ox, but I can’t help but consider that I might have picked up the wuflu.  I think I picked up something, which is a breach of my protocol somewhere.  It could just be lack of sleep and seasonal allergies, but now my wife thinks I should get tested.  I’ll report on that when it happens.

Grocery order today, and more stuff for the freezer.  Wife took a look at the canned goods and questioned some of the more unusual items.  I like to have some choices, so I buy some stuff we don’t normally eat.  Heck, until I started storing long term food we rarely ate anything out of cans at all.  I have them to combat appetite fatigue if we’re ever forced to eat out of stores for a long time, and alot of them can be  added to rice too, for a change of pace.  I shudder to think of a time when lima beans will be welcome on the plate.

We can’t know for certain what tomorrow will bring, but we can prepare for the likely things.   No one knew on September 10th, 2001 that the world would change forever the next day.   So get ready for what you can, and plan to deal with the rest.  Stack it high.

nick

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

09:56 – It was 37.4F (3C) when I took Colin out at 0645, but the damp breeze made it feel colder. When I took Colin again around 0900, the temperature had gone up to only 40.8F (5C).

I’d noticed the first time I had Colin out that Barbara’s hanging wire-mesh bird feeder was completely empty. That was odd, since at dinnertime yesterday it had still been half-full. But I think I know what happened.

About 2100 last night, I was finishing watching a Youtube video and was planning to give Colin a last time out. He was lying at the front storm door, calmly surveying his domain. He suddenly went into Cujo mode, barking and snarling viciously. At first I thought it was the two little dogs that have recently been showing up to visit him. When Colin momentarily moved aside, I could see that it wasn’t one of the dogs. It looked like a C-A-T, so I went over toward the door and it ambled away as I did so. By the time I got out the front door, being careful not to let Colin get past me, it was just disappearing over the far end of the porch. I could see its striped tail. A raccoon, then.

I have nothing against raccoons generally, but their place is not up near my house. They’re vicious and carry rabies. I’m sure that Colin could rip up any raccoon who ever lived, but he might get bitten while doing so. So I grabbed my big flashlight and some .45 ACP raccoon repellent, and headed out into the yard to look for it. It apparently saw me coming and got the hell out. But I think it came back later and vacuumed out all the seed that had been in the feeder.


Yesterday, I showed a lot of progress health-wise. My breathing is now pretty much back to normal, I’m back up near my normal daily fluid intake level, and I’m convinced I could sleep through the night if Colin would stop walking around whimpering every few minutes.


There was an interesting article with videos over on zerohedge.com this morning about LBGTQABCXYZ activists arming themselves and training for what they expect to be another civil war. Oddly, articles in almost all conservative/libertarian publications seem to be against this. I’m all in favor of it.

That’s because I’m a Constitutional absolutist, and in particular a 2nd Amendment absolutist. The People have the absolute right to Keep and Bear Arms. That doesn’t mean just People I approve of. That means convicted violent felons, Antifa, BLM, muslim jihadists, child molesters, etc. etc. In other words, the scum of the earth. Why? Because if we give the government any ability whatsoever to limit the 2nd Amendment, we essentially give it the ability to destroy the 2nd Amendment.


11:23 – Email from a regular reader raising the subject of powdered eggs. She was baking last night and needed three eggs. She thought she had a full carton, but it turned out there was only one egg left. She didn’t feel like getting dressed and running to the supermarket, so she decided to open one of her precious cans of Augason Powdered Whole Eggs. She made up the two eggs she needed per the instructions, and the cake turned out fine.

This morning, she decided that since the can was already open and the clock was ticking on its shelf life, she might as well try making powdered egg omelets for breakfast. She was kind of expecting the powdered eggs to taste noticeably different. She said the yellow color of the mixed eggs was not quite the same as with fresh eggs, but the omelet tasted normal to her and that neither her husband nor their son noticed anything different. Useful data point.

I did suggest that she could greatly extend the shelf-life of the remaining egg powder by transferring it to canning jars with oxygen absorbers. Just put the lid in place and screw down the band tightly. After a day or so, remove the band and check to make sure the lid sealed. If you don’t have oxygen absorbers, the lid won’t seal, but that’s okay. Just keep the band on there, screwed down tight. The remaining eggs should remain good for months if not longer.

Oh, yeah. I almost forgot to mention…

For situations where you’re using eggs structurally, like most baking, you don’t really need to use eggs at all. One excellent substitute is ordinary gelatin powder. You can buy that in bulk for $6 or $8 per pound, and it keeps for a long, long time. When you get to the point in the recipe where you’re to add a fresh egg, simply mix one tablespoon of gelatin powder with one tablespoon of room temperature water, whisk until mixed, and then add two tablespoons of very hot water and whisk until mixed. That’s the equivalent of one whole egg. From experience, I know it works fine for recipes that call for only one or a few eggs. I’m not sure how it’d work with recipes that call for many eggs. But in the former case, the gelatin proteins are doing exactly what the egg proteins do: serving as a glue to hold the rest of the components together.

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.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

09:44 – It was 44.4F (7C) when I took Colin out at 0640, partly cloudy and breezy. We had about 1.5″ (4 cm) of rain yesterday. Autumn weather is definitely arriving. For at least the next week or so, we’re to have lows in the 40’s (5 to 9 C) and highs in the low- to mid-60’s (16 to 19 C).

We’re expecting some effects from Hurricane Irma to arrive Monday evening through Tuesday, assuming the current forecast holds up. Irma is supposed to track up the coast along the Florida and Georgia coasts and make landfall as a Cat 1 hurricane. From that point, the center of the track passes through the Piedmont. Sparta is about dead center in the forecast track, although we’ll probably see only heavy winds and downpours.


Shortly after she got home from the gym yesterday, Barbara emailed me a recipe for easy fudge in the microwave, using only two ingredients. We had the chocolate chips, but no condensed milk.

We did have evaporated milk, so I converted that to sweetened condensed milk by adding 1.25 times its volume in granulated white sugar. A 14-ounce can of evaporated milk plus 17.5 ounces (by volume) of sugar.

The can of evaporated milk had a best-by date of September 14, 2014, so it wasn’t even three years past its best-by. Barbara opened the can. I had her sniff it, and she said it smelled like evaporated milk. Good enough.

We poured it into a microwave-safe plastic bowl, added the 2+ cups of white sugar, and microwaved it on high for one minute. Barbara stirred to make sure all the sugar had dissolved, after which we added three cups of chocolate chips, microwaved it on high for another minute, and then stirred it until it was a creamy consistency. We then added a teaspoon of vanilla extract, poured the batter into an 8X8-inch baking dish covered in oiled aluminum foil, and stuck it in the refrigerator to cool and set.

Just like the last time we tried making fudge, it didn’t really set up. Instead, we ended up with a goopy mass. Barbara isn’t a big fan of fudge anyway, but she taste-tested it. She thought it tasted okay, if a bit grainy. I thought it was okay, but in retrospect I’d either add a fourth cup of chocolate chips or cut down the amount of liquid. The recipe called for one 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk, which would probably have set up properly. But I used a 14-ounce can of evaporated milk plus the 17.5 fluid ounces of sugar, which totaled more than the amount of condensed milk the recipe called for.


We finished up DCI Banks and started watching Silk and the 2016 Victoria. The latter was unusual in that it didn’t disguise the fact that Victoria was German, not English, and that the Royals spoke German at home. Their Victoria speaks RP English rather than strongly German-accented English as the real Victoria did.

The real Victoria, of course, was also in-bred and stupid, which this series ignores. And she married Albert, who was literally a moron, and produced a large litter of moronic children.

Monday, 17 July 2017

09:06 – It was 78.7F (26C) when I took Colin out at 0800, bright and partly cloudy. That’s the latest Colin has let me sleep in for at least several months.

Barbara spent all day yesterday doing a deep clean to get rid of the drywall dust, which was everywhere. I spent an hour or so wiping down the kitchen cabinets and counters. She’s satisfied now with the whole house, other than the LTS food room and unfinished basement area, which still need some work.

Speaking of LTS, Barbara made up a box of Kraft macaroni and cheese the other night. As she was making it, she commented that the best-by date was three years ago, in the summer of 2014, and asked if it would be okay. I told her it would be fine. As we were eating dinner, she commented that it tasted a bit “off” to her, and asked what I thought. I told her it tasted the same to me as it always had, which was to say not very good. I’ve never liked it. Their powdered cheese sauce sucks, especially compared with the similar Velveeta product, which is actual sauce in a foil packet.

She said she’d just pitch what we had left, which is probably a couple of dozen boxes. I told her the pasta was perfectly fine, but to go ahead and pitch the cheese sauce packets if she wanted to. So we’ll open the boxes, transfer the pasta to a #10 can or whatever, and discard the cheese packets.

Email overnight from Kathy. Still no Mylar bags or oxygen absorbers from LDS, so she decided to transfer as much of the cornmeal as they had 1-liter bottles for. It comes in paper sacks, so even without an oxygen absorber it’s better stored in PET bottles than paper. And they have a continuing supply of those 1-liter bottles and use cornmeal only a cup or two at a time, so one liter is a good size container for it.


10:06 – I just signed up for Netflix DVD’s, two-at-a-time plan. The last time we got DVD’s from Netflix was five years ago. Since then, we’ve used only Netflix and Amazon Prime streaming.

There’s not much left on Netflix streaming we want to watch, other than some of the series Barbara follows. Most of those are also available on DVD. There are some interesting exceptions. For example, she follows Blue Bloods, which is currently available through season 7 on streaming, but only season 6 on disc, presumably because S7 hasn’t yet been released on DVD. Also, Heartland (which I first discovered on Netflix DVD) now has zero seasons available on DVD. That doesn’t matter. I BT current episodes as they’re released, collect them to watch all at once when the season is complete, usually in April or May, and then buy the DVD set when it becomes available, usually in September.

There’s a ton of stuff we’d like to watch that’s on DVD but not available on NF or Amazon streaming, including all seasons of the Australian series A Place to Call Home and the New Zealand series The Brokenwood Mysteries. I also added one to our DVD queue that Barbara has been waiting to watch since the last time we were getting DVDs. It’s about Mist, a BC puppy. It’s currently listed as “very long wait”, so I put it at the top of our queue, assuming that as new members we’ll get preference in getting it shipped to us.


The last time I made caramel sauce, it was good but never really set up. That was fine, because I was using it on ice cream. Last night, we made up another batch to a different recipe. A cup of brown sugar (we actually used a cup of white sugar and a tablespoon of molasses), half a cup of butter (one stick), a quarter cup of milk. Bring to a boil, simmer for three or four minutes, turn off the heat, and add a teaspoon of vanilla extract.

Boy, did that one ever set up. It was still warm and flowed easily when I tried it on ice cream last night. As soon as it hit the ice cream, it solidified into a chewy mass. It tasted fine, but I prefer my caramel sauce a bit less solid.