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 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.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

08:58 – It was 68.0F (20C) when I took Colin out at 0710, partly cloudy. We had about 1.4 inches (3.5 cm) of rain overnight. Fortunately, the rain came in in the late evening, putting a stop to the fireworks that were terrifying Colin. More work on science kits today.

The caramel sauce turned out okay, although I had some problems with it. Firstly, I simmered the sugar/salt/water for about 15 or 20 minutes and very little color change occurred. So I added a blurp of molasses, not so much for flavor as to catalyze the caramelization reaction, and continued simmering for a few more minutes.

A few minutes of simmering, even at neutral pH, should be enough to hydrolyze the sucrose into its component simple sugars, fructose and glucose. Fructose caramelizes at 110C, and with that much dissolved solids the boiling solution should have been at least 110C due to boiling point elevation. It didn’t get anywhere near the 150C required to caramelize glucose.

But after standing there for the better part of half an hour stirring and then swirling, I was tired of doing that. So I added the 12-ounce can of evaporated milk (best-by date August 2014) and continued the process. I then added the 1.5 teaspoons of vanilla extract, but the bottle blurped and I ended up adding probably twice that.

I then allowed it to cool to about 50C and transferred it to two pint canning jars, one full and the second about half full. At that point, the liquid was no longer thin and runny like water, but it hadn’t set up much. So I put the jars in the refrigerator to cool. Barbara tasted the result. Her only comment was “too much vanilla”. I tasted it, and indeed it was strongly vanilla flavored, but I thought it tasted pretty good. I had it on ice cream last night, and it was actually pretty good. Runny, but good. I’m going to call it a fail, because Barbara said she didn’t want to use it.

I’ve been following the McEnroe/Williams thing. As I told Barbara when the story broke, McEnroe was being extraordinarily generous when he said that Serena would be about #700 on the men’s tennis tour. In fact, as McEnroe is fully aware, there are many high-school boys who would beat Serena. She’d rank more like #70,000 on a unisex tennis tour, if that.

There was an article on Takimag that quoted Serena from a Letterman appearance four years ago when she said she wouldn’t play an exhibition against Andy Murray because he’s a boy and she’s a girl. FTA:

For me, men’s tennis and women’s tennis are completely, almost, two separate sports. If I were to play Andy Murray, I would lose 6-0, 6-0 in five to six minutes, maybe 10 minutes. No, it’s true. It’s a completely different sport. The men are a lot faster and they serve harder, they hit harder, it’s just a different game. I love to play women’s tennis. I only want to play girls, because I don’t want to be embarrassed.

She was speaking honestly and literally. It’s unlikely she’d have taken a point from Murray, let alone a game. I actually had almost the same conversation with Jim Elliott, one of our astronomy observing buddies, at a club observation up at the Wake Forest cabin probably a dozen years ago. The Williams sisters were at their peaks, and I told him that they were extremely good tennis players, for girls. Probably not as good as either Martina Navratilova or Steffi Graff, but good.

I went on to say that at my peak, in my late teens and early 20’s, I would have blown any of them off the court, as would any of the guys I played regularly with. He ridiculed me for that statement. I told him pretty much the same thing that Serena told Letterman, that there was just a world of difference between how strong, fast, and hard-hitting men were compared to women. I told him that my brother, at his peak, had played Chris Evert at her peak, and blew her off the court 6-0. I told him that when I was about 15, before my peak, I’d played a set against Peaches Bartkowitz, who was at the time ranked #9, and she didn’t take a point from me. But he just didn’t get it. Men and women are physically different, and there’s no way a woman can compete physically with a man. That should be obvious to anyone who’s not severely retarded.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Happy Birthday USA!

09:56 – It was 64.4F (18C) when I took Colin out at 0640, partly cloudy. We’re mostly taking the day off for Independence Day, although Barbara is volunteering at the Historical Society museum from 1000 to 1330 and I’m making up some chemicals for forensic science kits.

I suppose it’s human nature, but I always put off the most obnoxious ones until last. One of those is Kastle-Meyer reagent, which is a concentrated hydroxide solution that needs to be refluxed (simmered) for an hour or so, until the metallic zinc in the flask reduces the bright magenta alkaline solution of phenolphthalein to a colorless (or straw yellow) solution of phenolphthalin (note the different spelling).

The other obnoxious one, for a different reason, is the gentian violet solution used for detecting fingerprints on sticky tape. That one’s obnoxious because it turns everything purple. It’s a very fine powder that wants to go everywhere, and even the tiniest grain–literally one one-thousandth of a grain of sand–is enough to make large purple stains on everything: our skin, the sink, anything it comes into contact with. Fortunately the stain is fugitive. It wears off skin pretty quickly, and any oxidizer (like dilute chlorine bleach) renders it colorless.

As long as we’re making up stuff, I think we’ll make up a test batch of caramel/butterscotch sauce. Barbara used to buy it at the supermarket, but we haven’t had any in the refrigerator for quite a while. Here’s the recipe I intend to try, which was provided by a reader:

⊕ 6 ounces water (0.75 cup; 178 g)
⊕ 12 ounces white sugar (1.75 cups; 347 g)
⊕ 0.75 teaspoons salt (4.3 g)
⊕ 12 ounces evaporated milk (1.5 cup; 192 g)
⊕ 1.5 teaspoons vanilla extract (7.5 g)

1. Combine water, sugar, and salt in a 3-quart pan over medium heat. Stir until syrup comes to a boil, about 3 to 4 minutes, then simmer without stirring until syrup is honey-colored, about 6 minutes, swirling to ensure even caramelization. Continue cooking until syrup is light to medium amber, a minute more.

2. Add evaporated milk and reduce heat to medium-low.

3. Stir constantly to eliminate foaming, and simmer until syrup reaches 225F, or for about 3 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in vanilla extract, transfer to a canning jar or similar container, and set aside to cool. Syrup will be thin and runny while hot, but thickens as it cools. Refrigerate the container for storage.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

09:10 – It was 66.3F (19C) when I took Colin out at 0730 this morning, sunny and breezy. We had a thunderstorm overnight, but only about 0.3″ (0.75 cm) of rain.

I finally got a call back from the State Farm claims person late yesterday afternoon. She said to go ahead and have our contractor rip out the carpet and ceiling wallboard but not to make any permanent repairs until they could get an adjuster out to look at the damage. She also suggested we get a quote for repairs and if possible have a contractor rep present when the adjuster comes out. The adjuster is supposed to call within 48 hours to set up an appointment. She said the adjuster would write us a check on the spot to cover the costs, less our deductible, of removing and replacing the damaged stuff. Presumably they’ll adjust that upward if necessary after the work is finished. They did that the last time we had a claim, which was a long time ago.

Our contractor was closed by that time, so I called them first thing this morning. They’re sending someone out today to look things over, give us a quote/estimate, and arrange to have the carpet and pad ripped out and hauled off, along with the wet insulation, ceiling wallboard, and so on. This is going to be an extended process. We’ll just have to live with it.

Barbara said yesterday she wanted to replace the ceiling with a suspended ceiling and the carpet with ceramic tile, regardless of what the insurance would pay for. She also made a good suggestion this morning. Herschel had to rip out some wallboard in the master bedroom closet to get to a joint behind the sinks in the master bath. Barbara suggested that instead of replacing the wallboard that we have them install an access hatch/door there so that that joint remains accessible.

FedEx showed up yesterday with part of my latest Walmart order, which included 16 more cans of Keystone meat. One of those was their canned turkey, which we hadn’t tried. So last night Barbara made a skillet dinner with the turkey, a jar of Bertolli mushroom Alfredo sauce, a couple tablespoons of onion flakes, and a pound of macaroni. It was simple but quite good. I told her the turkey tasted kind of like a combination of chicken and pork, so I was going to call it chork. Or perhaps picken.


Saturday, 22 April 2017

10:02 – It was 57F (14C) when I took Colin out at 0645 this morning, gray, damp, and foggy. We’re to have rain on and off over the next several days. Barbara is volunteering this afternoon at the historical society museum.

When Barbara was down in Elkin a couple weeks ago with Frances and Al, she bought some fudge at the general store. I’ve been wanting to try making fudge ourselves, but was put off by the memory of the last time I made it, probably 40 years ago. Back then, I used a double boiler (which we don’t have) and a candy thermometer. Temperature was critical, and the procedure was pretty involved.

But I came across various “easy fudge” recipes on the internet, and decided to give one a try this afternoon. It’s indeed pretty easy, calling only for semi-sweet chocolate chips, a can of sweetened condensed milk, and part of a stick of butter. The procedure consists of putting everything in a microwave-safe bowl and zapping it several times on medium until the chocolate is just melted.

I’m making one change. Instead of sweetened condensed milk, I’ll use evaporated milk with sugar added. The materials are pretty straightforward:

4 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup white granulated sugar
1 12-ounce can of evaporated milk
1/3 cup of butter

And the directions are equally straightforward:

  1. Combine ingredients in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on medium until chocolate is just melted (5 – 7 minutes), stirring occasionally to mix.
  2. Pour mixture into a greased 9×9-inch glass baking dish and refrigerate until set.

All of the ingredients except butter are suitable for long-term storage, and that can be substituted for with a third of a cup of oil (or even water) and four tablespoons of butter powder. We’ll cheat and use the microwave, but in an emergency we could easily use a pan on the cooktop instead. I’ll post tomorrow about how our fudge turned out.

* * * * *

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

09:45 – It was 55.2F (13C) when I took Colin out around 0715 this morning, sunny and clear. Barbara is waiting for a dump truck of mulch to show up so she can get the strips of raw dirt along the driveway mulched. The driveway is about 45 yards long and has dirt along both edges, so she’ll be hauling a lot of wheelbarrow loads of mulch today and probably tomorrow.

We had instant mashed potatoes with the leftover pork gloppita for dinner last night. I used the Walmart Great Value potato flakes. The first time we used them, I used only the dry potato flakes and water to reconstitute. They ended up okay, but kind of blah. Not surprising, considering that the Walmart flakes are 100% potatoes. (The Idahoan dry potatoes that we used to get in 3.25-pound boxes at Costco/Sam’s also include dry milk and lots of other stuff that may shorten their shelf-life.)

Yesterday, I made them up according to the instructions on the box for four servings, but substituting weights for volumes for reproducibility. Rather than fresh milk, I used enough water to provide the total amount of liquid specified and just added a quarter cup of Nestle Nido dry whole milk to the dry potatoes. I did use two tablespoons of real butter, but that could easily be substituted for by a fluid ounce of vegetable oil and a bit of butter powder. The result was pretty much indistinguishable from the Idahoan just-add-water potatoes, which is to say pretty decent. Barbara said they were fine, and she’s the ultimate arbiter.

I’d bought just one 26.7-ounce box of the Walmart potatoes to test. I have four cases (42 pounds) of LDS instant mashed potatoes in our deepest pantry, which I bought when my initial goal was one year’s worth of food for Barbara, Colin, and me. LDS sells them for about $3.36/pound, versus $1.60/pound at Walmart. That’s a big enough difference that it’s worth the minor time and effort to repackage the Walmart product in 2-liter bottles, so I’ll go ahead and order another 42 pounds of the Walmart  potatoes and repackage them. In PET bottles with oxygen absorbers, they’ll be good for at least 20+ years and probably 100.


* * * * *

Saturday, 4 March 2017

09:50 – It was 21.3F (-6C) when when I took Colin out this morning, with light winds. Email overnight from Jane, with the subject line “I copied you again”. She and Tom didn’t have any powdered eggs in their pantry, so she ordered six #10 cans of them, which is about 35 dozen worth.

We had dinner last night again from long-term storage; Keystone beef chunks in barbecue sauce over rolls. Actually, the rolls were store-bought, but we have everything we need in LTS to make them ourselves.

In a prepping fail that turned into a prepping win, it turned out that we didn’t have any bottled barbecue sauce in the pantry. No problem, we just made it up ourselves from an old family recipe that we just made up:

1-1/2 cups white sugar + 1-1/2 Tbsp molasses (or substitute brown sugar)
1-1/2 cups ketchup
1/2 cup prepared mustard (or substitute 2-1/2 Tbsp dry mustard)
1/2 cup vinegar
1/2 cup water
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp liquid smoke hickory sauce
2 tsp paprika
2 tsp salt
1-1/2 tsp black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan and heat on medium until it just begins to bubble. Yields about one quart/liter.

We reheated the pound or so of frozen leftover Keystone beef chunks in a smaller pan, poured about a pint of the sauce over them, and then served the beef and sauce over rolls and froze the excess sauce.

I was expecting our sauce to be at least okay, but it turned out better than that. Barbara and I agreed that it was better than all of the name-brand barbecue sauces we’d tried. Yet another advantage to cooking with LTS foods. Homemade tastes better.

* * * * *

10:43 – I just finished getting Barbara’s Dell notebook up and running under Linux Mint 18.1 Cinnamon. It was harder than it should have been. The first time, I installed from DVD, told it to restart, and removed the DVD. It came up normally, but was missing some drivers, including the one for the Broadcom Wifi chip. I fired up Driver Manager and told it to install from the DVD. When I came back a little while later, it hadn’t installed the WiFi driver, and the DVD drive was just sitting there making seeking noises. I suspect the drive itself rather than the disc, but I’ll check that out.

So, without a DVD drive, presumably, I used USB image writer on my own system to create a bootable flash drive image of Linux Mint 18.1, and installed that on Barbara’s notebook. Everything worked normally, and I now had WiFi connectivity. The next step was to restore Barbara’s Firefox and Mozilla profiles. As I’d done in the past, I simply deleted the default profiles for both and copied over her old profiles from her Windows system backup. But when I tried to fire up Firefox and Thunderbird, both failed with an error message about profile errors.

No problem, I thought. I’ll simply remove Firefox and Thunderbird in Software Manager and then immediately tell it to reinstall them. SM refused to delete either of them. So I went in and manually deleted the .mozilla and .thunderbird directories and then fired up SM again. It thought they were both still installed, and refused to do anything about it. So I fired up apt-get to try uninstalling/reinstalling them from the command line, but with no joy.

At that point, it seemed the easiest course was simply to blow away the contents of the SSD and reinstall. I did that just before dinner yesterday and then bagged it for the day. This morning, I fired up her system, copied the contents of the new default profile directories to backup directories, and then copied the contents of her Windows backup profile directories to the new default directories. When I fired up Firefox and Thunderbird, both came up and worked normally. The only minor issue was that I had to reinstall Adblock Plus on Firefox, but that took only 30 seconds.

Barbara’s system is now fully functional except that I still have to recopy her spreadsheet and other data from the backup flash drive onto her new SSD. And, yes, the notebook is now noticeably faster running from the SSD than it was running from a 5,400 RPM hard drive. I’ll stick the old hard drive in a box and put it on the shelf to cover the remote possibility that I’ll ever want to run Windows on her system again.