Thur. July 1, 2021 – more running around today

Still rain in the forecast, and heat, although not as much. It wasn’t actually unpleasant yesterday, although it was wet. There was a lot of regional rain, and areas of town that didn’t get any. As I was driving across town it would go from downpour to dry and back again. The bayous are filling up though.\

Today I’ve got another Dr appointment for oldest, a vet appointment for the pup, and youngest is having a play date and sleepover at a friend’s house. I’m chauffeur dad today.

Yesterday I took the kids to the doc for camp physicals. Freaking GS form was just bizarre. There was a whole section of body parts and the doc was supposed to select “satisfactory” or “not satisfactory”. No other explanation. Heart, lungs, teeth, genitalia. F me. Genitalia, not satisfactory. WTeverlovingF? Why is that an option, what does GS’ing gain from the exam and paper record, and WTF is the criteria? We got neither the exam nor a comment for that section, just a vague line drawn next to the body part in the listing. People want too damn much information that they have no business even asking for. ONE line would be sufficient– “In my professional opinion, after examining the child, I find her healthy enough to participate in GS camp activities, with the following exceptions or modifications….” That is all GS needs to know.

It’s probably too late, but take control the amount of information you reveal to third parties. Have a set of answers you can use if you like, possibly transposing digits “by accident” or shifting dates or other numbers by some set amount. Start pushing back, ask if the info is ‘requested’ or ‘required’ and push for privacy and retention policies. Refuse to answer questions that aren’t relevant.

Yeah, I know, there is a certain amount of irony in me saying that… given the nature of blogging. Still, Nick is a subset of me, and I do try to obfuscate and especially to not “out” people who are unaware of what I do here, like my siblings. The resulting prose can sometimes be very awkward, and unnatural, and I try hard to smooth it out, usually with only limited success.

Anyway, with that said…

Dinner last night was home made fried chicken and southern fried veg– green tomatoes and onion rings. Youngest child wanted to make fried chicken and even though it makes a mess and the whole house smells like fried food for 3 days, it was a lot of fun. Green tomatoes were fresh from the garden, and were delicious. I used a batter mix, cast iron “chicken fryer”, and peanut oil. Biscuits were from a tube, for time and simplicity’s sake. Good stuff. Older child thinks she’ll be able to learn cooking “just before she needs it”. Yeah, good luck with that. Like gardening, it’s both simple and hard. Unless you count the soup kitchen, post SHTF you’ll be doing your own cooking. If you don’t already have some knowledge and skills, it’s time to start practicing. There has been much discussion here about the subject, the keywords are on the right… or ask in a comment.

Maybe you can survive on re-hydrated Mountain House, or microwave popcorn alone, but most of us will need more than that. Either way, stack what you need, don’t forget the tools, and practice the skills.

nick

Fri. June 11, 2021 – a third of the way thru June already…

Hot and humid with very little chance of rain. Yesterday was hot, humid, sunny, and generally a nice day, with some overcast in various parts of town. That is one of the features of Houston weather, lots of variation depending on location. Some is consistent enough I call it a micro-climate, although the pros would likely take issue with that. Since the pros can make stuff up without ever paying the consequence for being wrong, I don’t particularly care what they would say in this case.

It’s funny that the same thing can be said about economists and financial pundits. Even investment advisors and financial pros always have a good reason why they didn’t get it right. And yet we LIKE the idea of hidden knowledge and revealed secrets. We keep going back to them for more. It must be part of our genetic and memetic heritage, although I can’t see a benefit to it. At least with everyone but the weathermen, you can simply say “their goals may not be our goals” and that offers possible explanations for why they are wrong so often.

Anyway, keep in mind that if 80% of everything is cr@p, (and I believe that is a pretty good estimate, if possibly low), that includes any predictions about the future, or explanations about the present.

—————————————————————————–

I spent yesterday running errands and avoiding my MIL. Took eldest child and puppy to see my gun store buddy. A puppy brightens everyone’s day right? The mom and pop stores should be raking in the dough in the current climate, and yet they are mostly in jeopardy of going out of business. Two gun stores in one day, and the differences were pretty dramatic. If you have inventory, you have sales and income. If you don’t, you don’t. Having other income (from a range, gunsmithing, transfers) can help, but it is only part of the equation. Stores without stuff to sell don’t last long. And that might be the biggest irony and disaster to come out of this past year- the destruction of the mom and pop gun store by extreme demand for guns.

Today I’ve got some pickups if I can fit them in, household stuff again. Then I’ve got a site visit at my client’s house. There are a couple of questions that need answers that I just can’t remember even knowing, and that I can answer by going and looking. So I’m going. Sometimes you just have to be there.

The pot roast in the slow cooker was a success. The only side was a loaf of shelf stable sourdough bread, and the veg and gravy from the pot. Every ounce of 3 pounds of meat got eaten, and even most of the veg disappeared. For seasoning, the CrockPot ™ seasoning mix single use pouch is nice and savory without being particularly overwhelming. It’s one of my ‘goto’ meals when I know I won’t be home to make dinner, and I’m not sure when exactly dinner will be.

Stews and one pot meals are great to use up food that might be getting a bit older. In this case it was some potatoes, turnips, and carrots that had been around for just a bit long. On a plate, by themselves, they might not have been really nice (although very nice compared to Little House on the Prairie at the end of a long winter) but in a pot with 6 hours to stew and blend, they were awesome and indistinguishable from fresh.

This is one of the keys to economical cooking and meal planning, and a skill that you might have to learn or re-learn with hard times on the way. Use what you have, in a way that plays to its strengths. If you have more bread than you expected, make french toast, Texas Toast, or bread pudding. If you have extra milk, use it in a dish that calls for a lot of milk. Too many veg? Make a chutney or salsa. The goal is to get the best use possible out of what you have, and avoid wasting any of it. In an economy based on abundance, you can get exactly what you want. In an economy based on scarcity, you take what you can get, and if you are smart, creative, or prepared, you make the best of it. Most people lived this way throughout most of history, we can do it too. Old recipe books can be a big help. Any recipe book sold by Williams Sonoma probably won’t be.

Of course, one of the ways to mitigate scarcity is to have big stacks of stuff, so don’t stop stacking…

nick

(it pays to know what to do with it, and to have practiced too…)

Sun. June 6, 2021 – more rain? yeah, probably.

We did have most of the day without rain yesterday, then in the late afternoon, something blew in. 30-40 MPH gusts, heavy rain squalls, temperature drop, the whole deal. And it passed just as quickly. Today the national forecast looks a lot like yesterday’s did, so I expect similar. We’ll see 😉

Did my errands. Didn’t do much around the house. Got a bunch of stuff for the household. I guess the canning jars qualify as preps, although I currently have more than I’m using. If things got bad, that wouldn’t be true. They were in very short supply after the lockdown started. It’s a traditional prepping item (along with the infrastructure and the rings/lids) and I’ve got more than I need. Right now the only thing I’m canning is bacon fat, and I just put it in the jar, seal it, and freeze the whole thing. I’m generating more than I use, and it seems very wasteful to just throw it out. It’s about $7 a pound in the store, and I’m recovering part of the cost of the bacon, so it’s a win-win.

Some of the old recipes start out “melt 5 pounds of fat…” so I may use it yet.

I like collecting and reading old recipe books. My “go to” book is an older Joy of Cooking, and I’ve talked about recipe books several times, so I won’t repeat that part. I’ll just add that I’ve picked up a couple more old books, and I am a sucker for the ‘Church Lady’ books, or the ‘Woman’s Service Organization’ books*. If there is anything at all special about them, I’ll grab it and read through it. Lately I’ve picked up some from very rural Texas in the mid ’50s, and New Orleans, and other parts of Louisiana, from the same time frame. I really like the recipes because they tend to use canned ingredients (good for preppers), are often fairly simple, and they don’t require a lot of specialized equipment or a lot of time. The service organization books are often very funny too, as a ‘slice of life’ from the time and place. One I remember in particular called a punch that was essentially 100 proof rum with a bit of fruit juice, “a great punch for the ladies”. One book has a section of “men’s” recipes and they are VERY loose compared to the ladies’ directions. Several are on the order of “do some general thing, and when done, do something else” which the lady editors gently mock in the commentary and introductions…good fun!

I find it interesting to see that the older books use a lot of different flavors compared to modern cooking, use a lot of gelatin (which led me to consider that I don’t have a single gelatin mold, and my mom had several), and use canned ingredients. They also have recipes for local favorites, using local veg and fruit in season, and wild game in the area. If you want to cook squirrel, the book from the First Church of Bugtussel Ladies Auxiliary probably has a couple of recipes to choose from. If you need five different ways to make a cake without xxx or yyy or zzz, times were tough, and there is probably a good recipe for each. If you need to make anything for 25-50 people for a church social (or a disaster kitchen) some of the books are right there with (presumably) tasty choices.

Right now, we can go to allrecipes.com or some other site, and get several choices, some even based on what food you have available for a dish, but that might not always be true. I also find the constant nagging about health and lifestyle to be tedious in any modern book or recipe site (add salt if you wish, substitute real butter if you want a richer flavor, etc….) and I LIKE the personality of the old books. Those books are filled with the recipes that were the best that Momma Jones knew, the ones all the other ladies asked for, and they were proven crowd pleasers. They are also a window into the past, and a link to the land and the area. Pick one up next time you see one, or get out the one from your church or civic association, (or your parent’s anyway.) Read through it. Try a recipe.

Add it to the pile of knowledge, and stuff. Keep stacking.

nick

* the absolute BEST ones have little slips of paper sticking out to mark someone’s favorites, and food stains on the pages. Those books got USED, and someone LOVED those recipes.

(and just for completeness, I’ll add RBT’s wisdom, ALWAYS use the newest canning guide, the same way and for the same reasons you’d use a newer First Aid book.)

Tues. April 27, 2021 – lots to do today, all about the kid’s birthday

Cooler and sunny, should be nice. Hot and humid by late afternoon yesterday, although it started cool and ended cool.

I got mom to the airport and then on home successfully. Got my auction purchase American Girl doll wardrobe touched up and ready for today (for the daughter’s birthday, not for me.) AG is crazy expensive new and has a very active resale market, btw. A couple of nicks filled with paint and a good cleaning and about $225 savings later it looks pretty good and I think she’ll squeal well up into the ultrasonic…

And I’ve got to get the dinner together– grilled chicken hearts, baby back ribs, peach or mango cobbler for dessert. I’ve got everything in the freezer but it might just be easier to buy fresh. Kid’s got eclectic tastes, but she loves my cooking 🙂

So I’m going to get started. in 3, 2, 1, …

nick

(you keep stacking)

Mon. April 19, 2021 – a fresh new week, hoo boy, let’s get to work

Cool and damp, probably no rain, but it was scattered spatters of rain most of yesterday, and the forecast was for dry…

I got a bunch done yesterday. All little things, but several that were much easier in 60F weather than 90F.

I cleaned and seasoned 3 cast iron pots with lids. Those will go to the auction. They were Goodwill Outlet, so $1.20/ pound. I’ll make decent money on them and I like saving things like cast iron. Didn’t take long with the angle grinder and wire wheel, followed up with oil and a good bake. One piece is modern, the other two are vintage.

I hung another IR illuminator for my cams. This one points in the same direction as my latest camera and should light up half the street. I didn’t get the power hooked up yet. I got side tracked while going through a bin of wall warts, and ended up powering up several other things that have been kicking around waiting for power supplies. I’ll get to the illuminator soon, and in the mean time, the other things can either be put into service or put away, or sold.

Did a little bit of work in my attic. I moved all the light bulb holders to be above my head level. Since I store stuff up there, I’m moving around at least a few times a month, and I’m always afraid I’ll hit one of the bare bulbs with my head, slashing my face open. It didn’t take long and has been on the list for quite some time. I also put the Easter decor away and checked the rat traps- no rats.

Put another bin of auction items together.

Did some cleaning, poking around, and arranging in the garage too. And I wired the attic fan to a plug. I was going to put a receptacle in the attic for it and a work light, but didn’t have the right j-box, so for now it’s just a cord plugged into an existing outlet. I’m really hoping it will help keep the temps in the garage down. I need a Home Depot run to do some replenishing of plumbing supplies and any veg seedlings, so I might as well get a couple of j-boxes too.

The tomato plants are lush. There isn’t any other word for them. My wife is crowing about her success (I get one or two tomatoes from 3 or 4 plants every year, not a strong suit.) I’m claiming it’s the used coffee grounds I’ve been adding to the beds 🙂 The grape vine continues to leaf out, as does the peach tree. The frozen citrus is still not showing any signs of life. I’m starting to believe it was all killed, which is very disappointing.

I tried something new for dinner. I sautéed frozen shrimp with minced onion and bacon crumbles, and then used a can of Campbell’s Cream of Shrimp soup as a sauce, serving the whole thing over rice. Tasted good to my wife and to me, and the kids loved it. Quick, easy, low fuel cost, and a real change of pace.

Today if the rain holds off, I’ll be taking a pickup load to my industrial auction. I will have no trouble filling the truck. Then I’ll swing by Lowe’s and pick up the fridge for my rent house. Maybe I’ll even get that installed if I hustle. We’ll see.

And out there in the world, we’ll see how soon it all falls apart. The recent spate of shootings, the lawlessness in MN, OR, and NYC, a Congresswoman inciting riotous crowds that then shoot up an NG unit, lions and tigers and bears… oh my. It seems like the violence is accelerating and escalating.

Keep improving your position, and keep stacking…

nick

Fri. April 9, 2021 – and now we’re one step closer to CWII, thanks Joe!

Warm and sunny, with a small chance of rain, or hot and sunny, I’m reasonably sure it will be one or the other. It was sunny and warm yesterday, but so humid that puddles in the driveway wouldn’t dry. I was soaked with sweat pretty quickly after going outside. Sunny and beautiful, but not pleasant.

Spent a couple of hours napping. I just felt really wrung out, and was falling asleep in my office chair. Since that hurts my neck, I just went back to bed. I’ve done that more in the last couple of months than in the last couple of years. That is not necessarily a good thing.

The rest of the day was eaten up with small tasks. I got a mounting arm for my last camera cobbled together. I put the mount for the mount in place on the chimney. And I got the camera configured, along with the NVR software. Even though the cam is sitting in my office, I am looking at image from it on my NVR. Since getting that camera in place and working moved to pretty near the top of my list, it felt like a good day.

The rest of the afternoon and evening was devoted to cooking our belated Easter dinner. I was able to use mint and rosemary from the garden to season the lamb. I also used some instant potato packets from 2014. They were a bit orange, as the butter flavor coloring changed with time, but after adding some cream, butter, and bacon crumbles, the mashed potatoes were perfectly fine as an accompaniment to the lamb. I had one box of envelopes that tasted “old” and then this box that is well within acceptable range for taste. Same age, but one got more heat than the other. Heat is the killer of stored food.

I have decided to increase my stored bulk rice and flour beyond where it is now. It’s relatively cheap, and things aren’t looking better world wide, in fact our pResident seems to be actively working to make them worse. (And of course I don’t believe it’s him at all, but whoever is pulling the strings. It’s convenient to blame him, after all he’s sitting in the big chair, and that way I don’t need to type all this every time.) I think when I did the math, if we were eating it every day, one bucket of rice would last one month, and 50 pounds fits in a bucket. I’ll double check later today and update. So, 10-12 buckets of rice at $25-$40/bucket for the year. I haven’t priced bulk rice in a year, and it varies by grade, producer, and availability. If someone here is using rice every day (roughly) please add your usage observations.

Flour is much harder to judge because I do almost nothing with bulk flour. I’m going to guess at 10-12 buckets per year for that too, because it’s cheap, so why not.

I’ll need to add a few gallons of vitamin E stabilized peanut cooking oil too. That will actually be the most expensive part.

Those three things, and some salt, comprise most of the traditional ‘poor people’ food the world over, time without end. Some type of powdered flour, some rice, some cooking oil, some water and salt, and you have basic calories that can be added to with whatever is available. RBT called them “iron rations” and it never seemed very appealing to me. I plan to have lots to add to them, but they are the base load. It’s time to build up the canned storage too.

We’re currently eating canned corn, beans, peas, and a few other things that I panic bought during ebola-14, and the vast majority is as good as when I bought it. There are exceptions. High acid foods don’t survive as long in cans. Pineapple, tomato products, some other fruit, they have swelled up and/or popped. Dry mixes with a high fat content also tend to taste “old” once past their best by date. In our climate, dried food in boxes picks up an “old” taste too soon too– Kraft mac n cheese I’m looking at you.

The way I’m looking at it, maybe we WON’T need enough stuff to stay home for 6 months to a year because of a pandemic…. and maybe we won’t need to supplement our shopping with stored food for a year or two, while the economy and security situation stabilize. But what if we do? Food security is cheap insurance.

So stack it high.

nick

Mon. Mar. 8, 2021 – did some cooking and cleaning

Cool again today, and hopefully dry.   It stayed cool yesterday and was sunny and bright.   A beautiful day.  A day for . . . yardwork!

Well, my wife did some planting, and I did some cleaning.   She got some new plants into the herb garden and replaced some of the decorative stuff that froze.   She cut back the stuff we’re hoping recovers.

I raked some more leaves, especially by the citrus trees.   I shook and knocked most of the dead leaves off the trees and then I cleaned up around them.   I didn’t quite get everything bagged, I’ll have to finish later.  In the back yard my wife planted some tomatoes (and the herbs) while I picked up debris and ran the lawnmower.   Put the fire pit cooker back in the middle of the yard.   Pressure washed some spots on the patio and a few things I’d missed, basically just to run  the gas tank dry.  And then, because the firepit was just sitting right there, we decided to have a little fire.   And if we’re going to have a fire, might as well use it to cook dinner, says the 9 year old… wisdom from the mouths of babes.

So that’s what we did.   The firepit is enclosed with mesh all the way around and has a cast iron grill that you can cook on.   We re-heated beef stew, put some mushrooms in butter in foil, and grilled some kielbasa sausages.  I put a can of red beans and rice on too and that made a real nice meal with the sliced sausage.   During the blackouts we ate a couple of cans of the stuff, and gave some to the neighbors too.   Recommended.   Tasty, hearty, and easy to make.

(And of course dessert was s’mores.   We had the fire going anyway…)

Canned and ‘instant’ versions of food and ingredients should be high on your stored food list.   They take less time and less heat energy to prepare and you might be short on both of those things during your emergency.   I’ve got lots of regular rice, but during short term events, I reach for the Minute Rice.  Everything we had for dinner had already been cooked, and really just needed to be heated.

Speaking of shortcuts, for breakfast I made eggs, and biscuits with sausage gravy.   First time for me and the gravy.   It was from a can too.  Biscuits from a tube, gravy from a can, and eggs (ultimately from a chicken, but yesterday just from the store.)   The gravy was pretty good, the family all ate it and my wife got seconds.   It was FAR better than the white goo I got from a gravy packet last time I tried biscuits and gravy.  Younger daughter also got fried sliced spam.  She loves it.

So breakfast was from medium and long term storage, and dinner was from the pantry but cooked over a wood fire.    Eat what you store…   and store some stuff you don’t normally eat so that you have some novel foods if you get bored.

Cooking over a wood fire is fun when you don’t have to do it.  Practice using some of the different ways you have stacked to cook, clean, heat water, etc.  MUCH easier to do so in the daylight on a nice day, when the indoor stove is there for backup…

And of course, keep stacking the stuff you need.

nick

Thur. Jan. 21, 2021 – 012121 – yep, easily amused

Cool and damp, may be even damper later in the day.

Yesterday was pretty nice for mid-winter high with 60s and low 70s.  Overcast all day, but shorts and t-shirt weather for me.  I got a couple of things around the house cleaned up.  Finally got the last of the Christmas decor down and most of it put away.

Because I was at home in the afternoon, I cooked a lamb roast.   It’s a great example of saving money with a freezer, vac sealer, and buying in bulk.  I like lamb.  If you haven’t had it since you were a child, it’s different than it was.  Most of the ‘lamb’ taste, the mutton/gamey flavor is gone because of the farmers growing a different breed.   We enjoy it rare to medium rare.   Anyway, I buy the bigger roast and cut it in half.  Vac seal and freeze the resulting 2-3 pound roasts, and you’ve got a roast that is perfectly sized for two adults with leftovers, or a family like mine.  It doesn’t take forever to roast at that size either.    You can get a much better grade of meat in lamb roast for the same money, than you typically can for a beef roast.  Better living for less….

I buy hamburger in a bulk pack and repack it as 1 1/3 pound slabs.  I press it into a shallow square plastic food saver package then vac seal that shape so it will stack better in the freezer.  I used to do 1 pound packs but the kids are growing.

I buy pork roasts in the 10 pound tube, and slice into center cut pork chops any thickness I like.  I also cut a couple of 2-3 pound roasts out of the whole.  All get vac sealed and frozen.   The 10 pound pack is cheaper than smaller roasts, or pre-cut chops.  I usually season the chops in the vac bag with garlic salt and chinese oyster sauce.  The family LOVES the sweet brown sauce on pork and I don’t have to make a mess at cooking time, or worry about marinading it ahead of time.  Another win!

Beef ribeye roasts get the same treatment as the pork roast, some steaks, some of the best beef roast ever.  I season the steaks before vac bagging with Adkins seasoning.  It’s a nice mix of garlic, citrus-y something, and black pepper.   It’s a lot like Penzey’s Chicago Steak seasoning, without all the hate for conservatives.

Bacon in the bulk pack is 24c/lb.  It’s double that in smaller packaging.  I re-pack it in 3/4 lb blocks which is just a bit more than we need for breakfast.    It rarely lasts until lunch.  Vac seal and freeze into one meal portions…

I should note that I’m not Rockefeller.   The vac seal and freeze routine means the meat lasts as long as it’s frozen, so I only buy the stuff on sale.  I buy a BUNCH when the price is right and store it for later.  There are significant savings to be had if you shop this way.   There are shopping trips where I might not even buy any meat if it’s not on sale, because I have some at home in the freezer.

Another thing I do is freeze the leftovers from holiday meals.   I do the same “shape them into a flat block” trick of pressing them into a plastic storage container before freezing.   It’s easy to gauge the number of portions when it’s time to eat, just look at the bag.

If you want to vac seal something wet or squishy, put it in the plastic container and freeze it first, then take it out of the container and vac seal the block of soup, or chili, or whatever.

You can vac seal and freeze partially prepare foods too.   I like to sear the meat before using the slow cooker to make stew or pot roast or carnitas.  I don’t like the smell in the house (and I didn’t have a working exhaust fan) so if I’m going to get out the cast iron and make the mess, I like to do at least 2 or 3 meals worth.   After searing,  I put the meat and juices into vac sealed bags and freeze them.  The next time I want stew or pot roast, or pork carnitas, I defrost the meat and put it right into the cooker, no muss, no fuss.

I’m sure there are plenty of other people out there that have written or ‘tubed about the vac sealer more eloquently and more completely than I have, but these ideas should get you started if you are holding out.  I consider the vac sealer to be essential, so I have my daily driver, then another spare of a similar type, then two more  spares of the ‘seal a meal’ manual type.  I just picked up another one from goodwill this week to have on the shelf.  You’ll find uses for it, if you have one.

So that’s some ideas for stacking, get to it.

 

nick

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

Fri. Nov. 27, 2020 – just another day to work

Cool, overcast, possible rain later.

Well, Thanksgiving Day has come and gone.  We here at Casa de Nick have enjoyed another feast, with most of the traditional foods we are used to having.  We missed having friends and family over, but it did make for a more calm and relaxing day.

I actually managed to get some other stuff done too.  I went through a bunch of stuff and filled a couple of bins for my local auction.  I have more to go through, and the ebay bin will need to be listed, but it looks like progress…  And I repaired an item that should sell for hundreds of bucks on ebay.

My wife continued painting in the kitchen in addition to preparing some really good food.  If I wasn’t going to my rent house to do plumbing repairs today, I’d be in the attic getting the range hood installed.   I guess that will wait until Saturday.

I’ve never been interested in “Friday of Color” sales.  I can often find better pricing, or similar pricing but on better versions of the items and avoid the stampedes.  I did look at a few of the cyber- offers.  An ammunition reseller had Pelican cases marked down.  That was it.  They didn’t even have any ammo for sale.  Some other places online had weirdo import guns, and small manufactures I’ve never seen before, but no big names.  A few, very few, had name brand models, at high prices.  Selection and quantity were very limited.

Fry’s offers were about where MicroCenter is normally.  MicroCenter was competitive with Costco.  Costco expanded the tech they have for sale dramatically.   As an aside, a decade after leaving the field of large format, high resolution CURVED displays, the new hotness is curved monitors on desks.  I guess once you’ve sold everyone two monitors, and with 3D still a bust, curved looks like a growth space.   After a decade of putting in curved displays, we determined that they are essentially single user devices.  They work poorly for large groups unless the display is HUGE and the intent is awe, rather than work.  Large curved TVs had the same issues we saw with our much larger systems and didn’t fly off the shelves.   Desktop users might be the actual sweet spot for wide curved displays.  As long as you don’t need two…or three.*

It will be interesting to see if the shoppers ignore social distancing and masks in the rush to get cheap crap, like the holiday travelers did.

I’m not one to panic, but I do take the wuflu seriously.  It didn’t kill us like it killed chinese, but I’ll put some of that down to unknown factors, and some down to masks and distancing.  It’s hard to catch something if you aren’t around anyone who has it.  The number of people traveling this week pretty much ensures that we will see a large spike in cases, on top of the current increases, just in time for Christmas travel, which will either not happen if things are REALLY bad, or will put the nail in the coffin of containment and mitigation.  You can argue severity, transmissibility, lethality, and the legality and effectiveness of the actions taken by political figures, but you can’t argue the ACTUALITY that the disease exists, is spread person to person, and makes some percentage very sick, and kills a smaller percentage of those.  With very large numbers exposed, we WILL see large numbers of sick, and larger numbers of both very sick, and lethally sick people than we have been seeing.

That will cause a number of responses, both social and political.  I can’t predict which way it will go.  I expect political ‘leaders’ to try more, harder.  If you are in an area with already repressive government – I think you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.  Those of us in less restrictive areas are going to see increasing restrictions.  Or despite everything we’ll lose control and it will sweep through like a wildfire, in which case you’ll stay isolated voluntarily.

Either case or anything in between can be made better on an individual level by avoiding people.  Get ready to increase your personal protective behaviors.  This isn’t going to be a time to be out shopping or ‘living your best life’.    Get that stuff out of the way NOW, right now, before the wave hits.  And stack it high, because a surging hospitalization rate is actually likely to be only ONE of our worries as the next month or two plays out.

I know it’s doom and gloom.  But we ARE living with social unrest (rioting/insurrection), a global pandemic, and an uncertain election and transfer of power, which could turn into full on fighting in the streets.  France fell in 2 weeks to the Germans.  Just last month, suddenly Armenia and Azerbaijan were lobbing mortars and bombs into each other’s cities.  Venezuela fell to failed state in less than two years.  It can happen very quickly.  Be ready to live with it and through it.

Keep stacking.  Be thankful for every day without those issues.

nick