Fri. July 20, 2018 – busy week

Another hot one, 80F at 6am. Forecast for record heat.

Whether we’re swirling around the edge of the toilet bowl, or at the dawn of a new age, it’s pretty clear that big changes are happening in the world. The march to war might be delayed a bit, or we might be getting played while our enemies align themselves and get ready. We might be headed toward civil war, as people on both sides seem almost to yearn for it. Who knows?

Or we might be headed into a general collapse. I think it’s well underway and we just don’t see the signs. Today is pretty much like yesterday, and so it’s been throughout history. Certainly our star is not ascending.

We have MASSIVE homelessness. We have a stunning number of people on welfare and other forms of .gov aid. We have lost control of our borders to the point that somewhere around 10% of the population is currently foreign invaders. They have spread throughout the nation, and are suddenly visible, like when a geometric progression doubles to the point you see it, then doubles again… just consider the number of machete attacks.

If people defecating in the streets, gangs pulling people out of buildings and hacking them to death, and record low workforce participation rates aren’t enough, consider the rise of socialism in our political realm. This is an idea that is opposite to our national character, but the long march has been so effective that openly socialist candidates can win party primaries. Our elites get wealthier, while our ‘normals’ get poorer, and civic institutions degrade. [consider than when I was young, it was entirely normal that a man in a skilled trade, as the sole breadwinner, would be able to afford a cabin on a lake, a pontoon boat, snowmobiles, a camper, etc. Contrast that to today.]

The very things we establish government to provide are no longer working. Clean water. Education. Safety and rule of law. Public works infrastructure.

Consider just thirty years ago. What was the relationship of the public to cops? Bottled water? Aid organizations? Refugees? What did inner cities look like? Gangs? Public infrastructure? What was public morality like? What was cultural sexuality like? Cultural violence?

Consider 40 years. 50.

I think we don’t see it because we are too close to the problem. Convince me otherwise. Or what have you done to prep this week??


Friday, 28 August 2015

07:33 – Who would have believed even a few years ago that the European financial crisis, which remains an existential threat to the EU, would turn out to be a mere sideshow? The real threat now is the invasion of Europe by millions of undesirables, mostly muslims. Americans who are rightly concerned about the invasion of the US by millions of Mexican undesirables should thank their lucky stars. Sure, a disturbingly high percentage of those Mexican wetbacks are murderers, rapists, drug dealers, and other scum, but most illegal Mexican immigrants want nothing more than a better life, albeit at taxpayer expense. The muslims who are invading Europe have no intention of assimilating. They intend to make Europe theirs, another outpost of their perverted so-called culture.

And Europe has even fewer controls on illegal immigration than the US does. As of now, Europe has essentially no national borders, and would have no way to defend them against such an invasion even if it did. Even the UK, Europe’s last bastion of semi-sanity, has already been invaded by upwards of five million who were born outside not just the UK but the EU, and Merkel is currently attempting to force the UK to accept hundreds of thousands more of them. Per year. Will there always be an England? Not the way things are going now.

Hint to Europe: the only way to respond to such an invasion is to use armed force. These aren’t “refugees” or “immigrants”. These are invaders, and the proper response is to slaughter them wholesale until they realize that they aren’t welcome in Europe. If Italy had any sense, it wouldn’t be using its navy to rescue these invaders. It would be cordoning off its waters with gunboats with orders to sink any boat or ship attempting to enter their waters illegally. If the UK had any sense, it would block its end of the Chunnel with military forces with orders to machine gun anyone attempting to enter illegally. Haul the bodies in garbage trucks to the sea and toss them to the sharks. Because that’s what these invaders are: garbage. Men, women, and children. None of them belong in Europe, let alone the UK.

Truth be told, it’s too late for continental Europe. It’s toast. Even if it had the will, which it doesn’t, it no longer has the means. The barbarians are not just at the gates, but among them. The muslim invasion has succeeded. But the UK at least still has a chance, albeit a small one, to stem this tide and fight off the invaders. But I’ll be surprised if the UK takes any effective measures to defend itself. The British government isn’t what it once was, nor is the RN, the RAF, or the British Army.

I finished season one of Jericho (2006) on Netflix streaming. This is my third time through. Barbara and I watched it once on DVD soon after it ran originally and then I convinced her to watch it a second time on Netflix streaming a year or so ago. It gets better and less confusing with multiple viewings.

This time through, I’m appreciating more just how nuanced the plotting and writing are. I could have done without the terrorist plot thread that runs through the whole series. I’d have preferred they just deal with the aftermath, its effects on a small community, the personalities, and how they deal with it, but that’s a minor nit. Within the limitations of a network TV series, they did an excellent job. Sure, there are quite a few minor issues with it. For example, a month or two after the EOTAWKI, they have a group gathered in someone’s home, with the room illuminated by literally dozens of candles and battery lanterns. One would think that at that point they’d be trying hard to conserve candles and batteries. And the writers seem to think that barricades of old cars and wooden pallets will stop bullets, when of course they won’t even slow them down much. But again, those are minor nits. The situations and scenarios are realistic, as is the behavior of the many characters. I wish it had run for more than a season and a half.

If you’re at all concerned about the state of things, I’d strongly recommend that you binge-watch this series. Watch it two or three times, and think about it. Think about how you’d deal with the issues that they bring up. It’s fiction, not a non-fiction preppers’ manual, but a key part of prepping is mental preparedness, deciding what you’ll do if a particular thing happens. For that, Jericho is excellent.

Nearly all of my time this week was devoted to working on science kit stuff, but here’s what I did to prep this week:

  • I bought a case of two dozen 12-ounce cans of Harvest Creek Pulled Pork from Costco. I wanted to compare this product against the Keystone Meats pulled pork, which Barbara thinks is just okay in barbecue sandwiches. If she likes this stuff at least as well as the Keystone product, we’ll standardize on it for pulled pork. I’d been paying Walmart $3.59/pound for the Keystone pork in 28-ounce cans. The 12-ounce cans of Harvest Creek pork are $3.33/pound, and are also a better size for us than the 28-ounce cans. Keystone pork is available in 14.5-ounce cans, but at a noticeably higher price per ounce.
  • I bought another case of two dozen 11-ounce cans of Crider Chicken Bologna from Costco. I tried a can of this mechanically-separated chicken. It’s okay, if a bit bland, but it is cheap meat protein at under $2/pound. It can be sliced for sandwiches or cut into chunks for stir-fry, stews, casseroles, etc. It’s basically just chicken meat.

With what we already have, that’ll do for now in terms of shelf-stable meats, other than periodically replacing what we use. If we ever do need to eat solely from long-term storage, our diet will be considerably lighter in meat than it is now, but we’ll have enough to get along.

So, what precisely did you do to prepare this week? Tell me about it in the comments.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

07:54 – When I was talking with Kim yesterday, I mentioned Barbara seeing a guy in plain clothes wearing a pistol openly. Kim, who’s a New York City native, said that seeing that would make her extremely nervous. I said, “So, if I strapped on my pistol before the next time I walked Colin down here to see you, you’d be afraid of me?” She just laughed and said that of course she wouldn’t be afraid, because it’s me. What would scare her is a stranger openly carrying a weapon in public, which is a completely different thing from being afraid of the weapon itself. Given what’s been in the news constantly for years now, I have to admit that her fears are not unreasonable. Also, people like us have to remember that sheep aren’t afraid just of wolves. Sheepdogs terrify sheep, too, because we look a lot like wolves.

Speaking of culture, that Winston-Salem alderman who proposed changing the name of the Dixie Classic Fair because he considered it racially divisive has backed off fast because of an outpouring of outrage in phone calls and emails from his constituents. He’s withdrawn his proposal, apparently realizing that if he pushes it he doesn’t have a prayer of being re-elected.

More science kit stuff today. Yesterday was a slow day. We shipped only one science kit.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

08:40 – The paper this morning is full of articles about state governments banning the Confederate flag and retailers pulling Confederate flag merchandise from their shelves. I’m not sure what the furor is about. I understand that the Confederate flag offends many people. So what? There’s no Constitutional right not to be offended. There is a Constitutional right to Free Speech. If retailers choose not to sell Confederate flag merchandise, fine. That’s their right. But the government does not have the right to ban its production, sale, or display.

To those who claim that the Confederate flag is a racist symbol, I say bullshit. There were two major symbols that represented the two sides during the War Between the States. The Union flag represented just that: a powerful centralized government usurping States’ Rights. The Confederate flag represented just that: a confederacy of sovereign states. That’s it. Period. It had nothing to do with race. Both whites and blacks fought voluntarily on both sides. Union soldiers were fighting to force sovereign states to abdicate their sovereignty in favor of a centralized federal government. Confederate soldiers were fighting to preserve their states’ sovereignty. The bad guys won. It’s that simple.

The Greek farce continues. Yesterday, briefly, it seemed that Greece, or at least Tsipras, might be ready to give in to the Troika demands. The problem is, Tsipras reminds me of the reason the Brits don’t trust the Irish. Back in the day, the Brits and Irish had many pitched battles. The Brits might capture the Irish chieftain and demand surrender. He’d surrender, but the Irish troops would continue fighting on. Their position was the the chieftain had surrendered on his own behalf, but he certainly wasn’t authorized to surrender on their behalf. So the Irish would elect a new chieftain, and the Brits would be left holding the bag. Think of Tsipras as that Irish chieftain. He may surrender to the Troika, but the Greeks will simply throw him out and elect someone new. Which is what’s about to happen to Tsipras, and he knows it. So today he’s a lot more intransigent than he was yesterday.

And it gets worse, because the Troika is not a monolithic bloc. The real problem now is that the IMF rightly says that Greece’s debt burden is unsustainable and the only option is to write it off. The IMF won’t participate in any further Greek bailouts unless the EU and ECB write down their Greek debt holdings. But they can’t do that, even though they know Greece will never pay them back, because recognizing the loss makes it obvious to their taxpayers (AKA voters) that their governments have wasted their hard-earned money by giving it to a deadbeat. So, no deal without the IMF, and the IMF won’t participate unless the eurocrats commit political suicide.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

09:25 – Today, Christians world-wide gather to celebrate the resurrection of the Easter Bunny. The fact that there is absolutely zero evidence that the Easter Bunny ever actually lived, let alone died and was resurrected, is apparently no impediment.

Interesting article on CNN about the boom in ebooks. The article ignores, as most do, the really significant factor: that the 90/10 rule applies in spades to ebooks and ereaders. That is, 10% of the readers read 90% of the books. Serious readers–those who read, say, 50 or more books a year–have migrated overwhelmingly to ereaders and ebooks. These readers as a group still read pbooks, but they buy very few of them. Most are borrowed from the library or friends, and when they do buy a new book it’s generally a paperback from an airport shop because they need something to read until they can recharge their Kindles. And if they do buy a new fiction hardback, it’s almost certainly from Amazon rather than a local bookstore. The entire traditional publishing infrastructure is disappearing, being replaced by the new ebook infrastructure. This is really good news for authors and really, really bad news for publishers, agents, bookstores, and the rest of traditional publishing.

The other sea change is the shift of books themselves from the scarcity model to the abundance model. In the Bad Olde Days, Barbara and I kept close eyes on our to-be-read piles because we didn’t want to run out of things to read. Nowadays, although we still have pbook TBR piles, there’s really no need for them. We have virtual TBR piles that contain millions of ebooks, all available with a few mouse clicks. We can read whatever we want to read, whenever we want to read it. Which also means we can be a lot pickier about what we choose to read. If we start a book and it turns out to be mediocre or worse, there’s no need to continue reading it just because it’s what we happen to have available. We can abandon it and move on to something better.

Nor need our virtual library be expensive. There are now literally hundreds of thousands of ebooks out there priced from $0.99 to $3 or $4, and that’s assuming we pay Amazon for them rather than simply download free ebooks, many of which are as good or better than the pay-for ebooks. In fact, a significant percentage of the free ebooks are pay-for titles that are temporarily given away to promote them and their authors. Barbara and I could both read every waking moment for the rest of our lives without putting even a small dent in the currently available titles, let alone the flood of new titles being released every day. In short, having new good stuff to read is now a solved problem.

Friday, 6 April 2012

08:03 – Names and dates. I was reading something the other night that was sneering at teaching history as “names and dates”. Over the last few decades, it’s become the prevailing opinion that such teaching of names and dates is useless. Perhaps that’s why few people who are younger than 50 or 60 years old know anything about history.

I learned history the old way, starting by memorizing hundreds and eventually thousands of, yes, names and dates. Even now, I remember most of those. Superficially, it may seem useless knowledge for me to remember, say, that Gaius Marius (157 to 86 BCE) served as consul seven times and reformed the legions or that Octavian (63 BCE to 14 CE) won the Battle of Actium in September 31 BCE or that Charles “The Hammer” Martel lived from 686 to 741 CE and won the Battle of Tours in the autumn of 732 CE or that Queen Victoria lived from 1819 to 1901. And, considered in isolation, those are indeed useless factoids.

But only when considered in isolation, and only when there are just a few of those factoids. When there are hundreds and thousands of them, they assume critical importance. They provide the framework for understanding history. Ironically, new-style history teachers condemn old-style history teachers for teaching “isolated names and dates” rather than teaching the relationships of people and events. In fact, it’s just the opposite.

Ask a student who learned new-style history about a particular period. They may understand a famous event in some detail, but if you ask them what was going on elsewhere in the world at about the same time that influenced that event, they’ll have no clue. Conversely, ask someone who learned old-style history about the same event. They’ll be able to “connect the dots”. They’ll know what was happening elsewhere at about the same time, and who was involved. The new-style student sees history as a collection of unrelated events; the old-style student sees history as a tapestry.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

07:30 – Regarding US manufacturing, this article (h/t to Derek Lowe) says pretty much what I’ve been saying for a couple of decades. Ultimately, all US factories will be staffed only by one man and his dog, or as close as doesn’t matter. The days when factories employed large numbers of unskilled and semi-skilled laborers are long gone, and the days are coming when even skilled specialists will be thin on the ground.

Efforts to maintain, let alone increase, manufacturing employment are futile and doomed to fail. Ultimately, US factories will become black boxes, with a chute on one end to receive raw materials and a conveyor on the the other end that delivers finished products, all with no human intervention. Some factories are nearly at that point even now. Manufacturing jobs? Good luck with that. There won’t be any.

As I’ve said frequently, human progress ultimately comes down to two things: new knowledge, which is produced by science, and productivity, which is produced by automation. Progress comes down to discovering new and more efficient ways to accomplish goals and then implementing that new knowledge.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

08:14 – I see that student loan debt has now passed $1 trillion. That’s about $3,000 for every man, woman, and child, more than automobile loans and credit-card debt. Something has to give, and soon. The average college graduate now owes $25,000 on leaving college, where many find themselves unemployed, if not effectively unemployable. We don’t need any more people with degrees in history or English or sociology, so why do we continue to produce a massive flood of them at such crippling cost?

The Big Lie is that a college degree results in lifetime earnings that are more than enough to pay the cost of that college degree. That’s true on average, but the devil is in the details. For one thing, it ignores the time value of money, not to mention the time value of time. And it ignores the fact that the value of college degree is strongly influenced by the field in which one obtains that degree. Getting a degree in English, for example, is a losing proposition. One comes out of college having wasted four years and owing $25,000 on average, not to mention the costs that student and his family have paid themselves. The reality is that that English major starts out down four years of wasted time and, conservatively, $100,000. Better to have spent those four years working and kept the $100,000 in his pocket.

Finally, there’s the huge factor that no one ever takes into account. Ability and work ethic. Those who go to college are, on average, significantly brighter and harder working than those who do not. Comparing lifetime earnings of those who were bright enough and hard-working enough to get a college degree to those who were not ignores the fact that that cohort who get college degrees would certainly have had higher lifetime earnings than the non-college cohort, even if the first group had never attended college. Smarter, harder-working people tend to be more successful in life. Attributing all of that incremental success to the college degree is ridiculous.

I’d like to see the whole concept of undergraduate education and graduate/professional education revamped. Students should not, for example, do a four-year undergraduate pre-med degree followed by med school. Instead, they should apply to med school right out of high school and do a six-year course of study leading directly to their MD. Same thing with accounting, law, engineering, the sciences, and other rigorous disciplines. Students who were not ready to declare a major could do one or two years of suitable general preparatory work before deciding to choose between, say, accounting or law or business on the one hand, or between medicine or chemistry or biology or engineering on the other. But the goal should always be to have students complete four to six years of targeted education and come out the other end fully qualified in their fields.

Nor need the student necessarily complete the full course of education. For example, a student whose goal was to obtain a graduate/professional-level certification after completing the full six-year course might not be able to cut it. Fine. That student might leave after two or three years with lower qualifications, suitable to become, say, a lab technician or a bookkeeper or a paralegal.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

08:22 – Okay, this is simply bizarre. Widespread theft of one particular brand of laundry detergent? The cops in various cities setting up task forces (!) to deal with it? Bootleg Tide? Geez. Of course, it’s bogus, a Faux News story, so to speak. Or at least Snopes says so.

I spent some time yesterday putting together a directory structure that includes nearly all of the image files in the biology book in full resolution, renaming the image files to correspond to the figure numbers in the text. I have some more work to do on it, but once it’s done I’ll burn it to discs and include those discs in the biology kits. Although high-res image files aren’t a perfect substitute for viewing actual slides, many kit buyers won’t want to spend $200 or more on 100+ prepared slides, and this set of uncompressed 6 and 12 megapixel JPEG image files gives them an inexpensive alternative.

16:15 – Will someone please, PLEASE, track down where “Cardholder Services” is, visit the site, slaughter everyone there, blow up the building, and plow it into the earth. It wouldn’t hurt to sow a little salt while you’re at it.

The sons of bitches knowingly violate the Do-Not-Call regulations. IIRC, they’ve been fined by the FTC, more than once. I just got a call from them, again. The fourth or fifth call in the last couple days. Fining them doesn’t work. The only thing that will work is actually killing them, which would be justifiable homicide. So, will someone please do that? I’d do it, but I’m too busy right now.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

08:58 –Today is the last day of Barbara’s four-day weekend. She’s picking up her sister and parents and heading for some big outlet mall somewhere.

Sunday we ran out of the Scotch Blue masking tape we use to seal chemical bottles. Barbara also needed a new gas grill, so yesterday we headed over to Home Depot to pick those up. While we were there, I browsed the plumbing section in search of Root Kill (99+% copper sulfate pentahydrate) and Crystal Drain Opener (essentially 100% sodium hydroxide). I bought three 2-pound (0.91 kilo) bottles of the copper(II) sulfate, but the drain opener was new and “improved”. Instead of nice white 100% sodium hydroxide crystals, it was an unspecified percentage of sodium hydroxide with other components that weren’t named. I unscrewed the lid on a bottle to look at it and it was a lavender powder. Yuck.

I also needed 97 g of calcium acetate monohydrate to make up the fertilizer concentrate part C for the biology kits. I thought I had that in stock, but I didn’t. So I just made some up by reacting calcium hydroxide with acetic acid. I guess it’s kind of wasteful to use ACS reagent grade acetic acid and calcium hydroxide to make up a fertilizer, but needs must. The result was interesting. I expected a clear, colorless solution of calcium acetate, with the excess calcium hydroxide present as a fine particulate. What I got was a yellowish-brown cloudy solution. Oh, well. I filtered it. It is, after all, fertilizer, so its appearance isn’t really important. What I ended up with was a clear pale yellow solution.

12:25 –Jerry Coyne’s blog is one of my daily reads. He is unabashedly atheist and politically liberal. He is also intellectually honest beyond question. Here’s his latest: Are there human races?

My answer is the same as it’s always been: of course there are. There are clear differences in phenotypes, as well as the underlying differences in genotypes. Denying that human races exist is like denying that dog breeds exist. But many scientists, including biologists, do deny the existence of human races, basing that belief on political considerations rather than scientific ones. The idea that races might exist and that very real differences among them might exist is simply anathema to the politically-liberal mind.

Interestingly, no one seriously questions that very real differences exist between the sexes. Men are, on average, larger, stronger, faster, and more aggressive than women. Women are, on average, hardier than men. That’s why, for example, between 105 and 108 baby boys are born for every 100 baby girls. There is also little doubt that men and women think differently. And, even after eliminating social and cultural factors, there’s little doubt that the intelligence of women tends to cluster closer to the mean. That is, a very intelligent person is considerably more likely to be male than female, and an extraordinarily intelligent person is overwhelmingly more likely to be male. Conversely, males are also over-represented at the extremes of stupidity. Or, to put it another way, the standard deviation in IQ among women is significantly smaller than it is among men. Despite those differences, the mean IQ of statistical populations of men and women is identical to within one percent.

Perhaps the hesitance to acknowledge differences among the races is supported by the fact that no one agrees on just what constitutes a human race or how many of them there are. Some authors have argued in favor of only three or four races, while others argue in favor of dozens. There can never be a true number, because the number is determined by how one chooses to define a race. How large must the differences be? Since humans are on a continuum, supporting the idea of a relatively large number of human races minimizes the differences among them. But one thing really is pretty certain: the differences between the sexes make the differences among the races pale into insignificance. Human males of whatever race have more in common with each other than they do with a woman who is part of their nominal racial group.

The problem with the liberal position denying the existence of races is that it results in shoehorning different people into the same mold. Once one recognizes that differences do exist, one can adjust one’s expectations accordingly. From the fact that blacks are over-represented in the NBA, it does not follow that the NBA is a racist anti-white organization. Nor does it follow from the fact that whites and particularly Asians are over-represented and blacks under-represented in high school AP classes and university STEM programs that these organizations discriminate against blacks. It’s long past time that we abandoned the inherently-racist position that equal opportunity implies equal outcomes. Some people are simply better at some things than other people are. It’s time to recognize that fact.