Tuesday, 4 August 2015

09:04 – Science kit sales are starting to ramp up nicely. The real crunch starts mid-month. In past Augusts, we’ve done 33% to 38% of total monthly sales during the first half of the month and 62% to 67% in the second half. That continues through about mid-September and then gradually tapers off before it hits another smaller peak in December and January.

I see that Puerto Rico has now joined Greece in official default. They’re really scraping the bottom of the barrel now. They had a $58 million debt payment due yesterday, and were able to scrounge up less than a million, putting them in default. Of course, the $58 million is a drop in the bucket compared to their $72 billion in outstanding debt, which they have no prospect of repaying. And there’s no provision in the law for them to declare bankruptcy. They’re toast, unless US taxpayers come to the rescue, which I’m betting is what will happen one way or another. Can’t let the banks and funds take a loss, you know. Private profit and taxpayers footing losses is the new normal.

Speaking of Greece, their financial markets opened yesterday for the first time in weeks. The result was predictable, a catastrophic slide comparable to Wall Street on Black Friday in 1929. And today is more of the same. Private investors in Greek stocks, banks, and bonds are being wiped out as you read this. I don’t think Greece has many skyscrapers, which is fortunate because otherwise there’d be lots of people jumping out of their windows, producing a hazard to pedestrian traffic on the sidewalks beneath. I have no sympathy for the Greeks. They spent themselves into this hole, and they’re going to experience biblical suffering as a result. I just hope the same is true for Puerto Rico, although I doubt that will happen. But if it did it might at least provide an object lesson for governments elsewhere.

More science kits to build and ship.

13:09 – I look back fondly to the days when I could remember the name of everyone who’d ever ordered a science kit from us, from day one on. Sitting here, I just realized that I can’t remember the names of even the people who’ve ordered nine kits so far today. My memory is a pale shadow of what it once was, but this is ridiculous.

It’s only going to get worse when Barbara retires from the law firm and comes to work more-or-less full time for our business. That’ll allow me to ramp things up to the point where we’re shipping at least four or five times as many science kits as we do now. So far, I’ve intentionally kept a low profile to keep demand manageable. In 2016 and beyond, we’ll be intentionally growing the business, introducing many new kits and addressing new market segments.

I still want to keep things home-based and avoid hiring any employees, but even within those constraints there’s a lot we can do to expand volume. When we first started up, I remember laughing at the idea that USPS would send a special truck to our house to pick up shipments if we needed them to. At the time, that seemed very unlikely to happen, but it may before too much longer. It’s actually happened a couple times already, when USPS showed up and I had 30 or 40 kits to ship that day. He had to take what he had room for in the truck, go back to the post office to drop off his load, and return to pick up the rest of my packages.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

08:37 – The Greek parliament has once again voted in favor of complying with the Troika’s new “austerity” terms, which amounts to committing national economic suicide in aid of being allowed to remain in the eurozone. And it’s all for nothing. The Greek people seem to believe that staying in the euro guarantees that they will continue to receive the huge subsidies they’ve been receiving for a decade or more, allowing them to maintain a much higher standard of living than they earn. It doesn’t. Greeks will never see a cent of the additional money that the Troika may “lend” to Greece. Those funds will be used to benefit Greece’s creditors, and only the creditors. Meanwhile, Greece will continue going deeper and deeper into debt until it all finally collapses. Greece would be far, far better off departing the euro, defaulting on everything it owes, and returning to the drachma. Yes, that would mean that Greece would be unable to borrow money on the open market for at least a decade and probably two and that Greeks would suffer deep poverty for that same period, but that’s actually the best they can hope for.

On Jen’s recommendation, I started reading Ken Benton’s SurviRal last night. She said it wasn’t a great book, but it was worlds better than most of the recent PA fiction. She’s right. The guy writes competently, and the book is reasonably well edited. It’s a bit odd in that the protagonists are a married couple of anti-prepping clueless Denver suburbanites who are religious but not obnoxiously so, but have a well-prepared brother down in the sticks a hundred miles or so south of them. This is the first recent PA novel I’ve read that I haven’t wanted to start marking up with a red pen, put a circled D or F on the front page, and add a note to try again and get it right before submitting it.

More work on science kits today.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

08:53 – I wrote Sunday,

“As far as I can see, the only way out of this for Greece, if there is any way out, is for the EU to abolish government at all levels in Greece and appoint a receiver to oversee the bankruptcy of Greece and the auctioning off of Greek assets to pay off the creditors. Greece will have to become an EU colony for the foreseeable future, ceding all local control.”

but I didn’t actually expect them to do it. I underestimated just how much the Germans and the rest of the Northern Tier distrust Greece, because that’s essentially what they’ve gotten Tsipras to agree to. Whether or not the Greek legislators vote tomorrow to accept those humiliating terms is still very much up in the air. And, even if they do, it’s extremely unlikely that the Northern Tier will agree to fund yet another “bail out” for Greece, knowing that Greece will never repay the earlier bail outs, let alone the one under discussion. Payback, as they say, is a bitch.

My next task is to build another 60 biology kits and chemistry kits, which I’ll be working on over the next few days. With what we already have on hand, those should be enough to carry us through July and into August. Once I get those built, we’ll go back to making up solutions, labeling and filling bottles, and making up subassemblies for yet another batch of kits.

Barbara’s TV remote stopped working a week or so ago. When I popped the lid of the battery compartment, I found that the two AAA alkalines had leaked. At the time, I thought nothing about it. I just cleaned out the compartment, put a fresh pair of alkalines in, and gave it back to her. The other night, it stopped working again. When I opened it, the new cells had leaked. So this time I rinsed it out thoroughly under running tap water and put it aside to dry completely. This morning, I used a hair dryer for a couple of minutes to make sure the interior was dry, and again replaced the two AAA alkalines from a new pack of them. It works. We’ll see if it keeps working or the cells leak again.

Which has gotten me thinking about replacing all of our AA and AAA alkalines with low self-discharge (LSD) NiMH cells. We’ll use up our remaining stock of alkalines, which is around 100 of the AAA’s and maybe 40 of the AA’s, and then shift over to the rechargeables. For now, I’m going to pull the alkalines from our long-term storage stuff–flashlights, radios, etc.–and put the devices and a couple sets of alkalines with taped terminals in plastic bags.

We have a few devices that use C or D alkalines, mostly flashlights and lanterns, and those are a problem to convert to NiMH. C and D cells make up a tiny percentage of sales. AA and AAA combined are literally something like 97% of sales. So C or D NiMH cells are pretty hard to find, even on-line. When you can find them, they fall into one of three categories: ones made by name-brand alkaline companies like Duracell, Energizer and other mass-market suppliers, cheap Chinese ones that I wouldn’t trust, and the big name-brand NiMH cells like MaHa and Powerex. The Duracell/Energizer class ones are crap. They don’t want to cannibalize their alkaline sales, so their NiMH models are generally pathetic, with capacities of maybe 2,500 mAH in D (versus 10,000 to 12,000 mAH for the good brands). Their only advantage is that they’re reasonably inexpensive, roughly four or fives times the $1.25 price of an alkaline. Many of the Chinese no-name D cells have reasonable rated capacities of 8,000 to 10,000 mAH, but that’s usually grossly exaggerated and these rechargeables tend to die fairly young. Then there are the good brands, which have high capacities and are quite reliable. The problem with them is the price, typically $30 or so each. And, to top it all off, probably half of the available C and D models use early generation technology and are not low self-discharge. So I think we’ll stick with alkalines for our C and D devices.

Monday, 13 July 2015

09:17 – This guy gets it: On Second Thought, Stick to Your Guns He understands that US supporters of the 2nd Amendment are going to keep our guns. They’re not for hunting. They’re not for recreational shooting. They’re for the reason that the 2nd Amendment was written in the first place: to keep the government in line.

And here’s a story about a Customer service shocker. Having dealt with this company frequently for years, it’s not shocking to me. What’s shocking is that it’s not the norm. It used to be.

The headlines are shouting that the Greek crisis is over. Not even close. All that that Marathon 17-hour session accomplished was Greece agreeing to even more stringent terms ahead of any discussions about a further bailout, in exchange for the EU providing a trickle of additional funding. Chances are there won’t be any future bailout, because that would require unanimous approval by all of the EU nations. The probability of that happening is close to zero. Even if Germany could somehow be persuaded to agree, there’s still Finland, Netherlands, Slovenia, Slovakia, and all three Baltic states, all of which are very strongly opposed to “lending” any more of their money to Greece.

10:33 – Email from Jen. She and her husband have been discussing buying a cabin up at the lake, about an hour’s drive from their home, at least under normal conditions. Interestingly, Jen, who is the strongly pro-prepping member of that couple, is opposed, while her husband is in favor.

Jen argues that it’s too far away, too expensive, might be impossible to get to if things really turn bad, and is a distraction from things they should be doing at home. I told Jen that I agree with her. Their home is already reasonably remote from the underclass. They have infrastructure already in place there, and a supportive group of friends and neighbors. If they were near a large city, that’d be one thing. Barbara and I are relocating in part because we’re currently inside the Winston-Salem city limits, entirely too close to large numbers of underclass scum. Jen and her husband are already located in an excellent location, so it makes sense to me that they should focus their efforts (and money) on improving where they are rather than looking for somewhere else to go. I could be wrong, but events are unpredictable, and as Frederick the Great said, “he who defends everything, defends nothing.”

15:22 – As if we needed more evidence, the Greeks are not the only lying weasels in this mess. The eurocrats are a bunch of lying liars as well. EU demands Britain joins Greek rescue fund

The UK needs to withdraw from the EU immediately. The EFTA (Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein), none of whom are EU members, has been encouraging the UK to withdraw from the EU and join them. That would make particular sense for the UK, which was one of the founding members of the EFTA. By doing so, the UK would get what it really wants–free trade with the EU–without any of the political or economic entanglements that are part of EU membership.

Sunday, 12 July 2015

08:54 – Our cities are coming apart at the seams. “Police departments across the country that have spent years boasting about plummeting crime numbers are now scrambling to confront something many agencies have not seen in decades: more bloodshed.” And it’s not just the largest cities, either, nor is it just murder rates that are skyrocketing. Any town that has a significant underclass population is at risk. The progressives are doing their best to make it impossible for police to do their jobs, which should be and always was to protect decent people from the underclass leeches.

The eurocrats are making no progress on the Greek crisis, basically because none of the EU leaders believe the Greeks can be trusted. The Greeks have done nothing but lie. They lied their way into the EU originally, and they’ve done nothing since but make promises that they had no ability or intention to keep. The rest of the EU has finally come to realize that you can tell the Greeks are lying if their lips are moving. The Greeks make Joe Isuzu look honest.

As far as I can see, the only way out of this for Greece, if there is any way out, is for the EU to abolish government at all levels in Greece and appoint a receiver to oversee the bankruptcy of Greece and the auctioning off of Greek assets to pay off the creditors. Greece will have to become an EU colony for the foreseeable future, ceding all local control. Greece hasn’t had a functioning government in living memory and has no prospect of ever developing one on its own. It’s time to recognize that and bring in a non-Greek to get things back on a business-like footing.

Friday, 3 July 2015

08:34 – Greece is in the toilet. Greek banks cumulatively are down to less than €500 million cash, or about €40 per person. With the daily €50 withdrawal limit, that means the banks will run completely out of cash this weekend. Ambulances aren’t running because more and more of them have run out of gasoline and can’t get more. Not that that really matters, because hospitals have run out of many critical drugs and can’t get more. Foreign tourists have been warned that food and drugs are so short that there’s no guarantee they’ll be able to eat or get urgent medical care. Famously, one Greek newlywed couple in New York is living on the street and begging for food because their credit cards are no longer honored.

It would appear that the goal of the eurocrats is to drive Tsipras from office and force the Greeks to knuckle under, after which a trickle of aid will resume, just enough to keep Greeks from starving. One way or another, Greece is finished, a failed state.

Unless Greece tells the EU to get stuffed, defaults on its existing debt pile, and abandons the euro for a native currency. That’s their best option at this point. The new drachma would be introduced at parity with the euro, and would quickly loose most of its nominal value. Greeks would face at least another decade of grinding poverty, much worse than they’ve already experienced. But the alternative of giving in to the EU and continuing with the euro is worse still.

We’re working all weekend on kit stuff. I was hoping to find a Confederate flag to fly out front tomorrow, but there are none for sale anywhere.

10:29 – We’re back from a quick Sam’s Club run, where we picked up Coke, orange juice, and not much else, other than 35 pounds of soybean oil. Now, to work on kits.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

08:15 – I see that asshole Obama now intends to remake America’s neighborhoods, making sure that every middle-class neighborhood will have plenty of poor people and gangbangers and other undesirables. For 50 years now, I’ve been saying that government is the enemy. More and more people are coming to understand that I’ve been right all along.

Decent people don’t want the underclass in our midst, and we keep taking steps to get away from them. Obama thinks we’ve been too successful, so his answer is to start distributing the underclass scum into nice areas, with the goal of turning those nice areas into underclass hellholes, spreading the misery as widely as possible instead of doing as he should and concentrating it into as few areas as possible. We used to call them ghettos.

If that asshole Obama could get away with it, I’m sure he’d like to put a gangbanger or other underclass scum in every spare bedroom in middle-class America. But he can’t get away with that, yet, so he’s going to do the best he can by using federal powers to mandate housing for underclass scum in nice areas. I don’t want underclass scum living near me. I don’t want underclass scum living, period.

So, what’s to be done?

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

07:44 – All signs are that yet another Greek default is imminent, perhaps as soon as the end of the month. When or if that happens, Greece crashing out of the euro is almost inevitable. The follow-on effects on the European and world economies are unpredictable at this point, but they won’t be good, to put it mildly. Best case, eurozone taxpayers are left holding the bag and are likely to vent their fury on EU politicians and mainstream political parties, with unpredictable consequences and likely regime changes. Worst case, we’re looking at a catastrophe unfolding over the coming months and years that will make Lehman look minor and will spread to affect the rest of the G7. In any case, Greece is toast.

There’s some time left, but now would be a good time to get stocked up, if you haven’t done already.

13:17 – Email from Jen, saying that she’d ordered one can each of the Keystone canned chicken and pork to see how she and her family liked them. She commented that at $4.44 for a 14.5-ounce can the Keystone chicken was more expensive than the Costco Kirkland-branded chicken at $2.30 for a 12.5-ounce can, but that she wanted to try them side by side to see if the Keystone was enough better to justify the higher cost. Actually, the Costco product is more expensive because that 12.5-ounce can is “packed in water” and contains only 7 ounces of actual chicken. The Keystone product is “no water or broth added” and contains the full 14.5 ounces of actual chicken. On a per-ounce basis, the Costco canned chicken is just under $0.33, or about $5.25/lb., while the Keystone is about $0.306, or about $4.90/lb.

Keystone is even a better deal in the 28-ounce cans, which shouldn’t be a problem given how many people Jen plans to feed. The chicken in 28-ounce cans is $7.34, or $0.262/ounce or $4.19/lb. The 28-ounce cans of ground beef, pork, and turkey are less expensive than the chicken, at $6.28 each, or $0.224/ounce, or $3.59/lb.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

08:36 – In a sign of the times, North Carolina education authorities are considering what to do about thousands of children who’ve flunked out of third grade. State law requires 3rd grade students to pass a reading test. Those who don’t are held back and undergo a summer reading course, after which they’re retested. But only about 100 of the 500 or so students in the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County schools who went through that course were then able to pass the test, leaving things up in the air for the 80% or so who failed the test twice. State law makes no provision for what happens next.

They can’t very well dumb-down the test any further. It already defines a third-grade reading level at what most reasonable people would consider to be a Pre-K level, “See Jack run” and so on. Of course, most of the problem pupils are ESL kids, who are illiterate not only in English but usually also in their native language, which is mostly Spanish. The obvious answer would be to export them and their families back to Mexico, but there’s not much chance of that happening.

As I sit here at my desk preparing to write huge checks for state and federal estimated taxes, I wonder how the hell it became my responsibility to pay for futile attempts to educate the ineducable children of Mexican peasants. I really have had enough, and I’m by no means alone. It’s long past time to roll things back to where they used to and should still be.

09:41 – Ooops. I just realized that my last post is what progressives would probably call a “microagression”. Or maybe a “macroagression”. I’d like to macroaggress those sons of bitches with a 12-gauge. Buckshot rounds aren’t cheap, but I wouldn’t begrudge the cost of 1,000 rounds or so. Hell, tar, feathers, and rails are cheaper still. (Note to censors: this isn’t true threat speech. I’m not saying I’ll do it, nor am I encouraging others to act. I’m merely saying that I’d like to. I wouldn’t actually do it unless I could get away with it, so this is merely free polemic speech protected by the shreds of the First Amendment.)

If you’ve ever tried to transfer bulk food like rice, flour, sugar, beans, etc. into clean 2-liter bottles, you probably already know how difficult it is to find a wide-stem funnel that fits inside the mouth of 2-liter bottles. There’s actually a company that makes such funnels specifically for filling 2-liter bottles, but their prices are outrageous. A few years ago, Barbara found the solution. It’s called The Pampered Chef Flexible Funnels. They come in a set of two nesting funnels. The small one is just a typical funnel. The larger is a wide-stem funnel that is a slip fit for the inside of the mouth of a 2-liter bottle.

Speaking of outrageous prices, though, you’ll have to check around to avoid being ripped off. Amazon has them, but for $22.19/set. I’ve seen them new on eBay for as little as $5/set. Barbara just bought two more sets as a gift for me, and thinks she paid about $8/set. They’re silicone, so they’re very flexible and nearly indestructible. This or a similar funnel is essential for filling 2-liter bottles without wasting effort or spilling food all over the place.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

07:33 – If you don’t already have them, you can freely download Matt Bracken’s Enemies Trilogy for Kindle today through Friday. Or you can do as I prefer to do. Download the first one as a free sample. If you like it, wait until the free offer expires and pay for the others. (H/T to OFD)

The latest in the Greek farce is that Greece and the Troika may come to an agreement that allows Greece to pretend a bit longer not to be bankrupt and in default. This agreement, if it comes to pass, won’t help Greece a bit, but of course that’s not the intention. By lending Greece enough to make payments on its existing debts for a while longer, the “institutions” can continue to carry that debt on their balance sheets as good debt rather than writing it off. That provides a political fig leaf to allow Merkel and the rest to pretend to their voters that all is well. All is anything but well.

More work on science kit stuff today.

11:03 – I’ve been doing purchase orders this morning for the stuff we’re running short of, especially stuff that is often backordered. Things like slide sets, thick cavity slides, and so on. I’m trying to keep parts inventory down as much as possible to minimize the amount of stuff we’ll need to move to West Jefferson. The only item I ordered multiple cases of was splash goggles. I ordered three cases of those because they only come 100 to a case. With what we already have on hand, 300 more should be enough to get us through the autumn rush.

Goggles are another of the items that do double duty as prepping items. I’m always surprised by how few preppers keep goggles on hand for everyone. Their use for shooting is obvious. Anyone who’s done a lot of shooting with autoloaders (let alone automatic weapons) has probably been hit in the face by an ejected case at least once. Guns that eject upwards are notorious for this, but even those that eject to the side occasionally throw an empty in your face. I even talked to a guy once who’d taken one in the face from a bottom-ejector. Then there’s always the possibility of a blown primer or split case blowing hot gas and particulates in your face. That’s why I always wear goggles rather than just shooting glasses. Goggles are also essential if it’s very cold outside or if you’re dealing with smoke and particulates from a fire or other event.