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.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

09:20 – Barbara and I have started rewatching The Walking Dead. We’d started watching this back in 2011 and got through only the first season. I liked it, but Barbara was turned off by all the gore.

Netflix now has seasons one through six available streaming, and I convinced Barbara to give it another try. She says she can tolerate one episode at a time, and as long as we interleave it with more peaceful stuff she’ll even watch two episodes in an evening. She just doesn’t want to binge-watch it.

I told her the other night she shouldn’t let the gore upset her because the Walkers weren’t human. I suggested she think of them as progressives or politicians or Obama/Clinton supporters, with whom after all they do have a lot in common. They’re slow, stupid, ugly parasites, who feast on (mostly) middle-class whites. Good people kill them on sight by shooting, stabbing, or bludgeoning them. What’s not to like?

The series is full of people doing smart things, dumb things, vindictive things, kind things, generous things, stingy things, brave things, craven things, and so on. Sometimes the same person doing all of those. In other words, people behaving like real people. This series is very popular amongst preppers. Not because the characters were well-prepared for the zombie apocalype, but because they weren’t. Instead, they have to deal with it, improvising as necessary and often paying the price for their lack of preparation.

Interesting comment yesterday:

ayjblog says:
17 October 2016 at 12:11

Reading I just realized that my grandfather was a prepper, awesome, storing canned milk flour and so on. in the sixties and here

well, he survided Spanish Civil war, Franco concentration camp, and was born in a little village in Spain, maybe is genetic

Nearly ALL of our grandparents were preppers, as were all of their ancestors. The concept of NOT prepping is relatively recent, and if a catastrophe does occur a lot of people will pay the price for not being prepared.

Up until about 1950, everyone prepped from necessity. City dwellers just as much as rural people. Pretty much everyone had a deep pantry, simply because most food was still grown locally, and winter was still something that anyone with any sense prepared for. Power generation and manufacturing were also still largely local, which made communities tremendously more self-sufficient than they are today. People ate mostly what was in season, because not much was shipped long distances. My parents’ generation, born about 1915 to 1930, were less self-sufficient than their parents had been, but they could still get along with only local resources if they needed to. My generation became less self-sufficient than our parents, but that was offset to some extent by the fact that we grew up with the constant threat of nuclear war. We did shelter drills and hid under our desks at school and watched our parents build and stock fallout shelters. Barbara actually spent one night while she was in elementary school sleeping in the bomb shelter and eating survival crackers. I find it hard to believe that anyone our age can NOT be a prepper, given this kind of background.

It’s all down to Normalcy Bias. People think, subconsciously and even consciously, “It hasn’t happened in my lifetime, so it can’t happen.” The problem with that is that it HAS happened in their lifetimes. Not a year goes by that a catastrophe doesn’t happen somewhere. Catastrophes are ongoing this moment all over the world, from Haiti to the Middle East to Africa to Asia. It’s the height of arrogance to think it can’t happen here. Anyone who understands anything about history knows that just before every catastrophe the average person was thinking that it couldn’t happen there. Until it did.


Wednesday, 28 January 2015

09:24 – Barbara gets her staples out today, which should help a lot. She’s frustrated that she’s not recovering faster, even though according to her nurse and physical therapist she’s doing extremely well.

We’re re-watching Everwood, which features the adorable Emily VanCamp. As Barbara commented last night, she hasn’t changed much at all between age 15 in the first season of Everwood and age 27 now in Reven8e. She’s a young adult woman now, and she was a young adult woman then. If someone had told me she was 21 instead of 15 then, I’d have believed it. If someone told me she was 21 instead of 27 now, I’d believe it.

In one of the episodes we watched last night, the whole group ended up snowed in at a party. One of the characters came down with appendicitis and there was no way to get him to the hospital. There were three doctors present and a former Army nurse, so they had the skills they needed but not the equipment. Which got me to thinking of what I’d do in a similar situation. As it turns out, we’d be in pretty good shape, at least relative to most people. Other than whole blood, we’d have everything we needed or the means to make it, from povidone iodine to antibiotics to sterile scalpels and hemostats, masks, saline/D5W, and so on. I’d be very nervous about anesthesia, but I do have both chloroform and diethyl ether on hand, as well as the means to produce oxygen. Not to mention an earlier edition of the book Emergency War Surgery, which despite the title covers everything from doing appendectomies through C-sections.


Saturday, 24 January 2015

08:39 – One of the things about having Barbara at home all day for the next month is that I no longer have time to re-watch videos that she doesn’t want to re-watch. And until recently that meant any video she’d ever seen. I’d suggest re-watching an excellent series we’d last watched 30 years ago and she’d just say, “We already watched that”.

While she was in the hospital, I’d started re-watching Jericho. I was surprised after she was back at home when she agreed that I could continue re-watching it with her in the room. She even agreed that it was a very good series. So last night I told her that I’d really like to re-watch Everwood, and was surprised when she readily agreed. I’m really looking forward to seeing Emily VanCamp again at age 15. I knew she was special partway through the first episode, and I haven’t changed my mind ten years on.


09:52 – Speaking of Netflix streaming, I convinced Barbara to give Revolution a try last night. I watched the first few minutes before my bogosity meter pegged. What did it for me was a solid line of cars filling both lanes of an interstate at night. As the power failed, the headlights of the cars went out. But they didn’t go out all at once, no. Instead the closest cars went dark, and then the others in sequence like a row of dominoes going down into the far distance. Geez. What moron wrote this? I immediately backed out to the main Netflix menu, turned to Barbara, and asked what she thought of Revolution. She said it was terrible. I agreed.

So we went back to watching Borgia, which features the beautiful Marta Gastini as Giulia Farnese. One of the things I’ve noticed watching other series is that I often have trouble telling young actresses apart. One generically pretty brunette is much like another, so I often have to depend on non-facial characteristics like hair color, voice, build, and so on to differentiate them. With Borgia, I’ve added one characteristic to that list. It has lots of young women running around topless (and bottomless) and engaging in simulated sex. With the girls’ faces at odd angles, often partially covered by their hair or their partners’ heads or bodies, I sometimes can’t tell which is which. But, I have discovered, all of the actresses in this series have distinctive nipples, by which I can identify them even if their faces aren’t clearly visible.


11:21 – I just re-joined Amazon Prime because today-only it’s $72 rather than $99. For $72, it’s worth it to me. Not for $99.

Friday, 16 January 2015

09:19 – I’m still covered up. I have 14 kits to ship today, only 12 of which are in stock. What’s worse is that the two that aren’t in stock are of different types. I’m completely out of CK01B chemistry kits and BK01 biology kits, so making more of both is my top priority for today and tomorrow.


11:07 – I have the dozen kits that are in stock boxed up and ready to ship. I’m hoping to have the other two, plus whatever orders come in today and tomorrow, ready to ship tomorrow, since Monday is a USPS holiday for MLK day.

Barbara hits the gym twice a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays. On gym night, she doesn’t get home until 6:30 or so, which gives me time to watch a couple episodes of Heartland. But yesterday I decided instead to start re-watching Jericho on Netflix streaming, which she’s not interested in re-watching.

Jericho is one of the better post-apocalyptic dramas. It’s a shame it lasted only 29 episodes. There are some technical clangers: rain apparently clears heavy fallout, and the writers have people running around unprotected after the rain stops because the background radiation level is now very low. Say what? That, and having the guy who’s been out in the rain drink a bottle of iodine solution, which in real life would have put him into intensive care. They talked about mixing it with canned peaches to make it more palatable, which in reality would also have rendered the iodine safe because the vitamin C in the peaches would have oxidized the corrosive elemental iodine to harmless iodide ions. Not that iodine/iodide is going to do a thing to help someone who’s been exposed to a large dose of radiation. And so on. But overall the writers seem to be doing a pretty reasonable job so far, although I can’t remember enough about later episodes to know if they kept doing a reasonable job. It’s certainly worth watching.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

09:40 – Barbara and I just finished watching series one of Borgia on Netflix streaming. This is the 2011 version starring John Doman as Rodrigo Borgia. Barbara and I agree that this version is immensely better than the 2011 Showtime series The Borgias. It does have that one essential element of any good historical drama: lots of pretty young women running around topless and bottomless. Borgia plays fast and loose with historical fact, but not as much the Showtime version. Both versions do a hatchet job on Lucrezia, who by unbiased contemporary accounts was a very nice young woman. That’s what happens when your enemies win and get to write the histories. You find yourself accused after the fact of murdering people and having sex with your father and brothers.

I’m working on kit stuff and the prepping book. At the moment I’m writing about establishing a defensive perimeter for your neighborhood. I even stole an image from Nick Scipio’s page:

nolooters

For organizing a Neighborhood Watch on steroids, I’m trying to focus on important issues that I haven’t seen mentioned elsewhere. For example, what happens if/when things return to normal? When the police finally do show up, it could be embarrassing to have a pile of dead looter bodies at the entrance to your neighborhood. So I’ll recommend, for example, using shotguns whenever possible, because they are impossible to match forensically to a specific projectile. Mixing and sharing buckshot shells, for the same reason. Wearing balaclavas or panty hose masks, so that no one can say for sure who did what when. Wearing armbands in bright pink, blaze orange, or blaze green, both to make it easier to identify friendlies and as a sort of “uniform” for fig-leaf legal cover. Organizing overwatches for roadblocks and barricades, along with a rapid reaction force to support those overwatches. Centralizing communications and management of the local security force. And so on.

This is the kind of stuff that’s too extreme for Barbara’s tastes. (Wait until I get to the part about making grenades and Molotov cocktails…) I started writing the book with her name on it as co-author, but she said she doesn’t want her name on the book, so as I work on it now I’m removing “we” and replacing it with “I”.


Friday, 9 January 2015

07:54 – As it turns out, our official low the other night was 6F, tying the record from 1970. We finally replaced the roll-around humidifier we’d been using for several years. We got that one when the one built into the furnace failed and would have cost $1,000 to replace. The furnace guy recommended the roll-around unit and said it was what he used at home. It put about 2.5 gallons (10 liters) of water into the air per day, but required filter replacements a couple times a year that cost $30 or so.

Barbara wanted to replace it with an ultrasonic unit that didn’t require filters, so we checked Consumer Reports and ended up buying this one. Consumer Reports classifies it as a small, single-room unit, but rates it to put out 2.1 gallons per day, which is nearly as much as our old roll-around unit. So we decided to give it a try. So far, so good. The reservoir holds 3.0 liters and on high lasts about seven hours, so the actual output is about 10 liters or 2.7 gallons per day. It’s kept the relative humidity in the house at 43% or higher even during the frigid weather the other night. At under $30, if it lasts even one full season it’ll cost no more than replacing filters in the old unit, so we’ll see how it does.

We continued watching The Great War Diaries on Netflix streaming last night. So far, it’s one of the best WWI docudramas I’ve seen, second only to Black Adder Goes Forth. As always, I find myself wondering how the UK ended up allied with France and Russia instead of its natural ally, Germany. The world would have been a very different place. The UK and Germany would have won the war, the Bolsheviks would have been wiped out and the Romanovs reinstated if indeed they’d ever been overthrown, the US would have remained neutral, Hitler would have remained an obscure laborer, WWII would never have happened, and nuclear weapons would probably never have been developed.


Thursday, 8 January 2015

08:03 – Our low last night was 7F (-14C) or, as my grandmother would have called it, 25 degrees of frost. Our furnace ran pretty much constantly, but was able to maintain 68F (20C) in the house.

Barbara and I started watching The Great War Diaries on Netflix streaming last night, a reminder of just how quickly things can go from normal to catastrophically bad with little or no warning. Almost no one who woke up that morning at the end of June 1914 and read the newspaper headlines about the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in an obscure town in an obscure Balkan country believed much would come of it. And yet within a month essentially all of Europe and Russia was mobilized and armies were on the march. The four years of slaughter that followed would change all of their lives.


Monday, 5 January 2015

09:06 – Barbara and I have started watching The Killing on Netflix streaming. It’s about–surprise, surprise–the murder of a teenage girl. It seems that many of the series we watch involve the murders of teenage girls and young women, and I’m getting sick of it. Most of them are very well done, but I simply don’t like the subject matter. I know it happens, much too often, in real life, but watching fictional representations makes me cringe. To a lesser extent, the same is true of medical and legal dramas.

That’s why I’d just as soon watch series like Heartland over and over again. They have real writers who can spin interesting stories without using life-and-death issues as a crutch. I could happily re-watch stuff from our current Netflix queue and DVD library without ever adding anything new. Series like Heartland, Everwood, All Creatures Great and Small, Lark Rise to Candleford, and many others. I don’t even object to murder mysteries, as long as they’re cozies. What I can’t stand is this hard-boiled stuff.

I’m still cranking away on the prepping book. At the moment, I’m working on the Section I chapter on power, lighting, and communications. (Section I covers dealing with emergencies during the first month; section II up to one year; and section III with the long term.)


Monday, -3 January 2015

08:03 – I need to build more chemistry kits today. We have five in stock, but four orders for them that came in yesterday and overnight, including one that’s going to France. I have enough subassemblies in stock to make up another dozen or 15, so it’s just a matter of boxing them up. But we do need to get more subassemblies built.


13:11 – One thing about half-hour (actually 20- or 21-minute nowadays) TV series is that you can binge-watch an entire season pretty quickly. Over the weekend, Barbara and I made it through the 24 episodes of series 5 of Modern Family–about 8 hours worth–and nine of the 26 total episodes of Don’t Trust the Bitch in Apartment 23. DTtBiA23 was a mid-season replacement that followed Modern Family. Apartment 23 was mishandled by ABC, which ran episodes not just out of order but pretty much at random. No surprise that they ended up making only 26 episodes of it. The irony is that DTtBiA23 is a much better series than Modern Family. ABC should have seen that and nurtured it. Instead they treated it like Firefly.

Modern Family has an excellent cast and top-notch writing, but DTtBiA23 is better in both respects. Krysten Ritter is superb in the role of a slutty party girl who’s a borderline psychopath. Dreama Walker is also excellent as the nice girl from Indiana who finds herself in NYC with a great job and apartment all set up, which promptly falls through. James Van Der Beek, who played Dawson on Dawson’s Creek, plays himself as a fictional James Van Der Beek, with frequent allusions to Dawson’s Creek. This series is good enough that it could have run for many years if ABC hadn’t botched it.