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.

Friday, 23 January 2015

10:55 – Barbara’s doing extremely well; Colin, not so well. He has the squirties. He had a large accident last night, fortunately on the hardwood floor. He did pester but we ignored him, thinking he was just acting strangely as he so often does.

After she saw my post yesterday, Barbara pointed out that she did not mention groceries. She was talking about milk. Since we have four cases of non-fat dry milk stored, along with two or three cases of evaporated milk, we didn’t really need milk, either.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

09:49 – Barbara continues to do very well. She has physical therapy every day this week, and is up and walking around frequently.

We finished watching Jericho last night. Well, I watched it while Barbara kind of paid attention to it while she worked her crossword puzzles. On second viewing, I’m even more impressed with it than I was the first time. The best prepping series I’ve ever seen. Yeah, they get some trivial stuff wrong. For example, during a severe winter and a fuel shortage, people continue to live individually or in small groups in their own homes rather than consolidating several families per home to conserve scarce fuel. And, since the Event occurred at harvest time in rural Kansas, there really shouldn’t have been any shortage of food. A large surplus, more like. IIRC, every Kansas farm feeds on average something like 250 people. There should have been grains, beans, and other crops in abundance, and a surplus of meat and dairy products. And Jericho must have had a gigantic warehouse filled with batteries and candles, because three months after they’re isolated, Jericho residents are still using those profligately, with no apparent shortage. Routinely lighting rooms in homes with literally dozens of candles or several battery lanterns, and so on.

But despite those minor quibbles, the writers get it right. They have good leaders and bad leaders. Competent people and incompetent ones. Hotheads and conciliators. Even the good people sometimes behave badly, and most of the bad ones are bad only because they’re forced to be by circumstances. And, beyond the local authorities, government is not their friend. They’re even lucky enough to have a resident wizard.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

10:36 – Barbara starts physical therapy today. She’s already doing very well, and intends to go back to work as soon as possible. The absolute minimum the doctor will approve is four weeks off before she’s allowed to drive or return to work, so I expect she’ll be back at work by mid-February.

As of today, I’m caught up with shipping the backlog of kits. Of course, I’ve also run down my finished goods inventory, so I’ll be building more kits today and the rest of this week.

One of the fundamental principles of long-term food storage that many preppers ignore is to store what you already eat. That’s why we store zero wheat berries and zero dry beans. Both of those have essentially unlimited shelf-lives, but that’s pretty much the best that can be said for them. Few Americans eat diets that are heavy in either whole wheat or beans, and we’re no exception. When we last visited the LDS Home Storage Center in Greensboro, we hauled back close to 700 pounds of food in #10 cans. None of it was wheat or beans. Barbara put her foot down, and I agreed with her completely. Instead of wheat, we bought multiple cases of white flour, which is rated for 10 years shelf life. In reality, it’ll probably be good far longer, but every few years we’ll just add more and keep what we have in long-term reserve. As to beans, we buy pre-cooked beans by the case. (We both really like Bush’s Best Baked Beans.)

The same is true of meat. We eat mostly chicken and beef, with pork occasionally and fish once a week or so. Barbara doesn’t mind the canned chicken breast sold by Costco and Sam’s Club, so we keep three or four dozen cans of it in stock. She doesn’t care for any canned fish, so we have only a dozen cans or so of tuna for me and maybe a half dozen salmon, which she’ll tolerate, for her. She’s not a big fan of roast beef at the best of times, but she will tolerate the canned sliced roast beef sold by Costco, so we keep a couple of dozen 12-ounce cans of it on the shelf.

She does use a fair amount of ground beef, so I decided to stock up on it. Unfortunately, no local vendor carries canned ground beef, so I order heat-and-serve ground beef directly from Keystone Meats. It’s available in cases of 12 28-ounce cans for $80 plus shipping or 24 14.5-ounce cans for $95 plus shipping. I have one of the former in stock and plan to order another case or two. The best-by dates are five years out, but in reality the shelf life is essentially unlimited.

My food storage goal has always been to maintain an absolute minimum of 24 person-months of food, with at least one meal per day that includes meat. That translates to one full year for the two of us or, more likely, four months for six or three months for eight.

Monday, 19 January 2015

09:33 – Barbara is doing very well, better than last time. As usual, the problem is to keep her from over-doing.

I took Latin starting in 8th grade. In 9th grade, we read Vegetius, and his most familiar phrase has always stayed with me: Igitur qui desiderat pacem, praeparet bellum, usually translated as “If you want peace, prepare for war”. Vegetius was a prepper. I thought about that as I was reading an article that was linked to in the comments yesterday: Bracken: When The Music Stops – How America’s Cities May Explode In Violence

It’s a longish article, but worth taking the time to read. I don’t expect things to get this bad any time soon, but it’s certainly a possibility. History tells us that when law and order breaks down, things get very bad very quickly. And right now we’re watching law and order break down.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

09:03 – Barbara had dinner out last night, so I took the opportunity to watch several more episodes of Jericho. Also, as usual when she’s out for dinner, I took the opportunity to experiment by making dinner from our long-term food stores.

I’m also experimenting with Thermos cooking, which can be important in a long-term power down situation where you’re trying to minimize fuel usage. Rather than bringing a pot of rice to a boil and simmering it for 20 minutes, for example, you can just add the rice and boiling water to a Thermos bottle or insulated cooler and let it sit. When you open the Thermos hours later, you have hot cooked rice.

One morning, transfer two cups of dry rice, a cup of beans, and some bouillon and spices to a large wide-mouth Thermos bottle. Add the appropriate amount of water, cap the bottle, and by dinner time you have a nutritious meal. Of course, beans and rice get boring pretty fast, so I’m also playing around with food extenders. Last night I tried a can of Dinty Moore Chicken & Dumplings. A 24-ounce can of that is sufficient to make two pounds of dry rice and a pound of beans into an appealing meal for six people, at 1,000 calories each and with plenty of protein and fats. Not gourmet food by any means, but something that most people would find reasonably tasty.

13:33 – We’re back from the hospital, where Barbara had knee-replacement surgery on Thursday. Everything went very well, and the insurance covered all but about $3,000 of the cost. She’ll be at home recuperating for a month or so, which means no more wild women and parties for me.

We stopped at Walgreens on the way home to pick up three prescriptions, one for ninety 5 mg oxycodone. She’s allowed to have one or two every four hours as needed, so at maximum dosage that’s more than a week’s supply. All three prescriptions totaled $33.19, including the $450 worth of oxycodone. Or $0.90 worth, depending on how you count it.

In the long-term section of the prepping book I have a note to myself to write about growing common poppies (P. somniferum, AKA opium poppies) and extracting the opium alkaloids, including morphine and codeine. I’ll probably add some material about processing the raw opioids into more useful forms like hydrocodone.

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:


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”.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

09:33 – I’m going to split today between kit stuff and working on the prepping book, which currently sits at 222 pages and just over 85,000 words. At a guess, it’s not quite halfway through the first draft. The target is 450 to 500 pages, but that could vary up or down.

At the moment, I’m writing about hunkering down (bugging in) versus evacuating (bugging out). Short take: you’re absolutely nuts to evacuate unless there’s absolutely, positively no alternative. Even if your home is in a less than ideal location, such as the suburbs, your chances are almost always better there than they would be on the road. All of your stuff is at home. You know the area. You know your neighbors. Your friends are probably near by, and perhaps your family. Your home is like a turtle’s shell. If you go out on the road, you’re much more vulnerable. You’re a naked turtle, surrounded by turtle-iverous predators. Of course, the ideal is for your home to be remote from more dangerous areas, like big cities and their suburbs.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be prepared to evacuate if an emergency makes that your best option. Just be aware that you may well be jumping out of the proverbial frying pan.

Monday, 12 January 2014

11:33 – Costco run and dinner with Mary and Paul yesterday. The only things I picked up for myself were one 50 pound (22.7 kilo) bag each of white flour and sugar, another 170,000 calories worth of carbohydrates. Oddly, I wasn’t able to find any rice at Costco. As it turned out, that’s fine. As Barbara told me, we have two bags of rice in the pantry that I haven’t gotten around to repackaging yet. They’re fine for now in their heavy plastic bags.

I’m going to enjoy experimenting with 2-liter PET bottles and oxygen absorbers. Among common plastics, PET is by far the least permeable to air and moisture. You need something like ten times the thickness of PE or PP to match PET’s permeability. In the thickness used in soft-drink bottles, PET is slightly permeable, which is why carbonated drinks stored in PET bottles eventually go flat.

If I fill a 2-liter PET bottle with rice, perhaps 150 cc of air will remain in that bottle, in the interstices. Air is about 20% oxygen, which means there’s about 30 cc of oxygen in the bottle. If I also add a 300 cc oxygen absorber packet, it uses up 10% of its capacity reacting with that oxygen to form rust. That puts a partial vacuum in the bottle, so eventually (assuming no change in outside air pressure) about 30 cc of air will penetrate that bottle to equalize pressures. That 30 cc of air contains about 6 cc of oxygen, which the absorber will remove. That leaves a slight negative pressure in the bottle, which again will equilibrate against the outside air. Eventually, iteratively, the atmosphere inside the bottle becomes nearly 100% nitrogen (along with argon and some other minor inert gases) and the bottle is essentially nitrogen-packed. Much cheaper, easier, and much, much safer than nitrogen-packing from a compressed nitrogen bottle.