Thursday, 13 November 2014

08:46 – The morning paper reports that the DA will not prosecute a young man who on Monday beat his father to death with a length of steel pipe. The DA concluded that the young man was acting in self-defense and defense of his mother. The dead man had a long history of domestic violence. As terrible as this is for the young man and his mother, it brought a smile to my face. I love to see stories about wife- and child-beaters being beaten to death themselves. That’s true justice, something our so-called justice system almost never delivers.

Work on the prepping book continues. At the moment, I’m writing about vigilance committees and the power, in the absence of competent authority, of any elected or appointed government official, inside or outside law enforcement, in the legislative, judicial, or executive branches of any level of government to deputize civilians during an emergency.

13:27 – Well, it’s been a pretty good day so far. We’ve shipped three science kits, including two to the same person in Australia. I’ve also received three exciting emails, the first telling me that I’ve been accepted to Who’s Who, the second telling me that I can get my doctorate on-line, and the third telling me that I can earn $4,000 per month working at home. I’ll take care of the first two later today. I deleted the third one, because I already earn more than $4,000 per month working at home.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

09:36 – The prepping book is starting to shape up. I’m still in the random phase, where I write a sentence or a couple of paragraphs in one chapter and then jump to another chapter and do the same. Or maybe just stick in a header to remind me to write something about a subject. Some days, I add material to 10 or 15 different chapters. Within the next six weeks or so, I should be able to start posting draft chapters to the mailing list.

14:38 – UPS just showed up with the fleece-lined hoodie I ordered from Costco for $22. It’s an XLT, just like my old one from LL Bean, which would probably cost $60 now. The first thing I noticed when I unpacked the Costco hoodie was that it had much thicker cloth and fleece than the LL Bean hoodie and felt noticeably heavier. I just checked with my shipping scale. The LL Bean hoodie weighed 28.4 ounces, and the Costco hoodie 35.2 ounces. Now, granted, the LL Bean hoodie is several years old and has been washed many times. I’m sure it’s lost some of its fleece over the years. But it was never as thick as the Costco hoodie. I’m quite pleased with the new one, even ignoring that it cost only $20.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

08:46 – It’s Veterans Day, which is also my mother’s birthday. She was born 11 November 1918, the day WWI ended, and would have been 96 years old today.

I need to get a tabletop photography area set up downstairs so that I can shoot a bunch of images for the prepping book. I’m going to use white background paper with two lights on the front corners of the work surface, each angled in at 45° and angled down at 45°. Because I may be using small apertures and correspondingly long exposures, I’m going to hang my Colt 1911 Combat Commander as a weight on the center column of the tripod. The reason I’m being so specific is that I intend to file for a patent on this method. I’m going to call it the 45/45/45 method. And if Amazon comes after me, I intend to re-purpose one of those 45’s.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

10:32 – Bonnie couldn’t make it yesterday. The battery in her truck died. So I guess we’ll just have that multi-year accumulation of leaves/compost cluttering up the place until next weekend.

As Barbara and I were dry-packing sugar yesterday, I noticed Colin watching. Later, he asked me how we would store his year’s supply of dog food. I told him we weren’t going to bother storing any extra dog food, and his ears went down flat. They stood right up again when I told him he’d just have to eat human food the whole time, the same as the rest of us. After all, for the first 30,000+ years of their partnership with humans, dogs ate what their people ate. Dog treats were invented around the Civil War, but it’s only since the 1930’s that the familiar dry meat/meal dog food has even existed. Colin is now looking forward to the Zombie Apocalypse.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

11:34 – I’m doing laundry and my other usual Saturday tasks. Barbara just got back from running errands. Our friend Bonnie Richardson is stopping over sometime this afternoon in her pickup to haul off a load of leaves for her compost pile. For years, Barbara has been piling leaves in the natural areas in the back yard, so the lower layers should already be pretty well composted. Bonnie has quite a bit of land devoted to her garden, so I’m sure she’s constantly on the lookout for more compost.

We just finished transferring a 50-pound bag of white granulated sugar from Costco into 14 empty wide-mouth PET nut jars, also from Costco. With the white sugar in #10 cans we got at the LDS Home Storage Center, that takes us to about 200 pounds total. I didn’t bother to erase the old dates on the jars, because sugar stored in those PET jars remains good indefinitely. There’s no difference between month-old, year-old, and decade-old white granulated sugar, assuming proper storage. On average, Americans each consume about 150 pounds of caloric sweeteners per year, mostly white sugar and high-fructose corn syrup, so those 200 pounds are only about a 16 person-month supply, although we do have additional sweeteners like maple pancake/waffle syrup stored. At some point, I’ll pick up another 50-pound bag or two of white sugar at Costco and transfer it to clean 2-liter soda bottles, which’ll take us over 300 pounds total.

We also have more than 250 pounds of white flour, macaroni, and spaghetti in #10 cans from the LDS HSC, along with about 200 pounds of rice. At some point, I’ll pick up another 150 or 200 pounds of white flour at Costco and transfer it to one-gallon Mylar foil laminate bags with oxygen absorbers, but before I do that I want to experiment a bit with white flour. In particular, I want to experiment with quick bread recipes, which require neither yeast nor kneading nor long rise times.

Most commercial quick breads and home baking recipes use double-acting baking powder, but the problem with that is its limited shelf-life. Baking soda works just as well and many people prefer the flavor of bread made with baking soda, but using baking soda requires also using some form of acid to react with it to create the carbon dioxide bubbles that cause the bread to rise. We have 25+ pounds of baking soda packed for long-term storage, but I’m debating what to store as the acid. One option is vinegar, so that’s what I’ll test first. If it works well, rather than storing gallons of vinegar (which is essentially 5% acetic acid) I’ll store a liter of glacial (99% acetic acid). The stuff I have is both ACS reagent grade and FCC (food) grade, so one liter of it can be diluted to form the exact equivalent of 20 liters of distilled white vinegar, more than sufficient to cover 25+ pounds of baking soda.

Friday, 7 November 2014

09:08 – As expected, we sold a lot of biology kits in August, many of them with the prepared slide set option. By the end of that month, I became concerned about our inventory level of prepared slide sets, so I ordered another batch the first of September. Enough, I hoped, to last another year. The vendor informed me that the slides were back-ordered for 90 days, through the end of November. Ruh-roh. All I could do was hope that existing stock would last that long.

So, yesterday morning we got an order for a biology kit with slide set, which was the last slide set we had in stock. Then a second biology kit order came in, this one fortunately not including the slide set. Then a third order came in, and this one included a slide set, taking our inventory to -1. Then a fourth order came in, again with a slide set, taking our inventory to -2. I called the vendor to make sure I’d have more by the end of the month, and they told me the slides were to arrive next week, sooner than expected. So it looks like I’ll be able to ship back-ordered slide sets the week of the 17th, which isn’t too bad. Still, I hate having to tell people that something is back-ordered.

Barbara doesn’t bake, other than stuff like prepared brownie mix, and it’s been a long, long time since I did so much as bake a loaf of bread from scratch. Barbara’s sister, Frances, however, frequently bakes and otherwise cooks from scratch. In fact, Frances has run commercial food service operations. I told Barbara that I needed expert advice on how to turn cases and cases of #10 (institutional-size) cans of dry-packed flour, wheat, oats, beans, sugar and so on into appealing meals. Which spices and seasonings do we need, and how much of each? How much baking soda, baking powder, and yeast? How well does gelatin powder substitute for fresh eggs in baked goods? And so on. So I asked Barbara to invite Frances over for dinner one evening so that I could ask Frances all of these questions and more. I’m looking forward to this.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

09:56 – Colin voted yesterday, although he won’t tell us who he voted for or how many times he voted. Either way, Democrats were crushed, as expected. I just hope the Republicans realize that most of the people who voted for them did so not because they like Republicans but because they hate them less than they hate Democrats. Not that it’ll make a bit of difference. As The Who said, “Meet the new boss, the same as the old boss.” I’m kind of looking forward to that day when we decide and the shotgun sings the song. And I’m still campaigning for an open season on politicians, to run from 1 January through 31 December each year, with no bag limit (on bucks or does). Taxidermists would have a field day. Can you imagine how many people would love to have politicians’ heads mounted over their fireplaces?

I got another email this morning from those morons at WalMart. This one says that my order has shipped and will arrive by “Mon., Dec 1”. Shipped how? By wagon train? Oh, yeah, and the item that they don’t have and have no idea when it’ll be back in stock? That one is scheduled to arrive next Monday. Morons.

11:54 – Barbara frequently tells me I’m not funny, to which I always respond, “Then why have women been laughing at me all my life?” Which is true. I’ve consciously cultivated that, because I realized even as far back as high school that women tend to be afraid of me because of my size and general demeanor. I am also very calm, speak quietly, and move very quietly, all of which for some reason scare a lot of women.

She’ll deny it, but Barbara also thinks I’m funny. Sometimes she laughs out loud at one of my comments. This morning, for example, I was making coffee. That’s unusual for me. Barbara doesn’t drink coffee–although she’s usually the one who makes it–and I drink very little. But I was doing research for the prepping book (how much coffee can you brew from a pound?) and I couldn’t find the coffee grinder. So I called her at work to ask where it was. (Just as she answered the call, I found it next to the coffee filters, of all places.)

So Barbara was telling me where the measuring spoons are and how much to use per pot. I told her that I was going to weigh the coffee, and she started to laugh. What’s so funny about weighing coffee beans on an analytical balance, anyway? (For this test run, I ended up using 50,013 milligrams of coffee beans and 1.226 liters of water, for a ratio of about 40,794 mg/L, not counting the water absorbed and retained by the grounds.) From the research I did, the “normal” ratio is 55 to 60 g/L, but I’m working my way down to see how little coffee I can use and still have the brew taste like reasonable coffee. My guess is that it’ll be somewhere in the 20 to 25 g/L range. If so, that’ll be around 20 to 25 liters per pound, call it 16 to 20 10-cup pots per pound.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

07:53 – Barbara and I won’t bother to vote today, but Colin plans to vote. As he pointed out, North Carolina lets anyone vote, and he is a lot smarter than some of the humans who’ll be voting. Since he’s going over to the polling site to vote anyway, I told him to go ahead and cast a second ballot for me. I don’t think North Carolina has any problem with people doing that, either.

Speaking of Colin, I noticed yesterday that I was down to one box of Alpo Snaps treats. Colin signed us up several months ago for automatic shipments of five boxes of Snaps every two months from Amazon so we’d never run out. When I checked Amazon to find out why we were running out, I found that they had Snaps back-ordered with no in-stock date. I remembered that Wal-Mart also sells snaps, so I decided to order some from their web site. Big mistake. Note to self: never, ever order anything from or They are both stupifyingly incompetent. I wish I’d remembered that.

When I order things from or, the order almost always goes smoothly. If something is out of stock, they say so. If I order in-stock items, they almost invariably ship the same or next business day, and I usually have the stuff within two or three days. With and, the opposite is true. They seem to have no clue as to stock status of what I’m trying to order, and when they finally process the order it takes them days to weeks to ship and days to weeks longer for the items to arrive.

My order yesterday was for two boxes of Alpo Snaps and eight #10 cans of various Augason Farms storable food that I wanted for the book. After I’d completed the order, I got a screen that showed the expected arrival date of the items. The two boxes of Alpo Snaps were to arrive by next Monday. That’s pretty slow, but I could live with it. The box I just opened should last a week with careful use. The eight #10 cans of Augason Farms storable food all showed an arrival date of December 1, nearly a month from the order date. Geez.

Then I got the following email this morning from

Thank you for your recent order. Unfortunately, one or more of the items in your order have been delayed.

Order Number: 2677214-568554

1) Alpo Variety Snaps Purina Dog Treats, 32oz 2 3.14 6.28


We are working with our suppliers to ship these items as soon as possible, but we are unable to provide a revised delivery date at this time. If for some reason we can’t ship these items at all, we’ll cancel the items from your order and notify you. If you wish to cancel them now, please call Customer Service at 1-800-966-6546 and an associate will try to cancel the items. (Items that are too far into the shipping process may not be cancelable, but you can return them for a full refund.) Otherwise, there is no action needed on your part.

Monday, 3 November 2014

08:05 – The morning paper reports that North Carolina has its first possible Ebola case. An unnamed man arrived from Liberia at Newark Airport, traveled by bus to Durham, NC on Saturday, and on Sunday self-reported to the CDC that he was running a fever. He’s now in an isolation ward at Duke University Hospital, awaiting test results. If the results are negative, he’ll remain in isolation for 72 hours because it’s possible for someone who is infected with Ebola and symptomatic to still test negative.

I’ve gotten several emails from readers asking if there’s a decent prepping book out there that they can use to get started before I finish writing my prepping book. I’ve looked at a bunch of them, and the only one I’ve seen so far that I can recommend as a decent introduction for beginning preppers is Lisa Bedford’s Survival Mom.

Yeah, there are some errors in Bedford’s book. (You don’t, for example, need to chlorinate water after you’ve boiled it, at least if you intend to use it immediately.) And it’s pretty obvious when Bedford is writing about things with which she has little experience, such as firearms. But overall Survival Mom is a decent introduction to the subject. You can probably read it over the course of an evening or two, and it’ll give you lots of good ideas for getting started.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

11:30 – November is coming in like a panda. That is, not the cute, furry pandas that women and children love, but like a real panda with fangs, claws, and a really nasty disposition. Today it’s raining, in the low 40’s (~ 5C), and with wind gusts to 30+ mph (48+ kph).

I keep getting emails from people that begin “I’m not a prepper, but …”. As in, “… I’ve stored a few months’ supply of food for my family” or “… we are in the process of relocating to a small town because I’m concerned about civil unrest in the cities” or (my personal favorite) “… my wife and have bought a riot shotgun and AR-15 rifle for each of us, along with a thousand rounds per gun”.

My usual response starts “Yeah, you are a prepper by any reasonable definition.” In fact, using a strict definition, nearly everyone is a prepper. If you store extra batteries for your flashlight in case of a power outage, you’re a prepper. If you keep a few cans of food on your pantry shelf and a small woodpile for your fireplace in case you’re snowed in, you’re a prepper. If you buy a disused missile silo and stock it with enough supplies to last a hundred people for a decade, you’re a prepper. It’s all a matter of degree.

I’m not sure how or when it happened, but somehow in many people’s minds the idea of being prepared for emergencies has become something to be embarrassed about. This is a new phenomenon. For tens of thousands of years, people were no more aware of the concept of prepping than fish are of water. It was just something everyone did as a matter of routine. If you didn’t store food in the summer and autumn, you and your family would starve to death that winter. If you didn’t lay in a supply of firewood, you’d freeze. And so on.

I think the root of the problem is that since WWII life has become too easy and that, despite history and all of the evidence to the contrary, most people believe “it can’t happen here”. This phenomenon is limited to the Baby Boomers and later generations, all of whom grew up safe, protected, and amidst plenty. Earlier generations, those who reached adulthood before, say, 1950, knew hardship: war, rationing, economic depression, soup kitchens, fearsome plagues like the Spanish flu and polio, and so on. They were perfectly aware that real emergencies were commonplace and that it could happen here. And essentially all of them prepared to the best of their abilities for such events.

Even as late as the 60’s, preparedness was the norm, probably because the adults who were making the decisions had lived through the Great Depression and WWII. Many families built and stocked basement fallout shelters, some minimal but many extensive. When I was growing up, I knew of at least half a dozen families in our immediate neighborhood who had done so. Even those who hadn’t built a formal shelter often stocked considerable amounts of shelf-stable foods, commercial or home-canned.

All schools had stocked shelters, and students participated regularly in drills. Not just for nuclear attack, but for other emergencies like tornadoes and severe winter storms. As a second-grader in 1962, Barbara spent a night in a fallout shelter with other students, eating shelter biscuits and drinking canned shelter water. Even young elementary school students knew where to go and what to do in case of an emergency. Nowadays, even most adults are completely clueless. This is not a good thing.