Category: recommended books/videos

Fri. June 18, 2021 – yep, missed it. Dang kids.

Well, never got any rain, or even any real overcast yesterday, and temps stayed high. Funny thing is we have a TS forming in the Gulf, and due to impact the “northern” Gulf today. Heavy rains possible, and all that. No evidence of it when I went to bed. I guess we’ll see. (This time for sure!)

Spent the day at home with the kids and the puppy. Didn’t get any of my auction set up, nor am I likely to complete any of that today. I would like to get my pickup dropped off for repair, since I’ll be gone for a week, this would be an excellent time to have the work done. To be honest, I have no desire to spend a week in Florida. Getting the kids there, and spending time with mom/grandma is a good thing, much to be desired though. So I’m going. Life is what happens while we are waiting for something else. The kids are excited, and my mom is about to pop, so that’s cool. Puppy will stay with friends who used to watch our other dog and various small rodents. He’ll have some other dogs to hang with for the week too.


Long time readers here will remember (if they cared enough to notice) that I have a fascination with infrastructure and why things are the way they are. OFD and a couple other frequent commentors did too, and we had some good recommendations for interesting books*. I’ve been involving the kids in my interest by pointing out stuff around us- the survey markers for underground utilities, the pipeline warning posts, antennas and cameras, sensors for traffic lights, that sort of thing. Or that the street layout in our neighborhood has weird angled streets, because there are pipelines that cross it, and they are ‘in between’ lot lines. In other words, the house lots and streets were laid out to avoid crossing over the pipelines. And then angled buildings got built on the odd shaped lots that sometimes resulted. If you didn’t know about the underground pipelines, you wouldn’t know why the buildings look like they do. I want the kids to understand that this stuff doesn’t and didn’t “just happen”, it almost always came to be the way it is because of other things, and sometimes what we see is the echo of something long gone, or the shape of something hidden.

The QWERTY keyboard layout is one of those. It was designed to slow down typists, because the mechanical hammers in typewriters would get jammed if you typed too fast. We’re still stuck with it, despite that reason going away long ago, even in mechanical typewriters when the selectric ball, or the daisy wheel were invented.

The relationship between film reels, the 33 1/3 RPM and album size chosen for LP records, and the length of pop songs (until recently) is another chain of choices that shapes the world around us, while the original reasons are gone. (The speed and size of LP records were chosen to hold the amount of sound needed to match a movie film reel – which itself was probably sized by other arbitrary factors. Pop songs were the length they were because that’s what fit on a 45 RPM single, which is what jukeboxes used, and you wouldn’t have a hit if people couldn’t play it on the jukebox…)

There are a ton of other things like that just in the music business (like the CD hole being the same size as a 5 pfenig coin, because that’s what the engineer thought looked about the right size, and then DVDs followed the same form factor, and blurays too, with all kinds of tricks played to fit the content onto them…) If you are old enough to remember when CDs came in tall sleeves, do you also remember when people started to complain about how wasteful the ‘excess’ packaging was? Well, the packaging was designed that size to fit in the same bins and fixtures that record stores used to hold vinyl LP albums in. As the stores phased out the vinyl and the bins, the CD packaging shrunk to its current form. DVD packaging fits on the same shelves VHS tapes used to fit on in the stores and the rental places….

These sorts of things happen in the built environment too, with past decisions echoing down through time, shaping the world around us in ways that we no longer recognize. I’ve been occasionally listening to a podcast called 99% Invisible, about just those sorts of things in design and the world around us. There is a book “The 99% Invisible City: A Field Guide to the Hidden World of Everyday Design” that complements the podcast too.

James Burke’s Connections was the first thing that made me aware of these sorts of chains of events, leading to something that is very different from, but completely shaped by what came before. Connections also made it clear that you couldn’t just “drop back” to the lower level of technology, because the systems that supported that lower level wouldn’t be there. The older systems or design constraints were removed when no longer needed, but the influence remained.

I’ve been thinking about how to look at the larger world through the same lens, and also the smaller world of people and relationships. We know some of what shaped our world from history books. WHICH books, and which stories have left their marks on us is important. (I had no idea until relatively recently in my life that Lincoln wasn’t universally regarded as the hero President of the Civil War. Heck, I had only a vague notion that people in the South had reasons other than racism, and being ignorant, for fighting at all…) Some of those constraints and influences become embodied in our cultures, our shared history, our worldview, and our prejudices.

The people we know, our own relationships, the organizations around us, they are all shaped by those constraints and pressures and perfectly good choices (or bad choices) that came before, but that might now be completely arbitrary or even detrimental.

Looking for those things, identifying them, EVALUATING them, and discarding them if needed – that’s what we need to do to make our way in this world, to get through this period of great change. All of the crazy around us is there because of something. All of the things and people around us have been influenced and shaped by those prior events and decisions. We don’t HAVE to let the echos of the past remain unseen and unknown, shaping us without our knowledge or consent, in ways we wouldn’t choose if given a choice. Knowing that there is a ‘why’ is a place to begin. Look for those echos in yourself, your relationships, your institutions, your culture, and your beliefs. Choose consciously to accept or reject their influence. Try something new.

And of course, keep stacking.


–I can’t find the one OFD recommended, but this one is good-
‘A Field Guide to Roadside Technology’ by Ed Sobey
–‘Connections’by James Burke — the book and dvds.
–I’ve watched a couple of this guy’s vids, and this one caught my attention last night.
“Why do hurricane lanterns look like that?” youtube channel — presenter is kinda annoying but his content is top notch.

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Thur. April 22, 2021- the rules changed.

Cool and wet, possible rain. Yesterday was so nice though. So very nice and clear, moderate temps, and sunny… I don’t know how many more we’ll get like that.

I packed my day full of errands, and I did them this time. Two pickups, very near to each other, then on the way back, stops at my secondary (to unload some stuff), my rent house (to install the fridge), another auctioneer (to drop off sale items and pick up a check), and finally back home to get kid2 from school on time.

After that, I hit the grocery store for $330 worth of food security.

I don’t have quite as much on the schedule for today, nor are the times as tight, but I do hope to get a few things done.

I am getting the feeling that I might need to take some more drastic steps to clear out ‘stuff’ around the house. The plan was to start doing my own auctions, but it’s taking a long time and time is feeling short. I need to think on this a bit.

Time feels short because I think the rules have changed for how the world works. The interwebs are full of people saying that the difference between how antifa/blm and MAGA day in DC are treated, the outcome of the Chauvin trial, and a wide variety of other events show that Rule of Law or ROL is dead in the US. The corpse is still twitching, but it’s dead. People are saying that, but I don’t think they are following through and thinking about the rest of what that means. What you do and how you react to a country WROL* is going to be THE critical thing going forward.

Someone in the comments over at Sarah Hoyt’s place had this to say (minor edits for clarity)…

The rules changed.

All over the ‘net people are saying and saying and re-saying that ROL is dead in the US. Surprise! It’s been dead for a while now, and every case like this just exposes that to more Normies. So stop and think about what that means. Rule of Law is DEAD. Internalize that. REALLY internalize that. You (general ‘you’) have to start dealing with that idea. They can and will do whatever they want to us at any point that we come to their attention. No one will come to save us. No one will blow the ceiling and fast rope down to rescue us at the last minute.

What does history teach us about times like this? You must be ready to denounce the people that come to ‘their’ attention. You must expect your friends and relations to denounce YOU when they come for you. Why would you want them dragged to the gulag (real or virtual) along with you? If you want to have a chance at changing anything you have to remain free and effective. Your friends LIKEWISE have to remain free to act.

There won’t be any gofundme to replace a conservative’s burned out house. No gofundme to heal his daughter after she’s raped at school because her father is a ‘bad’ man and she deserves it. No gofundme to replace the lost job that feeds that daughter (and buys the guns and ammo and armor and radios and medical and every other needful thing.) There is no underground to move your family to safety after the mob catches you alone. There is no established safe haven for you to flee to. There is no way to start over in a new place with a new name once panopticon focuses on YOU and your family (seriously, look at any kid moved to a new school because of bullying or any other issue, the kids have the new kid doxed eight ways to Sunday within hours.)

The other thing that history teaches us is that This Too Shall Pass. You (Sarah) have even written about it here. They can’t hold it together. The Third Reich fell. The Soviet Union fell. Communist Cuba is going to fall. People SURVIVED those times and those places. They may have even acted to hasten the fall if they were able. There were lots who didn’t survive, and some of them included the principled, the committed, and ultimately the futile sacrifice.

[I don’t intend to sacrifice myself for an ideal, especially given the current legal environment.]

My daughter wants her Daddy. I want to be here to guide and protect her thru what’s coming. I can’t do that if I’m dead or destitute. It’d be cold comfort for her to know that her father loved an ideal more than her. I’d love to think she’d rally around my banner, but the more likely outcome is hating me for leaving her alone in the Brave New World, or only marginally less worse, raised by her lefty Kennedy worshiping [east coast] grandparents to hate me for leaving her alone.

The rules have changed. If we don’t survive, there won’t be anyone left to rebuild what was lost.

I intend to survive this.

Something to think about. While you’re stacking needful things.


*this in no way means “without consequences”. The consequences of your actions are potentially more severe than ever.

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Tues. Sept. 22, 2020 – some people are getting flooded

Cooler, rainy.

Looked at the pictures from the Gulf Coast yesterday.  Lot’s of places I’ve been were under water from Beta’s storm surge.  Not much in the news though.  Twitter and FB for the on scene pix.  Trad media is dead.

We got a steady rain most of the day.  Kept me inside.

I did a bit of work on the possible lake house.  Some research in public records, and some time in Sketchup addressing my wife’s main concerns about the house.  Virtual remodel is a lot cheaper than actual…  The lot is great.  The house is a big weird mess.

Gave a buddy some supplies for his security cam install.  He’s got a neighbor problem.  Also gave him some stuff for his kids to play with – some “take aparts” (old mech and electronics), and some learning toys (soda can robot, potato clock, solar crawler, etc)

I’ve got stuff to do today, since I spent yesterday on other things.  Auction pickup, maybe stop by my buddy’s store, who knows?  Maybe something crazy like drive thru food.

Or not.  Cooler weather means more work in the attic and bathroom.  There’s always something to do.

And that’s all in addition to stacking it higher…



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Monday, 25 April 2016

09:58 – My apologies to Rain Stickland, whose name I misspelled yesterday as Strickland. That’s the way I read it, probably because when I was growing up in New Castle, PA there was a corner store called Strickland’s two blocks from our house. I just did a Google search for it, and turned up nothing whatsoever. It’s long gone, and there’s now a wig place where it used to sit at the corner of Mercer Street and Euclid Avenue, catty-cornered from George Washington Junior High School.

Her PA novel is, as far as I know, the first one I’ve read that was written by a prog. She’s into the whole climate change/animal rights/BLM/Occupy thing, and hopes Bern is elected president. She, like her main character, is obsessed with ferrets, and thinks it cute when they bite her. The author even runs an international ferret-rescue organization. Her main character is a 40-ish woman who is absolutely obsessed with sex, more so that the average teenager. Still, Stickland has obviously done her homework, and tosses in little snippets of useful information that are seldom found in other prepper fiction. For example, early in the book, she mentions storing sulfuric acid and chemistry lab equipment, both for making ether for anesthesia and for isolating insulin (because her character’s best friend is an insulin-dependent diabetic). The dialog is hokey at times, and usually sex-obsessed, but Stickland is a good story-teller who makes few spelling/grammatical errors other than an occasional misused apostrophe. All the more surprising, since Stickland herself never graduated from high school. Her first book is good enough that I’ll read the rest of the series.

Email from Jen. She has five bottles of generic chlorine bleach on the shelf, and wanted to know if I thought that was enough. The short answer is yes and no. Jen has a Sawyer PointZeroTwo microfilter for purifying water, which should be sufficient. She’s keeping the chlorine bleach as a backup method, and she’s run the math. The typical recommendation for water treatment is eight drops per gallon. There are 20 drops per milliliter. Her five gallons total just under 19,000 mL. Call it 380,000 drops, or enough to treat about 47,000 gallons.

But there are several problems with that scenario. First, chlorine bleach solution is unstable. It starts to degrade as soon as it’s bottled. Even in a sealed bottle, after a year it’s significantly weaker than the original 5.25%, and eventually it becomes useless. Second, purifying water with chlorination is an extremely complex issue. The amount of chlorine needed can easily range over a factor of five or more, depending on how contaminated the source water is, not just with microorganisms but with organic matter that the bleach reacts with. It’s not a matter of deciding how much chlorine to add to the source water; what’s important is residual chlorine, how much is left after the water has been sanitized. That should ideally be in the range of 1 to 2 PPM, but there’s no way to determine that short of testing the treated water. Third, chlorine is ineffective or only partially effective against some pathogenic microorganisms. In short, using chlorine bleach is better than nothing, but it’s not a magic bullet. My advice is to over-chlorinate to make sure the chlorine reaches a level sufficient to destroy most pathogens. The problem is that levels above about 4 PPM are increasingly toxic to humans. The answer to that is to chlorinate the hell out of suspect water and then allow it to sit long enough for the excess chlorine to dissipate into the air.

I suggested that Jen buy some high-concentration calcium hypochlorite powder and a pool test kit, ideally Taylor brand. The dry calcium hypochlorite is much, much more shelf-stable than bleach solution, and that six pounds of 73% DryTec pool shock is sufficient to make up about 15 gallons of stock bleach solution as needed. Even if Jen doesn’t use bleach for water treatment, it’ll come in handy for sanitation. The pool test kit will let her test for residual chlorine if she does use it for water treatment.

Incidentally, I’ve seen various comments about it being unsafe to use hypochlorite intended for pool treatment for treating drinking water. That’s completely bogus. Technical grade calcium hypochlorite is typically 60% to 78% calcium hypochlorite, with the remainder being mostly calcium chloride, calcium hydroxide (slaked lime) and similar chemicals that are harmless in small amounts. Remember, that six pounds of pool shock is being diluted in about 150,000 gallons of water, so the amount of non-hypochlorite chemicals added is something like 1 milligram per liter. Call it 1 PPM. There aren’t many chemical species that are harmful at 1 PPM, and none of them are found in pool shock.

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Sunday, 24 April 2016

09:53 – More kit stuff today. At this point, we’re building subassemblies for stock that we can later use to assemble finished kits quickly. Basically, everything that doesn’t have shelf-life considerations gets built now in anticipation of the heavy sales period from late July through mid-October.

Last night, I started reading Rain Strickland’s Tipping Point, another PA novel written by a Canadian woman. And, like Theresa Shaver, Strickland is an actual storyteller who writes competently. This book gets a high percentage of poor reviews on Amazon, mostly from readers who take offense at the strong language and explicit sex, neither of which bother me. I made it through only the first 15% of the book last night, but so far it seems like a good addition to the genre. It’s available under Kindle Unlimited, so I went ahead and downloaded the second book in the series and stuck it in my TBR queue. Book Three is due out in June.

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Monday, 11 April 2016

10:13 – I have to at least get started on our state and federal income taxes today. It’s probably no coincidence that every year during the first half of April I’m in a bad mood.

We got through all but the last four episodes of Heartland S9 last night. We’ll watch those last four tonight. Tomorrow we’ll start on Murdoch Mysteries S9.

Last night, I read Thomas A. Lewis’s Tribulation. This was a first for me, a PA novel written by a leftie/prog/greenie/climatista. It’s competently written and, no surprise, quite similar to other TEOTWAWKI novels. The major difference is that instead of conservative propaganda threaded into the story-line, we get prog propaganda in this one. Still, it’s not bad. Even Kirkus Reviews had nice things to say about it.

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Thursday, 14 January 2016

09:23 – It’s been chilly around here, but nothing compared to the forecast for Sunday night. The low is to be 4F (-15C) with winds of 20 MPH. That puts the wind chill, at a first approximation, around absolute zero (−459F/−273C), where atoms stop vibrating and even Colin will want to stay indoors.

I tagged this post as recommended books/videos, but in fact the books I’m about to list are distinctly NOT recommended. The first is Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven, a dystopian/PA novel. It has 2,759 Amazon reviews averaging 4.1 stars. It’s a New York Times Bestseller and a 2014 National Book Award Finalist. That last should have told me to run screaming from it. The good news is that Mandel can write competent English sentences and paragraphs. The bad news is that it’s a literary novel (hawk, spit), which means it’s all about beautiful language. A would-be poet writing prose. No plot, no story. Nothing ever happens. Boring. If you’re even considering wasting $10 on a Kindle copy of this book, I recommend you first read the 1-star reviews on Amazon, which provide a fair evaluation of the book. It’s simply terrible.

Then there’s James Hunt. He has a bunch of his books listed on Kindle Unlimited, which means I can read them for free with my KU account. I grabbed several of them yesterday, with high hopes. Unfortunately, the best I can say about Hunt’s books is that they’re not literary novels. I wasted half an hour or so reading the first book and part of the second in his Exiled series. All I can say is, stop him before he writes again. The plot, such as it is, is ludicrous. The Colorado River has run completely dry, leaving California and the Southwest without water. Literally, without a drop to drink. So an evil congressman passes a law to expel (Exile, presumably) these states from the US, leaving 40 million people to die. And the ludicrous plot is the least of it. This guy can’t write his way out of a paper bag. Horrible dialog, horrible everything. Don’t waste any time on these. Even at $0.00 each, these books aren’t worth the price.

More work on science kit stuff today.

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Wednesday, 23 December 2015

12:05 – We’re pretty much finished getting the downstairs finished area ready for use. Barbara is currently unboxing books and transferring them to the bookshelves. My office, the larger of the two downstairs bedrooms, is still cluttered with stacks of boxes, but we’re gradually getting those unpacked. Eventually, we’ll install bookshelves on the walls in here, and probably one of the 5×2-foot freestanding island shelving units to store more kit stuff. There’s a large closet, which is currently about a quarter full of long-term food storage, roughly a person-year’s worth. When we get time, we’ll transfer another six or eight cases of #10 cans of Augason LTS food into that closet as well.

Barbara thinks we already have plenty of stored food, and in one sense she’s right. As I’ve said many times, I don’t really expect a catastrophic SHTF situation, at least anytime soon. I expect a continuing slide into dystopia. But there’s a very real possibility that a trigger event like the power grid going down or severe widespread civil disorder will kick things over the edge, and supermarket shelves will quickly empty and stay empty. If that does happen–and I’d SWAG there’s maybe a 10% chance per year that it will happen–I want to be in a position to feed not just Barbara, Colin, and me for the long term, but also family, friends, and neighbors. Fortunately, we’re now living in an area that produces much, much more food than it consumes, and that production is very diverse. Everything from beef and dairy cattle to grains to vegetables to fruit to poultry. That production would no doubt be seriously impaired by a grid-down or other severe long-term emergency, but even in a worst-case scenario the area should be able to feed its current population.

It’s a drizzly, foggy day here, with thunderstorms predicted for tonight and tomorrow, so we’ll stay indoors other than running a couple of errands sometime today or tomorrow. Barbara also wants to make up a double batch of no-knead bread dough today, which we’ll bake tomorrow. A double batch will yield four standard loaves, which should carry us through the holiday. Longer, if it turns out that our guests don’t care for the moister loaf that the no-knead dough produces. But the bread freezes very well, so it’s not a problem either way.

Barbara has been doing it for years, and I finally decided to start keeping a list of books I’ve been reading and videos I’ve been watching. Most will focus on prepping, because I’m reading/watching a lot of titles that apply to the prepping book I’m (still) working on. Here’s the first entry. I’ll try to keep doing it.

  • Jericho (TV series) – By far the best of the post-apocalyptic TV series. The science isn’t perfect by any means, but the writers manage to hit all the high points and cover all the issues. There are only 29 episodes, but all are worth watching/re-watching. It’s currently available on Netflix streaming.
  • Lights Out (novel) – David Crawford’s post-EMP novel is large and heavy enough to use as a doorstop, but it’s one of the best PA novels I’ve read. Again, it manages to hit all the high points and cover all the issues.
  • Lights Out (non-fiction) – Ted Koppel’s book lays out the threats against our power grids, and the nightmare scenario that would follow a long-term grid-down event. Koppel focuses on the threat of cyberattack against the grids, but acknowledges in passing the threats from an EMP attack or a solar CME.
  • Food Storage for Self-Sufficiency and Survival (non-fiction) – Angela Paskett’s book is the best single volume I’ve found that covers long-term food storage. What few errors there are are minor, and she does an excellent job of covering the issues.
  • Survival Mom (non-fiction) – Where Paskett’s book is deep but not broad, Lisa Bedford’s book is the opposite. It’s a prepping primer that attempts to touch on all of the important issues while not burying the reader in detail.
  • 100-day Pantry: 100 Quick and Easy Gourmet Meals (non-fiction) – Jan Jackson’s book addresses an issue that gets too little attention: how to cook appetizing meals using all that LTS food you have stored. The “gourmet” part is an exaggeration, but Jackson does an excellent job. She assumes that you may be cooking from stored staples but with access to some fresh foods, but she also presents LTS alternatives for when you don’t have access to fresh dairy products, meats, herbs, and so on. We actually own two printed copies of this book. When I got the first one, Barbara flipped through it and said it looked interesting. Some time later, she asked me where it was because she wanted to try cooking some of the recipes. I couldn’t find it, so I ordered another copy. One of those copies will live in our kitchen as we try some of the recipes over the next few months.

Enough for now. More next time.

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