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.


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.


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.


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.


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.