1.31.2020

Emergency Preparedness Philippines

Emergency Preparedness Philippines

 


"I may have been early, but I'm not wrong." - Michael Burry - The Big Short

The store shelves in Wuhan, China emptied rapidly when Coronavirus struck the region. It is good to be prepared.

I wanted to post this quick list of essentials to have on hand for emergencies.

These things are good for just about any potential large-scale emergency that may strike: earthquake, volcano, typhoons, alien invasion...anything. 

UPDATE 3-17-2020

 

After the WHO and DoH and everyone else told us NOT to wear masks the wearing of masks in public has now become the law of the land. You will likely not find masks in the stores so you can make them or they are also allowing scarves etc over the face.

 

Update 3-13-2020 The Final Answer on Wearing Masks

 

This is specifically about N95 masks not surgical masks.
https://www.doh.gov.ph/node/19947
18. Do I need a mask to protect myself against COVID-19?
No. People with no respiratory signs and symptoms do not need to wear a medical mask. DOH recommends the use of medical masks only for the following:
  • For people who are presenting with symptoms of COVID-19;
  • Those caring for individuals who have symptoms such as cough and fever, and
  • Health workers.
DOH, together with WHO, advises the rational use of medical masks to avoid unnecessary wastage of vital resources and mis-use of masks.
The most effective ways to protect yourself and others against COVID-19 are to frequently clean or wash your hands, cover your cough with a tissue or the bend of the elbow, and maintain a distance of at least one meter from people who are coughing or sneezing. (For more information, see Section on protective and preventive measures).

You can also be arrested for hoarding masks.

 

Update 3-9-2020

 

The US State Dept. is warning all citizens to avoid travel on cruise ships:
Passengers on Cruise ShipsU.S. citizens, particularly travelers with underlying health conditions, should not travel by cruise ship. CDC notes increased risk of infection of COVID-19 in a cruise ship environment. In order to curb the spread of COVID-19, many countries have implemented strict screening procedures that have denied port entry rights to ships and prevented passengers from disembarking. In some cases, local authorities have permitted disembarkation but subjected passengers to local quarantine procedures. While the U.S. government has evacuated some cruise ship passengers in recent weeks, repatriation flights should not be relied upon as an option for U.S. citizens under the potential risk of quarantine by local authorities.
This is a fluid situation. CDC notes that older adults and travelers with underlying health issues should avoid situations that put them at increased risk for more severe disease. This entails avoiding crowded places, avoiding non-essential travel such as long plane trips, and especially avoiding embarking on cruise ships. Passengers with plans to travel by cruise ship should contact their cruise line companies directly for further information and continue to monitor the Travel.state.gov website and see the latest information from the CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/quarantine/cruise/index.html. 

end updates***************

Medical & Health 

  • betadine
  • hydrogen peroxide
  • isopropyl or ethyl alcohol (for hand cleaning)
  • aspirin (do not give aspirin to kids)
  • neosporin/bacitracin
  • paracetamol (pain and fever - avoid alcohol)
  • Imodium (antidiarrheal)
  • diphenhydramine (sleep and allergies)
  • Maalox/Gaviscon (acid reflux - 1 tsp baking soda can also be used)
  • band-aids
  • gauze
  • surgical gloves
  • goods for personal hygiene (soap/feminine/baking soda for tooth brushing)
Baking soda and baking powder are not the same thing. Baking powder has acidic substances added (cream of tartar), so it will not reduce acid reflux.

Diphenhydramine is for temporary relief of allergies and can also be used for insomnia. Do not become reliant upon it, as their are negative long term effects.

Have you ever noticed that antibacterial soaps are always on sale? This is because many of them contain the chemical triclosan that has been linked to liver damage. Antibacterial soaps are also not good for your septic system. Regular soap and water work just fine and you can use alcohol to sanitize your hands when you go out.

If we are given prior warning of an imminent disruptive event, then it is a good idea to make sure that we have obtained all necessary prescription medications ahead of time. Insulin is of particular importance. Many preparedness oriented websites suggest stocking up on antibiotics, but caution is advised. Antibiotics can save a life when taken appropriately, but they have no effect upon viral pathogens and can lead to resistant bacteria when taken inappropriately.

There is conflicting information about whether NSAIDs (aspirin, Ibuprofen) aggravate COVID-19. When we had Dengue last year the doctors only give acetaminophen. NSAIDs are contraindicated in Dengue due to risk of thrombocytopenia (low platelet count).  

We should always consult with a physician before taking any drug. 

This pdf is a good first aid manual, but in true SHTF you will need a hard copy, so try finding one on Lazada.com or check out your local National Bookstore.

Food

  • rice
  • beans
  • oats
  • pasta
  • salt
  • coconut oil
  • tons of coffee
  • peanuts & peanut butter
  • honey/sugar
  • canned goods (pineapple juice, tuna)
  • liquid bleach (follow instructions for water purification in emergencies)
  • water
  • UHT milk
  • multi-vitamin especially zinc supplements
All of the foodstuffs listed can be stored a long time and stocks are easily rotated to avoid waste. The pasta, beans and rice should be stored in air tight containers. We know from personal experience that weevils and other pests would love nothing more than to ruin your stores.

It is also good to maintain fruit trees and or a small garden if possible. Living in a rural environment can have a lot of advantages when it comes to finding find - of course there may also be drawbacks. 

You will be needing plenty of sleep to keep your strength up, your mind clear and your immune system in shape. For that magnesium does the trick. Magnesium supplements usually come coupled with vitamin c and zinc, but nuts are also packed with magnesium. Peanuts are very easy to find in the Philippines and believe it or not if you eat 100-200 grams a few hours before bedtime they will probably knock you out. 

Liquid bleach breaks down to salt water after about 6-12 months, so it is not a long term solution for  water purification. There are other more risky solutions that you can search for on your own now that you have the idea.

For water we have our own well, which I highly recommend. It is equipped with a .5 hp motor to fill our 600 liter tank. It also has a hand pump. I can fill a 50 gallon drum in 10 minutes using the hand pump. We keep spare parts and gaskets for the hand pump just in case. 

Authorities suggest having at least a two week supply of food and water. I suggest having as much as you can possibly manage. To maintain a serious long term source of food there is no alternative to growing your own.

As far as raising animals is concerned the best all around food animal IMO is the chicken. In most places here you can let them roam around to eat. They are a good low maintenance food source. You can keep goats too, but from what I have witnessed, goats are a lot of trouble for not much return. Pigs are an option, but not one that I would want in our place and I hope that none of the neighbors do either. Cows are good, but you need land and they can be a full time job.

Tools & Supplies

  • matches/lighters
  • extra LPG
  • solar phone charger
  • razor blades
  • basic toolkit
  • sewing kit
  • toilet paper
  • A box or two of Tanduay for trading or emergency wound cleaning
  • candles
  • lanterns/oil/wick material
  • flashlights
  • generator w/ extra fuel & fuel stabilizer
  • extra can openers (p38/p51 if you can find them)
  • good solid utility knives
  • firewood 
  • hand-crank and or solar powered radio
  • shovels/ax/bolo 
  • scissors capable of cutting denim
  • fishing gear 
  • boric acid (brazing flux) for roaches/ants
If you have good quality can openers from the US, then you are lucky. Most of the can openers I have found in the Philippines are not very good.


The p51/p38 can openers are good and cheap:

p-openers by TDKozan

You will see a lot of these rotating wheel/butterfly type can openers in the department and hardware stores:

rotating wheel opener by Evan-Amos

butterfly type opener by Evan-Amos

Do not waste your time with them. They are not like their look-alikes in the US. No matter how cheap or expensive they are they are useless.

This is my personal favorite:



They are 49PHP. When you find this type buy several. The one I am using has opened maybe a thousand cans so far with no end in sight.


    Things To Get Done

    • Be prepared mentally and physically. 
    • Get all shopping done before the crowds set in.
    • Take out extra cash from the bank as needed.
    • Transfer money from overseas as needed. 
    • Fill up vehicles with fuel.
    • Have all important documents organized & ready to throw into a backpack.
    • Be prepared to relocate. 
    • Get extra reading glasses and prescription glasses 
    • When communicable disease is spreading:
      • STAY HOME IF AT ALL POSSIBLE and if not
      • Maintain social distance and hygiene
    It might also be a good idea to set up a relative who lives near you with a nicely stocked sari-sari store. Auto-rotating preps. When TSHTF close the shop and you're golden.

    Consider everything and make wise decisions. It is never unwise to be prepared.

    1.19.2020

    My New Basic Home Office

    My New Basic Home Office

     


    I needed to set up an office type of arrangement, but I also needed to maintain a budget. I built the computer table in the foreground for only 1000 PHP. 



    List of material for the table:




    The flat-screen TV used to sit on the mahogany table that is against the back wall and I wanted to make space, but I was skeptical about wall-mount brackets.

    I purchased this 1300PHP Panatone brand mount at Gaisano and it seems to be very sturdy:




    The box states that the mount is rated up to a 42" set, but I do not agree with that. My 32" unit seems to be pushing the upper limit for this particular bracket and I would not trust it with anything bigger.



     
    That's a 1TB HD enclosure attached to the USB interface. 

    I love HD enclosures. I have three enclosures that contain old hard drives from laptops that have died over the years.

    This one is a 500 GB unit:



    The enclosures connect via double ended USB cable. You can find the enclosures in gadget shops in the malls for about 200PHP.

    Back in the post on appliances I talked about the fact that our non-smart Sharp flat screen could not power the HD enclosure. I have not looked into whether that is a software issue or something else perhaps to do with power over the USB cable.

    I tested out the Globe LTE pocket wifi unit to see if it's memory card could be detected by the TV and it was. The pocket wifi seems to work well as basic network storage and transferring files to the TV wirelessly.

    For printing, copying and scanning I have a couple of old but reliable units.

    The first printer I bought was the Canon Pixma P200:

     

    This is a printer, copier, scanner combo unit. I only use it for scanning and copying because I got tired of buying the ink cartridges that cost too much and run out of ink too soon.

    I have been considering buying a compact portable scanner, but for the meantime I have found simply taking a photo with my phone and then editing it in Windows to be an effective way of capturing digital images of documents.

    I replaced the printing capability of the Canon with an Epson L120:


    I thought that maybe the promises of this Epson ink tank system printer might be too good to be true, but I have been pleasantly surprised by its performance. You can find this model at many computer and tech stores for about 4900PHP. This ink lasts a very long time compared to the cartridges of the Canon, so this is an instant savings. I love this printer. 

    This basic home office will work for me for the next few years until my phase 2 office comes on line:


    Pardon my lack of drawing skills. This is just a concept drawing to give the engineer an idea of what I want. The upper level is the street level and that is where the parking space is along with a small shop for my wife. The lower level is my future home office that will have about 600 sqft of usable space. 




    We have limited space to build, but we might have to make the parking area a couple of feet wider to accommodate easy parking.



    1.17.2020

    IRS Free File Fillable Forms & FBAR 2020

    IRS Free File Fillable Forms & FBAR 2020






    The FBAR e-filing system is available right now, but I will wait and submit my FBAR when I complete my 2019 tax return. 

    I will update this post when the IRS makes FreeFile Fillable Forms available. 

    Fillable Forms were scheduled to roll out on January 21, but have now been pushed back to January 27. 

    Update 2-2-20


    I used The IRS Free Fillable Forms last night. If you do not trust that link, then you can go to the IRS website first and click on it from there. Before you use Free Fillable Forms it is a good idea to check out the list of available forms and known limitations on the IRS website.

    It took less than one hour for me to create an account and do my taxes with Free Fillable Forms. Make sure you turn off any script blocking add-ons and allow pop-ups so that the website will work correctly. The forms do not do everything for you, like TaxAct and other commercial Free File sites do. I had to transfer totals to the 1040 from a couple of attached forms. Other than that it works fairly well.

    When you digitally sign your return you will need your AGI from last year and the pin you used as well. If you were a joint filer you may need the other person's pin too.

    After digitally signing and submitting my return to the IRS I received a confirmation immediately. About 30 minutes later I received an email stating that my return had been accepted.

    Only use Free Fillable Forms if you are confident about doing your own taxes and you know all of the forms that you will need to attach to your return. Unlike Free File providers, Free Fillable Forms will not make any form suggestions based on your input. 

    See the in-depth article on FBAR filing


    1.10.2020

    Globe LTE Pocket Wifi

    Globe LTE Pocket Wifi


    Huawei E5576-856 - May 2020



    I just bought this unit. It was 2900PHP. That is a little high for this model, but any kind of hotspot has been very hard to find in the province for the last several months.

    I had attempted to buy a Huawei 5587 from Lazada, but they were unable to complete the order:


    I was sad about that loss so I tried Shopee for the Huawei 5577cs-321:


    The 5577cs-321 has a 3000mAh battery and dual TS9 external antenna ports.

    That deal fell through when I found out that Shopee only accepts credit cards issued by banks in the Philippines. My card would have doubled the warranty and protected my purchase. 

    The 5576 that I ended up with only has a 1500mAh battery and no antenna ports. It is a cat 4 rated LTE devices like the 5577, meaning it is capable of up to 150 Mbit/s per second (under ideal circumstances and when the moon is in Venus). The 5787 is a cat 6 device so it is capable of double that speed.

    The 5576 management interface is nothing special:


    One new piece of information that this unit did reveal is that we do have 4g in this place:


    I just need to get to the bottom of why I cannot register:


    The 5576 is not what I wanted, but it is better than the MO22. 

    The unit is 802.11n and it operates at 2.4GHz with dual internal antennas and 20MHz channels giving it the claimed 150Mbp/s speed. I would have preferred the ability to switch between 2.4 GHz and 5GHz. This unit may have problems in congested urban areas with lots of microwave ovens and other 802.11 devices operating in the same 2.4GHz range.

    Shanghai Notion MO22 - January 2020



    Warning: I have seen this unit being marketed online as a Huawei product. This device is NOT made by Huawei. 

    I finally broke down and bought a new mobile wifi unit. Like the old Huawei, this new unit is also made in China. The manufacturer is Shanghai Notion Information Technology CO.,LTD. and the model is M022. This model has been out for at least two years. The reason I purchased it is to have access to LTE when it is available. As of now, we live in a place that is part of the 5% of the Philippines yet to be upgraded by Globe to LTE capability.

    I bought the MO22 as a replacement for my ancient Huawei E5220:


    The 5220 is old but it is still working good. It just lacks 4g capability and the battery is shot.


    That total up time figure is no joke: 39,324 hours. I have had it for about four and a half years and it has been up 24/7/365 since day one. 

    The M022 was priced at 1295 PHP, but you get 5 gigs of data with the unit and that would cost you 250 PHP otherwise. Those 5 gigs do need to be burned within 7 days of activation of the SIM that comes with the unit.

    When I activated the sim and tried to avail the free 5 GB before it expired I received this message:


    The promised 5 GB of data has been replaced with useless youtube. The promised promo had not expired. It was supposed to be good until March 31, but Globe just changed it.

    The box the MO22 came in says that it is capable of up the 42 Mbit/s, which would make it about a cat 2 LTE device. Not impressive, but it does have a low price and that combined with sd card slot and 2000 mAh battery might make it a value for some:

     

    M022 Web Interface 



    • The old 5220 displayed whether you were connected to 2G or 3G. The "cellular network mode" field above shows "4G/HSPA+" and it does not tell you which one you are actually connected to at the moment. HSPA+ is high end 3G, by the way, and that is what the unit is connected to because that and 2G is all our local tower supports. I don't know, but maybe the unit thinks that HSPA+ is 4G, which it is not. I doubt that is the case because when I set the unit to 4G only it cannot connect.
    • You cannot use special characters in the M022's wifi password. There are 26 lower-case letters, 26 upper-case letters and 10 numbers so with an eight character password this provides 628 potential combinations. Allowing special characters would make that 728 potential combinations, so if that bothers you then you can just make it longer. If my math is correct, a nine character password that includes capital and lower case letters and numbers but lacks special characters is stronger than an eight character password of the same format that includes capital and lower case letters and numbers and also special characters.
       
    • The M022 web interface has a contact list within the SMS function. The 5220 did not have that.
       
    • The M022 also allows you to add users with restricted permissions to the web management interface:

      You can have rudimentary network storage if you add an SD card:


      The SD card capability only allows you to upload a single file at a time, so multiple files might need to be zipped. It is also very very slow. These issues make this capability just about useless. Sneakernet with a thumb drive is preferable.
       
      By default the unit is set to automatically configure the WAN APN:


      I know of two APNs for Globe:
      • internet.globe.com.ph (used for postpaid)
      • http.globe.com.ph (used for prepaid)
      Even though one is for postpaid and the other is for prepaid they both work for me.

      A lot of people reach this page by searching for "fastest APN," but changing the APN does not effect your speed anymore than changing your password would.

      Connection Is Still Slow


      Even that slow speed would be good news if not for the fact that the up/down speed is highly variable. This test just happened to catch the network at at time when it is working fairly well.

      This is a speed test from a Sunday evening:


      I have noticed a big degradation in network performance that started on Christmas. Seems like a lot of people got new data devices from Santa.

      I am somewhat certain that the transceiver of the M022 is not as robust as the Huawei. The tower signal here fluctuates and the Huawei dealt with it well, but the M022 will just drop the connection. The Huawei never did this, but the M022 does it regularly.

      The LAN side wifi is constantly losing connection. It seems to involve the wifi profile generated by the client and also probably involves one or more security settings. I have this set up exactly as the old wifi was set up and which never had any problems.

      It eventually gets to the point where the client cannot connect via the existing profile for the unit, so I have to delete that profile and then reconnect to the mobile wifi unit by entering the ssid and security key again, which regenerates a new profile.

      1.08.2020

      Painting Your House In The Philippines

      Painting Your House In The Philippines

       


      The image above is our house. That shot is the best view you can get of our house because most of it is occluded by trees. The paint is about a year old and it is brilliant white. When the sun is shining on it you cannot look at it because it is blinding. 

      I did the exterior paint job myself and it is about a year old. I had help to put up bamboo scaffolding on the tall spots, but other than that it was a solo job. I think I did a much better job of painting than the team that we paid to do it years ago.

      For that previous paint job I did some quick Internet research and decided to go with Boysen Acrytex, which is a solvent based high performance paint system. One of the reasons I picked Acrytex is that it eliminates the step of neutralization on unpainted concrete. Acrytex is strictly an exterior paint! Keep that in mind, as you do not want to use this very strong smelling paint inside your house.


      Our Acrytex paint job did not work out. Much of the paint was cracking and peeling within the first year and I think I know why. We were traveling a lot while the painting was being done and we could not personally supervise the painters. I suspect that the painters were accustomed to using water based latex paint. With latex you can wash the rollers at the end of the day and it's ok if they are still a little wet the next morning. With solvent based paint you will run into trouble doing that. I suspect that water became trapped behind the paint and when the paint dried and the sun beat down on it the remaining water gassed up and popped the paint, which had dried to a gas impermeable shell. If anyone can correct me on this presumption, then please do. I would really like to know what actually happened.

      Anyway, the paint failed and looked like crap for years before I felt that I had gotten enough value out of it to repaint.

      The new paint job is outstanding. It looks like a solid slab of stone. There is not a single crack, peel or bubble after a year. And it scrubs down real nice and still looks like it was painted yesterday.

      I went with Davies Megacryl 1350 for the primer, which was selling for 1920 PHP per 16 liter pail at the time: 



      The nice thing about this water based latex is that there is almost no noxious smell. The Acrytex was murderous when it came to the smell and it lingered for days and even weeks. It was a joy to work with the Davies latex because there was almost no smell at all.

      Davies no longer publishes their MSDS online, but I still have this one that I downloaded a year ago.

      According to the MSDS, the two prime components of the primer are limestone and titanium dioxide:


      For the topcoat I went with Davies Megacryl 525 Gloss White, which was selling for 2381 PHP per 16 liter pail at the time:


      I do not have an MSDS for the topcoat, but it is very similar to the primer and equally pleasant to work with having little to no smell.

      Another thing that my wife likes about the Davies paints are nice white buckets. Acrytex comes in metal pails that are not much use. Permatex comes in green plastic pails that become brittle after being in the elements. The heavy duty white Davies buckets endure the sunlight and elements a little better making them useful for a lot of garden uses. I bet that they might last quite a few years.

      The most unpleasant part of repainting our house was the paint removal.


      I used four one-gallon cans of Gi Paint & Varnish Remover manufactured by Treasure Island. Although Treasure Island does post a technical data sheet(TDS) for this product online, I could not find an MSDS from them. You will notice on the TDS that the specific chemical used is methylene chloride. Boysen uses the same chemical in their paint remover and the Boysen MSDS is published online.

      Methylene chloride is an extremely dangerous chemical. It kills people. I would warn anyone away from ever using this chemical indoors in any circumstance or even outdoors in some cases. I only used it outdoors and on some days I felt that it was getting to me.

      If you are going to use this product you must be very careful to use the appropriate protective gloves. I went through a dozen pairs of various types of heavy duty chemical resistant gloves. Methylene chloride eats through them.

      Take note of this advice on safety gloves for use with methylene chloride (referred to as dichloromethane below) from UC Davis:
      Viton, neoprene, or butyl rubber gloves should be used when handling large quantities of dichloromethane or if the hands will be immersed in dichloromethane. Disposable nitrile gloves may be used when handling small quantities or for protection against incidental splash. The nitrile gloves should be at least 6 mil thick and removed and replaced immediately if splashed with dichloromethane... Heavily contaminated gloves must be disposed as chemical hazardous waste.
      Methylene chloride is dangerous, but I could not find a paint remover that contained any different chemical at any vendor near our location on Panay. 

      Seeing how the job was basically the entire exterior it was out of the question to rely on sanding alone. consequently, methylene chloride did its job extremely efficiently. It worked like a charm to be quite frank. 

      Before I close this post I want to make a quick comment on painting the metal railings around our house, which I painted just after I finished up the house exterior. 

      I told you how much I loved Davies vs Boysen for the house exterior, but now the tables turn. For metal painting Boysen wins hands down in my book. 

      I do not like using two-component epoxy because it is very noxious and you must use reducer to thin it, which is caustic and also quite noxious.  However, I did use Boysen two-component epoxy primer for our steel matting fencing because it performs better in the elements. Due to the nature and situation of the steel matting I felt that the two-component epoxy primer was warranted. 

      For the railings I went with basic Paralux red oxide.  

      For my steel water tower I am repainting with Uni-coat metal primer, which is basically the same as red oxide only in this case it is gray:




      For the topcoat I only use Boysen Quick Dry Enamel:



      Boysen QDE lives up to its name drying to a nice hard shell. It has held up very well on our fences, doors and railings both in and out of the elements.

      The first time I painted the steel matting fence I used Boysen two-component epoxy enamel. It did not stand up well and was difficult to work with due to strong smell, caustic reducer, etc.... I repainted with simple Boysen QDE and now I use nothing else for exterior metal applications. 

      I tried out Davies Gloss It Quick Dry Enamel for some of our metal applications:




      Davies QDE did not work out so well for me. For one issue, it was still tacky after two weeks. When it finally dried it was more like a latex than an enamel finish. It was also weak compared to Boysen, in my opinion.

      I actually did experiment with Davies Latex exterior paint on a section of metal railings. I was hoping it would work well, since the Davies Latex was so easy to work with and worked out so nicely on the concrete walls. Alas, it did work, but not well. The finish was brittle and did not look very attractive. Maybe it was my lack of expertise in applying it.

      UPDATE 2-14-20


      I had not paid any attention to the section of steel tubing that I painted with latex last year. I just checked it out again after almost a year and it does not look bad and has held up well. I used cheap red oxide as a primer but if I use a better quality primer (like the Unicoat industrial grade that I am using now) and if I apply the latex with a roller, then I think that I can get a very nice looking and durable result. I know that this is not painting orthodoxy, but any time that I can use latex instead of solvent based paint is a bonus in my book. 

      Also, I have started painting our water tower and I used the Unicoat as the primer. I really like it a lot. It stinks far and wide for a couple of days, but the coverage and look is very nice. The can states that, unlike other primers (red oxide) that must be top coated within one week,  Unicoat industrial can be left for up to one year without topcoat. It looks a lot like heavily galvanized metal when finished and I get complete coverage with a single coat. However, there is not actually any zinc in the Unicoat. I am afraid of the zinc primers. Not only are they very expensive, but they are also carcinogenic. I have enough carcinogens in my life already, so no thank you!