jc blog - tales of a modern-day nomadic hunter-gatherer

Follow jcomeau_ictx on Twitter This is the weblog of Intrepid Wanderer. You never know what you might find here; graphic descriptions of bodily functions, computer programming secrets, proselytizing for the antichrist, miscellaneous ranting and kvetching, valuable information on living off the land... if you don't share my rather weird interests you may want to try slashdot instead.

You can consider my Del.icio.us links an extension to my blog, as are my LifeTango goals and my other to-do items. My to-buy list is also public, but only for sharing any useful ideas that might be there; I'm not requesting charity, neither do I offer it.

You can find me easily in google searches, as jcomeau, jcomeau_ictx, or jcomeauictx. There are lots of other jcomeaus, but AFAIK I'm the only jcomeau_ictx out there so far.

If you want to comment on anything you see here, try the new Facebook comments, reachable by clicking the "[comment]" link at the end of each post. If for some reason that isn't working, go ahead and email me, jc.unternet.net. You know what to do with the first dot. Make the 'subject' line something reasonably intelligent-looking or it goes plunk! into the spambasket unread.

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2004-05-31-0938Z

Hmm, what did I do all day? Slept in Himmel Park; rode around on the bike; ate a little here, a little there; visited all the remaining Kinko's and Starbucks within reasonably easy reach that I could find; and decided to leave for Phoenix tomorrow (well, actually, later today, since it's long past midnight already). So I canceled all my outstanding bids on the contract programming sites and have been playing with my Apache 2 config. Turns out I hadn't configured it for SSL support; but it's done now. The pub site is back online locally, and I've got to work on the applet. I should also, perhaps more importantly, be working on the storefront.

I've got some more applications in with Starbucks for all the technical jobs between New Mexico and Southern Cal. I hopefully improved my chances by changing my cover letter, resume, and other inputs. Part of me is still scared of a regular job, but it seems like such a nice place, I could probably hack it.

My butt is healing, turns out it may have had nothing to do with the bike after all; it's probably still the scabies; the damn things likely never died. Two days of using the benzoate and the pain is all but gone. Got to keep using it this time, day after day, until the little bastards are all destroyed. [comment]

2004-05-30-1011Z

I'm actually getting used to the taste of those oranges. Maybe now a store-bought orange will seem like candy to me! And the barrel cactus fruits are delicious as always. It looks like you're eating wax but it doesn't feel nor taste like it. It's very pleasant. And the seeds appear to be very oily, which is good for energy. Possibly very nutritious as well.

Forgot to mention, I read Daniel Quinn's After Dachau today. Remembered now because I just dropped it in the night drop at Himmel branch, next to the park (where there's power I'm plugged into!). An interesting novel with reincarnation as part of the plot, but nothing really grabbed me about it. The characters, Jason and Mallory, seemed to have pretty much the same dynamic as Jared and Shirin of The Story of B: strong woman and (relatively) weak, bumbling man. Maybe that's how Quinn percieves himself and Rennie? Still looking for a copy of Ishmael. It's really easy (and free) to get a library card here in Tucson. I didn't really want another card in my pocket, but it was necessary in order to use the computer. [comment]

2004-05-30-0909Z

OK, got all my important stuff accessible from Linux, got ALSA sound configured and changed my LILO setup to boot the 2.4 kernel by default! I now, once again (my old laptop was Linux for years... Red Hat 4.something, with a 2.0.39 kernel) have a Linux laptop! This time with Slackware 9.1, my first non-RH-derived distro.

I'm sure I'll find a lot of stuff broken over the next few days, weeks, and possibly months, but I've got my java development environment and gcc, and a real unix kernel, not a kludge (a useful kludge and a good kludge, but still a kludge) like Cygwin. So it's all a matter of persistence. A lot of projects I'd been putting off can now be started, but I can't for the life of me think of what they are. I'm sure they'll hit me as the days roll on.

I've also installed Apache 2, but haven't tested any of the websites on it yet... hey, that reminds me, one of the projects that was on hold is my online pub! I can really work on that in earnest now! The idea is a website where people can easily, using only java, have a pub-like experience, hearing and seeing a bunch of friends in real-time. Naturally it's BYOB until teleporter technology improves. [comment]

2004-05-30-0218Z

Haven't received any supplement to my budgeted amount of $10/day for what, 3 days now? That's good, it means I might actually be able to maintain this. So far I've got almost $5 to last for the next 4.5 hours, and I just had a double cheeseburger at McD's. Plus I've still got a sour orange and a few barrel cactus fruits in my pocket, and two full water bottles. You can see that the lesson I learned on that windy day sunk in a little at least; I keep those goddamn bottles full. And I don't worry too much about the quality of the water. Sure, there are poisons of some sort in just about any water supply. The trick is to keep moving city to city and getting different poisons, so the same one doesn't keep building up in your system.

Last night I got, finally, after over a year, a working Linux system on the laptop. Those tireless maintainers of the wlan-ng package fixed the bugs in their Prism3 support, and now the built-in USB wireless of the Averatec works like a champ. Next step is to get all my development stuff onto the Linux partition and keep XP around only for a backup system, and for testing Windows software for clients. I can't think of anything I do in Windows that I can't do better under a Unix system. That'll be my goal for tonight, my Exodus from Windows!

I also made progress in the last few days on my IPN script. In fact, it now works; there were so many bugs! Next step there is to add the storefront code to the script.

Uncontrollably bursting into tears a lot lately, missing my lady. Something I just have to deal with. Or lay off the freakin' grains. Wasn't it Robert Anton Wilson who said you can tell a lot about a society by what drugs they allow and which ones they ban? [comment]

2004-05-28-2006Z

BM watch: stool a little harder than normal but still came out easily with minimum residue and no noticeable smell. This McDonald's diet, supplemented by some nuts (almonds and/or sunflower seeds not cooked in soy oil), bananas, and the occasional cactus fruit or prickly pear leaf, seems to be working out well for me. I could do without yesterday's moodiness though, so today will try to take it easier on the carbs.

You may be wondering why I'm sharing all this with you. "More than I needed to know" I can hear someone saying. Well, the answer is that I am recording this mostly for my own future reference. I'm making it public because I think other people can benefit from my experimentation without having to suffer some of the more extreme mistakes I made (the yucca stalk for example). Now that I've simplified my life to the point where "what I eat" becomes the primary focus of the day, I can really pay attention, for the first time in my life, to these details and observe how changes in diet can affect my moods, my smell, my energy level, and yes, my bowel movements. When I was working, I would try to keep track of this stuff but it always fell through the cracks when some important work started hogging my attention. Which happened regularly. [comment]

2004-05-28-1811Z

Let's see if I can type this in before the battery dies. It does appear to be solar charging.

I'm at the park on Speedway and 7th Ave. A block north of here, between 5th and 6th, are a couple of orange trees! The oranges are awfully goddamned sour though. I doubt if a diabetic would have any problem with them! But in addition to all the cactus and yucca in the city, it rounds out a forager's diet with a good source of citrus and accompanying vitamins. [comment]

2004-05-28-0103Z

There's still something wrong with the charging circuit in the battery; the computer shows a solid green LED which normally indicates full charge, but the tray icon, when clicked, shows it at 0% and charging. All the time. And if I unplug the AC power, it gives me a "critical battery" warning immediately. Voltmeter shows 12.12VDC at no load, and 11.83 when attempting to run the laptop off battery power. Well, if the computer can no longer recharge the battery, I hope the solar charger will.

I'm starting to worry about the numbness in my hands and fingers. The feeling should have returned to normal by now but it hasn't. Maybe I did permanent damage to the nerves while supporting most of my weight gripping the handgrips; or perhaps that insect bite I got a week or so ago is affecting my system, despite my getting most of the poison out. But since the bite was in my neck, if that is what is affecting my fingers, it ought to also numb my toes, and that isn't happening. Or is that faulty logic? Probably. I just hope I'm not dying. That would really suck. Especially when I'm just starting to find some freedom in this fucked-up world.

Had my espresso brownie this afternoon, here at Starbucks on Speedway in Tucson, near the University and up the street from the 24-hour Kinko's. Nice, but kind of anticlimactic after yesterday's carb binge. Let's just say I didn't get an orgasm from it.

Found one of the bugs in my IPN script; wasn't converting CONTENT_LENGTH to an int. Blame it on Perl for making me lazy; it's hard going from a language which does a lot of the magic for you to one which expects you to do your own homework. Guess I'll head on over to Kinko's as soon as I finish my coffee, and see if that makes the damned thing work any better. [comment]

2004-05-27-2104Z

FUBAR is only relative. With enough persistence, just about anything can be repaired. My battery pack is now working again, and may actually be trickle-chargeable by the solar panel; not sure yet because after an hour and a half it showed no sign of improvement in charge level. I did that in McDonald's after eating a 2-burger brunch, hauling out my high-tech assortment of tools and soldering away with abandon.

Sitting there drinking coffee, and then the muzak switches to Jimmy Buffet's Come Monday. That song always makes me cry. Yes, she is that much a part of me now. When is my Monday going to come? I indulged in the sentiment and tears for a while, and then the kid in the next booth comes over and hands me some folded-up bills. Guess he and his Mom thought I needed food. I thanked him and bought another burger just to get my mind on something else. Blame the carbs for this outburst of loneliness. What the hell, it got me $3. Now, next time I'm low on money, will I sit on a street corner somewhere and cry? Hope not.

Got to get back to some programming. Maybe finish that storefront/IPN software I started a few weeks (months?) back. Or maybe when I check my email I'll find out I won a bid on RAC. We shall see. [comment]

2004-05-27-0948Z

While at the Kinko's on Ina Road earlier today, a lady walked in and needed help uploading some photos to her website. The staff girl said none of them could help her, so I offered; and a few minutes later, the lady was handing me a 5-spot in appreciation! Nice!

So for some strange reason, I then went on a mini carb-binge. I'll probably regret it in a few hours but it wasn't all that bad, so maybe I can handle it. Let's see, a slice of veggie pizza from Wild Oats Market, a bottle of Code Red while at Tucson Mall, a donut later (didn't get to Starbucks in time for an espresso brownie), then to Red Garter Bar & Grill, up the street from the Speedway Kinko's, for a pint of Guinness. They close at 1AM. The bar, not the Kinko's... this Kinko's store is the 24-hour one I should have found last night, as it's much closer to the South end of town where I started my search. There's a McDonald's and a Starbucks within easy reach too. Don't know about a laundromat, but that shouldn't be too difficult to find.

While at the mall today, I found at Radio Shack the FM transmitter I'd been looking for, the irock! device. A little pricey at $30; cracked it open (3 small philips-head screws) and found only 2 ICs with mostly passive surface-mount components.

That just about used up my reserves from my last RAC jobs. I've now got bids in on a couple more jobs so I can have some cash in my Paypal account for when my domains auto-renew. Oh, what a stressful life. NOT. I am, however, a little too sleepy to attempt another repair of my battery pack. Forgot to mention, I found a butane soldering iron at Lowe's today and bought it for $16. There's a park nearby, Himmel Park, where I ought to be able to get some decent sleep in the morning, and then later tomorrow afternoon I can maybe get the battery functioning again, hopefully with solar power!

I didn't realize, but noticed in the mirror today, that my nose is cracked and bleeding from constant sunburn. How come my hands can take the burning sun day in and day out, and only get darker? But other skin burns? Strange. [comment]

2004-05-26-1944Z

Idyllic. Magical. The ride into Tucson was reminiscent of my amazing night lost in the north end of San Diego some weeks ago. After that sunset climb out of Benson, I could sense something special was going to happen.

Some funny things I noticed about Benson. On the way in, there's a McDonald's billboard, but the sign is torn and fluttering in the breeze. And when you get to the second exit, where the Wendy's was, there's no sign for McD's. As you turn left and go up the hill to Wendy's you see the boarded-up shell of an old McDonald's, with signs on it directing visitors to the Wilcox location, miles away. What gives? Have you ever heard of a town in which McDonald's goes out of business? I can't picture it.

Anyway, on the way out of town I saw what happened. There's a new McDonald's there, along with KFC and a bunch of other places. Except that Wendy's usually has power for laptops, this is the place to stop if you're going through Benson. It's a huge place, well-lit, with hotels and restaurants galore. A sign of vibrant life in an otherwise "nothing but the dead and dying in my little town". And a few miles further, yet another good omen. An Irish pub! I can't remember the name of it, and didn't have any cash left for a pint anyway, but just knowing such a place exists in Arizona gives me a warm feeling.

And then the real world merged with that of dreams. After that, almost no pedaling; I practically coasted all the way into Tucson. It wasn't all downhill by any means; there was no wind that I could see in the trees, but a coolness refreshing my face, but the ride was all but effortless. Mile after mile slipped by. Once a cop pulled a u-turn and I thought he was going to give me a hard time (I still don't have a flashing taillight, but at least now I have one of those large triangular reflectors, about 12" to a side, that I found along the highway) but no, he sped on ahead. As I approached him a mile or so later, a few other SUVs with bubblegums pulled up. Border Patrol. Apparently a bunch of wetbacks being rounded up. Pobrecitos.

At about 12 miles out of town, having gone 34 miles between sundown and 11:30 PM or so, I stopped at a Chevron station. All 3 phone books were missing from the payphones outside, so I bought a coffee inside and asked to peruse their phone book, to which the lady agreed. I took it to a picnic bench outside, of which there were several, drank my coffee, ate some almonds (that pound I bought at Wal-Mart the other day was lasting a long time!) and looked for maps and Kinko's locations. Something wonderful I noticed about almonds and coffee. Chew up a handful of almonds and, without swallowing, take a sip of coffee, allowing the coffee to extract the flavor out of the chewed-up almonds. Heavenly! The two flavors merge to create a "unique taste sensation" (god, what an overworked cliché! But it's what I meant). Someday I have to try adding ground almonds to fresh-ground coffee and brewing them together. Anyway, I found the Kinko's listings and found the primary one on the map, 2220 Ina Road, all the way on the other (Northwest) end of town. I figured that had to be the 24-hour location.

I didn't mention, about this time a few raindrops started spitting out of the sky. Remember that happened in San Diego that night, too. I wanted to start typing this in, but had no place to plug in. I'll probably forget a lot of what was going on in my mind at the time. But one thing that really struck me was the revelation about the Skateboard Superhighway. That's the term I came up with years ago for my idea for a North-South corridor along the East Coast for bicyclists, bladers, and skateboarders to travel unimpeded and safely from city to city. I thought it would never get past "dream" stage because of all the political and logistical problems to be solved. But now I found out it was already there!

You see, all my life I'd been sure bicycles were not allowed on the Interstate. I remember seeing the signs on I-95 in Maine, on the entry ramp, stating that explicitly. But here in NM and AZ, the signs also say that bicycles are permitted to ride on the shoulder! The shoulder being a wide (same as travel lanes, or even wider sometimes, for the most part) paved, smooth area except for the left edge having been made bumpy to wake up sleepy drivers who have drifted onto it (voice of experience!). Since the Interstate system is a Federal project, doesn't that mean bikes and pedestrians everywhere in the U.S. can use the shoulders? Or is that reserved to the states to decide? In any case, here are two states that do allow it. Here is my dream come true, my goal realized. All it would take is some lobbying to get all states to allow the same, if they don't already. I'll have to find out about that. Suddenly the U.S. seems worth saving again, after I'd already written it off to the CFR.

Picture a whole generation of kids (like me!) bicycling and windsurfing (yes, on wheels! it's going to be the next generation of home-brew personal transit) city to city, working odd jobs or on-line, paying no taxes to the machine, living on cheap fast food and whatever fruits can be found growing on roadsides and in public places (and planting more, as I mentioned before). Rampant prosumerism, minimal consumerism. The monster will collapse under its own weight. It will start here in the U.S., spread to Canada and Europe, and eventually the world. The end of totalitarian agriculture, the rebirth of tribalism. These are just vignettes, obviously I need to flesh these ideas out more and work out numerous bugs.

In any case, somehow the magic started to die at that point. The first thing to bulldoze into my Arcadia was that, uh, condition I mentioned previously. It's probably something well-known to regular bicycle commuters. Maybe there's even a pet name for it, "biker's butt" perhaps, and an AMA-approved medication. "95 percent of assholes prefer our product over the competition". If I were one of these reptilian-looking creatures with the navy-and-silver spandex with matching helmet, who subscribes to all the bicycling magazines, pedals robotically at 20 MPH or better with his lean, muscular body, maybe I'd know all this stuff. But I'm not, and I don't. It got worse and worse, and I had to stand up more of the time, letting my hands on the handlebars support my weight.

The next problem was the road. All this time, visibility had been pretty good. That problem I had the night before, with not enough traffic in my direction to light my way, and cars going the opposite way blinding me, had not happened nearly as much, and though I had to slow down sometimes to be safe, most of the ride had been great, with the cloud cover reflecting Tucson's lights even from 35 miles away. I think also I had been incredibly lucky not to have hit any major road hazards during low-visibility moments. Now as I was looking at the exit sign, something almost threw me off the bike. I looked back, and I had run over a length of 4-by-4! Damn good thing it was perpendicular to my path. Had it been at an angle, it might have steered me into traffic. Anyway, another shock to wake me out of my reverie. I was leaving the dream world and coming back to reality. Then, worse. Construction. The shoulder narrowed to about a foot, then there was a stretch with no shoulder at all. That scared the hell out of me. Those oncoming 18-wheelers and cars would not be expecting a bike in the travel lanes. I would be dead meat. The construction workers were yelling and whistling too. So I turned around and carefully walked back the way I'd come, until I went up an exit ramp the wrong way and found myself at a well-lit but closed Food City on the south end of 6th Avenue. I wasn't sure where I was or what direction I was going (remember, no stars due to clouds) but instinctively I headed North.

Goddamn, this city is huge. It took me over 4 hours to reach that Kinko's, and it was not the 24-hour one, which is at 2607 East Speedway, wherever that might be. Bummer. I was getting hungry, and I'd passed the only McDonald's miles back. And it was uphill before going back downhill. So I punted. I continued downhill, heading West on Ida Road. Eventually I did reach a McDonalds, where I had my usual Sausage-and-egg McMuffin for a dollar, actually two of them plus coffee. There was no park nearby, so I crashed in a vacant lot near the train tracks and was woken repeatedly by the ground shaking. Eventually I felt rested enough, got up and looked for a laundromat. I ended up using the one at Park Inn, under the I-10 overpass on Ida. Man, it's nice not to stink for a change. Well, at least not as much. Back to McD's for a double cheese, then to Fry's Food and Drug for some baking soda (deodorant), bananas, and sunflower seeds. Down to about $3 for the rest of the day, and it's only about 2PM local time. I guess no Espresso Brownies at Starbucks for me today. I only passed one Starbucks in the whole city so far anyway, and it was combined with Einstein Brother's Bagels. I thought they were competitors?! Anyway, now I'm at Kinko's, feeling somewhat civilized and relaxed, and typing this in.

Remember my hamburger using Portabello mushroom caps as the bun? Well, here's the prickly pear version. I made this at Wilcox after my hellish battle with the winds, what was it, two days ago? I'd better get going, I think someone else wants to use the internet connection and I haven't even checked my email yet. [comment]

2004-05-25-2341Z

After that nice breakfast and a nap, you would have thought I had a nice start on my day. Well, it was all downhill from there, figuratively speaking. There were few downslopes, and even on those the headwind was so strong I had to pedal pretty hard just to move at all.

Most of the ride was at walking speed; sometimes, in fact, it was easier to get off and walk. The headwind was intermittent at first, but as the day wore on it got steady and stronger. What I had thought was plenty of water was running out; my new goal was not the next rest area but the town of Wilcox, Arizona. By 20 miles away I was rationing my remaining water. By 15 miles away I was drinking in sips, not gulps. And at 10 miles away I drank the last drop.

Have you ever been really, really thirsty for any length of time? My mouth, normally used to having plenty of saliva in it, spontaneously wants to swallow at times. When the mouth is completely dry, this is a bad idea. There's nothing to swallow so I almost choke. I then tried eating some almonds to see if it would stimulate saliva production. It worked, but just barely. I figured it wouldn't work for long, and which is worse, to choke on a dry mouth or on a bunch of dry, chewed-up almonds? I opted for the former.

4 miles outside of town, the exit sign showed gas and lodging available, but no food. No matter, a gas station has to have at least a soda machine, right? I took the exit. No gas station. No nothing. I just kept heading into town, now on the Interstate 10 "business loop" instead of I-10 proper. Business loop? Give me a break. The goddamned road is empty for miles. Finally up ahead I saw the nondescript "Budget Hotel", of which there seems to be one in every little stinking town in these states, and there, in bright living white and green, was a 7-up vending machine! 50 cents later and I was letting that stream of sugars, chemicals, and lovely water slake my parched throat. I had made it back to civilization. I realized right then, in a flash of insight, that, for me, desert survival boils down to one thing, and one thing only: getting the fuck out of the desert. I may someday have the wherewithal to tackle the desert for weeks or months at a time, hunting and extracting water out of the earth, but for now, it's get in, get out, and get the hell back to my Starbucks and Guinness.

Speaking of beer. After MickeyD's, I went to Safeway and bought some bananas; while rearranging my stuff on the luggage rack of the bike, this guy asks if I'll watch his bike while he goes into the store; he just bought it and he saw some kids eyeing it as he parked. Sure, I said. When he came out, he and I shot the breeze for a minute and then he hands me $5. Are you sure? Yes. Thanks very much! I took it and prowled around for a bar seedy-looking enough to possibly not mind my looks and smell. Not finding one, I went into a convenience store and bought some more water, and a 24-once bottle of that lovely amber elixir from England, Bass & Co. Pale Ale. Went across the street to a construction site, sat down in the quiet night, and enjoyed my beer the best I could. Somehow drinking alone doesn't really appeal to me. It did taste great, though. Usually bottled Bass doesn't do anything for me, but this time it tasted just as good as any I could ever remember from a tap.

After that, I was sleepy. I lay down on the new concrete, as this looked like a safe enough neighborhood. The worst that could happen was a cop would chase me out. Which happened within 5 minutes. He didn't really chase me, but cruised by and shined his lights on me, which was sufficient. Then as I was walking away he asked for ID and asked a bunch of questions, the usual stuff. Friendly enough. He told me where I could get coffee, and where there was a park I could crash in, in the morning. I went to the truck stop and ordered coffee.

Coffee after beer is always a bad idea. After midnight I pulled my new day's $10 out of my right-hand pocket and added to the disaster by buying an overly sweet chocolate brownie. Can't wait to get to Tucson where there should be a Starbucks and their bittersweet espresso brownies. Everybody else seems to kill the chocolate with too much sugar.

Well, I didn't spend the night. After a couple of hours or so, I got back on my bike and headed out of town. The rest area was about 20 miles ahead, and this time I wanted to get started before the day's winds. For some reason the nights are still; the winds build up along with the sun, and fade away after sunset. But there was no starlight, due to cloud cover, and the traffic behind me wasn't sufficient to light up the road, so I ended up walking most of the 10 miles until twilight. Then began the upgrade. Not steep, but steady; I was able to go in 13th gear most of the way. The rest area was at the very top. There was another truck stop before it, but I wasn't so hungry, and in any case I had already spent too much of the day's money, about $2.50. So I crashed. Slept until around 1PM, then washed some of my clothes in the sink and hung them on a mesquite tree to dry. Sat there and ate almonds and a bag of M&M's that cost $1 in the vending machine. Drank lots of water. Still felt weak and unambitious, probably due to the beer last night. Finally the clothes were dry enough, and I got back on my bike.

When not in a coastal town, my personal hygeine routine goes to hell. On the coast, I can always jump in the ocean or use a public shower near the beach. Not that I always do, but it's there, and when I think about it I use it. In the desert it's another story. I hadn't had a shower since visiting City of the Sun a week before, and I hadn't had washed before that since that ocean jump off Santa Monica Beach. Besides the smell and general discomfort, not being able to clean and dry the nether regions causes rather severe irritation around Uranus. There are no bidets in the desert. No toilet paper, either. Prickly pear is not a useful substitute. I started using hand towels, which I'd then stuff back into my rear pocket, all shitted up. It's pretty disgusting. When people see you washing out those nasty rags at public restrooms, they usually turn around and leave without doing their business. Anyway, just before dawn this morning I hid behind some mesquite trees off the roadside and scrubbed down with just water and my cleanest (!) towels, and those, along with the sweat pants I had worn for the last week, were what I was washing out at the rest area.

Going from the rest area to the next town was mostly a downhill coast. About goddamn time. There was the same headwind, but the slope was enough to overcome it for the most part. I'm at the Wendy's here in Benson, AZ, where a triple cheeseburger and coffee set me back $5.08. What can I say, I wanted some beef. I'm back on Pacific time, where it's now 5:44 PM; Deming was an hour ahead. 44 miles into Tucson, guess I'd better start soon so I can get some daylight riding in. So far I'm averaging over 50 miles a day, hope I can keep this up.

If and when I get to Tucson, I might just stay for a while, if I can find free wi-fi access somewhere. Stay and make some money on Rent-A-Coder. Wait and see what's going on in my lady's life. Then maybe go back and chill in Baja, or head North for the Comeau family reunion and a visit to Ma. Or both. I'm glad this bike is working out. No more worries about transportation, I can cross the country in 2 months. Now if I could just improve it so I can harness the power of the wind! All in due course. [comment]

2004-05-24-1258Z

Decided to ride all night last night; unfortunately, some truckers complained to the New Mexico DOT, and a trooper pulled me over and told me to get off the highway at night, since I didn't have proper lights. He did let me go another 5 miles to the truck stop at exit 5, however, and I laid out my serapes and slept for a few hours while waiting for the restaurant to open. When I couldn't sleep I drank coffee and ate the rest of my tamales from the day before.

When the restaurant opened at 5, I ordered the $2.99 special, which was a green chile and cheese omelet, delicious! Substituted tomato slices for the hash browns, and also got a thick slice of orange, biscuits, and gravy for the price. Can't beat it. Finished the coffee I had bought at the store out front for 52 cents, and headed off down the highway in the predawn twilight.

(image: Arizona Sunrise) It's another tequila sunrise. Made it over the border just before the sun peeked out over the hills. Now I'm at the rest area just a mile up the road, and will try to sleep here for a while, then attempt to make it to the next rest area 69 miles away. There's power here, near the phones, but no wi-fi unfortunately. Well, this'll get uploaded eventually. Hope I haven't lost my handful of faithful readers by then!
[comment]

2004-05-23-2151Z

Despite my complaints about the bike, about midnight last night I decided to get the hell out of Dodge, and started pedaling West on the frontage road south of I-10. It unceremoniously ended about 3 miles out and, cursing, I retreated back to the Deming truck stop and had a small breakfast. Refreshed, I tried again, this time on the North side frontage road. At the Savoy truck stop the frontage road ended, and I rode the shoulder all the way into Lordsville, about 60 miles (plus the 6 miles or so for the false start made 66 miles in about 13 hours), arriving at the Lordsburg McD's at about 2:30 PM. What made the difference? I fastened the laptop bag securely to the luggage rack with my spare tube, and folded my serapes and used them to cushion the seat. Also raised the seat adequately, something I should have done a long time ago. Presto, minimized discomfort.

Sitting here with my coffee, head down on the table trying to sleep, a lady came by and plopped a bag with about 2 pounds of tamales on the table. Man, are they good. And now I found an outlet so I can update my blog.

So I guess I decided to use the bike for all my transportation within the U.S. If I can average 25 miles a day, that's 750 a month. If 50 per day, that's a respectable 1500 miles per month. Let's see how it works out. [comment]

2004-05-23-0219Z

Wow, it's been quite a while since my last update. I fubared my battery pack trying to make it solar-rechargable; I couldn't find a butane iron so tried with a micro-torch instead. Now I can only use the laptop where there's power.

Let's see, what have I done since that all-night ride from Columbus? Rested up for a day or so; went to karaoke at Joe Perk's Thursday night, saw July and Chris again; met a guy, Romek, later that night and he shared some real Polish sausage with me as we talked about places we'd been. Earlier that day, he'd met Walter (July's boyfriend), and Maya at City of the Sun.

One of those days I ate some figs and soon regretted it. The effect wasn't as bad as the yucca, but bad enough; I don't think I'll be repeating that error again soon. I hadn't eaten figs for years, and probably that was why. They taste so good, and come out so uncontrollably.

Friday morning I bought some solder and other supplies at Radio Shack, then went to Pepper's on Columbus Rd. and got 2.5 pounds of beef, some serrano peppers, and 2 gallons of water; then headed to my lot. I was hoping to stay two full days but only made it 27 hours, still a record for me. I think. I never have energy when I'm there on the lot. All I want to do is lie down and sleep. I probably dug my future home out only another 1/2 inch or so. After eating the last pound of solar-cooked beef this afternoon, I gained enough energy to bike back into town. Took me two painful hours. My back can't take much more of this; I've got to find a better way of transportation.

Made the decision to cut my allowance down to $10 per day, in order to make my money last until next March. And anything I make extra, say on RentACoder.com, can be used for capital expenditures, like bicycles, batteries, stuff like that. Don't know if that will work, but that's the plan. For now. Wouldn't it be cool if it did? How about this for a book title: The World on $10 a Day? [comment]

2004-05-19-2142Z

Rode all last night to Deming; got to Rockhound Rd. just as the sun was peeking over the horizon, and was at McD's getting my $1 Sausage & Egg McMuffins by 7:20AM local time. I had stopped and slept for about an hour along the way, when I was really dragging; not good to fall asleep while riding and drift in front of oncoming traffic.

Been searching all day for a butane soldering iron, none of the stores here carry them I guess. Now that I've got the Averatec battery problem solved, all I need is that plus some conductive tape and I'll have my laptop solar powered (by trickle-charging the battery). Good enough for a daily blog update, and upload where available.

Stomach finally back to normal, eating about a 50-50 protein/carb mix. On the way back home last night I was munching pecans and sunflower seeds and taking vitamin C, and drinking lots of water. It is so comforting having an adequate supply of water on these New Mexico roads! [comment]

2004-05-18-1822Z

Rant: why the hell isn't there a small, universal 12VDC interconnect by now? The only one that is used as a "standard", at least here in the U.S., is the stupid, overly large, clumsy, difficult-to-keep-seated cigarette lighter plug and socket. Searching Radio Shack and various auto parts dealers show nothing else usable. I finally settled on bullet connectors for the work I'm doing connecting solar panels, batteries, laptop, and amplifier. I use the male bullet connector for power and female for ground on the voltage source, vice versa for the voltage user. In the case where an item is both, such as a battery being charged by a solar panel and then feeding the laptop, I use red wires from the battery to its source, and black to its user (the laptop).

There is another plug being used for low-power, and that's the 1/8 inch audio plug and jack such as is used by headphones. But that's a very poor choice because it shorts when not fully seated. I've ruined batteries using that type of connection. And there is the type of plug used on laptops and cellphones, with a center pin and surrounding shield, which would be great if you could buy inline sockets and not just the plugs.

Palomas sucks. That's my conclusion after not being allowed into their only 2AM bar last night. I don't think I'll be going back there except maybe during the day, to buy a liter of tequila. What they charged me for a shot ($3) of the same stuff (Orendain Blanco) of which in the same town you can buy a liter for $6.50 doesn't make me too happy either. And then there was this sleazy-ass drug dealer who, when he realized I wasn't going to buy anything, tried to guilt-trip me into giving him some money for food. I don't go for that. I offered him some of my pecans and he didn't want "my food". But he wanted my money?

I've been thinking, someone could clean up big-time by putting vending machines every few miles along these NM roads. You could use evaporative cooling with solar power and not need any external power source.

How to open the battery pack for an Averatec 3150P: take two jeweler's screwdrivers (flat head) and, starting near the connector where it powers the laptop, pry the glued seal open, leapfrogging one screwdriver with another, in both directions until that whole side is opened. Then just open it like a clamshell. The batteries can be pried up gently, one side at a time. You'll see circuitry right at the connector and underneath the pack, be careful not to break it or cause a short as you're working! It's only shit luck that mine is still alive, as I wasn't being too careful. Now if I can only find a way to connect another set of wires and feed them around to the back; they left me zero room for that. Anyway, my butane soldering iron isn't working any more, the catalyst must be shot. Got to go back to Deming and buy a new one at Radio Shack, if they still sell the damned things. Radio shack has long since forgotten its hobbyist roots and offers only token items for that market, focusing instead on cellular phone and computer sales. More power to them, but I hope someone moves in to take over the hobbyist market. Despite years of fears, DIP devices are still widely available for all common IC's. I guess the death of the DIP is like that of Unix: prematurely announced.

Well, enough rambling. My battery is now charged and my laundry cleaned, and I've taken a long-needed shower here at City of the Sun. Now to dry my clothes and rest up for the ride back to Deming tonight. [comment]

2004-05-18-1051Z

Well, last Sunday afternoon I was in McD's eating a $1 burger when the El Paso bus driver offered me some of his fries. I normally politely refuse, but this time I accepted and ate them; it's now Tuesday morning and still my stomach is not back to normal. It's been hell, and one of the great things about the paleolithic diets is this built-in punishment for binges. I don't know why a few fries would make my system so acidic, but whatever the reason I don't think I'll forget this episode soon.

Anyway, after eating I rode to my lot, left my old fisherman's vest after putting everything in my new one, and rode to Columbus. Spent a few hours last evening in Palomas, Mexico but left when the only 2AM bar I know of refused me admittance. More later, battery is almost dead... [comment]

2004-05-16-2013Z

Couldn't find the flat yesterday afternoon; put the tube back together and reinflated it, and it lasted all the way back to the lot. Can't say the same for the rear tire; it got punctured by a thorn on the dirt part of Hermanas Grade between Monte Vista and Coyote. First decided to walk the remaining 4 miles, then after not many steps decided to patch it. Made it the rest of the way without incident, well before dark, and did some digging with my new pick. It sure breaks the hard soil easier than the shovel!

Got an insight on that dream with the aliens. I saw some radium dials on the compasses at Wal-Mart yesterday. Something about that green glow triggers thoughts of extraterrestrials in my brain, I think. No idea why.

About 9PM last night I had the urge to go somewhere for a beer. Not back to Deming, but I decided I'd check out the town of Hermanas south of my lot. When I hit Hermanas Grade again, directly ahead was the well-lit area I'd been seeing from my lot, with some kind of balloon above it. Someone had told me it was the Border Patrol, but I couldn't believe it. I figured it had to be the town of Hermanas. As I approached, though, I was surprised to find no traffic on the road. None. Maybe two hours later I was right onto it. Sure enough, it was the goddamned Border Patrol. A bunch of buildings, lit up light a night ballgame, not a person in sight, not even at the gate. I stopped and fixed my flat right outside under their lights, and not a soul came out to investigate. Probably all inside somewhere drinking beer.

This bike is starting to annoy me. The tires keep going flat and I can't find the puncture. The rear may just be a bad patch, but the front is inexplicable. Without a bucket of water, I doubt I'll be able to find the holes. So today I bought two new tubes, both slime-filled, and one triple thickness. Anyway, back to last night. After getting my bike back together, I was disappointed to note that the pavement ended right after the Border Patrol outpost, and I couldn't see any lights at all up ahead. So reluctantly, I turned around to go back to Deming.

What a trip! I was running out of water, and had an untold number of miles to go. I didn't realize how far South I had come! It seemed interminably long even back to my starting point, let alone to Deming. I was in danger of serious dehydration. Then a miracle happened: up ahead was a bright light, and what looked to my blurry eyes to be a soda machine! Sure enough, as I approached I could make out "Dr. Pepper". But damn, I had no singles, and as far as I knew, only a few pennies in change. But when I got closer, I couldn't tell if I should even approach or not; it looked more like a house than a store, and there was a pickup truck parked almost directly in front of the machine. But I was desperate, and in any case why leave the light on the machine if you didn't want people using it? The price was 40 cents and, lo and behold, I had 5 dimes among the pennies in my pocket. I bought a Sprite and started guzzling the lovely water with all those little delightful poisons added.

Just then the dogs woke up. God Damn Dogs! Everywhere I go, these stupid, stupid animals barking at me. I crossed the street, drank the remainder, crumpled the can and put it in one of my cargo pockets, and started heading, revitalized, on to Deming. Not far ahead I found I was on the 13000 block, which meant about 15 miles to Mickey D's.

In spite of having to stop and refill one or both tires every couple of miles, the trip back was uneventful and I didn't run out of water until about a mile before town. When I got there about 4:30 I didn't want to wait for McDonald's to open; I went straight to the truck stop and drank down a quart of GatorAde, then had some coffee and a chocolate bar. Wow! What a celebration. Surviving stupid, half-baked ideas is getting to be a habit with me.

The people at the front door of Wal-Mart are starting to really annoy me. I could understand their wanting me to leave my rollaround luggage up front, but my shoulder bag? It's no bigger than many women's purses. Today they grudgingly let me enter with it after showing them the laptop inside, but said to make sure to come back out the same way so they could check it. OK, I thought, and so bought only my food there, taking my bigger purchases to K-Mart, $20 for the tire tubes. On the way out of Wal-Mart I asked the older lady if she wanted to check my bag, and she said "No, I trust you." Yeah, right. I take it as an insult to my intelligence that they would think I'd risk jail for whatever two-bit shit I could shoplift from their pissant store.

Anyway, maybe a few more days and I'm out of here. If I get the urge, I'll just hop on the next bus. Or start riding my bike West and not stop. [comment]

2004-05-15-1742Z

Bought over $60 in tools and supplies and was headed to the park for sleep when my front tire had a flat. Damn. No tools to fix it. Well, walked the bike and slept anyway. Woke once from a strange dream; I was with a bunch of people who looked skinny. Not merely skinny like, say, advanced AIDS sufferers, but on another order altogether; like space aliens in fact. One with a semblance of a beard offered me, with a very grim face, a crack pipe. I refused but he silently insisted, and the woman (?) he was with was assisting him in approaching me more forcefully with it. I tried to push it away but felt something prick my skin; a ring with maybe some drug on a pin. My mind started getting blurry and I called out "Maria!". I wonder if she heard. I went back to sleep and was still having strange dreams when I awoke again a few minutes ago.

Got to lay off the Wendy's Chili (or any chili for that matter), the last couple or 3 days I've been indulging have been punctuated routinely by very bad farting. Not so noisy so much as a powerful stink. If I'm going to be around people at all I guess I have to really avoid beans. [comment]

2004-05-15-0109Z

Bear with me while I work on the design for my next-generation transport idea. As always for a vagabond, it has to be lightweight, low in bulk, multi-purpose, easily repairable, and a bunch of other attributes none of which come to mind at the moment.

For power, I could use mechanical (stored with flywheels), compressed air, or electricity. Since I also need electricity for my laptop and amplifier, I'll go with 12VDC. Maybe two 6V toy-car sealed lead-acid batteries. Same weight, or slightly more, than the 12V battery but I can distribute it better.

Wheels, one foot or both? Inline or side-by-side? Stable or unstable? Large or small? Larger is better, especially on dirt roads. Stable is better for my weak ankles. If unstable, it'll have to be on one foot only so I can use the other foot for stabilization. And the instability should maybe be front-to-back which means side-by-side wheels (one axle per foot). I'm leaning towards a design with three wheels on each foot, two large (maybe about 4-6 inch diameter) wheels towards the front, with a spherical "wheel" in the rear for stabilization. Needs some work.

For generators (same idea would work for providing mechanical or air pressure), I'm thinking auto-retract cables in a device about the size of a tennis racket grip, with the generators attached to the belt. As you swing your arms, the cables pull the generators, which supply power to recharge the batteries and to boost your speed (by default, the battery does not drive the wheels; instead your own skating speed is supplemented by arm movement). Microcontrollers would be used to supply power only at the critical points, using the stepper motor design briefly discussed recently. Supercaps could be used to smooth out use of the generated power without involving the battery. If even more speed is desired, additional cables could be attached somewhere on the legs. I'm thinking 8 to 10 MPH should be easily achievable without a lot of physical strain.

Hmm, 3 6-V batteries would give me about the 20V I need for my laptop power. Two of the 12V solar trickle chargers could be hooked up across them too. No, but where do I carry the 3rd one? Two can fit in one of the shoulder bags like the one I bought for the laptop, but the 3rd? It could go in my fanny pack instead of the hammock, but I might need the hammock if I ever go into a wooded area as I intend later this year.

Just thinking, I could avoid the smart controller for the driven wheels if I use the generated pulse as the magnet approaches the coil as the signal to gate the power from the open collector of the power transistor to ground through the coil. Hmm, how would that work? I'll have to look at a standard stepper driver design and get some ideas.

Damn, I've got to get to a town that has wireless APs. This 1-hour max at the library, with no easy way to upload from my laptop, is getting to be a major drag. I paid $2.50 yesterday at Joe Perk's to upload by hooking my laptop with my little patch cable to their switch, and it was a real pain for both myself and the proprietors. Their router is wireless-enabled, so why don't they enable it? I asked the guy, he was kind of "I dunno" about it. I don't want to push it and make them think I'm trying to cheat them... they already thought I was going over the 15-minute limit yesterday when I was clearly disconnected. Maybe they thought I was connecting to the net through the power cable??? Or did they resent my using their power? I spent about 10 bucks there yesterday, so I don't think they lost anything with my using 60 watts for two hours (.12 kWH at .10/kWH is .12 cents, right? Or am I calculating wrong? That's point one two cents, not twelve cents).

I agonize about stuff like that too much. I want to be fair to people and it hurts to be distrusted. I think though that it's just that nobody there is technically inclined.

Hey, while at the library today I googled something like "satellite dish 802.11b" (without the quotes) and got a great page about a guy who got 10 freakin' miles point-to-point using two dishes with Apple AirPort cards at each end. Now that would be a great way to hook up the unternet. Hmm, got to update that webpage, I've got some dirt on a few unternets in England to place on there. Another thing that will have to wait till I get back to civilization.

I could really leave as early as tomorrow, provided I could find a safe place to leave my bike. Though I made negligible progress digging my underground shelter, I did at least plant some barrel cactus seeds from the fruits I took from in front of the Deming P. O., to replace the nopal which all died or was blown away in the wind (cuttings I tried to plant a couple of months ago). And I feel a lot safer about my stuff now that I've met my one and only neighbor on the block. I would like to send myself something by UPS though and see if they deliver it! But I'd first have to figure out an approximate mailing address. I'll have to ask Nancy what hers is and extrapolate.

Really hard to get anything done when I have so many conflicting desires. I want to travel and see the world, and learn whatever I can in the process. I want to get ready to colonize the ocean, skies, and solar system, whatever is necessary to find the freedom I need. I also want to communicate and publish what I learn for others to use. I also need to make money to support my bad habits (like coffee, and chocolate pastries). Well, I guess I also need money for meat since I'm not useful as a hunter or fisherman. And for travel until I get one of my inventions working. And in spite of myself I'm still madly in love with a woman who wants to settle down in one place and work on her music for the first time in 30 years of exile, and can't understand why I'm exiling myself to the farthest reaches of the universe. I guess if I ever figure it out maybe I can tell her.

[comment]

2004-05-14-2017Z

Tried another shortcut home last night that didn't quite work, I missed my turnoff onto Hermanas Grade and didn't get another chance until almost 2 miles later, at Hermanas Road. Well, at least I didn't miss that one. Got to my lot about 1 AM local time, full of energy and without having had to take a single sip of water along the way. I had been better prepared this time, having bought another bottle of Dasani water on top of the two pint bottles in my fanny pack, and having gulped down as much water as I could before I left.

Anyway, I got there with some food and some energy, and could see quite well in the starlight, so organized things a little, and over the next 10 hours or so alternately slept, dug, and fixed things up. Before leaving, noonish today, I transferred everything I really needed from my rollaround luggage to my new shoulder bag. Funny how I keep switching from shoulder bags to rolling bags, and each time I do I feel freer with the "new" method of carrying my stuff around.

I didn't really learn my lesson though, because I didn't refill my water before I left. I only had about a pint total for the whole trip. Luckily, the winds didn't oppose me for most of the trip, and were in fact favorable for a while. Also, I managed to follow the optimal route: Hermanas Road to Coyote, East a few blocks, then North on Hermanas Grade to where it bears right onto route 418 (?) and goes straight to the McDonald's. Made it with a few gulps of water left over.

People who always travel in cars probably don't make such a big deal out of shaving a couple of miles off a 14-mile trip. 3 songs on the radio and they're home, so what's the big deal. But for pedestrians and bicyclists, every mile can be hell if you're hungry or thirsty or, as has happened lately, out of energy. So you become a map freak and an intrepid investigator, trying new routes all the time until you find the best one. At night, on these New Mexico desert roads with no streetlights and only starlight to guide your way, it's easy to miss a turnoff, especially when so many of them don't even have signs identifying the cross street. In my case, next time I head back to my half acre I need to look for the sign "adult trailer park" (is that like an adult bookstore?) and make my left there onto Hermanas Grade.

I've been thinking about making a frame to hold my serape like a sail, in case I ever figure out a way to make a skate that works for me (inline skates always hurt too much and put too much strain on my ankles). Basically, it's two triangles that join with two bolts about 1/4 the height, so it looks like a bowtie. A handle then goes through the cutout. Made with aluminum, and folded up it could be like a walking stick. Not sure yet how to attach the serape. The devil is always in the details. Anyway, I'm still working on the skate.

Whoever invented the bicycle is a sadist. The more you are carrying, the more your poor butt gets pummeled against the seat. A better design would have you standing up, and using all your arm and leg muscles for propulsion. That way you eliminate most of the bulk of the machine, since your legs themselves do the steering and the frame is all but eliminated. I'm getting some ideas but they need better formulation. Of course I still want to fly also, but it's good to have a ground-based alternative when in a windy area like this. [comment]

2004-05-13-2126Z

Just bought a Targus DVD case at Wal-Mart that just barely holds my laptop and power supply, my CDs and DVD's, and maybe some other small stuff. Now I can finally leave that flightbag and bike at my lot, and travel a lot lighter. The shoulder strap is well padded and comfortable. I'd been looking for something like this for a good while. $35, so I'm digging into my reserve; I can't keep saving up my $20 daily allowance for these capital expenditures if I want to make some progress. I'll possibly regret this decision later if I'm not ready to make some money when my cash runs out.

Yesterday evening I went to that bar across the tracks that two people told me was "dangerous", the "Spanish Disco Dance Club" or something like that. Didn't look too dangerous to me, just a bunch of (mostly) Mexican-Americans playing pool and cursing. "Chinga a tu madre" (fuck your mother) seemed to be the favorite expression. No fights, not even any raised voices except to cheer a good shot. Not much of a beer selection though. I started with a Corona, then a Coors Light (I asked for a Coors but wtf), then Carta Blanca, a local Mexican favorite. Still farting from that episode. Or maybe from La Fonda, a restaurant in downtown Deming where I stopped this afternoon and had a Negra Modelo (dark Mexican ale) with a bowl of their chili. Don't order the chili there, go down the street to Wendy's and get meatier chili for less than half the price. Of course Wendy's doesn't serve chips and salsa, but with the money you save you can go to any supermarket and get plenty of chips.

Also bought an overpriced handsaw for $8 today. Spending like there's no tomorrow. Eating lots of forbidden carbs, and have some energy back, but it remains to be seen if that will hold up after another bike trip back to the ranch. I'll probably leave tonight, after karaoke at Joe Perk's. Hopefully I'll be able to upload this last few days' worth of blogs from there.

I can't seem to find, anywhere, the mirror window tint that I want for my next-generation solar oven. Auto shops say they don't carry it because it's illegal for use on cars, and hardware stores/lumberyards don't seem to have it either. Maybe when I get to a bigger town.

Thinking about building a wheel with embedded rare earth magnets, then driving it with coils spaced so that it pulls the magnets 1/4 diameter at a step (stepper motor idea). Fill a piece of appropriately-sized EMT with NiMH D-Cells, attach that wheel to one end, fasten on your roller blades, and away you go? Maybe.

[comment]

2004-05-13-0001Z

Just barely made it into town, even though the wind was at my back for at least 4 miles of the trip, and wasn't fighting me for any of it. Not sure what's causing this severe loss of energy, whether I'm following the diet too strictly or not strictly enough. Ate an orange and some bananas a little while ago, also a forbidden chocolate donut, and then a forbidden Wendy's Chili (forbidden only because of the beans), and now drinking coffee while using Wendy's power.

I lost the bid on the programming contract, so now I've either got to figure out how to get my strength back and continue working on my lot, or give up and go back to civilization where I can at least do some programming at RAC or on the Hipbone games. If I could just get Apache working again, I could do some programming here. Well, I guess I could boot into Linux also, but the problem with that is, I can't get read/write access to my XP NTFS from Linux, and I can't directly access my EXT2 filesystem from XP (only through Explore2FS), so I'd have to have 2 copies of the files and keep them in sync. That's a royal pain. [comment]

2004-05-12-1153Z

Bought the bike yesterday afternoon, hope it doesn't turn out to be a mistake. Got here to my lot after sundown, and out of water again. This time I had the nads to yell to my neighbor on the opposite end of the block. A lady came out, and she turned out to be real friendly. I offered to buy some water, and she refused the money, and filled my two pint jugs and gave me a gallon in her own jug. Now, I've got plenty of water but no energy to dig. Damn. I did manage to sleep last night though.

Possible contract work in the wings, have to get into town and read up on the updated specs... [comment]

2004-05-11-1952Z

(image: yucca stalk) OK, here's a picture of the green yucca stalk that did me in. My BMs were still not back to normal as of last night, so I don't know how much longer I'll be suffering for my mistake.

I also got a picture of Mike with his invention papercrete, shown here lifting one of the large blocks. They are made with newspapers, phone books, or magazines, with portland cement. They hold screws, cut, and drill like wood. You can even drill rebar directly through the blocks, as Mike did in this house, shown here after about 3 person-days of work. When done the house will have cost about $700, according to Mike. The mortar is also papercrete, and the roof will be also. It's lightweight, very strong, fire retardant, can be soaked and dried over and over again for many years, even frozen and thawed. If you don't like the design, you can tear it down, throw it back in the mixer, and do it over to your satisfaction! If you're interested in the details, contact me and I'll put you in touch with Mike. Or visit City of the Sun yourself, on the outskirts of Columbus, N.M.

I got a ride into town this afternoon with another guy named Mike, down here from Colorado getting his teeth pulled for $35 per, in that little town Palomas, just across the border from Columbus, where I bought the tequila last Saturday. Haven't made up my mind for sure, but I think I'm going to buy another bicycle so I can make some real progress on my lot. I need to be able to go to and from town in a lot less than 12 hours, which is about what it's taking me on foot.

I forgot to mention, City of the Sun was supposedly started as some kind of UFO cult, whose founder was carried away by aliens. The citizens though, at least the ones I met, are quite down-to-earth, though for the most part quite spiritually inclined.
[comment]

2004-05-10-1650Z

All Friday night and until evening Saturday, I had the most horrible diarrhea of my life, worse than that of any beer binge. That raw yucca stalk came out in what resembled motor oil that hadn't been changed in 100000 miles of driving. During the ordeal I managed to walk 4 miles to the border to pick up a bottle of tequila, 1 liter Orendain Blanco for $6.50, for the party, and walk back. At the Pancho Villa State Park near the border there is a blue agave with a huge stalk, maybe 7 or 8 feet tall and 6 inches around or so, but for some reason thinking about eating that made me feel ill. I doubt that agave is edible anyway, even cooked, though of course the juice is used quite productively.

Battery is dying again, it only lasts about 20 minutes or so now... so let me sum up quickly, and flesh out the details more when I get to town. I have a bunch of pictures also.

I met some very interesting people: one old-time Decsystem-10 hacker; an inventor who is building strong, lightweight houses with papercrete for about $700 total; and a bunch of other smart and/or spiritual people in this little community. The party Sunday night was great; I sang some songs with the MIDI sequences on my laptop, and played bongo drums while Willie and July sang and played guitar. After everyone left I slept on the bench by the fading bonfire, and awoke without a hangover, since I drank water whenever I'd wake up during the night. More later. [comment]

2004-05-09-1731Z

Well, as I mentioned on Friday I was going to start walking towards City4 of the Sun. So after my morning sleep, I sampled the black mulberries there in the park on Spruce and 8th, then went to McDonald's for breakfast, and on over to the library to check my email; and finally headed South on highway 11.

On the way I ate some cactus and, a few miles into the journey, decided to try a stalk of yucca (specifically, Spanish Bayonet). It tasted pretty good, though slightly bitter. I just peeled and ate the whole 2 feet or so of raw stalk. I can't remember if this was before or after I got the ride; a black guy with a nose ring gave me a lift from about mile marker 30 to mile marker 14; saved me half the journey. I was walking into the town of Columbus, where I would have been disappointed to find everything closed, but then Willie and Jim, two musicians, the former of whom had invited me to the party, drove by and gave me a lift into City of the Sun, whose entrance I had inadvertently passed in the dark.

I chatted with Willie and his lady Fran for a while, then hit the sack in the back of their VW microbus which unfolded into a guest bed. But sleep was not in the cards for me that night... (to be continued) [comment]

2004-05-07-1155Z

Last night there was karaoke at Joe Perk's on Spruce east of the main drag. I met a few people from City of the Sun, which I mentioned in February. So I was invited to a party there this Sunday, and I think I'll start on my way today so I can check out some of the underground homes there before the party. [comment]

2004-05-06-2345Z

I just remembered something I've been meaning to mention. I got that same line again from a bouncer, about it being a private party. This was at the bar in LA close to the El Paso line, on 6th somewhere between Broadway and Wall, the name begins with a 'C' and it's 5 or 6 letters. Anyway, now I realize that it's barspeak for "we don't want you here, you funny-looking goon". That was no more a private party than it was at El Museo de Pancho Villa a few weeks before. Goddamn liars. Why not just come out with the truth? They're probably ashamed of being prejudiced against bearded white guys in serapes. Now, if I had been in town longer I could have understood it as my B.O., but I was still reasonably clean and fresh. Well, to hell with them, they'll never get my business.

End of rant. Just had to get that off my chest. Well, anyway, now you know if you walk into a bar and the bouncer comes around and says "sorry bud, this is a private party", you know what he really means. You no longer fit in his or the management's profile of a human being. [comment]

2004-05-06-2224Z

The last 24 hours has been quite a wild ride. I got into Deming on Greyhound about this time yesterday. After washing some of my dirty clothes at the laundromat, and the obligatory double cheeseburger at Mickey D's, and checking at Wal-Mart and finding my bike gone (no surprise, just mild disappointment), I began the trek out to my lot. I hoped I wouldn't get lost.

Just up the street from McDonald's is Sonic, and across from that is 8th Street. Started walking south on 8th, and when I got to Florida Rd. I hung a right; hmm, this looks familiar, I thought. And when I got to Hermanas Grade not long afterwards, I "remembered" that that was the same as Hermanas Road as one went South. Heh.

When I got to the corner of Hermanas Grade and Monte Vista, Hermanas became dirt. Nope, that shouldn't happen. I'm lost. So I head East towards something familiar, and didn't reach it until about 2 miles east, Lucca Road. Turned South again from there, and sure enough after a while I hit Sunshine Rd. Naturally at that point I knew for sure I was too far East, and so headed back West again. So I had added 3 to 4 miles to an already taxing journey. By the time I finally reached my lot, I was aching from toes to knees and fingers to shoulder blades. I had run out of water miles back, and knew I would need some soon before I'd become too dehydrated.

My tent was ransacked, but apparently not by humans; nothing was missing except, from what I could tell, my air cushion. Everything else was there but water-damaged; the wind and weather had vandalized my stuff. I couldn't do anything else at that point. I rolled out the tarp from my Hennessey Hammock and crashed.

An hour later I awoke, freezing, from a strange dream. I don't remember what it was about, but am sure it was strange, and it took some few seconds to come back into this world from the dream world, despite the cold. It was about 2 AM, and I had a long way to go before daybreak. The nap had helped the joint pain, but it didn't take long for it to come back full strength. It took me 7 whole hours to limp the 12 or 13 miles back into town. When I only had a few miles left to go, it was getting harder and harder to go on due to dehydration and pain. Not one friggin' store the whole way. Nobody near the road that you could ask for some water. It might as well be desert the whole way. At least I might have hit an oasis in that case.

I tried hitching a ride several times, but everybody just went roaring past. One guy pulled over to the roadside and I thought he was offering a ride, but instead he handed me a $20 and said, with a Russian accent, "So you can buy some food". I almost said "I'll pay you the $20 back if you'll just give me a ride to McDonald's" but figured if he had time, he probably would have offered a ride; he was on his way somewhere and who was I to say no? So I said "Thank you, very much!" And he U-turned and sped away.

Not long after that I found a cholla cactus with fruits overhanging the swale, so I picked one and tried my "serape" trick on it, as with the nopal the other day. No dice. I ended up with those little prickly hairs in my hands, my lip, and all throughout my serape, for only a small nibble. A block or two later I saw some spiny nopal and de-thorned just enough to slake my thirst. This was on Florida Road, and not far ahead I saw the surgery center was open, and went in and asked for a water fountain. Nope. Soda machine? Nope. Then I looked, and the restroom door was open. Can I get some water from the tap? Yes. Thank You!

I sat down outside, drank the water, and rested my legs a little. I was going to make it now. I would get a breakfast at McDonalds, go to the park on 8th Street and sleep, and then go to the library for internet access. I was now $20 richer, and decided to allocate it towards the money I had "borrowed" for my bus trip; in other words, I would have had to skip my allowance again tonight, but now I can use that $20 instead.

Things went according to plan, except while in the library I forgot to check my email, I took too long getting caught up in the Brainstorms forums. Went West to the visitor's center but their net access was down. So no email until tomorrow unless I find a way to connect wirelessly. Right now I'm at Wendy's drinking coffee as I type this in, and recharged my battery from their power.

I forgot to mention, I found a loquat tree today! It's on Spruce Street as you walk from the McDonald's towards the library. The fruits weren't ripe yet, but I ate half a green one. Lots of fruit overhangs the sidewalk, so in a month or so I'll have quite a feast if someone doesn't chase me away.

Here's the plan, Man: I stay downtown for a few days, being as frugal as possible with my spending money; if I can save most of my $20 each day, I can buy another bicycle and whatever accessories I need so I can keep myself easily supplied with water and food as I stay on my lot, planting and digging as I terraform Luna County! [comment]

2004-05-05-0332Z

Tomorrow's my mother's 75th birthday. As usual, I haven't sent anything yet. If anything, I send a single birthday/mothers's day present, and even that's usually late. What a lousy son I am.

I walked back from La Brea to the El Paso line this afternoon, but missed my bus by 15 minutes. So I walked around to the Greyhound station and found out their price is the same. Wonder of all wonders. I bought my ticket, and looked around for a restaurant to pass the time. However, my brain wasn't functioning too well and by the time I ordered my tacos and coffee it finally dawned on me that my bus was leaving in 15 minutes and I wouldn't make it. So I resigned myself to paying another full fare and just enjoyed my meal as best I could.

When I got back to the station, the girl at the counter told me there was a $10 reticketing fee. Great! Then she asked the girl next to her, who had sold me the original ticket, and she said I could just reuse it. No reticketing fee! So I catch the 12:55 into Deming as long as I don't space out again. So, bottom line: I'm starting to like Greyhound again. Their prices are on a par with the local bus lines, they have more buses to more destinations, and as far as I'm concerned they're more than fair when you miss your bus. [comment]

2004-05-04-1136Z

I've been thinking about something lately and need some help with resolving it. It's probably only a conundrum because of irrational belief systems that still interfere with my logical thought processes, but whatever. They are there, and I need some other minds working on this.

The big question I've been leading up to is: should I attempt to collect Social Security for disability? As in crazy? I suspect a lot of people do this. I met one homeless guy two days ago who is about my age and collects, and I doubt he's crazy, though substance abuse makes him appear to be sometimes.

Here's my justification. I can't work a fulltime job: my tolerance for the stress of work life has dropped to near-zero. Even if I could get a 120K/year job again, unlikely after being out of the industry for 2 years, there's no way in hell I could keep it. I still have flashbacks about the mistakes I made towards the end of my last job, which I overstayed far too long. I'm sure I could get a doctor to sign off on it. Hell, I was being prescribed Anafranil way back in the early/mid 90s.

Plus, I paid plenty of money into Social Security, and I might as well start getting some of it back. Oh, I know they explain it as a "contract between generations" but that's such a laughable load of shit. And there's no guarantee I'll live to 65 or whatever it is to retire.

But there's something inside me that says it's wrong. That I could maybe get and hold a job if I'd just put my mind to it. That in any case I can make a little money, enough to get by, online, at sites like rentacoder.com.

But no, another voice says. Someone in your family could use the money even if you don't need it. She needs medication for high blood pressure and that's not cheap.

But my Republican background shies away from anything resembling welfare. And though Social Security isn't welfare, collecting it before retirement age is somehow a sin against society. Instead of a contributor, I would be a taker, a recipient, a burden to others.

There's also my fear that if I collect, I will stop trying to learn how to live off the land. Take the easy route. Go back to familiar routines and unhealthy lifestyles.

Finally, it fails my "Bill Gates" test. Not in all respects; Bill could get paid disability by the Social Security Administration the same as I or any other taxpayer could. But he wouldn't; I don't think his pride would let him, even if he needed the money (not bloody likely). I could be wrong on that. But that's enough to sort out anyway, as it is. Help, anyone? [comment]

2004-05-04-0415Z

Only 9:16 PM local time and I've only got $5 left of my $20/day budget. If I can't do any better than this I'm better off just borrowing a couple more days in advance and getting my $45 ticket to Deming. Ain't no way I'm gonna spend any money in the desert.

The Starbucks on the corner of 25th (?) (not sure - too dark to see now) and Wilshire in Santa Monica is within reach of a free Linksys AP in addition to the evil T-Mobile. I've been here for hours killing time in the online discussion groups. So, didn't learn anything valuable today. Took a bath this morning in the cold Pacific and slept on the beach until the burning sun cooked me to the point where more sleep became impossible. I didn't ask (I always like to keep the "ignorance" defense whenever possible) but it looks as though you can fish off the Santa Monica pier without a license. Saw a guy catch a little one and keep it, so cast in my yo-yo for a few minutes with a piece of fishtail that I found on the dock, but no luck.

[comment]

2004-05-02-2356Z

Found my park no problem, only a mile or so away: the La Brea Tar Pit Museum. Slept a few hours, then walked to the Ralph's a few blocks away and bought some stew beef, bananas, and serrano peppers. Ate the bananas to tide me over till the beef was cooked. Cooked?

(image: beef cooked by the sun) That's right, my solar cooker worked like a sunavabitch this time. LA's cloudless skies and relentless sun finished off the pound of beef in 3 and a half hours. I had enough to share a little with a couple of my homeless companions in the park. After that, I wandered back to the nearest Starbucks, and here I am, totally uninspired to program, and cursing my Cygwin installation, which at this point is unfixable, since the Setup program itself is toast. I'll have to go back to the Kinko's and download Setup.exe from Cygwin.com.
[comment]

2004-05-02-1355Z

Just wanted to make a correction: I had mentally conflated the 100 and 200 blocks of Brand Blvd. in my mind. There's also a 24 hour gym in that two-block span; that might be a good idea if I want to stay a long time in the city, as it gives one an easy way to take regular showers. Plus another way to spend the night instead of just Kinko's and restaurants. I haven't checked the annual rates yet.

I'm at the Kinko's on the 5500 block of Wilshire Blvd now. I hope to find a park around here where I can crash. Later... [comment]

2004-05-02-1124Z

Getting back to ignorance - Charles was explaining to me a model of learning as building a polyhedron or a molecular structure, where with each new connection you open up more possible connections. Say, for example, with carbon you can make as many as 4 connections. So with the first connection you now have 6 open connections, because you are no longer the single atom but the compound of two, each of which has used one bond, leaving 6 open for more connections. You can see that the more you add to your structure, the more bonds are open to the void, or chaos, or God, whatever you choose to name the unknown. That's why so many men considered to have genius mentality have said something like "the more I learn, the more I realize I don't know"; their structures have become so large that there are tens or hundreds or thousands of open potential bonds reaching out like tentacles to the universe, giving them a profound sense of awe and wonder at the unknown beyond their understanding. Stupid people don't have this problem; they assume they know just about all there is to know, and do their best to shut down what few urges to reach out of their little shells do exist. Anyway, that's my riff on what he said.

That's how I can say "Charles's ignorance knows no bounds" and he would understand it as a compliment. This is a man who not only spends the greater part of his time thinking about the world's problems, he thinks about thinking and how to structure ideas and thought in new ways which yield additional insights.

In both San Diego and LA, there is a very pleasant aroma, most noticeable from dusk to dawn, from a plant with a small white 5-petaled flower and halberd- shaped shiny leaves. Anybody know what it is? They've been planted all over the place, downtown and suburbs, in both cities.

I found an easier way to clean prickly pear leaves for eating; this only applies to the types without visible spines, but with the tiny hairlike slivers that stick in your skin and itch: you take a piece of heavy cloth, or maybe chamois leather, and wipe the leaves (or fruits probably, too) and all those little pricks stay in the cloth, leaving an edible succulent leaf in seconds rather than minutes! I used my older serape for this purpose. I may someday regret it if those miniscule thorns end up in my buttocks. Or worse. [comment]

2004-05-02-0511Z

Shortcut back from Glendale turned out not so short; it was after dark by the time I reached downtown, and I was exhausted. I took Brand Blvd. South; it became Glendale something-or-other, then after crossing the LA River I forked left onto Griffith something-or-other which became Sunset which became Cesar Chavez which took me to Broadway, where I turned right and went to 6th St., where the El Paso bus line is. Turns out no buses till 4:30 tomorrow afternoon. Damn. Came back to Chinatown, and am now at the Mayflower hoping to order the panfried fish for $2.99 if the waitress ever comes back for my order. Well, at least she brought my tea right away. And I already ate some nopal from that parking lot I mentioned a while back.

Turns out I could have chopped a few miles off that by forking left just before crossing the river; Glendale Blvd (or whatever St., Ave., it is) follows the same curving route, but a much tighter arc. Oh well, next time.

Talked to Hipbone this morning; the man's ignorance knows no bounds. He and I know that is the highest compliment one man can give another. I'll explain some other time; on battery power, and it's down to about a 15-minute lifespan from full charge to sudden death. Later d00dz. [comment]

2004-05-01-1735Z

The North 200 block of Brand (Ave? St? not sure) in Glendale is almost a vagabond paradise. 24-hour Kinko's with free power, Starbucks with free power, an espresso place across the street from Starbucks with outdoor tables and free wireless (SSID NETGEAR); Goodwill store; other things probably, but that's pretty good. Throw in a park where I could sleep and it'd be perfect.

Almost got the Hipbone game running as an application using Java Web Start. If that link works, it means I finally nailed it.

Purists grimace at my "free power" shit above; sure I know it's not free, TANSTAAFL and all that, but it's an abbreviation for "power provided by the company at no additional charge, with the expectation that you will pay for other products while you are there". You don't want me typing that out every time do you? All right then, you type it! [comment]

2004-05-01-0749Z

Got into LA this afternoon on the Greyhound from San Diego. Slept most of the way; took off towards Glendale immediately on arrival, but not sure of the best route so had some false starts. Basically: east on 7th to downtown; north on Hill (humming Hill Street Blues theme) till it deadended, then back to North Broadway, crossing the LA River; there's a good Carnitas Michoacan taco place, tacos for $1.09 plus tax but more meat than the $1 tacos in Rosarito! Very good! Then West on Ave 20 which becomes San Fernando which goes straight to Brand in Glendale. Here's where I meet Hipbone tomorrow.

Holing up in some bar north of the Bennigans, which stupidly closed at midnight. Drinking Anchor Steam and Newkie Brown. Life is good. [comment]

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