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.

This page generally sucks less using Mozilla Firefox. RSS Feed


2008-08-31-1940Z

Just had my new moon bath and shave at Long Beach. The salt water didn't work well at all for shaving; I had to dissolve some bicarb into some of my drinking water to lube the beard. Cut myself up pretty badly, too. The back of the iPod Touch makes a passable shaving mirror even when it's all scratched up, as mine is. [comment]

2008-08-31-1440Z

Can't figure Greyhound out. They dropped their $63 disoount fare to Deming; it's now $140. But I can still get a ticket to El Paso for $79.50, and if it stops in Deming I can just jump out there. [comment]

2008-08-31-0436Z

Grew tired of Burning Man when my foot pain wasn't decreasing as much as I'd hoped, and I'd seen almost all the old friends and made some new ones. I waited at the exit with a sign that read "L.A." but accepted a ride to Sacramento from a New Yorker named Elvin. It wasn't a good decision economically speaking, but one can never know the potential value in a new acquaintance.

I'm now in line for the night bus to L.A., after a few beers at Three Monkeys and Capitol Garage. I just finished reading Urban Tribes. It didn't give me any solid ideas on how to transform a nation-state into an association of tribes, but was good food for thought nonetheless. [comment]

2008-08-29-1336Z

Just awoke from a recurring dream about a code machine that needs to be built. I'm involved in it somehow, but a psychic young woman and an older guy seem to have more authority than I do in the matter. There's also a team of techies working on building it, or will be soon. I was just shown something seemingly essential to the project, but all I remember is that it looked a bit like a cm or two of braided rope. [comment]

2008-08-29-0450Z

Tuesday I went jogging naked, and before I even went a mile I had stepped on something sharp and hurt my right foot. It was less painful today, so maybe tomorrow I can try again.

Wednesday was a good day for beer. The master brewer for Mendocino now has his own brewery in Napa valley, and I tried several of his brews. Then I went to the Booby Bar and had some more homebrew, not as tasty as the former but still far superior to Budweiser and the like. In that bar also, I met Alex, a self-described cyberpunk who dresses, as I do, in all-black tactical gear. He's read a lot of the same stuff I have and agrees with me on many things. It's people like him that make Burning Man a worthwhile investment.

I got a little sunburned today due to carelessness, but overall I can state that playa dust alone makes an excellent sunscreen. One just has to be sure to dust oneself periodically, especially after sitting down.

I'm reading an interesting book, Urban Tribes by Ethan Watters, a Burner for years. He mentions Dunbar's Number and offers some insight into it, something I criticized James Herod for ignoring.

Fairy shrimp are supposedly native to the ancient lake which is Burning Man's "playa". These creatures are only 1 to 2 cm long. I wonder if they'd be a good candidate for shrimp farms in my desert.

I tried some absinthe tonight, for the first time in my life that I can remember. It has a nice licorice flavor. [comment]

2008-08-27-0502Z

When I got to Reno, I found out the Starbucks card now offers 2 hours of free ATT wifi each visit. Finally! And I'd just found one of the cards in Fresno.

The Platypus 6L water tanks are hard as hell to seal but they didnt yet crack after months folded in my knapsack. I'm using them, along with my hydration pack, to hold 4 gallons of water for Burning Man.

I had forgogten to write my confirmation number down, and from the pickup point at Twin City, had to walk a few blocks West to an open wifi AP with SSID default and open the email, then copy it into a text file on the iPod. It turned out later to be unnecessary; a picture ID was enough.

Over the last few days I read three Leon Uris books I'd picked up at the going-out-of-business sale at Acres of Books in Long Beach: The Haj, QB VII, and Topaz. That last was a bit boring to me, but I really like this author.

I hit on a better way to take food to BM: put everything in dry bags, and throw away the wrappers at the store.

It turned out I waited at the wrong place for almost 24 hours, including an awakening and search by Reno cops; then went from Twin City to Whole Foods and right away got a ride with Chris and Kyle. I was on my way!

Experimenting, I'm finding there are only very few places that need padding in order for me to sleep comfortably on a flat surface: primarily my coccyx and head. I'm planning to experiment with what I call "micropadding" sewn into, or Velcrod onto, my clothes.

I've also been thinking about using popcorn, or other popped grains, as blown insulation. If rodents could be kept out of it, it ought to work great. Has anyone ever tried it?

I forgot to make sunscreen this year, and am experimenting with using playa dust for that purpose. I only spent a few hours naked today, and plan to gradually increase the time each day. [comment]

2008-08-24-0729Z

Left Los Angeles yesterday morning. I had a 3-hour layover in Fresno, and decided to get some sleep. East on Tulare a few blocks to Van Ness is a park, so I laid out my poncho/tarp and dozed off. Shortly thereafter, at about 11 on a Saturday morning, I awoke to lawnmowers all around me. Even ignoring the poor choice of timing, the goddamned grass didn't need mowing! And there were maybe 10 guys with mowers, going over and over the same spots. This was no free-market operation, but some kind of government make-work. Probably parolees doing "public service". Whatever. I got a signal from Holiday Inn, and found out that by continuing North on Van Ness for about 2 miles, then left (West) 3 blocks or so, I could get to Seqoia Brewing on 777 East Olive Avenue. So I did, and ate and drank (porter and ESB) until I missed my connecting bus. Took another nap in the park, then caught the next bus to Sacramento about 8 PM.

Leaving Modesto to arrival at Stockton was only seconds in subjective time. Obviously I must have slept, but it was like warp-speed travel through the space-time fabric.

Three Monkeys was closed on arrival to Sac, so I used my pevious blogs to find the Capitol Garage bar, paid my $5 cover, and will drink till closing. The next bus to Reno isn't till 0330. [comment]

2008-08-22-2149Z

I've been trying some solar cooking experiments. A few days ago I made a conical (of sorts) reflector using posterboard with foil glued to it with a glue stick. It didn't work. Today it was with a 5-qt stainless mixing bowl I got at Wal-Mart for $8-something. Results were still dismal, but perhaps with an inverted Pyrex custard cup to hold in the heat, something might happen.

The best result was using the bowl as a firepit, and igniting a crumpled napkin with a 3-inch magnifying glass and blowing it into flame. I had a pretty hot fire burning in no time, just using the 4 or 5 napkins I'd been saving for that purpose.

When I awoke from my afternoon nap, in which my final dream was about schoolchildren making wind-driven toys out of styrofoam, I thought about riding the wind in a huge bubble, like that shown on the old TV series The Prisoner. It would need to be puncture-proof, and the rider would have to be suspended in such a way that he would be cushioned from impact and maintained relatively upright. And he might not survive a fall off a high cliff. But it would be a hell of a ride. Perhaps feasible over water? [comment]

2008-08-22-1342Z

Amazingly enough, the LAX international (Tom Bradley) terminal is still a TAZ providing wifi, some power, and a place to sleep. You need to go to terminal 3 if you need to pee in the wee hours, though; they close all 3 restrooms for several hours.

Take the Green Line to the airport stop, and get onto the shuttle on street level. Don't show your ticket to the G shuttle drivers unless they ask for it. When they drop you at Tom Bradley, continue ahead and to the left, up the stairs. When you enter, walk straight all the way to the back, and take the escalators up on either the left or right. The sleeping areas are on the ends, at the back under the windows. Go where the most people are already sleeping, and grab yourself a spot. Be prepared to have to move in case workers are cleaning.

I've done this several times over the years and never once was asked to see a plane ticket. But of course you never know; the next time could be the last. Always better to sleep on the beach somewhere during the day, whenever possible.

[comment]

2008-08-21-1500Z

If I end up getting the ET job, I might place a classified ad to rent a flat roof, with ladder access, somewhere near my workplace. Urban camping is iffy, not so much because of muggers but because of cops.

It struck me while waiting for the "walk" light in Long Beach recently: to be fair to pedestrians, every other day, drivers should have to get out of their cars, push a button, and wait to get the green light. Why should those on foot get second-handed in that regard?

Just up the hill from the Chinatown Metro stop sits Hop Woo BBQ and seafood restaurant. I had number 95, curry seafood on rice. I told the waiter "very spicy", and for once, that's what I got. An excellent deal for $6.95 plus tax and tip. Cash only, though.

Speaking of excellence, try following an extra cold Guinness with an equally cold Fat Tire. The combination of flavors is awesome. It's less so when not as cold.

I sketched out some plans for my HPV ideas on napkins this morning, then snapped a photo. Something to do while the iPod charges.

I wonder if wheels for prototypes can be made of plywood. Drill a hole, rough out the wheel with a jigsaw, then put a bolt through the hole, tighten it onto the board with a nut, then spin it with a drill while rasping the edge. [comment]

2008-08-20-2120Z

Spent over $200 over the past few days attempting to build a prototype luggage roller which can double as a rickshaw. The wheels came from a kid's 14 inch bike I found on Craigslist. I'm happy with the result, but it's too big to fit easily on buses. Next time I'll make it closer to 2 by 3 feet rather than 3 by 4. I say "next time" because I've already pretty much decided to abandon or freecycle this one, and get my mobility back. I can't rebuild it because I lack a hand drill, and the Black and Decker VPX batteries don't last for shit. [comment]

2008-08-18-0345Z

It's A Grind, at 247 Pine, is now my coffeeshop of choice in Long Beach. Free wifi and power, and a clean restroom. And the hours are almost as good as the evil corporate giant with the stomacheache-inducing blends. The wifi has problems tonight but no sweat, I'll upload later. I'm just glad to be over my Portfolio fixation. It was too far away anyhow. [comment]

2008-08-17-2257Z

When people think of "homeless", they typically picture a smelly, shabby, low-life panhandling sleazebag who will steal anything that's not set into concrete and who feels the world owes him a living. That's why I'm coining the term "home-free" to describe those who, like me, choose to live without the burdens of home ownership because we believe it's better for us and for the world. I've only met a few other "homeless" who think this way -- Arcata's "Everest" is one of the few -- but many others are apparently ashamed of their "victim" status and are attempting to break out of it but aren't sure how. I hope to be a leader out of this quagmire, for those who want out.

I've been thinking about this "rickshaw" idea since I found a way, not long ago, of attaching the wheels from my bicycle trailer to the aluminum-frame backpack I acquired at a yard sale some months ago. Anyway, the current plan is to construct an open-frame rickshaw using 3/8 inch plywood, 2x4s, and 16-inch bicycle wheels that can carry not only my hydration pack -- allowing me to run an ultramarathon without a support team -- but also passengers, which might garner me a small fortune in tips here in Long Beach. If I don't get the USPS job, or even if I do, it could be a great source of extra income.

The weekly Metro pass is, at $17, a great deal for frequent users of the LA transit system. Be aware, though, that it's by calendar week, not for seven days from purchase; and that many vendors charge about $3 extra if you pay by credit card.

Another idea related to the pipeline I mentioned recently: some small percentage of the ocean water could be tapped along the way for desert shrimp farms. I wouldn't mind having one myself! [comment]

2008-08-16-0300Z

So much for the Portfolio coffeehouse. An employee just told me I'm not allowed to charge my iPod. Guess I'll have to stick with the corporate giant that isn't so fucking stingy. I don't plan to come back here. Ever again. [comment]

2008-08-15-2313Z

Ever notice that in Deming, your internal compass gets turned 180 degrees? I always thought it was just me, but a guy I met at the bus station this last time out, and he spoke of it as a general phenominon, not as something that affected him alone.

Strange for that to pop into mind on awakening to a pleasant afternoon in Long Beach, CA, but strange shit happens, doesn't it? [comment]

2008-08-15-1352Z

Fell asleep in the Starbucks while my iPod, stuck in my sock, was charging. On awakening, I thought of a way to cheaply ship fresh fish and other goods cross-country: a pipeline. Pump ocean water into it using wave action. Even adventurous people could travel this way, using an oxygen tank. Amtrak should do this, they already have the access rights and stations. Transponders could track shipments. [comment]

2008-08-15-1050Z

Blacked out for a few hours last night. I remember meeting this guy Mike in the Rock Bottom brewpub, then he bought me a beer at another bar up the street, and then I started walking alone back to the park to take a nap. I don't remember ever getting there, and 5 or 6 hours later, 11-ish, I was crossing the street to the Bubba Gump shrimp place, which by then was closed. I can't for the life of me recall ever entering or leaving the park. Very, very strange.

I guess I fared OK yesterday morning at the interview. I won't know for sure unless they offer me a job, or months go by with no such offer. [comment]

2008-08-14-0456Z

After all the draft beer I consumed last night, I was sure I'd have the shits this morning. Now it's almost 10 PM local time, and still no BM, good or bad.

My review board interview is tomorrow morning at 1100. I'm already decided to be happy no matter what the outcome. [comment]

2008-08-13-0436Z

Speaking of beer, have all you beer buffs tried Shiner Bohemian Black Lager yet? It's one of the smoothest chocolate-malt beers I've ever had. [comment]

2008-08-13-0404Z

Drinking a pint of Hacker-Pschorr Weisse. Went from the decidedly non-corporate Portfolio coffeehouse to the unabashedly corporate Yard House. Just another consumer in a consumerist paradise. [comment]

2008-08-12-2205Z

Having the sampler at Rock Bottom in Long Beach, corner of Ocean and Pine. Awesome range of flavorful beers. Not a bad one in the bunch, but the stout lacks character. I'd have to say the Pelican Red is my favorite. I managed to suck down three bottles of Sam Adams at Hank's before closing last night, but I'm in hog heaven now, after a pleasant nap in the park. The ocean breeze was invigorating.

Gotta come back between 4 and 7 for happy hour. $3 pints and appetizer specials. [comment]

2008-08-12-1357Z

I can't seem to stay away from the Starbucks at 7th & Fig. No free wifi, as has The Coffee Bean, but free power and a restroom. None of the non-corporate coffeehouses I've found in LA have all three things, and nobody except Denny's has better hours. [comment]

2008-08-12-0327Z

At Blythe, I was first off the bus and got into the line at McD's. 21 minutes later, out of a 30-minute stop, I had my double cheeseburger. The manager seemed oblivious. The bus driver is in a shitty mood and wouldn't wait for late passengers. Life in the fast lane... [comment]

2008-08-11-2356Z

Greyhound schedule 1401, over two hours late, reboarded in Phoenix (onto a different bus) at gate 2 with pass number 165. [comment]

2008-08-11-1700Z

If I ever bicycle to Kali again, there's a frontage road on the North side of I-10 usable to mile marker 67 or so. I've noticed it several times, but this is the first time I've managed to stay awake and follow it to where it ends.

I'm on the Greyhound to LA yet again. Got a job interview with the USPS in Anaheim on the 14th, then it's off to Burning Man. [comment]

2008-08-09-1950Z

It rained at least a half inch last night, and this morning there were hornworms everywhere. You couldn't walk a straight line anywhere without stepping on some. [comment]

2008-08-09-0239Z

All right, first the bad part. All the gun culture people, the heroes of the book, are Larger Than Life; they eat breakfast with John Galt and Heinlein's girl Friday. But Unintended Consequences is required reading for all agents of the Powers That Be as well as all of those who wish to control their own lives. If you can get through the first 600-odd pages you'll enjoy it for sure. Ross has an annoying way of hinting at what's going to happen years in the future in his characters' lives, but if you can ignore the faults, and the tacky cover photo, it's worth your while. Read it! [comment]

2008-08-04-1800Z

In my morning dream I was designing a programming language with a small set of operators but was as powerful as Python. But I can't recall any details.

And shortly after waking up, I got an idea for a relatively "green" printer. Soak a piece of paper in a salt that changes color on exposure to high heat. The printer then uses stepper motors to pass a point source of heat over the paper. It should be easy to design a 12V, low-wattage printer around that concept. [comment]

2008-08-03-1323Z

Naturally, after my blog about the mosquitos I was bothered by one shortly afterwards, and this morning they're back full force.

Woke up from a dreamworld in which there had been a huge party the night before. Untouched big, square pizzas were sitting cold in an outdoor oven; beer bottles and thin, large, square, black crackers were lying around; and I walked with a missing sneaker through the early-morning crowd. Some woman was giving lessons on how to float a foot or two above the earth's surface. Although I could already do this, I joined the group hoping to pick up some pointers... no luck. I couldn't control the ability well, and she couldn't help.

My first sauerkraut experiment was partially successful, but my first microbatch of mesquite pod beer doesn't smell very good. [comment]

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