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 RSS feed may or may not work. Haven't fiddled with it in forever. RSS Feed


Fuckin' finally! OptionsXpress enabled my account for trading futures options. I practically had to beg them, given my financial status -- they didn't want to be left holding the bag (a futures contract out of the money) and I don't blame them; just had to convince them that I wouldn't exercise any options, just liquidate any that were profitable.

Haven't bagged any wild game lately. I keep hitting rabbits but they keep running away afterwards. So I guess I'd better hope TPTB keeps the "economy" beast alive for a little while longer. [comment]


Killed a thrasher this morning thinking it was a dove. When it was plucked and field-dressed, it looked like a tiny Cornish hen. It didn't taste very good, and there wasn't much meat on it. Also, it was harder to pluck than a dove. There was a greenish goo in its crop where the doves usually have cracked corn or birdseed. I guess the thrashers eat more bugs, which could account for the difference in flavor.

I ate a bee the other day. Cracked open a yucca stalk that had the 1/2 inch hole typical of carpenter bees, and found one groggy male (no stinger), which I beheaded and ate raw. Not very tasty, but if you find a yucca stalk full of them it might make a nutritious meal. I'll cook them if I can, though. If there are any females (with stingers), cooking might neutralize the toxins, or you could maybe snip off the abdomen.

I've been busy programming, both for pay and for fun. Wrote some Postscript to generate an overlay onto the Google satellite images, showing the lot boundaries at City of the Sun. Re-used some login code I'd written before, for an Odesk customer, then used what I'd learned in the process to improve my own program. Now I have a cron job that emails me my to-do and to-buy lists every Sunday, by logging into my TadaList pages and performing the necessary magic with the webpage. They've got some tricky Javascript for turning a normal HREF into a POST, which I had to match using Python.

I was thinking about writing a script that would allow me to transfer funds from PayPal while I'm on the road. PayPal crashes the Safari browser on my iPod Touch, and PayPal Mobile doesn't have an option to withdraw funds to one's primary bank account. But then I'd have to store my PayPal password on my server. No good. I'll just have to use Internet cafes that allow USB booting, and do my PayPaling from DamnSmallLinux. Or buy a newer iTouch, or upgrade the one I have. Lots of options, once I start mulling it over.

I have some wheatgrass growing. If I can keep remembering to water it until it goes to seed, I'll have completed the cycle that can take me to the next level of sustainability. Probably won't happen, but it's nice to think about.

First quarter moon coming up in about a week and a half. Time to buy some trees! I doubt there will be any more freezes by then, and I've heard before that the first quarter moon is the time to plant them. Use wood ash and rusty nails in the hole, for needed nutrients. Come to think of it, it was Ray who told me that stuff. Thanks, man. [comment]


Once wheat sprouts start sending out the leaves (the first, white, sprout is the roots; the leaves come out green) they become very sweet; too much so for me. Guess I'll have to try rye, as Shu mentioned in the workshop two or three weeks ago.

I got hired for my first Odesk job! Now if I just don't screw it up royally, I might have a steady source of income. Hourly, instead of just by the job as with RentACoder.

Shot a rabbit tonight. The first hit stunned it a bit, so I get could close enough for the kill. Cooked it already, but probably won't eat any till tomorrow. [comment]


I started my fermentation experiments a week or so ago, a can each of frozen grape and frozen apple juice. When reconstituted, they about filled two quart-sized Mason jars. I had them sitting on my kitchen counter with an old shirt covering them. Nothing happened for day after day.

Then about 2 days ago, I found my dish rinsewater all dark, almost black. Then I saw the dead mouse in one of the two buckets, and then the mason jars on the floor. Somehow the mouse must have gotten into one of the jars while I was gone, and furiously splashing around trying to get out, knocked everything off the shelf, landed in the rinsewater, and drowned. Luckily, one jar of apple juice was left. It started noticeably fermenting (some yeasty-looking bubbles on top) yesterday, and today is starting to taste a little cidery. Maybe it helped that I drank some of it two days ago, some beneficial bacteria could have entered it then.

I'm playing around again with the French butter dish concept, this time using lard instead of water. Hope it works out better than my last try, over a year ago IIRC, in which the butter and water mixed and got moldy.

Over the last few weeks, I've been dropping my asking price on Odesk, from $100/hour to $60 to $40 and finally to $20. Now I'm scheduled for my first two interviews. Looks like I found the price point where buyers are willing to go with American coders rather than outsource. I'm sure some coders somewhere are still getting 6-figure salaries -- even 7-figure at places like Microsoft -- but I think I can live on $20/hour if it means I can work from home and on my own schedule. [comment]


Yesterday I took a hike into the mountains. Left around 0930, and found Lonesome Cabin Tank at 1330. It's not visible from the arroyo; if I hadn't climbed up on a hill I wouldn't have known where it was. From there I went back to Crump Tank, beyond which lies a spring according to my friend Izzy. Got there an hour later, at 1430, and still couldn't find any springs. Not even the little water I and my friends saw last time we hiked there was evident. So walked back to the campsite where I'd left my sleeping bag and frying pan some week or two ago, and it looked untouched; the stuff was just as I'd left it. Got to the road, where B005 meets Highway 11, at 1642 and shortly thereafter a couple in a pickup truck gave me a lift to Altura Avenue. Saved me about 2 hours of walking. All in all, I guess I walked about 15 miles. No back pain this morning either, a nice change. I traveled very light this time, maybe that helped. No food, only about 1.5L of water.

Last night was the warmest in a long time. Got up before dawn, and just after sunup hit a dove from 20 yards or so on my 2nd shot with the air rifle. It dropped from the mesquite branch head-first and apparently broke its neck, because it wasn't moving by the time I crossed the arroyo and found it. It's now cooked and I'm about to have some for breakfast. [comment]


Trying to get back into colorForth, but GNU's as assembler (AKA "gas") has changed so much since I last coded, it's barfing on all my 16-bit code. Fuck it. I'm going to switch to nasm instead, something I should have done long ago, but I was used to gas's macro syntax.

Living pretty much on wheat sprouts, which give me the shits, sourdough pancakes which came out lousy, and pecans, since I last bagged a rabbit. Almost got one this morning before sunup, but the little bastard got away after I hit him once in the backside (I'm pretty sure). He turned so I couldn't see his white tail, and since I don't have a night-vision scope, that blinded me for any further shots. Of course, I tried anyway, but missed. Finally he took off in one mad dash and got away. Gonna try to get the early bus to Deming tomorrow and stock up on some food. [comment]


Oh, about that snow Tuesday: strangely enough, it didn't leave any noticeable moisture on the ground when most of it disappeared, the same day. My guess is that it sublimated directly to vapor in the dry air and stiff wind. But I found small patches of snow yesterday near the banks of the arroyo, Mary Lee Draw, where neither sun nor wind had touched it.

I've been thinking about things like the "body type" and "blood type" diets. If they work, it's because they give you a clue as to your genetic makeup. But why not simply let your body let you know what food it wants? That will create a diet perfectly suited to your own DNA. Your body already knows what's good for it and what isn't. But salt and spices cloud your body's ability to warn you of food toxic to your system; if you like a food plain, chances are it's good for you. [comment]


Got a dove yesterday and a rabbit today. Learning not to take shots unless I'm 10 yards or less from the target. When using BBs, you have to immobilize the animal on the first shot or they get away.

I got up early today and walked into the mountains, up past the new school into Rascon Canyon. After passing the first fence I had a close encounter with a bull. He pawed the ground once and I got pretty nervous. Pulled out my Hi-Point and chambered a round, but kept it pointed at the ground. I kept my eyes on the bull. When I was closest to him, about 10 yards away, I said, "Don't mess with me, and I won't mess with you. Simple as that". He didn't. I ejected the magazine, removed the bullet from the chamber, put it back into the magazine, put the magazine back into the pistol, and holstered it. Whew.

Turns out I had to do that a few other times. After passing the 2nd fence, approaching Rascon Windmill, three dogs, possibly feral, were in the path. But after one barked, they left me alone.

When I got to the Rascon ranch, the gate was locked. I yelled "Permission to pass through!" several times, and got no answer, so crawled under the barbed wire and started walking through the arroyo. I kept yelling "Helloooo!!!" as I walked until I passed the house. I guess the owners were away or in the larger house up the hill.

What had looked like a spring on the map, just west of the ranch, was just a pile of whitish dirt. Made my way to Niggerhead Spring (don't blast me for that, I didn't name it) after passing the remains of a dead cow, and taking the right fork where the road split, and found the tank full. There are a bunch of white spots on the map in that area too, but they seem to all be reflective volcanic rock. There's a run-down rock building on the hillside overlooking the spring that only needs a roof to be a decent shelter.

I was talking to myself, as I usually do when I'm alone, and said "that didn't pan out" after trying to avoid the rocky arroyo by going farther up the hill and finding it just as rocky. It got me wondering where that phrase came from. Without looking it up, my guess is that it's from the gold rush days. "That stream looked promising, but it didn't pan out". Whaddaya think?

Climbing up the arroyo from the spring, you see a hole dug that could also be used as a shelter if it had a roof. Two shelters and a good source of water, not a bad area for a tribe of 5-10 people. Bearing left to head due north, I found myself looking straight at the "eye in the sky", the surveillance blimp that helps feed our conspiracy theories in this area. It's a steep downhill there to a jeep trail, then to Mary Lee Draw. Some nice sand in that arroyo, where on a nicer day I might have lay down for a nap. It was too cloudy today.

I missed the road, and walked under a barbed wire fence across the arroyo. Not much later I found myself against a fence I couldn't cross. Headed North and jumped the gate onto Pie Road (I think). A neighbor just happened to be passing by and gave me a lift. Turns out the Border Patrol had been watching me and sent an officer to check me out. When we got to the checkpoint they were full of questions. I tried to be nice, since I was packing and didn't want them to ask me to leave the vehicle, at which point they might have freaked. Got through without incident. Bought a six-pack of Pipeline Porter at Peppers and got the bus home.

Exhausting day. Tomorrow is the annual Valentines/Mardi Gras party at the Pink Store. See you there? Free food and drinks, can't beat it. Just have to dodge the bullets from the drug war which goes on constantly in the Palomas streets, if you believe the news media. [comment]


It's snowing! Just after daybreak a strong northwesterly wind started blowing, and a big flock of pink-and-gray clouds headed over the Tres Hermanas to my little corner of the desert. First it was just dust blowing in the wind, then the first few tiny flakes started spinning down. Now it's the closest thing I've ever seen to a blizzard in this part of the world. Beautiful. As long as it doesn't start happening all the time. Global warming, my ass. [comment]


Finally, LiveJournal recognizes my OpenID login using my Thawte Freemail cert. Still have a lot of kinks to work out before I can say my script is better than JanRain's.

Got a dove for breakfast this morning, and ate the rest of my rabbit stew, a week and a half old already, the rest of the day. And I don't feel sick! Things just seem to last a long time without refrigeration here in the desert. Of course, it helped that I re-boiled the soup every few days.

Played some more with my LED tent lamp, and this time I burned out the LEDs themselves. I think it was more due to the funky "AC" from my inverter rather than a wrong approach per se. A single LED in series with a .01uF capacitor, nothing else in the circuit, glows dimly for an arbitrary length of time without frying. Adding more capacitance doesn't make it any brighter, though, it just burns out the LED. But I'm still having problems grasping the theory. [comment]


OK, back to my capacitative reactance experiments...

First, I hadn't actually fried my LED tent lamps. All that toasted was the chip resistors; the LEDs are fine. I soldered in axial resistors on one, and it's working again.

Real grid AC works completely different than the pseudo-AC from my Black and Decker 750W inverter. The inverter's waveform shows on the scope as a 160V square wave, pulsed DC, at about 60Hz. How that actually functions as 120VAC I can't figure out. But it does, with most things. When I put my scope probe on every point in the LED circuit, I see the exact same pulsed 160V. But somehow the voltmeter shows only 2.5VCD across the lamp, with a single .22uF mylar cap in series. Adding more caps in parallel increase the brightness a little, but the voltage rises only a few tents of a volt each time. Adding a 200uF cap across the DC terminals of the bridge rectifier increases the brightness tremendously. With a 1.72uF cap, I get roughly the same brightness as with 6VDC. But it needs the filter cap across the DC terminals, otherwise it fries the resistors.

Now, with grid AC, the filter cap isn't necessary, presumably because the bridge rectifier gives you both halves of the sine wave. But if you're going to make these AC LED lamps for resale, it's probably recommendable to include the filter cap to avoid warranty returns from customers using inverters.

A note about using an oscilloscope: while the circuit under test may not care a whit which is power and which is neutral, the scope has its own ideas about those things, so if you don't have the circuit's "power" leg the same as the scope's, you won't see what you're expecting anywhere in the circuit, since the circuit's power is the scope's ground, and vice versa. Keep that in mind. Also, to see what's really going on at the bridge rectifier, you need probes on both the positive and negative leg; it's the difference between the two that matters, now matter how far the waveforms might swing above or below "earth" ground. [comment]


Some random, scattered notes from the gardening workshop, not necessarily all accurate: for indoor gardens, sunflower and buckwheat give you a lot of food (sprouts) in a few days. Red winter hard wheat makes the best wheatgrass. Ryegrass isn't as sweet. To grow grass on a cafeteria tray, use one cup of grain sprouted, 1 inch of soil on the tray. Spread the grain evenly. cover with an inverted tray 3 days, then water every day for 3 to 5 days. Chew all day instead of juicing, spit out afterwards, you won't grt gum disease.

Parsely good for kidneys. Sorrel excellent antioxidant, perennial. Dill attracts ladybugs, which eat aphids. Using short pieces of PVC tube, 3/4 or 1 inch diameter for strarting, reduces transplant shock. Schedule 200 PVC can't be found at Home Depot, have to go to irrigation supplier. Soak all seeds overnight to 24 hours before planting. Carrots sprouted in 2 days. EM is primarily lactic acid bacteria, yeast, and photosynthetic bacteria. EM fermenting composts food waste faster and not so completely, breaks down into proteins and enzymes which can be used right away by plants, less heat and gases generated. You can make bokashi but must buy EM liquid. Use 9 to 12VDC zapping to kill enzymes from any toxic bite.

Acres Magazine is the source of a lot of arcane gardening info.

Main soil mix is equal parts sawdust. manure. sand (gravel), and screened native soil. About 6 shovels each to a wheelbarrow full. Then for nutrients, add about a pint each of cottonseed meal, bokashi, and alfalfa pellets. Adding about 1/2 cup sea solids (evaporated seawater) improves wheatgrass growth. Paramegnetic rock, if you can get it, helps also.

Use grow bags rather than trying to grow in desert soil. The 7.5 gallon (1 cu. ft.) bags can be used for about anything.

Stack bottomless buckets around potato plants, keeping 4 inches of green above dirt. Keep doing this till end of growing season, knock over stack, and pick up the potatos.

Indeterminate tomatos can keep giving fruit all year, but you have to keep pruning suckers. All nightshades are wind pollinated, so if you have them indoors you need to tap or shake them.

If you insist on growing plants in poor soil, use sheet composting. Pre-wet the soil for 3 or 4 days. Then add the same nutrient mix mentioned above. Wet them, then add a layer of newspaper or cardboard. Then another layer of nutrients, leaving out the sea solids. Next, a layer of manure. Water, mulch with "bricks" of straw, and wait a month or more. Pull back mulch, poke a hole through the cardboard, and plant.

Use foliar spray to directly give plants nutrients directly. Songbirds increase plant growth. OriginalSonicBloom.com sells foliar spray and music for plants. Apply in the morning while plants are still cold. Sonic Bloom is kelp, fish emulsion, and gibberellic acid, among other ingredients. You can make your own foliar spray with fish emulsion and uric acid.

Don't use hybrid seeds; use open pollinated heirloom seeds. [comment]


I walked back into the mountains Friday so I'd have a better chance of getting to the free gardening workshop at the Living Foods Learning Center on Saturday morning.

I decided to try another way in, the private road that starts near D-Square. I passed through two gates before hitting one that said "Private Property -- Keep Out". But there was no fence, and I wouldn't even have seen the sign if I'd taken the arroyo off to the left, so I decided to chance it. Hell, the worst they could do was shoot me.

As I headed Westward, I could see a ridge off to the left that would obviously keep me from straying South of Rascon Canyon. I hadn't noticed it on the map. Then when I crossed a barbed wire fence I started seeing fresh cowflats; not much farther ahead, the arroyo had been bridged over by a huge amount of dirt, forming a pond (now dry) on the West side. That's where the cattle were grazing.

I got to the campsite about 15:10. I don't know when I left but it had to have been after 10 and before noon. I took photos all the way to the water tank at the foot of the mountain, which I should eventually upload to Wikimedia Commons.

What I thought was fiberglass last time was just synthetic batting. Burned a lot of it, and the ripped pillowcase it doubtless came out of, causing some toxic smoke but making the area cleaner looking.

Like last time, it took me about 10 matches to get a fire going. "Strike anywhere", my ass. There's gotta be a better way.

Camping seems to reduce my desire for drugs like coffee, beer, and sex. Don't know if that would hold true for long yet.

I need a donut-shaped micropad sewn into my pants to protect my coccyx. Damn! It's awfully uncomfortable trying to sleep without that little area padded at least.

From my perch on the hillside, I could see the lights of Columbus and Palomas blaze through the night, a microcosm of these two nations obsessed with squandering every last drop of oil before it's all gone. Why not at least use reflectors, to keep the light in a conical shape, and not waste all that energy trying to light the whole countryside and the sky? Then lower-wattage bulbs could do the same work, and you'd reduce light pollution.

I'll have to blog my workshop notes later.

TigerDirect.com has XP netbooks for $283 and $303 including shipping, 16GB SSD and 120 GB HD, respectively. Awesome. [comment]

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