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.

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Sitting in Wendy's talking to a programmer named J. J. Tibbetts. Among a wealth of useful information was the ID of that unknown cactus I showed a picture of yesterday: cholla cactus. I finished the first half of the Universal Edibility Test on the fruit today, and it went fine. The fruit is delicious, very similar to an apple. As with prickly pear, though, you need to get all the little hairlike thorns off it before eating. A good percentage of them seem to like to lodge in the flesh of my fingers and hands. I'm almost inured to it now.

Today was amazing. This whole week was amazing. I've met more interesting people, come up with more ideas, learned more useful stuff than probably any other week of my existence. Most of the ideas have evaporated in the desert sun, but one I remember is a huge array of circular mirrors, computer- controlled, that can instantly reconfigure as a parabola of any orientation and focal point. What for? Defensive weapon. Would it work? No clue. If it does, I'm sure the military already has it. But I could maybe use one to shoot down buzzards when I get really, really hungry. I imagine they're a nasty-tasting bird.

(image of cargo bike) An idea that actually works is this $18 bicycle accessory from K-Mart, a cargo rack that I connected my long-suffering American Tourister flight bag to, and towed it from town to home and back. I found an alternate route today that cut my time down to 2 hours one-way, combined with the time saving from not having to stop and readjust the weight of my belongings on my shoulders, since that weight is now being borne primarily by the road. The flexible strap on the Bell unit allows just enough "give" so that the whole contraption handles most obstacles without incident. Larry Kamm, author of Real World Engineering, might be proud of my accomplishment. Here's to you, Larry, you're the inspiration. This follows thousands of dollars wasted on other foot-powered vehicles I've tried to develop. Any standard bike will do, including this $53 15-speed from Wal-mart. An American Tourister rolling flight bag; if you go with something cheaper, don't blame me when it falls apart after two blocks! This was $45 plus tax, and well worth it. Unfortunately, though, I can't seem to find a store that sells replacement rollerblade wheels. I guess I could buy a cheap pair of blades and thus get 8 wheels for $25, about $3 and change each. With all the crap I've been taking this poor thing through, the wheels won't last much longer. Anyway, for little over $100 you have a versatile method of navigating a town with your belongings, that doesn't look weird. All discriminating hobos should have one.


Wow, what an experience. After leaving the hotel, I went to Wal-Mart and bought some more stuff so I could camp out on my lot for the night. On the way down, I got a ride from a guy named Emmanuel Davis from a community called City of the Sun, south of Deming. He invited me to come and check it out, which I intend to do; he says because they're inside city limits (of Columbus, NM? or is it Columbia?) but not part of the city, they don't get hassled either by the county or the city. Nobody has bothered me on my lot yet, but I figure it's only a matter of time. Yesterday I got stopped by 2 cops, plus another two guys who I think were cops but wouldn't admit it. They just wanted to find out who I was, where I was going, and what I was doing. The usual stuff. I got another ride about an hour ago, from a rockhound named Mary, who told me someone shot up the police station in the Mexican town just across the border, which may be why they are so paranoid. But I digress, let's get back to last night.

It started off pretty mild, and I was going to spend the night digging a large (12 ft diameter) solar distiller which would double as an underground shelter. Early on, I shot a photo of the sunset from my little tent, but the colors didn't come out. Then it got colder and colder. By 1 AM my feet were freezing, and no amount of dancing around seemed to help. I tried my new Sterno stove and it was little help. So I built a fire outside the tent, and kept it going till the sun started to warm the air a little. Just before sunup I caught this view of the Florida mountains to the east. Finally about 8 AM I tried to get some sleep, and was successful till maybe 11 or so. Then the wind kicked up a little and made enough noise to keep me awake, so I got up and started walking into town... along Hermanas Road was where Mary picked me up, and brought me to the Peppers market, which has a little coffee/sandwich shop where I'm plugged into their power. Hopefully I'll find internet access today, Mary gave me some pointers.

I have some more pictures for you; remember the storm drains in LA that I could never get a good shot of? Here's one I got just before I left. Also, here's a different variety of nopal from what I posted before, and another cactus I don't know the name of yet, but the fruits look very similar to that of the prickly pear. I'll probably edibility-test it soon. Running out of money and have to sell my last gold coin, but after that I've got to know how to live off the land. Either that, or I'm going to see which of my 'principles' turn out to be vanities that I can live better (or live, period) without. Panhandling? I doubt it, but singing on the sidewalk is almost the same, except that I can kid myself into thinking I'm giving something of value in exchange for money. Theft? According to some points of view, I'm already stealing power and wireless access, though I usually ask permission when it's easy to do so. For example, I asked the girl who works here if I can plug in my laptop; she said yes, but that I'd better ask at the service desk if someone gives me a hard time. Sounds like a 'yes' to me! But I realize only the manager could give such permission. Anyway, I spent 5 dollars and change here, and the total of my electrical usage should be less than... hmm, let's see, call it one amp for, tops, 3 hours, at 120 volts is roughly half a KwH, somewhere between 3 and 5 cents probably. Internet is a little harder to justify, but as I've explained somewhere before, if it's open (no WEP key, or WEP key same as SSID), I take it as an invitation, with gratitude.

Another guy I met the other day, Jay Lang, is a well digger, and said the water is maybe 300 feet down where I am. That's why I'm deciding to go with a combination of solar still and storage pond. The county probably won't like the idea though. Solar stills, PV panels, and an envirolet would serve me nicely, but they probably have stick-in-the-mud ideas about city power, wells and septic tanks. I'm a little afraid to ask. If I don't know, I can always plead ignorance, but if I find out what they expect and do something different, they might think I'm being (gasp) defiant of their authority. Oh, horror. [comment]


Just got back from a McDonald's breakfast. Met a homeless guy named Thomas, and gave him one of my $1.00 Sausage & Egg McMuffins hoping to get some information out of him. But he answered my questions very laconically, mostly "yes sir" or "no sir", not elaborating on anything.

Can't find any internet yet; my battery has been dead and there's no Starbucks or similar place where I can plug in to recharge. Spent the night here in the Economy Inn in Deming, across from the Wal-Mart, finally getting some sleep. What little I got the previous night was at the Denny's, where the cops brought me after they picked me up straggling towards town; I had tried to camp out on the roadside but the rain got past the tarp into my hammock and chilled me to the bone, and I had to get warmed up somehow.

Found my lot, yesterday about noon; there are no street signs still standing, but a little prowling around and a good sense of direction got me to it eventually, and some short posts lying in the dirt convinced me that I was there, halfway between Los Vecinos and Acequia along Aguacate. Nothing edible growing on my lot, but there's lots of cactus plants a few miles away that I can get clippings from and plant here. I'll also try to plant some Spanish Bayonet, which grows all over the place except in the most barren areas like this one.

I've got some pictures but want to get more sleep before they throw me out; I can't be spending $30 every night, and got to get my money's worth... who knows when I'll get a good sleep again... [comment]


Wow, still morning... already feels like late afternoon to me.

Thought of a legitimate use of the United Nations. Well, to be honest, I've hit upon this idea many times over the years, but this is the first time I've managed to get it down on virtual paper. This is earth-shattering, so brace yourself. I want the UN to come out with a recommendation for a standard right-of-way. Not just for maritime use; that already existed since long before the UN. I mean for everything: roads, sidewalks, stairways, aisleways, whatever. When two people or two vehicles approach head-on, there really ought to be a predetermined method to avoid collision. I would prefer it to be "veer to the right", since that is what I'm used to, but if they choose the British rules of the road instead that's OK by me too; after a few days of near misses I'm sure I'll get it right.

Was that a rant? Maybe. Anyway, it's over now. Just had to get that off my chest.

Barbarian at the gates

Crocs.com shows that the Shoreline Yacht Club carries their shoes. I didn't remember the exact name but knew it was Sailing-something or Yacht- something; I first went into this sailing charters place in the same group of shops where the Yard House is; that wasn't it, but the guy happened to be online and was kind enough to visit the website for me and get me the correct info. So I headed up the parking lot to the yacht club. Tried one door, locked. But saw people inside. Strange way to run a store, I thought. Went around to another entrance, also locked. A clean-cut blond-haired young guy finally came to the door to ask what this lowlife might be doing outside their fortress; I said that supposedly Crocs were sold here. "Crocs?" "Yes, it's a shoe." A lady inside said to try the shops in Shoreline Village. I said I already did, but the website said they sold them here. Actually the young guy was polite enough, said he had a serape like mine, and asked if I bought mine in Mexico. But overall I got the feeling that I was about as welcome there as a turd in the punch bowl. If they sold Crocs at all, it was in a members-only shop inside that building.

I'll be catching the Texas Eagle to Deming tonight at 10:30. May or may not get a chance to upload this before then... later, d00ds.



(image: 2 geeks) Met with an online aquaintance today, C.; haven't got his permission on this blog yet, so he will remain anonymous for the moment. In anticipation of this meeting, I slept at night last night for a change. It was well worth it; intelligent conversation is hard to come by. And since I'm leaving for a sparsely populated section of New Mexico tomorrow, it may be the last I'll have for a while.

On my way to meet C., I passed through Union Station, and finally got a snapshot of nopal, prickly pear cactus. I sliced off one of the tender leaves (also called nodes or joints), and ate it later on the bus. With this photo, I think I've finally reached the critical mass I need to start the edible plants search engine I mentioned before.

That's it for now, got some email to catch up on. Notice I finally finished upgrading the blog CGI, so now you can find my older blogs as well. You can also link to a particular month, day, or blog using a question mark followed by the date/time specification, e.g.: http://jcomeau.com/blog/?2004-02-22 will get you today's blog(s).


I paid about 100 bucks for that stupid James Bond 007 camera and often forget I have it with me. Well, today I remembered, and took a picture of one of the storm drain posters that Long Beach provides to educate the populace. If you know anyone at the South Florida Water Management District, maybe see if they would be willing to work with the cities and towns in that area to do something similar. I also snapped a couple images of the actual warning by the drains but they didn't come out good.

(image: Croc bite) Got a serious crocbite today. One of my Crocs got stuck somehow in the escalator at the 7th street exit at the north end of LA's Blue Line. I didn't realize it till I was near the top, at which point I tried to step up the last 3 or so stairs and my right foot didn't move. When it jammed in at the top, I naturally panicked and pulled my foot all the way out of the sock, probably saving my toes. The emergency stop button on the damned thing is all but impossible to find. Bad design. The metro sent a supervisor out to assess the situation. He was this big, muscular, cynical-looking Latino who looked me up and down with my beard, serape, dirty pants and bit-off shoe and probably thought I was trying to scam the city or something. In any case, he didn't give me an awful lot of hope of getting reimbursed. We'll see.

The whole freakin' train ride was to find the laundromat that I saw once at one of the stops, but couldn't find today. After that incident, I rode all the way back to Long Beach, where I got off at 5th street and got some cheap mocs at Wal-mart, along with a new American Tourister flight bag (my laptop case had just lost another strap today). I paid $40 for the luggage; they had some there for half that, but I'm tired of cheap shit that doesn't last 24 hours. The laptop bag was American Tourister, and it lasted a year of real abuse, so I trust their brand a little. Then walked up 4th street back to the Portfolio, stopping at one of the laundromats along the way to clean my outer clothes. I don't mind looking eccentric, but have to draw the line at where my nose starts to take notice.


I've been thinking about the idea that people can't hurt our feelings unless we let them. I still believe this is true, but let's say someone you love is hurting your feelings, either intentionally or unintentionally. In the process of putting your guard up against being hurt, you are blocking their love also. The same force field blocks both the good and the bad. And I don't see any way around that. You either risk being hurt, or you turn stone cold, alienating them even further. That kind of sucks. But I think I can find a way to program around that if I can stay focused enough.

Also, getting back to love as an addiction, mentioned earlier: remember Gene Hackman as Popeye Doyle in French Connection II, where he's coming cold turkey out of heroin addiction? The characterization was hard for me to swallow: how is a strong character like Doyle going to beg like that? But then I remember myself during previous marital problems, I was the same goddamned way. I never connected those two ideas until yesterday, rereading that article. [comment]


Whenever I hear Hall and Oates's Kiss on my List, something tells me there's something programmed into me that uses that as a lookup key. If you've read Frank Herbert's Dune series - I can't remember any of the details here, so bear with me - towards the end of the last (6th) book, the pilot was having strange dreams, and it turns out he was seeing the beings who were attempting to trap him in their net. I feel there's something connecting that concept with this song.

Wow, if you could follow that train of thought you might be as crazy as I am.

It's raining pretty steady today since about 10 this morning local time, so I didn't get much sleep. Maybe 3 hours. Going to be another unproductive night programming probably. Not sure how long they're going to tolerate me at the airport anyway, staying all night every night, plugged into their electricity and using China Airlines' VIP lounge free wireless (can't do both at the same time - the electricity is in the back and the signal is too weak from there). But it's a nice TAZ while it lasts. (google taz hakim bey, I'm not online presently). [comment]


Well, on my way home today (I call Lighthouse Point in Long Beach home, since that's where I sleep) I stopped at Slauson station and picked a lemon off that lemon tree I saw from the train the other day. I also stopped at Wal-Mart on 5th Street and bought the Bondo epoxy and fiberglass mesh to build my helmet with later. But read on.

For breakfast I ate the lemon and my last piece of bockwurst. I then washed my pants (the pair of black exercise pants I wear under my cargo pants - everything else I already washed in the laundromat yesterday, but didn't feel comfortable being completely naked there) with what was left of the lemon as soap, in the mensroom sink at Lighthouse Point, and went to sleep in the sun, covered with my serape. Awoke several times, but finally about 3PM local time I got up and walked the half-mile or so to the beach, where I made a parabolic-shaped mound of sand with the tool mentioned before, and mixed the resin and hardener. Damn. Not enough. I wasted $11 or so worth of epoxy and fiberglass, and am no closer to having a helmet. This kid walking by, an intelligent-sounding white kid who's here with his parents from Washington State, saw the whole mess. He was asking me lots of questions, and I was explaining how I'd spend thousands on projects that didn't work out. I guess he felt sorry for me, though that wasn't my intention, and he offered me a dollar; I said oh no, I've still got a thousand left, and we went on talking as I was trying to salvage something out of the attempt. Eventually he said goodbye and walked off. 10 minutes later it was nearing twilight, the resin wasn't hardening at all (I guess I didn't mix it with the hardener well enough either), so I picked up the mess, threw it in the trash, and left.

While picking up my stuff, I found a carefully folded dollar underneath the serape. That kid!

(image: C. Acinaciformis flower) While walking to the Portfolio today, I found a patch of Carpobrotus Acinaciformis today further down the beach, near a long staircase up to the main drag. Compare that flower with that of C. Edulis, mentioned previously. So there's plenty here to eat if I could subsist solely on succulents. But I don't think I could and still be productive.

There was an interesting story on /. the other day, at The Economist about love and lust, and the chemicals that seem to influence these interactions. Do a google search on "sexual imprinting" to further demystify these processes (I saw the term in the Dune series years ago but never followed up on it to see what it meant until recently). It helps to know, especially when one's love life isn't going so well, that there are some explanations out there besides the usual crap fed to us by religions and jewelry retailers.


Working on some proof of concept code for the new version of postforth, I noticed that the forth code only used about .1% of the CPU while the corresponding C routine used 100%. WTF? It had to be CPU bound, there was no I/O of any kind being done. But then I saw that while only .1% was shown for the process, the CPU was pegged (using top). So I realized that the CPU being used was allocated to the kernel not the user process. I guess because it's mostly stack manipulations? Weird. In any case, the forths, both subroutine-threaded and direct-threaded, are only twice as slow as the corresponding C program. That disadvantage in speed may disappear in a complex application, and hopefully when done postforth will make for much more easily maintainable code. [comment]


I've been noticing something really strange about LA. People here actually wait for the walk light! Even if no cars are in sight for miles, they stand like docile sheep on the sidewalk waiting for the light to change. Not me. Oh, no, not me. Yesterday there was a cop on the median, and no cars in sight, so I just started walking across. He said something like "hey, don't you see the red hand?" and I answered, still walking "yeah, but I gotta go".

But today, I was crossing again, actually not even noticing if the light was red or white, just looking for traffic, and when I was across, a motorcycle cop comes out of nowhere, siren and lights and all, and pulls right up to me. Asks for some ID and pulls out his ticket book. I show him my Florida DL, he asks me how long I've been here. I say a week. He explains to me how the lights work, and asks if I understand. "Yes, sir".

Well, this city just lost its enchantment for me. People aren't free enough to decide when it's safe to cross the street? Give me a break. [comment]


Hmm, I started typing this with something like 'Now, before my battery goes dead', and right then it died. Now about 40 minutes later I finally found a table that has a power outlet nearby. Hopefully the cops won't have time to harrass me today, I've got something hanging on my back they might think is suspicous: it's a piece of metal shaped in the form of a half-parabola, which I intend to use for making the form on which I will build my sun helmet(s). Lowe's wouldn't sell me 5/8" soft copper tubing, so I went with that flat metal stock with holes in it, and a short piece of threaded rod. Looks like it might work out OK, if the idiot police don't think it's some kind of weapon and destroy it.

Finally got some pictures of that ice plant I mentioned, but it turns out it wasn't Carpobrotus Acinaciformis, but rather C. Edulis, with the bright yellow flower seen in the picture only as a blob. C. Acinaciformis and C. Deliciosus both have a purple colored flower. (image: Carprobrotus Edulis, Dried fruit and flower). The triangular-cross-section leaf is, to me, identical with that of C. Acinaciformis though. I tried the dried fruit today, and it really does look like a fig inside, all gooey with little seeds; but it tastes kind of salty (perhaps subjective) and in my Edible Wild Plants book it calls Prickly Pear "Indian fig" and not this.

All I've eaten so far today is that red fruit I mentioned before, which I now think may be a variety of Barberry, as shown on pp. 218-219 of Edible Wild Plants. I can only eat a few at a time, because of the tartness, but they don't really satisfy my hunger. It reminds me of an "apple diet" for cleansing that I tried as a teen, I think after reading about it in an Edgar Cayce book. Your stomach is telling you it's hungry, but when you try to appease it with fruit it says "no thanks, I'd rather starve". I hope I can wait until tomorrow before I have to eat anything else, otherwise I'll have to pay airport prices for something.

Last night I was able to also get my Thawte Freemail cert to authenticate me into a website (running locally on my laptop, apache under Cygwin). This is really cool stuff. I wish I could use this everywhere instead of having to remember 3 or 4 different usernames and a dozen different passwords. If you want your own cert, I can notarize you for 35 trust points if I'm in your area. I know some people do this for free, but I charge $10. The cert is free, you can get it from http://www.thawte.com, but by getting notarized for at least 50 points you can have your own name on the cert. And with 100 WOT (Web of Trust) points you can also be a notary, although as a business venture I'll have to say that I haven't made a penny in the what, 2 years I've been a notary? The idea really isn't taking off. Perhaps most people are as clueless as I was (still am?) as to all the great things you could do with it. Thawte certainly doesn't seem to be much help in letting you know its potential uses, unless there's info buried on their site I'm not finding. I mean, I don't expect them to tell me I can certify websites and software with it, but they could at least mention that it can be used to authenticate to a secure website, couldn't they? And I also found a way to use it with openssl to read, sign, verify and encrypt secure email (man smime). So I can potentially send and receive signed and encrypted email using Yahoo! mail. But I'm going to script it first.



Aha! Now I know how to sign jarfiles with my Thawte Freemail cert. First you export it using Netscape's Certificate Manager as described elsewhere. Then you use jarsigner as usual, but with the added switches:

jarsigner -storetype pkcs12 \
 -keystore jcomeau.p12 \
 screencapture.jar "john otis comeau's thawte id"

And to find out what your alias is (mine is, obviously, "john otis comeau's thawte id"):

keytool -list -keystore jcomeau.p12 \
 -storetype pkcs12

Went through a lot of google results of people trying to convert pkcs12 to jks before I found the post with the gordian solution! Now, remember, Thawte makes a living selling things like code signing certs, so only use this for test purposes. If you're going to sign commercial software, buy the cert! [comment]


(image: leaves of edible succulent) Finished my edibility testing of that succulent I mentioned in yesterday's writeup. I couldn't eat 1/4 cup of that sour stuff though; I'd have to be really starving to eat more than a handful at a meal. It tastes about the same as most succulents: purslane, prickly pear, and Carpobrotus Acinaciformis, for example. I forgot the common name of C. Acinaciformis, but think it's Indian fig or something like that. I edibility tested its leaves a year or two ago in Rosarito Beach, B. C. There's some growing here in Long Beach, I'll try to get a picture before I go.

Well, can't sit here at Starbucks, gotta get to the Lowe's. The neighborhood where it's located looks like it might be under gang control, so want to be well clear of it by nightfall.


Domestic problems, been a little too depressed to update this blog for all 1 or 2 of you besides me who have looked at it. Nothing that won't eventually be resolved, but let's just say I've had some root canals and they were a walk in the park compared to this.

Finally noticed the Lowes again, it's near the Crenshaw stop of the Green Line. Have to go there and see if I can get some copper tubing to make the parabolic shaper needed to make the plastic mold needed to make the sun helmet/cooker.

Another sign of life in Long Beach's Rainbow Harbor, a reddish-colored crab walking along the bottom at low tide. Overall the damned place still looks too sterile to me, no doubt because of the toxins mentioned earlier.

I've been seeing some yellow fruit on trees from the train. They may be some type of lemon or lime, because I noticed such a bush on the way to Portfolio today. The unripe fruit looks exactly like a lime (because it is?) but the riper ones are almost orange, and inside they look like an orange but are far too sour for my taste. And of course the shape of the fruit is still like a lime, with that little nipple on one end. Before I leave for NM, I plan to check out at least one more of those trees I saw. For tomorrow, I intend to finish the Universal Edibility Test on a succulent found near the Del Amo stop yesterday.

I modified the UET so it can be used more often; typically 24 hours of near-fasting is necessary, and that's too much stress on my system to do more than once a week. So I split it into two parts: day one, just complete up to swallowing the test sample and waiting 8 hours, then eat a normal meal. Day two, after 8 hours fasting, eat the 1/4 cup and wait 8 hours. Using this method, every two days you can have tested another plant or part of a plant. The way I study all night and sleep during the day makes this even easier; I normally just drink water all night anyway, so eating a little breakfast (the test sample) before going to sleep is perfect. After an average of 4 hours sleep, if I wake up alive that ought to be good enough proof that the sample was edible; of course if I can wait another 4 hours before eating anything, all the better.

Found some instructions on the web for exporting your Thawte Freemail cert, so it can be imported into other applications. The basic command is, after telling Netscape to save your cert as mycert.p12:

openssl pkcs12 -in mycert.p12 -out mycert.pem -nodes

I think this was easier under older versions of netscape; IIRC, the .pem format was the default. Anyway, to import it into IE you only need the .p12 file. The .pem is useful for experimenting with signing jarfiles and whatever else. I tried signing a certificate request using the IE wizard, and it seemed to work, but when I then tried to install the cert the wizard told me the matching request couldn't be found. Even though it was in the same place as before. I don't understand. Anyway, I now partially understand how these certs are used, with SSL, for website authentication, instead of the old username/password method. I haven't gotten it to work with cygwin/apache yet, but the concept is at least grokable now, and I didn't have a clue about it until the last 24 hours.

I found some of my old CFS Automation Project and EZR programming floppies while cleaning out my room a week or so ago, and yesterday I paid $12 to use a computer with a floppy drive so I could zip the files up and place them on my website, in the src/ subdirectory. Not sure what everything is for, it's been years since I wrote that crap... I just wanted to have it saved for my vanity's sake. [comment]


OK, let me get this stuff down before I forget it all again...

Bubbles in the water. I've been at the Long Beach harbor every day for the last few days, and looking into the water for signs of life. It's mostly pretty toxic-looking. But at various places along the shore, at random intervals or continuously, you will see streams of bubbles rising to the surface from beneath the stones. I'm not talking about the few little bubbles a clam might produce, but in some cases gallons of gas (air?) per minute from a single location. I wonder if this is natural gas? The water's too cold and too yucky-looking for me to wade in and satisfy my curiosity, so maybe I'll rig up a torch with a kerosine-soaked rag on the end of a metal pole and see if the stuff ignites.

USB firestarter. I saw on some silly TV show one time that it's easy to start a fire with 2 'D' cells and some steel wool. The current produced is sufficient to ignite the steel, and that burns hot enough to light just about anything. I have a spare USB cable from that crap digital camera I had before; I wonder if the USB spec permits enough current at 12VDC at short circuit to ignite the steel wool? I've been thinking about that because I've been having a hell of a time getting fires started using my butane soldering iron as a lighter. You only get a few seconds of flame before the catalyst takes over, and with the gusty winds along the coast, sometimes you can't get a flame at all. And when I thought of burning metal, I got the idea that I can probably melt aluminum for making castings by using steel wool to light sheet metal, soda or food cans for example, and getting a very hot fire from the burning metal. Something to try when I reach New Mexico.

Portfolio coffeehouse. I've mentioned this before. There's a coffeeshop at the corner of Junipero and 4th, in Long Beach, CA, that any bohemian and/or geek would love. It's filled with little wooden tables and chairs, and some comfortable armchairs, has some computers and has free wireless for anyone with a laptop with 802.11b. Good selections of coffees and teas and some fresh pastries (and some that are not so fresh), also soup and sandwiches. Wednesday nights is 'open mic', where anybody can sing and/or play an instrument. Almost everybody was up there with a guitar singing their own compositions (guessing here), and I felt a little out of place with my karaoke-like pista, but I sang Coldplay's Clocks, and some people seemed to enjoy it. Or maybe they were just being polite. At any rate, the coffeeshop rocks. It's called Portfolio. Don't miss it if you're in LA.

On the train back to the airport tonight, I asked the chick sitting across the way if she would sell me her (nice wool) serape. I offered $20, and she took it without haggling, meaning she may have gone for $10 if I'd started lower. Oh well, I think I got a good deal anyway. It's nice and warm and can also be used as a blanket. This was a tragic figure. 46 years old, from Ontario, planning on going back as soon as she can. She's lived in LA for four years, currently living with this crackhead who's a journeyman electrician making almost $30 per hour, plus $70 per diem, and spending it all on crack. It keeps him from getting sick, he tells her. Go figure. She says she's 51/50, which means certified looney-tunes. She carries around what she calls "a bomb", apparently a little stick of plastique from what she showed me, and she can get away with it because of her mental status. She stole this Peruvian-looking guy's food while he was sleeping on the train. When he woke up, she tried to convince him that he knew her from before. He was cool about it at first, then when she wouldn't give him back all his beer when we reached his stop, he stayed on the train and started arguing/cursing with her. I moved on down into the next car, I didn't know what else she might have in that purse of hers and didn't want to find out. Before they started the fight, he mentioned that he was a security guard at the shopping center where the Green and Blue Metro lines cross... said it's dangerous because gangs sometimes start shooting at each other there. Before he mentioned that, I was gonna ask him if his company was hiring... but no thanks, I can do without lead in my diet. When I run out of money, if I haven't figured out anything else by then I can try day labor again.

Got a good 6 hours or so of sleep today (well, yesterday - it's now 0150 local time) so the sun was already getting low in the sky. Tomorrow maybe I can start building the tools to make tools to make my next sun helmet. If it works out I'll maybe post the details here. I spent a few thousand last year on projects that didn't work out, like the cargo scooter and two attempts at a geodesic dome; maybe this helmet will work. The idea is to have it dual-use, the second use as a parabolic mirror to cook food using the sun's heat. When you carry all your belongings with you, it's good to have everything with more than one use, and also to have things that are easily repairable. If my casting idea works, I'll make a collapsible luggage carrier using inline scate wheels as the wheels, since many stores carry replacements. The handle can be one of those telescoping poles that hold brooms, paint rollers, etc. Those handles can also be used as a walking stick. I was going to buy one today, but didn't have anything I could screw over the thread to protect it. [comment]


Yesterday I almost lost my laptop, hammock, and just about everything else. Two kids walked past me at dusk as I was sleeping on the lawn near the beach, covered with my emergency blanket. Maybe I was actually asleep at that time, maybe not. All I know is that my bag was gone, and I instantly was on my feet saying "hey!". The kid dropped the bag and kept walking away. I stared after him angrily, while trying to get my heart rate back to normal. Then he calls back something like "what, you got money in it?" So goddamned brazen! This is like NYC or worse... better be more careful from now on, obviously I lucked out until now.

Later I went to the Yard House and tried some Hacker-Pschorr wheat beer and Young's Oatmeal Stout, both excellent. I'd seen the bottles years before at Ye Olde Falcon in Davie, FL but waited until I could get them on tap. Sure, I'm blowing what's left of my money, but maybe I should hasten the day I run out, just to see what happens to me. [comment]


Just bought my ticket to Deming, NM for $76, as the Amtrak ticketers here at Union Station told me I could, but wouldn't tell me when. Talk about annoying. I had to call their reservation line and get the ticket after dealing with an automated voice processing system. Once I finally got to a human operator, she told me I could have just pressed 0 at any time and gotten a human. To be sure, the system wasn't all that bad, and may have been useful if I'd wanted to do the normal thing, and reserve for a specific date rather than go for the lowest fare.

(picture of red fruit) 4 hours left to go for the universal edibility test on that red fruit I mentioned yesterday. I think I'll survive, so it apparently was edible, if a little tart. The ripest fruits are almost sweet though. I don't know how to describe the flavor, but it's more like an apple than, say, an orange or blueberry. I ate them unpeeled, and swallowed seeds and all. I did wash them, though, as well as I could. There was some droid out there today, in that harbor area on Long Beach, spraying a brownish-orange chemical on the grounds right next to the water. I asked "what's that stuff?"; he answered "weed killer". Weed killer? Poison? Where what doesn't fall directly into the water will get washed in the next time it rains? What are these fucking people thinking? Those white croakers I mentioned yesterday got their DDT and PCBs from when they contaminated the water 30 years ago. Hello? Silent Spring? Don't we ever fucking learn from our mistakes?

I'm thinking about writing a book on the homeless, or on homeless living. I wonder if the other homeless people I'm meeting will be willing to talk to me and have their stories published. At the very least, I might find out about resources I can use myself!

Also, don't remember if I mentioned this before, and too lazy to search, but I have an idea to increase the food base of hunter-gatherers by planting fruit trees and other plants like prickly pear in public places. For example, I clipped a second lobe of prickly pear today in addition to the one I trimmed for eating, and planted it in another corner of the parking lot. If I can get a bunch of people doing this every day, we may have a sustainable food base after a few years. The trick is to use attractive plants, and place them where they look "right", even to the point of making it look like a city department had done it. That way, hopefully nobody will question it and it will survive and grow.

This page is getting too big, I'm going to have to edit the CGI to show only one month at a time. I made some decent progress on my wav2mid program last night; it can't handle anything even mildly complex, but the closer you get to a pure sinewave sound source, sounding one note at a time, the output is nearly perfect. Also working on a licensing module, more on that later. So, I've got 12 days till I leave for Deming. Let's see what I can accomplish meanwhile.


Upstairs in terminal 4 of the LA Airport, there's an area with tables and windows overlooking parts of the airport and city. It's nice, it's open all night, and there's at least one power outlet for a laptop (I assume it's OK to use). Look for the food court, then go around to the back and you'll find it. Let's see if I am allowed to hang here on a regular basis.

No free wifi up here, but when I want it I can go back over to the Delta terminal 5 baggage area. Maybe. Anyway, as I've said before, it's a lot easier to program when not distracted by email, IM, and other networking stuff.

Just thought of a new sig: "Support free OSes: charge for the Windows versions of your software!" Now to remember to update my settings at Yahoo! mail. [comment]


Keep forgetting to mention, the people here in LA and Long Beach did a very smart thing: they put, next to all storm drains, a highly visible notice cast in concrete and painted, something like 'No Dumping: Drains into Ocean'. Some have a picture of a dolphin jumping over waves, others a fish skeleton. Of course, some people will always dump poisons and solvents, but at least english-literate people will be aware what they are doing. In Florida and NYC I fear people think the storm drains go through a sewage processing system, and carelessly dump whatever they wish. I was that ignorant once, and dumped my oil into a New York City drain on the West Side back in the 80's, thus helping pollute the Hudson River and, by extension, the Atlantic. [comment]


Lest anyone get the idea that LA/Long Beach is homeless-friendly... it's not.

Last night I decided to try fishing on pier 2, as the lady indicated to me yesterday was OK. I rooted through trash cans until I found a piece of chicken I could use as bait, and cast in my line. After some hours, some pickup trucks started driving by, and one of them stopped. A cop in khaki uniform, maybe a game warden of sorts, came checking if I had caught anything and asked me if I knew about size limits. I said no, but that I wasn't going to keep anything that wasn't big. (I didn't say that to me, any fish over 6 inches long is plenty big.) Anyway, he said some fish had a lower limit of 22 inches, and bass was 12 inches. I thanked him for the info and he went on his way, after asking me to open my laptop bag so he could see if I had stored any undersize fish next to my computer.

A half hour or so later, my bait was gone, either by nibbles or just gravity and fatigue of the cooked avian musculature. I went to root through some more trash cans in search of another piece of bread or meat to use as bait; out of nowhere, a cop appeared and started hassling me. Yes, I could stay on the pier, but walking around was illegal and could get me arrested. So I went back to the pier. Over time, it got colder and colder. Moving around did little good; heat was escaping from my exposed head. I fished the emergency blanket out of my pocket and fashioned a hood, held in place by my wool scarf. Time went on, and I also pulled out my other emergency blanket and wrapped it around me. A cop was still sitting parked on the edge of the lot. Twilight started appearing after about 5:15, a jogger and a bicyclist went by without any hassling by the cop; eventually I felt safe enough to beat an exit past the cop, and to the trolley station where I bought a day pass from the machine (finally found one that accepts the new 5's), and caught the trolley to a McDonald's for the 2-for-2 special (really two sausage-and-egg McMuffins for $2.50 plus tax). I was so sleepy, I went all the way into downtown LA and back. I also felt a cold coming on, and now 5:54 PM local time, I'm feeling worse. I'm eating at a place called Pike, which has fresh local halibut and good draft beers (Newcastle, Franziskaner, and Sierra Nevada, among others), and, as I'm seeing more and more lately, a typical LA multi-racial mix of employees and customers. I'm starting to like it here (the regular people) and hate it (the cops) at the same time.

I sold one of my gold coins overnight, and just blew over $20 here. I fear the day when I run out of money, and at the same time I can't wait to find out what I will do. Will I forget my newly rediscovered idealism and go back to work? Or will I find a way to live off the land and sea, and rely on my paltry musical abilities to get me a little cash for these excursions into the Matrix?

In any case, I hope I have the fortitude to resist any guilt trips other people may try to lay on me. I am me, I am free, as David Icke says. Then why do I feel so goddamned lonely and disgusted? There are some complex interactions going on here, to be sure. DNA and memes, and who knows how many other forces at play in shaping the "me" I think I know?

Neil Diamond playing Shiloh on the PA system. The pretty black bartender totaling my bill. Life sucks. Life is good. Till later, dudes. [comment]


Update - found some prickly pear growing just outside LA's Union Station, in a parking lot. Ate a piece today, it was delicious. Also today noticed a sign that said mussels are to be considered poisonous until further notice, and no other mollusks are safe either. There's also a fish called white croaker that contains, reportedly, dangerously high levels of DDT and PCBs.

I met a lady on one of the piers today who said that Long Beach piers 1, 2, and 3 are legal to fish from any time, and in fact one can set up a tent and stay on them all night. No license is required to fish from the piers, but that's not true from the rocks along the coast. Good stuff to know.

I found some fruit on a decorative plant there on the coast today too. I tried taking a picture of it with that shit James Bond 007 camera I bought from ThinkGeek.com, but none of the pictures were readable and there's a corrupted filesystem on the camera I can't seem to fix. It shows an image 4GB large which can't be deleted. About $100 down the shithole there. Did I mention the soundbug is no damned good either? Not even as loud as the little shit speakers on the laptop.

Anyway, getting back to the fruit. It resembles something halfway between a grape and a plum on the outside. Inside it is purplish red, pulpy and milky, with a sweet taste. I just tasted it and spit it out; tomorrow I might try eating one. The leaves of the shrub (no relation to our president, I hope) are shiny and have no teeth as do plum leaves. If anybody recognizes it from my description please email me with any info, preferably before I die from eating it. Oh, the seeds inside look something like dried lentils. Each fruit has several.

Hm. She lambasted me in a lengthy email. Nothing I don't deserve, but damn it hurts. Hyper from drinking too much coffee, previously at Starbucks, now at this little bohemain coffeeshop in Long Beach on 4th and Junipero. Recommended to me by an interesting dude named Val I met at Starbucks earlier. Life is wonderful. Life sucks. Film at 11. Stay tuned. [comment]


Yesterday evening (or really "earlier today" Zulu time) I went to the outskirts of Chinatown, just a few blocks from Union Station, and found a Chinese seafood restaurant called Mayflower near the corner of Spring and Ord. They had a "Pan Fried Fish" special for - you won't believe it - $2.99. I figured for that price I'd get something a little larger than a sardine, but no; it practically filled the large plate. So it wasn't so tasty, it was one of those flat fish like flounder or sole (I never can remember which is which), not snapper like you usually get in Miami or Cartagena, Colombia - but it was a decent meal for a grand total of $4.25 including a dollar tip. Now to find out if they will seat me next time - the waiter, an Asian man apparently in his 30's, didn't seem so thrilled to see this bearded gnome with his weird-looking baggage the first time, and less so when I ordered the fish.

Haven't been lucky finding edible foods yet though - I might try some Aloe that grows on Aviation Boulevard close to the airport entrance, but it may or may not be palatable. Nopal has been nowhere to be found, so far. Overall, I'm not thrilled with LA; haven't found a real beach yet (though I prowled the "Long Beach" area), nor a 24-hour coffee shop outside of the airport. Not even a single Starbucks yet that had power outlets available for laptop users. Amtrak tells me I can get to Deming, NM for $76 if I buy my ticket at the right time on certain days, but can't tell me what those times and days are. Last night it would have been $119, which would have just about drained my available funds. I went back to the airport, and the free access in the Delta Song baggage area in terminal 5 was working again, and put another gold coin up for sale on eBay.

Oh, and haven't found any coconut palms yet either. Some palms I saw downtown yesterday did look like date palms though. Way too tall to even attempt climbing, and they were outside a bank or something. I opened a mussel growing near the low-tide level in Long Beach yesterday and it stank somewhat, so maybe those aren't safe to eat. Definitely not something I'd relish in any case. [comment]


Oh yeah, I notice now they broke at least one of my speakers, too, when they searched my bag. I wonder how much more shit I'll find broken or missing. And of course I have no fucking recourse, since flying is a privilege, not a right. [comment]


Finally made it into LAX about an hour ago. Sitting here in the baggage claim area using the free but intermittent wireless internet, and the free power.

I was stuck in Fort Lauderdale because one or more of the geniuses who protect our skies from terrorists decided that my plastic bottle in which I keep my mixture of Borax and Baking Soda may have actually contained drugs or anthrax or some other horrid substance. So I missed my plane, and though the nice folks at Song (and dance?) Airlines got me another flight, it went through Atlanta which was having weather-related delays of 2 hours or more.

I heard more stupidity in the last 24 hours than I can possibly remember, but one of the gems, from the Broward Sheriff's Office droid if I recall correctly, was "Flying isn't a right, it's a privilege." Ay, que profundo.

Oh, by the way, they finally decided to destroy my bottle of contraband. So if you notice my body odor is a little stronger than usual, or my clothes a little grubbier than normal, don't blame me, OK? I'll eventually buy myself some more baking soda, but Borax has been impossible for me to find anywhere outside of South Florida, for whatever reason. [comment]

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