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

MrCreditRepair.biz will fix your credit rating!

2008-02-29-1615Z

A few unrelated ideas that popped into my head during the night and early morning... they're all things I think about regularly:

Make gold coins for use after governments collapse. Everybody can have their own mint. Leave a spot on each coin "clean" showing the crystal structure, and people can verify the authenticity by checking it against a photo on the Internet or Unternet.

For banking transactions, every detail needs to be saved to hardcopy for reconstruction after computer and network failures. A diamond stylus can be used to make marks representing ASCII in old metal strapping, fed by a worm gear or the like. Follower styli can verify the write in real-time.

Someday I've got to make myself understand how a sewing machine works, and design something handheld that accomplishes the same thing with solenoids or whatever. Unless someone's already done it? Googling so far has found nothing like what I'm looking for. [comment]

2008-02-29-0617Z

OK, finally got Technorati to index some of my blog posts, by adding the Permalink markup as recommended in their FAQ. Problem is, my code was broken the first time it "took", so now there's a bunch of bad links there. Wonder if they'll eventually sort that, or it's in their database wrong forever. [comment]

2008-02-28-2053Z

I'm constantly amazed by the quality of free music video content on youtube. Check out Evanescence's Bring Me To Life video for example. Why pay for music when it's being given away free? With awesome video clips to boot. [comment]

2008-02-28-2016Z

Fucking stupid HotOrNot keeps losing my goddamned changes to my hotlist. What kind of retarded database loses records after a commit? I wanna get rid of Linkin Park, they haven't done anything original in years, and add that cool blue pic of Amy Lee off Evanescence's Fallen album. [comment]

2008-02-28-1931Z

I ought to put together a trail mix of barrel-cactus fruits and dates to last me the rest of the day. There are quite a few date palms around; most have the really thick pit with very little meat, but I and my Couchsurfing host found a few pitless dates in the street the other day. What causes that, lack of fertilization? When my neighbor was gifted some date-palm trimmings during a drive through Coachella Valley, many branches had those anemic-looking pitless dates on them too. They tasted OK as I remember. Deglet Noor dates I think; not sure what this species is in El Paso. [comment]

2008-02-28-1856Z

Woke up on the same hill overlooking UTEP. Love sleeping in the hot sun after a cold night of walking about 16 miles back and forth along Mesa. I'm not at the Rib Hut just north up the street, waiting for my 1/2 pound sourdough burger for $6.50. Just came out. Not bad, but I'm blowing my whole day's allowance on this meal. Dumb.

I've been improving, in my mind, on an idea I have for a rocket stove made of two triangular pieces of extruded metal or ceramic. The two join to form an inverted T, with the bottom of the bottom triangle flat. Excellent stability, and if done right the triangles can fold flat for transport. Weight will be a bit of a problem, but the materials chosen can make a big difference. The unused rear half of the bottom triangle can be filled with dirt during use, for better stability in higher winds. [comment]

2008-02-28-0446Z

Late night at the Tap. Excellent burrito de machaca for $3.50, just before the cook called it a night. Shiner Bock is a little pricey at $3.50 each, but at least it's bottled, not canned like at Wanna Wanna in South Padre! This is maybe the nicest, tackiest dive in El Paso. Love it. [comment]

2008-02-28-0324Z

Oh, this is too rich! In the movie it's called a Whammy Burger! Sammie Whammy! [comment]

2008-02-28-0301Z

I've been drinking coffee all afternoon so decided to get some food into my stomach. Went into Quizno's and saw a sign for something called a "Slammy" (oops! nope, it's a "Sammie"... anyway it doesn't matter much) and ordered it. What a royal fucking ripoff. Look at the picture, and compare it to what you really get. I used their free wifi to complain:

I saw the sign showing an Italiano "Slammy" and it looked good so I ordered it. You've gotta be kidding. I know fast-food joint photos are always misleading but you guys really take the cake. Promise Raquel Welch and deliver Twiggy. Makes me want to see Michael Douglas show up. You ever see the movie "Falling Down"? You ought to watch it someday.
[comment]

2008-02-27-2206Z

Slept on one of the desert hills inside the UTEP campus. I didn't expect any cops were ambitious enough to climb it to roust me, and I was right. Or they just didn't care, that's quite possible too... I was mostly out of sight.

Some of the servers at Kinley's House give me the refill price right away without me asking for it; others charge me full price for the first cup (I of course bring my own cup all the time; I've taken to fastening it to one of the auxiliary straps of my sling). So now I'm just asking for the refill price, the worst they can say is no. In fact the cashier just now made me pay. So the money that would have gone to the tip jar went into the cash register. His choice.

I asked for the "senior" coffee today at McD's too, I think for the first time. I'd been offered it before, and accepted, but I always felt before like it was asking for charity if I flat-out asked for it (it's only 40 cents or so, less than half price). I changed my mind. Bill Gates could ask for it too if he wanted. I don't know what qualifies as "senior" with Ronald and I don't want to ask. My bank gave me a "senior" checking account at age 50. [comment]

2008-02-27-1733Z

Whew. Spent a good part of the night, and most of the morning as well, trying to solve a challenging problem with the latest vlc sources. Somewhere in the past few months, the ability to make snapshots from videos got badly broken and nobody was apparently paying attention. Some of these changes are specific to my build machine, for example the packages added and removed and the modification to /usr/include/bits/posix_opt.h. Others are changes to the latest sources and a rewrite of the script found on the web. Finally, there's the log of the script running. I'm suffering from sleep deprivation, so expect some errors in there. Particularly, I modified the script to just use files for input and output, so the HTML is quite possibly wrong.

Most of the problems were previously solved by others and found by googling. A few things, like the vital symbol blithely logged "unexported" in the changelog, I had to figure out myself. Hopefully putting everything in one place here will help others. [comment]

2008-02-26-0343Z

Both my blog and my RSS feed now validate. Still no joy from Technorati. They're pretty goddamned picky about a lot of shit. Can't blame them in a way, but I've probably broken a lot of my past links with the changes I made today, and by the time I'm done I'll probably have broken a whole lot more. The price of progress, I guess... :sigh: [comment]

2008-02-26-0055Z

Didn't mention, I had dinner last night with my CouchSurfing hosts and their gorgeous neighbor at Lucy's Restaurant at 4119 N. Mesa, next door to King's X, a popular bar. I had the Steak Picado, a huge plate of carne asada, very tasty and filling. I rolled the leftovers into a burrito which I plan to eat later this evening; I've lived so far today on the 3 bowls of menudo I mentioned earlier, and a 12-oz pack of turkey hotdogs I picked up at Wal-Mart for $1-something. This anonymous review sounds like it was either from a competitor, or from a regular customer who doesn't want the place any more crowded than it already is. [comment]

2008-02-26-0020Z

Finished The Vision by Tom Brown, Jr. An awesome book, highly recommended. You'll notice right away, though, that compared to Daniel Quinn, Brown is really full of himself. A lot of holier-than-thou bullshit. It gets quieter towards the last few pages, where he shows some humility, but also reveals a (to my mind) debilitating weakness in his belief in the mythical Jesus. It was alluded to earlier in the text but confirmed in the last couple of chapters. Nevertheless, he learned a lot of useful things and is making an effort to share them; please read it if you get a chance. [comment]

2008-02-25-1742Z

The menudo here is awesome! As good as any I've ever had. Just ordered another bowl.

I've been thinking about a small conical solar cooker which focuses the energy onto a rod of black steel, which extends out the other side to place inside a coffee cup or cooking pot. Might want to encase that end in some type of ceramic if the concept proves viable. Iron pipe might work too and could be more readily available in many areas. [comment]

2008-02-25-1721Z

Passing by the Village Inn headed north (west) on Mesa, I noticed they now have wireless, SSID="Village Inn", unsecured. Their menu is pricey, though. I ordered the all-you-can-eat menudo for $6.49. [comment]

2008-02-25-1618Z

Jump training should be taught to all school children. Start with a jump from half your height, learning to bend at the knees to absorb the impact. I jumped from the garage roof once as a child without knowing that simple maneuver, and messed up my knees for life. Anyway, then add one foot at a time, using some type of adjustable platform until everybody can jump from at least twice eir height without injury. The challengers -- there always are some -- will want to go for 20 or 30 feet. As long as they have to make at least 10 safe jumps at each 1-foot step, why not? Let 'em.

I want to set up such a platform at home for my own use... I want to train for safe recovery from paragliding mishaps, and maybe design and test some kind of safety equipment, like the bubble from the James Bond movie The World is Not Enough. And my home can become an unschool for kids from Columbus who want to learn things that are useful and fun. [comment]

2008-02-25-1430Z

Passed a hill on the UTEP campus on the way to Kinley's House this morning, begging me to climb it. I ignored it for a few steps, then said to myself, "Why not? I'm not on anybody's schedule". So I did. A nice view of a part of Cd. Juarez, took a couple of photos. The back of the hill was all fenced off so I went down at a 90 degree angle to the way I'd gone up and walked back to the same street, Hawthorne, I'd been on. Goddamned fences. But I was flushed with a strange primal joy from just that short climb, and when I smiled at all the young college cuties, some smiled back. [comment]

2008-02-25-1329Z

Awoke before dawn and started thinking. Once I get my iPod Touch with Otterbox case, and a new set of Capilene undergarments, and finish my sandals made with tires, I can run anywhere, anytime! Since the longjohns have an opening for urinating, I can cover the front with some kind of flap. Maybe one in the rear, too. Make it out of some ultra-absorbent material on the side facing my butt, and put some baking soda in it, and can use it to wipe myself on the road. Wash it out somewhere when I get to the next town. I'll need to carry some drinking water, but there are hydration kits made specifically for running, so that's no problem.

I might want a GPS unit too, especially if I try the back roads into Las Cruces. Those roads have so many twists, turns, and forks, I could be going around in circles in that place and run out of water before I'm anywhere near a town. Once I do it one time, though, I might be able to do it again just by knowing how the outline of the Florida and Organ mountain ranges look at various points along the way.

Why a new set of undergarments? Mine are full of holes, and in fact I lost the shirt, which was drying in the broken side pocket of my duffelbag. It must have gotten left on the bus on arrival into El Paso.

If I ever get a few thousand together again, I ought to buy a composting toilet, one of the fancy name-brand ones, and build a nice little bottle-wall outhouse near my shebeen. That'll be for my guests, and for anyone at COS or passing through, and it'll cover my ass, legally speaking, if anyone from Luna County gets snoopy about any other humanure composting I might want to try. I'll just need to keep the former prominent, and the latter hidden. [comment]

2008-02-24-2253Z

Just can't beat Erin's in El Paso for low prices. The most expensive thing on the menu is the shrimp coctail for $2.50. Almost everything is $2.00, and the chili dogs are 50 cents! I just ordered 2. They were $1.30 or so each at Wienerschitzel last night, so I'm curious to see how much less I get here. And of course, the Shiner Bock drafts are only $1.50 here. Not pints, mind you -- maybe 12 ounces at most -- but still, these are excellent prices for a friendly bar. If you're a regular blog reader, you'll know I've stopped in lots of El Paso bars and gotten hostile service at high prices.

I walked about 6 miles to get here... will probably take the bus back. This is the life, free place to sleep, cheap food and drink, even some untouched (or lightly touched) desert in which to walk and enjoy. Crossing the arroyo through UTEP yesterday, two wild-looking dogs (coyotes? wolves?) barked at me and walked away. One was reddish, the other tawny-colored. It was magical, this spot of desert in the middle of the city.

My chili dogs came out as I was typing: same if not better than what I got at Wienerschnitzel for less than half the price. It was worth the walk, for sure. [comment]

2008-02-24-1654Z

Over the past 48 hours or so, what's left of the lesions on both hands has mostly dried up. No more noticeable itching or pain. I think it's licked... sure hope so anyway. I probably won't feel comfortable about it even when the last trace of scab has fallen away. Hell, almost every time I get a groin itch I pull out some hairs and look for nits, remembering the one crab infestation I got... every time I see a pimple for the rest of my life I'll probably worry if it's going to turn into a boil.

If and when I write a WikiHow article about curing impetigo without pharmaceuticals, I'd like to make an animated GIF out of the series of photos I've taken of the lesions. It will be tricky because I'll have to align them all the same way and make them the same apparent distance away, but it would be really cool.

I probably won't pass the General class ham licensing exam next Saturday, but I think I'll pass some of the sections, and as I understand it, I'll only need to retake the sections I fail. I should still have my license this year if I stick with it.

I'm trying to finish some programming work, both for-pay and volunteer, but just can't get my mind focused on it. It's like these jobs are big ugly dragons and I'm scared to even look at them face-on. I go through phases like this cyclically, but this seems worse than normal. [comment]

2008-02-24-0321Z

Posted a job on Rentacoder.com to see if anyone could tell me why my posts never show up on Technorati.com... a coder named Sajan Parikh pointed out that my RSS feed is broken! It was choking on <language> tags and some coded characters like &eacute;. Still haven't verified that that fixes the problem, but it's good having another set of eyes available. [comment]

2008-02-24-0216Z

Spent a good part of the day walking around El Paso, taking the route along Gateway West, under the highway past the cemetery, that I haven't taken in, I think, well over a year. I also jumped about 8 sets of tracks going south on Dallas Street, something I'd never done before. And saw a bunch of dumpsters with some good shit including some steel 55-gallon drums farther east along Texas Street. Ended up taking the #50 bus back downtown from Montana near Cielo Vista Mall, which was my destination. I had gone to see the folding aluminum luggage roller at Brookstone, but they didn't have them at the store. Oh well, I got some exercise.

Ate lunch at Sam's on 1501 East Yandell, on the advice of someone at UnknownCity.com. It wasn't bad, but the lunch menu item I chose, #19 Szechwan Pork for $4.55, wasn't very filling. Still, it came with a cup of hot and sour soup, and with a pot of hot tea and tip I got out of there for $7.50. Dinner was a couple of hot dogs at Wienerschnitzel for $2.83. The rest of the night is hopefully gonna be coffee and Internet at Kinley's House. Enough toxic peanuts and draft beer. They wreak royal havoc on my digestive system. [comment]

2008-02-23-1228Z

Why don't pants come with spring-steel belt clips instead of cloth loops? I've never heard of pants falling up. Something like that would make it easier to use a waist pack as a belt, or to thread any belt.

Back on South Padre is a restaurant called China Garden, with a daily buffet for $5.60. The food was really good the day I ate there. With tea and tip it came to $7.50. It wasn't until I was a mile away or so that I realized I'd been shorted $10 in my change; after cursing and thinking negatively about what would happen if I went back at that point and tried to rectify things, I went back. The guy listened, looked in his cash register, and handed me $10. Cool.

Part of what helped me stay on budget this week was buying a large container of peanuts. I can't eat too many at a time due to the toxicity (alkaloids, I think) but they fill me up. I've still got maybe half a pound left. Obviously one can't go eating poisons every day, but once in a while it can maybe work. [comment]

2008-02-23-0431Z

The only official-looking document (Microsoft Word, ugh) I can find on the FAA's website about paragliding:

Ultralights are relatively free from rules. Medical certificates and pilots licenses are not required. However there are some rules of the road for these craft: No passengers are allowed, no flying over towns or inhabited areas, no flying at night or in clouds, no flying in controlled airspace and no commercial operations.

Sailplanes and ultralights have the right of way in the air over all other aircraft except lighter-than-aircraft: blimps and balloons.

It seems the schools that teach paragliding are pretty heavy-handed, hinting that if you don't take their courses you'll ruin the sport for everybody. In reality, you're probably only ruining it for yourself, and only if you crash-land and injure or kill yourself. Just another case of unpaid cops trying to limit people's freedom and make a few unearned bucks.

I might take a course anyway, at least an introductory one, before starting, but I don't like the bullshit, and the artificial keeping of the economically disadvantaged out of a free and exciting mode of transport. [comment]

2008-02-23-0255Z

Stayed on budget, I guess; still a few hours before I go to sleep, probably. Ate at Sinbad's, their awesome Shawarma Lamb for $3-something. I can't see how people can go to burger joints and pay the same thing for factory-farm beef. Then to Cincinnati Bar for a $3.50 pint of IPA. No more ESB, and they're out of Fat Tire tonight, but the IPA was good and I managed to limit myself to one. Good on me. Now back at Kinley's having some mint tea. Will I get any work done? I doubt it. If you've been following my del.icio.us links, you'll see I'm psyched on the idea of an iPod Touch with an Otterbox case and armband as my waterproof wearable of choice. [comment]

2008-02-22-2328Z

Back at Kinley's House for coffee and Internet. I was at the cybercafe downtown on Stanton Street earlier, and they're remodeling to make a much larger place, but somehow the atmosphere here is so much more conducive to productive stuff.

The bus pulled into El Paso sometime around 11:30 as scheduled. I met my couchsurfing host Keith, a way cool individual and a Quinn reader, and his girlfriend... I'm all set for the week in an old schoolbus with bunk beds. Gonna study for the General Class license test on the 1st, read some Tom Brown whom Keith turned me onto, and try to stay out of debt. [comment]

2008-02-22-0011Z

Greyhound was no problem. They even printed me a new ticket when I decided to take an earlier bus which travels a different route.

There's a little park in Brownsville right next across the street from the bus station, where I napped for a few hours. [comment]

2008-02-21-1045Z

Wow, even the Denny's in SPI has free wifi, SSID="DennysRest". Having some coffee here while waiting for the first Wave bus to Port Isabel at 7. I hope Greyhound doesn't make me pay for a whole new ticket... I won't mind having to pay $5 or $15 or whatever because it was my fault for buying the wrong day, but keeping my $100 without giving me anything would be kind of harsh. It's not like they don't deliberately overbook, after all. [comment]

2008-02-21-0204Z

The sand crabs, if that's what they're called, were scooting all over the beach around sunset. I grabbed one pretty easily, but since I was still fasting, put it back down and it ran off again. It would probably take at least 20 to make a dent in my appetite, anyway, and more likely 30 or more.

I saw a fruiting coconut tree today, on Red Snapper street behind the Blue Marlin grocery store; and a flowering banana plant near the south end of Gulf Boulevard. So this is indeed a tropical climate, I guess most people just don't like growing edible plants.

I botched my Greyhound ticket purchase. Instead of a one-week discount all I got was a "nonrefundable" discount, and my purchase was for last Monday night. I'm hoping I still can get a trip for my money, though. I'll probably find out sometime tomorrow.

I'm using the free wifi and power at the Dolce Roma ice cream shop inside the Wings store at the south end of town. There's another one closer to the north end, but I haven't checked if they have free power there. I'm not sure which SSID I was supposed to use, but "Wings Wireless" wouldn't give me a usable IP so I'm using "dlink" instead. [comment]

2008-02-20-1646Z

Lots and lots of seaweed washed up on South Padre's shores over the last few days. This could be composted, used as the stink barrier in a humanure composting system, or made into charcoal once I figure out a simple way to do that. Also, there are thousands (millions?) of Portuguese Man-o-war too. They make a loud "pop" when you step on them that carries well even when the wind is blowing loud. I wonder if anyone has done any research on the edibility or nutritional value of the non-poisonous parts of jellyfish. I'll have to look that up sometime.

What causes suds in seawater if not pollutants? I'm not talking about the wave crests, I'm talking about the clumps of white bubbles that last for minutes to hours after washing up on shore. I don't know what possible source of saponins exist in sufficient quantities in ocean water to do this except for what was dumped in via graywater.

I'm trying to fast (half-fast; water, coconut water, beer, and coffee are OK) on Wednesdays, renaming the day Wetnessday to remind myself. I don't know if I have the will power to keep at it though. It's partially for economic reasons and partly for flushing my system at regular intervals. I'd like to also have one day devoted to living via hunting and gathering (Friday = Foragingday?) but not sure I'm ready for that yet. No coconuts in South Padre Island, that's one big disincentive for trying that.

Something I've been meaning to look up: ropesaws. I'm pretty sure they exist. That could be something very handy for an ultralight backpacker, something that can cut large branches of wood yet fit in a very small space. [comment]

2008-02-19-1435Z

I keep mulling the same ideas over and over as I'm walking and jogging. I could sleep in the water with nothing more than a life jacket, and the same could be a cushion (sleeping pad) for use on land. But it wouldn't compress, and would likely be too hot to wear all day. Unless there existed some kind of aeration system to flow cool air over the body underneath the clothes. Then one could even wear a wetsuit and/or drysuit all the time without overheating. Specially-made shoes, with a hinged heel and a bellows opening at the toe, would compress air for this purpose and also serve as a cushion when jogging. Then again, not many people jog on their toes as I do; a different model would have it the other way, with the hinge at the toe.

Another variation on the flotation idea would be inflatables. Those can be made of silicone-impregnated ripstop nylon, which is very light and compressible. But without the airflow mentioned, it also would be too hot to wear all day; you'd have to compress it into stuff sacks and carry it. I'm trying to eliminate things that have to be carried in favor of things that can be worn all the time. Then again, if something could be designed that would have several purposes: boat, paraglider, sail, tent, ... it might work out.

I've got a project sitting back home, a steel-belted tire I'm trying to make into soles for sandals. I'm slowly cutting it with a carbide hacksaw blade, but it's slow going. I could get one of those cutting wheels and mount it in my 12V drill, but those things, I think, have fiberglass in them, and I'm trying to avoid using, and breathing in, carcinogens. I wonder if someone makes a carbide bandsaw blade, hmm... [comment]

2008-02-18-2330Z

Realized today I had to buy my bus ticket to El Paso a week ahead of time, so did, almost $90 even with the discount. Got a couchsurfing host lined up till the 1st, at which point I take my General Class license (Ham radio) then go back across the border to home.

My coffee beans aren't sprouting, guess they're already dead. But I can buy living plants for about $8 apiece online. Check my del.icio.us links for the article that links to the online nurseries.

I picked the remaining vestiges of scab off my right hand today with no repercussions. That leaves only one remaining open sore, but still two active sores; the right-hand lesion still has a bright pink area that looks like the Alien might sprout from it at any second. This is one nasty motherfucking infection. [comment]

2008-02-18-0945Z

Still a better idea for a solar cooker: why not 3 sides instead of 4? Then you've got the natural strength of the triangle holding the pieces together. Velcro them together at each end and maybe one or two points along their length. Instead of glass to hold in the heat, just use a plastic oven-safe bag to cook the food in. Ultra-light and should be reusable. [comment]

2008-02-18-0215Z

Bad move. I was picking at my scabs today, and peeled back the one on the left hand to the infected area. Now it hurts again, and it had stopped hurting. Dammit. So I just put more onion on both remaining lesions, hoping for the best. I so want to see this shit go away.

The Coconut Water article I mentioned was selected for featuring! I'm getting better at writing WikiHow articles, or it's just that the Optio W10 makes such damned good photos that my articles look classier than they are. [comment]

2008-02-17-2313Z

Had lunch at Fisherman's in Port Isabel today, taking the free Wave bus back and forth. They've got an all-you-can-eat fried fish special for $6.95, which with $1 for coffee, tax, and tip came out to $10.61. Not too bad, though I wish I'd been hungrier, I could only put away 5 pieces of fish.

Beach access #2 (not the same as beach access 2 -- those on the north end of town have number signs in front of them, those on the south don't) has barbecue grills, the only one I've seen that does. You can shop at Blue Marlin, walk around the south end of town picking up combustibles, then take the Wave to just outside the convention center, and the beach access is across the street. Cook your food on the grills. Haven't tried it yet, but maybe will tomorrow. [comment]

2008-02-17-1152Z

Those windmill-shaped things I mentioned the other day are Watermill Express. I just emailed them asking them to consider adding liter dispensing. [comment]

2008-02-17-1140Z

I've started looking into paragliding as a means of world travel, and thought of using the Bering strait to get to Eurasia. According to the Wikipedia article, actor Ewan McGregor thought of the same thing for a motorcycle trip.

The only problem I see with paragliding so far is the hefty cost of getting started, 5 to 10 grand. There must be ways of whittling that down to size though. [comment]

2008-02-16-0000Z

I've got a better idea for a hat/helmet: detachable frisbee-like ring for the brim, which can be used as a weapon for small game, and the crown of the helmet which can be a cooking vessel. It would have to be sized such that a heavy impact would not jam it down on the skull.

What's the purpose of registering oceangoing vessels under a particular national flag, anyway? Without doing so, would a vessel be disallowed from docking at ports in most countries? I think, from talking with other travelers, that there's already a huge market for cheap ocean transit, and if taxes and registration fees could be avoided, it would make it all the more likely that such transit might become available.

Down to two lesions, the left ring finger scab fell off today after the onion treatment. The right hand has at least 2 more days to healing, I think, and the left hand probably another week or more. The good news is, no new lesions have appeared in what, two weeks now? And there's no more pain, only itching, on the remaining two. It looks like I've got it licked, but won't feel safe until every last trace of the bacterial infection is gone. [comment]

2008-02-15-1554Z

Hmm... unless you can get the poly pipe for free, which is quite possible in some places but not everywhere, you need 2 inch pipe to get a reasonable amount of water heated for a given length. 100 feet of 1 inch pipe holds only 4 gallons according to my calculations, and 2 inch holds 16.

According to a couple of websites, my coffee beans will be dead soon if they're not already. If I can't get my couchsurfing hostess to try growing them, I'll mail them to myself so they don't get confiscated at the Palomas-Columbus border... I lucked out at the Matamoros-Brownsville border. [comment]

2008-02-15-0135Z

My article How to Make Coffee Using a Cloth Bag Filter will be featured tomorrow on WikiHow, and I could use your support for featuring of How to Drink a Coconut on the discussion page. Every featured article helps my community fulfill its mission of publishing useful information to the world, and, in my mind at least, helps further the post-capitalist economy. [comment]

2008-02-14-0722Z

Got an idea from one of the SPI natives for a simple passive water heater, just using polypropylene tubing; it's already black, just run it along a south fence, or eaves, or whatever will get the most sun, and into the cold-water entry port of your water heater. I'm thinking that there ought to be some way to make a feedback loop, too, to make sure that what's in the tank is always the hottest, but it would have to be done really carefully to avoid backflow into the mains.

Chuck and Diane told me they also once made beer out of prickly pear fruits, which sounds like something I'll want to try since my wine experiment didn't go so well. [comment]

2008-02-14-0206Z

I was invited to Chuck and Diane's place to see them make a batch of wine and another batch of wheat beer. I saw two different types of air locks and was told about a third: simply a hose running into a bucket of water. The simplicity of that last makes it my choice. [comment]

2008-02-12-2314Z

An idea I've been chewing on for a few days: a clear plastic CD holder that expands out to form a large square, with a few cells in the center missing. Two sleeves in the form of an X in the square, going to the four corners, and two pieces of wire to go through these. A third wire that makes a circle. Somehow the two wires forming an X clip onto the circle to make a parabolic mirror, to which you attach a cooking pot at the focus. Naturally, you want the unprinted side of the CDs all facing the sun.

Some resources for frugal nomads in South Padre Island... there's a windmill-shaped thingie on the roadside, I forget exactly what it's called, that dispenses purified drinking water, 25 cents a gallon. Too bad they don't offer a liter for 10 cents, because 3/4ths of it got wasted in my case, but it was still a good deal. Beach access 3 and 11, at least, have free public restrooms; no need to go to a restaurant where you have to buy something in order to pee. [comment]

2008-02-12-1645Z

Sunset Café and Deli at 1004 Padre Boulevard has free wifi ("Sunset Deli") and power. A little pricey, but here I won't be tempted to drink draft beer... that stuff always gives me the shits the next morning. Luckily the Whataburger had a nice clean restroom.

The small lesion on my left ring finger was looking ugly again yesterday, so I popped it and scrubbed it with baking soda. The ocean and sun have worked on it since, and today all 3 remaining lesions are looking pretty good. I'm calling the mouth 100% healed, finally. [comment]

2008-02-12-1332Z

Free wifi at "SPI Visitor Center", that's the SSID. There's a Wave stop just outside. [comment]

2008-02-12-1114Z

I slept, partially hidden in some shallow dunes, by the beach near Wanna Wanna. They were closed by the time I got back there, a good thing because I'm down to $40 for the rest of the week and I really don't want to dip into my credit again. Woke up about 4:30 local time and walked till I came to a 24-hour Whataburger, and am drinking some coffee to offset the beers I had earlier.

Actually, I woke up more than once; at one point I heard people yelling something like "he's in the hole!" and fully expected cops to be rousting me in a couple of minutes. But after a half hour passed and nothing happened, I must have drifted off back to sleep again. In fact, I don't think I've seen a cop yet here in SPI. Hope it stays that way.

By the way, there's both a "linksys" and "default" SSID reachable from the front of the Whataburger. My computer glommed onto the Linksys, I don't think the "default" router's DHCP is working. [comment]

2008-02-12-0202Z

By the way, the Speckled Trout Stout here at PIBC is damned good. Working on my second pint. [comment]

2008-02-12-0108Z

Wow, long day. Since I hadn't noticed the shop after shop of money changers just north of the port of entry, heading straight west to downtown instead, I missed that convenience and spent hours looking for a bank ATM instead. That's something that bugs me about American cities, and a few Mexican cities like Veracruz too: all the shoe shops in one part of town. All the banks on one city block. Not a single block with one of everything, or a group of, say, four blocks in each direction where you can find one of everything.

Anyway, before I managed to score some greenbacks, I stopped in one restaurant and, while the waitress was too busy, went to the restroom. Took a huge dump -- two days worth -- and it wouldn't flush. I was in there cursing, flushing, plunging, trying to get the goddamned shit down the toilet. Anyway, when I came out, some old guy was talking with a woman, presumably the owner. When I asked if I could pay with pesos, the answer was no. Credit card? It says so on the door. No, we're out of credit slips. I'm pretty sure I was being thrown out for cursing, the old guy must have heard me goddamnning the fucking shit. Oh, well, at least I got that business over with.

With the urgent matter over, then I could attend to my banking needs, and then finally ate breakfast at Anandas Cafe, a house special of, if I remember right, chilaquiles de pollo for $3.50 plus tax, about $3.80 total. Quite tasty and filling, and included coffee with a refill. Friendly service, too, a real treat in that godforsaken town.

Got the 13:30 Rio Transit minibus to Port Isabel for $2, and moments later the Wave came by for my free trip to South Padre. Had a bath in the ocean and a nap; had my ceviche (yay!) at Wanna Wanna; then went looking for wifi. Stopped at the Texas Moon, which used to offer wifi and power, but no more. Ate some fried shrimp there anyway, and had a cup of coffee. Got out of there spending about $10 including a 15% tip. Then headed back the other direction. I don't think I'd ever stopped at Padre Island Brewing Company before -- the place looks too trendy and I felt so out of place. But this time I parked my luggage roller (which I'd bought earlier today for about $14 downtown, abhorring the thought of carrying all my luggage around the island) outside and walked in with just my Voit sling I'd bought in the Veracruz Soriana. Yes, they have wifi; wait a minute, I'll see if there's a table with power; there is, but it's occupied, so why don't you have this table next to it, and you can move there when they leave? Fuck, yeah! Now that's customer service! Instead of making you feel like a moocher or a thief for using a few cents worth of electricity while you spend 5 to 20 bucks, they make you feel like a valuable customer. Wow, what a concept. And if someone steals all my shit while I'm in here sucking down beers and using wifi, I won't cry a whole lot. Not till the beer wears off, anyway. [comment]

2008-02-11-1423Z

Cool! The city of Brownsville offers free wifi, SSID="COB-WL". Got through the border crossing with minimal hassles. This time I found Calle Primera a few blocks from the bus station, and after some false starts, followed it to the bridge. Now to look for a bathroom, check my couchsurfing contacts, get some cash or change my pesos... not necessarily in that order, but a bathroom is pretty high on the priority list at the moment... [comment]

2008-02-11-0112Z

Changed my mind and took the bus out to the beach... no sense hanging around the bus depot all afternoon. It's pretty much a straight shot up the Boulevard, with one little zigzag near the halfway point, and some detours through residential neighborhoods. The driver told me, near some petroleum school and/or factory with natural gas being wastefully burned off, that I had to walk the remaining distance to the beach, about a mile. So I did. Turned out the little motherfucker was lying; he passed me, grinning, at the turnaround point right at the beach. Why are some Mexicans always fucking around with gringos like that? Good thing I have lots of good experiences with Mexicans to balance it out.

Then I rescued my bag from the storage at the bus terminal, MX$37, not too bad. I should be pulling into Matamoros before daybreak, and can walk most of the way to Brownsville before the sun starts its daily punishment.

Oh yeah, the beach... nothing too impressive. The clouds, and the sunset in the opposite direction, didn't help matters any. No stench, though. There was one bar open, so I sat down for a Victoria, MX$12, and left. I didn't walk back to where the previous driver said I had to; I stood right there at the turnaround, flagged down the next bus, and he picked me up.

I'm pretty sure I haven't paid a single taxista the whole trip. Fuck 'em all. Wasteful motherfuckers, driving around all day looking for suckers and recuperating the gas expense in a single fare. [comment]

2008-02-10-2157Z

OK, took a nap on the "grassy knoll", the median on Av. Bustamante just outside the ADO terminal, and am feeling a little less grumpy. The right hand is looking great, the left about like it was two days ago. It's still got some strep, I'm pretty sure.

Head left, up the hill (approximately north) from the bus station and you'll soon reach Ejercito Mexicano. Take a right and a couple of blocks away you'll reach the Wal-Mart at Blvd. A. Lopez Mateos. Supposedly (there's a sign indicating such) you take a left there and you'll get to the beach. A guy told me there are buses going there for 4.5 pesos. Anyway, for me that's all "next time". I can get my bath in South Padre tomorrow, and chances are the water will be a lot cleaner than on any Mexican beach. All I've got to do in Matamoros is find Calle 6 and head north. How difficult could that be? [comment]

2008-02-10-1649Z

You want to know the real reason guys hate asking directions? Sure, it's partially a macho know-it-all-or-at-least-bluff-it thing, but it's reinforced by the fact that, when we do break down and ask where something is, people always seem to fuck us over, intentionally or not... I was lost almost all morning, going in the wrong direction. The maps are wrong, the street signs misleading, and people's directions mistaken. Finally made it back to the Central Camionera, checked my heaviest bag, and will maybe make another attempt at locating the beach. After a few beers. [comment]

2008-02-10-1553Z

So far it was 16 de Septiembre, bore left onto Monterrey, bore right onto Aguascalientes, bore left again onto Madero. Just crossed Jalisco and no sign of any beach, but the sun is peeking through the clouds every now and then so it's still a good thing to find, I think. [comment]

2008-02-10-1342Z

Caught the 9PM bus to Tampico for MX$398, and after breakfasting at an inexpensive restaurant across from the terminal, walked down Av. 16 de Septiembre till it dead-ended at a train track and the river; then turned left and am walking towards the beach. Stopped in front of what looks like a school, and picked up an unsecured Linksys router.

The plan is to spend the day at the beach, sleeping and cleaning my clothes, and catch one of the 3 night buses starting at 2115 to Matamoros, for MX$320. Didn't get much sleep on the bus last night, and won't likely tonight either. It wasn't noisy in the front seat, and on first-class buses those have the most legroom, but for I just couldn't get comfortable, and my clothes were wet and the A/C was on. Covering with my rain poncho helped, but I was still cold. [comment]

2008-02-09-1938Z

That movie about Alaska I've been told I've gotta see is Into the Wild. Thanks, Google. Once I get home, will have to visit Amazon and see how cheaply I can score those two movies. [comment]

2008-02-09-1925Z

Jogged across the Puente de la Amistad this morning, to the Plaza Las Americas in Boca del Rio. I was going pretty damned slow towards the end, but, as I keep repeating to myself as a mantra while running:

It's not the distance, it's the time...
It's not the distance, it's the time...
It's not the speed, it's just the time...
It's not the distance, it's the time.

Still not sure if that was a half hour -- my daily goal -- but I think it probably was. Leaving Veracruz tonight, so that was my last chance to try for this trip.

I'm tentatively calling the impetigo licked. Not completely cured yet, still have a couple of ugly sores on each hand, but the majority of the pain and redness is gone, and as long as no new lesions appear, I'm reasonably sure it's on the wane. It might be good for me to apply new honey-and-onion poultices for the night bus ride though. That combination is what seems to have made most of the difference. [comment]

2008-02-09-0453Z

Two movies people keep telling me I have to see: one is Mosquito Coast, the other I can't remember the name but is about some guy who goes into the Alaskan wilderness. I looked for them at a local Blockbuster, in the "for sale" section since I don't have an account, but no luck.

I think I'll have to design my own harness. Something with lots of D-rings, so it will work for hang gliding, climbing trees and towers, and, something I keep noticing, somehow keep shoulder straps from digging into my neck. Just using web belting, and some kind of custom X connectors, ought to make a reconfigurable harness good for just about anything. Something to work on when I get back home... along with umpteen million other projects. Oh yeah, add one more to the list: something made with telescoping poles to use hammocks in the desert, or on the beach. On each end, two poles in an inverted V, held in place by a single tie-line with a tent stake. How difficult could that be? Add a Hennessey Hammock, and you've got instant shelter, anywhere. [comment]

2008-02-08-0215Z

Possibly progress. The right hand sore hasn't been painful, nor itchy, nor leaking all day, but it just sprouted a new pimple in the last few hours. The right wrist has looked cured all day. The left ring finger looks infected but doesn't have a white center, so it may not be strep. That leaves the back of the left hand, still bad, but not really bothering me; and the left side of the mouth, getting ever so slightly better each day. [comment]

2008-02-07-0849Z

I had bought some honey in the morning, and applied it with some chopped onion, as a poultice, to the lesions. They started itching not long after that, and though that faded throughout the day, it came back with a vengeance maybe a half hour ago. I removed the bandages and cleaned up with the last few drops of tequila. I'll have to buy more tomorrow. Nothing looks any better (except possibly the one on the right wrist, which keeps looking healed then flares up again), but the itching ought to signify some change. [comment]

2008-02-06-1924Z

Yet another free access point, at the Italian Coffee Company on Costa Verde. The SSID is "ITALIAN COFFEE". [comment]

2008-02-06-1735Z

For food in the Veracruz Zócalo, you could do a lot worse than Flamingo's. I ordered their empanada gigante de pierna, MX$30, and it's quite a meal. They also have Modelo brand beers, a big selling point for me. And Internet access courtesy of Hotel Imperial (that's the SSID).

Back up to 5 active lesions: the one on my left finger is still growing; the right wrist lesion, which I thought had healed, sprouted a new blister of infection; and the backs of both hands are still very bad. Plus, of course, the left side of my mouth which still hasn't completely healed. Where's my fucking immune system, out to lunch? Why does it take so goddamned long to kill a few bacteria? [comment]

2008-02-05-2027Z

It was apparently all defaults -- at least the password was -- and I couldn't see an option for rebooting, so I reset it to factory settings just for that purpose. Turns out its uplink isn't giving it a DHCP address, so it's a problem with the DSL modem or whatever. Screw it, I'll have to get my Internet fix elsewhere. [comment]

2008-02-05-2012Z

Didn't bring my jeweler's screwdrivers, so had to buy some in order to take the laptop screen apart and reseat the connector in back. That seems to have fixed it for the moment.

That lesion on my finger keeps insisting on coming back, after twice cleaning it out with baking soda. The new one on my leg is staying OK, but the scab hasn't yet healed.

I'm thinking I'm not getting the maximum benefit of the onion by just using a single layer. I've gone back to using a slice on my right-hand lesion, let's see how that works.

The free linksys AP in Carl's Jr. near the Soriana was working great earlier, now it's screwed up somehow. Damn. They don't advertise anywhere that they have it, that I can see, so I don't really feel like asking anybody about it. Guess I'll check if it has the default password (admin) and, if so, just reset the damned thing. [comment]

2008-02-05-0222Z

Just applied baking soda and chile powder to the lesions on the backs of both hands. Hurts like hell, but I'll bet it will help things by morning if I can take the pain. [comment]

2008-02-04-2034Z

Goddamn laptop screen is blanking out again... it was good for so long I was used to having a usable computer. Oh, well.

Tried scrubbing out the latest two lesions and putting baking soda on them. I thought the alkaline environment might prevent the bacteria from growing, and it seems to have worked on both. Time will tell. The two on the backs of my hands are still terrible, and the one in the corner of my mouth is still hanging on. [comment]

2008-02-03-1856Z

Ate two cigarros this morning in an attempt to kill any parasites that might be weakening my immune system. Marlboros, yuck. Toxic shit. Almost threw up, but held it down and went to McDonald's for a cup of coffee. Also bought some more tequila as a disinfectant, since I haven't been using any since Oaxaca and that may be the reason the impetigo is spreading again. [comment]

2008-02-03-0809Z

The pimple on my right arm fizzled out, but the one on my left leg turned into a new lesion, about 4 cm from the previous one. Damn. It doesn't hurt yet, but if it follows the normal progression, it won't be long before it does. There's a new reddish bump on my left ring finger, too, that doesn't look good.

I'm stymied. Onion only helps with the pain, dissolves the scabs, and seems to kill little pockets of the bacteria. It doesn't seem to kill the primary infestations in the center of each lesion. I tried burning out the center of the left-hand lesion with a cigarette today, and it helped a little but nothing close to a cure. [comment]

2008-02-02-1957Z

The other day a cop snickered "gringo" as I passed. Later (of course -- you never think of these things on the spur of the moment) I thought of "blugo", as cops have blue uniforms in most places, and any free person would want them to just go away. Especially in Mexico -- my hosts say cops are the worst crooks, confirming what I already thought. They routinely shake down Mexican citizens for whatever cash or valuables they might be carrying. With complete impunity, too; most Mexican citizens cannot legally possess weapons, but they can. [comment]

2008-02-01-2312Z

I think composting human waste is one of the things that people can and should start doing now, individually, and telling everybody who'll listen about how it works. Especially in third-world countries, where the raw (or nearly so) sewage flows right into the rivers and oceans. Walking along the shore and smelling the shit of a million people is fucking depressing. I'm only here for a week or two, but these people live with that smell day in and day out. I'll bet it wouldn't take more than a few weeks to improve, if overnight the flow of sewage were to cease. Of course, that won't happen. But besides stanching the prodigious waste of water used in flushing, and everybody having a constant source of good manure for home gardens, every individual who composts eir waste is one less source of pollution to the ocean. You can get started with a few 5-gallon buckets and something to eliminate the odor, like wood chips, sawdust, peat moss; or, possibly, seaweed, which is available in abundance on the beaches of Veracruz.

Another thing that's goddamned depressing is this infection. The wrist seems to be cured now, but I've got a couple of pimples which I'm afraid will turn into new lesions, and those on the backs of each hand aren't looking or feeling much better. I just scraped more of the white goop out of the left-hand sore and put on a fresh piece of onion. I'm not sure I could maintain my will to live for very long if this turns out to be a non-curable affliction. It keeps trying to get back into my throat and sinuses, too... although the constant coughing only lasted a day or two, and I've been free of it for maybe two weeks now, I'm still generating lots of mucus and keep having to cough or spit it out. [comment]

2008-02-01-2118Z

Finally found a Mexican bank that would give me a cash advance on my Barclay's MasterCard: Scotiabank. Both HSBC and Bancomer wouldn't do it. So I've got cash again... now to just control my spending and I'll be fine. [comment]

2008-02-01-0420Z

My couchsurfing hosts have one of the exercise machines that inspired my HPV: a stairstepper combined with vertical poles to push and pull with the arms. Since in this, but not my HPV design, the arm poles are not synchronized with the feet, I was able to try the different combinations. I found that, for me at least, pushing out with one arm while pushing down with the opposite foot feels more correct, and feels as though I'm getting more total power output. That will determine how I build the linkages. [comment]

2008-02-01-0032Z

Finding quite a few coconuts in reach, and have been cooking out back of my couchsurfing hosts' apartment in their grill, with sticks of wood I'm finding. I think one more week and the lesions will be healed. The mouth, maybe two more days tops. That's the hope anyway. I'm putting on the onion slices for shorter intervals lately; otherwise it tends to bubble the skin around the lesion, allowing it to spread. I think that's how the one on my leg got so big. The onion is good, don't get me wrong, but it has to be used carefully. I scraped off most of the big white scab in the center of the left-hand lesion, and it's already looking and feeling better.

I might stay another week in Veracruz if the couch is still going to be available... the town is expensive but at least I have a (free) place now, and I should be able to get out of debt (again) in one more week. [comment]

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