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


The trip started out auspiciously bad. I hadn't made it a half mile before a tremendous wind hit, followed by driving rain and sleet. My chain then fell off the front gears and jammed. Then I farted and shit my pants. The gods were obviously testing my resolve.

It took me maybe a half hour to get going after that. Washed myself off in a culvert, with the flowing rainwater that had just fallen. At about the 16-mile marker, a guy named Art offered me a ride into Deming, which I gratefully accepted.

Now I'm in the Hat Creek Saloon. It hadn't closed after all; they're just not open Mondays and Tuesdays, and open at 4 PM the other days. And they don't take credit cards! I'd forgotten that. [comment]


State Law NMSA 67-3-62 "Provisions for pedestrian, bicycle, and equestrian traffic required" indicates that paved shoulders and rumble strips are for multi-modal transport use. Both Colorado and Utah allow bikes on shoulders, from what I can gather on the web. Nevada, too. I'll try to stick to frontage and side roads to avoid hassles with clueless cops, but there are some places where it's distance-prohibitive not to ride the Interstate. [comment]


Just got back from a trip to the laguna in Palomas, on land belonging to Jesus Martinez, who also runs the hardware store La Frontera. Luis and I got there just as a hell of a storm kicked up, blowing us along the path to the lake. Then when we got to the playa, the part of the lake bed which only fills up part of the year, the rain turned the hard earth into slippery mud, and I started sliding along it, blown by the wind, with no control. So I fell down, kind of on purpose. Luis had been smart enough to bring along a walking stick. I hope I remember to, next time. Anyway, we never quite made it to the water. The lightning hit close enough, maybe a half mile away, to scare me, since we were the only two things sticking up out of the ground for maybe a one-mile radius.

I would have had a grand time on a windsurfing board, even before reaching the lake. [comment]


Finished rereading Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee today. As sad in its way as was Rachel Carson's Silent Spring. In fact, the two books aren't all that dissimilar; both relate aspects of white man's destruction of everything he can't understand. But Dee Brown's book has more usability for strategists preparing for immanent war with the U.S. government. And drove home the disadvantage of not believing in land ownership when surrounded by people who do.

Lightning on all sides tonight. I was up on the roof eating a rice dinner and watching it. Not a drop of rain here, yet, though. [comment]


Bought my Burning Man ticket on eBay today for $275. Just hope it's not a scam. I emailed the guy and he seems legit, though. It should get here Tuesday or Wednesday, and if I'm still game for it, I'll start my bicycle trip North.

Killed a rabbit Thursday evening but only ate some of the organ meats. Friday afternoon I still couldn't bring myself to eat any of it, so gave it to the neighbor's dogs, then went and bought two very expensive pizzas at the Pancho Villa lounge. They lasted until this afternoon, but still it cost way too much. Drove home how much I'm saving when I don't do that shit.

I'm back in the futures game. Bought one call option for September oats at 1.625 cents per bushel. It of course promptly dropped to 0.75 cents, for a $43.75 loss, but that same volatility could push it right back up next week. This time I'm selling once it goes up 2 cents, not going to hold on for a big profit. If I can make $100/week with this scam, it's good enough. Beats the hell out of working. With this kind of leverage, it's very likely I'll make money if I'm not too greedy, and I only buy my call options near a 12-month low. [comment]


Last night's rain was fine, but the lightning kept me too scared to stay outside and collect the water. Then the moonless night took over. I only got about 20 gallons.

I've all but given up on the Forth-ish Python idea. The paradigm is probably too foreign to Python coders, and the inability to modify the parent process's environment variables makes the stack only available within the current process. That pretty much obviates any benefits the idea could have. What I wanted, in case it wasn't clear, was a kind of super-Forth, with all the data structures and libraries of Python without having to code it all. And have directories be automatic dictionaries (vocabularies), and any file within that directory be a Forthish "word", whether it be a Python or Bash script or a compiled executable. It's still pretty vague in my mind. The problems only show their teeth when I make an attempt to actually do it.

I keep vacillating between biking to Burning Man and taking the bus. If I don't make up my mind soon, logistics will force the latter option. I've got about a month at this point. The conspiracy nuts (of which I'm a rather reluctant member) are saying the stuff is going to hit the impeller around the end of September, which could put a serious crimp in my "windsurf the Aleutians" idea.

Then again, if I can make it to Tokyo, I might just be able to live my life out as a character in a William Gibson novel. [comment]


Hellaciously beautiful rain coming down. If it keeps up, I can fill all my storage containers, and I'll be free to start my journey to the Burn and on to the Aleutians. [comment]


Finally figured out how to use the broken wifi at the Deming library. From the Settings app on the iTouch, drill down to the Public SSID properties, and click on the DNS servers. Edit out the first one, that begins with 104. Back out. You should be good to go. Safari isn't smart enough to use the second one if the first isn't working. [comment]


New dreamscape: hilly city, brick buildings; a huge square bar, too well lit, where I hang out. There's a 20ish finely dressed blond with gauze completely covering her face and neck, named Amanda, who hangs out here too, but not with me; I only know her name because everyone else here seems to know it, and they call out greetings.

My mesquite beer has an odd smell and taste to it; quite bitter, for sure won't need any hops; and there's some kind of solvent smell to it, not alcohol either. Anyway, I bottled it a few days ago. It only filled two and a half bottles. We'll see if it's any better after aging.

The store was out of apple juice Saturday, so I bought grape juice instead. To my surprise, the vinegar-making scum didn't form on it. Perhaps if I alternate cider with wine, I'll have fewer problems reusing the same jars.

Still eating grocery-store meats. Can't bring myself to hunt. Hope this is just a phase.

I wish I knew more about Python internals. Trying to make it a stack-based language for a more maintainable development method. What I have in mind is having every non-None result, that isn't assigned or otherwise used, go onto a data stack, made persistent across programs through an envvar PYTHON_DATA_STACK. Items are taken from the stack using '_', similar to how the interactive commandline works (though that stack is only one element deep, and unavailable within programs). The new binary should still work fine for most "normal" Python programs. There is, though, the possibility of stack overflows if there are lots of ignored values. Might need a new keyword 'discard' to take care of those. [comment]


Made a batch of mesquite beer yesterday, using my carboy for the first time. If it works out, I have the materials for a WikiHow article.

Also finished fixing my handtruck yesterday. Pretty productive overall, thanks to the clouds and rain. Still not hunting, though. $3.70 spent on seafood in Mexico lasted me and my neighbor all day. [comment]


I did a search for oilproof, dirtproof fabric yesterday and found out about a nanofabric based on the fibrous structure of lotus leaves. But I can't find any American companies selling clothing made from it.

I awoke about 0240 this morning, from a dream in which I was enslaved fighting a war. My captors, machine intelligences I thought, liked me even though I was occasionally able to outwit them. I sensed that my commanding officer planned to make me a house slave as soon as the war was over, so I suicided during the final battle, using some clever sequence of moves that didn't give away what I was doing until it was too late; but I was able to convince the officer that he too was a slave and could use what I showed him to achieve his own liberation.

I wondered for a while, after death but before awakening, if humans would in fact be better off governed by silicon-based life forms. It doesn't seem likely they would want power over others for its own sake, only to ensure their own autonomy.

I never went back to sleep. I was sitting on the roof at 0430 drinking a Black Hook porter, enjoying the breeze. An alarm was flashing and sounding at the new elementary school, but the noise was only like that of crickets at this distance. Even the warbling of the nighthawks was louder, though not nearly as constant. It must be have been driving the nearby residents nuts. No cops on night duty I guess.

I originally noticed the flashing because it was constant, every second or so. There's the Border Patrol beacon north and west of there that also flashes, but at some oddball rate of about 13.5 seconds. [comment]


Using whole wheat flour rather than baking soda as a deodorant is an amazing breakthrough. Not only is it compostable, rather than adding to the salts in the soil as the bicarbonate does, I'm already using the flour for dry shampoo and sourdough, so it's one less consumable on my list. Speaking of sourdough, Neal mentioned at my workshop the other day that I can use the cider as a starter. That, and his words describing how to properly sharpen a knife, "as if you're taking thin slices of it", made it more than worth the time and expense.

Anyway, I added some cinnamon powder to it and it's even better. Sweating like a pig all day and I smell pretty nice. For a pig.

Spent a good part of the day in air-conditioned comfort in Deming, studying the OpenID 1.1 spec yet again. About ready to take another stab at programming it. [comment]


Ate the dove today, along with some cooked rice and way too much snack food during the day. I'll decide tomorrow whether to hunt again or not; don't want to waste any more meat if at all possible.

Trying to earn the "gatherer" part of my title, I went and harvested some mesquite pods today. I don't know when I'll get around to boiling them down for syrup; too hot to feel like doing anything lately. [comment]


Saw at least one coyote on the hunt tonight. No rabbits, but plenty of doves, most of which I missed. One is in my frypan. My diet today was Polish sausage from the store, plus my homemade sauerkraut. Tomorrow's will probably be rice and dove. I might go to Deming to stock up on apple juice, though, and if I do I'll probably get some junkfood at McD's or Peppers.

I'm excited about the possibilities of my ultralight vehicle. I botched making a "scooter" frontend for it today, but I have an idea for what I think will work as an on-demand sail; and there's still the possibility of some kind of oars that will grip the road. [comment]


By Friday my steaks had gone pretty bad. Gave them to the neighbor's dogs, and a friend invited me to lunch at the Pink Store. Good timing. Then Saturday I had my Wild Fermentation workshop, which two of my neighbors attended, followed by a ride to El Paso where I pigged out at the Oaxacan Mole Festival a few blocks East of downtown at the Mercado Mayapan on Myrtle Street. A little Spanish comes in handy; most of the plates were $6.95, with one type of mole and rice and beans. What I asked for, and got for $8.00, was a plate of all 4 moles with no rice and beans. What a deal! All were delicious, but the mole verde was the most different than any I remember from Oaxaca, nice and spicy.

Today I had some Polish sausage and my homemade sauerkraut. I might be able to convince myself to go hunting towards sundown. Otherwise it's off to Deming tomorrow for some supermarket meats or seafood. [comment]


Finally reading Silent Spring after finding it months ago at a library sale. Though extremely depressing -- all the more so because the numbers of tons of poisons are almost 50 years out of date -- I was successful at maintaining dispassion until the end of chapter 8, at which point I broke down and cried. Don't know if I can finish it now but feel I have to. [comment]


Tried making sodium hypochlorite by electrolyzing salt water today. It made a lot of bubbles and a brownish mess in the water (due, no doubt, to oxidation of the stainless steel plates), but no noticeable amount of chlorine. The plates were about 3/8 of an inch apart, and I used 12V directly from my solar power system. Maybe I'll try again with a 3rd plate in the middle, dropping the voltage to 6V.

Finally put my earthboxes together earlier today; I had gone out by moonlight last night to collect dirt from under the mesquites and acacias, and I mixed it with the 2 cu. ft. of commercial potting mix I'd bought about a week ago. Planted Poblano peppers, and Tobolsk tomatoes. Wish me luck, I'll need it, even with these state-of-the-art planters. [comment]


Even though the piece-of-shit tubing bender got bent all out of shape, literally, while bending 1" square tubing, it works like a champ on 7/8" aluminum round tubing. Didn't even need to use a cheater. Tomorrow I might be able to test my trailer with a front wheel scavenged from an old kid's bike rescued from the dump. And if this West wind keeps up, I might rig a sail and ride the damned thing to El Paso!

The nasty brownish goop started forming on two of my latest quarts of cider, so I scooped it off using the cheesecloth, replaced the cheesecloth with a clean piece, and it seems to have worked: 8 hours or so later and it's still clean. I think what's happening is that the flies, which land on the cheesecloth often, are dropping their microscopic turds on top of the brew, introducing E. Coli and whatever else their filthy little bodies are carrying. [comment]


Sick of rabbit. I just couldn't eat it, gave it to the neighbor's dogs yesterday. Survived on two burritos and a bunch of corn chips, then today went to Mexico and got 2 kilos of steaks. Cooked 'em up over mesquite and they ought to last me till Saturday unless they go putrid.

I got my tubing bender to work long enough to bend one piece of 1" square steel tubing for a replacement handle for my old hand truck. Now the adjustment screw is bent again, despite my having put it together correctly this time. Cheap-assed shitty tools. Shoulda bought American-made. That'll teach me... maybe.

My latest batches of cider are coming out just fine, no more of that top-floating yeast, and so far none of that nasty stuff that turns it into vinegar overnight. [comment]


Using whole-wheat flour in my underarm guards seems to work pretty well. I'll have to change them today, but still the smell isn't pungent, as it is when I take them off for even a half hour.

Got a cottontail yesterday afternoon in about a half hour of hunting. Mother Nature's supermarket is always close by and well stocked. If I weren't so picky about eating bugs and such, there would be quite a bit of variety too.

Another batch of cider went bad. I might have to re-think my strategy, and start using airlocks once fermentation starts. [comment]


Well, the arroyo isn't a mighty river just yet, but it's a respectable stream. And the rain just started again, so who knows? This is it! The monsoon rains, once properly contained with swales, will morph this desert into a savannah again, and then perchance a rainforest. Not in my lifetime, most likely, but eventually. [comment]


Last night's rain never materialized, but we're getting some now! Just had lightning hit real close. This could be the arroyo-filler I've been waiting for. [comment]


I knew I should have packed my sauerkraut in sealed jars. Today when I lifted the lid, there was the same strange white spider-webby-looking stuff I've been getting on my last two batches of cider. I've decided it's just a type of yeast, though; it doesn't seem to be hurting the cider at all. Damned if I know why yeast would grow on sauerkraut brine, but whatever. I just skimmed off the top layer and threw it into my compost, then packed the rest into two mason jars.

Looks like some rain headed our way, finally. Hope it lasts all night!

So I'm a bit behind the times, say 30 years worth... I'm downloading three of the early punk rock albums, songs by The Ramones, Sex Pistols, and The Clash. I want to find out if it's good programming music. I need something to inspire me! [comment]


I always used to waste the heat of my burn-barrel paper fires. But a few weeks ago I made some dimples in the lip of the barrel, and placed two pieces of rebar across the top, resting in the dimples. Now I reheat my rabbit stew, and boil my water for coffee, much faster than on my wood stove and using heat that would have gone to the atmosphere. One thing I learned: put the "whistle" top of the teakettle on the edge, facing outwards. The high pressure generated by the hot paper fires can cause the cap to pop off, and once I had to fish it out of the ashes after the fire died down. [comment]


Roof started to smolder yesterday after I added some unknown wood from an old pallet to the wood stove. It burned hotter than anything I can remember ever putting in there, and even the twin-wall stove pipe wasn't sufficient to keep the heat away from the surrounding papercrete. Luckily I never really repaired it after the last mishap, and I was able to douse it with a few gallons of water.

Trying whole-wheat flour instead of baking soda in my underarm guards, after realizing how well the stuff works as a dry shampoo. If it lasts a week, I'll use it exclusively and stop buying baking soda. [comment]

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