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


finished the Kinetic Grand Championship in one piece, only lost a pair of leather gloves. my "plan b" machine, that old dirtboard I bought maybe 10 years ago and have modified numerous times, did pretty well this year. I rode it on several downhill stretches, including 3 on Loleta Hill, wherever the road curves to the left. I need to do something to improve the steering. and the brake was my left sandal, so that's not something I can sustain for long.

anyway it was fun, and from what I can tell I only got one blister. but I skipped both water portions of the race again this year, not something I want to get into the habit of doing. next year I have to have something water-capable. [comment]


these $1 solar garden lights are a marvel of engineering. eliminating the CdS photocell and switch, the parts count is reduced to 5: solar cell, battery, YX8018 boost converter, LED, and tiny inductor that looks like a resistor. I'm about to attempt to desolder the LED, add a length of wire to it, and attach the functional assembly from 2 of these lamps to the front and back of my hat, to be my head- and taillights for the Kinetic race.

it's amazing how one can buy complete products for a fraction of the component cost. [comment]


when I got back from Novato on the 101, after my 11.5 mile walk/jog, I checked out the Grocery Outlet dumpster and found a package of pork shoulder, about 2 pounds, plus grabbed two pineapples, another package of those organic green onions, and a bag of 4 conventional yellow onions. what a haul. spent hours cooking it over my stick stove, but man is it fork-tender and delicious. what a blessing to live in the US at this time, despite the madness coming from Sacramento and Washington, DC. beats the hell out of Venezuela. [comment]


last night I cooked 2 packs of linguini, totaling 1 pound, with a pound of bacon. a better mix, but I'm already tired of it. I got a half pound of organic chicken breast tonight, on sale at Grocery Outlet for a dollar. found some organic green onions in the dumpster (packaged, of course) to make it a little more appealing. they're almost out of the Don Simón Cabernet, so I picked up another bottle at $1.99 while it's still available.

finished re-reading 50 Degrees Below this afternoon. as usual, there were lots of things I had forgotten. all the dead-ends from Frank's life such as the woman in the kayak -- the possession of Joe by some Tibetan spirit, and subsequent exorcism -- the unsatisfactory ending. but mostly what struck me this time was the almost fawning statism, the depiction of the NSF scientists being the saviors of the earth, with the Democratic party being their enablers.

but I still liked Zeno and the boys. the one refreshing breath of fresh air I could count on again and again. oh, and Spencer and the frisbee golf guys too. I think that part of the book was my inspiration to dumpster dive for food.

down to a week before leaving for Arcata Plaza. it's still in the realm of possibility I'll have an ace-capable vehicle ready on time. but I've got to prep my plan B machine too, so I can carry my gear comfortably this time without too much risk of it getting road rash, as in previous years. [comment]


I've salvaged about 5 pounds each of bacon and organic egg pasta, over the last 2 or 3 days, from my favorite dumpster. so I was able to save 2 days of my $3/day food budget and buy half a liter of EVOO and a bottle of that Don Simón wine.

tonight, over my camp stove, I cooked the first pound of bacon, and when it was about half done, I added the first 8-ounce pack of pasta. I had to also add some water a few minutes later, because the water and fat from the bacon wasn't enough to soften it. it came out excellent. if it keeps -- and that's a big "if" because the chilling fog didn't come in for 2 nights now -- I have food for the week, easily. which will help me to save up for the 3 days of the Kinetic race, when I'll have to be eating out much of the time. [comment]


so I didn't find a piece of PVC pipe, but I found part of a cane or walker, that had holes pre-drilled for the telescoping part to lock into. so I cut it into 3 pieces, one with one hole, one with none, and one with the rest, which looked something like a flute.

my friend Dawn was right: the holes do indeed vary the sound, just like a wood flute, when played like a trumpet, the lips providing the vibration. however, the holes also contribute an unpleasant raspy sound, and if too many of them are uncovered, both the quality and volume are diminished. holes open nearer the lips are worse. the piece with one hole, I'm using for a lanyard, played with the hole next to the lips just makes a harsh whisper sound; when played at the opposite end, it makes a perfect "air horn" sound, loud and clear. that's what I'll be using at the race this year. [comment]


one of the requirements for the KGC is a loud horn, for alerting other pilots that you're going to pass. I've bought two cheap plastic horns so far, and both of them broke. last year I made an "air horn" app using HTML5 for my tablet. it seemed plenty loud when I tested it at home, but when I was out on the plaza during safety check it was hardly noticeable at all. the sound just didn't carry, but luckily the Offishul didn't really care and I got the go-ahead.

anyway, I was thinking it over the other night, and it popped into mind: how about a short length of pipe, blown like a trumpet? so I just went out and dug a 6-inch 1/2" IPS pipe nipple out of my project box: it worked great! now if I can just find a piece of plastic tubing that'd be even better, lighter weight and no chance of rusting. I see pieces of 1/2" and 3/4" PVC on the roadside all the time, so it'll be free, and one piece will last a lifetime if I don't lose it.

simplification. it takes a lot of thought sometimes, but is so rewarding. just that cold-brew camp coffee, if I had figured it out years ago, could have saved me burning a few hundred pounds of wood or the equivalent in fossil fuels. [comment]


first experiment with store-ground coffee worked out well. while the grounds didn't settle out as well as the mud-grind I make, they stayed in the bottom 2 ot 3 tablespoons of liquid, and it only took a few hours for them to sink. still great cold-brew flavor, and I only use, at most, half again as much coffee as I use for a hot brew with my own hand-ground beans.

the big problem is remembering to make it at night. if I wait until morning I don't get to drink it until mid-afternoon at the earliest. [comment]


4 days in a row I've done my upper-body workout with 10 pound weights in each hand, and it's already starting to show. some definite, though slight, muscle definition in both arms. better late than never. if I can keep this up for a month, it might actually be measurable.

still happy with my cold-brew camp coffee. yesterday I got some grounds in the first few sips, but that was probably due to lack of sufficient stirring. the real test will be if I buy some pre-ground coffee tomorrow. there are bags of it on sale for $3.99 at Grocery Outlet. chances are that won't sink as readily as the fine-ground stuff I make. but I'll give it a shot.

finally making some progress on my "kinetic sculptures", actually just minimalistic wheeled vehicles, of which I'll choose one to run the KGC this year. I even started reaquainting myself with my oxyacetylene kit by lighting my camp stove with the acetylene torch today. who knows, I might even do some welding this year.

and I started patching my drysuit with some Aquaseal I bought at Clavey's today, almost $9 for a tiny little tube. but I'm going to need it if I do the water portion of the race. [comment]


I'd tried cold-brew camp coffee before, but it never worked. these last couple times it did, I don't know what I'm doing differently. maybe just letting it sit longer.

grind the coffee the previous afternoon, into your coffee mug. fill with water. stir. leave it overnight.

in the morning you'll have very tasty, non-bitter coffee ready to drink. there's an ugly brown scum on top but doesn't have any noticeable grounds. good enough for me! saves me the trouble of getting the stick stove going in the morning. that thing can be a bear to light sometimes. [comment]


full-fledged apps running on a browser. wasn't that one of the big ideas behind HTML5 and ECMAscript6? but then browsers (like the latest Chrome on Android) block, for example, audio from playing except in a handler for a user action. seems to me there could be another, less drastic, remedy for ill-behaved webpages. maybe an Intranet setting that allows everything by default, or the same if the app is saved to the home screen. or at least a prompt to allow or disallow.

so you go through all the work to create an application that runs over the web, and the pillars of support are knocked out from under you. like Blackberry did to my Rules of Golf app back in 2009 or so, and like Chrome is doing to My Turn (I didn't create this one, I'm just the current maintainer).

the sofware god giveth and the software god taketh away. cursed be the name of the software god. [comment]


OK, so I went back to the gym scales after I bought a bottle of wine at Grocery Outlet. I weighed 173 with my load, which means I was carrying 30 pounds. my average over the trip was probably closer to 25 pounds. still not bad. [comment]


oh yeah, the total for transportation costs was about $53: roughly $45 for the plane ticket, $5 for the San Diego Metro day pass, $1.00 for the 395 to Oceanside (only 75 cents senior fare, but I didn't have enough quarters) and $1.50 for the OCTA day pass (senior fare). next year should be cheaper, since an OCTA day pass can get me on the 395 to Oceanside. and supposedly, if I understand correctly, the SDMTA day pass will have a senior rate by then. and of course, I walked from the Tijuana airport to San Ysidro, and from San Francisco to Petaluma. that latter would have been about a $12 bus fare. [comment]


walked all night, made it to Petaluma by daybreak: hit city limits about 06:20, and to G and Petaluma Boulevard at 0700, 24 hour after I left the Caltrain station in San Francisco. I'll have to check the mileage; that may be a new record for me.

I ended up spending some money after all; at the Safeway where Freitas crosses Las Gallinas, I bought a quart of Miller High Life, on sale for $2. I figured what the heck, it can't taste all that different from Pacifico, right? wrong. it's hopless. doesn't have any of the bitter love that you get in every glug of Pacifico. I hope I remember before wasting money like that again. and to add insult to injury, there's the CRV charge and California sales tax, which brought the total to $2.24 or thereabouts. to be sure, Mexico has high sales taxes too but it's precomputed into the marked price, so there's no sticker shock.

I guess Petaluma passed the new sales tax for the library, it's open Mondays now until 9. dummies. well, I'm going to use and abuse it.

the Panera store in Petaluma closed for good. and the senior center was closing just as I got there. no problem, I took a nap at the park. I had also slept well at Walnut Park right after my epic journey. should be able to stay up all night if I'm so inclined, although I don't have to be on the street tonight.

unfroze my 24 hour fitness account and had a needed shower and shave. checked my weight: still 143! didn't lose nearly as much as the last few trips, since I used transit for most of it.

remembered the pier in Oceanside; don't think I mentioned it before. people fish there, some until late at night. it's well-lit, no cops were bothering anybody, and the restrooms were open all night as far as I could tell. and there were fire rings on the beach nearby, and I curled up to sleep next to one after the people had left it. it radiated heat for hours.

someone left some Safeway's chicken tenders on the footbridge at the end of Mackenzie. I hope it's not poisoned. it tastes pretty good. [comment]


one thing I failed to mention in my last post is the US border crossing: the multi-million dollar, state-of-the-state facility is shuttered, or torn down, or something. in its place is a primitive little room, reminiscent of 3rd-world immigration offices. two of 3 lines were active, and both guards were giving their victims a hard time. but after about 5 minutes, after the guy at the far booth had ushered his "client" into the inner office, he waved the next guy, then me, through without a word.

I decided not to do the 11-mile-or-so walk up the Santa Ana river this time, opting to learn the bus routes. turns out I had to switch from the 1 to the 55, then at Main Street catch the 53 to ARTIC. I got there in the early afternoon yesterday and tried to get some sleep in the park across the street. I don't remember ever nodding off, but I got up refreshed anyway. hung out at ARTIC for a bit, then walked to get something alcoholic for the trip. Megabus now says alcohol is prohibited, but they still don't do anything to enforce it. The Walgreen's or CVS I tried wouldn't let me in with my bags, and didn't offer me any safe options, so I left and went in search of a mom-and-pop liquor store. I got a little sample bottle of some whiskey with whose name I was completely unfamiliar, but it tasted OK. then I got two packs of that decent cheese at Dollar Tree. then I tried Ralph's to see if I could find a $1 beer since that was all I had left of the $4-something I started with, but the guard chased me out of there too. paranoid jerks.

slept a little on the bus, I guess, because I haven't felt like sleeping all day today. headed north immediately after the Megabus got to the Caltrain station. homeless people everywhere. cops rousting the ones on Market Street, leaving everybody else alone as far as I could see.

once I hit the greenery at the north end of the city, I was overwhelmed with the green growth. after 6 months in the desert, it's always a welcome shock to the system to see things growing so well. but one thing that wasn't so welcome was seeing how many poison oak are sporting the 5-leaflet haplotype that got my lady and me last year in Forestville. we didn't clean up as much as vigorously as we would have if we'd been certain it was a real Toxicodendron.

after the Sausalito-Mill Valley path, I went into Whole Foods to use the bathroom and check Internet. didn't buy anything, in fact I haven't spent a penny all day yet. continued on Blithedale to cross over 101, then tried to take a footpath down the hill but it turned out to be on the highway itself; not wanting any conversations with the cops I scrambled up the ramp, found a hole under the fence, and crawled under it to the frontage road. then after a few wrong turns, I ended up on the hill path I'd found coming the other direction one time.

got to the Panera at Northgate in San Rafael about 20 minutes ago and got my 3rd and last of the 30 free bagels they had offered me this month. and I still have lots of biscuits I made Friday morning before leaving, one 6-ounce bar of cheese, and some of the sauerkraut left.

can't stay too long, I want to try to get to Petaluma before 0700 tomorrow.

I'll probably still be remembering little details here and there and posting them. I had so many little things that caught my attention but I didn't want to stop and write them down. [comment]

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