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


just had a pleasant next-to-last day of Burn the Old Year with Terry and his lady Val, upstairs at Harker Board. it was to have been the last, but Bryon changed his mind and is going to be open tomorrow.

on my way back, just a few minutes ago, I believe I crossed paths with the famous Kuroda-san, the Japanese guy who made a fortune selling high-quality plumbing supplies here in La Paz decades ago. he, if indeed it was him, was going into his old house north of the cathedral. the guy looked Mexican enough to me, but his answered "buenas noches" had enough of an accent as to be noticeably foreign though not necessarily Japanese. sometimes I wish I were a true polyglot instead of a goddamned Gringo with a few words of a dozen different languages. I'd love to hear the guy's life story. [comment]


going to document some more of the plant names before they get buried too deep into the Plant Identification archives. the one that looks like mullein but has small trumpet-shaped white flowers: Nicotiana obtusifolia, desert tobacco: not the same as N. glauca, "desert tree tobacco".

the viney-looking plant which can often be found close to the similar-leaved native amaranth is Boerhavia diffusa. it can sometimes be found with tiny clusters of dark purple or magenta flowers.

the tree with large clusters of green round berries that turn yellow, red, or brown before they fall is probably Ehretia tinifolia, "pinguica".

the succulent whose leaves look something like a caterpillar with dozens of legs is a Kalanchoe, probably K. delagoensis.

for the amaranth, I'm still not sure of the species, but compare to A. spinosus. the leaves look right anyway. [comment]


so that "desert sunflower" I've been seeing for years, from New Mexico to here in La Paz, is actually Verbesina encelioides, "golden crownbeard". toxic to grazing animals, it has medicinal use for humans including treatment for diabetes. [comment]


when I was out walking Christmas day, I passed by the restaurant Maya, which was closed but was playing the most exquisite electronic music, something I'd expect to hear in a spice bar on Arrakis during the prosperous years of the reign of the Great Worm. I can't describe it, but I wish I could find it somehow. [comment]


the new reserve currency should be Dogecoin. think about it: there are almost 100 billion in existence, and it can't be manipulated by any of the tried-and-true methods used by central banks for thousands of years. [comment]


with clouds at different strata in the La Paz skies tonight, sunset over the bay ought to be spectacular. [comment]


pro tip: if you can't find a good source of castile soap like Dr. Bronner's, but can find good bar soap, break off chunks of the bar into containers of water and shake occasionally. [comment]


on those General #1265 snap fastener kits: the one I just opened and used needs vise-grips to snap shut. I guess that qualifies as "heavy duty". [comment]


I've been thinking about that "execution" of officers Liu and Ramos a few days ago, and how the cops had been warned of the Black Guerrilla Family's plan but chose to treat it as "not credible"...

neither gang, the NYPD or the BGF, wants all-out war. doesn't it make sense that there were some high-level communications between the two groups, and a deal worked out? a deal in which two cops who maybe weren't well-liked, or were suspected rats to Internal Affairs, or for whatever reason were considered expendable, were offered up as a sacrifice to quench some of the flames of unrest?

what I can't yet make sense of is Brinsley; was he suicidal on contemplating being sent back to prison after shooting his girlfriend? or did the Family hold something over his head he valued more than his own life? or maybe... is it possible he didn't actually shoot himself, he was going to attempt escape, but someone was waiting for him?

what got me started on this tangent was that I was expecting the pro-police articles to have lots of details of the officers' lives, showing what good, righteous people had their lives unfairly snuffed out. I saw nothing, just the lamentations of Ramos's son. sure I could have missed something, but it's pretty safe to say that if many in the NYPD had good things to say about those two, it would have percolated to my Facebook feed. [comment]


best shave with the knife so far. not quite smooth yet but getting close, like down to a 2- or 3-hour stubble. and there are some areas of the chin where I'm not having much luck at all. I have to get used to the pain of pulling, which multiple blades reduces to almost nothing whereas a single blade gives you the full joy. I quit when I made the first deep cut. it means I'm getting sloppy and it's time to do something else. [comment]


it's funny that some of my best answers on StackOverflow have few to no upvotes, while I have thousands in rep from a couple of newbie questions, of which I was one of the first to answer and which come up first in Google searches. [comment]


I've probably blogged this umpteen times before, but since it popped into mind, here we go again just to be sure...

when I was very young, maybe ages 2 to 4 or so, I'd wake up most mornings on the back lawn right next to the house. I'd then, confused, walk up the rear stairs to the shed, through the laundry room, and up the stairs to my room. as soon as I got back into bed, I'd wake up a second time. this seemed weird, but at the same time normal because it was in fact the norm for me. I don't believe I ever mentioned it to anyone at the time, but every now and then it surfaces to consciousness. [comment]


I'm all but certain I've blogged about this before, but a Facebook conversation brought it back to mind, and I feel the need to continue the discussion.

on Facebook, I used the term "sovereign citizen" and someone commented that that is an oxymoron. I looked up the term "citizen" and had to conclude that he was right. I should be saying "sovereign individual" instead.

which brings us back to the words we use. who controls the words controls the discussion. why do we use the same fucking words we used for centuries, like the names of months, of weekdays, of cardinal and ordinal numbers? why doesn't each generation question, change, revitalize the vocabulary so we don't continue stuck in the same paradigm of Norse, Greek, and Roman gods and rulers? [comment]


was able to shave with my pocketknife today, not perfectly by any means, but noticeably. I think it had more to do with a few days' growth of beard than with any breakthrough in sharpening, but I'm encouraged nonetheless.

my teeth and gums are bothering me. not sure if I'm eating things that would irritate them anyway, or if the plaque buildup is getting bad, or if I'm suffering from a nutritional deficiency. [comment]


I've gotten very lazy in the last few months: intellectually, physically, and in the realm of courage. I haven't really done anything death-defying since climbing that bluff many weeks ago. and I spend most of my waking hours on Facebook, having political discussions rather than pursue my dreams. or at least it seems that way. the fact that I have two clients to whom I'm still worth about $100/hour makes it easy for me to do this and get away with it, but I'm not utilizing that to make any progress on my debts or to pay my share of living expenses. in the last couple of weeks it's gotten to the point where I haven't even cooked my own meals, opting to eat out all the time. this is not sustainable.

so I made a little progress tonight, attempting to bake bread on the stovetop without even the setup I had when I wrote the linked article; just an enamel (which I incorrectly called "porcelain" in the article; maybe I'll fix that later) pot with no thermal ballast, and no inner bowl. I set the timer for 5 minutes, but had to turn the flame off after less than 4 minutes due to smoke rising from inside. I let the bread (rolls, really; 3 thin scone-shaped "loaves") continue hayboxing for about a half hour before checking doneness. they came out perfect except for a slight charring at the bottom. I wolfed down the first two and a half standing up, then poured a small glass of the Zinfandel I picked up at Ley on a 3-for-2 sale today, and ate the rest, with lots of butter, at the table. [comment]


false alarm. I guess the wifi just sucks at CinnaRolls. it's working fine here at Cafe Gourmet. [comment]


great. the built-in wifi of my Acer Aspire 1 is dying already, after only 2 years. and I guess I lost all my USB dongles, or left them behind somewhere. another unexpected expense, unless this resolves itself somehow. I sure don't feel like tearing this sucker apart. [comment]


had dinner at California Chicken at their downtown location behind Mercado Madero. next time I'll know: they serve some nasty macaroni salad and a stack of barely-edible corn tortillas with the quarter-chicken plate, along with the "okay" French fries. the quarter roasted chicken is really tiny, too. overall, for 102 pesos for the dinner and a beer, I can get a much better meal at The Shack, a Shackburger with fries and a whole liter of Modelo draft. but the ambiance was pretty nice in there. [comment]


since seeing the hype on Facebook, I've been drinking lemon water on waking up lately. can't say it's anything great, but at least it doesn't upset my stomach, and lasts me a few hours before I need anything else.

like Satan, I went to and fro about La Paz, walking up and down in it. at the AutoZone to the east, on 5 de Februario and Forjadores, I got the shrink tubing I needed, and found a 2-conductor trailer cable, something I wasn't able to find at the other one.

luckily, 5 de Feb has street signs, so was able to find Primo de Verdad on the way back, and found the chemical store somewhere around Allende. but that store was closed. luckily again, the owner was there and gave me a lift to the new location, a few blocks away. they had rented that old location for 20 years, and now he's in his own place, on Juarez just east of Ramirez. they had Potassium Hydroxide, 100g of student-grade stuff, 85% or thereabouts, for MXN70. not bad. they didn't have Sodium Chlorite, but they did have a 10% aqueous solution of Sodium Dichloride for MXN200. I got that too.

didn't make it out to Fymsa this week. maybe next week sometime. [comment]


glitch in the Matrix. Dark City. Tacos El Sabroso tried to gaslight me by moving across the street over the summer. it didn't work. I remember. [comment]


had a few beers with one of the world's best trompetistas at Harker Board tonight. he gave me an idea on my cetacean Internet feed: skip the video and just enable audio between one point to the other. awesome! cuts the expense by an order of magnitude and may be close to equally effective. [comment]


a friend's offer of shelves on Facebook triggered a drunken thought: attach enough flotation to something, and a solar-powered motor-driven propeller with built-in GPS, maps, and tide information, and ship anything to anyone by water. of course, theft will make this impractical. but it'd be cool. [comment]


question: if La Paz has this great new solar power plant, why does that nasty oil-burning power plant continue spewing its toxic brown smoke all day long? [comment]


goddamned federales with their shitty muzzle discipline, driving up and down the streets with their machine gun pointed straight ahead. I think the army does this too. didn't Jeff Cooper's rules gain any traction down here? I guess not. [comment]


the free ride is over. ATM at HSBC is charging full fees again, 33 pesos or thereabouts. [comment]


had a nice flying dream. didn't go high nor fast, but could fly deliberately whenever I wanted and land gently. strangely, though, I had to hold my mouth open. [comment]


walking back along the malecon after my morning jog, in addition to the hundreds of fish in the 6-to-10 inch range, and the thousands of smaller fish, I saw one of those prehistoric-looking things like an eel but whose eyes are set about a third of the way down its body. I'd heard of them but can't remember what they're called.

there must have been a fire, or a huge water main leak, on Hidalgo last night. the sand is all washed out at the end, where it passes under the malecon. I hope the road can handle the load of traffic without a foundation. [comment]


in recent dreams, I fight with swords, huge things that look like 6- to 8-foot copies of Santoku knives, except that the handle is, of course, not in proportion to the blade. my favorite, before I lost a fight, was the lightest of the bunch. it only weighed about 3 to 5 pounds on whatever planet this was. I didn't see the fight that killed me, I had a bad feeling about it and woke up. [comment]


Benjamin Duarte explained to me why borrego, mutton, wasn't gamy. the regional lamb is healthy, free range, and has good food. it doesn't develop the off taste that ovejas are "famous" for. so, it was indeed mutton and not lamb or goat. but the price is low (about USD3 per pound) because of its bad rep. [comment]


got a great deal in the frozen meats section at Arámburo supermarket today: borrego regional for MXN81.90/kilo. the word can apparently mean goat, lamb, or mutton, but it's not gamy to my taste, and for the price I'm really happy with it. and being locally sourced there's very little chance it's factory farmed. [comment]


finding little treasures here and there. a few days ago it was a small, young coconut that had fallen off a tree during the night and hadn't split. cut a hole in it and drank the juice. not much, but what there was was delicious.

today I found a larger older coconut whose juice was probably too far gone, and I don't need a laxative so I broke it open for the meat. tore it into pieces and added it to the leftover cauliflower I had for dinner.

also, this morning I found a large sponge washed up on the beach, and carried it closer to the malecon so it could dry out somewhat. went and fetched it late this afternoon and brought it home. it stinks horribly, but I'll leave it outside as I use it up piece by piece. with the sand embedded in it, the pieces I tear off make great scrubbers to remove built-up scale in the toilets. as I scrub, the sponge breaks apart and I can just flush down the pieces like any other crap. yes, I'm still totally against flush toilet technology but until I can afford my own place to experiment with composting I'm "shit out of luck".

also found some mussels washed up on shore the other day, attached to the base of seaweed. they were still closed, so probably were still OK to eat, but since I don't know about "red tide" and resulting neurotoxins down this way, I passed on them. [comment]


I'd been putting off for at least a year buying cutting pliers for wire, waiting for something really cheap to show up at Waldo's (the dollar store in Baja) after my last pair was stolen. the other day I found some stainless nail cutters for pets for 20 pesos, and it works great. even better than what I had before, since it's stainless and cuts with a shearing action. [comment]


went to the weather-carved sandstone "castles" north of town today for my 15-minute jog. not a lot to see, but if my camera battery had been working there were some nice views of the city, and some clever carved graffiti in the sandstone. someone had even carved a checker/chess board into the floor. and there was, on a 2-foot-square piece of slate or shale that someone had carried there from elsewhere, a petroglyph or a good copy thereof, of a coyote. it was in the same red paint characteristic of native art in the area. surprised nobody has carried it off for a private collection by now, unless it really is a fake.

there's a lot more to explore in that area, but I was already dehydrated and not feeling too confident. I did a lot of crabwalking where ordinarily I'd have walked normally. [comment]


it's hard finding food here in Mexico that fits all 3 criteria:

bread from the panaderia comes close. it's 4 pesos for a roll (bolillo), and if you're quick and insistent, they won't force a plastic bag on you.

for about 30 pesos, you can get a much more filling disposable container of Sinaloa-style chicharrónes, but as I understand it's factory-ffarmed pork, and it comes in one of those nasty little styrofoam trays all covered with plastic. so it fails on all counts. but I like it.

somewhere in the middle is the 15-peso bag of toasted almonds from Waldo's. it's fairly filling, not too unhealthy except for the oils they're cooked in, and there's only a tiny mylar bag to throw away.

another unhealthy choice I go for sometimes is Thrifty ice cream. 29 or 30 pesos for a cone (a peso less on the malecon for whatever reason) and the only waste is the napkin with which they hand it to you. it's sugary but delicious and filling.

then there are the taco places, with tacos from 13 to 17 pesos, but if you don't have your own plate they serve them on a plastic-bag-covered plate so they don't have to wash dishes.

I spend a lot of the day in coffeeshops buying and drinking coffee so I can use the free wifi. but there's no good food in most of them, only overpriced pasteles. so I go around getting food here and there, and only spend about 20 pesos average on a cup of coffee, plus tip. [comment]


pro tip: if you use addnode=fqdn.example.com, or even a hostname in your hosts file, you also need a dns=1 in there. couldn't figure out why my netbook was connecting to some random node rather than the server I was pointing it to. [comment]


the fig trees around La Paz typically have unpalatable, dry fruits, but this year, perhaps due to the rain from the hurricanes, many are producing black, soft, sweet fruits truly deserving of the title, though still very small compared to what is grown in northern California. [comment]


measured the amount of water distilled in one day this afternoon: 10ml! twice what I'd thought. that means only 100 such contraptions per liter per day. and there should be a way to improve the amount, say by blackening the outside of the pots. [comment]

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