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


goals for 2016:

launch kybyz, my hopefully facebook-killing social media idea.

finish constructing, and race, a land-, sand-, and water-capable kinetic sculpture.

get out of debt (yet again), and stay out for the remainder of the year. [comment]


guess I failed my goal of being able to get a good shave with a pocketknife in 2015. however, I did learn a thing or two, and can get a not-bad shave in about 10 minutes. first, microwave a wet rag for about 30 seconds and apply to your scrubbed face for a minute or two before shaving. you'll probably have to reheat it at least once. then, strop the knife 20 to 40 strokes before starting. I just take off my belt, loop it over the bathroom door knob, and holding the other end with one hand, strop with the other. that's after sharpening with a piece of 1/2" steel rod, stroking against it at about a 20 degree angle, as if peeling a carrot.

I've pretty much trained the skin on my cheeks and neck to take the blade without chafing. but the "mask" area, moustache and chin, still get bloody. and the shave isn't close enough, so I have to finish it off with my Gillette Fusion. [comment]


paradox: pork meat, even from healthy, pastured pork, is often stinky, but once you start eating it that is overcome by the taste. and pork fat is always addictively satisfying, and its smell enticing to even the most sated appetite.

with beef, though, it's just the opposite. the meat is always appetizing, but the fat is generally "meh", and sometimes downright revolting. I've never figured that out. [comment]


success! finally, after years of trying, I got beans to come out tender with only a few minutes of applied heat, hayboxing until done. it took 3 times on the stove, and over a kilo of beef bones added for thermal ballast, hayboxing for several hours each time and adding water after each, until I opened it up tonight and knew from the first look I had a winner.

the beef bones, or maybe it was the bicarb, gave the whole thing a hint of a soapy smell and taste, but salt and pepper masked it well enough. I'm not even sure the bicarb was necessary, but I saw in a forum that it was recommended to break down the outside of the bean.

and it may have just been that 3rd time that was the charm. but I'm pretty certain that the bones holding the heat would have helped the passive cooking. maybe stones would do just as well. [comment]


Arámburo today was selling huesos de res, beef bones, for under 8 pesos a kilo. from about 1.5 kilos I got maybe 100g good tasty steak and 200g fat, plus I'm using the bones as thermal ballast for hayboxing my beans. I added a bunch of sodium bicarbonate, which is supposed to help break down the beans. we shall see. I'm just finishing up the steak as we speak. [comment]


crisis averted. my money reappeared at upwork.com, and is now on its way to my "old reliable" account for bill payments. still strange that it takes about a week with money "in limbo" when ACH transfers (or failure of such) are generally instantaneous. [comment]


those legume trees that grow outside the government building on the road out to Wal-mart have been identified as Albizia lebbeck. pods probably not human-edible. [comment]


so about a week ago I set up an account with Schwab, because they always refund ATM fees even from foreign banks, and none of my banks do. and to fund it, I transferred some of my earnings from upwork.com to it with an ACH transfer. I hear nothing from them. their website says I still need to fund the account. finally I do the "live chat" thing, and after the usual "security theatre" of asking me questions that anybody with one finger to type into a Google search could find in milliseconds, I was greeted with the lovely information that since I opened the account from outside the US, it sets a red flag and now I must show up at a Schwab branch in the US to be verified. I told the rep that this was a silly requirement, I could have used my server in Atlanta as proxy and they would have never known the difference.

but the rules are the rules, and now I'm fucked. the money is probably gone. fuck you, Charles Schwab.

the worst part is, they had my email address, and they never bothered to let me know there's a problem. [comment]


patched a bug in dosbox today: dosbox.patch. it's against the latest dosboxsvn.tgz.

cool and blustery in La Paz today. haven't gone out for my jog yet. maybe soon.

I've got about 2 weeks left to get my gut flora up to the job of processing beans efficiently without generating noxious odors. if it doesn't get there in time I'll have to go back to a more expensive meat diet, with all the storage problems that entails.

added chia seed to the biscuit I just had for lunch. adds greatly to texture and somewhat to flavor. I like it. [comment]


argh. now I get Error: The server could not connect to the client to verify the domain for jcomeau.com, even though the logfile clearly shows it did connect and get the string... hmmm... I wonder if the newline added by echo is the problem... [comment]


finally got letsencrypt to work without the unnecessary sudo in manual mode, but now I run into this ipv6 issue... this is getting tedious. [comment]


the leaves of Boerhavia I put into my brine salsa the other day were quite palatable today. I still don't know if I can eat them in quantity, but I'll leave that for another day.

as usual, I'm having no luck cooking beans, something I've tried on and off for years. I can't afford to waste fuel simmering them for hours, but hayboxing isn't working. after the second boiling and hayboxing, I mashed them with a potato masher and brought them to a boil. I'm pretty sure they burned on to the bottom of the pot this time, but I'll leave them hayboxing for a while before checking the damage. I'll probably eat some anyway no matter how bad they turned out. I'm hungry.

I made a seat for my human-powered vehicle based on a hand truck today, using the steel frame I had already brazed together, and a polycord net based on this method. I was going to take it to the malecon and try it out, but it failed to propel me on the sidewalk in front of the house, so gave up on that idea. back to the drawing board tomorrow. [comment]


quick tip for those who have a phone or tablet without phone service, so who keep it in airplane mode to increase battery time: when the battery runs out, and you charge it back up, often you find it has lost the time and date, right? well, to get that back quickly and accurately, where there's cell service nearby, is to simply take it out of airplane mode for a second or two. almost instantly you will see the time change, which means the date has been correctly updated as well. put it right back in airplane mode; you're done! [comment]


I think I'm over the cold. my throat no longer feels weird. just the usual overproduction of phlegm. [comment]


attempting to use the letsencrypt tools to make myself some free certs. it's frustrating as hell. but I've got the source, or at least some of it, so I'm going to figure this out eventually.

3rd time making yogurt with the new method: put the milk, with some starter yogurt, on the stove, stirring regularly with pre-scrubbed fingers until I can't hold them in the milk for more than 3 seconds. then haybox in the sun for a few hours. it hasn't yet failed to gel, whereas the previous way, just letting it reach whatever temp the sun could get it to, was only occasionally successful. I think this is a keeper.

I finally got my new pocketknife to near-razor sharpness by stroking it on a 1/2" steel rod, as if I were peeling a carrot. I shaved my sideburns with it over the last couple of days, and got most of the moustache and some of the chin today. if I can finish up tomorrow, and keep maintaining it, I will have accomplished that goal for this year. kinda sorta. I still don't get a close enough shave with it, so have to use my Gillette Fusion razor for the finish. but I was able to get my yearly usage down to 2 blade assemblies this year, I'm pretty sure, and should be able to do that or better next year. [comment]


so the runs finally stopped in time for me to go for an evening jog. gives the #borntorun hashtag a new meaning.

watched Die Hard 2 today, having failed to find a free source for streaming the original Die Hard. I must have grown a lot more anarchic since I last saw it: the opening scene had me hating the John McClane character, as he pleads the blue line privilege for parking his car where mere mortals cannot. I was thinking "fuck this guy", and was glad he got the ticket, but of course once he got into action I liked him again. [comment]


new rule: if it looks like diarrhea or smells like diarrhea, it could cause diarrhea. threw out the rest of the batch of cooked aserrín today, after several visits to the toilet which I'm blaming on last night's dinner. yuck. nasty stuff. it probably would have kept all right in the fridge, but that's cheating. I need food that can keep just by boiling once or twice a day, like the stews I used to make in New Mexico. [comment]


just ate a leaf of Boerhavia diffusa, "red spiderling", which grows along sidewalks all over La Paz. like many desert plants, it's both sour and bitter. I put the rest in with my brine-pickled salsa, to see if that renders it more palatable. [comment]


the yogurt finished! it worked! another hayboxing success, along with the new trick I learned to get the temperature right: heat until I can't leave my fingers in the milk longer than 3 seconds, that's 115 degrees. [comment]


so I wasted 40 pesos today at El Parnazo, having a liter of beer after my jog. 30 for the beer (5 pesos off on Tuesdays and Wednesdays), and 10 for a tip. so, I couldn't afford enough ground beef to make a burger; but I had enough for some aserrín and still had enough left for a roll: MXN11.60 total, only about 70 cents. and I still have enough meat left for another few days. this is a great place to be on an extreme budget.

yesterday I cut up my avocado seed and put the pieces in with my brine-pickled salsa. I ate a piece today and, thanks to the acidity of the pickles, didn't notice the bitterness until the last two bites or so. since these seeds are about the same level of tannic bitterness as acorns, this should give me an idea of how well pickling acorns would work.

started another batch of yogurt today. hope this one comes out better than the last. I did figure out how to heat it on the stove; using a thermometer the other day, I heated water to a point where I couldn't keep my hand in it for more than 3 seconds, and that was 115 degrees. so I plan to keep reheating and hayboxing this until it gels.

my cold hasn't gotten noticeably worse since yesterday, but it's not any better either. so, going on 48 hours with no end yet in sight. I'm gonna count this as my 3rd sickness this year. not good. [comment]


36 hours or so into the "cold"; the throat is somewhat worse than it was yesterday at this time. I can still kick it, but I've really got to try harder. [comment]


so I jogged out to Starbucks today to test out the $5 gift card I bought for $4 worth of Bitcoin at http://coffee.foldapp.com/. it didn't work -- I suspect the fault is more in Starbucks's scanners than with the app itself -- but I had to pay by other means, and my Starbucks card was short of funds, so I ended up giving them what I had in my change purse, a couple of pesos short. oh well. I hope the shortfall didn't come out of my barista's pay. [comment]


finally finished my CV at StackOverflow, at least to the point where employers can now see it and reach out to me. a lot of the stuff on it is obsolete, but I'm quite sure a lot of deployed systems are as well, particularly in government operations. [comment]


couldn't get the netbook to go into hibernation last night, so did a complete shutdown instead. this morning, attempting to start it up, it wouldn't boot to Linux, instead showing me L99 99 99 99...

I'd run into this problem before. it happens when Lilo runs without creating a new C:\debian.bin file for the Windows bootloader. but this time I didn't have my trusty Knoppix USB drive with me. so I had to figure out another way. booted into Windows and installed coLinux, something I didn't know worked on a 64-bit Windows system. then after a few hours of futzing around, I set cofs0=C:\, and root=/dev/sda4 rw init=/bin/bash; started up coLinux; had to mount -a, but dev was still unpopulated, so did mknod /dev/sda4 b 8 4; mounted my Windows partition using mount -t cofs /dev/cofs0 /mnt; and finally dd if=/dev/sda4 of=/mnt/debian.bin bs=512 count=1; shutdown coLinux hard (it doesn't shutdown properly from /bin/bash), and rebooted the netbook. success!

before I finally settled on Bash, I tried numerous attempts at booting normally and in single-user mode, but it would always hang after some message about creating sockets for X. [comment]


throat is scratchy again, like I'm coming down with a cold. fuck it. I had a beer with the rest of my rice and "sawdust", and now I'm gonna have my evening coffee with rum, and enjoy the other half of my buttered biscuit. I'll deal with it tomorrow. started a batch of brined salsa today, and have some yogurt left I can use for a probiotic boost. [comment]


after this batch of aserrín is done, I don't know that I'll be buying it again. sure, it's cheap, and seems to be fairly nutritious, but the texture, with all the bone meal, is off-putting; and the presence of large chunks of wrapping plastic I keep finding in it is really disconcerting. then again, it keeps my food costs down to about a dollar a day, which is pretty hard to beat. we shall see.

I just laid out $20.32 (MXN350) for a butane stove, and the guy at Ferreteria El Gallo threw in a canister of gas at no extra charge (regularly MXN30, under 2 bucks). just cooked a biscuit on it, and charred it. so I'll be using even less fuel with this than on a normal gas stove. it'll take some experimenting before I know exactly how much savings there will be. [comment]


the muscle spasms so far today aren't nearly as acute nor as frequent. hopefully it resolves itself.

finally broke down and had some butter. it's been weeks. I do like that stuff on my freshly-baked biscuits. speaking of which, I've been making them with unrefrigerated components for over two weeks now: the flour-lard-soda-salt mixture and the incompletely fermented yogurt which turned into sour milk. I mix enough for one biscuit at a time and bake it on the stovetop. the sour milk smells nasty and I wouldn't drink it, but it seems to be fine to use for cooking. next time I hope to do a better job of making yogurt. [comment]


spasms in left middle back for over 24 hours now. every few minutes sometimes. painful as hell.

I really suck at welding. joints look good while the flame is still on them, but once they cool they're like charcoal, brittle and weak. [comment]


today I bought 100g or so of ground beef, plus a whole kilo of aserrín de res, nominally "beef sawdust" from the bandsaw, but actually contains meat and fat from pork as well. in fact, what I got was probably mostly pork, because that's what the butcher was cutting before I got there. anyway, it's super cheap at about 9 pesos per kilo, so under 30 cents a pound. it has a lot of undigestible bone meal, and most people buy it for their dogs, not for human consumption. I found some scraps of plastic wrap in it as well. but I bulked up my 1/4 pound burger to over 1/2 pound with it, and it tasted pretty good. might make this a goodly part of my diet. [comment]


so this afternoon I tried adding neem leaves to boiling water, to see if I could get the same bronchial-cleaning steam that tea tree oil is supposed to provide. no luck at all; I couldn't smell any of the volatiles being driven off. [comment]


it struck me today: "water shoes" don't have to displace enough water to float a person as long as the person is moving fast enough. [comment]


just binge-watched all 3 of the original Bourne series movies, using Google searches such as watch bourne ultimatum free online, sorting through lots of fake sites until I'd find one that worked. Robert Ludlum, judging by the movie script (I never read the books) must understand that governments are, by far, the worst danger to life and liberty faced by mankind; either that, or he's just a fucking cynic who thinks government is hunky-dory but he knows there's a market for this genre.

so what about the anti-gun twerp Matt Damon? did he sign up for the series just for the money? or is there a conscience lurking in the back of his mind, that realizes who the enemy really is? [comment]


so I was just at El Parnazo drinking un litro de clara. a song was playing on the Spanish MTV equivalent on the outdoor TV, and I asked the guys at the next table if it were Maná. they said no, it was Jaguár. I said they sound the same. the older guy, sitting on an inverted 5-gallon bucket on the sidewalk below the tables, said the 3 groups: Maná, Caifanes, and Jaguár, all came from the family of Ricardo Arjona, hence the same sound. that made a lot of sense to me. he also mentioned Café Tacuba, which I also like. all this took place in a mix of Spanish and English, and since only one of the three had any English vocabulary to speak of, I believe I just might be getting better at Spanish.

tried some aloe vera leaf today. I prepared it according to a YouTube video which I have since been unable to find: cut it off near the base, then cut along both edges to get the sawtooth part off. submerge the leaves in water. since I was only preparing one leaf, I just cut it into pieces that would fit a quart-size canning jar. left them for a while to let the bitter latex out, then sliced off the flat outer leaf from each piece, and scooped the pulp out of the curved side using a spoon: holding it near the halfway point against the cutting board, scoop from the middle to the edge, then holding the skin from the scooped-out part, scoop the other piece of pulp out. I sauteed the aloe with some squash, adding the rest of my brine-pickled salsa to the mix to counteract the remaining bitterness, and it turned out OK. I ate one of the pieces raw: it was bitter, but not distressingly so, as in every other such experiment before this one. the extended soaking, and repeated rinsing, of the pieces seem to have done the trick.

I also hit upon the solution to my pockets wearing holes a few days ago, and finally implemented it today. bought a pair of gloves at Waldo today for 20 pesos, roughly USD1.15, and used those as pocket liners for my 2 front pockets. they actually work quite well, since things such as my pocketknife, sharpie, and nail clippers each have their own "finger" containers, whereas the folding hairbrush, dental floss, and reusable bottle caps can fit in the palm part.

one of the tiendas set up in the Cathedral area that specializes in tacticool shit has a plate carrier for about USD70, but of course I can't get any good titanium steel plates down here. what could I get from a welder that would serve the purpose? 3/8" cold-rolled steel? 1/2"? [comment]


found Abutilon theophrasti, "velvetleaf", growing just north of Marina Palmira today in La Paz, and identified it on Facebook's Plant Identification forum. another keeper. I'll have to add the pods to my next batch of brine pickles. [comment]


so I pulled an all-nighter trying to get a working prototype to a client. it's a difficult job because I only have a small subset of his codebase (and thank gods for that, because what I have is already overwhelming), and I had to make a rudimentary attempt at duplicating the hidden functioniality by simply building "fake" functions and classes in response to the error messages I received when trying to run the code. anyway, I didn't get it as "done" as I wanted, but got something to him by about 0700, and now after an early jog, some rest, and a couple oranges for breakfast I'm ready for another day.

also have to squeeze in the 90-minute qualifying test for Toptal. the lack of sleep could put me at a disadvantage, but I don't want to put it off any longer.

note to self: never, ever put cocoa nibs in the hand coffee grinder, it gums up the ceramic something fierce. I'm sure I've done this every few years thinking it would be a great idea, with the same result every time. [comment]


only problem with a perfect rating is that it's got nowhere to go but down. and as with Rentacoder.com, Upwork could sell out to another company who will bury it, and all my built-up reputation could disappear once again, making me start from the bottom. but for now, I'm at the top of my game. [comment]

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