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


Still feeling a little weird. Been on a pretty strict meat diet for the last few days, and can't seem to tolerate much alcohol so I'm drinking mostly coffee. Emotionally I'm somewhat unstable, but mentally I've been pretty sharp, if scattered.

I'm pinging Technorati with every update, so why do my blog posts never show up there? Google's blog search indexes them pretty quickly.

Installed the JB1 drivers and looking over video chat sites. Camfrog is pretty popular but I can't find much of interest there.

My 3/8 bit is worn to shit so I'm not making any more progress on my HPV. Always something. I'm tossing around making a simple CAD program to help me understand the mechanics of the drivetrain I have in mind. If I pull another all-nighter, I just might do it. [comment]


Fuck! It took hours to find the webcam drivers for my old JB1 spycam. Finally worked around all the broken links and got to Archive.org's copy of the drivers page.

Been in programming hyperdrive lately, and besides my WikiHow article the other day with the Mandelbrot Set javascript, I coded my handwritten signature using Bezier curves (the curveto operator) in postscript, and used it to sign my W9 for Odesk. How cool is that? Go ahead, sign anything you want with it, there are a million ways to do that anyway...

OK, that's not really programming, it's just playing around with Ghostscript and plugging in different numbers to get what I wanted. But it's more productive than pr0nsurfing. [comment]


Did an ugly soldering job on my rotting speaker wires this afternoon, and now have reliable stereo sound for the first time since I got this old system. Listening to Maná at the moment. The sound quality would make an audiophile puke, but it's good enough for me. [comment]


I just finished the first draft of my Mandelbrot Set article on WikiHOW at about 2 AM last night, and already someone from England left me a "kudo" on it. Strange but nice.

That was my first real attempt at using objects in Javascript, and at using the DOM model. Lots of good tutorials on the web saved me a lot of grief. I want to flesh out the script to automatically complete the chart, zoom, modify the cell count, etc. [comment]


Fucking god damn! Took me hours to debug a Makefile problem. Turns out a shell definitions script built by a Java program (don't ask -- it's a mess) had embedded CRs in it. Everything looked OK to me, but split for some reason doesn't like a number with a carriage return in it. [comment]


"Bwanayana. Shanayana. FREE FAMILY PHONE!"

Don't ask me. It was something being announced in my dream just before I woke up. I also remember a snippet of an earlier dream in which two American rock stars -- I think it was Pat Benatar and Bob Seger -- were chatting in Polish. Go figure.

I'm out of coffee, gotta go sponge off a neighbor. [comment]


I finally bought a decent camera! A Pentax Optio W10, which can focus down to 0.4 inches in what they call "macro" mode. Plus, it's waterproof without the bulky outer case of that cheap-shit Pixtreme. $136.50, including shipping, on eBay.

I had allowed two previous auctions to time out on me, so I spent some extra time just timing myself last night, in the minutes leading up to the auction. It used to be, as I remember, about 10 seconds between the page loading; me waiting what I think is 7 or 8 seconds; hitting the refresh button in the browser; and getting the updated page. Now, it's closer to 20. I started typing in my final bid when there was about 22 seconds remaining, and when the page came back, there was 1 second left. This is weird. My connection isn't noticeably slower. It's as though, in the past month or two, time is moving faster relative to my brain: twice as fast! Is anyone else experiencing this? Freaky.

I woke up with a headache a few minutes ago. I thought I'd kept a good balance between alcohol and coffee or water yesterday evening, but maybe not. [comment]


Finished indexing the 2008 update to PCDecisions! And the script I wrote may even be robust enough to work next update, although I'm counting on Gmail's HTML rendering of Microsoft Word .doc files to give me a reliably-delimited text file to work from.

That was my last big push, but I'll probably run into some problems with the MIDP and Blackberry versions. After that it's just customer service until 2010, which has been minimal so far anyway. Whew! Time to celebrate... cracked open a Samuel Adams Octoberfest, which they still can't get right in my opinion (and I don't just mean the spelling), but it's a pretty good beer regardless. Cheers! [comment]


A neighbor was headed into Palomas, so I went along for the ride. Entering Highway 11 from Altura Road, we had to wait for a pickup truck to pass; and a cat, possibly thinking we were waiting for her (to me, all cats can be referred to as "her", except the most obvious Toms), decided at that moment to cross the street. Wham! The pickup ran right over her, and she lay twitching by the roadside. Ugh! That sure makes me feel my mortality. Human pedestrians are getting run over daily, too; I just read about another pedestrian fatality in El Paso the other day. That city leads Texas in pedestrians killed by motorists, and New Mexico and Arizona ranked #1 and #3, respectively, in per capita pedestrian fatalities. Florida, of course, was up there too, having 5 of the top 10 cities in the nation, including the top 2, Miami and Tampa. Curiously, El Paso didn't make it to the top 10 in the nation. But that was 2002 data in this PDF document from the DOT.

At the carniceria in Palomas today, they had beef heart for MX$15 per kilo, about 70 cents a pound. Yeah! I can live on US$5 a week if I can stand the taste; I tried living on heart meat before and it was just too tough and gamy for me. Maybe with the right marinade it will be palatable enough. [comment]


A carbide rod hacksaw blade will cut steel-belted radials. This much I now know. But whether one rod will last long enough to make a pair of sandals... that will take me a few days to find out. It's slow going. [comment]


Another dream about the Post Office. I was climbing a short ladder over the facer-cancelers to reach a maintenance access port, unscrewed two wingnuts while holding the top rung with the other hand, and the door didn't open. I had to remove two cover plates, and even then there was no door. I was going to complain to my supervisor for not having a sign indicating this was no longer an entryway to the crawlspace.

Of course, it doesn't really work that way. There are a few things unsafe at the USPS, but not the day-to-day stuff. At least, not for the technicians. But other things in this dream were weird, too. The machines, for one thing, were processing huge bundles, not just stacks of newspapers and magazines, but items several feet in length. That just doesn't happen at the Post Office.

Anyway, then I wandered around to find something to do. In real life, our supervisor would assign us to one area or another, but in these dreams I'm always a floater with no assignment. And I never get paid, for months on end. I suspect it's because I never remember to clock in or out, but the Maintenance office is always closed when I'm there, and so can't talk to anyone to resolve the problem.

I don't understand these recurring dreams about my old job... other dreamscapes seem to be alternate universes, or a rehashing of the day's events or of a movie I recently saw. In these I'm almost like a ghost, haunting my old workplace mostly unnoticed. And more scatterbrained than I ever was during the 11 years I worked there; I'd often forget to clock in and out for lunch, but almost never at the beginning and end of the shift. [comment]


A Couchsurfer named Scav showed up at my place yesterday afternoon, and today we crossed the border for MX$5 (fifty cent) burritos and a US$6.23 750ml liter bottle of Orendain Blanco, my favorite white tequila. We went rabbit hunting twice so far, injured one but it got away. I've been gifted a copy of Green Anarchy magazine, the Spring/Summer 2007 issue, so stop by the shebeen and check it out. [comment]


Feeling better after my Friday-night drunk, which made me miserable all Saturday and still kept my stomach unhappy most of Sunday.

Saturday afternoon, though, I did manage to cook the steaks and rabbit I'd been marinating in papaya, and they came out really good. Since fresh papayas are available here most of the year, shipped up from the south of Mexico, that's a handy option for tough steaks.

I also panfried the rattlesnake, it's a shame I didn't have the ingredients for a batter, but there was so little meat anyway what the hell? I should have tried marinating that, too, so I could maybe have eaten the bones. [comment]


Got another rattlesnake in my place today, just after doing a little $20 job for a neighbor. Only about 2 feet long, not much meat, and I think it bit itself while I was trying to kill it; might be poisonous! I'll eat it anyway.

I hit it twice with my crossbow, then pinned it down with a yucca stalk, as usual, while I cut its head off. Except that I gave it a chance to bite itself this time, by pinning it too far from its head, it's becoming almost routine. Now I've got steaks cooking, rabbit in the neighbor's fridge, and snake ready to fry. What a feast! At least the rabbit and snake are organic meats, too, or as close to organic as anything can be after 100 years or so of spreading toxins all over the fucking planet. [comment]


Ate some of the rabbit this morning; I saved some to try marinading. Then I drank the microbatch of cactus wine I had started on September 16. I couldn't taste any alcohol, but the color and flavor were excellent. I'm going to have to rig up an airlock for the next batch so I don't have to throw out so much of the fruit. That's what I think went wrong; the fruit floated to the surface, and despite the layer of grapeseed oil I had floated on top to act as the airlock, the fruit layer was too thick and would have rotted, so I had skimmed it off early. So then, I guess, there weren't enough fermentables and wild yeasts to do the job.

I marinated one of the steaks overnight, a mistake according to this eHow article, and put a second one into the same bag this morning. We'll see how they come out. [comment]


Bagged the second rabbit of my desert hunting career. It was already after sunset, so had just barely enough time to dress it and put the meat in my neighbor's fridge before dark. What can one do with these scrawny little cottontail hides, I wonder?

This one was a body hit like the last 3, but this rabbit had the decency to sit there and wait for the kill shot. It was a glancing blow off his head, but that was enough to stun him while I removed the bolt from his side and stuck it through his brain.

The lesson? Don't even bother if you've had too many beers. I think I had only 3 all afternoon today, so had better reflexes and aim.

I'd also already bought 3 pounds of steaks in Palomas today, so have enough meat till Sunday probably, even if I share with the neighbors. I'm trying this marinade, which you already know if you follow my del.icio.us page, and will attempt to report on results. I ought to make some for the rabbit too, maybe. That can be pretty tough, though tasty. [comment]


Current plans are to head to Lake Atitlan starting in mid-November, stopping in Zacatecas and Puerto Vallarta on the way down, and in Guadalajara and Mazatlán on the way home. Any restaurant recommendations for those cities (good food cheap), please email me! [comment]


Harry Browne's widow, Pamela Wolfe Browne, is selling How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World on eBay, as an e-book. If you haven't read this excellent work, now is the time to get it substantially cheaper ($12.75) than the few remaining print copies. [comment]


New Moon, showered and shaved again. I've been pretty consistent with this for what, maybe two years now. I survived (obviously) whatever virus hit me the other day, but my appetite still hasn't returned to normal. Then again, I started the day with a 2-beer breakfast, so maybe that doesn't help matters any. [comment]


I've been sick for two days now; originally I thought it was food poisoning, from ground beef that I'd cooked and left for a day before eating the rest. But now I'm wondering if it's West Nile virus; I've certainly had enough mosquito bites over the last few days to have gotten a payload. Besides diarrhea, there's been mild pain in my lower back that makes it difficult to sleep.

On the positive side, I've heard coyote song the last two nights; not just the single howls, but groups of them making a real racket. I'm hoping this means they're finally back after 8 or 9 months. [comment]


Generating my second replacement image is taking so long that I had to find out how to use the Python profiler to determine the bottleneck. Accordingly, I removed my calls to complex_multiply and complex_add, using instead the built-in support for complex numbers. That, with the addition of Psyco, seems to have helped.



Having a helluva time, again, wrapping my mind around the problem of rebuilding the Index for the 2008 PCDecisions. The USGA uses WYSIWIG programs, or so I gather, and though I asked for the differences from last year's Index, what I get is a Word document with the differences marked in red. Still I have to go through and edit everything by hand. Or, I can take the text grabbed from Gmail's HTML rendering of the Word document, and script a rebuild of the whole damned thing. That's the most likely route to the goal, but I had problems with it last year, and likely will again this year. Well, that's why we programmers make the big bucks, isn't it? Grrrr...

Python programmers, check out Psyco. It's a JIT compiler for Python, and it really speeds up programs. My mandelgen.py script, for example, is running much faster. I'm guessing about 4 times, but I'll have to time it to make sure. Right now I'm rebuilding the Mandelbrot art I posted on eBay because another dude is offering 3600x2400 resolution for the same price as my 2700x1800. Can't have that, now, can we? By the time you look at the auctions, hopefully I'll have changed mine to match. [comment]

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