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.

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Might as well be on fucking Hollywood Beach. The goddamned cops keep rousting me. I was warned it would happen, but the first day here it didn't, so it was an unhappy surprise to stay up all night and then not be able to get a good sleep during the day. Illegal to sleep on the beach, what a concept. To be fair to the Mexicans, it was probably some fat-assed gringo who called the cops on me. "I paid too much for this waterfront property! I don't want to be reminded of poverty! Get that piece of shit off my beach!"

Rico Mac Taco, on the corner of Ave. Mexico and Uruguay, just before you hit the Malecon, has a good deal on quesadillas con carne de res, only MX$18. One makes a pretty good breakfast. I had orange juice instead of coffee or beer this morning; I was worried the melting ice cubes might introduce more foreign microorganisms into my body than it could deal with, but so far I'm feeling OK. Got one more bad night coming up; Friday night I'll probably be on a bus to .

Wow, what service! hit me for a $39 annual fee. I didn't remember there was one, in fact I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have applied if there was. So I sent them a terse email:

I didn't know there's an annual fee. Close the account, refund the $39, and mail me a check for my last overpayment.

And they responded within 24 hours:

We have now permanently removed the annual fee from your account and waived the annual fee most recently assessed. You will see the credit on your next statement. Please let us know if there is anything else we can assist you with. Thank you for your inquiry.

Not bad. Juniper (Chase) is dragging its feet on changing my PIN. I used their stupid automatic phone system twice to change it, and it doesn't fucking work. I emailed a complaint, 3 days ago I think, and no response so far.

I really should just get rid of all the fucking credit cards, but they're too convenient. Just got to keep an eye on the bastards so they don't screw you over. [comment]


I don't recommend the tacos at Coexist. The fish and shrimp are breaded, fried in some questionable oil, and have little flavor. The octopus is OK but a little tough. The ceviche tostadas are by far a better deal.

The free wireless in this town is almost ubiquitous. Here there's the SSID "airport". At the Starbucks north of Centro there's the Chilis and CHILIS, both, obviously, from the Chili's restaurant (yes, the American chain) next door. It almost makes up for the higher beer prices. [comment]


I'm at the Coexist Café, really a bar, at the Hotel Rio in downtown PV. Tostadas de ceviche are MX$10 each, tacos de camarón, pulpo, or pescado are MX$18 each. Beers are typical for this town, MX$18; half again as much as the MX$12 they cost in Guadalajara. The tostadas were pretty good, still waiting for the tacos. [comment]


The burrita at Mexican Dream in downtown PV is similar to the tacón, and about the same price. There's a reachable access point from here, too, pibvallarta.com. [comment]


Found a summary of my article in Dutch. Cool! Still can't figure out why my pings to Technorati never seem to take effect. [comment]


A brit named Al helped me get wasted at a restaurant/bar up the street. I bought him a beer and he bought me one. The ceviche there was about $MX55 a plate, with chips (totopos). He had a shrimp tostada that looked really good. Finally got back to Starbucks, and am detoxing (?) with coffee and recharging my laptop battery. Uploaded some photos to my Facebook album but for some reason they're taking a long time to load so I can add captions. [comment]


The tacón was $67 pesos, and I bought a beer at the abarrotes next door for MX$10, for a total of less than US$8 for an excellent meal.

After that, I walked most of the way to Centro. I'm exhausted; it was bad enough at night, next to impossible during the midday sun. I stopped at PV Beach Club for a few cold ones, and am using their wifi.

Last night I also figured out why my keyhits, in the Mandelbrot applet, weren't being recognized until I zoomed in at least once: the window didn't have the "focus". A call to requestFocus() fixed that. [comment]


I got the depth-change methods working in my Mandelbrot applet last night. Now you can zoom in quickly on an area, in a 1000-iteration depth, then change to 2000, 4000, 8000, or as many as I get around to adding. Each doubling turns the dark to light, and exposes areas hidden by the more shallow view. Much the same as in the "real" world.

I got confused by my host's directions, and got off at the wrong Pemex. It looked too dangerous to cross the next bridge by foot, so shelled out another MX$5 for a second bus; the first had cost MX$10. This morning I tried the whole thing on foot; since it turned out the first bridge hadn't crossed any water, I walked a frontage road along the second bridge, as the breakdown lane didn't look very inviting with the high-speed traffic, but, as luck would have it, I hit an estuary. Since I hate backtracking, I took an alternate path back, and got into the breakdown lane of traffic going in my direction; even worse. I was frazzled by the end of it. Finally got to the Central Camionera to get prices for the trip south. Acapulco is MX$803; Manzanillo only MX$150; the others I didn't recognize. These are all Futura-line buses. I'll probably just go to Manzanillo for now.

Stopping at El Tacón de Marlin for a tacón mixto, a huge burrito of smoked marlin with shrimp, and octopus. [comment]


Carl's Jr., just north of Marina Vallarta, also has free wireless! This town, despite being made into a copy of La Jolla, CA in many respects, does some things right.

I wasn't going to stop here but had an emergency nature call on the way to my couchsurfing host's house. Just bought a coffee, want to stop at El Tacón Marlin for a seafood burrito. [comment]


I found my ceviche and beer at El Calamar Aventurero, on the corner of Constitución and A. Serdan. And there's an open wifi AP around, too, DLinkVWR. Try the tacos de cahuamanta (manta ray), very tasty. My total was about US$11 for two of the tacos, 3 tostadas de ceviche, and two bottles of Pacifico. Not bad at all. I'll upload a photo or two to the Facebook album.

I had two baths in the Pacific so far today, and a nice nap on the beach. Nobody bothered me, though I was the only one soaking in the sun on that particular stretch of sand. I charged my motorcycle battery with the portable PV panel while I read some more of A Brief History of Everything. Finally getting close to finishing that book. [comment]


Starbucks on the Malecon in Puerto Vallarta has free wifi! That and the free power makes it worth suffering the so-so coffee. [comment]


Well, I didn't find a place for mariscos yet, but after walking all night from the bus depot -- we arrived about 2:30 AM -- I hit a breakfast place that serves beer, Rico Mac Taco somewhere along the main drag approaching Centro. I tried the coffee first, but it sucks, so ordered a Pacifico instead. The chilaquiles de pollo verde were OK, but not the kind of breakfast I had envisioned.

I passed the Tacón Marlin, just across from the airport, hours ago. That's where my couchsurfing guide Cris told me I could get a huge burrito-like thing stuffed with seafood. I didn't want to wait around till they opened.

In a little while, I'll have to find a beach and get some sleep. For now, I'm gonna drink beer and watch the sun rise. [comment]


I was having such a good time with Eric, Laura, and Tara that I didn't really want to leave, but this evening I caught the 616 to the Central Camionera for MX$4.50, and I'll be on my way to Puerto Vallarta, on the Futura line for MX$250, in a few minutes.

Last night I learned how to play Texas Hold-em, learned how to lose anyway; Laura mopped up the pot. Got more photos to upload to the Facebook album once I get Internet access again. [comment]


My hosts and I went to a very nice, very crowded bar called Scratch. Good selection of beers; I had a Minerva amber ale from the tap, then a bottle of Fuller's London Porter, and a shot of Havana Club 7. I don't much remember the walk home. First time I got up to pee it was already daybreak. No hangover, though.

The Thanksgiving dinner I was invited to was called off, so I might head out to PV this afternoon. Or not. [comment]


I had an amazing experience at the lake today. From what I'd read on the web, I expected a stinking, ugly body of algae-choked water. Far from it! It's pulsing with life including fish, ducks, and herons. I'll upload pictures to my Journey to Atitlan album when I can.

I didn't pay US$40 each way by taxi, nor even $MX50 each way by bus. I went to the old bus depot, close to downtown, and found a bus with second-class fare of $MX26, about $US2.50. Now that's my style! I could have paid 90 cents more for first class, but why? Just open the window and there's your A/C. When you get to the Chapala bus depot, keep walking down the main drag, Madero, the same direction the bus came in, and you'll get to the lake.

How about a floating island on a lake? A helluvalot closer (to me) than an equatorial ocean, more shielded from natural catastrophes, and though not free of government interference, it'll probably be minimal in Mexico. Live on fish and duck, solar-distill your drinking water, use PV panels and pay someone shoreside for wifi access. As long as someone in your tribe is always there -- you can take turns -- others can go in to shore for a bus to the city and escape the boredom. [comment]


I'm sorta on my way to see Lake Chapala, Mexico's largest lake. I say "sorta" because there was apparently an accident up ahead, and we're moving about a centimeter a minute.

I couldn't find any cheap fares with a web search, so walked to the Central Camionera Antigua (old bus depot, downtown Guadalajara) and found a second-class fare for MX$26! No air conditioning, but you can open the window for a fresh breeze. First-class was only 9 or 10 pesos more, but what the hell, a peso saved is a peso earned.

Tomorrow a fellow couchsurfer is going to show me around town, assuming I make it back to town tonight. [comment]


A blog reader, seeing my Mandelbrot set comment, sent me this link to a Slashdot article on a new, simplified, unified theory of everything. Maybe I'll look more into this someday... [comment]


I got a response from a Couchsurfer last night, and slept on the floor of a safe building rather than in the street! Strangely enough, or not, it was a young American woman who came through for me.

The Sanborn's 24-hour café on the corner of Juarez and 16 de Septiembre can intermittently reach the GuadalajaraEnRed network. I'll post some photos and commentary to my Facebook page later. [comment]


My featured article hasn't exactly set the world on fire, but if it can get even a few people to understand the Mandelbrot set, it's OK by me. Especially if it can get people thinking, "Hey, if this simple formula can produce an infinite universe, why do we need 'God'?" [comment]


Free wifi on the walkway! SSID=GuadalajaraEnRed. Battery is running low, so don't know how much I can do... [comment]


Ducked into a Sanborn's Cafe here on Ave. 16 de Septiembre. La Sopa del Día is "del Fideo", which seems to be angel hair pasta with carrots and celery in a tomato-based broth. My computer is back to normal for the moment, but I don't have much faith it will last me much longer. [comment]


On the way in to Guadalajara, we passed acres of agave farms. I didn't remember, but I think the state of Jalisco is the only place in Mexico whose agave liquor can be called "Tequila". I thought that tequila was made from the blooms of mature plants, but seeing how closely these are spaced makes me think I'm wrong.

When I got outside the bus depot, besides the swarms of yellow taxis there was a city bus clearly marked "centro". I headed towards it, and the driver slammed the door and drove away. So I waited. The next bus driver told me I wanted the 616. OK. A bunch of R610s and R611s passed, and then eventually another R616. I flagged him down, and he drove right on by. What the fuck?!? I started cursing, and some kind lady pointed me to the bus stop. So that was it. So I went into the Futura station and asked the price of a ticket to Puerto Vallarta. About US$25, cool. I did save about $20 doing it this way. Then I caught a bus (not the 616, some other line) to Centro for MX$9, not bad. Guess I'll look for an Internet cafe and see if I can couchsurf tonight. My laptop is falling apart; the screen blanks intermittently, and now I'm getting sluggish keystroke response. [comment]


We stopped in Aguascalientes, and now in San Juan. The second movie wasn't working, and nobody complained, so I got some rest. Now somebody told the driver. Shit.

I'm thinking about staying a few days in Guadalajara. I wanted to see the city anyway, maybe try to visit an infamous character on the comp.lang.forth newsgroup, and see a large but reputedly polluted lake nearby. And I only have accomodations for 4 days in Puerto Vallarta anyway, so it will solve that problem too.

The only drawback is, I haven't yet arranged to couchsurf in Guadalajara yet. So I may have to revert to my older practice of sleeping in parks during the day; will have to see how difficult that is. [comment]


It turns out the signal is strong enough, but it doesn't have a usable DNS server. I could have setup static DNS, but the Guadalajara bus showed up, 20 minutes late, so I got on. This time my trick of getting a front-row seat so I could put all my stuff on the floor didn't work. The driver insisted I check my bags. Everybody wants to rule the world.

I kept my computer with me, and he didn't complain. Also remembered to take one of my water bottles out of my duffelbag; I had bought a 1.5L bottle here at the station, filled them, and left the solid petroleum (my word for plastic) in the trash here. I tell myself there was no other option, but that's a lie; I could have filled the bottles with city water and purified it with iodine, or filled them from the 5-gallon container at my host's house. It just gets so frustrating trying to avoid buying stuff all wrapped in plastic that sometimes I don't even try. There was this nice little MP3 player with a gig of memory at Soriana last night for about the same price, $MX330, that I paid for a half-gig a week ago. But the goddamned thing was packed in a huge plastic case, several times the size necessary for the size of the item. Why? To make it more attractive as a gift under the tree, I suppose. What shit. It was easy to resist the urge to buy, anyway, because of that in-your-face assault to the environmentalist in me, despite being buffeted about as it is by the hedonist consumer in me. [comment]


ETN, apparently a branch of Omnibuses de Mexico, has a direct bus to Puerto Vallarta for 700-something pesos. Futura has one, didn't ask the price because the only one leaves at 3-something in the morning. I'm going to Guadalajara on the 8:45 OdeM bus for MX$261, and will look for a fare to PV for around $25 on the various lines; Omnibus doesn't go there. Oh, and OdeM doesn't accept credit cards at the Zacatecas depot; better have cash (I did) or buy your tickets online (good luck -- their system is swamped most of the time).

There's a weak Linksys signal from the back of the bus station. If I have time, I'll prowl around and see if I can get it a little better. [comment]


That prickly-pear wine is called colonche. I'll have to try picking some up on the return trip.

It's too cold and humid tonight, so I'll wait till tomorrow morning to go to the bus depot. Hopefully the weather will have improved by then. I'll just have to suffer the movies.

I tried the Mole Poblano at El Portón this afternoon. I was underwhelmed. Especially for the price, about 9 dollars. The chicken with mole sauce was so-so, and the rice was bland and had (ugh!) canned peas and carrots in it. And potatoes, double ugh. From now on I'll stick with something they do right, like coffee and churros.

I found Palacios chorizo at the Soriana last night, and stocked up on them for the trip. Most of them had a white mold, but I found three of the hot (picante) sausages with no trace of it. I don't think you're supposed to refrigerate the damned things -- that it causes condensation inside the package, which in turn causes mold -- but shopowners insist on ruining tons of it. I guess they have lots of money to throw away.

I've been thinking about hacking my camera. I'll have to buy one of the "for parts only" W10s from eBay when I get back, and see what it has for a processor.

Since it has a built-in microphone, even if a voice-recognition system is too much for my skill set, I could rig some kind of sound output for a hand-held keyboard. Or enter data by humming or whistling. The camera already can take pictures of text using its macro-focusing ability -- how about an OCR, and use parchment with vanishing ink for my blog? Write it down, take a picture of it, and it disappears. Use it over and over, maybe for years. [comment]


Got back just in time, the hailstones are getting bigger. Turns out there is more than one route 11, and the one I took passed close to the house twice; but since I was waiting for it to go right there, I didn't get off. It went to Guadalupe and stopped. I explained what I could to the driver, and he got me a free ride on the next bus back, but I still lost an hour or so. It didn't matter, but it might someday, and it's good to know.

That's one thing the gringos do a little better, I think. Alternate routes in US cities are 11A, 11B, and so on. Here you have to be able to read the little squiggly abbreviations on the windshield and know what they mean.

There's a local wine made from tunas -- the fruits of the prickly pear -- but I can't remember what it's called, and in any case I couldn't find it anywhere. I'll have to check again on the return trip. [comment]


Just had a bowl of Birria de Chivo for only MX$23, at the bottom of the alleyway on Ave. Juarez just off Plaza Independencia. That's half the price of the same thing in Playas de Rosarito. One of the best food deals I've found so far. [comment]


In the cubicle near the window at La Net@ on Independencia, I get an open Linksys router! I had tried from the park below and couldn't reach it, though. So I'm paying to use their computers but am using my own instead. No problem, in fact I prefer it that way. [comment]


The streets are packed in downtown Zacatecas today, the 20th of November, an important day in Mexican history which, unfortunately, I know nothing about. It has something to do with the Mexican revolution, that much I've garnered by talking to the servers.

I'm in a taquería. Finished my tacos, and am drinking Café de la olla, a preparation that seemingly has more cinnamon than coffee. It's good but I don't know if it has much wake-up in it.

I'm learning my way around the bus system. When you exit the Central Camionera, walk directly across the taxi entrance to where the number 8 buses are lined up. Get in the one nearest the road, and hand the driver 3 and a half pesos. He can make change, but if all you have is MX$100 notes or bigger, good luck.

Get off somewhere along the Boulevard downhill from where Ortega avenue crosses it, and you can catch buses to other places. The #11 takes me within steps of where I'm couchsurfing. On the way back to the bus depot, I'll get off at the corner of Ortega and the Boulevard, walk up the steps, cross to the other side and catch the #8. And on to Puerto Vallarta. I don't even know yet if I can go direct. Maybe I'll have to spend some time in Guadalajara first.

I'm all packed, just hanging around till evening so I'll have a chance of a few hours on the bus without those noxious movies. There's only a few hours in the night that they don't play the damned things. Gotta see if an Internet place is open so I can check the fares. Spent way too much money here, got to take it easy next week. [comment]


Finally found bullet connectors, at the AutoZone that just opened 4 days ago, according to the sales guy Cesar who left Chicago to join his family down here in Fresnillo. Now hopefully I can fix whatever breaks.

My Facebook album link is here: Journey to Atitlan. It's a visual and textual extension to my blog during this trip.

Finally got a good (wired) connection for my laptop, just down the street from the house where I'm staying. I plan on leaving tomorrow afternoon sometime. [comment]


I just found two ways of writing to my hard drive while running Knoppix. One is one of the two FAT partitions installed by Dell for a system restore. The 3rd partition, hda3, has about half a gig free. The other method is, though the NTFS driver itself is read-only, a file inside NTFS is writeable. So I have the Debian disk used by coLinux as a file on the NTFS partition; mounting that as a loop device, I can do anything I want on that virtual ext2-formatted disk. How's that for cool?

I got aircrack-ng to compile under coLinux; booted Knoppix LiveCD; after a couple of tries with those ndiswrapper commands -- for some reason wlan0 didn't appear after the first try -- I was able to run airodump-ng. "Run", as in, the program executed long enough to tell me that ndiswrapper doesn't support monitor mode. Oh, shit. Back to square 1.

The leather piece holding my wallet chain to my belt was almost completely cracked through, so I cut it off with my new pocketknife and just used a carabiner to attach it to my belt loop. Those cheap Wal-Mart carabiners are useful for a lotta shit. Glad I stocked up before I left. [comment]


Can't get back to sleep. Woke up thinking about a sphere within a sphere, with a cushion of water between the two, maybe a third of the way up or so. I believe the water would equalize in pressure on all sides, preventing the inner sphere from bumping against the outer except possibly during extreme shocks, as when rolling down a mountainside. The inner sphere, say 12 feet in diameter, would have a flat floor, as a living space, and to serve as a ballast to keep it relatively motionless in the Z plane. The outer sphere, say 14 feet diameter, would be solid except for an escape hatch which could be removed in case of emergency. Both should be clear, maybe 1 inch polycarbonate. The inner sphere would have some air holes in it, and some means of collecting some of the water condensing against the top of the outer sphere during times of relative stability, when that water isn't contaminated by the algae-filled water at the bottom. I'd need to do some research to see exactly how big the spheres have to be, to have enough algae to generate sufficient oxygen to support one or two humans. If it turns out to be over 20 feet, I'll likely never be able to afford it.

Anyway, wastes go out to the space between the spheres, to feed the algae; the algae gets harvested and eaten; the cycle continues. How long? No clue.

These could be used out on the ocean, during times of global upheaval, as survival pods. There also may be terrestrial and space applications. I'd like to make a small prototype, not even necessarily clear but with some means of measuring the shocks experienced by something in the inner sphere, and of knowing if it remained relatively upright while rolling the contraption down the side of a mountain.

I guess that will all have to wait until this trip is over, and some of my other projects -- especially the HPV -- have been prototyped and the seeds scattered by the Internet winds. I now have the equipment to make small movies, which can be really helpful for understanding things. [comment]


No luck compiling ndiswrapper under coLinux for DSL, but booted an older Knoppix CD and found ndiswrapper already on it. The magic incantation, for a Dell Inspiron 600m with a Dell Wireless 1370 WLAN Mini-PCI Card (Broadcom chipset), seems to be:

# ndiswrapper -i /mnt/hda2/i386/oem1.inf 
# ndiswrapper -d 0002:0003 oem1
# ndiswrapper -m
# modprobe ndiswrapper
# ifconfig wlan0 up

I say "seems to be" because I don't have aircrack installed yet, so although the interface is showing, it doesn't necessarily do anything. I got the PCI bus information from Windows; clicking the wifi icon (looks like a single computer), I get a Wireless Network Connection window; at the bottom left click "Change advanced settings"; you get a warning if you're running as a limited user, which you can ignore; in "Connect using:" you should see Dell Wireless yadda yadda yadda, and a Configure button. Click that, and write down the info from all 3 tabs. [comment]


Yep, DSL boots from my camera as well. The only difference, this sucker has to be powered on. It can't take power from the USB port. In that respect, the Optio W10 is just as shitty as the Pixtreme it replaced.

I saw something about NDISWrapper today, probably what I need to get DSL to use the wifi on my laptop. What I understand is that it simply wraps the Windows driver so Linux can use it. Nice concept, and the way things seem to be heading, towards total interoperability between the two systems. [comment]


Do they ever show this shit on American TV? There's an educational show about Taiwan on TV here in Zacatecas. It showed a cable car, like the teleferico I saw this morning on the mountain, but that's not what I'm talking about. It was talking about pickling (fermenting, like Kimchi or sauerkraut) raw pork for two weeks in salt, avoiding the need for refrigeration. I guess they cook it before eating, but I'm not even sure of that. It also showed some fried bees; they get the bees interested in something and then cook them while they're still buzzing. I did the same thing with some ants a few weeks ago, not sure if I blogged it or not, but they didn't add much to the meal.

I'm always looking for ways to preserve meat without refrigeration, and other than the chorizo recipe I discovered, there's precious little out there. This TV show was the first thing I've seen along those lines in a long time.

Hey, I sewed more Velcro onto that cheap-shit Samsonite (not worthy of the name) camera case I bought at Wal-Mart in El Paso for $3.88, and now it actually stays on my belt. I've still got a mini-carabiner on it, clipped to my belt loop, just in case my sewing job doesn't hold, but for now I'm damned proud of myself. I probably paid the same price I'd have paid for a better one, if I count the needle, thread, Velcro, and other stuff I bought here.

I added a gigabyte to my camera for MX$199, and will see if I can boot off it like I could the MP3 player I owned for a few hours. I would have bought it at Wal-Mart, but they insisted I trust my computer with them, so I took my business to Soriana. Fucking paranoid jerks. [comment]


I'm back at Bulldog's, the bar on the Boulevard whose owner, Alex, told me I could use the wireless. This morning I climbed to the top of La Bufa, the hill that overlooks the city, and lost my fucking MP3 player/memory stick. That was a short-lived luxury. I did get some photos, though, and hopefully will get a chance to upload them shortly. [comment]


Installing Damn Small Linux on the FAT filesystem of my USB memory stick turned out to be ridiculously easy, thanks to instructions I found with a web search (which you, dear reader, will have to duplicate if you're interested -- I didn't write down the URL). And it still plays MP3s! Amazing.

I don't think I blogged about the beer -- I'm buying 1.2 liter bottles of Victoria -- basically the same as Corona -- for 16 pesos. It's on sale this month, I guess. Not a bad beer, and only 4 percent alcohol, so I don't get too godawful wasted on it. [comment]


I scored a free map of the city from a taco place tonight, after buying a nice little Sheffield lockback from Soriana for about US$8. I was a little off on the directions, as I suspected, but overall it matches pretty close to what I thought.

I'm thinking of modifying my self-imposed restriction on using secured wifi APs. Trying to get aircrack-ng running. Someone had implied that NetStumbler cracks keys but it sure doesn't seem to want to, nor indicate that it does in the online help. [comment]


Getting to know my way, on foot, around Zacatecas and Guadalupe, its sister city to the east. Centered on the Soriana store, the Mexican equivalent of Wal-Mart (although the latter is here also, in fact it's right next door to Soriana), the bus depot (Central de Autobuses) is to the southwest, el Centro is to the northwest, and the house where I'm a guest is to the northeast. More or less. I still don't have a good sense of direction, but can get to one place from another now.

Some of the restaurants I've tried so far are: Cantina del Refugio (link broken as of this writing, I guess they let the registration expire), a nice restaurant/bar, not a real cantina, which, my hostess explains, is a tavern for macho men only; Yker pastelería y café, down the street from the nearest laundromat on Av. México, and the Acropolis, a pricey but pleasant downtown institution. [comment]


The highways of northern Baja California are basically the same as U.S. roads, but not so in central Mexico. I didn't notice this the last time, when I came this way to Mexico City, because I didn't sit in the front of the bus as I am this time. It's a two-lane highway, with dotted white lines on the sides, and a half-lane shoulder. Bicycle lanes, right? Wrong. Dead wrong.

The way it seems to work is: when someone is coming up behind you going faster than you, you pull into the half-lane, straddling the white line (unless of course you have a narrow-enough wheelbase to pull all the way into it). The guy behind you passes, pulling halfway into the oncoming lane as he does so. If someone is in the oncoming lane, he is of course obligated to swerve into his own half-lane at a moment's notice! Gringos thinking about driving these roads would do well to take a bus first, sit in the front, and observe the choreography of this Mexican dance before attempting it for themselves. It's as strange in its way as the completely different method the Turks use for passing; at least in Istanbul, the only Turkish city I've ever visited. [comment]


My idea of carrying my Katadyn 2.5-gallon filter bag in a Kelty Kangaroo frontpack was a dismal failure. After the third time it fell out, I gave up, dumped out the water, and packed it all with my other gear. Made it to the Central Camionera after sunset, bought my ticket to Zacatecas for 862 pesos and am now on my way there on an almost-empty bus. It's supposed to arrive there 10-something tomorrow morning. I paid with a credit card! I didn't know you could do that, but their website accepts Visa and MasterCard, so I just offered my MC as payment and the guy accepted it. Good to know for next time; always before this I'd gotten cash because there are no signs at the Juarez station that any kind of plastic is accepted, and I never saw anyone else paying with one.

Found an interesting Mandelbrot image at (-0.989771523936768, 0.30932435524936575). You'll need to zoom into the billions to see the dragon, then there are several more zooms to other features until you reach the Mandelbrot copy. I used about 4000 iterations per pixel and I'm still missing detail. [comment]


Yes, the streaming audio works too... but have to find more ways to limit the bandwidth before I attempt to run it up to my server, or I'll swamp my neighbor's DSL connection.

Finally got my Mandelbrot applet to restart after browsing to another page and coming back to it. I'd left stopRequested set to false, so it refused to repaint. By setting it to true in the init() method, it decided to work again. Go figure. So I also added a destroy method to force a gc() on the colors vector, and re-created it in init(). I guess I never was really comfortable with my understanding of the Applet life-cycle, but it's starting to come together after, what, about 20 years? [comment]


Got my cheapo webcam to stream using:

$ vlc --ttl 1 dshow:// :dshow-vdev="ZSMC USB PC Camera (ZS211)" \
:dshow-adev="ESS Maestro" :dshow-size="320x240" \

This is from a Cygwin command prompt over an ssh connection! Before I added the transcoding options, I was getting "cannot create packetizer output" errors for both RV24 and s16l. Help for these errors on the forums is practically nonexistent, ditto for VideoLAN documentation. But it's free and open source, I'm not complaining. Not a lot, anyway.

It's having problems, but the basic picture is there, not sure about the audio yet. Batteries are too low -- we've had about two weeks or so with almost no wind. Not sure if that's typical for this time of year, or anomalous, but either way it's kind of nice. I've been able to sleep outdoors despite the cold most nights thanks to the dead calm.

The next step is to stream it to my server so I can see what's going on here while I'm in Mexico. [comment]


I remember some of last night's dreams. One was in a recurring dreamscape, but for the first time I remember some of the street names. Actually, I remembered a lot more when I first got up, but now it's down to one: Broadway. The name of the city is hyphenated, and it's either in Virginia or NC; I think it's Winston-Salem. In these dreams I'm always going somewhere along the coast, and for some reason head South instead of North; traveling (not sure how) along a coastal road sparsely dotted with hotels and restaurants. By the time I reach Broadway -- just the name of the cross street, not obviously part of any town -- I begin to think I'm going in the wrong direction. A few miles farther down the road there's a small town where I've been in other dreams. But I always seem to have a hard time getting back to the city, and in last night's dream I figured out that the city was farther inland than I had thought. Whatever that means. In dreams these disconnected thoughts all seem to make so much sense, but when trying to get them down on (virtual) paper, they are complete gibberish.

In another dream, I was just an observer, watching as if it were a movie. It took place in the 1950's, when recreational boating and (brain freeze -- what's it called when a motorboat is pulling someone behind on skis?... well, let me continue while I wait for my internet connection to come back up and I'll google it) were becoming popular in the US. I watch as this guy is being pulled, on skis, the length of the deck of an ocean liner, and makes a clean landing, a hundred feet away or more, on the ocean. Soon the pulling boat (which I never see) and he are in a canal, still going full throttle. Two guys, side-by-side on what appear to be surfboards, are cruising along slowly, fishing as they go. I can't see what propels them. Anyway, the water-skier (Google came back about the same time as my brain did) tries to go around them on the side opposite from the boat; though the skier and the people on the boat both manage to flip the line above the fishermen, it eventually catches their fishing lines. The bigger of the two guys keeps his balance, and eventually throws his pole away, but the skinny one bounces around on the water a while before the pole is pulled away from him. Suddenly sharks appear. The big guy manages to steer the first one away from his buddy with one foot, but eventually more come, and the skinny guy is history. For some reason there are now a bunch of dead sharks, and the big guy somehow kills the one shark he had been steering with his foot, and throws it on the pile with his dead buddy. Then I woke up again.

The other dream is so disconnected, there's no point relating it, except that there was a scene on a large marble staircase with a tall, dark, muscular guy pumping a petite blonde with his huge cock. She was gasping on every stroke. The rest of the dream isn't so memorable; I was trying to do some scientific experiments with a lab assistant and some broken plastic cups.

Back in the real world: I've been trying to talk myself into taking a backpack on this trip, but for some reason I really don't like it. I'll probably stick with my shoulder bags. [comment]


Turns out you don't have to go so deeply into the Mandelbrot set to see the dragons, there's one at only about 7 million magnification at (-1.2337289438770436, 0.16365912379038133). And there are others all around that area. I'm working on adding BigDecimal support to my applet, so I can go to arbitrary depths and still get good details. Right now it poops out and gets blocky somewhere around 100 trillion times magnification. [comment]


Just woke up from an afternoon nap, and part of my dream was about a company called Air Vantage, that didn't own a single plane but negotiated deals with airports, small airlines, and individual pilots, and offered low fares to customers. They used a viral marketing campaign via direct mail and the Internet to get people advertising for them by word-of-mouth. That's what I remember anyway. I looked up the name using Google, and it has various meanings, only one of which is a now-defunct airline, or rather, an air-freight company by the looks of it.

Thanks in no small part to my blog reader Sean, my Mandelbrot Set Howto was selected to be a Featured Article. Cool. [comment]


I'm still finding these dragons at over one trillion times magnification -- this one is at (-0.7406225308016138, 0.15805554124706156) at zoom=1.2477197541726555E12 -- so I guess I won't dispute the accuracy of the Wikipedia article.

This Java program is so fast, I'm sure my colorForth program must be seriously unoptimised. I'll have to revisit it again someday. [comment]


So my colors aren't as nice, at last I was able to follow the steps in the Wikipedia article to reach the Julia set-looking-thingie at the end. The center coordinates are (-0.7385754017906386, 0.17536125202841116) and the magnification is 6.569674306679323E9. Now, the article says 60 billion to 1, and my program says 6 billion to one. I wonder which is right. [comment]


Now that my WikiHow article How to Plot the Mandelbrot Set by Hand has been nominated for a Featured Article (please feel free to add your support!), I've rekindled my interest in the Mandelbrot set. In the last 24 hours, about 20 of which I've been awake, I wrote my own Mandelbrot applet (source), which uses the same coloring scheme as my colorForth program (as of today, anyway... this may change) but renders much more quickly, using a smaller portion of the screen. Right-click to zoom out, drag the mouse diagonally across an area to zoom in on it. Run it as an application, or in appletviewer, to see the debugging information, which includes the center and the zoom level, and you'll be able to duplicate the output using mandelgen.py. [comment]


Proof of concept worked today. I'm talking about my design for a new HPV (human powered vehicle), that I'm designing around scrap steel and old bicycle parts. You stand up, pulling and pushing with your arms and stair-stepping with your legs -- just like some exercise machines -- and your motion drives a wheel. Haven't completely figured out the steering yet, but it will be done with the upper body somehow. No more sore ass from long bike rides, and you'll be using more of your muscles and body weight. I figure 30 miles an hour, for a few hours, should be doable if it's done right. 120 miles a day without killing yourself, now that's enticing.

All I verified today was that the front-and-back motion can become rotary motion with a simple linkage. I thought it should, but I'm still thinking that if this is as simple as it seems, someone would already have done it. [comment]


I ended up freeing a gigabyte on my old laptop, and over a gig on my newer one. Not being an audiophile, I don't need frequencies over 10KHz; my old speakers probably can't even reproduce them!

Got to get off my butt and prepare for my journey South. There's stuff to fix, stuff to pack, stuff to prevent from blowing away in the wind while I'm gone. [comment]


I downloaded the lame-3.97 source tarball and it compiled cleanly on Cygwin. Nice! Already recoded Rammstein's Du Hast with the -V9 switch, and it not only now plays with the mplayer2 executable, but it's about 1/8 of the size! Now I'm recoding Tarkus, hoping for a similar size reduction, though mplayer2 can already play it. I have no idea why it (Mplayer2.exe) rejects some MP3 songs when Windows Media Player has no problem with them.

Got a fire going outside, with a big log I found on the roadside today. Listening to music, drinking Shiner Bock, having a good old time. Answered a couple of article requests on WikiHow earlier, it was fun. [comment]


I got a nice, though anonymous, comment today on the discussion page of my unschooling howto:

I'm unschooling myself right now (I'm 17) and It's the best thing I've ever done for myself. I'm not going to force public education on my kids. I'm going to freestyle it, and just let them learn! I maybe learned 1 thing at school that I didn't already learn from home... public school isn't about an education... its about socialization. (Which you get a better dose of when unschooling or homeschooling anyways.) Those who haven't tried it can't really say anything about it because they don't know what its like.

It is quite legal actually, and studies have shown that homeschooled kids do much better on tests.

Dumpsters aren't all bad... I personally don't go to them, but I know people who have a job and a house who go to the grocery store dumpster and find perfectly good products (not just food!) that are only thrown out because of a scratch or dent. Stores are quite wasteful.

They aren't talking about making your teens completely provide for themselves... just throwing out an option of letting them provide for one meal a day. I think its a good idea when they are old enough. They learn responsibility that way.

The author is just giving out ideas for how to unschool, and unschooling is a type of homeschool, so you can't say the author doesn't like homeschoolers. The author isn't trying to get money, because it doesn't cost anything to unschool your kids. I don't pay a cent for my unschooling. Nothing at all.

I really don't like the way public school systems work. It's based on just getting your kid out of school, and specializing their interests. I think kids should be well rounded, and be able to do anything, not just one or two things. School should be about getting an education, not socializing with your friends.

Those who haven't tried unschooling and homeschooling should stop commenting.



Flocks of Sandhill cranes have been passing overhead lately, making their "wrrrrrrrrrrrrrrroo" racket as they choreograph their 'V' formation. This of course signals the onset of winter in this region, as if the cold nights weren't enough of a harbinger. Last night wasn't bad, though.



New month, same old shit. Hurt my back rescuing an acquaintance from the ICU in Deming, and I had just recovered from some flu or something. Still planning my Mexico trip in two weeks, though. [comment]

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