One of my favorite bushcraft sites is the oft-overlooked Ravenlore. The site is very simple, containing information on a number of projects that cover the basics of the craft, such as cooking and cutting. Interspersed throughout the site are stunning photographs that appear as if windows into Arda.

In addition to the site’s excellent and diverse set of information, what appeals to me so much is the manner in which it is presented and organized. It creates a feeling of myth, framing bushcraft as a story that we move through while on the trail. This is important, but undervalued. Joseph Campbell used to say that we were a people without myth. I disagree. I believe that we have an over-abundance of myth. Individuals must pick their own mythology to live within. Bushcraft, when taken as more as just wilderness survival skills, can be part of this.

Your life is a story. Pick up a pen and write it.

(Wayland is also a free-lance viking, pirate, and photographer.)

Do What Scares You

Thousands of years ago, the work that people did had been broken down into jobs that were the same every day, in organizations where people were interchangeable parts. All of the story had been bled out of their lives. That was how it had to be; it was how you got a productive economy. But it would be easy to see a will at work behind this: not exactly an evil will, but a selfish will. The people who’d made the system thus were jealous, not of money and not of power but of story. If their employees came home at day’s end with interesting stories to tell, it meant that something had gone wrong: a blackout, a strike, a spree killing. The Powers That Be would not suffer others to be in stories of their own unless they were fake stories that had been made up to motivate them. People who couldn’t live without story had been driven into the concents or into jobs like Yul’s. All other had to look somewhere outside of work for a feeling that they were part of a story, which I guessed was why Sæculars were so concerned with sports, and with religion. How else could you see yourself as part of an adventure? Something with a beginning, middle, and end in which you played a significant part? Neal Stephenson, Anathem

This post was published on . It was tagged with quote, myth.


I love titanium. It’s so light, yet strong, and discolors beautifully when burned.

Snow Peak Trek 700

The Snow Peak Trek 700 has been with me on every foray into the wilderness for the past four years, and it’s still going strong. It’s my primary pot/mug/bowl, whether I’m cooking with a fire, canister stove, or alcohol. If I were to create a list of my top ten most valued possessions, I think this would be on it.

Vargo Triad XE stove

I’ve only had the Vargo Triad XE for a few months, but it’s quickly become my favorite stove. It’s far lighter and more versatile than the Esbit stove. I haven’t even looked at my Jetboil since purchasing the Triad. The stove burns both denatured alcohol and fuel tabs, giving it a wider operating potential than most stoves that burn only either one or the other. My experience with alcohol stoves is limited, so I can’t compare the burn efficiency of the Triad to its competitors, but I, so far, have zero complaints.

Trail Designs Vari-Vent Wind Screen

If there’s the slightest breeze out, the Triad will require a windscreen when burning alcohol (fuel tabs aren’t quite as susceptible). Vargo provides instructions and a diagram for building a windscreen yourself. I ended up purchasing a Trail Designs Vari-Vent windscreen from Anti-Gravity Gear.

I find running more satisfying in the winter

There’s still 6” of snow on the ground (more predicted for tonight) and temperatures are hovering around 15-20 degrees Fahrenheit. The only runners on the trail this morning were myself, two women, and a fellow who looked to be in his 70s.

Two days ago (when the powder was fresh and the snow still falling), it was only me and a couple folks on skis.

What’s with that? Why retreat to central heating when you can generate your own warmth, achieve the satisfying feeling of beating up your body, and be harder, better, faster, stronger the next day?

(Rinse, repeat.)

Klean Kanteen Sock Sleeve

In one of my EDC photos last week, I showed that I carry a 40oz Klean Kanteen. I think the water tastes better from the stainless steel bottle than from a plastic Nalgene, and prefer carrying 40 ounces over just 32.

The main complaint many people express concerning a single-walled stainless steel bottle is that you can’t carry hot liquids in it. That’s not much of a detraction for me, since I have a different bottle for that. What does annoy me is that, in the cold, when the bottle is filled with cold water, the stainless steel can become too cold to touch without gloves. To address this, I took an old wool sock and cut it off at about the neck of the bottle. Instant insulation.

Klean Kanteen Sock Sleeve

The only disadvantage is that the sock is just a little too thick for the bottle to nest inside my mug. Depending on how you carry the bottle, you might want to cut off a few inches from the bottom of the sock as well as the top.

This post was published on . It was tagged with water, gear.

West German Wool Pants

Winter arrived early last weekend, a week before the solstice. The daily temperatures have been hovering in the low 20s Fahrenheit (that’s somewhere around -5 for you centigrade folks), with high winds and plenty of snow. I’ve been out hiking every day, practicing winter fire lighting and taking advantage of the snow for tracking. It’s also provided ample opportunity to test out the wool pants I bought a few months ago.

Wool Pants: Front

They’re surplus from the West German army, circa 1976. I acquired them on ebay for $20.

They have a standard 6 pocket design. The back pockets and two side pockets have button closure flaps. The cargo pockets have flaps with two button closures: one in the middle and one on the back. The front edge of the pocket flap is actually sewn onto the pants, which prevents the flap from, you know, flapping. It encourages the flap to stay closed, even when both the buttons are undone, providing for somewhat secure storage while still having instant access. On the outside of each cargo pocket is a smaller, 3” wide pocket with no closure. It was probably originally meant for a magazine, but is a perfect size for a cell phone or camera. It’s a little small for my compass or GPS.

Wool Pants: Cargo Pocket

The front of the pants is reinforced roughly 7” above the knee to 7” below. The butt is not reinforced

Wool Pants: Back

The crotch is closed via four buttons, rather than a zip. Buttons are easier to replace in the field, but makes access a little slower. Annoying when nature calls. There’s also a series of buttons along the waistband, both on the inside and the outside. Some of these can be used to make minute adjustments to the waist size, others just seem to be spares. In all, there’s probably about 10 buttons that could be salvaged to repair the crotch or pocket closures. On the inside back of the waist band, there’s also attachments for suspenders.

On the hem of each leg, there’s are snaps that allow the legs to be tightened and the excess material folded, useful for blousing the pants with boots or for wearing under gaiters.

Wool Pants: Side

I love these pants. I received them in new condition, and their worth could easily be placed upward of $60. My only complaint is the button crotch, which I would prefer to be zippered.

In the cold (and somewhat wet) snow, I’ve been staying perfectly warm and dry with these and a pair of merino wool long underwear worn underneath. In slightly warmer weather, I’ve found the wool to be soft enough to be worn without the underwear underneath. (I haven’t ever worn US Army surplus wool, but I’m told that the West German stuff is softer. I’ve also been told that wool from the former Eastern Bloc is the itchiest, and warned to stay well away from it.)

I’d recommend the West German wool to anyone. When passing someone on the trail decked out in plastic from head-to-toe, making that annoying swish-swish-swish sound as they walk by, you can chuckle to yourself, content in the knowledge that you are warmer, quieter and more comfortable in your wool.

I'll see you on the trail...

This post was published on . It was tagged with review, wool, gear.

EDC Pack

I took some photos of my EDC pack today. I live in an urban area and commute on my bike, but I also use the pack during day hikes, so the pack includes an odd mix of urban, bicycle, and wilderness tools. All the items are identified by comments and notes on flickr.

The pack itself is a TAD Gear FAST Pack EDC, which is probably evident to most of you. It’s been my every day carry pack for a little over a year now. I’m very pleased with it.


The gear that I EDC on my person is probably more interesting. Maybe someday I’ll take pictures of that.

BCNW-O1 Bushcraft Knife

After a long wait, the end of last week brought with it the arrival of my new BCNW-O1 bushcraft knife.


In late August, I had put aside some money for a new bushcraft knife. For quite some time, I had had my eye on a Skookum Bush Tool. Yet, over the summer I discovered Mike Lummio’s Bushcraft Northwest through his YouTube channel. One of his videos features his knife, the BCNW-O1. It has a very similar design to the slightly larger Skookum, which make it difficult for me to decide which I preferred.

The knife was listed as back-ordered on Mike’s web page, so in the beginning of September I emailed him, asking when the knives would become available. My intention was that I would purchase whichever of the two knives became available first. Mike initially told me 2 weeks. That got delayed to 2 months, due to a batch of special order knives with a sharper grind coming in first and his moving the school to a new location. Still, it was available sooner than the Skookum, so I decided on the BCNW-O1.

It was well worth the wait. I couldn’t be happier with the knife.

(The plus side of the knife being back ordered is that the money had been sitting in a savings account, gaining interest since August.)

As the name implies, the BCNW-O1 is made of O1 tool steel. O1 is a relatively high maintenance material, somewhat soft when compared to other metals such as A2, and more prone to rust if not properly cared for. But the steel can be more easily sharpened to a razor edge than others, and can strike a spark off the backspine with a piece of flint (in addition to the more common ferrocerium rod). Because of this, O1 is quite popular in many bushcraft knives, including the famed Woodlore knife.

The knife is of the classic, Scandinavian design preferred by bushcrafters. The specs, taken from the product page, are as followed:

  • 5/32” (3.9 mm) thick O1 tool steel
  • RC 59
  • 3 5/8” (9.3cm) Scandi grind blade (grind done by Daniel Koster)
  • 8” (20.3cm) overall length
  • Full tang


Perhaps the most unique aspect of the knife is the handle. It’s made of bamboo “that has been processed much like micarta. The individual fibers are separated and then bound together under pressure with an industrial strength, formaldehyde-free adhesive. This material can withstand 3,000 psi and is very resistant to the elements while being made from a sustainable resource.” The handle is very smooth, lacking the unique texture of micarta. It feels more like a normal wooden handle, which I love. One of the things that I don’t think is demonstrated very well by the photos on the Bushcraft Northwest site is the size of the handle. It’s a bit bigger and chunkier than what it looks like, which provides for a very comfortable grip. It fits perfectly in my hand.

(While Bamboo can be grown and harvested sustainably, many of the processing methods that go into turning it into clothing are extremely toxic and environmentally destructive. I have no idea about the process that goes into making this handle, but I don’t figure it to be any more environmentally friendly than micarta. Maybe I’m wrong, but I think you should probably avoid any synthetic or processed handle material if you’re concerned about such things.)

In addition the the handle material, the thumb scallops that are carved into either side of the handle are rather unique. This is an excellent feature that assists in certain carving grips, as demonstrated in Mike’s video.

The knife comes with a leather Scandinavian style sheath (available either with or without a firesteel holder) made by JRE Industries. I’ve used one of these with my Mora knives for a couple years and greatly prefer them over any other style I’ve tried.

Most any bushcraft knife made today owes its design, in some part, to Mors Kochanski. Though not as well known as Ray Mears, Kochanski in generally considered to be the father of modern bushcraft. In the spirit of Schwert’s introduction to the Skookum Bush Tool in Outdoors Magazine, I’ll introduce the BCNW-O1 with excerpts from the Knifecraft chapter of Mors Kochanski’s Bushcraft.


The general-purpose bush knife should have a blade as long as the width of the palm, although blades half or twice this length are within acceptable limits. A blade five centimeters long would be an excellent survival knife except for being too small to fall and limb trees of wrist-thickness. A blade 10 to 15 centimeters long will do intricate work like carving a netting needle, yet be large enough to present a good target for a baton when cutting down small trees. A blade 20 centimeters long is a superior tool for heavy work, but awkward to use for fine work.


All general-use knives should have the blade tip close to the profile centerline of the handle. The back of the handle and the back of the blade should be on the same line. The back of the blade should not be thinned down or sharpened so that a baton can be used more effectively without being cut up. There is no advantage to a two-edged blade in bush living.


The blade should be of a good quality carbon steel, from two and a half to three millimeters thick and about two to two and a half centimeters wide. This size of blade is light in weight, yet difficult to break. The steel should be soft enough to be maintained at a shaving edge with common sharpening tools, without frequent sharpening. Such steel is found in Mora (Sweden), Solingen (Germany) or Sheffield (England) knives. Carbon, unlike stainless steel, can be used as the striker in the flint and steel method of fire-lighting. Inexpensive stainless steels have had a bad reputation with respect to producing a keen edge let alone holding it. The Mora stainless steels however, are every bit as good as their carbon steels.


The metal of the knife blade should extend for the full-length of the handle (a full tang) for strength.


The handle should be a durable, water-resistant material that can be shaped to the user’s hand if necessary.


The knife should have a strong pommel that will protect the handle if the knife is driven tip first deep into wood.


The curvature of the cutting edge should extend for the full-length of the blade. This cuts well and is one of the best shapes that quickly sharpens to a razor’s edge. The knife blade should have a sharp enough point to penetrate deep into wood with a minimum of effort.


The knife handle should be about as long as the width of your palm. A handle that is too thick or too thin fatigues the hand and causes blisters. The cross-section of the handle should be an oval instead of round or rectangular. An oval handle provides an adequate indication of the direction of the cutting edge and raises fewer blisters than handles with angular or rounded corners.


A guard on a bush knife is in the way and detracts from many operations. It prevents the use of a simple, secure deep sheath. Some people prefer a guard for fear of slipping forward onto the knife edge, but unless the knife is used for stabbing, the hand should never slip in this way. In all my years of instructing I do not recall an injury due to the lack of a guard.

The BCNW-O1 clearly meets all of Kochanski’s criteria for the perfect bush knife, as well as introducing new innovations of its own. Though I’ve not had it long enough to perform a full review, I am extremely pleased with the knife. It has exceeded my expectations. I can safely say that I wouldn’t trade it for any other knife.


Additional photos of the knife are on Flickr.

Outdoors Magazine Mirror

Outdoors Magazine went down a few weeks ago. The website used to be one of the best sources for bushcraft and survival techniques and tool reviews. In addition to the wayback machine and other caching websites, all the old content has been turned into PDFs and made available here. A 275 MB zip file of all the PDFs is also available, which I am mirroring here.


Here is another source for the individual articles in PDF format.

The whole of the site, with the articles in html, is mirrored here.

AquaRain Water Filtration Systems

Last month, vavrek and I began researching gravity powered water filtration systems. The British Berkefeld and Berkey filter systems dominate this market (British Berkefeld refers to systems using the Doulton Super Sterasyl filter elements, Berkey refers to filter systems using the Black Berkey filter elements). I had been set on purchasing a Berkey filter until vavrek discovered AquaRain Natural Water Filtration Systems, a lesser known (and cheaper) alternative.

The AquaRain systems are all built in the USA from stainless steel. The filter elements are from Marathon Filters, the same used by MSR in their portable filters. They’re ceramic with carbon which, as illustrated in this table, filters organic and microbiological organisms, but not heavy metals, radioactivity, or inorganics. (More information on different filter types is available here.) These filters have been shown to filter down to the .2-.3 micron range, where British Berkefeld units claim an absolute rating of .5 microns.

Nitro-Pak, a seller of AquaRain filters, has the following to say concerning manufacturer claims of “absolute” micron ratings:

There is a great deal of confusion regarding “absolute” micron ratings. Just how much of a reduction efficiency should be considered adequate for an “absolute” rating? Is 99.9% (3 log) sufficient, or would 99.9999% (6 log) be more appropriate, since it matches the EPA bacteria requirement? Should a filter be rated by its ability to remove particles of a certain size, or shouldit be challenged with live organisms of a particular size? Should a filter be tested only when it is new, or should the ratings be based on its end-of-life performance? The fact is that there is no industry or government standard for “absolute” filtration performance. The Marathon filter elements used in the AquaRain Gravity Water Filter have been extensively tested against live organisms using expended end-of-life elements. We believe this form of testing to be the most stringent, since it tests the filters in a manner similar to the way they would actually be used under worst case conditions. When testing against the .5-.6 micron organism Klebsiella terrigena, EXPENDED Marathon elements demonstrated a 6.6 log reduction (they achieved 8.9 log reduction when new). The EPA only requires a 6 log reduction from NEW elements, which AquaRain greatly exceeded under extreme pressures of up to 90 psi, well above normal test pressure. At the very low pressure of 1/2 psi found in our gravity filter, the efficacy would be far greater still. Does this mean that the Marathon filter elements have an “absolute” rating of only .5-.6 microns? Expended Marathon filter elements have also been tested against the Health Industry Manufacturing Association’s (HIMA) test organism, Brevundimonas diminuta, and achieved a 99.99815% reduction (99.9999% when new). Since this organism is .2-.3 micron, should we claim this as our “absolute” rating? British Berkefeld Filter literature lists the “absolute” rating of their filter at .9 microns and their U.S. dealers claim “absolute” performance at .5 microns. Their own factory literature claims only 99.9% efficiency at the .5 micron level. Is 99.9% sufficient for claiming an “absolute” rating? The bottom line is that the AquaRain Gravity Water Filter System, using Marathon filter elements, will outperform all other gravity-fed ceramic water filter systems. Since there is no standard for “absolute,” YOU will have to decide what level of protection you want for yourself and your family.

The AquaRain, British Berkefeld, and Berkey filter systems are all worthy investments. Finding a clear winner between the three can prove a challenge. Based partly on the above quote concerning micron ranges, partly on the price, and partly on the country of origin, I decided to purchase an AquaRain.

I went with the AquaRain 202 model. It includes two filter elements and holds roughly 1.5 gallons of clean water. I purchased it from CampingSurvival.com, who, after factoring in shipping costs and using the coupon code “savings” for a 5% discount, had the 202 for the cheapest I could find. I’d never dealt with them before, but their shipping and email response was prompt, so I’d recommend them if you’re looking to pick up an AquaRain.

When you first receive the AquaRain, all the parts should be thoroughly cleaned and the filter elements “cultured” by rinsing them under water and running your hands along them. The system is then assembled, which is a simple process of installing the spigot on the lower reservoir, the two filter elements in the top reservoir, and the handle on the lid. Finally, stack the top reservoir atop the lower, dump in some water, put on the lid, and you’re done.

Regardless of the actual micron measurement, pores in the AquaRain’s Marathon filters are smaller than those in the Berkefeld, which makes for a slower flow rate. AquaRain claims a 1/4 gallon per hour per element flow rate under ideal conditions. New filter elements are nowhere near this fast. When I first put my system together, I filled the top reservoir and left for 5 hours. Upon returning, only about 1/6th of the water had made it through the two filters. I emailed AquaRain to confirm that this was normal behavior.

Yes this may very well fit into the normal range when first starting it up…. The filters are DRY and the pores on the surface of the ceramics are very small. The water follows a tortuous path to get to the bed of the granulated activated carbon….also DRY… and then it drips into the lower container. Within a couple of days, the filters will have become fully saturated. When you keep the container filled (adding water every ten or so minutes) you can then achieve the optimum filtration rate. Most people will not give the unit this kind of attention….most will fill it before they go to bed at night and by morning you should have a gallon or so. Fill again for more water. Even when keeping the unit full and striving for the high filtration rate, the water has a nominal contact time of 11 minutes with the carbon…this is good! You want it slow so that it can do its job. (Another factor, especially with cold weather coming, that affects speed of filtration is the temperature of the water….the warmer the faster….the colder the slower.

It is important to note that the top reservoir simply sits on top of the lower, with no rubber “O” ring to make the connection water tight. This means that it is possible for the lower reservoir to overflow if you attempt to keep the top constantly full for maximum flow rate without emptying the bottom (I discovered this the hard way).

The water filtered through the AquaRain does have a distinctly different taste. I live in a city that has some of the cleanest water in the state, and I’ve always used a Brita water filter for drinking water. I expected the AquaRain to do a much better job than the cheap Brita, but I did not expect a significant difference in taste. The water from the AquaRain tastes much smoother, for lack of a better descriptor. I’ve also noticed the water comes to a boil faster when cooking.

I keep a 1 gallon glass jug full of filtered water in the fridge for chilled drinking water. For cooking and for tea, I take the water directly from the AquaRain. I lift up the upper reservoir periodically throughout the day to check the water level, and dump a bit in the top when the lower is lacking. (I prefer to fill the top at night, so that I can go to sleep to the “drip drip” sound of the filtered water falling into the pool in the bottom). Because I never completely fill the top, I don’t achieve the maximum flow rate.

For 1-2 people looking for clean drinking and cooking water, I think the AquaRain 202 model is ideal. For 3-4 people, I would certainly opt for the larger 404 model. If you’re looking to provide water for more than 4 people, I’d speculate that you would need to either pick up multiple 404 models or acquire a couple of large buckets and build your own filter with perhaps 6-8 filter elements to achieve an optimum flow rate.

In an off-grid (or grid-down survival) situation where clean water is needed not only for drinking and cooking but also for cleaning, I would certainly want to invest in some large water storage containers and perhaps a 404 model for the faster filtration rate achieved by the 4 filter elements. But that would be for 1-2 people. If you’re looking for a system to provide drinking, cooking, and cleaning water for 4 or more people, I don’t think an AquaRain system is practical. Ideally, I would try for a large scale rain-water fed rapid-sand filter leading to a slow-sand filter (described in Aric McBay’s Peak Oil Survival) — and if you happen to have an AquaRain, perhaps using that for final filtration of drinking water.

AquaRain recommends dumping the first 1-2 gallons filtered through new filter elements, “as it may contain loose material washed from the filter elements.” This, along with the extremely slow flow-rate of new filter elements creates an interesting conundrum. Because the new filters are dry, it takes a significant amount of time for the first couple gallons of water to be filtered. The two filter elements in my AquaRain 202 took a little over 24 hours. If I were off-grid and completely dependent on the AquaRain, that’s 24 hours without the ability to produce usable water every time I change the filter elements. Storing enough water for 24 hours isn’t a big deal (and really ought to be a minimum requirement), but what if some event were to arise that requires me to use more than the usual amount of water? It seems to me that one should strive for two different filter systems — to be used concurrently, but staggered — so that when new filters are being installed and conditioned in one, you can fall back to the other.

One of the main concerns many city-dwellers hold about their water supply these days is the possibility of it being contaminated with fluoride. (There’s a rather heated debate as to whether fluoride is good or bad. Personally, I believe it to be a poison, but I think the debate is mute. Cities should provide the cleanest, purest water possible to its citizens. If an individual wishes to add some additional chemical to their water, they can do that themselves, at their own risk, in their own homes.) Because of this, a popular addition to Berkey filters are the Post Filter Arsenic and Fluoride Reduction Elements, which screw on to the Black Berkey filter elements. In my city, we voted down the attempt to fluoridate our water supply, so it isn’t an immediate concern for me. But chances are that at some point I’ll live in a place that does poison its water. Before deciding on the AquaRain over the Berkey filters, I emailed AquaRain and asked if the Post Filter elements would also fit onto their Marathon filters. They replied in the negative:

Fluoride is a difficult thing to remove from water, and gravity carbon filter systems may not be the most efficient or effective way to do the job. If you use a gravity water filter system that has carbon in its operation, a more accurate word would be reduce rather than remove. Carbon is generally not the accepted media for fluoride reduction and our unit has not been specifically tested again fluoride to see how significant the reduction can be. There are variables involved with certain chemicals. For example: We do not know how much fluoride has been added to your water system; there would be a sliding scale of effectiveness as the carbon ages, etc. However, we know the water passes slowly through the AquaRain (which is positive since you want the contact time to be as long as possible.) We have found documents that say carbon will reduce fluoride enough (up to 80%) that pro-fluoride people are alarmed and want you to add it back into your diet. If your main concern is fluoride removal/reduction, there may be better options out there than a gravity water filter system. (Reverse Osmosis). Not to discount the danger of fluoride, sadly and statistically, all of the strengths found in the AquaRain filter system…bacteria, cysts, protozoan removal, VOC contaminants, chlorine, benzene, pharmaceutical drug removal can be accomplished with the AquaRain but most people do not even know of these dangers. Due to the thread pattern found on the stems of the AquaRain Ceramics, there are no post filters that will fit our candles.

This wasn’t enough to dissuade me from the AquaRain systems. Up to 80% reduction ain’t bad, but I think some sort of reverse osmosis system (or just going for rain collection) would be justified if I find myself in a fluoride-friendly city.

I’ve been very pleased with the AquaRain for the week that I’ve been using it. Tangibles such as water filters are not only wise investments of wealth in uncertain economic times, they also allow a further degree of self-sufficiency. Though I currently fill the AquaRain with tap water, I can just as easily fill it with water from the more-than-abundant rains we receive here in the Pacific Northwest. I’m no longer fully dependent on city water, nor subject to another’s whims as to what should be in my water.

Kitchen Herbs

A friend asked me which herbs I have in my kitchen right now.

Kitchen Herbs

  • Chamomile (Matricaria recutita)
  • Cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum)
  • Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea)
  • Horsetail (Equisetum arvense)
  • Nettle (Urtica dioica)
  • Peppermint (Mentha piperita) (not pictured)
  • St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum)
  • Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)

I’ve also got an Echinacea tincture and locally wild-crafted Oregon Grape tincture in the making. They’ll probably both be decanted next week, just in time for cold and flu season.

This post was published on . It was tagged with herb, health.

Thoughts on SSH Security

OpenSSH has a history of security. Only rarely are holes found in the actual program. It’s much more likely that a system will be compromised through poor configuration of the SSH daemon. Ideally, an SSH config would allow only protocol 2 connections, allow only specified users to connect (and certainly not root), disable X11 forwarding, disable password authentication (forcing ssh keys instead), and allowing connections only from specified IPs. These config options would look like this:

Protocol 2
PermitRootLogin no
AllowUsers demo
X11Forwarding no
PasswordAuthentication no

Allowing connections from only specified IP addresses would be accomplished by adding something like the following to /etc/hosts.deny:

sshd: ALL # Deny all by default
sshd: # Allow this subnet
sshd: # Allow this IP

(You could also accomplish this with iptables, but I think editing the above file is simpler.)

But the last two options — disabling password auth and allowing only certain IP addresses — limits mobility. I constantly login to my slice from multiple IPs, and I also need to login during travel when I may or may not have my key on me.

The main thing these two options protect against is a brute force attack. By allowing password logins from any IP, we give the attacker the ability to exploit the weakest part of SSH. This is where DenyHosts comes in.

DenyHosts is a python script which attempts to recognize and block brute force attacks. It has many attractive features and is included in the default Ubuntu repositories.

$ sudo aptitude install denyhosts

The config file is located at /etc/denyhosts.conf. It is very simply and readable. I recommend reading through it, but most of the default options are acceptable. If any changes are made, the daemon must be restarted:

$ sudo /etc/init.d/denyhosts restart

Default Ports

Many people also advocating changing SSH’s default port to something other than 22 (more specifically, something over 1024, which won’t be scanned by default by nmap). The argument in support of this is that many automated attack scripts look for SSH only on port 22. By changing the port, you save yourself the headache of dealing with script kiddies. Opponents to changing the port would argue that the annoyance of having to specify the port number whenever using ssh or scp outweighs the minute security benefits. It’s a heated argument. I lean toward leaving SSH on the default port.

Deer Encounter

This morning before going to work I visited the neighboring woods, having taken it into mind that I would visit the sit spot I used during Kamana, but haven’t been to since last winter. Soon after breaking off the trail and climbing steeply uphill through the undergrowth toward the spot, I heard a bit of rustling of leaves and snapping of twigs. It surprised me, as I’d never seen another person near this spot — people rarely ever venture off the trails in this area at all. After stopping and listening for a short count, I continued on my way, thinking that I was probably making enough noise that the person would hear me, as I heard him, and thus wouldn’t surprise someone in awkward encounter.

A few steps later, as I came above the rock overhang that my spot sits on, I was greeted by a deer munching on the leaves of a young sapling. This surprised me more than the human I expected. Though the forest is home to deer and cougar, they usually stay in the deeper woods, not as close to the main trails as we were here.

I froze, partly out of surprise, and stood still, not staring at the deer, but keeping my peripheral vision trained on him. He looked in my direction, but continued munching and didn’t seem terribly concerned. I can’t imagine that he didn’t see or hear me, but the wind was favoring me by blowing downhill onto my face. Without my scent to alarm him, he must have decided that I was little more than an interesting stump.

When he turned his back to me, I slowly dropped my pack and went prone, thinking it would be fun to see how close I could get. Like most pine forests of the Pacific Northwest, the area was dense with undergrowth such as ferns and Oregon Grape. It all provides for great cover when you’re hugging the floor, but makes moving quietly in it a challenge.

I stalked the deer for 15 minutes, not getting much closer than I was when he first surprised me, but doing my best to maintain the distance as he moved. Within the first couple minutes he led me to 2 other deer slightly further up the hill which I had neglected to spot previously.

Stalking humans is much easier!

When compared with most people who tromp through the woods, I can walk with a measure of silence, but attempting to match pace with such an animal while not making noise gives one great respect for the deer’s ability. All the while I was crashing through the undergrowth, despite my best efforts at silence, while the deer would effortlessly bound ahead, snapping only the occasional twig.

Eventually they ditched me, but making my way back down hill to where I dropped my pack, there were plenty of tracks in the soft ground to gaze at.

Back on the trail, I encountered people dressed in their stylish reds, blues, and yellows, and was struck by how sad it was that they could never experience such an encounter while garbing themselves in such eye pollution.

Deer stalking

Drink In the Forest

In the damper months, I like to throw a small stove in my pack. A warm cup of tea encourages further exploration of the woods, which seem to come alive after a rain.

Cedar Tea

We do not go to the green woods and crystal waters to rough it, we go to smooth it. We get it rough enough at home; in towns and cities; in shops, offices, stores, banks anywhere that we may be placed — with the necessity always present of being on time and up to our work; of providing for the dependent ones; of keeping up, catching up, or getting left.. “Alas for the life-long battle, whose bravest slogan is bread.” -Nessmuk, Woodcraft and Camping

Cedar Tea

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Herbal Stye Healing

A stye is a sort of pimple on the eyelid, caused by a bacterial infection at the root of the eyelash. The common treatment for the infection is applying a hot compress to the area, which encourages the stye to drain. I had a small stye on the inside of my lower left eyelid last week and decided to see if I could speed the healing process along with herbal experimentation. It ended up healing in 2 days.

The first day I applied a thyme compress to the area twice, for 15 minutes each. The compress I made by simply making a cup of thyme tea (steeped for 20 minutes for medicinal strength) and soaking a sterile gauze pad in it (with occasional re-soaking throughout the 15 minutes process as the compress lost its warmth). Thyme contains Thymol, an antiseptic which acts as a sort of antibiotic.

Of course, with any infection, the most obvious thing to reach for is Echinacea. I was out of tincture at the time, but I made a cup of tea with some dried Echinacea purpurea root before bed the first night.

The second day I repeated the twice daily 15 minute compress, but this time with Chamomile (Matricaria recutita). Chamomile has a reputation as general-purpose healer, and is also a relaxant.

The morning of the third day, there was no evidence of the stye.


Shakespeare in the Park


Hawaiian Chieftain

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Recovering the Linksys WRT54GL via TFTP

Last May, DD-WRT released the (long in development) v24 of their firmware. I had been running one of the release candidates for it on my Linksys WRT54GL, but decided today to upgrade to the stable release. I downloaded the appropriate file (dd-wrt.v24_std_generic.bin), followed the instructions for flashing through the web GUI, and promptly bricked the router.

It wasn’t totally destroyed. I could still ping the router, but couldn’t access it in any other way. The power light would flash repeatedly, and no other lights came on. No amount of hard resets would fix it.

According to DD-WRT’s wiki article on bad flashes, the repetitive blinking of the power light means that the bootloader is defective, but that the problem might be solved using a TFTP recovery. The idea is that when the router first boots up, there’s a brief moment where it will accept an upload. By pushing through firmware, you are able to temporarily boot the router.

On older Linksys routers, this only works with the official Linksys firmware, so I downloaded the latest version from Linksys’ support page for the WRT54GL. Because the router will only accept the firmware at the very start of the boot process, I first unplugged the router, turning it off. To monitor the router during the process, I started a ping from my machine.

$ ping

Then, using the TFTP client that ships with OS X, I executed the upload

$ echo "put FW_WRT54GL_4.30.12.3_US_EN_code.bin" | tftp -e
and immediately plugged the router back in. In 10 seconds, TFTP reported that the file had been sent.

At this point, the router stopped responding to my pings for about 30 seconds. When it began replying again, I was able to access the default Linksys web GUI. The first thing I did in the GUI was to hit the “reset to factory defaults” button, which clears the NVRAM of my bad DD-WRT image and installs the fresh Linksys image. After that, I installed a new DD-WRT “mini” image (the WRT54GL requires you flash with “mini” before upgrading to “standard” when moving from the default firmware), by uploading dd-wrt.v24_mini_generic.bin via the upgrade page. This worked without a hitch.

In the DD-WRT web interface, I tried to flash the router with the standard firmware, but was greeted by a vague error message that told me only that the upgrade had failed. I went back to the wiki to see what the differences were between mini and standard and decided that it would be find to leave the router with mini. All I needed was for the router to act as a wireless repeater with a virtual interfaces. The mini firmware supports this, so I was able to setup the router just as before.


I’ve returned early from Spain, arriving in the States last night.

I walked only about 110 miles on the Camino de Santiago, from St. Jean-Pied-de-Port to Logrono, before deciding that it was time to come back. During my short time on the walk, the Camino gave me what it could, and I gladly accept the gift, but I felt the remaining miles had nothing more to offer.

Following the Camino’s yellow arrows day after day, while comforting in their promise of direction and safety, is too structured an experience. This, the cultivated landscape, and the crowds of walkers contribute to a feeling of limitation.

I seek to find my own paths, and to forge my own way. Only by traveling into the unknown can we explore our selves. And so, despite the cultural differences, despite the linguistic barrier, and despite the unknown country, I think the Camino is flawed. There are no yellow arrows for the mind, save for those we paint our selves.

For me, it must be a journey wilder than this. One for which I do not have my way painted upon the landscape. A journey in which I am dependent on the self, alone in a solitary wilderness. To explore that is to touch the crevices of consciousness, running one’s finger upon the peculiar bumps of its surface.

From the 21st of June till the 1st of July, I walked, taking a day off in Pamplona and in Viana. In Logrono, I spent 3 nights before taking a train back to Madrid, where I’ve been for the past week.

I continue my pilgrimage elsewhere.



Of the gladdest moments in human life, methinks, is the departure upon a distant journey into unknown lands. Shaking off with one mighty effort the fetters of Habit, the leaden weight of Routine, the cloak of many Cares and the slavery of Home, man feels once more happy. The blood flows with the fast circulation of childhood… Afresh dawns the morn of life… - Sir Richard F. Burton, Journal entry, December 2, 1856

This post was published on . It was tagged with quote, the road.


Camino Bookstack

Tomorrow, I will be in Spain. I fly into Madrid, from where I’ll make a quick jump over the border to St-Jean-Pied-de-Port in France. There, my pilgrimage begins. I walk west, over the Pyrenees, and reenter Spain. After my feet carry me roughly 500 miles from the Basque lands to Galicia, the journey culminates at Finis Terrae, the End of the World.

As usual, I don’t speak the language and am embarking alone with limited funds. Internet access will be sparse, if it all.

Catch you on the other side.

“The road is arduous, fraught with perils, because it is, in fact, a rite of the passage from the profane to the sacred, from the ephemeral and illusory to reality and eternity, from death to life, from man to the divinity.” - Mircea Eliada


The Christian story of Genesis is a creation myth central to the Western construction of the self. It involves, as its central theme, a fall from grace. As Adam and Eve eat the forbidden fruit, they gain knowledge. The first flaw they perceive is their own body — the shame of nakedness. The couple is then booted from paradise, their imperfect bodies more suited to imperfect surroundings. In the East, Hinduism sets as a central doctrine a strict caste system of cleanliness, reminding followers daily of their imperfection in relation to each other and the gods. Today, technologists such as the Venturists seek to improve the human condition by achieving immortality. Whether through a fall from grace, our very creation, or simply in our own mortality, humans perceive themselves as imperfect. As a life progresses, these flaws build in both number and import. Children, with innocence not yet lost to the count of years, are seen as closer to perfection. But adults: both in the flesh and in the mind, we are flawed. We seek to perfect these flaws by augmenting our reality. It is a yearning for innocence, not as naivete or lack of guilt, but as a kind of amoral, infinite perfection: the innocence of a god. This quest for innocence is achieved through perfected representations of our selves and through a perfection of our surroundings. At its highest level, our augmented reality reaches a state of hyperreality: the nonreal — its borders blurred — inside the unbounded real.

The quest for innocence, in its most simple form, may be demonstrated by a doll: a humanoid carved from wood, or molded from clay, with its potential for perfect symmetry; an idealized projection of the self. The doll is not idealized only in exaggerated or perfected form, but also in its very nature. It does not age, does not die, does not bleed or ever go wanting for sustenance. It is a blank slate, an amoral immortal. Whatever emotions, intentions, or knowledge we have (or lack) may be attributed to these creations. By creating dolls, we manifest our ideal into reality. Transforming these dolls into puppets transcends further boundaries.

Nothing can endure if it is not ‘animated,’ if it is not… endowed with a ‘soul’ [Eliada 2005:20]”. As a puppet, the figurine is granted the illusion of autonomous movement. Animation is the act of writing aemaeth on the golem’s forehead, bringing the clay figure to life. Through this animation, the doll — the theophany — becomes a more convincing illusion. It is the life giving breath. Indeed, the word animate springs from anima, the Greek word for soul [Sharp 2004]. As the ever-observant Oscar Wilde humorously points out, these puppets are superior to humans. “There are many advantages in puppets. They never argue. They have no crude views about art. They have no private lives” [Wilde]. They are not subject to the same imperfections as us. Instead, they reach closer to innocence.

As our technology increases, so do our projections. The art of the doll progressed from clay molding or wood carving to the ball-jointed, pubescent females of Hans Bellmer. Yet our technological creations allow us to take our projections even further.

Today, the doll is replaced with the android. These humanoid robots, with realistic skin, hair, and movement, can create a creature so real as to be disturbing. It is the recreation of the human, without the fleshy parts. Like the doll, the android is an amoral, immortal simulacra.

In 2005, Japanese roboticist Hiroshi Ishiguro unveiled Repliee Q1Expo, a female android. Repliee has silicone skin, motors that simulate breathing, and the ability to flutter its eyes. When demonstrating Repliee, Ishiguro found that although it was obvious that the android was just that, people interacting with her (if I may assign the machine a gender) unconsciously wanted to believe that she was real. “More importantly, we have found that people forget she is an android while interacting with her. Consciously, it is easy to see that she is an android, but unconsciously, we react to the android as if she were a woman” [Whitehouse 2005]. This reaction to the machine may be attributed to her appearance: she appears as real as the doll. Repliee represents innocence. Like the doll, she is the human form perfected, if degraded in her intelligence.

The following year, Hiroshi Ishiguro unveiled his latest work: Geminoid HI-1. Created in his own image, Geminoid repeats the realism of Repliee, but this time integrating telepresence into the machine, so that Ishiguro can control and speak through the android remotely, creating a simulated intelligence [Hornyak 2006]. With this system, the human interactor need no longer slip into the unconscious to treat the android as if it was a man. The tele-present intelligence matches human intelligence, as does the mechanical body match in appearance the organic body, to make the bot completely believable in its form.

Raised from the pages of science fiction possibilities, as an external, idealized entity with which we interact, Geminoid HI-1 functions as a perfected being. But the doll or android alone could never fulfill our lustful search for innocence. It is only a unidimensional projection of perfection, not perfection itself. Our surroundings, our reality, remains limited and flawed, “too small for human imagination” [Laurel 1992:87]. In the quest for innocence, we must turn to a full-scale modification of our reality. The android raises possibilities in this direction. It not only allows us to fulfill the common wish of the industrial capitalist to be in two places at once, but also promises a manifestation in physical form of our idealized avatar, not simply one stagnant, but one through which we can act, interact, and even live. It is a titillating hint of the possibility of full cyborgization. But before the avatar can be manifest as an objective form that we would consider real, it must first be explored and constructed elsewhere. It must be placed within a perfected environment. Virtual reality allows us this possibility.

In the words of Brenda Laurel, virtual reality is a “manifestation of the age-old desire to make our fantasies palpable — our insatiable need to exercise our imagination, judgment, and spirit in world, situations, and personae that are different from our everyday lives” [Laurel 1992:87]. The earliest form of this is the moving picture, that “most beautiful fraud” [Wikipedia 2008]. Entering the darkened cinema, senses not required for the visual experience are themselves dimmed. We find ourselves immersed in the action on screen. Our emotions are tied to those mythic characters who appear human, save for in the way which would expel them from the virtual reality of the silver screen and link them with us; save for their achievement of innocence. The troubles of the characters end up solved, they do not bleed, perhaps they can even fly. Their world is clean, everything perfected for the action of the character. It is a constructed Eden. Preserved on celluloid or silicon, the forms are immortal. With computers, we are able to intimately control these characters. The level of realism is increased another mark.

In the modern virtual environment (rendered or not), we act out our own wants and desires. A perfected avatar within a perfected environment. Death is preventable — we need only yell “Reset!” to boot ourselves out of peril [Oshii 2001] — but if it does occur, it is only a minor setback. We have powers and possibilities not available in the world of our daily experience. With enough time and effort, perhaps we ourselves can even become god-like, leveling up and reaching ever so much higher than ever before. Rather than only observing our perfected abstractions, such as with dolls, virtual reality allows action to take place through them, and it facilitates this within a constructed paradise.

Accessing the Internet is an integral part of this quest for regaining innocence. Plugging ourselves in, our consciousness melds with the vast global network. The darkness of the desert of the real disappears to the blinding light of cyberspace. Our bounded consciousness is unleashed in to the greater nodal network. We may harvest data from an immense library of both knowledge and experience. The internet brings us closer to god: it is nothing short of the Tower of Babel, allowing all humanity to interact and, in that interaction, reach a more perfected state. Here, in this city of flowing light, we are all immortal entities, able to shift our perfected forms into any shape we see fit.

But the knowledge that this is a facade can never be lost. It ever looms over the experience, waiting to shock us rudely as we log out of the virtual world and enter the reality of everyday experience. We may plug ourselves in, but our consciousness remains aware that it is an experience bounded, with those borders separate from the borders of our daily reality. Enter hyperreality: a reality constructed with elements of the non-real. It is an augmented truth, which is in itself not a lie, but truth. Unlike virtual reality, fantasy is not bounded in the hyperreal. The reality fully stimulates the senses: the unconscious, and the conscious. With the ability to augment our reality without the need for a suspension of disbelief — without the notion of disbelief itself — we can climb to the very top of Nimrod’s tower. Hyperreality, smugly, promises godliness.

Jean Baudrillard describes the hyperreal as “a real without origin or reality” [Baudrillard 1994:1]. He and other philosophers of the hyperreal draw on a short story penned by Jorge Luis Borges. In the story, the ruler of a vast empire causes a map of his territories to be drawn. It so detailed that the map was the very size of the empire. It covers the land, and becomes indistinguishable from the territory itself [Borges]. Baudrillard treats this fable as “the most beautiful allegory of simulation” [Baudrillard 1994:1], but in his analysis of the fable, Baudrillard claims that the difference between the map and the reality has disappeared. It is not that we mistake the map for the territory, but that there is no difference.

Umberto Eco discusses the wax work museums of America as a simulacra demonstrative of a hyperreal experience. Here, “copies” of original paintings are presented, but fuller and more real than the original. They surpass and placate any desire to experience the original. These reproductions themselves become real. The lighting, music, and even the temperature of the room are all augmented to match the scene and provide a more full sensory experience. Imitations improving reality. The wax creations are simulacra: copies without originals [Eco 1990].

The hyperreality not only manifests our ideals, but integrates them into our own experience such that they become indistinguishable from truth — indeed, such that they become truth. War by Hollywood and CNN. The American West sanitized, idealized, and regurgitated through John Wayne and Clint Eastwood. It promises a world which we can control completely — solipsism in action, for even if the real is objective and separate from the mind, it can be reprogrammed completely to the liking of the individual. “[Hyperreality] surpasses traditional and natural reality in brilliance, richness, and pliability” [Borgmann 1992:83].

Heinz Pagel offers an explanation for the existence of the simulacra of reality: “A good simulation… gives us a sense of mastery over our experience. To represent something symbolically, as we do when we speak or write, is somehow to capture it, thus making it one’s own. But with this appropriation comes the realization that we have denied the immediacy of reality and that in creating a substitute we have but spun another thread into the web of our grand illusion” [Pagel 1989:88]. In that the simulation demonstrates mastery over the simulation, Pagel is correct. But he takes a dim view of this, relegating it to only “another thread” in a “grand illusion”. He misses, it seems, that this mastery may not be an illusion — or, rather, that the illusion ceases to be an illusion as it comes into existence. It is an altering of reality, not something fake, but as real as that which was altered.

A critic of the post-human, N. Katherine Hayles claims that “hyperreality does not erase [the borders separating simulations from reality], for they exist whether we recognize them or not; it only erases them from our consciousness” [Hayles 1991]. Yet this seems only a description of virtual reality. Hyperreality is a stage further, also erasing the borders in our unconscious. It does not tread too close to solipsism, I think, to say that with both the conscious and unconscious blissfully unaware of the separation between simulation and reality, the distinction no longer exists. It is not ignoring the borders till they go away — we do not know what to ignore in the first place. Erased from the mind, they are erased from existence.

Jennifer Cypher and Eric Higgs explore Disney’s Wilderness Lodge in Orlando as an extreme hyperreality. It is crafted as a perfected conglomerate of National Park lodges from the American Northwest. “The real thing only better, wilderness without dirt or danger.” Through its augmentation, this sanitized simulacra achieves dominance over the reality the lodge is modeled on — but it is a real thing itself. To those who stay in the lodge, but never glimpse that which it is modeled on, the Wilderness Lodge is an accurate representation of reality, an irony of contradictions [Haraway 1991:434]. The totem poles, “stone inlaid with designs suggesting Navajo and Hopi blanket patterns”, and “teepee-shaped light fixtures” are, like Disney’s Native Americans in Peter Pan, artifacts of a history that wasn’t quite, but through our story-telling, become real. And why shouldn’t they? To forget the American government’s perpetuation of genocide, to eliminate the mosquito from the forest: it is an agreeable rewriting of the truth. It makes our past, our present, and our future more bearable. As the authors write, “the lodge reproduces and represents something which does not exist… it is truly a copy without an original” [Cypher].

As our environment is improved, so too our selves. The body and the mind both live vicariously, augmenting their state and form in relation to perceived reality. We seek to drown ourselves in the amniotic ocean of the womb.

Mamoru Oshii explores hyperreality in his film Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence. In the film’s world, metal has meshed with meat such that cyborgs represent normality, and the organic human — even one with a synthetic brain — is the exception. Japan’s culture, ever loving of its dolls, has progressed so that autonomous humanoid robots are common, filling functions both of work and pleasure. The film centers on a small law enforcement unit attempting to answer why a new model of androids have begun to self-destruct. The world portrayed is a perfect hyperreality. The characters, as cyborgs, are ever jacked in to a seemingly infinite data network, allowing themselves to unbind their consciousness — or ghosts, as the film has it. The fleshy parts of the human body have been replaced, so that while they tend still to maintain the appearance of humanoid normalcy, body parts are synthetic and mechanical; under warranty, owned, and able to be replaced or upgraded. When online, the character’s vision of meatspace fuses seamlessly with the virtual world, negating the difference between the real and the virtual. Planes and submarines take on organic forms, with bird-like wings and fish-like fins [Oshii 2004]. It is a meshing of flesh and machine, an abomination.

In this hyperreality, the android dolls, often indistinguishable from the cyborg human, disrupt order by self-destructing or, as one character (modeled on cyborg theorist Donna Haraway) puts it, committing suicide. At film’s end, the cyborg protagonist discovers that the android suicide is caused by the ghost in the shell. The doll manufacturer, seeking a cheaper and more believable alternative to artificial intelligence, had kidnapped children, copying their ghost into the cyber-brain of the dolls. As the ghost cannot exist in two places at once, this “ghost-dubbing” kills the child, effectively moving the child’s consciousness into the doll. The children were not terribly thrilled by their forced shift from animal to machine, and kill themselves to draw attention to their plight.

The world of the film is, as the title suggests, an extreme representation of the technologically mediated quest for innocence. It shows us the doll become human, and the human become doll. Yet Oshii reveals that this quest for the abstraction of innocence both within the self and outside the self achieves only more flaws and imperfection.

With the body augmented by cybernetics, our humanness replaced with the post-human, and our identification not as a biological organism, but as a cyborg, we turn ourselves into dolls. Prolonged life, replaceable limbs. As we connect our minds to the vastness of a global computer network, our bounded consciousness spreads, transcending our meager human grey-matter. This hyperreal, cybernetic simulacra, projected by Oshii’s film, is a convergence of the threads in our search for innocence. A melding of technologies and thought permeating the body and the environment [Laurel 2000]; information reprogrammed, augmenting our being, transcending our nature, reaching ever closer to the infinite mind of the universe.

In The Myth of the Eternal Return, Mircea Eliade illustrates an ontology for “archaic man”. His analysis of primitive myth leads him to the conclusion that, in this archaic ontology, no action has meaning except in as much as it replicates the action of a mythic being “in illo tempore“. He cites this as an attempt to return to an animal state of innocence; a “nostalgia for the lost paradise… [A paradise] with the image of an ideal humanity enjoying beatitude and spiritual plenitude forever unrealizable in the present state of ‘fallen man’… [A] very distant epoch when men knew neither death nor toil nor suffering” [Eliada 2005:3].

Eliade errs only in limiting his illustration to the Other. This yearning — this nostalgia — for innocence has not been limited to our ancestors or our primitive brethren. We are all creatures of myth. The quest is a phenomena that spans time and culture, weaving the whole of our species into a web of common human existence — a “desperate effort not to lose contact with being” [Eliada 2005:3-92].

Yet with the possibilities offered by the technologies of today and tomorrow, the quest threatens to disconnect us from both our selves and our neighbors. The hyperreal, simulacra of an existence is no longer a way to live in the world, but a way to live outside of it. It is a product of a mythos that no longer resonates with our experience of being. Not until our experiences are justified by the sacred will we be satisfied with the profane. Rather than augmenting our experience, we must augment our myth. We need a new myth. A myth in which we are neither perfect nor fallen. A myth with the ability to live. Even within our literate culture — a culture which often shuns oral, living documents — we must dream a collective cosmology that can integrate itself into our existence and shift with the dynamic flowing of time.

Works Cited

Baudrillard, Jean. 1994 Simulacra and Simulation. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press.

Borges, Jorge Luis. On Exactitude in Science, Electronic document, https://notes.utk.edu/bio/greenberg.nsf/0/f2d03252295e0d0585256e120009adab?OpenDocument, accessed April 28 2008.

Borgmann, Albert. 1992 Crossing the Post-Modern Divide. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Cypher, Jennifer and Eric Higgs. Colonizing the Imagination: Disney’s Wilderness Lodge. Electronic document, http://www.ethics.ubc.ca/papers/invited/cypher-higgs.html, accessed April 22 2008.

Eco, Umberto. 1990 Travels In Hyperreality. Fort Washington: Harvest Books.

Eliada, Mircea 2005 The Myth of the Eternal Return: Cosmos and History. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Haraway, Donna J. 1991 A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century. In Sex/Machine: Readings in Culture, Gender, and Technology. Patrick D. Hopkins, ed. Pp. 434-467. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Hayles, N. Katherine. 1991 In Response to Jean Baudrillard: The Borders of Madness. Electronic document, http://www.depauw.edu/SFs/backissues/55/forum55.htm, accessed May 16 2008.

Hornyak, Tim. 2006 Meet the Remote-Control Self. Electronic document, http://www.wired.com/science/discoveries/news/2006/07/71426, accessed May 01 2008.

Laurel, Brenda. 1992 Quoted In Virtual Reality: The Revolutionary Technology of Computer-Generated Artificial Worlds - and How It Promises to Transform Society. Howard Rheingold. Pp. 87. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Laurel, Brenda. 2000 Tools for Knowing, Judging, and Taking Action in the 21st Century. Electronic document, http://www.tauzero.com/Brenda_Laurel/Recent_Talks/ToolsForKnowing.html, accessed May 15 2008.

Oshii, Mamoru. 2001 Avalon. 106 min. Bandai Visual Company. Tokyo.

Oshii, Mamoru. 2004 Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence. 100 min. Bandai Visual Company. Tokyo.

Pagel, Heinz. 1989 The Dreams of Reason. New York: Bantam Books.

Sharp, Jasper 2004 Innocence. Electronic document, http://www.midnighteye.com/reviews/innocence.shtml, accessed April 20.

Whitehouse, David. 2005 Japanese develop ‘female’ android. Electronic document, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/4714135.stm, accessed April 20 2008.

Wikipedia. 2008 Jean-Luc Godard. Electronic document, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean-Luc_Godard, accessed May 15 2008.

Wilde, Oscar Miscellanies. Electronic document, http://www.gutenberg.org/files/14062/14062.txt, accessed May 15 2008.

An Ubuntu VPS on Slicehost: Basic Setup

As mentioned previously, I’ve recently moved this domain over to Slicehost. What follows is Part One of a guide, compiled from my notes, to setting up an Ubuntu Hardy VPS. See also Part Two, Part Three, and Part Four.

Slicehost has an excellent article repository, containing guides on a number of subjects. After building a fresh Slice, you should first follow Part 1 and Part 2 of Slicehost’s basic setup articles.

I use slightly different coloring in my bash prompt, so, rather than what Slicehost suggests in their article, I add the following to ~/.bashrc:

export PS1='\[\033[0;32m\]\u@\[\033[0;35m\]\h\[\033[0;33m\] \w\[\033[00m\]: '

This is a good time to protect SSH by installing DenyHosts, which I discuss here:

$ sudo aptitude install denyhosts

Ubuntu’s default text editor is nano, which I abhor. Real men use vim. Ubuntu comes with a slimmed down version of vim, but you’ll probably want the full version:

$ sudo aptitude install vim

To change the global default editor variable, execute the following and select the editor of your choice:

$ sudo update-alternatives --config editor

This is also a perfect time to install GNU Screen.

$ sudo aptitude install screen

If you’re not familiar with Screen, Red Hat Magazine has a nice little introduction

My .screenrc looks like this:

# Print a pretty line at the bottom of the screen
hardstatus alwayslastline
hardstatus string '%{= kG}[ %{G}%H %{g}][%= %{=kw}%?%-Lw%?%{r}(%{W}%n*%f%t%?(%u)%?%{r})%{w}%?%+Lw%?%?%= %{g}][%{Y}%Y-%m-%d %{W}%c %{g}]'

# Nobody likes startup messages
startup_message off

# Turn visual bell on and set the message to display for only a fraction of a second
vbell on
vbellwait .3

# Set default shell title to blank
shelltitle ''

# Gimme my scrollback!
defscrollback 5000

# Change command character to backtick
escape ``

# Stop programs (like vim) from leaving their contents
# in the window after they exit
altscreen on

# Default screens
screen -t shell 0

I prefer to have my bash profile setup to connect me to Screen as soon as I login. If there are no running sessions, it will create one. If there is a current session, it will disconnect the session from wherever it is connected and connect it to my login. When I disconnect from screen, it automatically logs me out. To achieve this, I add the following to ~/.bashrc:

# If possible, reattach to an existing session and detach that session
# elsewhere. If not possible, create a new session.
if [ -z "$STY" ]; then
    exec screen -dR

I would also recommend following Slicehost’s guide to installing chkrootkit and rkhunter.

One more thing: let’s set the timezone of the server to whatever is local to you (Slicehost’s Ubuntu image defaults to UTC). To do that, run:

$ sudo dpkg-reconfigure tzdata

Next up: install a web server.

An Ubuntu VPS on Slicehost: Mail

As mentioned previously, I’ve recently moved this domain over to Slicehost. What follows is Part Three of a guide, compiled from my notes, to setting up an Ubuntu Hardy VPS. See also Part One, Part Two, and Part Four.

Last week I moved this domain’s email to Google Apps. Slicehost has a guide to creating MX records for Google Apps. I have a couple other domains with Google Apps, along with a couple domains hosted locally with addresses that simply forward to my primary, Google hosted, email. I also need to send mail from the server. To accomplish all of this, I use Postfix.

Installing Postfix is a simple matter. Telnet is used quite a bit for testing, so I install that too:

$ sudo aptitude install postfix telnet mailutils

The Postfix setup will ask how it should be installed — we want the “Internet Site” option — and then ask you for your fully qualified domain name.

Done? Let’s make sure Postfix is running:

$ telnet localhost 25

If it’s working Postfix should return:

Connected to localhost.
Escape character is '^]'.
220 localhost ESMTP Postfix (Ubuntu)

Let’s send a test message from root to the user account user (replace that with whatever your standard user is):

ehlo localhost
mail from: root@localhost
rcpt to: user@localhost
Subject: Test
Hi, is this thing on?

Now, check your email as user by running mail. See the message? Good.

Open /etc/postfix/main.cf to make sure that Postfix knows what domains it’s receiving mail for. To do this, edit the mydestination variable to include all the proper domains. For me, the name of my server looks like server.mydomain.com. I want Postfix to accept mail for that domain, but not for mydomain.com (since that’s being handled by Google Apps), so mine looks like:

mydestination = server.mydomain.com, localhost.mydomain.com , localhost

Restart Postfix if you made any changes:

$ sudo /etc/init.d/postfix restart

Right. Now let’s send another test. Notice this time we’re using full domain names, instead of localhost:

$ telnet server.mydomain.com 25

ehlo server.mydomain.com
mail from: root@server.mydomain.com
rcpt to: user@server.mydomain.com
Subject: domains!
woot... I think this works.

Working? Good.

Let’s test from the outside. The first step is to open up the correct ports in the firewall. Assuming you have iptables configured in the way the Slicehost article suggests, open up your /etc/iptables.test.rules and add the following:

# Allow mail server connections
-A INPUT -p tcp -m state --state NEW --dport 25 -j ACCEPT

Now let’s apply the rules:

$ sudo iptables-restore < /etc/iptables.test.rules

Make sure everything looks dandy:

$ sudo iptables -L

If it meets your fancy, save the rules:

$ sudo -i
$ iptables-save > /etc/iptables.up.rules

And now, from your local computer, let’s test it out.

$ telnet server.mydomain.com 25

ehlo server.mydomain.com
mail from: root@server.mydomain.com
rcpt to: user@server.mydomain.com
Subject: remote connection test
Hello, you.

Now check your mail on the mail server as before. Once again, everything should be working.

Now we need to setup a virtual domain. Remember, I don’t want any virtual users. I only want aliases at a virtual domain to forward to my primary email address. That makes this relatively simple. (Be very, very happy. You should have seen this guide before, when I was still hosting virtual domains with virtual users!) Open up /etc/postfix/main.cf and add the following:

virtual_alias_domains = myvirtualdomain.com
virtual_alias_maps = hash:/etc/postfix/virtual

Create the /etc/postfix/virtual file referenced above and add the aliases:

alias@myvirtualdomain.com       user@mydomain.com

Turn it into a database:

$ cd /etc/postfix
$ sudo postmap virtual

Restart Postfix:

$ sudo /etc/init.d/postfix restart

Attempt to send an email to the new alias at the virtual domain:

$ telnet server.mydomain.com 25
ehlo server.mydomain.com
mail from: root@server.mydomain.com
rcpt to: alias@myvirtualdomain.com
Subject: virtual domain test
I hope this works!

The message should now be in your primary email inbox!

As long as we’re setting up forwards, let’s forward system account mail to somewhere where it’ll actually get read. To do so, create a ~/.forward file with the following contents:


Let’s also create a /root/.forward, so that roots mail gets forwarded to my local account (where it is then forwarded to my primary email). Root’s forward would simply read:


Next up: install Wordpress with rewrites. (Previously, we did a basic setup and installed a web server.)

An Ubuntu VPS on Slicehost: Web Server

As mentioned previously, I’ve recently moved this domain over to Slicehost. What follows is Part Two of a guide, compiled from my notes, to setting up an Ubuntu Hardy VPS. See also Part One, Part Three, Part Four.

Now we’ve got a properly configured, but idle, box. Let’s do something with it.

Nginx is a small, lightweight web server that’s all the rage on some small corners of the Net. Apache is extremely overkill for a small personal web server like this and, since we’re limited to 256MB of RAM on this VPS, it quickly becomes a resource hog. Lighttpd is another small, lightweight web server, but I’m a fan of Nginx. Try it out.

First, we need to install the web server. Nginx is now in Ubuntu’s repositories:

$ sudo aptitude install nginx

That’s all it takes in Hardy, but if you really want a guide for it, Slicehost has you covered.

Slicehost has a few more useful guides to Nginx, including introductions to the config layout and how to get started with vhosts:

Next up, we’ll need to install MySQL and PHP, and get them working with Nginx.

Slicehost has a guide for installing MySQL and Ruby on Rails, which also includes suggestions on optimizing MySQL. I follow the MySQL part of the guide, stopping at “Ruby on Rails install”.

Now MySQL is working, lets install PHP:

$ sudo aptitude install php5-common php5-cgi php5-mysql php5-cli

To get PHP as FastCGI working with Nginx, we first have to spawn the fcgi process. There are a few different ways to do that. Personally, I use the spawn-fcgi app from lighttpd. To use it, we’ll compile and make lighttpd, but not install it. We’re only after one binary.

Lighttpd has a few extra requirements, so let’s install those:

$ sudo aptitude install libpcre3-dev libbz2-dev

Now, download the source and compile lighttpd. Then copy the spawn-fcgi binary to /usr/bin/:

$ wget http://www.lighttpd.net/download/lighttpd-1.4.19.tar.gz
$ tar xvzf lighttpd-1.4.19.tar.gz
$ cd lighttpd-1.4.19
$ ./configure
$ make
$ sudo cp src/spawn-fcgi /usr/bin/spawn-fcgi

Then, create a script to launch spawn-fci (I call it /usr/bin/php5-fastcgi):

/usr/bin/spawn-fcgi -a -p 9000 -u www-data -C 2 -f /usr/bin/php5-cgi

The script tells spawn-fcgi to launch a fastcgi process, listening on 127.0.01:9000, owned by the web user, with only 2 child processes. You may want more child processes, but I’ve found 2 to be optimal.

Give the script permissions:

$ sudo chmod +x /usr/bin/php5-fastcgi

I then link the script filename to a version-neutral, err, version:

$ sudo ln -s /usr/bin/php5-fastcgi /usr/bin/php-fastcgi

Now we need an init script to start the process at boot. I use this one from HowToForge, named /etc/init.d/fastcgi:

case "$1" in
        echo "Starting fastcgi"
        echo "Stopping fastcgi"
        killall -9 php5-cgi
        echo "Restarting fastcgi"
        killall -9 php5-cgi
        echo "Usage: php-fastcgi {start|stop|restart}"
        exit 1
exit $RETVAL

Give it permissions:

$ sudo chmod 755 /etc/init.d/fastcgi

Start it:

$ sudo /etc/init.d/fastcgi start

Have it start at boot:

$ sudo update-rc.d fastcgi defaults

Alright, now that PHP is running how we want it to, let’s tell Nginx to talk to it. To do that, add the following to your vhost server block in /etc/nginx/sites-available/mydomain.com, making sure to change the SCRIPT_FILENAME variable to match your directory structure:

location ~ \.php$ {
    fastcgi_index  index.php;
    fastcgi_param  SCRIPT_FILENAME  /home/user/public_html/mydomain.com/public$fastcgi_script_name;
    include        /etc/nginx/fastcgi.conf;

Now let’s create that /etc/nginx/fastcgi.conf file that’s being included above. As per the Nginx wiki article, mine looks like this:

fastcgi_param  GATEWAY_INTERFACE  CGI/1.1;
fastcgi_param  SERVER_SOFTWARE    nginx;
fastcgi_param  QUERY_STRING       $query_string;
fastcgi_param  REQUEST_METHOD     $request_method;
fastcgi_param  CONTENT_TYPE       $content_type;
fastcgi_param  CONTENT_LENGTH     $content_length;
fastcgi_param  REQUEST_URI        $request_uri;
fastcgi_param  DOCUMENT_URI       $document_uri;
fastcgi_param  DOCUMENT_ROOT      $document_root;
fastcgi_param  SERVER_PROTOCOL    $server_protocol;
fastcgi_param  REMOTE_ADDR        $remote_addr;
fastcgi_param  REMOTE_PORT        $remote_port;
fastcgi_param  SERVER_ADDR        $server_addr;
fastcgi_param  SERVER_PORT        $server_port;
fastcgi_param  SERVER_NAME        $server_name;

Then restart Nginx:

$ sudo /etc/init.d/nginx restart

Let’s create a file named test.php in your domain’s public root to see if everything is working. Inside, do something like printing phpinfo.

Go to http://mydomain.com/test.php. See it? Good. If you get “no input file specified” or somesuch, you broke something.

If you create an index.php, and delete any index.html or index.htm you might have, you’ll notice Nginx throws a 403 Forbidden error. To fix that, find the line in your vhost config (/etc/nginx/sites-available/mydomain.com) under the location / block that reads index index.html; and change it to index index.php index.html;. Then restart Nginx.

If you want SSL with your Nginx, Slicehost has a guide for generating the certificate and another guide for installing it.

You’ll want to install OpenSSL first:

$ sudo aptitude install openssl

There is one bug in the second guide. In the first server module listening on port 443, which forwards www.domain1.com to domain1.com, the rewrite rule specifies the http protocol. So, in effect, what that rule does is forward you from a secure domain to unsecure: https://www.domain1.com to http://domain1.com. We want it to forward to a secure domain. Simply change the rewrite rule like thus:

rewrite ^/(.*) https://domain1.com permanent;

Next up: install a mail server. (Previously, we did a basic setup.)

An Ubuntu VPS on Slicehost: Wordpress

As mentioned previously, I’ve recently moved this domain over to Slicehost. What follows is Part Four of a guide, compiled from my notes, to setting up an Ubuntu Hardy VPS. See also Part One, Part Two, and Part Three.

I prefer to install Wordpress via Subversion, which makes updating easier. We’ll have to install Subversion on the server first:

$ sudo aptitude install subversion

After that, the Wordpress Codex has a guide to the rest of the install.

Nothing further is needed, unless you want fancy rewrites. In that case, we’ll have to make a change to your Nginx vhost config at /etc/nginx/sites-available/mydomain.com. Add the following to your server block under location / {:

# wordpress fancy rewrites
if (-f $request_filename) {
 if (-d $request_filename) {
  rewrite ^(.+)$ /index.php?q=$1 last;

While we’re here, I usually tell Nginx to cache static files by adding the following right above thelocation / { block:

# serve static files directly
location ~* ^.+\.(jpg|jpeg|gif|png|ico|zip|tgz|gz|rar|bz2|doc|xls|exe|pdf|ppt|txt|tar|mid|midi|wav|bmp|rtf|css)$ {
    root  /home/user/public_html/mydomain.com/public;
    expires 7d;

That’ll go in the https server section, too. Now, enable rewrites in your Wordpress config. I use the following “custom” structure:


Then, restart Nginx:

$ sudo /etc/init.d/nginx restart

And there you have it! You know have a working, new web server and mail server.

(Previously, we did a basic setup, installed a web server, and installed a mail server.)


Another redesign! This one only 6 months from the last. How remarkable is that?

The base template and heavy CSS of the last design made this change relatively simple. This time around, I’m using YUI Reset and YUI Fonts. I started using both of them a month or two ago on a couple other sites. It’s hard to imagine building a site without them now. They take a lot of headaches out of CSS.

This design is not using YUI Grids. I have used it before, but I don’t think it offers any benefit with this kind of design. It’s more suited toward a content intensive site with many nested divisions. Something like Yahoo’s front page.

You’ll also notice a Twitter feed on the top of the index page. I’ve been trying to figure out what the appeal of Twitter is, but so far, it’s escaped me. I figured embedding tweets on the site would provide extra encouragement for me to try it out. I think Twitter may lend itself to my summer on the road, too. So, we’ll see how long that lasts. It seems to be noticeably slow, so I might have to find another way to pull the data.

Another new feature is tags. I started tagging posts a while ago, but haven’t displayed them till now. The majority of posts are not tagged. Maybe someday I’ll go back and tag the 1,300 old posts — but I doubt it.

Some kinks of the design are still being worked out, but if you notice anything strange — whether it be from the redesign, server move, or mail move — let me know.

A Move to Slicehost

Yesterday I moved this domain over to Slicehost.

Ian first told me about Slicehost when we were both looking to move away from Dreamhost last November. Initially, we both intended to find another shared host, but that proved far too difficult — it seems most hosting companies have something against shared hosting with decent limits and ssh access (that last part is the kicker).

I signed up with Slicehost at the end of last year and tinkered around with it for a month or so, experimenting with setting up the server in different ways. Eventually, I found an Ubuntu-Nginx-PHP-MySQL-Postfix-Dovecot setup that I enjoyed, and one which I was comfortable administering. In the beginning of the year, I moved a couple of my domains over to the Slice. It’s been a great experience. I’m not sure why it took me 6 months to finally move this domain — my primary one — over. Running a VPS is deceivingly simple* and well worth the effort. If you’re currently running on a shared host and have some basic competency in a UNIX environment, I’d recommend giving it a shot.

In a bit I’ll post a series of guides, compiled from my notes, on how I setup the server.

  • It’s deceivingly simple if you’re not running a full mail server with virtual users running around everywhere. That part was a pain. Hence, the move to Google.

This post was published on . It was tagged with slicehost, vps.

Google Apps

Last week I outsourced my email to Google Apps.

For years, my paranoia has prevented me from moving my mail. I never liked the idea of Google parsing through each message for keywords to generate ads. In fact, I usually don’t even allow Google to cookie me. But now most of my regular email contacts have started using GPG. Enough of my mail is now encrypted that I’m comfortable with Google.

I haven’t decided yet if I prefer the Gmail interface or Thunderbird. In the web interface, I use FireGPG for signing and d/encrypting, which of courses places signatures inline. Since I’m jumping back and forth between that and Thunderbird/Enigmail, in order to maintain some measure of consistency, I’ve told Enigmail to sign inline instead of using PGP/Mime. It is a bit annoying, and will probably frighten the sheeple, but that’s the way it is for now.

So, please encrypt all email. And if you don’t, be aware that Google is reading it.



Walking itself is the intentional act closest to the unwilled rhythms of the body, to breathing and the beating of the heart. It strikes a delicate balance between working and idling, being and doing. It is a bodily labor that produces nothing but thoughts, experiences, arrivals. … [T]he mind, the body, and the world are aligned, as though they were three characters finally in conversation together, three notes suddenly making a chord. Walking allows us to be in our bodies and in the world without being made busy by them. It leaves us free to think without being wholly lost on our thoughts. - Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust

Sole and Superfeet

Last March, I used part of my REI dividend on a pair of Sole Ed Viesturs Ultra Cushion footbeds. Prior to this, I’d been using Green Superfeet in my Lowa Renegade boots.

When I pulled the Green Superfeet out of my boots and attempted to install the new Sole footbeds to insure I had a proper fit, they were quite hard to insert — much harder than the Superfeet. I took them out and compared them with the Superfeet to see if they wanted trimming, but they appeared only a millimeter or so longer. They were, though, much thicker than the Superfeet — particular in the arch area — which was what, I deduced, made the fit a bit more tight.

So, I tried inserting them again, this time shoving them almost all the way in, then put in my feet to force the footbeds into place. I felt around a good deal to assure myself that there was no bunching at the toe, then took them out again and popped them in the oven.

Sole includes a sticker on the bottom of one of the pair that turns from silver to black when properly heated. They claim that 2 minutes in a 200F oven should do it, but that, if not, give ‘em 5 minutes, then assume the sticker is defective and stick the footbeds into your boots anyway. Well, it actually took 6 minutes in my oven at 200F. After the sticker had turned black, I stuck the footbeds into my boots, laced them up, and stood up straight, feet shoulder-width apart, toes pointed forward, for two minutes. The warmth was actually quite pleasant, particularly on a cold, wet day.

An aside on Superfeet:

I purchased my first pair of Green Superfeet last summer while working for the National Park Service. My footwear at the time was a pair of Merrell Sawtooth boots — easily the stiffest, most uncomfortable boot I’ve ever worn. Any more than 6-7 miles in those and my feet would start to develop an ache. And going over ridges: that was absolutely no fun. The boots were completely lacking in support during downhill endeavors — which, to be fair, was not entirely the boots’ fault. My arches aren’t completely collapsed, but I do have flat feet, which, as you may know, equals zero shock absorption. So when I traversed my way down a rocky slope in the Sawtooths, I felt it. Shortly after purchasing the boots, but long enough after that I felt I had broken them in as much as I could, I went out and bought the Green Superfeet. The difference was stark. Really quite amazing. They were hard and awkward for about the first week, but after that break-in period, the Superfeet turned the Merrell Sawtooths into completely acceptable boots. I could log far more miles, over any terrain, with any slope, all without ache. They were great. When I left the park, I bought a second pair of Superfeet, this time for my 5.11 HRT boots, in the hopes that I could breathe a little more life into them. Alas, it was for naught. Even with the Superfeet, I had to admit to myself that the 5.11s were at the end of their life.

While I would certainly call the Superfeet supportive, I’m not sure I’d term them comfortable. And in fact, Superfeet claims that the insoles should not be comfortable. If it felt like one was walking on a soft mattress, the insoles wouldn’t be giving the feet any support. I don’t know much about feet, but the argument makes sense to me. Personally, while moving with the Superfeet, I had no complaints, but standing still for more than a few minutes, they would start to become noticable uncomfortable. Not painful, but uncomfortable. The discomfort originated in the arch area of the footbed, which I felt was too high for me. A bit like if I had a small ping pong ball or somesuch under my arch. Again, I don’t know much about feet, but this made complete sense to me. My feet are flat, thus I have very little shock absorption. The Superfeet provide shock absorption, thus they must be pushing up my arch. So I couldn’t, and still can’t, complain.

While I’m here, I’d like to make a comment on Superfeet sizing. My boot size is a US 9.5. Superfeet classifies their insoles by letters. Their size E equates to shoe sizes US 9.5-11. I’ve used size E Superfeet in three different pairs of boots (all size 9.5), and it’s always been a perfect fit. No trimming necessary. Great for me, but if you happen to be size US 11, I’d be a little weary. Definitely buy them from a store with a decent return policy, as you may find yourself wanting to upgrade to size F.

But when I heard about Sole, who made footbeds that actually molded themselves to the wearers feet, and that wearers often termed them as not only supportive, but comfortable, I was intrigued. I thought perhaps they could reach a pleasant medium between pressing up the arch for support, but not pressing it up too much.

Back to Sole:

After the initial 2 minute molding process, I walked around them a short while. An immediate, very stark difference from the Superfeet was evident. The Soles were, in fact, comfortable. The level of comfort worried me, actually. I feared they wouldn’t give me any support what-so-ever.

I have by now logged enough mileage, over enough terrain, under enough of a load to over a verdict: thumbs up. The comfort, compared to the Superfeet, allows me to to travel slightly greater mileages in the same boots than before.

I still keep the Green Superfeet in my running shoes, but I, personally, find the Sole footbeds superior. I would caution that feet are extremely variable, and the merits of both Superfeet and Sole are strong, but, it would seem, complimentary to different foot types. Experiment!

There is absolutely no reason not to purchase a pair of non-standard insoles for your footwear — even with good boots. The thin, non-supportive, flimsy things that manufacturers include standard cannot match a custom pair. I expect the majority of those reading this site probably recognize their feet as extremely valuable assets, and are not unaccustomed to spending uncommonly large sums of money on a good pair of boots and socks. So do yourself a favor, take the next step, and buy decent insoles. There is little less valuable in this world than mobility, and, whatever brand they may be, custom insoles will allow you to go harder, better, faster, longer.

Badger Brush Cleaning

I’ve been wet shaving now for 6 months. Earlier today, I decided to clean my badger hair brush.

The brush is soaked with soap and water during every use, and there doesn’t seem to much of a consensus online whether that is enough or if a dedicated cleaning is warranted. For those who say the badger hair brush should be occasionally cleaned, the period I most often see is 2-3 months. Performing my first cleaning at 6 months, then, is a little off.

To clean, I mixed a solution of baking soda and lukewarm water into a thick paste. Covering the brush with the paste, I attempted to rub it into the hairs as best I could. This, I let sit for about 3 hours. Then, I thoroughly rinsed the brush with water, drying it as usual.

No animal funk is radiating from the bristles (I actually liked the smell of it new) and the hairs appear to the eye as both fluffy and dark. During the rinse, the brush held as much water as usual.

It seems to have worked.

3-6-08 Update:

I hadn’t really noticed anything to warrant the cleaning — no caked soap, and the brush seemed to hold as much water as ever. Was I ever wrong. During my first use after cleaning, there was a very noticeable difference. The brush held much more water, providing for a better lather. It’s one of those things where the degradation is so slow and gradual that you don’t notice it.

Sex and High Heels

Wajahat Ali has a well worth reading review of “Sex and the City” Through a Man’s Eyes.

I’ve never seen the show, but always assumed it was simply about sex (and maybe a city). Apparently, I was wrong. The tv show and film, according to this review, are at best a regurgitation of every harmful female stereotype, and at worse nothing but an advertisement for mass-consumerism. I can’t understand the appeal in shoes, bags, and dresses individually worth thousands of dollars, much less the appeal in watching fantasized characters discuss and prance about in said items for any extended period of time.

Despite their professed independence, pride, ego-centricism and hedonism, the women were still unhappy and discontent without the acknowledgment of some form of a fulfilling male relationship.

It’s as if feminism never happened! As a male who hasn’t even seen the film, I’m insulted by its portrayal of women. Where does its audience come from, I wonder?

In Femininity and the Electric Car, Virginia Scharff discusses the automobile industry at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries. She analyzes the marketing of electric cars to women and gasoline cars to men as a form of control of female mobility. The electric cars of the day had top speeds of around 25 mph. They had trouble making it up hills and were limited to a circumscribed range of 60-80 miles. This was seen as conforming to the “sphere” of women’s activities. In the end, this absurd notion lost to the reality of gender. In my mind, high heels — repulsive manifestations of some primordial Evil — are but another instance of patriarchal oppression of women’s mobility. Yet, unlike the electric car, women seem to accept them.

Sex and the City, according to the reviewer, has its women strutting proudly down the street in their torture devices as if proclaiming to everyone in the vicinity “I am an oppressed, ignorant creature! Use my body for what pleasures you will, but please don’t allow my genes to reproduce. Think of the children!”

This post was published on . It was tagged with film, feminism.

An Update

It’s been brought to my attention — repeatedly — that I neglected to post anything for the last month and a half. Oops.

I upgraded my macbook to 10.5.3 earlier tonight. Upon reboot, everything was shiny till I attempted to launch Firefox. It did one little bounce in the dock and gave up. Attempting to run it from the terminal in safe mode was no better.

Of course, OS X does its best to insulate the user from the system, so finding useful logs was out of the question. All /var/log/system.log told me was that Firefox exited with error code 1.

In a fit of desperation, I deleted my version of Firefox and downloaded Firefox 3 RC1. After the install, it launched. So now I’m running that less-than-polished software.

I’ve been running the Firefox 3 betas on my Ubuntu machine at work since February or so. Each release seems to get progressively worse: they’re all of them unstable, slow, and have an annoying new address bar. Now that I made the mistake of updating the work machine to Ubuntu 8.04, I’m stuck with using Beta 5 everyday. (Dear Canonical: Please don’t ship stable releases with beta software. Thanks.) I’ve enjoyed coming home to the stable, usable, and speedy Firefox 2.

To be fair, my Firefox 3 experience up to now was limited only to the Linux versions, and I’d not used the release candidate on any platform. So far, RC1 on OS X doesn’t seem too bad.

Kifaru Camping

Saturday’s forecast was for 67F and sun. I’d forgotten what anything above 55F felt like, so I loaded up my ruck and hit the trails. My new Kifaru Parahootch came along for its first night out.


I’m out in this area most weekends, but hadn’t been to this lake before. It was great. Surrounded by a lot of new growth, and only a 13 mile hike. There was even a bench by the lake where I chose to make camp.

This post was published on . It was tagged with kifaru, camp, gear.

More On Water

BBC: Lots of water ‘is little benefit’

UK experts say research which finds drinking lots of water does little to improve health should not discourage people from topping up regularly. A scientific review by the University of Pennsylvania said some people, such as athletes, may need to drink a lot. But they found little evidence that flushing out toxins through drinking copious amounts improved health. … They wrote: “There is no clear evidence of benefit from drinking increased amounts of water. “Although we wish we could demolish all of the urban myths found on the Internet regarding the benefits of supplemental water ingestion, we concede there is also no clear evidence of lack of benefit. “In fact, there is simply a lack of evidence in general.” Looking at other scientific papers revealed that while drinking more water did effect the rate at which various substances were cleared by the kidney, there was no suggestion that this led to any actual health benefits.

I’ve kept on my water diet, with no further news of note to report on it. As the article states, there’s no evidence of benefit or lack of benefit, but, as far as I can tell, it’s not hurting anything.

Tinea Pedis

The week before last, I had a fungal infection on my left foot, marking the first time athlete’s foot has paid me a visit— I’m usually rather good about wearing shoes in public places, sandals in public showers, et cetera. But the combination of barefoot martial arts and wearing socks most all the time (it’s cold! remember, I don’t use heating) — particularly soon after I get out of the shower — gave the fungi a hospitable environment in which to grow.

I noticed it early as an itch on the foot, which was unusual and so warranted research. Google told me that this could be the sign of an infection, so my first thought was to rub Tea Tree Oil over the base of the foot and between the toes. I did this after a shower every day, but after 3 days the foot had begun to look worse. So, I performed further research: what athlete’s foot was, how it grew, and possible remedies. This led to me devising the following schedule (note that I shower in the evenings):

  • Morning:
    • Upon waking, rub the foot with rubbing alcohol (70% isopropyl), which is both cleansing and drying.
    • Before leaving for the day, rub the foot with Tea Tree Oil, an anti-septic.
  • Afternoon:
    • Soak in a garlic bath for 30 minutes, then towel dry.
  • Evening:
    • After shower, powder the foot with Baking Soda.
    • Before bed, rub the foot with Tea Tree Oil.

Observing this schedule, the infection cleared up in 5 days.

Luckily, the temperatures have been rising lately, so I was also able to stop wearing socks whenever home. This gives my feet ample time to dry after the shower, and all night to breathe.

The garlic bath is made by crushing 4 garlic cloves and placing them in a large pot of warm water, with a splash of rubbing alcohol added. It’s quite pleasant, though not recommended for members of the undead.

I Live Here

Home Is Where You Rest Your Ruck Home is where you rest your ruck.

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Duluth Trading Co. Oil Cloth Packer Hat

A good hat keeps the sun out of your face, the rain off your head, and guarantees the wearer always be presented with a sort of respectability and cunning. With a hat on your head, the world seems a more acceptable place.

You see, a man should always wear a hat. I’ve noticed, of course, that you people up here never wear one. But you should, so that you can tip it whenever the occasion demands. - Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain

In years past I was a boonie hat man. Mine would be with me where-ever I went. But I was quick to discover that it did no good in the rain. The cotton would simply suck up the water and chill my head. In the rain, I’d be better off hat-less. For a year thereafter I experimented with synthetic offerings from the likes of Outdoor Research and REI. They have hats for sun and hats for rain, but none that suited me well enough.

Then, a year and a half ago, I tried out Duluth Trading Co.’s Oil Cloth Packer Hat. It has rarely left my head since.

Oil Cloth Packer Hat

It is crushable, packable, breathable, water-resistant, and stylish.

The paracord chin strap is my own addition. It’s needed whenever there’s any wind, and provides a useful attachment point for hooking to my pack. When not in use, it’s stowed as shown in the pictures.

The original color is a deal darker than represented in my pictures, for it’s seen much sun and has been washed a few times throughout the years. Usually I wash it by hand with a bit of Bronner’s Magic Soap in the sink, then let it hang dry in the sun. At the end of last summer, the leather band surrounding the hat was entirely covered in salt crystallized from my sweat, so I tossed it into the washing machine with the rest of my load. It survived, faded but not damaged. Throughout all this wear and washing, the oil finish has thinned and is gone in some places, so the water resiliency is lessened.

I will probably have to replace it before the year is out. Though I have no complaints for Duluth, I think I’ll try a Filson packer hat next. They’re a local brand and have a reputation for quality. Tilley Endurables‘s reputation is unsurpassed by other hatters for quality and durability, but they’re a bit pricey and none of their models have the classic style of the packer hat.

One word of warning for any considering the style: random people tell me at least every other week that I look like Indiana Jones (or, if they’re more intoxicated, “hey, you look that guy with the whip!”) — this despite the fact that Indiana Jones’ hat is clearly a fedora, and my hat clearly is not. With the new film coming out, I imagine these occurrences will only increase.

Tramps like to lie down on their sides a lot. They like to be in the shade and the only way to lie in the shade is on your side. You’re a lucky tramp if you have a hat, that’s good shade, but if you don’t have a hat you’re gonna have a sunburn and not just your face and your arms but your eyeballs, your eyeballs will get beet-red because lots of times there just ain’t anywhere to go to get out of the sun. A tramp ain’t gonna have a cigarette or a drink when he wants one and he don’t think about getting old, he just thinks about getting by, and if a drink of bourbon replaces a drink of water and he’s in the desert, well then he needed that bourbon more than the water, but he’ll take the water with him, case the bourbon dries up. So do yourself a favor and get a good hat. - Eddy Joe Cotton, Hobo

Oil Cloth Packer Hat

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Sit Spot Challenge

A sit spot is an important part of Wilderness Awareness School’s Kamana program. Today, the School announced a challenge to visit a sit spot, 20 minutes a day, for 30 days:

The Sit Spot (also known as the Secret Spot): a surefire way to get to know nature and yourself more intimately… For some of us, going to this place is easy, like breathing. For others, we really want to visit a secret spot regularly, but it is a struggle, and we give up. No matter where you fall on this spectrum, I invite adults and youth of all ages to join Wilderness Awareness Schools’ first 30-Day Sit Spot Challenge! Go to your Secret Spot every day for at least 20 minutes. The starting date is Friday, February 15, 2008 and will continue to March 15, 2008. Rain (or snow), or shine, night or day, blindfolded or sighted, go to that beautiful place and the sky’s the limit. Do a sense meditation. Stalk up on the black cat that stalks the winter wrens. Dance. Build a fire. Whatever it is that you do when you go there, just do it! Even if you’re traveling, sit somewhere each day.

I’ve accepted. Would anyone else like to join in the challenge?


For the past month, I’ve been observing a sort of water diet.

An Iranian fellow, by the name of Dr. Batmanghelidj (or, as most refer to him, Dr. Batman), was of the belief that a deficiency of water in the body can be cited as the cause to near all illnesses and afflictions. A search of his name turns up numerous criticisms of the method, but I thought I’d try it. It’s clear that dehydration can contribute to, if not cause, many ailments, and it’s no leap of faith to call our society chronically dehydrated, what with all the shit we shovel down our throats.

I’ve yet to read Dr. Batman’s book, but built my schedule from the ZehChill blog, which claims the regiment consists of drinking half one’s body weight in ounces per day, along with 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt per 32 ounces water, and avoiding alcohol and caffeine. Now, as I mentioned above, Dr. Batman was Iranian. He was also trained in Scotland and practiced in England. So, it would follow that if he tells us to measure our drink based on body weight, he would be referring to body weight in kilograms, no? Well, the aforementioned blog uses pounds, and, as an American, it’s expected of me to be stubborn and not recognize that the French invented a superior system. So, I’m sticking with pounds.

Luckily, I’m a small guy, so the required amount of water is not difficult to consume. I already avoid alcohol, and the only caffeine I take is the occasional bit from green tea, which I don’t drink terribly often. Pretty much anything I cook involves obscene amounts of sea salt, making hyponatremia not much of a concern, though I’ve upped the amount, regardless.

My regiment has been to drink 16oz of water with 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt second thing upon waking (first thing is a piss), doing the same in the evening (including the pissing), and fill the rest in during the day (I piss a lot here, too). Actually, I usually end up going a bit over half my body weight (though I probably piss twice that amount out).

The most noticeable result of all this, in case you haven’t gathered, is that I have to piss like a man just cut for the stone every few hours — and it’s always clear, or bordering on it. Which is actually quite satisfying (both the pissing and seeing how clear it is). But, there have been a few results beyond that.

I first started this thing on a Saturday. The Thursday previous I had come down with what could have been an exceptionally bad cold, but felt to me like influenza (I don’t get vaccinated). By Monday, I was fine. Whether it was a cold or the flu, I’m impressed.

I feel I have more energy throughout the day since starting. I also began playing with my diet (solids) at about the same time, though, so I can’t contribute the energy solely to water.

My skin, particularly my hands, have the habit of becoming extremely dry and cracked (occasionally painful) during the winter. This ceased a couple weeks into the water diet. My knuckles are still a little cracked (driving my barehanded fists into focus mits probably isn’t helping in that regard), but nothing near like what they usually are.

All in all, I see no reason not to continue. It is quite clearly not producing any negative effects, and possibly producing positive ones. I’d be curious to hear any other experiences.

TrueCrypt Now Cross-Platform

TrueCrypt is finally available for OS X! Though my primary OS was Linux up till just last November, I’ve been waiting on this for a while longer. Last year I used a Mac at work, and would frequently want to decrypt TrueCrypt disks that I carry around on my flash drive.

I’m plan to donate to the project when my next paycheck comes in.

Lowa Renegade Mid Hiking Boots

2011 Update: Although I still wear the Renegade boots, and claim that they’re the best hiking boots on the market, my reasons for doing so differ from those I expressed three and a half years ago. (And I don’t like Superfeet anymore!) The following is left for posterity.

Early last Fall, it became clear that my old pair of boots — 5.11 HRTs — were at the end of their life. New insoles bought me a little while longer, but the fact had to be faced.

I knew exactly what boots I wanted to replace them. Trouble was, I couldn’t afford them. (Still can’t, in fact.) So I had to search for something else to hold me over for a while. I’d heard much positive review of Lowa and Vasque, and thought this an excellent opportunity to try them out. After much research, I settled on the Lowa Renegade GTX hiking boot.

Lowa Renegade Mid Hiking Boots

REI happened to carry them and, rather conveniently, I had a pair of boots that I’d been given a while ago but never been very fond of (Montrail Torre GTX — I wore them in Thailand). So I took (perhaps unfair) advantage of REI’s lenient return policy, and ended up with a pair of Lowa Renegades for only $30.

The craftsmanship is excellent. I can spot no failures of any kind along the boots. Most any other boot I’ve worn for this amount of time has shown some small failure: a broken stitch, or a bit coming unglued somewhere. Not so with the Renegades. The Germans, I think, know a thing a two about making boots. (Actually, they’re made in Slovakia, but I’m Am’r’can, damnit, so that’s close enough for me.)

The soles are Vibram, like most other boots, and provide excellent traction on varied terrain: concrete, dirt, rocks, etc. Snow is a little iffy, but that’s been the case with any boot I’ve had.

The Gore-Tex liner is great. Verifiably waterproof and breathable (though I’ve not had the opportunity to wear the boots in hot weather).

The break-in period was non-existent. They were comfortable and supportive as soon as I put them on.

My feet registered no complaints concerning the standard Lowa insoles, but they were small and flimsy, like those provided by any other boot manufacturer, and I’ve been in a love affair with Green Superfeet since the Summer (more on that later), so after a couple weeks I swapped them out, and have been happier for it.

Some people report Lowa runs slightly large, but I found this to be untrue. I ordered my normal boot size, and they fit perfectly.

The absolutely only complaint I can offer for the Renegades is the lacing system. Lowa is quite fond of their D-rings. I am not. They allow for slightly faster unlacing, but slower lacing. And if you lace too fast, without paying attention, the lace may not make it’s way entirely inside one of the rings, and pop out eventually. This happens every now and then to me. It’s not enough to turn me off from the boots, or dissuade me from recommending them, but it is a minor annoyance. (And I had to find something to complain about.)

Lowa Renegade Mid Hiking Boots

I’ve been wearing them daily for close to 5 months now. Though this Fall and Winter, regrettably, have seen me mostly in urban areas, not logging any serious mileage over mountainous terrain with heavy loads, I am very pleased with the Renegades and whole-heartedly recommend them to anyone looking for a mid-to-light hiking boot, or footwear for every day urban wear. (Plus, they look quite snazzy with TAD Legionnaires, no?)

3-3-08 Update:

I wore these boots yesterday on a 23 mile hike, with about 1300 ft elevation gain, under a 75lb pack. My feet aren’t too happy about it, though they’ve ended up worse after shorter humps with lighter loads in lesser boots. Last week I did 12 miles under the same load with no problem. They’re definitely light hiking boots.

Nordkalotten 365

Norwegian Broadcasting has started to release high quality episodes of their show Nordkalotten 365 on bittorrent. As near as I can tell from the first episode, the show is of Lars Monsen, who seems to be some sort of Les Stroud type of fellow, filming himself during wilderness travels in Norway. Suffice to say, he punches a few fish. And the theme song seems to be a remix of the theme from The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly.

Any Norwegian speakers care to subtitle it?

Ruminations on the Act of Shaving

While not growing beards to spite The Man™, those of us of the XY variant must adhere to a regiment of shaving. Up till about a month ago, I’d always used an electric shaver. (How they work is beyond me. You can take the thing apart and there’s not one sharp object in it. It’s as if they just vibrate the hair to death, perhaps combining that a verbal threat or two, all of which seems little better than rubbing an electric dildo along one’s face.)

About a month ago, then, I switched to a double-edged safety razor, modeled after Gillette’s 1901 invention.

My purchase consisted of a Merkur “Classic” Safety Razor (closed comb), Vulfix Pure Badger Shaving Brush, and a 10-pack of Merkur “Double-Edge” SS Platinum Blades.

Initially, I also went with an unscented soap cake, but the back of the packaging listed ingredients that I couldn’t pronounce (never a good sign), so I switched that out for a bar of locally made goat milk soap. It doesn’t provide such a thick lather as the shaving soap did, but seems to work just as well in all other respects.

I was worried about cuts and burns a good deal at first, having heard many horror stories from those who switch between electric shavers and the new-fangled-triple-bladed-cheap-plastic-crap razors. To my surprise, there was none of that. My skin has not complained, nor have I managed to place a cut.

The process, detailed below, takes me roughly 20 minutes. Certainly much longer than an electric shave, but adds to the act a sort of timelessness — though the double edged razor was only invented a century ago — and elevates it to ritual. It is an act of meditation, an escape from the mundane — the repetitive, brain-dead, electronic processes of our time. It is moment unto itself, not merely a pause or interlude till the next scene. Instead, something to be planned for, to be appreciated, and to look forward to, and that, in the end, is what truly matters.

Ruminations on the Act of Shaving

Procedures for the Operation of a Double Edged Safety Razor

(It is assumed that the following is completed after stepping out of the shower, as a face soaked in warm water is the first requirement.)

  1. Fully dampen your badger hair brush by holding it under a stream of warm-to-mildly-hot water, perpendicular to the flow, and slowly twisting it. After it seems to be fully soaked, remove the brush from the water and turn it parallel to the stream, so that the bristles are pointed down. Allow excess moisture to drip out, taking care not to flick or otherwise encourage any additional water to drip than the brush is willing to give on its own.
  2. Now that the brush is only dripping the occasional, non-continuous drop, move it to your soap dish/mug. Gently move the brush about atop the soap, in a circular motion, applying little pressure and taking care to not circle too vigorously and flick off any additional moisture. The objective here is not to generate a lather on the soap, but to gather soap in the brush’s hairs. If a lather does begin to develop within the dish, the brush has enough soap. I circle for about 30 seconds.
  3. Bring the brush to your face and begin to circle in a wide motion around the area to be shaved. Apply only gentle pressure. Here, you are attempting to build up a lather, but patience is required: it may take up to 2 minutes for a sufficient lather to develop. (It usually takes me about a minute). After the lather has achieved the desired covering and consistency, place the brush into the soap dish.
  4. Now, bring the razor to your face. The objective is to run the razor down the lather-covered area (from top to bottom, or north to south), applying no pressure, whilst maintaining a 30° angle to the skin. I prefer long strokes along the face, but resort to short strokes around the contours of the neck and chin. To start, it is easiest to place the razor’s safety bar perpendicular to the skin and raise it slowly till the desired 30° angle is achieved. Then, begin the stroke.
  5. The first pass having now been completed, it is likely that a second is wanting. A second lathering may be required, though I omit this step. On this second pass, the stroke should be from bottom to top, or south to north.
  6. With these two passes complete, any remaining patches of stubble may be removed with a diagonal stroke
  7. The shave now being complete, I finish up with a splash of cold water on the face, which, I’m told, closes the pores (and provides opportunity to remove any excess soap), and pat my face dry.
  8. As an aftershave, I only splash my face with a bit of Witch Hazel in liquid form.
  9. For the clean up, the badger hair brush should be thoroughly rinsed and dried. The razor gets a rinse, though a complete disassembly is only required once a week when the blade is changed.

Account of a Rib, Being Fractured, Made Whole Again

The Wednesday before last I managed to fracture a rib at Fight Club. It failed to make itself known during class — only later did I inventory a small, sharp pain upon taking deep breathes. My journal that night accounts:

1-2-08 10:12 PM It hurts when I breath. Is that bad?

Thinking nothing of it, I returned to class on Thursday, which proved to be a mistake, the pain after that night being far greater. At this point, I decided that something was not quite right. My next journal entry reads:

1-4-08 8:10 PM My self-diagnosis is that I have a fractured rib. It is either the 2nd or 3rd rib (or both) down from the top on my right side. I don’t think it anything serious: my breathing is even, at a normal cycle and depth, and (as near as I can tell) there are no abnormal sounds. This leads me to believe that it is a minor fracture, not a break, and that the lung has not been punctured by a stray splinter. Deep breaths are painful, but not so much as to discourage them. Certain obtuse movements of the right arm, as well as twisting of the torso, causes pain. The most painful act is bending over to tie my boots — methinks it is gravity dropping all my guts and exerting pressure onto the rib. I now kneel instead. I have yet to cough.

Consulting the medical books I have lying about (and the global interwebs), the only treatment for such an ailment proved to be observing a minimum of one deep breath an hour and a strict rest cure, to last till the rib was healed, which on average takes 2-3 weeks. Clearly, this would not do. A month absent from Fight Club would be regrettable, but a month without running or riding my bike or any other activity that involves frequent deep breaths would not be possible (though the pain was not enough to discourage my normal cycle and depth of breathing, what was previously aerobic had become anaerobic and what was anaerobic was right out). As such, I decided to alter my diet in an attempt to assist the healing process.

Calcium & Silica

Of course, it is common knowledge that bones need Calcium to grow. I dislike milk, but instead increased my intake of almonds, broccoli, carrots and salmon; all of which are rich sources of the mineral. For teas, I purchased Horsetail and Nettle, to supplement the Alfalfa and Chamomile which I already had. Horsetail and Nettle, it just so happens, are also a source of Silica, which, I’ve read, aids in the proper assimilation of Calcium.

Magnesium & Vitamin D

But, surely, Calcium is not all that is required? Further research indicated that both Magnesium and Vitamin D intake should be increased when consuming more Calcium. And what herbs provide an ample source of both Magnesium and Vitamin D? Why, Alfalfa, Horsetail, and Nettle, of course! It’s almost as if Mother Nature knows what she’s doing. Food sources of Vitamin D include egg yolk, salmon, and sweet potatoes. Food sources of Magnesium may be seafood, apples, bananas, brown rice, and salmon.

Phosphorous & Copper

Care should be taken to increase the amount present of two other minerals, as well: Phosphorous and Copper. Eggs and salmon, it turns out, are excellent sources of Phosphorous. Copper may be acquired through almonds. (Side note: I’ve discerned that it is not possible to kill oneself by eating too many sprouted almonds. If it were, I surely would be dead by now.)


So my diet changed to consist of much salmon, brown rice, carrots, apples, bananas, broccoli, with the odd sweet potato and a hard boiled egg once a day. Whenever I felt the need to munch on something, I’d toss down a handful of sprouted almonds (as I’m doing right now). Each morning I would have a cup of Nettle tea, each night a cup of Horsetail tea. If I felt the desire for tea in the middle of the day, I would mix together a bit of Chamomile with a bit of Alfalfa.

All said and done, the rib healed in a week and a half.

Did my diet influence that? Well, diet couldn’t not influenced the body, but as this is the first time I’ve fractured a rib, I’ve no bench-line against which I can measure; save only that the Medical Establishment deemed 2-3 weeks an appropriate number to publish here and there. It certainly didn’t hurt.

(Food and herbal sources of vitamins and minerals were all gathered from the CedarLily Vitamin & Mineral chart that John Gallagher used to sell.)

The Baroque Cycle

After re-reading Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age last November, I had an inkling to do the same with The Baroque Cycle, Stephenson’s tome on Alchemy, Economics, Technology, and an agreeable amount of Swashbuckling in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. It is an account of the birth of our modern world-system.

Quicksilver and The Confusion I first read when they were published, but at the time The System of the World was released, I was distracted by other ruminations. By the time I was free, I felt too much time had passed since my experience with the first two books, so I never read the third. Now, I intend to read them back-to-back.

Baroque Cycle

Quicksilver I finished in a week and half. The Confusion I’ve been reading for near the same amount of time and am roughly halfway through, though I fear it will take longer to complete. Allowing for (un)necessary distractions, I should like to finish the cycle by the end of February.

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