Hello blog. I forgot you existed. Again.

This is my first real blog post since August of 2014. One that doesn’t involve programming, some tech nonsense or a reblog of someone else’s post. Work, school and life in general has kept me from blogging much. I’ve also grown accustomed to Twitter, which eats up more of my free time. What little there is of that.

Some things happened

I went back to school and between classes and work I was slowly working on my cabin. Yes, there will be a cabin! Specifically, I decided to downscale from the 16 x 16 design I was playing around with previously and decided to go 8 x 12. More on that later.

School is just for a piece of paper. I doubt I’ll be actually using much of what I learn in school, although I’m sure some of it will come in handy. It’s getting increasingly difficult to find work as just another face in the crowd of freelance developers and consultants; which is ironic since in the early 2000s, all you needed was proficiency. These days, more employers want that degree before going any further. That’s a shame as there’s a vast talent pool out there that never went to school for the things they excel at.

I don’t want to continue down the tech path, but going to school is actually giving me a sense of relief in an odd way. It’s letting me focus on something besides just work which I’m starting to bore of rapidly. Actually I want to move on to working with my hands more and more, although my previous experience with tech prevented me from gaining the valuable experience needed to do that comfortably.

Soap is on hold. I wanted to start the soap company ages ago, but finding time to get it done properly is quite difficult. Also, I’m in an apartment that’s hardly spacious (it costs an arm, a leg and a firstborn to find an affordable one in New York if you’re not financially well off). I don’t like to do things half-heartedly and because this is a Health and Beauty product, I want to make sure it’s something that’s safe and I’ll be proud of years down the line. Hard to do that when working in a limited space that you also have to live in.

On cabins

This is one of the better points in the hiatus. I actually settled on an 8 x 12 cabin size which is quite a bit smaller and more manageable, I think, than 1 & 1/2 floor 16 x 16 design I was contemplating previously. A lot of that was down to simplicity and the sense that the scope of my needs would increase exponentially with more space. I don’t want to do “work” at home like I’m doing now and if I start making soap in my cabin, that’s exactly what will happen. Home is for rest, relaxation, solitude and a peace of mind; not work. Allowing work to creep in is quite a bit harder in a smaller space.

The other big reason for downsizing is the sense that I have too many things. A bed, a table and chair, place to make a small meal is really all I need. A place to poop can be built outdoors and there are many composting toilet options that are quite nice and fit in a thimble. A shower stall, since a bath would be a waste of water, could also easily be built outdoors. I’m not planning to build this in a largely populated area in the first place so privacy isn’t really an issue. Taking a shower mid-winter would be interesting to say the least, but I’m willing to try it out.

What really confirmed my choice of downsizing was this video by Dale Calder

That man is, frankly, magnificient. And he’s got almost all the basics covered. Heat, shelter, a place to cook and sleep. No place to poop or take a shower yet, but like I mentioned above, these can be dealt with later.

The size, 8 x 12 is deliberate as it folds nicely into standard sized construction material in the U.S. Most plywood or OSB sheets are 4 x 8 and their multiples are a perfect fit. And if I keep the height of the walls to under 8 feet, I can limit the vertical cuts as well. As a happy coincidence of the size, I found I may not need a permit in certain areas to build this as it falls just under 100 square feet.

To make soap and other stuff, I intend to build a separate structure. Work stays in the work shed while living happens in the cabin. The two shall never mix!

On locations

I abhor traffic noise. It’s one of the worst kinds of noise pollution as it it’s something we’ve grown up with and think of as normal. It shouldn’t be. At least not to me.

I’ve been looking at places in upstate New York and I was pleasantly surprised at how sparsely populated a lot of it is. This is a double-edged sword as I also need basic supplies and I don’t like the idea of being too far removed from civilization. I’m the loner type, but I’m not sure how long I can go without human contact. I’m also not sure I’m ready to find out that limit just yet.

I love the shade, especially after being cooked alive in this apartment by direct Sun, and wanted to find a place surrounded by trees. These are plenty, but again have a down side. Since I plan to make this completely off-grid, that would mean finding a clearing to put solar panels. I’ll need to work that out somehow. I may just end up building a small “power shed” in a clearing that houses nothing but the batteries and inverter with solar panels on top and run the wire underground back to the cabin in the shade. A tad more complicated and a bit more expensive, but we’ll see if that’s actually feasible.

Being too far away from coffee is another problem. I like my solitude, but not at the cost of the sacred bean. Even rural Alaskans get their coffee somehow, so I’m sure I’ll work it out.

On sustenance

I don’t need a whole lot of food, especially when my physical demands don’t involve carrying much.

Upstate gets a lot of snow which will cut into the farming time. I do plan on starting a small garden that will hopefully take care of some of my nutritional needs. Carbs, vitamins, amino acids, minerals. Most of these can be taken care of with a greenhouse after I’ve settled in. A greenhouse would also help with a winter time supply of food when everywhere else would be too cold to grow anything.

I’ve been looking at vertical gardens. Particularly grow towers which are usually made from PVC drain tubes of 3-4 inches and involve a drip or spray system. Here’s a handy video showing what these look like and how they can be constructed.

He uses a rope to provide the nutrition drip and I think I can work out something else that’s a bit more reliable. Either way, it’s a great way to concentrate the number of plants you can grow (depending on suitability) in a small space. The growth medium is straw packed into the tube, but I think it’s better to use actual net cups as that prevents the plant from falling in. A much better example of that is here.

A net cup system coupled with the efficiency of creating the holes in the previous video will do quite well in a small greenhouse. Obviously, not all plants are suited to this setup (E.G. potatoes), but it will take a significant number of plants that do support the setup.

On support

I still need to work. I don’t know if soap will actually be profitable soon after I move in. In fact, it may turn out to be a pretty big expense at least at first. The only way I can see it working is if I build a superior product and market it the best way I can. I do believe I can make s superior product; certainly better than the overwhelming majority of small-time soaps. So that just leaves the marketing.

I’m sure I’ll still need more supplies from elsewhere, but if I can cut down on the number of things I need to buy, the more I can enjoy my time to myself.

Food, water, shelter. The basics of roughing it can be managed for quite some time on very minimal resources. If you think about it, the majority of our expenses are about keeping up appearances, not actually supporting ourselves. Once that’s out of the way, all my disposable income should be my own.

Meanwhile, I’ll probably still keep working in tech, but only as far as it’s absolutely necessary.

And there you have the rundown of what I’ve been up to all this time.

Robin Williams and Me: The Killer Among Us.

Originally posted on Big Red Carpet Nursing:

Robin Williams  Person    Giant BombWhy Robin Williams?

I’m not a fan of celebrity worship, nor do I feel especially comfortable perhaps taking advantage of human suffering and loss by writing about a total stranger’s suicide.  That said, Robin’s suicide disturbs me. It touches a sore nerve, it hurts. He seemed a safe, reliable positive out there in the world, a source of joy and humor and, well, life. He was fine as far as I knew, just fine, then BAM!: dead. It’s shocking, saddening, makes the world seem less safe, less reliable.

Why me?

Clearly there is no “Robin Williams and me”, no relationship beyond talented performer and fan. I use the phrase in another sense. Why does his death hit me harder than most? What does it mean?

Events’ meaning partially come from our reactions to them, our responses. Like so many, I have thought over Robin’s many fine performances, the incredible eruption…

View original 650 more words

A look back at the cabin design progress

It’s coming along. I promise.

This is just a timeline for me of how my ideas fleshed out over time. Progress made and lessons learned. I’m still in the middle of designing the basics of my “Kleinhaus” (small house) and this is a bit of a timeline how we came to the current phase. From newest to oldest:




So there you have it. I’m still in the process of putting ideas to paper which will be posted here soon. In the process of creating these posts, I’ve had the opportunity to speak to real architects and discuss ideas on modularization. I.E. I want to be able to make incremental changes as technologies and codes change without affecting the rest of the structure.

Part of that process has been creating a “Utility Wall” which will house the majority of the plumbing and electrical circuits. Since the kitchen and bathroom share this wall, I feel this will be the most sensible approach to this. The wires in the walls for outlets and switches will all congregate in the upper section of this utility wall. The majority of the plumbing will be toward the lower section separated from the electrical panel by at least two stud widths in case there’s a leak.

I’m not the first person to come up with a utility “module” of sorts as I came across these videos recently :

I think that gives a brief glimpse of what’s possible and since my Utility Wall will be larger than this, I’m sure I can work in the electrical hookups with ample room to spare as well as improve safety. Since the utility wall wouldn’t be load-bearing, we can cut as many holes as needed in the studs without compromising structural integrity.

An additional benefit of the modularization would be being able to move the kitchen and bathroom to either side of the utility wall. This will also enable moving the stairs and front door to either side as well, without changing the rest of the structure. Considering that I’m designing this not just for me, but for anyone interested to take and run with, I feel having this kind of flexibility is essential to adoption.

I haven’t worked much on the roof yet as that’s proving to be a trickier affair. Supporting a fair amount of weight while maintaining a simple profile is proving to be a challenge. A single slope roof would be the simplest to design, but building it in a safe manner would be a bit of a challenge. Multiple slopes is easier, counter-intuitively, easier to build in some ways as the methodologies are well established, as are the building techniques. More pondering is in order.

Binaural Beats Experimentation

For the last few days, I’ve been running a few tests on myself as part of an effort to cure my chronic insomnia. For the last few months or so, the insomnia has gotten quite bad to the point that I’ve spent a day or two without any sleep at all and spent the day immediately afterward in what seemed like perpetual aggravation. I’m not sure of the efficacy of binaural beats as there are many conflicting sources all over the place so I started off doing some tests on myself to see if they work.


I tried testing a couple of headphones first. My trusty JVC HA-RX300 which I’ve had for years and take everywhere and a new set, a Sennheiser HD280 Pro.

I have a tiny head (contrary to what I’ve been told repeatedly) and the HD280 felt a tad too big, but it produced the best range of sound so far. The RX300 seemed to struggle with the lower frequencies and I often had to increase the volume to the point distortions began to appear.

In my search for binaural tracks, I came across a vast swath of very shrill and harsh samples that I felt were the wrong fit for me. Plus some of them gave me a pretty severe headache after a couple of minutes of listening. Some even gave me a nauseous feeling and that’s definitely a sleep killer. I figured I’d write myself (and anyone else listening) a little disclaimer before going about this.

When listening, please ensure the volume starts low as high levels may cause permanent damage to your hearing. Use a pair of good quality headphones (circumaural, noise-cancelling preferred) which can reproduce frequency responses between at least 25Hz – 10,000Hz and that are light and fit comfortably.

Do not engage in intensive exercises immediately following a listening session.

If any dizziness, light-headed sensation or nauseous feeling were to occur, stop listening immediately, take a sip of cool water and lay down.

This track is for informational purposes only and is not meant to treat any illness or physiological or psychological condition.

Now I just needed to create those tracks.

Binaural selection

Rather than creating one track and hoping for the best, I tried creating a selection starting with the lowest frequency I’m comfortable with. According to Wikipedia, the human hearing range starts at 20Hz so I decided to create a base frequency binaural track at 30Hz (to accommodate us mere mortals before catering to the superhuman).

The 30Hz track was OK at first, but that too became uncomfortable at the 5 minute mark. I think maybe the volume was a bit too high for me at the time, but it soon felt like someone was squeezing my head. I then went on to 50Hz, 70Hz, 90Hz and finally 110Hz. The 110Hz turned out to be more comfortable than the rest, but your experience may differ. Considering I haven’t figured out the correct volume yet and the HD280 hasn’t been “broken in” (audiophiles and detractors, please hold your flaming) I’ll need to experiment more.

I wanted to create a pure tonal track of at least 2 hours to start off. I felt 2 hours was the upper limit in duration to preserve my hearing and sanity. Your experience may vary considerably depending on the volume, the headset, the ambiance of your listening room, the amount of fluids you’ve had etc… Try to start slowly if you intend to follow along in these experiments with me.

I intend to try out non traditional approaches to this whole binaural thing and may go with alternating (left to right sweep) white noise to approach the mythical 1/2Hz Goldilocks Zone of “sensory resonance” if that has any benefit at all. Who knows, this kind of experimentation may become a new hobby. I’ll keep adding to this playlist as the experimentation goes on.