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.


It’s coming… better fill the stash

I can’t go more than a week before someone I know tries to convince me the world is coming to an end. Usually it’s the result of poorly informed speculation on the orbit of the asteroid Apophis and its impact hazard, imaginary planets by people who know nothing of orbital mechanics or someone misreading (and miscalculating) dates in holy texts.

The other day, I think I finally came face to face with the evidence of doomsday it and I can’t ignore it any longer.

WTF, Merriam-Webster?!

I can understand parkour being in there, since the phenomenon has been around in one incarnation or another for a very long time. I can also accept “tweet” since these little excepts of our psyche have influenced world events, but “fist bump”? Boomerang child? Helicopter parent?!

You know, the Goths — the term originally defined lack of sophistication, culture and an abundance of vulgarity — attacked Rome (after being invaded first) and it’s said that with this begin the of the fall of the Roman Empire. Well, here’s the proof as I came across it at Walmart. I was convinced this chain will be at least partly responsible for the apocalypse somehow.

But that’s not what I wanted to write about…

Soap, even in Walmart, is starting to get pricey like everywhere else and I didn’t feel like spending $8+ on a bottle of laundry detergent even though I use very little of it. Which got me thinking… can I make my own laundry detergent? Turns out, other people have asked the same question years ago, and lo and behold, they’ve been doing something about it for just as long.


You may notice the Anger Management Ring has switched hands in the pic above. Since it was on the right index finger, it was becoming a problem when I open doorknobs and such.


Will be the brand name for the soap project I’ve been brewing in the back burner all this time. And I do mean soap, not SOAP; thought I’d clear that up with this being a programmer’s blog and all. Unfortunately Xipe alone was taken in most cases for web presence, but I settled on Xipe.us or Xipe Us after the domain for the project in most of those cases. This was all settled last year, but this is the first chance I got to return to the project.

I have finally settled on a set of soap recipes that will work for my purposes and was waiting until I had settled into the new apartment. My trip to Sri Lanka also delayed things a bit, but it was much more important, obviously, so I didn’t have a choice but to push things back.

The new brand logo will be simple, but bold and striking and, perhaps more importantly, easily recognizable.

New Xipe brand.

I figured, plain black and white is the way to go with this.

What will make this different from the millions of others out there? Actual quality. I was originally planning this as a luxury brand, but considering the economy, I’m not sure if I’ll follow that route, but I’m not going to compromise quality. Every ingredient will be carefully selected after researching the sources thoroughly and this will be as environmentally friendly as practically feasible. I won’t spare expenses where quality and efficiency are concerned.

I’m planning on going public with the actual product on December 21st, 2012 (there’s a good reason for this which I’ll elaborate later).

I originally wanted to go with the Ouroboros logo as featured on practically everything here, but I thought this will need a more friendly image. Besides, the Ouroboros is more of a personal logo and brand than a product logo. I may still use part of the internal designs for the labels.

Soap labels

Original label concepts

And so forth…