Off-grid Options #3: The Couch

Ah, the couch.  Warm and dry with all the comforts of indoor living, this luxurious option is available all around the world free to anyone with basic social skills and decency.  While no one couch  is a permanent living solution, there is an endless supply of them.  This option is invaluable when travelling, and is the reason I don’t know anything about urban camping.  A few of the most important things to keep in mind:

  • Be the kind of person your host wants to have around.
  • NEVER allow someone’s couch to be your only option.  You should want to be there and your host should want to have you; need kind of ruins the whole thing.
  • Not only should you prevent your residency from becoming a burden on your host, it is your duty as a couch-dweller to improve their life by your presence.  Clean up the place, not just after yourself.  Cook.  Use whatever skills you have to improve their situation.  Anyone I stay with ends up with a well-organized home network and every device on it perfectly configured.
  • Know when to leave.  If you’re travelling this should never even come up, but you should never overstay your welcome.  Leave before your host wants you gone, and you’ll be a lot more likely to be invited back.

Really, it just boils down to what I said in the beginning:  use basic social skills and common sense/decency to make your stay a pleasant one, both for you and your hosts.

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WordPress Tip: How to Free a Mind

Repress

Screenshot from developer's website

I was going to write up a silly little article on sub-pages for navigation, but then I came across a much more useful tip.  It’s a plugin called Repress (awesome name, works so many ways), and it allows you to utilize any self-hosted WordPress blog as a limited proxy server of sorts.  I absolutely cannot encourage all of you enough to run a TOR exit node if you are capable of doing so, but that is a somewhat technically demanding thing to set up.  Repress, on the other hand, takes absolutely no skill to operate past the ability to install a plugin.  Once you’ve installed it you just specify the directory you would like it to appear at and add any sites you want to provide access to.  My only complaints?  Tyranny is misspelled, and there’s not a donate button.  If you’d like to support the developers though, you can buy hosting from them at greenhost.nl

Off-grid Options #2: The Tent

shelterThe cheapest way of them all to live is in a tent or shelter.  Obviously it’s more suited to some locations and seasons than others, but it definitely has it’s place and can be a lot of fun.  My experience with camping and shelter building is entirely in rural areas, but I hear that some people set up in empty lots and buildings or under bridges in cities as well.  I’ve only had to spend a couple nights outdoors in a city so I can’t speak much on that part of it.  All I can say is avoid staying anywhere you’re not allowed to be, and that while it may seem like a good idea to find somewhere private to sleep you’re going to be safer somewhere more visible.  Camping in nature has an entirely different set of requirements depending on the environment and how long you’re planning on staying there.  If you’re only going to be staying for a night or two, your main criteria is going to be convenience.  A water supply isn’t really going to be a concern since you can just bring enough for your short stay in with you, and waste buildup isn’t really going to be a problem.  You’ll probably want to use a tent since it’s so much easier to take down and set up than collecting material and building a nice shelter.  If you’re going to be staying a week or more though, there are different things to think about.  A shelter will make a lot more sense, because it’s a lot more weatherproof and will be worth the effort.  You’ll want to find somewhere private, on high ground with a water source uphill from you.  You’ll want good tree cover to help protect you from the elements and provide firewood, and you’ll need to dig a latrine.  For those who have never heard the term outside of an army movie, a latrine is just a deep hole you poop in.  You fill it in a little bit each time you use it to keep it from stinking, like you would flush a toilet.  The other major concern is going to be general cleanliness.  When you’re just spending the night it doesn’t much matter if you spill some food or something like that, but for a long term campsite that can cause you a lot of problems.  It will attract animals (usually an annoyance, but a real danger in bear country) and eventually start to decompose and stink.  A lot of people get the attitude that they’re outdoors and don’t need to clean up after themselves, but when you make the outdoors your home that’s just not the case.

Be Careful What You Wish For

You wanted audio?  Well, you’ve got it.  NOW SUFFER!

“As we enjoy great Advantages from the Inventions of others we should be glad of an Opportunity to serve others by any Invention of ours, and this we should do freely and generously.”

-Benjamin Franklin

FOSS For Life

My New Home

Roadtrek CampervanI’ve been keeping an eye out for a new van since I first moved down here, and I seem to have stumbled across the perfect match!  It’s a 1990 Dodge Roadtrek Versatile 190 conversion camper, and other than missing the generator (the previous owner took it out to use in a truck camper) it is in perfect shape.  Mechanically it’s almost identical to my last van, which was a completely standard 1986 Dodge cargo van that I customized to live in myself, so I’ll already know all the little tricks of working on it.  I’m really excited about this, it’s going to be the nicest thing I’ve ever owned.  It only has 75,000 miles on it all from one owner, and it’s been kept covered it’s whole life.  Roadtrek KitchenAnd the amenities… oh god the amenities.  It has a full kitchen and bathroom.  Seriously.  The kitchen has a sink, fridge, two-burner stove, toaster and microwave ovens, and the bathroom has a shower and toilet.  It’s the super-compact style where the whole bathroom is in the shower stall, but that’s really the only way you’re going to fit a shower into a standard-sized vehicle.  The whole thing is 18’9″, it costs the same to put it on a ferry as it does a Ford Taurus.  The point is, never again shall I crouch in some bushes in the rain to take a crap.  The kitchen is going to be really nice too.  In my last van I just had a cooler, a 5-gallon pump jug, and a propane burner.  Half the time I didn’t use the cooler because dry ice is so expensive.  The sink’s going to be great too, it’ll make washing dishes a lot quicker.Roadtrek Living Room Possibly the largest failing of my old van was that it wasn’t exactly set up for people to hang out in together unless they were prettttty close. There was a bed in the back, kitchen/storage/workspace in the middle, and the front seats didn’t really contribute to the living area. This one has a nice living room type setup with the reversible captains chairs and seems like it would be a nice place to relax.

Finding Your Look

Finding a new theme is really simple.  Dashboard>Appearance>Themes, and you’re there.  You can search by features or colour, or just browse through a gallery until you see something you like.  I wanted a very minimalist, simple theme with one column of content, pages on top, and navigation offset to one side.  I found 2 that fit these criteria perfectly, ChaosTheory and Chunk (which you see now) and another that was very close I liked, Vertigo.  Using the one click preview functionality of WordPress I checked out the themes once I had some content in there to see how they would look in action, and showed them to a couple friends to get their opinions.  I ended up deciding on Chunk because it barely exists.  There’s just enough theme to keep the content from falling off the screen, and nothing more.

Gravity Pump

gravity pumpWhile trying to think of something to write about I came across a picture of a gravity pump I made above an old logging road in Canada a few years ago, so I’m going to teach you how to make and use one!  The one pictured is not a very good example at all.  It’s actually a picture of the effects of making your pump too efficient.  3 days before it was taken that whole rocky area was a wide, shallow stream.  Try not to do that, it’s probably not great for the environment.

I would love to include some cool background about where they come from and who invented them and such, but I really have no idea.  It’s just something my dad showed me as a kid.  They are very useful when you’re going to be staying somewhere for more than a couple days, or if you need to refill your vehicle’s water tank from an otherwise inaccessible source.

You will need:

  • A water source
  • A shovel (a flat stick will work in a pinch, it’s not much digging)
  • A large bucket
  • About 3 inches of pipe, preferably threaded to fit your hose
  • A hose
  • An old shirt or piece of screen
  • Pocketknife
  • Lighter

Making the pump is pretty simple.  Make a hole almost big enough for your pipe about 2 inches from the bottom of the bucket with the knife, soften the edges of the hole with the lighter, and shove the pipe in.  If there are any gaps around it, melt the edges some more and squish them down to the pipe.  If you are using a piece of screen affix it to the end of the pipe inside the bucket, and if you are using an old shirt drape it inside the bucket and tie the edges around the top.  All done!  Now you’re ready to deploy it.

The gravity pump works best in running water.  Find a natural wide spot in your chosen stream to start with.  At the downstream side of where it starts to narrow again, dig out the edges until you can fit your bucket in the hole.  Place the bucket as close to vertical as you can in the hole while still allowing water to flow over one edge.  Dam up the along the sides of your bucket to direct more water into it if there’s not enough flow to keep it full.  Lay flat rocks around the opening of your bucket to reduce the amount of sediment that flows into your pump. If you’re using a shirt as a filter, you might want to wait for all the dirt you stir up while placing your bucket to wash away before you put it on.  Attach your hose, and you’re good to go.

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