Veggie Fuel

Unfortunately, this picture is kind of hard to see*. Written in dust on the back of the bus, it says "100% Waste Veggi" and "Zero Fossil Fuel". While this is a bit of an overstatement (we use a bit of regular diesel fuel to warm up the engine and a couple of times when the veggie system has failed), it is something we are very proud of. When I�ve explained it to people in the past, I think they might have gotten the wrong impression, what with all the media hype surrounding ethanol, biodesiel, etc. So here�s a brief explanation of how it works.

Our engine burns vegetable oil, not biodesiel. The oil comes straight from the grease barrel behind the restaurant and into our gas tank. (Gonzo collecting is the most fun part, see?) When looking for used vegetable oil, you have to be kind of particular about quality. Most fast food places use hydrogenated oil which is bad (for some reason I�ve yet to understand). Also, not having chunks of stuff floating in the oil is a good thing. Water content is another thing. Sushi places are generally considered to be the best places to obtain the oil, although we got our first tank full from The Keg in Bellingham.

Okay, so now you�ve got a tank full of used veggie oil. Most vehicles that have been converted to run on veggie oil also still have their deisel tank and fuel lines with duplicates for the veggie stuff. The veggie lines usually have another filter or two as well as a heat exchanger, to heat up the oil. But once you�ve got all that stuff in place, you just warm up the engine and veggie oil using diesel fuel and the throw the switch, and -badda bing- your tail pipe starts smelling like french fries.

The pyschological effect of not using fossil fuels to travel is really something. You are taking something that would have been thrown away and using it to power your vehicle. While you�re still not in the clear regarding environmental impact of traveling (additional parts need to be replaced, roads need to be built and maintained, etc.), you are lessening your impact drastically. So now, when we idle the bus for the 15 minutes we�re stopped at a rest area (or, in the case of being in Mexico, a stand of trees), I no longer freak out about wasting fuel.
Friday December 28 2007File under: travel, Mexico, environment

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Twas the Day Before Christmas

Twas the day before Christmas and all through the bus,
All were doing their own thing, all 12 of us.
Ukoiya and Lindsay were stretching on the floor.
Three days on a busacan make you quite sore.
Kelsey and Jules drew doodles here and there.
Now our plywood table/bed doesn't look so bare.
There is engine talk from Islando and Vern.
To get the bus running again is their main concern.
Joselynn and Paul are looking into flights,
Concerned we might not make it by Christmas night.
Hallie's in bed with a book. Amiel is online.
We can't get the bus working, but the internet works fine.
River is zonked from a late night at the wheel.
And I, our "head chef", reluctantly ponder our next meal.
What's that? It's a rumber from down below.
The engine guys are trying another go.
We all cross our fingers, and hold our breath,
But the egine quietly sputters to death.
Wait just a sec. It seems to be getting stronger.
The time between sputters grows ever longer.
It was air in the lines that had to be bled.
It's always something, we just shake our heads.
Now we're back on the road, we'll hit the border by dawn.
Here's hoping for smooth sailing from this point on.
So as we roll out of Palm Springs on Interstate 10.
I wish Feliz Navidad to you and your kin.
Monday December 24 2007File under: holidays, poetry

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Working Out the Kinks

I can't say that it was wholly unexpected, but I also can't say that I imagined it would be this extreme. Saturday afternoon, 2 full days after our planned departure (which was, in itself, delayed by 4 days) we've made it as far as....Centralia! There wasn't one thing that caused the delays but a bunch of little things. First, the veggie oil system took longer to install than we thought (more on the veggie system later). Then a bunch of air got in the diesel system (that's bad). Then we had to shuttle everyone around to leave their cars here and there. Then we had to get veggie oil, which is quite difficult to pump when it is 34 degrees out*. Then, 10 miles out of Bellingham (at 4 am), we break 3(!) alternator belts, and have to stop at a rest stop until the auto repair shops open in the morning. Then some switches are hooked up wrong and something shorts out so we aren't pulling veggie oil but regular diesel. Now there is some filter issue that is slowing the flow of the veggie oil to the system.

Yep, lots of little things. But the moral of the story is we are making progress. Plus, I'm learning little bits about diesel engines. We're hoping to pull through the night and be to Arizona by nightfall tomorrow. Yeah, I know that is ambitious, but it's a goal.

As for the cooking, I've done one cooked meal on the road (let them eat cereal for breakfast), and I've realized that cooking on a moving bus isn't the best idea. I narrowly avoided a few big spills (as the driver avoided a few big accidents). Yeah, I'm thinking sandwiches for dinner.

Anyway, I hope to get a better post up when I'm not cooped up in a bus with 12 people all playing their own music and discussing what is going to go wrong with the bus next*.
Saturday December 22 2007File under: travel, Mexico

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FC 12 - Yo Ho Ho

So here's the story with this one: I stole the idea from a 7-year old kid. Does that make me a bad person? I don't think he fully appreciated the complexity of it anyway. Plus, it is the holiday season so sharing is the order of the day, right? Anyway, I hope you like it.
Friday December 21 2007File under: comic

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Running Away with the Circus

One year ago today, I was just getting back from a grand adventure in SE Asia*. It just so happens that today, I am headed out of the country again. This time, as you might have guessed, to Mexico. To put it concisely, I'm running away with the circus. No, I won't be performing with them*. I'll be more of a roadie, a circus roadie. I've signed on to be the head chef for U&I Production's road trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

What makes me qualified to be a head chef for 12 people?, you ask. Well, nothing really, but don't tell them that. I wanted an adventure. They wanted a chef. I like food, so that can't be a bad qualification. In all honesty, though, I'm pretty nervous about it. Hippies are notoriously picky about their food*. But that's okay. I have faith that it will all turn out. And if it doesn't, I will just jump out of the bus somewhere on the side of the road.

Oh, speaking of the bus, it is to be powered by post-consumer vegetable oil. Take that Al Gore. I love the idea of it and I look forward to ninja-like missions to grease traps behind Chinese restaurants in some little burg along the way. I made such a run with the juggling contingent of the circus last summer and I'm still telling the story to this day. The bus interior is fitted out with bunks, a kitchen, and a yoga space. It will be a little cramped and uncomfortable, no doubt, at least until we get there and can escape each other for periods of time. But that just adds to the adventure, right?

Anyhoo, stay tuned to BdW for all the latest.
Thursday December 20 2007File under: travel, Mexico

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Let It Out (a.k.a. SwearBot 2007)

#@!%*
Have you ever just had one of those days, or maybe it was just a moment, where you get so frustrated you just want to scream? This is meant to be a hypothetical question because I know we've all been there. Maybe it is because the cat peed on the chair again, you computer isn't doing what you tell it to*, or you've made the same mistake that you always make even though you swear you will never make it again. Well, when it happens to me, I sometimes want to swear. Who knows where the urge comes from? I'm not incredibly proud of it, however I rarely audibly swear in such instances because you never know when there might be tender ears around.

Anyway, I had this thought: what if I created a forum for such an outlet but somehow buffered it, so readers wouldn't get an earful* but it could still fulfill the desire for an outlet. Plus, by expressing your frustration in a non-intrusive way, hopefully it will encourage others to sympathize with you and send out positive energy to help alleviate said frustration.

With that in mind, I've created the SwearBot 2007. Enter your swears (as unPC as you want. No one will see the untranslated version), exclamations, derisions, or complaints. Press "Translate". Presto! Now you have a squeaky clean outlet that you can paste into an e-mail, print out and put on the office refrigerator, or paste into the comments of this very blog.



(P.S. I promise the next post will be a follow up to "The Next Adventure")

Wednesday December 19 2007File under: misc, coding

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The Christmas Crassula Ovata

Among our family's Christmas traditions, I think the Christmas Crassula Ovata (that would be jade tree to you non-Latin speakers) has got to be my favorite. Okay, I better make that second favorite right behind pfeffern�sse*. It is something unique, it save cutting down a live tree, and there are no dropped needles messing up the floor*. Anyway, I mentioned it in an earlier post so I thought I would post a picture.

It turns out that combining my second rate picture taking ability with a camera that always seems to have trouble with light and exposure results in some shoddy pictures. But since a picture is worth a thousand words, maybe a shoddy picture is worth 134 words or so. Yep, just about right for a blog post. (Oh, and here's another attempt at a picture of the tree. Notice how we've gracefully phased out the juice concentrate lid glitter ornaments.)
Monday December 17 2007File under: holidays

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The Next Adventure

I've had some wonderful adventures over the past few years; deserted islands, ridiculous road trips, countries and cultures far far away, etc. I really like the little routine I've sort of fallen into, with not much time passing before I get to embark on one adventure or another. I love where they take me and the feeling of freedom they instill. I also love sharing my experiences, both through this blog, and just in talking to be people when I return. The question I get asked most, though, is "what is the next adventure?"

It is a hard one to answer. For one, I never know what opportunities fate will throw my way. Usually, it seems, the time between learning of those opportunities and taking advantage of them is very short, so when faced with the question, I generally have to honestly answer that I don't know. It is fun to discuss the possibilities. The way the question is usually framed reinforces in my mind that anything is possible. If I wanted, I could decide to ride a camel across the Sahara or maybe deliver solar panels to remote jungle villages*. Having that sense of freedom reinforced is a good thing. On the flip side, however, the question usually feels like it is laced with a bit of expectation. What can I say that won't let people down? Perhaps it is all in my head, but it is something I've noticed more and more.

Anyway, an opportunity for my next adventure has presented itself and I've decided to grab on. Since I don't have all the details yet (and I love adding a sense of suspense), I've created this little teaser to give a clue to my what my next adventure will be. What fun would it be if I just came out and told you?

So stay tuned to BdW for what should prove to be another wacky adventure.
Saturday December 15 2007File under: travel

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FC 11 - Matchless

This week's edition of the Friday Comic series is another cross-continental collaboration. I convinced my friend Sara in Illinois to help me out with this one. (As always, by "help", I mean "do the thing that actually requires artistic talent")*.

Winter really brings the problem of mismatched socks to the forefront. During the summer, you can just match any white sock to any other white sock, or even go sockless*. Wool socks in winter, however, require there very own match. Oh, if I only had the strength to wear mismatched socks in public, life would be so much easier. (Kids, can you say "New Year's Resolution"?)
Thursday December 13 2007File under: comic

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Stuff For the Stocking

Not that troothpicks need any help in the sales department– sales have been through the roof*– but it is worth mentioning that they might be possibly the best stocking stuffer around, esp. if your bare-footed recipient* likes to throw parties, likes to eat little cubes of cheese, likes to clean their teeth, or likes fun things.

Anyway, if you were hoping to surprise that special someone with 48 little pointy cylinders of fun, you had better get your orders in soon. Let's set a "get your order by the holidays" date of Friday, December 15th. Oh, and also worthy of note is that the long awaited "Fortunes" line is now no longer on back order! So place your orders at troothpicks.com or send me an e-mail (or write your order on the deed to a deserted tropical island paradise and send it to...*).

And if you need any further convincing that trootpicks are the perfect holiday gift, have a look at this professionally staged photo. Ooohhh.... Aaaahhhhh.... So festive!
Tuesday December 11 2007File under: holidays, misc

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