Archive for September, 2007

Review of the Smart Mug

 | September 22, 2007 8:08 pm

I’ve started using my Smart Mug in the last couple weeks and I got to say, after all the praise I’ve heard for it I’m a bit disappointed. The concept is great, the mug plugs into the cigarette lighter, you set the temperature and it heats up to that temperature. I don’t know if I have a defective one, but I found it to take an incredible amount of time to get to it’s max temperature of 160. It spent most of it’s time in the 120′s. It seems to be more for maintaining heat than actually heating.

The pluses are that it fits in the cupholder quite nicely, and the interior cup screws out and is easily washable (dishwasher safe too, though it’s not like I have one of those in the back of the van). Definitely functional, and I’ve appreciated having hot food without having to buy it that way.

I’ve made both tea and ramen in the mug, and did have it full each time, so certainly a lot for the mug to heat up, but still I found the ramen to take about an hour to cook. I can see myself making this at some campground when I’m not in any hurry to eat some breakfast, (yes, I love ramen for breakfast), but I’d have to get it ready and plug it in right away after waking up. Might be better for tea in that case.

An hour is a long time, though. Luckily I have two plugs in the front of the van (and one in the back, though I haven’t used that one yet), and one of these supplies power even without the key in the ignition. This means that my most successful morning breakfast of ramen involved plugging in the Smart Mug and setting the temperature first. Then filling the smart mug with water, ramen powder, and three-fourths of the noodles, (all that would fit before the noodles softened). Then, because a watched Smart Mug never boils I left the van and ran a quick errand to Staples, came back out, put the rest of the noodles in, drove to the gym, went in for a quick workout and a shower, and then drove to work and ate before going in.

So not ideal, but it does work and it is nice to have something nice and hot in the morning. I like the idea of being able to use this and heat food with the rechargeable car battery rather than a propane campstove. I can see myself really liking this when I’m out on the road in cold weather and don’t want to get out of the van and set up the campstove, or when I’m not at a campground and can’t get out the campstove. That being said, I’m taking suggestions for other brands that heat faster, and I’ll be watching at truck stops once I’m on the road. (Or if you have a Smart Mug and yours doesn’t take this long let me know; Maybe I’ve got a defective one). I really like this mug in theory, but it’s not looking like it’ll be as helpful as I was hoping. I’d like to be able to heat canned soup, but I’m afraid that anything with chunks of vegetables won’t work very well, since those will take even longer to heat to the core.

To sum up, I’ll keep it and use it until I find a better one.

As a side note, I’m at the possibility of a small solar oven. It would definitely need to be something that folds up and packs away small since it would be a total luxury item. Anyone have suggestions?

Los Angeles has been tempting me to stay with my favorite weather.

 | September 21, 2007 11:01 am

Today I woke up and looked out my window at the most beautiful orange clouds peaking through the Santa Monica skyline. Would have taken pictures, but I feeling too cozy in bed and just watched the colors change as the sun rose. We’ve been having some excellent cloudy days, (without it being cold), and as I got out of the van and walked around it was still that magic hour of the morning where the colors of the palm trees, the Santa Monica pier, pop out like a photoshopped picture. I think to myself about how nice it is and how mornings like this are exactly why I’m doing this whole trip.

And just as I’m looking out at beach wondering how I’m going to attempt to describe this later I look up past the water at a flock of birds taking off against a rainbow in the background. Amazing. So I watch as they fly off, think about my trip and about how nice it would be if it rained sometimes this week. Other than about half an hour one afternoon about a month ago there still hasn’t been any rain since I moved into the van.

I couple years ago, when I lived in Seattle, I took a weekend trip to Olympic National Forest. I took advantage of the weekend to get out of town because I was so sick of hearing people complain about the rain, (at the time, really just a sprinkle). It’s Seattle, folks. Surely the novelty should have worn off by now.

I spent the first day driving until I felt like stopping (more about my obsession with driving aimlessly in a future post) and spent the second day curled up in my cozy car with a book looking out at a spectacular thunderstorm. I have always thought of that weekend as the epitome of relaxation and slow travel. Just sitting and enjoying the weather that others are taking as burden. Enjoying the smell of rain and having no plans to speak of; secure in the knowledge that anything I want to explore will still be there when it stops raining and I’ll still have the time to explore it.

I don’t remember now what book I was reading. But I do remember the story I started writing inspired by the couple I saw as I walked by their RV while they sat at their table enjoying a glass of wine and the view of the clouds and a rainbow over the ocean. I remember cooking ramen with the car as a windscreen, and exploring an inlet of the Washington coastline later when it stopped raining, and I remember thinking, “I need to do this more often.”

And this morning, here I was. Looking out over the cliffs at different clouds and a different rainbow over the same ocean, 1,100 miles away, reveling again in the idea of travel with no particular plans.

And then I went off to work.

After all, I’m not living on the road yet, just the streets. And that, to be honest, is why I’m getting out of LA. I’ve been enjoying living in the van in LA so much that part of me wonders why I’m leaving. What I need to do is just take more time off and enjoy this city. I do really like LA, I just don’t get around to taking advantage of all that’s here. It’s tempting to convince myself to stop working so many places and actually do some exploring of this city.

But I know myself. I’ve got too many places I work here and too little ability to say no to work.
That’s the problem with having 3-4 part time jobs, (and only one with regular hours). I’m always afraid they’re going to dry up so everytime I’m offered work I take it, even when that means I’m working 70 hours a week. Even now that I know that the very idea of the work drying up is crazy. It took me a while to build up to that 70 hours and I guess I just remember what it was like when I first started in LA and was working that after school program that paid $25 for an afternoon of attempting to teach 20+ kids science.

I’ve been listening to the “A Year in Europe” podcast lately and on one of the early ones Sheryl mentions that it’s taking her a while to slow down to travel speed. I know it’ll take me some time too and I think the only way will be for me to get out of town for a while. I suppose that’s generally the purpose of travel. I need to go to places where it’s harder for me to fall into work that is not what I really want to be doing long term, but entertaining enough that I don’t quit. Places where I’ll slow down and learn to focus. Once I’ve got figured out though I’ll be back to LA to explore.

Another month and a half and I’ll be out of LA and actually have the time to stick around and enjoy the rest of a gorgeous day like today.

Maybe it’ll even rain.

A new tire for Jefferson and some pictures of Santa Barbara

 | September 18, 2007 9:37 pm

What a day. My pretty van is looking slightly more lived in tonight. I woke up this morning to a flat tire, so I’m driving on a donut until I can get a replacement tomorrow. My spacious living is somewhat less spacious while I share it with the tire. Tomorrow morning this will disappear. At least it sure as hell better get taken care of tomorrow. I’d rather not have a tire in my living room for more than a night.

While I’ve got the pictures up, notice the black cloth on the left side? You might be able to make out the wooden dowel running the width of van just behind the seats. That’s my curtain, which is probably not as stealthy as I like to pretend it is.

I had to call AAA to put the donut on the van because I have no jack. Dad and I took it out of the back of the van last time I was down in San Diego. I don’t remember what the logic behind this was. Probably went something like, “Might as well leave that here. What are the chances you’ll get a flat?”

As it turned out just getting the donut out from underneath the van was enough of a pain in the butt that even if I had known where it was it would have taken forever to do it myself. Every time I get a flat tire it’s with a new (to me) car and I have no idea where the spare is. But now I’ve seen it done and I feel confident I’ll be able to do it myself. (Once I put the jack back in the trunk). Yay for increasing self-sufficiency!

My favorite part of the morning though was when a mother and her two small (maybe 2 and 3 years old) children were walking by and the older one wanted to know what was going on. She explained that the man was changing the tire because it was flat and you can’t drive on tires when they’re flat. The little boy watched in absolute fascination then turned to his mom and exclaimed “This is a very special day.” I told his mom it was a very special day for me too, but that I was hoping it would stop being such a special day soon.

It ended up being a very busy day, but nothing else particularly special happened.

While in the photo posting mood let me get some pictures up from my trip to Santa Barbara. That was a very special couple days in the good way. I give you the best of the camera dump.I was a big fan of the sunsets.

On the way down I stopped in Malibu and got a campsite at my favorite campground. If you scroll down a few months you can read my description of the sound of the waves on the rocks of this beach. I took audio while I was there, of course, so once I’ve figured out how to put that up here, you’ll get to actually hear it for yourselves.

Also, my ex-roommate’s 18 year old cat, Misha, passed away this last week. He was a great cat, even if in his old age he confused my laundry basket with his litterbox. He will be missed.

The joys of free space vs. the time it takes to create it.

 | September 9, 2007 8:00 pm

Last night I slept on Ventura Blvd, which was not my intention when I left work.

I left at midnight, but was feeling pretty wide awake so I thought I’d pull over and read for a while by the street lights streaming through the back window before driving to where ever it was that I was going to sleep, (undecided, but hopefully someplace darker). I think I made it about 4 pages before falling fast asleep until 6 in the morning.

Today I’m taking advantage of the fact that I’m working in a studio with a tape player hooked up to the board and I’m going through a stack of old tapes digitalizing everything that I want to keep. All part of the plan to consolidate as much as possible of my life. It’s a good feeling, but I got to say, the ratio of time spent to get rid of a single cassette to the amount of space gained by getting rid of it, it’s understandable how this stuff builds up. There’s always been that intention to go through these boxes and digitalized these cassettes and minidiscs (some of which are interviews I did a while back that I might eventually need for pieces), just like there’s always been that intention to read all those books on the shelf before getting rid of them. You really need something like this trip, (or at least I do), to actually force you to get it done. It’s so much easier to just through it in a box or under the desk for later.

Well, now I’ve got no desk and space for only a few boxes, so I’m forced to do it all at once. It’s a very satisfying feeling to get rid of something you haven’t used in a year (or years), and know that you will never have to think about it again. It feels like crossing things off a to-do list.

This pruning/compacting process is yet another reason I’m glad I moved out of my apartment 4 months before leaving town, (the $917 a month in rent being the big reason I’m glad). It’s forced me to start the process much earlier. Still, there’s at least a closet full of stuff down at my parents that I’ll continue to do what I can to get rid of.

Next time I’m visiting I may tackle the crafting supplies. Anyone want some yarn? I am tempted to use the desire to free up the space as an excuse to crochet some blankets, but the amount time to make the blankets vs. the amount of space this would free up is absurd. (Plus then I’d need to figure out what to do with the blankets.)

I may stick with tatting for a while. Thread is so much more compact. About half of mine is sitting easily under the passenger seat, ready to go with me anywhere I choose to.

Now if only I can get the rest of my life to fit into the van as neatly as the tread. Just seven more weeks to pare it all down.

Damn you Google Maps!

 | September 8, 2007 8:21 pm

I was loving my google map of places to go visit, until I just realized that I have so many landmarks that it doesn’t list them all on one page anymore. Unfortunately, it doesn’t tell you when you’ve clicked on something that’s on another page, (and most importantly it doesn’t give you the description of it.)

I thought I could get around it by splitting my landmark among a bunch of maps by geography, but you can’t point someone to more than one map at a time.

Anyone have suggestions for other mapping programs where I can list all my landmarks on one map?

Cause I’m definitely not interested in cutting down how many places I have marked.

I'm happy to use Increase Sociability.