Thursday, December 24, 2009

Lots of progress

I've been busy while being not busy. It's a wonderful zen-like "effortless effort" way that I'm just now discovering.

Basically, I slack a lot. And I'm unapologetic about it, even militant about it, and I insist on enjoying being lazy as much as I can. I refuse to ruin it anymore by feeling guilty or panicked or pressured about what I should be or HAVE TO be doing. I'm doing nothing, and there's nothing that anyone can say or do about it. Tough. Whatever ain't done, is just going to have to stay undone.

But this also makes me much more productive.

This happened because I stupidly got so comfortable with being online all the time that I forgot about my 5GB/month limit with Sprint PCS. So, I downloaded a movie, which was 2.5GB, and blew away my online minutes for the month. Oops. I couldn't sit and websurf anymore. Instead, I started sitting and reading an actual book, and just being even more lazy. Then something amazing happened.

Work becomes slack. Part of slacking is taking the pressure off, and I sit here and think, "Screw it. What better thing have I got to do?" Most of the time, nothing, and that's what I do.

But lately, the answer has been, "I could be working on this or that project, just wasting time that way." So, in essence, I'm killing time by getting stuff done. I'm not attempting to finish anything, mind you, just killing time by working on the things.

This is a massive change in my life. I'm killing time by working it to death. No pressure, no deadline (well, occasionally a small deadline like having to be out of storage by closing time, or having to sleep, or running out of sunlight, or getting to a store before it closes). I don't care if I finish. I'm just wasting my time by working on stuff I might not ever finish, or might not be doing right, but who cares, I'm ENJOYING it. The journey is the destination. I am making progress by not trying to make progress.

I have my ceiling tile hangers in, and a few tiles in place. I've moved some furniture around (took two days of work, verrry sloowly and easily!). I reorganized a lot of stuff. I planned out my new interior, where my bed is going, where my sink and kitchen is going, how I'm going to move my electrical stuff around, and obtained (I think) most of the parts and materials I'll need.

I've done a lot of research on my transmission (needs to have its fluid and filter changed), scheduled an appointment to get my rear brakes worked on, and checked my rear tire pressure, which I'd been putting off for a long time.

I've done a lot of work on my computer setup that has needed to get done for years, and it took only a few hours to do it. And, perhaps most encouragingly, I've started to work on my art, my trade, again. A little. After all, what else have I got to do? I can pick and choose what I want to work on. I have an infinite variety of tasks to work on. I have a feeling that this is what being in charge of my own life actually feels like, and I love it.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Curled up in the world's largest library

It is pissing down rain outside, and I'm sitting here, comfortably in my van, and on my lap I have the largest and most vast library the world has ever known.

I cannot think of a more perfect place to be, or the most perfect life to have.

Yeah, I'm a nerd. I love to read, and study, and explore. I have come to realize that this is why I'm vandwelling: to have infinite time and a comfortable place for websurfing.

The internet is the most amazing invention and resource. From anywhere, I have access to practically all the knowledge of the human race. I can sit here in my van and have access to it all.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Patience is a virtue

And I'm learning the virtue of it.

Seems like projects I'm working on are taking-- and have taken-- forever. But I'm starting to be OK with that. I'm getting used to it. It's neither panicking nor frustrating me that things are taking so long.

I finally fixed "the" leak-- or at least the big one-- it was what Ford calls the "Fuel Filter Vacuum Indicator Switch", Ford part number E8TZ-9S283-A, International number 180435C1. $25 from International, as opposed to $80 from Ford!

This leak took me about 3 months to find and fix. That's insane. But I'm OK with that. I'm kind of liking this way of working: slow, methodical, patient. In the process of fixing this, I also cleaned out my fuel tank, put new O-rings on my fuel bowl, and fixed another leak which was from the drain plug. I also wrecked a new O-ring by shoving it in un-lubed (have to replace it again eventually), and ruined three or four expensive fuel hoses due to the old "Fuel Filter Vacuum Indicator Switch" continuing to spew biodiesel on my brand-new hoses after I'd replaced them. Which, had I been a bit more patient, I might have just left the old hoses in place until I'd found the actual leak. Oh well.

I'm not giving myself such a hard time anymore for being lazy and procrastinating. I'm actually enjoying being lazy; getting the most pleasure out of it that I can.

Even when it's not me who is procrastinating, I'm learning to just go with the flow. I'm fitted with a temporary crown on a tooth. I'm getting the work done through a local dental school; they work veery slowly. The temp crown has been on for months. I've managed to hold it together by eating mush, and only on one side of my mouth. I've just been told that I have to continue eating mush on only one side of my mouth for another month: they're off for the winter-break holidays. So be it.

My ceiling is still not in, and I have the tiles, and I just need to buy the hardware for them. I am leisurely pricing out the other things I'll need: Owens Corning pink insulation, a kind of strange hanger I'll need to find or fabricate for the unusual ceiling I'm hanging it from (steel hat-channel rather than dimensional lumber), etc.

I have the new injector O-rings which I need to replace in order to stop the engine from sputtering on closed-throttle deceleration. I'll get to it when I get to it. Also want to put in a new fuel heater to replace the broken one I removed, which might help my hard starting problems go away. And I want to replace my transmission oil filter and change the transmission oil, and do an engine oil change, and wow I haven't even checked my tire pressure in a while... it'll all happen.

My career is also on hold, and I don't have much by way of an income at the moment. These past few weeks it's been freezing cold and raining. More rain coming. Everything is on hold. And that's just OK with me. No sense in stressing; might as well just enjoy it while I got it.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The cold, cold ground

I notice my van seems to be a lot colder this winter, so far, than last winter. In particular, the floor of my van, which is pretty well insulated with a laminate flooring, foam underlayment, and PE film, is freezing cold, and I don't remember my feet being so freezing last year. Actually, I remember it being quite comfortable last year. What is going on?

Oh. Yeah. I forgot. My floor vent. I didn't have one last year. I put one in over the summer. So, this year, I do, and I'm in the habit of leaving it open. So freezing cold air from the ground is coming up and chilling my floor down, hard core.

I've been meaning to put in another vent from the cab, one that will take in warm air that has been solar heated by the windsheild and side windows. The cab is a lot warmer than the box, summer and winter. It's nice to be able too isolate the air in summer, but in winter I'd rather be letting solar-heated air from the cab come in to the van, than freezing cold air from the floor, at least during the day (I guess at night it doesn't matter).

I have a vent. I just need to find a place to put it.

UPDATE: I figured out a temporary solution that works well. I close the ceiling vent, and leave the floor vent open. Warm air comes up (when available) through the floor vent, but doesn't vent out the top. Cold air vents out the floor vent. It's not warm in here, but at least it's warmer than the outside ambient air, so that's an improvement.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Means, motive, and opportunity

The whole time I've been a vandweller, I've been often outraged by laws that make it a crime to be poor. Laws against living in vehicles. Laws against vagrancy. Laws against dropping your garbage in a public garbage can (I'm not kidding; there's a $500 fine and 6 month jail sentence for it in San Francsico). Laws against... being poor! It deeply offends my liberal sense of fairness to treat poor people like criminals, just for being poor. The old French saying goes well: "The law in its majestic equality forbids both rich and poor from sleeping under bridges".

Cops have been known to profile vandwellers, and single us out at least for suspicion, if not for abuse, just because we're living in vans, even though many if not most of us are totally peaceful and law-abiding. Homeowners can be just as suspicous and fearful as cops, and it took me a while to figure it all out.

Lately I'm starting to understand it though.

Tara the HoboStripper wrote a great essay some years ago (which I can't find right now) about the tremendous hassles she used to get from border guards in Canada and the USA, going back and forth from Alaska to the lower 48. The guards didn't want her in their country-- or hers (she's American). They searched her, they gave her a terrible time, they made her miserable. She eventually found the solution, though: simply tell the cops you're there for work. She was baffled at why the cops would give her a pass if she just told them she was a wage slave. She had a couple theories, ranging from sympathy (many cops are union workers and have solidarity), and beyond.

But I think it's a lot simpler. Think like a cop for a moment. To find your suspect for a crime, you are looking for someone with means, motive, and opportunity.

Poor vandwellers who are not wage slaves-- have motive. If you have a job, you have income, you do not have the motive for committing burglaries and such. But someone poor and unemployed-- or lacking a steady predictable paycheck-- needs MONEY. Where they gonna get it? Begging or stealing... two things that neither cops nor homenowners want anyone doing anywhere near their jurisdiction.

Being in a van gives you means and opportunity too. You can slink away, you have a place to hide stolen crap. So, if you're a cop, or a homeowner, or a border guard in Vancouver or wherever, what do you make of someone who lives in their van and does not have a job? Why are they entering your country, or your town, or your neighborhood? To steal from you, and then leave, never to be caught? I guess if you take it from their perspective, vandwellers can look pretty scary.

Tonight I got hassled by suburban cops for-- you will love this-- wearing a black jacket (it's cold out), and a backpack, then climbing into my box van, where they couldn't see me. At least that's what they told me. Backpacks are sinister things in suburbia? A black jacket makes you a criminal? Climbing into your vehicle is a suspicious thing to do? I guess so. Unfortunately, I didn't see the cops following me and watching, which is my mistake, I suppose. A car alarm had gone off a few blocks away. And some guy was walking around with a black jacket and a backpack. That's some really thin threads to hang a case on. So the cops came and banged on my truck, searched me, and then searched my truck-- looking for stolen stuff. I have receipts for practically every little bolt, screw, peice of wood, houseshold item, foodstuff, and part that is in my truck. So, nothing there for them.

They were polite about it, and I was nice to them, not only out of self-preservation and general respect, but also because, if there is anyone actually breaking into vehicles around where I was parked, I want them to catch the bastards. Since all my worldly possessions are in my truck, the only thing I fear more than cops, is car thieves and burglars. So, go get 'em; I hope the cops win that battle.

But the first thing the cop asked as he started crawling around my van with a flashlight, was: "What do you do for a living?". I told him. Then I wondered why he'd ask. And then, suddenly, I thought of HoboStripper's story, and I was enlightened. Means, motive, and opportunity-- according to the cop, I had all three.

I realize there is no way out of this. I'm also not as outraged anymore, either. This kind of crap is just a hazard of vandwelling; something to be understood, accepted, and managed.