Bus Project Update

A Bus Called Home

It’s been a fun and productive weekend but it’s time to go back to work – to support my habit of living the funnest way possible.

The big victory this weekend was finding my favorite curtains on clearance. Score! I also had a chance to spend a few days in my bus really seeing what is most urgently needed for comfortable living. That experience plus a generous tax return has bumped the composting toilet to the top of the list – right next to some sort of economical plug-in heat source for situations when idling the bus would get me unwanted attention. It gets coooooold in here!

Yeah, I’m still BoonDocking. Luckily that’s been going really well. There are plenty of unobtrusive spots besides Walmart, and at least one no-hassle RV campground I can use. Parking around town has been easier than expected as well.

Getting this thing registered as a motor home is beginning to feel urgent. I’m only allowed 9 days of unregistered “trip-permit” driving per month and I’ve already used 3. I’m not sure what happens if I get stopped while driving unregistered and un-permitted but I really don’t want to find out.

So. That means I need to find a sink and an electric cook-top or oven pronto! There were a few at the Habitat for Humanity store, but they were bigger than what I wanted. I may get one of them anyway. A “too large” sink would be a relatively minor inconvenience.

It also means I should probably just go ahead and build a kitchen counter. It will have to be removable since I am doing the floors and insulation later. That’s kind of a back-asswards way of building out a bus, but since I need it road legal and livable ASAP, it’s the way I’ve decided to go. I’ll bolt everything down for the inspection, but it will all be removable.

I’m also thinking about painting sooner than planned. Apparently a school bus that looks like a school bus is not welcome in some RV parks. Bummer. I guess I’ll have to do the fun stuff first instead of last.

That’s it for now! Thanks for following me on my journey!

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Movies of my Dreams

Music

This is not my usual style. In fact there are no guitars on this project at all. No drums either. The whole thing started when I composed a backing track for a recorded hypnotherapy session; then I just sort of kept going. The playlist starts with that catalyst track, (1. Descend to Glory) continuing with a couple experiments varying on the same theme. After this I had an epiphany about where my best music really comes from, stopped experimenting and made something from the heart instead of the mind, creating the final track (4. Swell of the Heart). I hope you enjoy my musical journey.

Movies of my Dreams (listen on SoundCloud)

The Difference Between Confidence and Arrogance

Uncategorized

Sometimes I have moments you might call “epiphanies of hindsight” or lessons I didn’t realize I was learning until I reached some vantage point and looked back to see where I’d been. This is one of those.
Here it is: arrogance and confidence are not the same thing – not even close. In fact, they are practically opposites.

Arrogance is the bluster that ultimately comes from fear and insecurity. Confidence – true confidence – is quiet, calm, and difficult to shake.

Arrogance is easy, addictive, and fairly common. It comes with the adrenaline rush of overcoming challenges to your ego, and the satisfaction of proving others wrong with stinging attacks that are sure to send your enemies packing, thus protecting your fragile faith in your own intelligence worth and abilities. So long as you are successful in repelling these attacks and defending yourself and your beliefs, you feel vindicated, justified, and – for the moment – confident. As soon as the next attack comes however, your blood is pumping again and you feel threatened, indignant, and persecuted.

True confidence, on the other hand, is less common, because it is hard won through self awareness, humility, and a great deal of sustained effort. It is also a lot less visible because a person with true confidence has nothing to prove. They also have nothing to hide and nothing to fear, because they are practiced at the skill of hearing criticism, processing it, and learning from the information without taking it personally.

Arrogance is just the opposite. With arrogance, uncertainty itself is so terrifying that even the possibility of being wrong is unacceptable. The skill of adjusting to new information or circumstances has not yet been developed; our personal identity is so strongly tied to our beliefs and plans, our ego so resistant to change, that our fight-or-flight response is engaged when confronted with any serious critique of our beliefs or actions. We come up with excuses and rationalizations, or go on the attack, or even retreat to the safety of “friends” who will allow us to remain safely in denial.

Arrogance is essentially a reflexive willful ignorance of our own mistakes; but when you refuse to acknowledge your mistakes, they don’t go away. They fester and become doubts and insecurities.

The way to true confidence is facing your shortcomings learning the lessons they have to teach you, and acquiring the skills to overcome them. In this way, you transform your shortcomings into strengths. This process itself can be very painful in the same way cleaning a wound can be painful, and yet it is necessary in order to heal and strengthen our confidence (not a bad analogy, right? I totally stole it). This is far from easy, in fact it’s likely that no one has ever perfected this skill, (certainly not the author of this post). It is however, less a prize to be won and more a skill to be honed. It involves a great deal of practice, failure, embarrassment, discomfort, hard choices, and harder consequences. From this crucible however, comes the gold of true confidence. It is the muscle that comes from long hard work, the mastery that comes from years of practice, and the serenity that comes from a life lived honestly and skillfully.

I am far from free of my own arrogance. Those who know me well however, have seen my confidence grow substantially in recent years. This is how I’ve been doing it. I still have a long way to go. I have spent years sharpening my excuse-making, rationalizing, and verbal sparring skills, but have only just begun to develop my skill at honesty, true listening, courage, and self-discipline. Every day, it seems, I find hidden strongholds of arrogance in my beliefs and attitudes, but I am trying to flush them out with honesty, courage, listening, self-discipline and effort. I think I’m just beginning to understand what courage is, and as I do I’m recognizing it in others and gaining inspiration and encouragement.

Thank you, all my friends and family who have cheered for me along the way. I love you all!

Why a Composting Toilet?

A Bus Called Home

As I have been looking at examples of really well done school bus conversions, I’ve started to notice a common trend in the bathrooms I’ve seen: nearly all of them have composting toilets. This came as a surprise to me and there were a lot of questions I needed answered in order to convince me to go with a composting toilet. Many of theses were finally answered in the video below, but a few I had to figure out on my own.

Here are my particular questions:

Q: Isn’t it more smelly/unsanitary/gross than a conventional toilet?

A: No. Just the opposite in fact (see video). Next question.

Q: Isn’t it cheaper and simpler to just install a conventional RV toilet with a black tank?

A: No, and NO! Even a high-end composting toilet like Nature’s Head, at about $900 (+/-)  is cheaper than buying an RV toilet, black tank, and plumbing, and spending the time to cut the necessary holes, mount your black tank, buy chemicals, etc. It is also WAAAAAY easier to install and maintain a unit like Nature’s Head (see video). In addition, a conventional RV toilet should really be installed directly above the black tank so solids have a straight uninterrupted path down to the tank; this limits where you can put the bathroom in your floor plan (i.e. not over the wheel wells, fuel tank, battery box, etc.) Compare that to a fully self contained composting toilet that you can put ANYWHERE. You literally just set it down somewhere (optionally securing it with a couple screws for comfort & convenience). So in summary, you don’t save any money by going conventional, and you DEFINITELY don’t save any time or effort.

Q: Isn’t it simpler to maintain a conventional RV toilet?

A: No. Definitely not. Watch some YouTube videos on the Nature’s Head toilet and compare with videos on dumping, cleaning, and maintaining ANY conventional RV toilet / black water tank system. Not to mention installation. Don’t even get me started on installation.

Q: What’s the difference between a composting toilet and a regular old (and much much cheaper) camping toilet?

A: A lot actually:

  1. Camping toilets usually ARE more  smelly/unsanitary/gross than a conventional toilet.
  2. You can only legally (and safely) “dump” waste from a camping toilet at specific facilities. Camp toilet manufacturers claim you can just dump the contents in any toilet, but have you ever tried dumping several gallons of waste into a toilet? Compare that to compost from a composting toilet which can safely and legally (and non-grossly) be disposed of anywhere from your local dumpster to on/around non-edible plants or trees.
  3. Camp toilets still need to be cleaned and maintained (if you don’t want them to be completely disgusting) using (often toxic) chemicals and deodorizers. A composting toilet like Nature’s Head simply has a crank on the side that you turn a couple times with every use, and when it gets hard to turn, you dump the contents. You don’t even have to clean it out. Anything toxic is dead and sterile within a few hours of your last use. Also did I mention it’s not smelly and gross? (see video)
  4. All that said camp toilets are way cheaper. You can get a top of the line camp toilet for about $100 vs something like the aforementioned Nature’s Head which runs around $900.

Conclusion:

A camp toilet is a temporary solution at best for a bus I plan on living in full time, so my choice is really between conventional and composting. Considering there is no cost advantage to getting a conventional unit and a lot of convenience advantages to getting a composting toilet (for instance no need for a black tank whatsoever) not to mention health safety and environmental advantages (zero water & power usage, cleaner safer disposal, less pollution, etc) this has become a no brainer for me, but I think the most compelling fact is that as of this posting I have never heard of anyone who switched to a composting toilet and regretted it. Definitely let me know if you have!

The Re-write

Uncategorized

Looking over my last dozen posts or so, I’m noticing a pattern. At some point (probably around the time I decided I wanted to be “a writer”) my posts  shifted from a collection of personal narratives, to very preachy didactic “articles.” Their no bad per-se, but I guess I’ve just decided I don’t like that style or that vision for my blog. I’d rather just tell stories about my adventures. Hopefully well written stories, but stories nonetheless. Here goes!

Bus Conversion Project

A Bus Called Home

Stage 1: Getting Started
complete by November 2016

    ✓ Basic Locks & Security DONE!
    ✓ Essential Repairs (Crank Position Sensor, Signals & Gauges, Remove Heater, PM Service) DONE!
    ✓ Insurance & Permits DONE!




Stage 2: Setting Up Shop
complete by January 2017

    ✓ Remove Seats MOSTLY DONE
    ✓ Find Storage/Work Site DONE!
    ✓ Basic Camping Amenities MOSTLY DONE




Stage 3: Essentials
complete by ?

    ✓ Basic Power
    ✓ Bed, Sink, & Stove
    ✓ Legal (Title & Registration) 
    ✓ Change Legal Status to “Motor Home”

Stage 4: Preparing the Canvas
complete by ?

    ✓ Remove old floor
    ✓ De-rust, Seal, & Paint
    ✓ Install subfloor
    ✓ Stain & finish subfloor
    ✓ Advanced Floor Plan

Stage 5: Structure & Utilities
complete by ?

    ✓ Open walls & ceiling
    ✓ De-rust, Seal, & Paint
    ✓ Basic Floor Plan
    ✓ Move and re-seal windows as necessary
    ✓ Undercarriage Bays (Batteries, Tanks, Plumbing, Electrical, Propane, & Tools)
    ✓ Power, Propane, & Plumbing
    ✓ Framing (Walls, Floors & Ceiling)
    ✓ Insulation 

Stage 6: THE REAL FUN BEGINS!
complete by ?

    ✓ Fixtures
    ✓ Appliances
    ✓ Framing (Rooms, Closets, Cabinets, Counters)
    ✓ Paint Exterior 
    ✓ Framing (Table, Benches, & Seats)
    ✓ Paint Interior
    ✓ Finishing Touches
    ✓ Furnishings

Stage 7: ENJOY!!!

How to be Priveleged without being a Jerk

Essays

Stop & Listen!

Start by listening to stories, complaints, and concerns, realizing that just because what you are hearing is so far outside your experience that it sounds incredible, doesn’t mean it’s not true. Consider the implications of every word they are saying being true.

Acknowledge the Difference 

Acknowledge that your life experience is different. Acknowledge that people will tend to defer to you if you are male, affluent, light-skinned, tall, classically attractive, athletic, well dressed, and/or have a college degree or official title or uniform. Continue by acknowledging that NONE of those things make your opinions, stories, or experiences any more valuable than anyone else’s. None of these things make you any better or any worse than anyone else. 

Learn about Other  Perspectives

Consider that, just as you may have a perspective that you think others participating in the conversation haven’t heard, there are as many perspectives in that conversation as there are people – and the only way to hear them is to close your mouth and open your ears.

Check Your Motives 

Consider also your motives for being in the conversation in the first place – is it to influence others to change their behavior or to discover ways you can change yours? Is it to cause others to do something you want them to do, or figure out how to apply your skills and resources for their benefit? Are you there to help others or push your own agenda? If you are really there to help, then do less talking and more listening.

Don’t Hog the Conversation 

You want to be heard. Everyone does. Realize that you have the privelege of being heard in many other ways and situations; you don’t need to make this conversation about you. Consider it a reasearch project, and learn as much as you can about the others in the conversation and their story.
Others will defer to you. They will ask what you think. Not only is it polite, but people have been taught by centuries of society dominated by the affluent, male authority, and racist values to defer to you. Do not take it as license. Be there to learn. Be there to listen. Your voice will be heard in a thousand other ways from a thousand other sources – You will have many many other opportunities to make your opinion known. That is a part of privilege. We get to pretty much say whatever we want whenever and wherever we want with little or no consequences. So use some restraint and stay silent. Politely decline to comment, and listen.

Put Your Pain in  Perspective

Lastly this – and this is the hardest part – when the pain comes – and if you are really listening it will come – when the reality of injustice prejudice and your own privilege finally hits you and your heart starts to break, realize that you’re not the only one. You’re just getting you first taste for the of what others have been dealing with their whole lives.

Acknowledge Inequality 

One of the first things you will learn by doing this is a very difficult truth to face. It is this: the playing field is not level. The game is not fair. The odds are stacked in your favor, and have been for a very long time. Are there white men who are homeless and poor? Yes. Are there white men who have been victims of injustice? Yes. But that does not mean all things are equal. Just because being a white man isn’t a free ticket to easy street doesn’t mean that we have it just as hard as anyone else. In fact, as hard as life is, as fraught with difficulties and injustices as it is, it’s still a hell of a lot harder if you’re not a white man. 

Confront Your Disbelief 

Don’t believe me? Ask yourself why. Is it because that just hasn’t been your experience? Of course it isn’t. You just don’t see it? Of course you don’t. That’s my point. That’s our privilege. That’s why I am suggesting that we stop and listen to those who have had that experience – who do see it. It’s still up to you what you think, do, and believe; but if you want those thoughts actions and beliefs to be informed and serve more than just “you and yours,” then please, stop and listen.

Take Action: Guilt Does Not Help Anyone

Finally, don’t waste time on shame or guilt – those are cop-outs and don’t excuse you from taking action. Find something to do. Find a way of using your talents skills and privilege to benefit others. Don’t give up if you can’t find anything right away either. “There’s nothing I can do,” is just another cop-out. Just another excuse. Keep listening, keep looking. You will find something. It may not be earth shattering, you may not single handedly end world wide prejudice for all time, but don’t stop. Make it part of your life. If you’ve really recognized injustice and your own privilege, then listening and acting is not a one time thing. It’s a skill you develop through practice. It’s something you just do now.

Things I learned while attempting to make chocolate from scratch in my truck

Stories from the Road, Trucking

1. I need a bigger mixing bowl. I’m sure there are worse things to be covered in, but still. Lots of cleaning up to do.
2. Making your own chocolate is actually surprisingly easy to do. The recipe is incredibly simple; 1 part coco powder, 1 part oil, sweeten to taste. You don’t even need a double boiler – although I’m sure that makes it easier.

(I used unrefined coconut oil, but I’m guessing you could use butter or any other oil-based solid stuff, maybe even cream cheese? Also I just realized I forgot to add a pinch of salt. Whoops!).

3. Bitter chocolate is BITTER. Very bitter. It took 12 ounces of liquid sweetener just to get it to taste like dark chocolate.

4. Beware liquid sweeteners. My chocolate was looking beautiful with that liquid silk texture glistening in the sunlight as I stirred….and then I added liquid sweetener and it almost immediately turned into gritty mush. Turns out the liquid sweetener I used contained water.

5. Beware of water. Apparently chocolate does not mix well with any amount of water. It took a little internet research to figure out that this is what ruined the texture of my chocolate, but not that much. (Edit: after some more reading I have learned that chocolate will tolerate liquid as long as you maintain the ratio 1 part liquid to 4 parts chocolate. Haven’t tried it myself – seems easier to just avoid liquids altogether.)

6. Even ugly chocolate tastes good. Although my chocolate didn’t end up with that silky smooth texture I was hoping for, it still tastes just fine. I had to strain out all the water that kept separating from the mix but in the end I had some pretty good tasting chocolate. 

7. The flavor changes over time. When I first put it in the fridge to set, it still tasted pretty intensely tangy and bitter but after sitting overnight it has mellowed considerably. Now it tastes much more like the fudge I was hoping for.