Rustic Cyberpunk

Coffee & Cabins

Summer Archipelago

2 min read

While enjoing the start of winter, I came across this lovely animation that I think is a fine intermission to the season's sentiment.

Created by Pontus Ryman.

I always wanted to capture the feeling of the serene environments around my parents summerhouse where i have spent many summer days.

The coasts with its water eroded rocks and trees bent by the wind, the deep forests and open fields has always been striking to me. When the house was about to be sold i realized it was my last chance to fully scan and capture the essence of those locations.

This video is a homage to those summer days and the experience of taking a trip to the coast through the open fields into the dense forests and to the open coast during a sunny summer day.

I kept going to the coast a couple of times during the spring to photogrammetry capture the rocks, trees, houses and other props to collect the parts needed. I also took the time to record a lot of sound, as i wanted something that felt authentic to the location. Initially this was just supposed to be a small scene of the coastal rocks but quickly expanded into something bigger to encompass the whole summer day experience.

I built the content from my own photogrammetry scans and took the opportunity to deep dive into aspects of Unreal Engine i had not done before to learn new things along the way.

On the technical side there is nothing unique about the content. The content is build from scratch after standard game budgets through a curated small set of assets with LODS + billboard final LOD for vegetation, detail textures, and contact shadows, running Real time in Unreal Engine 4.26

Big thanks and shout out to Andrew Hamilton who gave me so much feedback and ideas as i worked on this video, it was a huge help to bounce ideas and he helped me make this into something bigger than just a showcase of nature content.

I hope you enjoyed watching this, it was quite an experience to create.

I dedicate this video to my parents, my wife and my baby daughter who accompanied me on so many scanning excursions.


3 min read

Thanksgiving was excellent. Still the same standard affair with my roommate and I seeing the neighbor and getting treated with her homemade apple pie. It also reminded me of how far I have left to go to become a better cook.

Only a couple of weeks afterward, I made a new discovery; I could have sworn I had a few hundred miles left in these. I didn't realize this was their state until I felt a slight tinge of dampness on an otherwise relatively dry walk.

gap in sole
It's not supposed to do that
sole hole
Soles aren't supposed to have gashes in them either

I'm sure leaks have happened before, but I was just too busy to notice. I already have my pair of winter shoes ready so this isn't exactly the end of the world.

I got this pair of shoes more than a decade ago and have put them through countless textures and probably 10K miles. They already survived a couple of trips to Sri Lanka, which isn't known for the smoothest sidewalks even when those are available. They've been my air-travel shoes for quite some time since I gave up on laces at security screenings.

Most of my clothing tends to be older and I'm of the type to run them to rags before getting new ones. Shoes are generally retired earlier since those are often the first to be noticed when meeting people and it's very easy to hurt yourself in a bad pair. Frugality shouldn't come at the cost of common sense.

I briefly considered what it would take for me to make my own shoes at one point, but it's hard to actually experiment without suitable material. I did see a few hand operated sewing machines used for leather work on eBay, commonly called "Cobbler Sewing Machines" or similar. But those are well outside my budget at the moment and I need to focus on building up my savings again for immediate needs.

My new sewing machine does have a strong enough gear system to make quick work of thicker material, but I don't know how it would fare long-term with that kind of use.

Right now, I'm happy with being able to mend my existing clothes. I ran a few strips of cloth through the new sewing machine as soon as it arrived and I can already tell it's going to get a lot more use in the coming months. I may have a chance to do a proper expansion on it when I have time.

Meanwhile, I'm getting things ready for the winter. One of the great things about getting older is knowing when this machine needs maintenance by just the noises it makes, especially when sitting down or getting out of a chair. I'm about to spend extra time on my winter reading list for that reason and more.

Coffee and Coziness

3 min read

The summer storms came and went.

I was finally able secure a new (old) sewing machine since my ancient Singer Scholastic broke down. I suspect the original owner bought it while being stuck at home, but never got around to it. The new machine is a Janome HD 3000 listed as "gently used", although it showed no real signs of use. It's an addendum to my cabin-life plan of repairing my own clothing as much as possible. Based on the Food, Shelter, Clothing triangle of thriving and not merely surviving.

I'm generally picky about shopping so most of my clothes are fairly old to begin with. Some of my t-shirts and jeans are from my high school days. On the few occasions I do go shopping, it's usually only for the bare essentials like socks. There were even fewer chances for me to shop lately.

I hope to take delivery of the sewing machine in the coming weeks. It was the most expensive purchase of the year and I hope to make it the last such expense until things calm down a bit more. I have no expectation that it will any time soon, but I can't stop moving on in my own life because so much else is at a standstill. Besides, being able to repair my own clothes and possibly make new ones in the future is too important to put off until there's an actual emergency.

It's unfortunate that I didn't get the opportunity to study Home Economics. I feel like my generation missed out on a good foundation for learing these basics like sewing and cooking earlier in life. It would be nice to wear things I've made or repaired myself again. Life is a series of investments. Some dividends are paltry or non-existant in the present, but keep you afloat when you can't swim anymore.

I'm only a beginner at sewing and there's so much I don't know and haven't tried. Aside from clothing, I'd like to try making simple things that I'll find useful, like messenger bags and straps. These were much harder to do on the old machine, which I mostly used for making seams and touching up a few things.

For the past few months, I've been running around the most since the world got sick off of disease and global supply chains. There were a few instances where I was about to lapse into the post-lockdown era of tightened budgets, and I'm still not in the same state as I was before all this, but things are getting better. I missed most of the autumn colors since my head was pointed at my desk and screen, but I may be getting a short break soon. I hope to take it easy before snowfall.

Winter is usually when I enjoy camping, but it doesn't seem like this season would be it for me. I'm fairly content at being home this time. There's a lot more reading for me to catch up to since silence was in short supply for a bit.

I look forward to the winter storms. And now, coffee.


1 min read

It's just before 9AM on Sunday as I'm writing this. As I was preparing for cabin life in the before times, I kept looking at what measures I can take against Mother Nature in a small structure. I realized the question was framed with the wrong premise; Anything against nature is doomed to fail, given enough events and years. All defenses are transient and working with nature whenever possible is the more effective approach.

Tropical Storm Henri is about to make landfall in New York and I'm excited and concerned. The concern is for those without the luxury of shelter or a backup plan. Excited because I'm weird.

I'm taking a brief set of measurements while it's safe to do so on some materials I have left exposed for several months on the balcony of my apartment. They're tied down to prevent them from turning into missiles. I'm interested in finalizing the design for my windows of the cabin and support shelters. I will most likely be making them on my own for better control of the quality, aesthetics, and a sense of satisfaction. Actual construction is a long way off, but there's never a bad time to record data.

We'll see how any of this holds up in the real world.

The Strategic Luddite

3 min read

I have a conflicted relationship with chores. On one hand, I love the simplicity of a task allowing me to tune out the world. On the other, this is one more thing occupying my waking moments when the world is already tuned out and I'd rather be doing something else. Most chores for cabin life will be physical in nature.

Certain tasks will benefit a great deal from automation. E.G Closing the windows on a greenhouse during a sudden cold spell, opening them again to manage humidity, turning fans on or off etc....

I'll be avoiding anything "Cloud".

Moreover, if I rely on certain systems to maintain my lifestyle and I don't understand how these systems operate, I won't know how to repair them when they inevitably fail or when I need to make improvements. Opaque boxes hidden behind obscure circuitry and licenses, running programs restricted by the DMCA, is an unpleasant proposition.

Sacrificing my future freedom for convenience in the present feels like an unwise investment.

In that spirit, I'm working on a set of single-role, simple circuits for handling various chores. Task handlers which will still remain sufficiently low-tech, that should actual human intervention be necessary, they can remain on standby as durable conveniences. Not contrivances for the sake of technology, which can fail on command at the behest of a corporation that answers to no one but itself.

Part of my rationale is that a smart device, or similar general purpose programmable machine requiring a network connection, isn't always available or desirable for various reasons. The other is the high scavenge and reuse potential for parts. Hobbyists and professional carpenters alike routinely reuse scrap lumber, of varying textures, hardness, and appearance they have laying around and the principle is the same.

Even in times of stress, plenty of past luxuries get discarded.

Where one would use a specific microcontroller like an ATMega, PIC, or STM series these days, I'm trying to get back to basics with simple transistors and logic gates whenever possible.

I hope to have most of them doing these tasks without any stored programming, which may be susceptible to undesired changes or unexpected failure modes years or decades in the future. The circuit assembly of each will function as hard-wired programming for the most part, tailored to each task, using generic components. Many circuits in older reference books didn't even have labeled transistors. They would sometimes be called "NPN" or "PNP", implying "whatever similar you have on hand will suffice".

Should programming be absolutely necessary, I'll try to use the bare minimum circuitry needed such that most of the operation will draw very little power and can be supplied with a small solar panel and battery combination.

If procuring circuit boards also becomes an issue, I'll likely use narrow copper tape to draw out my traces and mica sheets as the base. These sheets are usually sold as replacement parts for microwave ovens. In the meantime, I'll be experimenting with regular printed circuit boards and prototyping on simple perforated boards. I have enough spares for now so I can manage some failed experiments without too much cost.

Of course, whenever possible, I will forego electronics altogether. Analog task-specific helpers may be even more desirable as they can usually be repaired and improved with locally sourced materials.

There's no guarantee that I'll retain the dexterity, visual clarity, or mental acuity of the present in my future years so the configuration and makeup of my helpers will be well documented and as clear to me as possible for the foreseeable future, in addition to remaining simple.

I'd rather not be burdened with the prospect of a diminishing pool of replacements for these. Nor do I want to be concerned with my relevance in my own upkeep.

End of Summer

1 min read

This was the most interesting launch after a new coat of hull paint in quite some time. The "Return to Normal" was anything but, although some folks in my immediate sphere seem to think so. I'm generally apprehensive of both doom and gloom and unmitigated optimism and I'm looking forward to neither expectation quite panning out the way they think.

Most of past Spring and this Summer was spent getting my affairs back on track. Because I spent a significant chunk of time last year and early this year relying only on my savings, I'm slowly recuperating from that shark bite. The scars will remain for quite some time, but I'm reasonably confident I can now maintain the mortgage payments for my apartment at least until the winter. I'll slowly be rebuilding my savings, as circumstances allow, in the following years.

I've been planning a career shift in the last few months, but I don't know when I'll be able to tack into that wind. I'll try to keep the maps as accurate as possible in the meantime.

There are still cabin designs happening in the background and I don't want to drift too far from my goals, currents of life be damned.


2 min read

There have been, amazingly, only two moments in my life where I was utterly lost in the woods, with no obvious clues as to where I am and where should be going. First time was from my sophmoric overconfidence with technology during my first solo camping trip. The second was when I was too distracted by my own thoughts to take note of the trail.

The realization the first time was disquieting. A cold wall of silence approaching my reality at light speed, as if the universe just discovered the edge of its false vacuum. The second time was oddly humorous, but I took it no less seriously.

GPS is a remarkable invention, but I've paid a heavy price for it. My map reading skills have severely atrophied since GPS came into my life. This is entirely my fault since the convenience of exploring civilization was far too enticing and so, little-by-little, I let go of discovering nature by following drawings of its topology. The last time I actually used a physical map and a magnetic compass while camping was back in 2010.

Since losing my way is always a possibility, even when simply hiking, I've kept handy trail markers with me ever since.

The lesson I learned from Hansel and Gretel, besides not entering suspicious cottages found in the woods, is that any edible substance left behind will quickly be gobbled up by the local fauna. Inedible substances may still be distrubed, but likely found nearby again once the fauna discovers its lack of nutritional value.

I now keep two decks of cards in my pack at all times. One for actual play and is plastic. The other is plain paper with just a glossy coating, which will return to nature when left exposed to the elements.

Two decks of cards
The brands don't really matter as long as they serve their function. I simply like the color red, besides its contrast against a carpet of white snow.

Waterproof cards are a must for actual play. It's physically impossible to keep a deck of cards dry, for any meaningful length of time, while playing outdoors. Even in a dry spell, a drop will manifest from the aether to harrass the ink. A disposable deck, however, must not tolerate water at all in order for it to disappear eventually.

I hope I'll get a chance to go camping again this winter, but financial and world realities are such that it seems a reach. What I miss the most in camping is not just the solitude; It's also the joy of existing in the present.

Spring Happenings

2 min read

I finally managed to set the New Year's affairs in order since there wasn't much of an end to last year.

My Singer sewing machine broke down at the worst possible time and I didn't have the means to repair it anymore. I got it on eBay years ago and it worked well for minor repairs here and there. I'd rather not dip into savings to replace it yet since it's not an immediate need, but it's nice to have one.

There's a glut of sewing machines, old and new, on eBay again. I'm guessing a lot of folks who bought new machines or upgraded during the pandemic are unloading their stocks. I also know at least one other person who tried sewing on his own, but gave up. It's a shame because creating things, like woodworking too, is meditative and, I found, theraputic. There's the added satisfaction of actually using something you've created.

I've been wondering what I would need if I did start making my own clothes. Besides repairs, and the odd curtain, I haven't really made anything substantial. It's a new skill that I think is worth pursuing. I have no immediate plans to turn it into a business. Actually, I'm rather tired of turning pursuits into profit-making endeavors. Hobbies become less fun when there's profit attached and I'd rather make things I enjoy for their own sake. Naturally, bills still need to get paid so I don't mind selling a piece here and there. But I'd rather not lose a hobby to profit.

Working has been from home for the most part still, but there are grumblings of on-site work that may call me away. I'd rather not travel, if it's not absolutely necessary. I don't think this year is a wash yet, but we'll see how summer fares before scoring it. A perfect 10 seems unlikely.

April was supposed to be Spring Cleaning month, but I've had several months to clean already. Last year's whirlwind blew away a decade of detritus. I did rediscover a box of components I've collected for various projects. If I do ever turn a section in one of my planned structures into a lab, I already have at least half the needed pieces.

Reading cabin topics again brought a much needed windbreak to this squall.

Forgetting to Be

1 min read

It's a new year, but so far, January feels like a muddied delta of last year. When I used to frequent forums a lot, back when those were still the most prevalent online watering holes, something strange happened that made me remember to unplug. It's why I'm relatively resistant to it in the age of social media.

I couldn't decide whether what I felt was my own feelings. It's an unnerving sensation, when I'm aware of it; To wake up and not be me or even forget what "me" means in a collective. I thought I should probably learn more about that person back then.

I love solitude. It's hard to describe this love because it's not a traditional relationship. There's no "other side" to solitude. There's no one to disturb, displease, or disappoint. I can walk away from solitude at any time and there are no hard feelings. No one is hurt. Best of all, there are no expectations whatsoever on how to be myself. It's why I try to reconnect with solitude when I'm away for long stretches. It's why I only feel at home when in solitude.

People are forgetting to relate to solitude and not the character they've invented to relate to others. Life is not an avatar.

I hope I never forget to relate to solitude.

Why Things Work

5 min read

I bought a typewriter at the beginning of this year. A Royal Safari from the 1960s, as something of a side-project and to enjoy my free time away from the computer. I have far more free time than I did before.

Royal Safari
Royal Safari, in all its gray and beige glory. I rather like the combination in this particular case since it fits with everything.
Serial SA5453737
This serial number dates to around 1963, I think, from the few reference materials I've been able to find

One of my neighbors sold it to me for $10 after trying and failing to fix it himself and thought I might have better luck. There were quite a few scuffs, scratches and dings on the case, but the internal mechanism was intact aside from a rail being slightly out of alignment. Most of the keys were covered in thick layers of White-Out, which I tried to scrub out as best as I could. I still don't know why people do this to their typewriters.

Key closeup
The keys look considerably cleaner now. I did my best to remove the built up layers of grime, but there are few corners that could still use a good scrubbing. At least the parts where my fingers will touch are relatively clean. I wasn't able to do much about the discoloration.

By looking at the insides, I'm inclined to think it was dropped from a fair height at some point. My neighbor got it this way initially from eBay. The seller had described it as working at first, but that it had "stopped" afterwards, which means something happened to it in storage.

Back cover screw
That looks like many failed attempts at removing the rear screw. I don't know if the previous owner or the eBay seller had poor eyesight.
Tab set rail
This rail was out of alignment and it seemed to have suffered a shock at some point. This is the tab set bar. Each of those pins is a tab stop which can be set via the "column set" key.

Preceding my purchase, I have no idea how many people tried to fix it themselves. There was a thick layer of WD-40 already on it, which ruins the delicate balance between lubrication and freedom of movement. There are various formulations of WD-40, but once the U.S. variant "dries", it becomes a thoroughly viscous magnet for all manner of dust floating in the air, in addition to acting as spider silk to whatever debris falls onto the joints from between the keys. The coating looked old already so I don't believe my neighbor was responsible for this failed attempt at maintenance.

Basket closeup
There's still a bit of dried WD-40 in there, but I've done the best I could to get rid of it with the isopropyl alcohol I had at hand. A few keys are still a tad slow to fall back after striking.

To my delight, there are still typewriter ribbon vendors. I've ordered a few and they're on their way.

Returning this typewriter to working order gave me a good reminder of how a lot of us seem to keep doing the same thing without stopping to think why they should work in the first place.

Often times, finding out why something worked in the past is more important than understanding why it may not at present. The clues are all there. The typewriter worked because the intricate ballet of levers, slides, and joints are mechanically choreographed at the factory to precise tolerances. The addition of the problematic lubricant was unnecessary and so was the drop.

People train themselves to do the "working thing" so thoroughly that they keep doing it even when it stops working or the circumstances that lead to it working originally no longer apply. Sometimes, failures aren't the pillars of success; If nothing was learned, they're merely a pile of cumulative failures.

Allegiance to the same ideas in the face of better information is religion. That might be fine in some cases for mild doses of self-improvement, especially when the new information is possibly misguided and harmful, but it's also how civilizations end when left unchecked.

Hello OnionLand
This ribbon has probably been in this typewriter for decades

Writing on the typewriter is a great joy. I learned how to type on an electric typewriter I found thrown out by someone because I couldn't afford a computer at home for homework. It wasn't until junior high school that I was able to actually use a computer in the library and get to know typing on even lighter keyboards.

This is the first time I've felt the truly awesome tactile feedback of stamped steel.

I think the typewriter will be a fine addition to the library, once it's built. I'd like to leave it there permanently next to the reference material I read for inspiration. It's fitting that this specific model was originally marketed toward students and I still have a lot to learn.

Royal Safari booklet
The literature that came with the typewriter. Being crumpled between the back of the typewriter and the case all these years, it has definitely seen better days.
Typewriter introduction
This was geared more toward families, possibly with children who wrote their papers on these typewriters.
Touch Typing guide
Teaching touch typing was still the norm, even with the widely prevelant two-finger search and destroy method. I've developed a few bad typing habits that I hope I can also get rid of by using the typewriter.

Andy Rooney had a collection of typewriters in his own writing shed and it's only fitting that I feel compelled to do something similar.

Andy Rooney's writing shed'
Hopefully I can stop with just one typewriter.
Andy in his shed
Andy in his "pentagon" in 2001 going through a stack of mail. I like the shelf arrangement inside as well.

Since the library is not going to be wired for electricity anyway, it's perfect for writing for hours on end without needing to charge a device like a laptop or even my own writing computer. And since the structure will be insulated, it won't experience the same temperature swings that damage so many other forgotten mechanical relics in attics and basements.

Looking forward to many more pages indelible text.

Settling In

2 min read

This winter marks the first time in five years that I haven't gone camping. Considering everything that's happened, it wasn't entirely unexpected. I've cleaned up the apartment before Thanksgiving and my roommate helped out. We had our, long awaited, pie from the neighbor and were very thankful for that as well.

I have no specific plans this winter except surviving until spring. There is enough in terms of provisions that should I lose my current gig between now and March, I'll still have the mortgage and bills covered. Don't know what I'll be doing past that, but we'll see how the branches fall by then.

The hatches have been battened down.

I've been trying to relax while staying home by working on a typewriter I acquired a little while ago from another neighbor. He got it on eBay and sold it to me for $10. I think he paid considerably more, but he just wanted to be rid of it at that point. It's a nice machine for the most part, once the grit cleaned up. One of the worst things that can happen to mechanical devices is an incorrectly attempted repair. I've been thoroughly enjoying the immediacy of writing down my thoughts on it.

Since my own cabin plans are on hold, I was looking up how other cabin folks are spending their winters. I came across this one that I especially enjoyed. This is what I hope to be doing while on my winter strolls as well.

Another one I appreciate is this venture in quiet solitude.

I do want to get back on the cabin design and I have a rough idea of where I'm heading since the last two times. The overall plan is still the same from the middle of this year, but I'll obviously need to reconsider the timeline. The "solar shed" will likely be where all my electronics will also be housed as that will create the least amount of intrusion into the other living spaces. I still want to maintain that boundry of tech and non-tech as much as is practical.

Things may feel slow as molasses at present, but for me at least, it's still flowing in the right direction.

The Dark Winter

2 min read

I came back to my apartment mid-October. Everything wasn't quite the same as the Before Times, but a few more tenants had also returned. The night is still quieter than I remembered. Before leaving, I had forgotten a jar of "something" given to me a while ago in the fridge. It's amazing what terrifying delights may grow in a sealed container, unbathed by a suitable climate, for a few months. Not too different from sealed homes or hearts.

A lot of people have forgotten what desperation genuinely feels like. What war feels like and what it means to fight to exist. Like gawkers flocking to a receeding wave before a tsunami, there's a non-trivial percentage of people still insisting on being spectators to their own undoing instead of heading to higher ground. In this case, that's simply covering their nose and mouth with a piece of cloth. This isn't entirely unexpected, but it's a slowly unfolding tragedy that's entirely preventable.

When wrapped in the warmth of complacency, gathering kindling for fire feels foolish and sharpening an axe feels premature. The biting cold of reality feels unwelcome in thoughts and actions.

But the cold is coming.

Here in New York, there's a slight uptick in the number of infections and I expect that, and accompanying deaths, to grow exponentially as seasonal flu is added on. The price of participating in civilization seems like a fool's bargain on some level, but it's still the only mechanism of cooperation in collective memory that we know to have worked. It can still work.

My roommate had come back early November and we're resuming some semblance of normalcy. My immediate neighbor greeted us as usual and we're back to chatting of fun times. I'm looking forward to her Thanksgiving pie this year too.