Last Update: 3/30/2018

What if I Die Alone in the Van?



Common fear if ya do vanlife solo (or even as a couple) is what'll happen if ya die or get too sick ta help yourself. Valid worry. Shit happens! An' the older ya get, the more likely it becomes.

Here's how ta cover yourself in case ol' vanlife goes ta hell. (Most a this info is Android based, but iOS should have similar. Even some dumbphones do.)

1. Stay in Contact Daily


Vanholio uses the vanlife buddy system. Every night, he uses an app ta text his GPS location to his best buddy and medical POA.

Sendin' out my GPS coordinates via SMS has three advantages:

  1. It's the most current location ta find me.
  2. It works when cellular Internet don't work. All I need is the barest cell signal.
  3. It lets my buddy know that I'm conscious and OK at that moment.

If I know I'm goin' totally off-grid, I'll text my current location and a summary of my travel plans. Includin' when he can expect ta hear from me next!

2. Use Your Smartphone as a Tracker


What if you're unconscious or otherwise can't contact out? What if ya moved since your last text in? That's where some kinda phone-based trackin' system works.

Right now, Vanholio's sharin' his location ta some friends usin' Google Maps. It's automatic once set up, which is great.


The downside is it only saves the last location I was on the internet. In other words, it don't work for shit if when your totally offgrid. But at least it gives searchers a startin' point.

Even better would be some kinda app that lets your buddies or family get your GPS coordinates via an SMS message, independent of Internet access.. That'll work as long as your phone is on and has the barest cell signal. There's a few apps out there.

3. Have Affairs in Order


It's damn smart ta have an Advance Directive, Last Will and Testament, and all that other shit ready ta go. 

Truly, Vanholio don't care much about whatever pathetic assets left when he bites it. Ain't my fuckin' problem. But I sure as hell care about my dog! And myself if I'm hard up but not quite dead.

The Advance Directive, gives instructions ta the doctors on how much I want done and what I think is bullshit. No fuckin' way I wanna be kept as a vegetable!


My best buddy is my Medical Power of Attorney (POA). He knows how I feel about things and'll see it done ta the best of his ability. I also got a regular POA ta handle the bills while I'm down.

Finally, I got a Pet Care Agreement and some money set aside 'specially for my dog. It's an agreement a who gets Ms. Barkley if I go. Has some backup folks, too. I'd hate ta think she'd die heartbroken and alone in a shelter. That shouldn't happen.

Now, ya might think plannin' all that stuff is gruesome. But it gives Vanholio peace a mind. Truly.

4. Keep Easy-to-Find ICE Info


Say LEOs or other first responders find you out or dead? Make sure they know what ta do. Vanholio's got printed and digital instructions for ICE (In Case of Emergency).

On my phone, I got an ICE app that does three things:

  1. It has my emergency contacts, includin' doctors, family, and POAs.
  2. It has my medical info, such as meds, allergies, and conditions.
  3. It has an emergency button I can press ta automessage my best buddy/medical POA, plus his wife.

But wait, there's more! Vanholio printed two laminated cards, one for his wallet and one mounted on the driver's shade in the van. It's got my meds, insurance info, allergies, where ta locate the Advance Directive, etc. in the van and online, and my emergency contacts.

Friend a mine is a hospital nurse. Says they get in single people all the time, especially middle aged men, with no info about who they are, what medical conditions they have, who ta contact, or nothin'. Makes their jobs damn hard. And maybe they don't guess right what the unconscious patient wants. Don't be that guy.

5. Get a Satellite Locator


Actually, I ain't got this yet. They're kinda pricey. But if you're type a vanlife takes ya outta cell range, look at a personal locator beacon or satellite messenger. Both work off satellite, so ya just need sky where you're at.



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Last Update: 3/27/2018

How I Became Homeless (and How You Can, Too!)

Wolfgang Pony Soldier, a conversion van
By WolfgangPonySoldier Blogger — Listen- this is a true story.

I turned 30 years old in a compound on lock-down surrounded by Cubans with guns. How did I get here, you may ask?

The summer preceding my 30's, I went a little crazy. I began dating my best friend. I sold all of my Ethereum (144, worth about $15 each at the time) and bought a van. We broke our lease on our apartment and set up a job for the fall trimming Marijuana (one of the still illegal farms that pay under the table)- All of this with the grandiose plan to travel across the country in search of.... something.

(PS: We named our van Wolfgang Pony Soldier)

We set off from Portland, Or. with $5k each, paid in cash. We hiked to waterfalls in misty Olympia, Wa. We camped on a beach in the redwoods where the giant old-growth trees backed up to the ocean. A friend lent us his apartment in Oakland where taxidermy animals stared at us from the walls. We slept next to Echo Park in our van, listening to the strange sounds of LA night. We slept on the streets of New Mexico for a month. And what did I learn?

That Jack Kerouac was full of shit.

Travelling is hard. It's fucking hard, especially in the modern age. When you're down to $20 in your bank account and you have to choose between paying your phone bill, buying food, or having a good night curled up with some beer, you might wish you still just had that comfy job and apartment back home. You miss the conversation of old friends. You miss taking a shower and pissing in a toilet (little tip: piss in an old laundry detergent bottle- it won't smell). You miss a front door that locks, instead of whispering in a van trying not to get caught.

Gal cooking on an camp stove

Something else I've learned- People aren't as shitty as you might think.

In every city we've been to, someone has lent us a shower. Friends of friends have given up their bed so we could sleep comfortably. New friends have given us art, old friends have bought us food. There is generosity hidden in the most disgusting parks in the largest cities. And best off- nobody has stolen our shit (yet).

Remembering back to the months I spent in a chair snipping the tiny hairs from green nugs, with AK47s and 1911s on the table behind me, always to my back, I have to say- this is so much better than having a stable job.

So, fuck it. Quit. What are you, scared?

I lived off $100 for the past month. Not because I wanted to, but because when you're up against the gun, you do what you need to. You can make it work. Go on vacation. Sell your house. Get out and meet some fucking people. I've heard of people in their 30's with no friends. Do you think maybe it's because you're spending too much time concerned with a computer? Not enough time actually out in the world? When you are forced out of your element, you adapt.

I'll be posting more stories and photos from our trip. Follow me, or go do something crazy.

Conversion van on side of road in woods



Started reading this #vanlife blogger on Steemit.com. Authentic voice. This manifesto was originally posted on his Steemit blog, WolfgangPonySoldier. Check it out!



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Last Update: 3/23/2018

EarthCruiser Is Vanlife Rig I'd Buy (When I Win Lottery!)

EarthCruiser EXP handling crazy offroad conditions

Vanholio hates the question, What conversion van or RV should I buy? Don't matter for vanlife or RV life, and I don't care. Most brands are crap. But EarthCruiser models are the exception.

If I ever win the lottery or otherwise find myself where money ain't no object, I might well get an Earthcruiser. Definitely top a the list!

EarthCruiser Quality Rocks


They got several models of two basic types: A full-on Mitsubishi Fuso conversion and truck campers for medium and large pickups. Lots ta admire in both types:

EarthCruiser GZL truck camper on pickup
EarthCruiser GZL
  • No fancy bullshit and sensible layout.
  • One-piece fiberglass shell:
    • Durable
    • Flexible under offroad stress
    • Easy ta clean
    • Insulated without air gaps.
    • No particle board shit or wood screws.
  • Solid, high-end yacht components.

EarthCruisers Ain't Cheap!


Prices ain't on the Earthcruiser.com website. Never a good sign.

TheDrive.com says the EXP – the top Fuso conversion – goes for over a quarter mil (~ $265,000 US). I can believe it!

Offgrid.com says the GZL truck camper starts at $36,000. Not bad, but beyond my current means.

Video Tour of EarthCruisers


Mostly shows the EXP. But the GZL truck camper starts at minute 9:50.


GZL Truck Camper My Likely Choice


Not sure which EarthCruiser I'd go for. The EXP and FX Mitsubishi Fuso conversions are clearly the most badass. Great for worldwide overland travel. But the GZL truck campers got their pluses.

Honestly, I'd probably go for the EarthCruiser GZL truck camper 'cause it's just big enough for what I need.

Plus I could upgrade trucks without startin' over. The Scrooge McDuck version of Vanholio'll get a 100% electric Tesla pickup, if Elon Musk ever gets his shit together on this. Or maybe a hydrogen fuel cell pickup, if such hits the market. Sky's the limit!
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Last Update: 3/20/2018

Don’t Let Dirty Laundry Stink Up the Van

dead woman buried under dirty laundry

Living in a van down by the river ain’t no damn reason to let your van smell like stink-butt. Vanholio’s got a trick to hold that ass smell to a minimum.

How to Store Dirty Laundry in Vans


Problem – Laundry Bags Waste Space, Smell


See, Vanholio’s got a tiny van. So as my laundry built, I had this huge bag a dirty clothes in my way. That was one problem. The other was it was stinkin’ up the place. Then I figured out how to kill two birds with one stone.

Solution – Waterproof Pillow Cases Do Double Duty


It’s so simple, I’m amazed some vandweller ain’t come up with it already. I done bought myself some waterproof, bug-proof, hypoallergenic pillowcases. The particular pillowcases are terry-cloth-like on the outside, water-tight, and close with a zip. No stank escapes.

Vanholio uses the clothes-filled sacks like pillows. They ain’t squishy, but they’re good to prop up my feet, put under a soft pillow, or lay by my side for extra insulation. Instead of being in the way, my dirty laundry’s multi-use – essential in vanlife.

When I do laundry every few weeks, I just wash the pillowcases with the rest. They hold up to hot water and the dryer.

Advice – Air Dry Dirties Before Stuffing


Before you sack up your smelly underwear and other clothes in the pillowcases, hang them up to air dry for a day or so. With less moisture, you'll avoid that gym bag mildew rot smell.

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Last Update: 3/16/2018

10 Amazin' Facts About the Creosote Bush

Creosote bush

Vandwellers and others in the US Southwest and Mexico seen a lotta creosote bushes. Shit's all over the goddamn place!

Some other names for creosote bush are greasewood and chaparral. In Spanish, it's called gobernadora and hediondilla. Scientists and stuckup gardeners call it Larrea tridentata.


But here's 10 amazin' facts ya didn't know! Leastways, Vanholio didn't till he decided ta dig around and educate hisself.

1. Creosote bush ain't where creosote comes from!


Creosote is distilled from oil or wood tar. Creosote bush got its name 'cause it smells kinda like actual creosote, 'specially when it rains. Pungent! That's why some Mexicans call it hediondilla, which means "little stinker."

2. Native Americans and others use it for medicine.


Ethnobotanist Gary Nabhan found Native Americans usin' creosote bush for at least 14 different ailments: colds, chest infections or lung congestion, intestinal discomfort (includin' worms), stomach cramps associated with delayed menstruation, consumption, cancer, nausea, wounds, poisons, swollen limbs due to poor circulation, dandruff, body odor, distemper, and postnasal drip. Today, the essential oils are sold online for all these purposes and more – even sunscreen! Not sayin' they work, but not sayin' they don't. Buyer beware!

Photo of creosote bush medicinal tea by Big Bend State Ranch volunteer Gary Norad (Public Domain)

3. Creosote bush oil might stop cancer!


NDGA (nordihydroguaiaretic acid) is an antioxidant that some studies have shown to slow or stop cancer growth. Tons a that shit in creosote bush oils! Other studies have shown NDGA to increase lifespan in mice and mosquitoes (like that's a good thing!). Yet other studies contradict, and scientists are concerned NDGA causes kidney damage. So stay tuned and don't start drinkin' the creosote bush Kool Aid yet.

4. Native Americans used creosote bush ash for tattoos.


Creosote bush's got lotsa other traditional uses, as you can imagine, from roof thatching to firewood. But here's the coolest in Vanholio's estimation: It burns down to a blue-green ash that was used as a colorbase for tattoo ink.

5. Creosote bush King Clone might be the oldest living thing on Earth.


Creosote bushes can clone themselves. Basically, a bush's inner stems die, and it's outer ones keep thriving. This starts an expandin' circle of clone bush, kinda like how ringworm does. It's called a "clone colony." The oldest one known is King Clone in the Mohave Desert in California. Ol' King Clone is estimated at 11,700 years old and has a 67 foot (20 meter) max diameter. If ya consider a bunch a clones the same as one original thing, then it's the oldest alive.

king clone, a ring of creosote bush ring colony
King Clone, the 11,700-year-old creosote bush ring in the Mojave Desert by Grant Klokeid (Public Domain)


6. It's found in all three major Southwestern US deserts.


Creosote bushes are a common shrub in the Mohave, Sonoran, and Chihuahuan desert. They're found in Nevada, Utah, California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. Lots in Mexico, too.

7. Creosote bushes survive because they taste bad and go down hard.


Well, in truth they got other survival features, too. But tastin' bad helps keep the grazers away! All kinds a critters'll nibble, but they won't eat much. And when they do, the leaves cause a tummy ache and pass rough. Only one known creature can fully digest creosote bush leaves, and that's the creosote grasshopper, genus Astroma.

closeup of creosote bush flowers
How can somethin' so pretty taste so bad? Photo by Eric in SF (CC BY-SA 3.0)


8. Creosote lac bugs make great glue!


Even today, Native Americans'll gather up a bunch a creosote bush lac bugs, Tarcardiella larrea. They'll crush 'em and boil 'em down to get the reddish-brown lac. This lac has been used as a glue for all kindsa things: fixin' arrowheads ta shafts, fixin' broken pottery, sealin' stored jar lids … Hell, in recent times, it's even been used ta fix cracked engine blocks! It's like nature's Super Glue.

9. Tons a creosote bush is a sign a degraded range.


In the Chihuahuan desert at least, there was much less creosote bush and mesquite 100-150 years ago, and much more grass. Scientists think overgrazin' and fewer natural bush fires is the reason' the creosote bush and mesquite have taken over.

Desert range in southern New Mexico with lots and lots of creosote bush
Typical degraded range in southern New Mexico with lots and lots a creosote bush


10. Creosote bush is a newcomer to the US Southwest.


Scientists think creosote bushes started inta the Lower Colorado River area about 17,000 years ago. Then at the end of the last Ice Age, they started movin' up inta the Mojave Desert, then inta the Sonoran, arrivin' in the Chihuahuan Desert only about 4500 years ago.

Refs & Read Mores


Allison, C. D., & Ashcroft, N. (2011, November). New Mexico range plants. New Mexico State University College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES). Retrieved March 15, 2018, from http://aces.nmsu.edu/pubs/_circulars/CR374

Creosote. (2018, March 07). Wikipedia. Retrieved March 16, 2018, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creosote

Curran, K. (n.d.). Creosote bush uses: medicinal and otherwise. EthnoHerbalist. Retrieved March 15, 2018, from http://www.ethnoherbalist.com/southern-california-native-plants-medicinal/creosote-bush-uses

Cutler, S. M. (n.d.). Biology/creosotebush vs. creosote grasshopper. Desert Diary. Retrieved March 16, 2018, from http://museum2.utep.edu/archive/biology/DDcreohopper.htm

King Clone. (2018, February 17). Wikipedia. Retrieved March 16, 2018, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_Clone

Larrea tridentata. (2018, February 28). Wikipedia.Retrieved March 16, 2018, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Larrea_tridentata

Little, W. J. (2012). A Sonoran Desert scrapbook: some desert plants of Kino Bay and vicinity [Google Books preview]. Indianapolis, IN: Dog Ear Publishing. Retrieved March 15, 2018, from https://books.google.com/books?id=zCpruKm8aWoC


This article was originally posted on my Steemit.com account.


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Last Update: 3/09/2018

Earning a Living as a Nomad with Steem

Header of Cahlen's blog on Steemit.com


By Cahlen — Today on The Wizard Life I will be sharing how I fund my nomadic adventures in the southwest deserts of the United States using the Steem cryptocurrency.

As many of you know, I quit my job as a Producer in the Video Game Industry a few months ago to live in my truck. While this lifestyle greatly reduces my expenses, there are still a few things I need to pay for (e.g. gas, food, mobile phone, etc.) so I do need a little income. I'm a Certified Human Potential Coach which provides some of that income, but at the moment most of what I need is actually provided by earning Steem through various social media platforms.


What Is Steem?


Steem is a Cryptocurrency similar to Bitcoin which also stores the textual information used to generate web pages and posts like this one (e.g. HTML, Markdown). This data is decentralized which means it is held on many computers all over the world, rather than on one server, which makes it resistant to censorship.

There is a lot to be known about Steem, but to put it most simply, it serves as the backbone of social media platforms which reward you with the Steem cryptocurrency for generating content which the community appreciates. Think of it like Facebook or YouTube where when someone 'Likes' your post you make money!

Let's take a look at some of the platforms built on top of the Steem Blockchain so far...

Facebook Alternatives


The first class of platforms built using Steem are what I think of as the Facebook alternatives in that they allow you to share Posts containing a wide array of content types (e.g. Text, Images, Videos, Music, etc.).

Steemit.com runs in a Web Browser and was the first major platform to appear, so people often confuse it for Steem itself. It's owned and maintained by the same folks who originally built the Steem Blockchain, which seems to add to the confusion. Here's a look at my Blog when viewed from Steemit:




Busy.org is an alternative which has a slightly different layout and some features you won't find on Steemit. While it got a later start than Steemit, it seems to be more actively maintained and updated so I suspect it will overtake Steemit in popularity in the future. Here's a look at the same Blog viewed via Busy:



eSteem is an Android and iOS App which does the same thing as Steemit and Busy. It has some pretty cool features you won't find on the other platforms, so I recommend checking it out if you prefer to use your mobile device. Here's a look at what the same Blog looks like on eSteem:



YouTube Alternatives

In a time where almost all video content comes from a single source who has demonstrated its willingness to silence those with whom it does not agree, decentralized video platforms like DTube and DLive are desperately needed. Echo chambers of opinion are exceedingly dangerous because they give their occupants the impression there are no dissenting opinions even though they might have been sympathetic to those contrary views.

DTube is a decentralized video hosting platform. It stores the actual video files on the InterPlanetary File System (IPFS) which is a decentralized alternative to HTTP. Once a video file is uploaded through DTube it cannot be taken down and can still be accessed even if the DTube website goes offline. It was created by @heimindanger and has come an incredibly long way in a very short amount of time, and I suspect it will come close to competing with YouTube in terms of its feature set very soon.

Here's a look at what my Steem profile looks like when viewed from DTube:



DLive is a platform which allows users to host live video feeds through the Steem Blockchain. Like DTube, it also has come a long way very quickly. I believe it is currently underutilized and is a potential gold mine for folks who know how to host high quality shows.

Here's a peek at the homepage:



As you can see, it's mostly streams of folks playing video games or music. Lots of room for improvement... get in while the gettins good!

Novel Platforms


Steem isn't limited to platforms which replace existing private services like Facebook and YouTube. Anything which involves rewarding users for generating content could work on the blockchain. One innovative platform which has taken Steem by storm is called Utopian-IO. It rewards users for contributing to Open Source projects.

Open Source means that you can read the code of the application you are using. This means you can make sure it's not doing anything you don't want it to, like sending your information to undesirable locations. It also means that you can duplicate the code and customize it to your needs! Open Source software is also free...

Open Source software has been historically supported out of the goodness of people's hearts who believe in the importance of transparency and accessibility. This limits its ability to compete with applications created by corporations because everyone's time is limited and everyone needs to earn a living. Utopian steps in to solve this problem by rewarding contributions to projects with very large upvotes.

There are lots of ways to contribute, and I focus primarily on reporting Bugs or functionality issues in the software. Here's a look at some of the bugs I've written and the rewards I've received for them:



You can also contribute by writing code, generating visual content, writing tutorials, translating text and more! This is where most of my income comes from. It's enough for me to live on in the United States, so just imagine how much this benefits people in less developed countries! It's hard to understate the potential for Utopian-IO to change the world for the better.

Other Platforms


There are new platforms built on the Steem Blockchain appearing all the time. There's an alternative to Instagram called Steepshot, an alternative to Twitter called Zappl, a SoundClound alternative called DSound... and more! It's certainly a very exciting time, and we're still early in the development of all of this.

How to Join


If you're interested in hopping aboard, you can create an account here:
https://signup.steemit.com/


Keep in mind that an account requires a small amount of Steem to exist and interact with the blockchain, and Steemit actually donates that to you when you create an account through them. For this reason, they need to verify you are a real person and that you haven't already made an account through them, so it can take several days before your new account becomes active.


This article is reposted from "The Wizard Life" by permission of Cahlen himself. He's a fulltime vandweller (OK, truckdweller), travelin' around the U.S. Southwest these days, among other impressive things. Check him out on Steemit.com, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Minds.
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Last Update: 3/06/2018

Use Windshield Reflector to Save Cooking Time, Energy

Max Burton Digital Stove to Go with windshield reflector wrapped around

Little vanlife tip ta make your boilin' more efficient: A reflector bounces back radiant heat and creates dead air space to reduce convection heat loss.

Don't matter what kinda stove ya use. Principle's the same.

That's why they sell aluminum heat reflectors for backpacking stoves. Same damn idea.

Only in this case, Vanholio's usin' his side window reflectors for the purpose. Ya could use aluminium foil or a piece a Reflectix, too. Don't fuckin' matter, so long as it reflects.

And Vanholio's cookin' in his 12v electric Max Burton Digital Stove to Go instead a some kinda gas stove. But energy's energy, and time's time.

Ain't much more ta say on this notion. The proof's in the puddin'. But the fellow in this here video proves it works like a real goddamn scientist.


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Last Update: 3/02/2018

Don't Cook Ramen Noodles, Soak 'Em Cold!


Summer'll come a broilin', and a poor vandweller asks hisself: “Must I cook these instant ramens?” No, actually. Soak ‘em and make cool salads like these! (See more great ideas in my YouTube Ramen! playlist.)

Soak Your Noodles 'Bout an Hour


Turns out instant noodles, like your cheap-ass Maruchan and Nissin ramen packets, are already cooked. They’re dried by frying. Ya just need to hydrate them.

I just break mine up and soak ‘em in my Big Bubba Mug for about an hour, more or less. Mostly, I just set ‘em aside and come back awhile later.

They set up just fine, good texture. Of your cheap noodles, I think Maruchan has better mouthfeel than Nissin when just soaked. (BTW, Vanholio tried the same thing with regular pasta. Turns to mush).

Three Ramen Salad 'Recipes'


Not going to give ya a bunch a proper recipes. Vanholia don’t do that shit. But here’s three ramen noodle salads I made, just for inspirationals.

1. Ramen With Vinaigrette Slaw and Chicken


This was my first evil experiment. I had confetti slaw on hand – that’s bagged slaw mix, made with broccoli stems, cabbage, carrots, etc., but sans dressing. And Walmart had canned chicken breast on sale. My rusty old brain wheels turned.

Soaked the noodles with the juice from the canned chicken and more water, plus canola oil, garlic salt, Tapatio hot sauce, and apple cider vinegar to make a vinaigrette. I don’t know exactly how much of anything – winged it.

Cover of "Prison Ramen" book
Buy at Amazon.com
After the noodles were soft, mixed 'em in two quart-size, Ziplock-type bags with chopped onion, the slaw veggies, and the canned chicken. Two delicious meals!

2. Ramen With Three Bean Salad


I soaked the ramen with the juice from a can a three bean salad, garlic salt, dried fried onions, and vegetarian bacon bits.

After the noodles got soft, I just mixed in the beans. Awesome! And you’ll notice it’s all from dry goods.

3. Ramen With Mayo and Egg


This was basically macaroni salad with added egg.

After hydrating the instant noodles for an hour or so in my Big Bubba Mug, I drained off the extra water. Then I added garlic salt, lotsa mayo, and two hard-boiled eggs.

Just kinda crumbled the eggs in there with my hands, then broke it up more with a fork. Mixed everythin' all around.

Good shit. Stuffed me like a Christmas goose!

What Ramen Salads Are in Your Brain?


Those are just three ideas Vanholio had and liked. You could do just about anythin'. What would you make? Comment below. And see more great ideas in my YouTube Ramen! playlist.



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