Your leaking thatched hut during the restoration of a pre-Enlightenment state.


Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").


decay & ruin
Biosphere II
dead malls
Irving housing

got that wrong

appropriate tech
Arduino μcontrollers
Backwoods Home
Fractal antenna

fun social media stuff

(nobody does!)

Like my brownhouse:
   surrounded by good neighbors
Saturday, March 15 2003
Gretchen and I took Sally on a walk on our uphill neighbor's property, the folks with the French accents who live in the City but spend their weekends in a farmhouse nearly a mile back from the road. The weather was fairly warm and sunny, and this permitted us to venture far into unknown territory along a ski path cut across the dense, crusty snow. We found some old buildings back there, including a garage, a pump house, and a complex of summertime facilities including two bathrooms and a kitchen. Most of the porcelain and glass was smashed and ruined and the subterranean concrete block walls of the pump house were all bowed in from the pressure of the surrounding soil. Most of the roofs for the buildings had been built insufficiently steep and were in a state of semi-collapse from the cumulative effects of years of heavy snowfalls. We looked around at the surrounding countryside, which appeared to be a gradually-reforesting clearing, and decided perhaps these buildings had once been part of a campground. We found a trace of asphalt and a large mysterious excavation, but beyond that the persisting snow cover kept the grounds enshrouded in mystery. Later tonight we learned that this had been the site of a controversial go-cart racetrack dating from the 1960s.
On our way back home, we stopped for a time and chatted with the people on whose land we'd been walking. They were sunning themselves on their south-west facing porch, reading the newspaper. With them was a little Pomeranian dog whose hair had been cut to imitate that of an adult male lion. We got to talking about this and that - including the scheduled war with Iraq. Being non-American intellectuals, their opinion on this war didn't seem to be measurably different from our own. The wife couldn't say enough good stuff about Somehow the topic of the UN Population fund came up, particularly how the 34 million dollar American contribution had been cut by the Bush administration as another in a long line of gifts to faith-based maniacs. It then turned out that the husband's teenage daughter had been one of the letter-openers on the receiving end of the grass-roots "dollar campaign" to restore the population fund's $34 million.

The other day Gretchen and I had been invited by our other (downhill) neighbors - the parents of the guy who sold us our house - to a St. Patrick's day meal of corned beef and boiled cabbage scheduled for tonight. We'd agreed to go, with Gretchen giving them a heads-up that she's a vegetarian. (These folks used to run a very successful meat and cheese retailer in Kingston.)
It was a small gathering: just us, our elderly hosts, their middle-aged daughter, and her husband. This son-in-law was of Irish extraction and was the main reason for the celebratory meal; no one else there had any Irish ancestors. Another possible reason for celebrating was the suddenly pleasant springlike quality of the weather, though this was just a lucky break. Gretchen and I were the only ones there without much grey hair, but age differences didn't seem to stand in the way of a good time. We stood around in the kitchen for awhile drinking first shots of whiskey and then flutes of black, lukewarm Irish beer. We talked at length about the impending war and, as with the other neighbors, were in agreement that it was lunacy. (I must say that we should count ourselves very lucky to be so politically in tune with rural neighbors - normally to achieve this one would have to belong to the NRA, Americans for Purity, or the Ku Klux Klan.)
Though Ireland is much more celebrated for its writers, bogs, whiskey, and beer than it is for its national cuisine, I must say that I can nonetheless understand the fondness one could have for the sheer comfort of Irish culinary preparations. Corned beef, of course, has its own nuanced charm. But I hadn't expected to enjoy the boiled cabbage as much as I did. Holy Leprechaun, that cabbage was boiled. It had been cooked to within an inch of total dissolution. The result was a translucent substance which nearly melted in my mouth, an unexpectedly delightful thing to eat. I guess I was enjoying my food a little too much, eating it with my usual absence of savoring - actually eliciting a trans-protocolic comment from the household matriarch that I slow down.
Dinner conversation was largely about the grandkids, particularly one who succeeds at nearly everything he tries. The largely optimistic view of the latest generation led me to observe, "the kids are alright."
After that, the table was cleared and we played a few rounds of poker. Gretchen and I have never been enthusiasts of social scenes built around friendly card games, but, due to generational complexities and a "when in Rome" mentality, we played along nevertheless. We managed to have an unexpectedly good time, facilitated in large part by a "hierarchy of hands" cheat sheet prepared by the son-in-law, a sort of highly-abridged version of Las Vegas for Dummies. I'd never been given such good pre-game coaching, understanding (for example) how the rules of the game could be altered at its outset. When it came my turn to declare the rules and deal, I decreed, "all tens and nines are wild." I had a wickedly egalitarian desire to give everyone a good hand. Had I been given the chance to deal a second time, I would have decreed all face cards wild.


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