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

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(nobody does!)

Like my brownhouse:
   fording the Esopus
Sunday, July 20 2003
Mostly due to weak advertising efforts, I haven't had much computer repair business of late. So I take other gigs when I can get them. Today I went on my first "cowboy electrician" assignment for a real estate agent trying to sell a marginal property. Being skilled with electrical wiring but lacking a formal license, I self-deprecatingly attach the adjective "cowboy" to the name of this side-profession. The first time I heard "cowboy" used in this way was back when I worked for Back then Marty, a hired-gun Microsoft expert, used it to critique our existing ad hoc programming techniques. Later it turned out that Marty himself was something of a cowboy developer. His clever (usually undocumented) hacks tended to cause more problems than they solved.
The electrical job was down somewhere between High Falls and Accord, near the base of the west slope of Mohonk Mountain. As usual, I supplemented directions given by the real estate with a second opinion from Mapquest. And, also as usual, Mapquest suggested I take Fording Place Road as a shortcut from Hurley Mountain Road to US 209 South.

1: Start out going Southeast on DUG HILL RD toward CR-5/ HURLEY MOUNTAIN RD. 1.03 miles
2: Turn RIGHT onto CR-5/ HURLEY MOUNTAIN RD. 3.08 miles
3: Turn LEFT onto FORDING PL RD (Portions unpaved). 0.62 miles
4: Turn RIGHT onto OLD NY-209. 0.06 miles
5: Turn SLIGHT RIGHT onto US-209. 6.35 miles
6: Turn LEFT onto KYSERIKE RD/ CR-6. 0.95 miles
7: Turn SLIGHT LEFT onto KYSERIKE RD/ CR-6. Continue to follow CR-6. 1.81 miles
8: Turn RIGHT onto ROCK HILL RD. 0.97 miles
  Total Estimated Time: 29 minutesTotal Distance: 14.53 miles

So today, for the first time ever, I followed Mapquest's advice and busted a left at Fording Place (instead of using Tongore Road further south). The "portions unpaved" warning didn't cause me much concern. But then I got to thinking. Why was it called "Fording Place"? Could it be I'd have to ford something? What would that be? The only body of water I could think of was Esopus Creek, and that is much too big of a river to simply ford. Don't be deceived by the "creek" part of the name; it carries the entire outflow of the massive Ashokan Reservoir, what isn't used by New York City. Besides, why would Mapquest suggest that I ford a river as a routine method for getting to Marbletown and points south? But then sure enough, there it was, the ford. Fording Place simply dipped beneath Esopus Creek and then rematerialized on the other side. It being the height of summer, the Esopus wasn't as high as it could be. But I couldn't tell how deep the water was. Still, I was driving a four wheel drive pickup with massive tires, so I figured I had the equipment to make it. And so I did. Though I felt my truck being weirdly buoyed for a few scary feet of the fording, I didn't end up down in Saugerties. Nonetheless, it's doubtful I'll ever take Fording Place again.

Mapquest's recommended route across Esopus Creek.

An ærial view of the Esopus Creek ford.

The house whose electricity I'd come to inspect was being shown in an open house today. A real estate agent, not the guy who had called me, was there all by himself. When I arrived it was an hour into the open house and no prospective homeowners had yet materialized. "It's brutal!" the real estate agent told me, "I'm going out of my mind!" There's nothing a real estate agent likes less than not being able to talk to people. He'd brought a newspaper in case time dragged, but he'd already read it completely. To help him relieve his boredom, I had him show me the house. It was a large place with a separate one-bedroom apartment in the basement. Structurally, it was made of beautiful old timbers scavenged from ancient buildings. The foundation was rustic native stone, like the kind used to build the houses of historic central Hurley. The asking price was $399,000.00
But there were definitely things wrong with this house. Most of the outside finish consisted of a smothering layer of dreary grey vinyl siding. Down in the basement there was the irrepressible funk of water damage. They'd fixed most of the ruined drywall, but the smell lived on. My job was to figure out what was wrong with the basement electricity, which appeared to be completely non-functional. It didn't take long to find a master switch, which was on a secondary panel in the rear of the darkened electrical closet. Once that was on, I decided that the worst problem in the electrical closet was cosmetic - there were all these 12 gauge romex wires with stripped ends sticking out of the wall and dangling menacingly from the ceiling. I tested all the stripped ends and none of them were hot, but I made a mental note that their removal would probably be a precondition to passing a house inspection. The reason I'd been called in the first place was that no one without an electrician's license had been brave enough to venture into that room.

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