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").


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Like my brownhouse:
   bear in the back garden
Monday, October 20 2003
This morning I took our guests Frank and Lisa for a long walk down the Stick Trail, across to the Funky Pond Summit Trail and eventually over to the cliffs of Canary Hill. Once she heard there are bears around here, Lisa was very excited about the prospect of perhaps seeing one, but I told her not to get her hopes up, that the chance was incredibly small. But when you live in England, seeing any wildlife is cause for excitement, and I thought we were lucky when we saw the white tails of a small herd of fleeing deer near the Funky Pond summit.
But then we descended the steep slope to the part of the Stick Trail that heads over to the Canary Falls and I heard the dogs barking about something further ahead. They were going nuts, and it was clear that whatever it was they were seeing was something they hadn't encountered many times in the past. So I ran to get a look and there it was, a massive adult Black Bear half way up the trunk of a large white oak. Somehow puny little Sally and Eleanor had intimidated it into climbing a tree. Knowing the bear could kill both of them with a single swat, I tried to call them both away, but they were too foolish with excitement. I was a little foolish myself, since this was the first time I'd ever brought a camera with me on the Stick Trail. I had to snap a few pictures.

B: A bear is pretty much all ass.

Somehow the bear climbed down and ran away, and only Eleanor was stupid enough to chase after it, but then Sally figured she was missing out so she ran after it too. Calling off the dogs was proving fruitless, so I decided it was best just to head away, so we, an international coalition of humans, turned around and went the opposite direction on the Stick Trail, away from the Canary Falls. Before too long Sally and Eleanor joined us. Somehow the bear, big as it was, had eluded them. I couldn't get over the luck we'd just experienced. Already this walk had outmatched the excitement of all the African Safaris I'd been on in South Africa, and this was (as Lisa kept saying) in my "back garden."
We went all the way to the rocky bluffs of the southwest summit of Canary Hill and heading down to a huge boulder that features an elaborate hunting structure built against it. As an indication of how fabulous the bear must have been for Frank and Lisa, they spent a good fifteen minutes at the elaborate hunting structure as Frank tried to photograph a chipmunk.

C: A view of the Esopus Valley from the summit of Canary Hill.

D: Frank tries to photograph a chipmunk at the elaborate hunting structure. Lisa is also visible.

E: A strange rock formation along the line of cliffs below the top of Canary Hill.

F: Lisa and Frank descending the steep slope of Canary Hill.

Location where these pictures where taken (look for the letters used in the captions above).
$ refers to bluestone mines; X refers to hunting structures.
The thick white band shows the line of rocky cliffs on Canary Hill.
Orange trails are the most recent, including the Canary Hill Trail
and the still-unnamed segment near the south margin of the map.

The wildlife (with the assistance of Sally and Eleanor) really outdid themselves along this particular walk. When we were down below the beautiful rocky cliffs of Canary Hill, Sally (who was still above the cliffs) managed to track down a turkey and chase it off the cliffs so we could see it in flight. We also saw some sort of unusual large falcon wheeling above the canopy.

In the afternoon, I had a rather long housecall trying to get basic web things working on a Macintosh. You wouldn't believe what a nightmare it was. When running Internet Explorer, the Mac was freakishly displaying all of a web page's embedded images as strings of gibberish, not as images at all. I couldn't install Mozilla 1.3, but Netscape 4.6 was running freakishly well. The only problem was that this particular client used Hotmail as her email service, and Microsoft has gone out of its way to make Hotmail unusable in non-IE browsers. In the end this client decided to sign up for a Yahoo! mail account. If anyone knows anything about that embedded images issue in IE on a Mac (running OS 8.6), please send me an email.

For dinner, Gretchen and I took Frank and Lisa out to our favorite restaurant, La Pupuseria on Broadway Avenue in Kingston. They were amazed by the food, particularly by how cheap it was. To Frank, Lisa said, "Imagine if there was a place like this where we live - we'd be here all the time!"
As we were leaving, we noticed a dozen or so customers fully occupying the bar, all of them eating pupusas and drinking beers. All of them were brown-skinned Salvadorans. It was the only real confirmation we've ever had that this is a popular restaurant with the local Salvadoran population. Up until today, we'd been a little suspicious that La Pupuseria might be a drug front, albeit one that made excellent (and highly-addictive) pupusas.

Tonight while Gretchen watched a couple of episodes of Law and Order, I set up a row of chairs in my laboratory facing the big 19 inch monitor of my main computer. Then Lisa, Frank, and I sat there watching several episodes of the League of Gentlemen. It's a great example from the long tradition of excellent British comedy: part slap-stick, part social-commentary, part gross-out, and part men dressed as women. It was surprising to learn that this stuff had actually been broadcasted on British airwaves. Some of it is so twisted that it's doubtful it would ever be exported to American cable. Some of its scenes contained such controversial content that they would be censored from R-rated American movies.

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