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   lead foreign policy zeppelin
Friday, April 30 2004
Today while I rooted around in a chaotic snarl of wires looking for a serial null modem cable I noticed that some of the wires had chew marks on them. There's only one critter in this house (past or present) with a history of chewing wires, and that critter is Maxwell, our latest cat. Maxwell is a 'fraidy cat and doesn't show himself as much as the others, though he does like to come into the laboratory. Sometimes he hangs out and watches the discoball light show. Sometimes when I'm not looking he pisses and shits. Often he's friendly and even cuddly. But on several occasions I've seen him chewing wires with a scary single-minded gleam in his eye. It seems like a nervous habit, which isn't surprising given how high-strung and jumpy he is.
I knew he had a special fondness for my big spools of CAT 5e ethernet wire, so in the one place in the laboratory where I ran some, I painted its sheathing with a mixture of acrylic paint and cayenne pepper. Today, though, was the first time I became aware of how widespread his chewing has been. He seems to have done it in at least three corners of the laboratory as well as behind the television set in the teevee room. Maxwell doesn't just chew ethernet either; he's chewed audio/video cables, USB cables, and (most worrying) electric power cords, especially the standard shiny-sheathed kind used with computer equipment. So today I went on another of my obsessive-compulsive jihads, this time armed with a mixture of cayenne pepper, black pepper, ground mustard seeds, and lime green latex wall paint. I painted practically every floor-level wire in the laboratory, especially in places and positions most likely to be chewed. I then went out into the house and did similar wire painting behind the television and beneath the computer on the first floor (though I couldn't find any evidence of chewing in that last place). Strangely, I felt in my body that what I was doing was actually art.

I wonder what the average spray cheese eating, NASCAR enjoying, antenna flag flying middle American numbskull thinks of the pictures of Americans soldiers sexually abusing and otherwise torturing Iraqi prisoners in the Abu Gharib prison. My guess is that if you were to poll most Bush supporters, they'd claim this treatment, though extreme, is certainly justified by what the Iraqis went and done to us back on 9-11.
But regardless of what the Republican base may think, these pictures are, to put it mildly, inconvenient. As you'll recall, two of the President's newly-stated reasons for having invaded Iraq are that it was to put an end to "rape rooms" and "torture chambers." Bush is now condemning the mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners, but it's only because this has become a serious international problem and saying things exclusively for its effects on his meat and potatoes constituency isn't helpful in this case. He's run completely out of ballast for his lead foreign policy zeppelin. Perhaps this is why "analysts" said, "The strong response by Bush appeared directed less at an American audience than at an international audience skeptical about U.S. intentions in Iraq."

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