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:
   tod siege
Sunday, June 18 2006
Before the sun rose too high I managed to install a new sheet of shingles in the wind-damaged part of the roof. I also installed some fragmentary pieces, since more than a whole sheet had been torn loose. Never during any of this did I feel at risk of falling to my death. It wasn't anywhere near as dangerous as the solar deck installation had been.

Our weekender neighbors have a quaint little "farm" that they visit most weekends to get away from the city. During most of the rest of the week it's vacant, though we frequently walk our dogs there and, because we're good neighbors, we pay attention to what vehicles go down its driveway. That driveway, by the way, is the same one that the people who own the 4000 foot long strip of property behind ours are claiming to be a right of way, though there is no legal paperwork about it in existence.
The weekender neighbors are a couple with kids from earlier marriages, and one of these kids is a retarded teenage girl. By retarded, I mean her speech is seriously slurred and she even has some difficulty just walking. These problems aren't superficial; she also has memory problems, difficulty parsing sentences, and trouble calculating what is and what isn't socially appropriate. She is, however, very fond of animals, and has recently taken to randomly dropping by when she's here on the weekends. Yesterday I suffered through a repetitive giggle-punctuated conversation some ten minutes in length before telling her I had things to do and that I would see her later. Today when I saw her coming I decided to hide upstairs in the bathroom. For all she knew I was taking a shower or had gone for a bike ride. Any normal person would have knocked at the door, seen no one was home, shrug, and leave. Not this girl. She kept shouting "Hewoah? Hewoah?" as Eleanor (and even the usually-restrained Sally) barked monotonously. Then I could hear her clumping around in the house and talking to herself, "Duh dowahs and duh windows arwah open. Wherewah could day be? Hewoah? Hewoah?" It went on like this for much longer than I expected; I guess time moves slowly when you're retarded. Eventually she settled down in front of the piano and began playing it. I kid you not. Occasionally she'd stop for a few more Hewoahs, but the piano had most of her interest now. By this point Sally had stopped parking and was standing in the kitchen while Eleanor was out in the yard, gradually growing hoarse from her barking.
Finally I decided I should just bite the bullet and come out of hiding, and maybe say I'd been in the bathtub. But when I came down the stairs, that retarded girl was still at the piano with a wall blocking her view of me. Sally shot me a quizzical expression from the kitchen, where she could see both of us. I shrugged and fled out the front door and then around the north side of the house and into the forest. Once Eleanor saw me she stopped barking and the piano continued against a tranquil background of chirping birds. I sat at the base of a tree and listened for awhile. The piano was hauntingly beautiful in its spare, chordless white-key-only way. It was like a film soundtrack for a peaceful scene, though more poignant because a profoundly retarded girl was making it up in real time. Eventually she made a last tour of the house calling "Hewoah? Hewoah?" and then stumbled down the stone steps to the Stick Trail and disappeared into the forest, with me rotating slowly around the tree I was hiding behind as she passed.
The Stick Trail loops around and comes very close to the retarded girl's family's farmhouse, so in a round-about way she was headed in the right direction. I knew that she and her mother had some experience with the Stick Trail, but I was nevertheless concerned she'd get lost. She did, however, have a dog with her, which increased the chance of her being able to find her way.
Later her mother showed up, wondering if I'd seen her daughter. What could I say, that I'd seen her but had been hiding? So I lied and said I'd been gone and hadn't seen her. But that wasn't right either - what if the retarded daughter was lost in the woods?
When the mother came a second time, this time visibly worried, I volunteered to convene a search party for the Stick Trail. The dogs and I went its entire length and around to the farmhouse, but we never saw the retarded girl. At the end we had just emerged from the forest onto the farm road when she and her mother appeared in a pickup truck. That retarded girl had somehow found her way. Evidently she's smarter than I'd thought.

It ended up being a scorchingly hot day, with temperatures reaching into the mid-90s, which in this climate is brutal. I took the dogs to the Hannaford supermarket to buy icecream and stopped on the way back at the Esopus near the Hurley Mountain Inn to give the dogs a chance to swim. While there, I mined some riverbank soil for use in smoothing the surface of the lawn. I recently bought a manual-powered spool mower and I'm finding it requires a fairly smooth lawn surface or else it gets stuck. There are all kinds of pits in the places where I changed the topography, usually in the gaps between the clumps of sod.

I don't know about you, but I've been disoriented by the New York Times website ever since they changed the design of the pages. The muted colors and lack of underlines beneath the links makes it all feel suddenly less substantial, as if the news it reports has lost some of its value. So I've taken to preferring the Washington Post as the source for my news fixes. Now, though, in the past day or so, the Washington Post has adopted a design more like that of the Times! Whatever happened to newspapers being conservative? There's a reason they're supposed to be conservative, and it has to do with the reactions I was having. If the weight of the news can feel different depending on the design of its presentation, maybe the people responsible should figure out a way to do it and then leave it alone. That said, I'm glad the LA Times eventually fixed the many problems their website's design had back around 2000 or so. (It's fine now, even without the link underlines.)

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