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:
   indecency on basic cable
Sunday, February 3 2008
The ceiling fan high above the living room is one of the tools I use to move free firewood-generated heat around the house. When the stove is burning and the fan blades aren't spinning, heat tends to accumulate under the ceiling, but when the fan is running that heat is thrown down against the floor, where it spreads out in all directions, some of it rising in the dining room, kitchen, and other parts of the house. When everything is working at full capacity, I can feel a warm breeze rushing up the stairway into the teevee room, where it heats everything upstairs except the laboratory.
The problem with using the ceiling fan this way is that it is controlled by a simple manual switch. If I turn it on when the fire is raging and then go to bed, that fan will still be spinning the next morning, long after the living room temperature has fallen to 52 degrees Fahrenheit. This is a waste of electricity and introduces an unnecessary wind chill to the living room environment, which is where Wilma the crotchety cat and the occasional dog like to sleep.
Yesterday I'd replaced the fan's switch with a light dimmer so I can tweak its speed. But I'd had a more ambitious plan that I finally got around to implementing today.
Somehow I'd been able to obtain some old mercury-tilt-switch-and-bimetal-coil thermostats back at the tail end of my Oberlin years, and they'd been gathering dust for years. Today I took one of these thermostat rigs (which actually had both heating and cooling thermostats) and cut it down to its basics and then upgraded the thickness of its switched wires to something like 20 gauge. The original wires were very thin and had just been there to complete the low-voltage/low-current circuit necessary to fire a relay, but I intended to use the thermostat to directly switch the 120 volt current going to the fan, which (judging from specs I researched online) could be as high as 1.6 amps.
The thermostat behaved differently once the thicker wires were in place. Being thicker, these wires were much more resistant to flexing than the old wires had been, so they tended to resist the movement of the bimetal coil as it tried to rotate the mercury tilt switch in response to changes in temperature. I ended up eliminating one of the wires and routing the 120 volts through the metal of the bimetal coil itself. This halved the mechanical resistance of the wiring, making the thermostat sensitive enough to do the job. Next I mounted it inside a small metal box, which I attached to the top of the rod that suspends the fan from the ceiling. To do this I needed to use an extension ladder, as my eight foot step ladder couldn't get me high enough.
I was doing all these things while socializing with Gretchen and our houseguest Sarah the Korean, but I had to wait until Sarah took Sally for a walk before I climbed that ladder - seeing me way up under the cathedral ceiling gave her acrophobia by proxy.
My first memory of inducing acrophobia in onlookers came when I was about four years old. My mother and I were visiting my grandmother in suburban Boston, Massachusetts, and I found an easily-climbed tree in the yard. After scaling it to a height of perhaps forty feet, I shouted down to my mother, causing her to scream in momentary terror.
I've never been particularly frightened of heights, though I have been known to fantasize about riding a bicycle atop a skyscraper just to get my adrenaline flowing. A good faction of my household projects involve climbing, and I'm always exceedingly careful when I am up high. Interestingly, Gretchen never seems the least bit concerned when I'm up on the roof working on one of my projects. She seems to have faith in my basic common sense. Others (such as our neighbor Andrea, who once begged me not to replace some wind-damaged shingles by myself) do not.

This evening Gretchen made vegan lasagna and asparagus soup using a new blending stick I'd recently bought her as a late-rising island in her birthday gift archipelago. By this point, though, Sarah the Korean had taken ill and had retreated to the basement guestroom and could occasionally be heard vomiting. Gretchen wasn't far behind - either they had food poisoning or a miraculously synchronized stomach flu.
Before Gretchen became too ill, though, she and I watched a recording our Tivo had made of South Park: Bigger, Longer, & Uncut. Interestingly, it had been broadcast on Comedy Central but it still lived up to its title. Not only was it big and long, but it was also completely uncensored. Every "fuck" and "cocksucker" had been left intact.
Comedy Central is basic cable, and I'd thought basic cable voluntarily complied with broadcast decency standards. Clearly, this was no longer the case. But why isn't the religious right rising up about this assault on their precious notion of squeaky-clean American culture? And why aren't there congressional hearings? This is an election season! Does Hillary know about this? Does Joementum Lieberman? It also made me wonder: is Jon Stewart going to continue to bleep out his obscenities? The Daily Show would feel a lot like HBO if the obscenities were just left the fuck alone.

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