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
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Irving housing

got that wrong

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Like my brownhouse:
   filling the Kleinert
Saturday, April 9 2011
Today is the day that we traditionally celebrate Sally's birthday, so, with that in mind, today she turned sweet sixteen. She's an old bird with warts on her head and eyes frosted-over with cataracks. She's nearly deaf and pretty stiff when she gets up from sleeping. But she still likes to ride in the car and occasionally even goes on long walks in the forest. She also has an enormous appetite.

I took the dogs with me today when I went to Woodstock to attend Gretchen's second poetry panel. Scheduled for 2:30pm, it was in a much better timeslot than yesterday's panel had been in. As with all Writer's Festival events, it was to be held in the 100-person Kleinert Art Center.
The weather was as balmy as it has been since my return from Virginia, but since there are still no leaves on the deciduous trees, shade was hard to come by. I cracked all the windows and depended on a tree trunk for a little shade, but I ended up worrying about the dogs the whole time I was in Woodstock, which subtracted somewhat from my experience there. I probably shouldn't have brought them, but it was Sally's birthday, and she considers letting her sleep in the backseat of the car a good present.
Somehow today Gretchen took advantage of today's superior weekend timeslot and managed, through her various publicity channels, to fill the place to capacity (and then some). More chairs were found to accommodate those forced to stand. Who knew poetry could be so popular? Gretchen had been told there was no way a poetry event could fill the Kleinert, and she'd taken that more as a challenge than as a reality. And so reality itself had bent to her wishes. [REDACTED]
Today's panel included an older group of poets, including two who had taught Gretchen when she'd studied poetry in a master's degree program at Sarah Lawrence. The theme of today's panel was "Evolution of a Poet," comparing and contrasting poems from early in a career to those produced with the full wisdom of maturity. As with the panel Gretchen had moderated yesterday, it was much better (and certainly funnier) than other poetry events I've suffered through in the past. At some point, though, I felt bad about the dogs out in the car and I left to let them run around in a field.
After the panel dissolved, the crowd drained away, leaving a relatively small audience for the next panel: Behind the Scenes of Rock & Roll. (This might have been the first time in Woodstock's recorded history that rock and roll emptied a room.) I found myself chatting with Deborah, Nancy, and Sarah (the first two being the closest friends with those names and the last being one of the panelist's from yesterday's poetry panel). Eventually Deborah, Nancy, and I decided to go get a meal at the Garden Café, but as we were heading over there, Gretchen ran after us and said she'd be going to Joshua's, the restaurant across the street (which I only know from its cozy upstairs bar, which was the part we'd be going to). As with yesterday, we'd be sitting at a table with all (or, actually, all but one) of the panelists: Vijay, Tim, and Jean, as well as Sarah from yesterday. It was like sitting at the cool kids' table again. With the possible exception of Nancy, Sarah and Vijay were the WASPiest people at our table (Vijay is ethnically some sort of Subcontinental Indian, though he copped to WASPiness), and so they ordered martinis, a beverage I almost never see. It wasn't long before our table was home to a rolicking, semi-intoxicated and highly-intellectual conversation. The conversation centered around poetry (at times devolving into obscure jargon and references that at one point I labeled "going down the rabbit hole"). Other times it was more philosophical. Tim, for example, had written a poem about Bonobo apes (the female-dominated species that settles disputes with love, not war), and there's always a lot to be said about Bonobos.
Normally Deborah is overscheduled with work and studying (she's taking online courses in pursuit of a career teaching autistic kids), but evidently she'd taken all of today off, and wanted to know what was next after lupper at Joshua's. Gretchen and the poets would be going to another fancy buffet at Oriole 9, but there was no way all of us could sneak in there (and otherwise it was $50/each). So Deborah decided Nancy and I should join her and attend an art opening she'd heard about over in Kingston.
Getting there was a little complicated by the fact that we'd all gone to Woodstock in separate cars. We all first went to my place, where I let a dog named Lila out of the basement guestroom. She'd been put there by R&K, our guests for the night, who had driven up from Westchester to attend the Writers' Festival. Lila was yet another black dog with a white marking on he chest. Technically, she was brownish-black and had a white "glove" on one paw that looked like a permanent bandage. She was also about 50% bigger than Sally or Eleanor. Our dogs seemed to get along okay with her, though the cats were nervous. But it turned out that Lila had almost no interest in cats.
I carpooled to the art opening with Deborah from Nancy's house. It was over in the old industrial heart of Kingston, in the street grid northeast of Broadway, served by a railroad track. This is Kingston's very own rustbelt, with big brick factories that used to make single products. The place we were going to was across the street from a beautiful boarded-up building that used to manufacture lace curtains. It even had its own power plant and smokestack.
The art opening was a big event, with lots of galleries all showing works by different artists. There was, however, a flaw. It seemed the person in charge of providing refreshments was a Mormon. I said that jokingly to Nancy, and she actually believed me. But what I meant was that a crucial ingredient for the appreciation of art was missing: wine. I did, however, find one exhibit I liked. An art teacher had taken iconic photographs, cut them up into a grid, assigned individual squares to students to reproduce in their own style, and then reassembled them. They looked as if they'd gone through an interesting Photoshop effect.
At some point, a group of women in a Zumba class began dancing to World Music in a mirrored dance room, and that was kind of entertaining, especially when comparing the most frigid dancer with the most exuberant one.
Kingston is odd little city, and its full of weird mutants, the kind that you find yourself doing a double-take upon seeing. There was this one young man with a very small jaw. I felt sorry for the guy, but then later I saw that one of the more attractive women in the Zumba dance class was evidently his girlfriend. There was also a trollish young man who seemed to be working on a premature humpback.

Eventually we decided we'd had enough. Deborah headed back to Saugerties, and Nancy took me to my car at her place.

All of these events had been a distraction from the project I desperately wanted to be applying myself to: a means for auto-resetting the solar controller should it crash or otherwise get hung. I was worried that Gretchen and I would go away for one our vacations, the controller would crash an hour after our departure, and there'd be no hot water for our house sitter. My original plan called for a pair of 555 timers, but tonight as I tinkered with my solderless breadboard, I was having trouble getting an experimental missing-pulse detector working reliably. This sent me back to Mr. Google to ask around for good microcontroller auto-reset circuits. In the course of this research, I discovered that there was a name for what I wanted to build: watchdog timer. Not only that, but the Atmel microcontrollers I use have built-in watchdog timers that can be programmatically configured to behave in a much wider range of ways than a pair of analog 555 timers ever could. Using the built-in Atmel watchdog meant I wouldn't have to give up an I/O pin to reset the watchdog (a process called "petting the watchdog"); all of that would be handled inside the chip. Basically, I didn't have to build anything. All I had to do was add a couple lines of code to access this functionality. I never stop being surprised by how rich the Arduino environment is. It gets this richness from the well-developed Atmel/AVR codebase immediately beneath it, all of which is easily-accessible from Arduino development environment (even if it is not well documented by the Arduino community). I can even cut and paste chunks of AVR code out of web pages that make no mention of Arduino and it often works fine in Arduinoland.
Of course, there are caveats. For example, I was experimenting with the new watchdog code and managed to make my solar controller go into a tight loop from which it could not recover, not even after being powered-down. I had to swap out the Atmega328 with another one, which I'd soon rendered as useless as the first. It was only after installing the third Atmega328 that I got things under control. [I didn't know it at the time, but there was still something important I needed to do. The stock Arduino bootloader is incompatible with the watchdog system and I needed to replace that as well.] Later I was able to "unbrick" the two Atmegas, but it required flashing them with new bootloaders and something other than the solar controller firmware.

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