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:
   red-headed Toughskins model
Monday, May 30 2011

location: Burton Hall, Oberlin College, Oberlin, Ohio

People stayed up late into the night out in front of Burton. They were singing songs and playing fifes and guitars in a vaguely Celtic way. It didn't much matter to me; I had my earplugs inserted. But then, at around 5:00am, the Burton fire alarm went off. It was a loud piercing scream which was pain-inducing without ear protection, and was accompanied by bright flashing lights. Either this was the work of an imaginative prankster or someone was trying to barbecue a turducken in his room. I knew the least probable explanation was that Burton was engulfed in flames, so when Gretchen (who had physically blocked all her sense organs and taken an Ambien) groggily insisted on staying in the room, I let her be. I went outside and tried to avoid the others so as not to avoid bleary-eyed goodbye rituals. There's a bit of Armageddon in every fire alarm, and in the absurdity of standing around waiting for the fire department to come and determine there isn't actually a fire, people seem giddily resigned. There's also heightened potential for surreal sights. As I went around the east side of Burton, I came upon a gentleman escorting a young child under a bush and then pulling down his pants. I didn't watch what happened next, but I assumed that the kid was experiencing an emergency need for a bathroom and the parent could think of no other place for the kid to go than in the bushes.

Morning came and I discovered the best place in Burton to take a crap: a bathroom in the basement that is mostly used by the staff of the Oberlin Review (which has offices down there).
On previous mornings, coffee and bagels had been provided in the middle of Burton, but not this morning. It was a mistake to go out there to look; it led to my being snared in a goodbye obligation to a charming couple I'd met only two days before.
After we'd packed our stuff, I suggested we make one last pilgrimage to the Slow Train Café to get coffee and a dahl pub pie. While we were down there, Gretchen also wanted to get a savory snack from Café Sprouts, a nearby juice bar claiming to be entirely vegan. Unlike Slow Train, Café Sprouts isn't particularly popular, though both of our orders from our respective café took about the same amount of time to get (the delay at Slow Train mostly happens while waiting far back in line, whereas at Sprouts it happens while the staff tries to assemble the order of the person in line immediately in front of you). It seems Café Sprouts makes particularly inefficient use of their five or six employees.
Today was the day of the Oberlin Graduation, but the only part of it we were going to catch was a fanfair played from the band stand as we hurried past. We found ourselves trapped momentarily by a procession of professors marching out of Finney Chapel in their caps and satin gowns, but we eventually found a break wide enough to dash through on our way north back up to Burton. We had a ride to catch to the airport.

We caught our rideshare ride over in the massive parking lagoon near Keep Cottage after waiting only enough time for me to devour my delicious pub pie. There was another guy to pick up over at French House and then it was off to the airport for the five of us. The couple with the car tried to refuse our offers to help pay for gas but we insisted. And then, in the airport, we discovered I'd accidentally left a paper bag with some trivial items and Gretchen's vegan lunch in the rideshare trunk. But it wasn't a serious problem; we managed to set everything straight with a phone call or two. Waiting for our rideshare people to show up with that bag did end up delaying Gretchen's passage through security, and by the time she was ready to go through a shift change was happening and there were unexpected delays. I was waiting for her patiently on the other side, like an old man at the Pearly Gates waiting for his wife to hurry up and die.
From the looks of things at the gate, it seemed like there was going to be an overabundance of screaming kids on our plane. There was one little red-headed boy and living Toughskins model who kept throwing screaming fits, though he looked old enough to know better. And then there was this enormously obese couple with two little babies and another in the oven, or so it appeared. (I was tempted to drop a brochure for the Abortionplex in their stroller.)
The obese couple boarded the plane first because, hey, they'd reproduced and the world owed them a standing ovation too. I was curious how those two enormous people would manage to shoehorn themselves into adjacent seats, but when Gretchen came back from the bathroom she reported that they'd figured out a system: each took up a seat and fraction of the adjacent seat, and each used a baby to take up the remainder of those adjacent seats.
As for the red-headed Toughskins model, he ended up in the seat directly behind us. This could have been a nightmare, but his mother proved to be something of a hardass. When he started acting up, she told him that he wouldn't get to use her iPad during the flight. So he was on his best behavior until our plane was soaring over Lake Erie and the voice on the intercom told us we were free to use portable electronic devices. Soon thereafter, though, he started scream-crying in a way that was so desperate and existential that it was hard not to feel a little sympathy for him somehow. I mean, we have no idea what it's like to be a red-headed Toughskins model. But why was he crying? Did the iPad have a dead battery? It was impossible to know. Fortunately, though, the period of scream-crying quickly subsided, something that never happens with actual babies, only little boys who act like them.
Flying with the prevailing westerlies, the flight to Albany only took about an hour. As we were coming in for a landing, the red-headed Toughskins model started scream-crying again, and this time I could make out what his complaint was through his blubbering. He was saying that he really had to go pee pee bad and that he didn't want to pee his pants. But the fasten seatbelts sign was on and the plane was coming down, so his mother thought he should wait until we were on the ground. But he couldn't wait, and so he scream-cried. Eventually his mother offered him a bottle to pee in, but he didn't want to do that. I had the feeling, based on her reaction, that this was all just an attempt at manipulation and she wasn't falling for it. Sure enough, the kid was able to hold his pee long enough for our plane to land, and only then did she take him back to the bathroom.
The Subaru's brakes had felt funny on the drive up to the airport, so I drove us home, hoping to both minimize their use and get some diagnostic information once we made it home. Having barely used the brakes at all, it was a little disturbing to find the front discs too hot to touch.
Sarah the Vegan was still at our house when we arrived, and she proceeded to make us a low-fat lupper of Thai salad made with sprouts instead of pasta and onion rings that were baked, not fried. Gretchen loves to cook, so of course she ended up helping out, though I mostly just lay around surfing the web on the netbook.

Lake Erie west of Cleveland, looking eastward from our little airplane. This was shortly before the iPad-related scream crying commenced.

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