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

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Like my brownhouse:
   interesting a mouse
Tuesday, September 20 2011

This evening after Gretchen got back from work, I gave her some alone time by driving with the dogs to KMOCA Michæl's place (west of Accord at the foothills of the Catskills). I'd never been there before, and finally he'd gotten around to arranging a time for me to come out. The ostensible reason for my visit was to determine what his options were for installing a homemade composting toilet in his studio, but it ended up being more of a show and tell. Michæl knows I'm into creative homemade architectural projects, and he was eager to show me a few of his.
Michæl and his wife and two guys who operate the Hudson Valley Seed Library live in various salvaged buildings in the ruins of an old Ukrainian campground. Here and there are various swaybacked buildings overrun with weeds and sumac interspersed with restored buildings where people live and work. On this particular evening, the air was viscous with mosquitoes.
Michæl and I walked through an overgrown field past a desanctified Eastern Orthodox chapel, the ghost of its painted Byzantine Cross still visible on the woodwork. Beyond this was the several-acre field containing the Seed Library's gardens (surrounded by ten-foot-high fencing to keep out the deer). It being late summer, the gardens were heavy with various red fruits (peppers and tomatoes), many of them prematurely rotted from freakish recent downpours. On the edge of these gardens was a largish bifurcated building that Michæl and his wife Carrie use for their respective studios. When they'd moved in nine years ago, the building had been semi-collapsed, but he'd managed to right it onto a set of new concrete pillars. Out in front of the studio building was an old aluminum row boat shot through with an even pattern of thousands of .22 bullet holes. It's one of Michæl's sculptures, one of his favorites.
The potential site for a composting toilet was in a small room between Michæl and Carrie's studios. Since the building sits a little above the ground, it seemed possible to make a subfloor compartment for a shit bucket that could be removed from the outside, though this would require digging down to accommodate any reasonable-sized container (such as a trash can).
Later we walked past the Seed Library gardens to a forested stream and then up a rubbly escarpment to identify trees (Northern Red Oak and Sugar Maple down low, Chestnut Oak higher up) and look at some Hen of the Woods mushrooms that Michæl likes to harvest and prepare. At the top of the ridge (which seems to be a glacial moraine) are some large White Pines, and, since Michæl depends on crappy satellite for his internet, I suggested that he set up a parabolic WiFi dish up here and scan the lowlands to the south for an open WiFi router.
On the way back towards the house, we looked at the ruins of an old springhouse that nevertheless provide gravity-fed water for the entire Seed Library operation (and could perhaps provide a little micro hydro power as well). Meanwhile Sally (my nearly-deaf 16 year old dog) seemed to be doing well negotiating the steep slope, covered though it was by rounded ball-bearingesque cobblestones. Her main problem was knowing where we were, and I had to keep waving my arms dramatically so she'd see me through her cataracts in the fading light. Meanwhile Eleanor had rolled in some mink shit, but I managed to wash it off in Seed Library spring water.
It smelled like Indian food as we passed the tiny cabin belonging to the Seed Library guys. Sally of course made a beeline for that place and we had to get her, meaning that our plans to stay out of their business was thwarted.

Back in Michæl's house, he gave me a comprehensive tour, showing me how the building had been broken up into eight bedrooms and five bathrooms. He'd redone it all in fresh paint and hickory tongue-and groove flooring (some of which continued up the wall). He'd had a lot of fun with the restoration, taking advantage of problems along the way to do interesting things such as invading the space within an interior wall (or even, when working around a slightly-too-large bathtub, moving the wall three four inches out of its alignment and hiding it in the back of a fixed bookshelf).
Sally kept trying to paw her way through a kiddie barricade (put up to keep Penny the dog away from the cats), so we had to reinforce it with a bunch of chairs lying on their sides.
By now we were drinking the Little Sumpin' Sumpin' Ales I'd brought over (Michæl's favorite beer). He showed me a design he'd submitted for a solar-powered neon outdoor art installation in Albuquerque and was having second thoughts about how expensive the solar panels would have to be (it was going to require nearly as many as an off-grid house). So I suggested he investigate the possibilities of light wire and LEDs. We also got to talking about whether or not I'd like to hang some of my art at a KMOCA show. I said that I would, and that I'd like to make some sort of technological blinking light pieces, and that the best motivation to actually creating them would be the deadline of an upcoming opening.

Back home, my troubles with installing Macintosh OSX on my nascent Hackintosh continued. Part of the problem was that the OSX install progress bar was an order of magnitude too optimistic about how long it all would take. It evidently believed its own estimates and tended to go into suspend mode at some point in the installation, which wasn't too useful (since the whole point was for it to install without interaction from me). I became so exasperated by this that I tried various methods to trick the Macintosh into believing it was being actively used. These all involved tricking the mouse into believing it was being pushed around.
The first method I tried was placing the mouse's laser scanner up against the screen of an old analog black and white television tuned to no particular channel. I thought the resulting pulses of random light into its laser reader would be interpreted as movement, but evidently the color was wrong and it ignored it.
So then I tried facing mice at each other, their lasers and laser readers in close proximity. I figured a pulse from one laser would trigger the other, which would feed back into the first, and the cycle would repeat. But for some reason this didn't work either. One mouse would trigger the other, but then the interaction ended.
The technique that finally worked as to place the mouse over a slowly-spinning 12 volt computer fan (I made it spin slowly by only feeding it three volts). The mouse detected the moving center of the fan and immediately directed the cursor on the screen to the top right hand corner. And though the cursor could move no further, the mouse stayed interested (as demonstrated by the continued brightness of its laser).

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