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:
   edge of the Kingston wetland
Friday, August 3 2012
I took another nice relaxing morning bath before starting my day. At a certain point in the early afternoon, it seemed like I was on top of things and was waiting on others more than they were waiting on me, so I decided to take care of a chore that could be procrastinated no further: the replacement of all four tires on our Honda Civic Hybrid. Parts of some of the tires were completely bald, and we had a number of mid-range road trips coming up. (Indeed, Gretchen's recent drive up to Schenectady and back had been pushing things a bit.)
We always get our tires done at Mavis Discount Tire in Kingston's ugly zone out on 9W, and we always seem to have amnesia about how long it will take. Today, though, I didn't just bring my netbook, I also brought a bicycle so as to have a better transportation option in this notoriously pedestrian-unfriendly part of the world. I had to take its front wheel off to get the bike to fit in the back seat.
As always at Mavis, the initial word was that the tires would take an hour and a half to replace. So I went to Panera for a bowl of soup, an ice coffee, and some free WiFi. I'd loaded my netbook with git and Cygwin, two tools that are instrumental for the project I've been working on. But there was no email telling me that I had to do anything, so I decided to go for a bike ride, a free refill of ice coffee in my hand. (I don't know if Panera gives free refills, but the dispenser is out in the public space.)
I rode the bike out to Albany Avenue, the road that connects the 9W sprawl area to Uptown (actually, according to Google Maps, it is still called "Ulster Avenue" in the part where I was: 41.954224N, 73.994465W). When one is on a bicycle, one can take the time to explore small streets in rarely-visited parts of neighborhoods near home. I've gone up and down Albany Avenue dozens of times, but I've only ventured into the warren of residential streets to its immediate west twice: once for a yard sale and once for a computer house call, two other activities that lead one to more-thoroughly explore nearby neighborhoods.
I continued west as far as I could, eventually running into a street called Cook Avenue. Beyond that, there was no hope of going any further west; a vast wetland stood in the way (41.952N, 74W. It looked like a pristine wildnerness of cattails and pockets of trees, though (judging by the "no dumping" signs) it probably contained more than its fair share of old refrigerators, broken washing machines, and mysteriously-vanished abusive boyfriends.
I turned northward and followed the edge of the wetland on whatever streets were available, eventually finding Esopus Avenue, which passes along the north end of the marsh and then out into the rolling treeless hills of the Green Acres Golf Club, which on this hot summer day seemed to have more Canada Geese than golfers.
Beyond the golf course, Esopus Avenue continued past increasingly-marginal structures and activities as it closed in on Esopus Creek. In a large yard overgrown with decorative bushes, a beautiful abandoned house. Hidden behind a hastily-erected berm, a number of earth movers were were tearing up the landscape. And at the end of a long driveway, a pair of off-leash Pit Bulls played. The remarkable high-rise trailer I saw on a lot nestled in the inside bend of the Esopus must have actually been a normal single-wide set atop poles, with the gaps between them walled-off to make a storage area that will probably last until the next flood.
Esopus Avenue peters out into something called Buckley Street, which ends at fenced facility that appeared to be testing the ground for the presence of toxic gasses. There had been no dead-end sign, and I'd been expecting to find a way to cut over to Boices Lane, but there was no way to do that. I had to turn around and take Esopus Avenue all the way back to Albany Avenue.
Back at Mavis, the car was still on jacks because that's how they like to leave it until they get a chance to upsell you on other things it might need. I already knew the car needed an alignment, but I didn't expect it to need a new $300 pair of shock absorbers. The problem with a place that dispenses auto repair is that the professionals have an asymmetrical information advantage. They know more about cars than you do, and it can be tempting for them to take advantage of this information. Still, the upsalesman seemed to be making sense when he said that bad shock absorbers were the reason the car was so badly out of alignment. So, what the fuck, I told him that yes he could replace the shock absorbers. And then I headed off again on the bicycle.
In the couple more hours that I had to kill, I went to Home Depot and bought some window hardware and weather stripping (stuff that would fit in my shoulder bag). I also ducked into the air-conditioned comfort of Barnes and Noble periodically to check my email (it being the middle of a working day, almost all the other customers in there were elderly). Periodically I'd return to Mavis to look for progress, but not much was in evidence (and the employees have a real talent for ignoring you once the business of upselling is complete). So I eventually went to a nearby bar & grill type place called the Ninety Nine Restaurant. It's like an Applebees, I suppose, though if it's a franchise I'd never heard of it. The staff were mostly young and attractive, whereas the customers were mostly my age and, well, one of them was enormously fat and another had driven here on a motorcycle (though my bicycle was the only one out in the parking lot). Somewhat surprisingly, they had an IPA on tap, and though it was the decidedly-inferior Southern Tier, I ordered it. And in so doing I learned something important: inferior IPA can taste reasonably good if it is served extremely cold. Like an Applebees, the Ninety Nine Restaurant is sports-bar-type place catering to douchey people with fake IDs. Such people drink a lot of Coors Light and they like their beer chilled just shy of frozen solid. Since all beer in such a place is served at this temperature, the Southern Tier IPA was as well. With a quality IPA, this would have been a crime, but with Southern Tier it seemed to mute the worst notes in its complex bouquet. There at the bar, I felt like maybe by experience would be somewhat dull (epecially once I discovered there were no WiFi hotpots within range), but I ended up enjoying some of the Olympic contests playing out on the flatscreens. I also ordered and devoured a perfectly acceptable plate of french fries, though the only people I talked to were two bartenders, and then only to request things.
$900 later, the Honda Civic Hybrid had brand new tires, rear shocks, and an alignment. The suspension definitely felt a little tighter on the drive home, though when I'd hit a bump in the back, the car seemed to want to shimmy sideways in a way it hadn't before.

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