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:
   Ramona loves kids
Friday, November 23 2012

location: Silver Spring, Montgomery County, Maryland

Sarah the Vegan woke us up early because the plan from last night had been for us to go to one of the nearby Walmarts to participate in historic strikes being organized by members of their long-suffering workforce. Today being Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year, any strikes that happened were likely to have maximum impact. [REDACTED]
After a quick breakfast comprised mostly of leftover vegan pumpkin cheesecake, Gretchen drove Sarah and me out to Washington's eastern suburbs in Maryland, not far from the neighborhood where I spent the first seven years of my life. It's a chaotic low-rise sprawl dating mostly to the 1950s and 60s. The houses all look small and drab by today's standards, and there are numerous embedded bits of whatever had been there before. It's ugly, but not in a New Jersey kind of way. For me the subtle distinctiveness of the built landscape is actually more nostalgic than depressing.
Somehow the directions we'd been given dumped us out into a dubious neighborhood of run-down office parks, not exactly the kind of place where one would find a Walmart. Gretchen used her phone to track down the nearest Walmart, which turned out to be in Hyattsville. While we found plenty of police presence in its parking lot, there was no evidence of protest. There were, however, plenty of shoppers, most of whom looked to be either African American or Hispanic. So then Gretchen used her phone to arrange the next phase of the morning, where we would meet up with one of her old Milwaukee friends at a nearby branch of Busboys and Poets, the DC-area multiculturally-themed restaurant/bar/bookstore/performance-venue. I'd been to a Busboys and Poets inside the District (after attending the Stewart-Colbert Rally to Keep Fear Alive), though it had been crowded, dimly-lit, and difficult to fully appreciate. To see the Hyattsville one on a sunny Black Friday morning reminded me of the visually-rich-though-tasteful vibe of a McMenamins (though a McMenamins has idealism in its mission). We were soon joined by Gretchen's Milwaukee friend. Being hungry, I ordered a tempeh panini. Gretch and Sarah wanted to taste it of course, and when they did they couldn't believe how delicious it was. They proceeded to try to figure out what was in it, but I had no interest in any of that talk. Indeed, I tried to discourage it, claiming that I prefered for delicious food to remain a marvelous mystery, as if it had fallen fully-formed from Heaven. I'm not that way about things like the origin of life, the nature of consciousness, or even the existence of love, all of which seem to submit easily to reductionism and to have fairly simple bases in observable reality. But I prefer for life's pleasures (particularly those coming from food or sex) to retain their secrets and magic. That said, the key to the deliciousness in the tempeh used in my panini was almost certainly salt (as well as a shocking amount of oil).
Sarah planned to meet up with her friend Ellen somewhere in the DC area, so she rode off with the Milwaukee friend, leaving Gretchen and me behind in Hyattesville, where we ended up doing a small amount of Black Friday shopping. Across the street from Busboys and Poets at a somewhat overpriced pet store named Big Bad Woof we bought a smallish dog bed (perhaps to expand dog services in the greenhouse upstairs) and a chew toy.
Gretchen drove me back to Silver Spring, but because she would be meeting up with her childhood friend Dina in downtown Silver Spring, I drove our car back to her parents' house from there, and proceeded to sloth away most of the rest of the afternoon. I took the dogs for a walk in the park, and when we came back, I let them hang out in the ivy in front of the house for a good 20 minutes or so. By this point the articulated deer leg was now in two pieces, giving both Eleanor and Ramona something to chew on. The fun came to an end when a family walked by with a dog on a leash. Our dogs ran up, which wouldn't have been so bad, but then Eleanor and the dog launched into a little fight that probably began as leash aggression in the mystery dog.

People gathered at Gretchen's parents' house for dinner tonight just as they had done yesterday. The food was leftovers from yesterday, though there were actually more people around the table tonight. It being Friday, a layer of Shabbat ritual ornamented the beginning of the meal. (I was amused when white wine was considered adequate for Shabbat's wine requirement, asking, "Does that work?" Gretchen's father insisted that it did.) In addition to the five of us staying in the house, those attending included Dina, Dina's husband Gilad, Dina and Gilad's two kids, Dina's brother Daniel, Dina's brother's kid Alex, and Sarah the Vegan's friend Ellen (who lives in Alexandria on the Virginia side of the Potomac). Sarah had told me that Ellen is a sciency chick and would be interested in my various projects (such as the greenhouse and brownhouse). Ellen is a tall woman with nice dark-blue eyes and greying brown hair. It turned out that she is a trained botanist attached to the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh. She actually knew something about compost, having worked as a human composter in the past. On hearing that I use humanure in my garden, she asked if I made sure composting heated it to the requisite temperature for the requisite amount of time. I admitted that it didn't, but then said, "People are way too careful about things like that which really don't matter all that much. But our whole network of friends keeps getting cholera."
After a little initial fear by Dina's two kids, they quickly warmed up to Ramona the dog, who was (as I expected) uncharacteristically gentle with them. Normally she paws people, jumps on them, and lightly nibbles with her teeth. With these kids, though, she mostly just licked and sniffed them, or followed them around to participate however she could in their antics. Alex is a bit older (ten or eleven) and when she wasn't absolutely loving on Ramona, she kept taking pictures of her. Alex actually has a puppy mill Chihuahua her mother bought for her as an age-and-gender-appropriate canine, but, as Gretchen later observed, "She wants a real dog, a pit mix from the shelter."
After everyone left, Gretchen kept remarking about how good Ramona had been with the kids (Eleanor, by contrast, had spent most of the evening keeping to herself in the new dog bed). It wasn't just that Ramona had been gentle with them; she'd also kept with them and participated in their play. And they in turn had enjoyed hanging out with her. It made Gretchen feel a little sad that Ramona had to live in a childfree household.

For linking purposes this article's URL is:

previous | next