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

welcome to the collapse
Clusterfuck Nation
Peak Oil

got that wrong

appropriate tech
Arduino μcontrollers
Backwoods Home
Fractal antenna

fun social media stuff

(nobody does!)

Like my brownhouse:
   relentlessly snotlike
Tuesday, May 14 2013
Today I drove down to Westchester again for what might be my most horrible paid web-development gig ever. At least this time I didn't have any trouble with my GPS device (risking my life fumbling with a recalcitrant one at highway speeds is idiotic, but that's what I'd done when making this trip a couple weeks ago). To make things easier on myself, I approached Westchester County from the north on the Taconic Parkway. The Taconic is clearly an old superhighway, dating to a time when shoulders and gentle curves weren't considered essential. Parts of it are shockingly narrow, with two lanes somehow wedged between a menacing grate of vintage guard rail and a wall of stone roadcut. The surface is rough in parts, and when one takes the tightest of its curves at 60+ miles per hour, the vibrations from the surface test your car's suspension. Because our Honda Civic Hybrid has terrible suspension (thanks for nothing, Mavis Discount Tire), it tends to shimmy and pull frighteningly to one side in such conditions. I made a point of always steering for the smoothest swaths of pavement in the curves, but there were still a number of slightly unsettling moments. And then there was the several-minute stand-still caused by a large tree that had fallen into the highway (perhaps, given the shortness of the resulting automotive queue, it had been felled by workmen who were already on location).
At the University, the professor and I went to a student computer lab and tested the four games I'd written again. As had happened during my last visit, there were a number of glitches, and I found myself growing increasingly exasperated as the fix list I was compiling grew. The games are all designed to present ideas from economic theory and produce big mathematical tables. So you can imagine my frustration when some of the figures in these tables were off, sometimes by as little as one. To give you a sense of how the vaguely-schoolmarmish professor occasionally grated on me, we spent far too long discussion figures that were off by only one, cases that were clearly caused by rounding in the display of the data. Of course, some of the mathematical fuckups were big and entirely (and even embarrassingly) my fault, but it's a big job, and I haven't gotten much feedback outside of these visits.
At some point the professor had to make an appearance at someone's retirement party, so I stayed in the lab and took care of the bugs that were easily-fixable, making good progress. It's a lot easier to write lines of computer code when one isn't also trying to have a conversation.
When she returned from the retirement party, the professor had done the nice thing and brought me a little plate of food she'd managed to snag. There was no way she could have known I was vegan (and, because she looks to be in her late 50s or 60s, she may not even know what that is). I didn't feel like having the vegan conversation (indeed, I almost never feel like having it), so I faked a smile and took the plate. Surprisingly, it didn't have any actual meat on it, but the little triangular sandwiches (made with white bread) were full of some sort of white fatty cheese (brie I suppose). I ate one of these finger sandwiches, and the cheese was so overwhelming and gross in my mouth that it was like trying to eat an enormous loogie. I wasn't actually as grossed out by it as I am making it sound; I chewed it up and swallowed it and then took some of the other sandwich and tried to eat that. But it was all so preposterously fatty and bland that I eventually just stopped and found a way to cover it all up and sneak it off to a trashcan. It certainly didn't make me want to go back to being a non-vegan. But, it's important to stress, even before I was a vegan, I never ate stuff so relentlessly snotlike. The funniest thing about the food was how "great" the professor seemed to think it was.
On the way back home, I stopped in New Paltz to return a couple large plastic bins that had been loaned to us by the vegan cookie guy who had sold Gretchen cookies for her Woodstock book party. I used GPS to get to his house, though I accidentally went to the south version of his road (he lives on the north version). Having driven to people's houses many times, I'm often struck (and was struck again today) by the poor quality of house numbering deployed by people who have houses. Do these people not expect any deliveries or visits from people following directions? At some point while driving north on Putt Corners, I actually had to stop and get out of the car so I could look for a number to give me a sense of where I was. The number I found was two digits of a three digit number, the last (most important) digit having fallen off and disappeared. The actual address I was looking for ended in zero, and when I finally found it, that zero was so faded that I couldn't tell what it said until I'd gotten out of the car and walked up to within ten feet of it.
I showed up when the cookie man was there, and he ended up giving me a tour of his operation. He lives in a crappy ranch house within a couple hundred feet of the NY Thruway, but he has industrial drying racks, mixers, and a huge industrial oven. He also gave me a couple cookies that had just come out of the oven. It was all very nice, but ideally I would have just left his containers in his mudroom and been on my way, because that's how I roll.
That slight delay at the cookie man's house meant that I showed up at Emmanuel's just a minute or two past their 9:00pm closing time, so they wouldn't let me past the cashiers to buy the catfood that I desperately needed. I'd anticipated that this might be a possibility, so on the drive from New Paltz I'd told myself that if Emmanuel's was closed, I'd go to the Mobil in Stone Ridge and hope they had catfood. And I'd also treat myself to a sixer of IPA (Lagunitas Maximus) from their beer cave.
It turns out the Stone Ridge Mobil does stock catfood. Indeed, they have several sizes and brands. I ended up buying the smallest possible bag of the only catfood that claimed more affinity to seafood than chicken, a brand with the ominous name "Dads." But it turns out that its main ingredient is actually corn, and this is followed in the ingredient list by "chicken proteins," whatever those are.
Back at the house, Gretchen had made another delicious meal of morselly gnocchi in red sauce, though it had gone cold hours before. I ended up staying up late drinking booze and watching scenes from old episodes of Game of Thrones to help with my sense of that show's continuity. I hadn't remembered, for example, how Theon Greyjoy had gone from laying waste to Winterfell to being tied to a cross in a dungeon. Evidently the transition happened off-stage after he got bonked on the head (at the conclusion of a speech intended to rally his fellow soldiers for a doomed fight to the death).

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