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Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").



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   foodie at our dinner party
Wednesday, July 3 2013
We'd be having a dinner party tonight, so today was a cleaning jihad day. It began this morning with me mowing the grass with first the electric mower and then the electric weedeater. After that, I continued straightening things up outdoors to an extent that they hadn't been straightened up in years. I removed the Raspberry Pi, bucket, and extension cord from the garlic patch, cleaned up and even swept the front part of the garage, and then moved everything that had been out in front of the garage (except the five gallon buckets) into the garage. It was the most tidy and organized our parking area had been in recent memory. As Gretchen remarked later after coming home from a gig in Clinton Corners, "It was so nice to come home and not see white trash crap in the yard."
One other thing I did while straightening up the outdoors was the repair of a little ornamental windmill that has been installed near our front door nearly the entire time we've lived here. It features a rusty steel propeller that, when the wind blows, turns a shaft which animates a steel dog to open and close his mouth while wagging its tail. Over time, the steel of the dog's ankles had rusted completely through, and the dog had fallen from his perch, never again to be animated by the wind. The repairs involved two simple welds, but I'd been nervous to attempt it, since all my welds of such thin metal had resulted in complete destruction of that metal. Today, though, I dialed the 220 volt Italian welder down to its lowest setting and used a thin-gauge welding stick. (Since hacking on a stick welding mode, I've pretty much stopped using the wirefeed mode for which it was designed.) Amazingly, when used this way, the welder had perfect mix of features allowing me to subtly melt the thin pieces of metal together as if they were made of refrigerated butter. The resulting welds were complete in and of themselves and reasonably attractive and I didn't feel the need to grind them down or otherwise improve them. This was the first time I'd ever made a weld that wasn't hideously ugly. It felt like a real breakthrough.
Similar to the ongoing garage cleanup project, I've also gradually been cleaning the laboratory, mostly doing the 20% of easy cleaning that results in the 80% of positive æsthetic effect. It's amazing, for example, how much more appealing my workstation became once I'd simply vaccuumed the square of carpet fragment that my chair (which of late has been a wheelchair) sits upon. In recent months I'd been vaguely depressed every time I've sat down at my computer, and by doing this one thing I've made my workstation much more of a joy to use.
Later I went on a house-wide vaccuuming jihad with the Tyson vaccuumer (I'd used our crappy old Dirt Devil for the laboratory). Meanwhile Gretchen was doing last-minute food preparation in the kitchen. One our dinner guests would be Lagusta from New Paltz, who hosts special vegan dinners that are so gourmond that they occasionally involve layers of smoke suspended over bowls of soup. Gretchen had asked her if she ever gets invited to dinner, and the answer was "rarely." I get intimidated just preparing food for Gretchen; imagine how intimidating it is to cook for someone who likes (for example) to prepare wontons filled somehow with soup? But Gretchen is fearless in the kitchen. Still, she freaked out a bit when the Asian noodles started randomly sticking together or when, after being spiced according to the recipe, they seemed inedibly picante.

Our guests arrived at a little after 6:00pm. They consisted of three couples: Lagusta and her companion Jacob, and KMOCA Michæl and his wife Carrie, who carpooled with the two guys who run the seed library. The beverage of choice seemed to be champagne with strawberry juice, but I initially went with Mountain Brew Beer Ice, which always tastes good in hot, humid conditions. We ate our multi-course meal out on the deck, and it turned out that Gretchen's noodle dish was not too spicy (except, perhaps, for Jacob). For the record, the two guys from the seed library, wiry as they are, eat like the farmers that they are.
I gave a tour of the greenhouse, which was of particular interest to the seed library guys, who (of course) are growing plants on a nearly industrial scale so as to sell their seeds. The thing is, though, that my greenhouse isn't actually all that practical for growing plants. It's only really useful from about late February until May, when there's enough light for growing but a danger of frost. Otherwise, it's easier to just grow plants in containers in the south-facing windows of the house using supplemental light from grow lamps. The upstairs, though, is a completely different environment for a completely different use and is potentially useful every day of the year.
I also led a tour of the always-popular laboratory, with its various wonders such as the flushless urinal and faint graffiti in faint fake Greek. Of particular interest to Lagusta, I assumed, was the apparatus I'd made for incubating tempeh, which I started making after Gretchen bought some chick pea tempeh at her New Paltz shop. Lagusta's incubator is repurposed dorm room fridge with a thermostat and, as a heat source, a lightbulb. Mine has no thermostat and requires human interaction to regulate the temperature, which is a byproduct of the Japanese hot water pot beneath it.
Later in the evening we all sat around in the living room and Lagusta and the seed library guys mostly talked about business matters: the challenge of finding good employees, dealing with "job killing" regulations (they don't actually use that construction, of course, and it's funny to even imagine such hip, left-leaning people classed with the douchebag business owners for whom the dog whistles of Republican politicians are intended). As for the "job killing regulation" Lagusta complained about, it was whatever law said she couldn't put a sandwich sign on the corner of Front and Route 32 North pointing the way to her store (a block towards the river on Front). Evidently she'd been able to have such a sign until a person with mental challenges stubbed his itty bitty toe on it and complained.
As for the seed library guys, they find themselves spending thousands of dollars every year paying people to put seeds in packets. I told them they should have a robot do the job, and Ken said such robots exist but cost $80,000. "So if I made you one, I could sell it to you for $20,000?" I asked. "Make us two and we'll sell the other for $80,000!" he replied.


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