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:
   Ramona plays apex predator
Wednesday, October 2 2013
I wanted to take advantage of the newly-usable Lower Chamomile Trail (the one that leads down to Dug Hill Road near the bus turnaround), so this morning I walked the dogs down there, hoping to cross Dug Hill Road and have another adventure on the plateau between Eagle's Nest and Dug Hill Roads. But then Ramona and Eleanor got distracted by something up the hill above the trail (41.930124N, 74.103556W) and didn't seem too interested in continuing. Had I been on the regular trail system, I might have just kept walking in hopes that they would eventually catch up. But neither I nor the dogs are familiar with the trails across the road, and I don't want them to develop the habit of crossing that road without me saying it's okay for them to do so. So we were stuck. At some point I saw Ramona trying to life the corpse of a dead animal and having difficulty. If they'd found a dead body, there was no way we'd be going anywhere.
Sure enough, they'd found a dead adult doe. She didn't appear to be injured or bloated, indicating that she must have died very recently and mysteriously. She had a discolored patch of fur on one of her legs indicating a healed scar, but that didn't kill her. Ramona was excited, but she lacked the experience of butchering an animal of this size. She tried pulling at the skin but it refused to tear (indeed, a bear had sunk her fangs into Ramona's skin a little over a week ago, and even that had failed to tear any skin). Still, it seemed like a valuable educational opportunity, so I left Ramona with the deer and headed home. For some reason Eleanor returned with me; I don't know why she didn't want to play apex predator with Ramona.
After about an hour, I thought maybe I'd go down and check on Ramona, but (as had been the case with Clarence yesterday), the moment I started heading out, there was Ramona. She'd returned, exhausted and panting but, somewhat surprisingly, not drenched in deer blood. She did, however, have a fresh new bump on just above the base of her tail that suggested she'd been stung by a hornet. Ramona seems to get stung a lot, probably because of her habit of chasing all insects larger than a certain size. (Eleanor ate the occasional cicada earlier in the season, but she knows not to bother stinging insects.)

Ramona with her deer carcass. (Click to enlarge.)

This afternoon when I went to check the snailmail, I saw Clarence sitting on the front steps of the small house that is closest to our mailbox (it's a neighbor whom we don't know, one whom we remember mostly for the occasion when Gretchen saw her fussily trying to shoo Sally off her lawn). I said hello to Clarence, he looked at me somewhat quizzically, I got the one piece of junkmail that had been delivered, and then I returned to the house. Shortly thereafter Clarence returned as well. He's a very smart cat when it comes to predators, cars, and other dangers, so I rarely worry about him. I do, however, wonder what goes through his mind on an occasion like this. Why hadn't I walked up and petted him? He may understand a lot about the world, but he probably doesn't understand why I wouldn't walk up to the steps of someone else's house to stroke the top of his tawny-colored head.
Later I drove with the dogs out to 9W to get some olive-drab spray paint and some treated lumber for my long-procrastinated homebrew composting bin project. I'd bought lumber for it before, but I'd wound up using that lumber to build a five-foot wooden tower instead. Unfortunately, the Subaru didn't have any rigging rope allowing me to tie the lumber down to the roof rack (Gretchen, in an act of clutter-busting, had removed it from the car before that last trip to the Adirondacks). So I had to buy more rope, as well as a barbecue lighter to "cut" it with. (You have to cut plastic rope by melting it or it quickly frays and makes a useless mound of tangled fibers.) I think one of the Home Depot forklift guys was a little perplexed to see me huddling against a wall (out of the wind) burning through some rope, but I guess he figured it out because he didn't interrogate me about it. Meanwhile the dogs were running around the parking lot making a small amount of mischief. I should mention that the kayak rack additions on the Subaru roof rack helped to greatly stabilize the load of two-by-fours I was transporting, although they might get in the way the next time I need to haul sheets of plywood or OSB.

Back at the house, Gretchen called me from Chicago, the latest destination in her book tour. She was feeling depressed and even crying at times. This was partly from the stress of the road, partly from her abstinence from Celexa, and partly from the depressing apartment she was staying in. It belonged to some very wealthy friends of Gretchen's mother and had a gorgeous 180 degree view of Lake Michigan, but it had been decorated with a hideous æsthetic that Gretchen remembered from a similar apartment (belonging to rich members of her family) overlooking Manhattan's Central Park. There were also various right-wing and cheesy religious books and paraphernalia littering the place, but there was nothing of any interest to her. Gretchen also complained about being disoriented by the peculiar protocols of Chicago. Its downtown looked and felt like Manhattan, but those protocols were alien enough to render her Manhattan knowledge useless. Where does one park a car when there is no street parking at all? How does one use Google Maps to navigate a street when it exists as three separate tiers stacked vertically? By the end of our phone call, though, Gretchen was laughing at the absurdities and seemed to be willing to give the Second City a second try.

This evening I went back and forth between smoking pot, drinking alcohol, and drinking tea. I did most of this in front of my computer, where I pursued various small research projects as they suggested themselves to me. One thing I kept meaning to look up was Woolly Bear Caterpillars. The most interesting thing about them is that they overwinter as caterpillars and survive being frozen solid. This allows them to survive in a wide range of habitats, including the Arctic tundra, where the growing seasons are so short that Woolly Bears overwinter many times before finally pupating and becoming their adult forms: Isabella Tiger Moths.
Another Wikipedia entry I'd been meaning to re-read was the one for psychedelic rock. I'd been hoping to learn of some technical or stylistic element that makes Psychedelic rock different from contemporary forms, but there doesn't seem to be any. It's more about attitude than technique; indeed, I'd once read that Syd Barrett had heard about psychedelic rock before he'd actually heard any, and when he finally heard the Jefferson Airplane, he was so disappointed that he wrote his own psychedelic masterpieces.
The Beatle's song "Day Tripper" was mentioned in Wikipedia's entry for psychedelic rock because of its druggy lyric content, but for me the most interesting thing in Wikipedia's "Day Tripper" entry was the technical information about the key it had been recorded in. There was a mention of 12-bar blues, so of course I had to go check out the Wikipedia entry for that. For some reason I'd never looked too deeply at what exactly a blues scale is; it had been vaguely described to me in the past with a variety of under-defined terms, but today (under the influence of marijuana) I looked into the matter until I understood the difference. I wouldn't say I can read sheet music, but I can make enough sense of it to see that in a progression of notes within a blues scale (at least as shown in the boogie woogie bassline on the Wikipedia page), there are cases where a sequence of three adjacent half-notes are played. That just never happens on a major scale, and now I know why the two sound so different. Notes that are "dissonantly" adjacent in this way are referred to as chromatic, so of course I had to see the Wikipedia entry for that. This reminded me that the Wikipedia entry for Metallica's "For Whom the Bell Tolls" had described the spooky-sounding intro as being "chromatic" (that's why it sounds spooky) and played on a bass, not a guitar.
In the 12-bar blues entry, I came upon the following line that delighted my marijuana-altered self:

"Tunes that utilize the jazz-blues harmony are fairly common in the jazz repertoire, especially from the bebop era."

I saw the use of the word "harmony" as a possible non-sexual double entrendre. Here "harmony" might be used in the musical sense, but it could also be used in the sense that characterizes the interpretation of books in the New Testament such that the events being described no longer contradict each other. In that interpretation, there is a Venn diagram with a circle of Jazz and circle for Blues, and Bebop lives in the intersection between those two circles. (It feels a little strange to be using such sober language to describe things with names like "Bebob" and "boogie woogie.")

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