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

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Like my brownhouse:
   kitten from Kerhonkson
Saturday, July 19 2014
Since recovering Oscar (the big fluffy cat) from his 18 days on the run, we've felt bad that he hasn't had his old friend, the three-legged cat who also escaped but that we failed to recapture. Oscar is such a sensitive soul, we've been thinking he needed an ally to help ease his integration into our household. And Gretchen's recent idea for such an ally has been a kitten. While it's true that our preferred plan since 2005 has been to adopt older (or at least fully-grown) cats, this seemed to be a special case. So Gretchen has been checking Craigslist for possible kittens. In recent days, she settled on a grey kitten down in Kerhonkson that was reportedly "playful." Pictures showed the kitten playing with a Boston Terrier. This morning we had an appointment to pick up the kitten. We'd be meeting the people with the kitten at a Stewart's gas station at the appointed time, and (though she used to work down there), Gretchen somehow calculated that it would only take us 20 minutes to drive there. I was driving, and I never drive fast enough to make the appointments Gretchen makes with the idea that she'll be the one driving. So somewhere on Bogart Lane, she said something that made me drive faster and more recklessly. As I approached the traffic light just south of the Emanuel's Plaza in Stone Ridge (where NY 213 divides from US 209 and heads to High Falls), the light was green, but a car at the light was trying to make a left turn (towards High Falls) and for some reason there was a long line of cars waiting behind it. Usually, though, what happens is that the cars that are going straight just swing out around the waiting car using the shoulder and keep on going. I didn't have time to wait for that line, so I went around the entire line of cars. This evidently pissed off some of the drivers of the waiting cars, because one honked his horn, and then one pulled out in front of me. But I didn't care, just so long as everyone kept moving.
Then something odd and cartoonish happened. The pickup in front of me disgorged a huge cloud of black smoke that momentarily enveloped the car and then quickly dissipated. Our windows were up and we could only smell a trace of the smoke (it smelled like what I imagine coal smoke smells like). Evidently the guy in front of us had equipped his truck so he could "roll coal," a phenomenon I'd first read about only about two weeks ago. People who really hate environmentalists don't stop at voting for Rick Perry and paying extra for electricity so they can illuminate their houses with wasteful incandescent bulbs, they also add special equipment to their diesel pickups so that, at the push of a button, the engine will burn its fuel extremely inefficiently, thereby filling the air with powdered carbon in its reduced form. These clouds of black smoke, though wasteful, are apparently a great way to tell off unknown Prius drivers and inaccessible women. When I'd read the article in Slate and seen the segment about rolling coal on The Colbert Report, I'd assumed it was a southern or perhaps Texas thing. Evidently I'd been giving my fellow New Yorkers too much credit.
I must have really pissed off that coal roller, because further south down 209, he inexplicably came to a stop in the lane in front of me, and when I went to maneuver around him using the shoulder, he suddenly made a signal-free right turn, evidently hoping that I would collide with him. But at root I'm a defensive driver who takes nothing on faith, and nothing bad happened. I leaned on the horn and kept going. One shouldn't expect a roller of coal to be much more at root than a self-defeating angry, bitter man.
We were late to our kitten transfer at the Stewart's, but the couple who turned over the kitten (whom they'd tentatively-named "Monkey Butt") just seemed happy she'd be going to a good home. They looked to be in their thirties and (like many on that stretch of US 209) economically marginal (though there had been periods in the past when there had been sufficient money to invest in professionally designed and installed tattoos). The kitten was about the size of a summer squash. She was all grey except for the white on her paws, feet, nose, mouth, chin, chest, and belly. Initially she seemed very sad, not wanting to let go of her old family and be taken away by us. But then it was over, she was in our little carrier, and we were heading northward on US 209. The kitten was relatively calm, so Gretchen opened the carrier and cuddled with the kitten while Ramona kept sticking her head up from the backseat to investigate the new sights and smells. Gretchen said the kitten smelled like cigarettes.
We stopped at Accord Feeds & Needs on the way to buy more dry cat food and perhaps a few too many cat toys. Once we had the kitten home, we set her up in the upstairs bathroom, where she quickly retreated behind the toilet (as all new cats do). Before long, though, she was walking around the bathroom intently sniffing every surface. Once she's sniffed the whole place out, she set herself up on the little throw rug directly in front of the toilet.
Meanwhile, Gretchen was stressing out about all the things she needed to do. We'd be having a big party at our house tomorrow, and she needed to do lots of food preparation. But she also needed to work a shift at the bookstore in Woodstock this afternoon. She was trying to get some little food tasks done before leaving for her shift and discovered that the fava bean tempeh I'd recently made had been a failure. She'd tried a little and it had tasted "rotten" and "slimy" (and not in a good way). Evidently all the back and forth between proofing systems had contaminated it (or otherwise screwed it up). Luckily, Gretchen found an older batch of my chick pea tempeh in the freezer, which she could use for her tempeh pâté recipe.

Later this afternoon, I mowed the lawn completely and then did a whole round of weed wacking (even though I'd done all of this stuff only a week ago). When you're having a party, you want things to be as perfect as they can be, at least the things you have control over. We wouldn't have control over the weather, though the forecast looked good. Normally we also wouldn't have much control over the many cobwebs high over the living room beneath the cathedral ceiling, but today I rigged up a system allowing me to vaccuum up all those cobwebs from a safe place down on the floor. All I had to do was hold a ten foot piece of 3/4 inch PVC electrical conduit up to the sucking end of the vacuum cleaner hose, and that allowed me to project that sucking all the way up to places I've never been able to effectively sweep. It wasn't a perfect system; the PVC tended to bow and whip around wildly as I tried to target specific clumps of web. But all I had to do was get close and then the suction would do the rest.
It was a cool evening, allowing me to burn a fair amount of cellulosic trash. With the bulkiest cardboard and paper out of the way, I could organize the remainder and eliminate some of the visual clutter from the living room.

In other news, I didn't gather any firewood either yesterday or today. I've run out of places to store it, and I might have as much as a two year supply on hand, so there's really no reason to continue my daily salvaging runs. If I really do have two years' worth of firewood, it means that it's possible to lay up a year's worth of firewood by simply gathering about one carriable backpack load every day for two months.
In bird news, the nest of Phoebes atop the east deck's outdoor light all departed their nest today. There had been at least three (and possibly even four fledglings) crowded in that nest, and now suddenly it's completely vacant. The graduates are now presumably perfecting their flying techniques down in the pines and shrubs east of the house, where their mother (or father) keeps watch from on high, occasionally issuing warnings in the one word of the Phoebe language. It's convenient that the Phoebes departed just before tomorrow's party, because I don't think they would have been happy with 10 or 12 loud, drunken humans sitting directly under their nest.

The first picture I took of the new kitten. This was before she started getting playful, when she still had that sad aspect I mentioned above. Moments later, she met Oscar for the first time and the two seemed to get along with each other right from the start.

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