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:
   uses for a warm old laptop
Wednesday, February 18 2015
A number of Gretchen's old students in the Bard Prison Initiative (which she hasn't worked with since May of 2012) have been released back into society. As you might expect, some are doing better than others. While one is living on a generous stipend and working on a graduate degree, another resides in a half-way house and has been trying to compose academic documents on his smart phone because he doesn't own a computer. Gretchen asked me if I had something I could donate to him that would improve his life. So I looked through my stack of old functional laptops and decided I could spare a bulky old Sony Vaio PCG-GRS700 laptop built around a Mobile Pentium 4. I generally dislike large laptops, and I've recently decided I'd like to divest myself of all my computers containing Pentium 4 processors. Pentium 4s represent a blind alley in the evolution of the modern processor, one that uses a lot of energy and produces a lot of heat in return for modest computational abilities. But a laptop built around one can still browse modern web pages and run modern word processors, and if someone has no laptop, he's not going to worry too much about how much electricity a gift laptop burns.
The last time I'd used the old PCG-GRS700 was years ago, when I'd installed some flavor of Linux on it. For its new use, it would need to run Windows XP, so I put it aside and booted it off my special XP install CD (which doesn't give me any licensing guff). Julius (aka "Stripey") immediately plunked himself down on the Vaio's keyboard and fell asleep, taking advantage of all the waste heat pouring off that inefficient Pentium 4. In the process, he managed to decline the one licensing agreement that my install CD presents, and so I later had to do the whole thing again.

Stripey asleep on the Vaio today. Click to enlarge.

This evening Gretchen and I had a social call in Woodstock, but on the way there we saw a faint human form in the darkness along Route 375. Slowing down as we passed it, we noticed that it was attempting to hitchhike. We immediately offered a ride. A heavily-bundled gentleman who introduced himself as José climbed in, delighted to have been saved from the misery of the outdoors. He claimed he'd been trying to catch the bus, but it had driven right past him, and he'd been forced to hitchhike. His destination was only the courthouse in downtown Woodstock, something he could have easily walked to in a half hour. But for some reason he'd been trying to hitchhike for a whole hour and a half in that one spot on Route 375. Gretchen was dismayed at the poor decisionmaking this represented, and was pretty sure that he wouldn't have a court date to begin with if his decisionmaking were a little better.
Gretchen had been talking earlier on the phone with her colleague Quentin, who'd been holed-up at the time in the bookstore because its front was being used as a set for a scene being shot for a pilot for a new HBO series entitled Happyish. The bookstore is being paid for the aggravation, but this had made for a boring night working there. The shooting was still going on when we dropped off our hitchhiker at the courthouse and turned down Tannery Brook Road.
Our destination tonight was the beautiful house of our new friends J&L, the people whose invitations for us to visit kept being thwarted by winter storms. Today, though, we finally got a chance to hang out and drink that apple vodka they'd been tempting us with. We didn't bring our dogs because their dog Lulu is recovering from recent mouth surgery (a suspicious lump and several bad teeth had been removed). Because our dogs weren't with us, we finally got a chance to meet J&L's cats. Olive is skinny, roundheaded, and has little kitten ears, indicating the systemic retardation that also affects her behavior. By contrast, Lisa the Cat is a sassy Siamese with boundless curiosity and a delightfully-spicy low aggravation threshold. She especially doesn't like her tail touched, though she also hissed at me when I just tried to pet her back.
As always, we talked about a wide range of things ranging from the kooky Jewish Orthodox members of J's family, the deliciousness of food in Isæl (where we'd all been), the mastery of racial profiling evidenced by Isæli checkpoint guards, and the many movie scripts J was paid to write but which sit collecting dust on shelves somewhere. At some point Gretchen and I told the story of how we met, were estranged, and got back together again. (I was surprised J&L hadn't heard this before.) That led to a telling by J of how she met and eventually got together with L back when they were both living in Los Angeles in the early 90s (they're about a decade older than we are).
As we talked and drank, L kept manipulating a distant sound system using his iPhone, and when I asked how it worked, he did a surprisingly poor job of explaining it considering how tech-savvy he seems to be. Was the phone a front end for some other computer playing the music, or was it the source of the music, sending it over to the stereo wirelessly? L said it happened via WiFi and not Bluetooth, but that still leaves a lot of possibilities.
The original plan was to go to Rick's Woodfired Pizza for dinner, but we were a little too comfortable (and a bit drunk) there in J&L's living room, so in the end we called Catskill Mountain Pizza to have them deliver an extra large pizza and an order of batter fries. The slices were all enormous, hanging beyond the edges of the large plates we were using, and they had also managed to lose most of their heat on the drive over. So L heated them up inside the woodstove; their stove has a special shelf within it for this purpose. Since the pizza was being heated inside the firebox, it picked up a fair amount of smoky flavor. Thus our pizza ended up being wood-fired after all.

For linking purposes this article's URL is:

previous | next