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:
   proud animal becomes trash
Sunday, April 5 2015

location: near Sligo Creek Park, Silver Spring, Montgomery County, Maryland

Though it had been warmer two days ago, I didn't hear Phoebes in Silver Spring until this morning. Their arrival here had apparently been delayed by at least two weeks; normally they get to Hurley by around March 23rd.
This morning, our eight-year-old niece joined us in walking our dogs in Sligo Creek Park (as she has been enthusiastically doing occasionally since we arrived). They were off leash as usual when we came upon a frumpy middle-aged woman with a big elderly black dog. "How cute!" we agreed, but she was all no-nonsense, pointing to some jogger who she claimed had been terrified of our dogs. Our dogs, it should be noted, showed no interest in the woman, her dog, or that terrified jogger. It's a scary world, fella, get used to it. I suppose it was a valuable lesson in human dynamics for our niece, who, in her normal life, doesn't often see the adults she is with in active conflict with other adults. Another first for her happened later in the walk, when the dogs scared a substantial herd of deer that were grouped up against the bottom of the terrace walls of the houses to the south of the park. The deer went in various directions one at a time. They ran so quickly that the dogs quickly gave up the chase, returned to the others, and chased another. Our niece had never actually seen a deer before in the real world, outside a car. Since the deer didn't seem particularly frightened of humans at all, it was a chance for her to see them clearly. They looked surprisingly shaggy, as if the harsh winter had somehow compelled them to grow especially thick winter coats.
Late this morning, Gretchen's father drove Gretchen, me, and Gretchen's mother into the District, past the many pastel-and-black-clad Easter celebrants milling around the many churches along 16th Street. Our destination was the new Native Foods, the vegan fast casual chain that has gradually been spreading across the country, starting from California. We arrived before noon during the pre-lunch lull, and our the guy who handled our order at the cash register had all of the unanticipated friendliness we'd first encountered at the Native Foods in Los Angeles. Gretchen's parents, being the most observant of Passover, ordered sandwiches made into salads, with their bread component replaced with lettuce. Gretchen and I ordered the corn-flour tempeh tortillas with cabbage (corn being one of those things certain Jews will jokingly claim is kosher for Passover "in Sephardism," and then go on to say they have a Sephardic grandmother). In the absence of hot sauce, it was surprisingly bland. The Native "Chicken" Wings were probably the best thing that came to our table. Over lunch, we discussed the idea of free speech on college campuses in some detail. We were all in agreement that students should be able to say pretty much anything they want. Gretchen's father thought that the Sigma Alpha Epsilon assholes on that bus in Oklahoma probably shouldn't have been kicked out of school even after singing that racist ditty about how there will never be a nigger at Ess A E.

Today Gretchen and I would be driving with our critter back to Hurley, and as I loaded up the car, I let Celeste the Cat roam free in the front yard. There aren't many cats you can do that with without fear of them escaping into a storm sewer, climbing a tree, or vanishing into the forest. Actually, earlier today Celeste had found the house's one crawlspace and disappeared into its bats of pink fibreglass insulation for a time, but she'd come out only a couple minutes later. This time, she was happy to just explore the shrubbery or watch passing joggers from beneath one of the cars.
After stopping at an Ethiopian store in Silver Spring and stocking up on three bags of injera and several canned fava bean curries (or wats, or whatever the middle eastern equivalent of those is), we began our drive back north. Celeste was less settled on this drive than she had been on the way down, trying several times to take up residence in the well beneath Gretchen's feet as she tried to drive. Eventually Celeste settled into the well near my feet, not seeming to mind the blaring from the speakers as they played a Sound Opinions podcast. Later in the drive, after I took over driving at the Joyce Kilmer service area, Celeste spent most of her time in Gretchen's lap, which was (for Gretchen) an unexpected joy. (Celeste is so not a lap cat.)
At Joyce Kilmer, Gretchen and I got ourselves some fast food lupper. I had spaghetti with red sauce at Sbarro (a company that Gretchen had heard was extinct). Watching the guy heat my spaghetti in yellowish hot water was a little gross, but I was hungry enough to eat that spagehetti anyway. It tasted about as bad as it looked. Amusingly, one cannot get coffee at Sbarro, giving not-unexpected lie to the Italian pretensions in its name. I got good fries and bitter coffee at the Burger King, where Gretchen (who initially thought she wasn't hungry) got a veggie burger, most of which I ended up gobbling down like a stray dog on a Mexican beach.
As I approached the Montvale Rest Area on the Garden State Parkway, I saw a gorgeous wild male gobbler turkey attempting to cross the northbound lanes eastward from the median strip. He was insistent about walking across, even in the face of the fast-moving cars roaring towards him and the fact that he could have just flown over them. The car in front of me slammed on its brakes and so did I, and the gobbler seemed to momentarily retreat. But after we got by him, I looked in my rearview mirror and saw him toppling end over end like a piece of loose cardboard back into the median. Evidently he'd just been hit by the car behind me. It was a terrible thing to witness, and traumatized me for a good half hour afterwards. Something in me kept telling me that I shared some small part of the responsibility for his death. If I'd slowed down more, you see, the car behind me might have slowed down more than it did and the turkey might have made it across. I was also haunted by having been so close to sudden accidental death. Life is so fragile, and the urge to get off a median strip is so strong, and when those two facts come together, a proud animal can be converted in an instant into a piece of trash blowing in the wind.

Back at the house, we found Oscar was outside, evidently having made it there himself through the pet door (a direction we'd only had weak evidence he'd ever gone). Most (but not quite all) of the snow in the yard had melted away, leaving only a few piles in the places where it had been concentrated by the roof or where I'd shoveled it. Celeste was delighted to be back among her feline brothers and sister, and was soon seen following Oscar all around the house.
At some point I noticed that Oscar and Celeste had been outside for a long time, so I went out looking for them. I found Celeste sitting on small deck at the entrance to the greenhouse upstairs. She was surrounded by shards of a CF bulb that had fallen and shattered. It had been in one of those socket-to-outlet adapters and evidently that adapter had worked its way out of the outlet over time. Though most of our lighting these days comes from LEDs, we've been intensively using CF bulbs since 2005, yet this was the first time a mercury-vapor-filled tube had ever shattered and opened anywhere on our property. Luckily, it had done so outside, where the vapor could quickly be vented away. I probably took an excessive number of precautions as I cleaned up the mess, picking up the pieces with a rubber glove and putting it all in a plastic bag that I would eventually place on top of the Subaru (that is, not in an indoor space) to be thrown away later.

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