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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(nobody does!)

Like my brownhouse:
   tongs from salvaged things found in the forest
Friday, June 12 2015
This evening we'd be celebrating the birthday of Michæl (of Carrie & Michæl), and I'd still yet to make the gift for him that I wanted to make. So this morning I rode my bike out to the abandoned go-cart track to look for scrap metal, preferably simple bars of strong steel. The plan was to make a large pair of fireplace tongs. Usually when I look for something specific, I don't find it, but this time I lucked out. I found two pieces of steel, each about five feet long, 3/4 inch wide, and having the cross-section of a capital-D. Back at the house, I cut these in half and used two of the four resulting pieces. My tongs project would involve welding and somehow attaching wooden handles, and at first I didn't know if I'd get it all done today. But the welding went better than expected after I carefully designed a way to firmly hold the small pieces of stock metal I would be welding to the ends of the salvaged pieces to form the tips of the tongs. I've gotten better at making reliable welds, but I've needed improvement when it comes to ensuring my geometries are nice and square and the pieces are held solidly while welding so they don't jiggle out of place. To support one of the salvaged pieces as I did the first weld, I used a big old vise that isn't bolted to anything. With it supported on top of a can of paint, I could build up the support for the small piece of metal that I'd be welding to the salvaged piece's tip using wooden blocks and a two-dimensional machining vise that I've never used for anything before. In its jaws I placed a large C-clamp holding the little metal piece. With a few adjustments to make sure everything was square, the weld went quickly. When I went to weld the other small piece to the other arm of the tong, I just balanced it atop the one I'd just welded so it would be perfectly parallel to it.
For handles, I made a quick foray our into the forest just west of the Farm Road, again looking to salvage materials. I found a smallish piece of a very dry wood without cracks (I think it was White Ash), and back at the house, I extracted two eight-inch pieces, sanded them into handle-like shapes, and then used a bandsaw to cut notches four or five inches deep into them. The tong arms fit firmly into these notches, and to secure them I gooped in a bunch of epoxy. After the epoxy cured, I sanded the handles until the epoxy formed a smooth grey seam. I then sanded the steel of the rest of the tongs to remove the rust. At some point in all of this, I drilled a hole and installed a bolt to form a pivot. When it was all done, I rubbed it all down with olive oil. Here is the result, with my big Neanderthal feet for scale:

The log tongs I built today. Gretchen recently cut my toenails for me. (Click to enlarge.)

Michæl's birthday would be a potluck dinner, so to support that, I made a huge pot of chili using canned beans, carefully-prepared tempeh (boiled in water, then fried), mushrooms, onions, kale, and slices of fresh jalapeño peppers. Meanwhile, Gretchen was making a two-layer cake that she intended to separate with a layer of homemade vegan icecream. But she'd found out too late that she was supposed to have put the icecream maker into the freezer 12 hours ahead of time. So her icecream making didn't work out, and she was forced to use commercial vegan icecream. But the cake began disintegrating like the Greenland ice sheet after 100 years of Scott "White" Walker administrations the moment she put it together. By this point, we'd been joined by David (of Susan and David) who would be carpooling with us to the Michæl's potluck party.
With Gretchen trying to keep the cake together, and David buckled up in the backseat, I drove the Prius as fast as I could to the party, some seven miles away while the cake continued to disintegrate into car's dashboard above the glove compartment. The part was at Jacinta & Michæl's (punk rock DJ Michæl, not artist Michæl) house on Mill Dam Road near Stone Ridge, about six miles away, and I drove as fast as 70 miles per hour down Hurley Mountain Road (which, thankfully, has no posted speed limit signs). When we got to the party, Gretchen immediately took the cake in and cleaned it up. It was decided that the birthday cake should be the first course, since there was no room in the freezer.
Jacinta & Michæl's place is a cute little house on an acre of land directly beside the road. The biggest feature is that there are no neighbors at all, just agricultural fields and, in the back beneath a clifflike escarpment, a wetland associated with the poor drainage of the glacial terminal moraine that forces the Esopus northward towards Saugerties. The road passes within a few feet of one corner of the house, but in the backyard the road is hidden away beneath a bank, which makes it very private back there. DJ Michæl, who has decided he can grow old in this house, has put in a bunch of bluestone paths and made other improvements of the sort one doesn't make when one is still looking for a good place to live.
As the sun set and it grew dark, I was seated at a table with David (the one I'd come with), Jacinta, and several lesbian couples. The conversation lingered for a long time on the graphic novelist Alison Bechdel: the musical based on her book Fun Home, Dykes to Watch Out For, and even her test, which I tried my best to articulate based on all the Slate podcasts I've listened to. David had been part of that conversation because he is a graphic illustrator. Later he discussed his tentative plans for a graphic novel based on what happen after India and Pakistan inevitably have themselves a nuclear war.
Deborah was at the party, and the cold war between her and Gretchen continued. I acted as though nothing was amiss, and chatted with Deborah like the good old days, finding out, among other things, that her nutritional adviser now has forbidden her from eating beans, though she'd made an exception tonight for my chili.
At some point, Gretchen got the birthday boy my present, which I had wrapped up to look sort of like a classic dumbell. Apparently Michæl had specifically requested no present, but he was unexpectedly delighted by the tongs, which, I have to say, looked really good in the dim light of evening. Gretchen (who hadn't yet seen them) was particularly amazed, saying they looked like something that could be sold for a lot of money.
Before we left, Michæl had his wife Carrie join the party briefly from Los Angeles using Facetime on the big screen in Michæl & Jacinta's living room.

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