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:
   a limb for a drone
Saturday, January 30 2016

location: just east of the Village of Woodstock, Ulster County, New York

In the morning when I let the dogs Darla and Olive out to attend to their business, I climb up a retaining wall to a narrow strip of forest that buffers the yard from the traffic on Chestnut Hill Road. These woods are full of little chips and tiles of bluestone, like a long-abandoned stone age erector set. I like to amuse myself by erecting cairns here. Though apparently fragile, I've found that cairns can survive for many years, partcular if little shims are used to stop layers from rocking when unexpected forces are applied to them. This morning I made my second cairn this week. They're both tall and narrow and posisioned in such a way that they from part of the skyline when viewed from the kitchen. The road itself is pretty much invisible from the house; the wooded strip is on a narrow ridge that forms a perfect roadside buffer. But when I'm up there making cairns, I'm astounded by the numbers of pedestrians going past. First there will be a couple power-walkers (is that still a thing?) and then some guy with a couple enormous rescued Pit Bulls. Those big guys were taking great interest in the olfactory messages left by Darla and Olive, and while Olive barked at them from safely inside the fenced-in part of the yard, all Darla could do was watch silently in wonder.
After leaving Susan and David's house, I drove into the village of Woodstock partly to get some cash. There's a newish branch of the Mid-Hudson Valley Credit Union (which hosts the main bank account I share with Gretchen), so I could pull money out of a machine without paying any fees. With fresh cash in my wallet, I went to Bread Alone, somehow beating the Saturday morning rush by about thirty seconds. I ordered a bagel with Tofutti cream cheese and a slice of tomato, and it reminded me once again why it is that I don't normally eat faux cream cheese (there are good ones at some bagel shops in the City, but Tofutti is disappointing). The coffee, though, was better than I remember Bread Alone coffee being.
I had a paper cup of coffee in my hand later as I perused the gadget section at the Tibetan Center thrift store. Apparently an elderly person's estate had recently been liquidated, and there were some fun old things like an MP3 player from the 1990s (it used CF cards for media). There a number of old laptop power bricks producing standard laptop voltages, and those are always useful. They were unpriced, but I got them for $2 each, along with a tiny gardening trowel and a set involving lots of identical bamboo sticks and glow-in-the-dark rubber junction rings allowing someone to build framework models of Platonic solids and other wireframe-like objects. (I have a feeling some day I'm going to be delighted that I have that on hand.)

Back at the house after Gretchen returned from walking the dogs, we had our usual Saturday french press of coffee in front of the woodstove. Everything was serene, and the animals were all getting along with each other. For the past couple weeks, Julius (aka Stripey) has been spending more time in the living room. He's even rediscovered the ottoman in front of the stove, a prime cat location he hasn't revisited since the late Wilma evicted him from it back in 2006. Cats are very slow to adapt to changes in their environment, and I think Julius is particularly conservative (this is why it always takes him a long time to adapt to new dogs and adult cats). The ottoman now gets regular use from four different creatures (in decreasing order): Sylvia, Clarence, Ramona, and now Stripey. Occasionally two cats or even a cat and a dog can share the ottoman at once, though often whoever had been on the ottoman will leave in a pout whenever someone new comes along, especially someone like Ramona, who thinks nothing of sitting directly on a cat who happens to be in her way.

Gretchen spent the afternoon up on Mohonk selling vegan cheese with our friend Michæl from South Africa, whose vegan cheese operation has ballooned into a big success in only three years.
Meanwhile, back at the house, I resumed my effort to recover that drone I'd crash-landed into the canopy of a Red Oak tree. The only that was going to work would require me to cut a major limb from the tree in question. It was largish Red Oak, with a diameter of 16.5 inches at breast height. The limb that I would have to cut off was about six inches thick where it branched from the trunk about 35 feet above the ground. It supported about 20% of the tree's canopy. In a situation like this, I might have decided that the value of that limb alive might be worth more than the value (and collected video) of the drone. But the tree is due south of the house, so any pruning of its canopy would be good for the house's ability to passively collect solar energy (particularly in the fall and mid-to-late spring, the only times that limb would provide any unwanted shade). Also, pruning might be good for trees in the aftermath of a Gypsy Moth infestation (which we'd had last year).
I managed to get my rope saw up over the target limb and orient the blade downward. Using two hundred-foot ropes tied to the relatively-short ropes on the saw itself, I was able to work it back and forth from a location on the firewood gathering "mountain goat" trail just south of the woodshed. It went faster than expected, but then the blade got bound up in the cut and I couldn't make it move at all. Perhaps it was just going to have to stay up there. I pulled on the rope with a frequency that eventually made the whole tree shake, but the limb didn't seem to be going anywhere. I was about to give up on the whole thing when I heard a quiet snap and then saw the limb lurching slowly my way (I was well out of the way at the time). Then it just fell off the tree and hit the ground with a crash. Happily, the drone took the ride down with it. Aside from a few minor breaks in the drone's blade guards (which can glued back together or replaced for cheap), it had survived the experience without damage. I was eager to see what its epic flight had been like.
Here it is, with some good vistas of the Esopus Valley and the distant Catskill peaks. (The last building you can see is the overflowing woodshed. The tree it landed in is about 50 feet northeast from that.)

Later, I salvaged all the wood from the limb I'd cut down. Being completely green, it was much heavier than the wood I normally work with. It came to well over a hundred pounds (though weighing it when it's this green didn't make much sense). I cut it into stove-length pieces, split the bigger chunks, and stacked it with some other greenish wood near (but outside) the woodshed so that, in the distant future when the shed is empty, I can use it to begin filling it back up again.

This evening Gretchen and I watched some television together, including an episode of Shark Tank and the "Old People" episode of Master of None. That show continues to surprise and delight. This episode, for example, was one of the only pieces of media I have seen in recent memory that showed any respect at all to the elderly. And it did so without being unnecessarily sweet or the slightest bit patronizing.

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