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:
   Lovecraftian dread, Lynchian cat, and a dead baby fawn
Friday, June 7 2019
I walked to Bubby's today for my weekly burrito (which is something I normally get on Thursdays). The dining room was a little crowded today, so again I dined in the dark shade of the maples across the street, and again I left some jalapeño sauce for the ants. Later in the afternoon, I was able to finish the side salad at my desk, even though the only part of it I really like is the cucumbers. The dressing is too sour and I'm not a big fan of cherry tomatoes. I don't like the way they burst in my mouth, and the flesh of a cherry tomato always tastes kind of like rotten vegetables to me.
At 4:00pm, I made my customary exit and went directly to the Tibetan Center thrift store. There wasn't much of interest to me, though there were two scientific calculators, and you know about my weakness for those. In this case, though, I limited myself to just the one that could perform hyperbolic trigonometric functions (not that I've had a use for these at any point in my life). I also got a 4 megapixel Olympus Camedia D-580 digital camera, mostly because there is almost no downside in collecting things that cost so little and take up so little room. Also, this camera came in a box complete with its proprietary (and expensive) xD card, which fits several other Olympus cameras I have. The original plan was to hack all these cameras to make them into remote devices I could deploy disposably for photographing wildlife or other surviellance. But I've become so comfortable with working with Raspberry Pis (particularly the Zero W variant), which has full WiFi connectivity, a completely scriptable operating system, and cameras that are of the quality of the sort of digital cameras that people are dumping at thrift stores. Combined with thrift-store optics (perhaps augmented with some better optics such as eyepieces), I'm finding I can build great surviellance equipment quickly and cheaply. At some point, it might be nice to remove the zoom mechanisms from some of these old cameras and add one to a Raspberry Pi surviellance robot, and perhaps in some applications, a camera's built-in screen could be useful. But I have a feeling most of these old cameras are going to end up forming something of a digital camera museum.

Tonight Gretchen would be going up to Hudson to read poetry with Randall H, the guy who runs Willow Books (which published her most recent poetry collection, Visiting Days). I haven't attended all of her readings, but I came along on this one. Gretchen really wanted me to meet Randall.
We crossed the Hudson at the Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge (which I'd already done twice today) and drove up to Hudson on the 9W. There were a fair number of roadkills punctuating the route, most of them raccoons. There was also a building near the highway adorned with huge letters in several colors spelling out the word TRUMP. We were talking on the phone to our friend Mary Ann in Germantown at the time, and apparently that building is something of a local landmark.
The venue tonight was Time And Space Limited (TSL), something of a performance art space/movie venue. We'd been there at least once before to see our friend Joel's movie about whiteness. It's a rambling, though somewhat improvised venue. For example, in the theater room, the lighting system consists of a grid of rebar hanging from the ceiling supporting neatly-run extension cords and a dozen or so clamp lamps.
When we arrived, a number of other people were arriving, but they were mostly members of the TSL staff, which was surprisingly large considering the number of non-staff that eventually arrived. There was the woman who had coordinated tonight's reading. There were the two women who have owned TSL since coming up to Hudson in the early 90s (well before it gentrified). There was the woman running the snack bar. And there was the guy who collects tickets at the front door (he was there when we all arrived). Since Gretchen would be part of the entertainment, she and I got in for free, and we even got free dinner. Normally TSL doesn't sell alcohol to customers, but for all of us, there were Corona Lights. Gretchen had asked for there to be a vegan option, and TSL had made tonight's food complete vegan. It was a homminy stew with two different kinds of salad: one containing avocado and the other containing cucumber. How was TSL to know these were two of Gretchen's three most-loathed vegan foods? Gretchen also wasn't into the dessert, which was cubed papaya in coconut fruit. Though papaya tastes to me like a cross between a potato and a watermelon, that dessert was surprisingly good.
Randall always runs late, and he arrived at TSL about fifteen minutes after the rest of us. He came with his wife and her cherubic son. There was some hanging out before the reading, and for most of this, I felt kind of useless.
Then we all went into the theater and the woman working as event manager made the introductions. She started for her love for Randall's poetry, and explained his connection to the material: he had been in prison but had managed to get a college education, culminating in a PhD and a professorship. As for Gretchen, the event manager said she'd initially been skeptical of a white woman writing from the perspective of members of the large non-white male prison population. But when she'd seen the forward by Randall, she took that as all the endorsement she'd needed. Gretchen did her part first, and it was largely similar to the readings I'd been hearing her give elsewhere. It's a performance, much like a band would do, and it's pretty much the same every time. And it seemed to be well received, which was hardly a surprise, since she always does a great job then.
Then came Randall's part, and his perspective was clearly different. He reads his poetry with more of a musical quality, and it's clear the poems themselves have been assembled to produce interesting rhythms in both the vowells and consonants. The material itself tends to be a bit more opaque than Gretchen's work, but then again, I'm married to Gretchen so I know precisely where she's coming from. Later Gretchen reminded me that Randall also has a jazz band where is poems serve as lyrics. It was all making sense.
A movie would be shown, which meant the Q&A was cut a bit short. Out in the main space, Gretchen and Randall signed books for a good twenty minutes. There hadn't been more than 15 non-staff/non-reader/non-reader-family people in attendance, but they'd been unusually engaged, and ended up buying a surprising number of books. Gretchen thinks she sold about seven.
Since we were in Hudson and were hungry again, it made sense for Gretchen and me to go to Baba Louies for what we knew would be gourmet vegan pizza (even if there was a weird smell in the restaurant tonight). We ordered a large pie (which seemed kind of small), but only ate two pieces each, meaning we would have pizza for lunch tomorrow as well. I also sampled both IPAs on tap and went for the one that most closely resembled grapefruit juice in flavor. I believe it had a name similar to Blue Point. Our waitress was super nice.

The renter in one of our rental units on Downs Street had failed to pay us at the beginning of the month and was not responding to emails and texts, so Gretchen thought we should swing by there on the way home (even though, by the time we got there, it would be past 11:00pm). I thought that might be a little crazy, but Gretchen is a badass when it comes to things like this. So there we were, walking around the outside of her apartment, looking for her Lexus SUV and lights on in her apartment. But she wasn't there. So Gretchen wrote her a note and stuck it in her door.
My take on this particular renter is that we shouldn't've given her old landlord reference (which was good) and income (which was high) greater weight than her credit report (which was terrible). I've listened to enough Dave Ramsey to know that people with high incomes are just as likely to be broke as people earning a minimum wage salary. We should've taken the fact that our renter drives a new Lexus to mean not that she's actually rich, but instead that she lives at the limit of what her income can provide. In my life, for example, I've had a wide range of incomes (at I earned $6/hr), been unemployed for long stretches, had unsupportive parents, and lived without credit cards until the 2000s. But I never once paid my rent late, because I know how to have a lifestyle that fits within my income. People who don't have that basic life skill can go broke earning a million dollars a year.
When we got home, both dogs weren't there. Eventually I heard Ramona barking in the neighbor's field to the west, and I called her back home. But Neville was still out there somewhere. It was late, so I went to bed.
When I woke up at 3:00am and saw that Neville still wasn't back, I panicked. Was there now some malevolent new predator in the forest that had first picked off Clarence and now taken Neville? Was that this the karmic justice for not being more upset about the forest having taken our most faithful cat? As I later put it to Gretchen, if I'd been better read, perhaps I would have an author I could use to describe the dread I was feeling. My first approximation was Cormac McCarthy, but then Gretchen suggested H. P. Lovecraft. Yes, I would agree, the dread was more Lovecraftian the McCarthian.
I set out with flashlight, walking out to Dug Hill Road to look in the ditches. Since we'd never actually had a problem with wild animals picking off our dogs, if Neville had been killed, it had mostly likely been by a car. As I looked, tiny Diane Cat was delighted to follow me and do that thing she and many other cats do, darting at each of my ankles as I walked, headbutting them enthusiastically, occasionally tripping me up. Given the mood I was in, this was highly inappropriate behavior. She was a purring mass of joy and affection while I was tight knot of dread. One can't expect cats to be as empathetic as dogs, but this was one of the worst "misreadings of a room" that I'd ever encountered. In this case I did have someone whose work I could use to describe Diane's behavior: David Lynch. It reminded me of that scene in Blue Velvet where a guy has a heart attack, drops a garden hose, which his dog then gleefully attacks as it sprays water.
Stepping gingerly around Diane, I walked up to where the Farm Road meets Dug Hill Road and then walked several hundred feet south on the Farm Road. I wasn't calling out for Neville, as it was clear that my not calling for him wasn't the thing keeping him away.
Returning to the house, I decided to maybe check the north end of the Stick Trail. As I approached the south end of the house, I heard a growling. Shining my flashlight at the south deck, there he was, Neville. He was on in psycho guarding mode, and he most certainly didn't want me to come any closer. I could see immediately why: the thing he was guarding was a dead, partially-eaten speckled fawn. I wanted to believe he hadn't killed it himself, though perhaps he had. In any case, I was delighted to see that he was still with us. It was pointless to approach him while he was in the mood he was in, so I returned to bed. By now Gretchen was up too, and (like me) worried about what had happened with Neville. We stayed up and talked about it for a few minutes while I waited for an ambien to kick in. This was when Gretchen helped me by providing an author to describe the dread I'd been feeling not twenty minutes before.

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