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

welcome to the collapse
Clusterfuck Nation
Peak Oil

got that wrong

appropriate tech
Arduino μcontrollers
Backwoods Home
Fractal antenna

fun social media stuff

(nobody does!)

Like my brownhouse:
   triumph of a water pick
Wednesday, December 2 2020
When I was a kid living at my childhood home in the country south of Staunton, Virginia, my father used to perform a certain chore once every one or two years. We had several plumbing systems: one for potable cold water, one for potable hot water, and one for unpotable creek water (used for flushing the toilet and providing water for the animals and crops). Periodically, the pump for the creek water system (the most heavily-used system) would run every time any water was requested, indicating that the pressure tank was now full (or nearly full) of water, and there was no (or a small) collapsible mass of trapped air the pump could pressurize the water against. Since water itself doesn't collapse, once the trapped air is gone, the pump simply replaces water from the system as it is used, and has to run repeatedly for short durations. This is not good for any electric motor. So my father (later with my help) would turn off the pump and drain the pressure tank completely. This trapped many gallons of air, restoring the health of the system. Over time, though, the pressurized air would dissolve into the water and be carried away, slowly being replaced by water. And the cycle would repeat again.
Modern pressure tanks have a membrane between the trapped air and the water to minimize air loss. But over time that membrane can break down. Or the stem at the top of the system can have a very slow leak and the air is gradually lost. Recently the household well pump has been running every time any water was requested, and determined that the problem was probably a water-logged pressure tank. Before I knew about the stem to add air to the system, I'd assumed the tank would have to be replaced. But today I removed the shelf from above that tank (which I climb on to access part of the solar hot water heating system) and pulled a cap off the top of the tank, revealing the stem. Even if the membrane had broken down in the tank, my putting air into the tank should've restored health to the water system, at least temporarily (in the way that my father's fix had). Better still, since I have air compressors, it's a simple procedure to put air back into the system. I don't have to go through the bother of draining the tank. So at around noon today, I used the compressor to add some imprecise amount air to the pressure tank, after which the well pump seemed to run much less often. This will make bathing much more pleasant, as the water pressure from the spigot now won't fluctuate as quickly.

Somehow, despite the ongoing pandemic, I had a routine appointment at the dentist for a cleaning, so I set out with dogs to my dental office, which on the way to Woodstock. Somehow, though, I managed to show up nearly a half hour early. The woman who runs the place didn't want any more people in the waiting room than necessary during coronavirus times, so I said I'd go find something else to do for a half hour. First, though, I gave her some cupcakes Gretchen had made for the office to thank them for doing Powerful's teeth pro-bono (which happened recently).
I thought I'd pass the time by going into Woodstock and getting some art supplies at Catskill Art & Office. But when I went into the store, I saw that now all they did was framing; the store with the products was now only in Kingston.
Back at the dental office, things were well behind schedule. I'd been told my appointment would start at 1:00pm, but it was nearly 2:00 when the room became available. The office did a fair job keeping the number of people in the waiting room low, telling people to wait in their cars if they had cars. But the guy arriving a little after I arrived had walked there, so he was seated far away from me. Everybody coming and going was given a temperature check and had to fill out a questionnaire about whether or not they'd been coughing, had body aches, and that sort of thing. (I had none of the symptoms.)
I'd had this particular dental hygienist once before, and I remember her raving about how straight and healthy my teeth were. She did the same again today, and it got even better. She also said that they looked well-flossed, suggesting that the water pick I'd bought after my last professional cleaning had really upped my dental hygiene game. Additionally, there was good news visible in the xrays the hygienist suggested we take (they always do!). The root of my "punk rock tooth" (the top leftmost incisor smashed by a beer bottle in late 1994) showed less sign of lingering infection (a legacy of a seemingly-botched root canal in 2000). The black void around that root in the xray from March 2019 was now filling in with a ghostly white, which the hygienist suggested was bone growing into the space. I'd noticed that I'd been having more difficulty extracting sour and off-smelling fluids from around that tooth, another indication that the infection is slowly vanishing.
The hygienist was more chatty than usual, which was kind of a problem, since she was talking through a mask and a face shield while a pandemic-related air filtration system hummed noisily in the background. Learning that I was working from home, she told me about the many others who were doing so. In fact, she said, there's a place in the Bahamas that caters to people who can work entirely remotely. This led me to mention the month Gretchen and I spent in Costa Rica. It turned out the hygienist had also been to Costa Rica, and I was able to parse some of what she went on to say about traveling up and down its west coast. When she mentioned "sloths," though, I had to have her repeat the term twice.

This evening I made a pot of pasta, thinking we still had that chonky red sauce Powerful made the other day with tempeh and not-so-good Thanksgiving nut loaf. But Gretchen had used all that remained of that to make polenta last night. So, no problem, I fried up some onions and mushrooms to chonkify commercial red sauce from a jar.
After Jeopardy!, Gretchen and I watched the penultimate episode of I'll Be Gone in the Dark, the one in which Michelle McNamara, the documentary's heroine, dies in her sleep (the best way to go!). After that it almost seemed as if the show wasn't going to tell us why she died. But eventually they circled back to it. Spoiler alert: she took too many drugs.

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