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

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Arduino μcontrollers
Backwoods Home
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   dental appointment karma
Friday, February 18 2022

location: rural Hurley Township, Ulster County, NY

The plan today was for Gretchen and I to drive up to the cabin north of Gloversville to be there on the third or fourth attempted delivery by West Elm of a couch having a built-in hide-a-bed. It seemed likely that the delivery would actually happen this time, as there'd been a day or so of warmish weather that seemed likely to have further melted the snow and Gretchen had asked our plow man Nate to do a special mission to sand the slick spots (supposedly there were still plenty of ice sheets covering our driveway and Woodworth Lake Road). Gretchen had received an email from West Elm saying the delivery would happen sometime between 3:00pm and 5:00pm. So I'd arranged with my colleagues for a "dental appointment" I would need to be away for this afternoon.
But this morning at 8:30am, Gretchen got a call from the West Elm delivery driver saying that he was an hour away from the delivery. That wasn't what had been arranged, but what could we do? Gretchen frantically called Nate to see if he could sand the icy patches a little earlier (it turned out he could) and then she called West Elm to ask how they could've possibly screwed this up so badly. Meanwhile, I frantically packed all the stuff we needed to take to the cabin into the Forester (this included the new mitre saw my in-laws had got me for my birthday, a snow roof rake I'd bought online, a small set of drawers Gretchen had bought that looked like tower PC from the 1940s, and a settler's auger I'd seen advertised on Facebook but then bought on eBay). I also told my colleagues in the remote workplace that my dental appointment had been moved up to this morning and I wouldn't be making scrum. I hadn't used the Forester in awhile, and had to jumpstart it to get it going.
We left our dogs with Powerful and hit the road a little after 9:00am (Gretchen was driving, allowing me to be somewhat present at work). On the way, I struggled with the terrible user interface of the Forester's entertainment system to try to get Gretchen's cellphone to connect via Bluetooth. That was nearly impossible; the bit of interface you need to get to that part is hidden in behind something that's hard to find, and the touchscreen is so unresponsive that you end up hammering on it in frustration. Exacerbating all this, the rails on the roof rack running from the driver's side to the passenger's side started whistling loudly in the blustery conditions, causing me to, at some point, retract the sun roof as we drove so I could stuff some hemp rope into a longitudinal slot in the aluminum (this seemed to work). I managed to luck somehow into the part of the interface where I could tell it to connect to Gretchen's phone, but then the bluetooth worked so badly for the actual call with West Elm that Gretchen ended having to hold her phone to her face anyway. It turned out West Elm had botched things even worse than we knew. In their paperwork, the time for delivering our couch was between the hours of 11:00am and 1:00pm. This was decidely after what the delivery guy had told Gretchen would happen, but also different from what we had been told. After some back-and-forth and an escalation to a manager, Gretchen was told to send them the email giving the hours between 3:00pm and 5:00pm, which I did. I'm not really sure how the call ended, but it mercifully did somewhere near Albany.
When we arrived at the end of our driveway on Woodworth Lake Road, we came upon Nate in his pickup with a young asistant shoveling sand onto the ice near a smallish van apparently driven by the West Elm delivery guys. They'd been such chuckleheads that they'd driven past our well-labled driveway and then down to the lake ("because of the GPS"), where they'd gotten stuck. Nate had come across them and was able to shovel sand onto the snow and get them back to our driveway, which was reasonably driveable.
But once at our house, one of the two delivery guys said that the company rules forbid him from walking through the snow between his delivey van and our house. By now, though, I was feverishly breaking up the ice with the blunt end of the splitting mall and then shoveling the steps clear. It was a simple matter to shovel a path from there to the driveway, but still this driver was being a "cabrón" (as Gretchen put it). But by then, his assistant, Nate, and Nate's assistant were wrestling the couch out of the van. I was pissed at the continued reluctance of the cabrón to help in any way (by now he was smoking in the van), so I started yelling and swearing like a sailor. Gretchen pointed out that the only asshole here was in the van, so calmed down and applied myelf. That couch was incredibly heavy due to its built-in hide-a-bed, and it was all wrapped in plastic with no place to grab it. But somehow the four of us who weren't being assholes managed to get it up the stairs and into the loft. After we had it set in place, Nate told us that this extra sanding mission was going to cost us $200 beyond the initially agreed-to price. Gretchen initially tried to argue with him, but this seemed fair to me. I said we should get West Elm to pay us that amount for their bottomless chuckleheadedness.
Once that was all done, I could stoke the fire in the woodstove and eat a little food (I'd only had grapes and a banana this morning) and then focus on what the fuck was going on with the photovoltaic system. The inside of the cabin was actually above freezing (33 degrees Fahrenheit in both the basement and first floor), though frozen-solid gallon jugs of water in the sink indicated it had been much colder in the 25 days since I'd last been there. As for the solar array, it was only collecting about 120 watts of power despite it being a clear day and there being no snow on the roof at all. I fiddled around with the controls on both the Sol-Ark inverter and the battery (whose UI seems to consist of a display and a single switch). This made things chunk on and off and various error messages were displayed (current overload and battery insufficiency seemed to be the big ones), but now the solar array was collecting nothing, at least according to the Sol-Ark display, which was also now saying there was no battery. As for the battery, it would still show things on its tiny display, but it was down to around 40 volts, which is much less than the displayed voltage even when it is at 0%. Maybe it was just too weak to even get the inverter to collect electricity. So I went out and started up the generator. I'd assumed it would be totally dead and I'd have to give it a jump. But no, it started right up. After that, toggling the "photovoltaic disconnect" on the side of the inverter seemed to jar it back to life, and we were suddenly collecting 4 kilowatts, the most I'd ever seen. So now I didn't have to worry about that, and I now had a sense of what to do the next time it experiences this problem.
Supposedly the gas company would also be arriving today to refill the tank. And it would've been nice to be there when they did. But the plan was not to stay the night in the cabin, so we wouldn't be taking it out of its winterized state, so whether or not the gas was delivered today didn't really matter. Once I'd charged up the battery in the basement to 20%, I turned off the generator. And once Gretchen was done with her book, we could leave.

Gretchen had arranged for us to spend the nice at a big-but-interesting hotel near the Albany airport called The Desmond. We arrived there a little before 5:00pm, went to our room, showered, [REDACTED]. We then played the New York Times Spelling Bee separately (though with lots of banter) until we had to stop due to our growling stomachs.
For dinner, I was all excited about going to that Indian restaurant called Spicy Mint, which happened to be very close to the Desmond. But Gretchen wondered if it might make more sense to try out the Maharaja, a restaurant further afield on Wolf Road. We'd tried to go there in the past, but it was always closed. So I agreed we should try out Maharaja. We drove down there, parked, and walked through the miserable cold (it was windy with temperatures in the teens) to the door, only to find that during covid they had become a carry-out-only restaurant. We were seeking a dine-in experience, so it was looking like we'd be going to Spicy Mint after all.
But now Gretchen was saying that she wanted to go to the Cheesecake Factory. I thought for sure she was joking, but she wasn't. "What kind of food do they have?" I wanted to know. "It's like American," Gretchen replied. "Do they even have anything vegan?" I asked. "They have some vegan things, but it's not like they intended to," Gretchen assured me. So I said fuck it, let's give the Cheesecake Factory a whirl. I'd never been to one in my life, and I think the last time Gretchen had been to one was as a teenager. There was one at the mall directly across Wolf Road from Maharaja.
As Gretchen predicted, there were a lot of people milling around in the entranceway in line to be seated. The wait at the time was 51 minutes, but we were told that if we went to a high-top at the bar, we could seat ourselves now. That was a no-brainer.
The Cheesecake Factory feels like a fancy restaurant, with high ceilings, tasteful muted decorations, and murky lighting. The place was crowded, but our table was far enough away from others to have me feeling covid-safe. We both ordered drinks (my mai-tai was strong and came with a maraschino cherry and thin slices of orange and pineapple) and I ordered Impossible Burger with vegan cheese (which was on the menu just like that). As for Gretchen, she got the cauliflower tacos, which turned out to be batter-fried. It was all pretty good, even if we were there mostly (Gretchen insisted) ironically. She wanted to know if anyone else there might also have air quotes hovering above their heads. I looked around, a bit surprised by the absence of land whales (which tend to be numerous at, say, the Olive Garden). But the only person who looked particularly hip was a youngish woman who was clearly there with her mother.
At some point I noticed a huge hole in the back of my jaw where the crown that had replaced my top right wisdom tooth had been. I must've just swallowed it, and, because I don't chew very thoroughly, I'd done so completely unaware. It was looking like I was going to be going through my shit (in the most literal sense of that phrase) for the next several bowel movements. That's karma for lying to my co-workers about "going to the dentist."
Back at the Desmond, we walked to our room through the hotel's central-atrium, a three-story-high space that feels like the outdoors (it even has a number of fairly tall trees) but is completely enclosed and climate-controlled. There was some sort of official gathering happening at the time, perhaps someobody's rehearsal dinner. Gretchen joked that we could slip among them undetected, but I thought it unlikely given our ratty clothes that we were also going to be wearing tomorrow (we hadn't packed anything really except the bathroom bag and my work-issued laptop). "White priviledge only goes so far," I reasoned.
Up in our room, Gretchen turned on the teevee and switched back and forth (depending on the commercials) between skating performances by couples at the Bejing Olympics and an episode of Treehouse Masters, the show where that earnestly-goofy gentleman goes around the country with a crew of creative carpenters building treehouses. At some point I cracked open that imperial stout Powerful had bought me for my birthday. It was something like 20 ounces and 12 percent alcohol, and by the time I'd finished it, I was finding it difficult to fluently chain together sentences.

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