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:
   Maple the Dog prefers the outdoors
Saturday, May 27 2023

location: unit #4, 201 North Madison Street, Staunton, Virginia

I awoke at around 7:00am, having slept less than four hours. Not having any provisions in my loft apartment for breakfast, I eventually strolled down to Beverley Street, Staunton's main street. Along the way I passed two places that seemed to be providing either food or shelter for the homeless. I ended up in Cranberry's, the health food store where I've been able to get vegan food in the past. I ordered the Taj Mahal Wrap containing rice, tofu, and spinach, and it was good I'd thought to bring some hot sauce with me because it really needed some. It also needed a lot of salt, which is hard to retroactively put into food explicitly made without it.
Next I drove out to Walmart and started charging the car while getting all the provisions I needed, some of which I'd simply forgotten to take. I'd be working remotely this week, which meant I would need HDMI cables to connect to additional monitors (one of which I'd actually remembered to bring). I thought for some reason I might get a better price for an HDMI cable at Lowes, so I went there first and got two cables there. But everything is much cheaper at Walmart, so I would end up returning them only an hour or so later. At Walmart, I got earbuds, an affordable gaming mouse, two super-cheap six foot HDMI cables, a toothbrush, toothpaste, a Harry's-brand razor, and some groceries. These includined a big bottle of red wine, a bag of cherries, a bunch of bananas, a sleeve of bagels, a tub of Earth Balance faux butter, fair-trade coffee, a set of reusable Keurig-compatible coffee baskets, and tostadas.
Though Walmarts and Lowes stores are everywhere, when you're at the ones in Staunton, there's no mistaking the fact that you're in Real America. Getting into and out of these big box stores required me to outmaneuver veterans who were trying to accost me for some charity I didn't want to contribute to. At the one in front of the Lowes the guy stationed in front had a sound system and was playing the kind of red meat country music that suggests a deep insecurity whether this nation is still a land of brave men and God-fearing submissive women. Along these same lines, I found a surprisingly large amount of shelf space in the Walmart given to the Black Rifle Coffee Company, which offers a decidedly non-woke alternative to organic fair-trade coffee. (It's also cheaper when you can harvest your beans using slave children and you don't have to fret about spraying poison in a river.)
I went through the drive through at the Burger King at the corner of US 250 and Frontier Drive and got two Impossible Whoppers and two orders of fries and then drove out to Creekside to visit my brother Don. This was to be my first visit since our mother was taken away to the old folks' home.
Things at Creekside looked about the same, with the trailer gradually being swallowed by more and more grape vines and bushes. I knocked on the door and Don came out. His beard was big and bushy and had grey roots, but the unkempt hair on top of head was still mostly the reddish-brown it's always been. His initial concern was whether or not I'd brought the book about ants. I said that I had, and that I'd also gotten him a burger. At this point my mother's old dog Maple came out of the bushes and I reminded her that she knows who I am. She seemed healthy but sad, as if my mother's absence was a lingering scar. Don offered her a french fry, but she's fussy about her food and didn't want it. Don says she doesn't want to come into the trailer, so Don let's her hang out off leash in the yard. Evidently she knows enough to avoid getting hit by a car.
Inside the trailer, it was more cluttered than it had been, and Don had moved into the master bedroom my mother had been sleeping in (I can't imagine what he's done to the bathroom back there), but it wasn't quite as terrible as expected in there. There's an off-putting sour smell in there that has gotten a little worse, but if you open the doors and let the air flow, it's not too bad.
I'd brought a little pneumatic-powered Lego forklift I'd got at the Tibetan Center thrift store that I thought Don might like, but he told me he's only interested in unassembled Lego kits. He showed me the "Material Handler" kit he'd been struggling with weeks ago, thinking he was missing various pieces. He'd managed to put it almost completely together, including the pneumatic hoses. But, he said, he couldn't get it to work. It only took me a few seconds to determine to that hoses were connected to valves that allowed air to be directed to various mechanisms along the "arm" to make it move. Don had hooked everything up correctly; it just had never been obvious to him that he could manipulate the valves (and the illustrations-only manual didn't make this clear).
Next I turned my attention to Don's phone, a flip-phone with some feature apps allowing for the viewing of YouTube videos or performing Google searches. Months ago, Don had lost the ability to use Google Assistant, so he could no longer ask it to bring up information about Joseph Stalin or primitive amphibians. I thought maybe there was a setting he'd accidentally flipped, but I couldn't find it. And the interface (which required me to apply a lot of force to cursor buttons to move around the screen, which was not a touch-screen) was terrible. As bad as it was, I thought maybe Don would have a less frustrating time with a proper smartphone (though I was worried such a device would be easy for him to misconfigure). I was thinking I could go buy Don a cheap smartphone and move the SIM card over. But then it turned out that Don already had a perfectly good smartphone still in its packaging. ([REDACTED]) Promisingly, the phone was designed to work with the AT&T network, which is what Don's flip phone used. Best of all, it accepted the same kind of SIM card. Before long, I had the smartphone working and was giving Don a crash course on how to use it. The only fly in the ointment was that Don's USB charger didn't provide enough juice to charge the phone if Don was using it at the same time, which would have bad implications for him trying to sit around watching YouTube videos (as he likes to do). So I decided to take us out to Walmart again, this time to get a better charger and maybe something to store the phone in so it won't get destroyed. Maple the Dog was looking so sad and bored that I decided to bring her along as well.
I would've been happy to leave Maple in the car, but Don said Maple definitely wanted to come into the Walmart, and that this was something nobody would have a problem with. After I'd bought Don a more powerful USB charger and a small phone holster (and declined the protection plan for the former), we drove closer into town on US 250 to visit a used bookstore Don loves. He introduced me to the staff on the way in, remarking (as I think nobody ever has) that people say he must be the younger one because of how much greyer my hair is. I ended up buying Don a couple books there because an expensive price for one there is $5.
I returned Don to Creekside and then drove myself back to my AirBnB in Staunton. I'd been feeling very sleepy, but something about seeing the bustle of people (especially at an art show happening down where Middlebrook Road meets Augusta Street at the corner of the Johnson Street parking lot. I decided to put some red wine in my travel cup and walk down to the art show. But once down there, I kind of chickened out about mingling too much because there were people I knew down there and for some reason I didn't want to break my "undercover" role (the one where I'm something of a humanoid space probe from another planet). So I returned back to the AirBnB and sipped wine while noodling around on my work-issued laptop waiting for the diphenhydramine to kick in.

Seen in the Staunton Walmart: Coffee for non-woke people who cannot stand fair trade organic coffee that doesn't destroy the habitats of endangered species. Click to enlarge.

The remains of the Staunton Mall, which was recently reduced to rubble. Note the twin hills Betsy Bell and Mary Gray in the background. Click to enlarge.

Maple the Dog outside the trailer at Creekside. Click to enlarge.

Don with his Lego "Material Handler" outside the Creekside trailer. Click to enlarge.

Don eats an Impossible Whopper amid the sour-smelling clutter of the trailer at Creekside. Note the painting of Hitler, a gift found in the trash. Click to enlarge.

Clutter in the living room of my now-abandoned childhood home. Click to enlarge.

The old woodstove in my abandoned childhood home. Click to enlarge.

Some ancient pictures I found in a room that had been locked in Creekside. From the top left corner clockwise: Betty's (Hoagie's) twin sister Barbara, Clarence DeMar holds the twins while surrounded by his wife Margaret, Bob DeMar, Dotty, and in the front left, Charles (who died of rheumatic fever in the 1930s), a portrait of Betty (aka "Hoagie"), Clarence DeMar's two parents George Washington DeMar and Caro Abbott, Barbara and Betty on their horses, and Clarence and Margaret's wedding. Click to enlarge.

A male cardinal on a wire above Madison Street in Staunton. Click to enlarge.

Pigeons on the cell tower at the top of the Madison Street hill. It's the tallest object in the center of Staunton. Click to enlarge.

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