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:
   Hollywood Reservoir
Sunday, December 10 2000

Today Linda wanted to take me on one of our nice little innocent field trips to local landmarks, this one being a supposed lake in Hollywood. So she drove out to West LA and picked me up as she always does when we do these sorts of things, since I am the proud non-owner of any car. She'd spent the night at Julian's place in Park LaBrea, so she wanted to stop first at her apartment in Silverlake to get changed. I'd been in her apartment once before and didn't think to write anything about it. Right now it's still a clutter of things from her hasty moving out of Julian's apartment. This exists as a layer on top of the underlying decorations undertaken by the former occupant, one of her friends who is off somewhere else, Europe perhaps. These decorations consist mostly of broken pieces of tile arranged into Roman-style decorative mosaics. They cover surfaces in both the kitchen and the bathroom. There are also medieval-style decorative paintings forming peaked arches and frames around the doors. The building itself is seems very old and well-settled into itself. Accumulated black grunge from the dirty Los Angeles air has accumulated on every surface and faded every color.
Next stop was an Indian restaurant called Electric Lotus for lunch. We sat in one of the darkly-lit booths with the curtains, looking out at the large brightly-painted Shiva on the opposite wall. During a lunch comprised largely of garbanzo beans, rice and chicken, we found ourselves yet again discussing the subject what is wrong with our erstwhile common employer. Is it over-confidence in Microsoft technology? Yes, but that's only part of the story. This cargo-cultish over-confidence grows out of the usual dot com over-reliance on the advice of outside consultants. And what is the force that motivates this over-reliance? Linda said she thought it has something to do with the fact that the people who begin the development of a site in its early phase inevitably become higher-ups in the organization, maintaining their godlike status partly because they are the only ones who can maintain the shoddy code they wrote back in the early days. As more people are hired on, it is assumed that since they are low in the hierarchy, they don't have the answers. When the grand technological pooh bah is inevitably stumped, then, the only source of extricating enlightenment can be expensive outside "experts." Employees are there to do work, not have ideas.
Speaking of grand technological pooh bahs, Linda told me about a party she attended last night at the Santa Monica home of my company's Chief Software Architect (her invitation was related to her role as Julian's girlfriend). I should note, by the way, that I was one of the few members of the Data Systems team not invited to this particular party, although most of the non-Data-Systems UK team was invited. This reflects, I think, a certain discomfort with me among higher-ups in the organization, perhaps related to my hard-drinking anti-consumerist tendencies. For his part, I used to think that the Chief Software Architect was sort of hip and maybe even a little subversive or at the very least "alternative" (not enough to grow sideburns and wear Buddy Holly glasses, but enough to bleach his hair and listen to the Pixies). But the other day I learned that he'd gone out and demonstrated to the world his daring originality by buying a brand new SUV (do people who buy SUVs ever buy used SUVs?). Anyway, Linda was telling me all about the house he shares with his career-woman wife and how everything about its decoration and maintenance is immaculate, straight out of a Pottery Barn catalog. Throughout last night's party, two maids were on hand to whisk away any dirty dishes the moment they were set down. Anything less would have been uncivilized. "If only the database had been maintained like this," Linda rued, "there wouldn't be any problems today!"

(Here's a good essay describing the many things that are wrong with today's internet development efforts.)

After eating all that Indian food, Linda and I were both incredibly full. We walked to a nearby coffee shop and got some liquefied caffeine and then drove off to Lake Hollywood.
To get to Lake Hollywood, one must cross the crest of the Santa Monica Mountains on the 101 and then backtrack downhill a little ways to the east.
There were only two places to park, and we picked the one in a little suburban neighborhood just downhill from the world-famous HOLLYWOOD sign. Linda posed for a photograph in front of a bright orange vintage car.
As a manmade lake, there's nothing especially remarkable about the Hollywood reservoir. It's not very large and doesn't even appear to have any feeder streams; evidently its entire volume is pumped in from somewhere else and it is simply used as a local storage basin.
The entire perimeter of the lake is ringed by an access road frequented by small numbers of joggers and cyclists (and, on this day, a gaggle of Razor-Scooter-equipped kids attending a birthday party). There is also a barbed-wire-topped cyclone fence running impenetrably along the access road blocking access to the reservoir. The ducks and coots are free to do their waterbird things unmolested by cityfolk.
There's not much more to say about the reservoir, except that I'd never realized that there is actually a view of the HOLLYWOOD sign that makes the sign appear as if it is out in the middle of a wilderness, complete with an undeveloped lake in the foreground. Perhaps I'd seen pictures of this scene before and thought they were Photoshop contrivances designed to make some sort of ironic statement.
Surprisingly, there is no fence preventing would-be suicide-committers from leaping to their deaths from the Mulholland retaining dam. On the dam we found a piece of iron equipment festooned with nodules of pure rust that crumbled to power when crushed between my thumb and forefinger. Meanwhile, the air around the dam stank with chlorine.
Further on we encountered a small abandoned retaining pool that was nearly completely covered with various graffiti tags, none of which were especially good.
And that was that. After we'd walked completely around the lower reservoir Linda drove me directly home via Sunset Blvd. On the way we noticed that dot com billboards were doing what they could to downplay the dot coms on the ends of their names. In one example, the dot com part was only a tenth the height of the rest of the characters and a shade of green only slightly different from the background, as if to permit a potential venture capitalist motoring by to look at it without being immediately discouraged. Seeing this led to a prolonged discussion of the rise and fall of the brief dot com age. Both Linda and I have our should've/could've stories, but in the end the fact of the matter remains: there's no easy way to vast fortune. We also discussed the merits of perhaps one or both of us becoming full time employees of the half-owned UK subsidiary of the company I work for. The UK company is actually a different company with different management and different goals. I'm still officially an employee of the larger US-based web company, but I don't feel any connection to it or the people who work for it.

In the late evening, after a long nap, I stayed up with my housemate John drinking red wine and watching documentaries on the Biography Channel. The first was about the disco group The Beegees and the second was about porn kingpin Larry Flynt. John noted an interesting phenomenon about rockumentaries: the worse the music, the better the show.

Linda poses in front of a vintage automobile.

The Hollywood sign.

A large cactus on the hillside over the Hollywood reservoir.

Some sort of reservoir structure in the upper reservoir.

Linda on the upper dam.

Coots in the upper reservoir.

Rust from some sort of iron device used in the reservoir.

The Hollywood sign over the Hollywood reservoir.

Me at the reservoir. I dumpster-dived that tee shirt.

A non-stinging nettle, I think. Linda insisted that I take this picture.

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