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:
   the kind that contain vodka
Wednesday, April 2 2003

setting: Nyala Campground, Kruger National Park, Northern Province, South Africa

We were allowed to sleep in this morning, and when we finally did get up it was time to pack up our shit and return to civilization.
After our group divided into its constituent parts and set off in separate directions from Punda Maria, those of us in Dina's little car found ourselves heading westward towards an oddly-named city, Louis Trichardt. It's the only municipality I know of that includes both a first and a last name. Oh wait, I forgot about Ho Chi Minh City, known to you old scholars as Saigon.
The climate appears to change rapidly over the 50 miles from Punda Maria to Louis Trichardt. Everything becomes much more lush the further west you go. The bush gives way to real forest, though much of it is in the form of tree farms featuring non-native pine or eucalyptus monocultures. We stopped at a roadside market somewhere in the midst of this tropical lushness and were immediately swarmed by women carrying fruits and vegetables. All we wanted was tomatoes, and we were perfectly willing to get out of the car to look at them. I would have also bought some avocados, but they were far too green to have ripened during the time I had remaining in South Africa.
In Louis Trichardt we caught the N1, a surprisingly expensive toll road. Southward down this highway, the climate quickly changed back to bush and continued on to nearly arid. The place where the Tropic of Capricorn crosses the N1 is clearly marked and there's even a Capricorn Exit. Just beyond Pietersburg (which now bears the Africanized name Polokwane) I took over driving duties.
I felt we were in sort of a hurry, so I was averaging 140 kilometers per hour despite the speed limit of 120. This may have been a bad idea, because there were at least two speed traps along the way. At the first of these, a police woman stood on the side of the road making dramatic hand gestures at cars as they passed. I interpreted the one she made in my direction as being "you're busted, pull over," so I pulled over. But no one came running up to my car, so I drove off. Later on I passed through another speed trap which was nothing more than a few police officers equipped with a bulky tripod-mounted camera. I suppose they were taking pictures of speeding cars so they could later serve them with fines via the mail. Whether or not we'd been busted, I couldn't help but wonder at the non-confrontational nature of the traffic enforcement. How could they ever crack down on drugs or drunk drivers if they never pulled anybody over? Then again, pulling people over in South Africa might well be suicidal. It's a country full of heavily-armed, desperate people with not a whole lot to lose. Janis Joplin would have to agree that they're freer than any American will ever be. They're certainly free enough to kill the next cop who pulls them over, assuming they're unfree enough to be in possession of a car to begin with.
Dina took over driving again near Pretoria. Meanwhile Gretchen had been making a series of travel arrangements over the cell phone with Dina's travel agent. When we finally got back to Johannesburg, our first destination was this travel agent's house.
Whoah, now this was a house. We had to be buzzed-in to get through the gate, but once inside it was as if we'd died and gone to rich person heaven. It was like an upscale Beverly Hills house, complete with a pool and plenty of rich folk trappings I don't even know enough to look for. As for the travel agent herself, she was a piece of work. She was an early-middle-aged Jewish woman dressed up in an odd ensemble, somewhere between mid-80s it-can't-be-fashion and goth. Then there was her hair. It was obvious that she worried a lot about her hair, but it didn't much matter. It had died long ago. Anyway, she'd secured a rental car for Gretchen and me during our the Cape Town leg of our trip, as well as a plane flight back.
Our next destination was an outlet of the huge mega-store Game, South Africa's answer to Walmart. Our goal was to track down, once and for all, a replacement for my destroyed camera charger. But it was hopeless. The closest thing we could find was an adapter supplying 4.5 volts at 1.2 amps.
I finally found the solution to my camera charging woes at Dina's house. She had an old PowerMac, which can successfully operate at either 110 or 220 volts. I didn't find this out until after I'd tried to run it using my travel-converter. It drew so much power that it blew the poor travel converter's fuse, sending me into a frantic round of unexpected repairs. (For those who don't know, the usual procedure for repairing a blown fuse is to simply bypass the fuse.) Once I had Dina's Macintosh up and running, all I had to do was open it up and connect the stripped ends of the camera power connector (cannibalized from the blown camera power supply) to the five volts provided by the Macintosh's power supply (labeled as always with red wires).
This all came with considerably more frustration and took far longer than the previous paragraph makes clear. All of it was done in Serah's room (where Dina keeps her Macintosh) while Serah was there. She was being sort of weird towards me, asking (in a vaguely skeptical tone as I disassembled Dina's Mac) how I knew how to do these sorts of things with computers. "I just do," I said, hoping, in a quasi-sadistic way, to give the impression I had no idea what I was doing. This caused her to panic, and she immediately began packing up her laptop, which was plugged into the same bulky South African power strip. She then retreated to her bed, reading a book. Her presence seemed to make my work that much harder and I found myself hating her.
But then later, as dinner was being prepared and I was buoyed by the euphoria of seeing my camera's charging light flick on, Serah fixed all of us drinks. Real drinks, the kind that contain vodka. Suddenly my feelings about Serah improved several orders of magnitude. Wow, a chick who likes to drink! You don't see that every day!

See some photographs from the South Africa trip.

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