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
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Like my brownhouse:
   alchemy of decontamination
Sunday, April 13 2003

setting: Hurley, New York

It was convenient to have housesitters taking care of Sally and the cats while we were in South Africa. Nonetheless, housesitters will occasionally do things that homeowners won't like, particularly if they are unfamiliar with each others' quirks. Before we left, Gretchen neglected to mention two things: she didn't want meat in our house, and ours is a non-smoking house. If one wanted to fire up big fatties of the chronic, that wouldn't be a big deal. But smoking cigarettes indoors is an entirely different matter, particularly in the one room of our house which has no windows: the map (or rec) room. I noticed last night that this room had developed the stink of stale cigarettes. Given the lack of ashtrays and cigarette contamination, I would think it would be obvious that one shouldn't smoke in our house. My feeling is that it was obvious and that our house sitters thought they could clean up and we wouldn't notice. Smokers have no idea how badly they reek.
I bought several boxes of baking soda and sprinkled it liberally all over the map room floor. Then I turned my attention to the kitchen, which had been contaminated with several species of meat. You can imagine Gretchen's horror upon discovering bacon in our refrigerator. It offended her not just as a vegetarian, but as a Jew as well. She couldn't get out of her mind the thought of our housesitters frying bacon in her brand new titanium-bottomed frying pan, one of her early wedding presents. Since meat offends me less than it does Gretchen, I took care of the kitchen by myself. Gretchen returned the leftover meat to Becka late this morning after I'd first bagged it up and taken it out to her car. Becka told Gretchen that the meat wasn't hers, but instead belonged to her boyfriend Joey, who, in a state of unemployment, had actually been the one doing the bulk of the housesitting.
When you're a vegetarian, or a Jew, how do you satisfy yourself that your cookware is no longer contaminated with meat or traif? Jews have traditionally believed in purification by fire. But if it's your own ideology that needs comfort, the decontamination ritual is more psychological than bacteriological. It becomes a form of alchemy, a cargo cult chemistry. An aspect of this pyschological decontamination was the fact that I handled it, not Gretchen. She had no idea what I'd done, so she could simply have faith that I'd done enough. But in the course of the cleanup I also included rituals of my own, for whatever psychological peace I needed. One of these involved putting the pans out in the sun for a time. Another involved a wash of vinegar. Meat itself isn't offensive to me, but I nonetheless respect and support Gretchen's meat-free kitchen policy. Meat is messier and more bacteriologically problematic than non-meat. And though I might occasionally eat meat on my own - I have no desire to be exposed to meat prepared by and for other people.

This evening Mary Purdy and Katie came over to watch Six Feet Under with us. Afterwards we turned out the lights and Mary performed a "laser light show" using stick of burning incense, which she energetically waved about while dancing to music by Jamiroquai, among others.

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