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:
   Clarence masters practical physics and geometry
Thursday, March 4 2004
I saw the first bluebird of the year today as I drove past Ashokan reservoir, which is still frozen over despite the recent warm spell. I get the feeling that robins and bluebirds follow the front of melting snow northward every springtime. There are probably a lot of earthworms to be had in waterlogged freshly-thawed soil.

I had a housecall today down in New Paltz at a house belonging to an elderly couple. It turned out the old man had lived in Vienna before World War II and had, he claimed, helped people escape from Nazi-controlled territory. Being the son of an American serviceman and a Jewish woman, his American papers gave him freedom not available to others with Jewish parents. "Hey, the way things are going, folks might need your help again pretty soon," I said. His face took on a serious expression and he said, "Yes, things in this country remind me a lot of Austria as things started to get bad. The first thing they did was censor everything." He told the story of a famous Rodin statue that had been forced to wear clothes, a memory provoked twice in recent months: first when John Ashcroft ordered a curtain to conceal a semi-nude statue of Lady Justice, and then later when Colin Powell arranged the shrouding of Picasso's anti-war masterpiece Guernica.

Mavis the elderly cat remains among the living, though she is as scruffy and crotchety as ever. She continues to eat her wet food in the laundry room, isolated by a plexiglass door holding back all our other creatures, all of whom like wet food at least as much as she does. This door has a hole in it with a flexible plastic flap draped on the outside, allowing Mavis to leave when she's done eating. Early on, though, Mavis figured out how to open the flap from the outside to get back in. Since this was a skill that Clarence failed to master, the laundry room became a sort of private dining room for Mavis. She was the only animal with the skills to get both into it and out of it on her own.
A couple weeks ago, though, little Clarence finally figured out how to pull the flap back and get in as well. So we had to begin barricading Mavis in the laundry room whenever we fed her. We'd lean a board against the flap from the outside and secure it with a small chair. When she'd finish eating, Mavis was strong enough to push the flap, board, and chair out of the way and escape. She's an incredibly strong cat when she's determined to do something.
But barricading the flap every time we feed Mavis is a pain. So I decided to glue little strips of L-crosssection moulding all the way around the flap on the outside of the plexiglass door such that nobody could reach their claws in behind it and pull it forward. By now, though, Clarence was so familiar with the physics and geometry of the door that he could grab the flap and pull it back with only the tiniest amount of space for his claws. He found such space in the corners of the flap which were beveled away from the moulding I'd glued.
So today I shot some caulk into the tiny corners where Clarence can still grab the flap. I've done such a good job of building a wall around it now that it's now hard for me to open it even with the advantages of my primate fingers and opposable thumb.

For linking purposes this article's URL is:

previous | next