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:
   Pitunia the dog
Wednesday, December 15 2004
One point I forgot to mention regarding my pathological interest in do-it-yourself neighborhood networking concerns the nature of the network itself. As I mentioned two days ago, the internet is a marvelous invention. But I'm also a little suspicious of it. My personal network is attached to the internet via Verizon, a DSL provider. Once my information enters their network, my only connection to the world, they control everything both coming and going. The fact that they don't actively filter or monitor my transmissions and receptions (as far as I know) doesn't mean they won't in the future. What's the alternative to their monopoly? Somewhere in my thinking I entertain the notion that neighborhoods can create their own macro-networks, with one house talking to the one next door, which in turn talks to the one next door, hands-across-America style. Such a system could bypass the internet entirely and be impossible to regulate and monitor. It would have been a difficult system to create back in the days of wired connection, but now that a large number of households contain wireless routers, well, the infrastructure for the ad hoc internet may have already been put in place. Such a system doesn't require complete reliance on ad hoc connections; a few internet providers can permit these ad hoc networks to bridge wide chasms between each other. But they can form these bridges using multiple internet providers, thereby limiting the damage that can be inflicted by any one corporation.
Every Wednesday Gretchen does volunteer work in the cat room at the Ulster County SPCA. One of the employees there, the one most likely to find a use for a spiked collar found on a stray dog, alerted Gretchen to a newly-arrived puppy in the kennel area. She was a four month old pitbull mix who had been found tied to a pole in Kingston (and actually wearing a spiked collar). Her working name in the shelter is "Pitunia." The reason Gretchen was alerted about Pitunia is that she is a doppleganger for Eleanor. Pitunia probably looks more like Eleanor than Eleanor herself did back when she was Pitunia's age. Gretchen was so excited about the discovery that she called me early this afternoon in hopes that I'd bring Eleanor over to play with Pitunia for a bit. So I drove there immediately. Sure enough, Pitunia was all that she was billed to be. Not only did she look exactly like Eleanor, but she behaved like her too. We took them outside to one of the dog runs and let them go nuts together. Sally was there too, but she pretty much kept to herself.
Eleanor and Pitunia played continuously and very actively the whole time we were out there. Despite their thin coats of short fur and the bitter cold of this premature winter day, the activity kept them warm. I actually saw Eleanor break into a pant for a few seconds.
We already have two dogs and that's enough, but it would be great if we could get Pitunia adopted by someone we know so that Eleanor and she can get together for regular play dates. They resonate on a chromosomal level.

Sally sniff's Pitunia's petunia.

Pitunia looks at the camera with Eleanor in pursuit.

Pitunia chasing Eleanor.

Eleanor chasing Pitunia.

Eleanor (left) and Pitunia.

Eleanor leaps towards Pitunia.

Pitunia with Gretchen.

While I was there, there was a cell phone call from that stupid company that subcontracts me their bank printer maintenance business. The guy on the phone was wondering what had happened to the two DOA scanners, the ones that the procedures require me to mail back "ASAP." I'd mailed them back ASAP, that was where they were. He didn't tell me but I later learned that the company had send a different technician out to the site, hoping, I suppose, to discover that the scanners that Lexmark had insisted were DOA were actually perfectly fine.
I've been out of the world of business for awhile and I've forgotten how coldly passive-aggressive companies can be. Whole hours of dialogue happen behind your back. Much of it is dull and of no consequence, though every now and then there's a crucial decision that really should either have your input or at least be reported back to you. Then you're suddenly presented with an altered reality by a guy on a phone who both knows you're in the dark but also somehow expects you to know what's going on and fully intends to blame you should things go awry. You immediately want to make that guy's life a living hell, but the best you can do is say, "Look, I followed proper procedure. I even called you guys, and you told me to do this." Of course, you hadn't actually talked to this particular guy, and no one ever bothered to explain to you how this company is put together so you could know the possibility of your information actually finding its way to whatever passes for the company's homunculus.
When I got home I composed a nasty email but then I thought better of sending it. Why? Because all these people, they're not even really human in any way that matters. I'll never even know what they look like. Why spend more than five minutes being angry at characters who are not much more real than folks in a New Yorker article?

I'd bought some more USGS topo maps over the past couple weeks (including a few I got while in town today) and coincidentally today Tara gave Gretchen a reproduction of a vintage map (from 1783) showing the very earliest political boundaries of the United States. In this map the states of the eastern seaboard all extend eastward in horizontal stripes all the way to the Mississippi. The most preposterous of these is Connecticut, which in those days included the entire north coast of Ohio and the future site of Gary, Indiana. But all this western part of Connecticut was disjunct from the part of Connecticut all of us know, cut off by the New York State land bridge connecting Upstate to The City, a land bridge that continues to this day.
Tonight Gretchen pieced the map together (it consisted of four separate sheets) and (with some help from me) attached it high on the wall/ceiling in the "map room" (or television room). Meanwhile I taped together six separate USGS topo maps and hung it lower down. I like to stop and ponder detailed maps and then later think about them while I'm driving around or looking at landforms, and it's fabulous to have so many topographic maps put together in one place.

Today wasn't the last day of Chanukah, but Gretchen and I treated it as though it was. We lit all the candles on the menorah and exchanged gifts. She gave me a ticket to see Mozart's Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute) at the New York Metropolitan Opera. One has to plan ahead for these things; the show (as well as the more inevitable taxes) will be in April. Gretchen grew up on opera and was scandalized to learn that I'd never seen one live, so this was her way of taking action to correct my cultural deprivation.
For Gretchen I'd spent the late afternoon making another, smaller, swing lamp, from copper pipes and fittings. I intended this one to be a reading light for Gretchen's side of the bed. We'd been using shaded floor lamps for bedtime reading, but they'd tended to light up the room more than the reading material.

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