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:
   hadn't brought in my head
Friday, July 4 2008
I don't do many computer housecalls these days, but I managed to set up two of them for today in the greater Woodstock area. At the first one my job was menial but relatively stress free: I had to "clean up" a Windows machine. People fret when their desktops get cluttered and imagine that their computers will run faster if some of this clutter were to go away, though they fear what might happen if they did anything on their own. They think the desktop is the computer. When I come, I unclutter the computers' startup sequence to make them boot and run faster and then, after the fretting continues, I also delete a bunch of desktop icons. On this first housecall, I also had the job of helping to relocate thousands of music files originally purchased via iTunes by a twelve year old son, who just got a brand new Macintosh laptop. I didn't really know how I was going to move the files, but after about three minutes of web research I found a program called iPodDisk, which allows a user to move files from an iPod to a Macintosh.
I'd seen the twelve year old son a couple of years ago when he was nine or ten. Now, though, he looked and sounded like an adult. He had a deep croaky voice, a portly physique suggestive of middle age, and seemingly mature social skills. Are kids really fully developed by twelve these days? I found it natural to treat him like an adult, and had to keep reminding myself that he wouldn't graduate from high school until 2014. He was a quick learner and seemed to have a natural talent with computers, which made it hard for me not to laugh when his technologically-befuddled mother posed the question, "What about parental controls?" "It's a lost cause," I said, adding, "Maybe if your son were mildly retarded, but..." I really don't understand how a technologically-struggling generation hopes to impose control via technological means on a generation for whom computer technology is as natural as doors, windows, and refrigerators.
The housecall went well, I thought, and when it was over I saw that it had taken two hours and nine minutes so I quoted a price of $100. As the woman wrote the check, she paused for a moment and asked if this was for $50/hour. I said that it was. So then she tried to weasel a discount out of me by referring to something I'd said earlier about how I'd had to research something on the web, implying that I shouldn't bill for time spent looking up information that I hadn't brought in my head with me. It was a ridiculous suggestion and I could feel a hot wave of anger rising in my neck. I hadn't wanted to even come on this stupid housecall, and here the client was trying to get me to give her a discount by insulting my skills. (Such behavior, by the way, almost never happens; people are far more inclined to express dismay at how little I charge.) "No, $100 is the price," I said pleasantly, "What you see is what you get." If she ever calls me asking for a housecall again, I'm telling her I don't do them any more. Housecall work is inherently miserable, and at this point I only do it for the two or three people I genuinely like, and then only to give Gretchen alone time back at the house.
The second housecall was at the residence of the newspaper writer who recently bought a house in the Turks and Caicos islands. After I'd burned a few CDs for him and shown him how to make more on his own (basic stuff), he kept me there for something like twenty minutes as he excitedly showed me photos of his new Caribbean house, talked about plans for solar and wind power, and brought me up to speed on the tin pot dictator who runs his particular island.

I went to Lowes this afternoon and became aware of a sneaky pricing scheme by a company called Genova, which manufactures vinyl gutters. They've priced the gutters themselves extremely cheaply, at $6.46 for ten feet. But for everything else you need to install them, little things whose prices one might not even check, they charge exorbitant prices. A bag of 25 Genova gutter screws is $3.34, which isn't too bad. But the L-shaped gutter hangers were priced at $2.80 each, and you need five of them for every ten feet of gutter. This means the hangers for a ten foot span of gutter cost more than twice the cost of the gutter itself. And then there's the vinyl adhesive, the end pieces, and the downspout attachment, all of them far more expensive than suggested by the amount of vinyl they contain. Fortunately for those less scrupulous, most of these items can easily be pocketed; none contain the anti-theft tags that set off the alarms at the door.

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