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:
   limit of an electrical box
Tuesday, June 2 2009

David of Penny and David has a special fondness for having trees "taken down" around his boxy Marbletown weekend place. Though he pays lip service to such things, in practice he's far less empathetic to trees and other manifestations of nature than I am. I might swat mosquitos mercilessly, but I also rescue dehydrating earthworms on the bluestone walkway and beetles drowning in the greenhouse well. That said, David is generous with the wood that results whenever he hires guys to come and cut down his trees. Some pieces of from a hollow oak had been cluttering the edge of his driveway for over a week in a way that must have been like fingernails on a chalkboard to his wife Penny, who can't abide any sort of visual clutter, no matter how temporary. So today I drove over in the Subaru to gather up that wood and take it home. There was perhaps a bit more than would fit in my car, so David convoyed with me on the way back to my place. We brought with us the steel-and-bluestone table I'd helped weld and glue together a year ago. The glue had proven weak and the table had fallen apart by the end of last summer, so I would endeavor to fix it.
After we unloaded the wood, David and I scraped the old glue from the bluestone and steel and then, while he was off doing business on his Blackberry, I fired up the stick welder and welded a second rectangular lamination of iron strips atop the table's existing slab-supporting iron rectangle, which, detatched from the bluestone, was a floppy mess. I ended up doing a good half hour of welding, with no protection from the arc aside from my mask and cargo shorts. Later in the day I would note what appeared to be a sunburn across my chest, though I wasn't sure if it had come from standing shirtless in the sun or from the welding arc.
Instead of using a Liquid-Nails-type product to affix the bluestone slab to the iron frame, this time I used a fast-setting epoxy. I'm handy with materials, but it's always good to have an assistant when working with a fast-setting epoxy. That said, it would have been even better to have a slightly more agile assistant endowed with fewer thumbs and more fingers.
While we waited for that to harden, David got to talking about what various news organizations pay for articles. Slate, for example, only pays $400 for an article from writers beneath the stature of, say, a Christopher Hitchens. Lately David has made better money writing for Obit an online death-themed magazine. (Check out his articles about sex after funerals and statues celebrating villains.) We also talked briefly about Peak Oil and I found myself having to disabuse him of his delusion (a common one) that technology can save us. He mentioned switchgrass and I pointed out that there isn't enough photosynthetic capacity on Earth to make up for what oil has come to provide. "We're burning through millions of years of solar inheritance," I said, and David thought for a moment and finished my thought, "in only a hundred years."

Later in the day I hooked up the various wires on either end of the electrical cable run to the greenhouse. I also tried stuffing a bulky ground fault interrupter (GFI) duplex outlet unit into the box on the house end of the run so as to have a handy outlet there but there simply wasn't enough room for all the junctions and that box too. Those damn things have to have their own boxes.

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