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:
   downtown Seattle
Sunday, June 21 2009

setting: Roosevelt Neighborhood, Seattle, Washington

This morning Mary drove Gretchen and me to the neighborhood of Ballard in east Seattle. From space, Seattle looks either like a knee joint or perhaps a giant nerve synapse where two land masses nearly touch but don't quite, separated as they are by a series of canals and lakes. Union Lake in the middle is actually somewhat above sea level, and so there is a single lock at the mouth of the shipping canal in Ballard. Unfortunately, that wasn't the place we went to in Ballard today. Instead we ended up at the farmer's market. I know I of all people should be excited by farmer's markets, but I'm just not all that excited about food and the ingredients that go into it, and that's mostly what a farmer's market is all about. Mary and Gretchen, on the other hand, seem to think about foods and their ingredients as a nonstop neurological process, though for different reasons. Gretchen tends to focus on the products in terms of their potential contribution to gourmet concoctions she can eat (those lacking such common vegetables as cucumber, eggplant, dill, squash, and avocado, all of which repulse her but to which she is not allergic). Being vegan, she's also generally repulsed by any vendor selling animal products, and these now range from cheese to beef to fish to honey. Being a nutritionist, Mary's concerns are mostly nutritional, though she's also concerned about those wide slices of the bounty to which she considers herself and/or Keith allergic. She has decided that she has a gluten allergy, which rules out most bread and pasta. Meanwhile Keith thinks he has some sort of incompatibility with soy, which rules out most vegan animal-product substitutes. Furthermore, Mary is suspicious of most vegetable oils because of a concern she has with their balance of omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acids. At some point in my trip I tried to imagine a world where I'd be forced to eat only foods compatible with Gretchen, Mary, and Keith, and it was a very bleak thought indeed.
There was, however, one stall that did interest me at the Farmer's Market. A guy there had a tent off the side of the market displaying his customized gasoline-powered bicycles (they were technically mopeds, but their vintage styling made them sexy). They get a purported 160 miles per gallon, a figure that made Gretchen and I repeat the number in stunned unison. I got the guy's flyer and his website is

Next Mary drove us into Downtown Seattle, though we ended up a little out of the main business district in a small neighborhood called Pioneer Square. Here, Mary assured us, the neighborhood was on the mend but there were still lots of junkies and crackheads to be seen, a legacy of the neighborhood's seedy past and the persistence of social support infrastructure built to care for them. Soon after Mary gave us this background, we saw a squirrely-looking gentleman stoop down, pluck off a piece of candy that was stuck to the street, and put it in his mouth. You don't see that every day.
We went into Elliott Bay Book Company, but by this time all I wanted to do was eat, so I ate another inevitable veggie burger, again without French fries (evidently because the Elliott Bay Café lacks a deep fryer). Gretchen was off in the bookstore and I was with Mary, who, it turned out, knew the woman working the counter. She'd been featured in Muffin Face last night in a videoclip where she'd talked about how much Muffin Face had changed her life. Earlier today she'd gotten a traffic ticket and she seemed to be in a manic funk, as if she'd completely returned to her pre-Muffin Face existence.
Out on the street, Mary thought Gretchen should check out a store called Diva Dollz. It was a store that sold original fashions based on designs from the early 19th Century. All agreed the clothes were gorgeous and flattering, tasteful and timeless, something that happens to a fashion after seventy or eighty years, particularly from the perspective of a period when fashion seems completely chaotic. Diva Dollz also has plenty of fetishy lingerie and the many frilly things that sadly fell out of fashion with the rise of germ theory. I eventually took up residence on the man bench while Gretchen disappeared into the changing room, emerging now and then to parade around in front of the mirror. The staff (who all seemed fashionably pop-gothic in style) were extremely attentive, running off to fetch shoes and jewelry to help complete various experimental looks. The process took much longer than expected, and eventually Mary had to go out for air. About fifteen minutes later I joined her. At some point a crack-addled woman came up to us aggressively begging for money, and it was so entertaining and threatening I reached in my wallet for a dollar. She threw a fit of celebration at her success, and this continued as something of a human dust devil down the sidewalk, off in the general direction of Subway, the intended spending destination she'd mumbled.

At Mary and Keith's place tonight there was a little family get-together of Keith's family, Keith, Gretchen, and me. It would have been difficult to put together a meal based upon an entree for this crowd, so instead the meal was composed primarily of finger food: dips, sauces, and lettuce, much of it prepared by Gretchen while I'd been napping. There were some soy products, wheat products, and possibly even egg products. Keith's family brought cheese and smoked salmon. There was something there for everyone both to eat and to avoid.
There was also wine, though neither Gretchen nor the hosts were much in the way of guzzlers. That was left to the rest of us.
Later we played a party game called Catch Phrase, where one member of a team has to describe a word while his teammates attempt to guess it, all while an electronic counter ticks down. We played as two teams, and for whatever reason I found myself on the team that did consistently worse than Gretchen's team, though the game seems to be more one of chance than of skill. I'm always amazed and delighted by how much fun such games can be, as they force participation out of even the shyest wallflowers. Tonight, for example, Catch Phrase seemed to make Keith's father come alive in a way that would have been unimaginable last night.

Random people and a greyhound at an intersection in the Seattle neighborhood of Ballard.

Fantastic sculptural trees at the corner of Leary Avenue and Market Street in Ballard. (See the Google Maps version...)

More fantastic sculptural trees.

Bill posting detritus on a telephone pole at the farmers' market in Ballard.

Pole hardware above the farmers' market in Ballard.

Gretchen and Mary chat with a merchant at the farmers' market.

A scene on the Seattle freeway.

Mary Purdy negotiates traffic in downtown Seattle.

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