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
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Irving housing

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   problems bigger than lawns
Tuesday, August 18 2009
Gretchen was gone for most of the day doing work in the prisons (her summer is drawing to an end), giving me free reign with regard to the television, something I rarely watch by myself unless Gretchen is gone for hours at a stretch. I found myself watching a program called Ask This Old House, which is sort of like a ,Car-Talk-style do-it-yourself house repair show, but not anywhere near as funny and with noticeably less time-consuming laughter. That said, it's a good show, and there is a lot of good advice dispensed, mostly from burly guys with mustaches speaking in strong Boston accents.
Today, though, there was a segment in which a pair of homeowners were shown how to correct the "damage" to their lawn inflicted by the equipment that had dug their new well. A truck had driven across the grass, compacting it in two tracks, and a well line had been dug and filled in with "stone dust." The yard was a little scuffed up, true, but give it a winter and a summer and it would surely bounce back. In the East, at least, vegetation abhors a vacuum. But the burly guys from the show took a grimmer view of the lawns' situation, actually prescribing a plan where the tracks across the lawn were stripped of their sod, roto-tilled, and then re-sodded. They also wanted to dig up all the stone dust (and probably haul it to a landfill) and replace it with mulch and topsoil. All of this not for tomatoes or even flowers but for grass! I knew people were obsessed with their lawns, but I had no idea they were this obsessed. To my way of thinking, a lawn is the part of your environment where the manmade blends into the natural. Sure, maybe you mow it now and then so you can throw down a blanket and read and so your dog can roll around. But worrying about the quality and compaction of the soil, Jesus, there are so many larger issues in my life, things like mold in the basement, regular employment, winter ice dams, decluttering my mancaves, Japanese Beetles on the cabbages, and Verizon's increasingly unreliable DSL service. Hell, stains on the carpet are much higher in my queue of concerns than the state of the soil under the lawn.
Back, for a moment, to Verizon's increasingly unreliable DSL service. Up until about two weeks ago, Verizon DSL up here on Hurley Mountain was awesome. Unheralded, Verizon had doubled both our upload and download speed, and now pages loaded quickly and I could get a couple BitTorrent downloads going and it wouldn't jack up all the household web browsing experiences the way it once had. But for the last two weeks, the DSL has been shitty. I go to load a page and chances are good that I'll get a "Server not found" error. And if that doesn't happen, I might have to wait a minute for the page to load, sort of like the web used to be in 1997. I've tried changing out the DNS server and the various switches on the household network, but it hasn't helped. Either the problem is with Verizon (which it probably is) or it's with the DSL modem. So, in an effort to eliminate the latter as a variable, the other day I ordered another DSL modem. Unfortunately, I'd failed to do my research and I ended up buying a really old model, one that predates the release of Windows XP. It was so primitive it didn't even have a built-in router. It came from a time when there were no stand-alone router boxes, and the literature actually had an explanation for how to load the PPPoE software on every computer in your network (at least it knew about home networks). I figured I could still get the thing to work in "bridge mode" and just hook it up to one of my routers, one that knew a thing or two about PPPoE. But alas this proved impossible; I had to run its installation software, but that software kept failing in several different embarrassing ways on under Windows XP on several of my modern computers. (In one particularly vexing failure, it managed to completely nuke one of my computer's ethernet capability.) Among other reasons for failure was an inability to detect a network card, evidently because that functionality was built into the motherboard. The moral of all of this is clear: always find out more information from a second source about a gadget before buying it from a mail order company. I could ship the thing back, but between the shipping, the restocking fee, and the 10% handling fee, I wouldn't be getting as much money back as the value of the cables that came with it (which included a rather nice RS-232 cable, the way its EEPROM is supposedly reflashed — old skool!).

This evening a thunderstorm came through, bringing a power failure with it. The power came on later at 2:00am (which was unexpectedly early, though I'd long since gone to bed). Poor Gretchen had to come home after a nine hour work day to a dark house and no prospect of professional women's basketball. As for Sally the dog, she'd fled to one of the neighbors (but returned some time before dawn).

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