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

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Like my brownhouse:
   Chinese takeaway for a cowboy electrician
Friday, November 19 2010 [REDACTED]
Our friend Jenny came by late this morning to pick up Gretchen, and the two drove down to the City. They would be meeting with a publisher about a book on which they are collaborating. I don't know how much I can say about it, so I'll stop there.
I decided to dedicate the day to installing the new glass panels on my homebrew solar collector. Trying to leave as little to chance as possible, I built myself a special wooden holder for the panes of glass, a contraption that could sit atop an existing good part of the panel and provide a secure place from which the panes could be moved to their final position. This was necessitated by the fact that I was adding the new glass to the panel while it sat at a somewhat inclined position, an angle that would gladly shed anything placed on it.
Complicating efforts was the weather. It was overcast and daytime temperatures were about as low as they've been for this season so far: in the low-to-mid 40s. Most troubling of all was the wind, which came through in unexpected gusts of the sort that can be terrifying when you're climbing a ladder holding a 15 square foot sail made of glass. Though my arms grew weak at times, I managed to get both panes of glass up to solar deck and then onto the holder contraption without any close calls (though, in truth, the whole procedure was a close call).
Soon after I had all the glass up on the roof, Ray called and asked if I knew any electricians. Now Ray is fully aware that I do all my own electrical work, though he wasn't phrasing this question in a way that compelled me to volunteer to be his electrician. But that's what I did. I said I could come over "some time" and look at it. But somehow it turned into me coming over today. "I have some shit I have to do," I explained, "but after that maybe." I told him I needed to go into town to get some provisions, and he asked if he could come along. His house-bound heart surgery recuperation was making him crazy with boredom.
I went back to work on the roof, managing to get the new glass panes in place. I used makeshift PVC L-shaped brackets to secure them at the bottom while the silicone caulk sealant cured. I don't actually trust that caulk to support the full weight of the glass panes and had used metal clips to support the glass panes in the past. But I suspect that the rigidity and hardness of one of those clips contributed to the breaking of one of the panes in the past, so I'll be replacing all the clips with plastic versions during this project.
After I had all the glass in place and the panel stabilized for the evening, I drove with the dogs down to Ray and Nancy's place. Ray showed me the problems: two lightswitches that no longer had any effect on the lights they were supposed to control. I'd brought my multimeter and managed to do a few tests to determine the problems in each. A multimeter eliminates the guesswork from these kind of tasks. It wasn't difficult to determine that dead dimmer switch was the downstairs problem, but upstairs things were trickier. The lighting circuit seemed to be badly miswired and the only way to make it work was to use a ground wire as a neutral. That's totally non-code cowboy-style electrical work, but the alternative was tearing holes in walls and pulling new cable. (All the house's existing cable is the cloth-wrapped kind dating to the 1940s.)
Once I had the upstairs fixed and the downstairs diagnosed, Ray called in an order to the China Rose out on Albany Avenue (the low-rent, more authentically-Chinese satellite location of our favorite Victorian-style Chinese saloon in Rhinecliff). Then I drove with him and the dogs out to 9W and we went shopping at the Home Depot. He needed a simple switch to replace the bad dimmer as well as several dimmable CF bulbs (he hadn't been aware that conventional CF bulbs do not work with dimmers, of which his house has many).
The China Rose on Albany Avenue is in a crappy little retail strip. It's the kind of place that is full of loud machines in desperate need of routine maintenance. But they also have a music system cranking out the classic rock. It was a Doobie Brothers song, the name of which didn't bubble into my consciousness until the chorus: "China Rose!" This begged the question: is this the only song they play in the China Rose on Albany Avenue?
Back at Ray and Nancy's house, Ray, Nany and I had a vegan Chinese feast. I also drank a Miller Lite, but not Ray. He's on a strict new diet that cuts out beer, most oils, nuts, all non-vegan food except skim milk, and refined carbs. He violated that last bullet point tonight by eating noodles and white rice. But they're going to give you a heart attack, maybe it's worth it. Interestingly, Nancy noted that the China Rose now makes the claim that none of their food contains monosodium glutamate, which is precisely the ingredient that someone had told me was the China Rose's secret key to deliciousness. MSG or not, the food was delicious, nearly of the quality of the Rhinecliff China Rose on a good day.
Ray asked me if I wanted to see the incision scar on his chest, not having remembered anything much from our visit a week ago. That memory lapse was caused by prescription painkillers, though another I witnessed him having was a consequence of something else: our modern technological society. When he'd told the woman at the China Rose that he was there to pick up his order, she'd asked for his phone number. Though he's had it for four and a half months now, it wasn't in his cerebral memory; he had to look it up on his Droid.

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