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:
   cairn entropy
Monday, June 13 2011

Gretchen being gone, it fell to me to take the dogs for their customary morning walk. Eleanor is very enthusiastic for these walks, while Sally is only interested in rides in the car (which is also a possibility in the morning). Somehow I convinced Sally to come with Eleanor and me down the Stick Trail, but I lost her about a half mile back when both dogs decided to chase something. Eleanor and I completed the walk along the big loop, the one that (when the leaves are gone) provides a good view of the Esopus cornfields directly above the headquarters of the Gill Farm.
I hadn't been back there in awhile and was surprised to find that a number of stone cairns I'd built near the Esopus overlook had been destroyed. I don't really know why I build cairns other than a vague creative imperative, but I also don't know what motivation (other than vandalism or perhaps an assertion of property rights) would cause someone to kick them over. Once built, a cairn usually remains standing for years. It's possible for falling trees to knock them over or for poorly-footed cairns to collapse from frost heave, but that's uncommon. Yet out there on the overlook, someone or something had decided the cairns all needed to fall. All of the ones knocked down were technically on land belonging to Catskill State Park, and I might have thought a hairsplitting park employee had deemed them "forbidden manmade structures," but one of cairns knocked down was actually an official one built by a surveyor to designate a corner of the park's boundary.
Inside the foundations of most of the fallen cairns I found the remnants of squirrel acorn caches, so it's also possible that cairn-toppling is a recently-developed skill among the local bear population (members of which also routinely pull aside my trail-defining sticks so as to root for grubs).
In any case, the difference in entropy between a fallen cairn and one that has been re-erected is not much. And it's substantially easier to rebuild a fallen cairn than to build one from scratch. With the stones all there in a jumbled puzzle, you actually stand a better chance of building a solid cairn than if you start a cairn with a few random rocks and then add to it with other rocks dragged in from a greater distance. This is similar to the entropic paradigm I'd first noticed some years back when someone had tried to erase my trails by scattering the sticks I'd used to define them. Unless someone takes the substantial effort to drag the rocks or sticks in random directions random distances away, putting them back into an organized state takes very little effort.

Back at the house, I'd found a new computer case had arrived for my Woodchuck, my main computer. Woodchuck had been overheating during that last hot spell, and I'd bought a larger, more elaborate CPU cooler so the overheating would go away. But then my existing case proved to be too thin for the new cooler. So now I had a new case, and it would take me most of the afternoon to move Woodchuck's guts from its old home to its new one. It was a little like transplanting a turtle into a different shell. With Woodchuck, there were plenty of complications that most people wouldn't encounter, such as getting all four monitor connectors to go to their respective LCDs. And, of course, there was the inevitable problem that only crops up in practice, never in theory: a subtle incompatibility between a new power supply and Woodchuck's motherboard. I'd had to use a new power supply because the new case required extra-long wires of its power supplies, something Woodchuck's old power supply hadn't had. But the new power supply, when attached to Woodchuck's motherboard, had a tendency to go into lock-out whenever I tried to power up the computer. By lock-out, I mean the failure mode where it produces no power and refuses to do anything until it's been unplugged from the wall for six or seven seconds. Evidently my motherboard was making a demand the new power supply found rude. But it didn't always find these demands rude; it actually would start up about 30% of the time. So, after the end of much more work and debugging than I had expected for this afternoon, my computer ended up being functional in its new case, but it's now very aggravating to get going should it go into shutdown, hibernate, or even standby. This is obviously not a tenable state; so now it looks like I also have to get a different power supply.

The only relief for such madness is junkfood television, but the DVR had nothing for me. I ended up trawling around on live television until I found something amusing (if extremely junky): Sister Wives, that show about a smarmy Mormon polygamist and his four wives (who range from dumpy to quasi-trophy).
I made a pan of my usual bean-mushroom-and-hominy burrito filling and ate at least two burritos for dinner. I've been putting a lot of nutritional yeast in my burrito fillings lately, as that seems to greatly improve the savoriness. It's almost like there is a little melted cheese in there amongst the beans. In the past, dating back to Oberlin, I'd mostly been skeptical of nutritional yeast. Now, though, I'm starting to realize that this skepticism was mostly because I was never a big fan of popcorn, and popcorn was the principle nutritional yeast substrate when I was in college.

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