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:
   bells over the Rondout
Saturday, December 31 2011
On Badger, Gretchen's main computer, she had been using an old 1280 by 1024 Pyxscape 1170 LCD display, one of the two first LCD displays we'd bought back when they first became affordable (circa 2003 at a price of about $400 each). Last night I'd swapped it out and replace it with the 1680 by 1050 ViewSonic LCD monitor I'd just swapped out of my laboratory monitor array. The idea was to give Gretchen a third more screen real estate, which is a nice improvement (she only uses one monitor). But I'd noticed after the switch that the quality of the display was now somewhat less than perfect. Text tended to be slightly out-of-focus in patches. I knew this was because of some sort of slight mismatch between what the computer was sending and what the monitor was expecting, and that part of the problem was the fact that I was using an analog cable to connect the two. But the computer is built around a little Atom-based motherboard which only has a standard analog VGA connector for its onboard video controller. So I tried to get the monitor to recalibrate by pressing the little buttons to activate various functions on its menu system. While this should have been possible, there happens to be a bug in the menu system on that particular monitor that sends it off into the language selection part of the system instead of into the recalibration part. If you're not careful, you can accidentally switch the menu system to use the Korean language, a state from which it can be difficult to recover.
So I tried other monitor cables,reinstalled the video adapter drivers for the motherboard, and even tried to use a USB-based video adapter (but Badger runs Windows 7, and that adapter seemingly wasn't compatible). Eventually I had to give up. Happily, though, Gretchen seemed less fussy than I was about this problem. It's possible she couldn't even see it.
Still, when I get obsessed about a problem, it's hard to get me to think about anything else. I found myself researching other Atom-based motherboards to see if there were any affordable ones with a DVI or HDMI output. There were a few, but all of their digital video outputs are throttled to 1366 by 768. Evidently it's a limit of the marginal video hardware used on such boards. I had to count myself lucky that Badger was able (using any connection technology) to drive a 1680 by 1050 monitor at its full resolution.

This evening Ray and Nancy came over and we carpooled with the dogs out to the house in Bearsville where our friend Sarah the Vegan is house sitting for the season. Gretchen had brought the fixings for cosmopolitan-type drinks, and she proceeded to prepare these for the assembled while Sarah made a batch of delicious baked vegan onion rings. At some point Eleanor became aware of Wilma (our old cat who now lives with Sarah), and I was wondering how it would go down. Dogs have good memories of people even after years of separation. Does this also apply to cats? Or would she have reverted to her default behavior toward cats (chasing them) when seeing Wilma after so long? Wilma didn't seem to have much concern about the dogs, and periodically jumped down from the dining room table and walked off to her "office" (the place where she does her "business"). She'd be cool and casual, knowing that if a dog were to get too close, she'd just give him or her a smack. I don't know what was going through Eleanor's head, but when she saw Wilma on the floor, she followed her around in alert fascination. Was she aware that Wilma was the same old boring cat who used to monopolize our living room two short years ago? It's impossible to know. Perhaps part of the confusion stemmed from the fact that Wilma no longer has an infected ear that smells like poorly-cleansed anus.
The five of us had our New Years Eve feast at the Little Bear (the nearby Chinese restaurant that is probably the best in the region and will probably be our go-to Jewish Christmas restaurant), starting with a round of prosecco, and then moving on to bowls of chewy rice cake soup. The first bottle of prosecco proved flat, and we had to send it back (but not before I'd drunk half a glass).
There's a guy named Paul whom I know through the KMOCA gallery events, and he has a number of zany projects, including a bus-based news crew that does reportage from news events after mainstream media interest ebbs. One of his bigger projects has been the restoration of a church in the Rondout neighborhood of Kingston; I've seen video on YouTube of him restoring the slates roofing the spire atop its steeple. Paul had invited me to come to a ringing in of the new year at his church, and so I'd invited the others to come too. In the end, all of us but Nancy came; she had work to do and was in the process of coming down with a cold.
There are so many churches in the Rondout, even just on the street where I knew Paul's church to be, that it was difficult to find the right one (particularly given the habit of people never to post their street addresses). I tried ringing the bell at one church that kind of looked right, but then Ray, using the mapping-capabilities of his Android, determined that we weren't at the right spot.
But then we were at the right church, which, unlike the other, was lit up on the inside. We walked in, introduced the people Paul didn't know, and then he went and fetched a bottle of champagne from an industrial refrigerator in the back.
His church, which I'd never visited before, is in an amazing state of restoration. The walls are all freshly painted, there's a functioning pipe organ, and all the stained glass is intact. The building had suffered various indignities on the way from being a church to being the pet project of a dreamer, including an incarnation as a shelter for the homeless. And while its plumbing had been allowed to freeze in a way that didn't leave even two feet of uncracked pipe, somebody at some point in the course of the decline and fall of the church had thought ahead enough to put plywood over the stained glass windows to repel the inevitable missiles to be launched by generations of bored adolescents in the dark ages to come.
Paul gave us a tour of the back room he'd used as an apartment in the first months after buying the church and then took us down to the basement, a much colder microclimate. Being the same footprint as the church itself, the basement is a large warren of room, some of which are so large that they're punctuated with columns to hold up the church floor overhead. The biggest room in the basement is a work shop centered around an enormous bending brake (I recognized it immediately), which had been used to fold the copper corner pieces for the steeple roof. In another room were stacks of slate shingles. Paul said that the basement had all been cut up into small rooms during the time it was used as a homeless shelter, and, along with fixing utilities, much of the work in the basement had consisted of tearing down walls and erecting new ones in more convenient places.
We continued drinking champagne until about a minute before the arrival of 2012 in the Eastern Time Zone. Then we all went out into the entrance of the church, into a room immediately below the steeple. Two ropes hung from the ceiling, and it fell to the youngest of us (somebody's eleven year old kid) to pull the rope. Deng-dong. Deng-dong. The church's wall were thick and it wasn't very loud, but if one went out onto the street, the sound filled the night with a joy. Like children, all years start with the potential to be good or evil, and, also as with children, we were choosing to be optimistic.

Some video I took of our bell ringing. Note that Gretchen held the camera at a 90 degree rotation for the last bit there.

I asked Paul if the neighbors ever complain when he rings the bell, and he explained that he was sure to get "bell rights." "When are you allowed to ring it?" I asked. "Any time I want to," he replied. That's how bell rights work.
We stayed up until past 1:00am, drinking champagne, eating various food items (Gretchen had made a tart), and engaging in merry banter. I mentioned to one of the guys who had helped Paul rennovate the church that the place might make for a good performance venue (in the past, you see, Paul has had difficulty coming up with a practical use for it). The church could probably hold as many people as the Bearsville Theatre, and could attract better-known acts.

Paul's "Celebration Church." Gretchen is second from the right.

An organ is visible between two sets of legs.

Sarah the Vegan (left) and Ray.

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