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:
   logistics with an undercurrent of rage
Thursday, November 22 2012

location: Silver Spring, Montgomery County, Maryland

Today was the highest of holy days for those with a deep interest in food. That would include Gretchen, Gretchen's father, Sarah the Vegan, and, to a somewhat lesser extent, Gretchen's mother. But it would not include me. Don't get me wrong; I love to eat food and prefer that it be delicious. But I have little interest in preparing it, or, God forbid, talking about it. Conversations about food preparation are about as interesting to me as conversations about football (a topic, you'll note, that never seems to come up on this website). Part of the problem is that I'm not Jewish; I have a very goyish approach to what I put in my mouth and when I do it. It's actually a surprising that I'm even vegan, given how little innate experience I had with dietary restriction in the culture I grew up in. (I would imagine that transitioning to veganism would be easier for Jews, Muslims, and perhaps even Catholics than it would be for someone born into a completely religion-free household.)
On two occasions today, Sarah the Vegan and I took the dogs for walks in nearby Sligo Creek Park. On our first walk, Ramona managed to find a fully-articulated deer leg (complete from hoof to femur), running around with it proudly, to the horror of the few soccer moms and joggers who came upon her. One woman who saw Ramona with the leg while we were some distance away took it upon herself to discipline the dog, evidently following the rule that also applies to adults who encounter unknown children throwing rocks off an overpass. She told Ramona that she was a bad dog and that she must drop the leg, that it was dirty. But if Ramona barely obeys me, she surely wasn't going to obey someone whose only purpose in her life was to tell her not to do the most fun thing she has done in months. Eventually Ramona left the deer leg in the bushes somewhat closer to Gretchen's parents' house, which mean that I wouldn't immediately have to worry about her bringing it into the house.
On our second outing, Ramona retrieved the deer leg and managed to bring it much closer to Gretchen's parents' house. Knowing that we would have to separate her from it soon, Sarah and I let Ramona chew on it for awhile there in the park. And she might have kept on chewing it had something much more exciting not suddenly happened. For some reason a family of people decided to cut through the bushes on either side of a small creek, and in so doing they managed to flush a Red Fox out into the open, continuing past us only about fifty feet away. It was a beautiful creature and had a pelt the color of the hair of the young heroine in Brave (which I only know from a promo in the last season of The Bachelorette). Ramona immediately lost interest in her deer leg and gave chase, as did Eleanor. I called out to them to tell them no, but it was useless. There was no way they were going to do anything other than chase that fox. Sarah and I followed them in the direction they'd run, taking advantage of some intel given to us by a family hanging out on the playground equipment (though there was a bit of a language barrier there). We ended up in a suburban neighborhood on Harvey Street which, thankfully, seemed to be very lightly-traveled. I called and called and eventually saw Ramona way down at the far end of the street. Once I had her on a leash I felt a lot better; Eleanor would have enough sense to find her way back to Gretchen's parents' house even if we couldn't find her. But we quickly found her when we went back into the park. Ramona brought the deer leg all the back to the house and I had to make her drop it before going inside. But I was kind enough to leave it in a place where she could get it later. Where I come from, if a dog has a piece of carrion, it's finder's keepers.
People started showing up for Thanksgiving at around 3pm. In addition to the five of us staying at the house, there were seven others. It was an eclectic group of Gretchen's parents' friends, most of whom had lived or worked in a wide variety of places overseas. I had a brief conversation with a woman from India about the language spoken in some particular Indian village and I asked if it was an Indo-European language, a question specific enough to cause her to ask if I was a professional (and not just a cunning) linguist. My professional skills played more of a role in my conversation with a transportation planner (let's call him Jim) who had gone to high school with Gretchen's mother. When I learned that his job was mostly about planning bus routes and schedules, I asked if he had access to ridership data. Jim told me that the data was hard to come by. It existed somewhere, but the IT department had yet to build an interface allowing him to see it or run reports on it. And a good portion of it was trapped in some sort of proprietary framework. And because there is bad communication between Jim's department and the guys in IT, it didn't seem likely he would have access to that data any time soon. It all sounded familiar: people whose jobs depend on data not actually having access to it. I surmised that Jim had to plan his bus routes based on hunches and gut feelings, the same cognitive facilities that convinced Karl Rove, Peggy Noonan, and Dean Chambers that Mitt Romney was going to win the presidency. I told Jim that if I was in the transit authority's IT department, I would gladly work on satisfying his data visualization needs even if I had to do it on the sly, and that I would find it fun.
The dinner tonight was centered around a loaf containing layers of a mushroom "Wellington" and layers of a vegan faux meat "field roast," separated by filo dough. I wasn't as excited about that as I was about a more prosaic noodle bake, which I further complexified with other sides: diced roasted brussel sprouts and a Sephardic black-eyed-pea stew.
Somehow there didn't end up being much in the way of dishes to wash, and Gretchen's father quickly took over the kitchen sink and began doing what little needed doing, leaving me without my usual post-Thanksgiving cleanup job. So I ended up taking Eleanor and Ramona for yet another walk in Sligo Creek Park. It being empty and dark, I found myself climbing the steps to the top of the main play structure in the playground, an impressive metal thing with multiple levels, two plastic slippery slides, and even a built-in lemonade stand, all of it painted in the gaudy primary colors that make kids go apeshit. Ramona enthusiastically bounded up the steps behind me, something Eleanor would never do. But that was less surprising than what happened next. I went sliding down the tallest slide on my ass, taking a somewhat painful flop on the super-cushioned lawsuit-discouraging material spread out on the ground below. I turned around to see Ramona sliding down right behind me, though she didn't make that last turn in the slide and went flying off on a small-angled tangent. That gives you an idea of how up for anything that dog is. She also managed to find her deer leg again, but I somehow managed to keep her from bringing it into the party.

Eleanor (top) and Ramona really want to burst out through the front door of Gretchen's parents' house.

Ramona with her deer leg moments before the Red Fox distraction.

One of the pictures uploaded from my webcam, showing me what it's like back home while we're away. I'm particularly interested in the temperature, though in this picture it was nice to see Sylvia still alive and doing her thing. A few hours after this picture was uploaded, the webcam software began acting up and kept uploading the same identical nighttime .jpg (though always with a new timestamp).

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