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:
   my own personal classic rock
Sunday, January 19 2014

location: 103rd Street, Upper West Side, Manhattan, New York

Today was Gretchen's 43rd birthday, and after a couple french presses of coffee, she went with Susan, David, and me on a walk down to Candle Café (just north of 89th Street on Broadway). Along the way we met up with Robert (that former prisoner-student who has been free for three or four years now). Our reservation was for a table of nine, and the other four were our friends Keith & Stacy, Marissa, and Gretchen's childhood friend Dina (who just happened to be in town from Boston). I ended up at the very end of that table against a wall with no way out unless I either climbed over either the table or the laps of four different people. For some reason, though, despite all the coffee I'd had, I never had a strong urge to get up. During the meal I mostly chatted with Susan and David in a completely separate conversation from the one on the other end of the table. One of the topics was the marketing value of a product that removes (and temporarily displays) disgusting material. Think of Biore Strips, a kind of tape one applies to one's nasal bridge that removes (and, in so doing, reveals) nasty snakelike coils of hardened sebum (and other blackhead detritus) from facial pores. Then there are the Dyson vaccuum cleaners (and their many immitators) that gather the dirt they collect into transparent compartments where it can be viewed and monitored. Finally, there's the popularity of deep colonics, which flush substantial amounts of fecal (and pre-fecal) matter out of the body, often displaying it in a transparent tube so the person being so "cleansed" can take delight in not having that stuff in their body any more (while overlooking the value of bacteria-generated nutrients the body has evolved to absorb from the colon). This conversation produced such gales of laughter that it briefly became our table's only conversation, but soon things went back to the way they were, with everyone mostly having small conversations with their immediate neighbors about either food or veganism. Dina, it bears noting, is now either a vegan or very nearly so, and she has something of the zeal of a convert. In terms of the food, I was actually a little disappointed with the Candle Café today; the Cajun seitan sandwich was a little lacking in the flavor department, although once I'd drenched it in Tabasco sauce it was much improved. The fries that came with it were perfect.
Gretchen and I didn't hit the road until the mid-afternoon, returning home at around dusk. Sarah the Vegan was in the process of preparing us a complicated multi-course meal as part of her spare-no-effort to honor Gretchen's birthday. That effort wouldn't conclude for another couple of hours, giving me enough time to drink a fair amount of fruit juice mixed with vodka and look for (and find!) a missing piece of meteorological equipment in the laboratory. The highlight of Sarah's meal was a pot of dumplings in a thick stew of overcooked potatoes and carrots, the perfect comfort food for a cold winter's night. One of the things Sarah had had to deal with while housesitting today was seeing G, the woman who runs the cat shelter where we got Walter, crying in our driveway because of her continued failure to find Walter. She'd been searching two hours today like she had yesterday, though this time she'd brought others over to help her. Sarah made the mistake of engaging G, and of course some of what she said vented about her foolishness for having let Gretchen and me adopt Walter. Somehow G had found out about Keira, and, to anyone looking dispassionately at the data, two data points is enough to suggest a trend. But there was nothing dispassionate about how G was looking at the data. She'd also heard from the neighbors that there are "Fishers" and other menacing felivores in these forests, something that she really shouldn't have found all that surprising. But cats are G's life, and it would be difficult for her not to hate us forever over losing the most charismatic of her cats.
Eventually Sarah packed up her stuff and headed home to her place in West Hurley, and at some point I went to the brownhouse and took the opportunity to smoke some pot. In the past I used to have terrible paranoid experiences when I'd smoke pot while my mind was preoccupied with messy social or political circumstances (such as Walter the cat's disappearance), but I haven't had much trouble with that of late.
My marijuana-altered perception focused on something someone had posted on Facebook about the Lemba Tribe of Africa and a genetic test that suggests they probably did descend from Jews (a topic about which my stepmother is something of an expert). In thinking about this matter, I could see a inverse relationship between tolerance of Jews in a culture and the ability of Jews to maintain themselves as a coherent community. Supposedly Jews have made many migrations into China, occasionally even forming their own villages. But China has always been such a culturally tolerant place that these Jews were always quickly assimilated. Evidently there was a small amount of persecution of Jews in sub-Saharan Africa, but it was only enough to preserve a rumor that a certain tribe might be sort of vaguely Jewish, an identity that required genetic tests to prove. Judaism's heart and soul, though, was maintained in Germany, Poland, and Russia, places where they were repeatedly and sometimes systematically massacred. This is, I realized, an argument against harshness for those who hate minorities.
I thought about the Darwinian implications of the various pressures applied to cohesive minority groups in various societies. In places like Poland, where Jews were routinely oppressed and ghettoized, the genes riding on their chromosomes were nearly as bottled up within their society as their religion and practices. Selective pressures acting on those genes did so within the narrow context of their sealed-in culture and the individuals in the societal matrix around them couldn't get many of the benefits of the genetic innovations happening in their population. But in a place like China, the genes of the Jews quickly assimilated by the greater societal matrix were suddenly unleashed to compete with the genes of non-Jews in vast human melting pot. It would be interesting to see if certain Jewish genes have become widespread in Chinese populations because of the survival advantages they confer. (A similar thing is happening right now in the United States, where half of all Jews marry outside their religion.)

Another thought that occurred to me tonight was staleness of my MP3 collection. I have many thousands of MP3s, but I've heard the songs dozens of times, in the same way that I've heard every song in classic rock dozens of times. It's as if my MP3s comprise my own personal classic rock. It stands to reason that I would tire of that music; I've been tired of classic rocks a lot more exotic than my own. The solution lately has been to listen to pop radio whenever I'm driving around in the car, but that well is about the shallowest one there is. I don't know what happens after I get sick of Rihanna singing about Monsters under Eminem's bed (which hasn't yet happened), but (unlike classic rock) at least there's a steady stream of pop music being created. There's also alternative rock, but if you listen to a streaming station like SOMA FM's Bagel Radio, you'll hear it getting stuck in just as many ruts as classic rock does. For example, if I never hear another song by Stephen Malkmus & those Jicks, that would be fine with me. Occasionally, though, I still learn of new bands. Two new ones I've just discovered are The Big Sleep and Stereofan.

I should mention that the tickets to see Twelfth Night yesterday were actually Gretchen's Jewish Christmas present, not her birthday present. For her birthday, I painted a small double portrait based on a quick drawing made by Woodstock Will (to which I added cats and subtracted a thunderstorm). I also bought her a new MP3 player (a Sandisk Clip) to replace the cheap and unreliable Chinese one she's been using for the past few years. Here's the painting:

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