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:
   some kind of joke
Monday, May 5 2014
I gathered some nice dry oak from a little east of Funky Pond today. The pieces were thicker than what I normally salvage with the battery-powered chainsaw (the blade of which is only ten inches long), so I only loaded three or four pieces onto my backpack. The load felt light, but I had a long three-quarter mile hike back to the woodshed. There, I weighed the load and it proved to be a still-impressive 70 pounds. You can see a map of these things on a Google Map I made.
This evening (after I'd spent a long day porting Microsoft JScript code over to PHP), Gretchen and I went out for dinner to celebrate actual Cinco de Mayo, which is always the anniversary of our engagement. Gretchen couldn't really think of a good restaurant for the occasion, so she decided to try New World Home Cooking. It's a restaurant that always disappoints us, but every few years Gretchen is willing to give it another chance. They have a special vegan menu in addition to their meat-heavy regular menu, and Gretchen has very fond memories of New World from back when she was in her late 20s and used to visit her friend Katie (from her place in Park Slope). I'd also had a very good recent experience with New World's seitan "wings" when New World catered a party at the farm animal sanctuary in Willow.
So there we were at New World, sitting in the back room, the one with windows overlooking a distant pasture across a creek. The arrangement of seats in that room crowded them against those windows, and so, despite the room's ample space, we were crowded in just a little too tight between two other tables of diners. The diners to my right (west) were a couple of middle-aged guys who, apparently in reaction to Gretchen's vegan banter with the waitress, wouldn't shut up about the massive slabs of beef they'd ordered and then ate. One of them said he "needed it" and one even proclaimed at one point, "God bless America!" (though they looked like the sort of Woodstock types who you wouldn't expect to make such proclamations). I will give them credit for one thing: they were evidently members of the Clean Plate Society and none of the meat ended up in a landfill (which is unusual when people order slabs of meat measuring 1.5 inches in thickness).
Normally we wouldn't have been as aware of what was going on at nearby tables, but New World seems to have screwed up the acoustics of their back room. Not only do voices from nearby tables carry, but there is absolutely no music at all back there, so there is nothing to mask sounds. Everybody is all up in everyone else's business. (This wasn't so true of me; I heard nothing the meat eaters had said, for example, but Gretchen was absorbing everything.)
As we'd more-or-less expected, New World proved to be a disappointment in just about every detail. For starters, our waitress was astoundingly bad at her job. She tried to memorize our order but then had to get out a pad of paper once its complexities began to manifest. She didn't seem to understand my simple desire for hot sauce with my order, going off to get me some other irrelevant menu and talking about a sauce that contained honey (and then trying to act like an expert on veganism by acknowledging that strict vegans do not eat it). She didn't return to our table to ask if we liked our food until I'd eaten all of mine (and Gretchen had nearly finished hers). And her timing continued to be off when it came to giving us the check and dealing with our credit card. As for the food, it was pretty good, but the portions were tiny. I was especially disappointed by the amount of seitan "wings" present in the appetizer portion. I have no idea what that 1.5 inch thick slab of beef had cost, but somehow I suspect my $22 order of blue corn crusted seitan medallions (all made from inexpensive raw materials) had subsidized it. Gretchen ordered blackened tofy on her Vietnamese salad, and it tasted like a charcoal briquette in a way that made me concerned about how many barbecue carcinogens I was ingesting. As for refreshment, the beer options at New World are stuck decidedly in 2004. The only IPA on tap is Hurricane Kitty, and there isn't much range to their top-shelf bottle beers. Don't get me wrong; before I'd visited the Pacific Northwest and knew better, Hurricane Kitty was my favorite beer. But my palate is now far too educated to derive much enjoyment from it. Still, what choice did I have? As I drank it, I was surprised that I'd ever liked it. Back when I'd first started drinking Hurricane Kitty, it had seemed to contain that elusive grapefruit flavor that I remember tasting in an IPA at Bardo Rodeo in Bethesda back in May of 1998. Now it just tastes boringly bitter.

On the drive back home, we took Route 28 all the way to US 209 and so we could go into Old Hurley to check in on Ray & Nancy's cat Francis while they're away. I'd just merged onto 209 when the car behind me turned on its flashers and revealed itself to be a cop car. I was being pulled over. Luckily, I'd only had one of those Hurricane Kitties. And all the documents of our Honda Civic Hybrid were in order.
The cop (he was a State Trooper) came to the door and informed us that one of our headlights (as well as the rear license plate light) were out. He said he would be writing us up some sort of ticket that we could have waived if we demonstrated we'd fixed he headlight before the end of business tomorrow. That seemed like a oddly aggressive deadline to Gretchen and me. What if we had to work tomorrow? The cop said that it's possible to have someone sign off on these sorts of tickets for several days after they're issued, but it's not a sure thing. So now it looked like emergency car repairs had been moved to the front of my to-do list. (By the way, when the cop was out of earshot writing up the paperwork, Gretchen took me to task for being surly and mopy when the cop came to our door, but I explained that I'd thought I would let her do all the talking, since that's where she excels. If one of us was going to charm the cop into doing less than the authority of the State of New York permitted it wasn't going to be me.)
Back at the house, after Gretchen and I had taken care of Francis the cat, I immediately popped open the hood of the Civic to assess how easy it was going to be for me to replace the dead headlight bulb. As expected, the job looked impossible. For something as routine as replacing a fucking headlight, it looked like I was going to have to extract various bits of bolted-in equipment. I've mentioned this before, but it bears reiteration: everything about late-model Honda Civics feels like a colossal fuck-you to the person who just wants to take care of his own equipment. All the design decisions seem to have been made so as to maximize the likilihood that the beleaguered car owner will give up and take the car to an official Honda repair shop for ritualized financial assrape. Luckily, though, we live in the information age, and some nice gentleman on the Youtubes had posted a clip showing the secret to replacing the bulb. The technique is to turn the wheels away from the headlight needing replacement, peel back the plastic shroud from inside the wheel well, opening up a knuckle-skinning gap where the replacement can be made. Using this technique, I was able to extract the old bulb in less than five minutes, though when I explained what I'd had to do to Gretchen, she remarked, "that sounds like some kind of joke."

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