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

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Like my brownhouse:
   third quilling
Sunday, May 18 2014
The world of poetry is strange one. Gretchen had a 20 minute reading scheduled for one of the the Busboys & Poets in Washington, DC, and so this morning she commenced a five and a half hour drive. It fell to me to walk the dogs, so I took them directly to the southeastern end of that parcel of rocky forest Gretchen and I purchased some years back (the Stick Trail runs down this parcel for about a third of a mile before it veers off, and that southeastern tip lies two escarpments below the forest we usually frequent). I hadn't been in this part of the forest since Tropical Storm Irene (August, 2011), and it's a changed place. Huge tangles of large trees have blown down in multiple locations, ruining a nice mountain bike path along the edge of an escarpment coinciding with the property's tip (it had been maintained by our neighbor Tommy, who is both a mountain bike enthusiast and a butchery instructor at Culinary Institute of America). While I was marveling at the landscape, which features a distinctive topographic ridge at the escarpment, I saw Eleanor suddenly charge off in the direction of where I'd last seen Ramona. I took off my headphones and could hear Ramona barking. At this point, that's almost never good. "Ramona!" I shouted, but the barking continued. Gradually, though, the barking seemed to get weaker, and less emphatic, and eventually it even had notes of self-pity. By the time I caught up to her (at 41.922333N, 74.098663W), Ramona was pawing at her face, which bristled with dozens of porcupine quills. This marked her third quilling by a porcupine.
In times like this, you know what you have to do. I immediately began pulling out the quills. A lot of them come out rather easily; indeed, she'd managed to dislodge a number on her own. But quickly the low-hanging fruit is picked and you're left with the tricky cases: one protruding a quarter inch out of her nostril, the broken-off one in her lip, and however many managed to lodge in the roof of her mouth. I remembered that I'd brought my Droid X2 phone at this point and snapped a few pictures. Understandably, dogs with faces full of porcupine quills do not hold still for photographs.

After doing what I could, I made a beeline for home, occasionally childing Ramona for being distracted by squirrels and other wildlife when a much more urgent matter concerned us. I suspect that if we'd encountered a second porcupine, I would have been removing the quills from both once I got home.
Nearly at the top of my priorities for today was to avoid another $350 trip to the emergency vet. Getting those last quills out was going to be traumatic, but perhaps more trauma was in order so that Ramona would be less inclined to attack porcupines in the future. Back at the house, I had a list in of things in mind the moment I could obtain them. This included a pair of broad-nose pliers, a pair of medical forceps, duct tape, and Ambesol topical anæsthetic. Ramona really didn't like the Ambesol, but anything to make her mouth numb seemed like a good idea. Putting duct tape over Ramona's eyes allowed me to grab a number of quills on the outside of her face that she hadn't been letting me get, but once all of that was taken care of (especially that awful one up her nostril), I was left with the quills lodged in the roof of her mouth. At first I tried cranking Ramona's mouth open with my fingers, as though her head was an uncooperative clam. I could get into her mouth far enough to see the quills, but there was no way she would hold her mouth open long enough for me to yank them out. I pleaded with her and kept trying, and we actually made some progress (perhaps due to her exhaustion), but obviously I couldn't get those quills out with the technique I was using. So I got a small stick and, once Ramona's mouth was open, put it between her jaws. That worked, but having to hold it in place while I grabbed the forceps as she fought me meant that I could not get to the two quills hanging from the corrugations in the roof of her mouth. The solution was to add a bungee cord to that stick. I drilled holes near each end and threaded a piece of bungee cord from one end to the other. This meant that I could get the stick in place, slip the cord around the back of Ramona's head, and have at least one hand free to operate the forceps. Ramona hated that stick, but it allowed me to get the quills out and even feel her mouth for others. When I was done, I removed the stick from Ramona's mouth and saw bleeding from her left lip; perhaps in the struggle(s) she'd accidentally bitten down on it. It was interesting to notice Ramona's reaction to that stick coming out of her mouth. I had the distinct impression that she was pleasantly surprised to find that the quills that had just been in the roof of her mouth had somehow disappeared. The experience of removing those quills, though exhausting and stressful for both of us, didn't seem to increase Eleanor's distrust in me at all. If anything, she now seemed to trust me more.
Immediately after I'd finished dequilling her, Ramona was comfortable enough to eat a glucosamine treat and then gnaw on a deer jawbone Eleanor had just triumphantly found in the forest.

Today's quill-removing tools. Note the stick-cum-bungee cord still has Ramona's blood on it. Without that stick, I couldn't have removed those quills in her mouth.
Later I drove with dogs to Uptown Kingston mostly so I could replenish my booze supply. While there, I also went to the Hannaford to buy some groceries that I like to eat while Gretchen is away. This included a green pepper and an eggplant, as well as a six pack of Goose Island IPA (which I'd never tried before and which is promoted on the Sound Opinions podcast). It's a good summery IPA (if that's possible), suitable for drinking while driving through the countryside. On the way home, I made a detour down to Fording Place (41.883812N, 74.117632W) to get some relatively-pure sand for use in the cat litter box that I keep on the laboratory deck (used mostly by Sylvia). I've been to Fording Place many times over the years but had never seen it flooding like it was today. Happily, all the soil in that area is basically just sand with roots in it, so it didn't matter that I couldn't get out to the usual sandbars.

Because Ramona had screwed up my plans to salvage firewood this morning, I didn't salvage any until this afternoon. She came along with me on this mission, though we didn't go too far into the forest. The weight of today's load was 90 pounds.

This evening, I drank a lot of alcohol, smoked some pot, and watched a lot of television, including (after it downloaded) the latest episode of Game of Thrones, which ended with another happy murder. I also watched a large part of a Frontline about life in North Korea as depicted in smuggled videos. I'd picked that episode from a large number of other Frontlines because it seemed "remote, and thus less depressing." But, it was a gripping bummer for its entire length. North Korea is revealed to be a strange anachronism: a grim Cold-War ear soviet-style authoritarian prison state without an internet and just recently-equipped with cell phones. And yet the people live in a culture that passes around smuggled thumb drives full of pirated western movies and music. Oddly, North Korea actually has a wealthy elite who eat at fancy restaurants and somehow drive imported German luxury cars. But they're as terrorized as everyone else by the ruthless climate of repression. So stuck they remain, a bubble in time decades behind the present, though surrounded by a permeable membrane through which contemporary culture nevertheless seeps. The size of the cultural and economic difference on the sides of that membrane are perhaps the biggest indication of the terrifying political reality required to maintain it.

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