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
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dead malls
Irving housing

got that wrong

appropriate tech
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Like my brownhouse:
   cycling into Kingston
Tuesday, June 17 2014
The day was predicted to be a hot one so I gathered today's load of salvaged firewood before 9:00am. Lately I've been taking it from a range of places that are all fairly close to the house, though those nearby resources are gradually becoming more scarce. The wood I gathered today was stuff a little southeast of the Stick Trail-Chamomile crossing that I'd rejected earlier for being too moist and containing too much rot. It wasn't great stuff, but when I cut through it, I found it more than 80% solid wood.
Most of the recent wood I've been gathering needs to be split in half (though usually not into quarters). As I did this back at the woodshed, I heard a familiar-though-unexpected sound off to the southwest. Pharoah! Pharoah! It was the call of a solitary male 17 year cicada. Evidently he'd failed to count one of the years that had passed underground and so emerged a year too late, out of sync with his brood. What a lonesome sound! He continued on like that all day: Pharoah! Pharoah! If he's very very lucky, there will also be a female nearby who also lost cost of the years. More likely, though, he'll be an unexpected juicy morsel for one of cicadas' many predators, whose boom-and-bust cycles the 17 year cycle evolved to evade.
This afternoon I heard another strange sound from that direction of the forest. This time it was clearly the sound of bird, one that sounded distressed. It was a semi-desperate "Hiayyk! Hiayyk! call, and I ran up the Farm Road to investigate. When I got to near the source of the sound, it kept moving in the canopy from different sources, and it seemed to switch between the call I'd heard and more conventional raven calls such as "Rook, rook, rook!" which at least allowed me to identify the species. A raven landed in a dead tree nearby, but when I walked over to look, he flew off, and the calls continued to alternate and move. In the end, whatever the ravens were doing had to remain a mystery.

The plan for late this afternoon was for me to meet Gretchen at her new workplace (the literacy center near the Uptown Hannaford) and then for us to go try looking at that prospective investment house on Wall Street that we couldn't manage to get into the other day. Normally I'd drive into town to meet Gretchen for something like this, but then we'd have two cars in town, one of which having an expired inspection sticker, and we'd have to convoy back. So today I decided to ride a bicycle into Kingston instead. Despite the fact that Gretchen and I have been living in our house for nearly 12 years and my history of cycling (including 400 mile rides from Oberlin to Staunton), I'd never yet ridden a bike to Kingston. Part of the reason for that is the danger of the dogs following me. When I leave in a car, they know that it's hopeless to chase after me, but if I'm on a bike (even going down the Hurley Mountain escarpment on Dug Hill Road) they stand a chance of keeping up. In order to sneak off today, I pre-positioned the bike down near the greenhouse before I'd dressed in a way that would tip them off to the fact that I was leaving. Later I showered (brushing my teeth in the shower so they wouldn't notice; that's another tip-off) and then put on my clothes gradually and mostly out of sight. (I'd been wearing the shorts I would later ride into town in while investigating those ravens.) I should have pre-positioned my flip-flops with the bike, since the dogs pay particular attention when I put on any sort of footwear. But it was a hot day and they were both stretched out on wooden floors to maximize their ability to radiate heat, so even if she had been interested, Ramona somehow decided to ignore my gathering of the flip flops. I went out through the garage to put them with the bicycle, which I'd moved to the guard rail along the edge of Dug Hill Road. That way when it was finally time to sneak off, I just walked barefoot out to the garage like I was working on some boring project. They ignored me, and this allowed me to put on my flip flops and quickly vanish down Dug Hill Road. Near the bottom, I noticed that a very large White Ash had been partially cut down by the power company, and I thought maybe I'd return later to salvage some of the enormous pieces.
With no bridge across the Esopus on Wynkoop, I had to cycle north on Hurley Mountain Road all the way to Route 28 and then take that into Uptown. HMR is a pure cycling pleasure, though, with surprisingly little traffic and almost no topographic relief. I've done very little cycling in New York State, so today's ride made me aware of another unexpected delight: motorists (in this area at least) are much more courteous to cyclists than they are in other places where I have biked extensively (Virginia, Ohio, West Virginia, and California). As they passed me, they gave me the sort of room they might give a farm tractor. One final feature of Hurley Mountain Road at circa 4:20 in the afternoon is that the sun has set behind the trees of the escarpment immediately to the west, placing nearly the entire route in shade.
I thought Route 28 would be more of a challenge, but it had its own delights. There was much more traffic and sun, of course, but there was now a very wide shoulder, giving me the security I needed as cars zipped past. There's also a little abandoned segment of Route 28 (41.951312N, 74.047916W) that is paved but completely unused, cycling on it eliminated about 10% of the Route 28 portion of the trip. The ride was so easy that my heart rate and breathing never rose above their rates at rest, and, despite 90 degree temperatures, nearly all the sweat I produced immediately dried from the air rushing over me. At this point in my life, my leg muscles are probably as strong as they have ever been due to all the firewood gathering I've been doing, and I suspect that played a role in how little effort the ride seemed to require. The ride was 6.6 miles and took me about a half hour.

When I arrived at the literacy center, Gretchen was pretty much ready to go. She gave me a tour of the place, which had a kind of sad 1970s bureaucratic vibe to it (though the computers all had flatscreen displays and the internet). Because of the lack of zoned air conditioning, the office would have been uncomfortably cold were it not for the front door being wide open.
Our old realtor Larry couldn't make it to today's tour of the house, so he sent another realtor, who met us at the house a little later than she'd said. There wasn't much interesting about the house. It's a two bedroom quasi-Craftsman dating to 1930. It's in good shape and mostly neutral æsthetically (which is great in an investment property) save for the wall-to-wall sage-green carpeting. Under that carpeting is a hardwood floor (which we confirmed in one of the closets). Gretchen kept drawing our attention to the many dolls with caricatured African-American features (big lips, very black skin), which she thought was offensive unless the owners themselves were black. But they were in fact white.
Gretchen wanted a drink, so we went to the Stockade Tavern in Uptown. The place was surprisingly full of people (mostly youngish women) for a Tuesday afternoon. Maybe it was lady's night. Actually, it was happy hour, meaning my IPA plus Gretchen's Stella Artois shandy came to only $9. I told Gretchen I didn't really like the house, mostly because of the shared driveway leading to a cramped barely-detached garage. But as Gretchen was quick to point out, it really didn't matter how much I liked it if the intention was to use it as a rental property. We have money that we've been utterly terrible at investing, and real estate seems like the only remaining hope, particularly given Kingston's potential for modest gentrification. The great thing about this house was that it was ready to go and would require little work on our part. If we rent it for $1000/month, in five years we'll have $60,000 plus whatever additional value the real estate will have gained (minus, of course, taxes and expenses). That all made sense to me, but it seemed like we could save thousands of dollars if we found a house that, say, needed a half hour of cleaning (the one we looked at today was more or less immaculate).

Once we got home, I immediately drove the Subaru down Dug Hill Road to retrieve some of that White Ash. On Gretchen's recommendation, I brought the Stihl chainsaw (which I have not used since December). That turned out to be crucial. The large pieces of trunk were almost too heavy to roll, let alone tilt into the car. They were also too thick to saw unless the 19 inch blade attacked it from both sides. But even the halves were at the very limits of my abilities to get into the car. I had to build a crude platform of smaller pieces, get the big piece up onto that, and then tilt it into the car from that somewhat-greater height. With the huge piece in the car, I then stuffed an assortment of smaller pieces in around it. By the time I was done, I was drenched in sweat and could feel dull aches in my pectoral muscles. A nice young woman stopped as I was preparing to go and asked if I was okay and I told her that I was "just gathering firewood." I then followed her up the hill and saw her turn into the driveway of our fussy across-the-road neighbors. Evidently she is friends with the young woman who lives there with a local restaurateur.

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