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:
   55 gallons of ice
Thursday, January 22 2015
January 22nd is an important day for me because, in this climate, it is statistically the coldest day of every year, with an average high of 35 and an average low of 14 degrees Fahrenheit. Those are lowest of those two figures for the year, and January 22nd sits in the center of days with those numbers. I care about the statistically coldest day of the year (which I call "peak cold") because it has a bearing on how much firewood I should have left in the woodshed. This past spring and early summer, I stored away something close to four cords of firewood, which is more than I will normally burn. But in other years I've had to gather my firewood just-in-time, particularly in January, February, and March, and, knowing how much wood I've used for the first half of the cold season has a bearing on the rate at which I'll gather it for the second. At this point, based on how much wood was stacked up in front of the woodshed, I'd say I've burned through about 1.5 cords of wood. This means that if I continue at my present rate, I'll have a cord of firewood remaining when summer comes.
Last night Michæl (of Carrie & Michæl) dropped off his dog Penny to spend the next few days with us. She's been a good dog, and the cats (particularly Celeste, Oscar, and Clarence) quickly acclimated to her, though she does have a couple annoying habits. She tends to pace around aimlessly when bored, and she's also a terrible hoverer. There's nothing I want less when trying to do javascript development than to have a bored dog staring at me, particularly when it's Thursday and the last caffeine I drank was back on Monday.
Speaking of the caffeine withdrawal, it was another rough day for me, with mildly pounding headaches, lethargy, and weird snappy things happening in my knee joints. I took a nice nap in the late afternoon and a bath later on and both felt better than they would have had I been drinking caffeine.

On the way back from the brownhouse, I happened to notice that the big blue plastic 55 gallon water tank on a wooden tower at the northwest corner of the house (where it collects rainwater from the gutter above the entrances to the garage) was looking peculiar. Its PVC spout & valve assembly had lifted up from a wooden block that normally supports it. Then I saw what the problem was: the bottom of the tank was bowed out by several inches, forced downward by the pressure of expanding ice in the tank. How the fuck had that happened? The valve had been left open, so the tank should have drained before any water inside it could have frozen. Evidently the rains the other day had come so quickly they'd forced a jam in the drain and the water in the tank was there to freeze when low temperatures followed the rain. Happily, though it had distorted the tank, the ice apparently hadn't caused it to rupture. But I still had a problem to deal with: the tank had lifted so high from the pressure of ice within it that it had jacked up the north end of the gutter supplying it. In fact, if the tank had risen another inch it would have begun jacking up the eaves of the house, a potential disaster. The gutter is made of PVC, so it had distorted but hadn't bent or broken. Still, I didn't want to see what any further upward pressure might do. So I wrapped the base of the tank with heat tape, which I covered with chunks of styrofoam, pieces of bubblewrap, and those panels of reflective-covered foam used to ship fancy vegan cheeses in the mail. To encourage immediate drainage, I heated up a stout steel wire with a propane torch and carefully threaded it into the PVC drainage pipe at the bottom of the tank, lancing the ice within it and some distance into the tank. I also used the propane torch to melt away the ice at the top of the tank where it threatened to start jacking up the eaves of the house, but it's amazing how little impact a bright blue flame has on a 55 gallon chunk of solid ice. You may be wondering why I didn't just move the tank from beneath the eaves, but that question answers itself. Full of ice, the tank weights 420 pounds and is perched atop a tower four feet above the ground. There is no place it can go without falling and exploding catastrophically.

Another crisis I had to deal with today was one of cat urine in the laboratory. Because cats have traditionally urinated there against my wishes, I have plastic spread out under the ceiling/wall along the west edge of the laboratory. Evidently cat piss fragrance is heavier than air, because I've smelt it when I've been down near the floor working on computer hardware. But today I was aware of an olfactory drone of cat piss even as I sat at my computer. So I got a couple containers of water and a sponge and attacked the piss in the two locations I found, both (fortunately) on the plastic I'd set out to catch it. It was an unpleasant job, particularly given my ongoing withdrawal from caffeine, and as I rushed back and forth between the laboratory and the upstairs bathroom I could be heard shouting, "Coming through!" at Eleanor and Penny, who for some reason were always in my fucking way.

This evening Gretchen called from Uptown Kingston to direct me to make dinner. So I put on a pot of rice and made the bean glurp main course for one of our Mexican meals. Though we didn't have any hominy and I didn't use any tempeh, it was as good as it usually is.

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