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

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(nobody does!)

Like my brownhouse:
   shepherds pie seder
Friday, April 3 2015

location: near Sligo Creek Park, Silver Spring, Montgomery County, Maryland

Gretchen and her parents toiled in the kitchen for not too long this afternoon making a shepherds pie for tonight's seder. It would be the main vegan course for those attending, though of course most of the 38 people there would be concentrating on various forms of meat. Meanwhile, I was fixing a few little bugs on my Lightroom/Webapp using just my Compaq 2510p laptop. It's a little clunky to do such work with just a 1280 by 800 pixel screen and no mouse, but by some miracle I was able to get a surprising amount done well before the laptop's battery needed a recharge.
By then I needed to take a shower and get ready for the seder, which would be beginning at 5:00pm.
I've been to several seders at Dina's childhood home, and this one was broadly similar to those earlier ones. The difference was that now there were fewer little babies, since most of the members of that third generation have aged into childhood without yet being replaced. There was, however, one baby present. Dina's brother Daniel had married and quickly divorced a woman 14 years ago, producing a single girl named Alex, who is now a lanky screen-obsessed 13 year old. More recently, Daniel met and married another woman, and the only baby in attendance tonight was the product of that second marriage.
As always at these seders, there were finger foods set out on coffee tables in the big living room. In addition to the "famous fish balls," there were the inevitable bowls of pre-pealed boiled eggs, which proved so popular that I had to keep averting my eyes as they alighted upon people messily devouring them. My inborn aversion to eggs (which predates my veganism by over forty years) would have rather seen people eating turds. Thankfully, at least today the living room did not stink of ovoid sulfur (as seders often do). In the old days, I had to deal with second-hand eggy grossness on a regular basis, but these days, since my world turned almost entirely vegan, I've been largely spared from having to even think about it. Unfortunately, though, that makes the few occasions when I do encounter eggs that much more revolting.
It would have been a dull, awkward evening were it not for all the wine available[REDACTED]. [REDACTED] I mostly spoke with Gretchen, Dina, and Dina's husband Gilaud. At the seder itself, I was crammed in between Gilaud and a woman of a certain age with two teenage kids whose husband had just left her. I spent a lot of time telling Gilaud about my Tableform web-based data visualizer & editor, which I'd also been telling Dina about. It's probably my single best invention, but it's proved difficult to describe (and thus monetize), though Gretchen is always pushing me to make something of it. The code for it is a bit long in the tooth and unstylish at this point, but it's still a lot more useful than any other database admin tool I've had the displeasure of trying to use.
I should mention that I greatly improved my matazh-eating experience by flavoring it with some of that Burmese hot sauce from last night's dinner at Mandalay. Maror just isn't enough these days.
The seder meal was the usual rush through the haggadah, with a few theatrical flourishes that Dina had arranged, including kids dressed as plagues and a parting of the Red Sea done with blankets. The weather had been in the 70s today and even in the evening was warm enough for Gretchen and I to take our plates of shepherds pie and fixings out to a picnic table in the backyard. Eventually we were joined by a six year old girl afflicted with Down Syndrome and her grandfather. The girl had only been capable of voicing English words for about a year, and was difficult to understand, but she nevertheless kept demanding everyone's attention. She'd shout "Hey!" and "Everybody!" repeatedly, and, when she thought she'd obtained a suitable silence, she would repeat the thing she'd said when she'd last had everyone's attention, which was that she wanted to sleep out in the yard tonight and that she didn't want any critters to poop or piss in the place where she would be sleeping. To keep them from doing so, she proposed locking them up in the house or, in the case of rabbits, eating them up. This would have been impossible to make out were it not repeated so frequently and her grandfather not there to translate. Gretchen and I can't imagine anyone bringing a Down Syndrome child to term in an age that includes amniocentesis; it seems to us simultaneously short-sighted, selfish, and foolish. But once a kid is born, it's a fact on the ground. At first I found the little girl hard to look at with her fat upper arms, flattened, rounded features, and webbed neck, but over time I decided that she was actually adorable and could understand why her parents would love her ferociously despite (or perhaps because of) her limitations.
Other topics discussed at the picnic table (before the arrival of the little girl with Down Syndrome) included Obama's breakthrough in the nuclear nonproliferation negotiations with the Iranians. I'd expected there to be a few Benjamin Netanyahu supporters at the seder tonight, though happily I didn't encounter anyone so deeply thoughtless. My observation on the negotiations with the Iranians was simply that if it had the Republicans pissed off, it was probably on the right track. But then again, they would find a reason to complain no matter what he did, including their wetdream of dropping bombs on Tehran.
The end of the seder was dominated by Gretchen's brother leading everyone in song as he played his travel guitar. We took the beginning of "Hotel California" as our cue to leave, though actually extricating ourselves took substantially longer. There was, for example, a long doorway conversation in which Gilaud told us all about the origin of black Masons.
Later, back at Gretchen's parents' house, we had a discussion in the living room on ways to make seders more engaging and less of a frantic unthinking dash through the haggadah. He seemed to think there are ways to do seders right, though I privately had my doubts unless the haggadah is completely replaced with a discussion of contemporary topics, which is what happens at all the other dinner parties I attend every year.

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