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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Like my brownhouse:
   three bullet Thursday
Thursday, April 30 2015
I'm not a superstitious guy, and am fully aware that the human mind craves patterns, spending even more time looking for them than it spends running sex simulations. That said, April, particularly late April, is to me what the Ides of March were for Julius Cæsar. Bad things happen to me in late April. On April 29, 1989, my dorm room caught on fire. On April 20th, 2001, the FBI came to my house. There are other things that have happened too, but I can't remember now what they are (maybe it was just all the deadly mass murders perpetrated by home-grown crazies that always seem to happen in late April). In any case, though I always tend to expect the worst, I am especially that way in late April. So you can imagine the dread I have had for several weeks now as I anticipated something that would be taking place today: an inspection of our rental house on Wall Street by the Kingston Fire Department. I had no idea what to expect in terms of what would be at issue and how hard-ass they would be, all I knew was that it was out of my control and that there was a great range of possible outcomes.
About an hour prior to the meeting, I took the one medication I know of that is good at both calming my nerves and lubricating my often-rusty social machinery: 50 mg of tramadol (originally prescribed for one of the dogs). It's not a great drug, and in the past it has even made me vomit, but it's powerful and long-lasting, and I function reasonably well under its effects. (Surprisingly for a depressant, it's an effective study drug as well.)
I loaded up the dogs and made it to the house almost exactly on time. In my mind, I'd expected the fire department inspector to be a big guy with a huge gut and a Joseph Stalin mustache, but she was a woman about my age with no gut or mustache to speak of. I found her sitting on the wall in front of the tiny cottage next door. It was a beautiful sunny day, and if there was ever a day to be a ball buster, today wasn't it. Things seemed to be going well from the start, when the inspector said that she'd assumed the little cottage was the rental because my house "looked too nice." "Yeah, we painted it," I explained. One of my tenants let us in, and the inspection started in the basement. Since I'd last been down there, it had been converted into a music performance space, complete with a drum kit. I thought it would make me seem like a conscientious landlord if I wondered aloud whether or not the neighbors were bothered by the racket, but when I did, the inspector said that her office would be the one they would call, and nobody had called them yet.
It's always good to have a few obvious things wrong so that they can distract from more entrenched problems, so perhaps it was a good thing that the basement was missing carbon monoxide and smoke detectors. That would be an easy problem to fix. It turned out that the upstairs bedrooms each also needed a smoke detector, but that was it. In fact, I could take one of the extra carbon monoxide detector out of one of the bedrooms and put it in the basement, meaning all I needed to fix this problem was three smoke detectors (and to prove that they'd been installed, all would have to do is email photographs). The inspection hadn't taken more than ten minutes, some of which we'd spent talking about how Kingston is an up & coming city (something the inspector had heartily agreed with me on).
I felt elated as I left the house. Somehow I'd avoided being ensnared in a sticky web of bureaucratic bullshit. Gretchen had originally planned to meet me at the house and be there for the inspection, but it seemed she was running late. So I tried to drive to her workplace (near the Uptown Hannaford) to head her off. But I made the mistake of driving north up Wall Street and hoping to cut eastward on John Street. Wouldn't you know (and this always seems to happen whenever I really need to get somewhere), John Street had been temporarily closed down west of Clinton. This meant that the most straightforward route to Gretchen's workplace involved making a U-turn on Albany Avenue (a left from Maiden onto Clinton is not allowed). As I executed this U-turn with the help of a parking lot (thanks, Kingston Hospital), I saw Gretchen in the Prius driving in the direction I'd just been going on Albany. She made a U-turn too so she could catch up with me. Something about the frustration of not being able to make a left from Maiden had made me mutter something loud enough for a busy-body pedestrian (Kingston is full of them) to comment upon, and the added excitement of seeing Gretchen and the complexity of the U-turn must have made me shift the gears just the slightest bit wrong, because suddenly the Subaru could not be put into gear. I drifted to a stop along the side of Albany, and Gretchen stopped in front of me. After quickly celebrating the success of the inspection, we turned out attention to the Subaru. Neither of us could put the damn thing in gear. What the hell? Had I not been on tramadol, I would have been a mush of anxiety, but instead I was angry, mostly at whoever the fuck had decided to shut down John Street. Was late April going to choose this way to bust my balls? Then, for some reason, I tried shifting the gears with the engine off. This allowed me to finally get it into gear. I could even start it that way, though even with the clutch pushed all the way to the floor, the car wanted to creep ahead. It was as if the clutch wasn't working or was working poorly. But at least I could drive. Interestingly, by the time I'd followed Gretchen to her workplace, the Subaru had completely recovered and was working normally. There was a weird smell for a little while, but it passed. Something bad (but not catastrophic) had happened to the clutch or something near it.
Not much was happening in the literacy center where Gretchen works, so we brought the dogs into one of the conference room and discussed the inspection in greater detail. We were on such a high that Gretchen started searching other properties for sale in Kingston. I'd told the inspector that, though this was our first rental property, it had been going so well that we're thinking of maybe getting more properties.
After I left Gretchen's workplace, I bought some groceries and electrical supplies at the Hannaford and Herzogs nearby. They were selling small smoke detectors for less than $8 each.
On the way back home, I stopped (as always) at my topsoil mine on the east bank of Esopus Creek. Before gathering any soil, I took the dogs for a run in the field to the north, eating mixed nuts from a Stewart's "car cup" and drinking the non-sugar-free Stewart's brand energy drink (which tasted better than usual, probably because of the tramadol). On the walk back from the fields, Eleanor decided to make a beeline across the plowed field to the hedgerow running along 209. I don't like it when the dogs do that, but I tolerate it, so long as they stay in sight. This time, though, Eleanor vanished into the hedgerow (at 41.928569N, 74.062801W) and stayed that way. I started calling for her, and as she continued ignoring me, I shouted with increasing franticness. I kept doing this as the cars whizzed by. But then one of the southbound cars pulled over onto the shoulder exactly where I'd last seen Eleanor. I was pretty sure that she hadn't gone out into 209, since all the other cars were behaving normally, but perhaps someone had seen her on the shoulder and was now trying to catch her. Without a second thought, I ran across that field (which isn't easy when it's freshly plowed), covering the distance between me and Eleanor in seconds. She was still hidden from view, but now I was right there, so she couldn't simply ignore my yelling. After what seemed like a very long time, the car that had stopped pulled away and then Eleanor emerged from the bushes with a look on her face that seemed to say, "What is the big deal?" I resolved to never bring her to this field again. I'd dodged a bullet with the fire inspector, but I'd almost taken two more: one with the Subaru, and then this one with my dog getting too close to a busy highway.
I gathered my five buckets of soil and returned home, muttering at Eleanor the whole time. She still didn't seem to understand what the big deal was.

Yesterday I'd begun a long-procrastinated project to make some electrical upgrades in the brownhouse. I wanted a proper overhead light inside (instead of a bulb in a socket plugged into an outlet) and I wanted to swap out the motion detector light on the outside of the brownhouse with one that only turns on when it is dark outside. Yesterday I'd run into a series of weird incompatibilities (between electrical boxes and devices and also between screws and holes -- both in terms of length and width) that kept me from getting much done except for the installation and wiring of an overhead electrical box inside the brownhouse. This evening, though, I had some more equipment and stood a chance of getting that outdoor light wired up. Even so, the incompatibilities continued. I found that a cheap Chinese motion sensor had come with a threaded stalk that was too narrow (3/8 inch) for the half-inch threaded holes in American outdoor electrical boxes. Fortunately, though, I happened to have a brass fitting (normally used for gas and water plumbing) that I could use as an adapter.

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