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:
   mentees that were mentored
Thursday, May 28 2015
Somehow I imagined that today I wouldn't still be dealing with the website security crisis today, but I was wrong. I spent another whole day swapping servers at IP addresses and then mopping up problems that had developed. At one point a library that dynamically generated barcodes wasn't working and I found it depended on an underlying graphic library that needed to be installed. But once that was installed, I also needed to upload a new copy of the barcode library. But once that was uploaded, the code calling the barcode library was pulling fonts from the wrong location. So I had to move the fonts from the new place that the barcode library keeps them to the old place that the calling code expects them. This is the kind of debugging that I excel at, and part of what makes it so thankless and horrible is, and I've been slowly coming to realize this, is that nobody ever says anything nice to me for fixing their fucked-up shit. So there is no reward, only pain, and the promise of a future payday.
By the end of the day I'd quit accepting stupid Skype voice calls from one of my contacts (Really? You can't just fucking post that as a message? You really have to have a conversation with me?) and blocked out some time to be away from my computer. I hadn't really been wanting to do what Gretchen had planned for me, but now it was seeming like something of a vacation.
As you know, Gretchen has been a poetry mentor for a student named Natalie from a local high school, in this case, Onteοra High School. On a weekly basis, Natalie would come over and Gretchen would expose her to poets, poetry, and poetic techniques. This was part of a one-on-one mentoring program whereby gifted and talented students from Onteοra were trained in various arts and crafts by skilled members of the community. Tonight at Onteοra High School, there would be a program whereby the various students showcased the fruits of their menteeships. Gretchen had wanted me to come, and of course I'd been reluctant. But then I had the kind of day that I had, so I said sure.
We took the dogs and arrived at Onteοra High School at 7:00pm. At that hour it was easy to find shade, even at a high school whose landscaping included no trees.
It had been awhile since I'd been in a high school. As public schools go, Onteοra is a nice one. Its buildings are in good repair, it has a nice track and football field, and there doesn't seem to have been any post-Columbine security crackdown, which makes the environment seem less militarized and Pink-Floyd-the-Wallesque than it might otherwise be.
We made our way with the crowd into the auditorium, which wasn't even a tenth full. From the stage, the woman who runs the mentorship program called the names of each student participant, along with their mentor, and they all filed up to the front of the auditorium, where, if present, the mentor was presented a fancy-looking certificate of appreciation by the mentee. Only a smattering of mentors were present, and I am certain that I was the only spouse of a mentor present. In total, there were maybe 25 students in the program.
Next on the agenda was to be a series of presentations by mentors about their projects. The first presentation was for an open-space-planning project that imagined a day when the old railroad right-of-way north of the Ashokan Reservoir had been repurposed into a rail trail. Under guidance from his mentor, the mentee had drafted plans for a series of small parks designed to connect that rail trail with various points of interest along the way, such as the Bread Alone and Fabulous Furniture or the place where Esopus Creek first reaches the reservoir (not far from Onteοra High School). It was a rather long and somewhat narcotic presentation keyed off of a PowerPoint presentation (but it was hosted in Google Docs and displayed using Internet Explorer, the first time in over five years I'd seen anyone using that browser to do anything other than download Google Chrome). At some point as the PowerPoint slides slid slowly along I began to worry how late tonight's event was scheduled to go. If all 25 of the mentors gave a presentation of this length, we'd be here for well in excess of six hours. But then, unexpectedly, the next person called to the stage was Gretchen's mentee Natalie, and she proceeded to read a beautiful (and fairly brief) poem named after a piece of fruit (though it bore on issues of girls metamorphosing into women). Natalie had written it, but it sounded to my ear like it could pass for one of Gretchen's poems. It had her careful attention to the sounds of words and a preference for short, percussive ones. Furthermore, as with Gretchen's poetry, careful attention had been paid to grounding all the imagery, keeping ideas tethered to material nouns as opposed to ethereal concepts. Perhaps Gretchen has single-handedly established her own school of poetry (and by school, I mean strain, like "Hudson River School of Painting"). Once Natalie was done, presentations in the auditorium were concluded and the assembly relocated to the cafeteria. There, things looked more like a science fair, with cardboard-based displays showing neatly-arranged blocks of construction-paper-framed text beneath pithy headlines. Natalie's display was simpler; 20 or so chapbooks of her own poetry offered to anyone who wanted one. There had been a printing error and so a number of us helped Natalie by writing that last two lines of the last poem in the book, the same one she'd read from the stage.
Gretchen and I made the rounds, checking out the displays. There was a girl who had made chocolates, another who had made silver jewelry, someone who had learned something about being a guidance counselor, a girl who had recorded two of her own dreamy electrobeat songs, and another who had done a mentorship with a veterinarian and was distributing flyers on the dangers of some disease that spreads to dogs via fecal material. There weren't that many gentlemen, though one had written the first four chapters of a fantasy novel, another (a lad Gretchen actually knew) had sketched out the scenes for several different takes on a ten-minute movie. There was also a mentee who had learned about computers from some computer repair guy. In addition to showing him how to put together his own computer from parts, he'd taught him enough about the Arduino for him to use it to make a single motor on a hacked robot swing its arm back and forth in an endless loop. (I saw that and realized that I could've been a somewhat better mentor.) Most of the mentorships were tastefully artsy, crafty, or involved useful social services, though there was one mentee who stood out as a glaring show of red state in a sea of blue. He was an enormous young man who had done a mentorship with a taxidermist, and his display showed the inserts that go inside the skin of a deer's head when it is made into a trophy. His display was immediately across from a plumply shy young woman who had taken lots of gorgeous highly-saturated photographs of nature in its fully-alive state.
After we'd said our goodbyes, we headed out to the parking lot, let our dogs out, and then I walked them back behind the track while Gretchen went back inside to do an additional goodbye that she'd forgotten. I found a nature trail leading into the forest back there and wondered what uses the school and the students had made of it.
Not far from Onteοra High School is the western split where Routes 28 and 28a diverge. Near there is a bar & grill type restaurant called the Landmark Grill. They specialize in hamburgers, but they also have veggie burgers, so that was where we decided to go for dinner. It's a very informal place that smells vaguely of bathroom disinfectant, but our waitress was cool in a demur kind of way (though she looked a little too hip for Boiceville). Both the veggie burgers and fries were excellent; the burgers were unexpectedly spicy just by themselves, and the fries were tiny crisp little slivers. We also had beers: some sort of Magic Hat for me and a Stella Artois for Gretchen. While there, Gretchen went through the loot in a gift bag Natalie had given her, causing our waitress to ask if it was Gretchen's birthday.

For linking purposes this article's URL is:

previous | next