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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   Darlings in Tillson
Saturday, December 17 2022
After a typical Saturday morning spent in the living room with the letters of the New York Times Spelling Bee written in big letters on a piece of cardboard (the panagram was "anarchical"), a fire in the woodstove, and a french press of coffee (just for me; Gretchen was drinking tea), I decided to do some more experimens with a second Pi-Top 3 that I am hoping to be able to use with any device, not just Raspberry Pis. Unfortunately, for some reason Pi-Tops have a "board detect" system that looks to see if the two grounds on a connected Raspberry Pi are in fact connected to each other. If they are not, the Pi-Top refuses to do anything. This a problem because the only way to get those pins to ground is by attaching them to a Raspberry Pi; you can't fake it by jumpering, say, the Inventor's Kit breadboard. There's no utility in this functionality, but it makes doing outside-the-box projects (which, come on, any real "inventor" would want to do) very difficult. Last night I'd managed to solder a thin piece of wire onto a tiny surface-mount connector in hopes of being able to hack the "board detect" mechanism, but grounding this one wire was not sufficient. And then when I went to improve how well it was soldered, I ended up bridging a bunch of pins on the tiny connector. At that point I realized I didn't have any technology available for unbridging those pins. Doing so would require rosin flux all by itself (that is, not as part of solder). But I didn't have any. Also, my soldering iron's blunt tip is too big and clunky for the space I was operating within. So I ordered some rosin flux and a fine-tipped soldering iron and put that Pi-Top away to keep from damaging it further.

Early this afternoon I drove down to Old Hurley to get another load of silver maple from behind Ray & Nancy's garage. Gretchen had given me a book to deliver to Nancy as something of a Christmas present, so once I'd loaded the car, I went to see them. Nancy poured me a cup of coffee and Ray and I engaged in some nerdy talk about camera technology (he has an older SLR with a huge lens that I was asking about).
After taking the load of wood up Hurley Mountain, I went out for a second and final load, but before picking that up, I drove out to 9W to get some groceries and do a little Christmas shopping. Gretchen had been intrigued by a toaster oven that could also act as an air fryer, so I went to Bed Bath & Beyond to buy one. The Cuisineart model I bought (the TOA-70 Air Fryer Toaster Oven) actually had three functions: toaster oven, air fryer, and grill. It's easy to fill a kitchen with bulky one-function devices, but it makes more sense to have multi-function devices that take free up counter space (this is a good reason to have, for example, the InstantPot instead of having a rice cooker, a pressure cooker, and a Crockpot). At the time I was looking little like a homeless person in my mud-spattered trousers, sawdust-covered hoodie, and torn rubber boots (they hadn't lasted long!). But my credit card was good; after the 20% discount, the multi-function toaster oven was $200.
Then I went to the nearby Hannaford, mostly to buy slivered almonds, bananas, decaffeinated black tea (all of those mostly for Gretchen) as well as important staples for me like soup, vegan Ben & Jerry's ice cream, and a hazy IPA (something I couldn't resist called Hipster Apocalypse). There were so many shoppers in the Hannaford that the lines at checkout were backed up into the aisles. A good fraction of the customers were wearing masks, which I decided to do after passing near a group of children. I haven't been wearing a mask in retail settings at all, but it's an easiest enough thing to do and there's always one in my jacket pocket. If it means not getting covid any time soon, it's totally worth it.
On the drive back home, I stopped at Ray and Nancy's place to pick up the last of the silver maple firewood. What with the huge box containing the new toaster oven, I came close to hitting the limit of how much wood I could fit into the Forester. After unloading all the wood back home, the pile was of a similar size to the one I'd made the last time I salvaged an appreciable amount of silver maple from Ray and Nancy's place, back in October of 2010. I seem to recall that the salvage that time had required seven trips in a 1998 Subaru Legacy Outback to transport. A Forester has more payload capacity than a Legacy, and transporting the wood this time required five trips.

This evening, Gretchen and I met up with Jeff and Alana at a restaurant in Tillson (that is, between Rosendale and New Paltz) called Darlings. Darlings is in the site of a family-style restaurant called the Postage Inn where I'd dined exactly once (with my old friend Zelig, who moved from a quarter mile away on Dug Hill Road to Tillson in 2005 and then drifted out of touch after having a kid). Darlings is now more of a hipster joint, which is a bit out of place in sleepy ungentrified Tillson. But being close to Rosendale and New Paltz means that hipsters aren't too far away. For us, their catering to hipsters was great, because it meant that on their menu they had some fun all-vegan takes on southern comfort-food staples.
Gretchen had reserved us a table, which turned out to be completely unnecessary, as there were only a smattering of occupied tables in the large checkerboard-floored/black-ceiling dining room. I ordered a glass of red wine while we were waiting for Jeff and Alana to arrive. As for food, all of us except Gretchen ordered the vegan fried "chicken," which is basically batter-fried oyster mushrooms, which comes with two sides (I picked fries and fava beans for mine). Alana said that Darlings has a relationship with a nearby mushroom farm called Sugarshack Mushrooms, and this accounts for several unusual mushroom-based items on the menu. (Usually only fancy restaurant serve anything beyond agarics, shitake, and portobello mushrooms, and often when they do, they're subject to seasonality or the luck of mushroom foragers with whom they have relationships.) The food was very good if not especially healthy.
When Jeff and Alana ordered their second drinks, I ordered something called a Bad Santa, which was like a white russian, but made with oat milk.
We had a rollicking good conversation full of hilarious stories. Jeff told us two stories from his youth that were so horrifying that Gretchen jumped to her feet in outrage at the denouement of both stories. The first happened when Jeff was about ten years old in suburban Chicago and was participating in a game where two-person teams of people compete against each other to see which team can most rapidly devour an apple hanging from a string without using their hands. What made his experience traumatic was that his teammate was a clown, that is, someone whose face was caked with makeup. That makeup got all over the swinging apple and Jeff almost vomitted after swallowing some of it.
The other story happened when Jeff was in high school and made to attend pep rallies in support of the football team. One of the things done during the pep rally was that the football players were all blindfolded and told they were about to kiss their girlfriends. But instead their mothers (who were not blindfolded) were brought in. Jeff insists that the several football players were seen making out with their own mothers in front of the whole school. (Apparently this is a stunt that is occasionally done at high school pep rallies, but it probably couldn't happen at any one school more than once every generation.)
For some reason I was unusually engaged during dinner and Gretchen was finding me funnier than usual. Perhaps this was due to the cannabis I'd eaten before going out tonight. I never consciously felt it in my body, but perhaps it was opening up new pathways in my brain and making me unusually good at taking advantage of comedic opportunities in the conversation. This all began with me telling an unusually well-constructed version of the story of the time I desperately needed to use a toilet after Gretchen and I boarded a Rome-bound train in Tuscany. Other comedic contributions were shorter but were well-received. One came after Alana mentioned she would be spending a day at the spa and I wondered if perhaps there was such a thing as an "anaconda wrap." "I'm feeling very held right now," I said, impersonating someone being therapeutically constricted by an enormous snake. Another came when we were trying to imagine what smoke-free places were like back in the 1980s, when smokers had a reasonable expectation to be able to smoke just about anywhere. How could they survive in a classroom? Perhaps, I suggested, they could gut a cigarette, form the tobacco into a bolus, and shove up their asshole. One last bit of well-timed comic gold came when someone mentioned something involving the Amish, and said something that culminated with "it's rumspringa somewhere." I thought that was very clever and original (and I had come up with it spontaneously) but a later Google search proved that I wasn't the first to say this.

We ended up sitting in Darlings for something like three and a half hours, well after we'd finished eating. Alana later said she would've ordered another drink had she known we'd be lingering so long. Meanwhile the sound system was playing a loop of mostly Christmas songs, including the dreadful "Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time," which we heard three times while we were there. I assumed it was the original by Paul McCartney, but it turned out it was a cover by the Shins (which Jeff discovered when he Shazzamed it). "I thought the Shins were cooler than that," I sighed. "No, they're not," Jeff replied.

During the drive home, an oncoming car on Hurley Mountain Road about half-way between Wynkoop and Dug Hill Road flashed its lights at us to warn us about something. Sure enough, there was a male deer in the road. He was alive and on his knees, and there were some tufts of fur on the road nearby, suggesting he'd been hit by a car. Perhaps he was about to get up and run away, but maybe not. We kept driving, but we called the sheriff's office to tell them about this in hopes they'd put the deer out of his misery if he was still there.

Meanwhile, Neville had acted out by peeing on our bed. This was the impetus to change the sheets for the first time in months. I also spot-cleaned what I could. "The sign is going to have to go back to 'Zero' days since Neville peed in the bed," I declared.
In the laboratory, I drank some gin and did a YouTube search for "rumspringa," finding an interesting piece about some Amish teenagers (the "world's squarest teenagers") sent to London to live for a time with a variety of highly multicultural teens, getting exposed to things such as Muslim prayer, baseball-like game called "rounders," and hip-hop dancing in the process.

The pile of silver maple firewood after moving it all from Ray & Nancy's place. The pieces with snow on them were moved before the snow earlier in the week.

This is how the pile of silver maple (and our Subaru Legacy) looked in October of 2010, the last time I salvaged a large amount of it from Ray & Nancy's place.

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