carriage shed in the Rondout
Tuesday, March 14 2023
A power outage began between three and four in the morning after wet snow brought down a tree somewhere near the intersection of Hurley Mountain and Ashokan Roads. This morning when I went to check the Central Hudson Outage Map, it was starting to look a little like one you might see in Ukraine. Outages were widespread, and there was no telling when our particular one would be reversed. So I notified my colleagues in the remote workplace that I probably wouldn't be in today.
The snow was predicted to accumulate to something like six inches initially and then perhaps as much as twenty, but nothing like that ever materialized. We got no more than two inches of accumulation, and conditions were warm enough that it couldn't accumulate beyond that.
Gretchen and I treated it like a Saturday, with me making us french presses of our respective kinds of coffee and stoking the fire in the woodstove (since it was our only source of heat).
To keep pressurized water available in the household plumbing system, I gathered buckets of water from the abundant runoff outside so we could use it to flush the toilets. There was no predicting how long the power outage might last for, though for the first time we actually went into this thing with a portable generator should we need to use it. We also had a five gallon bottle of potable water that we'd filled in anticipation of some earlier crisis.
But then a little after noon, the power unexpectedly came on, which we always find both a relief and a little disappointing.
So I was able to make it to the Tuesday group QA session, something I could've easily skipped, since my colleagues had no idea that my power had come on until I told them. But I rewarded myself for my workplace honestly by permitting myself to have a couple stiff drinks as I worked. It turned out that it was good that I was there, as a configuration change on a server meant that I had to take action to fix an Azure DevOps build pipeline. (Since I'm the only one in the company who knows how that stuff works.)
At some point today a supposed 80 watt laser arrived in the mail. I'd bought it to replace the five watt laser that my laser cutter had come with. I've been watching so much fraud-related YouTube content that my brain is conditioned to assume that the laser is not actually an 80 watt one, much like the 2 TB external SSD I'd that bought some months ago having an actual capacity closer to 500 GB. But there's no way to know until I test it. To do that, I had to machine out a strip of metal that I could attach to the side of the laser with a couple screws to form a track that would fit inside a mounting channel on the laser cutter's cutting head.
Fern, the woman who'd housesat for us recently for a month while we were in Costa Rica, is now living at an AirBnB in the Rondout area of Kingston (aka its "Downtown"). Yesterday (I think) was her birthday, so today after the power came back on, Gretchen baked her a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. She also made a noodle bake, though she used those unsatisfactory rice noodles and somewhat overcooked them, the latter she considered something of a disaster. This evening we drove over to Fern's place for a little sit-down dinner with her mother Jean, who was visiting from Australia. (She's 70-something years old and had never seen snow until this visit to New York State.) We brought our dogs, who of course were super happy to see Fern again. And the feeling was mutual.
Fern's AirBnB is a glorious old high-ceiling space with exposed timbers and brickwork, thought it was decorated by its owner with a severely muted pallet using unnecessarily macabre accents (such as black and white photos that appeared to show dead humans on stainless steel tables in a morgue). Jean said the space used to be a carriage shed belonging to a much more extensive estate belonging to a shipping magnate who'd made his fortune cornering the coal shipping market supplying New York City with Pennsylvania coal, which was apparently done using the tiny locks and canals along Rondout Creek that can still be seen in places like High Falls.
We had a sit-down meal and ate the noodle bake, a dish featuring undercooked red beans (probably not from a can) and kale, hearty prism-shaped pieces of wholewheat bread, and a salad that included cubes of apple (something Gretchen and I do not approve of). Most of our dinner conversation centered on sailing stories, as Fern's family is a multigenerational sailing family. By sailing, I mean piloting sailboats (powered only by the wind) across open ocean and (at least until invention of GPS) using classic navigation techniques whose only modern detail was getting correct time information from the BBC over a shot-wave radio. Jean had sailed all over the world, and Fern had sailed independently with other small groups of people using a website for adding crew members to voyages. Jean told us of meeting Peter, Fern's father, and landing on Grand Cayman Island during a freakish labor shortage, which was how she became a news reporter on the island.
Some parts of the conversation circled back to the story of me and Gretchen, though that didn't seem anywhere near as adventurous. In such parts of the conversation, we mostly talked about how our skills complement each other. Gretchen is great at finding real estate deals and handling logistics, while I am great at figuring out how to make things happen with materials in the physical world. The most interesting idea that I advanced tonight was one I'd touched on briefly in the past: that individuals in a group of people naturally gravitate towards jobs that they are either good at or that need to be done and nobody is doing them. I then proposed that in some populations of people, somebody as bad at fixing things as Gretchen might fall into that role, because everyone else with her is even worse at it than she is. Similarly, on some desert islands I might find myself falling into the role of logistics, since nobody else is doing it and it desperately needs someone, anyone, to do it.
Meanwhile Ramona and Neville had gone up into a loft to snort around in Fern's bed for awhile before coming down and falling asleep on a pair of cozy grey-striped chairs.
At dinner tonight in the Rondout. From left: Fern, Gretchen, and me. Photo taken by Fern's mum Jean.
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