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:
   under a dome of dense fog
Monday, August 7 2023

location: 800 feet west of Woodworth Lake, Fulton County, NY

Rain started falling in the night, and Gretchen was the first to remember that out towels and swimming clothes were all draped over the rails and Adirondack chairs in the front of the cabin, all of it open to the sky. I got up a little later and used an umbrella to walk through the rain down to the lake, where I brought it the kayaks and canoe so they wouldn't fill with rain water. It was only when I got back to the cabin that I saw my poor MP3-playing bluetooth radio still out in the rain. But I rescued it and it will probably be fine.
I made a french press of coffee for my sister-in-law J, since our mutual love of coffee has been a real point of connection on multiple occasions in the past, particularly in India (where coffee wasn't always easy to find). Later Gretchen came out to make sure all the hungry teens were fed. She'd made scones, but there were other options of course. Then I wrote the day's Spelling Bee letters on a piece of cardboard and all six of us played the game together, getting to within six words of queen bee. (The panagram was "holiday.") After we got to the status of genius in the game, the interest in the room ebbed away from it. J, who recently accepted a fairly good job as an operations manager at a Jewish burial service in Pittsburgh, is also interested in methods for helping the autistic communicate (her sister has two kids, and both of them are profoundly autistic and cannot speak). To that end, she's been taking an online course on some sort of autistic facilitated communication of the sort I'd assumed was debunked and discarded decades ago. Gretchen is always enthusiastic and supportive of anything a friend tells her, and is far more inclined to believe that person than she is to believe me, especially when I am being a "let's see some double-blind studies" skeptic, and that dynamic was definitely playing out today. M, though, was much more on my side, saying that there needs to be tests to determine that it's not the facilitator who is providing the content of the "communications." Gretchen demanded to know how a facilitator could influence the words being produced by the facilitated as she helps him find letters to say what he wants to say on a letter board. "She guides the letter board to his finger on the letter she wants him to pick next," I said. I added that the facilitator doesn't necessarily know she is doing this; it can all be subconscious. I then mentioned the case of a talking horse from the 19th century who fooled even his facilitator into thinking he was communicating. M said that to validate facilitated communication, one would have to query the facilitated about things unknown to the facilitator and get the right answer. J said that his had been done in one case she knew of, where the facilitated seemed to know an answer ("Brown [University]" that was unkown to the facilitator. But that seemed to me to be insufficient data, perhaps preferentially selected from a pile of decidedly incorrect answers. J also said that some people with autism had graduated from facilited use of letter boards to independent use of keyboards. If that is actually true, that would seem to be vindication of facilitated communication, at least in the cases where this had actually happened. I can see why J is deeply invested in facilitated communication working, since otherwise her sister's only children are locked up forever in their bodies, unable to speak about their inner-life (assuming there's enough inner-life for them to communicate about). But for me, it seems like the sort of thing a desperate parent would cling to in hopes it really was valid. Despite my doubts, I said I'd be open to seeing facilitated communication (or whatever name it goes by these days) validated by appropriate testing.
It was predicted to rain all day, which was really throwing a spanner into the gears of how Gretchen had hoped the day would go. She'd wanted to spend it mostly at the dock, which is not a fun place to be in the rain. But then the rain stopped and thick fog blew in. So Gretchen wanted to go for a walk. I said I'd come to, and so too did our nephew M. The dogs also wanted to come, so off we went into the fog, noting the red efts we saw along the way (since M had never seen one before). We walked east on Woodworth Lake Road past most of the scout buildings as far as Pyotr's new cabin site, which he appears to be building at the top of a low knoll just east of the lake. He'd cleared the trees and then apparently blasted away the granite bedrock, leaving the hill topped with jagged pile of rock. If there's a nascent cabin up there somewhere, it wasn't visible from Woodworth Lake Road.
The dogs eventually caught up with us there near Pyotr's cabin site, at which point we decided it best to turn around and return to the cabin. As we were walking back, some sort of large tractor came slowly rumbling in from the west. Our dogs were way behind us at that point and hard to see in the thick fog, so Gretchen flagged down the operator and told him to be on the lookout for dogs. Evidently he didn't run over them, because they both made it back to the cabin okay.
Later, while all the teenagers slept and Gretchen got some time alone to read, I undertook a small electrical wiring project. Last night out in the screened-in porch, I'd noticed that the lighting from the only light out there (which was mounted on the outside wall of the cabin) wasn't ideal. Wouldn't it be better, I wondered, if there was a light directly over the table? Today I found that there was actually a slot at the top of the wall above the wall-mounted light fixure giving me access to the electrical box it was attached to from above. I took everything apart and found an example of electrician malpractice: whoever had installed the metal electrical box for the outside light fixture had run a romex cable into it without any strain relief at all. This is a serious no-no, as an unsupported romex cable can rub against the sharp edges of the entrance hole into a metal electrical box and eventually short out. I'm told this rubbing can happen just from normal building vibration. That was easily fixed, and then I ran a new wire up out of that box and between the joists overhead to a spot over the table and hung a signle crude light fixture from end of the wire. I'll put a better light fixture there later, but for now it's already an improvement.

Then Gretchen and I went on a walk just by ourselves (not even the dogs came) down to the lake. We took a shortcut from the dock trail to the beaver dams at the lake's northwest, corner, where I showed Gretchen the new second beaver dam and the smallish swimming-pool-sized pond it has impounded. From there, we walked to the dock. The fog was then so thick that we couldn't see much farther out than the dock itself; had we not seen the lake before, we could've assumed it was Lake Ontario or the Arctic Ocean. Gretchen wanted to see what it was like to paddle out into the lake to a point where the fog concealed all the shorelines and it would feel like we were adrift in a possibly-infinite ocean. So we did exactly that in the canoe, ending up on a patch rippling water under a uniform concrete-colored dome of fog. I have to say, this felt decidedly unnerving (in a way I could vaguely feel in my stomach), especially after we'd been there a few minutes and the currents and wind (which was surprisingly strong given the foggy conditions) had possibly reoriented the boat in such a way that we no longer knew which direction was the correct one back to our dock. In time, though, we could once more see our dock emerging from the fog, indicating winds were blowing from the east back in that direction. We paddled out several times to re-experience this. And then we paddled over to the rocky islands. When they emerged from the fog, I initially thought they were a distant shoreline only appearing to resemble a very island. But no, it was a small island only looking big because it was so vague in the thickened atmosphere.
Back at the cabin, Gretchen cooked a delicious lasgna, which she put out with all the various leftovers so we and the guests could "graze." After dinner, J decided to do her part and wash some dishes, and as she did so I worried about all the hot water she was letting go unused down the drain. The day had been too cloudy to collect much solar energy, and something (I think it was all the charging devices brought by our guests) was causing our cabin to use considerably more electricity than normal. Usually cabin background load routinely falls to 32 watts (this is in addition to whatever the inverter needs), but today it never fell below 200 watts. Another thing thing that was going on was the constant accessing of food from the refrigerator (something teenagers can be counted on to do), which kept the refrigerator compressor working almost constantly. In any case, the cabin ran out of power just after Gretchen had managed to shame S into washing perhaps the first dish she'd ever washed in her life. Out of desire to not make things too comfortable for our guests, whose routine taking for granted of comfort was one of the things that was annoying me about them, I didn't immediately run the generator. Instead Gretchen reminded everyone that soon the toilets would no longer flush, so if anyone was just pissing, they should let it mellow. Later though, while J and Gretchen were talking while hushed voices about the state of J's divorce with Gretchen's brother, I turned on the generator so I could sit with my Windows 10 laptop out on in the screened-in porch listening to the Editors and basking in the light of the bulb I'd installed earlier. If it weren't for the generator noise out there, it would've been quite pleasant.
Later the lovebirds emerged from the lovenest to drape themselves over one another while talking to Gretchen about a variety of sophomoric topics such as whether having kids makes sense in a world undergoing climate catastrophe. S thought having kids in this world is bad idea, whereas Z has more hope and even made the tired, cliché argument that "someone" has to produce the kids that will "fix" all the world's problems. (One of the most annoying things about teenagers is that they have no sense of what is and what is not a cliché — perhaps this accounts for all the songs by young musicians that rhyme "fire" with "desire".) I don't have any examples I feel free to share, but teens are even better demonstrations than Donald Trump of what life on the left side of the Dunning-Kruger curve is like.
By this point I was nearing the end of my second glass of booze, so I swallowed the last of that and headed off to be bed.

The dock early this morning in the rain. Click to enlarge.

Ramona and Neville ready to go walk in the fog today. Click to enlarge.

My nephew M looking up at the rocky top of the knoll where Pyotr's cabin will be. Click to enlarge.

From left: M, Ramona, and Gretchen near Pyotr's building site above Woodworth Lake Road. Click to enlarge.

Neville in the fog. Click to enlarge.

Gretchen on the fog-shrouded dock this afternoon. Click to enlarge.

Gretchen (with me in the canoe) completely surrounded by fog out in the middle of the lake with no sense of where the shore is or what direction is what. Click to enlarge.

The dock emerging from the fog while we're out on the lake. Click to enlarge.

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