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:
   off to Lisbon
Tuesday, November 14 2023

location: rural Hurley Township, Ulster County, NY

Late this morning I drove over to the Brewster Street rental to fix a few little things and collect the four rat traps that have now gone untriggered for weeks in the basement. The door between the kitchen and the basement stairs, which had been so essential for keeping rats in the basement from entering the rest of the house, and become difficult to close, and I soon discovered that the screws securing the hinges to the door jam couldn't find any solid wood. I used super long screws and even they failed. So I found some 12 gauge copper wire and stuffed some of that in the holes, and the screws happily found purchase in that. This was all it took to get the door to close without running into the jam. The other issue was a problem with the bathroom door upstairs, which was providing too much resistance to being closed. So I used a chisel to shave off paint and a little wood from inside the door jam. While I was at Brewster Street, I noticed that the tenant had put poisonous rat traps under the front porch, which seemed like a profoundly stupid way to catch rats. It would catch rats in the neighborhood, I suppose, but not specifically the ones that might be causing trouble in their basement (rats that no longer seem to exist). But the tenants are young and ignorant; some months back they called us to complain about a power outlet that wasn't working and it turned out to be a tripped GFCI outlet, so I don't really expect them to perform competently in anything they take the initiative to do.

Gretchen and I would be leaving on a trip to Portugal tonight, so there were some things I wanted to do before we left. This included firing up the oil-fueled boiler so our house-sitter Fern wouldn't have to struggle to keep the house warm, doing a load of laundry so our bed would be provided for Fern in a crust-free state. I also cleaned out the gutter draining the southwest quadrant of the roof. It had filled completely with composted pine needles, which I used to camouflage a barren spot in our yard where our covid-era fire pit (and tarp-covered fire pit woodpile) had been.
Gretchen got back from her prison creative writing class at about 4:30pm and we eventually had a meal of leftover chili, though my gut was still reeling from some old kratom tea I'd drunk. (Usually I can drink day-old kratom tea, but in this case it was two-day-old, and the house hadn't been cool enough to keep it from going off.)
Fern arrived a little after 7:00pm to begin her house sitting duties by driving us down to the Newark airport. As we had for our trip to Costa Rica, we also brought the dogs, though of course Ramona had been replaced with Charlotte. I ended up doing the driving while Gretchen and Fern did most of the talking, with Gretchen giving us some interesting details about the poetry instruction she has been giving to a famous AI. At this point in the training, Gretchen is writing the prompts, and she's been given free reign to prompt the AI any way she wants. So she's been giving very specific instructions, trying to force the AI to write unrhymed couplets (which it, for some reason, absolutely cannot do) or in nonsense words. The hope is to bring out true weirdness, but, evidently because the training data has been so "unweird," the AI has great difficulty satisfying the prompts. This reminded me a lot of the instructions Gretchen gives to her prisoner students, and in many ways the two jobs are similar.
At some point Fern told us about her experiences in Portugal. She'd sailed with a friend on the open ocean to Porto and then, perhaps after making the most Australian decision ever, decided she wanted to walk on the beach barefoot all the way from Porto to Lisbon. Portugal is a small country, and she made it much of the way before some man she encountered told her that what she was doing was very dangerous, as Moroccan smugglers were known to stash caches of hashish on the Portuguese beaches for their Portuguese contacts to pick up, and they are known to be jumpy about random people stumbling upon their operations.
After we got off the Thruway and were heading down Route 17 in reliably-garish Paramus, New Jersey, Charlotte started panting and acting uncomfortable. So I pulled into a gas station and we took the dogs for a walk down a weedy berm. Charlotte immediately squatted and relieved herself of some loose fecal matter. After that, she seemed a lot happier for the rest of the ride to the airport.
As Gretchen and I went through security, my bag got flagged for closer inspection. When Gretchen asked what the problem could be, I said it was probably my little 100 mL bottles of gin. She gave me that exasperated look she always gives me when she's feeling dismayed by my dependence on substances. "But I do this all the time, and it's usually fine!" I said. And it was in this case as well. We'd just happened to go through security during a lull, when they had the time to do a close inspection of almost everything. When the inspector found my little bottles, she said "Oh, they're 100 mL." She then asked what was in them and I said, matter-of-factly, "gin." She had no problem with that.
After about an hour waiting within site of our gate (but at another, less populated, gate), we saw people lining up to get on our plane. It turned out the microphone for our gate wasn't working, so we hadn't heard any of the boarding announcements. Fortunately, our plane was only about 20% full, reminding me of flights from back before computers figured out how to reliably stuff planes full of people every single flight. So we had our three seats all to ourselves. I immediately started watching a stupid movie called Eight Bit Christmas hoping it would provide a little nostalgia. But the "eight bit" here referred to an era of video games, a subject I do not find particularly interesting. So then I watched a fair amount of a Tom Cruise vehicle called Edge of Tomorrow, yet another movie where time itself is malleable in a way that makes reality more like a video game (and death of no consequence). It was actually better than expected, although I could've done with fewer of the relentless Marvel-Universe-style special effects.
We were flying on the Portuguese national airline TAP, and Gretchen had ordered us both vegan meals. Unfortunately, there was some screw up and only one vegan meal had been loaded onto the plane. Our flight attendant did the best he could given the circumstances, finding us an extra salad and a roll of bread. But the main course, such as it was, clashed with Gretchen's food dislikes enough that it was really only suitable for me anyway.
Somewhere early in the flight, we both took ambien and, before long, were completely zonked out.

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