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:
   cloudy sunset over Lisbon
Thursday, November 16 2023

location: room 2016, Hotel Avenida Palace

When she awoke today, Gretchen checked her watch and was horrified to discover that it was noon local time. Her horror at having slept completely through the hotel breakfast was enough to startle me awake as well. We'd both taken diphenhydramine last night (150 mg for me, 50 mg for her), but of course none of this would've happened were it not for jetlag (or whatever the human response to a massive change of timezone is called).
As we were getting ready to start our day (which for me involved using the Nescafé-branded coffee robot), I was watching the activity down around the entrance to the Metro just south of Praça dos Restauradores. There were a lot of people down there doing a lot of different things, and I could see (if not mentally follow) all of it. Suddenly I heard a shriek and then saw a woman trying to retain something in her hands while a youngish man tried to pull it away. Their tussle caused both of them to fall to the ground. I called Gretchen over to look, and we saw the man disappear into the Metro station. Gretchen shouted "hey!" out the window, but of course that had no affect. Neither of us had ever seen a purse snatching before. Not long afterward, I saw a tour guide and the woamn explaining what had happened to a policeman.

The plan today was to hike up to a nearby hilltop castle (Castelo de São Jorge) and see what it was all about. We'd seen it in the distance and noted how primitive it looked, featuring rectangular towers and regular crenelations, like something an eight year old might draw. On the way there, we stopped for lunch at a vegetarian restaurant called Manjerica. One of the hazards of vegetarian restaurants is receiving non-vegan food, something that Gretchen hadn't considered when she tasted the cream cheese and was amazed by how good it was. Alas, it turned to be cream cheese made from actual cow's milk. Meanwhile I was munching my way through a wrap that contained a lot of fresh spinach and a dissapointing amount of mushrooms.
From there, we gradually climbed the hill up to the castle, though the narrow streets tended to follow contours and went upwards in random locations (for some reason Gretchen thought it best to find our way organically, without the use of navigation. Eventually we made it to the castle's entrance, where we paid the fifteen euros each to get in.
After walking around atop the walls and in the turrets, exploring pretty much the whole castle, we found ourselves wondering what exactly it was there to defend, as there was essentially nothing inside the castle except courtyards. Where would a king or duke reside? There were only a few places that even had roofs. Perhaps the castle had once contained wooden structures for people to live in or retreat to. Reading the various placards, it was clear that there was a lot of history to this castle and that most of what we were seeing date to the early gothic period (about 1200). So it was likely that what we were seeing was a ruin that had once contained much more habitable structures.
There were a fair number of peacocks strolling about the castle grounds, and some of these had patches of white feathers in place of the usual colorful ones. We wondered where all the peahens were until we found them all in one corner, hanging out near a structure provided to house feral cats (it was one of the few things whose signage was written only in Portuguese).
After briefly considering getting a drink at a nice overlook on the castle grounds, we decided to instead walk to a famed overlook spot on a hill north of the castle and maybe get a drink there. On the way there we bought some roasted chestnuts, which is a common street snack in Lisbon. The walk to the overlook walk proved to be a long and indirect one that took us up several steep grades, and by the time we got there, Gretchen was saying she was feeling rather worn out. So we sat there looking out to where the sun would've been had it not been essentially overcast. Meanwhile a succession of people (mostly young women and Asian tourists) snapped selfies or hyper-posed photos of one another with the cloudy near-sunset in the background. Such people never spent even a single moment looking actually looking at where they were; all they did was primp, pose, and photograph. One of the Asian women even had one of those phones you can fold in half, which I'd never seen in the wild and which Gretchen didn't even know existed. Watching all this meta-experiencing gave us another occasion to tut-tut about how young people today can no longer just be in a place but must instead spend all their time either posing or filming. Meanwhile a woman nearby was selling canarios, whistles that contained water and made canary-like melodies when blown (and she was blowing them constantly). The scene was so icky that we decided not to get drinks there either.
Somewhere between where we were and the castle to the south was a verdant slope below a church that looked like another possible place to see the sunset (if, that is, there had been one). So we walked over there and soon found ourselves in a semi-abandoned park called Praça do Comércio. Nearly every structure there (including a vending concession selling food) was covered with graffiti, and there was a large grassy area that hadn't been mowed in weeks. This was being used by a few people as a de facto dog park, and as we walked through an arriving dog was barking with great excitement to announce his arrival. We didn't end up staying in this park but instead exited it into a dense hillside neighborhood that appeared to be populated mostly by brown people from the Middle East. Much of the graffiti we saw there was pro-Palestinian, with some of it mentioning all the children being killed by the Isræli Defence Force as it invades Gaza.

For dinner, we walked past many restaurants where employees would sometimes pursue us in an effort to get us to dine with them. (Is a hard sale an effective strategy when it comes to food or does it just depend on finding people who want to be nice?) Our goal was instead a vegan buffet called Jardim das Cerejas, but when we got to where it was supposed to be, all we found was darkened windows and no mention of the place. So instead we went to another vegan restaurant called Green Affair. It had a weirdly impersonal ordering system, with the staff insisting that we scan a QR code and place our order that way, perhaps a legacy of the covid epidemic. I ordered the seitan barbecue, which came with fries and cole slaw, and it was okay (if not great). Over dinner, we talked at some length about how Gretchen's views about Isræl had changed over time. She'd grown up believing Isræl could do no wrong and never considered claims made by Palestinians legitimate. (I remember quickly abandoning a conversation about Isræl with Gretchen thirty some years ago back in college, when it was clear that her thinking on the matter was not rational.) Since then (and, really, since our marriage), her view has changed, and she is now fully aware that the government of Isræl (or any entity with power) can be brutal and unjust, especially to marginalized groups (as Palestinians are in Isræl). I asked her if she thought her parents' views about Isræl had changed as well, and she was pretty sure it had. We then tried to discuss the matter of the settlements on the West Bank and quickly realized we didn't know enough about them to consider them intelligently. For example, how do "settlers" obtain their land? Do Palestinians sell it to them? Later, back at the hotel, I read up on the subject and learned that the Isræli military had siezed the land from Palestinians, driving them from it much the way the white man took land from the Native Americans. Later it was provided (it wasn't clear whether or not it was sold or given) to the settlers. Clearly, then, the "settlement" of the West Bank is a morally unambiguous atrocity.
Our hotel had left us a note saying we could help ourselves to a complimentary small bottle of wine from the minibar, and since Gretchen isn't much of a wine drinker, I ended up drinking most of it. I also took advantage of the fact that our room came with a fairly nice bathtub.

Police responding to the purse snatching this morning. The tour guide is wearing red and the victim is one of the other ladies. Click to enlarge.

A beggar obliviously begging near the site of the purse snatching. Click to enlarge.

A photo on a wall on the way to the castle. Click to enlarge.

A cork tree on the castle grounds. Click to enlarge.

Peacocks on the castle grounds. Click to enlarge.

Gretchen atop the castle wall. Click to enlarge.

A cat with a peahen. Click to enlarge.

The structure to house feral cats at the castle. Click to enlarge.

The de facto dog park at Praça do Comércio. Click to enlarge.

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