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:
   back from the cabin to purple pie
Sunday, May 5 2024

location: 940 feet west of Woodworth Lake, Fulton County, NY

I got up before everyone else this morning and made a fire and a french press full of coffee. Outside temperatures were in the low 40s and a cold rain was falling, suggesting there wouldn't be much in the way of outdoor activities today. Kelly was the next person to get up, saying she'd had a very restful night in the enormous and soft-but-supportive bed in the upstairs bedroom.
Later, after everyone was up and grazing on sourdough toast and various fancy bits from the Little Loaf Bakery, I went down into the basement to see if I'd caught a mouse in one of the humane mousetraps. Last night I'd been down there and seen a very fat deer mouse had managed to get into the basement in the few hours I'd left the Bilco doors open. The mouse had just stopped and looked at me and then I'd gone around setting traps. She looked like a pregnant female, and I didn't want a repeat of what happened last summer, when mice seemed to move into the basement and have babies. Fortunately, when I went looking for a trapped mouse, I found that same fat female in a large multi-mouse trap that had never caught a mouse before. She was in there chowing down on seeds and nuts, not seeming to care yet that she couldn't escape. I took her upstairs and asked Gretchen if she wanted to see something cute and then I released her under the screened-in porch (that is, outside but out of the rain), where she hopped out and slowly waddled away.
Kelly was already familiar with the New York Times Spelling Bee, but had to wean herself from it after it became an all-consuming addiction. She was game to play it collaboratively with us when Gretchen explained how we do it, though it had been so long since she'd last played it that she'd forgotten the rules. The panagram today was "maypole," which Gretchen figured out first, followed by Brian. And then Kelly and I got it in the same instant (after first getting some clues from the others).

When the rain tapered off to a drizzle, Gretchen and I decided to take the dogs for a walk. We'd already figured out that Kelly and Brian are happiest indoors, so we left them behind. I took Gretchen down to the nascent Lake Edward Trail all the way to where it now ends, about 1200 feet shy of Lake Edward. Along the way I pointed out the various landmarks, such as the log across the semi-permanent brook and the big split rock. There were also a number of cairns that Gretchen found lovely, especially nearer to our cabin. After we'd gone to the current end of the trail and back nearly to the split rock, I led Gretchen and Neville (Charlotte had disappeared by then) off-trail in search of the high cliffs, which I knew to be only about 300 feet to the south-southeast. But I went a little too far west and missed them, ending up in completely unfamiliar terrain featuring a low, steep ridge topped with massive boulders. I climbed up to the top of these and followed them northeastward, eventually arriving at the southwest end of the high cliffs. When they came into view for Gretchen, she remembered having visited them before, back on that stormy summer day two and a half years ago. I hadn't noticed the midden deltas of mysterious mammal droppings fanning out from the cracks and small caves that time, so I was sure to point them out to Gretchen. We couldn't decide what sort of mammal had made the droppings, though they look like they were something in the mammalian continuum between a rabbit and a deer. As we scrambled up steep rocky slopes, sometimes ducking to get beneath low-hanging branches, Gretchen and I were chatting about how completely alien this sort of hiking would be to our guests. In fact, we could think of almost nobody who would be comfortable hiking (while feeling safe from extremely uncommon humans and wild animals) in such an environment. We have super-fit, super-healthy friends, but they only get their exercise in highly-controlled scenarios such as power-walking on city streets or using gym equipment. It's remarkable, I thought, that we have such similar comfort in wild nature, especially since we didn't really know that about each other when we first got together.
After climbing up to the top of the cliffs, I showed Gretchen the woodland pond and the old hunters' blind. And then I led us on a bit of improvisational trail back to where the log crosses the semi-permanent brook. As we climbed up the steep grade west of the cabin, we found Charlotte waiting for us at the top. Kelly said Charlotte had been back there three times while we were out and she'd begun to get worried about us; she hadn't been sure how to read Charlotte's behavior.

Kelly and Brian wanted to show us another card game, but I'd had enough of cards for the next year or more, so I went off to do other things while Gretchen played cards with our guests. I spent a fair amount of time up in the loft debugging timing issues with the local remote, which, due to the slower internet at the cabin, was never successfully getting an update of the four most interesting values from the SolArk inverter. I eventually fixed that problem and then went down to the basement to log serial data from the inverter directly. I was using the serial connectivity function of Putty, the most famous open-source terminal program for windows. But it was driving me crazy because every time I wanted to begin logging data, I had to alter all the non-default values again, since it didn't want to save them. (I was so frustrated with it that it didn't occur to me that you have to create a new named saved setting for it).
While the others continued to play cards, I did all the usual end-of-stay cabin cleaning, which was considerably more work due to all the human meals that had been eaten. (When I stay for two days by myself, I might eat a total of six human meals. But four people staying overnight can easily eat 12 human meals.) One other issue that comes up a lot when we have guests at the cabin is that their assumptions about how a building should function remain the same even in a limited-resource off-grid cabin. Often guests just leave lights on and take long showers just like they would at home, blissfully unmindful that the energy they are using must all come from somewhere. This weekend's guests were better about the lights, though when Brian used up all the hot water by taking a leisurely shower this morning, it made it so the hot water inevitably ran out while Kelly was doing dishes. When that happens for us, we just keep washing dishes, since we know that hot water is one of the cabin's energy-limited finite resources. But Kelly, who has apparently never had to deal with resource limitations, didn't know how to proceed and so stopped washing the dishes (either because her hands were cold or because she'd somehow internalized the idea that dishes washed in cold water cannot be cleaned).

We crammed into the Chevy Bolt a little after 5:00pm and began our long drive home in the fog and rain. Coming down the Adirondack escarpment, we got below the fog and temperatures rose into the 50s, where they stayed for the rest of our drive home. With all the extra weight in our car, we'd burned about twenty extra miles of range on the drive up when I was driving. For some reason, though, we managed to burn through even more extra range on the drive home such that the 120 miles of it we started with were barely enough. We limped into our driveway on "reduced propulsion" with only about eight miles of range left. I don't know if this was a consequence of Gretchen's different style of driving or if there was something else going on. She had been driving fairly slowly, especially when it became clear we were burning through range too quickly. And when the dashboard had told us one of the tires was a little low, she'd stopped in Schoharie to put air in it. But another characteristic I've noticed of Gretchen's driving is her rather herky-jerky reaction to lane maintenance. It's possible that significant energy is wasted by non-fluid steering correction, since it forces the tires to flex and slip more on the road surface, and this might've been compounded by the unusually heavy (700 pound) mammalian payload.
The original plan had been to drive directly to La Florentina for dinner, but range anxiety had caused us to drive home instead. When we went out to La Florentina, I drove us there in the Forester, which I had to tidy up a bit (since it's not common for us to carry non-canine passengers in its backseats). It was just after 8:00pm when we got to La Florentina, and we were the only customers in the restaurant. Gretchen placed the order, and, because they'd fixed their liquor license, Brian and I could share a half-carafe of Montepulciano red wine. In reaction to Gretchen's proposal that we go to La Florentina for red cabbage sformato, Kelly had told us a story about a particularly dismal vegan river boat cruise where the cooks kept trying to foist red cabbage on the guests, sometimes in the form of quartered heads. This seemed to indicate that she wasn't really looking forward to purple pie. But once it came out, she agreed that it really was a special meal, the kind that would be impossible to obtain anywhere else. I mentioned that back on the first time we went to La Florentina when Gretchen had proposed ordering a pie filled with red cabbage, my expectations had been low. But the proof is in the flavor, and it is an amazing thing to eat.
At some point in our dinner conversation, it came up that I liked to troll people online, particularly on Facebook using "sock puppets" (fake identities). I haven't done this recently, as Facebook has cracked down on troll personas, but back in the golden age of Facebook trolling (from about 2012 to 2019), I used to put a fair amount of effort into trolling. My biggest troll was "Suzy Fauber," and when I mentioned "her," Kelly wanted to know her origin story, including how she came to get that surname. This required me to go on a fairly long tangent about my hometown friend Josh Furr. I explained how he had befriended my brother and how he and I used to get together to drink, smoke pot, and play live "music" together (him on drums and me on guitar). To get to the Fauber part of the story, I had to say how Josh came into a substantial inheritance, managed to blow it all, and then find himself paying rent to sleep on a couch belonging to a family in Staunton known as the Faubers. The Fauber patriarch had somehow gone missing, leaving the rest of the family to hang out, playing pool on a pool table set up in the living room while police scanners constantly squawked in the background. Josh would whisper to me that he thought maybe the others in the family had killed the old man so they could live on his pension money, but Jush was notoriously paranoid, and I dismissed the idea as far-fetched. But then one morning an issue of the Staunton Leader arrived with a front-page photo of the Fauber house with a huge crane towering over it. The partriarch's body had just been found entombed in a concrete bench in the basement. As Josh had said, the rest of the family had killed him and been cashing his social security checks for months. I said that I imagined Suzy Fauber as belonging to this family, though I said her photo was a zoomed-in crop from a large group photo so as not to come up in a reverse image search. I then talked about Suzy's thousands of friends, most of them from the Mideast, and the kind of illiterate all-caps she would make. I also mentioned her many memes, which would typically feature her face leaning into the frame with a speech bubble saying things like "WHAT A VIOLATION OF MY FREEDOM OF RELIGION LOOKS LIKE" (for a nice gay couple with a baby) or providing hygiene advice (to, for example, wear underpants to prevent one's labia from flapping around "like a fruit bat"). This description led to much laughter, and Kelly wanted to know what my other trolls were like. The first one that came to mind was Shaquanderelle Jackson, an African American troll I'd mostly engineered to test how racist my former high school classmates really are. But just at the mention of his absurd name had Gretchen tut-tutting that I was "punching down" and that making fun of African American names is, well, kind of racist. That more or less brought an end to my enjoyment of the evening. Socializing is always a bit of a minefield for me, and I'd been compelled to socialize with our Scottish friends for days on end, largely unrelieved. And now I'd gone and stumbled into a landmine of racism. I drove us back home mostly in silence and then retreated to my laboratory to drink gin and orange juice by myself. Gretchen came by at some point to cheerfully invite me to another game of Asshole (the card game from last night) with our guests but I said absolutely no, I didn't want to play.

Painted trillium with Adirondack boulders along the nascent Lake Edward Trail today. Click to enlarge.

Neville the Dog and Gretchen at the base of the high cliffs about 1600 feet southwest of the cabin today. Click to enlarge.

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