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:
   local man comes a'court'n'
Sunday, July 26 1998

ne of these days, perhaps today, I had a dream that I was walking around in a high school, or was it an elementary school? In any case, it was perhaps the first time I have ever dreamed of being in school in a capacity other than student. (I often have dreams that, for various reasons, I'm a 30 year old back in high school to complete some unfinished academic requirement.) I was there to give a guest lecture or to check on the progress of a child (my child?), but I was true-to-character all the same, smuggling in a couple 24 ounce bottles of beer to drink while there. My beer stash was soon discovered, a crisis ensued and I was forced to flee.


  spent much of the day installing desert-island type software on the Packard Bell Statesman laptop contributed by one of my readers. It's the same laptop upon which I installed Windows 95 one especially geeky evening not long ago. For the past few days I've had it running Adobe Photoshop 4.0 and Homesite 3.01 (of course, I bought fresh new shrink-wrapped copies of these software packages so as not to violate the terms of their licenses). The laptop is kind of sluggish running Photoshop (as you would expect with 12 megabytes of memory and a 50 MHz 486), but it runs Homesite like a champ. Homesite (or, on a Macintosh, BBEdit) is where I spend most of my creative time, so I'm rather pleased. Today I went on to install Microsoft Word 7.0 by copying files off my main machine (since the fresh new shrink-wrapped CD is useless on my non-CD-equipped laptop). Every time I'd try to run or access a feature of the newly-installed Word, it would cry out for a new .dll file, which I would dutifully track down and install. In the end I got it working nicely, except for a problem with file exports [which I later solved by putting Word in the folder hierarchy it expects and not the one I thought more appropriate]. There's also a problem with the laptop locking up every time it reads much from the floppy drive; I have no idea what that's about.


eanwhile, out in the real world, there was a little amusing drama involving one of the neighbors. At this point I feel it's appropriate to launch into a long, rambling bit of background.

    When my family first moved from suburban Maryland to the rural countryside south of Staunton back in the mid-70s, we were in for some major culture shock. I was a suburbs-wise kid of eight, and left behind me a complex social network in favour of forests, fields, stream and swamp. The only kids my age nearby were the children of the Smith family, who lived in a big, dilapidated house a quarter mile away. The Smiths, I was soon to learn, were the archetypes of white trashdom. Mother Smith was an enormous fat woman who lay around eating bon-bons, giving herself enemas and watching teevee. Her husband, Henry, was a scrawny little former mechanic collecting disability. Between them they had six kids ranging in age from 6 (Larry) to 19 (Roxanne). I was friends with Robert, who was about my age. We used to get together and hang out for hours just taking our bikes apart and putting them back together. Robert called a crescent wrench a "Jezbol Wrench" and it took me at least a year to figure out he was actually saying "adjustable wrench." When one of the kids would misbehave, Mother Smith would send one of the other kids out to get a switch to be used to inflict corporal punishment. I'll never forget when the Smiths installed their own septic system (to supplant the outhouse). Raw sewage bubbled up out of the ground and ran in trenches on either side of the driveway, a big smooth black confection consisting of soil mixed with used motor oil. That smell, I remember it well.

    I had a somewhat tempestuous relationship with the Smiths. Robert and I often got involved in fights. These were usually, it seemed, designed to prove to one of his visiting relatives what a tough guy he was. I gradually came to realize the Smiths had nothing to offer me, and I eventually quit visiting them. Then one day one of the older, clearly depraved, Smith boys sexually assaulted my brother. That was pretty much the end. During my family's subsequent dispute with a different neighbor, one of the Smith boys decided to wage his own war of sabotage against us, slashing brake cables and tires under the cover of night. We were very relieved when the Smiths finally moved away.

    The people replacing the Smiths were a couple belonging, as you might expect, to the same basic demographic group. He was an odd little man named Mr. Fisher and his wife was a seldom-seen woman he apparently met at Western State Mental Institution. My brother Don is rather familiar with Mr. Fisher, being the only member of our family who drops in on various neighbors just to say hello. From what I've heard, Mr. Fisher has a tendency to act in socially unacceptable ways and has difficulty keeping friends.

Today I heard a honking of a car horn in our yard. I didn't go out to investigate, but I heard later what had then taken place. Mr. Fisher had driven up in his new pickup truck and, in typical redneck fashion, had simply stopped and honked his horn. My mother, Hoagie, went out to investigate and was warmly received. Mr. Fisher had brought her gifts: peaches (picked from a tree on his property, the old Smith place) and apples. The apples all had little stickers on them and had obviously been bought from the store ("with food stamps, no doubt," said Hoagie). She declined the peaches, since we have plenty, but she took the apples. Mr. Fisher told her she was a "mighty fine looking woman," and recalled how good she'd looked at a recent estate auction they'd both attended. Hoagie usually looks a bit disheveled around the house, though she dresses up a bit before going out. Mr. Fisher was evidently a little disappointed that Hoagie was looking like such a slob, but there can be no doubt why he'd stopped by. He'd come a'court'n'. It gave us all a good laugh after Mr. Fisher left and we could take some time to discuss the incident. Had, for example, Mr. Fisher intended to duel my father for the hand of my mother? We decided the poor old man must be deranged. But this is not to say my mother doesn't look good for her age.


n the evening, I was working on the dam again, piling stones ever higher. The water is so high now that it's starting to provoke responses from my Dad's conservative temperament. He doesn't react well to change of any but the most gradual sort, and the sudden presence of a Niagara out in front suddenly distressed him enough to shout down to me saying not to build the dam any higher. He claimed to be concerned for the little creatures who depend on riffles and rapids, many of which I have deluged with still water. But I can't help myself. Dam building is to me like fire starting is to a pyromaniac. I get an inexplicable joy just from sitting on the bank and watching the water go over the rocks and listening to the resulting roar.

one year ago

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