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:
   teevee system
Monday, July 27 1998

he weather was cooler and cloudier today, so much so that I barely went in the stream at all.

My mother, Hoagie, had a number of errands she needed me to help her run in Staunton today. These were to address the following problems: a flat tire on her Subaru, lousy reception on the teevee, and a broken grill on the 1983 Chevy pickup she recently purchased (a bird had built a nest in the engine compartment and a malicious dog had tried to get at her).

Some pleasant tire engineer at Hershey Tire easily plugged the hole in the tire, charging only $8.50, though we had a rather long wait as he did so. Nothing much on interest happens in that part of Staunton, a vaguely-industrial flat region immediately north of downtown and west of Mary Baldwin College.

Next stop was a junkyard on the east side of town, Staunton Wrecking. I'd gone there once before on a successful errand to get a side marker light for the Dodge Dart. We arrived right in the middle of an argument between two of the junkyard's desk employees, but they smoothed things out fairly rapidly once we were on the scene, and of course we followed the correct protocol and acted like we hadn't seen a thing. When you think of junkyards, you tend to picture unscrupulous establishments full of snarling dogs and illegally-obtained parts. That might better describe Tate's near Charlottesville than it does Staunton Wrecking, which is a member of the Better Business Bureau and (amazingly enough) accepts personal checks. Staunton Wrecking is different in other ways than Tate's as well. It's not self-service; you have to wait at the front desk while some grease-covered junk monkey goes to harvest the part you want if, that is, the computer database says it's out there on the acreage somewhere.

There was lots of waiting at the junkyard; I found myself staring out the window further towards the east, where I-81 joins up with I-64. The most remarkable thing on the horizon out there is an extremely tall Exxon sign. I wondered if it ever got hit by lightning. I also wondered why such unsightly structures are legal.

A deaf mother and her two children came in to get some parts, and this gave my mother an opportunity to show off by handsigning to the older of the woman's evidently bilingual kids. She made fast friends with the kids, and they made a big deal out of saying bye bye as we left.


inally we found ourselves in the Walmart, the one that's been going from site to site around Betsy Bell with Lowe's Hardware in a tag-team effort to chew the forested hill into a man-made mesa, evidently with the City of Staunton's unreserved approval. There we got an expensive new television antenna rated at 120 miles, an antenna amplifier, some coax hardware, a 12 pack of Bud Ice, various jars of vitamins, and a pair of speakers for my computer. The last item was sort of an impulse-buy, but I'm sick of using headphones whenever I want to rock out in the bunk of the Shaque.

Betsy Bell Destruction
Earth-moving operations adjacent to Walmart at the base of Betsy Bell, Staunton's principle natural landform. I have no idea what is being built on this site, but I'm left to wonder what's wrong with developing land in run-down parts of existing developed areas? Why this assault on topography & nature?

Staunton's Walmart
Ah, the beauty of Walmart and its massive parking lot. The hill in the background left is Mary Grey and Betsy Bell is in the background right.


ack home, I fixed up Hoagie's Subaru and, after eating some fish my Dad had cooked for a belated lunch, I immediately launched into installing the new television reception hardware.

    It's important to understand how television works at my childhood home and the history of how it came to be. For most of my childhood, you see, there was no teevee. In 1983, when I was 15 years old, I had a VIC-20 computer for which I needed a monitor. So I went out and bought myself a black and white television. Soon thereafter, my parents discovered the joys of watching public television, which was the only channel the thing could receive without an outdoor antenna. In 1984, I built an elaborate makeshift antenna using extension cords strung end to end so that my mother could receive the local ABC affiliate and thus catch the Summer Olympics that year (while I was off with my Dad gallivanting north of Ottawa in Canada). But that system didn't last long.

    While I was building the Shaque in 1990 and 1991, I discovered a weak radio station from Harrisonburg playing refreshingly radio-unfriendly music (Syd Barrett). The station rapidly became my station of choice, but I needed a better antenna in order to hear it without lots of interference and static. So I bought a large outdoor FM radio antenna from Radio Shack. It also picked up the ABC television station. Soon I'd constructed an elaborate amplified cable system to the main house so that my parents and brother could benefit from my excellent television and radio system. It was rather like a local cable teeveee network. I could even broadcast programming to the house from my VCR!

    Eventually I replaced the antenna with a larger one designed for general television reception, moving it from a tree beside the Shaque to a metal pole somewhat higher on the hill. This system worked well, though it gradually deteriorated over the years, especially during the two years I was living in Charlottesville.

The first thing I did today was install the signal amplifier in the garage, very near the antenna itself. This had no effect on reception, so I knew there must be a break somewhere in the cable. I soon discovered the problem was in a connection where the cable passed beneath my bunk window. I found that the center wire of one of the connectors had completely rotted away. One of my nasty habits is pissing in a cup and dumping it out the window. No doubt I have dumped my urine on that connection many dozens of time and that's probably where the problem came from. Once I'd replaced the connectors, television reception throughout the system was suddenly crystal clear.

My mother and I debated about whether or not to just take the antenna back to Walmart, but we decided the hassle wasn't worth it. So I installed the new antenna in place of the old one. Interestingly, the various plastic components on the old antenna, having baked for years in the hot UV radiation of the Sun, had become brittle and trying to fold up the old antenna to the form it had been in when I purchased it proved to be a rather destructive process.


  put the new speakers on my computer and tried them out with some lowfi Robert Pollard solo stuff. It was a bad choice; it made my speakers sound defective. They sounded much better when I later tried playing Dinosaur Jr. and Pantera.

With the new antenna system and speakers on my computer, I could (to some extent) relive the good old days of watching teevee on my computer. There's only about five stations to watch, and nothing really compares to the History Channel, but I did it anyway, watching a made-for-teevee movie about an abusive boyfriend who ends up killing his girlfriend.

one year ago

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