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:
   dumpster scouting
Monday, August 10 1998

im has a massage workshop scheduled for these next three days. It's for a special form of massage called "Facelift Massage." Kim had cleverly concealed the name of the workshop up until yesterday, knowing my reaction would be, "Oh, I see, more massages for the rich and strung-out, eh?" Or, as she put it, "It's sounds way too Los Angeles."

I liked the idea of having scheduled periods of separation from Kim, since it's difficult for me to work on projects when she's here. Next thing you know, she's wordlessly changed into some slinky new dress I've never seen before and my desire to fuck the by-Jesus out of her is kindled anew. Up until today, the only way to get any work done was to go to Angell Hall at the University of Michigan, but that's a long hike when I don't have a bike. And the place closes down abruptly at 11:30pm.

But today as I was plinking away on one of my several web projects, suddenly Kim came home. Not only that, she wanted to go out to lunch with me. Her intensions were only for the best; I'd feel like a jerk to say no. How could she possibly understand my desire to work all afternoon uninterrupted? I'd run aground on a disappointing shoal in the middle of my vast lake of afternoon.

I tried to conceal my disappointment. It seemed impossible to explain without coming across as emotionally cold and ungrateful. But she could tell something was wrong.

She asked where I wanted to eat. This was, as I saw it, my opportunity for some input on fiscal matters. Living with a rich girl has its advantages, definitely, but it's got it's downside as well. Back when I lived in Charlottesville, when I was the richest of my friends, it was a small thing to subsidize the consumptive habits of my friends. They could appreciate cheap beer, cheap booze and cheap eats. A large mushroom pizza from Chanellos was considered a rare extravagance, and it was only $6.40. Now, though, with Kim, she only eats the expensive stuff: the fine all-natural organic politically-correct coffee, the hand-ground wholewheat bread, and Garden of Eatin' corn chips. When she buys beer, it's Bass Ale or some obscure microbrew. When we hit the town for the night, we're not content to hit one bar and pay one cover charge; we have to hit at least two and stay for only a little of each. I can't keep up. Even if I'm only paying 20% of what this is costing, I feel like I'm being unnecessarily bled. I'm used to $5 lasting me a week, not ten minutes. So when Kim asked where we should eat, I said, "some place cheap!" I further elaborated that the kind of place I liked was the Fleetwood. "Well, I'm not walking all the way to the Fleetwood!" said Kim, as if I was demanding to go there now. It irritated me to have to point out that this was just an example.

Kim had really had her heart set on sushi, but given my input, she decided to take me to a little Middle Eastern greasy spoon called Joe Joe's. I ordered a chicken gyro and she ordered something that turned out to be entirely too spicy. We ate mostly in silence, though she occasionally chatted with a nearby woman whom she knew (she seems to know absolutely everyone in town). Finally she said something to the effect that our relationship wasn't working out, that I just seemed to be annoyed by everything about her. For a moment it seemed like she was right, that we should just end it now and salvage what we could of our lives. But I knew better, of course. This was Kim's way of saying we needed to talk.

Eventually we went outside and discussed the matter further. It was hard for me and it took awhile to get talking, since I didn't know how to break it to her that I'd been disappointed that she'd come home to meet me for lunch. But I found a way somehow. I said that I get very focused on what I'm doing and I need time completely uninterrupted to do the kinds of things I do. I said it would have been even worse had she tried to get me away from work on a painting. For awhile Kim questioned whether I even wanted a girlfriend, whether I was willing to commit the necessary time. I said that I really liked the solitude of plinking away in my Shaque, but that I needed a solution for the loneliness too. I still don't know the answer. I've never yet found a happy balance between creative solitude and necessary social obligation. In a way it's just easier being alone, but the conflicts of socializing provide the actual substance of life. It's an elemental philosophical dichotomy.

We managed to patch everything up good enough for a several-hour separation, and I headed back on foot to her place on the north bank of the Huron.


  drank some vodkatea  and worked on various writing projects using Kim's laptop and AOL account. Yesterday, you see, I'd managed to get AOL working as an ISP so I could check my email and FTP to my website. I was pleasantly surprised to find I could run regular internet protocol software over an AOL connection, though the connection itself was extremely unreliable. Downloading a file as big as the Netscape 3.04 installer over AOL was an ordeal I never want to repeat. And then having to keep all that gaudy Las Vegas AOL crap running in the background, tying up system resources, just to use the IP connectivity ran counter to my minimalist æsthetic.

I did computer stuff until 4:00pm, at which time Matt Rogers came over for a scheduled date with the dumpsters.

Last Friday (when I blew Matt Roger's new motherboard on the same evening Lisa was to tear his heart from his chest at the Cavern Club), I resolved to reach a better understanding with local computer-oriented dumpsters. Whenever I experience a loss of any sort, I'm always motivated to undo that loss "several fold." Matt and I planned to drive around this afternoon and (at the very least) scope out the dumpster scene.


att is sort of a novice when it comes to dumpster diving. He expressed all kinds of misplaced fears about doing it in the daylight, repeatedly stating preposterous notions, including the possibility that businesses in Ann Arbor are "so anal" that they keep their dumpsters locked or perhaps hire security to guard them. But, as he was to realize later, if a company can't afford to hire 24 hour tech support, they sure as hell can't hire someone to guard their dumpster even in the daylight.

In order to lower our inhibitions (well, Matt's inhibitions) about dumpster diving, we both sat around drinking vodkatea. We chatted about various things. At a certain point he gave a few irritating little literary critiques of my musings. For a would-be artistic progressive, he seems to have an unnecessarily strong desire to cram emerging creative forms into time-honoured but increasingly irrelevant categories. Oh, and another thing, Matt felt the need to point out that my graphics aren't absolutely perfect, that they're "newspaper quality" while what he does is "art" la la la. I responded (in words spiced with a dash of anger) that I don't have the time to sit around twiddling graphics all day in Photoshop, that I have to know when it's good enough, and get it out. I've seen Matt fuck with graphics and I know his yield must be extremely low working as slowly and with as much fussiness as he does. I asked Matt aloud, "Well, how much have you produced and how much have I?"

We headed down towards South Industrial Street in the southeastern fringe of Ann Arbor, stopping on the way at various computer retailers. We didn't find anything much at the first dumpster we came to, since it was mostly empty, but we did find evidence of good stuff being thrown out. The second dumpster was almost full and had a few stripped and battered computer tower chassises, but nothing worth taking. We were only there a few minutes before a freak thing happened: one of the store personnel came out and confronted us. He was a white man wearing a white shirt and a tie. In a gentle, nervous voice he told us to get out of his dumpster. I ignored him completely and continued to my search while Matt said (in unexpectedly forceful language), "This consumer waste is all ending up in a landfill anyway. Isn't it better if we find a use for it?" Matt went on at some length, using lots of canned articulate-sounding phrases to explain why our presence in the dumpster was entirely justified. By this point the white man in the white shirt had been joined by a black man in a tan shirt; he had a big smile on his face and seemed to be enjoying the confrontation a great deal, even perhaps siding with us against his tight-ass boss (but of course unable to say anything in our support). Since there wasn't much to be had from this dumpster, we eventually complied with the white male's wishes and headed on our way. Matt was delighted with the confrontation, saying that the best thing to do in such situations is to come back with an articulate reasons for doing as we do, proving to the powers that be that their bigoted preconceptions (that, for example, we're a bunch of dumb ass gutterpunks on a vandalization spree) are completely wrong. I don't usually enjoy meeting store personnel at dumpsters, even though they're usually friendly and supportive. When they're assholes, though, they can provide potential amusement.

We continued on to the dismal industrial parks stretched out in chemlawn fields in the southern webbing between Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti. We checked the dumpsters behind various systems integrations firms, but most of the dumpsters were empty. Our best bet (as I expected) seems to retail computer firms. Retailers are inherently more wasteful than industrial park engineering firms; retailers hire a greater percentage of incompetent people, deal with much more incompetent clients, have far less shelf space and are much more likely to relocate or go out of business. Matt had originally expected better luck among the industrial parks, but I think this was related to the remoteness of their dumpsters and the fact that we could get into them without being seen.

At a computer place in Ypsilanti, we got our first and only score of the evening, a big ten-plug filter/power strip, the kind used by mainframes. Matt said he could definitely find a use for it. Who couldn't?

Our luck hadn't been especially good today, but at least we know the lay of the land. Perhaps on another day of the week, the dumpsters will have more stuff in them.

We did fries and coffee at the Fleetwood, my favourite diner in Ann Arbor. I felt so greased-out afterwards that I suspect I'll be getting some other form of tan food next time I eat there.

Figuring I needed to do something to pull my weight domestically at Kim's place, I suddenly decided to go shopping. Since Matt didn't have any special plans, he agreed to take me to the Kroger.

Part of my reason for shopping was instructional. I wanted to prove it was possible to get good food for cheap at a big non-healthfood supermarket. So I got a big bag of Kroger-brand corn chips, a big hunk of Kroger-brand cheese, a loaf of stone ground wholewheat Wonderbread, two boxes of Chik Patties (a vegetarian chicken substitute) and a box of shrimp poppers. Oh, and I got some ginger, garlic, oregano, and an onion. There you have it folks, my online shopping list.

I invited Matt to stick around for another vodkatea (which he seems to like despite its strength), and after fighting through his "Oh, I don't want to impose on you and Kim" crap, I managed to get him to come in.


e lay around watching part of Good Will Hunting on videotape. It seemed like a fun movie about a remarkable guy, though I was put off by the extravagant dialogue, which was far too long-winded to be believed, even if spoken by such a capable actor as Robin Williams. Eventually we were interrupted by Kim's crazy friend Kelly calling from Miami, Florida. Kelly is a graphic designer and party girl who hangs out all day at her house snorting meth with transvestites, rockstars and male models. She sends Kim email all the time but never writes any words; it's always just images she makes of herself juxtaposed with her various male friends. The only reason she was calling was to ask what image formats we could handle and to ask about some graphics we'd emailed to her the other day (which I'd made using my digital camera and Photoshop). She was all strung out on meth, of course, so the conversation was over in about thirty seconds. Then she called back immediately, saying, "Whoops, I thought I was calling [name of another friend]."

As Matt became increasingly intoxicated, I found him becoming unbearable, but Kim seemed was delighted. I was especially disturbed when Matt started regurgitating things I'd told him just two hours before in strict confidence (related to the kinky sexual acts favoured by Kim's various nympho girlfriends who I will not name). It's clear now that if I want to keep a secret, it's probably a better idea to put it in the musings than it is to tell Matt, even in "strict confidence."


ust around bed time, Kim went off to return some videotapes and I snuck down to the "world-famous eye center" to steal a blue Schwinn three speed that's been locked to the bike rack there for the past few weeks. I had a robust pair of wire cutters that made quick work of the cable, and the bike was mine. I knew it hadn't been ridden in a long time because when I turned the handlebars, it stuck for a moment then gave way with a cruck! as the rust in the bearings broke through. The tires were flat, but at a 50 cent gas station air compressor, I soon had that problem solved. They seemed to hold air just fine. I spritzed all the bearings with WD-40 and rode around a little. The bike worked perfectly, much better than that crappy old red 12 speed I'd been riding when I was last in Ann Arbor. It's nice to have a bike again, since I don't drive in this town. By the way, for all you moralists out there, I'd just like to say that this bike was clearly abandoned. Anyone who leaves a bike locked to a bike rack for the summer has given up his rights. At this point I am establishing "squatters' rights" and am no worse than a gutterpunk living in an abandoned warehouse. There's a big difference between liberating a rusting three speed in a lonely bike rack beside a "world-famous eye center" and breaking into the shed behind Nancy Firedrake's house to steal a 28 speed Cannondale.


y the way, Nancy can't hasn't been able to update her page these past few days due to problems with her home computer's flaky hard drive (I knew this was coming, remember?).

By the way #2, is off c e n t e r on the way to online-journal-loser status? First we have Chuck calling her journal "Oft Clueless" and then Jim Valvis yanks her off his incestuous "Web Journals that Don't Suck" page. Oh, while we're on the subject, before you get a spell checker, how about a little navigation, Jim?

One last online journal-related issue: I'd like to join Little Bastard, but that means quitting Archipelago and Often. I really don't think webrings provide any useful function to the web at all, except for opening up interesting unforseen avenues of expression. That's where In His Own Words comes in.

Check out this page. Someone has used images from the Big Fun Glossary to illustrate their "punk rock dress code" page. Most so-called "web-designers" would be furious to have their images used by another person without permission, and linked to their server to top it off. But I think it's great. Copyright is for people whose creations are

  1. so indistinct as to need protection
  2. so few and far between that they need protection
I don't have such insecurities. And besides, it's a really funny page.

one year ago

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