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

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Arduino μcontrollers
Backwoods Home
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Like my brownhouse:
   bar mirrors
Saturday, September 26 1998

Adams Avenue Street Fair

Kim and I drove out to Adams Avenue hoping to hit an all-you-can-eat buffet at a vegetarian restaurant there. But we didn't make it far. We'd completely forgotten about the Adams Avenue Street Fair. Several blocks of Adams Avenue through Normal Heights had been closed down and occupied by vendors' tents, music stages and throngs of multi-ethnic humanity. We parked the car and walked the rest of the way to the restaurant, but the buffet was over. Instead, we bought middle eastern vendor food and listened to a bar rock band belting out one unremarkable tune after another: it was Hootie and the Blowfish by way of the Grateful Dead, if you can imagine that. The usual San Diego morning cloudiness was persisting longer than normal and occasionally drizzle even spit down from the sky. It was the closest thing to rain I'd seen since leaving Michigan on September 4th.
Kim wanted to walk back to get Sophie and she wanted me to come along with her. But why? It didn't make sense for both of us to go. "We're not attached at the hip," I reminded her. I really would have liked to have a few minutes of my own to explore the fair completely solo. I never get to do things on my own anymore, and Kim never acknowledges my needs in this department. I'm not much of a coochie-coo couple kind of guy, you know. We ended up making a completely unsatisfactory compromise. So I wouldn't be "difficult to find," I agreed to stay in one place at the fair while Kim went back to get Sophie. It would have been better to just go with her, since I was miserable once she left, imprisoned as I was by my agreement to stay put in front of a lousy band. The only thing that interested me was the steady trickle of helium balloons being lost into the sky. Since there was almost no wind at all, the balloons rose straight up into the air, towards the high clouds, where they gradually shrunk down to almost invisible points. I kept hoping they'd explode from the low pressure and come falling back down to earth.
Kim and I toured the entire fair. There was plenty of sausage, lemonade, rinky dink jewelry, and hippiefied clothese (they were even selling tie-dyed half-slips). There were also a good many chiropractors, acupuncturists and massage therapists set up, and Kim kept wanting to stop and watch to see how they did things. She even got a free pulse reading from a Japanese acupuncturist.
Meanwhile Sophie was having a glorious time meeting new dogs (and enthusiastic dog-loving humans), as well as eating fallen scraps of people's lunches. Seeing her need to meet others, I always let her approach strange dogs, who are almost always friendly. But some dog owners seem to get freaked out by such dog rituals as asshole sniffing and they try to restrain their unfortunate pets, like fundamentalist mothers putting cayenne pepper on their childrens' hands to prevent masturbation.
When rain began to fall in earnest, almost no one had brought their umbrellas. Nobody prepares for rain in San Diego.

schnauzer talk

In the evening Rita had two of her lady friends over for a barbecue. Like Rita, they're both late middle-aged former nurses with schnauzers: Ziggy's "mother" and Zoë's "mother." Kim and I joined the barbecue as well, sitting around, sipping vino and talking about things before and during dinner. We talked about computers, Javascript and computer jobs for awhile, since both women are now applying their nursing knowledge to the writing of medical software. They assured me their are plenty of computer jobs to be had in San Diego and that I shouldn't sell myself too cheap. Indeed, the San Diego high tech industry is so desperate for skilled workers that they're lobbying to pass legislation that would liberalize immigration restrictions.
But aside from computers, conversation was almost exclusively about schnauzers. Everyone there except for me had their schnauzer there with her, romping around, sleeping, being jealous, hungry, cute and affectionate in cycles. Rita's dog Suzette couldn't join the others because she's currently under quarantine for fear that she'll contaminate her puppy with diseases she could pick up from the others. One of her two puppies died last night, by the way. The suicidal beast wouldn't suck at the teat, so it's really no big surprise. Schnauzers are so thoroughly distorted from their original lupine jackal wild type stock it amazes me that any of the puppies survive at all.
When Ziggy and Zoé climbed up in their respective mothers' laps, Sophie suddenly found herself alone on the floor. So she looked up at me and growled until I made a place for her in my lap. She picked me over her own "mother," Kim, and I was flattered.

bar mirrors

At night Kim and I drove down to the Kensington Club to have a beer each. The place was crowded, the lights were dim and ruddy and hard & heavy rock music blared. None of this was unusual for a Saturday night. I notice that the clientele in thesee urban bars is far more uniform than it is in the bars in smaller communities. The people are all from the same scene and are all about the same age. In the Kensington Club at night, the drinkers are mostly white 20-something heterosexual alterna-folks. By contrast, the bars in downtown Charlottesville, Virginia, attract a far more diverse crowd: blacks, whites, straights, gays, young & old. This is certainly because Charlottesville is a small town where there are few choices when you want to go out for a beer. You end up listening to music you don't like and checking out chicks you'd never normally consider. In a town as populous as San Diego, on the other hand, bars can cater to narrow demographic groups, playing music and hiring bartenders to fit the scene they attract. When I brought these observations up to Kim, I could tell initially that she thought I was insulting the Kensington Club, and she immediately launched into a bitter defense of the place. But I was just making observations; I accept nothing on faith. When I objectively examine cherished institutions, people often regard my conclusions with the same unease that Christians reserve for people who point out inconsistencies in the Bible. You see, if I imply your bar isn't diverse, perhaps I'm telling you that you aren't open minded. My reward in such cases is more likely than not a form of hostile defensiveness. It sucks, but still I go on.
One thing I really like about the Kensington Club is the cash register. It looks to be a relic from the 20s, yet the 20-something bartenders all operate it as rapidly and efficiently as other bartenders using modern digital cash registers. To see someone with piercings and tattoos pulling the cranks and smashing down mysterious combinations of quaint brown buttons with thoughtless deftness is a little like watching people of a similar description on MTV performing retro-swing.
Suddenly I became aware of the mirror behind the bartender. I found myself thinking, "all bars have mirrors, don't they?" Then I wondered why. There's definitely that extra level of complexity that the mirror adds to the game of flirting eyes (as well as the counter-measure-spying carried out by jealous dates). But beyond that, there's the issue of safety and security. There are probably a lot of people who would feel uncomfortable facing away from the center of a room without a mirror to tell them who's sneaking up behind them. I thought back to the days of the wild west, when the mirror no doubt saved many a drinking cattle rustler's life. I tried to explain all this to Kim, but she thought the mirror was primarily an æsthetic device, installed with little thought to practical considerations. I still disagree. Imagine how naked you'd feel sitting at a bar without that mirror there off of which to bounce your glances.

overlooked hybrid sciences

As we were going to sleep, I was telling Kim about how my father is breaking new scientific ground with his cross-disciplinary study of Eastern North American botany in relation to underlying geochemistry. I said that there might be 200 people in the United States who know vascular plant identification as well as him, but that probably none of those people know geochemistry. Thus, I concluded, my father is probably the only person in this country capable of writing the papers he has been writing. I said that the current trend in academia toward narrowed disciplinary specialty was producing a world without the inter-disciplinary combinations, the places where paradigm-shifting discoveries are made. I further theorized that some inter-disciplinary combinations haven't seen any progress since the days of the ancients, the last generation of people who could could possibly contain every branch of known study within a single brain.
I think that if we look at the history of science, we'll find that nearly all the great flashes of genius were cases in which people combined ideas from two different disciplines. Here are some examples:

Darwin's theory of Natural Selection: capitalist economic theory applied to biology

Mendel's Genetics theories: statistics applied to reproductive biology

Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle: journalistic philosophy applied to particle physics.

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