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

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(nobody does!)

Like my brownhouse:
   off to San Francisco
Friday, January 29 1999
Thankfully, today had a definite limit after which I would work no longer. My boss knew my plane for San Francisco was leaving at a certain hour and that I'd have to be on it. As much as he needed me to complete this latest massive project, he knew there were some details I probably wouldn't be able to fully articulate. Of course, following my wonderfully useful and completely unexpected Protestant work ethic to its extreme, I accomplished an awful lot, but inevitably the hour came and I had to go. I entrusted the project (much of the programming for which only I fully understood) into the competent hands of my colleagues and walked down to the Hazard Center trolley station and caught the next trolley heading downtown. I only paid $1 for my ticket, which was probably half the required amount. It's all honour system until a random transit enforcement cop checks your ticket, but that's happened to me once before and I was a little anxious it would happen again.
From the Little Italy trolley stop near the mirrored spires of downtown San Diego, I walked to the Victoria Rose, where I'd be meeting Kim in preparation for our airplane departure. I came in the front door to find Andrea and Ludimilla the Brazilian Girls in the aftermath of having just scrubbed down the Victoria Rose exercise room. There were friendly and vibrant as ever, though I think they understood even less of my speech than normal; my voice was thoroughly thrashed from illness even while the rest of me felt as much as 80% whole.
After talking briefly to Vivian (the Victoria Rose proprietress), I waited for Kim's arrival out on the front porch. The sun was warm and the scenery relaxing, especially for someone who had been convalescent for the greater part of the week. In the foreground, I-5 carried a steady roar of traffic into and out of San Diego, while further off towards Point Loma on the horizon was a slower, quieter, seaborne versions of the same activity. Every now and then a jet would come in low and loud a few blocks away, a few hundred feet up, positioning to land at the San Diego International Airport.
Kim eventually returned from some sort of health fair, where her job had been to give various people "chair massages" (or "chair jobs" as I jokingly referred to them). She somehow managed to get Steve, the Victoria Roses's janitor-groundskeeper-bouncer, to take us to the airport for our flight. Steve is a warm, good-natured guy from Kentucky who acts and talks like he might have dropped out of high school to pursue a career in stock car racing. While we waited for things to get in gear, Kim and I both had a little Saki, the first alcohol I'd drunk since Sunday.
Steve the Janitor dude drove us to the airport in Vivian's big white Mercedes. All the cars in the Victoria Rose parking lot (including Kim's Volvo) are either red or white, which Pop-Up Video says were the two most popular car colours of the 1980s.
Cut ahead to the airplane flight. Kim wanted to sit near the aisle, which kept me from sitting near the window. Why sit near the aisle when there's a view to be had? It didn't matter much; though it made me a little uncomfortable, I could look through the personal space of the sleeping businessman to my right. When those big jet engines throttled up to 100%, we roared out of the airport and up over the crest of Point Loma in a matter of seconds. We probably crossed over our home in Ocean Beach within only 20 seconds of leaving the ground. Down below all the geography of the map was spread out spectacularly. The artificial landforms of Mission Bay looked as ridiculous as the ears of Mickey Mouse. I was struck by how far La Jolla protruded beyond the north-south trend of the coastline. Further north, the really big mountains marched out from the interior down to the ocean and some even looked to be capped with snow. But they were fading beneath a layer of high clouds, eventually disappearing entirely. I didn't see the ground again until we started coming down some 45 minutes later in the vicinity of Palo Alto, California.
I'd only ridden on a plane twice before since I was a very small child, that being back and forth to Baltimore from Cleveland in 1993 with my then-girlfriend Leslie Montalto. That time we'd been on a expedition to see the baptism of Leslie's nephew. It gave me my first experience with SouthWest Airlines: the peanuts, the spicy tomato juice, the wisecracking pilots, the casually-attired flight attendants. For this flight, again it was SouthWest. I guess I don't really know what it's like to fly on a traditional airline.
As the plane descended from 35000 feet and fell through the thin opaque cloud layer obscuring Silicon Valley, the gradual change in pressure wreaked unexpected havoc on our still-congested ear pressure maintenance systems. I was able to hold my nose and pump air into my right ear, but my left ear drum felt like a blunt needle was being forced through it. Kim was having similar problems with both her ears and looked like she might start crying. She certainly didn't like me talking about the situation, which for her only made it worse.
We didn't wait long out in front of the San Francisco Airport before our ride, a sporty little Mustang conversable, pulled up. The whole reason for this trip had been to meet up with Spunky Lisa and boyfriend Josh, who have been back and forth across America from origins in Ann Arbor, Michigan, though their ultimate destination is New York City. Josh was driving the Mustang.
It was just like old times again: Spunky Lisa and her scratchy spunky voice, Josh with his wry little wisecracks. We crawled northward into the city through typically slow rush hour traffic and then found our way to the place where Kim and I would be staying: The Archbishops' Mansion Inn on the corner of Fulton and Steiner, directly across from Alamo Park.
I should say a little about how it came to be that Kim and I ended up staying in the absolutely fanciest hotel in all of San Francisco. Originally, you see, we'd intended to stay with Josh and Lisa at their friends' house. But then, last week, when we were in bed moaning and groaning in the grips of the flu, Kim decided to retool this vacation from a typical 20-something crash-on-couches affair to a more adult sabbatical, with relaxation and recuperation being primary objectives. She made some phone calls, asking around for centrally-located hotels equipped with fire places and quality room service and eventually came up with the Archbishops' Mansion. This being Super Bowl Weekend, along with a few other factors, Kim managed to get an extra-special rate for the room. Instead of the usual $260/night, we'd only be paying $116/night. Better still, we wouldn't actually be paying those for the room; Kim's financially-unchallenged mother would.
There are lots of side benefits to staying at fancy hotels. For starters, Josh could park the Mustang directly out front, rockstar stylee, a major coup in a city where half-hour searches for parking are relatively common. Secondly, on arrival we found ourselves in the midst of a special wine & cheese ritual. Every night at 5:30, the hotel puts out a spread of wine and cheese, fires up the player piano, and guests come down to mingle and intoxicate themselves.
For Kim and myself, though, this wine and cheese ritual was a bounty which we couldn't do justice. Our weakened bodies had little interest in wine. I would have been content to just go to sleep at this point, but of course we had a social obligation to go out on the town with Spunky Lisa and Josh who, to all appearances, were in top physical form.
We decided to go out for sushi, a Kim favourite. We found ourselves at Blowfish Sushi, an hyper-trendy establishment featuring silent bigscreen footage of oldschool Godzilla, androgynous employees dressed in piercings and fishnets, and scads of black-clad non-oriental customers. The estimated wait when we arrived was two hours.
So we ended up at a cute little Spanish place instead. It was about half as trendy and probably 25% less expensive. For Kim and me, our appetites were still in a state of shambles from the lack of real eating we'd done all week, so we ordered soups instead of the heaping paellas of our compadres. We also suffered through a single glass of wine each. I was pretty much miserable the whole time. My soup was a hearty menagerie of sealife, mostly with faces still intact, but in my state I felt like I was drinking heated bilgewater. I'd never eaten whole clams before and tonight as I wearily examined them they bore an unappetizing resemblance to the external genitals of dead women.
Things improved enormously once we all made it back to our hotel room. It was the Madame Butterfly room, small by Archbishops' Mansion standards, but large by any other, with high ceilings, genuine paintings on the wall, and an honest-to-goodness fireplace. We drank champagne and the others smoked pot. When Kim and I were finally alone, we ordered a videotape from downstairs: Armisted Maupin's Tales of the City: Volume I. It's a wonderful series of soap-opera-like life-threads from the San Francisco of 1976. I recall seeing a snatch of this movie on public teevee back in the early 90s and later hearing of Jesse Helms citing it as evidence of moral decay being promoted at taxpayer expense.
As sick as I've been, I hadn't had a single sexual thought or manifestation since Sunday, but tonight, in the romantic splendour of the Madame Butterfly bedroom's partially-canopied bed, ancient reptilian powers found themselves somehow fully restored. Interestingly, neither of us were interrupted by coughing fits until after we were through.

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