dust bunnies and full height hard drives - Thursday December 30 1999    

Today I focused more on better organizing the space in the Shaque, throwing out lots of old equipment and making room for two computer workstations. I've decided to keep the old Macintosh in operation so my mother can play games or surf the web while my Dad does his typing on the new machine.
Making this room meant making some compromises with my packrat nature. I surveyed my stuff and realized I'd never be using the vast majority of it. It was worthless junk. What good could full height ten megabyte hard drives serve me? Did it even matter that they were perfectly functional? The most valuable thing about them was their lowest tech parts, the big stepper motors that might be useful in robotics projects. I put them with the other things to be thrown away in a pile outside the Shaque.
I realized something interesting while I was cleaning up: the lower the technology, the better something preserves its value over time. An analogue VU meter, for example, will always be useful and will always cost about $7 at Radio Shack. A standard composite RCA monochrome monitor is less useful than it used to be, but it still makes for valuable test equipment when working with video signals. A 286 PC motherboard, on the other hand, is completely worthless. The most useful things on such a board are actually the little black plastic jumpers. 256 Kilobit DRAMs are a joke these days, even if they are socketed. I threw out all my 8088 equipment except for one extensively-customized hobby machine on which I'd learned everything I know about PC interfacing. I just couldn't bring myself to throw away such a trusty old friend.
Towards the end of the afternoon, I had a huge pile of condemned electronics outside the Shaque and a new place to set up the Macintosh inside. The weather was pleasant enough to leave the doors open and circulate some fresh air.

Kim and I took Sophie and Fred across the road to Pileated Peak and walked all the way up to the top. Somewhere along the ridge Fred found a funky old rotten fungus and began rolling in it. When he was done, Sophie did the same. The perfume was a heavy, musty funk, the kind that sets off my histamines. Evidently dogs like that smell; how else can you explain both of them rolling enthusiastically in it?

My old Temple of Laepohm, what remains of it. I built it in 1982.

Kim on Pileated Peak

Sophie on Pileated Peak

Fred on Pileated Peak

Me among the white pines of Horizon Field, which I planted in the Spring of 1985.

I finally made contact with Nathan VanHooser, my most reliable long term friend. He still lives with his wife Janine in the house on Little High Street in a working class neighborhood of Charlottesville. Despite being tired, a phone call with Nathan was all I really needed to get the motivation to drive to Charlottesville. Besides, it seemed unlikely we'd get a chance to hang out with him any other night this week.
"Every good trip to Charlottesville begins with a beer!" I announced as I twisted the cap off a Redhook and eased the rental car out onto Stingy Hollow road. The 40 miles passed quickly, that is, until the marijuana appeared somewhere in western Albemarle County. Owing to its effects, I was kind of anxious when we stopped at the 5th Street Food Lion for a six pack of beer.
Nathan's old dog Harvey (who may have been as much as 18 years old) passed away some time ago during my absence and has been replaced by a big black fluffy collie-shaped dog named Tio. Being a gregarious one year old, she isn't much of a watch dog, and she greeted us enthusiastically from her post on the front porch. Sophie, however, didn't much care for Tio's youthful friendliness, and she protested violations of her personal space every now and then.
As a dog owner like us, Nathan is full of dog stories. Harvey, he told us, was a pathetic stray he and Janine had found on their wedding day. Not wanting the karmic burden of taking a dog to the pound on their wedding day, Nathan and Janine adopted him. They're not superstitious people, but one night after Harvey's death, he appeared to both of them in a dreams. In both dreams, Harvey was in the presence of mysterious black dog. Moved by this communication from the grave, Nathan and Janine went to the pound and picked out the dog best matching the apparition they'd beheld. And that's the story of how they came to adopt Tio.
The original plans for the evening were to do sushi and punk rock at the Tokyo Rose (well, if they actually had punk rock tonight). But when we got out to the Tokyo Rose, we found the place closed up for the entire holiday season. So we tried the newer sushi place on the Corner at 14th Street, but it too was closed. We ended up at the Baja Bean sipping large margaritas that Kim said reminded her of pink lemonade. Our waiter had made a point of saying they were the best margaritas east of the Red River (or some such hyperbole), but we showed him when we spit the bill and each of us only left a 10% tip (for a moment there Nathan did the math and figured we were leaving 20%, but of course he was wrong).
Kim and I crashed in the Nathan & Janine spare bedroom, which rather reminded me of an old hotel room. And the bed springs were a de facto surveilance system.

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