Sunday, July 31, 2005 No comments

Priorities

This pretty much says it all.

Feuding Sisters

The wife's younger sister called us yesterday morning: "I'm going to let The Boy and his girlfriend live here — they don't have anywhere else to go." I thought to myself, "seems like we've been here before." But the wife went:

BOOM

At this point, everything they said was raw emotion, and really not transcribable.

The kid came up, supposedly to collect his clothes. But the first words out of his mouth was "Where the hell are my CDs?" The weird thing is, I was sure he collected them last time he came over. Needless to say, this did absolutely nothing to improve the emotional atmosphere. He insisted he didn't have them, and that Lobster had seen them in the minivan before we took it to have the air conditioning looked at. I suggested they could have been stolen from the van, and he gave me a look that said he didn't want to think about that but it was too logical to ignore.

The A/C in the van, by the way, is toast. The insides of the compressor came apart and distributed themselves through the system. $2500 to fix a van that would be worth somewhere between $1000 and $1500 afterwards.

Friday, July 29, 2005 3 comments

More about rain

I got curious about how much water a storm cloud can hold. Turns out to be a LOT. I decided to go with an inch of rain over a square mile: (5280x12)2 cubic inches. That's about 17,378,725.5 gallons! Some of the tropical systems we got in the last month brought a lot more rain than that, and over a much wider area — easily multiple billions of gallons.

Those big dark clouds hold a mind-boggling amount of water.

Dog 1, Squirrel 0

Current music: Audible Experience with Kinetica – Orbital Grooves Radio

This actually happened some time B. B. (Before the Blog), but it's still amusing. It concerns one of our dogs, a highly-energetic Austrian Shepard mix named Buster. I call him Buster T. Butthead. In absolute terms, he's a moron. He's a dog. I repeat myself. But in dog terms, he's been known to display some smarts and even wit at times.

There was the time, for example, when he was lazing in his plastic doghouse when I came out to toss some peelings down into the woods. The back of the doghouse was facing me, so I veered over there and drummed on the roof. He came shooting out with a "What?!? What?!?" look. I laughed and walked on to toss the peelings. I heard a thumping noise, and turned around to find he'd turned the doghouse to face the garage; he had a big doggie grin that as much as said, "You won't catch me like that again!"

We usually keep him tethered to a 40-foot run in a shady area out back, letting him loose on occasion for a few days — until he forgets why he's been tied up and starts destroying the landscaping — then he goes back on the tether. During one of the tethered periods, a squirrel started coming out of the woods to visit him. The squirrel figured out, fairly quickly, that Butthead could only go so far and would stand just outside that line (kind of like in those Foghorn Leghorn cartoons) and chatter at him, just to tease him. Butthead would charge him, getting caught on the tether at the last moment. Then when he wasn't watching, the squirrel would run past him and go up the tree.

So one day, the wife let Butthead loose and watched him. He ran around for a while, then went back down to his doghouse and laid down like he was on the tether. Sure enough, here comes the squirrel. Butthead jumped up like he was on the leash, and the squirrel hopped back to the (supposedly) safe line. He stood up to watch the fun, but this time the dog just... kept... coming. She said the squirrel had about half a second to look surprised before it was All Over. Butthead carried the corpse around front and deposited it.

Since I'm at the office all day, I had no clue this stuff was going on. I didn't know about it until I saw the dead squirrel next to the driveway. That's the only time I've ever heard of a dog plotting to nail a critter.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005 No comments

I thought we had lots of rain here...

Current music: Jazzmusique

This is just amazing.

Officials say that more than 26 inches of rain fell in Mumbai on Tuesday.

One weather official said conditions were particularly bad because the rain had coincided with high tides.


Twenty. Six. Inches. It's pretty serious — at least 200 people dead by drowning or mudslides.

The Guinness World Records doesn't mention the greatest daily rainfall, but it lists the highest monthly total at 366 inches (also in India) — in July 1861.

It's about to rain here, but not 26 inches worth.

ADDENDUM: Our rainfall for July was 10 inches above normal on the 15th — about an inch short of the record (for here), and the month only half gone. But Mumbai got twice that amount in a day. You can tell I'm still boggled about it.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005 No comments

FAR Manor Food Service

Current music: RaveTrax Radio
Being a little short of cash this week, I had the wife pick up a few frozen dinners last time we went out for groceries (Marie Callendar is a babe! she fixes my lunch), figuring I could grab one on the way out. That worked out yesterday, anyway.

Last night, I'd started a batch of beer (rosemary stout, now fermenting nicely gurgle gurgle) when we get a phone call from the nephew who is just now getting his act together. Seems he was helping out a couple of people, driving them different places (sound familiar? not The Boy this time, anyway) and ran himself out of gas, out of food, pretty much Out. So he calls us, naturally, wanting money. Wife tells him no, but she would bring him some food & put some gas in his car. She wasn't feeling all that great, so I volunteered to go instead. I was at a convenient break point since I'd just finished boiling the rosemary and needed to let the water cool below 165°F before pouring in the mix.

Fortunately, for him and us, he very recently traded in his pickup truck for a car. Payment is the same, insurance is like $280 less, and he said the $25 I gas-carded to fill his tank was less than half what he was used to paying to fill the truck. So he got: my frozen dinners, a box of oatmeal & toaster goodies that I was going to take to work, most of a loaf of wheat bread I made last weekend, and the deli turkey. Of all that, I miss the breakfast stuff most, and it won't cost $4 to replace (I buy store brands).

So while talking to him, I found out why The Boy had been bumped out of the band: I wasn't the only one who had noticed him losing interest in his music after hooking up with his girlfriend. Pity. All that talent, and he's just letting it go to waste.

Beating the Heat

The heat index is reaching 100 or worse around here, and naturally the A/C is broken in my car. And naturally, making payments on FAR Manor means I can't afford to get it fixed. Seeing as the hot weather comes with a pronounced lack of rain, at least for a couple of days, I decided I'd be no worse off (and probably better) riding the motorcycle instead.

Morning was no problem; I wore a long-sleeved shirt (no jacket, which is very rare for me when riding) and was warmer than I expected. Already it was upper 70s and muggy.

The afternoon ride home required a little more preparation. I keep a t-shirt in the lateral cabinet under my desk; I put it over the seat mid-afternoon. With the sun not beating directly on the seat cover, it was no warmer than the air.

On the way out the door, I poured a cup of water in my helmet, sloshed it around, then put it on. What the lining didn't soak up went all over my shirt, exactly where I wanted it. Then I opened the vents and got moving.

Except for a couple of red lights that lasted much longer than needed, I was actually fairly comfortable most of the way home. The air blast cooled my wet chest, the long sleeves kept the sun off my arms, and the face shield kept the hot air blast off my face. The shirt was dry after about 25 miles, but by then I was on the shady part of my ride home and I only needed the wind.

Maybe I can install a swamp cooler in my car.

Meet the new boss

Current Music: Creation Steppin' Radio
With all the other stuff going on around FAR Manor, I haven't really thought much about impending changes at work. I don't plan to go into deep detail about the workplace, partly because they haven't created a blogging policy. I'll have to talk a bit about the industry, though, for you to make any sense of the following. It's the supply-side of the cable (CATV) business; the company I work for makes cable modems, eMTAs (cable modems with telephone lines built in), and CMTSs (what the cable modems and eMTAs talk to at the other end of the cable). I've been writing the manuals for all but one of the products.

There's a lot of noise from analyst-types about the "triple play" in the cable industry -- that is, data (cable modems), telephony (eMTAs), and digital TV. Lately, I've been devoted full time to the latter. We're building a box that can take a bunch of digital video streams, moosh them around in pre-determined ways, and send them down the cable to your home theater or whatever.

Lately, we've been selling so many eMTAs that the management felt it necessary to divide the company along product lines -- eMTAs on this side, all the headend (cable company) stuff on the other. Just as my former boss hired a contractor to take the eMTA load off me, I got moved to the eMTA side.

I'm not complaining (for a change) -- it looks like I'm going to have an honest-to-God budget and the freedom to roll out web and video editions of documentation. I've been griping for about 7 years that we need to put our documentation online; looks like it might finally happen.

Sunday, July 24, 2005 No comments

It's a bloom! It's a wave! It's... FUNKY CACTUS!

One of the fringe benefits of FAR Manor, that I don't enjoy nearly as often as I ought, is a small outbuilding. It's one of those prebuilt sheds with sheet metal siding that they bring in on a truck and drop off; it's then up to you to add the Comforts of Home™. The original owner, the guy who bought the house, had it brought in and ran a small print shop in there. Thus, it's well lit (six flourescent fixtures, two tubes each) and has 120/240 volt power & an extension for the home phone. I use it for its workbench and sometimes veg out on the love seat I brought in.

Today and tomorrow are set to be the hottest of the year so far, mid-90s, so I finally broke down and went in to put the room air conditioner unit in the window. And here's what the cactus in the next window over was doing:



The light-colored part on top is all new growth. Sheesh, I just gave it a little water two weeks ago, you'd think it wouldn't be all that surprised. :-P

Here's a close-up:



Plants can do some weird things sometimes... and now the mint is blooming, shooting out a small blue cone-shaped flower. I'll post a pic of that when it fills out.

Saturday, July 23, 2005 2 comments

Come and dig my herbs

Current music: di.fm Goa-Psy

Like I've said, it's not a 24/7 suck-a-thon here at FAR Manor. I started a few herbs last year: mint, Greek oregano, rosemary, and sage. The first two went into a flower box that I could bring inside for the winter; the others went into the ground. Turned out there were two sage plants in the little pot, so I separated them and planted them both.

Everything thrived, so I added some more this year: parsley, marjoram, basil, and thyme. Given all the rain we've been having, everything is continuing to thrive. Basil especially seems to like lots of light and lots of water -- if it doesn't rain, I pretty much have to water it every day. I made some pesto with it already (it was GREAT by the way), and it took all of two days for the plant to sprout replacement leaves.

I've included a macro shot of the oregano in bloom. I think it's cool how the buds look like tiny green roses. Actual size is about 2mm across.

Friday, July 22, 2005 No comments

Lobster on the Boil

Current music: Transonic - Space After (on Groove Salad)

In all the excitement with The Boy, I neglected to mention that Lobster has been rather scarce this week. Scarce, as in I hadn't seen him at all. Wife-o-licious saw him once or twice as he came in long enough to grab something and leave.

So some phone calls happened. The fast-food joint he works at sent him home because he was too tired to work (think going face-down in the fry machine... bad news). Then they called here to tell him that someone had called to say the police had an APB out for him, for one. We were getting ready to go look for him ourselves, when his mom called and said he was over there. Yay!

Shortly thereafter, she calls again and says he's screaming and carrying on, so we pile in the van to go over there (expecting him to have flown the coop). He was still there, though. Wife called the sheriff to verify what I'd already guessed: the "APB" call was hot air. I have a pretty good idea who it was, but no proof.

So now we get the real story. He's been hanging out with The Boy and Boy's girlfriend pretty much all week, taking them wherever they want/need to go, and finally getting tired of being used like that. He was parked a little ways down the road the other night when Boy said he had walked all the way (told ya he was lying). Funny that he didn't take a guitar though... although I think with his hormones carbonated by the girlfriend, he's temporarily lost interest in his music. They stayed at one place for a few days before getting kicked out, and the girlfriend's crash pad doesn't have room for them. I don't know what The Boy is going to do about sleeping arrangements, but so far he hasn't tried coming back home.

So Lobster, at least, is realizing that he needs to keep his own head on straight and not enable his so-called friends (even if I'm talking about my own son here) to continue on their wrong path. Just in time; school starts in about 3 weeks. Funny, Lobster tells me there are several adults working at the fast-food place who still act like The Boy. "Yeah," I said, "and they're still working in a fast-food joint. That's fine for high school, but don't you want more out of life?" He nodded.

Well, I have a brother who was 30 before he got his act together, and my nephew is just now getting at least a veneer of respectability at 23, but neither of them have the diabetes complication. I just have to keep remembering it's in God's hands.

Thursday, July 21, 2005 No comments

Answered prayer

Current music: Groove Salad

One of the last coherent thoughts I had before falling asleep last night was praying that The Boy would get serious about dealing with his diabetes, and wondering if I was even getting through to God.

So at 3:30 this morning, we were wakened by a tapping on the window. He'd returned to pick up a bag he'd packed Saturday — apparently he was planning the move-out before his tantrum. Before I could say anything, he filled a zip-lock bag with ice and put his insulin in it. He claims to be living with "a rich guy" about 30 miles away; he also claimed to have walked the entire distance and was going to walk back. Riiiiiiight -- if this "rich guy" is buying him clothes and letting him stay with him, why didn't he loan the kid a car? He's either staying close by or had someone waiting for him a little ways down (probably the former; he would have taken a guitar if he wasn't going to walk too far).

He also told me he was probably going to marry his girlfriend once he's 18... probably to shock me. I wanted to counter-shock him by telling him to not have kids, but refrained because of his bullheadedness. Given his ego and congenital lying, and her being not so bright, that combination would give us something much like GW Bush.

The important thing is, he's at least thinking about what he needs to survive for now. Maybe he'll stay out of the hospital.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005 No comments

The Boy leaves... again

Current music: radioio80s

The latest chapter in the soap opera that is my son.

Since he's been home the last few weeks, we've been going around & around with when we expect him to be home, who he's with (especially the girlfriend who's three years older than him), what he's doing, all the basic parental stuff. Naturally, to him this is thoroughly unwarranted interference in his private life. Any restriction whatsoever means we don't want him going anywhere or doing anything. Then there's the constant lying, and justifications when he's caught, and constant demands to use a vehicle (and paying for gas is always "later"), and never getting home when he says he'll be here.... You get the idea.

The problem with the girlfriend is that he keeps bringing her here to stay for the night. She has a place to stay -- her mom is a serious piece of work, but she's staying with a friend -- so there's really no reason for her to be here constantly. Especially when we tell him to not bring her here for the night (well, we got here at 6:30 a.m., so it wasn't overnight, was it?). Then she hands him cigarettes, in plain site of The Wife, after we've both told her specifically not to do that.

So Saturday morning, we took her back to her place and started toward the retail district for lunch. Wife says, "I guess we'll get a restraining order to keep her away from you, since she's contributing to the delinquency of a minor."

BOOM

Within three seconds, he was in a full-blown tantrum, screaming obscenities at us and demanding that we stop the car and let him out. He actually opened the side door, at 45mph. I thought he was going to jump -- I saw him jump -- which would have killed him most likely, but he didn't. I told him we'd stop at the next intersection since there was another vehicle behind us and he continued to scream and curse and demand we stop right now until we actually got to an intersection about a mile up the road.

He turned, kicked at the door (a slider, not a swinger), then jumped out, screamed at us a little more, then slammed the door and started walking back the way we had come (presumably to the girlfriend's). That's the last we've officially heard from him, although he called Lobster and asked him to bring some clothes over. He didn't say anything about insulin, though.

Speaking of insulin, I found his glucose meter and had a look at it. He took his last reading on Friday, and it was over 400 then (very bad news). I figure he'll be in the hospital in two weeks... I hope it's a wake-up call instead of a permanent sleep. He can't stay with us and continue to treat us the way he has, I just pray he gets his act together sooner than later.

Fire in the hole(s)

So a week ago, wife-o-licious was mowing the lawn while I was splitting logs (more on that later) and ran the mower over a yellow jacket hole. These little barstids seem to think that just because they dig a hole in the ground, they own the ground around it. She got stung on the hand, which swelled up rather alarmingly but just on this side of having to do something about it. The hole was easy to locate, being next to an above-ground root, but with all the rain we've been having there wasn't anything we could do about it immediately.

Now last weekend, I'm splitting logs again. We had one group come and cut down some trees in the back yard that were leaning toward the manor, while another was cutting pines down in the woods. So group #1, not wanting us to get paid by group #2 for the timber, cut the logs into 6-foot lengths instead of the 12-foot lengths we requested. I decided I'd split the logs down to 6 inches so we can rent the biggest baddest chipper-shredder that Home Depot has to offer and make lots o' mulch. So I dragged a log out of the brush at the edge of the woods, and quickly noticed yellow jackets swarming not eight feet away. I high-tailed it out of there, coming back a little later to locate their hole.

Finally, a dry early night. Yellow jackets go down with the sun. So armed with a flashlight, a gallon of gas, and a box of matches, we marched to battle. It was a rather one-sided affair: locate the hole, pour in two quarts of gas, toss a lighted match in its general direction. FWOOMP! Burn baby burn!

I paid way too much for FAR Manor. I'm not sharing it with any wasps besides the one I married. :-P

Thursday, July 14, 2005 No comments

More wetness

We weren't finished drying out from Cindy when Dennis came by. Oh sure, the center of Dennis was over in the next state or two, but that didn't stop us from getting just shy of 4 inches of rain in two days, and another half-inch the next day.

Being on top of a hill, FAR Manor isn't prone to floods. (If there's ever a flood that nails us here, call for Noah.) However, we do have a gravel driveway, and the heavy rain washed much of it down to the bottom. It actually took less time than I expected with a shovel and rake (no implements of destruction, unfortunately) to fill in the newly-created creek bed and knock down some high spots. If Wife-o-licious runs over it a few times with her barge (aka Nissan Pathfinder), that should pack it down good & solid.

Thursday, July 07, 2005 No comments

Drying out

The tropical system formerly known as Cindy came wandering by here overnight. I got all the plants in last night, figuring they didn't need to float away.

A bunch of rain, some thunder, very little wind. My rain gauge had almost 4 inches of water in it, although there was probably 1-1/2 inches sitting in it from previous rains this week. So we came in on the low side of the predicted 2 to 4 inches of rain.

Not much flooding this time, certainly nothing like last year. But it's only early July, and we've already had as many tropical systems come to visit as we did last year. Looks like Dennis the Menace is already a major (Category 3) hurricane a couple of days in front of hitting the Florida panhandle, and each forecast update has shifted its track this way. Luuuuuuvly.

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