Saturday, December 30, 2006 4 comments

New Year’s Festoovities

Family Man described the quiet New Year’s the FFamily is planning. We’re going down to Big V’s — it will be interesting to see how it goes. I don’t think anyone will get wearing-lampshades smashed, after the Hallowe’en party she threw a few years back, but things could get interesting.

I think my favorite New Year's at FAR Manor was the first one, when The Boy and I built a brush fire in the burn cage out behind the big garage (Mrs. Fetched called it a night early on). We tended the fire, I drank some rum, we let it die down and said goodnight. It’s likely to be rainy at FAR Manor tomorrow night, so we won’t be able to repeat that one this time around. The rain should also put the damper on fireworks displays, although I expect a couple of people will choose to get wet and shoot them off anyway. Fireworks seems to be a Southern phenomenon; I certainly don’t remember people doing that in Michigan… probably because it’s usually too dang cold to stand outside at night this time of year.

Oh, and is anyone having (or had) a Festivus celebration? That “Airing of Grievances” part seems like a dangerous thing to try with the in-laws without some modifications (I’m thinking the grievances would have to be posted anonymously and not name names, although some things would be too obvious anyway). Letting Mrs. Fetched wrestle me to the floor might be fun, though!

Friday Night Cinema

OK, it’s probably Saturday morning by the time you read this, but you probably don’t want to watch this one at night anyway. Tonight’s feature is a departure from the normal fare — instead of a free short, you get a free feature-length film! Not just any film, you get The Corpse Vanishes, from 1942, starring Bela Lugosi. Thanks to the magic of copyright laws working the way they’re supposed to, this film has passed into the public domain.

The above link takes you to the details page on archive.org. Direct links:
Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006 2 comments

BLAAAAAAAGGHHH

So Mrs. Fetched called me at work today with a list of things to pick up at the grocery store on the way home. (She swears I forgot to get the shrimp, I swear she didn’t tell me. But I digress.) I grab the stuff and stumble across a checkout that’s both staffed and has nobody waiting behind the person buying one bottle of wine — hooray!

The other shoe was soon to drop. After ringing up the total, the little twerp at the register asks me: “Do you qualify for the senior discount?”

BLAAAAAAAGGHHH!!!!

I wonder if he’s getting a commission for every guy who goes back to aisle 18 to get the Grecian Formula goop.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006 2 comments

Winding down

I will always remember Christmas 2006 as the first Christmas where I woke up to thunder. Talk about starting off with a boom….

Now that Christmas is over, the crazy time is starting to wind down. Of course, it doesn’t happen all at once — there are clearance items to buy (and put away for next year) and some shopping to do for Three Kings Day (aka Epiphany) on Jan. 6. We have our major gift exchange on Three Kings Day at FAR Manor — it gives us an opportunity (not always taken) to reserve Christmas Day as a religious observation, plus it gives us a week & a half extra to get presents (often at steep discounts).

Yesterday it was cool and wet; today it was cold and wet. Two of my basil plants are still hanging on; I’ve managed to remember to bring them inside on the coldest nights and the frost hadn’t got them yet. On the other hand, they’re not going to perk up and give me enough leaves to make one last batch of pesto… but I can’t bear to kill good plants. The third basil plant went to seed and checked out a couple of weeks ago; I’ve moved it under cover to dry out and then I’ll harvest the seed pods. I found a couple of seed trays laying around outside today; they’ve also gone under cover. I’ll plant basil and cilantro in them first thing next year.

I took this picture with my new smellphone; a Samsung A707 (The Boy dropped the old Moto, which prompted it to retire). It has a lot of stuff that I don’t really need, like an MP3 player and a 2.0 megapixel camera, but the price was right (after rebate, which Stinkular has been pretty good about honoring). I’ve started to go through the manual (which, so far, I’m not impressed with) to figure out how to set up the camera and so forth… but it beats the heck out of the Moto (which isn’t saying much, granted). It’s too nice to not worry about, though, so I’ll probably have to get a case for it soon.

Back to work in the morning for a few days, then another three-day weekend.

Sunday, December 24, 2006 7 comments

Buried treasure

My grandmother’s “Parker House” rolls were both a family treasure and the source of a running joke. Everybody looked forward to Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, in part, because Grandma would make enough rolls for everyone to both stuff themselves silly and take some home. The running joke was when the daughters-in-law — and in later years, the grandsons’ wives — would ask for the recipe… Grandma would hand them some incredibly convoluted set of directions, or leave off some critical ingredient, or proportion the ingredients to serve a 4-H camp (which she did some summers), or nobble the recipe in some other way.

So some years back — before The Boy was born, in fact — Mrs. Fetched and I went up to Michigan to visit my family, and she met Grandma. Now while her family is mostly a bunch of straight-laced types, although they’re loosening up in their later years, my Grandma was drinking beer and cracking dirty jokes. If dictionaries had video, a clip of Mrs. Fetched meeting Grandma would have been next to the definition of “culture shock.” So something very predictable happened: Grandma made her Parker House rolls, Mrs. Fetched tasted them and quickly asked for the recipe, and Grandma handed her six pages. Mrs. Fetched didn’t even bother trying to make heads or tails of it, and just put it away when we got home.

Years went by, and along the line I learned how to make bread. More years went by, until last week Mrs. Fetched was trying to figure out how to get the house ready for Christmas dinner (and get some made) without straining herself. She came to me and said, “I still have that six-page recipe from your grandmother for her rolls. Do you want to try making them?”

“Sure,” I said — I’d wanted to take a stab at reverse-engineering the recipe sooner or later anyway. I thought maybe I could combine my bread-making knowledge and my tech writing skills to distill the actual recipe from the filler. As it turned out, that wasn’t necessary: Mrs. Fetched pulled out the recipe, started looking through it, and found an index card with the real recipe on it! All those years, and “makes 12–16” was right there. Between the do this-es and do that-s on Saturday, I managed to clear the decks and make the rolls, doubling the recipe since we had a bunch of people coming in.

And… it was the Real Thing. The only difference was that the recipe says to cut the rolled out dough in a grid; I remember her using a round cutter, so I’ll have to get one.

We also got 10 lbs of snow crab, two large-ish shrimp trays, I made the rolls and boiled the seafood while the dough was rising, and some other stuff got brought in. The shrimp disappeared quickly, there’s still about 1/3 of the crab left (some of the best frozen crab I’ve had, the shells weren’t soft at all)… and five rolls out of 36. One of the ladies sat at the table and ate five of them, one by one. Yup, it’s The Recipe, all right. I think these rolls might be even more popular on this planet than the challah bread.

Sometimes, it’s good to not throw anything away.

Thursday, December 21, 2006 5 comments

Podcast from FAR Manor (#3) - news, iPhone speculation, early holiday memories

I battled an almost-flu kind of cold, chicken house duty, light-hanging duty, and a house full of indifferent people, to get this podcast put together. I hope you think it was worth it!

Listen up! direct link (10.2MB MP3) | archive page (listen online)

And the lights that delayed things by a couple of hours:



Contents:

00:00 - Intro (including special holiday music!)
04:35 - News from FAR Manor
07:00 - Shiny Things (digital voice recorder wrap-up, iPhone speculation)
14:00 - Stories of early holiday memories
30:40 - Closing comments, thanks
31:20 - "Rockin' Jerusalem" sung by the DCHS Chamber Singers

Special thanks to those who shared their holiday memories with us all:

Thanks also to Family Man and Olivia for their kind words about last month’s podcast.

Production Notes
Audio recorded with an XtremeMac MicroMemo iPod accessory, then extracted to iTunes. Audio files were edited on a G3 iBook, running MacOSX 10.4.8, using Audacity 1.3.2-beta.

Theme music: “Jump Around” by Psycho Maniak (no link/contact info available — help!).

Audio content hosted on:
Internet Archive

Monday, December 18, 2006 3 comments

What's in a name?

Ask the poor folks in this Swedish village.

Could be worse. They could live in Cumming, Georgia, instead of some place interesting like Sweden.

Serendipity

Sometimes, things just work out.

I went looking for sound effects on archive.org last night. I didn't find many, but I found a bunch of interesting and downright weird music instead. One of the better albums is the shortest, The Mosaic Effect from Simon Slater of Cold Sun. Very nice chill-out music for doing nothing in front of a fire, or just about anything else.

Saturday, after caroling and gift basket delivery, I took Daughter Dearest over to the school so she and her chorus could sing the national anthem at the Hawks game. (I found out after the fact that WGN was broadcasting the game as well. Sorry 'bout that.) She had planned for me to ride the bus with her, but there wasn’t enough room… putting her somewhat out of sorts. So Daughter Dearest handed the director my ticket, and he handed me a larger one, and I piled into a van full of kids and adults. What I didn’t realize was that I’d just been handed a suite-level ticket — the guy driving the van works for a place that rents one of the skyboxes at Philips Arena and he’d reserved it for us. Daughter Dearest wasn’t left out; she traded with a girl who had a suite ticket but wanted to sit with her friends down on the lower level. Everyone should experience this at least once in their lives — they cater in food, there’s a fridge with beer and soft drinks, and it has its own bathroom. With that kind of seat, who cares if the Hawks blew a 10-point lead and lost in overtime?

The payback is that I’m spending my so-called “vacation” time this week in the chicken houses, at least during the mornings. And I’ve caught a cold. But I’m going to get the podcast started (if not finished) tonight.

Saturday, December 16, 2006 1 comment

Catch Daughter Dearest in action... tonight at 7

Daughter Dearest’s high school chorus is singing the national anthem for the Hawks game tonight about 7 p.m. (EST). If you’re so inclined, you can catch see & hear them on Fox Sports South or NBA League Pass.

But before that can happen, we have caroling and gift baskets this afternoon. Two more weeks and it will be January, then maybe we can get a little rest…

Monday, December 11, 2006 5 comments

Never a dull moment

Tonight, Mrs. Fetched is in the hospital, recovering from a hysterectomy. I can’t remember the full name, but it’s the kind where they… let’s say, punch a couple of skylights in the roof and take the equipment out the front door. It went a little longer than I would have expected, but they didn’t run into any major complications of the kind that would force them to change tactics.

So naturally, tonight would be the night that The Boy has to move out of where he had landed after last week’s episode. So now he’s back home, making the right noises but I’m skeptical about the right actions. He was trying to tell me his girlfriend needed a place to stay and she’d have to come here for a couple of days (this should sound familiar to long-time readers). Heh… she has parents less than an hour away; she can go live with them. I told him no way, no how, and feel pretty confident that Mrs. Fetched won’t pull one of her mind-changing stunts (not this time, anyway).

So much for a quiet night at home. Can’t seem to get one even when Mrs. Fetched isn’t here.

Saturday, December 09, 2006 5 comments

Post-Company Party Yawns

The company party was tonight, and was really nice this year. For one thing, it was on a weekend instead of after work so Mrs. Fetched came along — she doesn’t like doing the drive that I do five days a week. Heck, I don’t much like it myself, but someone has to deal with the cost of living. For another thing, they moved it from a restaurant near the office (last two years) to a club. Lots more room, better selection of food, and the bar served a great rum&coke. They cut back on the door prizes to offset the extra cost… but when you don’t win anyway, who cares?

But now I’m ready for bed. 'Night.

Friday, December 08, 2006 3 comments

Next podcast… wanna join in?

I'm hoping to have the next Podcast from FAR Manor ready next weekend (16th/17th). My plan for this month’s final segment is “earliest holiday memories” — basically, the first thing you can remember that was related to the holiday season. My own earliest memory takes about a minute and a half to describe — two minutes, if I ramble about it — and that’s not long enough for a proper segment.

So here’s where you come in.

Think about it for a minute, then scrounge up a microphone, plug it into your computer (Sound Blaster cards all have a mike jack), and record it — give a first name (or a blog name, or whatever), how old you were at the time (you don't have to say how old you are now!), and what it was about. Then email the sound file to FARfetched58 at aim dot com (sorry, trying to confuse spammers’ address-guessers). Don’t worry about getting it perfect; if you stutter or stumble, just pause and start the last sentence again. I’ll clean it up for you. Also record a few seconds of silence at the beginning or end; I can use that as a template to remove background noise.

I know I can work with MP3, WAV, and any QuickTime format. If you have to use some other format, send it along and I’ll try to deal with it. If you have to put it on a cassette or CD, that’s fine too — but you’ll have to hurry and get it in the snail-mail… the USPS gets a little busy this time of year.

Thanks for reading and listening — hope to hear you soon!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006 4 comments

My son, the graduate

The Boy passed his GED exam! And except for the math, did very well — he averaged 525 out of 600, and that was with the math pulling it down somewhat. Good enough, apparently, that he can apply for a Hope Scholarship.

The question now becomes: is he ready to take the next step(s)?

Monday, December 04, 2006 6 comments

What to do?

Daughter Dearest has been AIM’ing with various people for a while now. She’s hooked up with a 19 year old college student from Indiana, and now he wants to come down and visit for the holidays (for whatever reason, neither of his parents want him around, nice people).

Oddly enough, I’m the one being paranoid for a change. Mrs. Fetched, who would usually lead the opposition on this one, is leaving it up to me (which means she has already telegraphed her answer and will ignore me if I make the “wrong” decision). I’ll have to admit, her people instincts have been better than mine in most regards. (That is different from getting tangled up with FAR Manor, everything I warned about back then has come to pass.)

I think I’ll have to make a “decision” by tomorrow, which means I need to agree to this visit. It’s probably fine, but I could use a little encouragement.

Saturday, December 02, 2006 7 comments

I don’t know about you…

…but any day that starts out in the chicken houses, and ends by tossing The Boy, I would have to define as a not-so-good one. (Yeah, katiebird, we would probably have some stuff to talk about. Email me some time; maybe we'll put our phones on speaker so the spouses can contribute too.)

Thing is, the part in between was pretty good. A coroner in a town called Demorest has a sort-of Christmas party every year; they put luminaries on all the grave sites and invite the public — innovative, and I told the owner so. Daughter Dearest’s choir was invited to sing outdoors, so we went along to videotape the performance. Their second set was after sundown, so I got audio with the iPod/MicroMemo combination — they did five Christmas songs, only one of which most of you would be familiar with, all a cappella. I’ll include a couple of them on the next Podcast from FAR Manor (Special Holiday Edition) if the director doesn’t mind. Daughter Dearest winced a couple of times at the recording, which she listened to on my iPod on the way home, because she knows how each song should sound and can identify the mistakes.

When we came home to find The Boy’s band milling around between the house and the detached garage, we weren’t too put off by that (we knew they would be there). But when Mrs. Fetched walked into The Boy’s room (to tell him to turn down the music) and caught him and his girlfriend in flagrante delicto… well, you can imagine. This, after he agreed to clean up his act as a condition of his continued residence at FAR Manor. If it had been me, I would have run laughing to grab a camera and then threw them out. She got straight to the point, as usual, which was probably the best course of action.

While he packed, I talked to a couple of his friends outside. I was pretty blunt: I told them that The Boy had no respect for anyone, probably including himself. Maybe they’ll remember that while he’s living off them. The thing is, I’m not sure how we’ll reconcile this when the time comes. Right now, I think he’ll have to give us some kind of token gesture like cutting his hair and ditching the piercings.

My Rosemary Wood Floor beer needs one more week, I think, to be mature. I guess I’ll hit the rum for now.

Friday, December 01, 2006 No comments

Hello December

November said goodbye with a warm, wet kiss — I had the car window open a little yesterday as I drove home. It was still quite pleasant outside at 11 p.m. as I went to the outbuilding to grab a book and a bit of rum to help me get to sleep.

Very soon after midnight, December came roaring in with pouring rain and high wind. Then we woke up this morning to plaintive bleeps from the phone as the power bounced up and down a few times. It wasn't until Daughter Dearest came down to get a ride to school, though, that we realized the power was out completely. It was out at least from FAR Manor, nearly halfway into town, and I don’t know how far in the other direction. Since my car was in the garage, and we have an electric garage door opener, I grabbed a car outside for the commute.

It was still windy this morning, and never got any warmer. We’re in for a cold weekend here. ’Course, that’s all relative — here, anything below freezing is “cold.”

Stay warm this weekend, OK?

Tuesday, November 28, 2006 4 comments

Podcast from FAR Manor (#2) - news, DVR reviews, PS/3 mania

Listen up! direct link (11.7MB MP3) | archive page (listen online)

I wanted to have this online Sunday, but podcasting is Hard Work.

Contents:
00:00 - Introduction
00:43 - News briefs from FAR Manor
02:18 - Digital Voice Recorder reviews - Sony ICD-P320, XtremeMac MicroMemo
07:44 - A chat with three guys waiting in line on the eve of the PS3 launch on November 17
38:17 - Closing comments

A few photos from the PS3 lineup:
Close to the head of the line at Best Buy. The line wrapped around the side of the building and went all the way to the back.


Inside the gamers' tent. About as comfortable as you can get, sleeping on concrete in mid-November.


Chris, who did most of the talking during the PS3 segment, wields the Staff of Ramen.


Cody was featured in a Reuters photo posted on Yahoo News, taken earlier in the day.

Production Notes
Audio recorded with a Sony ICD-P320 standalone digital voice recorder and a XtremeMac MicroMemo iPod accessory. The audio from the ICD-P320 was extracted to an HP Media Center PC and burned to a CD; audio from the MicroMemo was extracted through iTunes. Audio files were edited on a G3 iBook, running MacOSX 10.4.8, using Audacity 1.3.2-beta.

Theme music is “Jump Around” by Psycho Maniak (no link/contact info available — help!).

Audio content hosted on:
Internet Archive

Saturday, November 25, 2006 3 comments

Outdoor life

A brief quiz: if a gutter looks like this, is it time to replace it?

Top view:


Bottom view:


It's amazing how much crud can accumulate in a rain gutter over a year; this is what I found after cleaning it out.

We got to sleep late this morning — Mrs. Fetched has been doing a fair bit of that since the chickens went to the store, which is good because she needs some rest — but the rest of the day has been busy. I was blowing & raking leaves in the front yard (it's easier to use the blower to get them out from under the hedges, but faster to rake them once they're in the yard), boggling at how many there were, when I finally ran out of extension cord. I’d been planning to run the generator anyway, so I went to the detached garage to get it.

It wasn’t there.

I looked again — there’s a lot of debris in there and it could have been buried — but it still wasn’t there. Mrs. Fetched grabbed her smellphone and started calling numbers in her Received list until she found someone who was with The Boy. He tried telling us that we had helped him load it onto a truck and take it to the place he’d stayed the last two summers! WRONG — we wouldn’t have sent anything over there that we hoped to ever see again.

We jumped into Barge Vader and rode over there. The lady of the house was home, and we asked her about it. “Oh, it was here but it was stolen off the back of Tony’s truck.” Whoever Tony is, and why was it on the back of his truck in the first place, and why didn’t she report it stolen? More likely that she pawned it for drugs or defense attorneys.

So The Boy is toast around here. Mrs. Fetched was ready to confiscate his large guitar amp, but he’d gotten in the house (idiot me left the ladder out at the outbuilding, where I took the above pictures) and picked it up already. We did grab the one (best) guitar he left here though. But if he expects to set foot in this house (legally) again, he’s going to start doing things our way. More likely, he will live elsewhere until he ends up in jail.

Friday, November 24, 2006 4 comments

Quality journalism

Retailers call today Black Friday — mobs of shoppers starting the real Christmas season now that Thanksgiving is behind us (burrrrrrp!). I don’t know if this happened everywhere in the US (probably did), but the Christmas stuff started coming out on this planet before the Labor Day grills finished cooling off.

I don’t know why Mrs. Fetched and Daughter Dearest are planning to go shoe shopping today. It would be much better to curl up with a warm laptop and read some quality journalism from The Register. Here’s a few interesting stories they’ve run recently:

A kidnap attempt goes horribly w0rnG!

Drunk Aussie comes up with a novel way of keeping the coppers at bay

Michigan high school student builds working fusion reactor (and this is how word got out)

Thursday, November 23, 2006 6 comments

Happy Thanksgiving!

I’m making the challah bread:



I use this recipe, except that I put the oven on 325°F instead of 375. I nearly found that out the hard way.

We’ll be going down to Mrs. Fetched’s parents in a while — FAR Manor isn’t quite ready for entertaining large numbers of guests, since we’re still obtaining area rugs and footsies for the living room furniture.

What are your plans?

Monday, November 20, 2006 3 comments

Floored, Part II

Another non-relaxing weekend, but I was mentally prepared. This is the weekend, Mrs. Fetched said, that we would get the living room floor done. That doesn’t necessarily mean anything, but when I saw the sander in the back of Barge Vader I knew it was going to happen. Of course, it would have been better had we nothing else going on, but there’s always something going on. So The Boy and I got the last of the furniture out of the living room, then I grabbed the sander. “Here goes nothing,” I said, and I was right: I hit the switch, and the sander hummed and popped the breaker on the motor housing. Trying another outlet, and getting the same result, I called Home Despot and they told me to bring it back. Naturally, it worked there (we think something was stuck that came free on the ride back to the store) but they gave us another one and credited us the downtime on our rental. But by the time we got home, it was really too late to get started so we agreed it was on for Saturday. We did check the sander and it worked, so that was one thing out of the way.

And on it went. I began Saturday way too early by taking The Boy in for Part II of his GED exam. He’s not sure about the math, but everything else he thinks went well. I guess we’ll find out soon enough. I came back home, determined to get at least one of the two things done that I wanted (cleaning out the gutter on the outbuilding and bottling my beer). Figuring the former would be quicker than the latter, I got a ladder and the leaf blower. The gutter was pretty well clogged, but the blower made quick work of it once I got on the roof and scooted over to each end.

With that out of the way, I headed back into the living room and got to work. A square-buff sander is a rather large piece of gear, about the size of an industrial floor polisher. But like a well-balanced motorcycle, the weight went away once it was in motion. Like a pipes-addict’s bike, it was also LOUD, so I got my earplugs and kept at it. The sander had a vacuum thing and a bag to catch the sawdust, but it was leaving 3–4 times as much on the floor as was going into the bag. At least it wasn’t getting in the air — maybe the sheet we put over the hallway entrance made Murphy cry.

I made a complete pass over the floor, then vacuumed, then made another pass. It was at this point that I realized that someone else had sanded and surfaced this floor in years past — and didn’t do a very good job of it. Talking to some people, I ascertained that the last people to do this had used a drum sander. A drum sander works much more quickly than the square-buff type, but quickly digs divots in the floor if you pause for even the briefest moment. Judging from the lines, whoever did it before was going back-and-forth with it — not the right way to do it.

After four passes, there was still a fair amount of stain left — not only the divots and uneven places, but in the grain itself. There was also a strip of unsanded floor along the walls. Since we needed a couple of other things from Home Despot, we also picked up a “palm sander” (first time I’ve ever heard that term for a hand-held electric sander, but whatever). This thing turned out to be a Little Cricket: small, noisy, and powerful. It was also quite happy to walk along the wall (or wherever) without me helping it.


At this point, I was ready to hit it with the 80-grit sandpaper, but Mrs. Fetched was officially In A Hurry. “Let’s just go with it like it is,” she said. Not by The Book, but I was feeling too tired & lazy to argue. We got some things to spend the night somewhere else, so we wouldn’t breathe fumes all night, and Mrs. Fetched took Daughter Dearest somewhere — leaving me to put down the clear-coat. This stuff smelled like model airplane glue, and stunk worse (seeing as we were dealing with it by the gallon). I had an open window and a fan to keep the fumes down, but I seriously don’t remember painting myself out the front door. All I remember is that I left the lid to the can on the fireplace lintel and had to walk across the slick floor to get it. Thank God I didn’t fall down. It also turned out there was some miscommunication; the females hadn’t got anything for the night and they were rather out of sorts about it. I blamed the fumes. They didn’t argue.

Sunday after church, it was time to continue. I put the 120-grit screen on the sander and went over the floor. “Are you sure it’s supposed to look like that?” Mrs. Fetched asked dubiously. Well… no, it’s not supposed to look like a 400 square foot scuff mark; you have to put the second coat on. I vacuumed it up, and Mrs. Fetched said “That should be good enough. Look,” and swiped the floor with her finger. When it came up white, she got the mop and went over it again. By this time, it was about 5 p.m. This time, I pointed the fan out the front door. This worked much better to keep the fumes tolerable; Mrs. Fetched (who gets a headache upon the merest whiff of most chemicals) was able to sit in the door to the kitchen and watch — and I remembered painting myself out this time.

With some time to kill, we took everything back to Home Despot and finally remembered to pick up some fluorescent lights for the kitchen. We also killed some time looking at area rugs (and boggling at the prices on some of them), took Daughter Dearest to meet some of her chorus friends for a “business” trip to a largish church, picked up some milk, and went down to her parents’ place. They had just returned from a week in Pensacola, so we killed some more time talking about that and everything else. We returned to FAR Manor at 9 p.m. to find the smell tolerable (especially behind the sheet in the hallway). I went to get Daughter Dearest from her outing and returned to find Mrs. Fetched sacked out.

By the way, she loves how it turned out. To me, it’s a rustic, kind of hunting-lodge look. I suggested we needed to hang some animal hides on the walls to go with the floor; she said “Yuck.”

Not bad — it cost us about $215 in rentals and materials, a dang sight less than what we’d been quoted to have it done. The biggest hassles were moving the furniture out and having to stay elsewhere for a night, which we would have had to do if we’d hired someone to do it. The actual sanding and coating was fairly easy. We have to move stuff back in, but we’re going to get a rug or three and some felt pads for the furniture first.

Oh… I did get my beer bottled up too. I was up past 11 with it, but the deed was done. I’m naming this batch, a dark ale, “Rosemary Wood Floor.”

Embarrassment of riches

Lots and lots of blog fodder has come by in the last few days — so much, I’m having a hard time writing it all down.

I recorded a long ramble from a guy waiting in line for a PS3 on Thursday night; The Boy was getting paid to hold a place for someone else & I had to take him some insulin. If I’d have known I would have been doing that in the morning, I would have had a warmer jacket and a video camera — as it is, I have to get some audio off a digital voice recorder before I return it (POS Sony won’t work with Macs), then I’ll edit it down and post a link.

We finished the living room floor. I have pictures, and will have a post up in a day or so. Also got the beer bottled and the crud cleaned out of the gutter on my outbuilding.

Right now, Daughter Dearest wants to borrow my computer; I can start writing drafts on the G3.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006 2 comments

Taking the Good wth the Bad

So after spending a pleasant Tuesday working at home, writing the scripts necessary to pull my documentation into an HTMLhelp-style format, I thought it would be good to knock off at 10:30p.m. (for a change) and go to bed. So I’m halfway undressed… and here comes The Boy.

“Hey, can I take a car down to exit 8? A friend of [his friend]’s says he’ll pay us $200 each to hold a place in line so he can get a PlayStation3 on Thursday night.”

They actually go on sale Friday at midnight (I thought they went on sale last week, and they did — in Japan), but whatever. We weren’t having it, since he promised us up & down that last time he borrowed The Barge, he’d have it back in time for Mrs. Fetched to go to the chicken houses the next morning — and he showed up late in the afternoon with some cock-and-bull story about how the keys went missing in the couch. So when we told him no, he told his friend (on the phone) that we were being dickheads. Mrs. Fetched let that sink in for a moment (I didn’t hear it, I don’t much pay attention to anything he says anymore), then stormed in (he was in what used to be M.A.E.’s room, using the old G3 in there and playing his music ’way too loud), smacked him, grabbed the phone, and hung it up.

The Boy, being much like his mother, responded in kind. He flew into a tantrum, screaming about how he NEEDS this money for his probation (but work he was offered earlier in the week was beneath him, duhhh), we don’t ever stop to think about the good things he does (how can we see them if he’s never home? duhhh), on and on and on. He cranked up the music on the G3, then slammed the keyboard shelf (knocking the keyboard to the floor) when I told him to either turn the sound down or I’d cut off the breaker. Then he stormed down the hall screaming about how he was going to show us tantrum and break everything, until Mrs. Fetched told him that she’d call the cops and have him hauled off to jail.

This went on, deteriorating into a discussion punctuated by occasional shouting matches, until midnight. I was reminded in another way how he and Mrs. Fetched are much alike: neither one of them has any regard for anything I try to say. Either one of them would interrupt me when I was trying to explain something, until I was ready to start screaming myself. If it hadn’t been pouring down rain at this point, I may well have simply gone to the outbuilding to sleep.

The upshot: Mrs. Fetched was curious about whether this was real, or some cockamamie cover story that The Boy and his friend made up to use as an excuse to disappear for a couple of days. While The Boy only lies when his lips move (he’s kind of like GW without the family money thing in some ways, especially the lying and sense of entitlement), I felt like this one was actually plausible. She agreed to take him and his friend down to the mall herself, and meet up with the person actually paying the tab for this job. (Not a bad racket, really: $600 for the PS3, $800 for four bodies to hold the place in line, he can probably get $2400 for it on eBay and make $1000 profit.) The Boy had his horrified look, exceeded only when I suggested earlier that he might have to do things our way to get his life in order, but talked to his friend and agreed. He really didn’t want her around when they met up with the “employer,” but she insisted and he dealt with it.

So things were finally winding down, I got my clothes off and got in bed, and he comes in again. “I need you to take me to the store.” At midnight? After your episode? So you can get cigarettes? The gall is incredible sometimes. I said no, he sighed and left.

So I dragged myself out of bed at 7 to take Daughter Dearest to school and myself to work. She was upstairs, trying to sleep when the balloon went up, but couldn’t hear what it was about. I explained, and the youngest was the wisest: “I don’t see what the big deal is. You know they’re going to recall them over some bug.” (She may be right: bugs delayed the original ship date, and there are rumors that Sony is cutting back on shipments. How better to reduce your recall exposure than to not ship so many?)

Since the indie coffee shop is on the way to work, I stopped by. I hadn’t had time to make coffee this morning, and I needed something stronger anyway. So in I went, to find that they were giving free espresso shots! Hooray, I’m saved! The funny part was, a non-coffee person in front of me didn’t realize was espresso is, and downed a shot. I bet she was vviibbrraattiinngg all day long… me, I got a cappuccino to go (plus the free shot) and got through the day OK.

At least I was inside, with the rain pouring down outside, until I played Submarine Pilot and drove home. The Boy’s place-holding team seemed to have gotten a spot inside the 24-hour Wal-Mart, so maybe they won’t drown. Getting arrested for loitering, however, is another possibility.

These days, I like it better when The Boy doesn’t come home.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006 3 comments

Somebody’s calendar is busted

And I think it’s theirs, not mine.

April Fools Day is 4-½ months away, but it’s still pretty funny.

Friday, November 10, 2006 2 comments

The Luxury Outhouse

In the comments on my previous post, Family Man said, “I have to keep saying, you can't go wrong with an outhouse.” While an outhouse had crossed my mind while writing the post, I didn’t remember my experience with the world’s most luxurious outhouse until I saw his comment.

Many years ago, Other Brother was looking for a particular motorcycle — to be precise, a Yamaha TDM650 — and searching the net, he found one for sale in my area of all things. I agreed to go have a look, and got directions from the seller. Since it was a nice day, and Big Zook (a Suzuki GS1000G that’s currently waiting for me to fix it) was in a reasonable mood, I decided to ride over there.

Climbing the longest, steepest driveway I think I’ve ever seen, I rolled up to a pretty nice-looking place. The couple who owned the house (and the bike) were outside, probably enjoying the day as much as waiting for me. They were both motorcycle people, so when I rolled up on the Zook, everyone was inclined to like each other. They showed me the sale bike (which was in very good shape) as well as an impressive collection of vintage and modern bikes packing a three-car garage. We chatted for quite a while until we’d run out of things to talk about, and I asked about using the bathroom before I left.

“The outhouse is over there,” she said, pointing to a structure next to the house, that I’d assumed was either part of the house or a tool shed. It was sided with rough planks, stained a dark brown, and had a tin roof. Not needing more than that, I thanked them and ambled over. The door was my first surprise: it was a real door instead of a piece of wood on hinges. Inside, the outhouse was nearly the size of my outbuilding (which is about 10x16 feet, and has no plumbing). It had a toilet bowl and seat, obviously made for outhouse use, and was decorated nicely. A covered area off to the side could have been a hot tub. There was a small bookshelf with plenty of reading material (motorcycle-related and otherwise). The business I had to do didn’t required sitting down, but I nearly sat down anyway just to take it all in.

Like any outhouse, it was well-ventilated. Unlike most outhouses, it was electrified, didn’t smell, and all the vents were screened to minimize bugs. There was also a fan that probably served both to cool the place off on hot days and to pull the odors out. I presume there was room for a kerosene heater in winter, if they continued to use it. Alas, these were the days before digital cameras, and I didn’t carry my 35mm point&shoot around with me.

I suppose if we built an outhouse, it would be something like that. Mrs. Fetched would settle for nothing less.

Thursday, November 09, 2006 4 comments

This stinks....

The septic tank, once again, got backed up. $350 to pump out 1000 gallons of $#¡+ (which will be bought on the open market by right-wing media wackjobs to fling at the next Congress, no doubt). Looks like the field lines are shot — probably a cool $3000 to get that fixed.

Just how the hell are we supposed to make improvements to this place when we can barely keep up with the freeking maintenance?

I told Mrs. Fetched we shouldn’t buy this place. Over and over I told her. She said, “You decide,” I said, “No,” and she totally ignored me.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006 2 comments

Lift Every Voice

Last night, I prayed to tell God how I felt about what needed to happen with the elections — believing that God lets us mostly run our affairs ourselves — and went to bed believing the Dems would at least take the House but not the Senate.

Sometimes, it’s good to be wrong!

So today, I started wondering: did God intervene on America’s behalf — for this is a victory for America, the one I know — or did things just happen? Then at choir practice tonight, this was the first song we worked on for Sunday:

Lift every voice and sing, till earth and heaven ring,
ring with the harmonies of liberty,
let our rejoicing rise high as the listening skies,
let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us —
facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
let us march on till victory is won.

Stony the road we trod, bitter the chastening rod,
felt in the days when hope unborn had died,
yet with a steady beat, have not our weary feet
come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
We have come over a way that with tears as been watered,
we have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered —
out from the gloomy past, till now we stand at last
where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.

God of our weary years, God of our silent tears,
Thou Who has brought us thus far on the way,
Thou Who has by that might led us into the light,
keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,
let our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee —
shadowed beneath Thy hand, may we forever stand,
true to our God, true to our native land.


The eerie thing is, this song was written in 1921. And it fits this day perfectly. All of it. Even the warning, now that our nation has started to find its way back, to stay on the right path.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006 4 comments

Worrying

I’m worrying tonight. Not so much about the election; I still think the Dems will take the House and not the Senate, but it will be enough to put the brakes on the Bush-league destruction of America. The things I’m worrying about are closer to home.

The Boy was supposed to go to the senior center this morning for part of his community service. So I went upstairs to start trying to drag him out of bed… and he wasn’t there. Nor was he in the guest bedroom, the recliners in the living room, or the couch in the detached garage. Some time in the middle of the night, he slipped the leash. Flew the coop. Took a powder. Blew this pop stand. Rode off into the sunset. I didn’t find a note or anything, nor has he called all day. I have a pretty good idea of where he is, which isn’t good: at this point, I’m pretty sure he’s going to fail the drug test he’s supposed to take in a couple of weeks… and then it’s most likely off to jail with him for the next 11 months. But that’s his choice. We’ve tried to help him make better choices, and he doesn’t want that kind of help.

What really worries me is that Mrs. Fetched has had an “issue,” in the Biblical sense, for going on three weeks now. She’s scheduled to go in for an ultrasound tomorrow, which I hope will locate the problem. Obviously, this hasn’t done her much good. By the numbers, she’s healthier than I am — she doesn’t suffer from cholesterol or high BP (she enjoys every bit of them both, ha ha) — but she’s run-down all the time and this definitely hasn’t been helping. Working in a chicken house is debilitating all by itself; OSHA and the NLRB would be all over any company that subjected their employees to those conditions, but farmers (or their families) are free agents. I’m not sure the chicken houses have brought on this current problem, but I sure hope that her docs will tell her to stay the hell out of there from now on (not like she would listen or anything, but still).

So tonight I worry. Tomorrow I will probably find out it was all for nothing (I hope so, anyway).

Monday, November 06, 2006 1 comment

Haggard over Haggard


hag•gard (adj.)
1 Looking exhausted and unwell, esp. from fatigue, worry, or suffering


How terrible it will be for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! For you give a tenth of your mint, dill, and cummin, but have neglected the more important matters of the law: justice, mercy, and faithfulness.…
How terrible it will be for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but on the inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup, so that its outside may also be clean.
How terrible it will be for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs that look beautiful on the outside but inside are full of dead people's bones and every kind of impurity. In the same way, on the outside you look righteous to people, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
—Matt. 23:23-28


The spectacle surrounding the sordid Rev. Ted Haggard situation is simply… craptacular. If you’ve been hiding under a rock, or avoiding the media in hopes of dodging the negative political ads, here’s a brief recap: Rev. Haggard, the former head of the National Ass. of Evangelicals (oooh, appropriate), has been whipping up the fears of the fearful for years, keeping gays stigmatized and Republicans in office. In the last week or so, a gay prostitute came forward with claims that not only had Haggard hired him for sex about once a month for the last three years, he helped Haggard buy meth. After the denials came the partial confession (“I bought the meth, but didn’t use it”), the resignation from his church and the NAE, and finally an admission of “sexual immorality” (which in the evangelical mindset is the Express Ticket to Hell).

Many have come to expect such hypocrisy, unfortunately, from people such as Haggard — the Jim Bakker/Jimmy Swaggart scandal of the 1980s was simply the most visible and well-known example. The thing that angers me most, as a Christian, is that such people make us all look bad by association. They encourage Christians to act like Pharisees and vote for moneychangers, while paying (at most) lip service to “the least of these.” They skip past the many occurrences of “fear not” found in the Bible, and play on the fears of the ignorant.

In the end, someone who is so adamant about persecuting gays had to have some issues. How best to deny your own gay tendencies, which you have been taught almost from birth to abhor, but to go around attacking other gay people? I mean, look at the guy. Is that not one of the creepiest smiles you’ve ever seen? I wouldn’t have let someone looking like that baby-sit my kids to begin with (good thing; he and The Boy might have swapped secrets of how best to hide a drug habit).

For every Haggard that falls on his face, though, there are dozens — hundreds — ready to step in and take their places. I fear that they will have to answer for God for the things they have done in His name.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006 6 comments

Rosemary and visitor

There are many things I don’t know about plants. One of the things I didn’t know was that rosemary blossoms in the fall.

A little patience (and double-checking in view mode) is required to get good macro shots with this camera. If you click to get the larger image, though, you can get a good look at a tiny insect down on the bottom flower. He didn’t seem to be fazed at all about me getting less than a foot from him.

That yellow string-looking thing behind the upper flower is part of the parsley plant. The heat and drought knocked it way back, although it’s starting to recover with cooler weather. There were several stalks that didn’t hold themselves up, and that probably kept them alive, but now I need to stake them up so they’ll get what sun there is at this time of year. Rosemary, on the other hand, is one of the hardiest non-weed plants I’ve seen. Heat doesn’t bother it, drought doesn’t bother it, winter doesn’t bother it, getting run over by a minivan doesn’t bother it… you get the idea.

I’ll have to clip it a little before too long — I’ll be making a batch of beer and boiling rosemary into the wort really mellows it out.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006 3 comments

Trick or treat’ers

Ready to scoop the candy! Yes, that’s Daughter Dearest with the wings.



So far, we haven’t had anyone come by tonight — what I expected, unfortunately.

Monday, October 30, 2006 No comments

The Bikes of Autumn (and the rest of the year)

With the Moonshine Festival out of the way, so also goes October. Perhaps now I'll get to rest on weekend mornings. It would be good start to not have the $#@&!! phone ring at 7:30 a.m. But I digress.

Like all good festivals, Moonshine starts off with a parade. What makes this parade different is that it ends with a cavalcade of bicycles, rolling out on the bike tour. During my vacation posts, I mentioned that road cycling clubs are up in this (red) neck of the woods. Some of them are actually working with the planetary DOT and the county to put in bike lanes, er, down the road. And they have already laid out 30-mile and 62-mile routes. Both routes run right past FAR Manor (this particular shot is just up the road).

Naturally, laying out a route that long takes some marking and signing. Since posting signs on the DOT right-of-way is a hassle, the easy thing to do is get out a spray can and mark the road itself.


Not all the marks are completely serious. You get on some of the less-travelled back roads (which are safer for cyclists anyway), and you can have a little fun with your spray can without dodging cars.

This particular marker is not far from where Lobster’s family lives.


Along the highway, heading out of town. Both routes take the side road up ahead.

That’s my car up at the corner. The wide angle shot makes it look a long way off, but it’s really no more than 100 yards or so.


On the hill approaching FAR Manor from the north. This is a steep enough climb that speeding on a bicycle would be difficult indeed.


I really hope that they put the bike lanes in — I haven’t heard of a cyclist getting pasted by some yahoo in an F250 yet, but it’s only a matter of time.

Friday, October 27, 2006 No comments

Rodent Death

B1-66er has a rat problem, perhaps brought on by too many years of not cleaning up his apartment. He has, as part of his rat extermination project, decided to clean his place up. Cleaning up is a good idea, but sometimes it's easier to just take what you want with you and leave, burning the place down behind you. On that other hand, that’s probably not a good way to either endear B1 to his landlord or get his security deposit back.

Mice I've had to deal with. Large fields & woods mice, mind you, but still mice. Rats, not so often — they like to hang out at the chicken houses, since there's fresh meat on the hoof and it's an evil place anyway. I've killed the little SOBs with snap traps, well-thrown shoes, poison, water, (the Natural Way) cats & dogs, winter, and hand-to-hand combat — sticks, shovels, a hammer — whatever is hefty, swingable, and available.

Details follow. If you’re not the kind of person who enjoys stories about Chicken House Hell, you probably want to skip this entry.

The latest one was when I was removing copper pipe from under the house, part of the old heating system, decommissioned under the previous owners. Except for the area where the water heater (and the old oil-based boiler for the registers) live, under the master bedroom, the rest of the basement is one big crawl space. The entire crawl space area is covered with plastic sheet to form a vapor barrier (which incidentally keeps water leaks from making musty smells). To make a long story short, as I was getting started, I put my hand down on the plastic and felt it squirming under my hand. I snatched my hand back, and could see a largish shadow crawling away under the plastic. Since a hammer was in reach, I grabbed it and started whacking. Hearing a satisfying squeal of pain, I whacked it once more and got to work.

Before I moved to FAR Manor and became FARfetched, I was Dirt Road, living in an extended double-wide in the woods, nearly 1/2 mile from the nearest pavement. I caught plenty of large-ish mice with a pair of snap traps, those that got through the perimeter patrolled by two cats and a dog. The mice were a bit too big for regular mouse traps, but an out-and-out rat trap would have really made a mess. The bail would come down and hit the mouse, not cleanly across the neck, but along the back of the skull — still a fatal blow, but one that would make their nasty little eyes bug out somewhat. I often found the traps upside-down and/or moved up to a foot away. Often, the skull would pinch the bail, making it hard to shake the dead rodent loose without touching it.

So one night, Mrs. Fetched and I were wakened by a POP. “What was that?” she said.

“Rodent death. The mouse trap just went off.”

clacka-clacka-clacka

“And what’s that?”

“I think he’s flopping around in the trap.”

“Gross!” she cried. “Do something with it!”

We walked into the kitchen and flipped the light on. The mouse, whose size approached that fuzzy grey line separating “large mouse” from “small rat,” treated us to one final twitch and expired. A small pool of blood lay several inches from the trap; probably shot from its exploded eye. “YUCK!” opined Mrs. Fetched, and fled the scene while I cleaned off the floor and shook the mouse off the bail out back.

Yes, I said “winter” was one of the tools I’ve used to deal Rodent Death. I learned that there can be worse things than a mouse inside: there can be a mouse under the house who scratches the floor joists under your bed while you’re trying to sleep at night. It stayed fairly warm under the double-wide all winter, probably helped by the occasional leak in the heating ductwork. This was January 2000, and the storm we called “Ice2K” knocked out power on a Monday and kept it knocked out for 5-1/2 days all told. Having learned a little something from the 1993 blizzard, we had a generator and I ran it for an hour or two every month to keep it from gumming up. The Boy and I hoisted it onto the back deck and we ran extension cords through the back door and into the house. We had lights, radio, and an electric space heater — but the furnace outlet we’d found some time back and noted for future use had disappeared. Fortunately, we had plenty of firewood (another thing we learned from ’93) and could keep the living room and kitchen warm. But not the space under the house.

Thursday brought two significant events: the joist-scratcher gave up the ghost and it occurred to me to have a look at the furnace control box. Finding a schematic conveniently printed on the back side of the control box cover, I chopped off the female end of a long extension cord and spliced the wires into the furnace. I plugged it into the gennie, and was immediately rewarded with the hisssss-whoomp of a live furnace. Hooray — warm house and no more mouse. That kept us going until Saturday morning, when the power came back on.

Sometimes, you get lucky. One night, I heard a rustling noise come from a paper sack, along with a frustrated squeak. I quickly closed up the top of the sack and took it outside, shaking it a bit to disorient the prisoner and get Megabyte’s attention. Megabyte was my fat cat, a brown-mackerel and white pattern I learned to call it, and he watched with interest as I laid the sack on the ground and opened the top. Out shot the mouse, and Megabyte took it from there.

At Chicken House Hell, there are real rats, albeit with short tails. Like B1’s new friend kind of rats. There are mice too, but rats make for easier targets for a swung stick or shovel. But most of the time, the in-laws’ myriad dogs are around to do the job. I missed this particular episode personally, but Mrs. Fetched told me all about it. Duke, the alpha dog, trapped a rat and it bit back — latching onto Duke’s lip and taking a wild ride, getting flung and spun every which way before Duke got his own teeth into the situation. That usually doesn’t happen; the dogs get the better of the rats much more quickly and cleanly on average.

Of course, deterrent is better than war. Mrs. Fetched hasn’t grasped that; either that or she would rather have mice in the house than cats. But there’s nothing like a cat (or a terrier, if you’re a dog person) for issuing a warning. Only the most desperate or foolish rodents hang around where they can smell something bred to hunt them.

Thursday, October 26, 2006 2 comments

All-State Daughter Dearest

Daughter Dearest told me this morning that she’d gotten the word: she made All-State Chorus this year!

w00T!

Sunday, October 22, 2006 No comments

Oh no

I think this is going to be stuck in my head for a while. Click the link that says "This Song" if you dare. You risk getting it stuck in your head too. You Have Been Warned.

I would normally blame the tequila (that we confiscated from M.A.E.’s belongings) that I’ve been drinking tonight — neat — but Daughter Dearest has reacted pretty much the same way. Dang. M.A.E. bought decent tequila. I wonder how she managed to afford it. Of course, less than 1/4 of it was left by the time I got it.

Friday, October 20, 2006 2 comments

Hot air

Daughter Dearest managed to get this shot somehow. Things happen quick when you're in a car, and the time it takes the dig the camera out can be far longer than the time it takes to lose the shot. To compound matters, the balloonist was coming down, I think in a weedy field next to the highway, and pretty rapidly.

I don’t blog much about politics, but it’s kind of like the way things are going for the Republicans this year. Blowing hot air for all they’re worth, and still sinking. At least we can hope it keeps going that way.

Go Tigers!

In my mind’s eye, I see a custodian bringing a dusty box out of some nondescript storage room.

A whole case of Industrial-strength Whoop-Ass, vintage 1968. The Detroit Tigers must have put it away for future years, then forgot about it until someone found it after the first game of the division playoffs.

Before, I was hoping St. Louis would make it just because I dislike them less than the Mets. Now I’m glad they made it so we can have a rematch of 1968. I was (really) home sick from school the day the Tigers won the 1968 Series, and saw it on TV. 1984 was a sort-of anti-climax; the Padres were outmatched that year and everyone knew it. I’ll have to break some habits and park me arse in front of a TV for a few nights coming up…

The Mobile Office

Current music: 1.fm Trance
It used to be that moving in the office was something you started hearing about long before it actually happened. There would be an alert that we would get moved in a few weeks, which would pass uneventfully and then we would forget about it. After a few months, the move alerts would come around again; sometimes it would again fade off. But eventually, the facilities people would bring around big stacks of flattened cardboard boxes and rolls of packaging tape on a Thursday, we would spend Friday marveling at how much stuff we had stuffed into 64 square feet, and spend the following Monday unpacking and pretending to try getting some work done.

That was so 2nd millennium.

Companies these days operate in Internet time, and moving is no exception. The feint-parry-thrust that once took weeks has now been compressed into a couple of hours. You hear the first rumor around 10 a.m. and you’re sitting in a new cube by 4. Fortunately, the facilities people do most of the moving for you nowadays. Virgil comes around with the cart, loads all the stuff you're not using at the moment (including the contents of the overheads and lateral), and sets it up in the new cube pretty much as it was. You’re left to clear the decorations off the walls, grab the Ethernet hub off the floor, and the phone and laptop off the desk. The only heavy lifting involves a 21" monitor. Spend an hour at the end of the day setting up the new place, get some work done, go home.

Even the phone is an instantaneous switch, thanks to the magic of VoIP. You yank the phone out of the Ethernet jack at the old place and plug it in at the new place. Done. No farting around with the PBX and maybe missing a call you didn’t want to take anyway.

The best part is that I can look out a window from my chair, for the first time in years (if you don’t count working at home). Just in time for winter to set in. This time of year, I need all the sunlight I can get.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006 2 comments

Good News on The Boy front, for a change

Yeesh, Wednesday already?

So I had just pulled into church for choir practice this evening, when I got a phone call. The Boy’s number came up on the caller ID, and I was immediately thinking: what does he want this time?

“I took the GED pre-test today, and passed everything. Even the math part.”

Doubly good news — not just that he passed, but he finally got arsed to take the freeking test in the first place!

“Yeah, so I take the real test on November 17. If I pass that, I’m going to tech school to be an electrician.”

Another piece of good news: he’s finally looking at a Plan B if his music career doesn’t happen. Not a bad choice either; it’s a skill that’s usually in demand. He should do well at it; I taught him how to solder when he was 4, and I’ve done plenty of wiring myself (although I draw the line on this side of live circuits).

So if he’ll stick to this, maybe that’s a little light at the end of the tunnel.

Saturday, October 14, 2006 3 comments

Seventeen Years Ago...

At 4 a.m., I was only slightly awakened by Mrs. Fetched.

"Farf."

As anyone still 90% asleep would, I answered, "Unh."

"Farf."

"Unh."

"Farf, get up and help me clean up the bathroom floor."

The comment from left-field woke me up some more. "Whaaaat?"

Staggering into the bathroom, I saw a bunch of clear, jelly-like something on the floor. Someone's water had broke, obviously. I don't remember if I actually helped or just stood there gaping while Mrs. Fetched did the work - it wouldn't be the last time.

A couple hours later, we were at the hospital. Some time during the morning, Daughter Dearest arrived, nearly a month ahead of schedule (the result of a car wreck two weeks previous). She was physically OK with the early birth; not so much mentally. She would wriggle the blanket over her head (amazing to watch) and scream bloody murder when I had to change her diaper. To this day, I've never figured out how a five-pound baby can produce eight pounds of crap in one sitting.

But happy #17, Daughter Dearest! Standing taller than her mom, and still as feisty as on the day of her arrival.

Thursday, October 12, 2006 3 comments

Cha-ching

The guy who would do the work on my Civic finally got around to coughing up an estimate yesterday. He thinks he can put the back bumper back together, but it needs a new front bumper, radiator, and radiator mount — all but the latter can be found on the aftermarket. What’s harder to find is either the $1800 it would take to do it, or the motivation to come up with the money in the first place. I only paid $3000 for the car in the first place, after all. I would have said “do it” without hesitation for $1000 or less, and would have had to think about it for $1500. Right now, I’m ready to write it off, because there could well be some damage to the front end beyond the radiator that isn’t easy to see. On the other hand, if $1800 would also fix the air conditioning and fix the alignment issues I’ve been having, it could be worth it. Mrs. Fetched points out that we probably wouldn’t find anything as good for $1800, so it may get another chance.

In other news, The Boy finally had his court appearance this morning. The lawyers worked out a plea arrangement (and as it turns out, they were the only ones on the morning’s docket that had settled on something) that got him a year of probation and fines. I think the judge would have liked to slap him, but given that his case was the only one ready to finish up, she may have felt pressured to accept the arrangement.

Between the fines, the fees, what he had to pay the lawyer, and the other things he has to do (like take a DUI course and have periodic drug tests), he’s going to be out $2000. Personally, I would just as soon have seen him get a trip to first-offender boot camp, except that the penal system shows itself incapable of handling diabetics. Mrs. Fetched would like to see him have to get his GED as a condition of his probation. Even with just fines and probation, this is going to be hanging over his head for a long time to come.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006 5 comments

Shorties

A handful of things that didn’t necessary merit their own posts…

Fury asked for a close-up of the yellow flowers growing all over the manor grounds; here it is. They’re about the size of a nickel. Whatever they are, they’re very prolific. Click on the picture to get something larger than life.

Mixed emotions: some time last night, I dropped my smellphone in the driveway. The Boy found it, after someone either stepped on it or ran it over (or Mrs. Fetched’s dog played with it). The screen, amazingly, is OK; but everything else seems to be in worse shape than it looks. The keyboard doesn’t key, and it doesn’t recognize the sync cable. I stuffed my SIM card into an old Nokia we had laying around, and it worked, so whoever smooshed the Moto didn’t do a good enough job. Yay, maybe I’ll get a new phone with a decent camera — boo, new phone = extended contract.

Daughter Dearest came down, asked, “are you blogging my singing?” (She’s working on a piece for her All-State Chorus audition on Saturday.) I hadn’t planned to, but since she said something…. Then she saw the flower picture and forgot about it. Man. She’ll also be 17 on Saturday — I hope the audition judges give her a b-day present, although she’s good enough that she really doesn’t need it.

Wow, did the Tigers open up a can of Whoop-Ass on the Yankers or what? I hope they have another one for the A’s. And one more for the Series. I might have to get interested in baseball for a couple of weeks.

Driving the Sunfire makes me miss my Civic. It does what it needs to, getting decent gas mileage in the process, but it feels as heavy as a truck in some ways. I’m sure new struts (like the Civic got) will help, but I don’t think it will ever feel as nimble. Not to mention the stereo. Or the lack of cruise control. Or the two-acre dashboard (seriously, I’m thinking of Velcro’ing some plants up there).

I guess kerosene heaters are like the last consumer product that don’t try to be idiot-proof and are designed to be serviced by the end-user. I haven’t tried firing it up yet, though: I need fresh kerosene, at $3/gal. I’ll probably get to it Thursday night or maybe over the weekend.

What little things are on your mind today?

Monday, October 09, 2006 2 comments

Silver Linings, part II

Mrs. Fetched’s mom was given a small double-wide with water damage, which she plans to set up as a vacation rental. For now, though, it’s a major remodeling project — she’s ripping out sheetrock and cabinetry, neither of which were that great even before the water damage, and gathering materials for the rebuild. As it turns out, our friends who helped us with the floor have a bunch of construction material they need to get rid of… so Sunday was another someone-else’s-agenda day.

But once again, a silver lining appeared in the dark cloud of non-relaxation. During the afternoon, they would hold up some prize and ask “does she need this?” every few minutes. Now that I have a refrigerator for the outbuilding, and it’s starting to get cool on Planet Georgia, I’m also thinking about improving the heating situation. I’ve used an electric space heater in winters past, which has been almost adequate, and really want a propane wall-mount heater in there. I have the heater, but need some installation work (and a tank). So I grabbed the flexible gas lines when they came up.

And then a kerosene heater appeared. I said, “I might be able to use that until I get gas installed.” So into the truck it went, little knowing that I was about to get a crash education in the care and maintenance of kerosene heaters.

Getting the thing home, I got to work. There was a humonguous mouse nest above one side of the tank, and dirt dauber nests, as usual with anything not stored in a house, filled every hole and caked several surfaces (the dirt dauber is a wasp, but a docile one, more annoying than scary). Between chipping off wasp-caked mud with a screwdriver, and blowing out general dirt with a compressor, I probably lightened the thing by a pound or so. The adjustment knob turned only a couple of clicks, and the ignitor lever moved maybe 1/4 of the way across, even after the cleaning. I’d never dealt with a kerosene heater before, so I really had little clue. My first confirmation that all was not right came from reading the instructions on the side: it told me if the ignitor batteries were dead, I could lift the chimney and light the wick with a match. I couldn’t lift the chimney.

Like any good geek faced with such a problem, I turned to my trusty iBook and typed "Everglow P-E12" (the make & model) into Google — and was rewarded with a link to a manual and all sorts of other info. Yee-haa! The chimney (or rather, the catalytic converter) was supposed to come off, so I applied a little force. As it turns out, you’re not supposed to store these heaters with kerosene in them, and this one had over 3/4 tank — it must have been sitting for a few years, because the kerosene had gunked up and glued everything together. I would have figured they would have known better. Following the instructions, I got to the wick (varnish-glued into place, which is why the adjustment knob wasn’t turning much) and got it loose. I scraped and wet-sanded off most of the gunk and some of the rust, and put everything back together. Now everything was acting like it should, but it was too late to do much of anything with it. I sent the website owner a thank-you email and went to bed.

This morning, I found an reply with some further advice about getting it going (drain the old kerosene and put a little wood alcohol in the fresh fuel), with some encouragement: “Even rusty, it is worth rebuilding. Nothing modern comes close to the quality put into that old heater.” He also confirmed my suspicions, which I’d guessed by reading his website, that it will likely need a new wick and it’s probably going to cook me out of the outbuilding if I use it in there. It will be good for winter nights in the garage, though, and as a backup in the house when the electricity goes out.

Oh, and the friends have a friend who’s an HVAC guy; he’s more or less lined up to install the gas heater in the outbuilding as soon as I can find a tank.

It’s nice to luck into useful stuff, but frankly I’d like a break for the next couple of weekends instead.

Saturday, October 07, 2006 4 comments

Silver Linings

Yet another non-slackerly weekend, with Mrs. Fetched volunteering me to help out the church at the community yard sale. Getting up at 6-something on a weekend bites, there ain’t no two ways around it. The mercury hovered at just over 40 degrees this morning, and the sweater I grabbed at the last second was barely enough (if that) to keep the chill at bay. It didn’t help that the restaurant on-site wasn’t ready to serve coffee until an hour after I got there.

But every cloud must have a silver lining, and I managed to find one. A community yard sale means that most sellers will be there, because most buyers will be there, because most sellers will be there. A wonderful example of recursion. To cut a long story short, I found a small refrigerator for $10. It wasn’t quite as big as I would have liked, and the shelves are missing. But it has two major things in its favor: it works, and I saved $100 over buying a new one. Of course, I had to go buy some beer for it on the way home. Even better, Mrs. Fetched thinks we might have some shelves that will fit it if we dig around (and I think we have an ice tray or two). The guy selling them had two, and I grabbed the better one: no rust on top and the seal looks good.

One of the nice things about it is that I can keep the beer in the refrigerator, which is in the outbuilding, which has a lock, which means I can keep The Boy from scarfing my beer. Once I make another batch of beer, I’ll probably be able to keep 12 bottles in it at a time. It’s also quiet, putting out a hum that I wouldn’t even notice in the house and easily gets tuned out over the iPod and whatever I’m reading.

Now all the outbuilding needs is Internet access.

We were supposed to shoot a football game today, but Mrs. Fetched didn’t know where, and wasn’t sure if it was at 3 or 3:30. Running out of gas just above (literally) a gas station was the final straw; we coasted to a pump then went home. While I enjoy that “work,” it was nice to not have to deal with it after getting up way too early.

Thursday, October 05, 2006 6 comments

Fall Plants

With the advent of cooler weather, the fall flowers (and weeds) are coming in. Some of the weeds are offering fairly decent bribes this time around, and the regular plants are also doing well. I haven’t done a pictorial in a while, so…

This bottlebrush (or whatever it’s real name is) is the centerpiece of the flower bed in front of FAR Manor. This is the best I’ve ever seen it; I noticed it this morning when the sun was shining on it as I worked at home. To give you a good sense of perspective, the tops are about seven feet high.


The butterfly bushes, on the other hand, have been relatively scraggly with their blooms this year. We get blooms in the spring and fall though, which is probably why we haven’t ripped them all out of the ground in self-defense — they’re invasive and would take over if we let them. Not that it’s all bad; they were nearly swarmed by butterflies today.

This is one of the better pods.


The goldenrod sprung up on its own, and is very bright this year compared to its usual muted yellow. It’s growing around the butterfly bushes, and everywhere else, and contrasts nicely with the blue of the butterfly bushes.


These weeds are offering us a cheerful bribe to let them live. The blooms are about the size of a nickel; I guess it’s some wild variant of a daisy…


…and they’re growing everywhere too!


Kind of ugly, but in a soft feathery way. I pulled up a bunch of these last month and a zillion more sprung up. They stand 3 to 4 feet tall.


Some other colors will come in soon. I especially like the muted orange of some of the wildflowers that will start showing off before long.

Product Design

This is something that happened a couple of weeks ago. Indeed, it was almost 17 years to the day after the wreck that brought Daughter Dearest into the world a month early.

As part of our personal campaign to reduce gas consumption, we bought a used Pontiac Sunfire a while back. It has a few glitches — A/C doesn’t work (surprise), the suspension needs attention, and the stereo is possessed by a demon that doesn’t like bumps (it turns itself to full volume when you hit one) — but it gets over 35 mpg. You can put up with a few quirks for that kind of gas mileage.

So we let The Boy borrow it one night (about a week before he wrecked my Civic), and he ended up staying with our friends because he got a flat tire near where they live. He put the fake spare on, but it was thumping and he didn’t want to drive it. So we went to take care of things, figuring the donut was just low on air. I aired it up, then Mrs. Fetched saw the bulge in the sidewall. Turned out The Boy made a wise decision for a change! He must have hit a pothole pretty hard, because the regular tire had a dented rim and was cut, although he swears up & down that “it just went flat.” I drove it as far as a gas station along the highway, and decided The Boy was right about the thumping. The manager said it would be OK to leave the car there if we parked it around the side. No problem.

Mrs. Fetched was in her “do something NOW” mode, and her first thought was to use the Civic’s spare. Nope: it's a four-lug wheel, and the Sunfire is a five-lug. “Hey,” she said, “isn’t his Lumina a five-lug wheel? We can go get the spare out of the trunk.” Aside from it being a 30-mile round-trip, sure. But she was determined to get it done, time and space be damned. Light too — it was getting dark, so we grabbed some flashlights. Then when that spare turned out to have large holes in it, she had me jack up the car (which took a while) to get a tire off it. Just to keep the axle in the air, I put the spare on and left it jacked up.

With a tire in hand, we headed back to the car. By this time, I was getting rather disgusted with the whole situation, not that it mattered. I got the jack out of the trunk and started cranking away. It took a long time to get enough air under it to get the new tire in place, and the jack was slightly leaning but not badly. I started wrestling the tire onto the hub, and —

SNAP

The fender came down onto the tire, almost catching my finger in betwen. Another tenth of a second, and I would have had a hard time typing “yhnujm” for a long time, perhaps permanently. The jack was buried under the car. Fortunately, a guy just getting off work from the Ford dealership across the street and gassing up his vehicle saw it happen and came over with a hydraulic jack. Hooray, some decent equipment arrives on the scene! We got it jacked up… and it turned out the lug pattern on the Lumina’s wheel has a slightly larger radius than the Sunfire’s. So we’d wasted an entire evening, and I’d almost lost a finger, for nothing. Figures.

My peevery got diverted away from Mrs. Fetched, though, when I saw the jack. Definitely not a safe design, with forks instead of eyes where the scissors go into the bolts. The jack may have still collapsed with eyes, but it would have been a lot slower and would have given me more time to get my fingers out of the way. This is what happens when the bean counters want to “get another 0.3 cents out of the per-unit materials costs” — product safety ends up getting compromised.

Under no circumstances should accounts ever be allowed to dictate product design, unless it’s for something like accounting software or machinery. Let them live with their own decisions, instead of endangering the rest of us.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006 3 comments

M.A.E. Not Be Coming Back

When things happen, sometimes they happen quickly. Last week, M.A.E. started going out with some guy she met at work. This weekend, she wasn’t around much, and that spilled over into the regular week. This evening, she called Mrs. Fetched to tell us that she was moving in with his cousin.

Mrs. Fetched immediately sprung into action, bagging up all M.A.E.’s stuff and printing out a sort-of invoice of what she owes us — various stuff like rent, phone, gas; it adds up to $1200 and change. Mrs. Fetched was trying to figure out what she could put down for her title: borrower, lessor, etc. I said, “I don’t know, but I think our title would be ‘bagholders.’”

The Boy hasn’t been around much either of late. He got peeved last night when we wouldn’t drop everything and take him to see the kid who was in my car with him when they wrecked it. About 10:30, someone came in & out and that was the last we saw of him. He didn’t show up for work this morning either, although he called them and said he was “stranded at McDonald’s.” I wonder why.

We (including M.A.E.) were a little conflicted about this change. I really hope it works out for her, and not because I get to traipse around the house in my underwear again. It’s closer to her work, and (probably more importantly) her new boyfriend. We’re not holding our breath about getting paid, and that’s fine if it means she can put a life together for herself otherwise. I just hope things don’t go drastically wrong and end up with an emotional wreck washing up on FAR Manor’s dreary shores.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006 4 comments

Non-restful weekend

Hey at least Family Man had what he aptly calls a “slackerly weekend.” Me, I barely got a chance to do any work work, let alone slacking.

Mrs. Fetched has a little beer money (well, if she drank beer it would be) coming in from videotaping our nephew’s park/rec football games. We did this when The Boy was going to the private school a couple of years ago, and have the drill down: she has one camera up in the announcer’s booth and gets the action from above; I have the other one on the sidelines (a monopod is a wonderful thing for this kind of work). She mixes our tapes together and furnishes the coaches with a DVD so they can see what worked — and what needs to be worked on.

So Saturday morning, she takes off early as I’m dragging myself out of bed and left me with instructions: grab the camera and the monopod and be at the field by 10. Since my car is probably toast, I asked her to leave the keys to the Sunfire where I could find them. To make a long story short, she didn’t. Well… I gave Solar a hard time because he was “channeling Dad” (stressing out over minor things) as I helped him set up his home theater system… now it was my turn. Hey, it wasn’t my fault that Mrs. Fetched didn’t leave the keys where I could find them; why worry about it? It could well be because I love being behind the camera about as much as anything that I can do with my clothes on. I get really cranky when people start talking over the audio or walking in front of the lens — imagine what entirely missing a gig would do to me.

Eventually, it occurred to me that I could bungee the monopod to the cargo rack on the back of my motorcycle and sling the camera bag over my shoulder… and the bike’s battery wasn’t up to starting it. Arrrrrrrgh!!! I plugged in the trickle charger and continued my (fruitless) search for the car keys. After 15 minutes, about the time Mrs. Fetched wanted me there, I came back out in a final act of desperation and hit the starter button — and the bike fired right up. Woo hoo! I grabbed the camera bag and boogied on down to the field. Things were starting to go my way, and the previous game going overtime meant I got there with plenty of time to spare. Nevertheless, I had something to say to Mrs. Fetched before I screwed on the monopod and took the field. The game was a good one; the nephew’s team won 7-0 in a squeaker, getting a couple of controversial calls (but good calls, according to my tape) that went their way toward the end.

That was pretty much the high point of the weekend. That afternoon, I got dragooned into helping distribute feed in the chicken houses. Tyson has this bad habit of creating unfunded mandates — more work for the growers with no corresponding pay increase, although the in-laws recently got a new contract with better terms. There’s a movement afoot to unionize the growers, you see. But I digress. Back when, they used to send out a crew to unload the chicks at the beginning of a grow-out cycle; now they leave it to the growers. Some genius recently decided the growers should drop feed flats along the sides of the feed lines and fill them up, to make it easier for the chicks to get to the feed (there are already flats running down the lines with spouts)… and naturally, they leave the implementation (but not the decision) up to the growers. So. You fill an end-loader bucket with feed and scoop it into the flats and the regular pans, for some reason. It takes two buckets and well over an hour to do each house, and we did three (out of four). In my opinion, a complete waste of time unless you like a sore back.

Now a couple of years ago, a friend asked us if he could leave his go-karts in our detached garage (and let us use them). We didn’t need the space at the time, so we said OK. We played around with them, but they have no suspension and the ride is punishing off-road. Nevertheless, I used the big one on occasion when The Boy was down at the creek and I needed to get him home right away, but mostly they’ve sat unused. Now Mrs. Fetched wants the space back, and the friend wants to sell them. And the nephews have got wind of them, so they wanted to have a look at them.

The larger of the two karts is big enough to seat two adults, and has a 10HP motor with electric start. Since it was the closest to the garage door, we pulled it out first. The battery was completely shot (no surprise), to the point where it wouldn’t take a charge, so it wasn’t going to start at all. The smaller one will seat the two nephews, and has a 6HP motor with pull-start. There’s a toggle switch on the side of the motor, which I assumed was the kill switch. The gas tank was bone-dry — a good sign, that means the carb won’t be gummed up. I seem to remember a problem with it, but couldn’t remember what, so we rolled them back inside for the night.

Sunday after church, Mrs. Fetched surprised us all: “We’re not going to bother with that last house today. I’m going to rest, maybe take a nap.” What actually happened is that she and Daughter Dearest went shopping, leaving me to my own devices. My first thought was to see if the Sunfire would work with my trunk-mounted bike carrier, but the answer there was no. I guess I could have pulled one or both wheels off and stuffed it into the trunk for the short drive to Nimblewill, but there was already a tire in the back (which needed to be put on the car). I did that, tweaked a loose valve on the motorcycle that I heard still clicking after the valve adjustment, then decided since I was already greasy I might as well wrench on the karts.

I attacked the smaller kart first, since it didn’t need a battery. I pulled the spark plug, cleaned it off, and checked the toggle switch — yup, it’s a kill switch, up to run, down to stop. Next step was to see if it would run, so I dumped some gas in it and started pulling. Amazingly, it coughed to life after four pulls. It took a minute to get running, since there wasn’t a choke (I found the primer later), but after that I jumped on and gassed it. Off I went, down the driveway and into the grass along the road and back. It had a hard time going up the driveway; I’m not sure if the clutch was slipping or the tires just couldn’t get enough traction on the gravel (probably both), or if I was just too heavy for it. But hey! it ran! I borrowed a grease gun and filled up the lube point for the clutch/chain oiler.

Figuring they should have fresh oil, and the big one needed a battery anyway, I pulled the dead battery and went to Auto Zone. I put the battery on the trickle charger and changed the oil in the small kart… so that one’s ready. I drained the old gas out of the larger kart’s tank and rolled them back into the garage. I’ll tackle the rest of it today, and the nephews can try out the little one this afternoon.

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