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Tuesday, January 31, 2006 No comments

Changing your mind...

...is said to be a mark of intelligence. It works for The Boy, anyway.

Last night, he came home to an irritated mom, who demanded the van keys immediately. This set him off, and he announced that he was quitting school. We talked for a while about it; he said he would go back to the private school next year and finish up. “I doubt you will,” I said.

“The public school sucks. I don’t get any help from the teachers or anything. I’ll be able to work at the other one.”

“That’s exactly what you said about the private school last year,” I reminded him. “You said you couldn’t concentrate, the teachers didn’t help you, etc.”

“The old principal is back; I did great when he was there before.”

“Whatever,” I said; I get tired of his pretzel logic in a big hurry these days. “I hope I’m wrong, but you won’t go back next year. By then, you’ll be too busy.”

We left it at that, and went to bed. He refused to get up this morning, but apparently changed his mind sometime today. He did end up going to the doctor with his cold... and she said it appears to be early signs of emphysema. He must have Mrs. Fetched’s constitution, if smoking one or three cigs a day for a couple of years brings it on that quick. I’ll have to remind him that he only gets so many do-overs, and he’s had more than most people get in a lifetime.

But he asked me to get him up for school in the morning. He has a doctor’s excuse for the two days he was out, and maybe he at least subconsciously understands the do-over part....

Monday, January 30, 2006 1 comment

Daughter Dearest, Zombie Queen

If you need a zombie queen for your next horror movie, I have just the girl for you...

MMM... Brains!

Need I say more?

Recurring dreams

When I was little (like 4 or 6 or so), we had a flat tire in our rustbucket ’59 Impala; Dad pulled off to the side and changed the tire. For whatever reason, that event stuck with me and I would dream about it. In the dream, I usually stood across M-40 (on one side of town or the other), looking at the car as the wheels and tires sagged like one of Salvador Dali’s clocks. I had that dream several times, even after the Impala got traded in, and never figured out why.

These days, I dream about going back to college. The dream itself is a lot more variable than the Impala dream — in one dream, I’m standing outside the dorm I lived in, chatting with some people; I might be walking to a classroom in another — but it’s always the beginning of the school year. In last night’s dream, my old roommate and I were moving into a largish two-bedroom apartment that had a third bed right in front of the door. The centerpiece of this dream was a large clothes hamper on casters, lined like a baby’s bassinet, that could tip its contents into a basket on the floor. Toward the end of our dream, the landlady was getting ready to move it out thinking we didn’t want it in there; we protested and then she showed us how it worked.

Other details I remember (more or less in order) include:
  • Thinking the bed by the door was mine, until I realized I had my own room

  • Seeing the hamper

  • Plugging in the clock-radio that currently adorns the dresser on the wife’s side of the bedroom, and throwing some luggage on the bed

  • Wondering if my ex-girlfriend would want to sleep over, and wondering why I even thought I wanted her to (the breakup was not amicable) — dreams truly do have their own #%@*&!!! logic

  • Making a list of things I had to drive home to get — a 10-hour drive in the dream and when I was in college; it would be a much longer trip now, and I wasn’t college-age in my dream

  • Being interrupted in my list-making by the landlady coming in to get the hamper

That was the first time in some months that I’ve had one of those dreams. I haven’t figured out what the deal is with those.

Sunday, January 29, 2006 2 comments

Why I’m a Cat Person #72,379

Truth is certainly stranger than fiction. I laughed my butt off reading this story, and I have a LOT of butt....
They're inside of it. They crawled inside, and now I have a giant incredibly heavy piece of carcass in my yard, with 2 dogs inside of it, and they are NOT getting bored of it and coming out. One of them is snoring.

It just gets worse from there.

Friday, January 27, 2006 1 comment

All’s quiet

The Boy, as usual, is taking his sweet time getting home. He has to get up & go to work in the morning, and he hasn’t had much sleep as it is lately, and he has a cold... but when you’re 18, you can burn the candle at both ends for a while. Things have settled down into a series of head-butting contests with Mrs. Fetched; she’s ready to take him back to his apartment and leave him there. Now if only he would stop the head-butting crapola, she might let him have the old minivan (we got it back this week) and he could have all the fun of living on his own for real.

The chances of his (and Lobster’s) graduating this year are pretty slim at this point. Lobster has often elected to sleep until whenever instead of going to school; The Boy is a little better but is often tardy. Report cards are pretty rank, with the usual I’m-doing-better-now protests that don’t pan out. If Lobster wants to spend the rest of his life working in a KFC, he’s certainly going about it the right way... at least until he sleeps late once too many times and gets fired.

The wife’s new dog (Crissy, although I often call her Princess Bladder or Pissy for reasons that should be easy to guess) is learning the ropes amazingly quickly. I think today was the third day she’s been to the chicken house and she’s already picking up dead chickens and bringing them to Mrs. Fetched. There was the incident last week where one of the in-laws’ dogs attacked her on her first day at “work,” chewing on a foot and freaking everyone out, but she has pretty much healed because this afternoon she (again) climbed over the top of her pen and jumped out. Nothing wrong with that foot if she can take a six-foot drop and not yelp! Her breed, whatever it is (I was told blue healer but she doesn’t look anything like the photos I found on Google) is energetic and thinks a chain-link fence is a ladder. We’ve had several dogs from this line, and they’ve all been like that.

Me, I’m doing OK. I left a post on Eat4Today that lists some of the benefits I’m already seeing from trying to get my own situation under control. Those first 15 or so pounds were easy come, easy go; I suspect the next 15 pounds won’t be quite as easy or quick to shed (they’ve been there a long time). There are other things I talked about that I think are more important than simple numbers... maybe I’ll start feeling more energetic before too long too. Or maybe I should try getting more sleep....

As gimmicks go... I like it

The former oldies station in Atlanta, Fox-97, is now calling itself “97.1 The River,” playing what they call “classic hits.” The format is similar to Jack FM, no DJs and a medium-size playlist, but River seems to stick to lighter stuff. For example, “School’s Out” is the only Alice Cooper song they play.

Yeah, just another not-too-oldies station... except for their kickoff promotion. They’re claiming to play “10,000 songs in a row, commercial-free.” Assuming they started on New Year’s Day, I expect they’ll wrap it up some time over the weekend or maybe Monday.

Gutsy move. I’ll retreat back to Album 88 when the ads start running, but for now it’s a nice change of pace.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006 No comments

Fiction: A Picnic at Mt. St. Cardiac

This is one of the five or so short stories I found when cleaning up the outbuilding, getting it ready for its new carpet, and the second to appear on the blog.

I wrote it in the early 1990s, I believe. Cyberpunk had by then established itself as the up-and-coming sub-genre of science fiction, although by then some people thought it was well in decline. Me, I thought people were missing out, treating “cyberspace” strictly as the habitat of criminals and mega-corporations. Certainly, people would work, play, and perhaps even work out emotional issues in cyberspace as well.

So click the “Read and Comment” link, and see what happens when a family takes...

A Picnic at Mt. St. Cardiac



The VR headset magnified the circuit board until it looked like... well, a miniature city. Clich├ęs, even at the microscopic level, Mike grinned. But an exotic ghost town of copper streets and black epoxy buildings was just what it looked like.

Mike lifted his viewpoint above the board’s surface — and there was the problem. A hairline crack in a solder joint, although at this magnification it seemed big enough to slip his hand into, on pin 3 of chip U407. He reached up with gloved hands and brought down a huge — or so it seemed at this scale — soldering iron and a line of solder as big around as his arm. In a few seconds, the crack was patched.

As Mike was about to start diagnostics on the board, his phone chimed. The status area in his headset said simply, Dad. Mike smiled and opened the video onto one corner of the display. His father’s puzzled face appeared in a window on the side of one of the chip-buildings.

“What’s this? You playing that new VR City game, Mayor Mike? Patching up potholes? But where’s the media with their photo-ops?”

“Nope,” Mike grinned even wider. “Hey, why don’t you join me?” His image froze, one finger held up toward Dad in the universal gesture that meant Wait a minute, then reanimated; a pair of silvery benches appeared behind him. “Link up and come sit for a few. Remember that RW-4 factory rework unit you helped me pick up last week?”

Dad raised one eyebrow skeptically as he stepped into the rework unit’s VR, the window dissolving behind him, and sat on the bench opposite Mike. “Naw. You couldn’t have got that thing working, could you? I thought you bought it for scrap.”

“I did,” Mike chuckled. “In fact, I opened up the power supply first to see if there was anything worth salvaging in there. What I found was a mouse nest and a bunch of chewed wires. I thought ‘what the heck,’ spliced everything together, and it came right up. I think it has repair maps of most everything built through last year.”

“Quite a find. And a steal, for fifty bucks. I’m impressed. Y’know, you could go into business with this, fix up stuff —”

“Or buy up rejects and sell ’em as refurbs,” Mike finished. “I already have a flyer out, looking for a batch of boards.” He looked around to see if the slow fade he’d set up was noticeable yet. Sure enough, the circuitry was starting to look grainy and rippled, the benches grew darker and rougher, and his clothes were fading away completely.

“Good. If you need a little help from time to time, let me know. I’ve gotten down to twenty hours a week at work now.” Dad looked around him, went Wait a minute, then returned with a grin and a different look. This image of Dad was younger and thinner, with black hair (only one or two grey strands) down to his shoulder. The appendectomy scar was still there, though. Mike’s next thought started him: He used to look like that when he was younger. And it’s how he still sees himself.

Dad brought Mike out of his reverie. “I’ll go along with the nude beach. Better be careful with the wood benches though; wouldn’t want virtual splinters in your old man’s backside.”

“No probble,” Mike said, then subvocalized. The benches became canvas beach chairs. “Better?”

“Yeah, but you forgot the babes.” A volleyball game popped into existence nearby. “And this is kind of a generic beach — may I? Thanks.” Wait a minute, then the sand became coarser and darker with grassy dunes marching up from the shoreline. “I always liked Lake Michigan; too bad they didn’t have nude beaches up there.” They watched the volleyball game for a quiet moment.

“OK, Dad,” Mike said to break the silence. “I give up. I didn’t shock you with the nude beach. So what’s happening?”

“Shocked you, though,” Dad grinned. “I pretty well know you, son. You’re not much different from me when I was twenty-eight, even if you were on the way by then. Anyway, I was just going to make sure you were coming by —” Wait a minute, a prolonged one. Dad’s image reanimated with a worried look. “Trouble,” he said.

The volleyball game disappeared just as Mom popped in, sporting a grainy image that indicated a real-time meatspace scan. “Hi, son, I — God!” she gasped. “What do you two think you’re doing?”

Mike and Dad quickly added swim suits. “And a good afternoon to you too, Mom,” Mike replied. “Dad and I were just playing Shock Each Other. He won.”

Dad glared briefly at Mike, then stood to face Mom. “You ought to try it some time,” he said. A quick subvocal, and a four-foot schlong sprang from his swim suit, complete with sound effect.

“You wish,” Mom hissed. “Fifty-six years old, and that’s still all you think about.”

“Uh, Dad,” Mike said. ”You broke the rules. No caricatures.”

“Woop,” replied Dad, and returned to normal proportions. “You’re right. Congratulations, hon; you won your first game of Shock Each Other by default.”

Mom ignored the attempted deflection. “So when did you ever look like some long-haired idiot?”

“When we met,” Dad said evenly. “Don’t you remember?”

Before Mom could respond, Mike spoke up. “Good to see you, Mom. You don’t usually visit by VR; what’s the occasion?”

“Well, I was going to make sure your dad didn’t forget to ask you if you were coming by tonight —”

“Which is what I was about to do before you butted in,” Dad snapped. “Besides, didn’t you ever figure out that this is what VR is all about, to be what you always wanted to be?”

Mom smirked. “You never wanted to be a nudist. Besides, the resort is just a few miles up the road, where it’s always been.”

“That’s not what I mean,” Dad retorted. “You’ve got to stop looking at just the face value of things —”

“Uh, you guys are running up a tandem bill with this little discussion. Maybe a change of scenery would be appropriate,” Mike suggested. “How about the golf course?”

Mom looked skeptical. “I don’t golf —”

“No probble, Mom. You’ve never come to visit our masterpiece; just sit in the cart and enjoy the view.” Dad laughed and nodded as the beach dissolved and all three stood before a black iron sign. The sign read, in animated dripping blood:

MOUNT SAINT CARDIAC
The golf course from Hell!


Mike and Dad had created this elaborate construct several years ago as a practical joke on a few golfing friends of Dad’s. The friends thought it was hilarious, and told other friends. The word spread, and father and son quickly found themselves adding and refining. Soon, Mount Saint Cardiac became the place for people who wanted a break from real-world golfing. It was one of the most popular golf-oriented constructs in VR, running neck-and-neck with the authorized virtual St. Thomas. The visitation fees they made from Cardiac usually paid the entire family’s monthly VR connect charges with enough left over for a weekly gold outing in meatspace.

Mom looked even more skeptical. “I don’t think I’ll enjoy this. It doesn’t look like my idea of a good time.”

Dad rolled his eyes. “Just come on, will you? You won’t enjoy it if you don’t give it a chance, that’s for sure. Here, hop in the cart.”

That’s a cart?” Mom goggled. The golf carts at Mount Saint Cardiac looked like a cross between a black 1970 Corvette Stingray and a plain golf cart. It had an open top and the back end was rebuilt to hold a pair of bags, but the rest was one evil-looking vehicle. It purred menacingly as it rolled, driverless, to where they stood.

“It’s safe, Mom,” Mike reassured her. “This is VR, remember? You can’t get hurt.” Mom climbed into the passenger seat, Dad took the driving position next to her, and Mike grabbed handholds on the back. “Hit it, Dad.” The motor roared, tires squealed, and they fishtailed up to the tees on Number One. Dad grinned like a maniac and whipped the cart into a power-slide that slung the rear next to the tees.

“I see your driving hasn’t changed much,” Mom remarked dryly as they climbed out of the cart.

“One big difference,” Dad deadpanned as he and Mike selected Cardiac Drivers — clubs with heads roughly the size of a bowling ball sawn in half. “No tickets here, and nobody wrecks.”

Number One was typical: 570 yards to the green, with the tees on the edge of a sheer cliff far above the fairway. The sign, which showed the layout and the hazards, named it Over the Edge. Dad and Mike both teed off and watched their balls land in the fairway below, then everyone climbed into the cart.

“Another good thing about this course,” Mike chattered. “You can’t lose your ball even if you try.”

Mom looked around. “So how do we get down there? I don’t see a path.”

“Here, I’ll show you,” Dad grinned. “Remember the name?”

Over the Edge — nooooooooooo!” Dad floored the accelerator. The cart roared, tires howled as they spun around, and Mom shrieked as they vaulted off the cliff. Before they dropped more than a few feet, the cart spouted wings and became a glider. As they descended, Mike picked himself up from the back of the cart, laughing hysterically. “Mom — you should have seen — your face,” and again fell giggling to the floor.

“I ought to slap you,” Mom growled, then allowed herself to smile as the cart landed and folded its wings away. “So what other surprises do you have in here?”

“Oh, every hole has its own little personality,” Dad replied. “Like Boa Boa. When your ball hits the fairway, a big snake slithers out and swallows it. If you stomp on him, he coughs up the ball and goes away.”

“Your snake phobia gave us the idea for that one, Mom,” Mike continued. “Another hole is pitch dark, except that the green and your ball glow in the dark. The idea is for you to remember where you are — in VR where you can’t get hurt. Here you can overcome whatever fears you might have, since they really aren’t here.”

“Psychotherapy?” Mom looked skeptical and a little sarcastic.

“Funny thing, Mom: some shrinks actually bring their clients here. We get email all the time from people who said this place has helped them out some way.” Mike chattered on about other comments they received, while Dad steered them to a picnic area in the shadow of an erupting volcano. They sat in the lush grass and watched the lava flow endlessly down.

“But what’s the point of all this?” asked Mom. “Just entertainment? Or is there something else to it? You know I don't go virtual, or whatever you call it, very much.”

“Sure, it’s entertainment,” agreed Dad. “But are you talking about the golf course, or VR, or the entire Net?”

“All of it, I guess,” Mom sighed. “I know people go to work over the Net all the time, and there’s lots of games, and stuff like this place — but why do you go around looking like that, twenty and hair down to your back?”

Dad sighed in turn. “What’s the whole point of an illusion — or a fantasy world, if you’d rather — if you can’t control it? There’s a part of me who’s still twenty, and will always be twenty no matter how old I get on the outside. Here, I can let him out.

“But what about you? Haven’t you ever wanted to look different?”

“Well, you know I’ve always wanted to lose weight,” Mom grimaced. “But what’s the point? I could look like a supermodel here, but that won’t change anything.”

“It might change how you see yourself,” Dad replied. “Here, let me work your image. Now don’t look at me like that; I’m not going to do anything weird in front of your own son.” Dad went Wait a minute, then reanimated. “You wanted to be thinner? Here you go.” Dad reshaped Mom’s image into a young woman’s, made her hair longer and pulled it back into a tail, then replaced her generic floral print dress with overalls and a flannel shirt.

“Hey Mom,” Mike grinned. “You look gooooooood.” He subvocalized a full-length mirror so Mom could see herself.

Dad winked. “You know, women in overalls always did turn me on.”

“Uh, guys, I’ve got a board to finish fixing,” Mike said, recognizing his cue. “See you tonight in meatspace.” He dissolved and was gone.

Mom looked at Dad and grinned shyly. “So now what?”

“We go for a ride,” Dad replied. He whistled, and two horses with full tack trotted out of the woods. “Somewhere a bit more traditional. This can be your fantasy, too.” The scenery shifted, becoming a grassy meadow, with hazy mountains in the distance and a chuckling stream nearby. The horses ambled over and drank.

“Let’s go somewhere different,” Mom countered. “How about that beach? We can build a driftwood fire when it gets dark.”

“You’ve got the idea,” Dad replied happily. They mounted up and rode across the dunes.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006 2 comments

Are we there yet?

A while back, I wrote a letter about the oil crunch to come, probably sooner than later. It looks like it might be getting started.

Has production reached a plateau?This IEA1 graph, from their Oil Market Report, shows world oil production from 2002 to the end of 2005. As you can see, total production seems to be levelling off — only in the last half of 2005 do you see production for two quarters in a row lower than the previous quarter.

Better news is in the text of the report: production climbed to 85Mbpd in December, resuming the steady climb (US production was hosed up by the hurricanes, and is slowly coming back on-line). But what the text giveth, another graph taketh away: follow the link and compare the "World Oil Supply" and "World Oil Demand" graphs. Demand is consistently outstripping supply, which suggests the reserves that Western nations have been building up for an emergency are being tapped and slowly(?) depleted as well.

So are we getting close to Peak Oil? The graph above suggests world production is starting to plateau, although it may well be a temporary hesitation while the Gulf of Mexico producers get their collective act back together. OPEC et al can still increase production, but it’s getting more and more difficult. My crystal ball is a little murky, but I think we’ll see another year or two of increasing yields before the trend turns the other way. The wild card is the deteriorating situation in the Middle East: military in Iraq, diplomatic in Iran. As bogged down in Iraq as we are, we can’t make a credible threat to Iran.

What’s more important is the difference between demand and supply. Unless Americans suddenly get rational and park their SUVs, permanently, demand will continue to climb. But even if we could control our own consumption habits, we can’t control China’s and India’s increasing thirst for oil: anything we leave on the table, Asia will grab with both hands.

The only thing I know for certain, the era of cheap oil is over.



1International Energy Agency, a consortium of energy-consuming nations.

Monday, January 23, 2006 No comments

Dangit

Mrs. Fetched baked some salmon last night, with some potatoes etc. on the side. I put the leftovers into two microwave plates — one for my lunch today and one for The Boy after he came home from band practice.

As things really went, Lobster ate The Boy’s plate... and The Boy ate my plate.

Sunday, January 22, 2006 1 comment

Hey Solar-bro...

Gimme a call tomorrow morning, 8 a.m. would be great, let me know that Dad got there OK... OK?

Thanks!

Camera shakeout

Seems that the photography industry has started quietly shaking out: Konica/Minolta is throwing in the towel and Nikon is dumping most of its film cameras to concentrate on digital — quite a turnaround in attitude at the iconic manufacturer.

Film is going to be around for quite a while — unless you have massive thousands of bucks, digital is going to lag film’s quality for some years to come. On the casual/consumer end, a lot of people still have good film cameras and aren’t ready to drop $350–$400 for a decent digital just yet. But for those of us who have them already, the quality is fine for snapshots and 5x7 prints (if you don’t look too close). The best part is that we can blow through the equivalent of four rolls of film in a day, keep the good shots, and make the bad stuff disappear with no guilt, extra cost, or waits for processing. It’s also nice to not have to keep a scanner around when I want to put my pictures on my blog.

One of the neat things about digital cameras is that many of them have a video mode, so you can take at least short clips of video. My camera takes video at 320x240, roughly equivalent to VHS quality, and can manage up to 3 minutes at a time (which about fills a 128MB card anyway). iMovie, to my pleasant surprise, converts and upsizes its AVI files so I can edit them and even mix them with DV video from my camcorder. Some digital cameras can take full-screen 640x480 video, which would require the biggest flash cards you can afford since it would require about 4 times the space of 320x240 video.

But that’s where things will head, eventually. Flash memory will continue to get cheaper (I’m thinking about a 512MB card for my camera), processors will continue to improve, and I expect solid-state camcorders to start pushing into DV territory in the next few years.

The Boy and His Pills

The Boy gets a pair of trips to his endocrinologist each quarter — one to draw blood, one to get the results. As we expected, his sloppy maintenance resulted in an A1C score of roughly 10... if you don’t know what that means, it’s not good; it should be around 7. After a stern lecture from the doc, who went into graphic detail of the slow painful death (piece by piece) that awaits him if he doesn’t get his act together, he confirmed that The Boy is indeed a Type II rather than Type I. “He would have probably hit 500 and ended up in the hospital over the summer if he was Type I.”

This is very good news for The Boy: it means he’s down to typically one injection (the Lantus he takes at bedtime) per day, with the Novolog as a backup if he needs it. Of course, he still has to poke himself and meter his glucose, but that’s no big deal by comparison.

I took an empty pill bottle and had him put a few of his pills in it to keep here. His regular supply is at his apartment, but if he comes home for a weekend or whatever he’ll have them even if he forgets his normal supply. (We also have a backup glucose meter.)

Wednesday, January 18, 2006 2 comments

Exceeding expectations

I was rather amazed.

The Boy actually found an apartment that didn’t ask questions about his educational status. Sure, it isn’t much: two rooms (not two bedrooms, mind you) plus a decent bathroom, full kitchen, $400/mo includes utilities. Good thing about the latter; the door has a pretty good gap under it to let the chilly wind in and keep his heater running. But it's his own place. It’s also within walking distance to where they do band practice, which was probably one of his more important considerations. His 18th birthday was Friday, he put his own money down on the place: well, go for it, kid. People are giving him furniture; if he’s not careful, he’ll be tripping over it. I suggested to Mrs. Fetched that I, her, and Daughter Dearest all mark a calendar with the day we figured he would have a problem big enough to need some real help. She said no... like it made a difference.

So a friend of his loaned him a little pickup truck to get around with & move his belongings from FAR Manor to his new nest (and pick up gifts of used furniture, of course). Like a lot of young guys, he associates staying up late with being cool, or adult, or something... I remember being that way but can’t really say what the attraction was, just that it was there. So about 2 a.m. Sunday morning, he called Lobster (who was elsewhere) and asked him if they wanted to meet at McDonald’s. After that, they were driving back to his new place when they got the Blue Light Special on aisle 136. Turns out that the friend neglected to tell him the truck didn’t have current plates! Smooooooooth.

That details aren’t too clear about what happened next, but Ossifer Friendly wound up searching them... and found a joint on The Boy. Break down, take down — you're busted. Fortunately for Lobster, the joint was the only contraband in the truck. The second cop (they travel in pairs these days) took Lobster back to his own truck and let him go. The Boy went directly to jail, do not pass go, do not collect $200.

So The Boy used his phone call to tell the friend who loaned him the truck, whose mom knows a guy with a tow truck; they came and got it. Lobster called M.A.E. (note that nobody so far is in much of a hurry to tell us) about 9 a.m. Sunday morning. M.A.E. went to Mrs. Fetched and said “Something terrible has happened!” With that for a lead-in, the wife’s reaction on finding he was in jail was like, “Oh, is that all?” In other words, major relief. She was thinking hospital or worse.

So The Boy exceeded — no, shattered — all expectations. I figured he’d last about a month until he got in over his head, although I was thinking financial issues or diabetes complications. It took him all of one day.

Then the phone calls started. Collect, of course, even though the jail & we are in the same phone exchange. It sort of complicated things, what with Monday being a holiday... although that at least meant I could be there to help bail him out (literally, for a change). Even though it was a holiday, they set his bail, a bondsman (actually, a freckled young lady) was available, came to the jail & took care of things. I had to ask her how she got in that line of work; she said she works for her dad, who’s an ex-cop (an Irish cop, from the looks of his daughter).

We collected The Boy (who was, ironically, wearing a T-shirt with “How Not to Get Caught” instructions) and took him home. Mrs. Fetched yelled at him; I yelled a little and laughed a little. Fortunately, he’s looking at a misdemeanor charge. Even more fortunately (have I ever said this kid is massively lucky? well, for the most part), he said the cop never read him his rights. Lobster was there & didn’t hear it either. Sounds like he might get off on a technicality, which would suck if he doesn’t learn anything from this — but would be good if he’d just get (and stay) straight. The bad part is that it could drag on for two years before he gets a court date... which makes getting it tossed on a technicality a bit more attractive.

The other bad part was that he told the jailers, M.A.E. called and told them, we called and told them, he’s diabetic. They didn’t give him any insulin while he was there, or check his sugar, or anything. Since Mrs. Fetched knows the sheriff, she’s going to have a little talk with him. I took him to his place to pick up his meter; he was at 296. The more I think about that, the happier I’d be to see his case thrown out for something stupid. If there’s anything that cheeses me off even more than what Bush-league is doing to the country, it’s sloppy local law enforcement.

Friday, January 13, 2006 No comments

Friday Night Cinema - we’re back!

You’ve watched up all the DVDs you got for Christmas, the bills started coming in, and you still haven’t cleaned up from that New Year’s Party... never fear, we bring you short flicks that won’t strain your budget or schedule.

Daughter Dearest pointed me to this one. It’s been 8 years or better, and people still find ways to get a chuckle out of the Hamster Dance. Tune in, turn on, and get ready for the Psychedelic Hamster Dance!

Thursday, January 12, 2006 3 comments

Sodium dodging

There's a new extreme sport for middle-aged men, called “Sodium Roulette.” Here’s how you play:

  1. Go to the supermarket.

  2. Pick up something that sounds good.

  3. Now, look at the label and see how much sodium there is in one serving. Write it down.

  4. Repeat until someone goes over 2400mg of sodium. That person is out.

  5. Last man standing wins!


Actually, I spent my lunch in the supermarket yesterday and actually found some good stuff. I’ve been trying to come up with some foods that are easy to fix in a microwave, don’t require refrigeration, are tasty, and not bad for you. I consider the trip a success, coming back with:

  • “Instant” brown rice (I don’t consider 7 minutes cooking time to be “instant,” but whatever.)

  • Cipollini onions (they’re small, so you can use whole onions and not have halfies left over)

  • Albacore tuna, marked “very low sodium” (at albacore prices, naturally... ouch)

  • Sardines packed in water (very little sodium, especially compared to packed in mustard or oil)

  • Smoked oysters (more sodium than the fish, but still within reason)

  • Low-sodium Triscuits (I was looking for Wheat Thin(g)s, but these will do)

  • Bean sprouts (there’s a refrigerator at work, fortunately... I just didn’t want to fill it up

  • Mrs. Dash Tomato/Basil/Garlic Blend

  • Bananas


I have a few packs of ramen hiding in the back of one of my overhead bins; chuck the “flavor” packet and what’s left is the closest thing to instant pasta that I know of.

Googling for “cipollini onions,” I found some recipes for roasting them that sound absolutely divine as a side dish to beef or pork... but right now, I’m primarily concerned about what I can cook in the break room microwave. I cut up a couple of onions into the rice pot, threw in a small handful of bean sprouts, added some Mrs. Dash, and nuked the whole shebang then topped it with a can of tuna. The result was edible, if a little bland; I need to vary the ingredients a little bit and maybe toss in some green pepper. I’ll post a recipe when I get it right.

I’m thinking about how I can do something with the ramen & smoked oysters...

Weird news items

From the BBC, but worthy of News of the Weird:

Now you can blame “it” on the trees!

Pigs may not fly... but they glow in the dark?

Tuesday, January 10, 2006 3 comments

Other things going on

If I haven’t posted in a couple of days, it often means I (temporarily) have gotten a life or something. I think in this case, it’s “or something.” Here’s what’s been going on.

I mentioned this in Vacation Reflections: at FAR Manor, we open our presents on Three Kings Day (Epiphany, Jan. 6). Or, like this year, work schedules can slide it into the weekend. So on Saturday, I got the 4-DVD Firefly series (highly recommended by David) and a Holy Grail T-shirt, showing the Black Knight with all his limbs hacked off and emblazoned in raised red letters: IT’S JUST A FLESH WOUND. The Boy got the same T-shirt, This is Spinal Tap on DVD, and a couple other things. Daughter Dearest got her iTunes gift cards, a betta tank (we’ll get the fish this weekend), and miscellany.

Mrs. Fetched got some stuff here & there, but what she needs is a Canon GL-2 to replace her business camera (a Sony of similar specs). The video circuitry went to hell on her while we were shooting the community chorale; fortunately the audio was still good & I was using my ZR-80 as a B-roll camera off to the side. With that, she was able to dub her decent audio onto my mediocre video and produce both CDs and DVDs for the chorale. One good-sized video job will cover the $2800 or so... if she can get a client who will pay quickly, we could get the camera on a “90 days same as cash” basis and not be out of pocket.

I’ve gotten hooked on She’s a flight risk, a blog purporting to be the diary of a young woman on the lam from her ultra-rich family. The link starts you off in the archives, which have been conveniently rearranged to go top to bottom (so you don’t have to scroll up to read). I seem to remember looking at it a year or two ago and then somehow forgetting about it.

Last night, I got myself a break and started working on setting up a computer for EJ, a friend of The Boy’s. It’s not the newest thing in the world — a PowerMac 8500/180 — but it will get him online and work for writing papers and the like. I’ll load it up with a few games and things too.

Working at home today. Time to grab a bowl of cereal and get to it.

Friday, January 06, 2006 1 comment

The Young Mayor

Some time back, I wrote about Michael Sessions, an 18-year-old high school student who ran a write-in campaign for mayor of Hillsdale, Michigan — and won. I got to wondering how that all went down and started Googling; it would make a good follow-up, anyway.

Well... after several ballots were invalidated because you have to check the box and write the candidate’s name next to it, Sessions was still ahead by two votes. The incumbent, Douglas Ingles, then asked for a recount (well yeah, when it’s that close you pretty much have to). Things got touch-and-go when the city council found an ordinance that barred swearing in an official whose election was the subject of a recount, and called a special meeting on November 18 (the Friday before Session was to be sworn in).

Session himself found out about the meeting while at the Michigan/Ohio State game, and left the game to attend the meeting. A crowd of supporters packed the meeting as well, to see what was going down.

Mr. Ingles then defused the tension by announcing that he was withdrawing the recount request, and pledging his support for Hillsdale’s new mayor, which drew many cheers — probably more than he ever got as an elected official. On Monday, November 21, Sessions was sworn in as mayor in front of a huge group of citizens and media from around the US, as well as international media including Japan, Russia, and France.

Lansing Community College’s Lookout has pictures of the mayor at work and... not-work.

Sometimes, it’s best to fire a customer

So many manufacturers are willing to cut their own throats — or at least those of their employees — to get into Wal-Mart. Once in a while, you find an executive with the vision and nards to get out.
“Now, at the price I’m selling to you today, I’m not making any money on it. And if we do what you want next year, I’ll lose money... we have this independent-dealer channel. And 80% of our business is over here with them. And I can’t put them at a competitive disadvantage. If I do that, I lose everything. So this just isn’t a compatible fit.”

I wonder why it’s so hard to shut off a sales channel, even knowing that those sales are losing money and possibly costing you in other ways.

When spammers lose... we all win!

That’s gonna leave a mark.

CIS Internet Services successfully sued James McCalla over claims he sent more than 280m illegal spam messages.... The judgment further bans McCalla from using the internet for three years.


Too bad there wasn’t a one-way ticket to Abu Ghraib involved. Hey, if you’re going to torture something, nothing is more deserving than a spammer.

Smack the Penguin

Daughter Dearest praises this one with faint damnation: “this game is so stupid... but it's so much fun.”

  1. Go forth and click.

  2. Click the snowman to make the penguin jump.

  3. Click the snowman to hit the penguin as he descends from the cliff


What's your distance? I got 587.something my first try, and haven’t beat it yet. Daughter Dearest has been working at it for a while, and beat it with 588.3 in between telling all her friends about the game.

I’ve been tagged

Carnacki got me.

OK, the rules of this little game are: reveal five weird habits about yourself, then tag five other bloggers. Fair enough.

  1. The more I like a song, the more likely it is that I will make up my own lyrics to it.

  2. I yank the occasional eyebrow hair that gets long (like, half my eyebrow long). That wouldn’t classify as a weird habit for women, perhaps, but I are not one of those.

  3. I “clip” my toenails by notching them with a fingernail then zipping it off. I then drop them behind the headboard.

  4. For whatever reason, I have a hard time with ending a project. I’ve been known to let them sit for months. I have no clue why.

  5. I almost never watch TV. Probably has something to do with wanting to scream at the right-wing talking heads. (When Reagan was sleeping speaking, I used to moon the TV and yell, “FACE THE NATION!!!”)


Awright... that’s probably more than you ever wanted to know. But now it’s my turn. I think I’ll tag two C&J’ers, two Techcomm’ers, and one of the other folks. Hmmm... Mountain Cerridwen, Cosmic Debris, Voodoo Mike, Laugh Practice, and... hm... yup, Austin Post.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006 5 comments

Born pure, salted to death

Given my aging-male issues (blood pressure, cholesterol), I decided to take a closer look at some of the labels on stuff I eat. I was surprised; except for that one weekend breakfast where we fix bacon & eggs, I don’t eat that much cholesterol at all. Through the week, I eat oatmeal when I get to work then have a pop-tart in the mid- to late morning; not much of the artery-clogging stuff.

But My God! the sodium!

It’s in everything, it seems. Even Coca-Cola (which I don’t drink much of) has a little! I had lunch at Subway today, and grabbed one of the nutrition charts they keep handy: most of the sandwiches have like 1100mg (or more) of sodium. Hunh? That’s as much as a cheap can of soup (the Healthy Choice soups are better). The sandwiches must absorb it from the Chinese restaurant about three doors down or something. “On average, Americans consume 4,000 to 6,000 milligrams of sodium daily” (recommended intake is 2400mg, just over a teaspoon of salt). No wonder over 25% of the population has high blood pressure!

I was already taking a hard look at cheese, thinking the cholesterol might be a problem there. Well, not so much as the sodium. Mom was telling me about touring a cheese-making operation last year; she saw them literally using shovels to throw salt into the batch. Low-fat Swiss cheese seems to be the best bet in terms of both sodium and saturated fat.

Even a slice of bread has 120mg to 180mg of sodium. That just floored me; I often make my own bread, so I decided to have a look at my own product. Aha... preservatives. My bread recipes call for about ½ tsp. of salt per loaf (and I tend to skimp on the salt anyway), the only sodium in any of the ingredients I use — at 14 slices per loaf, I get 82mg of sodium per slice. Yup, gonna be making my own bread from now on. And maybe slicing it just a little thinner, too.

When it comes to scary, Stephen King’s got nothing on food labels.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006 No comments

Eeeeeyaaaaaaaa!!!

That’s what it sounds like to this non-metal fan, anyway. The Boy just handed me a CD entitled, “The Death of Black and White,” which he says is the demo CD for his band. They finally got off the dime and did it! Six songs, a tad over 17 minutes, no “explicit” lyrics that I could tell (but I couldn’t catch about 90% of the lyrics anyway). Ironically, the track “29 Seconds” is the longest cut on the CD, nearly 4 minutes.

The sound is a tad muddy, no highs at all. I think they recorded it in somebody’s living room, but it’s better than I could have done (I tried in the detached garage last year). I’ve not figured out how to keep the drums from over-freeking-whelming the rest of the band; maybe the living room acoustics had something to do with it. Or maybe they put the drummer outside, or just recorded him separately and mixed the rest of it in. Or maybe they just had somebody who knows what they’re doing; The Boy claims the guy who recorded it was with Staind before they got big.

He came home with a small stack of CDs, which he plans to hand out to just about everybody he knows.

How does my (herb) garden grow?

With some inside, and some outside, and I can’t think of a rhyme at the moment.

As the colder weather came on, I dragged the pots in and out of the garage. That worked OK for a while, until it got into the low 20s one night and the basil started getting frostbite. Then I moved them inside, putting them on the coffee table by a window. Mrs. Fetched, for some reason, didn’t want them there (it might have had something to do with the basil almost touching the ceiling)... but I convinced her to wait until I got the carpet down in the outbuilding & things moved back in. That turned out to be a great idea, because she helped & recruited the boys to help as well.

So. In the outbuilding, with a window by day and a plant light by night: basil, marjoram, oregano, and thyme. The oregano especially is liking its new surroundings, shooting out several large sprouts, but the marjoram (after clipping dried stems and flower buds) and thyme are both showing plenty of new growth. The basil dropped a lot of leaves after its frostbite episode, but is showing some new growth here and there. I’m clipping off dried flower stalks and stems that don’t have any growth, hoping the rest of it will come back a bit better. Basil likes lots of light and lots of water, I’ve found — if I don’t water it every 2 or 3 days, it starts to wilt.

Outside: parsley, rosemary, and sage. That rosemary is one tough hombre — The Boy actually ran it over with the van once during the Summer of Discontent; it bent over and sprang back up like it was nothing. It wintered over like a pine tree, shrugging off the cold with aplomb. But my uncle (a retired chef) had the Food Channel on when we were visiting him (he lives fairly close to my mom & bro), and the Barefoot Contessa went out and clipped some fresh rosemary off a plant that must have been the size of some of our shrubs. Now where’s that plant food??? My mother-in-law uses sage in her canning expeditions; she knows she can get what she needs when she needs it. The parsley hung around and did OK through the summer, but really started thriving when the cooler weather arrived. I had a cilantro plant going, but it died for unknown reasons during the summer... maybe too much water.

I want to make a bed for growing garlic... but as cheap as garlic bulbs are at the supermarket, I might not bother.

Music to my ears

I’ve been following the Sony/BMG fiasco, which culminated in several lawsuits, for a while now. The New York class action has brought about some positive change:
Under the Settlement, SONY BMG will be enjoined from using XCP and MediaMax software on audio CDs they manufacture. SONY BMG will implement several changes to its policies and procedures concerning content protection software and the EULAs associated with that software. These changes will ensure that the content protection software will not be installed without the user’s express consent, will be removable from the user’s computer, and will not render the user’s computers vulnerable to known security risks. In addition, the EULAs will be written in plain English and will accurately describe the nature and function of the content protection software.

No more one-cheek sneaks, it looks like. And you thought class-action lawsuits benefit only the lawyers.

Vacation reflections

We got home at about 9:30 p.m. on New Year’s Eve, to a house full of people. Not only the extras we had when we left, but Mrs. Fetched’s brother, his wife, and their kids. We ended up playing euchre and dominoes until 5 a.m. (that I managed to grasp the Byzantine rules of euchre only goes to show how brain-fried I really was). We spent January 1 not doing much of anything; I was one of the first adults up at 10:30 (Daughter Dearest went to bed around 2 and got up around 9:30). I’ve found that I have a difficult time sleeping much past 9:30 nowadays, no matter how much or little sleep I get.

Yesterday, we went shopping. I think I mentioned that we (as a family) adopted the Hispanic tradition of doing our gift exchange on Jan. 6 (Epiphany or Three Kings’ Day) for several reasons, not the least of which is that it gives us 12 extra days to deal with shopping. Just in case DD or one of the other denizens has started reading, I will not go into details. Neener neener!

The brother & family stayed at our place until this morning: seems the gas company was dragging their feet about sending out a truck to fill their tank until Mrs. Fetched’s mom had a “little talk” with them. Sheesh. To make things even “better,” my cholesterol weighed in at 236 (about 30 points higher than what I expected, yucko). I’m hoping the eating & exercise habits I’m using to attack my blood pressure will also do for the cholesterol. But after only a handful of workouts, it’s taking more effort to get my heart rate up. The way things are going, I’ll have to start running marathons or something.

Gulls on the beachChucked right back into the pressure cooker, it helps to reflect on the vacation a bit. We only went down to the beach once — we carried our kites, but it was too calm to fly them, so we walked some instead. The entire week was very nice, except for the flu I talked about earlier.


Cold water!570 miles from FAR Manor, physically... light-years away, in another sense.

That water is cold, by the way!


Joking with Daughter Dearest, I told her Katrina washed all the dishwashing & laundry detergent out to sea, and the suds are washing up everywhere. In reality, it’s most likely just plain ol’ sea foam.


Back to dealing with reality. *sigh*

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