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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