Tuesday, February 27, 2007 6 comments

Losing Cool

We now return to our regular topics.

Monday morning started off with a case of DDPMS. As I do most weekday mornings, I called up the stairs to make sure Daughter Dearest was moving. I heard a muffled response, and called back, “What?” She flung her door open, snarled, “I said I’m up!” and slammed the door. A few minutes later, she stormed into the kitchen and started in on me calling up the stairs instead of coming up: “people [by which she means her boyfriend] are trying to sleep!” I explained I was just trying to give her a little privacy, she snarled a justification, and I called her by her mom’s name. From her non-poker face, she looked both stung and peeved, but stuck a sock in it. Neither one of us said much on the way to school, which was fine with me. She’s showing signs of getting over herself, thankfully.

Speaking of the boyfriend, he’s starting a job at Home Despot. But unlike the lumber yard summer job I had between years of college, you don’t just start working. You have two days of orientation, some unspecified training time, tests… heck, it’s easier getting a job in hi-tech and the pay’s better. The orientation isn’t a simple matter of watching a dull video at the store you’re working at… no, they have to have this idiotic idea of “centralized orientation,” which involves driving to a Home Depot located in the middle of some of the worst suburban Atlanta rush hour traffic. To top it off, it starts at 8 a.m. and they warn you that being late means getting shut out of the orientation until they do it again next month! All this for a crappy retail job? GMAFB.

Since I used to work in that area, back before traffic got impossible, I volunteered to drive him down there. After all, I knew the back ways. We left at 6:30 and barely got there at 8 — in fact, we got there at 8:03 but they were either bluffing about the lockout or their clocks were slow. He hooked up with some people who will be working at the same store as him, and they’re carpooling tomorrow. But on the way down, I got a familiar whiff of antifreeze — which did nothing to improve my mood, seeing as the Civic has a new radiator complements of The Boy’s mishap last fall. But the car wasn’t overheating, so I got to work and reminded myself to look at it more closely at lunch.

A quick trip to Subway, and this time I saw a trickle of antifreeze running out from under the car. I popped the hood, and saw it was leaking from the same hose I tightened a while back. It was still tight, but definitely dripping. I called Mrs. Fetched and told her I’d need her to come down to pick up the boyfriend and take me to an auto parts store for a new radiator hose. Traffic was terrible on the way to Home Depot, and we were stuck in front of a Pep Boys — 10 minutes and $10 later, I had a new hose and we continued the crawl. Although it was night when we got back to the Civic, the hose was right on top and took all of two minutes to replace (it was cracked underneath). It took longer to go into the office and get some water to replace what had leaked.

One overheating problem takes care of itself after a week, the other is a simple repair involving only a screwdriver. If only all of life’s problems were that easy to fix.

Monday, February 26, 2007 3 comments

Universal Healthcare: Necessary but not Sufficient

Family Man wrote a brief post about the state of what could laughably be called “healthcare” in this country, after he found that his insurance wouldn’t cover a stop-smoking medication (WTF??). My response got a bit long for a comments page, so I decided to put it here.

This actually started with a trip to the chiro-cracker today. A little money shook loose and we were all feeling somewhat kinked (in the neck & back, not the other way), so Mrs. Fetched called them up and got us back on the monthly plan. There’s a big whiteboard behind the counter, where they usually flag their evening seminars and the like; today it had a bunch of negative statistics about the medical profession. I have a feeling there was a lot of FUD involved, but the things that stood out for me were the huge number of unnecessary surgeries (for whatever definition of “unnecessary”) and the number of emergency cases due to drug interactions or allergic reactions to drugs. Both of those could be attributed to the profit motive — in other words, a system devoted to healthcare rather than profitcare would naturally attempt to minimize both.

In the system we have today, everything in the medical system is geared toward maximizing profit. Providing some level of healthcare is necessary to keep people from demanding change (although that has begun, and may be too late to stop), but that hasn’t been the primary concern for quite some time. We’ve all heard of — or perhaps experienced — the assembly line-like visits of “managed health care,” and read the articles about people with cancer or other major illnesses whose doctors have their hands tied by HMO bean counters. The Boy’s diabetes medication, now that he is not covered by our insurance (not at home and not in school), is pretty much unaffordable for him. Drug companies have to recoup their “research costs,” although much of that research is funded by taxpayers (that is, you and me) and their marketing budgets are often higher than their research budgets. Then, of course, you get episodes like Merck trying to downplay (or even hide) serious side effects with Vioxx — because, after all, there’s money to be made.

FDA analysts estimated that Vioxx caused between 88,000 and 139,000 heart attacks, 30 to 40 percent of which were probably fatal, in the five years the drug was on the market.

(The numbers were on Wikipedia, take with an appropriate amount of no-salt.)

The other side of the coin, of course, is how the profit motive promotes unhealthy activity — smoking this cigarette makes you cool, drinking that soda improves your life, open a beer and you’ll immediately be surrounded by Hot Babes™. This processed-to-hell-and-back "food product" is soooo easy to fix and tastes great! (just don’t look at how much sodium & cholesterol is in it) Oh, and by the way, watch this TV show and that TV show — it’s much more relaxing than exercise.

Now you have a McMansion you can barely afford and can’t get rid of, and you spend two (or more) hours a day commuting to/from a job that stresses you out. Your spouse works a similar job, so neither one of you have the time or energy to fix healthy meals. Breakfast is a sausage and egg biscuit in the car, lunch is a dash to the burger stand, and supper is a pre-packaged whatever.

So one day you wake up: you’re 45 and your weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol are in the “sucks” range. The doc diagnoses your spouse as “pre-diabetic” (you don’t exactly know that that means, but it sounds scary) and tells you both to get some exercise and start eating better. Oh, and by the way, here’s your prescriptions.

But we don’t have time to take care of ourselves! We have a lifestyle to maintain!

And you, one might say, are the “lucky” ones. You make your weekly pilgrimage to Wal-Mart, buy a bunch of stuff you don’t need and gripe about how shoddy it is, without a single thought about the people wearing the blue vests. They have many of the same problems as those of us “comfortably” in the middle class, but when the time comes to make that trip to the doc, the price tag attached to those prescriptions is simply beyond their means.

More and more people are standing up and demanding universal healthcare. President Clinton tried taking the initiative, but it was shot down by the usual suspects and their shills in Congress and talk radio. But these days, even Bush-league must at least pay lip service to the grass-roots demand that something be done. Katiebird has a series of articles on Eat4Today that are simply titled, “Cover Everyone” — great stuff.

Universal healthcare will help those folks in retail jobs, not to mention people who can't find a job that can put food on the table, but it isn’t enough. For many of us, from the middle class on down, our very lifestyles have become toxic. We’ve bought into the mantra of “more” (try chanting it, drawing out the ‘O’), not realizing that it has given us less: less time because it’s wasted in a long commute, less money because we buy too much house and fill it with too much stuff, less health because we don’t take the time to exercise or eat right. We’re on a treadmill, all right, but it’s not the kind we should be on.

There’s no pill that can cure lifestyle problems (unless the drug companies are hiding a formula that will make people resistant to marketing… not likely), but it’s our lifestyle that is making many of us sick. We could create a perfect health care system that covers everyone, but the Constitution won’t let us ban marketing or even destructive lifestyles. I’m not sure we could even legally ban unhealthy food (especially since a certain amount of things like carbs, fat, sodium, and cholesterol are necessary nutrients). No, if we want health for ourselves and our neighbors, it has to start with us. We should work to Cover Everyone — that’s only right — but we also need to invent a better way of life, one that will keep us out of the doctor’s office in the first place.

Saturday, February 24, 2007 3 comments

Podcast from FAR Manor #4 — News, phones, music

After an unwanted January hiatus, I have returned to the podwaves! I’ve got the latest news from the free-range insane asylum, cellphone chatter, and an interview with Daughter Dearest’s band.

Listen up! direct link (14.7MB MP3) | archive page (listen online)

Here’s a shot of the band, practicing in the big garage…



…and their Myspace page, with more music and even a logo!

Contents:

00:00 - Intro
01:51 - News from FAR Manor
04:33 - Shiny Things, the all-cellphone edition (scoring iPhone predictions, Samsung Sync)
09:33 - An interview with the band “Short Buss”
23:52 - Wrap-up

Thanks to everyone out there listening to these podcasts. If you have comments or suggestions, feel free to leave comments here, on the archive page, or email text (or even audio comments) to FARfetched58 at aim.com.

Production Notes
Audio was recorded using an XtremeMac MicroMemo iPod accessory, a Samsung Sync, and a Blue Snowball USB mike (and that’s why the audio changes here and there). Audio files were edited on a MacBook Pro, running 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:
The Internet Archive

Friday, February 23, 2007 2 comments

Friday Night Cinema

Why waste gas and money to see a movie? Friday Night Cinema brings free flicks straight to your screen!

If you can open them, that is. Living on the leading edge has always required someone to work the help desk — and tonight, you’ll see what the helpdesk worker (A.D. 150) had to deal with…

Cam This Thing

Coming in from work Tuesday, I hit the garage door opener, and saw the door twitch and stop. Figuring I just didn’t hold the button down long enough, I did it again and this time it worked.

Then it turned out to be the last time. After that, it would move an inch or so one way or the other, then stop.

Mrs. Fetched took it better than usual; inconvenience usually puts her in a foul mood. She seemed to enjoy the sight of Daughter Dearest and her boyfriend holding up the door as she backed Barge Vader in & out of the garage, though. But she told me (on several occasions) where to find the manual for the opener, and asked me to fix it (if possible) before they got back from Savannah.

With she, Daughter Dearest, and Barge Vader safely out of the way, I got the ladder and had a look while the boyfriend pushed the button. It quickly became apparent that a bumper (attached to the chain) was in the wrong place. The arm that connects the door to the mechanism was pushing alarmingly far, so I figured something had jumped the track somewhere. Getting out the manual, this is what I found:

Top view of garage door opener mechanism

The “down limit cam” (circled in the above drawing, in the position where it should have been) was instead all the way around the pulley, where the red X is. Figuring the “up limit cam” was similarly shifted, I had the boyfriend hoist the garage door so I could measure the amount of necessary travel. I moved the cams where I thought they should be and tried again.

This time, the door stopped going up about two feet short. That cam was in the right place to begin with, it seems. After a few iterations, I got the cams in the right place and drove my car back inside for the night.

If only paying off the mortgage were so easy.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007 3 comments

Spring has sprung?

Well, maybe not, but it’s definitely going to be a bit warmer than it had been the last two weeks.

But The Boy got sprung today. Seems the legal system still does most stuff by snail-mail, and the President’s Day holiday put all that behind by a day. But the judge’s office faxed the waiver to the jail after she signed it, and they turned him loose.

Naturally, Mrs. Fetched was stuck at the chicken houses, helping to bring in the new batch of chicks — so he walked to his apartment. She went by there later, and found nobody at home, so they must have gone out to celebrate or something.

I get a few days of freedom, too: Mrs. Fetched is taking Daughter Dearest to Savannah for the All-State Chorus performance. Well, I have to work tomorrow and Friday, so one day of freedom. If that: I’ve been committed to attend a birthday party. I’ll deal, especially since Daughter Dearest’s boyfriend is stuck here too.

Oh, speaking of freedom, M.A.E. moved out today. She really hadn’t been here much anyway, but she got all her stuff this evening. That didn’t take nearly as long as I thought it would!

Hyacinth

I got this for Mrs. Fetched on Valentine’s Day, and it had three blooms on it then. It has been busy in the last week!

I also got a shot with Clickzilla; it’ll be interesting to see how much detail got picked up on that film thing.

Sunday, February 18, 2007 3 comments

Visitation

We went to see The Boy today, on his scheduled visitation. He looked resplendent in his orange jumpsuit, let me tell you. He should be out either Tuesday or Wednesday, depending on whether they count Friday as a full day.

I can’t tell if he’s learned anything from this or not — he makes the right noises, but he’s good at that. I think he’s going to come home for a day or so then go back to his apartment. The bad part about that is that he’ll be back in with the same friends that got him where he is; the good part is that he’ll be closer to wherever he finds work (which is important since his driver’s license has been suspended for six months).

The preacher met us at the jail, and he gets a pass to come in any time, so he’s going to have some one-on-one with The Boy tomorrow. I hope that goes well.

Saturday, February 17, 2007 2 comments

Good News, Bad News

Bad news first. Things at work have been absolutely crazy the last week or so. Trying to catch up, I brought a couple of projects home with me that are getting down to the wire. I managed to finish the first one this afternoon; trying to decide whether I want to do more than poke at the second one tonight.

The good news is that the documentation projects have rescued me from a weekend of chicken house duty. Given a choice between the two, I’ll take the work work any day.

We have snow flurries outside, and a good fire inside. Stay warm. Family Man, do some extra slacking for me tomorrow….

Friday, February 16, 2007 No comments

Friday Night Cinema

Looks like the warming trend starts next week… right on time. But tonight, it’s too cold to get out and you have no cash anyway. Never fear, Friday Night Cinema brings free flicks right to your computer screen!

With The Boy in the clink for the next 5 to 10 days, maybe something longer than the usual short-short would be appropriate. How about…

A blast from the past, all the way back to 1938: yes, it’s Reefer Madness!

Thursday, February 15, 2007 3 comments

Days of confinement

Looks like this is more of a short-term kick in the head. The Boy reports to his probation officer tomorrow, a cop picks him up and carts him to the clink. He spends up to 10 days there, on a “2 for 1” basis: every day of good behavior is one day off. So if he doesn’t screw up, he’ll be there 5 days. He doesn’t get to smoke, so that’s probably going to be the worst part (immediately, at least).

More importantly, he loses his driver’s license for six months — and worst of all, loses the chance to have his record deleted after he completes his probation. No fun.

Monday, February 12, 2007 4 comments

Hello Again

Guess who’s back at the free-range insane asylum?

Yup, M.A.E. her own self.

When we last saw M.A.E., she was on her way out the door to move in with her new boyfriend. That lasted all of a week or two, when she found out he had been playing around on the side all along (or was she the one on the side?). She wound up with her psycho mom for a while, then landed with some people in the next town south. That blew up last week, precipitated by the same thing that got her out of FAR Manor (spending the night with some “people” they didn’t know) and she finally got around to asking us over the weekend if she could come back here.

Mrs. Fetched and I were both against the idea. Neither one of us thought she’d learned much, or would be willing to deal with The Rules — but our renters need some help with their grand-triplets (the mom is there but not helping) so we thought maybe she could stay with them. That isn’t happening either. However, she’s lined up a place with some friends who have moved to Virginia, so Mrs. Fetched decided she could use FAR Manor as a staging area — basically, her tax return will pay for a bus/train ticket on outta here. In the meantime, she’ll be spending a couple of days per week dealing with the triplets. I think this will be good for her; she’s always fancied herself a daycare worker.

That’s the plan, anyway. I figure she’ll be here for months. Oh well: I don’t get to walk around in my undies anymore, but she always makes for interesting blog material.

Sunday, February 11, 2007 6 comments

Abandoned Farmhouse

This long-abandoned homestead caught my eye a couple of weeks ago on a sunny weekend afternoon.

How Much Weirder Can Life Get??? (UPDATED)

Here’s one straight out of the X-Files.

Russian fishermen don’t know what they caught, but they ate it anyway

This video is just… well, I hope it’s faked.

UPDATE!
The mystery is solved: Scott on Techcomm tells us, “It's a guitarfish (a.k.a. shovelnose ray, shovelnose shark), and they're actually very tasty fish.” Whew. Just knowing it's just strange instead of other-worldly makes me feel better. :-)

R.I.P. Lapdancer

The rework fix to Lapdancer, my iBook, seems to have been temporary — or rather, the fix let it live long enough for something else to happen.

I was happily plonking around online yesterday, playing some music, when I took my headphones off for a short break. Hearing the iBook fan humming along, I reached around to find things were pretty warm in the back. I decided to shut it down, but too late — it locked up before I could do it.

Coming back a few hours later, after things had cooled down, I started it up. I heard the chimes, but got nothing on the screen and the USB ports weren't talking either. I’m afraid that the heatsink I put on the graphics chips may have contributed to the problem.

So it’s definitely time for a new computer. Daughter Dearest’s iBook didn’t respond to the rework fix, although the technician told me to bring it back if it didn’t work and she would give it a second try. Maybe we’ll get one of them working.

Friday, February 09, 2007 2 comments

Friday Night Cinema (double feature)

Too late to go see a movie! But don’t worry, Friday Night Cinema brings short flicks right to your computer, so you’ll still have time to brush your teeth and let the dog out.

Tonight, we have a double feature of commercials that (for whatever reason) were never aired — and both of them crank the laugh knob to 11!

Bottle opener

Answer the… phone…

Thursday, February 08, 2007 8 comments

Jailhouse Blues

I really don’t know how to finesse this one. The Boy went to his scheduled probation visit on Tuesday, they gave him a drug test, and you can guess how that went. They’re giving him until next Friday to report to the clink. He’s not too happy about it, obviously… and is trying to tell us he wasn’t doing anything like that. Um, yeah, right. Can second-hand smoke show up on a drug test? I really don’t know, but I still think he had a little something here & there. He just doesn’t believe in consequences.

He mentioned running, although Mrs. Fetched warned him what would come of that. I just wish they’d stick him in boot camp or something; he might learn to take some responsibility for himself.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007 3 comments

Reality is Stranger Than Fiction

Here’s the plot. Work with me on this one, OK? You’ve got these three astronauts, two women and a man. One of the women gets jealous, drives 1600 miles to confront her, and gets charged with attempted murder. Great late-night movie plot, right? Oh, never mind.

All right, let’s say you’re a huge company and your product isn’t selling in Asia as well as you thought it would. What do you do: survey your potential customers to see what you could do better… or insult them?

Dang. It’s a good thing I never tried to become a novelist — you just can’t make up stuff as weird as what reality throws at you.

Monday, February 05, 2007 5 comments

Surprised?

Looks like iTunes has problems with Vista. In other news, the sun rose in the east this morning and it’s cold in the winter. I don’t remember where I said it, but I had figured the development motto at Microsoft was “Vista ain’t done ’til iTunes won’t run.”

Microsoft, according to the article, “has a team working with Apple to make iTunes fully functional on Vista.” Call me cynical, but I wonder whether they’ll actually slow things down — whether they mean to or not.

Saturday, February 03, 2007 No comments

In the News

From The Register, of course…

From the “Quit While You’re Ahead” department: you bet WHAT on that hand?

OK, I remember what high school was like. I could understand shucking your clothes and running amok in the cafeteria… but what’s with the grapeseed oil?

Questions abound.

Friday, February 02, 2007 No comments

Friday Night Cinema

Man, has this week ever gotten away from me — still haven’t finished the podcast, and now it’s going to be a January/February edition. I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t have time to sit through a full-length movie right now.

It’s winter out there, so let’s warm things up with a FLAMING TUBA!

Thursday, February 01, 2007 4 comments

Hello Wet Snowy February

This isn’t the first time a change of month has been somewhat dramatic.

We were up pretty late last night; some co-workers drove all the way up to FAR Manor to avail themselves of Mrs. Fetched’s video editing services. As always, it took several hours longer than expected; they didn’t get out of here until nearly midnight (and she charges by the hour, cha-ching!). But they were happy, and that’s what counts.

So the weather dudes were predicting possible light icing and up two 2 inches of snow “in the higher elevations.” Oops.

The good part is, we were up so late wrapping up with file conversions that I needed a good excuse to sleep late this morning. Looks like I got it! Unfortunately, I have to get into the office today; I have a critical project that needs finishing and I have to deliver the video files to the co-workers.


I’ll wrap this up with some more snow…

A second picture of today’s snow…


…and a video clip of last year’s snow, two weeks short of a year ago.


Stay warm and dry if you can. (Yeah, yeah, Solar, I know you will!)

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