Sunday, September 30, 2007 8 comments

You Meet the Nicest People on a Suzuki

Location: out front
Music: BassDrive


One of the more interesting aspects of my new ride is that people tend to come over and talk to me. A lot. I would see that happen from time to time on the Virago, but I think the unconventional-looking bike tends to get people curious. I get people coming up and talking to me all the time when I’m stopped somewhere.

Indeed, the first day I had the bike, I was gassing up and a cop stopped by to check it out, followed by a guy with a similar bike in different trim (dual-sport instead of supermoto). The first week I had it at work, I amused myself by watching out the window at co-workers inspecting it — you could almost see the “WTF?” thought balloons. At the gas station (again), a guy cheerfully talked about wanting to sell his Yamaha since he whacked a tree at 40mph and broke his hip (I suspect that story probably involved alcohol or other mind-altering substances, but he didn’t get into details). He also talked about riding in Baja, which sounded like a real blast but is a bit far to go for a ride IMO.

On a dirt road last weekend, a kid on a four-wheeler caught me at a stop sign and chattered about his friend who got a similar bike. Then yesterday, as I pulled into Home Depot (for a paint scraper), a guy on a decked-out Volusia came in from the other direction and we ended up sharing a sheltered spot where a third motorcycle was already parked. He came walking over to check out the DRZ and started talking about rides and all the other stuff we tend to talk about with our fellows. He’s from a family of riders; his dad rode cross-country a couple years ago and his mom sold him the Volusia because (at age 70) she considers herself too old to ride.

So if you want to meet people, this is definitely one way to do it: get an odd-looking motorcycle and make occasional stops.

Thursday, September 27, 2007 13 comments

Peak Oil: the 20% Remedy

We interrupt FAR Future for a moment…

It has often been said that “less is more,” and that may apply especially to the suburban lifestyle that has come to define the American consumer in the last couple of decades. We end up with too much house, live too far away from work, drive vehicles far larger than needed, then we fill that house with too much stuff. We’re dissatisfied with our lives, and think even more stuff is going to make it better.

I read a great book a while back, Your Money or Your Life, which outlines an iterative process for defining (and having) “enough” — and then going beyond that, to becoming truly financially independent (defined as not having to work for a living). It’s actually quite logical: you track your spending by categories, analyze it every month, and then determine whether you’re overspending, underspending, or spending enough in each category. It’s not about depriving yourself of things you really want, it’s about figuring out what you really want instead of just shotgun-buying more stuff.

What does that have to do with peak oil? Well, both peak oil and the book use a bell curve to illustrate their main points. Oil production, whether looking at one well or the world in aggregate, starts out low, climbs to a plateau and peaks (which is, according to the most reliable experts, where we are now), then falls back. The book puts its own bell curve in a graph (PDF, see page 12), with “stuff” on the X-axis and “fulfillment” on the Y-axis. On this graph, the plateau is what defines “enough.”

Beyond lines on a chart, though, the Culture of More is really what is making peak oil a problem. Bigger houses require more energy to heat or cool. Bigger vehicles and longer commutes require more energy to run. Demanding more stuff at cheaper prices is what has sent our manufacturing jobs to Asia, and sacrificed so many local business to Wal-Mart. With all the money pouring into China and India, their economies are booming… and guess what their growing middle class is doing? Yup, looking to America as the model for the good life. So with production leveling off, and demand still climbing, the plateau is rapidly becoming “not enough.” In classic supply and demand terms, demand is about to overtake the supply, and supply is “constrained” (a fancy way of saying it can’t be increased, despite happy-talk from industry groups and the Saudis).

In FAR Future, I’ve been writing about what things could be like in five years, when there’s not enough fuel to go around. I’m making a rather large and optimistic assumption, though: that governments will accept that supplies are dwindling and most people will make the best of the situation. Delusional conservatives insist that “the free market” is capable of optimizing fuel distribution, but they overlook a crucial point: the “market” is reactive, and we need to be proactive to minimize disruptions in what President-in-Fact Cheney calls “our non-negotiable way of life.” Every gallon of gasoline we use now, every cubic foot of natural gas, is that much we won’t have in the future — when it’s gone, it’s gone (over geological time spans, that’s not completely true, but I don’t expect humans to be around in 50 million years).

Thus, the 20% Remedy. My personal theory is that the country as a whole has overshot the “enough” plateau, and that we would be happier and better off if we cut about 20% out of our resource usage. Why 20%? I’ll admit I pulled the number out of my back pocket, but it can represent (among other things) one day of the work week. Some people are using close to the optimum amount of energy for a satisfying life now, others are using more than 20% too much, so think of 20% as an average figure, or a first approximation. You can arrive at your own figure through the same iterative process as Your Money or Your Life advises for optimizing your expenditures.

What does 20% mean in practical terms?

Commuting: Telecommute, or use transit, once a week — or take a two-person carpool twice a week. Indirect benefits come with scale (i.e. enough people embracing 20%): less traffic means you get “there” faster, and reduces the need for road construction (lower taxes, and asphalt is a petroleum product). Replace your vehicle, when the time comes, with one that uses 20% less fuel for the same amount of driving. Better driving habits won’t net you 20% better mileage with the car you have, unless you’re a serious lead-foot, but 5% to 10% is certainly possible. Combine your trips and plan those combined outings to minimize mileage — it can be fun, like solving a puzzle.

Electricity: Hang out the wash instead of using the dryer, every fifth load. Set the thermostat so that the air conditioner runs 20% less often. Skip every fifth shower to reduce hot water usage. The old standby, switching to CF light bulbs (at FAR Manor, we’re replacing the incandescents as they burn out, to delay that trip to the landfill). Watch 20% less TV and spend the new-found free time walking or getting to know your family.

Food: Fertilizer requires fossil fuels to produce, and winter veggies don’t fly themselves here from South America. Try to grow some of your own food — 20% might be difficult, though. Make up the difference by buying local produce — especially organic produce — at farmers markets or subscription co-ops. Get more than you need and preserve the extra for the winter (canning, dehydrating, etc.), so you aren’t as tempted to look for those South American tomatoes. Skip that fifth “dinner out,” or replace it with a picnic. Make Eat4Today a regular web-stop if you don’t already, and lose some weight (again, 20% might be difficult, but again YMMV).

Plastics: Plastics are a petroleum product! Over non-geological time, plastic doesn’t degrade much, so just using less of the stuff (say… about 20% less?) makes sense. Crafty Green Poet recently wrote a great article about how (and why) to reduce use of plastic in general. There was recently a flurry of articles about bottled water causing a huge upswing in plastic bottle waste — if you don’t like your tap water, consider filtering it and reusing those water bottles. Reuse the plastic you bring home as much as possible, then recycle it.

That’s a start, anyway. By using fewer resources, we can get ahead of the oil depletion curve — and when constraints become mandatory instead of voluntary, they won’t affect us as much. Even if you think a technology-fix is just around the corner, you might still find a more satisfying life inside a smaller footprint. I’m sure I’ve missed a few examples, feel free to provide them in the comments!

Monday, September 24, 2007 7 comments

Ka-boom

Mrs. Fetched and I had a quarrel yesterday, first in quite a while. It’s been building for some time, after she fell back into the habit of refusing to drive anywhere but commenting on anything she perceived as a flaw in my driving. She finally bounced a check at the Resentment Bank (remind me to post that essay sometime), and I barked something like, “Fine! You’re doing the driving from now on!” Daughter Dearest doesn’t like those episodes very much, and she wasn’t feeling good anyway, so she ate something and went upstairs.

I had agreed to help with the chickens after lunch, since DD wasn’t 100%, but Mrs. Fetched said she didn’t want my help. Fine with me, I thought, and poked around online for a while. About an hour later, “not wanting help” became “but I need it anyway,” when she found a jammed curtain cable. She was civil while I fixed the cable (which involved dismantling a jammed pulley then tightening it to prevent a reoccurrence) and for the rest of the day. By this morning, she was acting pretty friendly (not that friendly, just not hostile).

As she explained it to someone else a while back, “I yell at him, he yells at me, then it’s all better.” But I’d be happier without the running commentary in the first place.

Saturday, September 22, 2007 10 comments

Weekend Roundup

Nancy P has been tantalizing us with pictures of the outside of her writing porch, so I thought I’d reciprocate with an interior view. Sprite (Daughter Dearest’s fat cat) is so excited about getting a chance to write, he’s steaming up the porch! Looks like he might have shorted the keyboard too, the way his eyes are all lit up.

Happy birthday to the parental units! Mom and Dad have back-to-back birthdays, Thursday and Friday. I got to chat with both of them for a while.

I broke down and bought Shout Out Out Out Out’s “Not Saying/Just Saying” album off iTunes this week. I prefer to buy albums by the CD, but it’s kind of hard to find outside of Canada and I was too lazy to mail-order it. You gotta love a band that names one of their tracks “Chicken Soup for the F**k You.”

Daughter Dearest came home with a flat tire yesterday — her car doesn’t even have a spare tire, let alone a jack, so I dug the spare out of my Civic and she helped me change the tire. At least she knows what to do now. I got to thinking about stuff we should pack in an emergency kit (junk in her trunk?), besides a spare & a jack: stop-leak for a quick tire repair, a flashlight of some sort, a gallon of water, and essentials like underwear and a shirt in case she has to spend a night somewhere. That got me wondering what other people keep in their vehicles, if anything, for emergencies. Tomorrow, we’re going to the park with my car so she can learn to drive a manual shift… I figure if she can’t get her tire fixed this weekend, she can take my car to school and I can take the motorcycle.

This was the weekend I was going to tackle the trim around the house. Unfortunately, Mrs. Fetched took me to the chicken houses instead. There’s half the day gone. Then we got lunch and groceries: that’s most of the other half. Oh well, maybe I can get started tomorrow.

And now, it’s time for a walk. I might get out on the porch and do some writing afterwards. Assuming I can fend off Sprite.

UPDATE: I forgot to mention, I was cleaning off my desk in the bedroom a couple of nights ago and found my “Blue Sky” list. I think Getting Things Done suggested it; it’s things I want to see happen eventually, no matter how improbable (like living on the coast, far away from chicken houses). I was surprised that one of them (getting below 200 pounds) has been achieved, and a second (The Boy getting straightened out) seems to be on the way to happening. Some others aren’t completely impossible, that may have seemed that way when I made the list.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007 5 comments

FAR Future: Episode 9

Step 1: write. check
Step 2: post. whoops



Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Time Off, and the Barter Economy


Somehow, Labor Day just wasn’t the same now that every Monday is a day off. More people were around, that was the major difference. We’ve done a lot of cooking on the patio this summer to keep the heat outside, like everyone else, so that really wasn’t different either. I know a lot of people are burning cardboard or paper to cook with, which hasn’t helped the air quality any — but when it comes right down to it, wood, charcoal and even propane create fumes too. I can appreciate making use of the trash instead of chucking it in the landfill, too.

Right after Labor Day, we went up to the resort in Helen for a couple of weeks. We got a Tuesday-Friday block for like $150, and it was even the same unit where we have our regular week so we didn’t have to move our stuff. Internet access was pretty much gone this year; they've given up trying to keep wi-fi running and the units aren’t wired for Ethernet. Sure, I could have gone up to the clubhouse and plugged in, but we were too busy doing things together. (You know: walking, swimming, biking…) Helen is worried that their Octoberfest is going to be a bust this year, but the hotels got smart and chartered a daily bus service down to Atlanta (with a stop in Gainesville). People can come up for a day trip or stay a few days.

The other trendy vacation thing I heard about this year is a “Resort @Home” service — a maid, butler, and cook straighten up your house and wait on you hand & foot for one or two weeks. It sounds really nice, but it wouldn’t work at FAR Manor (maybe next year when the chicken houses are shut down) even if we could afford it. I guess the staff lives in a motorhome unless you have extra bedrooms.

We had a quiet vacation overall. The Boy is installing and maintaining backup power systems (with solar or wind), it’s good money and he’s staying busy; Daughter Dearest is doing a little post-grad work before starting her new job in October. We traded last year for a week in July, so she could spend the week with us without missing the start of the school year. There weren’t too many people here this year, so we didn’t have a problem finding pool chairs and we didn’t get caught behind too many people playing mini-golf. Mrs. Fetched enjoyed walking around this year, which is nice. A lot of Mountain Shadows properties are up for sale, cheap; if I thought we wouldn’t need the money for composting toilets or solar panels, I’d grab one. Of course, then I’d have two places that would need composting toilets and solar panels. I guess not.

More people are taking vacations close to home this year. Since rationing allotments are only good for 3 weeks, you can’t save up all year to burn a bunch of gas on a long road trip. Labor Day was the first holiday since rationing went into effect, and it seems that holidays (or rather, the 2 weeks previous) are going to bring a lot of activity to the exchange, and a bid-up on allotment prices — not everyone is ready to give up their long trips, I suppose. You can get stale (4 to 7 days to expiration) allotments for 25 cents/gallon most of the time, but they went to nearly a buck the week before Labor Day. We usually sell our freshest allotments, since they generally bring a higher price, and use up the stale ones. We haven’t needed to yet, but we figure we can pick up some more allotments if we run short. We’ve cleared close to $20 so far on the exchange — nobody’s getting rich on it — so we just leave it in the account just in case we need some extra go-juice. Given that rationed gas is pretty much available, we may make that trip to Florida after all — the other side of that coin is that we can’t get a place for next to nothing now.

Our new plan, though, might be to start trading. Allotments that have less than 4 days to expire can’t be auctioned on the exchange, but you can use the “private exchange” section to transfer allotments and settle the bill off-line. What with milk topping $7 at the supermarket, one of our neighbors bought a goat for milk. She’s a good producer, I guess — they said they have more milk than they know what to do with, so we might start trading allotments for goat milk. They gave us some to try; Mrs. Fetched thinks it tastes a little strange, but she said she could get used to it. (I tried it in college, and liked it quite a bit, and that hasn’t changed.) We’ve done a lot of produce-swapping this summer, too. I traded peppers and herbs for spinach, corn, and eggs. The in-laws have these green beans that can embarrass zucchini to death (I’ve seen it happen), and they had plenty to trade for stuff they wanted, too. The church down the road started offering their yard as an open-air market the last couple of weeks; I think they’ll start earlier next year.

The in-laws are doing quite well with the cattle nowadays, which is giving them a cushion for when they shut down the chicken houses next spring. Beef might be a luxury item, what with so much corn going to ethanol, but this herd eats grass. That pretty much means the only expense is fuel for cutting hay or taking the cows to the auction. The cattle farm was certified organic last year, and that’s helped a lot too. We’ve put a lot of brainwork, and a bit of physical labor, into trying to minimize the amount of fuel needed for the hay. I’m sure we could come up with some better stuff than what we’ve done so far, but every bit helps. Sooner or later, others will catch on and stop using corn for feeding livestock, but for now the advantage is ours. It’s amazing what you can get in trade for a whole cow… someone even offered them an older SUV (yeah, right — who wants a gas hog these days?). Mostly they take cash, unless it’s from a neighbor; they have enough fuel to run the farm and aren’t lacking for anything else.

What’s your “beef” these days?

continued…

Tuesday, September 18, 2007 9 comments

The Boy Is Free, and Other Niceties of Life

The Boy went to his last probation meeting yesterday. All his fines are paid, all his requirements (drug class, DUI class) are met, the probation officer signed off and he’s a free Boy. Needless to say, his attitude was pretty good last night… even if he still reeks of cigarettes. He’s agreed to pay back some stuff he owes us, with his debts getting first cut of his landscaping job — but we’re limiting the bite we take so he can save up for a car. I hope he holds up his end… and I’ve said it before, if he’d ditch the smokes, he could afford a car that much sooner. Someone put a minivan right across the road from FAR Manor’s driveway last week; they want $400 for it but Mrs. Fetched said she saw it blowing oil. I suppose if you had a decent motor already, and a place to effect the swap, it would be a good thing to do. (I have no clue whether that VW he was talking about a while back is still in the picture.)

The girlfriend is no longer, and just after I came up with a blog-name for her (“Snippet” ’cause she’s short). She got the roving eye this last weekend, and I’m not sure what-all happened in a big dust-up the weekend before he came back home, but his tossing her bag of clothes across a front yard was involved. I understand things had started to get pretty rocky between the two of them, and whatever went on in the last two weeks pretty much finished it off. With any luck, he’ll steer clear of “romantic” entanglements for a while; they tend to cloud his already-tenuous judgement.

A deer came through and ate all the foliage off my jalapeƱo plants! At least they left the peppers. I’m surprised the dogs didn’t chase it off, but they might have been snoozing under the studio. It will be interesting to see whether the plants survive that particular insult. The stupid deer may have also eaten the wild blueberries, because they’re gone now too. There’s not much of a window between ripe and falling-off with those blueberries, so I may have just missed them over vacation week.

I won a set of Future Sonics Atrio headphones (link to review) from The MacObserver. Woo hoo! According to UPS, they should arrive tomorrow. They’re the type of headphones that go in the ear, so I might be able to use them under my motorcycle helmet. Having tunes (or podcasts) on the bike… how decadent. I’m not sure whether they’re blue or black, but who cares?

And the writing was on the wall for a couple of weeks, but it’s now official: SCO filed for Chapter 11. It would be nice to whiz on SCO’s grave when it’s all over, but I suspect the line for that will stretch all the way from Santa Cruz to Vancouver. Special “congratulations” to CEO Darl McBride, who took a cool, innovative company and ran it into the ground with frivolous IP lawsuits. He’ll likely end up in far better financial shape than he deserves to.

I made some parsley-pepper pizza dough last night, and we cooked us a couple of pizzas tonight. Yummers! The Boy had gone off to band practice, and came home a few minutes ago to find all the pizza pretty much gone. I think he found some leftovers though.

Work is finally starting to get less crazy, at least for a while. I have a couple of loose ends to tie up on a couple of projects, but the one that’s been driving me up a wall is done… unless the freak-out artists come up with something else. Today, it was “you need to update the revision number since you fixed the transparency on that photo.” Then, “we need PDF, not EPS” (after asking for EPS yesterday). But I think we’ve passed that water under the bridge now. I got to cut out of the office early so I could take some photos this evening for a certification run; I emailed them to the engineer and he was happy. It looks like I soon might have time to do some administrivia I’ve been ignoring for a few months.

So it’s only Tuesday, but the week after vacation is starting well.

Sunday, September 16, 2007 8 comments

Oddments

Bits of this & that from the last week, that didn’t get into any other post…

When we came back earlier in the week to drop off Big V and toss chickens, I found that The Boy had swiped two bottles of beer. They had only been in the bottle for a couple of days, so I’m sure they were pretty raw (and not much alcohol content either). I’d kind of hoped they would give him a bellyache, but he told me today that they were pretty good and not flat. I’m still going to put off drinking any for a month.

After the wedding yesterday, I came out to Barge Vader to find Daughter Dearest waiting. Even with the windows down, it was still fairly warm in there, so I dug out the keys to open the sunroof. “It’s just because I’m so hot,” DD joked deadpan. “Yeah, I see steam coming out of that little vent there,” I said. Her dress did a good job of covering the decotellage, but had a small opening (I suppose to push the “naughty” button).

“Maybe not,” she said, “but the groom got a good long look as he went by. I don’t think she [our friend, the bride] noticed, though.” Or maybe she did: she smeared him good with the cake downstairs.

I discovered that the (push) lawn mower is pretty well toast: J must have hit a stump or huge rock last time he mowed. He didn’t bend the blade, he bent the shaft. You could say it had the shaft, but doesn’t have it anymore. I also discovered today, that the riding mower has no brakes — makes for an exciting trip down the driveway to mow along the road. I also had to adjust the belt tensioner to get the mower blades to turn. Good thing I got the weed-eater going yesterday, because there’s no way I was going to try riding that beast in the ditch.

I got bored this afternoon and jumped on the motorcycle, using the need to look at new lawn mowers and pick up a how-to for laying patio stone as excuses. I’d just as soon get a reel mower as a replacement, but Home Despot has none. Plenty of online sources, though, all of which think the brands they carry are the best. The Sunlawn line is a bit more expensive than the others, but tend to be a bit lighter (not sure that’s all good or not) and have optional baggers.

Some text-spam scammer has been dinging us for $20/month on our cellphone bill. AT&T is going to fix this, or it’s going to cost them a lot more than $40 (two months). I’ll just turn the phone off, toss it in a drawer, and toss the bills in the trash while getting the PSC and FCC involved.

Cleaning up the grounds, I learned a little bit about the litterbugs that frequent the road passing FAR Manor. They like to eat mostly at Dairy Queen, but Zaxby’s and McDonald’s are also popular. They drink primarily lite beer, but Pepsi, Mountain Dew, Diet Dr. Pepper, and fast food drinks are all represented as well. They smoke a little, and shop at Wal-Mart (of course) — the empty plastic bag was actually a welcome find, but only because I had filled the one bag I’d brought with me. Spammers, of course, are a sub-species of litterbug; neither one has any respect for other people’s property. Or, judging by their diets, their own health either. I’d like to find the morons who thought tossing glass bottles would be a good idea.

Korean baseball is, shall we say, a little strange. The link showed up in my email this week.

Saturday, September 15, 2007 2 comments

Hooray! (uh, wait a minute…)

Pinched fuel lineTechnically, I’m still on vacation, although we had to check out yesterday morning. With the girlies off to the beauty shop to prep themselves for a wedding (and DD for a hotsy-totsy birthday party tonight), I was basically left to my own devices and decided this would be a good time to look at the weed-eater. It hasn’t been running for a while, and you can see why.

A quick motorcycle trip into town and back, plus $1.07 for the fuel line, plus a few minutes to put it all together (it took maybe as much time as the ride in and back), and the weed-eater is working again. Now I don’t have to listen to Mrs. Fetched making noises about buying a new one… although it does mean I have to find another excuse for not doing the weed-eating. On the other hand, I’ve been wanting to clear the path to the compost heap myself. Plus, I took a very windy back road home, and the bike was thrilled to whip through the curves.

I might tackle the trim next weekend, especially if the weather is as pleasant as it has been today. Mrs. Fetched suggested I borrow her mom’s pressure washer to knock the peeling paint off; if it won’t force water under the shingles or something similarly ugly, that would beat scraping it off by hand.

Thursday, September 13, 2007 7 comments

Helen and Back

Main Street, Helen GAI usually enjoy being away from FAR Manor with Mrs. Fetched, but the exception is wandering around in a tourist trap. I despise kitsch, but the Mrs. is one of those women who gotta have it. I’ve always associated stuff like ceramic/sandstone angels and mantle clocks with old ladies, and I’m not ready for her to be an old lady yet. But she was into this stuff back when I could say “this is old lady stuff” without any false implications; besides, you play the hand you’re dealt.

The upside is that when you have most of a week to hang out, you can spend some time scouting the stores for stuff you want and then swoop in and grab everything you want in a single sweep. We had done our scouting trip Sunday afternoon (and believe you me, hanging out with three women — Mrs. Fetched, Big V, and Daughter Dearest — in a tourist trap is far worse than hanging out with just one). I’d also planned to have a nice dinner with Mrs. at one of the restaurants in town, and worry primarily about the food being good and price a distant second. I’d planned on supper, but we decided on lunch instead, and went to a place called the Old Bavarian Inn. Not cheap by any stretch, but it was the best Reuben sandwich I’ve ever had.

I saw this T-shirt and decided it pretty much summed up the whole point of vacations. I was going to turn my head, but Mrs. Fetched said it wrinkled the fabric (sorry KB).

The rain held off until this evening; it’s raining now, so we pre-packed some of our stuff so we can check out a little more quickly tomorrow morning. I was thinking about a dual-sport ride this weekend, but I may have to take a pass due to mud and street tires not playing well together.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007 3 comments

We Now Return You to Escape 2007.1

The period of vacatious interruptus has passed, leaving us back at the retreat. The Boy got up without any help from us and got off to work, so there wasn’t any issue from that end. We had one more good thing come our way during the interlude, although it has already caused a rift in the FAR Future universe: a new coffee shop has opened downtown (so much for the library having a clear field, although a lot can happen in five years). Mrs. Fetched and I agreed that we’d eat lunch there today after we finished with the chickens (after bringing them in, you need to walk through to get the DOA count). It was quite nice; the previous business in that building (originally the post office) was a recording studio — he simply furnished the sound booths and makes them available for people who have to have meetings or homework klatches. Of course, there’s a common area with a couple of tables and couches, but half of the public space is dedicated to a music venue. He has a lineup of different bands performing through the fall, and open mike nights otherwise. If The Boy can come up with a set of clean stuff, he’d be all set.

So after a middle-school football game (our guys lost, 20-12), we ran away. We had eaten lunch a little late, so we figured we could find somewhere to eat in Cleveland (GA). However, nothing there appealed to Mrs. Fetched, so we just went on back and ate some more of the leftover grilled chicken.

And here we are. :-) Mrs. Fetched is reading on the couch, and I’m enjoying Groove Salad and catching up on email and blogs.

UPDATE: we returned to an empty parking lot in front of our unit. Some morons in a BMW were insisting on parking in our spot, but they (and everyone else) seem to have cleared out now that the weekend’s over. It’s now more like what I remember last year… quiet. Ahhhhh.

Monday, September 10, 2007 5 comments

TB02, On Vacation (of course)

I have to contrive to get us farther away from FAR Manor for vacations. As I wrote last year, the evil of the chicken houses has a gravitational field that extends as far as the timeshare. Her reassurances last year about the chicken houses not getting in the way this year, as expected, didn’t pan out.

To put it briefly, we’re back at FAR Manor until tomorrow evening. Well, we had to come home last night anyway, so Daughter Dearest could get to school today (and to deposit Big V at her place). They brought in a fresh batch of chickens (to only one house today, instead of two) and we had to distribute them. This only takes a half hour or so, plus the hour of preparation, but the preparations are done so all we have to do tomorrow is dump the birds, get a shower, and run awaayyyyyyy.

Our first stop was at Big V’s… but guess who was walking along the road that way too? The Boy showed up down at Big V’s about the time we were ready to leave. He was making the right noises, as usual — but the tone also seemed to be a little more on-key this time. Is he starting to grow up at last? His job is winding down (and his boss getting arrested didn’t help), but now he’s hooked up with Big V’s hubby and his lawn care — I guess they needed someone more than they needed to not give him one more chance, I suppose. But he’s nearly done with the financial end of his probation (he’s completed all the other requirements), and he has actually hooked up with some people who are renting a house. He primarily wants to get his act together (he says), and get to where he can chip in on the rent. He says he wants to quit drinking, and claims to have poured out what little liquor we had in the house (probably down his gullet) to avoid temptation. He seems to be willing to do things our way, even if he’s not terribly happy about them, at least so far. Give it a week.

So now we have a TB02 to deal with. I invited him to come back to the retreat when we go (thinking it might be easier to keep an eye on him). He declined, mainly because he’ll be working in the morning. Daughter Dearest will let us know if things are not going as agreed, and we can get back quickly (although we won’t be happy).

But this trip home isn’t all bad. I got my beer bottled up, and I was able to use my shaver and find my sandals, both of which I left here. I suppose I’ll get to appreciate the peace and quiet when I finally get some, starting tomorrow night.

BREAKING: Daughter Dearest on the radio

I just found out about it, and it's in the next 20 minutes!

UPDATE 8:51 p.m.: happening now!

Saturday, September 08, 2007 6 comments

Escape 2007.1, Day 1&2: Ch-ch-ch-changes

Lake view from porchI guess Mrs. Fetched hasn’t quite figured out that part of the appeal of a vacation is to get away from her family. But when Big V begged her to join us for the weekend, of course she agreed. Big V did sweeten the deal by bringing a bunch of groceries, though.

That, and the mere presence of Daughter Dearest (also just for the weekend, back to school with herself on Monday) and Mrs. Fetched, is the first major difference between this year and last. The pre-escape frenzy, though, was quite familiar if somewhat amplified. I left work early, but about an hour later than I really wanted to. After packing, loading up Barge Vader (including airing up the left rear tire, which is leaky), and stopping for gas and beer (and a can of stop-leak for the tire), we rolled into the retreat just before 9, packed the fridge and cupboards, and…

The second difference, a quite pleasant one, cropped up. Daughter Dearest asked me why “Netgear” gave her an error when she tried to join the network. “Huh?” I said, and grabbed my MacBook. Ironically, by virtue of its lower-end plastic case, the “consumer” Apple laptops tend to have a better wifi range than the “pro” models. I also found “Netgear” and got no joy from it, but I also found “CHCA1” — the office network — and was able to join! DD was never able to see it on her computer, so I let her borrow mine and started reading her Lord of the Flies book.

Kids climbing a gateA couple more changes were apparent during my morning coffee on the deck. First, the resort in general and our section in particular is a lot busier this year. I had the whole building to myself last year; at least three — maybe all four — of the units in the building are occupied today. A youth group appears to have come in for the weekend (or maybe the entire week). Second, last year’s spiders have given way to bagworms. The nature soundtrack of the morning is masked by conversations nearby and the sounds of construction across the lake. A couple of teenagers sit on benches or retaining walls, reading or poking at some electronic device.

Big V comes out, wearing a sports bra over her nightgown. “Looks good, don’t it?” she grins, turning all the way around.

Might as well go with the silly flow: “Yeah, but there’s no way to unhook it.”

“That’s not a problem — you just pull it up!” and she matches the action to the words. Luckily, it’s over the nightgown. I suppose she was continuing the “TMI” moment from last night, when she informed us she’d only brought one pair of underwear, but that was OK because she wasn’t wearing it. I have plenty of free entertainment through tomorrow night, whether I want it or not. I guess I’ll make the best of it.

And of course, The Boy has inherited his mom’s sense of timing: he called last night (after we got settled in) and asked if he could come home. Sure, without the girlfriend though. He’s staying with Splat this weekend; I’m not sure what’s going to happen come Sunday night when we come home for various reasons (including the subpoena thing, and they have The Boy slated to testify as well). I just hope he doesn’t do what he did last year and get Mrs. Fetched out of here too soon.

Ready to rideHaving been raised on a farm, both Mrs. Fetched and Big V are quite familiar with horses. They were all over the guided horseback ride thing this morning; we signed up for the 11a.m. slot and had it all to ourselves (fore to back: Daughter Dearest, Big V, Mrs. Fetched). My horse, like many I’ve ridden on these tours, was interested in seeing what he could get away with — he seemed to know just how close he could get to trees without snagging the rider’s leg. They blew some pretty impressive horse farts too; I was lucky to be second in line (just behind the guide).

The girlies are planning to play bingo tonight at the clubhouse. I haven’t decided whether I want to do that or not. I might just chill here, maybe do a little more writing.

Thursday, September 06, 2007 7 comments

iPhone-mania; or What I Really Want

Vacation starts tomorrow. I’m momentarily resurfacing to cover the technology story of the week. I had a productive writing night last night, here’s hoping for more…

Like many long-time Apple users, I was keenly interested in the iPhone and how it would turn out — but (again) like many, had no plans to buy one any time soon. I got a Samsung Sync at the beginning of the year; it’s no iPhone but does a fair job getting online and can even play music and (some) video. Still, I’m glad that the iPhone has done so well so far — by the time I’m ready to replace the Sync, the iPhone should be a good bit more affordable (even after the reduction Steve announced this week) with the more serious complaints (no 3G, for one) ironed out.

A couple of musings about what I’d like the Sync (or the iPhone, for that matter) to do, began to crystallize when I read a MacObserver forum discussion about what a sub-notebook should look like. But it took the introduction of the iPod touch to put the last piece together.

What I really want is something CS (my college roomie) and I brainstormed about way back in 1980 or so: a good pocket computer. The 2007 version is basically an iPod touch with TextEdit, an email client, and the ability to pair with a fold-up Bluetooth (or USB) keyboard. This would be something I could stuff in a jacket pocket or fanny pack, or under a car seat, then pull out wherever I happen to be and do some writing — with background music, if desired! — if the mood strikes me. I could email files home right away (given wifi availability) or transfer it when I get back to FAR Manor.

I'll have to see if “they” manage to get Linux working on the iPod touch like they have the “classic” iPod. If they do, I just might have my pocket computer at last.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007 4 comments

Going Dark (temporarily)

Between vacation preparation and the desire (more like a need) to do some writing — including some FAR Future episodes — posts will be pretty scarce this week. Look for a vacation post some time next week, and I hope to get lots of writing done this week and next.

Feel free to keep me caught up on your doings here — if not, I have most of my blog-buddies in my RSS reader so I’ll be able to catch up with you when I come back.

Sunday, September 02, 2007 10 comments

Cookout Preparations

Tomorrow is Labor Day, and (at least in the US) that means the traditional “good-bye summer’ cookout. Amazingly, we ended up not doing any chicken house work today — and there was much rejoicing, although that does mean we’ll be pounding at it tomorrow.

We spent the afternoon shopping for everything from jeans to plumbing supplies to groceries. We picked up salmon to grill tomorrow, and I’ve already got a side dish going — I took some of the dehydrated tomatoes, reconstituted them, and tossed them into a marinade with red bell peppers (from the back yard), mushrooms, and some fresh herbs. That should make a good side dish for the salmon!

What kind of cookout plans do you have for tomorrow?

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