POWr Countdown Timer

Monday, April 27, 2009 8 comments

FAR Future, Episode 83: The Boy on Tour

Meanwhile, in real life, The Boy informs me that Ether (the punk rock band he was in) is re-grouping.

Saturday, April 11, 2036
The Boy on Tour


Got another letter from The Boy. Sounds like good news:

Hey. I got a new job now. We were about finished digging up this [stuff] anyway.

I was playing in the bar last week, and some people came in that nobody knew. One of them talked to me after I finished my gig, and he said they were part of a traveling chautauqua troop that's supposed to go around the refugee camps and cheer them up or something. He wanted to know if I was interested in going with them, playing music some nights and helping with their plays, and I said sure. It's a little money, but I get to play my own music once a week, and backup the other acts twice a week, then do stagehand work the rest of the time. I guess Serena knows how those things work, if I don't hook up with the manager I should be OK, hahaha. (Don't tell her I said that.) So I'm moving around a lot, I'll try to keep in touch. We're at the camp between Florence and Darlington this week, then we're going up to Fayetteville NC and I guess we'll keep working north as it gets closer to summer. They wouldn’t believe Serena’s my adopted sister, but they hope she’ll send them something new if she has anything.

Damn but it was cold this winter. I'm glad the warm weather is finally getting here.

But anyway, I got to play my first concert last night and people liked it I guess. I played I Opted Out Today and a lot of people laughed, but one of the other musicians said that song was risky and be careful next time. Whatever. I guess death country would be a bad idea, no BFE songs hahaha. We did some play this evening, I helped backstage. I'll be playing backup tomorrow.

I'm working on a set of songs for the Optout Beach album. Cal (the drummer) told me that a lot of people who play in the chautauquas put up albums for download, and it's a good way to make a little extra money. People who like your music will buy the album, I guess that makes sense. I remember you guys buying a couple of CDs from bands who played in a restaurant when I was a kid, so this is like that.

I think I'll tour with the chautauqua through the summer, and maybe buy that train ticket to California when it starts getting cold again. I heard they're not getting the cold weather there like we did here too. Maybe if I get people to download my CD, I'll have a concert on the beach in LA. That would be cool.


Dreams long deferred… I’m glad he’s finally getting to try out the life of a professional musician, even if it’s not quite what he’d envisioned 30 years ago. I ought to bring up the “rock star” concept in history class… and connect it to the “Great American Novelist” concept of the generation before mine. Maybe Steinbeck isn’t all that widely read nowadays, but you’d probably find more people who at least recognize his name than Bono or Alice Cooper (even if they’d heard the music but not read the books).

I told The Boy about our visit from the “news” people, and told him to keep an eye out for anything like that. He told me that a lot of refugees were telling the chautauqua troupe that they had heard they wouldn’t be welcome in the nearby towns already, but hadn’t seen news crews or anything like that. He also said some of the refugees are giving him ideas for songs about life in the camps… he sent me some lyrics, and I thought some of them could work as death country. It sounds like there’s some serious undercurrent of discontent. Disappointing, but not surprising, really… I guess maybe 20% (if that) of refugees got settled into new homes like ours, maybe another 10-20% got government housing, so easily half (and maybe 2/3) of the refugees are living in camps. I might have to have a powwow with the community soon, to see if there’s any way we can make room for some more people here — I guess even a straw-bale house might be preferable to a FEMA trailer, when it comes right down to it, as long as they know what to expect. Around the turn of the century, the county population was about what it was in 1900… and I know we lost a lot of people in the exurban subdivisions since then.

With the technology (sustainable!!!) we have now, we should be able to support a few more people in the county than we have at the moment. Or if they know how to farm, maybe a land grant out in the granary states might be the thing to do. We propped up the big agribusiness concerns long after they became a drag on the nation… now that they’re breaking up, maybe we should just give the plots to people who are interested in living with the land instead of on it. There’s really no reason why so many displaced coastal residents are still living in camps, especially when the West Coast exodus hasn’t even started yet. One analyst figures 3–4 million people might be affected before this is over… but that’s not even 2% of the total population. If one home in 50 would open their doors, and that’s not counting unoccupied houses, there wouldn’t be any camps. It’s ridiculous.

continued…

Tuesday, April 21, 2009 11 comments

Phylicia Rashad Concert

Daughter Dearest has sang at the Planet Georgia Governor’s Mansion, Dizzy World, Universal Studios… and now she’s appeared on stage with a genuine diva… but as she describes Ms. Rashad, a very nice, down-to-earth one.

Daughter Dearest and Phylicia Rashad

DD is on the top row on the right.

I gave the 50mm f1.8 lens a real workout Sunday afternoon — this is the kind of thing I bought it for, indoor venues where flash is prohibited — and it performed quite well. To my surprise, it wasn’t wide enough to catch the entire stage, so I did a little stitching work in Photoshop:

Entire ensemble (wide)

Click on it to get something you’ll have to scroll across to see all of. The original file, at 240dpi, is about 3 feet wide.

Monday, April 20, 2009 4 comments

FAR Future, Episode 82: Search and Research

(New poll up if you haven’t seen it yet.)

Friday, March 7, 2036
Search and Research


I scratched my head. “That is a Heehaw… if they’re up from Atlanta, they’re burning a lot of fuel.” We have the real Heehaw on Planet Georgia — the Harlow-Easton Hauler — the rest of you call any truck built on the Ford RE100D design a Heehaw. Here, some drivers snap the last three letters off the “HE Hauler” badges, just for laughs, but these guys had removed them entirely. We have one for our trips to the markets at the old freeway. It’s a great truck for local trips; it goes 80 km running full-electric on a full charge with a moderate load and a top speed of 50kph, but the newsies had to be traveling 3–4 times that today and using the diesel to get around quicker. Even with a light load, that meant they were burning 15–20 liters of diesel, easy: two or three weeks’ ration for us, minimum, and we get extra because we’re a farm. They had the aero-cap up to protect their equipment and help with the mileage, but it wouldn’t help that much. These guys had connections.

Fortunately, the newsies soon emerged from the apartment and walked right by us without saying a word. They looked more than a little unsatisfied with their interview, although I’m sure they would find something to take out of context. They didn’t even pay attention to the camera in Serena’s hand.

“Hey,” I said as they climbed into their van. “Maybe you could give me some contact info? In case I run across someone who isn’t treating their guests right?”

They brightened. “Good idea. Thanks,” the mike guy said, and passed a couple cards out the window.

“Peachtree Road?” I said, looking at the address. “Where at?”

“Uh… Midtown,” he said before backing out and driving away. The cards were the same as what Serena had filched earlier. Peachtree Road, or at least parts of it, are a prestigious address. But they could just as easily be using one of several maildrop outfits; “#301” could be a corner suite or a 15x15cm mailbox.

Sean and Mary joined us out front. “That was weird,” Sean opined. “They looked around, and turned off the camera. Then they kept asking us if we really lived there, and if you were treating us well, and it would all be confidential. It was like they wanted to hear we were being mistreated.”

“Something’s going on here,” Serena said. “I’m gonna have to get EDID involved, I think.” EDID was Rene’s old Army unit; they intercepted and decoded enemy data streams during the Final Oil War. Rene never felt like he could go into detail about what he did back then with us, but maybe his wife the former MP was a different story. Maybe Rene still has some connections that outperform a basic search-by-email engine.

“Don’t worry about it,” I said to Sean. “They’ll probably dub in whatever words they want, but they’ll pixellate your faces so nobody knows it’s you.”

“I’m sorry we got you involved in this.”

“Don’t be. There probably are some guest families who are being mistreated — I’ve heard about a few myself — but I doubt they’re a even a large minority. I figure these guys are looking for some sensational story they can sell.”

“Either that, or they could be a government outfit,” Daughter Dearest suggested. “You know, checking on things.”

“You think so?” Serena cocked an eyebrow at her.

“Not really. But I guess it’s possible.”

Guillermo and Maria came out. “They are gone?” Maria asked. “Good. Those were not good people. I feel it.” She patted her corazón.

I made some phone calls, and managed to warn two people I knew that had refugees living comfortably with them. The others already had their visit, and were a bit riled about the intrusion, and we talked a little. But thanks to Serena, we had more information than anyone else. She’d also jotted down the tag number, although I suspected that it would lead to another blind alley. It’s technically illegal to register a vehicle with an address that wasn’t a physical residence or office, but that’s primarily aimed at people dodging high ad valorem taxes. The tag had a Fulton county sticker, which has the highest county tax rate in the state, so no government would bother investigating. Still, Serena pulled some cop strings she still has and asked them to run the tag when they got a chance.

The search turned up nothing useful. We were just giving up for the day when Rene came home, with the kids in tow. “This must be something,” he said. “You guys blew off the last hour of school.”

“We’ll make it up,” Serena said. “Did you get ahead with the biochem lessons?”

“Nah, I just declared study hall and let them get their homework done. They’ll catch up.”

Something’s catching up to us here, too. I guess it’s been too peaceful too long at FAR Manor. Serena filled him in, and Rene was up late last night (when we get more bandwidth and some interactivity) poking around. He plays his EDID cards really close to the vest, though, and I suspect he won’t show his hand until he has a winner.

continued…

Saturday, April 18, 2009 9 comments

Jumping the Buffoonery Gun [MORE]

I’ll be the first to admit it: Planet Georgia’s government is largely a bunch of buffoons in suits. That’s certainly nothing new; they were buffoons when they were nominally Democrats, and they’re no less (or more) so now that they’re Republican’ts.

But I would feel better if they didn’t take seriously stuff I wrote about in October 2007 that’s supposed to happen after the 2012 elections. Hey! FAR Future is supposed to be fiction, not a freeking blueprint (and besides, you’re almost four years early)!

An article at Tondee's Tavern provides a good reality check: how long do reasonable people extend a hand to mad dogs in trouble? How many times do they get bitten before giving up and pulling out the metaphorical shotgun? (my words, not the writer’s) That’s the situation here: Planet Georgia (and other red states) are glad to turn down help if it gives them the chance to take cheap shots at a Democratic administration and engage in useless political theater. We know these guys don’t have any new ideas (and the only one they ever had, “give tax cuts to people who don’t need ’em,” was an Epic Fail), but inciting violence and threatening another civil war just seems like the desperate last gasp of a party about to disappear in quicksand.

UPDATE: I forgot to mention this — I’ve been racking my brains for an evening and a day, and haven’t come up with anything that Planet Georgia produces that is irreplaceable. Peaches, peanuts, cotton, watermelons, sod, lawn care equipment… all can be produced elsewhere. Vidalia onions are about the only thing that comes to mind, and those are hardly essential. I suppose I-75 might be a problem… I can imagine all the New Englanders griping about having to detour through Tennessee and Alabama to get to Florida. So if we actually did secede, would anyone else notice?

Thursday, April 16, 2009 9 comments

Tax Poll (as opposed to Poll Tax)

New poll up. I'm not going flog this one like I did the first, mainly because I’m not so invested in the responses. This poll runs through the 25th.

For posterior, the final results of the previous poll:

Poll results

The results were a little surprising: I expected FAR Future to outpace the never-ending soap opera, and that some of the other features would get a few more votes than they did. I’m actually glad that FAR Future came in second; the last episode will go up (unless I start back on two-a-week) in late summer, and I hate the idea of losing any of you (let alone most of you). 'Course, I’ll probably be posting appendices and “readers” for a while afterwards… so don’t run away the minute you see “The End,” OK? ;-)

If you’ve got something on your mind, let it rip in the comments.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009 11 comments

Random Grumbles

The feed truck came late last night, so no cannibal chickens this go-around. Whew!

Came home from work, no dinner as usual… even though Mrs. Fetched said she was going to fix something. Maybe we’ll eat at home tomorrow.

We didn’t find out until Sunday night, but some time after the Easter service, DoubleRed checked herself into the hospital and was diagnosed with diabetes. We started seeing some warning signs Thursday or Friday evening, and mentioned it to her then. Her glucose reading was somewhere north of 600… really bad, but not coma-inducing bad. I told her last night that she should get together with The Boy to learn everything she shouldn’t do.

This morning at work, I got another email of the “this cable is the wrong color again” variety. I’m sure the seagull manager behind the last two installments of Programmers. Argh. is directing his people to nitpick everything at every opportunity, and I was getting rather exercised… then he followed up with “and the part number is wrong,” which actually defused me. You see, I’d explicitly requested that part number and edited it in when I got it, so I knew at that point he was looking at the wrong version. I told him as much, and included the right docs with a “here they are again” (since I sent them last week). Then my new boss got a query, and asked me if it was fixed; I told him the same thing and didn’t hear from him after that. I know I’m getting older, because I’m getting ever less patient with this kind of crap.

Taxes are done, woo-hoo! We have a far too large refund coming back this year, because Mrs. Fetched didn’t bring in a lot with her video stuff, and Daughter Dearest contributed mightily by both capsizing her mom’s farm truck and bringing in a large tuition credit. The refund will mostly go to covering her college expenses for next year.

Well… I should have said our taxes are done: Mrs. Fetched volunteered me to do a bunch of other peoples’ as well… including Jimmy Last-Minute, who did better last year but has gone right back to dumping a bunch of incomplete info on me at the 11th hour. I printed him out an extension form for him to sign in the morning, with a list of info I needed (and an admonishment to get it to me sooner next year). The Evil Twins’ parents are another, but they know they’re on the hook for an extension anyway and theirs should be fairly simple.

If it wasn’t already bed time, I’d have another beer.

Monday, April 13, 2009 5 comments

FAR Future, Episode 81: Spring of Discontent

Friday, March 7, 2036
Spring of Discontent


Some “news crew” showed up unannounced yesterday afternoon, and demanded to speak to our guest families (aka the refugees). Maria and Guillermo were kind of groggy from their siesta, but didn’t like what they saw. They called us at the community center; Serena, Daughter Dearest, and I came as quickly as we could. We left Rene in charge of the kids — he would be the first to say I brought the big guns with me. Or they brought me with them.

The attitude of the newsies lit our flares, and we demanded their credentials. None of us recognized the New Talon News logos on the truck nor the names on their ID badges, and DD and Serena were ready to send them packing with as many dents as needed to get them going. I figured they’d make some comment about a hostile reception and threats, assuming they even were newsies, but they were rescued by the Smiths coming around the side of the house.

“Who are they?” the guy with the mike demanded.

“One of the guest families,” I said. “The parents, anyway. Their kid’s at the school. And no, we’re not going to let you browbeat a 10-year-old girl.”

“We’re not browbeating anyone,” the mike guy snapped. “We’re investigating reports of refugee abuse.”

“Abuse?” Mary looked puzzled. “Nobody’s abusing us. We probably couldn’t ask for better.” Sean nodded.

“You got that, right?” I asked the cameraman. “Of course, it’ll probably land on the cutting room floor because it doesn’t fit your preconceived narrative, won’t it?”

I got some dirty looks for that one. “Do you guys mind talking to us in private, then?” Mike Guy said.

“Sure,” Sean said.

“Good. Why don’t you show us your bunkhouse, then?” They walked off, and DD, Serena, and I all looked at each other.

“I smell a rat,” Serena said.

“A big fat one,” I agreed.

“With gas,” Daughter Dearest said with a grim chuckle.

I looked at the truck. “That name sounds familiar,” I said. “But not current.”

“Current?” Daughter Dearest said, watching the Smiths and the “crew” disappear into the apartment.

“Something from… before. Damn. I wish the Internet was still instantaneous. They’ll be long gone before we get any kind of search results.”

“What do we do?”

“Guys?” Serena said. “Why don’t you mail off a search?” She jerked her head toward the house. “I’ll wait out here for them and make sure they don’t try getting video of the doghouse and pass that off as refugee living quarters.”

DD and I looked at each other and shrugged. It would only take one of us to do the search, but I knew what Serena was really up to. We went in the house and emailed our search in: organization, individuals (Fred and Barney). It would get picked up with the next connection, and we’d get whatever was online about them in a couple of hours. Like I said, too long to provide ammunition, but maybe we’d get some idea of what they were up to.

Guillermo and Maria joined us in the living room after we emailed the search request. “Are they gone?” Maria asked, peeking out the window. “No.”

“Good call, getting us over here,” I told them. “Something’s rotten on Planet Georgia.”

“Those people,” Guillermo said. “They remind me of the ones who came looking for us that time.”

“The Riots?”

. The Patriot Clubs.” I remembered Kim giving me a panicked look as Christina wrapped herself around him, after the Riots left. I guess when you know, you know…

Serena came in as DD brought in another piece of firewood for the stove. “You send the search request?”

“Yup. I thought you were waiting out for them.”

She walked over to the stove and held her hands over it, standing to one side to let DD crack open the stove door. “Just thought I’d warm up a bit,” she said. “They’re still in the apartment. If they try going anywhere but back to the truck, the dog will let us know.”

“So… did you find anything interesting?”

She grinned and handed me a couple of business cards. “Just these. They have a box of them, I figured they won’t miss any. They’ll probably give Sean and Mary a couple anyway, but just in case.”

The cards had the usual contact info: names, phone numbers, email, fax. The usual stuff. The logo on the card matched the one on the truck, but included a slogan: “News You Need To Know.” It meant nothing to me, but felt a little… off. On the back of one, a few names and local numbers. “People hosting refugees?” I asked.

“That’s what I figure. They had the numbers on one of those note pads that stick to the dashboard, I used their pen.”

Daughter Dearest threw the stick in the stove, releasing a small plume of smoke, and took one of the cards. “News I need to know? How the hell do they know what I need to know?” She handed Serena the card. “What I need to know is, who’s giving them enough diesel to drive around half the state?”

“Y’all still smell the big fat gassy rat?” I asked. They nodded. “Me too. Let’s step back out, we need to keep an eye on them.”

“And set a trap,” Daughter Dearest said.

“Not a live trap though,” Serena suggested. Both the girls had an expression that reminded me of Mrs. Fetched when she was ready to rumble… a sort of wild-eyed axe murderer look. Lord, don’t give those guys any reason to set them off, I prayed. The carnage in progress might be entertaining, but the cleanup wouldn’t be. Maria and Guillermo saw that look too, and stayed inside.

continued…

Sunday, April 12, 2009 4 comments

Cannibal Chickens?

How Easter afternoon is spent at FAR Manor: Mrs. Fetched grabs me, Daughter Dearest, and Sasquatch for chicken house duty.

Upon arrival, a telltale thumping noise signaled the lack of feed at the #4 house. I banged on the bin, just to make sure the feed wasn’t stuck: hollow. When Mrs. Fetched called the field man, he said “the feed mill is behind, I’m not sure when they’ll be able to get feed to you.”

“I hope it’s not too far behind,” Mrs. Fetched said to me. “There was one grower who didn’t get feed for a week last year.”

“What? What happens to the chickens?”

“After a couple of days without feed, if a chicken dies, the other ones just eat it. If you don’t get to it right away, you’ll have the bones and the feet to pick up.”

I suspect what will actually happen: every evening until the feed truck arrives, I’ll help to dump feed from the other houses into a tractor bucket and unload it up at #4. The mental image of cannibal chickens will make this task somewhat less burdensome.

Saturday, April 11, 2009 4 comments

After the Storm

I just wanna see the love in your eyes,
After the storm has passed through and gone.
— Crosby, Stills, & Nash


And the cleanup begins:





Snow on Tuesday, tornadoes on Friday. Even the weather is psycho on Planet Georgia. But I’ve always said that the weather here has attitude. Getting home from work became an adventure starting around 6 p.m. — up to this point, there had been clouds, light rain, and the occasional streak of lightning to make things interesting. As I came into town, the skies opened up and the first piece of hail spanged off the windshield. I made a quick detour to the gas station and waited it out under the overhang… not the best idea I ever had, perhaps, but it was the idea of just about everyone else behind the wheel. I just thought it first. Fortunately, I wasn’t trying to keep the car dry: the wind brought the rain under there with us. Some hail came in with the wind; some bounced off the pavement and landed on the car

Album 88 started barking the EWS alerts — they couldn’t get through a song without at least one coming in. The first one was for a storm forming over Reinhardt and heading south of town. Since I knew Daughter Dearest was on her way to the manor, I called her, got her voice mail, and told her to be careful coming home.

After a couple of minutes, the hail let up and the real fun began. As I signaled my turn onto my own road, an SUV at the stop sign flashed her lights at me. I stopped long enough to find out that there were trees down across the road. Fortunately, there’s another way in, past the in-laws’ place, so I gave that a shot. Nope! trees both in the road and getting ready to fall. Third way around: more of the same. Some of the trees here were not in the road only because the power lines were holding them up. At this point, I called Mrs. Fetched (no answer), the house (no answer), and her mom. Third time’s the charm.

“Looks like I'm not going to get home,” I said. “I’ll try to find a place to hole up for the night.”

“Yeah, well the power’s out here. Trees are down everywhere. Mrs. Fetched is sitting in the truck, waiting for the hail to stop.”

I called Daughter Dearest, getting her this time. “Don’t bother trying to get home,” I said, “you can’t get there. Just meet me in town and we’ll come up with something.”

“I’m already home.”

“Oh… well, you won’t be getting out, then.”

DoubleRed called: “I’m up in Blue Ridge, taking refuge in a church. The tornado was coming right at me and the only reason I got inside was because the cleaning lady just happened to show up. Then four more people came in right behind me." With all the FAR Manor denizens accounted for, my inner Sheltie laid down and took a nap.

Shortly after this, I returned to the intersection where I’d first planned to turn off, and a guy in a car with Florida plates waved me down. “How can I get to the lodge from here,” he asked. “The road is blocked.”

“All the alternates are blocked, too,” I said. “There’s one more chance, but it’s out of the way.”

“Can you take me that way?”

“Sure… I live that way too. Let’s try it.” I led on, reminding myself to go a little slower than conditions would allow… from getting behind a few, I’ve learned that Florida drivers aren’t much used to curves. There were trees down in the road this way, too, but fortunately they left enough room to squeeze past. At one point, it got really foggy, and I slowed way down… figuring this would be the perfect place to drop a tree. I was right, but not immediately. At one place, there was an old guy with a pickup truck, cutting a tree off the side of the road. I shouted him a thanks, but he didn’t hear me above the saw. Eventually, I reached my turn and sent the follower on his way, hoping that his last five miles were navigable.

The first thing Mrs. Fetched said to me as I came in was, “Change your clothes, we need to get a generator started down at the pump house.” She also gave me time to grab the lantern from the shelf in the garage and light up the living room. There’s a large (10KW) diesel gennie at the pump house, but nobody ever goes down and runs it to keep the starter batteries charged… so it’s never ready when it’s needed. The chicken house generator has a gadget that keeps the batteries topped up and the coolant warm and circulating, so it doesn’t have these problems, but the evil little boogers need water too. They have a small (4KW) portable gennie that can run the chicken house pump; it leaves the renters high & dry but they have drinks in the fridge. To my amazement, it started without much protest once I remembered to turn on the fuel… it ran a little rough at first, but the gas in it was old and that didn’t surprise me much. What also didn’t surprise me was the lack of an extension cord with 240V connectors; there was a 120V cord there so I scrounged a couple of the other plugs off unused equipment and got it going. Hooray, no die-off to deal with in the morning! We swung by the chicken houses and Mrs. Fetched turned the lights on so the birds would get up and drink.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Fetched’s mom was on the horn to the guys who installed the old Air Force surplus gennie at the pump house. I’d tried the starter switch when we were down there, and it didn’t even click, so we assumed the batteries were dead. They promised to grab a pair of fresh batteries and come down… and I got tagged to drive them down, since their truck isn’t 4-wheel drive. I had plenty of time for a sandwich before they arrived, then went on down. All quiet at the pump house: in the intervening hour and a half or so, the portable had used up the old gas. “Well, with any luck, that won’t matter,” I said. They popped in the new batteries and hit the starter button: after a little chugging, it coughed to life and spun up… and kept right on spinning up. The voltage meter, which is supposed to read 140V, swung all the way to 300V.

“It’s not supposed to be running this fast, is it?” I yelled above the roar.

“No!” he grabbed the “shutter” (throttle) and pulled back, bringing the engine down much closer to where it was supposed to be… but as soon as he let go, it spun up again. Then he smelled antifreeze and cut it off entirely. To make a long story slightly shorter, the gennie was toast: the governor was shot, the radiator had a pretty good leak, and a voltage regulator was kaput. Seeing that the thing’s a WW2 vet, finding repair parts for it would be rather difficult. I took them on back, then got a can of gas and a funnel to get the little generator back online. Mrs. Fetched later turned off the lights, figuring the chickens would have gotten enough water, then turned it off for the night.

My wind-up flashlight performed much better than I’d expected… I thought it would run a half-hour, but it ran for two hours (perched on my shoulder as I started Rama Revealed) and was still going strong when I went to bed. The power came back on around 11 this morning, so we won’t have that to deal with tonight. Just have to get up early-early for sunrise service…

Monday, April 06, 2009 10 comments

FAR Future, Episode 80: White Valentine’s

Yeah, that was an April Fool’s joke on Wednesday. Ah well, I’ll have to rewrite this into a more traditional novel format before trying to pitch it anyway. Today’s post is sort of appropriate because there’s actually snow in tomorrow morning’s forecast…

Tuesday, February 14, 2036
White Valentine’s


Bobby and Martina are pretty good about not waking everyone up… they tend to be up before everyone, every morning, unless one of the adults is having trouble sleeping. But they couldn’t help themselves this morning.

I know Bobby slips downstairs a little after 5:30 in the morning, and Martina usually comes from across the driveway shortly after that. They usually don’t wake me up, but sometimes I’ll hear them. Maria wakes up for a bathroom run about 5, and if she doesn’t get right back to sleep after that she’ll hear them too. They do their homework and feed the firebox while they wait for the adults to start breakfast. This morning was a little different, since it started with 10 cm of snow on the ground… I hadn’t seen this much snow here in ages.

So when Martina stepped outside, she was the first to see it. She got all excited, and ran in to tell Bobby, and they both ran outside to play in it. They started piling it up on the slab, then got to flinging it at each other and then chasing each other around the manor, laughing and yelling. Needless to say, this woke up everyone — except Pat, who is like his mom in his antipathy toward mornings. But Ray came out and started squealing when he saw the snow, and got Pat up anyway.

Rene took one look at the fluffy white stuff and decided he’d stay inside and help his mom cook breakfast (Guillermo and Maria weren’t having any of it either). Serena, being a Wisconsin girl from way back, laughed at them and went out to play with the kids. Pat just stood gawking at the snow until Daughter Dearest and Ray started lobbing snowballs at him, then he finally got the idea. I joined the Smiths and Joneses, watching the fun and chatting. Ray and Pat challenged Bobby and Martina to a snowman contest, which gave Daughter Dearest the chance to call the neighbors to tell them that school was cancelled for the day. She gets to make the call for our school, after all.

The snowmen were interesting… none of the kids, including Pat, have ever seen enough snow to build a snowman before, and they didn’t know to pack a snowball and start rolling. I was going to give them some pointers, but Serena stopped me. “Let them do it their way,” she said. “See what they come up with.” That turned out to be… interesting. Pat (I’m sure it was Pat) got the idea to make a Snow Amazon: they piled and packed their snow, cut vertical grooves into it to look like dress pleats, then Pat boosted Ray up on his shoulders and they kept on piling. Eight feet high they went, and Pat lovingly sculpted a huge pair of boobs into it, at face level of course, while Ray etched a happy face up above.

As they were finishing up, Daughter Dearest joined me, looked at their work, and rolled her eyes. “Like grandfather, like grandson,” she said.

“You have to look up to her, though,” I said. “Or not… I could have quite a meaningful conversation with that chest!”

Tch. “Aren’t you getting a bit old for that sort of thing?”

I took a breath. “Still breathing.” Felt my chest. “Still have a pulse. Nope, not too old yet.” Sean and Mary laughed.

DD rolled her eyes again. “Yeah, but she doesn’t have a pulse. Isn’t that your primary criterion for being attracted to someone?” The Joneses joined in the laughter this time. “You. Are. Busted!”

“Ouch. You got me there… She’s probably a cold one, anyway.”

Meanwhile, Martina thought to grab a stepladder; she and Bobby were reaching for the stars. Or at least the eaves of the house. Bobby laughed at Pat’s breastworks, but they had a different idea… they were going to build a tower like the rook in our chess set. It took them a while, and they were having to scrounge for snow at the end, but I got a picture of them kneeling in the top of their tower looking down (and of course I got a pic of the Snow Amazon too).

Breakfast de las Cardenas provided a sort of halftime for the contest. Breakfast was good and hot, including plenty of hot tea and ersatz cocoa, and included a phone call from Christina.

“I heard it snowed up there,” she said on the speaker. “We got a little here in Atlanta too.”

“There’s a lot of it,” Rene told her. “Everyone else was outside playing in it while we fixed breakfast.”

“You didn’t go out in it?”

“Somebody needed to help Mama with breakfast!”

She laughed, and all of us did too. “You got pictures, right?” Kim asked.

“Of course. We’ll mail them tonight.”

“Oh yeah. They’ve de-restricted bandwidth for local access down here,” he said. “I forgot it’s not universal.”

“Yeah, rub it in,” I laughed. “They cache some of the primary news sites here, so we can get those pretty quick, but it’s like a newspaper… they don’t update through the day.”

Of course, by lunchtime the temps had climbed above freezing and the snow (especially where the kids had been scooping) was starting to melt. Pat and I were disappointed when the boobs fell off the Amazon, just as she was starting to warm up a little.

“Hey,” Daughter Dearest said, looking at the large but slumping tower. “Are you going to have any trouble getting the Heehaw around that?”

“No, it’s not in the way,” I said. “Besides, I could just back into it and knock it over. But nobody’s going anywhere anyway.”

Indeed… all of Sector 706, from reports on line and on the air, was pretty much shut down. Some of the mountain areas got 20 cm, although in most places it was 6 cm or less. It was quite the event… and Atlanta TV had people sending in photos and video. I sent a low-res pic of the kids on top of their tower, and they ran that one on the evening news (much to the delight of all). It has been a rather chilly winter; we’ve been going through firewood pretty steadily, although (like always) we’ve had a bunch of false springs that just make us wish for the real thing. Nobody knows if next winter will be like this one… again, ask 10 different climatologists what things will be like long term and get 20 different answers.

continued…

Saturday, April 04, 2009 8 comments

A walk around the yard

The wild violets are in wild riot all across my lawn. This was the first pic I took with my new f1.8, 50mm lens — it worked pretty good in the dim of a drizzly evening:

Violets all over the yard

Cutting one out of the herd and getting really up close and personal (with a +4 close-up filter, back to the 28-135 zoom lens):

White violet, +4 close-up filter

For whatever reason, this dogwood is always the first to go full-bloom around the manor. Maybe being between the studio and detached garage puts it in a warm spot or something:

Dogwood over the studio

Directly to the right of where I was standing for the shot above (in front of the attached garage), Mrs. Fetched put a couple of tulips in a flower bed. She’s thrilled that they’re doing so well.

Tulip

You can see the edge of the cold frame just to the left of the studio, back in the dogwood picture. I have spinach, lettuce, and onions in the three trays… of the three, the onions (on the right) are doing best so far, but you might have to click through to the Big Picture to see them. I've also got some lettuce in the ground, it seems to be slow to sprout. Maybe it’ll get going soon.

Planting trays

I don’t know if I mentioned that Mrs. Fetched and her mom really got medieval on the butterfly bushes last week. They actually yanked some out of the ground! They’ll come right back, though — they’ll take over if you let them. They’re starting to green up, so we’ll be getting plenty of buggy visitors soon…

Butterfly bushes, post-crewcut

Another plant that’s working on what Iowa Victory Gardener calls “weed status” is the oregano. It has developed a clever strategy of staying low and creeping through the winter, then shooting upward with the temperatures. I thought it had strangled the mint, but it’s still in the game… just surrounded.

Oregano

The blossoming cherry is also doing nicely, although some of the heavy wind we’ve been having knocked a few off the tree. But it’s still in pretty good shape. As I was focusing, one of the substitute pollinators came up over the top to see what I was up to… once he realized I was taking pictures, he turned the other way.

Wasp on cherry blossom

So why am I showing you all this now? Well… looks like we’ll be getting a freeze Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, with lows of 28°F. So it might all be gone in a few days.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009 15 comments

Wonderful News!

I can hardly believe I’m typing this, but I sent the fax and got the confirmation call yesterday afternoon. Then I took Mrs. Fetched out to celebrate. I couldn’t sleep, and I’m nearly sober again, dangit.

Last week, I got an email from an agent about FAR Future… she said she’d made a couple inquiries and had a publisher interested. I’m thinking “yeah right,” but when I started poking around on the net, I found the agency without too much trouble. I called the front desk, identified myself, and asked Ms. Lirpa to return my call just so I knew it was (or wasn’t a joke).

It wasn’t.

She called me back about an hour later, and confirmed she’d sent the email. I happened to be working at home Wednesday, so I called the lawyer that helped The Boy a while back and arranged to have him look the thing over. She emailed, I printed and faxed. He said, "looks OK, I'd make this change, $200 please," and Ms. Lirpa said they’d get back to me about it.

So yesterday, they faxed an amended contract, I signed it and faxed it back, they called to confirm receipt and said congrats. I grabbed Mrs. Fetched, she said something like “Loof!” (which I think was supposed to be “love you!” before I grabbed her) and we went out for dinner and drinks. And came home really late for some more drinks. I guess I’ll have to call in sick in a few hours, maybe I’ll get some sleep some time today.

Now the other shoe drops…

Part of the deal is, I have to stop serializing FAR Future. Can’t give away the store no more. Suckage, but that’s the price I pay. The book should be out by January, though.

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