Monday, July 27, 2009 3 comments

FAR Future, Episode 98: The Rat Race, continued

Some things never change… and some, they change and pretend not to.

Sunday, April 23, 2045
The Rat Race, Continued


Coffee’s a luxury item these days — kind of like beef — and not always easy to get. But we got some yesterday, and I decided to make a half-pot rather than to lay in bed a little longer.

As I stumped through the living room, Rene was looking through the nightly media download. “I made some already,” he said. “Grab a cup and come sit. You might enjoy this.”

I poured my cup, added a dab of cream, and sat in the other chair. The screen showed what looked like a collection of electric cars, lined up in something like a starting grid for a race. “What’cha got here, Rene?”

“NASCAR, 2045-style,” he grinned.

“What? I thought those guys were long gone!”

“I guess they changed with the times. There’s an overview of the rules…” He poked at the remote and a text overlay came up:

NASCAR Full-Electric Division
Troy Fuel Cell 300 - Charlotte, NC
April 22, 2045

Standing start race
Fuel cells are sealed
DNFs: laps completed
count toward standings

“Interesting,” I said. “I’m guessing the fuel cells are standard sizes… which means, they have more efficient motors or have to limit their speed to make 300 kilometers?”

“Yeah. They still get points for laps led, more in the early running, so there’s an incentive to not sandbag. There’s a lot of strategy involved: do you try to lap the field then throttle back and coast across the finish line? Do you maintain a steady pace that will get you the distance and hope the guys running faster drop out? Or just go for the lead lap points and drop out early?”

“I guess it’s better than a matter of raw power. But I’m surprised they still run races these days.”

“Why not? It’s a test bed for new motors, fuel cells, and instrumentation. The best stuff eventually works its way into production vehicles.” Good point… we had the Heehaw rebuilt a couple years ago, and it now has a better range and cargo capacity than it did when new. They must have upgraded a lot of components in the last 10–15 years.

The race itself was interesting in that there were three drivers who wanted to go for the lead lap points. One dropped back immediately, probably executing Plan B, while the other two battled it out for a few laps, weaving through the slower traffic like Planet Georgia commuters in the 1980s. Eventually, the second driver fell back and left the last guy to rack up the lead lap points.

“Seems like a waste for Odum,” I said. “He burned a lot of juice.”

“Yeah, but he made Ramirez burn even more juice. Meanwhile, he can fall back and pace the field, a lap ahead of them. If he can finish the race — and I doubt Ramirez is even gonna try — he’ll be the guy to beat.”

Things settled into a routine, and Rene fast-forwarded until we saw a wreck on lap 34. At the relatively low speeds they were running, compared to the days of yore, this wasn’t anything like spectacular. But there was a fair amount of smoke and mixing of paint before most of the pack got straightened out and either kept rolling or headed for the pits for patch-ups.

Toward the end, the stats showed how the average lap speeds creeped up: about 100 kph in the first third of the race, working up toward 120 kph with 20 laps to go. (Ramirez dropped out about 2/3 of the way through, after pushing about 150 kph in the early going.) Odum had eased off his earlier pace after a close call in that lap 34 wreck; he was no longer the sole occupant of the lead lap, but continued to rack up points. “The question is,” the announcer informed us, “whether he can turn it up if he needs to. Teammate Brian Smith was knocked out in that wreck on lap 34, so he doesn’t have anyone he can easily hook up with for a draft. Meanwhile, Shadduck and Lopez continue to gain ground quick enough to make this a three-way race by the end — or a two-way race if Odum doesn’t kick it up a notch.”

As it turned out, Odum had to pit on lap 95 with a flat tire — the announcers speculated that he’d picked up a piece of debris from the wreck and got a slow leak from it. As luck would have it, Shadduck and Lopez wrecked each other on lap 97; they replayed the wreck and concluded it was inattention on the part of one or both drivers — an amateur move equal to an All-Star shortstop letting a grounder go through his legs. With three laps to go, the remaining eight drivers (out of a starting field of 30) let it all hang out and treated the crowd (and those of us who saw it a day later) to a barnburner. Some guy named Pachulo took the checkered, by maybe half a car-length; Odum finished sixth. The seventh and eighth place finishers literally coasted across, fuel cells completely depleted.

I think I like this version of racing better than the old. Like with most everything else in life, brute force is no longer the answer.

continued…

Tuesday, July 21, 2009 8 comments

Kneecapped Again, Update

Tonya HardingOK, so… yesterday, the bum knee started to get a little better, but I went to the doc’s to have it checked out anyway. She sent me to X-ray, where the shots turned out a bit dark because I couldn’t get the leg straightened all the way out, and found what looked like a bone chip. “I don’t think it’s in where it’s causing any trouble,” she said, but referred me to the orthopedist who fixed Mrs. Fetched’s knee (after a chicken house incident) and DD’s ankle (after a dodgeball incident) just to see what they thought and how best to deal with it. She also told me to start putting some weight on it to keep it from getting too stiff. Hooray… now Reality is one crutch instead of two! I mostly carry the crutch and use it when the knee starts to gripe a bit.

I slept fairly well last night, and woke up able to completely straighten my right leg, so it’s definitely getting better — the swelling going down agrees. It will bend through about half its normal range now. I tried driving down to the in-laws’ for lunch, and that wasn’t so wonderful (especially when I had to use the brakes). Maybe by tomorrow…

With lunch out of the way, Mrs. Fetched drove me up to the orthopedist’s. There was some confusion where we were supposed to take the X-rays with us; fortunately, the doctor’s office is a minute away and Mrs. Fetched had them long before I got called in. I was set up to see the P.A. first, perhaps so a “just keep on keepin’ on” case could be taken care of without involving an expensive specialist… fine with me. He took one look at the X-rays and said, “Whoop, looks like a bone chip in there.” I told him what my doc said, and he replied, “I might have to disagree. Let me get [the orthopedist]. So in he came, and said, "Yup, you’ve got an extra part rattling around in there. That needs to come out.” To hear him describe it, the arthroscopic surgery is going to be about as routine as a brake job; I’ll be in & (walking) out of the office in a day, the day being August 5. I’d love to get photos, but I get a bit squeamish at seeing myself get poked even if I’m numbed up first. Maybe I can persuade Mrs. Fetched to take pix or get video.

Monday, July 20, 2009 5 comments

FAR Future, Episode 97: Traffic Jam

Note: any resemblance to The Last Drop is purely intentional. (Thanks to Andi, Lisa, and Beth for helping me beat on an extended version for hoped-for publication.)

Friday February 10, 2045
Traffic Jam


I enjoy a good warm living room this time of year, even if Februarys now are a lot milder than they used to be. I can look out the window and see the kids playing their bean-bag game… I can’t ever remember what they call it, but it’s a lot like hacky-sack from when I was in college. When I call it hacky-sack, though, they look at me like I’m senile. Whatever they call it, at least I don’t have to worry about a ball coming through the window.

But I’m stalling. I had another one of those dreams last night. You know what I mean by one of those dreams: the kind that tell me what I really didn’t want to know.

In the dream, I was alone on a one-way city street that was packed with empty cars. And when I say “packed,” I mean there was barely enough room to put a stick in between them, let alone walk between them. The buildings seemed to be watching me, weighing me and finding me lacking. The sky was overcast, the clouds roiled but never rained, and it was still and hot. I had to jump from car to car to get anywhere, and I remember how they were caked with dust with a few streaks like maybe there had been a little rain at one time. This must be a dream, I thought — then, but would I see this much detail in a dream?

Time compressed itself, as it does in those kinds of dreams, and I found myself approaching a gas station. But the cars were packed in it and all around it, and I thought it would have been futile… anyone managing to get gas would never get back out.

“Mortal!” someone shouted. “Could this ever be put right?”

I looked around for the voice, thinking, sure, if you started moving cars from the back of the pack… but I realized that wasn’t the answer. There wasn’t enough gasoline left in the world, let alone this one station, to back them all out. I hadn’t found my questioner yet, but called back, “I don’t know. But only God Himself could fix this.”

He stepped out from behind a fallen overhang. “But if this is humanity’s folly,” he said, “can humanity’s wisdom not solve it?”

“If humanity was that wise, this wouldn’t have happened in the first place. What the hell is it, anyway?”

“Your question contains its answer,” he said. “This is the Hell that humanity would have created for itself, had it not chosen a different path. This is the last gas station, where the last gasoline would have been sold. Had all insisted on the easy path, instead of changing their ways, this would very likely have been the fate of mankind.”

“So people would have just abandoned their cars and gone home?”

“Some would have. Others… look around you.”

I looked again, and now I saw the signs of a struggle: broken windows, the little doors over gas caps torn away, the gas caps themselves strewn about… and bullet holes. “They killed each other? For gasoline? We barely think about the stuff these days.”

“In your prime, men fought at the pumps when the lines were long. They killed each other to claim the oil beneath a barren desert. So why would they not kill for some of the last gasoline?”

For a moment, I could see it: drivers desperately trying to leave; those behind them pressing forward… and then people swarming over the cars with fuel cans in hand. When the pumps ran dry, they turned on those who had been first in line. As they tried to leave the way they came, they were set on by those coming behind them. And those were set on by people coming behind them. Gas cans were punctured by gunfire, dropped and spilled, or deliberately poured out or set afire by those who would not give up their prizes. Not a drop was carried away safely.

I shook my head. “Why am I being shown this?”

“Humanity is foolish, but there is yet a little wisdom,” he said. “Write down this vision, mortal, and let it be known that all mortals live in one of the better possible worlds that they could have made for themselves. For there is a possibility even worse than this.”

He opened a cooler that I’d not noticed before, one of those pull-along coolers with wheels. He brought out a bottle of water and gave it to me. “The Living Water,” he said, as I opened and drank.

I almost choked. “You’re The Prophet!” I said.

“Go, mortal,” The Prophet said (for now I saw it really was him again) and smiled. “You will see me once more before you are mortal no longer.” Then he was gone, and the dream again dissolved into either chaos or something beyond my comprehension.

When I wake up, I usually have to pee first thing. Not this morning… I woke up with my heart pounding and feeling like I’d spent an entire summer in one of the dehydrator racks. I slugged down a liter of water and almost hurt my throat drinking so fast. It was like I’d been at that gas station all night, sweating in the heat. But the sheets on my bed weren’t wet.

I’ve spent all morning and half the afternoon trying to figure out whether I’d really been there or was just dreaming the whole thing. I don’t suppose it matters in the end. I do know that Daughter Dearest and Martina noticed something was amiss, and asked me about it. I told them half the truth, that I’d had a dream… forgetting that DD knows about the first one I had. She waited for Martina to go outside, then demanded the details. I told her the whole thing, especially the part about having one more vision. She has to know I’m not going to live forever, but she’s pretty much running FAR Manor these days and doesn’t need to worry about me right now.

I’m looking forward to getting out and helping with the spring planting. The veggies are all sprouting in their starter pots, and it looks like I’ll get at least one more shot at starting the garden, anyway.

continued…

Saturday, July 18, 2009 4 comments

Kneecapped Again

It has been a while since the last one of these… in fact, I had to go look it up.

Seeing as I’m off work for the next two weeks (hooray!) but we won’t be leaving for Michigan until later in the week (boo!), I figured it would be a good time to look into some of the maintenance issues at the rental place. We’ve known about the rain gutters for a good long while, but there was also a recent problem with the A/C unit kicking the 50-amp breaker (very bad). I threw some tools into the crate on the back of the bike and putted down there.

Big G (not Big V, we both have issues with her) was there, which helped a little. After making sure the breaker was off, I inspected the wiring and found a small kink where some wire was showing through the insulation; the wires were exposed to the elements but the rest of the insulation looked OK. I wrapped that up with some electrical tape and sealed up the wire nuts, just to be sure. Then we cleaned some crud out from around and inside the coils and hosed them out as best as we could. It kicked on later and seemed to be working fine.

With the small job out of the way, I started on the gutters. When The Boy (at age 10-ish) and I put up the gutters, I also bought and installed screens to keep debris out. They mostly worked, but some have rotted over the years and others broke off… and plenty of crud had collected in there. The roof isn’t very steep, but Big G “doesn’t do good on roofs” and I’m quite comfortable up there anyway… so he handed me a blower and I got a bunch of debris off there (and out of the ridge cap). My knee started giving me a little pain, but it does from time to time and usually goes away. It has been like that since my early teens — a disinterested doctor dismissed it at the time as “growing pains” — so I can still pretend I’m 30 even if the knee is acting up.

With the roof dealt with, I turned to the gutters themselves. I knew there was a wasp nest on one side, but got caught up in what I was doing and got too close. One of the SOBs got me on the left wrist, which hurt for a minute then stopped. And my knee stopped hurting, too. Acupuncture? Or maybe just my brain dampening the pain receptors? Whatever. I took care of the gutter on the other side, blowing all the crap out and nailing up a place where it had come loose. The gutters on the other side need more than that… the fascia board was cracked where the nails had gone in all the way down one 8-foot length, and the one on the end looks rotten. I’ll have to get new boards (and screens), paint the boards, then pull down the gutter to replace those boards before nailing it back up again.

After I’d finished on the roof, and we were looking at what limbs need to be cut off an oak tree, my knee buckled. Very painfully. I hadn’t had one of those in a long time. After getting home, I should have stayed home instead of going to the retail district to get lunch and repair parts, but live and learn I guess. I’ve got the ice cuff on it now; I expect it to be better before we make the long drive north.

How did it happen? I blame the chicken houses: I was helping to run feed last weekend, which entails a lot of bending and stooping to shake the pans and flats. My legs were quite sore the next day; my left leg cramped up pretty good around the back of my thigh, and was like that until this morning. I’ve been putting more weight on the right leg all week, and I guess the knee decided it needed its own vacation. All in all, an inauspicious start. But I’m hoping that’s the worst of it, and things will get better from there. At least I’m out of the honey-do loop for a day or so.

Friday, July 17, 2009 4 comments

Flowery Friday (Roadside Edition)

The road out front of the manor is lined with all sorts of stuff this time of year. Some of it blooms, some doesn’t, and the economy sucks enough to keep the county from mowing everything down…

Queen Anne’s Lace:

Queen Annes Lace

They caught my eye because they look like giant snowflakes. Seeing as it’s mid-July on Planet Georgia, I found the notion highly entertaining. I described them to my dad over the phone, and he nailed the ID for me (thanks Dad!). It’s actually a wild carrot, a European invasive, and the ancestor of our domestic carrots. According to Gardening When It Counts, we’ve only been breeding carrots for a few centuries so they’ll readily cross-pollinate with their wild ancestors. I’ll dig up a couple tomorrow for pictorial purposes.

Clover:

Clover blossom

The clover is actually a couple weeks past its prime, like the blackberries. But there are still the occasional displays to add color to the roadside.

Most of the rest of these are just flower-weeds to me… if anyone wants to ID them, feel free!

This sort of resembles a butterfly bush, but no butterfly bush stays below 2 feet high and is flame red like this:

Red flower-weed

I’ve never seen this before; I figure the drought is keeping the grass low enough to let it show off.

I happened to catch a glimpse of this WTFlower, tucked behind a bush, about four feet off the ground and about three inches across. I had my iPhone with me at the time; by the time I got back with the Big Gun (aka Canon), it had closed up:

WTFlower, open   WTFlower, closed


It’s funky enough that I wouldn’t mind having a few around the manor.

We actually got a little rain today, so I didn’t have to worry about watering anything. The kudzu was already washed and waxed:

Rain beads on kudzu

Another invasive that thinks Planet Georgia is just, um, peachy.

Shortly afterwards, I started getting rained on myself, so I tucked the Big Gun in my shirt and stepped it up back toward the manor. Am I complaining about getting wet? No way! (Well, I would have been happier without having to worry about the camera, but whatever.) An interesting way to start a two-week vacation…

Monday, July 13, 2009 4 comments

FAR Future, Episode 96: I’m History

Tuesday, November 22, 2044
I’m History


A history student followed Pat down from the college to interview me for a paper he’s writing. I was kind of flattered, and told him he was welcome to stay at FAR Manor with us as long as he needed — there’s always plenty of food — and even for my 86th birthday if he was inclined.

“Sure,” he said, “We’re on break until Monday. And I’m really not looking forward to riding back to campus alone.”

“Hey, it’s only 25 kims,” I said. “I biked twice that when I was twice your age.”

He chuckled. “Yeah, but did you have a pack of clothes, books, and a recorder with you?”

“You got me there. But we didn’t have aerogel fairings or those hub motors for the hills, either.”

“You win some, you lose some, right?”

“Right. Do you mind sharing a room with some kids?”

“I guess not.” The kids in question were already checking out the visitor, whispering among themselves — probably about who would have to give up his bed — then Bobby walked up. “You can have my bed,” he said. “I’ll take care of the fire tonight.”

“Isn’t it your night anyway?” I asked.

Bobby blushed, and the visitor laughed. “Busted!” he said, and Bobby shrugged and walked away. It’s easy enough to embarrass a teenager, but flustering one is another thing.

“Well, c’mon in,” I said. “We can sit on the porch and talk. It’s still warm enough, and it’ll be quiet.”

Daughter Dearest, whom the kids call “Mama” these days, brought drinks and something to snack on. We sat and watched the kids through the screen, goofing around outside on one of those warm days of late fall, a jar of Luke’s hooch and a couple of glasses on the table.

“Good kids,” I said. “Kids are always happy to help out if they know they’re contributing… and that it’s appreciated.”

“It’s like that at my place, too,” the student — Darrell is his name, I think — told me. “At least you have a lot of room to move around, in these old houses. Didn’t you just have your own family in here, back when?”

“Occasionally,” I said. “We had other kids staying with us a lot of the time, and after the Powerout started we ended up with two foster kids and a Hispanic family. That was one way we knew things were changing a lot. But I think we were kind of unusual in that regard… most people wouldn’t have anyone but a relative living with them, back before.”

“Well, it’s the ‘back before’ stuff I came to talk about, before the Powerout got started — I guess you figured that out. I found a copy of that footage you took at Nickajack, back when things were just getting started, in our archives. But you aren’t listed as a militia or junta member. I got kind of excited when I found out you lived so nearby, and are still around to talk about it.”

“I had a strange, and rather uncomfortable, relationship with the junta,” I said, knocking back a gulp of hooch then replenishing my cup. “Even if I didn’t agree with their aims, I felt like what they were doing at Nickajack needed to be recorded. None of what we used to call the mainstream media wanted to associate with them, so I volunteered. I nearly got killed… by my wife when I got home!”

“Yeah. We have copies of old blogs in the archives, yours and lots of others, and they’re a big help for seeing what things were really like for everyday people. But it’s always good to get a first-hand report. Not all reports were created equal, you know.”

I laughed. “Not all lives are created equal. May you live in interesting times is truly a curse, but it makes for interesting reading.”

“So what do you remember about the junta people?”

“In a word: misled. I ran into one of the Nickajack folks shortly after the Flood, and he told me about the Restoration from his side of things. He spent some time in a prison camp, and learned that the televangelists he thought were running the show were being run by the ultra-wealthy—”

“Televangelists?”

“Yeah. Preachers with TV shows.”

He chewed on that for a moment. “Some stuff you can read about, but you just can’t internalize. They had their own TV shows?”

“Yeah. Some owned entire channels. Mostly on satellite and cable.”

He shook his head, as if it were too much to comprehend. “Were you a believer, back then?”

“Still am. Penitent, though. I never had much respect for those guys in expensive suits, always begging for more money. It’s important to remember, the junta rank-and-file thought they were obeying the will of God. Some of them killed themselves rather than admit they’d been duped so completely. Some just opted-out… which can be a slower form of suicide. Col. Mustard made it, and found something useful to do with himself afterwards. He’s still alive, down in John’s Creek — if you want an account of the junta from someone who was inside it, I could ask him if he’d be willing to tell you about it.”

“Yeah, maybe. But it was something else I was wondering about. I keep hearing stories of how things were like 40 years ago — burning up oil like it would never run out, cities bright as day by night, using delivery trucks for family vehicles — it sounds incredible. This must be a letdown.”

“Not at all,” I said. He gave me a curious look. “We used to call it the Rat Race. We were so consumed by it that very few ever stopped to see what it did to us or the world around us. We had so much energy and material wealth, it stunted our imagination. We knew there had to be a better way to live than burning up all the oil and ignoring the warning signs, but we just couldn’t — as a people — think of one.”

Darrell looked lost in thought for a few minutes. “I never heard anyone put it like that,” he said. “You really think people are better off now, even after all the disasters we’ve seen this century?”

“Well, now that things look like they’re finally starting to settle down… yes, I think so. I always hated that ‘it builds character’ crap; it was always someone not suffering who said it. But the struggles we’ve been through? They’ve given us a purpose. They showed us that we could be more than what we had let ourselves become. I saw plenty of suffering, and helped out where I could. I saw petty evil, and fought it. I suppose you could say the survivors are better off, but you — and those kids out there — are better off, too.”

“You wouldn’t go back, then?”

“Not if you gave me a tanker full of gasoline. We were tested in the fire, and barely passed through it. But we made it, and ended up a wiser people. We learned some hard lessons, and the biggest one might be this: unlimited energy doesn’t mean unlimited happiness — maybe it’s the opposite.”

“It's like the old joke about being rich: it has its own problems, but I’d be willing to try.”

We laughed and chatted until suppertime.

continued…

Wednesday, July 08, 2009 4 comments

Mission Impractical

Sunday afternoon, we were eating lunch before going to the cinema… and Daughter Dearest’s phone rang. Her (now ex-)boyfriend Sasquatch has another friend (call him Ananias, he’s not a liar but you’ll understand shortly) whose dad is a USDA Prime Asshole™. For reasons unnecessary to detail here, he decided to eject both Ananias and his wife (i.e. Ananias’s mom) from the premises. He was working Sunday, and told them to be out before he returned home. As I understand it, this is not the first such eviction notice; she would basically beg him into changing his mind. But Ananias had as much as he could take a while ago, and this particular weekend his mom felt the same way. She grabbed her essentials and bailed to a hotel, leaving Ananias to pack up his stuff. He called Sasquatch, who called Daughter Dearest, who asked me if I would also help. Having heard about this guy before, I figured it was more important than sitting on my butt in a theater… but DD and I both told him that we’d help him move out, but not move back.

So we went home, grabbed a pickup, and Daughter Dearest navigated while I drove. We arrived in good order, seeing Sasquatch and a very young-looking female whom I didn’t recognize (and feared that it was one of Sasquatch’s not so wonderful female acquaintances)… she turned out to be a neighbor and the same age as DD, Sasquatch, and Ananias. His girlfriend Saphira was also there — she’s black, another thing that Ananias’s dad doesn’t like (welcome to Planet Georgia, where it’s still 1957 in what passes for the minds of the pod people), and six months pregnant. However, she barely has a belly bump, where Snippet looks like she swallowed a basketball… but I digress. Ananias’s room was just off the garage, and we went in and found that he’d barely started — and they were all mostly standing around. DD and I grumbled, got everyone grabbing clothes on hangers, and stashing them behind the seats in the truck. I sent Ananias upstairs for garbage bags, and stuffed all his loose clothes in them. I had to break up a smoochie session that looked like it was going to turn into something a bit more than smoochie: “You get started,” I said, brandishing my smellphone, “and I’ll get pictures.”

“For blackmail?” Sephira grinned.

“Nope, I’ll just put ’em online.” There were no more smoochie sessions after that.

Less than half an hour later, we’d filled the truck with boxes and bags and had lots more to go — including a dog pen and two large dogs. We sent DD and Sasquatch to his place to unload stuff in their shed, and began loading boxes in the two available cars (one for Ananias, one for Saphira). I did my best to keep things moving; Ananias expected his dad home at 7 but I figured it being a holiday weekend, he could leave early and have little traffic, and I wanted us to be loaded and gone by 6. At one point, Sephira picked up a box that was much too heavy for her, and nearly hurt herself — I fussed at her about that, and I’d been reminding all the kids to lift with their legs anyway, then told her to stick to smaller boxes. Well before the truck returned, we had everything but the dogs and their pen in the cars. The neighbor girl (who had also been helping with lighter boxes) was in a chatty mood, so I talked with her for a while. I had thought she was maybe 13 or 14, complete with acne and a rather flat chest, but she said she had been in school with Ananias and was now at Piedmont (Daughter Dearest considered going there before settling on Reinhardt)… so she was also 19 or 20. I wondered if we should bring her with us, but her dad was home so I figured she’d be safe enough from any Wrath of Asshole.

We started breaking down the dog pen shortly before DD returned with the truck. As we were loading the panels into the back, someone asked, “how are we going to move the dogs?”

“One dog in each car,” DD suggested. I thought that was a great idea, especially since it was now past 5 and I was getting really antsy about the time. With the panels loaded and bungee’d as best as we could manage, DD and I got rolling and told the rest of them to do the same. As we were rolling, DD called to see how the rest of them were progressing, then hung up in disgust. “Sasquatch’s mom is coming with her Explorer to get the dogs,” she said. “There wasn’t enough room for them and Sasquatch in the cars.” Oh, great. The truck notwithstanding, if DD and I hadn’t been there to get them moving, they would probably have all been there at 7. Now they have to start throwing wrenches. What. Ever. We got to Sasquatch’s place without incident — I stopped in town to check the bungees, and even the rotten one was holding up fine — then we put the pen together (finger-tightening the brackets) while waiting for the rest of them to arrive. And arrive they did… not as soon as I’d have liked, but soon enough.

I would like to have been a fly on the wall, though, when Ananias’s dad got back to find his family cleared out as requested. Who is he going to push around now?

Tuesday, July 07, 2009 2 comments

Fine Free Fruits at FAR Manor

The blueberries peaked and dried up the week I was suffering from cramps in my back muscles, so I didn’t get too many. Even more unfortunate, the blackberry harvest has been a little disappointing this year. I found a stand near the manor that looked good, but the month of drought has really taken its toll this year — most of the berries are small and were a bit dry-looking. But we had a little rain Sunday night though (hallelujah!!!), and they reconstituted on the vine.

Ripe blackberries

I’ve picked a little over a gallon so far, a good ways behind my “3 gallons in one afternoon” pace from last year. I’d like to get another gallon, which should make about 8 pints of jelly. There are couple of spots where the berries are big like they were last year, so I’ll focus on those first.

Meanwhile… a trio of Smooth Sumac trees came up in front of the manor this year. I originally mis-identified these as Staghorn Sumac, but those have hairy branches and these are… well, smooth. The third pic features a somewhat concerned bugly (click on any of the pix for a closeup, of course). The berries smell abso-freeking-lutely heavenly.

Sumac trees Sumac berry cluster Sumac berry cluster, with bug

I (not knowing what they were) have pulled up many of them in previous years, but these three looked good where they were so we left them to see what they turned into. Now they’re fruiting, three big bunches on each tree. Dang, I got lucky. I'll keep pulling 'em up, but more carefully now as to give them some room. The fruit is good for jelly and a drink often called “Indian lemonade” as the natives introduced it to the white folks. There’s a pretty good stand near the office, on the little street that goes behind the fast-food joints, so I’ll grab them when the time comes too.

Anyone interested in foraging for wild food should keep up with Wide-Eyed Lib’s diaries on DailyKos. He runs a pretty good series of foraging diaries. I still think a field guide is an essential; I got one at the local indie bookstore last night. I’m no stranger to foraging; we used to hunt for morels in Michigan in springtime (my dad still does it) & I know where the good stands of blackberries are around the manor, even if the berries were a bit small this year.

That’s a start to my forest garden, anyway… wild fruit & planted herbs scattered around the manor. I might scatter some of those sumac berries around the edge of the “garden spot” behind the manor, which I won’t ever tend as a regular garden unless I lose my job. Maybe some will come up & I’ll have a crop. (Their roots are shallow so I can always pull them up if I change my mind later.)

Tomorrow, I will relate the tale of an urgent move.

Monday, July 06, 2009 4 comments

FAR Future, Episode 95: Dreams

Tuesday, October 25, 2044
Dreams


I’ve been having odd dreams lately. In one, The Boy was an old man with no feet, riding in a cart while younger men clear a tangle of brush off the road ahead. In another, Mrs. Fetched attended my funeral, accompanied by a band of odd-looking hunter-gatherers. I guess it’s true:

Your old men will dream dreams.

It’s been a long time since I’d even thought of the Prophet of Atlanta. But perhaps he’d thought of me in his mansion up above. This is last night’s dream, as best as I can remember:

We were walking along a beach, young and healthy as two men could be. I never saw The Prophet as a young man, but I knew him as well as I knew this dream-body that never was. There were other people scattered here and there along this endless beach, some lying in the sun, others chatting, a few sailing away from shore. Patches of dune grass sprouted here and there, away from the surf, and thatched shelters dotted the beach… not that they were needed; the sun was warm and a breeze made it perfect. The sand reminded me of Lake Michigan’s, blonde with little specks of black. Steel drum music played from… somewhere. It was everywhere, but only noticed when you listened for it.

“This is heaven. I could stay here forever,” I said.

The old black man, now a young black man, shook his head and smiled. “No. You’ll come alright, but you’ll only stay a little while. Then you’ll move on to Heaven.”

“Then what is this?”

“One of the resting places. Those who have labored on Earth, those who were heavy-laden, are given rest before entering Heaven. It is also a place where they remember what they have not forgiven, that they may forgive, that they in turn may be forgiven. And thus it is Purgatory as well.”

“So how long am I staying?”

“Only a few minutes, this night. You will awaken in the morning and live on yet a little longer. The Lord has sent me to you, to prepare you for your final journey.”

We walked on while I digested this bit of news. Finally I asked, “So everyone gets some time at the beach?”

The Prophet shook his head. “Only those who see Heaven in the beach. Others see Heaven in other places. Your wife wandered far through the mountains where she saw Heaven, until she was ready to turn aside from the reflection and see the true vision.”

“So… when I get here, how do I know when it’s time to move on?”

The Prophet turned into a shelter we were about to pass, and I followed. The back was cool and dark; several kegs with taps stood in a row behind a bar. He ducked behind the bar and poured me a beer, the best I ever tasted. “The Living Water,” he said, reminding me of something I saw once, and poured himself a cup as well. We emerged into the sunlight, not needing to squint, and continued our walk.

“You will hear the call when it’s time,” he said, and nodded toward the shoreline. There, a young woman pushed a small sailboat into the water, laughing. She jumped in, hoisted the sail, and it carried her out to sea. We stopped and watched for a while as she receded. It seemed that as she approached the horizon, her boat lifted instead of dropping below the horizon, rising out of the water and into the sky. She had to be miles away by now, but we could see her clearly for a long time until she… simply vanished. “When you hear the call, do not tarry. Some go by water, others walk over the dunes, some simply continue down the shore. All paths from here lead to Heaven.”

I finished my cup, and we walked along. Somewhere along the way, I realized I wasn’t holding the cup anymore. I spun around, looking back the way we came — littering on this of all beaches would certainly be blasphemy — and started a step before The Prophet stopped me with a gentle hand on my shoulder.

“The cup had served its purpose, so it was taken,” he said. “As I was. As you will be.”

“That reminds me of something I wondered about for a long time: it seemed like after the Restoration, you just disappeared,” I said. “Whatever happened to you?”

“Does it matter? The servants of God rarely retire. Some are martyred, others simply die. A very few are taken to Heaven — no, I was no Elijah, even if that was my middle name.” He grinned. “After Jerusalem was freed, I laid my burden down and went to my resting place, and then to Heaven itself.”

I wanted to ask him what his resting place was, but he stopped me. “It’s time for you to go back. You yet have a little work to do. Nothing very difficult, but the time for knowing all answers is not yet come. Go in peace. God willing, I will speak to you again.” And the beach dissolved into chaos, or perhaps something I’m not equipped to comprehend right now, then I woke up with the old familiar aches and throbs.

I think I would have rather it had been a surprise, but I suppose you don’t get to make those kind of choices at my age.

continued…

Saturday, July 04, 2009 2 comments

Born on the Fourth of July

After repairing the shelf in Daughter Dearest’s closet, I got started on supper. I had put myself on the hook to make rolls and pasta salad, and the schedule was pretty tight to get the rolls done. Somewhere in there, I had to also grill chicken and salmon. Somehow, I managed:

Salmon Chicken strips Rolls

Meanwhile, Mrs. Fetched was frying up squash & onions, one of the few things I like really well-done. Daughter Dearest went out to feed the dogs… then came running back. “Crissy had her puppies!”

Puppies

Yup, the World’s Most Obnoxious Dog reproduced. I had a look, guesstimated about eight of the little boogers, and went back to the grill (the salmon wasn’t going to wait). Mrs. Fetched came out, “Did you see them?”

“Yup,” I said. “All eight.”

Eight? You mean four, right?”

“No, I mean eight. There’s a bunch of ’em there.”

With that bit of news, Mrs. Fetched went to count them and was relieved to find “only” seven. I just hope they’re not obnoxious shriekboxes like their mom.

“I hope they’re all boys,” Mrs. Fetched said. “I need to give them away.”

“Or you could keep one and give Crissy away,” I suggested helpfully. She ignored me.

So we’re up to 11 dogs. For now, at least.

Friday, July 03, 2009 No comments

As the Sun Slowly Sets in the South…

…west? This is Planet Georgia. The sun sets wherever the pod people say it sets. Just ask them!

Sunset

The three-day weekend is about 1/3 over. Some rain is in the forecast for tomorrow night through Monday… maybe we’ll get some. God knows we need it. I’m not sure what possessed Mrs. Fetched to get more flowers, but we planted them this evening. With any luck, the forecast will hold up and we’ll get more than a spit.

Earlier this week, I found the (unfortunately inedible) SOBs that ate my jalapeño plants: tomato hornworms, which were starting on the tomato plants themselves. I found four of them, pulled them off with pliers, and stomped them flat. So much for the stewpot. I got some Bt (an organic pesticide) today and sprayed the plants that have been attacked so far. For whatever reason, they didn’t bother the yellow pear tomato plants, perhaps because their leaves are too small. The yellow pear vines are already producing; we’ve made a couple of pasta salads & I’ve got enough for another one. The instructions say you can spray right up to the day of harvest, so I probably could have sprayed them too. If I see them taking any damage, I’ll pick ripe ones then spray. The denuded jalapeño stalks are starting to shoot new leaves, so I sprayed them as well. Maybe they’ll come back & I’ll get some late-season peppers.

This is also blackberry harvest weekend on Planet Georgia, but the berries are a bit small this year. I’ve gotten just over a gallon so far; maybe I’ll get some more tomorrow. We can make some jelly/jam with Splenda™ and share with The Boy.

I’m planning a vacation up north. Since I somehow ended up with SIX weeks of vacation this year, I might do two weeks; Mrs. Fetched is already making noises about not going and that would let me stay longer. With any luck, I’ll be able to spend a little time with some of my blog-family — in particular, AndiF, Stormy, and Yooper — as well as my bio-family. That would leave me a minimum of two more weeks of vacation to burn; I can grab a week at the hideout then another week (maybe two) at Christmas.

Hoping for a long and enjoyable weekend for all readers, both commenters & lurkers… with fireworks of whatever kind you enjoy most!

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