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Friday, April 28, 2006 1 comment

Who needs a TV?

Current music: DI.fm EuroDance

It is said that for a redneck, quality entertainment is a six-pack and a bug zapper. We currently have no bug zapper at FAR Manor, but we have a porch with a glass door and two cats. At night, The Bug Show comes on, and Sprite and Aries are captivated. A German hornet or moth slowly working its way up the window is sure to get them jumping. It’s loads of fun to watch.

Thursday, April 27, 2006 4 comments

Enough is enough

I just turned on word verification in the comments. I’m sick and tired of deleting spammer-droppings.

If you’re not familiar with verification, it’s fairly simple. Blogger creates an image consisting of random letters, distorted so spammers can’t use OCR software to figure out the magic word and enter it automatically. You have to type the same nonsense into a text box under the comment box before Blogger adds your comment. Once in a while, it’s a little too distorted to get right — no problem, it will give you a different one and not delete your comment.

Floor’s open. What’s bugging you tonight?

Monday, April 24, 2006 1 comment


Well... I guess that’s one way to get some iron in your system.

Another houseguest!

Well, at least this one just lives in the garage. I’m not sure how she(?) deals with the garage opening and closing all the time, unless there’s a hidden exit I’m not aware of. Then again, I think I know how all the bird seed got spilled out now. Sheesh. The only thing that seems to bother her is when I move the grill, which usually lives in front of the shelves here (which is how the nest managed to go undetected in the first place). Click on the picture to get a slightly larger version; look for beady little eyes under the white “eyebrows” in the center.

I'm not sure what kind of bird that is; it might be what my father-in-law calls a “jenny wren.”

I would have just chucked the nest outside, and let the interlopers build somewhere else, but I was a little late in discovering the addition. Okee-fine... maybe she’ll keep the bug population in the garage under control. If she keeps the garage spider-free, I’ll invite her in for next year.

When/if the egg hatches, I’ll post more pictures.

If you count comments, this is the 300th post on Tales from FAR Manor!

Sunday, April 23, 2006 No comments

A Tour of Microsoft's Mac Lab

As much as I like to rag on Microsoft, I have to admit that there is a good side to the company... namely, the Macintosh Business Unit (MBU). David Weiss was recently kind enough to give us all a virtual tour of the Mac Lab.

Go check it out!


More stuff blooming around FAR Manor this morning:

What’s up at your place? Sound off in the comments or just point to a link on your own blog!

A bit stiff this morning...

Current music: John Eddie - Jungle Boy

Rule #1: It’s always going to take more effort than you think.

Facing the house, the yard to the left of the sidewalk has always been a bit raggy-looking compared to the other side, which is fairly lush Bermuda (and some kind of violet run wild out of the flower bed, but that’s another story). Looking a little closer, I found that it’s pretty well overrun with some kind of moss (it doesn’t get much sun).

I got the iron rake out and attacked. It worked better than I thought; the moss came up but the grass (and other weeds) stayed put. But it was a long, tedious process — the rake would get clogged up with moss and I’d tonk it out into the driveway. The pile behind the raked area got alarmingly large very quickly.

About halfway through, I called Daughter Dearest down, who was (to say the least) highly reluctant to leave her computer nest for fresh air and dubbayou oh arr kay. She protested the bugs would eat her; they weren’t bothering me but I got the repellant out for her anyway. After trying a couple of ways, we settled on me loosening the moss with the iron rake and her using the leaf rake (and later on, a blower) to get it into the driveway. Toward the end, I found the best way to do it was to push/pull the rake back and forth across the moss, instead of just pulling it. I hope I won’t need it for future reference, but at least I hit on that as I got to the most moss-infested quarter of the yard. That pile is almost all moss, from about 400 square feet of yard. Sheesh.

So we ended up with a huge pile of moss in the driveway. After trying to carry it off a rakeload at a time, I grabbed the tarp off the woodpile and we were able to cart it off in two loads. DD, at this point, said she was “whupped” and left. Not that seeding & feeding is all that difficult, although I ran out of daylight while spreading the straw across the area.

And so, as I was about to settle down last night, write this, then go to bed — Mrs. Fetched’s mom called to inform us of a wiring problem at one of the chicken houses. I was ready to fling the phone down the hall, needless to say. Her brother, Mr. Sunshine, did most of the work while I mostly held a flashlight. Splicing a 240-volt line doesn’t take too long, especially when the breaker is off and there’s plenty of slack in the line. Replacing a 50-amp breaker (it protects a sub-panel that runs the feedline motor among other things), especially when you don’t have a replacement at hand, takes a little longer. As usual, “only a few minutes” was an hour and a half. If we win one of those huge lotto jackpots, I swear I’ll pay the Air National Guard to use those chicken houses for live-ordinance target practice while I get video.

Good news, bad news

My trip to the doctor’s started well enough. I’d lost 15 pounds since I’d been in last, my blood pressure was normal (woooo hooooo!)... she was so happy, she stuck me for blood to see if my cholesterol levels had changed.

They haven’t. I got the results in the mail, along with a prescription for Lipitor. Yucko. Looks like I’ll also have to cut out the Mexican food, which is a bummer because I like cheese.

Mrs. Fetched wants me to try this packaged herbal stuff called "red yeast rice” that’s supposed to do a number on cholesterol first. I suppose it’s worth a try.

Friday, April 21, 2006 No comments


The Boy was home the other morning, and Mrs. Fetched was heading out the door. She started up, then remembered she needed to tell him something. She honked the horn a couple of times, but he didn’t hear, so she went back inside.

He was already on the phone to one of his buddies, one that we really liked back when. He was in the stairwell and Mrs. Fetched could hear his end of the conversation: “[new girlfriend] is getting paid today... yeah, she said she was going to get us some stuff... you know, pffffft.” The conversation continued, but that’s all Mrs. Fetched needed to hear. He finished up, came down the stairs, and got that deer in the headlights look when he saw her.

“Yup,” she said. “You can just pack up and get out since you’re not going to stop doing that crap.”

“I don’t know what you think you heard,” he tried to bluster. It Wasn’t Working this time.

“I know exactly what I heard. You can either get your clothes, or I’ll bag ’em up and leave ’em outside.”

He left. Mrs. Fetched confiscated a couple of guitars after he left as collateral for about $300 he owes us. I guess he’s staying with his friend, but I thought that was a rather precarious situation for his friend. But hey, anything The Boy tells us is probably a lie anyway. He’s working really hard to lose a job with great benefits, if he hasn’t lost it already. He’s even going back to losing interest in his music. I have no idea how this is going to end, but I don’t have The Warm Fuzzies.

So that leaves Daughter Dearest, who pretty much nests in her bedroom anyway, and M.A.E. The latter has bounced back from the breakup, it seems. I’m hoping she’ll have her act together to the point where she can support herself in a few more months. If this keeps up, I won’t have much to write about beyond home improvement and recipes.

Parsley gone iNSanE!

Three weeks ago, it was about half as high as the rosemary plant (the light one to the right) that it’s trying to engulf. Now it’s waist high!

It was sprouting dozens of seed pods like this; I picked off all but two of them, hoping it would slow things down. I can think of worse things to be overrun with than parsley (cough kudzu cough), but this I can maybe do something about.

Thursday, April 20, 2006 3 comments

Ramen done right

It could use some mushrooms, but otherwise the broth turned out loads better than I expected! Chuck that sodium packet in the trash and Know the Potential of Ramen. As with all my CubeDweller recipes, all of the ingredients can be stored in a file cabinet or other dry place (no refrigeration required).

CubeDweller Ramen Soup


4 c. water
6 sun-dried tomatoes, broken
4 pearl onions, peeled and quartered
1 clove garlic, diced

Herbs (substitute as you please, this is what I used but would have added basil if I had some):
1 sage leaf
1/4 tsp. marjoram
1/2 tsp. black pepper
Mrs. Dash® Tomato/Basil Blend
3/4 tsp. chives, chopped
1 large parsley leaf

pinch of salt
1 tsp. olive oil
1 packet ramen
Protein source of choice, cooked if necessary (optional, I used a tin of sardines packed in water)

Put tomatoes, onions, garlic, sage, marjoram, pepper, olive oil, salt, and 2 cups of water in a microwave pot. Cover tightly and microwave on high for 10 minutes. Stir. Add ramen, protein source, and remaining water; microwave on high for 2 more minutes. Garnish with chives and parsley.

Serves two with a side dish, or one if you’re hungry.

Amen, amen, and amen

Douglas Crockford hits it on the head talking about “introduction” web pages:

What a Flash intro says to me is "I hate my job. What I really want to do is make films. But they won't let me do that because I don't have talent. So watch this Flash intro."

Web sites end up getting polluted with crap like Flash and JavaScript for various reasons, but perhaps the single most common underlying issue is that “designers” have no content to give you, so they substitute an “experience” for something useful. Yeesh. I don’t spend (way too much) time on the Internet to have an “experience,” I just want to get some information or look at pictures or something. It’s kind of like the now-defunct Damon’s, a restaurant chain that sported multiple big-screen TVs tuned to various games. They billed themselves as “A Dining Event!” I tend to think of a “dining event” as something like that time when The Boy found a dried-up roach in his cereal — I don’t want a “dining event,” I just want something to eat (preferably insect-free). Same with the web: I don’t want Flash and Java$#!+ substituting for content. If I wanted to waste time with mindless garbage, there’s a TV in the living room.

Think of a web site’s “design” in the same way you would think about packaging a product — what you’re really interested in is what’s inside. Apple is widely acknowledged these days (at least in high-tech) as the masters of package design — and guess what? The decorations are muted, even minimal. Even Microsoft (internally) acknowledges that they’re way behind Apple here (and everywhere else IMO).

Macromedia describes Flash as “the solution for producing and delivering high-impact web sites.” High-impact on my bandwidth, CPU, etc. I’ll show you “high-impact,” as soon as I find that sledgehammer.

Thanks to Doc Searls for providing both the inspiration and supporting links for the above rant.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006 1 comment

Finally rain

We finally got some storms in here with some much-needed rain. We might get more tomorrow.

It does cramp our gas-saving program, because I don’t much like to ride in storms after almost getting hit by lightning a couple of years ago, but it also means we don’t have to worry about watering the plants.

Two down?

The Boy has been coming in extremely late again... and there’s some question as to whether he’s even going to work. His entire life seems to revolve around hanging out with his friends, and probably smoking herbal substances of questionable repute. Now he’s worn out the rest of his welcome — Mrs. Fetched told him he needed to find somewhere else to live by Saturday.

That just leaves M.A.E. — once she finished paying a fine, she can get a driver’s license, then her family in Florida might help her with a car, then she can get independent too. Hooray!

Comma comma down, dooby doo down-down

It’s official: The Boy has broken up with M.A.E. She’s not taking it too well, even though she kind of expected it. Actually, he announced the breakup while we were coming home from Florida, but I’ve learned to not take statements from most of the denizens of FAR Manor at face value. He has another girlfriend already; I’m not sure if he was seeing her before.

I’m hoping this doesn’t drive M.A.E. back to old behaviors or anything. It might be touch & go with her for a while.

A taxing situation

The one redeeming feature about tax season this year is that TurboTax has a vastly improved interface over the last time I tried it. I switched to TaxCut some years ago, but they dropped the Mac version so I’m back to the old one. I’ll have to admit, it did a pretty good job of knocking out a rather complex return (wife’s business, lots o’deductions, capital gain income from selling the timber and some stock options) — in fact, it went so well that I had already e-filed before realizing I’d forgotten a couple of items. The IRS phone support people told me to just file an amended return and it would be fine. Fortunately, I got that taken care of Saturday (the 15th).

If that sounds rather chaotic, consider some friends we helped out with their taxes. They hadn’t filed since 2002, and decided to catch it all up. The IRS was rather surprised to hear that they were wanting to get things cleaned up, and gave them some slack. To add insult to injury, it looks like each year would have resulted in a refund so far (we have 2002 and 2003 done, and he got disabled in late 2003 so there won’t be much of any income for the next two years).

Then there’s the handyman dude that helps Mrs. Fetched with the chicken houses and the in-laws with the farm. He summarized all his stuff for last year and asked us to take care of it. At the last minute. With him gone somewhere with a full voice mailbox on his smellyphone. Needless to say, I hit two show-stopping snags early on during the Monday night marathon session and couldn’t get it finished. As of Wednesday night, we still haven’t heard from him or been able to reach him. Maybe he lit out for Brazil or something. He had H&R Block do his taxes last year, and they charged him over $80 to do a 1040-EZ and Planet Georgia’s form (which is simple enough to do in 15 minutes on paper with a calculator).

I’m seriously considering looking into whatever needs to be done to do this stuff for money next year. I’ll just figure I won’t have a life from March 1 to April 15, then take whatever I make and go on a two-week vacation. Our piano player at church works for a CPA, and they’re totally swamped during tax season... maybe they would funnel the piddly jobs to me. I could charge maybe $50 for an EZ/state package; if I got only 20 of those I could take a nice vacation. I tend to be fairly conservative about what can and can’t be deducted or claimed... maybe I leave a few bucks on the table here and there, but I don’t worry about audits.

Monday, April 17, 2006 2 comments

Fair warning

If I ever find the spamming cretin who owns degree-programs-online.info, it won’t be pleasant.

Figures that the buttmunch has hosting at theplanet.com; they’re pretty spam-friendly from what I’ve heard.

Sunday, April 09, 2006 3 comments

Full bloom

Spring has sprung, the grass is riz —
I wonder where the birdies is?

So goes a favorite doggerel of an old college buddy, whom we called Johanna Banana back when. The current answer to her question might be “Florida,” judging from the birds we saw in abundance there last week. Anyway....

We came home to find everything is in bloom around the manor. Dogwoods usually flower around April 1 on this planet.

This tree stands guard at the corner of the garage. This time of year, it buzzes to warn intruders away... or maybe it’s just the bees who swarm the top of the tree and leave us the bottom eight feet.

A closer look at that tree.

On the opposite corner of the manor house, there’s a flowering cherry tree. Cherry blossoms are supposed to be a favorite subject of haiku poets.

The dogwood tree by my outbuilding. During the summer, it provides a little shade. It won’t be long before I have to hoist the air conditioner unit into the window, though.

The dogwood bloom resembles a blood-tipped cross. That, and its flowering close to Easter, has obvious connotations among us Christian types. As a kid, I pointed that out to a Catholic friend and he promptly ate one — much to my astonishment. He didn’t get sick, but I wouldn’t make a habit of that. Some plants are toxic, after all (cherry trees are toxic to cattle, for example).

Planet Georgia’s flower is the Cherokee Rose, but if I’d had to guess I would have said it was the azalea. Or kudzu.

My sage plants are about to bloom and the parsley has gone absolutely bonkers in the last two weeks — it’s starting to produce seed and is threatening to engulf the adjacent rosemary plant. I picked up pennyroyal and lemon balm, and another rosemary (it looked so cute) while out and about yesterday as well.

Busy afternoon

Errands, errands, errands.

First, it was off to Home Despot to get some outdoor stuff & some other stuff to shore up the bug defenses. I think I wound up getting a bag of grass seed for free. Not sure how that happened.

After that, I had to zip by the auto parts place for some oil (I already have a filter or two) and a new battery charger for the bike. I also got gear oil for the final drive, but I don’t think I’ll have to change it yet. Mrs. Fetched is going to start driving my Civic around, since it gets twice the gas mileage as Barge Vader, on days when I take the bike to work (which will be as often as possible). Did I mention that gas is up to $2.75 here?

Speaking of gas, the last stop was to get some for the lawn mower; I topped off the Civic while I was at it. It took a while, since the gas station was crowded with motorcyclists and other tourist-types stopping by. I just parked & listened to the iPod until a pump opened up; it only took a couple of minutes.

I got the oil changed in the bike, in between doing a few other things (like fixing a dog pen a bit too late to keep one of the stupidogs from getting through to visit another stupidog in heat). I noticed a leaky fork seal, so I need to get that fixed before too long, and I figure the tires might last until June. So beyond a need for a good cleaning (the bike, that is), I should be ready to rumble tomorrow morning.

My back is a bit stiff from the bending over. And I need to get in bed anyway.

Third time the charm?

In the Roundup post below, I mentioned that Lobster was supposed to cough up the rent but I figured he wouldn’t. This one was a little on the spectacular side.

So yesterday evening, Mrs. Fetched caught him and asked him if he had the rent money.

“No,” he said. “That’s not important. I don’t have to pay it anyway.”

“Then pack up and get out,” said Mrs. Fetched, starting to switch to Battle Mode.

“You can’t make me leave,” he said, “it’s against the law.” (Have I mentioned that Lobster has pretty much turned off his brain lately?)

I chimed in at this point, “Show me a lease, foo’.” He had a chance to sign an agreement, which could perhaps have been construed as a lease, but never did it.

Mrs. Fetched didn’t say too much, but I’ve seen her Axe Murderer look before. Charles Manson would have thought twice before messing with someone giving him that look. After disagreeing with our choice to drop off his stuff, Lobster suddenly realized he needed to be at work and left precipitously.

Next thing I knew, garbage bags were dropping down the stairs and landing in the hallway. I went up to help, and so did The Boy. We loaded up all his stuff, dropped it on his parents’ porch (after calling them), then went to get groceries. Since Lobster works across the highway from the supermarket, I popped into the KFC to let him know where his stuff was, not to come back to FAR Manor, and to let us know if anything was missing. Having heard nothing since then, I presume he has it all.

Never say never, but I don’t think he’s coming back. I guess he just finished wearing out his welcome. This (unfortunately) being a real-life soap opera, nobody is ever completely written out of the script — but everyone is glad to see him go. After talking to Mrs. Fetched the way he did, I guess he’s lucky he didn’t have to pick his teeth off the floor with broken fingers or something.

Saturday, April 08, 2006 No comments


I spent two of the last three weeks in Florida... unfortunately, it was the week in the middle I was at FAR Manor (two trips). As I’ve done in the past, I’m going to collect a bunch of short items into a single post. I might come back and update this tonight or tomorrow if I think of anything else.

The first week, you pretty much know about already.

Lobster is (as usual) late with the rent. He seems to think he can just blow us off and spend it on clothes or whatever. WRONG! I’m hoping he’ll just move out, personally — he’s pretty much worn out his welcome as far as I’m concerned. If he takes the money and runs, fine.

From the Wishful Thinking Department: At work, I got a purchase requisition signed off for a translation project. I’m hoping to come back to work Monday to find it’s well under way.

Driving to Florida on a Spring Break Friday is not something I would advise under any circumstances. Between the time it took just to get through Atlanta, the road construction on I-4, and the usual delays (including dropping off M.A.E.), we got to where we were staying at 3 a.m. (about four hours late).

Speaking of M.A.E., I joked with BJ a few weeks back that we might just drop M.A.E. off at her aunt’s and “forget” to pick her up on the way back. Bad move: it got back to her and she thought I was serious. While we were in Florida last week, she called us just about every day to make sure nothing had changed.

As usual, there was nothing available in Orlando this time of year so we stayed at a timeshare in Titusville. Getting there at 3 a.m., we didn’t realize that the unit we were staying in was actually on the street instead of the little lane where the office and five of the units are. It took us 15 minutes to figure that out, at a time when we really didn’t need that aggravation.

Mrs. Fetched and I agree: we like Titusville. That’s probably because it’s not primarily a tourist area; Kennedy Space Center is the primary economic engine and there isn’t a beach area nearby. Even though it’s on the water, there’s only one high-rise condo development and it’s under construction. The only hurricane damage that we saw was the demolished fishing pier. Another part of its charm is that it’s separated from the Orlando (aka Tollando) area by 17 miles of marshland — fat chance that will get developed any time soon! It has that scruffy but comfortable feeling of a favorite pair of shoes. I could see myself living there more than just about any other part of the state. Not that I ever expect to escape Planet Georgia, but you never know.

Toll booth operators hate it when you pay in pennies. Tough $#!+ — if you’re going to screw over the people that pretty much keep your economy afloat by charging them to get from Point A to Point B, you need to expect some pushback. Especially when people are down to their last few bucks.

We ended up spending a night over at Mom’s — we had invited them to visit us, but they started hitting problem after problem (sound familiar?) and gave up. We decided to check out a day early and go over there instead. Very nice!

From the Rant-o-rama Department: One of the more egregious pieces of happy horse$#!+ I heard (last week or ever): men consider the “ideal woman” to be totally subservient and totally uncritical. Talk about gritting one’s teeth to keep from making a scene. Personally, that would be boring after a short while. I’d settle for someone who thinks she is (and actually is) equal, rather than superior in every way, and isn’t compelled to point out every freeking mistake (in her mind) that I make, especially when she doesn’t want to do it herself — or worse, set me up to knock me down. For example, we got in about midnight last night. Mrs. Fetched decided that the four eggs in the refrigerator were probably bad — even though I’m totally strung out from driving the last 13 hours, I’m supposed to hear (and remember) not to use the eggs on one side of the tray. (I guess making an effort to throw them out was totally out of the question.) So she wants me to fix eggs for breakfast and gets them out. Naturally, I got the “wrong” eggs. Of course she had to tell me that she knew I would get the wrong ones; but again, actually making an effort to prevent me from doing that must have been beneath her — either that, or she wanted me to get the “bad” eggs so she’d have something to gripe about. It’s getting harder and harder to scream “F**K YOU” and leave when that crap happens. I’m starting to wonder if she’s trying to kill me with stress for the insurance money.

Going north on a Spring Break Friday isn’t much better than going south. The first 100 miles were stop-and-go, finally opening up around Gainesville FL. But the freeway was pretty much carrying its capacity all the way up to Atlanta. Breaking for a picnic lunch at a rest area is probably the best way to cope with it, although things won’t necessarily be better when you get back on the road.

Finally: road atlases definitely have a shelf life. They should probably be replaced every three years or so, especially if there’s a lot of construction in areas where you’re travelling.

Two in a row!

Daughter Dearest’s chorus brought home the Musicfest 1st place trophy for class AA! They missed the Grand Champion trophy by one point — a show choir won it.

I’d do the happy dance, but the four guys who went to pick up the trophy did it for me. We got video, but people stood up and Mrs. Fetched couldn’t get the tripod up off the benches. I’ll extract it and post it in this entry a little later.


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