Looking for writing-related posts? Check out my new writing blog, www.larrykollar.com!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006 4 comments

Podcast from FAR Manor (#2) - news, DVR reviews, PS/3 mania

Listen up! direct link (11.7MB MP3) | archive page (listen online)

I wanted to have this online Sunday, but podcasting is Hard Work.

00:00 - Introduction
00:43 - News briefs from FAR Manor
02:18 - Digital Voice Recorder reviews - Sony ICD-P320, XtremeMac MicroMemo
07:44 - A chat with three guys waiting in line on the eve of the PS3 launch on November 17
38:17 - Closing comments

A few photos from the PS3 lineup:
Close to the head of the line at Best Buy. The line wrapped around the side of the building and went all the way to the back.

Inside the gamers' tent. About as comfortable as you can get, sleeping on concrete in mid-November.

Chris, who did most of the talking during the PS3 segment, wields the Staff of Ramen.

Cody was featured in a Reuters photo posted on Yahoo News, taken earlier in the day.

Production Notes
Audio recorded with a Sony ICD-P320 standalone digital voice recorder and a XtremeMac MicroMemo iPod accessory. The audio from the ICD-P320 was extracted to an HP Media Center PC and burned to a CD; audio from the MicroMemo was extracted through iTunes. Audio files were edited on a G3 iBook, running MacOSX 10.4.8, using Audacity 1.3.2-beta.

Theme music is “Jump Around” by Psycho Maniak (no link/contact info available — help!).

Audio content hosted on:
Internet Archive

Saturday, November 25, 2006 3 comments

Outdoor life

A brief quiz: if a gutter looks like this, is it time to replace it?

Top view:

Bottom view:

It's amazing how much crud can accumulate in a rain gutter over a year; this is what I found after cleaning it out.

We got to sleep late this morning — Mrs. Fetched has been doing a fair bit of that since the chickens went to the store, which is good because she needs some rest — but the rest of the day has been busy. I was blowing & raking leaves in the front yard (it's easier to use the blower to get them out from under the hedges, but faster to rake them once they're in the yard), boggling at how many there were, when I finally ran out of extension cord. I’d been planning to run the generator anyway, so I went to the detached garage to get it.

It wasn’t there.

I looked again — there’s a lot of debris in there and it could have been buried — but it still wasn’t there. Mrs. Fetched grabbed her smellphone and started calling numbers in her Received list until she found someone who was with The Boy. He tried telling us that we had helped him load it onto a truck and take it to the place he’d stayed the last two summers! WRONG — we wouldn’t have sent anything over there that we hoped to ever see again.

We jumped into Barge Vader and rode over there. The lady of the house was home, and we asked her about it. “Oh, it was here but it was stolen off the back of Tony’s truck.” Whoever Tony is, and why was it on the back of his truck in the first place, and why didn’t she report it stolen? More likely that she pawned it for drugs or defense attorneys.

So The Boy is toast around here. Mrs. Fetched was ready to confiscate his large guitar amp, but he’d gotten in the house (idiot me left the ladder out at the outbuilding, where I took the above pictures) and picked it up already. We did grab the one (best) guitar he left here though. But if he expects to set foot in this house (legally) again, he’s going to start doing things our way. More likely, he will live elsewhere until he ends up in jail.

Friday, November 24, 2006 4 comments

Quality journalism

Retailers call today Black Friday — mobs of shoppers starting the real Christmas season now that Thanksgiving is behind us (burrrrrrp!). I don’t know if this happened everywhere in the US (probably did), but the Christmas stuff started coming out on this planet before the Labor Day grills finished cooling off.

I don’t know why Mrs. Fetched and Daughter Dearest are planning to go shoe shopping today. It would be much better to curl up with a warm laptop and read some quality journalism from The Register. Here’s a few interesting stories they’ve run recently:

A kidnap attempt goes horribly w0rnG!

Drunk Aussie comes up with a novel way of keeping the coppers at bay

Michigan high school student builds working fusion reactor (and this is how word got out)

Thursday, November 23, 2006 6 comments

Happy Thanksgiving!

I’m making the challah bread:

I use this recipe, except that I put the oven on 325°F instead of 375. I nearly found that out the hard way.

We’ll be going down to Mrs. Fetched’s parents in a while — FAR Manor isn’t quite ready for entertaining large numbers of guests, since we’re still obtaining area rugs and footsies for the living room furniture.

What are your plans?

Monday, November 20, 2006 3 comments

Floored, Part II

Another non-relaxing weekend, but I was mentally prepared. This is the weekend, Mrs. Fetched said, that we would get the living room floor done. That doesn’t necessarily mean anything, but when I saw the sander in the back of Barge Vader I knew it was going to happen. Of course, it would have been better had we nothing else going on, but there’s always something going on. So The Boy and I got the last of the furniture out of the living room, then I grabbed the sander. “Here goes nothing,” I said, and I was right: I hit the switch, and the sander hummed and popped the breaker on the motor housing. Trying another outlet, and getting the same result, I called Home Despot and they told me to bring it back. Naturally, it worked there (we think something was stuck that came free on the ride back to the store) but they gave us another one and credited us the downtime on our rental. But by the time we got home, it was really too late to get started so we agreed it was on for Saturday. We did check the sander and it worked, so that was one thing out of the way.

And on it went. I began Saturday way too early by taking The Boy in for Part II of his GED exam. He’s not sure about the math, but everything else he thinks went well. I guess we’ll find out soon enough. I came back home, determined to get at least one of the two things done that I wanted (cleaning out the gutter on the outbuilding and bottling my beer). Figuring the former would be quicker than the latter, I got a ladder and the leaf blower. The gutter was pretty well clogged, but the blower made quick work of it once I got on the roof and scooted over to each end.

With that out of the way, I headed back into the living room and got to work. A square-buff sander is a rather large piece of gear, about the size of an industrial floor polisher. But like a well-balanced motorcycle, the weight went away once it was in motion. Like a pipes-addict’s bike, it was also LOUD, so I got my earplugs and kept at it. The sander had a vacuum thing and a bag to catch the sawdust, but it was leaving 3–4 times as much on the floor as was going into the bag. At least it wasn’t getting in the air — maybe the sheet we put over the hallway entrance made Murphy cry.

I made a complete pass over the floor, then vacuumed, then made another pass. It was at this point that I realized that someone else had sanded and surfaced this floor in years past — and didn’t do a very good job of it. Talking to some people, I ascertained that the last people to do this had used a drum sander. A drum sander works much more quickly than the square-buff type, but quickly digs divots in the floor if you pause for even the briefest moment. Judging from the lines, whoever did it before was going back-and-forth with it — not the right way to do it.

After four passes, there was still a fair amount of stain left — not only the divots and uneven places, but in the grain itself. There was also a strip of unsanded floor along the walls. Since we needed a couple of other things from Home Despot, we also picked up a “palm sander” (first time I’ve ever heard that term for a hand-held electric sander, but whatever). This thing turned out to be a Little Cricket: small, noisy, and powerful. It was also quite happy to walk along the wall (or wherever) without me helping it.

At this point, I was ready to hit it with the 80-grit sandpaper, but Mrs. Fetched was officially In A Hurry. “Let’s just go with it like it is,” she said. Not by The Book, but I was feeling too tired & lazy to argue. We got some things to spend the night somewhere else, so we wouldn’t breathe fumes all night, and Mrs. Fetched took Daughter Dearest somewhere — leaving me to put down the clear-coat. This stuff smelled like model airplane glue, and stunk worse (seeing as we were dealing with it by the gallon). I had an open window and a fan to keep the fumes down, but I seriously don’t remember painting myself out the front door. All I remember is that I left the lid to the can on the fireplace lintel and had to walk across the slick floor to get it. Thank God I didn’t fall down. It also turned out there was some miscommunication; the females hadn’t got anything for the night and they were rather out of sorts about it. I blamed the fumes. They didn’t argue.

Sunday after church, it was time to continue. I put the 120-grit screen on the sander and went over the floor. “Are you sure it’s supposed to look like that?” Mrs. Fetched asked dubiously. Well… no, it’s not supposed to look like a 400 square foot scuff mark; you have to put the second coat on. I vacuumed it up, and Mrs. Fetched said “That should be good enough. Look,” and swiped the floor with her finger. When it came up white, she got the mop and went over it again. By this time, it was about 5 p.m. This time, I pointed the fan out the front door. This worked much better to keep the fumes tolerable; Mrs. Fetched (who gets a headache upon the merest whiff of most chemicals) was able to sit in the door to the kitchen and watch — and I remembered painting myself out this time.

With some time to kill, we took everything back to Home Despot and finally remembered to pick up some fluorescent lights for the kitchen. We also killed some time looking at area rugs (and boggling at the prices on some of them), took Daughter Dearest to meet some of her chorus friends for a “business” trip to a largish church, picked up some milk, and went down to her parents’ place. They had just returned from a week in Pensacola, so we killed some more time talking about that and everything else. We returned to FAR Manor at 9 p.m. to find the smell tolerable (especially behind the sheet in the hallway). I went to get Daughter Dearest from her outing and returned to find Mrs. Fetched sacked out.

By the way, she loves how it turned out. To me, it’s a rustic, kind of hunting-lodge look. I suggested we needed to hang some animal hides on the walls to go with the floor; she said “Yuck.”

Not bad — it cost us about $215 in rentals and materials, a dang sight less than what we’d been quoted to have it done. The biggest hassles were moving the furniture out and having to stay elsewhere for a night, which we would have had to do if we’d hired someone to do it. The actual sanding and coating was fairly easy. We have to move stuff back in, but we’re going to get a rug or three and some felt pads for the furniture first.

Oh… I did get my beer bottled up too. I was up past 11 with it, but the deed was done. I’m naming this batch, a dark ale, “Rosemary Wood Floor.”

Embarrassment of riches

Lots and lots of blog fodder has come by in the last few days — so much, I’m having a hard time writing it all down.

I recorded a long ramble from a guy waiting in line for a PS3 on Thursday night; The Boy was getting paid to hold a place for someone else & I had to take him some insulin. If I’d have known I would have been doing that in the morning, I would have had a warmer jacket and a video camera — as it is, I have to get some audio off a digital voice recorder before I return it (POS Sony won’t work with Macs), then I’ll edit it down and post a link.

We finished the living room floor. I have pictures, and will have a post up in a day or so. Also got the beer bottled and the crud cleaned out of the gutter on my outbuilding.

Right now, Daughter Dearest wants to borrow my computer; I can start writing drafts on the G3.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006 2 comments

Taking the Good wth the Bad

So after spending a pleasant Tuesday working at home, writing the scripts necessary to pull my documentation into an HTMLhelp-style format, I thought it would be good to knock off at 10:30p.m. (for a change) and go to bed. So I’m halfway undressed… and here comes The Boy.

“Hey, can I take a car down to exit 8? A friend of [his friend]’s says he’ll pay us $200 each to hold a place in line so he can get a PlayStation3 on Thursday night.”

They actually go on sale Friday at midnight (I thought they went on sale last week, and they did — in Japan), but whatever. We weren’t having it, since he promised us up & down that last time he borrowed The Barge, he’d have it back in time for Mrs. Fetched to go to the chicken houses the next morning — and he showed up late in the afternoon with some cock-and-bull story about how the keys went missing in the couch. So when we told him no, he told his friend (on the phone) that we were being dickheads. Mrs. Fetched let that sink in for a moment (I didn’t hear it, I don’t much pay attention to anything he says anymore), then stormed in (he was in what used to be M.A.E.’s room, using the old G3 in there and playing his music ’way too loud), smacked him, grabbed the phone, and hung it up.

The Boy, being much like his mother, responded in kind. He flew into a tantrum, screaming about how he NEEDS this money for his probation (but work he was offered earlier in the week was beneath him, duhhh), we don’t ever stop to think about the good things he does (how can we see them if he’s never home? duhhh), on and on and on. He cranked up the music on the G3, then slammed the keyboard shelf (knocking the keyboard to the floor) when I told him to either turn the sound down or I’d cut off the breaker. Then he stormed down the hall screaming about how he was going to show us tantrum and break everything, until Mrs. Fetched told him that she’d call the cops and have him hauled off to jail.

This went on, deteriorating into a discussion punctuated by occasional shouting matches, until midnight. I was reminded in another way how he and Mrs. Fetched are much alike: neither one of them has any regard for anything I try to say. Either one of them would interrupt me when I was trying to explain something, until I was ready to start screaming myself. If it hadn’t been pouring down rain at this point, I may well have simply gone to the outbuilding to sleep.

The upshot: Mrs. Fetched was curious about whether this was real, or some cockamamie cover story that The Boy and his friend made up to use as an excuse to disappear for a couple of days. While The Boy only lies when his lips move (he’s kind of like GW without the family money thing in some ways, especially the lying and sense of entitlement), I felt like this one was actually plausible. She agreed to take him and his friend down to the mall herself, and meet up with the person actually paying the tab for this job. (Not a bad racket, really: $600 for the PS3, $800 for four bodies to hold the place in line, he can probably get $2400 for it on eBay and make $1000 profit.) The Boy had his horrified look, exceeded only when I suggested earlier that he might have to do things our way to get his life in order, but talked to his friend and agreed. He really didn’t want her around when they met up with the “employer,” but she insisted and he dealt with it.

So things were finally winding down, I got my clothes off and got in bed, and he comes in again. “I need you to take me to the store.” At midnight? After your episode? So you can get cigarettes? The gall is incredible sometimes. I said no, he sighed and left.

So I dragged myself out of bed at 7 to take Daughter Dearest to school and myself to work. She was upstairs, trying to sleep when the balloon went up, but couldn’t hear what it was about. I explained, and the youngest was the wisest: “I don’t see what the big deal is. You know they’re going to recall them over some bug.” (She may be right: bugs delayed the original ship date, and there are rumors that Sony is cutting back on shipments. How better to reduce your recall exposure than to not ship so many?)

Since the indie coffee shop is on the way to work, I stopped by. I hadn’t had time to make coffee this morning, and I needed something stronger anyway. So in I went, to find that they were giving free espresso shots! Hooray, I’m saved! The funny part was, a non-coffee person in front of me didn’t realize was espresso is, and downed a shot. I bet she was vviibbrraattiinngg all day long… me, I got a cappuccino to go (plus the free shot) and got through the day OK.

At least I was inside, with the rain pouring down outside, until I played Submarine Pilot and drove home. The Boy’s place-holding team seemed to have gotten a spot inside the 24-hour Wal-Mart, so maybe they won’t drown. Getting arrested for loitering, however, is another possibility.

These days, I like it better when The Boy doesn’t come home.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006 3 comments

Somebody’s calendar is busted

And I think it’s theirs, not mine.

April Fools Day is 4-½ months away, but it’s still pretty funny.

Friday, November 10, 2006 2 comments

The Luxury Outhouse

In the comments on my previous post, Family Man said, “I have to keep saying, you can't go wrong with an outhouse.” While an outhouse had crossed my mind while writing the post, I didn’t remember my experience with the world’s most luxurious outhouse until I saw his comment.

Many years ago, Other Brother was looking for a particular motorcycle — to be precise, a Yamaha TDM650 — and searching the net, he found one for sale in my area of all things. I agreed to go have a look, and got directions from the seller. Since it was a nice day, and Big Zook (a Suzuki GS1000G that’s currently waiting for me to fix it) was in a reasonable mood, I decided to ride over there.

Climbing the longest, steepest driveway I think I’ve ever seen, I rolled up to a pretty nice-looking place. The couple who owned the house (and the bike) were outside, probably enjoying the day as much as waiting for me. They were both motorcycle people, so when I rolled up on the Zook, everyone was inclined to like each other. They showed me the sale bike (which was in very good shape) as well as an impressive collection of vintage and modern bikes packing a three-car garage. We chatted for quite a while until we’d run out of things to talk about, and I asked about using the bathroom before I left.

“The outhouse is over there,” she said, pointing to a structure next to the house, that I’d assumed was either part of the house or a tool shed. It was sided with rough planks, stained a dark brown, and had a tin roof. Not needing more than that, I thanked them and ambled over. The door was my first surprise: it was a real door instead of a piece of wood on hinges. Inside, the outhouse was nearly the size of my outbuilding (which is about 10x16 feet, and has no plumbing). It had a toilet bowl and seat, obviously made for outhouse use, and was decorated nicely. A covered area off to the side could have been a hot tub. There was a small bookshelf with plenty of reading material (motorcycle-related and otherwise). The business I had to do didn’t required sitting down, but I nearly sat down anyway just to take it all in.

Like any outhouse, it was well-ventilated. Unlike most outhouses, it was electrified, didn’t smell, and all the vents were screened to minimize bugs. There was also a fan that probably served both to cool the place off on hot days and to pull the odors out. I presume there was room for a kerosene heater in winter, if they continued to use it. Alas, these were the days before digital cameras, and I didn’t carry my 35mm point&shoot around with me.

I suppose if we built an outhouse, it would be something like that. Mrs. Fetched would settle for nothing less.

Thursday, November 09, 2006 4 comments

This stinks....

The septic tank, once again, got backed up. $350 to pump out 1000 gallons of $#¡+ (which will be bought on the open market by right-wing media wackjobs to fling at the next Congress, no doubt). Looks like the field lines are shot — probably a cool $3000 to get that fixed.

Just how the hell are we supposed to make improvements to this place when we can barely keep up with the freeking maintenance?

I told Mrs. Fetched we shouldn’t buy this place. Over and over I told her. She said, “You decide,” I said, “No,” and she totally ignored me.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006 2 comments

Lift Every Voice

Last night, I prayed to tell God how I felt about what needed to happen with the elections — believing that God lets us mostly run our affairs ourselves — and went to bed believing the Dems would at least take the House but not the Senate.

Sometimes, it’s good to be wrong!

So today, I started wondering: did God intervene on America’s behalf — for this is a victory for America, the one I know — or did things just happen? Then at choir practice tonight, this was the first song we worked on for Sunday:

Lift every voice and sing, till earth and heaven ring,
ring with the harmonies of liberty,
let our rejoicing rise high as the listening skies,
let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us —
facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
let us march on till victory is won.

Stony the road we trod, bitter the chastening rod,
felt in the days when hope unborn had died,
yet with a steady beat, have not our weary feet
come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
We have come over a way that with tears as been watered,
we have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered —
out from the gloomy past, till now we stand at last
where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.

God of our weary years, God of our silent tears,
Thou Who has brought us thus far on the way,
Thou Who has by that might led us into the light,
keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,
let our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee —
shadowed beneath Thy hand, may we forever stand,
true to our God, true to our native land.

The eerie thing is, this song was written in 1921. And it fits this day perfectly. All of it. Even the warning, now that our nation has started to find its way back, to stay on the right path.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006 4 comments


I’m worrying tonight. Not so much about the election; I still think the Dems will take the House and not the Senate, but it will be enough to put the brakes on the Bush-league destruction of America. The things I’m worrying about are closer to home.

The Boy was supposed to go to the senior center this morning for part of his community service. So I went upstairs to start trying to drag him out of bed… and he wasn’t there. Nor was he in the guest bedroom, the recliners in the living room, or the couch in the detached garage. Some time in the middle of the night, he slipped the leash. Flew the coop. Took a powder. Blew this pop stand. Rode off into the sunset. I didn’t find a note or anything, nor has he called all day. I have a pretty good idea of where he is, which isn’t good: at this point, I’m pretty sure he’s going to fail the drug test he’s supposed to take in a couple of weeks… and then it’s most likely off to jail with him for the next 11 months. But that’s his choice. We’ve tried to help him make better choices, and he doesn’t want that kind of help.

What really worries me is that Mrs. Fetched has had an “issue,” in the Biblical sense, for going on three weeks now. She’s scheduled to go in for an ultrasound tomorrow, which I hope will locate the problem. Obviously, this hasn’t done her much good. By the numbers, she’s healthier than I am — she doesn’t suffer from cholesterol or high BP (she enjoys every bit of them both, ha ha) — but she’s run-down all the time and this definitely hasn’t been helping. Working in a chicken house is debilitating all by itself; OSHA and the NLRB would be all over any company that subjected their employees to those conditions, but farmers (or their families) are free agents. I’m not sure the chicken houses have brought on this current problem, but I sure hope that her docs will tell her to stay the hell out of there from now on (not like she would listen or anything, but still).

So tonight I worry. Tomorrow I will probably find out it was all for nothing (I hope so, anyway).

Monday, November 06, 2006 1 comment

Haggard over Haggard

hag•gard (adj.)
1 Looking exhausted and unwell, esp. from fatigue, worry, or suffering

How terrible it will be for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! For you give a tenth of your mint, dill, and cummin, but have neglected the more important matters of the law: justice, mercy, and faithfulness.…
How terrible it will be for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but on the inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup, so that its outside may also be clean.
How terrible it will be for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs that look beautiful on the outside but inside are full of dead people's bones and every kind of impurity. In the same way, on the outside you look righteous to people, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
—Matt. 23:23-28

The spectacle surrounding the sordid Rev. Ted Haggard situation is simply… craptacular. If you’ve been hiding under a rock, or avoiding the media in hopes of dodging the negative political ads, here’s a brief recap: Rev. Haggard, the former head of the National Ass. of Evangelicals (oooh, appropriate), has been whipping up the fears of the fearful for years, keeping gays stigmatized and Republicans in office. In the last week or so, a gay prostitute came forward with claims that not only had Haggard hired him for sex about once a month for the last three years, he helped Haggard buy meth. After the denials came the partial confession (“I bought the meth, but didn’t use it”), the resignation from his church and the NAE, and finally an admission of “sexual immorality” (which in the evangelical mindset is the Express Ticket to Hell).

Many have come to expect such hypocrisy, unfortunately, from people such as Haggard — the Jim Bakker/Jimmy Swaggart scandal of the 1980s was simply the most visible and well-known example. The thing that angers me most, as a Christian, is that such people make us all look bad by association. They encourage Christians to act like Pharisees and vote for moneychangers, while paying (at most) lip service to “the least of these.” They skip past the many occurrences of “fear not” found in the Bible, and play on the fears of the ignorant.

In the end, someone who is so adamant about persecuting gays had to have some issues. How best to deny your own gay tendencies, which you have been taught almost from birth to abhor, but to go around attacking other gay people? I mean, look at the guy. Is that not one of the creepiest smiles you’ve ever seen? I wouldn’t have let someone looking like that baby-sit my kids to begin with (good thing; he and The Boy might have swapped secrets of how best to hide a drug habit).

For every Haggard that falls on his face, though, there are dozens — hundreds — ready to step in and take their places. I fear that they will have to answer for God for the things they have done in His name.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006 6 comments

Rosemary and visitor

There are many things I don’t know about plants. One of the things I didn’t know was that rosemary blossoms in the fall.

A little patience (and double-checking in view mode) is required to get good macro shots with this camera. If you click to get the larger image, though, you can get a good look at a tiny insect down on the bottom flower. He didn’t seem to be fazed at all about me getting less than a foot from him.

That yellow string-looking thing behind the upper flower is part of the parsley plant. The heat and drought knocked it way back, although it’s starting to recover with cooler weather. There were several stalks that didn’t hold themselves up, and that probably kept them alive, but now I need to stake them up so they’ll get what sun there is at this time of year. Rosemary, on the other hand, is one of the hardiest non-weed plants I’ve seen. Heat doesn’t bother it, drought doesn’t bother it, winter doesn’t bother it, getting run over by a minivan doesn’t bother it… you get the idea.

I’ll have to clip it a little before too long — I’ll be making a batch of beer and boiling rosemary into the wort really mellows it out.


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