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Monday, May 28, 2007 6 comments


Iowa Victory Gardener writes an excellent Memorial Day post.

No matter how low our opinion of the “Commander Guy,” we must never lose sight of the people that he’s sending overseas to die for the glory of his ego. Undoubtedly, the vast majority of our underequipped, thinly-stretched soldiers would rather be home with their families today (you and me) — enjoying a Memorial Day barbecue, or even doing house work — but duty calls, and the good soldier answers. As Gordon Dickson wrote: “Soldier, ask not - now, or ever, where to war your banners go.”

On this Memorial Day, as we are engaged in the Second Oil War, let us all — soldiers and civilians alike — remember that we all have our duty. Let us perform it to the best of our ability.

For those of us who want our troops home with their families next Memorial Day, we too have a duty, a duty to act on our convictions. I don’t use the term “Second Oil War” lightly — the first was Desert Storm, aka Kuwait — as it’s easy to see that this is about nothing but oil. The proof is as easy as looking at Iraq and Darfur — why are we embroiled in one and not the other? I remember a protest sign from the First Oil War: “What if Kuwait exported broccoli?”

So what is our duty, those of us who want an end to this waste of time and lives? If the true reason for war is oil, then it’s up to all of us to make oil less important. It’s not easy, though: oil pervades nearly everything in our lives. It’s in our fertilizers, plastics, (of course) our gas tanks, and the asphalt we drive on is what’s left over when all the other stuff is pulled out of the oil. Manufacturing, mining, shipping, lumbering, agriculture, all require diesel fuel.

Admitting that oil is necessary to our “non-negotiable way of life” is one thing, it’s quite another to admit that we are past — or at best, very near — “peak oil,” the maximum point of oil supply that we will ever see. Supply is dwindling, and will continue to do so, while demand has just kept going up. That’s why we’re already paying post-Katrina prices for gas before hurricane season has even started. We can’t do anything about the supply, but we can — and it’s our duty to — do something about demand.

One of the lasting legacies of WWII is the collection of posters and other artwork, exhorting the civilians of the time to support the war effort — by supporting rationing, growing one’s own food in “Victory Gardens,” recycling scrap material, carpooling (even though we, hard as it is to believe, were the Saudi Arabia of the day), and all sorts of other sacrifices. Quite the contrast to Commander Guy’s “go shopping,” huh? Even during the 70s, we had myraid PSAs on the radio that drilled us with all sorts of tips to save gas. Where are those PSAs today? Well heck, we don’t need them — we know what our duty is. Let’s get to it.

Our friends and loved ones overseas are depending on us.

Sunday, May 27, 2007 2 comments

Smoke from a Distant Fire

The south GA/north FL fires are depositing a thick layer of smoke all the way up here — I was pretty sure at first that there was a fire nearby. Someone at church this morning said she heard on the news that ash was falling on the south side of Atlanta. Supposedly, it’s not so bad on the mountaintops.

All the windows are closed and we won’t be doing much outside today. Today, a 30-mile bike ride could be a good way to get a case of black lung.

Saturday, May 26, 2007 5 comments

PITT (Pain In The Thighs)

Mrs. Fetched and Daughter Dearest went to see Pirates of the Caribbean III this afternoon. Since I haven’t seen the first two, I decided to sit it out. This was my chance to ride the road course that goes by FAR Manor. I packed my cellphone (in case of trouble or photo opportunities), two water bottles, and my trusty iPod. Escape Pod provided a high-tech counterpoint to my low-tech adventure.

You're not in Kansas anymoreI haven’t done a 30-mile bike ride since I was in college, so of course I’m feeling it. I could be feeling one or two of the college-day rides as well. The route isn’t exactly Florida-flat, and gets somewhat remote in some places. This bit of graffiti pretty much says it all.

Roadside flowerA stretch of road had these flowers growing along the side. They look like a white belladonna, but frankly I got no clue. Maybe one of the plant experts can identify it? I’d appreciate it.

I started “feeling it” about 2/3 of the way through the ride, so obviously turning back would have been a Bad Idea. I’ll probably walk funny for a little while, but Lord knows I need the exercise. If I do this every weekend, I should get in shape fairly quickly. But I’m pleased with how the pictures turned out — the cellphone camera worked will in bright light.

Happy Birthday, Mrs. Fetched! (and TFM!)

Birthdays just aren’t the same when you get past 40, I guess. Yesterday was Mrs. Fetched’s mumbleth, and we spent the evening videotaping Cousin Splat’s graduation ceremony. I got her an orchid (Dendrobium), which we had to re-pot right away because it fell out of the pot on the way home.

And I missed the occasion of the second birthday of my blog (May 16). What are the Terrible Twos like for a blog? I guess we’ll find out together….

Tuesday, May 22, 2007 8 comments

Graduation night

Do I really need to say anything more here?

The Boy receives his diploma

Oh, you want a full frontal? OK, you asked for it:

Cap and Gown shot

Friday, May 18, 2007 3 comments

Friday Night Cinema (rerun)

Gas prices on Planet Georgia had been hovering under $3/gallon for a while — it seemed like nobody wanted to be first. But when one went up on Wednesday, nearly everyone followed suit pretty quickly. Since it’s too danged expensive to drive anywhere, grab a snack and settle in with Friday Night Cinema!

So to (ahem) “honor” the occasion, FNC has brought back an old favorite: Dominic Tocci’s I Can’t Afford My Gasoline.

“Happy” motoring!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007 2 comments

On Creativity

“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…” — Genesis 1:26a

Does God look like us? Do we really look like Him? Or does “in our image, after our likeness” mean something different? After all, if God has a head, two arms, two legs, and a torso… well, so do the apes. Some other animals use their front paws as hands from time to time (raccoons, squirrels, etc.). Chimps and even some birds use tools to get food. What really separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom?

It’s not language: bees communicate through dance, chimps through gestures, dogs through body language and scent, not to mention whales and dolphins. But that answer is “getting warmer.”

Maybe it’s more a matter of how we use language. It isn’t just a tool for getting food, or bonding, or marking territory. We do all those things with language, but we also use it to create stories about where we came from, or why we are here, or simply to entertain ourselves and (if we’re lucky) other people. In other words, after God created the universe, the earth, and the ecosystem in it, He populated it with a species that could, in a small way, create worlds of their own! Our creativity isn’t divine in its own right — but it’s an echo of the divine. Call it part-divine.

This I’ve realized for a while now, more came to light as I read Stephen King’s On Writing, specifically when he talked about many writers having a drinking problem, and himself being baked on coke and booze while writing Cujo, to the point that he didn’t remember writing it. That’s when I got the rest of it: I’d always thought that getting a little squiffed was good for the creative part of me… confirmed, so I thought, by how much easier it was to write after a few drinks (or in the middle of a fever, for that matter). It came to me in a flash: the creative part of us is partly divine and thus isn’t affected — either way — by earthly things like self-medication or even sickness. Alcohol and drugs just muzzle that anti-divine part of our minds, that inner nagging spouse or domineering parent, the part that picks at everything, is never satisfied with what we do, and would rather have major surgery without anesthesia than to say “well done.”

And here I’ve done the worst thing to that part of me that can be done: I’ve vivisected the little SOB and laid its pathetic guts out on the stainless steel lab table for everyone to see. Feel free to laugh at it and ridicule it as it squirms under your amused gaze….

Amazingly enough, I’m completely sober tonight. Must be a leftover from yesterday’s virus.

Taking My Medicine

WARNING: Too Much Input follows.

Mrs. Fetched confiscated the DSL modem yesterday, because The Boy refused to get out of bed and help with the chickens. Not that it mattered: I was awakened a bit too early (after staying up too late) with a bout of what I call LGS (Le Grande Shittes). I had a scheduled checkup at the doc’s yesterday morning anyway, so i figured I’d get that seen to as well, especially when I felt slightly nauseated on the way over.

This checkup was a little more intense than usual: in addition to getting poked for blood (which I hardly felt, they’re good about that), I was also handed a cup. The nurse asked me the usual battery of questions that usually have the same answers, except for the symptoms of the morning. Then when the doc came in, she asked about those and said I probably had a stomach virus that was going around, it would be gone in a day or so, eat bland food and drink plenty of fluids.

Then she pulled on The Gloves. “I don’t enjoy this either,” she reassured me.

“Just like being at work!” I said. Well, maybe the annual review part. She then boldly went where no woman has gone before.

“All the time, people show me things they don’t want to show me and I don’t really want to look at,” she said. I suppose that’s one of the things they don’t tell you about when you start med school. Lord knows it’s the same for technical writers, and probably any other profession: you end up mucking around in things you never really thought about in school.

“No blood in your stool, and your prostate feels normal,” she said. I suppose my dignity was a small price to pay for that good news. “But there was some blood in your urine sample. You need to give us another sample in two weeks, then if it’s still there, I’ll refer you to a urologist.”

The thing she didn’t tell me was to go back home and ride out the stomach virus in bed. Naturally, I felt pretty rough by the time I was ready to go home (probably running a fever) and went straight to bed when I got home. I slept until 10, when the fever finally broke, then read my Asimov’s for an hour or so before turning the light off. The bed was hot; I thought Mrs. Fetched had put a heating pad under the sheet but it was just me baking the virus (and the mattress).

I still have a little LGS, but that’s not completely bad. I haven’t truly been what the old folks call “regular” since I started taking the RIpitmore, and I needed a good purge. I wouldn’t recommend it as a way to lose a pound, but I did that too.

Sunday, May 13, 2007 4 comments

A (mostly) peaceful weekend

I was blessed this weekend with less crazy stuff than I expected. The Boy’s counseling session was moved to Saturday morning since today is Mother’s Day. (My mom is out West having a good time on a tour.) I spent an hour & a half taking care of various business, combining a bunch of errands into one trip, finishing up with groceries.

Coming out of the grocery store, I found a message on my smellphone: “don’t get groceries, go by Subway and get sandwiches… [list] …then bring them over to the chicken houses; we have a water leak.” Since I’d already got the groceries, including ice cream, I decided to just make sandwiches at home and take them over. Fortunately, the leak was near the back end of the house so Mrs. Fetched just drove the small tractor in to scoop the wet stuff out and it really didn’t take long. We finished to rumbling noises in the sky, so we went home, unplugged stuff, and several of us (including yours truly) took a nap.

Today has truly been a day of rest. We took Mrs. Fetched out for Mother’s Day, watched A Night at the Museum and haven’t done much since then.

Family Man describes himself as a slacker, but I’ll bet Dolly Freed could teach even him a thing or three. Back in 1975 or so, at age 19, she wrote a book called Possum Living (link to full text) about the extremely low-maintenance lifestyle she and her father lived. I wish I’d run across this book when I got out of college — it could have changed my life. It would be interesting to see whether she’s still living that ultra-slackerly lifestyle now at age 50-ish, and what improvements she might have made on it.

Friday, May 11, 2007 2 comments

Friday Night Cinema

It’s almost not Friday anymore on this side of the country, and payday isn’t until next Friday. FNC to the rescue with short free flicks!

This is one I’ve had kicking around in my archives for a while, forgotten but not gone. As I try to be helpful and informative, here’s a handy tip: How to Wake Up a Drunk Friend

News briefs

Looks like the retail industry is now following the home mortgage industry down the toilet.

All the schemes that have been tried to feed Africa’s poor, and the one that seems to be working? Urban Gardens. Get together with your neighbors and plant a garden in the vacant lot next door. I like this quote, for some reason: “He can't grow crops that will get too tall, or else they will absorb too much pollution. Also, bandits might hide in the foliage. Better to keep the vegetables low and leafy.”

And this gem from (of course) The Register: the things that people smuggle into Irish prisons. Not for the squeamish.

Thursday, May 10, 2007 4 comments

Dwarf Lilies

I noticed these dwarf lilies (as Mrs. Fetched found they’re called) springing up where the tiger lilies usually prowl. She said, “they just came up on their own, I don’t know how they got there.” In other words, another pretty nuisance plant.

Click the picture to get a closeup. The blooms remind me of the wild violets that came and went earlier in the year (but are still growing all over the place).

There Goes the Neighborhood

new subdivisionWhen I first moved out here, I figured that the subdivisions would catch up to me about the time I retired. I wanted to retire when I was 50, but that’s only a couple of years away — and barring a life-changing event, retirement isn’t in the cards for a long time.

That hasn’t stopped the subdivision from coming, though. This is going in just down the road from FAR Manor, a farm across from my in-laws’ that the owners sold last year.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007 6 comments

“No Gas Day” Bunk — and a Better Idea

While I expect regular readers of Tales from FAR Manor are intelligent types, there are plenty of people out there who either aren’t too smart or turn off their “critical faculties” when reading the latest email.

Take the latest craze: No Gas Day (Snopes link). The idea is to not buy gas on May 15th, under the assumption that it will lower prices. The first problem with that is, even if the entire country were to participate, it wouldn’t make a difference. If you don’t buy gas on Monday, you’ll buy it over the weekend (so you won’t run out) or Tuesday (because you’ll probably be running low). So over four or five days, let alone the entire month, there’s no difference in sales.

The second problem is that demand is at near-record highs, at a time when oil production is starting to decline (according to statistics published on The Oil Drum, we may have reached Peak Oil at the end of 2005). In short, gas prices are high because people are buying all they can get and then some — gasoline inventories have been declining all year and hit a 50-year low at the end of April.

Do you want gas prices to come down? Not buying gas for one day, when you’ll buy it the day before or after, isn’t going to make a difference. What will bring prices down is to not use so much of the stuff. Fortunately, it’s not that difficult to cut out 5%, 10%, or even 20% of what you’re using now — we in the US are much more efficient than we were in the 1970s, but there’s still a lot of slop in the system. You can save 5% to 10% just by following some simple Tips to Improve Your Gas Mileage (FuelEconomy.gov link); you don’t have to buy anything. If you have a standard-shift car, give Pulse and Glide driving a try. Just coasting downhill in neutral is enough to give me a 10% boost in gas mileage (36 to 40 mpg).

Simple lifestyle changes, like telecommuting or carpooling, can save 20% or more — and these are the kind of changes that will improve your quality of life and still don’t require you to ride a bus or buy a hybrid. Wouldn’t it be great to not have to drive to work all the time? It would certainly be less stressful.

If everyone used 5% less gas, prices would come down. Of course, the temptation would then be to slack off and watch prices go right back up…

Saturday, May 05, 2007 5 comments

The Real Electronic Shackle

Ankle braceletThe Boy was kind enough to show off his new fashion accessory last night. It’s going to be a part of him for the next two months. After hearing about this deal, I wonder that he didn’t just choose being in jail for the next two months instead: he has to be in the house (not even the garage) by 8pm; he needs to get permission from his probation officer to do anything later than that. He has to have weekly drug and alcohol tests, as well as 3-hour counseling sessions every Sunday afternoon. His driver’s license is gone-zo until he’s 21 (like that matters; he’s been dropped off our insurance for a while).

The phone is a bit of a pain, but not as much of one as it could be. To leave the line clear for the ankle bracelet’s receiver to do its thing, we’re supposed to limit calls to five minutes. The monitoring service can call at any time. That’s not such a big deal; we have smellphones for longer calls and can turn off the ringer at least in our bedroom.

But I hope last night isn’t going to be typical: since he couldn’t go carouse with his “good friends,” they came to FAR Manor. All evening. And the ones who weren’t popping in and out like blink dogs were calling well into the wee hours. At least one of them had been drinking before (I hope) he got here, and ended up falling asleep in The Boy’s room. I took him home this morning, along with some pointers on how The Boy’s real friends will conduct themselves around him: no booze, no drugs, and no late-night calls. I’m sure it went in one ear and out the other, even though he assured me he’d pass the word around.

We all get to enjoy this time together, I suppose…

Friday, May 04, 2007 4 comments

Friday Night Cinema

Gas prices are climbing past $3/gallon, and it’s been a rough week anyway. Friday Night Cinema is ready to help you save gas and save time!

Some of the best links I get for FNC come from the Techcomm list, and tonight’s selection is no exception. These guys aren’t The Who, but they’re Brits, and they’re Talkin’ ’bout My Generation

Thursday, May 03, 2007 6 comments

Plants, flowers, bees [UPDATED]

[UPDATE: I added a picture of the mountain laurel.]

Mrs. Fetched snagged me from the comfort of a lounge chair this evening, where I was reading Cell, to plant a few things out front in the dusk. I dug, she planted, and we both scooped dirt back in.

Mountain LaurelLooking out the bathroom window this evening, I saw a huge mountain laurel in full bloom down at the edge of the woods. Click the picture for a closeup of the flowers.

Some of the lilies that run riot around the manor grounds are also starting to bloom, purple varigated with white, that look somewhat like large versions of the wild violets that I couldn’t get rid of even if I wanted to.

The mountain laurel was getting plenty of attention from the large carpenter bees, and my strange old friend the Hummingbird Clearwing Moth was also getting in on the pollination action. I haven’t seen any honeybees in about a month, when they were buzzing around the wisteria. Colony Collapse Disorder is a terrible thing to have happen, but it looks like other bugs are already picking up the pollination slack. I hope so, anyway.

Are you seeing honeybees at your place, or are other bugs stepping in?


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