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Tuesday, July 31, 2007 8 comments

Eat to work, work to eat

I suggested stuffed bell peppers for supper tonight — I would have suggested it for yesterday, if we’d had some thawed ground beast. It was quite good, and she invited her parents up to help us eat it. Still, there was enough left over to stuff a microwave dish with a pepper, ear of corn, potatoes, and a slice of Mexican corn bread that Mrs. Fetched’s mom made (hot stuff! yum!). It won’t be any problem carrying it to work, since we’ll be getting my Civic first thing tomorrow.

Since the mom-in-law is going to the farmer’s market in the morning, I cleared the jalapeƱo bushes of the larger peppers, ending up with over two pounds of biiiig green chiles. Maybe someone will have cilantro and want to trade… I just can’t seem to grow cilantro.

The last of my “restricted” stock just got un-restricted. The HR department sent a memo around saying that they were going to use shares to withhold taxes, and “your net pay will not be affected.” Um… they forgot the Social Security part, which knocked a cool $600 off this paycheck, and I can ill afford to not have that money. I need to sell some of that stock, I guess… and since it’s lost about $2 in the last week, I’ll have to sell more than I needed to in the first place. At least I have the option (pun not intended). Maybe it will shoot back up tomorrow. Maybe pigs will… oh, never mind.

Sunday, July 29, 2007 13 comments

FAR Future: Episode 3

It might be interesting to try weaving the commentary from today into the narrative of tomorrow. Let’s see how this works…

Sunday, July 29, 2012
The Happenin’ Library

Nancy P asked about the situation at the local library. I’ll have to say, I’ve dropped by on those evenings that I commute to work, and it’s turned into The Happening Place.

Sure, they have the same power issues everyone else does, but that’s actually working in their favor. With the TV out of commission for long stretches of the day, kids are going outside during the day and reading at night (using wind-up flashlights if necessary). If it’s raining, they stay inside and read. So there’s been a lot of volunteer work going into the library lately. Somebody even gave them a generator, and the regulars often kick in some gasoline to keep it (and the lights and computers) running.

The A/C is off most of the time, of course, but people are already getting used to that. Still, I’ve heard there’s been some jostling to get a seat close to a fan. Our library also has an outdoor deck, and they’ve put up tarps and poles to shade it on sunny days. If there’s any breeze, it’s another popular spot.

People in town just come by with their kids as soon as their power goes out. Sometimes, they get really lucky and the library still has power. But however it works out, people catch up on news, books, and each other. The staff shows kids’ videos from the stacks in one of the conference rooms when they can. After a while, people start expecting to see each other, and now the library (or the lobby or standing outside) is becoming the hub for local news and gossip too. The staff is raising a little money by selling coffee — serves the chains right for parking their shops in the retail district instead of putting one downtown. They’d kill for the kind of traffic the library is getting now.

The Internet access is pretty reliable there. They’ve put up a couple more wireless hubs to handle all the people bringing laptops… they have the PCs in the carrels, but there’s usually a line and time limits. I’ve started spending a little time there in the evenings myself, because our DSL has gotten so flaky… I guess the power outages are starting to affect the phone system as well as cable. I’m posting from the library tonight, by the by. You have to assume that the frequent outages are starting to take its toll on server farms as well. If you haven’t already backed up anything you have online, you might want to do that. Printing it out would be a good idea too.

So in a world where most retail businesses have gone to shorter hours, the library is extending theirs. I wonder of the arts council has given it any thought — they could start some writing workshops and we could all get some new, local, reading material.


Friday, July 27, 2007 10 comments


Another random-thoughts post, vacation-related and otherwise…

While in Michigan, I saw a couple of Confederate flag symbols and an actual flag out front of someone’s house. Up north, you can’t seriously pretend to “heritage” though. The thing is, while there are goobers and racists up north, they don’t run the show.

Speaking of “up north,” that’s a phrase you don‘t hear “down south.” I remember my parents saying things like, “we’re going up north to Traverse City for vacation this year.” Some other words and phrases I don’t hear on Planet Georgia: wet burrito (the food), smelt (a kind of small fish), snowmobile, ice fishing, dune buggy, or “Harding’s sack.” That last one is localized to southwest Michigan, where there’s a supermarket chain called Harding’s. You can imagine the puzzled look Mrs. Fetched gave me the first time I asked her for one.

Every time I go to Michigan, I learn all over again the rhythm of frost heave strips across the highways: thunk-thunk, thunk-thunk, like a heartbeat. It’s almost hypnotic. While paved roads aren’t as smooth as they are in the south, the road commissions in Michigan really know how to maintain a gravel road. The very best ones are at least as wide as a two-lane state highway; when they’re oiled (to keep the dust down), they pack into something nearly as hard as pavement. Then again, they often develop fine washboards that can rattle your teeth unless you have good suspension. At worst, they’re still better than any unpaved road I’ve seen here. You can usually find a good strip of hard smooth surface if you’re bicycling.

Mrs. Fetched’s mom is going to take some of her cucumbers, and a bunch of my jalapeƱos, to the farmer’s market on Wednesday. Some of them will probably be red by then; I might keep one of those for seeds next year.

We had some great pizza last night. I made a parsley-pepper crust, Mrs. Fetched supplied the sauce, we added onion, bell pepper (from my supply), and chicken. On the second one, she made a cheese sauce that was really good… I hope she remembers how she did it. For what bell peppers cost at the supermarket, I think I’ve recouped the cost of the plants already, and have a bunch more coming.

The weed-eater is dead at the moment, probably the fuel line. Family Man, if you want to trade, let me know. :-) I was reading something on Kunstler’s blog from a guy who ditched his weed-eater and switched to a scythe — he gets some real exercise and doesn’t have to worry about fuel and so forth. Mrs. Fetched’s dad has two scythes in his shed, but both of them have rusty blades & it would probably take more time to get one cleaned up and sharpened than it would to replace the fuel line in the weed-eater. But I’ve got to do something about the growth approaching and surrounding the jalapeno bed and mulch pile… I’ll probably borrow a weed-eater tomorrow and be done with it in 20 minutes. Maybe I’ll get a piece of fuel line tomorrow and fix mine.

I IM’ed M.A.E. today to see what she’s been up to. Seeing as she’s 3 weeks “along,” I pretty much know. She sounds pretty happy about it; the expectant couple is going to Alabama next week with his construction job and told me she wants us to come to their wedding (whenever it happens). She also told me she saw The Boy’s girlfriend and opined “she looks like she’s 12.” I wouldn’t go that far, but I’d be a bit less pensive about it if she were 18 instead of 16.

What little bits and bobs are happening in your corner of the world?

Thursday, July 26, 2007 8 comments

FAR Future: Episode 2

Wow, now I know how Orson Welles must have felt. Let’s continue with the story…

Thursday, July 26, 2012
Ir-ration-al Behavior?

Hearing all the roaring and screaming from the right-wing media, you’d think Congress was vivisecting kittens on national TV instead of debating a gas rationing bill. (Worse, actually… they’d probably enjoy watching the kittens.) This is something they should have done last year, instead of listening to the noisiest of the nay-sayers, but maybe we’ll get some action this time.

What’s painful to watch, but unfortunately not surprising, is that the goobers here on Planet Georgia hang on every word and don’t realize that they’re cheering on people who want to make it harder for them to get gas. I used to think this kind of irrational behavior, supporting a “cause” that was hurting them, was a uniquely Southern thing — their dirt-poor ancestors happily marched off to war to support an economic system that made them poor (plantation owners didn’t have to pay a living wage when they owned slaves) — but either the gene spread into the rest of the populace or the American lower class in general has a propensity toward self-destruction.

I guess I have the same gene — I try to talk some sense into people, knowing it’s futile:

“Nobody’s gonna have enough gas when they start rationing!” is the programmed talking point du jour.

“You can’t get enough gas now,” I remind them. “How is rationing going to make it worse?”

“It’ll be worse because nobody will get enough gas!” (In other words, the talking heads and the upper class that owns them will be the in the same boat as the rest of us, that’s what hasn’t sunk in.) Most stations are already limiting purchases to 5 gallons (10, if they got a full shipment) — which, of course, is barely enough to get the SUV or big pickup to the gas station and back — but people will station-hop: five gallons at Citgo, cross the street and get five more at BP, then over to the Exxon for five more, and the stations run dry anyway. Some of them have been threatening to go to a three-gallon limit, but there have already been death threats over five.

This completely leaves out the question of where they’re getting $120 for gas anyway. They must be turning off what’s left of the electricity, and not buying beer or cigarettes. A lot of these people are acting like they’re going through withdrawal jitters — they get really uptight if someone in front of them isn’t moving fast enough. If someone tries cutting in line, getting under your car is a good idea… I’ve seen weapons come out, and some have seen them used. You’ve probably seen similar stuff — worse maybe, in the cities. At least the cities are expanding bus service.

Sigh. I was never able to argue with irrational people. I’ve never been all that great arguing with rational people, for that matter, but at least with rational folks I can think of some counter-arguments in advance. But mostly, these days, I try to keep quiet and go my own way. Just do my work — with people telecommuting so much now, the company is doing really well so I still have a slim hope of retiring normally — live my life, and let idiots be idiots. Hopefully, they didn’t breed too much.


Instant Karma’s Gonna Get You

We had a rather enthusiastic thunderstorm come through last night. Plenty of noise, but we got to wondering whether there was actually going to be any rain.

While it was rumbling around, I knocked over a pile of stuff in the bedroom — various clothes and some other items that I’ve been meaning to move to the studio. I put away my clothes, stacked the kids’ in different piles for delivery, then stacked up the studio items. As I was carrying them through the living room: flashWHAMMMM!!!! and the power glitched. About three seconds later, the rain started. I figured since I was working at home today, I could take them out when I did some requested photography (battery packs, how exciting).

A few minutes later, Mrs. Fetched got a call from the renters: the power was out down there. She figured the transformer got whacked, then decided the chickens would be OK and went to bed.

This morning, her theory was confirmed. The power company called, said they were going to replace the transformer, and expect the power to go out “for about 45 minutes.” I had enough time to unplug stuff (although the laptops didn’t require a shutdown) although it seemed the power went out a little sooner than the 10 minutes they estimated. Oh well, it came back on sooner too. I just kept working, sans Internet, until it came back, then gave it a few minutes before plugging everything back in.

Was this karma?

Monday, July 23, 2007 14 comments

The Return

I’m back… we arrived about 12:55 this morning, got maybe 7 hours of sleep before going wide awake.

Vacation posts are below, backdated to the appropriate day.

Feel free to use this as an open thread. Comment on your own vacation plans, my photos, stories, whatever.

Escape 2007, Episode 9: Homeward Bound

Well, it’s the end of my vacation, and I don’t wanna go.
It’s the end of my vacation, and I don’t wanna go.
Gotta get back to it,
Just wish I could say No.

So go the opening lines of the “End of Vacation Blues,” one of several half-baked song lyrics kicking around in my head.

There’s really not much to say about the ride back to FAR Manor. I put air in the tires, gas in the tank (and it had magically dropped like 35 cents in the last two days!), picked up Daughter Dearest and a 5-pound box of Michigan blueberries, pointed it south, and drove. Daughter Dearest slept, except when she was texting her boyfriend or arguing with me about a certain side trip. I let her use my phone for a while, since it has an AIM client & his phone died (forcing him to the computer). There really wasn’t a good point to have her drive, especially when we approached Chattanooga; traffic was much heavier than I would expect for late Sunday night.

People have asked me if I went to Florida instead of Michigan; they can’t believe I got as tan as I did. But I spent quite a few hours outside, and it really does get sunny in Michigan. (You should have seen me in high school toward the end of any given summer; I was pretty dark and the soles of my feet were so tough I could run barefoot over gravel.)

And thus endeth Escape 2007, at least for a month or so. Escape 2007.2 happens in September. Meanwhile, I’ll get back to chronicling life in the free-range insane asylum and posting some of the FAR Future episodes I wrote early last week.

Saturday, July 21, 2007 2 comments

Escape 2007, Episode 8: Kal-Haven

Things have settled down quite a bit in the last day or so, thanks to a couple of fortunate circumstances. First, OB’s father-in-law is feeling much better, and the hospital is going to send him home. This frees up my sister-in-law, in several ways, and she joined us at the lake house early yesterday. Daughter Dearest’s efforts to keep the kids entertained was not overlooked; she got her first pedicure out of the deal (she described it as "different, but nice"). So Daughter Dearest is now free to do… what?

That question was answered by the second circumstance. We had a family meal at a place in Hamilton yesterday, and a cousin (one of the about 20% of my cousins who happens to be female), a little older than Daughter Dearest, was a last-minute addition to the roster. This perked up DD considerably; they had a good time together last time we were in Michigan. Before hearing this news, she had planned to skip the meal entirely. They sat together and DD smiled more in one evening than she had most of the week.

Then, after the dinner, they came over and asked me if DD could go back with them so she could go to my uncle’s party tomorrow. I gave it all of two seconds before agreeing; she had been helpful (if not terribly happy) all week and I wanted her to have a good time too. Besides, it wasn’t exactly like she was going off with strangers. This also answered the question about what she’d be doing while my bro and I were off on our bike ride.

Leaving Bloomingdale stationThe Kal-Haven Trail is one of the Rails-to-Trails projects, and runs from Kalamazoo to South Haven (on Lake Michigan) — roughly 35 miles. Of the several possible starting points along the trail, we chose Bloomingdale (at the halfway point). That worked out to about 17 miles to the beach; I figured I’d ridden that far on much hillier terrain so I shouldn’t have too much trouble doing it there-and-back on a flat run. (OB is in much better shape, so it wasn’t an issue for him.) There’s only one significant climb on the trail, and it was on the part we weren’t taking.

As you know, I’m not a big fan of cellphone cameras in general, but they do OK on bright sunny days like this. Weight-wise, they come for free with the phone, and I figured it would be a good idea to carry the phone anyway. But sometimes, you just want some zoom.

In the distance, you can see OB boarding his bike. The nice pavement ran out as soon as we got past the depot/museum and into the shade. However, the dirt was hard-packed, smooth (except for the occasional gopher hole), and sprinkled with very fine gravel. My road tires never felt like they were anywhere near slipping at any time.

Trail-side businessThe trail runs parallel (and across) numerous county roads. Some of the smarter businesses near the trail crossings provide services for the cyclists (summer) or snowmobilers (winter). This particular entrepreneur offers blueberries, soft drinks, and restrooms. The trail has outhouses at various stops along the way, but sometimes you need a break, right?

Covered bridge (view from the saddle)Approaching South Haven, there’s a covered bridge over the Black River. I took this shot while in motion; it’s blurry, but not in the usual way. Kind of a neat effect, methinks.

We took the westward leg with only one stop to adjust items of clothing; I felt pretty good even after what Jack calls “Accidental Ingestion of Airborne Protein.” (OB managed to spit his out, mine was too far back so I just swallowed and kept riding.) The trail ends shortly after crossing the bridge. OB and I dithered about how to proceed, and figured “west” would get us to the beach. About a mile later, we found a little shop near the beach, grabbed a sandwich and Vernor’s, and crossed the street to the beach.

Cheeky wimmin on the beach“Where should we sit?” OB asked.

“In the sand,” I said. “It’ll brush off.”

And so we did. I figured even if I was sore tomorrow, this was worth it. Chow on the beach with your bro, cheeky young ladies walking past, no fishkill — what more could you want in a bicycling destination?

Of course, the trip back was a little harder on the eldest (that would be me). We figured that it was aggregate downhill going west, since the lake is the low point. Seems like downhill going/uphill returning is how I end up on most rides. I had to make a few rest stops on the way back, but after a couple of minutes I was ready to continue. We got back to Bloomingdale, grabbed an ice cream to celebrate, tossed our bikes into Barge Vader, and headed on back.

Friday, July 20, 2007 6 comments

Escape 2007, Episode 7: Random vacation photos

Wednesday through Friday sort of all ran together. We took turns watching the kids, fended off an obnoxious 5-year-old girl who wanted to walk into a strange man’s house unannounced, had some fun on (and in) the water.

OB has a pair of kayaks, and left them at the lake house when he had to go back to work for the rest of the week. This shot is from earlier in the week; I’m on the orange one. This particular kayak feels very wobbly when you’re not moving, but has the advantage of being self-buoyant and light.

Not shown is the sailboat. I got a little video of him taking an evening sail, but I have yet to upload that.

Time for a fun quiz: what does this road sign mean? (I’m sure Olivia knows.) This part of Michigan has quite a few of them.

Daughter Dearest and I took the kayaks out one morning. She chose the wobbly one, even though I warned her it was wobbly at rest, and she managed to not capsize. Many sections of the lake have impressive stands of water lilies, but the flowers were closed up at that time of day. I stuck my camera in a plastic bag, grabbed the green (less tippy) kayak, and got a few shots later in the afternoon. Click this picture to get closer to that yellow lily near the bottom of the picture. This was as close as I could get without tangling the paddle in the lily stalks… but those inner bits look like nothing else from what I could see.

By Thursday, that “the end is coming” sign was becoming visible. We spent a couple of great evenings dining with relatives, running up Dad’s Kalamazoo Brewery (Bell’s) stock, and catching up on things. I was stunned to learn that one of my younger cousins is already a grandmother. Yeesh. It also seems that I don’t have enough cousins by birth (only 20 or so), and so my uncles adopt a new one on occasion. Daughter Dearest hooked up with one of them, but that can wait for the next episode.

Thursday, July 19, 2007 No comments

Escape 2007, Episode 6: Bored Teen

Daughter Dearest is starting to get cranky. She’s been shouldering much of the burden of watching two small kids through the week; we’ve all taken our turns, but she does most of it through the day. Other Brother comes back after work and takes over for the evening, which should help… but I’m not sure. She spends a great deal of time at night locking herself in Barge Vader and talking to her boyfriend. The mood isn’t so wonderful: she refused to unlock the door for me so I could tell her something, and was not exactly pleased when I used the clicker to unlock the door. I have to wonder sometimes about this whole mood thing: you’d think talking to her boyfriend would make her happy.

She’s also been working on me to go through Bloomington on the way back. I really didn’t want to, and Mrs. Fetched doesn’t think we should (simply because we don’t get included), so it’s not happening. It’s funny though: at supper, she busted my (and Mrs. Fetched’s) chops about how “we” don’t follow through with regard to The Boy. We’re not consistent. Then she wants me to change my mind about not going through Bloomington on the way home, costing us an extra so-many hours on the road? Oops. Well, we’ll see how this goes….

Tuesday, July 17, 2007 6 comments

Escape 2007, Episode 5: Baby-sitting

Other Brother had taken Monday and Tuesday off to spend a long weekend with us here. Unfortunately, due to his father-in-law having a health setback, his wife couldn’t come and it was him and the kids (9 and 6 years old). Given the situation at home — she’s a total basket case at the moment, understandably — he’s stuck without anyone to watch the kids and has to be back at work tomorrow. So we struck a deal: he goes home tonight alone, we keep the kids, he comes back tomorrow after work and commutes from the lake house for the rest of the week (or until she can come back).

Other than that, and a night rain that hung into the early morning, things are no different than before. A little water time, a little walking time, a run to town for groceries, and supper. I thought I was going to spend the night in the camper with the kids, but Daughter Dearest took over and is now out there with them. What a great kid. I owe her one: maybe I can not hassle her most of the rest of the week.

Sitting with Dad outside this evening, I saw a rowboat come in a few docks down. A girl, maybe 12, hopped out and ran for the house, leaving the boy (about the same age) trying to keep the boat at the dock.

Dad said, “A boy in a boat, alone on a lake… is king.”

“He probably doesn’t realize it yet.”

“Sure he does.”

Presently, the girl came running back — in a bikini. They threw a ladder in the boat; he swung it around, hit the trolling motor, and they glided away. Pre-teen romance is fun to watch…

Monday, July 16, 2007 No comments

Escape 2007, Episode 4: Lake Life

Morning on the deck is everything it’s cracked up to be. Nature and humanity combine provide a soundtrack that’s familiar from childhood days at my grandparents’ place (different lake, same county): birds chirp, wind whispers through trees, an outboard motor pushes fishermen to a hopeful spot. The deck faces mostly south, but is cocked just a few degrees east, so the rising sun is filtered through elms and pines to the left before warming the deck.

But today is a golf day. Dad, Wicked Stepfather, Other Brother, and I haven’t played together in a long time. There’s some question about whether to play 9 or 18 holes: Dad (who pulled up some radar on the net and saw a blob of rain coming across Lake Michigan) leans toward 9, WS 18, we brothers are fine with whatever the elders decide. After playing 9, we decided to go for another 9. We ended up playing several of those holes in the rain, although it provided only a convenient excuse for the shots some of us hit. Me, I played like I hadn’t in a year — probably because I haven’t. I didn’t even bother writing in my score for the last two holes. One thing I’d like to do with FAR Manor is to put in some practice areas for golf — a pitching pit would be a great start.

We came back from golf, ready for lunch: leftovers from yesterday’s supper. No problem as far as any of us were concerned. Daughter Dearest and Mom watched OB’s kids, and then he and DD took them to get groceries. Mom and I went for a walk while they were out, then we got out a Jet-Ski that OB’s wife (!!!!) bought. Daughter Dearest actually nerved herself up to take a ride on it (the photo is on Mom’s camera, darn it), and OB and I each took turns riding behind his kids. This particular white-knuckle activity left me needing beer; I sat in a plastic chair and watched the kids play in the water until it was time for supper (frozen pizza, “compliments” of OB; it’s my turn to cook later in the week).

After supper, the kids went back out to play in the water, and Dad brought out a huge water balloon slingshot. It took the kids nearly half an hour to figure out what those big splashes were. The balloons didn’t break when they hit the water, and that was the clue they needed. It was quite entertaining, watching them see the balloons dropping out of the sky, wondering who was throwing them.

It’s so much quieter here than at at the hotel. For one thing, there’s no A/C here. It’s not really needed most of the time in Michigan, and the whole idea behind a lake house is that you’re going to spend most of the day outside anyway. I had my MacBook cranked up pretty high at the hotel — with headphones on — trying to overcome the A/C growl. Here, even the normal volume seems a little loud, even using the tiny MacBook speakers.

I’m having trouble with Blogger. I can leave comments on TFM posts, but I can’t make new posts or comment on other blogs. I can get my primary email, but not Yahoo or AIM mail. I may just give up on Internet this week and focus on what I can do. I have the next four (count ’em!) episodes of FAR Future mostly ready to post (writing in a hotel room really works!), and I can share my vacation with you when I get home, anyway. But now, it’s time for bed.

Sunday, July 15, 2007 1 comment

Escape 2007, Part 3: Traveling

After breakfast at Denny’s, Daughter Dearest bid her boyfriend a tearful farewell, and we hit the road. She was either talking to him or texting with him most of the way up.

Highway 37 provides four lanes between Bloomington and Indianapolis. Not too many towns on that road though — its primary purpose is to carry all the sports traffic to and from Indiana U. North of Bloomington, the hills tire and all but expire. Finally, we came to I-465 and skirted Indy, going all the way to the top and picking up US31 north. Other than the carnival ride truck on fire, it was just one town to the next: Kokomo (and a zillion stop lights). Peru. Atlanta(!). Mexico. Tipton, home of what is probably the world’s most photographed sign. Logansport. Lapaz (are we back in Peru then?).

The horizons open up out here on 31; when you top the small wrinkles that pass for hills in this part of Indiana, you can see two miles easily.

Eventually to South Bend, around it, and into Michigan, hooray! Onto the state highways, first M-51 than M-40: Niles. Dowagiac. Decatur. Gobles. Mid-afternoon by now, but the terrain has changed subtly, sandy hills and more trees. The horizons have returned to a human scale. The cornfields south of Decatur look dessicated; the drought has not been good to the corn crop here. Eventually, we turn onto a county road and then a dirt road, and we’re at Dad’s — almost exactly when we thought we’d get there, 4 p.m.

’Most everyone seems to be here at Dad’s: Mom and Wicked Stepfather (staying across the lake), Other Brother and his kids… but — do I hear an echo? — not his wife. I left a phone message when we got to South Bend, but nobody checked the answering machine. Such is life. Mom was happy to see the pile of basil I brought, and I was happy to see a fridge full of microbrew. I can think of only one thing waiting on me to arrive that’s better than beer, and I didn’t bring her with me. Yup, I miss Mrs. Fetched.

Other Brother has brought a large-ish pop-up camper and parked it in Dad’s driveway; it greatly increases the sleeping capacity of the lake house but forces Barge Vader into the grass alongside it. I managed to back it in without hitting either the camper or any of several trees, then back it in even farther when Mom needs to park her van in front of it. A guy I vaguely remember from high school has bought the house across from Dad’s; they’re staying there and fixing it up. Perhaps things aren’t all that different between Planet Georgia and Planet Earth after all. His girlfriend has a daughter who’s the same age as Other Brother’s daughter (6), so they like to visit with each other. I remember going on vacations when I was a kid; it was always great when there were other kids in the same age group as us.

Daughter Dearest went to bed with a bad headache fairly early in the evening, even before supper; I convinced her to try eating at least a banana or other fruit to see if it would help her. She had a hamburger in Kokomo; I had gotten into a mode where I eat a larger breakfast than usual and skip lunch these past couple of days.

Cellphone service out here is spotty at best. I wouldn't usually mind that, except that I wanted to let Mrs. Fetched know we arrived safely. I managed to get enough signal, standing in the road, to leave a message on the answering machine (twice). Daughter Dearest’s phone seems to do better than mine here, so she was able to actually talk to her later. The dialup isn’t that slow, but his Internet Explorer security add-ons seem to have left most of my destinations rather difficult to access — I can leave comments on my own blog, but not log in nor check Gmail, AIM, or Yahoo. Daughter Dearest had similar issues; she couldn’t get her email but was able to use Meebo to IM her boyfriend some more. After checking my home email, the only one I could get to, I was pretty much done for the night.

Saturday, July 14, 2007 3 comments

Escape 2007, Part 2: Bicycling Bloomington

I never did get a connection in Bloomington. While the Motel 6’s idea of Internet access is to provide a “data port” for whatever dialup service you have (WTF?!!??), its upside is that a bicycle route runs right by it. The highway here has bike lanes on either side, but a side road straight across from the motel beckoned. It turned out to be the old highway, and was quite scenic. I rode past a little park, where a creek ran between the park and the road. Bloomington is very bike-friendly, with bike lanes along many of the main drags and people of all ages riding for exercise or transportation.

As I said earlier, this part of Indiana is somewhat hilly, no killer climbs but there’s enough of an uphill to make you notice. My mountain bike has lower gearing than a typical road bike, but I don’t miss the higher gears on these hills. What goes down must go up — and vice versa, fortunately. As I reached the bottom of one hill, I saw what looked like laundry hanging out to dry but wayyyyy off the ground. I wondered whether it was a park craft project until I saw the sign: “Tibetan Buddhist Monastery.” That’s something you don’t see much of on Planet Georgia.

Eventually, I turned back and went most of the way toward the IU campus. DD’s boyfriend told me I could probably find an open hotspot on the square; if the coffee shops don’t cooperate then I can bum a connection at the library. However, I hadn’t carried the laptop with me, so there wasn’t much sense in going that far. I turned back and headed for the hotel (the door marked “206” is ours).

Later on, I rode into town (again sans laptop — I don’t have a bike lock, and didn’t feel like taking Barge Vader) and found a little ice cream stand. Just the thing for a hot day in the saddle. I also hung out at the pool for a couple of hours, then went back to the hotel room and finished off the last two beers I’d confiscated from The Boy’s friends. At no time was I invited to meet his family; Mrs. Fetched reported the same thing and was rather put out by it. I was OK either way, but would have liked to have come along just to fly the banner. (This led to some friction with DD later in the week.)

Friday, July 13, 2007 4 comments

Escape 2007, Part 1: A Day of Strange Signs

What’s worse than no Internet?

Answer: having Internet with no way to access it. Or maybe having unreliable access (so close and yet…)

Thus I sit in my hotel room, in Bloomington IN, sipping a beer and pondering such deep thoughts as I write this post and struggle to get enough of a signal to get online. Daughter Dearest is out with her boyfriend — “we should be back by 10:30,” she assures me, and she has a better track record than The Boy about time. Or Mrs. Fetched, for that matter. They said they would pick me up some socks while they were out, because I forgot to pack any.

But until they get back, it’s me, a laptop with a net connection that works just enough to be frustrating, and my thoughts.

The beginning of this year’s vacation started out much like the last: much delayed by Mrs. Fetched wanting something done. This year, it was the floor molding in Daughter Dearest’s room. Now that we replaced a white carpet with slightly darker (tan) bamboo flooring, suddenly the original molding was too dark. She had said she would get it early in the week so we could get it done before it was time to leave, but somehow the molding didn’t arrive until Wednesday night — which, after Daughter Dearest stained it, would leave us just that one day to do it. Mrs. Fetched enlisted J to help out, and they got one piece down and mis-cut another before I managed to finish my work stuff and get home.

I left work as early as I could (4:30, which is nearly two hours earlier than usual these days) and came home to find… The Boy at Mrs. Fetched’s computer. With his girlfriend, of course. Neither of them seemed to be inclined to help with the floor, naturally, so it fell to J and me. We gamely attempted to do it, but we kept cutting the wrong angle or getting it too short. Such are the hazards of trying to rush the job. After we screwed up several more pieces, Mrs. Fetched said something snide like “I guess since we have all the money in the world, I’ll just hire someone to do it.” You’re welcome. Dear.

I suppose if I’d been in the mood for a quarrel (extremely rare), I could have pointed out that had she listened to me and not bought FAR Manor in the first place — or perhaps getting the molding earlier in the week, even — we wouldn’t be having this problem. But I had more important fish to fry: packing, for one. Mom had called and asked me to bring some basil, and I wanted to bring some bell and jalapeno peppers, so I had to do a little picking and plucking as well. I also decided to bring two basil plants, because Other Brother’s wife never got around to planting any this year and I still had three in pots. To keep them from tipping over, I appropriated Daughter Dearest’s tennies.

But with one thing and another, it was close to 9 p.m. before Daughter Dearest and I started Barge Vader and headed out. We drove a little ways past Nashville and spent last night in a town called White House, named appropriately after an inn that once served people traveling between Nashville and Louisville. After a late breakfast at a Waffle House across the road, we stepped out and saw what we thought was the Dumbest Idea Ever: a DVD rental kiosk outside the adjacent McDonald’s. On further consideration, it might not be such a dumb idea after all: if you can drop them off at another McDonald’s down the freeway, it would be a good way to keep the kids quiet.

After getting a couple of pictures, we headed on and were shortly in Kentucky. I marveled at some of the signs I saw along the freeway:

“USED COWS FOR SALE” — perhaps that doesn’t carry such a stigma in Kentucky? (I will apologize to the people of Kentucky when they remove Mitch McConnell from the Senate.) I wish I’d thought to have the camera out before we got to this one.

Flea market sign
“THE MOST AWESOME FLEA MARKET IN THE WORLD” — it must be; they say so themselves. Right?

Crossing into Indiana, we picked up US150 West (and north). In between the numerous little towns, the road itself was curvy and hilly — nothing like Planet Georgia, but compared to the rest of Indiana it’s positively mountainous. It would be a nice road for motorcycling. Eventually, we cut onto Hwy. 37 and made our way to Bloomington. While on the way, Mrs. Fetched called: “I was at the Dairy Queen today, and they wanted to know if you still wanted to sell some jalapenos.”

Well, yes… but I don’t remember telling them that. A family from India runs the DQ in town; great people but I’m still trying to figure out where they heard about it — maybe they overheard me saying something last time I was in there.

“How many do they want?” I asked.

“As many as you have to sell.” Cooooooooool. “So how much do you want for them?”

“Um…” I thought a moment. “Find out what Kroger is selling them for, and charge 2/3 of that. That’s probably pretty close to wholesale.”

I probably recouped the price of the plants, anyway. There were plenty of peppers looking for a home, and plenty more are coming. She was making the delivery when we arrived at our hotel.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007 15 comments

Ready, set…

It’s almost time to escape FAR Manor for a week+, starting tomorrow evening. Daughter Dearest and I will grab the sigh gas guzzler and head north — first to her boyfriend’s locale for a couple of days and then the ol’ family grounds in Michigan. Mrs. Fetched unfortunately won’t be coming, despite her needing to get away from here more than anyone; the chicken houses have their claws in her and she’s worried about leaving the house empty with The Boy nearby.

Dad has dialup, so I may or may not be online much beyond checking email. I’ll probably have to skip the photoblogs for the most part — I’ll miss ya, Olivia and IVG — then catch up when I get home (or to a place with broadband). If nothing else, I’ll have a pad of paper & something to write with, so I can work on the the next installment(s) of FAR Future. If I get some bandwidth, I’ll post some pictures too.

I’ve been asked to bring basil; I’ll also bring some peppers and a jar blackberry jam. I should probably bring some coffee too; I think Dad drinks decaf.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007 13 comments

FAR Future: Episode 1

I got some positive comments about the FAR Manor: 2058 series — I thank you all. As I told Kansas this morning, my creativity has been on the ebb this week… but I woke up this morning knowing how to proceed with this particular series of stories.

Of course, FAR Manor: 2058 was a series of three different visions of what the world might be like on or near my 100th birthday in November 2058. This new series, “FAR Future,” is actually set in a near future of growing energy shortages. Here at the beginning, five years from now, I look toward Happy Landings as an endpoint… but who knows where it will actually lead?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012
Blackouts or Whiteins?

Those “four hours per day, max” rolling blackouts they started last month didn’t last long. Mrs. Fetched was on the phone (when it worked) to the power company when it jumped to six hours.

“Oh, just a few glitches,” they reassured her. “We’ll have it taken care of this week.” Riiiiiiiiiiiight.

The power company people should have known what was going to happen, and probably did: as soon as their juice came up in the afternoon, everyone turned on the A/C full blast, trying to cool their houses down right away. Instant overload. The power stays up just a few minutes at a time, and everyone’s mad. I’ve been hearing stories about kids throwing rocks at power trucks when they roll out to replace fried transformers, and some “gangs” have chased off the workers and siphoned their fuel (but somehow, ahem it’s not making the news). Of course, all the neighborhood kids are inside… um, reading. Yeah, that’s it. Our kids know better than to throw rocks at power trucks and steal their fuel, sure.

I put in for a telecommuting exemption, hoping to at least shift our downtime into the evening. I figured even if they cut off FAR Manor for the first and last two hours of the day, the laptop battery would last long enough for me to finish up with a little cushion. It worked for a little while — even with the power flickering all day and crashing the router (until I got a new battery for the UPS). But four hours quickly became six, six became eight, then 10, and now… well heck, you know as well as I do: you can’t count on having more than a few minutes of power at any time from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. (and not even afterwards if a transformer blew between you & the sub-station). If it gets any worse, we’ll have to stop calling them blackouts and call the power-up times whiteins. :-P

I yanked a car battery (like we’re driving anything much anyway) and wired it up to run the router and laptop; that gives me enough juice to stay online and working through the day. That windmill I put up isn’t much good through the summer; the air gets still and so does the prop (then thunderstorms try to tear it apart). At least there’s reliable power through the night; I can charge up everything once people’s houses cool off.

The other thing that everyone knows about: tempers are rising with the heat. Like I said, utility workers aren’t the most popular folks on Planet Georgia (or anywhere else), especially since people got a look at their electric bills for last month (when we still had power most of the time). Here at FAR Manor, Mrs. Fetched and I decided it’s really not worth trying to run the A/C at all (too bad most people haven’t figured that out, we might get more reliable power through the day). I work at home three days a week now, and I’ve been spending a lot of it on the porch or in the shade outside. I use a little muffin fan (hooked to the battery) to give me a little breeze inside, and use the thunderstorms as a chance to take a break and cool off. I keep telling Mrs. Fetched that we ought to hike down to the creek after I finish working for the day, but she says it’s too far to walk (and neither one of us wants to waste gas). I’ve gone alone a couple of times, but it’s not much fun being there myself. She spends a lot of time at the chicken houses, so not having A/C isn’t hurting her. What hurts me is when I go to the office on Mondays and Fridays; they don’t run the A/C a lot, but they do enough to keep it comfortable… then I have to stay home and roast the rest of the week. But with gas running $8/gal, when you can find it…

The in-laws reverted to the old days pretty quickly; they just spend a lot of time out on the porch instead of watching TV. Of course, their chicken houses get priority electric service… and the poultry company subsidizes the diesel fuel to run that generator when the power goes out anyway. Not wonderful for me, but at least people can get their roast chicken.

Hope everyone’s coping with the blackouts at least as well. Six or eight more weeks, and we’ll start cooling off. Six or eight more, and we’ll be wishing it was hot again.


Sunday, July 08, 2007 17 comments

Quiet… (and what’s weird in the world)

Current music: XMusicOnline

The Boy has been gone since Monday, with maybe one phone call in between. A day or so later, he came by (driving his girlfriend’s mom’s truck) and picked up J. He showed up Wednesday, when his family came by for the 4th, but that’s the last we’ve seen or heard from him too. So it has just been Mrs. Fetched, Daughter Dearest, and me. Mrs. Fetched has had a killer cold lately — and it’s difficult to get a nag going when it gets interrupted by a coughing fit — and Daughter Dearest is too absorbed in hanging out with her boyfriend online to be around very much. So it has been rather quiet around FAR Manor lately.

Since nothing much is going on at the manor, here’s a couple of interesting news items that caught my eye lately:

You’re a bride in India, your in-laws are making life hell for you over a dowry, how do you protest? Here’s one way to get some attention!

The European Union takes the slogan “Come Together” to new heights (or lows?).

I’d relocate to Australia for one of these jobs!

This Belgian will probably cop an insanity plea.

Paris, I got your number.

Friday, July 06, 2007 9 comments

Food, food, food

We had plenty of leftovers from the 4th — even though J’s whole family came to help us eat. So Mrs. Fetched, being a kind soul, tossed a hamburger patty plus a bunch of veggies into a microwave dish for me to take for lunch.

That only left one question: how to take it? There was no rain in the forecast, so I was definitely planning on taking the bike. I ended up grabbing the bungee cords off the mountain bike’s back rack and hooking them to convenient protrusions under the seat, leaving the dish pretty well-secured to the rear fender. I’m going to get a cargo rack for the bike first chance I get — I already have a milk crate to put on it, and any lunch items will ride quite happily in that. But until then, this seems to work pretty well.

I’ve been planning to cook some black beans for a while, and finally got around to soaking them Wednesday night. Both Mrs. Fetched and I forgot to do anything about them yesterday, so I clipped some herbs and put them on the beans, asking her to throw them in the crock pot. This she did, adding an onion. When I got home, I put on some rice and we chowed down. Mrs. Fetched said of it, “Either I’m really hungry or this is really good.” I’ll go with #2, of course! Tomorrow, I’ll cook up some more rice and make black bean soup out of what’s left. Mrs. Fetched has a really bad cold, and the cloudy rainy weather has left the girlies chilly (in July! on Planet Georgia!). I’ll mince a jalapeno into the broth; that should warm them up!

Plenty of blackberries out there on the vines, but I don’t know if I’ll get more than what I’ve picked already. I got “only” a half-gallon on Wednesday; it gets difficult to get into the middle of those big stands, even armed with clippers. I dug two deeply-embedded thorns out of my thumb & forefinger last night (it’s not just the heat you have to worry about). But a gallon & a half ought to make enough jelly to make it all worthwhile. Oh, and did I mention I found three or four more blueberry bushes out back? If we can keep the birds out of them, we should have at least a couple quarts of blueberries once we’ve picked them all. Mrs. Fetched likes to freeze them and use them for various things.

Finally… food? Now that The Boy is out of the house, I can start drinking up the beer I confiscated from him and his friends. I found two more bottles stashed in a tool cabinet, one of which was opened and (not) resealed. It might not be food, but beer is nutrition for a guy. That’s my story anyway, and I’m sticking to it.

Not food: You may not have noticed that I added Kansas’s new blog, Sweet Mystery of Life, to the blog roll. I really need to get a copy of her book sooner or later… good excuse to swing by the bookstore on the way home from work and order it.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007 7 comments

Call the Volunteers!

Not the volunteers for the revolution, although if Congress doesn’t put a leash on Bush-league — and soon! — it might come to that. But for the mid-week Independence Day festoovities, I can show off some of the volunteer plants around FAR Manor:

Volunteer flower, tomato, in the herb bedLast year, this was a flower bed. Mrs. Fetched decided she wasn’t going to plant anything in here, so I put in some garlic. The drought nailed most of the garlic, although you can see a couple of shoots managed to survive. I stuck several basil plants in here as well, because I needed to put them somewhere. But the flower (that’s trying to overrun one of the garlic shoots) and the tomato (near the bottom of the frame) decided to appear on their own.

Of the flower, Mrs. Fetched said, “Yeah, I put one of those in there last year… but I thought it was an annual.” It must have self-seeded, because I tilled up that bed pretty good early in the spring.

Low-growing blueberry shrubsSeveral varieties of blueberry are native to Planet Georgia, but I was surprised to find these on one of the more neglected parts of the manor grounds, let alone doing so well. I think the April cold snap may have done them some good. They’re small — pea size or maybe a little smaller — but quite tasty. They take the concept of “low-hanging fruit” to a new low: they’re only a couple of inches off the ground. For some reason, these low-down berries are the first ones to ripen.

The blackberries are also going great guns. I have no clue how they managed to get so big, especially with the dry weather we’ve been having. Perhaps the cold snap helped them as well.

Blueberry bushThere are three or four bushes out here too, probably of a different variety. These berries are nearly twice as large as the ground-huggers, and still working on ripening. I’ve learned that there’s such a thing as “bird scare ribbon” so I might have to get some of that soon (it will also help us remember the right bushes when we go a-pruning come winter).

Vine of mysteryI’m not sure if this is a cucumber, squash, or melon — but it came out of nowhere (actually, near the compost pile). I threw half a watermelon in the compost heap last week, but that’s nowhere near enough time for it to grow nearly three feet and start flowering.

I’m about inundated with jalapenos. I’m thinking about picking a bunch of them to take to the farmer’s market on Saturday; I might clip some herbs as well (the parsley and mint especially need a trim, and I have almost as much basil as I do jalapenos) — Mrs. Fetched says I ought to sell them; I was thinking about just trading for produce we (or my mother-in-law, the Master Gardener) don’t have growing. I’ve picked a few bell peppers, and they’re doing quite well too, but we’ll probably use them ourselves. We loves us some bell peppers at FAR Manor, and they’re just too dang expensive at the store.

Tomorrow, I’m planning to get another gallon of blackberries. That (and the gallon I’ve already grabbed) should make enough jelly to get through the winter. One of the few comforts of a cold winter morning is to spread some blackberry jelly on toast and remember just how dang hot it was when I picked those berries in July.

Monday, July 02, 2007 7 comments


Downburst aftermathI wimped out on taking the motorcycle this morning, using the need to carry a laptop as an excuse — so naturally, it didn’t rain much today. It’s misting a little bit right now, but yesterday about this time we were getting some seriously heavy weather. Several storms yesterday delivered downbursts here and there, uprooting a tree onto a highway, flattening this stand of corn about a mile from FAR Manor (it's clearer when you click-to-enlarge), and possibly jackknifing a “portable parking lot” truck in town.

Several of my pepper plants were bent over, as likely from the weight of the peppers as much as the wind. I’m propping them up and relieving them of their burden as best as I can. The bell peppers look very nice — I hope they’re as tasty as they look.


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