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Friday, August 31, 2007 6 comments

Let the Countdown Begin!

I hopped on the scales this morning, expecting to see the usual 202 maybe even 204 — it’s been a stressful week & I’ve done a little snacking on the side.

Nope. 197. The first digit IS A ONE!

Knowing that our scales can give a different reading on a different part of the floor, I moved them and tried again. 195.

The countdown has officially begun. If I stay below 200 for an entire week, I conduct my “special celebration.” I think a week from Monday will be the right time; Mrs. Fetched will be testifying and Daughter Dearest will be at school. It also happens to the be the first Monday of our vacation.

Thursday, August 30, 2007 7 comments

FAR Future: Episode 8

I’ve gone out on a limb this time, in several ways. I also see where I’ll have to fill in some backstory sooner or later — but if I waited for it all to happen, it would be 2012 when I got around to posting. :-P

Thursday, August 30, 2012
Crossin’ the Line

Well, I’ve been saying it for a couple of years now, but the FCC finally agreed.

As expected, my Monday “off” was given to the chicken house. They took the last batch out at the beginning of July, and gave us the month off. Some places had 50% (or worse) die-offs when power started getting really flaky, so they figured it was probably best to just sit out July and bring a new batch in a few weeks ago. August is a good time to start a bunch, because they need that heat the first few weeks. By the time they start really producing their own heat, it will have cooled off enough that we won’t need to run fans constantly. The company wants to run a “split” house, where they close off half the house and stagger the flocks — they blow the hot air out of the side with older flock into the side with the younger flock. That knocks off like half the gas needed to keep the young side warm. But Mrs. Fetched has already told them we’re on our last year. Come May, we’re done (and there was MUCH rejoicing).

But I digress. We spent the morning dealing with the chickens, then did some gardening work, then I talked Mrs. Fetched into spending a couple hours at the creek. Just for grins, I grabbed the wind-up radio and took it with us — Shotgun Sam comes on at 3 and it’s been kind of fun to listen in lately. Not because he has anything intelligent to say (quite the contrary), but lately he’s starting to lose touch with his listeners and he gets frustrated pretty quick.

Sam must have figured gas rationing was going to be The Thing to keep the listeners stirred up, angry, and ready to do what his handlers want them to… and it just hasn’t worked that way, at least on Planet Georgia. People talk about their three-day weekends, using Sam’s show to hook up with a carpool, and mostly they couldn’t care less about rationing. I’ve been pleasantly surprised, I’ll have to admit. So this afternoon, Sam was delivering the usual talking points — rationing Bad, free market Good — and took a caller.

“Hey Sam,” the guy said. “I’m an electrician outta Gainesville —”

“Yeah, I can imagine how rationing has killed your business.”

“Actually, it’s helped,” he said. Mrs. Fetched was only half-listening, but she caught that. Neither one of us were expecting to hear that on Shotgun Sam.

Neither was Sam: “Whaaat?” was all he managed to get out.

“Yeah. I know it’s gotta be hurting somewhere, but I’m better off with it now. Before, I couldn’t count on getting enough gas to get through the week — I had to turn down work because I didn’t know if I could get there — but I know I’ll get 20 gallons a week now ’cuz I’m in construction…”

Mrs. Fetched and I gave each other the goggle-eye. “You’re in the wrong line of work,” she said. Sam was trying to take over, but all he could get out was an occasional “Yeah, but—” or “You gotta—” while the guy kept on:

“…on the exchange. And contractors in Athens and Cleveland are staying closer to home, too. I swapped jobs with a guy in Clarkesville, and it’s workin’ out for me. If I got a bigger job, I toss the dirt bike in the truck and ride that home for the nights. Sure, I’d like to have a full tank all the time, and I never thought I’d say it, but this rationing is actually workin’ out for me.” (Yes, I’m paraphrasing. I wasn’t recording the show, but I think I remember what he said pretty well.)

Sam finally got his jaw off the desk, cut the guy off, and started ranting. It was mostly incoherent, or maybe I was laughing so hard I was trying to keep from going under (I like laying in the creek on these 90+ days) and couldn’t concentrate. I caught the gist of it, I think: the shortages are artificial, it’s because we didn’t drill ANWR, it’s because we got out of Iraq (funny how that works, they’re actually getting their production act back together), it’s because we didn’t invade Iran when we had the chance, it’s because goplets are getting cheated in each election (yeah right), it’s the unions’ fault, it’s the immigrants’ fault…. At this point, he got to stammering. It was totally hilarious, right up until he forgot to use code language, and came out and said it: “I guess there’s only one thing left. We need to start takin’ Congress out, one at a time.” He might have managed to pass it off as meaning electorally, except that he added his trademark shotgun-racking sound effect. I think the producers panicked at this point, about a minute too late. He started in again, they faded him out and went to commercials, then some news & sports reporting came on.

Mrs. Fetched cocked her head at me. “Did he say what I just think he said?”

“Yup. He’s in some major hot water.”

I’ve been waiting to hear how things went down before posting, not like I’ve had a lot of time this week for anything else. Anyway, the FCC is fining him $200,000 and giving a wrist-slap fine to all the stations who carried the show. I suppose a couple of sponsors will drop the show (until the publicity dies down, anyway), Sam issued a non-apology yesterday, and the rest of the professional mouths that seem to own the media will moan about how “unfair” it is and urge their listeners to help out “poor Sam” (like he needs it — Scaife, or whoever’s hand is up Sam’s… back… probably calls it a cost of doing business and will pay it out of petty cash).

It’s like I said before, the wingies will try taking by force what they can’t get at the polls. The Dems got a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate in 2008 (and Lordy was it fun to watch Lieberman whine when he got stripped of his appointments), along with the Presidency — then (as if it was needed) a veto-proof majority in both houses in 2010. The goplets are putting up one of the most unelectable candidates ever for President this year, so it doesn’t look like they’ll get any traction with the White House, and their prospects in Congress don’t look much better. Only seven states, Planet Georgia unfortunately being one, still sends a majority of goplets to Washington. People aren’t happy with the energy problems, but they seem to understand the (current) government isn’t to blame for the situation. The Right is starting to lose its grip, on a lot of people and (so it seems) mentally. If they ever had the latter…

Oh well, on to more pleasant thoughts. With the four-day work week underway, I’ll be telecommuting three days out of four — so that’s a little less gas I’ll need to burn each week. I get to spend Mondays in the chicken houses, but only for the mornings, and only for a few more months. I guess I’ll spend afternoons down at the creek, especially if Mrs. Fetched joins me. Nothing like skinny-dipping with your SO to take your mind off politics…


Monday, August 27, 2007 6 comments

Potpourri Monday

Veggie pronIt’s Monday. Work is being crazier than usual (or perhaps it’s the new normal… shudder), with two major projects coming due before I escape FAR Manor in two weeks. You know things are getting squirrely at work when I entertain thoughts of quitting, ditching FAR Manor one way or the other, moving back into the old place, and taking up the chicken-ranching business. So if I’m getting that loopy, veggie-pr0n is the least of my worries.

My beer is fermenting along nicely; the yeast is eating sugar and malt, producing alcohol and farting CO2 out the airlock. The A/C in my car may not have died after all; it didn’t do well sitting in stop&go traffic in 100-degree weather but seems to cope with better traffic and slightly cooler weather. If it holds out three more weeks, I probably won’t miss it after that.

Kudzu flower stalkI managed to get a walk in this evening after supper. Since Mrs. Fetched demurred on accompanying me, I set a fairly aggressive pace. That doesn’t mean I didn’t take time to stop and sniff the flowers, and pick this kudzu stalk (no, it’s not growing through the blinds, although it would probably root if I spit at it once or twice). It was kind of tough to break off the stalk… and no, I’m not concerned about running afoul of wildflower laws. Kudzu is an aggressively invasive exotic on Planet Georgia, and has been known to grow across lightly-travelled roads (I’ve seen it happen).

The Boy called to let us know he has a construction job. I hope he’s telling the truth; having a job he likes might give him the desire for a little structure (and he likes construction work). He was talking about getting a Golf GTI for like $500… at that price, I figure it has a horrible gouge through the VIN plate though.

Sunday, August 26, 2007 6 comments

Better Days

This was one of the better days around FAR Manor. We got up around 8 and ate breakfast at iHOP, for starters. (The “Just for Me” section of the menu has selections for people who want to eat at iHOP and still give a rip about their weight. I like the Garden Scramble.) We — that is, Mrs. Fetched, Daughter Dearest, and I — talked through the situation and cleared the air quite a bit, which is a major relief.

After breakfast, we went to church. Since the girlies haven’t been for quite a while, everyone was happy to see them. There was a “last Sunday” lunch downstairs, but we were all still full from iHOP and skipped. After an afternoon nap (glorious!), I put the leftover tomatoes on the dehydrator (these were the ones that needed some extra ripening time), and I figured out a quicker way to blanch them. After supper, I finally got the beer started. It will be like October before I open the first one, but that’s about the time I’ll be tackling some outdoor projects & it will be nice to wrap up with a homebrew.

I washed up two sinks full of dishes, and am wrapping up my day on-line. More weekends should be like this.

Saturday, August 25, 2007 3 comments

Weekend Cinema

Thanks go out to Daughter Dearest for this find.

Check out this amazing French Horn solo

Friday, August 24, 2007 5 comments

Stuck at the Office

Tree down behind the officeAbout 45 minutes ago, the weather was downright hostile… let alone to a motorcyclist. I figure the wind was gusting past 40mph; the rain was nearly horizontal and a pine tree went down out back of the office. Since the office has a largish set of eaves out back, I stepped out and got a little video of the rain gushing out of the downspouts — quite impressive, I’ll put it on archive.org later.

The rain has let up quite a bit as I type, but hasn’t stopped completely. I’m also hearing thunder, and it’s not the Harley variety. Mrs. Fetched said stay put as long as necessary, and eat on the way home if needed (and I probably will at this point). At least I brought the rain suit.

Well, I guess I’ll work a little more.

UPDATE: I was putting on my rain suit when a co-worker came by, said he goes my way, and offered me a ride if Mrs. Fetched could pick me up at the half-way point. She was amenable, so we did. We went by and picked up the bike and the work computer (in case I want to try to catch up/get ahead this weekend).

Thursday, August 23, 2007 10 comments

FAR Future: Episode 7

Hooray, we got some rain today! First in nearly a month. I hope it’s not this dry five years from now…

Thursday, August 23, 2012
Headin’ Out

I’ve noticed that the power seems to be getting a little more reliable… that is, it’s more likely to be up when it’s scheduled to be up. Maybe people have finally gotten smart and turned off their air conditioners. Most of us, those without serious health problems anyway, are getting used to the heat. I thought it would hit Mrs. Fetched harder than it has — but then again, she was born here and they didn’t have luxuries like air conditioning when she was younger. Au contraire, if anything it’s done her some good. She spends a lot of time outside anyway; if she’s not dealing with the chickens she’s working on our garden through the day. She’s sweated off a lot of weight and seems to have more energy. The weight loss is really helping her knee, and she’s actually doing a little bicycling. Yup, you can change your ways in your 50s…

Or the reason that power is getting more reliable could be that the big desert cities are emptying out — Phoenix, Tucson, Vegas, Reno, etc. Not to mention most of Florida. I can’t imagine what it would be like trying to live in those places without air conditioning during the summer. I saw an article last month where a lot of people in Flagstaff were facing foreclosure, then all the Scottsdale people came up and started buying up property at a premium price. Suddenly, those fortunate souls had their mortgages (and the rest of their bills) paid off, with enough left over to start over elsewhere. That last part was kind of important, because they had to go find somewhere else to live… preferably where they could find work. So there’s been a lot of migration lately.

Naturally, most of the migration this summer has been north. The Great Lakes region has lots of water, while so many places out west are drying up, so things have really been booming up that way. My dad gets calls from real estate agents at least two or three times a week, wanting to know if he wants to sell his lake house. He responses have gotten… shall we say, somewhat sharper as time goes on. There used to be a hydro plant on the river where I grew up; I think they’re talking about re-commissioning it to feed the new businesses coming in. Talk about a godsend… with the auto industry all but dead (idiots couldn’t let go of their freeking high-margin SUVs), new business are coming in, and old businesses are staying plenty busy. The unemployment rate isn’t great, but (for a change) no worse than the national average.

The resorts up north are really cleaning up. One of the Atlanta companies rented a dozen cabins in northern Wisconsin for the entire summer, and moved their executive team en masse to cooler climes. Of course, the employees doing the real work are sweltering in near-sweatshop conditions while the bosses drink beer around a campfire and do what they call “strategic planning.” Translated into English, that probably means “figuring out how to skim a few million more off the top and make the grunts pay for it.” Of course, the only reason we heard about it at all was because some employees were being investigated for swiping not-so-surplus equipment; when the reporters started snooping around, they got an earful. Heck, I don’t blame the employees in that case.

The question came up at the last town hall meeting at work, about rumors that the company was going to move into facilities north of Boston that we used to use, and never were able to get rid of. The answer sounded pretty reasonable: the power situation there wasn’t any better than it was here, but expenses there were higher, so it wouldn’t do any good to move. Another question got a double-take: “Given the fuel situation, do you see any problem getting shipments out of our factory in China? And is the factory having power problems?” I’ve never seen the execs go into a huddle like that in a town hall — ever. They finally admitted that both were likely, but they couldn’t talk further about it (which probably means they haven’t given it much thought). Our sales are good… with so many people telecommuting these days, they almost have to be. But if we can’t get the gadgets built — or shipped to where they need to go — we’re going to have A Problem.

But I digress. Down south, tourism is not doing nearly as well. The Gulf Coast usually gets plenty of traffic, but nobody wants to make reservations now that we’re getting into the ugly half of hurricane season. People are waiting until the last minute, then calling around to find a vacancy for the next week. They usually don’t have too much trouble, and can usually get “special rates” anyway. If you’re employed (so you have money for a vacation), and aren’t tied to a specific place, you can get a lot of vacation for your money along the Gulf this year. The running joke is that it costs more to drive to the Redneck Riviera than it does to stay there for a week. Mom says if I can get down to Florida this winter, we could probably stay in one of the condos for the cost of the utilities. If they don’t get clobbered by a hurricane first. I’m thinking we might have to pass, depending on fuel availability. If I could get 20 gallons all at once, I could put two 5-gallon cans in the trunk and get there without having to worry about a fuel stop — if the fumes didn’t get to us. And we didn’t get waylaid. I’ve heard that Amtrak is planning an Atlanta-Gainesville (FL) schedule, with legs from there to Tampa-Fort Myers and Orlando-Miami. That would probably be the way to go, if they actually do it.

The first of the permanent three-day weekends starts tomorrow. Remember to stay in bed Monday morning — no sense in wasting gas!


Wednesday, August 22, 2007 9 comments

Under the…

We were laying in bed this morning, knowing it was past time to get moving but neither one of us really wanted to be first, when came the sound of gravel crunching in the driveway. “Bye, Daughter Dearest,” I said.

“She left a long time ago,” Mrs. Fetched said. That got us both moving. It was 8 a.m., so there was a certain “WTF is going on now?” in the air. She threw a dress on over herself, while I hunted for a pair of shorts. Finally, with the shorts taken care of, I looked out the window.

A cop car.

Thinking, “WTF has The Boy done NOW!?” I grabbed yesterday’s shirt off the floor and put it on as I headed to the front door. I arrived just as the cop finished handing Mrs. Fetched a subpoena.

We scanned the names, and didn’t recognize a single one. Nothing to do with The Boy, at least directly. Nothing to do with anything, as far as we could tell. There was a number on the sheet, which I’m sure Mrs. Fetched has called by now to see what she has to do with this matter. But at least it wasn’t The Boy in jail, or worse.

[Subpoena: from the Latin, sub poena, literally “under the penis,” or “by the balls.”]

UPDATE from the comments: It turns out that the case has to do with some of The Boy's old acquaintances, a couple and a kid who were working together in thievery. They may have been the ones who (officially) stole the generator from the party house after The Boy took it over there… but I suspect the whole group was in on it and used the proceeds to buy drugs and/or booze. I don’t expect we’ll get the generator back, but stranger things have happened.

Sunday, August 19, 2007 5 comments

Home is Where the Hurt Is

I have returned, after just over 500 miles on a variety of roads. This is the longest motorcycle trip I’ve ever taken.

Friday morning had me waking up earlier than I expected, amazingly not with a chicken house call. I confiscated a small backpack The Boy had once used for a bookbag — Daughter Dearest offered me hers, but it had a blown-out zipper — and stuffed it with a weekend’s worth of clothes, important stuff from the bathroom (toothbrush, meds, shaver, deodorant), pen & paper, and the iPod. After a little breakfast, I suited up, loaded the backpack on my shoulders, and buzzed away.

Since the summer place is about 4 hours away, and I had all day to get there, I decided to do things a little differently: take my time, stop when and where I felt like it, and (especially since I was on a motorcycle) avoid freeways as much as possible. So at mile 63-ish, I stopped at Tallulah Gorge and got this picture. 20 miles later, I (for the first time) crossed a state line on a motorcycle and rolled on into North Carolina. By this time, the backpack was starting to weigh on my shoulders, and the hard seat was wearing on my butt… but there wasn’t much I could do about it.

I had to stop in Sylva for lunch and gas, but with WCU opening up and the fall quarter starting Monday, things were a little crowded. I planned to eat in a local restaurant in town, but the person in front of me pulled into the last parking spot on the street. Rats! I continued on through the thick traffic, finding a Burger King that had a veggie burger waiting for me. The guy behind me in line (and it was fairly long) had rode in on a scooter, so we got to talking and eventually sat together. He was local, and maybe a little “tetched” as they used to say, but we had a good time — I took my time to give my butt and shoulders a break — and then I moved on. (It was in Sylva that I also learned that in stop&go traffic, the DRZ gives no warning at all when it’s time to go on reserve.)

I made my first traveling misstep (there’s a name for a bluegrass band… the Traveling Missteps) by going to US74 instead of staying on US23. This cost me an extra 10 miles or so of I-40… but with the speed limit posted at 60, it wasn’t nearly as scary as I expected (I didn’t have to go more than 75, and the bike seemed quite happy to wail along at 3/4 of its maximum RPM). I jumped off at the first exit that gave me a "to US70" sign. US70 east of Asheville is 5 lanes (4 + left turn lane) and the interstate parallels it for a good long while. I made my second misstep looking for Old US70, which Google Maps shows as winding over Black Mountain. After a couple of attempts, I gave up and got back on I-40. Fortunately, it was only a few miles to the Old Fort exit, and I said good-bye to I-40 for good. US70 west to US221 north, and one more gas stop 9 miles from my destination, and I was there just after 4pm.

The weekend was mostly relaxing — even the parts helping Wicked Stepfather with new cabinets for the basement (some assembly required). We went to a local store/BBQ joint for lunch, and wound up with the table right next to the bluegrass band when they got going. I enjoy most live music — even The Boy’s stuff — if there’s no lyrics. These guys had a stack of CDs for sale, but I’ve forgotten their name.

Water Rock Knob overlook, on the Blue Ridge Parkway, looking eastFor the trip home, I decided to give the Blue Ridge Parkway a try. It crosses US221 a few miles south of the summer place; I figured if there were too many slowpokes on the way, I could jump off at US70 and go back the way I came. However, the first half hour or so I was the only southbound traffic I ever saw. The posted speed limit is 45, and the road is curvy enough to enforce it without a lot of help from the parkway police, so I settled into a rhythm (and tried to ignore the backpack and seat). Although the scenic route, plus going past the exit I should have taken, cost me a fair amount of extra time, the ride was well worth it. If you have a motorcycle, you really should ride the parkway, no matter where you’re from. It’s just freeking beautiful. The highest elevations are south of Asheville, and climbs to 6000 feet. Once you get above 5000 feet, the wind gets chilly — even in the middle of August. I appreciated it even more once I got down to US441 and returned to the land of mid-90° weather. The foliage was subtly different in the higher elevations, probably more alpine.

Hot weather, hurting shoulders, hurting butt, all encouraged me to ride at speeds similar to those on I-40. I got home (empty house), called Mom, put on shorts, and took an Advil. Just think, I get to jump on the bike tomorrow morning to ride to work. Fortunately, sans backpack.

Thursday, August 16, 2007 3 comments

FAR Future: Episode 6

Believe it or not, I wrote this before Hurricane Dean was a tropical depression!

This will probably be my last post for the week. I’m leaving for NC in the morning, my laptop is staying here, and Mom might have dialup but I probably won’t get on unless she’s watching some TV show I’m not interested in. See you Sunday, God willing.

Thursday, August 16, 2012
Down on the Farm

This is the time of year that gardens are in full swing, and it’s no exception on Planet Georgia. The rain has been mostly good, at least up to now, and Hurricane DeeDee will probably bring us a few inches on Monday. But that means we need to be grabbing anything ripe while the grabbing’s good, and canning what isn’t getting eaten or sold. My mother-in-law is the gardening wizard around here, although her idea of a “small garden” is 2 acres. Sheesh. But we brought in a bunch of corn, several varieties of beans, tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, and zucchini yesterday evening (we wait until dusk to pick because it’s too hot during the day, and those wind-up flashlights give us a little more time to pick).

I hear she had a good day at the farmer’s market; I guess a lot of people were getting what fresh stuff they could with DeeDee on the way. The power situation’s bad enough; I can’t imagine that 4 inches of rain and stiff winds are going to improve matters any. But there’s still a lot to put up, and the county cannery is staying open late through the week (and will be open this weekend) because they expect to be closed Monday and Tuesday. When we start getting Mondays off in a couple of weeks, I’ll be there more often, but this evening was a rarity — the cannery was open and I finished my work stuff early, so I went to help.

Sometimes, my mother-in-law would have the place mostly to herself… not anymore. She had been there all morning, so I jumped on the motorbike — I brought a little cooler with some water and snacks in it for us, so we won’t have to go into town. The place was crowded when I got there, but it doesn’t take much room to park a motorbike and I found a shady spot under the eaves of a shed across the parking lot.

I was there a couple of hours, but never quite figured out the system. It seems easy enough — a long row of tables and steamers down the center, vats and several big boilers along the far wall — but either I still had my head in the battery backup stuff I was writing today, or what I was doing (mostly steppin’ and fetchin’) didn’t let me follow the plot. The wimmin outnumbered us guys by 5 to 1 easily — there were four guys there, and two of them “run” the cannery. The other guy was also steppin’ and fetchin’ (although we took a quick commiseration break once or twice); the women were helping each other with just about every phase of their canning. I think the system runs like this: veggies that need to be peeled go in the steamer; it helps loosen the peels. Then anyone who’s not doing something else helps pull off the peels. If the peeled food is being canned by itself, they dump it into jars (with a teaspoon of salt) and move on… otherwise, it goes to the cooking vats.

The vats are basically big cookpots — and when I say big, I mean like 20 gallons. Someone like Mrs. Fetched’s mom really uses them — that comes to 80 quarts, and that’s a fraction of what she does when she gets going (one year, she brought home 120 boxes, and each box has 12 quart jars in it). So you make your beef stew, or chili, or whatever, in the vats, ladle it into jars, and wheel the jars over to the boilers. The guys running the cannery pretty much run the boilers; I think there’s some liability issues going on there… although Mrs. Fetched’s mom has run the place a couple of times when they couldn’t keep up. If you get this far in the morning, you can take your jars home in the evening — otherwise, you come back for them the next day.

They use an incredible amount of water: rinsing, steaming, cooking, boiling the jars — and the floor has a drainage slot that runs the length of the cannery. They also use a fair amount of gas for heating the water… so naturally, the cost to use the cannery has gone up quite a bit. It’s still cheaper (and better) than the supermarket. I’ve been looking for indications of whether we’ll get winter produce from South America this year, and haven’t found anything. I’m going to assume that no news is bad news.

So I just got home. After spending 4–5 hours in the cannery, the ride home seemed almost cold. I guess I’ll take a French bath, get a drink of something, and go to bed.


The Solo, 3-Day, No Guilt Weekend

Over the years since moving to the free-range insane asylum, I have come to dread August. The heat is bad enough on its own, but it stresses the chicken houses because everything has to be running — fans and foggers — just to keep the birds alive. Large electrical devices running in the same area as a high-pressure water spray actually works (it has to), but an undetected crack in a PVC pipe or wiring insulation is going to soon be detected under those conditions. And given the situation, repairs can’t wait for a convenient time… it has to be dealt with now. Even when everything is working properly, Mrs. Fetched is constantly over there to raise or lower curtains and open/close doors (ventilation vs. insolation), start or stop the fogger lines… always something.

Add in the usual things that go wrong (and Murphy is the god of chicken houses), and August adds up to one miserable month. I can count on arriving home to find there’s some problem that must be addressed, almost before I can get my helmet and jacket off. For example, this week the downpipe fell off a feed hopper and dumped four tons of feed that had to be scooped or shoveled up.

So it’s not surprising that the best part of August is the one weekend that we escape the manor. Mom has a summer cottage in the North Carolina mountains; they spend the entire month there and we generally come up for a weekend to visit. It’s a much-appreciated break, especially since it’s often 15 degrees cooler there than here. But when Mrs. Fetched’s mom hosed her knee last week, Mrs. Fetched lost her substitute chicken rancher. She bailed out, then Daughter Dearest bailed out (“I need to stay and help Mom”). I’d already taken Friday off as a floating holiday, and I don’t get to see my relatives very often.

As if I needed any further excuse, the phone rang at about 6 a.m. this morning. When the phone rings at FAR Manor before 8, I immediately know: 1) It’s one of Mrs. Fetched’s relatives; 2) It’s not good news; 3) I’m going to be involved somehow. This morning, it was Big V on the line. P.O.D., her son and Splat’s older brother, got busted for 90 in a 50 zone while passing a car with great enthusiasm on his new GSX-R 600. As I’m the only other person in the family with a motorcycle endorsement, I get to bring the bike home while Big V is getting him out of the clink.

The bike was already on the tow truck when we got there, but when Big V gave a name and address, they knew we were the right people and rolled it back off (but she still got to pay the $100 tow bill). So on the 30 miles or so home, I learned why people ride those bikes so fast: your hips and back start hurting, and you have to ride fast just to where you’re going and get OFF the damn thing.

So I’m definitely looking forward to getting out of here for a few days. But now that I’m going by myself, I can ride my own motorcycle. It’s not nearly as uncomfortable as a crotch rocket.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007 7 comments

Reality is Stranger Than Fiction

Things can get pretty silly without making up any of it. Check it out…

If a dog has two noses, does it smell twice as bad?

Mexico’s Santa Muerte (Saint Death) gets a facelift. Um… right.

What’s next? Cops wearing Hello Kitty armbands? Oh, never mind.

Hey Family Man, this might be a drastic cure for migraines.

In some happier news, SCO lost the Unix rights to Novell. This should put the final nail in the coffin of SCO’s (Microsoft-funded) anti-Linux crusade.

Monday, August 13, 2007 7 comments

FAR Future: Episode 5

I’ve been meaning to post two episodes per week — obviously, that didn’t happen last week. I might try doing three this week to make it up.

Monday, August 13, 2012
Card Sharps

That was… interesting. The DoE must have had everything lined up in advance for the rationing announcement. How they kept it under wraps is anyone’s guess.

But if you didn’t need to get gas today, and you haven’t had the radio on, give yourself a couple extra minutes when you do go to get gas. You’ll have to go inside and show them your driver’s license, they punch in the number and out pops a temporary ration card with 20 gallons on it. That’s supposed to last you at least through the end of the month, so don’t use it up right away. People who planned on some advance warning, so they could stockpile gas, are gonna be pissed. A couple of co-workers were pretty agitated… I think one of them forgot his wallet, so he wouldn’t have been able to get gas anyway.

I just had to catch some talk radio to hear what the double-digit IQ brigade is being told to think about it. Shotgun Sam had one of the Planet Georgia congresscritters on this evening; I didn’t catch which one. Could have been mine, for all I know or care. Pretty much what I expected, oh boo hoo hoo, free market, boo hoo hoo, warnings about “playing politics” with allocations (right wing-speak for “we want more than our fair share”), boo hoo hoo, etc.

(I was going to delete this part, but it’s sort of related, so…) The spew-bots earn their pay by stirring up their listeners; threats and actual attempts on government officials make the news more often than not these days. Figures: conservatives have always been willing to use force when they can’t trick enough idiots into voting for them (and except for places like Planet Georgia, fewer and fewer are falling for the lies). It probably didn’t help when the NRA got designated a “terrorist-sympathetic” organization last year; wingers hate getting their faces rubbed in reality. To them, terrorists are the brown people with turbans who want to kill us, not the goober looking to settle an imagined score with the gubmint.

But anyway, the NFRD site (the URL is printed on the temporary cards, hard to miss actually) is actually well-done, and they gave it enough bandwidth — it probably helps that half the country is blacked out at any given moment. Check it out, you can fill out a little questionnaire and get a pretty good idea of what your weekly allotment is going to be. Oh, if you haven’t figured it out, when you use your new (not the temporary) ration card the first time, it will dock your purchases from the temporary card and invalidate the temp card. Again, don’t go nuts with your temporary! It turns out that since Mrs. Fetched works on a farm, we’ll get a little extra gas per week. Living in a rural area got us a little more, but having an “office job” took most of it back — I’m supposed to telecommute more, I guess (which suits me just fine). 10 gallons a week doesn’t sound like much, but I use less than 3 for my twice-weekly commute, and I can pick up some groceries on the way home. Mrs. Fetched isn’t thrilled, but two trips for shopping a week won’t use more than another 2-1/2. So if we’re careful, we can get by with half our allocation and make a little extra money selling what’s left over on the exchange. But we’ll probably build up a cushion first, in case we have any problems.

Speaking of the exchange, I saw where eBay is threatening to sue the DoE, saying Yahoo had some kind of inside track to getting the contract to manage the NFRD “exchange” site (think auction with fairly tight controls). Yahoo’s response amounted to “sore loser, nyah nyah,” which I suppose is the only real way to respond in a situation like this. Either eBay can prove something, in which case the bids should be re-negotiated, or they can’t and should just shut up. I wonder how much energy they’ll waste on that.


Sunday, August 12, 2007 8 comments

Wounded Knee and Pinball

I was about finished getting the church bulletin together this morning when Mrs. Fetched answered the phone. “Sure, he doesn’t mind,” she said. I had just been volunteered. “Yeah, you need to go to the hospital,” she continued, which gave me a pretty good idea of what I’d been volunteered for. On Thursday, she and a guy who’s been helping around the farm lately were freeing up a stuck hydraulic lift on one of the tractors. She was working a lever while he banged on something with a hammer: the hammering did the hoped-for job, the lift lifted… and turned out to be the only thing keeping the tractor stationary.

She ran for it, as one might expect, while he scrambled to hit the brakes. As it was all downhill, she quickly found herself just trying to not fall down, heading for her Workhorse (envision a jacked-up golf cart with a dump bed, that’s a Workhorse). She snagged the Workhorse on the way by it — but not knowing proper Pinball technique (more on that in a moment), she let her momentum twist her knee for her. When the pain only got worse over the weekend, it was time to have it looked at.

So I ran over to the church, copied the bulletins, then came back and packed a few essentials (laptop, writing pad, cellphone) and went to get Mrs. Fetched’s mom. We cruised down to the hospital, chatting about the garden and canning and similar topics; I dropped her off in front of the ER and they swooped in with a wheelchair while I went to park. Hospitals, even ERs, being what they are, I had no trouble catching up. (Before we left, Mrs. Fetched advised me, “Don’t be afraid to follow her in to the doctor’s.” I thought, “Yeah, but if the clothes start coming off I’m GONE!”) They looked it over, X-rayed it, wrapped a couple of ace bandages around it, and notified her orthopedist. I could have done the bandages thing and saved her insurance (and Medicare) a good bit of $$$.

For future reference, I told her about Pinball and how to prevent wrenched knees (or ankles). This was a game we used to play at Michigan Tech. The terrain there is much like here — rocky and steep. Pinball is when you go running full-tilt-boogie down a hill and bounce off of trees (by pushing off them) to maintain a controllable speed. You can “hook” a tree that’s about 4 to 6 inches in diameter (smaller and it bends too much, larger and you can’t get a good grip on it) and lift your feet off the ground. This spins you to the downhill side, at which point you let go; your forward (downhill) momentum is mostly gone and you just drop. In her case, I would have hooked the Workhorse and got my feet off the ground, let it spin me around, and I would have been able to stop.

Pinball left us with sore (or numb) hands, but we were young and they healed quickly. The last time I played was when The Boy was about 5; we’d gone up to Rainey Mountain for a Cub Scout campout. Somehow, we missed the group hike up to the top, so we decided to go on our own. On the way back down, he started whining and saying “I’m scared.” After a couple of minutes, I looked at him and said, “What are you scared about? You climb stuff like this all the time!”

“I’m scared you’re gonna get hurt.”

“Son… I appreciate your concern, but let me show you a game we used to play in college.” He watched me bounce off a couple of trees and hook one to stop, and looked at me like I was crazy.

Thursday, August 09, 2007 7 comments

The Boy at 2 o’clock

Thursday is my work at home day. The day begins with much less stress when the commute is from the kitchen back to the bedroom, where I have a small desk. There is the occasional walk across the driveway to Studio FAR, where I can take photos of whatever I’m documenting; sometimes, I get requests for a different angle and I supply those as well.

So I was at the house when an unfamiliar car pulled up the driveway around 2 p.m. I figured it was one of The Boy’s friends — but much to my surprise, The Boy himself was in the back seat. I’m not really sure why he came by, except that he did pick up his glucose meter and meds… after a mere three weeks without them. He stayed about an hour, long enough to annoy Mrs. Fetched about something or another — but one of the good things about the visit was that J’s mom was here trying to find J, and The Boy knew exactly where he was. The Boy and his friend said they’d have a talk with J, but there’s no telling how that will come out or whether they actually had that talk.

One undercurrent that the women picked up on (I had to go back and work) was that The Boy and his girlfriend might be having a little disagreement. Her mom has said she doesn’t want him hanging around if he isn’t going to get a job (she’s working at a restaurant in town) — he said he’s interviewing with one of the manufacturing places on Monday and expects to get the job. His hair is still way too long for this day & age, but at least it looked clean today (even though he and his two friends — one of whom is female — all reeked of hot weather and lack of bathing). The young woman is one who has been around FAR Manor before (fortunately only for brief visits) but has been acquainted with all of the boarders. Makes me wonder. She’s supposed to be fairly intelligent, and can hold her own in a conversation, but I have to wonder if she hangs with that bunch. It’s difficult to carry on a conversation with her — not that she’s hard to talk to, but I have to keep reminding myself to not stare at her, um, rather prominent kanakas. :-P

Of course, his latest band is on the cusp of success, their first paying gig is coming “soon.” The song remains the same.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007 14 comments

Back to School — Already???

Yup, Daughter Dearest starts tomorrow. That means school buses will be on the roads tomorrow as well. Suckibus maximus.

The hot item for “Back to School” this year seems to be the TI-84+ graphing calculator. I had to go to three places to find one in stock. It was important enough that I had to endure the soul-erosion of walking into a Wal-Mart… and they were out, too. That was good: I didn’t have to hand them any money. I’ll admit, though, to dropping 35 cents into their vending machine outside to get a bottle of water. It was 96 degrees outside, and I was on a motorcycle, so I needed some fluid.

After supper (spaghetti at Big V’s), I let Daughter Dearest wear the helmet as I rode the few hundred yards up the road to the house — and I had to explain Steve McQueen and Easy Rider along the way. After dropping her off, I went to help Mrs. Fetched’s mom pick and shuck a few bushels of corn. After all, isn’t the best food what you see to yourself?

Stuff that works, Stuff that doesn’t

I’m typing away with the new MacBook battery. It was sitting on the table when I came home from the yard sale on Saturday (and I guess I was so excited I forgot to mention it). I pretty much knew what to expect inside: the battery and instructions for shipping the old one back. The good thing about that it’s all but completely pre-arranged: all you have to do is tape the box shut and call DHL to come pick it up. The other side of that particular coin: Apple will zap you for the cost of the battery if you don’t send it back, probably to keep people from claiming the battery is rotten to get a free extra battery. So unless DHL couldn’t find our office, and I think they bring deliveries from time to time, that’s taken care of.

Less welcome news: the A/C in the Civic lasted all of three days, crapping out on Friday afternoon on the way home from work. Naturally, it croaked in the three miles of stop&go traffic I have to deal with on Fridays (and I guess I was so bummed I forgot to mention it here). Oh well, it was good while it lasted and even mid-90s weather isn’t too bad on a motorcycle (as long as you’re moving).

Yesterday, I finally resolved the plate (or “tag” as they say on this planet) issue for the new motorcycle. The shop sent the tax receipt, and I’m supposed to pick up the tag. I was under the impression that I would get it in the mail. Mrs. Fetched says she’ll handle that today while I’m at work — there’s a pretty good chance she’ll get busy & forget, but right now I have both bikes in the garage and it’s a little tight, and the inconvenience might prompt her to make an extra effort. ;-) So I’m on the Virago at least one more day.

Jumping on the Virago after riding a much lighter and taller bike for a month is a good way to get a fresh look at it. The seat is much more cushy, the engine much stronger (with nearly three times the displacement, that’s no surprise), and the seating position is completely different. Of course, it still takes corners at speeds you wouldn’t dare with most other cruisers.

And with that, I need to start it and get rolling to work. IT has started monitoring web usage at work (naturally at a time when most of my projects are in a lull), so I’ll be coming in at odd morning & evening hours. One more stop to see if Nancy has posted anything this morning…

Sunday, August 05, 2007 9 comments

All I Want Is To Be In the Light

Outside lightThose 300w halogen light-sticks really light up the driveway at night. Before I started TFM, and for a while afterward, the kids (ours and not-ours) used to play basketball at night (you can see where the goal used to be; Lobster tore it down in a drunken rampage that I neglected to write about at the time) and the light is quite handy for nighttime excursions to the detached garage or Studio FAR.

A couple of weeks ago, the bulb went the way of all bulbs… and since it’s about 15 feet off the ground, it’s not exactly a job one wants to tackle at night. But yesterday afternoon, I was sitting here by myself — me home from the yard sale, Mrs. Fetched and Daughter Dearest doing the tax-free shopping day thing — and after catching up on a few blogs, I figured this was as good a time as any to take care of that business. So:

How do you change a light bulb at FAR Manor?

1) Get the extension ladder out of the cellar, clearing spider webs along the way.

2) Climb up and attempt to remove the glass.

3) Climb down, get a screwdriver, climb back up to (carefully!) pry the glass off the rubber seal. Remove glass and bulb, climb down.

4) Clean the haze off the glass.

5) Climb up with a new bulb (in a paper towel so you didn’t get skin oil on it) and install it.

6) Climb down, get the (now clean) glass, climb up, and snap the glass-holders into place.

7) Climb down & put the ladder away.

For those of you who were counting: yes, four trips up & down the ladder.

You might have noticed that the white trim needs to be scraped and painted. It’s pretty much the same all across the manor. But that can wait for cooler weather.

Saturday, August 04, 2007 8 comments

FAR Future, Episode 4

Family Man brought up something I’ve been thinking about for a while: adding links so new readers can start with Episode 1 and just click to the next one in line. I’ll be doing something about that shortly. Too bad I didn’t have the extra day now

Saturday, August 4, 2012
Smart Move

The four-day, 36-hour work week was a smart move, and the Department of Labor really got smart and slipped in the announcement at the end of a Friday to make sure the right-wing spew-bots jumped on it. That’s called managing the press. All of a sudden, all the spew-bot callers have stopped screaming about rationing and started chatting about what they’re going to do with a three-day weekend. The only people I hear complaining are hourly workers losing 10% of their paid time, and they usually stop complaining as soon as they realize they’ll be getting overtime if they have to work more than 36 hours. And Shotgun Sam was sounding a little frustrated last night; nobody wanted to talk about the latest manufactured scandal.

They’re giving businesses three weeks to make the adjustments — starting August 24, the three-day weekend begins and everyone gets Mondays off. All the Monday jokes will have to be changed to Tuesday jokes, but other than that? Most of the minor holidays like President’s Day don’t become Tuesday holidays, probably to placate some business owners. It’ll save some energy, for sure — if all the offices are dark all day Monday, maybe people will have enough electricity to run their A/C once a week.

I’m not sure how it’s going to affect me personally, yet. Monday has been one of my physical-presence days, so if the boss doesn’t have to have me in the office two days out of four, I’ll be down to one commute day a week. Otherwise, I don’t see a lot of change for me. The battery rig I’ve got set up here takes care of my telecommuting power needs, and the solar panels that I have on order (if they ever show up) will keep it charged up — so that’s eventually going to be off the grid anyway. I can see one downside: Mrs. Fetched is already planning my Mondays for me, starting with the chicken houses first thing.


Yard sale day

yard sale viewSpace at community yard sale: $10

Amount sold: $22

Sitting in a canopy chair all morning instead of going to the chicken houses: PRICELESS!

The downside, of course, was getting up way too early for a Saturday. Like 7 a.m. I’m going to take a brief nap, and then I’ll be back.

UPDATE: I thought I wanted a nap more than I really did.

It’s pretty hot today, the hottest it’s been this year (at least where I’ve had to be outside). An ambulance pulled up at one point, and I thought maybe someone was overcome, but they were just there to help load a couch to take it to the fire station. But I offered my seat to people who looked like they might need it — the only taker was a lady who wanted to try on some of the shoes I had for sale. She’s two years younger than my dad, and we’ll just say she was much less limber. I told her that dad does stretches religiously every day, and it helps him a lot. Maybe it’s not to late for her.

I picked up a few CDs from another seller; Daughter Dearest seems to have been listening to a lot of Billy Joel as of late so I got the two Billy Joel CDs in the box. I picked up another one, “Ultimate House NRG,” figuring to share since we both like dance/techno stuff. Then I had a listen… the first song has lyrics that would send Nancy’s “friend” Mrs. Grimshank into a tizzy. Or a dead faint. Maybe I won’t share that one after all. (But I might memorize the refrain and sing it to Mrs. Fetched.)

Thursday, August 02, 2007 9 comments

A Salted Battery

I really love my MacBook, but the battery has never really worked right in it: long before the "fuel gauge" gets to zero, the computer shuts off (it's supposed to just hit deep-sleep mode). When it shut off with the gauge at 50% one afternoon in Michigan, I decided it was time to look up that battery recall I’d been hearing about. And I found it.

After going through the preliminaries, I called the 800 number and talked to BJ. After walking through a couple of things, he said I qualified and they’d send me a new battery in the mail. Yay, no special trip to the Apple Store! While I really enjoy browsing the Apple Store more than just about anywhere else, it’s a significant trip from the manor. I’d hate to burn that much gas just to swap a battery.

That’s one of many reasons I like Apple: if there’s a problem with their stuff, they fix it without a bunch of nonsense. I figure the Battery Fairy will arrive around Tuesday; I can stay plugged in until then.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007 13 comments


As I mentioned last night, I went by the mechanic this morning to pick up my car. Mrs. Fetched drove me over, and reminded me to grab my microwave dish full of leftovers on the way out (she’s good about that).

So I jumped in my car, the keys were in it, and I started it up. Reaching over to pull up Album 88 for the drive, I saw the A/C light was on. “Eh, they must have bumped it or something,” I thought, knowing that the A/C hasn’t ever worked in this car. I punched it off, and bumped up the fan because it’s pretty weak on the bottom setting… and some cool air came out. “Naw,” I thought, “it can’t be that. It just hasn’t gotten warm in the vents yet.” I headed on to work, but something just didn’t seem right about the air. It seemed… drier than I’d expect, especially during the Dog Days.

One way to find out, right? Coming home, I turned it on first thing and cranked the fan on high.

Cool air started pouring out.


I brought it in for a timing belt & water pump, paid what I was quoted, and got working A/C thrown in! (I wish I’d known, I’d have got the car out earlier and drove that to Michigan.)

Oh, and Mrs. Fetched’s mom got $5 for my jalapeƱos, and had some left over. Kind of an anti-climax.


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