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Wednesday, October 31, 2007 7 comments

Writing, Music, Movies

If you’re following my Twitter feed, you saw that Asimov’s rejected my poem. There were a couple of odd aspects: it arrived about 3 weeks before I expected, and it sure doesn’t look like a form letter (which the submission guidelines led me to expect) — it was signed by hand, or at least with a machine (you can see the indent on the back), instead of the signature being printed. If it’s in fact a form letter, it’s extremely well-done. Kind of makes it hard to follow my original strategy of nailing it to the wall & giving it the finger when I sit down to write. I’m seeing mixed signals, and am probably putting too much effort into interpreting things: but the quick turnaround suggested it got whacked pretty quick, while the letter’s content suggested it might have breached the slush pile but got cut in the second round. Meh. I’ll just move on.

Speaking of moving on, I finished the “Crash and Burn” edit, which now has the working title “Old Guy” (“Road Trip 2058” left me clammy). I printed it out last night and handed it to The Boy. He’s looking through it slowly, but likes what he sees so far. Will he figure out that Old Guy is him at age 70? There are plenty of hints in the story. If he has any thoughts for improvement, I’ll make them if I agree, then let it age for a month or so. I know of a couple of things that need to be smoothed out, but I just can’t figure out how to do it yet.

We were out and about over the weekend, and I picked up Family Force 5’s “Business Up Front/Party in the Back [Diamond Edition]” CD. This is one of the bands they play on TheBlast.FM, and they’re from suburban Atlanta. It’s an odd rap/metal/techno fusion, with a bit of Christian influence, turned up to 11. This is music to dance by, not to write by, and I get a big grin out of it (if not LOL outright at tracks like “Drama Queen”). The Boy would probably enjoy it as well; he likes Skillet, who is on the same label (Gotee) as FF5 and will be my next CD purchase (“Comatose”). If you want to hear some of their stuff, they have a MySpace page (of course they do, what musicians don’t these days?), and freegotee.com has some downloads if you sign up.

Last night was going to be dedicated to finishing the next episode of FAR Future, but Mrs. Fetched started faux-whining about not having anyone to watch “We Are Marshall” with her until I gave up. I pointed out that the last two times I tried to watch a movie at the manor, the phone rang, it was for me, and the girls continued to watch the movie without me… and I really wasn’t in the mood to watch just half of yet another movie. She promised to let the phone ring w/o answering it — although when it did ring, The Boy answered it instead. Fortunately, it was for her, and she paused the movie (and that’s when I printed out the story and gave it to The Boy). As for the movie, it’s very familiar territory if you’ve seen “Remember the Titans” — replace a high school going through integration pains in the 60s with a small college trying to rebuild after a plane crash killed the team and the entire athletic department in the 70s, and go from there. Marshall didn’t have a miracle season (it was based on a true story), but the movie ends on a high note with their first win.

I’ll try to wrap up the FAR Future episode and post it tomorrow night. Here’s a teaser: for the first time, a FAR Future episode includes a graphic. It’s going to be a little scary too, even if it isn’t about Hallowe’en. Speaking of which, Daughter Dearest is out trick-or-treating (at age 18, shameless :-). Here’s hoping you have a safe and fun night!

Monday, October 29, 2007 11 comments

All a-Twitter

You may have noticed that I’ve added a Twitter box to the sidebar… the site seems to be pretty slow this evening, so if it doesn’t load right away it’s not your connection. If you’re on Twitter, let me know and I’ll add you to my “follow” list. (I’m FARfetched58 if you want to “follow” me.)

I reserve the right to jump to Jaiku, if I decide I like it better. ’Course, I won’t be able to make that decision until Google sends me an invite…

Saturday, October 27, 2007 5 comments

Must be Deer Season

Someone nearby is getting rid of his ammo, at 9pm no less. Almost sounds like Baghdad out there.

I started hunting up rock for the patio this afternoon. I found several rocks of a good size & shape (flat, a couple inches thick, small enough to handle) and several huge chunks. I guess I’ll have to borrow a tractor from the in-laws to get them up to the backyard. One of them will need the tractor just to unearth — I figure it has to weigh close to 500 lbs all by itself. I'll have to bust those big ones up, but if I can split them properly I might not need any more rock.

And if I do, finding rock on Planet Georgia is like finding water in a lake.

Friday, October 26, 2007 6 comments

Weekend Cinema

Wrapping up the October horror series, I’ll have to admit that I picked this one for the name: The Brain that Wouldn’t Die

(No, not Karl Rove — that would be horrendous, not horror.)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007 8 comments

A Rainy Night on Planet Georgia

…with a pretty good chance it’s going to do this all week. Here’s hoping SoCal gets some really soon.

We went to video Daughter Dearest’s chorus (and two other choirs) tonight; the occasion being a 150th anniversary commemoration for the county. Good thing I worked at home today, because we had to get there before 6 and I often don’t leave the office before then.

We’ve learned that the best place for shooting video in the school is up above the crowd. Fortunately, the front office is like a building within the building, and we can haul our cameras up on the (inside) roof to do our dirty work. Nobody walking in front of us (haven’t seen anyone levitating, anyway), but we still pick up the babies squawking. If and when we shake out some extra money, I have a shopping list for audio equipment.

Mrs. Fetched asked me to get crowd shots toward the end of each song. I’m looking forward to seeing her reaction when she sees the closeup of the young woman who ate a piece of dessert, then showed it to her little brother.

Sunday, October 21, 2007 14 comments

A Weekend Roundup

Earlier in the week, The Register coughed up a rather interesting article. I had a good laugh, then was inspired (if that’s the word) to write a poem on the subject. I decided that Asimov’s might print it, so I let it sit for a few days, made a few tweaks, and got it in the mail (before I lost my nerve). On the way back from the post office, it occurred to me that I ought to revamp the Crash and Burn story for a wider audience, and send that in too. I’ll tackle that this week. If nothing else, I’ll have a rejection letter or two I can tack to the wall in Studio FAR and give the finger to each time I go in there to write.

The septic tank is starting to get full again. At least it went almost a year this time. Mrs. Fetched is going to call the kaka-pumper tomorrow. I’m thinking of re-routing all the non-toilet drains to a garden area… we can use the water twice and that should take the load off the septic tank. Seeing how much cut basil and other herbs cost in the supermarket, a small herb farm might be a pretty decent way to put some of our acreage to use.

With more rain coming in tomorrow, and possibly staying on through most of the week (hooraayyyyyy!!!) I figured I’d better put new wiper blades on the Civic. Then I got tired of looking at the dangling windshield washers, which broke off when The Boy put it in a ditch last year, and got some new ones. Of course, I snapped off a stem when bolting it down, so I took them off and exchanged them this afternoon. Actually, I like the new ones better anyway. Finally, I got the idle adjusted (it was way too low). So now I’m ready to drive in the rain.

The homebrew is starting to mature. Maybe another week. But I need alcohol now

UPDATES: I can’t believe I forgot these.

This video (“Slam” by Pendulum) was one of the funniest things I saw all week. The music is wicked good too, if you like drum&bass. The album is on iTunes, so if I can’t find it at the store I’ll be grabbing this one for sure.

The in-laws have a muscadine vine that climbs really high. Like 12 feet. I grabbed their big stepladder & got a gallon or so. They have red & white ones growing together; the white ones are little sweeter but the reds are more numerous and have a bit more complex flavor. Muscadines are like the sunflower seeds of fruit: you do a lot of spitting (skins are tough and bitter, and they have seeds) so it’s definitely an outdoor snack. I spent a little quality time out front distributing seeds and skins around the edge of the dropoff to the road.

Saturday, October 20, 2007 7 comments

FAR Future, Episode 11

Starting with this episode, the “exactly five years from today” setting is going away. The future moves at its own speed, after all.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012
October Surprises

Not much of one, really. There are so many foreclosures in the works that even some bankers (anonymously) expressed relief that the Foreclosure Moratorium Act went through. The same goplets tried the throw the same roadblocks as always, but what do they have to lose? They’ve been toast for several years, and in two weeks they’ll be burnt toast.

That talking heads haven’t even said boo about it, which (seeing that it’s Hallowe’en tomorrow) is hardly sporting. I guess they realize that FMA is wildly popular among just about everyone, and talking about it is only going to be a distraction. Thus, they’re still pounding the fraud angle on gas rationing, and claiming selective enforcement when their own get dinged for it. The thing that got me worried, though, was earlier this week when Shotgun Sam was talking to a caller whining about yet another goplet blowout on the way. “Don’t worry about it,” Sam said. “We’ll win either way.” Then he changed the subject.

What was that about?

I don’t think they could pull off election fraud on the scale it would take to shift more than a couple of districts, but a whole state? Enough states to swing the electoral college? Not likely. I wonder if it has anything to do with those “Dixie Shall Rise” stickers I’ve been seeing on road signs and gas pumps lately.

Are the wingies planning an armed coup? Frankly, the thought prompted me to think about taking a couple weeks of vacation up north after the election. But goobers are everywhere, even if they’re not numerous in most places (Planet Georgia being an unfortunate exception). Mrs. Fetched thinks we’ll be better off staying put, since they won’t feel threatened where they’re the majority. Maybe. She also said that even if I’m right, we don’t know when things go pear-shaped — it could be next month, it could be January, or even later.

It could be some kind of secession movement. Some state reprehensible candidates started pushing this “new majority” theme last week. I spent some time trying to figure out what that meant — nobody’s crazy enough to think the goplets will have more than 100 reps in the House next year, or 20 Senators, let alone get a majority. (Except, of course, the delusional dude they have running for Prez that claims he’ll carry 40 states and 67% of the popular vote.) On Planet Georgia, of course, the legislature has been a majority for 10 or 12 years, so there’s nothing “new” about that. Unless (again) they’re plotting an overthrow, secession is the only thing I can think of that would create some kind of new majority — and I don’t think you can let that many people in on a plot to overthrow the government without someone spilling the beans. Of course, if they do try pulling something like that, Shotgun Sam’s little outburst back in late August will get him a lot of unwanted attention — he could be doing his show from a jail cell (which would be kind of fun to listen to).

Secession would bring its own problems, though, and energy would top the list. I doubt that the government would let, say, the Texas/Louisiana oil fields go without a fight. Then there’s the question of electrical supply; the grids might tie us together more tightly than the politics. Families scattered in different places, Internet links, phone links… what a mess it would be.

Wow, talk about a digression. The Foreclosure Moratorium is supposed to give people some breathing room. Home“owners” have to put their houses up for sale to avoid foreclosure, they avoid bankruptcy, and the bank sets the minimum acceptable price (although the loan-holder supposedly gets to negotiate with the bank about that). Some banks have been re-negotiating loan terms to give the buyer enough breathing room to pay the loan — the bank eats some unrealized income that they wouldn’t have gotten, and get a performing loan on the books — but some have refused to change their procedures & would up holding a ton of crumbling houses they can’t unload. Sure, if the economy ever recovers they’ll have a bunch of valuable acreage, but that in itself is a gamble. I think the FMA will push them to start taking a more reasonable line… and keep those banking execs from getting shot at or worse.


Friday, October 19, 2007 4 comments

Weekend Cinema (October horror continues!)

Long ago, CATV brought wonders of programming that we didn’t get on the Grand Rapids or Kalamazoo stations — like the South Bend UHF station that ran the “Double Creature Feature” on Saturday nights. The Screaming Skull was one of the scarier movies they showed — so it seemed at the time. Looking at the description, I wasn’t even sure it was the same movie until the first scene… nobody ever got that hokey before or since…

Enjoy! I recommend a fine wine, perhaps Thunderbird or Mad Dog 20/20, to go with this cinematic cheese.

Thursday, October 18, 2007 13 comments

Alienating Customers in Two Easy Steps

The butterfly effect: when I first got interested in blogging, I was a pretty die-hard Yahoo! user, so I went to see if they had anything. They didn’t, I wasn’t able to find any other blogging services at that moment, so I went on to other things. Some months later, I found Blogger, started TFM, and the rest is history — only later did I learn that Yahoo! had opened Yahoo!360 about a month earlier. If I’d looked at Yahoo again, or they had opened 360 up earlier, Tales from FAR Manor would have been a Yahoo blog. As it was, during that rough patch where Blogger was flaking out a lot, I was getting ready to move the whole shebang over to 360 anyway. But then Google fixed the problems and I’m still here… except that I started a work-related blog, under my real name, at 360.

Like most beta software, 360 has had its share of growing pains. Some less than well-executed moves by Yahoo, however, made things worse — for example, after buying Flickr, Yahoo decided to migrate Yahoo Photos to Flickr. The transition did not go well for many people, and (perhaps reflecting the older crowd on 360) the change was not well-received in any case.

Things came to a head in the last month or so. Whenever the 360 team added a new post to the product blog (might only be visible to 360 members, not sure), people raised the same issues: problems with the photo transition, blog-stalkers, disappearing posts or entire blogs, friends being deleted — over and over, and no recognition from the 360 team that the problems were being worked on or that they were even reading the comments. Then the communications pretty much dried up completely after a post on August 10. Rumors started flying, especially after Jerry Yang included 360 in a list of items that were being de-emphasized during the conference call (following 3rd-quarter financial reports).

Looking for any way to get Yahoo to notice the issues on 360, many users took to posting on Yahoo's Mash feedback forum. (Mash is a new social-networking site, owned by Yahoo and apparently targeted to a much younger demographic than the typical 360 user.) The Mash folks responded, at least, even if they deleted 360-related posts, but the volume must have gotten a bit much because Darrell Jones posted something for the first time in two months: Yahoo! 360ยบ Questions? Let’s Talk (Uhhh, Right Here). The title was taken by some to be rather condescending — after all, there had been no communication for two months and the post content still contained no recognition that they were paying attention to the problems people were having… then over 1600 comments, with no response again, infuriated people even more. Darrell’s new nickname became “UHHH.” Some people found Darrell’s 360 blog, which hadn’t been updated since February, and started leaving “Quick Comments.” After a couple days of that, Darrell simply turned off Quick Comments with no other response.

Finally after nearly a week, Matt Warburton (they at least saw that Darrell was toast with the users) posted The Evolution of Yahoo! 360, which (yet again) was short on specifics, only promising “that Yahoo! 360 will transition to a new universal Yahoo! profile that will be closely tied to other relevant services across Yahoo!, and will include improved blogging capabilities.” Many 360 users took this to mean that Mash (which, like Myspace and Facebook, is profile- rather than blog-oriented) would be the new way forward — of the over 900 comments posted so far, many of them boiled down to “If I wanted Myspace, I’d be on Myspace. Just fix the bugs.”

But it may be too late. In the “Evolution” post comments, many are threatening to leave if 360 becomes Mash'ed up, others have said they’re already leaving. It’s probably true: Bloggers Anonymous has reported falling membership due to people leaving 360. According to the comments in the “Evolution” post, many are leaving for Multiply.

It would be a shame to lose 360. There are several nice features that Blogger simply doesn’t have, or exist only as third-party add-ons. First, the “Blast” lets bloggers put a brief banner message (with an optional link) at the top — it’s like an integrated Twitter. Quick Comments, which I mentioned earlier, is a built-in shout-box. And the “friends” and “groups” lists are something we have to do manually here on Blogger. Of course, there are also things that 360 is missing that Blogger has, like drafts and the ability for non-members to leave messages. It will be interesting to see if Google’s Orkut re-launch (coming next month) will add some social-networking aspects to Blogger. I’m sure a lot of 360 users are wondering about it as well.

So Yahoo has shown us how to alienate customers in two easy steps:

1) Let problems languish for months with no action or response.

2) When forced to respond, be condescending and don’t respond further.

Sunday, October 14, 2007 8 comments

Daughter Dearest turns 18 (OMG OMG OMG)

Today was the day… some things you can’t put off. And would you want to even if you could?

We started the morning thus: Mrs. Fetched, Cousin Al, and I went (sort of) quietly upstairs to DD’s room, carrying a Yorkie that Big V wanted us to keep for a week to prevent unscheduled breeding. DD, being pretty smart, knew what was coming and pulled the covers over her head. However, she failed to do anything about the side so that’s where we inserted the Yorkie. The resulting squawk was most satisfying.

For reasons I haven’t quite worked up the nerve to ask about, Mrs. Fetched decided to have a birthday breakfast (at Ryan’s, naturally) and skip church. We had close to two dozen people show up — but I had to leave early because the music director at church had some family over and I’m the #2 person there. Oh well. I missed the presents but I pretty much knew what she got anyway… partly because I helped wrap most of them.

As we were all stuffed from breakfast, we came back to the house and goofed off for a while. DD got out the dance pads and we had a good time watching each other stumble around… except for DD and her cousin Brand X, who are pretty good at it.

And of course, there was cake. Actually, there were two cakes. Mrs. Fetched’s mom brought a present along. DD said, “I hope this is a hair dryer — I really need one.” It was. She was happy.

And after cake, there was a trip to the theater to watch The Gameplan. The Boy and J decided to stay here, so I also decided to stay here just to make sure things didn’t get out of hand. Naturally, they left shortly after and haven’t been seen since (and he hasn’t been where he said they were going, naturally). But with an empty house, I decided to finish scraping the paint off the trim above the garage. I had to lash the scraper to a pole to reach the top, but I got it. (I’ll probably do the same thing for the paint.)

I got out a bottle of homebrew last night, and it’s not quite ready to go yet. It’s sleepy: you have to shake it to wake it up some before opening the bottle. Give it a couple more weeks, I guess. It’s still DD18, for lack of a better name.

Saturday, October 13, 2007 4 comments

Weekend Cinema

Since it’s still October out there, we’re continuing to highlight free, feature-length horror flicks!

I remember when Night of the Living Dead first came out, when I was maybe 9. They must have had a pretty aggressive radio buy, because I can still remember that hollow deep voice from the ads: “Night—” eeeeeeeeeeeeeee! “of the Living Dead.”

All of these movies have a low-bandwidth streaming version for people on dialup, if you don’t mind a tiny screen. The streams and download links are on the left side of the page.

Let’s hear that screamer one more time. “Night—” eeeeeeeeeeeeeee! “of the Living Dead.” (Heh, I have to laugh whenever I remember that.)

Thursday, October 11, 2007 9 comments

Ye Olde Placeholder

Not a whole lot going on at the manor tonight (or most of the week). I’ve been putting a fair amount of work into two of three personal writing projects instead.

As usual, I came home tonight to no supper — less usual, no Mrs. Fetched or Daughter Dearest either. Or The Boy, for that matter. At least he left a note about where he was (fishing at the pond). M.A.E. called shortly thereafter; she and her boyfriend were down at the pond with The Boy. She’s nine weeks along now, and has signed up for (and got) WIC and Medicaid. They came by, chatted for a while, then left. The Boy is making music with Cousin Splat and another friend. Then the girls showed up with supper — hooray! — but missed M.A.E. by not much.

The low tonight is supposed to hit the mid-40s (°F). Considering that we’ve had frost around this time in other years, this isn’t so bad. Things will heat up this weekend, at least figuratively, as Daughter Dearest has All-State tryouts on Saturday and her (OMG, it can’t be!) 18th birthday on Sunday.

Monday, October 08, 2007 8 comments

Moving the Tollbooth

Just in case you haven’t heard yet, the British band Radiohead is taking online pre-orders for their new album. That’s nothing out of the ordinary, except that they are letting the purchasers determine the price they pay — from 46 pence (45 of which is a credit card transaction fee) on up. Daring? Maybe.

Radiohead parted ways with their record label (EMI) when their contract ran out in 2003, which gives them the freedom to market their new music online without RIAA interference (or the UK equivalent, whose name escapes me at the moment). Considering that a recording artist’s cut of a retail CD sale is maybe 10%, and assuming a new-release CD goes for $18 (which is typical in the US, not so sure about the UK), then you’d guess that an average sale price of $1.80 average will net them what they would have gotten in royalties. Actually, we should account for recording expenses and hosting/bandwidth fees as well — but they're getting free promotion from everyone (including me) and I’m pretty sure that a $5 average sale price is going to put them ahead of the curve.

Yesterday, The Register interviewed Gerd Leonhard, a media consultant who is putting up his newest book, The End of Control, as a set of PDFs. According the the El Reg article, he writes lovely sentiments on his blog like “Another 12 months for this Radiohead experiment to become the default approach” and “move the tollbooth further down.” To be sure, the labels that comprise the RIAA membership are trapped in an old business model that worked well (for the executives, at least) for a long time — they will not be able to adapt quickly, and it’s just as likely that they will drive away their last retail customers with “piracy” lawsuits. Naturally, they will blame everything and everyone but themselves as they sink into the pool of irrelevance where the buggy-whip manufacturers of the early 20th century are likely waiting to receive the first industrial casualty of the 21st.

The recording industry is quick to remind us that they provide valuable services: production, promotion, distribution — and indirectly, with top-shelf acts (like Radiohead) subsidizing the up-and-comers. But when production is a matter of copying files to a server, and distribution is iTunes or eMusic (or services that wish they were iTunes or eMusic), what’s left? Promotion? When is the last time you heard or saw an ad for a new CD coming out? (Actually, I suspect that promotion these days amounts to paying Clear Channel and other giants to play selected tracks on the air, a practice known as “payola” and once frowned upon.) But I’m sure I’m not the only person who rarely listens to commercial radio nowadays. The last CD we bought was an act Daughter Dearest heard on MySpace. The next two CDs I buy will be from groups I’ve heard on streaming stations.

Leonhard says, “The real money is not in the CDs. It's in the gigs, the merchandising, the sponsorships. To make that money, you have to let people further down the highway before they arrive at the tollbooth.” But how do you get the people to the tollbooth? Thus, I still see a role for traditional music publishers: as incubators for new acts. Not nearly as lucrative as it used to be, partly because promotion is all they really have left to offer and they’ll have to actually do some of that promotion — including getting tracks into the hands of streaming stations and giving away some free samples.

Aspiring writers, unfortunately, only enjoy part of the potential that the Internet brings to aspiring musicians. Non-fiction writers, like Leonhard (or my day job, for that matter) can self-publish non-fiction to promote consulting or similar businesses… the book becomes a loss leader, much like a free music track, in the hopes that people will like what they read and pay for related services. But fiction writers, especially novelists, have it more difficult: as I’ve said before, people won’t abandon paperbacks until e-book readers with hi-res screens sell for $10 in the grocery checkout line. In the meantime, it’s a lot harder to print and bind a book than it is to burn a CD — and writers don’t have 10,000 people lining up to buy tickets to a reading.

But the Internet does, however, open up possibilities for new kinds of fiction. I humbly submit that FAR Future is one example: by the time I finished the story, and it wound its way through the publishing system and onto the shelves, it would be perhaps two or three years to 2012 instead of five, the writing would be on the wall, and the parts I guess wrong would make the whole story less believable.

But here’s the bottom line: can authors make a living publishing fiction online? and if so, how? I have an idea along those lines — but like Radiohead and their new album, it would likely work best with an established fan base.

Saturday, October 06, 2007 6 comments

My Saturday To-do List

OK, here’s what’s on my plate today. Stuff I’ve got done is crossed off.

Get a new tire for Daughter Dearest’s car (also got one for Mrs. Fetched‘s)
Check out the lead I had on some scaffolding (didn’t pan out)
Change out the water filters
Sharpen the hatchet
Clean out the rain gutter on Studio FAR (rain gutters make great compost, don’t they?)
Help Mrs. Fetched plant some flower bulbs (that was her idea, btw)
Pick up trash in the back yard (and along the road, found a bunch of old bottles)
Weed-eating (almost didn’t happen, the weed-eater flooded out)
Call my cousin in Florida to wish him happy birthday

Hm… all done. I guess I get to enjoy the rest of the day!

Friday, October 05, 2007 7 comments

Weekend Cinema

It’s October, which means Hallowe’en is coming, so this weekend we’re bringing you a classic feature-length horror film!

Grab a stake and check out The Last Man On Earth, starring none other than Vincent Price. Watch it online, or download an MPEG from the left side of the page.

Based on the chilling Richard Matheson science fiction Classic "I am Legend" and later remade as "The Omega Man" starring Charlton Heston. This classic features Vincent Price as scientist Robert Morgan in a post apocalyptic nightmare world. The world has been consumed by a ravenous plague that has transformed humanity into a race of bloodthirsty vampires. Only Morgan proves immune, and becomes the solitary vampire slayer.

A vampire flick… I need to make sure Carnacki sees this…

Thursday, October 04, 2007 5 comments

FAR Future, Episode 10

This was going to be Episode 11, but the way things worked out I ended up swapping them. At least I have a post (mostly) ready for later.

Thursday, October 4, 2012
Great Timing

It was like flipping a switch here. One week, we were blacked out most of the daylight hours. The next… hardly a glitch. Fall weather has arrived at last, and brought some electricity with it! Of course, with summer gone, the windmill is turning, and the solar panels got delivered yesterday too. Oh well, at least I’ll have everything ready for next summer.

Another thing that fall has brought are tourists on bicycles. Last year, I finally setup the cyclist rest stop that I’ve been meaning to do, and it’s really getting used at the moment. Clubs organize group rides, but that usually means a bunch of small groups, where each group comes together from people riding the same pace… so there’s usually no more than 5 or 6 people there at a time, but they come & go through the day. I keep a water dispenser filled up, or try to these days — I left a sign showing where the outside water is if I’m slow, and the cyclists pretty much take care of it when I don’t. They do a good job of keeping the place clean too; I just change out the trash bags.

On my off-days, or days when not much is going on work-wise, I like to sit down there and talk with the people coming through. Most of the rides now are day/weekend things, but some of the really serious bikers are taking October off entirely and doing some long tours. Some of the weekenders camp out, which I don’t have a problem with. Mrs. Fetched was wary at first, but the clubs have put the word out: be nice to these guys. :-) I’ve brought up the idea of putting up a big pergola in the kudzu for shade, and got a bunch of people volunteering materials and labor. I wasn’t sure they were serious enough to actually follow through, but I just got an email from one of the bigger clubs about setting up a work day. I figure we can use it for a roadside produce stand next year, too.

A news article came down my Yahoo feed, about people who are letting their unused gas allotments expire instead of trying to sell them. Some don’t want to go through the hassle of transferring them, some are doing it out of principle (like the folks who buy carbon permits to take them off the market), and some are concerned about fraud. Shotgun Sam has been directed to talk up that last point, from the sound of it, and he might have finally found an anti-rationing topic with legs… either that, or using the faux-outrage that the wingies project so well as a cover, he managed to suggest several ways that his listeners could join the fun and get more fuel:

• Apply for a separate ration card under the wife’s maiden name, tacking an “apartment number” to the home address
• Lie about your occupation (everyone is a carpenter or farmer!)
• If you live near an abandoned house (and there’s a few of those in the burbs), use the name and address of the last occupant and snag the mail when it comes in

[Note to any NFRD enforcers reading this: I transcribed these suggestions from today’s “Shotgun Sam Weatherby’s Truthcast,” heard on AM750 from 2 to 4 on weekday afternoons and available on the Internet as a podcast. I’ve saved an MP3 if they delete or modify this particular episode. Don’t shoot the messenger.]

Now that I went and disinfected my fingers after typing the title of that show… Of the three, I’d say the last is the safest — the biggest risk is that someone gets the mail before you do, but you don’t have an illegal activity associated with your address (aka: plausible deniability). Sam’s (or rather, his patrons’) motives are obvious: game the system to death. Rationing is working, a bit too well for the cons in fact.

Come to think of it, that article left off another possible reason for allotments expiring: with summer over, people aren’t driving so much. Then again, the going rate on the exchange hasn’t dropped much, which makes me wonder whether people are buying and storing gas. Come to think of it, I’m seeing certain names turning up on the buy side quite a bit, buying up stale allotments and even offering to buy expiring (less than 4 days) allotments on the private exchange. I wonder if there’s any provisions for checking into those folks. On the other hand, if they only blow themselves up… like Larry Niven said, think of it as evolution in action.


Wednesday, October 03, 2007 No comments

Tuesday, October 02, 2007 8 comments

Trim work, in a nutshell

Working under the “picture’s worth a thousand words” theory, I threw together a little composite image of the current FAR Manor maintenance project to show you what I’m up to. From left to right, you can see: trim with peeling paint, trim that’s been partially scraped, and finally re-painted trim. The latter needs another coat, in my opinion. This is just the part above the garage; I haven't even started on the part above our bedroom (which needs to be replaced, not repainted).

Using a ladder means the work is going pretty slow at the moment. I scrape what I can reach, then paint it. I ran out of time before finishing the paint part; with any luck, I can get a little time in through the week and try to finish this weekend. I might try laying on the roof, reaching over, and scraping that way — it might be less hassle than the ladder, but it will probably not be very comfortable.

Scaffolding. I need scaffolding. Actually, I don’t need the scaffolding until Saturday. Right now, I sure could go for a beer. Too bad I’m out.


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