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Wednesday, December 31, 2008 13 comments

My Predictions for 2009

Jim Kunster posted his “Forecast for 2009” on his blog Monday morning. What follows is based on a comment I left in response, with my own predictions. I’ve done some rearranging and expansion on that original comment.

January → March

The year will likely begin with a quiet period, relative to the rest of the year, after the inauguration euphoria. Retailers are declaring bankruptcy (Circuit City, KB Toys) now, so it would be inaccurate to say the implosion starts early next year. But it will start picking up steam. The Obama administration, even with a high initial approval rating, will dribble out bad news slowly to prevent panic.

Most everyone will admit that the auto manufacturers, currently on life support, won’t recover. GM will break up, maybe voluntarily, into three companies: budget/consumer/sport (Chevy/Pontiac), luxury (Buick/Cadillac), trucks/industrial. Auto workers will own a significant portion of the companies, which will help with wage concessions (the best way to bust a union, after all, is to turn the workers into owners). Ford will swallow some of Chrysler, the rest will wither and die. The Japanese companies will scale back their operations. The job losses will ripple through the supply and dealership chains, and outward from there. Herculean rescue efforts will slow but not stop the hemorrhaging.

Some thousands of people will be caught out without converter boxes when the analog broadcast TV signals are turned off in February. There will be much noise made, and much pressure put on the FCC to push out the date. Eventually, the networks and local stations will dish out freebie converter boxes. But some people will find out they really don’t miss TV at all.

April → June

Fox Spew will begin referring to the “Obama depression.”

While mortgage resets continue declining to a summer 2009 minimum, job losses in retail and (later on) auto sectors will lead to increased defaults. The Obama administration will likely enact a law requiring the actual owner of the mortgage to initiate foreclosure, so there will be a mad scramble to figure out just who the heck owns the paper on all those houses.

Republicans will obstruct, spin, and do anything they can to tear own Obama (and the country be damned). Obama and a mob of angry constituents will begin forcibly implanting a spine in congressional Democrats.

July → September

The first steps toward universal healthcare will be taken. We won’t get there immediately, or even quickly.

Rolling blackouts may begin in isolated regions, but they won’t be seen nationwide until around 2012 (see FAR Future #1). A lot of people will leave their A/C off as much as possible to save on electric bills. There may be some spot gasoline/diesel shortages in various regions, like the upper Plains saw last summer (and the Southeast in the fall), based more on refinery or pipeline issues than any kind of crude shortage.

Through the summer, some dozens of unemployed bloggers will take cross-country road trips, talking to people and photographing the economic devastation. They will travel by various means, including hitchhiking or just hiking, and eat from government-supplied food pantries (below). One of them will break through to a book deal, and be hailed as “the 21st century Kerouac.”

Mortgage resets bottom out and begin the next wave in late summer. A foreclosure moratorium will be imposed, probably 60 or 90 days, followed by tax incentives for surviving banks who voluntarily refrain from foreclosing (with partial success). Squatting in abandoned houses will be widespread, but most squatters will keep up the properties they occupy and nobody will worry much about it. There will naturally be a few druggies and bangers taking over abandoned houses, and they’ll get all the media attention.

The government will either buy or seize food stocks in response to reports of small pockets of hunger/starvation. Agribusiness will take a big hit, and perhaps be nationalized to prevent an ongoing food crisis. The “victory garden” concept will make a comeback, under a new name like “food security garden,” and people will be attending classes and gathering information and tools for spring planting.

October → December

Argentines will begin consulting with unemployed American laborers, explaining how they took over shuttered factories and began producing things of value. It will mostly stay under the media radar in 2009, though.

There will be a mad scramble to ensure people have enough heat to survive the winter. Some low-income northerners may be relocated south and installed in otherwise abandoned dwellings for the winter, triggering howls of outrage from right wing locals.

General Economic trends

Inflation? Fuhgeddabotit. Whatever money is printed to keep the economy afloat will follow the old money right down the rathole. There’s just too much money evaporating in the finance sector to worry about inflation. The only way inflation will be an issue in 2009 is if Obama declares it a Jubilee Year and wipes out all debts, public and private, with the stroke of a pen. That would free up all the money going to service debts for buying stuff — and is about as likely as commercial fusion power being deployed next year.

Part & parcel with (lack of) inflation will be a more stable oil price regime, compared to 2008. OPEC will continue to chase demand down the price curve; whether they actually catch up is the question. Cash-strapped producer nations might tell OPEC to go pound sand (not oil sand though) and keep pumping. Leaving out so-called Black Swan events, as the 800-pound consumer gorilla (the US) continues to lose weight, oil prices might fluctuate between $40 & $80/bbl (you may remember me saying we’d probably never see oil under $100/bbl though, so add salt as needed). Spot shortages will have external causes such as refinery fires.

…and Beyond

Mortgage rate resets, according to a couple graphs I found online, will be less widespread in 2009 than in 2008. Last year was the year for major sub-prime resets; 2010 will see the Alt-A and Option ARM resets balloon though, and mostly keep climbing until autumn 2011, dropping off precipitously by summer 2012.

Given the current lower demand for oil, new sources won’t be developed and the more exotic sources (tar sands, deep water) will be too expensive to continue producing. Production cuts are currently aimed at a stable market; in the next couple of years it will shift to an economic base (i.e. uneconomical to increase production) then hit physical constraints (the whole point of peak oil). The initial parts of FAR Future are merely extrapolating current trends a few years ahead.

Monday, December 29, 2008 8 comments

FAR Future, Episode 66: Farewell, Sammy

Back to work, shortly after this post goes up. Happier times in the FAR Future?

Tuesday, October 25, 2022
Farewell, Sammy

Summer’s over, no doubt about it. We’re back to sleeping inside. At least it won’t be just us next summer… Kim and Serena at least should finish up their hitch(es) and come home this spring. I never thought I’d say this, but I miss having the house full of people. OK, I’ll be honest: I wish they were here to help cut firewood. Does that sound more like me? ;-) But that’s only half-honest. I expect Kim and Christina will be moving away next year, probably to Atlanta or maybe Athens (GA) or some other college town. Mrs. and Mr. Daughter Dearest are already out — they grabbed a place in town so DD can walk to school and teach. They’re talking about moving back to Seattle, but with fuel the way it is Dean has to do his training gigs remotely — and as long as he has a lectern, a video camera, and a decent Internet hookup, he can do that from anywhere.

The publishers are getting ready to start printing Christina’s biochem textbook. It will be available for the next school year, which is really something… and has already garnered her several assistant professorship offers from various colleges. Having done some work for Corettaville, which is probably going to take the first “Enclosed Community of the Year” award from ECHO this year, she’s also getting a lot of queries about doing consulting work for other wallyworlds. She’s not all that interested in consulting for a living, although she could certainly swing it, given the number of queries she’s had. Still, she would like to do occasional side jobs like that… she thinks it would help her keep her research practical and give her a chance to get out and see a little of the country (once things get a little more stable, of course).

With the junta gone, there’s suddenly more traffic than you’d expect going east and west on the highway just down from FAR Manor — mostly bicycles and walking tourists, but you see the occasional scooter. Someone opened up “Luke’s at New Hope Corner” — a sort of combination tavern and hostel for travelers who want some food or a place to rest — at the crossroads. Since it’s a 2-minute walk from the manor, Guillermo and I are getting to be “the regulars” there — Luke buys food from us (except beef, not too many people can afford that) for the business, so we have a good excuse to walk down there in the evenings and get the order together for the next day. He also brews a pretty good hooch, but we haven’t told the ladies of that reason to visit. As if they haven’t seen their two old men come wobbling through the door, with the evening’s revelry on our breath? Our old Happy Hound gives us an escort there and back, and enjoys the attention from the travelers (not to mention the scraps he gets from Luke).

Of course, the shale mining prisoners have been freed and sent home. I hope the people running the camp (and the rest of the junta, for that matter) are put to work mining shale themselves, under the exact same conditions they provided for the prisoners… yeah, vindictive. But we need to make an example of the junta, so nobody else ever gets any stupid ideas, which I suppose would mean we’ll have to go into Texas sooner or later. I understand that the cheerleaders at Fox Spew, and even a lot of the DC punditry, have bolted for their various ratholes or “gone to RoT,” as they say. I’m not sure where Shotgun Sam got himself off to… maybe he’s gone to RoT too, or he just wasn’t all that important and isn’t being bothered. Asset seizures have taken the place of taxation, at least for a few months.

The President and his caretaker government have been scrambling to get things to the point where we can have elections in two weeks, but now they’re talking about having a lottery: all registered voters ages 25 to 70 (you have to be 25 to be a reprehensible, so says the Constitution) get thrown into a hat and the “winner” gets to spend the next two years in DC, but I don’t know if they’d do the Senate that way or not. The election date isn’t specified by the Constitution, so as long as the elections happen soon enough to get the votes counted and the new congresscritters sworn in by January 3, no harm no foul. A lottery just seems a little drastic, but it would give the new reps a couple months to get their affairs in order and get on a train. As for the President himself, everyone seems to be content to let him serve out the current term (through 2024).

With the junta no longer a problem, outside of one (large) place, Sammy has pretty much stood down. Of course, there will still be samizdat for the Rotters who want it, but Sammy is redundant in the rest of the country since there’s a free press once again. Still, I wouldn’t mind if we keep an underground press in this country; Lord knows how quickly things can change. I think the new Congress will be doing a lot of clean-up, and it’s going to be important to have a news source that isn’t too chummy with either the old old gang or the new old gang. I just hope the new government can look beyond the junta’s trainwreck and start moving us toward some kind of civilization that doesn’t involve heavy dependence on fossil fuel.


Friday, December 26, 2008 15 comments

Staycation, Winding Down

Me wearing antlersNow it’s Christmas Past. And the staycation is entering its final weekend (although I only have a two-day week next week, good way to ease back in after two weeks off).

I’m SO glad to have “all Christmas music all the time” in my rear-view mirror. They didn't do that when I was younger; they'd just mix in holiday music with the normal programming & that was fine. But I get burned out real fast on the same stuff constantly, and I about went nuts the year “Christmas Shoes” came out because they played it over and over… and over… and over… seemed like 3–4 times an hour. And I’m not a big fan of depressing songs anyway (I mean, come on, the kid’s mom is going to die at Christmas, and how is that going to affect his outlook in the years to come?). On the other hand, there are a few holiday/Christmas songs that I could listen to throughout the year — the instrumental version of “Sleigh Ride” comes to mind — just as long as it wasn’t a steady diet.

OK… I know I was good this year, but this good?

Canon EOS 40D

This (Canon EOS 40D) was the camera I wanted to get before my old PowerShot died… and would have, if the company stock hadn’t tanked in front of the rest of the market. I had pretty much hit the limits of what the PowerShot could do, and I used it to take photos that ended up in my documentation. According to the counter in iPhoto, I took just short of 5000 pictures with it… of course, I deleted a bunch of shots that didn’t turn out or were redundant. When it died, it wasn’t quite like losing a hand — maybe a finger or two. You can mostly get by without the missing pieces, but there are times when it gets annoying and a prosthetic (i.e. cellphone camera) doesn’t quite get the job done. It’s been too rainy for a photowalk, but maybe I’ll have a chance tomorrow. Fog in the morning may make for some interesting shots.

When I got Clickzilla, it came with a Metz flash. The battery pack is all but dead (good for like three shots), but looking around I find I can get it rebuilt for $60. That’s a dang sight cheaper than $300 for a new flash. Interestingly, with the Metz flash attached, I have to hit the shutter button twice: once to flip the mirror back and once to get the shot. I’ll have to go through the camera manual again to see whether that’s normal or if I can change a setting. There will be some learning once I get the battery pack rebuilt, but with that I’ll be set… this flash can reach out and light stuff up.

I think the camera might have seen some service as a floor model… there was a 2GB CF card already in the camera when I got it out of the box and there were a few pictures (that looked like stuff shot in a camera store) on the card — but hey, a free 2GB card is nothing to sneeze at. I also found an old Pelican bag that had a dead camcorder in it (a Sony, Mrs. Fetched’s first DV) and dedicated it to the EOS. Mrs. Fetched has some interesting stuff in her XL-1 bag, including some close-up filters that will fit. The lenses are supposed to be interchangeable between the two cameras, so I might have to borrow the humongo lens off her camcorder and try it out too. I’ve also heard of adapters that will let me use Clickzilla’s lenses with the EOS, and that would be nice.

Mr. Sunshine is up to play some Wii Golf. Hope everyone had a good Christmas. The new year will be quite happy about 20 days in.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008 5 comments

Christmas Eve

More rain, and even a thunderstorm a couple hours ago. I don’t remember ever having to yank the DSL on Christmas Eve… but on Planet Georgia, even the weather is a little neurotic. Winter #2, as I expected, is over after two days; Spring #2 is drooling all over us again. But if I bundle up, it looks like I might be able to ride the motorcycle to work Monday & Tuesday mornings (and then we’ll be out the rest of the week… too bad all work-weeks can’t be two days long).

funny pictures

We spent much of yesterday afternoon cutting and splitting wood, then stacking it behind the manor. The pile is fully replenished, and should last us a month if we don’t cut more sooner… we probably will though.

Daughter Dearest’s boyfriend Sasquatch (yup, it’s official… they’ve been “dating” since October but waited to tell us although we expected it anyway) has been spending a lot of time here. When he’s been gone, DD has been with him. I’m OK with it, and Mrs. Fetched seems to be. He’s somewhat transportation-limited, but he got over to the college once or twice somehow. I suspect that she gave him mono, but it didn’t hit him nearly as hard as it did her. But both of them are pretty much over it & (at least to me) are highly entertaining to have around.

Today was much less strenuous… A package from Mom arrived (which I’ll open tomorrow) and I took Jam down to Woodstock so she could pick up her car. She, Brand X, and Evil Lad NOT are headed north, into some much colder weather than we’ve had here at all. So is DoubleRed, although she’s going elsewhere.

Maybe the kitten can wait up for Santa, but I’m pooped regardless. See you in the morning.

Monday, December 22, 2008 6 comments

FAR Future, Episode 65: Run, Run, Run, Run Away

You know, I was so looking forward to writing this one.

Saturday, August 20, 2022
Run, Run, Run, Run Away

Wingnutistan delenda est.

I can’t imagine there’s much of it left, anyway — they did their “strategic redeployment” from Planet Georgia night before last. The news has been burning up the phone lines all over the place, about how they all disappeared overnight. Turns out a lot of vehicles were found at the Atlanta Airport — in this area, they must have all drove to the airport, drained the remaining fuel from their vehicles, loaded up, and flew away. Atlanta’s been one big street party since the word got out; most of the army wasn’t exactly married to the junta (even if they didn’t defect) so they handed the baton to the local cops and retreated to Fort McPherson and Fort Gillem.

The local 'Riots got disbanded, I guess… I bicycled by one guy’s place yesterday, one I know who was part of the gang. He had a big truck parked sideways across his driveway with a hand-lettered sign on the side:


Someone with more moxie than I have wrote across the bottom of the sign: But can you please get this truck out of my driveway? Cute. I haven’t heard any reports of Riot-cleansing around here, at least outside of Atlanta metro. They might get laughed at a lot, though… after carrying water for the junta, being the local bad dogs, they were abandoned to their fate.

If you had your TV off the last few months, I can’t really blame you… but now is a good time to turn it back on if you have juice. There’s a lot of news — real news — being broadcast. It turns out the junta bolted for Texas. Or “The Republic of Texas,” if you want to call it that (they do). Sounds more like Iran with a cross in place of a crescent, if you ask me — that fat televangelist from San Antonio, one of those monopolizing the TV until recently, is part of the inner circle, with the title “Minister of Moral Values.” The Taliban had their “Virtue and Vice Commissions,” looks like the Rotters (Republic of Texas → RoT → Rotter) have a Moral Values Ministry. Iran is dead, long live Iran. The question is whither the oil, as it always is these days… I suspect that if they want their own wingnut homeland, most of us would be happy to let them have it. But only if they don’t try playing games with the resources, and power tripping is what those guys are all about.

It’s good to see the President on TV again — he’s on his way back to Washington. His term expired while he was in exile, but I don’t guess there’s a problem with him running a caretaker administration until they get things put back together. He’s taking the train cross-country, stopping along the way to talk to people, and spending a lot of time on the phone. He’s called all the surviving congresscritters to come back and help, demanded the resignation of the Supreme Court (who went along with the junta), most of the Court of Appeals (ditto), and much of the lower federal courts. I suppose that the reconstituted (ahem) Congress will impeach and remove the ones who don’t go on their own.

At least the army is the US Army, and not the Grand Army of Wingnutistan or something like that. The Joint Chiefs issued a joint resignation, claiming that the laws didn’t allow them to take sides in a political conflict but they understood that there would be bad blood if they tried to stay on. At least we heard from Rene: “Hola, y’all. Still can’t talk about what we’re up to, but glad to be working for the good guys. Manny deserted, but the rest of us are on the job. Hope to be home soon.” The President has already said that he would honor the service-for-citizenship deal that the junta offered to the signees, but they’re cutting it off at the end of the month. That came up in one of the status reports that he delivers in the evenings, wherever the train has stopped. After the brief, he takes questions from the locals. One question that comes up at just about every stop is a variation on “When will we start getting fuel again?” The answer, “Probably never. We need to make other arrangements,” usually doesn’t go over too well. After 10 years, you’d think that people would have started getting used to the idea that we depend(ed) way too much on a finite resource that was running out. I’m amazed that some people still think we can bring back the glory days of SUVs and Outer Suburbia… or maybe I’m reading too much into the question. Maybe people don’t understand that what used to be the prime world supplier is now a radioactive no-go zone. Or maybe they’re hoping to hear that Pacifica came up with a techno-fix during the junta days and was just waiting to gift the rest of the country with it when we got back together.

It might sound a little early, especially since people like us are still sleeping outside where we can get some cool air, but the President has already started asking people to get together and make sure all their neighbors can stay warm this winter, or at least not freeze to death. I’ve never been able to figure out why people won’t think of these things themselves, but when the junta didn’t seem to care about what people were going through, it never occurred to many people to just go out and take care of business. At least we’re getting some prompting, and with enough lead time to think about what needs to be done before it starts getting cold.

Hey, the net’s up! Off to get this posted while I can…


Friday, December 19, 2008 2 comments

The 12 Seasons of Planet Georgia

Friends and relatives back in Michigan sometimes ask me how I deal with the weather here — “at least we get four seasons here," is one common refrain. I reply that on Planet Georgia, we have 12 seasons: summer, fall, winter, spring, winter, spring, winter, spring, winter, spring, winter, spring.

Winter #1 was fairly long, spanning much of November into the first third of December before it reluctantly started warming up a little. This week has been Spring #1, warm, wet, and smelling like spring; we let the firebox go out some time this week and I shoveled out a good-sized bucket of ash this afternoon. The forecasters have had a heck of a time with this system; the rain has stayed on much longer than anyone expected. Lord knows we need the rain, but it’s starting to get to the point where people are complaining about it. But when it’s not raining, I’ve been wandering around outside without a jacket and not missing it and driving with the windows down. As long as the rain hangs on, though, it will not be cold. But…

The meteorologists have been waiting for a cold front to sag south and bring us Winter #2. It looks like that will finally happen late Saturday night or early Sunday morning, just in time for the solstice, and it’s supposed to be 18°F Monday morning — which, of course, is when Mrs. Fetched gets her chickens again. But if the extended forecast has any credence, it will only get below freezing for two nights.

As for today, we spent some of the morning at a video shoot — for a poultry processing company, of all things — and the afternoon Christmas shopping.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008 7 comments

Building a Cold Frame

I actually managed to get one of the things done that I wanted to while off work!

Ever since I’d heard about cold frames, I’ve wanted to build one. Getting the tomato plants started a little early is never a bad idea, after all. We have plenty of scrap lumber around the manor, but not much scrap glass, so on Saturday I asked the local FreeCycle chapter for a glass shower door. By Saturday afternoon, I had two pieces: a 5½-x-2 foot door, and a 39x35 inch random piece of glass — both just straight glass. Sweet! So...

Glass lumber

So after helping Mrs. Fetched with the chickens today, I started sorting through the scrap lumber we had, then measuring out each piece against what I needed to build the frames. Interestingly enough, using the shower door frame worked out slightly better with the least wasted wood, so that’s the way I went. Naturally, I couldn’t find my circular saw (I think it got used at the chicken houses and “relocated” by one of the workers), so I borrowed one from Mrs. Fetched’s mom. It’s kind of cool; it has a laser pointer… not terribly practical for cutting 2x4s (as seen below) but really nice for plywood.

wood cutting

With the 2x4s cut, I proceeded to put the long sides together. I didn’t have nails long enough, but I had 3" screws and a drill… so I screwed it up, so to speak. I did managed to screw up a Phillips screwdriver bit, but fortunately I had another.

Once I had the long sides done, I fastened them together with a pair of 2x4s on each end:

completed framework

It turned out to be easier to cut the plywood on the table saw, so I struck my chalk lines and fired the big guy up. After that, it was simply a matter of screwing the cut pieces onto the frame and dropping the shower door on top… well, I had to remove the handle from the side facing the wood and find a couple of shorter screws to keep the handle I wanted, but that was a minor detail. Here’s the completed project, minus painting:

completed cold frame

The astute reader may notice a pair of 2x2s screwed to the front of the completed cold frame. There’s also a matching pair in the back; they’re to keep the door from slipping off when propped up. I didn’t put the glass on hinges, which lets me take it off so it’s not in the way when putting seedlings in or taking them out. It also lets me prop the thing up on either side, so the wind doesn’t blow straight in.

Considering I had all the wood laying around waiting for a purpose, and I got the glass for free, I’m pretty happy with the result. I just need to paint it & put it outside.

Monday, December 15, 2008 8 comments

Staycation, Days 1-3

Busy days… but a good kind of busy. Mostly.


I decided I’d like to try building a cold frame while off work, and I've heard of people building them using glass shower doors. I asked for a shower door on Freecycle in the morning, and by afternoon had a shower door and an extra 3' square piece of glass… I figure to build one for me and one for Mrs. Fetched’s mom. I’ll probably get started on it tomorrow; yes, there will be pictures. While out, I hopped over to visit The Boy at his new place. He finally got his power turned on, and hopes to have the phone/internet moved over this week.

Somewhere in all this, Mrs. Fetched found the computer ornament, then picked up the beer ornament off my dresser and hung them both back on the tree! W00T! I guess when the second and third opinions she got didn’t go her way, she decided maybe it wasn’t so horrible after all. 'Course, this means I’m on the hook to help with the decorating, but if I get some ownership I can deal with that. I also helped Daughter Dearest re-derange her room in preparation for her own decorating.


Sunday was Cantata Day. Our choir joined forces with a church in town to get a fair-sized group for a Christmas cantata. The only downside was that we had to do it twice — at their church in the morning and ours in the evening. The upside: we threw a potluck after the evening performance, and everyone chowed down. In the afternoon, I made a big batch of rolls and brought home an empty bowl.


Mondays, even on vacation, can be Mondays. Or Monday Lite, anyway. I got to sleep late, but I’d taken the time off forgetting that I had to attend a meeting this afternoon. Since there was a small batch of errands that had to be run near the office anyway, I got the list together and took care of them before popping into work. Unfortunately, there’s this manager (not mine) wanting to stick his nose in my business again… since my boss was also invited to the meeting but didn’t show (the others assume he doesn’t care), I guess I need to write an email. I left about an hour earlier than I would have under normal circumstances, and was surprised to find the traffic heavier than usual… I figured more people would be off work by now.

This hasn’t been too awful, so far…

FAR Future, Episode 64: Summertime, and the Junta is Sleazy

I’m hoping to have something to say, and the opportunity to say it, this week.

Friday, July 1, 2022
Summertime, and the Junta is Sleazy

As hot as the weather’s getting, it’s getting even hotter for the junta. It was probably like this for Argentina: their junta started the Falklands War to distract the people from the problems at home; after they lost the war, it was pretty much curtains for the junta. Freedom is eating its way into what was once (and soon may be again) America, a piece at a time, and the junta just can’t seem to stop it. (Having an army that won’t shoot seems to have that effect.) Anyway, whoever my benefactor is at the local junta office/outpost is still looking out for me. I had occasion, and enough fuel, to ride into town and pick up a few necessities this morning. After making my rounds, I came back to find an envelope taped to the handlebars. That took me back… seven years. It seems a lot longer than that since the Pat-Riots came blustering into FAR Manor to take Guillermo and his family to some unpleasant fate, and went away empty-handed.

Kim and Serena still have about a year left in their hitch. Rene got signed for three years, so he won’t get out until after they do. We hear from all of them, especially Kim since he’s at some version of Camp Baker, but from Rene we only get variations on “I’m still here, doing OK, love you guys.” I guess that’s why military intelligence is an oxymoron: you don’t know what they do, and the brass prefers they don’t know what they do either. Serena says they tool around the base on electric golf carts nowadays; Germany went big into solar a long time ago so they have enough juice to keep them charged up. Christina looks forward to Kim’s twice-weekly calls, and otherwise spends her time finishing up her education. She’s looking into interning at the university, with the possibility of getting on as a professor. From there, she figures she could get Kim in, either teaching ESL (English as a Second Language) or Spanish. Or both.

But I digress. The envelope, please. It contained a printed email. I’ve reproduced it here, redacting info that might identify my mole (as much as I’d like to know who it is myself):

From: HQ
Subject: SR Preparations

The Council has determined that Strategic Redeployment may be necessary in the next 6 months. It is beyond the scope of this Memo to detail the reasons for SR, or the timeframe. Orders to all Field Offices are as follows:

1) FO Post Commanders are tasked to keep the FO orderly and ready to redeploy at any time.

2) PCs are to notify detached personnel [Patriots? –FARf] to take precautionary measures, as they have been targets of unlawful action after FOs redeploy in many cases. Advise all detached personnel to complete outstanding reports ASAP and to deliver any signed-out materiel to the FO immediately. Avoid informing detached personnel of any pending redeployment.

3) PCs are tasked to identify staff who are: a) essential to the day-to-day operations of the FO; b) available for redeployment.

4) PCs and essential staff are tasked to identify essential personal items and effects. It is preferred that all such items and effects fit in a duffel, but in any case must not exceed the capacity of a single standard foot locker. Do not include toiletry and similar items as they will be provided after redeployment. Keep essential items packed and ready or, if necessary, ready to pack at a moment's notice.

5) Non-essential staff should be dismissed as soon as possible without disrupting day-to-day operations of the FO. Such staff should not be informed of the potential for redeployment.

6) PCs are tasked to identify the vehicle(s) necessary to redeploy staff and materiel. Such vehicle(s) must be maintained and have as much fuel as possible at all times.

7) If a redeployment order is given, time is of the essence. The identified redeployment vehicle(s) should be packed with all files and materiel ASAP. It is recommended that packing and movement be performed overnight. The actual redeployment order will include route information, including emergency refueling stops.

8) No FO should be redeployed before removal (preferred) or destruction of all files and materiel that could be exploited by the enemy. All fuel stored on-site should be removed, even if it requires extra vehicles to transport.

It is important to maintain morale at this critical juncture. Redeployment will allow us to concentrate our strength and eventually recover lost territories. Further details are of a strategic nature and will be distributed only on a need-to-know basis.

I can’t imagine them needing to bug out from Planet Georgia, but I might be underestimating the amount of resistance around here — it’s not exactly smart to post a personal ad saying “Looking for friends who are just as tired of Wingnutistan as I am, here’s my number.” What I do know is that it’s really hard to go anywhere right now. We get enough fuel to run some farm equipment and chainsaws, and to go get more. I could bicycle to town, but at my age it’s getting painful, and the RoadTrain is shut down anyway. I got a text from a friend in Atlanta: “Bus and train run at rush hour, not much else. Amtrak shut down. Everyone is stuck, but where would we go?”

Indeed. It seems like my world has been shrinking for a long time, and now it’s contracting to FAR Manor and the few places I can walk or bicycle to. It’s not like there’s anything better out there, though… not even Moscow or Dallas are choked with traffic these days. Maybe I can catch a train to the beach when this is over with. But for now, I’m stuck here and jonesing for coffee. We ran out last week, and it doesn’t stay on the shelves very long. I attempted to bribe a cashier to stash a couple cans away for me, but she wouldn’t go for it. I guess only the managers get to take those kind of bribes.


Friday, December 12, 2008 4 comments

Staycation, Day 0

The policy at work is that you can’t carry over more than two weeks of vacation each year, and we get three. I’d only used one week this year, so I had to unload some more days. Fortunately(?), my workload hit a lull point — that’s the life of a technical writer; you’re either swamped or bored to death. I’ve been dealing with minor projects I’d had to let slide for a while, with a side of occasional brushfire, but most of those are starting to wind out. So I put in for the time.

Between the screwy chicken house schedule (the next batch comes in on Christmas Eve, for cryin' out loud) and a profound lack of funds, we had neither the means nor the opportunity to go anywhere… so we’re staying here at FAR Manor. At least Daughter Dearest is home from college; there may be some levity on occasion. She got a B+ on one class, and has good hopes for the others. Due to the mono, she has an “incomplete” in algebra, so I’ll be helping her out with that. No biggie.

Arriving at home, the staycation started pretty much the way I expect it to go for the next couple of weeks: Mrs. Fetched gave me a minute to drop my stuff and use the bathroom, then sent me down to her mom’s for pizza. Her mom, in turn, sent me back to town with $100 to buy lotto tickets. Ohhhhhh… kayyyyyyy. If you’ve got that kind of money to waste on lotto, why not shut down the chicken houses?

Eh. I’m hoping to get some writing in during these next two weeks. Somewhere in between Christmas shopping, baking, parties, algebra, and a little wood-chopping. But I need a lot more booze than there is in the house at the moment. Then again, I get paid on Monday…

Weekend Cinema

Weekend Cinema is back, and still (like the perfect date) always fast and free!

Many of us have found ourselves at the office far later than we’d like — but sometimes, there are compensations. Tonight, see what one office worker finds — both good and bad — when faced with The Black Hole.

Hat tip to the Evil Twins’s dad for this one.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008 4 comments

A Reprieve(?)

Warning: this is not fiction. Do not adjust your browser.

The Citgo station close to the office is selling gas under $1.50 a gallon, and I managed a 6 under par in Wii Sports golf this evening. In other news…

Hell froze over

I remember $1.50/gal gas back in 2000. At that price, it’s now roughly 1/3 the price it was during the late summer (assisted by a couple of hurricanes, if you remember the fun we had in September). Here I issue my OOPS: I never expected to see this. $2, maybe. If I’d been asked to name a “floor” price in July, the absolute lowest we’d ever see again, I probably would have said $2.50.

So… what happened?

The easy answer would be, “the credit bubble popped.” A more involved answer would involve the general drubbing the economy has taken since the housing bubble popped, which led to the credit bubble popping, which led to just about everything else we’re seeing right now… including the FAILouts for the banking and auto industries.

Actually, a lot of this (excluding the FAILouts) was predicted by one of the Peak Oil models. The general plot is that as high oil prices drive up the price of pretty much everything, people cut 'way back on purchases to buy gas and the economy collapses; demand craters, oil prices plummet, lather rinse repeat. But I think even that model didn’t predict that oil would get downright cheap again. Some pundits are predicting $25/bbl, and that might actually happen briefly… right now, distributors are building inventories during a time that they usually deplete them to avoid inventory taxes. Once they reach capacity, that particular price prop goes away. Normally, I’d say something like “fat effing chance it gets to $25/bbl,” but maybe I’ve learned my lesson.

The big question is, what happens when low low oil prices start to stimulate the economy? I think that’s going to put us right back in the soup. The “free market” is reactive, but not quickly… which is at least part of our problem here. The market reacted to demand hitting absolute oil supply constraints earlier this year, and sent oil prices skyrocketing. When that happened, gas prices spiked to $4/gal, higher in some places, and diesel was even worse. Since pretty much everything depends on oil these days, prices of pretty much everything went up (i.e. inflation). Without a corresponding rise in wages (yeah right, in a Bush-league administration?), people started watching their spending — they either had to buy gas to get to work, or buy bus tickets, so they let everything else slide… which meant the retail economy went to hell in a handbasket. The US economy depends far too much on people buying stuff they don’t need, and don’t particularly want, so there was a huge ripple effect.

But while oil prices have collapsed, so have the business models of “non-conventional” production like the Canadian tar sands and many of the deep-water projects… at $40/bbl, they lose money, so I don’t expect to see them going for much longer. The “fun” part is, the world oil production figures reached a plateau in late 2005 and have been there ever since. In 2008, the numbers went up a bit, but included tar sands and some deep-water projects. In 2009, there will likely be a significant drop in world oil production — partly because of peak oil and partly because OPEC is chasing down demand. The question is, will the world ever be able to reach 2008 production levels again? I suspect not, partly because the oil companies will shut down expensive projects which would be needed to offset normal depletion rates. But as depletion sets in, it’s fairly likely that the economy will start to recover… and push up demand for oil. And this is the jumping-off point for FAR Future.

As slim a hope as it is, I thank God that Obama got elected. If anyone can at least slow down the biggest problems coming our way… it certainly wouldn’t be a Republican.

Monday, December 08, 2008 4 comments

FAR Future, Episode 63: The Peasants are Revolting

I’m probably going to be scarce through the rest of the month. Never fear, episodes will continue to auto-post every Monday at 7 a.m. until the holiday season lets go.

Sunday, May 1, 2022
The Peasants are Revolting

It’s interesting to watch a government unravel, especially when you’re not a fan. Ironically, it looks like Philadelphia is once again the epicenter of the American Revolution.

With a little encouragement from New England, Pennsylvania joined the “Rebel Alliance” last week. According to Sammy, people poured into the streets of Philly to celebrate, and as night fell the celebration turned into a thorough Pat-Riot cleansing. As much as I despise some of those yahoos, arson, assault, and even lynching… goes a little too far. Of course, the junta agreed and sent a battalion to “restore order.”

And thus the junta forced the issue onto the soldiers. Many of the grunts, even “fast-trackers” (i.e. Latinos recruited with the promise of citizenship) had no intention of turning their guns on American civilians. About half of them deserted along the way (or defected, as you’ll see) and the rest almost started shooting each other as they approached the city on I-95. The deserters, ironically, put an end to it — they regrouped and followed the remnant north, then demanded their surrender as they argued among themselves. The grunts were relieved and quickly switched sides; the junta loyalists, mostly officers, found a clue and gave up without any serious bloodshed.

In the next few days, about half of the entire military has either deserted (junta’s claim) or defected to the rebels (Sammy’s)… and I’d say some of both is going on. Naturally, the regular news channels aren’t carrying this info — in fact, they’re not carrying much of anything. The TV seems to have been given over entirely to certain televangelists, mostly preaching some variant of Hebrews 13:17 (“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account.”) — funny how they never quoted that particular scripture back before the junta, huh?

From what I’ve been hearing from Atlanta and other places, the army (the side that hasn’t defected) is patrolling all the cities under junta control at the moment. You wouldn’t know it from here, a few hours away on the RoadTrain, but Atlanta is all but under martial law right now. I guess that also goes for New Orleans, St. Louis, DC, and probably everywhere. The army may be alert for looters and insurrectionists, but a certain street preacher pretty much goes where he pleases and draws a crowd wherever he puts down his cardboard box. I got hold of a smuggled video, never mind how. :-) Hush now, The Prophet is about to speak:

Hold fast, Jerusalem, for the Lord has heard your groaning and your cry for help. I say again, hold fast, for you will be oppressed only a little longer. But behold, the day of deliverance is drawing near! Be vigilant, Jerusalem, for you know not the day nor the hour of the Lord. Though you have only a little oil in your lamps, use it wisely and it will be unto you like the oil jug of the widow in Zerephath, which did not run dry until the day the Lord opened the heavens and sent the rain.

Keep the Lord’s commandments, and ignore not the weightier matters of the law: justice, mercy, and faithfulness. Share what you have with those who have not, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, be blameless in your conduct, and you will receive the crown. But to those vipers, who have polluted the church with their greed and lust for power: pray for their souls, that the Lord may forgive them in His day. For thus the Lord commands: bless those who curse you, pray for those who persecute you, for some may yet be saved.

For there was a king, who conquered a distant province. He sent ten of his servants, saying “serve the people, heal their hurts and comfort them, and tell them of my mercy and kindness toward my faithful subjects, that they may not rebel against me when I come.” And the servants went through the land, and were favored by the people. But after a time, the servants began to speak among themselves, saying, “Behold, these people do not follow our laws, and the governor does nothing about it. Let us see to it ourselves.” But one of the ten said, “The king has appointed the governor to enforce the laws, and us to tell of the king’s mercy. Let us do what we were appointed to do.” The others turned away from him, saying, “You fool, if the people do not obey, how can the king show them mercy?”

And so the nine servants went through the province, demanding that the people obey the king’s laws, and the other servant went his own way. When he would speak to the people of the king’s mercy, the people jeered and said, “Those other servants, they have spoken to us of the king’s laws and chastised us for not following them, though we knew not what the laws were. And you speak to us of your king’s mercy?”

After a time, the king came to the province and found the people in rebellion, so he called his servants together to demand an accounting. The nine said, “Your governor, whom you appointed, did not make the people obey your laws. We were dismayed, and saw to it ourselves — except for that worthless servant there. He did only what you commanded.” And the king grew very angry, and the servants all trembled before his wrath. “You wicked servants!” he cried. “Would that you had done as this other servant did — what I commanded, and no more! For once the people loved me, I would have given them my laws and they would have gladly obeyed them. For the sake of the one servant who obeyed me, I will spare your lives, but for seventy years will you have no authority, and live in the land as pariahs.”

One of them said, “Sir, what of the one who obeyed? Does he share our punishment?”

The king said, “He does, but it will be no burden to him, for he was serving the people and not abusing his authority. His light will shine forth and he will again find favor with the people.”

You who have ears, hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

People have typed up transcripts and went around nailing it to church doors. You can imagine how that’s going over in many churches, especially around here. But some churches, and I’m glad to say including the one I go to, are taking it seriously and praying about their role in the community. Someone has developed group prayers of confession, like the ones in a communion service, and distributed them through Sammy and other means. It’s already got a name — the Penitent Movement — and I do hope it spreads.


Sunday, December 07, 2008 6 comments


(P)ass the CheerThis morning, I went hunting for my ornaments. I didn’t find the computer, but I found the 6-pack and put it back on the tree where it belonged.

After lunch this afternoon, Mrs. Fetched pulled up a chair right in front of the tree. I still don’t know why. But I was getting ready to help her when she spied the 6-pack ornament and yanked it off the tree. “I don’t want this on there.” I gaped at her. “Well, I don’t.”

So much for helping her clean up. It’s her project, and I have no ownership or say in it. So it’s all hers. I went to get some cat food, since we were out and Sprite was attempting to break his personal best climbing up the glass door to see where we were with the food. I took my sweet time coming back home… no reason to be there, anyway.

Fail treeWhen I came home, this is what I found sitting on my dresser. Nice try, but I don’t know how the thing stays up without that ornament pulling it over.

And I still don’t know what happened to the computer ornament.

Saturday, December 06, 2008 5 comments

A First Attempt

Boxes of Christmas junkChristmas may have come to Whoville without boxes, ribbons, or tags, but at FAR Manor they are all standard equipment. The Boy happened to be around, and Mrs. Fetched recruited him to crawl under the stairs and eject the Christmas stuff. We had to throw back a box of Hallowe'en decorations that he sent out, but he did throw out my reindeer antlers. Daughter Dearest and I had a great time last year, wearing those around the Home Despot and passing them back & forth.

After the ejection was finished, Mrs. Fetched poked through all the boxes to see what there was to see, and then stacked them all up as you see here. It's a marvel to me how we can put up that much stuff every year, but we (as in, “I”) manage.

1st attempt at tree decorationSo with the living room full of the not-so-spiritual end of Christmas, Mrs. Fetched went off to the chicken houses. After poking around the net for a little while, I thought it would be a nice gesture (and the beginning of cleaning up the living room) to get the tree up and throw some stuff on it. Wonder of wonders, the tree was all in one tub and all the pieces were there. (We bought a fake tree like 20 years ago, and have used it ever since. Why kill a perfectly good CO2 scrubber?) I only had to swap one row of branches, at the very beginning, to get it right.

With the tree up, I grabbed the light strings and plugged them in to see what we had. Out of seven strings, only two lit up completely. Several others had sections out, and a couple more were completely dead. Meh. I took the two completely working strings and went to work. Unfortunately, one was a really dense string and the other was not so dense. Can’t be helped, so I went ahead and rummaged around in the boxes of ornaments until I found my ornaments; I hung that box up. I knew that Mrs. Fetched would want to clean it off and start over, and I’m rarely (if ever) wrong about that, but figured I’d done my bit.

My ornaments, you say?

PC ornamentI don’t remember who gave this to me, or when, but I think it’s cute. The computer itself looks like an old Commodore PET (minus the embedded cassette drive), which I fondly remember from college.

I suppose if I was hard-up for ornaments, I’d grab a handful of old computer parts out of the studio. An original ADB mouse, a 3.5" floppy, maybe some components or cards… Merry Geekmas? But who am I kidding? We have hundreds of ornaments… and they all go on the tree.

6-pack ornamentHere’s my personal favorite ornament. This is the only reason I’m glad Daughter Dearest isn’t at home right now… she keeps taking it off the tree. And I keep putting it on. And she keeps taking it off.

Of course, Mrs. Fetched took it off this evening. But she took them all off. I’ll put it back on later.

“We need another string of lights,” she said. Little did she realize that we didn’t have any… or none that were completely working. I shrugged and watched her waste her time. If I’m not mistaken, two hours later she’s still wasting her time trying to get a string working. It was our week to vacuum the church, so I volunteered to take care of it so she could either rest or work on the tree as she pleased. Of course, we needed milk and eggs, and I needed beer (and rum, she used it all up last weekend), so I ran into town first. Once in a great while, things work out the way you want them to.

That’s Christmas at FAR Manor — the usual chaos with pretty lights.

Friday, December 05, 2008 7 comments

Friday Roundup

Lots of little and not-so-little stuff going on this week…

Look! It's snowing!Monday started off with a little snow. Of course, it didn’t stay long — it rarely does on Planet Georgia — and was gone before I got home.

Tuesday saw our runoff election here… being Planet Georgia, of course the good guy (Jim Martin) lost. Just about everyone is relieved that it’s over — the ads were nasty and nearly constant on TV. Remind me again why anyone even bothers watching TV? This evening, I saw some wrestling thing on one of the major network channels… and to think I’d figured TV couldn’t get any worse.

Anyway. For whatever reason, I couldn’t sleep Tuesday night. I wasn’t watching election returns or anything; in fact I went to bed at 11 and laid there until 12:30 before giving up for two hours. I finally came back to bed at 2:30 and Mrs. Fetched said I kept waking her up & she left.

Wednesday, due to the lack of sleep, was pretty much a blur.

Thursday began with power outages, each one lasting 20 minutes or so. Daughter Dearest called me after the second one and said her power was out too, so it was more than local. Very strange. Thursday is usually my work at home day, and we had tickets to DD’s chorus concert (plus a large instrumental section) at Reinhardt, so naturally it was the night to catch the chickens… meaning Mrs. Fetched was stuck here. I picked up the preacher and his wife instead. DD and I had texted each other earlier in the day to meet after the concert, and maybe get something to eat. The concert itself ran a long time (until 9:30), and the restaurants were closing before we could get there. Of course, we went to Waffle House — they never close, and DD and her roomie like the people working at this particular instance.

In the picture, DD is the blob of pixels all the way to the right, poking up above the music stand. Cellphone camera + low light = sucky picture. The Magic Camera Fairy needs to drop an EOS 40D on me some time. :-P

Friday is not much of anything. We’re probably going to put the tree up tomorrow… but with the kids not in the house anymore, I don’t see the point of going whole-hog. A small tree would be fine. Like anything I say makes a difference?

Monday, December 01, 2008 5 comments

FAR Future, Episode 62: Slip-Sliding Away

Hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving weekend. I’m still here, another year older and still refusing to grow up…

Monday, March 28, 2022
Slip-Sliding Away

With Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota — along with Chicago — joining the so-called Rebel Alliance, the junta is growing ever more paranoid. Colorado, Pennsylvania, Maryland, are all wavering in the east, Colorado and New Mexico provide the western counterpoint… rebellion in stereo! Indeed, there are few places that the junta can consider safe territory — most people agree that the Final Oil War was botched (sound familiar?) but are happy to see most of their loved ones safely stateside.

There’s been some selective discharges of “non-essential” troops, although it seems to be mostly from states thinking about breaking away — which means that Rene, Kim, and Serena aren’t home yet. Serena’s still in Germany, in fact, but things have been mostly quiet there. They’ve “suspended” the draft, so Christina at least doesn’t have that to deal with, but the service-for-citizenship program is still going. So Kim’s still teaching English to Hispanic recruits, but Rene has “gone dark.” He sent us a quick email after he got stateside: “Holá, y'all. Being redeployed, no leave, can't talk about it. Sorry. Let you know more when I can.”

We’re all relieved that he got back, but are concerned about what he’s doing now. I certainly wouldn’t put it past the junta to use their EDID units against the “enemy” here in the fragments of the US. ’Course, the spooks were tapping MAE-EAST (the major east-coast Internet hub outside of DC) in the Bush-league days, and probably before. I’m not sure why they’d need a military unit involved now.

Kim, at least, is making the system work. He finds out who already speaks passable English in his classes; usually 10% of them do. Those he assigns to help their classmates who need it most — nobody sits there bored, and the grunts who need extra help get it. Meanwhile, the junta actually wised up and brought back fuel rationing. Having a farm at last means we get some gas and diesel — not as much as we’d like, but better than nothing. The “rebel” states are in at least as bad shape, supply-wise, but they do get fuel from Canada and Alaska. Again, not as much as they’d like… like the rest of the world, with a few exceptions. Rumors from Russia and Norway suggest they’re experimenting to see how much oil they can take off the domestic market and sell to the rest of the world without triggering local insurrections.

I wonder if the junta ran into the same issue everywhere that they did here: the Pat-Riots and official junta reps would tool around in their faux-military trucks like nothing ever happened, and several of them got bricks through the windshield — or hijacked for their fuel. Now they get around on foot, hoof, or bicycle like everyone else. Emergency vehicles have diesel, but nobody’s going to begrudge an ambulance or fire truck using fuel on a call. Guillermo caught someone trying to steal some cattle earlier this month, and held them at gunpoint for a couple of hours until the cops arrived. “Next time,” they told us, within earshot of the perps, “just do the three S’s: Shoot, Shovel, and Shush. We don’t have to hear about cattle rustlers unless they actually get away.” Yipe!

It’s already getting warm. We’ve let the wood stove go out, and still have a pretty good stack of firewood left. Oh well, we’ll use it next winter. It’s that much less wood we have to cut. Since the draft is over with, we’re going to get DD and Dean married off shortly. I was hoping to do it Friday, which would be April 1, but they both insisted on Saturday. Dang. But they’re looking at places to live close to town, at least for now (Dean would like to get them both back to Seattle, which I can understand). DD is looking into remote teaching, since the school district is turning toward facilitating home schooling rather than running their own facilities — they see their role as making sure the students have material and help if needed, more than anything else — and there will be plenty of kids needing tutors while their parents are handling the emergencies of everyday life. Dean did academic training in his previous life, so maybe he can work with older kids if the school district is willing to pay for it. I think school taxes mostly go toward paying catering bills for school board meetings these days.

So anyway, if Dean and DD leave soon, we’ll be down to five at FAR Manor: the two “older” couples plus Christina, who’s doing some graduate-level work in between consulting on biofuel recovery projects for anything from individuals to wallyworlds. I’ve been urging Guillermo and Maria to go with her on her consulting trips, but now that they can travel at will they seem content to stay here. They’ve gone to a couple Latino-centric wallyworlds, but other than that they pretty much stay put. To be honest, I doubt that we could have held FAR Manor together without their help; they’ve jumped into every task with both feet and looked for more. But they should still be able to get a vacation once in a while.

Speaking of vacations, my job dried up a while back… just in time for me to retire. I have to admit, I never thought things would quite turn out the way they have, but isn’t that what John Lennon said? Life is what happens while you’re making other plans?


Wednesday, November 26, 2008 15 comments

50 Laps…

Today marks the completion of my 50th lap around the sun. The vehicle is showing the expected signs of wear here and there — some of the body panels are a little loose and the motor needs some maintenance… but the rear end’s still tight! ;-)

This landed in my email a day or two ago, and I thought, “how appropriate!” One of the few I’ve bothered forwarding to other people.


When I was a kid, adults used to bore me to tears with their tedious diatribes about how hard things were. When they were growing up; what with walking twenty-five miles to school every morning.

... Uphill...

BOTH ways

Yadda, yadda, yadda

And I remember promising myself that when I grew up, there was no way in hell I was going to lay a bunch of crap like that on kids about how hard I had it and how easy they've got it!

But now that... I'm over the ripe old age of thirty, I can't help but look around and notice the youth of today.

You've got it so easy! I mean, compared to my childhood, you live in Utopia!

And I hate to say it but you kids today you don't know how good you've got it!

I mean, when I was a kid we didn't have The Internet. If we wanted to know something, we had to go to the library and look it up ourselves, in the card catalogue!!

There was no email!! We had to actually write somebody a letter, with a pen!

...Then you had to walk all the way across the street and put it in the mailbox and it would take like a week to get there!

There were no MP3's or Napsters! You wanted to steal music, you had to hitchhike to the record store and shoplift it yourself! Or you had to wait around all day to tape it off the radio and the DJ'd usually talk over the beginning and @#*% it all up!

We didn't have fancy crap like Call Waiting! If you were on the phone and somebody else called they got a busy signal, that's it!

And we didn't have fancy Caller ID either! When the phone rang, you had no idea who it was! It could be your school, your mom, your boss, your Bookie, your drug dealer, a collections agent, you just didn't know!!! You had to pick it up and take your chances, mister!

We didn't have any fancy Sony Playstation video games with high-resolution 3-D graphics! We had the Atari 2600! With games like 'Space Invaders' and 'asteroids'. Your guy was a little square! You actually had to use your Imagination!! And there were no
multiple levels or screens, it was just one screen forever! And you could never win. The game just kept getting harder and harder and faster and faster until you died! Just like LIFE!

Sure, we had cable television, but back then that was only m-net and there was no on screen menu and no remote control! You had to use a little book called a TV Guide to find out what was on! You were screwed when it came to channel surfing! You had to get off your ass and walk over to the TV to change the Channel and there was no Cartoon Network either! You could only get cartoons on Saturday morning. Do you hear what I'm saying!?! We had to wait ALL WEEK for cartoons, you spoiled little rat-bastards!

And we didn't have microwaves, if we wanted to heat something up we had to use the stove ... Imagine that!

If we wanted Popcorn, we had to use that stupid Jiffy Pop thing and shake it over the stove forever like an idiot.

That's exactly what I'm talking about! You kids today have got it too easy. You're spoiled. You guys wouldn't have lasted five minutes back in 1980!

The over 30 Crowd

Of course, I had to pass it on to Daughter Dearest. She replied: Hm... Well, technology definitely has its advantages... Mr. "Sent from my iPhone." HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA BUSTED Yup, I’ve raised her to be a wiseacre, and in that at least I’ve succeeded.

Monday, November 24, 2008 10 comments

FAR Future, Episode 61: It’s All Over, Rover

The war’s over, not the story. Just to make that clear. Anyway…

Wednesday, January 5, 2022
It’s All Over, Rover

I guess everyone will be coming home… as soon as they can get them out of there, anyway. For all intents and purposes, the war’s over, the Foxaganda has that much right. Anyone who knows what’s going on there are much less confident that we won, though. Truth be told, I think everybody lost.

Rene’s in a kind of awkward position; I don’t want to ask him for any info that will jeopardize his service record, even though he’d have to really spill some beans before they’d whack a decorated soldier who was all over the media just a couple months ago. But Rene isn’t the only soldier who isn’t fond of the junta — especially right now — and some of the others don’t have to worry about their citizenship. So, as always, Sammy has pieced a likely story together out of various reports, accidental true statements blurted by junta spokesdroids, and the like.

Rene didn’t even get to finish his mini-vacation in Dubai before things started going pear-shaped. The junta had repeatedly warned Russia and China that Iran couldn’t continue an offensive and expect the fight wouldn’t be taken to them, and the Saudis finally took matters into their own hands. They have their own jets, of course, and they started raiding Bushehr and other ports on the Iranian side of the gulf, and any oil installations they could reach. Meanwhile, our guys were busy hunting down all the Iranians that slipped across Iraq and were wreaking havoc all over the place, both in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

If anything, the war of words was even hotter — both sides accused the other of being allied with Israel, being enemies of Islam, all that happy crap. (Israel issued a statement along the lines of “a plague on both your houses” and offered to transport any Palestinians that wanted to take sides to Egypt or Jordan — one way, of course.)

Over the next few months, the land war bogged down along the Euphrates, and the Saudis and Iranians lost enough jets to redeploy what was left in a defensive posture (leaving the junta in control of the sky). Everyone’s navies were bottled up, and the Iranians made attempts to unplug the straits impossible.

Then the missiles started flying. The junta insists that Iran launched first, and Sammy hasn’t found any evidence to the contrary. The junta’s navy, stuck in Dubai, was a flock of sitting ducks. The junta pretty much had to respond, and began a bombing campaign designed to cripple both Iran’s military and oil production. So way back when, Bush-league was accusing Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons, while Iran insisted they were interested only in electricity. And both were half-right: why make a nuke when you can buy one? Where it came from — Pakistan, North Korea, Russia during the collapse years — Iran wasn’t telling, and it really doesn’t matter now.

Thankfully, Rene had gone back to some nowhere in the desert — because last week, Iran nuked the big Ghawar oilfield. Even in advanced decline, it was producing a significant percentage of the world’s oil supply… but not anymore. The Saudis didn’t have their own nukes, and we weren’t about to give them any, but they did have a handful of dirty bombs. Take a big bomb, wrap radioactive material around it, set it off. All the fallout without the crater. There had been rumors since the Bush-league days that they planned to use dirty bombs to scorch their own oil fields if they were invaded or some internal group were to overthrow the Sauds, but they may well have converted them to offensive use. Turns out the Israelis weren’t the only country to have a working Masada Option… they ruined what was left of Iran’s oil fields and those in southern Iraq to boot. Iran had a second nuke, and they used it on the straits, making the UAE an unhealthy place to be.

And that must have been it. Kuwait and the rest of Iraq weren’t bombed, but they have fallout issues to worry about. Anything that’s not contaminated, or probably just a little contaminated, will have to be pipelined through Turkey or Syria from now on. The war’s over: Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Iran have collapsed, Oman is tottering, any news coming out of Bahrain or Qatar is not exactly good, and the junta is retreating to the Red Sea to ship everyone out.

Rene was allowed to contact us with a brief message to my Gadget: I’m OK, not sure when I’ll ship out yet. Hope to see you soon.

You know the rest of the story: with a third of the world’s oil supply either turned radioactive or still burning, pretty much everything is shutting down. Russia may have won the war without firing a shot; they’re now the world’s largest producer and they have no problem throwing their weight around. For all the junta tough talk about “we’ll walk before we kowtow to Moscow,” we’re not going to be able to defend Europe very well if an invader has oil and we don’t. I suppose if Europe can string them along for a few years, Russia will run out of export capacity and they can all go back to fighting on horseback. What we’re going to do here is anyone’s guess. I certainly hope the junta grows a brain cell and realizes that a critical resource can’t depend on the market to allocate it properly.


Sunday, November 23, 2008 11 comments

Ripples Above

I saw this formation on the way back from a meeting yesterday.

Cloud picture

It kind of got me wondering: do fish ever look up and see ripples on the surface of their water? What does it mean to them?

Thursday, November 20, 2008 6 comments

Another FAILout on the Way?

Yesterday, Mitt Romney suggested letting the auto companies die. He’s partly right: shoveling money at the automakers is not going to fix their problems. Unfortunately, doing nothing has its own set of large and highly negative consequences. While Romney (along with the rest of the right wing) seems to think that busting the unions has to be part of any solution, Mittens at least recognizes that management will also have to make sacrifices, both real and symbolic. But even that won’t be enough, especially since the managers will start the money and perq grabs again as soon as nobody’s looking. A more radical approach may not solve the problems in Detroit, but nothing else will.

There are 100 million households in the US, give or take, and around 600 million shares of GM. Pull a round figure out of my, er, back pocket, and say there’s 100,000 people working for GM. GM wants the taxpayers (i.e., you and me, if you live in the US) to bail them out… or at least their upper management flew their private jets to DC to deliver that message (OOPS!).

Maybe instead of bailing them out, we should just own them.

Run the auto companies through the bankruptcy courts, dissolve the standing corporations, then create new ones (this sidesteps the current stockholders, who would be just as screwed without a bailout). Issue 200 shares of stock to each autoworker, and 40 shares to each American household. Remove the upper and middle management structures entirely, and let the autoworkers run their companies. The people on the floor know how things work, and their neighbors are the people buying cars — they’ll have a direct line to what Americans want. If they have to lay people off or cut their salaries, then they do it knowing some fat cat on the 16th floor isn’t pocketing a bigger bonus at their expense. Meanwhile, their neighbors are also shareholders — not only in GM, but Ford and Chrysler as well. They will be more inclined to buy a car from one of their own companies, especially if the autoworkers have been listening and deliver the cars they want.

So if we’re going to have another FAILout, we should do it right. Many people will eventually sell their stock, some dork will amass enough to force itself into the picture, and the road to FAIL will start all over again. But it could be a long time. And who knows? Maybe we’ll get it right before then.

Monday, November 17, 2008 6 comments

FAR Future, Episode 60: In the Tank

Friday, August 20, 2021
In the Tank

Rene continues his story…

The major gave us orders as Manny started back on the comms: “You heard all that. Five minutes. I figure seven before the cavalry arrives. We need to stall ’em for two minutes.

“Spread out. When they start down the hill, open fire on the center tank, the one that Kittycat came out of. Aim for the tread on your own side. It’ll give ’em something to think about, anyway. He’s got to know that there’s more than two of us out here, but he doesn’t know how many. So you guys need to be firing and reloading just as fast as you can. Alternate your fire between the center tank and the one on your side, but move each time so you don’t eat return fire. We’ll beat it up the hill while you guys cover for us — we’ll go under the back of the tent, and the tent itself will keep us out of sight for a little bit — then we’ll set off the EMP when one of the tanks takes out the tent. If we’re lucky, we’ll bury the SOB. Questions?” Neither of us had any. “Good. You got four minutes to get ready.”

Sammy T and I used a couple minutes to spread out as ordered — we figured if we were going for the treads, being farther off to the side would help — and we saw the major and Manny slip under the back of the tent. They moved up the dune slowly, looking back, making sure they didn’t lose the cover of the tent. The time went fast… I checked my watch, and they gave the major all five minutes promised before revving up and starting down the hill. We opened fire, and dang if Sammy T didn’t score one for the good guys! Kittycat’s tank slewed and came down the hill at an angle, almost hitting the tank on his right but he didn’t notice. Their turrets were coming our way, but we were moving already. I got my next shot off a second or so before Sammy did, and blew a hole in the tank’s armor on my side but nothing more. Sammy missed, no score. They returned fire, toward the spots we’d already vacated, and we weren’t planning on staying in one place longer than we had to.

We each got one more shot off before the major yelled, “Here’s the cavalry!” A second later, two pairs of jets zipped overhead and circled around. “Tobias! Cardenas! Regroup, back to center! Stay out of the line of fire!” I went down the far side of the dune, figuring that would get me out of the zone fastest, and then started working my way to where the major was. Long before I got there, the jets came back overhead, trailing explosions.

Sammy got there before I did, looking wild-eyed. “That was too close!”

“You shoulda gone downhill like Cardenas,” the major said. “I told you to stay out of the line of fire, right? That’s what I meant. But you done good. Both of you. Manny, ask ’em if they’re done yet.”

“Rabbit 2 here,” Manny said into his radio. “You guys about finished? Anything left down there?”

“Just some kitty litter for you guys to scoop out. Your tent is in shreds, though. Dooby’s sending an evac unit, should be here within the hour. Just part of the friendly service.”

“Thanks a heap, guys,” the major said, taking the radio. “We owe ya one.”

What parts of the tent hadn’t been shot to pieces were burning or already burned up. The Iranian tanks weren’t in any better shape. None of them had reached to where the tent stood. Sammy T and I kept an eye on the tanks, just in case one started moving or coughed up a kittycat, while Manny and the major dragged what was left of the tent out of the way. Fortunately, the hatch was still clear and we went down to bring out the most important gear and our personal stuff. It was dark down there, because the generator was probably one of the first casualties of the battle (I saw pieces of it strewn among the tanks), and we had no idea whether there was a surge. But that wasn’t so important at the moment. We each grabbed a wind-up flashlight, we kept them all around the caisson in case the power died anyway, and used them to break down the gear and box it up. We got it all topside just as the evac choppers topped the dunes and landed on the far side of the tanks.

“Need a lift, boys?” we heard one of them call over Manny’s radio. We had the gear and ourselves on board in five minutes, and the major dropped a grenade into the caisson before boarding (we didn’t want to use the EMP bomb, it would have disabled our ride out of there). It collapsed on itself as we lifted off, and the sand started filling in the hole immediately.

“Nice piece of work back there,” the pilot said over the intercom. “Holding off three tanks like that. How’d they penetrate this far without anyone else noticing, anyway? That’s what I want to know.”

“No telling,” Major Shevchuk said. “They’re probably swarming in scattered and hoping some of them get through. Won’t take many to make a lot of trouble.”

They gave us each a medal and some extra leave. I was hoping for an honorable discharge and getting sent home, but no luck with that. With the straits blocked, it’s not like we’d be getting much farther than Dooby-Dooby anyway. The major says they’ll redeploy us after our leave is up. With any luck, we won’t have to worry about enemy tanks again, but I’m afraid this is going to turn out like Iraq - the front line will be everywhere. The equipment is mostly okay, the surge took out a couple of power supplies when the generator went down, but all the collected data on the flash drives was intact. We’ll have all new gear at the next post.

Me? I’m just glad he’s OK. I had to take Guillermo and Maria to a Catholic church though; they wanted to light a few candles in thanksgiving.


Sunday, November 16, 2008 1 comment

Opting Back in?

In July 2007, James Kunstler wrote a column titled Thuggo and Sluggo, in which he derided the “costume and demeanor of American young men … that raises interesting questions about who we have become.” In the week-long give-and-take that is the comments section, I responded:

I can tell you exactly why people dress like they do: we've realized the "dress for success" line is a bunch of hooey … If there's a message behind those baggy clothes, it's nothing but "I'm wise to your game, I'm not playing."

Now that’s not to say I wear “the uniform” that Kunstler derides: the baggy pants, hat on backwards, and all that… although I’ll admit to leaving my t-shirt untucked on occasion. The difference between me and Thuggo is that I’m wearing what’s comfortable, regardless of how it looks; he’s making a statement with his clothing. People in the lowest and highest income brackets, it seems, like to make a statement with their clothing; the rest of us are mostly concerned with staying warm or not getting arrested, although we’ll occasionally advertise a sports team or other activity we’re fond of.

So what’s the message Michele Norris is hearing?

I've been struck as we talk about change on a big level, what I've been hearing closer to the street -- in Chicago, in Pennsylvania, here in Washington, DC -- how many young black men are talking about change in their lives. At barbershops, someone told me that twelve people have come in and cut off their dreadlocks, talking about joining the army, talking about, you know, 'forget about the saggy pants,' pulling their pants up, leading their life in a different way. I think it's really interesting because we talk about change in buildings, and this election has really inspired change on a very personal level.

So if Kunstler’s Thuggo and Sluggo are cutting their hair and pulling up their pants… indeed, what’s the message? The optimist(?) in me wants to think that the kids are saying, “well damn, maybe the casino isn’t rigged after all, I guess it’s time to get in the game.” Of course, that attitude will lead to massive disillusionment down the road… because the casino is still rigged; Obama won the election with a combination of a sterling “ground game” with campaign offices stretching from the Internet even into the craziest corners of Planet Georgia, missteps by his opponents, and sheer luck. Take away any of those ingredients, and he’d likely be heading back to the Senate in January. That’s not to say Obama is unqualified — he’s certainly at least as qualified as anyone who has sat in the Oval Office since January 20, 1981 — but the race is not always to the swiftest, nor the battle to the strong, right?

The election has unleashed a wave of hope that has apparently washed all the way into the 'hoods and trailer parks, and even into Planet Georgia. I’ve heard two local people, both righties, say they’re praying Obama can fix things in the country. I’m not sure if there’s a dog-whistle that I’m not hearing, but it sure sounds good (and a heck of a lot more gracious than I was 8 years ago). But if everyone from the 'hoods to the hollers know things need to change, maybe there’s a chance that we’ll get the changes we need.

Saturday, November 15, 2008 5 comments

Saturday, and I’m Parked

Caturday Night FeverYou would think it’s the middle of November out there: chilly? damp? windy? Check, check, check.

I dodged chicken house duty this morning, ironically after I’d “suited up” for the ordeal. After grabbing some cereal, Mrs. Fetched decided I needed to make the rounds of three banks… two deposits and one payment. The payment involved down to the next town down, where there happens to be a Best Buy. DoubleRed is having grief with her laptop (she thinks $800 doesn’t qualify as a cheap laptop, but whatever), but at least it’s under warranty and she was able to shovel her schoolwork over to her desktop system. Her preparations cost me all of 10 minutes, which was no big deal since I had to be at the last bank before noon and (even with the slight delay) I figured to make it before 11:30 anyway. So I dropped off stuff at banks, she dropped off her computer with the Geek Squad, everyone was happy. (Well, DoubleRed isn’t happy about her laptop going back to the garage, but whatever.)

We got back, Mrs. Fetched got back, then it was off to get a mattress set for the upstairs bed (in what used to be The Boy’s room). I was going to turn that room into a library, but I suppose I still could… I like to read in bed, anyway. I also went out and had a look at the tomato plant — it was pretty well dead, but there was one last handful of yellow pears on it. I’m putting in at least a dozen of these next year… since they’re a heirloom variety, I saved a few seeds already and will have at it next year.

Daughter Dearest is coming home for the weekend, although she’s getting a late start… looks like she’ll get here around 7pm. Then we’ll probably go to El Rio to eat, because that’s like her favorite place in the world and there’s no good (and cheap) Mexican restaurants around Reinhardt. Speaking of Reinhardt, she’s seriously considering transferring out after the year’s up… a couple of nearby public colleges have been named, but I think the big problem is that the music students seem to be more like the drama students (if you get my drift).

I need to start some bread tonight for a church thingie tomorrow. I’m trying to decide whether to make challah bread or rolls. Probably rolls; it’s easier to scale up and people don’t have to break off pieces that way. And P.O.D. wants me to solder the F-connector back onto his old TV tonight.

Somewhere along the way, I tuned in Obama’s first weekly address on YouTube. I couldn’t help cringing when he said “make no mistake,” because I heard that too many times from Bush-league, but after that point the address went from fluff to meat. I hope he’s serious about the energy policy… it’s good to hear a political type really seeming to get the point that we need to stop talking about the post-petroleum world and start building it (and putting people to work building it certainly won’t hurt). The question is: can we make it happen?

Thursday, November 13, 2008 4 comments

A Special Edition

The not-so-far future: The New York Times, Special Edition (July 4, 2009).

Be sure to read the My Times link to hear the publishers 'splain themselves.

Monday, November 10, 2008 9 comments

FAR Future, Episode 59: Tanks a Lot

Guess what? Another cliffhanger!

Friday, August 20, 2021
Tanks a Lot

Yes, that was Rene’s unit that the newsies turned into celebrities. How could they resist the drama of four guys standing off a trio of Iranian tanks? But it’s Rene’s story to tell. They’ll probably hound him for interviews forever if he doesn’t tell them to slag off…

Hola, y’all. We had some excitement out in the middle of nowhere, and I guess everyone’s heard about it by now.

The Iranians sent a suicide squadron down the Basra route. It was meant to draw the bombers, and it did a fine job of that. Meanwhile, they slipped a bunch of tanks up and around, then through the Empty Quarter and into Saudi while they ran small boats across the gulf overnight. They were all over the place before we knew what was up. We were getting some chatter from our normal channels, but nothing about this. They must have figured out that we could tap their comms.

So Monday started out like any other day out here: hot, sunny, and quiet. We had a little marine radar up on one of the dunes, and it started pinging around 1000. We had to wake up Manny, and he was pissy about that, but the major got everyone at attention and reminded us that we had a plan for this. He sent me and Sammy T out to get a visual. I carried the binoculars and the radio, and Sammy got an RPG.

It was shimmery out across the dunes, like it always is, but I made out three tanks. “Hey Manny,” I said, “you think they can hear our radar? If they can, it’ll lead ’em right here.”

“Roger,” he said, and cut it off. Probably a little too late; they were either headed right for us or were going to miss close.

“Assume they’ll find us,” the major said. “Keep an eye on ’em and let me know when they get closer.” They were getting closer all the time, but I figured he meant something else.

Manny must have left the mike open, because I could hear it when he started calling Dooby on the comms. “This is Rabbit 2,” he said. “We got bogeys, three tanks incoming. Need air support chop-chop.”

“Copy, Rabbit 2,” they responded. “Your situation is Rice Cooker.” That meant it would take 20 minutes to get someone here.

“Bogeys will be here inside 10 minutes, sir,” I said. “Ask ’em if they can use the microwave or something.”

“Confirm Rice Cooker,” Manny said, ignoring me. “Might as well be forever,” he told the major. “If they advance, we got nothin’.”

“I know. Boys, get back inside, double-time. We need to charge the EMP and talk real quick.”

We ran back to the tent. Major Shevchuk told Sammy to go below, charge the EMP, and bring the remote detonator. He talked loud and down the hole so Sammy could hear. “Tobias, Cardenas, you two take the RPGs and fall back to the tops of the dune behind us. Velasquez, you and I will see if the kittycat wants to talk. We will not fire the first shot, understand? Good. Sammy, bring the evac kits and the weapons up with you. Let’s move.”

We got up and over the dune just in time, keeping the RPGs and ourselves out of sight. We’d have to get lucky to take out three tanks with RPGs, and I had a feeling our luck had run out. I figured we had about twelve minutes to wait for the cavalry. The tanks topped the dune opposite us and stopped; they were probably trying to figure out who was crazy enough to pitch a tent clear out here. That bought us another two minutes, then the commander hopped out and started down the dune.

“One walker coming down,” Sammy rasped over the radio.

“We see him,” Manny said. “We’re watching out the tent flap. Cut the chatter.”

They waited for the kittycat (Persian… army slang) to reach the bottom, then Major Shevchuk and Manny stepped out with their rifles at right shoulder arms to meet him. The kittycat looked a little startled, but not much, and loosened his sidearm but didn’t draw. He had bigger guns already pointed at our guys. But another minute had gone by. Nine to go.

“I suppose I will need to speak English,” the commander said (Manny was wearing his headset and had the gain cranked up). “Tell me, what are American soldiers doing in this part of the desert?”

“Beach party,” Manny said. “The tide went out a lot farther than we expected, though.”

The commander looked both annoyed and amused. “If you were the king,” he said to the major, “you would have a court fool at hand already.”

“But I’m not the king, fortunately. I am, as you guessed, the post commander though. Major Robert Shevchuk. This is Corporal Manuel Velasquez, our communications officer. And you?”

The kittycat gave his name, which I can’t remember. “Two American soldiers in a tent,” he said. “What do I do about this?”

“Well…” the major pulled off his cap and scratched his head, looking at the sky and buying a few more seconds. “I suppose you could go around us. It’s not like we’re any threat to a squadron of tanks, two guys with rifles.”

“You know as well as I: that is impossible. I can offer you surrender, and in return I will guarantee that you will be treated better than your people treated our brothers in Iraq.”

“Hm.” The long look at the sky again — eight minutes? seven? “Maybe you can give us like ten minutes to think about it?”

“Five. If at the end of five minutes, I do not see you coming out unarmed and hands up, we will open fire.” Kittycat about-faced and walked back up the dune, and the major and Manny went back in the tent.



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