Looking for writing-related posts? Check out my new writing blog, www.larrykollar.com!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008 14 comments

FAR Future, Episode 21: Awakening

The drought here may be over — we’ve had above-normal rainfall for a month now. It’s not wiping out our deficit very fast, but maybe we’ll do OK anyway. I have this and another post lined up, so I hope the episode deficit is getting addressed too.

As I type this intro, I see a little moth at the window, the first of the year.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

It’s finally spring. The earth awakens from its restless winter slumber.

Mrs. Fetched’s mom and I have a few zillion tomato plants in starter trays, not to mention the peppers. The perennial herbs wintered over just fine, minus some deer attacks (flavored meat if we catch ’em at it), and we’ve got the annuals started. She’s happier than I’ve seen her in a while — she was asked to conduct some basic gardening seminars for the people in big subdivisions who are starting the community gardens last month, and they were all well-attended. As Mrs. Fetched said, “her idea of a ‘small garden’ is 5 acres,” and they’re scaling up from there. Her kind of gardening — including a couple passes with a tractor and plow, just to get the sod dug up. There’s some concern about pesticides and all, but the extension office says that most of the people who abandoned their houses had quit intensive lawn maintenance before giving up altogether. The bad stuff has had plenty of time to break down.

Not all the “planting” is crops, though. Time capsules are a fad at schools again, another “planting” activity this spring. They’re including photos and student-written essays about various aspects of life, along with the usual newspaper clippings and tokens. They use a small candle, lit just before sealing it, to get rid of most of the oxygen inside the capsule before burying it. It would be interesting to be around when they open the capsules in 100 years — will “they” have figured out how to deal with energy shortages by then? Or will there even be anyone to dig them up? I remember being a kid, and hearing about the moon bases (and Mars, etc.) and flying cars we’d have by now. Of course, the closest anyone came to dreaming up home computers or the Internet was this idea that you would get a tailored newspaper delivered via fax every morning. I remember incredulously asking my dad, “You didn’t have TV when you were a kid?” With my kids, it was “You didn’t have computers?” My grandkids, if I have any, probably won’t have cars and might not have computers — but they may have stuff we haven’t even thought of now.

Now that winter is giving way, they’re finding people who didn’t make it through the winter and were never checked on. In some cities, the cops started patrolling with dogs and marking the houses like they did in Miami after Kim a couple years back (or New Orleans after Katrina). Some of the larger metro departments had burglars sitting in jail, and brought them along to pick locks in exchange for a reduced sentence. One of the network news shows interviewed one of the latter (face blocked); he said, “There’s not much worth stealing anymore anyway — why not help? The smell is pretty bad sometimes, but they give me a mask and the cops don’t make me go inside anyway. I just get the doors open for ’em.”

Even in the salad days, though, people died. They died of diseases, starvation, cold, heat, accident, combat, and old age. There aren’t any new ways of dying, but more people are dying of the same stuff than before. Except for disease and old age, though, it was “them” who were dying, not “us.” People who didn’t have the basics weren’t “our” people, so it was easy to ignore what has always gone on. Now we’re “them,” or “they” are us… maybe both, and it’s not just nature that’s awakening.

I’ve got more to write about this, but there’s stuff to do.


Monday, January 28, 2008 6 comments

Clocks Cleaned While You Wait

Of the places we lived when I was a kid, I guess I’d have to say the house on Sherman Street was my favorite. The back yard bordered on woods, woods that had dirt bike trails that would take us as far as a tank of gas or nerve would let us go… with maybe a couple hundred yards of scooting down public roads on an off-road vehicle. There was the crawl space under the stairs that we used for indoor camping. But most of all, the neighborhood had plenty of kids our age to hang out with. We’d have occasional snowball fights in winter (if the snow wasn’t too icy or slushy), bicycle races and water wars in summer, and hide & seek on weekend nights.

For whatever reason, I got to thinking about this water war story, and thought it might be amusing enough to share with everyone. In the early 1970s, there were no Super Soakers — a typical squirt gun had a range suitable for hand-to-hand combat, not much more. For longer range, we had grenades (water balloons) and fixed artillery (a water hose).

There were unwritten but strict rules that we observed during water wars:

1) All combat took place either in the street, or in front/back yards of combatants.

2) Adults and girls were non-combatants (the girls would have been welcome to join us had they been interested — we were 13 or 14, and they would have been in bikinis, 'nuff said). Anyone else was fair game, declared or not.

3) Cars were non-combatants, unless they belonged to an older sibling. People on bicycles were fair game — part of the fun was to run the gauntlet, after all.

There was a kid named David directly across the street from us who wasn’t really old enough to join the water fights, but he usually wanted to participate so Rule #2 applied to him. His problem was, he would want to join in, then want to quit as soon as water got anywhere near him. None of us really had a problem with him being on our “side” — we’d take him on as an extra because we knew he’d quit before he got to be a pain.

We had enough water hose to squirt most of the way across the street, so our house was pretty much the designated house for running the gauntlet on a bicycle. We’d run the gauntlet if we didn’t feel like running around with water balloons (or if everyone had run out), and that’s what we were doing this particular afternoon. David was riding around with us, fully understanding what we were doing but thinking he was somehow privileged. My brother (not Solar, the other one) was manning the hose, and I was standing next to him, having just taken a break from running the gauntlet, when David came out on his bike.

“I’m not playing now!” he yelled.

“You know the rules,” one of us yelled back. “If you’re in the war zone, we can get you.”

“No you can’t!” he yelled defiantly, and proceeded into the crossfire. Phil lobbed a water balloon and missed — but my brother’s hosing was accurate enough, and David ran inside crying to mommy. A minute later, Mrs. Smith came marching down her yard and across the street. Phil was not the brightest bulb on the string, and I could see he had a mind to introduce her to a water balloon, but he wasn’t that dumb (his brother Paul, now… fortunately, he wasn’t there).

Even though my brother was holding the water hose, Mrs. Smith chose to start screaming at me — probably because I wasn’t as openly defiant of authority as some others on the block and wouldn’t stand up for myself so much (I’ve improved in that regard, but not enough). “He knew he was going through the war zone,” my brother and some of the other guys explained. I just stood there.

“IF YOU DO THAT AGAIN, I’M GONNA CLEAN YOUR CLOCK!” she screamed, and walked away. I had a really hard time suppressing a smirk at that… and after that, whenever there were two or more of us together and she was anywhere in sight, one of us would say, “Clean your clock, Mrs. Smith” in a snarky undertone. Both we and Mrs. Smith banned David from further participation in water wars (or snowball fights) — one thing we could all agree on — but we included him in other things, sometimes to his (and our) detriment.

A year or two after that, they moved away, and Carrie the Barbarian moved in. But that’s another story.

Friday, January 25, 2008 8 comments

Weekend Cinema

Short, free, and you don’t even have to leave the seat you’re in now! (Wow… has it really been November since I posted one of these?)

I’ve mentioned Stranger Things before — it’s a video podcast that (in their own words) “depicts a world of ordinary people stumbling into the secret lives of the paranormal, the metaphysical, the unnatural, and the strange.” Imagine a 21st-century version of The Twilight Zone, and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what it’s about.

The episode I’m highlighting here, One of Those Faces, would be up for an Academy Award for Best Short if there were any justice in the world. Good story, fantastic ending. A little less than 16 minutes means you can take it in at some odd moment. Check out the other episodes; they’re all good but the first two have rather dark endings.

I’m not sure what facilities they have for dialup — perhaps a DVD will be coming soon?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008 12 comments

How cool!

I’ve always wanted to do something like this.

“The most splendidly pointless space experiment of all time” — and they expect it to survive the trip down!

Saturday, January 19, 2008 9 comments

FAR Future, Episode 20: Spreading the Wealth

Stay warm, everyone. Spring’s comin’. In FAR Future, it’s about here.

Friday, March 8, 2013
Spreading the Wealth

This has been all over the local media. A gang of suburban “mainstream” (i.e. WASP) teenagers have been stealing all sorts of stuff that’s easy to fence these days — bikes, motorcycles, solar panels, siphoning gasoline, etc. — and either selling them to pay their parents’ utility bills, or giving them to neighbors who need some help. The parents had no idea what was happening. “We thought we’d been put on an assistance program, and to be honest, we didn’t want to ask questions in case it was a mistake,” said one weepy mom.

Opinion is running every which way. The media always uses the phrase “suburban teenagers,” which brings to mind your wholesome, blond-haired, blue-eyed A student looking forward to starting a “good” college and then a professional career. “Robin Hoods” is another phrase being beaten into the ground. It sort of fits; they were going into the hotsy-totsy developments, the country clubs and so forth. Through the winter, they posed as the gutter cleaning or landscaping services; some of them wore makeup to darken their skin (since Hispanic folks do most of the work) so nobody paid much attention to them. They took ladders, went up and actually did the work, then scarfed stuff and tossed it in the panel truck they were using. They didn’t rob each house they went to, either — which was smart, they had a little more leeway before they inevitably got caught.

They spread the proceeds around pretty thoroughly; like I said, they paid utility bills, gave solar panels to people who needed them, and not just to friends and neighbors. The Atlanta civil rights groups are defending them, saying they only did what should have been done in the first place (“made sure that people could keep their houses warm and the lights on”). Their victims, obviously, disagree. Seeing that the patron class were the primary victims, Shotgun Sam and the others are trying to push the idea that they were a gang of rogue teenagers who were in it for their own enrichment. Things got a little interesting when one caller objected: “It turns out they helped my Aunt May with her utility bills. They were about to cut off her gas, and those Robin Hood kids went in and took care of the bill for her. She’d’a froze to death without them doin’ something for her.”

“Well, she obviously has family — you, for example. Why didn’t you help her?”

“I didn’t know how bad off she was; I’m in Columbus and she didn’t say nothin’ to us.”

“So that means it’s OK for someone to give her stolen property?”

“Them people that they took the stuff from ain’t hurtin’ for nothin’. Why ain’t they helpin’ out? They can afford to.”

Sam stuttered for a moment. “Well… they didn’t have a chance, they got robbed before they could do anything. You ever think of that?”

Bleep. They ain’t gonna take their solar panels off their roof and give ’em to Aunt May. They’d’ve bought some for her, if they were gonna.”

Sam cut him off and went to a commercial break — a long one — then came back whining about the Wal-Marts that got closed. A few more people wanted to put in their two cents about the theft ring, but Sam insisted that they were on a new topic. When you’re losing the argument, change the subject. Another Wal-Mart closing is a topic that’s usually sure to get his listeners upset the way he wants them upset.

One of the TV stations pixellated one of the “Robin Hoods” and distorted her voice (I’m pretty sure it was a “she”) to get an interview. She said she’d do it again because it was the only way they could keep the lights on — for themselves and their neighbors. They know they’re in a big ol’ pile of trouble, but (she said) they did what they had to. They talked about quitting when the noose started to tighten, but then they saw that news piece about the people up north who died in the Arctic storm and decided they had to keep going to save lives. Some of the civil rights lawyers are offering pro bono defense, and one DA recused himself (it turns out the kids helped out one of his own relatives), so they might get a light sentence if they can find anyone who wants to be cast as the “Sheriff of Nottingham” and actually prosecute them.

What the country club set doesn’t seem to realize is that it’s their time to step up. If things get a lot worse than they are already, those guys will fall faster and land harder to get to the same level as everyone else — they need to start making friends before that happens.


Friday, January 18, 2008 7 comments

What part of…

“Come home alone by 7” did The Boy not understand? I’m guessing two parts, “by 7” and “alone.”

As I mentioned Wednesday night, The Boy found some slick stuff on the way home. We were expecting him to call and tell us, “I’m in a ditch,” but instead it was “I fishtailed, so I went back to DJ’s” (a friend in town). Mrs. Fetched wasn’t thrilled, but she also didn’t follow through on her threat to come get the car either. I guess she realized I couldn’t drive two vehicles home.

I had already set myself up to work at home yesterday, since I needed to take some photos for work, so I didn’t get out. School was out, but Daughter Dearest is pretty quiet anyway and I was too busy working to notice how quiet… too quiet… it was. In fact, I didn’t close up the work laptop until around 9pm. (Working at home has its drawbacks, sometimes.)

So I brought the laptop out into the living room to enjoy the fire, and thought maybe I’d get to bed around 10:30 and get a decent amount of sleep for a change. It Was Not To Be: about 11:30, we saw and heard The Boy roll in. But he didn’t come inside right away. “Why isn’t he in?” Mrs. Fetched asked… which is Wifese for “go see what he’s doing.” I put on my robe and fuzzy feet, figuring I could warm my legs up on her legs when I got back in bed. :-P But when I saw The Boy smoking a cig with J and (aw geeeeez) Snippet, I slammed the door and went back in.

After telling Mrs. Fetched what had happened, I didn’t get a chance to put my cold legs on her warm ones: she got up and locked the door. Naturally, I’d forgotten to turn off my smellphone, so he shortly called it. Then popped the lock on the door, somehow. (I’ve written about security at FAR Manor before.)

The mood wasn’t much better the next morning when Mrs. Fetched went upstairs to find The Boy and Snippet crashed out on his bed. Clothed, fortunately — J was also in the room, but still. They know where the guest bedroom is (downstairs), and that’s where Snippet should have been. She’s blonde, but not that blonde. However, she brought a bad cold — or maybe the flu — with her, so Mrs. Fetched was inclined to let her stay here. (Her mom is living in a camper right now.) But The Boy has lost his driving privileges, for at least as long as Mrs. Fetched finds it convenient.

Thursday, January 17, 2008 9 comments

Snow Day

snowscapeYou know you’re in the South when the forecast includes an inch of snow and it’s the Top Story in the media.

I grabbed a treadmill in the workout room at the office late in the afternoon; I came back to people lined up along the windows. They had roped off half the parking lot along the side of the building today, so I figured they were doing something interesting with a crane. Seeing nothing like that, I said, “what’s going on?”

“Snow!” one of the gawkers said. Yup. Flake-here-flake-there, but it was snow. The morning forecast said “little or no accumulation,” so I really wasn’t paying much attention. I lived in Michigan the first 22 years of my life, so light flurries were nothing to marvel at.

About 5 o’clock, The Boy called. “It’s snowing pretty heavy out there now. It’s starting to stick to the ground, and it’s blowing around on the roads, too.” I looked out the window again: still light flurries, more than before but nothing to worry about. “OK,” I told him. “Nothing like that here though.”

Not ten seconds after he hung up, Daughter Dearest called. “It’s snowing a lot out here. I’m coming home from [her job]. You need to start coming home.”

“OK, nothing like that here, but I’ll be leaving in ten minutes or so. Just be careful going downhill and over the bridges.”

Five minutes later, Mrs. Fetched: “It’s snowing heavily here. They’re saying we could get six inches. When are you leaving?”

“In a few minutes. I have to do a photo shoot, so I’ll work at home tomorrow anyway.”

So much for “little or no accumulation” — by the time I got to town, snow was sticking to the ground and covered the used car lot. About five miles from home, it started sticking to the road too. A traction check told me there was nothing to worry about… except for the guy in the pickup truck in front of me who slowed to 25 whenever he saw a patch of snow. Sheesh.

So I got home. The Boy had left class a bit later than he should have, so he called about an hour later and said he’d fishtailed outside of town and went back to spend the night with a friend. Mrs. Fetched was, shall we say, less than thrilled.

We didn’t get six inches of snow, but we got an inch & a half. The crazy rhododendron bush has already had a bloom cycle interrupted by a hard freeze; I suppose we’ll be snapping these buds off too. It doesn’t care.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008 8 comments

Farf the Guest-Blogger

I’ll be guest-blogging tomorrow at Eat4Today — Katiebird is under the weather and asked me to post the regular “Just 4 Today” feature and whatever else comes to mind tomorrow.

If you haven’t been to Eat4Today, and are interested in weight control and personal health, it’s well worth making the daily stop. Katiebird’s philosophy is that weight control is more of a daily commitment than a matter of “just” diet and exercise. As she puts it: “Before, I was looking for a program that I could follow for the rest of my life, now I’ve got a program that only has to work for today. Just today.” That also means if you blow it, you’ve only blown it for today. You can make a fresh, stress-free start tomorrow.

So drop by tomorrow and say hello. If you like what you see, leave a comment — better yet, bookmark it and keep coming back!

Sunday, January 13, 2008 13 comments

Inserting an Insert, Part 2

When the weekend comes, use Rust-Oleum
— Ad jingle from the '60s

Painted insert, front viewThe sun was shining, a beautiful beginning to the weekend. After a slow morning, taking our time dragging around, I grabbed the spray can and a roll of masking tape, and got to work.

Being in a hurry to get started, I elected to start painting on the side(s) that didn’t have any labelling to worry about. That took all of five or ten minutes, then I had to put down the spray can (my fingertip was already black) and pick up the masking tape.

Painted insert; rear viewAfter masking off the labels here and there, I got at it. After painstakingly attempting to fold a round piece of paper to mask the decorative ceramic thing on the door, I realized that two bendable tabs held it on. [DUHHH ← me.] I painted the door and finished the insert… by this time, the paint can was getting pretty light but no problems.

With the insert painted, I went back to the drill and attacked the trim panel. This turned out to be slightly more difficult than I’d anticipated: I had to lift the edges up off the driveway to get to them. But perseverance paid off in the end, and I hung it up and hit it with the spray can. The spray began to stutter about 3/4 of the way through, but I (barely) managed to get it done before all I got was a hissss.

The instructions on the can say to wait “less than one hour, or more than 48 hours between coats.” I got the new can today, but I’ll wait until tomorrow to finish it up. I think there's a couple of places that need to be smoothed off first anyway.

Saturday, January 12, 2008 3 comments

A House Full of People Begins to Awaken…

It’s safe to say I was the first person up this morning. I slept until 8:30, which wasn’t bad because I’d gotten to bed before midnight. My back decided I’d laid on it long enough and drove me into motion.

The Boy’s birthday is tomorrow, and he has a pack of his closest friends and FOFs over to celebrate. We’ve been watching carefully to make sure nobody was smuggling in beer; EJ (the only friend of his we trust now) was reassuring in that respect. They spent mucho time out in the detached garage, playing Final Fantasy 3 on an old Super Nintendo someone brought over. I can keep an eye on things under the pretense of working on the insert (painting starts today, pictures tomorrow). Things were pretty quiet, overall.

One of Snippets friends, whom they call “BB” for no known reason, is one of the guests. She wears these plastic-frame glasses that give her a nerdy look I find strangely charming — but she smokes, and that kills all the charm. Just as well, I guess.

So I dragged myself out of bed, threw on my robe, grabbed my laptop and started a pot of coffee. BB was huddled under a quilt on the couch; The Boy’s tall (as in 7 feet+) friend in a recliner, and other guy wadded up on the love seat. That left one recliner for me. After the phone rang, with one of these pseudo-charities (do-not-call list notwithstanding) losing me to a bad connection, Mrs. Fetched dragged through and grabbed a bowl of cereal. I’d threatened to make cinnamon rolls last night, but it was already 11:30 and I figured these kids would inhale them. Oh well. I got up and got my own cereal, and fed the cats.

As I was finishing the cereal, Daughter Dearest rolled in. After a kitty-cuddle, she took it on herself to come in and start making enough noise to wake the dead The Boy’s guests. So BB sat up all at once — reminding me of how The Boy used to wake up when he was little — found her glasses, and tried to smooth out her hair. “I won’t lie,” DD told BB. “You’ve got bad hair.” Everyone, including BB, laughed.

Then BB stood up, and the “fun” began. After a stunned moment, I said, “Um… you might want to pull up your pants. You’ve got the plumber thing going.” She went whoops and yanked them up, thankfully. It didn’t seem to embarrass her too much otherwise, though. Low-rider jeans are dangerous that way.

In the time it’s taken to write this, the kids have arisen and cleared out. One has a job (and The Boy had to find his keys for him, which fortunately he did). Others have other places to go. The only noise is coming from the kitchen, where Mrs. Fetched is making stuff and straightening up. I suppose I should go see if she needs help. Or I could go paint the insert.

Friday, January 11, 2008 5 comments

FAR Future, Episode 19: Up Against the Wal

I’ve been doing a fair amount of writing, and some of it on future episodes. I hope to (eventually) return to a twice-weekly schedule, but for now I’ll try to do at least one a week.

Thursday, February 21, 2013
Up Against the Wal

From the “right thing for the wrong reasons” category: WalMart closed a couple of stores last week. “Low performers” is a phrase we’ll probably hearing a lot more out of Bentonville. Looking at a map, I’m guessing that those stores were using more fuel than the beanie counters want — they’re likely at the end of the supply line. That “warehouse on wheels” became a warehouse on rails pretty fast, but they still have to truck the stuff from the depot.

Speaking of WalMart, that article about Chinese factories knocking down outside walls so they can work by daylight was interesting. Even more so are the Chinese freighters being rigged with sails — people used to move a lot of freight that way, but how quick they can train a new generation of sailors is beyond me. There’s no telling how long it will be before they can start shipping a significant about of stuff that way, but I’m guessing it’s a bluff to keep people from reshoring (love that new buzzword, it rhymes with “restoring”). Just think: in a couple of generations, “Chinese junk” went from a name for a kind of boat, to the stuff they put in the boat to ship here, and now it’ll become a boat again. Long supply lines — or rather, the fuel costs associated with them — have to be eating up any advantages in labor costs… especially since the workers have woken up and started demanding a bigger share of the pie.

I haven’t seen anything on the US news sites, but there was a brief mention on the BBC site about container-loads of stowaways taking the slow boat from China to wherever. The only places where I’ve seen details are the nationalist (i.e. racist) sites — not even Shotgun Sam has brought it up yet — and I tend to discount most of that drivel. But either they’re sourcing the same lies, or they’re sourcing the same facts. Anyway, as the story goes: the Chinese government is outfitting shipping containers with food, water, toilets, and hammocks, loading about 10 or 20 people in each one, and putting several containers on each ship leaving the country. They ship to warehouses controlled by some front group, get the stowaways fake papers, and turn ’em loose. The only primary differences I’ve seen in the stories is who’s behind it: either the government (letting volunteers ride for free to get them out of the country) or a tong/mafia group (high payments, indentured servitude on this end of the ride). The US government is (supposedly) looking the other way in return for the Chinese government not calling their notes all at once. The Chinese have been collecting on our debts, but slowly, probably to keep from crashing our economy (or inviting a default), and probably to subsidize worker pay hikes.

Meanwhile, back here at home, Wally don’t wanna play with the locals, but I suspect it’s inevitable — if they want a store fill of crap, they need to fill it up somehow. But the domestic companies aren’t giving WalMart much of a discount these days, especially the ones who have reshored their operations. Wal-Mart naturally wants cost-reduced versions of stuff like microwaves and furniture, but I’m sure they’ve seen the surveys too. People buying appliances don’t want throwaway crap anymore, and they’ll pay for stuff that’s going to last a while. The “Site-to-Store” feature they’ve had for years accounts for a huge percentage of their sales now — I think anyone who has wasted gas going to Wally-World for something that was out of stock has become an instant convert.

Ironically, Wal-Mart’s cutthroat pricing policies are exactly what has come back to bite them. Higher-end retailers have barely seen any price moves; there are plenty of margins to cut into and a lot more goodwill with their suppliers. Not so with the razor-thin margins “enjoyed” by Wally’s suppliers: if labor costs go up, if shipping costs go up, if materials costs go up (and all of them have lately), Wally either has to absorb the increases themselves (and pass it on to their customers) or lose another supplier. So the prices are going up at the low end a lot more than the mid-range or high-end, at least so far. That’s one jaw of the pliers: the other is that much of Wally’s price-conscious customer base is spending all their dough just to keep the heat on. You would think that would be offset by formerly higher-end shoppers looking to stay on a budget, but the ones who have spoken out about it said the price breaks aren’t worth the hit to quality.

At work, we didn’t so much reshore as reshuffle. Our manufacturer in China is still making stuff for the Asia-Pacific market. A company we bought a while back has a factory in Mexico, so that’s where we moved Western Hemisphere production. Finally, we contracted with a factory in Italy to handle Europe/Middle East/Africa products. One of the manufacturing guys I talk to about one of our products says that’s becoming a trend: build the stuff close to where it’s being sold; sending information is still dirt-cheap and you can save big on shipping costs. Translating documentation is another inflation-resistant service — it’s all handled electronically and the people doing the actual translations often have wind or solar power (like me) to avoid blackout issues.

Things got a little shaky at work late last summer; the blackouts made it pretty difficult for our customers to deliver the goods to their customers, and we had an alarming dip in orders. Fortunately, things improved with cooler weather, and they’re pledging to not get caught out like that again, so maybe I’ll stay employed for another year. Our new product, an EMTA that can go 2 days on battery power, with data and two phone lines in constant use, made us one of the few growth companies last year… which is why I was able to afford my own backup power; our stock zoomed up and I cashed in some options. Go us. :-)

It’s already starting to warm up; the in-laws have started trays of tomato plants. We’ll be starting our gardens before you know it. This year, we probably won’t be going to Wal-Mart for much of anything, though.


Thursday, January 10, 2008 6 comments

The Boy Matriculates

I was trying to be positive, but I couldn’t actually bring myself to believe it was going to happen until it did. The Boy started at Lanier Tech this week.

He’s enjoying the classes, although none of us are enjoying the prices on textbooks. At least the Hope Grant he got knocked off a lot of that as well as his tuition. He finally got the battery in my car, with the incentive of being able to drive it to school (hey, it wasn’t my idea, I didn’t know about it until I came home to no car in the garage). With the front tires as worn as they are, driving it anywhere farther than the nearest tire store is a rather risky proposition at the moment.

But I digress. I think with his artistic bent, The Boy could find custom paint & body work a rather lucrative field if the economy picks up again.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008 13 comments

Inserting an Insert, Part 1.1

Fireplace insert after wire-brushingAfter an evening using the big drill with a 3" wire wheel, I figured there had to be something bigger that would let me get the job done faster. After some evening errands Sunday night, I swung by Home Despot. Although it was 7:53, the girl at the door told me they were closed (they nominally close at 8) and wouldn’t let me in. Fine: if Home Despot doesn’t want my business, there’s a Lowe’s near my office.

So on the way home from work, I picked up a 6" wire wheel and a 3" cone wheel for the odd corners, strapped them to the back of the bike, and headed home. The 6-incher made a huge difference; I got the top, back, and right side done in the same amount of time it took to do the left side with the old 3" wheel. That left the hardest part, the front — that iron filigree work was a bear to work around and through.

Somewhere along the line, I plugged in the blower and hit the switch. It came on, with a bit of a groan but got going after it remembered what to do. I still have to de-rust the trim panel and, but it’s flat so I don’t expect much problem there.

Tomorrow is probably going to be a down-day, with choir practice eating up the evening, but I’m still holding out the possibility that we’ll install it this weekend.

Sunday, January 06, 2008 25 comments

Inserting an Insert, Part 1 [UPDATED]

fireplace insert with surface rustSome friends of ours decommissioned an Earth Stove fireplace insert some time back, and had it sitting under their porch ever since. When they learned we were talking about getting one, they were only to glad to give us that one. Of course, there were the minor details about getting it delivered (as it’s several hundred pounds of steel and firebrick) to the manor, and what kind of shape it was in. The Boy has been disappearing all weekend for most weekends, and then I managed to hose my knee. But then their sons showed up: J and his older brother, a skinny Marine home on leave; they devised a roller system with some PVC pipe (which you can see under the insert) and rolled it on his truck and then off into our detached garage.

I had a little time yesterday, and the anti-inflammatories have done a pretty good job (my knee still aches but it’s only annoying), so I spent half an hour getting stuff together. Wire brush, dust mask (plenty of those around, thanks to the chicken houses), jacket, gloves… and the camera, of course.

Ashes insideI opened it up to find several inches of ash still inside the thing. I guess I can’t complain about a freebie though; but I could (and did) scoop it out and toss it in The Boy’s firepit.

With the initial preparations out of the way, I took wire brush in hand and got to work. The rust on the box is actually pretty light, except toward the bottom — I think a lot of what came off was dirt. I’ll probably go over it with some medium sandpaper, just to make sure, but I’m already half-done with the initial phase of the project (Phase 2 = painting, Phase 3 = installation).

There are two possible wrinkles that I need to be aware of. First is the blower; they told me it worked when they plugged it in a year ago, but it’s been sitting in a non-climate controlled area since then. So I’m going to pull that unit out and have a look at it before plugging it in. Second is Mrs. Fetched… she’s not sure she wants black. Rust-Oleum has several colors of high-heat paint; I have some black paint (put to good use painting an old grill & a motorcycle tank), but she’s not sure she wants black. She certainly doesn’t want green, though. There’s a “copper” color, which might be interesting… I might use it on the trim panel and maybe the door & hood if nothing else. But I have a little time to make those decisions.

UPDATE: I has a drill. They use large DeWalt drills in the chicken house as winch motors; like anything in the chicken house, they develop problems. The thing I like about them is that they are built to be repairable, and Mrs. Fetched brings them to me to repair. I happened to have a couple drills in the queue; I tried one and it shot fire out the back. I snagged the brushes out of a “parts” drill, added some gear oil to the gearbox to quiet down the shrieking, and it run fine. I put the wire brush on it and got to work. The drill is heavy as all get-out, but never even got warm and it took nearly all the rust off that the hand brush missed. The insert is much more black than rust color now, at least on the side I did.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008 13 comments

FAR Future, Episode 18: Political Theater

The in-laws have a superstition that whatever you do on New Year’s Day establishes a pattern for the year ahead — thus, it’s a good day for doing things you want to do all year and avoid things you don’t want (like work). I’m not sure if it’s a southern belief, or specific to the in-laws — but I figured holding back on this FAR Future post for one day might be just the thing I need to establish a pattern I want in the year ahead. By this time next year, I hope to be posting Episode 60 or thereabouts.

Happy New Year, everyone, and don’t forget to go easy on the fossil fuels!

Friday, February 8, 2013
Political Theater

The whole secession thing died back for a while — it turned out a lot of the people who were willing to pander to the lowest common denominator weren’t quite willing to cut the cords. Planet Georgia, as I said back in December, huffed and puffed about “respecting our values and concerns” after the people turned out to be seriously conflicted about the whole matter. Other states mostly followed suit, although Wyoming and Utah look a little shaky these days. After this week, though, it might start making more noise again. Or not.

The new Congressional leadership agreed to “hear and seriously consider the proposals of the minority,” which is even smaller than before. I don’t know how they managed to say “seriously” with a straight face; the goplets, which great enthusiasm, took the opportunity to really show their butts to the entire nation. They crafted a big ol’ grab-bag of their pet legislation: drill ANWR (nobody believes it will make a difference anymore, but that didn’t stop them), abolish the NFRB (rationing), eliminate heating fuel subsidies for low-income families, big tax cuts for their patrons, eliminate pollution controls (in the name of “energy efficiency” of course)… basically, attempting to re-do all the damage that Bush-league did and we’ve all worked so hard to undo.

I think at the highest levels, their plan was to introduce the legislation, let it die in committee or via filibuster, and tell the base that the government wasn’t interested in their wants. Instead, the committees let each bill go through, with no amendments and no serious opposition — the last few rational goplets started trying to kill the bills themselves when they saw what was happening, but to no avail. C-SPAN then got to show the supporters doing some incredible verbal contortions. Naturally, when it came time for a vote, each bill went down in flames. “Hear and seriously consider” has nothing to do with “support,” thankfully.

Boy, did Shotgun Sam get an earful though! A bunch of callers were complaining “what were our guys thinking, wanting to kill heating assistance, me and my family would be freezing to death without it!” and “whose brilliant idea was it to try repealing rationing, it’s the only way I can get enough gas to get to work.” Once again, he was having a hard time steering the mood of the listeners. Indeed, repealing heating assistance went down 427-6 or something like that — the only goplets with the stomach to deal with their voters on that one were in Florida or some of the high-income districts. Or both. I guess it goes to show that not even the most rabid right-wing voter has more sense than their candidates, who seem willing to hurt himself for “the cause” — in the end, the goplets ensured that a few more of their own voters will sit the next election out, and maybe lose a couple more seats.

Well… we’ve gotten past the worst of the winter, unless we get a late freeze. In a few months, we’ll be wishing it was cold again. We’ll be “looking forward” to blackouts all summer long, I’m sure. I’ve got as much wind & solar generation at FAR Manor as I could afford, and it should be enough to run my computers for work and keep a fridge or two (mostly) going. I’m actually looking forward to some warmer weather; going to the creek to cool off is tons easier than chopping food & feeding a stove.



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