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Friday, March 28, 2008 6 comments

FAR Future, Episode 27: Here We Go Again!

Short one this time. I'll make up for it with a two-fer next week…

Sunday, August 11, 2013
Here We Go Again!

Remember these guys? They’re at it again.

I guess printing up flyers was too much effort (or expense) this time though; they’re spamming every email they can find on Planet Georgia. (Misspellings left intact, as always!)

Thank you to ALL those who BRAVED THE COLD AND HOSTILEITY and MARCHED on the Capitol and SENT A MESSGE to those who would DRAG DOWN the SOVREIGN STATE OF GEORGIA! Thanks to YOU, they now know that THE UNALIENABLE VALUES that our Great State was founded upon are NOT FORGOTTON and CHERISHED and will not be GIVEN UP lightly!!!

But once again, WE NEED YOU to defend our BELOVED HOME!

Over 200 years ago, an INJUSTICE was foysted upon our SOVERIGN STATE by an incompetant survey crew! Recently, the SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES reversed that injustice, and RESTORED to Geogia her bounderies! Yet, LAWLESS FOLK would DENY JUSTICE to our Great State!

THEREFORE, once again, dear brethren of the GEORGIA CITIZENS MILITIA ---


On LABOR DAY, SEPTEMBER the 2nd, all ABLE-BODYED MEN who can make the trip should MUSTER at the COLE CITY EXIT off I-59, prepared to MARCH over RUGGED TERRANE to the southern bend of NICKAJACK LAKE, that we may DEFEND our GOD-GIVEN TERRITORYS! LABOR DAY will be the DAY we CLAIM the HARD WORK of our FOREFATHERS!!!

Please respond to this email for directions or to share rides. PLEASE bring adequate CLOTHING, FOOD, and FOOTGEAR for the march! If you cannot muster with us, RATION SWAPS will be APRECIATED!

I had a look at the likely route they’re going to take: rugged, indeed! The extreme northwest corner of the state is cut off from the rest by a canyon of sorts — you actually have to drive into Tennessee or Alabama to get there by road. Google Earth shows a road and a power line cut running down the east side, but the elevation drops like 600 feet in a pretty short distance and I think the road is one of those “used to be” roads (it doesn’t show on Google Maps). Interestingly enough, Google Earth also shows the state line where it was supposed to be in the first place (the 35th parallel), putting the river well inside Georgia — but Google Maps shows the line where it was actually drawn. It didn’t take long to check out… which was fortunate, because both power and Internet access are getting spotty as usual through the summer (although it’s not as bad as last year, yet). I suspect they’re giving priority power to cellphone towers, or perhaps the carriers have beefed up their backup power systems, because the cell network has been mostly well-behaved all summer… which is good; they might be able to call an ambulance when people take the inevitable tumble down that drop.

I wonder how news crews are going to cover this. Probably from helicopters. I might email the militia to see if they want an embedded journalist with them if none of the mainstreamers are interested.


Wednesday, March 26, 2008 12 comments

Flowering trees

Flowering treeMore sproing! — these are trees at a nearby church. There are similar trees in a traffic island on the way to work; I was going to grab a shot of those last week from the motorcycle, but the light turned green before I had a chance.

If anyone is keeping score, I took this one with the cellphone… the light was strong enough that I felt confident about getting something usable.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008 4 comments

These Are the Good Old Days

A rant I wrote back in August and never got around to posting

There aren’t too many ways to get on my nerves, but one thing is almost certain to set me off: start whining about how much worse things are nowadays than they were 40, 50, how-many-ever years ago. Anyone, who didn’t sleep through every single moment of every single history class they ever had, should know better than to barf up that kind of slop.

“Morals have deteriorated in this generation,” is a perfect example. Um, no — or not nearly as much as blue-noses wish us to believe. The world has always harbored child molesters, adultery, teenage pregnancy, incest, and all the other nasty stuff on the other side of the line. I doubt it’s much more prevalent than it used to be, but we are more honest about its existence. Personally, I think it’s better to have this kind of stuff out in the open — sunlight, after all, is a disinfectant. Is it better to pretend your kid didn’t get molested, as was likely a generation ago, or to make a public legal example of the perpetrator? I hate to bring up the Catholic child-abuse scandal, but it was a scandal precisely because it had been covered up for so long. If the rogue priests had been immediately defrocked and turned over to the authorities 30 years ago, it certainly wouldn’t be an issue today. Another example: is it better to pack your pregnant daughter off to a relative’s, or to the abortion clinic; or would being there for her and helping her to cope with the situation be more like a… parent?

Pick a time in history, and just try to convince me that it was morally superior to today. We had Jim Crow from 1876 to 1964 and beyond, and slavery before that. Abortion, pornography, prostitution, and gambling were all legal and widespread until the Comstock laws of 1873. (They remained widespread after that, but went underground, enabling organized crime syndicates.) It took over 100 years of trying — from 1832 to 1938 — to get child labor laws on the national books. And if you think eminent domain gets abused today, study up on what the railroads did to people who happened to be in their way. Don’t even get me started about the abuses of feudal lords during the Middle Ages. No, morals are no worse than they’ve ever been — but we have correctly decided to talk about the problems and make them more visible. Being honest with ourselves probably makes us more “moral” than our ancestors.

What is happening is that people aren’t going to church nearly as much as they used to — and some of those who continue to go conclude that everyone else is morally inferior these days. But 60 or 70 years ago, church was often the only social connection available to common people, especially outside urban areas. In other words, people went to church because that was all there was to do after the chores were done. Nowadays, churches have to compete with lots of other ways for people to connect — including the Internet — and, as usual, conservatism (i.e. the inability to cope with change) has left far too many churches stuck in the 19th century. Look at the churches that are growing: they usually include more modern music styles, no dress codes, and outreach programs that are relevant to the world we live in. None of that is “diluting the gospel,” which is how most conservative church-goers dismiss any attempt to introduce something into worship other than what they grew up with.

Here’s another howler: “Kids (or pick a minority) have all the rights these days.” This is usually followed by an extreme (and rare) example, made to sound like it happens all the time. The people spewing this kind of garbage are usually the ones who enjoy(ed) abusing their kids, or lording it over minorities, and resent the very thought that those low-lifes could be their equals. And from what I remember about school, if “teachers don’t have any rights” nowadays, they (or their previous generation) brought it on themselves. In the not-so-good old days, any conflict between a student and a staff member was automatically resolved in favor of the staff — regardless of who was truly at fault. The only exceptions would be if the kid’s parents were on the school board or had other political connections. Disputes between students were resolved in the most expedient manner possible — in other words, the easy way instead of the right way. Don’t try to tell me it wasn’t so; I was there and saw it, several times from the wrong end.

Oh, and God help you if you caught out the teacher in class. Somewhere back in elementary school, we were studying inventors. The teacher had made a poster of different inventions and their inventors. Unfortunately for me, her poster said that Henry Ford invented the automobile and I knew he didn’t… and made the mistake of saying so. When she insisted, I started naming autos that preceded Ford and she started screaming about me contradicting her. I guess that’s when I realized that school was about something other than actually learning. There was never an apology or admission that I was right — and as a mere student, I never expected one. From then on, I pretty much coasted from (I think it was) 4th grade right on to graduation. Getting good grades was easy enough; just keep your head down, read ahead, and knock out the homework while the teacher was going on about something you’d already learned on your own.

I do feel for the teachers who are actually trying to make a difference with their students, but they’re usually the ones who aren’t going to have the worst problems anyway — even the bad kids know who’s phony and who isn’t. I also feel for the kids, like The Boy, who couldn’t cope with the boredom and conformism and drop out (which is not to say I approve, but I understand the motivation). Is it really asking too much to find out where a student’s talents and interests lie, and try to help them develop them? Oh yeah, that would mean increasing school taxes. Not on this planet… God forbid you pay another $10 a year in school taxes to improve the local schools. It was a bore-a-torium for your generation, why should it be interesting for the next? The only idea that seems to be gaining traction these days is to make school a year-round prospect. Daughter Dearest has just two more months of this; I hope she can avoid flaming out.

Is it any wonder that people are simply opting-out? The deck is stacked, the casino’s rigged, and the smarter ones are simply choosing not to play the game. “It builds character” is something I’ve never heard said by anyone who actually had to do whatever onerous chore someone else was stuck with. If you’re not going to help: stick your smarmy platitudes where the sun don’t shine, waddle away, and let me either deal with this on my own terms… or not.

Carole King said it back when I was a kid: “These Are the Good Old Days.” They are now, anyway. Enjoy them while they last.

Saturday, March 22, 2008 4 comments

Hi ho, Hi ho, it’s Home to Work I Go

Not many opportunities for rest at FAR Manor, especially on weekends.

The light fixture in Mrs. Fetched’s closet croaked last week, and she’s been on me ever since to change it. I’d put it on my to-do list, and planned to tackle it this weekend anyway. Naturally, the standard ceramic closet socket is unobtanium these days, so we ended up with one of those two-bulb sockets with the square glass dinner-plate diffuser. I put that up in the last hour, and all is well in the closet once again.

But, of course, that’s only the beginning. Mrs. Fetched has assigned to me: replacing a toilet seat (sorry, wrong size); taking out some saplings out front (which ones?); inspecting the roof in the back near a big oak tree (limbs coming off), and general clean up the house stuff to absorb any free time I manage to end up with. I suppose I could go pick up all the limbs blown off trees in last week’s wind storms, to provide enough wood for the week.

I need to: drain a little oil out of the Virago (not sure how I overfilled it); change the oil in the Suzuki; take the Suzuki out to scrub in the new tire ← very important, you understand!; work on FAR Future (I’m 2/3 done with the next+1 episode and have a pretty good idea for next+2, next one’s pretty much done).

Off to early lunch. Mrs. Fetched is hungry & cranky.

Friday, March 21, 2008 2 comments

FAR Future, Episode 26: Let the Water Wars Begin

Turbulence ahead. Please cap your water bottles tightly.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013
Let the Water Wars Begin!

I hope you’re enjoying the Southeastern Political Theater Special, “Water Wars,” this month. Laugh-a while you can; it’ll be going on tour soon enough.

OK: I was utterly gobsmacked when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Planet Georgia last week. Tennessee did everything they could, but the Court ordered all injunctions lifted. I knew nothing good would come of that stunt where they sent a truckload of bottled water to the Capitol when the whole thing got started back when.

“Our” governor attempted to calm the situation, saying something about continuing to honor the injunction with regard to Hamilton County and the City of Chattanooga. “Their” governor wasn’t having any: “Of course they will. This has never been about fixing the border — it’s never been about anything but a blatant water grab, by a state that has consistently refused to get a handle on over-development or water usage. Know this: we will not lie down, even at this point, but we will fight on to protect the resources of our citizens.” A reporter asked how far he was willing to go, and he pointed straight at the camera and said, “As far as we have to.” Ominous.

That gave the national laughingstock, that some here call the “state legislature,” a rare opportunity to look and sound reasonable. “The State of Tennessee has been a good neighbor for over 200 years, and we see no reason for that to change,” the Speaker said. “We’ll review all border changes on a case-by-case basis, with an eye to minimal disruption. As for the water issue, we don’t intend to draw water from the Tennessee River any time soon — we’re just securing an emergency supply for the next drought. Anyone who lived through the 2011 drought can understand that we are looking out for the needs of our citizens.

“But in the long run, the entire Southeast can expect wetter summers, so any draws from the river in question will be temporary at worst.”

Don’t watch the mouth, watch the hands. That goes double for Planet Georgia politicians. The state has actually secured easements for a water line over the last few years, all the way from Lake Allatoona to the old border, and they started work on the right-of-way the day after the Supreme Court ruling. Now they’ve already started on easements for that last 300 feet to Nickajack Lake, which the landowner (backed by the Tennessee State government) is already fighting. There have been threats by various individuals on both sides, and both governors have threatened to call out their respective National Guard units…

If you grew up in Michigan or Ohio, you may remember hearing about the Toledo War in 1835, brought on by a similar surveying error. Michigan was bought off with what’s now known as the Upper Peninsula, which turned out to be a mineral-rich prize. But with no unallocated territory next to Georgia, how will our planet be bought off? It’s amazing to me, sometimes: all this history, all this bloodshed even, that people have been willing to risk to be king over a little patch of dirt. Did they ever ask the people living on that land which king they would rather have?

Ah well. There will certainly be plenty of this to come. Meanwhile, Daughter Dearest’s boyfriend made it to FAR Manor. He took the bus from Savannah to Atlanta, then rented a scooter for the last so-many miles. Man… it doesn’t seem that long ago when riding a scooter up the freeways was suicide. Then again, that’s when people were bitching about $3/gal gas and still “walking” the dog by holding a leash out the SUV window (as Billy Joel said, “the good old days weren’t always good”). He seems like a decent fellow, but he isn’t around much — he’s one of what the techie media calls “Sailor 2.0,” the people who crew the new Auto-Sail freighters. The skill set these people have is amazing: you have to be familiar with both computers and mechanics, have the classic “weather eye” to understand weather patterns and make the most of wind conditions, read sea conditions and adjust course, navigation… I might have been good at it, if I’d been born 35 years later and had enough confidence in myself to try it. I’m trying not to monopolize his time, but it’s hard to avoid the temptation — we’ve had a good time talking into the last couple of nights about different things.

The Auto-Sail ships are pretty amazing too — built from the newest composite materials, lighter than a wooden ship and about as strong as an iron one. But the real fascinating part (to me) is the propulsion. They’ve evolved a long way from the part-kite-mostly-diesel ships first trialed only a few years ago; they use a combination of kites and sail-wings, all computer-controlled, to move the freight. They have small diesel engines (“trolling motors” is what the sailors dubbed them) for maneuvering in the harbor and to keep moving when they’re becalmed. All in all, according to Paul (the boyfriend), they use less than a fifth the fuel of a traditional all-diesel freighter, on average. His ship, the Magnolia, has a crew of four — enough to manage the ship in emergencies and more than enough under normal conditions — and sails between Savannah GA, San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Santa Marta, Columbia (The Three S’s). They carry a lot of coffee, cocoa, and bananas north, and various stuff (usually equipment and electronics) south. They have a lot of time to kill; they work eight-hour shifts that overlap the previous and next shift by an hour, so they spend six hours on their own each day. They need satellite feeds for their weather station, so they always have decent Internet access and plenty of time to take advantage.

And they have no lack of water. Desalinization supplies all they need. I told Daughter Dearest that if we get another major drought, she should just sail away with the guy.


Wednesday, March 19, 2008 2 comments


Mater sproutsI had gone into the studio Sunday to grab a couple of tools I’d left in there, and saw no sprouts in the starter pots.

What a difference a couple of days makes. I checked again yesterday evening, and nearly all the tomatoes have sprouted — one tray has Rutgers, another Tommy-Toe (seeds from some friends), and the third is the little yellow pear tomato that volunteered from nowhere in the herb bed last year (the latter are very sweet and keep for a long time). The sprouts are bent over because they were covered in plastic (on the advice of Mrs. Fetched’s mom) and weren’t able to push the plastic out of the way on their own. Naturally, I didn’t mark them and have no idea which one is which. The peppers are still thinking about things and remain covered.

At the bottom left are some basil and cilantro I planted from saved seeds. I see one in each tray, so they’re beating the peppers up…

Tuesday, March 18, 2008 5 comments

The (Other) Storms of Spring

As usual, I wasn’t in on the initial “fun.” In fact, I was absorbed in working on FAR Future last night, posting Episode 25 and filling in pieces of the next episode, when I heard a BANG. That’s usually an “intervention urgently requested” signal, so I walked into the empty living room. “What was that?” I called toward the kitchen.

“The Boy,” Mrs. Fetched said, but without the usual heat that comes with a TB04. Then I heard a car revvvvvv. “Oh!” she gasped. “Stop him. I need to talk to him, go out front!” She sounded worried, and I got moving — this wasn’t the usual head-butting aftermath, so something was significantly amiss.

I dashed out the front door and reached the driveway with a little time to spare. The way The Boy came around the side of the house, though, had me ready to jump… but I waved wildly and he stopped with a few feet of margin.

“I’m taking EJ to work,” he said.

“Wait a minute. Your mom wants to talk to you.” She came out the front door even as I spoke, after trying to catch him at the back.

“What happened?” she asked, and the agitation he’d barely held in check poured out: it was dark, so I couldn’t see that he had been seething.

“Snippet pissed me off!” he yelled. “She’s always pulling $#¡+ like that!”

“What did she do?”

“EJ wanted to ride in front for once, and Snippet threw a fit about it. She started in on me again — and then she hit me — and I’ve had it with her $#¡+!” He was almost crying at this point. “She’s outta here tomorrow — I’m going to take her back to her mom, and that’s it!”

That didn’t take long, I thought. Aloud I said, “Look, you’re really worked up — you want me to take EJ and you can settle down a bit? I don’t mind taking him.”

“That might be a good idea,” Mrs. Fetched said. “You’re really not in a good frame of mind to be driving. How’s your blood sugar?”

The Boy pulled himself together — “with a visible effort” is an old writing cliché, but that’s exactly what he did — and shook his head. “My blood sugar’s fine,” he said (he gets completely non-linear when it’s way high, like 300). “Snippet just pissed me off. I need to get away from her for a little while. I’ll be OK.”

“You sure?” I asked.

“Let your dad drive,” Mrs. Fetched said. “You can ride along. I’m just afraid you won’t be paying attention to your driving, and you know how that can go.”

“No, I’ll be fine,” he said, getting a little calmer. His blood sugar was obviously OK — he’s completely incapable of getting it together even that much when he’s gone off the rails.

“Well… drive safe, then,” Mrs. Fetched said, seeing it too. “And come back safe,” I added. He nodded and rolled away, leaving the driveway without the usual “enthusaism,” and we went back inside.

I went back to writing, wondering what had become of Snippet, when I heard voices in the guest room (next to the master bedroom). I poked my head in, to find Snippet teary-eyed and pouting on the bed, talking to Mrs. Fetched.

“Girl talk?”

“No,” Mrs. Fetched said, and I stepped in — then realized I had nothing helpful to say (stop manipulating him, you little twit wouldn’t have been well-received, I expect) and left. They continued to talk for a good long while, and then we talked to The Boy for a while when he returned.

“23 years from now, do you think you could stand living with Snippet the way she is?”

“No way. And I told her, if she does that even once more, we’re through. She just keeps pushing, and pushing, and I don’t know why.”

“Because it works,” she said. “She just wears you down until you do what she wants.” (She should know, that’s why FAR Manor owns us, after all.)

“And when she pushes you like that, and makes you mad, she wins,” I said. “When you’re mad, you’re not thinking. You just re-act, and you can’t get past reacting to planning.”

We talked a little more, then went to bed. We could hear Snippet on the phone to her mom.

This afternoon, to Mrs. Fetched, it looked like the two of them were going to try papering over their differences and going on without resolving a very serious issue… but the fault lines were very visible when they got to Wendy’s (they were running various errands).

“I’m kind of hungry, too,” Snippet said. How this kid manages to keep a figure like hers, eating almost nothing but junk food, is a mystery to me. Probably involved pricking her finger and signing a piece of parchment in blood, but I digress. “Can you get me a bacon cheeseburger?” (I can has cheezburger?)

“Yeah, Mom, can you get her something?” Mrs. Fetched said nothing and ordered only her own chow. The Boy shrugged and got her the requested burger and drink; he got a Baconator, large fries, and drink (his mom’s side of the family processes fat better than carbs, I’m the opposite).

“I’m still hungry,” Snippet said after finishing her burger. “Can I have some of your fries?”

“All you ordered was the sandwich. If you wanted fries you should have asked for some.”

“That’s a lot of food,” Mrs. Fetched intervened. “You can share some of your fries.”

Mrs. Fetched said that Snippet started another round of continuous low-level sniping pretty much the rest of the afternoon; The Boy mostly ignored it but I don’t know for how much longer. They’re visiting a friend of his right now; if she keeps her mouth shut things might get better… but as EJ said, “that would be hard for her.” There’s not a while lot of love between EJ and Snippet… it reminds me of Lobster and M.A.E. back when, although Lobster was simply jealous that The Boy was getting some female attention and Lobster wasn’t. I also don’t expect that the two of them will start spending a lot of time together complaining about stuff like Lobster and M.A.E. did. History doesn’t repeat, it just rhymes, after all.

Monday, March 17, 2008 3 comments

FAR Future, Episode 25: So Far So Good

A weekend away from the intertubes might have done me some good. I’ll make up for the long delay on this episode by putting up the next one (mostly written already) later this week.

Monday, June 17, 2013
So Far So Good

The rolling blackouts of summer have started, but so far they only last for a couple hours as intended. That means my home-grown electricity is enough to run a fan or three plus the computer and network while I’m working at home. Now if I could get a wireless signal to the creek, and a waterproof laptop, I’d be set!

Speaking of laptops, I’m drooling over Apple’s new MacBook Sunlight. Nice commercial, naturally, with the guy using one in front of a window all day, then winding up the (optional) charger when evening comes. The entire lid is covered with solar cells — great move for anyone working at home. If my job continues to hold up, I’d love to get one for myself. But even if I can’t get a new laptop, I can be really happy. The chicken houses are, now and forever, past tense. They’re already becoming hay barns and storage for various junk that accumulates on a farm. Even better, Daughter Dearest is home for the summer. Her latest online beau is a little closer to home this time — he works on one of the new Auto-Sail freighters out of Savannah. She told us about their meetup, and how it went well, even if she didn’t get a chance to bring him here. She said he’ll be back in late July and maybe we’ll get to meet him then.

Plenty of sun so far this summer — good for solar panels, not so good for gardens (lack of rain). I sure hope we’re not going back into another drought cycle. We did pretty well rain-wise last year, but that doesn’t do much for us now. The really amazing thing is how this border dispute with Tennessee has gone on for so long… I figured it would die years ago. But the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case last week(!) — so one way or another, that should be over with next month.

But I digress. The libraries have gone back to summer hours, of course — and the right people are making sure the lights (and A/C) stay on all day. The only complaint was from parents who wonder why they didn’t go to summer hours as soon as school let out.

The local library is presenting an “Energy Saving Tips for the Family” series that’s been well-attended. I had to slip away from work for a couple of hours to check out the presentation last week, on “comfortable outdoor summer spaces.” It was sponsored by Home Depot, which made sense, but the presenter did a pretty good job of keeping the “new stuff” pitch to a minimum. There was a lot of focus on selecting the site — shade, breeze, soft ground cover, furniture, view — all that stuff. They suggested getting a neighborhood together to plan either a community space or ways to connect individual spaces, and offered a break on delivery charges for group orders, yadda yadda. :-) She had to put in one plug, anyway!

I asked about creek sites, and she suggested that a neighborhood group might be the way to go there. There are special considerations, she said, for creekside sites: depending on the slope of the bank, you may need to do some earth-moving. Erosion control is a big deal, too, especially when you have people tromping around it all summer. There aren’t too many neighbors in the pasture, unless you count the cows, so I guess we’ll stick with the lawn chairs and plastic table. When it really starts getting hot (like next week), I have some ballast to hold down the table and we can sit in the creek and still have our magazines and lemonade.

Someone else brought up the idea of integrating a “space” with a garden. She laughed and asked if there were any kids involved — a kid taking a tumble in the wrong place could wipe out a lot of your crop! But there are ways to do it — waist-high beds (which reduce bending and squatting anyway) are one possibility.

I should have asked about moss… it’s soft and it likes shade, after all. And I have a bunch of it growing in half of the front yard. Maybe I should just put some furniture out there and call it good enough.

Nah. I’d rather have it down at the creek.


Sunday, March 16, 2008 5 comments

Spinning Wrenches, Spinning Air Columns

Ah, spring… when a young man’s fancy turns to— HOLY $#!+A TORNADO!!!!

The first Big One of spring paid a visit to downtown Atlanta, and took in many of the tourist sites: the Georgia Dome, Phillips Arena (interrupting a Hawks game in overtime), the CNN Center, and many many more. The usual Saturday cartoon fest was thrown aside for a wall-to-wall news orgy of the Disaster On Our Doorstep (DOOD!).

But more storms were on their way for the afternoon, and we had stuff to do, so we turned off the TV and got to it. The Boy miraculously showed up in the morning when he said he would, which took the pressure off me to once again throw my plans in the dumpster and tend to the chicken houses (wasn’t gonna happen anyway). Big V’s husband came by with his trailer; we rolled the red Civic (which has stopped shifting) onto it and took it to the mechanic. From there, I went on to the motorcycle shop and their “sidewalk sale,” shopping list in hand and rear wheels from both motorcycles in the trunk. As I’d hoped, heated gloves were in the discount bin, so I found a pair that fit me and scratched that one off my list. Then it was off to the parts counter for some serious denting of the checking account (recently augmented by the addition of a bonus check). I came home with:

- a cargo rack for the Suzuki (a miracle: they had it in stock!)
- heated gloves
- brake pads for the Virago
- the Virago rear wheel, with fresh rubber
- fresh oil for both bikes, filter for the Virago
- chain lube
- cable lube (plus a lube tool)

Stuff I’ll be picking up later in the week:

- Suzuki rear tire, with fresh rubber
- Acerbis 4.25gal tank for the Suzuki
- garage stand

I got home just in front of the rain, and found the all-day news-orgy had shifted from the past to the immediate future: a pair of strong storms were heading in from Alabama, killed some people in Polk County (terrible news there), and continued almost due east at 50mph (those spring storms move FAST) in single file. The weather dudes were waxing poetic over their new technology, that allows them to build 3D models of storms and display them in different ways, and to zoom in on the immediate area and show roads and locations that were in the path of the storms. This particular storm was highly radar-genic, so they were having all sorts of fun showing us just about everything they could do. As it turned out, the really bad parts of the storms (F2 tornadoes, 2" hail, 70mph winds) went 10 miles south of us. After things died down a bit, I headed to the garage to work on the bikes.

I got the wheel back on the Virago, with only the usual difficulty plus a brain-fart (where’s the spacer? duh, I left it on the axle so I wouldn’t lose it!), then put the cargo rack on the Zook while draining old oil out of the Virago. I was about to tackle the brake pads, when Mrs. Fetched asked if I was interested in food. Being 6pm (already?), I realized I was ready to eat. Of course, Mrs. Fetched rarely delivers the whole story: we had to stop at a couple of places to pay bills. The second place was Home Depot, and we picked up a couple minor things while we were there — including a new light fixture for her closet. We ate (at Up the Creek) and then got to Office Max, five minutes before closing, to pick up card stock for Daughter Dearest’s graduation invitations.

After church, I’ll finish up the Virago brakes and wire in the heated gloves, then perhaps I’ll take a (ahem) short ride! The Boy came in with Snippet a few minutes ago, “disappointed” that he missed his shot at the chicken houses, but willing to come to church. Time to jump in the shower and get ready…

Friday, March 14, 2008 No comments

Weekend Cinema

Daughter Dearest gets a hat tip for this weekend’s flick.

I don’t know about you, but I was almost ROFL at this particular video. These guys remind me of two of my nephews, and Daughter Dearest had the same thought… and it’s definitely worth sharing the antics of the Crazy Frog Bros.

Oh, and the original video if you haven’t seen it.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008 3 comments

(Basil) Survivor: Winter

Surviving plantI brought three basil plants in for the winter. As you can see, one managed to make it to spring. But it looks like it will live long enough to go back outside when it stays warm.

I’ve got plenty to do and not enough time to do any of it. At least Daughter Dearest’s car (which has been spewing oil) turned out to have the cheap problem: a bad oil sensor gasket.

Sunday, March 09, 2008 8 comments

FAIL, Chicken House Style

Or: How My Saturday was Shot to Hell for Me

I knew it wasn’t a good idea to agree to help with the chickens today, but Daughter Dearest and The Boy were both ready to help so I was pretty much stuck. When I got to the back of #2, one of the feed line motors wasn’t running and I assumed it was electrical. Mrs. Fetched told me different: a bolt had gotten into the feed line (sloppy maintenance at the feed mill) and we were pretty much stuck doing something about it. Amazing, how she manages to “forget” about these things until I’ve already signed up for a quick morning tour. Scope creep isn’t just an engineering plague.

Broken feed lineAfter figuring out that it wasn’t electrical, we took the guard off the motor reset switch and Mrs. Fetched managed to finally make it click. “I’m going to just plug it in for a second,” she told me. “You listen and see if you can figure out where it bangs.” It took all of two rounds of that to find it. When we started looking, it was obviously b0rk3d.

DiscontinuityNaturally, this couldn’t be close to the motor. After dorking with stuff for a while, and not solving anything, I asked Mrs. Fetched, “So what do we do?”

“We call Wesley,” she said. Wesley is a chicken house repairman — yes, there is such a thing. It requires electrical, welding, and mechanical skills, as well as a high tolerance for ammonia and dust. We broke for a late lunch (since we had a late breakfast) and Wesley showed up just as we were heading back to try to prepare for battle.

Kinked AugerWith a little help from us, they took the feed line apart at the break (it's a series of tubes, with a twisted screwy thing inside — you know, like the Internet) and pulled the auger out. We quickly found the auger was pretty seriously kinked — again, the Internet similarities are amazing. (And look! they both eat up all your free time!) After attempting to straighten it, he got the tools.

Cutting the augerI assumed that we’d have to replace the entire auger. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case. Cut out the kinked part, braze in a new piece, and put it all back together. But first things first: cut the sucker. A Dremel tool with a cutting wheel did the job, with plenty of drama.

BrazingThey had brought a piece of replacement auger line with them, along with a brazing rig (large oxyacetylene torch) and a jig to hold it together while putting it to the torch. The actual repair actually didn’t take very long — indeed, it was probably the quickest part of the entire procedure. Isn’t that usually how it goes?

Once the auger was repaired (and cooled off), the rest was anti-climatic. Replace the broken pipes, feed the auger line through, and hook it back up to the motor.

It’s always best to test your repairs before buttoning it all up… otherwise, something is sure to go w0rng. Fortunately, everything was doing what it was supposed to:

And that was how my Saturday afternoon went. I could think of a couple zillion things I’d rather have been doing… and at least three or four that I actually could have been doing. All indoors… it was cold and windy with snow flurries and at least the chicken houses are warm.

Saturday, March 08, 2008 3 comments

Odds and (week)Ends

Yet another collection of happenings and items that didn’t merit their own post. I thought that I wouldn’t have to do these anymore when I started using Twitter, but I don’t always tweet these things and sometimes there are pictures involved. I’m not sure how many of you read the Twitter box (in the margin to the right) anyway — and if your employer has weird IT people like mine does, they block Twitter and you might not be able to read them anyway. But if you join Twitter and follow me, then you’ll get up to the minute updates (when I think to send them).

I had a brief HEFOD (Hardware Engineer Freak-Out Dance) at work yesterday — fortunately, it only took a couple hours that I had to spare. I cleared a couple of major milestones this week, and several minor ones, so I’m pretty content with my work-related productivity this week.

Nine Inch Nails has released a four-CD instrumental compilation they call Ghosts I-IV. They put up the first CD in the set as a free download — I figured if I didn’t like it, The Boy probably would, and grabbed a copy. (If you tried earlier in the week, when they first announced it, they’ve added servers and bandwidth to handle the load.) I’m listening to it now; it’s definitely not what I’d have expected from NiN. I expect it will get airplay on Space Station Soma or other ambient stations before long. I’m keeping it. I doubt The Boy will be thrilled with it though.

(I don’t mean the truck, or the ribbon sticker. I want the oval sticker.)
Save the Ta-Tas
But seriously, I’ll make sure the proceeds are actually going to breast cancer research before I buy one.

Going around to visit some of my blog-buddies… stop by and wish Beth a Hippo Birdie! Meanwhile, Nancy P has gone dark until she finishes writing her next book, so send productivity vibes her way. For that matter, Beth and several other of my writing pals need some productivity vibes as well. Until Nancy’s ready to come back, Kimberly Frost is hosting the “cafe.”

Meanwhile, I’ve got some writing of my own to do (ahem FAR Future ahem), so I’ll be getting on that shortly. Actually, I wrote at least half of the next episode at lunch yesterday, and the three or four episodes after that are already written, so I’ve just got to hook it all up and I might go twice-weekly for the next two or three weeks to make up for being slow on this one. I could use a few productivity vibes as well, as long as Olga (my imaginary BSDM Muse) doesn’t decide to send too many vibes. Right now, I’m typing at a long-ish story that centers around a teenage couple and a mysterious cornfield.

Amazing, how quickly one can type (and accurately!) when squiffed. I’m actually preparing this post Friday night, but jiggered the relative dates (“yesterday” et al) to work with the actual posting time. I hope everyone has a relaxing and/or exciting weekend, depending on how you like it. Lurkers, feel free to say hello and share your weekend plans…

Friday, March 07, 2008 3 comments

Weekend Cinema

Welcome back to Weekend Cinema, where you can sample both old and new, long and short (but mostly short) animations!

I didn’t even have to think about tonight’s selection — as soon as I saw it, I marked it for this weekend. So sit back, grab a handful of popcorn, and cheer on the hapless bunny who’s caught on Theme Planet

Thursday, March 06, 2008 13 comments

TB02 and Other Stories

It seems like the entire blogosphere is talking about Gary Gygax’s demise. This is fortunate (the chatter, not the event, jeeeeez), because I have stuff to talk about a little closer to home. I was an avid D&D player in college, and still have all my books & figurines & so forth, but I haven’t played seriously since graduating, too long ago to comfortably think about. So after the customary moment of silence, followed by noting “DEAD-NO RES” on the character sheet and moving it to the back of the notebook…

I must have rolled snake eyes on my luck throw (or used it all up last week, more likely). Last night, we made official what I’ve suspected all week: TB02 — The Boy has come back home. AGAIN. And not by himself. There’s Snippet, of course; her mom has been living in a camper for some months (verified by Mrs. Fetched) and she is out of options, and I’m not exactly thrilled with the idea of putting a 17-year-old female on the street. A happier circumstance is EJ, The Boy’s long-time friend and probably one of the better influences in his life. EJ works at the hospital and offered to pay rent (we accepted of course). Snippet, who was “home schooled” (NOT) for several years, is signing up for GED classes and Mrs. Fetched will make sure she gets to them. ;-)

Well. The nest that was getting empty has filled right back up again. Mrs. Fetched is actually happy about it, partly because we like EJ and partly because Snippet has some experience working chicken houses, and partly because The Boy really isn’t prepared for living on his own just yet. She said something to the effect that it may work out the same as with M.A.E.: after having her around for a few months, he’ll get tired of her & ditch her as soon as she (or he, as in the case previous) can find another place to go. snort Accepting her will probably help the breakup. snort Or maybe Snippet will get tired of his ego and bail on her own. Either way, they both win.

Something ugly went down at the place he & Snippet were staying, but beyond Snippet’s friend BB (a known drama queen) trash-talking The Boy, I’m not completely sure what was going on there yet. It might be once of those “ignorance is bliss” situations, so maybe I’ll just leave it at that. EJ wasn’t living with them, but there was some kind of row between EJ, his mom, and his step-dad the same weekend The Boy and Snippet came back home — not too bright on the part of the elders, as EJ was dishing over much of what he makes at the hospital. He’s actually going to come out ahead paying rent here, which should allow him to get his own car & place by summer. The Boy is looking to start working at a nearby convenience store, and also hopes to be ready to have a more permanent TB01 by July. With any luck, Snippet will be out of the picture by then.

So let’s welcome the new cast members. Feel free to start a betting pool on how long each of them will stay around.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008 3 comments

Bad news, good news

The DSL started crapping out on me this morning around 11. Now it seems to be flaked out entirely. I’m sending this from my cellphone.

I took a brief walk a few minutes ago, and found a sprout in the pepper bed... maybe it’s a bell pepper volunteering.

Monday, March 03, 2008 5 comments

Still Dim, Still Life

Life goes on, even (or especially?) when not blogging. The work that followed me home for the weekend pretty much rolled over and gave up after a few hours. That didn’t leave me a lot of free time anyway; there was wood to split & stack and chicken houses that demanded attention. But the work stuff went OK; I had some late stuff come in this morning, one sticky comment (from my boss) was deemed OK to let slide for the beta phase. I spent much of the work day today updating screen shots and verifying CLI commands; the later is not difficult but rather tedious. Things change, even when they’re not called out in the spec, so it has to be done.

On the way into work this morning, I was thinking about The Boy and his focus on things. With a little reflection, I realized his wasn’t a laser focus — more like an electron gun in a CRT. Very sharp focus, but easily deflected. Girlfriends have not been good for him… three summers ago, he had a job, a car, and good prospects. He hooked up with M.A.E.… and a year later, the job was history, the car was trashed by a criminal who thought to use it as a getaway car & put diesel in it, and he’d dropped out of school. In some ways, he hasn’t recovered from that. Interesting that when I got home, he was at the manor (and Snippet, of course). He’s going to try to get back that job he had before, and helped out a little bit (hoping for cigarette money). Mrs. Fetched told me that on the way to do some of that work, she asked him, “Are you happy with your life, the way things are going?” He didn’t answer. I hope he reflects on it. She thinks he’s not terribly thrilled with his apartment life; he told me he and EJ (and Snippet, of course) are going to try getting their own place. What he really needs to do is put her aside & redirect his focus — but being a guy, he’ll let his nuts do the thinking until he’s 30 or so.

Some consultant invited me to join his group on LinkedIn a while back. It’s a social networking site geared toward professionals, if you haven’t heard of it. On a whim, I typed in my old college roomie’s name, and there he was (waving at CS if he’s reading). We hooked up on IM today, traded pix of our kids, and commiserated about being almost 50.

The first of several “stimulus packages” is going to arrive soon: the annual work bonus. Mrs. Fetched and I have made a list of stuff we want to get taken care of, including taking care of the cars and motorcycles. I think we’ll have a fair amount left over after the essentials are taken care of, which will take care of the Spring Break vacation in Florida. Daughter Dearest’s chorus is singing at Dizzy World, and recording part of a movie soundtrack. They’re going to spend a lot of time backstage, and Mrs. Fetched is going to be there to video things. Meanwhile, we have a condo set up near Mom’s place (with Mom’s help) and I’ll have a couple of days to air it out before they finish up their “work” in Orlando and join me. But before that, Beth is coming this way for a day or so, then continuing a dizzying travel schedule that ends up in a new home in Colorado. I’ll have to make cinnamon rolls.

Speaking of rolls, a woman at our church runs a no-kill animal shelter. I don’t know how this connects, but she gets large packages of freebies from the grocery store and brings it for everyone to pick out on Sundays. I usually grab pastries or doughnuts and take them to work; plenty of engineers are happy to dispatch the goodies. What doesn’t get eaten in the meetings gets taken to a certain filing cabinet in the office, where it has a (ahem) shelf life of about two hours. I kept the coffee cake and English muffins for ourselves, though.

And speaking of bread… seeing that wheat has gone up like 40% in the last year, and is set to double in the next year, I figured this would be a good time to stock up on flour. We went to BJs, and found 20lb packs for $6.57 — about 2/3 what you’d pay at the grocery store. I bought two packs, which will last us a little while, and tossed in a 3-liter bottle of Berio olive oil. Meanwhile, the girlies wound up getting a bunch of other stuff. Daughter Dearest found Stephanie Meyer’s second book (Eclipse, hardcover for $10) and has already read it (and the first one) twice. I guess she’ll get the next one when she gets paid.

I’m hoping things will ease up a little later this week, and maybe I can get a FAR Future episode up. One more month to vacation!


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