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Tuesday, April 29, 2008 5 comments

Glitches, continued [UPDATED]

Um. Well, now Snippet is not at FAR Manor, at least tonight. A kidney ailment turned out to be a urinary tract infection (I thought only guys got those?). They also checked her for appendicitis (doesn’t appear to be an issue) and pregnancy (no and cue “Hallelujah Chorus” there). She was spiking into high-fever territory, so they wanted to keep her there for the night — fine with me! Her mom managed to show up and stay with her the night… one can only hope that she suddenly decides she can’t be without her baby and takes her with when they check out.

UPDATE: Snippet may have a kidney stone, which will necessitate further work. Probably later, though. Mrs. Fetched called the hospital before I left for work this morning to see what was going on; Snippet will be returning to FAR Manor some time today.

Monday, April 28, 2008 7 comments

Glitches in the Matrix

Mrs. Fetched is reading in bed, and I can’t sleep with the light on.

Snippet is supposed to leave tomorrow. It looks like it won’t happen, at least right away. I expected The Boy to try throw wrenches, I definitely expected Snippet to do it… but for whatever reason, I didn’t expect her mom to throw wrenches. She’s coming tomorrow alright, but with a load of excuses and some “rent” money. As far as I can tell, she doesn’t want to have Snippet with her… not the kind of thing I expect from a mom. No, I’m not anywhere near happy about it — but at the end of the day, I don’t want to be responsible for what happens to a teenage female on the street. So we had a powwow of sorts this evening, The Boy and Snippet agreed to a laundry list of requirements, and two hours later The Boy is already pushing at them. To be honest, except for one problem I walked into, Snippet mostly doesn’t give too much trouble. I think maybe we should keep Snippet and toss The Boy. Maybe he should go live with Snippet’s mom.

Mrs. Fetched had to take Daughter Dearest to the doctor again today; DD has had strep for a while and she relapsed after starting to respond to the antibiotics. The docs took a blood test and warned that she might have mono — which DD swears is not going to cancel her prom appearance. (EJ is “escorting” her for the evening.) But in the doctor’s office, Mrs. Fetched said she heard three people say they were going to quit their jobs in the next few weeks because they can’t afford to drive to them anymore. Bus service isn’t exactly useful in rural areas, unfortunately. But with the prices of luxuries like food going through the roof, you have to wonder what’s next. Mrs. Fetched’s mom is working with a milk cow, getting her used to people grabbing and pulling on the ol’ udders, and that might be how we get milk very shortly. [Note: this is not FAR Future. Do not adjust your browser.] I was joking with DD that she might have to start milking a cow recently.

“Hey. You could do it,” she suggested.

“Yeah… but I might enjoy it,” I grinned. She rolled her eyes and walked away.

Snippet and EJ could well become apprentice gardeners for Mrs. Fetched’s mom, who considers a “small garden” to be roughly five acres. Tomorrow night is supposed to bottom out in the upper 30s and after that, it warms up pretty quick. I was noticing that some blackberry vines were already starting to bloom, so we might get a mild blackberry winter this time.

And of course, the battery on my new motorcycle is already wearing out after nine months — it can take a charge, but not keep it. If it’s not one thing around here, it’s another. Maybe I can get a new battery Thursday.

Saturday, April 26, 2008 4 comments

Weekend Cinema

If you're broke and got too much to do… I can relate. That’s why Weekend Cinema brings you short free videos!

Today’s selection is quite funny, well-done, and… oh, shut up Farf and open the curtain! OK, OK: presenting Young Frankensteve!

(And if you’re left scratching your head, perhaps this video will provide a little context.)

(hat tip: Jim Barrow, from Techcomm)

Friday, April 25, 2008 9 comments

Go Yard

New lawn mowerI was going to post this last night, but got tied up on a proposal for work. Weekend Cinema will come tomorrow. I hope to have a new FAR Future episode ready next week.

As I mentioned in the previous post, we did a lot of shopping last weekend to burn up the last of the tax refund. Our major purchase was a Cub Cadet lawn mower. Mrs. Fetched wanted self-propelled and a bagger. I wanted a Honda engine and a decent (i.e. not Wal-Mart) build quality. This fit the bill, and was pretty much in line with what we were seeing for similar mowers.

One of the nicer features is that you can control the drive speed by squeezing a lever, so we can easily vary the speed to match the part of the lawn we’re working on. Straight ahead? Let 'er rip! Stumps or landscaping? Ease it back. The swivel wheels up front allow tighter turns as well, and can be locked (although in our yard, turns are plenty so they’ll likely remain swinging).

ComposterOf course, with a bag that fills up two or three times, you need a place to empty it. I’ve been wanting to get a composting bin for a while, but I never saw any places that carried them locally and I balked at the $120 prices online. I’d contemplated just buying a big garbage can and cutting some holes in it, but Mrs. Fetched wanted to go to WalMart… and guess who is the only place in the free-range insane asylum that has composters? I sighed and coughed up $44 for the coffers in Bentonville.

I put it together that evening and plunked it down on top of the compost heap I’d had going for a while now. The next day, I pretty much filled it up with grass clippings. Two days later, it was only half full. It’s magic! I told The Boy that if he has any worms left over from fishing, to throw them in — they’ll help digest the fodder and make more worms. It’s just the right height to comfortably pee into (given the situation with the septic tank, the fewer flushes the better, and the composter can always use a little extra nitrogen).

Split seamOf course, the motto “if it’s WalMart, it must be junk” applies here too. This seam first popped loose when I was working the
composter into place. It popped open again on its own later. I’ve given up wasting my time trying to put it together for now; eventually, I’ll grab some flashing and a pop riveter and go for a more permanent fix.

I think I’ll try building another composter out of a big garbage can and see if I can get Mrs. Fetched’s mom to warm up to the idea. She loves her gardening, and free soil enrichments would make her happy.

Sunday, April 20, 2008 6 comments

Flowers in her hair, flowers everywhere

Along the drivewayThere are some compensations to living at FAR Manor. One is the explosion of color we get, usually around April Fool’s Day. This year, with winter hanging on just as long as it could, things were a little slow to get moving… waiting, of course, until we were on vacation. On the other hand, this is what we came home to: everything is in bloom.

Boran2 asked me to post a photo of this episode of “When Sage Goes Wild.” It’s sprawling about 6 feet across at the moment. Iowa Victory Gardener suggests I prune it back, and that’s probably a good idea.

The rosemary (over to the left) needs a little fertilizer and trimming back, but it too is blooming at the moment. I’ll wait for it to go back to just being green (instead of green and purple) before doing much more than getting a little cutting for the homebrew (which I have yet to start, dangit!).

Oregano and mintI’d mentioned that the oregano I planted last fall was hugging the ground and slowly creeping around, under the weeds and under the frost radar. Now that things are warming up, it has made its presence known. This thing is nearly 2-½ feet across, enough to flavor a few dozen pizzas with enough left over for salads.

Meanwhile, the mint held its own through the winter and is now feeling ready to do its thing. I have a feeling these two will put on an Herbal Death Match this year.

Flowering cherryThe flowering cherry tree sits right outside the bedroom window, and stands higher than the house itself. It makes for a nice view this time of year when I’m working at home and sitting at the window.

The picture doesn’t really do justice to the tree, unless you click on it to get the full-size view.

Cherry blossom close-upJust in case you want an even closer view…

So anyway, this was a weekend of much going on (the good parts of FAR Manor tend to be rather brief that way :-P). At least I didn’t have to deal with the chicken houses… but yesterday morning I cleaned out the fireplace insert and saved out a small bucket of charcoal, maybe enough to grill out once. The Boy has been helping to start building up the fuel supply for next winter, and he’s about ¼ of the way there.

After lunch, we started shopping. The lawn mower had Epic Fail last fall, so we started looking for a new one. I decided I’d rather spend a couple hundred bucks and get something that won’t give us a bunch of grief, and ended up with a Cub Cadet. Mrs. Fetched went berserk in the garden section at Home Despot, and I picked up a couple of annual herbs — purple basil? Must try! Finally, I learned (much to my dismay) that the only place that sells composting bins around here is Wally World.

So we got home, and I put the lawn mower together (mainly the handle) — then realized we had no gas. Daughter Dearest had been pinging us occasionally through the day about getting cat litter while we were out, but Mrs. Fetched’s dad was with us and he was getting tired before we managed to get to the grocery store. So once more into a vehicle, and off to the grocery store. We got cat litter, and much more (of course), then stopped to fill a couple of gas cans on the way back. Naturally, it was dark before we returned home, so the lawn had to wait.

And wait some more. Mrs. Fetched was hot to get those flowers planted. She knew I wanted to deal with the lawn, so she simply had me drag out the Mantis and dig up the beds. I got most of the weeds out from around the oregano as well. But when I was done with the lawn, I was dragooned into digging holes for the larger stuff. Again, it was getting dark before we finished… so I guess Mrs. Fetched can try getting The Boy to do some weed-eating this week.

I’m ready for bed. Back to the office, where I can maybe relax a little.

Saturday, April 19, 2008 4 comments

A few more vacation photos

A couple more pix I had kicking around on my cellphone.

Atop the condoThe Boy and I got tagged to help carry a 16' extension ladder up to the roof of Mom’s 8-story condo, where the ladder would be permanently stored in the elevator engine room… allowing them to inspect the roof of the building on the roof (confused yet?).

We ended up having to take the ladder apart and carry the two pieces individually up the stairwell to get it where it needed to go. Each piece barely fit up the stairwell, but we managed (with Wicked Stepfather reminding us to “try not to scrape the paint!”). But eventually, we got the pieces topside, put them together, stood the (extended) ladder up against the elevator room and called it Good Enough.

Sand castle“I want one more walk on the beach before we leave,” I said on Saturday afternoon. I’d only gotten down there twice. Mom decided to join me, and we went about a mile up and back.

Some kids had been out building sandcastles. I liked the other better, but this was the picture that turned out. That’s smellphones for you, right?

There were also people surf fishing; I saw one bucket with a tail sticking out, so someone had gotten lucky that afternoon.

Sunset over the Gulf of MexicoUnfortunately, vacation was winding down with the day. We crammed five people into a four-door Civic for the 9.5-hour drive home, and got to it (I don’t think Mrs. Fetched quite thought through the implications of having me bring The Boy and Snippet down).

I was expecting Mrs. Fetched to suggest we stop somewhere for the night, which I wasn’t completely against, but she wanted to get home. She drove about a third of the way home, from somewhere south of Macon to the topside of Atlanta, which gave me enough of a nap (with my knees crammed against the glove box) to finish up the drive home.

Next time, I’m taking the motorcycle.

Friday, April 18, 2008 7 comments

Weekend Cinema

You are just NOT going to believe this one!!!

(h/t Steve McHenry, on Techcomm)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008 9 comments

Soon to be “Snipped.” I hope.

After the little episode on vacation, in which Snippet back-talked to Mrs. Fetched, she (with my full support) decided that Snippet was to be ejected once we got home. She told Snippet to call her (Snippet’s) mom and let her know she was going to have to return — and why. Mrs. Fetched is really bad about making such pronouncements and then going back on them, which has given The Boy reason to believe he can pretty much do anything he wants without repercussions (once the storm blows over), so I wasn’t sure if that was going to be the case (again) this time.

I came home from work Monday to find no movement… turned out Mrs. Fetched misplaced Snippet’s mom’s phone number, and Snippet wasn’t exactly quick to set up the process of her own ejection (understandable, even if wrong). Yesterday, still no movement.

“So is Snippet gone yet?”

“Two weeks,” Mrs. Fetched said. She hasn’t offered any explanation since then, and I’m not sure what the delay is about. In Snippet’s shoes, I wouldn’t exactly be quick to toe the line anymore. After all, what good would it do? The decision has been made and doing what she should have been doing (and as importantly, avoiding what she shouldn’t have been doing) isn’t going to change that. I just hope this isn’t a stall tactic, in hopes that I’ll forget that she should be leaving. I forget stuff all the time, but I won’t forget this.

Monday, April 14, 2008 7 comments

Random Vacation Photos & Notes

This runs pretty long, but there’s not a good breaking point.

Back porch viewThe back porch area of the condo we stayed at, accessible only through the guest bedroom (where Snippet was sleeping). The flowers were very fragrant, and it smelled pretty good out there… despite The Boy’s and Snippet’s best efforts to stink it up with their cancer sticks. The beach party was about two blocks south of the condo.

The condo itself was across Gulf Blvd. from the beach — that saved us a ton of money, and all the kids are (nominally) old enough to cross the street without anyone helping them.

No Golfing signI saw this sign Sunday morning, along one edge of the parking lot at Joker Marchant Stadium, where we had the autocross. This is enough of a problem that they have to put up a sign?

Monday, I got the phone call to come get the girlies. Mrs. Fetched said she was getting tickets for everyone so we could spend the day at Dizzy. Of course, The Boy and Snippet were being very slow to get moving, which (imagine that) peeved Mrs. Fetched to no end: Keeping Her Waiting is one of the seven deadly sins, you know. She started snarling at me (at the phone in the rest area), so I gave it right back to her.

DD at DizzySo, Daughter Dearest was at Disney World! Well, actually she’d been here since early Friday — long enough to scope out all the roller coasters she wanted me to ride with her. I’m not keen on the ones that go upside-down and all that foofaraw, but the displays they have set up waiting in line for the “Rockin’ Roller Coaster” were worth it. I was also partial to the Tower of Terror, as I’ve always been a Twilight Zone fan.

Other than that, what can you say about Dizzy World? You pay a $#¡+load of money to get in, you wait in line for an hour to ride a 5-minute ride, lather rinse repeat, pay exorbitant prices for fast food, until you run out of steam and leave.

The Boy and SnippetSpeaking of Tower of Terror, The Boy and Snippet rode with us. This was one of the better moments of the trip with regards to them. Later in the week… well, Mrs. Fetched doesn’t appreciate me “telling everybody about it.” Suffice it to say it’s not the first time. Snippet is getting ejected, but we’re having some issues contacting her mom (like finding the number). She should be gone in a day or so, and the guest room will again be open for visiting relatives and blog-buddies.

I spent Thursday at Solar’s. He had me over for beer, pizza, and more beer. His girlfriend was there for a while, but went out with her sister. She’s pretty cool — doesn’t like TV, has blind spots in her sense of humor… wait a minute, that’s me & I’m not that cool. :-P He sent me home with many gifts: some small (but nice) speakers that will go into Studio FARf, a sub-woofer (ditto), and a 17" LCD monitor. He said he wasn’t sure it worked, but when they replaced it the new one didn’t work either; the video card was out. But I’m using it now. It has a very PC-like gamma, much darker than the Macbook monitor, but more real estate on the desk is always welcome.

Unfortunately, the speakers ended up stashed at Mom’s until she comes up for DD’s graduation next month. Three people drove down in a Civic, but five rode back (the ladies took a tour bus to Orlando a day before I left). The trunk was crammed with luggage, and some of it spilled into the passenger compartment. Fortunately, an LCD screen takes very little room and we could bring that. I was surprised that Mrs. Fetched didn’t suggest (i.e. demand) we stop at a hotel somewhere along the way; I guess she didn’t want to un-cram and re-cram stuff (and people) — we ended up maintaining cordial relations cooped up in a little car for 10 hours. Must be some kind of record.

Corona/Publix sand sculptureI leave you with a shot of one of the more intriguing supermarket displays I’ve ever seen. This was at the Indian Rocks Publix, and is a very detailed sand sculpture. They had a “please do not touch” sign up next to it, and I don’t blame them. I wonder if it’s still intact.

And now I’m back at FAR Manor. We had a “wintry mix” (aka slush storm) today. I want to be back on the beach.

Thursday, April 10, 2008 2 comments

FAR Future, Episode 30: War is Hell

Keychain drives are a god-send, aren’t they?

Monday, September 2, 2013 (11:52 p.m.)
War is Hell

To describe Mrs. Fetched as “peeved” would be like describing water as “damp.” Livid might be a little closer. A little.

OK, obviously I’m still alive to tell you about what happened. I’m even not wounded or anything. I wasn’t sure how long I’d stay that way once I got back to FAR Manor, but she said very little. A hug, “I’m glad you’re safe,” and straight to bed. She wasn’t exactly in the mood to talk though, which is letting me get the aftermath put together. Anyway, here’s what happened.

The shooting started, I posted and closed the laptop. My cellphone was ringing before I even had a change to finish stuffing the computer in my pack.

“The news says there’s shooting!” Mrs. Fetched yelled. “Where are you?”

“I hear it too, but I’m at the rear. I’m fine. I obviously can’t say everything else is fine, but I’m out of harm’s way.”

“Can you get out of there?”

“Not right away. But we’re OK back here.”

One of the couriers — a skinny guy on a college cross-country team — came pelting back. “We need the medics up front, now!” he gasped, then grabbed a water bottle and downed it.

“Roll out!” Sgt. Pepper yelled. “You too,” he pointed at me. Oh crap.

“We’re moving out,” I said, trying to keep it vague. “Pray for these people, OK? I’ll call you as soon as I can get a moment.” I hung up and switched to camera, and narrated as we double-timed it to the front lines. I still don’t remember the gunfire stopping, but I must have at the time: when I reviewed the video I said something hopeful as we reached the lines.

Chaos, as expected. People on both sides of the road were milling around, it looked like several dozen wounded on either side, sergeants on both sides still screaming at the troops to cease fire you assholes, stand the fuck DOWN even though nobody was even pointing a weapon anymore. I slapped the phone shut and turned to one of the medics. “You need a stretcher bearer or anything?”

“Yeah,” he said. He tagged a courier, standing and gawking at the scene. “You too. We’ve got a tent a few hundred yards back; I’ll lead y’all there the first time. We’ll load the casualties on the stretchers, you just have to carry ’em. Move quick but be careful, you don’t want to drop ’em. Got it?”

We nodded and immediately got to work. People made way for us; the courier (whose wind is better than mine) took the front and called “wounded coming through, make way!” and that seemed to help a lot.

On the second trip, the guy on the stretcher was facing me. “You’re the reporter, ain’tcha?” he said.


“Word’s got around. You ain’t one of us, but you’re bein’ fair about your coverage.”

“I’m trying, anyway. You sure you should be talking?”

“It’s my shoulder, they didn’t pop a lung. Just don’t jostle me.” The medics had wrapped the shoulder, but it was bloody. He laughed. “Lots of guys out here figured you’d clear the hill with one jump as soon as the shooting started.”

“Yeah… and I’m gonna catch hell from my wife for not doing just that! She was on the horn right away.”

He laughed harder, then winced. “Ah shit. It hurts to laugh that hard. Don’t make me laugh.”

“OK, sorry. What happened down there?”

“They started it. Accidentally, anyway. General Mayhem got on a bullhorn and told the Tennessee boys to disperse in ten minutes or be arrested for unlawful incursion, or something like that. The officers on their side told ’em to stand firm, and things got pretty tense. After the ten minutes were up, we were ordered to disarm the Tennessee boys and take ’em into custody. They gave us zip ties to tie their wrists with.” He reached under himself with his good hand, wincing a little, and brought out a handful of long plastic zip ties. “So we started across the road, everyone started yellin’. Some of the Tennessee boys stood their ground and wrestled with us, some of ’em backed up and pointed their guns. One of ’em was pointin’ his rifle at me, stumbled on something, and his gun went off — so I guess that makes me the first casualty of the war, huh? Well, all hell broke loose and you know the rest.”

We got to the tent, and the medics took charge. “Can I get you to repeat that on camera a little later? I’m a little busy right now.”

He nodded. “Yeah. Like I said, you’re OK. I’ll wait here for ya.”

I only had to make three or four trips — the medics drafted some privates to carry as well, and we got all the wounded off the line pretty quickly. Some of them had Guard uniforms; I heard neither side’s medics were being choosy about whom they picked up, and that was fine with me. Unfortunately, several people on both sides were dead… which is to be expected when you’re exchanging gunfire with people 20 feet away.

The courier who’d called in the medics found me. “Colonel Mustard wants you up front,” he said. “He and the Tennessee commander are negotiating a cease-fire, and they both want a recording.” He held back a bit so I could keep up, and led me back to where I’d interviewed the Tennessee commander just an hour or so earlier. It seemed like it had been a day or two already. The Tennessee guard was already leaving, marching up the road and ignoring the occasional jeer (quickly hushed) from the militia, but spared me a glare or two. The news helicopters were circling like noisy buzzards, a lot lower than earlier, and it was a wonder a couple of them didn’t collide as thick as they were.

I spared thirty seconds to call Mrs. Fetched and explain the situation (and emphasize that I was safe), then waded in, turned off the phone, turned on the camera, and kept my mouth shut. The “negotiations,” such as they were, were pretty small potatoes compared to what was (and still is) going on in Atlanta, Nashville, and Washington. I’m guessing, at this point, that Planet Georgia will give up their border claims in exchange for water rights… which is all they really wanted in the first place. A more unfortunate aspect of this skirmish is that people in the northern Plains are starting to talk about doing the same thing over the Ogallala Aquifer. Like I said, the water wars are going on tour.

It took a few hours for the ambulances to carry off the wounded. The hike back up the canyon was exhausting, which made the ride back home pretty quiet. My second cellphone battery was getting low, but I figured it would be good for a few minutes (especially if I turned off the phone part), so I went for one last interview. “Did you guys think it would end up the way it did?”

Derisive snorts and a “hell no” or two. But the guy in the back seat with me said, “Y’know, we knew it could end up like it did. Or worse. At least I knew. I just figured it wouldn’t.”

“What would you have done different if you’d known there would be some real shooting?”

“Oh, we’d’a still come,” he said, and the others nodded. “But… I guess I’d’a mugged a cop for his body armor first!” The battery wheezed out to all of us sharing a laugh.

And now, I need to edit down all my stuff, which could take half the night. Then start answering some of the 100+ emails from media people. I guess Colonel Mustard gave them my address… they want raw footage, cooked footage, pictures, interviews with me(!), the kitchen sink, etc. Getting shot might have been more merciful.


Sunday, April 06, 2008 5 comments


Solar was kind enough to invite me to his autocross club meet today. We mostly arranged things the week before, then firmed up the details yesterday. Of course, this involved getting up at 5 a.m. to get to Lakeland and set up everything — and he was working registration for the day, so we had to be among the first arrivals. Well, it seems like weekends are mostly when I’m ever required to be up that early. I was pretty well low on sleep anyway, so I went to bed at 9 and woke up at 4:40 without the aid of the cellphone alarm (set to 5). This gave me time to make some coffee before heading over to Solar’s.

Something was wonky with the cell service — both of us tried calling each other but couldn’t get through. He was relieved to see me arrive, and we got on the road (stopping once for more caffiene).

RegistrationOur destination was Marchant Stadium, a place I’ve always wanted to visit during spring training and catch a Tigers game. But instead of watching people throw baseballs, we were there to throw cars around a parking lot. The first order of business, of course, was to set up the registration desk. People queued up right away, and Solar got to work.

Next up was to lay out the course. This involves strategic placement of traffic cones — lots of them, I figured helping out beat being bored, and got to it. I also spent a lot of time scratching my head and “WTF?”ing at the cones — it took a lot of staring at the map, and several walks around the course, to figure it out. Then I joked about it being almost as curvy as some Planet Georgia roads.

Civic SiMeanwhile, Solar had arranged my driving situation: I’d be driving his car, a rare German-built Civic Si, and switching numbers for each run. He has #30, so slapping a 6 on the end made me #306. I took that as good luck, because 306 is a highway not too far from FAR Manor. Turned out we’d been assigned to Run A and Work B, which meant we would not have to stick around for the last group. This was good; we’d arrived early so we could leave early.

At last, it was time to do it. Solar and I were the first and second drivers on the course, respectively — he grumbled a little about that, since that meqant we’d contend with all the grit on the track. Both of us missed a turn (“off course”) on our first run, which earned us each a DNF. They added a seriously wicked zig-zag right at the end, to slow everyone down before they hit the exit chute, and that’s what caught me. But only once. AFter getting a little more familiar with the course, and a couple of pointers from Solar, I turned in respectable high-40 second times for my last two runs. As expected for one more experienced, Solar beat my best time by a good 3 seconds and change, and opined that he might have been able to shave another second off if he’d had one more run. Here’s my times, which earned me a respectible 22nd of 29 in our class, and mid-pack overall:

Time sheet

I have to say, it was a blast throwing someone else’s car through tight maneuvers, skidding on the edge on control around a bunch of cones and managing to not hit any. But the fun continued after I was done driving.

Around the course are a number of stations. People at the stations are out there to reset knocked-over cones and call in drivers going off-course, — or, in an emergency, flag down cars or hit 'em with a fire extinguisher. The latter two are rare occurrences, and neither happened this day, but they have been needed in the past. All we had to contend with was a couple of cones, a handful of “Station 5, Car 51, off course” calls… and a downpour. It was warm, so I didn’t care about the wet too much. The cars continued to run in the rain, with a little more drama — a couple of smaller rear-drive cars spun out at the same spot and had to turn around to continue. (They run essentially one at a time, they weren’t out there at the same moment.) The rain probably improved my standing a little, but Solar pointed out that most of our class (G) ran before the rain got started.

Solar grillingAt last, it was time to leave. The rain continued, dampening the St. Pete Grand Prix as well. Fortunately, Solar has a large carport/overhang on the front of his house, so the planned grilling of cheeseburgers went on uninterrupted.

The Boy and Snippet locked themselves out of the condo (again), so I finally made my manners and rover back through the rain. With much less drama than in Lakeland.

Saturday, April 05, 2008 2 comments

“Beauty and the Beach”

As I often do on vacation, I will type up posts as they happen then post them when I can, back-dating them to the proper day. If you come to look at vacation posts, this is the first.

I can’t take the credit (or blame) for that title: it’s what Indian Rocks Beach is calling their mini-festival today.

Truck stop sign: Free meal with 150gal purchaseThe drive down was anything but beautiful, though. I was hoping The Boy would show up at the office around 5:30, which would have gotten us here around 2 a.m. Being his mother’s child, he never shows up on time for anything, and always has “a good reason” (thunderstorms and a brain-fart that sent him back home) so it was closer to 7:30 by the time he arrived. It was some of the worst driving weather in recent memory — I was hoping we would get past the rain by the time we got to Macon, but it sprinkled on & off pretty much all the way down. So between one thing and another, we got here around 4:30 a.m. We hit a truck stop somewhere south of Macon because the kids were whining about needing a bathroom (read: cigarette) break and snacks. I am stunned by the generosity of the truck stop owners: dump $600 on gas (diesel is $4/gal), and get a “free” meal! I was going to have The Boy drive one leg of the trip so I could get a brief rest before bringing us through Tampa and over to the beach, but he was sound asleep at that point so I just kept on. I was pretty well wasted by the time we got here.

Of course, The Boy had to start being a butthead almost immediately, playing the TV, flipping switches, and generally making noise. I shushed him several times before finally falling asleep and passing beyond all knowledge of further stupidity. Of course, I can't sleep past 9:30 anymore for just about any reason, so I’m running on short sleep rations today. A brief afternoon nap helped, and I made a list of things I forgot to bring and may not need anyway: bicycle, folding chairs, cooler, etc. Mom or Solar probably can help with that. The Boy suggested I buy “us” a six-pack, but I told him we’re a long way from the chicken houses so I don’t need to drink.

Indian Rocks BeachBut there are compensations. I'm on the beach. A veritable buffet of bikinis offer an endless feast for the eyes. A live band provides the soundtrack. There is beer. Even at $3 a pop, I'm coming out ahead because I'd pay more than that for a six-pack & The Boy would drink it before I got one or two. Our tax refunds came in, so I can afford $3 beer. The Boy & Snippet are currently off checking out the beach or something and leaving me alone. Life, for now, is good. Even on short sleep. The one flaw preventing the scene from being perfect is Internet access. There are plenty of wi-fi nodes in the area, but all of them are passworded (good for them!).

Jason Young provided the music. I couldn't get the video to “process”, so I’ll try posting it later in a miscellaneous photo post.

Thursday, April 03, 2008 4 comments

FAR Future, Episode 29: Battle Lines

I hope I can find a chance to post next week. Hold on to your water bottles…

Monday, September 2, 2013 (1:40 p.m.)
Battle Lines

The hike down-canyon made for dramatic footage. Somebody started singing “Onward Christian Soldiers,” and pretty much the entire militia took it up. I also got a good segment of a couple medics tending to a guy with a sprained ankle. It was a difficult hike, and a lot of people had top-heavy packs that didn’t help matters. I got a good clip of a guy going down and sliding about 10 feet. He wasn’t hurt, fortunately… but it took him a minute to get turned around and back on his feet. Then he almost fell again. I skidded a little once, but managed to keep my feet. I don’t know if I could have stayed upright if I’d been as weighed down as some of them.

All of us who made it down in one piece finally made it down, though, and Sgt. Pepper gave me leave to go up to the front and get some more footage. Most of the sergeants were explaining the rules of engagement to their platoons — “Under no circumstances will the Citizens’ Militia fire the first shot in this war! Is that clear?” “YES SIR!” — or marching their troops up the road at the bottom of the canyon. The road ends at an east-west road that marks the old border, and the Tennessee National Guard was deployed on the north side of the center line, shoulder to shoulder, standing at ease and right shoulder arms. Many were engaged in a stare-down with the militia; there were a few taunts from our side of the line but they were quickly shushed by the sergeants.

On a whim, I crossed the road (hands in the air) and approached one of their sergeants. “Who’s your commanding officer?” I asked him, identifying myself. “I’d like to interview him, if he’s willing.”

The guy looked uneasy. “Down the road,” he gestured east. “Dunno if he’ll talk to you or just shoot you.”

“Like he’s chicken$#¡+ enough to shoot a non-combatant,” I said, and hiked it. That was one of the most nerve-wracking walks I’d ever taken: right up the middle of a military stand-off, and it felt very much like running a gauntlet. A couple of militia people stopped me to ask what I was doing, but let me go when I explained (and winked, as if I was going to get any intelligence even if the guy was willing to talk).

“Amateurs, all around,” the Tennessee CO said when I explained my status. “Why not? You know you’re like as not to end up in a firefight here, right?”

“There’s always a chance of that,” I said. “I could get killed in traffic going to work, too. I almost have a couple of times. But I heard some sergeants telling their men that the militia will not fire the first shot… so does that mean you intend to start the shooting?”

He laughed grimly. “TouchĂ©. No, we’re operating under strict rules of engagement, too — no shooting except in self-defense.”

I conducted a brief interview, just running through a basket of questions that came to mind as I was walking the gauntlet, then closed it up. “One last thing,” the CO said. “Anyone who crosses the centerline without leave will be arrested for criminal trespass. You might want to pass the word on to your folks over there.” Then two guards frog-marched me back to the road and shoved me roughly across the centerline — perhaps for my own good, since I got some sympathy from the militia for that. I spat at the retreating guardsmen, for show, and that didn’t hurt either.

Colonel Mustard was waiting for me when I got back to my platoon near the rear. “That was a dam’fool stunt you pulled there, but let’s see the video. There might be something we can use.” I shrugged and pulled up the video for them. I doubted there was anything useful for them, but the colonel wasn’t so sure — he flipped out his cellphone and walked away, talking to General Mayhem in low tones. He stepped back long enough to give my phone back, then dismissed me. It was time for lunch, maybe a little past time, so I found a shady spot to eat and write up this part.

I’ve uploaded all my video so far to a couple of email accounts; I should be able to grab it & edit it down tonight. I was going to do that right here and post it to a wire service, but the battery on my laptop is getting low. I’m just going to post

I hear shooting.


All Week Long…

…this has been Daughter Dearest:

She and Mrs. Fetched leave tonight for a long weekend at the aforementioned tourist trap/wallet cleaner. Tomorrow after work, I head to the coast to check into the place we’re staying and visit with the family. Solar is taking me to his autocross meet Sunday, so I’ll have Saturday to recover from the drive.

And I’ll post the second episode of FAR Future tonight. I don’t know if I’ll get the next one out before I get home or not, though.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008 2 comments

FAR Future, Episode 28: On the March

When I finished this episode, it ran nearly 1800 words. That’s a short story, but a heck of a long blog post! So I split it in two, and I’ll post the second one tomorrow to deliver the promised two-fer this week.

Monday, September 2, 2013 (10:47 a.m.)
On the March

Mrs. Fetched thinks I’m nuts. I think she might be right. But she’s the one who was born on Planet Georgia, is 100% loyal to her state, and thinks this “militia” march is right & proper — so I’m not sure why she would object to me joining in.

Anyway, I actually emailed the guy who sent the spam and told them I was a non-combatant but would be willing to act as an embedded journalist for the march if none of the mainstream media was interested. I got a terse response: “call me,” a phone number, and a first name. When I called, he didn’t act surprised that I was a blogger, nor was he put off at my not being sure they were right (and thinking they might be a little crazy). “I get people tellin’ me they got Silver Stars in Iraq and all that $#¡+ — and that stuff’s easy to check out,” he said. “I’d sooner have an honest enemy with us than a gung-ho liar, ’least you know what to expect. Gimme your address and I’ll send you your credentials and some local people you can hook up with.”

Sure enough, in a couple days I got a large envelope with a letter, saying I was duly appointed as an embedded journalist with the Georgia Citizens’ Militia, some contact numbers, a white armband, and a list of things to bring. Guns, ammo, first aid kits, water, and food top the list. The white armband marks me as a non-combatant; there’s a list of armband colors and what they mean… these guys are more organized than I’d expected.

I arranged a ride with my local contacts, one that I know well enough to talk to. He was surprised, and a little suspicious, that I was going to be joining them — he knows my general political bent. When I told him I was the embedded journalist, he nodded and relaxed… that was more in keeping with what he expected. We agreed to split gas money and ration tickets, and they came by FAR Manor to pick me up before dawn. I ran a warm-up interview with the other riders along the way; we had a couple of hours to kill and I figured it would be a good start — their armbands marked them as grunts, so it was good to get an idea of what motivated them. The answers were both banal and surprising: it was an excuse to get away from the homestead, they believed in what they were doing, that kind of thing. Of course, they wanted to turn it around and ask me why I was going, especially since I wasn’t a gung-ho supporter — fair enough. I told them I was personally curious about them and their mission, and thought it was worth sharing with the world — and, like them, needed an excuse to get away for a day. They all laughed, and there was a certain tension in the car that I hadn’t noticed until it evaporated.

About the time the sun came up behind us, the talking-head radio told us that the Tennessee Highway Patrol was running roadblocks at the old border and searching for, and confiscating, weapons. It wasn’t affecting the militia, because most of us were coming up 136 to I-59, then north to Cole City. That the Tennessee Guard was at the “wrong” border was taken as a direct provocation by the others in the car — “once we set ’em straight today, I guess we gotta work our way right across the top of the state and fix the line, county by county,” one of them said.

“You think it’ll come to that?” I asked, back in journalist mode.

“Looks like it,” he said. “You heard their governor — he as much as said it was gonna be war. He wants a war, there’s people who’ll be glad to give it to him.” The others nodded.

At last, we reached the exit… cars were parked everywhere. I figure the smarter ones arrived last night and slept in their cars or camped out. A guy at the top of the exit was directing people to parking places, and pointed at the check-in/inspection/mustering station in an old gas station. There were some busses parked there — mostly from points south like Valdosta and Albany — and even an old Hummer, decked out in camo and chrome. It’s a really pretty day, bright sun, a little cool, just a few clouds… a great day for barbeque. (I just hope we’re not going to be the ones on the spit.) Our driver dropped us off and went to park, about a mile down the road, and we got in line to check in.

I presented my credentials, and the guy at the table nodded. “You’re with my platoon,” he said. “You’ll want to interview some of the officers too, I suppose?”

“Sure, if they’re willing. You too.”

“I can give you a few minutes once we’re done here. They’re expecting you now, though. Go to that tent —” he pointed to a big open tent, just visible behind a bus — “and show them your papers.”

“Here’s the journo,” one of them said as a guard confronted me at the tent and made a big show of studying my papers. “Send him along, Private.” The guard stepped back, saluted (a journalist?) and I took a chair across a pair of card tables.

“First off: no names, no faces,” the head honcho told me.

“I kind of expected that,” I said, pulling out my cellphone. “Let’s try this: pull your hats down so I can’t see your eyes. I’ll take a little footage, let you look at it, and delete it if it’s too revealing. Then you know I can’t ‘forget’ to pixelate your faces and give you away. As for names… how about this? You’re General Mayhem, your second there is Colonel Mustard, and my platoon leader is Sgt. Pepper?”

I wasn’t sure how they would take that, but they thought it was funny. “Good enough.” They pulled their hats down, I took some footage, and they were OK with the results. I did the interview and emailed the video home, so that’s safe anyway… and I’m writing about doing the story here, not the story itself. ;-)

I spent the next hour or so walking around and taking video, interviewed a few random souls (interchangeable pretty much), and gawked at the spectacle. I saw a few other white armbands; mostly younger guys. I caught one and interviewed him — it turned out they were couriers, carrying dispatches up and down the road. Some of the platoons had already moved out; as Sgt. Pepper was running check-in, we were bringing up the rear. I shouldn’t have been surprised that “my” platoon was mostly non-combatants — couriers, medics (yes they had some EMTs!) and the journalist (me). I had one of the couriers take me up to where they were marching so I could get some footage. There was a nice breeze coming in, and people’s mood suited the weather. I got a lot of guys waving, a few “Hi Mom!” gags, and just about all of them were smiling.

Helicopters were already making passes. Several people had packed binoculars, and identified most of them for me as I took video. “That one’s State Patrol.” “That’s Fox5.” “That’s Channel 46.”

I called Mrs. Fetched when the “move out” call came, and told her we were moving. “BE CAREFUL!” she yelled, and hung up. Stressed much?


Tuesday, April 01, 2008 5 comments

Revenge of the Pines

Pine flowersIt’s that time of year again.

Planet Georgia, being one of the original 13 colonies, has a long history of environmental abuse. The old-growth forests of Southern Pine or hardwood are long gone, with the exception of some truly impressive hemlocks I’ve seen along the Appalachian Trail.

Development, especially in the Atlanta area, involves mowing down every single tree as a first step. Sometimes they’ll plant replacements. Sometimes. Usually ornamentals, lashed down with guy wires and surrounded by pavement to prevent them from escaping.

Somewhere around 1985, we hit a tipping point of sorts — and the pines started to fight back. Atlanta has never been The Place To Be for allergy sufferers during the spring, and things have only gotten worse since then. The official pollen count can get crazy this time of year. A pollen count over 120 is “extremely high” — and during dry spells it regularly soars above 1000, 3000, or even 5000. I think it actually hit 10000 once or twice. I think they need to add some ratings to the scale: “Ridiculous” up to 1000; “Judas Priest!” up to 3000, and so forth.

Pine trees are, as a matter of vengeance, a major contributor to the pollen count. On windy days, I’ve seen yellow clouds of pollen flying from the trees (you can grab a limb and shake to get the same effect). It doesn’t matter what color your car is — around here, in springtime, it’s yellow. Don’t bother washing it off; you’ll just have to do it again tomorrow. And every spring, they’re standing along the roadside, giving us all the finger.

I’m not allergic, thank God, but I still feel it when the pollen count gets above 5000 or so. Fortunately, rainy days like today rinse out the pollen and bring relief to the allergic.


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