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Wednesday, November 26, 2008 15 comments

50 Laps…

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

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


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

... Uphill...

BOTH ways

Yadda, yadda, yadda

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The over 30 Crowd

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

Monday, November 24, 2008 10 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Sunday, November 23, 2008 11 comments

Ripples Above

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

Cloud picture

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

Thursday, November 20, 2008 6 comments

Another FAILout on the Way?

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 17, 2008 6 comments

FAR Future, Episode 60: In the Tank

Friday, August 20, 2021
In the Tank

Rene continues his story…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Sunday, November 16, 2008 1 comment

Opting Back in?

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

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

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

So what’s the message Michele Norris is hearing?

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

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

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

Saturday, November 15, 2008 5 comments

Saturday, and I’m Parked

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 13, 2008 4 comments

A Special Edition

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

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

Monday, November 10, 2008 9 comments

FAR Future, Episode 59: Tanks a Lot

Guess what? Another cliffhanger!

Friday, August 20, 2021
Tanks a Lot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Saturday, November 08, 2008 9 comments

All Fall Down [UPDATED - new pic]

Autumn vistaClimate change seems to have pushed Planet Georgia’s peak color season from late October into early November. I posted some shots around Amicalola Falls exactly three years ago today, but I took these pictures a couple days ago and (much) closer to home — during my Thursday afternoon walk.

Looking north across a pasture, you can see color on the foothills… of course, the mountains themselves are hazed out.

Fall colors on a dirt roadThis is really the best time of year to be outside on Planet Georgia. The temps are pleasant, there’s still some light in the afternoon, and it’s just pretty when the sun filters through the trees. If you’re doing anything strenuous, there’s usually a breeze to cool you off.

The only downside is that the days continue to get shorter, and we’ll have the stark greyness of winter.

UPDATE: Because there’s more than one day to fall…

Green and yellow treesEven closer to home — just off the corner of the house, in fact — we have a couple really tall trees that were giving us 2/3 of a stop light. There’s a Japanese maple nearby that was deep red last week, but the wind cleared most of the leaves off. But who wants to stop?

Wednesday, November 05, 2008 10 comments

A Sour Note to End a Sweet Day

DoubleRed is, or perhaps was, all doom and gloom after the networks called the election. We got to talking, and I don’t know if she realizes how close many of her issues are to the liberal side: progressive income tax, universal health care (“but not like they have in Europe”), and energy… she realizes what a drag Bush-league has been, but doesn’t quite make the connection that electing more Republicans won’t fix the problems that Republicans caused in the first place.

So as we’re beginning to discuss the issues around peak oil and alternate energy, the phone rang. At 1:19 a.m. And I was all, “who the hell is calling at this time of night?” Turned out to be the father-in-law.

“You know what’s going down at the trailer?” (i.e. where dwell The Boy and Snippet, and P.O.D. and his girlfriend, and a couple other people)


“Well, there was some kind of argument, and Snippet kicked P.O.D.’s girlfriend in the stomach, and she’s in the hospital.”

Aw… crap.

“Maybe you can go down there and see what’s going on,” he continued.

So I went down… to find the driveway pretty well filled with two cop cars. Great. One cop was interviewing Snippet on the porch; the other was inside with The Boy. The cop on the porch (whom I wouldn’t find her frisking me) said they’d probably be there another half an hour. I decided to scoot & see what’s what after some shut-eye.

And I need to get some sleep.

Monday, November 03, 2008 6 comments

FAR Future, Episode 58: A Dispatch from the Rear

Tomorrow is The Day. If you haven’t early-voted, get out and vote.

Monday, June 14, 2021
A Dispatch from the Rear

Rene sent an email…

Hola, y'all. We're here, wherever that is. Well, we have a pretty good idea we're somewhere in Saudi, but I couldn't tell you where. Major Shevchuk would prefer nobody knows. We've gone through our evac route, not that we'd live long enough to march to anywhere from here, but there you have it.

I can tell you this much: we're in a little hollow spot in the desert. They choppered our gear in, with a big backhoe, and it dug enough to flatten out a spot for our inflatable caisson and got our cooling pipe laid. We blew it up, attached the heatsinks and re-bars, and buried the whole thing after letting it harden. The latest in desert computing technology, I guess.

So once it hardened up, the backhoe pulled enough sand off the surrounding dunes to bury it good, and we stuck an Arab tent up on top of it to hide the satellite dishes. We've got a gennie and solar panels to run air conditioning and our equipment, and the caisson has enough room for all of us to bunk in. The fan noise makes everyone sleep pretty good. So from the air, we look like some desert nomad out in the middle of wherever. It took us a day to get operational, and it's been eat, work, sleep ever since.

There's just a few of us out here. Major Shevchuk, who's our commander, I think he’s from Michigan like Farf-Dad. Cpl. Manny Velasquez, from “by God Texas,” works our comms. He’s got the attitude for Texas, alright. I think he’s trying to forget any EspaƱol he ever learned, seems to think he’s not Mexican just because his granddad slipped across the Rio before my dad did. But he knows his stuff, and he’s OK as long as you don’t try talking politics with him. Sammy T is the other grunt here besides me, he's a black guy from DC, pretty quiet but a good guy. Sammy and me swap between day shift with the Major, and evening shift. Manny takes night time. 'Course, all of us are on 24-hour call if we're needed and kind of back up the posted shift when we're not sleeping. Not much else to do out here besides study, read, or listen to music. We can pipe in whatever music we want off the satellites, and download ebooks off the Army library, but Major Shevchuk wants any of us to be able to run the whole post if we have to, so we spend a lot of time with that. The major is a wizard on a computer, way better than Farf-Dad. But by the time we get home, we'll be able to rebuild a diesel generator in our sleep without having to stop cracking enemy codes or debugging a program, jejeje.

Really, though, the post runs itself now that it's set up. Manny checks the satellite dish alignment every day, me and Sammy T inspect the EMP bomb (which we'll set off if it looks like the post is going to get captured, it will fry every chip in the bag) once or twice a week, and all of us try to keep the dust and sand swept up and out of the filters. The gear's all raised off the floor, so it would take a lot of sand to clog things up, but Major Shevchuk is used to computer labs being clean. We also inspect our arms… not like we have much, just the usual sidearms and a couple of RPG launchers, but it all needs to be kept clean and ready for action. Basic was far too easy, shower-wise. We don’t get a shower out here, we just get a “French Bath” (wipe the sweat off with a damp cloth or wet-wipe). We don’t notice the smell, but I’ll bet it makes the barracks seem like a flowerbed by comparison!

And that's about it from here. Love you guys.

I'm sure glad he's out of the main action. The news was all over the Iranian sea invasion getting repelled last week; they must have decided the best defense was a good offense and got their war on. I suppose the overland route through Iraq is coming next, especially since the south is pretty friendly with the Iranians anyway, although they’ll likely get bombed into the sand going that way. The Russians and Chinese are threatening the junta with “an attack on Iran is considered an attack on us,” with the junta responding, “if that’s the case, then you’ve attacked us first — stop it or we’ll make it stop.” But the only way you would know that the Iranians sunk a couple of their rented tankers in the Straits was that gasoline is suddenly becoming unobtanium. The SPR is probably wide-open for business now, but if the junta has any sense they'll focus on producing enough diesel to keep the farmers and trains going. The gas they'll grab for themselves and their cronies, as always. There are rumors that the Saudis have a pipeline running clear across the country to a mothballed terminal on the Red Sea, and they’re supposedly opening it up now, but I’ll believe it when the imports start coming in again.

Serena and Kim lucked out — she’s now an MP at Ramstein in Germany: vulnerable to terrorist attacks, but you could say that about anyone. Kim is still stateside, and he got the job Rene wanted, teaching English to Hispanic recruits. Seems that the junta extended the service-for-citizenship plan to anyone south of the border, they’re signing up in droves, and the junta wanted a white guy who is fluent in Spanish. When Rene found out about it, he demonstrated his abilities in Standard Military English (nod to David Brin on that one) and laughed his skinny butt off. Kim gets to call Christina a few times a week, and Christina says she’s working on a hormone that can be dispersed over a wide area to make people rational for a change and put an end to this war and junta nonsense. I think she’s joking… I think. But if anyone could pull off a stunt like that, it would be Christina.


Sunday, November 02, 2008 5 comments

Charge It!

After church this morning, I got accosted by one of Mrs. Fetched’s cousins. “I hear you’re supported Obama,” he growled. “What of it?” I shot back. “Blah blah smear, blah blah talking points, blah blah I don’t see how you can support Democrats and be a Christian.” At least he didn’t trot out the “he’s a Muslim” bull$#!+.

“I don’t see how a Christian can support the party of the Pharisees and money changers,” I said, with more than a little heat. I’m not good at confrontation, and the in-laws are Olympic Squbbling Team gold medalists. “Remember who Jesus threw out of the temple.” He sputtered and tried to turn it around, and I just walked away. I wish I would have just laughed in his face when he started. I let Mrs. Fetched know about it; she said, “he’s so much like his dad” (who was a old white rural Georgia boy, need I say more). I have an idea who put his wind up about me, but with no proof I don’t need to name names in public (or even blog-ic). Look, if you really believe that the other guy is the better choice for rational reasons (i.e. no fear & smear), whether for the country or even your own wallet, I don’t have a problem with that. But if you want to question my patriotism (or my Christianity) for my choice, we have nothing to say to each other.

Another fun-filled afternoon at the manor. But instead of chickens, I had some wood to split (which was therapeutic) and load up. Two huge trees went down in her dad’s pasture, and we’re getting firewood. We didn’t even have to cut the first couple loads… her dad and a guy living in one of the rentals (the one who just got carted off to the Cinder Block Resort) left it there for us to just pick up. Mrs. Fetched came down to help load up after I finished splitting; we looked at what hasn’t been cut yet and I said, “this could last us all winter if we can get it cut up.” She nodded.

Since we’d had a big breakfast late, we didn’t get around to lunch until 3:30 or so. We finished up at 4, and we had Charge Conference at church at 5. In a Methodist church, Charge Conference is when the congregation officially approves the next year’s budget, appoints new officers (or re-elects the old ones, dangit)… and of course, it’s an excuse to go downstairs and eat. Being the lay leader, I get to deliver a “lesson” (mini-sermon). I quoted John the Baptist telling people to share their extra coats and food with people who didn’t have any, and — given the economic situation — challenged everyone to “share their stuff” with people who didn’t have it. To my surprise, everyone applauded… first time that ever happened. Probably because I kept it much shorter than my typical blog post.

Long Day

Too long. Good thing we turn the clocks back tonight; I needed even more than the 25 hours we get today.

After Mrs. Fetched’s helper ended up “forgetting” about a minor detail like keeping up with his probation, he got carted off to jail. Smooth move, Ex-Lax… you got a wife with a baby on the way and you pull that kind of stunt? Forget about The Boy helping; on Saturdays even the crack of noon is a little too early for him. So… “all we have to do” (a phrase I absolutely dread hearing from her) “is open up the half-houses.” This took us well past noon, then her dad decided he needed to do some miscellaneous stuff — which for him means a stream-of-consciousness waste of several more hours. By 4 p.m., I suggested lunch would be a good idea and he agreed.

wood stackMeanwhile, there was a bunch of wood cut up in the pasture, waiting for “someone” to gather it up. Mrs. Fetched needed to do something else in the chicken house, so she suggested I start loading up the wood and she would join me when she got finished. So… about an hour later, DoubleRed came down the chicken house road in her little Rio. She asked me if I needed help; I said, “sure, park your car across from the gate and come on over.” We didn’t get all the wood, but we’d got as much as we could deal with at the time, so we ran up to the house and unloaded it. One piece was a little large, and I got the splitter. DoubleRed was telling me a story of how her mom tried to get her to split some firewood once, and rescinded the idea after she nearly chopped herself and her brother. I drew a bead on the log, took one whack, and it came apart.

“Show-off,” she said.

“I got a lucky shot that time,” I reassured her.

This picture isn’t all of what we got — we put some in the garage to save a little time for the night-time armloads — but some of the stack was already there. (The top of the stack comes about to my chin, for perspective.) This should last us at least a week, maybe two, and there’s plenty more where that came from. Our burn rate averages about a stick an hour.

As we were on our way back to get DoubleRed’s car, we saw it coming up the road the other way. Mrs. Fetched had finally remembered that we had to shoot a community chorale — singing an English version of Brahms’s A German Requiem — and we had about two hours before it started. We got showers, fresh clothes, the cameras, and away we went. We managed to get through it without changing tapes… but we were down to the last one or two minutes. Whew! Supper, groceries, putting Crissy the Complete PITA Dog back in her pen (and blocking her wormhole she’d dug to get out)… and here I am.

Maybe if she doesn’t have another chicken house freakout tomorrow, I’ll be able to bring more wood home (and split the larger pieces).

Can we set the clocks back… oh, 24 hours? I want a real Saturday, the kind that doesn’t involve chicken houses.


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