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Friday, May 29, 2009 4 comments

Weekend Cinema

Your wallet’s dry, attention span too — Weekend Cinema’s the place for you!

With gas prices down from last year (but creeping up), the urban tanks are back on the road. So top up your Suxpedition and take that solo drive to SUV City!

[Thanks to Nudge for finding this one.]

Tuesday, May 26, 2009 10 comments

Honest? Me?

While on vacation, I was awardified by my bud Wooly:

Kind of nice, actually. The easy part is the acceptance speech: I have to say 10 honest things about myself. The harder part is picking out 7 other people to pass the award to — I mean, my blog-buddies are all an honest bunch, how do I pick? Oh well, first things first.

1) I don’t let it all hang out here because my family (mom, dad, daughter, etc.) read it.

2) I don’t feel like I’m 50. I have to agree with Stephen King, who said, “I can’t feel like this, I’m still 19!”

3) I’m a little vain about my hair. Even if it is mostly grey and starting to thin out. I like to grow it a lot longer than Mrs. Fetched likes it.

4) Often, I have trouble finishing things. I wonder sometimes if I’m afraid to succeed.

5) My idea of a perfect day is walking/sitting/wading on the beach, otherwise doing absolutely nothing. I’d probably look for something to do on the second day, though.

6) I am both appalled and excited about the prospect of a grandson. (see #2, see also below)


7) I consider watching TV to be a complete waste of time. Of course, I spend a lot of time online, which is only a 90% waste of time. :-)

8) Living next to a farm has taught me that chickens & cows are evil creatures that deserve to be eaten. And yet, it wouldn’t bother me much to not eat meat.

9) I will spend more time getting my computer to do something for me than I would if I did it myself. On the other hand, the second time around I don’t have to expend much effort at all.

10) I have to constantly remind myself to not obsess over stuff I can’t do anything about.

OK, now comes the hard part. Seven people? Tell you what, if you’re not listed below, you get the award anyway. I did the work, I get to pick. :-P

Beth doesn’t shy away from the low spots in life. We want to have each other’s life. ;-)

Nudge has an opinion, and she ain’t afraid to express it. Gotta love that.

Move Atlanta Motorsports Park wasn’t successful in their effort to stop a Complete Waste of Effort, but they gave it their best shot.

Family Man tells many stories, old and new, all true. He definitely deserves this one.

Joe Vecchio chronicles his struggle with both trying to find decent (honest) work that will allow him to support himself, and trying to understand the nutbars on the far right.

Jen deserves this too, even if she shut down her blog. I learned a lot from her rants.

Finally, you get the nod. Enjoy!

FAR Future, Episode 89: Making the Call

And here’s this week’s bonus episode…

Wednesday, August 20, 2036
Making the Call

“Right.” I filled Rene in on what Col. Mustard told me. “Do you think you can dig up anything on Palmer Lanois, or any of his assistants? One of them might be who’s behind this Talon thing, and all the other stuff.”

“Probably.” He sat down at poked at his gadget for a few minutes. “I can get started now. The evening drop should give me something to work with tonight. Ready to go?”

“Yup. The pipes are clear and everything’s in place.” I wish I was that sure about everything besides the pipes.

We hiked up to the house, and Rene started banging away at the computer. “Anything turn up?” I asked after a few minutes.

“Yeah,” he said. “Lanois walked away from a mental hospital in Baton Rouge on September 1st last year, and just vanished.”

“The puzzle coming together?”

“This was definitely a missing piece. I think it’s time we share what we know.”

I rummaged around in my old contacts, and found the phone number from the Fibbies who interviewed me after the junta fell. I’ll refer to them as Mulder and Scully (and you probably have to be over 50 to catch that reference). I had no idea whether they were still with the Feds or not; they could have retired or moved on to some other department or section. But this was the number I had, and they told me to call if I ever learned any information.

“Director Mulder’s office,” the receptionist said. “Can I help you?”

I identified myself. “Mr. Mulder visited me some time ago, back when he was an agent, about a tenuous connection I had to the junta, and said to call me if I thought of anything. Something, maybe important, has fallen into my lap, and I think you guys need to take it from here. Oh… he wrote on the back of his card, ‘E317,’ does that mean anything?”

“Hang on a second, Mr. Fetched,” he said, and I heard taptappytappitytaptap. “Yes sir. Hold, please, I’m going to transfer you.”

I had the speaker on, and Rene and I looked at each other. “You think —”

“Director Mulder. You say you’ve learned something?”

“I may have. One of the people living with me, Rene Cardenas, he was in EDID in the war and —”

“Is he with you now?”

“Yes,” Rene said. “Is that all right?”

“Certainly,” said Mulder, and I heard tappity tap once again. “Oh… that Rene Cardenas?”

Rene sighed. “That’s him,” I laughed. “He’s a little modest about the war, but he does know how to go digging for info. You’re aware of the flood of flamebait coming down the newsfeeds, right? We might have connected it to Palmer Lanois, somehow.” I nudged Rene, and let him fill in Mulder on the visit from the Talon people, my relationship with Col. Mustard, and some connections that I hadn’t even been aware of.

“We’ve been watching these people too,” Mulder said. “But I have to admit, there are a couple of things we weren’t aware of. Mr. Cardenas: do you think they have some way to communicate off-net? We haven’t seen anything that looks coordinated on the net — or actionable.”

“Encrypted radio transmissions,” Rene said. “Send small packets, maybe over shortwave. You get a low bitrate, but for text that isn’t a huge problem and you don’t have to worry about routers. I don’t know if that’s what they’re doing, but that’s one way to do it. Sunspots are pretty high right now, so the higher end of the band is open a lot.”

“Right. I really appreciate this information. We’ll see if we can find anything suspicious on the air. If we’re lucky, it’ll lead us to Lanois. Thanks for your time.” He hung up.

“That was a little rude,” Rene said.

“He’s probably excited. I suspect getting Lanois back on the reservation is their Number One priority at the moment.”

“Probably —” Serena and Pat walking in broke that train of thought.

“I was starting to get worried,” Serena said. “It would have been nice if you’d let us know what was going on.” Pat gave me his what’s going on anyway? look.

I looked at the clock on the computer. “An hour and a half? I’m sorry, Serena. I got a call from Col. Mustard and he gave me a name. Rene found out the guy — Palmer Lanois, the one we called Swamp Thing back in the junta days — has been loose since last September, and —” Too late, I realized Pat was still there, taking it all in.

“Pat, why don’t you head on back?” Serena suggested. “Let the others know everything’s OK.”

“What’s going on?” Pat said. “I want to know.”

“Rene could tell you,” I said, “but then he’d have to kill you.” Serena snorted and Rene gave me a puzzled look. Pat just shook his head and left, poking at his gadget as he went. I waved at Rene and Serena to carry on, and caught up to Pat as he was going out the door.

“There’s some stuff going on,” I told him, “and we might have figured out where it’s coming from.”

“You mean with the refugees? I hear stuff all the time, but they’re not like that. We have two families here, and it’s been fine.”

“I know. But somebody’s making a bunch of noise, trying to get people stirred up, and we’re trying to find out why.”

“So who is it?”

“Some people, at least one of them anyway, who were associated with the junta back when.”

“Gas. I wasn’t even born when they got thrown out. They’re still around?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “It might be some other group using one old junta guy.”


I took advantage of the pause: “You making any headway on your new clatter track?”

He pulled it up on his gadget. Knowing how to change the subject is most of the battle.


Monday, May 25, 2009 2 comments

FAR Future, Episode 88: Heat Wave

Sorry folks, vacation and the following three-day weekend threw me off. Let me make up for it with a two-fer. Come back tomorrow for the next one…

Wednesday, August 20, 2036
Heat Wave

The Boy sent me a track of his raunchy new song, “On the Centerline.” It’s about a chance encounter with a woman on the road, which he says an opt-out told him about (saying “an opt-out told me about it” is like “the dog ate my homework”). The third verse, which gives you an idea without being completely offensive: Her skin was tough and wrinkled / weathered by the road / But her eyes still twinkled / with stories she had told / Despite her rough appearance / she still looked sorta fine / 'Cause woman are few and far between / Out on the centerline. The storyteller ends up with an itchy souvenir of his encounter…

It’s getting hot, in more ways than one. It’s been really pleasant this summer — temps around 30 most of the time, breezy (not enough to turn the windmills, but still feels good), humidity reasonable. That all changed Monday… it jumped to 35+ and that good ol’ Planet Georgia humidity has returned. We handle it like we did last summer: get the things done that need to get done as early as possible, and spend the rest of the day at the creek. Bobby and Martina have been a huge help in that regard, since they’re up even before the chickens and get a lot of things done before breakfast. We have a screen tent, picnic table, cooler, all the conveniences of modern life down at the creek (the cooler has a small refrigeration unit that runs off a solar panel). Since it runs alongside the pasture, we can send someone to check on the cows every so often and it’s actually more convenient than doing it from the house. Mini-vacation for a baker’s dozen.

If it’s hot outside, it’s getting even hotter on the newsfeeds. The New Talon bunch surfaced again, this time online, newsbombing refugee-oriented sites with fakeumentaries, opinion pieces, and breathless snippets of supposed news. The theme seems to be how the refugees are mostly being neglected by the feds and treated as second-class citizens (if that) by the surrounding populace. There are three or four different “organizations” flogging this goop, but it all sounds like the same stuff written by different people. On “local news” sites, it’s just the opposite: wild-eyed reports of refugees inflicting illegal drugs, crime, and general disorder on everyone around them, while getting lavish handouts from the feds. Both sides carry horror stories about adopted refugee families… the Talon video featured two people who were obviously Sean and Mary, although their faces were blurred out, the names were assumed, and the voices were completely different even accounting for the deliberate distortion “to protect our sources.” Sean shook his head, but Mary was incensed about having words literally put into her mouth and wanted to recruit Serena and Daughter Dearest to help her wreak some mayhem on their offices.

Serena got Rene to spill one bean. “That address is a dropbox,” he told Mary. “I really didn’t want to say anything until I finished working this puzzle, and I’m missing a couple of pieces. But it won’t hurt to tell you that much.” Knowing Rene and what he’s capable of, he probably has the home addresses for Fred and Barney, but would consider that need to know. The government is a lot less intrusive than it used to be, thanks to a reduced energy supply, but can still get very intrusive on an individual basis if provoked.

While we were eating lunch, I got a ping from Col. Mustard down in John’s Creek. Call me. Ears only. I made up an excuse — it was my day to check the greywater irrigation and I’d forgotten to do it — and hiked away, calling once I was sure I was out of earshot.

“Thanks for getting back to me,” he said. “Did you see the stuff popping up on the newsfeeds today?”

“Yeah. One of the videos had Sean and Mary, but they dubbed in what they wanted them to say and blurred their faces.”

“Right. Did you get the idea that it all looked… coordinated?”

“Seems like things blew up overnight. I was seeing occasional rumor-mongering before, but it’s like… I don’t know.”

“Turning up a leaky faucet,” Col. Mustard said, getting a laugh out of me.

“Coordinated. Any ideas who’s doing the coordinating?”

“If I didn’t know better, I’d say it looks a lot like the kind of job Palmer Lanois would’ve done.”

I’d not heard that name in a decade, and it still made me shiver. “Swamp Thing? Wouldn’t he have gotten a life sentence?” Lanois was an Evil Genius with propaganda, perhaps the Goebbels of the 21st century; he made Karl Rove look like an amateur. Whatever harebrained idea the junta came up with, Lanois put frosting on the crap and served it up to the people as cupcakes. “Please don’t tell me he talked his way out of prison.”

“Not necessarily. It was pretty well-known even in the outer circles that he was a nutter. He wouldn’t have been safe in general population, and they wouldn’t have put him with junta symps because he’d have organized them into a riot squad. I think he ended up in a mental hospital.”

“And probably walked away not long ago,” I suggested. He wasn’t violent himself, so he wouldn’t be watched carefully… after a while, even famous inmates don’t engender much fascination, especially when they aren’t doing anything eye-catching. He could have simply stood up one day and checked himself out sans paperwork.

“Could be. It could be someone else, someone who studied under him. Or someone who came along later, who studied his methods.” He paused. “Damn. They caught somebody poaching our garden. I gotta process him. Call me later, if you need to.”

“Sure. Thanks much!” I hung up and called Rene. “Hey, could you come up here and — ahem — give me a hand? I think we can do it ourselves, no need to bring anyone else.”

“Um… sure,” he said. About five minutes later, he came jogging up the path. “What’s up? It ain’t the pipes, is it?”


Monday, May 18, 2009 5 comments

FAR Future, Episode 87: Virginia Slam

With the story itself finished, I’m busying myself with filling in some of the background stuff. Song lyrics, one of Serena’s plays, maybe a few “ePedia” entries later on. Now that the main job is done, some of this is clamoring to get out too.

Thursday, July 24, 2036
Virginia Slam

The Boy gave us a call today from the camp outside of Suffolk VA, between Richmond and Norfolk.

“Hey! Guess what?”

“Um… you got married?” I laughed.

“Ha. I was at a salvage shop in Suffolk today, and I found a Les Paul and an amp — 80 bucks!”

“Why so cheap?”

“Everyone’s going acoustic these days. Don’t have to worry about the power going out, and some bars don’t even have electric except to keep the beer cold. I’m chopping the amp, converting it to run on a fuel cell.”

“Does it all work?”

“Yeah, the guy let me try it out. He even threw in some strings he had laying in a whatever bin.”

“So what are you going to do with it?”

“Play some old stuff. I figure with a full fuel cell, I can play all night if I want.”

“As long as you can recharge it.”

“Yeah, there’s that. But they got genbikes everywhere here in the camp, and I can pay a kid to pedal for me. It’ll go about the same amount of time you charge it — pedal an hour, play an hour.”

“Good luck with that, then. How is everything else going?”

“It’s a job. But people are getting real weird. I keep hearing stuff that’s just bullshit.”

“People are always gonna give you a line if you let them,” I said.

“Yeah. But some of this — it’s just whacked. Townies are sayin’ the refugees are running whee and zone labs and sellin’ the shit to kids —”

Both? And no turf wars?”

“Yeah. Like I said, whoever’s startin’ this stuff don’t know jack. And the refugees are sayin’ the townies are raisin’ a militia to come shoot up the camp and get ’em all to leave.”

“And you’re hearing both sides? How?”

“Yeah. I go into town and eat sometimes. Some of the townies are real assholes, they thought I was an opt-out because I smoke, then they think I’m a refugee, but then they apologize when I tell ’em I’m with the chautauqua. Then they start sayin’ that crap. I try to tell ’em different and it’s like they don’t want to hear it.”

“I’m surprised you bought that guitar, then.” The Boy has never been one to laugh off an affront — which is how he ran afoul of the junta and won a trip to Colorado.

“That guy at the shop, he was cool,” The Boy said. “He deals with refugees and opt-outs all the time. He hears the stories too, but he knows they’re crap.”

“So how long are you going to be there?”

“About a month. We’ll run out of material before then, so we’ll do a few shows in town before we move on. The townies don’t go out to the camp, so they won’t know we’re playing the same stuff we did in the camp.”

“I guess. Have you seen any of those news crews like the ones that came by here in March?”

“Everyone hears about ’em. But nobody ever sees ’em. What’s with that?”

“I wish I knew.”

He asked me how things were going at the manor, and said to thank Serena for the script. She still has a certain cachet in the chautauqua movement. Things here go as they often do in the summer… just not as hot as usual. We still sleep on the porch or in screen tents, except when there’s heavy rain, which we’ve had more often than usual this summer. The kids love sleeping outside, as they always have, and they have a tent of their own so the couples can have a little privacy. Bobby and Martina continue to show no signs of early romance — and believe me, everyone has been watching carefully! — so it hasn’t been a problem. Then again, they have to share the tent with Pat and Ray, and Pat’s more or less in charge. He put them on opposite sides, Ray next to Martina.

Speaking of Pat, he submitted a clatter track to a music sharing site, and get reasonably positive feedback. The criticism has all been along the lines of “too derivative, sounds like Klappernwerk” or some other group. Then again, anyone not into clatter says it all sounds the same, so Pat (like any clatter artist) is trying to come up with something sufficiently different to be his own but still be clatter. Samples of non-metallic instruments are cropping up in some tracks these days… purists frown on anything that isn’t an improvised percussion instrument, but new genres always go through a phase of defining themselves (or expanding their audiences). Lyrics, or at least vocals, are the newest frontier — “Bang Out the Beat” (track, album, and artist all share the name) was #5 on the clatter download charts last week, and looks to be around a while.

Ray’s into everything, now that he’s gotten familiar with the various routines around here. The dogs absolutely love him, and will do anything for him in the pasture… it’s really amazing. He can point to a calf, tell the dogs to put it up, and they’ll cut it out of the herd and chase it into the holding pen. We talked about entering him in the next stock dog trials, but his parents nixed it. Not sure what the deal is there; maybe they don’t want to be too tied to this place.

There was a time I could relate.


Saturday, May 16, 2009 2 comments

Crazy Rhodo and the Flower Power

Sounds like a good name for a rock band, huh?


She has her accompanists…

Like Sage.

Flowering sage

Sage adds a little spice to the music. She's pretty strong, and likes to spread out. She’s been around for a while.

Then there's the wild child of the band, "Mountain" Laurel:

Laurel’s a big girl, which is how she got her nickname. But she sure dresses up nice…

Then there’s Rose:

Mother's Day Rose

Rose is a thorny one, and has an attitude. She pretty much takes over wherever she’s planted. Pull her up and she comes right back.

Finally, there’s Iris:


Iris is a thin, shy girl. But she’s pretty and all the fans wish they could be her.

Meanwhile, in real life, The Boy and his band were here playing their own music today. Mrs. Fetched is cooking sausage for a breakfast casserole tomorrow, and the aroma is somewhat distracting…

Monday, May 11, 2009 13 comments

FAR Future, Episode 86: Generation 3

I’ve finished up the first draft in real life, but even at two posts a week it will still be a while… and I’m not going to put up two posts every week…

Saturday, June 28, 2036
Generation 3

The tradition continues…

Hi everyone. I'm Bobby. I found Granddad's printed blog, I guess that makes it a diary. Mom and Dad both said he would probably let me write something for it. I said I couldn't think of anything, and Dad laughed and said that happened to him the first time too. Granddad said that it happens to everyone, just not all the time. Mom said to just talk about what we do during the day, because people like to hear about that. She said not everybody lives like us, I guess she meant Uncle Kim and Aunt Christina and Little Mo and Robin, down in Atlanta. So this is what our days are like.

Me and Martina get up before everyone, most mornings. I don't know why, but we both wake up around 5:30 or 6 and we're just not tired anymore. So I go downstairs, and Martina comes in from her place, and we talk or read or do our homework until someone else comes in. Sometimes we play checkers. As long as we're quiet, nobody minds. We only woke everyone up once, in February when we got 10 whole cm of snow! Martina had to walk through it to get in the house, and she told me about it, so we ran outside and got a little noisy. When it was still cold out, we also brought in firewood to keep the heater going. Mom said we should fix breakfast for everyone, but she was just kidding. She doesn't want us getting cut or burned or something.

Sometimes, Martina wants us to make a story, so we have to go outside. That's OK in the summer anyway, because we can see and it's warm out. If it's our turn to weed the garden, we do that while we make the story. The grownups don't like when we go to the garden ourselves, but we take the dogs and there's never been a problem.

Whatever we do, when the grownups get up we have breakfast. Martina's place, and Ray's, have kitchens but mostly everyone eats together in the big house. Granddad gets out what he calls the duty roster, which is what everyone's supposed to do that day, and sometimes the grownups trade jobs if they want. If we got a head start on our job, they tell us if we have to help someone else. But most of the time, we go looking for fell-down trees for firewood. We mark the big ones on a GPS and drag smaller ones out if we can. Robin and Little Mo get to come with us sometimes, but they’re not used to how we do things so sometimes they’re just in the way. But they’re a lot of help when we drag trees out of the woods.

In the afternoons, everyone goes down to the creek. It's not as hot as last summer, but that's OK. We just take our clothes off and jump in. Sometimes the grownups jump in too, but they don't always take off their clothes. That's so weird, they have to walk back with their clothes all wet! Ours get a little wet, but we mostly dry off first so we don't squish in our shoes. Martina says the grownups are embarrassed, but that's silly. What do they have to be embarrassed about? Clothes are to keep warm or keep from getting scratched up when you're outside.

The other weird thing grownups do is spend a lot of time on computers or watching TV when it comes on. Granddad thought I was going to type this into his computer, but that's what old people do. I can use a computer, but I don't do it for fun.

I’ll have to say, he has good penmanship. Mine was never that good, even before I learned to type.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen two earlier-rising kids than Bobby and Martina… ever. But when you’re a kid, the greatest treasure of all is having a friend who’s completely simpatico. Rene and Serena and I had a little powwow one evening about them. “So how’s it gonna go down?” I asked them. “Like you two, or the Kim/Christina extreme? Or something in between?”

“More like us than them, I think,” Serena said. “Even when we were that age, the dynamics of the relationships got established pretty quickly. You just had to be looking for it.”

“I saw it,” Rene said, “but I didn’t realize what it was at first. I wasn’t thinking of my little sister being in love with Kim… I just thought she was acting weird.”

I laughed. “So we have like ten years before we need to start worrying?”

Sean and Mary, Martina’s parents, are less sanguine about the situation… which is normal for the parents of daughters. But it should be at least a couple of years before the hormones start flowing, and even they have to admit that the two of them act like a normal pair of kids. Serena told them about Kim and Christina, and the ways that Bobby and Martina are not like them, and that seemed to help.

“And when they get to be teenagers, they’ll probably start sleeping in,” Sean suggested. “Early morning’s the only time I know of that they’re not being supervised.”

“That and when they’re hunting up firewood,” I added. “But we can always put them on a different job if we have to.”

The kids will be getting The Talk in a couple of years, I think, whether they need it or not. At least I won’t have to be the one to do it this time. God willing, if it comes down to it, I’ll be around to perform the initial wedding service though.


Saturday, May 09, 2009 9 comments


After nearly two years of on & off, I’ve finally completed FAR Future!

Well, the first draft, anyway. The way I’ve been doing things lately, I’ll be back in there tweaking and poking almost right up to the moment I post each episode. I might even stick one more episode in toward the end… just depends.

At a post a week, it’ll run until August; there’s going to be at least a few two-fers though. But I also have a few "deleted scenes" and an alternate episode that I’ll post after The End, and maybe an appendix of future history.

Celebrate today. Tomorrow, I’ll start turning it into a novel.

Friday, May 08, 2009 6 comments

Post-pourri (including Weekend Cinema)

The usual collection of stuff that kind of kicked around all week but I never got a chance to post. And since it’s already Friday, a short-and-silly video awaits…

From the “Stupidog is one word” files: Mrs. Fetched decided she wanted to breed Crissy, her thoroughly obnoxious Austrian Shep mix who happened to be in heat, and got Luke (another shep) from her mom and put him in the pen with her. And he proceeded to… do nothing. Well, that’s not completely true: he forced his way out of the pen through a hole in the gate. I got him back in and wired the hole shut. He proceeded to open the latch (he knows how to do that) and ran home. (Maybe he’s gay?)

After most of a week of not seeing Sasquatch around, he came by Wednesday evening with Jar Jar in tow. The latter needed to get away from his family for a while, so naturally he came to the manor. :-) He was hoping for a chance to work and earn a few bucks, but all he got was raking up the grass in the (small) front yard after I mowed it yesterday afternoon. At least Jar Jar managed to not do anything spectacularly clumsy this time — about the only thing that went w0rNg on his watch was DD’s computer’s audio cutting out for a few hours overnight. He’d been using the laptop a lot, so I figured it overheated then brought the sound back after it cooled off a bit. He, Daughter Dearest, and Sasquatch played a fair amount of Magic: the Gathering while they were here. Sasquatch also managed to clear a clog in the upstairs sink; he used a bent hanger to fish out the clog and an earring that got caught in it. He said, “it looked like an Amish guy’s beard fell off and went down the sink.” YUCK GAG GAG

Speaking of Sasquatch, he got so hooked on the “Mouse Hunt” game on Facebook that he started playing in meatspace. Using a really simple string/stick/box setup, he managed to catch six specimens of Mus musculus (aka the common house mouse) at his place. He has them in an aquarium, with a screen lid they jump onto and walk around on like flies on a ceiling. He’s so excited about his new pets, that’s pretty much all he wants to talk about lately… which is annoying the living foo out of Daughter Dearest. Personally, I’d find a snake owner who wanted some free chow… or at least release them somewhere far away. Maybe in the Atlanta Country Club, where they could aerate the golf course.

Silly me, putting up a gas price poll: prices have jumped from $1.89 to $2.15 here in the last couple of days. (If you haven't voted in the poll, you have plenty of time. I’ll wait.) Of course, the rain has mostly kept me off the motorcycle. Both Little Zook and the Virago are running happy, so all I need is a shot at some dry pavement. That, or find the bottom of my rain suit.

Vacation is postponed for *another* week… we were talking about going this week, but we have to shoot the community chorale tomorrow night. Next week didn’t work for various reasons; we were planning for the week of the 18th but now something else has come up. Maybe the week after… which would let me stretch it an extra day for Memorial Day. Not all bad.

And now… Weekend Cinema! With a hat-tip to Faboomama, who linked to this on Twitter. De Prez and his crew set up nuclear talks with “My Man” Mahmoud:

Tuesday, May 05, 2009 6 comments

FAR Future, Episode 85: An Old Friend

Friday, May 30, 2036
An Old Friend

“I thought I recognized you!” he grinned. “It’s been a long time since Nickajack, hasn’t it?” He steered me out the door and up to the street.

“I got your message when you were in Dallas. And I checked on you afterward, but I never heard from you and pretty much lost track.”

“So you know about General Mayhem and Sgt. Pepper.”

I nodded. “They didn’t make it.”


We walked in silence for a while, passing a once-empty lot that was now one of many thriving gardens. “What about you?” I asked. “You took the amnesty — what happened after that?”

“Not much. The interesting stuff happened while I was doing my jail time. All that time, we thought the televangelists were the ones behind the junta, the RoT, all that. I guess they were… but nobody I know of thought to ask who was behind them. We weren’t much for questioning our leadership, you know, at least the kind we liked.

“So those FEMA camps. The junta sent a few people to those, mostly the D1 people — non-violent agitators. After we redeployed, the old government let those guys go. But that’s where they sent us. Justice.”

“Symmetrical, anyway.”

“I guess. One of the people in there with me was an assistant to one of the big shots there in Dallas, and he wasn’t taking prison camp too well — he’d had access to a lot of power, and now he was in a cage. He spent pretty much all day walking a rut around the fence line for most of the first month.”

“So what happened?”

“Sooner or later, everyone in the program got ‘counseling.’ I guess they kept an eye on everyone and waited until they were ready. They might have waited a little too long in Kenneth’s case.

“Anyway, it was probably obvious that what this guy wanted, more than anything, was to give advice to the powerful. They told him he’d have the ear of the very top if he had something interesting to say… and by God, did he ever.

“Turns out the televangelists were taking orders from the one-percenters — the richest of the rich. God didn’t have much to do with the junta, unless His name is Mammon.”

We got quiet for a while… two old men lost in their own thoughts. He stopped in front of the building in the cul-de-sac we were walking through; I remembered a name, or part of one: “Something Science. I have no idea what they made.” The next building was where the office park maintenance people worked from. After a while, we picked up where Col. Mustard had left off. “So your eyes were opened, or something?”

“It was pretty hard to take,” he said. “Have you ever built your entire life — your entire outlook — on something, then found you’d been used?” I shook my head, but I don’t think he noticed. “I tried not to believe it. I know some of the guys there refused to believe it. Some of them tried to kill themselves, and one or two did it. I know a lot of guys opted-out. I thought about it.”

“You’d think the counselors would have known what kind of bombshell that would be.”

“They didn’t do it. When Kenneth started talking, it was like a dam broke. He went around and told us all. A couple of guys beat the hell out of him, and they moved him after that.

“Soon after, I got my own turn at counseling. They helped me accept what I’d let happen to me, then they gave me a train ticket to Atlanta and a voucher for three months of lodging. They were having a bandit problem up here at the time, so I offered to help with security. Been here ever since.”

“You got any idea whether they got the people who bankrolled the junta?”

“I’m sure they went after them. Maybe they put a dent in their operation. But I doubt that it was more than a dent. Those guys had assets offshore, sure as sunrise.”

“Lay low for a while, wait for something to happen, maybe make something happen, take advantage,” I said. “That’s how they played it with the New Deal, right? You know some of those guys were backing the Nazis in World War Two. That didn’t quite work out as planned, so they got the Cold War going with the Soviets and made out like bandits selling arms to just about everyone. Eventually, they co-opted the southerners and the religious authoritarians… and you know the rest. At least up to now.” I told him about the visit from the newsies. “You think those guys might be a new tentacle?”

“Maybe. But it doesn’t make sense. At least by itself. There must be more to this than we’ve seen so far.”

The rest of the walk (and the entire trip) was uneventful. Col. Mustard was intrigued that one building used to be a firearms training site, but it didn’t matter much to the task at hand (which was to identify potentially toxic areas for the farm crew). The trip home was pretty much like the trip down — shuttle, RoadTrain, get a ride home — except that there were three of us to keep each other company. Robin and Little Mo barely noticed that their parents (and granddad) were home; they were busy with all the other kids. Some things never change.


Monday, May 04, 2009 6 comments

FAR Future, Episode 84: Office Revisited

This and the next episode are two parts of the same day, so (for the first time in quite a while), I’m going to post them back-to-back. Come back tomorrow morning for Episode 85!

Friday, May 30, 2036
Office Revisited

Kim and Christina scheduled a consulting job for Tuesday, the first day after college closed for the summer. A community in the John’s Creek area was taking in a big group of refugees from the coast and asked Christina for some advice for upgrading and expanding their digester and composting facility. Methane from sewage is a big source of cooking fuel these days, of course, and people depend heavily on these systems now. Kim knew I used to work down that way, and invited me to join them. Being gone for a few days wouldn’t hurt anything, since Serena doesn’t let me do much anyway, so why not?

A 60km trip to John’s Creek (and back) used to be something I did five times a week without thinking much about it — I ought to bring up the word “commute” in history class this fall — but these days it takes a little planning. I could have grabbed the Heehaw and been there in an hour and a half, maybe two hours, but the farm needs it for all sorts of things and it would be horribly selfish of me anyway. (Which isn’t to say I didn’t think about it for a minute.) But doing it the right way, this trip is done in three parts: 1) Rene and Maria take me up to the old retail district; 2) RoadTrain down to the stop at the old exit; 3) Norcross shuttle to John’s Creek. Thanks to good old gadgets, I could keep Kim and Christina apprised of my location and they were at the stop to meet me. Including layovers, it only took half the day to arrive. Part of trip preparation involves packing some chow and reading materials, of course.

Kim and Christina were pretty tolerant of me rattling off names they’d long forgotten — “that was a Kroger’s, that was a Wendy’s,” etc. What they cared about was if there was a Fry Guy franchise in the area. “20th Century Comfort Food,” they tag themselves, “cooked on the spot.” All of it horribly unhealthy, but it’s probably OK for the occasional celebration or whatever. It’s no surprise that all those chains were long gone and the buildings repurposed; but there were a few surprises waiting for me.

The first one was when they took us to where we were staying — which happened to be the building I worked in back in the early part of the century! All the cube walls and furniture were long gone, of course — taken off to be recycled or repurposed — but the old cabinet with the mail slots by my old cube was still there, so I could show them where I worked. As often as I joked about living in that office, this was the first time I’d actually spent the night in the building. We were given an old conference room that was now the guest quarters. Back when, they named all the conference rooms after elements (in the periodic table), and they had left the old sign up by the door: “Lithium Conference Room.”

“It's a good room for a guest quarters,” I told Kim and Christina. “The meetings I went to in here could knock a caffeinated insomniac out cold. There’s probably enough residual boredom here for me to sleep really good tonight.”

They laughed, but I wasn’t joking. I yawned and dropped my bag on one of the beds.

“Hey,” I said, “who has Little Mo and Robin?”

“They’re on the RoadTrain,” Kim said. “Or were. Rene and Maria were going to do some business and wait for the kids after they dropped you off.” Like I said, the Heehaw doesn’t sit idle much. I drew a complete blank on the plans though, and I should have known. I don’t worry much about memory lapses; I’ve had them all my life. As long as it’s nothing truly important, like if I were supposed to have waited for the kids, I’m fine.

Next morning, they invited us to breakfast… which was combined with a meeting to discuss the agenda, who would be escorting whom and where. Here was the next surprise: I was included in the agenda, as someone who knew the area from before the blackouts. Breakfast in the burbs isn’t as “meaty” as a country breakfast — they have a few pigs, but hadn’t slaughtered any lately. No matter: pancakes and eggs are always good enough, even if I take just a little egg. Cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes all are much less common than they used to be; the sedentary lifestyle and over-processed food have mostly gone away in the last 25 years and took most of those problems with them. But I still try to keep a rein on things, especially since I’m not as active now.

The third — and biggest — surprise was after breakfast. I was assigned to an “inspection tour” and my escort looked to be about as old as me, but he looked familiar. Then he introduced himself, and I remembered.

“Col. Mustard?” I gaped.


Friday, May 01, 2009 6 comments

Friday Follies, New Poll, etc.

Well. Now that the thunderstorms have passed through — and God knows we needed the rain here — I can say hello once again.

It has been a week. Actually, it has been a month. In terms of time sinks, April was almost as bad as August usually is, although it (mostly) didn’t involve chicken houses. I’m less than 3,000 words short of completing FAR Future, which is maybe 1,000 words less than where I was at the beginning of the month. But at a post a week, I could sit on my hands all the way through July before I really have to start worrying. Next week will have (for the first time in quite a while) a double feature of FAR Future, because it’s really a single (long) episode split into two pieces. They’ll come out on Monday and Tuesday mornings, respectively. What I’m saying is, I want to get it done so I can start in on the next project… but there’s no pressure otherwise.

I’ve finally gotten started in earnest on a little garden here at the manor. I bought some yellow pear and Rutgers tomatoes last week, along with some jalapeƱos (my cash crop) and various herbs. The tomatoes, peppers, and lemon balm are now planted (the latter two just before the rain). The lemon balm was starting to wilt, so I knew that had to be addressed pronto; I picked one of the areas where the butterfly bushes were uprooted, then got rid of the violet-weeds. I'm trying to figure out where to put the two oregano plants; the one I have now is turning invasive, so they need to be out of the way but close enough to harvest. Wherever I decide to put the mint and rosemary, it won’t be anywhere near the oregano.

A couple of news articles caught my eye, besides the whole swine flu thing. One was about Congress starting to put a leash on credit card companies (especially since they’re taking bailout money). It doesn’t go nearly as far as I’d like, but it’s a good start. Another was about how an open-source programmer cussed out Adobe over the Photoshop PSD format. Personally, I think Adobe needs to be cussed out (and more) on a daily basis, but that’s just me.

Moving on to the poll gone by… here’s the final tally.

tax poll

Most of you guys are efficient tax-filing machines… January and February indeed! Those of you who filed in April — the last two weeks before the deadline — I can relate, that’s where I landed too. I really wanted to file right away, joining that Jan/Feb majority, but one thing led to another and next thing I knew it was April. The latest poll is more of a fun little guessing game… let’s all try to guess where gas prices are going to go.

Daughter Dearest is nominally done with college — her last final was Tuesday — but she had to go back this evening to sing at the baccalaureate, and I have to take her tomorrow morning to sing at the graduation. She’s going to be nice enough to give me her network password so I can get some surfing done tomorrow (I don’t have a ticket to the ceremony)… if I really get inspired, I might finish FAR Future right there in the performing arts center.


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