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Wednesday, September 29, 2010 2 comments

Moan about Phones

Everyone welcome me back to the frustrating world of feature phones. Given the bills we have, Mrs. Fetched had been complaining for a long time about how much having iPhones cost us, and when my iPhone 3G started flaking out just as our contract was finished, it seemed like the time to downgrade.

Just to make things a little simpler, all three of us (the parental units plus Daughter Dearest) got Sony-Ericsson W518a “Walkman” phones. I usually steer clear of Sony products, since they seem to go out of their way to make them incompatible with Macs sometimes, but they offer software on their website to connect with iSync and iLife apps, so I thought I’d make an exception. Everything pretty much works as advertised. Because we’re on AT&T, and not Verizon, we can connect a USB cable (or use Bluetooth) and copy pictures to the computer, music and ringtones from the computer, and so forth.

Feature phones have made noticeable advancements in the last two years: they’re faster, have more megapixels in the camera of course, they play AAC as well as MP3 files, some have FM radios built in, and the default web browsers are a little better. But what hasn’t changed is the horrendous interface: a twisty maze of menus, all different. This led to an epiphany of sorts on my part: people are missing what the iPhone really did different. It isn’t the app store; I can press one button on my Sony to visit an app store. It isn't the touch screen; for some things buttons work better. What the iPhone did that’s radically different is twofold:

1) Everything (including the phone) is an application.
2) All apps can be accessed equally, or in a low hierarchy defined by the user.

Feature phones provide a lot of the same features that iPhones have, and several (including FM and even XM radio) that iPhones don’t have — or got after the 3G (camera controls, video recording, voice control) — if you can remember which cascade of menus to step through to find them. On an iPhone, or any related device (iPad, iPod touch), the menu is the main screen. That’s it. Yes, there are hierarchies, but they consist of a strip of icons at the bottom that appear on all pages, and a double-click of the Home button to return you to the first page. For most people, up to two flicks and a tap start any app on the iPhone.

I remember enjoying Platinum Sudoku on my old feature phone (a Samsung Sync), so I bought it for my new phone. To get to it, I have to: click the Menu button, press 9 (the “Entertainment” sub-menu), arrow-down twice to Games, select, then arrow-down four times to get past the demoware they stuff on all non-iPhones… then I can (pant, wheeze) select the Sudoku game. On an iPhone, I’d have already been filling in spaces by now.

Why can’t feature phones have a better user interface (besides the obvious, carriers and manufacturers are lazy and complacent)? Shoot, borrow a leaf from the iPhone. Display up to nine icons on the screen (optionally overlaid with numbers), use the 1–9 button grid to pick the app you want, left and right function keys move from page to page, arrow keys are programmable like they are now. You’ve got the buttons, make them work for you.

Monday, September 27, 2010 2 comments

White Pickups, Episode 54

Thursday, November 24, 2011

“I’ll have to say, this is one of the more unique weddings I’ve ever performed,” said Patterson, standing on the steps above the pool. The two couples — Sondra and Cody, Tim and Sara — stood at the bottom, flanking the preacher. The wedding party consisted of Ashley and Lily as flower girls, Max and Cleve as best men, and Tina and Jennifer as bridesmaids. The brides wore white, or at least cream-colored, dresses they found in Laurel; Tim and Cody looked decidedly uncomfortable in their found suits, but the layers did keep the late November chill at bay. The rest of the community spread across the area between the stairs and the pool. “But it gives me hope as well. After all that has happened in a few short months, there are people ready to commit themselves on this Thanksgiving Day not only to each other, but to the defiance of doom. By joining themselves in holy matrimony, they signify to us — and to the world — that the human race isn’t finished yet. Not by a long shot.

“But all the same, this is still not a step to be taken lightly. These couples have committed themselves to each other as best they could, when there was no clergy, but today they make it official — not only in the eyes of the community here, but in the eyes of God. And so, without shame or reproach, if any of you is uncertain in any way about joining yourselves in holy matrimony, speak now.” Nobody spoke. “If there exists among those of you present, any reason these couples should not be joined, speak now or forever hold your peace.” Again, silence, except for a sigh from Caitlin (or perhaps Kelly).

The ceremony went on as ceremonies have forever, even with rings — Tina knew of a jewelry store near the mall; it had been looted but Cody and Tim found plenty of modest wedding rings. Finally, as the grooms continued to kiss their brides, Patterson grinned and said, “As our couples have agreed to join their surnames as well as themselves, I present to you: Tim and Sara Karsten-Petro, and Cody and Sondra Lucado-Sifko!” The others cheered.

“Reception’s inside!” Johnny bellowed; everyone cheered again and followed the wedding party up the stairs.

As people started filling their plates, and Sheldon and Ben debated the best way to filch a beer or two without getting caught, Delphinia floated through the crowd with that eerie grace. She walked to the big window overlooking the pool and removed her Braves cap; again that shimmering blonde hair flowed down to her shoulders as she spread her arms, silhouetted against the window. Few saw that, but when she began to sing, everyone stopped and turned:

Love and joy, life and light
Witness to God’s power and might!

Sorrow, gloom, turn away
Celebrate this glorious day:
Lift your heart, feel the joy
Man and woman, girl and boy

Empty house, empty halls
All be filled by children’s calls,
As we make the world new
With the help of God so true —

Love and joy, life and light
Witness to God’s power and might!

Winter comes, cold it be,
Then spring — rebirth — glory be!
Summer, fall, moon and sun
Seasons in their courses run.

As we learn what is real,
Earth shall in her slumber heal
Love and peace unto you
Until all is made anew!

Love and joy, life and light
Witness to God’s power and might!

So rejoice, children true
Love endures, and is your due!
On the day you must part
Hold this joy close to your heart —

Though your heart wants to break
Healing pours from heaven’s lake.
For all will be made new
In heaven we will find you!

For a long moment, no one spoke, no one moved. Some said later that they’d heard harmonies, as if she sang in multiple voices. Ben and Sheldon gaped, their attempt at minor delinquency forgotten. Delphinia herself broke the silence: “Let the feast begin!” and the brides and grooms resumed filling their plates.

“Excuse me,” a small voice reached Delphinia, smiling upon the party. She looked down; Sheldon and Ben looked wide-eyed back up at her, wringing their hands. “Is there anything we can do for you? Would you like a plate?”

She gave them a blissful smile. “Why, thank you. That would be very kind.” They scurried away to join the line.

Patterson sidled up to Delphinia. “Were they bothering you? Is everything okay?”

“On this day,” she said, turning the Braves cap in her hands and watching the line, “all is love. All is light. All is laughter. Those boys will grow to be fine young men, and loving husbands to their wives. We shall mold them.”


“Of course.” She donned her cap but left her hair and hood down, and turned to watch the sun break through the clouds and dazzle the puddles on the pool cover. Patterson watched her watch the water for a moment, then left to congratulate the newlyweds and greet the others.

“Um,” one of the boys said a little later, “we brought you your plate.” Each of them offered her a plate, heaped with food.

“Wonderful!” she said. “Let’s find a table, and ask the good reverend to join us. I believe you brought enough for us all!” She led them to an empty table, and waved Patterson over as he turned to look a question at her.


Friday, September 24, 2010 2 comments

I’m Back!

Did’ja miss me?

Turtles on partly submerged dockWhile you count the turtles on the dock next door to Dad’s place, enjoying one of the last warm days this side of spring, I’ll ask an age-old question: what’s worse than dialup? Obviously: no Internet at all. Or perhaps Internet on a not-iPhone with a tiny screen. I actually picked up a wifi signal from a friend of Mom’s across the lake, but they wisely had it locked. I tried tethering to my new phone, but that didn’t work out either (still working on that for later needs). I was mostly able to keep up with Twitter, but that’s about it.

Anyway, we had a pretty good time visiting with Dad. We went golfing several times, until a tendon in Solar’s arm decided it had enough. I guess that’s the advantage of dealing with a baby; all the lifting kept me in good form (and I actually started getting off the tee fairly well once I slowed down my swing). We had a small party for his 80th birthday… for the things he complains about, I just hope I’m doing as well when I’m 80. We ate out (a LOT) and ate well when we ate in, too. I got more pictures, some of which will end up on Picasaweb and maybe here sooner or later.

I got home last night around 11:30 p.m. and Mason was asleep (whew!). Of course, we were getting rapidly re-acquainted at an earlier hour than I would have liked. Mrs. Fetched and M.A.E. said he called down the hall for me for a couple days after I left. He changed quite a bit in five days: his hair is a little longer and a lot thicker, and he’s gotten tall enough to reach the tabletops from the floor (eep!). He had his one-year checkup last week, and he’s still 20 lbs. — not much weight gain in the last four months, but the doc says it’s not a concern. He just runs off what he eats, and has minimal baby fat. He’s been trying to talk for a while, and hit on saying ahhhh for a drink before I left. Of course, he’s getting into anything he gets a chance to get into, often looking over his shoulder to make sure we him him doing it… then running away and laughing when he grabs something he shouldn’t.

But I digress. My first day home, I get a call from the sheriff’s office, asking me if I can pick up my car. What has The Boy done THIS time??? The dispatcher couldn’t get any info from the state trooper, who was making the bust almost right on her doorstep, but took my number and called me back when she got the info: speeding and suspended license. Turns out the second charge was bogus — he had paperwork showing he’d done what he had to do to avoid that, and the DMV agreed this afternoon — but 64 in a 45 zone is going to leave a mark… on his wallet. The Boy, of course, is in high dudgeon about it, and is ready to sue anyone he can find who’s attached to the situation. (I told him to look up “sovereign immunity” but, like Mrs. Fetched, that wasn’t what he wanted to hear so he dismissed it.)

Vacation in general was pretty nice. The week at the resort is almost like a distant memory, and don’t even ask about work (although I’ve peeked at email a few times). But today’s event was a reminder that I really need to start looking forward to my daily escape from the free-range insane asylum.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010 4 comments

White Pickups, Episode 53b


They skirted around the ramp, still in place but beginning to show signs of wear. As always, with observers present, the trucks had paused in their mindless self-destruction. The newcomers gawked at the sight while Tim explained it to Patterson. “Glory to God,” Patterson said, “they can be destroyed. Though it be the work of generations, the land may yet be clear of this pestilence.”

Nearly everyone in Laurel turned out to catch a glimpse of the newcomers. A few even cheered, making some of them nervous. As Patterson explained later, “They’re not used to people watching them — in a friendly manner, anyway. Give them a little space, a little time, and they may yet adjust.”

At supper in the Laurel Room, the newcomers mostly kept to themselves, sitting together in one corner and watching the others. They exceptions were Patterson, working the room and introducing himself to everyone; and one of the woman, tall, pale, and thin, dressed in a worn grey cloak and baseball cap. She quietly walked around the room with an unexpected grace, stopping at each table and looking over the people, sometimes speaking a few words.

“You must be the original inhabitants,” Jeremiah said, sitting and offering his hand to Cody, Tina, Sara, Kelly, and Sondra. “Jeremiah Fortune Patterson is my name. That’s a mouthful, so you can call me anything you like.” Cody grinned.

The woman in the cloak approached the table. She gave Cody a long look, then glanced at the others before returning her scrutiny to Cody. He began to fidget; Sondra glared at her and slipped her left hand under the table. Kelly wasn’t sure if Sondra really had her gun with her, but despite the possibility of gunplay at close range, she found herself suppressing a laugh — Sondra was so dramatic

“You got a problem?” Cody asked finally, crossing his arms and glaring at the woman. The preacher began to say something, but she spoke first.

“Thus says the Oracle,” she said, slipping back her hood and removing her cap. A cascade of striking blonde hair poured down and flowed over her shoulders. None of them had noticed just how blue her eyes were before. Kelly suddenly remembered a woman at a Celtic festival she and her mom had attended last year; she looked like this woman, and had danced while playing the fiddle… it seemed so incredible, and they both moved with a certain kind of grace. “Though you be brought low, be true to what is right. You will be raised up, and become the Abraham of the new age, a father of nations.” She fell quiet and continued to watch him.

Cody continued to stare a moment, then relaxed. “Father of nations?” He grinned and put an arm around Sondra. “That makes her the mother, right?”

The woman glanced at Sondra, then squeezed her eyes shut. Her face became a mask. “The Oracle saith not,” she said, and walked away.

Cody turned to Patterson. “What in the — the heck was that all about?”

“I don’t know. She’s always been a bit strange, even by the measure of homeless folk. She gives her name as Delphinia — just Delphinia, no last name. She’ll say things from time to time — I’ll tell you about it later — but I’ve never heard her say anything like that.”

“Spooky sh– stuff,” Cody said. “Hey. I’d like to talk to you after you get settled in.” He rubbed Sondra’s back, it felt wooden and he looked at her. She continued to watch Delphinia, the protective anger now mixed with worry. “Sondra? You okay?”

She slowly let herself relax under Cody’s gentle backrub. “Yeah,” she said. “Blondie just spooked the hell out of me is all. Don’t know why — she’s just a crazy woman, right?”

“Perhaps,” Patterson said, “but it’s impolite to refer to people that way.”

“Yeah. Sorry.”

“She might agree with you, though. Or more likely she would ignore you. But I think your friend here wanted to talk to me? Now is as good a time as any.”

“This concerns her too,” Cody said. “Let’s step outside.”

“Very well.” They rose and left.

Tina watched them go, and sniffed. “I smell… a wedding.” She smiled.

“Yeah,” Kelly said, her face a mask like Delphinia’s.

Tim and Sara looked at each other. “Wanna make it a double?” Tim grinned.

“Now you call that a proposal?” Sara laughed.

“Why not? It all comes to the same thing — you and me, forever.”

“Now you’re talkin’.” They rose and followed the others outside.


Monday, September 20, 2010 No comments

White Pickups, Episode 53a


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

“People!” Palmer yelled into the radio. “People hiking up the freeway!”

“Stand by,” Sara said. “And don’t yell.” She let go of the mike button and looked over the balcony, where most of the community was still at breakfast. “Cleve! Palmer says there’s people on the freeway!”

Sally’s voice cut through the answering hubbub from below: “Well, they invited them here, right?”

“No,” Sara shook her head, thinking Cleve woulda killed them.

“Not enough folks left to be choosy!” Sally snapped. “Tell ’em to bring ’em here!” Everyone started talking at once.

Cleve’s police whistle cut through the commotion. “Look: we’ve been expecting to find other people,” he said. “We’ve talked about it, what to do — now it’s time. Sara: tell ’em to come back. Tim can take me out there, we’ll have a chat with the newcomers, and if things check out we’ll bring ’em here. We can take care of things if they get hostile — right?”

Nobody objected. “Okay,” Cleve said, “get your acts together and we’ll see what happens.”

“Where’d they go?” Tim asked nobody, looking up and down the freeway from the overpass. The trucks, and the usual debris, were the only thing on the road on either side. “We weren’t gone long enough to lose ’em — even if they turned around, we should still be able to see ’em.”

Cleve looked around, then down. “They might be underneath us.”

“Ah!” Tim smacked his forehead. “Yeah, that could be. Let’s roll down the off-ramp and have a look.”

“Yeah,” Cleve said, and thumbed the mike button. “We think they might be underneath the overpass. We’re about to check it out.”

They coasted down the on-ramp, looking over their shoulders as they descended. They made room for a truck to pass them on the right, then cut across the apron to the shoulder — and braked quickly and dismounted as several people under the overpass stood to face them. They all looked wary, except for one who stepped out to greet them.

“I believe I know you two,” he said, a short bald man in a frayed overcoat. “You stood against a mob who would sacrifice your enemy.”

“Jeremiah Fortune Patterson!” Cleve laughed. “How could I forget a name like that!” Cleve and Tim holstered their pistols and stepped forward to shake the preacher’s hand. “How’ve you been? Who’s your friends?” He gestured toward the others, watching from the shadow of the overpass.

“Well enough, under the circumstances. As for my companions, they are my flock, those who have heeded the call to find a new dwelling place. As they are the homeless, they also might say one place is as good as another.”

“The call?” asked Tim.

“Indeed. Now I consider it disrespectful to open one’s Bible and and point to a random verse, as if one were consulting an oracle. But random phrases have been much on our minds lately, and when put together…”

“A prophecy?”

“Perhaps. Judge for yourself: ‘Behold, the city has been made desolate.’ ‘Come out of her.’ ‘I will bring you to a new place, where you may dwell in peace.’ There are others, but you get the idea: get outta Dodge.”

“So you’re the Moses of Atlanta,” Cleve chuckled. “Hey… you think any of those dreams from about a month ago had anything to do with it?”

“Ah… did we share a single dream that night? It must be true. A great Evil is loose in the world, and what is to be done…” He shrugged.

“Yeah. Where are y’all headed?”

Jeremiah gestured to his companions; they stepped forward: four men, two women. “In the words of the personal ad columns: ‘Street preacher and homeless flock seek to join non-judgmental community.’” He grinned. “It may take a while for them to get used to living in a community once again, but God will bring the healing as He sees fit.”

“Have you seen any other groups?”

Some of them shook their heads. “A few individuals,” the preacher said. “No organized groups.”

Cleve thought a second. “Well, there’s plenty of room where we’re at — we’ve taken over most of the townhouses in our subdivision. There’s a few left, but your flock might be more comfortable in a house. Maybe a halfway house of sorts. Once they get used to the rest of us, they can move into the townhouses if they want. I can’t speak for all of us, but we’ve been expecting to find other people and one of our older ladies asked why Tim didn’t invite you to our place right away.”

Tim nodded. “We’ll put it to a vote, but I don’t think anyone will object. Then you can get a meal and pick out your new places, right?”

“God’s blessings upon you and your community,” Jeremiah said. “Lead us to the promised land.” Cleve grinned and picked up the mike.

“Hey.” One of the “flock,” a black woman, called to Cleve. “You were a cop, weren’t ya?”

“I quit a year before the trucks,” Cleve said. “You can’t still smell bacon after all that time!” Cleve was playing it light, but Tim could tell by now when his friend’s defenses came up.

She half-laughed, half-cawed. “I thought I recognized you — you busted me!”


“Yeah.” She broke from the others and moved to walk beside Cleve on the other side of his bike. “It’s you, awright. It was a year ago spring. I was out on the street, starvin’, and I needed money for food. I never turned no tricks before, but I figured one time would be okay and I could eat for a few days —”

“And you offered it up to a plainclothes cop,” Cleve shook his head. “Y’know, I kinda remember that now, but not what came of it.”

“Oh, I got eleven months at the county jail,” she said. “Which wasn’t so bad. I got to eat and I still didn’t have to turn no tricks. I got out and ran into Preacher Man back there, and he did what he could for me. Then them trucks came along…” she shuddered. “That’s some voodoo right there. I figured I’d rather starve than climb in one, y’know?

“Anyway. My name’s Elinaeya. You can call me Elly. And this time, I ain’t sellin’ nothin’.”

“Cleve Isaacs,” he grinned. “Good thing too, I’m the closest thing to a cop we got where we live. Don’t make me bust you again!”

She let that boisterous laugh loose once again. “How much longer?”

“Couple miles. It’s a short bike ride, but kind of a long walk.”


Monday, September 13, 2010 2 comments

White Pickups, Episode 52


Saturday, November 19, 2011

“Hey cat,” said Cody, walking up the steps with Sondra in the evening gloom. Shady mewed at Sondra, then leaped off the top step and into Cody’s arms. He laughed and stroked the purring grey kitten.

“That’s Kelly’s kitten, right?” Sondra scratched Shady’s back, watching Cody.

“Yeah. He keeps slipping out in the evenings and waits for me here on the steps to take him home. It’s like a routine now.”

“Hm. He really likes you.”

“Yeah, me and cats have always gotten along,” said Cody. “I guess we’re both like, let us be who we are. We know each other that way.”

“Kindred spirits, I think that’s called.”

“Did he get out again?” Kelly asked, climbing the steps behind them. “I should have named him Houdini!”

Sondra looked toward the hallway, then at Kelly. “He just gets out?”

“Yeah. I mean, it’s like he can be sleeping with Cheddar in the laundry in the afternoon — and the second me or Mom open the front door, he’s gone! Then he waits for Cody.” She took Shady, who looked resigned to the situation. “He really likes Cody. God knows why.” She grinned. “’Scuse me.” She slipped around them and down the hall.

“What is it?” asked Cody, watching Sondra watch Kelly depart.


Cody would admit he knew next to nothing about girls, but even he knew (from experience with his mom) when Sondra said Nothing like that, there was something. He also guessed she would be moody the rest of the evening, and maybe tell him what he’d done wrong after he’d forgotten it ever happened. He nudged her to get her moving, and they took the short walk to their door. Down the dark hallway, Kelly stepped into #202.

“You know, we ought to string some LED lights in these hallways,” said Cody, just to break the silence. “We usually have enough juice to run a few, at least long enough for everyone to get inside for the night.”

“Hm. What about those yard lights with the little solar panels, like we have marking the path to the johns?”

“Hey… good idea. As long as everyone remembers to bring ’em back out in the day.” They stepped inside. Sondra immediately veered to the love seat and cranked her windup flashlight with more vigor than usual. The grating whine of the little generator followed Cody into the kitchen, where their cooler sat. Groping in the near-darkness for one of his last cans of beer, his hand first found the wine bottle. He stopped and thought a moment.

Sondra glanced up from her book without really wanting to, as Cody came back. He had a mug and glass in either hand.

“Something to drink.” He put the wine glass on the end table where she could reach it, then sat in the lounge chair opposite with his mug. “You wanna talk?”

She sighed, put down her copy of Virgin of Small Plains, took up the wine glass. “It’s not you, Cody. Sorry.”

“What is it, then?”

“You really don’t know.” She was not asking.

“As Johnny would say, not a freekin’ clue. Well, I added the freekin’ part, but anyway.”

She crossed her arms, wine glass in hand alongside her face. “How long has her kitten been ‘getting loose’ and greeting you?”

“Uh… Shady? I don’t know… oh. You know what? I think he did it the first night we moved in here.”

“Uh-huh. A strange coincidence, don’t you think?”

“I dunno. You know how cats are. Sometimes they don’t accept that they’ve moved right away. Sometimes it takes a couple months.”

“It’s been a couple months.”

“What… you think Kelly’s been letting him out? Why would she do that?”

Sondra sighed and took a long drink. “I don’t know, Cody. But it just doesn’t add up for me.”

“Shoot. It’s not like Kelly’s interested in me or anything.” Sondra just looked at him, and Cody gaped. “Do you really think…? No way! Just no way!” He looked toward Kelly’s end of the townhouses and glowered, curling into a prickly ball.

“Back when it was just the three of us, and even after we brought Tim and Sara back with us, I thought she was nice looking, sure. A little preppy maybe, but I didn’t know if there was anyone else our age left. You know what she told her mom? Word got around.” Sondra shook her head. “She said she didn’t want to date me even if I am the last guy on earth! But even before, I knew. She looked at me like, like I was… what is it…” He waved his free hand for a moment. “Necessary evil. That’s the vibe I got from her, she thought they had to have me around but she didn’t want anything to do with me. And that’s fine, I’m used to that…” he flapped his arm. “No way.”

“What about now? How does she look at you now?”

“I dunno. I haven’t looked at her much since I met you.”

Sondra snorted, then laughed. She stood, crossed the three steps to Cody’s recliner, draped herself across his lap, and pulled the lever to lift the footrest. “You know: for someone who thinks he doesn’t know much about girls, you sure know the right thing to say.” She kissed his forehead.

“What, the truth?”

“Don’t ever change, Cody.”

“I won’t.” He grinned. “You either. We can be ourselves forever.”

After a thorough kiss, lasting several minutes, involving much tongue and more than a little groping, Sondra sat up gasping. “I wanna read a little while longer before we go to bed, okay? I’m getting into some of the good parts.”

“We were just getting into some of the good parts here.” Cody grinned and reached under her loosened sweater, stroking her breasts one more time. “What’s it about?”

“It’s a mystery. A girl turned up dead in Bumfuck, Kansas, and the townies all tried to hush it up. It’s like twenty years later before anyone gets around to figuring out what happened.”

“Sounds more interesting than what my mom used to read. Those trashy romance books with the steamy covers, you know?”

“Yeah. There were a bunch of those laying around my old place from before my mom took off.” She climbed off the chair. “This one’s pretty good. Maybe you’d like to read it when I’m done.”

Cody laughed. “My mom used to say the only books I ever picked up had a spaceship on the cover. That’s not completely true, but…” He shrugged. “Whatever. I guess I can run back and grab my PSP, it should be charged up enough for tonight.”

“What are you playing?”

Zombie Hunter 3. I might finish it tonight, probably tomorrow. Unless you read a long time.”

“No… I won’t be reading too much longer. Maybe an hour.” She settled back into the love seat. “Hurry back, okay?”

“Sure. Hey… I love you.”

“Love you too.” Sondra grinned as he slipped out, then went back to her book. Pretty Little Kelly might be after Cody, but he refused to believe it and didn’t seem to care even if it was true. A certain tension, that she didn’t even know had been there all this time, seeped away.


Sunday, September 12, 2010 1 comment

Everything Happens at Once

We came home from the resort on Friday. No big deal.

Saturday, we had another birthday cake for Mason, this one so The Boy (who was still in jail on Monday) could participate. Go check out the pictures — the last nine are from Saturday. He fed his parents each a bite of cake and I got pictures!

I also got serious about the woodpile out back on Saturday. In the photos linked here, the second pile has been completely removed and the first has taken a big hit. The Boy and I split up what was left needing splitting this afternoon. There’s still plenty to pick up and stack… I’m just trying to figure out where to stack it. What we have now might be enough to get us through the winter, especially if it isn’t too cold. I should have it all finished up by tomorrow, then I can start to finish (heh) the shower room.

SpiderSpeaking of the shower room… as I came out of it this morning, I was treated to this particular sight in the bathroom. Now Andi gets to see them outside, 15 feet up in the air. Me, I get them in my personal space. It saw a bright flash, then the Atomic Flyswatter blasted it oblivion.

I don’t have a problem with spiders building their webs where I’m not going to run into them or open a cabinet door into their webs. When they get that close, it’s go time.

In the sigh department: The Boy came home last night… with Lobster. This might be construed as a TS03, but Lobster came to apologize to us for the stuff he’d done. OK, we’ll clear that alarm and move on. He got in with the Job Corps, got certified as a welder, and is hoping to find a welding job around here (sounds good, anyway). This evening, we had to run some stuff down to M.A.E., and decided to eat at the Steak & Shake where The Boy and M.A.E. used to work. The Boy met us there… with Lobster (so much for “move on”). Anyway, remember when M.A.E. and Moptop moved out? Well… her job started getting flaky soon after, with one decent manager and one Psycho Manager From Hell, and her hours got cut back. So she moved in with SPOW, her mom, at the end of the month. Mrs. Fetched predicted this would last about two weeks.

So while we’re eating, M.A.E. calls us: her mom’s having a psycho tantrum, can we come get her? Sure… why not? They got back, and I momentarily had to check my calendar to make sure it wasn’t 2005: The Boy, Lobster, and M.A.E. were all there once again, perhaps the first time since we unloaded them. The Boy took Lobster home, but M.A.E. and Moptop are here with us.

So we have The Boy/Snippet, DoubleRed, and M.A.E./Moptop. I told Mrs. Fetched I need to start hitting on the extra women, maybe they’ll move out.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010 4 comments

Mason's Birthday [UPDATED]

A few shots from Mason's birthday party yesterday.

Click the picture to see a bunch more.

Update 9/11: we had another cake today, so The Boy could participate. I took more pix, and added nine of them to the gallery.

Monday, September 06, 2010 2 comments

White Pickups, Episode 51

I can’t let this go without saying: Happy Birthday, Mason!!!!


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The maul bounced with a hollow thunk. “Dammit!” Cody snarled, glaring at the marks in the wood.

“You wanna hear a trick?” Johnny gave him a sympathetic smile.

“I’m ready to try just about anything.”

“Okay.” Johnny touched the piece of tree trunk, about an inch from the edge, where the darker outer wood met the yellow center. “Hit it right about there. Work your way around the edge of these bigger pieces, hit ’em along the grain. Once it’s smaller, you can split it down the middle.”

Cody shrugged, took aim, swung. This time, a slab of wood about six inches wide and an inch thick split away with a satisfying tearing sound. “Ahhh,” he grinned at Johnny. “I should’ve thought of that myself.”

“I did a lot of splittin’ when I was your age. Before I was big enough to swing a go-devil, I was picking up what got split and stackin’ it. So I got to see how it was done up close before I ever had to do it myself.”

Cody turned the piece and split off another slab. “Where’d you grow up?”

“White County, outside of Cleveland. Cleveland Georgia, that is.”

“I figured. So how’d you end up down in Atlanta?”

“Long story.” Johnny wrestled a whole piece into place. He swung and hit it right in the middle: whack! it split most of the way apart.

Cody goggled. “How did you do that?”

He shrugged. “It had a big crack in the middle. If you hit it just right, sometimes they bust like that. It’s worth a try, anyway… if it don’t bust, you can always work around the edges. Anyway… I grew up around a bunch of narrow-minded people. Lots of times that happens, you grow up like them too, but it didn’t happen to me. Thank God.” Johnny finished breaking the wood apart then knocked off a piece from one of the halves. “And maybe it had to do with my granddad. He used to say, ‘It don’t matter if we don’t like how they are, it’s America and they got a right to be that way. And if you look at it from their side, they prob’ly don’t like how we are either.’ That stuck with me.” He turned the second half and broke it apart with two well-placed strokes. “Lots of people never get over the notion that anyone who’s not just like themselves ain’t normal, somehow.”

“Tribalism,” said Max, from the other side of Johnny.

“Yeah. So anyway, when I went to UGA, I found out just how different some people could be. It didn’t faze me, ’cause I remembered what Granddad said and I made some pretty good friends that I wouldn’t have wanted to take home to visit… for everybody’s sake. Matter of fact, I think Max there was finishing his last year when I started my first. Not that we ever met.

“Anyway, I majored in business. My folks really wanted me to learn a trade — you know, like an electrician — but I had a four-year scholarship. I compromised. I figured I could at least manage some kind of contractor business… the money would be better and I wouldn’t have to do real work for a living.” He laughed.

Cody hit his wood a little off-center and it split partway open. He pried it apart, using the maul to separate the slivers holding it together. “Yeah, I know what you mean. My dad probably would have gotten along with some of your neighbors. I decided a long time ago I wasn’t going to grow up to be like him. So I was kind of an outcast at school, and that described what friends I had too.” He split the remaining pieces. “But you ended up in Atlanta anyway. Roll me another one down here?”

“Yeah, I got into computers when I was in college. I saw that was the coming thing, and so I took some classes so I could at least understand the nuts and bolts of that business.” He looked around, then rolled a piece with a protruding branch off to one side. “That one’s for the hydraulic splitter. Those knots can be about impossible to break through by hand. Don’t tell Tina, but I was working for her number-one competitor. Here, try this one.”

“Hey, I had my eye on that one!” Max grinned.

“Me too!” Charles said from farther down. Kelly, who was helping her dad, walked down to Cody.

“What’s the big deal about that piece?” she asked, looking at the wood. It had a crack in the middle; Cody turned it to line it up with his swing.

“Maybe it’s gonna be an easy one,” he said. He hit the crack dead on; it split partway, snagging the maul.

“Ha! Some easy one!” Kelly grinned.

“No problem,” Cody said, pushing down on the axe handle. “It got started.” He worked the maul free and took another swing; this time, it split nearly all the way apart. “Ha! Me Ogg the Caveman! Oook oook!”

Kelly laughed. “Let me try that. Dad won’t give me a chance.” Cody shrugged and handed her the maul. “Wow… this thing’s heavy.”

“Let it do the work,” Johnny said. “Don’t try to power-drive it through the wood. It’ll do the job for you. Besides, you’ll have a better chance of hitting what you’re aiming at. And aim for the edge, about an inch in.”

Kelly nodded and raised the maul, let it drop, knocked off a chunk.

“Oook! You Klogg the Cavewoman!” Cody grunted. Kelly grinned and swung twice more, then leaned against the handle and panted.

“I think Klogg is out of shape,” she gasped. “This is a workout!” She pulled off her sweater and tied the sleeves around her neck; the tight t-shirt underneath showed a hand above and below a squashed basketball, with CAN’T DUNK THIS! printed over it.

“Yeah, why do you think I handed it over so quick?” Cody grinned, looking over the t-shirt.

“What’s going on?” Sondra said, walking up. Her voice was light, but Cody saw something flash in those dark eyes.

“Johnny and me were showing Kelly how to split firewood,” Cody said. “Um… you wanna try?”

“Sure.” Kelly passed the maul to Sondra and took several steps back. Cody thought Kelly looked both amused and a little wary at the same time… and why does Sondra look pissed?

Sondra looked at the big piece, hefting the maul. She raised it and brought it down hard with a yeaah! About a third of it tumbled away; the bigger piece fell over. The others goggled, even Johnny, then Kelly shrugged and rejoined her dad down the line. Sondra looked at Cody and laughed. “That felt kinda good,” she said. “Get some circulation in this stupid arm.” She stood the big piece back up and split it twice more, with less force. “Yeah.” She handed the maul back to Cody and picked up an armload of split wood. “Now me carry wood back to cave.”

Cody watched her go, admiring her backside for a moment before turning to Johnny. “You got any idea what that was about?”

Johnny gave Cody a wary look. “Not a clue.” But he thought: I think Sondra’s just a weeeee bit territorial.


Friday, September 03, 2010 2 comments

Escape from FAR Manor?

Well… not right away.

Things have been a little slow at work, and I have all this vacation to burn, so I asked for the next three weeks off. And got it. This is going to be the longest stretch of not working I’ve had, if you don’t count the stretches where I was looking for another job. The stretch can be easily broken into three separate weeks:

Week 1: the resort, on and off. Technically, we should be there right now as I type this on Friday night, but Mrs. Fetched was tired (what a shock, I say) and we can go tomorrow. Mason’s first birthday is Monday… heehee, it was labor for Snippet anyway! And it’s labor trying to get Snippet to do much with him now. Actually, she’s been better the last couple of weeks, getting up at night with him some of the time and dealing with things in the mornings. The Evil Chickens go away Wed. night, so Mrs. Fetched will be back here at the manor. The Boy also gets out of jail on Wednesday… oh, I didn’t mention that, did I?

The Boy’s got his own week of vacation, at the Cinder Block Hilton. Seems that he came home drunk as a lord a couple weekends ago, around 4 a.m., and then he had to get screened at 6:30 a.m. (as in, 2.5 hours later). Since he’s not supposed to be drinking as a condition of probation, you can connect the dots. Well, you and I can — he had convinced himself that it wouldn’t show up.

Anyway, I also expect Week 1 to include a call or maybe two from work. I lined up the ducks as best I could, but I’m sure someone will freak out about something and get my boss involved.

Week 2: Mrs. Fetched doesn’t know about this yet. I’m going to stay around the manor and take care of unfinished business — like the woodpile that’s been patiently waiting for me since June, and finishing up the shower room. Maybe I’ll tackle the bathroom window replacement, too. Expect pictures.

Week 3: Off to North Carolina to visit Mom for her birthday. Yay, more September birthdays! (Yeah, January is a boring month otherwise, huh?) There may be a call or two from work, too, and I’ll probably start checking work email a little more carefully as I ease back into the life of a working stiff.

In between all the other stuff, I intend to get a good bit of writing done. God willing, I’ll finish White Pickups and then I can dedicate my writing time to Book II.


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