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Showing posts with label cars. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cars. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 17, 2019 No comments

Charlie, soccer, and a few mini-rants

With a new car in the garage—a 2019 Kia Soul EX—I now have that critical extra seat to take both Mason and Charlie places. I still have the Miata, but I won’t be putting all the miles on it anymore. Of course, that means I “get” to take Charlie to Mason’s soccer practices… which means I don’t get to sit and chat with the other soccer dads quite so much.

The upside is, we bring Charlie his own soccer ball, find an empty nearby field, and let him wear himself out dribbling the ball around. He was, despite his best efforts, completely zorched when we got home tonight.

He’s not terrible at ball control, which isn’t something you can say about many U8 or even some U10 players. His throw-in technique is better than half the players in Mason’s U10 league—ball overhead, both feet planted, no coach could ask for more. His birthday was 8 days past the cut-off for “U4 mini-league” this spring, but I’ll sign him up in the fall. It’ll be hilarious, watching a bunch of 3 year olds swarming the soccer ball… or sitting in the grass and playing in the dirt… (BTW, that’s Mason wearing the red/orange shirt in the background, flailing his arms. He scored a personal-record five goals in last Saturday’s game, although I only saw three because I was busy trying to keep Charlie from bolting onto the field.)

Mini-rant #1: How to get me to sign up for auto-pay
Somehow or another, I missed setting up the payment for last month’s cellphone bill. In a highly uncharacteristic move for AT&T, they didn’t immediately send me a “hey, pay up” email, text, or anything else. I had this nagging “did I pay them?” thing going on, but figured they would let me know if I hadn’t. So I go online to pay this month’s bill, and find the bill is about double what it usually should be. Whatever, I thought, and clicked “Pay My Bill.”

The website immediately started grinding, trying to get its act together, but enough time went by for it to pop up a “hey, are you still there?” notification. I gave up, figuring it was just a temporary glitch. (AT&T’s “up”dated website is gobs slower and far less responsive than the old one, BTW.) Then they had the nerve to pop up a “how are we doing?” notification. I let them know, in spades, then closed the tab. Trying again this evening gave me the same results. I finally went to pay it over the phone using the convenient *729 number. It asked me if I wanted to set up auto-pay… and yeah, why not? Most of my other monthly bills are on autopilot now.

So that’s how to get me to sign up for auto-pay. Conveniently forget to tell me I let one slip, then hose up your website to the point that I can’t get things caught up when I find out.

Mini-rant #2: When auto-pay gives you an Epic FAIL
And then, there’s the credit union’s credit card. I happened to be home last week one afternoon, and the home phone rang. The caller ID read CARSERVICES. Figuring this was a telespammer selling extended warranties, I answered to tie up the phone line (the longer you keep those @$$#0|3$ on the line, the less time they have to bother someone else). To my surprise, it was the credit union, wondering why I hadn’t paid my credit card balance.

“Huh?” I asked. “I had auto-pay set up.”

“Did you pay off the balance?” (I had, two months prior.) “If you pay off the balance, auto-pay automatically cancels.”


I happened to have the credit union website up on my computer at the moment, so I set up an immediate transfer and all was well. Except that I was miffed about auto-pay getting canceled without so much as a “good job, dude, and sayonara” message. Unlike mini-rant #1, I hadn’t forgotten anything—just ASSumed it was taken care of. The other credit cards I have on auto-pay just don’t transfer anything if I haven’t put anything on them, or pay off the balance if it’s less than what I set up on a monthly basis. There’s always a joker in the deck.

Mini-rant #3: Taxing taxes
Unlike many people, I don’t mind paying taxes. They keep the roads paved, provide food and healthcare to (not enough of) those who need it, run schools, and keep essential emergency services going. Are there things I wish they would do instead of other things I wish they wouldn’t? Oh heck yes. But overall, it’s better to contribute to the general welfare and reap the benefits. If you want to see what happens when you don’t have taxes, spend a few months in Somalia.

Anyway. I’ve been pretty good about getting the federal/state tax returns done in recent years, usually in late February or early March. This year was different, through no fault of my own for a change. We got our W-2s (as usual) right at the end of the January 31st deadline… but before I could grab the tax software and get to work, I got an email from work. In essence, it said, “the payroll company screwed up the W-2s, and we’ll get fixes to you ASAP.”

Weeks went by, and then months, without fixes. Some of us would email HR on occasion, and get the same response: “they haven’t fixed it yet, we’ll let you know.”

FINALLY, in the first week of April, they rolled out the fixes. It just so happened that I was out of town that week, so it was the week after before I could do anything about it. The wife and I both have business stuff to deal with, so it’s not just a matter of slapping down a few numbers and sending it off. Fortunately, it turns out the IRS has a way of filing for an extension online… and I wasn’t the only one who was up against the gun. The father in law needed some extra time as well.

With any luck, I’ll be able to finish up this weekend. Even with all the games Ch*mp played with withholding, there should be a refund.

Sound off!
What’s your rant du jour? Or maybe you have a new car you want to tell me about? :) Drop a comment, I love 'em.

Wednesday, September 05, 2018 2 comments

The Greatest Rev

Mason’s latest obsession is cars. Muscle cars, sports cars, supercars, anything with eye-popping horsepower and price tags (and insurance quotes to match). Getting in any car with him means being subjected to an endless monologue about this car or that car he’d really like to see (or own), punctuated by excited shouts as he sights a Porsche or the like. I presume he has fallen into a sea of Youtube videos. eyeroll

So I was taking him to soccer practice, and he said, “Rev it!”

“This car?” My Miata has stock exhaust, and it is in very good shape. Even if the redline is around 7000rpm, it doesn’t make all that much noise. But if I was a Sheltie in a previous life, Mason was a bulldog. “What’s the greatest rev you ever did?”

Ours was grey-green, but otherwise the same.
Source: Wikimedia Commons
“I didn’t do…” then I burst out laughing, remembering what was truly my greatest rev. I told him the story:

When I was in high school, we had a 1971 Buick Electra 225 “Deuce and a Quarter,” the car Sinbad immortalized in a comedy bit (see below). Thing was, he wasn’t exaggerating much. It was one of the last pre-gas shortage Detroit big-iron beasts, with a huge engine to match (455cid, almost 7.5l in modern measurements… over four times the displacement of my Miata!). That thing could swallow enough cargo to choke some SUVs these days, and give a full-sized RV a run for its money when it came to guzzling gas. And it could get out of its own way fully loaded, let alone carrying only a 140-pound me behind the wheel. The SOB probably could have pulled a fifth-wheel without breathing hard, if we could have found a way to hook it up.

The best memories of my high school years revolve around that car. If I get some requests in the comments, I'll tell some other stories about it, but this one is about my greatest rev.

I lived in Michigan until graduating from college. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the way they do things Up North, you can’t just put everything on hold until the snow melts; it might stick around until April after all. So you plow the roads, and throw down rock salt to melt the ice (or salt and sand, the latter to give you traction if it’s too cold for the salt to work). In quiet subdivisions, I’d gas it hard around corners in the winter—ostensibly to get practice recovering from a skid, but in reality to dick around. But I digress. The thing about salty roads, it rusts iron. Rustproofing had become a thing in the mid-70s, and Dad had it undercoated.

But that was just the chassis, not the muffler pipe. Somewhere around the summer of 1978, the salt completed seven patient winters of work, and the long stretch of pipe between the exhaust manifold and the muffler rusted through.

You’ve probably heard a Civic (or a similar car) with a modified exhaust, or some ding-a-ling just put in a straight pipe. Now, imagine the racket coming from an engine four times that size. It didn't take much revving to make that thing HEARD. Mom literally could hear us coming home from a mile away.

It had to happen, sooner or later. I dropped a friend off around midnight, in a quiet-ish Grand Rapids neighborhood, and told the land yacht to set a course for home. I tried to go slow to minimize the BLAP BLAP BLAP BLAP of the unmuzzled V8, but I got the blue lights after about two blocks. The cop wasn’t horrible about it; he wrote an R&R (Repair and Report) ticket, which meant I had a week (or two) to fix it, then take it up to the cop shop and demonstrate it was fixed.

Other Brother tried the easy route: cutting the ends off a beer can, then opening it sideways and wrapping it around the rusted-through zone (by now, the pipe had come apart). It worked! for about ten minutes, until the heat of the monster V8’s breath melted the aluminum.

I decided that since I’d gotten the R&R, it was up to me to fix it right. Somehow or another, we knew the diameter of the muffler pipe. I went to the auto parts store, bought two splices and a length of replacement pipe. I hacksaw’ed out the rusted part, plus enough to fit the replacement length, applied splices and clamps, and gave it a test. Just a hum, the way Buick intended. I took it to the cop shop, where they approved my fix. As well they should have—it outlasted the rest of the car.

And now, I will shut up and let Sinbad tell you all about the Deuce.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014 4 comments

Maintenance Monday

A vacation in Michigan is wonderful, but then there’s the return to the routine and outright misery that is FAR Manor. Nevertheless, I took an extra vacation day yesterday, partly to get a little rest before getting back to work and partly to take care of some things.

Vacation was altogether lovely. We stayed at the Ramada Plaza, at 28th St. and East Beltline, the heart of the retail district and a 10-minute drive from both Other Brother’s place and the place where Dad is now staying. The Plaza has a shallow pool with a high waterslide, and Mason loved the pool. He finally worked up the nerve later in the week to take the waterslide, first with Daughter Dearest and then with me, and then on Friday (our last night) he unlocked the “go it solo” achievement.

The day before we left for Michigan, my phone (iPhone 4) began acting up—powering down and restarting whenever I tried to do anything that involved the display (and that’s why I have no pix to share for now; DD will share soon). I assumed the phone needed to be restored, and worked through it that night with no luck. During the week, I figured out that I could use it for hours if I left it plugged in, which pointed to the battery. Fortunately, iFixit has parts and entire replacement kits (which include necessary tools), along with extensive instructions and videos, and the kit was $25 including shipping. Fighting the Ramada Plaza’s thoroughly crappy hotel wifi, the biggest downside to the place, I managed to place the order and the kit arrived on Monday.

But the mail runs around noon at FAR Manor, so I had the entire morning to change the oil in the Miata. This was something that needed doing a few weeks ago, so it got priority. Turned out I already had enough oil, and just needed a filter. (And an oil drain plug gasket, but we’ll get to that shortly.)

Changing oil is pretty straightforward: put the car up on ramps, loosen the filler cap on top of the motor, the drain plug underneath, and the filter on the side. The top and side can be done by hand, the bottom requires a 19mm wrench. You want a pan to catch the oil, a few rags to wipe up spills… and a new plug gasket. I’d neglected the last part, and ended up with the car spitting a cup of oil on the garage floor when I started it for the leak-check. Off to the parts store for a replacement, which required the van. Since the van needed new wiper blades, no problem. I lost another cup of oil when I loosened the plug, although that was expected. I kept a thumb over the drain hole and put the new gasket on with the other hand. Sloppy, but not difficult.

Then, I figured out what was needed to fix the windshield washers—a Y-connector had come apart and the fluid was going down the rain drain. Since the wife was going that way again anyway, I tagged along to get a replacement.

With the car dealt with, I finally got to the phone surgery. I have a floor lamp with a magnifier, and at my age it’s not an option for doing detailed things like this. To keep tiny screws from escaping to freedom, I did everything inside the shipping box. I was struck by the similarities between the battery swap and the oil change: three screws, a couple of specialty items (ramps vs. plastic pry tool), a little care when reassembling… and each took about the same amount of time. The differences were primarily those of scale and sloppiness.

The insides of an iPhone4,
with the new battery ready to install.
With repairs effected, and vacation over, things can get back to normal. Ouch.

Sunday, March 23, 2014 7 comments

Resurrection #2

The Boy finally got his car working. It wasn’t long before he “found” a job and a place to live near his girlfriend’s place in Newnan. But the fun part was all the stuff that happened along the way.

I believe I mentioned, shortly after he left Wisconsin and was re-admitted to the free-range insane asylum, that his car croaked. Compression was gone, and he immediately decided he needed a new engine. I suggested he do a compression test, because he might only need a top-end rebuild (and like his in-laws, he ignores any data that doesn’t support his snap decision.) Then he decided he wanted a JDM (Japanese Domestic Market) engine, because they supposedly make more horsepower than the US version.

The Boy didn't see this. ;-)
I was skeptical, and so was his friend (the one who bought our green Civic and got it going). But, as I said above, facts don't stand a chance against the snap decision. They hauled the Acura into the #4 chicken house, and The Boy got a Haynes manual—which was horrible for this situation; the manual kept jumping around and skipping steps. But eventually, they got to where they were able to get the tractor bucket chained to the motor and pulled it out.

So, the new one came in. The usual hilarity ensued with getting everything to line up, moving this and that around, and hooking all the wires back up. So he had me down there one chilly Saturday morning. “How do you check the spark?”

I was rather shocked, that someone who thought he could replace an entire engine wouldn’t know how to hold a spark plug against the engine block, but I explained it. He had me crank the engine while he held the plug. No spark. “OK,” I said, “check your distributor, plug wires, and ignition coil.” I checked the fuse block. Easy stuff first, that’s the first rule of troubleshooting and a rule that doesn’t seem to stick with a certain person who prides herself on common sense… but I digress. Anyway, The Boy did some Googling and found that a JDM engine requires a matching ECU (the domestic one doesn’t work for whatever reason). So off to eBay once again, ECU arrives, he installs it, still no spark.

So the friend finally gets back over there, and he begins the methodical kind of approach I can relate to. He swapped in the ignition coil from his Civic, and hey presto, spark! Yes, I razzed The Boy about that on several occasions. Spark, but no vroom. There should have been an earth-shattering vroom. I thought the engine was making that whine that suggests it jumped time, and he decided (as I’d advised him far earlier) to check the timing belt. Turned out it had more teeth missing than a hockey player. With a new timing belt, it finally ran! So they got the car put back together and The Boy got it insured and plated.

Then the fun began. Why he didn’t think about doing this stuff while the new engine was sitting outside the car, I’ll never know. But he figured the first thing to do was change the oil. That’s when he found that a sumo wrestler must have put that oil filter on. It took several days of various things to finally get that sucker loose—he rammed a screwdriver through the filter to get leverage, the old-skool way of removing an oil filter, to no avail. He finally smooshed the end down enough to get a pair of big channel-lock pliers on it, and that did the trick.

Then as he put the oil in, he found that there was a hole in the oil pan. That was a fairly easy fix, as he had the oil pan from his old engine handy. But it was still pretty hilarious, even if by this time he’d taken my garage space and had my Miata out in the rain. I suspect that his shiny new motor was pulled from a wreck. Fun times.

Finally, he found that he’d bodged an axle seal, so his manual transmission fluid was leaking. But that was also a relatively easy fix. Once he was able to get the car back up on jackstands.

Onward and upward… until the next thing happens. I think The Boy’s friend is going to locate us a replacement engine for my old Civic. That should be less of a hassle than the Acura, since we’re not doing the JDM thing. But the Miata has working air conditioning, so I'd probably just sell the Civic once we got it running again.

Monday, February 10, 2014 2 comments


While Daughter Dearest was still in college, the wife got a mini-van and gave her the blue Civic to drive back and forth to Waleska. It was newer, and in much better shape. The old green Civic was a backup, until we loaned it to BrandX to use… for driving to college and back (but, in his case, Gainesville). He drove it—and, just as one might expect from the offspring of Mr. Sunshine, assumed that basic maintenance was something for someone else to deal with. The car overheated a lot, and we’d ask him if he checked the water. “No.” Well, duh.

So eventually, the green Civic couldn’t hold its water, and we parked it. And there it sat… until one of The Boy’s friends expressed an interest in it. We agreed on $400 for the sales price, and he brought us the money (cash) in several installments.

So he topped up the radiator fluid, took it for a brief (1/2 mile) drive, and returned with water gushing out of the cap. “Just needs a head gasket,” he said, and on Thursday he returned around 3pm with the gasket and a large collection of tools. I was working at home that day.

“Don’t we need to tow it down to the chicken house?” I asked. (The Boy has his Acura down there, undergoing its own engine transplant.)

“Nah,” he said. “It’ll only take a couple hours.”

“To pull the head?”

“Yeah. It’s no big deal.”

I checked in on him a couple times through the day, just to see how he was doing and to take a picture. “The head’s really clean, for having 300 thousand miles on it,” he said. “I expected an eighth inch of sludge all over everything.” He scraped off a very fine layer of oil-colored coating with a fingernail.

Well, of course, that “couple of hours” turned out to be closer to five hours; which meant he had to finish the job in the dark, with his friend shining the headlights of his own car at the Civic. I would have loaned him a trouble light, but The Boy already had it down at the chicken house. With all the tools he brought with him, I still loaned him a pair of pliers and a 1/4" 10mm socket. But as we were coming home from the usual supper at the inlaws, he was wrapping it up.

“Can I get a couple gallons of water?” he asked. No problem. When I did the major garage clean-out, I gathered up some gallon jugs and hung them on a pole. I also found about five gallons of radiator fluid, and offered him some to go with the water. One of the half-full containers was exactly right, he said, and was grateful to have it. (Plenty more where that came from, no problem.) So he filled up the radiator, and took it on that half-mile test run. Sure enough, the head gasket replacement fixed the problem, and he drove it home. He offered to help rebuild the red Civic, after The Boy gets his Acura going, and I’ll be happy to have it running (even if I just sell it).

So everybody’s happy. We have $400 in our pocket and one less piece of rolling stock cluttering up the manor grounds. He has a working vehicle. Now if I can just get him to stop teasing me about this rotary engine he’d be glad to drop in my Miata. (NO. :-)

Sunday, August 18, 2013 2 comments

Debugging Mobile Windows

Not the kind that runs on your phone. I’m not sure there is any debugging of the hot mess that is Microsoft products.

The father-in-law has two F-150 pickups (yes, both are white) for use on the farm. The slightly newer one is a 1994 model, and was fairly luxurious when it was new… power everything, cloth seats, and so on. Nowadays, it’s a truck. It looks like a truck, and smells like a truck.

So on Monday, I came home from work to find the nose of one F-150 plugging the hole in the garage that’s reserved for the Miata. “The driver’s side window is all the way down,” the wife told me, “and I can’t get it to go up, and I don’t want it getting rained in.” So, in a valiant effort to reclaim the garage space I worked so hard to clear for my own vehicle, I gathered screwdrivers and other tools. I figured to pull off the door panel and push the window up. I didn’t get the entire panel off, but got the top loose enough to grab the window. With a little pulling while hitting the up button, the window bounced but did slide up. I parked the truck off to the side, put my car in, and promised the wife I’d give it a fair shot to make a permanent fix come the weekend.

During the week, I Googled “1994 f150 power window repair” and “remove 1994 f150 power window motor” and found a ton of forum postings and a couple videos. Funny how O’Lierly was ranting about how bad the Internet is on Fox Spew this week (the father-in-law insists on watching that crap, which comes on around the time we eat… and that might explain why I’ve had indigestion all week… but I digress), when I was using it to figure how how to fix a vehicle he would approve of. So come Saturday, I was armed with both tools and enough knowledge to be dangerous. With EJ at my side, we pulled the truck under a carport and got to work. The only screw that required the impact driver was the one in the door handle, but it wasn’t long before we had the panel popped off. Of course, there was a sheet of plastic, that felt like the same material in a heavy-duty garbage bag, glued to the door itself, so we peeled that away and decided to duct-tape it back up when we were done.

Here’s where things get interesting. On these trucks, Ford seals the power window motors behind sheet metal, but leaves dimples over the two bolts that are covered. With a 1/2" drill bit, a heavy duty drill (of which we have several, remember), and a little WD-40 as lube, we had access holes.

“What do you think that slot is for under this hole?” EJ asked me, pointing to a cutout below the lower hole.

“Maybe it’s to stick a piece of cardboard in, to catch the bolt if it falls off,” I suggested. “Actually, that sounds like a good idea.” Instead of cardboard, I used the lid from an empty McDonald’s drink that was laying off to the side. And a bolt fell, and the lid caught it. (Score one for me, huh?) So we got the motor out, and I pulled the cover off…

Crumbles are good on cake.
Inside motors, not so much.
And asked EJ, “You think that might have something to do with it?”

“Yeah, probably.”

I learned a few things about power window systems, yesterday. First off, I’d always assumed there was some kind of belt drive connected to the motors. I figured that belt was slipping and needed to be tightened. EJ had torn a few doors apart and knew better, but it seemed like a good assumption at the time.

The second thing I learned was, that triangular space in the plastic gear (the one under the metal gear) is supposed to hold three cylindrical rubber bumpers. That makes sense, it provides some “give” when the window hits the top or bottom. But in this motor, after a mere 19 years, the rubber had hardened, then crumbled.

One of the things I’d learned online was, the plastic gears are replaceable (that is, you can get just that part), instead of having to replace the whole motor (or the entire “regulator,” as it’s called, the motor and the scissor jack that lifts the window). So hi ho, off to AutoZone we go.

“Um, I don’t think you can buy just the gear,” said the counter dude. I pointed at the “power window gear kit” selection on his screen. “Oh.” So he punched up inventory, suggesting I buy the entire regulator for $129. “We don’t have one in stock, but they do at the Keith’s Bridge location. Or we do have the motor, $47.” Bah. The gear kit (gear and bumpers) was $20, and Keith’s Bridge isn’t that far away. We had to listen to the same surprise that they carried just the gear kit, and he went back and found it.

Triumphant in the hunt, we drove back to the manor, where I have some clear workbench space. Out with the old gear (after wrestling with a snap-ring), in with the new. I found that by putting in two bumpers, slipping the metal gear on, then wedging in the third bumper, I was able to cram it all in. Put everything back together, no leftover parts, put it back in the door, and test. Window went up, window went down. Hooray! We duct-taped up the plastic sheet, greased the slider track under the window, then put the door panel back on. All done, except to carry home all the tools (of course).

The wife got to test it shortly after, as some of the cows were being noisy and we had to shift them to another pasture. She rolled the window down and up several times, looking through the light rain to see what was going on. Everything worked just as it was supposed to.

I wonder how long it will be before we have to do the same thing on the passenger side.

Sunday, August 04, 2013 4 comments

Weekend Roundup

It’s been a busy week…

Awake and ready to go!
The few minor issues with my new-to-me Miata are electrical. The driver-side power window isn’t working, and Solar installed a manual crank. This is a common workaround among Miata enthusiasts, as the replacement parts for the power windows can run several hundred smackers. Since the passenger-side power window works, this is something I can live with for a while.

What I can’t abide is the lousy stereo. It’s original equipment (1992), an AM/FM radio with a cassette player. Just for grins, I stuck a tape in it earlier this week, and now it won’t come out. Worse, the left channel was gone. I put it down to a blown speaker in the driver-side door, especially since I wired a spare (home) stereo speaker box into the connector and got sound. So, it was off to Best Buy for a pair of Pioneer speakers. One of the “fun” parts of this replacement was that the Miata’s speaker mount uses three screws, and the new speakers came with four slots. With a workbench clear enough to use (yay!), I used one of the existing holes and marked the places for the other two. A few minutes with a Dremel, and I had the slots I needed.

Since the Miata uses a plug connector for the speakers, I drilled the rivet out of the old speakers and clipped enough wire to insert in the holes that the new speakers provided. A little quality time with a soldering gun, then a screwdriver, and I was done. Except that I still didn’t have a left channel. What…ever. A day or two later, I pulled the left-side speaker, and found that I hadn’t done a good job with one of the wires. More soldering, put it back in, and now both sides have sound! I’m still going to replace that head-unit, though. I’ve wanted a stereo with aux-in (or better yet, USB-in) for some time now. All it takes is money, right?

The Boy will have a hard time
borrowing this one
One of the drawbacks of the ceiling fan in Mason’s room has always been that it had no light. I looked at attaching a light once, some time back, but it didn’t work out. So earlier this week, Daughter Dearest bought a ceiling fan with an attached light. I got on it last night. It wasn’t exactly a “no problem” swap, but it wasn’t all that difficult once I got all the tools together. I’m (re)learning that keeping at one of these projects will let me finish it sooner than I might think. I put the old fan (with detached blades) in the box and sat it in the living room.

So today, the wife says, “you need to get that fan out of the living room.” It took me two seconds to decide where I wanted it, and about 20 minutes to put it up. (Mason helped by carrying the detached blades out to the garage for me.) I nailed a 2x4 across two rafters, used four screws to attach the hanger, and it doesn’t get much easier. I didn’t feel like dorking with splicing into one of the nearby light fixtures, so I got a 3-wire cord I’d clipped off some dead appliance in the past, and spliced it in. Run to an extension cord, plug it in, and away it goes. There was an initial blast of heat, as it flushed out what was up in the rafters, but it was soon moving ambient air around. So… if you’re ever wondering how to dispose of a working ceiling fan, putting it up in the garage seems to be a pretty good idea. Yes, it clears one of the light fixtures by about 3 inches.

And I leave you with a Mason pic (that is, a pic by Mason). He asked to take some pictures yesterday morning, and got a good one of EJ snoozing (or pretending to) on the futon.

Kids take the darndest pix.

Saturday, July 20, 2013 6 comments

Looking Back on Vacation

I realized a long time ago, when I need a car, it will come to me at the right time. My Civic has over 450,000 miles on it (the actual mileage is indeterminate, as the speedometer only works about 5% of the time these days), it uses oil now, and the gas mileage has been dropping off. So when we went to Florida in January, and my brother Solar said he was planning to sell his Miata come spring, I told him I wanted first dibs.

When he got ready to sell, and realized I was serious about buying it, he waxed enthusiastic. “Yeah, you can fly down, we can go to the autocross. We’ll have a bro-weekend, and you can drive it home!” Works for me… but then the wife realized she didn’t have a lot going on, that week after the 4th, Daughter Dearest hunted down a resort near the beach (like across the road), and it was vacation time!

I still flew down in advance, to spend the weekend with Solar. I packed enough stuff to get me through the weekend, in a bag that tucked easily under the aircraft seat, and the wife agreed to drive me to the airport so we wouldn’t have to pick up a car later on. So we bolted out the door Saturday morning, got two miles, and Daughter Dearest called. “Does Dad want to take a copy of the resort reservation?”

“I don’t think he’ll need it,” saith the wife.

“Well, he left his phone, too.”

Sigh. Turn around, grab the paper and phone, and now we’re on the way. Since my phone was making a bunch of chirps and bings, I stuck it between my legs for easy access. Of course, that meant I left it in the car when I got to the airport. Fortunately, the wife found it and called Solar, to let him know what had happened. I bummed a phone call off the guy sitting next to me on the plane, when we arrived in Tampa, to find that things had been arranged for the pickup. Whew.

So Solar and I had a pretty good time, eating, drinking, being merry, and flinging his 240SX around at the autocross. That took us to late Sunday afternoon, and he handed me the Miata keys so I could meet the rest of the family at the resort. We got there almost simultaneously!

We mostly spent mornings at the beach, the pool in the afternoons. Solar came over for dinner a couple times, and we ate out some, but his job is finally picking back up so he wasn’t around all the time. Our one touristy thing was a trip to the Suncoast Bird Sanctuary, just a few miles down the road. They rescue and (where possible) rehabilitate injured seabirds, but those with permanent injuries have a safe place to live out their lives. There were plenty of free-ranging birds there as well; I think they figured out that handouts were a regular part of life there.

For the rest of this post, I give you a slideshow (with captions). Sorry about the Flash trash, I figured Google would have embraced the HTML5 future by now…

The trip home was interesting. I expected to have to be careful to not leave the wife behind… but she was driving that minivan like Shirley Muldowney up I-75, and I was wailing pretty hard to keep up. I think someone wanted to get home. :-)

Wednesday, July 17, 2013 7 comments

Writing Wibbles

Well, not really writing wibbles this week, because there hasn’t been much writing so far. But with Water and Chaos now launched, maybe I can get back to it soon. Since mid-January, we (that is, the co-op) have released:
  • Accidental Sorcerers
  • The Crossover
  • Oddities: an Anthology
  • Pickups and Pestilence
  • Water and Chaos
Five books in six months is a hefty production schedule, no matter how you look at it. If you’ve missed any, hit the My eBooks page to see where they’re available.

So… since there’s no writing to discuss otherwise, and I haven’t shared much “weirder than fiction” that happens around FAR Manor lately, I’ll do something about the latter. I started sorting through a huge pile of photos from vacation last night, and deleted 80 (out of around 500). That’s a job nowhere near complete, so there’s no slideshow just yet. But it’s coming.

We returned home Saturday evening, in good order. I was driving the Miata I bought from Solar (my brother), and everyone else was in the van. (I was expecting to have to remind myself to not get too far ahead of them, but instead I was often wailing up the highway to keep up. Miatas aren’t geared for all-day freeway driving, kind of like my little motorcycle.) Of course, I got home, and The Boy had stuffed his Acura in the garage space I’d spent an entire weekend making ready for my car. To make matters worse, he was standing outside with his cousin Kobold, who was smoking in my Civic. I was more than a little peeved, and let them know, and told him to get his car out of there.

“Fine, let me take Kobold home first.” They jumped in the Civic, took off, and that was the last I saw of them until morning. Which did nothing to improve my mood, of course. (He’s using my Civic since his car has serious issues, which I will get to shortly.)

He showed up in time for breakfast, and I stayed on him about getting his car out. “We’ll have to push it,” he said, and repeated the litany of problems he’d told me about over the phone on vacation: burning oil, missing a lot, needed major work, etc. Of course, we’ll have to push it meant that he sat in the car and steered, while EJ and I pushed. We got it about 2/3 of the way, before a slight incline defeated us, and The Boy decided to fire it up for the last 30 feet. Indeed, smoke billowed out the tailpipe, and I heard it miss a couple times as he backed it into a pull-off spot.

With the car out of the way, I put the Miata in the garage then joined The Boy and EJ. The Boy already had the hood up on the Acura and was talking about all he had to do: tear the engine down, do a ring job, probably replace the entire ignition system…

“What’s that for?” I asked, pointing to a loose, thick cable coming through the firewall. “Your stereo system?”

“Yeah,” he said. “The fuseholder melted, so I just took it off.”

“Um… you might want to take the other end off the battery.” I lifted the other end, big around as my index finger, attached to the positive terminal.


I swear I didn’t plan this, but I let the cable go, and it bounced down and contacted the engine block, making a hefty pop sound. “Because it’s bouncing around while you’re driving, and it’s shorting out the battery, and that’s why your car is missing sometimes.” I laughed. “You really need to get that off of there.”

“Well, it’s still burning oil,” he grumbled, and went to get a wrench. The way he tossed the wrench on the garage floor afterwards, suggested he was more than a little peeved about this weapons-grade brainfart.

That’s the kind of stuff we deal with at FAR Manor.

Sunday, March 18, 2012 5 comments

Junk in My Trunk

It’s been a long overdue chore to clean out the trunk of my car, and I finally tackled it this weekend. Here's what I found:
  • Trash. Enough to half-fill a big trash bag. Actually, there was already a trash bag a quarter full.
  • Lots of hardware. I knew The Boy had a screw loose, but not that he had a couple dozen of them in my trunk.
  • Scat-loads of his and Snippet’s clothes, and a few of Mason’s.
  • A couple of Mason’s toys (he was happy to have another ball).
  • $1.14 in loose change.
  • Three UPS batteries. Oh yeah, that's where I put them — thinking I’d soon find a place where I could replace them — two years ago.
  • A skateboard. I texted The Boy about it, and he thought he might have put it in there to keep stuff from slipping past the gap at the front of the plywood platform.
  • Daughter Dearest’s kite (in a vinyl bag, so it survived).
  • A shade for the back window, that I bought last summer to keep it from getting too hot on Mason when I took him somewhere.
  • Two binders that belong to the choir.
  • A bunch of CDs (all The Boy’s, I presume).
  • Three pens. Two of them still write.
  • Two screwdrivers and a wrench.
  • Two jacks, various extensions and the like — but no spare tire (I knew that) or lug wrench (oops).
I think I excised a good 20 pounds from the trunk, when all was said and done. The thin plywood that serves as a floor over the spare tire well is seriously warped and coming apart, so I’ll need to replace that soon. I’ll reinforce the replacement so it doesn’t sag so badly over time. I just wish I knew where the water was coming in back there; it’s keeping me from stuffing some camping gear in there for an impromptu getaway.

Sunday, January 16, 2011 4 comments

Rocks vs. Sucks: a Tale of Two Helpdesks

Bottom line up top: Amazon rocks, State Farm sucks.

As I wrote earlier, my Kindle screen went Tango Uniform early this month, a couple weeks after the warranty expired. Amazon was really helpful — after going through some troubleshooting measures that didn’t work, they agreed to replace it under warranty anyway. Very cool. They overnighted me a replacement — with a bum charging circuit. Back on the phone, Michael said I already tried all the stuff they would have walked me through anyway, and said they’d send a replacement for the replacement. But with the snow, the “overnight” delivery didn’t happen until Friday. Not Amazon’s fault, obviously, or even UPS’s. But I have the new Kindle, it works wonderfully, and I’m working on trying to keep up with the growth of my reading pile.

On to some less wonderful support. I took my car in to get the bumper fixed on Friday, then called State Farm (the other guy’s insurance) to let them know the car was in the shop and I needed a rental. Now earlier chats with the claims people led me to believe that was all I needed to do. Now I learned why State Farm can be anagrammed into Fart Steam, because that’s what I got: Kristen tells me “their policy” is that they don’t do a rental until the parts are in stock and the work is ready to be done. “That’s why we don’t recommend taking your car in on Friday, unless we can confirm your garage is working through the weekend.” Well, DUH… what with the snow, that was something else I was planning to do Monday that didn’t happen until Friday. And it would have been nice to hear about this “policy” before I took the car in. I barely managed not to take it out on Kristen; after all, she’s stuck having to deal with the idiot State Farm policies with no control over any of it.

And that’s the lesson for today: give your helpdesk people a way to chuck “The Book” in the trashcan and use their heads. Amazon obviously does that; their support staff can stretch a warranty and thus I have no regrets about having a Kindle or buying my mom one. State Farm just sucks… their rigid stances on stupid things is one reason we switched our car insurance to Progressive a few years ago after 20 years with State Farm.

Thursday, December 16, 2010 4 comments

The Longest Drive

The nearer your destination
The more you’re slip-sliding away…
— Paul Simon

Yesterday’s drive home was one I would prefer to not repeat for… ever.

Daughter Dearest called me at work just before 6, as I was running a bit late. “We’ve got sleet coming down up here.”

“Okay,” I said. Sleet doesn’t bother me. Freezing rain bothers me, but I didn’t hear much about that so I wasn’t too terribly concerned. I finished up what I was doing and headed out.

It was raining and (of course) dark. There was a slick spot on the little side road I take to cut off some of the drive, but I figured once I got to the highway I’d be fine. So I was at the corner, waiting for the traffic to clear, and…


Bumper dentI said a four-letter word meaning excrement, and got out to survey the damage:

The guy who hit me was pretty good about it, he gave me his info and called the local fuzz. The fuzz said it would be an hour or more before anyone got out there, and to just swap info and go. Okee-fine. He had some minor damage to his front; the Civic was drivable but the trunk is hard to open and close. Up the road I went, no problem. Got to 400, and it was pretty slow and thick… all… the… way… up. I think I got to 40MPH once. With as much traffic on that highway as there was, I knew there wouldn’t be any icing, but people were being cautious (and with good reason, many roads in Atlanta closed last night).

Things started going pear-shaped as I got off the four-lane and headed toward town. The road was a little icy, but nothing anyone couldn’t handle with a little caution and common sense (yeah, I know, Planet Georgia). Still, it was slammed up solid. It took about an hour to get three miles, where the first seriously slick spot had been lurking. The salt truck rolled by and getting through town was no problem.

There were several cars ahead of me on the road out of town, all moving a bit faster than I was comfortable going at this point. Hitting an icy patch at 30MPH, you might be able to keep it straight until you get through it, but whatever. I caught them at the stop sign and they took off down the highway — again, faster than I thought was prudent. Turned out I was right: I slowed way down as I topped a hill, and doing one of my periodic traction checks I found a really slick spot. I was able to keep the car straight and tap the brakes, getting the car stopped. At this point, it was crawling pace, with plenty of traction checks and complete stops, for another mile.

I caught up to the rest of the cars, all right… three of them were off the side of the road. I got stopped, as did the car behind me (last thing I needed was another rear-ender) and I put my foot on the road.

It was a skating rink. But I was bored and got out, sort of skating around (pushing off with one foot, skidding along on the other). To make a long story slightly less long, it took about two hours to clear the road enough to slip (literally) on by. A guy in a 4-Runner pulled the Chevy pickup out of the ditch, and the local marshal (tooling around in a 4x4 pickup) got another car back on the ice. The deputy said I’d probably be okay if I kept two wheels in the grass (still slick, but some traction) until I got past the creek, where the road was in better shape, and asked everyone where they were going. It turned out not to be idle curiosity; they sent the salt trucks in the directions that people were going. One passed me about three miles from home, as I was gingerly navigating one of many ice patches on my road. Again, there were cars behind me but as they found the going really icy and weren’t using the grass, I left them behind.

So I left work just after 6, and got home about 11:30. If I’d known it would be that bad, I’d have just holed up in a motel for the night.

Thursday, November 12, 2009 8 comments

Never a Dull Moment

Mason sleeping on my robeMason is cruising right along, development-wise… and slobbering like he’s cutting teeth already. He’s also started fighting sleep through the day — if he can manage, he’ll get by on 20-minute catnaps through the day and he can get pretty cranky when he can’t keep going. He stayed awake when I took him out in the stroller with Snippet this afternoon… and we got about half the walk done. I had to carry him for the last stretch; he didn’t conk out and snooze this time. Sometimes I can prop him up on a couple pillows and get a little keyboarding done, but that only lasts 10 minutes tops. [EDIT: That's my robe he's sleeping on. Snippet had his laundry in the crib.]

So… remember The Boy’s little incident back in February? They’d continued to put off his court date, and he managed to miss the one he was supposed to attend on Monday. The court doesn’t have much of a sense of humor concerning those things, and they came by the manor looking for him Tuesday afternoon then yanked him off the factory floor that evening. The real killer was, if he had bothered to remember and show up, there’s a pretty good chance they would have dropped the charges and he would have been shut of the whole sordid mess. Now, he’s sitting in the clink in Historic Forsyth County until his (rather expensive) lawyer that Mrs. Fetched found for him can get him out. I just hope he’ll have a job to return to, so he can pay the lawyer.

Working at home yesterday (and today), Mrs. Fetched and I had to run to the chiro-cracker late in the morning. I jumped in the car; she said “When did you spill gasoline on yourself?”

“I didn’t,” I said, smelling my shirt. “I haven’t handled gas since Friday.”

Coming out of the chiro-cracker, we smelled gas again and I opened the trunk. It did smell quite a bit. “You must have spilled some gas when you were helping that woman get her car started Friday night.” (She ran out of gas in the turn lane, ahead of me… better to carry her a few hundred yards than let her risk her life trying to cross GA400 in the dark.) I guess that was possible, so we zipped over to Zaxby’s. The lawyer called her just as we were getting out, and I walked over to the building to get out of the parking lot… and saw gas dripping underneath the car. Fortunately, I had the mechanic’s number in my phone, so I called and made sure we could bring the car in after lunch. As it turns out, we didn’t make it… ran out of gas less than two miles short of the turn into his shop. Mrs. Fetched called the tow service and we got it over there. Turned out a rat chewed the fuel line — just more proof that reality is stranger than fiction at FAR Manor. I hope that little so&so poisoned itself! This was familiar territory… the shower fix that turned into a water leak last month was the product of a rat chewing the water line. The plumber left us the affected piece as a souvenir (which Mrs. Fetched tossed before I had a chance to get a picture) and a note saying we did a really nice job on the shower.

So Snippet has been here since Tuesday. She and DoubleRed have been getting on each others’ nerves, until finally DoubleRed started growling at Snippet this afternoon while I was trying to work. Snippet said, “I’m leaving now,” and walked out of the room; DoubleRed slammed her door open and stormed into the kitchen. I yelled at them both to cool it, and they kept it down until they were finally able to work out their differences. At least I assume they did; they’ve been fairly cordial and even slightly chummy since then. At least DoubleRed has gone somewhere for the evening… maybe if they don’t see each other much they can keep up the happy babble.

Work also picked a fine week to go ka-boom, and taught me that not all schedule slips are a positive “development” for me. A major project that was supposed to be done by the end of the month is now sliding out to the end of December… but with a major re-think about the feature set. So out with half the stuff I’ve done with it to date, in with whatever is going to go in (I’m supposed to get a high-level list Real Soon Now). This is turning into one of those things that suck all the oxygen out of the other projects — both hardware and software — going on; my boss is telling his boss that pretty much everything else I’m doing has to be pushed out. Vacations are being canceled, and I was planning to burn the 7 days I’m not officially allowed to carry over at Thanksgiving and Christmas. That too has been worked out… with any luck, I’ll take two weeks at the end of January and spend it in Florida. Sitting on the beach, 500+ miles from FAR Manor and the office, sounds like just the thing.

Saturday, October 24, 2009 2 comments

Mason, Moonshine, Motor Vehicles

Mason, Snippet, The BoyMason has been in and out of the manor a couple of times this week. As I type, he’s here as expected — The Boy has his band buddies over on Saturdays, rain, sun… or Moonshine Festival.

I was hoping to avoid the whole zoo this year, and at first it looked like I’d be able to… I took care of a surveillance camera at the chicken houses and helped get a more solid hanger put up for one of the feed bins where the rafter cracked, and that was going to get me off the hook except to take Mrs. Fetched. We loaded up a couple of chairs, and I brought my camera Just In Case, and I dropped her off and headed back to grab a peanut butter sandwich.

I hadn’t gone a couple miles when the phone rang… “Can you turn around and bring the chairs?”

“I said something about that when you were getting your other stuff!” I said, “I figured you didn’t want them.”

“I didn’t hear you.” Didn’t listen, is more like it. Anything I say is optional for listening to.

“Whatever,” I said. “Send someone to meet me at the corner so I you can grab them.” There was nowhere to park, even for a few seconds, and the detours were packed with cars. Naturally, nobody was up at the corner and where I had to go was the wrong way on a one-way. I couldn’t even turn around; I had to follow the detour and every turn was the wrong way. I was getting hungry, and cranky, and I finally got to a place where I could text Mrs. Fetched and Daughter Dearest: If nobody is at the corner to get the chairs, I’m not coming back. It took a good half hour to get back to what should have been a five-second trip.

As I was about to turn to go past the booth, Daughter Dearest called. “Come to El Rio, we’re eating lunch there.” Naturally, that meant another lap through the maze, but I was beyond caring. I coughed up $5 for parking and ate, then walked the chairs over to Mrs. Fetched (with a few words of advice to pay attention to what I’m saying next time). But I figured since I was in the middle of the zoo, and had a camera, I’d go take a few pix:

Race cars on Main Street

I took about 40 shots, not including a couple botches I threw away… I’ll post a few of them over the next couple weeks as my own version of fall color.

Sunday, April 06, 2008 5 comments


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

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

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

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

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

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

Time sheet

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

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

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

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

Monday, February 25, 2008 10 comments

Bumper Cars, or (Tell Me Why) I Don’t Like Mondays

When I first moved to Planet Georgia in March 1983, my first thought upon entering metro Atlanta was, “don’t these people know what traffic cops are?” In college, I watched The Dukes of Hazzard for entertainment… not realizing that people really do drive like that here.

So this morning, me and a few dozen close personal friends (none of whom I’ve met, but anyway) are all cruising down the freeway, when traffic starts knotting up. That’s not unusual. Flip the car out of gear, cover the brake, and erode the generous cushion I’ve given the car ahead of me. About the time I’d used my cushion, the cars ahead started speeding up and the cushion opened up again. I got it in gear, but I must have seen something sub-consciously that made me cautious. I accelerated, but slowly, and let the cushion build up again.

When things start getting thick like that, I try to watch as far ahead as I can — looking through windows, around, over, whatever it takes to get a read on what’s happening. I saw some brake lights again, and got ready: plenty of room in the median (I was in the left lane, passing a transfer truck) and the guy behind me was close but not drafting. This kind of scenario presents itself probably once a week, and usually amounts to nothing.

But our lucky lotto number came up this morning. Brake lights came on several cars ahead, then the guy in front of me hit his brakes hard (judging from the way his back end came up). I put one eye on him and one on the rear-view mirror, hit the brakes, and got ready to dive into the median if necessary. As the situation in front of me started sorting itself out, I saw several cars behind me weave toward the median, then saw a big cloud of steam and all hell broke loose. Two cars went into the median, and a bronze Explorer came up beside me on the right: BACKWARDS, nose to nose with the transfer truck. I bellowed a prayer, moved left, and gassed it — and God saw fit to cut me a break, because I was clear a second later. It really looked like one of those replays from a NASCAR in-car camera; one where the cars going every which way but somehow the driver in the middle of it all manages to get through it unscathed.

About a hundred yards up the road, I pulled into the median and ran back to check on the others who weren’t so lucky. There were four vehicles involved; all the drivers were on their phones or chatting amongst each other. One guy was surveying the tangled mess that was once the front end of his car, shaking his head, and making his phone call. Nobody was hurt at all, thank God, and a guy in scrubs came running across the median from the northbound side to make sure. I offered several of them an “anything I can do?” and got a chorus of “no thanks,” so I figured I should just get back to it. But I’ve smelled the radiator fluid from the smashed-up car, on and off, all day.

I really wanted to be retired by now. :-P

Sunday, October 21, 2007 14 comments

A Weekend Roundup

Earlier in the week, The Register coughed up a rather interesting article. I had a good laugh, then was inspired (if that’s the word) to write a poem on the subject. I decided that Asimov’s might print it, so I let it sit for a few days, made a few tweaks, and got it in the mail (before I lost my nerve). On the way back from the post office, it occurred to me that I ought to revamp the Crash and Burn story for a wider audience, and send that in too. I’ll tackle that this week. If nothing else, I’ll have a rejection letter or two I can tack to the wall in Studio FAR and give the finger to each time I go in there to write.

The septic tank is starting to get full again. At least it went almost a year this time. Mrs. Fetched is going to call the kaka-pumper tomorrow. I’m thinking of re-routing all the non-toilet drains to a garden area… we can use the water twice and that should take the load off the septic tank. Seeing how much cut basil and other herbs cost in the supermarket, a small herb farm might be a pretty decent way to put some of our acreage to use.

With more rain coming in tomorrow, and possibly staying on through most of the week (hooraayyyyyy!!!) I figured I’d better put new wiper blades on the Civic. Then I got tired of looking at the dangling windshield washers, which broke off when The Boy put it in a ditch last year, and got some new ones. Of course, I snapped off a stem when bolting it down, so I took them off and exchanged them this afternoon. Actually, I like the new ones better anyway. Finally, I got the idle adjusted (it was way too low). So now I’m ready to drive in the rain.

The homebrew is starting to mature. Maybe another week. But I need alcohol now

UPDATES: I can’t believe I forgot these.

This video (“Slam” by Pendulum) was one of the funniest things I saw all week. The music is wicked good too, if you like drum&bass. The album is on iTunes, so if I can’t find it at the store I’ll be grabbing this one for sure.

The in-laws have a muscadine vine that climbs really high. Like 12 feet. I grabbed their big stepladder & got a gallon or so. They have red & white ones growing together; the white ones are little sweeter but the reds are more numerous and have a bit more complex flavor. Muscadines are like the sunflower seeds of fruit: you do a lot of spitting (skins are tough and bitter, and they have seeds) so it’s definitely an outdoor snack. I spent a little quality time out front distributing seeds and skins around the edge of the dropoff to the road.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007 5 comments

Stuff that works, Stuff that doesn’t

I’m typing away with the new MacBook battery. It was sitting on the table when I came home from the yard sale on Saturday (and I guess I was so excited I forgot to mention it). I pretty much knew what to expect inside: the battery and instructions for shipping the old one back. The good thing about that it’s all but completely pre-arranged: all you have to do is tape the box shut and call DHL to come pick it up. The other side of that particular coin: Apple will zap you for the cost of the battery if you don’t send it back, probably to keep people from claiming the battery is rotten to get a free extra battery. So unless DHL couldn’t find our office, and I think they bring deliveries from time to time, that’s taken care of.

Less welcome news: the A/C in the Civic lasted all of three days, crapping out on Friday afternoon on the way home from work. Naturally, it croaked in the three miles of stop&go traffic I have to deal with on Fridays (and I guess I was so bummed I forgot to mention it here). Oh well, it was good while it lasted and even mid-90s weather isn’t too bad on a motorcycle (as long as you’re moving).

Yesterday, I finally resolved the plate (or “tag” as they say on this planet) issue for the new motorcycle. The shop sent the tax receipt, and I’m supposed to pick up the tag. I was under the impression that I would get it in the mail. Mrs. Fetched says she’ll handle that today while I’m at work — there’s a pretty good chance she’ll get busy & forget, but right now I have both bikes in the garage and it’s a little tight, and the inconvenience might prompt her to make an extra effort. ;-) So I’m on the Virago at least one more day.

Jumping on the Virago after riding a much lighter and taller bike for a month is a good way to get a fresh look at it. The seat is much more cushy, the engine much stronger (with nearly three times the displacement, that’s no surprise), and the seating position is completely different. Of course, it still takes corners at speeds you wouldn’t dare with most other cruisers.

And with that, I need to start it and get rolling to work. IT has started monitoring web usage at work (naturally at a time when most of my projects are in a lull), so I’ll be coming in at odd morning & evening hours. One more stop to see if Nancy has posted anything this morning…

Wednesday, August 01, 2007 13 comments


As I mentioned last night, I went by the mechanic this morning to pick up my car. Mrs. Fetched drove me over, and reminded me to grab my microwave dish full of leftovers on the way out (she’s good about that).

So I jumped in my car, the keys were in it, and I started it up. Reaching over to pull up Album 88 for the drive, I saw the A/C light was on. “Eh, they must have bumped it or something,” I thought, knowing that the A/C hasn’t ever worked in this car. I punched it off, and bumped up the fan because it’s pretty weak on the bottom setting… and some cool air came out. “Naw,” I thought, “it can’t be that. It just hasn’t gotten warm in the vents yet.” I headed on to work, but something just didn’t seem right about the air. It seemed… drier than I’d expect, especially during the Dog Days.

One way to find out, right? Coming home, I turned it on first thing and cranked the fan on high.

Cool air started pouring out.


I brought it in for a timing belt & water pump, paid what I was quoted, and got working A/C thrown in! (I wish I’d known, I’d have got the car out earlier and drove that to Michigan.)

Oh, and Mrs. Fetched’s mom got $5 for my jalapeños, and had some left over. Kind of an anti-climax.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007 12 comments

In the “I didn’t really need to know that” department…

The Boy, yesterday, told me: “By the way, your Civic can do 140. That’s what it topped out at.”

He may have only been trying to harass me — but whether or not that was downhill with a tailwind, I really didn’t want to know. It would explain why letting him drive it affected the mileage like pouring a gallon of gas on the ground, though.


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