Full of grace

It's the song that's currently playing on the X-Box. Sorry if you were looking for something deeper.

SuperFiancee is off to see her friend Trish for a few hours, and the SuperKids are over at their dad's until tomorrow night. In a stroke of luck for both him and me, we had a mix up this week -- he asked last weekend if he should pick the kids up, SuperFiancee said 'no, we can drop them off at your place' and, naturally, when we were a few minutes out from his place, her cell phone rang... he was over at our place, where the hell were we?

So, what I'd thought would be an awkward little meeting twixt him and I as we exchanged hostages for the mandatory two day visit, evaporated into the air. I'd imagine he's as relieved as I am.

And, yeah, I could have just stayed home... SuperFiancee certainly offered to not only let me do that, but stay in bed as well, and I really really wanted to... but SuperFiancee is always a little down after dropping the kids off, so I never let her make that drive back alone if I can help it.

Anyway, for a few hours, Castle Anthrax is all mine. I miss everyone, but sometimes, the quiet is nice.

I want to blog, but there isn't much to blog about... well, there is, but SuperFiancee believes it's premature to blog about the particular thing we heard about last night, and I agree with her, so we'll all have to wait until a little more develops on that front before I post about it here.

I could post about politics, I suppose, but I never do that very well, and what's the point even if I did? It's not like I have any power to change anything, which is probably good, because if I had any power to change anything, most likely I'd be under arrest, or something worse.

I know all my fellow liberals are pinning their dearest hopes on the upcoming midterm elections, but I've gone too far down the rabbit hole to believe that elections make much difference any more. Even if the Repubs lose their majorities in both houses of Congress, it will make little difference over the long term, even the immediate long term -- say, two to three years down the pike. We're still running out of oil, and it's still political suicide here in America for anyone in authority to actually propose that Americans substantially alter their lifestyles in any way, so that problem isn't going to be resolved, and someday, fairly soon, I'm going to have an 8 or a 10 year old step daughter who can't get in the car with a responsible adult and go anyplace she wants to go, because the cars won't go at all anymore, and she won't be able to watch TV or go to the movies or turn up the air conditioning or go to school or...

No. That's way too bleak for a beautiful Saturday afternoon typing away at the electrically powered Web interface while generally reveling in a high tech civilization in the full bloom of its decadence. Let's put my brain on the Surely Corn Syrup Will Save Us All wagon for the nonce, and deal with trivia.

But, on this subject, Jeff Wells of Rigorous Intuition hasn't posted anything since June 2. He could just be busy. On the other hand, maybe They got him. When a voice like Jeff's falls silent for any length of time, you can't help but wonder. Well, I can't, anyway.

Trivia, trivia... well, one minor annoyance in our lives at the moment is that the remote control for the back bedroom DVD player seems to be dead. It needs a new battery, which doesn't sound like a problem, except that it uses one of these little coin shaped batteries, of which of course we have no spares.

And we're going on... what... a month?... of using a borrowed car, because... well, okay, here's something I can waste some of our collective time on...

Back two months or so, we noticed the brakes on the car were getting a little mushy. So she took it to Pep Boys or some place like that -- one of the big chains -- and they said "Well, your entire brake assembly needs to be rebuilt, it will cost you $800".

So SuperFiancee consulted her very practical father about it, and he advised that he knew this guy who didn't exactly run a garage, but who made auto repairs on the side an did it very cheaply, generally using second hand parts he'd get for next to nothing from junk yards. So we got the car over to this guy and he said it was no problem, just a brake pad or something like that (I have no idea, I don't speak Carburetor at any kind of level) and he could fix it up for like $40. So we did that, and we started driving it again, and we had it on the road for something like a week and the brakes started to lock up on us. So we took it back to this guy, and he allowed as to how maybe it needed a little more work than that, and he wound up replacing several more parts and doing some more stuff and we gave him $300 straight out of the vacation fund, and that was supposed to be that.

So we got the car back and drove it for maybe two days and at one point, Super Dependable Teen got out of the car after getting home from being someplace with her mom and she said "Mom, this front wheel here is glowing red and feels really hot".

Not a good sign.

So we took it back over to the cheap guy who does repairs on the side and he looked it over and said the problem was that a drive unit was freezing up plus it looked like somehow someone had put oil in our brake lines, and they'd have to be blown out and probably replaced. And he swore he'd do this as cheaply as he possibly could, recognizing as he did that he'd already held us up for a great deal of money for modifications to our automobile that a discerning intellect might well refer to using another word besides 'repairs'.

So another week went by, and SuperFiancee's dad calls and says that he's over at this guy's garage and this guy keeps putting other work in front of our car, and when he was asked about it, he says "Well, I need to do work that brings in money for me, I can't charge any more on this car so it will have to wait".

So, the car gets towed to another garage, a real garage this time, and the guy there says "Okay, the entire brake assembly is shot to hell, I don't know what you people have been doing to this thing, it looks like squirrels got into your brake lines and you hired John J. Rambo to get them out and he used an M-60 to do it".

Well, he didn't actually say that, I just made that up, because sometimes, when I'm telling a story, I do that. It's called writing.

But, anyway, he conveyed to us that the car needed about -- wait for it -- $900 worth of work.

So we went back and forth on it for a couple of days, and SuperFiancee called her uncle who knows everyone to see if maybe he could locate a car we could spend less than $900 on, or alternatively, someone who could run this piece of junk we were saddled with into a tree so we could collect on the insurance. (I'm kidding about that last. Really.) And he called her back and said he knew a guy with a Jeep for $2500, which is probably a great deal and if anyone out there wants a Jeep for $2500 we got the hook up, but it wasn't going to suit us when we were going batshit insane trying to figure out where to get $900 for a fucking $40 brake repair, and we have three kids, all of whom would love to own a Jeep, except when they all had to sit in it at once and go for long trips in it any time it's overly warm or overly cold, which is pretty much 49 weeks of the year here in the Paradise we call River City.

Now, SuperFiancee's parents felt really really bad about all this, mostly because SuperFiancee's dad was the one who insisted we could get good work and save some money from the idiot who does repairs on the side, and who talked us into keeping the car there long past the point where I was starting to strongly suspect that every time we brought the car in, the guy fixed what was wrong with it with bubble gum, and then halfway sawed through something else that would break in a couple of days to get us back in again.

So, they offered to loan us a thousand bucks, and given how Uncle $2500 Jeep turned out to be no help at all, well, SuperFiancee decided to go that way. So, SuperFiancee's father took the money over to the New Mechanic With The Real Garage, and he fixed the car up, no problem. Everything was right and tight.

So SuperFiancee's dad, in an excess of caution, took the car out for a test drive, and the fucking brakes locked up on it AGAIN. So he took it back and the new guy said he was sure he could fix it properly without us having to pay him anything further. So SuperFiancee's dad put down the gas can and put away his lighter and took the old tire off from around the new guy's neck and untied him, and the new guy went back to work, and he discovered that apparently, in addition to everything else, we had some kind of bad box. And this box is a $1300 part. And SuperFiancee's dad picked up the gas can again, and the new guy added quickly that he was going to make this right and not charge us anything more. Which sounds fine. Except that he couldn't get a new $1300 box in until the next day, and guess what? The next day, he and his family were going on vacation for eight days.

So, we're still driving SuperFiancee's mom's car, and we will be for another week, maybe a few days longer, I don't know how long it will take for SuperFiancee's dad to track the new mechanic down in whatever distant state he tries to hide in, but I'm sure he'll do it.

We've mostly been driving SuperFiancee's mom's car. For about a week in the middle of all this, though, SuperFiance's sister went out of town for eight days or so, and she loaned us her car, which was nice of her. But SuperFiance's sister is always walking on the thin edge of a complete emotional breakdown, so you can never count on her nice impulses to last. And in the middle of the week when we had the sister's car, SuperFiancee's dad came over to pick it up because she wanted her oil changed. And he did that and brought it back. And we drove it for the rest of the week, and then turned it over to SuperFiancee's dad again, who was going to do a little more work on it and then turn it over to the sister.

So we're coming back from the movies with the Colletts and the Gibsons and the cell phone rings and it's the sister, and she's just screaming at SuperFiancee, because daddy told her he'd had to put a full tank of gas in the car when he got it back from us and she was furious that we would take advantage of her good will that way and yaddity yaddity yaddity.

Now, I know we filled that car up at least twice during the eight days we had it, because I pumped the gas both times, but, whatever.

Like nearly all of us here in our Petroleum Powered Utopia, we can't go so much as one day without a car... well, one working day, anyway. Without a car, I can't get home from work, because the buses stop running out to the boonies around 6, and I routinely work until 6:30 at the earliest... more often, until 8.

I had been trying to talk SuperFiancee around to the notion of getting a better car at some point in the conceivable future, maybe once we both got another raise or two from our jobs, or just better jobs. But I think that's been put off. Maybe forever.

We may not even get to take our planned October vacation, so the SuperFamily can meet my whole clan, or as many of them as want to crowd onto the little mini-Jonestown Compound that my mom and my aunt and various cousins have created in the backwoods of mid-northern Florida during the long weekend we hope to be down there. But I hope we can, because, returning briefly to the bleakness, I'm not sure just how many summers we have left where long roadtrips will be feasible, or even possible.

Meanwhile, it's a beautiful day, and I miss the SuperKids, and I miss SuperFiancee, and at the same time, I'm digging the solitude, only because I know it won't last too long. The Barenaked Ladies are blaring down the hall from the back bedroom, advising Enid that they never really knew each other anyway.

I did finally finish up my months long project of rereading all the Song of Ice and Fire installments to date. My hope was that by the time I got all the way through to the end of A Feast For Crows again, A Dance With Dragons would be out, but, of course, that hasn't happened. Martin is now insisting on his website that he wants to get it finished and turned in by fall, or maybe early 2007. I'd like that, but even if he does, he still has at least two projected books to go before the end of the series... and given what we've seen from him so far, those two books could easily bifurcate/fission into three, or four, or five...

He's going to die before he ever finishes this goddam series, and then his publishers will hire Alan Dean Foster to resolve it, and I'll have to kill someone. I mean it.

But, at least I can now start working on knocking down the huge In stack I have next to the computer in the back bedroom. The second hand bookstore where I bought those books last summer has since gone out of business, and I still haven't cracked the covers on any of them.

I don't dare go anywhere near an actual chain bookstore. I'm sure Barbara Hambly must have new books out, both under her own name and her Martha Wells pseud. S.M. Stirling has a new book coming out soon, and is launching a new series after that. I deliberately haven't done any web searches lately on Lois McMaster Bujold, but I have no doubt I'm at least two books behind on her. And there are two Fantastic Four Marvel Masterworks editions, full of Lee-Kirby FF stories from the Silver Age that I haven't read, that I need to get. And they keep putting out ESSENTIAL and SHOWCASE collections I want, too.

Okay, I just did a search on Bujold. It looks like I'm four or five books behind on her. On the other hand, it also looks like she's abandoned Miles Vorkosigan in specific, and science fiction in general, for a career writing sword & sorcery. I don't mind sword & sorcery, and Bujold is a fabulous writer, but I miss Miles Vorkosigan. I really do.

I also finally got to the end of Knights of the Old Republic II for the third time. This time I played all the way through with a female/good character, hoping it might make a difference and open up some new stories I hadn't previously encountered. I did find out that if you play as a female, you don't get the Handmaiden in your party, instead you get some guy... I forget what his name is... instead. And while the ending is still just as abrupt, if you're playing heroic and you stop to question Kreia at the end, instead of just killing the crazy old bitch, she'll give you some dialogue explaining what happens to the other people in your party, several of whom seem to be in the middle of unresolved storylines at the point where the game ends.

It is, without a doubt, the laziest frickin' way to cut off a game prematurely I've ever seen. Still, at least there's something in there. I hadn't realized it before.

I wonder if anyone is trying to come up with a Knights of the Old Republic III?

Anyone who'd like to give up their day job and work as a screenwriter in Hollywood, or just get paid to write in general, should go read the first paragraph of this latest entry on John Roger's blog. And then they should find John Rogers and slap him repeatedly for being a smug, supercilious sonofabitch. "The wee indie I may direct" indeed. Fucker. What have the people who have these jobs ever done to deserve them? And if they have to have so much unmerited success, why can't they just shut the fuck up about it?

I guess, as SuperFiancee wisely notes, I'm "just not blowing the right people".

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