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Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Holy Crap! What Happened?

Late last week this blog vanished from the web.

Some people cheered.

Some people wept.

The earth shifted slightly in its orbit.

And a great wailing and gnashing of teeth swept the globe.  The seas rose, the sky rained fire and death and poisoned toads, and the Four Horsemen rode the land upon their undead steeds.

True story.

 

What?

 

Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating a wee bit, but for the last week folks attempting to reach www.stonekettle.com got a variety of weirdness, from links to various stones and kettles to a generic busty blonde Hot Chick™ who sadly explained how Stonekettle Station didn’t exist on the web but how about these other, nifty, sites?

Given the volume of email and instant messages I received, apparently more than a few of you noticed the huge gaping hole in the Internet where Stonekettle Station used to be. Which, to be admittedly smug, was a more than a bit self-validating for me – i.e. the fact that so many of you would write expressing massive dismay at the sudden and unexpected disappearance of Stonekettle Station made me feel all warm and happy inside.

Which was nice, considering the volume of unpleasant surprises I’ve gotten lately – the least of which was the implosion of my blog.

Thanks for missing me, I sincerely appreciate it.

At first, I tried to respond personally to the messages, but eventually I just had to give up. So, if you wrote and I didn’t respond, consider this an acknowledgement of my sincere appreciation. Thanks for caring. Really.

So, what happened?

The short answer is that I didn’t pay the bill and Google turned off the lights.

It really was just that simple.

In my defense, it wasn’t my fault.

OK, actually, it was entirely my fault. But, I’ve got an excuse.

The longer answer is that I own the internet domain www.stonekettle.com along with a number of other domains (a domain is a specific site somewhere on the internet).

This isn’t anything unusual, for the price of a couple of large lattes anybody can own a domain.

And there’s a whole industry, in fact, of unsavory jerks who go around buying up likely names and then attempting to charge people for the use of their own name or business and so on. It’s called Domain Squatting and it’s an asshole thing to do. 

But anyway, as I said, anybody can own an internet domain.

Here’s how it works: basically you brainstorm up a super-cool keeno incantation, then you contact a wizard service and the sorcerers check to see if anybody else is using that same name-of-power, if not then there’s usually an exchange of money and/or sexual favors and then geeky computer types in strange robes and pointy hats sacrifice small animals in certain highly dangerous blood rituals and engage in other various powerful arcane magics to insert your domain name into the bowels of the internet. Then you can lay a website over the top of it and add subdomains and perform various witchy juju of your own. There’s a bunch of technobabble mumbo-jumbo that describes the process in sleep-inducing detail and the only people who care about the actual specifics are those who already know how it works.  So, I’ll spare you the grisly details and we’ll just say you hire a wizard and magic happens. 

The long and short of it is that periodically you have to renew your registration.  In other words nobody really owns a domain, you just sort of rent it.  If you don’t pay the rent, the registration service turns off your domain and for all practical purposes, your website simply ceases to exist. 

That’s what happened to Stonekettle Station.

When you went looking for www.stonekettle.com last week, it didn’t exist. Depending on the service you used to look for me, Google or Yahoo or directly via a DNS address (like a bookmark) or by typing in the actual numeric IP address or by performing some form of animal sacrifice and beseeching the gods, you got a variety of errors – some of which looked a lot like somebody had hijacked my domain. They hadn’t, it just looked that way, which is an artifact of whatever software logic you employed to find me.  In other words, you typed in “stonekettle” and the internet said, “I can’t find stonekettle, so here’s a hot chick with some nice kettles.”

So how come I didn’t pay the rent? What am I? Some kind of internet deadbeat?

Yes. Sort of.

I’ve owned stonekettle.com for a number of years now, and right from the first day I set up an automatic payment process and basically forgot about it.  Every year Goggle bills me for my various domains, my computer talks to their computer, various arcane magics occur in various banking computers, and I get an email receipt and everybody is happy.  If there’s any problem, say an expired credit card, I get an email notification and I wave my arms and curse a lot and that generally fixes things, and again, everybody is happy. 

Except that this year I missed the email warning.

In my defense, one of my family members is gravely ill and I was somewhat distracted.

Also, I get a lot of email.  Now, knowing that, I should have moved this particular process to a dedicated email notification account instead of my general purpose one (and given that domains generally allow for their own email process, creating dedicated email addresses specifically for certain transactions is pretty simple), but again, I was distracted and somehow never got around to it (that’s since been corrected).

So, I missed the deadline.

There’s a grace period, but I missed that too – but again, as I mentioned, I’ve been distracted.

Google therefor assumed I didn’t want the domain anymore, so they reset my admin controls and notified their contracted registration service to shut down the domain.

Which is all perfectly normal and aboveboard and automatic.

First I knew about it was when I got up Sunday morning and my email and Facebook Messages were overflowing with “Holy Crap! What Happened?” and “Dude! You’ve been hijacked! Call Homeland Security!”

It didn’t take me long to figure out what had happened, and it should have been a simple matter of logging into my administrator account to update the billing information and then requesting an automatic reinstatement of the domain.

Except I couldn’t log into the administrator account.

Because there’s some kind of weird bug, which I won’t go into because you don’t really care about such arcane magics and technobabble mumbo-jumbo. Suffice it to say that it took many phone calls and emails between myself and a nice lady somewhere in Kowloon or Bangladesh or wherever Google’s tech support is located, plus help from a number of folks on Google’s tech support forum, to sort it out and give me the various required incantations to mollify the various moat monsters of Google’s patchwork kingdom. 

Also, in the middle of this, I suddenly had to drop everything and jump on an airplane and fly to Michigan. 

No, really.

I literally got a phone call from my brother telling me to come, NOW. It was 10PM Alaska time. My wife called the airline, my son packed my electronics (and did a damned fine job of it), I stuffed whatever was handy into a travel bag, in less than ten minutes from the call we were in the jeep and my wife drove me sixty miles to Anchorage while I explained to my son that this was an emergency so it was okay if mom was speeding like a maniac but I’d better never catch him driving that fast or else, I waded shamelessly through a hundred Chinese tourists in front of the Alaskan Airlines desk shoving left and right and using my elbows mercilessly, claimed my ticket, sprinted through security with the grateful help some really awesome TSA agents, and ran the length of Ted Stevens International Airport to make my plane just as the door was closing.  Total elapsed time from notification to strapping in, 90 minutes – and that included a 60 mile drive, I’m pretty sure that’s some kind of record.

Once in the air, I was able to connect to my wife via Skype.  She got me a rental car in Grand Rapids and texted me the confirmation number. 

Then I had nothing to do but worry for the next six hours as we flew south over Canada, headed for O’Hare. 

So naturally, I thought of you, Gentle Readers, and used my time and the magic of WiFi in the Sky to finish sorting out the domain problem – because I damned sure wasn’t going to get any sleep and worrying about what was waiting for me on the other end wasn’t going to do anybody any good. 

Frankly, if the the sheer ridiculousness of attempting to fix the internet by squinting at a small phone screen while reading tech data off my slightly larger tablet transmitted by a nice lady in Kowloon or Bangladesh or wherever speaking arcane technobabble in fractured English while onboard an airplane hurtling though turbulence at 500 miles an hour somewhere over remote Canada had actually hit me, I might have quit right there and availed myself heartily of the drink cart. 

But it worked. 

By the time I landed in Grand Rapids, Google’s accounting department had been mollified and the various arcane magics of the internet worked their spells and the computers did the proper handshaking, sexual favors were exchanged, and somewhere between the time I roared out of the rental lot at the Jerry Ford International Airport and arrived at the Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital (a massive modern complex of interlocking advanced medical facilities built around the old brownstone Butterworth hospital that I was born in 50 odd years ago) Stonekettle Station was back online.

And that wasn’t the only good news.

It’s been a rough couple of days, but it appears that my dad is going to make it. 

You’ll forgive me if I don’t go into the details, and I’d really appreciate it if you don’t pry, but things are looking up and that wasn’t even in the cards two days ago.  We’ve still got a long haul ahead of us, but if Stonekettle Station can come back from oblivion, anything is possible.

Those of you who follow me on Facebook had some idea of what was going on, and I truly appreciate all the offers of support and goodwill. Thank you. All of you, who wrote or left messages on my Facebook page. I am truly grateful.

I’m currently camped out at my folks’ house in rural Michigan. 

I have no cell connectivity here, let alone high speed 4G.  I’m tethered to a very low speed DSL connection, and between the hospital and fixing things around the farm, I doubt there’ll be much time for blog posts, but you never know.

We’ll just have to take it as it comes.

Thanks for hanging in there.

83 comments:

  1. Having dealt with similar long-distance dad panic in February (he is doing well now), I utterly sympathize. Best wishes.

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  2. Lifting prayers for you and yours.

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  3. Best wishes to you and your family.

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  4. I wept. So glad to see you back!

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    1. I've lost both of my parents and both of my in-laws, and believe I know what you are going through. PLEASE just ask your "minions" to help keep you afloat. We will come through for you. You are one of the fortunate ones, with many people on the web who love you. We don't need the details. We will come through for you. I have spent a lot of time at 9000+ feet in Colorado, and have similarly low expectations about contact with the outer/real world. We love you, and will help if you ask.

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  5. Glad yer old man is on the mend, regarding the interweb's magic, glad you got it fixed since a full moon is still a ways off and the neighbors are beginning to notice the missing pets.

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  6. So glad your dad's doing better. I hope he continues to to do so!

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  7. Here's hoping your father makes a full recovery.

    Kind of reminds me of something that happened with my father. I was heading over to pick him up at his gym where he swam 3 days a week. I get a phone call from my Mother while on the way telling me that he's now in the hospital. He'd had a total cardiac arrest while showering after swimming. Fortunately the place he swam was the hospital's health / recovery building right next door. The EMTs made it there in about 90 seconds. It's the only reason he survived it.

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  8. I hope your dad continues to improve.

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  9. Thinking of you and sending your dad magic healing brainwaves from the gray aliens. ;)
    Glad this time wasn't The Time. HUGS.

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  10. Good to see you back to this edge of the webs.

    Peace to you and yours.

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  11. Mental hugs from Montana. May your father and website fully recover. <3

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  12. Hoping your Dad stays with you . Enjoy whatever time you have together.
    Bear

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  13. I follow via RSS and so didn't even know you were gone, but I'm glad you're back. And even more glad to hear your dad is doing better.

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  14. Thinking of you and your family. I hope your Dad is on the mend.

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  15. I hope your dad just keeps getting better and better. I'm glad he's looking up.

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  16. And, frak it: (((HUG))) (sorry; had to be done.)

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  17. Sending peace and calm your direction.

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  18. So glad to see you back in touch with us minions. It lets us sleep better when we hear from you.

    Wish it was as simple to fix your father as it was to fix the website. Well, healing thoughts from Hawaii are headed to Michigan. Hope they don't get weakened even a little bit because of the distance.

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  19. Caryn O&#39;KeefeJune 6, 2013 at 2:55 AM

    I'm glad to see Stonekettle Station back on my Top Sites when I log on in the morning. The tea kettle lady was annoying.
    I am also glad that your Dad is improving and hope that he continues to full recovery.

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  20. Glad things are looking up - I lost both my parents while I was in my 30s, and currently have recurrent mother-in-law crises, so am well aware how much that kind of thing sucks. Make sure to take care of *yourself* in the midst of the stress and chaos!
    Lena

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  21. .

    Breathe deep the gathering gloom,
    Watch lights fade from every room.
    Bedsitter people look back and lament,
    Another day's useless energy spent.

    ... And the internet ate Stonekettle.

    Happy that you are back, I am and positive waves to you and your family's situation.

    Ema Nymton
    ~ @ : o ?
    .

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  22. No details necessary. Hoping for the best for your dad. Do what you need to do for your family. We'll be here when you have time again.

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  23. Glad you are back...sorry your visit to Michigan wasn't for a more pleasant reason and very glad your dad is doing well. If you visit our lovely state again my husband and I would love to buy you a drink.

    Terri in Grand Rapids - the city of bars and churches.

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  24. Thanks for being here, thanks for making a record trip from notification to arrival, thanks for getting the 'Station back. The stuff with your Dad is one of life's responsibilities, and you'll carry it out as you do. Lots of people are in your corner, FWIW.

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  25. "I'd better not ever catch you driving this fast..."

    Not sure I even want to know how fast it was. Good that you got where you needed to be and that life seems to be winning.

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  26. Well that explains the hurricane. Sending positive karma to you and yours. Thanks for the update. Glad you're back.

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  27. Since I'm nowhere near you at the moment, I'll pour a little out for you, like you were a homie. If you were within reach, I would stand you to enough drinks to achieve senselessness.

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  28. My best wishes for you and your family.

    - M in Canada

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  29. Best wishes, Jim. I've had that call, too - more times than I care to recount. Hope the outcome continues to be positive.

    Bruce

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  30. Figured there was mega disaster going on, so didn't post or e-mail you - glad things are looking up. Wishing you and your family the best.

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  31. My best to you and yours. Glad your dad is doing better. Having gone through some scares with my own over the last couple of years, I have some idea what you're going through. Many positive vibes coming in the direction of you and your family.

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  32. Hi Jim:

    Did the cross-country dash to get home for my father myself, lo these 20 years ago. Sending you best wishes for his speedy recovery.

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  33. Glad Stonekettle is back but much better news is that from the homefront. Hope all continues to move in a positive direction, Jim.

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  34. Jim,

    So, is it bad form for me to point out a misspelled word when your father is ill?

    I am sure you mean "sheer ridiculousness" and not "shear" (as in wind shear, so I get why the typo was made) but given current circumstances not surprising.

    My best wishes for the continued recovery of your father.

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    1. It's fixed. Thanks, I hate that particular error. Stupid word.

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  35. My thoughts and prayers are with you, your father and family for strength, comfort and healing.

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  36. White healing light, glad to see you're back and your Dad is doing well.

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  37. Glad you are back, and glad you're father is better.

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  38. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  39. "I'd better not ever catch you driving this fast..."

    Unless his dad is dire. Family first. Always. He'll remember that long after he's forgotten how fast she was going. I did.

    We'll all be here when things return to normal.

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  40. Wow.
    You've yarded your blog out of the gullet of the tubes, you had exactly enough time to make your plane including passing on necessary wisdom to your son at warp speed and most importantly you've still got your Dad. Whew.
    Very best wishes for your Dad, your whole family, and you.
    Alaska Pi

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  41. Welcome back to Michigan, so glad your Dad is out of the woods and hope he stays that way.

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  42. I'll go light a candle for your dad. Best wishes from a fellow Michigander also a long way from home. I had to make a similar flight into Detroit Metro for my mom a few years ago. The long flight seemed even longer not knowing what was waiting for me when I got off the plane.

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  43. Glad to hear the good news about your Dad.

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  44. My god, man, what an ordeal! You know we're thinking of you, wishing you and your dad the best, and if positive vibes into the universe exist and can do good, you surely have them from me. This kind of stress is physically hard on you as well as emotionally. Take care of yourself, too.

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  45. So glad to hear you made it to Michigan safe and sound, and that you father is doing better.

    I, too, found a typo... I know DSL is painfully slow and all, but I have never heard of it having teeth.

    keep well, and return to us when you can.

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    1. Fixed, plus the two typos I found on my own.

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  46. 4th sentence: "Earth shifted slightLY in its orbit." Because, y'know, I just can't resist.

    Good to hear good news, and thankful that that harrowing trip from AK to MI fell into place for you when you most needed such karmic cooperation; yeah, sometimes all the lights *are* green. Just in case, I'll keep up my prayers-on-behalf-of, because hey, it can't hurt, right?

    And this, which I am sure you will recognize:

    Eternal Father, strong to save,
    Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
    Who bidd'st the mighty ocean deep
    Its own appointed limits keep;
    Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
    For those in peril on the sea!

    O Christ! Whose voice the waters heard
    And hushed their raging at Thy word,
    Who walked'st on the foaming deep,
    And calm amidst its rage didst sleep;
    Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
    For those in peril on the sea!

    Most Holy Spirit! Who didst brood
    Upon the chaos dark and rude,
    And bid its angry tumult cease,
    And give, for wild confusion, peace;
    Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
    For those in peril on the sea!

    O Trinity of love and power!
    Our brethren shield in danger's hour;
    From rock and tempest, fire and foe,
    Protect them wheresoe'er they go;
    Thus evermore shall rise to Thee
    Glad hymns of praise from land and sea.

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  47. For the greatest good and highest potential of all. - a fan.

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  48. Thanks for the update and glad your father's doing better. Hope all continues to improve.

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  49. Good to see that everything is looking up, what with your wife in jail now and all.

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  50. I'm glad it wasn't Nazis. Sending healing vibes to your dad.

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  51. Farm work builds character and calms the spirit. You're doing the deed.

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    1. I've been told that I have enough character.

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  52. Big hugs to you and yours. Take care of yourself, because you won't be able to help others if you don't. Thanks for taking the time to post.

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  53. Sorry to hear you're bandwidth-challenged. But you really don't need much more than a few characters-per-second to keep all of us entertained. I mean, a pic or two of Shopcat is nice, but, it's the text, Jim! Just keep that connection from your mind to ours going, through the fingers. Then we'll be happy. And it will help keep your mind off the awful real world.

    Oh, wait. That awful real world is what we want to hear about...

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  54. Hope your dad gets better. Glad your site problem was just malfunctioning tubes...

    P.S.
    Did you see that placeholder girl? Uncannily hot.......

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  55. Glad your dad is doing better. I've had those late night calls, and they are harrowing. My thoughts are with you.

    NaluGirl

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  56. 90 minutes from call to jet door closing. Damn, your wife, son and you are good. And I'm glad you made it and even more glad your dad did.

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  57. I hope your dad gets better, and I hope that your family comes through this well, and, especially, I hope that you are all right. I know how hard those late night calls are, too.

    -Paul Cooper

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  58. "So how come I didn’t pay the rent? What am I? Some kind of internet deadbeat?

    Yes. Sort of."

    They say that acknowledgement of the problem is the first step towards recovery.

    Best wishes for you and your family.

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  59. Hoping for the best for you and your family.

    A devoted fan,
    Becky

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  60. We missed you Jim but hey, stuff happens. Please know that all of my heartfelt good thoughts are with you Jim Wright - yes, no need to answer... Just warm wishes that things get better for you and your family soon.

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  61. Oh Jim, I am so glad your dad is okay, and thankful that your wife and kid and TSA and the Chinese Tourists were so accommodating with your elbows. Glad everything is sorted out and hope you will be back in place....and who's taking care of ShopKat?

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    1. Thanks. Dad is far from "okay," he's still in the ICU but there is good reason for hope and that's a whole lot better than we expected two days ago.

      ShopKat mostly takes care of herself, she has an automatic feeder and large water fountain, but my son is also keeping an eye on things and making sure she's ok.

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  62. So glad that you were able to get Stonekettle up and running again, and gladder still that your father is improving. May these next days and weeks pass without anymore conflict and concern. Be well, Jim, and draw from the strength of your devoted friends and fans.

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  63. Twenty years behind the wheel as a professional driver of one sort or another allows me to congratulate you, The Boss and The Kid on a job well done!

    Best wishes to you and yours. (Not to mention that ol' Shopkat!)

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  64. I'm very glad you're back online, and that your father is better than he was, and that you made it to Michigan in record time to be with your family. Good wishes to you and yours, including ShopKat.

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  65. Best Fishes, Jim.

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  66. Funny, I have a link to your site on my blogroll and someone actually emailed me asking if I knew what happened to Stonekettle Station. :) Space/time continuum shit going on.

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  67. All the best to your Dad, you and the Stonekettles, et al. Hope he keeps improving. I'm very glad to have your blog posts to read again too.

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  68. Best wishes for your father and your whole family (health crises are very hard on the family/caregivers too, don't neglect to take care of yourself!).
    Dewey

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  69. Welcome back---as an old hand at getting distracted, i am more than sympathetic...please continue
    to regale me with your thoughts as the moment moves you...

    David Gilliland
    Santa Fe, NM

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  70. Not wishing to be a pain at this time, so wondering if I should mention that you spelled Google as Goggle....Unless that was on purpose-like?

    "Every year Goggle bills me for my various domains, my computer talks to their computer, various arcane magics occur in various banking computers, and I get an email receipt and everybody is happy."

    Also, best wishes for, well, everything.

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  71. My folks are gone. There's no rewind button on this machine, so make every day count. I realize you already know that. Sendin' positive waves yer way...

    the digital warrior-poet

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  72. I was afraid that you had died. that's happened to a few of my favorites over the years, I'm glad you're alive

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  73. Got pulled over last week. Turns out I forgot to renew our insurance. We get our renewal notices over a month beforehand, so you always have plenty of time-and then you forget. Been that way for about two weeks-because of the new month I guess the cop was checking plates. At least we were back from our mini-vacation when it expired.
    doug r

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  74. You're in my fair state of Michigan and you DIDN'T BRING with you FROM ALASKA the warm weather?! Durn it Jim. Sending my wishes and prayers for a speedy recovery for your dad and a wish for you to enjoy your stay with family, regardless of the reasons that brought you hear. Oh to have just one more week with my dear dad. Just one. Peace my friend

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  75. My sincerest condolences. I'll go light another candle for him.

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  76. I'm happy things are looking up! Been in the end of too many similar scenarios, sending prayers for recovery and your sanity.

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  77. Sorry to hear about your Dad, best wishes to you and the rest of the family.

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