The 80s were a special time

I think this Bulova ad makes that pretty clear.

Because some of you are CHILDREN, in order of appearance, we have:

  • Morgan Fairchild, famous mostly for a nighttime soap called Falcon Crest — a spinoff of Dynasty — but really a working actor for most of the last 50 years. Fairchild is now 71.
  • Johnny Cash. He’s too iconic to need a link, but had he lived — he died in 2003 — he’d be 89.
  • Bernadette Peters, mostly famous for being Bernadette Peters. She is now 73.
  • Roger Daltrey, of the Who. Daltrey is 77.
  • Cathy Lee Crosby was, at the time, mostly famous for being on a tabloid-tv show called That’s Incredible. She’s now 76.

And, of course, Muhammad Ali — also too iconic to need a link — who passed in 2016. He’d have turned 79 in January, though.

On rules, and exceptions to those rules

On Saturday, I was finishing a small group ride when we passed a “boomer bar” up in the Heights that’s usually blaring Freedom Rock or whatever. This time, it was a cover of Changes, which prompted me to say to the person next to you that “you know what? There’s just never any reason to cover David Bowie. It’s perfect already. You will not add goodness to the universe by trying.” They laughed, and we rolled on.

This morning, I am forced to confront one of those situations where an exception basically proves the rule.

Turns out, if you’re Trent Reznor, it’s okay.

Christopher Plummer died today. He was 91.

He’s been famous for a long time, and famous recently for some great older-man roles (e.g, Knives Out), but for me and people my age and older, this is who Christopher Plummer was: The Nazi-flag-ripping guy you’ve seen in memes these last few years.

SM88 150 5

World War II was never far from the public imagination when I was growing up in the 70s and 80s — I mean, the Nazis are the bad guys in Raiders, and were even in present-day pictures like The Boys from Brazil — but when they made The Sound of Music in 1965, it was barely 20 years ago.

That’s like the dot-com boom until today, say. Or 9/11.

Media was different in the 70s, too. I mean, I figure most Heathen readers are about my age, but imagine trying to explain to someone that you couldn’t just watch most any movie you wanted whenever you liked. So when Sound finally came to television, in 1976, it was a big damn deal. From Wikipedia:

The first American television transmission of The Sound of Music was on February 29, 1976 on ABC, which paid $15 million (equivalent to $67,394,737 in 2019) for a one-time only broadcast that became one of the top 20 rated films shown on television to that point with a Nielsen rating of 33.6 and an audience share of 49%.

I added the emphasis. Imagine 49% of the TV watching public all watching the same thing today. It’s impossible. But in 1976, there were only 3 networks — plus PBS, and maybe the commodities channel. People watched what was on for the most part. Woe betide whatever was programmed against it on NBC and CBS!

I actually remember this night. My sister was a fairly new infant, and my parents were still married. I was a month away from my 6th birthday, but they allowed to stay up and watch it with them. I remember them singing along, and I must have dozed, but then I woke up to them singing with Plummer and then with everyone in this scene:

My mother could sing okay, but my dad really not at all. Didn’t matter; he was singing along, too. To this day, the song reminds me of that moment.

Godspeed, Christopher Plummer. 91 is a good long life, but I sure wouldn’t have minded if you’d hung out a bit longer. Someone snarky on Twitter noted that maybe this time would could get Kevin Spacey to replace Plummer?

“The band was formed when the members were teenaged pupils of Mount Temple Comprehensive School and had limited musical proficiency.”

It’s June 1, 1978. You and your mates in your high school band get to play on TV — national TV!

Bono here is freshly 18, as is Adam Clayton (who was born on my birthday 10 years prior). But Edge and Larry haven’t had their 1978 birthdays yet, and are just 16.

They’re all 60 now, or nearly so. They’re still in a band.

How Microsoft is Sucking Today

I have a LOT of stuff in Dropbox. It’s a great tool, and it’s fairly priced, and as such I’ve been using it across Mac, Windows, iOS and now Linux for a decade. It’s great.

However, I don’t always want EVERYTHING. I’ve realized that while this is great for iOS access, or for keeping my main working files synced across my main, backup, and Windows laptops, it’s a bad fit for temporary working files that I may want across multiple VMs within our virtual environments, so I turned on OneDrive for this.

I figured I’d just pull in files for ClientX and ClientY, because that’s what I’m working with right now. (DropBox HAS selective sync, but i have so much stuff in mine it’s easier to just manage this in parallel.)

Well. Now’s when I remember that MSFT can’t really do ANYTHING that isn’t fundamentally weird or broken or otherwise infected with terrible ideas from marketing. And here’s the example:

OneDrive assumes you want to include your Desktop, Documents, Pictures, and a few other things in your OneDrive sync automatically, and will not allow you to opt out because these folders are “special.” WTF, right?

I didn’t notice this until my CustomerX environment suddenly had a desktop full of other random working files, which was unwelcome. I tried to disable Desktop sync, but was stiffarmed, so I went back to the “master” virtual machine and tired to disable it there. Nope, same message: Desktop is “special” and can’t be unselected.

What I COULD do was unselect everything WITHIN Desktop, so I did that.

And then all the files in my master desktop disappeared.

After some poking around, it turns out OneDrive just took fucking CONTROL and moved all that data into the special OneDrive Desktop. Why? Fuck you, that’s why. Same with Documents, etc. It’s like transparency and predictability are COMPLETELY UNKNOWN in Redmond. Seriously, how did this kind of behavior get past beta?

Dropbox doesn’t do shit like this. You tell it what folder to sync, and go from there. What’s wrong with that approach? I guess, it’s just insufficiently invasive and weird.

It’s not just about OneDrive, though. I spend a LOT of time in virtual meetings. We use GoToMeeting, but we also end up joining client meetings set up in WebEx or Teams or Skype or even Zoom — basically whatever they have, if they want to set up the meeting. (We VASTLY prefer GTM, because it works way better, so mostly it’s that, but sometimes you gotta go to their house, so to speak.)

The new version of Teams is installed on my Windows environments, but, turns out, you cannot use it to join meetings set up by organizations you’re not a member of on Windows or MacOS. The only supported way to join on those systems is to use Edge or Chrome.

WAT.

I don’t have Chrome installed anywhere, so this means it’s impossible to join Teams meetings with customers from my Mac at all. (I use my iPad.)

Again: What the fuck were they thinking here? No other meeting platform is so goofy and limited. Even Skype worked better.

I swear, MSFT has been awful way more often than they’ve been good for my entire career, and that’s nearly as long as MSFT has existed.

Who Is Josh Hawley?

Well, the Times has you covered here.

Tl;dr? He’s a raging right-wing theocrat indistinguishable from the Taliban but for the flavor of religion.

In multiple speeches, an interview and a widely shared article for Christianity Today, Mr. Hawley has explained that the blame for society’s ills traces all the way back to Pelagius — a British-born monk who lived 17 centuries ago. In a 2019 commencement address at The King’s College, a small conservative Christian college devoted to “a biblical worldview,” Mr. Hawley denounced Pelagius for teaching that human beings have the freedom to choose how they live their lives and that grace comes to those who do good things, as opposed to those who believe the right doctrines.

The most eloquent summary of the Pelagian vision, Mr. Hawley went on to say, can be found in the Supreme Court’s 1992 opinion in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. Mr. Hawley specifically cited Justice Anthony Kennedy’s words reprovingly: “At the heart of liberty,” Kennedy wrote, “is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.” The fifth century church fathers were right to condemn this terrifying variety of heresy, Mr. Hawley argued: “Replacing it and repairing the harm it has caused is one of the challenges of our day.”

**In other words, Mr. Hawley’s idea of freedom is the freedom to conform to what he and his preferred religious authorities know to be right. ** Emph Added

Go read the whole thing.

26 Movies, from Zuckerspace

There’s a meme on FB asking folks to list their 26 favorite films. Obviously, I complied, but not in the expected way, and obviously too I’d prefer to have the list here.

& so:

  1. Moonrise Kingdom (Wes Anderson, 2012)
  2. Miller’s Crossing (Joel and Ethan Coen, 1990)
  3. The Hunt for Red October (John McTiernan, 1990)
  4. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (Russo Brothers, 2014)
  5. It’s A Wonderful Life (Frank Capra, 1946)
  6. Rushmore (Wes Anderson, 1998)
  7. True Grit (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2010)
  8. Reservoir Dogs (Quentin Tarantino, 1992)
  9. Arrival (Denis Villeneuve, 2016)
  10. Boyhood (Richard Linklater, 2014)
  11. Winter’s Bone (Debra Granik, 2010)
  12. Up (Pete Docter, 2009)
  13. No Country for Old Men (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2007)
  14. Ali (Michael Mann, 2001)
  15. Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (Peter Weir, 2003)
  16. The Shawshank Redemption (Frank Darabont, 1994)
  17. Goodfellas (Martin Scorsese, 1990)
  18. Star Wars (George Lucas, 1977)
  19. The Rocky Horror Picture Show (Jim Sharman, 1975)
  20. Airplane! (Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker, 1980)
  21. Sling Blade (Billy Bob Thornton, 1996)
  22. Henry V (Kenneth Branagh, 1989)
  23. The Station Agent (Tom McCarthy, 2003)
  24. Flesh and Bone (Steve Kloves, 1993)
  25. The Long Kiss Goodnight (Renny Harlin, 1996)
  26. Birdman (Alejandro Inarritu, 2014)

Of course, that’s just today; on another day, the list might be different.

However, the whole process reminded me of how much I loved Flesh and Bone, and so I thought ot look at Wikipedia. It was directed, as noted, by Steve Kloves, who also wrote it. Oddly, has directed only one other film — but his filmography is still pretty notable.

He wrote and directed The Fabulous Baker Boys in 1989, and then has writing credits on Wonder Boys and then on every Harry Potter film, which presumably kept him busy and fed for a while. There’s also a writing credit on The Amazing Spider-Man, and producer credits on the Fantastic Beasts films.

Then, at the bottom, is his upcoming return to the director’s chair: an adaptation of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Tim, though that’s been in dev hell for a while. The book is great, though, and it’d be fun to see this guy direct again.

What keeps software people up at night

This Atlantic piece has a pretty alarming title — The Coming Software Apocalypse — but, well, it’s not entirely wrong.

Thirty years ago, we wrote (mostly) to the bare metal. The whole system was plausibly knowable. Now, software is built on software that’s built on software; it’s turtles all the way down, and it’s impossible to understand the entirety of ANY modern effort — because even if you have perfect knowledge of YOUR code (or your organization’s code), you’re dependent on libraries and systems running below you that are opaque.

If all this was just about controlling your VCR or your favorite Office app, it might not matter as much, but we are insanely cavalier about software quality in places where lives are at stake — in 911 systems, in cars, and especially in avionics. But think also about power plants, or other critical areas of infrastructure. Software quality (avoidance of bugs, from the benign to the catastrophic) and software security (keeping others from exploiting the code) are quite often afterthoughts, if they’re thought of AT ALL.

(Incidentally, this is why most software people stay far, far away from “internet of things” gadgets controlled via apps and the cloud. They’re AWFUL from a security POV. And so is your car, most likely. And so is your so-called SmartTV. At our house, the Samsung isn’t even on the network — we use it as a dumb display panel, because we do not, and should not, trust Samsung’s code.)

The piece goes into some ways we might be able to ameliorate this in the future, and some of the steps are very technical and some honestly involve a bit of magical thinking. But a key aspect is taking these things seriously from the getgo, and not being cavalier about any of them (as, say, Jeep and Toyota have been).

Today in Copyright Shenanigans

This is low-key hilarious.

As many of you know, my father in law passed away Monday morning. As designated family tech and photo person, I’ve pulled together a set of pix from over the years and assembled a slide show for the family to use in the eventual service.

I used the Photos app on my Mac, because it’s easy to do, and it comes with themes and does a pretty good job of assembling transitions and stuff. It even comes with free-to-use background tracks!

Photos can export to video, and I then uploaded the video to YouTube to make it easy for my mother in law & etc to use and share.

Which is where it gets weird, because I just got this from YouTube’s copyright squad:

Blocked in Cuba, Iran, North Korea, and Syria

Fortunately, nobody in those countries will need to see the video. I am, however, wildly curious as to how Apple’s supposed free-to-use music is encumbered by copyright only in Cuba, Iran, North Korea, and Syria. I mean, WTF?

Six.

Here is a thing I do: I ride bikes.

I ride on the roads, not the bike paths, because we go fast. I ride in groups, when it’s not during a pandemic. We work together to cheat the wind, taking turns in front to poke a hole for the rest of us. It takes a lot of effort and time and no small amount of expense, but it’s immensely rewarding and exciting and fun, and as a side effect it’s good for you. I’m fitter at 50 than I was at 30. My resting heart rate is like 65, and my friends and I could ride a big two-day event like the traditional MS150 on any given weekend.

If it was anything else, someone would have an intervention. Probably Erin.

But it has risks, and I can tell you this from experience, because six years ago today, I had a pretty bad crash. I went down in a paceline on a rainy ride the Thursday before Thanksgiving, and broke my left hip.

44 year olds don’t break hips. It’s rare enough that they actually called what happened to me something different (“high energy fracture of the femoral neck”) based on circumstance and I guess bone density and, apparently, angle of break. But it’s the same bone that snapped when your aunt Millie fell off the couch reaching for the remote.

The “good” news was that, well, biomechanically, it’s an easy fix. It’s not like one of those joints like your knee or angle that has a bunch of complicated soft tissue stuff going on, and that once ruined is never right again. The “bad” news was that I was too young to do a straight replacement — which has a super fast recovery window, and often results in patients walking out of the hospital on the new joint — so they repaired me. Apparently, it’s better to have your own bone, and also at 44 and active I’d likely wear the joint out in 20 or so years, and then need a replacement replacement in my 60s, and that’s not something they want to set you up for.

So: I got scaffolding. It looks like this:

My hip x-ray

This also meant I wasn’t allowed to put ANY weight on the leg for three months, which necessarily means that once cleared for weight bearing I would be in Atrophy City. I used a walker through the holidays, finally was cleared to PT, and graduated to a cane by February. The cane was a companion through the following summer, really, before I was finally able to give it up.

I didn’t ride again until late March of 2015, and at that only 27 miles. But I rode. I wasn’t really “back” in any real sense until mid-summer, when I did a metric century with some friends at a real pace (20-ish), 9 or so months after my crash.

It was a long road, and I haven’t even mentioned the site infection, the PIC line, or all the added stress that Erin carried for the duration of the process. I honestly don’t know how I would’ve handled it all without her. Because she is awesome. But if you know me well enough to be reading this, you’re also nodding your head and saying “Obviously, you doofus, you married WAY the hell up.” I know, people, I know.

So now, six years later, I’m a stronger rider than I was then. I came back, with the help and encouragement of lots of people. The injury isn’t a total memory — I have some pain in the soft tissue of the joint on that side, sometimes. If I overwork it, I’ll ache and limp. I’m taking steps to work through that, but i suspect some left-side weirdness will be a companion as long as I’m active. I’ll take it, though, because I’m just happy to be here, healthy and happy and active, even in this weirdest of years.

Who wants to go ride bikes?

Because hope is always welcome.

I follow, and have for years and years, a nerd-culture stick-figure comic strip called xkcd. It doesn’t stand for anything.

Ten years ago, the author posted cryptically about a family illness.

The following spring he elaborated: It was his fiancee, and it was stage III breast cancer. Both of them were very young — mid 20s — this was, as he notes, seriously bolt-from-the-blue territory.

One of his more famous comics, called Lanes, came not long after, in summer 2011, along with a more lighthearted take on the process. The following summer, he ran Emotion.

Then, in 2012, he published Two Years.

And in 2017, he followed with Seven Years.

This month, he wrote Ten Years.

Hope and joy and grace can be found, even in weird, dark times.

Just a chat with George

I’m not entirely sure what we did to deserve George Clooney, but, well, we got him anyway.

This long GQ profile/interview is pretty great, and includes the long-sought official confirmation that the “Clooney once gave his best friends a million bucks each, in cash” story is 100% true.

The best part:

“You know, it’s funny,” Clooney says. “I remember talking to one really rich asshole who I ran into in a hotel in Vegas—certainly a lot richer than I am. And I remember the story about the cash had come out, and he was like, ‘Why would you do that?’ ”

Clooney smiles. “And I was like, ‘Why wouldn’t you do that, you schmuck?’ ”

Pleased to meet you.

Lord knows I’m mostly out of patience for boomer-era culture, but there’s absolutely nothing deniable about the Stones in their heyday.

This is the first performance of “Sympathy for the Devil,” from 1968 concert film “The Rolling Stones’ Rock and Roll Circus,” so they’re basically at their peak. It’s also the last performance (apparently) with Brian Jones, who’d be ejected from the band — and planet Earth — within a year.

Watch for John Lennon dancing at about 5 minutes. ;)

The S definitely does not stand for “super”

Somehow I missed it — well, not somehow; I know how — but about 2 years ago, Microsoft introduced something they call “Window S Mode” on new non-professional editions of Windows.

If you’re in S mode, you literally cannot install any software that doesn’t come from the (hamstrung, poorly populated, very limited) Microsoft Store. I only ran into this today because we’re trying to get a new consultant up and running on the double, so we dropshipped a consumer grade laptop to him when Dell couldn’t get him a “real” one before December (about which: WTF?), and it came with Windows Home.

The new guy needed some help getting software installed, and so as is our usual approach I got him on a GoToMeeting session intending to use the meeting’s remote control features to get things rolling quickly. Except now GTM kinda of biases its web app, which doesn’t allow remote control.

No problem; I’m used to walking folks through switching to the desktop app, which does support remote control.

Except the steps that usually result in downloading and running the GTM desktop installer kept shunting him into the Windows Store, in which there is no GTM app. WTF?

Oh yeah. S mode.

As an aside, let me say this: I know what they’re doing here. S Mode is an attempt to copy what Apple did several years ago. New Macs ship with an option set so that they’ll only run software from the Mac App Store. Superficially, this is the same, except:

  1. On a Mac, changing the setting is dead easy; it’s just an option in the Mac version of the Control Panel. On Windows, you have to follow a much more complex path that requires you to have a sign-in with Microsoft.

  2. On a Mac, you can just turn this setting back the other way any time you want. On Windows, it’s a one-way change. You can’t return to S mode later.

So even when Redmond copies, they fuck it up. I mean, I’m supportive of machines coming configured more for Aunt Millie than the likes of me, but the pathway out of this more limited mode has to be much, much more transparent and simple. Don’t get in my fucking way and tell me it’s for my own good. And for the love of Christ don’t do it on a computer where adults are trying to work.

This bear is dead.

There are probably lots of dead bears available in bear-infested areas, but this one is mostly interested because (a) it’s been dead for more than 20,000 years and (b) it’s insanely well preservedhttps://boingboing.net/2020/09/15/scientists-find-preserved-cave.html). Like, soft tissue is relatively intact. Organs. Nose. Fur. It’s amazing.

(And is pretty clearly only coming to light because, well, the permafrost isn’t so permanent anymore. Still! Silver lining?)

Billy Joe Shaver, dead at 81

My friend Andrew penned the Chronicle coverage:

Billy Joe Shaver — a honky-tonk hero so original he coined the phrase “honky-tonk hero” — has died of a stroke. He was 81.

Shaver was without question one of the greatest songwriters Texas produced, which made him among the best in the larger field of music. He mined his life for songs about drifting and dabbling, all manner of ill-advised behaviors that seemed certain to put him in the grave before age 81. “The devil made me do it the first time,” he sang in “Black Rose,” a song about visiting a brothel. “Second time I done it on my own.”

His lyrical sensibility had a natural quality that defied all training and logic. He wrote like he spoke, and it nevertheless came out as poetry. That style endeared him to some of the biggest country music stars of the 1970s. While Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson were the face of what became known as Outlaw country in the 1970s, Shaver didn’t enjoy the same spoils of success as those two men. There was no golfing to fill Billy Joe Shaver’s time.

Whether at a gig or between shows, he ambled around in the same denim shirt and jeans — songwriter Todd Snider called him “the Man in Blue” — hair wild and squinting eyes gleaming with notions of pending trouble. He endured the death of his wife and his son, a heart attack and a quadruple bypass and a broken back. He was acquitted for shooting a man in the face.

A few years back, I was talking with some friends over drinks about whether or not my then-20+ year tenure in Texas has naturalized me to “true Texan” status. The natives were unsure about it — until I told them this:

I’ve shaken Billy Joe Shaver’s hand in Gruene Hall.

I’ll hang my hat on that. Godspeed, Billy Joe.

Today in Rando Pop Culture Knowledge

During the time Kenan Thompson has been on SNL, he has seen fully 25 people come and go — i.e., have their entire SNL career.

  1. Finesse Mitchell (started the same year)
  2. Rob Riggle
  3. Jason Sudeikis
  4. Bill Hader
  5. Andy Samberg
  6. Kristen Wiig
  7. Casey Wilson
  8. Abby Elliott
  9. Bobby Moynihan
  10. Michaela Watkins
  11. Nasim Pedrad
  12. Jenny Slate
  13. Vanessa Bayer
  14. Paul Brittain
  15. Taran Killam
  16. Jay Pharoah
  17. Tim Robinson
  18. John Milhiser
  19. Mike O’Brien
  20. Noel Wells
  21. Brooks Wheelan
  22. Sasheer Zamata
  23. Leslie Jones
  24. Jon Rudinsky
  25. Luke Null

“Only” 158 people have ever been in the cast at SNL. 16% of those have had their ENTIRE CAREER happen while he’s been on the show.

All in, Kenan has shared the bill with 52 cast members — those 25, plus anyone who was already on the cast when he was hired (Armisen, Dratch, Fallon, Fey, Forte, Hammond, Meyers, Parnell, Richards, Rudolph, and Sanz) plus all those still ON the cast (16 people at the end of last season, plus himself).

IOW, he’s been cast with just over 33% of all cast members of SNL ever.

As if we needed more proof that Customs & Border Patrol is a rogue, garbage organization

Please “enjoy” this story from former US diplomat Tianna Spears who was constantly harassed by CBP at the Juarez/El Paso border crossing despite carrying diplomatic credentials and a SENTRI authorization.

These people behave like this because they enjoy it, and because there is zero accountability. As with most law enforcement groups, the first response to reports and evidence of misconduct is to circle the wagons, blame the victim, and insist no wrongs were committed.

It is never convincing. But they don’t MEAN for it to be convincing, because they know that, unless something serious changes, no consequences will accrue to the organization or the individuals responsible. And in the meantime, they managed to hound a bright young diplomat out of the Foreign Service.

I swear to god, I really have no understanding why Black Americans would feel any warmth towards this country. It baffles me.

From the Archives, sorta

My love for the comedy troupe The State is well documented, but somehow I never saw this piece in Details back in 1996 about their ill-fated and almost-never-seen network debut, a Halloween special on CBS on a random Friday night that year.

Nothing went well, obviously, or the group would’ve gotten bigger instead of staying a cult favorite. Lots of the alums went on to bigger success — several in Reno 911!, Wet Hot American Summer, and obviously Joe Lo Truglio in Brooklyn Nine-Nine — but this mostly marked the end of The State as a going concern, which is sad.

Anyway, this article — written by a comedy writer who worked with them for the special — is a great time capsule, and it includes a laugh-out-loud treat for modern readers. Hint: watch out for the name of a particular day player, then essentially unknown with a single credit, now hugely famous & festooned with awards.

Throwback Friday: The Model 100

This is a double throwback, since I’ve apparently had this tab open for over a year, but feast your eyes on this sales training video for Radio Shack’s TRS-80 Model 100, a sort of proto-laptop introduced in the early 1980s.

My pal Rob actually had one of these in high school, which was astounding (later, Rob had the first Mac I ever saw, purchased the summer before he left for Rice). For the era, it was really amazingly capable — and as such, found a quick market with anyone who needed to write on the go, such as journalists. Remember, at the time, the alternative was to phone in copy.

Oh, the cheek!

Years ago when I was doing more travel, I signed up for a State Department notification list. I get mails about whether or not State thinks it’s a good idea to go to country X or whatever.

There isn’t much activity on the list, so I forgot about it until this morning, when I noticed a message saying I maybe shouldn’t go to the UAE.

Well, first, thanks. Wasn’t planning on it, but good to know.

And second, it’s goddamn hilarious that State is telling us where not to go, because at this point the US is basically already on everybody’s no-go list due to our abject failure in containing COVID-19, so it’s cute they’re saying “don’t go to place X” when most places at this point are safer than staying in the good ol’ USA.

Sigh.