In the interest of efficient news-spreading

  1. Yes, I’m in the hospital. I’ll probably go home tomorrow (Monday).

  2. I took an unfeasibly hard fall on my bike on Thursday night.

  3. Riding in a group, the person in front of me lost control. In an effort to avoid hitting her, I went down myself. In efforts to avoid hitting me and the first person, several other people also went down.

  4. I took the full force of the fall on my hip joint, which was apparently enough to break it. No one else, to my knowledge, required medical help, but I was a bit out of it at the time from the pain (I didn’t hit my head at all, though).

  5. Yes, this is precisely as unpleasant as it sounds.

  6. Yes, the bike is fine.

  7. In this one event, I started down a path wherein I achieved many personal firsts: first bike fall, first broken bone ever, first ambulance ride, first oxygen cannula, first IV, first experience with opiods, first actual hospital stay, first CAT scan, etc.

  8. Oh, and first surgery. You can’t just put a cast on this, so they patched me up with a plate and some pins.

  9. No, it is not clear if I’m going to be setting off metal detectors going forward. I should probably ask about that. My bet is yes.

  10. All things considered, I’m doing fine. Despite the pain of the initial injury, there’s nothing like being in the ER around people with actually no-shit life threatening problems to put your plight in perspective. Plus, most of you people are on Facebook and have been commenting and messaging me with all manner of support, so I’ll repeat what I said there: I’m a lucky, lucky man to have you all in my corner.

Top Nine Awesome Nines

9. Revolution 9, because if it’s not included some superannuated Beatlemania holdout somewhere will bitch about it.

8. 9mm, that most democratic of calibers.

7. The 9 Rings of Power given to men, and their bearers the Nazgul.

6. The number of times Ferris Bueller was absent, which should be a lesson to us all.

5. The number of planets there REALLY are, at least for old folks like me, dammit.

4. Beethoven’s Ninth, which we all know by heart.

3. The best of the appeals courts, the Ninth.

2. i, the first person pronoun, square root of negative one, and NINTH LETTER.

1. NINE YEARS WITH MRS HEATHEN. Best nine of all, ever. I love you, Erin.

Dept. of Cycling Milestones

Midway through my ride tonight, I stopped to snap this:

5000 miles

That’s total miles on my Surly, which attentive readers will recall is actually my SECOND Surly, purchased in August of 2012.

Fun fact: According to Strava, 2,575 of those miles are since April of this year.

Wisdom from Vonnegut

Found over at Merlin’s joint:

[When Vonnegut tells his wife he’s going out to buy an envelope] Oh, she says, well, you’re not a poor man. You know, why don’t you go online and buy a hundred envelopes and put them in the closet? And so I pretend not to hear her. And go out to get an envelope because I’m going to have a hell of a good time in the process of buying one envelope. I meet a lot of people. And, see some great looking babes. And a fire engine goes by. And I give them the thumbs up. And, and ask a woman what kind of dog that is. And, and I don’t know. The moral of the story is, is we’re here on Earth to fart around. And, of course, the computers will do us out of that. And, what the computer people don’t realize, or they don’t care, is we’re dancing animals. You know, we love to move around. And, we’re not supposed to dance at all anymore.

Dept. of Amusing Stats

Just a bit ago, my brother called to find out the amount we’d paid for taxes on our farm property this year. I didn’t know offhand, so I went to my bank to find out. Not recalling when I’d written that check, but knowing I probably wrote very few checks this year, I just asked it to give me a list of all the checks I’d written in 2014.

There were three. One to the AC guy, one to the tax guy, and one to the State of Mississippi.

(Where’s my IRS check, you wonder? Well, turns out, back in April I couldn’t find my checks, so Mrs. Heathen wrote that one.)

Sorta makes me wonder how my former employer is doing, but not really enough to check — though the fact that they don’t even have a site of their own is sort of telling.

Look. Lots of things suck. But here’s some good things.

Sure, it’s about Robin Williams, but the stories keep coming in.

First is David Letterman’s tribute is touching and wonderful, just as we’d expect. David remembers being a young performer with Williams at places like the Comedy Store, and in particular how even very early on, Robin reached out to help those around him. Case in point: he got then-unknown Letterman a guest shot on Mork & Mindy.

Dana Gould, another gifted comedy writer and standup performer, had this remembrance to share about a time when Williams was especially kind and perceptive:

Two years ago, I was performing at The Punchline in San Francisco, and Robin came to the show with our mutual friend, Dan Spencer.

This particular batch of material was the first time I had touched upon my then still-fresh divorce wounds, and big chunks of it were pretty dark. The next day, I got a text from a number I didn’t recognize. Whoever it was had obviously been to the show and knew my number, so I figured they would reveal themselves at some point and save me the embarrassment of asking who they were.

The Mystery Texter asked how I was REALLY doing. “You can’t fool me. Some of those ‘jokes’ aren’t ‘jokes.” By now I knew that whoever this was had been through what I was enduring, as no one else would know to ask, “What time of day is the hardest?”

He wanted to know how my kids were handling it, all the while assuring me that the storm, as bleak as it was, would one day pass and that I was not, as I was then convinced, a terrible father for visiting a broken home upon my children.

I am not rewriting this story in retrospect to make it dramatic. I did not know who I was texting with. Finally, my phone blipped, and I saw, in a little green square, “Okay, pal. You got my number. Call me. I’ve been there. You’re going to be okay. – Robin.”

That is what you call a human being.

It is terrible that he’s gone. It is wonderful and touching to hear these stories, though, about simple human kindnesses.

HOWTO: Blow Your Kid’s Mind

Give them a secret treasure room:

When we bought our house two years ago The Boy was not quite 2 years old. The room that was to be his had a storage room attached to it. Our roof pitch is really steep next to his room, so it forms a triangular room 7 feet by 12 feet. The door is about 2 feet by 4 feet.

The storage room, aka “The Secret Room” had an old linoleum floor, a light with a switch, some wood paneling and some exposed insulation. At the time it was certainly not fit for the kids to use. And we didn’t figure a 2-year-old needed an extra room, but we agreed it would make an awesome surprise for The Boy at some point. So the dresser was parked in front of the door and The Boy had no idea for over two years!

Click through; they outfit it for him while he’s at school, and then surprise him with a secret hideout connected to his own room.

Dept. of Silly Cycling Things

Someone has invented a new cycling “competition.” Well, let’s call it an activity, or maybe a misadventure. It’s called Everesting, and the gist is this:

  • You pick a cycling climb somewhere near you
  • Sort out its elevation gain
  • Ride repeats until you gain 8,848 meters (29,029 feet in American)
  • Claim your Everest!

Right. Very, very silly.

My first thought was “gosh, that’s absurd.”

My second was “I’ll bet you can’t do that in Houston without riding way more than a century,” and it turns out I’m right.

The tallest bridge in the area is the Kemah bridge. It’s got an elevation gain of 66 feet, an average grade of 4%, and is half a mile long.

You’d have to ride it 440 times, covering 220 miles, to claim an Everest.

Then, after my ride tonight, I noticed something disheartening. I only started using Strava in April, so I’m missing the first three months of the year, but these are my YTD stats:

Screen Shot 2014 08 07 at 8 17 15 PM

That’s right. Given that about 5,000 feet of my climbing was on the MS150, it’s entirely possible I won’t ride an Everest’s worth of climbing in the whole of 2014.

Dept. of Cycling Milestones

When I bought my Surly — well, my SECOND Surly, after the first one was stolen — in August of 2012, I had them put a simple little bike computer on it to track speed, distance, time, etc.

It includes a “life of bike” mileage counter.

Today, as I finished my ride, that counter said this:

2014 07 24 20 48 40

About 1,500 of that is since I started using Strava right before the MS150 (it keeps track, too). (For that matter, I’m working on my 8th 100-mile week in a row…)

I like biking.

Alert: Heathen Birthdays

Today is the birthday of two important Heathen: one of my very oldest friends, and one of my very newest.

This is Agent R. He and I were geeky Boy Scouts together more than 30 years ago. He had the first modem I ever saw, not to mention — years later — the first CD player. He’s pictured here with someone who I trust will become a friend, but whom I have not yet met.

BpKpXFFIEAE jtJ

And this here is the tiniest niblet o’corn ever, Miss E. I. H., late of the Glenbrook Valley area and, as of a few weeks ago, our goddaughter. As Agent R completes his forty-fifth (!) trip around the sun, this little delight finishes her first lap.

P4260268

Happy birthday to both.

“Mostly snakes”

As reasonable a description of Pentecostalism’s origins as you’re likely to find:

my favorite thing about Pentecostal snake handling is that at some point somebody read the whole Bible and his one takeaway was “SNAKES”

“what did you get out of the Bible, Jim”

“mostly that we should touch snakes”

“anything else”

“there was some guy but mostly snakes”

Seen on Maud Newton’s blog, but the author is apparently this dude.

Life in the Future

I got one of those “reminder” mails from LinkedIn today, telling me to congratulate a few folks on work anniversaries.

The first reminder in this email, though, was wrong on a scale not ordinarily seen.

  • First, I know that today is not MV’s sixth anniversary at $company, because he helped found that company in 1997.
  • Second, I know that today is not his anniversary there because he left that company over two years ago.
  • Third, I know that today is not his anniversary there because he’s been dead since September of 2012.

But good try, LinkedIn. Good try.

But was the 150 FUN?

Exhibit A: GoPro footage from a teammate edited down to 2:38; look for me at about 1:05, as we roll into Austin in a giant group.

“We ride bikes. We drink beer.”

Hey Chet! How was your weekend?

Glad you asked! I had a little adventure, as I think you are aware.

Day One

We started bright and early on Saturday morning, though a little less bright and a little less early than we intended. It worked out for the best, at least for me, in that I ended up riding alone with a faster teammate (who’d also been running late) until we got to Belleville, about 45-50 miles into the 100 mile first day (link’s to the Garmin site, and contains basically all the data captured on the ride). Riding with Adrian made me faster, partly because riding with someone is just better, and partly because I could draft him (thanks, man).

Consequently, I covered the first 40 miles at a generally unheard-of for me average speed of 17 MPH. That’s not fast by serious bike standards, but it’s absolutely a personal best for me. (It would be unsporting not to note the tailwind, of course.)

Adrian and I parted ways in Belleville, as I said; he took the official lunch stop, which remains criminally awful, apparently — you get a sandwich fit for a 3rd grader and crappy pasta salad with several thousand of your closest friends. It’s no wonder many of the bigger, richer teams opt for a private lunch stop. I took a page out of their books, though, and staged refreshments with my dear pals the Acostas, who also provided lunch and a special cheering section at the edge of their Belleville ranch:

419200673332

That beat the pants off the circus that was “official” lunch. I paused there for 15 or 20 minutes before riding on, refreshed and at least somewhat rested and theoretically ready to tackle the hardest miles of the ride, in my opinion: Belleville to Fayetteville. If you click through to the Garmin site on the link above, the first graph below the map is my speed plotted over a Y-axis of either time or distance. You can easily see both the wreck-mandated stop about 15 miles into the ride, and the sudden yo-yo of my velocity as I hit the hills at about mile 44; sadly, I never sustained that kind of speed again on either day, but that’s what crosswinds and hills will do for you.

Screen Shot 2014 04 14 at 4 10 53 PM

(The graph never hits zero because the Garmin autopauses if you stop; however, the deep dips at mile 51 and mile 58 are (a) me stopping to call Edgar and verify his location and (b) the actual lunch stop; other, later deep dips are also rest stops.)

To be fair, the real killer for my speed after lunch was the rolling hills. As Garmin link shows, you end up doing about 3,000 vertical feet of climbing on the day one route, which isn’t exactly trivial, and doesn’t get erased by the fact that you’re basically climbing the same few hundred feet over and over (the actual elevation difference between Houston and La Grange is only about 300 feet).

The best I can say about the rest of the ride is that it wasn’t always windy and hilly. But when it wasn’t windy, it was hilly; and when it wasn’t hilly, it was windy. And the worst winds, sadly, came on the final stretch down 2145 to La Grange’s Jefferson Street, when we turned more or less INTO the wind down a stretch of road with very little protection. That you’re almost done (maybe 7 to go?) at that point doesn’t help much when the wind hits you.

Around this point I realized that the course was slightly short, at least according to the Garmin. If you zoom into the map closely, you can see how I handled it. Once I realized I was only going to log 99.2 miles, I turned around and backtracked for 0.4 miles before heading in. Think about it: would YOU spend 7 hours in the saddle and NOT have your GPS say you rode the full century?

Screen Shot 2014 04 14 at 4 14 18 PM

The other fun thing is something Strava calculates for you. Strava, if you don’t know, is sort of a cycling Facebook that’s gaining steam largely because of the way that make it simple to compare your performance to other cyclists. One of their metrics is the Suffer Score. I knew I was miserable towards the end, and it appears I now have the metrics to prove it!

Epic suffer score, brah!

“Epic suffer score, Brah!”

Day Two

I’m pretty sure that graphic is also the punchline for day two, because I didn’t (and couldn’t) hit it nearly as hard. I felt pretty low energy, and the storm clouds brewing certainly weren’t helping my mood. I couldn’t seem to make my legs work as hard as they had on Saturday (hello, fatigue — unsurprisingly this shows up in the stats as persistently lower heart rate).

Even though day two is much shorter — “only” about 68 miles — this time around I had real trouble, and I think it was both pushing so much harder on Saturday, and then not getting fueled enough early enough on Sunday.

Fortunately, I got to address both of those after lunch. The team started trying to ride together starting at the next-to-last stop — we actually rolled out of that one in a pace line 15 or more riders long, much to the chagrin of some uptight folks on other teams — and got serious about it in the last 10-12 miles.

Here’s the line; I’m not in this shot, which means I was either further up or further back, but it gives you an idea how it was going at that point:

NewImage

This process took effort, because even with the fastest guys holding back, and middle-of-the-pack guys like me, it took time for the slowest folks to catch up with us. We took long breaks at the final rest stop, and then at two different appointed “rallying points” before we rolled into Austin proper — and then held up again, super close to the finish, to make sure three more could join who’d been delayed by a flat.

The result of all this was super worth it, though. For one thing, I’d recovered enough that I could ride the hills hard in downtown Austin, and for another it meant that about sixty of us crossed the finish line in a giant blur of red and blue, and let me tell you how awesome that felt!

So, what have we learned?

  • I will say, though, again and for the record, Austin needs to just give the fuck up on the pylon thing. They’ve tried both years to sequester the cyclists into a single lane (potentially workable, on a smaller event) or even into the bike lane (absolutely impossible). There are 15,000 bikers riding into Austin on the Sunday of the 150, and we travel in packs. It’s unsafe to try to compress them too much in the last stretch, and downright absurd to put actively hazardous items in their way. The cones get hit and shoved all over the place, and you can’t see them until the last second when you’re riding in a pack.

    Both years I’ve ridden outside the pylons for a good chunk of the Austin course because it’s SAFER to be where it’s less crowded. Seriously, Austin, get a clue.

  • Energy is key. I’m still not so great about eating enough on distance rides, and that hurt me later in the day on Saturday, and for much of the day on Sunday.

  • The Garmin LiveTrack is awesome — I’m shocked at how well it worked — but it needs juice, too. Even though it was only trickling data up to the web, the phone gave up the ghost about 75 miles in on Saturday, which certain people found alarming. I rode with a backup battery on Sunday, so the LiveTrack stayed up.

  • I gotta stay on the training treadmill all year. I’d have had much faster rides both days if I were stronger, and I’d be stronger (and lighter) if I hadn’t taken like 5 months off from riding entirely. Oops.

  • Being loudest has its advantages; this is my team winning best jersey, awarded based on fan noise (video to follow):

419362627547

Will you be back next year?

Oh, indeed. Karbach uber alles!

From the “we don’t care if it’s 100% true, it’s still awesome” files

Suppose you’re underage in the early 1990s, and live in Austin. Suppose you really, really want to get into shows, and suppose further than a friend of yours comes by an actual Texas drivers’ license that at least vaguely resembles you — except it’s for a slightly older person. Old enough to get into the bars.

You’ve hit the underage jackpot, for sure; FAKE IDs are risky and rarely work, unless you spend big bucks forging (which is itself illegal). But a real DL that looks like you? FLAWLESS VICTORY.

Turns out, though, the story gets better, largely because of the circumstances under which, in 1994, the ID became utterly useless to our young hero.

Curious? You know you are..

Right, so…

…it’s my birthday. I’m 44, which is my first palindromic age since 2003.

Pretty sure this won’t happen again, as it did fourteen years ago when my attorney ran down Heights Boulevard with a shopping cart full of fire:

Edgar cart2

And I’m pretty sure there will be no need to subdue needlessly cheery meat-and-whiskey-filled piñatas, as we did four years ago:

IMG 5053

But some tomfoolery, either today or tomorrow, is more or less guaranteed.

In which we quote wisdom from, of all places, Tumblr

I think the most important thing that facebook is going to do for humanity in general and the United States in particular, as a society, is inform us which of our friends/relatives/acquaintances are fucking idiots that we really should not associate with at all.

From Will’s Tumblr.

This maps closely to another quote, the specifics and citation for which I’ve lost, to the effect of “Twitter makes me want to buy drinks for people I don’t know, and Facebook makes me want to punch my friends and family.”

Decrypting Wiggins

Some of you have met our cat, Wiggins. Wiggins is one of those cats with no unvoiced thoughts. She has lots to say, but it really hasn’t been clear what it was. Until now.

Using cutting-edge linguistic techniques, we have isolated her primary messages:

  • “I am in a room, but the people are in some other room, and I cannot find them.”
  • “I am in a room, and there are people in it, but it is the wrong room.”

Despite the breakthrough nature of this discovery, it’s not at all clear what actions we’ll take as a result.

Except, I guess, occasionally changing rooms.

Here I Go Again: the 2014 MS150

It’s springtime in Houston, and that means we’re all spooling up for another MS150.

Last year, I thought I’d be one-and-done with this, just proving to myself that I could do it. Well, I did it — and rode the century on day one, even — but I had so much fun that repeating with the Karbach Team was never in doubt. We’ve already started the training rides again.

Last year, you, my friends, helped make me the number one fundraiser for the Karbach team. I don’t mean to take anything away from that, but I don’t think it’s possible for me to repeat: someone is already out in front by a long, long margin (check it out). That said, though, I’d love to make my mark once again. And it’s up to y’all to help me out. Can I count on you?

Thanks, all of you, for the tremendous support you gave me last year. It was remarkably motivating, and you helped make a real difference for the NMSS. Let’s do it again.

Dept. of Doug Adams being Wise

This was all over the net a month or so ago, but it’s worth a review:

I suppose earlier generations had to sit through all this huffing and puffing with the invention of television, the phone, cinema, radio, the car, the bicycle, printing, the wheel and so on, but you would think we would learn the way these things work, which is this:

1) everything that’s already in the world when you’re born is just normal;

2) anything that gets invented between then and before you turn thirty is incredibly exciting and creative and with any luck you can make a career out of it;

3) anything that gets invented after you’re thirty is against the natural order of things and the beginning of the end of civilisation as we know it until it’s been around for about ten years when it gradually turns out to be alright really.

Apply this list to movies, rock music, word processors and mobile phones to work out how old you are.

Oh, AT&T. By what black magic have you managed to monetize customer annoyance?

So, imagine if you will that you have a question about your AT&T bill — a document of such unfathomably needless complexity that it seems obviously designed to allow those goatfuckers to slip extra charges in whenever they want.

First, of course, you do some mental math to determine of the possible value of the question makes it worth your while to call AT&T. Be honest with yourself: you know good and damn well that you’ll have to deal with a voice menu system that’s calculated to make you abandon your call, and then deal with a poorly trained offshore resource who cannot deviate from his menu — a menu that’s chock full of boilerplate phrases about how much they value your time and business (i.e., lies) but are instead designed to waste your time — and who cannot actually help you with anything, but (like the ARU) is doubtless in the mix to encourage even more callers to give up in despair before reaching the vanishingly few number of reps who might actually know something helpful.

But you persevere. You stay with it, even after they transfer you, even after re-entering your account number multiple times (and re-read it to operators), and and even after being hung up on during “transfers”.

Finally, you get to someone who might actually be able to help. You try to pose your billing question, but are interrupted by the poor sop in India who insists that you answer your security question.

Ok, fine.

Except, of course — you saw this coming, didn’t you? — the security question makes no sense at all. It’s something you never would have picked. You have no idea what the answer is. And because of this, they won’t help you.

Fuck.

Apparently, the Indian lets slip, this security question is sometimes set accidentally by AT&T. It happens. So you go back to the “My ATT” (if only!) site, keeping your Indian on the line all the while, and quickly navigate to the carefully hidden Security Options page so that you can reset your security question to something you actually know.

Here’s where it gets awesome: the security questions on MyATT? Totally unrelated to the one the Indian is asking you. There are two on MyATT. They make sense. You obviously picked them. But neither of them are the one the Indian on the phone demands you answer.

It will eventually be revealed that the question they ask when you call is a completely DIFFERENT question, unrelated to the ones you can set online. And, just to be safe, there is NO WAY to change the call-in security question except by calling in and answering it.

Somebody at AT&T seems to have mistaken a certain postwar novel for an instruction manual.

As for me, at this point? There was yelling. There was a language barrier, but I’m pretty sure yelling is universal. I did, eventually, succeed in getting it reset to something I know. It only took 90 minutes. And then they explained the bill. Finally.

Jesus fucking Christ on a pogo stick with a side of beans, these people suck. Will NO ONE create a telco that doesn’t seem completely invested in fucking us over? Where the fuck are the regulators? Bring these goatfuckers to heel, for the love of all that’s holy.