You just assume you’ll have more time. You’re wrong.

Houston is a funny old town. People say that it’s the smallest town of 7 million they’ve ever seen, and they’re not wrong. I’ve got dozens of stories that prove the point, but none as good as this one.

I ride a lot. If it was anything else, Erin would’ve had an intervention by now. It had been a thing for a while, but after my second MS150 I had a taste of a level of fitness I’d never had before, and I decided to keep pushing at the same pace. (That pace — 100 miles a week, give or take — has turned out to be the pace of my cycling life ever since.)

As part of that, I joined a ride out of a local shop that ran every Tuesday and Thursday evening. I gauged my gains in speed by how long I could keep the front group in sight. At first, it was “oh, about 10 minutes,” but I got stronger and stronger and was eventually able to hang with them a pretty long way into the ride — sometimes, all the way to the cutoff between the short version of the route and the long one. I always took the short one, to get home and have dinner with Erin, and it seems like a minor thing but the very idea of holding on until Brompton was like winning the Tour for me at the time.

Then, as I guess most of you know, my crash happened, and I was out for a while.

The funny small-town part of this comes in now. I was at an Easter party thrown every year by our pals the Britton-Dansbys, in line for food, when a guy I didn’t recognize started chatting with me about riding. “You ready to ride again?”

Uh, what?

It took me a minute to figure it out, but my interrogator was Dan, a guy I knew from the Tuesday/Thursday ride. Dan is a gruff but profoundly kind guy, and a terribly strong rider, but I couldn’t figure out why he was at Andrew and Nicki’s house. Turns out, Dan was a Chronicle writer, just like our hosts.

And more than that: it wasn’t just Dan. It was Dan, and also two other guys from our ride: Dane and Andy. And it turned out that, unbeknownst to any of us, we’d been attending the same parties at a couple different Chronicle-connected homes for YEARS without realizing it. Dane was less regular, but when I got my legs back under me I rode with Dan and Andy and couple other guys twice a week, every week, for years.

Andy was a quiet sort, but like Dan unfailingly kind and encouraging — I was never on his or Dan’s level, but they’d hold back and let me catch up before putting the hammer down again. Cycling is suffering like that. It’s what we do. It makes you stronger, and at that time in my life the encouragement I got from these guys was priceless.

I remember, very clearly, the Tuesday ride after Bowie died and left us Blackstar. Andy was a fan, too, and at every stoplight we were chattering about how amazing the record was. Normally pretty reserved, his enthusiasm here was striking and disarming and pure — the kind of vibe that just makes you feel better for being near it, you know?

Time passed and I shifted my midweek rides to workouts — more time efficient, more impactful — and the Tuesday/Thursday ride petered out. I’d still see Dan and Andy and the other guys on other rides, but nowhere nearly as often as I’d have liked. We’d run into each other at the Odell parties, or Easter or Thanksgiving at the Britton-Dansby house, and every time I’d think to myself I should make more time to see Dan and Andy and oodles of other people that you meet, but never seem to see often enough. People get busy. It’s a thing. There will be time later.

There’s no more time, though, for Andy. He died on Saturday. He would’ve turned 47 in December.

Hug those near you. Reach out to those you wish you knew better. Sometimes, cliches are true: nobody knows how much time is left, for anything at all.

Andrew Dansby wrote the obit. If you feel so moved, Andy’s wife has asked that donations be made to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, a cause already close to my heart.

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?

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.

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?)

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.

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.

So you’re working from home…

Let’s talk about working from home.

So the whole damn world is on lockdown, or should be, and those of us that can work from home are doing so. This is good! It’s better for the economy — which is absolutely going to take a hit, so having some portions able to continue to function and those employed in those portions able to keep spending money will help the recovery.

(And, let me just say this out loud: If you’re in a job that isn’t impacted, and you expect to keep getting a check, SPEND SOME DAMN MONEY at places that are hurting.)

But working from home is a new idea to lots of you. You might never have really done it before — sure, that one time little Sally Sue had the sniffles, and you “worked from home” to take care of her, but at the time it meant you called into a staff meeting and sent 12 emails. This, candidly, is not that.

I, on the other hand, have worked from home for most of the last 19 years, in a no-shit home office. Let me tell you a few things I’ve learned about being truly productive away from a communal office environment.

  1. Work your regular day. It’ll be tempting to drift in and out; that just sabotages you. Try to get some shit done. Nobody’s gonna come by and chatter about some stupid reality show! There’s no big play to discuss from last night! You can be hella productive!

  2. Use a chat tool. Doesn’t matter what it is — my company just uses plain old Skype — but by signing in and being available, you signal to folks that you’re In The (Virtual) Office. This is useful. There are lots of options for this; ask a nerdy coworker if one of them seems to mesh better with your office than others.

  3. Get dressed. This varies — not everyone needs to do it — but I’d advise y’all that are new to WFH to go ahead and get up at your normal time, take a damn shower, and put on adult clothes. You don’t need to dress in full biz-casual, but do put on a pair of pants and a decent shirt. Then, you can signal to yourself that you’re DONE working by changing into lounge clothes after quitting time.

  4. Establish boundaries. There’s a real tendency in new WFH folks to let the barrier blur a LOT between work-time and family/personal time. Don’t do this, at least not at first. Again, you’re new to this mode of work, so take care to avoid disrupting either home life or work life by allowing one to intrude on the other. (I do this by only RARELY taking my laptop out of my home office.)

  5. Designate a work space, and keep to it. Not everyone has the space for a true dedicated home office, but everyone can establish a place that is Work. Don’t make it the couch. Use one end of your kitchen table, or put something together in a corner that is now Your Office. Stay there when you’re working. It’s waaaaaay too easy to let “I can work ANYWHERE” get in the way of actually getting shit done, so don’t vary from this rule until you have a pretty good handle on it.

  6. If this becomes an ongoing thing, buy (or expense!) a desk. A chair, too. I’ve seen some WFH setups that made MY back hurt just looking at them. Ergonomics still matters if you’re at home; take care of yourself here. You don’t have to go nuts on this stuff; just get something that’ll work.

  7. Buy a headset. Seriously, buy a damn headset. Don’t be the guy who joined the telecon on a speakerphone and introduces crazy echo into the call. They’re not expensive, and don’t have to be giant heavy affairs. Mine is super light.

  8. Upgrade your home internet. Since I work at home full time in a major city, I have the fastest internet connection you can buy (1Gbit symmetric). This is probably more than you need, but if you’ve only ever been occasionally streaming Netflix and scrolling Facebook, you may find the demands of constant conference calls and screen sharing and VPN connections to exceed the capabilities of your package. Talk with your provider about a bump, especially if your office will subsidize the increase.

  9. Bring your second monitor home, if you’re used to using one. This is self-explanatory — just do it. While you’re at it, grab your mouse and keyboard, too, if you prefer them to your laptop.

  10. Close the door. If you’re not at home alone during the day, close the door to your work area if you can. I realize this may not be possible if you’re also juggling your suddenly un-schooled kids, but if you CAN do this it’s a good idea.

  11. Embrace the flexibility. You’re at home! This means you can, if you want, get a load of laundry done, or put something in the slow cooker, or do something similar with your coffee breaks. Don’t slack off this way, but you absolutely can and should lean into this aspect of WFH — it can be a real game changer. (At our house, if I didn’t do some of the laundry during the workday, we’d DROWN in workout clothes.)

  12. Finally, you CAN and SHOULD (if it bothers you) say NO to video. Video rarely adds much to a conference call, and makes many people feel self-conscious. It also clobbers your bandwidth. Your camera can be “broken” or “for some reason it’s not working” or, if you’re senior enough, you can just say no. Video is great for talking to your mom or other loved ones, but in a biz context it’s mostly sizzle with no steak except in pretty narrow contexts. Avoid.

This Just In

No greater honor has this humble blog ever received than the news from longtime Heathen Ear O’Corn that this site is blocked at Shell due to “adult content.”

Here’s something we missed

A while back, the longstanding Mac developer and blogger Brent Simmons noted that his site, Inessential, was now 20 years old.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t note that, well, MiscHeathen hit 19 years on 29 November.

In that first short month, I posted only one other time; it amuses me greatly that this first proper entry is actually about Lindsey and her journey to Russia. Lindsey was then the (relatively new?) girlfriend of my longtime best pal Eric. 19 years later, she’s been his wife for 13 years, and is mother to Heathen Godchild E. B., with whom we trimmed a Christmas tree on Sunday.

Obviously, I post way less in these days of social media than I did before, but as folks realize what a cesspool Facebook is I’m endeavoring to share things here more often.

The Brimley/Cocoon Line

This Twitter feed will inform you when certain parties pass what they refer to as the (Wilford) Brimley / Cocoon Line, which means they are now as old as Brimley was when he starred, as an “old person,” in the 1985 film of the same name.

Here’s a clip.

At that time, Brimley was 18,530 days old, which is about 50 years and 8 months. (You may be surprised he was that young at the time; I know I was.)

Some recent entries:

  • Jennifer Aniston
  • Bobby Brown
  • Mo Rocca
  • Patton Oswalt
  • Jason Bateman
  • Dave Grohl (as well as every member of Pearl Jam)
  • Marilyn Manson
  • Brendan Fraser
  • Lucy Liu

Also, Lenny Kravitz is 4 years older than Brimley was. Keanu Reeves is a year older than that.

(Before you ask: Quick match suggests I’ve got about 13 months; Mrs Heathen is even farther.)

Set the Wayback Machine to September, 1998: Lawyers, Guns, & Money

In 1998, I went dove hunting with some pals from Dallas.

I wrote about it for my own amusement, and ran the piece on my web site at the time (the ancestor to Miscellaneous Heathen, which didn’t go online until two years AFTER this piece was written).

It’s fall again, and I realized that it’s utterly criminal that this little bit of fun has been offline for quite some time, so I present it here, again, for your amusement. Enjoy.

Lawyers, Guns & Money

Return of the Native: Wherein our Intrepid Texas Correspondent Rediscovers His Hunting Roots

I am part Cracker, though you wouldn’t know it to look at me. I grew up in Mississippi, where my family has lived for generations. I hunted, camped, and fished; I drove a pick-up truck to high school; I owned boots. It was something of an oddball combination, though, at least – certainly – to outsiders. Weekends might begin in a field west of town shooting at birds and end with dinner at the Country Club, all with the same assortment of bankers, lawyers, doctors, and real estate developers. There’s an odd sort of gentility to these things in the South, so it never struck me as odd that Larry Foote would drive his Porsche to both dove hunt and dinner, or that Cadillacs matched pickups at most expeditions.

Somehow, I lost much of this in college. I left for Alabama at 18 and promptly became a tortured (okay, mostly just drunk) intellectual type, perfectly willing to discuss the meaning of life or the existence of God until 4:30 in the morning during the week as long as the other side of the conversation was cute enough or there were drugs enough to make it interesting. Both if I was lucky. I stayed in Tuscaloosa most of the time, venturing home rarely, and lost – to some degree – a bit of the old-school Faulknerian whiskey-soaked hunting ambiance of my youth. I should have known, however, that this wasn’t to be a permanent state.

By 1994, I’d moved to Houston. Houston is hotter, flatter, and more muggy than anything in Alabama or Mississippi, but I fell in love with it anyway. The combination of international business, flabbergasting amounts of eighties-style oil money, and old-fashioned Texas-dialect Southernism agreed with me, and still does. Slowly, I noticed I was becoming more like home than I had been in Alabama, and I didn’t mind. My drawl returned with a vengeance, particularly with alcohol. I bought boots again. I drank local beer. So when a pal from Dallas invited me on a dove hunt – my first since high school, easily – it didn’t surprise me at all that I jumped at the chance.

What follows is a rough chronology. The participants were Patrick, a college pal who has ended up in Dallas married to a local; Dwayne, his brother-in-law; and Richard, his father-in-law. Both in-laws are attorneys; Patrick is an administrator with a local college in Dallas. The events transcribed occurred over August 31-September 1, 1998, and are represented here more or less accurately. As best I remember.

Monday:

12:30 Leave office. Drive to Academy Sports to purchase Hunting License I didn’t buy over weekend because wallet location became a problem; one must have photo ID for a hunting license in Texas.

1:00 Leave Academy. Express dismay to any listening deities at amazing process required to obtain state permission to shoot things from the air.

1:30 Arrive Hobby Airport. Attempt not to look suspicious carrying gun case into airport.

1:45 Check gun into loving arms of Southwest Airlines. Casually inquire as to insurance coverage for firearm.

2:50 Plane departs; order cocktail in response to somewhat exuberant toddler.

3:30 Arrive Dallas-Love Field. Encounter remaining members of hunting party. Wave goodbye to toddler with outstanding lung capacity.

3:50 Accidentally notice that my luggage – and gun – merrily riding the carousel for flight 119, not flight 34. Pounce on luggage while attempting to NOT step on aforementioned toddler.

3:55 – 4:15 Attempt, with 2 lawyers and a college administrator, to get shotgun, briefcase, and suitcase into already-capacity-loaded Pathfinder. Express wonder at the sheer volume of equipment required for 1-day hunting expedition.

4:20 Depart Dallas for wonderful downtown Brownwood, Texas. This will take 3 or 4 hours, so we stop for beer. Driver abstains. Lawyers and consultant do not, and continue to fail to abstain well into West Texas.

5:00 Remember, with college administrator, that Warren Zevon once sang of “lawyers, guns, and money.” Express pleasure that all three are present in at least token quantities, so no bad things can possibly happen.

6:00 All terrain for miles now visible. No meaningful trees present, though cactuses and scrub are plentiful. Toast landscape with beer.

7:00 Stop for restaurant suggestions at somewhat vague looking minute mart in Comanche, Texas. Elect younger lawyer to “work the clerk” for information re: culinary adventures in Comanche. Upon discovering all food in Comanche apparently unacceptable, purchase snacks at said store.

7:05 Convenience Store declared to be “lucky” by younger lawyer. All parties purchase Lotto tickets.

Dialog:

Younger Lawyer: “Has anybody won here yet?”

Karla-Faye-Tucker-lookalike-Clerk: “This is Comanche.”

This, apparently, explains it all.

7:45 Arrive Brownwood, Texas. Locate Tuesday’s rendezvous point (the Section Hand Restaurant and Boot Store). Select alternative cuisine for dinner.

8:00 Narrowly avoid Golden Corral dinner in favor of Blue Cactus. Everything is still fried, but at least a little spicier. And they serve beer. In theory. Waitress unable to serve beer for reasons unspecified but probably linked to age, so manager does. Several times.

8:45 Locate liquor store for purchase of after-dinner cigars.

9:00 Adjourn to Best Western poolside lounge area, still blissfully unaware of stock market gyrations. Enjoy cocktails and hunting stories. Return to hotel room for A&M v. FSU football. Note that all is right in the world, as the Trinity of Hunting, Football, and Cocktails are present. Express belief that this trumps earlier hat trick of Lawyers, Guns, and Money.

9:30 Channel change during commercial leads to discovery of stock market gyrations. Mix another drink. Remind self that investments are long term in nature.

10:30 Remind self again that investments are long term in nature. Advised by attorney to mix additional beverage.

11:45 Sleep.

Tuesday

05:00 Annoyingly cheery clerk delivers wake-up call. Stumble into clothing, gather firearms, and reload truck. A total of 7 degrees still required to shoehorn everything into vehicle. Collective need for coffee reaching fever pitch.

05:30 Arrive at Section Hand restaurant. It does not open until 0600. They are, however, serving coffee.

05:40 Purchase local newspaper.

05:42 Complete local newspaper. Opt for second paper.

05:50 Over discussions of market with other hunters, drink at least as much coffee as you did beer the night before. This is viewed as karmic balance, at least in terms of hangover reduction.

06:15 With addition of biscuits, sausage, eggs, and grits, begin to feel almost human despite the hour. Lawyers and administrator agree. More coffee administered.

06:35 Caravan of well-armed personnel leaves Section Hand restaurant for parts unknown. Guide wonders out loud which of 2 waitresses he should give his cell phone number to for late arrivals; another local opines “It don’t matter; they’re both stupid.”

06:45 Paved road ends. Caravan continues.

06:50 Now officially in the Middle of Nowhere. Gather ammunition (50 rounds) for first phase of hunt. Privately certain this is more than enough.

07:00 Discover Timberland boots not nearly as waterproof as advertised. Vow to never eschew more thematically correct Red Wings again.

07:10 Select position on east fence row under small mesquite tree.

08:00 Return to truck for additional ammunition with 1 for 10 record. College administrator by this point certain his initial stash of shells loaded with blanks, a theory shaky at best as same shell pool fueled aforementioned 5-bird hour.

09:30 Birds wisely decide field to be questionable. Appear to dining elsewhere. This, combined with additional supply shortages (e.g., shells) send hunting party back to hotel, 19 birds in hand (Sr Lawyer: 9; Jr Lawyer: 4; Consultant: 5; Administrator: 1). An average of three boxes of shells per hunter were consumed, however.

10:00 Return to hotel for much needed shower and nap.

12:45 Depart hotel for Wal-Mart for additional provisions. Attempt to not be stereotypes of city folk in Brownwood Wal-Mart almost certainly a failure, though markedly more successful than the prior year, when Senior and Junior Lawyers and Administrator made trip in Jaguar.

1:30 Return to Section Hand to sample lunchtime offerings and attempt to corner market on coffee. Chicken-fried steak deemed most appropriate meal.

2:45 Guide rendezvous at Section Hand; depart again for field after much discussion of temperature (now hovering in mid-90s). Provision check reveals almost certainly enough shells, beer, and Gatorade.

3:00 Arrive at same field. Guide informs hunting party that birds are probably 2 hours away, if tradition holds. Guide departs.

3:05 Upon hearing this news, junior lawyer strips to boxers and hunting boots and settles in the sun to drink beer and review Wall Street Journal.

3:30 Birds arrive, apparently hoping for a sneak attack. Junior lawyer continues mode of dress, perhaps not the best for running through tall grass and weeds to retrieve birds.

4:00 MORE birds arrive. Logistical problems ensue. Am unable to return to selected (and shady) post after bird retrieval due to continued bird overflights and subsequent retrievals. Crouching in weeds amid the field becomes de facto post despite lack of cover.

4:30 After taking a double, note that limit for group is likely looming large. Suggest inventory. Creative accounting brings group total to 59, though this fails to include the 9 birds total lost in brush and the 5 or so simply discarded as uncleanable due to unfortunate proximity to firearm barrel. Shotgun shell consumption at this point no longer worth examining. Express dismay at number of birds still eating in far end of field, occasionally fluttering up several hundred at a time.

5:15 Load truck. Again.

6:00 After gas, food, and beer, depart Brownwood. Consultant and lawyers resume lack of abstention.

10:30 Arrive Dallas. Purchase antihistamines to make up for squatting in weeds all day.

10:45 Arrive Patrick’s home. Collapse on couch after cursory hello to his lovely wife, who finds this all terribly funny.

Mississippi is apparently upset that not enough people are laughing at them

So, as of now, it’s illegal — like, jailable illegal — to refer to burgers or hotdogs not made from animals as “veggie burgers” or “veggie dogs”.

No, seriously.

More:

This week, a new law went into effect in Mississippi. The state now bans plant-based meat providers from using labels like “veggie burger” or “vegan hot dog” on their products. Such labels are potentially punishable with jail time. Words like “burger” and “hot dog” would be permitted only for products from slaughtered livestock. Proponents claim the law is necessary to avoid confusing consumers — but given that the phrase “veggie burger” hasn’t been especially confusing for consumers this whole time, it certainly seems more like an effort to keep alternatives to meat away from shoppers.

“We’re talking about language”

I have a longstanding fascination with regional dialects. I think it’s because in my own lifetime, so many are vanishing thanks to easier mobility and the ubiquity of mass communication.

Only a few places retain a clear local accent or dialect — several areas of Louisiana, for example, including accents that outsiders would probably place in Brooklyn. There’s still a real Boston sound.

And off the coast of North Carolina, we find the hoi toiders. There’s video.

1/10/16.

When I woke up on the 10th of January 3 years ago, for a minute things were pretty okay.

Then NPR came on, and it told us that Bowie had died, and in retrospect I’m pretty sure that’s when things started going to shit.

I mean, think about it:

  • Bowie died on January 10
  • Alan Rickman on January 14
  • ABE FUCKING VIGODA died on January 26
  • Prince died on April 21
  • Muhammad Ali in June
  • Leonard Cohen, November 7
  • Carrie Fisher, two days after Christmas

Even Scalia finally shuffling off this mortal coil in February didn’t help, because of how absurdly, disgustingly craven the GOP would be in outright denying Obama his SCOTUS pick.

Oh, and then something happened in November.

But when I woke up, for a few minutes on the 10th of January in 2016, things were at least a little bit better, weren’t they?

Salesdroids don’t speak English

Holy CRAP I just got the most salesy-bullshit email EVER from VMWare.

GAZE up on this, together with my translation back to actual english:

Hello,

I’m reaching out to introduce myself and to ask for your guidance. I’m responsible for the Commercial customer segment at VMware, and Forproject Technology Inc is currently aligned to my team. We’re in the process of finalizing our resource coverage for 2019 and before we make any changes I figured I’d ask directly about your preferred coverage to ensure we’re on the same page.

“I just got assigned your account.”

Our charter is to help lead our customers through secured cloud and business mobility transformations, which includes periodic overviews of the entire VMW portfolio of solutions. A lot has changed in the past few years, including our role in the largest technology merger in history (with Dell/EMC), several key acquisitions (Wavefront, VeloCloud) and our joint offering with Amazon Web Services – VMC on AWS. We’d love an opportunity to walk you through the current VMware roadmap and to understand your top priorities to see if there is an opportunity to expand our relationship.

“You’re on our customer list and we want to see if we can get more money out of you pitch you some other products.”

If you’d prefer continued coverage from our sales, engineering, and specialist teams, my ask is for a 30-minute roadmap and discovery meeting with Brecca Hansen from your VMW account team.

“Can we waste half an hour of your time with a sales pitch?”

If you’re happy simply maintaining support, we can align you to the renewals organization who’ll be more than capable of facilitating support quotes moving forward.

“We have no idea if you’re currently under support, but we can put you in touch with those people if you want.”

Please let us know which option suits you best, or if there is someone else in your organization you’d like us to contact regarding this decision.

“Can we have some more email addresses to spam?”

I look forward to hearing from you.

“This is not my real email address.”

We enter the holiday season!

With this memory from Facebook, we enter Broken Hip Advent!

Screen Shot 2018 10 03 at 8 53 02 AM

Reader, we did in fact book that trip, but we never saw either show, because 48 days later, on November 20th, I did this, which well and truly starts the 128 day Cursed Holiday Season:

It was more or less a parade of Suck from 20 November until 21 January, otherwise known at this house as End of PICC Line Day.

We got a little reprieve in the Joco Cruise (30 Jan through 8 Feb; you can rent wheelchairs on cruise ships!), and then the real fun started on Glorious PT Day, 16 February.

Walker Liberation Day is 25 February. I wasn’t done — I needed a cane, which I bought at Southland Hardware — but we were definitely on our way out of the woods.

Finally, 128 days after my injury, there was this:

IMG 3041  1

The whole saga, from the preamble of the potential two-plays-in-Chicago trip through the first time I rode my real bike again, is 176 days, or almost half a year.

It’s difficult to argue with this

It’s basically immoral to be rich:

Here is a simple statement of principle that doesn’t get repeated enough: if you possess billions of dollars, in a world where many people struggle because they do not have much money, you are an immoral person. The same is true if you possess hundreds of millions of dollars, or even millions of dollars. Being extremely wealthy is impossible to justify in a world containing deprivation.

This would’ve been useful information 4 years ago, let me tell ya

Lifehacker: You’re Probably not Allergic to Penicillin After All

I went through most of my life thinking I was allergic to penicillin. I’d had hives with a dose of the stuff as a child, and an also-allergic family member taught me to look for an allergy section on every medical form I filled out, and make sure to write “penicillin” on the line.

But the reason I’m telling you this story is that it turns out I’m not allergic to it after all. About 10 percent of us have a penicillin allergy on our charts, but less than 1 percent of us have a legit allergy to go with it. And if you can take that fake allergy off your chart, you’ll likely have an easier and cheaper time in all your future dealings with the medical system.

I have my own tale about this, which longtime readers of Heathen know: Four years ago this November, I was in a pretty ugly bike crash and broke my hip. One of my surgical sites contracted a postop infection. It was NOT the very-scary MRSA; it was just garden variety staph, which is usually quashed with a cycle of garden variety penicillin.

Except I’ve lived my life believing I was allergic to it, which I dutifully explained. Well, sucks to be ME, because when you have a postop staph situation and can’t take penicillin, the next option is something called vancomycin — which cannot be taken orally. I had to get a PICC line and take it intravenously.

Three times a day, for about 90 minutes at a crack.

For seven weeks.

My mother, who was a physical therapist in her working life, had been following my medical misadventure very closely. When we got to this point, she commented, offhand, “well, you know, we’re not actually sure if you’re allergic to it or not. It’s just that your father was, and so we just assumed you were.”

DAMMIT.

Dept. of Flickr Archeology

So for reasons known but to God, some Internet rando just favorited a picture in my Flickr stream from 2007. It’s from a then-current meme about what we carry in our pockets. Click thru, because the picture is annotated, but here’s a smaller version:

What Has It Got In Its Pockets

I’m amused at what’s changed, and also at what’s the same.

  • I still carry a Swiss Army Knife, but it’s a smaller model, since I never have to take computers apart anymore.
  • I still carry that coupon.
  • After years off the road, I quit carrying a Bluetooth headset — until this year, when I bought some Airpods, which are kind of crap for real listening but GREAT for phone conversations and online meetings. What interesting is that the Plantronics in the picture also did the “case is also a charger” thing that the Airpods do, if I remember correctly.
  • Same ring. The annotation on the ring notes our “days married” count at the time, which was 662. It’s now 1,293.
  • There’s always a book.
  • The current flashlight is MUCH SMALLER, much brighter, and much cheaper.
  • I never carry a USB drive anymore, probably because online storage is more viable with better bandwidth, and also because our phones are so much better.
  • Same money clip. Different money, though.
  • I still HAVE that watch, but for the last 2 years I’ve been wearing an Apple Watch pretty much exclusively. I got a series 1 watch in the spring of 2016, to support training for a half marathon I was doing that fall, and the overall utility was so great I wore it pretty much all the time. When the S3 was introduced last year, with real waterproofing and on-board cell, I upgraded.
  • Yup, still notebook nerd, and I still use a Vanishing Point, though several years ago my brother gave me a nicer iteration of that pen.
  • I never leave the house, so keys are in the hallway.
  • No more contacts. I stopped being able to tolerate them several years ago; oh well.
  • It’s more about Burt’s Bees now than Carmex, but life goes on.
  • That Microsoft/HTC phone lasted like 6 months. Pretty soon, I was too frustrated with how unremittingly DUMB it was about so, so many things. For one thing, you needed a 3rd party mail client for IMAP, which is hilariously stupid. For another, it would do astoundingly silly things like continue to refresh web pages with the display off, so if you were reading CNN and put it back in your pocket, odds are the phone would be dead when you tried to use it later. I replaced it with a first-gen iPhone, and I’ve been on iOS ever since (OG -> 3GS -> 4 -> 5 -> 6 -> 6S -> 8).
  • The wallet finally gave up the ghost; current version is a Saddleback I’ve had for many years now.

Over at the OA: “Mississippi, murder, and William Eggleston’s ‘Red Ceiling'”

You oughta read this.

It begins:

William Eggleston first tried peyote one summer in the early 1960s while visiting a friend in Oxford, Mississippi. You can find the story in a memoir by University of Mississippi football star (and later Dark Shadows actor) Jimmy Hall, who was there at the time. Eggleston had invited Hall to join him and his friend, and the three men puzzled over the green-blue cactus in its cardboard box, purchased via mail-order from a nursery in Laredo, Texas.

And later:

The house in the photograph belonged to a man named Tom “T. C.” Boring, a dentist born and raised in Greenwood, whom Eggleston has described as the best friend he ever had in the world. He was the scion of a well-respected Delta family, a sharp and promising Southern archetype who glided his way through the University of Mississippi, Loyola University, and the Navy before coming home to Greenwood and gradually, ungracefully losing his mind.

[…]Boring had a penchant for exotic plants, younger women, and corn whiskey. In public, he often wore tweed suits and turtleneck sweaters, and smoked a pipe. But more often than not, he wore as little as possible; at home, he preferred to avoid clothes altogether. At the height of summer, he’d keep his air-conditioner cranked up to full blast so he could always have a fire going in his living room, for ambiance.

He slept odd hours. He made cryptic jokes. He owned a number of iguanas. His prized possession was his pet capybara, which he’d walk around the neighborhood on a leash.

Keep the South weird.

(Astute readers will of course note that the photo mentioned in the title is also the album cover for Big Star’s Radio City, though the edition you probably own is a combo CD with #1 Record that has a different cover.)

It’s my birthday. Let’s talk about MS.

In 46 days, I’ll ride my bike to Austin again. I’m in shape for it, and I feel good, but the real challenge this year is getting my fundraising to a new highwater mark.

Yeah, I said it. High. Water. My guess is that this year, on account of Harvey, the fundraising pace is going to be off. This isn’t just a number; less money donated means fewer resources for the National MS Society, and that translates to less help for researchers, less support for those living with MS, and — frankly — less good in the world.

Let’s do what we can to make it a good year. Here’s my link; I’m pretty sure you know how this works.

And now, as a reward, I give you TEN REASONS TO DONATE TODAY BESIDES IT BEING MY BIRTHDAY:

10. On this day in 1781, William Herschel discovered Uranus. The jokes write themselves.

9. Microsoft went public on this day in 1986. Had you purchased the stock on the day of issue, you’d be able to donate much, much more!

8. What better way for the Catholics among you to honor the elevation of Jorge Mario Bergoglio back in 2013?

7. Not to be outdone by Herschel, Clyde Tombaugh discovered Pluto on this day in 1930. (Shut up. It is TOO a planet.)

6. Ten years before I was born, the world gained US bassist Adam Clayton. There’s a joke here about still-not-having-found-what-I’m-looking-for, i.e. a donation, but let’s just ignore it, okay?

5. Perhaps you could spare a wad(d) of cash today in honor of the 30th anniversary of the passing of John Curtis Holmes?

4. Don’t forget! It’s National Elephant Day in Thailand! (I know nothing about this, but how can something called National Elephant Day be anything other than awesome?)

3. If you’re nerdy, perhaps you can donate partially in honor of VMS and WinNT designer Dave Cutler, who turns 76 today.

2. You like rear-engine cars? So do I! Drop a bit of coin in my fundraiser here in honor of The Love Bug, which opened on this day in 1969.

1. Block that Thetan! It’ll help make you Clear, since this is also L. Ron Hubbard’s birthday.