This blog is 17 years old today.
This blog is 17 years old today.
Funny you should ask. This Longreads piece is really fascinating, and gives an insight into a professional world most of us never see.
This jackass cop — officer J. S. Bolen — seems to think it’s a good idea to detain and harass a guy for jaywalking. He even tries to make up laws to justify his actions.
Obviously, the Jacksonville LEO that employs him has taken no action at this time, even defending one of the obviously-invalid citations issued to the young man.
The Sheriff’s Office cited Florida statute 322.15(1) as to why Shipman was given a citation, but the statute only applies to drivers, not pedestrians. It states that every licensee must have his or her license on them “when operating a motor vehicle.”
Author Michael Lewis (The Blind Side, Liar’s Poker, Moneyball, The Big Short) gave a pretty spectacular commencement speech at Berkeley in 2012. Kottke has more, but the key bit is this, about the tendency of very successful people to discount the amount of arbitrary luck typically involved in their positions:
A few years ago, just a few blocks from my home, a pair of researchers in the Cal psychology department staged an experiment. They began by grabbing students, as lab rats. Then they broke the students into teams, segregated by sex. Three men, or three women, per team. Then they put these teams of three into a room, and arbitrarily assigned one of the three to act as leader. Then they gave them some complicated moral problem to solve: say what should be done about academic cheating, or how to regulate drinking on campus.
Exactly 30 minutes into the problem-solving the researchers interrupted each group. They entered the room bearing a plate of cookies. Four cookies. The team consisted of three people, but there were these four cookies. Every team member obviously got one cookie, but that left a fourth cookie, just sitting there. It should have been awkward. But it wasn’t. With incredible consistency the person arbitrarily appointed leader of the group grabbed the fourth cookie, and ate it. Not only ate it, but ate it with gusto: lips smacking, mouth open, drool at the corners of their mouths. In the end all that was left of the extra cookie were crumbs on the leader’s shirt.
This leader had performed no special task. He had no special virtue. He’d been chosen at random, 30 minutes earlier. His status was nothing but luck. But it still left him with the sense that the cookie should be his.
This experiment helps to explain Wall Street bonuses and CEO pay, and I’m sure lots of other human behavior. But it also is relevant to new graduates of Princeton University. In a general sort of way you have been appointed the leader of the group. Your appointment may not be entirely arbitrary. But you must sense its arbitrary aspect: you are the lucky few. Lucky in your parents, lucky in your country, lucky that a place like Princeton exists that can take in lucky people, introduce them to other lucky people, and increase their chances of becoming even luckier. Lucky that you live in the richest society the world has ever seen, in a time when no one actually expects you to sacrifice your interests to anything.
All of you have been faced with the extra cookie. All of you will be faced with many more of them. In time you will find it easy to assume that you deserve the extra cookie. For all I know, you may. But you’ll be happier, and the world will be better off, if you at least pretend that you don’t.
Share the cookie.
John Nova Lomax’s new piece in Texas Monthly is about his son’s decision to join the Army.
My son was jobless, directionless, and apartmentless. So when he decided to join the Army, we were just glad he was out of the house. What we didn’t know was just how much the military would change him—and us.
But the real kicker is this:
A picture I took of him that day in his camo, standing in the sandbag-lined trench that led into the Yankee tunnels, and that by a trick of the light appears almost sepia-toned, fills me with a mixture of dread, pride, and regret. Privates are always privates, and war is always war.
I say regret, because I have not served, and now, with middle age upon me, never will. Right before my eyes, the little boy I had known was becoming a man I could never know.
It’s pretty damn fine. Go read the whole thing.
I think my friend T. framed it best: “Please dunk on this extremely bad at life family with me.”
A key bit is this:
In September, we had learned that I was pregnant with our second child and we accelerated our plans. We needed a place with at least three bedrooms. Unfortunately, that dream was becoming increasingly unrealistic for a young family without a lot of money. Julian had just finished his PhD in education and was teaching part-time at Humber; I was an editor for the Food Network’s website and preparing to go on maternity leave. Still, we scoured the listings every day, searching for a fixer-upper that we could renovate ourselves to save money. We weren’t particularly handy, but we’d seen all the home reno shows, and it seemed like everyone in the city was doing it. How hard could it be?
Our budget was $560,000[.]
And it gets so much more bizarre, privileged, and tone-deaf — oh, and dumb as hell. For example: they end up spending their half-million-plus budget on a house they had not personally seen or inspected, and entered into a no-condition contract. They end up fine, apparently, but only because of the largesse of wealthy family and friends, and despite some astonishingly stupid choices.
Frankly: eat the rich.
On this day in 2015, we lost John.
Headlines like this:
Oh, for the love of God and all that is holy, go read this.
Here is a sample:
Gerald Ford, my birth President, flew in an Air Force One that allowed not just smoking, but hoot-fueled, wildly heteronormative screenings of Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens. Parker House rolls and empty fifths of Cutty Sark were no doubt chucked at the closing credits with a simian brio the likes of which dignitary air travel rarely sees any more. Children born under this President are generally thought to display alpha behavior, as well as a natural tendency toward easing relations with Soviet nations.
My adult cycling career started awkwardly, really. I bought a hybrid bike, and rode it some, and then both Erin and I got more into it, and started doing more supported charity rides. In 2012, we both stepped up to nicer bikes more appropriate for 40+ miles at a go. We got Erin a Specialized Dolce, and we got me Surly Cross-Check. (Actually, we got me TWO of them, since the first one was stolen inside 90 days, dammit.)
And so I rode. Not enough, really, but I hit a bunch of social rides, and started going to some more intense rides (where I got dropped pretty much every time), and somehow convinced myself that signing up for Karbach’s 2013 MS150 team would be a good idea. When the fall rolled around and training for that REALLY started, I freaked out well and proper at what I’d done, but I did the work and made it to Austin — and in the process notched my first century since the 1980s.
Then it got hot again, and I rode less, and regained weight, and by the time the 2014 MS150 rolled around I wasn’t really any stronger than I’d been the year before. Clearly, this wouldn’t do, so instead of slacking off after the Austin ride, I doubled down, and rode hard all summer — averaging in excess of 100 miles a week for a while there. I lost a bunch of weight. I got a lot faster. I bought an even better bike — a 2015 Specialized Roubaix, which is a whopping TWELVE POUNDS LIGHTER than the Surly. And I rode, and rode, and rode, all up until I stopped rather suddenly on the 20th of November. I think you know that story.
I was on a pace for an estimated 4500 or 5000 miles in 2014, but ended up with only 3,308. I didn’t start tracking seriously until the week of April 6, and the real craziness didn’t kick up until the summer, but we can probably assume that I would have kept up the 90-100 mile weeks for the final six weeks of the year, and that I pulled at least 70 per week for the 12 or so weeks before I started tracking. Oh well.
2015 started quietly, obviously. As I was unable to walk initially, I didn’t touch the bike again until a very, very short ride on March 15 (3 miles, to visit the team party after Tour de Houston). I didn’t do a real ride again until the 28th of March, at the Center, where I rode an ambitious 27.5 miles. It came back slowly. I didn’t get over 50 miles in a week until late May (which really means “two rides”). I didn’t break 100 again until mid-summer. At the end of the year, I’d put in “only” 2,790 miles, but given the start, I’ll take it.
For 2016, though, I set a capital-G GOAL: 5,000 miles. That means shooting for 100 miles a week or better each and every week, with the understanding that logistics or weather or travel will get in the way occasionally.
Last night, this happened:
I’ve got a few weeks to go, even.
And now, ridiculous stats, taken with 50 weeks down (there being 53 weeks that end in 2016):
Yeah, so, that may be the longest fallow period in Heathen history — which is, I note, now nearly sixteen years long; my first post here was on the 29th of November in the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand. That’s kind of bizarre.
Bizarre, too, is the world we find ourself in today. I’m fearful for the future in a more existential way than I’ve ever felt before; the parade of grotesques certain to characterize the incoming administration is only now getting started, and it’s a nearly certain thing that we’ll look back on absurdly bad ideas like “Attorney General Jeff Sessions” with something like nostalgia before it’s all over. But there it is.
But I’m still trying to be Thankful.
I will, barring unforeseen conflagrations in the next couple hours, partake of a truly excellent Thanksgiving feast hosted by impossibly generous friends and peopled entirely by similarly delightful people. We only get to go in even years — we travel in the odd ones — and actually only made it the first time two years ago. That year, it was my first real trip out of the house following my little medical misadventure; I spent the meal damn near on the nod from the Norco and Tramadol, but by God I was there and not in a hospital bed or worse.
Speaking of which: I have made it out the other side of said misadventure, which started two years ago last Sunday. It was a longer road than it could have been thanks to the now-disturbingly-common complication of a postop infection. Thankfully (there’s the theme again), it wasn’t MRSA, but it still required IV antibiotics for weeks and weeks, and delayed the proper healing of one of my surgical sites for literally months. (Protip: Don’t browse too far back on Erin’s phone; she took pics daily to share with my medical team, because we live in the future.) But it did close, and the infection did clear, and I did heal, and earlier this month I “graduated” — by which I mean I’ve been pronounced out of danger for the last real complication possible. I celebrate, as always, by riding a lot.
I’m absurdly, overwhelmingly thankful for Erin. She was an amazing angel during my recovery, which was better than I deserved for putting her through that. She remains an incredible and stalwart support, and seems to have inexhaustible reserves of love and service to give when called upon. Just ask folks on the Karbach team, or people who’ve reached out for aid when life goes sideways, or my family, or her family. Eleven years on, I’m aware every day of just how much I outkicked the coverage here, and all I can do is be thankful.
My mother, now out the other side off a nearly two year period of Profound Suck that started with my late stepfather’s diagnosis in early October of 2014 and continued through his decline, passing, and her decision to leave my hometown for Jackson after “only” 52 years. She’s entered the next phase of her life, and has embraced it with verve and style. More than one person has told my brother or me about how she’s blossomed in Jackson, and it’s wonderful to see. I’m a little jealous of her proximity to Frank and his family. Erin and I can’t wait to meet her new pals at St Catherine’s this Christmas.
As long as we’re talking about family, let’s talk about my awesome brother. He has been an amazing support and help to our mom these last couple years, and now he’s playing that role again for his wife’s family as they go through a similarly crappy time. Frank is fantastic, and I’m very, very thankful for him — and sad I won’t see him and his family today, but thankful we’ll be spending Christmas with them!
My work, while not without its issues, remains rewarding. I get to do it from home. I work for a smart guy who shares my politics and principles (case in point: disturbed by the results of the election, and the divisions it has laid bare, everyone now gets some additional PTO for community volunteering — it’s a small thing, but it’s a REAL thing). My coworkers are smart and fun. And this year, for the 16th year running, I am free of the awkward command performance inherent in a corporate Christmas party. I WIN.
Our goddaughter (and her family) have moved much, much closer, allowing for drastically more time with her (and her family). It’s impossible to say enough about this, frankly. At 3, she’s in that phase where you’re not entirely sure she’s not a cartoon character, and she’s utterly obsessed with her Aunt Erin. (I get a little halo effect.) It’s delightful to see her so often, and to get to spend grown-up time with her parents once the tyke is off to bed.
MS150 training season has started again, and I’m entering it in the best cycling shape of my life (so far). I love to ride, and I love to ride with this specific set of delightful knuckleheads, ABI be damned. Plus, having missed a whole training season owing to the events of #2 above, I know better than to take any of this for granted.
I’m thankful that, regardless of the end of their lives, we still have the music of Bowie, Prince, Sharon Jones, Leon Russell, Leonard Cohen, Guy Clark, Merle Haggard, Phife Dawg, Maurice White, and so many others. Some of it’s playing now, as I write this.
I am thankful for the few shining lights of 2016 — Hamilton, the Cubs — that it feels like we really ought to savor after this motherfucker of a year.
January 17, 2001: “Bush: ‘Our Long National Nightmare Of Peace and Prosperity Is Finally Over“
I got word over the weekend that Warren Dale passed away. He was 90.
The name means nothing to you, probably, but for years upon years in my hometown of Hattiesburg, Mr Dale was a demigod. He led what must have been one of the most successful and delightful Boy Scout Troops ever — at least if you measure by how often his Tenderfoots made it Eagle.
Mr Dale taught us to camp, and imparted the mysteries of square lashing, and all sorts of other Scouting ephemera — but the real lessons were more subtle. How to be a good man. What mattered, when working with others. How to lead. How to teach. How to support each other. How to cut loose and have fun, even. He was especially skilled at gaining and holding the respect and attention of both his rambunctious charges and their parents, which is no small feat. It’s not an exaggeration to say that, outside my family, Mr Dale was the most important influence on me prior to high school. I’m by no means the only person in that group.
Boy Scouting has had a hard several years lately, mostly through their own tomfoolery and the outsized influence of right-wingers obsessed with exclusion. That kind of chicanery would never have flown with Mr Dale. I know, without ever having discussed it with him, exactly the sort of irritated look I’d get if I’d suggested it was okay to treat someone differently because of race, or gender, or orientation. It’s out of the question and completely contrary to the ethics of scouting as we understood it. You work together. There’s no together in exclusionary bullshit. It’s certainly not covered in “Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent.”
Here’s his obituary. He was born in 1926, in Iowa, which is something I never knew before. He’d been in the war, stateside, as a cryptologist and clerk before heading to Purdue and, eventually, to the chemical plant in my hometown where he worked from 1952 until he retired in 1989.
Mr Dale never stopped learning, and he helped impart a passion for it to us in Scouting. He was a master of a campfire story, a patient teacher, and excelled in that curious talent of teaching boys to lead themselves. Along the way, he saw 140 of us all the way to Eagle, many of whom have posted on Facebook about their own memories of our troop, or Camp Tiak, or trips to Red Bluff, or his battered station wagon, or various service projects undertaken as a team. It’s all time well spent.
90 years is a long time; my stepfather used to joke that anybody over three score and ten was on borrowed time, but Mr Dale managed to run up the score a bit. (He’d have liked that joke.) I last saw him a little over a year ago; he attended the same church as my mother, and so I saw him when I visited. Erin even got to meet him, which pleased me more than I can adequately explain. He was much older, but he still had quite a twinkle in his eye, and it made me happy to see him.
The obituary notes that the quote Mr Dale chose to be remembered by is from Emerson: “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” Given that metric, there’s no doubt in my mind that he lived very well indeed.
“Oh, the usual. Drove to Wichita Falls. Drank a bunch of beer. Rode 100 miles. Couple other things.”
Yeah, it’s a thing. The event is the Hotter’n Hell Hundred up in Wichita Falls, Texas. It’s the largest organized century ride in the country. People come from all over — I rode with folks from Missouri, Colorado, etc. It’s a Big Deal in the cycling world, with at least some bragging rights associated & whatnot.
Turns out, I have a really, really great cycling team (Karbach Brewing), and a group of them were going and — more to the point — knew how to do this right. There were rented RVs, plenty of pop-up shade tents, and (crucially) folks to ride with. We ended up with maybe 26 or 28 folks there.
All I had to do was register, show up, and pay my share of the RV rental.
Oh, and train for the other two events AND the century.
I figured “hey, if I’m going all the way to Wichita Falls, may as well go full monty.” And the Full Monty at Hotter’n Hell is something called the Triple Threat.
Complete the Triple Threat, and you get one hell of a trophy. I wanted that trophy. See pic.
Right. I ride about 100 miles a week anyway, but I had to fold in some mountain biking AND enough running/jogging to complete the half. This made for a busy summer.
I never would have gotten this done without three big factors.
Number one, as always, is Erin. She’s been an incredible support to me in this. She’s done half marathons, and so in addition to logistical, emotional, and spiritual help she also had words of encouragement, training tips, and even route advice.
The Karbach team. I wasn’t doing this alone; I had literally two dozen friends also ramping up to this.
Longtime readers may recall a slight medical adventure from 652 days ago (not that I’m counting). I hate running, but completing the Triple Threat seemed like an excellent way to say “Fuck you, broken hip!”
It didn’t hurt that our camp/compound included air-conditioned RVs, a huge covered area, a pool, and an inflatable movie screen.
Oh, and free beer.
This (artist’s conception):
“Do not store important items downhill from the inflatable pool.”
Unlike in Houston, where the water would set up housekeeping and create a new wetland complete with Zika-laden mosquitos, crawfish, and possibly alligators, up there the water just DISAPPEARS. It’s witchcraft, I tell you.
(This will be important later.)
One day, the pool water turned red. No idea why; we assumed it was something to do with the chlorine tablet. Only later did we discover that some, um, less observant OU fans camped nearby had seen ONE guy in a UT hat, assumed we were all UT/Austin people, and dumped food coloring in the pool. The joke was COMPLETELY lost on this Houston-based, diversely-educated crowd until the OU folks came by to try and figure out why their joke had gone flat. Oh, Sooners; you’re adorable.
At lunch, we were faced with the following question: What terrible sequence of life choices could result in being a Wendy’s loyalty card holder?
That the Tex-Mex restaurant we ate at on Thursday night did not have margaritas, but did serve both frito pie and chicken fried steak, is pretty much all the evidence required to prove that, at least morally, Wichita Falls is best understood as part of Oklahoma.
The route on the Hundred did in fact take us perilously close to Oklahoma:
Said Tex-Mex joint proudly displayed its local awards for “best chips and salsa” from three consecutive and recent years. The chips were clearly Tostitos, and the salsa was obviously Pace.
Hotter’n Hell, y’all.
“What happens in Wichita Falls stays in Wichita Falls.”
It is, apparently, impossible. But it takes half an hour to explain why.
It is possible that “has a grill” is not a sufficiently unique key.
“Hey Dean, where’d you dive with all them barracudas?”
“I got the meat sweats, Pop!”
Mountain bike racing is hard, yo.
Absolutely fine, since she is a cat 3 road racer young enough to be my daughter.
Shockingly, I found the HTH to be easily the least miserable century I’ve ever ridden.
If you’re from Colorado, I’m sure mid-90s to 100s in Wichita Falls is trouble for you.
I am from Houston. The general lack of humidity made the temps much, much more managable vs. the weather we train in down here. Drink enough water and you’re fine.
Also, of course, we were kinda sandbagging given the Looming Awfulness of Sunday’s task.
CHIPSEAL ROADS. Holy crap, that stuff will shake you to pieces, and the vibration makes the ride much more fatiguing. Fortunately, no more than 85-90 miles of the century were on chipseal.
There’s no reason for you to know this, but the model of bike I ride is a Specialized Roubaix. It’s named “Roubaix” after a particularly grueling race (the Paris-Roubaix) that is ridden on streets made of cobblestones. Cobblestones are awful to ride on — treacherous, yes, but also bumpy as hell. Super-stiff race bikes make it worse, so Specialized developed a bike designed to be quick and compliant while also providing a bit of insulation from bad road conditions.
That I was unhappy even on this bike should give you some idea how delightful my colleagues on racier, stiffer bikes found the roads.
In Houston, when you ride in the heat, you just get sweaty, and the sweat doesn’t go anywhere. It just sits in your clothes like an ambulatory lukewarm bath.
In Wichita Falls, when you ride in the heat, you still sweat, but the sweat evaporates, and thereby provides evaporative cooling. I am told that scientists believe this is the reason we sweat, but as a lifelong swamp dweller I am unable to confirm this hypothesis.
I can tell you, however, that it’s damn strange to get back on your bike after fixing a flat and discover that the resulting wind, sweat, and evaporation combination is making you cold despite an ambient air temp of 95+.
Oh, sure. I know it sounds bananas, but riding 100 miles is something I know I can do. I’ve done it lots, and the conditions in Wichita Falls aren’t bad if you factor out the chipseal.
After the century, pretty much everyone in the camp was asleep by 8:30PM.
“When I say house wine, I mean Jaeger.”
“I have fallen in with a bad crowd, and they are making me do dumb things.”
(l to r: Other-Erin, Kevin, Scottie, David, Dub, Jared, Alfred, the author, No-Oatmeal Dean, Dylan, JRod, Tall Colin, Not Tall Chad, Grant, Fearless Leader LeSage, Seth, Ruthless, Chad, Eric, Theoretical Podcasting Partner Mike, Random Dean, Ryan, Long Lost Jack Soto)
You’re damned skippy.
“This was may fastest half marathon EVER!”
“Chet and Mike’s Nature Hike Spectacular” turned out to be an idea better honored in creation than execution.
Hand him a can of his favorite beer as he crosses the finish line, but make sure there’s no more than an inch of beer left in it.
Can you blame me?
A year ago, my life was pretty much the same. I was walking and riding and doing pretty much everything I do now. It was a welcome change from the previous winter and spring and the medical adventures they held.
Two years ago, I didn’t know it, but I was only 3 months from the start of that little adventure.
Five years ago, life was only a little different. I wasn’t riding yet. I was actually in a play, believe it or not. But I had the same job, and the same friends, more or less. A month later, I’d visit my niece for her fourth birthday in Jackson; she’ll be NINE next month.
Ten years ago, I’d been married for only a year. It remains the best thing ever. It was also the summer of Speeding Motorcycle, which is hard to even grasp today.
Twenty years ago, I’d only lived in Houston a hot minute — ok, 2 years — but I was still finding my feet here. I was months away from the best job ever and the friends I’d make there, but I knew that Houston was fast becoming home.
Twenty five years ago, I was in Tuscaloosa, freshly 21, living in a terrible duplex with a great friend, on the runway to “real life” and about to take off. I just wasn’t sure in which direction (but it turned out to be “west”).
Thirty years ago — the same year as the Challenger and Chernobyl — this very day, my life changed in a way that nearly everyone’s does at some point: my father died.
His cancer wasn’t as quick as the one that took my stepfather last year, but it wasn’t too slow, either: he had about 18 months from diagnosis to funeral. I was 16; my brother had just turned 11. Loss at that age becomes foundational, a key attribute to one’s character and development. It winds its way through me in ways I’m sure I’ll never really understand. Even though I rarely think of him now — perhaps a harsh thing to admit, but it’s true — I know the hole it left in my early life is still there. And it’s not just because I’m still not used to paying veterinary bills.
I’m 46 now. I’ve mentioned before that, after the delightful milestones we all enjoy in our twenties (graduations, weddings) and thirties (children), the menu for midlife milestones seems to tilt increasingly towards trauma. Divorces happen sometimes, but parental loss looms much larger and more universally. In your mid-40s, your parents are almost certainly into a realm of statistical danger. And, sure enough, I’ve been to parental funerals, so it’s increasingly normal that my brother and I are missing one, too.
What will never be normal is that we got there 30 years ahead.
Cheers, Dad. The list of things you’ve missed is enormous and ever-growing, and now I’m older than you ever got to be. You’ve been gone for two thirds of my life, and nearly 80% of Frank’s, and those numbers will just get bigger. I have no insight or conclusion, but maybe that’s just as well.
Pictured: The author (l) and subject, ca. 1971 or 1972. He’s no more than 32.
Here’s Sammy Davis Jr pitching Suntory whisky. Because you deserve a smile.
That’s what I’m forced to conclude after realizing, months after cancelling my subscription, that they were still emailing me.
I clicked the “manage email” link at the bottom of their latest message, even though I was pretty sure I’d already unsubscribed and turned all the emails off. There, I discovered this — note the part I’ve boxed in red:
Sure, I unchecked all those boxes weeks ago, but that wasn’t enough to stop the email. For that, you have to CALL.
Ancestry’s plan is to make it hard to get off their spam list; most people won’t bother with the phone, so Ancestry can disingenuously believe they still want to get their babble. It makes you wonder how many folks just gave up and set up filters in Gmail or whatever to automatically delete anything from their domain!
That’s shady as fuck. I cancelled my subscription with them when I realized I just didn’t have time to use it — and at $30 a month, I wasn’t going to just let it ride. I had intended to back, but now I really don’t think I want to do business with these people.
Moose discover wind chimes. Moose like wind chimes.
In cycling, we talk about the “century” ride, which is 100 miles. The first day of the MS150 has three starting points, so you can choose your own level of difficulty. If you start in Waller, you do 75 miles. If you start in Katy, it’s 85. And if you start at Tully Stadium on the west side of Houston proper, your first day is a century.
When I did my first MS150 in 2013, that’s where I started, and on that day I notched my first century since the Reagan administration. I rode from there in 2014, too, on my second MS; here’s the summary of that ride:
My time two years ago was better than my time in 2013, but not substantially so. After that ride, I got much more serious about cycling. I started going to regular rides with people who’d kick my ass, and I got strong enough to hang with them. I lost more weight. I even bought a fancy new bicycle to facilitate go-fast behavior. I averaged in excess of 100 miles per week for most of the year.
Then, of course, there was the crash. In November of 2014, I had a little mishap that resulted in pretty serious broken bone, surgery, two hospital stays, and the inability to walk for three months. I was off the bike for six months, and I was weak as hell when I got back on it.
But I kept at it.
And here we are. Yesterday, I rode my first century since day one of the 2014 MS150.
I’m still not a speed demon, but I’m pretty damn happy about turning in a post-injury time over an hour faster than my 2014 effort. I’m not super excited about yesterday’s performance; I didn’t feel particularly strong, and felt like I was capable of better — maybe it was nutrition, or a failure to taper properly; I dunno. But I’m happy about the trendline. And I couldn’t possibly be more thankful for the people who helped me get here: Erin, first and foremost; my team at Karbach Brewing; and my friends from my Tuesday/Thursday rides.
Now: when’s the next ride?
(PS: If you’d like, it’s still possible to donate to the 2016 MS150; this is my fundraising link — I’d be much obliged!)
I grew up in Mississippi. It’s not a secret; most people know this about me. It’s also not a secret that I left as soon as I was able. I always knew that I would. I attended college out of state, and have made my home in Texas since soon after college. Mississippi was never an option for me.
I cannot say their governor’s enthusiastic adoption of a discrimination bill surprises me at all; that ship has sailed. Once the issue was raised, there was never any doubt in my mind that Mississippi would lead the pack rushing to adopt such a measure. Sure, other states did it, too, but the Magnolia State was right in the thick of it.
Then some interesting things happened. In Georgia, the governor — realizing just exactly what a shitstorm their bill would produce in terms of litigation costs and lost revenue — vetoed the measure, and reasonable people in that state breathed a sigh of relief.
Not so in North Carolina, where the aggressively retrograde governor beat Mississippi to the punch by approving a law perhaps even worse than Mississippi’s. As anyone with two brain cells could predict, the reactions were swift and furious. The law will absolutely not survive challenge on Constitutional grounds, but they’re already losing millions in tax revenue. PayPal cancelled a planned office there. Film and television productions are relocating. More costs will follow. Eventually, those costs, together with the growing litigation bill, will force the law in North Carolina off the books — perhaps even sooner than later, and perhaps even without a Federal court ruling. There are enough people there who will stand against bigotry. There are enough business interests who realize that hate isn’t a good business plan.
This is exactly why I find the Mississippi development more horrifying than the North Carolina one: North Carolina will reap the whirlwind and likely correct course. Mississippi will not, because they have very little to lose.
They do HAVE some industrial investment — Nissan has a factory north of Jackson, for example — but the kinds of investments that the tarheels are now losing really don’t consider Mississippi very often, and the ones that do aren’t the PayPals of the world because there’s no tech corridor to join.
With no immediate and obvious financial repercussions, it’ll stay on the books until it’s litigated away, which will take years (and millions that state doesn’t have). And when that inevitable happens and the law is struck down, the bigots there will moan and cry about “activist judges” or some shit, and the whole aggrieved idiot class will count themselves martyrs, and in the meantime more and more companies will have investigated Mississippi — land IS cheap, and cost of living IS low — and then passed them over because of the law, the workforce available, the lack of amenities in the metro areas, the more appealing locations in Alabama or Georgia or whatever, etc.
I’ve wondered, ever since I left, what it would take for Mississippi to make a real and substantive recovery, and leave the bottom of every list that matters. I even had hope about it at one point. Not any more, though; the leadership there is aggressively telling every smart kid with options that it is not the place for them, especially if they’re gay or trans or even a little weird. (I mean, good CHRIST I was a white, straight, upper-middle class preppy kid BORN THERE, and I never felt especially welcome 30 years ago. And it’s worse now.)
The Mississippi GOP has decided bigotry is a hill they’re willing to die on — they’re keeping the Treason Flag, and they want EVERYBODY to know how much they hate the queers, and that it’s legally okay to do so. I have no fucking idea how they pull out of this. I really, really don’t. It looks like a death spiral, which breaks my heart because I have family there, many of whom cannot leave for various reasons.
So, last week we took a cruise, which was awesome.
On of the guests this year was fantasy author and awesome human N. K. Jemisin.
Erin and I attended her reading last Wednesday, which was a port day. During the reading, the crew had a drill that involved overhead announcements — which, unfortunately, also cut off the mic Ms Jemisin was using, interrupting the reading.
Over and over. It got comical, really, but Ms Jemisin persevered and finished the reading.
Well, Erin being Erin, she decided that Ms Jemisin should be rewarded for her grit here, and set about making some sort of trophy for her using materials she could find on the boat. That was somewhat limiting, but since one of the bits of swag for the cruise was a stuffed dolphin in a fez, and extras were available, an amusing and on-topic base was quickly identified. Erin festooned it with shiny things from the gaming room, and we gave it to her after dinner the next night. She was very pleased.
And, as it turns out, remains pleased about it now.
Over on Twitter, about a week ago:
(tl;dr? Here’s the link. Thanks.)
Here we go again! It’s time for Chet to ride to Austin — well, almost; it’s in 90 days or so (4/16-17). And that means it’s time for me to hassle you about fundraising again. Many of you have been extremely generous for this cause in the prior three years, and I hope that you’ll feel similarly generous this year.
The MS150 is one of the largest — if not THE largest — charity rides in the country. Come April, something more than 15,000 riders will take off from Houston in a two-day marathon ride to Austin, some 165 miles away. I’ll cover 100 miles on day one, spend the night in La Grange, and then either 65 or 75 on day two, depending on which route I choose.
And when I say big, I mean big: last year, there were 13,000 riders, and we raised over $20 million. Yeah, it’s like that.
Yep. Here’s why:
I’m sure you all recall that late 2014 and early 2015 kinda sucked here at the Farmer household. I had a bad crash last November, resulting in the dramatic-looking x-ray above, followed by a long period of healing and rehab. I was confined to a walker from November 20 until late February; I used a cane for months after that. And, obviously, I missed the 150 last year.
(Well, let’s be clear: with your help, I actually DID do the most important part of the 150: fundraising. We — all of you plus me — took first place in fundraising on the Karbach Brewing team, and that’s something we should all be proud of. But I didn’t get to ride.)
After spending all that time off the bike, I took my first short ride in late March. I was slow and tentative, and had no endurance, and that sucked out loud. I joke that I lost 40 pounds riding bikes and drinking beer, and that’s the truth, but part of that was riding hard and often. I went from a 250 pound guy who could barely get to 18 miles an hour to a 210 pound guy who cruised with the hot rod pack at 28 or 30 down Washington Avenue. Coming back and being slow was hard.
But I did it anyway, and I kept doing it, and by July I was finally able to notch 100 miles a week again, and I’ve never looked back. (Well, except to check for traffic.) All told, I rode nearly 2800 miles in 2015, which I think isn’t too bad for a guy who spent the first quarter unable to walk. I didn’t do it by myself, obviously — I had lots of help and encouragement, and a huge part of that was from my teammates at Karbach.
Now, in January of 2016, I’m a stronger rider now than I was last November. I’m excited about that. After sitting out last year, making it to Austin this time around will be especially meaningful to me.
I’ve written to you before about MS, and about how it can sneak up on its victims in pernicious and devastating ways, but to be completely honest I don’t think I really appreciated what that could be like until I spent some time with my mobility compromised. My experience wasn’t a perfect analog — I had great care in one of the best medical centers in the world; there was never any real doubt that I’d make a full recovery barring serious complications — but understanding that intellectually is a long way from internalizing it, especially when you can’t do the things you love, or climb the stairs in your house, or help your spouse with the housework, or even walk.
I got better. (Better, stronger, faster…) My life today is more or less just as it was before the accident. I’m lucky. Some MS patients see remission, but some don’t — and even those in remission live with the knowledge that their personal demon could re-emerge and re-imprison them at almost any time.
I said I did this to drink beer and lose weight, and I think in the first couple years that was more true than not. The fundraising part of the event was a minor part. After all, I didn’t know anyone with MS, and had no real understanding of what it could be like. The 150 is just a thing lots of Houston riders do.
Then, in 2013, friends asked me to ride for their sister, or friend, or cousin, or coworker. That makes it more real in a big hurry, but not as real as spending a few months on a walker.
The ride is secondary. I’ll put in the miles anyway, because I love riding, because it’s good for me, and most of all because I know what it’s like not to be able to. The MS150 is about MS, about raising money for MS research, and about helping those people affected by it. Chet riding to Austin is a sideshow; what we do here, with the link above and below, is the main event — and it’s the part I need you for.
Please give. If you’re able, please increase your gift from last year. We are all of us very, very fortunate — maybe none of as as much as I.
The direct donation link is http://main.nationalmssociety.org/goto/chetfarmer.
Also, in the past, folks have given me names of those close to them who suffer from MS; I write them on my race bib, and find them particularly inspiring after 50 or 60 miles. If you’d like to add a name to the list, just let me know. I’d be proud to.
David Bowie has died. He had turned 69 on Friday.
Chris Onstad wrote this when Michael Jackson died. It’s as on point today as it was then:
“He was your Elvis, and when your Elvis dies, so does the private lie that someday you will be young once again, and feel at capricious intervals the weightlessness of a joy that is unchecked by the injuries of experience and failure.
“Welcome to the only game in town.”
It hardly needs to be said, but in the pantheon of musical influence in the last half century, Bowie has few peers. For me, it’s probably the hardest musical loss since Lou Reed. It might get loud in the office today. I suggest you go and do likewise.
Here’s a start, from 1978. “Heroes” has always been a favorite of mine, even though for the last 13 it reminds me of a wake (Steve Barnett’s, 13 years ago this month). That seems appropriate today.
…maybe scrub your mailing list once or twice? I’m happy to get your card, but I don’t need THREE of them.
In the article South Texas elderly couple tired of living on ‘Gay Drive’ loses battle with city to rename street’, the final graf is simply:
It’s unclear whether they were born on “Gay Drive” or if they chose to move there.
The byline is Madalyn Mendoza; she gets a gold star.
The first post for Heathen went up fifteen years ago today.How ’bout that?
For additional amusement, consider what the world was like 15 years ago — that’s pre-9/11, pre-W, and during the dot-com boom.
Bill Murray is doing a holiday special on Netflix on December 4. I love this “revival of 1970s-style holiday shows” thing that’s been happening — ISTR that Gaga did a Thanksgiving one a while back, and Colbert did a Christmas one in-character a bit before that.
Last night, I noticed my bike’s saddle was broken. It probably got cracked in a paceline pile-up on a ride back in late August, but didn’t actually fail until my ride Sunday or last night. Either way, its supports are totally broken on one side, so it’s unusable for the Ride to the River this weekend.
So I load up my bike to take it over to West End, and noticed the first bit of good luck today: my MS150 fundraising gift certificate finally showed up. I figured it for (part of) a new helmet, but under the circumstances it seemed clear I was about to turn it into a saddle instead and put off the helmet upgrade.
At the shop, my day improved again when they told me “We’ll just warranty that saddle. Go get another one of the wall.” Yeah, the saddle that came on my bike when I bought it LAST OCTOBER. Score one for using a local shop for sure.
While they installed the new saddle, I looked at helmets. I picked one that cost a little more than the gift cert covered, happy to supplement with cash to get a nicer lid. Well, never mind that; West End took the GC as full payment even though it only covered 75% of the cost. Score #2!
I rolled out of the shop having spent no actual cash, and headed to lunch at Hubcap. Ricky was there, and was excited to tell me all about the goings-on for his Galveston place. If you’ve run into him before, you know his excitement is contagious, so that was super fun. It got even MORE fun when my order mysteriously appeared on my table (vs. the window) well before I had any right to expect it. My suspicions were confirmed when they called the next number, which was still 7 tickets lower than the one I was holding.
My working theory is that I must’ve done something right I don’t remember doing.
Apparently, if you are both drunk and Scottish, it is unlikely you will be able to say “Purple burglar alarm.”
is the graph of my cycling miles per week over time, as supplied by Strava.
I dislike the long, barren spot in the middle, but I love the trendline happening on the right. (I will also note how hacked off I am about the empty week there, in which every single ride that week was either rained out or logistically impossible. Grrrr.)
Oh, and 115.5 miles last week.
By now you’ve seen the #IStandWithAhmed hashtags, and know the basic story of a gifted young 14-year-old in Irving who made a clock to take to school and show his engineering teacher. (By the way, the presence of the phrase “engineering teacher” should tip you off that this is a relatively well-to-do part of Dallas.)
Some other teacher saw it, and decided that anything with a circuitboard and wires and a display must be a bomb, and so sent him to the principal’s office, despite Ahmed’s apparently incredulous and constant assertions that it was a clock.
The principal — some fuckwit named Dan Cummings, who should be hounded from education forever if there’s any justice in the world — could have taken one look at the electronics hobby project and realized the English teacher was an idiot, but instead decided that, he, too, needed to board the Racist Jackhole Express and involve the Irving police department.
If we lived in a world where calling the police is always a good idea, we might have hoped for at least one of THEM to realize what idiots the MacArthur teacher and principal were. In that world, Officer NotAnAsshole would have laughed in Danny’s face and sent Ahmed back to class.
This is, of course, not the world we live in. So OF COURSE the cops immediately arrested young Ahmed on one count of Making While Brown and one count of Being Smarter Than Us. And then frogmarched him off campus in handcuffs, I shit you not. Ahmed was eventually booked, fingerprinted, taken to juvenile detention, and suspended for three days, despite not actually having committed any legitimate infraction at all.
The cops, for their part, did eventually state that there would be no charges, which sounds magnanimous unless you’ve been paying attention at all. Expect a giant fucking lawsuit, but the real shame is that pitiful-excuse-for-educator Dan Cummings will pay no price, nor will the English teacher, nor will the just-doin’-my-job cops involved.
Popehat really nails it down here, where he begins
American lives are controlled by the thuggishly mediocre. The best measure of their control is this: when called out on their mediocre thuggery, they can comfortably double down.
Ahmed Mohamed, a bright and curious ninth-grader in Irving, Texas, learned that to his regret this week.
Double down is, of course, exactly what the thuggishly mediocre shitheels at Irving ISD have done, in a letter circulated to parents that emphasizes how heroic they were in having a nerdy freshman arrested for the crime of “making shit”.
My mother was a school administrator, and there are many decent and concerned school administrators. **But to be blunt, school administrators were generally not the kid who built his or her own clock at 14. (Cops were generally the kid who beat up the kid who built the clock.) ** (Emphasis added.)
Fuck those people.
Fortunately, a positive aspect of our world in 2015 is that the condemnation of this jackassery in Irving has been swift, broad, and nearly instantaneous, and includes high-profile participants from MIT, JPL, the Mythbusters, and a dude who lives at 1600 Pennsylvania. I hope the global shaming continues. I’d like to see someone with both a brain and a spine replace Cummings at Ahmed’s high school, but that seems like way too much to hope for. What we will get, I expect, is pro bono legal help in their inevitable suit, plus no end of scholarship and other offers from folks with similar backgrounds (either nerdy, foreign, or both) who want to help this kid out. So there’s that. And, in the absence of seeing Dan Cummings and his ilk forever consigned to pushing a broom in a Dallas reform school, it’s probably all we can really hope for.
Being moved when sleeping perpendicular to the approved Plane Of Sleep in the bed, thereby crowding both humans and, sometimes, the other cat.
Construction noises across the street, including but not limited to hammering (manual or nailgun); power tools; large equipment back-up beeps; large equipment in general; loud music.
Awareness of, but not sight of, neighborhood cats just outside the front door. (Cats visible in the backyard are unremarkable.)
Rain. Which is weird, because she lives in Houston, but her formative years were drought years.
The absence of Mrs Heathen beginning at about 5pm each day.
Being alone in a part of the house where there are no people, unless that room is the bedroom.
Being with people in the wrong part of the house.
Not being in your lap, sometimes.
Being in your lap, sometimes.
Having her nails trimmed.
The other cat having her nails trimmed.
Disapproval in all cases is registered verbally, and, in some cases (e.g. #10), with vigorous squirming. Violence is never on the menu.
Talking Points Memo’s Josh Marshall built a boat with his 8-year-old son despite having no previous woodworking experience.
It looks awesome.
People are really burying the lede on this. Clearly it’s awesome that one raccoon is distressed by the other’s aquatic adventurism, but it’s even MORE awesome that these people apparently have two raccoons named “Willie” and “Waylon.”
So instead of feeding my cat, I hide these balls around the house…
This all started after I read an explanation of why cats go about repeatedly exploring the same areas: it’s partly to establish and survey their territory, but they’re also practicing ‘mobile’ hunting: moving about, being curious, and poking their noses around in the hopes of upsetting potential prey and finding a meal.
So what if my cat, while out on patrol, actually found its prey? Surely this would bring him one step closer towards a more fulfilled and self-actualized indoor kitty existence.
I imagined hiding little bowls of food around the house… then I imagined me actually refilling these bowls. Then I imagined having to move them around to different hiding spots, spilling, forgetting, and every so often, perhaps only after following a trail of ants, finding one undiscovered and rancid. Hmmm, maybe there’s a way to hide something else, a way to hide something other than food, a way to make something not-food = food…
Click through. It’s brilliant.
In fact, it’s best if you simply supply an ample swimming pool for your local bears, as this seems to keep them happy.
(In the “Life” category only because Heathen does not yet have a “Bears” category.)
So the last year has, for me, been kind of up and down.
Last summer I got very serious about cycling for the first time, really in response to having entered MS150 training season out of shape despite the gains of the previous year. I decided that wouldn’t happen again, so I kept riding — an average of 100 miles per week from just before the 150 until the third week in November. It’s higher if I grant myself weather or travel related mulligans, even.
Then, of course, that came to a grinding halt when I broke my hip in November. That was a pretty discouraging turn of events, to say the least. The medical saga that followed was a serious pain in the ass; I don’t want to make too much of it, since so many other folks have so much worse tales of woe, but spending 10 days in the hospital sucks for anybody. Needing PICC line to quash a post-op infection sucks for anybody. And obviously not being able to put any weight on your leg for three months sucks OUT LOUD for anybody.
The infection got its ass kicked, though. My wounds healed. I got cleared for weight and PT again in February, right on schedule. I started riding again a month later, slow and tentative at first, but regularly.
I got faster, again. I got stronger, again. Part of this was frustrating, because I could remember how strong I had been in the fall, but the other side of starting over is that you get to re-do the part with the most dramatic gains.
I’m still not quite what I was in every way, but I can see it from here.
So here is this, now: the point of this post, in two pictures.
Exhibit A, or, Chet Has Internal Jewelry Now:
Exhibit B, or, How Chet Spent His Sunday:
I did this same ride last summer — The Katy Flatland Century — as I was approaching Peak (pre-wreck) Chet. I was very slightly faster yesterday than I was last summer.
The other punchline is this: I rode 109.2 miles in the week ending yesterday. That’s my first hundred mile week since November 9.
If I’m honest, I admit that two factors actually erase the speed difference, or even put yesterday behind my achievement last year.
First, I rode with part of my team yesterday, in a paceline, taking turns at the front; last summer, I was alone.
Second, last year I was riding my 30 pound Surly; this time, I was on 18 pounds of carbon designed for go-fast behavior.
It’s not just about the number, though. It’s about going through something and coming out on the other side, just about 8 months later. It’s about regaining this level of fitness, even if it’s not where I was at my peak (yet!). It’s about getting here not on your own, because that’s impossible; it’s about getting here with the support of your friends, your family, and the professionals who put me back together and showed me how to get strong again.
And most of all it’s about being married to my best friend, without whom absolutely none of this would have happened.
Trust me. This is worth your time.
There is, apparently, still an enormous pile of snow in Boston, owing to their apocalyptic winter.
It is July.
Seen on my Facebook feed moments ago (and anonymized):
I may have something in my eye.
Our friends at Talking Points Memo have a great piece up about the history of Juneteenth. Pick up on it.
That’s pretty awful in a passage-of-titans sense, but to have it followed by the news of Ornette Coleman also shuffling off this mortal coil (at an entirely respectable 85) makes for a shitty morning, my friends.
A couple years ago, when United ruined Continental and ended the carrier’s relationship with Amex, I picked up a fancy United-branded Chase Visa in order to retain some status with United. I don’t fly much anymore, and when I do I prefer Southwest, but carrying the card gets me into the club if I need it, and just having it makes me the equivalent of their lowest elite flier tier (which is something my Amex Platinum didn’t do).
Anyway, so, fancy Visa. When I got it, I was stunned at how oddly heavy it was. I assumed they used some denser plastic for it and didn’t really give it any thought beyond that. And since I mostly just have the card for travel, I don’t pull it out of my wallet much, and so the oddness was mostly forgotten.
Yesterday I got a replacement card in the mail, as the initial one had expired (without me noticing, actually). The new one is just as heavy, which renewed my curiosity a little — but not nearly as much as what came next.
I pulled out the heavy scissors to destroy the old card, as you do, and found the card basically un-cuttable. The scissors had no shot at all. In retrospect, I’m super glad I wasn’t downstairs in my office, where I would have blithely dropped the old card into my shredder and probably ruined it in the process. I didn’t really even get very far doing the bend-it-back-and-forth thing.
What did Chase use to make this demon card? Well, the scissors WERE game enough to scratch it deeply, and this is what I found when I pulled on the top layer:
The damn thing is heavy because it’s made of metal with a thin layer of plastic on either side. WTF?
These scientists accidentally filmed a sperm whale investigating their remote camera rig, and became VERY excited.
As previously noted, today is the 150th anniversary of the surrender of the treasonous Lee at Appomattox. Raise a glass to the Union, to the destruction of the Confederacy and its preservation of slavery, and to the brave troops who helped put down the rebellion.
Also, via a friend on Tumblr, here is an actual depiction of the regimental flag for the Union’s 22nd Colored Regiment, and I fucking LOVE IT:
I’ve long considered celebrating anything about the Confederacy to be morally questionable if not outright obnoxious, but I could make an exception for this: Make the Confederacy’s Defeat a National Holiday.
There’s no escaping that those who fought for the South were committing treason at every turn — and were doing so in defense of slavery. They didn’t want to be part of a country where all men were created equal, and so they took up arms to attempt to force the issue. They failed. And we should celebrate their failure.
Tomorrow marks 150 years since Lee’s defeat at Appomattox. Raise a drink to the Union.