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.”

“This is happening without us!”

Paul Allen died on Sunday.

It’s possible you don’t know, or don’t quite remember who he was, even if you’re nerdy enough to read this site. Allen was Bill Gates’ partner in founding Microsoft back in 1975.

Gates writes, in his remembrance of Allen:

In fact, Microsoft would never have happened without Paul. In December 1974, he and I were both living in the Boston area—he was working, and I was going to college. One day he came and got me, insisting that I rush over to a nearby newsstand with him. When we arrived, he showed me the cover of the January issue of Popular Electronics. It featured a new computer called the Altair 8800, which ran on a powerful new chip. Paul looked at me and said: “This is happening without us!” That moment marked the end of my college career and the beginning of our new company, Microsoft. It happened because of Paul.

This wonderful world of computing where I’ve made my life (*) since the early 80s was built by men like Allen and Gates and Jobs and Wozniak and others whose names you don’t know, like Dennis Ritchie. I’ve joked for years that these guys were the only Boomers I actually liked, and it’s not far from the truth. (Well, Ritchie was older than that, but still.)

Computing was always a young man’s game for most of my life, but all those young men are getting older, and now, well, they’re shuffling off this mortal coil. Sic transit gloria mundi.

(*: My whole life. My career. My education. A huge chunk of my social life. And yes, even Erin; longtime Heathen will recall it was a blast email from a mutual friend that reconnected us 17 years ago this summer.)

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.

Death to the Bullshit Web

Have you noticed that, even though your computer is insanely fast, and your connection is faster still, that web pages don’t seem to load any faster in 2018 than they did in 2008 or 1998?

Yeah. Me, too.

That’s the bullshit web.

Dept. of Surprising New Facts

Remember this scene in Top Gun, wherein Our Hero flies inverted over an enemy MiG and flips him off whilst Dr Greene Goose shoots a candid Polaroid?

Yeah, uh, just read this in a New Yorker article about Virgin Galactic’s lead test pilot, Mark Stucky, who has flown for both the Marine Corps and the Air Force:

Stucky also was a showboater. In 1985, on a patrol mission over the Sea of Japan, he spotted a Soviet bomber in the distance, caught up to it, flipped upside d own, got close enough that only a few dozen feet separated the cockpits, and snapped a photograph.

Maverick? Meet Mark Stuckey, who is way cooler than you on account of not being fictional.

Tom Waits’ Asylum Years

Longtime Heathen know our fondness for Mr Waits; this excellent retrospective of his early work — from his debut with Closing Time in 1973 through 1980’s Heartattack and Vine — traces his progression from neo-tin-pan-alley to the much more experimental artist he would eventually become.

After 1980, he would leave Asylum records and begin his collaboration (and marriage) with Kathleen Brennan; the changes were stark when Island Records released Swordfishtrombones three years later. (That’s the album, of course, which features “Johnsburg, Illinois,” about his new wife’s birthplace.)

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.

What could possibly go wrong?

A Michigan bar has had its liquor license suspended for problems I’m dead certain at least one person has dismissed as “some seriously ticky-tacky namby-pamby nanny-state bullshit:”

Drinking alcohol while throwing axes, ax-throwers wearing open-toed shoes, a lack of monitoring by bar management and axes ricocheting off targets in the direction of participants were among the concerns listed by Michigan Liquor Control Commission investigators.

Dept. of Things That Probably Didn’t Need To Exist

In the wake of learning of a new film of Lear — coming to Amazon streaming next month, with Anthony Hopkins in the title role! — I fell down the whole of “nonobvious adaptations of Shakespeare.” Some of these are common knowledge — I think most people, or at least most film buffs, are aware that Kurosawa’s Ran is also a Lear adaptation, and that his Throne of Blood is Hamlet. Then there are the odd ones, and at the bottom of this pile of weirdness I found this:

In 2002, TNT released a made-for-TV adapation of Lear set in Texas in the 19th century called The King of Texas, and starring no less an eminence than Patrick Stewart as cattle baron John Lear. Uli Edel directed, which makes total sense, as Mr Edel is also the auteur behind such brilliant efforts as Madonna’s me-too erotic thriller Body of Evidence and a TV movie about Mike Tyson.

A year later, Edel did a two-part TV movie about the life of Julius Ceaser with Jeremy Sisto (Six Feet Under; Law & Order) in the title role, and also featuring Richard Harris (his penultimate role) and Christopher Walken. So yeah.

Anyway, the whole thing is on YouTube, but somehow I don’t think it’s gonna make it to my watch list, but I sample it enough to hear Stewart’s precisely awful attempt at a “western” accent. Ugh.

One time, we gave this lady a dolphin

N. K. Jemisin just won her third Hugo in a row, making her the first person to win three Best Novel Hugos in a row. Each entry of her Broken Earth trilogy won the award, and let me tell you they were all deserved.

Here’s her very, very, very great speech from the award ceremony (“stop texting me!”). Here’s a lovely bit:

This is the year in which I get to smile at all of those naysayers — every single mediocre insecure wanna-be who fixes their mouth to suggest that I do not belong on this stage, that people like me cannot possibly have earned such an honor, and that when they win it’s meritocracy but when we win it’s identity politics. I get to smile at those people and lift a massive shining rocket-shaped finger in their direction.

Oh, the dolphin? Yeah, this: during her reading on the 2016 JoCo Cruise, a crew drill was happening, which meant constant interruptions over the shipwide intercom. Erin and I decided we’d give her an award, and so we did.

Ms Jemisin is awesome. You could do a lot worse than read her work.

When Apple is Dumb.

The Windows world has long since adopted a “we know best” approach on app behavior. A great example of this is apps that, when you quit them, inform you that “Hey, we see you’re quitting, so we’re going to close the window but not really quit because we think we should stay around for $some_bullshit_reason. To completely quit, check the System Tray, and good luck finding that if you’re not a nerd!”

That’s incredibly obnoxious, and violates user expectations. It runs completely counter to something called the Principle of Least Astonishment in UI and system design.

[T]he principle means that a component of a system should behave in a way that users expect it to behave; that is, users should not be astonished by its behavior.

Closing a program should stop the program’s activity. Staying behind, in deliberate contravention of the user’s stated intention, so that you can INTERRUPT THE USER with a notification, is an egregious violation of this idea.

Heretofore, though, as I said, this was more or less exclusively the province of Windows apps.

Unfortunately, Apple’s gotten in the game for no good reason. Here’s how.

One strength of Mac + iOS world is that Apple, realizing text fees from carriers were just bullshit rent-seeking behavior, quietly over the last several years began replacing texts with an internal, more secure messaging system over the Internet. You know it as “iMessage”, and it’s why your texts to other iPhone folks are blue, while true SMS messages (e.g., to folks with Android devices, or “feature” phones) are green. Only the green ones are truly texts for which carrier can nickel and dime you; the rest are just data, and work over wifi, even if you’re overseas with no local cell connectivity.

This is neat.

The other part of this that’s neat is that, because iMessage is just data associated with your AppleID, you can also use iMessage on your computer or iPad, even though you probably think of those messages as “texts”.

At some point, though, some “I know better” weasel at Apple decided that, even if a user doesn’t have Messages open on their Mac, they should still get notifications for incoming messages there.

This is bad, first, because of the Least Astonishment principle I noted above. This is bad in practice because it may surprise you when giving a presentation. This didn’t actually happen to me, but it could have; I just happened to notice that I was still getting notifications after a reboot and before I’d reopened everything.

That, to be quite clear, is some serious bullshit, and reeks of some mushy-headed “designer” who thinks every paradigm needs rejiggering.

The only way to stifle this is to engage the Mac’s Do Not Disturb feature, which is an additional step you should not have to do if you’ve already quit the damn program in question.

I’d really love to know what the fuck they were thinking.

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.

The Twilight of Johnny Depp

This is one insanely depressing story. Perhaps the money quote is paragraph from late in the story:

I want to go home, but feel reluctant to leave. One of the most famous actors in the world is now smoking dope with a writer and his lawyer while his cook makes dinner and his bodyguards watch television. There is no one around him who isn’t getting paid.

Emphasis added.

Bourdain on Kissenger:

Once you’ve been to Cambodia, you’ll never stop wanting to beat Henry Kissinger to death with your bare hands. You will never again be able to open a newspaper and read about that treacherous, prevaricating, murderous scumbag, sitting down for a nice chat with Charlie Rose, or attending some black-tie affair for a new glossy magazine without choking. Witness what Henry did in Cambodia – the fruits of his genius for statesmanship – and you will never understand why he’s not sitting in the dock at The Hague next to Milosevic. While Henry continues to nibble nori rolls and remaki at A-list parties, Cambodia, the neutral nation he secretly and illegally bombed, invaded, undermined, and then threw to the dogs, is still trying to raise itself up on its one remaining leg.

And now Tony is gone, and the unrepentant Kissinger still draws breath.

Your weekend reading: SPACE DADS FOR AMERICA

Sarah Gailey absolutely shreds Armageddon in this hilarious piece over at Tor.com. Please enjoy.

A sample:

Armageddon is a film composed of two neatly dovetailed love letters to toxic patriarchs. Neither can be called the primary narrative, any more than one of the four cold-opens of the picture can be called a ‘beginning.’ Grace Stamper (Liv Tyler) learns to appreciate her abusive father, Harry (Bruce Willis); her story unfurls in unwavering parallel to the story of the American military industrial complex saving the whole world. Well, the whole world except for Paris. Sorry, Paris.

Armageddon desperately wants the viewer to see Harry Stamper as the hero of the story, because in this parable of international diplomacy, Harry Stamper embodies America. All he wants to do is drill for oil, isolate his daughter from any support networks outside of the ones over which he has direct control, and kill any man who tries to form a meaningful peer relationship with her. In the scene which introduces the dynamic between Grace and her father—a scene in which he repeatedly fires a shotgun at her boyfriend, A.J. (Ben Affleck)—Harry asserts that he has repeatedly asked Grace to call him “Dad.” The camera lingers on his soulful eyes, and the viewer is reminded that he is Sympathetic. He wants what’s best for his daughter, the camera explains. It just happens that what’s best for her is the complete sublimation of her personal agency. Is that so much to ask?

And also:

The asteroid threat justifies the existence of the American Military Industrial Complex the way nothing else ever could. “Thank goodness we have nuclear bombs,” shouts Michael Bay over the half-eaten remains of a Thanksgiving dinner you wish you had found an excuse to miss, “because what if there was an asteroid?!”

Seriously. Go read this.

Dept. of Early 21st Century Comedy Bits That Would Not, At This Point, Play Well

14 years ago, promoting Anchorman, Will Ferrell visited Conan back when Conan was on Late Night, and really kind of before DVRs took over. Few watched or recorded; it was weird and chaotic and almost devoid of rules.

So they did this. It’s long. Stay with it. Make time, but if you absolutely cannot wait, skip ahead to 9:40, and realize that this joke only comes after Ferrell has been playing it straight on the couch for nearly ten minutes.

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.)

Today in Thai Food

Every wonder why there are so many Thai restaurants? Given the proportion of Thai folks in the US, they punch WAY over their weight class in terms of ubiquity of cuisine (which is awesome), but how did that happen?

Turns out, there’s a thing called “gastrodipolmacy:”

Using a tactic now known as gastrodiplomacy or culinary diplomacy, the government of Thailand has intentionally bolstered the presence of Thai cuisine outside of Thailand to increase its export and tourism revenues, as well as its prominence on the cultural and diplomatic stages. In 2001, the Thai government established the Global Thai Restaurant Company, Ltd., in an effort to establish at least 3,000 Thai restaurants worldwide. At the time, Thai deputy commerce minister Goanpot Asvinvichit told the Wall Street Journal that the government hoped the chain would be “like the McDonald’s of Thai food.” Apparently, the government had been training chefs at its culinary training facilities to send abroad for the previous decade, but this project formalized and enhanced these efforts significantly.

The McDonald’s of Thai food never quite materialized as a government-operated megachain, but the broader goal of a government-supported increase in the number of Thai restaurants abroad has. The Thai government has continued earmarking funds for the global proliferation of galangal root and fish sauce, and it’s paid off.

The strategies for achieving this increase were manifold, run in parallel by various departments of the government. The Ministry of Commerce’s Department of Export Promotion, most likely run by bureaucrats rather than restaurateurs, drew up prototypes for three different “master restaurants,” which investors could choose as a sort of prefabricated restaurant plan, from aesthetic to menu offerings. Elephant Jump would be the fast casual option, at $5 to $15 per person; Cool Basil would be the mid-priced option at $15 to $25 a head; and the Golden Leaf prototype would cost diners $25 to $30, with décor featuring “authentic Thai fabrics and objets d’art.” (Does your favorite Thai spot have objets d’art? The restaurant may have been built from a government prototype.)

This is brilliant and awesome.

Hey Chet, what’s a Criterium?

Scary as FUCK, that’s what.

Seriously, though, it’s a timed, multilap bicycle race over a relatively short closed course. We had one here in Houston on Sunday morning, and while I don’t participate, I have a lot of friends who do.

It’s not one big race, obviously. Bike racing, like most sports, is split into levels. Let’s be clear, too: Cat 5 riders are CRAZY strong compared to non-racing folks. I’ve been doing pretty serious structured workouts for 6+ months now, and I’m absolutely sure that I’d still be dead last in any competitive Cat 5 field.

  • Rank beginners are Cat 5.
  • Some of those will progress to Cat 4.
  • Getting to Cat 3 involves a shitload of work and no small amount of talent. I don’t know many Cat 3 road racers.
  • By the time you’re in Cat 2 or Cat 1, you’re getting lots of stuff for free.
  • Above Cat 1 you find the Pro ranks — and it’s a long way from being a local pro to the class of folks you’ll see on the Champs-Élysées every summer.

And for logistics purposes, these categories combined for actual races. For example, we had friends in 4 different races on Sunday morning:

  • 1 in the Men’s Cat 4/5 race;
  • 4 in the combined Women’s Cat 4/5 & Women’s 40+ 3/4/5 race;
  • Several in Men’s Masters 4/5 (35+);
  • Plus my coach Jason in the Men’s Cat 3

Jason was doing well going into the final lap, but in close-quarters riding like this crashes are a risk, and they had one. Jason didn’t go down, but he was behind it enough that it blew his finish.

Someone very close to Jason in the peloton had Garmin cameras on the front and back of his bike, and has posted the final lap. You don’t really see Jason until the post-crash moments, when he edits in the rear-facing footage, but when you do it’s super clear how close he came to being in a super scary sprinting pileup.

He’s here (click to embiggen; note they’re at 25MPH here!):

Screen Shot 2018 05 09 at 2 11 24 PM

And here’s the whole video:

Stay with the video until the finish, and pay attention to the lower left; the camera setup used by the rider allows him to superimpose his speed and power on the screen. Yes, they’re sprinting at 40MPH.

For more fun footage, check out this guy’s 7:30 video, which includes some sweet overhead drone footage.