The fire next time

July 29, 2020

That may be Cthulhu’s eye up there in the clouds.
Or it could be the moon.

This is what the eastern sky looked like around 7:30 last night.

“No more monsoons! The end is nigh! Prepare ye for mostly sunny and warmish!”

Which it was. Eighties as I pedaled off nine-ish this morning, and it only got hotter.

Later in the afternoon Herself popped round to the Dark Tower for a window chat with her mom, but couldn’t stick it out more than a few minutes.

Don’t expect her to have a window chat of any duration with Louie Gohmert, though. Not even if the dumb sonofabitch wears a diving helmet and a diaper over his Bug-hole.

Fender amped

July 27, 2020

It was cloudy around the Crest, but the real action was behind me down below, as I found out when I headed for the barn.

The monsoons have draped themselves over us like a soggy cotton shirt.

It would be nice if the Universe would rearrange its watering schedule. A little bit here and a little bit there instead of all at once, like emptying a thundermug out of a second-story window onto a warbling drunkard.

But nobody in his right mind snivels about rain in the high desert. Not when rivers are drier than a popcorn fart and even the cacti are panting.

I’ve switched bikes — from the Soma Saga (canti) to the Soma Saga (disc) — because the latter still has fenders. I pulled the mudguards and racks off the rim-brake model to make it more of a daily driver than a touring machine.

But the daily driving is different now, so, yeah. I got rained on today. Fenders are your friend.

100 days

July 26, 2020

Is it a sleeping bag if you can’t sleep?

One hundred days. That’s how close we are to the next U.S. presidential election. And in his weekly newsletter, Charles P. Pierce notes:

We are prepared neither for an election in the middle of a pandemic, nor to cope with the mechanisms being constructed to ratfck an election in the middle of a pandemic, up to and including armed and anonymous troopers on the street corner outside the polling place. And, hell, in a country that seems incapable of doing anything of substance any more anyway, learned helplessness is fairly easy to, well, learn.

Helplessness and hubris may be our two greatest enemies. And they have the full support of the 24/7 news cycle.

“The shit monsoon has swept us all out to sea! Here, you’re gonna need this anvil!”

“What’s that off the port bow? Tom Hanks commanding a destroyer, ready to lead our ragtag convoy to safety? No, it’s just Daffy Uncle Joe in a dinghy, but he hardly stutters at all, and his son’s only a little bit crooked, so no need to panic. Unless you can’t swim.” (Cue the “Jaws” theme.”)

“We’re all fucked!” may be accurate, if only as a self-fulfilling prophecy. But as slogans go, it’s not in a league with “Give me liberty or give me death!”

“But look at the polls!” is likewise unhelpful. Look at them all you want, take whatever solace they may provide. But remember, the only numbers that count are the ones that come out of the actual election. That’s why we hold ’em. To find out who won. Occasionally we are surprised.

Here’s the thing. It’s something of a Zen koan: You can’t bag it. Because it’s not in the bag.

By all means, follow the news and the polls. But not blindly. Keep one eye on the compass and the other on the crew. Some of this lot need a good flogging come Nov. 3. Doesn’t matter who’s captain if the crew’s in mutiny.

And grab an oar. This ain’t “The Love Boat,” matey. No passengers.

Channel-surfing

July 24, 2020

A wet brick can be a terrorist weapon in the wrong hands.
See something, say something!

The “monsoons” appear to be upon us. A bit late, but better that than never.

Look for the Homeless People’s Diversion Channel Surfing Championships live from Albuquerque on ESPN, as there are no other “sports” available to televise.*

Simultaneously, on CNN, watch the 101st Vanborne Division (“The Squealing Beagles”) take target practice on the hapless channel-surfers using “less-lethal munitions,” formerly dubbed “non-lethal munitions,” a.k.a. rubber bullets, beanbag rounds,  IRA recruitment tools, etc.

Survivors will be fished out, charged with domestic terrorism for occupying and/or polluting a waterway, and sentenced to take the “troops” water-skiing.

BUM, bum, BUM, bum. …

“Row, y’bastards!”

* Major League Baseball™ is not a sport. It is a business, like AT&T, Facebook, and the White House.

Five months

July 22, 2020

Waiting on the “provider” at urgent care on Feb. 21. Is it just me,
or does “The Provider” sound like a third-tier Marvel superhero?

That’s how long it’s been since I broke my right ankle, getting an early jump (har de har har) on lockdown.

This one-two punch certainly restricted my movement, even without the intervention of the 101st Vanborne, which is said to be en route. Since Feb. 21, I haven’t ventured north of Tramway and Interstate 25, east of Carnuel, south of I-40, or west of Interstate 25.

In an ordinary year I would have hightailed it at least once by now, to Arizona or Colorado. At the very least I would have cycled around the bosque, ridden up to the Triangle, or even tackled a short tour. If the State is going to track me, I want the sonsabitches to work up a sweat.

But 2020 has been anything but ordinary, in terms of personal mobility, global pandemic, and creeping fascism.

Bad ankle! Bad, bad, bad! Get in that boot and stay there, thinking about what you’ve done.

Re: personal mobility. I gassed up the Forester the day before breaking the ankle, but I didn’t fill ’er up again until last Thursday.

This means that in the past five months, I’ve driven maybe 300 miles, which is what I get from a tank of gas when motoring around Albuquerque. Bum ankle notwithstanding, I’m pretty sure I’ve walked more than that.* For sure I’ve cycled more (943.8 miles).

By the way, this cycling mileage is not impressive, even for a 66-year-old gimp. My best week since the mishap saw me ride all of 80 miles. The worst? Three-point-five. Seriously. It was March 7, I was on the trainer with my Darth Bootsy footwear, and I lasted a whole half hour.

The good news is, I’m biking and hiking regularly, and the ankle continues its slow, steady rehabilitation.

The bad news is, I don’t think I can outrun one of those federales in the cammy-jammies if he catches me off the bike. And that dodgy right foot is the one I use to kick annoyances in the balls.

* OK, so I’ve only walked 123.7 miles. I had to check.

Just another manic Monday

July 20, 2020

Anybody else feel like their rhythm is a little off? Like you’re dancing with one foot in a bucket?

Makes it hard to shake your moneymaker, that’s for sure.

Today we had a routine AC/furnace check on The List, and in Plague Time these things are scheduled in a window rather than on the dot. Ours was from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., which is a really big dot. Basically a picture window.

I took five at the Piedra Lisa parking lot to snap a quick pic while letting a fleet-footed woman blast past.

I didn’t like the view, but there it was. I usually do a medium-long hike on Mondays, but we both overslept and by the time the morning chores got done I had about 45 minutes to work with if the dude was closer to 10 than 2. Herself had the usual conga line of nightmares moonwalking through her office and I didn’t want to slip another foot-dragging zombie into the mix.

So, boom, I’m out, I’m back. Zip and zip and zip. So pro. No word from the dude. So I figure I’ll do a little light resistance training just ’cause. The phone rings halfway through, a number I don’t recognize, but I pick up on the off chance it’s the dude, which of course it is. He’s five minutes away and on the move.

Anyway, we passed the checkup. The heat heats and the cool cools. I managed a third of a hike and half of a weights session. Herself made bank. What’s not to like?

Speaking of which, here are two new recipes worth a look:

A simple no-cook pizza sauce from Kitchn. Herself likes these corn-meal pizza crusts from Vicolo and with two of those, this sauce, some mozzarella, a little leftover turkey-taco meat, and a handful of chopped black olives and mushrooms, we had two nights of dinner dialed in.

Turmeric and black-pepper chicken with asparagus, from Ali Slagle at The New York Times. This was really good. Simple and quick and versatile and really, really good. It goes into the rotation. But “serves four” me bollocks. The only reason we didn’t eat it all at one sitting was that we wanted some leftovers for the next day’s lunch.

The bad news: Our local Penzey’s Spices shop is closed. And that ominous oinking you’ve been hearing from Portland? It may be coming soon to a town near you.

Masque of the Read Death

July 19, 2020

Always nice to see the smarties having a word.
Even if they can’t spell it.

Well.

I guess he told us.

I’m not sure what he was saying, exactly. But whatever it was, he sure told us.

Good trouble

July 18, 2020

A police mugshot of John Lewis from Nashville, during the Sixties.

“Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.”Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.)

“I just happened to be wearing black on a sidewalk in downtown Portland at the time. And that apparently is grounds for detaining me.”Mark Pettibone, a Portland protester snatched off the street by anonymous men in camo who sprang from an unmarked van.

When Mother Jones asked the Homeland Security Department for details of what DHS agents are doing in [Portland], a spokesperson sent a press release in which acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf described nearly 100 incidents allegedly perpetrated by “violent anarchists” — mostly vandalism of the courthouse and other federal buildings. (A typical example: “Violent anarchists graffitied the Hatfield Courthouse.”)Dan Friedman, Mother Jones.

Clubbed

July 17, 2020

Your Humble Narrator working a race for VeloNews Back in the Day®, when subscription fees and advertising revenue were enough to make the nut.

Steve-O raises an interesting question:

Your thoughts (and everyone else’s) on Bicycling’s new $40/year membership model?

This seems to be the flavor of the month. VeloNews is doing something similar for $99 a year, along with most of its cousins in the Pocket Outdoor Media group.

It’s tough to get readers to pay for “content.” Most people who read a daily newspaper Back in the Day® had no idea that their subscriptions didn’t cover the cost of the ink on the newsprint, much less the tab for all the technology and people it took to make the blat land on the stoop every morning. For a reader, the daily paper was a cheap date, with the real cost borne by advertisers.

Advertising is a tough sell these days, for newspapers, magazines, and websites. So what’s left? “Memberships.”

The New York Times has had some success with digital subscriptions. Likewise The Wall Street Journal. Two real powerhouses that can serve up the goodies you can’t get anywhere else.

I see value in the NYT and The Washington Post, so I subscribe to both. I also subscribe to The Atlantic, and Charlie Pierce’s blog at Esquire. All of these outfits provide things I want and need. I wish there were some Flyover Country version of The Atlantic so I could subscribe to that too.

But when you get down to the enthusiast-publication level, the pitch for memberships gets a little tougher. What do Bicycling or VeloNews have that I want/need badly enough to pay for it?

I like reading Joe Lindsey and Andrew Hood. And I like them as people, too. But with all due respect, I’m not sure that I want to spend $150 a year with their employers. There’s a bunch of stuff in both magazines/websites that I couldn’t care less about. It would feel like signing up for cable TV. I pulled that plug back in 2006 and now we buy our TV a la carte.

Perhaps the biggest issue with hawking memberships, subscriptions, and advertising is the one that started cropping up toward the end of my freelancing career. I was fortunate to be earning steady, predictable money as a regular contributor to both VN and Bicycle Retailer. But there were lots of other hired guns who were starting to get ambushed by what we called “fans with keyboards.” People who’d work for chump change, a T-shirt, or even just the byline.

Today there are so many talented amateurs and semipros out there who are willing to create wonderful stuff for free, or for pennies, that paying for the pros — who so often find themselves consigned to following the dictates of some uninspired editor or an advertising-driven calendar of theme issues — can seem extravagant.

“OK, guys, time for the annual stationary-trainer roundup, the ‘How LeMond won using aero bars’ retrospective, and who’s doing this week’s ‘fitter/faster in 10 seconds a day’ piece?”

Everybody thinks they’re working hard, and that you should buy what they’re selling. Not everybody is right.

‘We’ll be right back after this message. …’

July 15, 2020

Down time.

The question very much not on everyone’s mind is: “Whatever happened to Radio Free Dogpatch?”

My little podcast was ticking along nicely there for a while, with episodes popping up semi-regularly since the first of the year.

Then the broken ankle took me down in February, and The Bug® put the boots to me in March.

And that, as they say, was that.

A podcast, even a low-rent, one-man, half-assed model like mine, takes time. Thought. Quiet.

It’s quiet out there. Too quiet.

All those things were suddenly in short supply when Herself joined me in working from home.

If any of you have been doing likewise in lockdown, you know the drill. Zoom meetings. Phone calls. Speakerphone calls, with voices that often fail to harmonize with the ones in my head. Skypeing. Messaging. Texting.

And it all starts at stupid-thirty, ’cause Herself is an early riser. By the time I crawl out of my coffin around 6-ish she’s already brewed the coffee and fed the cat, and is two-three phone calls into her day.

Which is rigorously planned. She has a List. Items will be checked off same or she will know the reason why. Any gaps that appear unexpectedly between chores will be filled with … more chores. Herself is a Tasmanian devil of relentless functionality and accomplishment.

Me? I just, y’know, kinda, like, fuck around, an’ shit. See what happens. If anything.

Ho, ho. Too bad for me. Her gig is the one that makes it rain around here. My contributions to the general fund have become a little less laughable since I started collecting Social Security in April, but next to her mighty fiscal Niagara my revenue stream remains the dribbling of a very old dog with prostate issues and a bladder stone the size of the Hope Diamond.

Shucks, the podcast never brought in a dime anyway. In fact, it sent dimes out, in the form of dollars. Many, many of them. An essential worker it is not. Like Adolf Twitler’s “presidency,” it is primarily a cash-burning vanity project.

So if anybody is going to STFU around here for a minute, or even for months, well … it’s gonna be Radio Free Dogpatch.

I take solace from learning that I’m not the only voice to develop a little situational laryngitis in The New Weird Order.

For instance, parents who podcast are finding it tough to get their Ira Glass on with herds of unschooled munchkins free-ranging around the home studio, according to Caroline Crampton of the “Hot Pod” newsletter (scroll down).

Writes Crampton: “[F]or those who work in audio and need to edit for long periods, or record links and tracking to the highest possible standard that the moment will allow, there’s the extra challenge of finding the space and quietness to do that.”

The short version, from one anonymous podcaster: “Take after take just gets nuked.”

(Insert sound effect of Trinity atomic blast here. Oh, wait, we’re doing text now, not audio. Never mind.)

Happily, my primary distraction is not a horrifically bored, runny-nosed, ankle-biting, boundary-testing expense that a dozen or so years down the road will call me a fleshist at my own dinner table for not pledging some of my hard-earned Imperial credits to the Robot Liberation Army. She’s an income-generating asset, and right now, too.

So if Herself screams “GRILLED CHEESE! GRILLED CHEESE!”, she’s gonna get some grilled fuckin’ cheese from yours truly. We call it a quesadilla around here, but still, whatever you wanna call it, she’s gonna get it.

Radio Free Dogpatch is not the new toilet paper. It may be in short supply, but that doesn’t mean the punters are throwing hands over it at Libsyn. If I have something to say, I can always slink off to where the old toilet paper is, close the door, and squeeze out a quick blog post.

And yes, I’ll turn on the ceiling fan and wash my hands afterward.