‘This customer needs service’

April 11, 2017

A United customer-service agent faced with an overbooking situation prepares to “re-accommodate” a passenger.

Not content to settle for losing/destroying its passengers’ luggage, delaying/canceling their flights, or simply leaving them stranded well short of their “final destination,” United has taken customer service to a whole new level undreamed of by Samsung, Comcast or your friendly local DMV:

Just kick the shit out of the troublesome sonsabitches.

C’mon. You knew it was coming. United specializes in employing the unemployable, the sort of authority-mad misfit who can’t make it as a mall cop, Klan enforcer, or presidential press secretary.

Sooner or later one of United’s goons was going to segue from daydreaming of the good old days euthanizing puppies in Leach Field, Alabama, to siccing the dogs on some passenger who not only didn’t want to get boned, but wouldn’t even pull his pants down on command.

As usual, this pissy attitude trickles down from the top. CEO Oscar Munoz should be sentenced to flying coach for a few years to see how long it takes him to become “disruptive and belligerent,” and if he were to be “re-accommodated” by a size-13 boot to the balls, well, I don’t expect many United customers would shed a tear.

But y’know what? Fuck us and what we think. United stock actually closed up after all this bad noise. America’s commercial airlines are enjoying record profits (United made $2.3 billion in profits last year). Overbooking flights pays off.

So shuddup, siddown and enjoy our in-flight entertainment: a gladiatorial match featuring four passengers selected at random. If you’re lucky, we won’t “re-accommodate” you at our cruising altitude of 36,000 feet, the way we just did your luggage.

Rocks ‘n’ rollin’

April 8, 2017

Everybody must get stoned.

My man Charles Pelkey will be kick-starting the Live Update Guy machinery tomorrow for Paris-Roubaix, so all y’all should bounce that way to say, “Allez.”

We gave the software a bit of a test-drive today and all seems well. As for the race, it looks to be a dusty one, and while Tom Boonen seems the sentimental favorite, the cobbles have no sentiment atall atall.

Meanwhile, King Donald the Short-fingered is looking all thumbs after his Feat of Strength in Syria. We warn the Russians, the Russians warn the Syrians, and hey presto! Twenty-four hours later Assad is back to business as usual, albeit with conventional weapons.

It’s like the worst ass-kicking movie, like, ever:

Don: Hey, Vlad, it’s Don.

Vlad: What up, bruh?

Don: I’m headed over to that punk Bashar’s place to teach him a lesson. Just giving you a head’s up, I know you’re tight and all.

Vlad: No worries, bruh, thanks for the call.

(click)

(30 seconds later)

Bashar: Hello?

Vlad: Yo, Bash’, Don’s coming over to kick your ass.

Bashar: Good time for it, I was just stepping out to the Home Depot. Need some more Roundup. He’ll have to settle for pissing on my lawn or something.

Vlad: Ha ha ha, yeah. Spell his name on it or something. Probably wrong, too.

Bashar: Ha, yeah, for sure.

Vlad: OK, see you.

Bashar: Laters.

 

Boom-boom, sailor?

April 7, 2017

Mr. Ivanka of Hollywood models the latest beachwear during a visit to Iraq.

Darth Cheeto donned his big black helmet yesterday and — after advising any Rooskies in the vicinity to take it on the Jesse Owens — ordered a barrage of ship-launched cruise missiles against a Syrian airfield, in retaliation for a chemical-weapons attack said to have killed 80 civilians.

Foreign Policy magazine and more than a few politicians of all stripes have questioned the thinking behind and legality of the strike. Congress, naturally, is sprawled on the couch, watching cable news and gobbling popcorn, happy to have someone else in control of the remote while occasionally shouting, “This show sucks!”

These things are always “targeted” strikes “in the vital national interest” and not at all acts of war, of course. And it goes without saying that they have nothing to do with bolstering anyone’s sagging poll numbers, or drawing the One Big Eye away from legislative failures, broken promises and tensions within the Praetorian Guard. Nor could there have been any messaging in the timing of the attack (while hosting President Xi Jinping of China at Mar-a-Lago).

I guess this is why Mr. Ivanka of Hollywood was modeling that stylish Kevlar-blazer combo in Iraq yesterday. The Chinese apparently have yet to supply the matching handbag, but you can’t have everything, y’know. War is heck.

R.I.P., Steve Tilford

April 5, 2017

It seems that Steve Tilford has followed Mike Deme’s wheel to the Beyond.

Few details yet, but it appears that he and a friend were in a horrific pileup involving a van and two semis west of Grand Junction.

Steve and I weren’t close, but we used to bump into each other now and again at various races, and he was always approachable, friendly and generous with his time.

And he wrote unsparingly of his sport, bicycle racing, on the blog. If you cut a corner, Tilly was gonna call you on it.

This is shaping up to be an exceptionally bad year. My condolences to his friends, fans and family.

Snow and IceBook

April 4, 2017

We have a fine crop of tulips this spring.

“It’s totally snowing,” said Herself at dark-thirty as she was leaving for work.

“No sir,” said I.

As usual, she was right.

It wasn’t much in the way of a storm. Just a piddling little wind-driven dusting. Happily, it didn’t nuke the tulips, which have been popping up with more enthusiasm than the daffodils, which had a very short and sparse run indeed.

Forty-four steps later. …

It being slightly sucky outdoors, I decided to take care of a bit of business indoors, where it was warm.

Herself’s old iPad 2 had been awaiting recycling, along with my old 800 MHz G3 iBook. The iPad had already been wiped and reset, but the iBook had not; alas, when I tried to wipe it via Target Disk Mode the sonofabitch croaked on me. And after only 14 years, too. They sure don’t make ’em the way they used to.

So I had to take it apart to get to the hard drive — don’t want the terrorists to lay hands on all my classified data from 2003 — and lemme tell you, I am mighty glad I didn’t have to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. Pulling the HDD required 44 steps and like Tim “Men Are Pigs” Allen I just knew I’d be left with a real small bag of important-looking shit left over.

 

No foolin’

April 1, 2017

The wisteria is going wild out front.

We don’t do April Fool’s Day around El Rancho Pendejo, reasoning that it’s a sort of amateur hour, on a par with New Year’s Eve, St. Patrick’s Day and Election Day for the serious drinker.

Plus, I mean, like, damn. Reality is a tough act to follow lately. At any given minute you can point to eleventy-seven things on the Innertubes that seem outrageously improbable and yet are demonstrably true, or demonstrably false and improbably outrageous. Like just about everything else, the high art of bullshittery has been swamped by low-quality mass production.

Meanwhile, it’s 40-something and raining sideways in Duke City, so Herself has passed the morning paying her respects to various elders — phone calls with her dad’s second wife and our tenant in Bibleburg, FaceTime with her mom — and just now she hung up to scamper off to yoga, which can be done indoors.

Cycling indoors is more of a stretch — for me, anyway — and so I may go for a short run.

I’m also contemplating a sweeping purge of the family electronics. We have far too much of that crap around here, thanks to someone’s penchant for collecting Apple products, and it’s long past time some of them went away.

I mean, who needs an 800 MHz G3 iBook from 2002, or a 1.5 GHz G4 PowerBook from ’05? A scroll-wheel iPod from the same year? A 2011 iPad 2 that peaked with iOS9? They still work and all, unlike democracy, but they’re about as cutting-edge as a soup spoon.

The elderly iPod came in handy when I still rode the trainer, but see paragraph four. Come to think about it, there’s that stationary trainer cluttering up my meditation room-slash-podcasting studio. And those furshlugginer heart-rate monitors! Everything must go, going out of business going out of business. …

R.I.P., Mike Deme

March 30, 2017

I always snickered at the mugshot Mike Deme used when he was still in the editor’s chair at Adventure Cyclist. He always looks like, “Goddamnit, are we gonna have some fun here or what?”

My friend and colleague Mike Deme has gone west. He was 51.

Mike devoted nearly a quarter-century to the Adventure Cycling Association, winding up his tour of duty as director of design and media.

We may have first connected when he was editor of The Cyclists’ Yellow Pages — Lord, that would have been a very long time ago — but we had our first real professional how-d’ye-dos in 2009, when he emailed in his capacity as editor of Adventure Cyclist to ask:

“Ever do any touring? It’d be great to get an O’Grady story in Adventure Cyclist. Any interest?”

I confessed that I had never toured, so Mike wangled me a slot in the ACA’s 2010 Southern Arizona Road Adventure as something of a test drive. I wrote that up, and nobody threatened legal action, so next Mike shanghaied me into writing reviews of touring bikes despite another protestation of blithering and disqualifying ignorance. The rest you mostly know, because I’m still at it.

Listen you, enjoy your time,

you really don’t have very long.

You were born just a moment ago,

in another moment you’ll be gone.

—Wang Fan-chih, the Buddhist Layman, in “Cold Mountain Poems: Zen Poems of Han Shan, Shih Te, and Wang Fan-chih,” edited and translated by J.P. Seaton

Working with Mike and the rest of the Adventure Cyclist crew proved a welcome change from pretending to care about bicycle racing for VeloNews and pretending to write about the industry for Bicycle Retailer and Industry News. Basically, Mike yanked my cycling head out of my racing ass, reminded me that it’s not all about counting grams, going fast and cutting corners.

We tackled a bunch of Interbikes together, along with a couple of North American Handmade Bicycle Shows, and keeping pace with Mike was always a tough hustle. Short and stout, he never meandered, but always marched, to the beat of his own running commentary. There was work to be done, and a booth to staff, and liquor to drink come quitting time.

And the man was funny. On our separate ways home from NAHBS in North Carolina we texted briefly about the joys of airport travel. When I noted that I’d dodged a cavity search at the Charlotte airport Mike replied: “That place was easy. I’m in Detroit drinking a Miller Fortune. All I can say is we really needed High Life in another package with a bit of Malt Liquor Bull added to it.”

This was his professional opinion, mind you. When Mike wasn’t overseeing the magazine, golfing, or touring, he tended bar in Missoula.

He was gruff and abrupt, liked all the right music and disliked all the right people, and I never had to pester him about money. Ask any freelancer how rare a bird that is. Practically extinct, is what.

I’m sad that he’s gone, and that I never got to ride with him. All the wrong people are shoving off lately.

• Late addendum: The ACA bids farewell to Mike.

April showers (March edition)

March 28, 2017

‘Twas a fine soft day at El Rancho Pendejo.

Boy, can I pick a day for a birthday ride or what?

Yesterday, three hours of cycling in spring kit; today, 40 minutes of trail running in tights, long-sleeved polypro, rain jacket, tuque and woolen glove liners.

But hey, I’m not complaining. This is the upper Chihuahuan Desert and we’ll take all the aqua fria we can get and then some.

Plus I got to watch the neighbors’ 2-year-old splashing happily in the puddles, and heard the first hummingbird of 2017 while walking The Boo. It’s all good.

 

Threescore and three

March 27, 2017

The clouds were creeping in over the Sandias come afternoon.

Got the birthday ride in — did 63 kilometers, not miles, for anyone keeping score — and it looks like I picked the right day for it, because the weather seems to be taking a turn for the worse. I’ll be running tomorrow, if I get out at all.

A powerful tailwind added a couple miles per hour to the usual slog back from the Paseo del Bosque, and glad I was to have it, too. One of these days I need to acquire one of them comosellamas all the Kool Kidz have, whatchacall your e-lectronical whizbang that tells you how much vertical gain you’ve logged over the course of a day’s cycling. My educated guess for today’s little outing is “a right shitload.”

Anyway, pizza for dinner and a couple episodes of “Fargo” for dessert. It’s a weirdo, just like its daddy the Coen brothers movie of the same name. But you can’t go wrong with the likes of Billy Bob Thornton, Martin Freeman and Bob Odenkirk, y’know. Yah, real good now.

 

Acid test

March 26, 2017

The back yard is flowering up at light speed.

As I fought my own losing battle with seasonal allergies on Friday it was a pleasant distraction to see Darth Cheeto and Paul “Lyin'” Ryan sound “Retreat” and skedaddle off into the swamp, their shit-stained tails tucked between their legs.

The weather here has abruptly become more seasonable, which is to say less awesome, but Herself and I got out for a 40-minute trail run yesterday. Her pink “Bernie” shirt accessorized nicely with the blooming foliage while my wheezing was just another instrument in the symphony of shortcomings that is the U.S. health-care system (albuterol inhalers just plain cost too fucking much, even without additional tax cuts for the rich).

For a guy whose stash box once made Walgreens look like Baskin-Robbins I have developed a surprising reluctance to take drugs, for anything, even asthma and allergies. Non-Drowsy Claritin-D 12 Hour (pseudoephedrine sulfate) reminds me of decent speed for the first couple of hours, but after that it’s all like, “Dude, where’s my cognitive functions?”

That said, when I saw I was down to my last two tabs I was all like, “Whoa!” and toddled off to the Walgreens for another box.

That shit don’t be cheap, neither. And you can’t just pull it off a shelf. No, you must negotiate with the pharmacist to get it (thanks, meth-heads). But once you show the whitecoats that (a) you have all your teefers; (2) aren’t furiously scratching any open sores; and (III) aren’t twitching like you just got tased by the John Laws, why, all you have to do is fork over the $23.99 for 20 tabs.

Shit, that’s about what I used to pay for acid in the good old days (dealer’s discount). It was loads more fun than Claritin-D, and I don’t recall my nose running, either.