Tag Archives: Personal interlude

Not-so-great news: the new mailing address

It’s been one of those years. On top of everything else, the insurance settlement check for the bike accident finally came in, literally the day before an emergency trip to a 24-hour dental office for a root canal. 12 hours earlier, a little twinge in a bicuspid, and any Sunday morning involving a very sweet and friendly dentist uttering the words “pus” under her breath more than three times in five minutes isn’t a Sunday morning you want to repeat. On the bright side, at least I know for a fact that a day job co-worker is so annoying and fatuous that a root canal is a preferable experience. Always look for the positive, right?

Well, it keeps adding up. After 15 years of keeping the same address, the old mail drop simply wasn’t practical any more, so we decided to keep up the tradition of a mail drop. This isn’t just to discourage random passersby from dropping by because “I wanted to see your plants,” or even the flood of Abilene residents who drove all the way out with their grandchildren with no advance warning. When it comes to plants and plant accessories that require stable temperatures, the local UPS driver leaving these on the front porch isn’t an option. This is in addition to legal documents, seed catalogs, and other items that can’t be sent by E-mail. It may be a tax writeoff, but it’s one that we use nearly to death.

The problem was that out of a sense of misguided loyalty, I stuck with a UPS Store location, not knowing that my original locale was an exception when it came to customer service. That was my first mistake. My second was assuming that the neurotic manning the front counter, a control freak who wouldn’t let customers get their own mail from their own boxes, might get better with time. My third was in sticking around for nearly five years, even after discovering that the UPS Store headquarters takes no responsibility for how its franchisees behave in public. This included throwing fits about being asked for packages that he didn’t see right away, or fussing about the contents. Finally, after the second or third time he yelled at my wife because of his unstated policy that mail couldn’t be left for more than a week (a policy, I might add, he never brought up with me), we figured that if we were going to take abuse from a failed EDS engineer, we might as well get paid for it and moved to a new locale.

Our fourth mistake was trying to get mail forwarding while we let friends and businesses know about the move. The owner of the franchise took our new address and a credit card number, with the idea of forwarding mail at least until after tax season and being charged every two weeks for shipping the mail. That lasted until we discovered this week that the neurotic was returning that mail as undeliverable, and when asked why he wasn’t forwarding it, he told Caroline “We don’t do that.” When I got on the phone, not only did he rationalize and argue, but he then blatantly lied and said “We weren’t informed of the forwarding.” Uh HUH.

Anyway, for those considering a mailing to the old 5435 North Garland Avenue address, please belay that, as things have changed. Our new mailing address is:

Texas Triffid Ranch
2334 West Buckingham Road
suite 230-204
Garland, Texas 75042

I’d like to add for locals coming across this via Google searches that this main address offers a great shipping alternative. John, the owner, is a consummate professional and a joy to work with, and a professional is always better than a guy with his head so far up his own rectum that he’s a Klein bottle with legs. Give John lots and lots of business, and tell him specifically that you heard about him here. He’ll love that: apparently our old UPS Store is responsible for a lot of his return and repeat customers. And so it goes.

“Meanwhile, back in reality…”

New bike

As can be noticed, updates over here have been a bit sporadic, partly due to Day Job work schedules, but I’d like to show off the new bicycle. Thanks to the intrepid folks at Richardson Bike Mart, I now have a new bicycle: a Specialized Rockhopper 29. It’s not spectacular and it’s not flashy, but it’s a good basic bike, perfect for Dallas commuting, as it handles well and manages to avoid most of the hazards of city biking.

Bike wreck

You may be wondering about what happened to my old bike, or why I say “most of the hazards of city biking,” but that’s best explained with a quick photo showing one next to the other. As can be noted, the old bike isn’t in much condition for riding: its handlebars were shorn off, the derailleur and chain ripped free, the wheels scrunched, one of the cranks bent underneath the main gear, and the frame itself bent. Getting a new bike was the only option, as the cost of repairs rapidly exceeded the cost of a replacement.

Before anyone asks, I’m in excellent condition. Other than a small scrape on my left knee, I survived the whole incident. I joke that “my bike gave its life to save mine,” but that’s pretty much the truth. Years of Dallas riding taught me the value of safety gear: I’d sooner go out without lungs than without a helmet or gloves. The same goes for lights on front and back, reflective tape along the side, and a keen eye for inattentive, distracted, or just plain stupid drivers. When you combine all three, though…

Dead bike

I’m fond of noting that I love Lexus drivers for one good reason: they advertise themselves. The fact that Toyota puts its big “‘L’ is for ‘Loser'” logo on front and back means that it’s possible to get warning of a Lexus driver through a rear-view mirror long before the dolt every gets close, allowing the attentive bicyclist, pedestrian, motorist, or homeowner to get the hell out of the way. Naturally, Lexus drivers go on and on about how their vehicles are “safe”, meaning that they’ll survive what my best friend refers to as “a failure to drive,” and who cares about anybody else. Crumple zones so they can run into vehicles or houses and walk away, lane drift alarms so the driver can go back to texting or posting on Facebook while on the highway, lots of bright shiny objects along the dashboard to make driver and passengers think that they’re more capable than their abilities…yeah, I’ve had a lot of experience with Lexus drivers as a whole, to where I’ve gone to extra effort to watch for that logo on front and back. Too bad for my bike that this one got me from the side.

Dead bike

The story’s pretty easy, really: the driver was leaving work, stopping for a moment in a parking lot before heading out the driveway. I saw the vehicle stop, and slowed but continued going, figuring that the driver was tweeting or adjusting a car radio before going. By the time I got to the driveway, she accelerated in a hurry to start the holiday weekend a bit early, and I went under the front wheels. Thankfully, I bounced, landing on my work backpack, while the bike lost handlebars, wheels, chain, and derailleur. The driver obligingly stopped before I followed it, crying “I’m really sorry” over and over, and I have to admit that a near-death experience tends to bring out some of my more vicious behavior. No profanity, no abuse while yelling at her, other than “What the hell is it about all you Lexus drivers being idiots?” Personally, I thought it was a valid question.

That said, now everything’s up in the air. A quick talk with her insurance company got a very quick response, with an agent swearing that I’d hear from the claim adjuster within two business days. That’s now four days behind, but that’s also expected: I worked for The Hartford in its Worker’s Comp division twenty years ago, and we had at least one valid bomb threat per month before I left because its adjusters were doing their best to run out the clock on any claim without legal representation. Well, that’s been taken care of, and now it’s a matter of waiting. Thankfully, I have a perfectly vindictive attitude about owed funds: just ask Craig Engler one of these days about his last run-in with me over unpaid writing fees. And so it goes.

Otherwise, things are reasonably back to normal. Yes, some drivers have their heads so far up their colons that they could be described charitably as “Klein bottles with legs” but that won’t stop me from riding. One dolt, in nearly 40 years of riding, that nearly took me out? That’s not a bad track record. Besides, the quiet of early-morning roads, being buzzed by red-tailed and Harris’s hawks during the day and screech owls and big brown bats in the predawn morning. the feeling of responsibility that only knowing what my own physical limitations are determines where I’m going and how fast…the accident just confirms a need to be just a little bit more careful. Either that, or to make sure that the next Lexus dingbat kills me on the spot, because nobody would believe the police report of my ripping off the rest of my nearly-severed leg and beating the driver into a coma with it. (I’d never kill someone who hit me. I’d prefer to have them wake up several weeks later as a punchline, with the nurses at the hospital taking cash, checks, and Bitcoins to allow complete strangers to come up, laugh, and point.)

In the interim, regular blogging will resume shortly: keep an eye open for several new developments. The sooner the reimbursement check comes for the bike, the sooner everything really goes back to normal.

Personal Interlude: Preparing for Cyber-Conversion

It’s quick and smartaleck to describe the air of North Texas as “a bit too thick to breathe, and a bit too thin to plow,” but it works. Even without Governor Rick Perry’s incessant efforts to give the Environmental Protection Agency the finger every time the EPA tries to improve Dallas’s air quality, our local and immediate atmosphere continues to work its absolute best to kill all life in the area. Dust blown off the Edwards Plateau from West Texas, more dust alternating from either Oklahoma or Central Texas Hill Country, junk blowing in from the Gulf of Mexico, and a whole contingent of fungus and mold spores, pollen from gymnosperm and angiosperm plants, cow belches, and the hydrogen sulfide from the mudflats of the Trinity River in the summer…in case of tornado, just separate off chunks of air with a chainsaw and build a shelter strong enough to withstand a nuke strike.

The practical upshot is that Texas hates me. Three years ago, trying to find a solution to an inability to get restful sleep led to a trip to an allergy clinic, and the initial allergen tests showed me allergic to most of Texas’s life forms. This, of course, makes working anywhere outside of a silicon chip fabrication facility rather problematic, so the immediate solution involved a long series of allergy shots. Considering that I share an aversion to needles with one of my childhood role models, and for much the same reason, going through the regimen demonstrated that I valued a decent night’s sleep much more than I wanted to scream and hyperventilate over a needle barely able to catheterize a mosquito. Three years of shots, and then a re-evaluation: I’m now immune to the various things in the aerosolized manure we cheerfully call “air”. The injections just encouraged previously barely noticeable allergies, though, leading to a whole new line of shots. At the rate I’m going, I may be immune to everything short of hard vacuum and death by fire by February 2061.

Ah, but there was that little issue with being unable to breathe, so it was time to go to a sleep clinic for further evaluation. I’d been to one clinic back in 2010, but never got a reasonable evaluation of my sleep habits: such things happen when the evaluating doctor is too busy trying to refer his customers to buddies offering medically worthless dentifrices and polishing his D magazine “893 Best Doctors Willing To Buy Full-Page Advertising In Our Special Issue” award to give it. This time, though, new doctor, new sleep clinic, and a whole new breakdown on how inefficient respiratory structures conspired against sleep during the summer.

The upshot, after being rigged up with cranial electrodes and heart monitors and watched in my sleep with infrared cameras, was a diagnosis of moderate apnea. Enough apnea that it affected REM sleep, which explained the crippling bouts of depression every summer. (Of course, that could have just been from looking at the thermometer.) Enough apnea that neglecting to treat it would probably lead to heart damage or a possible stroke, and that’s nowhere near as fun as my planned manner of demise. All that remained was to ascertain the best method of treatment.

“Okay, we know the problem,” I told the Czarina one afternoon after the initial test. “All I need is a tracheotomy, and I can both breathe and smoke through the same hole.”

“What are you talking about? You don’t smoke.”

“Hey, Bill Hicks was onto something here. Get me an apple corer, and I’ll take care of it right now. Ker-CHUNK!”

“You are NOT giving yourself a tracheotomy.” See, this is why I can’t win with the Czarina. Most people would sit back, grab some popcorn, and watch the show. She actually fusses about my staying alive and stuff. She obviously married me for the money: my current net worth is $4.81, and that’s if she cashes in the glass Dr. Pepper bottles in the garage for the deposits.

The doctor, who is a joy to hang out with by the way, noted that the ongoing allergy shots were doing quite a bit of good, but proper treatment required being a bit more aggressive. The most extreme required surgery to remove or tighten up pharyngeal tissues in the back of my throat, keeping them from jamming up my windpipe and generally acting like wearing a prom gown to a chainsaw duel. (I offered again to try essential knowledge from my people’s wisest savant, but the Czarina both hid my Dremel tool and changed the lock on the shed, keeping me away from the hedge trimmers. She’s just trying to keep the value on the internal organs she can sell: that part is obvious.) The more reasonable solution, though, involved continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP. Back to the sleep clinic, this time to be tested with a CPAP machine to ascertain the best positive pressure necessary to keep me from choking on my own throat.

Now, when going for any sort of medical treatment, one of my absolute steadfast rules is “consider the opportunities to scare the hell out of your loved ones”. The best part of sitting in a hospital ER with a bad bout of pneumonia is that I can get away with telling her “I’m gonna TRY…not to…come back…”, and any threat of violence just might make things worse. (Of course, that wasn’t helped with an intern who believed me when she asked for symptoms and I said “Other than the zombie bite, I’m fine.”) Covered with electrodes, gauges, wires, a full head harness, and a full facemask, what could make the situation absolutely terrifying? Why, adding goggles and then sending my new selfie to her. I love living in the future.

Sleep Mask

Now, after a decade of marriage, the Czarina is almost used to these sorts of things. None of the obvious comparisons, or even asking if I needed fava beans and a nice Chianti with dinner. She just looked at the photo, looked at me, and said “If you’re going to wear THAT to bed, you’d better expect only to sleep.” And she’s absolutely right. I’m going to have to get out my old Nixon mask to go with it.

Personal interlude

Because of the recent news of the death of Roger Ebert, it’s time to remember him best with the best tribute ever made:

And for those who remember my old film review days, it shouldn’t be any surprise that I connected to the character of Jay Sherman in The Critic a bit more than most. Hence, I’m waiting to repeat the dialogue after 10:15 to famed Australian film critic Robin Pen when he finally meets the Czarina:

All About Strange Writers From The Past

Lewisville High School sign

This year contains a long run of important anniversaries, and a very important one reaches its end this year as well. Thirty years ago last month, at a particularly pretentious high school in North Texas, a particularly pretentious writer started his career. Three decades later, the writer moved to horticulture, and the high school saw demolition.

Front of the old Lewisville High

See that bank of windows above the doorway? That was the view into the classroom shared by both the school newspaper and yearbook staffs, back when both concepts weren’t as quaint as morning milk delivery. Oh, but we had dreams. Heck, some of us even managed to get published outside of high school and college publications, and a few, a very few, actually became noticed for our work.

Newspaper staff room from the side

And as of August 26, this was the last trace of those old days. I was part of that last generation of high school newspaper students before the desktop publishing revolution: I was halfway through my senior year when the Macintosh came out, and we had no clue that this would change everything. Back then, layout was done with pica rulers and rubber cement, with articles manually transcribed from typed or handwritten hard copy. At that point, any guy taking a typing class was either joining the newspaper staff or wanting to meet girls, and computer science classes consisted of thirty students per period jockeying for five minutes on a single Apple II or (horrors) a TI-99a. The wonders of online life? That wasn’t even science fiction: the “cyber” aspects of cyberpunk didn’t come to the fore until William Gibson’s novel Neuromancer came out the year after I graduated, and the emphasis within the genre was on the “punk”. Not that you would have had the chance of finding any of it back then.

Lewisville's cultural center

Well, the old school is gone, but Lewisville’s cultural center remains intact, with lots of new augmentations. Now, as then, the battle between academia and athletics was fiercely discussed, with the community deliberating between recognizing noted alumni and recognizing accomplishments on the football field.

Lewisville High priorities

And Lewisville High’s priorities remain.

Personal interlude

I have good news and bad news concerning the spate of tornadoes ranging through the Dallas area yesterday. The good news is that I didn’t make it, and I’m now doomed to walk the earth and feed on the flesh of the living. The bad news is that since I don’t have any other priorities, the Czarina wants me to mop the kitchen floor. (Normally, this wouldn’t be a problem, but right now the cats are shedding their winter coats. Five minutes after I finish mopping, they come strolling in, and visitors compliment us on our new grey felt floor covering. I’d shave them both if I thought it would do any good, as Leiber in particular appears to be part tarantula whenever he’s picked up. One neck scritch, and you can see his outline in shed hair on the carpet.)

Anyway, seriously, we missed the worst of the storms. No baseball-sized hail, no tornado touchdowns, and no panic at the Day Job over which of us would make the best food source if rescue wasn’t coming. Lots and lots of rain, a full two inches’ worth, which made the Sarracenia very happy, but nothing abnormal. Of course, just try defining “abnormal weather” in North Texas if you want a complete semantic nervous breakdown. Considering the climate anomalies over the last two years, anything short of an asteroid strike, and the local meteorologists just shrug. Now it’s time to help everyone else clean up, because while things could have been a lot worse, we still have quite the mess.

EDIT: And to add to the weather-related spectacular, I just realized that I got the Harry Potter scar on my forehead thirty years ago Monday, when I was hit in the head with a sheet of plywood caught in a dust storm coming through the Dallas area. Considering that this would have caught me in the throat had I been standing up, instead of leaning over a pig pen (long story), I had enough fun with weather-related mishaps before I turned 16. Monday was also the 30th anniversary of my first published article, a book review in my high school newspaper, so I can state with authority that disasters and misery tend to come in pairs. And so it goes.

Personal interlude

Ah, it’s always something the week before a big show. Sunday was the Czarina’s turn to get horribly sick a half-hour before a friend’s wedding (in her case, labyrinthitis instead of my nearly-lethal asthma fit), and now there’s the glee of an emergency dentist’s visit to reattach a freshly popped crown. Thankfully, not only do I actually like visits to the dentist, but my dentist is a hoot. And yes, he’s getting a sundew today: he’s as sick of Little Shop of Horrors references as I am, so he’s threatening to feed the next person who starts doing Steve Martin impersonations to the plant. (I’d recommend saving that for the next one who asks “Is it safe?”, but that’s just me.)

In the meantime, I’m slightly disappointed with my previous dentist, even if he was a daylily junkie the likes of which even I couldn’t quite grasp. I mean, the tooth in question had a root canal back a decade ago, so there’s enough room in there for two cyanide capsules or three CIA mind control transmitters. Heck, there’s enough room in there to pack in enough Semtex to turn my head into an aerosol in case I were ever captured by enemy agents and threatened with torture. Either dentists are getting a lot less imaginative than in my youth, or my current dentist saw me coming and figured “Next thing you know, he’ll ask about having all of them replaced with chrome, so he can smile and scare the hell out of Sigourney Weaver.” The worst part of it all is that he’d be right.