Depression

Being depressed is the natural side effect of having a bystander to my own existence perspective on life. How can you take an active interest in something that you are merely a witness to? If that something is your own life? I don’t even know how to describe depression, as I experience it. It is a kind of a funk that clouds up every decision, making even basic self-care hard to achieve.

TEDxMet | October 2013 – Andrew Solomon – Depression, the secret we share

“The opposite of depression is not happiness, but vitality.”

Andrew Solomon

As Andrew Solomon points out at about the halfway mark in the TED talk above, depression isn’t something that one easily admits to having, even to the people you are closest to. It is perceived as weakness, and one never wants to be seen as weak by others.

But depression isn’t a sign of weakness. It is a signal of despair. A loss of hope. An individual’s response to external or internal conditions that are beyond the control of the individual. Depression is not the fault of the sufferer, but ending depression does require action on the part of the sufferer.

One thing about depression is that it makes it really difficult to access the parts of your life that are genuinely good. For some people, this takes the form of anhedonia–losing pleasure or interest in things you used to enjoy. Not necessarily completely or all of the things, but sometimes completely and all of the things. For some people, this can mean that watching their favorite show or playing their favorite game is suddenly not fun anymore. For some, it can mean that trying to socialize with their good friends feels like reading a really boring story and not being able to actually interact with the story in any way. For others, it can mean not perceiving food as tasty anymore.

brutereason

Losing my interest in almost everything I ever cared about seems to be a huge part of depression for me. The problem is that most of what I was interested in is now different in experience on the one hand (music is muffled or tinny because of hearing loss) or causes stress, bringing on vertigo (just thinking about CAD or Architecture) and so should be avoided. Even my love of creative writing is subject to this intermittent destroyer of hope. This article, for example. I started it five years ago and then abandoned it for no good reason. Why? I don’t want to talk about my depression, also something that Andrew Solomon points out.

For many people, depression causes a pervasive sense of disconnection from the world and from other people. When I’m having a depressive episode, I feel like I’m not part of anything, like I’m just one person and I don’t matter, like I could disappear and nothing would even change, etc. I feel like there’s a glass wall between me and everyone else. I feel like I can’t do “normal” things like laugh at a sitcom or make someone happy or fall in love. I feel like an alien sent here to try to learn how to act like a human being only I’m completely failing.

brutereason

I have always been disconnected from the world. I have always held myself apart from the crowd. I never wanted to fit in. I never wanted to join a group or a movement. I was like Greta Thunberg as a teenager, just not as motivated as she is. Had I been born in the last decade, with all this information at my fingertips, I’d like to think that I would have acted as she has. But I don’t know. I’d like to think I’d accept the findings of science on climate change, from the perspective that I now occupy, that of a skeptical rationalist and freethinker. But I could just as easily have been hoodwinked by the fakirs who ply the edges of society today looking to preserve their fossil fuel profits. Once you start shutting out legitimate sources of information, it is a short trip to fantasyland from there.

But because I never tried to fit in, never identified with a larger group aside from the work that I did for a living, being alone in the universe wasn’t something I was frightened of. Wasn’t something I could feel depression from perceiving. Being alone in the universe was the nature of existence for me. I am an alien sent here to try to fit in. Failure was a given, on many fronts.

When the Wife started to become disabled, though, that was a different story. I started to see how people (normal people) build up bulwarks of social interaction that kept them engaged with others. How losing the ability to interact with people on a daily basis was in itself enough to cause depression for some (most) people. I don’t pretend to understand this necessity of social bonding that most people feel. I just know that it is crucial for them, and that losing it is tantamount to becoming irrelevant to the world.

I’m truly am happy, generally, just sitting alone in my office typing away. I’m creating something. Hopefully someone will find it interesting enough to keep reading it. Perhaps that is my point of connection with the rest of humanity, through the written word. That makes sense. Reading has always made me feel more alive than anything else has through my long life. To create narratives for others to read? That is contributing to the social interactions that keep this crazy bus of human existence on the road. Writing is bigger than any one person, by its very nature.

So for me, the most helpful thing that someone can do is to help bring me back into connection with others. This is why I find venting mostly useless. When I’m venting, I’m still only talking about my depression, and while the person I’m venting to may be very kind and a very good listener, this isn’t something we can connect over, you know? It’s not the same as a two-sided conversation about difficulties we’ve dealt with in our lives. It’s totally one-sided. It’s just me, talking about the exact thing I need to learn how to stop ruminating over.

brutereason

Both the Wife and I seem to dig deeper holes these days, when the depression is talking. When two depressives argue.  When we met, I was Mister Sunshine. I had been depressed for most of my teenage years, the results of abuse and neglect, and a complete inability of existing social structures to deal with someone with my unique set of challenges. When I got out on my own, I had a plan of action. I knew what I was going to be doing with my life. I was going to be drawing architecture, creating a sense of permanence for other people through structures that were well designed and well documented. I was convinced that I could change the world, not be the sad person I had been when I was younger. I had a plan and I was going to make it happen.

Then I couldn’t do that anymore, and the guy with the plan suddenly didn’t have any plans anymore and also had no idea how to dig himself out of the hole that Meniere’s had put him in. Which is still the hole I’m in now.

The Wife might argue that the Mr. Sunshine image of myself that I painted above is bullshit, and she probably will argue about it (I predict that she will also have a valid point) But in our relationship I could at least pretend to be the Mr. Sunshine to her Little Rain Cloud, at least when she was in her depressive phase. A favor she would reciprocate for me when I would go depressive as well. We both had our cycles (as does everyone. Even you, dear reader) and I always had a plan to fall back on. Until I didn’t. Now we’re both depressed for large segments of time together, and that is a recipe for disaster. Disaster that we both have to actively work to avoid on a regular basis.

Here are the rules. The person in the center ring can say anything she wants to anyone, anywhere. She can kvetch and complain and whine and moan and curse the heavens and say, “Life is unfair” and “Why me?” That’s the one payoff for being in the center ring.

Everyone else can say those things too, but only to people in larger rings.

LA Times, Ring Theory

Adobe Will Not Sue You, But They Still Suck as a Corporation.

In a controversial move, Adobe pivoted away from the standard software model to the cloud-based subscription model in 2013, resulting in notably higher revenues (and higher prices for customers). Dolby’s lawsuit accused Adobe of copyright violations related to how the licensing costs Adobe paid to Dolby would be calculated under this new model.

VICE

The Wife is a guest author for this post. It seems she has a problem with this article I shared recently.


I have friends and family who read VICE frequently and believe it to be authentic and authoritative. I haven’t been so sure on that point. After reading the referenced article I think I know where to place VICE and its reporting. It is just another online tabloid. Sensationalist titles like this one with no basis in the facts of the story make VICE look more like an online scandal sheet than a reliable news source.

Mr. Bode didn’t even get his story right. Adobe’s letter was specifically directed to versions of the old Flash CC (the Creative Cloud version of Adobe Animate) specifically, versions that were using an add-in software product written by a third party. For whatever reason, Adobe is no longer utilizing software from that company so they are warning users that the software can no longer be licensed and that they should update to the newer CC versions of the Flash/Animate software as the license agreement they signed requires.

I looked deeper into this story and subject because I have pre-Creative Cloud versions of Photoshop and the full Adobe suite from the mid 2000’s. I was concerned that maybe my versions of the software were going to be the subject of the suit in question. But no, Adobe will not sue me for using pre-Creative Cloud software and is only sending out a warning to the users of the specific Adobe Flash/Animate software which is already under litigation by a third party. Those people could be subject to suit by someone if they continue using the now unlicensed software that they installed and have not updated.

I am providing feedback to VICE in this fashion because Vice doesn’t appear to have a means of providing feedback directly to the writers or to the managers of the website, a nearly unforgivable oversight on the part of your web programmers in this day and age.

No I’m not an Adobe fan. I think their Creative Cloud model of charging end users a monthly fee for software, software that is constantly updated and essentially never out of beta testing is a seriously stupid way of writing business software.

However the VICE article is inflammatory and highly misleading. The one ray of sunshine in the entire article is the screenshot of the notice that was sent to licensees by Adobe. Yes, Adobe has the obligation to let the licensees know that they could be subject to suit by someone if they continue using that software professionally. I was sent this same article by several clients and friends who were concerned that they or I might be sued for using Photoshop as the title of the article suggests.

This is why the click-through licensing so common in today’s corporate software world is like the iceberg lying in wait for the Titanic. It’s smooth sailing until the corporation decides they have to fix something, and the users are left out in the cold without a lifeboat. Read the CC licenses folks, you are obligated to update Adobe CC software when new patches come out. That is your responsibility, not Adobes. It says so right there in black and white. The software may contain tools written for them by third parties and that by not updating you could run into license issues. They are only obligated to let you know when something expires, which is what the example letter does.

Again. Adobe will not sue you for using an old version of Photoshop. That is just, I hate to say it, fake news. Mr. Bode or his editors used the name Photoshop because Photoshop is a program that everyone knows, and Adobe Animate is not. Sensationalist headlines garner more clicks, and that’s all that tabloid reporting wants. More attention.

Long Live CS4 and CS6! Yes, I use the CC but I hate it (loathe it) when they update and at the same time break parts that I need to use. Without warning my video files no longer work because this or that codec is missing in the latest update of CC, and I have to go scramble and find the codec that I need so I can finish a project. It is beyond frustrating. However, I can pop in my copy of CS4 or CS6, and it works exactly the same way every time. The same way it has worked since I bought those versions of Adobe software a decade and more ago.

If you don’t want to have to update, don’t buy into Creative Cloud licensing. If you do buy in, adhere to your licensing requirements so that you can avoid being sued. It really is one way or the other.

Rescues

Who is the rescued and who is the rescuer?

They were found tied up in a bag on the bank of a creek. A litter of mongrel puppies that someone had tried to drown, found by a local shelter volunteer and brought to the animal shelter for evaluation and adoption. Just another unwanted batch of puppies created by pets whose owners were criminally negligent in allowing their animals to breed when the products of that breeding were unwanted.

That’s where we found them, at the shelter. Every child should have their own puppy to raise. Dogs and children go together like sunshine and rainbows. Our geriatric nearly 20-year old Shusky Aurora was blind and deaf and would barely live two years past the day that we went to the shelter to adopt puppies for the children to raise as their own. Old dogs are for old people. Children need puppies.

The Wife and I have been animal shelter volunteers off and on over our many years together. We would take strays that we picked up down to the San Angelo animal shelter, and invariably we’d end up with a rescue that we just couldn’t leave behind coming back home with us. Whether it was a litter of kittens that would starve without our feeding them, or a doofus of a Springer Spaniel that we eventually traded to an acquaintance, the pets would come and go through our involvement with the animal shelter until we moved to Austin.

In Austin the shelter is much more regimented and much more expensive to do business with. Consequently we don’t take strays there like we did in San Angelo. Here we find them homes if we can’t find where their home is. Mostly we fend off feral cats here, and take in the odd parakeet that we find perched on the gutters when we come home.

Aurora truly was of the old guard, she migrated with us to Austin from San Angelo. She never had puppies of her own, and she was the last surviving member of the last litter of puppies we got from Muffin-Puff Chevas (she had a Regal name) and Budweiser, two previous rescues that were probably shepherd-husky crosses themselves. There might have been some recent wolf in Budweiser, he had a ferociousness that isn’t found in most dogs these days. But he was protective to a fault, and he gave his piercing blue eyes to most of his puppies that he sired with Muffin.

Muffin was a dream dog. She liked nothing better than to be where ever you were. If you were swimming across the lake, she was swimming right beside you. If she got ahead of you she would expect you to grab her tale and let her pull you to shore. She loved tug of war and fetching balls. She loved chasing tennis balls so much that she would shove her head through cinder blocks to get them, and ended up getting her head stuck in one once. Undeterred, she managed to lift the block while still holding the ball in her mouth, and stiffly walked back over to us with a cinder block hanging around her neck. We couldn’t take the ball from her when she offered it to us because we were laughing too hard to get up off the ground. I have those pictures around here somewhere. I had to carefully chisel the block off of her head after we took the pictures. She was full of life and play until the day she died. It was complications of an undiagnosed corn allergy that got her, common in dogs. She lost all her hair and had constant skin sores for the last few years of her life. She was the first dog we let sleep with us, we were so concerned for her health those last few years.

But she made beautiful babies with Budweiser, little blue-eyed, white, black and tan and black and white balls of joy that everyone wanted. We never had any trouble giving those puppies away, even charging for a few of them. But she died young, fourteen, and her puppies and Budweiser lived on. Bud made it to eighteen before a stroke took him, Corona the second to last of that last litter made it to seventeen herself. This left poor Aurora alone. We had a lapdog that isn’t part of this story since we didn’t rescue her, but Aurora was alone out in the yard and no dog should be alone just as no child should be alone.

So we took a trip to the Lockhart animal shelter looking for puppies for our growing children to adopt. When asked what kind of breed we were looking for, we said German Shepherd. They took us to the litter that had been brought in, the litter that some soulless human had tried to drown. They did look like German Shepherd mutts. They were a little large, but not overly so. The orange puppy immediately bonded with my daughter, and the brindle-coated one plopped down in my son’s lap and wouldn’t leave. So the puppies picked the children, just as it should be.

On the way home from the shelter the children settled on names. The daughter’s orange and white coated pup would be named Marshmallow, after the color of a marshmallow properly grilled over an open flame. The brindle-coated pup that adopted my son would be called Pearl because of the white overcoat and black undercoat that winked through when she moved.

We discovered within days that these dogs might be shepherds of some kind, but they were definitely not German Shepherds. They were not the six weeks of age that the shelter thought they were. Pearl couldn’t eat solid food and so we had to soak her food in milk for the first couple of weeks of her life. They were probably only four weeks old, making them much larger dogs than we had planned on in the end, but a welcome surprise. They grew up fast, getting larger than Aurora’s measly thirty pounds in a few months. As far as we could ever tell, they were at least partially Anatolian Shepherd, a breed of dog I had never heard of before.

We almost lost Mellow to sarcoptic mange in her first year of life. We only managed to keep her alive by force-feeding her a topical treatment for pests on a veterinarians orders (we thought he was crazy when he gave us instructions to do this) this left her legs scarred with white fur where it had been orange before, and I remain convinced that it made her the epicure she remained throughout her life, eating rocks, bricks, steel and masonite whenever she got bored or agitated.

Muffin used to keep the yard empty of sticks. She would forage around the yard on an hourly basis, looking for a stick to chew on. when she found one she would reduce it to splinters, and then look for another stick. In the same fashion, Mellow would rip the siding off the garage and eat it, leaving no trace of its existence anywhere in the yard. She went through forty linear feet of siding before I gave up and paid to get the garage resided in hardiplank. Apparently concrete was too tough for her to chew through. We caught her chewing on rocks so frequently that we ended up taking all the rocks out of the yard, and I don’t want to talk about what happened to the red clay bricks that used to be stacked up in the back of the yard. We can only find a few of them any more.

They never made a kennel that could hold that dog. She chewed her way out of a steel wire cage more than once. She destroyed so many kennels we finally decided to quit trying to keep her in one. Quit trying to cage her up at all, which was exactly what she wanted in the first place.

In contrast, Pearl was a watcher and a thinker. While her sister blunt forced her way through everything, Pearl studied any situation from a safe distance. She was snappier than Mellow, who could have been an excellent bird dog if I could only have managed to teach her to bring anything back to me. She like her space to be empty unless you were family, and she let everyone know this by raising her hackles and exposing the black fur of her undercoat on her shoulders. I never felt threatened when I was with that dog, and I trusted the children to go play in the park without me as long as they took their dogs with them. It is amazing the respect that a 100 pound dog can command, even if that dog is not visibly threatening. Pearl never bit anyone that wasn’t trying to feed her something, don’t get me wrong. She just never quite could figure out where the food ended and where your fingers began.

It was because of this that I kept unfamiliar people at a distance from Pearl, knowing she would bite, and instead let them pet Mellow who never set her teeth on anyone, ever. But Pearl was a clever dog. She worked out how to open doors and gates when she wanted to. If no one was looking. She would raid the recycling bin and eat the resulting mess on her sister’s bed so that it looked like Mellow had done it. Her favorite prank was going over to the fence and barking at nothing until she got her sister to bark, then she would slink away and leave the idiot Mellow barking by herself to get chastised for making noise for no reason.

She did have the bane of shepherds everywhere, hip dysplasia. It may have been her inability to move as gracefully as her sister, because of her bad hips, that made her think about how to get things done with as little work as possible. The less time standing, the better. For all of her problems moving, though, there was never a dog that liked taking a walk more than Pearl.

I discovered early on that if I wanted to keep Mellow from eating parts of the house she wasn’t supposed to eat, I was going to need to take her on a regular walk. Mellow would always start out fast, pulling on the leash. Pearl would start off slow, setting a slower pace, forcing her sister to slow down. By the time we’d done our mile of walking, Mellow would be dragging behind while Pearl, nearly lame, mincing, almost prancing, Pearl would be leading the way home.

For years we repeated this behavior. Me and my floppy hat, two giant dogs on leashes wandering the neighborhood, sometimes for hours. It was like this when the Daughter was in high school and then went off to college. When the Son started high school. When the Daughter came back from college. When we started looking for colleges for the Son. My dogs and me would be out two or three times a week, depending on the pollen and the weather, walking the neighborhood looking for new smells to smell.

I knew they were starting to get old when they started insisting on taking breaks before we got back to the house. Giving them water didn’t help. It was time to sit and pant. So the walks got shorter. Shorter and farther between. Then the day came that Pearl couldn’t manage to walk anymore. She could get herself up off the floor and out to the yard to pee, but just barely. Then she could barely do it while on enough pain meds to make me sleep for a week. Mellow and I continued to walk without her, but it was torture for her to be left behind. I could see it on her face, that she wanted to come with, but just couldn’t get up to do it.

Last spring, Pearl finally left us, surrounded by the people who loved her. Mellow and I went on even fewer walks after that. Now I’m starting to feel the age along with Mellow. Me pushing sixty, she’s pushing fifteen. The Daughter started taking her on more walks than I did. Exercising indoors means I don’t cough up a lung from allergy irritation. It’s boring as hell, but less life-shortening.

Yesterday we came home from a marathon round of doctor’s visits to find that Mellow didn’t want to drink or eat. Then she started to exhibit signs of pain. Labored breathing. Excessive panting. We tried a pain pill, but it just knocked her out, it didn’t help her breathing. About midnight we bundled her into the car and the Wife and Daughter took her to a 24 hour animal hospital, something else I didn’t know existed. I figured they’d be back in a few hours with some horror story about something Mellow had eaten while we were gone. Something she had eaten that had finally refused to sit in her stomach peacefully. Nothing could kill that dog, in my opinion.

One thing could, and I should have known what it was. Cancer could kill her. Cancer can kill anyone. I should have remembered. A tumor ruptured on her spleen, causing her to bleed out internally. She was gone and I didn’t get to say goodbye. I really hate that. Mellow joins the long list of pets that I’ve known before her, the only dog the Daughter has ever owned. Joins her sister, the only dog the Son has ever owned. By the time I was their age I had known no fewer than five dogs and countless puppies starting with a chocolate Poodle that founded a line of Poodles that probably still exists somewhere in Kansas, and the last being a Golden Retriever I named Buddy. None of them were mine, although dad told me Buddy was mine. He didn’t fetch birds for me, just for dad. That makes him dad’s dog, and dad mourned his loss when he was gone. Mourned him far more than I did.

Corona was my dog, more than any other dog I’ve ever known. She picked me, and like the Daughter who was born a few years after Corona, I didn’t spend the time I should have spent with her while I had her near me. I only appreciate how much that dog and the Daughter bonded in my absence, in hindsight. It was Corona’s being attacked and killed by a stray that dug its way into our yard that made it imperative to get new dogs to blot out that memory of violation. Not only because children should have puppies, but that because death, especially violent death, should be answered with unashamed hope. A recommitment to the future. A dedication to time, life, continuing unapologetically.

We will be taking a trip to the animal shelter soon, I imagine. Not today and not tomorrow. But soon.


NYT Op:Ed – What it means to be loved by a dog

Angioplasty

It’ll all be fine.

That’s what they always say. Medical professionals. They’re always keen to reassure their patients that all will be well. They don’t want the patient to freak out and do anything crazy like killing themselves or canceling the procedure out of fear of the procedure. That is so not me; and I am way, way beyond the ability for comforting words to assuage any fears or disquiet.

Nope, I’m already certain that the end has come. I’m gonna die on the table. That’s the worst possible outcome. The next most likely outcome is that I’m going to wake up with a zipper chest like so many of my relatives have. Of course, I don’t tell anyone else that, not even the Wife. At least I don’t say that in those specific words. The Wife knows my mental acrobatics. She helpfully exclaims to the cardiologists nursing staff,

See what I have to put up with?

I know my own genetic history. I know what is in store for me because it is what happened to my direct genetic ancestors. My maternal grandfather had a heart attack when he was about my age. They cracked his chest open and sewed six bypass arteries into his heart in order to keep him alive. The procedure was successful. He lived for another thirty years before his gut killed him. When I started getting that weird sensation in my chest, I knew what that feeling meant, I just couldn’t jump to conclusions about what it was. No, I had to go through the experts and ge their opinions. I could have been wrong, but I wasn’t wrong. This time.

The feeling? It was like two solid objects rubbing against each other in the area around my heart. I’d never felt anything quite like it before in my life. After the sensation repeated itself several times during exercise, I decided I probably should take it seriously. So I did. I cancelled the physical therapy appointment I had the next day and booked an appointment with my cardiologist for as soon as he could see me.

He’s the one who offered the platitude it’ll be fine after saying the word angiogram and then watching me pale. What he didn’t know was that I have had nightmares about things crawling through my veins for most of my life. it’s part of my fear of needles and why I nearly faint every time someone sticks me with something. An angiogram is exactly that fear come to life.

I cringed every time an older relative would go in for one of the procedures. The Wife’s foster father had one done back in the dark ages, back in the 1980’s when an angiogram was still experimental. His was the first one I had ever heard of being done. They went in through his groin. They went in through that artery in the thigh that if cut you can bleed out in a matter of seconds. Not minutes, seconds. That artery. The femoral artery.

The catheter that they introduce into the blood system through the artery allows them to run a camera up through your arteries to study blockage from inside your body, and they can use it to introduce dye into your blood system, near the heart, so that they can use x ray imaging to study blockages. Which is what they wanted me to agree to. We’re going to slice open an artery and run tubes through your bloodstream. But don’t worry, we do this all the time.

They don’t know that worry is what I do eighteen hours a day, every day. If I’m not worrying about something, then I’m probably not actively thinking at the moment. I even worry when I dream. This is why driving a car every day of a working life is a special kind of torture for me. Anything more than a half-hour of driving, and I’m already worrying a hole in my stomach. I gave myself an ulcer inside of six months when I briefly flirted with driving for a living, bringing to an early end any kind of career driving trucks or test cars.

Over the course of the next week, while waiting for the procedure to happen, I say my goodbyes to everyone and make sure my karmic debt is paid off. I don’t want to be surprised in a potential next life by being reborn as a cockroach or anything. Just covering my bets. When the day finally arrives I’m under so much stress that if you scared me I would probably have a heart attack on the spot. That’s me trying not to worry.

Luckily I wasn’t going to be awake for the procedure. I made sure of that before agreeing to it. No, I do not want to be awake. I want the good drugs. The kind of drugs that keep you from remembering anything. I definitely do not want to be reliving the memory of crap crawling through my veins when I go to sleep for the rest of my life, if there is a rest of my life. Knock me out, or as close to out as I can get and still be responsive to commands or questions.

The doctor showed up early. He checked my wrist to see if it was large enough to get into easily. He was planning on accessing the radial artery rather than the femoral artery. I was initially thrilled at the notion that I wouldn’t have blood shooting out of the artery next to my junk the first time I went to the bathroom after the procedure. Then he left the room to allow the prep nurse to get to work. They prepared both the femoral artery area in the groin (so much hair!) and the right wrist as possible surgery locations. Had I known they would need to shave my groin anyway, I could have used the trimmers on it beforehand. Manscaping is a foreign concept to me. If hair grows somewhere on my body (on your body, even) it probably grows there for a reason. I see little need to trim hair that no one sees but me and the Wife. If she doesn’t like the hair, it usually gets snatched out by the roots anyway.

Talking to the surgery nurses is the last thing I remember before the procedure. I remember that both arms were strapped down (we don’t want you moving. Yes, I understand) The surgical shields were put in place. They were cold, but in place. The nurse said they do these kinds of procedures eight times a day on a normal day. They wouldn’t be doing eight of them on that day because the cardiologist I had been referred to had already dealt with two emergency procedures before he got to me in the mid-afternoon, and I had been scheduled as the first cardiogram of the morning when I walked in that day. He’s a busy guy. He earns his pay, without a doubt. He definitely earned it working on me that day.

The good drugs started when the doctor entered the surgery and verified everything I’d agreed to for about the fourth or fifth time (the thoroughness of modern medical procedure is reassuring if slightly tedious) and I don’t remember much after that. I remember the imaging system suspended over my chest like the upper hammer in a forging hammer press. I remember voices, but not words. I do vaguely remember something rounding the corner in my shoulder at one point, but I definitely do not remember the amount of work they had to do once they had done the initial scan.

…because it was as bad as I imagined it was. I didn’t die, so the worst outcome was averted. They didn’t have to crack my chest, something that would have been required had I been undergoing the procedure even ten years ago. Second worst outcome avoided by simply being born in the place and time that I was. No open heart surgery. Just three stents. Three stents, in three different arteries, and then the second set of tests to make sure that blood flow was restored to the blood starved areas of my heart.

What would have been weeks of bed rest and a lengthy hospital stay reduced to overnight observation and three months of cardiac rehabilitation. I’m a big fan of science-based modern medicine. It has once again kept me alive to see another day. From that perspective, what is there not to like about it?

I start remembering things after I’ve been in the recovery room for a bit. I remember the Wife’s usual amusement at my slowly dwindling confusion. I remember the cardiologist (now my favorite person in the world) visiting to let me know what they found while crawling through my arteries. He also let me know that I needed to stay for observation for at least a day to make sure that there were no complications. I also remember sitting in the recovery room until they had a hospital room ready for me, sitting there waiting until the cleaning staff was impatiently waiting for me to leave so they could clean up and shut down the surgery wing for the day. At least I had Looney Tunes to keep me company.

The pressure bandage was removed from my wrist at some point during the wait, and then there was a brief panic while I bled through quite a bit of gauze before the nurses got the bleeding to stop. Nurses pressing on the fresh surgery site to stop the bleeding, that was the most intense pain I endured that day. A mercifully brief pain considering the amount of pain that open heart surgery entails. Pain for months on end.

NPR – Invisibilia – The Fifth Vital Sign

I could bitch about the inability to get my betahistine cleared through the hospital administration while I was laid up at the hospital for the night, but that seems pretty trivial in the scheme of things. We’ll just pretend I didn’t take the betahistine anyway because that would be against the rules. Did you know you aren’t allowed to bring your own drugs into the hospital? It was news to me. If you have drugs that aren’t available in the US unless they are compounded, you probably should get your drugs approved by the hospital you might be staying in before you find yourself stuck there with no treatment for your weird diseases. It will save you the frustration. In my case, it would have kept me from requesting a Xanax from the staff in order to keep the vertigo at bay. They didn’t want to give it to me, but I convinced them they didn’t want to see a full blown drop attack in the middle of the night. Really, I’m not complaining, I’m just a problem patient. Ask the Wife.

The only real surprise I experienced post-recovery was that I didn’t expect to be one-handed for such an extended period of time. Had I realized that the bruising would hang around for as long as it did, I would have told them to go in through the groin. I would have missed a wedding anyway, as it turned out (thunderstorms will do that) But I could have done everything else I normally do while laid up in bed for forty-eight hours. Not having two hands meant I missed raiding in World of Warcraft for two weeks. But the worst part was not writing. Not writing much of anything for nearly three weeks. Slow torture for anyone who loves to write. As I said previously, I watched a lot of television.

This brings us to today in this little story. Today, where I’m stuck in the near-endless repetition of cardiac rehab three times a week. Exercising while wearing a heart monitor with nurses always hovering nearby. Me and a whole lot of people twenty years my senior sweating as a group and wishing we could be somewhere else. I’m beginning to understand what it means to be handed the short end of the genetic stick now. What it means to have a cholesterol problem that can’t be treated with a Statin because of dangerous side effects. I hope to survive my genetic handicaps long enough to see a crispr application that will fix what is ailing me, whatever that is.

Jumpscare

David Gerrold on Facebook

All of my friends thought scaring me was funny. This has been true for as long as I can remember. Because they told me scaring people was funny, I started scaring people to see if it was funny. Weirdly enough, it was funny. It was funny when someone else other than me danced around like a stroke/heart attack victim.

I hate horror movies. The Wife has worked on close to ten horror movies now, so I have learned to deal with light horror in order to watch what she has been working on. At least appear to watch it, enough to be able to appreciate the art that goes into making a horror film. I still have nightmares from watching The Ring a decade ago, so I don’t do extreme horror anymore. The Wife and Son go watch horror movies together now, I stay home and play World of Warcraft with The Daughter.

But when I was a teen, all my friends loved horror movies. When they would watch horror films, I’d try to humor them and watch with them. It never worked out well because they knew I was jumpscare prone and so would do things like grab my leg when say, Jason came up out of the water in Friday the 13th. They still laugh about that one.

The first time I found out there was a thing like jumpscare videos was back in the early days of the internet. Some forgotten website challenged you to study some photograph of a typical dining room and try to figure out what didn’t belong there. At some set frame in the video two or three frames of the screaming face showed up and screamed at you, from an image that you had been told was single frame NOT a video. Everyone knows MM GIF now, but back then it was a new thing.

When that face popped up I think I blacked out. The next thing I remember, I was across the room climbing up on the desk to get away from whatever it was. The sad part was, I still thought it was funny and showed it to my kids. The thing that broke me of enacting jumpscares was discovering I was related to someone with anxiety issues, and having to condition myself not to scare them. This revealed anxiety issues in myself that I never realized were there before.

There is a vicious child somewhere in the lizard brain that wants to scare people. I don’t know why it wants to scare people, but it might be missing that dopamine fix of being terrified itself. There was some part of me that was terrified by Star Trek as a child. The salt monster really gave me a fright. I was terrified of the crawling hand for years after watching that film one Saturday or Sunday afternoon. I can still picture the hands crawling toward me if I try. I had nightmares about talking possessed dolls long before Chucky was a thing because some grade school friend insisted that some show he saw with a possessed doll in it was real. As if anything filmed is real, and not merely the POV of the cameraman. Most Science Fiction still terrifies me on some level, but I keep coming back to it for the thrill. For the unknown, the unthought of, the beyond comprehension.

Jumpscares are cheap entertainment by comparison. The people who make those things should take up bungee jumping or skydiving. Platform diving. Stand a hundred feet above the water and jump in, like I have. Before I knew how dangerous that was. Those are real thrills. If you are into jumpscares, scaring other people, turn off the computer and don’t come back till you’ve got your adrenaline fix in. The rest of us will thank you for it.

Facebook comment backdated to the blog.

The Day After

The August 8, 2018 episode of On The Media included a little trip down memory lane for me.

On The Media, The Day After, Today, August 24, 2018

In 1983, 100 million Americans watched an ABC made-for-tv movie called The Day After, depicting the immediate fallout from a nuclear exchange between the US and the Soviet Union. Tensions between the two powers were high, with President Ronald Reagan calling the USSR an “evil empire” and building up the country’s nuclear stockpile. Just weeks before The Day After, NATO war exercises were nearly mistaken by Soviets for a real attack.

The movie wasn’t very good, but what it showed was so horrifying that it inspired a national conversation about US policy. Following the broadcast, Ted Koppel hosted a panel debate on deterrence and disarmament with prominent thinkers like Carl Sagan and Robert McNamara. Schools organized discussions for classes, ABC distributed a viewer’s guide, and psychologists warned that children under 12 shouldn’t even watch the movie. Marsha Gordon, professor of film studies at North Carolina State University, wrote about The Day After for the website The Conversation in January. In February, she and Brooke spoke about the public debate sparked by the movie, and what it might mean for a new generation to see a remake.

So who else remembers watching The Day After with the family? I remember watching it quite well, even if I can’t remember much of the film itself. I remember it was depressing. I remember the reassurance from Koppel afterwards that none of this was real. ABC was anxious to not start any panics, so they went to great lengths to make sure everyone knew this was a staged event.

Their care in making sure that audiences knew the show was a fake stands in stark contrast to today’s reality TV programs, where the very same people working in the media today fake everything in front of the camera and then proceed to tell the audience all of what they saw was real. Try explaining the false sense of surety that comes from seeing something happen to your pre-teen children. No, dear. It isn’t real. It’s Youtube. Nothing on Youtube is real. I know this because they still use cameras to focus your attention where they want it. Try explaining to stormtrumpers that the guy on The Apprentice wasn’t really Donald Trump. Let me know how that works out for you.

I also remember discussing The Day After with the Wife a few years later, and her insisting we watch Threads so that she could show me what a nuclear holocaust was really like. After watching Threads I had to admit that they soft-pedaled the effects of nuclear war in The Day After. I don’t blame them for soft-pedaling the harsh reality of nuclear winter. Watching Threads made me want to die.

Later that same year another friend insisted I watch Koyaanisqatsi and later Powaqqatsi in an attempt to show me that nuclear winter was a walk in the park compared to what some humans endure today. After watching those two films, I wondered if nuclear winter might actually be a blessing in disguise. So, you know. It’s all a matter of perspective.

Facebook status and associated comments posted concurrently to the blog.

Wolfenstein: The New Order. The Game to Play in the Age of Trump

I’ve been walking in a fog all day (brain fog) The Orange Hate-Monkey (OHM) has just returned from committing treason with the leader of Russia by his side today. I am trapped in a dream. I have been trapped in a dream since November the 9th of 2016. It has to be a dream, because even reality can’t be this strange.

I’ve been playing Wolfenstein: The New Order off and on now for about six months. The Wife gifted me with Wolfenstein: The New Colossus for Christmas last year, and I refused to play a sequel without playing the first game first. You have to experience first things first. Old Blood is the second game. This confirms my theory on thirds. First third is good. Second third can be better. Last third? Hardly worth the trouble. I’m tracking down Old Blood so I can play it next. [Editor’s note: Have it now] The relationships which seem long established in the game’s story are there because Wolfenstein was perhaps the first stealth video games, and Id preserved much of what it saw as essential from previous iterations of Wolfenstein when it created The New Order, including an easter egg tribute to their first game Wolfenstein 3D.

I took the right approach on insisting I play New Order before playing New Colossus, because I probably would never have given this series of games a chance if I had played Wolfenstein: The New Colossus first. I couldn’t finish that game when I finally got to it. Hell, I barely made it out of the submarine, where the game begins, I was laughing so hard. Laughing at the unreality of maneuvering a wheelchair through bulkheads with openings that could not possibly be rolled through in a wheelchair, while firing a automatic weapon two-handed and not being propelled backwards down the companionway from the recoil. They program in sight drift when firing a weapon, but they don’t do the half-dozen other things that are even more essential for believability.

Games are not reality, after all. Reality is so unreal that many of the things we experience would never work in a fictional universe. No one would believe that what was happening could happen. I mean, the party that could not accept a President getting a blowjob in the Oval Office willingly puts a lying, cheating scumbag into the office of the President? That could never happen. So the simple fact that a thirty-six inch wide object cannot fit through a thirty-two inch wide door is clearly not going to be believed. However, we are talking first person shooters (FPS) here. A first-person shooter from the originators of the FPS, id. Except that id didn’t allow its name to be placed on the sequel to Wolfenstein: The New Order, a smart move on their part.

In the age of Trump, it is easy to believe that the Nazis won the Second World War. In the age of Trump, it is easy to believe that a secret Jewish organization called Da’at Yichud created all the weapons that the Nazis stole. Stolen technology that allowed them to win the war by developing an atomic bomb first. Not hard to believe, at all.

Wolfenstein®: The New Order Teaser – Jul 17, 2018

No, the hard part to believe about this game is how this one man could possibly make a difference in this obscene world that he finds himself in. This cold, hard fact is why Wolfenstein: The New Order is the game to be playing in the age of Trump. Because he does triumph, in the end, and his is not the only triumphal moment.

Wolfenstein®: Caroline Becker – Jul 17, 2018

This game is a tour-de-force for id. It reminds me of all the hours I spent playing Doom all those years ago, when the internet was the future and the future was full of hope. They released an updated version of Doom last year. I’ll probably have to play that game next.

Wolfenstein®: Bombate – Jul 17, 2018

I’ve been walking around in a fog all day, as I said at the beginning. Walking in a fog with the oft-scribbled statement of those unfortunates who have had their long-term memory sealed off from their short term memory looping through my mind. I’ve just woken up for the first time! Caught in a bootloop, like a bad operating system install. The cutscene in the Kreisau hideout has been haunting me.

Not just any time you sleep in the hideout. You have to be playing the Fergus timeline. In the Fergus timeline one of the changes is the character of Tekla. A mathematician, she is obsessed with calculating the probabilities of success in the Kreisau’s fight against the Nazis. One of the instances when you tell Blaskovitz to go to sleep to get his health upgraded (Fergus’ perk) has an additional cutscene. Blasko goes to sleep, only to be startled abruptly awake to find Tekla sipping coffee beside his bed, watching as he and Anya sleep. The dialog for this scene keeps drifting through my mind, following I’ve just woken up for the first time! hard on it’s heels. I tried to find the scene in the game for hours today. I knew it was there, but I just could not find it. I played through all the chapters in the Kreisau hideout looking for it. Luckily someone else spliced all the Tekla scenes together,

Wolfenstein: The New Order – All Tekla Scenes Compilation (Fergus Timeline) May 20, 2014

Where do you go when you lose consciousness?

You have a brain, a brain is a biological computational device running on electrochemical process. Your consciousness is an emergent property of said process. In other words: you are an electrochemical process. Fundamentally you have experience of continuous existence. You are you, at this point in time. You have sensation of riding along this continuum of being you, into the future. On occasion brain can be subjected to trauma, temporarily discontinuing electrochemical process. Such as a boxer being knocked out. As this occurs the brain is no longer running. It’s electrochemical generating process. Hence consciousness is lost. You lose consciousness. At this point in time, your consciousness, all that is you… your continuum of being you has caused to exist in the physical world, Now, moments later, the electrochemical process may start up again… allowing consciousness to emerge out of the information stored in the brain.

But I wonder. Where are you in the meantime?

Must we not assume that at the point when consciousness is lost, the person dies? If a new consciousness appears or not in the same brain is entirely inconsequential to the dead consciousness. The new consciousness is simply a new person. Because it emerges from the same brain it has access to all the memories and cognitive structures… as the dead consciousness, so it thinks it is the same person But in actuality it is just an impostor. Inheriting the body and brain from the previous, now dead, inhabitant.

Tekla, Wolfenstein : The New Order

Pretty deep stuff for an FPS video game, isn’t it? But that is the quality of the production all through Wolfenstein: The New Order. It feels like reality, the camera bobbing ever so slightly as you watch the cutscenes, as if you are an observer over the shoulder of someone else, breathing carefully so as not to attract attention to yourself. Hoping against hope that these impossible people will achieve an impossible thing and destroy the Nazi machine even in its hour of triumph.

But I could not find the scene in the game again. I could not find it, like a memory that fades into the mist when you look for it. Did I wake up today a different person? Will I wake up tomorrow a different person? Who is asking this question? Play Wolfenstein: The New Order. Kill all the Nazis. Win the war. Or maybe we should believe we can win the battle against the fakir who currently inhabits the office of the President? If you think we can’t win, play this game. Maybe it will change your mind. 

Reset TPM? I’d Rather Not.

Ever since the Windows 10 update two weeks ago, the older desktop system here at the house has been whining at me to clear the TPM. When the error message first popped up I contacted my go to technical guru, The Wife, and she could not possibly have been more nonchalant about the problem.

Trusted Platform Module. Part of the windows security fun, fun, fun. Should not cause problems. Make a backup before you reset it and be ready for something to balk, possibly.

Make a backup? This is my backup! It is a recompilation (still incomplete) of several systems and OS’s dating back a decade and more, and I really am not ready to archive all this stuff yet. I should have been done with this months ago, but procrastination and family crisis have slowed progress, and I hate doing records maintenance. Consequently, I’m still only about halfway done and the system is almost old enough for me to need to replace it already.

This error was simply a bang (exclamation point over a hazard triangle) on the Microsoft Defender notification, not a bios level error that occurs repeatedly during bootup, and I haven’t tried doing a clean install on this system yet. I don’t do operating system installs without physical media being present. I’m a veteran of Windows and DOS since the 90’s and a Linux dabbler since 2000. You simply did not do operating system installs without the ability to finish the install with no internet connection. Back in the bad old days, that was a certain sign of imminent doom. Reformat and reinstall with physical media. Consequently, I’m still not interested in doing them now. I was shocked when Windows 10 successfully installed and then upgraded itself over the internet. I have been shocked every time it has worked since Windows 10 came out. A truly unprecedented occurrence in my entire history of computer usage. 

Thank You! to TWD for Ending my Cable Addiction

April 4th, 2016 – RottenTomatoes posed the question what did you think of The Walking Dead season six finale?

I am thoroughly ambivalent about The Last Day on Earth. The episode didn’t fit with the tenor of the rest of the season. It smacked of torture porn and marked the end of an unknown character, probably more than one character.  I’m waiting to see what happens next, for the first time in six seasons of loyal viewing, to decide if I’m still going to watch. More torture porn will make it not watching.

One of the other commenters observed to me I’m thinking that the season 5 finale marked a good point to end the series on a high note.

I’ve mentioned elsewhere that the Alien sequels ended with Aliens. That’s right, there are only two Alien movies in my headcanon. Hicks & Ripley settled down and adopted Newt after arriving safely back on Earth. End of story. Having already written my own endings for popular fiction in the past, albeit in my own head, writing my own end to The Walking Dead (TWD) will not be a problem. They all died. End of story. The season 5 finale was more positive, but also less definitive. I really was wondering what would happen next after watching that finale, a feeling I’m completely lacking this time around.


Someone resurrected that RottenTomatoes zombie thread (pun intended) with a spam comment today (January 29th, 2018) and while I was reading back through the comments I noticed that the one after mine took the time to break down how the camera perspective meant Glenn was the guy being beaten to death with a baseball bat.

Beaten to death, with a baseball bat. Let that sink in for a few, because it is a wakeup call. One of the most popular shows on television ends its sixth season with one of the most loved characters on TV of the time possibly being beaten to death with a barbed-wire wrapped baseball bat. We’ve come a long way from The Andy Griffith Show, just to mention another totally random show featuring a character that has a sheriff as its lead. Even if you compare TWD to Gunsmoke, the changes in America’s viewing culture is quite shocking.

It also bears noting that there is a certain amount of fatalism inherent in shows like TWD. All of the characters will die unremarked by anyone around them, because it is a story about the zombie apocalypse. No one will be left to record their last words, because there will be no one to recount the story. This is above and beyond the fatalism of TWD comic book fans who already know how your favorite characters die in their comic books. A literalism that they attempt to write onto the screen with every passing episode.

I can safely say, with not a hint of spoilers, the death wasn’t Glenn’s as the other commenter described. Not that Glenn didn’t die anyway. As I said, no spoilers. I binge-watched season seven on Netflix this past month, prepping to binge watch the final season this fall. Seventh season’s viewing numbers were so low that AMC decided to end the show on a high note and wrap it up with a second season of Negan vs. Rick.

I should thank TWD for making me finally cut the cable. Within a month of watching the season seven opener, the Wife and I decided we didn’t need to spend money on cable television that we weren’t going to be watching anyway. With BBC America moved to the even more expensive tier of cable subscription than the one we had, there was nothing on the TV we were overpaying for that we wanted to watch. Aside from which, it was less jarring to watch TWD on Netflix as a binge event, and not paying for cable TV has saved me a couple of thousand dollars by now.

On the subject of the eighth and final season of TWD, I’m having a real hard time believing Negan isn’t dead yet, much less figuring out why anyone would follow the son of a bitch anywhere. My experience over the last two years of TWD has shown me that you can’t take comic books and make videos out of the stories and characters directly (as if the DC movies are not proof of this already) it is better to let people who understand the medium of television write for that medium themselves.


The promo for the mid-season opener popped up on my feed yesterday asking,

2 weeks left. Is the Kingdom ready for one last stand? #TWD

TWD on G+

Of course, the pro and con trolls then proceeded to make hay over their various opinions on the subject of TWD in general and not the final half of the final season in particular, including one particular troll who threatened bodily harm to the naysayers. I haven’t watched the first half yet, not being willing to spend actual cash on seeing it before the season is finished. But opinions? I have a few.

I started with Threatening  us with injury is a punishable crime; as is everything Negan does in the show. I don’t accept that the character of Negan is realistically drawn or portrayed. I don’t accept that people will simply do as they’re told because they are afraid. There are too many examples of the contrary being true throughout history. The Governor was far more believable as a character, which means TWD has done the evil leader thing already in the show, and done it better previously.

Religious zealots who adopt labels like savior, groups that submerge the self, like Fight Club and Tyler Durden, they have a certain way of speaking and thinking, at least on the screen. This is important if you want your audience to come along with you for the ride. The first Negan’s, the first saviors our heroes meet in TWD? They displayed this behavior in a vague sense. It was a nice teaser, as far as teasers go.

Unfortunately it was a tease that was completely lost when we meet the Negan himself. He is no Tyler Durden. He doesn’t suffer to show his followers his dedication to the cause. The Negan is just another dictator. Kill him and the cult of personality dissolves because the power, the person, is lost. The problem of repercussions is negated if the saviors fall apart without him. The more complex, religiously motivated cult-like group is probably what the comic portrays (I don’t know or really care) but the writers for the television show wrote something else.  Negan grooms his people to blindly follow him. Without him they are nothing. This is just basic character motivation here. It isn’t hard to follow.

No, Negan would have been dead the first time he handed Rick the bat. Be honest. There wasn’t enough saviors there to do anything except die. The show has been torture porn since the end of season seven. I have only continued watching out of vague curiosity as to how the writers will complete the story. I ceased caring about the characters somewhere about minute 45 of Last Day on Earth. I ceased caring out of  a sense of self-preservation. It was clear through the course of that episode that the writers were purposefully tormenting the viewers with the death of their beloved characters. I don’t have time for that kind of mental illness.

If you are enjoying torture porn, you might want to ask yourself why? It’s a question everyone watching should ask themselves, and at least be truthful with yourself about the answer. What the answer implies is between you and your conscience alone. After all, no one will remember why you died in the zombie apocalypse. They won’t even remember that you lived.

Online comments reposted to the blog, with an addendum. “It is always now on the internet”

A Tale of Two Cities

I remember exactly when I first noticed it: my first year in town, wandering around the heart of the city, unwittingly crossing through Red River and Sixth Street. It was an immediate shift. Property value sank, and the sidewalks were now populated entirely with black and brown faces. Casting my gaze back west and seeing all that pallid skin bumbling around in merry debauchery, participating in all those Austin promises, made me feel a little guilty. At that moment it was clear that Austin had some unfortunate secrets, because no matter how liberal or progressive your reputation might be, a history of segregation will always rear its ugly head.

Luke Winkie writing for Vice.com

A house fire destroyed a boarding house just before New Years here in Austin, leaving six people homeless in some of the harshest weather this area has seen in several years. If you look at the images of the house in this news article, it is clear that hoarding was more than a problem in the house before the fire. The structure itself violates several current building codes, or would have violated them if it had not been grandfathered in under the rules that were being enforced at the time of its construction and/or annexation into the city of Austin. A filled construction dumpster in the driveway is a clear sign of unresolved problems within the structure that a devastating fire probably only makes worse for the people involved.

Not satisfied with the fact that there will soon be new construction at this once poverty-stricken address in a nearby neighborhood, one of the recent purchasers of Austin real estate took exception to the state of the house as it currently sits smoldering. This is understandable to me. It is understandable because house prices in Austin are ridiculously inflated, and I’m sure this purchaser paid far too much for his property. There was no price correction in Austin after the real estate bubble burst in the rest of the U.S. There was the briefest of pauses in price inflation, and then the prices just continued to go up, rising to levels that frankly have me thinking seriously of renovating and flipping my home so that I can retire somewhere a little quieter. Somewhere with horses, so that the Wife will have something to do with her time since no one will pay her a wage to do work in Austin anymore.

The homeowner’s objections are also understandable because I have an issue with the rental house across the street from me. I’ve told a running joke about it over the decades that I’ve lived here, and the joke has only gotten darker over the years. Considering the downward spiral it has been in since starting as an owner-occupied dwelling in the early nineties, I suspect there will be cannibals living there soon. Cannibals, because there isn’t much lower for it to go on the occupant quality ladder. Cannibalism is bound to occur there at some point in the near future.

However, several of my neighbors on Nextdoor insist on calling the boarding house that burned to the ground a crack house. Repeatedly. I have to say, that’s just uncalled for. After all, it’s not the nineteen-eighties anymore. We’re well past Reagan and his cloaked racial references like crack houses. Perhaps these new property owners don’t know the history of East Austin, the history of Austin in general? As a long-time resident of the neighborhood, I’d like to offer a few pointers to these new Austin residents, in the spirit of the New Year.

Let’s start with a big picture, historically. Austin was officially racially segregated until 1963. There were specific redlined neighborhoods where people of color were allowed to buy property. Those neighborhoods are well South of the area of Austin that we live in, but if you add in the Great Wall that separates East Austin from West Austin, the distance South that the redlining occurs becomes almost inconsequential. East of Interstate 35 was long considered the dumping zone for housing projects and industrial uses, and any in-depth analysis of land use in Austin will reveal that East Austin carries the brunt of the load of poverty for the entire city to this day.

While you’re calculating, don’t forget to add in the depression on living standards that the Mueller airport noise levels inflicted on the surrounding areas until very recently. That is crucial to understanding the change that is occurring on the East side of Austin today. With the removal of the airport out to Bergstrom, and the removal all the airport’s associated industrial businesses, there was suddenly a wealth of under-utilized property right in central Austin. The re-purposing of this property continues even eighteen years later. The old boundaries of the airport are all but erased, but you can still see the blighting effects of landing and take-off zones near the airport if you look hard enough.

The historical racism that stifled central East Austin’s growth, now lifted, the industrial uses and noise pollution of a central airport, now lifted, the big picture of why the gentrification and the pushing out of old minority owners in East Austin should become obvious. The two cities that were Austin are being forced to become one city, and the new city of Austin doesn’t have room for people who don’t have more than a quarter million dollars to sink on a home. Especially not in central Austin neighborhoods that used to be beacons for the average American middle class lifestyle.

Just to the North of the old Mueller airport site sits some of what was the most overlooked, undervalued property in central Austin. It was overlooked and undervalued when I first started living in the area about thirty years ago but it has now been discovered and is probably overvalued. I look to see a market correction in the near future. Friends of mine in the construction industry bought into real estate at the peak of the last boom in the eighties. They lost half their investment in the subsequent S&L collapse. I expect there is another one of those nasty surprises just waiting around the corner for most of Texas somewhere in the future. We dodged that bullet in 2008, but the growth that Texas is experiencing can’t be maintained forever. Something has to give, eventually.

The house fire that started this article is in one of those quiet little neighborhoods that used to be havens from the bustling inner-city of Austin, protected by the vast bulk of Mueller from central East Austin’s old redlined districts. The closest of these neighborhoods to the Eastern edge of Mueller is Pecan Springs-Springdale. This is the neighborhood where the boarding house stood.

Pecan Springs-Springdale was two neighborhoods originally, ergo the name. There are pockets of very nice houses in this neighborhood, surrounded by marginal commercial ventures and apartment houses, especially along the main arterial boulevard of Manor Road that carries the bulk of the traffic North/South through the area, between the two neighborhoods of Windsor Park and Pecan Springs-Springdale. The intersection at Rogge and Manor, near where the fire occurred, has always been problematic. That intersection marks the boundaries between three distinct areas and uses, one corner of which is a vacant lot. That property is an investment opportunity, for anyone taking notes that still wants to live here.

We rented a house in Windsor Park for about seven years before buying our current home. We rented it for less than $500 a month if you can believe that. The houses in that neighborhood are generally smaller and sit on smaller lots than surrounding neighborhoods. They were built for and bought by people with even less money than the college professors that my current neighborhood catered to. Backed up to the original Austin shopping center, Capitol Plaza, and bordered originally on the South by the main runway of Mueller and Fifty-first Street, Windsor Park was a working-man’s neighborhood. It’s hard to see that now since most of the property there was snatched up and renovated first, before Mueller moved.

The wife and I realized that the time to buy a home was now or never as we watched the neighborhood change around us, so we gave up renting and purchased a home in University Hills, a smaller neighborhood further East, but not so close that you could see or smell the landfill still operated by the city further out highway 290. University Hills was built to appeal to the growing number of educational professionals that needed to live near the University of Texas and the price of its real estate has ballooned significantly since we moved here.

People looking for a real estate investment should be well acquainted with this fact, that housing prices are at an all-time high in Austin, since it would be part of proper due diligence to have looked at historical prices for the area before investing. Some of the original residents still live in our neighborhood, and I bought my house from one them twenty years ago. There aren’t too many left these days, but their investment of $40-60k when they bought their places back in the nineteen-sixties would not compare favorably with the investments people are laying down now to get in this neighborhood. Some of us still don’t have that kind of money and we are being forced out of our neighborhoods by a growing number of people who do.

not very neighborly

Which brings us full circle back to the transplant complaining about a boarding house he has to drive by on his way to work that burned down having once been purportedly used for drug sales. The question I want to ask people like him is, how do you live with yourself? How do you ignore the underpasses in Austin littered with homeless people, even in freezing weather? Let me put it this way; I apologize to you for your neighbors, neighbors who were clearly having a hard time paying to remain in a neighborhood that has left them behind. Now that they are homeless, I’m sure the weather will get on with killing them faster so that their property can be better utilized by the next owner and not be a drag on your property in the future. That way you can flip that property you sank every penny you had into and make a profit. How does that sound?

Don’t mind us long-term residents, the people who just lived and worked here over the course of a lifetime. We certainly won’t notice when you are gone, any more than we noticed the last five people who owned that property before you. If you think I’m being too harsh, then I suggest you get out and help the homeless in your area, right now. Now is the time when homelessness hurts the most, when we lose the most people to exposure. If you have the quarter-million dollars to blow on an investment, then you certainly have enough scratch to make the difference in a homeless person’s life. Maybe you should re-prioritize your to-do list and see if you can make the world a better place for someone else. They’ll probably thank you for it and it might even be more rewarding than that profit you are lamenting you won’t make.


This recent (04/11/2018) episode of Code Switch deals with the subject that I was talking about in this article, namely redlining, what redlining was, and what redlining did. The after effects of redlining are still felt here in Austin.

NPR, Let’s Talk, Why are cities still so segregated?

It’s hard for people who have never been poor to understand what poverty does to you. It’s even harder to understand what not being able to pass for white does to you. The barriers that are placed in your way. The things that keep you from being able to succeed, the things they blame you for? Those things are external, barriers to entry that allow those who have what you want to point at you and say “see you don’t deserve what I have.”

NPR – Code Switch – Housing Segregation In Everything

I wanted to post a link to this episode because this was the first episode of Code Switch that I could link directly. The first episode that had a specific page that I could find and link to with the content that I heard on the air present on the page. It was a nice change that I hope they keep up with. It’s hard to share insights like you get from podcasts like this if there isn’t a location on the internet to send people to so that they can hear that specific thing you are talking about. In this case, redlining. Forcing people into poverty for the sake of having poor people to look down on, to take advantage of. This structural racism and economic stratification? This bullshit has to stop, and it should have stopped a hundred years ago.