In Memoriam: Max Coustan, Beloved Best Friend, Cherished Teacher, Lousy Tax Preparer

This morning, we euthanized Max (Mandrake) Coustan after complications from an unknown immune mediated condition caused rapid kidney failure, respiratory infection, and DIC (Disseminated intravascular coagulation.) He reached a state where his kidneys were doing nothing for him, his blood wouldn’t clot, and increasingly he had trouble breathing. Last night when we visited he just wanted to rest and could do so fairly comfortably. This morning he could no longer do that and all of the medical data was off the charts bad.

Max in the sunshine, licking his chops

If you never met him, key attributes included a broke-ass tail, a mouse face, and a clown nose at the end of his beaklike snout. He could wriggle that clown nose as if it was fastened on to his head with spirit gum. He was plagued with bad teeth throughout our time with him and was down to about four, but managed to hold on to his defining two fangs through his last days.

Max spectacularly escaped death on numerous occasions only to live another day – once nearly choking to death on a chewie (rawhide), another time same scenario on a bully stick, another time nearly eating himself to death on dry kibble when his steroid-fueled appetite caused him to tear in to a bag.

When he first came down with the unknown condition that would eventually overtake him, he found himself in a state where he was down to 9 pounds from 16, and wouldn’t eat but a few nibbles of baby food from a fingertip each day. Weeks and months and many tests later, we couldn’t isolate the cause but did manage to stabilize him. With the assistance of steroids to help him keep his immune system from attacking itself, he fought his way back to relative health. Countless attempts to wean him off of the steroids without negative effects were unsuccessful, and on several occasions unexplainable swelling landed him in veterinary hospitals and with specialists. On one such occasion his face swelled up so much he looked like a sumo wrestler, and a surgeon sure he was going to find a foreign body in his neck found nothing and told us he was one of those rare unexplainable cases and would have to be on steroids for the rest of his life.

Not long after, Max had one of his discs threaten to rupture, making him unable to walk. After one surgery to ease the compression of his spinal cord, he had a partial recovery but didn’t recover as much function as we expected. A second surgery then enlarged the hole in his neck to allow for more scar tissue to grow without impinging on his spinal cord, and that brought back most of his function, even if he would continue to walk a little funny from then on. At that time we had decided that if he never regained the ability to walk but was otherwise ok health-wise, we’d be willing to strap him in to a Baby Bjorn and act as his legs from then on.

Throughout countless conditions, procedures, and trips to the vet, Max maintained his demeanor and almost never whined, moaned, or cried. The one whimper I heard as I drove him back from UGA Vet hospital after his first spinal surgery let me know something was probably really wrong.

We learned a great deal from Max, about how to face tremendous adversity and remain positive and constructive. As a friend and teacher, he was always there for us, and more than a few times helped me keep my own misfortunes in perspective. As the head of Mouseface Accounting LLC, he did his best to prepare tax returns on time and with the maximum allowable deductions for his clients, but I have to admit he always struggled. We never did get him that green translucent visor – maybe that had something to do with it.

We are tremendously thankful to everyone who helped Max over the years, and there are a ton of folks to name. I adopted him from Small Dog Rescue up in Sandy Springs when he was an adult dog, and will always be grateful to Tom Harris and Carrie Williford along with all of the volunteers there for bringing him in to my life. Dr. Smallwood at St. Francis Animal Clinic in Decatur helped with his initial diagnoses, and although that wasn’t a great experience when I recall it honestly, I am grateful for her help in putting some parameters around what Max had and getting him on the Azathioprine that would help him have a few more years with good quality of life. Same for East Atlanta Animal Clinic – we had some rough patches with them here and there but I sincerely appreciate the care they gave Max when he was their patient.

I am so glad we found Village Vets of Decatur, and Dr. Ashley Alford there, who might as well have been Max’s personal physician. She helped us navigate the mounting challenges as his condition’s effects stacked up on us, and always remained positive and helped find solutions even when we were all truly puzzled – same goes for the entire staff there, including the ER docs, vet techs, and desk staff who got to know Max a little too well the past few years. Dr. Landrum was always helpful and compassionate, and Dr. Slider was tremendously helpful as well through Max’s last moments.

Thanks to Dr. Boozer at UGA Animal Hospital, who worked miracles in helping restore his back leg function while navigating his immune condition, when we knew the odds were good it was gone forever. Georgia Veterinary Specialists helped us chase down his swelling, and helped him past a couple of crises. There were many people who looked after Max in times when we took some time away and his health was still up in the air, including Tom and Carrie, Tori L., my parents, Molly’s mom, etc. Barking Hound Village Lofts took him in and made an exception even after we stopped vaccinating him, and made sure he had good care there. Madison at Frogs To Dogs stayed with Max in our house when he could no longer go to boarding. And of course, Kat and Jonna, our dog walkers but much more than that. Jonna took Max’s challenges on as her own, giving him his own walks when he couldn’t keep up with our other dogs, always there to do anything when Max’s health and happiness was at issue, and caring for him as one of her own.

And thanks to my sister Rachel, herself a vet who helped us with decision-making every step of the way and patiently answered countless questions from me.

We feel truly honored to have had the time we had with him, and know he touched the lives of many and made the world a better place in a lasting way. He will always be a part of us, but he will also always be missed.

Slideshow: The Many Mercurial Moods Of The Zookeeper Boss

His head looks like a coffee mug, and he’s in turns sweet, bored, bitter, and brutal. I’ve played Zookeeper since it was a Web flash game, and now that it’s an iOS game I have renewed my addiction. This gallery will be an ongoing tribute to the cryptic, likely translated-from-Japanese messages that appear at the end of the game from the Zookeeper to you, the lowly janitor.

[SlideDeck2 id=1214]

This is also my first test of the Slide Deck plug-in.

Today I am Lester Hayes years old

I still don’t feel a day over Rollie Fingers.

I’m Lester Hayes years old.

Judging by the sports uniform numerology, 37 could be a weird one. According to, only three players have worn the number 37 in the NBA – Nick Van Exel, Jack Smiley, and Metta World Peace, the former Ron Artest. This was Artest’s explanation to Fox Sports Radio for why he chose that number:

“I was trying to figure out a number, I was talking to my wife and kids. I was on my twitter, MySpace, and Facebook and asking everybody to help me pick a number. On my MySpace, somebody named Trish T he Dish came up with the #37 and said that Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” was 37 weeks at number one of all time. 23 I was going to choose, it was available, it’s a great number but, I thought (with) that 37 and “Thriller”, I can make that a new great number. I think more kids should start getting the #37 for a great human being, since Michael loved all people. I think I’m representing greatness in wearing #37.”

Brand Hijacking on Pinterest is the Sincerest Form of Flattery

My first clue that this “Victoria’s Secret” Pinterest account might not be what it purports to be was their liking of my pin about a man winning a real-life Mariokart:

I’m fine with brands engaging with users in this way, but this one felt a little off-brand to me.

I clicked to their profile, and everything seemed reasonably legit, except I noticed their URL is also a bit off-brand – there’s only one ‘s’, which I imagine is a big no-no over there, and there’s a trailing ‘l’ for no reason. The URL is: I’m not positive this isn’t Victoria’s Secret‘s official account, but this all gives me a strong suspicion. Another alternative, I suppose, is that the person administering the account “liked” my pin without realizing they were doing so from the corporate account. But I doubt VS would allow that URL to represent them even though is being used by a regular person who got there first.

I don’t see any tell-tale affiliate monetization links in play here, but it would be easy enough for an affiliate marketer to pretend to be a brand, and then monetize all of the traffic they generate to that brand’s product pages using Pinterest as the middleman.

With all of the hype and traffic, it’s not surprising that enterprising brandjackers have started to take to Pinterest. There’s plenty of money and diverted traffic to be had there. This is perhaps an early warning sign that Pinterest needs to be smart, quickly, about ways to give brands a safe and profitable place to play in their sandbox if this is the next phase for their community. It’ll be interesting to see if they take any innovative approaches in this regard; sometimes clever systems and patterns emerge from challenges like these, like how uses a nominal registration fee (that slightly incremented each time a new user signed up, encouraging “real” people to jump in early) to keep out a certain significant cut of scammers and spammers for whom that would be a convenience barrier. There are some pre-existing patterns for them to follow from large social platforms but “Verified accounts,” for example, apparently quickly became a headache for Twitter to administer, and Facebook had a pretty significant infrastructure in place when they initiated that first gold rush for custom urls.

A Delicious Lunch Starring Storico Fresco, Spotted Trotter, and Hope’s Garden

I just whipped up and ate this truly memorable dish for lunch today, made with foods from all local vendors, all purchased within a 2 mile radius of my house, some much closer.

Here’s the rundown:

  • De-case, crumble, and brown a couple of parsley & cheese sausages from The Spotted Trotter while you bring a half-pot of strongly salted water to a boil.
  • When at a full boil, add four Pi Fasacc pasta pieces (filled with herb, taleggio, and ricotta) and four Cjalsons pasta pieces (filled with smoked ricotta, raisins, and figs), both from Storico Fresco and buyable on the Farm Mobile. Let cook 5-6 minutes, and then strain.
  • Add pasta to bowl along with browned, drained sausage, and 1-2 teaspoons Hope’s Gardens sundried tomato pesto
  • Stir to mix and coat, and enjoy.

(*Apologies for the sub-par cameraphone photo)

I love my neighborhood. Note: The Farm Mobile is parked outside of the Midway pub on Thursdays from 4-6ish.

Enter To Win A Palpatine Action Figure And Help Me Test Rafflecopter

I’m looking for some help testing out a new tool for conducting giveaways on blogs, and I’ve enlisted the assistance of Emperor Palpatine himself in order to get it done.

To one lucky tester, I’ll give away this Emperor Palpatine action figure, still in unopened package (though the box is no longer “mint”), complete with Firing Force Lightning. It’s the perfect gift for a Star Wars nerd, a child of the appropriate age, or anyone who attacks their career duties with that particular cackling zeal.

Emperor Palpatine with Firing Force Action
Emperor Palpatine with Firing Force Action

All you have to do to become eligible is follow the instructions below:

Rafflecopter will be updating their widget soon, and if this test is successful I’ll run another giveaway when they release their new code.

*Note: If you don’t see the entry mechanisms, you may be in an environment that doesn’t support JavaScript. Visit the page directly via a standard web browser if you are having problems seeing it.

Affect The Quality Of The Day

When I think about doing work that strives to affect the quality of the day, I try to bring my mind back to this project and its (now historical) context, and what Shepard Fairey did with such a simple gesture.

This is Shepard Fairey’s initial well-known public work, a Buddy Cianci sign where I grew up in Providence. I used to see it out the bus window as my bus went from the East Side to Smith Hill or downtown. This piece had an amazing and inspiring outcome. It inexplicably traveled like memes do today, except in the purely offline world of 1989 and the early 90’s, via sticker templates that organically traversed the world:

Andre the Giant by Shepard Fairey

Shepard sold groovy one-off t-shirts of the Andre sticker design at Thayer Street sidewalk sales and RISD sales. I wish I still had a couple now.

As a now-cancelled Kickstarter project for a documentary about Shep’s early years explains:

“…Shepard received a historic assignment that would later establish his legacy in Providence, Rhode Island. Each student in the class was given a fortune cookie, and tasked with illustrating his or her respective fortune. Shepard’s fortune read: TO AFFECT THE QUALITY OF THE DAY IS NO SMALL ACHIEVEMENT. He then decided to paste his Andre graphic over the face of notorious Providence Mayor, Buddy Cianci, on his re-election billboard, located in the heart of the city.”

I wonder if the documentarian eventually came across the work of my friend Helen Stickler, who did essentially the same thing years and years ago.

[Found via LaughingSquid]

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