A shooting war is inevitable once you validate the people who want to need the guns and will find any excuse to need the guns. A problem has just been created that will not be subdued quickly or easily, and all because Wisconsin is Cold Alabama and nobody moved quickly enough to preempt state charges with federal ones – despite crossing state lines to do murder.

We will all die of incompetence, because the stupid will always get through and half the country now worships stupid.


The reason things do not seem to be going well is because

1) we are in the middle of a global pandemic, and because the entire world switched to just-in-time globalized manufacturing during the “ZOMG MUST EMULATE JAPAN IN EVERYTHING” 90s, this means supply chains are screwed up in all directions.

2) 6 of 220 House Democrats and 2 of 50 Senate Democrats are whiny little bitches wedded to a 90s Third Way vision of politics instead of looking at the reality around them, which means actual political progress is in hock to archaic traditions instead of electoral results.

3) Joe Biden can’t take any unilateral action for fear of offending the aforementioned whiny-ass titty babies in Congress so has to keep his powder dry until anything that requires a bill to pass has been passed or failed.

4) Republicans who are actually opposed to Trumpism are too limp dick terrified of Trump voters to stand up for themselves and their country, and

5) The rest of the GOP is actively engaged in promoting militarized white supremacy as the basis for American governance.

So if it seems like Biden isn’t getting much accomplished, this is why. And this is why the American political system is beyond saving and we’d be better off with Parliamentary government, and it looks like 1776 was a big fuck-off mistake. Sorry about that, Lizzie.

the free pass

The Braves are in Atlanta because Charley O. Finley couldn’t move the A’s to Birmingham.

Seriously. Birmingham was a nonstarter in 1964. So Charley O went to Atlanta which promptly began building a stadium before he balked…and then managed to lure the Braves from Milwaukee to fill it.

The Braves aren’t Atlanta’s team at all. They don’t play in Atlanta, and this is not the usual suburban location. They decamped from the city in the 2010s, not the 1970s. TBS made them a national draw in the 1990s, but their proper footprint is North Carolina plus the SEC east of the Mississippi, save for Memphis (Cardinals), Kentucky (Reds) and Florida south of I-10. Otherwise, Atlanta is the team of the white South. The team of evangelical megachurches and three row SUVs with Calvin praying to a cross on the back and middle aged white women affecting African American Vernacular English to each other in the Starbucks line and fishing shirts with golf slacks and a righteous conviction that the tomahawk chop is just fine because their grandmother was half Cherokee and to say otherwise is critical race theory.

At the end of the day, that’s the real problem with America: the number of just well off enough Caucasians committed to the gospel of “I Got Mine Fuck You” and the solid rock of faith that they don’t have to know or care that there are other people. It is what I have fled all my life since I was old enough to feel it, and it has chased me to the edge of the Western world and keeps threatening to push.

So let’s stop letting them hide behind Hank Aaron and Outkast and a lucky electoral break and “the city too busy to hate.” The minute you get outside 285, Georgia is Alabama with pavement. Don’t let them slither out from under it because Stacey Abrams picked the lock. They went right back with three more locks. This war is not over, and it may never be over in my lifetime. There is no finish line. We have to fight every day, over and over, and we do not get to stop as soon as the White House is flipped. If you didn’t learn that in 2008, learn it now.

five thousand

It’s probably different from my ancestors. The fireplace is a wooden-wick candle on the coffee table and the radio is a laptop streaming the audio feed while I check football scores, but tonight I’m listening to the 5000th consecutive weekly performance of the Grand Ole Opry, going back to November 1925 when the WSM Barn Dance tried to draw a few listeners with an old champion fiddler and some Vanderbilt string band players renamed “The Gully Jumpers”.

Ever since the Ken Burns miniseries two years ago – the first two or three episodes of which have become recurring comfort viewing – I’ve put Willie’s Roadhouse on the first set of presets. I’ve set up a monthly support for Bluegrass Country out of the old patch on WAMU and begun listening to replays of the same old Eddie Stubbs shows I heard riding around northern Virginia twenty-some years ago. I play Boot Liquor on my SomaFM app which I never did before. And I’ve bought a Woodrow stick dulcimer and taught myself a dozen songs.

This music is a connection. To my past life in DC, to my past life in Nashville, to the Country Boy Eddie show on early mornings on channel 6 and the days when the very special grown-up parties were the ones where someone had brought banjos and guitars and would pick and grin live just like they did on Hee Haw.

There are not many things I have successfully fished out of the black hole of the past and hung onto successfully. But this is one. Saturday night, Music City USA, the Air Castle of the South, AM 650 WSM, the Graaaaand Oooooole Opryyyyyyyy.

Like Judge Hay said: Let ’em go, boys.


I wish I could remember exactly how it was stated, but at one point in the excellent Only Murders In The Building, someone made reference to “your original wound, the one you keep trying to fix every time over and over.” In my case, it’s pretty clear that wound is belonging. To be received and included by your peers – a condition that seems to be the most reliable metric for when I have been happiest in my life.

And that first wound – twenty years of damage – has been ripped wide open for the last five years. The forces currently ruining the country and holding it to ransom, from holy rollers to privileged private business owners to middle aged redneck white women to literal open and unabashed white supremacists, are the very ones that made life in Alabama a constant low grade misery from the time I started first grade until I decamped for Vanderbilt – and then persisted from a distance until I ripped up my life by the roots and fled to DC. So I guess at some level, Alabama chased me down, and at a time when events had combined to lock me out. The pandemic made it impossible to meet in person, virtual socializing went by the boards quickly, and so many of the things I had used for group identity went south on me – sports fandoms, work (where I have resolutely been The Help for almost a decade), and – most recently – the patriarch and matriarch of the family I chose. A lot of the good things in my life went away in the last five years, and it’s hard not to think of the Indiana Jones line about the age when life stops giving you things and starts taking them away.

If it feels like I’ve been cocooning more than ever in the last two years, it’s because I have. Things being how they are, the trick is trying to find a means of escape that lets you actually tap out. I remember early in 2017 waking to wonder what fresh hell the day would bring and suddenly thinking “nothing you don’t let in” – and the trick has been to keep the black cloud at the door and not allow it over the threshold for a few hours a week, whether by the cunning use of streaming bluegrass and Irish music or British podcasts and television or history books or Disney+ or whatever will let me not think about it for a while. It’s been necessary for quite a while now, even after the events of last November – and especially in 2021 when it quickly became apparent that the fever isn’t breaking.

But there is light at the end of the tunnel, if only a dim one. Settling our housing situation and establishing some new patterns and practices for keeping body and soul together will go a long way toward getting my feet back under me. A new job? A new career altogether? Probably too much to hope for, although the professionals are on hold for me to consult in trying to obtain those. And hanging out there somewhere – travel, again, the promise of going further than the West Coast and seeing friends and family in person, of needing the unlocked phone and a photo sharing app, of finally putting boot heels to cobbles in another place.

The problem is that good things may come to those who wait, but the bad shit always arrives in a timely fashion. Not great for the healing process. But after almost fifty years, I’m running out of patience.

sixteen years and moving

2005 was a whirlwind year. I got married, I got on staff at Apple, and we went house-hunting. We had a deal for a place in Santa Clara that fell through because of complexities in financing – it was a hunch, on my part, and one I absolutely insisted on following. Which actually worked out for the best, because in November, we found another place. We made an offer, it was accepted – I found out in the middle of the Company Store at Apple – and after seventeen days at most of escrow, we took possession of the house that has been our home address ever since. That first night, we slept in sleeping bags on what today is technically the dining room, and for a week and a half until the DSL was hooked up, we survived thanks to the good graces of a neighbor whose open wifi access point was called “MrSheep.” Thank you, MrSheep, wherever you are.

And now we are moving – only a few miles, to my wife’s childhood home. It’s not going to be that big a change, with one vital exception: the loss of ready access to public transit, and thereby the loss of ready access to downtown Mountain View, downtown San Jose, and – ultimately – downtown San Francisco. It increases the odds that pub night will be something that happens at home, rather than, you know, in a pub. It means that going most anywhere means driving. And to be fair, these are all conditions that have obtained for the last year and a half, almost – there were enormous stretches when the light rail wasn’t even running, and when it was, it’s not like I could go drink in a pub or go for a stroll around a city that was half shut up against the plague.

Most of my memories of the house itself are of the last year and a half, honestly, ever since the office stopped being the overflow shit-collector for the rest of the house and became my regular daily workspace. Before long I had also turned it into my Sunday night space, with string lights on the shelving and videos of pub ambiance on the iMac, or other soothing backdrops from time to time depending. It broke the pattern established when pub night meant the lower living room and a possible book and shoe shining to go with my two or three pints (almost always two now, and American-sized). It calls to mind the old storage room off our garage, with its worktable and tools for fly-tying or leather-stamping, the place where my father would occasionally retreat and answer the inquiry “whatcha doin?” with “Piddling.”

My other “piddle”, such as it is, has been to finally embrace the walkability of the area. I could go down to the deli, to the coffee shop, get a haircut or a Mexican breakfast or whatever one can get from 7-Eleven (in my case, Coke Zero in 64-ounce fountain servings until they took it off the fountain last spring, and probably for the best). Or I can walk around the expanded neighborhood, with allegedly triple the housing capacity of when we first moved here, and the promise of a little league field before long. I always thought that would become my minor league ball, that I’d drag a lawn chair and a cooler down there and holler “give him somethin’ simular” the way the old guys did at baseball games when my youngest cousin was playing. 

I never got to know any of the neighbors, save for a nice young couple at the end of our street, much younger than us with (eventually) two little girls. Apparently kids or pets go a long way toward meeting people around here. We had one beautifully quiet neighbor on the one side who was highly reclusive, probably an original owner in this development, and a couple renting on the other side whose house would show up on map applications as the home of a couple different tech startups. Be that as it may. Lately, every garage that once had a Prius in 2006 now has a Tesla (or two) instead, and their drivers are rather more asshole (especially at speed in alleyways) than the Prius drivers were. Be that as it may – after all, Tesla is the Bay Area’s BMW as much as the BMW 3 series is the Bay Area’s Camry.

I used to walk around our development a lot more. Always at night. It was quiet, except for the distance roar of the Caltrain and the occasional clang-and-buzz of the light rail. It felt like the days long long ago when I would walk at night around campus, shying away from any other human presence, just alone with the stars. More than once here I wondered whether it would be possible to hollow out a space behind the shrubbery next to the hillside and camp out overnight, before conceding that my snoring would probably bring Animal Control on the dead run. And it occurred to me that during the depths of the pandemic, my imagination would run toward places I had walked before, and in my mind I was always there at night and alone. My old church growing up. My dad’s school. Hell, even around Black Spire Outpost. I don’t know that my neighborhood walks ever had me imagining a larger world, although this time last year, they were soundtracked with the earliest sounds of the Carter Family and Jimmie Rogers. Maybe it’s the same impulse that makes me prefer to drive down 101 toward San Luis Obispo at dusk, letting it get dark around Gonzales.

Other than that, my memories of this place are mostly of people. I moved here long ago enough that the same Saturn I drove my senior year of undergrad was parked in the garage. We used to entertain more in the era of the Castro Street Dining Consortium, when we had half a dozen local friends of recent making and my wife’s army of Cal compatriots. There was a famously alcohol-soaked 37th birthday party for me that was meant to mimic the “parents are gone, have everyone over and turn up” party I never threw or attended (which was as much a catastrophe as it would have been in 1989). There were holiday gatherings, occasionally punctuated with people who flew in from the other side of the country or even the world. There were a couple of cookouts by the pool, with its grill and hot tub that we didn’t have to maintain or pay for (and which were unavailable for the last year and a half, which sort of softens the blow a little). We had housemates on three separate occasions, someone else to watch Celtic FC or Newcastle United or NFL Red Zone, enough people to make it worth cooking dinner and mixing cocktails. And the HOA’s frequent recent protestations to the contrary, not one of them ever got towed for parking on the street.

But all of those local friends or housemates, bar one, have long since moved away. Some over the hill to Santa Cruz county, some to Seattle, some to Texas or Tennessee or Louisiana, some even to Europe. And the pandemic has brought home the fact, hard and fast, that we are more or less the last ones standing from this era of my life, and it’s just as well we move now. And while we will be pressed for space with the accumulated detritus of sixteen years, we’ll have friends living with us, just as we’ve had in the best times in this house. And I’ll have a yard, with a fire pit or two and a Weber grill and a couple of Adirondack chairs and a back porch with an overhang. I’ll recline in a zero-G chair, back to the wall, stack up the storage on either side to form my nook and look out as (hopefully) the winter rain falls in the night as RTE’s Irish-language service plays through my earbuds. And I’ll be right back where I was seventeen years ago, hoping for the same two things: a new VW in the driveway and a new staff job somewhere.

Home is where you make it. The house is just a place to store your shit.

the shuck

It’s disguised as news. It calls itself news, because you feel good about watching the news. It’s important! It’s adult! It’s responsible! And then the news manages to do two things: normalize the aberrant and stoke the delusion.

Think about it:


1998: Impeachment is trivialized and weaponized to the point where it becomes a political gesture rather than an actual tool of last resort. Media covers it like a football game.

2000: the Electoral College and Supreme Court combine to elect a new President with fewer votes than his opponent for the first time since 1876. This is treated as a colorful fluke, not a problem in need of resolution.

2009: the GOP weaponizes the filibuster to the point of paralyzing the government. The press blithely absorbed the idea that “a bill needs 60 votes to pass in the Senate” as if it were tradition for two hundred years and not a new development.

2011: the GOP begins hostage-taking with the federal debt limit, replacing the usual symbolic finger-wag votes with an actual game of chicken that results in the credit rating of the United States being reduced from AAA for the first time in history. Once again, treated as a reality show fight rather than a torpedo at the waterline of American governance.

2016: Donald Trump, obviously. But her emails!

Also 2016: a Senate majority leader refuses to allow a Supreme Court nomination to come to a vote for eleven months, in order that it might be available to be filled by his own party instead.

2020: the same Senate majority leader rushes through a Supreme Court nomination seven weeks before an election, in order that it might not be available to be filled by the other party.

2021: the loaded Supreme Court blithely participates in an unprecedented exercise to avoid judicial review. Shrugs.

2021: multiple states begin engineering their voting systems to ensure a GOP win in future Presidential elections, even irrespective of voting, by allowing the state legislature to pick whoever it likes as the winner of the electoral votes. Shrugs.


The reason American democracy hangs by a thread is because the catamites and useful idiots in the press have spent decades saying “that could never happen” and “that would never happen” and describing as Chicken Littles the folks reporting what is actually already happening as the Sabbath Gasbags of the Potomac green rooms chortle and pontificate. The United States hangs on the edge of a cliff because two Senators are in love with the taste of their own genitals and an entire political party is devoted to the sole goal of partisan advantage at any expense, including the full faith and credit of the United States, and are prepared to risk recession and financial Armageddon if it makes Democrats look bad.

That, in short, is why we are doomed as a nation: the GOP cares about nothing but clinging to power by whatever means possible. The power is the point. Not to necessarily do anything with it, just to prevent anyone else having it. And it is enabled by a whole cosmos of grifters and hustlers who make money off of flogging the fear. There was a thought one time that demographics might solve this, but it was before Facebook and Fox News built a self-sustaining ecosystem of vaccine deniers, white supremacists and conspiracy nutballs.

We are doomed, and damned, because the Republican party decided in the 1990s that the worst thing that could ever happen to the human race was for someone other than them to be in charge. Climate change, economic ruin, possible nuclear war, but all worth it if it keeps the Democrats down. And it will cost us a nation, if it hasn’t already.

working man blues


“”we used to be Scotch-Irish coal miners, farmers, and ministers but then our attitude went downhill.”

-my cousin


A few years back, I dodged a bullet without realizing it. I applied for a support role with a local subsidiary of a Power 5 tech conglomerate and did not make it past the first interview, apparently because I was too much of a generalist. I have since become too much of a specialist, which is highly ironic, but in the years since, that subsidiary and its larger conglomerate have been the subject of many an expose of their work practices, some of which can be charitably classified as “shady AF.”  Indeed, they seem to have remade Jack Welch’s stack ranking for the 21st century, with a goal of dumping 6% of their workforce annually and a practice of putting large swaths of the workforce on performance-improvement plans, often without telling the employee they are under such a plan. The goal of this paranoia and stress-mongering is apparently to keep everyone crushing it all the time and running scared so they never have to get out of the mentality of being a light lean startup despite being a functional monopolist in certain areas.

This is honestly not that surprising. Between the New York Times and similar fish-wrappers banging the drum for a return to work, and the constant attacks on unemployment in the middle of a pandemic in the states of the Hookworm Belt, it’s hard not to think that the modern “job creator” has come to rely on a workforce with as little agency as possible. An increase in structural unemployment is a friend, because if jobs are tight enough that people drop out of the work market altogether, you can get away with murder on benefits and perks and being tight with the salary. (I myself ran into this six months before the pandemic, catching a layoff that has never yet been justified with an explanation and having my benefits cut to ribbons at a time when I had one in-law in hospice and the economy was not conducive to seeking employment other than the outsource option on offer.)

You would think that a society as focused as it is on the cult of the startup, the entrepreneur, the small business owner, would jump like a poked frog at something like universal health care. If you don’t have to provide health benefits yourself, your overhead as a new business proprietor is reduced and you can attract staff that doesn’t have to worry about losing their insurance. Hell, if there were a universal basic income to go with that health care, an aspiring founder could quit her job and launch her dream without having to worry about the kids’ checkups or whether there would be food in the lunchbox for school.  The Bible doesn’t say to style the needy, but it does make a forceful case that we have an obligation to clothe them.

But “job creators” don’t want this. Mostly because “job creators” – those not languishing in jail for their misadventures on January 6 – tend to be the same sort of self-important blowhards that have formed the backbone of the conservative movement since the 1950s: too small to compete with the corporations and conglomerates, but assured that they are nonetheless masters of the universe and that the peons should be grateful to labor in their vineyards. Universal basic income, or universal health care, or anything at all that makes it easier to strike out on your own and become a job creator yourself? That’s a threat. Hell, just being able to safely change jobs is a threat to a supine and grateful work force who will take whatever dollop of shit is on offer, lest the alternative be nothing at all.

The superannuated Fox cohort hates “socialism” more than anything in the world, seems like. Setting aside their ignorance of what socialism actually consists of, it might be worthwhile to consider maybe taking an approach to employment that doesn’t itself make a good case for socialism.

twenty years of iTunes

A huge chunk of my music collection shows a create date of 9/24/01. And well it should. That was the day that I installed the MacOS X 10.1 update on my white and gray iBook SE, and the day that I was finally pig-committed to moving my MP3 collection over from Mac OS 9 to the future, in Mac OS X with iTunes as my player app of choice.

My first MP3s were downloaded at the tail end of 1998 – the very first being Hole’s “Celebrity Skin”, though many many more followed, and I spent days at work trying to engineer swaps and downloads and such to get this or that song. It was tough, in the pre-Napster era, to find anything specific – let alone of playable quality. Things like that are how you end up with multiple versions of classic disco tracks, because you need trade stock for those 1:5 download/upload sites. And playback was through MacAmp, then Audion, then Casady & Greene’s SoundJam MP right before Apple bought it to re-engineer it into what we now know was iTunes.

Not that iTunes is still around. It’s become the Music app, part of Apple’s move to streaming, where most of the kids are these days (apparently Spotify is the done thing nowadays), And the Celestial Jukebox has arrived – rather than rip, mix, burn or download, you pay someone a monthly nut in exchange for access to every song ever recorded so long as it’s digitized and the rights are available. And I occasionally wonder if I wouldn’t be better off that way, especially looking at how much room the iTunes folder still takes up on my desktop computer at home and considering how all the Marvel and Disney stuff I ever need is already there in iTunes so why am I buying movies individually any more (and that might be finished, for what it’s worth). 

But…I dunno. Sure, Spotify has been around for a while now, and Apple Music is tethered to the largest company in the world. If there were some way of migrating your playlists in exportable form and knowing that you could bop from service to service without losing your list of tracks, that would be ideal and might just tempt me. But there’s a (brief) playlist there for September 2001. And another for October 2001. And then another, and another, and another, all in a folder labelled “it’s a long story” all the way up to (as of this writing) a September 2021 playlist. It is, quite literally, the soundtrack of my life. And in theory, if I unplugged my Mac from the network and never upgraded or updated or connected to the internet again, I’d still have all those songs for as long as the device would bear it. I’ve lost count of how many computers it’s hopped between, from the iBook to a Titanium PowerBook G4 to God knows how many laptops at Apple for three and a half years, ultimately from a MacBook to a Mac mini to another Mac mini to a third Mac mini to an iMac…

The remarkable thing, in retrospect, is that various iterations of the same software program have served this need for twenty years. I can’t think of another program I have lasted that long with in my personal life. Office will be with us always, sadly, but personally? That’s longer than Safari (itself interrupted by Firefox and Chrome at diverse times), longer than MarsEdit, longer than Evernote, longer than Reeder or NetNewsWire or Slack or Tweetbot or Downcast. It’s a program that works with the iPod, but was made originally to serve the various Rio-type flash-memory MP3 players that would hold 128MB or what have you. 

And that’s ultimately the catch: Apple has been around, and thrived and survived. Other options have been less successful. Microsoft thrashed about and ultimately gave up, and I suspect Google has done the same. Right now, it seems like it’s Apple or Spotify, and right now I’d give better odds on Apple lasting longer. And yet…I don’t want to go the celestial jukebox route. I want my songs on a device that can play them, and that in theory could do so on some other gadget in future. Maybe there won’t be any. Maybe the new business model of the world is that you have to pay rent on anything They can compel you to, and that you never actually own anything any longer. 

But what the hell. I never expected my music to last this long in one place. Maybe I’ll be able to stay one jump ahead of the crocodiles, one swing ahead of the sword, for another twenty years or so.

Because yeah…it’s a long story.

the new stuff

I was in Seattle for the big Apple event. I still haven’t seen it all the way through, and I skipped around in fits and starts. Because this year is a very very iterative year. Four new phones, all same sizes, slight camera tweaks and screen improvements in the Pros. New slightly larger watch, keyboard and slightly faster charging but otherwise an identical chipset to the one on my arm. The only really new thing was the iPad mini being converted to an iPad Air Mini, which isn’t nothing – it might be an attractive alternative to a personal laptop under certain conditions, although you still need a keyboard for any kind of serious text entry. Then again, slap an Apple Pencil on it, and maybe you’re looking at the kind of thing that has me constantly going around with a notebook and pen to work out my thoughts. If I can scribble typed text on the screen and dictate the rest, then…who knows?

But there are not that many new features anywhere. iOS 15 is a grab bag of new improvements, some of which are downright gimmicky and some of which still haven’t shipped. I waited longer than usual to take on the beta, and the big thing I wanted – vaccine record and drivers’ license in the phone, which in the modern era damn near obviates the need for a wallet – is not yet available in California. It did drive home how much the phone really is the key piece of the equation now, though – the personal iMac is a repository for a quarter-century of file backups and iTunes library, plus a big screen for background video and Zoom. Which I can also do on my work laptop now that the big 27” 5K display is on the desk, and if one of them has to go when we move house, it’ll be the iMac, because we can plug either of our laptops up to the 5K. Or, come to think of it, an iPad mini with a bluetooth keyboard.

It’s reaching a point where my personal computing needs beyond the phone only require an AppleTV and a larger screen for video watching, and a keyboard for long-form video input. It would be nice to have the larger iPad mini display for travel, if only because a 5.4” is kind of crap for movies on the plane or maps when you’re plotting the day’s events, and the new mini might even fit in my travel blazer inside pouch. But at the end of the day, one of the things I found out on my week in Seattle was that I only needed the laptop for video conferencing (which was being backboned off the phone’s hotspot for connectivity, and nevertheless took 78% of the laptop’s battery in 80 minutes) – everything else from reading to music to photography to posting pics went to the phone without any trouble.

Seattle was useful in a lot of ways – partly for helping me finally elide the difference between light rail and streetcars (a streetcar runs solely on streets, never on its own right-of-way, and is a single car rather than a train), partly for the experience of the underground (a tremendous prompt to imagination and possibly the greatest real-life Quake map I’ve ever seen), and partly for the Space Needle and what its New Frontier pre-11/23/63 optimism says about our current world and how it all fell apart after September 11 or November 9. But at root, it was a useful test of a week away with only what I could fit in a laptop sleeve and a nifty tweed Rickshaw getaway bag. And I can definitely subsist for a week on the loadout that bag can hold, with the additional bonus that if we were going abroad, an iPad and charger kit could fit on top of my clothes and not require a separate bag at all. Make provisions to do laundry halfway through, and boom, there’s your two weeks in London – a circumstance that seems to have become the light at the end of the tunnel, however long it takes to get there. With the US finally admitting vaccinated visitors from the UK and EU, it seems like only a matter of time.

But first we’ve got to shift ourselves. Of which.