new old stock

It’s an Alpha Industries M-65 field coat, military spec but in a civilian brown without the velcro attach points for name and unit patches. 50/50 nylon-cotton to repel water, concealed hood in the collar, buttons for a quilted lining for real warmth in a pinch – but the most striking thing is that if the copyright date on the tags is anything to go by, this jacket was manufactured in Knoxville, Tennessee sometime in 1997. Which means that it and I rolled out of the Volunteer State at roughly the same time.

It’s wild to think about this thing sitting on a shelf for two decades or more. It’s an artifact from a time when the WTO hadn’t turned China into the world’s discount manufacturer, and when Appalachia still had plenty of textile operations that hadn’t been outsourced to the cheapest Third World OEM. I doubt it was on sale for the $100 I got it for on eBay, but I’m not sure I would have had even $50 to snap it up with, and besides, I already had the Elk – that ill-advised leather coat bought as a callow first-year grad student that would be my cold-weather apparel of record through the end of the DC years. But it’s not inconceivable that I could have pulled this coat off the rack at Friedman’s Army-Navy in Hillsboro Village, and worn it for the ensuing two decades. It would have worked a treat in Edinburgh in 2005, or Paris and York in 2007. Perfectly suited for the rain in Kanazawa or in Puerto Natales. Just the right combination for a dozen wet and windy too-short California winters.

It’s a garment out of another era, a fifty year old design. Big pouch pockets, suitable for a cell phone the size of an all-in-one remote control and a Discman the size of a dessert plate. Surplus to the era of the peace dividend, when the American military was more likely to be coming to the aid of Muslims in the Balkans than be bogged down endlessly in Iraq and Afghanistan. When a vending machine meant a 12-ounce can of Coke for 65 cents, not a plastic 20 ounce bottle for $2.10 (and ten cents off if you use money and not a credit card or a smartphone). 

I tend to go through jackets in bursts. I was mostly sorted in DC with what eventually came out to three leather jackets, but after coming West that was plainly not going to be necessary. At the end of 2004, I bought a sudden trucker jacket and a longer synthetic sort of field coat with a zip-out fleece lining, and the latter became the international travel jacket in 2005 and 2007. And I didn’t look at jackets again until 2009, when I was suddenly commuting by train again and needed to stand around waiting outside. So I went on a four year binge. Plain cotton zippered thing, canary-yellow CERT jacket from work, Vandy soft-shell fleece, an ill-fitting Gap peacoat, a better-fitting surplus peacoat, a weird sort of “engineers coat” bought with AmEx points through Lands End, a cotton blouson from Uniqlo (and a couple of cotton blazers with it which are more casual wear than “outerwear”), and ultimately, my wife’s gift of a Levi’s-Filson collaborative trucker jacket in waxed tin cloth – and by that point, I was driving to work again and it was less of a big deal. 

Since 2013, I’ve bought the William Gibson Buzz Rickson bomber as a souvenir of Japan, and was gifted my Harris Tweed at long last, but there hasn’t really been any new routine outerwear for five or six years. I don’t know if I was just bored, or looking to regenerate, or what, or if this is another piece of the mop-up. I’d looked at an M-65 back around 2006 as a good all-purpose jacket, but it was superfluous to requirement with the International jacket in hand, and besides, it was about that time that I started to realize that most of the surplus showing up in the Army-Navy store was Chinese, not government contractor overruns. And I pushed it to the back of my mind and forgot about it until a month or so ago, when I was looking for something longer than the trucker jacket, lighter than the peacoat and heavier than the rain shell, nicer than “smeared with wax” but sturdier than “smells like a damp sheep in the rain”.

And so here it is. Proper mil-spec, but the same sort of British waxed-jacket brown as a Barbour. Waterproof without being covered in chemicals or requiring re-waxing. Blended fabric that doesn’t look polyester. Roomy enough for a sweater, and (so far) warm without getting hot. I was comfy outside in the drizzle and cold, and haven’t felt the need to pull it off at my desk. It’s probably not one jacket to rule them all, but it feels right, somehow – and feels like another loop closed.

Football roundup

Well, Vanderbilt has reverted fully to Same Old Vandy. Alabama is probably out of the title picture again. Only Cal, with the Axe retrieved and Furd vanquished for the first time in the 2010s, offers our house a good outcome. Part of that is down to Alabama being a disappointment any year they don’t win it all and make everyone else miserable, but most of it is down to Vanderbilt being back to where it was for most of my life between 1997 and 2010: an afterthought.

The NFL has been kicked to the curb for years, honored only with the ridearound once or twice a year (and with no Sonny or Sam any more, I wonder how long that will continue). This year is the closest college has come to that. No games attended, nothing watched except for a few stray Army or Navy or Ivy League games. Because that’s really it, isn’t it? Teams where the players are definitely doing something else after college, teams that have deliberately opted out of the big-time. All that matters at Army and Navy is that you beat each other. The Ivies win the league, in the regular season. No playoff, no bowls, no title game. No interaction with the system.

Because the system is what ruined the game for me. The problem of facing a whole league of teams that have a university on the side. The problem of having to meet the financial demands of staying in the big time. The problem of not being worth anyone’s notice unless you were a year away from getting into a playoff that never has anyone in it but four of the same six or seven teams. And sure enough, this year, it looks like Clemson, Ohio State, $SEC_CHAMP and $OTHER_SEC_TEAM again.

Football could spark joy, if it were possible to be competitive on a regular basis and not be drowned out by the power teams. Who cares who you’re playing; if you could play ten games a year and be reasonably sure of winning six, and beating your arch-rival at least once every three years, and have the opportunity to tailgate and make a day of it, that would be enough. But that’s not enough for college football. It has to be the developmental arm of pro football first and foremost, and that’s what has helped destroy the college football experience.

Which is difficult. College football was somewhere between a hobby and a religion for decades in my life. Getting shut of it altogether is a big ask, and there’s a hole in my life it leaves that is not adequately filled by English or Scottish soccer. It was a social outlet, continuity with my past, the one thing I could always connect with my Alabama relations over. And inasmuch as I have been unable to quit it, it’s because of other people, whether friends or acquaintances or just those strange people in my phone. When your past has swallowed up everyone behind you, it’s hard to voluntarily push more people into the black hole.

Maybe next year – or the year after – I wake up to find that Vanderbilt is a member of the Patriot League, and we’re going to go out there and smash through Holy Cross and Lehigh and go option-to-option with Army and maybe have a non-conf against Princeton or somebody, and watch the games every week on NBCSN or CBS Sports and never have to think about the SEC ever again.

Wouldn’t that be something.

stephen and jack

I don’t know anything about Stephen Vogt’s religion. 

I can make some guesses. His walk-up is a Christian rock song, and he played his college ball at Azusa Pacific, which is a religious institution. All I know about Azusa Pacific other than that is two things: Christian Okoye, the Nigerian nightmare, and the fact that Jack Gilbert taught screenwriting there.

The most religious thing I ever saw from Jack was signing off his Christmas letter with “God bless us every one.” But after his death, talking to people after his service up in the LA hills, I learned that he’d been involved with various Christian programs in Hollywood – when he wasn’t running the writer development program at Warner Brothers or teaching at Azusa Pacific or just making himself available for people willing to trade lunch for a read or a polish or just good advice. I met Jack through the same gang of Internet maniacs as everyone else in my circle in the 90s, but I got to know Jack when there was drama in the group, two or three people were alienated, and Jack – despite not being involved in the least – took it upon himself to make amends. He was given my name, reached out to me, and persuaded me to act as his agent. That’s how I learned that Emma’s was the industry florist in Nashville, and how Jack became our man in Hollywood.

I don’t know what’s in the water at Azusa Pacific, but I thought about this when I heard the story of how Stephen Vogt knocked on some doors while the Giants were down in LA, and told three rookies – including Vandy’s own Mike Yazstremski – “come down to the lobby at 9 AM, we have a suit fitting.” Because when Vogt was a rookie, some veteran took it upon himself to take him out and fit him for a nice suit, because now that you’re an adult and a major leaguer, you need a nice suit. And Vogt took it upon himself to pay it forward, because that’s what you do. You take what you have and use it to help other folks along the way. I mean, it’s not like an MLB rookie can’t afford a suit – but sometimes there are things you don’t know you ought to do, and you need a guiding hand or a mentor to coach you up in the little things that make a grown-up, and provide an example for how you ought to do in future. I’m sure Yaz and Beedah are going to be buying some rookie a suit at some point in the future now, and another little ripple of making the world better goes out.

This is not the easiest time to call yourself a Christian in America. The popular vision of Christianity is the one I was raised in, the one that has demeaned and diminished itself in a forty-year race to the bottom in pursuit of worldly power. One that can’t sing “red and yellow black and white, they are precious in his sight” without a knowing head-tilt of no they aren’t. One that has made it impossible to square what we learned in Sunday school in the 1970s with what comes out of the pulpits of 2019. One that basically drove me away from religion altogether for years and years.

And yet.

There was a hole in my spirit that was always filled by Chapel at Six on Monday nights in undergrad. It was occasionally filled in the ensuing years by the odd Sunday evening at All Saints’ in Homewood or St. George in Arlington. I’ve made an effort to find something that fits at different times – cathedral here, Evensong there, a conscious effort to make a pass through three or four different institutions in search of something that clicked. The only thing I can conclude is that there’s a chance I might be some sort of Episcopalian down deep, because it feels like I get all the liturgical ritual I need without being tied to a hierarchy and organization that clashes with my Baptist priesthood-of-the-believer sensibilities.

I don’t know what I’m looking for. I don’t know what I actually believe. But there are a couple of people who lived by the doctrine of show, don’t tell, and what I saw makes me wonder if there’s some part of that I can connect with. I don’t know how this is going to work, but it’s got to be worth a try.

not exactly plinka

It’s been three weeks and I haven’t even thought about my SE in that time. Which makes sense, because you really can’t have more than one phone these days and the AirPods Pro make me feel like I have a new angle on the whole ecosystem. Plus having decent battery life is everything, although I have to admit, I’m curious to know whether the RAM issues that finally got fixed in iOS 13.2.2 might have fixed the battery on the SE. But it’s not really worth going upstairs to sort out the drawer I chucked it into.

No, the thought process now is back to the Apple Watch. Because the news that Google is buying Fitbit has made the Charge 3 untenable in future: a vector for the exfiltration of personal health data into an ecosystem and a company that is absolutely not trustworthy of it. And despite the plethora of flaws in Apple these days – manufacturing indentured to China, Cook cozying up to Trump, the complete failure of anything remotely resembling QA in Cupertino – having an Apple Watch to charge every damn night beats shipping your step count, heart rate and sleep cycle to the Beast of Mountain View.

The problem here is that my Series 0 was a colossal bust. I wanted it for the heart rate monitoring, at a time when there wasn’t really a good alternative and I was panicked after what was arguably a panic attack at a time of great stress (and boy was I a wuss about what constituted stress in 2015, in retrospect). And it was slow, almost useless with third party apps, and stopped getting updates, and there’s very little to suggest that the delta with the Charge 3 is worth paying. Or was, anyway, until Google.

But the experience suggests to me that you can’t necessarily expect five years of watch updates. You don’t know when it’s going to get cut off (unlike the iOS ecosystem, where five years sounds right; my iPad mini 2 from Christmas 2013 did not get the 13 update at age six). Looking at the Watch options, the Series 3 is right out; pre-aged two years is a bad investment. So it’ll have to be the Series 5 (or more likely 6).

What gets interesting at this point is that i have thought in the past that an Apple Watch with LTE service would make a fine shutdown night device and alternative to one of those limited-use phones. And it would! But the problem then becomes “how do I add this watch to work” and I don’t know if such a thing is possible. And it’s not time yet for me to pay for my own phone service. (Although I have almost decided that maybe I should get this iPhone from work unlocked in case of spontaneous travel to London at some point. Hell, if Brexit puts the pound on par with the dollar it would be foolish NOT to go.)

Maybe this is going to happen next year. Maybe I’m at risk of laying down close on $2000 for new Apple gear in late 2020. But I’m not gonna lie, having 2FA and temperature on my wrist would be kind of cool again. And maybe the iPhone 9, so-called, would be phone enough. But the only thing I can say for sure is that in retrospect, crunching my SE in the first class seat was the hand of God and I was foolish to spend money to replace it.

first impressions

When the AirPods came out, I was highly intrigued. But they were pricey enough that I was uneasy about paying that kind of money for something I couldn’t be sure would fit my ears, especially after having settled on a pair of corded over-the-ear headphones for a long time beforehand. I’d used other bluetooth headsets of different sorts, none of which ever had particularly good sound or particularly reliable battery life, and I had given up and just accepted that there would be badge and sunglasses entangled with my cord forever. And then the BeatsX arrived, with the same wireless chip for pairing, and they showed up for $100 on Amazon briefly, so I pounced. I got the ear tips right, and I had the cable around my neck and the wingtips in my ears for security, and it more or less worked for two years.

Then the battery started to go. Badly. And then they flaked out in other ways and I could never get them to stay on longer than five minutes without crashing and needing a hardware reset to pair them again. And it occurred to me that the wingtips had broken off months earlier, so maybe they would be fine without…and then the PowerBeats Pro came out. Everything I wanted and nothing I didn’t. No wireless nonsense, absurdly long battery life, but…a case too big for a pocket. The principle problem with wireless headphones is that you need to know you won’t have to plug them in all day, and in a world where I actually want to use my Ballpark Pass for the Giants, I’m not convinced that even 9 hours would be enough to get me by without having the case at work or in the office or or or. Plus, it was crazy money.

But then, the rumblings began. New AirPods in October, that would split the difference and be the sweet spot for me. And sure enough, they were announced last Monday and available last Wednesday, and in a rapid strike, I rolled the dice and spent more money on a pair of earbuds than I’d spent on any cell phone but two ever, because it was worth it to me to have an Apple product on launch day for the first time since the iPhone 4 (or iPhone X, but I didn’t pay for that). I was going to be able to test these things under travel conditions and see if they were worth it.

Reader, they are worth it.

The noise cancelling is up to the task on the plane, easily. But the miracle thing is that with a squeeze of the stem, they go from noise-cancelling to letting the sound through. Transparency mode has been described elsewhere as “AR for your ears” and it’s true: you hear pretty much the world around you AND your audio. And the earbuds’ charge went up by 50% after about 15 minutes in the case, which means that buds and case combined should be good for all day every day. 

But more than that, I have the option to use one at a time without dangling cords. I can pocket them without something hanging around my neck. I can finally invoke Siri without having to so much as pull the phone out of my pocket. They make me want to figure out voice control on the iPhone and the Mac alike. They give me a feel I haven’t gotten from a new Apple product in a long time: the feeling that I’ve actually stepped forward into a new and exciting future of personal device use. 

And with a new battery in the X and these in my ears, for the first time in a while, I can go without range anxiety and maybe start being kinder to the battery and not constantly charging in bits and bobs, and maybe extend the lifespan of my devices until it’s time to pay for another phone again. Which would be awfully nice. But having these and iOS 13 make the X feel almost like a new phone. Now if only they would fix the album art bug…

country music

The documentary snuck up on me. I don’t think I realized it was a thing until less than a week before it debuted, but everyone from my in-laws to my Vanderbilt tailgate crew to my Alabama relations asked if I was watching it. And I spent a good chunk of the spring re-watching the entirety of the Ken Burns Baseball documentary, so sixteen hours on the history of country music? Sure, I’ll give it a whirl.

This is a masterpiece.

I was raised on country music, obviously. WZZK, the powerhouse FM country station, was the soundtrack of most of my life from the time it went on-air until 1983 or so, and three years in Nashville sent me to WSM-AM occasionally, and when I was in DC I often found myself riding around to Eddie Stubbs on WAMU, sending a bluegrass show back to his old patch from Nashville, but I hadn’t really been plugged into it in any meaningful way for a long, long time. Not least because the current state of country music is kind of dire, what with bro-country as the newest Nashville Sound. Insert generic pickup truck dirt road cutoff jeans beer drinking here.

But in the background of everything is the fact that country music is what my family was raised on, from the forties to when I was born. I knew that it all went back to the Carter Family, and that a Vanderbilt professor once told me that if modern media existed in the 1930s that Elvis Presley would have spent his career as a third-rate Jimmie Rodgers impersonator, but I don’t think I ever grasped how Ralph Peer was basically the midwife of the popular music recording industry – or how the Bristol sessions were the Big Bang of country music. But I didn’t see the line of history. Jimmie Rodgers gives the world the singing cowboy as a concept, and thus Gene Autry, but also inspires Ernest Tubb (far more influential than I realized) and Hank Williams. I had no idea what a star Roy Acuff was in the 1940s, the bridge between the hillbilly Opry of Deford Bailey and Uncle Dave Macon and the cementing of Nashville as the capital of country music. I don’t think I’d ever heard of the Maddox Brothers and Rose, let alone that they were from Alabama and made their way to California during the depression – through the Bay Area, natch. 

And you could see the path. The Irish music I gravitated to these last twenty years, colliding with the songs of African slaves and freedmen. Fiddle meets banjo meets mandolin and guitar. You could make a case that the proto-American music first divided into hillbilly and jazz, based on whether it was rural or urban. Then hillbilly went west, found drums and electricity and the Mexican border, and became western and then honky-tonk, while hillbilly carromed off the black blues and became bluegrass, and then when that western music washed back up on the blues in Memphis, became rock and roll. Hank Williams Jr isn’t wrong when he points out that “Rock Around The Clock” is basically “Move It On Over.”

The funny thing is, as early as a few days before the series started, I glanced right past the “Boot Liquor” channel on SomaFM for “Americana” and roots music. Now it’s at the top of my favorites list. Willie’s Roadhouse on SiriusXM is in the preset where Yacht Rock was all summer. And I’ve rewatched the first two episodes over and over. It took me ages to get around to the final episode (which my wife still hasn’t seen) just because I didn’t want it to end – and because the seventh episode, all of which is basically living memory for me, was kind of a wrench in ways I wasn’t expecting.

Because this is the music of my people. This is the music that came down from the holler in East Tennessee and up from the cotton patch in north Alabama. This is music that came from the whole of the South, white and black alike, music that spoke of sin and redemption, of the assurance of better days in the middle of hard times. This is my patrimony. This is my inheritance. This is something that I didn’t realize was missing from my life, a part of the puzzle, something I can call my own – and something that makes me wish I’d gone to the Bluebird more than once, or the Ryman more than once (and for an actual show, not a play), or the Exit/In or the Grand Old Opry at all. 

I don’t even have to engage with the new stuff if I don’t want to. There are plenty of people still making it in the old ways, bluegrass pickers and Neo-traditionalists and Old Crow Medicine Show and a talented young woman from North Carolina named Rhiannon Giddens fronting out a band called Carolina Chocolate Drops who I’ll definitely be playing now. And there’s something as simple as Jimmie Rodgers singing from ninety-one years in the past, about hanging around a water tank waiting for a train, that still hits the nail on the head about being a long way from home and slowly finding your way back.

It’s a good thing to have again.


I know I said a while back that it felt like I had crossed the finish line on wanting stuff. And yet, in the last six months or so I have gone on a truly ridiculous binge. Setting aside the replacement of things under warranty that were no longer working – in some cases on vehicular scale – I have gone out and bought a bunch of things that were on the frivolous list for years, things which might have previously been reconciled to the “maybe if someone gets this for me for Christmas” scale. Things like an Ebbets Field Flannels Vanderbilt jersey, or a pair of LL Bean Chelsea boots, or a couple of Yeti containers. To the point that I don’t think there’s much left on my wish list any more.

I think there are a couple different phenomena at work here. One is the whole notion of “look, we could be nuked tomorrow, why would you defer joy at this point.” I’ve been eyeing the Bean boots in some form or another for almost thirty years, an Ebbets jersey of some sort for twenty-five or more, my first attempt at Birkenstock-a-likes was in Nashville for godsakes. To some extent, going through and checking those things off is a matter of closing the loop, of collecting the trophies of a lifetime of patience and saying “screw it, treat yourself.” Jimmie Rodgers did say that money was no good until after you had spent it, for then it had furnished you and your loved ones with the fine things of life, and it’s hard to quibble with that. (More on him in a while.)

But the other stuff – like an 18 oz Yeti bottle that fits the cupholder and has a bag-safe drinkable lid option, and is dishwasher-safe and features two different California state emblems on its blue surface – feels like an attempt to purchase the artifacts of a life I wish I led and use them to try to obtain that life. I’ve never yet been able to carry a water bottle the way my wife does, but this thing seems to be close. I have a belt holster for it so that I don’t have to carry a bag to make it work, and there’s a bottle-filling fountain down the hall at work on the way into and out of the office. So long as I don’t do anything dumb like fill it with soda and pressurize it shut to the point of being inoperable, it’s good at keeping cold things cold until I drink them. And it serves as a talisman against buying something in a plastic bottle, which in turn cuts down the amount of random soda and bad things I’m likely to buy.

In a way, it feels like I’m whittling back. I have a pile of caps, but I wear maybe three of them. Everything is drunk out of the Yeti bottle or one of the two Yeti tumblers (one of which is devoted solely to coffee because of all the residue that resists any amount of hand scrubbing or dishwasher action). I wear more or less the same two pair of jeans, the same five T-shirts, the same flannel and the same work shirt, and if I could get away with it, the same pair of Birks every day. There’s actually a small pile that needs to go to Goodwill, and I strongly suspect at least half my closet could be dropped on top of it if I took out the stuff I actually wear and the stuff I actually need for future use.

Maybe I’m getting ready for a life where the can’t-part-with keepsakes live in a storage unit and the daily necessities live in a shipping container. But for now, it feels like “don’t shirk from spending the money on the one quality thing you’re going to use every day for three years running.” So bring on the 5.4” iPhone. And maybe some noise-canceling earbuds to go with it.

final impressions

There are things I wanted, especially on the gadget front, that I still kind of want after all this time. The PowerBook 1400. The SonyEricsson K700i (or K790, or T650). The original New Beetle turbo diesel. The Motorola Skytel satellite pager watch. They were perfect enough in their conception and execution that they still have a hold on my imagination.

Unfortunately, I think the iPhone SE may have fallen into that space.

Two weeks on, using it as my daily driver, there are a couple of problems that didn’t use to be problems in the era before iOS 13. The first one, obviously, is the screen – while the device itself is still a perfect size, the display is not. A modern SE would probably have a 5” AMOLED screen in approximately the same real estate, but the 4” LCD is cramped at best running an OS version designed for phones that are all around 6” on the screen. The keyboard is fiddly at best, some text actually requires me to lift my glasses and squint, and the display brightness just isn’t where it needs to be. And that’s setting aside the extent to which I have become accustomed to reading RSS feeds, website articles and even Kindle books on a larger display.

The other is battery. And this is kind of upsetting, because when I first got the SE, it had the power-sipping iPhone 6s processor with a display 30% smaller, and I could get through an entire day in low-power mode and come home with 50% of the battery left. Now, even with corded headphones instead of Bluetooth, an hour of normal use from my front door to my desk takes me down to 80%. And I had come to take for granted just how easy having a wireless charger made things (even if constant wireless top-up might have caused some of the battery issues on the X). 

I still love the SE. But I’m not sure it’s really an everyday phone. Travel phone, shutdown phone, sure, absolutely. But as a daily driver, it may finally be reaching the end of the road. A faster processor and larger screen (even if it’s too much larger than I strictly require) are too important to pass up, especially with domestic travel coming that will require the best available camera. So next week, I’ll probably be getting the X back from my co-worker, migrating everything back to it, and then leaving the SE without a number or a SIM card – possibly not even registered and configured. A true emergency backup, forcing me to live with one phone and one number like most people do. And they do all right.

Sometimes you just have to move on. A lesson I could have stood to learn a lot earlier in life.

quitting time

I honestly don’t know how a government that insists on maintaining an embargo against a mostly harmless speck of an island off Florida can reconcile that with the fact of massive trade – indeed, massive economic indenturement, to be blunt – to the hugest Communist dictatorship in the world. Yes, Communist. Yes, dictatorship. Just because everydamnthing in this country is made in China, because businesses get moist in their special places at the thought of 1.2 billion future customers, we’re willing to overlook the fact that IT’S A GODDAMNED TOTALITARIAN STATE.

March 22, 2008


Speaking even more of phones, looking at Apple’s situation, it’s hard to argue that they – and the West generally – got played for suckers these last twenty years. The promise of a billion new customers was too good to pass up, so the West signed China onto the WTO with assurances that business would lead to liberalization and that everyone would just go along with this. And then, after we spent two decades thinking this would all work out in the end, these companies find themselves tied in legal knots, aiding and abetting a totalitarian regime and their intellectual property being ripped off wholesale for profit. All so Silly Con Valley could have their widgets assembled for ten cents on the dollar. And now there’s not really a cost-effective alternative solution any longer, so we’re stuck until someone else can spin up modern manufacturing at scale in a different place – assuming, of course, that you have a physical product to sell. If not, you just have to wait and watch as Tencent and Alibaba do the same thing you can’t for those billion customers you assumed would be yours.

January 4, 2019


It’s time for Tim Cook to start putting some of those massive cash reserves toward figuring out where Apple’s going to move its manufacturing. As the only major tech company in America still dependent on hardware, they’re highly exposed by having the Chinese government having their manufacturing in a professional threat sandwich. Not to mention the fact that the Chinese government is completely unchanged from the era in which they gunned down their own citizens by the thousands.

We tried. It was a useful experiment. We have the results. It’s time to stop handing the family jewels over to butchers. Let them try to invent their own things without using Cupertino for R&D.

Get out, Tim. Start now.

days of future plinka

This is starting to shape up as I look at the present state of my phones, numbers and usage. I’ve shed two entire phone numbers since the first of the year, much to my wife’s relief, and I’m down to the streamlined presence I’d hoped for with two and a half months to spare on my 2019 resolutions. So without further nattering, let’s get on with it.

This iPhone SE came out as a 4-inch phone a year and a half after Apple stopped producing a current 4” phone. It had a current chipset and current camera in an older body with an older front camera, older version of TouchID, less bright screen. Basically a hodgepodge of parts from the 6S and the 5S, in the body of the latter. It seems like the SE2, so-called, will be more of the same on that front. Eighteen months after Apple makes the smallest phone in the current lineup a 5.8” full screen monster, they take the smaller size and put the newer chipset in it. From the sound of things, it sounds like the A13 and accompanying RAM in the remains of an iPhone 8, so the only feature gains you might get are some computational effects and improved performance. It doesn’t sound like the newer camera is coming at all, unless it’s the XR’s single camera, and we may not even see the 3DTouch stuff removed (which would suck out loud, as that represented at least another 100mAh of available battery space in the 6-to-6S move).

Now, for me to go from the SE to the notional 2020 5.4” iPhone Pro would be an enormous leap. Same size device as the 8, which is what I care about, but definitely more battery than 3DTouch would allow. Waterproof, haptic touch, all the amazing new A14 processor whizbang, maybe even 5G support – and dual-SIM capable. Which is potentially HUGE. If I could have the work number on the built-in e-SIM (which AT&T ought to be able to manage), I could pop my own VZW-backed USMobile SIM in the slot and have a nice little failover for places where one network fails but the other is fine, not to mention insurance against walking out the door at work. And you just take out the VZW SIM and you’re ready to go abroad without a hitch. 

Basically, the die is cast. I’ll wait a year. If the 5.4” Pro doesn’t materialize, I’ll get the SE2 in September, unless the benefits of the 5.8” 2020 phone are just too good to pass up. If the SE2 doesn’t materialize in Q1 as promised, I’ll wait until September. And come September, it’ll probably be time to hand in both the SE and the iPad Mini 2, which already didn’t get iOS 13 and has the most fleeting battery life as is. A single 5.4” phone the size of the iPhone 8 with all the bells and whistles would suit me down to the ground, especially personally owned with a built-in escape hatch.

And I’m reconciling myself to the the larger size. The Moto X was dead solid perfect and the 6  just a hair too big, but the SE actually feels a hair too small at this point – mostly for reading and keyboarding. Which I do a lot more than I thought. I might not be happy with the SE if I didn’t have the actual Kindle to work with. But the prospect of what will in essence be the lost iPhone 9, in 128 GB size for $500 or less, is definitely a plausible path of last resort going forward, four years after first taking the SE plunge.

It’s a good plan. I like it. I approve. Onward and upward, and enjoy the return of the pocket rocket in the meantime.